Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Counterrevolution in Military Affairs

By Aussiegirl

It is almost impossible to fully describe the importance of this stunning analysis from Ralph Peters. It's probably the most illuminating and brilliant insight I have read regarding the dangers facing the United States and the forces arrayed against us, both military and cultural. He not only analyzes what is wrong with our military theories and our current strategy of relying on techno-weapons to achieve a kind of video-game war, but he unerringly and correctly puts his finger on the problems underlying the current conflicts in the world. He correctly finds the fundamental problem lies with faith -- the blind and fanatical faith of the jihadist and the lack of faith in the West. A tour de force of modern political, military and cultural philosophy. Do not miss this.

The Counterrevolution
in Military Affairs

[...]The hallmark of our age is the failure of belief systems and a subsequent flight back to primitive fundamentalism--and the phenomenon isn't limited to the Middle East. Faith revived is running roughshod over science and civilization. Secular societies appear increasingly fragmented, if not fragile. The angry gods are back. And they will not be defeated with cruise missiles or computer codes.

A paradox of our time is that the overwhelmingly secular global media--a collection of natural-born religion-haters--have become the crucial accomplices of the suicide bomber fueled by rabid faith. Mass murderers are lionized as freedom fighters, while our own troops are attacked by the press they protect for the least waywardness or error. One begins to wonder if the bomber's suicidal impulse isn't matched by a deep death wish affecting the West's cultural froth. (What if Darwin was right conceptually, but failed to grasp that homo sapiens' most powerful evolutionary strategy is faith?) Both the suicide bomber and the "world intellectual" with his reflexive hatred of America exist in emotional realms that our rational models of analysis cannot explain. The modern age's methods for interpreting humanity are played out.

We live in a new age of superstition and bloodthirsty gods, of collective madness. Its icons are the suicide bomber, the veil, and the video camera.

One of the most consistently disheartening experiences an adult can have today is to listen to the endless attempts by our intellectuals and intelligence professionals to explain religious terrorism in clinical terms, assigning rational motives to men who have moved irrevocably beyond reason. We suffer under layers of intellectual asymmetries that hinder us from an intuitive recognition of our enemies. Our rear-guard rationalists range from those convinced that every security problem has a technological solution, if only it can be found, to those who insist that members of al Qaeda and its affiliates are motivated by finite, comprehensible, and logical ambitions that, if satisfied, would make our problems disappear.

Why Hamas won---a cautionary tale for wishful thinkers

By Aussiegirl

Here's an excellent analysis of Hamas's recent victory at the polls, and why the reporting of this event is another example of wishful thinking about sober realities.

The anatomy of Hamas' victory

All of this leads to a clear conclusion. The failure of Israel's leadership is one of the most significant causes of Hamas's ascension to political power. Just as the persistence of radical regimes in Damascus and Tehran is the result of the inability of the international community to rise to the challenge they
manifest to international security, so too, the empowerment of Hamas is the
result of the adoption of a strategy by Israel that is based on how we wish the
world to be rather than on the way the world actually is. By the same token,
Israel's ability to fashion suitable responses to Hamas's electoral victory is
dependent on its citizens' willingness to choose leaders capable of accepting
the realities we face and acting accordingly.

Oriana Fallaci, a true heroine

By Aussiegirl

After reading about "Martyr Mom", it's important to cleanse yourself by learning about Oriana Fallaci, a true heroine and role model for both men and women.

FrontPage magazine.com :: FrontPage Magazine's Woman of the Year: Oriana Fallaci by FrontPage Magazine:

"After spending most of the last century fighting against fascism, Oriana Fallaci continues to demonstrate the enduring grip of Orwellianism: she is to be tried in Italy for thought-crime. For spending her childhood fighting Hitler and Mussolini, and for dedicating the last four years of her life to rousing the West to the danger posed by Islamofascism, she more than merits designation as FrontPage Magazine�s Woman of the Year.
Oriana Fallaci has rebelled against fascism most of her life. She is not an ideologue, bound to implement any given ideology. Hers is a defensive mission. She is, by her own designation, neither a conservative nor a leftist, finding defects with both. Like FrontPage Magazine, her main concern is fighting encroaching totalitarianism, not advancing a narrow partisan agenda ruled by either orthodoxy."

All you wanted to know about motherhood in Palestine

By Aussiegirl

Following upon the previous article about jihad, here's Andrew Bostom talking about "Martyr Mom". What's alarming isn't just that she ran in the election, but that she has become a heroine and a shining example of Muslim motherhood.

FrontPage magazine.com :: Meet Candidate �Martyr Mom� by Andrew G. Bostom:
Umm Nidal Farhat mothered three Hamas terrorist sons all of whom were killed while participating in so-called martyrdom operations aimed at slaughtering Israelis, indiscriminately, whether military personnel, or civilians. She relished the most notorious of these actions, the murderous rampage by her son Muhammad: "I prayed from the depths of my heart that Allah would cause the success of his operation. I asked Allah to give me 10 [Israelis] for Muhammad, and Allah granted my request and Muhammad made his dream come true, killing 10 Israeli settlers and soldiers. Our God honored him even more, in that there were many Israelis wounded."
The author concludes his article thus:
When will our policymaking and media elites finally learn and acknowledge the daily impact of barbaric, yet normative Muslim doctrines—rooted in jihad—such as “martyrdom” and “Dar al Harb”? And how moribund is our world that the mother of three murderous jihad terrorists—a triumphal “Martyr Mom”—can run for elective office in the Palestinian Legislative Council, and this harrowing spectacle is regarded with the same banality by these elites as if she were a “Soccer Mom”?

At last, the truth about jihad

By Aussiegirl

Jamie Glazov, in today's FrontPage Magazine, interviews Andrew Bostom, a physician who has published many articles about the true nature of Islam, and specifically its concept of jihad. This is a must-read for anyone who continues to think of Islam as "a religion of peace". Yes, there will be peace, but the peace that follows the entire world becoming Muslim. Not a pretty picture.

FrontPage magazine.com :: The Legacy of Jihad by Jamie Glazov

The consensus on the nature of jihad from major schools of Islamic jurisprudence is clear. Summarizing this consensus of centuries of Islamic thought, the seminal Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun, who died in 1406, wrote:
"In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty because of the universalism of the mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense."
Only Islam, Ibn Khaldun added, “is under obligation to gain power over other nations.”

Sunday, January 29, 2006

MI5 still baffled in bomb plot hunt

By Aussiegirl

Well, this isn't exactly what you want to hear from MI5. What's to figure out -- there are Moslems in your country and they plan to kill you. But perhaps George Tenet was doing some consulting over there on the side.

The Australian: MI5 still baffled in bomb plot hunt [January 30, 2006]

MORE than six months after the worst terrorist attack against Britain, the country's intelligence service, MI5, has admitted it knows almost nothing about why the London bombings happened, a leaked report reveals.

Despite the biggest MI5 and police investigation ever mounted, a secret report for Prime Minister Tony Blair and senior ministers into the July 7 attacks states: "We know little about what three of the bombers did in Pakistan, when attack planning began, how and when the attackers were recruited, the extent of any external direction or assistance and the extent and role of any wider network."

Rice admits U.S. underestimated Hamas strength

By Aussiegirl

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made a series of unbelievably naive, inconsistent and just plain idiotic statements today in response to questions about how the administration could have failed so miserably to foresee the possibility of a Hamas victory. There's just no polite way to put it -- this woman is out to lunch and appears to not even be in touch with reality. I know I should probably be measured and temperate in my comments, like a good political commentator -- hedging my bets and taking the yes, but on the other hand this attitude. But there's no way about it, this was an unmitigated failure of vision and intelligence -- both of the intel variety and the plain and simply smarts variety. If this were a Japan she should hand in her resignation in complete disgrace and offer the country and the world an apology for her incompetence.

How could any savvy Secretary of State utter such inanities as the following. It's just plain embarrassing. What they underestimated is not the hostility among Palestinians towards their longtime leaders, they underestimated the Palestinians hatred of Israel and the Jews. A hatred which will now consume them, and perhaps even involve the region in a much more dangerous and wider war. So much for democracy and the rosy two-state scenario.

"I've asked why nobody saw it coming," Ms. Rice said, speaking of her own staff. "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse."

Ms. Rice pointed out that the election results surprised just about everyone. "I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas's strong showing," she said on her way to London for meetings on the Middle East, Iran and other matters. "Some say that Hamas itself was caught off guard by its strong showing."

Ms. Rice told reporters that she was convinced of the wisdom of instilling democracy in the Middle East. Elections have brought into office anti-American Islamic radicals in Egypt, Lebanon and Iran, but Ms. Rice said the alternative was trying to bottle up seething anger in the region that could lead to more terrorist attacks in the West.

"There is a huge transition going on in the Middle East, as a whole and in its parts," she said. "The outcomes that we're seeing in any number of places, I will be the first to say, have a sense of unpredictability about them. That's the nature of big historic change. It's simply the way it is."

Rice Admits U.S. Underestimated Hamas Strength - New York Times

Belarus siezes videotape of Ukrainian journalists

By Aussiegirl

Looks like Ukrainian television was trying to cover the Belarus elections and Belarus found that nefarious activity.

