Archive for September, 2006
28 Sep 2006

Idomeneo and the Moors

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People in Savannah commonly point out that Sherman burned Atlanta, which proves there’s good in everybody.

The recent frequency of angry Islamic mobs pouring into the streets, mullahs making death threats, and hirsute ruffians demanding apologies has made Islamic rage awfully tiresome, but at least in the case of Berlin’s Deutsche Oper production of Idomeneo by vandalizing Opernregisseur Hans Neuenfels, they may be on to something.

One can tolerate anachronistic settings and surrealistic stagings, but if some blithering nincompoop transmogrifies an opera’s plot into the precise opposite of the original’s, I feel a modicum of intolerance myself, my own hand itches for a sharp Khyberee.

When today’s liberal cultural elite want to praise one of their favorite pieces of artistic bogosity, they usually apply terms like “transgressive” and “courageous.” It is instructive to observe how rapidly artistic “courage” vanishes and “transgression” retreats, when the whiff of an actual threat is in the air.

Time reports:

Neuenfels’ production, first staged in 2003, is intended to be a symbolic gesture about the dangers of fanaticism. Although the production caused barely a ripple, except to impress the critics in its earlier showings, the climate has changed since then.

In July, Germany’s state police in Wiesbaden said they received an anonymous telephone call from a woman expressing concern that the opera, due to be staged this fall, could offend Muslim sensibilities. A subsequent study by Berlin police found that it could not “exclude the possibility” that something bad would happen, noting that decapitation could be associated with the videos distributed by militant terrorists. Berlin senator, Erhart Körting telephoned the Deutsche Oper’s artistic director Kirsten Harms to recommend that she cancel the show because he did not want harm to come to the opera house. Harms agreed, hastily convening a press conference this week in the cavernous lobby of the modernist Deutsche Oper to announce that future performances would pose “incalculable risks” to the public.

Today, Germany’s Chancellor and Interior Minister, and Berlin’s mayor are all decrying the surrender, and demanding the production’s restoration to the Berlin Opera’s schedule. It will be interesting to see just how long their courage lasts. And it’s a such a pity that the object eliciting the uncharacteristic display of European backbone is not something more worthy of defense.

28 Sep 2006

Nominate Monica

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Andy Borowitz imagines a colorful twist in the race for the 2008 democrat nomination: “A Blue Dress for the Blue States.”

In a development that could drastically alter the playing field of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, former White House intern Monica Lewinsky confirmed today that she was considering making a bid for the Democratic nod in 2008.

According to those familiar with her political plans, Lewinsky plans to offer herself as an alternative to the presumptive frontrunner in the race, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Rumors of Lewinsky’s intentions spread like wildfire this week, when the erstwhile intern made a series of stops in New Hampshire, location of the nation’s first presidential primary.

Wearing a midnight blue cocktail dress, Lewinsky drew large crowds across the state, suggesting that she could be a real threat to Clinton in a head-to-head race.

“Voters are worn out from George Bush, Iraq and the war on terror,” said Democratic voter Jayson Tenzer, who attended one of Lewinsky’s New Hampshire rallies. “Monica Lewinsky means good times.”

According to Professor Davis Logsdon of the political science department at the University of Minnesota, offering herself as an alternative to Sen. Clinton could be a successful strategy for Lewinsky: “It’s worked before.”

And while some Democratic insiders worry that Lewinsky lacks the political know-how to be president of the United States, Professor Logsdon does not share those concerns: “Monica Lewinsky has actually had more experience in the Oval Office than Hillary Clinton has.”

Elsewhere, one day after President Hugo Chavez appeared at the United Nations and called him “Satan,” President Bush said, “I think he has me mixed up with Cheney.”

27 Sep 2006

Exactly How Stupid Can You Get?

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The House of Representatives, in a moronic 394-22 vote, inserted into the annual Defense Spending Bill a ridiculous feel-good clause forbidding the construction of permanent US bases in Iraq, and stipulating that all facilities under construction will be handed over to the Iraq Government.

What with Iran functioning as a principal sponsor of terrorism, and well on the way to acquiring nuclear weapons, who could possibly have any legitimate use for a permanent US base on Iraqi soil? All our effort and sacrifices and expenditures in Iraq really should be looked upon as a completely disinterested, no-strings-attached gift to a bunch of bigoted primitives who hate our guts, and desire our Civilization’s conquest. We defeated them in battle twice. The least we could do is spend a few trillion dollars, rebuild their infrastructure, replace their home-grown dictator with a democratic government, hand them a bunch of flowers, and walk away. It’s only right. Why should we get anything useful out of any of this?

If today’s morons were running the country during WWII, I’d be writing this in Japanese ideograms.

LA Times story.

