These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 24, 2011.
Saturday, 24 December 2011
Advent Pub Sign 24a
Early Christmas morning, from In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden.
Lauds of Christmas followed straight after (midnight mass) and at two o’clock the community went to the refectory for hot soup, always called ‘cock soup’ because it was the first taste of meat or chicken they had had since advent began.
We normally consider the miracle of Christ’s birth as the highest revelation of God to man. That he came in order to reveal God’s love and mercy, confirm the reality of eternal life and to show us the way to grow closer to God as we live our lives in the flesh. He was the focus of divinity, the light shining in the darkness. He beckoned, “Follow me.”
But take a moment if you will to look at it from God’s perspective. Was not man revealed to God in the life of Jesus also? Through actually living a human life, does God not gain a more perfect understanding of his children? In Jesus, God became man and man became God at once. Therefore we are assured of perfect mercy for he knows what it is to be a human being and to live a human life.
He suffered the passions we suffer, he suffered the pain we suffer, he understands and forgives our weakness and does not condemn us for our unknowing fear or our doubts. He loves us as we are, tender mortal beings struggling for light on a sin beclouded world.
KUWAIT CITY - Hundreds of stateless Arabs living in Kuwait demonstrated for the second week in a row demanding citizenship and other rights, an AFP journalist said.
Kuwaiti activists, former MPs and representatives from the Kuwait Association for Human Rights attended the rally in Jahra, northwest of Kuwait City, as police watched without interfering.
Riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse similar protests last week and arrested more than 30 people.
The rally comes two days after Kuwait said it may grant citizenship to 34,000 out of the estimated 105,000 stateless people living in the country, and urged the remaining 71,000 to reveal their original nationality.
The stateless, known locally as bidoons, claim the right to Kuwaiti nationality, saying that their ancestors failed to register for citizenship when the government began registration five decades ago.
Kuwait has long said that bidoons or their forefathers destroyed their original passports to claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship in order to gain access to the services and generous benefits provided to its citizens.
In a bid to force them to produce their original nationality papers, Kuwait has denied them essential documentation, including birth, marriage and death certificates, according to a report in June by Human Rights Watch.
Because of stringent government restrictions, a majority of them are living in dire economic conditions in oil-rich Kuwait, where the average monthly salary of native citizens is more than $3,500 (2,575 euros).
Fifty-two stateless who were arrested following protests in February and March are currently on trial for illegal assembly and assaulting police.
Today, December 24, 2011, the New York Times had a long article about Erdogan. It described his attack on France, and hi Tu-Quoque claim that France, that is the French, had more than decimated the Algerian Arab population.
But wouldn't it have been useful for readers of The New York Times to learn that Erdgoan had accused France thus:
"Algerians were burnt en masse in ovens. They were martyred mercilessly. If French President Mr. (Nicolas) Sarkozy does not know about this genocide, he should ask his father Paul Sarkozy. His father Paul Sarkozy served as a soldier in the French legion in Algeria in 1940s."
Shouldn't those readers have been allowed to learn that Erdogan claimed "Algerians were burnt en masse in ovens"? Didn't the editors of The New York Times think that the paper had a responsiblity to report this, and thereby convey something telling about Erdogan's view of the universe?
Israel Comes To Its Senses On High-Tech Defense Exports
Israel Freezes Equipment Sales to Turkey
Defense Ministry orders the cancellation of the sale of advanced intelligence equipment to Turkey.
By Elad Benari
Israel news photo: PR
The Defense Ministry has ordered Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems Ltd. to cancel the sale of advanced intelligence equipment to Turkey, Channel 10 News reported on Thursday.
According to the report the canceled deal, which was signed in 2009 and is worth $140 million, was for the sale of an advanced infrared camera and associated equipment.
The reason for the cancelation, according to the report, is the diplomatic row between Israel and Turkey. All defense-related exports by Israeli companies require the approval of the Ministry of Defense, the report noted, but the cool relations between the two countries have caused the Ministry to become concerned that the systems might fall into hands other than those of the Turkish army.
