Saturday, February 21, 2009

Today's Tune: Ricky Gervais (w/ Noel Gallagher) - Freelove Freeway

(Click on title to play video)

Reflections on Burke's "Reflections"

Revisiting the lasting, provocative wisdom of Edmund Burke.

by Gertrude Himmelfarb
The New Criterion
February 2009

Edmund Burke was, and still is, a provocative thinker—a provocation in his own day, as in ours. At a time when most right-minded (which is to say, left-inclined) English literati were rhapsodizing over the French Revolution—Wordsworth declaring what “bliss was it in that dawn to be alive”—Burke wrote his Reflections on the Revolution in France, a searing indictment of the Revolution. He was accused then, as he often is now, of being excessive, even hysterical, in his account of the Revolution:

a ferocious dissoluteness in manners, an insolent irreligion in opinions and practices, … laws overturned, tribunals subverted, industry without vigor, commerce expiring … a church pillaged … civil and military anarchy … national bankruptcy.

All this, one must remember (it is sometimes hard to remember), was said in November 1790, three years before the Reign of Terror, which Burke was so presciently describing.

While others were witnessing what they took to be a natural and much needed political revolution, the transformation of an absolute monarchy into a limited monarchy, Burke saw nothing less than a total revolution—a social, religious, and economic revolution as well as a political revolution. And beyond that, a cultural revolution, “a revolution,” he said, “in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions.” This was well before the momentous events: the abolition of the monarchy and establishment of the republic; the execution of the king and queen; the declaration of war against much of Europe (and England); the confiscation of the property of dissidents and emigrés; the imprisonment, expulsion, and assassination of more moderate (and not so moderate) revolutionaries; and, finally, the establishment of the Reign of Terror. Three years before Robespierre came to power, Burke took the measure of the man and his regime.

Justifying perfidy and murder for public benefit, public benefit would soon become the pretext, and perfidy and murder the end; until rapacity, malice, revenge, and fear more dreadful than revenge could satiate their insatiable appetites.

This was the Revolution Burke described—or, rather, predicted—in his Reflections on the Revolution in France—an extraordinary feat of political imagination. Burke’s critics have never forgiven him for that “premature” account of the Revolution, for recognizing the seeds of the Terror so early and so dramatically. Nor can they forgive him for revealing the flawed philosophy and the temper of mind that had inspired the Revolution and had made it so total. In this sense, the Reflections was even more provocative than it seems on the surface, for it was an indictment not only of the French Revolution but of the French Enlightenment, which was even more revolutionary, aspiring to create nothing less than an “age of reason.” This is why so much of the Reflections went well beyond the Revolution itself, reflecting upon the nature of man, society, politics, religion, and much else—reflections, I may add, that are as provocative and challenging to conservatives as to liberals.

Adistinguished professor of literature, I’m told, used to open his lecture on Hamlet by telling his students, “This play is full of quotations.” So, I would say, the Reflections is full of quotations. And so is this essay, not only because no paraphrase could do justice to the original, but also because these quotations make for a reading of the Reflections and a view of Burke rather different from the familiar one. I shall also take the liberty of quoting from an earlier essay I wrote, to highlight the contrast between the two views of Burke.

That early Burke (the subject of my first published essay) appeared under the title “Edmund Burke: The Hero as Politician”—the word “hero” obviously meant ironically, because the Burke I then described was a politician lacking any claim to philosophical seriousness or substance.[1] The characteristic words in his vocabulary, I said, were “convenience, expedience, prudence, and accomodation.” For philosophers—“metaphysicians,” he called them derisively—he had nothing but contempt, accusing them of applying to politics, with disastrous consequences, the abstract principles of philosophy and morality. “Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thoroughbred metaphysician,” I quoted from a letter by Burke. “It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man.”

As evidence of Burke’s animus toward philosophy, I cited his praise of prejudice and superstition. “I had rather remain in ignorance and superstition,” he wrote in another letter, “than be enlightened and purified out of the first principles of law and natural justice.” And then there were those other twin words, “prescription and presumption,” which he took to be the basis of all government and authority—the prescription of ancient laws and authorities, and the presumption that what exists probably should exist. Finally, there was Burke’s glowing account of the beauty and innocence of Marie Antoinette and the charms of an age of chivalry, which I derided as reminiscent of “the magnolia-and-old South” school of rhetoric.

Edmund Burke’s statue in Bristol city centre.

That was my early Burke. Almost two decades later, after several rereadings of the Reflections with students—and perhaps, prompted by the cultural revolution of the 1960s, which recalled that “revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions” Burke had attributed to the French Revolution—I wrote a reprise of that early essay. “The Hero as Politician” of the first essay became, in the title of the second, “The Politician as Philosopher.” Each of the items in my earlier indictment was turned on its head. What had been cause for criticism became an occasion for praise, or at least for amplification that put it in a quite different light. Now on yet another rereading of the Reflections, I go further, finding in it evidence not, to be sure, of a sustained philosophical treatise, but of reflections worthy of serious philosophical consideration.

Burke had a great distaste for abstract concepts and precepts, and a high regard for prudence and expediency in the practical affairs of government. Not “metaphysical abstraction, [but] circumstances … give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing color and discriminating effect.” This is often quoted to suggest that Burke made of “circumstances” the whole of politics, the be-all and end-all of political theory and activity. But what he clearly said was that circumstances—that is, particular situations—give shape and form to “political principle.” There is “principle,” then, behind those “circumstances.” And more than principle. There is, for Burke, something like a great chain of being, an overarching contract, that gives legitimacy not only to politics but to all aspects of human life.

In my earlier essay I had casually dismissed, as inconsistent with the pragmatic, political Burke, his much quoted statement declaring the state to be “a partnership in all science, a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection.” In context, that statement may seem less paradoxical. The passage opens with the assertion “society is indeed a contract”—a contract, Burke went on to explain, that contains many subordinate contracts, some of which, like a partnership for the trade of pepper or coffee, are occasional and can be dissolved at will. But the state cannot be so dissolved, because it is a partnership “not only between those who are living but between those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” And beyond that, it is a partnership with nature itself, so to speak—that “great primeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and invisible world”:

Every sort of moral, every sort of civil, every sort of politic[al] institution, aiding the rational and natural ties that connect the human understanding and affections to the divine, are … necessary, in order to build up that wonderful structure, Man.

Burke’s state, one might say, like Aristotle’s polis, is rooted in the very nature of man, man being a political, as well as a social, animal.

The key words in this account of the “primeval contract” are “linking” and “connecting.” The lower and the higher natures, the visible and the invisible worlds, the rational and the natural, the human and the divine, the moral, the civil, and the political, the past, the present, and the future—are all linked together, all come together to create man. The dominant image I find here, and throughout the Reflections, is that of a continuum, a relationship among seemingly contrary or disparate elements that somehow converge, making sense of what otherwise would be paradoxical or incongruous.

It is just such a continuum, the linking of past, present, and future, that explains Burke’s view of liberty—a liberty that is not an absolute right inherent in the individual, but is rather the product of time and circumstance. Just as property has to be acquired and then secured—that is, preserved and perpetuated—so does liberty have to be acquired and secured. And both are secured by the same means, as an “entailed inheritance”:

The idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission, without at all excluding a principle of improvement. We secure our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It has a pedigree and illustrious ancestors.

The image of a continuum also clarifies what otherwise may seem perverse in Burke, his defense of superstition and prejudice. In my early essay, I had quoted derisively his remark “superstition is the religion of feeble minds.” But that bald statement is preceded by the warning that an excess of superstition is a “very great evil.” And it is followed by the assertion that an “intermixture” of superstition and religion is desirable, “else you will deprive weak minds of a resource found necessary to the strongest.” This idea, of an “intermixture” of superstition and religion, seemed to many at the time (as it still seems to many today) demeaning to religion, and, worse, demeaning to those in need of religion—religion pour les autres, for children, or servants, or others with “weak minds.”

As if anticipating that criticism, Burke went on to say that religion is not “a mere invention to keep the vulgar in obedience.” On the contrary, it is a “resource” for the “strongest” as well as the weak. Indeed, religion is of the very nature of man: “Man is by his constitution a religious animal.” To deprive man of his religion would be to create a void that could only be filled by “some uncouth, pernicious, and degrading superstition,” a superstition that would not complement and support religion but rather subvert and degrade it.

