Saturday, July 30, 2005

Double standards

A few days ago the Jerusalem Post published a compelling editorial (via Normblog) which looks at the British media reaction to the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.
Palestinian terrorists have carried out over 25,000 attacks on Israelis since September 2000, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries. Israeli security forces have thwarted thousands of attacks, and Israelis have grown used to living with manhunts of the kind seen in London on Friday; yet they are barely reported abroad.
The head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) confirmed last week that Israel presently receives some 60 intelligence warnings of potential Palestinian terror attacks every day, and this month alone several Israeli women and teenage girls – and now Rachel and Dov Kol – have been killed in various attacks.
Contrary to the absolute lies told in British media in recent days, the Israel Defense Forces have not instituted a shoot-to-kill policy, or trained the British to carry out one. For example, on Friday, at the very time British police were shooting the man in the Tube, the IDF caught and disarmed a terrorist from Fatah already inside Israel en route to carrying out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Israeli forces didn't injure the terrorist at all in apprehending him and disarming him of the 5-kg. explosive belt he was wearing.
And yet, for taking the bare minimum steps necessary to save the lives of its citizens in recent years Israel has been mercilessly berated by virtually the entire world.
Had Israeli police shot dead an innocent foreigner on one of its buses or trains, confirming the kill with a barrage of bullets at close range in a mistaken effort to thwart a bombing, the UN would probably have been sitting in emergency session by late afternoon to unanimously denounce the Jewish state.
By evening, 12 hours had passed since the shooting, but the BBC still hadn't interviewed a grieving family, no one had called for British universities to be boycotted, Chelsea and Arsenal soccer clubs hadn't been ordered to play their matches in Cyprus, and The Guardian hadn't yet called British policy against its Pakistani population "genocide."
Do read the whole thing.

Good work

In recent times the blogosphere has been gaining traction in the UK to the point that a senior editor at The Guardian has had to resign because of events uncovered by a blog. Here is the fascinating and telling story as reported by the blogger in question, and do follow the links to his previous posts on the subject. TCS has an excellent article explaining the background and giving all the relevant links. At any rate, this is great news, because the European media are incredibly biased and entrenched: a nice shakeup, the likes of which only the blogosphere can offer, would be an enormous service for all.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fresh air on global warming

The other day the Financial Times ran an excellent editorial (full text can be found here) by John Kay about global warming. Given the level of obfuscation that generally characterizes the discussion on this topic, particularly in Europe, it was a welcome breath of fresh air.
In the recent Group of Eight Gleneagles discussions on climate change, US President George W. Bush made four assertions: there are large uncertainties about the science and the economics; the Kyoto agreement would involve large costs and negligible benefits for the US; proposals to deal with greenhouse gas emissions that exclude developing countries are ineffective; and that research and development on new technologies should take priority over expenditure for meeting emissions reduction targets. It pains me to say it but on all points Mr Bush is right.
Do read the whole thing. In related developments:
A new agreement between the U.S., Australia, China, India, and South Korea seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, believed to fuel global warming, through technological approaches to the problem. This includes the development and transfer of energy efficiency and pollution reducing technologies to the developing countries of the world. Since these countries have not yet achieved the efficiencies of scale and technological advances that make the industrialized west so productive, their emissions per dollar of productivity currently average twice those of the U.S.
This seems to be excellent news. If you also consider the total inability of those countries who did sign up to the Kyoto Protocol to maintain their commitments, it seems clear that the people who actually care about the environment (and not the politics), who are capable of looking at the current evidence objectively and are willing to propose rational and realistic solutions, are gaining the upper hand over the monks of the Kyoto sect.

Fazio should go

Schadenfreude is not a noble sentiment, but I must unfortunately admit to being overjoyed at the news that the governor of the Bank of Italy, Antonio Fazio, finally seems to be getting his just deserts.

The leaked transcripts suggested Mr Fazio wanted BPI to win the battle, which would destroy his claims to be an independent banking regulator.
“Come as you usually do, through the back door,” Mr Fazio told BPI’s Gianpiero Fiorani in another conversation, to which Mr Fiorani replied: “OK, otherwise there will be problems.”
The impact of the FT front page is quite dramatic so here is a reproduction of it. The quotes next to the picture of him are fantastic.

In the past few days Italian newpapers have revealed the transcripts of various wire-taps that were ordered by all-powerful Italian prosecutors. Amazingly they caught some very juicy bits in connection with the failed ABN Amro bid for Banca Antonveneta and the championing, on the part of the governor of the Bank of Italy, of a rival bid by Banca Popolare Italiana (formerly BP di Lodi). Here is a post I wrote a while back with some background.
At the same time ABN Amro managed today to elect its proposed candidates to the board of Banca Antonveneta because the stake of BPI and its partners was blocked by the Italian market regulator.
Unfortunately it does not seem likely that ABN Amro will make another offer or that such an offer will succeed. I wonder why we Italians always have to think of these things when it's too late. Also see this excellent editorial (in Italian).

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


One of the more baffling fads of the past few years, the idolizing of Che Guevara, is brutally dissected in this excellent article in the New Republic (via Zacht Ei).
Guevara might have been enamored of his own death, but he was much more enamored of other people's deaths. In April 1967, speaking from experience, he summed up his homicidal idea of justice in his "Message to the Tricontinental": "hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine.
Do read the whole thing. This absurd cult has been partially invigorated by last year's movie The Motorcycle Diaries. At the time, Slate ran an outstanding review of this despicable exercise in revisionism.
Yet the entire movie, in its concept and tone, exudes a Christological cult of martyrdom, a cult of adoration for the spiritually superior person who is veering toward death—precisely the kind of adoration that Latin America's Catholic Church promoted for several centuries, with miserable consequences.
Che Guevara was an ignorant, violent thug, who destroyed countless lives not only by killing hundreds of his political opponents but also by completely destroying the previously sound economies and emerging political systems of several states. What on earth is there to celebrate?

