Friday, February 03, 2006

White House Kow-tows on Schedule

It comes as absolutely no surprise that the Bush administration has sided with the tantrum-throwing Muslims against the European newspapers desperately trying to defend freedom of speech.

In Washington, the State Department criticized the drawings, calling them "offensive to the beliefs of Muslims."

While recognizing the importance of freedom of the press and expression, State Department press officer Janelle Hironimus said these rights must be coupled with press responsibility.

"Inciting religious or ethnic hatred in this manner is not acceptable," Hironimus said. "We call for tolerance and respect for all communities and for their religious beliefs and practices."

Not a word from the State Department spokesman - who doesn’t open his mouth without the expressed approval of the Secretary of State and her boss, the President - about the vile characterization of non-Muslims in the Arabic press, or the funding of Islamic extremists by Saudi Arabia. No, not a word. Too busy trying to curry favor with the radical Muslims who hate us anyway. Shameful. Disgraceful. Completely predictable.

Once again, the White House has soiled itself kowtowing to the Islamists. The Islamists understand the West down to our molecules. Scream loudly and threaten violence and we’ll cave in on even our most important beliefs. Call us racist and we wet ourselves. In Riyadh, the Wahabbists are laughing so hard they’re might accidentally set off their stockpiles of suicide vests. Who needs to attack the West when its own leaders will gladly eviscerate themselves?

The Truth About Tony

Tony Blair’s staunch support of the US after September 11th, and in the Afghan and Iraqi campaigns, has led many Americans to view him as an ally who shares American values. However, the policies advocated by Prime Minister Blair and his New Labor government in the UK have little in common with any values Americans actually cherish. This week, the Blair government was handed a stinging rebuke by parliament, which shot down the harsher version of a series of laws drafted by the government that, in the name of political correctness, would have eviscerated the concept of free speech in the UK. In its most drastic form, the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill would have criminalized any expression against a particular religious or racial group that it’s members found offensive. Of course, as any grade school child knows, there are a lot of pretty thin-skinned people out there who will be offended by just about anything. But the law was – not surprisingly – spearheaded by Muslim advocacy groups hoping to silence any criticism of their religion’s increasing violence and intolerance, and the deleterious effect of so many non-European immigrants on British society and culture. Tony Blair, blinded by his devotion to mulitculturalism, could not discern the motivations of those advocating the bill and blithely went along with it. He didn’t want to be called a racist, and was perfectly willing to annihilate hundreds of years of British political tradition to appease the Muslim mob.

In a particularly satisfying twist, the bill’s defeat was inspired by an episode of the American television show, "The West Wing" that broadcast in Britain last Sunday night, according to the UK’s Telegraph.

Slumped in front of the television on Sunday night, one of the leaders of the revolt watched with growing interest as Democrats won a key vote on stem cell research by pretending not to be around.

The congressmen hid in an empty office and then triumphantly emerged in force when the vote was called by the unsuspecting Republican speaker.

"That's where the idea came from," the MP, who declined to be identified, told The Daily Telegraph. "We had no big press conferences, no events announcing the coming protest. It was directly inspired by the West Wing," he said.

The Tories toasted their success with champagne on Tuesday night. Not only had the Labour whips blundered by failing to appreciate the scale of the rebellion on their own side: they had also been outsmarted by a classic "under the radar" whipping operation by the Tories.

As a result, Labour crashed to only its second and third Commons defeats since Tony Blair came to power in 1997.

To add to Miss Armstrong's embarrassment, the Government lost the second, crucial division by just one vote. Had Mr Blair stayed - and not gone back to No 10 as he was told he could - it would have been a tie.

The Government would then have won because the Speaker, Michael Martin, would have used his casting vote to keep the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill in its original form, rejecting the watering down proposed by the House of Lords.

Fortunately, Blair’s New Labor MPs were so confident of victory, they were outfoxed by canny Tories following a TV show script. Britons have no idea how lucky they are. Unfortunately, the movement against free speech is a Europe-wide phenomena (see here), motivated by both political correctness and multiculturalist nonsense.

