Saturday, January 17, 2009

There is also a conflict between Arab nationalists and Islamists being played out in the M.E.

In Iran, elements from within the regime are reportedly offering a $US1 million ($1.5 million) reward for the assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak because of his opposition to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In Lebanon, the leader of Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, merely calls for the Egyptian Government's overthrow.

In response to this, the editor-in-chief of the Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Tariq Alhomayed, describes Hamas as Tehran's tool and argues: "Iran is a real threat to Arab security." Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit agrees, and he is not alone. When Arab states met to discuss the Gaza crisis, Saudi Arabia vetoed any action. Even the Palestinian Authority blames Hamas for the fighting. Activists in Hamas's Palestinian rival Fatah, which runs the authority, make no secret of their hope that Hamas loses the war.

Welcome to the new Middle East, characterised not just by the Arab-Israeli conflict, but by Arab nationalists versus Islamists. Recognising this reality, the Palestinian Authority and virtually all the Arab countries other than Iran's ally Syria, want to see Hamas defeated in the Gaza Strip. Given their strong interest in thwarting Islamist revolutionary groups, especially those aligned with Iran, the Arab states are not inclined to listen to the "Arab street", which is far quieter than it was during previous conflicts, such as the 1991 war in Kuwait, the 2000-04 Palestinian uprising or the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.

Today's Middle East is very different from the old one in many significant ways. First, the internal politics of every Arab country revolves around a battle between Arab nationalist rulers and a radical Islamist opposition. In other words, Hamas's allies are the regimes's enemies. An Islamist state in the Gaza Strip would encourage those who seek to create similar entities in Egypt, Jordan and every other Arab country.

A tremendous price has been paid in lives and treasure for this nationalist-Islamist conflict. The violence has included civil wars among the Palestinians and Algerians, massive bloodshed in Iraq and terrorist campaigns in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In the Palestinian case, after winning an election victory and making a deal with Fatah for a coalition government, Hamas turned on its nationalist rivals and drove them out of Gaza by force. In return, the Palestinian Authority has been repressing Hamas in the West Bank.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah has been trying to bully its more moderate Sunni Muslim, Christian and Druze rivals into submission. And because the Arab states confront an Iran-Syria alliance that includes Hamas and Hezbollah, in addition to the internal conflicts there is a regional battle between these two blocs. A major aspect of this power-struggle is that the largely Sunni Muslim-led states face a largely Shia Muslim-led competitor for regional hegemony. These two struggles pose far greater dangers to the existing states than does any (largely fabricated) Israeli threat, and the region's rulers know it.

On the other side of the divide, Iran and its allies have put forward the banners of jihad and "resistance" to the US and Israel. Their platform includes Islamist revolutions in every country; Iran as the region's dominant state, backed up by nuclear weapons; no peace with Israel, and no Palestinian state until there can be an Islamist one encompassing all of Israel as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and above all the expulsion of Western influence from the region. This is a highly ambitious program and probably impossible to achieve. Nevertheless, it is a prescription for endless terrorism and war. Both pro-Iranian and anti-Iranian Islamists believe that because God is on their side and their enemies are cowardly, they will win -- and they are quite prepared to spend the next half-century trying to prove it.

Although this seems to be a pessimistic assessment of the regional situation, the radical Islamist side has many weaknesses. Launching losing wars may make Islamists feel good, but being defeated is a costly proposition, because their arrogance and belligerence antagonises many who might otherwise be won over to their cause. And the situation provides a good opportunity for Western policy makers.

The emphasis should be on building coalitions among the relatively moderate Arab states threatened by radical Islamist forces, and on working hard to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, a goal that is in the interests of many in the region. The worst mistake would be to follow the opposite policy, making an inevitably futile effort to appease the extremists or seek to moderate them. Such a campaign actually disheartens the relative moderates who, feeling sold out, will try to cut their own deal with Tehran.

The crisis in Gaza is only one aspect of the much wider battle shaking the region. Helping Hamas would empower radical Islamism and Iranian ambitions, and undercut the Palestinian Authority and everyone else, not just Israel. Arab states don't want to help their worst enemy, so why should anyone else?



The difference


Obama the Bushite

By Charles Krauthammer

Except for Richard Nixon, no president since Harry Truman has left office more unloved than George W. Bush. Truman's rehabilitation took decades. Bush's will come sooner. Indeed, it has already begun. The chief revisionist? Barack Obama. Vindication is being expressed not in words but in deeds -- the tacit endorsement conveyed by the Obama continuity-we-can-believe-in transition. It's not just the retention of such key figures as Defense Secretary Bob Gates or Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, who, as president of the New York Fed, has been instrumental in guiding the Bush financial rescue over the past year. It's the continuity of policy.

It is the repeated pledge to conduct a withdrawal from Iraq that does not destabilize its new democracy and that, as Vice President-elect Joe Biden said just this week in Baghdad, adheres to the Bush-negotiated status-of-forces agreement that envisions a U.S. withdrawal over three years, not the 16-month timetable on which Obama campaigned.

It is the great care Obama is taking in not preemptively abandoning the anti-terror infrastructure that the Bush administration leaves behind. While still a candidate, Obama voted for the expanded presidential wiretapping (FISA) powers that Bush had fervently pursued. And while Obama opposes waterboarding (already banned, by the way, by Bush's CIA in 2006), he declined George Stephanopoulos's invitation (on ABC's "This Week") to outlaw all interrogation not permitted by the Army Field Manual. Explained Obama: "Dick Cheney's advice was good, which is let's make sure we know everything that's being done," i.e., before throwing out methods simply because Obama campaigned against them.

Obama still disagrees with Cheney's view of the acceptability of some of these techniques. But citing as sage the advice offered by "the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history" (according to Joe Biden) -- advice paraphrased by Obama as "we shouldn't be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric" -- is a startlingly early sign of a newly respectful consideration of the Bush-Cheney legacy.

Not from any change of heart. But from simple reality. The beauty of democratic rotations of power is that when the opposition takes office, cheap criticism and calumny will no longer do. The Democrats now own Iraq. They own the war on al-Qaeda. And they own the panoply of anti-terror measures with which the Bush administration kept us safe these past seven years.

Which is why Obama is consciously creating a gulf between what he now dismissively calls "campaign rhetoric" and the policy choices he must make as president. Accordingly, Newsweek -- Obama acolyte and scourge of everything Bush/Cheney -- has on the eve of the Democratic restoration miraculously discovered the arguments for warrantless wiretaps, enhanced interrogation and detention without trial. Indeed, Newsweek's neck-snapping cover declares, "Why Obama May Soon Find Virtue in Cheney's Vision of Power." Obama will be loath to throw away the tools that have kept the homeland safe. Just as he will be loath to jeopardize the remarkable turnaround in American fortunes in Iraq.

Obama opposed the war. But the war is all but over. What remains is an Iraq turned from aggressive, hostile power in the heart of the Middle East to an emerging democracy openly allied with the United States. No president would want to be responsible for undoing that success.

In Iraq, Bush rightly took criticism for all that went wrong -- the WMD fiasco, Abu Ghraib, the descent into bloody chaos in 2005-06. Then Bush goes to Baghdad to ratify the ultimate post-surge success of that troubled campaign -- the signing of a strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq -- and ends up dodging two size 10 shoes for his pains. Absorbing that insult was Bush's final service on Iraq. Whatever venom the war generated is concentrated on Bush himself. By having personalized the responsibility for the awfulness of the war, Bush has done his successor a favor. Obama enters office with a strategic success on his hands -- while Bush leaves the scene taking a shoe for his country.

