Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Stories

Stories fished out from troubled waters, on a cold rainy Saturday.

Slave nation’s lucrative export of freedom monuments: A North Korea-based company is being increasingly tapped by African nations to build cut-rate large statues devoted to the theme of freedom. The WSJ has the story on the 164-foot tall statue currently nearing completion in Senegal:

North Korea is mainly known for a totalitarian regime overseeing economic failure. But it has also produced a successful export business—building monuments to freedom and independence. The statues' selling point: They are big, simple and cheap.
Over the past decade, Mansudae has built dozens of statues and monuments for cash-strapped African countries. Botswana cut the ribbon on a memorial to three tribal chiefs in 2005. Neighboring Namibia boasts a bronze of its founding president wielding an AK-47.

The statue depicts a father holding a baby in his left arm. The man's right arm is around the waist of the baby's mother. The three are reaching out to the sky and out to the ocean.
"Its message is about Africa emerging from the darkness, from five centuries of slavery and two centuries of colonialism," says [Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade].
…[T]he statue has been a beacon of discontent, sparking angry newspaper editorials and protests from religious leaders. The statue's sultry mother figure, dressed in a wisp of fabric that reveals part of a breast and a bare leg, has offended imams in this majority-Muslim country.
... Financing details for the project have been murky, and some taxpayers are outraged by the very idea of it when power outages occur daily and university students strike over rising fees. Mr. Wade had no budget for the African Renaissance, so instead offered a prime chunk of state-owned land in exchange, which North Korea has since resold at a large profit, he says.

After all the criticism, Mr. Wade is now getting some compliments. He says he recently received a letter from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi asking how he could get a similar statue.

I wonder if Senegal’s freedom monument is visible to neighbors living in the Islamic republic of Mauritania, a country that still continues its pre-colonial tradition of chattel slavery...

Inclusive Britain: The city of Portsmouth now makes its taxi-driver license applications available in braille! Prompting Daily Mail reader Peter from Gloucester to remark:

Should I ever be in Portsmouth, I think I'll just take the bus.
Egypt-Algerian Soccer War: Last year Egyptian football fans launched firebombs at the Algerian Embassy in Cairo, following Algeria's win over Egypt in a World Cup qualifying match. France has been seeing similar spill-over violence between fans of the rival teams, violence which flared up again dramatically this past week.

Le Parisien reports that last Thursday night, a mob of 30 Algerian youths went on a rampage after Algeria lost to Egypt 4-0 in the Africa Cup of Nations final. The youth vandalized an Egyptian bar/club the paper names as the Cultural and Social Association Center for western youth, on Rue Joseph-Dijon. (A photo of the damage can be seen at Le Parisien) "They arrived a bit after the end of the match", said one of the Egyptians who was in the bar Thursday night. "We saw the window shatter... they even threw a firebomb. We were very scared. But since we didn't say anything things didn't get out of control."

The police were called to the scene but were not able to catch the youth, who left with the cash register.

The manager's son says, "I just do not understand what happened. Here, everyone lives side by side, Algerians, Egyptians... There are never any problems." An Algerian passerby seemed despondant at the sight of the local club's smashed window: "It's true [that since the start of the Africa Cup three weeks ago], relations have been tense. At Boulevard Ornano's market, some were not willing to buy vegetables from Egyptians. Stupid things like that. It's a real shame!"

[Translated from the French account at Le Parisien]

Rescued By Faith: A Haitian teenage choir singer is pulled from her cousin's home two weeks after the earthquake, when rescue teams were no longer supposed to be still searching for survivors. "We are very surprised at the fact that she is still alive," says the French doctor treating the rescued 16-year old:
[O]n Wednesday -- 15 days later -- neighbors heard a voice weakly calling from the rubble and alerted authorities, who brought in the French rescue squad. The team dug a hole to give her oxygen and water, and within 45 minutes they managed to remove her.

"They should not have been working anymore," said French Ambassador Didier le Bret. The Haitian government had declared an end to the search phase, but the French team was stubborn. "They felt that some lives still are to be saved," he said.

That Dagmatic Sense of Humor....

I'm not even close to subtle, and the following links are sure proof of it. Sometimes there's no deep reason for a sophisticated argument against obvious evil, and at those times, I don't argue. I post this kind of thing instead:

http://nodhimmitude.blogspot.com/2010/01/re-capping-obamas-state-of-uniion.html

http://nodhimmitude.blogspot.com/2010/01/chicago-blues-round-em-up-head-em-out.html

http://nodhimmitude.blogspot.com/2010/01/in-night-leftards-cried-jooos.html

Is attention-fracturing modern technology (and professional specialization) making today's students worse than parrots?

Thoughts from two writers, David Gelernter and Thomas Bertonneau.

David Gelernter:

Two years after the bombing, Theodore J. Kaczynski, who would shortly be identified as the Unabomber, sent Gelernter a letter: "People with advanced degrees aren't as smart as they think they are," he wrote. "If you'd had any brains you would have realized that there are a lot of people out there who resent bitterly the way techno-nerds like you are changing the world." Gelernter himself, in fact, has always been profoundly ambivalent about technology. "Because David has a concern for the whole of human life, he doesn't fall for the view that technology can provide answers to our deepest needs and aspirations," says Kass. Gelernter's byline routinely appears over articles that include statements like: "American schools would do better if they junked their Macs and PC's and let students fool around somewhere else. Schools should be telling students to reads books, not play with computers."
[...]
Gelernter traffics in ideas, but he despises intellectuals and blames them for irreparably degrading American culture. "Stop any person on the street and ask them to name a living poet, a living painter, or a living composer. There will be complete silence," Gelernter says. "When I was a child, artists were heroes. Everyday people knew Robert Frost's poems, and not only people like me, a respected Yale professor. Classical music was moving closer to the middle class, Leonard Bernstein concerts were broadcast on television. It was a marvelous thing to have poets, novelists, painters, and musicians representing the middle and working classes and giving them greater and greater artistic depth. All of this," he says, sweeping his arm through the air, "was killed or at least dealt a very serious blow by the encroachment of the universities."

Gelernter is perched on a stool in his airy, sunlit kitchen. Spread before him is a light lunch of crackers, cheese, hummus, and cookies. In an adjacent room, Audrey, a bright-red 10-year-old parrot, and Flint, a cockatiel, bustle about in their cages, which are positioned in front of a television tuned to Fox News. (He and his wife, he says later, leave the television on because the birds enjoy the stimulation. Audrey and Flint only watch Fox News. "I don't want them misinformed," Gelernter explains with a grin.)

Gelernter places himself firmly in the ranks of men—and they are almost all men—like E.B. White, so-called nonintellectuals who are dubious of ideology and abstraction, as well as patriotic (a rare quality among contemporary intellectuals, he says). Such figures—Gelernter's heroes—include White's colleagues at The New Yorker, A.J. Liebling and Joseph Mitchell; Irving Kristol; and Norman Podhoretz, among others, all of whom operated, by and large, outside academe. "They were the smartest ones," he says. "Compare T.S. Eliot to an English professor at Yale." Now, Gelernter continues, academe has taken over the intelligentsia, turning "narrow-mindedness into a virtue, narrow-mindedness intellectually and narrow-mindedness politically." He scorns specialization as "a killer virus," the "toxic disease of the modern intelligentsia."
Thomas Bertonneau:

In response to complaints about the steadily declining preparation of incoming freshmen and the performance and interest levels of college students in general, apologists often tell us that while today’s undergraduates indeed read less well than their precursors of three or four decades ago (and have read much less), they are “media savvy.”

This claim means that although students respond less than acutely to the demands and subtleties of the printed word, they possess keen understanding when it comes to images, especially moving images, and the spoken word. According to this idea, the contemporary college student is fully competent within the emergent cultural environment, dominated by the audio-visual media, in which books (quaint objects!) assume second place. The proliferation in humanities departments of “film-studies,” “media-studies,” and “popular-culture” courses is, in part, predicated on this chain of suppositions.

