Friday, February 10, 2006

Charles Krauthammer: Curse of the Moderates

February 10, 2006
The NY Daily News
Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- As much of the Islamic world erupts in a studied frenzy over the Danish Muhammad cartoons, there are voices of reason being heard on both sides. Some Islamic leaders and organizations, while endorsing the demonstrators' sense of grievance and sharing their outrage, speak out against using violence as a vehicle of expression. Their Western counterparts -- intellectuals, including most of the major newspapers in the United States -- are similarly balanced: While, of course, endorsing the principle of free expression, they criticize the Danish newspaper for abusing that right by publishing offensive cartoons, and declare themselves opposed, in the name of religious sensitivity, to doing the same.

God save us from the voices of reason.

What passes for moderation in the Islamic community -- "I share your rage but don't torch that embassy'' -- is nothing of the sort. It is simply a cynical way to endorse the goals of the mob without endorsing its means. It is fraudulent because, while pretending to uphold the principle of religious sensitivity, it is only interested in this instance of religious insensitivity.

Have any of these "moderates'' ever protested the grotesque caricatures of Christians and, most especially, Jews that are broadcast throughout the Middle East on a daily basis? The sermons on Palestinian TV that refer to Jews as the sons of pigs and monkeys? The Syrian prime-time TV series that shows rabbis slaughtering a gentile boy in order to ritually consume his blood? The 41-part (!) series on Egyptian TV based on that anti-Semitic czarist forgery (and inspiration of the Nazis), ``The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,'' showing the Jews to be engaged in a century-old conspiracy to control the world?

A true Muslim moderate is one who protests desecrations of all faiths. Those who don't are not moderates but hypocrites, opportunists and agents for the rioters, using merely different means to advance the same goal: to impose upon the West, with its traditions of freedom of speech, a set of taboos that is exclusive to the Islamic faith. These are not defenders of religion, but Muslim supremacists trying to force their dictates upon the liberal West.

And these "moderates'' are aided and abetted by Western "moderates" who publish pictures of the Virgin Mary covered with elephant dung, and celebrate the "Piss Christ'' (a crucifix sitting in a jar of urine) as art deserving public subsidy, but are seized with a sudden religious sensitivity when the subject is Muhammad.

Had they not been so hypocritical, one might defend their refusal to republish these cartoons on the grounds that news value can sometimes be trumped by good taste and sensitivity. After all, on grounds of basic decency, American newspapers generally -- and correctly -- do not publish the pictures of dead bodies, whatever their news value.

There is a "sensitivity'' argument for not having published the cartoons in the first place, back in September when they first appeared in that Danish newspaper. But it is not September. It is February. The cartoons have been published, and the newspaper, the publishers and Denmark itself have come under savage attack. After multiple arsons, devastating boycotts and threats to cut off hands and heads, the issue is no longer news value, i.e., whether a newspaper needs to publish them to inform the audience about what is going on. The issue now is solidarity.

The mob is trying to dictate to Western newspapers, indeed Western governments, what is a legitimate subject for discussion and caricature. The cartoons do not begin to approach the artistic level of Salman Rushdie's prose, but that's not the point. The point is who decides what can be said and what can be drawn within the precincts of what we quaintly think of as the free world.

The mob has turned this into a test case for freedom of speech in the West. The German, French and Italian newspapers that republished these cartoons did so not to inform but to defy -- to declare that they will not be intimidated by the mob.

What is at issue is fear. The unspoken reason many newspapers do not want to republish is not sensitivity but simple fear. They know what happened to Theo van Gogh, who made a film about the Islamic treatment of women and got a knife through the chest with an Islamist manifesto attached.

