Thursday, January 13, 2005

Zimbabwe in Free Fall

The state of the nation of Zimbabwe can be accurately gauged by reading just the first sentence of an article in yesterday's Telegraph.

The bodies of murder victims are piling up in Zimbabwe's hospitals because the country's collapsing health service has lost its only forensic pathologist, it emerged yesterday.
Zimbabwe has a population in excess of eleven million people. The former British colony - once named Rhodesia - does have other doctors; in fact, the Telegraph describes its medical system as formerly "among the best in Africa." Nevertheless, the country's remaining doctors refuse to assume the departed pathologist's activities because they are "unwilling to perform post mortem examinations on murder victims for fear of being forced to give evidence in court cases." Why would physicians fear giving testimony in Zimbabwe's courts? An earlier Telegraph article explains that an international panel of lawyers had examined the country's legal system and concluded the it had been hopelessly corrupted by Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party run government.

The report gave examples of senior judges, lawyers and magistrates being forcibly removed from office after being jailed, beaten or threatened with violence for failing to toe the government line.

In such conditions, testifying in a murder case might present certain dangers. Without a forensic pathologist to examine the bodies of murder victims, corpses have remained stored awaiting autopsy "for more than a year," the present article said, noting that the number of such corpses isn't extreme, less than forty nationwide. Nevertheless,
Because no post mortem examinations are being performed, police are unable to proceed with criminal investigations into the killings. Supt Wayne Bvudzijena, the police spokesman, said that some suspects were on remand and others were out on bail, with little prospect of cases being brought against them.
The article notes that Zimbabwe is "suffering a disastrous loss of medical personnel and the country in unable to train replacements." The country's economy has "collapsed" with inflation "running at 149 per cent" and "tens of thousands of doctors and nurses, desperate to earn hard currency, have emigrated to Britain or South Africa."
Hospitals are dependent on a European Union aid programme for about 75 per cent of their essential drugs. Treatment for patients suffering from HIV Aids is funded largely by Britain and America.
Dr Max Hove, the country's chief clinical pathologist, seems resigned to the continued absence of a forensic pathologist and the imobilization of the country's criminal justice system. "The bodies will remain and I suppose more will come in," he said.

President Mugabe has received most international news attention for his confiscation of farms owned by the white descendants of British colonists over the past two years. Mugabe's persecution of the white minority evoked some protest, but little action from Europe or the US. Faced with increasing violence and threats thereof, the country's white population is fleeing.

David Coltart, an MP from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change [a Zimbabwe's opposition party], said: "This is ethnic cleansing, not in the Bosnian sense of the phrase, as they knew they couldn't get away with wholesale murder.

"It's more subtle, designed to drive out whites because Mugabe believes whites provide funding and administrative support to the MDC.

"The laws were changed to deprive whites of land. Private schools were closed to get at whites even though most pupils are black. Mugabe said whites were 'enemies of the people' and he is still hammering away at them."

Rose McCullum, 39, owns Ocean-Air Packers and Removals. "Top businessmen are going in droves," she said. "Most go to Britain, Australia or New Zealand. A few go to South Africa but they won't stay there as they worry about the future there as whites.

The economic effects of this openly racist policy have been as obvious as they are tragic. Mr. Mugabe proclaimed that his seizure of white farms, which he promised to give to black farmers would greatly increase their agricultural yield. He defended the siezure of this land as redress for the prior expropriation of land and resources by European colonialists in the previous century and allow native Zimbabwians to simply reclaim what was legitimately theirs. Ppredictably, however, the confiscated farmland went to Mr. Mugabe's personal friends, family and political supporters and the fields were allowed to go fallow. The result?

[Mr. Mugabe] brushed aside the fact that Zimbabwe has lived on food aid since 2001 and that 6.5 million people, more than half the population, depended on international help last year. By contrast, his office forecast a maize crop for this year of 2.4 million tons, more than enough to meet domestic needs.