Blair’s intellectual bankruptcy is concisely outlined by Val MacQueen writing on TCS Daily.

Unlike his long line of predecessors, Blair is curiously uninterested in the history and traditions of the countries which make up the United Kingdom and the historical development of laws, including the freedom of speech and thought that the British have enjoyed -- in sharp contrast to citizens of European countries -- for 800 years. Sometimes he seems to be barely aware of the nature of the people he is governing and anyway, the past is another country. Enjoying far greater power than the President of the United States, Blair has, in the words of conservative columnist Melanie Phillips, "ripped the heart out of the … British constitution" and "has behaved like a constitutional vandal, fragmenting the United Kingdom and destroying the independence of the second chamber."

Most alarming is the New Labour focus on controlling not only speech, but thought. Political correctness is thought-control under a less threatening name, and The Times of London's Europe correspondent Anthony Browne has described the descent into a Kafkaesque world in his new pamphlet, The Retreat of Reason, published by conservative think tank Civitas. He demonstrates that the new ideology has effectively stifled public debate on topics the government doesn't want discussed. He adds that throughout all levels of government now, "there is an intellectually dishonest response by people who preferred political correctness over factual correctness".

He cites, among other examples, the explosion of HIV infection in Britain. The politically correct response is, too many teenagers are indulging in unprotected sex, which, as we know, won't stand up to scientific scrutiny, but never mind. The factual response is, immigration from Africa. With regard to the rise in anti-Semitic attacks, Brown cites the politically correct response of gangs of white skinheads. The factually correct response is Muslim youths.

The Blair government – rather like its American counterpart – maintains a rigorous policy of avoiding the subject of the damage being inflicted on the UK by recent immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants. The strict version of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill would have effectively silence any criticism against radical Muslims or immigration to the UK. That was its specific purpose. But its defeat should offer little comfort to Britons eager to defend their cultural heritage and political freedoms. That such a bill was actually pushed by the government – and nearly passed – should send chills down the spines of both Britons and Americans. It should also send a strong warning about the dubious intellectual premises of Prime Minister Blair and New Labor.

The criminalization of dissenting opinions, even where such opinions are commonly held to be vile, is a step toward oppression. One doesn’t need to have read George Orwell to know that.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Reminder of Muslim Rampages Past

Given the current uproar by Muslims worldwide over cartoons published in a Danish newspaper, it seem a good time remind Westerners that this is hardly the first time Muslim rage has been ignited by something trivial. There was for example the carnage that followed an off hand reference to the Prophet Mohammed in a Nigerian newspaper reporting on the 2002 Miss World contest.

MUSLIMS in Nigeria were yesterday urged to execute a fashion journalist whose article about the Miss World beauty contest sparked last week’s riots, resulting in more than 200 people losing their lives.
The deputy governor of a state in northern Nigeria said Islamic law required the death of the journalist, Isioma Daniel, because she was guilty of blasphemy.

"Just like the blasphemous Indian writer Salman Rushdie, the blood of Isioma Daniel can be shed," Mahamoud Shinkafi told a gathering of Muslim groups. Rushdie was forced into hiding after Iran’s former leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious edict, ordering his death in 1989 for allegedly insulting Islam in his bestselling novel The Satanic Verses.

Although Shinkafi does not have the religious authority to issue a fatwa, his spokesman said the death sentence was "a reality based on the teachings of the Koran".

Ms Daniel has resigned from her job and is also believed to have gone into hiding since writing in defence of the Miss World contest in the Lagos-based newspaper ThisDay.

The article suggested religious objections to the beauty contest were misplaced because Islam’s founding prophet Mohammed would have approved of the pageant and might even have chosen one of the contestants as a wife.

Within hours of the article being published, rioting erupted in the northern city of Kaduna where Muslim youths burned down the district office of ThisDay. More than 200 people were killed in the city and rioting also briefly spread to the capital, Abuja.

The Miss World pageant, due to be held in Lagos, was cancelled and all 80 contestants flown to London after the unrest.

