Thursday, January 31, 2008

What You Don't Know Could Kill You (Updated, Argued & Bumped)

Western governments are failing in their duty to define "radical Islam." Defining "radical Islam" is the key to designing a strategy to address the problem and to protecting those Muslims who would fight against "radicalization." Failure to do so is at least problematic if not existential.


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It is a truism that the key to solving any problem - or defeating any threat - is knowledge. And one of the major threats we face is the specter of Islamic terrorism, or Islamofacism, Islamic radicalism, Jihadism - pick your favorite descriptive term. They have all been bandied about by our government. They are all only partially true. And if we are ever going to actually address "radical Islam," our political leaders need to define it. This has long been one of the critical themes I hammer upon in this blog. And now one of the world's preeminent experts in radical Islam and their terror tactics, author and Professor Walid Phares, has issued a public call for precisely that. This from Prof. Phares writing in the CounterTerrorism Blog, who called on the President to:

. . . define the enemy, clearly and strategically. For the changes in definitions over the past seven years have left the public in quest for a definitive knowledge about who are we fighting and why. The last year of the Presidency must help the next White House to engage in successful a war of ideas instead of a continuous search for the identity of the enemy.

See here.

The reason our government has been loathe to define "radical Islam" is that such definition would begin and almost end with our "ally," Saudi Arabia. It is Saudi Arabia's poisonous Wahhabi / Salafi Islam that defines "radical Islam." Whatever excuse there may have been in 2001 not to understand the nature of threat from Salafi Islam, none exists today. Unfortunately, our government to this date continues to speak of this problem in euphanisms.

Without identifying the source of "radical Islam" and shining a light on all of the relevant aspects of the source, we are incapable of developing a coheren national and international strategy to that will meet and defeat this cancer. Identifying the source of radical Islam and explaining about it to America is a fundamental duty of our government. And on this, our government has failed.

This failure has other significant ramifications. It leaves our populace without the knowledge to distinguish between a particularly dangerous ideology and a benign one - both of them being interspersed among us and throughout the world. This will lead to a a tendency to lump all Muslims under one banner. Most critically, it will marginalize and cut off from support those Muslims who would fight against the Salifization of their religion. And indeed, as this is in large measure an ideological struggle, it it the fight they will wage that will determine the future of Islam. We need to insure they win over Salafi Islam.

And there is yet another critical aspect to the the governments use of euphanisms to describe "radical Islam." It falsely implies that radical Islam is merely an anamoly. By doing that, our government provides cover for Wahhabi / Salafi Islamists to continue to spread their ideology free of criticism and publicity. This only allows the problems created by that Salafi Islam to fester and metasticize. It will only compounds the costs that we will eventually have to pay if and when things get to a point where some action must be taken against these purveyors of hatred, death and triumphalism.

I posted below a long article by Tawfiq Hamid, a former terrorist in an al Qaeda type organization, who details how he was seduced by Salafi Islam into becoming a terrorist. If you have not read it, do so. At any rate, his concluding paragraph is an appropriate warning on this issue of identifying the cause of terrorism:

The civilized world ought to recognize the immense danger that Salafi Islam poses; it must become informed, courageous and united if it is to protect both a generation of young Muslims and the rest of humanity from the disastrous consequences of this militant ideology.

Tawfiq Hamid (emphasis mine)

Update: This exchange from an interview of Walid Phares by Hugh Hewitt:

HH: . . . [I]s it possible to turn the Salafist edge back on itself? Is it possible to win that war of ideas? Or just do we have to wait and watch it run its very destructive and horrible course?

WP: No, absolutely, we can begin the war or ideas. At this…we have not. And then we can, with time, turn the tide and win it. But we have not even began the real steps such as discussing it openly in Congress, have the right legislation for it, and have huge funding that is going in all directions, but not in the right directions, that is to fund the NGO’s, women’s movements, students movements, and all the intellectuals who in the Arab and Muslim world, including in the Diaspora, are completely anti-Salafist, pro-democracy. We have not begun to talk to them.

Update: Dr. Sanity posted the other day about "The Conclusions We Dare Not Face." It asks, what are the ramifications if we conclude that Islam is incompatible with freedom and democracy. And, clearly, the ramification is, at its logical conclusion, an existential war of genocide. As she says:

It may eventually be the case that the West becomes convinced that Islam is unable to change and is completely incompatible with freedom. We are well on our way to that eventuality, sadly. Time and again there have been opportunities for the moderates in the religion to pull it back from its suicidal historical course.

Personally, I am not convinced that Islam can change, but I hope it can, given time.

This goes to the heart of what I have attempted to articulate in my post above. There are certain sects of Islam that are, as they exist today, completely incompatible. Salafism and Khomeinist Shia'ism. At any rate, I wrote a response to her post and responded to additional comments which I reproduce here, as they are a detailed explanation of why it is an absolute necessity that our government identify the source of radical Islam immediately.

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Response to Dr. Sanity's Post:

I think this misses the point in a critical way. All of the things by which we name terrorism - radical Islam, political Islam, Islamofacism, - they all come back to Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi / Salafi Islam. That is the heart and soul of terrorism. If you have not read it, I would recommend Tawfiq Hamid's story [posted here] of how he became a Salafi terrorist and his own thoughts of Saudi Arabia's Salafism as the root and branch of "radical Islam"

Unfortunately, while we have ignored it over the past century, Salafism has slipped the hinterlands of Saudi Arabia and is ever increasing its influenced over most other sects. Salafism now defines the majority of Pakistani's Deobandis and its interpretations even crossed over into Khomeini's brand of triumphalist Shia Islam and the politics of velyat-e faqh. Salafism is what defines Hamas and every other Sunni terrorist organization you will find. And it defines the Muslim Brotherhood.

You can be a devout Muslim and, if you have not been infected with Salafism, there is a very strong chance that you will not be a "radical" unable to live peacefully and gainfully in a democracy and with respect for the rights of others.

The tremendous disservice we do to all of Islam is to hide the source of terrorism behind euphanisms. Most Muslims look in horror at what is happening in their ranks - all of which can be traced to Salafi / Wahhabi Islam. Trace the money from Saudi Arabia and every cent you will see spent is either going to export Salafi Islam or to buy freedom from criticism. It has been incredibly effective at both. Every foreign country in which a madrassa is built by Saudi Arabia, they are preparing to turn out a generation of Salafitsts - often completely counter to the much more peaceful brand of Islam historically extant in that country.

Visit the Center For Islamic Pluralism [here] and you will see that they are far more vocirerous about the Wahhabi / Salafis than any Western politician.

At any rate, unless and until we acknowledge this fact, the problem will just get worse and Salafism, funded by Saudi Arabia's petrodollars, will continue to displace the other sects of Islam and ever more threaten the West. This problem can be solved - messily - now. It can be solved - bloodily - later. One of the two will happen. The first step is for our government to start telling the nation precisely who it is that wants to kill us and enforce their will by the sword. It will piss off the Saudi's to no end. But to not do so is going to lead to much greater problems down the road.

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In response, one individual wrote that he accepted my analysis of the problem, but not my proposed actions. He posited that the onus was not on non-Muslims in the West to define radical Islam and fight the ideological battle for the soul of Islam, but rather it was the responsibility of Muslims themselve. The following was my response to that argument:

For Muslims to stand up to Salafi Islam is to risk threat of death. That is actually a part of Salafi dogma - death for apostacy, a crime which includes questioning Salafi interpretations of the Koran. There are a few people doing it - Tawfiq Hamid, Zhudi Jasser, David Suleyman Schwartz, and Mansoor Moghal being the most prominent. They are shouting it to the mountaintops. It will make no difference until our government does its job of defining the threat for we, the people. We have every bit as much stake in defeating the scourge of Salafi Islam as do non-Salafi Muslims.

Right now, our government is treating the symptoms with billions of dollars spent in added security and the costs of war, plus, far more importantly, the blood of our soldiers. We have to do that. I support that and more, in fact.

But beyond the symptoms, the disease itself grows ever stronger world wide and will continue to do so until our government defines it and starts shining a light on it.

All that said, the Islamic reformists stand no chance whatsoever of succeeding if they do not have the backing of the West. And they cannot get that backing if the West is collectively clueless as to what these men - and we - face in Salafi Islam.

