Monday, March 31, 2008

With deepest respect madam, could I order a gin and tonic?

Women and Equalities Minister
and Inquisitor General

For bureaucrats whose business is everyone else's, a day without adding further limitations on people's behavior is a day wasted.

For the moment, this could probably happen only in Mad Human Disease Britain. I don't think I'll classify this under my "Britain self-destructs" heading, though, because in so many similar respects, the U.K. may be only a baby step or two out front of the rest of us free societies.
Bar managers and store owners face large-scale compensation claims if their customers ogle their barmaids, waitresses or check-out staff. …

The regulations say that bosses are responsible for protecting their staff from sexual harassment by customers - and that those who fail to do so can face unlimited compensation claims.
"Sexual harrassment" isn't what you understand by the term, if you are sane. This law (or order or whatever it is — I don't know that officials in Britain have to go through the bother of getting laws passed anymore) means "a pub landlord could be sued if a bar worker complains about being called 'love', or over customers telling each other off-colour jokes." ("Love" or "luv" is, or used to be, a pleasantry addressed to someone of the opposite sex in England, with no erotic connotations.)
The rules allow tribunals to award unlimited damages for injury to feelings if a case is proved.

The burden of proof will lie with employers. There will be no need for workers to show their employer allowed harassment to happen - instead, managers must demonstrate that they were not at fault.

Workers must show they suffered three incidents of harassment before they can make a claim. The incidents can involve different customers, so it will not be enough for a bar manager to ban just one difficult drinker.

Is there any limit to how far the nanny state will go to regulate behavior and interaction between people? The rationale seems to be that no one can be trusted to behave properly unless they are warned and someone is delegated to keep them in line.

Of course there are a minority of unskilled drinkers who make jackasses of themselves, and among them a smaller group that behave crudely toward waitresses. I can't believe that number is very large, although I don't hang out in bars, so maybe I'm mistaken.

But I've known a bartender or two, and there is no doubt that they have techniques for dealing with troublemakers of all sorts, including ones who offer obnoxious, unwanted attentions to women on the premises, whether customers or employees. The ability to handle situations like that with some tact is part of their job qualifications. They certainly do not need a government priesthood to help them cope — nay, to threaten them with loss of livelihood if someone sends a wrong "signal" in the direction of a pub's booze distribution specialist.

Regulations like this throw a wet blanket over social interaction, injecting a dose of fear that you will inadvertently slip over some ill-defined line into what the Busybody Ministry regards as "sexual harassment." They also reinforce the notion that people cannot be trusted to exercise self-control, or settle indiscretions as one individual to another, justifying ever more minute government intervention into daily life.

And here is yet one more opportunity for people to claim compensation — unlimited compensation! — for hurt feelings. Injury or threats ought not to be tolerated. But who is so weak that they can't put up with an occasional offensive remark? If there is any such person, I doubt it's a pub waitress.


Friday, March 28, 2008



No punning headline, no wisecracks for this post. The subject is dead serious.

Geert Wilders's anti-Muslim video, Fitna, which provoked no end of denunciation, worry and hand-wringing before its release yesterday, and caused Network Solutions to shut down the Web site on which it was apparently planned to be shown, nevertheless is out there. It can be accessed through the link to the right, at least for now. Even if that site is kneecapped, it won't keep Fitna from being seen, because it's undoubtedly been copied many times by now. The genie is out of the bottle.


As to its content, there isn't much, if anything, factually new in it. Wilders has compiled clips of atrocities and threats by Muslim firebrands, interspersed with verses from the Qur'an that he believes inspired them or are consistent with them. There is no doubt that he's made a whole that has a stronger emotional punch than the sum of its parts, and it's far more gripping to watch than to read about what it shows. Still, if you've been paying attention for the past seven years or longer, it won't tell you anything you don't know.

Fitna is very disturbing to watch; I don't want to see it a second time. Even so, Wilders has had the sense and judgment not to go too far: the people falling from the World Trade Center are seen at a considerable distance; the beheading of Jack Hensley to the tune of "Allahu Akbar" is faded just before the sword starts cutting, although his terrified screams are heard on the soundtrack. There is no voice-over, but music by Grieg and Tchaikovsky, of all things, is used as background. Maybe it's intended ironically to contrast products of Western civilization with Muslim barbarism, and it's effective, but I hope never again to hear that lovely music in such a context.