I remain strongly skeptical.
[...]
The conviction has grown on me that those who do best in a film course are those whose literacy is most developed. Those whose literacy is least developed, and whose general knowledge is restricted even when their acquaintance with current commercial entertainment is encyclopedic, perform only at a mediocre level. They miss as much in the movie as they do in the poem, play, or novel.
[...]
There is a moment in The Maltese Falcon when the hard-nosed detective, played by Humphrey Bogart, paying a visit to con man Kasper Gutman (Sidney Greenstreet), must feign chagrin and simulate a loss of temper. His purpose is to misdirect Gutman into thinking that he (Gutman) has gained the upper hand in their dealings.
As Spade leaves Gutman’s hotel room and takes a few steps along the corridor, all the exasperated tightness in Spade’s face—seen in his scowling mouth and narrowed eyes—relents and he breaks out in a broad and satisfied smile.

I cannot imagine that any ordinary audience member in the film’s first run, some seventy years ago, would have mistaken the signs: Spade has been as cool as a cucumber all along. He faked his anger, Gutman “bought it,” and the detective is as pleased as punch with himself for having pulled it off.

How did the students perceive it?
[...]
In a class of fifteen or sixteen students, hardly any indicated, in writing, that they had understood the tactical artificiality of Spade’s anger. Only the older, “non-traditional” students and one or two of the younger students could see Spade’s display as a critical technique for misleading Gutman in order to put him at a disadvantage in trying to locate the storied objet-d’art of the film’s title.

Some students’ explanations of Spade’s erupting grin were that he was frightened by Gutman and happy to be getting away from him, or that Spade was, like most people, prone to being frustrated and angry at times and that he had inappropriately taken his feelings out on an innocent party. Not only did the students, by and large, fail to understand the particular scene, but they could not even differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys or understand the motives of the protagonist. In short, they could not read faces.
[...]
In a series of articles for the Pope Center in 2009 I commented on the college students’ symptoms of what I dubbed (with no claim to originality) “post-literacy.” The term designates a society—modern Western society including its North American offshoot—in which alluring and fascinating technologies have massively subordinated the written word, the implicit rationality and discriminatory subtlety of which form the intangible bases of what educated people recognize as the civilized achievement. One effect of literacy, especially the literacy of narrative, on cognitive development is to create awareness of continuity, sequence, and ethical causality, especially as the last unfolds in a long-term temporal scheme. Today, many college students lack this awareness.

Think of any Regency-period or Victorian novel. The decisions of the characters early in the story bring forth their consequences with schematic obviousness in the later chapters. The plots are almost propositional. One can say that, in the upshot, Smith or Jones is finally happy or unhappy because he made this or that decision in the first place, which inevitably brought him where he ends.

To grasp the patterns, the reader must possess sufficient wit to remember in chapter two what he has read in chapter one, and so forth, right through to the denouement. The flashing screens of our techno-entertainments have grossly eroded the power of young people to pay attention with sufficient discipline to see such patterns.
One wonders, how will we remember the age of Obama?

In defence of Muslims

Canada's leading Ismaili intellectual, Salim Mansur, writes:
As the trial of Dutch MP Geert Wilders for offending Muslims unfolds in Amsterdam, I am reminded of Oriana Fallaci’s post-9/11 writings on how she saw Europe wasted from within by the alien cultural force of Islam.
[...]
Fallaci attributed her understanding of Europe’s fate in part to the writings of another woman of great courage. In Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide and Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, Bat Ye’or, a Jewess born in Egypt and forced into exile, documented the recent history of Europe’s partnership with Arab states.

This Euro-Arab relationship has meant increased sensitivity in European capitals and among its political-intellectual elite for Arab-Islamic politics and culture. It is this sensitivity as political correctness that is on display at the Wilders’ trial.

But this sensitivity also inhibits the political-intellectual elite in Europe and North America from discussing the outrageousness of putting on trial Wilders, or anyone else, for speaking and writing on matters that might offend Muslims.

The demand by Europe’s officialdom — Canada’s officialdom is on the same page — that “free speech” must also meet the requirements of “responsible speech” when the subject is Islam is tantamount to repudiating Europe’s history that made her the cradle of the modern world of science and democracy.

The Wilders trial is indicative of Europe’s bleak future, as Fallaci had warned. This trial amounts to appeasing official Islam, which has demanded “defamation of religions,” according to a resolution adopted in the UN General Assembly in March 2008, be prohibited.

Moreover, in trying Wilders, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal has conceded space to the Islamists by accommodating, in practical terms, their demand for acceptance of Shariah (Islamic law) within secular society.

Abandonment

This can only mean abandoning those Muslims, especially women, who escaped from Islamic countries seeking freedom. They will become vulnerable once again to Islamists enforcing Shariah rule inside enclaves where Muslims reside within Europe.

And a Europe that appeases official Islam, while punishing its critics, will also be uncaring about the struggle for reform inside the Arab-Muslim world as in Iran. Such a Europe, as Fallaci so passionately raged against, will be then sliding into a new dark age.
And what does this darkness look like? Brendan O'Neil:
That relativism has been elevated over liberty can be seen in the fact that at the same time that more ‘extremists’ are allegedly running riot on campus, there are more and more codes of speech governing the extent to which other people can question, ridicule or mock these ‘extremists’, or even moderate religious and political speakers. At the end of last year I was invited to debate the head of the UK wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir at Queen Mary Westfield College in London. But under pressure from censorious student groups and the university’s administration, the debate was banned. It was moved to the University of Westminster a couple of weeks later, and there, both me and the representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir were informed about what we could and could not say. The university’s religious affairs liaison – a white convert to Islam – told us that before being allowed to speak we would have to read a document telling us not to insult or ridicule anyone else’s religious beliefs, political affiliations, sexual preferences and so on.

I read it, and ignored it, and later got booed for saying ‘Sharia law is inferior to Enlightenment-derived laws’. Yet this experience reveals much about the crisis of freedom in British universities. In one serious London university a debate is banned outright because the ‘extremist’ might corrupt the pathetic students, and in another serious London university the debate is allowed to go ahead but is severely governed by informal codes designed to preserve ‘respect for identities’. Such codes now exist on campuses across the UK. The extremist is allowed to speak, but no one is really allowed to say to him: ‘You’re talking bollocks, mate, and here’s why…’ Such informal rules protecting all belief systems and granting equal weight to all lifestyle choices really demonstrate what lies behind the ‘let the extremists speak’ argument: a relativistic climate in which universities doubt whether it is their job to assert Truth with a capital T over madder, weirder small-t ‘truths’, and where what looks like free speech is actually something very different.

If a student at a British university starts believing that some radical form of Islam is ‘the Truth’, it is most likely as a result of this intellectual cowardice rather than the strength of conviction of some visiting preacher. It is the climate of non-debate, of listening and nodding along to everyone, that can make things seem like the Truth by default. This creation of a relativistic mishmash of equally valid views sells students short as surely as does the outright censorship of ‘extremists’: it, too, creates a climate of conformism and question-avoidance, where the extremists are allowed to speak but only because ‘everyone must be heard and treated with respect’.
(HT: Blazing Cat Fur)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Obama regency

Last night, after discussing the empty gestures of the State of the Union Address, Dag looked into the sky and cried, how can this go on for another three years?

I replied, maybe after the midterm elections the Democrats will try to save the party by surrounding Obama with the "counsel" of wise elders, a kind of regency...

Dag seemed instantly cheered by the thought and cried, I like it! But... regency isn't an American word, though it's appropriate for a man-child, a man with a limited grasp of reality.

I said, but if the Republic can have umpteen Czars, why not a Regent, or maybe an Obama Czar, a Presidency Czar?

Anyway, just out of curiosity, i today see that the number of Google hits for `Obama' and `regency' is currently 438 000 (and only 761 hits for the exact phrase "Obama regency"); among the top returns, it seems these are mostly pages that refer both to Obama and a certain hotel. Since there are only 17.8 million hits for the word `regency', Obama is associated with 2.5% of them. I'd say that's proof enough it's an American word; then again maybe not. Anyway, a purely sporting "pool" is now open: place your bets on how many such hits for pages combining the two words, Obama and regency, we will see in three years.

Freedom makes us Free

Laura Rosen Cohen has written an interesting polemic as a rebuttal to the arguments of the Canadian Jewish Congress, whose head used the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz as a moment to re-iterate the CJC's desire for hate speech laws. My contribution to the debate is in the comments.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Howard Rotberg on "Tolerism"

The great value of new words that play, like puns, on the old, is that they can open up new ways for people to see and to exchange their differences and thus contribute to building up understanding of our shared reality, saving it from decaying into tired cliches that with time become less and less able to make sense of what is an ever-changing world. We can only engage seriously with a reality that we are helping to name and construct, and not with one that has been lost to cliche. The play on words is thus essential if we hope to successfully recognize and mediate our differences going forward. Perhaps nowhere is the need for new words and concepts greater than in our now deeply-cliched discussions of "tolerance" and "discrimination". At a time when we can read of government officials outlawing job ads that ask for "reliable" workers, because this might be discriminatory towards the unreliable, we know we are in desperate need for fresh ideas, or just plain old sanity (the two going together), about what it means to "discriminate", a word that not long ago had positive connotations for it pointed to a superior, not lesser, accounting of reality.

Something the same can be said for the word "tolerance" which our friend Howard Rotberg has taken on in his new book Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed (now also available at amazon.ca) We hope to have a review of Tolerism up at this blog before too long. In the meantime, let's look at an excerpt from Howard's interview by Jamie Glazov at this week's Frontpage (readers who are in areas where the Michael Coren tv show is broadcast can also watch Howard's guest appearance tomorrow night (Wednesday the 27th):
FP: What is the difference between tolerance and Tolerism?

Rotberg: Over the years, such philosophers as Karl Popper and John Rawls had struggled with the idea of toleration and what limits must be placed on the tolerance of the intolerant, who, without such limitations could destroy the tolerant and the ways of tolerance. As the Second World War becomes a distant memory, we have noticed an alarming development: Instead of warnings about appeasement of Evil, we are told by the post-religious that there is no good and evil, only “competing narratives” which in a world of cultural relativism, means that western distinguished historians are given no more respect than mere polemicists, and that liberalism in Israel is given no higher respect than the totalitarian propaganda machines of its neighbours. The causes of Tolerism, then, are political correctness, cultural and moral relativism and moral equivalency.

Tolerism, the ideology, involves not just a tolerance of what should be intolerable, and the failure to set reasonable limits on tolerance, but an intolerance of opposing viewpoints within liberal democracies, and an element of self-hatred, cultural masochism, and delusions about the difference between social tolerance and political tolerance. Those who seek justice are mocked with the allegation that we are seeking “vengeance,” as Spielberg did with his dastardly re-writing of history in the movie Munich to show that Israel, and, impliedly, the Bush administration, were all about retribution and vengeance instead of the supposedly enlightened trait of tolerance. Tolerism, then, is the ideology of those who have attempted to cast off the Judeo-Christian ethics of justice and morality, and the sanctity of human life and fundamental liberties, and instead seek to undermine the great liberal democracies by their unwillingness to accept that tolerance has limits and that justice is far more important.

[...]

FP: What is the connection between Tolerism and anti-Semitism?

Rotberg: There are several: Firstly, to the extent that Tolerism contains a large dose of self-hatred, or the hatred of America and Israel standing for all that is good – liberal freedoms and human rights- a large number of Tolerists (think Naomi Klein here) begin to hate America and the Jewish state equally. These haters of all that is good relate well to Radical Islam which is the repository of unbridled hate for all things Jewish and American. While historically, up until the 1940s, Islam accepted Jews as dhimmis, Radical Islam has never accepted Jews in the Middle East, which is, according to them, Dar-Al-Islam, once and forever Muslim territory, notwithstanding the continual presence of Jews for 3500 years.

Secondly, Tolerism posits a type of moral and cultural relativism that resents states like America and Israel striving for the morality and justice advocated in the Bible. As well, if Islamic totalitarian theocracies or Palestinian death cults are as morally valid as any other position, then the Jewish narrative must by its nature be extremist and hence suspect. This is why there is such little regard paid in the topic of “refugees” for the nearly one million Jews who were expelled from Arab countries in the 1940s, and were taken in and resettled by Israel. The United Nations then can create a separate organization for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and be utterly silent about the Jewish refugees from Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon.

Thirdly, I referred to Spielberg’s travesty of a movie, Munich, which portrays the Jew-nation of Israel as vengeful and intent on retribution, compared to the supposed Christian virtues of tolerance and mercy. This is a theme that is best explored in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, where a proper reading of this classic shows a man so marginalized and abused by society that he ends up, as a result of this marginalization, vengefully obsessed with retributive justice, which of course is denied to him, because the very Court proceeding has been corrupted by Portia impersonating the Judge. An improper reading, such as was done by the Englishman Michael Radford in the most recent movie version of The Merchant of Venice, makes the Jew Shylock the archetype for the supposedly vengeful Jews and Americans exacting a negative form of Justice against the poor, oppressed terrorists or the Iraqi terror state. The fact that the worst terrorists have university educations and come from above average income families is irrelevant to the anti-Semitic fantasy that the intolerant Americans and Israelis are the new Nazis and supposedly deserve the terrorism inflicted on them. It is all anti-Semitic in nature.

FP: How do we find the limits of tolerance?

Rotberg: Starting with the great philosophers of Toleration, we would have to accept, like Karl Popper that “if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed and tolerance with them … We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”

But just as important, we have to begin to discuss how Tolerism and its associated ideologies are behind many of the delusions about the nature of the war that has begun against us, and the nature of the enemy. We must learn that Terrorism is successful precisely because it creates what I call a “Cultural Stockholm Syndrome” or a cultural response similar to the “Patty Hearst Syndrome” where we begin to indentify with our terrorist oppressors and begin to accept small benefits from them as part of a submission to their will and values. The idea that the West can defeat terrorism by more tolerance of the evil perpetrators of murder directed at civilians, is, quite frankly, preposterous.

In the book, I explore a variety of ways to find a suitable limitation for tolerance, and I refer to writings of such heroic writers as David Solway, David Horowitz, Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Greenfield, Vijay Kumar, and even moderate Muslims like Tarek Fatah (who has called for a clear statement by Islamic theologians that Jihad must henceforth be only construed as an individual inner struggle for spirituality rather than be construed as an outer-directed violent struggle against Jews, Christians and Hindus). I hope that my book induces further discussion of what are the limits of tolerance.
Read the whole thing...

UPDATE:

SDAMatt has put up a video covering one part of the Coren show:

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Anti-Zionist" clergyman in UK convinces police to visit blogger exposing church man's associations

We Are All Seismic Shock. Freedom only survives if we share a covenant to defend each other's liberty. Police have no business mediating political disputes unless they make it clear they suspect a law may have been broken. This does not appear to have been done in this case, notwithstanding the police now asserting that they were investigating a claim of "harassment". Is it just my impression, or do the UK police seem to be doing rather too much lately to suggest that when push comes to shove, they will aim to protect their monopoly on violence by siding with the more combustible forces of anti-Western hatred?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Radio Memories: Friendly Enemies

The human heart holds many mysteries, but one of its deepest is surely the elusive art of reconciliation.

What does it take for one man to forgive another? A faulty memory? A blurring of the recollections of grievances suffered, having grown distant in time? The line-up within the classic expression, "forgive and forget", suggests otherwise. Somehow, we must forgive despite our memories of sins committed against us. But how in the world do you do that?

I wonder if forgiveness has its roots in optimism. Is it from a belief in "happy endings" that we may summon the resources we need to find forgiveness for others? Does optimism provide us with the faith that we possess the ability, the free will, to control our reactions to situations, even though we possess little control over the situations themselves?

These thoughts and more bubbled together from an unlikely source, which we share with you through this week's Radio Memories.

Each week we hit the pause button on current events to wander down memory lane, back to a time before television, when radio, with its art of radio drama and "the theater of the mind", was king. There is much to learn from these old shows, and by listening to the echoes they carry from different places and distant times. The hope is that while everything around us may change, people themselves rarely change in their potential, they remain the same hodgepodge jumble of failings... and occasional strengths.

This week's offering is a short-lived series from 1938, called Frontier Fighters. Each week dramatized the story of a different figure pulled from the history of the American west, sometimes telling familiar stories of the more famous chapters, with shows devoted to explorers Lewis and Clark, General Custer, or scouts Buffalo Bill Cody and Kit Carson.

Sometimes the stories ventured to the outer periphery of familiar history, and its from these margins that we select this particular episode, chronicling one of the many close calls that nearly re-ignited war between Canada and its neighbors in the United States of America:

The 1859 Pig War.

That crisis came on June 15, 1859, when an American settler named Lyman Cutlar shot and killed a pig belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, because it was rooting in his garden. When British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar, American citizens drew up a petition requesting U.S. military protection.

That protection arrives in the form of a 66-man company of the 9th U.S. Infantry under the command of a young Captain George Pickett, eventually immortalized as the symbol of Confederate ascendancy through the Gettysburg battlefield maneuver of Pickett's Charge.

To dislodge him from the strategic position he assumes just north of the farm, the British send three warships under the command of Captain Geoffrey Phipps Hornby, a familiar name for Vancouver residents, as we have a downtown street named in his honor. Hornby's frigate, the 31-gun HMS Tribune, is accompanied by the 21-gun HMS Satellite and the 10-gun Plumper, but the outnumbered Pickett refuses to withdraw, even in the face of this formidable enemy. Most of Hornby's marines are veterans of recent war in China, and are particularly experienced in amphibious landings. The situation is tense:

Throughout the remaining days of July and well into August, the British force in Griffin Bay (then San Juan Harbor) continued to grow. Captain Hornby, however, wisely refused to take any action against the Americans until the arrival of Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes, commander of British naval forces in the Pacific.
Admiral Baynes had already faced off against American forces several decades before, at the Battle of New Orleans, yet held no grudges for past history. In a much-repeated quote, he advises an upset British Columbia governor, James Douglas, that he "would not involve two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig."
On the other side, US President James Buchanan dispatches General Winfield Scott to diffuse tensions on the West Coast, hoping for a repeat of Scott's successful negotiations in maintaining peace back in 1838, following the dangerous escalation of hostilities at the time of the Caroline Affair.

Meanwhile, Pickett's slender forces are reinforced on August 10, by an extra 171 men under Lieutenant Colonel Silas Casey; Pickett and Casey were to meet again under decidedly different circumstances, as Brigadier Generals Casey and Pickett confronted each other on May 31, 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign, each leading opposite sides of the exceptionally bloody Battle of the Seven Pines. It's a small world...
As the radio program will explain, there was a peaceful resolution to the gathering storm on San Juan Island, but sadly for the US, storm clouds continued to grow for other reasons. Certainly the colorful episode of the Pig War shows what can happen when two adversaries both believe in the adage, "To Err Is Human, To Forgive, Divine"; both sides felt duty-bound by their values system to find ways to reconcile through reasoned debate, a dispute that had begun in hot-tempered emotion.

The striving for forgiveness is a yearning that manifests itself quite frequently in the fascinating life of George Pickett. (How many other Confederate officers could claim friendships with both Abraham Lincoln and General U.S. Grant as part of their biographies?)

In 1913 a compilation of letters written to his third wife, Sallie Corbell Pickett (his first love had died in childbirth with his first child, his second wife dying from complications arising from a difficult delivery, shortly after the birth of a son), is published, and within its introduction his widow recounts a startling anecdote, from the aftermath of the 1865 burning of Richmond:
“... The day after the fire, there was a sharp rap at the door. The servants had all run away. The city was full of northern troops, and my environment had not taught me to love them. The fate of the other cities had awakened my fears for Richmond. With my baby on my arm, I answered the knock, opened the door and looked up at a tall, gaunt, sad-faced man in ill-fitting clothes, who, with the accent of the North, asked:
“Is this George Pickett’s place?”
“Yes, sir,” I answered, “but he is not here.”
“I know that, ma’am,” he replied, “but I just wanted to see the place. I am Abraham Lincoln.”
“The President!” I gasped.
The stranger shook his hand and said: “No, ma’am; no, ma’am; just Abraham Lincoln; George’s old friend.”
“I am George Pickett’s wife and this is his baby”, was all I could say. I had never seen Mr. Lincoln but remembered the intense love and reverence with which my Soldier always spoke of him.
My baby pushed away from me and reached out his hands to Mr. Lincoln, who took him in his arms. As he did so an expression of rapt, almost divine, tenderness and love lighted up the sad face.
It was a look that I have never seen on any face. My baby opened his mouth wide and insisted upon giving his father’s friend a dewy infantile kiss. As Mr. Lincoln gave the little one back to me, shaking his finger at him playfully, he said:
“Tell your father, the rascal, that I forgive him for the sake of that kiss and those bright eyes.”He turned and went down the steps, talking to himself, and passed out of my sight forever… [page 14-15, "The Heart Of A Soldier"]
Understandably, General Pickett himself had difficulty forgiving the battle plan that cost him his division at the Battle of Gettysburg. This account, again, from his widow's introduction:
Five thousand Virginians followed him at the start; but when the Southern flag floated on the ridge, in less than half an hour, not two thousand were left to rally beneath it, and those for only one glorious, victory-intoxicated moment.
They were not strong enough to hold the position they had so dearly won; and, broken-hearted, even at the very moment of his immortal triumph, my Soldier led his remaining men down the slope again. He dismounted and walked beside the stretcher upon which General Kemper, one of his officers, was being carried, fanning him and speaking cheerfully to comfort him in his suffering. When he reached Seminary Ridge again and reported to General Lee, his face was wet with tears as he pointed to the crimson valley and said:
“My noble division lies there!”
“General Pickett”, said the commander, “you and your men have covered yourselves with glory.”
“Not all the glory in the world, General Lee”, my Soldier replied, “could atone for the widows and orphans this day has made.”
In his after-battle report, Pickett in his fury documents "without reserve the circumstances that were responsible for the disastrous result". General Lee requests, in the interests of the greater good, that a different version be submitted instead:

"[W]e have the enemy to fight, and must carefully, at this critical moment, guard against dissensions which the reflections in your report would create. I will, therefore, suggest that you destroy both copy and original, substituting one confined to casualties merely. I hope all will yet be well..."
Pickett looked upon Lee’s suggestion as a command that was binding upon him for all time and he has never divulged the contents of this report…

[Heart Of A Soldier, pg 212-213]

As casualties and the horrors of an increasingly violent war multiplied in 1864, there appeared a hopeful sign of eventual reconciliation. As his widow repeated the tale:

At the time our first baby was born the two armies were encamped facing each other and they often swapped coffee and tobacco under flags of truce. On the occasion of my son’s birth bonfires were lighted in celebration all along Pickett’s line. Grant saw them and sent scouts to learn the cause. When they reported, he said to General Ingalls:
“Haven’t we some kindling on this side of the line? Why don’t we strike a light for the young Pickett?”
In a little while bonfires were flaming from the Federal line. A few days later there was taken through the lines a baby’s silver service, engraved: “To George E. Pickett, Jr, from his father’s friends, U.S. Grant, Rufus Ingells, George Suckley.” [Dr Suckley had served with Pickett in Washington at the time of the Pig War, and had consoled him following the loss of his wife. Small world...]
At the conclusion of the Civil War, Pickett faced some difficult decisions; his resignation from the United States Army at the start of the war and his service as a high-ranking officer in the opposing Confederate Army led to a flight to Canada, from where he would petition for seemingly unlikely chances of amnesty. While he returned in 1866, he had to wait until 1874 for Congress to issue him a full pardon.
In 1868, however, his old friend and recent adversary, Ulysses S Grant, assumed the office of President of the United States. Putting Cold Harbor, the siege of Petersburg, and other past chapters behind them, President Grant invited the Picketts to the White House, as recounted by his widow:
Grant, ever faithful to his friends, had been urging my Soldier to accept the marshalship of the State of Virginia. Pickett, sorely as he needed the appointment, knew the demands upon Grant, and that his acceptance would create criticism and enemies for the President. He shook his head, saying:
“You can’t afford to do this for me, Sam, and I can’t afford to take it.”
“I can afford to do anything I please,” said Grant. My Soldier still shook his head, but the deep emotion of his heart shone in his tear-dimmed eyes, and in Grant’s, as they silently grasped each other’s hands and then walked away in opposite directions and looked out of separate windows, while I stole away.
In their final, silent handshake, we can hear the elusive sound of forgiveness, and from the "Pig War" we can hear the even rarer sound of Peace:

video

Chesler chronicles the deepening madness of academe

I’m not one often to toy with Godwin’s law, but in commenting on such an absurd study, should we pretend these people are capable of reasonable diaogue?

… Harvard study, published in the latest edition of the medical journal, Lancet, shows murder of Goebbels family the fault of Red Army. “If one is not allowed to live with respect as a proper, world-dominating Nazi, then life can have no meaning for my children, let Odin sort them out… the existence of non-Nazi states is to blame for all our problems”, Goebbels told the Harvard scientists. “We’ve been fighting the Communists since the end of World War I, and now it’s come to this – how dare they have defended themselves so successfully against the bloody sacrifice of a generation of Aryan manhood?!”

The Red Army took away his masculinity, the feminist scholars pointed out. Holy Mother in Heaven forbid that such an emasculated, effeminate creature should be held responsible for his actions.

Chesler Chronicles » Lancet Study Blames Palestinian Wife-Beating on Israel

Meanwhile, Code Pink to the rescue.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Shut up, already! Khurrum Awan sues Ezra Levant; comparisons made to Wilders trial and Fort Hood denial

The news going around the Canadian blogs today is that Khurrum Awan is carrying through with his previous threat to sue Ezra Levant. The details of the case are provided by Ezra at the link, along with his reminder of his need for financial donations:
instead of just fighting this lawsuit passively, what if I could use it to go on the offensive, and really root around inside the Canadian Islamic Congress, and expose their anti-Semitic, anti-Canadian ways? The trial will be partly about what I’ve written -- no problem. But it will equally be about Awan’s reputation, and that of the CIC. It will give me a chance to ask Awan questions he’s never been asked before, and to see documents he’s never had to disclose before.

I’ll be able to expose the CIC for the venomous outfit that it is. I can picture spending at least an hour talking with Awan about his organization’s call for the decriminalization of Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups.

My friends, I don’t like being sued. But I have to tell you, of all the junk lawsuits thrown at me because of my campaign for free speech – and there have been plenty – this one is in some ways the most important. If I handle this one right, I can expose the true nature of the CIC and the radical Islamist, pro-terrorist groups in Canada with whom Awan has consorted.

Let me quote a Jew now, just because it will irritate Awan. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote nearly 100 years ago, “publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” I'm going to bring some klieg lights to trial on this one.

I believe that nothing will disinfect our public square better than scrutiny and publicity of how illiberal Islamic fascists are waging war against our values. I hope that the lasting impact of this trial will be the complete and final detonation of the CIC’s credibility.

Bring it on.

Can you help me, please?

As I mentioned, this lawsuit will probably cost me $50,000 to fight. And it’s just one of many suits and complaints that the same cabal has hit me with, again and again.

Over the past two years I’ve been hit with three human rights complaints, over twenty complaints to the law society and this is the fifth defamation suit. That's 28 suits and complaints. And they’re all junk lawsuits – SLAPP suits designed to shut me up.

I won the three human rights cases, and the first twenty law society complaints have all been dismissed. So far I have a perfect track record: 23 out of 23. Unfortunately, even if you win these sorts of nuisance complaints, you don’t get your legal costs back, so it’s been expensive.

If you’d like to help me, I’d appreciate it. It's expensive fighting two dozen legal fights, even if they are junk.... And I certainly don’t want this suit to change what I say or do in my life, especially my ability to criticize radical Islam and its politically correct allies.
Again, the details on how to donate are found on Ezra's post.

What links can we draw between what appears to be a lawsuit largely intended to hassle and fetter one of Canada's leading critics of Islamic "lawfare", by making a mountain of the molehill that, included in Ezra's reporting on the Canadian Islamic Congress' attempt to use the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal to punish Maclean's magazine for publishing Mark Steyn's columns denouncing the failure of Europeans to reproduce and to protect Western cultures from "Islamization", was an observation that Khurrum Awan under cross examination appeared to have been caught in a lie?

Phyllis Chesler draws the comparison to what is going on in Europe with Geert Wilders:
I have been privileged to meet and hear Dutch Parliamentarian and possible future Prime Minister, Geert Wilders, speak in New York City. Together, with other invited guests of the Hudson Institute, we watched Wilders’ short film, Fitna, which shows terrorist scenes of devastation around the world — we have all seen them on the nightly news. Fitna also has real mullahs reading aloud from the Qu’ran — reading passages that in all truth are contained there. The film, accompanied by a brilliant musical soundtrack, allows us to connect the dots. It does not preach so much as “show.”

Nevertheless, just as Kurt Westergaard’s “Danish Muhammed cartoons” were hardly offensive by Western standards — that did not stop a global jihad against them which continues to this very day. Yale University Press refused to publish the cartoons in a book they themselves commissioned about the cartoons. And Canadian author Howard Rotberg had to become a publisher himself in order to have his say despite Canada’s political correctness where certain subjects are concerned.

And, “lawfare” (war by legal action) and the lawsuits do not stop coming. The same litigious Muslim-Canadian who sued Mark Steyn for telling the truth and for daring to venture his own witty opinion, (which opinion “offended” certain professional easy-to-offend Muslims), is now suing Ezra Levant. Kathy Shaidle has a good piece about this here. Shaidle quotes Levant himself about Khurrum Awan, the man who is suing him. And, by the way, Awan is a second-generation Canadian Muslim.
[...]
By 2003/2004, I, and a handful of others, had already understood that free speech/truth speech were under siege in the West, and that the first row of attackers were precisely those Western intellectuals who prided themselves on their commitment to free speech but who behaved like totalitarian censors. No, they did not burn books; they simply refused to publish or review them. They “disappeared” certain authors by not interviewing them. Or, these cultural gatekeepers demonized the book, its author, and the ideas presented. They, the censors, labeled anything that ran afoul of the Party Line as a “fascist, racist, Islamophobic” work.

American professors became very careful and exceedingly quiet on campus when the subjects of Israel, American imperialism, or Islam were raised. Many Jewish students cared more about “not offending” the Muslim students than they cared about telling the truth about jihad, or about the war against the Jews.

Those who saw things as I did began publishing samizdat, American-style. The conservative media and the internet became the above-ground venues for our “underground” publishing ventures. I — a radical feminist, an American patriot, and a Zionist — really fell down Alice’s rabbit hole; my mates in the bunker were conservatives with whom I both agreed and disagreed on the burning issues of the day. This was clear: We all knew we were in a war, we all feared the fifth column in our midst, and none of us had any intention of surrendering. The other issues were important, but not as important.