Which I suspect is why Bush showed such equanimity during a private farewell interview at the White House a few weeks ago. He leaves behind the sinews of war, for the creation of which he has been so vilified but which will serve his successor -- and his country -- well over the coming years. The very continuation by Democrats of Bush's policies will be grudging, if silent, acknowledgment of how much he got right.



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Friday, January 16, 2009

Solve the Arab refugee problem and you solve the conflict

The most insightful article posted in the last week is Ending the West's Proxy War Against Israel which is subtitled Stop funding a Palestinian youth bulge, and the fighting will stop too. This article, from the WSJ Europe, focuses on the disease and not the symptoms.
The reason for Gaza's endless youth bulge is that a large majority of its population does not have to provide for its offspring. Most babies are fed, clothed, vaccinated and educated by UNRWA. UNRWA is benevolently funded by the U.S. (31%) and the European Union (nearly 50%) - only 7% of the funds come from Muslim sources. Thanks to the West's largesse, nearly the entire population of Gaza lives in a kind of lowly but regularly paid dependence. One result of this unlimited welfare is an endless population boom.

Between 1950 and 2008, Gaza's population has grown from 240,000 to 1.5 million. The West basically created a new Near Eastern people in Gaza that at current trends will reach three million in 2040. Within that period, Gazans may alter the justifications and directions of their aggression but are unlikely to stop the aggression itself.

The West pays for food, schools, medicine and housing, while Muslim nations help out with the military hardware. Unrestrained by such necessities as having to earn a living, the young have plenty of time on their hands for digging tunnels, smuggling, assembling missiles and firing 4,500 of them at Israel since 2006.

The current situation can only get worse. Israel is being pushed into a corner. Gazan teenagers have no future other than war. One rocket master killed is immediately replaced by three young men for whom a martyr's death is no less honorable than victory. Some 230,000 Gazan males, aged 15 to 29, who are available for the battlefield now, will be succeeded by 360,000 boys under 15 (45% of all Gazan males) who could be taking up arms within the coming 15 years. As long as we continue to subsidize Gaza's extreme demographic armament, young Palestinians will likely continue killing their brothers or neighbors.

So it really doesn't matter how much the IDF beats up on Hamas, or controls the Philidelphi Corridor or disarms Hamas, the long term problem remains. Of course the more it does, the more the short term problem of rockets is dealt with. And we can forget about expelling the Arabs from Gaza because they could only flee to the Sinai and Egypt would go to war against Israel to prevent it. Nor will the rest of the world be more amenable to accepting Gazans as refugees. Who among them has offered to take in the inmates in Guantanamo Bay?

Even creating Palestine is not an answer. It would serve to relocate a million "refugees" to Palestine thereby increasing the problem. The problem being that the policies of the West are instrumental in supporting a population explosion which vastly exceeds the creation of jobs. Is the world that stupid or do they have a different agenda.
And yet, despite claiming that it wants to bring peace to the region, the West continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse every year. By generously supporting UNRWA's budget, the West assists a rate of population increase that is 10 times higher than in their own countries. Much is being said about Iran waging a proxy war against Israel by supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. One may argue that by fueling Gaza's untenable population explosion, the West unintentionally finances a war by proxy against the Jews of Israel.

I am not so naive. UNRWA and Palestine, are intended as a war against Israel. David Gelernter suggests in The answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.and I agree with him
"The problem will be solved as soon as the world stops trying to solve it. When the international community moves on to fresh causes, so will the Palestinians."

The problem can only be solved by the U.N. replacing UNRWA and with UNHCR whose mandate it is to resettle refugees. This of course means that the Arabs and the West have to take such refugees in.
[..] it (the West) may consider offering immigration to those young Palestinians only born because of the West's well-meant but cruelly misguided aid. In the decades to come, North America and Europe will have to take in tens of millions of immigrants anyway to slow the aging of their populations. If, say, 200,000 of them are taken from the 360,000 boys coming of age in Gaza in the next 15 years, that would be a negligible move for the big democracies but a quantum leap for peace in the Near East.

Why not take all of them in and then some. Solve the refugee problem and you solve the conflict.



Deranged NYT hatred of the military

As usual for the Left, any lie will do

In a front-page article on Jan. 2 of this year, The New York Times took a brief respite from its ongoing canonization of Barack Obama and returned to its series on violent crimes committed by returning GIs, or as I call it: "U.S. Military, Psycho Killers."

The Treason Times' banner series about Iraq and Afghanistan veterans accused of murder began in January last year but was quickly discontinued as readers noticed that the Times doggedly refused to provide any statistics comparing veteran murders with murders in any other group. So they waited a year, hoping readers wouldn't notice they were still including no relevant comparisons. What, for example, is the percentage of murderers among veterans compared to the percentage of murderers in the population at large -- or, more germane, in the general population of young males, inasmuch as violent crime is committed almost exclusively by young men? Any group composed primarily of young men will contain a seemingly mammoth number of murderers.

Consider the harmless fantasy game, Dungeons and Dragons -- which happens to be played almost exclusively by young males. When murders were committed in the '80s by (1) young men, who were (2) Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts, some people concluded that factor (2), rather than factor (1), led to murderous tendencies. Similarly, for its series about how America's bravest and finest young men are really a gang of psychopathic cutthroats, the Times triumphantly produced 121 homicides committed by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in order to pin the blame for the murders on the U.S. military.

Perhaps the Times' next major expose could be on how a huge percentage of murderers are people who won't ask for directions or share the TV remote.

Let's compare murders by veterans to murders by other 18- to 35-year-olds in the U.S. population at large. From 1976 to 2005, 18- to 24-year-olds -- both male and more gentle females -- committed homicide at a rate of 29.9 per 100,000. Twenty-five- to 35-year-olds committed homicides at a rate of 15.8 per 100,000. Since 9/11, about 1.6 million troops have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. That makes the homicide rate among veterans of these wars 7.6 per 100,000 -- or about one-third the homicide rate for their age group (18 to 35) in the general population of both sexes.

But fewer than 200,000 of the 1.6 million troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been women, and the murder rate for the general population includes both males and females. Inasmuch as males commit nearly 90 percent of all murders, the rate for males in those age groups is probably nearly double the male/female combined rates, which translates to about 30 to 55 murderers per 100,000 males aged 18 to 35. So comparing the veterans' rate of murder to only their male counterparts in the general population, we see that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are about 10 times less likely to commit a murder than non-veterans of those wars.