As religion and superstition are a part of a continuum, so are reason and prejudice—by “prejudice” he meant not what we mean by it, hostility against particular people or races, but rather all those conventional beliefs and popular opinions that do not meet the strict test of reason. It is in this sense that he spoke of the church establishment as “the first of our prejudices.”

We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason, because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages. Thoughtful men [instead of exploding prejudices] … try to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them, [and] think it more wise to retain the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing but the naked reason. Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man’s virtue his habit; and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.

This was an audacious idea to present to enlightened men in an enlightened age—a challenge to those French philosophes who would indeed leave men with nothing but their “private stock of reason,” their “naked reason.” It was all the more audacious because Burke’s continuum of reason and prejudice—prejudice with the “reason involved,” with the “latent wisdom” in it—had the effect of creating a commonality among human beings. It was the “common feelings,” the “natural feelings” of men, the “wisdom of unlettered men,” that permitted him to speak so confidently of “the true moral equality of mankind.”

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

This is also why he could invoke so confidently and frequently the two words that are a refrain throughout the Reflections, “wisdom” and “virtue.” Prudence is the “first of all virtues”; prejudice “engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue”; our ancestors provide a “standard of virtue and wisdom”; the church establishment “is a prejudice … not destitute of reason, but involving in it profound and extensive wisdom”; and “there is no qualification for government, but virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive.”

Finally, there is the most controversial part of the Reflections, the paean to Marie Antoinette and the idea of chivalry she symbolized, which occasioned Burke’s boldest reflections about the relation of culture to politics. The ideas and “pleasing illusions” of chivalry—honor, reverence, sentiments, manners—are the product of “the moral imagination,” an imagination necessary to “cover the defects of our naked shivering nature.” Because those ideas and illusions are shared by everyone, to one degree or another, they have the effect not only of elevating everyone as individuals, but also of uniting everyone in a common spirit, thus contributing to the “moral equality of mankind.” And that moral equality, in turn, promotes something like a social equality and even a measure of political equality.

It was this idea of chivalry which, without confounding ranks, had produced a noble equality, and handed it down through all the gradations of social life. It was this which … mitigated kings into companions, and raised private men to be fellows with kings, … obliged sovereigns to submit to the soft collar of social esteem, … and gave a dominating vanquisher of laws to be subdued by manners.

This age of chivalry, as much as the old regime itself, was a casualty of the Revolution. If the old manners and morals— and, yes, illusions—were dissipated, Burke warned, if power were stripped of “its own honor and the honor of those who are to obey it,” there would be no redress against tyranny: “Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from principle.”

Even a sympathetic reader of the Reflections may dismiss these passages, as I did in my early essay, as a “fanciful flight of rhetoric.” Indeed, one might dismiss much of the Reflections, as I did, as mere rhetoric, using that word in its pejorative sense, as the obfuscation or prettifying of reality. It was because Burke was such a “supreme rhetorician,” I had then said, that he managed to appeal to so many people of such different persuasions—to liberals like Macaulay, who pronounced him the greatest man since Milton; or socialists like Harold Laski, who said he was England’s greatest political thinker; and, of course, conservatives like Disraeli, who spoke of his “divine effusions.” I could have added scores of others, like Woodrow Wilson, who was pleased to call himself Burke’s “disciple.”

What impresses me today about Burke’s rhetoric (in the non-pejorative sense) is how much of it, so far from trying to be ingratiating, was deliberately harsh and provocative. The defense of prejudice and superstition, of prescription and presumption, of chivalry and “pleasing illusions,” are hardly words intended to endear him to his enlightened readers, for whom these words were (and still are) red flags. He might have used more agreeable, more palatable terms —belief, tradition, convention, opinion. Instead, he deliberately chose to shock his readers, to oblige them to confront the issues more boldly by expressing them more starkly—to confront not only the French Revolution, but the inevitable cultural revolution that he believed to be even more subversive than the political revolution.

More subversive, indeed, for England as well as France, which is why so much of the Reflections is a vigorous critique of those Englishmen who were reinterpreting their own revolution a century earlier in the spirit of the French, as if their revolution had given the people the right to select (in effect, to elect) their king and depose him at will. On the contrary, Burke insisted, that “glorious Revolution” was designed to secure the dynastic succession by restoring legitimate government after the illegitimate usurpations of James II, thus preserving those “ancient indisputable laws and liberties, and that ancient constitution of government” which are “the only security for law and liberty.” The French, Burke argued, could have reformed their government in the same manner, but chose instead the fatal path of revolution—total revolution.

It is this Burke, the author of the Reflections, who is often pilloried as reactionary—quite wrongly, I obviously believe. No one could attach that label to the Burke who, as a Whig, not a Tory, sided with parliament and party against the King and his ministers. Nor does it apply to the Burke who was a friend and disciple of Adam Smith, who is reputed to have said that Burke was “the only man who, without communication, thought on these topics [a free economy] exactly as he [Smith] did.” Nor does it apply to the Burke who defended John Wilkes, the radical Member of Parliament who was expelled from the House of Commons for libeling the king. Nor to the Burke who conducted a long campaign against Warren Hastings and the East India Company for abusing their charter and exploiting the people of India. Nor to the Burke who joined William Wilberforce in the campaign to abolish the slave trade. Nor, most notably, to the Burke who was an eloquent champion of America before and during the American Revolution.

There was a time, not so long ago, when American schoolchildren memorized and recited parts of Burke’s “Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies,” delivered in March 1775. Today that speech is sometimes interpreted, by conservatives as well as liberals, as an equivocal defense of American—an argument for “conciliation” with the colonies, not the independence of the colonies; for a policy of “wise and salutary neglect” intended to preserve the British Empire and only incidentally to relieve the grievances of the colonists; and certainly not an argument for anything like those “self-evident truths” and “inalienable rights” asserted in the Declaration of Independence. This interpretation of the speech presents us with the familiar Burke, the practical, canny politician.

What Americans read at the time, however, and what generations of schoolchildren proudly recited, were the stirring tributes to the Americans—“descendants of Englishmen,” Burke described them—who treasured not “abstract liberty,” but “liberty according to English ideas and on English principles.” Indeed, the Americans had a more “fierce spirit of liberty” than the English because that spirit was nurtured by their religion, a form of Protestantism that was “not only favorable to liberty, but built upon it.” All Protestantism, he observed, was “a sort of dissent,” but the religion prevalent in America was the most protestant form of Protestantism, the very “dissidence of dissent”—hence the most enamored of liberty. (It is interesting to find Burke at various times—under different “cicumstances,” as he might say—defending the Catholic establishment in France, the Anglican establishment in England, and the disestablished Dissenting churches in America.)

It is odd that although Burke’s speeches on America were well known in America, his name did not appear in one of the most important documents that came out of the American Revolution, the Federalist Papers. Nor did Burke ever mention the Federalist Papers—certainly not in the Reflections, although the Papers were by then available in England. (And odd, too, that in the Reflections he made much of the century-old English Revolution but never mentioned the more recent American Revolution.) Yet reading the two documents together, the Reflections and Federalist Papers, one cannot help but be impressed by the Burkean spirit in the Federalist: an approach to politics that is prudent and judicious; a devotion to liberty not as an abstract or absolute ideal, but as the product of carefully contrived and balanced policies; a non-utopian view of human nature that takes into account the passions and interests, as well as the ideas and ideals, of the governed and governors alike—and with it all, a moral purpose and seriousness that transcends policy and expediency.

It might have been Burke, in the Federalist Papers, observing that “a man must be far gone in Utopian speculations … to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious.” Or reflecting upon “the veneration which time bestows on everything … without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability.” Or remarking that “the reason of man, like man himself, is timid and cautious when left alone, and acquires firmness and confidence in proportion to the number with which it is associated” (and fortified, too, by “ancient” opinion as well). Or that “the most rational government will not find it a superfluous advantage to have the prejudices of the community on its side.” Or that experience is “that best oracle of wisdom.” Most telling, and most Burkean, is Alexander Hamilton’s advice in the last of the Papers:

I should esteem it the extreme of imprudence to prolong the precarious state of our national affairs, and to expose the Union to the jeopardy of successive experiments, in the chimerical pursuit of a perfect plan. I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man.

