Friday, June 30, 2006

Happy B-day to my brother

The big four-seven. Did I mention he's my older brother?

Democracy in the Arab world slower than hoped

Democratic gains in the Middle East are not what many--myself included--had hoped, as noted by this article in The Economist:

TWO years ago, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president, told fellow Arab leaders to reform, or risk being swept away in a global tide of democratisation. “Trim your hair now,” he warned them, “or someone will shave it for you.” Turning words into deeds, Mr Saleh, who has ruled since 1978, promised to retire at the end of his current term. Last week he changed his mind. Bowing to what he called “the people's pressure”, orchestrated in nationwide mass rallies, he declared his candidacy for elections in September that are likely to prolong his tenure until the end of 2013.

Mr Saleh has a better flair for theatrics than most of the region's other rulers-for-life, but their survival instincts are just as keen. A few years back, and especially in the wake of America's invasion of Iraq, many of them also found it politic to sound responsive to mounting pressure for reform. It was partly internal, inspired by factors such as demography, the fading potency of long-ruling ideologies and the impact of harder-to-control new media such as satellite television. External forces helped, too, most notably the Bush administration's loud championing, echoed by other Western governments, of political freedom as the ultimate foil for extremism.

Responses across the region varied. The leaders of Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt all went to the bother of getting themselves re-elected in contested votes, and Saudi Arabia ran its first ever municipal polls. The legal status of women improved nearly everywhere: Qatar and Kuwait joined most Arab countries by inviting them to vote and run for office. Press freedoms widened notably in some countries, while others, such as Bahrain and Morocco, empowered judicial bodies to look into past human-rights abuses. With Iraqis and Palestinians voting enthusiastically before the world's cameras, even laggards such as Oman and Syria felt obliged to embrace the rhetoric, if not the practice, of political reform.

But now the tide appears to have turned. Syria's leader, Bashar Assad, no longer bothers with any talk of reform; his police have lately arrested dozens of dissidents. Since last year's parliamentary and presidential elections, Egypt's government has backtracked too. Among other measures, it has cancelled some municipal polls, imprisoned the runner-up to President Hosni Mubarak in last year's vote, arrested 600-odd members of the main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, sent police goons to beat up peaceful protesters, passed laws enshrining executive authority over the judiciary and banned two Washington-based institutes that promote democracy from working in the country. The kingdom of Bahrain, once touted as a model reformer, also recently expelled the representative of one of these, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

Police in Jordan, another relatively open country, last month summarily jailed four MPs. They had given condolences to the family of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the slain leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a provocative but hardly criminal act. Morocco, also a star reformer, has lately slapped heavy fines on critical journals. Stiffened rules in Algeria, too, are restricting press freedom. Its president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, fired his prime minister in May in what was seen as a move to bolster support for changes to the constitution that would let him run for a third five-year term. Though polls were held in Saudi Arabia last year to elect town councils, these have yet to meet. Hints by senior princes at further reform have yet to be translated into action.

Kuwait, where an exuberant general election is under way, seems an exception. Yet the polls were called only after the country's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, dissolved his legislature in a fit of pique after it threatened to alter districting rules that have long favoured government-backed candidates. With its similar tradition of democracy and openness, Lebanon is another apparent exception. Yet while last year's so-called “cedar revolution” shook up politics, and shook off much of neighbouring Syria's influence, it has not reduced the crippling dominance of sectarian and clan leaders.

Several factors explain the waning of reform momentum. One is the high price of oil. Exporters, from Algeria and Libya to the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, find themselves so flush with cash that they can again buy off dissent. But a bigger factor is the advance of Islamist opposition groups. In the past year, religious parties have crushed secular rivals in Iraq, Hamas has captured the shaky government of Palestine, Islamists have performed strongly in Saudi Arabia's polls, and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has won an unprecedented fifth of parliament's seats. More stunning yet, though without any recourse so far to the ballot box, the nascent Islamist movement in Somalia (a non-Arab member of the Arab League) appears close to uniting much of that chaotic country.

The Islamist surge has frightened not only the region's governments, but also foreign promoters of democracy. In particular, the quandary posed by Hamas has chilled American enthusiasm for change. Amr Hamzawy, who assesses Arab political reform at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, DC, describes with dismay how Western officials and academics at a recent conference appeared to “wash their hands of supporting democracy in the Arab world”. During debates in America's Congress over proposals to slash aid to Egypt as a penalty for failing to reform, numerous speakers cited the danger of empowering Islamists and undermining a government which, though distasteful, has served American interests.

Similar signs of a return to realpolitik have been noted with relief by Arab governments. Concerns over Iran's nuclear plans have restrained Western criticism of democracy-shy but pro-Western neighbours like Azerbaijan and the countries of Central Asia. America restored ties with Libya, rewarding its government for scrapping weapons programmes while for the most part overlooking its appalling treatment of its own people. Even Syria, forced out of Lebanon and diplomatically isolated, has escaped severe punishment for defying a long list of Western demands.

On the other hand, while the tide may not be sweeping the corrupt out of power, it is rising. Kuwaiti women just voted for the first time in general elections. The rulers can do their best King Canute impressions, but they will not long stop the unsatisfyingly slow tide of democracy. If they try too hard to avoid modernization they will find their heads on chopping blocks provided by the Islamists.

One way or another, much of the Arab lands will have a government that better reflects the people's will.

Ullrich suspended on eve of Tour de France

Ullrich is implicated in a Spanish investigation into doping. Well, there goes most of the interest in this year's Tour de France. I had picked Ullrich to win his second TdF, but his suspension precludes it (the race kicks off tomorrow). I hope he is ultimately vindicated, but I fear the worst. To succeed at the highest levels of bicycle racing, one needs medical assistance. Doubtless Lance Armstrong used performance drugs, as doubtless Ullrich does.

The investigation must be nerve wracking for the riders, and for those who sponsor the teams or earn their living from the races. This is just the latest scandal to hit the sport. If doping continues the sponsors will pull out, effectively killing the sport.

God help any previously mediocre rider from the peloton who breaks through to a podium finish in Paris. He'll earn more suspicion than praise.
Germany's Jan Ullrich, the 1997 winner and one of the favourites to win this year's Tour de France, has been suspended by his team T-Mobile and will not ride in the race.

The team were informed by UCI, the sport's governing body, that Ullrich, his team-mate Oscar Sevilla and team manager Rudy Pevenage, have been involved in an anti-doping probe in Spain. "Because of the documents given to us by the Tour management we consider it is now impossible to keep on working with those three persons," said T-Mobile spokesman Christian Frommert. "If we are presented with evidence, which leads us to doubt the credibility of one or other of our riders, then we act upon it immediately. That is the case now."

T-Mobile now suspects both suspended cyclists had transgressed cycling's rules. "In the course of the investigations into the Spanish doping network, new information has been presented to the [team], which casts doubt on the protests of innocence that have until now come from Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and Rudy Pevenage," added a team statement.

"The sponsors of the cycling team, the mobile communications company T-Mobile, have demanded that the team management, suspend with immediate effect the two implicated athletes and the sporting director. The team management has complied with this demand. Lorenzo Bernucci (Italy) and Stephan Schreck (Germany) will now replace the suspended duo in the T-Mobile roster when the Tour de France starts in Strasbourg on Saturday."

It was reported in the Spanish media earlier this week that the 32-year-old German could be implicated in an investigation into blood doping in Spain, although he denied any wrongdoing. "This will change our objectives for the Tour de France. Now we will take it day by day," explained Luuc Eisenga, the team's media officer. "It was serious information which gave us doubts about the versions produced by Oscar, Jan and Rudy."

Another of the favourites, Ivan Basso, the 28-year-old Italian who rides for CSC, was also included in a list of 56 cyclists under investigation.

Doping in cycling has been a major concern to the UCI for many years. In 1998, French police investigations into widespread drug-taking turned the 1998 race into a farce. A car belonging to the Festina team was found to contain huge quantities of various performance-enhancing drugs. The team director admitted that some of the cyclists were routinely given banned substances. Festina were expelled from the race, and police and sport officials raided other team headquarters. [....]

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Possible Snag in Burying CO2

Sequestering CO2 through deep burial seems a promising method of lowering the amounts of this greenhouse gas.

However, an early study of the effects of pumping large amounts of CO2 underground has revealed some problems:
Scientists testing the deep geologic disposal of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are finding that it's staying where they put it, but it's chewing up minerals. The reactions have produced a nasty mix of metals and organic substances in a layer of sandstone 1550 meters down, researchers report this week in Geology. At the same time, the CO2 is dissolving a surprising amount of the mineral that helps keep the gas where it's put. Nothing is leaking out so far, but the phenomenon will need a closer look before such carbon sequestration can help ameliorate the greenhouse problem, say the researchers.

Drillers often inject CO2 into the ground to drive more oil out, but researchers conducting the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored Frio Brine Pilot Experiment northeast of Houston, Texas, pumped 1600 tons of CO2 into the Frio Formation to see where the gas went and what it did. "We're the first looking in this huge detail so that we can see what's going on," says geochemist and lead study author Yousif Kharaka of the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California. He and colleagues found that the CO2 dropped the pH of the formation's brine from a near-neutral 6.5 to 3.0, about as acid as vinegar. That change in turn dissolved "many, many minerals," says Kharaka, releasing metals such as iron and manganese. Organic matter entered solution as well, and relatively large amounts of carbonate minerals dissolved.