Yet a report from the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee provides a strong antidote to the president's optimism. It concludes that 2.3 million people in rural Zimbabwe "will not be able to meet their minimum cereal needs during the 2004/05 season".

The report adds that food aid "for the most vulnerable people" should be sought immediately. The UN, aid agencies and Zimbabwean government departments compiled the assessment based on a survey completed in April. Mr Mugabe's officials appear not to share his optimism.

The report did not cover the food needs of Zimbabwe's cities, where shortages last year were at least as serious as those in the countryside. Figures for December suggested that 2.5 million urban Zimbabweans were going hungry, bringing the total needing food aid to 4.8 million.
In September, Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube, the mayor of Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, claimed that 162 people had starved to death there since January 2004. The government immediately denounced Mr. Ndabeni-Ncube.

Jonathan Moyo, the information minister, called him a "liar" and insisted that starvation was unknown in Zimbabwe. "Malnutrition is just a case of not having a balanced diet," he told The Herald, an official daily.

"People in the USA are fat because they eat too many burgers. That's malnutrition."

Mr. Ndabeni-Ncube retorted that while there was some food available in Bulawayo, with inflation running well over 300 percent, few people could afford to buy it.

Zimbabwe once exported food to drought-stricken countries in southern Africa so its dependence on international help has come as a serious embarrassment for Mr Mugabe. His response has been to deny that there is a problem.

In May, he said Zimbabwe would no longer accept supplies from the UN's World Food Programme. "Why foist this food upon us? We don't want to be choked." he said.

As the country continues to crumble, food isn't the only concern. The water supply has broken down, leaving half the residents of Harare, the capital city (home to three million) and "once one of Africa's most orderly cities ... chronically short of water or without any at all just days before the start of the hottest month of the year." The prevalence of raw sewage in the capital has left the city's beleaguered residents - especially the poor - vulnerable to a range of diseases, including cholera.

Psychology Chiwanga, the director of works at the Harare Municipality said last week that water would be rationed and the government would spend £4 million to revamp the water works' infrastructure, which has crumbled away since independence in 1980.

But people in the high density suburbs have taken the law into their own hands. "People dug a hole in the municipality's pipe under the ground, and we take the water from there. If we don't we will die," said Masimba Chayemba, 17, in Mabvuku township, 12 miles south-east of Harare.

In order to secure his regime in the face of rising criticism and internal collapse, Mr. Mugabe has pushed a set of repressive laws through parliament meant to silence dissent.
The latest law, which comes among a rush of new Bills, ahead of elections next March, makes it an offence to publish or communicate "to any other person a statement which is wholly or materially false with the intention of realising that there is a real risk of inciting or promoting public disorder or public violence or endangering public safety or, adversely affecting the defence and economic interests of Zimbabwe: or undermining public confidence in a law enforcement agency, the Prison Service or the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe; or interfering with, disrupting or interrupting any essential service," that person "shall be guilty of publishing or communicating a false statement prejudicial to the State and liable to a fine up to or exceeding level 14 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 20 years or both."
As a result of Mr. Mugabe's policies, Europe and tmost of the world treat Zimbabwe with disdain. However, not all nations are offended by human rights violations and the destruction of democracy. In November, Zimbabwe's national airline conluded an agreement to begin twice weekly flight to Bejing. China's relationship with Zimbabwe dates to the 1970's when Bejing trained rebels fighting against the remnant of the British colonial government (Mr. Mugabe was part of the rebel movement).

The latest stage of a long-standing relationship has seen floods of cheap goods imported from China, and big construction deals go to Chinese firms.

China is also ramping up its presence elsewhere in Africa, from construction in Botswana to oil in Sudan.

Air Zimbabwe is thought to have only two working long-haul aircraft, although it expects another two from China tanks to a deal signed earlier this year.

The Bejing flights are likely to help service China's extensive investments in Zimbabwe, estimated by Zimbabwe's goverment to be worth US$600 million, but by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to be much higher.