If Burke could have penned those words in the Federalist Papers, Hamilton or Madison could have written that memorable passage toward the end of the Reflections—a passage that could well serve as an epigraph to the Federalist Papers:

To make a government requires no great prudence. Settle the seat of power; teach obedience; and the work is done. To give freedom is still more easy. It is not necessary to guide; it only requires to let go the rein. But to form a free government, that is, to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one consistent work, requires much thought, deep reflection, a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind.

A “sagacious, powerful, and combining mind”—Burke might have been describing the authors of the Federalist Papers, who had collectively displayed just such a mind.

The genius of the Federalist Papers was to devise a constitution for the new republic which made the United States the most enduring and most successful republic in modernity. The genius of the Reflections was to provide a philosophical critique of that other revolution, so different from the American, which produced another republic, ill-conceived and ill-fated. “You chose to act,” Burke told the French, “as if you had never been molded into civil society, and had everything to begin anew.” The Americans never made that mistake.

I’ll conclude with another personal reminiscence. Some years ago, a young woman came up to me after class to apologize for having missed an earlier session because it was a Jewish holiday She also took the opportunity to tell me how much she valued the course and, particularly, how moved she was by the reading of the Reflections. It gave her, she said, a new understanding and appreciation of Judaism—of her Judaism, which was a rigorous form of Orthodoxy. What impressed her was Burke’s defense not only of religion in general, but of a religion, her religion, founded on traditions and authorities, rites and rituals, which did not always have an obvious basis in reason and which others might denigrate as obsolete and superstitious.

My student could surely have found a vindication of her faith in Maimonides or other Jewish sages, but Burke gave her a less parochial, more universal rationale. Where Burke challenged an Enlightenment that, in the name of reason, threatened to undermine the values and institutions of Christian society, she saw the rationalist, secular ideology of her own age threatening the faith and the very existence of her people. No religion is as tradition-bound and history-centered as Judaism. And Orthodox Judaism is all the more so. Of the six-hundred-thirteen commandments prescribed for devout Jews, some are moral principles binding on all civilized human beings. But others are unique to Judaism. To Christians and even non-observant, non-Orthodox Jews, some of these commandments seem arbitrary and irrational, relics of ancient customs and superstitions. For the Orthodox Jew, they carry the weight of law and morality because they have the mandate of authority—the authority of revered, although not divinely ordained, rabbis—as well as the sanction of tradition, the “pedigree,” as Burke said, of “illustrious ancestors.”

This is what spoke to my student so directly and powerfully. I can think of no greater tribute to Burke than that of this young woman. And I like to think that Burke would have appreciated it as well.


1. “Reflections on Burke’s Reflections” originated as a Bradley Lecture given at the American Enterprise Institute on October 6, 2008.

2. “Edmund Burke: The Hero As Politician” appears in Victorian Minds: A Study of Intellectuals in Crisis and Ideologies in Transition (1968), which was reissued by Ivan R. Dee in 1995.

Misconstruing Miss Coulter

Klavan On The Culture

By Andrew Klavan
February 20th, 2009 8:51 am

Ann Coulter’s new book Guilty, has been my bedside reading lately. So far, it’s terrific.

You know, it’s funny. When a mainstream critic calls a book or movie outrageous, daring, shocking, or revolutionary, it usually means it’s the same old boring stuff: someone bares his ass or curses out Jesus or attacks some vestige of decency or honor that’s managed to survive the cultural locusts. It’s all so groundbreaking you can hardly keep from snoring.

But when someone like Ann comes along—someone who really is outrageous, daring, shocking and disconcertingly adorable to boot, these same brave radical critics suddenly fling their aprons over their faces and run shrieking from the room like Frank Rich or some other hysterical old woman.

Coulter’s chapter hilariously entitled “Victim of a Crime? Thank A Single Mother,” is a case in point. It caused her to be roundly attacked throughout the press for being unfeeling toward the “plight” of single mothers. But the chapter is really about the plague of illegitimacy that destroys children’s lives, saps the resources of the state, increases crime rates, plunges whole communities into generational poverty—and is then romanticized and even encouraged by the mainsteam media. If a liberal says, “Clap your hands and believe in the Global Warming Fairy,” the MSM responds: “The Debate Is Over.” But when Coulter marshals facts, figures and examples to prove her point, the widespread response is, “Ann is mean! She hates single mothers!”

But okay, that’s the liberal media for you. What really bothers me is when we conservatives do the same thing. Ann is constantly being denounced by conservative pundits and bloggers for her outlandish style—for making a John Edwards joke using the word faggot or for responding to 9/11 by saying we ought to convert the Arab world to Christianity or for saying that Jews are perfected by Christ—so on and so forth.

Look, I don’t always agree with Coulter. She sometimes seems to scream black whenever the media screams white (a strategy that works only about 85 percent of the time). I’m pretty sure we really did evolve from apes — myself within living memory. And I enthusiastically endorse any and all non-bloodletting sex acts done in private between consenting adults—as long as you don’t then ask me to pay for the resulting child, abortion or course of medication.

But the whole way liberals work is to redefine manners and morals in such a fashion that conservative common sense automatically becomes hateful. If you note that women and men are different, you’re misogynistic. If you denounce the destruction of marriage in black communities, you’re racist or moralistic. If you call for the defense of America against the world-wide Islamist menace, you’re a bigoted warmonger. If we take this garbage seriously even for an instant, we spend our whole lives playing catch-up, saying sorry, going on defense.

Coulter’s answering strategy is to blow all that foolishness away. She says the unsayable thing, does it with intelligence, humor and style and gets the world exactly right far more often than not. And did I mention she’s disconcertingly adorable? There’s more good, honest material in a paragraph of her work than in any entire edition of the New York Times. She may be a loose cannon now and then, but somehow the barrel always ends up pointed in the right direction.

Islamic radicalization is on the rise

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
Friday, February 20, 2009

In the Swat Valley, where a young Winston Churchill once served with the Malakand Field Force battling Muslim insurgents, his successors have concluded the game isn't worth the candle. In return for a temporary ceasefire, the Pakistani government agreed to let the local franchise of the Taliban impose its industrial strength version of Sharia across the whole of Malakand Region. Malakand has more than five million people, all of whom are now living under a murderous theocracy. Still, peace rallies have broken out all over the Swat Valley, and, at a Swat peace rally, it helps to stand well back: As one headline put it, "Journalist Killed While Covering Peace Rally."

But don't worry about Pakistani nukes falling into the hands of "extremists": The Swat Valley is a good hundred miles from the nation's capital, Islamabad – or about as far as Northern Vermont is from Southern Vermont. And, of course, Islamabad is safely under the control of the famously moderate Ali Zardari. A few days before the Swat deal, Mr. Zardari marked the dawn of the Obama era by releasing from house arrest Abdul Qadeer Khan, the celebrated scientist and one-stop shop for all your Islamic nuclear needs, for whose generosity North Korea and Iran are especially grateful.

From Islamabad, let us zip a world away to London. Among the growing population of Yorkshire Pakistanis is a fellow called Lord Ahmed, a Muslim member of Parliament. He threatened "to bring a force of 10,000 Muslims to lay siege to the House of Lords" if it went ahead with an event at which the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders would have introduced a screening of his controversial film "Fitna."

Britain's Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, reacted to this by declaring Wilders persona non grata and having him arrested and returned to the Netherlands.

Smith is best known for an inspired change of terminology: last year she announced that henceforth Muslim terrorism (an unhelpful phrase) would be reclassified as "anti-Islamic activity." Seriously. The logic being that Muslims blowing stuff up tends not to do much for Islam's reputation – i.e., it's an "anti-Islamic activity" in the same sense that Pearl Harbor was an anti-Japanese activity.

Anyway, Geert Wilders' short film is a compilation video of footage from recent Muslim terrorist atrocities – whoops, sorry, "anti-Islamic activities" – accompanied by the relevant chapter and verse from the Koran. Jacqui Smith banned the filmmaker on "public order" grounds – in other words, the government's fear that Lord Ahmed meant what he said about a 10,000-strong mob besieging the Palace of Westminster. You might conceivably get the impression from Wilders' movie that many Muslims are irrational and violent types it's best to steer well clear of. But, if you didn't, Jacqui Smith pretty much confirmed it: We can't have chaps saying Muslims are violent, because they'll go smash the place up.

So confronted by blackmail, the British government caved. So did the Pakistani government in Swat. But, in fairness to Islamabad, they waited until the shooting was well underway before throwing in the towel. Twenty years ago this month, Margaret Thatcher's Conservative ministry defended the right of a left-wing author Salman Rushdie to publish a book in the face of Muslim riots and the Ayatollah Khomeini's attempted mob hit. Two decades on, a supposedly progressive government surrenders to the mob before it's even taken to the streets.

In his first TV interview as president, Barack Obama told viewers of al-Arabiya TV that he wanted to restore the "same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago." I'm not sure quite what golden age he's looking back to there – the Beirut barracks slaughter? The embassy hostages? – but the point is, it's very hard to turn back the clock. Because the facts on the ground change and change remorselessly.

Between 1970 and 2000, the developed world declined from just under 30 percent of the global population to just over 20 percent, while the Muslim world increased from 15 percent to 20 percent. And in 2030, it won't even be possible to re-take that survey, because by that point half the "developed world" will itself be Muslim: in Bradford as in London, Amsterdam, Brussels and almost every other western European city from Malmo to Marseilles the principal population growth comes from Islam.

Along with the demographic growth has come radicalization: It's not just that there are more Muslims, but that, within that growing population, moderate Islam is on the decline – in Singapore, in the Balkans, in northern England – and radicalized, Arabized, Wahhabized Islam is on the rise. So we have degrees of accommodation: surrender in Islamabad, appeasement in London, acceptance in Toronto and Buffalo.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Today's Tune: David Brent - Freelove Freeway (Live Acoustic)

(Click on title to play video)

Cowardly Conversation Starter

Enthralled to a cliché.

By Jonah Goldberg
February 20, 2009, 0:00 a.m.

Attorney General Eric Holder signs autographs at the Justice Department in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009, after making remarks commemorating African American History Month.
(AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

Hey, black folks, do you know any white folks? Good. O.K., I want you to go up to them right now and, as politely as you can, start sharing your most deeply held racial views. Hey, white folks, you’re not off the hook. I want you to go and do likewise with any black people you know.

Don’t want to do that? Really? Well, then, you’re a coward.

That’s the short version of Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech this week celebrating Black History Month.

Holder says we are “a nation of cowards” because we’re unwilling to discuss race to his satisfaction. Some might say that’s an ironic diagnosis given that Holder is the first black attorney general, appointed by the first black president of the United States.

Nonetheless, Holder thinks the answer to our racial problems is for more people of different colors to talk about how race defines them. He suggests using the “artificial device” of Black History Month “to generate discussion that should come more naturally” but doesn’t.

Well, in the spirit of full and frank discussion, let me say I have some problems with Holder’s analysis.

The first thing worth pointing out is that Holder is wrong. America talks about race incessantly, in classrooms, lecture halls, movies, oped pages, books, magazines, talk shows, just about every third PBS documentary by my count, blogs, diversity training sessions and, yes, even mandatory Black History Month events.

In fairness, Holder seems vaguely aware of this. The hitch is that he thinks this isn’t nearly enough racial argy-bargy. We’ve got to work the balm of racial dialogue deep into the muscle and sinew of the body politic.

My biggest objection to Holder’s speech is that it reveals how enthralled to a cliché he is. Look, despite the bold tone of his remarks, this is just a terribly hackneyed idea. People have been calling for a national dialogue for years. Twelve years ago, Bill Clinton even proclaimed a whole year would be dedicated to a national conversation on race.

Assuming Holder is serious, who says more talk would make things better? Is there some social science to back up this talking point posing as wisdom? Have there been studies showing that if you force blacks and whites to talk endlessly about race, race relations improve? If so, is the research any good? Or is this liberal conventional wisdom masquerading as something else?

Perhaps Holder envisions a national conversation where the whole country becomes a giant School of Athens, with blacks as Socrates and whites as Plato, eagerly taking instruction on the finer points of racial consciousness. The image that comes to my mind is different. I see Michael Scott, the hyper-vapid boss from NBC’s The Office, hectoring Stanley and Darryl — the show’s two black characters — to make race an issue when it shouldn’t be.

Americans are very good at hearing ideological appeals, but we’re almost tone-deaf when it comes to clichés. That’s why liberals hide so much of their agenda inside them. Say “diversity makes us stronger” a billion times and you’ll come to believe it uncritically, too.

Usually, when I hear a liberal call for a national conversation on race, I translate it as: “People who disagree with me need to be instructed why they are wrong.” Indeed, in a sense it’s no wonder America is a nation of cowards when it comes to race, because so many of us are terrified of being called racist the moment we step out of line with liberal orthodoxy.

For example, when Clinton held one of his famous town-hall discussions, he invited Abigail Thernstrom — a polite, sophisticated scholar of racial issues and a champion of race-neutrality — to participate in a frank conversation about race. But the moment she expressed an honest objection to racial quotas, Clinton browbeat her as some kind of crypto-racist idiot.

We see something similar in how Holder envisions the latest iteration of a national palaver on race. He says of the debate over affirmative action (or what blogger Paul Mirengoff calls “a coward’s name for race-based preferences”) that, “This debate can, and should, be nuanced, principled and spirited. But the conversation we now engage in as a nation on this and other racial subjects is too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes, who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own narrow self-interest.”

Perhaps. Or perhaps calling views you disagree with “extreme” and accusing those who hold them of having dishonorable motives is just a clever way of saying that you don’t want an “honest conversation” at all.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

© 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Terror Training Camps On American Soil

by Robert Spencer

“We are fighting to destroy the enemy. We are dealing with evil at its roots and its roots are America.”

So said the Pakistani Sheikh Muburak Gilani (pictured at right), leader of the jihad terrorist group Jamaat ul-Fuqra. And the way that he and his organization are “dealing with evil at its roots” is to set up jihad terror training camps all over the United States -- often under the noses of government and law enforcement officials who are either indifferent or too hamstrung by political correctness to do anything about it.

Sheikh Gilani is no shrinking violet, and Jamaat ul-Fuqra is a force to be reckoned with both in the United States and elsewhere. Journalist Daniel Pearl was on his way to interview Gilani when he was kidnapped and beheaded in 2002. The following year, a member of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, Iyman Faris, pled guilty to plotting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. In 2005, the Department of Homeland Security included the group among “predicted possible sponsors of attacks” on American soil. And in 2006, the Department of Justice reported that Jamaat ul-Fuqra “has more than 35 suspected communes and more than 3,000 members spread across the United States, all in support of one goal: the purification of Islam through violence.” That means, of course, violence against unbelievers.

Yet despite the fact that Justice and the DHS are obviously aware of what is going on, Jamaat ul-Fuqra continues to operate, relatively unhindered, in the United States. A new documentary from the Christian Action Network, Homegrown Jihad: The Terrorist Camps Around the U.S., tells the whole shocking story. CAN spent two years visiting many of these Jamaat ul-Fuqra terror compounds, at great risk to network personnel. The documentary filmmakers dared to go inside these camps, cameras rolling, to ask compound leaders pointed questions about who they were and what they were doing.

The documentary reveals that these compounds are dedicated to the training of Muslims in terrorist activities. Most of these camps are tucked away in remote rural areas -- Hancock, N.y., Red House, Va. -- as far away from the watchful eye of law enforcement as possible. And what goes on in them is truly hair-raising: a training video that the network obtained shows American Muslims receiving training in how to fire AK-47 rifles and machine guns, and how to use rocket launchers, mortars, and explosives, as well as training in kidnapping, the murder of hostages, sabotage, and subversive operations.

Yet the State Department doesn’t include Jamaat ul-Fuqra on its Foreign Terrorist Organization Watch List. And so far the mainstream media’s reaction to the documentary has run from indifferent to hostile. CBS News ran a hit piece on the film last Wednesday, saying that “officials describe the film to CBS News as ‘sensationalistic’ and without any real foundation. According to one official, it is strictly designed to upset and inflame people and does not present a true picture of any so-called ‘homegrown Jihad’ danger. No current intelligence exists to suggest any threat connected with this group, which officials describe as ‘wannabes’ and not terrorists.”

No current intelligence? Someone should notify the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which currently has posted on its website a page about Jamaat ul-Fuqra. “In addition to being suspected of committing numerous acts of domestic terrorism,” it says, “FUQRA members in the United States have been suspected of committing fraud against various governmental entitlement programs in an effort to financially support their activities.” And “FUQRA or its members have been investigated for alleged terrorist acts including murder and arson in New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, Toronto, Denver, Los Angeles and Tucson. UL FUQRA is suspected of more than thirteen firebombings and, at least, as many murders within the United States.”

The Homegrown Jihad documentary, which premiered last week in Washington, does a great service in shedding light on this group’s activities. We can only hope that American law enforcement officials wake up out of their politically correct fever dream in time to close these camps and end once and for all the possibility that these jihadists could mount an attack on American citizens.

Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)", "The Truth About Muhammad," and "Stealth Jihad" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

Related Link:

Beheadings and Honor Killings

By Phyllis Chesler
Friday, February 20, 2009

She was an accomplished, professional woman, in her late thirties, a wife, and a mother. But her husband beat her. Terribly, and for a long time. Finally, after much suffering, she worked up the courage to leave him. That's when, acting on his own, he killed her.

No, I am not talking about Aasiya Z. Hassan in Buffalo. I am talking about the 1999 St. Clairsville, Ohio case of Dr. Lubaina Bhatti Ahmed.

I know: All the major Muslim organizations, and the mainstream media, continually say that these deaths are examples of domestic violence. They say that domestic violence is a plague that afflicts women of all cultures and religions and which has nothing to do with Islam.

And yet, these very organizations say the exact same thing when young teenagers like Palestina Isa in St Louis, (1989) Aqsa Parvez in Toronto (2007) and Sarah and Amina Said in Dallas, (2008) or when young woman in their twenties like Sandeela Kanwal of Atlanta (2008) are murdered by their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and male cousins. The organizations and media deny that the classic honor killings are, indeed, honor killings, and that such honor killings have anything to do with Islam. Please read the kinds of things they routinely say in my study, just published in MEQ HERE.

Only now, perhaps for the first time, are the Muslim organizations saying that the Buffalo case does not resemble a "real" honor killing (see above), because the man acted alone, there was no family collusion, and there had been a long history of domestic violence.

Although my study found that the majority of honor killings in the West are not of wives but of daughters--let's compare the 1999 Ohio case and the 2009 Buffalo case.

Both families are Pakistanis, both husbands were "successful" in America. Both wives had professional training and careers. Both women were in their late thirties, both had two children, both marriages had a history of terrible domestic violence, both wives, after much suffering, finally dared to leave and to sue for divorce. Indeed, this sounds like a western-style domestic violence/femicide.

However, here is one sign that both femicides may also be Islamic-style honor killings. Both murders involved sensational overkill. Although Hasssan will be pleading "not guilty," and did not confess his guilt to the police, after years of beating and threatening her, Hassan's wife was found beheaded in Hassan's office--after she had him ejected from his own home. In my view, really, who else could have done this? How did Hassan know that her head and her body were there?

Barbarianism describes what happened in St. Clairsville as well. Nawaz Ahmed, a former pilot in the Pakistani army, cut his physician-wife's throat--and, for good measure, cut the throats of her father, her sister, and her sister's child. Although both men acted alone, I would nevertheless still argue that both men acted with the full cultural entitlement of Pakistani male Muslim culture. Hence, the murderous overkill.

It is true: Beheadings sometimes occur in the West but this occurs when serial killers murder prostituted women or once, when a student went on a berserk rampage. A beheading is an act committed against a stranger, not against a wife. Granted, many cases of Western-style domestic violence/femicide can also be gruesome; but, they do not involve beheading and they do not routinely involve killing the wife and the wife's family members because they dared to support her move away from violence.

Let's consider two other cases in America which involved Muslim men who were domestically violent and who, seemingly, acted alone.

In 2000, in Chicago, Shapara Sayeed, aged 33, was burned alive by her Pakistani husband, Mohammed Haroon. They had allegedly been "fighting for a long time." It looks like another case of western-style domestic violence/femicide except for the method of murder: Immolation, which is associated with the Muslim honor killings both of intimate family women and of women who are seen as not "covered" enough, too "western" by the Taliban, etc.

In 2002, in Jersey City, New Jersey, another victim, aged 29, was Marlyn Hassan, who refused to convert from Hinduism to Islam. Her husband, Alim Hassan, a Guyanese Muslim, stabbed her to death while she was late in pregnancy with his twin children--and he also stabbed her sister and her mother. Again, gruesome overkill.

In the St. Clairsville, Chicago, New Jersey and Buffalo cases we discern what may happen to a Muslim wife who lives in America and who acts as if she is entitled to certain rights. All died horrible deaths, the kinds of deaths these days, that are visited upon infidels and upon enemy Muslims who belong to the "wrong" Muslim sect, clan, tribe, or family.

In both the Ahmed and Hassan cases, from the husband's point of view: These wives took the kids away from their father (who, in his view, literally belong to him, not her). Ahmed moved away, Hassan had her husband ejected from "his" home, (which, from the husband's point of view, belongs only to him, not to her). Both wives exposed their husband’s violence instead of staying to absorb it. From a Pakistani, Muslim, male point of view, both wives deserved to die.

Yesterday, World Net Daily reminded us about beheadings in the Islamic world. I am reprinting their article here in part:

“Beheadings are more common in Hassan's former homeland of Pakistan and throughout the Islamic world:

Just a week ago, Taliban terrorists in that country beheaded a Polish geologist abducted in an effort to arrange a prisoner swap.

An American U.N. worker, John Solecki, is currently facing a similar fate at the hands of Islamic terrorists in that country.

Terrorists in Pakistan video recorded the beheading of American reporter Daniel Pearl.

Terrorists in Iraq video recorded the beheading of American Nicholas Berg.
Beheading is a common form of execution in Saudi Arabia.

Beheading is a common way to conduct a so-called "honor killing" – the murder of a wife – throughout the Islamic world.”

- Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) and The New Anti-Semitism (2003). She has just published The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (Palgrave Macmillan), as well as an updated and revised edition of Women and Madness. She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women's studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women's Health Network (1976). Her website is

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Today's Tune: Bob Dylan - Blind Willie McTell

(Click on title to play video)

Benedict and the Abortion Holocaust-Deniers

By George Neumayr on 2.19.09 @ 6:09AM
The American Spectator

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi smiles during a ceremony at the lower chamber of the deputies in Rome February 16, 2009. (Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI met with a holocaust-denier yesterday. Bishop Richard Williamson? No, Nancy Pelosi.

A Pelosi-led delegation of Catholic Democrats who dismiss the moral significance of millions upon millions of abortions turned up at the Vatican yesterday.

Last month these same abortion-holocaust deniers had lectured Benedict for mishandling the flap over Richard Williamson's lifted excommunication.

Seizing on a chance to embarrass the Pope, fifty Catholic Democrats, Rosa DeLauro and George Miller among them, wrote a letter to him demanding a "clarification" in the Williamson matter. (He had already done so, but they felt it just wasn't emphatic enough.)

"Bishop Williamson has said as recently as this past November that, 'historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy by Adolf Hitler.'
Yet, the Holocaust is a verifiable fact and as people of good will would agree, one of the darkest chapters in our history as a human family. There are still thousands of people amongst us -- Jews and non-Jews -- who can attest through eye-witness accounts to the horrors of the Holocaust," they wrote in part.

"As a spiritual leader and the head of the Catholic Church, we believe it is vital that you publicly state your unequivocal position on this matter so that it is clear where the Church stands on one of the most consequential events of the 20th century…"

William Delahunt, who pulls down a 100% rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League, piously explained to the Boston Globe the pressing need for this letter of rebuke. "The moral authority of the church is important to retain, and having those statements out there was unacceptable," he said.