The worldwide riots and burnings are instruments of intimidation, reminders of van Gogh's fate. The Islamic "moderates'' are the mob's agents and interpreters, warning us not to do this again. And the Western "moderates'' are their terrified collaborators who say: Don't worry, we won't. It's those Danes. We're clean. Spare us. Please.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ann Coulter: Calvin and Hobbes - and Muhammad

Ann Coulter
February 9, 2006

As my regular readers know, I've long been skeptical of the "Religion of Peace" moniker for Muslims – for at least 3,000 reasons right off the top of my head. I think the evidence is going my way this week.

The culture editor of a newspaper in Denmark suspected writers and cartoonists were engaging in self-censorship when it came to the Religion of Peace. It was subtle things, like a Danish comedian's statement, paraphrased by the New York Times, "that he had no problem urinating on the Bible but that he would not dare do the same to the Quran."

So, after verifying that his life insurance premiums were paid up, the editor expressly requested cartoons of Muhammad from every cartoonist with a Danish cartoon syndicate. Out of 40 cartoonists, only 10 accepted the invitation, most of them submitting utterly neutral drawings with no political content whatsoever.

But three cartoons made political points.

One showed Muhammad turning away suicide bombers from the gates of heaven, saying "Stop, stop – we ran out of virgins!" – which I believe was a commentary on Muslims' predilection for violence. Another was a cartoon of Muhammad with horns, which I believe was a commentary on Muslims' predilection for violence. The third showed Muhammad with a turban in the shape of a bomb, which I believe was an expression of post-industrial ennui in a secular – oops, no, wait: It was more of a commentary on Muslims' predilection for violence.

In order to express their displeasure with the idea that Muslims are violent, thousands of Muslims around the world engaged in rioting, arson, mob savagery, flag-burning, murder and mayhem, among other peaceful acts of nonviolence.

Muslims are the only people who make feminists seem laid-back.

The little darlings brandish placards with typical Religion of Peace slogans, such as: "Behead Those Who Insult Islam," "Europe, you will pay, extermination is on the way" and "Butcher those who mock Islam." They warn Europe of their own impending 9-11 with signs that say: "Europe: Your 9/11 will come" – which is ironic, because they almost had me convinced the Jews were behind the 9-11 attack.

The rioting Muslims claim they are upset because Islam prohibits any depictions of Muhammad – though the text is ambiguous on beheadings, suicide bombings and flying planes into skyscrapers.

The belief that Islam forbids portrayals of Muhammad is recently acquired. Back when Muslims created things, rather than blowing them up, they made paintings, frescoes, miniatures and prints of Muhammad.

But apparently the Quran is like the Constitution: It's a "living document," capable of sprouting all-new provisions at will. Muslims ought to start claiming the Quran also prohibits indoor plumbing, to explain their lack of it.

Other interpretations of the Quran forbid images of humans or animals, which makes even a child's coloring book blasphemous. That's why the Taliban blew up those priceless Buddhist statues, bless their innocent, peace-loving little hearts.

Largely unnoticed in this spectacle is the blinding fact that one nation is missing from the long list of Muslim countries (by which I mean France and England) with hundreds of crazy Muslims experiencing bipolar rage over some cartoons: Iraq. Hey – maybe this democracy thing does work! The barbaric behavior of Europe's Muslims suggests that the European welfare state may not be attracting your top-notch Muslims.

Making the rash assumption for purposes of discussion that Islam is a religion and not a car-burning cult, even a real religion can't go bossing around other people like this.

Catholics aren't short on rules, but they couldn't care less if non-Catholics use birth control. Conservative Jews have no interest in forbidding other people from mixing meat and dairy. Protestants don't make a peep about other people eating food off one another's plates. (Just stay away from our plates – that's disgusting.)

But Muslims think they can issue decrees about what images can appear in newspaper cartoons. Who do they think they are, liberals?

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Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Debra Saunders: The Opposite of Intelligence

February 7, 2006
The San Fransisco Chronicle
Debra Saunders

If anyone can show me that the National Security Agency, under order from President Bush or top aides, eavesdropped on Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy or some prominent partisan critic, I'll change my tune and see what this administration is doing as a threat to civil liberties. Until then, I can only see the attacks on an NSA surveillance program -- on Monday the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over the program that allowed officials to data-mine information from international phone calls and the Internet -- as ill-conceived, partisan and dangerous.