What a surprise that the Chinese government - itself such a supporter of human rights - would have few ethical issues dealing with a brutal regime like Mr. Mugabe's! The infusion of Chinese investment, and thus influence, into Africa should be of great concern to both Europea and the US. China's sphere of influence continues to expand driven by its burgeoning economy; its willingness to increase its influence by taking advantage of the West's human-rights boycott of Zimbabwe should give western leaders even greater pause, since it gives clear indication of China's intent and methods.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A Stir on the British Left

Two opinion pieces from Britain suggests that at least some members of the liberal-left have recognized the intellectual degeneration of their political bedfellows:

Writing in The Observer, Nick Cohen, who stoutly opposed the war in Iraq, wonders why the "anti-war" types who marched in protest to the US invasion have no issue with the appalling tactics of the "Iraqi insurgency," which gleefully and deliberately slaughters dozens of innocent civilians in a bid to stop an election.
The Stop the War Coalition, which organised one million people to march through the streets of London, told the kidnappers and torturers from the Baath Party and al-Qaeda that the anti-war movement 'recognises once more the legitimacy of the stuggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary.' Its leading figures purport to be on the left, but have cheered on the far-right and betrayed their comrades by denouncing Iraqi trade unionists as 'Quislings' and 'collaborators.' There have been a few honorably protests: Mick Rix, the former leader of the train drivers union, walked out in disgust saying that the anti-war movement was putting the lives of Iraqi trade unionists at risk. (Its denunciations of better and braver men and women than the British pseudo-leftists could ever be were reported in Arab newspapers which circulate in Iraq.)

Riz was joined by Unison and Labor backbenchers, but that's been about it. Not only the Stop the War Coalition but the bulk of liberal-left opinion in this country and on the planet, is at best indifferent to the fight to stop the return of tyranny and at woprse wants to spite the Americans by having the bombers stop elections. If you doubt how widespread this malign impulse has become, ask why the BBC has never covered the story of the totalitarian nature of the leaders of the anti-war movement when it would have had kittens on air if, say, the Countryside Alliance had been a front for the British National Party.
Mr. Cohen makes two excellent points. Regardless of one's view of the US invasion, the so-called insurgency's agenda comprises nothing less than a return of bloody tyranny and the possibility of Taliban-style theocracy for Iraq. If they win, Iraqis will have to endure a nightmare potentially worse than the regime of Saddam Hussein. One can reasonably disagree with the war, but no one can mount a moral defense of the insurgents, given their agenda and the fact that they brazenly target civilians. The only people who support them are radical leftists who have never met a leftist dictatorship they weren't willing to endorse, or who are so consumed by a hatred of the US that they are willing to consign an entire nation to brutality and oppression just to spite America.

Unfortunately, the anti-war coalition - both in Europe and in the US - was largely led by such "radical intellectuals," which explains the proliferation of Socialist Workers Party, Communist Party and even Islamist movement banners evident at many anti-war protests. Note this account in LA WEEKLY, written by David Corn, of an anti-war protest attended by "tens of thousands" at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC in October 2002. Mr. Corn worried that the protests organizers were less interested in convincing people that the war in Iraq was a bad idea as they were in denouncing the "United States as a force of unequaled imperialist evil" and who "yearn to smash global capitalism."
This was no accident, for the demonstration was essentially organized by the Workers World Party, a small political sect that years ago split from the Socialist Workers Party to support the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. The party advocates socialist revolution and abolishing private property. It is a fan of Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba, and it hails North Korean dictator Kim Jonh-Il for preserving his country's socialist system, whcih according to the party's newspaper, has kept North Korea from falling under the sway of transnational banks and corporations that dictate to most of the world. The WWP has campaigned against the war crimes trial of former Yugoslave President Slobodan Milosevic. A recent Workers World editorial declared, "Iraq has done nothing wrong."

