Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

How Rich I Am

21.04.2011 (3:57 pm) – Filed under: Child Care,World ::

Facts as the web sees them are infinitely malleable, so I’m taking Global Rich List’s result with a grain of salt:

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Another thing to consider relative to my extraordinary selfishness is that my fixed expenses are undoubtedly in the top 2% as well. Still, it is food for thought. One can sponsor a child through Compassion International for a mere $38/month, which is far less than a U.S. family spends on satellite TV or their Internet connection.

Denmark’s ex-Leader to Kowtow to Islamofacists

05.04.2009 (8:29 pm) – Filed under: Free Speech,Islam,World ::

Michael van der Gailen reports that Denmark’s just-resigned Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen will publicly apologize to the Islamic world because Danish newspapers printed what have become known as the infamous Mohammed cartoons.

If true, the reports are the latest in a long string of unfortunate moral failures on the part of European leaders in dealing with the rising tide of Islamic radicalism. 

Rasmussen has heretofore refused to cave in to pressure from Muslim fundamentalists and was widely celebrated as a hero by those to whom the right of free speech is important.  This set him apart among European leaders as the one man able and willing to refuse to appease militant Muslims at every turn.

No longer, it seems.  The reason?  Rasmussen’s personal ambition.  van der Galien reports that the former prime minister resigned his national position to accept the post of NATO Secretary-General and had to submit to Turkey’s demands for an apology before his appointment could be cleared:

If true, it’s a major blow to the freedom of speech the prime minister said he held so dear. Rasmussen should have stuck to his guns and defended Western principles. This is not about whether one agrees with him on every single subject, nor about whether or not one is a fan of his (country’s) policy towards Turkey. It’s about the freedom of newspapers to publish whatever cartoon they want, no matter how controversial they may be in some quarters.

Before today Rasmussen’s taking the S-G job at NATO could have been viewed as a positive step.  Now his entire legacy as a defender of western democratic principles is in doubt. 

What price ambition, Mr. Prime Minister?  No mere job is worth the compromise Rasmussen seems poised to make with his enemies.

North Korea Launches Rocket; Sanctions to Follow?

04.04.2009 (10:48 pm) – Filed under: National Security,World ::

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Defying of an alliance of nations that included the United States and China, North Korea has launched its latest rocket, one believed to be capable of reaching Alaska and Hawaii.  Previously, South Korea had called for sanctions to be enforced against the North if the regime there went ahead with the launch, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan saying, “It is common sense to go back into a sanctions mode after North Korea’s rocket launch.  When there is a violation of the UN Security Council resolution, we just cannot go [on] as if nothing happened.”

That Yu’s statement is not true obvious – UN resolutions are routinely ignored, often with good reason considering their content.  While justified in this case, there is no reason to believe that the North Korean government, still led by the megalomaniacal Kim Jong-Il, would be affected by sanctions if they were implemented.

Stephen Bosworth, the U.S.’s special envoy to North Korea says that the U.S. will try to re-engage the North in six-nation talks in order to persuade it to give up its nuclear ambitions.

That possibility seems remote given repeated instances of North Korea negotiating in bad faith.  Moreover, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun has quoted Japanese Defense Ministry sources as saying that a group of Iranian missile experts were in North Korea to help Pyongyang with the recent launch.

Axis of Evil, anyone?

Obama to Lift Cuba Travel Restriction

04.04.2009 (3:42 pm) – Filed under: Communism,World ::

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Following in Jimmy Carter’s footsteps in yet another way, President Obama plans to lift travel restrictions to Cuba.

President Barack Obama plans to lift longstanding U.S. restrictions on Cuba, a senior administration official said, allowing Cuban-Americans to visit families there as often as they like and to send them unlimited funds.

The gesture, which could herald more openness with the Castro regime, will fulfill a campaign promise and follows more modest action in Congress this year to loosen travel rules.

In as far as it goes, this is a good thing.  I can think of no worthwhile reason for the U.S. to restrict travel to and from Cuba, nor of any strategic objective that is served by keeping the country isolated and dirt poor.

Unfortunately, Obama apparently doesn’t plan to call for an end to the trade embargo with the island nation, site of President Kennedy’s abortive Bay of Pigs coup attempt.

Reaction to the expected policy shift was mixed. “The status quo has been unnatural and immoral,” said Julia Sweig, a Cuba specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations. “This will at least allow families to begin to normalize, if not the two countries.”

