Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

December 20, 2007

Just don’t do it to a teddy bear!

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:32 pm

The second most common name for new baby boys in Britain is “Mohammed.”

Just don’t try that with a teddy bear!

September 17, 2006

In Memoriam, Oriana Fallaci

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:15 pm

Oriana Fallaci, arguably the greatest journalist of the century (this one, and the last one), passed away on Friday in her native Florence. She was 77, and had been fighting cancer for 14 years.

She had spend most of the last decade or two in New York, especially in the last year and a half — since she was facing charges in Italy for what she wrote in her last book.

Fallaci lived a fascinating life, and her biography reads like a history of the world from the time she was born. She joined the Italian anti-fascist resistance with her father at the age of 10. After Italy was captured by the Allies and switched sides, her father was tortured by the Nazis but released alive; Oriana was honorably discharged from the Italian Army at the age of 14. She started writing at age 15, and became a reporter in Florence at age 16, while attending the University of Florence. She was originally a Leftist, but was open to changing her mind based on what she saw — and as such, she necessarily abandoned the Left repeatedly on issues she covered in depth, from Vietnam to Iran to the Middle East to the War on Terror — which she never hestited to call Islamic terror. She was an avowed atheist who had a strong admiration for Pope Benedict XVI, and in fact was one of the first people invited to meet with him after he became Pope. (And she will be buried at an Evalgelical cemetary.)

The Left, of course, called her a fascist. Never mind the fact that she started off in life fighting the real fascists.

Tributes are pouring in from such diverse quarters as Daniel Pipes, Tammy Bruce, Victor Davis Hanson, The Anchoress, Rusty Shackleford, and many others.

Formal obituaries are from the New York Post, Times [of London], the Basque news channel EiTB,

Her manifesto against antisemitism is worth rereading. As is her interview with an Iraqi soldier in Saddam’s army.

August 23, 2006

Why Aren’t Jews Rioting?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:50 pm

Six months ago, Muslims the world over rioted over the publication of some anti-Muslim cartoons in a Danish newspaper.

Now, a reader wrote to me to point out that Iran has set up an entire museum exhibit of anti-Jewish Holocaust cartoons:

Organisers of Iran’s International Holocaust Cartoon’s Contest said the museum exhibit, which has drawn more than 200 entries, aims to challenge Western taboos about the discussing the Holocaust.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has drawn international condemnation for dismissing the Holocaust as a “myth”. Nazi Germany killed six million European Jews in World War Two.

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction.

Iran’s best-selling newspaper, Hamshahri, launched a competition in February for the best cartoon about the Holocaust in retaliation for the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Danish and other European newspapers.

Notice that Jews are not rioting about this. We are not even rioting “in retaliation” for the Muslim riots before.

In fact, the most strident reaction has been a strong statement by Abraham Foxman of the ADL, who is basically paid to fight antisemitism wherever he can find it.

The Iranian sponsorship and exhibition of a cartoon contest on the Holocaust is outrageous, hateful and cynical.

One should ask two questions: Why is the outrage in the Muslim world to the cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed directed against Jews, who were not responsible for the Danish cartoons? Why, if, as President Ahmadinejad says, the Holocaust is a myth, call for a cartoon contest to deride it?

The questions are easily answered in the fact of the constant drumbeat of anti-Semitism and demonization of Jews and Israel emanating from the Arab/Muslim world, through their media and through leaders such as Ahmadinejad. Everyday, in much of the Arab/Muslim world anti-Semitic and other hateful material is produced for mass consumption.

Denying the Holocaust and deriding the Holocaust are two sides of the same coin and must be denounced by the international community as classical anti-Semitism.

I’m not holding my breath. But perhaps it’s worth pointing out that not all religions are equally tolerant.

August 21, 2006

The Banality of Evil

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:22 pm

With apologies to Hannah Arendt, here’s this telling quote from a panel discussion on antisemitism:

Ella Ringens-Reiner:“Those who actively approved of the mass murder — were people who conformed to the common picture of the SS men. They were sadists, the brutal criminals, organized, legalized, and dressed in uniform.”

“Worse, because more dangerous, were the people in their everyday life, and frequently, in their dealings with prisoners, were quite kindly, looked normal, and behaved like any other average citizen — and who were pleased with the mass murder, without any deeper emotion, simply because it was an opportunity for getting a pigskin bag or gold watch which they could never have afforded to buy. Among them were people little concerned with National Socialism … and yet belonging to it heart and soul — indeed, with fanaticism — out of their joy at the annihilation of the Jews.

“They were drab little people who would never have been conspicuous if no occasion for extraordinary behavior had not offered to them. … In normal living conditions they would have had their coating of civilization, and their coating would not even have been so very thin. Under the impact of steadily repeated slogans … they shook off their coating as if with a jerk, with a certain violence. And then part of their being was unleashed and began to rage.”

