Saturday, January 22, 2005

Exceptionally concise. Turning to British politics, in such a sad state that usually I steer clear with nose held tightly, I am faced with DumbJon's wonderfully compressed contempt for the current Conservative party. DJ's views are terse, which perhaps explains his lack of true fame, but I think he doesn't just hit the nail on the head, he smacks it through the wall. Exhilarating, or painful if you read his missive with your thumbs and fingers.

Two takes on the President's inaugural, plus mine.

I happened to see the President's inaugural speech the other day. That was some kind of luck, since I'd forgotten it was taking place, made no special plans previously, and would usually have been otherwise engaged. But, as I sat down with my tea and dunking biscuits with my day mostly over, I was offered what must have been the last two thirds of his stirring speech.

I tend to agree with William Kristol

'INFORMED BY STRAUSS and inspired by Paine, appealing to Lincoln and alluding to Truman, beginning with the Constitution and ending with the Declaration, with Biblical phrases echoing throughout--George W. Bush's Second Inaugural was a powerful and subtle speech.'

It was, to me, a literary speech, a speech with many levels. Not always artistic; sometimes the idea was merely to advance the plot. Always though it retained a sense of a story unfolding to which it was referring but also through the course of its rhetoric, advancing. I liked that.

David Frum had a different viewpoint, trying to accommodate the views of Peggy Noonan, which was very interesting, but to my mind the contribution of someone who wants to direct the parade rather than merely cheerlead. Frum's view is valid as a shot across the bows, and seems to reflect a certain unsteadiness when faced with rhetoric at a time when people like Frum want actions to sure up their support. With a man like Bush though, words can equate to actions, because he's a man renowned for actions rather than words. Thus I think it is appropriate for Bush not to pare down his words too much, since he always means what he says (when he's thought it through) and to say too little in such public circumstances is dangerous.

Fair enough to notice the irregularities in Bush's speech, but the criticism of the inclusion of the Koran in Bush's speech is a little shallow, as indeed are the fine points of rhetoric to a man that wishes to inspire honestly rather than to ossify his philosophy into an art. Yes, the Koran reference rang untrue, but sometimes the job of leadership consists in being seen to be fair in the here and now, rather than historically precise. Besides, the Koran does contain principles which, if applied in isolation from the jihadi mentality which is inspired by other parts of the Koran, do find echoes in the other two main faiths and US history too. It may seem a weak point to make, but to ignore the weak point just because weak would, I think, be damaging- sort of like a bad teacher praising only remarks that are 95+% right.

Overall I thought an exceptionally well thought-through speech which understood the occasion and showed a commitment to the job of leadership. Incidentally, I think you have to put it in the context of Bush's new team's recent activites as well. Condi Rice, for instance, in saying that the time of diplomacy is now, may have been saying really that the time for war may be later. Despite the apparent wooliness of parts of Bush's speech, I wouldn't conclude that there is a faint heart or a woolly mind to be found in the new Whitehouse.

Friday, January 21, 2005

(Insert: I'm experiencing blogger delay syndrome, which may be delaying the posting process- but I don't know what you all can see that I don't.)

Floating ideas. That's all I'm doing, as it seems that's what the BBC is doing with this report about the killing of a young Palestinian who seems to be have been shot by Israeli troops while playing with a toy gun. I say 'young', rather than 'boy', because the report can say only that he was '13 or 14'. I say 'seems', because the Israeli spokesman is quoted saying only that Israeli troops shot a suspected gunman. The only sources for the gun being a toy seem to have been Palestinian- although the nationalities of what they call 'witnesses' are not mentioned by the BBC.

I don't know about you but I was long past playing with toy guns when I was thirteen, and as we know how prevalent weapons are even among young Palestinian people it seems very strange anyone would want a toy one when he could have the real thing. Even allowing for that, the BBC should really make clear that when the Palestinians talk of 'toy guns' they may really mean replicas- which seem designed to give a vicarious thrill of 'militantism' (yeah, right). Strange too that he'd take a 'toy gun' along in a crowd in this way when many of his peers, there is no doubt, are sufficiently weaponised to know the significance of such an act. The recklessness of youth perhaps. Very reckless if so.

I also notice that the medical sources apparently knew what the boy had had for his birthday, and that the witnesses were witnesses to his birthday present as well as his death. Family perhaps, or close friends- but they couldn't give his exact age to the journalist, presuming an interview took place somewhere down the line. Even then possibly that ought to be mentioned by the report- as I am sure that's the kind of thing any court would like to know, and this is the court of public opinion the BBC are addressing.

It is of course possible to imagine scenarios when all the the above could be explained without questioning the veracity of the details of the story, but I wouldn't accept it without a good explanation- which the BBC doesn't provide.

Finally I'd say that the whole incident is so understandable from a military point of view (even the police in the UK have been similarly fooled, if such is the case), that I fail to see, almost, why the unfortunate death of one young person should be front page news at all.

Update: This might be a related theme.

Here is the text as it appeared to me (I am reproducing it here in case my views are undercut by subsequent stealthy edits).

'Israeli soldiers have shot dead a Palestinian boy who was playing with a toy rifle, after apparently mistaking him for a gunman.
Troops patrolling Tubas, a West Bank village near Jenin, fired at the boy, aged 13 or 14, after he aimed the toy weapon at them, witnesses said.

He was with a group of children who were taunting the soldiers.

An Israeli military source confirmed troops had opened fire on a crowd after spotting what appeared to be a gunman.

Palestinian medical sources said the boy, Salah Ikhab, died in an ambulance on his way to hospital after being shot in the chest.

Witnesses and medical sources told the AFP news agency the boy had been given the toy as a present for the Eid holiday.

Israeli troops in Gaza also shot and killed a 13-year-old boy, Salah Abu Alaes, as he was walking with his family near the entrance to Rafah's sprawling refugee camp, Palestinian hospital officials said.

The officials were not able to give details on the circumstances of the shooting and the Israeli army had no immediate comment.

The incidents came as Israeli military chiefs met Palestinian security officials to discuss ways to avert a major military offensive in the Gaza Strip, in response to attacks on Israelis.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Someone Melanie often praises, by contrast to the below post, is Amir Taheri- who has written an insightful article for the NYP proposing Bush as both the initiator of the so-called neo-Conservative programme, and an expression of the will of the US public. That's more or less the reverse analysis of that offered by the left, especially the BBC- so I commend it strongly as it's likely to be true.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Mayor Ken and Qaradawi: a troublesome affair. I mentioned this way back, when the Beeb were trying to smooth the feathers of the body politic by covering for Qaradawi's lack of housetraining. No one it seems really cares much about the Beeb's role (merely a conduit after all), but Ken's not been so lucky, and he's having to defend himself at every turn. Melanie Phillips definitely doesn't set out to help him in this post, or Tony Blair for that matter:

'Livingstone is not fit to hold public office. When will Tony Blair be asked what he thinks about Livingstone’s support for Qaradawi? When will Blair be confronted with Livingstone’s support for Muslim Brotherhood ideas, against which Blair is ostensibly fighting across the world? When will Blair be held to account for this dangerous menace, in the person of the Mayor of London, to life, liberty and decency – a man who the Prime Minister himself cynically brought back from political exile into the Labour party, purely to prevent a haemorrhage of the Labour mayoral vote?'

George Bush is a great American leader. Even though I believe it on many grounds, I know it from the fact that only he could have got the BBC doing polls every other week saying how much (or rather, how little) the peoples of the world appreciate him. He is making our lazy Aunty work. Only under George W. Bush could the US have coaxed this level of activity from the world's formerly supine media (BBC huffing and puffing at the fore).

The Beeb's latest poll is generally risible, as they usually are (not mentioning, for example, that the press in most parts of the world is directing popular opinion against the US- led by... -I'd rather not repeat myself any more than necessary), and there's a headline, 'Global poll slams Bush leadership', to go with it. Then we are treated to such observations as that Latin American antipathy to GWB is surprising because 'the region has had less direct involvement in US foreign policy issues, says our correspondent.' I suppose we are led to wonder what the figures would have been like had they had direct experience, eh? We also find that

' Another surprise was India's support for Mr Bush. The poll found 62% believed his administration was positive for global security.

The BBC's Nick Bryant says the reason for this may be because the poll was carried out in cities where people have benefited economically from closer trade ties with the US.'

So they were bribed then, I gather. What was that Kerry (risible again in being upstaged by Barabara Boxer as he tried to lay into Condi Rice yesterday) said about a coalition of the bribed and the coerced?

Finally, given the headline of the story it was something of a surprise to read near the end of the article a caveat to all this Beeb sponsored doom and gloom:

'But Mr Kull says the results do not constitute a definitive world-wide majority, "suggesting there may be some underlying openness to repairing relations with the US".'

So, only a slamming from the world (and only, I suppose, of W's America), not a definitive world-wide majority. I imagine W and Condi will be relieved to hear it.

Update: Although I stand by my comments about Bush's quality, I think that the desire to contradict the Beeb perhaps limits more calm scrutiny. Belgravia despatch has some of that. via Instapundit.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Natural Partners

It should I suppose be obvious why the BBC and the UN are such natural partners. The BBC is the jewel in the crown of the nanny state that has, thanks to its old Empire network, gone global (oh where will all our- or even all their!- young minds go for enrichment should we not have Aunty Beeb?), and the UN loves telling people how to behave on the international stage. Naturally they have a lot to gossip about when they get together.

So how about Malta then? Those naughty Maltese have decided unilaterally that their island is not very big and that they are neatly placed as a stepping stone on the way to places and that therefore they can't go easy on scroungers, sorry, asylum seekers who come to their shores. Terrible. Somebody really ought to tell them off, make an example of them. I know, how about nanny UN and aunty BBC in tandem?

Or take that tsunami (again). Who is to teach the world the lessons it should learn unless Aunty Beeb and Nanny UN team up together under that nice mr Egeland (no sniggering please)- who must surely be a fine candidate for next UN Secretary General after Mr Annan decides he has done enough good for the international community.

Although nanny and aunty BBC are clearly of the same managerial sex, that should be no obstacle to a fruitful union between them, now should it? Not in this day and age?

Vital Statistics from A Tangled Web:

Number of Palestinian babies: fewer than you've been led to believe
Number of Palestinian liars: demonstrably more than they've let on.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Summing it up nicely

To add to the post below, this from Richard North seemed too perfect a complement to leave to an update of an update.

Frum nails the Harry incident as Roger Simon rethinks his proposed removal of the Royal family- see below post link for Roger's updated view. I'd add that I find it very strange that Harry hadn't learnt what a Nazi sympathiser his great uncle was, and acted accordingly.

Meanwhile the BBC has moved onto airing the views of Seymour Hersch.

Update- the BBC are also highlighting a UN report into world poverty which contains some of that hand-on-the-shoulder vague criticism which the BBC deigns to make of the UN. Less friendly is the association it leaves with the US:

'Our correspondent says it is an attempt to engage real change in the UN to go along with grandiose declarations.

Dr Sachs will say that the resources needed are well within the means of the world's richest nations.

Only five nations - Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden - have met their targets of providing 0.7% of GNP for development assistance.

The US, for example, spends only 0.15% of its GDP on development aid.'

In other words, to what do we owe the UN's grandiose statements, which fail to materialise, than the failure of the West, especially the US, to enable their materialisation through unstingy behaviour?

Leave aside all the development aid to Iraq. Discount the US' military involvement in Indonesia, and scrub out the generosity of business and the consumer in the world's foremost capitalist society, and that might, might just, be valid. But if the UN fails to command the respect of nations sufficient to see aid channelled through it, whose fault is that? Oh, and don´t forget to forget about Bush Aids package for Africa, or that 0.15% figure, which does so well to flesh out a boring and disquietening news report with prejudice, might not give so much knockabout media fun.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

An end to everything except World Government.

Roger Simon calls for an end to the Royal Family. Ang. Bish. Richard Holloway says that God has already met His end. The BBC says that Sharon is causing an end to the 'Peace Process', and the BBC's Newsnight declares that the tsunami goes to show we all need a powerful UN with an activist Secretary General.

Yeah, right. (thanks to ATW for Holloway link)

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