27 Sep 2006

Athens and Jerusalem

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Lee Harris, in the Weekly Standard, interprets the Pope’s recent speech (which so thoroughly upset the Saracens) as a message to the modern rationalist secular community of the West.

To the modern atheist, both (the Christian and the Islamic) Gods are equally figments of the imagination, in which case it would be ludicrous to discuss their relative merits. The proponent of modern reason, therefore, could not possibly think of participating in a dialogue on whether Christianity or Islam is the more reasonable religion, since, for him, the very notion of a “reasonable religion” is a contradiction in terms.

Ratzinger wishes to challenge this notion, not from the point of view of a committed Christian, but from the point of view of modern reason itself. He does this by calling his educated listeners’ attention to a “dialogue–carried on–perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara–by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.” In particular, Ratzinger focuses on a passage in the dialogue where the emperor “addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness” on the “central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'”

Ratzinger’s daring use of this provocative quotation was not designed to inflame Muslims. He was using the emperor’s question in order to offer a profound challenge to modern reason from within. Can modern reason really stand on the sidelines of a clash between a religion that commands jihad and a religion that forbids violent conversion? Can a committed atheist avoid taking the side of Manuel II Paleologus when he says: “God is not pleased by blood–and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. . . . Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats. . . . To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.”

Modern science cannot tell us that the emperor is right in his controversy with the learned Persian over what is or is not contrary to God’s nature. Modern reason proclaims such questions unanswerable by science–and it is right to do so. But can modern reason hope to survive as reason at all if it insists on reducing the domain of reasonable inquiry to the sphere of scientific inquiry? If modern reason cannot take the side of the emperor in this debate, if it cannot see that his religion is more reasonable than the religion of those who preach and practice jihad, if it cannot condemn as unreasonable a religion that forces atheists and unbelievers to make a choice between their intellectual integrity and death, then modern reason may be modern, but it has ceased to be reason.

Hat tip to Frank Dobbs.

27 Sep 2006

Sensible Comments on Global Warming

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Senator James M. Inhofe (R-OK) delivered a remarkable speech on Monday on the subject of the popular Global Warming delusion.

As the senator who has spent more time speaking about the facts regarding global warming, I want to address some of the recent media coverage of global warming and Hollywood’s involvement in the issue. And of course I will also discuss former Vice President Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Since 1895, the media has alternated between global cooling and warming scares during four separate and sometimes overlapping time periods. From 1895 until the 1930’s the media peddled a coming ice age.

From the late 1920’s until the 1960’s they warned of global warming. From the 1950’s until the 1970’s they warned us again of a coming ice age. This makes modern global warming the fourth estate’s fourth attempt to promote opposing climate change fears during the last 100 years.

Recently, advocates of alarmism have grown increasingly desperate to try to convince the public that global warming is the greatest moral issue of our generation. Just last week, the vice president of London’s Royal Society sent a chilling letter to the media encouraging them to stifle the voices of scientists skeptical of climate alarmism.

During the past year, the American people have been served up an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media and entertainment industry, which link every possible weather event to global warming. The year 2006 saw many major organs of the media dismiss any pretense of balance and objectivity on climate change coverage and instead crossed squarely into global warming advocacy….

The media have missed the big pieces of the puzzle when it comes to the Earth’s temperatures and mankind’s carbon dioxide (C02) emissions. It is very simplistic to feign horror and say the one degree Fahrenheit temperature increase during the 20th century means we are all doomed. First of all, the one degree Fahrenheit rise coincided with the greatest advancement of living standards, life expectancy, food production and human health in the history of our planet. So it is hard to argue that the global warming we experienced in the 20th century was somehow negative or part of a catastrophic trend.

Second, what the climate alarmists and their advocates in the media have continued to ignore is the fact that the Little Ice Age, which resulted in harsh winters which froze New York Harbor and caused untold deaths, ended about 1850. So trying to prove man-made global warming by comparing the well-known fact that today’s temperatures are warmer than during the Little Ice Age is akin to comparing summer to winter to show a catastrophic temperature trend.

In addition, something that the media almost never addresses are the holes in the theory that C02 has been the driving force in global warming. Alarmists fail to adequately explain why temperatures began warming at the end of the Little Ice Age in about 1850, long before man-made CO2 emissions could have impacted the climate. Then about 1940, just as man-made CO2 emissions rose sharply, the temperatures began a decline that lasted until the 1970’s, prompting the media and many scientists to fear a coming ice age. Let me repeat, temperatures got colder after C02 emissions exploded. If C02 is the driving force of global climate change, why do so many in the media ignore the many skeptical scientists who cite these rather obvious inconvenient truths?

Read the whole thing.

Senator Inhofe mentions a letter sent last April by 60 prominent scientists to the Candian Prime Minister, warning the real evidence does not support the drastic theories commonly being advanced.