“Months after leaving the concentration camp I talked with a young National Socialist woman who, in the official classification, had not been a ‘bad’ Nazi, had never been in a position of power or personal profit, and in private life was a quiet, modest, friendly person. I hoped to move her by my story of Auschwitz camp, and finished by saying that no people had ever inflicted so much evil on another group as the German nation on the Jews. In reply she asked me blithely, ‘Why? Is gassing such a disagreeable death?’”

As it turns out the Muslims esteem the Europeans for the very accomplishment the Europeans would rather not boast about in broad daylight, that is, the Holocaust. When the Malaysian prime minister spoke to the Muslim heads of state last year he drew a standing ovation when he proclaimed that the Europeans murdered six million Jews and you too can achieve success if you improve your education standards.

This is another nugget of data for my theory: In most situations, most people just “go with the flow.” Some people are independent thinkers, and a few people are leaders — but most people will just go along with the crowd, doing great good, or great evil, or in between, depending on what’s going on around them.

Which is one reason why it’s very important to pick good leaders, and to establish and support a culture that makes good behavior fashionable.

August 18, 2006

Train Bombing Attempted in Germany

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:22 pm

Ray D. reports:

According to reports circulating throughout the German media today, two suitcase bombs placed by two unidentified men very nearly went off on regional trains in Dortmund and Koblenz at the end of July. A deadly simultaneous bombing was only averted because the bombs were technically defective. Had they fully detonated, German authorities believe that a mass casualty event similar to the recent attacks in London could have been the result.

Police believe that a terrorist motive is probable, particularly because the suitcases contained Arabic writing and telephone numbers from Lebanon. The men who placed the bombs also strongly appear to be of Middle Eastern origin. …

Our take: This is yet another wake up call for all Germans who believe that terrorism at home can be averted through a policy of appeasement and pacifism at all costs. One has to wonder how the far left can continue to collaborate with Islamic extremists in their quest of anti-American, anti-Israeli hatred. Hopefully it doesn’t have to come to a horrific attack before the German media and politicians get realistic about the threat Islamic extremism poses to the modern world.

Cue Bob Dylan:

How many bombs must the terrorists place
Before they are called to account?

How many innocent people be killed
Before Europe stops appeasement?

When will they ever learn?
When will they e–ver learn?

August 17, 2006

Airport Security Theater

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:02 pm

Security expert Bruce Schneier points out this very salient fact about airport security — both the “since 9/11″ restrictions and the “since last week” restrictions — and the recent arrests in London: (Boldface emphasis mine.)

Hours-long waits in the security line. Ridiculous prohibitions on what you can carry on board. Last week’s foiling of a major terrorist plot and the subsequent airport security changes graphically illustrates the difference between effective security and security theater.

None of the airplane security measures implemented because of 9/11 — no-fly lists, secondary screening, prohibitions against pocket knives and corkscrews — had anything to do with last week’s arrests. And they wouldn’t have prevented the planned attacks, had the terrorists not been arrested. A national ID card wouldn’t have made a difference, either.

Instead, the arrests are a victory for old-fashioned intelligence and investigation. Details are still secret, but police in at least two countries were watching the terrorists for a long time. They followed leads, figured out who was talking to whom, and slowly pieced together both the network and the plot.

The new airplane security measures focus on that plot, because authorities believe they have not captured everyone involved. It’s reasonable to assume that a few lone plotters, knowing their compatriots are in jail and fearing their own arrest, would try to finish the job on their own. The authorities are not being public with the details — much of the “explosive liquid” story doesn’t hang together — but the excessive security measures seem prudent.

But only temporarily. Banning box cutters since 9/11, or taking off our shoes since Richard Reid, has not made us any safer. And a long-term prohibition against liquid carry-on items won’t make us safer, either. It’s not just that there are ways around the rules, it’s that focusing on tactics is a losing proposition.

It’s easy to defend against what terrorists planned last time, but it’s shortsighted. If we spend billions fielding liquid-analysis machines in airports and the terrorists use solid explosives, we’ve wasted our money. If they target shopping malls, we’ve wasted our money. Focusing on tactics simply forces the terrorists to make a minor modification in their plans. There are too many targets — stadiums, schools, theaters, churches, the long line of densely packed people in front of airport security — and too many ways to kill people.

Security measures that attempt to guess correctly don’t work, because invariably we will guess wrong. It’s not security, it’s security theater: measures designed to make us feel safer but not actually safer.

Airport security is the last line of defense, and not a very good one at that. Sure, it’ll catch the sloppy and the stupid — and that’s a good enough reason not to do away with it entirely — but it won’t catch a well-planned plot. We can’t keep weapons out of prisons; we can’t possibly keep them off airplanes.

