2014-12-31

Happy New Year

Or Sylvester as it's known in some parts.  Ring out the old, ring in the new, and don't do anything dethpicable.

2014-07-14

The Future

The Federal and state governments will likely go broke, and people who depended on government benefits will feel a lot of hurt. Social Security will be long gone. Big liberal states like California will be hardest hit. Infrastructures will suffer and things like serviceable roads, law enforcement, and emergency services will deteriorate.

Depending on how successful Obama is in his effort to wreck our economy in general and our medical system in particular, doctors and hospitals will likely be few and far between.

Over the past couple of generations, a lot of worthless paper has changed hands because (1) loans were given to people who didn’t have the means to repay them; and (2) politicians made promises that they didn’t have the means to pay for.

The government and its agencies will grow hungry and mean – like any other predatory animal – and will increasingly focus their dwindling resources on functions that generate revenue. This means finding ever more creative ways to expropriate citizens of their money and belongings. So we can expect to see increases in everything from petty robberies such as parking tickets to major hauls like seizures of cars, homes, and businesses on the pretext that they were used for “drug trafficking”.

End result is that survival strategies are going to go back to being what they’ve always been. Be honest, courteous, hardworking, competent, and educated, and associate with other people who are. Take care of those close to you and be ready to defend them – and yourself.

2014-07-10

Gays and Society

Social conservatives typically imagine that gay people and gay organizations are trying to destroy society. They are wrong about gay people as individuals, of course, but they're not completely wrong about gay organizations - most of which are Leftist in orientation. These groups really ARE trying to destroy society, not because they're gay, but because they're Leftists, and that's what Leftists do.

2014-07-08

Source Bias Checklist

1. identify sources
2. assess source's reliability
3. get specifics
4. avoid vendettas
5. first-hand knowledge
6. ideological orientation
7. financial interests
8. debts and favors
9. bias of intermediaries
10. past experiences
11. psychological factors
12. internal consistency
13. external consistency
14. insider details
15. dialog and dissent
16. awareness of objections
17. nuance
18. the human voice
19. snarl/purr words
20. narrative
21. implicit bias
22. red herrings / straw men
23. fallacies
24. weasel words

2014-06-25

Light Posting Until Next Week

I'm traveling, and I have spotty internet service.

2014-06-18

"The firewall was very one-sided ..."

Woodbury, Connecticut high school student Andrew Lampart noticed something odd about the behavior of his school's internet firewall:
To start with, the senior at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Connecticut, said he couldn’t access the National Rifle Association’s website.

“So, I went over to the other side,” the 18-year-old told WTIC-TV in Hartford. “And I went over on sites such as Moms Demand Action or Newtown Action Alliance and I could get on these websites but not the others.”
He went on to compare results from other searches:
“I immediately found out that the State Democrat web site was unblocked but the State GOP web site was blocked.”

Lampart even looked at Web sites focusing on abortion issues and religion. He found that “right-to-life” groups were blocked by the public school firewall but that Planned Parenthood and Pro-Choice America were not. He also tried to get on web sites such as Christianity.com and the Vatican’s web site but both were blocked. Islam-guide.com he found, was not.

“They’re trying to, in my opinion, shelter us from what’s actually going on around the country and around the world by blocking these web sites. It should be the other way around. The web sites should be unblocked so that students can get different viewpoints from different sides of each argument,” Lampart said.
Notice that he was careful not to just jump to a conclusion based on one or two data points. He took his time and investigated systematically.

Chloe Simone Valdary: Native Son

Native Son | Chloe Simone Valdary
I am the native son of warrior poets and mighty men of valor. My brothers are so fresh and so cool, they kill lions and slay giants for fun, and they still find time to compose a song or two. My sisters are so fly, when they have something to say, they will speak their minds regardless of who you think you are. You could even be a Persian king who doesnt allow that sort of thing but my sisters are so beautiful, it doesn’t matter; he too will be charmed by their breathtaking magnificence.

These numbers you see tatooed on my arm are not the only story my life tells. I have known more hardship than that. My veins speak of my 400 year toil in Egypt and on my back, you can see the lashes I acquired from the Pharoahs who enslaved me. Babylon kidnapped me and made me genuflect before her self-absorbed kings. But three of my nephews defied her and walked through fire and came out alive.

Assyria raped and pillaged my villages and Greece put her pagan sculptures in my temple; yet I defied her too and my people fought with so much strength, they decided to name us after instruments that were made to beat nails into walls. Rome also trampled me underfoot; with her legions of war she tried to annihilate me.

But I am here and they are not, and now I stretch out my limbs and bend my back and, baby, I am free.  ...

2014-06-15

Iraq

Charles Moore at the Telegraph:
People blame the new horrors in Iraq on the American-led invasion in 2003. But the exact reason why the country is in civil war today is because the Americans are not there. If US troops were still present, the fanatical ISIS, the “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham”, would not have swept through the north of the country and now be threatening Baghdad. ...