More here


BrookesNews Update

Obama's public spending program will bea very expensive farce: Sound economics and the lessons of history do not support Obama's claim that government spending is the cure for recession and unemployment. Nevertheless, his ignorant slavish supporters in the media will continue to pump out his dangerous nonsense as the right medicine
The Reserve's fallacious monetary theory got us into this mess : We have a financial crisis and a deepening recession because central banks really do not have a sound monetary theory. They do not even have a grasp of the true nature and power of money. The result is the present mess in which ignorant grandstanding politicians like Obama promise to do the impossible
Labour markets, economic growth and journalistic stupidity : America and Australia are facing a renewed union bureaucracy whose economic fallacies are destructive of capital and jobs. The only way to deal with its politically motivated claptrap is to make the public aware of just how dangerous it is to the country's economic welfare
Carbon Tax: The lesser of two evils : Greenie thugs and their political allies successfully intimidate Exxon Mobil into accepting the economically destructive carbon tax to curb 'global warming' - even as Europe and much of the US freezes. (A cultist is someone who is oblivious to any facts - even when they are physical and stand in plain view - that contradict his fundamental beliefs)
Wow! Israel is back! : Israel finally strikes back at Hamas barbarism - and about time. No matter what, Israel shouldn't give any credence to what the world has to say when it comes to the Jewish state defending itself . I know what would happen if the residents of Tijuana would suddenly start lobbing rockets into San Diego
Castroism at 50 : The Castro gang took over, Cuba, one the world's most prosperous countries, and turned it into a gigantic slum. They drained political prisoners of their blood before murdering them, they shot children, they built a Gulag, they funded terrorism and tried to start a world war. And these murderous sadists are adored by the media and Hollywood intellectuals. The left is well and truly diseased
Blagojevich scandal exposes the Democrats' hypocrisy : The Blagojevich scandal is a running sore that reveals systemic corruption in the Democratic Party and its utter contempt for genuine Democratic principles. If the US mainstream media were not itself utterly corrupt it would have long ago exposed the depraved state of Chicago's Democratic politics and the politicians like Obama to whom it gave birth"
Obama's stimulus plan heading for trouble before it even starts : By completely misunderstanding economic history Obama has come to believe that state spending is the road to prosperity - never mind the lessons of history, especially the embarrassing fact that this policy failed Roosevelt and also recently failed in Japan. And yet this 'brilliant man' and a leader of the 'reality-based community' genuinely believes otherwise


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Gaza-Egypt Smuggling Tunnels Must Be Closed


When Israelis look back on what caused the current conflict in Gaza, they point to their government's decision in September 2005 to leave the narrow "Philadelphi Route" that runs along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. More than Israel's disengagement from the Strip as a whole, the abandonment of this strategic area made full-scale war inevitable.

The 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization placed this 100-meter wide corridor, which separated the Egyptian side of the town of Rafah from the Palestinian side in Gaza, under Israeli military control. (The Israeli army gave it the code name "Philadelphi.") By 2000, local Palestinians, many of whom worked with Hamas, dug underground tunnels between the two halves of Rafah. The tunnels allowed for a lucrative smuggling trade that included weapons.

Admittedly, there were rocket attacks on Israel before the Gaza pullout (the first Qassam rocket was fired in 2001). However, the scale of the attacks totally changed after the withdrawal. Rocket attacks increased by 500% (from 179 in 2005 to 946 in 2006). The range of Hamas's rockets also increased following the withdrawal. Locally manufactured Qassams, which could reach targets seven kilometers away, gave way to Grad/Katyusha rockets supplied by Iran that can hit as far as 20 kilometers. These were first used in 2006. During 2008, rockets with a 40-kilometer range came through the Gaza tunnels and into Hamas's weapons cache.

At the same time that the tunnels facilitated weapons smuggling, they also allowed hundreds of Hamas operatives to leave Gaza for Egypt, where they caught planes to Iran and underwent military training with the Revolutionary Guards at a base outside of Tehran. When Israel controlled the Philadelphi Route, its special forces waged a constant battle and kept the number of tunnels low. But by 2008, with Israeli access to the Philadelphi route cut off and measures against the tunnels halted, the number of tunnels proliferated into the hundreds.

Today, Israelis are concerned that even if Hamas is defeated militarily, its stocks of rockets will be fully replenished by Iran in a matter of months unless the tunnels under the Philadelphi Route are addressed. That is precisely what happened with Hezbollah after the 2006 Lebanon War. The United Nations Security Council cease-fire, Resolution 1701, failed to deal adequately with the rearming of the Lebanese Shiite group. Today, Hezbollah has more rockets threatening Israel than it had prior to the 2006 war. In the case of Hamas, there is an added concern that Iran will supply rockets that reach well beyond the 40-kilometer range. In the next war, Hamas could strike Tel Aviv from inside the Gaza Strip.

How can Israel cut off the smuggling routes? In 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice proposed border controls for the Rafah area. This completely failed because the European Union monitors deployed in Rafah ran away the moment there was an escalation of violence. Today the idea of a new EU monitoring force -- a proposal Western diplomats are discussing -- does not engender much confidence on the Israeli side. Others are hoping that Egypt will take seriously its obligations to close off the smuggling routes from its side. Egypt has failed to do so since 2005. Why should we expect a change now?

If these options fail, Israel may be left with no choice but to enter the Philadelphi Route and continue to destroy these tunnels in the future. Anticipating the end of the Gaza war, there is already talk about the next stage of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Some hope that the peace process can simply be picked up where it was left off and pursued with new determination. But the crisis over the Philadelphi Route has taught Israel a bitter lesson about relinquishing critical territory: It was a cardinal error to leave this strategic zone at the perimeter of Gaza, even if Israel wanted to get out of the Strip in its entirety. Israeli leaders including Yitzhak Rabin have warned that Israel must never leave the Jordan Valley, the equivalent perimeter zone in the West Bank.

Ariel Sharon saw the Jordan Valley as an integral part of Israel's claim to "defensible borders," a term used by President Bush in an April 2004 letter to Israel, that was overwhelmingly backed in special legislation by bipartisan majorities in both houses of U.S. Congress during June 2004. President-elect Barack Obama publicly recognized Israel's right to "defensible borders" at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference last year.

The strategic stakes involved in this issue are enormous. Were Israel to be stripped of the Jordan Valley, it would undoubtedly face a massive escalation of weapons smuggling into the West Bank. Should the scale of the smuggling reach the same proportions as in Gaza, it is doubtful that even the Jordanians, motivated by the best of intentions, could bring it to a halt. Moreover, a steady stream of weapons smugglers and Islamist volunteers crossing the kingdom would undermine Jordanian security.

Diplomats are working feverishly to seal off the Philadelphi Route and bring an end to the current Gaza conflict. Let's hope they remember the critical importance of securing Israel's other borders -- for the sake of Israel's security, and for the stability of its neighbors.



United under the swastika in Canada

Critics of Israel are often quick to insist that they're not anti-Semitic-just anti-Zionist, anti-"occupation," or something along those lines. But not these guys: at a protest against Israel in downtown Calgary on the weekend, the Nazi group, the Aryan Guard, showed up to march alongside the Muslims. Of course, the Aryan Guard is honest enough to admit they just plain hate Jews, not bothering to strain themselves with arguments of nuance. They fit right in on Saturday with their posters of Israeli flags defaced with the accusation "Terror State." As Darcey at Dust My Broom notes, the 150 "anti-racists" who came out in force to protest an Aryan Guard march in downtown Calgary last year didn't complain this time. In fact, they marched right along with the Aryans, united under the swastika: the Arabs and Communists labeling the Jewish State a "Nazi" regime; the skinheads hoping to resurrect the Real McCoy.

Event organizer Shadi Abuid-who last made news a few years back as a university student when he brought to Calgary Norman Finkelstein, the popular anti-Israel author of "The Holocaust Industry"-told Canwest Global he was impressed with the "various groups uniting under one voice." He explained that he had "directly told" the neo-Nazis that he'd prefer they didn't join the march. "But in these demonstrations you can control the crowd but you can't control the emotions . . . you can't deny people's right to walk," he shrugged.

That's true. Except, many of the same organizers behind Saturday's march attempted to deny the freedom-to-demonstrate of an Israeli supporter just the other week. At a protest in front of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's constituency office in southwest Calgary January 2nd, Gazan supporters called the cops to complain when one man showed up waving an Israeli flag. There were 150 pro-Palestinian protestors, but the single Israeli supporter was told by police that he must leave or be charged with "inciting civil disorder," according to this account (with photos). Protestors reportedly cursed at and threw shoes at the man.

The anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, anti-whatever protestors should indeed get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accusations of being Jew-haters. But attempting to suppress the rights of Israel's supporters, while standing up for the rights of Nazis to march alongside them arm-in-arm, can only make drawing that distinction a lot more difficult.




Punditarian and I are still having an enjoyable debate about Jewish questions -- but on his blog rather than here. He shows a surprising depth of interest in the Christian scriptures and, like me, takes that all the way back to the original Greek. We are both language freaks, basically. It's something to think about that one of the NY Ashkenazim and an atheist of Scottish Protestant background in a backwater on the opposite side of the globe actually get on very well. I am glad to have made his acquaintance. We don't entirely agree, of course, but it would be boring if we did. From Hegel on, only Leftists glorify marching along in lockstep. Conservatives value the individual.

There is a new rather intellectual blog up called Symbol Pond that readers who have time to spare may enjoy.

Dick McDonald is back online, fighting the good fight against America's corrupt Social Security system. The time will come under the present arrangements when even the elderly will have to work -- with only the sick and the disabled excused.

German police chief apologizes over flag incident: "After the Duisburg police removed an Israeli flag during a demonstration against Israel, there was an uproar. The Duisburg police chief has described the action as wrong. On Sunday the action was brought up in the State parliament. Duisburg's Police chief Rolf Cebin apologized on Sunday for the removal of an Israeli flag in the context of a demonstration against the Gaza war. "I deeply regret that the feelings -- particularly of Jewish citizens -- were hurt". Several police officers broke down a door in Duisburg on Saturday in order to access a dwelling where several Israeli flags were hanging out the window. The house was on the route of a demonstration against the military action of Israel. The demonstrators felt provoked by the flag and threw stones and lumps of ice at the building, said the police. In order to prevent property damage and the escalation of the situation, the police leadership present decided to remove the flag" [Translation by JR. An original report of the action is here]

Obama's Recession Remedy: Tax the Poor! : "Everybody's going to have to give," President-elect Barack Obama warned over the weekend. And some people will have to give more than others -- starting with low-income smokers. Democrats are rushing this week to impose massive tax hikes of at least 61 cents on every cigarette pack sold in America, in addition to new increases on other tobacco products. The money will fund a long-plotted federal expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Yes, this is Dr. Big Nanny's prescription for recession: punitive tax increases on the poor to feed a universal health care Trojan horse. Obama and his liberal Democratic colleagues sure have a funny way of demonstrating "progressive" values, don't they? Health surveys show that smokers are more likely to be blue-collar workers, minorities and have less than a high-school education

Regulation gives people a false sense of security: "The $50-billion investment scam allegedly pulled off by Wall Street insider Bernard Madoff has ignited predictable calls for more regulation. The "massive fraud ... was made possible in part because the regulators who were assigned to oversee Wall Street dropped the ball," said President-elect Obama. Notice the disconnect. Regulation failed, so we need more regulation. I see it differently. Regulation failed, so let's try free markets. That would be a change. Regulation did indeed fail. "An executive in the securities industry, Harry Markopolos, contacted the SEC's Boston office in May 1999, urging regulators to investigate Mr. Madoff. Mr. Markopolos continued to pursue his accusations over the past nine years," The Wall Street Journal reported. We've always been told that regulation of financial markets protects the least knowledgeable investors. Sophisticated people know what they are doing and can fend for themselves. But Madoff's alleged Ponzi scheme is fascinating precisely because it caught some very knowledgeable people. They knew Madoff. Everyone trusted him, including the regulators.

Netanyahu: Hamas must be toppled: Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel must remove Gaza's Hamas rulers from power to ensure victory over "terror." He expressed full support for his country's punishing, 18-day offensive against the militants _ even though it is being conducted by politicians who are running against him in Feb. 10 elections. "At the end of the day there will be no alternative but to bring down the regime of Hamas, a terrorist organization pledged to our destruction," Netanyahu told foreign reporters in Jerusalem. Netanyahu, a top contender to become prime minister in next month's vote, said toppling Hamas would not necessarily have to be part of the current offensive, but would eventually have to happen.

Obama's Math Doesn't Add Up : "Even economists who agree with Barack Obama that we need another stimulus are questioning his exuberant predictions that his spending plan will produce or save 3.7 million jobs. That number was contained in the upwardly revised job-creation figures that economic advisers Jared Bernstein and Christina Romer came out with this week in an effort to boost congressional support for Obama's costly stimulus package amid growing skepticism that it will work.

Obama's death tax deadly for jobs: "The news today that Obama and Senate Democrats will move to block the death tax from phasing out as scheduled under current law flies in the face of everything they've been saying about not raising taxes during an economic crisis. It also will undermine their promise to help create jobs, because the death tax destroys as many as 250,000 jobs every year by forcing family businesses to liquidate their assets to pay the tax. These forced liquidations also contribute to the decline in asset values. When we should be lowering barriers to capital formation to cushion the blow of the credit liquidation cycle, it looks like Obama and Senate Democrats are doing the opposite, because they just can't let go of their anti-growth, anti-jobs, tax-the-rich impulse when it comes to the death tax.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A defender of hopeless causes?

I think there is a saint for hopeless causes. I will have to look him up and shoot him a prayer. I think I need him.

My mother told me once that when I was a kid and she asked me if I had done something naughty I would always admit that I had. She said that I was so honest that she never had the heart to punish me. I sometimes wonder if that honesty is a curse. It sure gets me into a lot of trouble. I am always blowing the whistle on popular beliefs that I can see to be wrong -- as my GREENIE WATCH and FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blogs attest. If I went with the flow, I would have a lot more fame and fortune, I think. But I do pretty well anyway. My latest bit of skepticism is:

"Some people even believe that William Zantzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll"

And I am sure that we can all remember Bob Dylan (aka Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham) singing that accusation in his nasal voice. But as far as I can see, Zantzinger was innocent. "Zantzinger" is a marvellous name to conjure with (Dylan even invented a "diamond ring finger" to rhyme with it) so no wonder Dylan was tempted but even Dylan's biographer says that the song was a libel:
The Dylan song followed him around his whole life, though he steadfastly refused to talk about it with reporters. In 2001 Bob Dylan biographical Howard Sounes actually got a quote out of him. "[Dylan] is a no-account song a bitch," Zantzinger said. "He's just like a scum bag of the earth. I should have sued him and put him in jail. [The song is] a total lie." Clinton Heylin - perhaps the world's authority on all things Dylan - seems to agree. "Dylan's concern was not the fact themselves but how they might fit with his preconceived notions of injustice and corruption," he wrote in Behind The Shades. "That the song itself is a masterpiece of drama and wordplay does not excuse Dylan's distortions, and 36 years on he continues to misrepresent poor William Zantzinger in concert."

What actually happened seems to be that Zantzinger was drunk after a celebration and did insult the lady and tap her on the shoulder with a toy cane but that did not kill her. She died several hours later of her chronic medical condition: hypertension, arteriosclerosis and a burst cerebral aneurism -- a "stroke" in popular parlance. Zantzinger was convicted of manslaughter because his actions were deemed to have brought on the stroke but that is speculation. Clearly, if the woman had been in normal health, nothing would have happened. So the light sentence Zantzinger received reflected his very low level of culpability rather than anything more sinister. If the court had really been "racist" or even fair, it would not have convicted him of anything at all. And Zantzinger's continued good standing in his community can also be seen as a judgement about his innocence rather than as evidence of "racism" Who among us has not committed indiscretions while drunk?

Hey! Aren't the Lefty whiners who monitor me going to love this one! I wrote the last sentence above ("Who among us...) with them in mind. They will surely use it as a summary of what I say about Zantzinger. Leftists love to quote out of context. The whole truth is generally too destructive of their simplistic ideas. I should have mentioned previously that my fellow Brisbane conservative blogger Leon Bertrand gives the whiners concerned a hard time occasionally.


Olmert has balls after all

Israel will hit Hamas with an "iron fist" if the Islamist movement does not halt its rocket fire against the Jewish state, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned on Monday. "We want to end the operation when the two conditions we have demanded are met: ending the rocket fire and stopping Hamas's rearmament. If these two conditions are met, we will end our operation in Gaza," Olmert said in a speech in the southern town of Ashkelon. "Anything else will meet the iron fist of the Israeli people, who are no longer ready to tolerate the Qassams (rockets)." "Will it take time? Let it take time. We will continue as long as necessary in order to remove this threat," the premier added.

Israel launched a massive operation against the Hamas-ruled territory on December 27 with the declared goal of halting the near-daily rocket fire from Gaza against southern Israel, which has killed four people since the start of the offensive. Israel has conditioned the end of the operation, which has claimed the lives of more than 900 Palestinians, on a complete halt to rocket fire and arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza. Ashkelon, a port city situated around a dozen kilometres from Gaza, has been hit by dozens of Qassams since the start of the offensive.



Prof. Barry Rubin sums up the present situation, writing from Israel:

Israel's resolve is unbreakable. May I point out that it took far less than seven years from September 11 to the election of Senator Obama. Three thousand dead civilian Americans did not sustain majority support for a war against terrorism all that long. From Le Monde's "we are all Americans" to its "we are all anti-Americans" (actually it took about a month). You can depend on Israel but can we depend on you (I speak nationally not of you as individuals, of course.).

We have some of our staff fighting in Gaza at this moment. Volunteering for combat units is at incredibly high levels and I know--because they told me so--that my children are ready to follow this tradition. We are putting in 17-hour workdays to try to combat the lies. Many families like us have volunteered to take people from the south into our homes to live with us if they want to leave to avoid the rocket fire. But guess what? Hardly anyone has agreed to leave their homes despite the rockets being shot at them. Except for a handful of extreme left academics and writers for Haaretz (who naturally have the op-ed columns of American and European newspapers opened to them) the country is united. It has no illusions about radical Islamism or Iran. It will be ready, if necessary, to attack Iranian nuclear installations (unless President Obama talks Tehran out of it, which gives you some sense of the outcome).

So please don't underestimate Israelis and their resolve, especially while our people are fighting thirty miles from where I am writing this. This is not your conception of Israel as of, say, 1995. A huge majority supports the war--and that's not just verbal but putting their lives on the line. One month from today Israelis will elect Bibi Netanyahu--not Senator Obama or Nicholas Sarkozy--as leader of the country. So please keep in mind where the criticism should be put, even as the secretary-general of the UN who embraced Iran's president compares Israel to Nazi Germany and when we don't know whether we can even depend on the United States to support us ten days from today.


Guess Who Cares about Dead Palestinians? Jews!

For those individuals -- such as nearly all members of the world news media -- who, in light of Israels invasion of Gaza -- see moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians, here are some clarifying thoughts. First, it would be difficult nearly to the point of impossibility, to find Israeli or other Jews who celebrate the deaths of Palestinian civilians. Jews both within and outside of Israel cringe when they see pictures of dead Palestinian men, women, and children in Gaza. For thousands of years at their Passover seders, Jews have removed wine from their cups to ceremonially weep for the Egyptians -- their erstwhile slave owners for 400 years -- who died during the Jews exodus. Jews have never stopped weeping for enemies.

The opposite is the case with the large majority of Palestinians. It would be quite difficult to find many Palestinians who do not celebrate the deaths of Israeli Jews or non-Israeli Jews. This is not only reflected in Palestinian polls that show majority support for terrorism -- and terrorism means killing innocent Jews -- it is also reflected in Palestinian media, Palestinian schools, and Palestinian mosques that routinely glorify murderers of Jews, and refer to all Jews as monkeys and the like.

Take for example, Palestinian reaction to the 2001 Palestinian terror bombing of a Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria in which 15 Jews, five of whom were two sets of parents and their children, were murdered and an additional 130 people were injured, some permanently maimed. As reported by the Associated Press, a month later, Palestinian university students opened an exhibition that included a grisly re-enactment of that mass murder. The students built a replica of the Sbarro pizzeria, with fake blood, splattered pizza, a plastic hand dangling from the ceiling, and a fake severed leg wearing jeans and a bloody black sneaker. The exhibit also includes a large rock in front of a mannequin wearing the black hat, black jacket and black trousers typically worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews. A recording from inside the rock calls out: O believer, there is a Jewish man behind me. Come and kill him, paraphrasing a verse in the Koran. It became a popular tourist attraction for Palestinians, to which Palestinian parents took their little children.

Here's the question: Can anyone even imagine Jews, in Israel or anywhere else on earth -- no matter how right-wing they are politically or religiously -- doing something analogous to celebrate the death of Palestinian civilians? I have spoken to Jewish groups on both U.S. coasts since the Israeli invasion of Gaza, and when the subject of Palestinian civilian deaths is mentioned, all I hear is regret and sadness.

This moral chasm that separates Israel from its enemies, and separates the Jews from their enemies, merely confirms what Hamas repeatedly says about itself: We love death more than the Jews love life. This motto is so true that Hamas not only doesnt weep for dead Israelis, it doesnt weep for dead Palestinians. It uses living Palestinians as human shields and uses dead Palestinians as propaganda. The moral disequilibrium is such that Jews weep for dead Palestinian far more than Hamas does.

The second point to be raised is about perspective. If during World War II, Western news media had reported German and Japanese civilian casualties in the same detail and with the same sympathy they report Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza, it is doubtful that the Nazis and the Japanese militarists would have lost that war. Certainly, at the very least, the anti-Nazi, anti-Fascist war effort would have been severely compromised.

The analogy is entirely apt. Hamas is on the same moral level as the two World War II enemies. Do those who condemn Israel for its attacks on Hamas fighters that have tragically resulted in hundreds of civilian Palestinian deaths also condemn the Allied bombings of German and Japanese military targets that resulted in far more civilian deaths? I suspect not since most critics of Israel still regard World War II as a moral war. The overriding issue, therefore, is whether fighting Hamas is moral. If it is, then the unintended death of Palestinian civilians is a tragedy, not an evil (except on the part of Hamas, because it situates its fighters and its missiles among civilians, including schools).

Third, if Hamas had the same ability to bomb Israel as Israel has to bomb Gaza, would the number of Jewish civilians be in the hundreds? Or would there be the Holocaust in Israel that Hamas and its Iranian sponsors dream of? The answer is so obvious that this consideration alone renders moral Israels war to destroy Hamas. In a short period of time Hamas will have more accurate missiles and longer-range ones. One of them could kill a thousand or more. Another one could destroy passenger planes coming into Ben-Gurion Airport, thereby causing foreign airlines to stop flying into Israel. It is that inevitability that Israel is fighting to prevent. But in the morally confused world we live in, only with thousands of Israelis dead, would Israels invasion of Gaza be proportional, and therefore acceptable. But Israel is more interested in living with world condemnation than in dying with world sympathy.



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jews and I

I must be a madman to have embarked on a series of posts about "Who is a Jew?" That question is probably the most widely debated one among Jews themselves and the various answers to it have on occasions led to shouting matches in the Knesset. So what makes me think I can add anything to it? I actually never did think that I was making any original contribution. All I did, as far as I can see, was boil down the Orthodox view to one sentence ("You are a Jew either because of your own religion or the religion of one of your recent forebears"). But boiling down anything theological is a peril, of course.

Anyway, I think I am going to have to put a stop to it. While I have had an excellent and enjoyable correspondence with Jewish readers about the matter, I fear that I might be boring my Gentile readers to death. So I have decided that I will cease and desist from such posts for the foreseeable future.

I have always been favourably impressed by what I read about Jews and have at times thought it would be good to be one. I am too attached to a part of my anatomy to do anything about it, however. So when my son turned 13 I asked him if he would like me to arrange a version of a bar mitzvah for him. He replied firmly that No, he wanted to remain a kid as long as possible. I understood completely. When I was his age I thought that going out and working for your living looked too hard. I would much rather be looked after by someone else. I grew out of that in due course, as has my son. Those who don't grow out of it we call Leftists.



A very special man: "On December 8th an F/A-18D Marine Hornet fighter jet crashed into Dong Yun Yoon's home while he was at work and killed his wife, mother –in-law and his two baby girls. The pilot of the fighter jet was able to eject and parachute to safety just before the crash. On that day, Dong Yun Yoon held a press conference. Mr. Yoon did not announce a lawsuit; he did not complain about flight patterns or military air bases or lash out at the world as many people would. Mr. Yoon prayed for the Marine pilot. Mr. Yoon said "I pray for him not to suffer for this action," "I know he's one of our treasures for our country." I don't have any hard feelings," "I know he did everything he could." Having just lost three generations of his family, Mr. Yoon, a Christian, and a devout member of the Korean United Methodist Church in San Diego found room in his heart to worry about the pilot. I wish I were a better writer. I wish I had the ability to express the impact Mr. Yoon's words had on me. In his terrible sorrow, Mr. Yoon gave us a glimpse of the light. I saw the light and I was ashamed." [See also here].

Pandering to racism in Germany: "German cops, worried that an Israeli flag in an apartment window might incite vile, racist scumbag demonstrators, solve the problem by breaking into the apartment and removing the flag. There are only two possible explanations for this. First, these German cops want to suppress expressions of support for Israel. This strikes me as a bad public relations and an offense to international human rights law. Now, I have little good to say about international "human rights" law, but Europeans claim to venerate it. Go figure. Second, the Germans have such contempt for the ability of the Muslim demonstrators to control their emotions that they do not trust them to respond non-violently even to such a benign symbol as a flag in a window. Not only are these German cops pandering to the racism of the protestors, but they themselves are racist in their obvious assumption that Muslims will resort to violence at the slightest provocation".

The race card returns: "We live in hopeful times - we are Americans after all - and we should be thinking hopeful thoughts. On the historically depressing topic of race relations, we've been in a particularly hopeful place in the wake of the last election. But if you need a gauge of exactly how anomalous Obama and his campaign were in the context of race, all you have to do is watch the chaos that now surrounds the process by which he will be replaced in the Senate. Roland Burris will be, and rightly so, the next senator from Illinois. Despite all the bluster, the law and the politics are on his side, and the Senate will eventually have to seat him. The Democratic leadership has essentially conceded as much, but from the moment Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Burris, the fog of blatant, heavy-handed racial politics was going to be the insurance policy that would guarantee Burris, Obama's seat."

Britain as a land of fear: "It seems to have taken just over 50 years for the reach of the state to become near ubiquitous. There's little any of us do now that does not involve the parasitic actions and attitudes of it; ultimately we have a malignant monkey on our backs. We have become servile in our acceptance of state actions, but recently (partly as a response to the heavy handed reaction to terrorism and its presumption of all citizens being equally guilty) the heavy fisted approach has spread further."

A new circus comes to town : "Is it too soon to talk about the failed Obama presidency just because Obama isn't president yet? That depends upon how quickly Barack Obama is able to apply the lessons he's learned from Management Secrets of the Illinois Governors. So far he's not doing very well. He has allowed America's current number one jackleg, crackpot, smut-mouth, slime-licking politician to give the Obama Senate seat to a lovable old African-American doofus whom no one has the heart to execrate. Roland Burris will be the kind of ornament to this year's Senate that the broken plastic Rudolph with its antlers missing was to last year's Christmas tree. Then Obama took Bill Richardson - one of his earliest important supporters and among the smartest, most experienced, and, certainly, most affable of Washington insiders - and put Bill at the Department of Commerce."

The problem, informally stated : "I see that our president-to-be has told George Stephanopoulos that: `Everybody's going to have to give. Everybody's going to have to have some skin in the game.' It would appear to be news to Mr. Barack Obama that `ordinary' Americans are already being f*cked to death and screwed 500 ways to Sunday, all to support the ruling class in its inordinate wealth and power. But what the hell: `everybody' is going to be screwed all over again. Not, however, the ruling class. On that point, you may be absolutely certain."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Monday, January 12, 2009

Are Jews a nation?

I am feeling rather ill today so may not post as much as usual but despite that I am immediately drawn to renew my discussion with Punditarian -- who has just written a long post in support of his contention that Jews are a "nation". I am at something of a loss to know why that seems important to him -- "ethnic group" is the normal appellation -- but I will comment nonetheless. "Ethnic group" is certainly vague and uninformative.

I have been careful thoughout all I have said on this matter to avoid placing any importance on race, for what I hope are obvious reasons. But I hope I might be forgiven for using another "dangerous" word: Volk. Punditarian strayed into Latin and Greek in his comments so I hope I can be forgiven for straying into German. And I think Ashkenazi Jews could be seen as a Volk. Volk is a "dangerous" word because it was a central concept for Hitler. Though the old East German Communists used it a lot too. Contrary to what many seem to think, it does NOT mean race. The German word for race is Rasse and Karl Marx in fact simply used the English spelling: "race", even though he was writing in German. So when Hitler described Germans as a Herrenvolk, he was calling them a "master PEOPLE", not a master race. Yet Volk means rather more than the English word "people". I have written rather extensively here on the translation of the word but let me try to summarize here by saying that it does overlap a little with the concept of race in that it describes a group of interrelated and interconnected people, a sort of extended family. And I think that their weak endogamy does make Ashkenazi Jews a Volk in that sense. It seems a pity that, despite their extensive borrowings from other languages, the English never seem to have found a use for Volk, even though it is in various spellings found in quite a few European languages. It is both a very ancient and a very useful word.

And the word comes into its own in describing two groups that Punditarian mentions. He argues that throughout the 19th century Italians and Germans were "nations" even though they were not under any kind of central rule until late in that century. There were many small German-speaking states but no Germany as a single political entity, for instance. I would argue however that Germans were always a Volk but only became a nation in the 1870s. Volk is certainly the word that Germans of the time used for themselves. The words "nation" and "national" are identical in English and German and are used similarly. And what Germans wanted to do for most of the 19th century was to unite their Volk into a single Nation. And under Bismarck, they just about managed it -- though Bismarck's strategic omission of Austria from the new German nation was grumbled about by many as a Kleindeutsch (little Germany) solution. A later German leader remedied that omission to much acclaim, of course.

Punditarian raises the case of Nigeria, with its disparate tribal mix and says that Nigeria is not a nation because of the hostility between its composite tribes. I am going to be a bit cheeky here and remark that by that standard Israel is not a nation either, with its Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Druze, Arabs etc. Without an external threat Israel would fly apart in a trice. But be that as it may, I think Volk again clarifies the situation. Nigerians are not a Volk but they ARE normally called a nation. And Israel too is a nation composed of several Voelker. The Ashkenazim and the Sephardim are certainly not a single Volk, though they could become one through intermarriage.

A final point which Punditarian touches on is however very important. Christians define their religion in terms of accepting certain BELIEFS. Jews tend to define their religion as accepting certain PRACTICES -- practices set down in halacha (Jewish law). So in that way even an atheist could be a Jew in good standing as long as he kept kosher etc. And I think that gives power to my contention about the centrality of religion in defining Jewishness. As Punditarian himself argues, Jews have remained Jews by way of their distinctive practices, and those practices define a religion.



California's Gold Rush Has Been Reversed: "After more than 150 years of being a destination, California is becoming a place entrepreneurs, investment capital and the hardy workers who made it a global leader in agriculture, technological innovation and scientific research are fleeing. This exodus is the marker of something deeper than a national recession. It's a sign that the attempts by state leaders to spend their way back to prosperity are killing California... Citizens are burdened by all manner of state regulations. To mention just one example, this year a new law enacted by ballot initiative bans cages chicken farmers use on the grounds that it is inhuman to put birds in cages that prevent them from spreading their wings. Complying with the new law will cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars, which will force many to leave the state. And that will force us to buy our eggs from other states and, possibly, others nations, such as Mexico. And just as a fallen tree can divert the flow of water in a creek, bad economic policies divert the flow of investment. Entrepreneurs and investors, seeking the path of least resistance, leave when it becomes easier to make a living in more business-friendly states. In 2000, according to the state's Department of Finance, about 150,000 people moved into California. But in the years that followed the in-migration slowed, and in 2005 it reversed, when a net 52,000 people moved out. In 2008, the outflow topped 135,000 people."

Eyeless in Gaza, Heartless at Home: "Creeped out: That's the best way I can describe my response upon stumbling into an anti-Israel protest one recent Sunday in Manhattan. Ranting picketers carried signs that made light of the Holocaust, children dressed up as Hamas militants dotted the crowd. I wanted to have a more profound response, a deeper analysis, but "creeped out" is how I felt walking away from it. Days later, a colleague, military historian Victor Davis Hanson, expressed a similar reaction to accounts of way too many similar scenes: We're living in "creepy times," he wrote on National Review's Web site.

Aggressive British peaceniks: "Protestors clashed with hundreds of riot police in central London as an anti-war demonstration turned violent. One officer was knocked unconscious and two others received facial injuries as the mood turned sour at what had been a mainly peaceful protest. A small group of protestors turned on mounted police and riot officers on foot, throwing missiles and smashing windows in Kensington, close to the Israeli Embassy. A crash barrier set up to help control the crowds was hurled through the large windows of a Starbucks Coffee shop. Police were forced to charge at the group, mainly made up of young men, in an attempt to disperse them. But sticks, stones and shoes were thrown back before the crowds were brought under control. Thousands of people took part in the huge rally and march through to protest against Israel's continued attacks on the Gaza Strip. A heavy police presence lined the route of the march from Hyde Park to the Israeli embassy as demonstrators chanted "free, free Palestine. " [Mostly Muslims, presumably]

Harry Reid’s Land Grab : "It’s hard to pinpoint the worst part of the public lands legislation bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling up for an under-the-radar Sunday vote tomorrow. The 1200-page, pork-laden, $10 billion proposal locks up millions of acres of energy-rich property by designating it as environmentalist-friendly “federal wilderness” area where not even as much as a bicycle would be permitted to travel across the land. Many of these areas recently became available when the ban on domestic drilling in Western states expired last fall and the liberal left couldn’t muster the courage to keep it in place due to rising energy prices. Now Democratic leaders are using different legislative strategies to put a new kind of ban in place."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Sunday, January 11, 2009


I am taking a break from Gaza today. I am sure Israelis wish they could do the same

Although we never normally think of him that way, Dickens may be the second most influential Leftist after Marx. His storytelling ability enthralls us to this day and is for almost all of us the only picture we have of the 19th century -- and a dismal picture it is. Dickens portrayed the worst of his times, not the average or the typical but we tend to accept his verbal pictures as typical. And the the situations that Dickens described were so bad that the word "Dickensian" has come to mean oppressive, uncaring and inhuman. His novels were, however, political propaganda. Surprisingly, England in the Victorian era had a social welfare system that was both fairly comprehensive and independent of the government.

Even in the modern era of universal government welfare payments we can still find people living in "Dickensian" conditions -- for one obvious instance, the Australian Aborigines. All systems have some weaknesses and concentrating on the worst cases tells us nothing about how well the system works as a whole. A modern-day Dickens could equally well describe terrible situations caused by the actions of heartless government employees. See SOCIALIZED MEDICINE for just some examples of that. So let us now look briefly at what history tells us about the Victorian system rather than at what the novels of Dickens tell us about it:

There were two main sources of social security in Victorian England: The parish and the Friendly Societies. The parish system is the one Dickens concentrated on but it was in fact the Friendly Societies that were more important. We still have many of the Friendly Societies with us to this day. Most Australians will have heard of Manchester Unity, The Oddfellows, The Druids and various other societies. These days just about all they provide is health insurance but in the Victorian era their functions were much broader. They also provided unemployment insurance, widows benefits, funeral benefits and various social functions. In the Victorian era a skilled worker would normally join a Friendly Society associated with his work, his town or his religion. If no other Society suited him he could join the Oddfellows. When he joined, he signed up to pay a weekly subscription to the society out of his wages. In return the Society covered him for most of the problems of daily life. If he got sick he went for free to the Society's doctor or a doctor that the Society had an agreement with. If he got really sick he could be admitted for free to a hospital run or approved by the Society. If he became unemployed he would receive a weekly payment from the Society to keep him going. If he died, his widow would be looked after. So ordinary workers in the Victorian era in fact had quite a high level of social welfare benefits -- all privately provided without any involvement by the government.

Some people, however, fell outside the Friendly Society system by reason of being too poor or too foolish to join. For these there was the parish system of poorhouses and workhouses. This was a system whereby the local parish of the Church of England gave charity to the poor so that nobody need be without shelter or food. It provided only the most basic food and shelter and did nothing to make poverty comfortable but it did make sure that everybody was provided for in some way. It was in that system that Oliver Twist was portrayed by Dickens as asking for "more please", implying that the people in it were not well fed. About that, though, we read:
Doctors writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) say they have uncovered the gruel truth behind the Victorian workhouse. Charles Dickens, they contend, was exaggerating when he portrayed Oliver Twist and other orphans driven to the brink of starvation by a miserly diet of watery porridge. In fact, the food provided under 1834 Poor Law Act, which set up workhouses for the destitute poor in mid-19th-century Britain, was dreary but there was plenty of it and the diet was nutritious enough for children of Oliver's age, their paper says.

In Oliver Twist, Dickens wrote, the orphans were given "three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week and half a roll on Sunday." On feast days, according to the novel, the inmates received an extra two and a quarter ounces (64 grams) of bread.

Four medical experts, with skills ranging from nutrition to paediatrics and the history of medicine, say such a diet would have killed or crippled the children, inflicting anaemia, scurvy, rickets and other diseases linked to vitamin deficiency. They took a closer look at the actual historical record, sifting through contemporary documents and even replicating the gruel that workhouse children most likely had.

One important source for their research was a treatise by a physician, Jonathan Pereira. He wrote it in 1843, five years after Dickens completed "Oliver Twist" and ignited a furious debate about the workhouses. Pereira found that the local boards of the guardians of the poor had a choice of six "workhouse dietaries", one of which they could choose according to the circumstances of each establishment. On the basis of Pereira's figures, using a recipe for water gruel taken from a 17th-century English cook book, the authors calculate Oliver would have had around three pints (1.76 litres) of gruel per day, comprising 3.75 ounces (106 grams) of top-quality oatmeal from Berwick, Scotland. Far from being thin, the gruel would have been "substantial," the authors say.

This would not have been the only source of food. Pereira details "considerable amounts" of beef and mutton that were delivered to individual London workhouses. "The diet described by Dickens would not have supported health and growth in a nine-year-old child, but the published workhouse diets would have generally met that need," the BMJ paper says. "Given the limited number of food staples used, the workhouse diet was certainly dreary but it was adequate."

The authors add a caveat, saying that this assumption is made on the basis that inmates actually received the quantity and quality of food prescribed, but Pereira's book suggests this was generally the case.

Such a system was sometimes no doubt heartless and could be abused and it was episodes of heartlessness and abuse that Dickens portrayed -- and which he moved his middle-class readers to "improve". Attempting to improve the Victorian system, however destroyed it. As one commentator acerbically observes:
In effect, the bourgeoisie declared war on their underlings, and tried to improve them out of existence. Their weapons in this war were 'a national system of education, a state system of welfare, public housing schemes and, later on, a state system of hospitals, a comprehensive system of National Insurance and much else besides.' These might not all sound like unmitigated evils to LRB readers, but Mount does a spirited job of pointing to the ways in which all of these structures were imposed on top of previously existing working-class vehicles for self-help. In one of the most original sections of Mind the Gap, he evokes a thriving culture of schools, Sunday schools, reading rooms, Nonconformist religion, collective insurance and trade unions. 'It is not too much to say that the lower classes in Britain between 1800 and 1940 had created a remarkable civilisation of their own which it is hard to parallel in human history: narrow-minded perhaps, prudish certainly, occasionally pharisaical, but steadfast, industrious, honourable, idealistic, peaceable and purposeful.'

And then this civilisation was dismantled. To take only one of a number of Mount's examples, the extensive culture of privately run working-class schools was destroyed by the board-schools founded by the 1870 Education Act, which were not free, but were effectively subsidised to a point where they put their private competitors out of business. All of this was part of a process in which 'the working classes are firmly tagged as the patients, never the agents.'

So any system can be abused and can fail and there is no doubt that the present system of government welfare that we have is also often heartless and is also often abused. The main difference between then and now is that the present system is more generous. Our unemployed get more spent on them. Our society today is however much richer than the England of Victorian times so the more generous provisions of the present era would probably have occurred under any system.

Child labour
The plight of child labourers in Victorian Britain is not usually considered to have been a happy one. Writers such as Charles Dickens painted a grim picture of the hardships suffered by young people in the mills, factories and workhouses of the Industrial Revolution. But an official report into the treatment of working children in the 1840s, made available online yesterday for the first time, suggests the situation was not so bad after all.

The frank accounts emerged in interviews with dozens of youngsters conducted for the Children's Employment Commission. The commission was set up by Lord Ashley in 1840 to support his campaign for reducing the working hours of women and children.

Surprisingly, a number of the children interviewed did not complain about their lot -- even though they were questioned away from their workplace and the scrutinising eyes of their employers.

Sub-commissioner Frederick Roper noted in his 1841 investigation of pre-independence Dublin's pin-making establishments: "Notwithstanding their evident poverty ... there is in their countenances an appearance of good health and much cheerfulness."

A report on workers at a factory in Belfast found a 14-year-old boy who earned four shillings a week "would rather be doing something better ... but does not dislike his current employment". The report concluded: "I find all in this factory able to read, and nearly all to write. They are orderly, appear to be well-behaved, and to be very contented."


So once again we see that the Dickensian portrayal of something is at least questionable.

Happy people?

It is notable that contented, successful people (Podsnap, Gradgrind) are portrayed most unfavourably by Dickens. This too is Leftist. As noted conservative historian Russell Kirk quoted Bagehot as saying: "Conservatism is enjoyment". The converse is however more familiar: Leftists are miserable sods always complaining about something. They have a pervasive hatred of the world around them. And that, presumably, is why Dickens and many other literary figures are Leftist. Just as newspapers do well on accounts of disasters, so tales of suffering, unhappiness and escape from oppression sell novels. As Bagehot also said: "All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality - the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape." Conservatives, of course are not so driven. They see plenty to criticize in the world but are generally content just to get on with their own lives rather than constantly striving to tear down "the system". (More brilliant Bagehot quotes here)

Let me say just a few words about Mr Podsnap (in "Our Mutual Friend"). Read how Dickens describes him here. It is a classic piece of Leftist poison, where Mr Podsnap's contentment with himself and the world about him is completely transmogrified. Podsnap can literally do nothing right. Even his patriotism is portrayed as ignorant -- something that anticipated modern Leftism. And Podsnap's success in business seems to be just somehow accidental -- with no suggestion that Podsnap may work hard and intelligently at what he does. The Leftists of academe whom I know so well think exactly that way about business to this day. And even Mr Podsnap's furniture is ridiculed. And there is of course no suggestion that solid citizens like Mr Podsnap keep the world on an even keel. Leftists don't want the world kept on an even keel. Their ideal is revolution -- with all the hate-driven indifference to human life that that normally entails.

So let us not get a false picture of the evil capitalistic 19th century from Dickens's brilliant propaganda. The 19th century was in fact second only to the 20th century for the improvements it brought to the lives of ordinary English people.

I mentioned recently a minor Australian Leftist blog that seems to have a devotion to listing my "sins". If they ever read the present post they will no doubt add breathlessly to the list that I criticize the great Dickens. Horror! How imbecilic I must be to challenge such a conventional hero!

Leftists tend to think of themselves as iconoclastic (even though they have said little that is original since Marx) but they put up very effective mental barriers against real iconoclasm (such as my critique of Dickens). They just see real iconoclasm as too far beyond the pale to contemplate. That is certainly the commonest reaction I get from Leftists when I point out that Hitler was a socialist. Their low level of intellectual curiosity makes them very conventional thinkers. Only the simplest of propositions (e.g. Bush = Hitler) get past their mental portals.


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)