The loss of carbonates worries Kharaka particularly. These naturally occurring chemicals seal pores and fractures in the rock that, if opened, could release CO2 as well as fouled brine into overlying aquifers that supply drinking and irrigation water. Perhaps more troubling, says Kharaka, is that the acid mix could attack carbonate in the cement seals plugging abandoned oil or gas wells, 2.5 million of which pepper the United States. The lesson is that "whatever we do [with CO2], there are environmental implications that we have to deal with," he says.

Geochemist Julio Friedmann of Stanford University is less concerned about corrosion eating away the seals on a sequestration site. "The crust of Earth is well configured to contain CO2," he says. He points to 80 U.S. oil fields injected with CO2 for up to 30 years. "We've seen no catastrophic failures." Nevertheless, the Frio results do "suggest an aspect of risk we hadn't considered before," says Friedmann. It is now obvious that if CO2 made it only so far as an overlying aquifer, he says, it could wreak havoc.
Although troubling, it may only mean that specific geologic formations are excluded from serving as CO2 sequestration sites.

More info is here.

The Palestinian's ongoing war against reality

Finally, some clear-eyed analysis from Der Spiegel on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
[...] Now, however, the conflict has reached a new level. The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza last summer has more than anything motivated militant Palestinians to demonstrate to Israel that the conflict is not primarily about territory, the end of the occupation and the return to the 1967 borders. Rather, it's about all or nothing. It's about the control, not the division, of the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Were the Palestinians to invest only a tiny percentage of the energy they consume in internal conflict and resistance against Israelis into the reconstruction of the Palestinian Authority, the West Bank and Gaza would be much better off.

Indeed, the PA's methods have amounted to building a house of cards. More and more money is channeled into patronage (in this case militias), resulting in a society existing by, through, and for militancy. If some of that money found its way to improved infrastructure and facilitated trade, the Palestinians would be profoundly better off.
And the Israelis? Those who believed that unilateral action and the construction of a fence would result in the security that negotiations have been unable to provide are now being confronted with the bitter reality. Fences and walls cannot provide absolute security -- and no matter how high such barriers are, they can still be dug under. The question they are asking themselves is this: "What is cheaper: ending or continuing the occupation?" What's the point of military withdrawal when those Palestinians who want a peaceful resolution are unable to assert themselves -- and those Palestinians who want to continue fighting merely feel vindicated and encouraged?

The security wall was not expected to provide absolute security. But when built it will provide the best possible security againt Palestinian terrorists.

As usual in such moments -- with the tunnel at the end of the light coming ever closer -- those who have a stake begin to clutch at whatever straw they can. The Europeans are once again trying to whitewash things. One hears a lot these days about the so-called "prisoners' document" -- that mysterious paper in which representatives from Hamas and Fatah have agreed on a common position on Israel. It is said to be nothing less than an "indirect recognition" of Israel.

Leaving aside for a moment what exactly an "indirect recognition" means in practice -- no attacks within the 1967 Green Line? No attacks on Saturdays and holidays? No attacks on women and children? -- one salient fact is being forgotten. Israel and the PLO have already long since recognized each other in the Oslo Accords and all the agreements that have come since.

One of the basic rules in any democracy is that a new government accepts the treaties made by the old. Germany's Christian Democrats, for example, didn't annul the agreements struck by Social Democrat Chancellor Willy Brandt with East Bloc countries in the 1960s even if, when in opposition, they did everything in their power to torpedo the policy.

For Hamas, however, such rules don't seem to apply. The "prisoners' document" is a paper that is supposed to re-establish and solidify the "national unity" of the Palestinians. Inferring therein a recognition of Israel -- no matter how indirect or implicit it may be -- merely shows a tendency toward self-delusion. Nobody has yet seen the entire paper, but those bits that have been released are just as incoherent as they are explicit. And everything is discussed. Indeed, the only thing that doesn't appear is any mention of a recognition of Israel -- neither in pre nor in post 1967 borders. Only one conclusion can be drawn: Even after 40 years of occupation, the Palestinians have still not accepted reality and still dream of a return to the way things used to be.

Indeed, if there is a clear message provided by the paper, it is this: The Palestinians do indeed want a two-state solution. One in those regions -- the Gaza Strip and the West Bank -- occupied in 1967. And one in that region that is today known as Israel. One shouldn't forget that the PLO was founded in 1964 with the goal of freeing Palestine from the Zionists -- three years prior to the Six Day War when Gaza was still under Egyptian control and the West Bank was a part of Jordan.

Back then, talking about the "Occupied Territories" meant Haifa, Tel Aviv and Beer-Sheva. And in this respect nothing has really changed to this day. The only difference between Hamas and Fatah -- which is overlooked by "the document" -- is the question of how Israel should be defeated: either militarily or through the implementation of a "right of return" policy. Israel therefore has the choice as to whether it is wiped from the map either in battle, or by peaceful means. Whoever hopes Israel will embrace these two alternatives is kidding themselves: there is no third possibility.

Israel has no other choice but to stand tough because every climb down and withdrawal is interpreted as weakness. Furthermore the word "compromise" is a foreign word in the Arab world. You either prevail or go down in a blaze of glory.

For this reason a "ceasefire" is the most Hamas is prepared to offer Israel, which the Europeans insist on misinterpreting as the first step towards recognition. Rather, it's merely a tactical pause in the war against Israel.

News about the new confrontation on the border between Gaza and Israel has largely displaced reports of the looming "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza. It's also important to find out how a government that can't even provide for its own people is getting the means to assemble, clothe and arm a new 3,000 man force. And who is arming and paying the salaries of these masked, hyper-agile young men who are storming the streets wielding bazookas? Is that what a "humanitarian catastrophe" looks like?

Hamas, though a problem for Israel, is a catastrophe for the Palestinians. It's a difference that no document can set aside.

I yet hold out hope that the duties and responsibilities of governance will change Hamas from a blood-thirsty terror group into a responsible terror group. The humanitarian crisis may be pushed out of the news, but it continues to grow, and the Palestinians will accept Hamas' explanation that it's all Israel's fault for only so long. Now that Hamas has had a taste of what official corruption brings, they will be less likely to going back to being the opposition party. It may take another six months, but Hamas will moderate some of its talk and actions enough so that paece talks can begin again.

Cue the exit music: French EADS chief vows to remain

After his top backer--French President Chirac-- notes the need for streamlining EADS (Airbus' parent), the embattled co-chief goes before French MPs and swears he won't resign.

Don't believe it. All that remains is for France and Germany to determine the organization of the new management system. Then he's toast:

Scandal-hit EADS co-chief Noel Forgeard has told a committee of French MPs he will not resign. Mr Forgeard ruled out quitting, despite mounting evidence that key German shareholders want him to leave.

According to the committee, which is probing costly Airbus delays, he said that given his performance "there was no question for him of resigning".

Pressure for him to quit mounted as regulators raided EADS's Paris offices amid accusations of insider dealing.

Tuesday's raid on the Airbus parent firm's headquarters, on Tuesday was part of an investigation into whether Mr Forgeard and others knew about the delays in building the A380 before they sold EADS shares in mid-March.

Mr Forgeard has denied knowing about any problems with the A380, or about plans by other EADS shareholders to cut their stakes.

Meanwhile, reports suggest German carmaker DaimlerChrysler - which owns 30% of the aerospace group - has demanded that Mr Forgeard step down.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Europe, Daimler's chief executive Dieter Zetsche said "changes have to happen" at EADS.

But he declined to say whether the firm was demanding a management shake-up.

The group is said to be unhappy with the management structure at the Franco-German firm, which has two chairmen and two chief executives - one each from the French and German sides. The French government, which holds a 15% stake in EADS, appears to agree.

French finance minister Thierry Breton has been pushing for a management shake-up at the aerospace group, but his efforts are said to have been hampered by key French investor Lagardere.

Controversy has surrounded EADS since Airbus announced earlier this month that deliveries of its A380 superjumbo faced further delays, which would wipe $2bn off its earnings until 2010. Following the announcement, which triggered a 26% slide in the company's share price, it emerged that French regulators were investigating the firm.

Will he be pushed or voluntarily walk the plank is the only question. Chalk it up as yet another humiliation for Chirac, who has strong ties to Mr Forgeard.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The PC Empire strikes back

Seeing one of their most bedrock principles challenged--that dead white males caused the loss of Eden that was the pre-colonized world--the PC empire lashes out. This time, the hate crime involves living white males revising the 100% horror that was colonialism.

Here the author of an opinion piece in the Guardian manages to combine old school PC with modern Bush loathing:

[...] Only the desire to recover some imaginary good from the tragedy that was empire can explain the elevation of the neoconservative ideologue Niall Ferguson to chief imperial historian on the BBC and now Channel 4. His aggressive rewriting of history, driven by the messianic fantasies of the American right, is being presented as a new revelation. In fact, Ferguson's "history" is a fairytale for our times which puts the white man and his burden back at the centre of heroic action. Colonialism - a tale of slavery, plunder, war, corruption, land-grabbing, famines, exploitation, indentured labour, impoverishment, massacres, genocide and forced resettlement - is rewritten into a benign developmental mission marred by a few unfortunate accidents and excesses. [...]
A quick aside: All the author describes was also present before colonialism. Notably, no one is claiming that colonialism was on balance a good thing (quite the contrary, it was morally and economically wrong). However, even the whisper that perhaps it wasn't the crime of the millennium must be slapped down. The Left's narrative has been written and nothing may challenge it.
The point isn't for Europeans to feel guilt, but a serious consideration of historical responsibility isn't the same thing as a blame game. Forgetting history is tempting but undermines a society's capacity for change. [...]
Actually, the whole point is for Europeans to feel guilty. For without a guilt complex how will the west make ammends.

