Tuesday, June 22, 2010, 2:54 PM
“You can’t buy an Arab, but you can rent one,” said the late Abba Eban. Gen. David Petraeus “surge” strategy in Iraq amounted to putting 100,000 Sunni fighters on the payroll of the American army. Rather than continue random acts of terror against the Shi’ite majority, Iraq’s Sunni minority accepted Petraeus’ money and stockpiled weapons for the inevitable civil war that would ensue upon America’s eventual withdrawal. It turns out that you can’t even rent an Afghan, and the “surge” strategy has failed miserably in Afghanistan.
The context for the gripes by Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff published by Rolling Stone magazine is a losing war. The military complains that the rules of engagement imposed by the politicians to prevent civilian deaths are so strict that American soldiers are hard put to defend themselves, as George F. Will reported June 20. The trouble is that the Taliban is indistinguishable from the general population that the army wants to rent (“win their hearts and minds,” in official parlance), and will fight to the death. To reduce the Taliban will require a lengthy war of attrition with enormous collateral damage, and the United States has neither the will to sacrifice the requisite number of its own soldiers nor the willingness to accept the civilian body count needed to win.
It was a badly-designed mission to begin with; the only way to neutralize the Taliban, as Henry Kissinger has argued, would be to form a coalition of Afghanistan’s neighbors—prominently including India—to isolate and reduce the insurgency. Instead, the Obama administration mistook Petraeus’ political quick fix in Iraq for a prospective solution in Afghanistan and left the military to flounder there. In a recent essay I compared Petraeus to the Imperial field marshall of the Thirty Years War, Albrecht von Wallenstein: “Wallenstein taught armies to live off the land, and succeeded so well that nearly half the people of Central Europe starved to death during the conflict. General David Petraeus, who heads America’s Central Command (CENTCOM), taught the land to live off him.”
Monday, June 21, 2010, 4:16 PM
Here’s an essay contest, for which I personally will offer a $100 prize. Write 1,000 words on the subject, “Why the Palestinians Deserve an Independent State and the Kurds Do Not.”
Explain why the Kurds should not have an independent state, despite these facts:
1) There are 35 million Kurds, as opposed to perhaps six million Palestinian Arabs by the broadest definition;
2) The Kurds are an ethnic group distinct from Turks, Arabs, or Persians;
3) Perhaps 40,000 Kurdish militants have died at the hands of Turkish security forces during the past twenty years battling against Turkey for an independent Kurdish state;
4) The Kurds speak a distinct language and have a distinct culture;
5) Saddam Hussein killed up to 300,000 Iraqi Kurds, including by poison gas attacks on civilians;
6) The Iraqi Kurds have governed themselves successfully in northern Iraq since Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the American-led coalition in 2003.
Few peoples have suffered more than the Kurds, fought harder to preserve their culture (written Kurdish was outlawed in Turkey for most of the 20th century), showed more tenacity in pursuit of national self-determination, or shown themselves more capable of managing a modern country.
For special credit, answer the following questions:
Why is the human rights establishment so upset about Gaza—whose Hamas-controlled government uses the strip as a terrorist base against Israel—that it is willing to accept Turkish patronage to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade?
And why has the human rights establishment accepted the patronage of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who vowed that Kurdish rebels will “drown in their own blood.” As noted, the Turkish army has killed up to 40,000 Kurdish rebels (and countless civilians) during the past two decades. Journalists in Turkey are jailed for filing reports on Kurdish militant organizations that would be considered run-of-the-mill reportage in any civilized country.
Satirical essays will not be considered: the case must be made in earnest that Kurds do not deserve an independent state while the Palestinians do. Residents of Circle 8, Bolgia 6 are encouraged to submit essays but will not be eligible for the $100 prize as Charon does not accept checks.
Thursday, June 17, 2010, 3:14 PM
President Obama’s fiscal stimulus gave the U.S. economy a temporary adrenalin jolt that began to wear off in April, the most recent data suggest.
Today’s news that weekly employment claims bounced up to 472,000—bringing the four-week average up to 463,500—confirms that the economy is shedding rather than adding jobs. The May payrolls report showed that the private sector added barely 30,000 jobs, while almost two-thirds of the reported 300,000 increase in April payrolls was due to “benchmark revision” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 411,000 of the 430,000 new jobs reported for May were temporary Census hiring. The BLS numbers, moreover, are heavily slanted to the upside by “benchmark revisions” based on supposed hiring by new businesses that the BLS guesses (but does not know) took on new workers. The New York Post‘s John Crudele called this a “boom in the fake jobs market.”
The latest data all suggest that the economic recovery is faltering:
Friday, June 4, 2010, 9:27 AM
It’s not often that a president’s economic policy blows up the same week that his foreign policy blows up and his energy policy blows up, but this morning’s miserable unemployment report gives Obama a trifecta. The BP oil spill just gets worse and Obama looks helpless and feckless. Obama’s main squeeze in the Muslim world, Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, has turned into an ally of Iran and Hamas; and the much-vaunted economic recovery turned out not to be there.
This morning’s payroll report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 411,000 temporary jobs from the U.S. census, and only 20,000 new jobs in the private sector, that is, barely outside the margin of statistical error. The warning signs have been there for weeks: Consumer spending stopped growing in April, which is not surprising, because Americans should be saving roughly 10 fund of their income to fund the biggest retirement wave in history. With the bounce-back in stock prices last year, more affluent consumers decided to spend some of their gains—but the May stock market crash (which appears to be continuing this morning) should change their minds.
Obama’s Keynesian pump-priming has failed. In fact, the global Keynesian approach adopted by all the major governments had already broken at its weakest link, namely in Europe, where highly indebted governments are bankrupt. The U.S. isn’t bankrupt nor likely to be in our lifetimes, but you can’t run a federal deficit of 12 percent of GDP with a 3 percent savings rate forever.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010, 9:09 AM
Wonder why the Euro keeps collapsing? Der Spiegel‘s German-language website cites a new study showing that by 2025, the number of German workers aged 19 to 24 will fall by nearly 5 million, while the number of workers close to retirement will rise by 1.4 million. The aging pattern is most extreme in the former East Germany, although some Western federal states will be badly affected as well, notably the Saar and the Rhineland-Palatinate. In the worst-hit region, Mecklenberg-Pomerania, the number of young labor market entrants will drop by 55 percent by 2015.
A spokesman for the Berthelsman Foundation, which sponsored the study, said that “it will become increasingly difficult for employers to find a sufficient workforce.” How about finding taxpayers to pick up the tab for Greek, Spanish and Portuguese debt?
Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 12:23 PM
Walter Cardinal Kasper, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, told a Liverpool university audience yesterday that the Catholic Church had weakened itself by “cutting itself off from its Jewish roots for centuries . . . a weakness that became evident in the altogether too feeble resistance against the persecution of the Jews” during the Holocaust. Cardinal Kaspar also said that the Vatican would open all of its wartime archives to scholars.
This important address was covered by the London Times and Daily Telegraph, whose religion correspondent Guy Walters wrote,
It is impossible to underestimate the significance of the address made by Cardinal Walter Kasper at Liverpool Hope University on Monday night, in which he promised that the Vatican archives on the wartime record of Pius XII will be opened within six years. This is a hugely welcome piece of news, as the 260th Pope has been the focus of junk historians for decades. “It is our belief that we have nothing to hide and that we do not need to fear the truth,” said Kasper, and he may well be right.
It is noteworthy that the American media universally ignored Cardinal Kasper’s remarks, whose importance far exceeds the announcement that the archives will open. The vilification of the wartime pope, Pius XII, for alleged inaction during the Holocaust presumes that the Vatican had the power to stop the Nazi murder of six million European Jews simply by denouncing it. But the Cardinal made a far more important admission of Church responsibility, and one that Jews should accept in full satisfaction of their grievance against the wartime Vatican: by cutting off its Jewish roots, the Church had weakened itself to the point that it was incapable of offering adequate resistance to Nazi evil.
Cardinal Kasper stated that “the church must draw its vigor and strength from the rootstock of Israel. If the engrafted branches are cut off from the root, they become withered, weak and eventually die. Thus, cutting itself off from its Jewish roots for centuries weakened the church, a weakness that became evident in the altogether too feeble resistance against the persecution of Jews.”
Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 9:37 AM
Barack Hussein Obubble: the moniker fits, now that the grand Keynesian scheme of refloating the world economy on a tide of government debt has come undone. Global stock markets fell 3 percent to 4 percent overnight because American incompetence and American weakness have combined to make the world a dangerous place in which to risk money.
What ails the market is a simultaneous breakdown of Washington’s economic and strategic policies.
We have drawn repeated attention (“Who Will Bail Out the Bailer-Outers?,” May 10) to the Bernie-Madoff-like Ponzi scheme on which the Obubble was founded. America runs a budget deficit close to 12 percent of GDP, unprecedented in peacetime, with a savings rate of under 3 percent. The trillion and a half dollars of federal debt that must be sold annually to finance this deficit are sold to banks, who buy them with cheap funds provided by the Federal Reserve and a great deal of leverage. Two-thirds of the deficit is financed by the banking system, and half of it is financed by banks overseas. The whole world repeats the exercise.
Chains (and chain-letters) break at the weakest link, and the weakest link was Greece, followed closely by Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy. European banks bought these countries’ debt with enormous leverage, which turned into the European equivalent of America’s subprime disaster. America’s subprime disaster, to be sure, is not yet over; all that has happened is that American banks have made excellent money buying Treasury securities with very cheap money. Charles Morris called it a “long con” yesterday at the Daily Beast:
Monday, May 24, 2010, 1:41 PM
To what extent is sharia compatible with Western law? Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Britain’s Supreme Court president Lord Phillips created a stir in 2008 by proposing that British courts might permit the application of Muslim religious law. Numerous American scholars have suggested that sharia might have an application to family law. All the proponents of importing sharia into the West cite the example of Jewish religious law, Halakha, which has coexisted seamlessly with Western law for two thousand years.
In a “Spengler” essay published today at Asia Times Online, titled “Wife-beating, Sharia,and Western law,” I characterize these proposals as “monstrous.” Sharia, I argue, stems from a radically different, and indeed antithetical, concept of the relation of the individual to the state.
Monday, May 24, 2010, 1:18 PM
The one thing that Syria’s president Basher Assad likes about the United States is President Obama himself. “I want to distinguish between the person of Obama and America in its capacity as a state. The president has good intentions . . . but then there is Congress, the lobby, which intervenes in our relationship, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively,” he said in an interview published this morning in Italy’s leading daily La Repubblica.
The Obama administration’s penchant for bashing its allies while crawling to its enemies evokes utter contempt from the world. The national security establishment is watching in horror as America’s influence in the Middle East evaporates. Turkey is allied with Iran and doing everything it can to sabotage sanctions against Iran; America’s pullout from Iraq all but guarantees the emergence of an Iranian satrapy; Afghanistan is doing badly; and America’s one ally in the region, Israel, is the administration’s whipping boy. Obama’s West Point commencement address over the weekend was a defeatist manifesto, as I wrote yesterday on the Spengler blog.
The great division in Washington now lies between the national security establishment, and President Obama who—as Sen. Joseph Lieberman reportedly said in a contentious May 19 meeting with Congressional Democrats—is sacrificing America’s most important alliances in order to repair relations with the Muslim world.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, the proprietor of one of the world’s nastiest rogue regimes, took America’s credibility to a new low. In an AFP summary, this is what Assad had to say:
Friday, May 21, 2010, 12:14 PM
Prior to the great crisis of 2007, the governments of the European Community (according to its official statistical service Eurostat) spent 47 percent of GDP, against 19 percent for the US federal government. Including state and local government spending, the US total rises to 36 percent (of which 6 percent is pensions), but the comparison is far from exact. There is quite a difference between spending that is supported by taxpayers through referenda authorizing bond issues, and tax-and-spend mandates executed through the central government. Most of the pension payments, moreover, reflect income from pools of savings paid by pensioners rather than the proceeds of taxes on current income. A fairer pre-crisis comparison would put US government spending at a little over 30 percent of GDP vs. just under half for Europe.
Monday, May 17, 2010, 3:17 PM
Peter Beinart, the former editor of The New Republic, laments the failure of the American Jewish establishment to present the universalizing, leftist, secular side of Israel to young Americans whose interest in Israel is small compared to that of their elders. His New York Review of Books essay contains no new information. He bases his view on Frank Luntz’ 2003 polling data of Jewish college students, which I had discussed a year ago in a First Things essay entitled ”Jewish Survival in a Gentile World.” Young, secular Jews (as well as young Reform Jews, if you can find any) don’t care about Israel. They lack the impulses of their secular parents, who came from a religious world and still maintain Jewish loyalties.
So what else is new? And why should we care? Beinart cares, because the ground he occupies is shrinking. He identifies with secular Zionists of an older generation:
These Jews embraced Zionism before the settler movement became a major force in Israeli politics, before the 1982 Lebanon war, before the first intifada. They fell in love with an Israel that was more secular, less divided, and less shaped by the culture, politics, and theology of occupation. And by downplaying the significance of Avigdor Lieberman, the settlers, and Shas, American Jewish groups allow these older Zionists to continue to identify with that more internally cohesive, more innocent Israel of their youth, an Israel that now only exists in their memories.
Beinart offers a condescending glance at the “warmth” and “learning” of Orthodox Jews, but neglects to mention the most startling factoid in Jewish demographics: a third of Jews aged 18 to 34 self-identify as Orthodox. “Secular Jew” is not quite an oxymoron–the Jews are a nation as well as a religion–but in the United States, at least, secular Jews have a fertility barely above 1 and an intermarriage rate of 50 percent, which means their numbers will decline by 75 percent per generation. It is tragic that the Jewish people stand to lose such a large proportion of their numbers, but they are lost to Judaism in general, not only to Zionism. That puts a different light on the matter.
Thursday, May 13, 2010, 10:09 PM
One of theDems’ biggest contributor warns that the Obama administration are “really left leftists.” The Jerusalem Post reports that one of the Democratic party’s largest contributors is “dismayed” at the Obama administration’s policies towards Israel:
Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, said to be the Democrats’ single biggest donor, says he is highly dismayed at the Obama administration’s approach to Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“To say I don’t sleep easily with the current administration’s relationship to Israel would be an understatement,” Saban told Channel 10’s reporter at an LA Gala dinner starring Idan Raichel and former ambassador John Bolton organized by the Israeli Leadership Council on Wednesday night.
“Obama wants to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the same thing we want,” Saban said, just the way he was going about it was not to the taste of many in Israel. “They are leftists, really left leftists, so far to the left there’s not much space left between them and the wall,” he said of the Obama administration.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 12:17 PM
The US employment picture is not as rosy as official statistics claim, according to Union Bank of Switzerland economists. In a May 10 note to clients UBS economists wrote:
As we suggested in yesterday’s Comments, Friday’s non-farm payroll numbers got swallowed up by the on-going worries about Greece. But, the “jump” of 290,000 new jobs was a big topic on the weekend talk shows. There was a lot of “we’ve turned the corner” portrayals.
Longtime readers know I’ve thought some of the improvement in the data was “suspect” (to be kind). For the last eight weeks, Initial Unemployment Claims have averaged 450,000 per week. So, over the last four weeks, 1.8 million people were laid off. How does that fit in with the claim that 290,000 new jobs were created? The obvious answer is that it doesn’t.
So, let’s drill down into the payroll numbers to see what’s going on. The CES Birth/Death adjustment added 188,000 of those jobs. Birth/Death does not refer to people but to businesses. The BLS guesses how many new companies opened versus how many closed their doors. The BLS then uses that guess to guess again how many jobs those business created or lost.
Another 66,000 of the new jobs came from census hiring. Those are temporary jobs and those folks will be laid off later in the year. Speaking of temporary, another 26,000 of the new jobs were non-census temporary. Let’s recap. A guess produced 188,000 of the jobs, 66,000 were census and 26,000 were temporary. Thus, it seems 280,000 of the 290,000 “new jobs” were either temporary or the result of guesswork.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 10:36 AM
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has now accepted “proximity negotiations” under American pressure, amid reports that the Israeli government has quietly frozen housing construction in East Jerusalem. Evidently the Obama administration wants to put something resembling a Palestinian State into place at the earliest opportunity. It is not clear how this might occcur however, given the continuing split between Hamas-controlled Gaza and the West Bank, where American-sponsored security forces and the Israeli Army keep the Palestine Authority in power even as its own political and military power base decays. In effect, the US is propping up a fourth state in the Middle East, after Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
Unilateral declaration of a state is one possibility. NATO troops will be the key to propping up a rump Palestinian state ruled by the head of a party that polled just 2 percent of the vote in the last elections, according to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Perhaps American troops leaving Iraq could stop over in the West Bank as Iraq crumbles into Iranian-managed chaos.
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad meanwhile is stumping the West Bank to win support for a plan to declare a Palestinian State on the West Bank territory that the Palestine Authority presently controls should negotiations fail with Israel. Abbas has said he opposes a unilateral declaration of independence. He has good reason to do so.
Monday, April 26, 2010, 11:46 AM
A favorite joke about the Obama administration, that is, about President Obama’s penchant for running the government out of his Blackberry rather than through his cabinet, used to go as follows: “Quick, who’s the National Security Advisor?”
The National Security Advisor—who as everyone now knows is General James Jones—has ruined a perfectly good joke, and the bitter irony of it is that he did so by attempting to tell a joke of his own, thus making a public scandal of himself, and revealing his name to millions who previously had not the remotest inkling that he existed.
Speaking last week before the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, General Jones was videotaped in the act of attempted humor. According to Ha’Aretz, this is more or less what he had to say:
A Taliban militant gets lost and is wandering around the desert looking for water. He finally arrives at a store run by a Jew and asks for water.
The Jewish vendor tells him he doesn’t have any water but can gladly sell him a tie. The Taliban begins to curse and yell at the Jewish storeowner. The Jew, unmoved, offers the rude militant an idea: Beyond the hill, there is a restaurant; they can sell you water.
The Taliban keeps cursing and finally leaves toward the hill. An hour later he’s back at the tie store. He walks in and tells the merchant: “Your brother tells me I need a tie to get into the restaurant.”
Telling a joke about greedy, sneaky Jewish businessmen before a Jewish audience raised some eyebrows. “Can you imagine him telling a black joke at an event of African Americans?,” said one attendee, adding that it was “wrong on so many levels.” Three of those levels are:
Thursday, April 22, 2010, 3:34 PM
“South Park” is disgusting, blasphemous, and occasionally hilarious out of all bounds. In the past it has taken on the Catholic Church, the Jews, evangelicals, Mormons, Scientology, Christmas, and virtually every institution and value and public figure one might mention. It took an extra measure of chutzpah, not to mention physical courage, to lampoon the one major religion that the series has avoided, namely [censored], in the person of the Prophet [censored].
As the Times Online reported today:
Tuesday, April 20, 2010, 5:14 PM
I’ll be on the Kudlow Report at 7 p.m. talking about collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s). My crib sheet:
There is very clear case for CDOs: the most obvious is that they are now an important vehicle for loans to medium-sized business at a time when the banks have reduced their loan book by 20 percent over the past 12 months. A CDO simply puts credits into a pool and sells different risks to different investors. You can cheat investors with a CDO, but you can also cheat them with common stock any other financial instrument you might name. The financial industry and the ratings agencies have lost investor confidence by misusing the structure and have to straighten up and fly right—but killing CDOs would damage precisely the sectors of the economy that need capital the most.
Roger Lowenstein in the New York Times today claims that synthetic CDOs are just gambling:
Wall Street’s purpose, you will recall, is to raise money for industry: to finance steel mills and technology companies and, yes, even mortgages. But the collateralized debt obligations involved in the Goldman trades, like billions of dollars of similar trades sponsored by most every Wall Street firm, raised nothing for nobody. In essence, they were simply a side bet—like those in a casino—that allowed speculators to increase society’s mortgage wager without financing a single house.
The mortgage investment that is the focus of the S.E.C.’s civil lawsuit against Goldman, Abacus 2007-AC1, didn’t contain any actual mortgage bonds. Rather, it was made up of credit default swaps that “referenced” such bonds. Thus the investors weren’t truly “investing”—they were gambling on the success or failure of the bonds that actually did own mortgages. Some parties bet that the mortgage bonds would pay off; others (notably the hedge fund manager John Paulson) bet that they would fail. But no actual bonds—and no actual mortgages—were created or owned by the parties involved.
He misses the obvious: If investors demand to own a certain kind of risk in the synthetic market, it makes it easier for borrowers to issue cash debt (among other reasons, by making it easy for investors to hedge cash debt if they choose to).
Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 9:43 AM
John Podhoretz excoriated me for a characterization of Barack Obama that has earned wide if not universal acceptance among conservatives. Surely he protests too much. John is a very good journalist; if he had read my essays rather than react to a one-line reference to them in a blog post, I am convinced he would have come away with a different impression.
On pages 38-39 of his new book Conservative Victory, for example, Sean Hannity approvingly quotes my two-year-old sketch of how Obama’s family background cultivated a hostility to the United States:
But it’s been suggested that one of Obama’s voluntary relationships is more revealing of his radicalism, anti-Americanism, and anti-capitalism than all of the others: his choice of marital partner. The columnist known as Spengler, writing for the Asia Times, quoted Alexandre Dumas: “When you want to uncover an unspecified secret, look for the woman.” In Obama’s case, wrote Spengler, there have been two principal women in his life: his late mother and “his rancorous wife Michelle. Obama’s women reveal his secret: he hates America.”
Michael Ledeen has had some things to say about this as well.
I also parsed Michelle Obama’s Princeton undergraduate thesis and reviewed Obama’s own writings, citing in particular this passage from Dreams of My Father, writing in July 8, 2008:
Monday, April 12, 2010, 12:25 PM
Three cheers for Ross Douthat’s spirited defense of Benedict XVI as the uncharismatic successor who had to clean a set of messes left by his great predecessor John Paul II is heartening. Douthat writes:
…the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up. This pattern extends to other fraught issues that the last pope tended to avoid — the debasement of the Catholic liturgy, or the rise of Islam in once-Christian Europe. And it extends to the caliber of the church’s bishops, where Benedict’s appointments are widely viewed as an improvement over the choices John Paul made. It isn’t a coincidence that some of the most forthright ecclesiastical responses to the abuse scandal have come from friends and protégés of the current pope.
Has Benedict done enough to clean house and show contrition? Alas, no. Has his Vatican responded to the latest swirl of scandal with retrenchment, resentment, and an un-Christian dose of self-pity? Absolutely. Can this pontiff regain the kind of trust and admiration, for himself and for his office, that John Paul II enjoyed? Not a chance.
But as unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better pope.
As a non-Catholic, I have admired Joseph Ratzinger for thirty years—first because of his impassioned defense of Western classical music (in 1985 he was generous enough to comment on a manuscript I had sent him of a study of Nicholas of Cusa and music theory, later published in the Vatican’s music journal). When his 1986 interview book The Salt of the Earth appeared in German, I read about it in Der Spiegel between flights at the Tokyo airport, and was gobsmacked: there was a Prince of the Church warning that “we might have to bid farewell to the concept of a popular Church” in an era of faithlessness. That showed real guts. Then there was the Regensburg speech in September 2006, with its bold critique of Islam. And finally—closest to my heart—is the fact that Joseph Ratzinger “is the first pope since St. Peter to read the Gospels as Hebrew documents,” in the words of the Bonn University theologian Karl-Heinz Menke, writing last year in the German-language edition of Communio. As Assaf Sagiv wrote in Azure magazine, Benedict XVI is in some respects the best friend the Jews ever have had at the Vatican.
Jews have had reason to have had mixed (and sometimes hostile) feelings towards the Vatican over the centuries, but we should wish this Catholic philo-Semite success and pray for his good health. And as I wrote March 26 on the Spengler blog,
Thursday, March 18, 2010, 11:01 AM
Moral equivalency is a matter of dogma in the mainstream media: When five hundred Christians were massacred in their homes by machete-wielding Muslims in Nigeria’s Plateau Province on the night of March 7, news reports claimed it was simply retaliation for previous attacks on Muslims. That is an outright falsehood, according to The Barnabas Fund, an interdenominational Christian organization devoted to assisting Christians around the world who face persecution.
Here is the Barnabas Fund’s press release laying out the facts:
Nigeria: Media Distortions Of Anti-Christian Massacres In Jos:
The world has been horrified by the bloodshed in Jos, the capital of Nigeria’s Plateau State, as reported by the international media during the last six weeks. It appears, however, that deliberate manipulation and deception at a local level have meant that international reporting has been inaccurate, and has created the false impression that Christians were the aggressors and Muslims the victims when the reality is the opposite. So Christians have become double victims, suffering not only violence but also unjust blame.
Two incidents of large-scale violence have occurred, first in the city of Jos itself on Sunday 17 January 2010, and then in three mainly Christian villages to the south of Jos on Sunday 7 March.
In the latter incident men from the Muslim Fulani tribe, armed with swords and machetes, arrived at the villages in the early hours of the morning. The residents of Zot, Dogo Nahauwa and Rastat were woken by the sound of gunshots and ran terrified into the streets, where the attackers were waiting for them. A horrendous massacre followed. Local police say 109 people were killed, but other sources suggest this figure could be much higher, perhaps up to 500.
Friday, March 12, 2010, 7:00 AM
On Wednesday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released the following statement on the recent massacre in Nigeria:
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today expressed grave concerns about the sectarian clash in several villages outside of Jos, Nigeria, resulting in the death of as many as possibly 500 Muslims and Christians.
“When we recommended that the Administration designate Nigeria as a ‘country of particular concern’ last May, we were expressing our deep concern that a cycle of sectarian violence and impunity was intensifying, and the recent events in and near Jos confirm the precarious state of affairs,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair.
In its May 2009 Annual Report, USCIRF outlined a series of policies that the Nigerian government must undertake in order to address the climate of impunity that now exists, and recommended the immediate designation of Nigeria as a “country of particular concern” by the U.S. Administration.
“As we said nearly a year ago, the Nigerian government must investigate and prosecute acts of religious violence, and the United States and others in the international community must offer the Nigerians financial as well as technical assistance aimed at improving conflict mediation and law enforcement,” said Mr. Leo.
USCIRF’s recommendations can be found here .
USCIRF expresses its condolences to the families and friends of those who perished in this latest, senseless violence. USCIRF notes that the U.S. Department of State is releasing its annual report on human rights this week and urges the Department to emphasize the intensive recurrent sectarian violence in its coverage and policies.
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010, 3:44 PM
Inventing news where there is none is not a new pastime for the press, but the intense interest that the European media has shown in the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the elder brother of Pope Benedict XVI, goes beyond the usual range of invidious gossip. The 86-year-old Monsignor Ratzinger, the retired conductor of the Regensburg Cathedral’s famous boys’ choir, assumed his post a decade after a sexual abuse scandal surfaced. The offenders were punished and the matter was put to rest. Earlier this week reporters cornered the retired priest and demanded to know whether he would testify about the sex scandal in his choir. Ratzinger replied that he would be happy to testify if asked, but as the events preceded his tenure he had no knowledge of the facts—and headlines appeared in major German media that “the pope’s brother is ready to testify about sex abuse.”
Reporters then dug up thirty-year-old reports of corporal punishments at church schools attended by choristers for the Regensburger Domspaetzen, Msgr. Ratzinger’s choir. Today’s headlines announce with a shocked tone that Ratzinger several decades ago occasionally boxed the ears of misbehaving pupils. AP for example reports today:
Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 12:15 PM
Today comes news that 20 percent of Americans are unemployed or underemployed, according to a Gallup Poll that queried ten times the number of households involved in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Household Survey. According to BLS numbers, 16 percent of Americans are unemployed or underemployed. We also had news that the number of new homes sold in January fell by 11 percent to the lowest level on record (below the lowest estimate of the 35 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before the announcement). And yesterday the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence dropped by a remarkable 10 points to the lowest level in 10 months. So much for the consumer recovery: The only sector of the economy showing even a dead-cat bounce is manufacturing, but that’s just 15 percent of the workforce. These numbers were never exceeded, except at the trough of the Great Depression, when un- and under-employment was at 25 percent. And we just might get there.
The Obama administration has encountered the economic equivalent of a patient with low blood pressure, an erratic pulse, labored breathing, and a high fever. And it proposes to administer to this patient the economic equivalent of barbiturates. I refer to a proposed “Medicare tax” on capital income. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 11:39 AM
Apropos of Jody’s post earlier today:
On Feb. 12, I posted this item at my “Inner Workings” blog at Asia Times and on the Spengler blog at First Things:
Although Greece is an EC member, its finances and political system have the character of a banana republic. EC membership, though, enabled Greece to borrow far more money than any banana republic, such that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio is about triple that of Argentina just before the latter’s bankruptcy in 2000. And because Greece is an EC member, the size and adumbrations of a bankruptcy would be much, much larger than that of any Latin American country.
Earlier I had assumed that we were watching a negotiation: Brussels would shout “Never!,” the Greeks would throw tantrums, and eventually some compromise would be reached and the situation would be stabilized.
Closer examination of the political situation in Greece makes me less optimistic. Greece may be suffering from an inoperable cancer, in the form of a degree of corruption that make a resolution without bankruptcy very difficult to implement.
Here are some comments by a political observer in Athens who has written to me privately:
Thursday, February 18, 2010, 9:31 AM
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It’s a bit more complicated, Rusty.
On what grounds should we defend Yiddish? I agree that there are excellent reasons, but let us dig into your point a bit more. Why did Jews speak Yiddish in the nineteenth century (when it was generally referred to as “Teutsch”), that is, the dialect of Alsace whence they were driven in the twelfth century, rather than Polish, Ukrainian, and so forth? They considered themselves a community in exile in Poland; whereas Jews had learned and contributed to local languages in Western Europe (Rashi is an important source for eleventh century French), once they were pushed from the center to the frontier, Jews kept the old vernacular and learned Aramaic for Talmudic study and Hebrew for prayer—but not the local dialects which, to be sure, didn’t amount to much at the time. Many Polish Jews barely spoke the language, well into the 20th century.
It’s interesting that the same is true for the Sefardic Jews. Until it was eradicated during World War II, the Jewish community in Salonica (which made up half the local population) taught school in Spanish). Only the Eastern Jews of Iraq and Persia, whose communities predated the fall of the Second Temple, spoke Arabic or Persian as a cradle tongue.
When I called on Prof. Wisse at her office at Harvard last fall, she talked about a flourishing of Yiddish popular literature among Hasidic sects who want to insulate themselves from the endemic culture—thus we have Yiddish teen literature, musical comedies, and so forth. Yiddish, in other words, remains a buffer to protect a faith community from outside influences. That was a great part of its function during the seven hundred years of Jewish residence in Poland and surrounding countries.
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