Even then, it has to be noted that Salafism has so infested so many of the other sects on the backs of Saudi petrodollars that is far from identifiable only with Saudi Arabia now. To get a feel for the scope of what is involved:

"According to official Saudi information, Saudi funds have been used to build and maintain over 1,500 mosques, 202 colleges, 210 Islamic Centers wholly or partly financed by Saudi Arabia, and almost 2,000 schools for educating Muslim children in non-Islamic countries in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Asia."
[See here]

The North American Islamic Trust - a Wahhabi Salafi organization owns between 50% and 80% of all mosques in North America. [See here]

And Salafists are, in many cases, taking over existing Mosques throughout the world. Some very informative expamples include:

Belgium [See here]

Somalia [See here]

Indonesia [See here]

Further, I would invite you to read this post [see here] on the incredible degree to which our education system - university and even K-12, has been infiltrated with Salafi Islam

My question to you, what would happen if 300 million Americans demanded that this Salafi infiltration stop - that universities give back the Salafi funds, and that the poeple who support Salafi Islam be challenged at every turn. That is, as I see it, step one to ending the scourge of Salafi Islam and all the evil it has brought to the world.

One of two things is going to happen. We either fight Salafism on two fronts now - i.e., on middle eastern battlefields to stop their advances now AND on the larger battlefield of ideas, or we go to war with Islam as a whole eventually. I have also written a fairly long post on this issue here if you are interested: [See here]

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I also received another response, this one asking: "If it's just about salafi/wahabism, then someone please explain the shia brutality in Iran and Basra area of Iraq?"

My response was:

I stated this in my earlier post but did not elaborate.

If you look at Khomeinist Shia'ism, what your going to find is a lot of Salafi dogma creeped in. The Shia religion has, since its inception, been called the "quietist" school becasue it stayed out of day to day politics. Khomeini relied on what previously had been only Salafi interpretations to justify his new "political" and triumphal Shia'ism.

This is a quote from Fukiyama, though I am having trouble finding the original column on WSJ:

"Though developed among Sunnis, this virulent ideological mix reached the Shiite world as well, most notably through its influence on Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. Indeed, the Iranian revolution of 1979 conferred on Islamism a degree of religious respectability that it had never before possessed."

That is where you get the increasing radicalization of the Shia. As I said earlier, Salafi Islam has poisoned everthing its touched, and it has touched a lot.

Two things are going on in Southern Iraq. One is simply a power struggle between armed gangs with religion as its cover. The second is Iranian meddling in the South. Have no doubts, Iran would like to see another Hezbollah under its control in Iraq just as it has in Lebanon. There is a reason 300,000 Shiites in Southern Iraq signed a petition a month ago condemning Iran for its deadly meddling in their region.

"The Iranians, in fact, have taken over all of south Iraq," said a senior tribal leader from the south who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his life. "Their influence is everywhere." [See here]


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The Next Generation of Taliban Warlords Arise In Pakistan

A new generation of Taliban fighters allied with al Qaeda has taken over in Pakistan's tribal regions near the Afghan border. Their new leaders are the incredibly ruthless Baitullah Mehsud and Siraj Haqqani. Mehsud was responsible for the assassination of Bhutto and is threatening Pakistan througout the NWFP.



This today from Der Spiegel:

[Baitullah Mehsud is]the Taliban's new strongman, all of 34 years old. . . And yet hardly anyone has ever seen the Islamist commander. There are no known photos of the Taliban leader from the village of Landidog, who has sealed himself off against unwanted visitors in a region that is largely cut off from civilization. The area is controlled by the Broomikhels, a subgroup of the Mehsud clan, feared and referred to as "wolves" during the British colonial era for their warlike habits.

And yet the mysterious Baitullah Mehsud is as famous as a cricket star in Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf has declared him the country's public enemy number one.

As a close ally of al-Qaida, Mehsud has spent the last few years developing the remote valleys of South Waziristan into a safe haven for the terrorists. His fighters are believed to be responsible for a large share of recent suicide bombings in Afghanistan. According to Musharraf, Mehsud's supporters were behind the kidnappings of hundreds of Pakistani soldiers and almost all attacks on the Pakistani security forces in the last three months.

. . . CIA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden claims that Mehsud was also involved in the deadly attack on Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. "We have no reason to doubt this," says Hayden. . .

. . . Toward the end of last year, a council of high-ranking Taliban leaders appointed Baitullah Mehsud the leader of the newly formed "Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan" (Taliban Movement of Pakistan). At first glance, there are many similarities between Mehsud, a young leader of Koran students, and the founder of the Taliban movement, Mullah Omar, a former village cleric from southern Afghanistan. But the freshly anointed Taliban chief embodies a new, considerably more aggressive generation of religious fanatics. He knows nothing but war, is 14 years younger than Mullah Omar and has had no religious training.

The old mujaheddin who fought in the war against the Soviets and the Taliban who were driven from Afghanistan in 2001, however, still respected the tribal hierarchies and the Pashtuns' rudimentary code of honor. Although it includes blood feuds, it also stringently requires that the innocent -- especially women and children -- be protected. Nowadays, on the other hand, anything done in the name of jihad seems permissible. The cooperative arrangement between al-Qaida and the Taliban has broken ranks with the ultraconservative but ordered world of the tribes living in the regions along the Afghan border. This has led to new tensions, so much so that most traditional tribal leaders are now refusing to cooperate with bin Laden's terrorist network. But members of the young neo-Taliban have used every means available to protect their foreign "guests." In the ensuing power struggle, the new Taliban commanders have already killed more than 250 tribal leaders.

The rise of these ruthless sons of the Taliban began more than six years ago. When the Taliban regime was ousted in Afghanistan, the ensuing American bombing campaign drove thousands of fighters into the Pakistani tribal regions and to Baluchistan. The refugees also included al-Qaida fighters, including young Arabs, Uzbeks, Chechens and Uyghurs.

The first war minister of the second Taliban generation, Mullah Dadullah Akhund, was long considered the most savage of the new leaders. The one-legged military leader launched his regime of terror with suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. Last May, Mullah Dadullah, 38 at the time, was shot and killed by Western troops in southern Afghanistan.

. . . Next to Baitullah Mehsud, however, the most influential rising young star in the terrorist network in the Hindu Kush region is Siraj Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a renowned Afghan mujahedeen leader. The father had occasionally fought on the side of the Taliban, primarily to safeguard the region he controlled in southeastern Afghanistan. When he died in the summer of 2007, his son Siraj assumed control.

Major Chris Belcher, the spokesman of the US armed forces in Afghanistan, accuses the new Taliban of unparalleled viciousness: "The younger generation is simply pushing aside the old leaders and dictating a new brutality, which includes arbitrary killing as much as it does the beheading of women." The Americans have set a bounty of $200,000 (€135,000) for the capture of Siraj Haqqani.

In the meantime, the upstart leader has even challenged the authority of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who has criticized the high civilian death toll during recent suicide bombings.

At first, President Musharraf still attempted to negotiate with the unscrupulous young fighters. Under a February 2005 peace treaty, Musharraf agreed to withdraw his troops from the tribal region in South Waziristan, provided the insurgents relinquished their support for al-Qaida fighters. Baitullah Mehsud, the presumed mastermind of the Bhutto murder, signed the treaty on behalf of the Taliban.

But the outcome was disastrous. It provided the extremists with the best possible safe haven in which they could rearm undisturbed.

Today, confrontation has returned to the region. Over the past two weeks, the Pakistani army has been waging an offensive against Mehsud in South Waziristan. Mehsud's troops have systematically attempted to bring guard posts and even military forts under control. Dozens are killed on both sides on an almost daily basis. Hoping to eliminate the extremists, Musharraf has ordered his forces to bomb Taliban positions -- but Mehsud has consistently managed to escape.

The Americans are now openly considering running their own covert operations in the tribal region, . . .

Read the article.

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NATO's Future in Deutschland's Hände

The U.S. has asked Germany to honor its NATO committments and provide a battalion of combat soldiers to Afghanistan. Whether Germany agrees to honor its NATO responsibilities will likely have far reaching implications for the future of NATO. An article today in Der Spiegel examines the debate in Germany - and its tenor is shocking.


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NATO is at a crossroads, with only a handful of nations meeting their committments in Afghanistan. For extensive background on this issue, see here here, here and here. One nation that has limited its involvement in Afghanistan is Germany. Although Germany has committed soldiers, they have done so on the proviso that the troops remain in the North of Afghanistan where there is little or no combat.