Pointing out that Muslim media regularly depict non-Muslims in far more abusive terms and that the Muslim outcry over the cartoons is thus utterly hypocritical, is rather like throwing snowballs at an alpine avalanche. Better for Western nations to understand that such bizarre and violent over-reactions are typical of Muslim behavior worldwide. One may then draw the appropriate conclusions regarding the average level of intellectual and moral development inspired by Islam. The most obvious conclusion being that Muslim immigration to Western nations is uniformly bad for the West, and needs to be stopped at once.

The Consequences of Muslim Immigration

Britons should prepare for more terror attacks, according to the government’s main investigator of the terrorist threats.

The Government's anti-terror watchdog has warned there is a "a real and present danger" of new terror attacks in Britain.

Lord Carlile, the Government's independent reviewer of counter-terrorism laws, said documents shown to him by the Home Office were "sufficiently alarming" for him to conclude that suicide bombings similar to the July 7 attacks "must be expected".

The Liberal Democrat peer said: "The nature of the activities of which I have seen information is sufficiently alarming for me to re-emphasise ... the real and present danger of shocking terrorism acts involving suicide bombers.

"Further suicide bombings in the UK must be expected, and the targets are unpredictable."

What is significant about the Telegraph article is the complete absence of any mention about the source of these attacks. Just who among the British population might be contemplating such atrocities? Are Presbyterians building suicide vests in their basements? Are Japanese tourists concealing bombs in their digital cameras? Surely, the documents to which Lord Carlile alludes must have hinted at the identities of those planning suicide bombings. Or the fact that the only known suicide bombings in recent memory were carried out by British Muslims might give one a clue. But the Telegraph deliberately avoids any suggestion that Muslims might have anything to do with it. The words Muslim or Islamic do not appear even once in the entire piece.

In a similar, but related note, whilst newspapers across Europe have shown solidarity with Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, currently besieged by irate, violent Muslims (is that redundant?), by reprinting the cartoons which has so riled the Islamic masses, no British newspaper has done so, including the Telegraph. Nor have any American newspapers done so. Apparently, freedom of the press is a principle American and British journalists are perfectly willing to discard in the name of political correctness.

The cartoon controversy should be welcomed – and should receive far more coverage in the US press – because it so neatly delineates the culture clash between Islam and the West. If Islam is a religion of peace and love, why do Muslims always resort to threats and violence when criticized? If Islam is a religion of tolerance, then why do Muslim consistently fail to show tolerance towards non-Muslims? Finally, if Muslims across the world can so readily mobilize for protest and vociferous condemnation over mere newspaper cartoons, what should Westerners infer from their complete silence after September 11th? Or Bali? Or Madrid? This cannot be stated forcefully enough. If Muslims are roused to public anger and protest over cartoons allegedly defaming Mohammed, but remain silent when other Muslims murder thousands of civilians explicitly in the name of Islam, the only reasonable conclusion is that most Muslims are not outraged by such atrocities and are indeed sympathetic to their perpetrators. That alone should be enough to close the door on any further Muslim immigration to the West.

Tilting at Federal Windmills with Common Sense

With localities facing an ever-increasing fiscal burden from the mass invasion of illegal immigrants, anger at the federal government’s deliberate abandonment of border and immigration enforcement is growing. The situation hasn’t reach critical mass just yet, but the tension continues to simmer and is provoking local officials to make their displeasure known.

An Ohio sheriff has billed the Department of Homeland Security $125,000 for the cost of jailing illegal aliens arrested on criminal charges in his county, saying he's angry that the federal government has failed in its responsibility to keep them out of the United States.

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones yesterday said that although the government may not be legally obligated to pay the three bills he has sent since November, he intends to send similar ones every month until the federal government gains control of the border.

He said 900 foreign-born inmates have been booked into the crowded Butler County jail in the past year.

"Why should Butler County taxpayers have to pay for jail costs associated with people we don't believe should ever have been in this country, let alone this state or county, to begin with?" Sheriff Jones said. "They are in my jail because they have committed crimes here.

"It's time the federal government should at least pay for the criminals they let stay here," he said. "If they don't want to pay for them, then they can deport them."

