Sunday, 28 February 2021
The hard truth that Quebec's intelligentsia never admit
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French-Canadians owe their cultural survival to the Roman Catholic Church; they owe their achievement of approximate economic equality with English-Canadians to Duplessis

by Conrad Black

A just-released book about Maurice Duplessis (the premier of Quebec from 1936-1939 and again from 1944-1959) unintentionally depicts the very prolonged, narcissistic struggle that Quebecois intellectuals are having about the history and vocation of their people. Pierre B. Berthelot has produced “Duplessis est encore en vie” (“Duplessis is Still Alive”). What is still alive is the struggle on the part of Quebec’s intellectuals to reconcile the debt French Canada owes for its survival to forces and institutions that it has renounced and cannot accept as having been indispensable to it for centuries. The takeaway is that, finally, the Quebecois intelligentsia offers half a loaf: Duplessis took back direct taxes from Ottawa and established what he called the “autonomy” of the province, retaining the right of Quebec to choose its political options. Until recently, he was demeaned as an Uncle Tom masquerading as a Quebec nationalist. Though this book purports to be a biography of Duplessis, the reader gets only a very condensed summary of his career. Instead, it includes biographical sketches of his two principal biographers (Robert Rumilly and myself), along with the distinguished filmmaker Denys Arcand, who directed a film partly about Duplessis. Berthelot claims to be assessing the evolution of French-Canadian intellectual opinions of Duplessis, who dominated public life in Quebec for a whole generation, ending with his death in 1959, but we all got Duplessis off our chests 45 years ago.

Rumilly, Arcand and I each get as much biographical attention as Duplessis, for no apparent reason. Arcand’s film, “Québec-Duplessis et Apres,” splices news footage of Duplessis with film of the 1970 election campaign between Jean-Jacques Bertrand, Robert Bourassa and Rene Levesque. Arcand’s film was skilfully assembled and presents the familiar separatist theme that not much changed in Quebec between Duplessis to Bourassa, except the decline of the status of the Roman Catholic Church.

Rumilly was born in Martinique in 1897 and lived in French Indochina and then Paris. He was conscripted from the Sorbonne and hurled into the First World War, during which he was wounded in action. He developed a great admiration for Marshal Petain, his commander at Verdun, joined Action Francaise, an ostensibly Catholic authoritarian group led by Charles Maurras, who was ultimately denounced by consecutive popes as a cynic who was only trying to deploy Catholicism against the communists, and was condemned to life imprisonment after the Liberation in 1944 for excessive collaboration.

On numerous occasions, Berthelot points out similarities between the facts cited by Rumilly and myself, as if there was some theft of sources between us. But he must know that we both gained access to Duplessis’ papers, exclusively in each language, and that while Rumilly was engaged to write a hagiography by the custodian of the papers, La Societe des Amis de l’Honorable Maurice L. Duplessis, Inc., I was under no such constraints. Rumilly and I made a deal in which he organized interviews for both of us with the old guard of conservative and nationalist Quebec, an astonishing variety of rustic and eccentric characters from 30 and 40 years before, and I did with publishers and editors and the English establishment, and I drove us dozens of times into outlying areas of the province to meet these people. Some similarity of material was inevitable. It was like having a time machine and I enjoyed these excursions immensely. Rumilly had his biases, but he was a real period piece, with the acerbic wit of a bygone France. I had considerable respect for him, but when I cited him once to Pierre Trudeau as a source for something, the then-prime minister threw his hands in the air and shrieked with derision that Rumilly was just “a pasticheur assembling newspaper clippings” — an unjust verdict, but not without some truth.

Berthelot falsely states that my subsequent disagreement with Rumilly arose from my supposedly indiscreet treatment of Duplessis on physical matters that were revealed by the doctor who attended to him when he died in northern Quebec, and in references to his alcoholism prior to becoming a teetotaller in 1943. In fact, Rumilly was aggrieved because I had to quote a few cases where he was referred to as a Duplessist propagandist, and unlike his whitewash of the subject, I pointed out all of Duplessis’ less attractive aspects, including his undoubted role in engineering the departure of Joseph Charbonneau as archbishop of Montreal (relying on documents Rumilly also had seen, as well as the recollections of Charbonneau’s successor, Paul-Emile Cardinal Leger).

Berthelot shows his hand by implying that by failing to take over most of Quebec’s power companies, Duplessis was truckling to utilities owner and bank chairman Sir Herbert Holt, who responded with loans to Quebec from the Royal Bank and la Banque Provinciale, which he controlled. (This is the usual leftist Quebec simplistic bunk: Quebec was a  good borrower and got no special treatment; Holt was an 81-year-old non-executive chairman of the Royal Bank and had nothing to do with la Banque Provinciale.) Right at the end of my section, Bertholet drops the mask and, citing New Brunswick historian Bernard Vigod, said that I have the mind of an “average English Canadian taxpayer of the 1970s” and the attitudes of a “Rhodesian” (Bertholet’s very own insight), because I approve of the immense economic progress Quebec made under Duplessis, even though he achieved it by keeping clerical personnel in the schools and hospitals at low salaries and legislating direct improvements to the lot of the working class without indulging the province’s labour leaders, attracting investment capital with low taxes and social stability, and using most of the budget to build infrastructure. This, the deceased Vigod concluded for Bertholet, “can be considered a grave insult to French Canada.” I don’t think so. I didn’t vote for Duplessis in seven consecutive elections over 25 years; almost every working-class constituency in Quebec did. Bertholet, for his own account, adds the soft impeachment that I may have liked Duplessis because he was successful. In fact, as George C. Scott said of Gen. George S. Patton after portraying him in the film “Patton,” “I rather enjoyed the old gentleman.”

What is important is the half the loaf that is still withheld; the historical debt that dare not speak its name. Namely, that French-Canadians owe their cultural survival to the Roman Catholic Church, and owe their achievement of approximate economic equality with English-Canadians to Duplessis and his ability to use the church’s underpaid teachers and nurses to reduce his personnel costs and modernize the province; and get the conservatives and nationalists to vote together. No French-Canadian historians have ever articulated that, and that is what rankles with them. The intellectual custodians of the Quebec ethos are still not able to face up to this, but they admit that Duplessis protected their jurisdiction. Duplessis said: “The Quebec nationalists are a 10-pound fish on a five-pound line; you have to let them out slowly and reel them in slowly.” The province’s motto is, “I remember” (“Je me souviens”), but they don’t, unfortunately; in another 50 years, perhaps.

First published in the National Post.

 

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Posted on 02/28/2021 4:02 AM by Conrad Black
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Sunday, 28 February 2021
The Great Reset, Part IV: 'Stakeholder Capitalism' vs. 'Neoliberalism'
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by Michael Rectenwald

Any discussion of “stakeholder capitalism” must begin by noting a paradox: like “neoliberalism,” its nemesis, “stakeholder capitalism” does not exist as such. There is no such economic system as “stakeholder capitalism,” just as there is no such economic system as “neoliberalism.” The two antipathetic twins are imaginary ghosts forever pitted against each other in a seemingly endless and frenzied tussle.

Instead of stakeholder capitalism and neoliberalism, there are authors who write about stakeholder capitalism and neoliberalism and companies that more or less subscribe to the view that companies have obligations to stakeholders in addition to shareholders. But if Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum (WEF) have their way, there will be governments that induce, by regulations and the threat of burdensome taxation, companies to subscribe to stakeholder redistribution.

Stakeholders consist of “customers, suppliers, employees, and local communities”1 in addition to shareholders. But for Klaus Schwab and the WEF, the framework of stakeholder capitalism must be globalized. A stakeholder is anyone or any group that stands to benefit or lose from any corporate behavior—other than competitors, we may presume. Since the primary pretext for the Great Reset is global climate change, anyone in the world can be considered a stakeholder in the corporate governance of any major corporation. And federal partnerships with corporations that do not “serve” their stakeholders, like the Keystone Pipeline project, for example, must be abandoned. Racial “equity,” the promotion of transgender agendas, and other such identity policies and politics, will also be injected into corporate sharing schemes.

If anything, stakeholder capitalism represents a consumptive worm set to burrow into and hollow out corporations from within, to the degree that the ideology and practice find hosts in corporate bodies. It represents a means of socialist wealth liquidation from within capitalist organizations themselves, using any number of criteria for redistribution of benefits and “externalities.”

But don’t take my word for it. Take one David Campbell, a British socialist (although non-Marxist) and author of The Failure of Marxism (1996). After declaring that Marxism had failed, Campbell began advocating stakeholder capitalism as a means to the same ends. His argument with the British orthodox Marxist Paddy Ireland represents an internecine squabble over the best means of achieving socialism, while also providing a looking glass into the minds of socialists determined to try other, presumably nonviolent tacks.2

Campbell castigated Ireland for his rejection of stakeholder capitalism. Ireland held—wrongly, Campbell asserted—that stakeholder capitalism is ultimately impossible. Nothing can interfere, for very long, with the inexorable market demand for profit. Market forces will inevitably overwhelm any such ethical considerations as stakeholders’ interests.

Ireland’s more-radical-than-thou Marxism left Campbell flummoxed. Didn’t Ireland realize that his market determinism was exactly what the defenders of “neoliberalism” asserted as the inevitable and only sure means for the distribution of social welfare? “Marxism,” Campbell rightly noted, “can be identified with the deriding of ‘social reform’ as not representing, or even as obstructing, ‘the revolution.’” Like so many antireformist Marxists, Ireland failed to recognize that “the social reforms that [he] derided are the revolution.”3 Socialism is nothing if not a movement whereby “the purported natural necessity represented by ‘economic’ imperatives is replaced by conscious political decisions about the allocation of resources” (emphasis mine).4 This political socialism, as against Marx’s orthodox epigones, is what Marx really meant by socialism, Campbell suggests. Stakeholder capitalism is just that: socialism.