Germany's decision to limit its involvment in NATO's mission in Afghanistan was sharply criticized by German General and former NATO Commander Klauss Naumann. He recently "delivered a blistering attack on his own country's performance . . . 'The time has come for Germany to decide if it wants to be a reliable partner.' By insisting on 'special rules' for its forces in Afghanistan, the Merkel government in Berlin [is] contributing to 'the dissolution of Nato'".

Secretary of Defense Gates has formally called upon Germany to live up to its NATO committments and provide a combat battalion that could be deployed as needed into combat in the south of Afghanistan. At least one nation, Canada, has threated to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan if Germany refuses to meet its committment. The ball is now in Germany's hands and it is far from clear what they will do. Should they refuse to provide these soldiers, it will have significant ramifications for the future of the NATO alliance.

The matter is currently under debate in Germany. This today from Der Spiegel:

A day after NATO formerly requested that Germany send combat troops to Afghanistan and two days after Canada warned it would leave if more help didn't come south, Germans are debating whether sending more troops means more danger.

Germany announced on Tuesday that NATO had made a formal request . . . that it provide combat troops to replace the Norwegian Quick Reaction Force currently stationed in northern Afghanistan and due to end its mission there at the beginning of the summer.

The announcement came one day after Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned that his country would only extend its own mission in Afghanistan if other NATO countries deploy more troops to the more violent south.

Germany will make a final decision in the coming weeks as to whether it will deploy up to 250 combat troops to the country to supplement the 3,500 German soldiers already serving there, primarily in the more peaceful north.

. . . Bernhard Gertz, head of the German army federation -- a kind of union for the armed forces -- warned this weekend that the Bundeswehr had to be prepared to "see comrades coming back in wooden boxes after this type of fighting." On Wednesday, responding to the NATO request, Gertz voiced doubts about whether Germany has the correct weapons and communications devices to equip a rapid reaction force in Afghanistan. Speaking to the Passauer Neue Presse, he said that Jung had to address these issues: "That has to change quickly: the defense minister has to invest here."

Meanwhile, Germany's Green Party warned on Wednesday that the deployment of combat troops to northern Afghanistan could lead to the spread of the German mission to the volatile south of the country. Party defense spokesman Winfried Nachtwei told the Leipziger Volkszeitung that the Quick Reaction Force should not "open the door for the Bundeswehr in the south," and that the government should "guarantee that the limits of the mandate up to now are maintained." Nachtwei insisted that the combat troops should only be allowed to support troops in the north and not be sent to fight the insurgency.

The German media on Wednesday looked at the implications of the NATO request, which could see Germany further embroiled in Afghanistan.

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"The defense minister is once again having a hard time explaining the decision, which had been made quite a while ago, to a predominantly critical public. Once again he has to hold out as a rationale the fiction of 'NATO's request,' which one can't turn down. This time even a letter from NATO headquarters was ordered. And that it just happened to arrive on the day that Minister Jung visited Kabul can be no coincidence. This unnecessarily defensive tactic for reinforcing your own troops serves neither the substance nor the debate about the deployment in Afghanistan. The Canadians, who have already lost 83 soldiers in the south, are threatening -- and not without due cause -- that they don't intend to stay there much longer, if soldiers from other members of the coalition don't get involved there."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"There's no reason to panic, but there surely is reason to worry. ...The arguments of the critics who are warning of the dangers of the new Afghanistan deployment are justified. The politicians should stop playing them down and allaying them. It is right to not change the German army's basic strategy in Afghanistan and to not go on the offensive against the Taliban. But it is also right that the mission of a 'fire brigade' deployment is differentiated from those of the combat troops working with the regional reconstruction teams, the so called PRTs. 'QRF is not PRT,' said Inspector General Wolfgang Schneiderhan (referring to the Quick Reaction Force), which is exactly the issue."

"The German army is providing the Quick Reaction Force, because no other NATO partner is ready to assume the task. In doing so, Germany is not immune to additional demands by its allies."

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"Germany cannot turn down the request from Brussels, demanding loyalty and solidarity with the allied partner countries -- the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Great Britain -- who are under constant fire in Afghanistan. There is also no doubt of the rightness of the allied mission against a nihilistic opponent, who -- if it ever got the chance to again -- would impose its totalitarian and inhumane world view on Afghan society. But there must be more truthfulness in the discussions concerning Germany's deployment. Won't the NATO partners just increase their demands on Germany, just as they are indirectly doing with Canada now?"

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes about the "trans-Atlantic relationship's test of endurance:"

"Of course, it's easy for the Americans to point the finger at the other allies. But it's also true that it was in no way the case that all Europeans were convinced of the usefulness of the mission to Afghanistan in the first place. (It) is far away. The overthrow of the Taliban is already six years behind us, and yet the allies are preparing themselves to stay there for many more years. The burdens have already been enormous. There's no chance that voters are going to allow further adventures."

Read the entire article.

I would hate to add up the costs we have paid over the last half century to rebuild Germany after WWII and then defend that country as part of our pledge to NATO. In light of that, the tenor of this debate, at least among the socialist left, is shocking. It is disloyal to an astonishing degree, it is cowardly, and it is incredibly short sighted both as to the ramifications for NATO and as to the refusal to recognize the threat to Germany from the Salafi Islamists should they retake Afghanistan. Indeed, as to European targets for Salafi terrorism, Germany tops the list. In any event, Germany has a choice to make, the ramifications of which will echo far beyond Afghanistan.

As to my own commentary on all of this - a picture is worth a thousand words:


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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Textbook Example Of EU Overregulation

A move to do away with outdoor heaters to combat climate change poses tremendous costs to Britain. In light of what it will accomplish, this is a textbook example of EU overregulation.


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A few weeks ago, I blogged about a long article in Der Spiegel describing how the EU is involved in a "tireless effort to regulate everything" - apparently oblivious to the tremendous economic costs and the impact on quality of life of such regulations. And today, the Daily Mail provides a textbook example of the EU in action.

The latest regulatory idea to come out of Brussels is to ban outdoor heaters "in order to tackle climate change." The fact that the carbon released by such heaters is so infitesimal - a total of .002 of one percent of Britain's total carbon emissions - as to have "no impact" on global warming is apparently besides the point. And apparently so is the economic impact of such regulations on the UK, where the cost to pubs, cafes and caterers of this regulation is estimated at a staggering £250 million a year in lost business. And since Britain has transferred to the EU the right to pass binding laws to combat global warming, Britain will have no choice but to comply with this new regulation once passed. The fact that the regulation makes no economic sense and will only detract from the quality of life in Britian matters not.

Read the article. As I noted here, the impact of the EU on Britan, of which overregulation is one aspect, portends to be economically opressive indeed.

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Interesting News - 30 January 2008

Medieval Islamic justice in the Maldives. Four men who broke into a 12 year old girls house and gang raped her were convicted only of "consensual sex before marriage" and given no jail time. The Islamic Court ruled that the victim had implied consent because she had reached the age of puberty and did not scream or struggle, as the court has determined the facts.

Has anyone noticed that the greatest threats to freedom of speech in the West all come from the left these days. The latest involves Kommisar Corzine in the Garden State.

And in the Islamic World, the censor keeps a close eye on what books are permissible for sale in the county. Nothing is allowed in critical of Islam or making the connection between Islam and terrorism – which, as we know from Britain, does not exist.

I happen to pray to the patron saint of economics also.

Sheik Yer Mami has a round up of Jihad News. As to be expected, all is quite disturbing – with the statement on Jordian family values the most so.

Some humorous and sage advice on the upcoming election at Politics & Pigskins.

Pressaphobia? Perhaps agenda journalism has something to do with it.

So was 1812 the worst year ever for Britain? I think that such a characterization is a bit to soon. 2008 may well dismiss thoughts of 1812 to . . . the dustbin of history.

Oh Adolph, we barely knew you. Der Spiegel on the rise of Hitler to the position of idol in 1930’s Germany.

"There is . . . nothing less accountable or more invisible than a hidebound bureaucracy, exercising its right to omniscience and an implacable resistance to reason." What a great quote by a Brit caught in a stereotypical comedy sketch with local govt. But he fails to see the humor. If he thinks the locals are bad, what does the world’s ultimate bureaucracy, the EU, portend? (H/T: An Englishman’s Castle)

The thought of a McCain nomination is driving some of my favorite conservative pundits nuts. I think McCain will be the best of the existing choices for foreign policy, – and if he gets good economic advice, that he could be a successful President. (H/T Instapundit)

The thing is, turning over Gaza was Ariel Sharon’s idea. Yet I am sure he would have truly punished Hamas for their actions under the current circumstance. Sharon went comatose far too soon, or stayed compos mentis too long, depending on your point of view. The former would lead to Israel exercising its duty to defend its citizens with all necessary force. The latter would have left Gaza under Israeli control. What is happening now is simply ridiculous.

