Tuesday, November 29, 2005
On August 27, 2005, Fallaci had a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo with whom she found a kindred spirit and whom she believes understands the mortal threat faced [to] Christianity by the evil of Islamofascism. The Pope loves her work. "I feel less alone when I read the books of Ratzinger." I had asked Ms. Fallaci whether there was any contemporary leader she admired, and Pope Benedict XVI was evidently a man in whom she reposed some trust. "I am an atheist, and if an atheist and a pope think the same things, there must be something true. It's that simple! There must be some human truth here that is beyond religion."
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Is it unfair to suggest that the antiwar left genuinely admires Iraq's suicide bombers? It's one thing to understand that the left and its affiliates in the media sympathize with and share the goals of the Iraqi insurgency, namely the defeat and humiliation of the U.S. That's one level of despicability. Enjoying their atrocious methods is several levels of despicablilty beyond that.
I considered this when I saw the terminology in an AP story from last week that talked about
a wave of spectacular suicide operations that have killed more than 160 Iraqis since Friday
Is it too much to ask for the press to describe the deliberate murder of women and children at hospitals and mosques as...I dunno...horrific? appalling? grisly? Somehow, to me, the term spectacular has overtones of admiration if not open approval. Even giving the AP the benefit of the doubt, the mutilation, decapitation, and exsanguination of entirely innocent civilians isn't and should never be viewed as a "spectacle"; it isn't entertainment, even if the AP may think it is.
I thought about it some more when I read the interview with Kurt Vonnegut in The Australian:
...Vonnegut said it was "sweet and honourable" to die for what you believe in, and rejected the idea that terrorists were motivated by twisted religious beliefs.
"They are dying for their own self-respect," he said. "It's a terrible thing to deprive someone of their self-respect. It's like your culture is nothing, your race is nothing, you're nothing."
Asked if he thought of terrorists as soldiers, Vonnegut, a decorated World War II veteran, said: "I regard them as very brave people, yes."
He equated the actions of suicide bombers with US president Harry Truman's 1945 decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
On the Iraq war, he said: "What George Bush and his gang did not realise was that people fight back."
Vonnegut suggested suicide bombers must feel an "amazing high". He said: "You would know death is going to be painless, so the anticipation - it must be an amazing high."
I don't even know where to begin, except to wonder when exactly Vonnegut was considered an important voice. Because clearly he's gone so far past stupid to evil that he arrives all the way at stupid again. Vonnegut seems to not understand the most elementary thing about Muslim suicide bombers: that they aren't noble, or "honorable," or even "high." They're simply horny.
"So ubiquitous are the religious cassette shops [in Saudi Arabia, the source of most of the suicide bombers in Iraq] that they are outnumbered only by groceries… The bulk of cassettes sold in these stalls are motivational. On closer scrutiny, you will realize that their contents are confined to a system of thought that serves to prepare youth to accept its ideas, yield to them, and adopt its Jihad program....
"The Jihad cassette describes the path that must be followed in order to win martyrdom and deserve the Hoor Al-Een--fair females with wide, lovely eyes. It reduces the lofty objective of spiritual martyrdom to mere lust and a selfish search for sexual pleasure, regardless of what martyrdom can achieve for the public interest or for upholding Allah's word.
"In their call for giving up this world in preparation for the hereafter, and through their description of the martyr's reward - they are trying to program the mind to accept as principle the idea of committing suicide by blowing up oneself. Whoever is convinced of the reward of lust awaiting him will not hesitate to commit suicide: He will seek death with no fear, focused on the pleasures of the hereafter as compensation for the worldly pleasures abandoned.
"The sweetest thing for a teenager, especially in a conservative society like ours, is sex, and the discourse of the religious cassettes is directed toward these very youngsters in their sexual peak of life."
And that's why Kurt Vonnegut is so pathetic. Spectacularly pathetic.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
My old boss Giovanni Ingellis used to talk about what he would do if and when he ever retired--sadly, he never lived to do so--and he used to joke that he would spend his days sitting atop the Milan Duomo with a machine gun, waiting for the first graffiti writer to try to spraypaint the famed cathedral. The image always made me smile because of its absurdity, though I liked the symbolism.
