Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's not only Britain that has crooked crime statistics. NYC knows how to walk the crooked walk too

A source inside the Manhattan District Attorney's office admitted to me during a telephone conversation yesterday that "hate crimes," specifically those occurring against Jews, are frequently omitted from such classification. Meanwhile, acts that victimize Muslims, regardless of their motivation, are usually reported as "hate crimes." Consequently, crimes against Jews and other religions fail to garner the same media focus as crimes against Muslims and skew the figures used to track criminal motives. Although this is not a new phenomenon, it has recently been accentuated by the incident that took place on a New York subway last week.

At about 6:20 last Tuesday, March 18, 2008, 25 year-old Uria Ohana, a rabbinical assistant, was assaulted by three Muslim men inside the subway station at Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street in Park Slope. As Ohana proceeded through the turnstile, 18 year-old Ali Hussein grabbed Uria Ohana's yarmulke from his head; Ohana gave chase, and was assaulted by Hussein's accomplices who were shouting "Alla hu Akbar" - Arabic for "God is great." The chase ended when Hussein was struck by a vehicle as he ran onto Fourth Avenue. Hussein's friends abandoned him at the scene, fleeing in a late model GMC Suburban.

The incident received very little media attention, and the motive was not initially recorded as a bias or "hate crime." This happens frequently," admitted this source, adding that the pressure from Muslim special interest groups is much greater than from other similar organizations. "It seems that there is a far greater propensity for law enforcement to recognize and classify crimes against Muslims as motivated by religious bias, and there more pressure from watch dog groups to insure that crimes against Muslims are immediately classified as having their origins in religious bias. What it does is that it skews the actual numbers," added this source.

He also stated that since 9/11, law enforcement officials have acquiesced to the pressure and demands by Islamic special interest groups to treat most crimes against Muslims as "religiously motivated," even in the absence of any proof. Acts such as graffiti randomly sprayed on a mosque, for example, is classified as a "hate crime." It does not matter that the mosque might be one of several buildings in a specific area that has been tagged or sprayed by vandals. "We are compelled to classify such acts as having a religiously motivated bias, despite evidence that would indicate otherwise. Ordinarily, people would not think it is such a big deal. But when you have many such incidents, it obviously has a significant impact on criminal statistics. It definitely skews them."


Your government will take care of it: Not in bumbling Britain

At first glance, the Financial Services Authority's review of its own role in the Northern Rock saga reads like a brilliant self-parody. One wonders for a moment whether the author, in a mad moment of Swiftian mischief, has deliberately set out to portray her colleagues as a bunch of Pooterish pen-pushing, paperclip-counters.

There is the slavish and pedantic attention to the trivial detail. "We reviewed 129 files [lever arch or equivalent] ..." the report proudly assures us early on. There's the blizzard of confusing acronyms - MRGD, ARROW, RMPs, C&C, IRMs and HoDs. There's the reluctance to call a spade a spade. "The supervision of Northern Rock was at the extreme end of the spectrum of the supervisory practices we observed." There's the absurd faith in frequency of meetings as the FSA's measure of effective supervision. The more the better, obviously.

There's the obsession with inanimate systems and processes rather than people. Reading the executive summary (we don't get to see the full report for another month), one gets no impression at all that the FSA is staffed by 2,000 educated and thinking human beings - people, we might hope, attuned to the currents in financial markets, understanding of the temptations that might persuade bankers to make reckless decisions and capable of bringing common sense, brainpower and personal judgment to the regulatory process. And there's the bureaucrats' refusal to accept that there is anything fundamentally wrong with the organisation or its philosophy. Or at least nothing wrong that hiring a few more administrators can't solve.

The report is not a whitewash, however. Indeed, by its own lights, the FSA is brutally self-critical. It blasts itself for its lapses of officialdom - the failure to keep good records, the paucity of meetings, the glitches in line management procedures. As such, the FSA risks being accused of abject hypocrisy. These are just the failings it cannot tolerate in the firms in regulates. Poor record-keeping is high up in the FSA's hierarchy of deadly sins.

But the wider message from the report is that the FSA does not try to run a zero-failure City and that the Rock implosion and run would probably have occurred even if the FSA had been operating as it would have liked. Perhaps FSA officials could have impressed their concerns more forcibly on Rock directors, perhaps the bank would have been advised to diversify its funding a bit more, but nobody at Canary Wharf seems to be terribly convinced this would have made a difference.

FSA officials have admitted privately that they would have been unlikely to exert their powers to force Rock to change its ways in those benign, pre-2007 credit market conditions. In short, but for the shortcomings in depositor protection, Rock was, in the eyes of the FSA, just one of those unfortunate things - an inevitable rare failure, but a price worth paying for a system in which competition and innovation are allowed to flourish for the benefit of customers.

It will be a few decades before we know if this is a fair assessment. Any more bank collapses and the FSA's private view that this was a once-in-two-centuries probability event will sound very hollow. Anyway, it is much too early to argue that the price is worth paying when we don't yet know what that price (for taxpayers) will be.


Greatest Generation II

It's better that I'm not near a television this week. I didn't have to witness the talking news heads somberly remind us that the Killed-In-Action count in Iraq has rolled 4,000, and how the war there has been going on for five years. (They say "five" like they wish it had more syllables.) Listening on the radio, do I discern smears of disingenuousness in some of their voices, crocodile tears?

When I see them in the airports, today's service men and women, I don't see people who feel sorry for themselves. I see the proud grandchildren of the greatest generation - Greatest Generation II. And, damn, they are magnificent.

As often as I can, without being intrusive, I speak to them and say thank you. A Lieutenant Colonel and a half-dozen junior officers stand in a circle as he briefs them on their travel plans. I sit a few feet away awaiting a flight and listen in. They look like high school kids to me, maybe college for the LTC, but I recognize the language they speak. It doesn't change. When there's a lull in the conversation, I say, "Excuse me gentlemen, I'm an old vet from Vietnam, and you guys are my heroes. Just want to say thank you." "Roger that, sir," the LTC says.

Another airport, a Spec 4 who looks like he could be my grandson in 10 years happens by with a patch I recognize. "Hey, 82nd." He stops. I stand, shake his hand, and say, "Thank you. Stay safe." (It's the only time I've wished I`d jumped out of a perfectly good airplane so I could have said, "All the way.") He says, "Thank you, sir." I love saying a variation on what he's heard before, "Don't sir me. Just a sergeant once." He gets it and smiles.

An Army Captain sits with his wife and three small children; he's obviously going overseas. He steps away for a moment to go to the ticket counter. I speak to him briefly on his way back to his family. I "sir" him, because he sure deserves it.

To three privates just coming back with the dust still on their boots I say thanks, "Do you guys know you're Valley Forge material?" I think they understand what I mean, but if they don't they will someday. To one young troop with the CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge) looking every ounce the seasoned infantry grunt, I ask, "Has anyone thanked you yet today for your service?" "Yes, sir," he says. "Okay, then hold mine in reserve for when you need one." But I don't think he ever will.

These people project a will that says they know what they're about, and that's all the assurance they need. The "thanks" from civilians - that's just gravy. Today's U.S. Armed Services are almost unique -- all volunteers. How many other American war forces in history can we say that about? The Continental Army of the Revolutionary War. The hodge-podge army that stood with Andrew Jackson at New Orleans in 1814. Hardly a month passes when we don't see a story about how some soldier or Marine who'd been very seriously wounded and goes through months of rehab so he can rejoin his unit. (I don't remember a "her" story, but a female soldier recently was awarded the Silver Star.) At least one Marine returned to Iraq on a titanium leg.

Where in the world do these people come from? Who raised these kids? They're the grandchildren of the greatest generation. And among them, even more amazing, are legal immigrants who earn their citizenship by serving what is not yet their country. That eclipses the pyramids on my list of world wonders. So it's a good thing I can't watch the TV weenies this week mournfully remind us that 4,000 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq. They don't need to remind us of the cost, or try to provoke our sympathies. We've seen them in the airports. Perhaps, even spoken to one.


The lever and the foundations

The National Review Online describes Islam's public enemy Number 1: a Coptic priest called Zakaria Botros.
Along with fellow missionaries - mostly Muslim converts - he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat ... Botros is an unusual figure onscreen: robed, with a huge cross around his neck, he sits with both the Koran and the Bible in easy reach. Egypt's Copts - members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East - have in many respects come to personify the demeaning Islamic institution of "dhimmitude" (which demands submissiveness from non-Muslims, in accordance with Koran 9:29). But the fiery Botros does not submit, and minces no words. ... The result? Mass conversions to Christianity - if clandestine ones.
Even if one were not a Christian, it's interesting to ask how one Coptic priest operating on a shoestring wage such successful information warfare? To save money Botros uses the "new media": satellite TV and the Internet. Secondly, he communicaes in Arabic. Thirdly, Botros tackles Islam on its own ground. He is intimately familiar with the Koran and phrases the issues in ways that are not only linguistically familiar to Middle Easterners but in accordance with their categories of thought. According to Raymond Ibrahim at NRO:
Botros's motive is not to incite the West against Islam, promote "Israeli interests," or "demonize" Muslims, but to draw Muslims away from the dead legalism of sharia to the spirituality of Christianity. Many Western critics fail to appreciate that, to disempower radical Islam, something theocentric and spiritually satisfying - not secularism, democracy, capitalism, materialism, feminism, etc. - must be offered in its place. The truths of one religion can only be challenged and supplanted by the truths of another. And so Father Zakaria Botros has been fighting fire with fire.
Raymond Ibrahim's summary omits one key factor in Botros' success. It is factor hardest for the West to reproduce. Western intellectuals can also use the "new media"; learn to speak in Arabic; even learn Koranic theology. They potentially have everything but the one thing that Botros spontaneously possesses in spades. Faith.

Botros believes he has found the true religion and is eager to tell Muslims about it. Thus he offers them not only a critique of the absurdities of Islam but an invitation to embrace an alternative. He tells them not only what to turn away from but what to turn to. It is this last obstacle which the modern intellectual stumbles over. The modern intellectual can say nothing about what a man should fight or die for. Two generations ago, even non-religious people in the West still had a country, culture or tribe they could feel loyal too. Albert Camus could declare quite seriously that "the French language is my homeland". Although he loved disembodied ideas they never lifted him above loyalty. Explaining why he opposed terrorism Camus said, "I must also denounce a terrorism which is exercised blindly, in the streets of Algiers for example, and which one day could strike my mother or my family. I believe in justice, but I shall defend my mother before justice."

Today it is quite conceivable for someone who declares his affection for the English language in America to be accused of "hate speech"; and for a man who compares his grandmother to a ranting demogogue to be likened to Abrham Lincoln. In malls all over the Western world the boomer generation gets teary-eyed over the appeal to believe in nothing.

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

And while those sentiments are all very well they prevent Western intellectuals from taking the last step which Zakarai Botros is capable of. Challenging Islam's roots requires the challenger to have an irrational loyalty to roots of his own. Faith is a special kind of information that arises from providing answers to questions that are undecidable within our formal logical system; that lie beneath the foundations of our civilization rather than in a development of its precepts. It lies within our choice of axioms rather than the theorems that arise from them. And because axioms cannot be proved, "our way of life" will always rest on prejudice -- or if you will -- faith. Like Camus, we can never rise completely above all our attachments and still retain our capacity to act.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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