Ill-conceived? The Sept. 11 commission's purpose was to figure out why authorities did not connect the dots and prevent those deadly terrorist attacks. Now, Washington is scolding the NSA for using state-of-the-art technology to try to connect more dots.

Partisan? Yes, there are Republicans who have questioned the NSA program. Still, most Democrats won't give the Bushies the same break they'd hand to a Democratic administration in a heartbeat.

After all, the Clinton administration conducted warrantless searches in an American's home. His name was Aldrich Ames, and he later pleaded guilty to spying for the former Soviet Union while working for the CIA. As The Washington Post reported in 1994, "government officials decided in the Ames case that no warrant was required because the searches were conducted for 'foreign intelligence purposes.'" There was no huge outcry that Clintonia should have obtained a warrant.
Former Clinton Justice official Jamie Gorelick contended in a letter to the Judiciary Committee that the president had "the inherent authority to authorize foreign intelligence physical searches" -- but that, after Ames, the administration later sought to change the FISA law to include physical searches because "it would be better" to have congressional and judicial oversight of those searches.

It would be better? That's it? Gorelick won't say that the Bush NSA program is illegal, as some senators charge, but only that her testimony for the FISA change in 1994 "does not address that question." That should tell you that the legality of the NSA program is, at worst, debatable.

Dangerous? Actually, it's only dangerous if Washington manages to bury vital intelligence information that allows a terrorist attack which might have been thwarted to occur.

Critics ask: Why didn't the NSA simply seek warrants retroactively? They're as easy to get as candy. Why, the FISA courts only rejected four out of tens of thousands.

The answer is clear. As The Washington Post reported Sunday, much of the NSA data-mining produced leads that led nowhere. They didn't provide probable cause for a warrant.

Even in cases where a FISA warrant would seem to be a sure thing -- as when FBI agents wanted to get into (now admitted al-Qaida terrorist) Zacarias Moussaoui's laptop -- it was not.

This is straight from the Sept. 11 panel report: Even though an FBI agent had figured out that admitted terrorist Moussaoui was "an Islamic extremist preparing for some future act in furtherance of radical fundamentalist goals,'' even though Moussaoui drew suspicion taking lessons for flying the Boeing 747 without the requisite background, even though Moussaoui had $32,000 in the bank but no plausible explanation why, "the case agent did not have sufficient information to connect Moussaoui to a 'foreign power'" -- which was a "statutory requirement for a FISA warrant."

Is the Bush administration doing everything right? Hell, no. The Bushies' argument that Congress essentially authorized these wiretaps when it authorized the use of military force after the Sept. 11 attacks is disingenuous and infuriating.

Lucky for Dubya, the Senate Judiciary Committee is filled with the most bombastic windbags in America -- they are more irritating saying absolutely nothing than Gonzales is saying next to nothing.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the committee chair, has pushed for the administration to ask the FISA court to review the NSA program. "You think you're right, but there are a lot of people who think you're wrong," Specter told Gonzales. "What do you have to lose if you're right?"
The question should be: What does America have to lose? If FISA found against the NSA program, one would hope Congress would pass laws designed to give intelligence officials what they need -- as long as there's oversight to prevent abuses. But that may be asking too much.

The best way to define the most irritating senators on the Judiciary Committee: They voted for the Patriot Act before they voted against it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Tony Kornheiser: So Who Won?

So Who Won? No, Not That! The Tony for Best Commercial!
By Tony Kornheiser
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 6, 2006; E02

Here are my choices for the best TV commercials aired during the Super Bowl -- or, as I like to call them, "The Tonys":

1. The fabulous monkeys-in-suits ad for, whatever that is. It's simply impossible to resist dressed-up monkeys, especially when they're using burning $20 bills to light cigars to celebrate what they erroneously think was a record profit year. You give me some monkeys, I'll give you a great ad. Monkeys are gold .