Some Cuban-American circles have pressed to maintain U.S. restrictions because of their antipathy for Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, who replaced him as leader after Fidel became ill. “How do you help people speak out about human rights violations if you’re basically extending the dictatorship abroad?” said Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC.

I hate to point it out, Mauricio, but the Castro boys have been in power for over 50 years.  Many countries have come and gone in shorter time spans. 

The fact that Fidel Castro and his ilk have held a nation hostage so close to U.S. borders is galling, certainly.  But it’s time to accept that this thing has happened in Cuba and move on, even if it means that Cuban-Americans have to accept that there’s not going to be a triumphant return home at the fall of the dictatorship.

There is also the question of whether flow of trade with Cuba would be more or less likely to lead to economic and governmental reforms there.  I think it opens the door to change because a people starved for trade and prosperity will demand it once it becomes possible. 

The Anti-Purpose of Government

13.03.2009 (2:36 pm) – Filed under: Liberalism,Society,World ::

Mona Charen, riffing off of Charles Murray, has this to say about the effects of a welfare state on its citizenry:

To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important (we don’t get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché “nothing worth having comes easily”). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences. There aren’t many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements. Having been a good parent. That qualifies. A good marriage. That qualifies. Having been a good neighbor and good friend to those whose lives intersected with yours. That qualifies. And having been really good at something–good at something that drew the most from your abilities. That qualifies. Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation, and faith. Two clarifications: “Community” can embrace people who are scattered geographically. “Vocation” can include avocations or causes. . . . It is not necessary for any individual to make use of all four institutions, nor do I array them in a hierarchy. I merely assert that these four are all there are. The stuff of life–the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one’s personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships–coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness–occurs within those four institutions. Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. And that’s what’s wrong with the European model. It doesn’t do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.

This is a profound summary of the problem created by too much government, one that makes no particular ideological claim but simply states the facts of the situation on the ground, where we all have to deal with the fallout of excessive government intervention.  Bravo, Mona, for the excellent writing.

Significantly, Charen closes with a refrain that’s been sounded before, both here and elsewhere, namely that the primary result of European-style socialism has been a self-indulgent, aging society with no particular interest in life – not even that of reproducing itself.  Individuals can defy these continental tendencies, of course, but on the whole, what more can be said about a people whose birth rate is below the replacement level even as their very way of life is threatened by an influx of Muslim immigrants who too often actively work against the core values of their new homeland?

Reading Mona’s article I had a brainstorm of an idea for a new book based on progressive values.  It’s called The Purposeless Un-driven Life.  Wanna buy it?  I didn’t think so.

This is not the kind of change that America needs.  Just the opposite, in fact.

World Opinion in the Age of Hope

16.02.2009 (10:42 pm) – Filed under: Afghanistan,Islam,World ::

Hillary Clinton wasn’t greeted warmly in Barack Obama’s boyhood home of Indonesia.  This picture says it all.

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Don Surber puts it this way:  “Hope.  Change.  The world still hates us.” 

No surprise, given that nothing has really changed.  Moreover, nothing can change in the space of a month or even a presidential term, regardless of what’s promised. 

Nor should the United States change its policies on iota to placate Indonesian Muslims, particularly given that group’s inability to behave rationally in their own country.

A group of 500 Muslims wrecks havoc and spreads panic in Masohi, chief town of Seram, part of the Maluku Islands, during clashes with police and local Christians with the result that 45 houses, a church and a village hall are set on fire.

The spark that set off the violence is an in incident in which a teacher allegedly insulted Islam in front of some Muslim students.

From one perspective, the key word in that sentence is “allegedly”.  We know from real-world experience that it’s paid educators who lie and slander while teenaged youth are ever so truthful, whether Indonesian or American.  Was the children’s claim proven?  Was the proof presented in a recognized court of law?  Was sentence handed down by the proper officials of the court?  Highly doubtful on all counts – that’s not how radical Muslims roll. 

From another perspective, the teacher’s words are completely immaterial.  What if (s)he did insult Islam?  What of it?  A religious philosophy that demands a violent physical response to words is an insult to both the rational world and the God said religion claims to worship.  Yet many young Muslims define Islam exactly in this way – a justification to attack those who refuse to submit.

It goes without saying that Indonesian Muslims are hardly unique.  This was recently demonstrated clearly in Afghanistan:

When Ghaus Zalmai, a well-known journalist who was working as spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, lent his name and reputation to a new version of the Koran, he may have thought he was performing a service for his fellow Afghan Muslims.

