Monday, 21 February 2011

"Eminent cleric", Qaradawi. Riiight...

The "influential cleric".  As influential
as Vlad the Impaler?
Just a quick post before jumping on a plane, so no time for links, but just to note that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has called back into town their spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who gave the sermon in Tahrir square last Friday. This guy is held up as a "moderate" in much of mainstream reporting.  Most of the mainstream press has chosen to go with the BBC moniker for him: "influential cleric".

Thursday, 17 February 2011

"Moving Eastward". Is China the next domino?

In China a transition to democracy could easily give rise to a populist strongman.”
I jotted down some semi-formed thoughts on democracy and China the other day. Daniel A. Bell has done a more thorough job of it in “Moving Eastward”, in today’s New York Times. He asks:
Is China the next domino? …
So should outside forces turn to democracy-promotion in China?
And identifies two camps in the “democracy is not so good” camp, the Pessimists and Optimists. 
… the “democracy is not so good” camp is itself divided into two different groups. Let us call them Pessimists and Optimists.
The Pessimists point to a serious problem with democracy: The will of the people may not be moral — it could endorse racism, fascism or and imperialism.
The Optimists point to another key problem with democracy: There is no formal representation for non-voters who are affected by the policies of the government. Hence a democratic form of government may be counter to the interests of future generations and people living outside national boundaries. 
Read the whole article here.  And downloadable PDF is here.   And below, click on "Read more"...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Forgetting one's dearly held views

Charles Moore says that Peregrine Worsthorne, still thriving at the age of 87, "claims to have forgotten why he ever held any of the strong views he once advanced". [1]

Perhaps that "curiously good position", as Moore calls it, sneaks up on one. As I motor along into the seventh decade of my life, I wonder, too, about once strongly-held positions, one's dearly-held views.  For example on democracy. I'm no longer as sure, as certain, as I once was that it's the sine qua non, the essential, I once thought it. 

"Down! down!" you outraged folk, "one savaging at a time, please!"

BBC Blasts Baleful Buggery Barbarity in Bugiri

Interviews in the streets of Uganda's capital Kampala by the BBC radio, yesterday, reveal shocking malevolence towards homosexuals in Uganda.  Many people were interviewed.  The interviewer said he was expecting antipathy to homosexuality, but not the level of vitriol, which was universal. Not a single interviewee showed any tolerance of homosexuality.  Quite an attitude for a country that has a major town called "Bugiri" just east of Kampala...

The least the average interviewee called for was for jailing of homosexuals.  Many want them executed.  

The interviewer? The aptly named Mr Allcock....

Aptly?  Towards the end of one interview --  during which the interviewee had praised a new Ugandan law calling for compulsory jailing of homosexuals, and execution (!) of repeat offenders --  Allcock revealed that he was himself gay. End of interview, in some disarray.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Cycling into the news

"Illegal" parking shows popularity of
Cycling; but government doesn't
support it.  From
Designing HK.
The letter I wrote to South China Morning Post on 28 January led to the letters editor writing to me with some questions, which I answered, then to contact from the  chairman of the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance, which I copy below.
Then there was an editorial on bicycles for Hong Kong, in the SCMP of 7th Feb, and an article yesterday by Martin Turner yesterday (pdf's below).  So seems things are moving along a bit, and it would be great if there could be some movement on two issues:

Friday, 11 February 2011

Tariq Ramadan: the lionized wolf in jackal's clothing; he speaketh with two tongues

Ramadan speaks with one tongue
to the west and with another
to the Arabic World.  See here.
I wrote about Ramadan’s dishonest piece in the New York Times a couple of days ago and then about the obsequious BBC interview with him the next day. Since then, more articles taking him and the New York Times to task.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Lawrence of Arabia and Brother Tariq

Below, Letter yesterday to BBC re their worldservice interview by Lawrence Pollard of Tariq Ramadan.  Ramadan is beloved of lefties in the west for he appears moderate.  But he's only "moderate" in quotes, as in reality his sympathies are with the expansion of Sharia law and radical Islam through the likes of Hamas.  He could not bring himself even to condemn execution by stoning, when last year he was asked his view about the stoning of a woman in Iran.

China's prison population

Well, well, I get a letter published in The Spectator [5 Feb]....
Mind, it won't do anything to quell the criticism I've had of this blog: that on matters Chinese, I'm very (too?) pro China.  Generally, I'd plead guilty to that, as China often gets a bum rap.  Still, see the PS to the letter, in which I correct my own stats....

"Fund chief looks to China growth story": Clinton Dines heads up Caledonia Investment

Clinton Dines, and lookin' good at 52!
I first met Cliton Dines in Peking 1990.  He introduced me to a China-based guy, who was to come work for me and become our top Aussie Trade Commissioner in Asia.
Clinton worked for many years for BHP -- 21 years according to this story.
Here he is, back in Sydney, as "Executive Chairman Asia" for Caledonian Investments.
"He knows the Chinese domestic economy very well and the way China works more so than most," said Mark Pervan, the head of commodity research at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group.
Hear, hear! to that.  And would add that his Chinese is perfect.  Good on Clinton!
Reported in today's South China Morning Post, Business section, "The Back Page".  Here; but subscription required.  Copied in full below....

I don't get it: why would any one "revert"?

Here’s something I don’t get.  In yesterday’s South China Morning Post there are four stories on Islam.  Now, the SCMP is a pretty middle-of-the-road paper, neutral to slightly left of centre.  It is by no means an anti-Islam paper, let alone touched by “Islamophobia”.  Still, five stories in one day, all about violent acts carried out in the name of Islam.  These are the headlines:

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

“Whither the Muslim Brotherhood”

Letter to the International Herald Tribune, the international edition of the New York Times:

TARIQ Ramadan is wrong to imply that the Muslim Brotherhood was strongly critical of the fascist governments in Germany during the Second World War (“Whither the Muslim Brotherhood”, IHT, Feb 9).

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Muslim Brotherhood is "benign, hapless, not particularly popular"... Not.

"He's mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse's health,
a boy's love, or a whore's oath."
King Lear (III, vi, 19-21) 
A few weeks back there was no mention at all of the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in Egypt’s politics.
Then there was fleeting mention.
Then there was more mention, but the line was: “they won’t be a part of the new democracy”.
Then the line became: “well, the Brotherhood may be a part of the new democracy, but don't worry, they’re pussy cats” [the wolf is tame...], or they're too disorganised to get much of the vote, or they're not popular anyway, so  "don't worry; be happy" [believe the whore's oath].
Or, as David Horovitz says:

Is "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" always a fallacy?

Daniel Pipes has written an interesting piece "Islam and Democracy -  Much Hard Work Needed", National Post, 7 Feb.
I wrote a comment on his site:

Monday, 7 February 2011

The black dress and black thoughts of Hizb ut-Tahrir

Anti-Mubarak protestors outside the Egyptian Embassy in London, 4 Feb.

Look at the photo above and tell me what you think.  What’s your main impression?

Mine is of Black.  Black of the clothes, black of the signs.  And black of the ideology behind it all, black, dark, negative.  “Democracy will bring oppression”.  Right. And “Arbeit macht frei”.

Coffee-shop analysis.

Blood streams from a man’s face as he is carried from Tahrir Square. Stones are hurled between antigovernment protesters and President Hosni Mubarak’s big-bellied provocateurs.
       -- “Hosni Mubarak Agonistes”, Roger Cohen, New York Times, Feb 3.  Here.
Whenever you see a story beginning “Blood streams from a man’s face….” Run for your life, for you’re about to be mugged by an agenda, dressed in the clothing of coffee-shop analysis. 

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Brotherhood has changed its spots? Of hopes, fears and Pink-hued analysis...

It seems to me the difference between the Left and the Right on their views of the future of Egypt is this: that the Left analyses based on what it hopes and wishes might happen; the Right analysed based on what it worries and fears will happen. 
A cautious soul, wanting to cover both possibilities, would “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”.
The Left hopes and wishes that the demonstrations are the outpouring of liberal-democratic aspirations.  That the outcome will indeed be a flourishing democracy, the “voice of the people” having triumphed.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Taking CAIR of business.... Why Obama is curling up with the Brotherhood

Before Obama's June 4 2009 speech in Cairo, his advance guard tried to get representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood invited to the grand hall of Al-Azhar University. Their Egyptian hosts demurred. Not least because the Brotherhood is banned in Egypt. So the attempt appeared ham-fisted and discourteous at the very least. Kind of like inviting Pastor Terry Jones to a Koran-reading session at the local Mosque (the one for Very, Very Moderate Extremists).

But it was more than just discourteous. It was also profoundly troubling.

BBC "Heart and Soul" discussion of Islam

This is a catch-up Post, something I'd missed posting in October, but is still relevant owing to the spotlight on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.....  it was an email letter to the BBC (part of which they read out in a follow-up):

PEW Research suggest the Muslim Brotherhood will be a shoe-in

The demonstrators in Egypt want democracy.  That fits with the PEW research findings: 59% say they “prefer democracy”.
But who will they vote for?
Look at the PEW figures on the attitudes of Egyptian Muslims (90% of the Egyptian population).  They:
·      Support Hamas: 49%
·      Think Islam playing a large role in society is a good thing: 95%
·      Believe there is a struggle between modernisers and fundamentalists: 31%
o   And side with the fundamentalists: 59%
·      Believe in gender segregation at work: 54%
·      Believe in stoning to death for adultery: 82%
·      Believe in whipping and/or cutting off hand for theft: 77%
·      Believe in the death penalty for apostasy: 84%
Now, I ask: which political group in Egypt is most closely aligned with those attitudes?  Clue: it’s not the Egyptian Greens or the Egyptian Liberal Party (both of these are real parties!).  Clue: it’s the Muslim Brotherhood.  Whoops, let it out of the bag….
[BTW: some of those figures on stoning, whipping, death, etc, are pretty scary aren't they?  For a seemingly secular society with a long and distinguished history?]
“PEW Global Attitudes Project”, December 10, 2010.  Here.

Al-Jazeera the best coverage on Egypt

Some of the best coverage of the demonstrations in Egypt were on Al-Jazeera.  They were so good, they were cut off by the authorities.  Till then, they’d had the cameras in and about the crowds and were getting info that the others – CNN, BBC, etc – simply weren’t wired in to get.
Next best, seemed to me, was CCTV of China.  They were practical and objective.  They talked of post-Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

"A nice cup of tea"

I've been reading Orwell's essays on my iPad lately -- remarkably easy and pleasurable.  And came across one I'd not seen before, but I now realise that it has infused, steeped as it were, the public's imagination more than I realised.  For example: the whole "milk in first" or "milk in last" controversy, that has split families.  Or the "shaken not stirred" concept of the way tea should be handled post-adding of the boiling water; I wonder if Fleming drew on this for Bond's preference (incorrect as any cocktail mixologist will tell you) for his dry Martinis to be "shaken not stirred"....

Cohen vs Douthat: untethered hope-air ballon, vs a whiff of reality...

Reliable dhimmi and Jester to the Court des bien-pensants, Roger Cohen, does it again in “Exit the Israel alibi”, in today’s New York Times .  He lets his untethered optimism fly off into the clouds of unlikelyhood.  The ructions in Egypt are prelude to Arab democracy, as Tunisia “with its very un-Islamic revolution has just demonstrated”.  Really? Already?
Actually, I share Cohen’s hope.