Sunday, February 05, 2006


[Brief blogging while blowing back into Byetown, before boogie-ing off to the Bight] --

[translation: I’ve been gone, I’m back, but only a for few days, then away again, leaving Toronto for Newfoundland, till Valentine’s Day.]

Cartoons are much in the news these days (and I’m not talking about the two Senators from Massachusetts, though they certainly qualify).

Scroll on for latest scoops on Military movies, Tolkein musicals, and notes on Cheese.

I'll have a CHEESED DANISH, please -- TO GO

The Danes had been among the first of Old Europe’s societies to publicly wake up to the idea that they have something to lose by being indifferent to Muslim immigrants transporting and implanting in the Danes’ social soil the religious and cultural customs of whatever country they couldn’t be bothered to remain in.

Too much of Europe (notably Scandinavia) has looked the other way while the denizens of Muslim enclaves have routinely violated European norms, most especially in their treatment of girls and women (through polygamy, honor killings, and gang rapes, among other things). Denmark stood up and expressed its recognition of the threat posed by this situation, in various ways, not least through its support for the American-led War on Terrorism—a stand which has not gone unnoticed or unpunished by the Islamist-jihadist movement.

Fed up with increased bullying and threats from that quarter, one Danish journal (not very high-profile) published some sketches and cartoons (hat-tip Michelle Malkin) portraying the prophet Mohammed’s face— a well-known taboo among Muslims— some of which were artful portraits, but several of which were intended as criticism and ridicule. (Here's one of them, just so I don't get accused of cowering in CYA-mode, like CNN and various other major news media did, claiming a desire not offend, when they probably more motivated by a desire not to be vaporized.)

Personally, I don’t approve of that-- having been, as a Catholic, on the receiving end of countless mean-spirited cartoon insults to both the doctrines and the membership of my Church. Had I been the editor of the Danish paper, I‘d have scotched the publication of the insulting cartoons on general principles of good taste and manners and the social responsibilities they imply. (Apparently Hugh Hewitt agrees.) It both infuriates and wounds me when Christianity is wantonly derided by bigots who think they are both clever and superior, while the wider world adds insult to injury by dismissing Christian victims of bigotry as (a) thin-skinned, and (b) in no position to complain, since Christianity is a force for evil in the world, responsible for an infinite list of historical crimes, blah, blah, blah……

I was thus quite sympathetic to the Muslim resentment of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and fully understood the sense in which it was blasphemous. Nevertheless I thought the fatwa against Rushdie was stupid, primitive, and completely self-destructive of the Muslim position in the argument—though I vocally supported the right of any bookstore to decline to carry the book. That’s just the free market at work, as far as I’m concerned. Few bookstores took that route, and there was much posturing about “censorship,” and condemnation of the “cowardice” of any that did. But as far as I’m concerned, the independent bookseller should be able to carry or not carry according to his own inclinations, just as a toy-store owner should be free refuse to carry toy guns or soldiers, bloat-breasted female dolls and action figures, or whatever the owner feels the world is better without. If selecting inventory based on the owner’s principles means lost business, so be it— it’s everybody’s free choice all ‘round. (I'm a big fan of boycotts, too, no matter what side of the spectrum you're on-- it is an exercise of consumer free-market power, and it speaks volumes without institutionalized coercion or manipulation of public systems-- left or right, go for it!)

But back in Denmark: the paper proceeded with publication and, predictably, all hell broke loose.

“All hell” has been known to break loose when Catholics and other Christians are publicly mocked, especially through publicly-funded institutions like art galleries.

"All hell" regularly breaks loose against anti-Semitism from a busy Anti-Defamation League (which once upon a time could count on the support of the cultural and political elites of the West, but more recently has become a voice crying in the wilderness, abandoned by everyone but certain segments of conservative Christians, even as the elites now come to the aid of the Jew-bashers).

