Saturday, March 06, 2010
Geert Wilders on course to be next Dutch prime minister
The anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders is poised to become the next Dutch prime minister after making major gains in regional elections
Municipal results announced on Thursday put his party in first place in Almere, a region near Amsterdam and second in The Hague, one the country's largest cities and the seat of the Dutch government. If repeated in national elections on June 9, the Freedom Party could win 27 out of 150 seats, becoming the largest single party and putting him in line to become prime minister and form a new government.
Mr Wilders has called Islam a backward religion, wants a ban on headscarves in public life and has compared the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf. "We are going to conquer the entire country we are going to be the biggest party in the country," he said after the vote. "The leftist elite still believes in multiculturalism, coddling criminals, a European superstate and high taxes. But the rest of the Netherlands thinks differently. That silent majority now has a voice."
The Freedom Party currently has nine of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, and five of the country's 25 European parliament seats. But some polls suggest it is now the most popular party in Holland, traditionally seen as a bastion of tolerance.
The Dutch political mainstream yesterday made clear its outrage at the election results. NRC Handelsblad, the Dutch newspaper of record, observing: "The Dutch political system, based on consensus and co-operation, is coming apart at the seams."
Muslims in Almere, where one third of the 190,000 population is of immigrant origin, reacted with shock and anger to his party's success, fearing his victory would fan animosity. "It is terrible," said computer sciences student Kadriye Kacar, 35, who was born in Holland but is of Turkish descent. "People are looking at us in a new way today as if they are thinking – 'We won and you are leaving'. "I don't wear a headscarf normally but I have decided to start doing so now out of protest. Other people in my community are planning to do the same. We will protest until Wilders is gone."
Mr Wilders popularity has grown since he was banned from entering Britain last year. He was arrested and deported after being declared a threat to public safety. The bar has now been lifted and he is due in London on Friday to show his anti-Muslim film, Fitna, in the House of Lords, at the invitation of invitation of Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the Ukip leader and Baroness Cox, a cross bench peer. "I do not agree with Geert Wilders that the Koran should be banned – even in Holland where Mein Kampf is banned. I don't want it banned but discussed and specifically as to whether it may promote or justify – or has promoted or justified – violence. I am therefore promoting freedom of speech," said Lord Pearson.
Mr Wilders is facing prosecution in Holland for "inciting hatred" with the controversial film which depicts the Koran burning and focuses on the links between Islam and terrorism.
A Year of Anti-Religious Bigotry
It's quite striking to see the degree to which traditional Islam has come under ferocious attack from the anti-religious impulse in Hollywood and New York and other bohemian centers in America. It is clearly anti-Islamic religious bigotry. Take a look at just some examples over the past year alone.
January: The Source Weekly, a weekly arts publication in Bend, Ore., featured on its cover an image of Mohammad holding a child with President Obama's head crudely posted on its body. Muslim protests were greeted with this dismissive response: "What is printed is printed, and we will not apologize."
Feb. 12: The NBC sitcom "30 Rock" poked fun at Muslims when Alec Baldwin's character attempted to ingratiate himself with his beautiful Muslim girlfriend by fraudulently going through the motions at her mosque.
Feb. 16: The Fox drama series "House" concentrated a plot on an imam who had privately lost his faith in Islam, while publicly being suspected of having AIDS. In other words, he was a religious hypocrite, a heavy drinker who was accused of being a pedophile and who declared he "hate(d) his job." Ultimately, the doctors would find he was free of AIDS and he would rediscover his faith, but not until after all the negative stereotypes had gleefully marched through the episode.
April 4: On The Washington Post blog site "On Faith," atheist Susan Jacoby insisted Muslim leaders should burn in hell for adhering to their Islamic views on abortion: "Religious 'authorities' ought to burn in hell, if there were a hell, for hypocritical apologies composed of words rather than deeds. There could surely be no better place for leaders who believe in forcing a nine-year-old to bear the children of her rapist."
April 13: In the weekly gay Hotspots magazine, an ad appeared promoting a gay club in West Palm Beach, Fla. The ad was clearly, unequivocally designed to insult Muslims. The ad depicted a DJ dressed as Mohammad ascending to Heaven -- with an erection under his robe. Beneath him were several followers making crude comments about his anatomy on the order of "I've seen bigger."
Oct. 18: The annual Halloween special on "The Simpsons" inflamed the Islamic community with a zombie plot. When most of Springfield turned into zombies after eating tainted red meat, Bart Simpson spit out tainted hamburger before he could be transformed, and was hailed as "Mohammad the Prophet."
Oct. 23: The film "Eulogy for a Vampire" opened in New York. The New York Times described the movie's mix of religious imagery, whippings and animal blood surrounding a plot of an all-male Sufi Muslim order "whose members seem to spend no time in spiritual reflection but quite a lot of time groping one another."
Oct. 25: On HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," actor and show creator Larry David used a bathroom in a Muslim home to upset his friends by not only urinating while standing, which Muslims find religiously impure, but also urinating all over the walls, including a picture of Mohammad. David compounded the offense by talking incessantly while using the bathroom, which is also offensive. David seemed to take glee in offending Islamic audiences.
Nov. 12: While discussing Islam on the primetime "Jay Leno Show," Leno ridiculed Muslims for their faith. He said, "Apparently, they ran out of places to send suicide bombers, so they are looking to outer space."
Dec. 7: In a profanity-laced bit on his HBO special "Weapons of Self Destruction," Robin Williams referred to Mohammad as a "Nazi."
On and on it goes, and by now, perhaps you've already surmised: None of the foregoing was true. Hollywood would never dare ridicule Islam this way. The same holds true for every other appendage of the cultural left. In each case, scratch the Muslim reference and replace it (with a few modifications) with the Catholic Church, with its priests and monks, with Pope Benedict XVI, and with Jesus and Mary. All of these incidents were cited in the Catholic League's "2009 Report on Anti-Catholicism," but they only scratch the surface. There are 68 grisly pages of examples.
Catholicism is the single largest religious denomination in America. In our news and entertainment media today, anti-Catholicism remains "the last acceptable prejudice." It is not that the cultural left is out of touch. It is out to destroy.
A Spy Scandal About Nothing
The complaints leveled against Israel by European countries and Australia, regarding the alleged misuse of passports by the Mossad in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, ring hollow and smack of blatant hypocrisy. Whoever did kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh—whether it was the Israeli Mossad or someone else—clearly did have their agents use stolen or forged passports. Big deal.
Every good intelligence agency uses stolen and forged passports. The British have been especially adept at this means of spycraft. No country that uses fake passports in their intelligence operations has the moral authority to complain about the alleged misuse of passports in this case. The only ones that have a legitimate grievance are those individuals whose passports may have been misused without their knowledge.
I guess it’s the job of foreign ministries to complain publicly when other nations do what they themselves do secretly. Hypocrisy is, after all, the homage that vice pays to virtue. I’m reminded of the famous scene in Casablanca, when officer Renault declares, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” A croupier then approaches Renault, and hands him a roll of currency: “Your winnings, sir.”
The hypocrisy in this case seems even more blatant than usual. Is it because Israel is the alleged offender, and the world has gotten accustomed to singling out Israel for double standard condemnation?
Shortly after the terrorist attacks in Bali, which killed a large number of Australian tourists, I had the opportunity to meet with the Australian Prime Minister. I was writing a book at the time on preemption, and I asked him whether he would have authorized a preemptive attack on the terrorist who killed Australian citizens, if such an attack would have saved their lives. His response was that Australia would have done anything it could, to prevent these terrorist attacks. Anything, I guess, except misusing passports! Is there anybody who believes that Australia would not have used forged or stolen passports to prevent the Bali massacres? If Great Britain could have stopped the London subway attack by misusing passports, would M6 have allowed the terrorism to go forward in the name of preserving passport integrity? Of course not. The same is true of Spain with regard to the Madrid bombing and to every other country in the world that seeks to prevent terrorism. Well, if the Mossad did in fact kill al-Mabhouh, they too did it to prevent the killing of their innocent civilians.
The Israelis are always accused by their enemies, and sometimes even by their friends, of taking “disproportionate” action to stop terrorists. But what could be more proportionate than a carefully planned and specifically targeted attack on an admitted terrorist who boasted of being an active combatant? Whoops! I guess I forgot about those darn passports. That must be the disproportionate action complained about. Saving innocent lives, on the one hand—misusing passports on the other. I guess the right moral resolution, according to some foreign ministries, is to let innocent victims die—at least as long as its only Israeli victims.
It’s interesting, and disturbing, that more criticism is being directed against Israel for allegedly using stolen passports than for allegedly killing a terrorist. That’s because no western country wants to appear to be sympathetic to a terrorist. The “victims” of passport fraud are innocent civilians, but the injury they have suffered pales in comparison to the injuries—deaths—prevented by the well-deserved death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
If the deaths of a small number of innocent civilians is deemed “proportional” to the killing of a terrorist combatant, than surely the discomfort of a small number of innocent victims of passport fraud is proportional.
The high dudgeon expressed by foreign ministries over stolen passports is worse than hypocritical. It undercuts the war against terrorism.
There ought to be concern, among western democracies, about how easy it is to use forged or stolen passports. Dubai should be conducting an investigation, but the focus should be on how simple it was for those carrying these phony passports to get into their country. The misuse of passports is, after all, a primary tool used by terrorists to smuggle themselves into western countries, from which they can engage in worldwide terrorism. There are thousands of forged and fraudulent British passports circulating around the world today. Many are in the hands of terrorists. That should be the focus of any investigation, not the occasional and controlled misuse of passports by western intelligence agencies to combat terrorism.
Whoever snuck into Dubai using fake passports may have done that country a service in warning them to tighten up their passport procedures. Next time it may be a terrorist who tries to enter the country. Wait! Isn’t that exactly what happened when al-Mabhouh walked through security using a real passport with his real name? I guess in Dubai you don’t have to use a fake passport if you’re a terrorist, but you do if you’re trying to stop terrorists —at least if the terrorism is directed only against Israel. I guess Dubai is less concerned about letting terrorists into their country with real passports than in letting those who would stop terrorism into their country with fake passports. It’s a topsy-turvy world out there.
Sorry, but some have to suffer for their art
By Barry Cohen, who was arts minister in Australia's Hawke Labor Party government
DAVID Throsby, economics professor at Macquarie University, has brought down his latest report entitled, "Don't Give Up Your Day Job", pointing out that the lot of artists is not a very happy one, financially speaking. The report states that "census figures show artists' income fell from the median level of $30,000 in 2001 to about $26,000 in 2006 while salaries for most professional groups rose." It adds: "It has been a decade since the Australia Council released the report on the financial status of artists and found that a third lived below the poverty line. "Half earned less than $7300 for their art and only 12 per cent were working full-time."
Well there's a surprise! Most artists can't make a living out of their chosen art. Who would believe it? My mind returned to my early days as federal arts minister when I appeared on a public platform with the federal secretary of Actors Equity. He concluded his address fulminating that "of the 4000 members of my union only 400 are working". The players collective loved it but then didn't hear his sotto voce comments as he sat down. "And that's all that deserve to be working."
Periodically, we hear the nonsense parrotted by the arts community claiming that artists of Australia are treated much the same as chimney-sweeps were in Dickens' day. Comparisons are often made with salaries earned by the average worker up to and including the head honchos of our top companies. Those who struggle along on $8 million a year.
Throsby and the Australia Council are absolutely right about the low earnings for the great majority of artists but it has always been thus and will remain so. And the reason? Most occupations, be they clerks, sales assistants, miners, shearers, boilermakers, doctors, dentists or school teachers, have a limited number of positions available which, once filled, guarantees that those seeking employment in that area will look further afield. It's called the free market and it works. There aren't thousands of aspiring boilermakers lining up for jobs that don't exist. They find work that puts a roof over their heads, food on the table and financial security.
Artists, and I use the word loosely, are an entirely different kettle of fish. We must remember that there are millions of them in Australia out of a population of 22 million. Precisely how many I have no idea, but picture for a moment all those you know who fancy themselves as artists: painters, sculptors, singers, musicians, dancers, actors, composers and the millions of handicraft artists that indulge in embroidery, tatting, quilting and the like.
My First Lady, the beauteous Rae, is a dab hand at any craft she puts her mind to. Her days are full making magnificent quilts. Recently, together with a local quilting group she delivered 73 quilts to fire victims in Victoria. Does she earn anything from her art? Not a cent. Does she expect to? No and nor do her fellow quilters. They do it because they love doing it. It is an art but it is also their hobby.
I've been a little luckier over the past 20 years as a columnist with eight books, seven of which made the best-seller list. It's been a nice little earner, but thank God it wasn't my only source of income. Like Rae, I write because I love writing. Would I continue if there was no longer a market? Almost certainly, because of the pleasure it brings and not because of the financial reward.
A few artists are extremely well paid, earning in the millions, while a substantial number make a good living. However, in the arts, unlike most other trades and professions, there are 10 times more practitioners than there are opportunities for fame and fortune.
And who decides who is an artist? More importantly, who decides who is a good artist? In an occupation where there is no shortage of egos it's easy to declare oneself to be an artist and expect the world, or the government, to provide you with a living. It's nonsense and the sooner the arts community stops whining about how their talents are not being rewarded the better. The arts community should be honest with aspiring artists and warn them that their worth will be determined by the market, by who buys their records, books, paintings or pays to see them perform.
Some expect governments to provide. And they do. The federal government picks up the tab for a vast number of artistic activities. Indeed the spending on everything from the National Gallery through to the Film and Television School comes to $696 million. And then there's the ABC, SBS and extensive state and local government programs. Governments are continually expanding their arts programs, creating opportunities for artists while stimulating tourism and ensuring the arts are more widely enjoyed.
We are indebted to David Throsby for his latest report on the plight of our artists. It's the 11th in a similar vein over the past 30 years. What is needed is some solutions. Let's hope we don't go the way as some European countries where those who are declared to be artists are guaranteed a salary for life. Denmark is one such country and so is Holland. Such a system guarantees there are any number of artists beavering away filling up warehouses with paintings no one will ever see.
There is a vital role for governments to play in developing talented artists, but please spare us from the nonsense that everyone who declares themselves an artist should be guaranteed an income.
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 or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.