Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Running water never grows stale, so you've got to just keep on flowing

A second identity change in the space of a few hours?

*sigh*
Yes.

Why?
Because, frankly, I think it's a much cooler name and I'm geek like that.
Besides, who am I going to confuse? I may as well do this now rather than later. If, heaven willing, I start seeing a lot of traffic, it's going to be a lot more disruptive then.

So for those of you who have visited, thank you for spending some of your valuable time here and I apologize for any inconvenience.

I hope to see you all at The Way of the Intercepting Fisk.

"Faithful to its values, France has never ceased to stand upright in the face of history and before mankind"

China is now a special partner ... playing a key and responsible role in the international system ... We should encourage it in this direction to contribute to international stability and security, especially in Asia.
- both quotes, Dominique de Villepin, the first in February 2003 at the UN opposing the Iraq war, the second this past January as part of a French bid to lift the EU arms embargo imposed on China after the Tiananmen Massacre
Marcus@Harry's has uncovered a possible motive for French participation in joint exercises with the Chinese navy.
According to the Taipei Times in November 2003 Taiwan brought a US$600 million legal action against Thomson-CSF (now Thales) which had supplied six Lafayette class frigates to Taiwan in 1991....The above story shouldn't be understood as the only reason the French might want to fire shot across Taiwan's bows. The $600 million at stake is mere chickenfeed when compared with the potential profits selling arms to the People's Republic of China represent and which France is keen to see go ahead as soon as possible. Considering exactly which interests were uppermost in the minds of the French government when they decided to carry-out joint exercises with the Chinese Navy is not as important as occasionaly reminding ourselves that French foreign policy actions are never made without an underlying commercial rationale.
I don't know how Marcus even found this particular trail. However he did it, it must have taken considerable digging. Well done, Marcus.

Yes, I am a geek. Why do you ask?

It´s strange that noone has mentioned the similarity between the murdered Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and the villain in Lord of the Rings, Saruman.
- Johan Norberg on the assassination of Sheikh Yassin.
An original thought, at least. But this is the first thought that pops into Johan's head when the lethal embrace which binds together Israel and Palestine tightens with no sign of release, like the two Lazari in Original Series episode 020 "The Alternative Factor," condemned to mortal combat until the end of time; for should their battle escape the intermediate time corridor in which they have been trapped, it would destroy two universes.

*Ahem*

That should cast me out of the geek closet assuming two references to Doctor Who within twenty-four hours didn't give it away. On my first day, I was tempted to comment on Seven of Nine's ex's candidacy for the US Senate, but felt I said my piece in Gnostical Turpitude's comments*.

*I was being facetious. The only two people who know what really happened are Jack and Jeri Ryan. Moreover, it's their business and no one else's, except possibly their respective lawyers and the presiding judge. Besides, I really blame Brannon Braga. For lots of things.

It's the end... but the moment has been prepared for

Not the end really. I've just decided to start going by a new nom de blog, the Skeptical Twin, but it's still JX behind the curtain.

Malpractice

macallan of tacitus on Richard Clarke:

He wants to go after Al Qaeda more intently, while I'd rather go after the basis for why Al Qaeda exists in the first place while we're at it. Clarke sees tumors, I see cancer.
via Kevin Drum

The point is that the Bush Administration wasn’t “at it.” In fact, if the Bush Administration had its way, we wouldn't have been "at it;" we have gone after Iraq instead of al-Qaida after September 11th. And going after “the basis for why Al Qaeda exists in the first place” assumes you have a correct idea of what that is.

Neoconservatives claim that Islamic terrorism exists because of a deficit of democracy. There are lots of undemocratic countries. Not all of them, not even most, have citizens who are committed to mass murder people continents away.

The left claims that one of the reasons Islamic terrorism exists because of poverty. There are lots of poor countries. See above.

The left also claims that Islamic terrorism is a response to Western imperialism, pretending that the poor brown-skinned non-Muslim victims of Islamic violence in India, Sudan, Indonesia and Nigeria don’t exist.

Let’s stretch macallan’s analogy a little, shall we? When a doctor diagnoses cancer, what does he do? The doctor treats the tumor (according to macallan, al-Qaida) whether by excision, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Once the tumor has been sufficiently destroyed, the doctor observes the patient to determine whether further treatment is necessary. What the doctor does not do is biopsy one part of the body and then invasively operate on another.

Monday, March 22, 2004

The Way of the Intercepting Fisk

The Center for American Progress fisks the White House response to Richard Clarke's allegations.

My personal favorite:

CLAIM #5: "The president launched an aggressive response after 9/11."
– National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: "In the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI, an internal administration budget document shows. The papers show that Ashcroft ranked counterterrorism efforts as a lower priority than his predecessor did, and that he resisted FBI requests for more counterterrorism funding before and immediately after the attacks."
– Washington Post, 3/22/04
via Atrios

Excellent!