The deterioration in the relationship between the two countries began when Turkey demanded that Israel apologize for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals onboard the Mavi Marmara in May of 2010. The Turkish citizens were killed when Israeli soldiers who boarded the Gaza-bound ship were forced to open fire after being attacked by the activists on board with clubs and knives.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan further deteriorated the tense situation when he chose to verbally attack Israel on several occasions.
Channel 2 News quoted the Defense Ministry as saying in response to the canceled deal, “In general, the Ministry of Defense does not list the general considerations and information that underlie the decision-making policy on defense exports. The Ministry of Defense conducts an assessment of the situation with all relevant bodies, and decisions are made on a professional basis and in accordance with security and political considerations.”
Elbit Systems published a statement in response to the cancelation on Thursday, in which it said that it “has turned to the Israeli Ministry of Defense regarding compensation with respect to potential liability the Company may incur as a result of the non-renewal of the export authorizations, and the Director General of the Ministry of Defense has decided to enter into discussions immediately with the Company in order to endeavor to reach an agreed upon arrangement regarding this issue.”
“At the present time, there is not an estimate of the amount of the damages that may result from the non-renewal of the export authorizations. Such damages may have a material impact on the Company’s financial results,” Elbit Systems said.
Vice-President Hashemi Calls President Al-Maliki "worse than Saddam Hussein."
From the viewpoint of Shi'a Arabs and Kurds (both Sunni and Shi'a) the statement is monstrous. From the viewpoint of Sunni Arabs, it may be widely shared.
Iraq president demands fair trial for VP
By Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) – 2 hours ago
BAGHDAD — Iraq's President Jalal Talabani said Saturday that the country's Sunni vice president, who stands accused of running a death squad, would stand trial only if promises were made regarding its fairness.
His remarks come with the country mired in a political row, with an arrest warrant out for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, and Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki calling for the sacking of his Sunni deputy after the latter called him a dictator "worse than Saddam Hussein."
Iraqiya, the mostly Sunni-backed political bloc of Hashemi and deputy premier Saleh al-Mutlak, has boycotted parliament and the cabinet in protest at Maliki's alleged centralisation of power.
"Mr Tareq al-Hashemi is in the hospitality of the president of the republic," a statement from Talabani's office said.
"Hashemi will appear in front of justice at any time and anywhere in the country where there will be reassurances regarding the processes of justice, investigation and trial."
The statement did not specify what specific reassurances would be required.
Iraq's political crisis, coupled with a spate of attacks on Thursday in Baghdad which killed 60 people, has heightened sectarian tensions in the country less than a week after US troops completed their withdrawal.
Hashemi, who has disputed the charges, meanwhile, blamed collusion within the government and security forces for Thursday's violence, the deadliest in more than four months.
"This style of terrorist attack, it's well beyond even Al-Qaeda to do it," he told the BBC's Persian Service in comments published on Saturday.
"What has been done is well-organised, the people who plant all these explosives. They went freely, without any obstacles, regardless of many checkpoints that we do have, and simultaneously all these car bombs and explosives went off in one time."
He continued: "Those who were behind all these explosions and incidents (were a) part in the security of the government. I'm sure about that."
On Friday, Hashemi blamed Maliki for starting "a national crisis, and it's not easy to control," and likened the premier's behaviour to that of now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein.
Maliki convened a meeting of his crisis-response cell on Saturday, a statement from his office said, in which he admitted Iraq's security forces must examine whether "there are members in these forces cooperating with terrorist groups."
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, meanwhile, said Hashemi should stay in Iraq, but noted Ankara would not turn him away if he requested asylum.
"What would be appropriate for us is that Mr Hashemi should stay within the Iraqi territory," he said in remarks broadcast by the state-run Turkish Radio and Television.
Davutoglu said the gravity of the allegation faced by Hashemi could not be minimised, and "must be clarified as soon as possible."