Officially, the organizer of the Washington demonstration was International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism). But ANSWER is run by WWP activists, to such an extend that it seems fair to dub it a WWP front. Several key ANSWER officials, including spokesperson Brian Becker are WWP members. Many local offices for ANSWER's protest were housed in WWP offices. Earlier this year, when ANSWER conducted a press briefing, at least five of the 13 speakers were WWP activists. They were each identified, though, in other ways, including as members of the International Action Center.
Most of the people who protested the war didn't espouse such ideologies, but they didn't demand that these elements be excised from the anti-war movement, either. In the aforementioned Observer article, Mr. Cohen also rightly notes the silence of the media regarding the foundation of the anti-war movement. Few serious attempts were made by either US or European media to examine the credentials of those involved in the anti-war movement.

Mr. Cohen is no conservative, a point he repeatedly makes clear, but he stands disgusted by the left's abandonment of liberal-enlightenment principles. Last week, he notes:
Hadi Salih, international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, was tied and blindfolded and tortured by Baathist 'insurgents' loyal to Saddam Hussein before being forced to kneel, strangled by electric cord and shot.

I shouldn't be shocked that there hasn't been a squeak of protest from the anti-war movement at the killing of a brave socialist, but I am. Two years ago I believed that after the war people who opposed it for good reasons would vow to pursue Bush and Blair for what they had done to their graves, but the intellectual honesty to accept that Saddam's regime was fascist in theory and in practice and the good nature to offer fraternal support to the Iraqi socialists, democrats and liberals in their deadly struggle.
Instead, the anti-war movement has embraced the psychopathic terrorist "insurgency" which threatens to kill anyone who dares to vote in an internationally-monitored election. Of course, Mr. Cohen shouldn't have been surprised by this at all. The anti-war movement's real agenda could have been easily surmised by simply examining those who formed its base.

Kenan Malik, writing in The Guardian, similarly exposes the fallacy of Islamophobia, a myth created by European politicians and Islamic leaders in Europe to solidify power and stifle dissent. Mr. Malik, who identifies himself as solidly on the liberal-left, and one who vehemently opposes some of the government's anti-terror policies, nonetheless carefully examines the actual data regarding assaults on Muslims in Britain and concludes that complaints of a climate of vicious persecution of Muslims since September 11th simply isn't justified by the evidence. He concludes:
For Muslim leaders, inflating the threat to their communities helps consolidate their power base. For government ministers, making a song and dance about police harassment allows them to appear both tough on terrorism and sensitive to Muslim needs. But it does the rest of us, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, no favours at all. the more the threat of Islamophobia is exaggerated, the more ordinary Muslims believe that they are under constant attack. It helps create a siege mentality, it stokes up anger and resentment, and it makes Muslims more inward looking and more open to religious extremism.

It also creates a climate of censorship in which any criticism of Islam can be dismissed as Islamophobic. The people who suffer most from such censorship are those struggling to defend basic rights within Muslim communities. Marayam Namazie is an Iranian refugee who has long campaigned for women's rights and against Islamic repression. As a result she has been condemned as an Islamophobe, even by anti-racist organisations. "On the one hand," she says, "you are threatened by the political Islamic movement with assassination or imprisonment or flogging. And on the other, you have so-called progressive people who tell you what you say in defense of humanity, in defense of equal rights for all, is racist. I think it's nothing short of an outrage."
Venal and cynical attempts by politicians to increase their power and popularity with a good "song and dance" on any given issue is an old story. But the mastery of Western guilt over past racism by various groups, including radical Islamists is a new and dangerous tactic. It has been successfully used to blunt any criticism of Islamic cultural traditions that conflict with the Enlightenment values of the West - like equal rights, free speech, individual liberty, etc. - by smearing critics as racist. The left's willing participation in this scheme comes as a surprise to some (like Messrs. Cohen and Malik), but it shouldn't. The failure of many leftists to denounce the mass murderous tyranny of the USSR, Castro's Cuba, the Vietcong, and Mao's China should have served as a warning that human rights and Enlightenment values had slid from the left's agenda, replaced by a bitter hatred of Western Civilization and its productive engine, capitalism. With the collapse of socialist economics, that hatred is the only coherent emotion remaining. Hence the embrace of Islamism, Baathism and any bloody insurgency.

Self-Loathing Across the Pond

Jamaican rappers have become notorious for lacing their "lyrics" (?) with derogatory references to homosexuals, echoing a deep cultural disdain for homsexuality. Who might be to blame for this hostility? According to British leftist Decca Aitkenhead, the perpetrator is British colonialism: "Slavery laid the foundations of homophobia ... For us to vilify Jamaicans for an attitude of which we were the architects is shameful. Jamaicans weren't the architects of their ideas about homosexuality; we were." Ms. Aitkenhead titled her opinion piece, perhaps too revealingly, "Their Homohobia Is Our Fault."

Mark Steyn responds, taking Ms. Aitkenhead to task for her ridiculous position by pointing out that hostility toward homosexuals is prevalent throughout most of Africa and involves customs not traceable to Britain. But blaming colonialism for every problem afflicting the Third World has become the fallback position of the left, which conveniently ignores the stunning success of former British (and other European) colonial posessions in Asia. Such blather is a hallmark of the intellectual laziness and self-loathing that has sapped the last bit of the left's credibility and vigor. Worse, it demonstrates the patronizing attitude evinced by much of the left toward denizens of Third World nations, which exculpates them from their mistakes, worthless ideologies or crimes by suggesting that they are culturally and intellectually incapable of overcoming colonialism's legacy. Mr. Steyn concludes that real motivation behind such ridiculous pronouncements is the continued defamation of Western Civilization by those who wish to destroy it.
But "multiculturalism" is really a suicide cult conceived by the Western elites not to celebrate all cultures, but to deny their own. And that's particularly unworthy of the British, whose language, culture and law have been the single greatest force for good in this world.
Just don't dare try and teach that at any university.

Monday, January 10, 2005

A Problem in Starr County

An article by Elizabeth Weil investigating widespread obesity among children in Starr County, Texas, in the New York Times Magazine, January 2, 2005, ("Heavy Questions") is notable for several reasons. First, it points to an odd reversal of historical norms. Ms. Weil notes that while 59 percent of Starr County's children reside in homes whose income fall below the poverty line, but that "in the strange new arithmetic of want" poverty no longer equals malnutrition. Indeed, quite the opposite. "By the time they are 4 years old, 24 percent of the children are overweight or obese; by kindergarten, 28 percent; and by elementary school, 50 percent of the boys are overweight or obese, along with 35 percent of the girls," she writes.

According to Ms. Weil, Starr County's child obesity epidemic - a somewhat more extreme manifestation of a growing nationwide trend - has drawn researchers to study its causes. The researchers found that with the local public school offering "breakfasts containing as many as 600 calories and lunches with 800, every child was on track to gain at least nine pounds during the school year." An examination of the schoolchildren showed that 13 percent of the prekindergarteners and 18 percent of the kindergarten children showed signs of possible insulin resistence, a potential precursor to diabetes. One of the researchers, Peggy Visio at the University of Texas Health Science Center, complained, "People who were supposed to be helping these children ... were teaching them the wrong things. They wanted to make the children happy by giving them what they wanted. It was making the children sick." Of course, the children were also exposed to the new ubiquitous presence to sugary soda drinks and fast food franchises where the fare is fatty, calorie-heavy and very cheap. But Ms. Weil spends considerable time focusing - as the researchers have - on what may be the real source of the problem: overly permissive parents. "Guilt is a major problem in dealing with childhood obesity - the guilt parents feel in denying their children good or inadvertantly making them self conscious about their weight, the guilt children try to instill in their parents in order to get what they want," Ms. Weil writes.
"A lot of these parents give in to their kids too much," said [Olga] Smedley, [the locak public school principal], a pretty and trim mother of three who grew up in the Rio Grande City area and does her best to resist her chubby 6-year-old's relentless requests for shrimp scampi. The upended power dynamics can lead parents to cede authority to children and lead children to bully their parents. "These children threaten their parents," Smedley said. "They say: 'If you spank me, or if you do this, I'm going to call child protective services. I'm going to call the police." Smedley explained that the kids are just being kids. by the parents perhaps feeling vulnerable, capitulate. "Who's in control?" Smedley asked, her eyes widening and her frustration apparent. "I told the parents - it's because you're allowing it."
Ms. Weil notes that illegal immigration has compounded the problem in Starr County, since any call to the police or to child protective services by the child of illegal aliens could deliver the entire family to the immigration police. But the threat works just as well for non-illegal families, since the police and child protective services would be obliged to investigate any complaint and the parents would be put on the defensive.

