Friday, May 30, 2008

Remote Amazonian tribes for Obama

Talk about getting your message across…

These guys have had no contact with civilisation, they've never heard of electricity or television, and they certainly can't speak English.

Yet somehow, they just know

Things were going great until the plane made a low pass, and the locals spotted the 'Hillary '08' sticker on the cockpit…

Update: Thanks to Ace for linking. Also Jim, who has a fine take of his own on the story. Those poor hicks, clinging bitterly to bows and arrows and human sacrifice…

Also Rob at Say Anything (don't worry Rob, only liberals could possibly find a race angle in this, and we're long past caring what they think).

Jules Crittenden looks at the eco-angle…

I don’t know how big a carbon footprint these guys have, but the message here is pretty clear. If you want to save the planet and you aren’t living in a grass hut in Amazonia shooting arrows at passing airplanes, then you’re a chickengreenie.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Defending Beckham

Yesterday Allahpundit posted a video that's apparently a huge hit on YouTube, of David Beckham scoring from around 60 yards for LA Galaxy against Kansas City Wizards. Beckham hit the ball into an empty net, on the bounce, after the Wizards' goalkeeper had pushed upfield for what I assume was a late corner kick.

For the benefit of American readers wondering what the hell the Wizards' keeper was doing at the other end of the pitch, keepers will often do this if their team is trailing by an odd goal late in a game, reasoning that leaving their net undefended is a gamble worth taking in an attempt to grab an equaliser – after all, if you're losing anyway it hardly matters whether it's by one goal or two.

Allah sniffed that he couldn't see what all the fuss over Beckham's strike was about, pointing out that any professional soccer player should be able to hit a 24-foot-wide target from 60 yards, and he was absolutely right.

In Beckham's defence, however, I sent Allah the video of Beckham scoring from the half-way line for Manchester United against Wimbledon in 1996, having spotted Neil Sullivan off his line. Allah was gracious enough to post the video, and concede that the goal was rather more impressive.

A heated debate has inevitably been raging at Hot Air on the merits of soccer vis-à-vis American football, which I don't intend to restart here. Two very different games requiring different sets of skills.

One observation though. Of the excitement over Beckham's latest effort, Allah asked 'Is this just a by-product of the collective European mancrush on Beckham?' I would suggest no – it's more likely the by-product of Americans new to soccer who don't understand how easy it was for Beckham to hit the target; of generally stupid people who have a low novelty threshold, and of hysterical Beckham worshipers, who tend for some reason to reside in Asia.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mullahs' mouthpiece mangles elephant idioms

I know Iran is in fairly dire economic straits, but if the mullahs want to wage an effective propaganda war against the West, the least they could do is fork out a few rials to supply their various mouthpieces with some dictionaries of English idioms. Because when you're trying to chastise your enemies in their native tongue, nothing blunts the impact of spittle-laden invective like getting your figures of speech mixed up.

In an editorial in today's English-language edition of the state-controlled Kayhan newspaper, under the headline 'The White Elephant', Kian Mokhtari writes:

Is there something wrong with the world's sense of what is happening in Iraq? Do we have to continue to ignore the white elephant of the illegal US occupation of Iraq and the resulting civilian deaths of around one million people, in the same way that we have stood by and watched Palestine ripped to pieces by the occupying Zionist regime?

The US is increasingly concentrating its firepower against the Iraqi forces opposed to the US-led occupation of their country while sending the Iraqi army out to fight Al-Qaeda operatives. The US is busy killing Iraqi patriots sick to death of US murder, rape and torture of Iraqi civilians, while Maliki's government has been lumbered with the task of funding the United State's so-called fight against terror.

'Illegal US occupation'… 'one million civilian deaths'… 'Palestine ripped to pieces'… 'murder, rape and torture'… the New York Times should sign this guy up under some international leader writer exchange programme. Ultimately, however, the polemic is diminished because the author made the schoolboy error of confusing his elephant expressions.

The phrase Mokhtari was grasping for was, of course, 'elephant in the room', 'elephant in the living room' or some variant on that saying, meaning something that's impossible to ignore (my personal favourite is the British 'elephant in the drawing room'). 'White elephant' describes something whose cost exceeds its usefulness to the point that it becomes a liability.