Foremost in the Left's narritive is the idea that, but for colonialism, Africa today would be competing equally with Europe, Asia and the Americas. After all, they point out, the university of Timbuktu was once the greatest in the world.

Finally, colonialism is blamed for Islamist terror:

Indeed, one legacy of European colonialism that we all reckon with is the self-fulfilling prophecy of the "clash of civilisations". The claim that east and west are bound to come into conflict is merely an extension of imperial practice which found it useful to seal off porous cultures into fixed categories. This tragic "lie of the colonial situation", as Frantz Fanon called it, rebounds on us tragically in the terror unleashed in the name of Islam and Bush's "war on terror".

Here is chief imperial historian Ferguson's latest outrage, in the New Statesman, no less.

Vulcanism led to mass extinctions?

Evidence for vulcanism-related mass extinctions continues to grow:

Scattered rafts of black lava over northern and central Australia are really part of one gigantic volcanic field that appears to be one of oldest and largest on Earth, say geologists.If so, the half-billion-year-old eruption might be the culprit in the first mass animal extinction event in the history of life.

Australian geologists used both the chemical signatures of the far-flung basalt lava rocks and their ages to connect them to a single huge volcanic eruptive episode between 505 and 508 million years ago.

The newly identified Kalkarindji Continental Flood Basalt Province covered at least 400,000 square miles with more than 120,000 cubic miles of lava, report geologists Linda Glass and David Phillips of the Australian National University. [...]

Unlike episodic and hacking explosive volcanoes like Mount St. Helens or Mount Pinatubo, flood basalts literally pour lava out onto the Earth’s surface in often vastly greater quantities and over far longer periods — perhaps many hundreds of thousands of years, according to some geologists. That means they can cover a lot more ground. [...]

Two things make the Kalkarindji Continental Flood Basalt Province discovery special and robust, says Renne [from UC Berkeley].

One is that it’s the oldest such lava formation dated using the very reliable Argon-40/Argon-39 analysis, and Phillips is one of the world’s top "Argon-Argon" researchers, said Renne. Still, Renne adds that chemical aging of the far-flung rocks makes the process of dating them slightly less reliable.

The second thing is that the timing of Kalkarindji is right at the first major die-off of animals after they first exploded onto the scene about 535 million years ago during the Lower Cambrian Period.

"That time span was when (animal) life on Earth really took off," says Phillips. "We have the mass proliferation of species."

"Things just took off like wildfire," agrees Renne. Then at somewhere around 500 million years ago many of the strange new beasts were mysteriously wiped out.

A massive release of lava could have caused such an event by releasing a lot of heat and climate changing gases into the atmosphere.

Interestingly, large-scale releases of lava lead to global warming, while explosive volcanic events (e.g., Krakatoa) end up cooling the Earth through the release of sun obscuring dust clouds.

Some other igneous events have been correlated to mass extinctions:

Comparing the timing of mass extinctions with the formation age of large igneous provinces reveals a close correspondence in five cases, but previous claims that all such provinces coincide with extinction events are unduly optimistic. The best correlation occurs for four consecutive mid-Phanerozoic examples, namely the end-Guadalupian extinction/Emeishan flood basalts, the end-Permian extinction/Siberian Traps, the end-Triassic extinction/central Atlantic volcanism and the early Toarcian extinction/Karoo Traps. Curiously, the onset of eruptions slightly post-dates the main phase of extinctions in these examples. Of the seven post-Karoo provinces, only the Deccan Traps coincide with a mass extinction, but in this case, the nature of the biotic crisis is best reconciled with the effects of a major bolide impact [refers to K-T mass extinction-P]. [...]

Thus, voluminous volcanism may in some circumstances trigger calamitous global environmental changes (runaway greenhouses), perhaps by causing the dissociation of gas hydrates. The variable efficiency of global carbon sinks during volcanic episodes may be an important control on environmental effects and may explain why the eruption of some vast igneous provinces, such as the Paraná–Etendeka Traps, have little perceptible climatic impact.

Clearly much remains to be puzzled out, especially the timing of basaltic flooding and extinction.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sexual orientation of men determined in the womb?

I'm glad to see that the "being gay is a choice" and "it's a product of one's upbringing" arguments are in trouble. Nature is whipping nurture lately (internal link removed):

If you are male, having more older brothers makes it more likely you will be gay - and a new study suggests the basis of this is biological rather than environmental. The crucial factor influencing the likelihood of male homosexuality may be how many brothers were born before you to the same mother, not how many brothers you were brought up with.

The “fraternal birth order effect” - the finding that each additional older brother increases your chances of being homosexual by about 30% - has long been dogged by the suggestion that social factors rather than biological ones underpin it.

Some proposed that perhaps rough-and-tumble play between brothers, or even sexual abuse, may have led the impressionable younger boys to become gay.

Now Anthony Bogaert at Brock University in St Catharines, Canada, has largely ruled that out. He examined four population samples of homosexual and heterosexual men - 944 men in total.

The fourth sample included gay men who had grown up with non-biological male siblings. Bogaert reasoned that if simply being raised around a lot of older brothers had produced the effect, it should not matter whether they were born to the same mother or not.

In fact, it did matter: only the number of biological older brothers predicted sexual orientation in men, Bogaert found. This was true even when the biological older brothers lived separately. “It’s pretty strong in suggesting a prenatal origin,” he says.

There are doubtless many confounding factors to tease out when doing a statistical survey like this. Thus there is some chance the statistical significance of his findings are skewed. Nevertheless, the fact that this was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences means that it went through a rigorous peer review process.

The roots of Islamism

The Times Online is excerpting chapters from Michael Gove's new book Celsius 7/7. Another exceprt deals with Britain's ineffectual response to Islamists.

This is from the chapter dealing with the roots of Islamism, and it's scary stuff. Gove gives as detailed a breakdown as I've read in quite some time. After reading this I am more convinced that Bush and company are closer to being on the right track than most Democrats, who persist in viewing Islamism as a law and order problem.

[...] The roots of the current jihadi assault are various. But, wherever Islamists strike, whomever they target, and whatever the interpretation placed upon their actions by commentators in the society which has been attacked, they are united in a single campaign by a common ideology. [...]

The global, and inter-connected, nature of the Islamist terror campaign can only be understood by grappling with the totalitarian ideology which drives jihadist warriors. While they proclaim themselves soldiers for Islam they are not representative of majority Muslim opinion. Far from it. Islamists are a self-conscious vanguard who look down on other Muslims and consider the majority of their co-religionists as sunk in barbarity or error.

Islamism is not Islam in arms, it is a political creed which perverts Islam, just as fascism degraded nationalism and Communism betrayed socialism. [...] Islamism appeals to that part of the human soul which has always been capable of being drawn to revolution, violence and the exaltation of the self through membership of the elect. There are aspects to Islamism which lend it the same appeal which seduced young men into the Red Guards or the Waffen SS, but there are also specific aspects to the ideology which attune it to the discontents and yearnings of young men in our time.

Rather than thinking of Islamism as a variant of a great and ancient faith it is better to view it in the terms defined by the Italian historian of fascism, Emilio Gentile, who explained that totalitarianism is "an experiment in political domination undertaken by a revolutionary movement that aspires towards a monopoly of power. It seeks the subordination, integration and homogenisation of the governed on the basis of the politicisation of existence interpreted according to the myths and the values of a political religion. (It) aims to shape the individual and the masses through a revolution in order to regenerate the human being and create the new man. The ultimate goal is to create a new civilisation along expansionist lines beyond the nation state." [...]

The belief that Islam's sovereignty over the whole globe is necessary and total was powerfully displayed on BBC TV's Newsnight in February 2006. Anjem Choudray, one of the leaders of the UK Islamist group al-Ghurabaa, rejected the suggestion that he might be happier pursuing his fundamentalist approach to religion and politics outside the secular and liberal political culture of the UK. England, he informed the viewers, "belongs to Allah". And just in case we didn't appreciate just how far short of Allah's, and his, standards, we fell, Choudray utterly rejected any notion of accommodating his beliefs and practices to the norms of our democratic society, arguing, "if you put me in the jungle, should I behave like an animal? Of course, not"

Choudray's openness in claiming England for Allah and condemning current Western mores as bestial may be shocking, but it should not be surprising. For there is nothing hidden or esoteric about the Islamist approach.

As distasteful as Choudray's feelings are, the West's response is worse:
But there is a wilful blindness among many in the West who refuse to acknowledge the totalitarian nature of the ideology which drives jihadi warriors. Even though the shelves of every Western bookshop sag under the weight of texts which record the cruelties and barbarism inflicted by totalitarianism in the twentieth century, there seems to be a remarkable reluctance to accept that totalitarian thinking could be behind contemporary cruelty and barbarism.

Instead Western commentators attribute Islamist violence to specific, discrete, grievances such as the presence of American troops on Saudi soil, the failure to establish an Arab Palestinian state or the material poverty of Arab peoples. In every case the blame for Islamist violence is laid at the door of the West, for failing to deliver "justice".

