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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 19, 2011.
Saturday, 19 November 2011
In Tunisia, Ennahda's Man Will Head The Government

From lefigaro.fr:

Les islamistes à la tête du futur gouvernement tunisien

Par lefigaro.fr Mis à jour Réactions (6)
Hamadi Jebali, n°2 du parti Ennaha, devrait prendre le poste de premier ministre.
Hamadi Jebali, n°2 du parti Ennaha, devrait prendre le poste de premier ministre. Crédits photo : FETHI BELAID/AFP

Les deux partis de gauche avec lesquels Ennadha va former sa coalition ont eux obtenu les présidences de la République et de l'Assemblée constituante. Cet accord tripartite de principe reste à valider par la Constituante.

Les islamistes tunisiens qui ont remporté les élections historiques du 23 octobre dirigeront bien le pays. Au terme des discussions politiques engagées avec les deux partis Congrès pour la République (CPR) et Ettakatol auxquels Ennahda va s'associer pour former une coalition, les islamistes ont en effet obtenu le poste de chef de gouvernement. Il devrait être occupé par le n°2 du parti, Hamadi Jebali. En contrepartie, la présidence de la République reviendra à un membre du CPR, Moncef Marzouki, et la présidence de l'Assemblée constituante à un partisan d'Ettakatol, Mustapha Ben Jafaar.

Les trois partis devraient annoncer officiellement ces nominations avant lundi. Le dirigeant du CPR qui a fait part du résultat des négociations a toutefois souligné que l'accord tripartite «rest(ait) sous réserve de validation par la Constituante souveraine qui tiendra sa première réunion mardi prochain». Selon les derniers résultats officiels, Ennahda y détient 89 des 217 sièges, le CPR 29 et Ettakatol 20.

Hamadi Jebali, islamiste du premier cercle d'Ennahda, a passé plus de 15 ans dans les geôles de l'ancien président Zine El Abdine Ben Ali. Sa candidature au poste de premier ministre avait été annoncée par Ennahda quelques jours après le scrutin. Moncef Marzouki, probable futur président de la République, est un ancien opposant au régime de Ben Ali. Médecin de formation, âgé de 66 ans, il a vécu pendant 10 ans en exil en France avant de revenir en Tunisie après la Révolution du jasmin. Son parti se qualifie de gauche nationaliste. Mustapha Ben Jaafar, futur président de la Constituante, est également un ancien opposant à Ben Ali. Agé de 71 ans, médecin lui aussi, il est le dirigeant du parti de gauche Ettakatol.

L'Occident craint l'instauration de la charia

Les discussions sur les prérogatives des futurs dirigeants ne sont toutefois pas terminées. Elles se poursuivent ce week-end sur la répartition des portefeuilles du gouvernement. Car tout reste à faire : depuis la chute de Ben Ali, chassé par un soulèvement populaire le 14 janvier, la Tunisie n'a plus de Constitution. La rédaction de ce document fondateur sera d'ailleurs la tâche principale de l'Assemblée constituante.

Les pays occidentaux craignent que le pays n'instaure la charia comme principe de base du système législatif. Une inquiétude renforcée par les déclarations récentes du présumé chef du gouvernement à venir qui a fait allusion à l'avènement d'un «6e califat». Une sortie qui avait provoqué un tollé au sein des médias et avait mis en suspens les négociations politiques. Moncef Marzouki, probable futur président, avait finalement éteint le début d'incendie en assurant que Ennahda et son parti «partagent les mêmes valeurs et les mêmes visions concernant l'avenir de la Tunisie, les libertés publiques et individuelles, les droits de l'Homme et l'environnement démocratique dans le pays».[whistling in the dark]

Posted on 11/19/2011 6:41 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 November 2011
The Ink Spots "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano"

Ink Spots trivia here. More about the swallows and the San Juan Mission in Capistrano here.

Posted on 11/19/2011 6:59 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 19 November 2011
Book Review: The Brain is Wider Than the Sky by Bryan Appleyard

Some years ago I had a patient who believed that his neighbours, unskilled workers like himself, had developed an electronic thought-scanner whose antennae they could, and did, direct at him in order to know his thoughts as and when he had them. He heard them laughing and jeering at the banalities with which, inevitably, his mind was filled most of the time. Needless to say, he found this intrusive and oppressive, and it made him murderously angry.

