Thursday, September 30, 2010

Venezuela’s Election Lunacy: Results and Consequences

The opposition MUD alliance (seriously) won 52 percent of the votes, but got 37 percent of the seats. Hmm.

Christopher Hitchens observed a few weeks ago that el Presidente Chávez, whom he had visited in 2008 along with Chávez' close friend Sean Penn and whose antics he still follows, is barking mad. As Hitchens put it, [START BLOCKQUOTE]
Chávez . . . is very close to the climactic moment when he will announce that he is a poached egg and that he requires a very large piece of buttered toast so that he can lie down and take a soothing nap. [END BLOCKQUOTE]
Unfortunately, a nap is not what Chávez has in mind. [START BLOCKQUOTE]
In a televised broadcast from the Miraflores presidential palace, Chavez spoke out against opposition leaders: "They will never enter here again, the immoral ones, the mobsters, the stateless ones, the traitors. I am going to say this until the last day of my life."[END BLOCKQUOTE]
In Venezuela, where Chávez is by no means alone in his dementia and lunacy does not augur defeat, insanity is more useful as an excuse for whatever happens than as valid predictor of the future. Even trying to figure out what happened can induce insanity.

Read (much) more at Pajamas Media

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Muslim Relations in Pánama

Pánama has many Muslims, roughly 0.3 percent of the population or 9,600. Panama has roughly one percent of the population of the United States, so that's the equivalent of 960,000 in the United States. Here, Muslims have largely been assimilated into Panamanian society. There are some reasons for this.

1. The Arabic influence on the Spanish language has been substantial.
Modern day Spanish language (also called castellano in Spanish) first appeared in the small Christian Kingdom of Castile in Northern Spain during this period of Islamic domination over most of the Iberian Peninsula. As a result, the language was influenced by Andalusi Arabic practically from its inception. Arabic imprint on the language increased as the Kingdom of Castile expanded into Muslim lands where the Castilian language had never been spoken and as arabized Christians (Mozarabs) from Al Andalus emigrated northwards during times of sectarian violence, and particularly as a result of the Almoravid conquest in the 12th century. Although the degree to which Arabic percolated the peninsula is the subject of academic debate, it is generally agreed that Arabic was used among the local elites and local Arabic-influenced Romance dialects, known collectively as Mozarabic were more prevalent as the vernacular language. Only the kingdom of Granada, under the Nasrid dynasty was totally arabized after many centuries of Muslim rule.
2. One of the world's largest free zones is in Colon, Pánama, although rather separate and distinct from the rest of the city. Most of the merchants are Jewish or Muslim; in many cases, they are business partners. The Jews tend to live in Pánama City, about an hour's drive from Colon. The Muslims tend to live in Colon.

3. There are about ten mosques in Pánama, including at least one in David, the third largest city in the country, on the road between Boquete (now a largely upscale Gringo expat community) and David. Several years ago, there were unsubstantiated rumors that Osama ben Ladden had been sighted, but they rank right up there with Elvis sightings.

4. My wife and I rely substantially on a computer store in David, owned I think, by a (shudder) Muslim. He is both a gentleman and a damn good salesman, though not in the least pushy. When we go to his store, he offers refreshments, usually a cup of herbal tea. When we buy something of any significance, he always gives us a small gift – a cheap headset or a couple of blank DVD discs. The welcome we get encourages us to return.

Why are the relationships so good here? I don't know, but suspect that it has something to do with integration into the local culture. As far as I know, there was little news about the recent Ground Zero – threatened and actual Koran burning episodes in the United States or the resultant protests – possibly because they were of little interest. People here have other things about which to become upset, and beyond that most tend to their own affairs.

Pánama has too little world significance to become a focal point of Islamists, and that is a good thing for those of us who live here, Jews, Muslims, Christians and those of us who have no religion. Not once has anyone bothered us about my lack of religion. There is substantial tolerance for the views of others, and that's a damn good thing.

Am I a tad puzzled? Am I perhaps missing something? You betcha. But that at least seems to be the way it is here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Flagellation for Fun and Profit.

Why can't we all just be nice and love one another!

During his highly memorable but probably best forgotten Cairo speech, President Obama apologized to the world in general and Islam in particular for the grievous sins of the United States, all of which had occurred before He ascended to the presidency. Instead of intoning "mea culpa, mea culpa mea maxima culpa" he said "they have sinned, they have sinned, they have sinned most grievously." Most of the major media outlets hung on every utterance and disparaged as prejudiced, racist, bigoted Neanderthals those who disagreed. More recently, He came out four-square in favor of construction of a mosque-recreation center close to Ground Zero and then back tracked a smidgen. Even more recently, He pitted all of the power of His bully pulpit, possibly including the FBI, against the allegedly crazy and bigoted promise of a previously unknown small town fundamentalist preacher to fifty congregants to burn some Korans on September 11th.
[T]he White House has been treating this lunatic as a greater threat to national security than Osama bin Laden.
The president himself went on TV to plead with him not to burn the books. And Gen. David Petraeus -- in a decidedly ill-advised move -- publicly warned that if Jones followed through, US troops would be put at risk.
Is the Reverend Mr. Jones a Lunatic? I don't know; it's difficult to tell these days. Is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who promotes the mosque, etc. as a gesture of religious tolerance and understanding a lunatic? I don't know. Do they both foam at the mouth when they go "Wuff, Wuff" (sort of rhymes with Rauf, Rauf)? Victor Davis Hanson has it right, as usual:
We are reaching the point where the damage done to America’s image by 50 book-burners is outweighed by the damage done by hypersensitivity on the part of the United States government, which hopes to assuage the hurt feelings of those abroad who equate that tiny number with our culture at large — often in an abjectly hypocritical fashion. We know where this leads — to endless efforts to micromanage all elements of American life to protect the sensitivities of those who, by act and deed, are far more intolerant of different religions and cultures.
In any event, good marketing fellas, with special honors to the Reverend Mr. Jones.
With only a threat to burn a Koran, he became a household name across the world and never had to strike a match. He saw an effigy of himself, wrapped in an American flag, burned by rioters in Afghanistan, shouting "death to the Christians." Every newspaper, every network scrambled for face time with him.
In any event, they went hog-wild. What's the big deal with self-flagellation, or in the case of President Obama, flagellation of others? Has His rejection of American Exceptionalism done so little harm to the country that it is now necessary to eliminate or turn it upside-down?