Bruce has a summary of the new UK and US security rules here. He points out that this is reasonable in the short run. We’ll see how long these rules stay in effect. The post-9/11 US rules have lasted a lot longer than I initially expected — no doubt, in part, because they involved creating a new federal government agency.

And Sean at Cosmic Variance has this clever take on the whole thing:

[F]or the first time, the Department of Homeland Security has deemed an entire state of matter to be a national security risk.

If you remember from chemistry or physics what a phase diagram here, this will put things in perspective.

This is even worse!

July 14, 2006

Mid-East Double Standards

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:33 pm

The Iranian-sponsored group Hezbollah has, as of the time of this report, fired 150 missiles into northern Israel from Lebanon. An estimated 220,000 Israelis are living in bomb shelters. Two Israeli civilians have been killed, and 50 wounded, plus eight Israeli soldiers have been killed and two kidnapped in a cross-border raid (i.e., Hezbollah attacked within Israel’s borders). This is on top of the cross-border raid by Hamas from Gaza earlier, in which six Israeli soldiers were killed and one kidnapped, and the rockets fired earlier from Gaza, from which Israel voluntarily withdrew (and whose Jewish population it expelled) back in August.

So, Israel is responding, by attacking Hamas in Gaza and attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Naturally, the world diplomatic community is outraged — at Israel, for daring to respond to deadly attacks on itself:

Major US allies condemned the ferocity of Israel’s military attack on Lebanon, revealing a clear split with Washington’s moderate call for restraint.

Cries of alarm mounted worldwide after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered armed forces to intensify the offensive in response to rockets hitting towns in northern Israel, killing two and wounding 50.

“I find honestly — as all Europeans do — that the current reactions are totally disproportionate,” [French President Jacques Chirac] said in a live television interview on France’s national Bastille Day.

“In my view, Israel is making a mistake,” said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. “It will only lead to an escalation of the violence.”

In Italy, Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he recognized Israel’s legitimate concerns and condemning the kidnapping of the soldiers.

But “we deplore the escalation in the use of force, the serious damage to Lebanese infrastructure and the civilian casualties of the raids,” the Italian leader added.

The Vatican secretary of state, Angelo Sodano, said: “The Holy See deplores the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign country,” adding that he felt for the people “who had already suffered in defence of their independence.”

“On the one hand, Israel has the internationally recognised right to self defence. But at the same time we ask our Israeli friends and partners not to lose sight of the long-term consequences when they exercise this right,” German deputy government spokesman Jens Ploetner said.

Iran, which with Syria is a sponsor of Hezbollah, called on the United Nations to step in. “The international community and the UN must intervene to stop this crime,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said during a visit to Greece.

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim state, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was quoted by the state news agency Antara as saying: “Indonesia repeats its call for Israel to stop its military action.”

“I consider that all sides implicated in this conflict should immediately stop military action,” [Russian President Vladimir] Putin said.

It seems the world is divided between those countries that claim Israel has no right to self-defense, and those that concede they have it but don’t want them to actually exercise it. So far, only the U.S. and Britain have acknowledged that Israel actually has any business defending itself — and only they and Russia have bothered to note that Hamas and Hezbollah are wrong to be attacking Israel in the first place.

Of those who claim the Israeli response is “disproportionate” — what response would be “proprotionate” to hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets? How would Germany or Italy respond to a similar attack?

Do they want Israel to appeal to the UN? That wouldn’t work, since the UN Security Council voted 10-1 (with 4 abstentions!) to condem Israel for defending itself!

That’s right: of the 15 countries on the UN security council, only one — the United States — was willing to say that Israel does not have to sit back and allow Hamas and Hezbollah to shoot missiles at their towns and kidnap their soldiers to their hearts’ content.

This is not surprising — this is the same UN that displayed a map showing Israel removed. Naturally, they cannot condemn violent attacks on a country that is not supposed to exist in the first place.

And of course, the press and the diplomats and “world leaders” are referring to the deaths of Hezbollah and Hamas fighters as “civilian deaths.” I suppose technically this is correct since they are not members of any legal military force. But they are shooting missiles, attacking soldiers, and killing random, peaceful citizens of another country — so in what sense, exactly, is it informative to call them “civilians”?

June 15, 2006

Population and the “Mommy Wars”

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 am

I don’t have time to pull out quotes at the moment, but here are several angles on the dual debates of (1) whether we are headed for overpopulation or underpopulation, and (2) whether motherhood is beneficial/good/enlightened or oppressive/evil/neanderthal.

OK, I’ll pull one quote. Emily Yoffe cites the main benefit claimed for the “childfree lifestyle” and why it’s bogus:

As one woman wrote: “My husband and I are childless by choice and I heartily encourage all younger friends to consider it. It is the most wonderful lifestyle, free of whining and sniveling and mini-vans.”