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EU Chickens Coming Home to Roost In The UK

I wonder how many people in Britain understand that their economic woes are just beginning – and that in one form or another, the EU lies at the heart of those woes. As I’ve blogged here, here and here, the EU portends to cause severe economic distress to the people of Britain because of open borders immigration, energy policy, over regulation of the economy, and rising taxation. There are several articles in the British papers over the last few days that bear out these warnings.

The Daily Mail reports that inflation in food prices and energy are rising at 7% or more, a fact that is having a severe impact on the elderly living on fixed incomes.

The EU has thrown open Britain’s borders. Possibly the best kept secret in Britain is that they do not control their borders. The strain on infrastructure, crime and the impact on natives of Britain are all severe – and in the papers today.

Immigration is at record levels, with close to 600,000 immigrants allowed into Britain. And with record immigration comes record emigration of British natives. Emigration reached 250,000 people in 2007, with most leaving "to escape high levels of crime and tax." This is up by an amazing 20% in just one year.

And as to crime, be it organized or Islamic, that ties into EU mandated immigration also. It was reported today that "most organized crime committed in Britain has its origins abroad. . . [G]un crime, drugs and people smuggling are heavily linked to overseas gangsters. . . . Most of the crimes we are dealing with are international. The source of the trouble starts elsewhere." And don’t forget the problem with radical Islamists. Contrary to what Labour posits, Orwell cannot be enlisted to make that problem disappear. And if you add on top of it a heavy layer of multiculturaly motivated bureaucracy to keep the police from offending any of the minority population, that only compounds the crime problem.

Meanwhile, the BBC has issued a startling report on the tremendous strain on Britain’s infrastructure brought about by the intersection of immigration, procreation and the NHS. The facts they state are:

NHS costs for maternity services have more then doubled in a decade to £350 million.

- "Immigration has raised the birth rate so fast that some units have closed, so that midwives could be moved to areas of urgent need."

- "[M]aternity units have turned expectant mothers away because they could not cope with unprecedented increases in the local birth rate."

- "When Labour came to power, the NHS spent around £1bn a year on maternity services, with one baby in eight delivered to a foreign-born mother. Ten years on, spending has risen to £1.6bn, with almost one baby in four delivered to a mother born overseas."

- "While the number of babies born to British mothers has fallen by 44,000 a year since the mid-1990s, the figure for babies born to foreign mothers has risen by 64,000 - a 77% increase which has pushed the overall birth-rate to its highest level for 26 years."

- "In central London, . . . six out of every 10 babies born has a foreign-born mother."

And with the massive immigration comes rationing of healthcare as there are now many more people competing for it. In a tax payer funded, government run system, supply and demand are not the decisive factors. And you thought just because you paid your taxes your entire life that you would be entitled to free NHS treatment your government had promised?

And then there is taxation. I blogged a few days ago that local council taxes are outpacing inflation – and the strain of immigration is the cause of that. And there have also been other significant, if stealth, rises in taxation that seem actually more like Labour greed than directly related to the EU. But I will include the story here to the extent that there is a relationship.

There are a few things that amaze me about all of the above. The EU role at the heart of each problem named above is clear. Yet in none of the stories is the EU even mentioned. Further, Britain is strangling under uncontrolled immigration. Yet, to even complain about that or suggest bringing to a halt is political and social suicide even now. The chattering classes have a stanglehold on Britain at the moment. But hit the bulk of Brits in the pocketbook enough times, subject them to enough crime, and eventually what you will get is a revolt.

At any rate, the EU chickens are coming home to roost in Britain. Indeed, they have just begun to cluck and mess on the floors. I wonder how long it will be before the average Brit wakes up and decides that EU chicken tenders are on the menu.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Watcher's Council Nominations

Each week, the members of the Watcher's Council nominate one of their own posts and a second from outside the Council for consideration by other council members in a contest for best post. The Watcher tallies the votes and publishes the results each Friday morning. The Watcher also has a process for anyone who would like to submit one of their posts for consideration as part of the weekly contest. You can find out more about that here.

This week's nominations in the Council category are:

1. Soccer Dad - Complicit
SD examines international medias support of Hamas distortions and spin related to the "blackouts" in Gaza and the destruction of the border with Egypt.

2. Done With Mirrors - A Shot in the Dark
DWM was given the unenviable task to write an editorial on an issue involving to intansigent parties - the gun control proponents and the "you'll get my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands" group.

3. Wolf Howling - Orwell's Britain Is Halal Toast
Pretending that radical Islam is an anamoly rather than an ideology arising out of Salafi / Deobandi Islam would seem a very unwise move. But, with the help of Orwellian doublespeak, that is precisely what the Labour government has done. Britan's opportunity to address its significant problem with radicl Islam before it reaches critical mass is slipping away.

4. The Colossus of Rhodey - About Those "Lies"
CoR covers the latest "nonpartisan study" feted in the MSM claiming that the administration lied us into the war. It is an incredibly transparent attempt to change the narrative on our success in Iraq back to where the Democrats want it.

5. Big Lizards - How to Lie About Lying
BL covers the same territory as COR, though from a slightly different perspective. He does a very good job of shredding the report.

6. Bookworm Room - The Media, Richard Scaife, and the Never Ending Soros Connection
This is an excellent post with the best opening line I have read in a long time: "Do you ever feel that George Soros is a malevolent spider, sitting in the middle of a leftist web, trickling his money down thousands of filaments towards disparate ends, all aimed at achieving the same goal — the destruction of Israel and the end of America as the preeminent democratic power in the world?" Why, yes, BW, I do feel that way.

7. The Glittering Eye - State of the Union, 2008
GE provides his own assessment of the State of the Union.

8. Cheat Seeking Missiles - Quote of the Day: Prez Bill Edition
The Democratic Party is in turmoil as the Clinton machine turns full force on Obama. As CSM sees it, Dems are waking up to the political animals in their midst and don't like it a bit.

9. Joshuapundit - Energy Independence -- What It Am And What It Ain't
JP ponders the dream of how we can become energy indepenent through nuclear power and exploiting domestic resources. The problem as I understand it is that any attempt to do the things he suggests runs into left-green brick wall.

10. Rhymes With Right - Repeal the Twenty-Second Amendment
RwR argues that we should allow Presidents to serve more than two terms. I usually agree with RwR, but not on this one. But for FDR, we've not had any other 3 term President and we are none the worse for it. And thoughts of someone standing for "President for Life" just do not appeal to me.

11. The Education Wonks - The ACLU: Senator Craig's Newest Pals
The ACLU comes to the defense of Senator Craig to stand for the "constitutional right" of all men to solicit sex in a public restroom from the person in the next stall over. EW finds that somehow disturbing.

12. Right Wing Nut House - GOP Comes A’Courtin’
Now that Fred's floundered, a slew of others are angling to hook Rick. And he's carping about it.

And the Non-Council nominations are:

1. Somewhere On A1A... - On Term Limits and Government Power

2. Hoover Institution - A Moral Core for U.S. Foreign Policy

3. The Nose On Your Face - Britain's Top 9 New Names For Islamic Terrorists

4. Jihad Watch - Big News: Indonesia's Largest Muslim Group Vows to Combat Misunderstanding of Islam!

5. Michelle Malkin - John McCain's Open-Borders Outreach Director: The Next DHS Secretary?; Update: A "Non-Paid Volunteer"

6. American Thinker - The Audacity of Questioning Obama's Commitment to Israel

7. Outside the Beltway - Treaties and Executive Agreements

8. Rasmussen Reports - Capitalism Doesn't Work, Mr. Gates?

9. Gates of Vienna - The Muslims of Europe Charter

10. Slice - A List of Regional Pizza Styles

11. Dr. Sanity - The Conclusion We Dare Not Face

12. Classical Values - Be a Victim! Or Else!

13. The Paragraph Farmer - BDS as an Occupational Hazard

14. Dodgeblogium - Thoughts on Froggy Billion Fraud

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AP Calls Florida for McCain - Giuliani To Withdraw & Endorse McCain

Let the wailing and breast beating begin anew. McCain has won in Florida's closed Repbulican primary and is now likely the prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination. The race for the Republican nomination for President now appears to be a two man race between McCain and Romney.