2. The subtitled FedEx ad, where the prehistoric man fails to send a package on time -- because a dinosaur eats the messenger bird. Then at the end of the ad an elephant squashes the guy, a la Monty Python. Hysterical.

3. The big production-number Burger King Whopper ad with women dressed as lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles awkwardly flopping onto a burger. I loved it. (Though my friend Dawn, a therapist, said the commercial was insulting to women, especially when the words "have it your way" were intoned as the costumed women flopped on the burger. But, as I said, she's a therapist.)

4. The Sprint ad for a cell phone with a "crime deterrent" feature, the deterrent being when the guy throws the cell phone at his friend's head. Twice. Unexpectedly funny.

5. (tie) The charming Budweiser ad in which the usual Clydesdales football game is interrupted when a sheared sheep runs onto the field and is identified as a "streaker." And the cowboys watch and say, "Didn't need to see that."

The smart Aleve ad featuring Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock at a Trekkie convention, using Aleve to get past his arthritis and make the split-fingered Vulcan hand sign. Live long and prosper.

The worst ads were:

1) Those overwrought Gillette Fusion ads. Honestly, what hairball needs a five-blade razor?

2) The weird and somewhat skeevy Ameriquest ads, where people find themselves in embarrassing situations, and it's never explained why a mortgage company would be thinking like this.

3) The overproduced, pedestrian Diddy/Jay Mohr Diet Pepsi ads.

4) The infantile ad that lacked all steam. (Speaking of which, what happened to the erectile dysfunction ads? You can't spell erectile dysfunction without N-F-L. Are we to infer Paul Tagliabue has somehow solved this problem? Wow, the NFL is a can-do league. Next up, bird flu.)

By and large the ads were loaded with cute animals and absent hot babes. Some people may welcome this trend. I'm not sure I want to party with them.

Mark Steyn: 'Sensitivity' can have brutal consequences

February 5, 2006

I long ago lost count of the number of times I've switched on the TV and seen crazy guys jumping up and down in the street, torching the Stars and Stripes and yelling ''Death to the Great Satan!'' Or torching the Union Jack and yelling ''Death to the Original If Now Somewhat Arthritic And Semi-Retired Satan!'' But I never thought I'd switch on the TV and see the excitable young lads jumping up and down in Jakarta, Lahore, Aden, Hebron, etc., etc., torching the flag of Denmark.

Denmark! Even if you were overcome with a sudden urge to burn the Danish flag, where do you get one in a hurry in Gaza? Well, OK, that's easy: the nearest European Union Humanitarian Aid and Intifada-Funding Branch Office. But where do you get one in an obscure town on the Punjabi plain on a Thursday afternoon? If I had a sudden yen to burn the Yemeni or Sudanese flag on my village green, I haven't a clue how I'd get hold of one in this part of New Hampshire.

Say what you like about the Islamic world, but they show tremendous initiative and energy and inventiveness, at least when it comes to threatening death to the infidels every 48 hours for one perceived offense or another. If only it could be channeled into, say, a small software company, what an economy they'd have.

Meanwhile, back in Copenhagen, the Danes are a little bewildered to find that this time it's plucky little Denmark who's caught the eye of the nutters. Last year, a newspaper called Jyllands-Posten published several cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed, whose physical representation in art is forbidden by Islam. The cartoons aren't particularly good and they were intended to be provocative. But they had a serious point. Before coming to that, we should note that in the Western world "artists" "provoke" with the same numbing regularity as young Muslim men light up other countries' flags.
When Tony-winning author Terence McNally writes a Broadway play in which Jesus has gay sex with Judas, the New York Times and Co. rush to garland him with praise for how "brave" and "challenging" he is. The rule for "brave" "transgressive" "artists" is a simple one: If you're going to be provocative, it's best to do it with people who can't be provoked.