And “all hell,” Muslim-style, certainly broke loose in the wake of the Danish cartoon affair, escalating when other European journals (in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungary, and the Netherlands) reprinted the offending Danish cartoons in a deliberate, in-your-face defiance of the threats, intimidation, and acts of violence perpetrated against Danes in their own country and at their diplomatic missions across the world.

While I don’t favour any publication of cartoons which have nothing to say that rises above mere ridicule of religious tradition, this whole incident has underscored the inescapable truth that what constitutes "all hell” is just one point of doctrine on which Islam differs radically from the Judeo-Christian tradition. (And we are talking about “doctrine” here—make no mistake about it.) Christian and Jewish “all hell” breaks loose in the form of public condemnations, letter writing campaigns, boycotts, filing of formal complaints, and, occasionally in extreme circumstances, legal action for compensatory remedy or prosecution of a hate crime (always unsuccessful for Christians, btw).

By contrast, Islamist “all hell” involves calls for political and bodily harm. When the old-fashioned avenues of protest are employed— such as boycotts and denunciations— it is in the service of communicating threats of mass murder, chaos, and destruction—threats which are not idle. This is not opinion. It is fact; it is merely quoting the parties themselves.

This whole affair of the cartoons has been an odd thing. As I mentioned, the Danes seem to have been a little ahead of their continental comrades in waking up to the potential for erosion of their national and cultural institutions represented by a thriving unassimilated Muslim immigrant minority, one that is determined not only to persist in living according to the customs of the native country they left behind (not in itself a dreadful thing), but to demand increased official tolerance and then institutionalizing of these customs in their adopted foreign home, with the openly-stated aim of eventually re-configuring the foreign nation into their native one, to be first culturally and then politically annexed into a new Islamic regime. The Danes have taken this once-far-fetched scenario seriously, and the cartoon rebellion is a symptom of their growing indignation at the planned overthrow of their national identity.

I was about to write “ancient identity,” but I was reminded of an idea (floated by Mort Kondracke on FOX, I believe) that what’s really going on with this pan-European publishing tantrum is that the Islamists have finally threatened something very highly valued in Europe, that is, a not-so-very-old freedom to dump on religion.

Europeans are not actually all that wedded to "freedom of expression" as a philosophical principle—how else does one explain the suppression of all religious symbols and attire in French public schools, for instance? A spokesman for the German paper Die Welt referred to a dearly-held tradition of being able to “mock what is holiest.” How noble! It’s what freedom’s all about!— kinda gets ya, right here (thump).

Having turned a blind eye and not lost any too much sleep over Shar’ia-sanctioned oppression, rape and murder of women in Muslim ghettoes, public incitement to violent political insurrection from the mosques and madrassahs, and even assassination of outspoken non-Muslims like Theo van Gogh, suddenly the Europeans experience an attack on something truly sacred to their society— the license to engage in mockery of religion— and they lash out with a widespread act of rather puerile journalistic spitefulness, a sort of swaggering double-dare-ya' and damn-the-consequences – only to find that the consequences could truly start a world war.

It's my suspicion that behind all this righteous posturing about free speech, most of the European pundit class really knew that they were engaging in a fairly childish provocation, and couldn’t permit themselves conceive of it escalating into that Clash of Civilizations they had regarded as a bellicose academic conceit. Well, wake up and smell the burning flesh and rubber, oh Continental neighbors. These people are not kidding around—and you don’t have to be the empire of Bush-Chimpy W. McHitlerburton to bring down their pop-eyed lunatic wrath upon yourselves. Perhaps you noticed that about 800 Americans died at the hands of jihadist terrorism before Bush had gotten any further than the governor’s mansion in Austin.

Many thought that the suburban rioting in France was the harbinger of "the big one"-- the great populist Muslim wave which would bring Europe to its knees through nasty but non-nuclear mayhem. But that never quite reached maximum boil. Time will tell whether a bunch of lame-o editorial cartoons will yet prove to be the fateful fire-bomb (hardly likely to be non-nuclear at this point). In a way it almost doesn't matter why we start fighting-- there's a refreshing sense of honesty in what we're seeing, the sheer frothing lunatic animal hatred of it all. Now at least there are fewer people pretending that one side of the argument has any right to call itself a "Religion of Peace."

TAKE NOTE: Muslims are free to boycott -- frankly, it should be recommended to them over car-bombings and riots. So they're making the Danes suffer at the grocery store cash register-- and we're free to bite back, literally -- here's an opportunity for immediate action to address the world's ills! Take a big bite out of terrorism! Have a hearty hunk o' HAVARTI! Buy Danish! Fight the international Islamist boycott of Danish products! Bring on the Butter cookies!

Half-Danish Hollywood leftist moonbat Viggo Mortensen must have found this cartoon affair a little squirmish, what with the third-worldy opprobrium being heaped upon the heartland of his second passport, when he's much more comfortable with opprobrium being heaped upon the arrogant American empire.

However, he managed to excavate words of comfort from the far reaches of global journalism to post on the web-page of Perceval Press, his art-house publishing company. A hat-tip to Perceval for the link to an extraordinarily craven (even for the Guardian) editorial rationalizing the suppression of the cartoons based on "context"-- i.e. you have to make editorial decisions with an eye to whether your white supremacist political parties might be able to exploit what you print to their advantage. PUKE.

Also for linking to the International Herald Tribune (that's the New York Times on vacation) interview with a few Danes who have picked their poses along the same lines. "I will fight in the name of free speech," says Danish Muslim writer Rushy Rashid, "but not without respect for the consequences." [I believe I just spotted a Laura Ingraham "But Monkey!"] And then there's

Tim Jensen [professor of religions, University of Southern Denmark] who thinks that the dispute over the cartoons may help Muslims. 'They have managed to prove that they want to be respected. They don't want to be second-class citizens.'

...Indeed, after the publication of the cartoons, there is talk - some of it divisive - of spending public money on a grand new mosque to show Danes' respect for Muslims... At the Betty Nansen theater here, a show running since last month entitled "The Headscarf Monologues" seeks to explore the experience of 80 Muslim women living in Denmark.
The Headscarf Monologues. Can you make this stuff up, people? No, you cannot. Rodney Dangerfield always complained that he couldn't get no respect-- apparently the formula for this is to burn down buildings and threaten mass murder of people you've never met.

Mortensen was recently quoted characterizing "Cindy Sheehan, and how badly Katrina was bungled" as "two shots to the heart. I assumed he was talking about his own, which, owing to his solid-gold liberal credentials, can reasonably be expected to be bleeding at any given moment. But the expanded version of the quote concludes with “I hope the beast does fall down soon." Less generous folks than I have speculated that this is a veiled desire for a convenient assassination, but I'm prepared to read it as metaphorical, with impeachment being the desideratum of maximum disruption. Since both the Cirque de Sheehan and most of the complaints about the federal role in the Katrina debacle have been definitively stamped and filed in the "BOGUS" drawer, Mortensen had better hang his hopes on something else. [Oh it was so tempting to pair "half-Danish" with "half-wit" but I think he's actually somewhat smarter than that, which is the sad part.]

[Wonder how those Viggo-designed t-shirts that say "Support the Troops -- bring them home" are selling now that L.A. Times writer/whippersnapper Joel Stein has thrown cold water on that particular leftist posture. Stein has taken immense heat for his article about not supporting the troops if you don't support the war. I'm in the camp that found it a more honest position than the one he criticizes as hypocritical. Hugh Hewitt pretty much had Stein for lunch on his radio show, not so much for his dismissive attitude towards the military but for the utter poverty of thought and paucity of world-experience behind his position. Basically he's kind of a dumb kid writing about people and places and situations of which he knows absolutely nothing. But he has some of the right instincts about the Hollywood left.]

SUPPORT THE TROOPS? Nah, not so much.
Another cartoon made waves this past week, emanating not from the Religion of Peace from the religion of American Journalism, an interesting faith in which every adherent is also a god. Hence the defense of Tom Toles' right to publish the following in one of the country's three most-read newspapers, the Washington Post:

The cartoonist claimed that he did not intend to offend anyone in the military (only intended to offend Rumsfeld, he said, blinkeredly). Well, he may be quite sincere in that claim, but so what? All it means is that he is sincerely obtuse, and so partisan that he has managed to cauterize the most normal nerve-ends of human decency and compassion. His human feelings now benumbed, he exhibits in full flower the same syndrome as Christiane Amanpour and the other media types who went all postal when news anchor Bob Woodruff and his cameraman got wounded: "The war in Iraq has basically turned out to be a disaster and journalists have paid for it," wailed Christiane in an unguarded moment of consummate journo-narcissism.

There's only one way stuff like this flows spontaneously from your mouth, and that's if our soldiers and Marines are simply not real to you. Many prominent journalists, as we have long suspected, have dehumanized and objectified the military into a nameless, faceless mass about whom stereotypes and generalizations will do nicely to fill up the news copy. Specific identities, units, campaigns, and (most especially) victories are of no interest.

Bottom line on the Toles cartoon: Had the multiple amputee been wearing a standard-issue army fatigue shirt with a pocket name-tape bearing the word "CLELAND" on it, there would have been no ripple of laughter, and not one word uttered in defense of this vile caricature, anywhere in the country-- a place where Toles is free to be a heartless, brain-numbed jerk, and we are free to call him one.

It's a conservative canard that a right to speak does not automatically imply a right to be heard. But there is a degree to which freedom of speech becomes meaningless when there is a stranglehold on the flow of information, such as has been enjoyed by the leftist-oriented mainstream media in recent times past. Their monopoly cost the United States what should have been (and nearly was) a clear ride to victory in Vietnam, and the effort to re-enact this media-generated surrender in Iraq has been powerful. But it will not prevail, because information is now flowing in countless healthy capillaries within the body politic. Freedom of information is really more important than an established right to vote-- only because it will inevitably lead to the demand for that right.

Jonathan Steele in Britain's Guardian writes an amusingly illusion-based piece (hat-tip to Perceval Press again), hilariously titled "Bush just has to face it: he is wrong and Chirac is right," in which he describes President Bush's demeanour during the State of the Union address (quoting the L.A. Times) as "chastened, deferential, modest." It's amazing what you see when you want to see it. Au contraire, Mr. Steele, there doesn't seem to be much doubt that at times Bush was downright scolding, giving obstructionist Democrats the big spank-- I was quite stunned, in fact-- figured it would be interpreted as injudiciously unconciliatory. Steele goes on:
Bush's speech was remarkable for the number of times he called on his fellow Americans not to retreat, not to give up, not to succumb to pessimism, not to be defeatist. If his policies were not floundering, these pleas would not have been necessary.
Well, no, not the case. In fact, he was just issuing a needed corrective to the relentless media lying about how we're getting smashed over there-- which we aren't. It is truer to say that if Bush had taken the bullsh*t by the horn months and months ago, as he should have, these exhortations would not have been necessary. "They were markedly different from the confident tone of last year's address," continues Steele. Well, yeah-- because the media and the Democrats have spent the past year engaged in an unconscionable campaign of anti-Bush, anti-military, and fundamentally anti-American propoganda which history will gasp at one day.

[And no, I'm not saying that "anti-Bush" is synonymous with "anti-American." But "anti-military" -- when we have troops in combat and avowed enemies going after us and killing our citizens in a series of attacks (all but one prior to the Bush administration) -- yes, I think that's synonymous with "anti-American."]

Speaking of Vietnam, anyone out there still feeling romantic about Communism? Here's a timely report from middle son, just visiting Cambodia during his long Chinese New Year holiday:
Our first stop yesterday was the S-21 detention and torture facility, the most lethal one of the Rouge's and in a typical twist of genocidal irony, a former high school...the facility has since been turned into a museum, with all of the structures still intact and many of the beds and instruments of torture on display...thousands and thousands of pictures of the victims adorn the walls and there are dozens of leftover blood stains all over the floors, walls and even the ceilings of some of the rooms...
following our visit to the museum, we made the 15 km trek or so to the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh, so named for their use as mass gravesites during the genocide...there were two dozen or so dug-out pits of every shape and size at the site with sign posts indicating the number of victims and sometimes their manner of death...a huge stupa memorial containing 8000 skulls or so was located right in the centre of it all...

perhaps the most gut and heart-wrenching sight at the fields, though, were the impoverished local children, whose playgrounds and begging grounds are the grave site itself...their outstretched hands greeted us as soon as we arrived and it was enough to make you burst into tears seeing their condition...fortunately, we managed to spend about 30-45 minutes just recreating with them and goofing around, teaching each other different games and the like - definitely the most rewarding experience of the vacation thus far, but also the most saddening...
Nothing like a visit to one of the world's great Worker's Paradise states to give you some perspective! Too bad he wasn't accompanied by those venerable fans of the Marxist experiment like, say, George Galloway, Ward Churchill, George Soros, Noam Chomsky, and most of the political science department faculty at most major universities of the Western World. Too bad Joan Baez wasn't along for the trip-- I'm sure she could have found someplace to play the Glad Game.

I'm in the happy position of being mother to a jarhead (that's the standard Marine Corps haircut) who could tell me exactly what he and his comrades thought of the movie "Jarhead"-- and I'm the aunt of a graduate of the U.S.Naval Academy at Annapolis (class of 2005) who can also tell me what he and his fellow tars think of "Annapolis." Real jarheads, on the whole, thought "Jarhead" was boring, incoherent, and, where it really counted, totally at odds with reality. Of "Annapolis" I only know that the administration of the Academy took one look at the script and said, "You won't be filiming this HERE." I guess I'll see it myself, but the only up-or-down thumbs that will count will be those of the former mid-shipmen. (My nephew in fact broke both his thumbs while at the Academy-- not in the line of duty-- but I think they will be found in working order regarding the movie.) Verdict pending-- watch this space!

ON STAGE: Another verdict pending: someone in my hometown got the bright idea to create a musical version of Lord of the Rings, to premiere in our fair city this very month. The thought of someone cramming this three-volume literary masterpiece into a two-hour stage slow, interrupted by singing and dancing hobbits, ents, and orcs, was too too sick-making, and I had vowed to steer clear of it at all costs.

Not to be. I am compelled as a matter of wifely duty to accompany my husband and some of his clients to this dubious theatrical undertaking, in a matter of mere weeks. As a public service, therefore, I shall transmit on these pages my considered opinion of the proceedings (urp, gag, shuffle-off-to-Rivendell). Naturally, my critique shall be completely #$£&@!-ing objective.

at Kingsway-Lambton United Church:
My first reaction was to wonder how this would read had it been written in English. Did we mean: "To answer disrespect with blasphemy is the real essence (or a genuine act) of violence and hatred"? If that's what was meant, it's a pity that's not what it said.

However, rendered into standard English I still don't get what it's trying to say-- or maybe I do, and it's just too stupid to process. In any case, it's been put out there for all to see, in safe suburban side-street Etobicoke, where white people with large cars will feel... something... And, no doubt, congratulate themselves for it. And wonder how those scary Conservatives won that election.

[Being celebrated with particular vigor this year because the new President (Fr. Brian Shanley) of Providence College, where two of the three sons have gone, just put the total hob-nailed mendicant boot to the increasingly mainstreamed "underground" performance of the execrable Vagina Monologues on the campus. Congratulations, Fr. Shanley! You're a mensch!]