Earlier on Saturday, anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr launched an "honour convention" which called for national unity and peace in Iraq following the US withdrawal.
The pact was signed by numerous lawmakers, academics and tribal leaders.
You don't have to hate Muslims to write for New English Review ... indeed it doesn't help, and none of us do. But it helps to be wary of Islam. John Derbyshire is insufficiently wary:
Here are my honest opinions about Muslims in the generality:
Islam is an ancient and respectable religion which has provided consolation to innumerable persons and has served as an ordering principle for several notable civilizations. Its tenets are no more or less preposterous than those of any other thought system embracing the supernatural. It has inspired much fine art, architecture, and literature. I am happy to share the planet with Muslims. I wish them well, or at least no harm, and I would not try to dissuade them from their faith.
However, many past and present examples show that large cohorts of Muslims living among non-Muslims generate problems for the host society, problems that governments would be wise to avoid. Mass immigration of Muslims into non-Muslim nations is a bad idea. There is no reason for it. Muslims have 57 nations of their own. May they wander among them in liberty and peace!
Large-scale Muslim settlement in Western nations should not be allowed. Where foolish policies have allowed it, those policies should be discontinued. Muslim immigrants and native converts willing to leave our countries and settle in Muslim homelands should be encouraged to do so—for example, with bribes from the public fisc.
A great many people (including these, I am sure) would say my opinions are “hateful” and that a person who harbors them “hates” Muslims.
I'm sure John Derbyshire doesn't hate Muslims, but his thinking on Islam is muddled. He makes the mistake of many atheists in believing that because all religions are, in his eyes, equally "preposterous", they are equally harmless. Not so. If it were so, why would Muslim immigration be undesirable, when, say Jewish immigration is not? What is it about Islam that makes it so? Could it be that Islam itself mandates Jihad, in the form of immigration to non-Muslim countries, and that Muslims who take Islam to heart*, will not, indeed cannot, be satisfied with "57 countries of their own", anymore than they can be satisfied with 99.9% of the Middle East?
I will now go away and try to work out what is "respectable" about a religion that mandades child marriage, polygamy and stoning of rape victims. I may be some time.
A contradiction in terms, most of the time, but it will be here -- and gone -- soon enough. Sinclair McKay in The Spectator:
There is one carol that has particular resonance for Londoners: ‘Silent night, holy night’. Just the idea of it can bring on an involuntary shiver of pleasure. In the 36 or so hours between Christmas Day and Boxing Day, after a solid month of the eldritch screeches of office parties and Westfield shopping, we city slickers are suddenly granted something more valuable than gold. The profound quiet — both in the darkness and the daylight — gives us a glimpse of the unsuspected soul of the city. The silence also tells us something about our everyday lives that, even subconsciously, some of us might want to change.
On Christmas morning itself, the transformation is at first subtle; for in the cosy domestic kerfuffle of presents/sprout-boiling/bickering, you don’t quite register what is happening outside. But open the front door and it swiftly creeps up on you; the exhilarating absence. No hiss of car or bus tyres on wet roads; no trains tickety-clicking across viaducts; no dreary drone of planes above. London’s background roar is extinguished. An entire city of eight million people has, seemingly without any kind of coercing, come to a complete and contented halt.
There are also rare occasions in deep winter when the city is covered with thick snow. White Christmases are less noteworthy in rural areas; in London, they have the impact of a revolution. Snow forces Londoners to stop and listen to silence.
Step out for your pre-lunch yomp with the rellies: savour not merely the novelty of being able to walk down the centre of the road, but also the new sensitivity of your ears, straining to find anything to listen to, save for the voices of your companions, or simply the sound of your own footsteps. As dogs with Christmas collars greet each other on Hampstead Heath, their owners look out over the gleaming City towers in the distance and subconsciously clock that on this one day, people — not businesses or banks or frightened economists — hold sway.