Should you watch it? That's your choice, and there's no reason to be ashamed if you think it will be too much to bear
. Anyone with a normal human sensibility is bound to be revolted. This entry in Wikipedia gives, at the moment, a pretty fair description (although goodness knows it may be much re-edited by the time you read it).

What about the substantive issues Fitna raises? It is unlikely to change the debate over the West's position toward Islam. First, because most of the people who need to see it will go out of their way not to. Second, it will be dismissed as blaming the great majority of Muslims for the actions of a few.


I'm quite willing to acknowledge that most Muslims would not themselves commit acts such as Fitna shows. That doesn't mean that Islam is no threat to our way of life. Terrorism is only the most extreme expression of this politico-religious totalitarian system, but Islam is not compatible with a free society. And it doesn't need overt terrorism to succeed. Just immigration condoned by Western governing elites for their own agendas and stratospheric Muslim birth rates. As things stand, in a couple of generations there will be Muslim majorities or critical masses in most of Europe, Britain, Canada, and possibly the United States. That's far scarier than suicide bombings.


The liberal media, particularly in Europe, will also portray Wilders in as negative light as possible. (If you want to get a taste of typically biased reporting, check out this page from Der Spiegel Online.) They'll pay ritual lip service to freedom of expression, while claiming he is abusing it. Freedom of expression can be abused and is every day, by shock jocks and trashy gossip publications. Is it abuse, though, to comment on a subject of great — overwhelming — worldwide importance, however provocative?


And the ad hominems will flow freely. I've already read critics of Geert Wilders claiming that he is only trying to gain political advantage by appealing to anti-Muslim sentiment. Yep, getting hundreds of death threats, having to be guarded 24/7, changing locations and travel routes constantly — that's sure a great career move for a politician.

Could it be that Wilders is actually what he appears to some of us, and what the modern world of government is severely understocked with, a man of principle and immense physical courage?


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Are you ready for the Obama Doctrine?

This is not a joke. Well, Barack Obama and his crew don't mean it as a joke, anyway.

The American Prospect, a progressive magazine and Web site, has a story about Obama "
offering the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we've heard from a serious presidential contender in decades." Let's see what he intends to sweep.
Ending the war is only the first step. After we're out of Iraq, a corrosive mind-set will still be infecting the foreign-policy establishment and the body politic. That rot must be eliminated. …

But to understand what Obama is proposing, it's important to ask: What, exactly, is the mind-set that led to the war? What will it mean to end it? And what will take its place? To answer these questions, I spoke at length with Obama's foreign-policy brain trust, the advisers who will craft and implement a new global strategy if he wins the nomination and the general election. They envision a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering "democracy promotion" agenda in favor of "dignity promotion," to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root.
What is this "politics of fear"?
The Obama foreign-policy team describes it as "the politics of fear," a phrase most advisers used unprompted in our conversations. "For a long time we've not seen much creative thinking from Dems on national security, because, out of fear, we want to be a little different from the Republicans but not too different, out of fear of being labeled weak or indecisive," another top adviser says. Identifying that fear as the accelerant of the Iraq War mind-set is the first step to a new and innovative foreign policy.
Obama and his advisors are jolly right about our "hollow, sloganeering 'democracy promotion' agenda." Democracy arises out of a people's gradually evolving experience, and to succeed has to be founded on widely accepted principles such as the rule of law, property rights, a willingness to compromise, and civility to opponents. You can't inject those into a tribal society, particularly one ruled by a religion with a 7th-century mindset. Whether you think the Bush administration's rationale of spreading democracy is naive or cynically manipulative, it's not going to work, or work fast enough, to counter the existential crisis created by decaying Third World societies, nuclear weapons proliferation and Muslim aggression.


But "dignity promotion"? Like so much that comes from Obama and his circle, it has a nice ring to it, but only a vague meaning. As far as I can make out from the article, "dignity promotion" is no bold re-think of foreign policy, just another program for social amelioration. As one of Obama's spokespeople says, U.S. policy should be about "meeting people where they're at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That's the swamp that needs draining. If we're to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we're not [providing]."