It is a remarkable commentary on the state of analytical thinking in the West that when faced with mass-murderers, who loudly proclaim the ideological basis of their actions and prophesy victory on the basis of Western weakness, Western thinkers respond by denying the ideological motivation of their attackers and instead blame the West for stoking grievances. [...]

Jihadists today are not conducting a series of national liberation struggles which, if each were resolved, would lead to peace on earth and goodwill to all infidels. They are prosecuting a total war in the service of a pitiless ideology. It is only by appreciating that the enemy we face is a seamless totalitarian movement that we can begin to appreciate the scale of the challenge we must confront. [...]
Agreed. But how to fight an enemy without borders or a uniformed army? There lies the problem, and the world is still groping for the answer. Bush has at least taken the fight to them, which was a necessary first step, if only to show that not all in the West were pushovers.

Islamism is a twentieth-century phenomenon. Like its sibling ideologies, fascism and communism, it offers followers a form of redemption through violence. Like fascism, Islamism envisages the creation of a purified realm purged of toxic outside influences and internal corruption. Like communism, Islamism is not ethnically exclusive, it seeks to enlist new converts through proselytisation, political education and military advances. Like both, it reserves a special hatred for the West, for political freedom[,] the separation of the public and private realms, dissent, sexual tolerance and a belief in the sanctity of individual life. And like both it finds a dark and furious energy in hatred towards the Jewish people [Not quite. Official communist ideology condemned anti-Semitism. That it was widespread was due to individual's adopting it--P]. [...]

It is important to appreciate that Islamism is not the same thing as Islamic fundamentalism. All Islamists are fundamentalists, but not all fundamentalists are Islamists. Fundamentalism is a specifically religious phenomenon, Islamism is a political programme. It is informed by a view of mankind permeated by traditional, fundamentalist, religious thought.

But Islamism is given special force by its co-option of the revolutionary ardour common to other twentieth-century totalitarianisms.

Islam, like other great religions, has gone through cycles of growth, decline, re-interpretation and revival. At various points Islamic thinkers have drawn believers back to what they argue are the founding principles and fundamental truths of scripture. [...]

Contemporary Islamism draws inspiration from this puritan strain in Islamic thinking, but it is more than just a form of religious revivalism. It is a specifically political movement which sees the answer to every social, cultural and moral problem in the implementation of a political programme derived from strict Islamic principles and imposed at the point of a sword. Islamism is not a campaign to restore piety through teaching, preaching and encouragement to private devotion. It is a revolutionary attempt to re-make society, by argument certainly, but also inevitably by force, in order to secure total submission to a uniquely austere and militaristic divinity.
In that regard it shares methods with the Left. Both would love for people to willingly implement their vision of utopia, but both are perfectly willing to force people--through revolution or by passing laws--to adopt their viewpoint.

Airbus shareholders push for reforms, France says forget it

Europe's flagship company is also very much under Europe's political thumb. EADS, the parent of Airbus, is owned in part by France, Spain, England, and Germany, with France taking the political lead. It was France who foisted its leadership choice on EADS, and now France wants his replacement to be even more answerable to Paris.

Airbus makes excellent planes, but it's not likely the company would even be around if not for the deep pockets of its national backers. Having to constantly please the governments means that business decisions are often viewed through the prism of politics--and prisms tend to distort reality.

Businesses should be as free as possible of government entanglements. EADS has a golden opportunity in this scandal to put some distance between it and its government backers, but Paris sees it otherwise.
The two main industrial shareholders of EADS, the parent company of Airbus, have agreed in principle to streamline the management structure - potentially pushing out the embattled French co-chief executive, Nöel Forgeard, a person close to both companies said Monday.

But disagreements remain over who should hold the top leadership posts as the company scrambles to recover from the crisis triggered by delays to its A380. [...]

The German automotive group DaimlerChrysler and the French conglomerate Lagardère agreed over the weekend that European Aeronautic Defense & Space, based in Munich, should abandon its dual, French-German management in favor of a single chairman and a chief executive, said the person, who requested anonymity because the negotiations were continuing.

Under such a structure, Thomas Enders, the company's current German co-chief executive, would most likely assume responsibility for the day-to- day management of EADS, while his French counterpart, Forgeard, would probably step down, this person said.

Forgeard, 59, has come under pressure to resign after an announcement June 13 that Airbus was postponing deliveries of the flagship A380 by as many as seven months. French market regulators are investigating whether Forgeard was privy to inside information when he and three of his children sold several million euros worth of EADS shares in March.

While the issue of the EADS chief executive appears to be more or less resolved, deep divisions remain among the company's largest shareholders over the company's chairmanship. DaimlerChrysler and Lagardère have agreed that this position could be held by a French national, said the person close to the two companies.

However, this person said the French government has expressed a preference that the post be held not by Arnaud Lagardère, the company's current French co-chairman, but by Louis Gallois, an EADS board member who heads the French state-owned railway, SNCF.

Gallois, 62, currently represents the interests of the French government, which owns 15 percent of EADS. Thierry Breton, the French finance minister, said last weekend that the government was seeking a solution to the EADS crisis - by Tuesday - that would give Paris a greater say in the company's management. [...]

Monday, June 26, 2006

SPD admits naivety in German labour reforms

In the latest lesson in unintended consequences, the SPD--Germany's ex-ruling party--has admitted that they were naive and ignorant of human nature (a perennial problem for the Left) when it came to their much heralded Hartz IV reforms.

Turns out people are abusing the intent of the reforms.

From the Financial Times:

Germany’s Social Democrats on Sunday admitted their landmark reform of long-term unemployment payments was poorly designed and acknowledged their naivety when they introduced the scheme that has since sent welfare costs skyrocketing.

In an unprecendented admission that the 18-month old “Hartz IV” benefit programme, introduced by the SPD-led government of the former chancellor Gerhard Schröder, was flawed and open to abuse, Peter Struck, head of the party’s
parliamentary group, said “it was too optimistic” to think that people would only use the system when they really needed it. “We had too positive an image of society,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung weekly.

Hartz IV, which aimed to preserve the welfare state and put Germany’s vast number of job-seekers back into work, has cost €10bn ($12.5bn, £6.9bn) more than expected last year and could blow a €5bn hole in next year’s federal budget. Mr Struck’s comments appeared aimed at preparing SPD voters for a reform of Hartz IV this autumn, one of the biggest challenges facing the current Christian Democrat-led “grand coalition” government of Angela Merkel, chancellor.

Ms Merkel last week said such a reform should modify the provision letting people on low wages claim benefit. Many now had an incentive to work as few hours as possible so as not to endanger their eligibility, she said.

Senior CDU officials, led by the party’s influential state premiers, have long called for a “general revision” of Hartz IV.

Although the SPD opposes this wording, Mr Struck’s comments suggest the party is becoming more open to a far-reaching review, despite the fact that changes, such as a tightening of eligibility criteria, payment cuts, and tougher sanctions for abuse are a potential vote-loser.

“Nowadays, some [Hartz IV] recipients go to their job centres and demand money as though it were a salary,” Mr Struck said. “We must make it clear that this is taxpayers’ money for which some people have worked very hard.” [....]

Pinch me: I can't recall the SPD ever finding an entitlement it didn't like. It's their own fault that people viewed it that way. They stayed in power partly through never saying no to generous programs.

Germany was lucky to rid itself of Schroeder when it did. Several more years of his "leadership" would have brought the nation to its knees.

Santayana edition of the RINO carnival is up

What must stand as the zenith of RINO carnival hosting is on view at the Searchlight Crusade.

The host has interweaved tons of historical tidbits into his individual post introductions. I am happy to have contributed a post to his wonderful effort.

A couple of my favorite Santayana quotes:

  • Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.
  • Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.

Also: one of the RINOs remains under a denial of service attack. The Jawa Report has been hors de combat for several days because some people (top suspects: Wahhabists) just don't like what its bloggers have to say. I certainly hope the crew can break through soon.

Good Tour de France article

Even though the World Cup occupies center stage, its never too early to begin speculating on who might win this year's Tour de France, whuich begins this Saturday. Sam Abt of the IHT does the honors:

Who's going to win the Tour de France?
Even Lance Armstrong, who could have answered "me" for the previous seven years, has sounded uncertain.

After that period of domination by the now-retired Armstrong, the race seems wide open before the three-week journey over 3,639 kilometers, or 2,260 miles, begins Saturday in Strasbourg in eastern France.

Discussing his successor, Armstrong, the 34-year-old Texan who is now devoted to fighting cancer, had until recently gone back and forth all spring between Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso. [...]

Then, in an e-mail message this month, Armstrong went even further in discussing the chances of Basso, the Italian leader of the CSC team, and Ullrich, the German leader of T-Mobile.

"I have been impressed by the way that Ullrich has looked of late," Armstrong wrote. "Wow." He spoke before Ullrich won the nine-day Tour of Switzerland this month, showing power in the mountains and dominance in a long time trial.

That race ended in Bern with an 18 mile time trial, which Ullrich won handily.
If Armstrong thinks the mountainous Tour course suits Ullrich, it may suit others, too. Among them are Francisco Mancebo, 30, the Spanish leader of the AG2R team; Floyd Landis, 30, the American leader of Phonak; Alexandre Vinokourov, 32, the Kazakh leader of Astana; Alejandro Valverde, 26, the Spanish leader of Caisse d'Epargne; Denis Menchov, 28, the Russian leader of Rabobank; and George Hincapie, who turns 33 on Thursday, the American co-leader of Discovery Channel.