Max Boot: Obama's Iraq.
It is hard to exaggerate how much of a disaster this is, not only for Syria and Iraq and their neighbors, but for the United States. Rising oil prices (crude oil rose to over $112 a barrel last week), which could torpedo a weak economic recovery, are just the start of it. Senior intelligence officials have testified recently that they fear Syria could become a launching ground for attacks against the United States. Similar concerns now must extend to Iraq. Certainly, the track record of Islamist militants suggests that whenever they control a piece of terrain—whether Afghanistan before 2001 or Mali in 2013—they immediately set up training camps for foreign jihadists, some of whom then filter back to their home countries to commit atrocities. At the least, neighboring states such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia will be destabilized by the growing strength of ISIS; at the worst, the American homeland and Americans overseas will be threatened.

Fouad Ajami: How Obama and Maliki doomed Iraq.
Two men bear direct responsibility for the mayhem engulfing Iraq: Barack Obama and Nouri al-Maliki. The U.S. president and Iraqi prime minister stood shoulder to shoulder in a White House ceremony in December 2011 proclaiming victory. Mr. Obama was fulfilling a campaign pledge to end the Iraq war. There was a utopian tone to his pronouncement, suggesting that the conflicts that had been endemic to that region would be brought to an end. As for Mr. Maliki, there was the heady satisfaction, in his estimation, that Iraq would be sovereign and intact under his dominion.

In truth, Iraq's new Shiite prime minister was trading American tutelage for Iranian hegemony. Thus the claim that Iraq was a fully sovereign country was an idle boast. Around the Maliki regime swirled mightier, more sinister players. In addition to Iran's penetration of Iraqi strategic and political life, there was Baghdad's unholy alliance with the brutal Assad regime in Syria, whose members belong to an Alawite Shiite sect and were taking on a largely Sunni rebellion. If Bashar Assad were to fall, Mr. Maliki feared, the Sunnis of Iraq would rise up next. ...

Iraq vet J. R. Salzman has a few things to say.

IJR: Atrocities Americans worked hard to prevent. Graphic. Proceed at your own discretion.


2014-06-13

Iraq

Long War Journal: ISIS advance halted.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham's rapid advance southward to Baghdad after taking control of Mosul just three days ago appears to have been halted outside of the gates of Samarra, home to one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam.

Iraqi security forces in Samarra blunted the ISIS' assault from the north late yesterday, stopping an armed convoy from entering the city. The military is said to have deployed aircraft while battling the ISIS vanguard.

The Iraqi military's stand in Samarra stands in contrast to its performance in Mosul, Tikrit, Bayji, and other cities and towns taken over by the ISIS. Iraqi forces often surrendered or melted away in these cities, leaving behind weapons, ammunition, and police and military vehicles. Thousands of prisoners have been freed during the ISIS onslaught. ...
Go to the link for the full post, and a map. Article also states that 'As Iraqi forces make their stand in Samarra, the ISIS was able to take control of the towns of Dhuluiyah, Saadiyah, and Jalula to the southwest. ISIS fighters are said to have overran an airbase in Dhuluiyah and captured hundreds of prisoners.' (See below.)


Debka: ISIS moves in on two more Iraqi towns.
Al-Qaed-Iraq fighters moved in on two more Iraqi towns early Friday – Jlawla and Saadiyeh, both in eastern Iraqi Diyala region near the Iranian border. Iraqi troops melted away as the jihadis moved in. Iran Thursday sent Al Qods commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani to Baghdad to prop up Nuri al-Maliki’s government and pull the demoralized and scattered Iraqi army together to push back against Al Qaeda advances. ISIS forces have meanwhile stopped their advance on Baghdad and halted at Samarra 70 km short of the capital. ...

2014-06-12

The Map that Ruined the Middle East | The Tower

The Sykes-Picot legacy.

The Map that Ruined the Middle East | The Tower

Until now, the post-Ottoman order, fashioned by wartime exigency, imperialist ambitions, and ignorance of local identities, has survived a century of independence, revolution, and war. A political map of the region from 1930 looks nearly identical to one from 2013. Middle Eastern borders have become an inviolable and sacrosanct principle of Western international relations. Americans and Europeans have even shed blood to ensure that these borders remain unchanged: in Lebanon in the 1950s and again in the 1980s, Iraq in 1991 and 2003, and Mali in 2013. Western intervention in Syria would likely have the same goal. Even as the ongoing Arab revolt tears at the modern Middle Eastern order, Washington, Paris, London, and Moscow remain committed to defending the status quo.

Iraq

Washingto Post: "This is not what my friends fought and died for."
I returned to a Pentagon that was in denial, but I found a few who believed that a new strategy of building Iraqi forces to take over the fight could eventually succeed. We struggled to provide trainers and equipment and to find ways to partner with our Iraqi comrades but managed to succeed in the nick of time, pulling Iraq into a possible win. That was the surge.

