Monday, April 21, 2008

The War on Brigitte Bardot

By Jacob Laksin | 4/21/2008

In the 1960s, Brigitte Bardot was France’s national icon, a pouty-lipped poster girl for the glories of her home country. So it is a sign of how radically times have changed that yesterday’s silver-screen darling is today’s enemy of the people.

Bardot’s “crimes,” such as they are, are straightforward: She has committed the sin of speaking frankly and unapologetically about her country’s hostile Muslim immigrant population and – what is evidently worse – questioning the compatibility of some Muslim religious practices with Western society. Common sense, one might think, or least subjects fit for fruitful debate.

Not in modern France. Last week, the erstwhile cinema siren went on trial on the charge of inciting “racial hatred against Muslims.” If convicted, she could face a two-month suspended prison sentence and nearly $24,000 in fines.

The basis for the charge is utterly bogus. It stems from a letter that Bardot wrote to President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2006, in which she complained about the practices of Islamic immigrants. In particular, Bardot was put off by the ritual of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim feast in which sheep and goats are slaughtered by having their throats slit. A longtime animal-rights activist, Bardot found the practice abominable.

Her mistake was in thinking that she had the freedom to say so. But as France struggles to control a large (Muslims make up nearly ten percent of the country) and increasingly radicalized Muslim population critics of Islamism are finding themselves more actively persecuted by national authorities than the Islamists themselves.

Bardot is a case in point. Her latest legal woes may seem troubling, but they are only the latest battle in a larger war waged by Islamic radicals and their allies to suppress all criticism of Islam and its more militant and anti-Western incarnations. It speaks to the success of these state-backed exercises in intimidation that Bardot has been convicted for “inciting racial hatred” on four separate occasions.

Bardot’s trials, literal and figurative, at the hands of the Fifth Republic’s multicultural enforcers date back to the early 1990s, when she first spoke out against the slaughtering of animals for religious purposes. Although Bardot directed her attacks against Muslims and Jews, it was her criticism of the former that got her branded as a racist. By 1997, Bardot stood convicted on the charge of “inciting racial hatred” after suggesting in the French daily Le Figaro that France was beset by a “foreign over-population,” including with Muslim immigrants.

It was unclear, then as now, how criticism of a non-racial group, in this case Muslims, could be considered “racist.” Nor was it apparent why an issue as fundamental to the welfare of a nation as immigration was suddenly to be deemed off-limits for discussion. But the Orwellian subtext of the case was impossible to miss: There were some things that French citizens simply were not allowed to discuss.

Bardot pointedly ignored the lesson. The following year, she likened the slaughter of animals in Islamic rituals to the throat-slitting favored by Islamic fundamentalists in North Africa, implying that the connection was not coincidental. It was a provocative point, to be sure, but by no means an unreasonable one. Where the world’s leading religions have shed their cruelest tendencies, Islam as practiced in much of the world – one need only recall the gruesome decapitation murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl – retains its more savage elements.

In any case, criticizing religious practices would seem to be entirely consistent with European free-speech statutes, especially in anticlerical France. And, indeed, a lower court initially found Bardot’s comments to be protected by free-speech laws. That was too much for an appeals court, however, and before long it reversed the decision and slapped Bardot with a fine. Free speech was a fine thing, apparently, so long as it didn’t offend Muslims.

It would not be the last time that Bardot incurred the wrath of French censors. In 2000, she was again convicted of “racist” thought crimes for writing what she called an “Open Letter to My Lost France,” in which she raised concerns about Muslim immigration. As on past occasions, the merits of her concerns were not specifically examined, their focus on Muslims being deemed sufficient proof their unacceptability for public discussion – this even as French banlieues, home to unassimilated Muslim immigrants, seethed with the violent hatred that would erupt in riots across France in 2005.

Bardot was undaunted. In 2003, she again ran afoul of “anti-racism laws” when she published A Cry in the Silence, a book decrying what she called “the Islamisation of France,” and pointing out the obvious ties between the September 11 attacks and Islamic extremism. In that book, Bardot also cautioned against the dangers of rubbishing Western freedoms to accommodate political sensitivities. “For 20 years we have submitted to a dangerous and uncontrolled underground infiltration,” she wrote. “Not only does it fail to give way to our laws and customs. Quite the contrary, as time goes by it tries to impose its own laws on us.” As if to demonstrate her point, French authorities proceeded to fine her 5,000 euros for offending Muslims. (Revealingly, Bardot’s views proved far more popular among the French public, which turned A Cry of Silence into a bestseller.)

To understand just how sinister are the attacks on Bardot it is useful to consider the group that repeatedly has brought suit against her, the Movement Against Racism And For Friendship Between Peoples (MRAP). Inaccurately called a human-rights group, the MRAP is in fact an aggressive silencer of free-speech.

Its most famous contribution to French political life was to thwart the sale of the late Oriana Fallaci’s 2002 book, Anger and Pride, on the grounds that it supposedly incited racial hatred against Muslims. Similarly, when Bardot published A Cry in the Silence in 2003, the MRAP pronounced it “unacceptable,” thus appointing itself the arbiter of what French citizens should and should not be allowed to read.

But of course groups like the MRAP would be inconsequential were it not for the dangerous proclivity of the French legal establishment for treating their fictitious allegations of racism with unmerited seriousness. In this context, it was illuminating when a French prosecutor last week called for unusually stiff penalties against Bardot in the current case against the actress because she was a “bit tired of trying Madame Bardot.” How much easier it would be for that civil servant and countless others like her if nuisances like Bardot would simply surrender their right to speak freely.

Bardot may not be the most artful of social commentators, but then she doesn’t need to be. Nothing demonstrates the prescience of her warnings – not least her warning about the dangers of sacrificing Western liberties to accommodate the extreme demands of hostile minority groups – so much as the ongoing efforts of the French state to silence the woman it once hailed as an idol.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Japanese, the Russians, and the KCX Deal

Why I Really like the Japanese
You know, for many years I have admired the tenacity, work ethic, and inventiveness of the Japanese, but now I admire them for a different reason. When the Brits and Canadians and US caved to Chinese armed thugs attending the Olympic Torch Run, the Japanese have refused. See here for more.

As you know, protests over human rights abuses by China have erupted as the Olympic torch was carried throughout major cities all over the world. Looking at the news accounts a week ago, a curious sentence jumped out at me. The Olympic flame in France would be protected by French security forces -- along with Chinese security. Then I saw a similar reference regarding who was protecting the flame as it was carried through San Francisco. Surely this is a mistake, I thought. We couldn’t really be permitting Chinese secret police to enter our country just to protect the Olympic flame? First, China does not respect the right to protest. Second, what did that say about America? Did we believe that we could not guarantee the flame’s security?

Now the story has broken into the mainstream media, and I’m am sorry to report that China has in fact sent “volunteers” from the special forces academy of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP). The Washington Post noted that the PAP is a force 700,000 men and women used to protect embassies in Beijing and suppress riots all over China. The Post also reported that the PAP had been “used extensively in recent weeks to put down protests in Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas – the conflict that inspired most of those demonstrations abroad as the torch passed.” Their behavior was described as “aggressive and robotic” by one torchbearer, and the chairman of the 2012 London Olympic committee denounced them as “thugs.” And they are thugs!


Ukraine and Genocide
By Jonah Goldberg
I find this controversy absolutely fascinating (which is why I will probably write a column about it). The Ukrainians want to call the organized murder of Ukrainians "genocide." The Russians don't. One of the things I find particularly interesting is how this disagreement cuts across the whole "Which Was Worse: Communism or Nazism" argument, which as some can imagine I've spent a lot of time thinking about while working on my book.

The Russians defend themselves by arguing that they were merely trying to slaughter an economic class of people, not an ethnicity. I understand why, as a technical matter, this might be a defense against the charge of "genocide" which, after all, is about killing a type of people. From the article:

Historians agree that the 1932-33 famine was engineered by Soviet authorities under dictator Josef Stalin to force peasants to give up their private plots of land and join collective farms.

Ukraine, with its rich farmlands, suffered the most. Authorities confiscated grain from village after village and prohibited residents from leaving, effectively condemning them to starvation.

Some are convinced the famine targeted Ukrainians as an ethnic group. Others argue authorities set out to eradicate private landowners as a social class and say the Soviet Union sought to pay for its rapid industrialization with grain exports at the expense of starving millions of its own people.

"There is no historical proof that the famine was organized along ethnic lines. Its victims were million of citizens of the Soviet Union, representing different peoples and nationalities living largely in agricultural areas of the country," the Russian State Duma resolution said.

Now, part of what fascinates me is why anyone would think murdering people because of their economic status is somehow any less evil than murdering people because of their ethnicity. I know what many of the whys are, and I think they reveal something profound about how different people see the world. In America and the West generally, vast numbers of leftist intellectuals forgave Stalin, Mao and others for murdering people who stood in the way of Progress — and historians continue to do so today. Indeed, "modernization" was one of the great excuses and rationalizations for murder, theft and, yes, genocide in the 20th century and, I fear, people will be going back to this intellectual well for a good long time.

One last point: If you are a Marxist you generally consider race, ethnicity and nationality to be mere epiphenomena, absurd and archaic categories of the Old Order, right? And, you believe that class is an enduring category of humanity, more "real" than mere ethnicity, right? So by your own definitions, isn't slaughtering a whole class of people a form of genocide or attempted genocide? Here's more details on the event.


How AirBus Beat Boeing
by James Dunnigan
The recent U.S. Air Force decision to buy a new generation of aerial tankers from a European firm (AirBus), rather than U.S. aircraft builder Boeing, shocked many observers. But a close look at the fine print revealed that AirBus beat Boeing in many key areas, and decisively so. The two big factors were superior performance (fewer of the AirBus aircraft were needed to get the job done) and more reliable performance of the suppliers. In this case, it's AirBus's U.S. partner, Northrop, that provided an edge. The air force examined recent project performance by Boeing and AirBus/Northrop, and found that the latter team was more likely to deliver the aircraft on time and at the agreed upon price. Boeing also lost points for providing questionable cost estimates. The air force crunched the numbers of the two proposals and determined that, while 49 of the AirBus tankers would be available by 2013, only 19 of the Boeing version would be ready.

Airbus offered the KC-30, based on the Airbus 330-300, which normally sells for $160 million each. The KC-30 carries 20 percent more fuel than the other candidate, the KC-767, plus more cargo pallets (26 versus 19) and passengers. Thus the KC-30 can stay in the air longer, while transferring more fuel.

The KC-767 is based on the Boeing 767-200 airliner, which sells for about $120 million. The 767 has been in service since 1982, and over 800 have been manufactured so far. Boeing also developed the original KC-135 tanker in the 1950s, and has since built over 2,000 of these.

The two engine KC-30 will officially be known as the KC-45A, and will replace the four engine KC-135. The older aircraft carries 90 tons of fuel and can transfer up to 68 tons. Typically, aerial tankers have to service everything from heavy bombers like B-52s, which carry over 140 tons of jet fuel, to fighters like the F-15 (which carry over five tons of fuel). A two engine KC-767 carries about as much fuel as the KC-135, while the KC-30 carries more. The KC-135 has long made itself useful carrying cargo and passengers, as well as fuel, and both the KC-767 and KC-30 have more capacity for this, with the KC-30 having a decisive edge.

The KC-767 was developed partly because it is about the same size as the KC-135 (wingspan is 156 feet, ten more than the KC-135). Thus the 767 could use the same basing and repair facilities as the 135. That was not a critical factor.

The contract to build 179 KC-45As is worth about $35 billion (about $196 million per aircraft). More than half the work will be done in Europe. The first KC-45s will enter service in five years, rolling out of an assembly plant in the United States. This will give Airbus production facilities in the United States.

Editors Note: Hopefully the US government will reverse this decision and give these vital defense jobs back to Americans.


Monday, April 07, 2008

The Left and ABM Defenses

Apologies Are In Order
Two years ago, leftists in Congress and the media went on a rhetorical jihad against our Marines, accusing them of war crimes and of having “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” The “massacre” at Haditha quickly became a rallying point for the radical anti-war Left and the “blame America first” crowd. It did considerable damage to the reputations of the young men involved and to our country. The military, sensitive to its image here at home and abroad, promised a thorough investigation, and eight Marines were initially charged. After months and months of investigation, it was announced last week that the military was dropping charges against Lance Corporal Stephen Tatum, making him the fifth Marine to be cleared. But I seriously doubt you heard about that on the nightly news.

While the “massacre” was a front-page headline and the subject of intense news coverage two years ago, Big Media has virtually blacked out coverage of the Marines’ exonerations. The New York Times, for example, buried on page A8 the news that charges against Stephen Tatum were being dismissed. National Review’s Media Blog noted that rising rice prices in Asia, along with other “non-stories,” were deemed more important to the folks at the Times than restoring the reputations of our heroes and warriors.

Reagan-Bush Win Again
No, that’s not a headline from 1984, but it could have been a headline coming out of the recent NATO summit. Meeting in Bucharest, Romania, President Bush, attending his last NATO summit, convinced European leaders to adopt a missile defense shield. The shield was first envisioned by President Ronald Reagan, and derisively mocked by liberals as “Star Wars.” Reagan wanted to create a defensive system that could protect America from a nuclear attack. The program was greatly scaled back during the Clinton era, but it was made a top priority under President George W. Bush. In fact, President Bush took the issue so seriously, he unilaterally withdrew the United States from the ABM treaty after the 9/11 attacks. Concerned that terrorists or state sponsors of terrorism might someday try to attack the U.S. with ballistic missiles, President Bush felt that the 1972 treaty was “written in a different era, for a different enemy” and had become an obstacle to America’s protection.

Stephen Hadley, President Bush’s National Security Advisor, said after the NATO agreement, “There has been, over 10 years, a real debate as to whether there is a ballistic missile threat. And I think that debate ended today.” Many European leaders evidently agreed with President Bush that just such a threat does in fact exist today, but from where? The most obvious suspect is Iran – a state sponsor of terrorism, a sworn enemy to the state of Israel and the United States. Iran possesses long-range missiles modeled after North Korean weapons, and we know the Islamic Republic has a clandestine nuclear program. While the radical Left likes to claim that President Bush has destroyed our standing over seas and wrecked our alliances, I think it is instructive that Europe is embracing Ronald Reagan’s missile defense shield rather than demanding more talks with Iran’s Holocaust-denying dictator.

“Senate Shutdown”
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal noted that Republicans are on the verge of shutting down the United States Senate. No doubt many Americans would cheer the move. Some might argue that no one would notice anyway, so go for it! But here is what is going on behind the scenes: Senate Democrats are once again stalling President Bush’s judicial nominations, trying to run out the clock on his administration in the hopes that a Democrat will win the White House in November. The president has submitted nominees for 11 vacant appeals court seats, seven of which have been vacant so long that they are considered “judicial emergencies.” These seats should be at the top of the list for Senate confirmation, but, believe it or not, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has only held one – that’s right, ONE – hearing in the past six months.

According to the Journal, five of the judgeships for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals—which covers Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina—are also vacant. That means the remaining ten judges on the Fourth Circuit are carrying the workload of 15 judges. (Do you think these senators would notice if we “downsized” a third of their staffs?) The Fourth Circuit has also been hearing a number of critical anti-terrorism-related cases and is considered one of the more conservative circuit courts. Some legal analysts suspect that Senate liberals are intentionally stalling 4th Circuit nominees in the hopes of “moderating” the court by attrition.

Lest you think this is just idle speculation, consider these numbers: During the last two years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, 15 appellate court nominees were confirmed. Keep in mind that Republicans controlled the Senate then too. So far in the final two years of President Bush’s administration, only six appellate court nominees have been confirmed after Democrats took control of the Senate in 2006. The vacancies exist, the nominations have been made, but the Senate is not doing to its job. As a result, Senator Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has reportedly recommended that Republicans invoke “a series of procedural stalls that would make it next to impossible for the Senate to get anything done” until Democrats agree to confirmation votes for President Bush’s judicial nominees. We will keep you posted.

“Hamas’s Insults to Jews Complicate Peace”
Believe it or not, that was a headline Tuesday from the New York Times. It was a gross understatement to say the least, but the content of the article was much better. While it should not have been “breaking news” for folks at the Times, I was encouraged that some of the information you have read in this daily report has finally found its way onto pages of the New York Times. The article was largely devoted to the disgusting propaganda that Hamas is preaching in Gaza and how it is corrupting the minds of children, breeding future jihadists and poisoning any attempt to reaching a meaningful peace.

For example, the article cited a weekly column by Sheik Yunus al-Astal, a Hamas legislator and imam. On March 13th, al-Astal wrote about a Koranic verse suggesting that Jews should be burned. “The reason for the punishment of burning is that it is fitting retribution for what they have done. But the urgent question is, is it possible that they will have the punishment of burning in this world, before the great punishment [in the afterlife] …we are sure that the holocaust is still to come upon the Jews.”

The article also correctly notes that any discussion of “peace,” “cease-fires” or “truces” by Hamas is a lie. “The Prophet Muhammad made a temporary hudna, or truce, with the Jews about 1,400 years ago, so Hamas allows the idea. But no one in Hamas says he would make a peace treaty with Israel…” The Times quotes Mkhaimer Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University, saying, “They [Hamas] talk of hudna, not of peace or reconciliation with Israel. They believe over time they will be strong enough to liberate all historic Palestine.” This article by the New York Times was a good first step in accurately reporting the real reasons why peace is so illusive, if not impossible, in the Middle East.

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