When school officials adopted some of the menu-changes - reducing the fat and sugar content - that the researchers suggested:
...the children, not surprisingly, were not happy, a feeling they expressed by staging lunchroom protests and hanging signs outside some cafeterias that read "No more diet" and "We want to eat cool stuff - pizza, nachos, burritos, cheese fries." Visio expected as much from the kids, but what caught her short was how muich the children's hounding got to their parents, and how often those parents caved to their children's shortsighted, unhealthful wishes. "We have one morbidly obese girl, and since we changed the menus, her mother has been stuffing her backpack with three bags of chips and three candy bars every day," Visio said. "This is in addition to a full breakfast and lunch. Some of these parents are just afraid to say no. They love their children, but their children have them convinced that of they eat a healthy diet, they will starve."
Children cannot make proper decisions for themselves. They lack the education, cognitive ability and real-world experience to understand what is good for them and what isn't. Most societies around the world understand this. American society used to understand this This cultural reversal of power between parents and children deprives parents of the authority and discipline needed to successful raise children. Worse, it endangers childrens by placing them at the mercy of their own wiles and whims.

Roel Gonzalez, a school superintendent related a story Ms. Weil said she heard over and over from older residents of Starr County:
When I went to school they gave you colored coupons," [Gonzalez] said. "The blue one meant you paid for your lunch. The white one was a reduced price. The pink one was free, and you didn't want to be seen with the pink one. People would tear you apart. Now government assistance is a major part of the fabric of society. In addition to free meals for their children in school, many adults in Starr County receive food stamps, health care and utility and housing subsidies. Much of this is beneficial, of course, but Gonzalez also explained that it has contributed to eroding the old norms. A while back, for instance, Gonzalez caught a girl smoking marijuana. "I told her that's not what I would call normal behavior for a girl of 12, and she said, 'It's normal in my house.' It's norma in my house. We've got to change what's normal."
Finally, Ms. Weil's article draws attention because it suggests a genetic propensity for weight gain on the part of Hispanics:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, rates of childhood obesity are among the worst in the Mexican-American population, and Star County is 98 percent Mexican-American. The US Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources, also shows that as socio-economic status falls, rates of childhood obesity rise, and Starr County is desperately poor. Not only is Starr County in Texas - one of the fattest states in the Union - but it is also on the US-Mexico border, the fattest part of Texas. The overall effect is devastating: almost half the adults in Starr County have Type 2 diabetes.
Given that Ms. Weil's article also notes that a large percentage of Starr County's population comprises illegal aliens who have crossed the border from neighboring Mexico and settled in the ramshackle colonias, "jerry-rigged neighborhoods" that "lack adequate municipal services," the term Mexican-American may be something of a euphemism for a politically incorrect truth.
According to Nancy Butte, director of the Viva la Familia Project at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, 40 to 60 percent of the prevalence of childhood obesity in the Hispanic population can be attributed to genetic factors. "Much has been written about children who are overweight," said Butte, explaining her study, " but little is known about why Hispanic children in particular tend to be more at risk for obesity." Many believe that there is, most likely, a set of genes that makes some people more susceptible than others. Butte suggests that at least part of the genetic component may be related to "the thrifty gene hypothesis," the theory that some combinations of chromosomes create a situation in which cells are more inclined to store caloies efficiently for times of scarcity. Some researchers have speculated that because many Mexican-Americans are descendants of American Indian hunter-gatherers, who evolved to store fat more easily for times of famine, those living a sedentary life in modern westernized societies with access to fast food may be prone to gain weight.
Whether or not Hispanics possess a genetic component which makes them more susceptible to weight gain than other ethnic groups remains a question for geneticists to resolve. But the appearance of even an oblique hint that there may exist meaningful genetic differences between racial/ethnic groups in the New York Times, where politically correct orthodoxy usually brands even the contemplation of that possibility inherently racist and unacceptable, shows that the entrenched resistance to these ideas continues to crumble.