On the casting of Christopher Eccleston as the next Doctor Who:

Steve Meirowsky, from San Dimas, California, concluded: "It doesn't really matter who they pick, it just matters how well the person makes us believe that he is Doctor Who. Time will tell!"
Did the BBC deliberately seek out comment from the hometown of the other phonebooth timetravelers?

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Your mama should have taught you that.

Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin has been killed.

First things first, this was a man who gave religious sanction to mass murder. There is no escaping that though doubtless many will try. Were he white doubtless the postcolonial left would have spoken of him in the most disparaging language (especially if his victims were brown).

So, Sheikh Yassin supported the mass murder of Israeli civilians. The Israeli government's duty is the protection of its citizens. Therefore, the Israeli government was right to kill Sheikh Yassin, right?

Not so fast. I'm not going to touch the morality of suicide bombings, the occupation or the state of Israel. I'm going to focus on whether it was a good idea for Israel to assassinate Sheikh Yassin, (Let's not mince words here. Shiekh Yassin was specifically targeted. Connotations aside, that, my friends, is an assassination.) specifically from a cost/benefit perspective. Is this going to stop or discourage Hamas suicide bombings? No, quite the opposite.

Abu Aardvark points out,

For all the horrors of Hamas suicide bombing, Yassin has always been a pragmatist within Hamas. He was the only figure within Hamas with the authority, the charisma, and the inclination to negotiate and enforce compromise agreements. When it was in Hamas's interests to do so - as in the mid 1990s - he negotiated ceasefires and was able to enforce them. With Yassin gone, any possibility of a negotiated deal has gone. No such deal might have been possible at this point, to be sure - things have gotten so bad that it's hard to imagine a possible deal (anyone remember that road map which Bush promised Iraq would help implement?). At any rate, there will no longer be any check from the top on the most nihilistic, violent, and extreme lower level figures within the movement.
There are those who will dispute this characterization of Yassin's restraint or question the sincerity of his ceasefires given that his ultimate goal was the elimination of Israel (which he did not make a secret of). So the assassination of Sheikh Yassin almost certainly means greater aggression from Hamas and other intifada groups in the short term and also that Hamas no longer has a leader who could enforce a ceasefire. Both Israel and the US have been blind to the importance of a leader's credibility, as demonstrated by their circumvention of Yasser Arafat. No, Arafat did not make even a half-@$$ed effort to stop the intifada. But he has power and credibility among the Palestinians that Abu Mazen and, later, Ahmed Qurei don't. In fact, Israeli and US insistence on dealing with Qurei and Abu Mazen undermined their credibility in the eyes of Palestinians (and conversely the refusal to deal with Arafat increased his). Why would the Americans and Israelis insist on dealing with Qurei and Abu Mazen if they did not think the two more likely to make concessions? Only Nixon could go to China.

According to Allison Kaplan Sommer, Israeli public opinion has become pretty fatalistic:
They see that when we try to make nice and compromise we get terror attacks. And when we're tough and aggressive we get terror attacks.
via Gene@Harry's Place

Which brings up another good point. Remember when Israel pulled out of southern Lebanon in the spring of 2000? What was the Palestinian reaction? Was it one of, "Hey, those Israelis aren't such bad guys. They aren't insatiable expansionists. Maybe we can learn to live together." No, the Palestinians, including leaders, saw this as the first victory in their eventual reconquest of the Holy Land. That kind of response does not give the Israeli government any incentive to make further concessions as well as gives lie to the cliche about "breaking the cycle of violence." It just isn't that easy. Of course, when "someone has to break the cycle of violence," more often than not it's accompanied by the strong implication that the burden falls more heavily on one of the parties.

Shining a light into the shadows

Richard Clarke confirms what many of us have suspected all along.

After the president returned to the White House on Sept. 11, he and his top advisers, including Clarke, began holding meetings about how to respond and retaliate. As Clarke writes in his book, he expected the administration to focus its military response on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. He says he was surprised that the talk quickly turned to Iraq.

"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said to Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

"Initially, I thought when he said, 'There aren't enough targets in-- in Afghanistan,' I thought he was joking.

"I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection."

Clarke says he and CIA Director George Tenet told that to Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Clarke then tells Stahl of being pressured by Mr. Bush.

"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'

"He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."

Clarke continued, "It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'

"I have no idea, to this day, if the president saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, I don't think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don't think he sees memos that he doesn't-- wouldn't like the answer."

