Tag Archives: Daily Mail

What The Hell Is Going On In Libya?

Daily Mail:

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has fled Libya and may be heading for Venezuela, William Hague said today.

The Foreign Secretary said he had seen ‘information’ that suggests Gaddafi is on his way to the South American country – as Libya was up in flames today with reports of around 400 dead.

The dictator was said to have fled as the country, which he has ruled for more than 40 years, was up in flames after anti-government demonstrators breached the state television building and set government property alight.

The country’s diplomats at the UN are calling for Gaddafi to step down. Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi said that if Gaddafi does not reliqniquish power, ‘the Libyan people will get rid of him’.

But officials in Venezuela, where president Hugo Chavez is an ally of the Libyan dictator, denied any suggestions that Gaddafi was seeking refuge there. Information minister Andres Izarra said the reports were ‘false’ .

Max Fisher at The Atlantic:

Because of the country’s severe media restrictions, information out of Libya is extremely difficult to verify. Protesters send reports to Libyan exile groups or to open-source organizers such as Shabab Libya, which then filter through to social or traditional media. On Saturday, Switzerland-based exile groups told Reuters that protesters had completely seized Bayda, also located in the east. In the broken, urgent English common to such dispatches, Shabab Libya reported on Twitter, “Now breaking from #bayda they fought and beat the mercenaries and hanged them in the valleys surrounding bayda. now %100 secure.” Reuters later added that government forces were attempting to retake the town.

Even by the mildest and most reliable accounts out of Libya, the uprising there has been far more violent than any of those across North Africa and the Middle East. Other such demonstrations have emphasized nonviolent occupation, with protesters seizing a central location such as Cairo’s Tahrir Square and holding it against government attempts to disperse them. Libyan protesters began as the others, gathering peacefully in city centers. But over the past week, perhaps in response to the brutal and often fatal government response, the demonstrators have gone from enduring the crackdown to actively fighting back. Matching aggression with aggression, and likely fearing for their lives if they fail, the enraged protesters of Benghazi and elsewhere are attacking security forces and buildings. It’s not that Libya’s protesters are especially violent; the severity of Qaddafi’s crackdown has forced them to choose between going on the offensive or accepting annihilation.

For now, it’s impossible to know for sure whether protesters really did secure Libya’s third-largest city, whether the lush Mediterranean hills outside the city are punctuated with the hanging bodies of security forces, or whether government militias launched a counter-assault that may still be ongoing. But such claims are in line with a pattern of jarringly violent reports out of Libya. Security forces opened fire on a funeral procession in Benghazi, Al Jazeera reports, killing at least 15 mourners. According to BBC News, army snipers are firing indiscriminately at protesters. Libyan social media outlets, which have been several hours ahead of traditional media but may be prone to exaggeration, carry several shocking reports: that protesters have set fire to government buildings in the western city of Yifran, that security forces are raining mortars on civilians in Benghazi, that children are among the dead.

James Ridgeway at Mother Jones:

The Libyan protests have been inspired by the wave of uprisings across North Africa, but they grow out of deep-seated poverty, unemployment, and political repression at the hands of yet another entrenched despot. Whether they will result in Libya achieving the sort of change experienced by Tunisia and Egypt is impossible to say, but early signs indicate that whatever the outcome, a high price is likely to be paid in human life.

Complicating matters is Libya’s unusual position in world affairs. Not long ago it was a pariah nation. But since 9/11, it has wormed its way back into favor with the United States and Europe because Qaddafi joined the war on terror, cooperating in the Lockerbie bomb investigation, coming down hard on al Qaeda, and kicking out terrorists he had once sheltered. At the same time, he has steered Libya into an increasingly powerful position in world politics because of its vast oil reserves. Libya has an especially close relationship with its former colonial master, Italy. It now provides about 20 percent of all Italy’s oil imports and has invested in sizeable amounts in that country’s energy infrastructure including the transnational energy giant ENI.

Along with their energy deals, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Qaddafi have agreed to work together to stem the increasing numbers of migrants seeking a better life in Europe. In addition to those leaving from North Africa, thousands more have been moving up the Red Sea from Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and other countries. Their point of entry is Italy–specifically, the small Italian island of Lampedusa, which lies in the Mediterranean midway between Libya and Sicily.

In 2009, Qaddafi and Berlusconi made an agreement that became part of an open and often vicious campaign against migrants: Libya would try to keep them from leaving in the first place; if they got out, Italy would send them back to Libya without providing them a chance to make asylum claims.

Ed Morrissey:

In Libya, it appears that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi got his answer to the ultimatum delivered last night. He warned of a bloody reprisal by the regime if protestors did not cease. Now that the rebels have called Gaddafi’s bluff, he has to wonder whether the “five million” in his military will respond to his call, or join the protestors in ridding themselves of Libya’s petty dynasty.

Speaking of which, where is Col. Moammar? If he was still in Libya, wouldn’t he be the man to put on television and rally the army to the regime?

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

While events are murky at best, it seems unlikely that Gaddafi’s regime can survive. What will follow it is, at this point, anyone’s guess.

That sets up an interesting comparison. The United States supported Mubarak’s government in Egypt for several decades, militarily and otherwise. Now, the frequently anti-American tone of Egypt’s rebels is often attributed to that support. Many commentators argue that the U.S.’s support of Mubarak was short-sighted, and that it will be our own fault if the government that ultimately emerges in Cairo is anti-American.

Perhaps so. But if that theory is correct, shouldn’t we see a different result right next door, in Libya? The U.S. has never supported Gaddafi; on the contrary, we tried to assassinate him at least once. So does that increase the likelihood that the rebels who detest Gaddafi will be friendly to America when some combination of them take power? On its face, that makes sense; one can draw an analogy to Eastern Europe, where the governments that took power upon the collapse of the Soviet Union were almost uniformly pro-American.

Will the same thing happen in Libya? I don’t know; but history seems to be setting up a laboratory experiment in north Africa.

Dan Drezner:

In Sayf-Al-Islam’s rambling speech last night on Libyan State television, he blamed the current unpleasantness in his country on, as near as I can determine, crazed African LSD addicts.

This isn’t going down as well as Sayf had intended, and Libya seems less stable than 24 hours earlier.  Indeed, Sayf’s off-the-cuff remarks managed to make Hosni Mubarak’s three speeches seem like a model of professionalism, which I would not have thought was possible a week ago.

Indeed, it is striking how utterly incompetent leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya have been at managing their media message.  Speeches are announced, then never delivered on time, and then delivered with production values that woulds embarrass a public access channel in the U.S.  It’s like political leaders in the region have discovered blogs just as the young people has moved on to Twitter or something.  [Er, no, that’s the United States–ed.]  Oh, right.

Having just finished a week of intense media whoring, methinks that one problem is that most of these leaders have simply fallen out of practice (if they were ever in practice) at personally using the media to assuage discontent.  I’ve been on enough shows on enough different media platforms to appreciate that there is an art, or at least a tradecraft, to presenting a convincing message in the mediasphere.  Authoritarian leaders in the Middle East are quite adept at playing internal factions off one another.  That’s a different skill set than trying to craft a coherent and compelling media message to calm street protestors no longer intimidated by internal security forces.

Andrew Sullivan:

It looks to me as if this is all but over. Ambassadors abroad are resigning right and left. There are no signs of the regime’s authority in the capital, except a few pockets of troops loyal to Qaddafi. Amazing. Look at the map. From Tunisia through Libya to Egypt and Bahrain, regime change has come from below in just a few weeks. Now wonder the King of Jordan is getting a little jumpy.

Can you imagine the mood among the Saudi dictators right now?

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They Have Stopped Singing This Song, Or Have They?

Heather Horn at The Atlantic:

On Tuesday, the results of the long, $300 million investigation into the Bloody Sunday killings in Northern Ireland were published. The inquiry, led by Lord Saville of Newdigate, found that thirteen demonstrators–and a fourteenth, who later died of wounds–were unlawfully killed by British paratroopers on January 30, 1972. In short, Saville found that the shootings were neither provoked by the marchers nor, as had previously been alleged, provoked by shootings from armed nationalists. Saville also discounts the theory that the attacks were “premeditated.”

William Underhill at Newsweek:

Today, there is hope—but only that—for closure at last. A 12-year official inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday released Tuesday yielded a 5,000-page report. The questions that fed the bitterness are finally answered. In particular, the allegation that the troops were responding to attacks by paramilitary gunmen from the republican IRA is formally rejected. Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons the conclusions were “shocking” and that he was “deeply sorry.” The Army’s actions were “unjustified and unjustifiable.” Still, the report is hardly ideal.

If the deserved apology satisfies the victims, the report brings its own risks. When Tony Blair agreed to establish the inquiry back in 1998, it was intended as a gesture to keep suspicious republicans in the peace process that culminated in the Good Friday peace accord of that spring, ending 30 years of bloodshed. Today’s politicians may consider it one concession too many, threatening to aggravate the tensions that the commission sought to dispel. Few seriously fear a return to open strife, but a sour mood may hinder political progress. Already there are grumblings of discontent from hardline loyalists: Says Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice: “Today’s jamboree over the … report throws into very sharp relief the unacceptable and perverse hierarchy of victims which the preferential treatment of Bloody Sunday has created.”

What’s beyond dispute is significance of Bloody Sunday: for the IRA, the Army’s brutality helped to sanction its own use of violence and to boost recruitment. There’s no doubt, too, that the perfunctory inquiry held in the immediate aftermath of Bloody Sunday failed utterly to uncover the truth. Condemned as a whitewash at the time, it described the paratroopers’ actions as no more than “bordering on the reckless,” rather than the slaughter described by today’s report.

But the inquiry has also raised issues of its own that go beyond its $300 million bill or its unnecessary length. With almost 1,000 witnesses heard, this turned out to be the longest inquiry in British history. Is it safe, for example, to depend on witnesses’ recollections of events 38 years ago that might anyhow be colored by political attitudes?

Andrew Sullivan:

This panicked murder of unarmed civilians was the Brits’ Gaza moment (along with their Cheney moment in instigating the torture of terror suspects in prison). And this long-delayed report helps show how war crimes take time for democracies to process and take responsibility for. The entire history of the last forty years suggests something else as well: that Irish terrorism was not defeated by force of arms, or brutality, or collective punishment. It took negotiations with the worst parties, a stoic acceptance of some terrorist violence because the attempt to stamp it all out only made it worse, economic growth, and insistence on the most logical partition.

Harry Mount at Telegraph:

David Cameron was right to say the Bloody Sunday shootings were unjustified and unjustifiable. That doesn’t mean, though, that the Saville Inquiry, with its ludicrous cost and length, was either justified or justifiable. The same conclusion could have been reached after several months; and Tony Blair would, presumably, have been happy to give the same full apology as Cameron did today.

Prosecutions are a different matter. To establish the criminal intent of a serving soldier, firing under orders to fire, alongside colleagues doing the same, and all with the passage of 38 years, would be very tricky indeed.

Here’s hoping that the completeness of Cameron’s apology and the directness of Saville’s conclusions will remove any possibility of further violence. I have been a regular visitor to Ulster for more than 20 years, and the change in the place is extraordinary. I first went to Belfast as a 17-year-old, and remember bicycling up the Falls Road behind an Army armoured car with two soldiers in the back, fingers poised on the trigger. You wouldn’t see that nowadays – in fact, last time I was in Belfast, I went up the Falls Road again, and the Shankill Road, this time in a tourist bus, on a tour of republican and loyalist murals.

David Blackburn at The Spectator:

With the greatest respect to Lord Saville, who is a distinguished lawyer, this report cannot dispense justice. Establishing the facts is impossible 30 years after the tragedy, and the punishment can only be collective. Yet the political dictates of peace mean that the British army must be blackened. The soldiers who beat both sets of paramilitaries to the negotiating table will be branded as criminals.

Whatever their impulse, British officers took a disastrous decision to disobey orders and open fire. Thereafter, the IRA heightened its already intensive terrorism and recruitment. That the IRA deliberately provoked violence against a peace march for its own gain is as plausible as the insistence that the British opened fire first.

General Sir Michael Rose at The Daily Mail:

But what I find perhaps most distasteful about this 12-year-long inquiry is that the role of British soldiers in Northern Ireland has been brushed aside for the sake of political expediency.

The truth is that peace was brought to the Province not by Prime Minister Blair, kowtowing to former terrorists such as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

It came to Northern Ireland as a result of the courage of the British Army, the Ulster Defence Regiment, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the intelligence services.

By the time Blair offered this inquiry as a sop to Republicans, the IRA had already been militarily defeated by the very soldiers whose reputation he knew it would undermine.

The events of Bloody Sunday were terrifying, fast-moving and chaotic. But as I told the inquiry when called as a witness, there is one thing of which I am absolutely certain.

It was the IRA who started the firing with the Thompson machine gun  –  and, inflammatory though it may sound, I believe they started firing with the express intention of causing civilian deaths.

Laurence White at The Belfast Telegraph:

There is no point in saying that the IRA or the UDA or any other terrorist organisation killed far more people and that atrocities such as happened at Omagh, Dublin, Droppin’ Well, La Mon, Enniskillen etc etc were as bad or worse and why was there not an inquiry into them.

Firstly every right thinking person accepts that those atrocities were vile and that anyone involved in causing those outrages should be brought to justice and jailed for a very, very long time. There is no need for inquiries into those events because everyone accepts that terrorists engage in terrorism.

Failure to bring those involved in mass terrorist killings to justice is a failure of the investigating agencies such as the RUC or Gardai. It wasn’t that no-one wanted the perpetrators jailed, they just failed to get the evidence to do it.

Bloody Sunday was completely different. Those who opened fire were legitimately in possession of weapons. They also had to follow rules. They were helping to impose law and order. And they were subject to the law.

The Army know who fired the fatal shots. If people were killed unlawfully then those who committed the crime should be amenable to the law. It is not a terribly complex equation or great moral dilemma.

I was thirteen at the time of Bloody Sunday, so I can remember it just about. It is hard to know what to think about today’s report. On the one hand, it is a kind of justice, however inadequate, for the relatives; on the other, it has taken nearly forty years. And the British government has spent £200 million to tell us what we all knew anyway: that British paratroopers murdered fourteen civilians in cold blood and that a subsequent “inquiry” (Widgery) was a whitewash. Still, it is one thing knowing the truth (as we already did) and it is another to have it publicly acknowledged. Will there be prosecutions? Doubtful.

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Prepare For The Igloo Bubble, Stock Market

David Rose at The Daily Mail:

The bitter winter afflicting much of the Northern Hemisphere is only the start of a global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years, say some of the world’s most eminent climate scientists.

Their predictions – based on an analysis of natural cycles in water temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans – challenge some of the global warming orthodoxy’s most deeply cherished beliefs, such as the claim that the North Pole will be free of ice in summer by 2013.

According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, Arctic summer sea ice has increased by 409,000 square miles, or 26 per cent, since 2007 – and even the most committed global warming activists do not dispute this.

The scientists’ predictions also undermine the standard climate computer models, which assert that the warming of the Earth since 1900 has been driven solely by man-made greenhouse gas emissions and will continue as long as carbon dioxide levels rise.

Don Suber:

Professor Mojib Latif, a leading member of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told the newspaper: “A significant share of the warming we saw from 1980 to 2000 and at earlier periods in the 20th Century was due to these cycles – perhaps as much as 50 per cent. They have now gone into reverse, so winters like this one will become much more likely. Summers will also probably be cooler, and all this may well last two decades or longer. The extreme retreats that we have seen in glaciers and sea ice will come to a halt. For the time being, global warming has paused, and there may well be some cooling.”

But global warming lives on. It has more lives than a litter of kittens.

The experts don’t know. Climatology is a budding science. As Rose pointed out, temperatures have risen and fallen before.

But the UN or a Nobel Peace Prize won’t get funding if it says it does not know. And so we get these wild swings — more bipolarity than science.

Tom Maguire:

So what does this mean?  Some possibilities:

(a) It’s a vital reprieve giving us additional time to do things we should have been doing anyway.  For instance, rather than scrapping a perfectly useful coal-fired plant we can replace it at the end of its useful life with newer, greener technology not yet perfected.

(b) it’s a head fake, and when the next mini-warming cycle starts in thirty years we will set heat records all over the world.

(c) it is the death knell for adequate public support for slapping a price on carbon emissions.  Is America, where two thirds of adults are overweight or obese, really going to spend twenty years on an energy diet while temperatures drop?  We aren’t that good at taking the long view, especially when the science is in flux (Not related, yet related –  eventually the rise in autism, obesity, diabetes and other things will be linked to the rise in the use of sunscreen.  Yeah, because we listened to the scientists who told us that sunshine was dangerous.)

I am hoping for (a) but would bet on (c).  But in (c) I do would support a simple revenue neutral carbon tax, not the preposterous cap and trade that Dems are backing as a jobs program for an expanded AFSCME unionized government bureaucracy.

I am hereby taking up a new cause:  the relocation of the US capitol to, say, Raleigh.

Not that I am taking predictions of the weather all that seriously.  ‘Twas but a few months ago when I was reading the climate change community writing that the recent cooling trend had been a fluke, and that we were scheduled to return to record warm temperatures . . . why, this very winter!

Oops.

Still, it might be worth investing in some long johns . . .

Flopping Aces

Mikkel Fishman at Moderate Voice:

I just saw a piece in The Daily Mail that talked about how an expert “predicts” up to three decades of global cooling. At first I was surprised, but then I saw the name and it all made sense. I’d been debating about whether to write about it, I mean The Daily Mail is just a tabloid, but on the other hand George Will and others have had similar pieces based on the same research. Then Pete had to go and have a post about it which forces my hand.

Personally I think that Dr. Latif should sue for libel. I’m not sure that this is anywhere close to it, but it should be. The opinions ascribed to him are in complete disagreement with his own, and pieces like this are damaging not only to his reputation but more importantly, it helps invalidate his work — which personally would hurt my emotional and mental well being, an aspect of libel laws.

What am I talking about? Well read this interview with him.

UPDATE: Joe Romm at Climate Progress

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We’ve Got A ‘Gate’! We’ve Got A ‘Gate’!

James Joyner has a good round-up of blog responses to “Climategate.” James Delingpole at The Telegraph:

If you own any shares in alternative energy companies I should start dumping them NOW. The conspiracy behind the Anthropogenic Global Warming myth (aka AGW; aka ManBearPig) has been suddenly, brutally and quite deliciously exposed after a hacker broke into the computers at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (aka Hadley CRU) and released 61 megabites of confidential files onto the internet. (Hat tip: Watts Up With That)

When you read some of those files – including 1079 emails and 72 documents – you realise just why the boffins at Hadley CRU might have preferred to keep them confidential. As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be “the greatest in modern science”. These alleged emails – supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory – suggest:

Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.

One of the alleged emails has a gentle gloat over the death in 2004 of John L Daly (one of the first climate change sceptics, founder of the Still Waiting For Greenhouse site), commenting:

“In an odd way this is cheering news.”

But perhaps the most damaging revelations  – the scientific equivalent of the Telegraph’s MPs’ expenses scandal – are those concerning the way Warmist scientists may variously have manipulated or suppressed evidence in order to support their cause.

Andrew Bolt:

So the 1079 emails and 72 documents seem indeed evidence of a scandal involving most of the most prominent scientists pushing the man-made warming theory – a scandal that is one of the greatest in modern science. I’ve been adding some of the most astonishing in updates below – emails suggesting conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more. If it is as it now seems, never again will “peer review” be used to shout down sceptics.

Michelle Malkin:

First things first: The alleged hackers need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

That said: The crimes revealed in the e-mails promise to be the global warming scandal of the century — and have massive bearing on the climate change legislation being considered by our lawmakers here at home.

Ed Morrissey:

Do scientists use data to test theories, or do they use theories to test data? Scientists will claim the former, but here we have scientists who cling to the theory so tightly that they reject the data.  That’s not science; it’s religious belief.

Jules Crittenden:

“Trick” to “hide the decline,” just scientific buzzwords … “can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty” so much give-and-take, a glimpse behind the curtain at the scientific process … “Next time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I’ll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted” and “until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor” … Good Lord, man, they’re only human!

It’s true what they say about the scientific process. No, not that “hide the decline” is obviously just something highly technical that dolts like us can’t understand. How openness benefits all. In fact … and this hasn’t been tested or peer reviewed or anything like that … but I have a hypothesis about how the reprehensible act of illegally revealing how full of it warmalist zealots are may in fact have had a dramatic effect on the environment. Anthropogenic cooling, if you will. Like a big bucket of cold water just got thrown on the whole thing. Consider this. It was unseasonably warm in Boston yesterday. This morning, cold out. Brrrr …

Tom Maguire:

Andrew Revkin of the Times provides the obvious pushback:

The documents will undoubtedly raise questions about the quality of research on some specific questions and the actions of some scientists. But the evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so broad and deep that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument.

“Erode”?  Surely it will erode public confidence, if only a teensy bit.  Public confidence will take a quantum leap downwards.

But more importantly, this is not a case where emails where hacked at fifty prominent research centers across the world and suggestions of fraud emerged once.  Right now, as best we know the hackers are one for one.  Does Mr. Revkin, or anyone else, have complete confidence that if other email servers were hacked we wouldn’t find similarly troubling hints of “tricks” meant to “hide the decline”?

UPDATE: James Joyner

UPDATE #2: Jonah Goldberg at The Corner

Mark Steyn at The Corner

John Hinderaker at Powerline

UPDATE #3: Jim Manzi at The American Scene

David Frum and FrumForum

UPDATE #4: Roger Pilon at Cato

Clive Crook

UPDATE #5: Ronald Bailey at Reason

Megan McArdle

Michelle Malkin

UPDATE #6: Allah Pundit

UPDATE #7: Steven Hayward at The Weekly Standard

UPDATE #8: Gateway Pundit

UPDATE #9: Jonathan Petre at Daily Mail

Mark Steyn at The Corner

Jules Crittenden

UPDATE #10: John Hudson at The Atlantic

UPDATE #11: Sharon Begley at Newsweek

Alex Pareene at Salon

UPDATE #12: Fred Pearce at The Guardian

UPDATE #13: Jim Newell at Gawker

Brad Plumer at The New Republic

UPDATE #14: More Clive Crook

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Hawking Is Alive And Other British Stories

498px-Stephen_Hawking_Simpsons

Stephen Hawking is very much alive.

Heather Horn in The Atlantic has a round-up. Josh Marshall at TPM:

AJC columnist Jay Bookman noticed that in the latest Investors Business Daily editorial about how the ‘death panel’ will condemn all handicapped or disabled people to death on some horrid wind-swept mountain, the editors note that …

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.Needless to say, Hawking, who is recognized as one of the great theoretical physicists of the 20th and 21st century, was born in the UK and has lived his entire life there.

Jason Zengerle at TNR:

This actually raises a bit of a philosophical conundrum. If the IBD writer believed Hawking was American (or French or Austrian or anything but British), can the writer be accused of lying when he/she writes that Hawking would have been left to die by the National Health Service? As far as the IBD writer knows, the only reason Hawking is alive today is for the grace of not being British. In other words, the point the IBD writer was trying to make would have at least been theoretically plausible if, as the writer believed, Hawking was not British.  I don’t know, I’m just reluctant to credit the IBD writer with the sufficient smarts to concoct such a lie. Seems like basic stupidity is the easier explanation here.

IBD has pulled the article and Hawking has defending the NHS.

Iain Murray at The Corner:

Following up on that silly IBD statement that Stephen Hawking wouldn’t survive in the U.K., where of course he lives, I contacted Professor Hawking’s office, and they sent me this statement he dictated yesterday:

I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high quality treatment without which I would not have survived.

This is undoubtedly true. Many brilliant doctors and surgeons work for the NHS. So yes, there are indeed centers of excellence in the NHS. David Cameron, leader of the British Conservatives, has a favorable view of the NHS because of the wonderful, world-class care it gave for many years to his severely handicapped son, who sadly died earlier this year. A close friend of mine would have lost his handicapped daughter at birth were it not for the efforts of his local NHS hospital, which again provided world-class care. And this isn’t world-class in the sense of “the NHS is the envy of the world,” it is world-class in the genuine sense.

However, all this is true in spite of rather than because the NHS is financed the way it is. Professor Hawking in Cambridge and David Cameron in Oxford are lucky enough that their hospitals are associated with world-class universities. The trouble is that for every child saved, there is one or more elderly people left to die or literally killed by the NHS. One family I know lost two grandparents as a result of NHS incompetence, one of them having a feeding tube set at the wrong rate, with the result that they were fed so much they died as a result of the complications brought on. Just as there are excellent hospitals in the NHS, there are others that any informed person would avoid like, or even because of, the plague.

More Murray

And more Murray

How do the British feel about this?

Stephen Glover in The Daily Mail:

At the wilder reaches of seemingly lunatic allegations is the suggestion that anyone over the age of 59 in Britain is ineligible for treatment for heart disease.

One leading Republican has also declared that the 77-year-old Senator Edward Kennedy, who is suffering from a brain tumour, would have been allowed to die in this country on account of his relatively advanced age.

In fact, President Obama’s plans fall well short of the sort of state-run health service we have in this country. He wants to ensure that the 40 or 50 million Americans – many of them black or Latino – who do not have health insurance are able to receive the same standard of care as the majority who do.

Nevertheless, his proposals are characterised as ‘socialist medicine’, and the NHS is invoked as the living example of this abomination.

We may be sure, I think, that most of those who are cheerily dredging up British scare- stories do not really believe them.

We are merely providing the ballast in a domestic American argument that is getting dirty. Let’s not take offence at this wildly overstated depiction of Britain as a sort of feral, failed state with Third World standards of health care.

The question that interests me is whether there is a grain of truth hiding amid these insults. I’d say there was. I’d say that under the present system which President Obama is hoping to improve, most middle-class Americans are liable to receive better health treatment than their British counterparts.

If I were a middle-income American living in Seattle or Chicago, I could almost certainly rely on superior care than if I lived in Birmingham or Newcastle.

Kate Devlin at The Telegraph:

Allegation: NHS patients over 59 years of age cannot receive heart repairs, stents or bypasses.

Response: A national audit on cardiac surgery showed that one in five of all patients was aged over 75.

Allegation: Women under 25 “not allowed” to be screened for cervical cancer.

Response: Patients in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland regularly screened from the age of 20. In England, women under 25 could be screened if there was judged to be a clinical need.

Allegation: Ted Kennedy, 77, would not be treated for his brain tumour in Britain because he was too old.

Response: “The NHS provides health services on the basis of clinical need irrespective of age,” said a Department of Health spokesman.

Allegation: Four in 10 NHS cancer patients do not have access to an oncologist.

Response: Figure is 15 years out of date, said Macmillan Cancer Support. Number of cancer specialists in the NHS has risen by 59.6 per cent since 1997, said the Department of Health.

Allegation: The NHS judges that six months of life are worth $22,750 (£14,000).

Response: “We don’t put a limit on the amount the NHS can spend on an individual,” said Andrew Dillon, the chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the Government’s drugs rationing body. “The basis of Nice’s system of appraising drugs and other treatments is simple: something will be recommended for use if the benefits to patients are worth what the NHS is being asked to pay.”

Andrew Clark in the Guardian:

Last week, the most senior Republican on the Senate finance committee, Chuck Grassley, took NHS-baiting to a newly emotive level by claiming that his ailing Democratic colleague, Edward Kennedy, would be left to die untreated from a brain tumour in Britain on the grounds that he would be considered too old to deserve treatment.

“I don’t know for sure,” said Grassley. “But I’ve heard several senators say that Ted Kennedy with a brain tumour, being 77 years old as opposed to being 37 years old, if he were in England, would not be treated for his disease, because end of life – when you get to be 77, your life is considered less valuable under those systems.”

The degree of misinformation is causing dismay in NHS circles. Andrew Dillon, chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), pointed out that it was utterly false that Kennedy would be left untreated in Britain: “It is neither true nor is it anything you could extrapolate from anything we’ve ever recommended to the NHS.”

Others in the US have accused Obama of trying to set up “death panels” to decide who should live and who should die, along the lines of Nice, which determines the cost-effectiveness of NHS drugs.

One right-leaning group, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, lists horror stories about British care on its website. An email widely circulated among US voters, of uncertain origin, claims that anyone over 59 in Britain is ineligible for treatment for heart disease.

The British embassy in Washington is quietly trying to counter inaccuracies. A spokesman said: “We’re keeping a close eye on things and where there’s a factually wrong statement, we will take the opportunity to correct people in private. That said, we don’t want to get involved in a domestic debate.”

Alex Massie:

Lord knows, the NHS has its problems and, yes, there’s a degree of rationing. But there’s rationing in just about every system. It just depends on how that rationing is organised and, to some extent, whether its existence is admitted. Ability to pay = rationing too. Equally, by any historical standard (different, to be sure, from international standards) the NHS actually, for all its cumbersome bureaucracy, performs pretty well. Could it be run more effificiently and cheaply? Almost certainly. Does it, on balance, offer a decent, though not world-beating, service for the money we spend on it? Probably.

The relevance of the NHS to American health care plans seems pretty limited anyway since, as best I can tell (though I try not to pay too much attention to these things) Obama doesn’t actually plan on copying the NHS.

Fundamentally, however, the difference between the systems is psychological. In Britain you worry what will happen when you fall ill; many Americans worry about what will happen if you fall ill. Will your insurance cover you? Often (but not always), yes it will and the best American care probably is better than the best British care, but there’s a greater psychological security to the British system. That’s probably worth something too. In other words, many Americans find themselves fretting about healthcare even when they’re perfectly healthy. That’s a psychological burden people in this country (and many others), don’t have to worry about.

Kevin Drum:

But with the exception of a few outliers, the liberal community really, truly doesn’t want a fully government owned and operated healthcare system like the NHS.  We want a government-funded healthcare system like Medicare or most of the world outside of Britain.  And unless I’m mistaken, this isn’t a ruse in any way.  That’s really what most of us want: basic care funded by taxes, with additional care available to anyone who wants to pay for more.  France and Holland, not Britain or Canada.

James Joyner:

First, Canada and the UK are the logical comparison points in that they’re fellow Anglosphere countries and the ones with which we’re most familiar.  Second, those who oppose the reform for various reasons have a strong incentive to elide the differences and capitalize on fears people reasonably have about an NHS-style system.  (To say nothing of the silly fears of the “They’d let Stephen Hawking die!” variety.)

Many of the leaders of the pro-reform side are rather dishonest in their presentation, however. They insist that what’s written in the bill should be the limit of legitimate debate when, as Kevin admits and Obama once did, single-payer is the ultimate goal.   The current “as much as we can get” measure is not only a step in that direction but one that will make it inevitable over time as it kills off the existing system of employer-financed insurance.   So, while it’s dishonest to argue against the proposed legislation as if it were NHS-style “socialized medicine,” it’s perfectly legitimate to treat it as HillaryCare Returns.

And what does this have to do with Twitter?

Kathryn Blaze Carlson at National Post:

Britain’s National Health Service has been dragged into the American health care debate, prompting hundreds of pro-NHS citizens to amass today on Twitter under the tag #welovethenhs to defend their version of socialized medicine.

Just as Canada has been cast as the healthcare ‘bogeyman,’ Britain has likewise been slammed for what some reform opponents call ‘death panels’ — bureaucratic ‘squads’ that, as Sarah Palin recently described on her Facebook page, “decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care.”

As Brian Beutler reported at politics blog Talking Points Memo, news of the UK’s ‘death panels’ travelled quickly across the pond. Every half-second or less, dozens of new tweets are being blasted onto Twitter to the point where #welovethenhs was, for a while, Twitter’s top trending topic, as Mr. Beutler reported.

Ezra Klein

Investor’s Business Daily, incidentally, has now deleted the offending line from their editorial and published a correction. “This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK,” reads the addendum.

But that’s not a correction at all. IBD never claimed that Hawking didn’t live in the UK. It claimed that the NHS would judge him worthless and leave him to die. That was what was wrong. And that has not been corrected by the IBD — which says a lot about how much trust readers should place in their work. Instead, it has been corrected by Hawking himself. And these many, many, many tweets. How strange that we can get better and more accurate information about international health systems from Twitter than from many of our major media outlets.

Wonkette:

The country England, which used to own America, has a terrible system of health care where people pay a bit more in taxes so that when they get sick, they can walk into a doctor’s office or a hospital to receive treatment. This is how Empires fall! But supposedly English people “like” their National Death Laboratory (NHS) and simply do not care for these American Republican politicians lambasting it on the telly. Will the lobsterbacks invade America again? Yes. No. No, it’s not worth much anymore.

The invasion has already begun. According to limey operative “Tom,” England has mobilized its machines of war, on Twitter

UPDATE: More Klein

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Filed under Health Care, New Media, UK

Burka Brouhaha, En Francais

burka

Sarkozy and the Burka (or Burqa).

Jill Lawrence in Politics Daily:

From the Associated Press:

“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” Sarkozy said to extended applause at the Chateau of Versailles, southwest of Paris. “The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly,” he said. “It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”

From the New York Times:
“The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue, it is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “The burqa is not a religious sign, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women.”

Charles Johnson at LGF

Saira Khan in The Mail

And yet, as a British Muslim woman, I abhor the practice and am calling on the Government to follow the lead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and ban the burkha in our country.

The veil is simply a tool of oppression which is being used to alienate and control women under the guise of religious freedom.

My parents moved here from Kashmir in the 1960s. They brought with them their faith and their traditions – but they also understood that they were starting a new life in a country where Islam was not the main religion.

My mother has always worn traditional Kashmiri clothes – the salwar kameez, a long tunic worn over trousers, and the chador, which is like a pashmina worn around the neck or over the hair.

When she found work in England, she adapted her dress without making a fuss. She is still very much a traditional Muslim woman, but she swims in a normal swimming costume and jogs in a tracksuit.

Jessica Valenti at Feministing:

Banning the burqa doesn’t further women’s rights – it limits them. Now, obviously there’s a difference in Islamic women’s dress from the hijab to the burqa – but legally banning any of them erases all agency from Muslim women. (I’m especially wary of Sarkozy’s comments and this potential ban given that France banned headscarves from public schools in 2004.)

If you’re interested in hearing Muslim women talking about the hijab, here are a couple of interesting vids.

Amad at Muslim Matters:

This French President, described in a recent book (failed to be blocked from publication — so much for free speech!) as an uncaring father and a womanizer wants to now tell Muslim women how to dress. I’d like to ask Sarkozy that if he can tell us how we should dress, then under equal rights of the “republic”, why can’t Muslims tell French women how not to dress?  We are even willing to donate some extra clothing material to help the near-nudity on display everyday in this model nation!

For a President to devote significant time to the hijab in an important speech to the Parliament, the first one since the 19th century, is a clear indication that Sarkozy is running out of ideas to save the country from its economic and social ills. By letting the public focus on a clearly divisive issue, but one whose inherent prejudice bonds French citizens across the political spectrum, Sarkozy wants to use this “coalition of bigots” to distract the public from real problems.

At The Corner, Veronique de Rugy:

I have mixed feelings about this one. I am generally against all prohibition, and I am against encroachments of the freedom or religion. However, I also have read enough (here for instance) about the treatment and condition of Muslim women to find the Burqa troublesome (as the visible sign of their oppression).

Andrew Stuttaford

That said, although almost all societies do enact dress codes that reflect their notions of decency, banning the burqa from the street seems to me to be both a step too far and, quite possibly, counter-productive. What Sarkozy should do, however, is ensure that his fellow-citizens are as free to criticize the burqa as he is. In a country that stamps on free speech in the name of combatting the bogeyman of “Islamophobia,” it’s by no means clear that this indeed the case.
And more Stuttaford
Ambrose Burnside at Daily Kos:

The question remains, though.  Would a ban of the burqa be a women’s rights victory?  Or a regressive act that would stifle the free will of women who wish to wear the burqa?  Personally, I’m not in favor of banning any sort of clothing, religiously based or not, with a few exceptions such as making people remove face-coverings for ID photos, court appearances, for the police, and similar situations.

If a woman wants to wear a burqa out in public, and she’s doing it completely by her own free will, there is no reason why she shouldn’t be able to and a law banning the burqa would be a slap in the face for women’s rights.

However, if it turns out that women generally only wear the burqa to avoid being abused by jealous males, banning the burqa would be an important step toward women advancing in society.

UPDATE: Freddy Gray in TAC:

In 2003, when France decided to ban the Islamic veil from schools, there was at least an arguable case that state schools represented a public – and therefore necessarily secular — space. But to propose that hijab and niqab be expelled from French society is a more radical idea, one that carries a strong whiff of secular absolutism.

Sarkozy says that the Islamic veil is “not the French republic’s idea of women’s dignity.” Of course it isn’t. It would be a great shame if all French women began covering their faces. (Imagine if we could not behold the elegant features of Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni.) But is it not an equal, or even greater, affront to women’s independence to demand that they show their faces? What if a woman chooses to hide her face from the world? Is that not a legitimate expression of her freedom, religious or otherwise?

UPDATE #2: Michelle Goldberg in American Prospect:

A ban on burqas would, of course, be unthinkable in the American context, because our understanding of church state separation, and of free speech, is quite different than the one prevailing in France. “Here in America, the separation of church and state is about the protection of religion from the state,” Scott says. “In France, the idea is to protect individuals from the claims of religion. The state can intervene on behalf of individuals when they are thought to be oppressed by some communal group.”

Yet such state interventions can end up working against individual women. Last year, for example, a Moroccan woman married to a French man was denied French citizenship because she wore a burqa at her husband’s request. The ruling declared her “radical practice of her religion (and) behavior in society incompatible with the essential values of the French community, notably the principle of equality between the sexes.” According to the scholar Cécile Laborde, political parties, intellectuals and journalists praised the decision almost unanimously.

Likewise, Sarkozy’s prospective burqa ban has significant feminist support, including the backing of the feminist group Ni Putes Ni Soumises, or Neither Whores Nor Doormats, which has its roots in France’s Muslim ghettos. It’s worth taking the position of Ni Putes Ni Soumises seriously, since the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism has been, for them, a matter of life and death. Like the Somali-Dutch feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, their activism serves as a crucial corrective to multicultural pieties.

Ultimately, though, there’s no evidence that most burqa-clad French women regard themselves as oppressed. “There are women who wear burqas who are not being forced by anyone, who think that form of modesty is appropriate for who they want to be in the world,” says Scott. “It’s hard to distinguish between them and those who are being forced.” And so in the end, a ban putatively passed to further women’s rights could instead impinge on their freedom, and take from them something they value. Even worse, it could lead to those in the most fundamentalist of households being trapped inside their homes altogether. It would be cruel to limit these women’s options in the name of liberation, even if their clothes are a rebuke to the secularism that the French rightly hold sacred.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias:

A woman whose husband and/or other male relations have enough power over her to force her into a burqa against her will is only going to be forced by those same men further underground by this sort of rule. The only kind of person who would be genuinely unveiled by this kind of legal measure would be someone with enough autonomy to be in a position to choose compliance with the law over compliance with tradition. The French have a strong tradition not just of secularism, but of a kind of illiberal egalitarianism that holds that everyone should really be the same, and I think it tends to push them toward measures like this that don’t ultimately help anyone.

UPDATE: Julian Sanchez

UPDATE: James Kirchick at Commentary

UPDATE: Now the burquini has been banned. New York Times.

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens in Slate

Shikha Dalmia at Forbes

UPDATE: Ryan Brown at Salon

Jim Newell at Gawker

Rod Dreher

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Filed under Fashion, Feminism, Foreign Affairs, Religion

If I Had My Way, I Would Tear This Old Building Down

Prince Charles stops a housing development.

Rod Dreher:

Three cheers for Prince Charles, for effectively putting the kibosh on a hideous Modernist housing development planned for London. Charles is well-known for his strongly-held view that architectural modernism has in most cases been an anti-human blight on England. To walk through Cambridge and to see the monstrous Modernist carbuncles that have been imposed on that beautiful campus is to instantly sympathize with Charles’ crusade. We had an undergraduate punter in charge of our punt one day, and he pointed out some of the more grotesque 1960s and 1970s buildings defacing the Cambridge built landscape, and lamented that those piles were protected under law.

Dreher has a bunch of links. Hugh Pearman in the WSJ:

Charles is known to be frustrated by his role — “He is actually an unemployed individual, which says something about the state of the royal family,” Mr. Rogers woundingly but accurately said. But this does not stop Charles from dashing off what are called “black spider letters,” after his scrawling handwriting, to prime ministers and ministers on all manner of topics. They are usually politely ignored. As a consequence, the presumed influence of Charles is rather greater overseas than it is at home, where — although his views on architecture attract strong conservative support — he is generally regarded as a well-meaning buffoon.

At times, Charles has suggested that he speaks for the common people. Given his immense wealth and privileged position, this is a hard point to argue. “The idea that he is a man of the people fascinates me,” said Mr. Rogers. “He’s a man of the rich people, that’s for sure.”

And this, in the end, is what the whole brouhaha comes down to: money and the power it brings. Qatari Diar, for instance, is not just intending to build a large housing development in Chelsea. It is also the major funder of what will be Europe’s tallest skyscraper close to London’s financial center. The “Shard” tower, by Mr. Rogers’s former partner Renzo Piano — with whom Mr. Rogers designed Paris’s Pompidou Center in the 1970s — will be the most prominent building in London by far. Its impact on the skyline will be colossal. In contrast, the visual impact of Mr. Rogers’s Chelsea plan will be zero on the skyline and negligible in its neighborhood. So why isn’t Charles writing letters to the Qataris about the Shard? Easy. The Shard is planned for an office quarter of a poor borough next to a commuter railway station. Chelsea, by contrast, is a rich residential district inhabited by some very conservative people with good contacts. (It also happens to be where the left-leaning Mr. Rogers lives.)

Robert Booth in The Guardian:

But as with any architect, the first thing Rogers wanted to talk about was his firm’s design for Chelsea barracks, which, he tantalisingly said, could have been “one of the best schemes my office has ever produced”. That is quite a claim for a firm which won the 2007 Stirling prize for Madrid airport.

Opponents described the Chelsea ­barracks project as a series of glass and steel towers, but Rogers emphasised it would have risen only to nine storeys. He is proud of the ban on cars at surface level, the large open spaces, and the copper, glass and concrete walls which would have been coloured to blend with the surrounding architectural styles from Georgian, through Victorian to 20th and 21st century design.

Far from being “a Gucci ghetto” for super-rich ­oligarchs as the project was originally labelled, he said he had ­managed to “de-Guccify” it by ensuring public access 24 hours a day and 50% affordable housing. Public consultation was extensive with at least 80 meetings, he said.

With such obvious pride in the scheme, it raises the question why ­Rogers, or no one else, spoke up for it when the prince was giving it a public kicking, via the leaking of his private ­letter to Qatar’s royal family.

Araminta Wordsworth in the National Post

Georgine Thorburn, chairman of the Chelsea Barracks Action Group, which opposes Lord Rogers’ scheme, said the architect only had himself to blame for his insensitive and inappropriate designs that she said had failed to comply with the Westminster City Council planning brief.

“What most people don’t realize is that it has been the unstinting opposition by the thousands of Chelsea Barracks Action Group supporters that kept the objection campaign alive and it was them who commissioned Quinlan Terry to find an alternative scheme,” she told the Times.

“It so happened that the Prince Charles agreed with us and reflected the voice of the people that 121 feet high of steel and glass was inappropriate for this area. Lord Rogers’ bitter criticism of the Prince is unfounded; to us he is the people’s prince and the only one who seems to stand up for what the people want.”

“The Prince is speaking up because he feels local people, aside from anyone else, are not being listened to, and, in any case, the Wren complex is of national importance,” added Amanda Baillieu, editor of the weekly Building Design magazine.

A.N. Wilson in the Daily Mail:

It is not Prince Charles but the modernists – led by Richard Rogers – who are the arrogant ones. They will brook no opposition even though, time and again, their work spoils our towns.

Yet Richard Rogers has the sheer gall, the eye-boggling arrogance, to say it is ‘unconstitutional’ for a future head of state to care about the country of which he will one day be king! It is incredible really.

Let us be clear. Prince Charles is under no ‘constitutional’ obligation to keep quiet about the vandalism of the modernist architects and the sheer human damage they have caused to two generations of Britons.

He consciously took up the mantle of the great Sir John Betjeman, who was often a lone voice in exposing not merely the ugliness but also the corruption of the town ‘plansters’ as dear old Betj always called them.

Others talking about this:

Times News Blog

Media Bistro

Roger Helmer:

But oddly, as it turns out, the Prince did not abuse his constitutional powers.  He did not use any constitutional powers at all.  He merely “phoned a friend” — or, as reported in the media, wrote to an acquaintance on Dubai, who happens to control the funding of the development.  Now I have no doubt that Lord Rogers would argue that the Prince has a special position of influence, and so he does.  And so does Lord Rogers, come to that.  Many people have positions of influence, some earned, some not.  Most celebrities can get the sort of news coverage denied to the average man or woman — that, indeed, is what celebrity means.  It may not be fair, but it’s unavoidable.

The Prince is a subject of the Queen, and like any subject of the Queen, including you and me, he has a perfect right to express a view about architecture, or indeed about any other subject that occurs to him, and he also has the right to contact and lobby anyone whom he thinks may support his cause.  You and I have just the same right.  As an MEP, I frequently find people lobbying me, and I frequently lobby others and seek to recruit them to one cause or another.

The-Sheet.com, an architecture blog:

Prince Charles can be incredibly irritating, and one can’t blame Rogers for hating him; but it is hard to see what is unconstitutional about him expressing opinions, however misguided, on non-political matters. It would be unacceptable if he were already head of state, but he isn’t; and nobody is obliged to take any notice of what he says. Nor does anybody often do so. Anyone is entitled to fire their architect; and while it was incredibly bad luck on Rogers if his employers in this case turned out to be people whose overriding belief is in solidarity among princes, it was an extremely unusual circumstance. In any case, it is not a good basis on which to campaign for the abolition of the monarchy.

UPDATE: Septimus Waugh in TAC

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Filed under Art, Culture, UK