As life follows art, science follows delusion. It seems to be the ambition of neuroscientists to reach a level of understanding in which such a thought-scanner might be possible, and many claim that we are on the verge of understanding ourselves so completely that we shall no longer be mysteries to ourselves.

In this book, whose title is derived from a wonderful poem by Emily Dickinson, Bryan Appleyard contests such claims. He interviews prominent neuroscientists, and even subjects himself to experiments in a MRI machine, to explore them further. He comes to the conclusion that was his starting point, namely that we are no nearer self-comprehension than ever we were, and that we shall never be any nearer to it. The nature, quality and wealth of our inner life will never be fully explicable by or translatable into physical terms, and — furthermore — it would be horrific if it could.

I share his opinion. For all our astonishing advances, it does not seem to me that, taken as a whole, we have plucked out the heart of our mystery. The most advanced neuroscientist does not necessarily live better than his fellow beings, and there is still no uniquely compelling scientific guidance as to the nature of the good life.

Yet I am also aware of the dangers of proclaiming in advance of all experience that science can get no further, that there are questions that it cannot answer. Lord Kelvin said this of physics immediately before the greatest advances for a century; Sir John Erichsen said it of surgery immediately before the development of antisepsis expanded the field almost exponentially, and another famous surgeon, Lord Moynihan, repeated this bêtise half a century later. A certain modesty is therefore in order.

Appleyard’s book is rather diffuse and its central theme, which perhaps was not altogether clear even to the author, has to be deduced by the reader. It is, in effect, scientific and rationalist hubris (a word he does not use), first to believe that we can fully understand ourselves by means of scientific method, second that technological advance in electronic gadgetry will necessarily improve the quality of our lives, and third that we can descriptively capture and therefore control infinitely complex systems for our own ends.

As an example of the latter, he cites the current financial crisis, brought about (so he says) by mathematically gifted young men who mistook their sophisticated equations for an understanding of the way in which infinitely complex markets work. Certainly the hubris existed: I remember being told in New York at the height of the boom that such young men had devised ways in which to invest in derivatives so that only large and continual profits, and no losses, could be made by everyone who followed them. I was sceptical: I did not see how bad loans could be turned into good by being pooled, unless all eventualities could be foreseen and defaults occurred at random rather than together, which reason and the most elementary reflection on economic history suggested was a distinct possibility. I was overruled and, being no mathematician, was as dumbstruck as Diderot at the court of Catherine the Great when Euler, the greatest mathematician of the century, proved the existence of God by a mathematical formula. But I was right: and false presuppositions undermine any amount of technical sophistication.

Of course, there is the question of whether any equations could adequately describe the operation of the market, and whether this can be known for certain in advance of attempts to find them. It is the nature of Man’s Promethean bargain that he is constantly engaged upon the search for what was previously regarded as impossible, the flight of machines heavier than air, for example, and which might indeed be impossible. The Promethean bargain guarantees neither success nor failure, neither triumph nor tragedy; but there seems no going back on it.

Appleyard is more hostile than friendly towards new electronic gadgetry that keeps us constantly connected in virtual fashion to the whole world. True enough, the revolutions in the Arab countries could not have occurred without the constant connection, but it is surely too early to say whether or not those revolutions were unequivocally an advance for human freedom and happiness. I don’t want to sound like Chou En-Lai, who said it was too soon to estimate the effects of the French Revolution, but not all the auguries are favourable.

The author is surely right (though not original) in drawing attention to the possibility that constant electronic contact with people may inhibit real contact between them, and thus hollow out human relations and eventually character. How many times nowadays does one see in cafés or restaurants people talking not to people present, but text-messaging to people absent? Even I, who am no technophile, begin to feel anxious if I am separated too long from my e-mail or my mobile phone. Yet earlier in my life I was perfectly content to go months in remote locations without any possible contact with my friends, certain in the knowledge that the friendships would persist through the silence. Technology (as well, perhaps, as time) changes character, but not necessarily in the direction of depth.

Are laments, such as Appleyard’s, over the deleterious effects of new inventions merely those of ageing people unable to keep pace with a world that they no longer understand, that they fear and dislike? Such lamentations are nothing new; and the world has been going to the dogs in this fashion ever since I can remember. But false alarms do not mean that there are no true alarms; and just because neuroscience fails to pluck out the heart of our mystery, it does not mean that the presuppositions upon which it is based, and its actual findings, will have no serious effect upon us.

