Never express yourself more clearly than you think. —Niels Bohr
Barack Obama and the political architects of what will be his administration have expressed themselves rather clearly with respect to their plans for imposing mandatory community service on young Americans. The puzzle is figuring out just what they are thinking!
Here we have Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, in a 2006 interview with Ben Smith of the NY Daily News. Perhaps Emanuel was not expecting to be in a position to have to own up to his own words when this interview took place, but some of his most outrageous utterances seem to have inspired Obama's "master plan" for America.
Right before the nine-minute mark of the podcast we hear it straight from the horse's mouth:
Citizenship is not an entitlement program. It comes with responsibility.
By that phrase Emanuel perversely means "responsibility to the government", hence the tentative rationale for mandating universal enrollment into futuristic soup-kitchen armies.
Citizenship is not an entitlement program? Well Mr. Emanuel, the nation's top 1% earners who shoulder as great a tax burden as the bottom 95% would not argue with you over that. For them citizenship is more like a charity program. In fact, the nation's highest-earning one-fifth of households receive $0.41 for every dollar paid in taxes —the rest going to finance entitlement programs for the bottom one-fifth which receive $8.21 in government spending for each dollar paid in taxes.
Anyone for whom citizenship can be conceived of as a welfare program owes such privileged existence to the productive citizens whose socks are being taxed off. The government cannot expect gratitude or reciprocation from the recipients of its "generous benevolence" funded by the compulsory taxation of other people's dime.
Emanuel's pronouncement sounds like a vernacular paraphrase of John F. Kennedy's "...ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country..." regarding which Milton Friedman had the following to say (and I couldn't have said it any better):
In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your country" implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.
The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather "What can I and my compatriots do through government" to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? (Capitalism and Freedom)
The political conglomerate of pseudo compassionate anti-establishment collectivists we commonly refer to as "the Left" in America, has furthered its agenda by appealing to the electorate's passion for radical personal freedoms since the 1960s. Social liberalism represents one side of the libertarian-philosophy coin, and its adoption by Leftist activists has been one of the few redeeming qualities of the Democratic Party. It seems as though in the face of ideological degeneration by the Republican Party, —manifested in its abandon of fiscal responsibility and free enterprise ideals (the other side of the coin)— Democrats are lowering their own standards too by compromising on their support for personal freedoms. In such an environment of intellectual slack the mask is finally slipping on the Left's true agenda.
Being in the opposition party no longer, being the anti-establishment rebels no longer, they have no more need for their staple "stick it to the man" oratory flaming up our culture, and no more affinity for "personal freedoms". The Left is mainstreaming and its agenda is achieving dreadful consistency.
The dichotomy between economic freedom and personal freedom had always been a faux rhetorical construction. Economic tyranny, even within an unrealistic bubble of personal freedom, can be reduced to a state of limited autonomy within bureaucratic boundaries dictating severe redistribution of the fruits of any successful efforts. Economic tyranny entails an indirect and often passive infringement of personal freedoms. Personal tyranny is directly intrusive and the active intervention required to enforce it cannot go unnoticed or un-resented by the citizenry. Infringements of either personal or economic liberties are all steps toward the same absolutist political direction, whatever their different nuances on the radicalism scale.
History reveals economic planning and social engineering to be sister tyrannies. In none of the countries where communism ever took over were personal freedoms of speech, association, or personal expression (dress code), reproductive rights, or privacy considerations respected. The absolutist self-declared representatives of the proletariat dictated not only the logistics and priorities of economic production but also conformist uniform morality to the masses. Personal freedom without economic freedom was always unsustainable middle ground.
The new administration is insinuating itself very boldly in the spectrum of personal freedoms previously assumed to be off-limits for the Left. Obama and Emanuel will not be satisfied with allowing us to lead our individual lives as we please while merely contingently burdening us with heavy taxes in case we "overly" succeed at making a living. No. They also want your sweat and blood. They want to not only ration the funds in your bank account, but also the hours in your week during high school and college, as well as a bloc of a few months between the 18th and 25th year of your life.
Is the Left getting bolder, or is it just getting consistent?If you like this post - buy me a coffee
The election is finally behind us. After initial sighs of relief and disappointment many are already beginning to re-examine the American electorate’s fault lines. What pundits call a “center-right” nation is actually a diverse culture characterized by respect for individualism, freedom, ingenuity, and by aspirations toward American exceptionalism. Articulating the tenets of this culture had been the driving force behind Ronald Reagan’s landslide electoral victories and this same ideological vigor is bubbling up again in certain parts of the Republican mosh pit.
Other elements within the American Right are insinuating corrosive tactics into the political discourse, and seek to counter Leftist-induced capitulationism with crypto-fascist madness. The ideological dilemma facing the Right is being played out in the political arena but also in the cultural microcosm of the blogosphere. The recent fallout between the libertarian Charles Johnson of LGF and the religious supremacist Robert Spencer of JihadWatch offers instructive perspective into the fractures of the Right.
For Johnson it wasn’t much of a blog-war rather a series of restrained guerrilla attacks on his open threads, where he announced the rift and reported on incoming hate mail from Spencer’s camp. However, Spencer himself along with the ever bellicose Pamela Geller did take the battlefield with public announcements or shall I say, denouncements, on their respective blogs.
Inquiring minds need to know how it got to this, so let’s trace back this affair’s developments chronologically, shall we?
September 8th, 2008: Charles Johnson posts an article denouncing the so-called Anti-Islamization Conference in Cologne, which was nothing but a congregation of European neo-fascists under the convenient shell of “opposition to Islamization.” Among the most prominent participants/organizers/speakers we can count Markus Beisicht of the Pro NRW (Pro North-Rhine Westphalia), blaster of “the-fags-running-down-his-fatherland” and fascist-slogan-waving Henry Nitzsche, white-Europe-choosing and hypothetically-black-man-mating-daughter-disapproving Filip DeWinter of Vlaams Belang, Moroccan-child-beating arsonist Mario (the “bourgeois”) Borgheze, Nazi-insignia-wearing and falafel-ophobic Heinz-Christian Strache of The Freedom Party, and the no-hyperlink-needing infamous Jean-Marie Le Pen.
In the comment section of this article, Charles posts a lone link to a JihadWatch post supportive of the conference, silently indicating that his eyebrows are raised at Robert Spencer.
September 12th, 2008: Robert Spencer pulls down the original article from his site, offering a detailed explanation of his reasons — an account conceding that the individuals and organizations involved in the Cologne Conference have pan-fascist agendas, which no respectable counter-jihadist ought to support. His explanation for why the post was ever published in the first place and had remained on his site for four days, essentially boiled down to its author —Raymond Ibrahim— having been unaware of “all the issues involved” while he —Robert Spencer himself— had been too distracted to notice the post. From Spencer’s clarification:
One of the advantages of having other people write for this site is that it allows me, every now and again, to do other things. But that also means that occasionally I miss things that are posted here. It was brought to my attention this morning that there was a favorable post here a few days ago about Iran protesting against an upcoming anti-jihad conference in Europe that features Jean-Marie LePen, the FPO of Austria, and other prominent European far-right politicians. I took it down just now, as we do not support European neo-fascism or race supremacism (and the person who posted it didn't know all the issues involved), but I didn't want simply to take the post down without explanation.
Charles Johnson seemingly bought it, but none of this squared off with me. It certainly didn’t help that from my initial cursory glance at the vanished article, the “Raymond” author signature had been blurred with “Robert” in my mind. Deciding that my memory was more trustworthy than anything coming out of Robert Spencer’s mouth, I accused him of being the original author of the article and of scapegoating Raymond for the debacle. Despite my good reasons for deeply distrusting Spencer, Google cache proved me wrong on this instance. My visual memory is by no means infallible and I retracted my accusation when presented with compelling evidence. Robert indeed screeched that this undoubtedly proved me a liar, while it merely proved me wrong: I knew at least Charles Johnson had read the article before it disappeared and that he would have noticed the author. I wouldn’t have charged Spencer of being the author unless I was convinced that others who had also read the article before it was pulled down would also vouch for what I thought I had seen.
Sometime Between September 12th and September 27th: Said article is stealthily reposted and live on JihadWatch —the same article that Robert Spencer wrote a 922-word backpedaling “clarification” to announce the retraction of. I was right not to put dirty internet tricks above him after all. I noticed it on September 27th, but who knows how much earlier it had been reinstated…
Didn’t Robert Spencer owe his readers another 1000-word enlightened clarification of why he re-posted the same article he had earlier repudiated as ill-conceived and ignorant of the disreputable people involved? Or was the initial retraction coupled with the public repudiation of the European neo-fascist participants of the Cologne Conference an insincere attempt to appease Charles Johnson —nothing but a farcical little show?
September 28th 2008: Robert’s conference-crashing buddy Andrew Bostom emphatically proclaims so:
Following Johnson’s e-mail threat to another close friend — the brilliant scholar and author Robert Spencer — after Raymond Ibrahim (editor/translator of The Al Qaeda Reader) simply blogged a favorable discussion (subsequently removed by Spencer, pace Johnson’s threat!) of Diana West’s September 18, 2008 Town Hall.com column at the Jihad Watch/Dhimmi Watch website — I noticed that National Review Online had a featured link (on 9/19/08) to the same West column.
Spencer has recurrently uttered vicious personal invectives against both myself and my husband on numerous occasions, with labels including but not limited to dishonest, smearing, mendacious, swamp-fevering character assassins, malicious and slanderous, liar liar liar, inveterate and consistent liar, manifold, intricate, and subtle liar who uses formidable intellect only for evil, and my favorite, Nazi emulator. Most of Spencer’s seething attacks, not included here due to their dull redundancy, tend to compulsively charge me with ‘libel’ over the contents of my report, which barely deals with Spencer personally but rather airs out the dark closet of his friend and associate James Jatras of the so-called American Council for Kosovo —the front group for a radical and violent organization called the Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metojiha.
Spencer’s reaction has been so oversensitive and overblown, that I am amazed he hasn’t virulently charged Bostom (who supports the participants of the Cologne Conference and clearly alludes to Spencer also sharing such sympathies underneath the lip service paid to Charles Johnson out of fear) with making libelous accusations and smearing his character! For what could be more libelous, more smearing, more demeaning and shaming for an aspiring "scholar" than to be accused of prostituting his public assignment of grave characterizations (such as "fascist," "racist," or "race supremacist") to various people and organizations just in order to salvage his personal relationship with some blogger?!!
If I were a public figure and anyone publicly stated or implied that I don’t mean what I write or what I retract but merely act under coercion against my true convictions, I would: consider it a grave insult, vehemently deny the charge, demand an apology, and if not granted, entertain a lawsuit. In fact I would react the same way even in my own shoes of obscurity, minus the lawsuit part which I cannot afford to even entertain. Bostom has essentially ruled that Spencer does not actually believe the organizers and participants of the Cologne Conference to be neo-fascists worthy of being shunned, but “being vulnerable” (in Bostom’s own words), he acquiesces to Johnson and toes the line. If so, Spencer would ironically be guilty of the charge he loves to hurl at others —libel— namely making allegations he knows to be false, which give various individuals (the alleged/disputed crypto fascists) a bad reputation!