Does Obama have anyone on his staff who is older than 30, or whose memory goes back to before 9/11? What she's talking about is simply foreign aid, and there's nothing in the least new about it. It's been standard operating procedure under Democrats and Republicans for 50 years. While it sometimes helps upgrade living conditions where help is needed, it rarely if ever earns us any gratitude; and more important, there is no evidence that it promotes world peace or removes any threat to the United States's security.

In any case, you can no more airlift dignity from outside than you can supply democracy. Poor people can have dignity and often do; the well-off don't necessarily have it. Aside from the fact that the United States is wallowing in debt, no longer produces much except entertainment, is inflating its currency like bonkers, and can't possibly export prosperity to every global hog wallow, it's a delusion we've nurtured for too long to imagine that exporting technology will cure the world of sicknesses of the mind and soul.


Obama himself seems to me a deeply confused man with no considered ideas, whose sole accomplishment is hiding his uncreated world view behind glittering banalities that appeal to people whose ideals are tied to feelings and slogans rather than actual knowledge of cultures, history, or human nature.
This is why, Obama's advisers argue, national security depends in large part on dignity promotion. Without it, the U.S. will never be able to destroy al-Qaeda. Extremists will forever be able to demagogue conditions of misery, making continued U.S. involvement in asymmetric warfare an increasingly counterproductive exercise -- because killing one terrorist creates five more in his place. "It's about attacking pools of potential terrorism around the globe," Gration says. "Look at Africa, with 900 million people, half of whom are under 18. I'm concerned that unless you start creating jobs and livelihoods we will have real big problems on our hands in ten to fifteen years."
As regular readers of this blog know, I think that the only hope for Africa and such places is to stop cranking out babies by the millions that their societies, economies, and infrastructure can't support while expecting the rest of the world to provide jobs and decent environments for them. With a population half its present size, sub-Saharan Africa just might be able to get a grip and learn to live within its gradually developing means. If we want to help, the best thing we can do is tell them, "Sorry, it's not our problem. Use your brains and birth control."


Be that as it may, Obama (or more likely his team, because I don't believe he can think beyond how to combine words so they sound elegant) is frighteningly obtuse in imagining that the cause of terrorism is poorly stocked refrigerators. It is even mistaken to identify "terrorism" as the problem: terrorism is only the sharp end of a politicized, ideological religion that believes it is the one true faith and that nonbelievers are unworthy of their share of the planet. That's a politics of fear, and the Obama Doctrine is a laughingstock.


Monday, March 24, 2008



The purged label

While identity-politics fascisti are having cows over racist tea, Agence France Presse reminds us in superficially more rational terms about a more basic crisis in a beverage even more popular than Coca-Cola (tip of the hat to Old Atlantic Lighthouse):
By 2025, fully a third of the planet's growing population could find itself scavenging for safe drinking water, the United Nations has warned ahead of World Water Day on Saturday. More than two million people in developing countries -- the vast majority children -- die every year from diseases associated with unsanitary water.

There are a number of interlocking causes for this scourge. Global economic growth, population pressures and the rise of mega-cities have all driven water use to record levels.

Why "superficially" more rational terms? Because genuine rationality doesn't confuse symptoms with causes. And in looking for solutions, a rational person looks for ways to eliminate or reduce the causes, instead of ways to accommodate the symptoms.

Mexico City, Jakarta and Bangkok, to name a few, have underground water sources -- some of them nonrenewable -- depleting at alarming rates.

In Beijing, home to 16 million, aquifers have fallen by more than a dozen metres (40 feet) in 30 years, forcing the government to earmark tens of billions of dollars for a scheme to ferry water from the Yangzte River in the south to the country's parched north. …

"In the coming decades, water scarcity may be a watchword that prompts action ranging from wholesale population migration to war, unless new ways to supply clean water are found," comment a team of researchers in a review of water purification technology published Thursday in the British journal Nature.

"Global economic growth, population pressures and the rise of mega-cities." Why can no one use the simple expression overpopulation? "Economic growth" is pretty much synonymous with "producing more because there are more people." What is this "population pressure," some force in physics? No, it's more people. Why are there mega-cities? Because there are more people, and they have to live — if you can call it living in places like Lagos or Beijing — somewhere.

But political correctness, which is to our age what the belief in witchcraft was in the 16th century, insists that we cannot, must not, talk honestly. We must find the root of every problem in demonology. Environmental afflictions are down to jolly non-green giants in the advanced world leaving carbon footprints and Satan's sidekicks who don't send developing nations enough money.

Dealing with real causes of all this "pressure" and "mega-cities" and pollution caused by economic growth would mean admitting that the world's poorest countries are breeding themselves into misery and death.

That's where we could do some good, if we had the courage and wisdom. As Old Atlantic Lighthouse says:
Third worlders consume and destroy. We have to stop their population explosion here and there. Here we need to introduce birth quotas. Those can be based on IQ or on other achievements, although these have to be done before teen child birth.

These could be based on their parents achievements or lack thereof. Children of drug addicts, high school dropouts, violent criminals, etc. might lose their reproductive rights and be sterilized before becoming teen agers. This would cut off the process in time.

We have to face the reality that 3rd worlders destroy. They are not productive. They are a burden to the planet. We have to face that and deal with it.

But we follow the tried-and-false path of desperately looking for technological answers to keep symptoms from killing the patient, instead of acknowledging that it is the disease, not the symptoms, that will guarantee a wretched life for billions. The mental disorder that forbids peaceful and humane population stabilization in backward countries is the same sensitivity, in a larger format. that cringes before charges of racism over a tin of "Southern style" tea.

Both are equally cowardly. But while it's easy to cave in and redesign a label, it's a lot harder to provide water to match the needs of Third World countries' mass production of babies. Want to find out what Nature means by "wholesale population migration"? Just keep putting your faith in politically correct, technological solutions.


Friday, March 21, 2008

The Prophet of Doom

Under the heading of "Danish cartoons doom us all," a Muslim "international policy analyst" lays out with unusual candor (for an article published in the Western media) what we can look backward to if we don't get over our silly hang-ups about free speech and other such infidel nonsense.
In Pakistan's largest riot, 70,000 people gathered in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where I traveled last week, burning cars and cinemas. In Lahore, my birth city, at least two protestors were killed when a mob burnt Western fast-food chains, while in Islamabad students launched petrol bombs at various embassies.

They were protesting "Fitna" -- "Ordeal" in Arabic -- a forthcoming short film by controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders. Wilders, who has called the Koran a "fascist" book, has promised to release his film this month. They were also protesting the decision of several Danish newspapers to republish the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that provoked deadly riots after their first airing in 2006.
The views expressed by the writer, Farhana Ali, offend me. However, I have no intention of sending her death threats or trashing any of the kebab houses in my town. In fact, I'm glad that UPI published her piece, because it makes it clear, to anyone who is willing to grant followers of the Prophet the courtesy of believing what they say, that non-dhimmi Westerners and Muslims inhabit different mental worlds with different value systems.


More than that, until one or the other side gives up some of what it holds dear, Islam needs to be quarantined from the rest of mankind. We do not need more understanding of the Muslim politico-religious ideology: Muslims are endlessly, this and every day, telling us everything we need to understand. What we need is the will to face an unpleasant reality and act accordingly.
In a post-Sept.11 environment, where relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in the West are at best precarious, at worst distrustful, and above all central to everyone's security, the Danish editors might have known that reprinting the cartoons would provoke destructive behavior rather than encourage peaceful dialogue.

The editors might have considered that respect for democratic traditions and values does not necessarily trump the need to tolerate religious communities that are particularly sensitive to safeguarding their Prophets, icons and scriptures.
Ms. Ali, perhaps you would like to try to understand me (and quite a few people like me in my part of this planet) as well as demanding that I respect your religion's feelings. Here's what you need to grasp.

You are welcome to practice your system, which encompasses far more than what most people consider a religion, even though it has many aspects that are distasteful, even appalling, to me (as well as some aspects I admire). But the ill-concealed menace in your article is a good example of why many of us do criticize Islam and Muslims. You are saying in effect that any statement, remark, drawing, or joke that your fellow Muslims take amiss is a license to riot, injure, even kill. You point a gun at our heads and tell us to show you the respect you don't show us or you'll splatter our brains.


To put it differently, respect for democratic traditions and values absolutely requires us to give free rein to expressions that might offend your sensitivities, your Prophet, and your holy books. We hold that right as sacred as you hold your Prophet. Millions of our ancestors have died to preserve the right to seek our salvation or happiness or goals as individuals, not as well-trained, obedient followers of a supposedly infallible doctrine. We join churches or groups if we choose, but only if we choose. We guard the right to develop our souls or form our opinions by listening to whatever we like, not what is prescribed for us.

You don't want to be offended? Well, who does? But let me tell you something: hardly a day goes by when I don't see, read, or hear something that offends me. I live in a civilization that has nearly abandoned good taste, that has enshrined celebrity and tolerates self-centered, inconsiderate behavior. So I have some idea of how you feel.


But being offended is the price I pay, willingly, for living in a society that is still mostly geared to freedom of speech and thought, despite all the political correctniks whose ideas about such things are not dissimilar to yours. I fear that such freedoms won't be around much longer, whether because the West accepts dhimmitude or because we come to think that not offending, even by speaking the truth as we see it, is more important than keeping liberty alive.

But we haven't reached that point yet. Not here. Not now. If you don't understand that, and you push us too far, you invite far worse than offensive cartoons.

You do say one thing I agree with: "
Feelings of alienation and isolation, particularly among European Muslims, could make it difficult for Muslim communities to co-exist within mainstream Western societies." I wish you no harm, but I don't think we can live together.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Win a Green Card! Enter now! It's fun and It's free!

A lot of people find themselves living in America by chance. They are the beneficiaries of the Green Card Lottery.

If you live in the United States, you may never have seen an ad like this. I ran across it when I was accessing the Web in Romania.

Our rulers in the federal government do not believe we have enough diversity in the United States. So they have devised something called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program:
From the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Services:
The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered on an annual basis by the Department of State and conducted under the terms of Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Section 131 of the Immigration Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-649) amended INA 203 to provide for a new class of immigrants known as "diversity immigrants" (DV immigrants).
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services explains:
Each year, the Diversity Lottery (DV) Program makes 55,000 immigrant visas available through a lottery to people who come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Of such visas, 5,000 are allocated for use under NACARA beginning with DV '99. The State Department (DOS) holds the lottery every year, and randomly selects approximately 110,000 applicants from all qualified entries. The DOS selects the approximately 110,000 applications since many will not complete the visa process. However once 55,000 are issued or the fiscal year ends, the DV program is closed. If you receive a visa through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program you will be authorized to live and work permanently in the United States. You will also be allowed to bring your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States.
If you are an indigenous American, especially if you are non-hispanic white, especially especially if you are of Anglo-Saxon or Celtic ancestry, your rulers do not much care for your kind. It is a constant sore point for them that they cannot "disappear" you, as governments in more efficient countries flush away citizens who do not fit in with the rulers' vision.

However, ingenuity has always been a strong point of the United States, so quite acceptable work-arounds have been developed. Short of abolishing a white-majority U.S. outright, the rulers have been forced to flood the country with new residents from properly diverse sources. The most successful method has been to (off the books, of course) stop enforcing border controls, thereby allowing endless spillover from Latin America.

But unlimited illegal immigration is not enough for our rulers. The diversicrats also give away permanent residency, legally, by lottery or by family relationship:

The relatives which may be sponsored as an immigrant vary depending on whether the sponsor is a U.S. Citizen or a lawful permanent resident.

  • If the sponsor is a U.S. Citizen, they may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the U.S:
    • Husband or wife
    • Unmarried child under 21 years of age
    • Unmarried son or daughter over 21
    • Married son or daughter of any age
    • Brother or sister, if the sponsor is at least 21 years old, or
    • Parent, if the sponsor is at least 21 years old.
  • If the sponsor is a lawful permanent resident, they may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the U.S.:
    • Husband or wife, or
    • Unmarried son or daughter of any age
One out of 60 entrants in the Green Card lottery wins, according to the ad. That's better odds than you'll get for any serious prize should you take a flutter in your state lottery.

Enter now! It's fun and it's free!


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Stars fell on Obama last night

The response on the evening yakfests to Elvis Obama's speech yesterday was more or less what could have been predicted. The mainstream media sighed over the sheer beauty of it, allowed themselves to be uplifted, admired how he had pulled off another balancing act, and reassured us that we can turf out the old heaven and the old earth, which are passing away, for the new heaven and the new earth are at hand.

Mr. Obama again demonstrated his mastery of empty eloquence, his brilliance at subtle evasiveness, his surgeon's skill at injecting just the right amount of racial grievance to extract a few more barrels of liberal white guilt, which can only be expiated by electing him the New Messiah.

The fact remains: for 20 years, Mr. Obama has been closely associated with a black racist, paranoid head case. Until Preacher Wright's loony ravings surfaced — no thanks to the liberal media, who have decided to crown Mr. Obama this year — our New Messiah did not see fit to utter a word of renunciation.

All his honeyed words, all his smooth oratory can't quite close the door that has opened briefly to show us what lies inside Mr. Obama.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

"The Paris of the East" today

The George Enescu Museum

I am just back from Bucharest. It took 20 hours to return home, including an eleven-and-a-half hour flight from Bucharest to New York's Bucharest-like JFK airport, and a three-hour layover at JFK for my connecting flight.

There was only one day for sightseeing in Bucharest following my organization's seminar, and I was unable to take advantage of half of that for reasons I won't waste your time going into here. In general, the old city is decrepit and traffic-clogged; some of the exhausted Stalinist Moderne apartment buildings had washing stretched out on clotheslines to dry, right downtown. Even the perimeter walls around the grounds of the President's Palace, built by the dictator Ceausescu, are crumbling here and there.

Fine buildings from the "Paris of the East" days do remain in considerable numbers, though. Unfortunately, most have not been well maintained, although if they can be saved from falling apart or going under the wrecking ball they may one day considerably brighten up the city. Right now many of the elegant older buildings that have been spiffed up serve as casinos.

The highlights of my afternoon's self-guided tour:

The George Enescu Museum. An extraordinary Art Nouveau/French Beaux Arts mansion, formerly owned by a Romanian royal family. The exhibits are probably of minor interest to most people without a specialist interest in the composer Enescu, but I don't see how anyone could fail to appreciate the house, built just before the good times ended in '14-'18. The main hall includes an allegorical ceiling fresco and unbelievable plasterwork including sculptured figures playing trumpets that jut out from the walls.

Enescu isn't much performed in the United States, but he was an important musical figure in Europe. I'm really just beginning to get to know his music, but have found it to be beautiful and unusual. If you want to check him out, don't stop with the Romanian Rhapsodies, the only pieces that made it into the international standard repertory (and even they seem to have faded).

The Atheneum

The Romanian Atheneum.
Bucharest's gloriously restored late 19th-century concert hall, which I toured after an old man who served as guard and guide managed to find someone to watch the door for him. He had no English and I no Romanian, but we found a common language in basic French, which I quickly regretted. Despite his obvious goodwill, I would have preferred silence on his part to absorb the place in peace.

The three Romanian Orthodox churches I visited reminded me of the Greek Orthodox churches I had seen in Athens, and were if anything even more transcendently beautiful. Pass from the porch where candles for the dead smoke in miniature shrines, through the door and inside. The urban world of sound-spitting motorcycles,
hip-hop-booming cars, commercialized frenzy dissolves like ghosts at dawn's first breath.

The interiors are dimly lit, their walls covered with paintings, frescoes, and ikons.
The ikons of Jesus, his family, and various saints exhibit a technique I can't recall seeing before: most of the picture is low-relief silver, but with cutouts for the faces, which are painted on canvas. Strange, but effective.

The metallic surfaces of ikons and sacramental objects sparkle even in the scant illumination, reminiscent of certain mystics' descriptions of divine experience of paradoxically brilliant darkness. It astonishes me how the very old artistic tradition of such churches, its roots in the Byzantine age of more than a millennium ago, manages to create an atmosphere that may come as close as anything can in the material world to showing us what no eye can see through mortal lens. If any space is holy, this is.

We need holy spaces, natural or man-made, in this life where fortune, love, home, reputation, position, all we crave or hold dear can be won or lost; but God can only be won.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

0 for 10

Until recently I never expected to find myself in Bucharest, Romania, but that's where I am. I arrived yesterday morning to help put on a seminar; sleep-deprived, stressed, time-zone-collapsed, cursing the creation of the world. I'll skip the war story about my flights because you have your own stories about airlines. Who doesn't these days?

I'm stationed in a fancy international hotel in a semi-modern quarter just over the road from Ceausescu's Folly, but on the taxi ride in I got a look at the old central city, which contains most of what's left of pre-Great War Bucharest. It's possible to see why this city was once called "The Paris of the East": even after a disastrous century, the elegance of some of the old buildings is remarkable. Probably a lot of restoration has taken place in the past two decades.

As is typical of modern business-oriented hotels, this one has satellite TV from you-name-it. Too knackered for any sightseeing on my arrival, I channel-surfed from the grave. The large flat-panel Philips monitor delivered channels from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Israel, somewhere in the Arabic Middle East, and … and …

Where was I? Where am I? Oh, right. Anyway, Al-BBC was showing a news segment about the unpleasantness in Gaza. When are they ever not? All Gaza, all the time, except when they're running a documentary about primitives in the American midwest oiling up their pistols and planning to put crosses into orbit. But normally it's Gaza -- that little patch of land that God, YHWH, and Allah seem to have all defaulted on -- in season and out. 

Naturally the Beeb was making hay by underlining the misery of the Palestinians. They don't have to look far, of course, to find plenty of despair for their cameras to hoover up. Probably no worse than what a billion people live with, but the Palestinians are A List victims as far as the Israel-hating BBC is concerned, and the network that British taxpayers are forced to support knows a good bad thing when it sees one.

Look, it may sound like I'm fitted up in this ritzy (albeit soulless) hotel and crassly making fun of suffering, but I don't mean to -- there but for the grace of God. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the Palestinian situation, it is disturbing to see people caught in the middle of it. But. Still.

The reporter interviewed a man sitting in the doorway of his home, which was either a slum or a bomb site; in that part of the world it's hard to tell the difference. He was surrounded by children as he told of how he had no money, no job, not much food in reaching distance, and 10 children to support.

Ten children. Did it ever occur to this chump that in his situation, siring 10 kids might not offer the best odds for living the life of Reilly? Has a single aid worker of the thousands parachuting in from the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere ever raised the possibility that insane birth rates are one of the main reasons for the destitution in Palestinian-held territories (not to mention Africa and such)? Of course not. Cluster procreation is a tradition in the world's intensive-care unit countries, and who is anyone else to question a cultural tradition in the Third World, especially in those parts that reason cannot reach and that are under the spell of imams and mullahs and witch doctors we must be sensitive to?

I am sorry for this man. I am even sorrier for his little nippers so heedlessly spawned by a fool who apparently never rubbed together two thoughts about how he would support them. Yes, yes -- Allah would provide.

It should be said: the man wringing tears from the Beeb's politically correct Hampstead dwellers had brought far more devastation on himself and his family than any Israeli in boot leather. And people who insist on clinging to self-destructive behavior because it might have made sense for their ancestors six generations back are not entitled to jump to the head of the line when the aid is being ladled out.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Time out

Cosette, the newest family member.

Since it's hard to illustrate Nothing to Declare, I reckoned I'd give the space to a recent addition to your blogger's household. Cosette, say hello to my readers.

I'm off tomorrow on a business trip that will have me away from home all next week, but I may have a few postings from the road. Back at the old stand around March 16. See you then, if not before.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The music is over, but the malady lingers on

Communism in its orthodox Marxist variety may have been vanquished, but in retreating it left behind time bombs that continue to detonate and have drastically weakened the Western world's will to stand up to Islamization and Third World colonization.

So suggests an interesting post at Armed and Dangerous, linked via a comment at Belmont Club. The post is a couple of years old, but remains relevant to the state of play today.

Armed and Dangerous says:
… The Soviets, following the lead of Marxist theoreticians like Antonio Gramsci, took very seriously the idea that by blighting the U.S.’s intellectual and esthetic life, they could sap Americans’ will to resist Communist ideology and an eventual Communist takeover. The explicit goal was to erode the confidence of America’s ruling class and create an ideological vacuum to be filled by Marxism-Leninism.

Accordingly, the Soviet espionage apparat actually ran two different kinds of network: one of spies, and one of agents of influence. The agents of influence had the minor function of recruiting spies (as, for example, when Kim Philby was brought in by one of his tutors at Cambridge), but their major function was to spread dezinformatsiya, to launch memetic weapons that would damage and weaken the West.

In the long run, he thinks, spies tucking microfilms into their packets of Lucky Strikes did less damage than the dispiriting memes that Soviet agents planted in the Western cultural world (including popular culture). A partial list of the intellectual viruses he believes ultimately derive from Communist psychological warfare includes:
  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
Such statements — actually, more often just unquestioned assumptions — can be found everywhere from campuses to mainstream media. They have supposedly been deliberately propagated and sent on a "long march through the institutions" according to theories credited to Antonio Gramsci, a Marxist said to have devised the strategy of trumping the overwhelming military strength of the West (primarily the United States) by undercutting its sense of strength, history, and self-confidence.

Intellectuals tend to overestimate the significance of particular theoreticians. But whether the subversive meme was down to Gramsci, or a combination of plotters, or just an intuitive strategy of Communist psy-ops personnel, I agree that we are still being sold assisted suicide in the twilight of Old Marxism (Red sales in the sunset). The Soviet Union's memes injected into the West were frequently encountered, if expressed in slightly different language, when I was in college during the Cold War — long before we had terms like political correctness, deconstructionism, entitlement, reparations.
We are not succumbing to the immigration invasion and making fools of ourselves in the War on [an enemy we dare not name] because we are weak, but because we are weak-minded. Hundreds of millions of us have internalized the lessons projected by a Stalinist dictatorship, one of the worst in history (and that's saying a lot), before most of us were born. Think of that if you ever doubt the power of ideas, especially bad ones.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Rough, Rough, Rough Guide to France

Day One. 'No, no, mate, just wanted a spot of tea.'

Money? What a drag. Just ask Mark Boyle.
A man who planned to walk from Bristol to India without any money has quit, after getting as far as Calais, France. Mark Boyle, 28, who set out four weeks ago with only T-shirts, a bandage and sandals, hoped to rely on the kindness of strangers for food and lodging.

But, because he could not speak French, people thought he was free-loading or an asylum seeker.

People thought he was "free-loading"? Of course not. He was doing them a favor, walking halfway around the world, expecting people -- most of them surely poorer than him -- to treat him to three round meals a day and make him a pallet 'cross their floor so he could kip down during a few hundred nights.


Day Two. 'Je ne suis pas asylum seeker, mates. Er, peace and love! Avez-vous un spare baguette?'

Mark is an idealist, you see. Doesn't believe in money. (It's easy when you have plenty.) Doesn't, apparently, even believe in a barter economy, since he didn't carry anything to barter with. He is the perfect infantile product of the socialist state: I exist! I am entitled to the fruits of your labor!

This walking collection of The Rights of Man can hardly be said to violate the norms he sees just by swiveling his head at home in England. The Labour government hasn't quite reached the pluperfect state in which money can be dispensed with as a barbarous relic, but it's got the porchlight on for anybody who fetches up from Africa or Pakistan without a brass farthing. They'll be on the dole before they can say Jack Robinson.

Day Three. 'Do you know who I am, you ungrateful bloody sods? I'm Mister Organic Foods! I'm Freeconomy!'

Don't even have to speak the local lingo, like those blinking Froggies across the channel make a mountain range out of. Her Majesty's gov't will hire a translator to make sure every migrant gets his due with no degrading questions like, "How do you plan to support yourself?" The migrant and the state both already know the answer to that.
Mr Boyle said he could not explain in words the disappointment he felt at abandoning the journey and he apologised to his supporters.
As well, one assumes, apologizing to all those on the long trip to Sri Sri Sri Sri Maha-maha-mahatma Gandhi's most recent incarnation spot, who missed their chance to support this king of the road with his invisible means.