Representatives of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), claim that they’ve tried to assist Butler County, but given how well they’ve done at the border (1.5 million illegal crossings a year), they have exactly no credibility.

Sheriff Butler’s attempt to charge the federal government for its malfeasance will go nowhere. The feds can safely ignore one such protest. Or a dozen. But if large numbers of localities were to begin demanding such compensations, and if they began withholding payments to the federal government, Washington might be forced to listen. But don’t hold your breath. Local officials are rarely far-sighted enough to act in such a concerted fashion, and are even more likely to be bullied by pro-immigrant activists than state or federal officials.

Still, Sheriff Jones makes a good deal of sense.

"We're not a border state, we're in the middle of the country, but I can tell you the people here are fed up with this stuff," he said. "As the local sheriff, I keep my ear to the ground, and I hear what the people are saying. I have the bully pulpit and my constituents don't, so I am determined to speak for them.

"This is not rocket science," he said. "I intend to continue to bring this problem to the attention of anyone who will listen. There is little else I can do unless and until the system is changed."

The sheriff noted that recent immigration legislation being considered in Washington made no mention of holding Mexican President Vicente Fox or his country responsible for failing to secure its side of the U.S.-Mexico border. He said Mexico appears to be "doing little or nothing to stop anyone" from illegally crossing into America.

Too bad the current President of the United States doesn’t have as much common sense as this Ohio sheriff. Or the backbone to stand up to an increasingly aggressive Mexico.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Most Depressing Moment from Last Night's Circus

On National Review’s blog, The Corner, conservative commentator John Derbyshire rather pithily sums up the sad reality of President Bush’s "guest worker" program proposal from last night’s State of the Union:

Worst Idea in the SOTU Speech.
Guest worker program. "Let's create a vast new category of second-class sub-citizens, preferably by allowing some neighboring country to export its race problem to us. Then, let's give the regulation and registration of these new millions over to a federal government agency that has proved hopelessly incapable of carrying out its current, much lesser, responsibilities." What a terrific idea.

Indeed. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful change of pace to have a President who actually took seriously his oath to defend the territorial integrity of the United States?

Last night’s speech was predictably empty of specifics and long on rhetoric. As usual, the home team applauded wildly and the opposing team grimaced and smirked. The post-game rebuttal from the opposing team's mascot was as soporific as usual. The State of the Union has essentially turned into a drawn out, over-choreographed high school pep rally. Is it too much to hope that a future president will wash his or her hands of this sad affair and return to the formerly venerable practice of simply sending Congress a letter? Was anything said last night worth the two hours of primetime network television it consumed?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hamas as Harbinger

Jim Pinkerton at TCS Daily makes a few trenchant observations on the outcome of last week’s Palestinian elections and what Hamas’s triumph reveals about US foreign policy.

First, the Israeli intelligence services, so vaunted, had assured one and all, there and here, that Hamas could not get more than 30 percent of the vote. And the far less vaunted American intelligence services, agreed with the Israelis. On Friday, The New York Post’s Uri Dan, who is about as well-connected as any American reporter in Jerusalem, wrote, "The Israeli political, intelligence and defense establishment was caught off guard. There were no intelligence estimates or evaluation that forecast a Hamas victory, let alone the landslide that the world woke up to yesterday."

And the Hamas election was a big deal. "This is one of the blackest days in the history of the state of Israel," declared Silvan Shalom, who just gave up the foreign minister’s portfolio. And back in DC, Fox News’ White House correspondent, Carl Cameron, reported, "For President Bush, it’s hard to overstate the disappointment." Secretary of State Condi Rice’s caustic comments about her own staff, "I've asked why nobody saw it coming. It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse," were good enough to be The New York Times’ "quote of the day" for Monday.