If, on the other hand, Spencer knows these organizations and individuals to be neo-fascist in agenda and character (as his post suggests), yet believes that’s all fine and dandy so long as he can subvert them toward his holy crusade again Islam —his pet-boogeyman— what then? What would that make him? A fascist apologist? A fascist sympathizer?
But Robert does expliticly state the anti-jihad movement should not indulge that side of the political spectrum in Europe or elsewhere. Only that Andrew Bostom claims Spencer doesn’t really mean this, and the pro-Cologne article sneakily crawling back up on JihadWatch shortly after the curtains went down on that little show Spencer put for Johnson certainly reinforces such impression. What does that make him then? A spineless hypocrite?
What kind of "scholar" triangulates his public positions so tightly between hypocrisy, fascist sympathy, and cowardice-induced libel? Then again, what kinds of "scholar" foams at the mouth over an obscure blog post of a 22-year-old college girl and goes as far as to call her a Nazi-emulator over it? Well Robert Spencer —the Beetlejuice of Internet forums who magically appears anywhere his name is invoked more than twice in order to furiously intimidate any critics— does.
But perhaps the points raised so far are too tangential. Robert Spencer discredits himself through his own words in much less equivocal terms. He writes:
The post in question was written by Raymond Ibrahim. I have discussed it with Raymond, who was not aware of the affiliations of the people involved when he posted it, and he was fine with my taking it down.
The only problem here is that —forgetting for a moment what Raymond did or didn’t know— Hugh Fitzgerald himself, the vice president of JihadWatch (whatever that means) made the following comment on the post in question on the very first day it was published:
If this Conference is left solely in the hands of those who are not only certifiably "right-wing" but lepenesque, and therefore disreputable, then it is the duty of others, the respectable anti-Islam legions, not to ignore the Conference or to stay morally pure, but rather to attend, even to swell its numbers, and change its nature, by appearing in force. Show Cologne, show Germany, show the E.U. that one can be just as sweet and liberal and anti-Fascist as all get out, and also want, for those very reasons, a complete halt to Muslim migration to Europe, and a deliberate policy of countering the Money Weapon, campaigns of Da'wa, and demographic conquest -- all over Western Europe, resulting in a greatly diminished Muslim presence in the Lands of the Infidels. This has to be done. It will have to be done now, peacefully, or later, less peacefully. It can't be avoided. It's what's to come. It is not still unsure. But, to quote an old poet, and to appropriate his more traditional use of the carpe-diem imperative, in delay there lies no plenty.
So get cracking.
Hugh knew of the lepenesque character of the conference’s protagonists and was clearly instructing his minions to not “stay morally pure” notwithstanding the neo-fascist agenda of the upcoming Cologne rally. In a lunatic leap of logic, he proposes that rallying up behind fascists and appearing in force at their events will show Cologne, Germany, and indeed all of Europe, that not only fascist agitators, but also sweet liberal anti-Fascists are concerned about Islam.
Wait… I thought anti-Fascists would never ally with fascists by definition. What about that rant regarding the inevitable clash of civilizations, demographic battles, and the need to greatly diminish Muslim presence in the lands of the Infidels? It can be done peacefully now or less peacefully in the future —he says— but done it must be. Is it me or this fatalistic tone foreshadows a borderline genocidal scenario Hugh sounds to be creaming his pants at the contemplation of?
Spencer’s 922-word backpedaling clarification for pulling down the pro-Cologne article from which Hugh’s comment is drawn, also absolves Hugh himself and in fact uses his articles as an example of how opposed to fascists “we at JihadWatch are.” In the meanwhile, Hugh has been drifting in an entirely different direction as we’ve just seen. So what happened? Did Hugh acquiesce to Spencer or to Johnson in towing the line? Are the internal affairs of JihadWatch so chaotic that Spencer cannot learn from his "VP" what is happening at his own blog, but rather needs problematic content to be second-handedly reported to him by readers of other blogs?
Again, why has the post been put back up on JihadWatch since at least September 27th without explanation?
Satisfied that no rational reader at this point can escape the conclusion that this has been a disgraceful flip-flop on Spencer’s behalf, I will move on.
October 25th, 2008: Spencer posts a rather awkward article lionizing a certain long-winded smarmy European pseudo-intellectual by the penname of Fjordman, whom Charles Johnson has long exposed as a fascist sympathizer. Robert Spencer’s justification for so unexpectedly standing assuredly by Fjordman and vouching for his character must have struck his readers as out of place:
The learned European essayist Fjordman here reviews Ali Sina's Understanding Muhammad. Since Fjordman has been accused of being a white supremacist and a neofascist, some people have also accused me of being a white supremacist and neofascist, because I publish his fine essays on jihad and the Islamization of Europe. So I thought I would take this opportunity to say that while white supremacism and neofascism are wrong and should everywhere be opposed, I do not believe Fjordman is a white supremacist or a neofascist.
Who are these people who have smeared poor Fjordman with such naughty epithets? And who is trying to drag Spencer down along with him? This is a passive-aggressive thinly-veiled affront to Charles Johnson and me, respectively, though I have never called Spencer a neo-fascist or white supremacist to date, and I believe Charles has characterized Fjordman as merely a sympathizer and apologist of said unsavory ideologies.
Johnson has made his repudiation of Fjordman public for almost a year now, so why did Spencer take so long to absolve Fjordman? He was obviously trying to play nice with both sides but finally tipped over the edge. This was his way of telling Charles he had chosen Fjordman, along with the associations the latter’s endorsement carries with it (Vlaams Belang, The Austrian Freedom Party, Sweden Democrats, The National Front, the BNP, The Brussels Journal, Gates of Vienna, etc.). In fact shortly thereafter, Spencer re-blog-rolled the last two, despite their well-documented support for European fascists.
I find curious Spencer’s choice in illustrating Fjordman’s anti racialist worldview: He quotes an excerpt which Fjordman had written —Spencer says— long before any allegations of race supremacism were uttered against him. In this very chosen passage Fjordman defines the challenge for cultural preservation against Radical Islam in racial and xenophobic terms!
We shouldn’t idealize mass-immigration too much. When one group of people move into a territory where another group of people already live, this has usually throughout human history ended in war. Either the newcomers will be expelled, or they will subdue or wipe out the previous inhabitants, or the groups will divide the country between them.
What a gem of historical determinism we have here: classic collectivistic chauvinistic European xenophobia. Hegel would be proud! Fjordman treats people in terms of groups moving into territories, as flocks of sheep or wolves in a perpetual struggle for territorial supremacy.
He advocates “sticking with one’s own kind,” one’s "culture," one’s "race," and resisting assimilation —a very ideologically and literally inbred worldview. I wonder what Fjordman makes of the American experiment where people from all cultures and races flooded into the melting pot: no invasions, no ethnic cleansing, no expulsions, no subduing, no wiping out of anybody. Fjordman is clearly stuck in cultural medievalism and considers all potential immigration as an invasion of his pure genetic and ideological pool by hordes of barbarians.
I see little reason to expect any different result where the indigenous population happens to be white. I do not see why I should have to choose between White Supremacy and White Worthlessness. It is one thing to reject the idea that your culture should be forced onto others, it is quite another thing to say that you shouldn’t be allowed to retain your culture even in your own country. The latter is simply a matter of self-preservation, the most basic instinct of all living things down to bacteria level.
No talk of institutions, no talk of what European culture is supposed to consist of: only racialist remarks and allusions to White Supremacy as the politically incorrect term for legitimate self-preservation. Yes, I can and do read between the lines.
I have a right to preserve my culture, too, even though I have blue eyes, and cannot see anything “racist” in not wanting my children to become a persecuted minority in their own country through mass immigration. That you are denounced as a White Supremacist for just stating the obvious shows how deeply entrenched and internalized this anti-white bias has become.
And what is it that your culture consists of, Fjordman, other than your blue eyes? You never elucidate on it beyond that. Why are you even bringing up unfair accusations of White Supremacy before anyone has implicated you? Are you making any "preemptive" moves in that direction?
Is this passage the best Robert Spencer can find toward exculpating Fjordman? Just what is Robert Spencer trying to get at here? He continues on:
More recently (two weeks ago), the genuinely neofascist VNN Forum (an evil site to which I will provide no link) criticized one of Fjordman's articles about Europe for not blaming Jews for the problem. VNN Forum writers called Fjordman "a neocon jew-ass-kisser who is either oblivious of the fact that jews are responsible for what is happening or is aware but doesn't have the guts to name the jew." They also pointed out that "the Brussels Journal is never critical towards the Jew" and went on to complain that "multiculturalism stops when the Jew is down and out. Those Islamophobic 'nationalist' parties accomplish nothing....I would rather see anti-synagogue marches over anti-mosque ones. The mosques become a non-issue if you defeat the wretched sheeny." I would rather stand with Israel, and Fjordman, than with those racist neo-fascists.
He would rather stand with Israel, and Fjordman, and Markus Beisicht of Pro NRW, with blaster-of-the-fags-running-down-his-fatherland and fascist-slogan-waving Henry Nitzsche, with white-Europe-choosing Filip DeWinter of Vlaams Belang, with Moroccan-child-beating arsonist Mario Borgheze, with Nazi-insignia-wearing and falafel-ophobic Heinz-Christian Strache of The Freedom Party, and with Jean-Marie Le Pen, because they too are opposed by some hard core neo-Nazis on the grounds of going after Muslims rather than Jews.
Impressive argument: So because Wahabbis claim Shias are apostates or otherwise infidels and we know Wahabbis to be indisputably Muslim, then we must conclude that Shias are indeed not Muslims because Wahabbis say so. Yes, that makes a whole lot of sense. So because the “genuinely evil” VNN Forum (as opposed to what, the “evil lite” Le Pen et al?) disavows those neo-fascist parties that are shrewdly picking their battles and choosing to demonize Muslims wholesale rather than Jews (the latter being a much less tenable target these days), then said parties cannot actually be neo-fascistic. Because they target Muslims, that is.
How mighty convenient for Spencer, who would just about sell his soul in order to witch-hunt Muslims and Islam all the world over, to have the definition of “fascist” so elegantly rewritten: “if you are anti-Muslim, you cannot be fascist because the VNN Forum would oppose you and one fascist/Nazi cannot be against another.” Whatever is going to happen now to JihadWatch’s long record of opposing Le Pen, the FPO, and Vlaams Belang? They’re magically not fascists now because they are anti-Muslim, and the two are mutually exclusive as we know from the VNN’s annals of wisdom?
It is on the comment section of this very post that Robert Spencer bursts in unprovoked despicable insults against me and starts compulsively scratching a spot that must have been itching for a while: He makes the following fascinating contention:
I went back and took a look at Kejda Gjermani's libelous "expose."