Though each individual chapter is clear enough, Appleyard’s book does not fully cohere. The author is a philosophical gadfly whose sting is capable of irritating those whom scientism renders as complacent as any evangelical preacher.

First appeared in The Spectator.

Posted on 11/19/2011 7:17 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Saturday, 19 November 2011
Wilders Slams Dutch Turkish 400 Years Commemoration

  

Hon. Geert Wilders                            Turkish President Gul at Nov. 10th Anniversary of death of Kemal Attaturk

Geert Wilders published an opinion piece in the Saturday edition of the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant entitled, "The Turkish President Gul is Not Welcome in The Netherlands" in which he argues against the planned celebration of the 400th anniversary of Dutch-Turkish diplomacy.

Radio Nederland reported Wilders' arguments and the reply from the Dutch Deputy Economic Affairs Minister, van Bleker,  that not inviting President Gul of Turkey was a "very bad idea." Gul, a mainstay of the AKP Islamist party is beleived to be an acolyte of the Caliphate notions of Fehtulleh Gulen. Gul has been disingenuous on economic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and its nuclear program objectives. Further Turkey has increasingly confronted Israel and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean. Moreover, Gul had demanded apologies from Israel for the Free Gaza Flotilla episode in 2010. Turkey has also coordinated raids with Iran on Kurdish irredentists in northern Iraq. Watch this Charlie Rose interview in September, 2010. Here is an excerpt of Wilders' op-ed from Radio Nederland:

Anti-Islam Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders says next year’s celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Dutch-Turkish relations should be called off. His comments, which appear in the opinion section of Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant on Saturday, have also been published online.

He writes that Turkish President Abdullah Gül is, as far as he is concerned, not welcome to make a state visit to the Netherlands. He says there’s nothing to celebrate.

“Gül’s Islamic regime and his party colleague, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, are no friends of the West and therefore not of the Netherlands either. President Gül is not welcome. Turkey has no place in the community of European values and there’s no reason for a party.

“Anyone who looks further than their own nose can see that the regime of Gül and Erdogan is killing off Turkey’s secular constitution in order to re-Islamise the country.”

Deputy Economic Affairs Minister Henk Bleker described Mr Wilders’ plea to scrap the celebration as “a very bad suggestion”.

Next year marks 400 years since the then Republic of the Netherlands set up its first diplomatic mission in Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire at that time. Major celebrations are planned to mark the anniversary.

(mw/tf/mb)

Posted on 11/19/2011 10:40 AM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 19 November 2011
Cliché corner

God moves in unmysterious ways. Charles Moore in The Spectator:

As the Church of England keeps telling us how much it shares the aims of the St Paul’s protestors, I notice an advertisement it has placed in the Financial Times. The Church Commissioners need a chief operating officer. He will be paid ‘a six figure salary’, says the advertisement, to manage their ‘£5 billion multi-asset portfolio’. There is no mention of anything Christian, or even anything ethical. The language is all management-speak. The ideal candidate will have ‘a proven track record of driving continuous and consistent operational performance’. The job’s responsibilities include ‘to build and maintain internal controls and process and to lead a no-surprises culture’. Although it is pretty hard to reconcile a ‘no-surprises culture’ with the mystery of the Incarnation, one must admit that it might have come in useful in dealing with these various ‘occupations’. As well as St Paul’s, there is also one outside Bristol (see last week’s Notes), Exeter and Sheffield cathedrals. You have only to study the websites of the various Occupy groups across the country to see that they, too, stick to a no-surprises culture. Events include Palestine Solidarity Campaign rallies, performances by Billy Bragg, strikers’ benefit gigs, meetings of the Anti-Cuts Alliance. They are not forerunners of the Second Coming: they are the usual suspects. There is nothing unChristian about rounding them up (caringly, of course).

Posted on 11/19/2011 11:39 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 19 November 2011
Canada’s Spywatcher Scandal Unravels

Sir Alec Guiness as MI-6 Soviet mole hunter George Smiley

Canada has been rocked this week by disclosures about the country’s alleged spywatcher-the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). The National Post in a series of investigative reports has unraveled conflicts that would boggle the mind of fictional character Soviet era mole hunter for MI-6 George Smiley created by British author John le Carré. That this happened on the watch of Canadian PM Harper’s government is disturbing. The laxity of selection and review procedures is more reflective of unchecked cronyism of a third world country than the respect normally accorded our neighbor to north. Not that we can be sanctimonious about disturbing gaffes in our US intelligence community.