Monday, July 25, 2005

What a joke

As an Italian I am frankly embarassed. Is this any way to manage a modern, developed economy?
The Bank of Italy is also being probed by prosecutors in Rome over the procedures it followed in allowing Italiana to increase its stake in Antonveneta before the bank was required to declare a formal counter-offer. ABN Amro could hope the regulatory problems surrounding Italiana deepen before its rival's tender offer closes.
Antonveneta is also in turmoil following a court ruling that threw out a shareholder election that voted in a new board comprised entirely of Italiana nominees. A shareholder meeting scheduled for Monday - at which a new board was to have ben appointed - has been postponed until Wednesday.
That followed a ruling from Consob, the Italian market regulator, at the weekend to freeze voting rights attached to shares held by Italiana and Stefano Ricucci, a businessman, in relation to allegations over the manner in which they built stakes in Antonveneta.
The head of the Bank of Italy (Fazio) should resign for his shameful partisanship, his promotion of personal friends (for instance the CEO of Banca Popolare Italiana) and his failure to do his job, i.e. to further the interests of the average Italian bank customers, who pay the highest fees in the world.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Going to London

Tomorrow I will be going to London for work. The other day, after the second bombing incident in London, a colleague of mine (who is Dutch) asked me whether I still wanted to go. The question left me completely flabbergasted. My reaction may be due to the fact that I am Italian (and Italy has seen its share of terrorism, both national and international), that I have been to Israel several times and identify with the place, or simply that I have a difficult character and hate being forced to do things. At any rate, I have learned that the only sensible reaction to terrorism is to continue living a normal life. Obviously one must take appropiate precautions, but once that's done I would frankly rather die in a terrorist attack than change my way of life because of the threat and cower at home.
I cannot do much of substance to combat the threat, but this at least I can do: I will absolutely refuse to be intimidated, and if enough people think this way the terrorists' purpose will have been defeated. And we can even go a step further to spit in their face: the truth is it hadn't even crossed my mind that one would change his plans because of them, and this would be the ideal reaction on our part, to be prudent and then to ignore them completely. I am confident that enough people in the free world have the will and courage to steadfastly face this threat too.

This is a picture of the Holland House Library in London, the day after it was bombed by the Germans in 1940. That's the spirit!
These despicable terrorists have awakened a slumbering dragon, the West, and they will deeply regret it. Because as Churchill said "We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!"

Friday, July 22, 2005

Anybody there?

This is absolutely outrageous.

Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in Iran on 19 July 2005 for the ‘crime’ of homosexuality. The youths were hanged in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad, in north east Iran.

These barbaric acts are perpetrated by a government that is beyond our contempt. What beggars belief however, is the disgusting (absence of) reaction in the free world. Where are the headlines, the dicussion panels, the fliers and the protest marches?!
As Gay Patriot notes
Someone explain to me why the international gay community has, by their silence and opposition to the efforts to combat the War on Terror, joined in partnership with the Islamists in at least the public relations side of the War?
An Italian friend of mine who lives in London e-mails, regarding this incident, "we should attack Iran next, Iraq was not enough." I think this idea might be as yet premature (and so much for the myth that women are pacifists by nature...), but I simply don't understand why people aren't more intransigent in the face of such unadulterated evil.
Occidente, se ci sei, batti un colpo! (West, if you are there, give a sign of life!)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The London bombings and Iraq

Normblog's outstanding post on the despicable "we told you so" crowd, has been published in the Guardian.
It needs to be seen and said clear: there are, amongst us, apologists for what the killers do, and they make more difficult the long fight that is needed to defeat them. (To forestall any possible misunderstanding on this point: I do not say these people are not entitled to the views they express or to their expression of them. They are. Just as I am entitled to criticize their views for the wretched apologia they amount to.) The plea will be made, though - it always is - that these are not apologists, they are merely honest Joes and Joanies endeavouring to understand the world in which we all live. What could be wrong with that? What indeed? Nothing is wrong with genuine efforts at understanding; on these we all depend. But the genuine article is one thing, and root-causes advocacy that seeks to dissipate responsibility for atrocity, mass murder, crime against humanity, especially in the immediate aftermath of their occurrence, is something else.
Note, first, the selectivity in the general way root-causes arguments function. Purporting to be about causal explanation rather than excuse-making, they are invariably deployed on behalf of movements, actions, etc., for which the proponent wants to engage our sympathy or indulgence, and in order to direct blame towards some party for whom he or she has no sympathy. Try the following, by way of a hypothetical example, to see how the exercise works and doesn't work.
On account of the present situation in Zimbabwe, the government decides to halt all scheduled deportations of Zimbabweans who have been denied the right to remain in the UK. Some BNP thugs are made angry by this decision and they take out their anger by beating up a passer-by who happens to be an African immigrant. Can you imagine a single person of left or liberal outlook who would blame, or even partially blame, this act of violence on the government's decision to halt the deportations, or who would urge us to consider sympathetically the root causes of the act? It wouldn't happen, even though (ex hypothesi) the government decision is part of the causal chain leading to the violence in question. It wouldn't happen because the anger of the thugs doesn't begin to justify what they have done.
The root-causers always plead a desire merely to expand our understanding, but they're very selective in what they want us to 'understand'. Did you ever hear a
Jenny Tonge who empathizes with the Palestinian suicide bomber also understanding the worries of Israeli and other Jews - after the Holocaust, after the decades-long hostility of the Arab world to the State of Israel and the teaching of hatred there against Jews, after the acts of war against that state and the acts of terrorism against its citizens? This would seem to constitute a potentially rich soil of roots and causes, but it goes unexplored by the supposedly non-excuse-making purveyors of a root-causism seeking to 'understand'.
Unfortunately too many people do not seem to realize that these truths are self-evident, and tragically this is a victory for the terrorists, because as Henry Kissinger said, "it is not a matter of what is true that counts, but a matter of what is perceived to be true." There is an urgent need to change these perceptions and this article goes a long way to exposing them as insidious and dangerous lies.
John Howard, the Australian prime minister, is also doing his bit. Here is a transcript (via Instapundit) of his fantastic response at a joint press conference with Tony Blair:
PRIME MIN. HOWARD: [...] Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.
Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.
And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.
Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn't have done that?
When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?
When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq -- a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations -- when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.
Now I don't know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I've cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.
PRIME MIN. BLAIR: And I agree 100 percent with that. (Laughter.)
Give 'em hell John! The video can be found here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Plame blame game