How often does anything this sensible or illuminating come out of the US Senate?

27 Sep 2006

EU Rules Britain Must Pay Traitor (for Violating His Human Rights!)

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The Telegraph today contains an item featuring European Union Pecksniffery at its worst.

A band of seven well-grown judicial imbeciles, sitting in Strasbourg, has ruled that “the law’s delay” in attending to the efforts of Mr. (excuse me, former KGB, now SVR Colonel of Foreign Intelligence) George Blake, convicted traitor, prison escapee, and resident (since 1966) of Moscow, to reclaim frozen royalties to his autobiography on Britain’s part had breached the EU’s Human Rights Convention. The EU judges concluded that Blake suffered distress and frustration thereby, and ordered Britain to pay him âu201a¬5,000 in damages and âu201a¬2,000 in costs.

The dozens? of MI6 agents betrayed by Blake (he was rumored to have received an unprecedentedly severe 42 years sentence, representing one year for every agent killed as the result of his treachery) were not compensated.

27 Sep 2006

Rival Candidate for World’s Greatest Driving Road

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Rich (in a comment) proposes the Dragon (near the Tennessee-North Carolina state border) which has 318 turns in 11 miles.

Nearby motorcycle resort.

map

26 Sep 2006

From My College Class List, 2

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One of my liberal classmates cited that reptile John Dean’s new book Conservatives Without a Conscience. Dean repeats the ancient liberal wheeze of supposedly identifying conservatives as dangerous paranoids, in this case citing Robert Altemeyer:

“No question hovered at the front of my mind more, reading through Altemeyer’s studies of authoritarian behavior, that, why are right-wingers often malicious, mean-spirited, and disrespectful of even the basic codes of civility? While the radical left has had its episodes of boorishness, the right has taken these tactics to an
unprecedented level. Social science has discovered these forms of behavior can be rather easily explained as a form of aggression.

Altemeyer discovered that the aggression of right-wingers seems to be not merely instrumental-that is, expressed for some political purpose-but engaged in for the pure pleasure of it.. Torture is an extreme example, yet apparently authoritarians can find even that enjoyable, as the Abu Ghraib photos tragically illustrate. But on a more pedestrian level, he found it difficult for most right-wingers to talk about any subject about which they felt strongly without attacking others. Right-wing authoritarians, as we have seen, are motivated by their fear of a dangerous world, whereas social dominators have an ever-present desire to dominate. The factor that makes Right-wingers faster than most people to attack others, and that seems to keep them living in an ‘attack mode,’ is their remarkable self-righteousness. They are so sure they are not only right, but holy and pure, that they are bursting with indignation and a desire to smite down their enemies, Altemeyer explained.

To which, I replied:

Authoritarian, baloney. More idiotic left-wing self-abuse consisting of the application of paranoid moonbat fantasy to domestic political opponents. If George W. Bush had a turban and beard, lived overseas, and was actively conspiring to blow you to Kingdom Come, you’d be telling us how he has legitimate grievances, is too commonly misunderstood, amd must above all be conciliated.

The current conflict is between responsible adults who believe in taking steps to protect the population of the United States from terrorist attacks on mass population centers, and a pathetic collection of opportunistic pols, old lady do-gooders, head-in-the-clouds moralizers, Utopian pacifists, sissies, and the perennially in-protest.

Torture? The list of alleged coercive techniques runs from keeping bad guys awake and making them stand in the corner to a few slaps. If those things are torture, just about all of us have been tortured. Circumstances have more than once caused me to stay awake for days. Children were commonly punished in my day by being forced to stand for uncomfortably long intervals. And even I have been slapped around a few times. More than once, in my boyhood, older and stronger and more numerous villains pinioned my arms, and slapped my face back and forth, attempting to persuade me to submit formally. It wasn’t so terrible being slapped in the face as all that, and I found it entirely possible to continue to resist.

The only technique actually provoking alarm is waterboarding, which seems alarming only in terms of its “rosy-fingered dawn” invariably-quoted description: “The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.”

I was thinking about this recently, and I began to wonder. It certainly sounds disagreeable to be tied to a board with one’s head lower than one’s feet. Obviously no one wants cellophane wrapped around one’s face. But if it is wrapped around one’s face, why does water poured over your head, which you don’t feel on your skin anyway, make you gag? What if you resolve not to gag? What if you do yoga breath-control? How do you breathe with the cellophane anyway? I don’t know how accurate that description really is. Perhaps water-boarding is not entirely everything it’s cracked up to be.

But supposing it is really awful, just like drowning, to be water-boarded? They waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who sawed off the American journalist Daniel Pearl’s head with a knife. I saw the video. Pearl screamed as the sawing commenced. I’m not easily perturbed, but that video gave me bad dreams. Frankly, I think waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammad would only represent at best a good start.

WARNING

Do not dowload and watch this video, unless you feel you must know the worst about the crimes of our adversaries. It is unspeakably ugly and horrifying. Avoid this, if you possibly can. This is absolutely not something women or young people should see.

The video of the murder of Daniel Pearl can be found here.

26 Sep 2006

Finding Daniel Pearl’s Body

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The London Times quotes Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf‘s account of how Pakistani authorities found Daniel Pearl‘s body and apprehended some of his killers, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is believed to have been Pearl’s actual executioner.

In May 2002 we arrested someone named Fazal Karim, a militant activist. When we interrogated him we discovered that he was involved in Pearl’s slaughter. He also told us that he knew where Pearl was buried.

He was asked how he knew. Chillingly, he said he knew because he had actually participated in the slaughter by holding one of Pearl’s legs. But he didn’t know the name of the person who had actually slit Pearl’s throat. All he could say is that this person was “Arab-looking”.

He led us to the small house in a neighbourhood in Karachi where Daniel Pearl had been held captive. He then took us to a plot of land near by and told us where he was buried. We exhumed the body and found it in ten badly decomposed pieces. Our doctors stitched the pieces back together as best as they could.

The man who may have actually killed Pearl or at least participated in his butchery, we eventually discovered, was none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, al-Qaeda’s No 3. When we later arrested and interrogated him, he admitted his participation.

26 Sep 2006

The Real National Intelligence Estimate

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In order to counter the Pouting Spooks’ weekend leak of highly selective excerpts of last Spring’s National Intelligence Estimate, obviously intended to provide a nice pre-election front page Sunday lead, President Bush will be declassifying key portions of the report.

The Wall Street Journal this morning argued that he ought to release the whole thing (with some reactions).

In the meantime, (the non-Pouting) Spook86 offers some details from the report contradicting the Sunday paper’s spin.

The quotes printed below–taken directly from the document and provided to this blogger–provide “the other side” of the estimate, and its more balanced assessment of where we stand in the War on Terror (comments in italics are mine).

In one of its early paragraphs, the estimate notes progress in the struggle against terrorism, stating the U.S.-led efforts have “seriously damaged Al Qaida leadership and disrupted its operations.” Didn’t see that in the NYT article.

Or how about this statement, which–in part–reflects the impact of increased pressure on the terrorists: “A large body of reporting indicates that people identifying themselves as jihadists is increasing…however, they are largely decentralized, lack a coherent strategy and are becoming more diffuse.” Hmm…doesn’t sound much like Al Qaida’s pre-9-11 game plan.

The report also notes the importance of the War in Iraq as a make or break point for the terrorists: “Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves to have failed, we judge that fewer will carry on the fight.” It’s called a ripple effect.

More support for the defeating the enemy on his home turf: “Threats to the U.S. are intrinsically linked to U.S. success or failure in Iraq.” President Bush and senior administration officials have made this argument many times–and it’s been consistently dismissed by the “experts” at the WaPo and Times.

And, some indication that the “growing” jihad may be pursuing the wrong course: “There is evidence that violent tactics are backfiring…their greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution (shar’a law) is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims.” Seems to contradict MSM accounts of a jihadist tsunami with ever-increasing support in the global Islamic community..

The estimate also affirms the wisdom of sowing democracy in the Middle East: “Progress toward pluralism and more responsive political systems in the Muslim world will eliminate many of the grievances jihadists exploit.” As I recall, this the core of our strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Quite a contrast to the “doom and gloom” scenario painted by the Times and the Post.

26 Sep 2006

Taliban Official Says Osama is Alive

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Reuters quotes a broadcast from Al-Aribiya Television which has received a report from an unnamed Taliban official responding to the French reports of Osama bin Laden’s death last August.

The official said bin Laden was alive and that reports that he is ill are not true,” said Bakr Atyani, Al Arabiya’s Islamabad correspondent. “The Taliban checked with members who are close to al Qaeda that these reports are baseless.”

Hat tip to PJM.

26 Sep 2006

World’s Greatest Driving Road

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Alistair Weaver says he has identified the greatest stretch of road for driving in the world.

The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the greatest driving road in the world. Stretching for 7.3 miles (11.75 km) and climbing nearly 4,000 feet, it boasts 60 corners and a surface so smooth that it would flatter a racetrack. It could easily be described as the eighth wonder of the world, but almost nothing is known about its creation.

The road is cut into the Jebel Hafeet mountain, the highest peak in the United Arab Emirates, the oil-rich Persian Gulf state. The mountain spans the border with Oman and lies about 90 minutes’ drive southeast of the thriving city of Dubai.

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