We live in curious times. On the one hand, it is not difficult to find commentary, such as in this interview with sober ex-Muslim scholar Ibn Warraq, pointing out what is becoming obvious to large numbers of people on all sides of the current "clash of civilizations" - Ibn Warraq is speaking to the question of how Western societies can mix the need to tolerate cultural differences with the need of those same societies to remain coherent, orderly, and free:
there has got to be a common core of principles which are accepted by everyone, otherwise you will have chaos. Society cannot exist unless you have agreement on the basic principles; so that would mean Muslims having to shed some of the principles they were brought up on. There is no compatibility between Islam interpreted strictly and liberal democracy; this is obvious; take the position of women; they are considered inferior; men have the right to beat them; they have less rights in inheritance and so on.
And yet at the same time, we live in a world where official parlance cannot make any such simple statement. For example, Diana West is reporting how, in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti and the spectacular result in the recent Massachusetts Senate election, the official Pentagon report on the Fort Hood mass murder is being relatively ignored. The report - on the murderer, Nidal M. Hasan who, as a vast array of evidence has shown, was clearly motivated by his not-uncommon understanding of Islam, an understanding and the violent dilemmas it posed for him that he himself outlined logically in a Power Point presentation to fellow service people - is
86 pages long and doesn't mention the words "Muslim," "Islam," "jihad," "Sharia" (Islamic law), "Koran" -- despite the fact that we know, among other things, that the killer, who initiated his massacre with a cry of "Allahu Akbar," was a Muslim inspired by Islam to perform an act of jihad as sanctioned by Sharia derived from the Koran.

These facts, however, rate official silence. So what else is new? From the Bush years to the present, see-no-Islam denial has turned U.S. government attempts to assess and discuss national security issues into Kabuki gibberish, a perpetual exercise in make-believe that the core doctrines and traditional institutions of Islam -- not "radical Islam," not "Islamism," not other aliases -- pose no threat to the core doctrines and traditional institutions of the non-Islamic Free World. Naturally, mum's the Pentagon word over jihad at Fort Hood. Or, rather, "self-radicalization" is the word. It is mentioned more than a dozen times in the report.

I can't imagine a greater dereliction of duty than this failure of U.S. government leaders to recognize, articulate and defend against what in military parlance is known as the "enemy threat doctrine." But this dereliction, this failure will trigger no investigations or court proceedings on how and why our leaders consistently mask, soft-soap and otherwise fail to assess and repel the existential threat posed by the imposition or accommodation of these same Islamic doctrines.

Talk about irony: Within days of the report's release, one of the few politicians in the world who understands, articulates and fights the imposition and accommodation of these same Islamic doctrines went on trial in the Netherlands for doing exactly that.

I refer again to Geert Wilders...
I am of the view that most things that can be explained by the deeply human traits of laziness and the need for deferral of conflict should be so simply explained. I rather doubt there are many people in the Pentagon who actually think that the Fort Hood massacre was anything other than an Islamically-inspired, Jihadi attack, however much they would admit the possibility of multiple interpretations of Islam and however much we must acknowledge that Islam is a political religion that mitigates against Western forms of "corporate personhood"(Western capacity to create all kinds of associations and representative figures) and so its responsible or representative actors are as much lonely individuals as corporate entities (see Roger Scruton's discussions of Malise Ruthven, here and here). But there are many who will go along with not saying so publicly, lest their careers suffer the arbitrary and irrational sanctions of political correctness.

It is the essence of the human to want to defer conflict. But proper knowledge of this fact requires we also know when we are becoming cowardly and foolish in following one imperative and not another. Sometimes a little conflict is necessary to defer potential for larger conflict. We are living in dangerous times. I think we need to heed Ibn Warraq's words above and see that we need to give up the liberal ideology that thinks if only we are nice and appeasing to Muslims, in the name of their alleged victimization, especially to Muslims who insist on outlawing any criticism of Islam according to the dictates of Sharia law, then we will have peace, forgetting that "peace" is what Islam calls "submission". Rather, we need to assert that any successful integration of Islam in our now global civilization, with its single global economy, will require Muslims giving up certain Koranic imperatives, indeed whatever makes Islam more of a totalitarian political ideology than the kind of private religion that could find a place in the highly-differentiated structures of our shared modern civilization. Of course it is just the assumed impossibility of this "giving up" that lead some, like Nidal Hasan, to violence and self-destruction. Their dilemma must be named for what it is; we must give it the respect it's due, that we push Muslims, others, and ourselves to think through what we really believe when faced with the need to make choices between a Western-led modernity and Sharia. To this end, we might start by offering support, as we can, to Ezra Levant for daring to criticize what he chooses to call "radical Islam" and its attempted enforcement of an orthodox, Sharia-informed ban against criticizing Islam.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Christy Clark invites a guest to tell the story of "Arab Jews" that the Western media almost never hears

Good on Christy Clark, host of British Columbia's most-listened to radio program, to have a guest whose story, simply told, refutes so much of the ideologically-laden rhetoric we are told about Israel being a project of European colonialism. Regina Waldman (this is her married surname) speaks about her family's experience as "Arab Jews", of how they barely escaped Libya with their lives in the wake of the Arab world's pogroms against the Jews who had lived among them for thousands of years, the  Jewish refugees from Arab lands who would go on to constitute about half of Israel's Jewish population. Listen to the interview, here:
CIC Scene » Christy Clark Show on CKNW Interviews Regina Waldman on Jews from Arab Lands

Toronto Rally for Geert Wilders

Last night, the Jewish Defense League in Toronto organized a rally on behalf of Geert Wilders and the cause of free speech and democracy everywhere. The great sdamatt is posting videos from the event on youtube. I don't think he's finished yet, but here is what he has so far.

Bjorn Larsen 1


Bjorn Larsen 2


Kathy Shaidle


Rabbi Jonathan Hausman 1


Rabbi Jonathan Hausman 2


Rabbi Jonathan Hausman 3


Rabbi Jonathan Hausman 4


Rabbi Jonathan Hausman 5

Geert Wilders Defends Our Freedom

There is of course something fundamentally wrong with a society that allows its government to prosecute the government's leading political opponent for the inevitably arbitrarily-defined crime of "hate speech", the prosecutors of which avow that truth is not a defense if truth can be deemed hateful. So it's clear that the Netherlands, like much of Europe, is sick. And now with the opening of Geert Wilders' trial it faces a moment of truth: will it go deeper into the madness of totalitarianism or will it rediscover a respect for individual freedom and start to prosecute the real enemies, those who threaten violence against individuals speaking and living freely?

Walker with his blog roundup has great coverage of Day 1 of the Wilders trial. He has also provided video and translation of Wilders' statement to the court: Geert Wilders’ personal speech at pre-trial hearing:
Mister Speaker, judges of the court,

I would like to make use of my right to speak for a few minutes.

Freedom is the most precious of all our attainments and the most vulnerable. People have devoted their lives to it and given their lives for it. Our freedom in this country is the outcome of centuries. It is the consequence of a history that knows no equal and has brought us to where we are now.

I believe with all my heart and soul that the freedom in the Netherlands is threatened. That what our heritage is, what generations could only dream about, that this freedom is no longer a given, no longer self-evident.

I devote my life to the defence of our freedom. I know what the risks are and I pay a price for it every day. I do not complain about it; it is my own decision. I see that as my duty and it is why I am standing here. I know that the words I use are sometimes harsh, but they are never rash. It is not my intention to spare the ideology of conquest and destruction, but I am not any more out to offend people. I have nothing against Muslims. I have a problem with Islam and the Islamization of our country because Islam is at odds with freedom.

Future generations will wonder to themselves how we in 2010, in this place, in this room, earned our most precious attainment. Whether there is freedom in this debate for both parties and thus also for the critics of Islam, or that only one side of the discussion may be heard in the Netherlands? Whether freedom of speech in the Netherlands applies to everyone or only to a few? The answer to this is at once the answer to the question whether freedom still has a home in this country.

Freedom was never the property of a small group, but was always the heritage of us all. We are all blessed by it.

Lady Justice wears a blindfold, but she has splendid hearing. I hope that she hears the following sentences, loud and clear: It is not only a right, but also the duty of free people to speak against every ideology that threatens freedom. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States was right: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

I hope that the freedom of speech shall triumph in this trial.

In conclusion, Mister Speaker, judges of the court: This trial is obviously about the freedom of speech. But this trial is also about the process of establishing the truth. Are the statements that I have made and the comparisons that I have taken, as cited in the summons, true? If something is true then can it still be punishable? This is why I urge you to not only submit to my request to hear witnesses and experts on the subject of freedom of speech. But I ask you explicitly to honour my request to hear witnesses and experts on the subject of Islam. I refer not only to Mister Jansen and Mister Admiraal, but also to the witness/experts from Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Without these witnesses, I cannot defend myself properly and, in my opinion, this would not be an fair trial.
See also this recent interview given by Wilders explaining his positions, and also commentary by Bat Ye'or, Daniel Pipes and others.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reality doesn't matter: Israel is evil, harvesting Haitian organs

After writing my earlier post on the IDF field hospital in Haiti, I came across an argument from Ghost of a flea: The IDF in Haiti that gave me pause:
I have been watching IDF updates on their work in Haiti. I haven't posted them (yet) because - sadly - I think they are to miss the point. I think so much of the world hates and resents Israel precisely because of Israel's good works, precisely because Israel is good (much the same might be said of America).

Because the Enemy is evil and celebrates evil. Because there is no good deed the Enemy will not spin as self-serving or a cover for "imperialism". Because the Enemy does not see the dead of Haiti as human beings trapped by a wicked, disfunctional society but as so many counters in a game to control the world (in the name of Marx or Mohammed, the consequence for freedom - for human dignity - is much the same).
I didn't find this argument completely convincing for while there are indeed a large number of antisemites there is no point trying to talk to, there are yet some people, say youngsters misled at school, still able to be moved by exposure to reality. But then reading Elder of Ziyon, I saw a couple of quick links to the latest rendering of the age-old antisemitic blood libel:
Even as IDF travels across world to extend hand to country in need, there are those who take opportunity to spread slander, blood libel against Jewish state. Seattle resident, who presents himself as black activist, explains incendiary video he uploaded to YouTube
[...]
An American resident of Seattle, Washington uploaded a video to YouTube on Tuesday accusing soldiers in the IDF delegation to the earthquake site in Haiti of being involved in stealing organs from their patients.
[...]
The man, who calls himself T. West, fronts a group called AfriSynergy Productions, whose declared goal is to empower the black man. The video purports to present something to think about while exploiting the horrible tragedy that has befallen Haiti to recycle false claims that IDF soldiers engage in organ trafficking.

The bizarre host of the video collected praises broadcast on television channels regarding the advanced equipment and treatment the Israeli teams are providing in Haiti. After about a minute and a half of such praise, the man looks straight into the camera and made the claim that there are people operating in Haiti who do not have a conscience and are members of the search-and-rescue teams, including, he claimed, the IDF.

The man repeated the false claims that the IDF stole organs in the past from Palestinians and others. He asserted that there is very little oversight during such tragedies, and that the Haitian people must look out for their fellow citizens to protect them against international medical groups who arrived in the country "for the money." He claimed that some people were looking to make money off the tragedy.

In a conversation with Ynet, the man explained his beliefs behind the hate-filled statements he made. "I don't have anything against Israel. I have a lot against the ideology of Zionism," he explained. "We saw what you did in South Africa and with the Palestinians. Because of our history and the suffering of our people, I understand what the Palestinians are going through."
This youtube video was then picked up by the grandmasters of antisemitism, Iranian Press tv, which recently published the blood libel that was then in turn promoted by a local, Vancouver, Muslim newspaper apparently associated with the British Columbia Muslim Association (though this has been denied by the BCMA), the organization responsible for Sunni mosques in various parts of Vancouver.

I have been following that scandal with an eye to a future blog on why Muslims won't, in all kinds of situations, take responsibility for the lies other Muslims are promoting. But I'll leave the story here, for now, agreeing with Flea that many people are beyond the reach of much truth and beauty, having convinced themselves that evil is good; yet let us remember also that the foundational human experience of truth and beauty can only be blinkered, not permanently removed from any living being. Even the evil have to convince themselves that they are on the side of good. A certain amount of self-righteousness and self-justification is inescapable; that's often obvious when we look at evil people, but it's inevitable for all of us, even for those who know it's thus wise to take humility as their guide. And that is a paradox worth thinking about.

A Professor gives advice on how to protect free speech: treat the universities in their current form with contempt

Via The Blog of Walker: Professor Robert Martin on Canadian colleges

Brown vs. Gown

How did the good people of Cambridge, Mass, home of Harvard the world's most celebrated university (whose motto is veritas) vote in yesterday's Senatorial election? According to this site, 84% went with the state-wide loser, Democrat Martha Coakley, over Scott Brown who won 53% state-wide.

It seems to me here is objective proof that either the Harvard elite know so much better than the ordinary townspeople the truth what's good for all; or it's proof that academe is led by a Gnostic elite who reject worldly realities in favour of a special vision in hopes of a world redeemed by an expert elect, the counterpart to which is a deep resentment of ordinary folk:
You voted for hatred, you voted for ignorance, you voted for Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and the vomit producing Republican Party...
But as today the blogs are full of invites to Brownmania, of one kind or another, I think Wretchard of Belmont Club (a blog named for the neighboring town to Cambridge, where Wretchard lived in his Harvard student days - Belmont went 59% for Coakley) provides a healthy warning of the dangers evidenced by a nation run by an elite who, in one way or another, have not the power to control events that I think the Harvard elect likes to imagine they have, or at least should have:
the events of the last few weeks in Massachusetts are a perfect example of an “emergent event”. When the conditions favor it something just happens out of the blue. In a complex system the interactions between things become so complicated that a wholly new phenomenon may just pop up.

Only a little while ago, the SS Coakley was sailing along on a calm ocean, without a cloud in sight. She was as good as docked in Washington DC when all of a sudden this rogue wave comes out of nowhere and turns the ship over. Except it didn’t come out of nowhere. It came out the underlying conditions that sooner or later, through some stochastic process was going to kick up a mega wave. Scott Brown happened to be it.

What really terrifies me about the gradually weakening of the West’s margin of strength by those who assume they still have a wide degree of safety is that the complex system is out there — the financial, economic and security universe — and we just assume from vanity that we can handle it. But it is not linearly predictable, especially when the number of variables beyond the control of the West increases. The last 20 years have created a dangerous world, full of failed states, chock a block with politicians with less sense than an ass, led on by jesters, addled academics and confidence men. And the assumption is that tomorrow will be just like yesterday because it always has.

No. Obama seemed to have everything. By every measure he was ahead. But if you looked at the fundamentals you could see he was building a sand castle in the face of a running tide. His measures showed him safe. But his measures were the wrong ones. And what happened is there for all to see. “You can’t win them all”. Ha.

We live in a world that has far more volatility than before. We ought to be increasing the design margin the way a general, with no knowledge of the future, increases his reserves. Instead we’ve gone from money in the bank to living from paycheck to paycheck. Now we’re borrowing our way out of debt. We ought to be shortening our OODA loop, empowering people rather than making them more dependent on tottering hierarchical structures which bleat out “the system worked” whenever you press a button. It won’t go on, because it can’t.

Who knows what the next emergent event will be? The only thing one can be fairly sure of is that Robert Gibbs would not have foreseen it.

The little nation that could...

Some people are remarking on the speed and efficiency with which the Israel Defense Forces have come, from thousand of miles away, to set up a fully-equipped field hospital in Haiti. Some would see this as a particular defense of the values inherent in Jewish nationhood. I would add that it should probably teach us something of the value of any coherent national identity, of a society where there is enough of a sense of the common good and purpose - not so much a shared ideology but a commitment to a shared reality, a shared presence/existence on a common national scene - to allow people to work together in implicit trust, with much independent-minded problem solving, and hence without need of the kind of bureaucratic overload and excessive deference to more cautious procedural protocols that may be hampering other, larger nations, or NGOs.


See also the report from Friends of the IDF
As part of the IDF delegation to Haiti , Communications Corps personnel have established a fully functioning communications center in the field hospital- to be used by the IDF delegation, reporters in the area, and even the local population. Cpt. (res.) Barak Tzarom is the commander of the communications center in the field.

The communications staff was the first to arrive in Haiti , as an exploratory force. The force traversed the area and checked topographical conditions for the establishment of a communications center. Satellites and antennas were placed on the roofs of local buildings that had survived the earthquake. The staff worked with such skill and proficiency that in just three and a half hours, the communications center was complete and ready.

The remainder of the delegation arrived with the medical staff and Home Front Command personnel, who settled next to the communications center. Telephone lines were ready for use even before the first treatment was administered in the field hospital.

There is no doubt as to the importance of the communications center: it constitutes the main communication link between the IDF forces in Haiti and IDF commanders in Israel . The demand for the communication center’s services continues to be very high, for both operational and media-sharing needs.

Civilians are also using the communication tools of the center, which is currently the only supplier of internet in the area. Tzarom says: “All media from the writers and reporters in the fields, all information, is being transferred using our command center. Because the communications tools here are not sufficiently prepared to transfer information from the field we are assisting them by enabling them to do all of that from Haiti , in the best conditions possible.”

Cpt. Tzarom says that despite the courageous work, one cannot ignore the difficult images that characterize the disaster zone. “The mission always stands at the forefront, but the reality on the field is too difficult for one to stay untouched. You meet local people who suddenly became people without anything, you see them waiting on the sides of the roads that we drive on. It is impossible to describe the suffering, and the new reality that they have become a part of,” he says. “That being said, the local people are so happy to receive the assistance we are offering. In broken language they thank us for our contribution and our help. They smile at us and make peace signs at us, perhaps signing to us what it would be hard for them to say because of our different languages. These are the moments that make you understand the importance of our mission here,” he adds with emotion.

The Communications Corps staff promises to be “the first to arrive and the last to leave.” Hand in hand with Home Front Command and Medical Corps personnel, they will continue to supply communications from outside in and vice versa.
See also:
In the middle of the destruction, there was happiness. On the night of January 17th, a female resident of Port-au-Prince gave birth to a healthy baby boy at the IDF field hospital, thanks to the medical services of the IDF delegation in Haiti . A family member present at the birth suggested that the mother name her child in honor of the country that helped her. The mother was happy to oblige, and the baby boy was named “ Israel .”

Since the birth of baby Israel , two other babies have been delivered in the IDF field hospital.
If Haiti is to be rebuilt, it needs to attend to such models of nationhood, and not listen to the many who scapegoat that which works.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Radio Memories: Hope for Haiti II

This week we're presenting not just one but two posts in our -- hopefully..! -- weekly feature, Radio Memories, where we pause to listen to echoes of radio's past, from the days when radio drama, and not television, ruled the [air]waves.

[The second old radio drama we offer this week, Ports Of Call, visiting Haiti in 1935, can be heard here. I think it's worth listening to that one first, if you have time to hear both.]

The radio play awaiting below is from one of radio's most empassioned programs: Destination Freedom.

What a series! As I understand its history, it was a locally-produced show for the Chicago radio market from 1949 until 1951, and never broadcast nationally. After its cancellation a number of transcription discs laid, forgotten, in a studio closet for decades until re-discovered in the 1980s. Today the series probably enjoys wider listenership, in our time, than it did when first broadcast...

Radio drama had a tumultuous life in Chicago; many influential and popular shows, as well as influential talents would get their start in that city, but would eventually move on, following the financial siren song of the more lucrative New York and Los Angeles markets. The resulting brain-drain left things always in flux, with the conflict offering opportunity for new people to keep starting in at the bottom, since so many would be leaving at the top.

One such opportunity came to Richard Durham, a longtime freelance radio playwright, and then-editor of the Chicago Defender, an important weekly civil rights newspaper based in Chicago. His unique idea was pitched, and accepted. Begun with the expectation that the series would likely last only a few weeks, Durham went on to write 91 scripts over two years for a true radio rarity: a civil rights dramatic anthology.

Destination Freedom was carried by the same WMAQ radio station that had originated the well-intentioned but resentfully-received Amos and Andy blackface caricature series in the late 1920s, and Durham later expressed his appreciation for being given a chance to have his series idea welcomed by the local station:

"[WMAQ program director Judith Waller] was quite enthusiastic about the new characterizations that we were presenting, so I look back upon [her] now as quite an innovative promoter in the business of radio", Durham remembered in a 1983 interview quoted at length in John Dunning's 800-page reference book, "On The Air: The Encyclopedia Of Old Radio Drama".

"I had to submit the name and a short description of the character that I wanted to depict. These would generally be accepted; now and then there would be a question," he goes on to say, but also mentions that the station never pressured him to soften the show's assertive rhetoric, making each episode filled with raw emotion in a way that most radio drama of the time was not.

Durham credits two sources as literary inspiration: innovative radio writer/director/producer William N. Robson, for a sympathetic program he produced on the 1943 Detroit race riots, and novelist Charles Dickens:

"I had spent a lot of time studying Dickens... I had discovered that a Dickens character made you love him or hate him almost at once, and I used that same approach, of setting the characters as quickly as possible."

The black writer's scripts would be performed primarily by mostly all-black casts, with the occasional white character roles filled in by local white actors, in an upheaval of radio's usual casting procedures for that era. (I was pleasantly surprised to hear one familiar voice book-ending the show as its announcer: Hugh Downs, recognizeable to my generation as the former host of ABC's long-running late-night news program, 20/20.)

I can't help but perceive two contradictory emotions when I listen in to an episode of Destination Freedom: there's a clear, stark anger to be heard in these plays, yet to my ears it comes across not as anger for anger's sake... it's tempered by a hope, by a prayer, for peace, and a lessening of injustice. Maybe in the end, that's the best thing to hope for.

While the series' focus was on American contemporary figures and US history in general, there were occasional exceptions where the show ranged farther afield, and this Radio Memories post features one such episode: the October 3rd, 1948 entry that takes a look at the Haitian Revolution, with a hopeful portrait of Toussaint L'Ouverture.

One wonders what Richard Durham would make of the election of a black President of his United States, had he lived to see it. Would he say we've arrived at the destination he labored so long to push his nation towards?

Age and life experience tend to conspire to bring a cloud of fatalism to our later years, to counter the spark of youthful idealism enflaming our earlier days. A single life often sees such abundant change, in attitude as well as body, it gives us hope that similar change can befall the entirety of humanity, as well. I fear that the laboratory of history suggests otherwise; for all our "progress", people remain people, generation after generation, still just as capable of continuing cruelty as they are of repentance.

The promise of change for the better means different things to us as we occupy each extreme; for the young, change hits their life in sudden, magnificient bursts, so is it any surprise they push for change on a macro level with expectations of equally immediate results? As we age, our experience with change sees it in more gradual form, and with it comes expectations that progress, if it's to come at all, will also come gradually, slowly. Barely perceived at the time, only noticeable when life is laid out in line, like a long string. Hopefully the young can indulge the pessimism of the old long enough to learn such that they may land farther forward than they would have otherwise, bearing the benefits of the other's experience; maybe the old can forgive the young for the folly of their exuberance, for they were young once themselves.

The fire of youthful indignation drives us forward, the wisdom of age reveals how much farther we have to go, and how little we've in fact truly moved. The relation between each extreme is a messy one, but without that conflicted mess how else would we be able to stumble onward, towards the destination that forgiveness, reconciliation, and mercy would bring; a destination... of freedom.

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