UPDATE: Now Fox is announcing that Rudy Giuliani, who placed a distant third in Florida, will withdraw from the race and endorse McCain. That will be a huge boost for McCain going into Super Tuesday. He is now the prohibitive favorite.

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Obama Disparages The Military & Gets A Pass On Iraq From Fox News

Whether to withdraw from Iraq has tremendous ramifications for our national security, given the effect such a withdrawal would have on Salafi terrorism and Khomeinist adventurism. Yet not a single Democrat has been seriously questioned on this by the MSM. The opportunity presented itself last night. After President Bush gave his State of the Union, Fox News reporter Major Garrett inteviewed Obama. A tenth grader interviewing Obama for the highschool newspaper could have done a better job.

Garrett asked Obama whether he thought that the surge had been a success, but Obama refused to characterize it as such. Obama acknowledged the security gains our soldiers have made in Iraq, but then termed what our soldiers are doing there to be an "occupation." Obama did not acknowledge any of the political progress by the Iraqi government towards reconciliation - that being the Iraqi Paliament's recent passage of the de-Baathification law and a law to allow former Baathists to collect government pensions. Instead, Obama stated that there has been insufficient political movement towards reconciliation to justify continuing our "occupation." Major Garrett let him get away with it without any followup.

As a threshold matter, calling our presence in Iraq an "occupation" is a slanderous mischaracterization. An occupation means that a hostile military force is exercising authority over enemy lands. There have been many "occupations" of foreign countries over the past century. One such was the Soviet occupation of much of Eastern Europe after WWII that only ended in the 80's when the Soviet Union imploded. And there is China's ongoing occupation of Tibet.

To characterize what we are doing in Iraq as an occupation dishonors our soldiers and their mission in Iraq. Our soldiers are fighting dying in Iraq to defeat terrorists that ultimately threaten our nation and to bring security and democracy to Iraq. We are fighting to win the peace from people who wish to turn Iraq into a medieval hell-hole and, in the case of Iran, a sattelite theocracy. We do so at the invitation of a democratically elected government. To claim otherwise is to equally slander and dishonor the millions of Iraqis that risked death by going to the polls to cast their ballots. To call our presence in Iraq an occupation is an Orwellian redefinition of the word.

There are of course, entities that do not want democracy to take hold in Iraq and who would welcome a defeat of the U.S. effort in Iraq, whether brought about on the battlefield or in Washington. It is no surprise that al Qaeda and Iran both call our presence and actions in Iraq an "occupation." Syria and al Jazzera call it that too. And now you can add Barack Obama to that list.

Garrett did not challenge Obama to explain the facts he was using to call our mission in Iraq an "occupation." That was some poor reporting. And it got worse.

Garrett did not challenge Obama on his refusal to acknowledge the reconciliation that has taken place in the Iraqi government. It was as if the recent actions of the Iraqi government were wished away because they would have conflicted with Obama's narrative. That was amazing.

But worst of all, Garrett did not ask Obama what the ramifications would be if Obama "ended the occupation" only to see our security gains lost and the reemergence in Iraq of al Qaeda on one hand and Iran on the other. That is the single most important question that needs to be asked and its answer should fully inform how we proceed in Iraq. The MSM refuses to ask that question, allowing Obama and the other Democratic nominees for President to simply ignore it while noting that an immediate withdraw from Iraq would move our soldiers out of the harm's way and stop the costs of war.

Put simply, the ramifications of allowing al Qaeda or Iran to succeed in Iraq are existential.

Salafi terrorism grew in the 1980's and 90's based on the belief among the Salafi jihadis that it was they who destroyed the Soviet Union. Futher, the jihadis believed that the West was so weak that it would, like the Soviet Union, crumble when pushed. And in accordance with that view, they attacked the West and America at the margins throughout the 1990's. The U.S. response to each provocation was seen by the jihadis as weak and ineffectual. Remember the Khobar Towers bombing, the bombing of our embassies in Africa, Blackhawk Down and the bombing of the USS Cole. The 9-11 attacks were simply the natural evolution of the jihadi paradigm.

Every indication that we have is that al Qaeda did not expect the robust response that actually occurred. As to our invasion of Iraq, historians can argue whether we should have done that until the cows come home. It has no bearing whatsoever on what we should do tommorow - which is the only question that matters.

With that in mind, it is beyond dispute that our invasion of Iraq drew in al Qaeda like moths to the flame. Defeating the U.S. in Iraq became, as bin Laden and Zawahiri both noted, al Qaeda's main effort. They fully expected the U.S. to run from Iraq as we did from Vietnam, if only they could cause sufficient mayhem.

Through the bravery of our soldiers and the brilliance of our military leadership, we have now completely turned around the situation in Iraq. Al Qaeda is largely defeated there and, at best, has few strongholds left. There will be no formal declaration of surrender, but we have had the next best thing from bin Laden himself. In his November,2007 video, bin Laden despaired of al Qaeda losses in Iraq and summed up the situation by stating that the "the darkeness" in Iraq has become "pitch black." (See also here)

Note that in May, 2007, with the Democrats attempting to short circuit the nascent surge and withdraw our troops, our nation's premier Orientalist, Professor Bernard Lewis, issued what can only be called a doomsday warning. Professor Lewis warned that if we withdrew from Iraq and al Qaeda was able to portray Iraq as a victory for jihad, the reprucussions of that for our nation, the West, and the entire Islamic world would be profound, long lasting and dire.

To leave now and allow Iraq to be reoccupied in the Sunni areas by al Qaeda and to allow Iran to create an Iraqi Hezbollah to dominate the south of Iraq would be a catastrophe. Regardless of how our Democrats would spin it to the American electorate, throughout the Muslim world, it would be portrayed as a victory delivered by the very hand of Allah in the face of certain defeat. It would be a messiancic sign of the eventual triumph of the radicalized Salafi and Khomeinist versions of Islam. That is not the politics of fear - its the acknowledgment of a deadly reality.

And as Professor Lewis implies, should the Muslim world ever come to see the U.S. as defeated in Iraq, we can expect jihadi attacks of all sorts on the West to rise exponentially. You can include in those probable jihadi attacks nuclear terrorism as the jihadists gain in strength and have access to nuclear weapons and the radioactive byproducts of the nuclear process.

If you any doubts about the ramifications of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, watch this video of Zarqawi and ponder the question some more.




While leaving Iraq may result in short term political gain, relieve the pressure on our military and save the future costs of the war, the question must be asked, what are the long term costs for withdrawing from Iraq. The realistic answer to that is that the costs of leaving Iraq and allowing al Qaeda and Iran to declare victory would be exponentialy greater in blood and gold than the costs to stop both in Iraq over the coming years.

Major Garrett did not ask Obama that last night. Someone has to in the future if we are to have any sort of reasoned debate on this issue.

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A Lame Duck Quacks (Updated)

I just watched President Bush’s State of the Union Speech. All in all, I thought it was one of the strongest speeches I have ever heard him give. Bush spoke with a rare gravitas and clarity on all of the major issues. You can find the text of his speech here, as well as video and audio.

There is clearly a lot that Bush mentioned that just is not going to happen with the Democrats in control of Congress. That said, the best line of the night came when Bush tweaked the Democrats about making his tax cuts permanent:

Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm, and I am pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.

Even Nancy Pelosi cracked a smile on camera for that one.

And Bush was singing sweet music to the conservative base, calling for balanced budgets, limitations on spending, and most importantly, a real cut back on earmarks. Admittedly, Bush's new found fiscal conservatism could qualify as the topic of an example sentence in Webster's Dictionary for the definition of "hypocrisy." Conservatives will not care.

Republicans spending the tax dollars of America like drunken Democrats and the scent of corruption associated with earmarks like the "bridge to nowhere" cost Republicans the election in 2006. Now Bush, if not all Republican lawmakers, has found religion on this issue. Bush just reclaimed the mantle of fiscal conservativism and helped out his party in the coming elections immensely.

As to the earmarks, Bush promised to veto spending bills that did not cut by half the number and cost of earmarks, and he promised to "issue an Executive Order that directs Federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by the Congress." What he is referring to is the habit of slipping earmarks into committee reports that then are treated as law despite the fact they have never been subject to a vote.