Much of her case hinges upon this assertion:
"The deceptively named American Council for Kosovo is in fact a front group for the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, whose president Milan Ivanovic was arrested by the UN administration (he took his sweet time to turn himself in after initially going into hiding) on charges of attempted murder (later dropped) and of leading a violent demonstration, during which at least one hand-grenade was thrown at the police (Ivanovic has been personally accused of this act but evidence was inconclusive for a conviction, hence the dropped charge of attempted murder), and 22 mainly Polish peacekeepers were injured. [...]
Mr. Ivanovic is a hard-line nationalist by anyone’s definition, a staunch supporter of the neo-fascist Serbian Radical Party— an ultra-nationalists‘ melting crackpot of greater scale and proportion than even its name suggests. For starters, the Party organized the recent rallies in Serbia to protest Radovan Karadzic’s arrest, in which the same Ivanovic was visibly involved...
The only problem with this is that her basic assertion, that the American Council for Kosovo is a front group for Ivanovic's group, is false, and she provides no evidence to establish it. ACK spokesman James Jatras says this:
With respect to the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija as identified in the American Council for Kosovo's disclaimer, and the suggested relationship with Dr. Milan Ivanovic: in Kosovo today there is more than one organization operating under the name "Serbian National Council," or some variant of that name. These groups, some of them quite small, have differing political perspectives -- though all categorically reject separation of the province from Serbia -- and accordingly may align themselves with different Serbian political parties. As already noted, the American Council for Kosovo reflects the views of the Kosovo Serbian community as voiced by Bishop Artemije. I am unaware of Dr. Ivanovic's affiliation with any organization connected with the Bishop. If the implication of the comment is that the American Council for Kosovo is somehow controlled or directed by Dr. Ivanovic, that absolutely is not the case. However, I have met Dr. Ivanovic in the course of my visits to Kosovo and believe the aspersions cast against him are unwarranted. There is nothing "radical" or "anti-American," much less "supremacist," about him as far as I am aware, unless one regards opposition to Washington's illegal, pro-jihad anti-Serbian policy as being anti-American.
Kejda Gjermani is an accomplished liar, but in the final analysis that is all that she is: a liar.
Like momma said: “Don’t scratch that itch or it will only get worse!” Robert didn’t have to go there. If the investigative digs of an unknown college girl made him uncomfortable, the most sensible response for him would have been to ignore them and wait for my post to fade away in the vast cold blogo(atmo)sphere. But Robert just couldn’t let it go. He frantically calls me an “accomplished liar,” but I haven’t accomplished anything noteworthy and I only post articles at my private website once in a blue moon on miscellaneous topics of my interest.
Robert is the one who has built an entire career out of selling demagogic incendiary books demonizing Muslims and extolling the Crusaders, and out of giving public speeches trying to convince Muslims that their religion is indeed inherently and incorrigibly violent and supremacist and that they better get consistent in taking seriously any and all genocidal verses of the Qur’an —quite an accomplished demagogue, wouldn’t you say? Yet Robert’s career and, most importantly, his self-esteem, depend on his ability to maintain an aura of respectability and an image of erudite “scholar.” Exposed associations with vile extremists chip away at such carefully crafted public image, so Robert can’t help foaming at the mouth and impulsively suppressing anyone shining the spotlight on his putrid closet. Indeed he is outraged that I have not been banned on LGF and has even sent his sock-puppets to intimidate me with legal threats at my own blog.
Oh, but he has done it now! I have supposedly asserted without proof that A equals A: that the Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metohija whose leader is the outrageous violent-protest organizer, alleged hand-grenade thrower, Radical Party supporter and flaming Karadzic devotee Ivan Milanovic, is the same Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metohija for which Robert Spencer second-handedly works. As if linking organizations of the same exact name with the same identity begs any proof…
When doing my background research on Jatras, I was so struck by this man’s sheer maliciousness, callousness, and pathological lying pattern that I assumed he was some sort of evil mastermind concocting genial campaigns of nauseating Belgrade propaganda. But in Robert’s comment I am reminded again of the banality of evil. The claim that somehow there are many small organizations in Kosovo by the same exact name which act independently of one-another and bear no responsibility of each-others’ members’ and leaders’ acts or statements is a laughably desperate (and just plain laughable) attempt to evade the scrutiny that naturally comes with Ivan Milanovic’s disreputable background.
The claim doesn’t stand even at face value: Who has heard of multiple unaffiliated organizations by the very same name operating within the boundaries of a 10,908 km2 region? Wouldn’t people confuse them all the time among each other? Wouldn’t the self-respectable ones among these organizations, if there be any, adopt a different name in order to distance themselves from the anarchic ones which are staging riots against the police? How do they keep track of one-another? Do they have separate serial numbers by any chance?
Perhaps Jatras is banking on casual examiners getting confused upon seeing the acronym for the Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metohije appear as SNV in some places and SNC in others, and concluding that there must be at least two different organizations by the same name. This is not, however, the case: SNV is merely the Serbian-language-equivalent of SNC and they both refer to the same organization led by Ivanovic and by the Bishop. I invite everyone to look at the source of this photo of the leadership of the Serbian National Council for Kosovo and Metohija, posted at the dear Bishop’s own website, with the caption “Leadership of the Serb National Council at press conference in Belgrade Media Center, May 30, 2003 (from left to right: Dr. Marko Jaksic, Dr. Rada Trajkovic, Bishop Artemije, Dr. Milan Ivanovic)”. That ain’t half bad for a smoking gun, now is it?
In short, Robert: You and Jatras are the liars, though I would not deign you with the “accomplished” prefix, because as fevered demagogues spouting off way too many lies to keep track of, you have accomplished nothing other than discrediting yourselves anew. And don’t bother pulling down the article or deleting the cache, because I have saved everything.
Robert Spencer is the stooge of an organization whose leaders have been blacklisted by the US government for providing support to war criminals, violently opposing legal institutions, and undermining the peace process in the Balkans. What a maverick of a "scholar" Robert is!
October 31st, 2008: Robert Spencer announces the break with Charles Johnson, violently echoed by the manic fascist supporters Pamella Geller and Gates of Vienna. In his long-winded diatribe against Johnson, Spencer wraps it up like so:
Is that not absurd? I have gone on record many, many times explaining why I reject race-based approaches to the jihad threat -- most recently in connection with the Cologne conference.
But Hugh did support the Cologne conference, and JihadWatch stealthily reinstated the post it supposedly pulled down.
But Le Pen and the BNP are anti-Muslim, and by the VNN Forum’s argument which Spencer employed earlier to absolve Fjordman, they cannot be neo-fascists. Also Vlaams Belang, the FPO, Sweden Democrats, et al. all traffic in “such approaches.”
The controversy here is over whether or not some other individuals and groups belong in that category, not over whether one should support race supremacism and genocide or not. Charles has done a grave disservice by acting as if those who reject his judgments about these groups and individuals, or who even -- like me -- are willing to entertain differing points of view on these matters, are ipso facto neo-Nazi or white supremacist sympathizers.
What would these different points of view of yours on the matter be, Robert? It is nothing but unsustainable middle ground that you are willing to entertain. You either believe these European parties have neo-fascist agendas or you don’t.
Meanwhile, I note also with sorrow that the mendacious Kejda Gjermani ("medaura") is spreading her libelous attacks on me at LGF yet again, as she has been allowed to do for months. It is telling.
So mendacious that medaura, eh? It is telling she hasn’t been censored for repeating inconvenient yet indisputable facts regarding Robert’s associations.
I want to emphasize that I have not endorsed the Vlaams Belang. This whole controversy is not about the Vlaams Belang, but about whether or not one can disagree with Charles Johnson and not be defamed as a result. I have merely recognized that people of good will, who are not "seriously deluded" (as someone calls them below) and are not racists or neofascists, have mounted a case opposing Charles Johnson's assessment of the Vlaams Belang. In other words, the question is not whether or not we should support neofascists, but whether or not Vlaams Belang is neofascist. That question is hotly disputed, and those who think that Johnson has not made his case are not evil just for thinking that.
Typical Robert Spencer “open-mindedness”: his official stance on Kosovo is one of only-time-will-tell skepticism, yet he aggressively works on behalf of the Serbian lobby in order to revoke the world’s newest country’s independence. That’s so neutral indeed. He is vehemently opposed to neo-fascists and white-supremacists (and who isn’t, on record?) yet he keeps an “open mind” as to which individuals and organizations deserve such labels. While he keeps his mind perpetually wide open, he supports everyone so long as they can be instrumental to him in attacking Muslims. It is oh-so-easy to vacuously oppose fascism when you don’t believe fascists are fascists, because the opposition can thus remain purely theoretical and abstract!
Spencer also fervently opposes Serbian genocide on principle, yet his closest associates (Jatras, Trifkovic, and Gorin) are Srebrenica genocide deniers. It is easy to vacuously oppose Serbian genocide if you never believe it happened. The genocide Spencer believes in supposedly took place in Kosovo, was perpetrated by the Albanian Jihadists against the poor Christian Serbs indeed, and was aided and abetted by NATO, the UN, and the EU. Yes, they were all in on it!
Of course, it has been exposed by only an anonymous individual claiming to be a current member of the international mission in Kosovo (the unverifiability of such claim due to the writer’s anonymity somehow escaping Spencer) writing under the penname of Iseult Henry. That’s right! After all, he has to be anonymous, otherwise his life would be endangered by the evil spies of the US, UN, and EU —entities which are all in on the genocidal master plan and would fall short of nothing to suppress the truth from leaking out!
What kind of "scholar" toys with genocide? Even Albanian supporters do not claim that genocide against Kosovars took place, however more reasonable such proposition would still be compared to the reverse claim made by Spencer. Stephen Schwartz writes:
Ms. Gorin states that NATO bombed Serbia “to prevent a genocide that forensics turned up empty.” Yes, the genocide was prevented. It did not take place. Nobody claimed it had taken place, only that it was attempted. Genocide means the murder of a whole people; obviously, the Albanians were not wholly murdered.
Charles Johnson, whatever one may think of his political leanings, has unequivocally exposed thinly-disguised fascists and repudiated them wholeheartedly again and again. He was never so desperate for allies as to turn a blind eye to the ideological demons swarming right under these European political conglomerates’ insincere pretensions toward "mainstreamness" and moderation. Johnson’s endorsement had been Robert Spencer’s last main reputational anchor into the sane respectable intellectual world. Now that he deservedly lost it, let him agitate away at the fringes where he belongs.
The spread of Radical Islam poses an eminent threat to the civilized world. Anyone knows it. Even brainwashed cultural-relativist Leftists know, hard as they may try to airbrush the elephant in the room.