Khaleej Times Online

Ukraine lodged a protest yesterday over what it said was the seizure of journalists’ videotapes by authorities in neighbouring Belarus, whose authoritarian leader has warned there will be foreign attempts to influence the forthcoming presidential election.

In a note delivered to Belarusian diplomats, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry expressed concern and asked Belarus to return the tapes.

Belarusian border guards seized three videotapes containing reports about the election to be held on March 19 from a crew from Ukraine’s Inter television, according to one of the journalists, Oleksiy Ivanov. He said the journalists were told the tapes could contain evidence of anti-government activity. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Belarusian diplomats promised the incident would be investigated.

Peace? What kind of peace ?

By Aussiegirl

Robert Spencer gives his take on the significance of the Hamas victory.

FrontPage magazine.com :: �We Have No Peace Process� by Robert Spencer

The denial started almost immediately after Hamas captured 57 percent of the seats in the Palestinian parliament. Associated Press reported that “Hamas capitalized on widespread discontent with years of Fatah corruption and ineffectiveness. Much of its campaign focused on internal Palestinian issues, while playing down the conflict with Israel.” Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice opined: “Palestinian people have apparently voted for change, but we believe their aspirations for peace and a peaceful life remain unchanged.”

But what kind of peace? And how does Hamas (Harakat Muqawama Islamiyya — the Islamic Resistance Movement) propose to rid the Palestinian Authority of corruption? To these questions the answer has been clear for as long as Hamas has existed; the answer to both is Islam. The Hamas Charter of August 18, 1988, quotes Hassan Al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the first modern Islamic terror organization and the direct forefather of Hamas: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” A Hamas supporter in Gaza amplified that principle on Thursday: “We’re happy that now we will have an Islamic state. God willing, Islam will prevail and we will get rid of corruption.”

CORRECTION -- Pope says reconciliation of Islam with modernity is difficult, not impossible

By Aussiegirl

Headlines were made a few weeks ago when it was suggested that Pope Benedict had declared that Islam was incompatible with modernity because it was the dictated word of God, and as such, not open to interpretation. This turns out to have been a mistatement of his actual words, a mistake that has now been corrected by those who were privileged to hear the exchange. Since we published the article here in UT it is important to correct the record.


"Fr. Fessio agrees with his fellow Jesuits Troll and Samir. And he testifies together with them that, for Benedict XVI, Islam is capable of reform and can be harmonized with modernity. But at a steep price.

A few hours after the previous article on Benedict XVI and Islam was published online by www.chiesa, the contrasting interpretations over the pope's thought were smoothed out.

The disagreement hinged upon whether or not Islam can be reformed, and consequently upon the relationship between Islam and modernity.

The American Jesuit Joseph Fessio -- who participated, together with other former students of Joseph Ratzinger, in a meeting with the pope for the purpose of studying the concept of God in Islam -- had said in a radio interview on January 5 that, at the meeting, the pope had asserted that Islam and modernity cannot be reconciled.

But other participants at the meeting -- Jesuit Islamic studies scholar Christian W. Troll, from Germany, and Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian -- gave a different version of the pope's thought. According to their testimony, Benedict XVI had judged the reconciliation of Islam and modernity as very
difficult, but not impossible. "

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Now what? The world reacts to Hamas victory

By Aussiegirl

Don't you just hate it when democracy turns around and bites you in the butt? The world is now faced with the unpalatable choice of either dealing with the duly democratically elected government in Palestine, which just happens to be a terrorist organization that does not recognize Israel's right to exist and has as one of its aims the total destruction of the Israeli state -- or -- refusing to recognize a democratically elected government.

There are those who will voice the opinion that now that Hamas is in power they will be forced to moderate and accomodate to providing for public services, etc., but precious little historical evidence exists for such moderation. Read Barry Rubin's piece called "The Myth of a Moderate Hamas" for further insights into this idea.

Paging Natan Sharansky, whose book about democracies has so inspired our president that he is on a one man crusade to democratize the entire Middle East. We saw one outcome in Iraq, we now see another in Palestine.

Israeli politicians are scrambling to figure out how to deal with this outcome, and what is suprising to me is how apparently surprised they are at this outcome. I would have thought that they would have considered this a distinct possibility and planned for it. But evidently pie in the sky is a dish that is not only being consumed in America by Condi Rice and George Bush, but has been part of the steady diet of Israeli politics as well.

Meanwhile, Israel continues its unilateral ceding of further territories in some quixotic quest to prove to the terrorists that they are really nice guys. Hey -- the Palestinians don't want Gaza, the West Bank or any of the other little bits of "territories" that Israel is willing to turn over -- they want the whole kahuna. And now they have Ahmadinejad on their side, there's no telling how emboldened they are feeling now.

The world will hem and haw, they'll make polite noises about not dealing with them until they renounce violence, and then they'll quietly set about dealing with them anyway. Hamas knows this.

And the embarrassing truth is that this makes a mockery of the "road to peace" and the entire unworkable Oslo accord. And nothing could demonstrate it better than the embarrassing statements from Condoleeza Rice (quoted below), who woke up this morning to see her Mideast policies in tatters.

Wake up before it's too late. Democracy is not a panacea in the Arab world. If democracies reflect the will of the people -- the world just learned what the will of the Palestinian people is, and no amount of putting a kind face on it will change that.

You can say that the people were really voting for all the social programs that Hamas instituted, you can say that Hamas will moderate, and we can hope against hope that it will, but most probably it points up that those of us who talked about the futility of this so-called peace-process, where Israel conceded territory in exchange for absolutely no guarantees except wild hopes, were correct.

Now what?

The Standard - China's Business Newspaper

Israel and the United States refuse to deal with Hamas.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington's position on Hamas as a terrorist organization has not changed.

"You cannot have one foot in politics and another in terror," Rice said.

She added: "Palestinian people have apparently voted for change, but we believe their aspirations for peace and a peaceful life remain unchanged."

Rice said those goals will require renunciation of violence and terrorism and acceptance of Israel's right to exist side-by-side with a Palestinian state.

"You can't have a peace process if you're not committed to the right of your partner to exist."

More world reaction here

Administration plans covert ops and disinformation to deal with Iranian threat

By Aussiegirl

According to this article in the Asia Times, the administration is working to make it appear that Turkey is cooperating in an air strike against Iranian nuclear targets, however this appears to be merely disinformation to put pressure on the Iranians. It seems doubtful if the Iranians will feel any pressure from such tactics. It also appears that the administration has settled for the time being at least, on a policy of disabling Iran's nuclear facilities through commando raids and sabotage. Let's hope we start seeing reports of strange "accidents" and mysterious explosions emanating from Iran. John Batchelor reported on his show that there have been mysterious explosions which happened in a town that was being visited by Ahmadinejad. Taking him out would be the simplest solution.

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs

Jushua Kurlantzick of The New Republic wrote in Gentleman's Quarterly in May that top officials had adopted a new strategy of "deterrence and disruption" toward Iran in the autumn of 2004 that was aimed ultimately at covert operations by special forces to damage nuclear sites, according to a government official.

Kurlantzick's source confirmed, in effect, an earlier report by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker that the administration had approved conducting covert probes by reconnaissance missions in Iran to identify potential nuclear sites as targets for later military strikes. But it suggested any such strikes would be by commando teams rather than from the air.

"You'll start seeing reports of an 'accidental gas leak' at Natanz," an Iranian nuclear facility, the official was quoted as saying.

The choice of covert operations instead of air strikes in administration planning reflected the serious downside associated with an overt attack on Iran. Administration policymakers were concerned about the likelihood of Iranian retaliation - in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere in the Middle East - for an open military air attack against Iranian targets.

Notorious oligarch Berezovsky reveals plans for coup in Russia

By Aussiegirl

Well, sounds like a plan. Not sure if he should be advertising this ahead of time, but he says he's doing it deliberately to signal the Russian people that help is on the way.

Notorious Oligarch Berezovsky Reveals Plans for Coup in Russia - NEWS - MOSNEWS.COM

Wanted Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky has gone public with his plans to seize power in Russia by force. The London-based oligarch said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station Wednesday that he had been working on the coup plan for 18 months.

Berezovsky, a notorious critic of Putin’s regime, said he aimed to replace the “anti-constitutional regime” in Russia.

“The regime has lost its legitimacy. Neither Putin nor the parliament are legitimate. They are anti-constitutional, because they have made a number of anti-constitutional decisions, such as replacing elected governors by appointed ones. This is absolutely against the spirit and the language of the constitution.”

Ozone layer 1 -- Asthmatics - 0 -- as FDA gets set to ban Primatene Mist because of the ozone layer

By Aussiegirl

How idiotic is this? Many asthmatics and other people with chronic lung conditions rely on these inexpensive and easy to obtain drugs to stave off an asthma attack and to open their bronchial passages.

This smells of big pharma pressure to ensure that only expensive prescription drugs will be available. To ban a life-saving and inexpensive medicine because of some theoretical and unproven risk to the ozone layer is absurd.

People are going to die because of this bonehead move. It just staggers my imagination that this should even be contemplated. As the article states, the poor and uninsured will be the primary victims of this ban.

The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Asthma-inhaler ban backed

Asthma sufferers may not be able to buy nonprescription inhalers much longer because the devices contain propellants that harm the ozone layer.

An advisory panel voted 11-7 Tuesday to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration remove the "essential use" status that Primatene Mist and other similar nonprescription inhalers require to be sold, spokeswoman Laura Alvey said. Final revocation of that status would mean a de facto ban on their sale.

The FDA usually follows the advice of its outside panels of experts, though a decision can take months. If the agency decides to follow the recommendation, it would begin a rulemaking process that would include public comment, Alvey said.

Wyeth Consumer Healthcare estimates that 3 million Americans use Primatene Mist for mild or intermittent cases of asthma, spokesman Fran Sullivan said. About two-thirds also use a prescription inhaler but rely on Primatene as a backup. About 700,000 asthma sufferers use Primatene alone because they can't get a prescription or lack health insurance, he said.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Christianity's oldest chapel discovered in Megiddo

By Aussiegirl

A rare archeological find in Megiddo with the discovery of the oldest Christian chapel ever found. Israel is planning to move the prison in order to preserve this historical treasure. Imagine what would happen if this ancient Christian chapel was discovered on Moslem territory - first it wouldn't be, because the Moslems aren't interested in archeology or history, and second, if it wasn't Moslem they would either destroy it, as they did the 150 ft. tall Bamian Buddhas in Afghanistan, or turn it into a mosque, as they've done with the ancient shrine of St. Sophia, Byzantium's holiest church, which is now a mosque in Constantinople.

Jerusalem Post Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

In an unprecedented move, Israel's top archaeological body is recommending that the Megiddo Prison be relocated due to the recent discovery of the most ancient Christian place of worship ever found in Israel on the grounds of the prison.

The ruins of the Christian prayer hall, which was located inside a Roman villa, date back to the first half of the third century CE, making the chapel the earliest place of Christian worship ever unearthed in the Holy Land, excavation director and Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Yotam Tepper said Tuesday.

The site in question, which is located between an ancient Jewish village dating back to the Roman period and what used to be a Roman Army camp, was uncovered last year after authorities sought to expand the prison grounds and prisoners stumbled upon the ruins during routine excavations.

The building, which is thought to have belonged to a Roman officer, has a rectangular hall with a mosaic floor bearing geometric patterns, a medallion decorated with drawings of fish - a symbol widely used in early Christianity - and three Greek inscriptions.

Iran's threat, Bush's dilemma

By Aussiegirl

Max Boot delineates the admittedly poor choices facing the Bush administration vis a vis Iran's nuclear threat. This is the biggest danger the West has faced since WWII, I believe.

Would you want to be president and be faced with such difficult choices? Our holiday from history is at an end. It's put up or shut up time for the world's democracies. Either we take out this madman before he starts a conflagration that will kill potentially millions of people, or we cower and accomodate him, choosing to believe that he isn't serious and that we need all that oil, after all. History will judge, and it won't be pretty if we fail to choose correctly.

Meanwhile, this does not appear to be on any politician's radar at all. The democrats are screaming about abortion and domestic spying, as usual, or the latest "Bush outrage", while the Republicans are busy marking up all those earmarks for their petty little political perks and jockeying to see which one will get more than the other.

Storm clouds gather while Fox twitters and natters about the latest breaking developments in the Natalie Holloway case.

Has one Jewish senator or congressman had one public word of condemnation for Ahmadinejad for his despicable and ominous statements about wiping Israel off the map, or his Holocaust denial? Why not?

Why are they seemingly only concerned with a woman's so-called "right" to abort a 9 month old, full-term baby? Inquiring minds want to know.

Where are the serious people we can rely on to lead us through these dangerous times? They are all fiddling and twiddling, while the world approaches apocalypse.

It's so disgusting that I can hardly speak. The completely UNserious attitude towards these very real dangers. For all his inarticulateness, George Bush is the only one who seems to understand that the world is at a dangerous crossroads. Let's hope and pray that he is guided to do the right thing in time.

threat, Bush's dilemma - Los Angeles Times

In sum, a
terrorist-sponsoring state led by an apocalyptic lunatic will soon have the
ability to incinerate Tel Aviv or New York. The International Atomic Energy
Agency is concerned enough to convene an emergency meeting on Feb. 2 to discuss
a referral to the U.N. Security Council. This is not a prospect to make the
mullahs quake. They know perfectly well that no serious sanctions are likely.
Their business partners in Russia and China will see to that. Nor do the
Europeans have any interest in embargoing Iran's main export — petroleum — when
oil is more than $60 a barrel. The most that might happen is that some Iranian
officials might have their foreign accounts frozen and their foreign travel
curtailed. That seems a small price to pay for nuclear glory.

What might
stop Iran at this late date? Some conservatives have pinned their hopes on
another Iranian revolution. The CIA and other agencies should do everything
possible to encourage such an uprising. But the chances of regime change in the
near term are not high. Even less likely is a U.S. invasion; the U.S. military
is overstretched as it is.

That leaves only one serious option — air
strikes by Israel or the U.S., possibly accompanied by commando raids. It is
doubtful that bombs could eradicate Iran's nuclear program, but they could set
it back for years, possibly long enough for the regime to implode.

Photo essay of the recent Walk for Life and counterdemonstration in San Francisco

By Aussiegirl

Check out this excellent photo essay depicting the recent pro-life and pro-choice demonstrations in San Francisco. I leave it to you to decide which group you'd rather associate with.

Walk for Life West Coast

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Google launches China service while agreeing to censorship -- "Don't be Evil"

By Aussiegirl

Ironic that Google's corporate philosophy is "Don't be Evil". Do they even know the meaning of the word? Or is this a word they only apply to the Republicans and George Bush.

When tyrants and big greedy internet corporations join hands -- an "acceptable balance" means -- give us enough of a profit and we will sell our own mothers and daughters into slavery and prison if need be -- freedom? democracy? human rights? What's that compared to profits.

Watch out -- this is the next big thing -- once international businesses like this start seeing their bottom line as being best served by helping to enforce political repression you have a recipe for disaster.

Are you sure you want to buy those Google shares? How about shares in prison labor?

WSJ.com - Google to Launch Service in China

Google Inc. this week will launch a new Chinese search service, agreeing, after much internal debate, to censor its own search results in order to comply with Beijing's strict limits on access to information.

The site, Google.cn, is critical to Google's competition with both Western and Chinese rivals, Google executives believe. In designing the service, the Mountain View, Calif., search giant believes it has reached an acceptable balance between compliance with Chinese laws and its corporate mission to make all of the world's information universally accessible.

But the decision is likely to reverberate with critics of U.S. companies that operate under China's limits on free speech, as well as with fans of Google and its corporate philosophy of "Don't Be Evil."

Google's move highlights the thorny issues facing all U.S. Internet companies operating in China. While most companies believe they must be in China, says John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, "the way the Chinese government treats any company in the Internet space is anathema to the principles ... those companies hold dear."

In the wake of recent censorship and related incidents in China involving Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN unit, a growing number of public-interest groups, U.S. legislators and academics is calling for industry or legislative action. Two congressional groups are expected to discuss the issue next month.

Talk about wusses

By Aussiegirl

The loathsomely self-indulgent and shallow blatherings displayed here are an indictment of this empty suit beyond anything I could possibly say. Good men and women bleed and die to protect this pond scum's right to bloviate in print. A mind and a soul are a terrible thing not to possess. I have contempt, but it's such a pathetic display of shallow, adolescent pusillanimous vomitus that pity is almost more appropriate.

Warriors and wusses - Los Angeles Times

I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.

I'm sure I'd like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you're wandering into a recruiter's office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas.

And I've got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.

A very "convenient" accident severs gas lines to Georgia

By Aussiegirl

Having suffered a black eye internationally for intentionally cutting off the gas to Ukraine recently, Russia resorts to the "dog ate my homework" excuse for the latest "mysterious" explosions which have left Georgia shivering without gas or electricity. Gee -- you don't think?.......Nah!!

Telegraph | News | Attack on gas pipeline is 'sabotage by Russia'

President Mikhail Saakashvili accused Moscow of serious acts of "sabotage" yesterday after explosions ripped apart gas pipelines cutting off supplies to Georgia and neighbouring Armenia.

Mr Saakashvili said the blasts were the "attempted sabotage" of his country's energy system and dismissed Russia's explanation - that the attacks were the work of "extremist groups" intent on causing "material damage" - as "unconvincing and contradictory".

The damaged pipeline has left Georgia with minimal gas supplies as temperatures fall to minus 10C
Russia's foreign ministry dismissed Mr Saakashvili's remarks as "hysteria and bacchanalia". Explosions severed the main branch and reserve branch of the Mozdok-Tblisi pipeline in the Russian republic of North Ossetia.

Elsewhere in the Russian North Caucasus an electricity transmission line was also destroyed, reportedly after an explosion that the Russian electricity authorities could not immediately explain.

As Georgia shivered through one of its coldest winters in decades, with temperatures of about minus 10C (14F), Georgia's energy minister, Teona Doliashvili, said the country would run out of gas by today.

A spokesman for Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom said the company was doing all it could to restore gas supplies. Russia's electricity monopoly said it was routing power to Georgia via an alternate line.

Relations between Georgia and Russia have been tense since pro-western Mr Saakashvili was swept to power by the "Rose Revolution" in 2003.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Saakashvili said the gas pipeline was blown up in "an area fully under Russian control … with a heavy presence of Russian border guards", where there were no local insurgents.

"They happened at the same time, and basically they didn't affect supplies to Russia proper, so we can conclude that it was a very well-organised act."

Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli said Russia was seeking "to make a problem for Georgia in winter, to make the government angry and to create instability". Neither politician offered any evidence to back their claims.

Russia almost doubled the price of natural gas exports to Georgia in January and cut off supplies to Ukraine after it refused to pay a similar rise.

Liberal Party ballot hijinx

By Aussiegirl

Check out Cyber Cossack for some election irregularities already surfacing in the Canadian election.

Cyber Cossack -- Liberal Party Ballot Hijinx

Conservatives eke out narrow victory in Canada

By Aussiegirl

Paul Jackson, the Calgary Sun columnist and one of Canada's premiere journalists (and rare conservatives), takes us on a magical mystery tour through Canadian politics in today's American Thinker.

Here is everything you ever wanted to know about Canadian politics, and more: the history of the Liberal Party, the issues which are important in Canada, the outlook for the future, and an explanation of how the Canadian parliamentary system works. One stop shopping for the compleat Canadian rundown.

The American Thinker

Canadian Conservative Leader Stephen Harper eked out a minority win in the federal election yesterday after early hopes were dashed he might be able to pull off a majority win or come close enough to controlling the House of Commons that the three opposition parties would be reluctant to challenge him on each and every one of his initiatives.

Basically put, the Conservatives changed places with Prime Minister Paul Martin’s minority government, and will now have to tread a careful path negotiating with the other three opposition parties to try and get his platform approved in the Parliament and the heavily Liberal-dominated Senate.

Why is Bush silent on Russia's retreat from democracy?

By Aussiegirl

Are we supporting democracy everywhere? Or are we letting Putin get away with increasing his authoritarian rule because he controls so much oil and gas? Read about the appalling conditions in the Siberian labor camp where former Yukos owner Khodorkovsky is being held on trumped up charges. The petty harrassment techniques of cancelling visits on petty pretexts is an exact copy of methods used during Communist times in the eighties when Irina Ratushinska and many other political dissidents were imprisoned under similar circumstances. Nothing much has changed there, and more and more Putin is taking Russia back to what is familiar -- a police state with little or no political freedom. Only now he wields considerable dominance of the region's oil and gas as a weapon of state power.

Bush's Big Silence

If promoting democracy is President Bush's largest ambition, then Russia is his largest failure.

Not that President Vladimir Putin is the world's most repressive ruler -- far from it. Dictatorships in Burma, North Korea and Zimbabwe are more stifling. So, for that matter, are tyrannies in Russia's neighborhood, such as Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

But no other nation has regressed from openness to authoritarianism during Bush's time in office as dramatically and decisively as Russia -- and with less apparent objection from Bush.

[...]Irina Yasina, director of a pro-democracy foundation in Moscow, said the mood in Russia today resembles what Russians recall as the "stagnation era" under General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. Yasina, 42, remembers as a 10-year-old being told by her father -- the now well-known liberal economist Yevgeny Yasin -- that he felt buried alive by the communist system.

"But at least then we knew that we were at the end of something," Yasina, a former journalist, said during a visit to Washington last week. "What is most frightening now is that we don't know whether something is ending or is only just beginning."

This month Putin signed legislation that could shutter Yasina's foundation and many other civic organizations. The law creates a Soviet-style bureaucracy to register nongovernmental organizations, leaving the qualifications so vague that the bureaucrats, or the Kremlin, will be free to license or reject as they choose.

Yasina's foundation is a likely target because it was founded, and is still largely endowed, by billionaire oilman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom Putin has had confined to a labor camp near the Chinese border because the tycoon dared hint of a political challenge. The camp is a nine-hour plane ride followed by a 15-hour train ride from Moscow, but sometimes when his lawyers arrive they are told they cannot see their client because lawyer visiting hours coincide with forced-labor hours, Yasina said. Khodorkovsky's visit with his wife, promised for month's end, was canceled -- because, he was told, the visiting room is undergoing renovation.

This may seem petty, but pettiness and paranoia are hallmarks of a president who increasingly has isolated himself from anyone but former KGB agents like himself. The broadcast media are Kremlin-controlled, as are parliament, provincial governors, unjailed business tycoons and the judiciary. All of these sectors were free and independent when Putin -- and Bush -- took office.

Now, although they are weak and he is strong, Putin is going after civic organizations, because they are the final outposts of independent activity -- and because he is convinced that the CIA will use such groups to threaten his regime.

This is the man whom Bush will visit in July when Putin hosts a Group of Eight meeting in St. Petersburg. There will be fine photo opportunities in repainted czarist palaces, and the message Putin wants to send his subjects will be clear: I am a czar, and the leaders of the world's democracies do not care; they accept me. The question for Bush is whether he is happy to help Putin send that message.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Our Brilliant, Bloody Future

By Aussiegirl

Don't miss this long and insightful article by Ralph Peters in the journal Military Officer-- bloody brilliant if you ask me, and one of the most mind-blowing and forward-looking analyses I have read of the situation faced by the modern world and the outlook for America's future. Peters lays it all out -- the brilliant -- and the bloody future that awaits us. The must read of the week! If you read nothing else -- you must see this.

Our Brilliant, Bloody Future

Never underestimate the power of the American dream and the transformative genius of our country’s soul. Far from being in decay, we are headed for even greater might, wealth, and moral stature. The 21st century will not belong to China or to any other foreign power. It will be yet another American century.

Despite living in the most revolutionary society in history, we rarely pause to consider the degree to which we Americans have altered fundamental human patterns that prevailed for millennia. The real revolutionaries of the past century weren’t Che Guevara, Mao, or Lenin, but middle-class Americans going about their daily lives. We have broken barriers to human progress that, a century ago, appeared eternal.

The most powerful strategic advance has been the emancipation of women. Within the lifetimes of most readers of this magazine, the scope of opportunity for women has broadened with breathtaking speed. Previously, half of America’s human capital was restricted to a few narrow fields of endeavor. Today, women fly military aircraft, sit on the Supreme Court, lead corporations, hold cabinet positions, or work at the local convenience store — but they all contribute. As a result, we now operate at an unprecedented level of economic efficiency. The change in the role of women in our country and a handful of other nations constitutes the greatest social revolution in history.

That revolution threatens traditional, male-as-master societies in which women are viewed as property (essentially as slaves). While we are not conditioned to think in such terms, women’s liberation in the West is the single most frightening aspect of our civilization for males in tradition-bound societies — especially those of the Middle East. To a degree we fail to comprehend, the great contest between the West and the societies of the Middle East is a struggle over women’s freedom. We would never express it so, but the enduring, unorthodox war between our military and Islamist terrorists is best symbolized by the contrast between the burka and the two-piece women’s business suit.

And the bloody part:

But that future will not be peaceful. We are in the early stages of a third world war. This conflict may occasionally involve standing armies on both sides, but, more often, it will be fought asymmetrically, as in Iraq or Manhattan, with our enemies seeking to avoid our military strengths while capitalizing on the vulnerabilities inherent in a free society, on the irresponsible nature of our media, and on our great national weakness, impatience.

The great wars of the last century, waged first over empire, then over ideology, were more horrific in the scale of their battles and the extent of their destruction than the cat-and-mouse struggle today. But the differences between the sides are even harder to reconcile. This struggle is about belief, something an order of magnitude more intractable than ideologies concocted by intellectuals. On one side, we Americans have our deep conviction that human freedom is of paramount value. Our enemies are convinced that the will of a punitive god is incontestable and that freedom cannot coexist with faith.

Opponents suffused with a vision of a vengeful god whom they serve as executioners, men who regard death as a promotion and disdain the humane coexistence for which we stand, must be fought until their defeat is total. And that is far easier said than done. This will, indeed,
be our longest war, if not our bloodiest.

This isn’t just a war on terrorism. It’s a struggle between the future and the past, between liberating innovation and suffocating tradition, between reason and superstition. This age of ever-expanding knowledge is so threatening to traditional societies that they barricade themselves behind primitive beliefs. This great century of technology also promises to be a century of mass retreats back to superstition.

Today, the focal point of our struggle with the new barbarians is the Islamic civilization of the Middle East, where a vast struggle is under way for the soul of a great religion. And it is by no means guaranteed that the liberalizing elements will win.

Frank Gaffney on War Footing

By Aussiegirl

Must read interview by K-Lo with Frank Gaffney.

Frank Gaffney on War Footing on National Review Online

Some of the best movies have ensemble casts. So too with books. When you’re writing a book about war and what we need to be doing to put ourselves on a better War Footing, a collection of the best experts you can gather is exactly what you’ll want to have. This is what Frank Gaffney has done with War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World. In it, he prsents essays from the likes of Michael Rubin, Andrew C. McCarthy, and Claudia Rosett.

Gaffney, an NRO contributor, recently took questions from NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez on the book and the road to victory.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Um…Frank. We were attacked almost five years ago. Are you telling me we’re not on war footing yet? Are we a little slow on the uptake?

Frank Gaffney: Our military is certainly waging combat operations on a demanding and worldwide basis. But the rest of the country and particularly the American people have not been asked to do much for the war effort. Except, that is, to go shopping.

If we are serious about winning this war — and, given the determination of our enemies (most immediately, the totalitarian political ideologues we call Islamofascists) to destroy us, we had better be — the nation as a whole is going to have to be mobilized far more comprehensively. In War Footing, we have laid out ten ways in which that should be undertaken.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Conservative Win in Canada looming

By Aussiegirl

Looks like an upset may be in the works up in Canada. Stay tuned.

Conservative Win in Canada Could Help Repair Ties to U.S. - New York Times

Unless every national poll here is amiss, what has been perhaps the world's winningest political party is heading toward a humiliating defeat on Monday.

Stephen Harper, 46, an economist and social conservative who is writing a history of ice hockey, appears poised to lead his Conservative Party to victory over the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Paul Martin, something that seemed highly improbable just a few weeks ago. The Liberals won the last four national elections, governing Canada for 13 years - as the party did for three-quarters of the past century.

The empire strikes back -- and Yulia's along for the ride

By Aussiegirl

Newsweek has a good article on the renascent Russian empire under Putin's domination, wielding energy as his hammer, Putin is throwing his weight around Europe and there's little anyone can do.

What is most interesting to me is the following bit about Yulia Tymoshenko -- there's a reason I never trusted this ice-princess with the braids of brass -- she is a conniver and let's not forget that she was involved in many shady gas deals on her own time -- she was once known as the "gas princess" for her lucrative and shady gas trading business.

Yushchenko and democracy in Ukraine is still in danger - from enemies without and enemies within.

The Empire Strikes Back - Newsweek: International Editions - MSNBC.com

Russia's newfound assertiveness is sharply evident in Ukraine, where the Kremlin seeks to undermine the 2004 "Orange Revolution" that turned out a Moscow-friendly regime and ushered in a band of West-leaning political and economic reformers. So far, its major triumph has been to encourage Yulia Timoshenko, the celebrated "Orange Goddess," to turn against her former ally Yushchenko. Denouncing her as "anti-Russian," Moscow all but refused to recognize her appointment as Ukraine's prime minister initially, pointedly citing criminal charges pending against her (for alleged bribery of Russian Defense Ministry officials in 1996) and effectively barring her from visiting Russia even on official business. But when Yushchenko fired Timoshenko last September, she was transformed overnight from an outlaw to honored guest. Charges against her were mysteriously dropped. A visit to Moscow soon followed, where, according to former Economy minister Sergei Terekhin, she met with Putin privately. Suddenly, Timoshenko became Yushchenko's most vocal critic, accusing him of corruptly benefiting in the deal that ended the New Year's gas crisis—so far without proof. (Amid the hubbub, Kiev and Moscow last Saturday postponed signing the agreement for another week.) "We regard Yulia as our ally," says Sergei Markov, a Kremlin political consultant. "There is nothing anti-Russian about her."

Russia and Ukraine postpone signing gas deal

By Aussiegirl

It ain't over till it's over.

BBC NEWS | Business | Russia-Ukraine gas deal on hold

Europeans are concerned about disruption to gas supplies
Russia and Ukraine have postponed the signing of a controversial gas deal, planned for Saturday, until next week.
The reason given for putting off the signing was that some details needed to be finalised.

But the BBC's Helen Fawkes in Ukraine says it is likely that there were also political reasons for the delay.

The deal was reached earlier this month after Russia suspended gas supplies to Ukraine on New Year's Day, a move that affected several other countries.

Opposition to the deal in Ukraine led to political deadlock, and questions over whether the government had the authority to sign the agreement, which will double the price Kiev pays for gas.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

BS-ometer hits the jackpot on story of naive Iraqi teen who made that quixotic trip to Iraq

By Aussiegirl

Northeast Intelligence Network exposes the true background of the Hassan family and the not-so-innocent trip of their 16-year-old son Farris to Iraq. Shades of Berhooz in "24" -- this family is a dead ringer for that family.

Check out dad's ties to one of those phony Middle East "charities", check out dad's use of an alias, how about Farris (aka Behrooz) Hassan's meetings with Hezbollay in Beirut. A regular little journalism struck innocent youth -- ya! Funny that all those star struck reporters and reporterettes didn't dig up this information. Instead, as usual, the blogosphere digs up the truth.

Northeast Intelligence Network - News

18 January 2006: Farris HASSAN, the 16-year-old Pine Crest student from Fort Lauderdale who left the comforts of his $4 million family home on December 11 for Iraq, claimed that he made the trip to put his lessons of his “immersion journalism” class into practice, and selected Iraq out of humanitarian concerns for the Iraqi people. His story quickly caught the attention of the media, who portrayed this young man as adventurous but naive, and his worried parents clueless to his intentions until they received an e-mail from him when he was in Kuwait. Upon his return home, he would certainly face the consequences from his concerned parents, despite his ostensibly altruistic intentions.

With all of the reporters covering the story, however, it appears that no one did any research into the background of the Hassan family, or made any attempts to verify the young man’s story. If they had, they might have been compelled to ask some very basic – but extremely important questions.

Concepts of Palestinian "honor" killings

By Aussiegirl

Frustrated by their inability to mount suicide attacks in Israel by the erection of the wall, Palestinians have turned to honor killings of their women and children. A Muslim man's honor must be assuaged with blood, it seems, lacking Israeli blood, a woman's blood is nearly as good.

FrontPage magazine.com :: Palestinian "Honor" by Sharon Lapkin

When Israel began erecting a separation barrier in late 2003 to protect its citizens from the seemingly endless procession of suicide bombers, Palestinian society responded by redirecting its destructive urges inward. All revolutions are said ultimately to turn upon themselves and devour their own children. And, when suicide bombing became an increasingly difficult means of enhancing family prestige, Palestinians shifted the focus onto their female offspring to restore the balance.

Suicide bombings in Israel had developed into a bloody and lucrative industry for Palestinians who carried out 39 attacks in 2002. But, since Israel began constructing its anti-terrorist fence, the Palestinian human-bomb industry has been reduced to bankruptcy by producing only 11 attacks in more than two years.

Honor killing, on the other hand – which has always been an integral aspect of Palestinian life – began gathering momentum. With horrifying zest, weapon-wielding fathers, brothers, uncles and sometimes mothers, hunt down their daughters and sisters and commit shocking acts of violence for real and imagined immoral transgressions.

The Arab motivation for murdering their own daughters flows from the same cultural wellspring that produces suicide bombers. The defensive form of honor, called ird, is consumed with female sexual purity and manifests itself in the murder of its own to restore family honor, whereas the offensive manifestation, sharaf, requires positive actions implemented to heighten social status and increase family honor. As Palestinian society retreats from its failure to infiltrate the daily life of Israeli citizens with death and destruction, it compensates by killing its own and depositing ird in its honor bank.

Belarus dictator Lukashenko joins the Axis of Evil

By Aussiegirl

The new cold war just got a little chillier with the addition of Belarus. Quite a nice little club they've got there. Must be a load of laughs when these guys get together. Just think of the fun.

A European dictatorship -- The Washington Times

U.S. and European security experts have become increasingly alarmed by the actions of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko -- in particular, his growing diplomatic, economic and military ties to global antagonists China, Iran and Russia. With the support of this new "axis of evil," Mr. Lukashenko -- Europe's last remaining dictator -- has initiated a Cold War campaign against the West and the United States
Over the past year, Mr. Lukashenko has made a determined effort to strengthen his contacts with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an avowed anti-Semite and self-proclaimed enemy of the West. Since 1993, Iran has been a key recipient of Belarusian military and technology exports, receiving Soviet-made T-72 tanks and artillery, II-76 transport planes and conventional weapons from Minsk.

Mr. Lukashenko personally ordered Soviet-trained Belarusian chemists, scientists and technicians to work closely with Iran's mullahs on the deadly Shahab missile system -- designed to strike Europe and Israel -- as well as on the country's uranium enrichment and chemical warfare programs.

Cyber Cossack rides again

By Aussiegirl

Please be sure to check out the ever brilliant Cyber Cossack for all sorts of great links on the Canadian elections, the latest in Uke politics and a link to the photo op of the year - Yushchenko and Yekhanurov and other ministers taking their annual polar bear dip in the icy river. Brrr -- that back hair came in handy for that cold water, I'm sure!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Yawn if you empathize with this

By Aussiegirl

I came, I read, I yawned -- I'm obviously a compassionate conservative.

Researchers waking up to why we yawn - Science - Specials - smh.com.au

THINK about someone yawning. Jaws gape. Lips spread wide. Arms stretched. There's that quick inhale and the long aaaahhhhh.

Yawning is an ancient, primitive act. Humans do it even before they are born, opening wide in the womb. Some snakes unhinge their jaws to do it. One species of penguins yawns as part of mating.

Only now are researchers beginning to understand why we yawn, when we yawn and why we yawn back.

A professor of cognitive neuroscience at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Steven Platek, studies the act of contagious yawning, something done only by people and other primates.

In his first study, published in 2004, he used a psychological test to rank people on their empathic feelings.

He found that participants who did not score high on compassion did not yawn back.

The Three Stooges explained -- Men enjoy other's misfortune more than women according to study

By Aussiegirl

Sure -- and that's why men like the Three Stooges and women don't -- I knew there had to be a scientific explanation!

Science News Article

Germans have a word for it -- schadenfreude -- and when it comes to getting pleasure from someone else's misfortune, men seem to enjoy it more than women.

Such is the conclusion reached by scientists at University College London in what they say is the first neuroscientific evidence of schadenfreude.

Islamofascism and the American Left join forces

By Aussiegirl

The American Thinker, by way of the blog Sweetness and Light brings us the curious background of those who are suing Bush and NSA over the telephone wiretaps. The usual suspects -- and the color is red. The intersection between the Islamofascist terrorists and the American left is becoming clearer and clearer as Thomas Lifson points out.

The American Thinker

The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights are suing President Bush, the NSA and some other agencies over the NSA surveillance program. Guess who one of the prominent plaintiffs is? None other than Rachel Meeropol, grand-daughter of Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The bloodline continues to be red, as Rachel is vice president of the New York chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a communist-leaning organization.

Cuba and Iran -- nukes in Havana?

By Aussiegirl

Another thing to worry about -- Castro and Ahmadinejad working together -- nukes in Havana anyone?

FrontPage magazine.com :: The Iran-Cuba Axis by Frederick W. Stakelbeck

In a letter to then Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev regarding his role in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro reflected upon the possible use of nuclear weapons during the U.S.-Soviet confrontation, “It was my opinion that, in case of an American invasion [Cuba], a massive and total nuclear strike would have to be launched.” Given Castro’s affection for nuclear weapons, it should come as no surprise to observers that the aging terrorist has befriended Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Just last week, Ahmadinejad, a recognized anti-Semite and human rights violator, threatened unspecified retaliation against the West unless it recognized his own country’s nuclear ambitions. “If they want to deny us our right, we have ways to secure those rights,” he said in Tehran.

Given Castro and Ahmadinejad’s mutual distaste for the U.S. and Western-styled democracy, increased bilateral cooperation between the two countries presents serious national security concerns for the U.S. This month, Iranian Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani noted the importance of expanding Tehran-Havana relations saying both countries must come together to confront unilateralism of “the big power” -- an obvious reference to the U.S.

Demography is not destiny according to this author

By Aussiegirl

Taking a contrarian view to the current consensus that Europe is demographically doomed to be overwhelmed by Muslim populations, the author posits that simply extrapolating current birth trends leads to erroneous assumptions. He makes the case that that is where the population explosion Malthusian doomsayers like Paul Ehrlich made their errors when they predicted global doom, overpopulation, food shortages and famine. Well worth the read and good to keep in mind.

One thing that societies are going to have to do is to give heavy tax subsidies and exemptions to families who want to have more children if they want to counter this trend. It makes no sense to force working families who are trying to raise children have to pay a heavy burden in Social Security to keep garishly clad seniors in free Viagra while they patronize the early-bird special. Let's face it -- Social Security was intended to keep widows from starving to death. It makes no sense to sacrifice the younger generation in order to support the older generation in a style of comfortable leisure.

The American Thinker

“Europe will be Islamic by the end of this century at the very latest.”

The floodgates opened with that comment from Bernard Lewis. Since its publication in Die Welt in July 2004, countless responses have appeared from writers as varied as George Weigel and Patrick Buchanan. The latest is Mark Steyn, in a New Criterion essay (reprinted in the Wall Street Journal) titled, in his customary understated style, “It’s the Demography, Stupid.”

An unusual unanimity has prevailed – almost every writer concurs with Lewis that Europe is a lost cause, a casualty in the war against Islamofascism.

The argument is straightforward: the native European population is dropping, with birthrates in all countries below replacement level. The Muslim populace, for the most part unassimilated, is still expanding. One curve is going up, the other down. When they cross, Europe will have effectively come under Muslim control.

But is it truly that simple? After all, there’s a reason why you’re not reading this in a U.S. with a population of 500 million+, which is what demography foresaw in 1950. Or in the 2006 world of 8 billion souls, as predicted ten years later. And certainly not in the 21st century universally forecast in the 70s, in which a few survivors grub about in the ruins left by the Great Crash following a runaway population explosion.

The reason these futures never came to pass is that predictive demography is not a science.

Kicking the Iran can down the road -- why we must foment an internal regime change in Iran before it's too late

By Aussiegirl

Michael Ledeen has a must-read column on the problem of Iran in today's NRO. Having kicked the Iran can down the road for 5 years hoping that a revolution would just happen by itself, the administration and the world is faced with a list of unappetizing alternatives in order to stop the fanatical madman in Iran.

Readers of Ultima Thule will know that I have been advocating this policy for quite some time. Why it hasn't been done yet and why it does not even appear to be in the works is a tragic mystery.

Michael Ledeen on Iran on National Review Online

Bit by bit we are getting to the inevitable showdown with Iran. This administration, like every other Western government, has hoped against hope that it would not come to this. President George W. Bush, for reasons good and bad, threw in with the Europeans' phony-negotiation scheme, even though he knew it would fail. Like the others, he hoped that revolution would erupt, and that decisive action on our part would not be necessary. Like the others, he preferred not to face the hard fact that revolutions rarely succeed without external support. Had Ronald Reagan been around, he would have told W. that the democratic revolution that ended the Cold War only finally succeeded when the United States supported it.

[...]We now hear cries for violent action from those once aptly characterized by Senator Henry Jackson as "born-again hawks," Democrats and Republicans suddenly willing to talk tough about sanctions and military strikes against Iran. This is only to be expected. Having failed to pursue serious policies in the past, we are left with distasteful options today, and the pundits' and solons' chest pounding shows it. They do not expect the "hard options" to be embraced; this is posturing to the crowd, this is political positioning of the most cynical sort.

You want sanctions? When have sanctions ever "worked" against hostile countries? Did they bring Saddam to heel? With one exception (Reagan's embargo of military technology against the Soviet Empire), they have only altered the behavior of regimes that wanted to be part of our world, countries like South Africa and Chile. For the rest, sanctions cut primarily against the oppressed peoples of our tyrannical enemies, and the tyrants could care less. Sanctions, even if you accept the fantasy that the West en bloc accepts them and enforces them, would do more harm than good. We should want to help the Iranian people, who are overwhelmingly pro-American, and bring down the mullahcracy, which is our outspoken, fanatical, and bloodthirsty enemy. No sanctions.

You want to bomb the nuclear facilities? Do you really believe that our intelligence community is capable of identifying them? The same crowd that did all that yeoman work on Saddam's Iraq? The CIA that once received accurate information on Iranian schemes in Afghanistan, only to walk away from the sources that provided it? The CIA that, three times in the past 15 years or so, seems to have had its entire "network" inside Iran rolled up by the mullahs? And even if you believe that we have good information about the nuclear sites, are you prepared to deal with the political consequences, in Iran and throughout the region? Do we even know, with any degree of reliability, what those are? Look at the problems we now face in Pakistan, after a handful of innocents were killed in an assault against a presumed terrorist gathering. Then imagine, if you can, the problems following hundreds, or thousands of innocents killed in raids inside Iran. Are you prepared for that?

These are the questions that define our current plight. Having kicked the Iranian can down the road for many years, having failed to purge the intelligence community the morning after 9/11, and having failed to support democratic revolution in Iran and Syria, we are between various hard and alarmingly sharp rocks.

NYT: If you don't have something nice to say -- we don't want to hear from you

By Aussiegirl

See no evil, hear no evil, read no evil -- the NYT doesn't want to hear from you unless you pay up.

In a bold move guaranteed to cement their slide into complete irrelevance, the NYT makes public what we knew all along -- these liberal elites live in their own echo chamber, putting their hands to their ears and screaming lalalalala anytime there's a discouraging word.

Fine -- who cares? Thomas Lifson is on the case.

The American Thinker

The New York Times has constructed a second wall around its op-ed columnists, many of whom still bear bruises from criticism they received form bloggers before their publisher erected the “Times Select” subscription wall around them. Unless you subscribe to the print version of the Times, or are willing to pay $50 a year just to read the op-ed columnists, you can no longer read them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jack Bauer -- PC slayer

By Aussiegirl

In addition to slaying bad guys and terrorists by the bushel-load, Jack Bauer is a one-man slayer of political correctness. No wonder he has to be portrayed as a law unto himself, who responds to no authority except his own inner voice demanding justice and results.

If he followed protocol and the current exquisitely correct rules of engagement in questioning terrorists, it would be all -- please and thank you, and can I get you a latte or some falafel while we discuss where you planted the nuclear device? That is, if any terrorists were actually apprehended, given that in the present political climate it appears to be a violation of terrorist rights to privacy if we even dare to listen in on them while they plot our destruction. That's probably part of the appeal of this particular program, and why conservatives have taken it, and Jack, to their hearts.

There are several interesting subplots developing in the current season which really have no bearing on the terrorist threat as such. We know that there are still nefarious schemes afoot and that there are shadowy players and even moles within the administration that are working towards, as yet, undiscovered goals.

Be that as it may -- in a genre like this - the actual danger -- whatever it may be -- is really what Hitchock used to call "The McGuffin" -- a plot device which merely serves as the hinge on which the rest of the story hangs. In Hitchock's brilliant "Notorious" for instance, it mattered little to Hitchock what was down in the wine cellar that the Nazi cell was hiding -- what mattered was that they were evil, and it was the job of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman to foil them. But that wouldn't have been enough for a good movie. What made it great is the performances of Bergman and Grant, and the story line that involved their on-again off-again love affair, and whether Grant would get over his pique at Bergman's less than stellar reputation in time to save her from a slow death by poisoning. We care about them and we cheer as Grant carries Bergman down the staircase just in the nick of time, and it's so satisfying to know all the bad guys got it in the end.

In the current series of "24" it doesn't matter much who the bad guys are, as long as they are recognizable as bad guys. Some viewers may find the current terrorists less than satisfying, since they aren't the Osama Bin Laden look-a-likes that we are familiar with from our daily news. But Chechen-like separatists staging a Beslan-like hostage situation is straight out of the news, and as we know, in this dangerous world terrorists of many stripes tend to work together. Also it's clear that we still do not understand the full danger and who the shadowy players are.

But on to the really interesting stuff. There are several sub-plots developing that I find interesting from a cultural point of view. One is the relationship between Derek and Jack. As the show opens, Derek appears to be the typical whiny, slightly annoying teenager, always getting in the way and thinking he knows best. We don't like him at first -- we think -- oh no -- another crisis-magnet like the whiney daughter Kim, now mercifully out of the picture. But Derek is protective of his mother -- as well he should be. He's afraid that this mysterious man might have a shady past and is not who he says he is, so he follows him and winds up in the middle of the hostage situation.

We also hear the mother tell Jack over the breakfast table that Derek really needs a male role model around the house. Bingo! Single mother loves child, but recognizes the need for a young boy to have a strong man to emulate. Straight out of the conservative playbook! He's not being encouraged to explore his bisexual side, or his ambiguous feelings for other boys or girls, or to be open to seeing the latest homo-promo from Hollywood (aka Brokeback Mountain, etc. etc.) She wants him to be a man. In the process of his terrifying experiences with Jack, he goes from being a whining teenager to a young man who realizes the world is a dangerous place, and that a man's job is to protect his family and those he loves and his country. Jack is the perfect (if slightly unrealistically mayhem-prone) model.

Jack is at heart a loving man -- a peaceful man -- who misses his family life, as he tells Derek. Yet he has sacrificed all to once again answer his country's call to arms and leave his quiet life in order to fight for the right. In this he is not unlike our men and women in arms, who daily leave the comfort of their families to fight for the freedoms that they know are in peril.

There was another interesting moment in last night's episode that was probably little noticed. It was a single line uttered by a hostage as he was being led away by one of the terrorists. The hostage said, "But I'm not your enemy." In one line this bit of dialogue encapsulated the problem that so many Americans are having grasping the real danger of the situation we presently find ourselves in. The old -- why do you hate me, I'm not your enemy. But the point is -- the terrorist doesn't care that you mean him no harm. He doesn't care that you are "innocent". He doesn't care that you would like to understand his grievances and that you are sympathetic to his cause. Ask Danny Pearl. Ask Nick Berg. They thought that their open-mindedness and tolerance towards the terrorists would protect them, but it didn't. The terrorists don't care. When the first male hostage to be executed pleaded for his life by saying, "Please, don't -- I have a wife", the terrorist responded coldly and sarcastically - "So what - so do I."

This is a salutary eye-opener to the terrorist-huggers among us who subscribe to the old "They're depraved on account of they're deprived." excuse made famous in the great song from Bernstein's brilliant take on "Romeo and Juliet" in "West Side Story".

In many ways, last night's episode, with the executions of hostages one-by-one, was even more shocking than previous episodes because of the coldness and sheer terror of imagining what it must be like to face such a situation, and how the authorities might deal with it. A bomb which is set to explode at a certain time creates tension, but is still a theoretical threat that is impersonal until it happens. To watch average citizens executed in cold-blood puts a different face on the matter. Let's be grateful they didn't show them beheading the hostages as the real terrorists do in real life and on video.

In addition, it looks to me like we have some problems in the very administration -- not only with the mole, but with the President himself, who is very concerned with his legacy, popularity and his political rise to power. Unlike the likeable and estimable President Palmer, this president resembles Tricky Dick, complete with sweaty five-oclock shadow and shifty eyes. I think the series is showing that we have more to fear than the terrorists, that there is an enemy within, and sometimes it come from the highest levels, with a failure of political will, and a willingness to settle for the expedient political outcome at the expense of the long term good. Palmer always did what was right, and hang the political cost. This one is different. And if I'm right, we will be shown the dangers of having such weak and politically motivated leadership in power. Draw your own conclusions about which president reminds you of which real-life figures in American politics.

Well, that's about enough for one day. Just one more thought. It's easy to make too much of this series -- after all, it's just television and a fantasy based on reality, and many viewers will say it's not really real. But that is the function of drama -- not to show reality but to crystallize and clarify reality and show it in relief, so that the basic conflicts can be clearly seen and some resolution and catharsis offered. As my favorite opera composer Verdi once said when someone suggested that realism should be the goal of opera -- "I don't want reality," he replied, "I want MORE than reality." By this he meant the pure distillation of human emotion, suffering, conflict and resolution, with all the chaff of daily life cut away to reveal the perfect diamond underneath.

And in the end, just as in "Moby Dick", no matter how many layers we uncover of cultural relevance or hidden meaning, if it isn't just a ripping good yarn that holds your attention, it isn't worth a dime. That's what Hollywood has yet to grasp with all their preaching and politically motivated movies which are balatantly pushing an agenda. The artfulness of art lies in deception in order to reveal the truth. You have to entertain the audience, not preach to them. "24" accomplishes this in spades. We will be tuning in to find out how things develop. In sum, this is great entertainment with a conservative message, and a perfect slayer of PC while telling us a gripping story.

Jack Bauer -- the PC slayer.

More on Jack Bauer and "24"

By Aussiegirl

OK, fans of "24" -- I'll have my thoughts on Monday night's conclusion to the season opener and some additional thoughts on the cultural relevance and meaning of it all (along with the fun stuff of course) later today. I see an interesting subplot developing involving the importance of a strong male role model for a growing boy, and additional little things I noticed that make this series a salutary oasis in an otherwise PC world. Got to rest those brain cells -- see you later.

The world is safe -- for now -- but nefarious plots abound -- there is still something rotten in the state of Denmark -- at least enough to last us an entire season.

Monday, January 16, 2006

CAP memo read by Kennedy at hearings was satire

By Aussiegirl

Well, we had to admit, it did sound like satire -- the sort of thing that liberals think conservatives think. Now Kennedy has enough egg on his face for at least two cheese omelettes. I think some staffer got a bit overzealous in data-mining Alito's record in order to find something - ANYTHING negative -- and Ted Kennedy fell for it.

FOXNews.com - Special Report w/ Brit Hume - Political Grapevine - Guilt by Association?
Guilt by Association?
In suggesting that Samuel Alito had belonged to a racist conservative group, Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy relied heavily on an essay published by the organization that sounded like a bigoted rant. The essay, titled "In Defense of Elitism," reads in part, "People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic."

But the magazine's editor at the time says the article was pure satire, a send-up of what liberals think conservatives think. He added, "I think left-wing groups have been feeding Senator Kennedy snippets and he has been mindlessly reciting them."

So when did Turin become Torino?

By Aussiegirl

OK -- while I wasn't looking, the name of the ancient Italian city of Turin, home of the famous shroud of the same name, has suddenly become Torino. Yes, yes -- you're going to say - "But Aussiegirl, that is what Turin is called in Italy -- it is the proper name of the city."

Bah, humbug, I say! Turin it was, Turin it shall always be. We don't say Roma for Rome. We don't say Moskva for Moscow. It's Brussels not Bruxelles, Bucharest not Bucuresti, Prague not Praha, etc. etc.

And today I heard a report about a place called Cheelay -- wasn't that the place we used to call Chile? As in "Chilly today -- hot tomale?"

And -- it's Koran around here -- not Qur'an. Just getting a few things straight.

Who knew pondlife was so easily offended?

By Aussiegirl

Talk about political correctness! After reading this, I don't hold out much hope for England's future.

Sunday Times - Times Online

A DETECTIVE is facing disciplinary action by his force for referring to a career criminal as “pondlife” in a private conversation with another officer.

The detective constable, who faces possible dismissal from his job, has been told that the criminal “might have been offended” had he heard the remark, although he was not present at the time.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Once again, Jack Bauer to the rescue

By Aussiegirl

Listen up all you fans of the TV series "24". Thomas Lifson explains what makes us love the show so much in a post-9/11 world -- in addition to simply being a very entertaining and suspenseful show with great writing and acting, it fundamentally appeals to some need inside us for release, especially in an age of fear and uncertainty.

And yes, like so much else in life, the Ancient Greeks not only discovered this principle, but they named it. Thomas fill us in, and in the process coins a beautiful phrase that simply delights my Aussie soul -- "antipodean harmony".

I will be remembering that as I watch tonight's episode, since no doubt Jack will be once again singlehandedly saving Western Civilization in spite of his superiors and seemingly insuperable odds.

We know our man Jack will get the job done.
The American Thinker

The ancient Greeks developed a term for what Jack Bauer supplies us. It is the narcotic of catharsis. We live in a perpetual, usually conscious, state of anxiety over what will become of us in the face of terrorists who do not hesitate to inflict mass casualties of the most horrible order. Many of us are also genuinely troubled by the potential loss of freedom if our civil liberties are infringed. As a result, we live with tension, the release of which generates pleasing endorphins in our brains.

And Jack Bauer does provide release. He Does What Needs to be Done. No worrying over constitutional protections, or even fear for the legal and personal costs when responsibility is put on his shoulders. Torture the suspect (or last season, violate the diplomatic immunity of a Chinese consulate), and protect America.

Because Jack is a fantasy figure, a gritty version of James Bond, whose ammunition never runs out, who is never the one brought down in a hail of fire, and whom we know will go on to protect us again, all of this escapism works and works well. Even as we are caught-up in the dramatic tension, we know that it is “only” entertainment.

Fantasy and reality, when confused in a human mind, can produce psychosis. But when their antipodean harmony is artfully balanced to speak to our hopes and fears in a meaningful manner, they entertain and even enlighten us.

"24"'s Jack Bauer -- agent extraordinaire -- post 9/11 American hero

By Aussiegirl

OK -- I'm hooked -- along with everybody else in America I'm hopelessly addicted to watching the exploits of Jack Bauer as he slashes protocol, legal niceties and political considerations along with a few terrorist throats in his weekly quest to save Western Civilization as we know it from yet another terrorist plot.

I have been hearing about the show but always managed to miss the season openers and despaired of ever getting in on the show at a point that it would be comprehensible. Luckily the A & E network recently ran a bunch of reruns of the earlier seasons and I was completely impressed with the skilled story-telling, good acting, tight plotting and unbelievable air of suspense and excitement that the series generates.

Rick Moran has a great piece in the American Thinker today about Jack Bauer as the quintessential American hero in a post-9/11 age. No angst, no cultural relativity, Jack knows that he wears the white hat and that the bad guys wear the black hats, and he knows that the guys in black hats are in need of killing, and he's more than willing to oblige.

As such it's a satisfying and entertaining show. I don't know about you -- but I can't wait to see tonight's season opener, which has been described by reviewers who have seen the advance copies as simply thrilling.

We'll be sure to follow Rick Moran's blog where he will keep a running total of the number of bodies that Jack trails in his wake. Should be stacking up pretty good based on previous seasons.

The American

It would be an exercise in sophistry to try and make too
much of Jack Bauer and his impact on American culture. He is, after all just a
character in a TV show. But at the same time, it would be a mistake to
underestimate the powerful hold that Jack has on our emotions as we follow his
adventures week to week.

We watch spellbound as he relentlessly pursues
the enemies of the United States with a frightening determination and dedication
that brooks no opposition from friend or foe. His disputes with the national
security bureaucracy are fought with the same tenacity and brutal
win-at-all-costs mindset with which he battles the terrorists seeking to destroy
us. In this respect, Bauer is a man outside the law rather than someone of the

Sound familiar? It should. Hollywood long has prospered making
heroes of such men - although not quite in the same context. Jack can best be
compared to the small town sheriff who finds himself up against the ruthless
outlaw gang as Gary Cooper played in the classic western High Noon. Cooper’s
portrayal of Marshall Will Kane, who must vanquish a gang of criminals bent on
revenge on the day of his wedding, had many of the same points and counterpoints
found in the character of Jack Bauer. Cooper is driven to confront the outlaws
rather than run away due to an overriding sense of duty. He is willing to risk
his marriage, his happiness, and his life because he realizes that it is he
alone who can stop the thugs from taking control of the town and terrorizing the

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Apocalyptic messianic vision drives Ahmadinejad

By Aussiegirl

Iran's new president has some very dangerous ideas that he appears to believe wholeheartedly. We should take him at his word. These apocalyptic visions make me think that an outright military attack on Iran will only provoke the cataclysm that he is seeking.

Telegraph | News | 'Divine mission' driving Iran's new leader

But listen carefully to the utterances of Mr Ahmadinejad - recently described by President George W Bush as an "odd man" - and there is another dimension, a religious messianism that, some suspect, is giving the Iranian leader a dangerous sense of divine mission.

In November, the country was startled by a video showing Mr Ahmadinejad telling a cleric that he had felt the hand of God entrancing world leaders as he delivered a speech to the UN General Assembly last September.

When an aircraft crashed in Teheran last month, killing 108 people, Mr Ahmadinejad promised an investigation. But he also thanked the dead, saying: "What is important is that they have shown the way to martyrdom which we must follow."

When even the Pope has to whisper -- Islam is not reformable

By Aussiegirl

In an absolutely must-read column, Spengler lays out the coming inevitibility of civilizational war with Islam because of the basic fact that Islam is not reformable. As I have also said many times, Islam's problem is that its foundational text, the Koran, is not subject to reinterpretation or even retranslation. This fact was recently stated by Pope Benedict in a little noticed exchange in a private seminar.

Basically the situation is this: according to Muslim tradition the Koran is the very word of God as dictated through the Archangel Gabriel to Mohammed. Since it is the actual dictated word of God, there can be no interpretation. As the Pope says, the Hebrew and New Testament Bible is a bible of revelation of God's truth to mankind, and as such is subject to reinterpretation and reunderstanding. Lacking this, Islam can never resolve itself with the West or with the 21st Century.

There's so much here that you simply must read the entire thing.
Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs

Islam is the unexploded bomb of global politics. US foreign policy - the only foreign policy there is, for the United States is the only superpower - proceeds from the hope that a modern and democratic Islam will emerge from the ruins of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Through democratic institutions, Washington believes, the long-marginalized Shi'ites will adapt to religious pluralism. Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's Islam, fixed in amber since the High

Middle Ages, will metamorphose into something like American mainline Protestantism.

Alas, the available facts suggest that the opposite result will ensue: more freedom equals more fundamentalism.

[...]Later in the same essay, Benedict takes up a theme I have addressed over the years, namely the moral cause of Europe's demographic implosion (see Why Europe chooses extinction, April 8, 2003), writing:
Europe is infected by a strange lack of desire for the future. Children, our future, are perceived as a threat to the present, as though they were taking something away from our lives. Children are seen - at least by some people - as a liability rather than as a source of hope. Here it is obligatory to compare today's situation with the decline of the Roman Empire.
My investigation of the causes of Europe's present decline was inspired by comments of then-cardinal Ratzinger in a book-length interview with the German journalist Peter Seewald published in 1996 as The Salt of the Earth. Nothing is really new in Benedict's present formulation except, perhaps, his sense of urgency as the hour grows late and the moment of truth approaches. In the cited essay, Benedict excoriates the pessimism of Oswald Spengler, who claimed to have discovered a deterministic pattern of rise and fall of civilizations. Instead, he argues that "the fate of a society always depends upon its creative minorities", and that "Christians should look upon themselves as just such a creative minority".

I agree with the pope, not with my namesake. My choice of nom de guerre is ironic rather than semiotic. The fact that the West still has such a leader as Benedict XVI in itself is cause for optimism. It might be too late for Europe, but it is not too late for the United States, and that is where the pope's mustard seeds may fall on fertile ground.

Reagan was right -- trees cause pollution and global warming

By Aussiegirl

Not only was Ronald Reagan right about ketchup being a vegetable -- he was right when he said that trees cause pollution. In a startling find scientists have discovered that trees and plants produce large amounts of methane, a so-called "greenhouse gas". They produce it as part of their respiration, and not just from the rotting of dead plant material.

Obviously the climate is such a complex interweaving of countless factors that it is almost hopeless to assume that human activity can in any great way influence the course of climate change.

There have been great climatic changes in Earth's past even before SUVs polluted the planet, and there are still many undiscovered factors at play.

While a slight warming of the climate is possible, it most likely has to do with increasing solar activity on the sun during a time of a supposed solar minimum. At any rate, if you read this article, it turns out that most of the things we thought would lead to improvements in the warming trend and the emission of so-called "greenhouse gases", in actuality will only make the problem worse.

It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature.

FT.com / World / Americas - Beware how you meddle with climate change

Everyone knows trees are "A Good Thing". They take in the carbon dioxide that threatens our planet with global warming and turn it into fresh, clean oxygen for us all to breathe.

But now it seems we need to think again. In a discovery that has left climate scientists gasping, researchers have found that the earth's vegetation is churning out vast quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent even than CO2. This is not a product of trees and plants rotting, which everyone already knew was a source of methane; it is an entirely natural side-effect of plant growth that scientists had somehow missed. Yet it is by no means trivial: preliminary estimates suggest that living trees and plants account for about 10 to 30 per cent of the methane entering the atmosphere.

The discovery, reported by an international team of scientists in the current issue of the journal Nature, is adding fresh fuel to the debate over the confidence we can put in global warming science. It does not affect claims that the earth is warming up, which centre on measured effects rather than their likely causes. It does, however, raise serious doubts over grand plans for combating the warming process - such as the Kyoto protocol. The protocol allows countries to offset their greenhouse gas emissions through reforestation programmes, with trees being thought to cancel out some of the warming effect by mopping up CO2. The discovery that these new forests would themselves generate another greenhouse gas raises, at the very least, doubts about the size of the net benefit.