Muslims Leaders React to the Tsunami Horror

The horrendous death toll from the Indian Ocean tsunami has prompted an outpouring of generosity from the Western world, which has collectively pledged billions of dollars in emergency aid to the suffering people of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Only after independent Arab media outlets (see below) began pressing their governments did the Muslim kingdoms and emirates of the Persian Gulf - their coffers swelling since the recent increase in oil prices - increase the aid sent to the the affected region, home to tens of millions of Muslims. Still, the contribution from the Muslim world is dwarfed by the contribution of either Australian, Japan or the U.S. taken by itself. But if Muslim governments have been reticient to react to the crisis (dare one say, stingy?), Muslim clerics have been more vocal.

The Middle East Media Research Institute has cataloged some of the more interesting responses. They are worth reading in full, but some excerpts consisely convey the general tone.

On Al-Majd TV, Ibrahim Al-Bashar, an advisor to Saudi Arabia's Justice Minister, said, among other things:
"These countries, in which these things occurred – don't they refrain from adopting Allah's law, which is a form of heresy? Man-made laws have been chosen over Allah's law, which has been deemed unsuitable to judge people?! Whoever does not act according to Allah's law is a heretic, that's what Allah said in the Koran. Don't these countries have witchcraft, sorcery, deceitfulness, and abomination?"
In an interview on the same Al-Majd TV, Saudi cleric Muhammad Al-Munajjid charitably offered:

"The problem is that the [Christian] holidays are accompanied by forbidden things, by immorality, abomination, adultery, alcohol, drunken dancing, and … and revelry. A belly dancer costs 2500 pounds per minute and a singer costs 50,000 pounds per hour, and they hop from one hotel to another from night to dawn. Then he spends the entire night defying Allah.

"Haven't they learned the lesson from what Allah wreaked upon the coast of Asia, during the celebration of these forbidden? At the height of immorality, Allah took vengeance on these criminals.

"Those celebrating spent what they call 'New Year's Eve' in vacation resorts, pubs, and hotels. Allah struck them with an earthquake. He finished off the Richter scale. All nine levels gone. Tens of thousands dead.

"It was said that they were tourists on New Year's vacation who went to the crowded coral islands for the holiday period, and then they were struck by this earthquake, caused by the Almighty Lord of the worlds. He showed them His wrath and His strength. He showed them His vengeance. Is there anyone learning the lesson? Is it impossible that we will be struck like them? Why do we go their way? Why do we want to be like them, with their holidays, their forbidden things, and their heresy?
Of course, these comments don't accurately portray the attitudes of most Muslims, but they do suggest the sort of mindset that runs deeply throughout most of the Muslim world, a mindset that sees a conspiracy behind every event and takes pleasure in the suffering of "infidels." It's hardly unique to the Muslim world; any number of fundamentalist Christian preachers have done exactly the same thing - witness Pat Robertson's prediction/plea that God would might destroy the city of Orlando, Florida, among other irenic utterances.