Monday, August 31, 2009

Shame on us!

The U.S. government continues to apply strong pressure on the government of Honduras to permit former President Manuel Zelaya to return. The Wall Streeet Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady reports that U.S. visa services for Hondurans have been suspended indefinitely and that some $135 million in bilateral aid might be cut. And that's just what's in the public domain; what else, she wonders, is going on behind closed doors?

I suspect that many Americans, if they had any idea this was going on, would identify with the Hondurans who are simply trying to defend their democracy - after all, Zelaya wanted to make himself president-for-life just like his mentor and buddy, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Yup, it was the oil

Well, now we know: the next time there's a dispute and you have to choose between the verison offered by Saif Ghaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, and UK prime minister Gordon Brown, go with Saif. He said that the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, was released in exchange for an oil deal. Indeed, that appears to have been the case according to this news report about leaked ministerial letters. Way to go, Gordie!

Hitler redux

This clever video offers a hilarious commentary on today's all-too-prevalent tendency for people to dub anyone whose politics they don't like 'Hitler'. In case you're wondering, the clip itself is from the recent movie Downfall, about Hitler's last days in the bunker in Berlin. (Thanks to Libby.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A big mistake

This news report alleges that U.S. officials have decided not to install a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, preferring instead other sites, perhaps in Turkey and Israel.

The missile defense system had become increasingly unpopular in both Poland and the Czech Republic by the end of the Bush Administration. It was also described, wrongly, as being technically deficient. However, it remained a symbol of U.S commitment to the region - a region increasingly under pressure from Russia.

A number of prominent Central and East European leaders recently wrote an open letter to the Obama administration asking it for a genuine commitment to the defense of NATO's eastern borders. Watch for a serious deterioration in our relations with those countries if we don't step up to the plate.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chinese organ transplants

Since the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet is - rightly - outraged at the thought that governments would harvest the organs of involuntary victims, I thought I'd volunteer data on cases that do exist. The Chinese government just acknowledged that it has been selling the organs of executed prisoners; here's a BBC undercover video describing how the system works.

I realize that there's no clear link, as yet, between the Chinese government and the Israeli Defense Forces, but I'm sure some enterprising Swede will find one.

Health care alternatives

Here I go again ... but this article is so interesting I couldn't leave it out. Journalist William Tate describes how Texas got medical costs down while significantly increasing the number of doctors and health care available to poorer segments of society.

-- It capped the non-economic damages from medical liability suits at $25,000 per defendant, or up to $750,000 per incident (actual costs are not capped).

-- It also stopped baseless but expensive lawsuits by requiring plaintiffs to provide expert-witness reports to support their claims within four months of filing.

-- The results: insurance rates down 27%, number of doctors applying to practice up 57%. The number of obstetricians practicing in rural Texas up 27%, etc.

Admittedly, this one step wouldn't fix everything; for example, we still need health insurance portability. But it sure would help.

Remember how Obama was booed when he refused to consider tort reform? Tate cites $178 million in lawyers' campaign donations to the Democrats in the 2008 election cycle, of which $43 million went to the Obama campaign. You do the math!

Rifqa Bary's parents

In case you watched the video of Rifqa Bary saying that her father wanted to murder her and you didn't quite believe it, here's some confirming evidence.

According to Pamela Geller, Rifqa's father sold his (apparently thriving) business on July 29 - after Rifqa had been discovered in Florida, and when it looked like she might be placed in a foster home in Ohio for 30 days. His action makes sense if you figure, as Rifqa said, that the family would return to Sri Lanka with her - and that she would either be murdered or put in an insane asylum.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Swedish influence

The saga of allegations that the Israeli military shoot Palestinians for their body parts continues with two new tidbits.

First, the Jerusalem Post reports that the family of the boy whose 1992 death was cited had never talked to foreign journalists, although someone remembered a Swedish photographer being present when the body was buried. More and more, this looks like a story of Swedish as much as of Palestinian origin.

Second, the Swedish Chancellor of Justice has been asked (by whom I don't know) to investigate whether the articles constituted 'racial agitation.' That is, of course, ridiculous. The question is whether the articles were libelous - "a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression" (Webster's Dictionary).

Inasmuch as the journalist said he had no proof the rumor he reported was true, it would be interesting to see him defend his work in court. At least it would be in the United States; I don't know the Swedish libel laws.

"You guys don't understand!"

No, that's not just a typical adolescent response, it's Rifqa Bary trying to make her interviewer understand that Islam is different from Christianity: that her father will killed her for converting to Christianity if she returns home; and that for her and others like her, religious freedom in America is a sham.

This piece by Frank Gaffney includes a video clip of Rifqa explaining her plight. Note that her family lives near the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, described as the 'premier source of Islamic extremism' in central Ohio. Rifqa has a 90-day stay of execution (literally) in Florida; look for this story to resurface just before Thanksgiving. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

The UK bans an Islamist preacher

While revulsion against Guantanamo is mainstream in Europe, history will tell how much it was shaped by Islamist pressures. Here's a curious tale: UK authorities banned a video presentation by a radical Islamist preacher to a meeting in a public town hall. The purpose of the meeting: to raise funds for Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo. Of course, what I find curious is that the authorities actually banned the talk. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

EU and Guantanamo

Reportedly, six EU member states have now publicly agreed to take Guantanamo inmates; another four said privately that they would do so, and five are mulling over the possibility. (There are 27 EU member states in total.) The U.S. government has identified 80 inmates as ready to be released, but there is no data available yet on how many each European country would accept.

Given that the EU has been one of the most vociferous critics of Guantanamo, it is only fitting that these countries help the Obama Administration close it down. This, however, is probably not what the Europeans envisioned when they dreamed of a post-Bush transformation in transatlantic relations.

Ducking and weaving

The Swedish government, which for now has the Presidency of the EU, has refused to condemn the 'blood libel' article that recently appeared in a major Swedish daily. The Swedes used the same argument as the Danish government when, despite strong pressure from Islamic governments and groups, it refused to condemn the cartoons of Mohammed.

So are the two situations comparable? I would argue that they are in one important sense complete opposites. Both the article and the cartoons were considered dangerous due to a connection to violence.

In the case of the cartoons, it was Muslim violence, which indeed was soon unleashed in many spots around the world and apparently, even today intimidates places like Yale University Press. (Although, as several commentators have pointed out, YUP may have been guided equally by hopes of getting Saudi or Gulf funding.)

In the case of the 'blood libel' article alleging that Israeli military killed Palestinians to harvest their organs, the most likely result will be increased hatred and violence against Israelis and Jews.

Seen in that light, the Swedish government's position is considerably less principled and noble. Meanwhile, the Swedish paper has published a second article, this time alleging that the IDF stole organs from a Palestinian teenager killed ... in 1992. Gee, recycling a 17-year-old rumor - sounds like the bottom of the barrel to me!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Discriminating banks

As you navigate your way through the gyrations of the U.S. banking industry with its welter of new and different charges on bank deposits and credit cards, you can comfort yourself. At least you're not dealing with Lloyds TSB in London, which charges its Muslim customers 15 pounds for an overdraft, and the non-Muslim ones 200 pounds.

Of course, any non-Muslim wishing to protect himself or herself against such overdraft charges could sign up for sharia-compliant financing ... now, where did I leave my headscarf?

Health care guide

The American Thinker blog has one of the best pieces I've seen about the health care reform proposals. Dr. Frank Rosenblum addresses 10 points made by President Obama with which he strongly disagrees. Most analyze the problems caused by the government's current interference in the health insurance system.

I had always thought that the fundamental problem with our system was that a third party, aside from doctor and patient, was involved in deciding how much to do and what it would cost. I thought that third party was the insurance company; now I realize it's the federal government.

One or two of the comments appended to this article are also extremely thoughtful. Enjoy!

Islamic human rights

In past entries, I've mentioned the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights, adopted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) that guts Western human rights standards by requiring them to be sharia-compliant.

Here's an example of how that works in practice: King Abdullah II of Jordan unleashed a firestorm by lifting the reservation Jordan had placed, years ago, on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Jordan's Board of Fatwas denounced the decision.

As a Muslim Brotherhood leader noted: "Anything that contradicts the Sharia in the Convention (UN) is prohibited. A woman should not live and work as she wants because this would eliminate the sense of the word family, according to the Sharia." (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bye Bye Bin Mafouz

Saudi financier and king of libel tourism Khalid Bin Mafouz has just died at the age of 60. Here's a list of his various connections and nefarious activities, in case you're curious. Unfortunately, unless the United Kingdom changes its law, foreigners will still be able to bring suit there against American authors publishing uncomfortable facts. Nor has the U.S. Congress yet passed a comprehensive law to protect U.S. citizens from such judgments.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More from burkini watch

This London council musta been reading my blog...or else listening to its own outraged citizenry. Turns out that it has retracted its ruling requiring non-Muslims to swathe themselves in Muslim swimming attire when using the public pool at certain 'Muslim' hours. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Now, what other wrong can I right through the tremendous power of my blog???

Obama's Saudi policy

Michael Crowley analyzes here President Obama's reasons for courting Saudi king Abdullah, and his results thus far. The bottom line: Obama's program, especially his promises to close Guantanamo and to focus on the Mideast peace process, has made him dependent on the Saudis to a greater degree than President Bush was. Thus far he has very little to show for this approach.

Never a dull moment

A French-Israeli dual national is suing the EU at the European Court of Justice for failing to provide protection for its citizens from Hamas rockets. He argues that the EU is treaty-bound to 'offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers.' He further requests that the EU desist from funding the Palestinian Authority government in Gaza or other organizations likely to use the money for terrorism.

According to one of his lawyers, “There are about 300,000 European citizens living in Israel, and thousands of them are estimated to be living in range of terrorist rockets. The EU grants hundreds of millions of euros a year in aid to Gaza, and it is inconceivable that European citizens should be harmed by money supplied by the EU. It's time that the EU takes responsibility."

Eyal Katorza, the person who filed the suit, has lost his job and family business due to rocket attacks from Gaza. Something tells me this lawsuit won't fix those problems - but it will be very interesting nevertheless. For decades, the EU has gotten off scot free for funding Palestinian terrorism; maybe that will finally change.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Swedes pass on a 'blood libel'

Sweden's largest circulation daily has published an article suggesting that Israeli soldiers killed Palestinians and harvested their organs. Essentially, the story is a modern reprise of the medieval 'blood libel' in which Jews were accused of killing Gentiles in order to use their blood to make matzos. It also builds on the recent arrest by the FBI of Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, a New York resident who allegedly sought to buy a kidney from an Israeli and sell it to an American patient for $160,000.

The article was strongly criticized by another major Swedish newspaper, as well as by Swedish and Israeli officials. As to the story's veracity, its author said he was worried by the allegations but could not vouch for their accuracy. "It concerns me, to the extent that I want it to be investigated, that's true. But whether it's true or not -- I have no idea, I have no clue." Nothing like hard-hitting investigative journalism! (Thanks to CNS News.)

Rotterdam fires Ramadan

Two years ago, the Dutch city of Rotterdam hired Tariq Ramadan, a controversial so-called 'moderate' Muslim, to advise it on relations with the city's Muslim minority. Now it wants to fire him. The reason is not that he has made alleged misogynistic or homophobic remarks; that charge caused a flap a year ago, but he rode it out. Nor is it that he couldn't bring himself to say that adulteresses shouldn't be stoned to death; he made that statement before he got the job in Rotterdam. Rather, it is that he hosts a weekly talk show on an Iranian, government-controlled TV channel.

Ramadan's defense is characteristic of him: "The present controversy says far more about the alarming state of politics in the Netherlands than about my person." (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

The Rotterdam city government is also funding Ramadan's appointment at Erasmus University, where he is a visiting professor of 'Citizenship and Identity'. I wonder what will happen to that arrangement.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Who fits in and who doesn't

German blogger Thomas Landen contrasts the way in which the German government treats Baptists and Muslims. Baptists who wish to homeschool their children are forbidden to do so (the government is enforcing a Nazi-era law); children have been forcibly separated from their parents, who were considered a bad influence on them.

On the other hand, the government allows Muslims to engage a wide range of overtly political behavior designed either to segregate Muslims from Germans and German society, or to assert the dominance of Islam.

Landen's explanation: the Baptists pose absolutely no threat of violence, which cannot be said of the Muslim minority. The government is simply allowing itself to be intimidated.

Next steps on Iran

Both the EU and the United States are considering sanctions against Iran for its failure to budge on the question of developing nuclear weapons. Germany, a critical trading partner of Iran, and the EU are considering such measures as stopping all exports of gasoline to Iran, or banning Iranian ships or aircraft from docking or landing in the EU.

So far, there is no joint EU-U.S. list; nor is it likely that China or Russia, two veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, will be enthusiastic. If the Security Council refused to approve sanctions, the United States and the EU would then have to decide to do it on their own - definitely a less valuable step, but probably worth trying anyway.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dressing made hard

Here's a news item about a dispute in the UK: should non-Muslims be required to wear Islamic swimwear during certain hours in public swimming pools in order to meet Muslim requirements? A number of municipal pools in the UK have adopted such a requirement. French authorities are doing the opposite; a woman was told last week she could not wear a 'burkini' in a public pool. To find out just what a burkini is, you have to click on the link! (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

The U.S. Committee on Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bipartisan committee mandated by Congress, recently weighed in on the subject of religious dress. It criticized the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which had upheld a French prohibition on the wearing of religious dress in schools.

USCIRF does good work, but in this case I think it confused religious garb with political/ideological symbols. It's not that big a step to go from allowing Muslims to wear identifying garments to helping them force non-Muslims do the same, as British swimmers are learning.


Last May, two Scud missiles fired by the Syrians reportedly went off course. Part of one landed in a village along the Syrian border with Turkey, killing 20 people in a market. Syrian military officials covered up by calling it a gas explosion. The missiles are being developed jointly by Syria, Iran and North Korea. (Thanks to Daily Alert.)

Islamist battle in Gaza

According to news reports, some 28 Palestinians were killed and more than 120 were wounded in Gaza last weekend as Hamas attacked a rival Islamist group, Jund Ansar Allah. On Friday, the group's leader, who had been told to turn over his mosque to Hamas' control, instead declared the establishment of an Islamic emirate in Palestine. In retrospect, he seems to have spoken too soon.

There are a number of other Islamist groups in Gaza; for an in-depth analysis of the currents and counter-currents, see this MEMRI analysis. Palestinians in Gaza who simply yearn for a normal life are in big trouble as long as these guys are competing for control.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A silver lining

Now that we have a 'salaries czar' to decide what corporate executives deserve to get, I'm hopeful that U.S. corporations are learning that taking the government's money is not without peril - extreme peril. Let's hope we're reaching the natural limit of government interventions.

Love that recession

The Wall Street Journal reported a day or two ago that France and Germany, the motors for Europe, are coming out of the recession. According to a piece by Rick Moran in the American Thinker, they are not alone: China and India are recovering as well. Among the most developed economies, only the United Kingdom and the United States are lagging behind.

Some of this is probably due to the huge overhang of U.S. consumer debt; Americans today are paying down their debts before running out to buy new stuff. This is an essential correction, but in the short term it means that consumer spending won't boost a recovery.

However, government policies also make a big difference. If you remember, France and Germany resisted pressure from President Obama and from the UK government to increase deficit spending. They argued that creating more government debt was not the answer - and looks like they were right.

Nor did either of these governments jump with both feet into the business of saving some big corporations by taking them over, while letting others fail. Nor has either of them, to the best of my knowledge, appointed a 'salaries czar' to decree how much corporate executives deserve. If you want to write a primer on how to destabilize an economy, be sure to include these techniques.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Reasons to hide

Yale University Press is publishing a book by Jytte Klausen, The Cartoons that Shook the World, about the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed that caused an uproar several years ago. YUP has, however, refused to publish the cartoons themselves, apparently acting on the advice of anonymous 'experts'.

Why is this so grotesque? Well, compare it to the translators and analysts who prepared the 2005 report prepared by the Center for Religious Freedom, Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques. They remained anonymous because they feared intimidation or other violence from Islamists unhappy with the report.

The YUP experts, on the other hand, are probably seeking anonymity to hide their embarassment at censoring Klausen's rights to free speech - and denying the general public the ability to form its own opinion of the cartoons.

Thanks to Campus Watch. If you want lots more links and background, see this piece by Andy Bostom.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's in a word?

You may not have noticed it, but a senior White House counterterrorism official recently ended our war on terror, replacing it with a war against Al Qaeda, and explaining that the U.S. government shouldn't use such words as jihad because to do so would confer legitimacy on the terrorists. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Zuhdi Jasser comments here on the fallacy of such an approach; the U.S. government has put itself in the position of determining who is or isn't a good Muslim, and many Islamist terrorists seeking to attack the United States are not linked to Al Qaeda.

As to what jihad means, here's an interpretation offered by Lebanese members of the Islamist Hizb al Tahrir organization. As one of them puts it: "Jihad in Islam is twofold. The first type is the offensive Jihad, in which the Muslims engage the infidels in fighting in order to bring the message of Islam to them, and to pull them from darkness and into the light."

Another clarified: "Some people tried to interpret Jihad to mean nothing more than self-defense ... In principle, Jihad is an offensive Jihad, which was instated in order to spread Islam throughout the world." (Thanks to MEMRI.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So what about our friends?

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are among the most pro-American members of NATO and the EU, yet find it hard to get the U.S. government's attention. Here is an open letter to the Obama Administration urging repair of U.S. ties, signed by 22 senior officials of these countries, many of them former presidents or foreign and defense ministers.

Let's hope Obama and his advisers read this letter and take it to heart. The United States will be making a bad mistake if it allows the ties with these countries to fray, whether from simple neglect, or from a decision to sacrifice them to a better relationship with Russia.

More on 'right-wing extremism'

Remember the report issued several months ago by the Department of Homeland Security warning of the terrorist threat from right-wing extremists? Well, the group Americans for Limited Government (ALG) filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for details on how the report was compiled.

The response from DHS listed numerous websites and blogs, suggesting to ALG that these, rather than intelligence research or analysis, served as the primary source for information for the report. DHS has yet to refute ALG's assessment.

Bumps in the road

President Obama, like all his predecessors, will have a difficult time brokering Mideast peace. (See this earlier entry for an update on his current policy.) Two recent developments suggest some course corrections may be in order:

-- The Fatah congress in Bethlehem failed to change Fatah's commitment to armed resistance against Israel, suggesting that it is highly unlikely to be a reliable partner in negotiations for a two-state solution to the Mideast conflict.

-- Some 71 U.S. senators sent Obama a letter urging him to lean on the Arab countries to take concrete steps to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process. These countries have done nothing since Obama announced that Israel had to take the first step of halting all/all settlement activity.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I admit it - I've been shortchanging this blog because I'm distracted by the health care debate. I've got some questions, as laid out in this American Thinker blog entry - any answers are welcome!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

British antisemitism

Several months ago, the UK Home Secretary issued a list of people to be barred from the United Kingdom because they stirred up hatred and violence. That consideration apparently does not apply to the the chief cleric of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Abdul Rahman al Sudais, who has referred to Jews as "scum, rats, pigs and monkeys." He was invited to preach at the East London mosque in Whitechapel on August 4.

This decision is particularly striking when you compare it to a recently released report tabulating the sharp increase in antisemitic incidents and attacks in the UK in 2009, as compared with 2008. UK columnist Melanie Phillips describes the widening chasm between British Jewish leaders, who resolutely deny any deterioration, and ordinary British Jews. She includes a link to this article by Robin Shepherd, who offers his analysis as to why things have gotten so much worse.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Remember missile defense?

Yes, the missile defense system whose technology is considered dubious by many, including President Obama. In case you missed it, late last month another test was conducted: for the 19th time, out of 23, the interceptor missile intercepted the incoming target missile.

Germany, Israel and Jews

Two recent vignettes paint a bleak picture of attitudes towards Jews in Germany:

First, well-known Israel basher Felicia Langer, herself a former Israeli Jew, just received a high honor from the German government. Some of her recent views: she has praised Ahmedinejad's calls to destroy Israel, dubbed Israeli settlers 'fascists' and compared the security wall separating Israelis and Palestinians to a Nazi ghetto wall.

The high honor is intended for those who have made a 'special contribution to the Federal Republic of Germany'. Hmm, wonder just what that special contribution was...Especially when the EU agency charged with tracking human rights defines any comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany as antisemitic. Maybe the German government is simply trying to compete with the American one - note that President Obama will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Irish citizen Mary Robinson, who among other things (see this list) presided over the 2001 Durban hatefest.

Second, a prominent German newspaper, with a straight face, presented the radical views of a Central Asian islamist as OK. The islamist's vision: when the global caliphate is established, Christians will be allowed to continue to practice their religion, provided they pay a special tax. Jews, on the other hand, will be exterminated.

That position, by the way, contradicts 1,400 years of Islamic practice in which Jews as well as Christians were 'tolerated' in Islamic countries - eg., allowed to practice their religion as essentially second-class citizens.

(Thanks to John Rosenthal and Clemens Heni.)

Israel, Iran and Hezbollah

Next time you hear someone speculating about whether Israel will bomb Iranian nuclear reactors, thus sparing the United States and the Arab world from the necessity of combating the Iranian nuclear threat, bear in mind the potential counter-action: rocket attacks by Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, which is bankrolled by Iran, reportedly has some 40,000 rockets stockpiled along the Lebanese border with Israel. That's three times the number of missiles they had before the 2006 war. The UN peacekeeping force supposed to keep this from happening has - surprise, surprise - failed to do so. (Did that have anything to do with the fact that they never patrolled after dark?) (Thanks to Daily Alert.)