I was highly unimpressed with Bush's discussion of energy. You will recall that he signed into law last month a "bipartisan" energy bill that emphasized, in part, biofuels. What we are seeing around the world now, in large measure because of the biofuel program, is a steep rise in food prices that only portends to get only worse. This is bad for the economy and particularly hard on the poor. Moreover, biofuels are significantly less environmentally friendly than oil and gas. See here and here. Yet, in his speech, Bush seemed to be indicating his continued support for biofuels. I think that a huge mistake.

Another major theme in Bush's speech concerned the Protect America Act (PAA) which will sunset on Friday if the Congress does not act. The PAA closes the loopholes in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act so that we can monitor communications between people on foreign soil without the necessity of a warrant. But it also contains a grant of immunity to private companies that assisted the government post 9-11 with intelligence gathering. The Democrats postponed a vote on that bill today because they did not want Bush to be able to say in his speech that the Democratic Congress voted down the bill.

The real problem for Democrats is that one of their constituencies, the tort lawyers, are eyeing a huge payday by suing the communications companies that voluntarily cooperated with the Justice Department post 9-11 in domestic intelligence gathering. Once again, for Democrats, partisan politics trumps our national security.

The majority of Bush's speech was given over to discussing Iraq. Bush covered the surge, noting the tremendous success it has had in quelling the violence in Iraq that was, in large measure, driven by al Qaeda terrorists and Iran. Bush also spelled out the successes of the government of Iraq, noting the progress towards provincial elections, the equal sharing of oil revenue, and the recent passage of both a de-Baathification law and pension law. Those last two mark substantial progress towards reconciliation. Most important of all was Bush spelling out the potential fruits of victory and the consequences of failure in Iraq.

Any further drawdown of U.S. troops will be based on conditions in Iraq and the recommendations of our commanders. General Petraeus has warned that too fast a drawdown could result in the "disintegration of the Iraqi Security Forces, Al Qaeda-Iraq regaining lost ground, [and] a marked increase in violence." Members of Congress: Having come so far and achieved so much, we must not allow this to happen. . . .

The mission in Iraq has been difficult and trying for our Nation. But it is in the vital interest of the United States that we succeed. A free Iraq will deny Al Qaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will show millions across the Middle East that a future of liberty is possible. And a free Iraq will be a friend of America, a partner in fighting terror, and a source of stability in a dangerous part of the world.

By contrast, a failed Iraq would embolden extremists, strengthen Iran, and give terrorists a base from which to launch new attacks on our friends, our allies, and our homeland. The enemy has made its intentions clear. At a time when the momentum seemed to favor them, Al Qaeda's top commander in Iraq declared that they will not rest until they have attacked us here in Washington. My fellow Americans: We will not rest either. We will not rest until this enemy has been defeated. We must do the difficult work today, so that years from now people will look back and say that this generation rose to the moment, prevailed in a tough fight, and left behind a more hopeful region and a safer America.



Bush also touched on Iran, but only in relative passing. The NIE on Iran neutered our ability to hold out the threat of force to coerce the mad mullahs into ending ever quickening march towards a nuclear weapon, and it showed in the speech. Bush all but announced our capitulation on that issue tonight. Further – and maddeningly – he took note that Iran is responsible for the death of our soldiers in Iraq, and then just let the topic drop there. Although Bush tried to sound bellicose, the words "act of war" were left unsaid. It was all very hollow - and in the end, I think may only encourage further acts of deadly meddling by Iran's theocrats.

Bush's speech was wide ranging, but those were the highs and lows as I saw them. You can find the WaPo spin here, and an ironic bit of "fact checking" here. What an incredibly disingenuous bit that WaPo fact checking is. And you will find some stomach churning spin from the NYT here. You can also find Fred Barnes take on the speech here.

And unless I am really reading the signals wrong, open season was just declared in Demland for Hillary hunting. First there was the Kennedy clan endorsing Obama today. Then there was what occurred tonight.

Hillary Clinton's name did not come up in the State of the Union Speech by the President. Nor did it explicitly come up when Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius gave the Democratic Respone. But read this portion of Sebelius's speech:

And so I want to take a slight detour from tradition on this State of the Union night. In this time, normally reserved for a partisan response, I hope to offer something more: An American response. A national call to action on behalf of the struggling families in the heartland and across this great country. A wake-up call to Washington, on behalf of a new American majority, . . .

You can find the full speech here. Wow. What does it say when the official response of the Democratic Party adopts the themes of Obama and reads like one of his stump speechs? Obama just got a huge DNC embrace . . . and it would appear that Hillary has fallen from grace in a very big way.

As an aside, Sebelius was even more wooden reading from a teleprompter than Gore at his worst. And as to the substance of the speech, it was a typical call for the President to put aside partisanship and just, by golly, show your true support for America -- by agreeing to every socialist program the Democrats can dream up. In other words, it really was an Obama stump speech.

Final Score:

President Bush – 7

Obama – 3

Fox News - 0 and need to give Major Garrat a crash course on professional journalism.

Hillary Clinton - 0 and feeling hunted.


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Monday, January 28, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance In The UK

There is a real bit of cognotive dissonance occuring in the UK today. By that, I mean people are acting way out of character. Before addressing the specifics, understand that one of the most fundamental differences between the political right and left is the difference in how each views centralization of power and the degree to which each believes the government should intrude into the lives of the governed. I could wax uneloquent on this, or I could just quote from the far more eloquent and incisive Thomas Sowell:

[W]hat the political left, even in democratic countries, share is the notion that knowledgeable and virtuous people like themselves have both a right and a duty to use the power of government to impose their superior knowledge and virtue on others.

They may not impose their presumptions wholesale, like the totalitarians, but retail in innumerable restrictions, ranging from economic and nanny state regulations to "hate speech" laws.

If no one has even one percent of all the knowledge in a society, then it is crucial that the other 99 percent of knowledge - scattered in tiny and individually unimpressive amounts among the population at large - be allowed the freedom to be used in working out mutual accommodations among the people themselves.
These innumerable mutual interactions are what bring the other 99 percent of knowledge into play - and generate new knowledge.

That is why free markets, judicial restraint, and reliance on decisions and traditions growing out of the experiences of the many - rather than the groupthink of the elite few - are so important.

Elites are all too prone to over-estimate the importance of the fact that they average more knowledge per person than the rest of the population - and under-estimate the fact that their total knowledge is so much less than that of the rest of the population.

Central planning, judicial activism, and the nanny state all presume vastly more knowledge than any elite have ever possessed.

The ignorance of people with Ph.D.s is still ignorance, the prejudices of educated elites are still prejudices, and for those with one percent of a society's knowledge to be dictating to those with the other 99 percent is still an absurdity.

Read the entire article here.

In one way, the Tory party in Britain are acting true to the form. They are running on the platform of devolving power to local governments in Britain - something the UK desperately needs. As it stands now, the British do not even elect their own local police chiefs. The degree of central government control over decision making in Britain is really quite amazing. And when it comes to the nanny state, that term is defined by modern Britain. That the Tories, who claim the mantle of conservative, should embrace devolving real power to localities makes perfect sense. But then there is the EU.

The dissonance on the conservative side comes from the inexplicable Tory support for the EU - a form of highly centralized, highly regulatory, anti-democratic government which is the penultimate leftist construct - and which will turn Britain into a mere province. Even after reading Peter Hitchens's take on Tory support for the EU, I still find it difficult to fathom. And on a related note, there is equally as much dissonance in the Tory refusal to unequivocably say that they will allow the people of Britain a referendum on the fundamental issue of whether the British government can unilaterally transfer sovereignty of the British nation to the EU. Both of these scenarios as pertain to the EU are impossibly dissonant with the concept of conservatism.

That said, there appear to be equally dissonant rumblings on the left. Earlier this month, an MP Frank Field, wrote what looked like a conservative manifesto, arguing that the left should decentralize control to a large extent. I was amazed to find that he was a member of the Labour party. He was clearly trying to neuter the appeal of the Tories, who are now ahead in the polls. But to even raise the issue is unthinkable to many on the left who ususally see the answer to all problems, including those caused by government regulation, to be more government regulation.