What is going on when there is so much scorn for parenthood—the way a society perpetuates itself? Fertility rates are much in the news these days. The United States is rare among developed nations in that it is still producing children at a replacement rate. But many countries collectively agree with the people who wrote to me—that children are a tantrum wrapped in a diaper and not worth the trouble. So, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, among others, are going down the demographic tubes, with shrinking pools of young workers to support growing masses of seemingly immortal retirees.

I noticed something else in the letters from nonparents that I had experienced myself: They have an unrealistic sense of the passage of time—or at least the passage of parental time. They seem stuck on the notion that being a parent means forever climbing a Mt. Everest of diapers (and what happens to these punctilious couples if a spouse ends up needing diapers?). Diapers pass in a snap. It all goes so fast. When our daughter turned 6, my husband and I realized with a pang that we were already one-third of the way through the time she would live with us. And I worry that the writers have an unrealistic sense of their own passage through time—believing they’ll forever feel that nothing is more important than building their career or taking that next trip.

I’ll go you one better. Before we had kids, Different Wife was hoping she’d have triplets or quadruplets — an entire family, without having to go through pregnancy more than once! Apparently, she thought pregnancy was the hard part. I tried, based on my “experience” as the oldest of five children, to explain that pregnancy was the least of it both in time and impact, but what did I know, I was male, how should be be so arrogant…. Pregnancy is, mainly, the only part of parenting that doesn’t have many benefits offsetting the costs, but that’s not what she meant…

June 13, 2006

Oh, Those Sophisticated Europeans

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:01 pm

I would like to see the Europeans who attack the U.S. for being “unilateral,” a “hyperpower,” “cowboy country” and generally uncultured defend this:

As he left the soccer field after a club match in the eastern German city of Halle on March 25, the Nigerian forward Adebowale Ogungbure was spit upon, jeered with racial remarks and mocked with monkey noises. In rebuke, he placed two fingers under his nose to simulate a Hitler mustache and thrust his arm in a Nazi salute.

In April, the [Black] American defender Oguchi Onyewu, playing for his professional club team in Belgium, dismissively gestured toward fans who were making simian chants at him. Then, as he went to throw the ball inbounds, Onyewu said a fan of the opposing team reached over a barrier and punched him in the face….

Players and antiracism experts said they expected offensive behavior during the tournament, including monkey-like chanting; derisive singing; the hanging of banners that reflect neofascist and racist beliefs; and perhaps the tossing of bananas or banana peels, all familiar occurrences during matches in Spain, Italy, eastern Germany and eastern Europe.

Thanks to Coyote Blog for the quote and the title.

March 13, 2006

“Artist” Turns Synagogue Into a Gas Chamber

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:38 pm

Yes, this is the year 2006, and a Spanish “artist” has turned a German synagogue into a gas chamber:

An artist [sic] invited Germans to come and be symbolically gased with car exhaust fumes in a former synagogue.

Santiago Sierra, a Spanish performance artist [sic], pledged on Monday to hold talks with Jewish community leaders outraged by his project to give people a sense of the Holocaust by pumping lethal car exhaust fumes into a former synagogue and letting visitors enter one by one with a breathing apparatus.

Sierra, known internationally for his controversial [No! Really?] work, led hoses from the exhaust pipes of six parked cars into the building in the town of Pulheim-Stommeln near Cologne to create lethal levels of carbon monoxide there.

Note that it is a “former” synagogue because most of the Jews near Cologne were sent to real gas chambers almost 65 years ago.

The “artistic community” has gone from, “It’s OK for art to be provocative” to “Offensive is just a form of provocative, so it’s OK for art to be offensive,” to “If it’s not offensive, it’s not art,” to “If it’s offensive, it must be art” — unless, of course, it is offensive to Muslims. Can you imagine the reaction if a “performance artist” set up an exhibit in which European women were symbolically stoned for not having a long enough burka? It would be worse than the reaction to those cartoons.

Of course, if it were for any purpose other than “art” it would probably be illegal to concentrate carbon monoxide like that. Where are the Greens when you need them?

March 7, 2006

Global Warming Causes Record Snowfall, Right?

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:57 pm

As is his wont, Clayton Cramer has put together another post that mocks global warming with a roundup of record cold weather around the world. This time, it even includes snowstorms in Algeria, a country more noted for the Sahara Desert than any other geographic feature. This is in addition to record cold temperatures across the United States.

As soon as I read this, my first thought is that it would take about 37 seconds to find somebody somewhere who is arguing that record snowfall is proof of global warming, rather than evidence against it. And sure enough, on the first page of my first Google search, I found this little gem — a comment on LuboÅ¡ Motl’s blog (which you may recognize from my blogroll), on a January 26 post noting record snowfall in Boston:

Snow as previously moisture in the air. More snow means there was more moisture in the air. More moisture in the air means more evaporation. More evaporation means that the winds were stronger or the water & air were warmer. More warm, moisture laden air is making its way upto Boston where it collides with Arctic cold air and precipitates snow. It might be a sign of global warming.