London’s everyday noise is the sound of commerce; but in the silence — with the slippery frost making even the dullest pavements glitter — we understand that the city is there for other reasons. You see more clearly the sombre, stern dignity of the City Wren churches; the pride that lay behind the silly gothic spires of St Pancras. In the quiet, you are more aware of the shadows of the city’s history.
The brilliance is that by contributing to the silence, even the most determined secularist is, for one day, accidentally engaging in something spiritual: not, perhaps, the silence of prayer, but of reflection. Unlike the Armistice two-minute silence — which increasingly is being urged upon us with a hectoring quality that entirely removes the point of it — this quiet is almost unintentional. By making a noise, Londoners affirm their existence; by being quiet, they tacitly acknowledge the existence of others. As a city crammed with eight million unashamed egoists, we Londoners more than most can feel the power of this Christmas reversal. A day without a loud pronouncement from Boris.
My emphasis in the last paragraph. While I approve of the two-minute silence, it can be a little awkward in the workplace. We received an email saying that "participation is voluntary" -- does this mean that non-participants must make a point of talking, even if they were not itending to?
What he says is unremarkable -- to a Muslim. It may be remarkable, still, to some ill-informed non-Muslims.
The question then is posed:
When feelgood propaganda programs such as "All American Muslims," or "Little Mosque on the Prairie," are aired, when non-Muslims accept this nonsense about "perfectly good Muslims" who -- apparently a sign of great loyalty for which we should all be grateful -- "obey the law and pay their taxes," among the first questions to be asked in reply is this:
Can a "good Muslim" support the exercise of free speech? Can a "good Muslim" -- one who takes Islam to heart -- support the First Amendment, in its guarantess of the most important individual liberties?
And by extension, can a "good Muslim" -- one who takes Islam to heart -- support the individual liberties enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
If I am a big kid for tracking him, what are all those astro-physicists, engineers and members of the USAF who set it up every year? Santa's next destination is the Maldives. Merry Christmas to the Maldives - they certainly need Christmas cheer.
WASHINGTON — As Iraq erupted in recent days, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was in constant phone contact with the leaders of the country’s dueling sects. He called the Shiite prime minister and the Sunni speaker of the Parliament on Tuesday, and the Kurdish leader on Thursday, urging them to try to resolve the political crisis.
And for the United States, that is where the American intervention in Iraq officially stops.
Sectarian violence and political turmoil in Iraq escalated within days of the United States military’s withdrawal, but officials said in interviews that President Obama had no intention of sending troops back into the country, even if it devolved into civil war.
The United States, without troops on the ground or any direct influence over Iraq’s affairs, has lost much of its leverage there. And so the latest crisis, a descent into sectarian distrust and hostility that was punctuated by a bombing in Baghdad on Thursday that killed more than 60 people, is being treated in much the same way that the United States would treat any diplomatic emergency abroad.
Mr. Obama, his aides said, is adamant that the United States will not send troops back to Iraq. At Fort Bragg, N.C., on Dec. 14, he told returning troops that he had left Iraq in the hands of the Iraqi people, and in private conversations at the White House, he has told aides that the United States gave Iraqis an opportunity; what they do with that opportunity is up to them.
Though the president has been heralding the end of the Iraq war as a victory, and a fulfillment of his campaign promise to bring American troops home, the sudden crisis could quickly become a political problem for Mr. Obama, foreign policy experts said.
“Right now, Iraq, along with getting Osama bin Laden, succeeding in Libya, and restoring the U.S. reputation in the world, is a clear plus for Obama,” said David Rothkopf, a former official in the administration of Bill Clinton and a national security expert. “He kept his promise and got out. But the story could turn on him very rapidly.”
For instance, Mr. Rothkopf and other national security experts said, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq is swiftly adopting policies that are setting off deep divisions among Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites. If Iraq fragments, if Iran starts to assert more visible influence or if a civil war breaks out, “the president could be blamed,” Mr. Rothkopf said. “He would be remembered not for leaving Iraq but for how he left it.”