So what went wrong with the intelligence? Is it just because, as former Senator Sam Nunn told NBC News, those dealing with the Palestinians have been "rather naïve"? That’s part of the problem, but another aspect can be found in the sum total of the previous two paragraphs: That is, if the news is bad enough, you don’t want to think about it. And if you don’t want to think about it, you don’t see it coming. Since the victory of Hamas -- whose charter calls for the annihilation of Israel and also of Jews -- is about the worst possible electoral outcome imaginable, it’s possible to see how the experts simply could not bring themselves to predict such a calamitous outcome. Yes, it’s fun to be contrarian, to be right when everybody else is wrong, but inside a bureaucracy, there’s a fine line to be walked between being correct and "not being a team player." So everybody in Jerusalem and Washington was "on the team," lowballing-Hamas-wise -- and now look where we are.

The resounding Hamas victory ought to give President Bush and his supporters more than a moment’s pause regarding the wisdom of their democratize-the-Muslims-at-all-costs policy. When Muslims are given the chance to vote, they have a historical pattern of voting for Islamic extremists. This can be seen in elections from Morocco to Indonesia. Not just recently, but going back for decades. Democratic experiments in the Muslim world have a nasty habit of dying quickly once the people vote into office the more radical fundamentalist types. Those that survive, after a fashion, are kept on perpetual life-support by secular militaries that roll out every few years to depose the Islamists that the people have just elected to power – see Turkey.

This pattern tends to support the idea that democracy is something that requires the certain cultural pre-requisites. Those pre-requisites – tolerance of dissent, restraint from violence, loose family ties - took centuries to develop in the West, and those centuries were often soaked in blood. Nothing in Islamic culture or history suggests broad sympathy to those ideas. Imposing democracy from the top down, by force, isn’t going to reshape Muslim culture. It is simply going to provide Muslim masses the opportunity to vote for the radicals of their choice.

Pinkerton sees this too:

Fourth, and once again, we might as well be candid here: Democracy is not quite a panacea. "Hitler was also elected democratically," snapped Silvan Shalom explained to The New York Post. An important conservative voice for the moderation of the democracy-at-all-costs Bush Doctrine has been Peggy Noonan; a year ago, in the wake of Bush’s hyper-visionary second inaugural address, her op-ed in The Wall Street Journal asked, "Was the president's speech a case of ‘mission inebriation’?" Yes, was Noonan’s answer. And just last week, reviewing Bush’s latest encomium to free elections -- W. used the words "democracy" or "democratization" 13 times at Kansas State University -- Noonan further opined, "In the short term the president's preoccupation seem somewhat at odds with the needs of the moment."

Some pro-democracy thinkers, such as New York University’s Noah Feldman, are thinking longer term. In his 2003 book, After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy, Feldman argued that if democracy is let loose in the Arab/Muslim world, the US would confront a generation of Iran-style "Islamic Republics" everywhere. To Feldman, that’s acceptable, and it’s also, he argues, inevitable. But of course, the Bush administration hasn’t prepared the American people for such an outcome. Maybe that get-used-to-it process is beginning now.

The idea here is simple: let the Muslims elect the most radical fundamentalists. Burst the dam that’s been holding them in check (authoritarian, but generally secular strongmen) and let them run the Middle East. Let them turn the Middle East into one super-sized version of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Then, in a decade or two, when the people of the Middle East see what a mess the Islamists have made, they will reject Islamism and adopt a more sensible pro-Western approach.

Well, it’s an argument, but waiting a generation for the Islamist tide to break in the Middle East doesn’t explain how we will deal with them in the short term. To whom will they sell their oil? They will sell it, but maybe not to us. China will pay just as well as the West, and the Islamists will take considerable satisfaction in spitting at the Western by providing China the fuel it needs to grow. Worse, this policy does little to address the terrorist and immigration threat posed to Western nations by radical Muslims – in fact, in the short term, it would only increase it.

Worse, this argument overlooks the fact that Islamist radicalism derives from Islam itself. Don’t let the apologists for Islamic fanaticism tell you otherwise. Islamic fundamentalism has waxed and waned throughout the centuries, but it always returns, because the appeal of religious fundamentalism never disappears – a truth not confined to Islam. For this reason, Islamism won’t be as easy to discredit as communism or socialism or fascism. And, despite the complete and bloody failures of those nasty "isms," they turn out not to be so easy to discredit either. South America finds itself in the throes of a socialist renaissance. Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil are proudly waving the socialist banner and making chummy with Fidel Castro not fifteen years after the demise of the Soviet Union. Foolishness comes naturally to human beings, and more readily to some humans than others.