Now it is true that snow requires previous evaporation, and more heat means more evaporation — but it will not actually fall as snow unless it is actually cold somewhere. The evaporation could just as easily come back as rain, and if global temperatures were rising, we would expect that the mix of precipitation would involve more rain and less snow. Or even just more vapor staying in the atmosphere, without an increase in overall precipitation. After all, if the heat causes evaporation, it can also cause the water to stay evaporated.

LuboÅ¡ — a physics professor at Harvardresponds appropriately:

“It might be a sign of global warming.”

Well, it’s because for deep religious people, everything is a sign of God, Hell, or Global Warming, whatever their religion is.

Science and rational thinking work very differently, however. One must formulate sharp statements, and if they’re falsified, the theory is dead.Well, it’s because for deep religious people, everything is a sign of God, Hell, or Global Warming, whatever their religion is.

Science and rational thinking work very differently, however. One must formulate sharp statements, and if they’re falsified, the theory is dead.

And this is why global warming is such a great theory politically and such a lousy theory scientifically: regardless of what happens — heat waves, cold spells, more snow, less snow, whatever — it is always spun as something that “might be a sign of global warming.”

After all, it was just over two years ago that record cold temperatures in Europe were being heralded as the latest evidence for global warming. The “theory” was that warming the oceans would foul up the Atlantic gulf stream (which keeps Europe warm), thus driving European temperatures down.

Without the Gulf Stream, temperatures in the UK and north-west Europe would be five degrees centigrade or so cooler, with bitter winters at least as fierce as those of the so-called Little Ice Age in the 17th to 19th centuries.

So wrote Bill McGuire in The Guardian, in an article which was headlined — apparently without intended irony — “Will global warming trigger a new ice age?”

So, if you are a global warming believer, then if temperatures go up it’s because of global warming — and if temperatures go down, it’s also because of global warming. There is no conceivable, let alone actual, evidence that might indicate there is not global warming. No matter what happens, it’s because of global warming.

Global warming is thus inherently unfalsifiable — which means it is not a scientific theory. The most basic requirement for a scientific theory is that it must be in principal falsifiable — that is, it must make some prediction which, if found to be untrue, would be regarded even by the promoter(s) of the theory as evidence that the theory is wrong. The Theory of Gravity is like this. It predicts that things will fall down, unless supported by something — your hand, a table, or in the case of hot-air balloons, denser air. If you drop a bowling ball and it doesn’t fall down, that would be proof that the Theory of Gravity is wrong. Even Isaac Newton would have accepted that proof. But with global warming, there is nothing you can imagine — let along that has actually occured — that would be regarded as a disproof of the global warming theory.

ADDENDUM (3/8/06): Clayton Cramer concluded his post with the statement:

I suspect that the “Global Warming” fantasy will continue until polar bears start to eat environmentalists at global warming conferences in Miami.

I want to go on record as disagreeing — slightly. I think the global warming fantasy will go on until it they switch to warning us against global cooling. Which is what they were warning us against before they started warning us about global warming. As Peter Gwynne wrote in Newsweek in 1975 — in an article entitled “The Cooling World”:

The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”

A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.

Well, we see how that prediction worked out.

Life Imitates Art: A Hitler Comedy from Israel?

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:58 pm

In the musical The Producers, these two guys make a musical comedy called “Springtime for Hitler.” It is supposed to flop. It succeeds. This is funny, because it would never happen this way in real life. No one would make a comedy about Hitler — right?

Wrong. Roger Boyes reports in The Times [of London]:

SWASTIKAS fluttered over Berlin yesterday, German soldiers raised stiff arms in the Hitler salute and hundreds of bedraggled spectators shouted approval as the Nazi leader delivered a faltering speech.

“My God,” said Benny Zimmerman, from St Louis, as he left Berlin Cathedral. “They’re back!”

Dani Levi, the Israeli director, has turned the German capital upside down in an attempt to recapture the atmosphere of Nazi Germany for a new comedy about Adolf Hitler.

… “The film is to be called Mein Führer,” a spokeswoman for Mr Levi said.

“It will be in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not To Be.”

The premise is that Hitler survived the war and wants to set the record straight.

The making of the film has given many the chance to perform illegal acts. “Where else in Germany can you shout ‘Heil Hitler’ at the top of your voice?” said one extra.

The film-makers had to gain the permission of Berlin City Council to display the swastikas. But the council failed to warn tourists and locals, who stared as the Nazis marched around. “I think it’s really tasteless, especially as it’s happening next to the cathedral,” said Gabi Metzler, from Bavaria, standing on the church steps to get a better view.