For anyone who is mystified by what on earth Plamegate is all about, Christopher Hitchens has an excellent article in Slate. Do read the whole thing.
Additionally the mainstream media has been propagating the absurd notion that the President has modified his vow on how he will react to the leak probe. See this post (via Instapundit) for why this is an out-and-out lie.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Osama's worst nightmare

The (London) Times (via Instapundit) has an interesting profile of Irshad Manji, the lesbian Muslim author of The Trouble with Islam Today.
Irshad Manji has already been dubbed ‘Osama’s worst nightmare’ for her criticisms of Islam. Now she wants Britain’s Muslims to stand more firmly on the side of freedom.
No wonder Irshad Manji has received death threats since appearing on British television: she is a lipstick lesbian, a Muslim and scourge of Islamic leaders, whom she accuses of making excuses about the terror attacks on London. Oh, and she tells ordinary Muslims to “crawl out of their narcissistic shell”. Ouch.
Do read the whole thing. Islamist's reactions alone prove that there is something wrong in their fanatical interpretation of Islam. It is heartening that Manji is increasingly being taken notice of in Great Britain, and I wonder whether the British Muslim community will react differently to her, than how they did during the Salman Rushdie controversy.

Moral equivalence

Harry's Place (via Instapundit) has a very effective post (that gave me goose-bumps) about the similarity between the analyses of the war in Iraq by some of today's pundits and the analyses of prominent British pacifists during the Second World War. Truly breathtaking.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Fair trade and protectionism

A staggering number of people I interact with seem to be in the grip of the myth that free trade is the source of all evil - a cruel Anglo-Saxon plot to subjugate the world - that it is bad for developing countries and therefore should be opposed at all costs. What is needed, they seem to believe, is fair trade (also known as trade justice).
This idea is unbelievably stupid, ensures that it will take longer than is necessary for developing countries to emerge from poverty and is evidently put forward by people who haven't the foggiest idea of how the global economy works. See an excellent explanation from Tech Central Station, a thorough analysis from the Globalization Institute and comments from the Adam Smith Institute blog. Christian Aid, a large NGO, has been at the forefront of this despicable battle on free trade. Stephen Pollard says it like it is in the (London) Times, and see a related analysis by UPI. This Foreign Policy article (which requires subscription) ably explains the advantages of free trade and the costs of protecionism, and so does this website run by the Cato Institute.
In fact, insisting on fair trade (or trade justice) is just as stupid and damaging as insisting on protectionism. The main reason for this is extremely simple: fair trade seeks to protect the producers in developing coutries (just like Western protectionism does for Western producers), which distorts the market and raises prices therefore significantly damaging the consumers in those same developing countries. If fair trade and protectionism were substituted with free trade, prices would fall (or rather, return to normal), allowing people in poor countries to spend a smaller proportion of their income on food. It is true that lower prices may not be able to support all the current producers in the developing world, but that's totally beside the point. Why would one condemn hundreds of millions of poor people to malnurition and starvation (because of higher food prices), just to protect a special interest group (producers)? The idea is simply absurd - if not worse, and what is worrying is that so many people don't seem to realize it.
The way forward is clear: the fastest and best solution to the poverty in the developing world is free trade. Let's hope people smarten up.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Europe does not feel like home

I find it incredible how little coverage these type of incidents get (via Free Thoughts).
The incidents are now so common that they rarely make it into the local press, though last weekend it was reported that the Maccabee sports centre on the outskirts of Antwerp had been vandalised for the fourth time this year. A group of Moroccan teenagers tore up the furniture and daubed swastikas on the walls.
Antwerp is not alone. The Anderlecht Synagogue in Brussels was attacked with Molotov cocktails last month; another in Charleroi was sprayed with gunfire; Jewish bookshops, butchers, and, above all, cemeteries are routinely vandalised - just statistics among the 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents reported since September 11, an average of 18 a day, with attacks on France's 700,000 strong Jewish community topping the list.
Incredibly the attitude is so entrenched that this (via FT) seems like a good idea to the Belgian government.
Although a new report states that some Palestinian Authority textbooks feature descriptions of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as being an "integral part" of Zionist history that was approved in "a confidential resolution of the First Zionist Congress," the Belgian government says it is continuing to fund production of the textbooks and does not consider them offensive.
"We do not find [the textbooks] anti-Semitic in any way," said a spokesman from the Belgian government press office, speaking to The Jerusalem Post by telephone. "We have a screening process that goes through and reads the books. There has been some controversy about it in the past, but we have had people look into it."
And you want to lecture the US and Israel? Have you no shame?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Europe's problems...

The cause of the EU's crazy policies has finally been revealed! Get a load of this: traces of cocaine have been found in the European Parliament building in Brussels.
A professor who analysed the samples said the amounts found were too great to have been carried in on clothing.
"It simply reflects the fact that cocaine was brought in there," Professor Fritz Sorgel of the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research in Nuremberg (IBMP) told the BBC News website.
"The amount was too high and found in too many spots. It shows it was brought in deliberately."
In one room the concentration was so high that there was only one possible explanation - cocaine had been consumed there just before the sample was taken.
Reaction from a colleague of mine: "I'm not surprised!"

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Obesity and the Nanny State

In recent years there has been an increasing focus on the problem of obesity in Western societies. While valid points are occasionally raised, a lot of obfuscation goes on. For instance, Europeans commonly believe that Americans are much fatter than them, which is total bollocks, and people blame McDonald's "cultural imperialism" for their problems, which is even dumber. Take a look at Morgan Spurlock Watch, an excellent blog run by a Cato Institute analyst, which is dedicated to debunking, you guessed it, "the silly hysteria perpetuated by Morgan Spurlock," the director of Super Size Me and author of Don't Eat this Book. Also see AtlanticBlog, which makes an interesting point on Paul Krugman's proposals - and make sure you check out the comments there.
People should be able to freely choose their diet, without state intervention. Where the state does have a role is in ensuring that companies furnish the consumer with accurate information on which to base these decisions, and I don't mean state mandated anti-fat propaganda on packaging.
Here is an excellent example where improvement could be made. By law the order in which ingredients are listed on packaging must follow the order of prominence each ingredient has in the product, so if sugar is the largest component it must be listed first. Since listing sugar as the first ingredient looks bad, it is common practice in the food industry to use different kinds of sweeteners (which are considered separate ingredients) to notch up something that sounds better.
For instance, if the main ingredient of a breakfast cereal is sugar, the producer will break the sugar part up into corn syrup, sugar, malt extract, honey etc. so that the cereal component gets listed first on the ingredient list. It would be easy, and cheap to require different sugars to be listed as one ingredient (with the breakdown of the various components in parentheses) so that this trick could not be practiced. No doubt it would be a more honest representation of reality, and people would be able to make a more accurately informed choice.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Fighting terrorism

The recent, tragic, London bombings have spawned a long-overdue debate and increased focus on the issue of terrorism. Yesterday the Financial Times published a must-read editorial about moderate Muslims' reactions.
This is why the London bombings represent a milestone for moderate Muslims. They can either stand up and fight Islam's radical fringes from within or sit haplessly by while the west does it for them. Verbal condemnations and choreographed press releases against violent terrorist acts, as Britain's Muslim leaders produced last Thursday, are no longer sufficient. Real action is needed - and fast.
America's Muslims failed to rise up to their citizenship responsibilities after the September 11 attacks, choosing instead to play the role of aggrieved, helpless victims. Their voices in America's body politic are now marginalised as a result. Britain's Muslims have an opportunity to set an important example by elevating the duties of citizenship above fears of looming civil rights violations.
That moderate Muslims do not take meaningful steps to irradiate al-Qaeda's cancerous metastasis in their communities is a stunning failure of leadership and lies at the heart of the increasing distrust secular societies have for all Muslims.
The writer goes on to suggest three steps that would improve the situation - do read the whole thing. I would like to underline that anyone who thinks that, because of the opinions I express here, I have anything at all against Islam or Muslims in general, is living in a fantasy world. I have a profound respect for Muslims, and precisely because I don't believe that all or even most Muslims support terrorism, I strongly feel that much more needs to be done to stamp out this cancer, to allow Islamic societies their proper place among the nations.
In another interesting analysis (via MP), Daniel Pipes underlines the superior tactics and resolve of the French (over the British) in the war on terror and why London has become the hub of Islamist terrorism in Europe.
British-based terrorists have carried out operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, Morocco, Russia, Spain, and America. Many governments - Jordanian, Egyptian, Moroccan, Spanish, French, and American - have protested London's refusal to shut down its Islamist terrorist infrastructure or extradite wanted operatives. In frustration, Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak publicly denounced Britain for "protecting killers."
More broadly, President Chirac instructed French intelligence agencies just days after September 11, 2001, to share terrorism data with their American counterparts "as if they were your own service." The cooperation is working: A former acting CIA director, John E. McLaughlin, called the bilateral intelligence tie "one of the best in the world."
What lies behind these contrary responses? The British have seemingly lost interest in their heritage while the French hold on to theirs: As the British ban fox hunting, the French ban hijabs. The former embrace multiculturalism, the latter retain a pride in their
historic culture
. This contrast in matters of identity makes Britain the Western country most vulnerable to the ravages of radical Islam whereas France, for all its political failings, has held onto a sense of self that may yet see it through.
Although I have occasionally been very critical of the French, and my sensibilities generally lie with the Anglosphere, I have enormous respect for their tenacity and intransigence in this crucial battle, as I have noted before.

Energy and environment

The Economist has an interesting analysis of nuclear energy. While it is true that the economics of nuclear energy are still a bit dodgy, this is all the more reason for states to encourage it, particularly because the main problem is the enormous initial sunken cost - which investors typically don't like. I am all for privatisation and free markets, but there are important services that at least in their development phase need to be helped along. The state's involvement can also be justified because of the national security aspect of nuclear reactors: both risks (if terrorists manage to attack one, for instance) and advantages (safe energy supply).
At the same time two encouraging, but little noted, developments in the climate change debate have taken place. First of all, in an amusing episode, the Royal Society's Lord May managed to alienate the scientific academies of both Russia and the US.
Secondly, the House of Lords has released a no-nonsense report about climate change, that says it like it is. Here is a great (London) Times article about it (via MP):
The major point this report makes is that the links between economic growth and global warming have “not been sufficiently rigorously explored”. Put less gently, some of the IPPC “scenarios” — including the ones that predict global warming in excess of 5C — are based on fantasy.
Climate change modelling involves combining scientific data, observed and projected through models, with economic forecasts. Assumptions about per capita emissions of greenhouse gases, for example, are critically affected by things such as the future size of the world’s population, global growth rates, energy efficiency, and the prospects of developing new technologies that reduce future reliance on fossil fuels. The IPPC’s “high end scenarios” assume not only that carbon and methane emissions rise steeply, when they are currently stable or actually shrinking, but artificially inflate the magnitude of global warming by assuming that the world’s population will be half as large again 2100 as it is expected to be. The IPPC also consistently factors in global growth rates that are far higher than those historically recorded.
These “worst-case scenarios” are constantly cited, erroneously, as forecast, and they are seriously distorting policy. It is urgent to arrive at more realistic estimates, to be clearer about the trade-offs involved and to be more honest about the high costs that generations now living will asked to bear, for benefits that lie far in the future.
Hopefully even Europeans, or at least Britons are starting to listen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Crusades and Jihad

Daniel Johnson has a very interesting article in Commentary (quoted in full here) which puts the Crusades in their historical perspective. I found it exceedingly interesting, particularly since my knowledge of the Crusades is limited (mostly to the persecutions of European Jewry by the travelling Crusaders on their way to the Middle East).
In any case, the hostile narrative of the Crusades bequeathed by historians from Gibbon to Runciman took deep root in the Western imagination, and has found a powerful echo in popular culture. Of course, the adventures of the crusaders themselves have been the stuff of literature from the troubador Blondel's search for the imprisoned Richard the Lionheart to Torquato Tasso's verse epic Gerusalemme Liberata to the romances of Walter Scott and beyond. Today, however, the historical reality of the Crusades has been appropriated by those whose quite specific aim is to discredit the war against Islamist terrorism.
These and other considerations must go into the writing of fair-minded histories of the Crusades, giving due weight to the spiritual energies that made them possible, to the brutality they visited upon Jews and others, and to their consequences, beneficial and otherwise. But it is no less essential to place them within their larger historical context. In that larger perspective, they take their place as a short-lived counteroffensive against another, much lengthier, and much more relentless holy war — namely, the Muslim jihad against Christendom.
For the fact is that whereas the Crusades were a temporary phenomenon that flourished for some two centuries and had quite limited purposes, jihad is and has been a permanent and ubiquitous fact of Islamic life.
Jihad evolved into a doctrine of Islamic jurisprudence as a byproduct of the great Arab expansion after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, thus predating the First Crusade by more than four centuries. Muslim scholars were well aware of the uniqueness of this institution. Ibn Khaldun, the greatest of all Islamic historians and a key witness from the period just after the Crusades, compares Islam with Christianity and Judaism in this respect:
"In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or force… . The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty to them, save only for purposes of defense."
So the Crusades took place against a background of Muslim conquest, of which the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem were deliberately triumphal symbols. Compared with the three phases of jihad against Christendom — Arab, Tartar, and Turkish — lasting over a millennium and stretching across three continents, the seven Frankish expeditions to Palestine can be seen in proportion: a "limited and belated response," as Bernard Lewis puts it, a brief if important interlude in the long history of jihad. In this context, it is not so surprising that at the time, as Lewis reminds us, the Muslims "knew little and cared less" about the crusaders. The turning point in relations between Islam and the West came only much later, at the end of the 17th century, when the long Turkish retreat, beginning with the siege of Vienna, finally forced the Ottoman Sultans to come to terms.
An obscure branch of medieval history may not sound like promising or even especially important territory for public debate. But unless and until the Crusades are reclaimed by scholarship, and interpreted objectively for popular consumption, there is a real danger that the al-Qaeda school of historiography (as we may call it) will triumph. In the reflexively anti-Israel and anti-American attitudes of many Europeans, in mindless celebrations of a movie like Kingdom of Heaven — "courageously relevant," says the Seattle Intelligencer; "full of astonishments, not the least of which are its ideas," chimes in the Washington Post — it already has.
The Crusades are an organic part of Western history. They are also a casus belli, and will remain so for as long as it suits the Islamists. On the cultural front of that war, one side has gone disastrously far in the direction of unilateral disarmament.
Do read the whole thing. Clearly the Crusades were a bad idea, with often disastrous results and side-effects, however it is both dishonest and dangerous, even (or especially) today, to distort their causes and impacts and to mask the context in which they were fought. This allows a false narrative to form in which we put ourselves at a tactical and ideological disadvantage in a death struggle which we simply cannot permit ourselves to lose.

Boycotts and the security fence

This story made me laugh out loud: the PA calls for a boycott of Caterpillar (an absurd idea - that has thankfully failed before), because it sells bulldozers to Israel, which uses them to build its security fence.
These people have absolutely no sense of irony: the prime minister of the PA himself has apparently been selling cement to build the barrier and these guys want to boycott Caterpillar!?
Anyway, I think the security fence is a great idea and recent Palestinian behavior (via MP), in the wake of the decision to withdraw from Gaza, has only reinforced my view. Also, here is an excellent, level-headed and very convincing debunking of the International Court of Justice ruling that says the fence is illegal.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Terrorism and religion

Charles Moore has a compelling article in the Telegraph (via AS) in which he criticises the statements of Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick and asks where the Muslim moderates are hiding.
I understand and accept that there are many moderates among British Muslims, but I want to know why Britain gets so pitifully little to show for their moderation.
When a nation, a race, a political movement, a group of workers, the followers of a religion have legitimate grievances, there generally arises amongst them a champion who can command respect for his advocacy of peace, his willingness to fight without weapons and to win by moral authority. There may be many such grievances for Muslims in Britain, and in the West, but we are still waiting for the Gandhi or the Martin Luther King to give them the right voice.
We all love it when the British people shrug their shoulders and move stoically on in the face of attack. It is a powerful national myth, and a true one. But it contains within it a great danger - a self-fulfilling belief that there is nothing to be done to avert future disaster. That's not the Blitz spirit - what made London's suffering in 1941 worthwhile was that, in the end, we won.
Do read the whole thing. It is a balanced and thorough look at a worrying trend that receives much too little attention.

"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat"

Everybody and his brother has linked to this (London) Times article, which made my blood run cold.
Al-Qaeda is secretly recruiting affluent, middle-class Muslims in British universities and colleges to carry out terrorist attacks in this country, leaked Whitehall documents reveal.
A network of “extremist recruiters” is circulating on campuses targeting people with “technical and professional qualifications”, particularly engineering and IT degrees.
Yesterday it emerged that last week’s London bombings were a sophisticated attack with all the devices detonating on the Underground within 50 seconds of each other. The police believe those behind the outrage may be home-grown British terrorists with no criminal backgrounds and possessing technical expertise.
The former Scotland Yard chief, who retired earlier this year, said that on one weekend more than 1,000 undercover officers had been deployed, monitoring a group of suspected terrorists.
He said that he believed last week’s attackers were almost certainly British-born, “brought up here and totally aware of British life and values”.
“There’s a sufficient number of people in this country willing to be Islamic terrorists that they don’t have to be drafted in from abroad,” he said.
I hope the bombing will make the British change their attitude to Islamists (not Muslims) as Daniel Pipes explains.
Covenant of security? What is that? In an August 2004 story in the New Statesman, "Why terrorists love Britain," Jamie Campbell cited the author of Inside Al Qaeda, Mohamed Sifaoui, as saying, "it has long been recognized by the British Islamists, by the British government and by UK intelligence agencies, that as long as Britain guarantees a degree of freedom to the likes of Hassan Butt [an overtly pro-terrorist Islamist], the terrorist strikes will continue to be planned within the borders of the UK but will not occur here."
The New Statesman story drew from this the perversely ironic conclusion that "the presence of vocal and active Islamist terrorist sympathizers in the U.K. actually makes British people safer, while the full brunt of British-based terrorist plotting is suffered by people in other countries."
But in January 2005, Mr. Mohammed determined that the covenant of security had ended for British Muslims because of post-September 11, 2001, anti-terrorist legislation that meant "the whole of Britain has become Dar ul-Harb," or territory open for Muslim conquest. Therefore, in a reference to unbelievers, "the kuffar has no sanctity for their own life or property."
The country had gone from safe haven to enemy camp. To renew the covenant of security would require British authorities to undo that legislation and release those detained without trial. If they fail to do so, British Muslims must "join the global Islamic camp against the global crusade camp."
Yesterday's explosions mark the end of the "covenant of security." Let's hope they also mark the end of an era of innocence, and that British authorities now begin to preempt terrorism rather than wait to become its victims.
It would already be a great step forward if these people's despicable statements were more widely reported: then public support would allow the deep-seated problems to be tackled more easily and effectively.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

We're not Afraid!

Every now and then I feel particularly proud of Italy, my home country. See the wonderful We're not Afraid website (via Tim Blair). Considering that Italy has been threatened as the next target it is comforting to see so many defiant Italians.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Up yours!

The Telegraph has an opinion poll (via USS Neverdock) Britons can really be proud of.

The perpetrators of Thursday's atrocities are living in a fantasy world if they think the British people can be intimidated by terrorism, let alone converted to Islam.
The findings of YouGov's survey show they are equally deluded if they think they can drive a wedge either between Britain and the United States or between most Britons and their Muslim fellow countrymen.
The response of Tony Blair and his ministers to the attacks has clearly boosted the standing of both. Early this year, twice as many people said they were dissatisfied with Mr Blair as Prime Minister as said the opposite. In the aftermath of Thursday's bombings, Mr Blair's approval rating has flipped from negative to positive for the first time in five years.
Moreover, the bombings have failed - despite Mr George Galloway's best efforts - to undermine support for the British presence in Iraq. The proportion wanting British troops brought home quickly has fallen and the proportion who now want Britain to retain its close ties with the US has risen.
It is comforting to discover some rational people living in the EU.
UPDATE: Here (via Tim Worstall) is an awe inspiring story:
As I watched people go through the ticket barrier today, a young guy came up and his face was covered in a sort of mask. I said hello. It turns out that he was one of the survivors who was in a train that got bombed on 7/7/05. In the same car as the bomb when it went off...
I asked where he was going, tried to make sure he got on the right train, and all that. He said he was not sure. Just wanted to go down in the Tube. "Even if I only go one stop" he told me, "I just want to get on and do it. I can't let what happened just take over."

Friday, July 08, 2005

The London Bombing

"Yesterday, July 7th 2005 - a date which will live in infamy - the United Kingdom was suddenly and deliberately attacked..."
Instapundit has the classic roundup. I happen to be a fan of cartoons and quotes, so this post by Pejmanesque made my day. This quote expresses my sentiments exactly:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day
Henry V, Act IV, Scene III
He also has a very good roundup.
It is ironic that some people are blaming British foreign policy, and the Jews. These ghastly attacks are obviously the sole responsibility of the despicable people who organized and carried them out. However if anyone in the West has had the wrong attitude, (unwittingly) encouraging these kinds of attacks, it surely is the Spanish voters. Had they overwhelmingly re-elected Aznar's party, such an attack would have been perceived as less effective by the murderers.
Ironically, one of the reactions I liked most was from someone I generally dislike, the mayor of London:
I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.
That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.
Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life. I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others - that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.
In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.
Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.
Very impressive. I wonder if he has changed (via Instapundit).

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Save Africa! Stop the aid!

The other day I was berated by a friend of mine, who works at the European Parliament, for being cruel and heartless. I had said that more aid money and the Live Aid concert (which absurdly wasn't even raising any money) were not going to help Africans if corruption was not tackled - on the contrary, considering most of the money goes into the pockets of despots who cause many of the problems, I think indiscriminate aid donations (or debt forgiveness, which amount to the same thing) entrench the African crisis.
The German weekly, Der Spiegel, with whom I often disagree, seems to have a surprisingly reasonable and pragmatic stance with respect to African aid. This article (via Junk Science, under July 5th) and this excellent interview (via Vodkapundit) illustrate perfectly why it is actually out of deep concern for Africa that I am skeptical of aid.

Male circumcision and AIDS

The Wall Street Journal reports (sub. required; here is another report) the dramatic results of a recent medical study:
In a potentially major breakthrough in the campaign against AIDS, French and South African researchers have apparently found that male circumcision reduces by about 70% the risk that men will contract HIV through intercourse with infected women.
Other than abstinence and safer sex, almost nothing has been proved to reduce the sexual spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. World-wide, the major route of HIV transmission for many years has been heterosexual sex.
Vaccine developers have said they would consider an AIDS vaccine with just 30% efficacy useful. But so far, no effective vaccine against the disease has been developed, leaving AIDS workers desperate for another tool to help them stem the tide of new infections, estimated at almost five million last year.
The circumcision findings were so dramatic that the data and safety monitoring board overseeing the research halted the study in February, about nine months before it would have been completed, on the grounds that it would be immoral to proceed without offering the uncircumcised control group the opportunity to undergo the procedure. While men were directly protected from infection by circumcision, women could benefit indirectly because circumcision would reduce the chances their partners would be HIV-positive.
This seems like great news, if the findings are confirmed by other studies. At the same time I have a hard time accepting some of the attitudes apparently held in Africa, that I hear about. Often men don't seem to care that they are infecting their partners with HIV (see here and here):
Girls and women are often forced to have sex with men in male-dominated African cultures. In fact, says journalist Thomas, in some areas infected men "believe they can be cured by having sex with a virgin, and 12-year-old girls become infected."
The AIDS rate among women is much higher than among men, but as Shell points out "most men are not being tested."
Meanwhile, they unknowingly may be passing on the infection to African women. Compounding the problem, according to a U.N. study, is that 30 percent of young African women believe if a man looks healthy, he could not have AIDS.
According to a South African friend of mine, the government sponsored HIV/AIDS education programs in her country claim that fat people don't get AIDS. In a related scandal Muslim clerics have ensured the spread of polio in Nigeria by claiming that the Western donated vaccine is a ploy to make Africans infertile.
Clearly circumcision could be a big step forward, but it seems to me that other attitudes also need to change. It should also be noted that male circumcision is totally incomparable to female "circumcision," which is a euphemism for the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Thai teachers get guns

In an excellent development for those who support gun-ownership as a human right (see here), school teachers in the troubled southern region of Thailand will be allowed to carry guns.
The move is one of a series of measures designed to keep education staff from leaving the violence-hit south.
Many of the region's teachers are thought to have either stopped working or demanded a transfer from the area.
More than 700 people, including at least 24 teachers, have been killed since January 2004 in unrest which the government blames on Islamic militants.
Teachers are often targeted as they are seen as symbols of Thailand's Buddhist authorities.
Very encouraging.

The 2012 Olympics

I hope that Paris will win the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games because it will inconvenience Parisians with enormous construction projects and masses of sports fans. Plus, I think London is expensive enough as it is and there is really no need to crowd it even more. The economic benefits seem to be dubious and uncertain (apparently Montreal just finished paying off its debt for hosting the 1976 WInter Olympics - even though other cities have benefited).
Most importantly, however, if he wins the bid Chirac may be compelled to be slightly less annoying than usual at the G8 summit which takes place right after the announcement is made.

Thank you, Jacques

Whenever I worry that the Anglo-American relationship may be fraying because of a British rapprochement with Continental Europe, Jacques Chirac always promptly comes to the rescue:
"One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad," it quotes Mr Chirac saying.
"The only thing they have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow disease," Mr Chirac said, according to the newspaper's report.
"After Finland, it is the country with the worst food."
It's good that the British be reminded of Chirac's pigheadedness right before the G8 summit.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Anne Appelbaum has an excellent and very interesting analysis in Foreign Policy about Pro-Americanism around the world.
We all know the stereotypes of the anti–Americans: The angry Arab radical, demonstrating in the mythical Arab street; or the left–wing newspaper editor, fulminating at Berlin dinner parties; or the French farmer, railing against McDonald’s. Now, perhaps, we should add new stereotypes: The British small businessman, son of a coal miner, who once admired Thatcher and has been to Florida on holiday. Or the Polish anticommunist intellectual, who argued about Reagan with his Parisian friends in the 1980s, and disagrees with them about the Iraqi war now. Or the Indian stockbroker, the South Korean investment banker, and the Philippine manufacturer, all of whom have excellent relations with their American clients, all of whom support a U.S. military presence in their parts of the world, and all of whom probably harbor a fondness for President Bush that they wouldn’t confess to their wives. These stock figures should be as firmly a part of the columnists’ and commentators’ repertoire as their opponents have become.
They also matter, or should matter, to the United States. These people, and their equivalents in other countries, are America’s natural constituents. They may not be a majority, either in the world or in their own countries. But neither are they insignificant. After all, pro–Americans will vote for pro–American politicians, who sometimes win, even in Europe. They can exert pressure on their governments to support U.S. foreign policy. They will also purchase American products, make deals with American companies, vacation in the United States, and watch American movies.
They are worth cultivating, in other words, because their numbers can rise or fall, depending on U.S. policies. Their opinions will change, according to how American ambassadors conduct business in their countries, according to how often the U.S. secretary of state visits their cities, and according to how their media report on American affairs. Before the United States brushes away Europe as hopelessly anti–American, Americans should therefore remember that not all Europeans dislike them. Before Americans brush off the opinion of “foreigners” as unworthy of cultivation either, they should remember that whole chunks of the world have a natural affinity for them and, if they are diligent, always will.
Do read the whole thing. As an inveterate supporter of America, I cannot agree more with this sentiment. An enormous amount of resources are used around the world to spread (both intentionally and not) bias and prejudice against American attitudes and actions at home and abroad. Unfortunately the efforts to counter these tidal waves of disinformation are totally insufficient - America, private and public, must do more to ensure that people around the world are apprised more thoroughly of the (usually cogent) motives that lie behind America's endeavours, which should be engaged in with the clear realization that outside support can often be won and is vital in the long-run.
There is absolutely no question that the vast majority of the anti-Americanism that I encounter is based on misinformation - people who just simply do not know the facts, and I think this can and should be vigorously countered with all the tools at our disposal.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The European Commission

They even say so themselves: the European Commission is a bureaucratic nightmare.
He says: “It is not just that the Commission fails to explain what the EU is for ... Its modus operandi displays an outrageous lack of common sense ... It became intolerable to work within what had come to seem like a bureaucratic nightmare that makes Whitehall look a model of simple efficiency.”
Finally some honesty, from someone who really seems to have Europe's best interest at heart, unlike the likes of Chirac, who works with it only when it bolsters what he perceives as the narrow French national interest.

The reality-based community

If it wasn't so worrying, it would be amusing to note how biased and out of touch with reality the "reality-based community" in fact is. One of their mantras is that President Bush invented the link between Al Qaeda and Iraq to cynically justify the war in Iraq.
Once again, this is total bollocks.
Melanie Phillips ably debunks this myth (via Instapundit). Ironically the most prescient analysis I have seen (via Tim Blair) on this subject comes from Alice Cooper, the founder of shock-rock who "was once dubbed the most evil rock singer in the world."

ANDREW DENTON: A lot of people in rock and roll, it's very fashionable to despise George W. Bush. That's not a view you subscribe to, is it?
ALICE COOPER: Well, I think if you're in a war, you don't want a poodle in there, you want a pit bull. I don't think that you want a guy in there going, "Gee, I don't know. Maybe. Could be." I think you want a guy in there who's either going to win it or lose it.
ANDREW DENTON: Are you referring to Iraq or the broader war against al-Qaeda?
ALICE COOPER: I just think that that war's going to go on for a long time, whoever is the President. If it would have been Kerry, he would have been just as knee deep in it. I don't think Bush got us into that war. I think that started 9/11 and I think somebody had to take it from there.
ANDREW DENTON: It doesn't worry you, the false connection that was made between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, all that stuff that's been shown?
ALICE COOPER: No. It doesn't bother me because I honestly think it's all connected.
ANDREW DENTON: The one thing we do know about 9/11 is that nobody involved in it actually came from Iraq. That's probably the one thing we absolutely know.
ALICE COOPER: Well, it's probably true, but I can't see them going, "Oh, gosh." The guys in Iraq going, "Gee, how horrible for America." I think there's a general feeling in that world that if America falls they'll be in a much better state, so we have to view those people in the same boat. I don't see much difference between the al-Qaeda and Iraq - not the people, I'm talking about the governments. The people, the poor people, are the victims.
ANDREW DENTON: Saddam and Osama bin Laden actually hated each other.
ALICE COOPER: Hated each other a lot, I'll bet. They traded Rolls Royces. You don't think there was a cigar going around when that happened at 9/11. I'll bet you there was.

Who would have thought that Alice Cooper provides better analysis of current events than the New York Times?