Then, by declining to provide a long-term security assistance force to an Iraq not yet able to handle the fight itself, we pulled defeat from the jaws of victory and increased the peril our Iraqi friends would face. By not training and equipping Syrian freedom fighters in the summer of 2012, we provided an opportunity for al-Qaeda to rebuild strength in the region. The renewed Sunni insurgency in Iraq joined with the worst of the anti-Assad forces in Syria present a threat greater than the fragile Iraqi government can handle on its own. ...

Amir Taheri in the New York Post: How ths Islamists bounced back.
Seven years after US forces under Gen. David Petraeus drove them out of Iraq’s Anbar province, a coalition of desperados led by Sunni Muslim jihadists have scored their biggest victory by seizing Mosul, Iraq’s third most populous city.

On Wednesday, they underlined their appetite for conquest by making a dash for another big city, oil-rich Kirkuk.

Who are these people and what do they want? More important: Could they win? ...

2014-06-11

Mohammad Zoabi, Arab Zionist

Iraq

Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, has fallen to the islamist ISIS forces, and at this point it appears inevitable that Baghdad will soon follow. Here is a roundup of recent news items and articles.

New York Times has a map of where things stand now. It doesn't look good for Baghdad.

Debka: Al-Qaeda set to march on Baghdad.
Under its commander, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, Al Qaeda’s Islamic State in Iraq and Levant – ISIS - formed up Wednesday night, June 6, to march on Baghdad in two columns – one from Tikrit, which fell a few hours earlier, to Taji, just 20 km from the capital; the second from Tuz Khormato, 55 km south of the northern oil center of Kirkuk.
The Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the last two divisions and six mechanized brigades, totaling 50,000, still operational out of his million-strong army, to build a defensive line to save Baghdad and the seat of Iraqi government from the enemy.

But it remains to be seen how these units perform, given the way the 3rd and 4th divisions supposed to have defended Mosul and the central Salahuddin province melted away under Al Qaeda onslaughts Tuesday and Wednesday, June 10-11.

Al-Baghdadi has assigned the second column heading for Baghdad the additional task of wrapping up Islamist control of the eastern province of Diyala on the Iranian border.

The first column will approach the capital from the north; the second from the east. Suicide bombers have meanwhile fanned ahead of the columns to smash the roadblocks and military posts set up in their path to check their advance
This week, Muslim extremists worldwide acclaimed the ISIS chief their hero. ...

Al-Arabiya: ISIS forces seize Turkish consulate in Mosul.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed: Will ISIS also seize Baghdad?

Long War Journal: ISIS takes Bayji, Tikrit.

Belmont Club: The day of reckoning.
The Tweets are tell of a monumental collapse. ”Jesus. “30,000 men – simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters … Surreal scenes in #Mosul, #Iraq as US trained troops leave behind their uniforms and flee from #ISIS to #Kurdistan. ”

Michael Yon Tweets: “Mosul: Iraq Crumbling before our eyes”. The Internet is rife with pictures of al-Qaeda triumphantly inspecting millions, perhaps billions of dollars worth of captured, American made military equipment. It’s like Vietnam all over again, except this time the NVA are coming to New York.

Unless the rot is stopped, ISIS will soon be at Baghdad’s gates and al-Qaeda’s affiliates will soon possess one, perhaps two major Middle Eastern countries and trillions of dollars in oil resources. Libya, Iraq, perhaps Syria. They will be on the border of Saudi Arabia, able to credibly menace the energy lifeline of the Western world, a fact that can only play to Putin’s advantage.

The dangers of abandoning such a vital region were always obvious. Those who have not read my 2010 post, The Ten Ships, might take the time to do so now. It’s good for a laugh. It explains how Obama’s political petulance made him ignore fundamental military strategy by ignoring the obvious center of Islamic militant gravity in favor of redeploying the farm to a talking-points fantasy campaign in Afghanistan. It’s good for a laugh because it seems impossible, in retrospect, why it was not so blindingly obvious to the White House.

There’s nothing in place available to stop al-Qaeda. ...

2014-06-06

D-Day Plus 70

Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. It followed the Allies' fateful decision to attack at Normandy, and the first recorded use of the words "Leave Brittany ALONE!"

Jim "Pee Wee" Martin makes another jump ... at 93.

Meanwhile, 89-year-old Bernard Jordan went AWOL from an old age home to go to a reunion.

And for his part, Barack Obama observed the event in his own inimitable fashion.

2014-05-11

Bill Maher's Liberalism: Free Speech, Free Thought, Free Faith

I'm not always a fan of Bill Maher, but here are two clips I think are just splendid, whether you label yourself a "liberal" or a "conservative":



Here Maher takes on Kathleen Parker's Washington Post editorial defending self-censorship in a world without privacy.
I would listen to a hundred horrific Cliven Bundy rants if that was the price of living in a world where I could also listen to interesting and funny people talk without a filter. Perhaps most chilling of all, Parker said that 'speaking one's mind isn't really all it's cracked up to be.' Which is quite a statement, since her job is speaking her mind. It's like the mailman telling you letters are stupid.

So let me get this straight: We should concede that there's no such thing anymore as a private conversation, so therefore remember to lawyer everything you say before you say it, and hey, speaking your mind was overrated anyway so you won't miss it. Well, I'll miss it. I'll miss it a lot. And for the record, speaking my mind is absolutely everything it's cracked up to be. ...

Does anyone really want there to be no place where we can let our hair down and not worry if the bad angel in our head occasionally grabs the mike? ...

Who wants to live in a world where the only privacy you have is inside your head? That's what life in East Germany was like. That's why we fought the Cold War, remember? So we'd never have to live in some awful limbo where you never knew who, even among your friends, was an informer.

Go to the video link for the rest. Now here's Maher again, speaking against both the misogynistic violence committed by jihadi Muslims like Boko Haram, and the reluctance of Western "liberals" to name this for what it is:

There was a Pew poll of Egypt, which is a leading Muslim country, and something like 80 or 90 percent believe that death is the proper punishment for leaving the religion.

Where it becomes dangerous is that liberals like yourself [to Arianna Huffington] do not stand up for liberalism. Liberalism means number one - mostly - equality of women. Free speech. No death threats.
Listen to the whole thing, and don't miss the discussion on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brandeis University at the end (beginning around 7:45).

Now I want to say a few words about -isms. Generally I try to avoid getting too much into ideological debates - "liberalism is better than conservatism" or vice versa - because I think they can be distracting. And arguing over what constitutes "real" conservatism / liberalism / you name it can quickly become a tedious waste of time. An ideology is a way of organizing your ideas and principles to help you make sense of the world, but what really matters is how you live your life.

But it's a fact that we often identify ourselves with our ideologies, be they political, religious, cultural, or otherwise. I vote Republican and most of my liberal friends consider me a "right-winger" but I have never thought of myself as a "conservative". Why? I don't know. I was raised by liberal parents, and I guess I feel my basic values haven't changed from the ones I was raised with.

What has changed, as I see it, is how the whole notion of liberalism - the liberal "brand", if you will - has morphed into something completely different from what it was in my parents' generation.

And what I see Bill Maher trying to do here is to reach out to liberals and remind them of the values that liberalism is supposed to stand for. I hope that he may be able to reach people who identify as "liberals" - the very people who need to be reached, and who may listen to someone they see as a fellow liberal when they will not listen to a "right-winger".

This being Mothers' Day, I'll just take a moment to acknowledge how much I learned from my Mom. She was a complicated woman and growing up with her was not easy; I wrote a short post about her at my personal journal. She had experienced sexism, and hated it; she had witnessed institutional racism, and hated it. She fought for the right of her darker-skinned friends to eat at the same lunch counter.

But she was never anti-American, and she was no friend of Communism. (Among my boxes of books I still have books by Soviet dissidents, from my Mom's collection.) And she had no patience with the entitlement mentality of people who thought society owed them something because of past wrongs. She believed in free access to the lunch counter - not a free lunch.

Mom was raised in a strict Baptist home in small-town Maine, and her childhood was in the pre-WWII era. She moved to the big city - Boston - as a young woman, and later moved to Connecticut and joined the Unitarian Universalist church, where she met kindred spirits, including my father. She had a lifelong distaste for religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism, but was never anti-religious and was always respectful and courteous to people whose beliefs she did not share. She judged people by their actions.

I don't consider myself a conservative, and I don't call myself a "liberal" anymore either, mainly because I don't want to get bogged down in semantics. What you call yourself is your own business. What matters is what you do.

2014-05-05

Egypt, Obama, and the Muslim Brotherhood

The snide tone of the National Geographic article is unmistakable, but whatever Peter Hessler's opinion of his interlocutors, there's a prevailing view that President Obama has been promoting Muslim Brotherhood power in Egypt. Here's Governor Salah Zeyada:
"They broke into six police stations in Minya and stole all the weapons," the governor said, describing the events of last August. "They burned 14 churches completely. And they burned four prosecution offices and courts, and they attacked the Mallawi Museum and stole all the antiquities. This was an American plot to turn Egypt into a new Syria, or a new Libya, or a new Iraq. This is the democratic America?"

Through my translator, I asked the governor to clarify who was responsible for the burned churches.

"It was Obama," he said. "And all of the American politicians who have divided all of the world. They are the only people who supported the Muslim Brotherhood, because they knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would destroy all of Egypt." ...

"Truly their [the Muslim Brotherhood's] numbers weren't more than 2 percent of the population. But they were assisted by gangs and criminals, by those who live in the desert. The Muslim Brotherhood gave them money, and they also had money from Qatar—which is funded through America—and they tried to ruin Egypt."
In the comments, Sharifa Zuhur addresses the author:
To the author: if you do NOT understand what has been going on in Egypt, and do NOT fully understand the perspective of your interviewee, then for heaven's sakes, don't superimpose your incoherent understanding of the events of last August in Menya, on its governor. You wrote: "It's difficult to understand exactly what happened in Minya last August, but the violence probably reflected frustration more than hatred." Sir, a policeman was lynched and tortured, a physician refused to treat him, a Christian man was tortured, then buried, and then dug up to be dragged around the town again - churches were burned and all of this did reflect 'frustration,' but murderous hatred.

The governors' references to Obama and the United States apparently baffled you, but most Egyptians reading the Western press currently believe that the U.S. govt., and many NGOs and Washington think tanks, as well as the NYT, WaPo, etc. had decided that the Muslim Brotherhood, as "moderate Islamists" were deserving of the West's support and the correct inheritors' of the Egyptian, Libyan, Tunisian (Ennahda is an MB movmt), Yemen (Islah is an MB movement), Syria (Morsi was a host of a jihad forum on Syria and people feared he would involve Egypt's military there. The West's obvious lobbying to support the overthrown Muslim Brotherhood in the name of 'democracy' is interpreted as dismay that carefully crafted programs going back for many years would undo this "plan." Whether you agree or not, respect your subject sufficiently so as to inform. Most of the death sentences were issued in abstentia & you even misunderstood his joke - "the comedy break" was Morsi.
Now here's Tera Dahl at Breitbart:
Having spent an extensive amount of time in Egypt since the removal of President Morsi last June, I can say with confidence that “anti-American sentiment” is currently at a dangerously high level, but not for the reasons many in the press cite. The animosity stems from America’s policies of not backing the Egyptian people and their war on terrorism. ...

There is a clear campaign in the Western media and in many Western think-tanks and policy organizations to turn the Egyptian military into the enemy and the terrorist organization of the Muslim Brotherhood into the innocent, democracy-loving victims. This narrative is deceitful and needs to be countered. The Egyptian military is America’s ally and has been since 1973, and the Muslim Brotherhood is America’s enemy. The Egyptian military is fighting against terrorism; America fights against terrorism. America and Egypt are fighting the same enemy with the same ideology that killed thousands of Americans on 9/11, thousands of Americans in Iraq, and is still killing our troops in Afghanistan today ...
UPDATE
Michael J. Totten has another perspective:
American politicians didn’t support the Muslim Brotherhood so much as they were duped by the Muslim Brotherhood and their apologists into believing the organization is moderate.

Okay, yes, the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate compared with Al Qaeda, but so what? That hardly tells us anything useful. Benito Mussolini was moderate compared with Adolf Hitler. The Ku Klux Klan is moderate compared with the Spanish Inquisition. Fidel Castro is moderate compared with Pol Pot. Vladimir Putin is moderate compared with Ivan the Terrible. Colombia’s FARC is moderate compared with Peru’s Shining Path. But none of those individuals or organizations are moderate in any real sense of the word. The word “moderate” in American English generally refers to conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, not the likes of Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin. And not—not really—to the Muslim Brotherhood either.

President Obama and his advisors truly believed that if they reached out a hand to the Brothers that Islamist hostility to the United States would diminish, at least among the relative “moderates.” They believed the same thing about Russia and Vladimir Putin and to this day think the same about the Islamic Republic regime in Iran. They’re missing that hostility toward the West is based primarily on a rejection of Western ideas and culture. The Mr. Nice Guy routine that plays well in Berlin, Paris, and Ottawa fails utterly in Moscow and Cairo. It might work in Tehran when the Islamic Republic regime is no more, and it will work wonders in Havana when the Castro regime is out of power, but the only time it works with ideological hostiles is when a greater enemy that threatens us all must be confronted. (Recall the American alliance with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany.)

Americans suckered by the Muslim Brotherhood should have known better. ...
Read the whole thing at the link.

2014-05-01

Nigeria: 234 Girls Still Missing

Richard Fernandez:
“Scores of girls and young women kidnapped from a school in Nigeria are being forced to marry their Islamic extremist abductors, a civic organization reported Wednesday,” according to news sources. The others are being sold off to buyers for $12 each. You could probably eat at Subway for that. But don’t order any sandwiches with ham or bacon in certain parts of the UK. Those have been banned.
Read the rest at the link.

2014-04-28

Punch (NG) on Boko Haram Body Count

Punch:
When the onslaught by Boko Haram began sometime in 2009, not many had thought that the attacks would assume such a murderous dimension as it is today.

Of all the attacks perpetrated by suspected members of the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, in the North Eastern part of the country, one that has remained in the minds of people is the February 25, 2014 attack on the pupils of Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in Yobe State.

In the attack that lasted several hours, no fewer than 59 students were slaughtered by the sect members while some of the victims were burnt to ashes. ...
Read the rest - horrifying as it is - at the link. Experts estimate 'over 2,596 deaths in the first three months of the year'.

2014-04-23

State of Georgia (US) Passes Sweeping Gun-Rights Laws

According to this article,
While Georgia lawmakers have opened up the ability to carry guns throughout the state, they will still not be allowed in the capitol building.
Which may make it hard for them to do their jobs, but then again maybe that's the idea.

Egypt and the Jews

With Passover behind us, it's appropriate to take a look at anti-Semitism in modern Egypt. Michael Totten at World Affairs Journal writes:
Egypt is by far the most anti-Semitic country I’ve ever visited. It’s off the charts even compared with the rest of the region.

Everyone who posseses even a passing familiarity with Egyptian politics knows this is a serious problem, but the reasons why aren’t as widely understood as they should be. The three main theories—that Egypt’s Jewish problem is a result of the Islamic religion, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and state propaganda to deflect anger away from the government—are partly correct, but they don’t adequately explain what’s actually happening. There are other deeper reasons that should be more widely known than they are. ...
Totten refers us to Samuel Tadros in The American Interest for a better understanding:
To understand the roots of anti-Semitism in the Arab world in general and Egypt in particular, we must look much deeper. We must explore both the crisis of modernity in the Arab world and the importation of European ideologies and ideas.

The crisis of modernity in the Arab world began with the sudden realization of the West’s advancement and the miserable state of Arabs and Muslims by comparison. Isolated for centuries from developments in Europe, Egyptians—first their rulers and intellectuals but later on the general population as well—were shocked to discover that the Frenchmen led by Napoleon who had landed on their shores were not the same Franks they had defeated during the Crusades. The shock of the discovery of Western technological, material, and military superiority shattered the existing political order and demanded a response. The initial approach of simply importing and copying Western technology proved inadequate, as the gap between Egypt and the West grew wider. Occupation by European powers only aggravated the crisis. The crisis revolved around two questions: What went wrong, as Bernard Lewis accurately framed it; and how can we catch up.

For a while, copying the West in practice and appearance carried the day. This was the triumphant moment for modernization, liberalism, and Westernization in Egypt. Ahmed Lutfi El Sayed formulated an Egyptian nationalism, and the struggle for independence from Britain united the nation. But cracks started to appear. Egypt never managed to catch up to the West; the West, represented in Britain, proved unwilling to uphold democratic and liberal values in Egypt; and most importantly modernization was tearing society apart with little to show for it. The introduction of mass education, industrialization, and urbanization was breaking up traditional society, while modern society had not yet been created. Thousands were coming to the cities in search of a better future only to be shocked by the lack of opportunities available to them. This was the generation of Nasser, a generation described in Egyptian historiography as “the new Effendis.” The last straw was Western disillusionment with the promises of liberal democracy and the rise of communist and, more importantly, fascist regimes in Europe.

Replacing the belief in liberalism was a diverse set of ideas. Some lost faith in modernity itself and attempted to return to traditional forms of identity and behavior. Others became enchanted by the totalitarian ideas emerging in Europe. Across the political spectrum people argued that liberal democracy had failed and that only the state’s forceful hand, often guided by a dictator, could save Egypt from its woes and help it catch up with the rest of the world. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy became models for many. Most importantly for our question here, disappointment led to frustration. Egypt’s continual failures led to resentment of the West and a search for an explanation. It was at this moment that an indisputably European ideology—anti-Semitism—began to find fertile ground. Responsibility for Egypt’s failure to catch up with the West did not lie with Egyptians; it was because Jews were conspiring against us to keep us backward. ...
Read the rest at the link.

2014-02-27

Russia / Ukraine / Crimea: Latest Developments

Russa / Ukraine / Crimea: Latest developments. Debka calls it a pro-Moscow coup: 'The Russian defense ministry announced Thursday, Feb. 27 that fighter jets stood on combat alert along its western borders with Ukraine. Moscow repeated its commitment to protect Russian-speaking elements in the Crimean Peninsula. Earlier, armed men carried out a pro-Russian coup in the Crimean capital, by seizing government and parliamentary buildings and hoisting Russian flags – in response to the pro-European coup in Kiev. ...' Reuters reports that Ukraine has issued a warning:
"I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet," said Olexander Turchinov, Ukraine's acting president.

"Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression," he said, a day after 150,000 Russian troops near Ukraine were put on high alert.
Fox News reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Russia that "Any kind of military intervention that would violate the sovereign territorial integrity of Ukraine would be a huge, a grave mistake."

RIA Novosti: 'A senior Russian defense official said Thursday that the country’s Black Sea Fleet poses no threat to Ukraine and its activities are in compliance with standing agreements between the two countries. “Currently all units are engaged in their daily routines, including combat training. These actions do not represent a threat,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters. ...'

RT: '[Former Ukrainian President] Viktor Yanukovich will hold a news conference in Russia's Rostov-on-Don at 1700 local time (1300 GMT) on Friday, reports Itar-Tass citing sources close to Ukraine's ousted president.'

Richard Fernandez at Belmont Club:
So far this crisis has been characterized by mutual miscalculation. If the West did not anticipate that the previous Ukranian government would renege on the EU deal neither did Putin appear to recognize the power of the opposition. Both sides have blundered into this confrontation. The wild card are the Ukranians who will now be pressed to deal, but who may not deal. Another source of uncertainty is the effect of national pride, which so absent in the West, is yet a potent factor in Russia. The last source of uncertainty is Western leadership. It seems fair to say there are differences between the EU leadership and Washington.

2014-02-26

Erickson, Sullivan, and Gay Discrimination

I don't read Andrew Sullivan very often these days, but here's a worthwhile piece on discrimination laws:
But the wording of the bills in question – from Kansas to Arizona – is a veritable, icy piste for widespread religious discrimination. And that’s for an obvious reason. If legislatures were to craft bills specifically allowing discrimination only in the case of services for weddings for gay couples, as Erickson says he wants, it would seem not only bizarre but obviously unconstitutional – clearly targeting a named minority for legal discrimination. So they had to broaden it, and in broadening it, came careening into their own double standards. Allow a religious exemption for interacting with gays, and you beg the question: why not other types of sinners? If the principle is not violating sincere religious belief, then discriminating against the divorced or those who use contraception would naturally follow. I’ve yet to read an argument about these laws that shows they cannot have that broad effect.

But here’s where Erick has a point:

It boggles my mind to think any Christian should want the government to force their [pro-gay] view of Christianity on another believer.

That’s my feeling too. I would never want to coerce any fundamentalist to provide services for my wedding – or anything else for that matter – if it made them in any way uncomfortable. The idea of suing these businesses to force them to provide services they are clearly uncomfortable providing is anathema to me. I think it should be repellent to the gay rights movement as well.

Moving Forward

I'm now back in Portland, Oregon.

I left San Francisco a month ago, after living there for 2365 days (or 6 years, 5 months, 20 days) and it's good to be back in Portland. I've spent the last couple of weeks unpacking and settling in at my new place.

Next month will mark 10 years of blogging for me, and I'm looking forward to having the time and energy to devote to it.

2014-02-21

Ukraine's priests provide protest inspiration, key link to pre-Soviet era | Fox News

Ukraine's priests provide protest inspiration, key link to pre-Soviet era | Fox News
 But the clergy of Ukraine are more than leaders of the protest that threatens to split the nation's troubled alliance with Russia. They are a link to Ukraine's historical independence, before the Russian Revolution led to the Soviet occupation that lasted until 1991 but still hovers above like a dark cloud. Amid the escalating violence, priests have been seen defying police, leading civilians safely past them and performing last rites on those killed in the clashes. ...

The strife has brought together Ukraine's major denominations, including the rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate and Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, as well as the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox and the Vatican-aligned Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches. The churches released a joint statement last month as unrest percolated in the square.

Michael Totten:
I spent a week in Ukraine a few years back when I traveled by car from the Polish border through Lviv to Kiev and down to Odessa and Yalta. I wrote about it at length in my book, Where the West Ends. So I feel obligated to write about it now that the capital is on fire.

Kiev is a magnificent city, and it pains me to see it like this, but I should not be surprised. Almost every country I’ve ever written about is either in hell, has only recently recovered from hell, or is on its way to hell. I hoped when I visited Ukraine that it was on its way out, but I did not have a good feeling about it, as you’ll recall if you read my book.

I’m reluctant to wade in as an analyst, though, because I don’t know the country on an intimate nuts-and-bolts level. Let me instead outsource my analysis to my World Affairs colleague Alexander Motyl who writes about nothing else.

Motyl:
As the criminal Yanukovych regime’s violence, terror, and repression are driving Ukraine to armed conflict and, possibly, fragmentation, it may be worth asking whether Ukraine might not be better off without some of its southeastern provinces.

First let’s consider the bad reasons for a breakup—Ukraine’s diversity in general and the regional, ethnic, confessional, and cultural divisions between its “West” and “East” in particular. A good place to start is a recent article by Orlando Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London, “Is There One Ukraine?” Figes, who should know better coming from the UK, writes about Ukraine’s divisions as if they were unique and as if diversity alone justified or led to breakup. He’s wrong on both counts. Ukraine’s diversity is pretty much the norm for all stable states everywhere. ...

What is unusual about contemporary Ukraine is that it’s exploited by a criminal gangster regime—Yanukovych’s— in cahoots with another criminal gangster regime—Putin’s. Many countries have the misfortune of being misruled by homegrown camarillas. Many countries have the misfortune of being dominated by predator states. Ukraine has the double misfortune of being misruled at home and “mis-dominated” abroad.

That’s why Figes’s suggestion—“Ukraine ought to consider applying a precedent from elsewhere in eastern Europe: deciding the country’s fate by referendum”—wouldn’t work. ...

Although lopping off the Donbas would benefit the rest of Ukraine, Yanukovych’s mafia regime desperately needs Ukraine to be whole. If Luhansk and Donetsk were to split away, their rust-belt economy would collapse without Kyiv’s financial support and the Regionnaires, trapped in their polluted bailiwick, would have nothing to steal. And what would Yanukovych’s multibillionaire pal, Rinat Akhmetov, do without easy access to Ukraine’s resources? A similar logic holds for Putin. What would he do with a rotten slice of Ukraine—a kind of mega Transnistria? Subsidize its dead-end economy? Spend valuable time and resources on jailing the corrupt Regionnaires and the troglodyte Communists? No, a weak Yanukovych regime in a weak Ukraine serves Putin’s interests perfectly. ...

Sudan court convicts Ethiopian woman over ‘gang-rape’

Sudan court convicts Ethiopian woman over ‘gang-rape’
This is unutterably grotesque.
The woman was sentenced to a one-month jail term but this was suspended because she is pregnant, her lawyer, Samia al-Hashmi, told the AFP news agency.
She was also fined 5,000 Sudanese pounds ($880; £530).
She had also faced charges of adultery and prostitution, which could have led to a penalty of death by stoning, but these were dropped after she convinced the court she was divorced, reports SIHA.
More via AllAfrica:

2014-02-20

Nick Cohen: Gay People Not an Aberration

Nick Cohen at CIF:

Yet liberals welcomed the announcement by the American geneticist Dean Hamer in 1993 that genes influenced homosexuality in men, and have cheered on variations on his theme ever since. True, the "discovery" perturbed homophobic clerics. You only have to search for "gay gene" and "Christian" or "Islam" to see their discomfort at the thought that homosexuality has "god-given" causes.

Although it is always worth tormenting small minds, point scoring was and remains a dangerous tactic. ...

Better to say loudly what the Sochi Olympians are too self-obsessed to say at all: gay people are not entitled to human rights because of a gene, but because they are human.
Go read the whole piece at the link.

2014-01-15

Dozens arrested for being gay in north Nigeria - New York News

Dozens arrested for being gay in north Nigeria - New York News
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - First the police targeted the gay men, then tortured them into naming dozens of others who now are being hunted down, human rights activists said Tuesday, warning that such persecution will rise under a new Nigerian law. The men's alleged crime? Belonging to a gay organization. The punishment? Up to 10 years in jail under the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which has elicited international condemnation for criminalizing gay marriage, gay organizations and anyone working with or promoting them. There were varying accounts of how many arrests were made in Nigeria's Bauchi state ...

2014-01-12

Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, Gay 'prisoner of conscience', dies in Cameroon - SFGate

Gay 'prisoner of conscience' dies in Cameroon - SFGate
YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — A gay man in Cameroon who was jailed for sending a text message to another man saying "I'm very much in love with you," and who was later declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, has died, according to a lawyer who worked on his case. Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, 34, died Friday roughly one month after his family removed him from the hospital where he had been seeking treatment for a hernia, lawyer Alice Nkom said. "His family said he was a curse for them and that we should let him die," she said. ...

2014-01-06

Rabbi Natan Gamedze Visits His Swaziland Home



I first linked Rabbi Gamedze's story back in 2005. This fascinating video offers an in-depth profile of Gamedze, and a view of his first visit home in sixteen years.

2014-01-05

Sharansky: The free world has betrayed democratic dissidents | The Times of Israel

Sharansky: The free world has betrayed democratic dissidents | The Times of Israel
 “... Democracy is free elections and a free society. We should not be blinded by the fact that elections happened in some countries and automatically call those countries democracies. That’s the lesson from Egypt,” Sharansky said, adding that the creation of civil society institutions must precede the ballot box.

Fallujah Before Obama: Hope for Iraq’s Meanest City by Michael J. Totten, City Journal Spring 2008

Hope for Iraq’s Meanest City by Michael J. Totten, City Journal Spring 2008
By late 2006, Fallujans had had enough. Though they had little desire to be ruled, or even nurtured into self-rule, by Americans, the jihadist alternative was clearly worse. So Fallujah formed an alliance with its former enemies. The alliance is one of convenience, and possibly temporary, but it was forged in the crucible of the most wrenching catastrophe Fallujans have experienced in living memory.
“I feel the sincerity in the American support for the Iraqi civilians here,” one Fallujah resident tells me. “I am not going to say any bad words about Americans. I can feel that they really are eager to accomplish that mission.” Another Fallujan, who works as a money changer, says, “It will be a shame on all of us if the terrorists ever come back.” “Security is good now because the coalition, Iraqi army, and Iraqi police all work together,” says a third, the owner of a fruit stand. “One hand does not clap.”

2014-01-02

Keith Ablow: Marriage Dead Without Government Blessing

Marriage died in 2013 | Fox News Well, of course: Because government has no legitimate role in marriage, marriage therefore no longer exists. Keith Ablow perfectly sums up the big-government view of marriage. In a great cri-de-coeur of anguish and despair, he resigns himself to a future where 'People who wish to create special partnerships of the heart and home ... sign prenuptial contracts with one another and then exchange vows at their churches or temples or in front of gatherings of family or special friends.' All is left to the incompetent fumblings of individual citizens and their faith communities, bereft of the sacralizing power of the all-benevolent State. For statists, a tragedy indeed.

2014-01-01

Happy New Year 2014

Happy Sylvester!

For me, the calendar year is getting off to a good start. I'm pleased to announce that after living in San Francisco since the summer of 2007, I am now moving back to Portland, Oregon. I signed the lease last Monday and will be moving in before the end of January.

With my personal life on track to becoming a bit more stable than it's been, I look forward to the chance to do more writing and posting.