Ireland and Campbell agreed that the very idea of stakeholder capitalism derived from companies having become relatively autonomous from their shareholders. The idea of managerial independence and thus company or corporate autonomy was first treated by Adolf A. Berle and Gardiner C. Means in The Modern Corporation and Private Property (1932) and after them in James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution (1962). In “Corporate Governance, Stakeholding, and the Company: Towards a Less Degenerate Capitalism?,” Ireland writes of this putative autonomy: “[T]he idea of the stakeholding company is rooted in the autonomy of ‘the company’ from its shareholders; its claim being that this autonomy…can be exploited to ensure that companies do not operate exclusively with the interests of their shareholders in mind.”5

This apparent autonomy of the company, Ireland argues, came about not with incorporation or legal changes to the structure of the corporation, but with the growth of large-scale industrial capitalism. The growth in the sheer number of shares and with it the advent of the stock market made for the ready salability of the of the share. Shares became “money capital,” readily exchangeable titles to a percentage of profit, and not claims on the company’s assets. It was at this point that shares gained apparent autonomy from the company and the company from its shareholders.

Moreover, with the emergence of this market, shares developed an autonomous value of their own quite independent of, and often different from, the value of the company's assets. Emerging as what Marx called fictitious capital, they were redefined in law as an autonomous form of property independent of the assets of the company. They were no longer conceptualized as equitable interests in the property of the company but as rights to profit with a value of their own, rights which could be freely and easily bought and sold in the marketplace….

On gaining their independence from the assets of companies, shares emerged as legal objects in their own right, seemingly doubling the capital of joint stock companies. The assets were now owned by the company and by the company alone, either through a corporation or, in the case of unincorporated companies, through trustees. The intangible share capital of the company, on the other hand, had become the sole property of the shareholder. They were now two quite separate forms of property. Moreover, with the legal constitution of the share as an entirely autonomous form of property, the externalization of the shareholder from the company had been completed in a way not previously possible.6
 

Thus, according to Ireland, a difference in interests emerged between the holders of the industrial capital and the holders of the money capital, or between the company and the shareholder.

Nevertheless, Ireland maintains, the autonomy of the company is limited by the necessity for industrial capital to produce profit. The value of shares is ultimately determined by the profitability of the company’s assets in use. “The company is, and will always be, the personification of industrial capital and, as such, subject to the imperatives of profitability and accumulation. These are not imposed from the outside on an otherwise neutral and directionless entity, but are, rather, intrinsic to it, lying at the very heart of its existence.” This necessity, Paddy argues, defines the limits of stakeholder capitalism and its inability to sustain itself. “The nature of the company is such, therefore, as to suggest that [there] are strict limits to the extent to which its autonomy from shareholders can be exploited for the benefit of workers or, indeed, other stakeholders.”7

Here is a point on which the “neoliberal” Milton Friedman and the Marxist Paddy Ireland would have agreed, despite Ireland’s insistence that the extraction of “surplus value” at the point of production is the cause. And this agreement between Friedman and Ireland is exactly why Campbell rejected Ireland’s argument. Such market determinism is only necessary under capitalism, Campbell asserted. Predictions about how companies will behave in the context of markets are only valid under current market conditions. Changing company rules such that profitability is endangered, albeit, or even especially, from the inside out, is the very definition of socialism. Changing the way companies behave in the direction of stakeholder capitalism is revolutionary en se.

Despite this insurmountable “neoliberal”/Marxist impasse, the notion of stakeholder capitalism is at least fifty years old. Debates about the efficacy of stakeholder capitalism date to the 1980s. They were stirred up by Friedman’s rejection of the “soulful corporation,” which reached its peak with Carl Kaysen’s “The Social Significance of the Modern Corporation” in 1957. Kaysen viewed the corporation as a social institution that must weigh profitability against a broad and growing array of social responsibilities: “there is no display of greed or graspingness; there is no attempt to push off onto the workers or the community at large part of the social costs of the enterprise. The modern corporation is a soulful corporation.”8 Thus, in Kaysen, we see hints of the later notion of stakeholder capitalism.

Likely, stakeholder capitalism can be traced, although not in an unbroken line of succession, to the “commercial idealism”9 of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when Edward Bellamy and King Camp Gillette, among others, envisioned corporate socialist utopias via incorporation.10 For such corporate socialists, the main means for establishing socialism was through the continuous incorporation of all the factors of production. With incorporation, a series of mergers and acquisitions would occur until the formation of a singular global monopoly, in which all “the People” had equal shares, was complete. In his “World Corporation, Gillette declared that “the trained mind of business and finance sees no stopping-place to corporate absorption and growth, except final absorption of all the World's material assets into one corporate body, under the directing control of one corporate mind.”11 Such a singular world monopoly would become socialist upon the equal distribution of shares among the population. Stakeholder capitalism falls short of this equal distribution of shares but gets around it by distributing value on the basis of social and political pressure.

Interestingly, Campbell ends his argument, rather undogmatically, by stating unequivocally that if Friedman was right and “if these comparisons [between shareholder and stakeholder capitalism] tend to show exclusive maximization of shareholder value to be the optimal way of maximizing welfare,” then “one should give up being a socialist.”12 If, after all, the maximization of human welfare is really the object, and “shareholder capitalism” (or “neoliberalism”) proves to be the best way to achieve it, then socialism itself, including stakeholder capitalism, must necessarily be abandoned.

First published in the Mises Institute.

  • 1.Neil Kokemuller, “Does a Corporation Have Other Stakeholders Other Than Its Shareholders?,” Chron.com, Oct. 26, 2016, https://smallbusiness.chron.com/corporation-other-stakeholders-other-its-shareholders-63538.html.
  • 2.David Campbell, “Towards a Less Irrelevant Socialism: Stakeholding as a ‘Reform’ of the Capitalist Economy,” Journal of Law and Society 24, no. 1 (1997): 65–84.
  • 3.Campbell, “Toward a Less Irrelevant Socialism,” 75 and 76, emphasis in original.
  • 4.Campbell, “Toward a Less Irrelevant Socialism,” 76.
  • 5.Paddy Ireland, “Corporate Governance, Stakeholding, and the Company: Towards a Less Degenerate Capitalism?,” Journal of Law and Society 23, no. 3 (September 1996): 287–320, esp. 288.
  • 6.Paddy, “Corporate Governance, Stakeholding, and the Company,” 303.
  • 7.Paddy, “Corporate Governance, Stakeholding, and the Company,” 304 (both quotes).
  • 8.Carl Kaysen, “The Social Significance of the Modern Corporation,” in “Papers and Proceedings of the Sixty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association,” ed. James Washington Bell and Gertrude Tait, special issue, American Economic Review 47, no. 2 (May 1957): 311–19, 314.
  • 9.Gib Prettyman, “Advertising, Utopia, and Commercial Idealism: The Case of King Gillette,” Prospects 24 (January 1999): 231–48.
  • 10.Gib Prettyman, “Gilded Age Utopias of Incorporation,” Utopian Studies 12, no. 1 (2001): 19–40; Michael Rectenwald, “Libertarianism(s) versus Postmodernism and ‘Social Justice’ Ideology,” Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 22, no. 2 (2019): 122–38, https://doi.org/10.35297/qjae.010009.
  • 11.King Camp Gillette, “World Corporation” (Boston: New England News, 1910), p. 4.
  • 12.Campbell, “Toward a Less Irrelevant Socialism,” 81.
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Posted on 02/28/2021 3:38 AM by Michael Rectenwald
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Sunday, 28 February 2021
Bernie Sanders Castigates Israel About Vaccinating Palestinians
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by Hugh Fitzgerald

The report on ill-tempered Bernie is here: “Sanders slams Israel for not sending COVID vaccines to Palestinians,” by Sarah Chemla, Jerusalem Post, February 25, 2021:

US Sen. Bernie Sanders has criticized the Israeli government for sending COVID-19 vaccines to foreign allies before sending them to Palestinians.

Sanders was responding to a New York Times tweet stating that “Israel’s vaccine donations to faraway countries have angered Palestinians who say Israel is responsible for the well-being of Palestinians in the occupied territories, where vaccines are scarce.

But why are vaccines “scarce” for the Palestinians? Isn’t it because they did no planning, even many months into the pandemic, and chose to spend their aid money on other things? In Gaza, Hamas spends huge sums on building terror tunnels, and on arms that it hides throughout civilian areas. The terror group has also been the victim of colossal corruption; just two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, have amassed fortunes of at least $2.5 billion apiece. In the West Bank, the head of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, has a nest egg of $400 million. That’s all money that might have gone to the medical care of the Palestinians. And the PA spent $157 million last year on its Pay-For-Slay program, money which could have paid for enough vaccines to cover the entire Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank. It chose not to. Why doesn’t Bernie Sanders deplore the behavior of the PA? He could fulminate in the Senate: “It is unacceptable that the PA, instead of buying vaccines that would have inoculated the entire Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank, chose instead to spend its money on the Pay-For-Slay program that rewards, and incentivizes, terrorism.” Could Bernie begin to tell that obvious truth? I doubt it.

The former Democratic presidential contender claimed in a tweet that “Israel is responsible for the health of all the people under its control. It is outrageous that Netanyahu would use spare vaccines to reward his foreign allies while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting.

Israel has been vaccinating “all the people under its control” – both Arab and Jewish citizens of the state of Israel, at the same rate, with the same vaccines. That is where Israel’s responsibility ends. Bernie Sanders has apparently not read the Oslo Accords (1995), Annex III, Article 17, paragraphs 1 and 2. They provide unambiguously for the transfer of responsibility for medical care for the Palestinians, including vaccinations, from Israel to the PA. And that transfer has been in force for a quarter-century.