Highlighting the need for formulating a strategic response to this menace is not rocket science. Yet it should take no towering genius either to categorically reject and denounce certain ideological proposals for being at least as abominable and dangerous to civilization as the militant islamism they purport to protect it from. The resurgence of neo-fascist activism across the Old Continent is alarming. Such regressive ill-conceived reaction to the rise of Radical Islam is yet another living testament to Europe’s ideological sterility. Disturbing shades of brown are agitating the zeitgeist of many European countries these days. Robert Spencer, James Jatras, Julia Gorin, Andrew Bostom, Pamela Geller, Fjordman, Baron Bodissey, and Dymphna are more than welcome to coalesce toward this violent brown where their ideological affinities truly lie, so long as everyone knows where they stand. It would be nice though, in fact too nice to ask, that they at least not lie to themselves about the nature of the choice they have made. Far from being friends of peace, freedom, prosperity, and civilization, they in fact belong to a hateful and subversive stripe of agitators. which must be marginalized if both progress against radical islamists and future electoral success are to be achieved.
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A casual observer of Albanian Communist cultural paraphernalia (such as Enver’s speeches, Socialist Realist paintings, Party-approved monuments or poems, state-produced films, etc.) might deduce that Enver Hoxha fancied himself a glorious leader of an epic rural nation because of the pervasive themes of mythological collective greatness and romanticized legends coloring Albania’s grim history. Enver is also portrayed as nothing short of an Iliadic hero. But that’s because of all the quixotic sugar-coating, underneath which Enver’s relationship with his people was merely that between a shepherd and a big flock of sheep. Yet judging by what little of his writings I have managed to stomach reading, he sounded like a romantic type of sorts, hence the many coats of purely ornamental lipstick on the pig that his 50-year reign was.
Aside from the vast legacy of quintessentially communist, hideous, decrepit, pigeonhole-type multipurpose buildings whose cheap paint has been peeling off for decades like a leper’s scabs, and, let’s not forget, the nearly 800,000 bunkers awkwardly dotting every corner of the country, Albanians have another haunting ubiquitous scar by which to remember Uncle Enver (as his young minions were expected to affectionately address him, just shy of full-fledged Big-Brotherhood): the aftermath of his pathological pursuit of Albanian folk music as a medium for communist indoctrination and personal self-aggrandizement. Certainly not the humblest of fellows, Uncle Enver relentlessly insinuated himself into Albanian art, and had epic songs re-written to glorify himself as the one and only eternal mythological leader of the Communist Party and, by extension, of the entire nation.
The repulsive paintings and sculptures in the vein of Socialist Realism are one thing. That genre was a totalitarian and expressionally barren artistic staple of Communist rule across the world. As much of a sore to the eyes as that “art” was, it is now no more, with no irrevocable harm done. By contrast, the perversion of Albanian music is a far graver and uniquely damaging offense because song has historically been the paramount medium of artistic expression for the Albanian people —an icon of cultural identity far more relevant than visual art. Epic songs form the centerpiece of Albania’s oral tradition. Replacing the historic themes of Albanian music with idolization of a modern totalitarian dogma is more subtly Orwellian than any act of blatant revisionism could have been.
In order for the Western reader to appreciate just how abominable this perversion of art truly is, some basic familiarity with the epic musical tradition of Albania is needed. Below are a few sample songs with lyrics translated by yours truly, for you to explore and digest before we dive head-on into Uncle Enver’s hard-core dementia. Traditional songs will be analyzed for a compare-and-contrast exercise with Communist pseudo-folk creations. I hope you may find this batch of songs interesting and, —dare I hope?— instructive, even from a purely anthropological perspective into the cultural heritage of this obscure Balkan nation.
Hasmi zu vatane/ The enemy has taken over the homeland
Lulet u thane/ Flowers have dried up
Flaka mbuloi fshane/ Flames have engulfed the village
Foshnjat u qane/ The babies have cried themselves out
O ju djemte tane/ Oh you boys of ours
Nxirrni Jatagane/ Pull out your swords
Zini histikme/ Take your positions
Ne na kini prane/ Stay close to us
Trima me palle/ Brave boys with swords
O ju djemte tane/ Oh you boys of ours
This emotionally electrifying, somber song from the South portrays the setting of a clash with foreign invaders, almost certainly Ottomans: the destruction of the village as its men are preparing to fight back is laconically described. The reference is probably to one of the countless spontaneous Albanian rebellions to which the Ottoman Empire typically responded by sending over punitive squads to burn down the rebels’ settlements, kill their leaders, and terrorize the villagers who had supported them. The tone of the song and the subtle dreadfulness of the lyrics —the nuances of which do not lend themselves easily to translation,— foreshadow a tragic end for the villagers: they are getting ready to put up a valiant fight before they die. Note that throughout the minimalistic lyrics, the only recurring epithet of praise is “brave”. Bravery (a notion loosely interchangeable with heroism) represents the pinnacle of valor for Albanian men to aspire to.
Here is another rendition of this famous song—albeit more mournful in tenor.
Janines ci pane syte/ What have Ioannina’s eyes seen! [If only you could have seen through Ioannina's eyes/ what happened in Ioannina]
Ja-Janino’/ Io.. Oh Ioannina
Ish e premte ajo dite/ That day was a Friday
Te Pese puset ne gryke/ At the entry of the Five Wells [geographic designation]
Zenel Celua vet i dyte/ Zenel Celo in second person [was not alone]
Zeneli me te Velcione/ Zenel with the Velcionian [someone from the Velc village]
Dhe trimi Jace Mavrone/ And the brave Jace Mavro
Cau mespermes tabore/ Cut right through the soldiers
E shtriu pashane e gjore/ And knocked down [slew] the poor Pasha
This very famous song commemorates the turning point of a battle against the Ottomans in Ioannina (a city situated in modern Greece which has been historically Albanian until the implosion of the Ottoman Empire, at which point Greece annexed it with the backing of Great Britain and France, and eventually had it ethnically cleansed). Three men, two of which are mentioned by name whereas the third one is identified by only his village of origin, heroically cut right through the enemy lines and kill the Ottoman Pasha in the heat of the battle.
The lyrics and melody reek of pride and reverence, but the song-writer’s perspective is modest: S/he lets the simple story speak for itself, and again, uses only the underhanded “brave” epithet (and uses it just once) to give any overt praise. Such laudatory restraint is a staple of not only epic music, but of Albanian tradition in general, which was forged by coarse minimalism through the centuries.
There are many renditions of this great song, a traditional polyphonic one to be found here, and —a modern, somewhat bastardized but uplifting version— here.
Doli Shkurti hyri Marsi/ February is out, March is in
Ne Gjirokaster u vra bimbashi/ Bimbashi [local head of Ottoman forces] was killed in Gjirokastra
Te vrane bimbash te vrane/ They killed you Bimbash, they killed you
Hitoja me Bajramne/ Hito and Bajram did
Nga Janina vjen Mazapi/ The Mazap [Ottoman leader] is coming from Ioannina
Ne Mashkullore te rrapi/ To Mashkullore [geographical designation] at the plane tree
Te rrapi ne Mashkullore/ At the plane tree in Mashkullore
Foli Cercizi me goje/ Cercizi spoke through his mouth [Cercizi said so himself]
Mylazim largo taborre/ Mylazim [Ottoman official], send your soldiers away
leri djemt e mij te shkojne/ Let my boys go
se do t’ju kuq t’ju bej me boje/ Or I shall make you red, with paint [an indirect reference to blood]
do t’ju kuq t’ju bej me boje/ I shall make you red with paint
se ashtu e kam zakone/ Because that is how I do things
Cerciz Topulli me thone/ They call me Cerciz Topulli
Hyri Prilli, doli Marsi/ April is in, March is out
Girokaster u vra bimbashi/ Bimbashi was killed in Gjirokastra
Bimbash, tu shofte emri/ Bimbash, may your name be extinguished [cursed]
me jete paguhet nderi/ With life is how honor is paid off
Nga Janina vjen mazapi/ The Mazap is coming from Ioannina
Ne Mashkullore te rrapi/ To Mashkullore at the plane tree
Te rrapi ne Mashkullore/ At the plane tree in Mashkullore
Foli Cercizi me goje/ Cercizi spoke through his mouth
-Mulazim hiq tabore/ Mylazim, send your soldiers away
Leri djemte e mij te shkojne/ Let my boys go
Se trimat ashtu leftojne/ Because that’s how brave men fight
Ashtu sic kane zakone/ The way they are used to [the way they know how]
Do t’ju kuq t’ju bej me boje/ I shall make you red with paint
- Cerciz vrane Hajredine/ Cerciz, they killed Hajredin
-Mire bene qe e vrane/ Good for them
Degjoni, qafa Kapllane/ Listen up, I swear on my life
Haken s’ja leme pa marre/ We won’t rest until we avenge him
Ne xhandare e ne nizame/ Through nizams and policemen
Kokat e tryre ne sater do vene/ Their heads shall roll
Ashtu sic beme per anene/ Just like we did for Mother
Cerciz Topulli was a revolutionary hero from Gjirokaster who fought for the liberation and independence of Albania. With his guerrilla unit, he killed the head of Ottoman armed forces in Gjirokaster in early March, 1908. Later that month he led the battle against Ottoman reinforcements in Mashkullore. That is the historic reference of the song: him facing down the Ottomans with a speech under the plane tree in Mashkullore. This is an early 20th-century song —much more recent than the others presented so far— hence the instrumental background (a modern occurrence) instead of the bare polyphony.
Though Cerciz Topulli is one of the most loved national figures of Albania (especially in the south), the song-writer engages in no direct glorification of his persona. Here again more is less: Cercizi’s valor is instead illustrated by means of his own words, in terms which are self-evident to the audience: brisk yet somewhat implicit references to a tradition or second nature of fighting with bravery to the death and of how honor/freedom is worth dying/killing for.
Mora rrugen per Janine/ I was headed for Ioannina
isha vetem/ I was alone
bashke me arabaxhine/ Along with the servant
apo nate/ At night
bashke me arabaxhine apo nate/ Along with the servant at night
atje me zune pusine/ That’s where they had laid the ambush
isha vetem/ I was alone
copa-copa ma bene melcine dhe zemren/ They chopped my liver and heart to pieces
The reference to the ambush in this painful song is, I believe, actually Greek rather than Ottoman. Starting from the last half of the 19th century and until the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians have been killed or otherwise forcefully expelled from what consequently became the northern part of modern Greece. As can be easily inferred from these songs, Ioannina was a very important city in Albanian culture. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two other touching songs centered on Ioannina.
