Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shorter David Warren

Article: Ape & Man

The recent maiming of a person by a chimp is more proof that evolution is a sham.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Call it what it is

The above poster is a cartoon. Whether or not a small boy holding a teddy bear, casting a shadow forming the word "Gaza" was ever fired upon by an Israeli helicopter is irrelevant.

The poster makes no claims about Jews, or even about Israelis. It presents the conflict, however, as the David-and-Goliath struggle that it is, where a high-tech, multi-billion dollar army of occupation, motivated by a religious-nationalist ideology, seeks to crush the life of the native population.

When two Canadian universities banned the above poster from appearing on their billboards, the argument of one of them was:

"A poster from the campus group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights has recently come to the attention of the Communications Office. All posters approved by the Communications Office must promote a campus culture where all members of the community can play a part in a declaration of human rights recognizing the inherent dignity and equal rights of all students. Consequently, we will not place this particular poster on our campus billboards."
In other words, because the poster was going to upset Zionists, it couldn't be displayed.

When the Muhammad cartoons were published in Canada, every wingnut came out of the woodwork to defend Ezra Levant. Despite my distaste for the man, I was with them, and not only because fining the man only increased his fame. When Geert Wilders produced his film "Fitna," I yawned, and wondered what the fuss was about. He has since become a hero amongst the usual anti-Islam types who style themselves "defenders of free speech."

Will they stand up for the artist in this case?

Don't hold your breath.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On Jewellery

To me, one of the great mysteries of human life is the phenomenon of jewellery. It is common to all societies that I know of (and, by extrapolation, probably a great many that I don't). From bracelets to nose-piercings, it is also an ancient custom. Some jewellery serves a ceremonial purpose, or serves as a formal indication of status; other jewellery is purely decorative, and indicative of nothing more than the tastes of the individual. In most cultures of the West, plus a couple of the East, a wedding ring is a sign that a man loves a woman enough to part with a substantial quantity of money.

Beyond, however, that particular ritual, I don't understand the compulsion of people to make, buy, or wear jewellery. Now, nobody needs a 48" plasma screen TV, but at the very least, you can watch TV on it, and one assumes that to whoever buys such a thing, the picture is worth it. What exactly can you do with a $400 necklace?

A gold Rolex watch glitters a bit more than a $30 RadioShack special (oh, for the days of RadioShack!), but it offers relatively little improvement in its accuracy, and at any rate, most people buying watches don't need to-the-millisecond timing. The Rolex might last a bit longer, but the cost probably doesn't justify it.

So what is the human attaction to things that glitter?

In some cases, it probably remains a sign of status, not unlike a Mercedes or a Rolls-Royce. The majority of people driving such cars do not need them, and the advantages likely do not outweigh those of a VW or a well-built Subaru. Still, they serve some function, they're useful, even if only slightly more so than other vehicles. What function does a platinum ring serve?

I can intellectualize and theorize about jewellery, but I'm not sure that I will ever truly understand the desire to own it, or to buy it, or to wear it. I suppose that in the end it is one of those things that must be experienced in order to be understood.

I certainly hope I never do.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, February 23, 2009

"all in 5 square kilometres"

From a conversation with a Gazan (who apparently follows this blog) that I had a few days ago, that seems to be stuck in my head:

"Gaza is not like the West Bank - in the West Bank, the Israelis can come into a town in a Jeep, with maybe 3 or 4 soldiers even walking along, arrest whoever they're interested in, and then leave. Nobody does anything about it. They would never dare try that in Gaza. Gaza is too well-armed. There are guns everywhere. The Gazans would fight. . .

". . . I was talking to an uncle of mine, and he said 'You know what? I've spent my whole life in 5 square kilometers. I was born, went to school, got married, got a job, all in 5 square kilometers. I've never left.' You have to wonder what that does to the society."

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, February 20, 2009

Shorter Diana West

Article: Win the "Trust" of People Who Hate Us? What?

Obama is devoting more troops to fighting the non-rational Afghan savages, when he oughtta be stopping the Moslems from coming over here.


Stumble Upon Toolbar


. . . if I can just make it one more day, maybe they'll stop talking about Obama.

Just one more day. . .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, February 16, 2009

So it's almost like a divorce

Except that it bears no resemblance to a divorce whatsoever.

From Ha'aretz's Elah Alkalay:

. . . The outcome of the elections indicates that Israelis view the "peace process" with the Palestinians as a divorce process. As their unwilling embrace was arranged by global forces, so apparently will be their separation. Think of it as severance of an arranged marriage, and the vote Israelis cast last week was for what they perceive as the roughest, toughest divorce lawyer in town.

In other words, the majority vote was cast for a leadership - the right wing - that the public thinks can end the relationship with the most assets for Israelis and preferably no alimony at all for the spouse. . .
Which sounds really great, until one stops and wonders what exactly this "divorce" will look like. For instance, will there still be settlers in the West Bank? If anyone on the Israeli right has their way, there must be.

Will the Palestinians have control of their water? 1/3 of Israel's water comes from the West Bank, so we can assume that the answer to that question is "no."

How about the Separation Fence/Apartheid Wall that snakes through the West Bank? Is it going anywhere? Don't hold your breath. Or how about the fence around Gaza? Will the crossings be opened? Probably, but only under Israeli control.

What about an army and an air force? Certainly the Palestinian "State" should at least have control over its own borders and air space! Certainly it should, but not if Netanyahu has anything to say about it.

What we are talking about here is, in the end, not a marital separation, because it lacks that characteristic that makes a "separation" what it is: separation. The two parties must, at a minimum, be able to go about their own lives without interruption from the other. In this case, the parties are under one another's skins, and there is no way that any Israeli administration that results from this election will be able to "divorce" them.

Absent a sea-change in Israeli politics, any "peace agreement" between Israel and the Palestinians will not resemble a "divorce." All that will follow is more domestic violence.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Recycled: "Manufactured Holidays"

For those of you enjoying a leisurely Family Day, why not take a moment to read over what I wrote about it during Ontario's first such holiday?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, February 13, 2009

A clever politician, but an idiot in all other respects

Harvard Professor Michael Ignatieff has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the helm of the Liberal party, where he now sits sniping at the Konservatives, themselves led by a man Who Hates Canada (TM). For Ignatieff, this has been more than dumb blind luck, but is thanks to Ignatieff's considerable talents as a huckster.

Harvard is, of course, the home of a great many hucksters - the place attracts them like honey does flies - take, for example, the odious Alan "ILikeTortureandIsraelandEspeciallyIsraeliTorture" Dershowitz. Ignatieff himself published a fabulous tome "The Lesser Evil," in which he discusses his moral angst at the terrible things that must be done by "liberal democracies" in order to defeat the (primarily Muslim) hordes that exist in that fantastic new world of States-With-WMDs-Partnered-With-Non-State-Actors.

As Ignatieff wrote in an essay for Prospect Magazine in 2006:

Human rights activists accept that reliable information is essential for combating terrorists and that interrogation is a central feature of any counterterrorist strategy. Kenneth Roth, of Human Rights Watch, argues that "respect for the Geneva conventions does not preclude vigorously interrogating detainees about a limitless range of topics." What work is the word "vigorously" doing in this sentence? It is intended to make it clear that a human rights defender takes seriously the necessity of getting from detainees real information that may prevent future terrorist attacks. But what, in specific terms, might "vigorous" interrogation actually entail? Clearly, Roth and anyone else who cares about human rights wants to exclude any form of abuse. But what exactly counts as abuse in a "vigorous" interrogation?
Oh, oh, oh, ask me, ask me! "Vigourous" interrogation includes things like using deceptions, shouting, threatening future consequences for non-cooperation, holding the detainee without charge for 24-48 hours, bright lights, etc, etc.

It does not include waterboarding, lashings, fingernail detachments, or electrocution.

But please, continue:
Clear thinking about torture is not served by collapsing the distinction between coercive interrogation and torture. Both may be repugnant, but repugnance does not make them into the same thing. If coercion and torture are on a moral continuum, at what point on the continuum, to use Posner's words, does queasiness turn to revulsion? Vigorous interrogation might mean lengthy, exhausting, harassing exchanges with interrogators. Provided that there was no physical contact between interrogator and subject, no deprivation of food or water harmful to health, this might qualify as lawful interrogation. But at every ratchet of coercion, moral problems arise. Sleep deprivation will not leave physical or permanent psychological scars, but as Menachem Begin, who was interrogated in Soviet Russia, remembered, "anyone who has experienced this desire [for sleep] knows that not even hunger or thirst are comparable with it."
Oh yeah, I forgot - sleep deprivation. Don't do that either.
So I end up supporting an absolute and unconditional ban on both torture and those forms of coercive interrogation that involve stress and duress, and I believe that enforcement of such a ban should be up to the military justice system plus the federal courts. I also believe that the training of interrogators can be improved by executive order and that the training must rigorously exclude stress and duress methods.
Good. Thanks for your opinion. Bye.

What? You mean that wasn't it?
While some abuse and outright torture can be attributed to individual sadism, poor supervision and so on, it must be the case that other acts of torture occur because interrogators believe, in good faith, that torture is the only way to extract information in a timely fashion. It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience. The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur. I submit that we would not be "waterboarding" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—immersing him in water until he experiences the torment of nearly drowning—if our intelligence operatives did not believe it was necessary to crack open the al Qaeda network that he commanded. Indeed, Mark Bowden points to a Time report in March 2003 that Sheikh Mohammed had "given US interrogators the names and descriptions of about a dozen key al Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting terrorist attacks." We must at least entertain the possibility that the operatives working on Sheikh Mohammed in our name are engaging not in gratuitous sadism but in the genuine belief that this form of torture—and it does qualify as such—makes all the difference.
Indeed, and how did those new "leads" work out?
Guantanamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed awaits return to Britain
The Observer 2009/02/01
He claims that he had admitted under torture to plotting a radioactive bomb attack on the US. "They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists," he wrote in his diary.
He was charged with conspiracy to murder and attack civilians. US authorities claim that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, instructed the British resident to blow up flats in America. The charges were dropped after the torture claims surfaced.
Was anyone that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed fingered actually an Al-Qaeda agent? Maybe, but maybe not. Ultimately, the information did less good than harm, even if, in the short-term, the interrogators actually believed that it was useful. Anyone who the interrogators would have been able to ask Mohammed about would have already been in US custody - otherwise, he could have just made the names up.

The fallacy of all of Ignatieff's navel-gazing, armpit-sniffing pomposity is that none of it is borne out by evidence. To date, not a single "ticking time-bomb" case has been successfully solved with the aid of torture. Most famously, the London 7/7 bombings (the closest thing to a "ticking time-bomb" scenario that didn't happen on 24) were not solved by torture, but by standard police interrogation, much of which might have been "vigourous interrogation," but none of which approached torture.

This isn't the only issue on which Ignatieff has been shown to be wrong. Ignatieff was also a supporter of the invasion of Iraq, a position which he defends with the classic line of "Really? No WMDs? Darn. I could have sworn I saw some WMDs there. Check again. No? Wow, Saddam Hussein really was a tricky bastard, eh, pretending to have no WMDs while pretending that he had lots of WMDs. What a card!"

How did Ignatieff make it into Harvard? Simple: he does what most people who teach law or politics at Harvard do: he tells everyone what they most want to hear.

Now he's taken his act to Canada.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Shorter Robert Spencer

Article: Obama Takes the Appeasement Path

Obama's relentless fraternizing with the enemy has only emboldened them. Consider these innocuous quotes from Iranian sources.
I don't trust Obama, but some people are just too crazy for words to describe.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Why Darfur intervention is a mistake"

Interesting article from Alex de Waal for the BBC.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pervez Hoodbhoy - The Saudi-ization of Pakistan

An interesting article from Pakistani physics professor Pervez Hoodbhoy.

I'm not sure I agree with Hoodbhoy's entire analysis, but then he lives in Pakistan, and I don't. The tragedy of Pakistan is that its government does not speak for the country - that for so long, it has remained beholden to the Americans, and that the custodian of that control has been the Pakistani Army.

Because of this, the people are just as likely to side against their government as they are to side with it, and every random maulana becomes the standard-bearer of Islam and anti-imperialism. This, in turn, becomes a license to kill and maim indiscriminately.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

And we're back...

Assalamu Alaikum,

The title says it all.

Stumble Upon Toolbar