The symbolism is still relevant, I think, when we look at Europe's relations with its ever-demanding, never-satisfied Muslim minority: Today, Europe's great and unmatched legacy of art and architecture forms the demarcation line at which we can measure Europe's acceptance of or resistance to those forces that would enslave it.
Sometimes, Europe defends its art, and by extension, its continued free existence, as in the commendable reaction of Italian authorities to Muslim demands for the destruction of the Bologna fresco that depicts Muhammad being condemned to Hell. Cardinal Biffi's response was that it was “absurd to suddenly discover after 600 years that our most famous treasure is offensive to the Islamic religion”. The particularly enlightened Italian response owes something to the Italian character, and to the knowledge that Dante, Italy's greatest poet, would have to be thrown under the train as well:
- I saw one
Rent from the chin to where one breaketh wind.
Between his legs were hanging down his entrails;
His heart was visible, and the dismal sack
That maketh excrement of what is eaten.
While I was all absorbed in seeing him,
He looked at me, and opened with his hands
His bosom, saying: "See now how I rend me;
How mutilated, see, is Mahomet;
In front of me doth Ali weeping go,
Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin;
And all the others whom thou here beholdest,
Disseminators of scandal and of schism
While living were, and therefore are cleft thus.
But unfortunately, that line of culture that separates freedom from slavery has its weak points. I read this week about a production of Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great that censored significant portions of the play:
- Tamburlaine: Now, Casane, where’s the Turkish Alcoran, And all the heaps of superstitious books Found in the temples of that Mahomet Whom I have thought a god? They shall be burnt . . .
. . . In vain, I see, men worship Mahomet.
My sword hath sent millions of Turks to hell, Slew all his priests, his kinsmen, and his friends, And yet I live untouch’d by Mahomet.
There is a God, full of revenging wrath, From whom the thunder and the lightning breaks, Whose scourge I am, and him will I obey.
So Casane; fling them in the fire.
(They burn the books.)
Now, Mahomet, if thou have any power, Come down thyself and work a miracle.
Thou art not worthy to be worshipped That suffers flames of fire to burn the writ Wherein the sum of thy religion rests . . .
. . . Well, soldiers, Mahomet remains in hell; He cannot hear the voice of Tamburlaine.
All of this was excised:
Audiences at the Barbican in London did not see the Koran being burnt, as Marlowe intended, because David Farr, who directed and adapted the classic play, feared that it would inflame passions in the light of the London bombings.
Simon Reade, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, said that if they had not altered the original it “would have unnecessarily raised the hackles of a significant proportion of one of the world’s great religions”...burning the Koran “would have been unnecessarily inflammatory”.
The burning of the Koran was “smoothed over”, he said, so that it became just the destruction of “a load of books” relating to any culture or religion. That made it more powerful, they claimed.
Time will tell if Europe is willing to abandon its culture in the face of intimidation from its enemies.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Cuba, Iran lash out at Internet freedom
TUNIS, Tunisia--Cuba, Iran and African governments lashed out at the U.S. government this week...
Translation: The Americans laughed us out of their office.
...charging that the Internet permits too much free speech and that the way it is managed must be reformed immediately.
Totalitarians usually aren't this open about their intentions to strangle free expression; being thwarted always unhinges them. I picture Orwell's Big Brother pounding the table and stamping his feet, screaming, "But I WANT it!"
The U.S. and other Western nations "insist on being world policemen on the management of the Internet," Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who has been the country's leader since 1987, said at a United Nations information society summit here.
Unintentionally revealing. These people are, at heart, thugs and predators who hate the presence of any sort of rule of law.
"Those who have supported nihilistic and disorderly freedom of expression are beginning to see the fruits" of their efforts, Mugabe said...
No, I have no idea what he means, either.
...adding that Zimbabwe will be "challenging the bully-boy mentality that has driven the unipolar world."
Reading directly from the Michael Moore/Noam Chomsky catechism.
These criticisms demonstrate that a detente reached at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) on domain name management has hardly resolved long-running disputes about Internet management, the primacy of the English language online, and the so-called digital divide between nations with functioning economies and those with dysfunctional ones. The deal resulted in the creation of a U.N. Internet Governance Forum expected to meet in Greece in 2006.
In other words, they agreed to waste more money a year from now.
"Fidel Castro, the unflinching promoter of the use of new technologies," believes "it is necessary to create a multinational democratic (institution) which administers this network of networks," said the WSIS delegate from Cuba.
In Cuba, only people with government permission can access the Internet, owning computer equipment is prohibited, and online writers have been imprisoned, according to Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based free speech watchdog group.
Too often, the Internet is used for the "propagation of falsehoods," said Mohammad Soleymani, Iran's minister of communication and information technology.
Soleymani called for the elimination of the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)--which approves new top-level domain names--in favor of United Nations control.
"Changing the current Internet governance to a participatory, legitimate and accountable system under an international authority is imperative," he said.
But changes proposed by Third World countries that would give them more influence are "being rejected because they are not facilities managed by the Breton Woods institution by the West's neo-colonial desires," charged Zimbabwe's Mugabe, referring to a post-World War II agreement that led to the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Mozambique Prime Minister Luisa Diogo predicted the struggles to replace ICANN were not over...,
You haven't heard the last of us! Curse you, American dogs!
Pathetic is not nearly strong enough a word.
...saying that "it is a matter of justice and legitimacy that all people must have a say in the way the Internet is governed." ICANN does have an international board of directors, including members from Senegal, Morocco, and Nairobi, but critics say that's not enough.
Those who hate democracy and freedom the most are the quickest to invoke "the people." This is an old Communist trick, where they used to title their countries "People's Democratic Republic," as if the sheer redundancy would belie the obvious fact of dictatorship.
"A recurring criticism of the WSIS summit was that wealthier nations had not done enough to help poorer ones take advantage of the Internet.
"The proceeds have not been equally shared by developing and developed countries," said Sudan President Omar Ahmad al-Bashir. "The digital divide is growing between the rich and the poor countries."
Another line lifted right out of an Ayn Rand novel. The Internet is an American invention that is already being shared free-of-charge with the world, and anyone in the world is free to benefit from it. What "proceeds" are we supposed to surrender to this slimy kleptocrat?
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
It was inevitable that we'd see articles like this:
Hurt pride shows as France sees world report riots
PARIS, Nov 8 (Reuters) - A barrage of critical world media reporting on the violence in its rundown suburbs is rubbing nerves raw in France, which is more used to hearing praise for its food, its countryside and its opposition to the Iraq war.
"Last night, Japanese television and Turkish television were in my city hall telling me what should be done. That hurts me," he said.
"Fire and blood in France -- at least that's what some foreign media claim is going on," Le Parisien wrote. "Paris is burning, civil war, war zone, race riots -- the headlines, especially on TV, often have no nuance."
The conservative Le Figaro was indignant about the way U.S. media reported from riot-hit areas such as Seine Saint Denis...
"American newspapers don't hesitate to compare Paris to Baghdad or Seine Saint Denis to the Gaza Strip and to call the crisis a 'Katrina of social disasters'," an editorial fumed in a reference to the recent hurricane.
Etc., etc., etc. The French media are indignant over what Deutsche Presse-Agentur referred to as "thinly veiled gloating" over the riots. The subject--gloating, that is--is one that the French media seem to know a lot about. Let's--if I may use that phrase that the American Left enjoys pinning on us conservatives--turn the clock back, to about two months ago.
Le Monde had a wonderful time dissecting what they called "the American myth" in the days after Katrina, crediting the storm for pointing out "the country’s social inequalities...Despite the economic and military strength it is prepared to deploy overseas, the United States has shown itself incapable of dealing with a catastrophe of this scale at home.” Headlines were stuff like "After Katrina, the World Extends a Hand to a Humiliated America."
The lefty French paper Libération joined in eagerly: "Each catastrophe ... instantly expose[s] the society that it strikes [prophetic words!], and Katrina is no exception to this rule...."Nice and dry in his mountain range...[Osama bin] Laden must be dying of laughter [as] the American civil-security helicopters make like ducks along the Mississippi." Another Liberation writer, Philippe Gangereau, used the opportunity to attack the American president: "Bush is completely out of his depth in this disaster. Katrina has revealed America's weaknesses: its racial divisions, the poverty of those left behind by its society, and especially its president's lack of leadership." A different Liberation writer, Gerard Dupuy
accused the Bush administration of "contempt for victims who without a doubt were doubly at fault for being both poor and black." He concluded that the neoconservative "crusade," which was "already mired in the Mesopotamian marshes" of Iraq, had "foundered in the Louisiana bayou."
The "conservative" Le Figaro was little different: à cette occasion, l'Amérique découvre ou redécouvre qu'elle abrite le tiers-monde en son sein ("on this occasion, America discovers or rediscovers that it shelters the Third World in its centre.") Jean-Pierre Aussant: "This tragic incident reminds us that the United States has refused to ratify the Kyoto accords. Let's hope the US can from now on stop ignoring the rest of the world. If you want to run things, you must first lead by example. Arrogance is never a good adviser!"
There was also a Le Figaro interview with one Emanuel Todd, "a research engineer at the National Institute of Demographic Studies, historian, author of Après l'empire [After the Empire], published by Gallimard in 2002 - an essay in which he predicted the "breakdown" of the American system." According to Todd, Katrina was yet another signpost on the road to America's upcoming Soviet-style collapse:
Q: You postulate that the management of Katrina reveals a worrying
territorial fragmentation joined to the carelessness of the military
apparatus. What must we then fear for the future?
A: The hypothesis of decline developed in Après l'empire evokes the
possibility of a simple return of the United States to normal, certainly
associated with a 15-20% decrease in the standard of living, but
guaranteeing the population a level of consumption and power "standard"
in the developed world. I was only attacking the myth of hyper-power.
Today, I am afraid I was too optimistic. The United States' inability to
respond to industrial competition, their heavy deficit in
high-technology goods, the upturn in infant mortality rates, the
military apparatus' desuetude and practical ineffectiveness, the elites'
persistent negligence incite me to consider the possibility in the
medium term of a real Soviet-style crisis in the United States.
The gang of black unemployed who loot a supermarket and the group of oligarchs who try to organize the "heist" of the century of Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves have a common principle of action: predation. The dysfunctions in New Orleans reflect certain central elements of present American culture.
The lefty magazine Marianne gleefully announced: "The American giant folds beneath the weight of its failures and struggles to enforce an order that it wanted to impose on the world."
Agence France-Presse solemnly quoted a taunting Die Zeit ">editorial: "[Katrina weakens America's] image of itself as a nation which is the avenger and protector of the defenseless, the nation that brings order, democracy and prosperity. Today, it must beg for beds and blankets from foreigners." In the same article, it quotes French author Nicole Bachran:
"Sept. 11 put the spotlight on America's vulnerability, just as Hurricane Katrina has in another way. It showed that the country is not that strong or effective."
A blog rant at The American Thinker describes Katrina's television coverage in France:
...the French, and first and foremost the incorrigible state-owned television channel France 2,* attacked us in our very foundations, set fire to our essence with inflammatory accusations, flailed us with acid-based criticism, smeared us with the muck of hearsay, propaganda, and outright lies, and even that was not enough to satisfy their lust for revenge. France 2’s new newswoman oozed contempt from every strand of her short cropped bleached blond locks. The station’s main man in the field gleefully gloated through every pore of his shiny outer space bald noggin. No alcohol-soaked floozy wandering bleary eyed through the ruins of la Nouvelle Orléans was too zonked to get a pass at a France 2 mike and belt out curses against the guv’mint.
The so-called independent TF 1 was hardly less vicious. A nuance here and there, nothing worth mentioning. Both stations buy their images from the same pool. The bloated body floating across France 2’s screen at 8:05 PM popped up on TF1 at 8:10. I don’t know if these images of bloated bodies were particularly expensive, but they got worn to death from being re-used every day for 2 weeks.
It's very instructive to compare the naked gloating (the German press was even worse than the French, by the way) on Katrina to the hurt feelings on display on the reaction to the riots: The demands for "nuance" from the same people who seemed to have been thrilled by all the carnage and the horror of Katrina, who eagerly pronounced a death toll of "10,000 people," who are so eaten up with hatred of Bush and more broadly the USA that they surveyed at the effects of one of the world's worst natural disasters with unconcealed delight.