ARTICLE 17

Health

  1. Powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be transferred to the Palestinian side, including the health insurance system.
  2. The Palestinian side shall continue to apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally accepted standards in the field, taking into account WHO recommendations. In this regard, the Palestinian side shall continue the vaccination of the population with the vaccines listed in Schedule 3.

Does Sanders understand those clauses? “Powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be transferred to the Palestinian side”? On what basis does he now claim that Israel is “responsible for the health of all the people under its control”? And in fact, how can he claim that the Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank are “under its control”? The last Israeli pulled out of Gaza in 2005; its inhabitants have been under the control ever since of Hamas. In the West Bank, the PA, ruling the roost from Ramallah, controls the daily lives of Palestinians in Areas A and B. And both in those areas, and even in Area C, the Palestinian Authority has the responsibility for all medical and educational services.

As Israel began its vaccine rollout late last year, some activists and foreign media outlets criticized it for not including the Palestinians, arguing that under international law, Israel is the “occupying power” and must vaccinate them.

The Jewish state responded by pointing out that the internationally recognized Oslo Accords state that the PA is responsible for its population’s healthcare, including vaccinations.

Let’s repeat it: Israel has no obligation – none – to vaccinate the Palestinians. Those who criticize Israel for failing to do so simply want us all to ignore the Oslo Accords. Under what “international law” is Israel an “occupying power”? It is certainly not the “occupying power” in Gaza, where there is not a single Israeli. As for the West Bank, Israel cannot be accused of “occupying ” a territory that was assigned, according to the Mandate for Palestine, to the future Jewish National Home, which then became the state of Israel. Has Bernie read the Palestine Mandate, including Article 6? Does he understand that in the phrase “close settlement by Jews on the land,” which under Article 6 is to be encouraged, the “land” in question included all the land from the Golan in the north, to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east, to the Mediterranean in the west? Does he realize that the mandates system was itself part of international law? Could it be that Bernie Sanders has never read the Mandate for Palestine? Yes, I think it could.

More study needed, Bernie, please, before you again presume to lecture or hector on this matter. Please, go ahead and burn the midnight oil.

Regardless of legal matters, the government has already sent thousands of doses of coronavirus vaccines to the PA and facilitated the entry of Russian donations of their Sputnik V vaccines.

Israel had no duty to supply the Palestinians with vaccines, but nonetheless has sent 5,000 doses so that, Israel hoped, frontline Palestinian health workers could be vaccinated. There is evidence that some of those doses were used instead to inoculate Palestinian leaders, their families, and relatives.

Israel has also bought one million dollars’ worth of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia to send to Syria, so that an Israeli woman with mental problems who had strayed into Syria, would be returned.

Last week, Netanyahu said Israel and the Palestinians were “in one epidemiological range.”

We have a clear interest that we don’t want illnesses and sick people to pass through our borders from the Palestinian Authority and Gaza,” he told Army Radio.

Israel has no interest in preventing the Palestinians from being vaccinated. On the contrary: many tens of thousands of Palestinians cross into Israel for work each day; their inoculation would make them less dangerous to the Israelis among whom they work. “We have a clear interest,” Prime Minister Netanyahu insists, in making sure that the Palestinians who enter Israel are not carriers of the virus. Israel’s Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, says that once Israel has finished vaccinating its own population, it will be sending unused doses of the vaccine to the Palestinians. I don’t think Bernie Sanders is aware of that promise.

One more thing: Sanders was exercised that Israel was sending some doses of the vaccine to countries that Jerusalem wanted to thank for their pro-Israel positions. These include: Guatemala, which has its embassy in Jerusalem; Honduras, which has said it will soon be moving its embassy to Jerusalem; and the Czech Republic, which has been a steady supporter of Israel at the U.N. and has said it will add a diplomatic presence to its office in Jerusalem.

Sanders finds this unacceptable. But why? Don’t all countries reward their friends? Doesn’t the American government extend Most-Favored-Nation status to some countries and not to others? Don’t the Americans agree to sell certain advanced weapons to countries it deems friendly, and not to others? Is it wrong to do so? Why shouldn’t Israel do what other countries routinely do? In the case at hand, that means Jerusalem has decided to reward with shipments of the coronavirus three states that have taken, or are about to take, steps that will further strengthen Israel’s position on Jerusalem. Despite the fulminations of Bernie Sanders, there is nothing wrong with that.

First published in Jihad Watch.

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Posted on 02/28/2021 3:18 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Saturday, 27 February 2021
Easy Meat by Peter McLoughlin is Back on Amazon
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We appealed Amazon's decision to cancel Allah is Dead by Rebecca Bynum and Easy Meat by Peter McLoughlin. Allah is still "under review" but Easy Meat has been re-instated. The Kindle is back up and the book should appear soon.
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Posted on 02/27/2021 5:19 AM by New English Review Press
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Saturday, 27 February 2021
The Logic of Political Correctness: Avoiding a Word Means Avoiding the Truth
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by Theodore Dalrymple

The mills of political correctness grind exceeding fine, though unlike those of God or justice, they also grind rather fast. Nothing is too small or insignificant for them, nothing can hide from them for long.

Recently I noticed an article in the online version of the Journal of the American Medical Association titled “Pregnant People’s Paradox—Excluded from Vaccine Trials Despite Having a Higher Risk of Covid-19 Complications.”

Pregnant people? What kind of people? Women, surely? But it seems than the word women, at least in certain contexts, has become some kind of insult, as strenuously to be avoided as another well-known insulting epithet.

Here, for example, is a paragraph from the article: “January 7: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID-19 vaccination guidelines for pregnant people. ‘Based on how [messenger] RNA [Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna] vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant,’ the update’s authors wrote. However, the actual risks to pregnant individuals and their fetuses are unknown because the vaccines haven’t been studied in this population. The bottom line, the CDC said, is that vaccination ‘is a personal choice for people who are pregnant.’”

Note how delicately the word women is avoided here. It is as if it were a pure coincidence, mere chance, that women and not men were the ones who were pregnant, and that it might well have been otherwise.

It is not difficult to see the implicit lie that underlies and motivates the semantic evasion in the article, a lie which it appears that an important government agency (the CDC) now accepts and is willing to collude with, spread and no doubt soon to require adherence to as a condition of funding.

The lie is that there is no biological difference between men and women, a lie that has been adopted in the most cowardly possible fashion because of the activity of a very small but ruthless pressure group. In Britain, people (not only pregnant people) may change their sex on their birth certificates, a revision of history at which even Stalin might have balked.

Increasingly in learned journals and other publications for the intelligentsia, the locution “women and men” is used instead of “men and woman,” despite the fact that the latter trips off the tongue much more easily and is more grateful on the ear, just as “ladies and gentlemen” (soon to be an outlawed locution, no doubt) trips off the tongue and is much more grateful on the ear than “gentlemen and ladies.”

There are, perhaps, few ladies and few gentlemen left—note that I put the sentence this way round in the interests of euphony rather than of ideology—but that is another matter.

To abandon the locution ladies and gentlemen because there are no ladies and no gentlemen any more, in the sense that we have all become unmannerly brutes, is different from abandoning it because there might be a transexual in the building, or rather (since transsexuals want to be ladies or gentlemen), a person of the many indeterminate genders that have recently been discovered or acknowledged to exist.

One might regard the ludicrous circumvention of the word women by JAMA and the CDC as of trivial import, but I think that this would be a mistake.

Indeed, it is the very smallmindedness, or if you like thoroughness, of it that gives it its significance, for it suggests a policing of language that is so totalitarian in sensibility.

And perhaps what is most alarming about it is that there is no central dictatorship, such as that of Nazi Germany, that is commanding a change of language and terminology.

Under a totalitarian regime it is at least understandable that people adopt the new language, because they are afraid not to do so and will be denounced if they do not. We, by contrast, are surrendering in anticipation of totalitarian victory.

The very absurdity of the expression “people who are pregnant” is an advantage from the point of view of those who would like to impose a totalitarian regime on the rest of us (forgetting, as they do that totalitarian regimes quickly devour their young). If we are forced in one way or another to use absurd locutions, we forgo our probity, despise ourselves, and then lose all will to resist.

Suppose I want to publish an article in a prestigious journal that insists upon a language code with which I do not agree, but which will not publish what I write unless I accede to it. I am then faced with the choice: abandon my article, or abandon my principles.

You can go elsewhere, you say: and for the moment you are quite right. But increasingly, though informally, every publication—at least, every prestigious publication, whose contents are noted—adopts the same or similar language code (which, of course, changes rapidly, as did official history under Stalin, to ensure that we remain in a state of anxious vigilance, for todays “correct” locution may tomorrow be evidence of bad character, if not of thoughtcrime).

Perhaps there will remain a few publications in which one will be able to publish, just so that the mainstream can claim to be tolerant: but they will play the same role as the non-communist political ‘parties’ in the people’s republics of Eastern Europe immediately after the communist takeover.

We are all—or many of us—careerists in the sense that we want to get on. This is not necessarily discreditable: an entomologist wants to make a contribution to entomology. If in the process of getting on, we have to sacrifice a few little principles, agree to things we don’t agree with, just in order to get on with our real life’s work—well, it is regrettable, but so be it. Anyway, people have always had to sacrifice their principles to an extent, so the change is of degree rather than of type.

And thus, before long, we shall all call pregnant women people who are pregnant, and adopt whatever other absurd and sinister locution the pressure group du jour dreams up, until no one can tell the truth any more because the very concept of truth will be despised.

First published in the Epoch Times.

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Posted on 02/27/2021 4:31 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
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Saturday, 27 February 2021
Biden Appoints Another Israel-Hater: Uzra Zeya
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by Hugh Fitzgerald


 Uzra Zeya

First, there was Maher Bitar, a Palestinian-American and anti-Israel BDS activist, whom Biden has appointed to be the senior director of intelligence programs at the National Security Council. In this key intelligence role, Maher Bitar will be ideally situated to learn, for example, about American collaboration with Israel on moves to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Why should we assume Bitar would not try to limit that collaboration, or to alert others about these moves, or to try to influence policy by focusing on international criticism of Israel’s “settlement building,” in an attempt to manufacture an unnecessary crisis between the allies, and to fan its flames thereby turning that crisis into a reason for America to threaten to cut back on military aid to Israel unless it stops enlarging existing, or building new, settlements? Even without knowing Maher Bitar, a Palestinian and a Muslim, shouldn’t we assume from his lengthy BDS activism that he still harbors a deep anti-Israel animus, and while his outward demeanor may suggest a lack of bias and parti-pris, he may merely be a dab hand at assuming a sober mien of objectivity, while being a master of deception? “War is deceit,” said Muhammad. About Bitar, see here.

A second alarming appointment by the Biden Administration is that of Reema Dodin, a Palestinian-American, who will now be deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. In 2002 Dodin expressed her deep understanding of, and sympathy for, all those “desperate people” who became suicide bombers. Addressing a church audience in Loma, California, spreading the gospel of Palestinianism in her interfaith outreach, she said that the Palestinian “suicide bombers were the last resort of a desperate people.” Not a word of sympathy, not in 2002 and not in the 18 years since, for the Israeli victims of those suicide bombers whose “desperation” she finds so understandable. About Reema Dodin, see here and here.

The appointments of Reema Dodin and Maher Bitar are disturbing enough. But, as they say on late-night television ads, wait – there’s more!

Now comes news that Biden has nominated Uzra Zeya, who has a long record of denouncing the “Israel lobby” and the “secret money” it uses to control American politicians, to become undersecretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights. That’s the very worst place to put her. As to “civilian security,” doesn’t that include security from terrorists – including Islamic terrorists? Uzra Zeya doesn’t seem too interested even in the “civilian security” of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. She appears not to care that Hamas and the PLO (which is part of the PA), endanger their own civilians by placing weapons in schools, hospitals, mosques, and apartment buildings. Nor does her support of the despotic and corrupt regimes, of Hamas in Gaza, and the PA in the West Bank, suggest she should be in charge of defending “democracy” anywhere else. Finally, she is entrusted with defending “human rights” around the world – but human rights are trampled on in Gaza and the PA-held territories. She has never spoken out about the absence of “civilian security, democracy, and human rights” in the Palestinian territories. Is Uzra Zeya really the right person to be defending those ideals? A report on this appointment-from-hell is here:

President Joe Biden’s nominee for a top State Department position played a key role in assembling a book on the nefarious influence of the “Israel lobby” while working for an organization that promoted claims about Jewish media control and dual loyalty to Israel.

As a staffer at the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Uzra Zeya compiled research for a book that argues that “the Israel lobby has subverted the American political process to take control of U.S. Middle East policy” by establishing a secret network of “dirty money” PACs that bribe and extort congressional candidates into taking pro-Israel positions. Zeya, a former U.S. diplomat who was nominated for undersecretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, worked for the Washington Report and its publishing group, the American Educational Trust, in 1989 and 1990. The news outlet is staunchly anti-Israel and has published articles questioning the national loyalty of American Jews and opposing taxpayer funding to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Washington Report, for which Uzra Zeya worked for two years, is not merely anti-Israel. To oppose funding of the Holocaust Memorial Museum is antisemitic. To publish articles claiming that the Mossad was behind both the killing of JFK and of the 9/11 attacks is antisemitic.

Zeya’s work for the Washington Report and American Educational Trust raises questions about her views on Israel and could become an obstacle during her confirmation hearings. Biden’s recent hiring moves on foreign policy and conflicting statements from staffers have made it unclear how his administration plans to approach Israel policy issues. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki recently declined to denounce the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, contradicting statements condemning the movement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the Washington Free Beacon recently reported. Biden also tapped anti-Israel activist Maher Bitar for a top intelligence post and is reportedly considering Matt Duss, an outspoken critic of Israel, for a State Department position.

Sean Durns, a research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, called the Washington Report a “fringe organization” that has “published content with anti-Semitic themes,” including claims that the Mossad was behind the JFK assassination and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Organizations like the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs have a history of propagating fringe and sometimes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and I think it’s absolutely fair for questions to be raised in any sort of potential hearings,” said Durns.

When it comes time for Uzra Zeya’s confirmation hearings, I assume, optimistically, that she will be asked about her work on the Washington Report. Isn’t it true, she should be asked, that she compile research for a book that argues that “the Israel lobby has subverted the American political process to take control of U.S. Middle East policy” by establishing a secret network of “dirty money” PACs that bribe and extort congressional candidates into taking pro-Israel positions? Presumably she agreed with the book’s thesis at the time. How did she feel about its accusations now? Did she agree that the “Israel lobby” has “subverted the American political process”? Did she continue to work for the Washington Report even after it had blamed Mossad for the assassination of JFK and the 9/11 attacks? If she had left the magazine before those articles were published, did she ever express her disagreement with their content? Does she still read the Washington Report?

What does Uzra Zeya think her task should be in defending human rights? Does she have any particular concerns about human rights – especially the rights of women, and Christians — in the Palestinian territories? Or in Muslim-majority lands, more generally? Does she think that changing one’s religion should be a basic human right? Does she think that American foreign aid should be withheld from despotic and corrupt regimes, including that of Hamas in Gaza? What about the PA in the West Bank, where Mahmoud Abbas has accumulated a fortune of $400 million? How does she view Israel? Does Ms. Zeya agree with the vast majority of Americans, who see the Jewish state as a firm ally, that shares our values – democracy and respect for human rights — or does she have another view?

That’s a starter kit of questions. Let’s hope at least some of them are asked, so that Uzra Zeya doesn’t have the smooth sailing she’s no doubt expecting. Make her confirmation hearings a memorable moment.

First published in Jihad Watch.

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Posted on 02/27/2021 4:23 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 26 February 2021
Michael Rectenwald talks about the Left's mainstream narrative about Jan. 6
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Posted on 02/26/2021 10:20 AM by Michael Rectenwald
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Friday, 26 February 2021
Nigeria: 317 students abducted from Zamfara school
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From The Punch and the Vanguard

Suspected armed bandits raided a school dormitory in Zamfara overnight, a teacher and parent told AFP on Friday, raising fears of another mass kidnapping in the Northern region. “More than 300 girls are unaccounted for after a headcount of remaining students,” said a teacher at the Government Girls Secondary School Jangebe who asked to remain anonymous.

He said the attack happened around 1:00 am (midnight GMT) but did not provide details on the number of students present in the school at the time.

A staff of the school, who begged for anonymity,  said the bandits arrived in the school around 1am on Friday with Hilux vehicles and motorcycles and forcefully evacuated the students. He narrated that some of the bandits were in uniforms and pretended to be security personnel, then later broke into the students hostels and abducted more than 300 students.

“When they came into the school, we thought they were security personnel but to our utmost fear and dismay, they started putting the girls into Hilux vehicles and motorcycles then drove out of the school,” the source said, adding that the bandits were in the school for several hours without any challenge due to absence of the security agents.

A parent of one of the girls, who gave his name as Malam Lawal Jangebe, said, “I nearly fainted when I heard about the abduction of the students including my daughter.”

Heavily-armed criminal gangs known locally as “bandits” in northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years, kidnapping for ransom, raping and pillaging. Just last week, 42 people were taken by a gang from a boys school in nearby Niger state.

Bandits operate out of camps in Rugu forest, which straddles Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.
The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known ideological leanings. But there are concerns they are being infiltrated by jihadists.

A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Obadiah Mailafia, says many of the bandits terrorising the country were sponsored by persons who wanted to push former President Goodluck Jonathan out of power at all cost. Mailafia said this during an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday.

He said, “During the 2015 elections they brought in thousands of foreigners into this country, armed them because it was a case of if Goodluck Jonathan doesn’t surrender, there will be war. They were ready for civil war; they were not ready for peace. 

Mailafia ... said he was also convinced that some foreign powers were behind the bandits. “There are certain world powers that want to destroy our country. That is what I believe. There was a container load of weapons that were brought in from Turkey. Another time some were brought in from Iran. But nobody probed further and everything was swept under the carpet and that was the end of it,”

He argued that appeasing the bandits would never work even as he said the Niger Delta militancy and the banditry ravaging the country are two different things.

“I do not believe that the Niger Delta militancy can be compared to the terrorists. These people (terrorists) are not even bandits. A bandit is a common thief or a brigand. The ‘agbero’ are bandits. These people carrying sophisticated weapons and rockets are not bandits. They are terrorists. They have killed, they have maimed, they have raped and they have wreaked havoc,” 

 


 

 

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Posted on 02/26/2021 8:35 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 26 February 2021
A Post-Trump Era? Not So Fast
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The former president enjoys an immense following and those who united to depose him are going to have to do much better than they have to maintain their coalition and prevent his successful return.

by Conrad Black

These are only the opening days of what is supposedly the post-Trump era, and whether the country has really seen the last politically of Donald Trump is a matter that depends upon Donald Trump. The principal Trump-hate outlets are still pleased to refer to him as “the disgraced former president” but, of course, he has not been disgraced and there is no indication that he will be. 

All of the Democrats and about a third of Republican officeholders are engaged in an elaborate and strictly observed pretense that Trump was a freakish and horrifying interruption of the normal, serene, bipartisan devolution of events in Washington. Like a dreadful meteor, he came and he went, pushed into the instantly forgotten past by a united effort of civilized Americans. 

This is only the first and most wishful phase of the Biden Administration, which, although it has shown no open recognition of the fact, owes its existence to the support of a substantial number of traditional Republicans offended by the former president’s radical ideas and comparatively uncouth political manners. They more than balanced the sharp increases President Trump achieved for the Republicans in votes from African Americans and Latinos, along with traditionally Democratic working-class voters.

There appears to be a consensus to restore the traditional honeymoon for an incoming president, something that was withheld from Trump uniquely among presidents of the past century and is a useful and becoming practice to retrieve. President Biden, an admirer of Franklin D. Roosevelt, has invoked the “Hundred Days” of the profound legislative and executive reform with which FDR began his first administration in 1933 to address the most pressing aspects of the Great Depression, starting with the collapsed banking and stock and commodity exchange systems that greeted him on Inauguration Day. Roosevelt had a broad mandate to do whatever he judged necessary to arrest and reverse the economic and psychological depression that was strangling the country, and many of his imaginative measures were passed virtually without opposition and some with almost no debate. 

Roosevelt concluded his famous inaugural address, which opened with the assertion that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” with the following: 

We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift, I take it.

What followed was a thunderous sequence of measures of relief and reform that reversed the downward economic spiral, reinvigorated the country psychologically, and provided workfare employment and income for the 30 percent of the workforce sidelined at a time when no direct federal assistance existed for them. Conditions are not remotely similar now. Biden has no such mandate, and with all due respect, his political circumstances, personality, culture, and qualities of leadership, are not much reminiscent of FDR

Biden’s 100 days show no sign of being particularly productive or even of being used by the new administration to present the kind of innovative legislation that poured out of the government in the early Roosevelt days. Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill only addresses the public health crisis with approximately 10 percent of the funds sought. No other significant legislation has been presented in the first month of these 100 days and, of course, a good deal of time and attention was frivolously squandered in the fatuous impeachment of the departed former president. 

While the new president has been commendably discrete in his comments about his predecessor, his partisans give little evidence of being psychologically capable of letting go of Trump-hate as a motive and preoccupation. Celebrations of his departure are not going to engage the public’s interest or satisfy its appetite for good government beyond what is left of these 100 days, if they even manage to do so until then. 

It should be clear by the end of April if this president is prepared to be carried along by the far-Left elements of the fragile Democratic coalition, which the informal leader of the leftist Democrats, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), reckons to be 35 or 40 percent of the party’s supporters. Or we’ll see if Biden can firm up the traditional moderately left-of-center section of the Democrats in which he served for six terms as a senator himself and two terms as vice president. This moderate element could collaborate with Republicans and legislate sensibly in the national interest. But they would do so at the likely expense of a schism among the Democrats, at least as severe and much more closely dividing that party than the present unequal contest between the anti-Trump Republicans and the majority within the GOP who support the former president. 

This is the fundamental problem with the theory that Trump was just a regrettable passing accident. He espouses a set of policy options that commands the adherence of approximately half the voting population. In four embattled years as president, he achieved more than any previous occupant of that office since Ronald Reagan’s comparatively tranquil two terms, and, apart from Reagan, since the highly successful first term of Richard Nixon 50 years ago.

He will not be so easily dismissed and the honeymoon level of approval accorded Joe Biden—50-odd percent, depending on the poll—will be a levitation if he doesn’t start to build a track record of genuine accomplishment. Re-entering the Paris Climate Accord, being kind to Iran’s ayatollahs, and handing a blank check to the ecological zealots while relaxing security at the southern border is no substitute for governing and doesn’t make much sense as policy, either. Words and symbolic gestures come easily but the confirmation of senior administration appointments is moving slowly and was not accelerated by the disturbingly unconvincing performance of attorney general designate Merrick Garland in front of the Senate this week.

Biden will have to perform and the immediate former president has the opposite problem: silence becomes him and comparative quiet will be adequate to maintain his approval rating amongst those who have followed him. And while Trump haters will never be appeased even by the attrition of time, the 10 million or so quasi-Republicans who deserted him could be convinced by a more statesmanlike and judicious former president that they may have underestimated his virtues, especially if the Biden Administration does not gain any traction in a sensible direction. 

President Trump’s scheduled address to CPAC on Sunday is assured of a wide audience: those who pretend he is a spent force will be listening to him, even if secretly, more carefully than will his scores of millions of outright supporters. He now occupies the historic role of a formidable exile: Napoleon at Elba (the original Hundred Days), Roosevelt convalescing from polio, Churchill in the wilderness years, de Gaulle at Colombey, Nixon while Vietnam boiled out of control. Trump is a hard sell as a successor fitting seamlessly into the role of any of those, but he enjoys an immense following, and those who united to depose him are going to have to do much better than they have in the last month to maintain their coalition and prevent his successful return, if he wants to make one, and stages it carefully.

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Posted on 02/26/2021 4:33 AM by Conrad Black
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Friday, 26 February 2021
Shamima Begum: 'IS bride' cannot return to UK, court rules
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Breaking news. This is the BBC. Getting court declarations reported accurately is still something I can rely on from the BBC

Shamima Begum, who left the UK to join the Islamic State group as a teenager, will not be allowed to return and fight her citizenship case, the Supreme Court has ruled.

In an unanimous ruling, the court said the government did not breach her rights by refusing to allow her back.

Ms Begum, 21, wants to return to challenge the home secretary's decision to remove her British nationality.

Possibly more to follow shortly. This is just her presence in the country to argue her case that has been refused; not the appeal to have citizenship restored, or its revokation revoked. That application is still to be heard but will be argued by her lawyers in her absence, with instructions taken from either her parents or her at distance. 

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Posted on 02/26/2021 4:25 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 26 February 2021
Russia and The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
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by Michael Curtis

Who killed President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963?  Why was he killed?  The puzzle about the mysterious assassination of the President and the exact nature of the events connected to it remains fascinating even if it does not have the tension of a suspense thriller. What is troubling is that at the center of the continuing unwillingness to accept a definitive explanation of the event is the allegation that American authorities have not divulged the full truth of events, especially in documents issued by intelligence agencies adept at deception.

This anxiety may be assuaged if the National Archives makes publicly available the documents in its possession. In 1992 the U.S. Congress enacted that all assassination-related material be housed in a collection in the National Archives. President Donald Trump pledged to order the release of the documents. In April 2018 some 19,045 documents were released, but 15,584 were withheld for various reasons, protection against harm to national security, law enforcement, or foreign policy. The documents are supposed to be fully classified by October 26, 2021.

In the meantime, the different versions of responsibility for the assassination continue. The first answer came in the 1964 report from the prestigious group chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, the Warren Commission, which had been created by an executive order of President Lynton B. Johnson. Its main conclusion was that the President had been killed by one man, Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, from the 6th floor window of the Texas Book Depository Building in Dallas.  In addition, it stated that Oswald was murdered two days later, November 24, 1963, by Jack Ruby, a night club owner, at the Police Headquarters in Dallas, with a single shot from a revolver, apparently in an act of spontaneous revenge. Ruby’s motive was never exactly clear: he said at different times, he was saving Mrs. Kennedy from the unpleasantness of having to attend a trial, he was enraged and in a temporary fit of depression at Kennedy’s murder. Ruby was arrested, found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, appealed and won a retrial but died in prison before it could be held. An undistinguished figure, one with links to organize crime, Ruby is no longer of historical or political interest.

But Oswald, equally undistinguished, is of interest. Born in New Orleans in 1939 he had a troubled youth. At 17 he joined the U.S. Marines, taught himself Russian, was court martialed, and discharged in September 1959.  He then went to the Soviet Union where he told officials he wanted to become a Soviet citizen, and married a Russian woman. In June 1962 he returned with his wife to the U.S. Oswald worked at various jobs. In March 1963 he bought a Carcano rifle, which was found at the Depository, and a Smith and Wesson revolver. He tried in April 1963 to use the  rifle to kill retired, anti-communist, far right, General Edwin Walker.

For a time, Oswald opened an office in New Orleans as the headquarters of a group, Fair Play for Cuba. He returned to Dallas and got a job at the book Depository.

The 888-page Warren Report held that there was no evidence that either Oswald or Ruby was part of any conspiracy, domestic or foreign. There was no evidence that anyone assisted Oswald in planning or carrying out the assassination, or that he was involved in any conspiracy. He acted alone and the clue to his motives may be found in his personal history. The Report could not make any definitive determination of Oswald’s motives: factors might include his deep-rooted resentment of all authority, his urge to find a place in history, his capacity for violence, and his avowed commitment to Marxism and communism, as he understood them.

Since the Report, alternative statements, conspiracy theories, stories of clandestine government plans, murder plots, have been proposed featuring different scenarios and different individuals. Moscow actively disseminated Fake News that Kennedy had been killed by the CIA. One result of this disinformation was a book, Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy? by a German born American communist, Joachim Joesten, which claimed that Oswald was an FBI agent provocateur with a CIA background. In this tale Oswald was the fall guy for the real villains who included some officials of the CIA and FBI and “reactionary oil billionaires such as H. L. Hunt.” Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment disputed the conclusions of Warren. Jim Garrison in On the Trail of the Assassins, and Oliver Stone in his movie JFK argued that a conspiracy was involved and included the CIA. For them Warren was a fictional myth.

Almost everything was disputed: the arguments that Kennedy was shot not from the Depository building but from the grassy knoll in front of him; differences over the number of bullets that were fired; and the number of gunmen.  The roll of suspects varied:  the CIA, former CIA director Allen Dulles, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, CIA counter-intelligence chief James Angleton who feared the infiltration by the Soviet Union, of U.S. intelligence operations the KGB, the Mafia, LBJ, Chicago mobster Johnny Roselli, Joe DiMaggio because of the alleged affair between JFK and Marilyn Monroe, Fidel Castro, but also anti- Castro Cuban exiles.

Because of all the allegations, in 1978 the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations issued its findings. It stated that Oswald fired three shots at Kennedy. But it also said there was a high probability that two gunmen had fired. It believed that the President was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy, though it was unable to identify the gunmen other than Oswald or the extent of the conspiracy. It asserted that Warren had conducted a thorough and reliable investigation of Oswald but not the possibility of conspiracy in the assassination. However, the Committee while asserting probable assassination, did not believe that the Soviet government, or the Cuban government, or anti-Castro Cuban groups, or the national syndicate of organized crime was responsible. The mystery remained, who was responsible?

Now comes the latest view presented in a new book Operation Dragon: Inside the Kremlin’s Secret War on America, written by R. James Woolsey, former CIA director, 1993-95, and Ion Mihai Pacepa, former two-star general in the secret police force in Communist Romania and national security adviser to President Nicolae Ceausecu.  Papeca who defected to the U.S. in1978 died on February 14, 2021, was the highest intelligence officer who defected and got asylum in the U.S.  

This new book amplifies the argument already made by Papeca in his previous book Programmed to Kill: Oswald, the KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination, published in 2007, which argued that Oswald was a KGB agent. The authors say they based their argument on the Warren Report, state that much of it was “codified” and that it has not been properly understood until their version. The essential thrust in Operation Dragon is that the assassination was carried out by Oswald who had been ordered by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev acting through the KBG, now the FSB. Khrushchev, who thought JFK was inexperienced and could be manipulated, had differed with, perhaps humiliated by, Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis, but reached an agreement on October 28, 1962 according to which the Soviet Union would remove its missiles from Cuba  if the U.S. removed its misses from Turkey. 

The story in OD is that Oswald was recruited as a Soviet agent in 1957 when he was a marine stationed in Japan. He provided information that allowed the Soviet Union to shoot down the U-2 spy plane of Gary Powers in May 1960. In 1962 Oswald was told by the KGB on behalf of Khrushchev to prepare to assassinate Kennedy. He was trained by the KGB but the Soviet leaders changed their mind, believing that Khrushchev had crazy ideas, and that his behavior might lead to a nuclear war, and canceled the mission. However, Oswald went ahead on his own to carry out the assassination on what he considered a personal mission. He had a clandestine meeting in Mexico City with Comrade Kostin, Valery Kostikov, a PGU officer of the 13th Department, the group in charge of overseas assassinations.  It is pertinent to consider that two KGB officers met a few cases before the assassination: one of them was the head of the 13th Department. Oswald met on September 27, 1963 with the Soviet and Cuban consulates in the City. Oswald was making plans to flee to the Soviet Union after the assassination. In a letter of July 1, 1963 Oswald asked the Soviet Embassy for separate visas for himself and his wife and daughters, so that the family could leave for the Soviet Union before the assassination. 

OD suggests that Warren Commission did not use much of the intelligence because they did not want to go to war with the Soviet Union and the investigation was poorly done. The debate over Warren’s conclusion that Oswald acted alone continues.  However, it is surprising that most Americans have refused to accept that conclusion. In 2003 three quarters of Americans thought more than one man was involved, and in 2013, the number was still 61%. It may not be a driving event in American history, but it is important in this era of Russian disinformation to examine allegations of a covert  war waged by the Kremlin in the past.  

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Posted on 02/26/2021 4:19 AM by Michael Curtis
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Friday, 26 February 2021
Biden and Netanyahu Finally Talk, But Their Long ‘Failure to Communicate’ Means A Great Deal
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by Hugh Fitzgerald

Nearly a month into the new administration, the longest delay in forty years, the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel have finally spoken to each other. “Biden and Netanyahu talk Iran, U.S.-Israel alliance,” by Ben Leonard, Politico, February 17, 2021:

President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday for the first time since taking office, speaking about Iran and strengthening the U.S.-Israeli relationship, according to both the Israeli and White House readouts of the call.

The Israeli readout made no specific mention of a Palestinian state or a potential two-state solution. Netanyahu has long downplayed the chance of a Palestinian state coming to fruition. The White House readout, however, said Biden “underscored the importance of working to advance peace throughout the region, including between Israelis and Palestinians.” But the president did not specifically mention a two-state solution.

They apparently didn’t discuss Biden’s long delay in contacting Netanyahu, but shortly before the call, the US ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, Dan Shapiro, explained why he was not at all concerned by the fact that the leaders of the US and Israel had not spoken almost a month into Joe Biden’s term. The story of how he attempted to justify Biden’s “failure to communicate” is here: “Former US envoy to Israel says timing of Biden phone call ‘utterly irrelevant,’” by Lazar Berman, Times of Israel, February 12, 2021:

“How he has spent his time, and the leaders he has spoken to, is a very clear reflection of the priorities and the emergencies that he inherits as president,” Dan Shapiro told the Times of Israel Thursday. “I don’t think there’s any other explanation.”

“He’s taking office facing more crises and emergencies both at home and abroad than any president since Franklin Roosevelt,” said Shapiro. “He’s been very disciplined about focusing on those priorities. At home, it’s addressing the crisis of the pandemic. It’s providing economic relief. It’s building toward more racial justice. And it’s building an administration committed to confronting climate change.”

“Overseas it’s restoring core US alliances, which are with NATO and with Asian countries,” Shapiro continued. “It’s restoring US leadership on multilateral organizations and transnational challenges that has been lacking. It’s addressing the challenge of a rising China, a global strategic rival to the United States, and dealing with an aggressive Russia.”

Indeed, Biden’s phone calls to foreign leaders during his first week in office showed a focus on immigration and trade (Mexico, Canada), shoring up the NATO alliance against Russia (UK, France, Germany, NATO secretary-general, Russia), and sending signals to China and North Korea, with calls to South Korea and Australia.

Since then, and before he called Netanyahu, Biden also called the leaders of China, India, and Japan. Was India really a higher priority than collaborating with Israel on foiling Iran’s nuclear project and its manifold aggressions – in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon – throughout the region? If Iran is a pressing foreign policy issue, and it is, than shouldn’t America’s most loyal ally, which also happens to be the most effective operative in slowing down Iran’s nuclear project that, if completed, would threaten the entire Middle East, have been among the very first countries Biden should have called?

In Tehran, they interpret the long delay in Biden’s calling Netanyahu as a welcome sign of daylight between Washington and Jerusalem, and this emboldens Iran’s leaders to stick with their maximalist demands for a complete lifting of American sanctions before Iran will return to its commitments under the JCPOA. That long delay in calling Israel also must have heartened Mahmoud Abbas, who was already delighted by Biden’s announced intention to turn the spigot of American aid back on.

The Middle East is not on that first tier, but it’s not unimportant,” Shapiro stressed. “And Israel is not unimportant. The call will happen. I’m certain the call will happen fairly soon.”…

“Israel is not unimportant.” That’s one way — most litotically — to put it. Israel, at this point, is perhaps our closest and most effective ally in the world. It is Israel that practically alone has through repeated acts of derring-do set back the Iranian nuclear project by anywhere from two to five years. Let’s not forget that Iran’s project is not just to wipe out Israel, but to extend its regional power and subjugate Sunni Arabs within a “Shi’a crescent” extending from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. What effect might that have on world oil production and prices?

The long delay in this call, and the fact that it took place only after Biden’s failure to call became an international news story, is interpreted by one and all as a deliberate snub, a sign of Biden’s desire to make clear that the American government is distancing itself from Israel. Under Trump, there was no daylight between the two countries; now there is, as evidenced by this quite obviously intentional snub to Netanyahu. That is how Israelis themselves are interpreting the long delay in calling, and that is how Israel’s mortal enemy, Iran, also interprets Biden’s refusal so far to call Netanyahu, when he has spoken already to almost a dozen leaders.

Given that it takes no time at all to arrange a phone call between leaders, and that the call itself need be nothing more than an exchange of expressions of good will, it made no sense to pretend that Biden had simply been “too busy” to call Netanyahu.

“The very fact that there has not been a phone call could be read by some malign actors as a sign that the US no longer has Israel’s back, said Danielle Pletka, a senior fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank.

“It’s unclear why President Biden would wish to signal to all of Israel’s enemies that the United States doesn’t stand with our most important ally in the Middle East.”…

Danielle Pletka was right. This delay in contacting Netanyahu of course will be received by the tea-leaf readers in Iran as a sign Washington is no longer in Netanyahu’s camp. Too many other leaders, including those of our major enemies, China and Russia, were called by Biden before he called Netanyahu. So how could Israelis not be anxious at the timing of this call? It was not innocuous, but was a deliberate distancing by Joe Biden from the Jewish State. It was not an oversight, nor a problem of a President too busy to make a five-minute phone call. It was and is a sign of a chill in the geopolitical air. Even though Biden finally did call, too much time had passed for the original insult to disappear.

No wonder the IDF Chief of Staff, Maj General Aviv Khochavi, gave a speech denouncing any return by the Americans to the Iran Deal, and spoke of how the IDF was considering various options for ensuring that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons, thanks to Israel, going it alone. Some may be reminded of that celebrated cartoon during World War II, when France had fallen, America had not yet joined the war, and Great Britain fought alone against the Nazis. On June 18, 1940 the Evening Standard published a cartoon by David Low. It showed a grim-faced British soldier standing on a rock in the middle of a stormy sea shaking his fist at a squadron of enemy bombers approaching across a pitch black sky. The caption read “Very well. Alone.” You can see it here.

That is what Kochavi was saying; we Israelis will, alone if we have to, make sure Iran never gets the bomb. it’s an attitude of determined self-reliance among Israelis that Biden’s delay in phoning Netanyahu encourages. Is it so hard for Biden to see the damage he has already inflicted on the alliance?

First published in Jihad Watch.

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Posted on 02/26/2021 4:11 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 25 February 2021
Cancelling Will S.
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by Phyllis Chesler

“Woke” culture is hardly even awake. It is a devouring force that means to eviscerate all excellence that has come before: The Greek classics. Chaucer. Milton. These authors are all white cisgender Western men -- enough said.

A friend and I were wondering how long it would be before the Bard would also be cancelled. We did not have long to wait.

In an article in the School Library Journal, librarian Amanda MacGregor conceded that Shakespeare was a “genius wordsmith” but that his work is full of “problematic, outdated ideas, with plenty of misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, anti-Semitism, and misogynoir.”

I do not know what “misogynoir” is. Might it refer to Fifty Shades of Grey which, as I understand it, does not even reach the shiny silver boot buckle of The Story of O.

According to Ben Jonson, Shakespeare  “was not of an age but for all time!”  “Woke” folk ask: But is he “relevant?” Do we want to keep privileging his stories over and above those written more recently, by women, people of color, queers, trans, and especially non-westerners? 

As a founder of Women’s Studies which, at its long-ago best, sought to expand, not retract the Canon, even I think that “relevance” is a bit overrated. Call me crazy, but I like time-traveling, I enjoy being transported to an earlier time, another place, which is why I do not love most modernizations of operas that were set in castles of yore, or on wild heaths and shorelines. We lose something if we wrench them out of their place in time and set them in a more recent time. Rigoletto in Frank Sinatra’s Las Vegas, ITAL Gianni Schicchi and Macbeth both set in the 1930s.

I stand almost alone. In 1984, the beloved poet, novelist, and essayist, Audre Lorde, wrote that “The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s House,” and yet she used the English language and read widely. Nevertheless, those in favor of “cancelling” writers take Lorde at her word and believe one can create out of the thinnest air, the air that only they themselves can breathe today.

All the teachers and professors quoted in the School Library Journal, feel that it’s time for the Bard to retire or be presented in accessible ways. Worse: If one insists on using him, one must use him against himself. A teacher must discuss his biases and failings -- which are considerable and possibly not forgivable.

According to Arizona State University English professor and Shakespeare scholar, Ayanna Thompson: “Shakespeare was a tool used to ‘civilize’ Black and brown people in England’s empire.” (She capitalizes Black, but not brown). Shakespeare’s plays were “part of the colonizing efforts of the British in imperial India.”

I am a woman and yet I never felt myself “colonized” by Shakespeare. His plays have given me great joy. I am thinking of one extraordinary performance at the Globe/Sam Wanamaker Theater in London. The players performed The Tempest and the ensemble acting moved me from laughter to awe. Enchanted, I did not want to leave that theater and was one of the last to depart.

Another teacher, in a Michigan high school, Jeffrey Austin, is quoted as saying that teachers need to “challenge the whiteness of the assumption that Shakespeare’s works are “universal.”

Claire Brunke, a Washington State public school teacher, exiled Shakespeare from her classroom. She wanted to stop “centering the narrative” on works by “white, cisgender, heterosexual men.”

Cameron Campos, an English teacher at a high school in Alberta, Canada skipped Shakespeare and chose the works of an Indigenous author instead.

Sarah Mulhern Gross, an English teacher in New Jersey said that when she teaches Romeo and Juliet, she analyzes it in terms of its “toxic masculinity.”

Silly me. And all this while, I though Romeo and Juliet was a play about young, doomed love, about how two teenagers, a boy and girl, were willing to break with their hot-blooded feuding families for the sake of first love -- and to commit suicide for that love as well. I thought it was a story of love and death, a tragic tale about tribal family quarrels and how two youngsters sought to heal that breach through marriage. My God! The play is West Side Story but without music, only with immortal verse.

To be fair, the high school teachers are trying to reach their students but in doing so they are encouraging narcissism and ignorance. Everything has to be about now! Me! My world! Yes, but this also cheats students of their heritage, which they can build on, critique, reject.

This world view is one that leads to statue toppling and erasure of historical figures who, by our lights, are flawed, unacceptably so. Out with Lincoln and Washington. 

Lorena German, an Austin educator insists that “your kids will be fine if they don’t read Shakespeare.” Instead, she suggests Amiri Baraka, Zora Neale Hurston, Ntozake Shange, and Athol Fugard as also “deep and powerful.” They are. But they are very recent, written in the 20th century. Does she believe that their focus on Black life in America or Fugard’s white anti-apartheid views are more universal than Shakespeare? Why not teach them all? Why not read them all -- in excerpted form if time is the salient issue?

If Shakespeare is taught at the high school level, even in part, I would be open to also teaching the most creative “retellings” of his plays. As long as both are taught, not either/or. 

In terms of the colonization critique: Let me note the following. V.S. Naipaul, a Caribbean-based Indian writer and Suzanna Arundhati Roy, also an Indian writer, both won the distinguished British Man Booker Prize. Neither of them refused it. Naipaul was also knighted. Jean Rhys, a Caribbean-born and bred writer (Dominican Creole mother, a Welsh father), wrote a wondrous prequel to Jane Eyre titled The Wide Sargasso Sea. I assume that she read Charlotte Bronte in order to do so. Rhys was appointed a Commander of the British Empire for her writing. She did not refuse the honor.

My point: While I may reject Naipaul’s misogyny and cruelty to his wives, I would never dream of refusing to read his work. And while I disagree, most profoundly, with Roy’s Marxism and anti-Zionism -- that would never compel me to “cancel” her or refuse to read her novels and essays. Although we may be ideologically and geographically apart, we have inherited a literary legacy that spans the continents. 

Jean-Paul Sartre, in an Introduction to Paul Nizan’s Aden Arabie, describes what happened to his friend, the author of eight novels, when he became an ex-communist. 

“Communists do not believe in hell, they believe in nothingness. It was decided that Comrade Nizan should be obliterated. He had already been hit (and killed in World War Two, “but this liquidation satisfied no one. It was not enough that he had ceased to live. He must never have existed at all... Communists intimidated the publishers, who left (Nizan’s) books to rot in basements, and they intimidated readers who no longer dared ask for them.”

My dear friends: This is an earlier form of Cancel Culture. Perhaps it’s the prototype. Do not go down this terrifying road of obliteration and cultural oblivion. Embrace more writers not fewer; time travel when you can. It is our common global legacy.

First published in American Thinker.

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Posted on 02/25/2021 5:59 AM by Phyllis Chesler
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Thursday, 25 February 2021
Limbaugh and His Detractors
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by Conrad Black

The reaction of the Left last week to the death of Rush Limbaugh was a shocking demonstration of the incivility of current American political discourse. Everyone remotely familiar with the American political scene is aware of what a powerhouse and pioneer Rush Limbaugh was. Anyone who knew him knows how personally gracious he was, modest and lacking in bombast and vitriol, even when discussing political figures with whom he differed sharply. He was, uniquely, no more impolite about political opponents privately than he was publicly. He was a man from modest socioeconomic origins in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and both his talk-radio format and his blend of popular songs and other entertainment with current events was ingenious and witty. His success, which gave him as many as 25 million listeners every weekday, was entirely the product of his own imagination applied to his observations of listener habits and market demographics. One would have hoped that since he was such an uplifting story of self-made personal success based on perception and hard work, his political opponents would allow him the dignity of dying in peace.

From the moment his death was announced on his regular program by his widow last week, his opponents descended from all the media like the massed crows of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. He was a hardball partisan of a kind the Left is entirely familiar and comfortable with, since that is a flattering description of most of their chief spokespeople and standard-bearers, though none have been nearly as successful as Rush. This incandescent envy must be a significant part of their malice. The greatest depths were plumbed by former U.S. senator Al Franken (D., Minn.) in the New York Daily News on February 18. This seems to be a new and uncommonly tasteless artifact of the current anti-Trump playbook — to turn obsequies and obituaries into occasions on which the normal expectation and practice of comparatively respectful treatment of the recent dead is exploited in order to smear them with as much muck as possible.

This process works both ways, as was demonstrated in the odious, elongated festival of Trump-bashing conducted under the guise of the funeral of Senator John McCain. The funeral lasted half an hour longer than the funeral of a pope, in order to accommodate the Trump-hate-filled remarks of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Neither of them had unlimited use for the deceased, only the pseudo-sportsmanlike regard that politicians have for politicians they have defeated, but both were happy to transform the funeral of a formidable politician and brave war veteran, at McCain’s own invitation, into a vehement diatribe against the incumbent president (in the presence of the vice president, several cabinet members, and the president’s daughter and son-in-law). It was unworthy for a man of McCain’s stature, but he wished it on himself and it did Trump no damage.

Al Franken was a professional comedian, and like many entertainers, he imagined that this equipped him to be a successful politician and legislator. He helped develop the Democratic playbook for winning delayed-result elections (which they carried to perfection in November) by narrowly defeating Senator Norm Coleman in a razor-thin, months-late finish in 2008. He was an unremarkable senator, but on the revelation that he had once, while on a tour to entertain members of the armed forces overseas, jokingly placed his hands above the ample bosom of a comely, sleeping, female fellow entertainer (he neither touched nor awakened her), he was unceremoniously dumped by the Democratic congressional leadership, and on a few words from the hierarchs, he resigned. It was such a spineless capitulation to the hypocrites in the Democratic leadership that Franken practically forfeited his right to criticize a political opponent. He has since required therapy to assist him in assimilating the premature and unjustified end of his political career. I wrote at the time that he should have replied to those calling for his resignation in words inappropriate to a family-oriented column like this one, and I had considerable sympathy for him until last week (though not much respect for his fighting spirit).