Instead of thanks, the Afghani rabble howled for Zalmai’s head:

Critics say that in the process, serious errors were made in rendering the letter and the spirit of the Koran, and are calling for everyone involved in its production to be brought to trial. Angry demonstrators in Kabul, Jalalabad, and other parts of the country have even demanded death for Zalmai and his “collaborators”.

This is the face of political Islam and it’s going to be coming to a country near you – perhaps very near – unless western leaders do a sudden 180-degree turnabout and start showing some backbone at home and abroad.

Think Britain will lead the reversal?  Not bloody likely!

Geert Wilders Denied Entry into Britain

12.02.2009 (3:18 pm) – Filed under: England,Islam,World ::

Geert Wilders: Dutch politician Geert Wilders lands at Heathrow despite ban over anti-Islam views

Geert Wilders, current member of the Dutch parliament and the producer of the short film Fitna that is reviled by many Muslims, has been denied entry into Great Britain after defying a warning that this would be the case.  Wilders plane touched down at Heathrow at around 2 PM local time and was immediately "marched into a side room in the main Terminal One building" by border guards.  Wilders had been forewarned of the welcome he could plan to receive by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and will be sent back to The Netherlands on an undisclosed flight, likely this very day.

Wilders had this to say: 

"I was very surprised and very saddened that the freedom of speech that I believe was a very strong point in UK society is being harassed today."

That’s understandable.  I imagine generations of British leaders rolling over in their graves at the "weak and cowardly" spectacle, as Wilders himself called it, of the British government barring a national figure from an allied country in order to appease the Muslim population of their own country.

Geert Wilders is not easy to take, true.  But he is not part of the biggest problem in the world today, radical Islam.  Fitna created some controversy before its release but the truth is that there was neither anything new or demonstrably false in its content.  Stridently anti-Islam, Wilders nonetheless professes not to hate Muslims themselves but rather the philosophy that lies behind most of the world’s terrorism.

While every sovereign nation should have the final say in who crosses into its territory, in my view Britain’s actions are in fact quite revelatory of its lack of moral courage, the absence of which has been clearly demonstrated on numerous occasions, including a recent near-riot in which police refused to confront violent Muslim protesters marauding through the streets of London.

It’s a sad day for a once-great nation when it takes an MP from another country to demonstrate what leadership and courage are.

Where is Britain’s new Winston Churchill?  Or Margaret Thatcher, for that matter? 

 

h/t Gateway Pundit

Will Muslims Respond to Barack Obama’s Overtures?

08.02.2009 (10:54 pm) – Filed under: Islam,Israel,Middle East,World ::

Alaa Al Aswany says that Muslims from the Middle East will not respond to Barack Obama’s friendly overtures until they see him taking sides with Palestinian rebels against Israel.

I found a combination of glowing enthusiasm for Mr. Obama, a comparison between the democratic system in America and the tyranny in Egypt, the expectation of a fairer American policy in the Middle East, and then severe disappointment after Mr. Obama’s failure to intercede in Gaza. I thus concluded that no matter how many envoys, speeches or interviews Mr. Obama offers to us, he will not win the hearts and minds of Egyptians until he takes up the injustice in the Middle East. I imagine the same holds true for much of the greater Muslim world.

Al Aswany, who considers Israel’s recent action in Gaza “a massacre”, is duly impressed with the U.S.’s ability to overcome racial discord in electing our first black president and openly states that the Middle East would be a better place if Egypt and other countries in the region were led by representative government rather than by, as in Egypt, a “head of state who seized power through sham elections and keeps it by force”.  But is that really the case? 

Many would disagree.  For instance, Robert Ellis wrote that increasing democracy in Turkey would radicalize that country’s political process and alter its stance decidedly toward a more Islamic, theocratic way of thinking and interacting with the world at large.  He quotes Omer Dincer, Prime Minister Erdogan’s former undersecretary:

“I believe that the republican regime in Turkey should be replaced by a more participatory one, and the principle of secularism should be replaced with integration with Islam. Therefore I believe that it’s time, and absolutely necessary, to replace all the fundamental principles outlined at the start of the Turkish Republic, such as secularism, republicanism and nationalism, with a structure that is more participatory, more decentralized and more Muslim.”

We can reasonably assume similar feelings and outcomes in other Islamic nations should matters be put to the popular vote.  Are we to believe Al Aswany’s assertion that what’s missing in Egypt is a fully democratic election system?