Pro-abortion Catholic Democrats don't normally warm to the cause of preserving the Church's moral authority, and certainly not to the concept of excommunication. But in Williamson they had finally found a Catholic not fit for entrance to their communion line.

They would of course say that an important difference exists between them and Williamson. And they are right: He opined egregiously about a historical evil; they finance and facilitate a contemporary one. Engaging in appalling historical speculation about past evil is bad; paying for a present evil as they do is worse.

It is rich that after slapping Benedict's hand over Williamson they would tumble over themselves to kiss it on Wednesday. To its credit, the Vatican denied them a photo-op, though quickly after the meeting Pelosi cranked up the PC wind machine to spin it as constructive.

"It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, today. In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church's leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father's dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel. I was proud to show His Holiness a photograph of my family's papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren."

Global warming? The last time I recall Benedict broaching the subject of global warming he pointedly observed that environmentalists need a "human ecology" with which to stop killing unborn babies.

The Vatican's post-meeting description was diplomatically devastating in its clinical tone: "His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development."

In January pro-abortion Catholic Democrats angrily asked if the Vatican would force Williamson to recant. This month the Pope in effect asked them if they will. Will Pelosi, DeLauro, and company disavow their views? Or will they continue to rationalize, minimize and revise the massive, ongoing holocaust of unborn human life?

- George Neumayr is editor of Catholic World Report and press critic for California Political Review.

Wilders Coming to America

By Robert Spencer
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, centre, seen at Heathrow Airport, London, after being banned from entering the country, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009. (AP)

A now, a word from Snoozeweek.

Bob Dylan: "Mavis, I've had the blues."

Mavis Staples: "Oh, Bobby, don't tell me you got the blues."

Bob Dylan: "Yeah, I've been up all night, laying in bed, having insomnia, reading Snoozeweek."

Mavis Staples: "Snoozeweek? That ain't gonna get rid of no blues. Let's do some singing. Sing about it, you know..."

-- Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples, "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking," 2003

Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff would have served everyone better by singing about it, you know, rather than turning in this pseudo-journalistic piece of propaganda.

"The Flying Dutchman: Free-speech hero or an anti-Islamic publicity hound? Geert Wilders is coming to America," by Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff in Newsweek, February 17 (thanks to Weasel Zippers):

A member of the Dutch Parliament who was banned last week from entering the United Kingdom because of his inflammatory anti-Islamic views is about to be welcomed to the United States by some notable conservatives.

Note the implication: "inflammatory anti-Islamic views" are just fine with "some notable conservatives." The possibility that what Wilders has said is accurate, and that it is only characterized as inflammatory by those who want to silence free discussion of the motives and goals of jihad terrorists, doesn't enter the minds of Hosenball and Isikoff.

Geert Wilders—who has publicly compared the Koran to "Mein Kampf"—is scheduled to make public appearances in Washington next week, including a Feb. 27 press conference at the National Press Club. Wilders is seeking to promote his movie "Fitna," an incendiary short documentary film that depicts Islam as a religion of terrorists.

"Inflammatory" and now "incendiary." So much for objective reporting at Snoozeweek. Anyway, here yet again, it is not Fitna that "depicts Islam as a religion of terrorists." It is the jihad terrorists themselves -- their own words are in the film, using Islamic texts and teachings to incite Muslims to violence. Wilders is simply reporting on this. This crucial and all-important distinction continues, for some reason, to elude most commentators, and it certainly eludes Hosenball and Isikoff.

The chief sponsor of Wilders's National Press Club event is Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration Pentagon official who now runs the Center for Security Policy, a prominent neoconservative think tank. Others who hope to meet with Wilders include David Horowitz, a well-known conservative activist who promotes campaigns to fight Islamic extremism.

Note the use of the scare word "neoconservative."

But Wilders's U.S. tour seems to be testing the limits of free speech even among hard-core conservatives. Some seem to be keeping their distance—apparently fearful of associating with a right-wing political figure widely seen in Europe as a dangerous extremist and self-promoter. The organizers of next week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington—a splashy gathering with prominent speakers like GOP Chair Michael Steele and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee—have yet to decide whether Wilders will be welcome to speak.

"Some seem to be keeping their distance—apparently fearful of associating with a right-wing political figure widely seen in Europe as a dangerous extremist and self-promoter." Or apparently fearful of upsetting the Norquistian Islam-Is-A-Religion-of-Peace orthodoxy that prevails at CPAC and elsewhere among conservatives, and prevents all too many from coming to a full understanding of the jihad threat and how it must be confronted.

"People are afraid to deal with him and the issue [of Islamic extremism] in general," said Robert Spencer, who runs a blog called Jihadwatch. Horowitz said he was disappointed that Wilders—or somebody allied with his cause—had not been booked on a panel at the CPAC meeting. "How is it possible that a conservative conference does not have a single panel on the threat from radical Islam?" he complained to NEWSWEEK.

I don't have a tape of my conversation with Hosenball, but of course I didn't say "Islamic extremism," and at least Hosenball and Isikoff were kind enough to put this in brackets. In reality I said something like "the global Islamic jihad," but that was too much for Snoozeweek.

David Keene, the president of The American Conservative Union and an organizer of the conference, at first told NEWSWEEK that he could not accommodate Wilders because all the speaking slots were booked. But after conferring with Gaffney over the weekend, he said he would seek to find time for a brief presentation. "If we can free up five or 10 minutes, we'll see if we can let him speak," Keene said....

Five or ten minutes for the foremost exponent of free speech in our time, when it is under threat as never before. Keene's, or someone's, priorities are seriously out of order. Wilders should be front and center at CPAC, and the defense of free speech its central theme.

As an example of what he sees as the timidity of conservatives, Spencer—who wrote a book called "The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion"—said that an article he recently coauthored with Wilders was turned down by a number of conservative publications before it was eventually posted on National Review's Web site.
Spencer said it's not that conservatives are afraid of being targeted by Islamic extremists. Instead, he contended they were fearful of being accused of being anti-Islamic or racist for associating in any way with the Dutch lawmaker.

Indeed, because Islamic advocacy groups in the West constantly portray the opposition to the jihad as a racial issue, when in reality race has nothing to do with it. Opposition to a belief system and ideology that would extinguish freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the equality of rights of women and non-Muslims is not racist.

But all that, of course, completely eludes Hosenball and Isikoff:

That is not an unreasonable fear given Wilders's history. The leader of a right-wing Dutch political faction called the Party for Freedom, Wilders has transformed himself into a political performance artist, pursuing a high-profile, high-risk personal crusade against what he asserts are deeply rooted violent tendencies in Islam. When Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker (and descendant of the painter) was murdered by an Islamic extremist in 2004, Wilder used the crime to rail against Islam and Muslim immigrants. He received death threats and claims he was forced to go underground, and once even sought temporary refuge in a jail cell.

He "claims" he was forced to go underground. I have met Wilders on several occasions, and never was he unaccompanied by a squad of bodyguards. Perhaps Hosenball and Isikoff would say he just "claims" they are bodyguards, and that Theo van Gogh only "claims" to have been murdered by an Islamic jihadist?

Two conservative British politicians had invited Wilders to screen his "Fitna" film last week at Britain's House of Lords. But before he departed for Britain, he received a letter from British immigration authorities advising him that the Home Secretary, Britain's internal affairs minister, had banned him from entering the U.K. on the grounds that his presence "would pose a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to ... community harmony and therefore public security in the U.K."

No mention, of course, of the veiled threats issued by Lord Ahmed. The British government was cravenly caving in to the prospect of violence from Muslims if Wilders entered the country, instead of standing up to them and declaring that the public order would be preserved. But unsurprisingly, Hosenball and Isikoff don't see any cowardice there at all.

Despite the letter, Wilders flew into London's Heathrow Airport last Thursday—accompanied by a group of journalists he'd apparently tipped off

Cheap shot. The letter from the British authorities was public on an international scale before Wilders flew to Heathrow. No journalists worth their salt needed to be tipped off.

—only to be turned away. He was put on the next plane back to Holland. His rejected efforts to enter the United Kingdom—along with the threats against his life—have prompted some conservatives to champion Wilders as a martyr for free speech. Italic

But critics say it is the height of irony, if not hypocrisy, for Wilders to present himself as a champion of free speech given that he has openly called for banning the Koran.

In reality, there is no irony or hypocrisy involved in this at all. Wilders was merely calling for consistency in the application of Dutch laws that restrict speech that incites to violence, but which have never been applied to the Qur'an or to the hate-filled imams who preach jihad and Islamic supremacism in obedience to Qur'anic dictates. Full explanation here.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, the writer Ian Buruma, who wrote a book about the Theo van Gogh case, said that Wilders has brought much of his trouble on himself by crossing the line from criticizing the radical elements within Islam to insulting one of the world's largest faiths. "If Mr. Wilders were to confine his remarks to those Muslims who do harm freedom of speech by using violence against critics and apostates, he would have a valid point," Buruma wrote. "Mr. Wilders, however, refuses to make such fine distinctions. He believes that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim."

Wilders: "I have a problem with Islamic tradition, culture, ideology. Not with Muslim people."

Buruma's recommendation: Rather than hailing Wilders as a courageous free-speech champion, or prosecuting him (as a Dutch court recently threatened to do), the best approach is far simpler: Ignore him.

Sure. Just ignore the jihadist assault on free speech, and it will go away.

- Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.

Related Link:

View the short film "Fitna" by clicking on the link below.

Drowning by Fire Hose

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Thursday, February 19, 2009; A15

"Suppose my neighbor's home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose. . . . I don't say to him . . . 'Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15 . . .' "

-- Franklin Roosevelt, Dec. 17, 1940, news conference, discussing lend-lease

"When the town is burning, you don't check party labels. Everybody needs to grab a hose."

-- Barack Obama, Feb. 10, 2009

FDR's analogies, like his policies, are being recycled. As money gushes from Washington like water from a fire hose, consider how bailout promiscuity is coloring politics at all levels.

Brian Tierney is CEO of Philadelphia Media Holdings, which publishes Philadelphia's Inquirer and Daily News and has missed loan payments since June. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's spokesman says Tierney has had "a number of conversations" with Rendell about receiving state money that "could come from a number of revenue streams."

The Wall Street Journal designated this "the worst bailout idea so far" and "nuts in eight different ways," noting that the investors Tierney led in purchasing the two newspapers put up only 20 percent in equity, making them typical of "Americans who borrowed too heavily during the credit mania." In response to Rendell's spokesman saying that newspapers are "the lifeblood of democracy," the Journal said "newspapers aren't the lifeblood of anything if they are merely an adjunct of the state" and are "dependent on the politicians [they are] supposed to cover."

In a remarkably maladroit letter to the Journal, Tierney said "the overwhelming majority of our employees" -- truck drivers, advertising salespeople, etc. -- whose jobs would be saved by government money "have no influence on the editorial content" of the papers. So: Even if the papers' survival, and therefore the jobs of reporters and editorial writers, would depend on the government's good will, the papers would remain independent because reporters and editorialists are a minority of the papers' employees. Good grief.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat, practiced law for three years, then entered elective office at 29 and has never left, so when he speaks about a world larger than a legislature, and about entities more enmeshed in life's grinding imperatives, he says strange things. Objecting to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler opposing more severe fuel-economy and emissions standards, he says: "They have not yet stopped being controlled by their own self-interest."

There is something piquant about a congressman summoning others up from self-interestedness, and it is mysterious whose interests, other than those of their shareholders, corporations are supposed to be controlled by. And although Waxman seems to concede that more stringent standards would injure the companies' interests, he supports those standards, as he supported giving billions of taxpayers' dollars to preserve the companies. He surely will support the next installment of auto subsidies, which, like the previous installment, will not be the last installment. In last year's second quarter, GM lost $118,000 a minute, and the next plan for its salvation until the next crisis will require more government money to prevent bankruptcy, which would require more government money.

Talk about trillions of dollars has become so commonplace that billions seem minuscule -- even though a billion minutes ago Plutarch (46-120 A.D.) was alive -- and it is hardly worth mentioning mere millions, such as the $50 million for stimulus through the National Endowment for the Arts. But those millions elated Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Arts Caucus: "If we're trying to stimulate the economy and get money into the Treasury, nothing does that better than art."
Nothing? Is Slaughter correct about what we're trying to do? Is the point of the government's stimulus spending to get more money into the government -- "into the Treasury"? She is not the first politician to desire prosperity for the people so that they could be more bountiful taxpayers.

"Never," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said when voting against the stimulus, "have so few spent so much so quickly to do so little." Three of his contentions are correct. The $787 billion price tag is probably at least two-thirds too low: Add the cost of borrowing to finance it, and allow for the certainty that many "temporary" programs will become permanent, and the price soars far above $2 trillion.

But Cole's last contention is wrong. The stimulus, which the Congressional Budget Office says will, over the next 10 years, reduce GDP by crowding out private investment, already is doing a lot by fostering cynicism in the service of opportunism.

A-Rod's tale another hit on baseball

The state of today's game has little or nothing to do with anyone's numbers, only everything to do with the game's soul.

Thursday, February 19, 2009
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Some days it's hard to decide which is most unnerving -- the continuing stupidity of Alex Rodriguez, the range of nonsensical reactions by sensible people to the mess he's in, or the hopelessness baseball has to feel at its inability to crawl away from an ever-widening scandal.

Tuesday was such a day.

Maybe it was because Monday I'd gotten an e-mail from noted Pitt historian Rob Ruck, a senior lecturer and an expert on multi-culturalism in baseball, suggesting that the game might need a truth commission "a la South Africa post-apartheid or Latin American nations emerging from their bouts of torture and repression. If nothing else, getting it all out in the open and allowing the scoundrels (of whom there are many in every part of the union and league) to confront reality and admit their culpability might allow us to move on."

Then, he added, "Yeah, probably not."

Rodriguez, in the center ring of another quasi-annual Yankees confession circus, said an unidentified cousin injected him with something called "boli" over the course of three years, which was a wildly different story than the one he spoon-fed Peter Gammons last week, when he tried to characterize his steroid use as the result of perhaps a lack of concentration while shopping at GNC.

"All these years," he said Tuesday, "I never thought I did anything wrong."
A bald-faced lie.

And then this staggering dissemble, in response to the simple question of whether he thought he cheated.

"That's not for me to determine."

Good thing.

Confounding and aggravating as Rodriguez is, some of the attempts to put his now clearly tainted accomplishments into some kind of historical context are even worse.

Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams expressed a common interpretation the other day to

"Each era has its baggage of inclusion or exclusion," Williams said in what described as the philosophical high ground. "You go back to the days of Ruth and all those guys in the Hall of Fame from that period, and well, they weren't playing against black players. So, one could argue that those numbers are inflated. They weren't artificially inflated by substance, but they are inflated."

That's the philosophical high ground? Positing that Ruth would not have hit 714 homers if he'd had to face Smokey Joe Williams once in a while and that, by extension, A-Fraud's injections and resultant inflations therefore don't seem so grotesque?

What do Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson have to do with Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire? To begin with, nothing. Paige and Gibson weren't cheaters.

"I don't think you pull down the pre-1947 players and throw them in with the steroid era," said Ruck, who's at work on a new book about what baseball's integration meant to black America and the Caribbean nations.

"I'm not a big believer in stats in baseball as some sort of universal standard that allows us to compare players of different eras. There are too many variables. There's the dead-ball era. The live-ball era. Corked bats. Uncorked bats. Bandbox ballparks vs. Candlestick Park. The addition of multiple purpose relief pitchers. There are just too many contradictions.

"While I think that one can make the argument that Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak would have probably been less likely were he facing Bullet Rogan and Satchel Paige, you don't draw parallels from there to Bonds and McGwire; they're a separate problem."

Ruth's numbers, as a separate problem, were as much deflated by his own excesses as inflated by the absence of black players. It is perhaps impolitic to suggest that Josh Gibson wouldn't have hit as many homers had he had to face Bob Feller, but the position that were Major League Baseball open to blacks from its beginnings Ruth would have been something other than Ruth remains highly dubious, or at least hinges on a dubious premise.

"There was certainly a cohort of black players in the '20s and '30s -- Smokey Joe Williams, Oscar Charleston, John Henry Lloyd -- those who would earn induction into the Hall of Fame, who were really outstanding and who did play against major league players in barnstorming exhibitions in the Caribbean. The records we have in place would certainly indicate that they were as good as the top major leaguers.

"What that says about the average Negro Leaguer vs. the average Major Leaguer is a different story. I suspect it takes more practice and training and skill to play baseball so that you need training and infrastructure and leisure time to develop muscle memory, all things that would have been working against black players."

Whether we're in the pre- or post- or smack dab middle of the steroid era, the pre-Jackie Robinson game has no place in this discussion. The state of today's game has little or nothing to do with anyone's numbers, only everything to do with the game's soul.

"Major League Baseball has really created a terrible dilemma for itself," Ruck said. "And it doesn't seem to be able to resolve it."

Too true. As long as the game is administered and populated by the people who made this mess, it can't be cleaned up.

Gene Collier can be reached at or 412-263-1283. More articles by this author
First published on February 19, 2009 at 12:00 am

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Headless Body in Legless Story

[Mark Steyn]
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kathryn (Lopez), that self-pitying imam is part of a now familiar pattern: Pay no attention to that dead body; the real victim here is Islam.

Beheaded woman in Buffalo? "Shocked friend says murder damages Islam's image."

Hindus, Jews and Christians massacred in Bombay? "The recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India highlight the dangerously vulnerable situation of India’s Muslims."

But enough about all these corpses: Let's talk about me.

Yet we never do. Jonah Goldberg writes today about the reluctance of journalists (a profession that congratulates itself on its "bravery" and "courage" far more than, say, firemen do) to speak truth to politically correct power — or, as I put it in my testimony in Toronto last week, their willingness to serve as eunuchs to the PC sultans.

Oddly enough, the one story that did decline to take spokesimams at face value came from, of all people, The Toronto Star's reporter:

Aasiya Hassan recently filed for divorce, authorities said. According to Buffalo News reports, she obtained an order of protection on Feb. 6, barring her husband from their home in Orchard Park.

Under sharia law followed by Muslims, a woman can ask for a divorce, but only a man can grant the request, and he can refuse, according to a book on sharia published last month, Cruel and Usual Punishment, by Egyptian-born American author Nonie Darwish.

Under Islamic law, crimes such as apostasy (leaving Islam), adultery, theft or drinking alcohol are punishable by beheading, stoning, amputation of limbs or flogging, the book says.

As a Canadian reader wrote: "Wow. Someone at the Star hasn't been reading the employee handbook."

But that's the point. Spousal murder is not unusual. Beheading your wife is. If Muzzammil Hassan decapitated his as an Islamic ritual, then his entire professional life — Mister Moderate Muslim — was a lie. In other words, it would be the work of moments for even the laziest hack to work up exactly the same "hypocrisy" angle that the press stampede after when some evangelical preacher turns out to have a thing for fetching young rent boys.

As I noted at the weekend, when Mr. Hassan launched his Bridges TV station to counter "negative stereotypes" of Muslims, he got the traditional tongue baths from NBC's Brian Williams, NPR's "All Things Considered" et al - even though the station was entirely unwatched. Don't they have a responsibility to revisit the story now that it's got a little more complicated - or, as old-school editors would say, "newsworthy" - than the press releases they read out a couple of years back?

From The Chicago Tribune, November 30th 2004:

Although many may welcome the channel as a vital voice missing from the mainstream media, scholars say it must transcend a number of obstacles to survive.

John Voll, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, said some audiences might have a hard time accepting Islam and modernity in the same package, which is exactly what the network hopes to demonstrate.

Not as hard a time as Mr. Hassan had reconciling Islam and modernity.
From NBC Nightly News, December 9th 2004:

[REPORTER RON] ALLEN: It's the brainchild of Aasiya Zubair, an architect, and her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, a banker, who are disturbed that negative images of Muslims seem to dominate TV, especially since 9/11.

Ms. AASIYA ZUBAIR: I did not want my kids growing up to watch Muslims being portrayed as terrorists.

No, indeed. Instead, it's their father who turned out to be the terrorist — no different from the London School of Economics-educated British subject behind the beheading of Daniel Pearl.

That's what makes this a story rather than one family's tragedy. If you're not intrigued by the apparent fraud at the heart of this man's life and work — a fraud in which the U.S. media cheerfully colluded — you lack the elementary curiosity necessary to be a journalist.

02/18 10:01 AM

Gore's Global Warming Riff Keeps Melting

By Christopher C. Horner
Posted 02/18/2009 ET

What a strange week. First, we saw what just might be an official transformation of the institution of science into a bordello, as its constituent members cheered on proven nonsense about “global warming.” Then the American Association for the Advancement of Science applauded alarmist-in-chief Al “there is no debate” Gore for admitting to them that this non-existent debate needs their help. Topping it all off was former president Bill Clinton, refusing to be outdone, expressing concern that we might actually come back from our economic woes, which would only cause global warming.

As the news reports came in last weekend, I was embarrassed for the lab-coat set, manifesting how they have completely sold out in the name of a taxpayer-funded gravy train. Reporters told us of their feverish approval at being told that, when it comes to their own personal bailout -- catastrophic man-made global warming theory -- things are even worse than we thought. Whether that’s “again” or “still” wasn’t clear, but this lecture by an otherwise respected scientist prompted headlines like this from Reuters: “Global warming seen worse than predicted.”

What did this mean, with the world cooling over more in the past decade while more and more of the (marginal) greenhouse gas carbon dioxide was released?

Turns out that, given such inconvenient observations, it meant “global warming” no longer really has anything to do with temperature. You can prove global warming instead by pointing to emissions from energy use (a proxy for population and economic activity). In slightly confused fashion, the alarmists have cut out the middleman, and energy use is now formally the demon.

The global warming campaign now goes a little something like this:

“The earth’s warming.”

“Well, no, actually it’s not anymore; that only lasted two decades.”

“But emissions are up!”

“Uh… But it’s cooling.”

“Why, it’s even worse than we thought!”

At this point, Lou Costello shouts, “Third Base!”

The audience for this strange turn of events was a meeting of (seriously) the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, in (of course) San Francisco. Just to leave no doubt about their endorsement of moonbattery, AAAS also hosted Al Gore to spout the most amazing anti-scientific bilge and, instead of challenging it, issued a press release touting the claims.

Apparently, the now more than $7 billion being poured this year into various Big Science, Big Academia and rent-seeking industry coffers is just too much confiscated taxpayer wealth to resist. Our educated class roared in support of Al Gore rehashing the same Inconvenient Truth logic that was thrown out of court in the UK -- something severe happened somewhere on the planet several times in recent years, which just proves global warming.

Now, Al Gore making things up is not newsworthy, even if his tales continue to be reported as reality. What was notable was how Gore was so obviously frustrated that the recent $300 million infusion given him by George Soros and …well, Gore’s not saying… to re-brand global warming as “the climate crisis” isn’t working. He also admonished the apparently too-passive global warming establishment, “Keep your day jobs, but get involved in the debate.”

Debate? It’s satisfying to see Gore edging closer to this planet we call Earth.
If he keeps this up, he might pass his former partner, Bill Clinton, who is headed out into the Gore-zone. Clinton apparently feels he did not garner sufficient attention with his call last year that “[w]e just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ‘cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.”

Simply declaring victory on that economy part and, er, “moving on” wasn’t an option. Now, despite our having slowed down the economy as he demanded, the State Department’s newest roving ambassador of whatever relations told the “Today” show on Monday of his fears that the economy will in fact recover, and, as a result, “the climate will crater and we won’t be able to preserve civilization.”

If talk of “climate cratering” is confusing and spending vastly more on “climate”-related research than, say, AIDS seems a bit disproportionate to you, remember, there are signs that things really are serious. After all, given that the House had to rush through a vote on a bill no one had read because Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to be on time for her flight to Rome, it seems that even she has now taken to flying commercial. But did she buy a carbon-offset to compensate the globe for her trip?

Mr. Horner is author of "Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed."