Tarheeltalker

British Musings

Cover of "Londonistan"

Cover of Londonistan

Several days ago, I wrote about Europe and Great Britain in particular vis-a-vis Islam and terrorism and some of its implications. At the time I was attempting to read Londonistan by Melanie Phillips. I have finally managed to complete that self-assigned task. I might add that the fault is not that of the author but rather my unfamiliarity with her style and the complexity of the subject matter.

Moving forward, my intent is not to review the book but rather make reference to some  things that intrigued me and speculate  about what these things might or might not  mean.  As always dissent/disagreement is welcome. My comments do not follow the book from beginning to end since some areas were more pertinent for me than others. The  author has an excellent notes section if one desires to trace her source material and pursue things further.

There are many references to people in the book with the majority of those names probably being Arabic. I won’t refer much to those individuals. Upfront i will assert that neither the author  nor this writer  are anti- Muslim ‘ She does however, make use of the term  Islamaphobia which also appears in the American media. It refers of course to those who harbor an irrational view of the Islamic faith. An accusation of such is used at times  to stifle  even legitimate criticism of Islam. ( That didn’t work so well for Salmon Rushdie did it? )  She makes the point that adherents of the Muslim faith can often be sensitive to criticism( as are Christians) and  use that to justify or explain away certain actions. Her starting point, the London bombings of 2005 was such  a thing. Muslim leaders condemned the attacks but added that since the bombers were un-Islamic ( native Brits) they  could not have been real Muslims. And  this next that  they added which is a relatively prominent reoccurring theme, is  a concept she calls moral inversion. In general Muslims regard Western values as an assault on their principles  so they present  their own aggression as legitimate self- defense. Or, a country’s support of Israel or the Iraq war is ample cause for some sort of attack. Current example is related to the furor over the New york mosque/cultural center. The chairman of those efforts Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was interviewed by CBS just after 9/11. He opined that the United States did not deserve what happened but that its policies ” were an accessory to the crime.”

So what were the policies to which he referred? If you say support for Israel go the head of the class. That attitude in Britain, she writes, is even more prevalent. In Britain the prevailing wisdom regarding the Middle East is that of a territorial dispute. Before May 14, 1948 all was well between Arab and Jew  and would be again if Israel  acceded to legitimate Palestinian  demands. The problem, that is not factual. This cannot be totally addressed here but  factor in this one truth . Palestinians could have had a separate state in 1936, 1948 or 2000. Also, many Arab writers and leaders have often spoken of  the inherently evil  Jew out to conquer the world  and they are demonized as the source of all evil in the Middle East. Let me hasten to add that Israel is not always right in its actions/methods  but neither are they behind every conflict on earth as Palestinian Authority imam Ibrahim Mudayris said in 2005.

But let me continue. Let me refer to some of her conclusions but  encourage the reader to interpret them on their own. Britain is a hub of Islamic jihad and has been.In Britain there continues the long-standing policy of appeasing terrorism which has now been combined with the prevailing doctrine of multiculturalism and  ” victim culture.” She asserts that Britain is at a crossroads and could ease further down the road of appeasement. So the country that is the global leader of English speaking culture no longer champions those values. ( Sound  a little like American education?)

She wonders if her native country will reverse its  sleepwalk towards  “cultural oblivion ” or  sink further into disarray and drag the West down with it. Serious things to consider.

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August 20, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Future of Europe?

This is a subject that   I have been pondering for quite  awhile and  is probably just an initial effort at expressing  some opinions. To me the subject is at once complicated, disturbing and perhaps  a view of  our ( United States ) future.

I am a great fan of political novels, especially those set in our era. Those that depict events similar  to those that are occurring and make reference to actual people and places in the course of their books. I have referred before to Daniel Silva whom I thoroughly enjoy and I have just finished a book by Michael Walsh, Hostile Intent, that addresses some similar issues but from a  quite different perspective. Factored in to my post is a challenging nonfiction book that I have just begun to read. It  is by British author Melanie Phillips  and it its premise dovetails nicely with my fictional reading.

These slightly disparate works all have one word common to them that struck me quite forcefully. That word is Londonistan, which is the title of Ms Phillips book. Walsh mentions and I am fairly certain that Silva does also. Both fictional writers speak heavily of the concept as well.

What is the concept of which they speak? Ms Phillips says it best in the intro to her book. She begins her intro with the London subway suicide bombings of July 7. 2005 and  its implications . She asserts that  it reveals London as the  epicenter ( good Joel Rosenberg word) of Islamic militancy. She uses the word ” Londonistan” which is  a mocking play of the names of London and state sponsors of terrorism such as Afghanistan. You can think of others. She added this chilling detail that one could argue that al-Qaeda actually began in London in the 1980s and 90s. She continues to  talk about Britain in essence turning on itself and attacking its own historical values.

And this next may be the most troubling. There is underway an attempt to establish a separate Muslim identity in the country. This is  in  a country approximately 5% Muslim . So there is a  minority attempting and succeeding in many ways to impose its values on the host country. A tiny but illustrative example is that piggy banks are banned from British banks lest Muslims be offended. Funny, maybe, but not ha-ha funny by any means. British Muslims actually insist they are under Western attack  and blame any wrongdoing by Muslims on others. One more thought before part #1 closes.

 British liberals fear being labeled racist or Islamophobic so Muslim extremism goes somewhat  unchecked and  criticism is against the so-called bigot. The London train bombings were, by this logic, caused by American , Israeli or British policies.

My intent is to refer to Ms Phillips book  again in part #2 as well  as some fictional  references from Walsh and perhaps Silva. As I alluded,  her book is a difficult read for me but I hope to plow through  a bit further.

August 11, 2010 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Step away from the sandwich and no one will get hurt

One of my favorite topics on which to comment are the antics of those who claim to know what’s better for you than you do yourself. This  is quite prevalent in the area  of food choices. I wrote most recently  about this on May 2oth regarding efforts by the city manger of San Antonio, Tx to have all sugary foods and beverages removed from city vending machines.

Thanks to World Magazine , I have read of an instance that may just leap to the top of my list. By the way, many of these types of things seem to occur in Europe, where  nanny state   is much more advanced than here in the United States, at least for now. Seems that  there  is  a government-run day care near the city of Manchester and they have certain standards that purport to say what foods are healthy for their charges.

It appears that a cheese sandwich, one of my favorite foods, especially if cheddar is employed, does not meet those standards. Why? What a silly question that is. Because at the Westfield  Children’s Centre, one must have lettuce or tomato on one’s sandwich for it to qualify as healthy. So, the 2-year-old in our story was given  fruit and vegetables as a substitute. Parents were given a  lecture about appropriate food choices. Now, little Jack’s mom has thankfully  removed him from the  daycare lest his ” food rights” be violated again or she commit  yet another gastronomical faux pas.

Stories like this really do offend  me  and I try to make light of them to a degree lest I  get too frustrated. Couldn’t happen on this side of the pond ? Don’t bet against it. Things like this are happening already  and will continue to happen in the name of good health and get ready, saving money on insurance costs. People who eat healthy are less of a drain on the health care system. As health care in some way, shape or form gets more rationed, the pressure will grow on people to eat right, however eating right is defined. could it be said that “unhealthy” foods are the new cigarettes? Wonder where that secondhand smoke will come from though?

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Health | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Apologetic Administration

Guess I could have said apologetic regime  but maybe  I’ll save that one for another day. The latest  apology should really not be a surprise. Obama himself has done a ” masterful” job at apologizing  all over the world to all sorts of folks for all sorts of things.

For the most recent administration example we can thank  Assistant  Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and  Labor ( what a mouthful of a job title that is)  Michael Posner. For what did he apologize and to whom?  The what is of course, the evil Arizona law which no one  in the Obama Administration has apparently read, even Homeland Secretary Napolitano. But she still would not have signed the law. Try and figure that one out. For the who of the apology, why that noted paragon of human rights, China.

Bill O’Reilly had a couple of great comment about Posner’s apology on his show last night. I really enjoyed his comment that China would probably like to have Posner replace Hilary as Secretary of State. The other comment was  much more troubling and more reality based. He posed the  question as to how China handles  its illegal immigrants. Hint, it isn’t  with a law like Arizona’s nor is it necessarily via deportation.

Arizona Senators McCain and Kyl  took issue with posner’s mea culpa for the United States and  demanded an apology. Isn’t that great, demanding an apology for an apology. Shucks, they may get one. That is one thing the Obama Admnistration is quite good at doing.

While we are on the  subject, wonder what other countries are due an apology? Let us see. Maybe  to Great Britain for winning the Revolutionary War, Germany for WWI & WWII, Russia for buying Alaska ( Obama might like that one) France for the Louisiana Purchase- not paying enough the list goes on and on and on and on.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | International politics, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What did he mean?

A 47  nation nuclear summit was just concluded in Washington. It was notable in a number of ways. Those who weren’t there, Israel and Britain among others, the minimal opportunity for the media to ask questions, the massive security that wa was in place; just to name a few. One might say that any effort to reduce nuclear weapons or nuclear tensions is always a good thing. Presidents all the way back to Eisenhower have made this a goal. What was accomplished at this latest  session may depend on to whom one pays heed.

Example: reporters Lynn Berry and Betty Nguyen both used the term” complete success.” Whatever it was or wasn’t, it was not complete. Check out some of what Dana Milbank at the Washington Post had to say. By the way, it would accurate to call him  a voice in the wilderness.

Just a portion of what Milbank wrote:

World leaders “entered a capital(ours) that had become a  military encampment with camo-wearing military police in Humvees  and enough Army vehicles to make it look like a May Day parade.” Question, what country does military style May Day parades?

There is more. This is quite interesting when you juxtapose it with another  Obama quote. Milbank again. “In the middle of it all was Obama-occupant of an office once informally known as “leader of the free world.” Ouch!!

Now the Obama quote. Sad to say, this statement may be the most troubling thing that I have heard the President say. I offer it without comment, at least for the moment.

” Whether we like it or not, we remain a military superpower.”

April 14, 2010 Posted by | International politics, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Holiday that should be Bigger!!

Today is Presidents’ Day, a day set aside tat to honor/remember those 43 people who have held the highest office in the land. I guess technically it is more designed to honor Washington and Lincoln since their birthdays are close on the calendar. I think that it probably does neither of the above things very well, if at all.

It is  a federal holiday of course, so those of us who are postal workers take part. Schools seem to sorta use it or not, depending on the need for making up days lost to weather. ( I’m guessing most of them are using it today as  a school day.) Banks seem to go with an either or approach.

I know, we used to have a day for George and Abe but they were consolidated  when Martin Luther King, Jr day was added as  a federal holiday. Both of those actions were correct, I believe. I’m not advocating an extra holiday just a better use of this one. I remain convinced that our educational system does not  do well in educating its “charges” about our presidents. History, after all, is dull and boring, is it not? In our technologically advanced society, the greatest emphasis needs to be elsewhere.

I have been a big history fan for  a long time. However, I did not become  a fan until college. I have no great recollection of history teachers or subjects from public school, so the lack of emphasis is not  a recent occurrence. My college history professors undoubtedly “juiced” up the subject in ways until now unknown to me.

So, what better aspect of American history to know than the men who have served in the White House(all but Washington, of course). So, a number of years ago, I began my quest to read at least one each president. That has proven to be   a daunting  task, as I have observed before. The tally right now is at 21, which is almost half of the total. Te problem lies in the dearth of books about the less familiar guys. You probably know them little if any. There is Harrison(William Henry and Benjamin) , Hayes, Taylor, Fillmore, etc. Libraries, at least our size, have either nothing about them or books dating  of  50+ years old.

My mission continues ever so slowly and perhaps will one day be complete. I remain convinced that those who do not history are” doomed” to repeat it .  And  perhaps, just as telling, events  and actions in the current administration have a  historical precedent , sometimes deliberately.

I leave with this thought. President Obama’ s Oval Office desk is the same one used by Rutherford B  Hayes. It is known as the Resolute desk and was  a gift  from Great Britain. The desk was constructed  from the timbers of the British ship of the same name. To think that every president since Hayes ( except Johnson, Nixon and Ford) has used the desk is just a small example of the fascinating things we learn from our history.

Maybe you have no wish to read about all the presidents. Fine. I have a friend and fellow blogger who specializes in Washington and attempts to keep pace with new books that are still published. Maybe better than some of the  “fancy fiction”, huh?

February 15, 2010 Posted by | History, Literature | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Showdown in Baltimore

The President traveled all the way to Baltimore today to meet with a number of Republican lawmakers. What ostensibly was  an attempt for the two sides to listen to one another quickly became something else entirely. I heard some audio from the  meeting that seemed rather pointed and blunt, both in tone and word. For example, “I’m not  a pundit, I’m just the president.” The Associated Press used the phrase ” a sometimes barbed exchange.” So, one thinks that there was very little meeting of the minds at this session.

So, why have the get together at all? I will applaud  the president  for attending while at the same time wondering why he did so. I think that even though  the President was actually invited to what is an annual Republican event.  Given the nature of some of his public comments since the State of the Union address, perhaps it was an attempt to sway public opinion. See, he could tell Americans, I tried to work with the Republicans but  how can I work with the ” politics of no?”

Some of those attending liked it, some not so much. Representatives Tom Price  of Georgia and Jason Chaffetz of Utah being two of the most vocal. The President seemed to relish the give and take, sort of like a British House  of Commons. Reading some accounts of the meeting it struck as me  a lecture given by  a professor. At least one Republican, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin agreed. He likened it at times to being lectured by his high school principal, although not for the entire session.

Obama asserted that 95% of Americans had received tax cuts (not sure about that figure) and that his agenda was not at all radical but mainstream. Republicans , particularly Mike Pence of Indiana ,defended Republican health care proposals against claims that  they had offered no options. Obama shot back that theie proposals  were not practical anyway.

So, both Pence and Virginia’s Eric Cantor said that the event was a good idea and should happen again. But it sounds like to me that the president defined  bi-partisan more as you work with me than me work with you. Did that make sense? Probably as  much as the Baltimore bull session.

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Much Ado About Yemen

The little country of Yemen is very newsworthy these days; more so than in a while. The map shows the country’s position and an interesting one it is. One can see it shares a border with Saudi Arabia and how it juxtaposes with Iran, Iraq Egypt,etc. And of course there is that little thing about the Christmas Day bomb attempt by a young Nigerian who was allegedly trained and funded by al-Qaeda from Yemen, whew! 

But the Yemeni news continues. Seems that the terror guys have posed threats credible  enough to get both the United States and Britain to close their embassies in Yemen. This on one hand, while on the other we offer financial aid and training for Yemeni police and military. Full power of the United States at work and will spare no effort. So said the President, in words to that effect, and no more diplomatic presence. If we’re scoring ladies  and gentlemen, we will give this round to Osama and friends ( Yemen is an ancestral homeland for the bin ladens) are we not? 

I heard a retired general on Fox this morning, can’t remember his name, who called Yemen a “petri dish” for terrorism. Now, biology was never  a strong  subject for me but I believe that has something to do with an environment where things are grown. If that is the case, this impoverished country with a near non-existent economy will loom increasingly large on our radar. 

Yemen,et al

January 3, 2010 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

P T Barnum or George Orwell?

Perhaps I should do separate posts for each of these gentlemen but what the hey, I shall just combine them. For in considering aspects of the overriding issue of climate change, there is ample room for them both.

Just a wee bit of background to set the stage. Many of us have no doubt read Orwell’s seminal work, 1984, with all its disturbing aspects of  totalitarianism at full force. A world where the state’s control has reached its pinnacle. It was written way back in 1948, just 2 years before the death of its author, Eric Arthur Blair.

Next, we have the consummate huckster, Phineas T Barnum, who allegedly said,”There is  a sucker born every minute.”  In reality, the phrase was uttered by his competitor, Syracuse banker  David Hannum. But Barnum was the founding force behind one of   the world’s most famous circuses; Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. Known for showcasing such diverse acts,as songstress Jenny Lind and height challenged Tom Thumb, he was also a prolific lecturer in his own right. One of the coolest sounding , ‘The Art of Money Getting.”

On that apropos note we connect the dots to climate change with two reports. One is from Great Britain, the other from the Netherlands. Second one goes first. our Dutch friends have plans to levy a  “green” road tax by the  year 2012. it would be charged by the kilometer and is aimed at reducing emissions as well as traffic congestion. Worthy objectives, of course. Check out  the following quote as to how it will be implemented, if passed by the Dutch parliament. ” Each vehicle will be equipped with a GPS device (paid for by?) that tracks how many kilometeres are driven and when and where.This data will then be sent to a collection agency that will send out the bill.” So said the Dutch transportation ministry. Ownership and sales taxes will be eliminated and be replaced by the new levy. It will begin at 7 cents per mile and increase to 16 cents per mile by 2018. One additional odd feature to me is that taxis will be exempt. Worthy goal that will allow the government and a 3rd party to know how much you drive, where and when and charge you for doing so. Sounds like that sound fall a bit on the Orwellian side to me.

Now for the British. Upfront, i will surmise that this is more Barnumesque. Here foes. Lord Smith of Finsbury is the head of  the Environment Agency. He is advocating that everyone in Great Britain be “given” a carbon allowance, by the government, I presume. people would be issued a unique number and would be required to provide that number when buying such things as fuel, airline tickets or electricity. Each month they would receive  a statement to follow their balance. if the account reached zero, they would have to pay for more credits(Barnum) and that wold go to the government, I presume. frugal carbon users could do the opposite, sell their unused and make money. His position is that only those with extravagant lifestyles would be impacted. Ruth Lee is an economist with Arbuthnot Banking Group. She calls the plan “Orwellian” and  maintains that it is all about control of the individual. Sure seems to have some control elements in it. Lord Smith plans to introduce his proposal at the Monday conference of the Environmental Agency.

November 15, 2009 Posted by | economy, Energy, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

They Call The Wind Sharia

Not really, of course, but it just sounded good when I said it, so let  us move  along. Probably most of us have at best at only a limited understanding of what sharia is. We have heard of it , but are probably not quite able to explain it and certainly don’t understand it. Since it is somewhat significant in the Islamic world, it behooves to have a working knowledge at least.

So, what is  it and where is it etc.? Broadly speaking, it is Islamic law based on the Koran. But it is actually more than just law in the sense that we think of it and there are several variations. (Fast fact, the literal meaning of the word is the path to the watering place. ) It guides all aspects of Muslim life including  relgious obligations as well as  familial relations. There are branches that have developed throughout Islamic countries, some being liberal and some conservative. The conservative branch or Hanbali school is dominant in Saudi Arabia and among the Taliban.

Marriage and divorce are the most prominent aspects while criminal punishment is the most controversial. The really severe punishments or Hadd are not often used officially but are resorted to in a vigilante sense.

Now, I realize that this is but  acursory knowledge at best, but I wanted to use this as background in discussing an Obama adviser’s recent comments about loving Sharia.

Her name is Dalia Mogahed and she is the president’s adviser on Muslim affairs. By the way, she sees her job as  “to convey …to the President and other public officials  what it is Muslims want.” Quite a mouthful of food for thought there. But is fits well with comments she made on British television  about Sharia and Islam itself not being well understood. Probably some truth there. She says our view of Sharia law is misunderstood and many Islamic women  support it. Wonder how much choice they have?

Anyway, the show on which she appeared was  hosted by  a member of  Hizb-ut-Tahrir. This group is considered terrorist by many countries and is also an advocate of  Sharia being the source of legislation. She apparently did not counter her hosts in any of their attacks on the West.

Now, I realize that Britain must be more advanced than us when they can have such a broadcast (bet our time is coming) but I would have hoped for a  different approach than she took, more pro western , perhaps.

At the rate things are moving in Europe perhaps we will get to see more and more evidence of Sharia in all its  benefience. Scary, huh?

October 17, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment