Missing Churchill

With new iPod firmly in hand, I’ve taken yet another late-step forward in the area of personal and home technology.

The apple (pun intended) fell far from the tree when it comes to this kind of stuff; my father who was the first person I ever knew who owned a CD player in the early 80’s was constantly buying or at least wanting the next new gadget. I on the other hand am a textbook follower as that pertains not to firms but to consumers.

I finally grabbed the bull of this latest technological ‘boom’ by the horns in December when I enticed my wife into purchasing one for my birthday. It’s become a constant companion and I’ve taken to listening to it on breaks and lunches during the week.

I’ve found pod-casting an enjoyable way to keep track of radio that I can’t hear live as well as a means for listening to non-broadcasters with an opinion. I had occasion today to re-visit a program-length interview of British historian Andrew Roberts’ new volume A History of the English Speaking Peoples since 1900.

A full three hours, it is a fine example of smart talk-radio. I was particularly struck during today’s listening by the final exchange of the evening. It is especially apropos today as we can now begin to make judgments about Britain and Europe’s reaction to aggression against their own.

From the interview:

HH: …do you see other people of the equivalent of them [Blair, Bush] and certainly we need Churchills…more than that, do you see them around anywhere?

AR: I don’t really. Um, I’m afraid…I think that Mr. Giuliani obviously showed fabulous leadership at the time of 9/11, so maybe he would be worthwhile…I think that, ah, Mr. McCain with his very forthright, uh, tough stance towards the war against terror also might prove a good leader but I’m afraid I can’t really see the Republicans winning the next election and on the Democratic side it is dire from beginning to end.

All rejoice at the fact that 15 British marines and sailors will be heading home soon and that their release was secured without bloodshed. In the bigger picture though (and there is always a bigger picture) at what price was their freedom bought?

If I’ve read Thomas PM Barnett right here, he seems to think that nothing’s changed. I’m left wondering if Tehran now wonders how easy it may be to push the West on something truly meaningful when that action is backed by a nuclear deterrent.

Pet Food Recalled After Deaths, Food Sold Under Iams, Eukanuba And Store Brands Linked To Deaths Of At Least 10 Cats And Dogs – CBS News

A quick heads up for fellow pet owners. 

Pet Food Recalled After Deaths, Food Sold Under Iams, Eukanuba And Store Brands Linked To Deaths Of At Least 10 Cats And Dogs – CBS News

(CBS) A major manufacturer of dog and cat food sold under Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kroger and other store brands recalled 60 million containers of wet pet food Friday after reports of kidney failure and deaths.

An unknown number of cats and dogs suffered kidney failure and about 10 died after eating the affected pet food, Menu Foods said in announcing the North American recall. Product testing has not revealed a link explaining the reported cases of illness and death, the company said.

“At this juncture, we’re not 100 percent sure what’s happened,” said Paul Henderson, the company’s president and chief executive officer. However, the recalled products were made using wheat gluten purchased from a new supplier, since dropped for another source, spokeswoman Sarah Tuite said. Wheat gluten is a source of protein.

The recall covers the company’s “cuts and gravy” style food, which consists of chunks of meat in gravy, sold in cans and small foil pouches between Dec. 3 and March 6 throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

More on Ayaan Hirshi Ali

We’ve profiled Ms. Ali before. She has also appeared as a guest on Glenn Back. So here is another enlightening piece on what happens when you question Islam.

NEW YORK–Ayaan Hirsi Ali is untrammeled and unrepentant: “I am supposed to apologize for saying the prophet is a pervert and a tyrant,” she declares. “But that is apologizing for the truth.”

Statements such as these have brought Ms. Hirsi Ali to world-wide attention. Though she recently left her adopted country, Holland–where her friend and intellectual collaborator Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist in 2004–she is still accompanied by armed guards wherever she travels.

Ms. Hirsi Ali was born in 1969 in Mogadishu–into, as she puts it, “the Islamic civilization, as far as you can call it a civilization.” In 1992, at age 22, her family gave her hand to a distant relative; had the marriage ensued, she says, it would have been “an arranged rape.” But as she was shipped to the appointment via Europe, she fled, obtaining asylum in Holland. There, “through observation, through experience, through reading,” she acquainted herself with a different world. “The culture that I came to and I live in now is not perfect,” Ms. Hirsi Ali says. “But this culture, the West, the product of the Enlightenment, is the best humanity has ever achieved.”

Unease over Muslim immigration had been rising in the Low Countries for some time. For instance, when the gay right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn–“I am in favor of a cold war with Islam,” he said, and believed the borders should be closed to Muslims–was gunned down in 2002, it was widely assumed his killer was an Islamist. There was a strange sense of relief when he turned out to be a mere animal-rights activist. Ms. Hirsi Ali brought integration issues to further attention, exposing domestic abuse and even honor killings in the Dutch-Muslim “dish cities.”

In 2003, she won a seat in the parliament as a member of the center-right VVD Party, for People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. The next year, she wrote the script for a short film called “Submission.” It investigated passages from the Quran that Ms. Hirsi Ali contends authorize violence against women, and did so by projecting those passages onto naked female bodies. In retrospect, she deeply regrets the outcome: “I don’t think the film was worth the human life.”

The life in question was that of Van Gogh, a prominent controversialist and the film’s director. At the end of 2004, an Islamist named Mohammed Buyeri shot him as he was bicycling to work in downtown Amsterdam, then almost decapitated him with a curved sword. He left a manifesto impaled to the body: “I know for sure that you, Oh Hirsi Ali, will go down,” was its incantation. “I know for sure that you, Oh unbelieving fundamentalist, will go down.”

The shock was palpable. Holland–which has the second largest per capita population of Muslims in the EU, after France–had always prided itself on its pluralism, in which all groups would be tolerated but not integrated. The killing made clear just how apart its groups were. “Immediately after the murder,” Ms. Hirsi Ali says, “we learned Theo’s killer had access to education, he had learned the language, he had taken welfare. He made it very clear he knew what democracy meant, he knew what liberalism was, and he consciously rejected it. . . . He said, ‘I have an alternative framework. It’s Islam. It’s the Quran.’ ”

At his sentencing, Mohammed Buyeri said he would have killed his own brother, had he made “Submission” or otherwise insulted the One True Faith. “And why?” Ms. Hirsi Ali asks. “Because he said his god ordered him to do it. . . . We need to see,” she continues, “that this isn’t something that’s caused by special offense, the right, Jews, poverty. It’s religion

Ms. Hirsi Ali was forced into living underground; a hard-line VVD minister named Rita Verdonk, cracking down on immigration, canceled her citizenship for misstatements made on her asylum application–which Ms. Hirsi Ali had admitted years before and justified as a means to win quicker admission at a time of great personal vulnerability. The resulting controversy led to the collapse of Holland’s coalition government. Ms. Hirsi Ali has since decamped for America–in effect a political refugee from Western Europe–to take up a position with the American Enterprise Institute. But the crisis, she says, is “still simmering underneath and it might erupt–somewhere, anywhere.”

That partly explains why Ms. Hirsi Ali’s new autobiography, “Infidel,” is already a best seller. It may also have something to do with the way she scrambles our expectations. In person, she is modest, graceful, enthralling. Intellectually, she is fierce, even predatory: “We know exactly what it is about but we don’t have the guts to say it out loud,” she says. “We are too weak to take up our role. The West is falling apart. The open society is coming undone.”

Many liberals loathe her for disrupting an imagined “diversity” consensus: It is absurd, she argues, to pretend that cultures are all equal, or all equally desirable. But conservatives, and others, might be reasonably unnerved by her dim view of religion. She does not believe that Islam has been “hijacked” by fanatics, but that fanaticism is intrinsic in Islam itself: “Islam, even Islam in its nonviolent form, is dangerous.”

The Muslim faith has many variations, but Ms. Hirsi Ali contends that the unities are of greater significance. “Islam has a very consistent doctrine,” she says, “and I define Islam as I was taught to define it: submission to the will of Allah. His will is written in the Quran, and in the hadith and Sunna. What we are all taught is that when you want to make a distinction between right and wrong, you follow the prophet. Muhammad is the model guide for every Muslim through time, throughout history.”

This supposition justifies, in her view, a withering critique of Islam’s most holy human messenger. “You start by scrutinizing the morality of the prophet,” and then ask: “Are you prepared to follow the morality of the prophet in a society such as this one?” She draws a connection between Mohammed’s taking of child brides and modern sexual oppressions–what she calls “this imprisonment of women.” She decries the murder of adulteresses and rape victims, the wearing of the veil, arranged marriages, domestic violence, genital mutilation and other contraventions of “the most basic freedoms.”

These sufferings, she maintains, are traceable to theological imperatives. “People say it is a bad strategy,” Ms. Hirsi Ali says forcefully. “I think it is the best strategy. . . . Muslims must choose to follow their rational capacities as humans and to follow reason instead of Quranic commands. At that point Islam will be reformed.”

This worldview has led certain critics to dismiss Ms. Hirsi Ali as a secular extremist. “I have my ideas and my views,” she says, “and I want to argue them. It is our obligation to look at things critically.” As to the charges that she is an “Enlightenment fundamentalist,” she points out, rightly, that people who live in democratic societies are not supposed to settle their disagreements by killing one another.

And yet contemporary democracies, she says, accommodate the incitement of such behavior: “The multiculturalism theology, like all theologies, is cruel, is wrongheaded, and is unarguable because it is an utter dogmatism. . . . Minorities are exempted from the obligations of the rest of society, so they don’t improve. . . . With this theory you limit them, you freeze their culture, you keep them in place.”

The most grievous failing of the West is self-congratulatory passivity: We face “an external enemy that to a degree has become an internal enemy, that has infiltrated the system and wants to destroy it.” She believes a more drastic reaction is required: “It’s easy,” she says, “to weigh liberties against the damage that can be done to society and decide to deny liberties. As it should be. A free society should be prepared to recognize the patterns in front of it, and do something about them.”

She says the West must begin to think long term about its relationship with Islam–because the Islamists are. Ms. Hirsi Ali notes Muslim birth rates are vastly outstripping those elsewhere (particularly in Western Europe) and believes this is a conscious attempt to extend the faith. Muslims, she says, treat women as “these baby-machines, these son-factories. . . . We need to compete with this,” she goes on. “It is a totalitarian method. The Nazis tried it using women as incubators, literally to give birth to soldiers. Islam is now doing it. . . . It is a very effective and very frightening way of dealing with human beings.”

All of this is profoundly politically incorrect. But for this remarkable woman, ideas are not abstractions. She forces us back to first principles, and she punctures complacencies. These ought to be seen as virtues, even by those who find some of Ms. Hirsi Ali’s ideas disturbing or objectionable. Society, after all, sometimes needs to be roused from its slumbers by agitators who go too far so that others will go far enough.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009771

Jihadists killed when their bomb explodes prematurely

Whoops. CHEECHA WATNI, Pakistan (AP) — Three Islamic militants died in eastern Pakistan when a powerful bomb they were transporting by bicycle accidentally exploded Saturday near a bustling cattle market, police said.

read more | digg story

Anna Nicole Smith, Death of a Junkie.

Two weeks ago, I published a social commentary piece related to the Anna Nicole Smith coverage here at The Chase. Since then, conservative talkers like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck have followed suit with similar “what does it say about our society” monologues. It’s also remained in my “Top Posts” for 2 weeks. So I figured others may want a read.

read more | digg story

U.N. atomic report may expose Iran to wider sanctions

VIENNA (Reuters) – A U.N. watchdog report due on Thursday is likely to confirm Iran has escalated rather than halted its nuclear fuel program, exposing Tehran to wider sanctions over fears it is secretly seeking atom bombs.

As a 60-day grace period for it to stop enriching uranium expired on Wednesday, Iran offered to guarantee it was not pursuing nuclear weapons, but only as part of negotiations. It refused to shelve the program as a precondition for talks.

Iran’s continued rejection of the terms set by six world powers for talks on trade incentives meant the U.N. Security Council in coming weeks could weigh broadening the limited sanctions it imposed on Tehran in December.

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“The Iranians have unfortunately not acceded to the international community’s demands and we will have to consult. We will have to decide how to move forward,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Berlin on Wednesday.

The Security Council commissioned the International Atomic Energy Agency to report on whether or not Iran had heeded the deadline for it to mothball enrichment-related activity.

Tehran’s defiance of the deadline, and leaks about Iran’s efforts to shift from modest experimental enrichment toward “industrial-scale” output of atomic fuel, made the IAEA verdict almost a foregone conclusion.

Barring an improbable turnaround by Iran, “I will have to report negatively,” IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei told Britain’s Financial Times newspaper in an interview this week. Full Story

Captain’s Quarters

Captain’s Quarters

Early GOP polling breakdown.