Kathryn Blaze Carlson in her latest National Post (NP) investigative report, “Watching the spywatchers: Canada’s spy review board’s members free to have ties to foreign governments,” reveals how devastating this scandal has been, undermining Canada’s reputation among Western intelligence services. See related NP reports on the scandal: Spy watchdog resigns and Canada’s spy watchdog’s questionable $200,000 deal.

Here are some disquieting excerpts:

A week after the chair of Canada’s spy review board resigned amid revelations of questionable business dealings and close ties to an African president, another committee member is defending his own work with the government of Saudi Arabia, prompting debate among intelligence experts over whether a relationship with a foreign government represents a potential conflict of interest.

The broader lives of Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) members, who work part-time and have myriad professional connections, are raising concerns in the intelligence community about Canada’s security and financial vetting process, particularly as it relates to potential or perceived conflicts of interest and this country’s ability to safeguard secrets. Analysts say even the appearance of a conflict of interest is enough to give pause.

[. . .]

One SIRC appointee, Dr. Phillipe Couillard, is also an international advisory board member for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health, and said it is “an important” part of his professional life. He is paid by the Saudi government to meet at least annually with 10 other members in Riyadh, where they hold talks with that country’s health minister about potential reforms.

The former Quebec health minister has never concealed his consultative role — it is referenced in the last line of his biography on SIRC website, and he said it was featured on the resume sent to the government when he was hired and vetted.

[. . .]

Reed Morden, a former CSIS director, said the controversy “raises questions” about Canada’s perceived ability to protect classified information.

“I think somebody is saying to somebody else in the FBI or the CIA, or the next time they see their Canadian counterpart, ‘What the heck went on up there,’” he said. “But I don’t think it’s keeping them awake at night.”

Witness what Canadian colleague, David Harris, a former CSIS official and Director of  International Intelligence Program at INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc. in Ottawa had to say about Dr. Couillard’s dalliance with the Saudis:

“I think we need a serious review of the security standards and practices as they relate to decision-making in the Privy Council Office and the PMO, stemming from episodes like these,” said former CSIS intelligence operative David Harris, who now works for a counter-intelligence consulting company in Ottawa.

He called Dr. Couillard’s relationship with the Saudi government “completely inappropriate,” and said Canada must appear ”absurdly soft-touched” for allowing even an advisory tie to a country that employs one of the strictest interpretations of Sharia law. Mr. Harris said there has been some speculation the country’s medical establishment is complicit in carrying out cruel judicial punishments such as amputations.

Last year, a Saudi judge reportedly asked several hospitals whether they would damage a man’s spinal cord as punishment for attacking another man. At least one hospital signaled it was willing.

Here are Harris’ overall comments that he shared with us on the dangers of this Canadian spywatcher scandal:

Business dealings with a notorious international arms dealer. Channels to Russia. Foreign consulships. Deep involvement with the Saudis.

Self-respecting Canadians and their allies abroad will be surprised and dismayed -- "staggered" might not be too strong a word -- by recent revelations about certain members of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the independent Canadian Government watchdog organization responsible for reporting to the nation's Parliament about the activity of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). How else to react to credible reports that flawed security screening and supervision regimes mean that some at the very helm of Canada's key security-intelligence review body may have held their positions without adequate security assessment and follow-up? Indeed, that their connections to foreign governments might not automatically be evaluated in a suitably comprehensive and timely way? Bear in mind SIRC's own correct description of its "insider" status: "With the sole exception of Cabinet confidences, SIRC has access to all information held by CSIS, no matter how highly classified that information may be." (http://www.sirc-csars.gc.ca/abtprp/index-eng.html)

The only thing that is more disturbing than the air of laxity surrounding the vetting affair, is the suggestion that security weaknesses and vulnerabilities may have existed for decades and been created and overseen by what had been thought to be some of the Canadian government's best security minds.

The Prime Minister's Office and Privy Council Office must address the problem and its hazards immediately, before a loss of allied confidence costs Canada the ability to draw on American and other foreign intelligence sources upon which Canadians' safety and security often rely. An independent investigation and damage assessment should be part of the process. Investigators would do well to explain, among other things, how such a potentially compromising situation might have persisted for so long.