George F. Will senses this troubling blindspot in the President's thinking.

The success of the terrorist organization Hamas in the Palestinian elections is but the latest proof of what happens when the forms of democracy are severed from what the president, with a cosmopolitan shrug, dismissively called "our own Western standards of progress." Now comes wishful thinking, and then cynicism.

Regarding the latter, the watery materialism of much thinking -- the theory that social structures and economic incentives trump ideas as shapers of behavior -- will interpret the Hamas victory in the benign light of the Garbage Collection Theory of History. On Sunday, on ABC's "This Week," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said: "My hope is that as a consequence of now being responsible for electricity and picking up garbage and basic services to the Palestinian people, that they recognize it's time to moderate their stance." Perhaps. But their stance -- Israel must die -- is, they say, the will of God, who has not authorized moderation in the name of sanitation.

Hamas’s victory was a harbinger of things to come if democracy does spread across the Middle East. Iraqis have already expressed a preference for religious parties. The seeds of Shia militancy are already planted and the Iranians are nurturing them even as American soldiers try to avoid IEDs on Baghdad streets. The Bush administration hasn’t given enough thought to the possible downside of its policy. It hasn’t given enough consideration to the reality that Muslims are culturally just not like us. It had better start.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Border Warning

The disgraceful disintegration of the US-Mexico border continues as the White House and Congress do nothing. Latin American criminal cartels - among others - have taken notice of Washington's unwillingness to defend American territory and, apparently, are preparing to brazenly take advantage of American weakness.

Members of a violent international gang working for drug cartels in Central and South America are planning coordinated attacks along the U.S. border with Mexico, according to a Department of Homeland Security document obtained by the Daily Bulletin.

Detailed inside a Jan. 20 officer safety alert, the plot's ultimate goal is to "begin gaining control of areas, cities and regions within the U.S."

The information comes from the interrogation of a captured member of Mara Savatrucha, or MS-13, a transnational criminal syndicate born from displaced El Salvadoran death squads from the 1980s.

The MS-13 member, who claimed to have smuggled cocaine for the Gulf Cartel, explained a plan to amass MS-13 members in Mexican border towns such as Nuevo Laredo, Acuna, Ojinaga and Juarez. The Gulf Cartel runs its drug smuggling operations from Del Rio, Texas, to south of Matamoros, Mexico.

"After enough members have been pre-positioned along the border, a coordinated attack using firearms was to commence against all law enforcement, to include Border Patrol," the alert states.

Mike Friel, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, would not comment specifically on the alert.

Astonishingly, local officials said they had not been notified of any such alert and were unaware of the MS-13 threat.

Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez of Zapata County in Texas said he was angry about the alert because he has never received information from the Department of Homeland Security about this or any other threat along the Texas border.

"That is something that I was not aware of, but information like this should be given to us immediately," he said.

Gonzalez said it's another example of poor communication between law enforcement agencies.

"Since Sept. 11, we heard there was going to be a sharing of information, but today we still haven't received anything," he said. "All the information of threat levels, I get through the media."

In Arizona's Santa Cruz County, where in May a sniper shot two Border Patrol agents in the legs, Sheriff Tony Estrada said he was alarmed by the documented threat.

This is the level of attention being given to national security by both the Bush administration and Congress. An open border is an invitation to both criminals and terrorists, but in its lust for cheap labor and Hispanic votes, the Bush administration and the GOP just doesn't care. Unfortunately, it seems that it will take some spectacular event, the massacre of US border patrol agents, perhaps, or a major cross border terrorist attack, before the US government is forced by public condemnation and pressure to perform its constitutionally mandated goal of defending the borders. The relevant question is, in the aftermath of the increasingly inevitable disaster, what will the consequences be for the politicians who ignored the obvious warnings - and duties of their office - and sat by idly whilst the southwestern US was ravaged?