Already, Mr. Obama is coming under political fire. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said that Mr. Obama’s decision to pull American troops out had “unraveled.” Appearing on CBS News on Thursday, Mr. McCain said that “we are paying a very heavy price in Baghdad because of our failure to have a residual force there,” adding that while he was disturbed by what had happened in the past week, he was not surprised. [this is nonsense, but the only way Obama can protect himself is, nolens-volens, to start initimating that 1) sectarian and ethnic conflict has always been part of Iraq's -- and the Arab and Muslim lands' -- history, and 2) such sectarian and ethnic conflict does not constitute a defeat, but rather a victory for the world's non-Muslims, for t helps to divide and demoralize and hence to weaken, the Camp of Islam. And that, the Obama Administration will have to end up saying obliquely if not directly, is greatly to be desired].
Administration officials, for their part, countered that it was hard to see how American troops could have prevented either the political crisis or the coordinated attacks in Iraq.
“These crises before happened when there were tens of thousands of American troops in Iraq, and they all got resolved, but resolved by Iraqis through the political process,” said Antony J. Blinken, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser. “The test will be whether, with our diplomatic help, they continue to use politics to overcome their differences, pursue power sharing and get to a better place.”
So far, the administration is maintaining a hands-off stance in public, even as Mr. Biden has privately exhorted Iraqi officials to mend their differences. Several Obama administration officials have been on the phone all week imploring Mr. Maliki and other Iraqi officials to quickly work through the charges and countercharges swirling around Mr. Maliki’s accusation that the Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, enlisted personal bodyguards to run a death squad.
Aides said that Mr. Biden talked to Mr. Maliki; Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni political leader; and Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader. He urged the men to organize a meeting of Iraq’s top political leaders, from Mr. Maliki on down, conveying the message that “you all need to stop hurling accusations at each other through the media and actually sit together and work through your competing concerns,” a senior administration official said. That official, like several others, agreed to discuss internal administration thinking only on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue.
American officials say they believe that Mr. Talabani is the best person to convene such a meeting, because he is respected by the most Iraqis.
Mr. Biden is not the only high-ranking American official who is actively involved in discussions with Iraqi officials. David H. Petraeus, the director of the C.I.A. who formerly served as the top commander in Iraq, traveled to Baghdad recently for talks with his Iraqi counterparts.
Beyond that, Obama administration officials have conveyed to Mr. Maliki that the American economic, security and diplomatic relationship with Iraq will be “colored” by the extent to which Mr. Maliki can hold together a coalition government that includes Sunnis and Kurds, one administration official said.
Even without a military presence in Iraq, the United States maintains at least some leverage over Iraqi officials. Iraq wants to purchase F-16 warplanes from the United States, for example, [meaning: : the Shi'a government in Iraq wants and would be the recipients of those F-16s] and the Obama administration has been trying to help the government forge better relations with its Sunni Arab neighbors, like the United Arab Emirates, which recently sent its defense chief to Baghdad to talk about how the Iraqis could participate in regional exercises.
Pentagon officials and military officers had hoped a deal could be struck with the Iraqi government to keep at least several thousand American combat troops and trainers in Iraq after Dec. 31. But domestic politics in Iraq made that impossible, and the outcome also fit with Mr. Obama’s narrative of a full withdrawal from a war he vowed to end.
Even plans quietly drawn up for the continued deployment of counterterrorism commandos were just as quietly pulled off the table, to make sure that Mr. Obama’s pledge to reduce American combat forces to zero would be met, according to senior administration officials.
The only American military personnel remaining in Iraq today are the fewer than 200 members of an Office of Security Cooperation that operates within the American Embassy to coordinate military relations between Washington and Baghdad, particularly arms sales.
The United States has about 40,000 service members remaining throughout the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region, including a ground combat unit that was one of the last out of Iraq — and remains, at least temporarily, just across the border in Kuwait. Significant numbers of long-range strike aircraft also are on call aboard aircraft carriers and at bases in the region.
As the responsibility for nurturing bilateral relations shifts to the State Department, the responsibility for security assistance moves to the C.I.A., which operates in Iraq under a separate authority, independent of the military.
Although the United States military is unlikely to return to Iraq, it is possible that military counterterrorism personnel could return, if approved by the president, under C.I.A. authority, just as an elite team of Navy commandos carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden under C.I.A. command.
The C.I.A. historically has operated its own strike teams, and it also has the authority to hire indigenous operatives to participate in its counterterrorism missions.
“As the U.S. military has drawn down to zero in terms of combat troops, the U.S. intelligence community has not done the same,” a senior administration official said. “Intelligence cooperation remains very important to the U.S.-Iraqi relationship.”
The official acknowledged a risk punctuated by the recent unrest. “There are serious counterterrorism issues that confront Iraq,” the official said. “And we don’t want to let go of the very solid relationships we have built over the years to share information of importance to both countries.”
Even if the unrest rose to levels approaching civil war, American officials said, it was unlikely that Mr. Obama would allow the American military to return.
“There is a strong sense that we need to let events in Iraq play out,” said one senior administration official. “There is not a great deal of appetite for re-engagement. We are not going to reinvade Iraq.”
Op-ed: Egypt’s radicals eliminating country’s connection to West, but does anyone care?
It was barely mentioned in the Israeli and global media, but the following event pertains to the whole of Western civilization: Last Saturday, violent groups of Islamic-Salafi radicals burned the famous scientific institute established by Napoleon in Egypt after its first encounter with the West. Some historians consider it the start of modern times in the Middle East.
The site, L’Institut d’Egypte, held some 200,000 original and rare books, exhibits, maps, archeological findings and studies from Egypt and the entire Middle East, based on the work of generations of western researchers. Most of the artifacts were lost forever, burned or looted.
It’s difficult to understand the modern Middle East without these studies, which were overcome by an immense fire. The large building was situated in the center of Cairo and torching it was a symbolic, intentional act. Those who burned the building and its artifacts meant to burn the era of logic, enlightenment, research and individualism.
This was a grave provocation against the whole of Western civilization, a desire to disconnect from science, research and modernity, while cynically using a Western means – that is, democracy – in order to take power.
One need not go all the way to blowing up the pyramids, as some of Egypt’s Salafis wish to do after they seized some 35% of the new parliament seats (alongside 40% of the Islamic brotherhood,) and there is no reason to go as far as Afghanistan, where the Taliban blew up the huge Buddha statues. The elimination of Egypt’s non-Muslim past is already here.
Anything that dates back to the Pharaohs, that is ancient, or that is Western is destined to be destroyed, and the mission has already been launched in the most symbolic manner: The outset of Egypt’s modern era, which the Salafis seek to erase, and in fact rewrite. This is a battle for writing the history of Egypt and of the Arab and Muslim world.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, and in Jerusalem as well we see elements associated with political Islam trying to erase any presence of the 3,000-year Jewish existence there, on Temple Mount for example – existence that pre-dated Islam.
In 1258, the Mongols burned the immense library in Baghdad known as the “House of Wisdom.” It held rare writings that have disappeared forever, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and the other cornerstones of Western civilization. All we know today is that these books existed, yet following the terrible fire in Baghdad they were burned forever. The Mongols sought to secure the same objective as Egypt’s Salafis: Erasing the past and keeping only their present.
All of this is happening while the confused West is lauding the new democracy established in Egypt, without understanding that this democracy is erasing the historic Egypt that was intimately connected to the West and its culture; a new Egypt shall rise on the ruins of the great fire. What we are seeing here is not a battle for power, but rather, a battle for perception, memory, heritage and historiography; that is, the writing of history.
Oddly, this is happening in Egypt of all places, a state that always demanded the return of the archeological findings taken from it as part of its national ethos. Artifacts of the era of the Pharaohs are still held in London and in Paris, yet Israel already returned all the archeological findings it discovered in the Sinai. Now, it is doubtful whether Egypt would be able to safeguard its own museums, which are also facing the threat of fire and looting.
And who is supposed to raise a hue and cry over the burning of Egypt’s Western past? Who is supposed to be greatly disturbed by the fact that Egyptian authorities are having trouble protecting their own museums? UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Yet not much is happening there. Well, we can’t blame this organization; after all, it is preoccupied with admitting “Palestine” into its ranks.
Paul Et Virginie, Or, Bernardin De Saint-Pierre As Political Prognosticator
Gingrich, Perry Fail to Make Virginia Primary
By Jonathan D. Salant - Dec 24, 2011
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who said earlier this week that his name would be on the presidential primary ballot in Virginia, failed to achieve his goal, the state’s Republican party announced today.
Neither Gingrich of Georgia nor Texas Governor Rick Perry submitted the required 10,000 valid signatures to get on the March 6 primary ballot, the party said in a Twitter feed. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas did qualify. The party said it received petitions from those four Republicans.
So it will be Ron Paul and Mitt Romney facing each other in the Virginia primary. Ron Paul has, alas, a good chance.
The candidacy might be decided that night.
I hope at least one newspaper headline reads, if not in this country than somewhere in France, Paul et Virginie.
Why Victimize Santa on Christmas Eve with Anti-Israel Propaganda?
The Christian world at this hour is in the midst of celebrating Christmas Eve. Children across the globe are waiting anxiously listening for the patter of little feet from nine tiny reindeer and a hearty ‘ho, ho, ho’ announcing Santa’s arrival as he slides down the chimney with a pack of gifts to be left under the Christmas tree. So, it is a bit puzzling that alleged Palestinian activists in Bethlehem and the Presbyterian Peacemakers are portraying Saint Nick as a victim of the alleged Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Are they the grinches that stole Christmas?
Palestinian Activists decorating Contrete Tree in BethlehemInitiative Campaign for Boycotting Israeli Products
Note this picture taken of a Palestinian activist dressed as Santa sent around the globe by the APF and found on websites of anti-Israel protest groups, see here. It shows Palestinian activists dressed as Santas in Manger Square in Bethlehem decorating a concrete tree, festooned with barbed wire, a reference to the Israeli security fence. A second picture of one Santa in Manger Square shows a red tunic emblazoned with a sign of the activist group: The Initiative Campaign for Boycotting Israeli Products of The International Solidarity Movement.
Then there is a cartoon from the Facebook page of The Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA (PC-USA) depicting Santa up against the concrete security wall being frisked by caricatures of IDF soldiers.
Dexter Van Zile, Christian Media Analyst for CAMERA, the Boston-based Middle East media watch-dog group, discusses how disturbing this must be to Santa, billions of admiring children across the globe, and to Israelis and Jews. In a post on CAMERA’s blog SNAPSHOTS, “Holiday Cheer from Presbyterian Peacemakers on Christmas Eve”, Van Zile shows the depths of anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic animus of the IPMN sponsored by the PC-USA. Van Zile writes:
The IPMN of the Presbyterian Church USA is an organization created by the PC-USA's 2004 General Assembly to educate Presbyterians about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Under the cover of this mission, the IPMN traffics in anti-Zionist and in some instances, anti-Semitic, propaganda which it broadcasts not only to members of the PC-USA, but to the general public.
This propaganda can be regularly seen on IPMN's Facebook page. One example of this type of propaganda can be seen in the cartoon posted above. The cartoon, posted on IPMN's Facebook page on Christmas Eve, shows two Israeli soldiers harassing Santa Claus. One soldier rummages through Santa's bag of gifts, another searches Santa for weapons. Santa himself has his hands up against a concrete section of the security barrier. A church steeple can be seen off in the distance.
The image itself was posted by an administrator from the Israel Palestine Mission Network, for which the Presbyterian Church (USA) provides fundraising assistance. Whoever posted the cartoon opined "At first, this cartoon seems a bit much, and then it sinks in that unfortunately, it's spot on!"
The failure of the PC-USA to hold the IPMN accountable for images like this has been an ongoing problem.
An Afghan had challenged a British decision to remove him to the first safe country he had arrived in, and the court stated that "an asylum seeker may not be transferred to a member state where he risks being subjected to inhuman treatment."
The case is significant because the convention on refugees has always been that they must seek asylum in the first safe country in which they arrived. But now the EU’s own court says that Greece does not pass that basic test, mostly because it is too poor (because Ireland is rolling in money right now). It is also significant because it suggests that refugee policy is now going to be pooled.
It is interesting how far the logic behind the asylum system has shifted down the years. The first UN Convention, in 1951, dealt with people made homeless by the changing map of Europe (including millions of Germans driven out of Prussia). It was never intended, nor even imagined, that vast numbers of people from failed states would move permanently into Europe, marking the continent’s greatest movement of people since the barbarian invasions.
There are many arguments to be made against our current policy, the prime one being that it enables dictators to rid themselves of troublesome elements, and for failed societies to avoid confronting their problems; more pertinently, with birth rates in the most disastrous countries far outstripping death rates, there is no simply no foreseeable end (Afghanistan, for instance, has a fertility rate of 6.42 children per woman).
And next year, as conditions worsen in the Middle East – Iraq is surely going to collapse, as anyone not on the political equivalent of lithium could have predicted – libraries across Europe will start to notice increasing demand for history books about the fall of Rome.
There are, of course, many other similarities between our age and the late Roman Empire: a declining birth rate, especially marked among upper-class women; a collapse in religious belief and the growth of a more vital and passionate monotheistic faith from the Middle East; a shrunken attachment to the ideal of the country – patriotism – and increased attachment to the state, a state which virtually all ambitious, educated people wished to work for.
Today the large taxpayer-funded charitable sector is one area of the state that attracts well-educated and idealistic people. On the radio this morning Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council (88 per cent state-funded) argued that refugees have a “right to protection in Europe and we have to do our bit to uphold that”. (One thing I will say for the Refugee Council – unlike many politically active charities, they do not appear to take money from the EU).
Do Afghans have a “right” to protection in Europe? Who granted them such a right? God? Nature? The UN? What right do I have to live in, say, Afghanistan, assuming I was insane?
This is, in reality, a distortion of the English language. An Afghan has no rights to England; if he is within its borders he enjoys the human rights that English law and custom ensures (well, used to), but he has no civil rights, including the right to reside. (I remember a particularly dim-witted individual on Question Time claiming that government policy made refugees “second-class citizens”.)
An Afghan who arrives here is, in fact, a guest, and the system takes into account thousands of years of custom whereby guests are protected; this featured strongly in ancient Jewish and Greek culture, with Zeus being the patron and protector of all strangers. Likewise a Pathan will look after you if you stray on to his turf, but in no sense do you have any “rights” within his society.
That’s because the asylum system is by nature contradictory, taking that ancient custom of hospitality and confusing it with the very modern concept of rights, rights which can only be derived from citizenship (and in a modern democracy asylum seekers, assuming they stick around, must inevitably become citizens).
And the idea that an Afghan has “rights” here is based on the totally fraudulent idea of indiscriminate altruism. In his famous 1982 essay, “Discriminating Altruisms”, Garrett Hardin wrote that a world without borders, barriers or distinctions is impossible.
The success of countries such as England can be partly attributed to their ability to widen the spheres of trustwithin society, beyond family, clan and tribe, allowing vast numbers of people to co-operate and trade through a common culture and law; the failure of Afghanistan is much down to its rigid old clan and tribal codes (this makes it impossible to build any sort of civil law or to counter corruption). Yet there are limits to how far the sphere of trust can extend. Hardin wrote that “altruism practised without discrimination of kinship, acquaintanceship, shared values, or propinquity in time or space” was impossible, because the benefits of belonging would cease to exist. Eventually, if we continue down our path of universalism, the benefits will disappear for us, too.
As the 19th-century French philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon once put it: “If all the world is my brother, then I have no brother.”