“It’s our first visit to Berlin,” said her friend, Gertrude. “Things seem to have changed much less than we had expected.”


Cindy Sheehan Goes to Germany

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:05 am

From David Kaspar:

Cindy Sheehan will be in Germany this upcoming weekend (read her plans here) to spread her message of retreat and defeat as she marches from a church in Landstuhl (a town where wounded American soldiers are treated) to a location outside Ramstein Airbase where she plans to set up another “Camp Casey.”

But not everyone is planning to sit around and silently watch the German media fawn and drool over Ms. Sheehan. Several groups are organizing a peaceful counter demonstration to support American and Coalition soldiers and victory in Iraq. We strongly encourage all of our readers in Germany and surrounding areas to converge on Ramstein this Saturday to take part! Our website has already christened the demonstration site “Camp David.”

Of course, if she’s there to protest the occupation, she’s either 61 or 16 uears too late, depending on your point of view.

February 21, 2006

Antisemites and the Danish Cartoons

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:51 pm

The antisemites are now claiming that the Danish “Mohammed” cartoons are the result of a “Jewish NeoCon conspiracy” involving Daniel Pipes. These are the same people who think the World Trade Center towers were brought down not by the airplane crashes we all saw on TV, but by an “Israeli-American laser beam weapon” or “massive underground explosions.” (I provide those links with some trepidation; I don’t want to give them any publicity, but I want people to know we’re not exaggerating the extent of their lunacy.)

It’s quite literally unbelievable, of course — but in retrospect, it’s surprising it took them this long.

February 14, 2006

Valentine’s Day in the “Religion of Peace”

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:55 pm

Note that this story is not from a Muslim country — it’s from England.

DERBY, England — Lina, a wide-eyed 18-year-old, is still trying to get the hang of freedom in three-inch heels.

Until a month ago, Lina had never worn Western clothing. Her parents, immigrants from Pakistan, insisted she wear the jilbab, the head-to-toe covering favored by conservative Muslims.

When she turned 16, her parents informed her that she was “engaged” to her first cousin, a 21-year-old man she detested. When she balked, she said, her parents withdrew her from school and locked her in her room, where they told her she would remain until she consented.

“They put two padlocks on the door and they locked the windows,” she said. They also installed spikes along the top of the backyard fence so she couldn’t climb over.

Lina’s imprisonment lasted nearly two years. The only time she was allowed out of her room was to do housework. There were frequent beatings, she said, and endless mental cruelties.

“My mom threatened me with a knife. They also cut my hair off.”

Read the whole thing.

February 8, 2006

Which Side is Chirac on?

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:44 pm

At the Drudge Report, Matt Drudge has a list of links to news stories on the cartoon riots. One of them says, simply:


My first thought was, “Chirac condemns … whom? The rioters, or the newspapers?” Click on the link — according to theBBC, it’s as I feared:

French President Jacques Chirac has condemned as “overt provocation” decisions to reprint cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad.

As another French publication printed the cartoons, Mr Chirac said any subject matter that could hurt other people’s convictions should be avoided.

Now I’m all for being polite, but “hurt other people’s convictions”? (A “conviction” can hurt?) That could mean anything. It could mean they shouldn’t make globes to avoid hurting the “convictions” of flat-earthers.

Again, I’m all for being polite — and for avoiding disrespect to people’s religions — but does it occur to anyone that perhaps burning down buildings and killing people might be, um, a bit worse than merely drawing a cartoon that people find offensive? I mean really — would you rather someone draw a cartoon mocking you, or burn your house down?

The Danish cartoonists are, like King Lear, “more sinned against than sinning.” Why can’t Chirac see that? Does he really believe that rioting, burning down embassies, and killing people is not really so bad compared to the greater sin of printing an offensive cartoon?

I know they don’t have a “First Amendment” in Europe, but this is ridiculous….

February 6, 2006

Proving Humanity

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:46 pm

So, Muslims have been rioting and burning Scandanavian embassies because of a cartoons in a Danish newspaper that depicted Muhammed.

Now, an Iranian newspaper is running a Holocaust cartoon contest. You might think this is a rather childish attempt to “show them how it feels.” And you would be right. As the editor said:

“The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let’s see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons,”

I’ll bet he expects Jews the world over to riot when they print these cartoons — thus showing that Jews are no better than Muslims, and that there is some sort of double standard.

He will be proven wrong — Jews will not riot. And the double standard is there, but it’s not in the direction he thinks: everyone sort of expects Muslims to riot, but expects Jews to just sit there and take it.

After all, the President of Iran recently called for the destruction of Israel, and except for some tut-tutting at the UN, nobody really did anything about it. There was certainly no rioting, and no torching of Iran’s embassies anywhere. Meanwhile, Israeli political leaders get indicted for “crimes against humanity” whenever they try to do anything to stop those who want to destroy Israel from doing so. And, of course, the “international community” seems hell-bent on making sure Israel doesn’t do anything to prevent Iran from developing the capability to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons.

Of course, no one seems to notice the real double standard here: Depicting Mohammed in a picture is against Islamic Law. The rioters are in effect demanding that everyone in the world, including non-Muslims, be subject to Islamic Law. This is not the first time this has happened — Muslims have prevailed on French authorities to close down soup kitchens serving pork, under the theory that this is offensive to Muslims and excludes them from eating at soup kitchens. I guess they figure they can get European newspapers to self-censor also. They may turn out to be right.

For what it’s worth, Jews do not demand that non-Jews observe Jewish Law. I don’t eat pork, but if you’re not Jewish and you do, that’s fine with me.

February 2, 2006

Kyoto Hypocrisy

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:09 am

You might recall a few years ago that Western European governments were excoriating the U.S. and George W. Bush for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. (Never mind that the Senate had voted it down 99-0 during the Clinton administration; it’s still Bush’s fault!) Well, now Dan Seligman reports in Forbes that — it’s actually Europe’s fault:

And yet it appears that even western Europe is not reducing emissions. The Kyoto rules say that western Europe must get their emissions to a level 8% below those prevailing in 1990. But virtually all those countries–the only significant exception is Germany–are going in the wrong direction. The latest available data, covering emissions through 2003, tell us that in the years since the treaty was negotiated, carbon dioxide levels increased by 7% in France, 11% in Italy and 29% in Spain. The increase for western Europe as a whole was 5.4%.

After many years of European chatter about the monstrous evil perpetrated by George W. Bush in rejecting Kyoto, it is of possible interest that the increase in carbon emissions in the U.S. during those years was slightly lower (4.7%).

January 5, 2006

Hugo Chávez’s Antisemitic Christmas Speech

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:00 pm

Tom Gross reports:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced in a Christmas speech that “the descendants of those who crucified Christ” have appropriated the riches of the world.

Speaking at a rehabilitation center on December 24, the controversial left-wing president said “the descendants of those who crucified Christ… have taken ownership of the riches of the world, a minority has taken ownership of the gold of the world, the silver, the minerals, water, the good lands, petrol, well, the riches, and they have concentrated the riches in a small number of hands.”

The full speech (in a PDF file, in Spanish) is here; the relevant part is on page 18 of the PDF file.

My Spanish is not all that great, but it’s enough to confirm that this is not a gross mis-translation or taken out of context. My (Babelfish-assisted) translation of the surrounding passage is:

There was no money — and where was the money? The money in Venezuela was concentrated… as well as in the world, because this is a world-wide phenomenon, you know? This morning I finish reading the last report of the United Nations on the world situation, and it is alarming — and for that reason I say that today more than ever before in the last 2005 years we need Jesus Christ, because the world, the world, is exhausting every day, every day, the wealth of the world, because God, whose nature is wise, gave the world sufficient water so that all we had water, the world has sufficient wealth, sufficient land to produce foods for all the world-wide population, the world has sufficient stones and minerals for the construction, so that there was not anybody without a house.
The world has [enough] for all, then, but there are minorities, the descendants of such who crucified Christ, the descendants of such who threw to Bolivar from here and also crucified [them] in Santa Marta, back in Colombia. A minority has appropriated the wealth of the world, a minority has appropriated gold of the planet, the silver, minerals, waters, good land, petroleum — the wealth, then, and have concentrated the wealth in few hands: less than the ten percent of the population of the world own more than half of the wealth worldwide and … more than half of the inhabitants of the world are poor and every day there are more poor men throughout the world. We are determined, determined here to change history …

Clayton Cramer tries, but fails, to give Chávez the benefit of the doubt:

I found myself wondering: is he talking about the United States? But it wasn’t Americans who crucified Jesus. (Actually, it wasn’t Jews who crucified Jesus; it was Romans–but little details like history don’t usually bother anti-Semites.)

Clayton also says:

I thought that this sort of anti-Semitism was completely gone–but since the speaker is a bit of a hero to the left, I guess that I am not surprised[.]

We Americans (both Jewish and not) tend, if we think about it at all, to think that antisemitism is gone — because here in America, it basically is. The events in France in 2002-03 (and to a lesser extent, Germany and England) were a shocker to a lot of people, but antisemitism never really died in the rest of the world. In Europe, it was just submerged for a generation or two — probably because the Holocaust made people feel guilty for appaering, if not actually being, antisemitic.

There has always been an antisemitic undertone in Latin America. There’s a reason so many Nazis found refugees in Argentina, and I’ve heard the theory that Vatican II never really made it down to the masses in some of the poorer countries in South America. And of course, the fact that “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is a best-seller in Japan is proof that antisemitism can exist without any actual Jews — and even without a history of a religion that makes the accusation of deicide against Jews.

Except from the Arab countries plus Iran, we have basically had a honeymoon from antisemtism for the last half-century. But the honeymoon is over (except in the United States, and I pray that remains the case). In the UK, unlike in the US, they have Chief Rabbi, and he said recently:

In an interview with BBC Radio yesterday [i.e.,Jan. 1] to mark the Christian New Year, Britain’s normally mild-mannered chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, warned that a “tsunami of anti-Semitism” is threatening to engulf many parts of the world. Dr Sacks said he was “very scared” by the rise in anti-Jewish feeling, which had led to Holocaust denial, attacks on synagogues and a boycott of Jewish groups on university campuses.

Among British concerns, he cited the fact that since 2002, Jewish student groups on 17 British campuses have faced the threat of expulsion from fellow students who claim to merely be anti-Israeli rather than anti-Semitic. Dr Sacks said attempts to “silence and even ban” Jewish student groups were “quite extraordinary” because most of Britain’s 350,000 Jews regarded themselves primarily as “British citizens”.

And here in Virginia, we have seen a small part of the effect. Among our neighbors are a Jewish family who moved here from France about a year and a half ago, after concluding that it was not safe to raise Jewish kids there. They’re great people and we love them, but we wish they’d had a less discouraging reason to move here.

UPDATE (1/6/06): The English-language mainstream media is picking up on the story a day after the English-language blogosphere. At least if you count the Jerusalem Post, the Times of India, or the Houston Chronicle as “mainstream.”

January 1, 2006

The World’s Happiest, Least Appreciated Anniversary

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:26 pm

I should have noted this yesterday, as David Kopel did:

December 31, 2005

Happy Anniversary:

On this date in 1991, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ceased to exist. As detailed by University of Hawaii political science professor R.J. Rummel on his website “Powerkills“, the 20th century was humanity’s worst century of genocide and democide (the latter including mass killings not based on religion, race, or ethnicity). By far the greatest perpetrators of genocide were Communist regimes. Although a few of the Communist genocide perpetrators eventually developed hostile relations with the U.S.S.R., none of the Communist regimes would ever have come to power without the support of the Evil Empire that arose in October 1917, and which began styling itself as the “U.S.S.R.” in 1922.

A retrospective article on the Heritage Foundation website reminds us how bitterly President Reagan was attacked for his magnificent speech at Westminster in 1982. Reagan was mocked as a deluded idealist by so-called “pragmatists” who thought they knew better. Yet Reagan was right when he declared:

It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens…
…the march of freedom and democracy…will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history…

The collapse of the Evil Empire came sooner than even Reagan had hoped. The Cuban efforts to impose new dictatorships on Nicaragua and El Salvador failed completely. Solidarity became the elected government of Poland, and later yielded power to another government following a free election. The Warsaw Pact is now nothing more than a scrap of paper, and all the countries which suffered under its jackboots are making their way–some faster than others–towards stable and democratic government.

(Hat tip: Below the Beltway.)

I wonder how many people remember enough about the history and rhetoric of Marxism to recognize that Reagan’s saying that we “will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history” was not merely a rhetorical flourish, but a devilshly clever taunt, turning one of the founding slogans of Marxism against it. As Patrick Ruffini described it:

The phrase was first used by Leon Trotsky who issued this warning to the opponents of the Bolshevik Revolution before the Petrograd Soviet on October 25, 1917: “You are miserable bankrupts, your role is played out: Go where you belong—to the ash heap of history.”

Well, in 1982 most people who heard Reagan’s speech, even if they recognized the clever turn of phrase, either thought he was being hopelessly idealistic (practical conservatives), trying to seem optimistic for strategic purposes (ideological conservatives), pathetically ignorant of geopolitical realities (pratical liberals), or pathetically ignorant of the “inevitable” leftward march of world history (ideological liberals). The most visible group was the last one. And most of them are still saying that Reagan was an ignorant dolt, rather than a visionary leader who took the world in a direction almost no one else thought it could go — despite the fact that that’s exactly what he did.

In 1982, Communist regimes were, it seemed, riding high and expanding all over the world. By 1991, the movement that had murdered nearly 100 million people was itself dead, having been killed without a single shot being fired, forced to collapse under the weight of its own contraditions — the very same thing that, under Communist theory, was supposed to cause the collapse of “capitalism.”

For more on the death toll of communism, see The Black Book of Communism, by Stephane Courtois, et. al..

For more on the reaction of the “experts” to this and other pronouncements of Ronald Reagan, see Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader, by Dinesh D’Souza.

And, of course, don’t miss Bryan Caplan’s online Museum of Communism.


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