We shouldn't be too hard on Mr Mokhtari. His English is clearly very good, and it's not uncommon for English speakers to confuse the two expressions – there are warnings to that effect on the respective Wikipedia entries. And there are those who would argue that Iraq has become a white elephant for the US, although that's clearly not the context in which Mokhtari was using the phrase (similarly, many supporters of US efforts in Iraq would say that Iran is the elephant in the room in the context of the continuing instability in the country).

But the whole point of a hostile regime addressing its opponents in their own language is that it's supposed to have an unsettling and corrosive effect. It says 'we know you', ' we understand you', and 'we're not embarrassed to share our ideology with you'. And to political leaders it says 'we're so confident that your people will believe our propaganda and turn against you that we're appealing to them directly'.

And if, after the first line of what's supposed to be some paradigm-shifting rhetorical flourish, all the reader is thinking is: 'He meant elephant in the living room, not white elephant – idiot!', then it's hard for them to take what follows seriously – particularly when it's so over the top that it verges on the comical anyway.

At the moment the war between the US and Iran is one of words, rather than weapons. And if you can't get a simple phrase right, there's a danger that when you say perfectly sensible things like

Islamic Republic of Iran recently apprehended a group of terrorists responsible for the Shiraz mosque bombing atrocity. They had been trained by the UK, US and Zionist agents. Among items discovered in their hideouts were: poison gas and chemical agents to cause maximum human casualties at other venues on their to-do list.

people might not believe you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lean times for climate change alarmists

I have a piece up at Pajamas Media on how, slowly but surely, the tide is turning against the climate change alarmists and in favour of those who are either skeptical about the existence of man-made global warming, or who believe in taking a more responsible approach to any problems that might arise from climate change, whether natural or man-made.

Long story short: the alarmists have yet to produce a single shred of evidence to support their claims that man-made CO2 emissions are causing irreversible and catastrophic changes in the Earth's climate. There's no proof that the warming seen in the last century was outside the natural range of variation in the Earth's temperature, and no proof that it has been caused by man. All the alarmists can offer is wild speculation, based on guesswork which is itself based on the output of discredited and essentially worthless computer models.

There is, however, ample proof that 'global warming' is not happening in the way the alarmists have for years been predicting that it would: we have the graphs showing that CO2 emissions are continuing to rise steadily, and we have the temperature data showing that there's been no increase in global temperatures for ten years now – and that, indeed, in recent years the Earth has cooled slightly.

Contrary to what Al Gore says, the science isn't settled, and the debate isn't over.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Freed Gitmo detainee, struggling to adapt to life on the outside, blows himself up in Iraq

Politicians, anti-war groups and the mainstream media complain ceaselessly that America should close Guantanamo Bay, and either return the terror suspects being held at the camp to their home countries or put them on trial in civilian courts in the US. More than 400 detainees have indeed been returned to their countries, where they’ve either been tried for offences committed there, kept under some form of supervision or freed without charge.

One such detainee was Abdallah Salih al-Ajmi, a Kuwaiti who was repatriated in 2005 and subsequently acquitted of terrorism charges. While some jailbirds try to make the most of their freedom by ‘putting their life back together’, in Iraq last week Ajmi turned that concept spectacularly on its head by blowing himself apart. Ajmi, along with two other Kuwaitis, detonated two explosive-filled vehicles in Mosul, killing themselves and seven other people.

Ajmi is apparently the first former Guantanamo detainee to carry out a suicide bombing in Iraq, but he’s not the first to return to the fight after being released. Last year the Pentagon reported that at least 30 former detainees had been killed or captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan (you can find details about seven of them here). The AFP story about Ajmi puts the number of Gitmo alumnus "confirmed or suspected" of having returned to terrorism at 36.

The UK Guardian reports that Ajmi was captured attempting to cross from Afghanistan into Pakistan in 2001. The US military opposed his release from Guantanamo, claiming that he presented a continuing danger. The case against Ajmi in Kuwait collapsed on a technicality: the court ruled that alleged testimony from Guantanamo was inadmissible because Ajmi hadn't signed it.