Outsiders? Cadel Evans, 29, the Australian leader of Davitamon; Levi Leipheimer, 32, the American leader of Gerolsteiner; and Yaroslav Popovych, 26, the Ukrainian co-leader of Discovery Channel.

All are credible contenders for overall victory when the race ends July 23 in Paris after the counterclockwise trek through France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium and a speck of Spain.

On their records, though, Ullrich and Basso are first among equals. Ullrich, 32, won the Tour de France in 1997 and has finished second in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2003. Last year he was third.

Basso, 28, was third and then second in the past two Tours and easily won the demanding Giro d'Italia in May. He hopes to become the first rider to win the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998. Miguel Indurain also accomplished the double in 1992 and 1993.

Armstrong has some doubts that Basso can do it because he will have to reach two physical peaks a month apart.

"I reckon it would be hard but I have no idea as I never tried it," he wrote in his e-mail. "The Giro is relatively unknown over here" in the United States, "so we focused solely on the Tour.

"Having said that," Armstrong continued, "I don't think it happens," referring to the Giro-Tour double. [...]

Not since 1998 has a rider won both in the same year. That rider was later exposed as a doper.
Since both Basso and Ullrich have strong teams, they will almost surely ride the Tour in the Armstrong manner: Go to the front en masse in the mountains, have teammates set a fierce pace to leave rivals behind and end the daily stage with no more than a handful of men, the leader included, at the top of the last climb.

That is the opening page from the Discovery Channel playbook and, even if Basso and Ullrich follow the script, neither man is an Armstrong, able to crush his rivals early in the mountains and keep hammering them thereafter.

Instead, Basso and Ullrich do not land haymakers. They believe more in erosion - as the road mounts, they gain some time on this rival today, that rival tomorrow. Then they will attempt to finish the job in races against the clock.

Basso has hinted at some worries in that discipline. "I expect to lose two to four minutes in the time trials," he said a week ago. "If Jan is strong in the mountains, that might be too much."

That seems a fair assessment. Basso did well in the Giro time trails, but he was near the top of his form. Ullrich was using the Giro to get fit. He should smoke the field in the TdF time trials.
The Tour includes 115 kilometers of time trials, with a flat 7-kilometer prologue, a flat 52-kilometer time trial July 8 and a hilly 56-kilometer time trial July 22.

The German won the long time trial in the Giro, with Basso second, not half a minute behind, but the field was not prime cut, as Ullrich pointed out in May when he denigrated Basso's chances in the Tour. "Ivan is on top of his game," Ullrich admitted before inserting the knife. "However, I don't think he will win the Tour. The competition in Italy is distinctively weaker than the one in France. And I want to have a say in the Tour, too."

He should have it, barring injury, illness and accident, all of which have marked his career. He damaged his right knee in training this winter and had to miss early races to get in shape. The knee, still weakened, has made his left leg stronger than his right, which causes an imbalance that results in back problems.

Ullrich was still suffering with a stiff back in the Giro and had to drop out for the last two days of that three-week race. In the Tour of Switzerland, he began to shine. Plus, he is always at his best in the last week of the Tour, which will take place in the Alps and should be decisive.

As for Basso, he appears, as usual, to be serene. Unlike Ullrich, he has no history of weight problems or injuries.

Basso finished second in the last Tour as a logical progression from third place the year before and 11th in 2002, when he was the best rider under 25.

Ullrich was the best young rider in 1996, when he was 23 and finished second, and won the Tour in 1997.

Since then his path has been downward - four more second places, a fourth place in 2004 and a third place last year that he gained on the next-to- last day of the race.

Ullrich's fitness seems to be peaking at the right time, and his weight is about right. Armstrong is right to note that scheduling two fitness peaks a month apart is difficult in the extreme. The other riders are capable of swooping in if both Ulrich and Basso falter, but it is unlikely that will happen. I like Ullrich's chances. My dark horse pick: The Spaniard Valverde.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

From the Lance Armstrong doping files

Two recent reports offer more testimonial evidence that Armstrong did indeed dope during his career.

One from 3 time winner Greg Lemond:

Former Tour de France champion Greg LeMond has claimed that he was threatened by fellow American Lance Armstrong for having criticised the seven-time race winner's association with a doctor implicated in doping affairs.

LeMond, who won the Tour de France in 1986, 1989, 1990, said that he had come under pressure from Armstrong and his circle of friends after saying in 2001 that he was disappointed at the Texan cyclist's association with Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari.

LeMond said Sunday that the threats continued after 2001. "Lance threatened me. He threatened my wife, my business, my life," LeMond told French sports daily L'Equipe.

"His biggest threat consisted of saying that he (Armstrong) would find ten people to testify that I took EPO," said LeMond, who was the first American to win the Tour de France.
This is flat out bizarre. Either Lemond has lost it, or Armstrong is one sick puppy. I opt for the latter.

The second bit comes in a round a bout way from one of Armstrong's former team mates:

A French newspaper claimed Friday that Lance Armstrong admitted to doping three years before the first of his seven Tour de France wins in 1999.

Armstrong's lawyer strongly denied the claim and gave The Associated Press a copy of an affidavit from one of the lead doctors who treated Armstrong's testicular cancer.

The Texan, retired from cycling since his seventh consecutive Tour victory last year, has consistently insisted that he never took banned drugs to enhance his performances and he was never sanctioned for any doping offense during his career.

But Le Monde said former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, and his wife, Betsy, recently testified under oath to a Dallas court that Armstrong admitted in 1996 to having taken the blood-boosting hormone EPO and other banned substances. The paper said Frankie Andreu used to be best friends with Armstrong.

Le Monde claimed that Armstrong's alleged admission was made Oct. 28, 1996, to a doctor who was treating him for cancer. Betsy Andreu testified that the doctor asked Armstrong whether he had ever taken doping products, and that the cyclist replied "yes," according to Le Monde. The newspaper said she and her husband were with Armstrong on that day.

"He asks which ones. And Lance replies, 'EPO, growth hormones, cortisone, steroids, testosterone,"' it quoted her as telling the court in January. The newspaper said it obtained a copy of her testimony but did not say how.

Armstrong's lawyer, Tim Herman, Texas denied the Andreus' claim, calling it "absurd." In a sworn affidavit, Dr. Craig Nichols said he began Armstrong's chemotherapy that day, adding that he and other medical personnel visited with Armstrong and discussed his medical history.

Nichols was one of doctors treating Armstrong at Indiana University Medical Center. He is now the chair of hematology-oncology at Oregon Health and Sciences University.

He said Armstrong never discussed performance-enhancing drugs, nor is there any record of such an admission.

"Lance Armstrong never admitted, suggested or indicated that he has ever taken performance-enhancing drugs. Had this been disclosed to me, I would have recorded it, or been aware of it, as a pertinent aspect of Lance Armstrong's past medical history as I always do," Nichols said.

"Had I been present at any such 'confession,' I would most certainly have vividly recalled the fact," Nichols said. "I would have recorded such a confession as a matter of form, as indeed, would have my colleagues. None was recorded."

The court was hearing a case brought by Armstrong against a company that withheld a bonus for his 2004 Tour win because a book alleged that he used performance-enhancers.

Under cross examination, Betsy Andreu could not identify the doctor she said Armstrong spoke to, but said it was not Nichols.

Nichols' affidavit said it was unlikely he would not have been at the meeting she described. "Though I was not Lance Armstrong's sole physician, I was responsible for the majority of his treatment and would have been present at every large meeting where discussions took place or decisions were made," Nichols said.

After hearing the evidence, including the Andreus' testimony, the three-member arbitration panel ruled against the company and ordered it to pay Armstrong.

Le Monde said that Frankie Andreu, who raced with Armstrong for the first two of his Tour wins in 1999 and 2000, gave a similar deposition last October, also alleging that Armstrong told the doctor that he used EPO, testosterone, growth hormone and cortisone.

But the newspaper said the Andreus' account was denied by a third person, Stephanie McIlvain, a friend of Armstrong's who supposedly was also at the session with the doctor. She testified that she did not hear Armstrong make such an admission, Le Monde said.

"There were probably 10 people in the room. Betsy was apparently the only one that recalls this alleged incident," Herman said.

In his own defence, Armstrong said in a November deposition to the court that no doctor had asked him whether he had used doping products, according to the newspaper. It said Armstrong also told the court that Betsy Andreu hated him and that Frankie Andreu had gone along with her account to offer her support.

Herman said he has 280 pages of medical records from Indiana University Medical Center, where Armstrong was treated for his cancer, that had spread to his brain, that refute the allegations.

Armstrong's doctors repeatedly asked him during his treatment about substances he may have taken and Armstrong answered only that he occasionally drank beer, Herman said.
Well, right off, that doesn't square with Armstrong saying in his deposition that he was never asked about past doping. Nevertheless, this may be a case of envy going too far.

In any case the charges have a cumilative effect. Where there's smoke, there's often fire.

What can't be denied is that Armstrong was a most disagreeable character.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Good business sense vs. European business sense

What with the problems Airbus is having, most notably with deliveries of its super jumbo A380 being delayed for more than half a year, you would think they would do their best not to put off potential customers. You would be seriously wrong:

Airbus has increased the sale price of its A380 superjumbo, whose problems have triggered a management crisis at parent company EADS.

Airbus said the price of all its models - including the A380 - rose two weeks ago in a standard annual increase.

The disclosure of a six-month delay to delivery of the A380 has thrown its Franco-German parent firm into turmoil.

The French government, a major investor in EADS, is under pressure to force management changes at the firm.

French finance minister Thierry Breton has met with senior managers and is expected to put forward measures to rebuild confidence in the company within days.

According to the Financial Times Deutschland, the list price of the A380 - which will become world's largest airliner - rose by 4.7% to between 235.4m euros ($295.6m; £161.9m) and 251.6m euros ($316m; £173.1m) earlier this month.

An Airbus spokesman confirmed that the price of all its models had risen but declined to comment on individual figures.

The increases were in no way connected to the costly delays to the A380, he stressed. "Like every industry, we raise our list prices each year," he said.

Forced to scale back its A380 delivery targets for the next three years, Airbus is set to lose 2bn euros in earnings.

It is also likely to face compensation claims from airlines having to wait longer for the new aircraft. [....]

This is a PR boondogle if ever there was one. Airbus should bend over backwards to keep its current customers happy.

Tales from Eurabia

Two excellent articles in this week's The Economist. One is a summary of a long special report.

The summary (internal link removed):
[...] Now a similar caricature—this time about Europe—is forming in America. It is known as “Eurabia”, and it represents an ever-growing Muslim Europe-within-Europe—poor, unassimilated and hostile to the United States.

Two years ago, the White House's favourite Arabist scholar, Bernard Lewis, gave a warning that Europe would turn Muslim by the end of this century, becoming “part of the Arab West, the Maghreb”. Now there is a plethora of books with titles like “While Europe Slept” and “Menace in Europe”. Stagnant Europe, goes the standard argument, cannot offer immigrants jobs; appeasing Europe will not clamp down on Islamofascist extremism; secular Europe cannot deal with religiosity (in some cities, more people go to mosques each week than to churches). Europe needs to study America's melting pot, where Muslims fare better.

Such advice gets short shrift from European leaders, who often blame Muslim militancy on American foreign policy. But something similar to Eurabia scares many Europeans too. Terrorism is part of it, thanks to the Madrid and London bombings (as well as September 11th). But it goes wider than that: the past two years have seen riots in France's banlieues, the uproar about Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the murder of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film-maker, and now the virtual exile (to America) of his muse, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Fears about “Londonistan” and so on have helped Europe's far right; on the other side of politics, a bizarre alliance has sprung up between the anti-war left and Islamic hardliners. But the respectable centre is split between France's strict integrationist approach (banning Muslim children from wearing head-scarves in state schools) and the more tolerant multiculturalism of Britain and the Netherlands. The debate about Turkey (and its 71m Muslims) joining the European Union is increasingly a Eurabian one. Meanwhile, at the centre of all this fuss Europe's Muslims are themselves riven by inter-generational arguments on everything from whether there is a European version of Islam to which cricket team to support.

Is Eurabia really something to worry about? The concept includes a string of myths and a couple of hard truths. Most of the myths have to do with the potency of Islam in Europe. The European Union is home to no more than 20m Muslims, or 4% of the union's inhabitants. That figure would soar closer to 17% if Turkey were to join the EU—but that, alas, is something that Europeans are far less keen on than Americans are. Even taking into account Christian and agnostic Europe's lousy breeding record, Muslims will account for no more than a tenth of west Europe's population by 2025. Besides, Europe's Muslims are not homogenous. Britain's mainly South Asian Muslims have far less in common with France's North African migrants or Germany's Turks than they do with other Britons.

Arguments about alienation are also more complicated than they first appear. Many European terrorists were either relatively well-off or apparently well-integrated. The Muslims who torched France's suburbs last year were the ones who seldom attend mosques. First-generation immigrants (with the strongest ties to the Muslim world) seem to be less radical than their European-educated sons and daughters. And the treatment of them is far from uniform either: for all the American charges of “appeasement”, the FBI is a downright softie compared with France's internal security services.

Given these subtleties, perhaps the most dangerous myth is the idea that there is one sure-fire answer when it comes to assimilating Europe's Muslims. In some cases, integrationism goes too far (France's head-scarf ban was surely harsh); but multiculturalism can too (Britain is now reining in its Muslim schools). America's church-state divide and its tolerance of religious fervour are attractive, but its fabled melting pot is not a definitive guide either: many American Muslims are black, and many Arab-Americans are Christian. In some ways, a better comparison (in terms of numbers and closeness of homeland) is with Latinos—and nobody in Europe is (yet) talking about building a wall to keep Muslims out.

Yet amid all this hyperbole, two hard realities stand out. The first is the importance of jobs. In America, it is easy for a newcomer to get work and hard to claim welfare; in Europe the opposite is true. Deregulating labour markets is a less emotive subject than head-scarves or cartoons, but it matters far more.

True. America chooses to safeguard its social services for its citizens, while Europe safeguards jobs for its citizens. I find the American system vastly superior. The threat of economic failure is a wonderful goad to assimilation.

Second, the future of Europe's Muslims, no less than that of America's Latinos, lies with the young. For every depressing statistic about integration—France's prisons hold nine times more young men with North African fathers than ones with French fathers—there are several reassuring ones: a quarter of young Muslim Frenchwomen are married to non-Muslim men; Muslims are flocking to British universities and even popping up in white bastions like the Tory party. In 50 years' time, Americans may be praising this generation of European Muslims for leading the enlightenment that Islam needed.

Europe's Islamic experience will be different from America's: geography and history have seen to that already. Integration will be hard work for all concerned. But for the moment at least, the prospect of Eurabia looks like scaremongering.

The fruits of multi-culturism: Brit Muslims most anti-western in Europe

Britain has long prided itself as a multi-cultural haven, where immigrants are largely left to their own devices, with little pressure placed on them to assimilate. As a result, London is widely derided as Londonistan, and Muslims feel entitled to special treatment, such as demanding the removal of piggy banks from offices.

Not surprisingly, this lack of assimilation has consequences. London was bombed last year by its own citizens who felt a greater attachment to al-Qaeda than to England. A newly released poll shows that while the Brits largely have a good opinion of Muslims, British Muslims feel entirely different:
Public opinion in Britain is mostly favourable towards Muslims, but the feeling is not requited by British Muslims, who are among the most embittered in the western world, according to a global poll published yesterday. [...]

The poll found that 63% of all Britons had a favourable opinion of Muslims, down slightly from 67% in 2004, suggesting last year's London bombings did not trigger a significant rise in prejudice. Attitudes in Britain were more positive than in the US, Germany and Spain (where the popularity of Muslims has plummeted to 29%), and about the same as in France.

Less than a third of British non-Muslims said they viewed Muslims as violent, significantly fewer than non-Muslims in Spain (60%), Germany (52%), the US (45%) and France (41%).

By contrast, the poll found that British Muslims represented a "notable exception" in Europe, with far more negative views of westerners than Islamic minorities elsewhere on the continent. A significant majority viewed western populations as selfish, arrogant, greedy and immoral. Just over half said westerners were violent. While the overwhelming majority of European Muslims said westerners were respectful of women, fewer than half British Muslims agreed. Another startling result found that only 32% of Muslims in Britain had a favourable opinion of Jews, compared with 71% of French Muslims. [...]

Here is the crux of the problem with multi-culti: Westerners are always at fault. The extent of Britain's absorbtion of this lesson is made clear with this poll result:
There was general agreement that relations are bad, but Britons as a whole were much less likely than other Europeans to blame Muslims. More Britons faulted westerners (27%) than Muslims (25%), with a third saying both are equally responsible. British Muslims were less ambivalent. Nearly half blamed westerners.[...]

Thursday, June 22, 2006

German pride that surprises

The title of a recent IHT opinion piece says it all. Germans always took pride in the quality of their craftmanship, but it was a rare German who would admit to national pride. And that pride was always about some aspect of Germany, not its flag or people. Well, the World Cup seems to be the event where everyone sits up and notices that Germans are again happy to be identified as Germans.

On his way to the Bundestag, Germany's Parliament, Hans-Christian Ströbele usually rides his bicycle, but what he sees these days in Berlin's streets is not his cup of tea. Thousands of German soccer fans are waving German flags every night on the so-called "fan mile," which stretches west from the Brandenburg Gate.

"I don't necessarily like this flag waving, I have no intention of attaching one to my bike," the long-time member of Parliament said the other morning on the ARD TV morning show, which I host in Berlin.

Ströbele, one of the founding fathers of the Greens, represents the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, one of the most multicultural constituencies in Germany. Like many on the German left, Ströbele is uneasy about an unprecedented upswing of patriotism as a result of the soccer World Cup taking place in Germany.
The German left had an almost co-dependant relationship with many of the voters. By telling them that to be German was somehow slightly shameful, they kept Germans from feeling good about their accomplishments. And those accomplishments were stunning, at least on an economic level.
Showing love or pride for the country, flying the black, red and gold colors of the flag was strictly a no-no for the postwar baby-boom generation and "patriotism" was a dirty word for more than 40 years.

"In other countries this is much more normal. They take it for granted," Ströbele argued. "But we have our recent past, of which we cannot be proud." And therefore, he went on, Germans have to be more reluctant, more modest about their patriotic feelings, and "that must be true also in the future."

But the power of this mantra seems to be evaporating these days. And this change reaches far beyond the current excitement about the World Cup.

"Why should Germans not be proud of their country?" Charlotte Knobloch, thenewly elected chairwoman of the Central Committee of German Jews, asked in an interview, demanding more patriotism - words unthinkable from such a source only a few years ago.

"We must do everything not to give young people the feeling that they are guilty because of the past," she continued.

Jürgen Klinsmann, coach of the German national soccer team, says, "If there is some more patriotism, that's fine with us. What is developing here is great."

So far, the soccer-driven wave of patriotism is free of nationalistic undertones or other signs of German chauvinism. The hundreds of thousands of German flags mingle peacefully with flags from Brazil, Croatia, Italy, France and the rest of the world. The mood in and around the soccer arenas is excited yet relaxed.
I can confirm this. German fans were happy to wave their flags (also something new--I never recall seeing flags flying form cars or houses), but no chants for Germany interupted the Swiss and Togo chants (and German fans vastly outnumbered Togo's fans).

Interestingly, the World Cup is very much tied in with Germany's post war self rehabilitation. It was after the 1954 "miracle in Bern" that Germans first had something major to celebrate as a nation. Now their success in hosting this World Cup is removing willy-nilly the last vestiges of remorse Germans feel over being German. Now, if they could only learn to be more polite and less pushy while on vacation.
While the left is clearly on the defensive, the extreme right is not able to capitalize on the new patriotic mood in Germany, either. You will never see a neo-Nazi with a German flag. For them, black, red and gold, the national colors, stand for the new German democracy, something they hate and combat.

When Ströbele left the studio and the ARD morning show was over, I put on my running shoes and ran down the "fan mile," a stretch laden with history. Near the Brandenburg Gate is the Soviet War Memorial; the barrels of the T-34 tanks that conquered Berlin were pointing into the clear summer sky. Tonight, I thought, the fans will celebrate here again, right next to this symbol of a terrible German past, and only a few hundred meters from the Holocaust Memorial. Germans will have to live with their past, but they are on their way to doing it in a more relaxed way. As the president of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, put it this week when asked about the new patriotism, "It is the reconstruction of normalcy."
What this means for America is more tension and disagreement with Germany in the future, as Germany increasingly follows its own self-interest. Expect Germany to soon eclipse France as the voice of the EU's foreign policy. Which won't be a bad thing as France was unabashedly using the EU's bully pulpit to stave off its decline in the world.

Submitted to Carnival of German-American Relations, which is a complitation of posts covering all aspects of German-US relations. The second carnival will go live on 2 July at the always excellent Davids Medienkritik.

Red Cross movement adopts new emblem and opens doors to Paletinian and Israeli societies

In an earlier post I noted that Syria along with Muslim and Arab lands were doing their best to challenge the adoption of a neutral Red Cross/Red Crescent emblem. The chief beneficiary would have been Israel, although any nation would be free to use it.

The International Committee for the Red Cross/Red Crescent had hoped to have the symbol adopted through consensous. No dice. Syria et al., demanded a vote. Although the outcome was never in doubt, this procedural gamesmanship tarnished an otherwise fine diplomatic effort by Switzerland, which is really punching above its weight lately in the international ring.

Additionally, both the Palestinian and Israeli humanitarian societies were officially admitted:

The Red Cross humanitarian movement has extended membership to Israel and Palestinian relief agencies at a meeting in Geneva.

The agreement - reached in the early hours of Thursday - paves the way for a new red crystal symbol and puts an end to Israel's nearly 60-year struggle for accession.

Switzerland, the depositary state of the Geneva Conventions, has pushed for the adoption of a third neutral humanitarian emblem.

The Geneva Convention's 192 signatory states and 183 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies decided in a rare vote to approve a new red crystal emblem for use where the cross and crescent are uncomfortably linked with Christianity and Islam. [...]

Despite time-consuming legal and procedural complaints from representatives of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and a proposed amendment from Pakistan and Tunisia seeking to add wording unacceptable to Israel, the resolution passed with more than the required two-thirds majority support.

Some 237 states and societies voted to change the agency's statutes and add the red crystal symbol, 54 voted against, and 18 abstained, officials said. [....]

A neutral third symbol is needed. Nations with religions other than Islam or Christianity now have the option to place a smaller, self-indentifying symbol inside the the crystal.

The ICRC statement is here. Treaties and agreements governing the use of the symbols (if you are truly bored).

Bonus trivia: there already was a third emblem, but the only country using it was Iran. Following the 1979 revolution, they abandoned it in favor of the red crescent.

Pravda op-ed: Zarqawi not dead; Bush evil

From the "Moonbats on Parade" series, an opinion in Pravda (Truth) offers this conspiracy theory: The Zark-man was our man in Baghdad and had to be extracted. Amazing that Pravda prints this tripe:

Most Americans still naively believe the government through the media. Some insiders say that Al-Zarqawi was one of our assets and he had to be extracted because things were getting too hot for him with the fundamentalist Muslims.

Ask yourself one thing: 'If two five-hundred-pound bombs were in fact used to kill Zarqawi, where did they get such nice photos of his intact, undamaged, supposedly-dead face?' Photos of the 'dead' Al Zarqawi were all over the television every 20 minutes for days.

Because a thousand pounds of explosives would make a deep crater, blowing everything to smithereens, Zarqawi would have been tomato paste and not distinguishable as even human. Yet the media just happened to receive cameo morgue photos to convince us suckers that Zarqawi et. al. were dead instead of evacuated.

So, why doesn't the head of Al-Zarqawi look like a pizza? Because, perhaps, he's no deader than the at least seven so-called 9-11 hijackers that are still living in the Middle East. [....]
The article continues with an equally well reasoned attack on Bush.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hypocrite of the week award: President Chirac of France

French president Chirac opened a huge ethnic art collection museum yesterday. As everyone who listens to French propoganda knows, France is at the forefront of ethnic rights and protection, particularly in Africa. Chirac also likes to style himself as a defender of the world's cultures, and an honest broker to the Third World (whoops, make that the Emerging World).

For pure hilarity and outright hypocrisy, it's hard to beat this from our friend Jacques:
“The political message is . . . all cultures are equal,” M Chirac said, presenting his pet project on television this week. “This museum is a symbol of a France that recognises the diverse cultures of the world.”

An aide explained: “The President is shocked by the pretension of a culture that considers itself dominant.”
Interestingly, the looting of those cultures by France was not addressed by Chirac. Perhaps as the world's number one culture, France feels a special obligation to preserve other, lesser cultures.

Apropos the honest broker to the Third World claim: a French court notes that Chirac provided tacit approval to a coup attempt in Africa; doubtless to help the Comoros people in their quest to achieve more French influence over their lives and resources:
COVERT attempts by President Chirac to exert influence over Africa were exposed by a French court yesterday, when it denounced his secret services for conniving with a band of mercenaries in a coup in the tiny Comoros Islands.

In a damning ruling, the Paris Criminal Tribunal said that the French authorities had given at least tacit approval to the 1995 coup led by Bob Denard, the best-known French soldier of fortune.
Maybe Chirac should have been presented the unfortunate timing of the week award. Or the Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose award.

New Red Cross emblem again in trouble

The push to add a third recognized symbol to the Red Cross movement (currently the a red cross and red crescent are allowed; a red diamond is proposed) has hit a predictable snag.

Arab and Muslim nations threaten to derail a conference that was to approve the symbol. Israel was to be the main beneficiary of the non-denominational symbol, but other nations, such as India, with its Hindu population, would have likely adopted the symbol as well.
Syria has warned of a "confrontation" with the Red Cross movement over attempts to introduce a third humanitarian emblem at a two-day conference in Geneva. [...]

The 29th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which started on Tuesday, is due to decide on a resolution that would amend the movement's statutes to include the new "red crystal" emblem and recognise the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

Final approval of the red crystal would also clear the way for Israel's Magen David Adom (MDA) to join the Red Cross movement after almost 60 years in isolation.

MDA has always refused to use either of the two globally recognised symbols – the red cross and the red crescent – opting instead for a red Star of David. If the resolution is adopted, Israel's red star could be placed within the crystal.

The new emblem was approved by a majority of the 192 signatory states to the Geneva Conventions at a stormy diplomatic conference hosted by Switzerland in December. Twenty-seven mainly Muslim countries, including Syria, voted against and ten abstained.

The crystal must now be approved by the full movement, which includes all the signatory states, the 183 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the international bodies of the Red Cross.

Conference organisers are hoping that this time the red crystal will be adopted by consensus, but this is looking increasingly unlikely.

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Bashar Ja'afari, told swissinfo that an amendment had been tabled calling for the Syrian Red Crescent to be allowed humanitarian access to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Ja'afari added that foreign ministers of the 57 states that make up the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) had signed a statement in Azerbaijan on Monday supporting Syria's position.

"We are urging the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] as well as the standing commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to take into account the amendment," said Ja'afari. "If there is no consensus on this, that means they have chosen to have a confrontation."

If a vote is called, a two-thirds majority of those present would be required for the resolution to be adopted. [...]

The Swiss-run ICRC said on Monday that it hoped the emblem issue was not about to become a political football.

"The last thing we want is for humanitarian interests to be subordinated to political considerations," ICRC spokesman Ian Piper told swissinfo. "This is not about politics; this is about humanitarian action and we hope these imperatives will prevail over political considerations."

Piper said the ICRC still hoped the resolution would be adopted by consensus but said everyone was prepared for a vote if necessary."We won't know until the meeting opens. The critical thing will be the Swiss government report and we will [have to] see how people feel about it," he added.

I hope that it comes to a vote. Such grandstanding by Syria et al., needs to be slapped down.

Someone needs to read their own blog

At, the conspiracy minded Mr. Hassan writes regarding Zarqawi's catastrophic lung injuries:
From George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” to occupy Iraq and the “handover of sovereignty” to the fraudulent elections and the recent “killing” of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi (not his real name), the targets have always been the poor peoples in the West, Americans in particular. They are reduced to football spectators, frightened and constantly diverted from the crimes committed in their name.
Gotta like the quotes around killing. Is he saying that Zarqawi
wasn't killed, or maybe that Zarqawi doesn't exist. Looks like he leans
towards the latter:

Al-Zarqawi was part of the U.S. big lie. He was created by the U.S. and linked to Iraq to justify an illegal act of aggression condemned by the majority of the world as international war crimes. [...]

However, the truth about the Al-Zarqawi’s phantom remained conspicuously absents from even the most popular of Western media. There is no hard evidence to substantiate the presence of Al-Zarqawi in Iraq and his “attacks” against Iraqis. [....]
OK, so far it's just boilerplate anti-American lunacy. The fun comes from the breaking news news crawler right above his post: "Terror Mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi killed in Air Raid."

Timing is everything. Although his feelings do have a certain truthiness to them.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Looks like the Left expects a protracted war on terrorism

Emphasis on protracted. At you can buy America's "War on Terrorism" (scroll down to "books") by the exceedingly far-sighted Michel Chossudovsky. On its face, nothing to get excited about. But here's the kicker: it carries a publication date of 2205. Probably has an update on the Rove indictment as well.

It looks as though America will be fighting this long after the last drowning polar bear has eaten its last cub.

Sort of directed there by

My adventure at Germany's World Cup

Having been lucky enough to get a ticket to the Swiss-Togo match (played yesterday), I quickly got my train tickets in order and hunted up my passport.

The day of the match I was up at 0430 to catch the early train to Bern, and then on to Dortmund, Germany. The train out of Bern was already full with fans--most of them in red.

Soon after crossing into Germany the border police came through examining the passports of the males on board. One of the police had a digital camera filled with pictures of Swiss hooligans (they exist). Either my age or the US passport next to me saved me from the horror of being profiled.

The train largely followed the Rhine river until Cologne where it headed north to Dortmund. Fans packed in at each stop along the way, until by Bonn it was standing room only. It was also raining pretty hard much of the way up, thankfully the rain had stopped once we arrived in Dortmund.

Swiss fans had taken over the area around the train station, chanting, singing and drinking fine German beer. All the way out to the stadium (known as the Magic Square or the Opera House), the Swiss and the few Togolese were in high spirits; the Togolese chanted "we're flying to Berlin" (a joke that they would make it to the championship match), while the Swiss countered with "Hopp Schwiiz", and "Schwiitzer Nati"

After picking up my ticket I made my way through security (surprisingly lax) and into the stadium. The place was sold out; the stands a sea of red with occasional small islands of yellow. After the opening ceremony (the only time I suspect I'll ever hear Togo's national anthem), the battle was underway.

The match was thrilling, though poorly played (the Swiss midfield and defense were often confused, while the Togolese were alternately hopeless and brilliant up front). The was no shortage of shots on goal, with the Swiss taking an early 1:0 lead. After halftime the Swiss played much better and scored again--from right in front of my seat!, with the match ending 2:0 (see this piece from the IHT on Togo's loss). Switzerland moves into the second round if they come away with no less than a tie against Korea, or anything other than a win by France against Togo.

The match was without doubt the loudest sporting event I've ever been to. Whistling to show displeasure is much louder than booing, although shouted comments to the referees are swallowed up. An aside: Swiss fans really need to work on their "wave" manuever; despite many tries it barely got going, and was poorly coordinated.

As soon as the match ended I raced for the subway and train station (passing a well stocked whore-house on the way). I caught my train with two minutes to spare. Several changes later I got home at 0100 this morning.

The trip took some 15 hours of train rides, and a slew of changes, but was worth every minute. The excitement of seeing a World Cup match--even between such relative small-fry--was tremendous. It was far and away the most stirring sporting event I've seen. I can recommend it for even the slightly interested fan.

Germany seems to be staging the best World Cup in history. In four years it will be South Africa's turn. If they do half as well as Germany they can count it a success.

RINOs seen Inside Larry's Head

Larry has the RINO round-up this week. Before introducing the posts (many of which are very good), he takes time out to mark Father's day.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

This is the number one site for "Hypospadias porn"

And I intend to keep it that way. Apparently the Excite search engine finds the combination of this post and this post best fit the search criteria. My new goal: to rule the world of Hypospadias porn.

Pity it's such a limited fetish, I could clean up on google ads.

Presumably the seeker went away disappointed.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Is modern art off its head? You'd better believe it

Think modern art is a giant fraud? This will up your smugness quotient:
One of Britain's most prestigious art galleries put a block of slate on display, topped by a small piece of wood, in the mistaken belief it was a work of art.

The Royal Academy included the chunk of stone and the small bone-shaped wooden stick in its summer exhibition in London.

But the slate was actually a plinth -- a slab on which a pedestal is placed -- and the stick was designed to prop up a sculpture. The sculpture itself -- of a human head -- was nowhere to be seen. [....]
Then read this opinion in today's The Times:
HERE WE GO again, another art world fiasco born of the confusion as to what constitutes art. Surely we’ve all realised by now that no one, not even the Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Art, knows the answer to this question. Apparently — and isn’t it reassuring to know this? — Professor David Mach is just as flummoxed as the rest of us.

Let’s get this straight. There is no reason why anyone even vaguely familiar with the risible modus operandi of the contemporary art world should be surprised at what happened to David Hensel’s sculpture of a laughing head entitled One Day Closer to Paradise. He submitted it to the academy but, in the course of transit, it got mistakenly separated from its plinth. The empty plinth was judged on its own merit to be worthy of exhibition, while the sculpture itself was rejected.

The mistake is no different to that of the art critic who reviewed the air-conditioning in a new museum or, indeed, to the many cleaners who have swept up art installations because they weren’t recognisable as art.

When, in 1917, Marcel Duchamp [by signing a urinal] handed down his great commandment that, henceforth, anything can be art, he unwittingly kicked off a new religion. He supplied generations of talentless students (and professors) with a charlatan’s charter. The brainless fanatics of this simple creed are now teaching in every art school in the country. Indeed, we’ve been suffering this intolerant and prescriptive orthodoxy for decades because, under the auspices of the new faith’s high priests at the Tate and the Arts Council, this religion, state-funded needless to say, runs all aspects of contemporary art on our behalf. It has been the process by which the originality of the avant-garde has become authoritarian, institutionalised and dead dull. [....]
For the other side of the argument, read this opinion in The Guardian:

[...] David Hensel, a sculptor from Sussex, submitted to the Royal Academy summer exhibition a piece that consisted of a large bronze laughing head mounted on a plinth of slate and kept in place by a support shaped like a bone.

Pleased to have the piece accepted as item 1201 in the catalogue - One Day Closer to Paradise (edition of 9, £3,640 each) - Hensel was dismayed on visiting the show to find that his effort had been decapitated; he was represented in the exhibition by what looked like a dog's toy on a paving stone. It turned out that the head had become separated from the support during unpacking. [...]

The sculptor David Mach, a selector for the summer show, was even on record praising the "minimalist" qualities of the bone-on-slab display. [...]

Yet another bone thrown to the anti-modernist dogs is the fact that the plinth with the bit on top is now expected to sell for far more than the original price of the whole combination [if the artist has any honesty, he would refuse to sell--P] [...]

I wonder, though, whether the RA's embarrassment is quite the humiliation of modern art that it appears. The argument that the selection panel has been stupid -and fooled into elevating a mistake into art - rests largely on the fact that they were not seeing what the artist intended. But an artist's interpretation of his or her own work has only limited validity; it's outsiders who decide how it goes down. You can write a play and call it a comedy, but if theatregoers don't laugh there's no arguing with them.

Or imagine that the last chapter of a crime novel were accidentally omitted in a mix-up at the printers. Readers and critics who admired the ambiguity of the ending - and welcomed the author's departure from the convention that every loose end must be tied - are not wrong or stupid. They simply responded honestly to what they were shown and expressed a preference for work that was willing to ignore traditions.

This obscures the point. Namely, that what was meant to act solely as a base and support for an artistic piece was received as art itself. By experts in the field. Neither the artist, nor the writer (in the example) intended their work to be viewed in this way. Usually art requires some degree of training. And it certainly requires the intent to create. In these cases the person who misplaced the sculpture or the printer who lost the final chapter are the "artists." Neither one sought to create anything, they simply made mistakes.

In the same way, Mach's full approval of what turned out to be half a work is perfectly justifiable... the vast slate slab supporting its fragment of skeleton has a peculiarity and spookiness that makes it unusual; dismissable as art only by those who believe that good art necessarily requires heavy effort.

The great critic Professor John Carey caused some horror by concluding in his recent book What Good Are the Arts? that "anything can be a work of art. What makes it a work of art is that someone thinks of it as a work of art."
Right. Earlier in the piece the author uses the standard--but effective--line: a fart is art when the man in a bow tie says so.

Our inner aesthete flinches at this brutal reductionism, but the confusion at the RA proves Carey's point. There is nothing absurd about the idea that Hensel's sculpture became more appealing and intriguing to some people when half of it got left in a cupboard. [....]