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The terrorists lost

Malaysia's Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition has trounced the Islamic fundamentalist Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) at the polls. BN has had a particularly strong showing in the Green Belt. Like the US' Bible Belt, the predominantly rural Green Belt is characterized by a high degree of religiosity and relative ethnic homogeneity. BN's success among observant rural Malays demonstrates an emphatic rejection of PAS' goal of turning all Malaysia into an Islamic state subject to sharia law. In previous elections, PAS promised Chinese and Indian minorities that the enforcement of sharia would not affect them only to renege upon achieving power in the Green Belt states of Terengganu and Kelantan.

The Bush Administration has stated that one of its goals in Iraq is to provide a democratic example for the Islamic world. Despite controversy over whether electoral rules unfairly favor the ruling coalition (I would have to say yes), Malaysia provides such an example with out all the mess and controversy of a war. Were PAS to win nationally, its record leaves little doubt that PAS would not try to impose sharia nationwide as it did in Terengganu and Kelantan. Despite its competition with PAS for the Malay Muslim electorate, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the dominant party in the ruling coalition, has not pursued the similar policies. To compete with PAS, UMNO leaders have used Islamic rhetoric that appeals to Malay voters (and alarms Chinese and Indians) but ultimately practiced tolerance of Malaysia's pork-eating Chinese and idolatrous Hindu minorities. The ultimate victory in the war on terror will only truly be won when that tolerance is mainstream for the entire Islamic world.

What are you, trying to jinx it?

Whatever happened to "do no harm?"

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad [MD] -- a man with a long history of anti-Semitic utterances -- declared, "I think Kerry would be much more willing to listen to the voices of people and of the rest of the world."

Speck-tacular! or, Don't Passanda Curry

Crescat Sentatia guest blogger Waddling Thunder asks, What’s the furthest you’ve ever gone for a single ingredient or food?

I will always associate speck with the memory of a Piedmontese girl I had the most debilitating crush on at university. After completing my degree, I was her guest for a few days of a backpacking trip around Europe. Being summer, many of the meals she served involved salads and salumi, which is how I was introduced to speck. The Spanish jamon serrano has been described as the masculine yang to prosciutto's feminine yin. To stretch the metaphor, speck kicks jamon serrano's ass and takes prosciutto home. Quien es mas macho? El speck es mas macho.

After tasting bresaola and coppa, I had mentally filed them under "like prosciutto." But speck was something else. After eating prosciutto, a slightly salty, slightly sweet aftertaste lingers in the mouth. Even though it's not strong, I found that partiality to the aftertaste of prosciutto had to be acquired. (That said, it was not difficult.) Speck I knew I liked immediately. Its flavor was more direct than prosciutto and, thanks to the pepper and juniper, bolder. On a subsequent trip to Europe, I found myself in Harrods the night before my flight home. I decided to test the completeness of Harrods' food halls by seeking out a speck souvenir.

Speaking of the UK, I was introduced to lamb passanda at the Taj Majal on Turl Street in Oxford. I have not yet eaten a lamb passanda that comes close to matching it. I was heartbroken when the Taj closed. I knew I'd probably never eat its like again.

Blair/Badawi 2004

Time Asia on Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi

Abdullah: Appears to have no favored business associates. Has made the awarding of government contracts subject to open tender.

My eyes! My eyes!

So I'm reading Thomas Friedman's latest Indian globalization cheer, oops, column. I am sympathetic to neoliberalism (though I abhor the Washington Consensus) and, like most people, enjoy seeing my political positions echoed by professional opinionmakers. Unfortunately, Friedman blindsides me halfway through the column with one of his patented analogies:

"While India has the hardware of democracy — free elections — it still lacks a lot of the software — decent, responsive, transparent local government. While China has none of the hardware of democracy, in the form of free elections, its institutions have been better at building infrastructure and services for China's people and foreign investors."
IIRC, he used the same metaphor in The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Oh, dear Lord, another one!) but my mind must have protected itself by suppressing such horrible memories. But now it's all coming back! The horror! The horror!

Taking their rightful place alongside "The Jews are getting tattoos" are God 1.0 (for Judaism), God 2.0 (for Christianity) and God 3.0 (for Islam). This one is apparently communicable; I've heard both Irshad Manji and Karen Armstrong use it.

Ugh.

I usually agree with Friedman on globalization (but not the Middle East). The inexplicable leftist predilection for precious acronyms played a minor yet indisputable role in driving me from liberal orthodoxy. It would be profoundly ironic if he succeeded where many antiglobalists have failed through the unrivalled cheesiness of his prose.

That said, watching Friedman bitch-slap Don Rumsfeld sure makes for an effective antidote.

It's like deja vu all over again

A presidential election won by the narrowest of margins is being contested and looks like it will be settled by the country's highest court.

And Taiwan had been doing such a good job of not repeating America's mistakes.

Oh, dear Lord, would I pay good money to see these guys reprazent at the Republican national convention

Hello, I'm President of the Lower East Side chapter of the Young RepublicansThe New York Times weighs in on the conservative punk meme with a surprisingly insightful article in the Style section of all places.