Thus, NBC is celebrating Easter this year with a special edition of the gay sitcom "Will & Grace," in which a Christian conservative cooking-show host, played by the popular singing slattern Britney Spears, offers seasonal recipes -- "Cruci-fixin's." On the other hand, the same network, in its coverage of the global riots over the Danish cartoons, has declined to show any of the offending artwork out of "respect" for the Muslim faith.

Which means out of respect for their ability to locate the executive vice president's home in the suburbs and firebomb his garage.

Jyllands-Posten wasn't being offensive for the sake of it. They had a serious point -- or, at any rate, a more serious one than Britney Spears or Terence McNally. The cartoons accompanied a piece about the dangers of "self-censorship" -- i.e., a climate in which there's no explicit law forbidding you from addressing the more, er, lively aspects of Islam but nonetheless everyone feels it's better not to.

That's the question the Danish newspaper was testing: the weakness of free societies in the face of intimidation by militant Islam.

One day, years from now, as archaeologists sift through the ruins of an ancient civilization for clues to its downfall, they'll marvel at how easy it all was. You don't need to fly jets into skyscrapers and kill thousands of people. As a matter of fact, that's a bad strategy, because even the wimpiest state will feel obliged to respond. But if you frame the issue in terms of multicultural "sensitivity," the wimp state will bend over backward to give you everything you want -- including, eventually, the keys to those skyscrapers. Thus, Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, hailed the "sensitivity" of Fleet Street in not reprinting the offending cartoons.

No doubt he's similarly impressed by the "sensitivity" of Anne Owers, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, for prohibiting the flying of the English national flag in English prisons on the grounds that it shows the cross of St. George, which was used by the Crusaders and thus is offensive to Muslims. And no doubt he's impressed by the "sensitivity" of Burger King, which withdrew its ice cream cones from its British menus because Rashad Akhtar of High Wycombe complained that the creamy swirl shown on the lid looked like the word "Allah" in Arabic script. I don't know which sura in the Koran says don't forget, folks, it's not just physical representations of God or the Prophet but also chocolate ice cream squiggly representations of the name, but ixnay on both just to be "sensitive."

And doubtless the British foreign secretary also appreciates the "sensitivity" of the owner of France-Soir, who fired his editor for republishing the Danish cartoons. And the "sensitivity" of the Dutch film director Albert Ter Heerdt, who canceled the sequel to his hit multicultural comedy ''Shouf Shouf Habibi!'' on the grounds that "I don't want a knife in my chest" -- which is what happened to the last Dutch film director to make a movie about Islam: Theo van Gogh, on whose ''right to dissent'' all those Hollywood blowhards are strangely silent. Perhaps they're just being "sensitive,'' too.

And perhaps the British foreign secretary also admires the "sensitivity" of those Dutch public figures who once spoke out against the intimidatory aspects of Islam and have now opted for diplomatic silence and life under 24-hour armed guard. And maybe he even admires the "sensitivity" of the increasing numbers of Dutch people who dislike the pervasive fear and tension in certain parts of the Netherlands and so have emigrated to Canada and New Zealand.

Very few societies are genuinely multicultural. Most are bicultural: On the one hand, there are folks who are black, white, gay, straight, pre-op transsexual, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, worshippers of global-warming doom-mongers, and they rub along as best they can. And on the other hand are folks who do not accept the give-and-take, the rough-and-tumble of a "diverse" "tolerant" society, and, when one gently raises the matter of their intolerance, they threaten to kill you, which makes the question somewhat moot.

One day the British foreign secretary will wake up and discover that, in practice, there's very little difference between living under Exquisitely Refined Multicultural Sensitivity and Sharia. As a famously sensitive Dane once put it, "To be or not to be, that is the question."

© Mark Steyn, 2006