Hardly, since the one predictable outcome of such elections would be weak governments more under the sway of Muslim clerics and susceptible to the mad desires of radical fundamentalists.

Al Aswany’s view of the Israeli action in Gaza is indicative of the greater problem – the combined Muslim/Arab rejection of Israel as a nation.  An important measure of the Middle East’s maturity will be taken when – and if –  the general populace is finally able to reject pro-Palestinian agitators’ repeated calls for the annihilation of Israel and accept the Jewish state as a legitimate nation in its own right. 

Until such time there’s little good that can come from unbridled democracy in the Middle East, all wishful thinking aside.  Barack Obama presumedly knows this, explaining why his friendly overtures toward the Middle Eastern Muslims have been only oratorical to-date.

The truth is that Americans of all walks of life would like to be friendly with Muslims and Jews, Eqyptians, Iranians, and Israelis alike.  But the process of getting from here to there will not be an easy one as it requires what President Obama called an unclenching of the fist.  This is a rhetorical nicety that really means that Muslims need to de-radicalize before any lasting relationship can be formed.

Could that be achieved by democratizing Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran?  Only in the sense that Turkey, with its precarious balance between government and military, and Iraq, with a similarly supported elected government, are democratic. 

A level of social maturity is required before democracy can be considered a positive form of self-rule.  Al Aswany is wrong if he thinks it has been reached, whether in Egypt or in Gaza, as the Fatah/Hamas civil war demonstrated beyond dispute.

IBM to Relocate Laid-off Workers to India, Elsewhere

04.02.2009 (9:25 pm) – Filed under: Business,Technology,World ::

IBM has been shedding employees at a rapid rate in the last few years as its mainframe computer and consulting businesses struggle to compete.  In a novel twist, it’s new Project Match program will move some adventurous Americans overseas to be closer to new, lower-paid information technology workers.

“IBM has established Project Match to help you locate potential job opportunities in growth markets where your skills are in demand,” IBM says in an internal notice on the initiative. “Should you accept a position in one of these countries, IBM offers financial assistance to offset moving costs, provides immigration support, such as visa assistance, and other support to help ease the transition of an international move.”

InformationWeek says:

The climate is warm, there’s no shortage of exotic food, and the cost of living is rock bottom. That’s IBM’s pitch to the laid-off American workers it’s offering to place in India. The catch: Wages in the country are pennies-on-the-dollar compared to U.S. salaries.

The upside is that the cost of living is also much lower there, making the move potentially very interesting to some workers, especially during a recession at home. 

“It’s more of a vehicle for people who want to expand their life experience by working somewhere else,” said the spokesman. “A lot of people want to work in India.”

I think taking advantage of such an opportunity would be a really cool thing to do, especially if one is young and/or childless.  Working for a couple years in a foreign, exotic locale would be a source of some great life experience.

Pope Changes His Mind: Williamson Must Acknowledge Holocaust

04.02.2009 (9:15 pm) – Filed under: Holocaust,Religion,World ::

Who says that two wrongs can’t make a right?  Pope Benedict XVI has had a change of heart about undoing British Bishop and holocaust denier Richard Williamson’s excommunication.  To resume his position, Williamson will not have to recant his anti-Semitic rantings, one of which included the phrase “there was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers”. 

“Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to episcopal functions within the church, will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah, which the Holy Father was not aware of when the excommunication was lifted,” the statement said. Shoah is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.

The Vatican is now going with the “Benedict didn’t know what Williamson is” defense.  That’s a double-edged sword, of course, the duller half being that neither the pope nor his aides knew anything about the subject of Benedict’s merciful decree. 

Sloppy work on the Vatican’s part, obviously, barely plausible, and perhaps just enough so that the issue may die down.

Williamson was shown on Swedish state television just days before the lifting of his excommunication was announced on Jan. 24, acknowledging his view that “there was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers” during World War II.

He said historical evidence “is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”

Williamson subsequently apologized to the pope for having stirred controversy, but he did not repudiate his comments, in which he also said only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis and none were gassed.

“Germany has paid out billions and billions of deutschmarks and now euros because the Germans have a guilt complex about their having gassed 6 million Jews. Well, I don’t think 6 million Jews were gassed,” he said.

In a sense, Williamson is probably right in that some of Germany’s Jewish victims where shot and others starved to death.  But somehow that just technicality doesn’t quite cut it.