The article quotes Thorsten Wilms of the website Fiend Club as saying, "You can't be a punk rocker and be right wing," committing the Danny Goldberg fallacy. If anything's not punk rock, it's the attitude, "You can't be a punk rocker and be x," because some punk rocker's going to do it for no reason other than to piss you off.

Young people tend to be rebellious. What's more, the authority figures young people are most likely to encounter are, in fact, more likely to be liberal than not. I don't believe that the Establishment is liberal but I do believe that there is a liberal establishment. Moreover, that liberal establishment's one undeniable stronghold is education, in which nearly everyone spends the first two decades of his life, i.e. his youth. Given the tendency of the young to question authority, it should not be surprising that more and more young people are questioning liberal orthodoxy.

Besides, the intellectual distance between anarchism and libertarianism is relatively small, as Johan Norberg's journey to Damascus demonstrates. I expect that the lack of traffic between the two is down to the narcissism of small differences more than anything else.

The article also quotes the founder of the website Conservative Punk, Nick Rizzuto, demonstrating the one respect in which the punk right clearly has it all over the punk left: "The biggest punk scenes are in capitalist countries like the U.S., Canada and Japan. I haven't heard of any new North Korean punk bands coming out. There's no scene in Iran." The punk right understands, in a way that I don't expect, say, Rage Against The Machine ever will, that punk is only possible in a state where the right to free expression is enforced and sufficient economic independence is possible for young people.

The conservative punk meme reminds me of the South Park Republicans meme that has been floating around the meme-o-sphere for the last several years. I never gave the idea of South Park Republicans much credence, mostly because in Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride, Trey Parker and Matt Stone violate Godwin's Law twice in the same line, "Uh oh, look out! It's the oppressors: Christians and Republicans and Nazis, oh my!" Conservative punks at least comprise an actively committed, though miniscule, movement.

While writing this post, I re-read some of the articles about South Park Republicans and came across this quote:

The GOP's hold on South Park Republicans could quickly fade. Their vote is clearly up for grabs. You never know what might be the straw that breaks SPR backs, between GOP spending hikes, tariffs, anti-smoking legislation, and the specter of "conservative" laws that might compromise privacy and liberty.

After all, Democrats could start making more sense (free trade, fiscal discipline, libertarian social policy), and Republicans could start making less (anti-vice legislation, federal marriage amendment, nationalizing healthcare under the guise of Medicare "reform").
GOP spending hikes? Check.

Tariffs? Check.

Federal marriage amendment? Check.

Anti-vice legislation? Wardrobe malfunctions, anyone? (The latest episode of 'Park addresses this very issue and not in a way that makes the Bush Administration look good.)

"Conservative" laws that might compromise privacy and liberty? Can you say USA PATRIOT, bizznitch?

We hit the quinquefecta! Or is it pentafecta?


In the final analysis, the 1960s pulled the mainstream to the left though liberals will only grudgingly admit victory. (Complacency saps revolutionary will, y'know.) As a result, subsequent generations of children grew up with liberal authority figures. When the '60s left became parents and teachers, they probably thought that they could prevent adolescent rebellion if they renounced the use of power by one generation over another or some such quasi-Marxist theoretical underpinning, i.e. bullshit. My generation was only too happy to disabuse them of such notions. This would not be the first time the left has tilted at the windmill of human nature. (See also: Tilsammans/Together. No really, see it.) For a bunch of quasi-Marxists, the '60s left sure had a shitty grasp of dialectic.

Oh, look, a pony

Dan Drezner sets out to write an apologia for outsourcing but ends up surveying the major issues facing US trade policy. Drezner justly highlights how the present sound and fury over outsourcing sounds exactly like previous controversies over "imminent" Japanese economic domination and NAFTA.

The refrain of "this time, it's different" is not new in the debate over free trade. In the 1980s, the Japanese variety of capitalism -- with its omniscient industrial policy and high nontariff barriers -- was supposed to supplant the U.S. system. Fifteen years later, that prediction sounds absurd. During the 1990s, the passage of NAFTA and the Uruguay Round of trade talks were supposed to create a "giant sucking sound" as jobs left the United States. Contrary to such fears, tens of millions of new jobs were created. Once the economy improves, the political hysteria over outsourcing will also disappear.

It is easy to praise economic globalization during boom times; the challenge, however, is to defend it during the lean years of a business cycle. Offshore outsourcing is not the bogeyman that critics say it is. Their arguments, however, must be persistently refuted. Otherwise, the results will be disastrous: less growth, lower incomes -- and fewer jobs for American workers.
One of Drezner's proposals to help laid-off workers:
[One way to help the laid-off and those afraid of joining them] would be to help firms purchase targeted insurance policies to offset the transition costs to workers directly affected by offshore outsourcing. Because the perception of possible unemployment is considerably greater than the actual likelihood of losing a job, insurance programs would impose a very small cost on firms while relieving a great deal of employee anxiety. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that such a scheme could be created for as little as four or five cents per dollar saved from offshore outsourcing. IBM recently announced the creation of a two-year, $25 million retraining fund for its employees who fear job losses from outsourcing. Having the private sector handle the problem without extensive government intervention would be an added bonus.
Drezner deserves credit for acknowledging the need for policy solutions; getting a libertarian to admit that is like, well, getting a postcolonialist to acknowledge Islamic imperialism. Nonetheless, this proposal provides the only nit in the article I feel the need to pick. Somehow I just don’t see most firms spending money on unemployment insurance short of a government mandate. Most of his arguments are, economically, damn near unimpeachable and then all of a sudden he suggests that firms are going to voluntarily pay for something on which they will never get a return.

The center-leftists come closest to getting it right (as usual). Robert Reich: “[W]e're going to have to get serious about some of the things we just gab about -- job training, life-long learning, wage insurance. And perhaps we need to welcome more unionization in the personal services area -- retail, hotel, restaurant and hospital jobs which cannot be moved overseas -- in order to stabilize their wages and health care benefits.” Hey, I didn’t say they got it exactly right.

Who called it?

TAIPEI, Taiwan, March 20 — President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan was declared to have won a second term by a razor-thin margin on Saturday, but the opposition Nationalist Party called for the election to be annulled and suggested that the president might have staged an 11th-hour assassination attempt to get votes.

Either with us or against us? The ACLU responds by hiring this guy

Matt Bowles, who once co-wrote

[G]rassroots anti-imperialist activists...stand in solidarity with other oppressed people in the US and around the world....The politically vacuous "terrorist" label is a prominent fragment of highly racialised hate rhetoric used to demonise Third World people of colour in general and Arab and Muslim people in particular.
[sarcasm]Hey, Bowles, how about you show your solidarity for the oppressed by starting with the people of Darfur? Oh, I'm sorry, are Darfur's blacks guilty of demonizing Arabs by accusing the Arab-dominated Sudanese government of discriminating against Darfur because of its largely black African population? They're probably just overreacting to last week's mass rape. No matter, the important thing now is to raise awareness among the people of Darfur that someone has to take the first step in breaking the cycle of violence.[/sarcasm]

Hey, ACLU, any organization who manages to force-feed Rush Limbaugh a healthy serving of humble pie has my admiration and gratitude, but this is a bad call.

via The Volokh Conspiracy

Friday, March 19, 2004

Dear Mr Dalrymple

Though I share your disapprobation for the xenophobia of Hindu fundamentalism, I find that your review in the March 20 edition of the Guardian, "Trapped in the ruins," smacks of an apologia for imperialism.

Take, for example, the following passage:

[T]he Hindu kings of Vijayanagar appeared in public audience, not bare-chested, as had been the tradition in Hindu India, but dressed in quasi-Islamic court costume - the Islamic inspired kabayi, a long-sleeved tunic derived from the Arabic qaba, symbolic, according to [respected American Sanskrit scholar Philip B] Wagoner, of "their participation in the more universal culture of Islam".
Replacing the kabayi with a three piece suit and Islam with the West brings the obscured cultural imperialism into sharp relief.

Naipaul exhibits an oversensitivity to the negative aspects of imperialism and dismissiveness of its positive consequences. He is far from alone in this. The history of Islamic violence in India is important because it is not so easily dismissed by postcolonial theory. Quite the contrary, it raises the issue of the postcolonialist critique as applied to the Islamic world as conqueror rather than conquered. Outside of Naipaul, there is little awareness or acknowledgement in the West of Islamic imperialism because of what Neeladri Bhattacharya describes in your article as "political and community sentiments of the present [defining] how the past has to be represented." Out of one side of their mouths, apologists for Islamic fundamentalism deny the role of violence in the spread of their religion; out of the other, they celebrate the present day continuation of that violence. In the current climate, after the World Trade Center, the Indian Parliament, Bali and Madrid, Naipaul's take on medieval Indian history provides a necessary and long overdue corrective.

You criticize Naipaul for ignoring the ecumenism of Akbar the Great and Dara Shukoh while yourself ignoring the atrocities of Mahmud of Ghazni and Aurangzeb. Your accounts of Hindu-Muslim interactions whitewash the dynamics of power, domination and hegemony that would have colored them.

The goal of your review seems to be the correction of Naipaul's distortions in much the same way that I see Naipaul correcting the distortions of Islamic fundamentalists. Any impressions of partiality would be dispelled were you to subject, say, Edward Said to the same treatment.