In his piece, Franken objected that President Trump had given Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, because previous honorees included César Chávez and Martin Luther King. The fact that Rush was one of the most astoundingly successful people in the entire history of the American media was beside the point. Franken stated that Limbaugh “created right wing talk radio,” which is true, but not the whole truth: he created a public forum unlike any that ever existed before in the United States. He wrote that Rush was a racist because he said that Jesse Jackson looked like “all composite pictures of wanted criminals.” He should have said “many,” but he was not in fact racist at all. Franken’s proof of Rush’s homophobia was the admittedly offensive playing of the song “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” after referring to the death of a gay man from AIDS 31 years ago. Rush was on-air 15 hours a week for 40 years, and he made mistakes of judgment and often oversimplified, but he was a model of equivocation compared to a common-or-garden Trump-hater. He was not a homophobe any more than Franken is a misogynist sex maniac, as his party’s congressional leaders implied. Franken’s “proof” that Rush was sexist (which he wasn’t) was that he mocked Sandra Fluke’s demand that the Roman Catholic–affiliated Georgetown University pay for the cost of her contraceptives.

The facts that Rush had his doubts about the death of assistant Clinton White House counsel Vince Foster’s being left for a week to the park police; was skeptical about global warming (which has now retreated into “climate change”); took the birther nonsense about Obama seriously; and correctly stated that the Democrats were fomenting panic about COVID-19 for political reasons, and that the presidential electoral results in November were in fact questionable in several key swing states — all of this is represented as hard proof of Rush Limbaugh’s status as a drooling, rabid conspiracy theorist. Franken falsely accused Limbaugh of likening the January 6 violence to the American Revolution; Rush’s real complaint was the silence of the Democrats through the long summer of violence across America in 2020. If he ever referred to Chelsea Clinton as “the White House dog,” that was outrageous and out of character, though similar to commonplace remarks by Democrats about the Trump family. Franken even extends his anger to the late Roger Ailes, founder of Fox News, and the proprietor Rupert Murdoch, though Murdoch had nothing to do with Limbaugh. Poor traumatized Al Franken thinks Rush, Newsmax, Breitbart, and Fox News have turned half of America into reactionary lunatics. He overlooks the tedious and inconvenient fact that 95 percent of the national political media and 100 percent of the social media are sewers of self-righteous, woke, totalitarian Trump-hate.

Al Franken published a book in 1995 entitled “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations.” He should have changed the name and made it an autobiography.

First published in National Review.

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Posted on 02/25/2021 4:48 AM by Conrad Black
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Thursday, 25 February 2021
New York Times Feature on Turkey’s Occupation of Kurdish Afrin is Journalistic Ethnic Cleansing
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by Hugh Fitzgerald

The New York Times recently published an article on Turkish-ruled Afrin, a formerly Kurdish area of Syria that the Kurds have fled, and now is populated by Syrian Arabs who had been living as refugees in Turkey, and then were moved into Afrin by the Turkish military. That article has been widely criticized, mainly because it fails to report the views of any of the indigenous Kurds, and relies on what Turkish officials and their Arab collaborators wanted the Times reporters to hear.

The article also failed in other ways. “NYT accused of whitewashing Turkey’s Afrin occupation,” by Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, February 17, 2021:

The article also doesn’t seem to include any voices by women. It does interview “Muhammad Amar” who it claims is a fighter evacuated from Damascus and sent to Afrin by Turkey under a deal with the Assad regime. Like other military occupations that become permanent, the article notes that “The city has been connected to the Turkish electricity grid, ending years of blackouts; uses Turkish cell phones and currency; and has registered 500 Syrian companies for cross-border trade.” The article also notes there are no independent voices here to corroborate or monitor abuses. “Turkey has forced out many international aid groups to keep closer control itself.”

Turkey has transformed Afrin from a Kurdish city into an Arab-inhabited Turkish outpost. The former city of Syrian Kurds has been repopulated with Syrian Arabs who had been living in Turkey, and now have ties to that country. The Turks have connected Afrin to the Turkish electricity grid; Turkish currency has replaced that of Syria; Turkish – not Syrian – cell phones now work in Afrin. Afrin’s trade has been directed away from Syria and toward Turkey, with 500 companies newly registered for cross-border trade with Turkey. These are all signs of Turkey tightening its grip on the region and its people; the Turks no longer talk of leaving. It looks like they are in Afrin to stay. The weakened government in Damascus is in no position to oppose whatever Erdogan decides. As for all those NGOs that used to provide aid to civilians in Afrin, Turkey has booted them out so that they cannot report on what the Turks are doing to consolidate their control.

The article claims there are “terrorist” attacks in Afrin, without providing any evidence except the word of Turkish officials. Usually when the Times writes about other conflicts it includes voices from both sides, but not here. It speaks to the “police chief in Afrin” who “said 99% of the attacks were the work of the PKK, the Kurdish separatist movement.”

This is an inaccurate statement since the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is not separatist, and operates inside Turkey, not in Syria. Nor is there evidence that the members of the Kurdish YPG have ever wanted to “separate” from Syria. It’s Turkish propaganda, to justify to the Syrians the rough manner in which the Turkish military “cleansed” Afrin of its Kurds. 

It’s not surprising that the “police chief in Afrin” – who is a willing collaborator with the Turkish occupiers of Afrin – would claim that “99% of the [terrorist] attack” were the work of the PKK.” But the PKK is an organization of Turkish, not Syrian, Kurds, and there is no independent confirmation that Turkish Kurds have managed to cross the border, well-guarded by Turkish troops, and infiltrated into Afrin. The author objects to describing either the PKK or the Kurdish forces that used to be in Afrin (those forces are not identified, but they are the YPG, the People’s Protection Units, that fought ISIS alongside the Americans) as “separatist”; for now, what the PKK wants is greater autonomy within Turkey, and “separatism” at this point is still a very distant goal.

There is one type of “separatism” in Syria that the Turks are encouraging. Turkish forces have been busy “separating” Afrin from Syria and tying it ever closer to the Turkish economy: connecting Afrin to the Turkish electricity grid, making mandatory the use of Turkish cell phones and currency; fostering cross-border trade with Turkey by companies in Afrin, rather than re-connecting them with businesses in Syria. It is Turkey that has forced Afrin to separate from Syria through its occupation.

The article goes on to claim that in “Afrin the Turks have handled security like any NATO force, surrounding their administration building with high concrete blast walls and sealing off a ‘green zone’ that encompasses the main shopping street in the center of the city.” It’s not clear what evidence the author had for regarding how “NATO” behaves….

What the NYT reporter claims to be standard security measures of other NATO forces besides Turkey are, in fact, most unusual. Neither the North American nor the European members of NATO normally put their military headquarters abroad in “buildings with high concrete blast walls” nor do they seal off, in cities where they have those headquarters, “a green zone” that includes major thoroughfares that have been blocked to all traffic except that of the military. Most likely the NYT reporters were thinking of the “Green Zone” in Baghdad, where American diplomats and military men lived and worked, and assumed, wrongly, that this was standard for NATO forces dispatched to other countries.

Under the self-anointed Padishah, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, there is no free press in Turkey; more journalists are imprisoned in Turkey than in any other country in the world. Thousands of journalists in Turkey have permanently lost their jobs.; some have changed professions; others have left the country. As for freedom of assembly, the occasional non-violent anti-regime protests are quickly and violently suppressed, even when they are not political in nature; the Gezi Park protest was a popular revolt against an urban development plan that would have reduced the size of Istanbul’s most popular park.

The Kurdish minority continues to be oppressed in Turkey – a point that might have been made, and elaborated upon, by the NYT, as relevant to a report on the expulsion of the Kurds from Afrin, on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Economically, the Kurdish areas in Turkey receive far less government development money than do areas where the Turks live. The Kurds have more to complain of than their relative impoverishment. They are especially sensitive to Turkish suppression of Kurdish culture. Kurds have been arrested just for playing Kurdish music or possessing Kurdish music CDs;  Kurdish is forbidden as a language of instruction in the schools, both public and private; parents are pressured by officials not to give their children Kurdish names; Kurdish history is not part of the national curriculum; in the past even the words “Kurd” and “Kurdistan” were prohibited; until 1991, Kurds were officially described as “mountain Turks.”

As for the rights of women, under Erdogan there has been a slide backward. Erdogan has stressed “family values,” which in his Islamic version means he discourages women in the workplace (Turkey has the lowest percentage of women working in the OECD); he has stated that he does not believe that men and women are equal; he supports the traditional role of the husband as unquestioned master within the family; he has encouraged the wearing of the hijab; he has built more than 20,000 new mosques, where Muslim misogyny is unavoidably preached; in this new atmosphere, in recent years the number of honor killings have spiked.

The criticism of the NYT piece on Afrin is withering:

It is unclear if the Times has guidelines for reporting conflicts where both sides of the conflict are to be given a voice, especially in cases of controversy and ethnic cleansing. Usually, when reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the West Bank the newspaper does provide Palestinians a voice and not just Israeli officials. When it comes to Turkey and Afrin, it appears no Kurds were allowed to have a voice. They were only pejoratively referred to as “separatists,” which they are not. They are the local people of Afrin.

The NYT piece might have been written in Ankara. A minder took the reporters around, making sure they talked only with people who would say the right things: Turkish officials in Afrin, and Syrian Arabs in the city, sure to express their gratitude for how well they are being protected by the Turks. No mention is made of the 160,000 Kurds who have fled from Afrin, or of where they have gone, and why. All we learn is that Syrian Arabs who were refugees in Turkey are now back in Syria, not in their original homes (which may have been damaged or destroyed in the civil war), but in the homes that have suddenly been made available, and where they are “protected: by the Turkish military.

The NYT has engaged in “ethnic cleansing” of its own: a story about Afrin, where Kurds had lived as the overwhelming majority for centuries, is now all about Turks and Arabs. Not a single Kurd – among Afrin’s expellees — was contacted, much less interviewed, for the story.

It’s all right, New York Times. No need to explain. We are used to it. We didn’t expect better from you. We didn’t expect anything at all.

First published in Jihad Watch.

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Posted on 02/25/2021 4:26 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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