Monday, January 31, 2011

Joke time again

And you've earned it, if you've slogged through my recent entries.

Even if you haven't, try this short video, courtesy of a Facebook posting by Bridgett Wagner. It'll transform your opinion of the animal world...or maybe just confirm it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The phantom Eurabia?

Bill sent me this link to a Reuters article (it looks like an op-ed or blog entry, but is unsigned) that seeks to debunk any fears that Europe will become Eurabia, a Muslim-dominated continent, later in this century. The news hook is a new Pew survey that shows falling birth rates in Muslim countries - the Reuters piece argues that this finding undercuts all the fearmongers' claims.

My take on the piece?

-- These falling birth rates are no/no surprise; they've been reported for years. Indeed, had the Reuters author looked any further, he would have discovered the argument that, if Muslim is 'to conquer Europe through the wombs of its women,' now is a relatively narrow window of one generation in which to accomplish that.

-- Second, relative absolute growth rates do matter. Here's what the Pew summary actually states: "Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades – an average annual growth rate of 1.5% for Muslims, compared with 0.7% for non-Muslims." Such differentials can have a significant impact on politics and society - just look at the growth rate of the Hispanic population in the United States. And no one is predicting that the United States is about to become an Hispanic country.

-- I also object to the straw men used in the article, including an anonymous video which has been circulating on the internet. Several months ago, someone asked me about that video; I recommended against passing it on because the data was unreliable. There are, however, reputable sources reporting on the increase in Muslim populations in Europe; why didn't the Reuters piece include them?

-- Instead, a number of the links included in the article refer to pieces reporting on the loss of freedom of speech of critics of Islam. What does that have to do with Muslim birthrates? Several of these critics are now on trial in Europe; public information is available on those trials. The author apparently believes these critics deserve what they're getting, but he doesn't come out and say it. Nor does he defend such a position.

-- My final point? The Islamization of Europe does not depend on Muslims becoming the dominant demographic group. It happens much sooner, when non-Muslims start bowing to sharia, ceding their hard-won rights and liberties. That process is already well-underway, even if Reuters wants to pretend otherwise.

Social networking

I'd also like to enter a protest against all the media reports about the importance of social networking in Egypt. Of course Twitter is important; don't get me wrong. But somehow, people are acting as if no one ever knew how to communicate before this. Again, I go back to my experiences in Poland.

The Poles in 1980 remembered very clearly what happened during an uprising in the port city of Gdansk ten years before. The authorities blacked out communications and lied about the number of demonstrators killed. But people knew, and one of the first things that Solidarity did was to erect a monument to the Gdansk victims. There was also an active grapevine reporting on what the government was doing in 1980 and 1981.

Electrifying pictures of people in the streets are great but do little to explain all the other factors that Americans need to know but don't, since they pay little attention to the outside world.

Nor are such pictures likely to affect the official U.S. response. U.S. policy is based on a variety of factors which I don't pretend to understand in full. We told the Shah he needed to make reforms. A year later, we went out of our way not to offend Poland's communist government. When Ahmedinejad stole elections, we said nothing for almost a year. Now we're scolding Mubarak. You go figure.

So yes, I'm a Neanderthal. So do you have an issue with Neanderthals?

Poland and Egypt

Joe suggested that I compare what's going on in Egypt to what happened in Poland in 1980-81, when I was at the embassy there. That was when Solidarity was set up and, after several months of uncertainty and rising revolt against the Communist regime, martial law was declared. (Devotees of this blog - both of them - will remember that I made a similar comparison during the Iranian protests in 2009).

First, an obvious similarity: the regime is old, worn out, and people are disgusted with it and with their parlous economic situation. But remember: Solidarity was born in the summer of 1980; martial law was declared in March 1981, but the communist government lasted until the end of that decade. So Poles endured a long, painful time of repression after a peaceful, mass movement against the communist regime.

Second, a potential similarity to ponder: the Polish army was not about to attack Polish civilian demonstrators. When martial law was declared, the authorities relied instead on a special paramilitary force drawn from the scum of society and trained in secret for several months. So now the Egyptian police have evaporated and the army looks like it doesn't want to attack is there someone else out there? Maybe not, since this has all happened so quickly.

Third, a big difference: there was no force like the Muslim Brotherhood - a well-established group with lots of overseas links and, presumably, access to money and other resources. Solidarity was only created in 1980 and, despite any accusations you may have heard to the contrary, was not/not supported by the U.S. government or any other outsiders. While it was weak, it didn't have compete with another popular but very undemocratic and illiberal group.

Fourth, another big difference: Poland was one of several Warsaw Pact members who had sought to escape Soviet domination. Perhaps there was a shared anti-communist ideology, but nothing that compares to the aggressive Islamism that has spread in the Mideast and North Africa ever since the Iranian revolution in 1979. Poland was actually a leader: the Solidarity movement was the first ever mass movement of workers against a communist workers' paradise.

In sum, I don't see too many points of similarity between Poland then and Egypt now. Unfortunately.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

So what about Israel?

Assuming that the unrest in Egypt leads, sooner or later, to the departure of Hosni Mubarak from the scene, what does that mean for Israel? As American-Israeli commentator Caroline Glick argues, no matter what scenario you choose, the news is bad.

Essentially, for decades the Egyptian government has defended its highly unpopular peace treaty with Israel by tolerating if not promoting anti-semitism in Egypt which today has reached phenomenal levels.

At the same time, as part of the Camp David accords, for the last thirty years the United States has been arming and training the Egyptian military. As a result, she writes, "the Egyptian military today makes the military Israel barely defeated in 1973 look like a gang of cavemen. Egypt has nearly 300 F-16s. Its main battle tank is the M1A1 which it produces in Egypt. Its navy is largest in the region. Its army is twice the size of the IDF. Its air defense force constitutes a massive threat to the IAF. And of course, the ballistic missiles and chemical weapons it has purchased from the likes of North Korea and China give it a significant stand-off mass destruction capability."

So what about El Baradei, who is emerging as a likely rival to Mubarak? Well, he just spent years at the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency protecting Iran's nascent nuclear weapons program. And he is close to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which now appears to back him. In another report, Michel Garrote reports that Bedouins have attacked Egyptian police stations. They are suspected of acting as mercenaries and smuggling arms to Hamas, which has ties to Iran. In other words, many signs point to substantial Iranian meddling in Egyptian affairs.

If you add to this assessment the ascendancy of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel's mid-term prospects for avoiding war are bleak; those for achieving peace are less than zero.

Whither Egypt?

I just watched CNN coverage of the situation in Egypt, and could only marvel at their ability to assume a good outcome, and the casual way in which they treat the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization most likely to control the government if Hosni Mubarak disappears from the scene.

It's amazing: 'moderate' Islamists came to power in Turkey in 2002 and ever since then Turkey has headed slowly into the Islamic camp, distancing itself from the United States in favor of strategic alliances with Syria and Iran, closing down the media and opposition, fanning a hate campaign against Israel and the Jews. CNN (along with other media outlets) seems to have missed that chapter.

Now it's the turn of Egypt. Here's a sober analysis by Mideast scholar Barry Rubin. He notes that, unlike Tunisia, Egypt has a strong Islamist movement and a weak middle class. And Egyptian opinion polls show strong support for severe sharia punishments, and sympathy for terrorism.

Rubin concludes that, if a Muslim Brotherhood network comes to power in Egypt, the consequences for Israel and the Western democracies will be severe:

"renewed warfare, overwhelming anti-Americanism, efforts to spread revolution to other moderate states, a potential alignment with Iran and Syria (though that might not happen), incredible damage to Western interests. In short, a real disaster. What shocks me is that Western media and experts seem so carried away by this movement they are only considering a best-case outcome."

Monday, January 24, 2011

A grim view of France

Nidra Poller, a longtime American resident of France, offers a sobering view of French reality. She details a horrifying kaleidoscope of violent crime that French media hide from view and the French elite pretend desperately is not happening.

Excusing this behavior while failing to enforce French law at home, Poller says, is similar to the French attitude towards Israel and the Palestinians: "A compassionate discourse that excuses Palestinian atrocities against Israeli civilians as a reaction to 'injustice' also excuses French domestic criminality as payback for colonization, discrimination, exclusion, unemployment, and police harassment."

Nor does it help to deny the connection between Islamist demonstrators and the violence in the streets. The street thugs they thrive in the atmosphere of hatred of French state and society, and their mayhem advances Islamist objectives.

My advice: book your French vacation sooner rather than later!


Thanks to Leslie Merwin, who posted this link on Facebook, you can now learn about a new gadget that tells men what women really mean. Instead of slogging through my usual grim fare, take a moment to chuckle along with the video at the link.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A new face at the Mega Mosque

The group that wants to erect the Mega Mosque near Ground Zero in New York has a new senior adviser, Imam Abdallah Adhami. So what does he stand for? Pamela Geller, at the blog Atlas Shrugs, has researched that question and the answers are unsavory:

Among other things, he's an admirer of Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. As Wahhaj put it: "In time, this so-called democracy will crumble, and there will be nothing, and the only thing that will remain will be Islam."

Meanwhile, Imam Rauf, the man most associated with the Mega Mosque, is going on a speaking tour to raise money. First stop: Keynote speaker in Detroit at the "Diversity Forum Banquet" of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

As WorldNetDaily points out: "ISNA is known for its enforcement of Saudi-style Islam in mosques throughout the U.S. It was named by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in its case against the Holy Land Foundation in Texas, which was found guilty in 2008 of raising money for the Hamas terrorist organization."

These are not 'moderate' Muslims. Let me repeat that: these are not 'moderate' Muslims. Mayor Bloomberg needs to wake up to this fact.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Free speech abroad

Today I have two reports from the front in the global battle for free speech about Islam. Note that in both cases the battle is not between Muslims and Westerners, but between Western authorities and their citizens.

The first, by Dutch lawyer and historian Thierry Baudet, chronicles the torturous path of the trial against Dutch politician Geert Wilders (which I've reported on before). In the first round, public prosecutor Paul Velleman refused to prosecute because he did not consider that various statements made by Wilders (comparing the Koran to Mein Kampf or calling Islam a violent religion) had broken the law. Then judges on the Court of Appeal essentially ruled that Wilders was guilty of hate speech and incitement to discrimination - in other words, pronounced him guilty, not even bothering to preserve any illusion of the presumption of innocence. The District Court in Amsterdam gave in to this pressure and brought Wilders to trial.

At the trial, Vellemans stuck to his original position. The judges disagreed. The trial continued until their bias became so evident that they were dismissed from the case. Wilders isn't out of the woods yet, though, as the case will be retried at some future point.

Nor is Wilders physically safe. As Baudet notes: "while Wilders’s remarks have aroused no social disorder of the sort that the Dutch laws were intended to prevent, he himself receives continual death threats and lives under permanent police protection."

The second case involves the National Archives of Canada. It cancelled the showing of Iranium, a new movie about Iran's quest for nuclear weapons, after receiving threats and two suspicious letters. (Watch the Iranium trailer here.) Fortunately, Canada's Heritage Minister James Moore then stepped in, arguing that cancelation was the equivalent of censorship and ordering the Archives to show the film. So far no date has been set.

How, one wonders would U.S. courts or public prosecutors handle a case similar to either of the ones above? Somehow I can't see Attorney General Holder, President Obama, or New York Mayor Bloomberg rising to the defense of free speech if that speech risked offending Muslims. Can you?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What's going on in Turkey?

Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan, who has been doing his best to turn Turkey into an Islamist state, was booed out of a soccer stadium he had helped to build. As Mideast scholar Barry Rubin describes it, "The [TV] announcer, well-known journalist Mehmet Ali Birand, is in shock at an unprecedented display of antagonism toward the regime that has been trying to fundamentally transform Turkey from its traditional status as a secular republic and reverse its long-time alliances with the West in favor of aligning with Iran, Syria, and revolutionary Islamist terrorist groups."

There has been a long series of anti-Western, pro-Islamist statements and actions from the Turkish government for some time now. It's too soon to know if this incident will be followed by others - but I certainly hope so.

Revolt in Tunisia

Now that crowds of angry people have chased out Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, what happens next? French blogger Guy Milliere worries that the situation is very fragile. He gives the Tunisians a 10% chance of achieving a peaceful democracy and a 90% chance either of a military takeover or chaos from which the Islamists will profit.

His reasons? First, the Islamists made a push in Tunisia ten years ago (and were beaten back by Ben Ali), and are ever more strident in Algeria, Egypt and Lebanon. Second, the uprisings were due to economic problems that, in the current global economic situation, are unlikely to improve. Indeed, unrest will only drive away tourists, further depressing the Tunisian economy. And all those educated, unemployed young people will still be completely frustrated.

Milliere hopes he's wrong and I hope so too but, as the military say, 'hope is not a plan.'

Monday, January 10, 2011

Warming to my topic

Jean-Patrick Grumberg, a dissident French blogger, describes here a demonstration in central Paris on December 26 by what he calls Islamo-Palestinian groups celebrating the second anniversary of the Gaza conflict. A small group from the LDF (Jewish Defense League) mounted a counter-protest.

The blog entry includes a video in which a young veiled woman holds up an Arabic flag, saying "you see this flag, and soon it will fly over the Elysee [Palace of the President of France]." Another voice tells an LDF member to "go away, dirty Frenchman of sh---y origin."

At the risk of being too long, here's my (very) informal translation of Grumberg's analysis of these remarks and of the situation in general:

"Two short sentences which show that on French soil, the enemies of Israel and the enemies of the French are the same over-excited people. Two short phrases which show a confident Islam, sure of its imminent victory, sure that France already belongs to it, already strong enough to announce proudly, in the heart of Paris and without any complex, its political goal: the taking of power in France.

The pretentious assurance of these Muslims is of course nourished by the complicity of the French and European governments, by the complicity of the Left parties (who are, as if by accident, equally hysterically anti-Zionist) and, alas, by the passive resignation of the French who have been deprived of any democratic means of expressing their opinion. This portends nothing good. Beyond that, it poses three questions:

1) Given the Muslims who proudly announce that their flag will soon fly over the Elysee, how does one describe the French people who support them? Traitors of the nation? Autistic? 'Care bears' who think that everything is greatly exaggerated in order to frighten people? The anti-racists who think these demonstrations are delusions used by the extreme right to fuel its populist demagogy?

2) Will there be a moment when the French will look reality in the face, or has reality become 'Islamically incorrect'?

3) You have seen the video, you have seen the arrogance of the young woman. Now imagine that same young woman, had Israel been defeated. And ask this question: on which side would it be better for the people of the (still) free world to be, in terms of their own interest? On the side of Israel, or of the Palestinians?"

Anyone who claims that the French have the 'Muslim problem' under control should watch this video, or another one linked to my earlier entry.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jews leaving Europe?

David Rusin of Islamist Watch reports that a number of Jews are leaving Europe to escape the rising tide of antisemitism, reflected in a general atmosphere of fear as well as physical attacks on Jews. The danger stems primarily from Muslim youths, although traditional far-right groups are also involved.

He cites examples from the Netherlands, where EU Commissioner Fritz Bolkestein said Jews had no future because of "the anti-Semitism among Dutchmen of Moroccan descent, whose numbers keep growing," and Sweden, where the 700 Jews remaining in the city of Malmo experience frequent hate crimes. The population of Malmo is now 20% Muslim.

As Rusin writes: "It has become fashionable to equate the plight of today's Muslim population in Europe with that of the continent's oppressed Jews during the 1930s. However, one can tell which group faces the real threat in modern Europe by watching migratory trends. While European governments are planning fences to keep Muslims from entering illegally, Jews are exiting in droves. People vote with their feet."

This is the second time in the last five to ten years that there has been a reported uptick in Jewish emigration from Europe. I don't know the exact numbers, but things do appear to be deteriorating.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

START Treaty won't stop

Just before Christmas, the U.S. Senate ratified the START treaty with Russia that contained preambular language linking offensive missile reductions to U.S. limits on new defensive missile systems. It ratified the text based on President Obama's assurance that such language was not binding.

Now an indignant Russian Duma is promising to pass a resolution affirming that Russia does indeed consider the preambular language to be legally binding. The Duma would ratify the START treaty, along with any related statements and reservations, in February.

If that happens, there should be some red faces in Washington (I say 'should' because shame is an outmoded and fast-disappearing emotion). The great display of domestic bipartisanship and 'resetting' U.S.-Russian relations achieved by ratifying the START treaty will look like a farce. I have to imagine that the State Department and White House are scrambling to control the damage.

Explaining nature

Several US news stories have reported dead birds falling from the sky or dead fish watching up on the beaches in puzzlingly large quantities. Our scientists are scratching their heads and trying to explain these phenomena.

In the Mideast, on the other hand, explaining animal behavior is much easier. A regional governor in Egypt couldn't dismiss the theory that the sharks who went on the attack near the tourist resort of Sharm el-Sheikh were sent there by the Mossad.

Saudi security forces were even more vigilant, arresting a tagged vulture for flying overhead in yet another dastardly Mossad plot. The Saudis still aren't out of danger, though: the Israeli researchers who tagged the bird report that there is still one vulture unaccounted for, presumably flying somewhere over Saudi Arabia.

I think I'll go for my PhD in natural sciences in Cairo - should take me about a week, after I learn how to say 'Zionist plot' and 'Mossad' in Arabic!