The report adds: ‘The involvement of an ex-Guantanamo detainee will make it harder for civil rights lawyers in the US and Britain who have been fighting for the release of the remaining prisoners at the camp complex.’

We should be so lucky. It’s likely to take more than a few dead bodies in Mosul to silence the calls from The New York Times, Human Rights Watch and others for Guantanamo to be closed, and its inmates either freed, regardless of the consequences, or moved to prisons or military bases in the US – and afforded a whole swathe of additional rights in the process, including new opportunities to challenge their detention.

Nobody is pretending that Guantanamo and the military tribunals system is the perfect solution for dealing with 'enemy combatants' captured in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but unfortunately no-one has as yet come up with an alternative that doesn't run the risk of allowing dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of fanatical, trained terrorists to go free. The phrase ‘legal minefield’ has never been so appropriate, although perhaps the minefield metaphor should be updated to include explosively formed penetrators and suicide bombers.

McCain, Obama and Hillary have all pledged to close Guantanamo if they're elected, although, as the LA Times reported recently, none of the three has offered specifics about how they would deal with the suspects being held there. The best McCain could come up with in a recent speech was: "I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control."

The Times story highlights the main stumbling block in the way of closing Guantanamo: the Pentagon wants to retain the ability to detain those individuals it considers most dangerous indefinitely, regardless of whether it has strong evidence against them. But, even were Congress to pass such a law, the anti-war lobby and their lawyers would begin fighting it just as soon as they’d shaken off their hangovers from the ‘End of Gitmo’ party.

Leaving aside the human rights specialists and activist judges, the legal establishment hasn’t been overly helpful, appearing to treat the problem of how to strike a balance between civil liberties and the rights of detainees, and the need to protect the public, as a conundrum to be pondered to the nth degree, rather than a matter of life and death.

Guantanamo, and the wider legal and constitutional issues arising from the War on Terror, have been addressed by some formidable legal minds, including US Court of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner, whose book Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency is reviewed by the Weekly Standard’s Peter Berkowitz here, and John Yoo, the former Justice Department official who found himself framing much of the Bush administration’s legal response to 9/11 and its aftermath. But the fact that people have time to write books about these issues doesn’t bode well for the prospects of coming up with solutions any time soon.

Meanwhile, for the presidential candidates it’s all about pandering to the perception, certainly held by many in the US and abroad but magnified by politicians and the media, that America’s image somehow needs repairing. Even McCain, who’s steadfast in his support for the Iraq mission, apparently feels compelled to throw the Guantanamo bone to the less-hysterical elements of the anti-war crowd.

For the lawyers and human rights groups who are determined to spring as many detainees from Guantanamo as they possibly can, the motivations are different. While some are no doubt acting out of principle – however naively – others aren't much concerned with the guilt or innocence of those whose release they're battling to secure; for them it's all about embarrassing the US and the Bush administration, and if, every so often, one of those freed detainees happens to blow a few innocent people to pieces, that's a risk worth taking.

The anti-war crowd, and the left in general, are exemplars of political expediency, and have never been overly burdened by the unpleasant consequences of their supremely principled actions. And their efforts are cheered on by a media that takes as much delight in seeing the Bush administration defeated in the courtroom as it does from seeing US forces and their allies frustrated on the battlefield.

The US needs to come up with a watertight legal framework for dealing with the threat from radical Islamists, who often have no national allegiance, and refuse to abide by even the most basic conventions of war, fast. Those who have their reservations, but who aren’t ideologically invested in seeing Bush and the Republicans defeated, should ponder the backlash that would follow if another freed Guantanamo detainee mounted a successful attack closer to home. Last week it was seven dead in Mosul. Next time it could be 50 in London, or 500 in New York.

In the meantime, perhaps some of the shysters and Atticus Finch wannabes who are so desperate to see the inmates of Guantanamo walk might like to meet with the families of those who were murdered by Ajmi last month. They would be able to reassure the bereaved that, while his release proved fatal for their loved ones, at least justice was seen to be done.

Update: I thought of speculating in this post that some in the MSM/anti-war/human rights crowd might try to suggest that Gitmo turned Ajmi into terrorist. But I thought 'Nah, I'm getting paranoid.'

Then, via Ace, I see this…