Saturday, March 27, 2004

Thursday, March 25, 2004

This isn't good for anybody. Damn you and your EU, Michael!
Hey guys, just want to say that if you go to Andre's site (how do you make accents on these things without using translator anyway?) from Lisbon, Portugal, you'll get to see some serious European thought process in the comments section. There is a "Babel Fish" translator at the bottom of the site that translates into English (click on the British flag) or you can do it through Google as I did the first time. Granted, you still have to translate somewhat, but if you've had romance languages at all, it isn't too bad.

Anyway, point being that there is a good post on capitalism there and in scrolling down, I found some innocuous comments from Andre on his love of Vermeer's paintings. I click on the comments and one person is describing the painting saying it captures the "softness and ease of life" and the next comment is basically "well, life is soft and easy if you are rich" referring to Vermeer's higher station in life, however the contempt for "rich" in general was not concealed, and interestingly enough was a good example of the thought process talked about later in the capitalist piece. Europeans still have a chip on their shoulders, since the government, until recently in history, has been responsible for their care, station in life, education, etc. Thank God we started out the opposite way in America. Why then, can our leaders not learn from looking at their history and growth pains, and stop heading down the same path?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Required reading for the "No War for Oil" crowd. Where the hell is all the free oil, anyway? I guess Bush and his Halliburton cronies are stockpiling it somewhere waiting for the price to get REALLY high before selling it. Or something.

This is laughable: "The government's former top counterterrorism adviser testified Wednesday that the Clinton administration had 'no higher priority' than combatting terrorists while the Bush administration made it 'an important issue but not an urgent issue.'"

Uh huh. Right.
And yet another not to be missed column by Sowell today on reparations.

OK, I'm truly going to go get some "real" work done now.

The Man!
OK, I'm off that topic for awhile and on to this assinine one...the Supreme Court begins hearing the case on the Pledge of Allegiance today. Is there any hope for political correctness not winning this one? Hell, when I was in high school, I was a liberal, and I would stand for the Pledge and refuse to say the "and justice for all" part, because I knew that there wasn't justice for all (and I'm damned ashamed of myself for it). What the hell, some high school students don't realize yet that it is a declaration of what America STANDS for, not what actually happens 100% of the time. But GROWN UPS? C'mon. Yeah, this guy's daughter is really traumatized because they say the Pledge and he's an atheist (she isn't old enough to know what she is, I don't care what anyone says) and "Under God" is in it. At least 75% of the country believes in some form of a higher being, so once again, this isn't protecting the minority from the impositions of the majority, it's forcing the will of the minority on the majority. Under God is widely recognized to mean "under whatever God you believe in". NOBODY, including school kids is forced to say those words, so the only argument really is that it comes down to protecting people from peer pressure (what a joke as if she isn't WAY more noticed now than she would have been).

Now, to be fair, I will admit that the phrase was put into the Pledge in the 1954, so we seemed to do just fine without it for more of our history than less. However, it now represents a larger culture issue. We've always had the motto "In God We Trust". On this decision rests MANY others. I can't say that I'm hopeful with the ridiculous statements we've been hearing from the likes of some justices of the court in the past few years, and with Scalia recused from this case odds go down more.

The question will be, legally does this constitute a violation of separation of Church and State?
While many lawyers think that it does, I'd argue otherwise. It doesn't say "under one Christian God", "under one Jewish God", or even "under one American God". Separation of Church and State was to save us from a "Church of England" scenario, not to say freedom FROM religion.


Here's the basic story of how this came about if you haven't read it already.
Fantastic piece in the NY Post on the Yassin killing. Hmmm, it seems after reading this that we're looking at a show of strength and resolve working in the long term to stop terrorism. Specifically stated is the fact that the Palestinian radicals are having trouble attracting new recruits to come in. Now, they still have their cache of people there, already committed, but after these guys are depleted, and if they continue to be depleted at a quick enough rate, they won't be able to keep up.
Of course, the NY Post tends to lean right.... as far as NY goes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Yeah, because these guys were forced to work on "Passion" don't you know? If this doesn't sum up the liberal mindset, I don't know what does....take no responsibility for your decisions....

I have no problem with people that worked on the film asking what Gibson is planning on doing with the profits. I have a huge problem with them insinuating, or in this case downright stating that they feel that he owes them, and trying to blackmail at that. Do you think that might have been a discussion that you would have had BEFORE you signed on to such a project? DUH.
What do you all think about this ongoing battle that Israel has decided to take to Hamas, Hezbollah, et al?

I'm serious, I really want to know. Is the Bush Doctrine in play here? Or should we, in the name of protecting our own citizens first, have a problem with this because it creates more danger for the US? In my opinon, we then become as Europe is to us to Israel. I was lamenting the denouncements right and left from the EU, Jack Straw, and our own Govt. spokesmen of which there were more than a few. Tom said to me, "well you know, they have to say that." I said, "NO, they don't". If Bush is going to stand up there and give his "with the terrorists or against them" spiel then he damned well better mean it. I'm reading both sides all over the net today and there are a lot of good points. For example, here's some of the discussion I have read on it in the Corner, which I like for this type of thing, since there are various viewpoints presented with the same goal in mind; America's security.

HAMAS AL QAEDA LINK [Jonah Goldberg]
The fact that Al Qaeda is calling for revenge for Yassin's killing demonstrates how wars cause everyone to choose sides. That's how wars work. Much like Qaeda's interest in American failure in Iraq, it was in evitable that the terrorist group most dedicated to destroying one democracy would would become a natural ally for the terrorist group dedicated to destroying us. This doesn't mean that there's active cooperation between the two organizations. But it does mean that al Qaeda understands that Hamas sympathizers are natural recruits to be al Qaeda sympathizers. Opponents of America's friendship to Israel will no doubt claim that this opportunistic joining of forces -- at least rhetorically -- could have been avoided if we took the position that Israel's fate is of no concern to us whatsoever. But if that doesn't fit Churchill's definition of appeasement -- i.e. feeding your friends to the alligator in the hope he'll feed you last -- I don't what does.

HAMAS/AL QAEDA [Andrew Stuttaford]
Jonah, I think that I might draw somewhat different conclusions than you do you. As I wrote yesterday, there's no need to shed any tears over Yassin. Nevertheless, when we look at his killing, it's necessary to ask again what it has achieved. The idea, reported by Steve, that it was designed to make it clear that an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was not a 'retreat,' is, alas, both plausible and deeply disturbing. Macho gestures are no substitute for an effective policy. Frankly, it's difficult to think that Yassin's death will do anything other than further 'Islamicize' Palestinian militants, something that al Qaeda is, as we have seen, already trying to manipulate to its own advantage. This can't be good for Israel and it also raises the question as to whether yesterday's action has added to the threats facing the US. Of course there should be no illusions, Hamas was not exactly a friend of America before yesterday. Nevertheless, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that the boost that Yassin's death is likely to give to Al Qaeda and others on the Islamic extreme is bad news for the US. Given that fact it is entirely reasonable for this country, a very generous supporter of Israel after all, to query what has been done. That's not appeasement, it's commonsense.

Another great column by OMOTLS (Our Man of the Large Spectacles).

Nothing is more irritating to me than the inferiority complex American lefties have towards Europe. Despite Europe's ridiculous 20th century track record, people like John Kerry would like to get approval from them for our own foreign policy, as if they are somehow more sophisticated and better able to understand the world. As Sowell so eloquently states in this piece, history is repeating itself, and the left is too caught up in their own internationalist fantasy to see it. What is it about history that the left just doesn't seem to get?

The Man!

Monday, March 22, 2004

The plot thickens...

The EU, the biggest aid contributor to the Palestinian Authority, has long urged restraint on both sides of the conflict but has had to defend itself from charges that it is biased towards the Palestinians.

From this article.

What amazes me is all of the people that still think that "Palestinians" are some group of indigenous people, and don't understand that they are a political group. And what's up with "the spiritual leader of Hamas"? That's like calling Osama "the spiritual leader of Al Qaida".
Michael, I'd be interested to see what ME thinks of this interview. It was Dick Cheney with Rush Limbaugh.
This part in particular I found relevant to our discussion of late though it doesn't discuss the 'religious aspect' per se.

CHENEY: Well, we've got to get on with our business. There's plenty work to be done. The terrorist threat is very real. It continues out there every day. The president and I and Condie Rice, Andy Card, begin our day six days a week meeting with the director of the CIA and the director of the FBI and reviewing intelligence and working these problems, and you've got to be able to continue to do that even if there is a campaign underway out there.

And I think we've done that fairly well. We can't let our guard down, we've got to remain vigilant, we've still got major issues, obviously, in the sense that terrorists have launched many attacks around the world since 9/11 in places like Madrid most recently, but Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, Jakarta, Mombassa, it's a worldwide global problem and it's got to be dealt with I think very aggressive just the way the president's dealt with it.

RUSH: Do you believe that this policy of dealing with them aggressively has led to more terrorism?

CHENEY: I don't. The fact of the matter is I think we're operating obviously with a very different policy, tending to treat these matters primarily as law enforcement problems prior to 9/11, that in no way slowed down the terrorists. They still launched against us on 9/11 and killed some 3,000 of our people that morning.

This has less to do with what we do than it does with what we stand for. I think the extremists out there in al-Qaeda are bound and determined to do everything they can to try to change U.S. policy and to kill Americans including innocent civilians, men, women, and children, and the only way to deal with the threat, because you can't negotiate with them, there's no treaty at the end of the day here, you can't deter them, there's nothing they want to defend, the only way to deal with it is to destroy the terrorists before they can launch further attacks against it United States, and that's what we're about.

RUSH: Mr. Clarke, to get back to him for a moment, is saying actually if we would just take some more time and talk to these people, understand why they hate us, we might be able to forge some kind of peace with them.

CHENEY: I think that's totally unrealistic. You know, I fundamentally disagree with his assessment both of recent history, but also in terms of how to deal with the problem. As I say, he was head of counterterrorism for several years there in the nineties, and I didn't notice that they had any great success dealing with the terrorist threat. I think what we've done since going into Afghanistan, taking down the Taliban, closing the camps, killing Al-Qaeda, wrapping up a siginificant percentage of the total leadership of Al-Qaeda, that's an effective policy.
RUSH: Now, what would you say to people, though, who maybe casual or a bit more than casually interested in this, because it does appear to the average observer watching the news that terrorist attacks are up around the world, and yet the administration keeps claiming success in the fight against conveyed as evidenced by more of them dead, more of their leaders imprisoned, Al-Qaeda on the run. How are you defining this success against them?

CHENEY: Well, we've been defining it in terms of specifically Al-Qaeda, in terms of our ability to wrap up major parts of the organization to prevent further attacks against the United States obviously . I think all of that -- all of those are hallmarks of success. You've also got to measure it in terms of the fact that we're changing circumstances on the ground in key parts of the world, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan was basically a failed state, then with the Taliban in charge, it provided sanctuary, a home base, if you will, for Al-Qaeda to launch attacks not only against us, but wherever they chose. Afghanistan can no longer be used for that purpose because of what our forces did there.

In Iraq, similar proposition, that we were concerned not only about the fact that Saddam had hosted terrorists in the past, he'd stimulated and encouraged them by providing financial rewards for suicide bombers who hit Israel, as well as his past involvement with weapons of mass destruction and all of that put us in a position where we think now with a process begun both in Afghanistan and Iraq, where we're standing up new governments, we've got constitutions written where we're going to have governments put in place here hopefully in the not-too-distant future, where those areas will no longer be threats to the United States or anybody else. In fact they'll be able to serve we hope as models for responsible states in that part of the world.

Best news of the day when I heard it, except of course for the reprisals that Israel will have to deal with.
Just wanted to post this important link for anyone needing ammo on the Clarke debacle currently in the is the White House document on "myth vs. fact" released before the 60 Minutes interview last night.

Also this op-ed by Condi Rice setting things straight.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Hm, I did not expect an answer so soon. ME has preferred to respond via email and I was allowed to repeat his answer in full. While ME does not defend any stance for the moment (ME is preparing it, well I can't blame him/her because it took a lot of time for preparing mine), I nevertheless found it worthwile to post his/her letter. For one thing, it will convince you already that ME is not Layth.

Here it is:

Hello Michael,

Thank you very much for inviting me to comment on your guest entry. No, I do not think you are playing hardball. In fact I would have thought it strange if you had written otherwise. I enjoyed reading your balanced post with relevant links etc..

You reminded so much of a dear friend of mine 20 years ago today, with whom I used to have this type of conversation. It always ended up with S. screaming at me to convince me while I was trying my best to do the same ( minus the screaming of course ;)) . But I can see your screaming is only within, and I am pained for all those decent human beings like you who honestly care and want to understand and perhaps suggest a solution.

I admit I'm not as good as you are in providing links or quotations or other such items. I will try to convey my thoughts and the feelings. However, Michael please remember that I have no need to defend myself or anything or anyone else as this is not a Court but only a discussion with hopefully rational mature and cultured people wishing to understand someone/something alien to them. Twenty years later my friend admitted I was right, but that was never my aim "proving how right I am " . No my goal is to extend hands of friendship to people whom I grew up with and learnt to understand but who never did the same step in return as they simply assumed that I or my people would have to change/conform for their sake.

Nowadays it looks that there may be an opportunity for dialogue or better a 'multiplelogue'. I will address your fears and hopefully try to alleviate them, you obviously had time to prepare you 'ammunition' , so please allow me the necessary time as well. You may of course print this letter in your blog along with a greeting to all the others there.

No news yet of my sister, calling Iraq from here is only possible from internet. Their phone line is not repaired yet.

Best regards


I swear to Allah that ME does not stand for Mad Engineer from Belgovakia or something. I'm not faking this thing up.

So ME, we are eagerly awaiting your response.

Mr. Tom, you might have noticed ME calls me decent. So now you hear it from somebody else.

Michael, United States of Belgium.
Ladies and Gentlemen, can I have your attention please? For awhile now I have been emailing with an Arab living in a country in the Middle East. Despite differing views, so far this virtual conversation has been decent and civilized, or at least I might hope my acquaintance perceives it so. I do, in any case. At some point I began to think that the thoughts and threads developing in these conversations might also be interesting for my fellow bloggers at Downeast and our audience. Suspecting that our Arab in question might prefer some kind of anonymity, I proposed that upon mentioning him/her or presenting his/her views, I would always refer to him/her in a way that would reveal nothing about nationality, gender, age or profession and the like. That is why from now on I will be referring to him/her simply as ?ME? (Middle-Easterner).

In a recent letter ME presented a number of views which I would like to repeat here, answer to directly, and wait for reactions to come from both ME and readers. It may be a step to mutual understanding. So, here are some excerpts from ME?s email:

?I understand your fear from Islam as a European , because this religion has been badly portrayed in Europe and the West especially after 9/11.?

?(now follow some congratulatory remarks which are irrelevant because they concerned your servant)?

?With regards to the growing influence of Islam in Europe, I don?t know how to tell you this please do not be afraid , but it will continue growing it is the only religion which does not need preaching. Let me tell you this as well when open-minded Europeans/Westerners approach this religion to learn about it that like it so much that they convert and converts Michael are even better Muslims than those who have inherited it ( or just born Muslims as we say here ). It truly is a universal religion , I a not preaching here as I would not even know how to , I am not theologist ,though I know my basic Bible and Koran. Islam is compatible with freedom and democracy . It the humans which are flawed."

?(Michael the Troll from now on)?

OK, here you have it ME. Through our conversations and also because I pointed you to a rant of mine on this blog, I assume that you are aware of my/our concerns about the growing influence of Islam in Europe and elsewhere. So basically you say to me that Islam is growing, that it will continue to grow but that we need not to worry because it is compatible with freedom and democracy. With all due respect ME, now I would like to elaborate on a few of the events and developments that have made us Westerners acutely concerned about Islam?s growing influence:

First of all, during the past two decades the world has seen a steady rise in terrorist attacks committed by organizations that claim to act in the name of Islam. We have had:

a.) the two attacks on the World Trade Center

b.) the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Tanzania

c.) the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Kenya

d.) a foiled plot to bomb the US Embassy in Kampala, Uganda

e.) the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole

f.) the 2003 Mumbai bomb attacks

g.) the October 2002 Bali bombing

Not to mention the spate of bombings in Israel, which are at least to some degree religiously motivated, as are the bombing attacks in Iraq, and of course the gruseome monstrosity committed just recently in Madrid. Regardless the political motovations, these crimes are all committed in the name of Allah.

A succint overview of the evolution of Islamic terrorism can be found here.

Secondly, apart from the deluge of news regarding attacks by Islamic terrorists, the biggest challenge (in the Western world) to imagining a peaceful coexistence between European (western) natives and the Islamic communities in their midst, is the seemingly nonexistent desire of the latter to assimilate and integrate in their host nations? societies, despite generous and far-reaching government-funded concessions. The Belgian State e.g. provided funding for a ?Muslim Executive Body" ("Moslimexecutieve") which, a.o., appoints Imams (paid by the Belgian State) and organizes and defines religious education. Yet half of the sixteen members of this council are fundamentalists opposed to integration. Forty years after Muslims (mainly Moroccans and Turks) started arriving in Belgium, we see a disturbing trend aimed at widening the gap between natives and ?newcomers?.

E.g., a majority of Muslim youths, upon reaching the age to marry, prefer to import a bride from one of the ?home countries?, since they deem Muslim girls born and raised here as ?spoiled? by western society. Furthermore, a really frightening development in Belgium is the rise of the militant AEL or Arab European League, led by Lebanese firebrand and former Hizballah member Abu Jahjah, who advocates a.o. declaring Arabic as fourth official language in Belgium!!!

Then there are the reports on the significant number of Muslim girls sent back to their native countries during summer holidays for undergoing circumcision.

And the press coverage on honor killings (small in number but growing) do not do much to calm our unrest...

Many Imams, although as said paid by the governments of the states where they reside, see fit to deliver fiery anti-Western sermons on Fridays. Although Belgium has its share of these, the most blatant example of them is a London based imam called Abu Hamza (though I?m not certain whether he is paid by the UK government).

And Denmark recently passed a law requiring Imams willing to enter the country to apply to a number of conditions (such as learning the Danish language) so as to limit the influx of the radical ones.

Last but not least, in most Western European countries, mine, Belgium, included, there?s a growing threat of Antisemitism. Unfortunately many if not most of the acts of violence, such as physically attacking Jews, burning synagogues, desecrating jewish graveyards, verbal abuse etc? are committed by Muslim youths. Despite the evident threat, the EU?s RAXEN (Racism and Xenophobua Network) saw fit to try to suppress a study proving this fact. In the end it was published but, given the prevailing ?politically correct? attitude of the grand majority of European press, it received only minimal coverage.

Furthermore I could mention the so-called black schools in the Netherlands, where Muslim youths, upon the teacher willing to start history lessons on the Holocaust, begin to chant slogans like "Death to the Jews", to such an extent that the teachers are forced to suspend the lessons.

So you see, ME, although I can certainly be found to tolerate the practicing of an Islamic faith at peace with other religions and with itself, hell, I presume the above will make it clear to you that when Muslims pretend that we don't need to worry because Islam is growing (your words), we westerners are anything but reassured.

I think my fellow bloggers and you would find it interesting if you could provide us with a reply. For that purpose you could use the comments section. However, should you feel the limited space there does not give you a fair chance to "defend" your take, you can always email me so that I can publish your answer in full in the actual blog space.

Best regards from the Land of Smurfs and Chocolate.