Of course Muslims in the United States have the same freedoms of religion and of speech as do others in the United States, and much more such freedoms than do non-Muslims (and apparently Muslims) in Islamic countries. That has not been seriously questioned. Evidently however, those who think the so called Ground Zero Mosque should be built have more freedom of speech than do those who think otherwise, and those who promise to burn some Korans are viewed as demanding to exercise more freedom of speech than those who burn the United States flag to protest some real or imagined grievance. America is becoming truly exceptional, but in ways which are not encouraging. By cowering in the face of violent outrage by Islamists (I generally use this term when referring to radical Muslims), on the apparent theory that if we don't cower they will become even more antagonistic than has become customary, she is becoming exceptionally ridiculous and weak. Does anyone in his right mind think that if The Reverend Mr. Jones and the others who have promised to light their matches all actually put them away the easily offended would become less antagonistic and more tolerant? Self delusion is a poor basis for governance.

Iran's President Ahmadinejad plays the fiddle, calls it all a Zionist plot and we dance. He may, unfortunately, be correct in his final analysis.
"The Zionists and their supporters are on the path to collapse and decline and such desperate actions will not save them, but will accelerate their fall and annihilation," the president said during a meeting between Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and senior Iranian officials in Tehran.
Under the Constitution, freedom of speech has traditionally meant (with unfortunately increasing exceptions) that there can be no official prior restraint by the government of offensive but non-obscene speech, no matter how offensive some might find the thoughts expressed. Promising to burn, stone or lash the Koran is not "obscene," except perhaps in the view of those who find it offensive, and merely offensive is not "obscene" under any definition with which I am familiar. President Obama, officials of his administration and the media are free to condemn such speech and to praise the proposed mosque construction close to Ground Zero but should not claim to represent the United States in doing so.

There are many in the Islamist world who demand that the United States government prohibit the burning of Korans and all other public slights to their religion. They apparently think that the government has the power to do so and must exercise it in the name of human rights. The United States government has no such power and, under the Constitution, can't. The sooner they learn this the better for us all. This is doubtless a very difficult concept to grasp, particularly for those who live privileged lives under governments of substantially unlimited power and even for those who don't have that privilege but nevertheless favor the concept; for the pastor in Florida and others to cave into demands for conformity with the will of the administration as he ultimately appears to have done is not a good teaching point. Instead, it leads to this sort of nonsense:
Following the uproar over the threatened burning of the Quran by a small Florida church, a leading international Islamic body said Thursday that the United Nations should outlaw “all forms of offense against religions.”
* * * * *
“The Florida Dove World Outreach Center Church’s plan to burn copies of the Holy Quran on September 11 … requires immediate action to outlaw all acts of defamation of religions and religious sanctities,” the Morocco-based Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) said in a communique.
“It is a blot on humanity that such discriminatory attack against Islam and Islamic holy sites is continuing in the absence of deterrent legal measures, local and international.”
ISESCO, an arm of the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), called on the U.N. “to issue an international law criminalizing all forms of offense against religions under any circumstances.”
* * * * *
ISESCO’s call was an expected opening salvo in a fresh push by the OIC to use both the Quran-burning threat and the Manhattan mosque dispute to move forward its decade-old campaign to get the U.N. to outlaw what it calls “religious defamation” worldwide.
The OIC argues that legal deterrents are necessary in the light of instances of “Islamophobia” which it says have increased significantly since 9/11 [strange, that]. OIC publications use the label “Islamophobia” to cover a range of incidents and trends, from anti-Muslim graffiti to criticism of human rights abuses in Islamic states [of which there have clearly been none] to counter-terrorism profiling [some of which might be a good idea].
Why am I reminded of Al Capp's SWINE (Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything)?

Even in the highly unlikely event that this prohibition would apply to Islamist practices "offensive" to Christianity, Judaism and other non-Islamist religions, it would take far better orators than President Obama and TOTUS to get such a monster ratified and a far better lawyer than Attorney General Holder to find a way to read it as compliant with the United States Constitution, under which ratified treaties are the equivalent to statutes and must therefore be compliant with the Constitution.

Me? I am burning barbecuing a nice pork loin. It's yummier than a musty old Koran and don't worry, our dogs will get their fair shares.