Posted on 11/19/2011 7:37 PM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 19 November 2011
Martin Sherman On The Willing Suspension Of Disbelief In Israel

From The Jerusalem Post: 

Into the Fray: A nation betrayed?

By MARTIN SHERMAN
18/11/2011

The list of the Left’s blunders is depressingly lengthy. It has been hopelessly wrong about... well, everything.

This is the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.
– Abba Eban on the Six Day War

The preceding citation, from arguably Israel’s most consummate diplomat, encapsulates the glaring irrationality and the inverted logic that has become the accepted hallmark of the politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict, both at the level of theoretical analysis and of practical policy-making.

The abandonment of any coherent, reasonable criteria has not been confined to the attitude of the Arabs towards Israel, but sadly has become a characteristic of Israeli policy towards the Arabs – and of a host of domestic issues that impinge directly and indirectly on that policy.

The absurd becomes routine

Consider the situation, which defies rational explanation, that is emerging today before our eyes, without evoking any significant expression of public incredulity — much less outrage — that such an astonishing development should warrant.

The ruling party of the day, the Likud, is, in effect, imploring the Palestinians to enter into negotiations over a resolution of the conflict on the basis of a principle — the Oslo two-state concept — that it itself rejected vehemently only a few years ago.

Mind you, this bizarre situation has not come about because this previously rejected principle has proved to be a stunning success. Quite the contrary, it has been shown to be an abject failure. After all, the endeavor to implement it has precipitated all the dangers its opponents warned of, and none of the benefits its proponents promised. Indeed, it has wrought death and destruction on Jew and Arab alike on a horrific scale.

Failures don’t come more abject or clear than that.

Yet almost inconceivably, just when it became undeniable that the opponents of territorial concessions and political appeasement were completely vindicated, they began to embrace the very policy they had previously repudiated.

These circumstances mirror almost exactly the inexplicable absurdity expressed in the Abba Eban citation above. Instead of the anti- Oslo victors in the ideological-political clash with their pro-Oslo advocates routing their vanquished adversaries, they set about surrendering to them.

Unwarranted intellectual surrender

This faint-hearted and feeble-minded conduct on the part of what is inappropriately dubbed — usually pejoratively — Israel’s political “Right,” constitutes unacceptable, unwarranted and irresponsible intellectual capitulation.

After all, the political doctrine of what is inappropriately dubbed — usually approvingly — Israel’s political “Left,” should have been consigned to utter and enduring disrepute. Every notion to which the Left has attempted to tether its political credo has come adrift. Every policy-relevant concept, every politically relevant personality on which it pinned its hopes has produced nothing but disaster and disappointment.

Indeed, the manifest folly of the Israeli Left and its preposterous brain-child, the Oslowian “peace process,” should have made it an object of enduring public ridicule. The manifest mendacity of its endeavor to promote it should have made it the object of ubiquitous public distrust.

Sadly however, the Israeli Right has done little to produce such an outcome. In fact it has done much to prevent it. For despite the fact the Left has little to justify its perennial claim to either the moral or the intellectual high ground, the Right has shown little stomach to challenge it.

A catalogue of blindness and blunder

This right-wing reticence is difficult to comprehend. After all, the list of the Left’s blunders is depressingly lengthy. It has been hopelessly wrong about... well, everything.

• It was wrong in embracing the homicidal Nobel peace laureate Yasser Arafat as a credible peace partner who could “deliver the goods.”

• It was wrong in pinning its hopes on Mahmoud Abbas, whose tailored suits and coiffured hair served as deceptively comforting contrasts to Arafat's belligerent keffiyeh and military fatigues.

• It was wrong in believing it could reach a lasting accord with the Palestinians by decoupling Fatah from Hamas and dealing only with the former while ignoring the latter — as both the expulsion of Fatah from Gaza and the recent unification moves prove.

• It was were wrong in portraying Salam Fayyad as a pivotal centerpiece for a durable peace accord — since recent developments demonstrated how precarious his position is.

• It was wrong in ignoring how imprudent it is to attempt to pursue an agreement based on a person-specific configuration of the Palestinian leadership which could be swiftly removed from power — by ballot or bullet — by a more inimical and radical successor – as in Gaza.

• It was wrong in heralding Bashar Assad as young Western-oriented, Internet-adept doctor whose accession to power would usher in an era of peace and progress that would allow Israel to relinquish the Golan.

• It was wrong in urging Israel to avail itself of the “good services” of the Islamist government of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an “honest broker” to promote a deal with Damascus.

• It was wrong in insisting that an Israeli withdrawal to the internationally recognized borders would mollify Hezbollah and bring about peace with Lebanon.

• It was wrong in claiming that Israel could not attain economic prosperity without political peace with the Palestinians... as its current prosperity, even in an increasingly unprosperous world, clearly shows.

Yet in spite of this record of massive misjudgment, the leadership of the political Right persists in curiously misplaced deference to its ideological adversaries on the Left.

Perverting democracy

This deference was painfully evident in the Knesset this week, where issues that impinge on the nation’s ability to act assertively with regard to the Palestinians were raised.

The negative reaction of senior Likud ministers and MKs to the legislative initiatives aimed at addressing the problems of ideological bias in the nation’s judiciary and of foreign funding of inherently anti-Israel NGOs operating under the guise of “human rights,” are a disturbing reflection of the Right’s manifest sense of inferiority generated by the aggressive moralistic posturing of the Left.

While it might be possible to argue that the existing legislative proposals lack a measure of polish and refinement, it cannot be disputed that they raise issues of significance and urgency which must be confronted in the spirit — if not perhaps in the precise detail — set out in these bills.

Protection of the rights of minorities is one thing. Promotion of the ability of minorities to subvert the democratic process is quite another. There is nothing vaguely democratic about facilitating the imposition of minority views on the majority via extra-parliamentary action funded by foreign governments.

There is nothing vaguely undemocratic in a sovereign state instituting measures to limit — or at least monitor — attempts by alien sovereignties to empower fringe elements in the country, with negligible domestic support for their ideas, to subvert the policy of the government elected by universal suffrage.

Indeed, to abstain from doing so would be a dereliction of democratic duty. To advocate such abstention is to pervert, not preserve, democracy.

Judicial legitimacy and independence

The same is true with regard to the initiatives regarding the judiciary. While the independence of judiciary is indeed a matter of vital importance, it will be worth little if the public has no faith in the justice it dispenses. Indeed, the confidence the public has in the courts is no less — perhaps even more – important than their independence. For in the absence of such trust, justice will be sought elsewhere and by other means.

The plummeting degree of confidence the public has in the legal system is a clear warning that the status quo is unsustainable. According to one long-term study by the University of Haifa, barely one-third of the general public has faith in the system. According to Prof. Arye Rattner, who conducted the study, this ongoing 10-year decline in public faith in the courts “constitutes a grave blow to one of the most important foundations of the legal system in a democratic society – legitimacy.”

These words of warning echo precisely those of Prof. Ran Hirschl in his book Towards Juristocracy, which I cited in a recent column, “A real reason for revolution.”

In it Hirschl cautions: “Over the past decade, the public image of the SCI [Supreme Court of Israel] as an... impartial arbiter has been increasingly eroded... the court and its judges are increasingly viewed by a considerable portion of the Israeli public as pushing forward their own political agenda.”

It is thus a shame — or perhaps more precisely, shameful — that senior members of the coalition chose to abandon their parliamentary colleagues and endorsed the unfounded censure of them and their initiatives. A far better and more constructive course would be to join them in addressing any defects in their commendable proposals.

Israel has put its trust in leaders who have led it into great peril — and into those who so far have failed to lead it out of it. It has been placed in great danger by the injudicious action of the Left and the impotent inaction of the Right. The Left has imposed a fatally flawed paradigm on the nation; the Right has failed to formulate a persuasive alternative.

This situation cannot be allowed to continue. There is a potential for great tragedy brewing. Unless this pressing challenge is addressed rapidly and resolutely, all that might remain for future generations to do will be to assign blame for the fulfillment of that tragedy.

Posted on 11/19/2011 9:03 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 November 2011
More Sanctions Against Iran - To What End?

Fast on the heels of the capitulation at the Vienna IAEA meetings over additional sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, including the US, plus Germany, came word that new “tough sanctions” were in the offing in Washington. The Baltimore Sun and New York Times reported that the Obama Administration was considering sanctions against firms investing in Iran’s petro-chemical industry, specifically new refineries. 