That said, I was amazed to find a similar appeal to Labour to consider decentralizing power on the opinion pages of The Guardian. The Guardian is a UK newspaper where you can find some of the best straight reporting of any newspaper, bar none. That is why I read it daily. The opinion pages are another matter entirely. Guardian opinions are so far left that, by comparison, the NYT editorial board look like neocons. For example, I read an opinion piece on the Guardian not too long ago bemoaning the fall of communism in the Soviet Union. Yet, there today on the editorial page is reliable leftie Martin Kettle arguing that "new Tory ideas about devolving power deserve a hearing:"

[T]he two main parties are now travelling in very different directions. Labour, according to Cameron, wants to use the digital revolution to modernise the bureaucratic state - through ID cards and the computerisation of the welfare state. The Tories, says their leader, have a radically different approach. They want to use the information revolution to liberate citizens and take them into what Oliver Letwin rather grandly calls "the post-bureaucratic age".

So is the devolution of the state, at last, the elusive great divide across which the two parties will battle for the nation's votes in 2009 or whenever the next election comes?

Cameron's speech came at the end of a seminar that was rich in interest and ideas about the evolving modern Tory attitude to the state's role. . .

Cameron and his shadow ministers today repeatedly talked about the centrality of fairness to any devolved settlement. It would be blindly partisan to pretend that there is no serious new thinking going in Tory ranks or to rubbish what Cameron and his team are saying as either irrelevant or deceitful - though I'm sure that won't stop many from doing just that.

The stubborn question that won't go away is that centralised state systems do not work as well as socialists used to think - or as some social democrats continue to hope. Devolution of power in the centralised British state has become a live issue in our politics because it appears to be the answer, or at least part of the answer, to some real failures of delivery and public satisfaction in the centralised system. It won't do to dismiss the Tory contribution to this debate - or the New Labour contribution to it either - as if it is simply some further abject moral failing by discredited political fainthearts. If only things were that simple.

All the political parties are struggling to present themselves as the party of devolution, choice and localism. They do so because our state system does not work well for the citizen. All the parties, though, have problems about doing what to replace it with - not just the Tories. The LibDems talk about devolution and believe in it - but they won't be the next government. Labour may well be the next government - but there's a gulf between what Labour says on devolution and what it believes. Moreover, Labour's record is hardly ringing proof that the man in Whitehall knows best. The Tories, though, both talk about devolution and believe in it . . . They are entitled to be taken seriously on the subject now - and entitled not to be dismissed a priori as either naive or deceitful. . . .

Read the entire article. This is left wing heresy of the highest order. This from a leftie appearing in the Guardian is cognitive dissonance so loud as to be deafening. Between that and what the Tories are doing on the EU . . . I'm just not sure which way is up any more . . .


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Interestng News - 28 January 2008

The spirit of Voltaire makes an appearance north of the border, where the Toronto Star disagrees with all that Ezra Levant has to say, but has decided to defend his right to say it. The Covenant Zone has the story.

Ich bin ein cynic. If Caroline Kennedy sees any substantive parallels between the hard line liberal dove Obama and her father, she fails to articulate any of them. But then again, so does conservative columnist Rees-Mogg across the pond. Et tu, Rees-Mogg, et tu? Has there ever been a less serious candidate given more of a free and total pass on all issues of concern to our country?

And Obama is about to get the Ted Kennedy stamp of approval. As Washington Post reporters Shailagh Murray and Anne E. Kornblut put it in their article today, this is "one of the most sought-after prizes of the Democratic nomination battle." I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that transcends mere grotesque overstatement.

Has Obama given us a whole new subcategory of discourse, if not even a new vocabulary? When things like the following make it into a Roger Cohen opinon piece in the NYT, I think so: "Obama rightly mocks those who dismiss him as a naïve "hopemonger" and say he has to be "seasoned" in order to "boil all the hope out of him." This war-stretched, recession-menaced country is confronted by ‘the fierce urgency of now,’ . . ." I don’t know, but the utter meaninglessness and sophistry of it all has me completely obamished.

A week or so ago, I took Obama to task for allowing the race card to be played on account of innocuous statements and criticisms by Bill and Hill. I was correct when I wrote that, but events have made it no longer viable. The Clintons have in fact started playing racial politics, seeking to affirmatively define Obama as the "black" candidate. And it may be working. Joshuapundit crunches the numbers in the South Carolina Democratic primary, and pronounces Hillary the winner.

George Habash is dead. Soccer Dad mulls the life and legacy of this terrorist in a very interesting post. Meanwhile, Done With Mirrors ponders the life and mixed legacy of Suharto.

Wiki dot gov? If it works . . . and it does seem to be doing that.

Arthur Chrenkoff at PJM crunches the numbers on media coverage of Iraq, then and now, looking also at the ratio of positive to negative stories. The results – and ratios - are completely predictable. What is of interest is the effect that this agenda journalism has had on people’s views about the veracity of our MSM.

Quite often, we have no idea that we have seen an important moment in history until after the fact. I think that the case with Bush and decision to undertake the surge. I will link to Classical Values post whch links to the original post on the Weekly Standard as I think it adds to the understanding.

It makes sense that the multiculturalists who abhor their own history would try to wipe away any vestiges of it. I think they are about to accomplish that in a major way with passage of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The Whited Sepulchre ponders the banality of evil in our politically correct world.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Peter Hitchens Makes The Case For Withdrawal From the EU & Explains Why It Won't Happen

There are Euroskeptics, and then there is the Daily Mail's Peter Hitchins. Mr. Hitchins believes that Britian would best be served by withdrawing from the EU in toto and then negotiating trade rights. In light of the looming economic debacle as set forth here and here, and for a host of other reasons set out below, I concur. This from Mr. Hitchins:

. . . [The EU] has become more and more unpopular since 1975, as those who are paying attention (or are personally affected) have come to realise that the supposed crackpots of 1975 -Tony Benn and Enoch Powell - were actually quite right. Just as they warned, we were being asked to give away our national independence and this was the most important issue. Those who are dismissed as 'bonkers' almost always do turn out to be right later on, and there is probably a historical study to be done about this.

The obvious conclusion from this is that we should now leave. We were sold a fraudulent prospectus nearly 33 years ago. We have since suffered quite badly as a country, economically and politically - the full cost has been detailed by Christopher Booker and Richard North in a series of books, the best of all being 'The Great Deception' - books largely ignored by many reviewers and journals. We have held back ( quite rightly) from plunging fully into the project, so that we still more or less retain our own currency and our own legal system , our own diplomatic service and our own armed forces, so there is not too much unscrambling to do. And there is a strong, reasoned case for negotiating an amicable departure. If Norway and Switzerland, both far smaller and less globally-connected than we, can negotiate individual terms with the EU, then why can't we?

Now, I am not saying these terms would be perfect. But thanks to the existence of the World Trade Organisation, the EU simply cannot erect huge trade barriers against us, as it could once have done, and would be crazy to do so anyway - as it sells far more to us than we do to it. Mexico, most certainly not an EU member, has excellent trade terms with the EU. If we want to keep the much-touted rights to live and work in the EU, we no doubt can. Norwegians and Swiss nationals have them. They even have - which we should never agree to - passport-free travel to and from EU countries.

To the extent that we wish to trade with the EU, we would be under pressure to agree to EU rules about what we sell. We would no doubt have to pay some sort of contribution to obtain the 'benefits' of EU membership. But we would be able to negotiate this from a position of strength much more advantageous than the one a British prime Minister now finds himself in at Euro-summits. They want our markets far more than we need theirs. We would have no need to need to accept the supremacy over our Parliament of the European Court of Justice at Luxembourg. We would not be obliged to enact EU commission directives as British Acts of Parliament. We could issue our own passports in whatever colour we preferred (I favour a stiff-backed blue booklet myself) and (as does the USA and...Thailand) we could give our own citizens (we might let them become subjects again) greater rights to enter the country than persons from Lithuania or Romania. We could halt the absorption of our independent diplomatic service into the EU's. We could make our own individual trade agreements with the USA, and wouldn't need to get caught in trade wars between Washington and Brussels, as we frequently have been in the past. We could withdraw from the European arrest warrant system, and ignore the new 'Human Rights' commission in Vienna which is shortly to be the fount of political correctness across the EU.

All this is practicable, possible and well within our abilities as a major nation, quite grown up enough to manage on its own. The only reason it doesn't happen is that the leaderships of the main political parties won't put such a case to the British people. That is because they are both firmly biased in favour of our absorption into the Superstate, for reasons they have never been required to explain because they have never faced coherent opposition.

The large but powerless minority who understand the issue and know we could go it alone remain just that - a large and powerless minority. . .