Either with us or against us

How much longer can a left that claims to stand for multiculturalism, diversity, pluralism and tolerance and against racism, prejudice and bigotry let hatred like this go unanswered?

Allaah (swt) orders the believers to hate all other religions, way of lives, creeds, doctrines and beliefs that contradict with Islaam, and one cannot be Muslim without to declare animosity and hatred towards kufr, bid'ah, shirk and nifaaq (Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Democracy, Freedom etc.).
via Melanie Phillips, whom I usually disagree with, but this is something no decent person can ignore.

The left can use colonialism and Israel as excuses to ignore anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and anti-liberal-democratic sentiment; it can even use Kashmir and the Gujarat massacre as reasons to dismiss hatred of Hindus. But what possible justification can the left have to ignore Muslim hatred of Sikhs and Buddhists?

Good western liberals, why does your loudly proclaimed sympathy for the poor brown masses of the world go silent when Islamic terrorists kill Hindus, Filipinos or, hell, Buddhist monks in southern Thailand? How come your anger finds its voice only when the suffering of the poor brown masses can be traced, however circuitously, to the West and especially to the United States? Is your sympathy sincere or are these people nothing more than a useful source of charges against the West?

Which is it? Are you with the poor, brown-skinned people of the developing world or against them?

Oh f*ck

President Chen Shui-Bian and Vice President Annette Lu of Taiwan have been shot.

"They are both conscious and their lives are not in danger," Chen's chief of staff, Chiou I-jen, told a news conference.
Taiwan holds its presidential elections tomorrow.

So which party's victory is supposed to be a victory for the terrorists?

Prediction: The Kuomintang will accuse Chen of staging the assassination attempt.

Nobody Doesn't Like Osama

In which Lee Smith makes a number of excellent observations

The Arabs conquered the Berbers, a general term encompassing numerous tribes throughout western North Africa, whose warrior ethos they put to good use....The Berbers were, by and large, enthusiastic converts to Islam, perhaps a little too fervent for some of the ruling Arab elite. Unlike the Arabs, who fought just for plunder, the Berbers believed that they waged war to glorify Islam.

These kinds of issues about authenticity and identity—who's a real Muslim, who's a real Arab or a real Berber—are often present in colonial and post-colonial societies....The question is: After 1,200 years, how can you tell exactly who's got what blood? Also: Why is a recent colonial incursion more harmful to a native population than an older one that has had that much more time to play havoc on a people's psyche?
A damn good question and one that can't be asked often enough with regard to the Islamic world. See Paganism, Yay! below for more. Or better yet, read V.S. Naipaul's Among the Believers or Beyond Belief.

After the Madrid attacks, a number of journalists, academics, and other experts picked up on the idea, perhaps most fully expressed in Jason Burke's book Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, that al-Qaida may not be what many people think it is. It's not one vast organization with tentacles everywhere; it's a kind of franchise that helps with cash here, logistics there. Most important, it is the brand name of an umbrella ideology that all the jihadists subscribe to, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat and Salafia Jihadia, among others. Bin Laden is just the public face.
Burke describes al-Qaida as not unlike, well, Sara Lee. Yes, that Sara Lee, purveyor of pound cakes and Wonderbras, which, since 1997, has outsourced all of its manufacturing operations in order to devote all of its resources to brand-building and marketing.
Looking at the Almohad and Almoravids, one might make the further point that jihadism is not just international, it's also a deeply ambitious ideological movement that feeds on its own thousand-plus-year history of extreme violence and revulsion for anything that is not itself.
Thank heaven someone addresses the xenophobia at the heart of Islamic fundamentalism as well as its long history, demonstrating that its origins do not lie in a response to imperialism, but reach further back, through Aurangzeb and Mahmud of Ghazni, past the Almohads and Almoravids to the very heart of monotheism itself. Whatever his other virtues, Edward Said's legacy has been the muzzling of those who dare acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Muslim apologists like to highlight the similarities between Islam and Christianity. I would agree and argue that the similarities between Islam and Christianity are precisely the problem.

Exclusivity and proselytism are the twin heads of an insatiable, bloodthirsty beast. The mass murder that follows when these two ideas are taken to their logical conclusion is the dark side of Islamic and Christian claims to universality. The West learned its lesson from the century and a half of religious violence that followed Luther's nailing of his 95 theses to the doors of Wittenberg cathedral. In the West, the Peace of Westphalia bound the two-headed beast; the separation of church and state, freedom of religion and religious tolerance tamed it, not that it doesn't still champ at the bit from time to time. In the Islamic world, only Malaysia and Turkey have successfully bound this beast to any extent.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

You have offended my family...