Marc Reuel Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz of the Washington, DC -based Foundation for Defense of Democracies proposed another possible alternative sanction against Iran in an op-ed in today’s edition of the New York Times, “Don’t Give Up on Sanctions Against Iran”. The FDD’s Iran Energy Project has been active in consulting with Capitol Hill staffs on a number of sanction proposals. This latest version they suggest is designed not to send shock waves through the world energy markets that allegedly prevented the Obama Administration from implementing tougher options. They note:

We should bar from operating in the United States any European and most Asian energy companies that deal in Iranian oil and work with the Iranian central bank, Revolutionary Guards or National Oil Company. At the same time, however, we should allow companies from countries that have little interest in Iran’s nuclear program, or its pro-democracy Green Movement, and that are willing to risk their access to American markets — mainly Chinese companies — to continue buying Iranian crude in whatever quantity they desire.

This would reduce the number of buyers of Iranian petroleum, without reducing the quantity of oil on the market. With fewer buyers to compete with, the Chinese companies would have significant negotiating leverage with which to extract discounts from Tehran. The government could lose out on tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue, loosening its hold on power.

 We respectfully disagree with Messrs. Gerecht and Dubowitz.

There is a far more effective sanction weapon that Members of Congress and the Obama Administration have had available: a moratorium on delivery to Iran of gasoline and diesel fuel from offshore refiners That moratorium would hobble Iran’s economy. The authority to do that is contained in the Comprehensive Iran Accountability and Divestment Sanctions Act of 2010 that incorporated elements of a prior version, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanction Act of 2009. More than two fifths of the Islamic Republic’s gasoline and 11% of diesel fuel needs come from foreign refiners in Europe, the Gulf region, India and Malaysia. We note:

According to an AIPAC brief from May 2009, nearly 80% of Iranian gasoline imports come from Vitol and Trafigura, while other companies that sell or have recently sold gasoline to Iran include Reliance Industries, Glencore, Total, BP, Shell, Petronas, CNPC, Zhenhua, and Litasco.

That suggestion was first proposed over five years ago by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) during his tenure as a Representative on the bi-partisan Iran Working Group. (See our interview with him in the September, 2008 NER) 

His leadership in development of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic continue this week with a proposal directed at Iran’s central bank funding of its worldwide terrorism and nuclear weapons programs. However, the New York Times pointed out that China, Japan and others use Iran’s central bank to clear oil purchases.

Ellen Cannon, Chicago Examiner columnist, in an article, “Sen. Kirk promotes crippling Sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank” provides details on his latest Iran sanction proposal:

In response to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) finding that concluded that Iran is engaged in activities “highly relevant to a nuclear weapons program,” Senator Kirk filed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which would impose crippling sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran.

 According to Senator Kirk’s office, the Kirk amendment would impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that conduct transactions through the Central Bank of Iran.  These sanctions would include a loss of access to the U.S. financial system and blocking of U.S. based assets.  The amendment provides a six month exception for oil transactions to ease the burden on U.S. allies and send a calming signal to the oil markets.  In addition, the amendment provides the President with a national security interest waiver authority and humanitarian exception for those sending food, medicine, and medical supplies to the Iranian people.

The Kirk amendment is similar to that offered by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) which was unanimously adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.   

Watch this ABC News statement by Sen. Kirk on the latest sanction proposal:

 

Given the meeting in Canada between Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the former’s concerns over possible world economic effects of any unilateral military option by Israel against Iran’s nuclear program, have we have reached the limits of using sanctions against the Islamic Republic? The regime in Tehran has basically scoffed at this latest episode of appeasement in the wake of the IAEA’s revelations about Iran’s nuclear weapons objective.

Clare M. Lopez,  Senior Fellow at both The Clarion fund and the Washington, DC-based Center for Security Policy, shared these observations with us about the futility of sanctions against the Islamic Republic:

Insistence on essentially economic measures like sanctions demonstrates continuing failure to understand the intensity of ideological commitment of this regime.  This is metaphysical for them, about fulfilling the direct commands of their deity, bringing back their messiah, ushering in the End Times. Even those of us who are religious have no real way to comprehend this kind of devotion. They exist in a different dimension than we do. That regime is absolutely fixed on the end game objective. Nothing short of obliteration will deter it.  Slowing, impeding their progress might have been useful 10 years ago, not now.

 

Posted on 11/19/2011 10:25 PM by Jerry Gordon

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