But the energy which ought to be going into this is wasted on a thing called 'Euroscepticism', a political position as futile as its name is unwieldy. MPs in both major parties fritter away their energies on micro-complaints about the detailed operation of the EU, or individual issues of EU membership, while veering away from the issue of membership itself which is in fact the only point at which these wrongs can be righted. Their behaviour allows the party leaderships to treat the matter as an argument between those who want Britain to me more European EU and those who want Britain to be less European.

Next time a Tory (or Labour) MP tells you he or she is a 'Eurosceptic. Ask them just how long it is they are going to continue sitting in the middle of the road. They have been doubting this project now for decades. Isn't it time they made up their minds whether they support or oppose it? Nothing will happen until they openly oppose it. Those of you who continue to have illusions about the Useless Tories should note that Tory MPs who sign up to the 'Better off Out’ organisation seem to come under mysterious pressure to withdraw. . . . Nothing will happen until the two major parties begin to collapse, and that's most easily begun with the Tories. . . .

Read the entire article.

When the British Parliament passes the Lisbon Treaty, the vast bulk of Britain's sovereign powers will be transferred to the EU. The Britain that gave to the world the concepts of democracy, capitalism, free trade, individual rights, representative government and a nation of laws will be lost to history. For that reason alone, this will be a giant step backwards for freedom.

Britain, has long been our most important ally. That relationship will be completely altered if not substantially ended when Britain goes from the status of a sovereign nation to that of a province of the EU. With the passage of this Treaty, if not now, then soon we will only be dealing diplomatically with the EU.

The only reason I could ever identify for the British government's desire to transfer the sovereignty of its nation to the EU is that such an act is the ultimate expression of the British left's disdain for the history and traditions of their own country. They view the colonial history of Britain as evil. Thus, for the multicultural left, the chance to create a socialist utopia by transferring the sovereignty of Britain makes complete sense.

But what about Conservative support for this insane transfer of sovereignty to the EU? It certainly exists - and indeed, has been the major schism in the Tory Party since the time Margaret Thatcher turned against the EU. That has long been, to me at least, a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

The EU itself a huge experiment in non-democratic socialism that thrives on centralized power. It has no internal checks and balances. It is the antithises of democratic, free market, small government conservatism. Thus, I have never been able to understand how anyone who calls themself a "conservative" could do anything other than hold up the sign of the cross to ward off the EU at the mere mention of its name. Yet that is certainly not what has occurred with Britain's Conservative Party.

Peter Hitchens explained it in an earlier post that suggests the desire of Conservatives to join the EU was initially a failure to understand precisely the nature of the beast. But today, the true allure of the EU is that it provides a gravy train for Britain's political class.

. . . Note, specially, the behaviour of the Tory Party. People sometimes ask why I call them 'useless'. Well, here's an example. You get a lot of something called 'Euroscepticism' from Tories. It's a stupid word and it describes a worthless thing.

They act as if they are against the EU grabbing our power and money, and talk sternly about how they disapprove.

But David Cameron, William Hague and Malcolm Rifkind are clear that, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, that will be that. In the (highly unlikely) event of them coming to power, they won't hold a referendum because, oh dear, it will be too late.

In doing this, they are part of a great tradition. Harold Macmillan first sought British entry to the Common Market in 1962. Then Ted Heath succeeded in getting it, ramming our membership through Parliament with characteristic ruthlessness and sacrificing Britain's fisheries industry for his ambition.

When, in 1975, Harold Wilson held a referendum on staying in, Margaret Thatcher campaigned vigorously for Britain to remain in the Market, sporting a jumper bearing the flags of member states.

When she came to office, she pushed through the Single European Act, a huge surrender of British vetoes. Then she was bludgeoned by Cabinet colleagues into entering the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

By the end of her premiership, she had begun to realise what was at stake. But it was precisely because of this that the Tory Party then threw her out of office.

John Major went on to browbeat and bully his MPs into voting for the Maastricht Treaty, yet another huge surrender of independence.

Mr Cameron represents a firm return to the Europhile days before Lady Thatcher's rebellion.

When it comes to action, the Tory Party will continue to support the EU because they have been committed to it since the Sixties, and cannot admit that this was a mistake.

But they also recognise how unpopular it is, which is why they pretend to be hostile and invented 'Euroscepticism' to console disgruntled voters.

The longer this goes on, the harder it will be to unscramble. My advice is not to be diverted by campaigns for a referendum that will get us nowhere.

It is to consider, very carefully, whether you will be able to look your children and grandchildren in the face when, 20 years hence, they ask: "What did you do to stop the country being taken over by a foreign power?"

I shall continue, week by week, to suggest ways in which you might be able to ensure that they never need to ask that question.

Read the entire article.


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EU's Energy Plans & Economic Insanity

I posted below on how Britian's EU membership portends to be an economic disaster. The EU is responsible for the UK's out of control immigration and the costs associated therewith - including rising taxes, crime and the burden on the infrastructure. The EU is in large measure responsible for huge jump food costs with their emphasis on bio-fuels which is taking arable land out of production. Then there are the regulatory costs, the transfer of wealth to the EU, and lastly, the production and cost of energy. Today, Chistopher Booker at the Telegraph and Richard North at EU Referendum both look at the looming catastrophe of the EU driven energy policy and costs for Britain.

It was appropriate that, just as our MPs were voting last week to hand over yet more of the power to run this country in the EU treaty, the EU itself should be unveiling easily the most ambitious example yet of how it uses the powers we have already given away. The proposals for "fighting climate change" announced on Wednesday by an array of EU commissioners make Stalin's Five-Year Plans look like a model of practical politics.

Few might guess, from the two-dimensional reporting of these plans in the media, just what a gamble with Europe's future we are undertaking - spending trillions of pounds for a highly dubious return, at a devastating cost to all our economies.

The targets Britain will be legally committed to reach within 12 years fall under three main headings. Firstly, that 15 per cent of our energy should come from renewable sources such as wind (currently 1 per cent). Secondly, that 10 per cent of our transport fuel should be biofuels. Thirdly, that we accept a more draconian version of the "emissions trading scheme" that is already adding up to 12 per cent to our electricity bills.

The most prominent proposal is that which will require Britain to build up to 20,000 more wind turbines, including the 7,000 offshore giants announced by the Government before Christmas. . . .

At £2 million per megawatt of "capacity" (according to the Carbon Trust), the bill for the Government's 33 gigawatts (Gw) would be £66 billion (and even that, as was admitted in a recent parliamentary answer, doesn't include an extra £10 billion needed to connect the turbines to the grid). But the actual output of these turbines, because of the wind's unreliability, would be barely a third of their capacity. The resulting 11Gw could be produced by just seven new "carbon-free" nuclear power stations, at a quarter of the cost.

The EU's plans for "renewables" do not include nuclear energy. Worse, they take no account of the back-up needed for when the wind is not blowing - which would require Britain to have 33Gw of capacity constantly available from conventional power stations.

. . . This is crazy enough, but the EU's policy on biofuels is even more so. The costs - up to £50 billion by 2020 - would, as the EU's own scientific experts have just advised, "outweigh the benefits". To grow the crops needed to meet the target would require all the farmland the EU currently uses to grow food, at a time when world food prices are soaring. Even Friends of the Earth have called on the EU to abandon its obsession with biofuels. Yet the Commission presses on regardless.

As for the "emissions trading scheme" (a system originating with the Kyoto Protocol, whereby businesses can buy or sell "carbon credits", supposedly to allow market forces to ensure that targets are met), the Commission last week predicted that by 2020 this could be raising £38 billion a year from electricity users. Of this, £6.5 billion a year would be paid by the UK, equating to £260 for every household in the country.

The Commission itself predicts, in recently leaked documents, that this will have major consequences for the EU's economy, and that heavy industries, such as steel, aluminium, chemicals and cement, will have to raise their prices substantially, some by as much as 48 per cent. Yet when it was pointed out that this will put EU industries at a competitive disadvantage, the Commission's only response was to suggest tariffs on imports from countries such as China or America that are not signed up to Kyoto.

It looks like the most expensive economic suicide note in history. But just as alarming is how little this madness has been exposed to informed analysis. It seems, finally, that the price we pay for membership of the EU and the price of our obsession with global warming are about to become very painfully synonymous. And no one seems to have noticed.

Read the entire article. And do see the EU Referendum's take on all of this. Dr. North's post is notable for his exploration of the subsidies associated with wind farms.


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