...and you have offended a Shaolin temple.

via chefyamabushi by way of Obsidian Wings

Thomas Friedman makes Donald Rumsfeld his bitch

Who's yer daddy?
via Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Yglesias, the two easiest-to-remember URLs in the blogosphere [How does a nice Jewish boy end up with a name like Yglesias (Spanish for "church") anyway?]

I'm not the biggest fan of Thomas Friedman, but I respect what he tries to do in his writing, which is to make the complexities of international politics palatable to a lay audience through analogy and humor. I don't dispute his knowledge of international politics, even though his conclusions often differ from mine. What I have a problem with is his prose style. "The Lexus and the Olive Tree?" "The Lexus and the Olive Tree?" You earn a regular paycheck from the New York Times and that's the best analogy you can come up with? At his absolute nadir, the New York Times actually published the words: "I was in a trendy Tel Aviv sandwich shop the other day and my young Israeli waitress had a fun little tattoo on her shoulder. Message to Hamas: You may think these suicide bombers will drive Israelis to leave. But they're just digging in, and clinging to normality. The Jews are getting tattoos."

That said, it's pretty fun to see someone grab hold of that stick up Rumsfeld's ass and give it a good sharp twist.

Paganism, Yay!

Historically tolerant, eh?

60-year-old Hussein Tehrani said the festival was "part of our cultural heritage" that cannot be wiped out. "It's impossible to fight this festival because Iranians are proud of it. It's one of the world's oldest feasts. We have inherited it from our ancestors. It's our identity and our identity doesn't only start after the advent of Islam," he said. His wife, Azita Pirnia, nodded in agreement....17-year-old Mahdi Sabouri saw no conflict between being a Muslim and Iranian. "I want to be a Muslim and respect my cultural heritage," he said.
This is what's going to end the war on terror; not regime change, not the overthrow of global capitalism, but the Muslim mainstream rejecting the bigotry against kafir (non-Muslim) and jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic, literally "Age of Ignorance") cultures taught by fundamentalist clerics.

We all breathe the same air

The electoral politics of Malaysia sheds light on those of the US.

Through an affirmative-action program that has been government policy for more than 30 years, UMNO gives Malays special access to jobs, businesses and school places, and protects their culture and faith. The goal is to ensure Malays don't lag behind the other races, but the policy has also been a proven vote-getter among the Malay population during elections. (Not surprisingly, the policy is much less popular among the Indian and Chinese minorities. But with no credible Chinese or Indian opposition parties to turn to and with only a small minority able to swallow the prospect of voting for rigidly Islamist PAS, Malaysia's ethnic minorities have voted with increasing unanimity for the ruling National Front.)
The dilemma for Chinese and Indian voters in Malaysia is analogous to the dilemma facing American Muslim voters, at least with regard to Israel. Muslim, and even some European, commentators see the fingerprints of a Jewish conspiracy in American support of Israel. The notion of a shadowy cabal subverting democracy dovetails nicely into a gripping black-and-white, good-and-evil narrative of moral absolutes that corroborates European anti-Americanism and Muslim anti-Jewish sentiment. However, American support of Israel is a textbook example of electoral politics working exactly as intended.
Many would ask why the Jewish vote is so important—Jews comprise less than 2 percent of the country's population. But their significance comes from three key factors:

First of all, Jews tend to vote in larger numbers than other ethnic groups. Secondly, their concentration in urban areas in high-population states means their votes help determine the allocation of large numbers of Electoral College votes. And finally, they don't limit their political activism to Election Day; Jews have been among the most generous supporters of political campaigns, especially those of Democratic candidates.
The point bears repeating, "[Jewish] concentration in urban areas in high-population states means their votes help determine the allocation of large numbers of Electoral College votes." In only one state with a population greater than 10,000,000 is the Jewish percentage of the population less than 1%. In that state, Texas, and many of the rest of the so-called red states, fundamentalist Christians, who tend to be pro-Israel, are well represented. Because of American Jews' largely liberal sympathies, Republicans compete with Democrats for Jewish voters, especially in the liberally-inclined, high-population blue states, through vocal, strident and unwavering support for Israel.
"What am I supposed to do in November?" she asked. "Bush has been so good for Israel, and that's so important to me."

"So, what's the problem?" I asked, even though I knew exactly what her problem was. I hear it every day.

"I'm a lifelong Democrat," she said. "How can I vote for Bush?" She is gratified by Bush's support for Israel in the post-9/11 era, and she believes he's right to pursue the war on terror. But she disagrees with just about every plank of his domestic agenda, and she can't conceive of casting a vote that might mean further weakening the separation of church and state or an end to Roe v. Wade.
Muslim immigration to the US has been concentrated in the last three decades. Less than one-third of of the 6.2 million-strong American Jewish population are immigrants or the children of immigrants whereas probably only about 36% of the estimated 3 million to 9 million American Muslims are US-born. Being born in the US entitles one to US citizenship and therefore eligibility to vote. Immigrants to the US obtain citizenship through the naturalization process, which takes time. However, some immigrants don't even bother to apply. In contrast to Muslims, the bulk of Jewish immigration to the US took place before the First World War. A longstanding electorally significant Jewish presence in the US, coupled with traditionally high levels of both political activism and voter turnout, accounts for the American Jewish population's ability to "punch above its weight."

Larger numbers of Jewish voters than Muslim voters in high-population states coupled with fundamentalist Christian support for Israel creates a very powerful incentive for American elected officials to side with the Israelis rather than the Palestinians.

There's no conspiracy, just democracy. The same could be said of European governments, whose sympathy for the Palestinians is explained by the larger number of Muslim voters there.

A shadowy cabal of Jews conspiring in some dimly lit, smoke-filled room? No.

The animating spirit of the Inquisition and the Holocaust rearing its ugly head yet again? Not really.

Pandering to voters? Hells, yeah.

Update: Linked to a New York Times article on a proposal to grant voting rights to legal immigrant non-citizens in New York City elections

Far from having a media that fabricates consent, we have a media that manufactures outrage

The most illuminating insight on the media that I've read in quite some time, from the socialist Harry's Place.

They tried this on the mainland too, where they called it the Cultural Revolution

Politically correct historical revisionism comes to Taiwan.

[Chen Mingxi, a 25-year- old Taiwanese graduate student] says the current government went too far when it changed the national exam to include questions on what some students considered aracana of Taiwan's indigenous history, like the one that asked them to name the original language of the Sinkan manuscript, a bible of one of Taiwan's aboriginal tribes.

"We grew up believing that our language is Mandarin and that our history is China's history," he said. "Then some activists just erased China from our past. They want to tear us apart."
I'm appalled. One of the things I love about Taiwan is that it's a glimpse of how Chinese culture and society might have developed had it not been raped by the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

Even worse:
William Lo, the leader of Taiwan's Presbyterians, has told the church's 230,000 followers that [DPP presidential candidate] Mr. Chen [Shui-Bian] is the "candidate who is closer to the Christian faith." Mr. Lo's family migrated from China nearly 300 years ago, but he says he has no more connection to China than descendants of Mayflower immigrants in America have to England.
As opposed to his connection to a Levantine Jew 2000 years ago or a bunch of Scottish Calvinists 400 years ago? It's bad enough that American politicians pander to evangelical Christians. Now Taiwanese politicians are too?

When Taiwanese (as opposed to Chinese) identity became popular in the late 1990s, I thought it was a healthy development, an acknowledgement of the de facto state of affairs compared with the KMT adherence to a "One China" policy. Chen Shui-Bian's election in 2000 was the first peaceful democratic transition of power in the 5000-year history of the Chinese people, a moment of which the Chinese people could truly and justly be proud.

But President Chen has taken Taiwanese identity beyond a healthy acknowledgement of reality well into cynical demagoguery.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Too many jokes...must mock the English!

Teeth unravel Anglo-Saxon legacy

Doubt, doubt, let it all out

According to Cass Sunstein, the Internet is supposed to give me the ability to "read only what [I] want to read....about only the issues that interest [me], encounter in the op-ed pages only the opinions with which [I] agree."

Professor Sunstein’s thesis gave me some pretty unrealistic expectations of the blogosphere. I had hoped to find writings by people like-minded enough to allow me to “outsource” the development and articulation of my political positions.

No such luck, so it looks like I’m forced to think and write for myself.

When liberals compare their political positions to those of conservatives, they use language better suited for a wine review: complex, nuanced, subtle, sophisticated. The political positions of Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore are many things; nuanced they ain’t. Like a Christian fundamentalist or neconservative, they see the world in terms of Manichaean good and evil; they simply flip the sides. Just over the other side of the dividing line are the libertarians, who at least have the benefit of consistency on noninterference in both economic and personal matters. However, many libertarians are willfully blind to market failures. Besides, people whose pastime is proselytizing for Ayn Rand/Noam Chomsky/Jesus/Muhammad/delete as applicable are terrible company.

I believe that people’s sympathies go first to their families, then to their friends and to others only if there’s any left over. Any society that tries to ignore or, worse, override that universal tendency is bound for failure at best, mass murder at worst. This sounds awfully conservative. At the same time, I believe that the duty of a society is the welfare of its people. This sounds awfully liberal.

Perhaps it would be better to illustrate my beliefs using examples. I’m an admirer or both Swedish social democracy and Singaporean enlightened despotism. I think that the US could do with a little more socialism and that Europe could do with a little less. Above all, I believe that people and their states have to go with what works, and that the policies that work, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum, accept human nature instead of trying to ignore it (as the libertarians do) or rewrite it (as both liberals and conservatives do).