Në Janinë ferman po vjenë/ The enemy is coming to Ioannina
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Dil Ali Pasha përpara/ Come out Ali Pasha and face them [in battle]
Dil Pasha se po vjen nata/ Come out Pasha because the night is falling [it is getting late]
Këmbekryq mbi kanapenë/ He sits on his sofa with legs crossed [in lotus position]
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Ali Pasha, dili pritë/ Ali Pasha, lay an ambush for them
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Dil Ali Pasha përpara/ Come out Ali Pasha and face them
Dil Pasha se po vjen nata/ Come out Pasha because the night is falling
(inaudible) more koke-prere/ … head cut off [they are coming for your head]
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Në Turqi (inaudible) ta prene/ In Turkey they cut your …. [quite possibly meaning "They ratted you out in Turkey" or "They sealed your fate in Turkey"]
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The Soldiers are coming
O veziri në Janinë/ Oh you Vizier of Ioannina
Fitove mbi tradhëtine/ You won through treason
The song is from 1822, and depicts the last day of Ali Pasha, the infamous Albanian ruler who had rebelled against Ottoman authority. He’d been betrayed by his own nephews, was vastly outnumbered by the Ottoman forces closing in on him, and had retreated to his castle in Ioannina. His loyal troops are urging him to fight, but he quietly awaits his death, knowing that there is no hope for victory at this point.
We do know from historical sources that when the end was so imminent that he was asked to surrender for the beheading, he declared: “My head…will not be surrendered like the head of a slave” and kept fighting till the end. But the song suggests that he didn’t sacrifice his troops en masse through any hopeless confrontation with the Ottomans before it got to that point. The reference in the song to Ali’s head being severed is therefore quite literal, as his head was in fact cut off and brought to the Sultan in Istanbul. Though the song is sympathetic to Ali Pasha, it does not lionize him in the least, but rather emotionally recounts with a subtle touch of tragedy the last tense moments of his reign.
Full lyrics with some alterations:
Ne Pese-Puse Kala/ At the castle of the Five Wells
dolli palo Jorgua/ [is where] the vile George has come out
Kostandini shkeli krijne/ Constantine swore on his life
te ben pashken ne Janine/ to wreak havoc in Ioannina [in protest of Greece's annexation attempts]
Riza beu-tha-do ndroj dine/ Bey Riza said he would change his faith [convert to Greek Orthodoxy]
do bij bajram ne Athine/ and celebrate Eid al-Adha in [deflect to] Athens
Janine, e zeza Janine/ Ioannina, oh black [mournful/poor/doomed] Ioannina
del e shih asqere qe vijne/ Come out and look at the soldiers coming
Mahmut beu me dhjet mile/ Bey Mahmut with ten thousand [of them]
Moj Janine, o moj Janine/ Ioannina, oh Ioannina
veqil keshe Sheh Aline/ You have Sheh [Ottoman title] Ali for your lord
kajmekami me katine/ The assistant [Sheh Ali's] and his wife
radhazi telit i bijne/ are each playing strings [musical instruments] [meaning: Nero plays the flute while Rome is burning]
Mecove, e zeza Mecove/ Mecove [region near Ioannina], poor/black Mecove
shume u mbajte, pra tu hodhen/ You put up a lot of resistance [carried yourself with dignity], which is why they are assailing you
shqipetaret perpara shkojne/ Albanians are moving forward
me jatagane ne dore/ With swords in their hands
Valle kush e beri fora?/ Who do you think did it big [bravely jumped into battle]?
Selam Hasani nga Vlora/ Salem Hasani from Vlora
pika gjak i kullon kordha/ Blood drops are dripping from his sword
Janine e zeza Janine/ Ioannina, black/poor/doomed Ioannina
Janin-o/ Oh Ioannina
mire ta bene tertipne/ They served your tradition well [sarcastic: they treated you real well]
Selim Qori me Uznine/ Selim Qori and Uznia
ne Korfuz vane e te shitne/ Went to Corfu and sold you out [to the Greeks]
anapolona tre mile/ for three thousand napoleons [gold coins]
Janine te mbite ngjoli/ Ioannina, the swamp is engulfing you [concrete reference: the local lake---metaphorical reference: Greece]
hapi site se te mori/ Open your eyes or it will take you over
Po e pe qe te te marre/ If you see it taking you over
veri xhepanese zjarre/ Blow your castle up
me mire t’e djegesh vete/ Better to burn it yourself
se ta marre Junani shkrrete/ than for Greece to take it abandoned
Janine, motra Janine/ Ioannina, sister Ioannina
dil e shih c’djelma qe vijne/ Look at what kind of boys are coming for you
Taborret e Vlores vijne/ The warriors of Vlora are coming
per Bezhan e per Janine/ for Bezha [a region] and for Ioannina
dolli mileti i prine/ The people are coming to greet them
nuk e mbanin dot gezimne/ They cannot contain their joy
dridhej vendi ne Janine/ The ground is shaking in Ioannina
ka muzikate qe bijne/ from the music they are playing
The above is a merger of three Black-Ioannina-themed songs. Not long after the death of Ali Pasha, the Ottoman Empire started crumbling apart at the corners. Greece had GB’s and France’s backing to annex southern Albanian lands. Some Turkish warlords were bribed and joined the effort to invade Ioannina on behalf of Greece as mercenaries (Bey Mahmut with ten thousand soldiers). Other Ottoman officials are deflecting and converting to Eastern Orthodox Christianity so they can get asylum in Athens (Bey Riza). King George I has claimed Ioannina his, but Constantine (local Albanian leader) has sworn not to let it go. The Ottoman-appointed governor of Ioannina is doing nothing (his assistants are blissfully playing musical instruments). Greek soldiers are approaching. Meceva (region situated to the west of Ioannina) is under assault. Albanians are organizing a resistance. Fighters are coming in from Vlora (their heroism in battle against Greeks is described). The locals are cheering for them as Ioannina’s last hope and have taken heart from their arrival. The singer, in the vein of traditional Albanian honor, is advocating collective suicide for the keepers of Ioannina’s castle in case of defeat. The castle is to be blown to pieces rather than abandoned to the Greeks.
How that fight turned out is given away by today’s political maps of Albania and Greece respectively: Ioannina’s Albanians suffered a brutal fate. Even at this crucial moment when the need for heart-warming propaganda is at a record high, the song-writer does not succumb to the temptation of expediency: the Albanian fighters are modestly portrayed merely as brave boys with swords. The boundaries of praise and glory are unmistakably unpretentious.
One last great song before I get to Enver’s “gems”. This is in fact a lyrical song with epic overtones:
Mbeçe more shokë mbeçe/ I shall stay my friends, I shall stay [farewell]
Përtej Urës së Qabesë/ Across the Bridge of Qabea [somewhere in Asia]
Të fala i bëni nënëse/ Say hello to my mother
Kaun e zi le ta shesë/ Tell her to sell the black ox
Në pyestë nënëja për mua/ Should my mother ask about me
I thoni që u martua/ Tell her that I got married
Në pyeste se ç’nuse mori/ Should she ask what bride I got
Tre plumba te kraharori/ [Tell her] Three bullets in the chest
Në pyeste se ç’krushq i vanë/ Should she ask what guests came to his wedding
Sorrat e korbat e hanë/ [Tell her] Vultures and Crows who ate him
Another great rendition of this dreadful song can be found here. It is about the death of a young Albanian man as a “nizam” (forced recruit) serving in the Ottoman army away from home, in some remote corner of Asia. Ottomans used to draft local youths from the lands they occupied to serve for many years in the ranks of the Ottoman army and fight anywhere in the world for the Empire’s expansionary expeditions or defensive efforts.
The simplicity is striking and painful. This is Albanian folk music at its best.
… … …
This small repertoire is, I believe, more than sufficient to get the message across: Albanians have been an austere, impoverished, and proud people, who were caught for centuries between the brutal Ottomans and the aggressive advances of their neighbors —Greece and Serbia— in a triangulated struggle for survival. The self-imposed price for relative freedom under Ottoman rule was a nearly complete lack of infrastructure and urbanization. Warrior-villagers had to be able to disperse quickly in the forest or retreat into the mountains. Both transportation and long-term accommodation had to be made painstakingly difficult for the Ottoman armies. Hence Albanian settlements as well as personal codes of conduct preserved an archaic medieval austerity well into the 20th century.
Albanians had no resources or inclination to build magnificent edifices of exquisite artistic value, the kinds of which ornament Western European cities. They never reached the kind of prosperity through which talented individuals could afford to specialize as professional artists. For example, Albanians have had virtually zero accomplished painters from their midst (with the exception of Onufer, the famed Byzantine artist). The impoverished warriors had no business pursuing fine arts. Song was their only means of expressive recourse, through which anyone could afford to be an artist. Albanians made the most out of singing since it was the only testament they could assemble for their history: Ioannina is gone after a lot of bloodshed, but there are no photographs, videos, or documentaries depicting what happened. The archeological remnants of the one-time Albanian stronghold are now inaccessible deep within the borders of Greece. The only things Albanians have to commemorate their attachment to Ioannina are their ancient passionate songs. They provide the only livening supplement to the textbook-dry account of events.
Songs are all that Albanians have had of lasting artistic value and cultural impact. Through them traditional values such as honor and bravery are extolled, and measured —as opposed to sycophantic— praise is given to individuals who best exhibited these virtues during the course of memorable events. It is easy to notice the sincere, organic, and bottom-up nature of the songs’ lyrics: The fresh narratives were likely written by either the very participants in the depicted events or by their immediate friends or relatives. The tradition of epic Albanian songs is an intangible monument to freedom, and Enver Hoxha raped this respectable tradition.
The megalomaniac insinuation of his persona everywhere in the musical repertoire and the top-down engineering of labored, sycophantic lyrics, could only be matched in an alternate universe in which Il Duce Mussolini brought back Michelangelo from the dead and coerced him to repaint the Sistine Chapel —the pinnacle of Italian art— according to a fascist artistic tone: with sharp contours and blunt shades to represent fascist vigor, and with Mussolini’s face replacing God’s.
The performers were robbed of the archaic stoicism of their original songs. They were turned into tacky-colored clowns instead, in the big circus that the entire country had become. Just what am I talking about here? How’s this for a birthday present for the Fuhrer?
Dëgjo, Argjiro shqiponja/ Listen, Argjiro, [the castle of Gjirokastra, Enver's hometown] you eagle
këngën, që të sjell gjitonia/ to the song the fair woman has brought you
ç’të ka lezet lëm’ i këngës/ How graceful is her song
Për birin e shtrenjt’ të zemrës/ for her son dearest to her heart
Moj nëna gjirokastrite/ Oh mother from Gjirokastra
gjiri yt me qumësht drite/ Your breast-milk is made out of light
dhe mbi gjithë djepet që rrite/ And of all the cribs [infants] you brought up
ç’t'i jepje shqipes e dite/ You knew just what to give to Albania [i.e: Enver]
lum si ne!/ Blessed/Lucky are we!
Mbas çdo bore në furtunë/ After every snow fall from a storm
ball’ i malit zbardh më shumë/ The mountain’s [Enver's] forehead is even whiter [shinier]
në çdo thinj’ të mençurisë/ In every gray hair of wisdom
beharët e Shqipërisë/ lay the summers [golden days] of Albania
Mes çdo dallge e rrebeshi/ Through every wave and flood
sa udhëheqës, aq ushtarë/ as much a leader as a soldier
historia siç të deshi/ That’s how history wanted you
Komandant dhe Komisar/ Both Commander and Commissar
Shqipërisë, fjale jote/ To Albania, your word
kushtrim dhe flamur epoke/ is a call/chant and flag signifying an era
iu bë dritë siç ëndërronte/ and it was turned into light [fruition] as it [Albania] was dreaming
rrofsh sa moshë e kësaj toke!/ May you live as long as the age of this earth!
Shkon urimi gojë me gojë/ The blessing spreads from mouth to mouth
Shëndet trimit, Enver Hoxhës/ [Good] Health to the brave Enver Hoxha
se të vërtetës së kohës/ Because you were the truth of our times
i dhe krahët e shqiponjës/ You gave wings to the eagle
Shqipëria, nënë e gjirit/ Albania, your nursing mother,
të uron, bir: Jetë të gjatë!/ is wishing you, son: A long life!
dhe kur thotë: “Dita një mijë!”/ And when it says “May your days multiply by 1000!”
nënës prapë i duket pak!/ Even that to the mother seems like too little
O majë e malit me borë/ Oh you snow-capped mountain top
që s’qas re në sinorë/ allowing no cloud to cover you
emri yt gëzim lirie/ Your name is joy of freedom
lule në çdo buzë fëmije/ A flower in every child’s lips
Rrofsh Enver!/ Long live Enver!
Nga Saranda në Tropojë/ From Saranda to Tropoja [southernmost and northernmost cities]
shkon urimi gojë me gojë/ The blessing spreads from mouth to mouth
kush ndrit udhën siç do nëna/ You are the shining light on our path that mother [Albania] always wanted
sa vetë kombit i rreh zemra/ so much so that the entire nation’s heart beats [for you]
Over the top, much?
Uncle Enver seems moved and is weeping. At this point in his life he must be truly scared of dying, hence all the gag-worthy clues to longevity, the age of the Earth itself, and his days multiplied by 1,000. I can imagine how the prospect of death must have been much more painful to him than to us common mortals, since he had much more to lose in life: absolute power over the lives of over 2 million people, for one thing, and supreme control over perception of reality itself by an entire nation. He does not shy from milking his omnipotence for all its worth: he wants his entire nation to tell him he will live forever, in order to indulge himself in believing it. If perception is reality and he essentially controls both, with everyone telling him he will never die, who is he to say any differently?
Enver took great pride and satisfaction in urbanizing and “industrializing” Albania. Shedding the traditional rural garb in favor of mediocre Western clothing was seen as a sign of progress: the transcendence of the proletariat from provincialism and backwardness into the modernity and economic development brought by Communism. We are left to wonder then, why Enver would revel in the performances of such deliberate throw-backs to a more primitive era. The traditional costumes of these performers are symbols of inferiority and backwardness by Communism’s own standards, according to which industrial supremacy trumps all else. The discrepancy could have a purely sentimental explanation, of course: A young Enver may have enjoyed folk songs dedicated to local or national heroes (such as the one about Cerciz Topulli) and he probably once fantasized about being the one for whom such songs are written and performed, so in that sense he may be fulfilling a remote fantasy. Another explanation I suspect, is that the purpose of these songs, —his personal glorification— would be better served if the performers lowered themselves in the eyes of the audience. The tyranny of Communism operates under the cloak of universal equality, which is not the ideal environment for anyone’s personal aggrandizement. A certain perceived distance in status is required between Enver, —the would-be larger-than-life hero— and the sheep singing his praises, hence the deliberate status of inferiority in their appearance: they had to be lowered, so he could stand even higher by contrast.
Notice the lead male singer’s nervous smile and the woman’s exaggerated gestures. In genuine polyphonic epics, the performers almost universally acquire an intense, somber, and contemplative demeanor, as can be seen from the first two videos. The sycophantic servility and mindless collectivism permeating from these lyrics are alien to, in fact, antithetical to, the rugged, passionate, proud, and primitively individualistic culture that produced that choral singing arrangement in the first place.
Never before had Albanians been ruled by an absolute tyrant to whom they had to sell their souls in musical currency. Where is the underhanded praise? Where is the implicit pride? Where is the passionate minimalism? Gone without a trace: what we just saw has been a grotesquely faked orgasm of a traditional folk song.
Whereas here we have what seems to be a young Kyle MacLachlan (or perhaps his identical twin) singing to Enver’s glory, this time in the Northern tradition.
Enver Hoxha e mprehi shpaten, / Enver Hoxha sharpened his sword,
Edhe nje here o per situaten. / Once again for the situation.
Kjo asht shpata qe u rrin tek koka / This is the sword that hangs above the heads,
Gjithe amriqve o qe ka bota. / Of all enemies around the world.
Enver Hoxha, Tungjatjeta! / Long live Enver Hoxha!
Sa keto male e sa keto shkrepa! / [May he live as long] as these mountains and these rocks,
Zanin shqipes lart ia ngrite. / You raised the eagle’s voice up high.
Gjithe kete popull ne drite e qite. / You brought this entire nation out into the light.
Ylli i kuq shnderrin mbi maja. / The red star [communist symbol] shines above the mountain tops.
Bien daullja edhe zyrrhaja. / Drums and bagpipes are playing.
Porsi nuse asht ba Shqipria. / Albania is looking just like a bride [pretty/festive].
Flamurtare i prin Partia. / The [Communist] Party is leading her forward with a flag.
Enver Hoxha, Tungjatjeta! / Long live Enver Hoxha!
Sa keto male e sa keto shkrepa! / [May he live as long] as these mountains and these rocks,
Zanin shqipes lart ia ngrite. / You raised the eagle’s voice up high.
Gjithe kete popull ne drite e qite. / You brought this entire nation out into the light.
First things first: Anyone dressed like a medieval shepherd should not have the first clue on what a political party is. Having these archaic tribal characters sing about the glories of Marxism-Leninism is a deliberate anachronism. It’s completely out of place. And what’s with the depiction of Enver Hoxha as a fierce warrior? Sharpening his sword? Could there be a more absurd mental picture than the tame bourgeois old man in the gray suit barbarically threatening the world with a sword?
As if the performance were not derogatory in itself, these singers are subjected to another indignity: In the end, everyone in the choir is seen wearing wildly different costumes, which in fact represent the main regions of Albania with their respective micro-cultures. The spontaneous regimentation of these singers from such diverse musical and thematic traditions into a single choir is just about as natural as a Russian, Chinese, Sub-Saharan African, Italian, and Arab child, respectively, coming together and holding hands to sing Kumbaya My Lord. Parading the representatives of these largely disjointed traditions as interchangeable collective pegs (under the guise of national unity) on Enver Hoxha’s altar demeans the unique character of each micro-culture, whose songs are distinctively regional.
The same longevity themes are pounded on anew, with greater force with each passing year in order to counter Enver’s growing fear of death. These farcical songs are all so emotionally flat that they sound virtually interchangeable. The lyrics may have well been all written by the same author or by the same committee. Gone is the finesse, the originality, the pride. This prolonged desecration has delivered a devastating blow to folk music in Albania because people simply don’t respect the medium anymore, after decades of continuous subjection to such Orwellian performances as the ones you have just seen.
Folk song used to be a means of resistance to oppressors and commemoration of freedom-seeking revolutions. From 1945 to 1985 however, it became the jewel on the crown of Albania’s most ruthless dictator. The kind of radically collectivist intellectual atmosphere these songs were engineered to facilitate is best illustrated by the next and last song of this article: an unfathomable dynamic of crowd hysterics exalting a larger-than-life leader to whom the crowd’s minions fully surrender their egos. Hoxha instituted a civilian national security force in Albania, called “Sigurimi“, —literally meaning Safety/Security— which enforced the strict observance of the state religion, —Communism— across every corner of the country’s social life, no matter how remote.
Spies and agitators lurked everywhere, and it was not unheard of for family members to turn in one-another over miscellaneous charges of ‘blasphemy’ against statism. Under such repressive conditions so prohibitive to free thinking, citizens were left talking almost entirely to themselves whenever uncomfortable questions or suspicions would arise in their heads, while the rest of the world almost certainly appeared to each of them as a monolithic collective blissful in its unanimous acceptance of Party orthodoxy. I wonder how many a poor soul was ever reduced to wonder whether s/he was the only one in the entire nation entertaining ‘impure’ thoughts. Such ecstatic crowds bursting into unhinged Communist chants should come as no surprise under the circumstances then, since this predictable crowd behavior represented a rare chance for each person to be absolved of his/her private ‘thought crimes’ by publicly renewing the allegiance to the Party and to the Fuhrer and coming out of the experience with a clean slate on their hitherto troubled conscience.
An entire generation of Albanians was born, raised, and matured under such conditions —my parents among it. What’s done is done. Albanians have the cultural scars to remember this horror. I sincerely hope that Americans at least, will taste the danger of ecstatic crowds and spit out any ideological propositions stealthily conducive to such unhinged rampant collectivism before their political system gets poisoned.
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Gjirokaster heroine/ Gjirokaster, heroine,
Bujarisht prite Shqiprine. / You have been a generous host to Albania [the festival for Enver's birthday is held in Gjirokastra, his home town]
Sollem kangen, burim drite, / We brought the song, a fountain of light.
Lum per djalin qe ti rrite, hej! / Blessed be the son you raised [i.e Enver], oh hey!
Ke rrit trim, ke rrit dai, / You have raised a brave, great man
Për kët trull, për kët Shqipni. / For this land, for this Albania.
Zemrat tona gzojn njiherit, / All our hearts are joyous at the same time,
Në ditlindjen e Enverit, / for Enver’s birthday.
Urojn tbardhat nanat tona: / Our white [venerable] mothers wish:
T’njefshim tmirën, o Enver Hoxha! / May we only see good [things] happen to you, oh Enver Hoxha!
Si ortek që zbret prej malit, / Like an avalanche descending from the mountain,
Derdhëm n’sofër t’festivalit / We poured down to join the festival’s table.
Fjale prej zemre, bardh si bora: / Words from hearts white [pure] as snow [sincere words]:
Bir i popullit të lumt dora! / Well done [great job], oh son of the people!
N’lule tballit gjujmë tradhtinë, / We shoot treason [traitors] right in the forehead.
Qelibar e rujmë Partinë. / We safeguard the [Communist] Party like a gem.
Gjumi kurrë nuk të zuni, / You never fell asleep [working so hard],
Vepra jote armiqt tundi; / Your deeds shook the enemies.
çove lart grushtin e zanin, / You raised the fist of your voice high up.
Jetën lidhe me vatanin. / You tied your life to the homeland.
T’lindi kombi burr të rrallë, / The people/nation gave birth to you, a rare man.
Lum Partia që t’ka n’ballë! / Blessed/Lucky the Party for having you at its front!
I just received a chain-email so cool that I thought merely forwarding it to my entire address book would not do its coolness much justice. So I decided to share it with the world via blogging. My husband is certain the images below are simply fancy Photoshop creations. I beg to differ! They all look essentially doable. Any expert opinions?If you like this post - buy me a coffee
A superbly made animation by Carlos Lascano, about a little girl with the cheesiest imagination. Various layers and techniques are blended into a unique style. Oh, and the background music is by Sigur Ros, a band I happen to love. Enjoy!If you like this post - buy me a coffee
Iso-polyphony is a form of traditional Albanian polyphonic music. It can be divided into two major stylistic groups as performed by the Ghegs of northern Albania and Tosks and Labs living in the southern part of the country. The term iso is related to the drone, which accompanies the iso-polyphonic singing. The drone is performed in two ways: among the Tosks, it is always continuous and sung on the syllable ‘e’, using staggered breathing; while among the Labs, the drone is sometimes sung as a rhythmic tone, performed to the text of the song. It can be differentiated between two-, three- and four-voice polyphony. The phenomenon of Albanian folk iso-polyphony is proclaimed by UNESCO as a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible heritage of Humanity".
Southern Albanian music is soft and gentle, and polyphonic in nature. Vlorë in the southwest has perhaps the most unusual vocal traditions in the area, with four distinct parts (taker, thrower, turner and drone) that combine to create a complex and emotionally cathartic melody. Author Kim Burton has described the melodies as "decorated with falsetto and vibrato, sometimes interrupted by wild and mournful cries". This polyphonic vocal music is full of power that "stems from the tension between the immense emotional weight it carries, rooted in centuries of pride, poverty and oppression, and the strictly formal, almost ritualistic nature of its structure".
South Albania is also known for funeral laments with a chorus and one to two soloists with overlapping, mournful voices. There is a prominent folk love song tradition in the south, in which performers use free rhythm and consonant harmonies, elaborated with ornamentation and melisma.
Wikipedia mode off\
I love Albanian polyphony! The article I've been quoting is spot on in describing its molodies as complex and cathartic, emphasis on 'complex' first and foremost. This music is challanging, which can be a barrier to appreciation: it is composed on a completely different tonal scale from Western music and features obscure rhythms such as 3/8, 5/8, and 10/8.
My musical taste was forged on Italian pop and US ear-candy dance songs from the early-to-mid '90s. When first introduced to this music I vehemently rejected it: its archaic chorus arrangements were jarring to my senses and sounded about as pleasant as a herd of feral cats in heat.
I really don't know when or how I have matured to thoroughly enjoy this stuff! Some of the best songs move me to tears. I have never heard such powerful singing but I didn't know Iso-polyphony was actually unique to Albania. Here is an educational UNESCO video with excellent background songs.
I came accross this Lab song on YouTube which, randomly enough, uses an image I had created and posted on this blog many eons ago as its background! The song is not my favorite, but since whoever posted it used my image, I gotta link to it. Enjoy!
But perhaps I am being biased toward Southern Music. The North has some pearls too:
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Within less than 48 hours, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch has labored to not only quasi-politely dismiss and marginalize Michael Totten’s reports from Kosovo in the comments section of LittleGreenFootballs.com (lest his positive, non-hysterical message prompt readers to question Spencer’s colorful portrayal of Kosovars as Talibans) but to also attack Glenn Reynolds for allegedly being a cultural relativist for even conceiving of non-Muslim religious activists possibly resorting to violence as a means to further their agendas given the right priming conditions— conditions which Reynolds himself ultimately traces back to the intellectual impotence of nothing but, wait for it, cultural relativism.
Spencer furiously denies any motivational or thematic connection between these attacks on the two prominent bloggers, yet his arguments are complementary sides of the same coin.
Totten is targeted as an impressionable naïve traveler who fails to recognize what Spencer believes to be the inescapable ideological vacuum within any not-yet-radical Muslim community —communities which, according to Spencer, despite any and all current pretensions of liberalism and Westophilia, are essentially unstable oxymoronic applications of Islam which are doomed to gravitate toward radicalism in the long run. Kosovo can be no exception, since a perpetual state of jihad is an inexorable core tenet of Islam. Here I will not dwell on the theological subtleties he employs to reach his conclusion (which I suspect Mr. Spencer would accuse me of misrepresenting anyway), but the bottom line of his dissatisfaction with Totten’s reports seems to boil down to Totten’s portrayal of Kosovars as an overall peaceful, progressive, Westward-oriented, and culturally modern people. To suggest that a population with a Muslim background could merit such positive characterizations (without casting apocalyptic doubts on their future sustainability) is heresy!
It is also heresy to point out, like Glenn Reynolds has, that not only Islam but also other world religions, notably Judaism and Christianity, are quite capable of fostering religious supremacy, bigotry, and violence. According to Mr. Spencer, Judeo-Christianity is fundamentally and qualitatively superior to Islam, so to suggest that there could be a degenerative least-common-denominator into which all three religions could converge under any conditions, reeks of cultural relativism, because it denies Judeo-Christianity’s irreducible superiority.
I can understand some of Spencer’s bias given that he is a Christian, but his position implies an astounding selective repression of common historical facts about Christianity in the West. As one of Instapundit’s readers put it so succinctly:
Robert Spencer writes:
“The most virulently fundamentalist Christian can find no sanction in Jesus’ teaching for the murder of his opponents any more than anyone else can.”
Maybe no one expected the Spanish Inquisition, but I would certainly hope that someone might remember it.
And lest we treat the Inquisition like a distant fairytale, let’s not forget about the very real death-threats and hysterical rallies originating in the US over John Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” remark just a few decades ago.
But Spencer either doesn’t want to hear it or doesn’t care: Muslims cannot and must not under any circumstances be elevated in anyone’s consideration as civilized, peaceful, modern people, or as allies. Likewise, adherents of Judeo-Christianity cannot be conceived to ever, even under a real or hypothetical incentive structure that consistently rewards violence, lower themselves to acts of hateful aggression: That arena is supposed to be the theological monopoly of the “Religion Of Peace”.
Is it any wonder then, that Spencer’s own religious supremacy reflexively aligns him with “the Christian side” against “the Muslim side” on any complex world conflict where such dichotomy arises, without any internal need prompting him to further scrutinize the objective merits of the contenders or to study the contextual historical scenario of the conflicts? Sometimes even when the conflicts cannot be cogently redrawn along religious lines, as is the case in Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia, Spencer seems to have no problem connecting nonexistent dots anyway and ultimately tracing the villains back to his favorite arch-enemy: Islam.
I find it deliciously ironic that Spencer’s official stance on Kosovo today is one of severe ‘skepticism’ and concern over Kosovar Albanians’ vulnerability to cooptation by Islamist extremists, while he himself has been indisputably co-opted by noxious and extremist Serbian Nationalist elements through his involvement with The American Council for Kosovo. From their website:
The American Council for Kosovo is an activity of Squire Sanders Public Advocacy, LLC, and Global Strategic Communications Group, which are registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as agents for the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija. Additional information with respect to this matter is on file with the Foreign Agents Registration Unit of the Department of Justice in Washington DC.
The deceptively named American Council for Kosovo is in fact a front group for the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, whose president for Northern Kosovo Milan Ivanovic was arrested by the UN administration (he took his sweet time to turn himself in after initially going into hiding) on charges of attempted murder (later dropped) and of leading a violent demonstration, during which at least one hand-grenade was thrown at the police (Ivanovic has been personally accused of this act but evidence was inconclusive for a conviction, hence the dropped charge of attempted murder), and 22 mainly Polish peacekeepers were injured. This is not the only violent demonstration Ivanovic is accused of orchestrating and his organized outbursts have even claimed innocent lives.
Ivanovic said he had not decided yet whether to surrender. “I’ll make a decision after talking seriously with lawyers and members of my family,” he said. He denied having been handed the indictment on 30 July, claiming he had instead been requested either to turn himself in voluntarily and “be locked up in the Mitrovica prison” or become a fugitive from what he termed “an Albanian” law.
Ivanovic described the attempt to arrest him as politically motivated and accused UNMIK head Michael Steiner of seeking to force the local Serb population to flee ahead of the 26 October local elections. He warned that the move to arrest to him “could have very grave consequences” and invited the authorities in Belgrade “to join in and discuss these things.” UNMIK dismissed Ivanovic’s claims.
The Serb National Council for northern Kosovo is believed to be actively supporting a vigilante organization known as the Bridge Watchers. The group operates in the industrial town of Mitrovica, divided between an ethnic Albanian south and a predominantly Serb north. It takes its name from the three bridges dividing the city. Despite UN efforts to make them hand over their weapons and submit to UN authority, the Bridge Watchers continue to act as a sort of parallel police force, claiming to be simply protecting local Serbs from ethnic Albanian attacks.
International officials accuse the group and local Serb leaders of staging seemingly spontaneous violent riots against UN police and NATO peacekeepers, but Serb leaders in northern Kosovo have rejected the accusation.
Opposing UN policies in Kosovo, the Serb leaders in Mitrovica prefer to keep close ties with Belgrade rather than recognize UNMIK’s authority in many areas.
Mr. Ivanovic is a hard-line nationalist by anyone’s definition, a staunch supporter of the neo-fascist Serbian Radical Party— an ultra-nationalists' melting crackpot of greater scale and proportion than even its name suggests. For starters, the Party organized the recent rallies in Serbia to protest Radovan Karadzic’s arrest, in which the same Ivanovic was visibly involved:
“Karadzic’s arrest means a termination of the Republic of Srpska and a kidnapping of Kosovo,” said Milan Ivanovic. “We shall never surrender neither the Republic of Srpska, Serbia, nor Kosovo. We shall never surrender Radovan,” Ivanovic exclaimed and called on the citizens to “fight the oppressors”.
Again, this is from a key leader of the Serbian group which the so-called American Council for Kosovo serves as a front for, in which Robert Spencer is an advisory board member.
The Serbian Radical Party (Srpska Radikalna Stranka — SRS) is an extremely right-wing nationalist organization. Its founder and director Vojislav Šešelj is currently on trial in The Hague, accused of war crimes and atrocities against humanity.
… … … … … … … … … …
The ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party — which once advocated union with Russia and Belarus, and is now tied for first place with a coalition of more pro-Western parties — could enter government alongside nationalist Prime Minister Kostunica’s DSS.
Enough about Ivanovic as I am sure you already get the picture.
At this point I hope you will all excuse my cynicism regarding Robert Spencer’s contorted statements of how no Christian exegete has ever interpreted any genocidal passages in the Bible as a plan for action against unbelievers in his own day, while he openly associates himself with violent genocide proponents/deniers (the typical combination) funded and supported by a Christian Orthodox bishop.
By law, all items distributed by the American Council for Kosovo include the following disclaimer:
“The American Council for Kosovo is an activity of Squire Sanders Public Advocacy, LLC, and Global Strategic Communications Group, which are registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as agents for the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, under the spiritual guidance of His Grace, Bishop ARTEMIJE of Ras and Prizren. Additional information with respect to this matter is on file with the Foreign Agents Registration Unit of the Department of Justice in Washington DC.”
…though the Bishop’s involvement is curiously absent from the otherwise identical notice posted on their website. Let’s close in on the rest of Spencer’s circle at the American Council for Kosovo. One of Spencer’s friends whom he has appointed as Advisory Board member at JihadWatch, stands out in particular. He is James/Jim George Jatras, Director of the American Council for Kosovo:
Where do I begin? In the above-linked-at comment, Spencer smugly concludes that I must have no idea who Walter Duranty is just because I found absurd his parallel between the Stalin idolizing propagandist and genocide denier (whose revisionist bile and fabrications were not sufficiently challenged due to overall lack of access to information/data regarding the USSR) and Michael Totten (who reports from a freely-accessible country with a strong international presence, and which anyone, including Spencer, can visit to see things for oneself).
Since he fancies himself a far more knowledgeable expert of Ukrainian issues than myself, I would assume Robert Spencer ought to know who Viktor Yanukovych is, but for those who do not know, he can be safely characterized as one of Vladimir Putin’s cronies: a Russian proxy embedded within the Ukrainian political system, a corrupt politician, often at the center of electoral-fraud scandals.
James Jatras is not only a proxy of the Serbian lobby, which he openly admits, but also, quite interestingly (though not the least surprisingly), a veritable stooge of Russian interests:
On March 7, 2003 Alex Kiselev signed a written agreement with the law firm of Venable, LLP to provide PR services to Mr. Yanukovych for the amount of $100,000. Alex Kiselev signed and initialed every page of the agreement acting on behalf of Mr. Yanukovych. On behalf of Venable the agreement was signed by Mr. Patrick E. O’Donnell and Mr. James George Jatras. Venable, LLP is tasked to work on improving the image of Viktor Yanukovych personally, rather than the country of Ukraine. Additional amounts are as follows:
- $ 20,000 for arranging a personal meeting at the White House between Prime Minister Yanukovych and President Bush, “with a success fee of $ 60,000 to be paid if these efforts are successful.”
Since Mr. Yanukovych did not come to Washington in the spring of 2003 as was originally planned, no fees were paid for arranging a State Department dinner or a White House meeting.
… According to the US Department of Justice Supplemental Statement (Form CRM-154) for a six month period ending November 30, 2003, filed by Venable LLP, it is reported on page 5 that Alex Kiselev paid the total amount of $ 341,396.50 for providing PR services on behalf of Mr. Yanukovych. …beginning in March 2003, Kiselev paid $1,041,396.50 to PR firms in Washington to promote Viktor Yanukovych?! So do we have now to accept as true that it was a charitable contribution out of his own pocket?
Venable LLP is also the lobbying firm for The American Council for Kosovo, again through James Jatras.
James Jatras, a Greek American with a long history of pro-Eastern Orthodox and anti-Muslim activism in the Balkans and formerly senior foreign policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee (1998-2002), signed the agreement between Venable and the Serbian National Council of Kosova and Metohija (SNV) on March 22, 2006. Far from being a neutral observer of Balkan affairs, Jatras is a paid lobbyist for the SNV and an Orthodox extremist with deep connections to the Serbian Unity Congress. Jatras has written numerous articles aimed at warning Americans about the threat of militant Islam in Southeast Europe, several of which appear in a magazine connected to Bosnian Serb groups called Chronicles. (Srdja Trifkovic, Chronicles’ foreign affairs editor, was formerly the official spokesperson for indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic.) Jatras was the keynote speaker at the 9th Serbian Unity Congress (more on that later) and a principal in the Serbian-American-made propaganda film, “Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War” produced and directed by George Bogdanich. And during the Kosova war, it was Jatras, in his capacity as senior foreign policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, who commissioned and circulated Yossef Bodansky’s outrageously spurious report in the House and Senate, entitled “Kosova: The U.S. and Iran’s New Balkan Front,” (more on the Iranian conspiracy theories later) in an effort to block Congressional support for intervention in Serbia’s war against Kosova and to discredit the Kosova Liberation Army.
From another source linked to above:
Chronicles magazine, which published Jatras’ rantings, is also cited by the film in support of its claim that Muslims blew up their own people to arouse international sympathy, and it is connected not only directly to the Bosnian Serbs but also to white Southern neo-Confederacy groups. The magazine is run by Thomas Fleming, who rose to prominence as an opponent of school desegregation in Rockford, Ill., and became a founding member of the right-wing neo-Confederacy group League of the South. Its foreign-affairs editor is Srdja Trifkovic, formerly the official spokesman for Radovan Karadzic and the Bosnian Serb government and a source whom Mr. Bogdanich interviewed for the film but apparently decided not to use.
But we heard enough about the man; let’s now hear from him. Some interesting positions of James Jatras, mostly in his own words:
James Jatras, former assistant to Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) and onetime defense witness for Slobodan Milosevic (that’s right), now directs the American Council for Kosovo, a pro-Belgrade lobbying organization based in Washington. In an interview with the Belgrade daily Vecernje novosti, Jatras advises the Serbian government to be “more aggressive” and to demonstrate its “seriousness” by holding military exercises along the border with Kosovo.
“Serbia must stop looking at the United States as if they rule the world, what they like to present themselves as,” Jatras said in an interview.
Thursday for Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti, when asked “how could Serbia be more aggressive without ending up even worse?”
“They are but a paper tiger, stop treating them with the respect they do not deserve,” Jatras said of the United States.
“Washington behaves in this way because it believes Serbia will have to accept the fact that part of its territory is to be snatched from it,” he went on, stressing that Belgrade “had to make it clear that this was not the case.”
He added that Serbia should “in no case join NATO,” (why, that would not go smoothly with Jatras' master, Vladimir Putin, who is known to go as far as to invade and dismember former Soviet satellite countries in order to prevent them from joining NATO) and that the European Union “should be told clearly that Belgrade will suspend its association process in case Brussels decides to recognize Kosovo.”
“I suggest that, come November, half a million people show up on the streets of Belgrade, protesting the U.S. policy. As a demonstration of how serious Serbia is, holding a military exercise in the south of the country should also be considered,” Jatras concluded.
Did I mention that James Jatras is Robert Spencer’s friend, a JihadWatch board member, but first and foremost, an American citizen, who has worked for the US government as the aide of disgraced Senator Larry Craig, but also as senior foreign policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee? We are all too familiar with the self-loathing fetishes of Leftist moonbats, and the kind of seething anti-Americanism they are known to proudly sport. Let’s not, however, confuse suicidal cultural masochists with malicious puppets of foreign interests: the former tend to blow off their self-hatred in the “we” form, whereas stooges like Jatras make calculated statements in the “they” form. Jatras is not a self-hater because he doesn’t even identify with America, which is how he manages to come so close to advocating attacks on US embassies (which Serbs, catching Jatras' drift, did indeed perpetrate) without batting an eye. He’s just a puppet of anti-American foreign interests to which he has whored out his citizenship.
Some more interesting tidbits before we get into what you must really be itching to hear about, his defense of Milosevic:
At the Serbian Unity Congress convention in 1998, Jatras is quoted as saying that the U.S. government’s policy toward Serbia “was criminal and worthy of being brought to The Hague tribunal.”
In other articles, he downplayed Serbian massacres (he even placed the word in quotation marks) in Bosnia, claimed Bosnian Muslims killed their own people as a ploy to gain Western support and referred to “the myth of Muslims as innocent victims in the [Bosnian] war.” (source: The Washington Times, 7/20/97, page B5)
Milosevic’s witness James Jatras publicly denounced former governor and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis as a “pagan” because, while Dukakis is from a Greek Orthodox family, Dukakis’s wife Kitty (daughter of Harry Ellis Dickson, violinist and long-time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra) is Jewish.
And this provides a smooth segue way into his disgraceful appearance in Milosevic’s trial, because the prosecutors felt the obscure need to make an issue out of the witness’ bigotry, as if his factual testimony alone were not outrageous enough to discredit him.
The entire convoluted transcript of the hearing can be found here, but its gist is neatly summarized by Slobo’s fans at Slobodan-Milosevic.org. The claims made by Jatras are truly incredible and I urge everyone to scrutinize them. It all starts coming together now:
Jatras gave evidence about what was contained in U.S. Congressional reports regarding the Iranian arms transfers to Bosnia and Croatia.
Jatras pointed out that the congressional reports had concluded that the Clinton Administration’s scheme to facilitate weapons transfers from Iran to Croatia and on to Bosnia was a secret program, and that the administration had attempted to cover it up.
Interestingly, almost all of these insane conspiratorial reports which Jatras refers to as objective US inside sources happen to be either planted personally by Jatras himself, or originating from the office of Larry Craig, for whom Jatras was working as an aide. In any case, they are not US intelligence reports.
According to Jatras, the Clinton Administration had decided to attack F.R. Yugoslavia long before the indictment against Milosevic alleges that any “joint criminal enterprise” was afoot.
To bear this out, Jatras pointed to a report that he had written in August of 1998 predicting that Clinton would attack Yugoslavia over Kosovo (possibly because it was obvious to anyone with more than two brain cells what Slobodan was preparing to do in Kosovo?).
Jatras said that Racak was merely a trigger used by the Clinton Administration to launch its pre-planned attack against Yugoslavia.
He said that the occupation of Kosovo and the establishment of K-FOR had been planned out well before the bombing even started.
Milosevic was just a pawn. The Clinton administration and other great conspiratorial powers set him up in order to cover up an arms trading intrigue. The Bosnians, of course, gracefully started killing themselves off to perfect the ploy and frame Milosevic. And the Racak massacre was a calculated self-inflicted “trigger” to get this whole party started.
Can you say crazy or just plain evil?
Jatras mentioned, as an interesting side note, a psy-ops campaign in the Krajina, where after Serbian radio facilities had been bombed, Croatian radio announcements were broadcast that instilled fear in the Serbian population and encouraged them flee from the territory.
Well, actually Mr. Jatras, on August 4, 1995, Milan Martic, the “president” of the “Republic of Serb Krajina” authorities, issued an order calling for the evacuation of all persons incapable of military service from the Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac, Drnis and Gracac municipalities. The decision indicated that the civilians should be evacuated toward Srb and Donji Lapac, with the U.N. base in Knin enlisted to assist with the evacuation. This account is corroborated by Milan Babic in his Hague trial. Segments of the Serbian press attacked Martic for ordering the evacuation and surrendering to Croatian forces without a fight. Others surmised that the Republic of Serb Krajina, Croatian and Serbian government authorities had reached an a priori agreement to surrender the area to Croatian government control.
The Croatian government actually encouraged Serbs to stay, albeit perhaps not entirely sincerely. A good number would have eventually had to leave in any case, because they were residing in the houses of the 200,000 Croatians ethnically cleansed from Krajina in 1992, who would be returning to claim their real estate.
In the specific context of the refugee debate, the Krajina exodus bears comparison with the flight of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, which brought about the creation of Israel. Croatia claims —as has Israel since 1948— that the refugees fled largely of their own accord, under instructions from their leadership, and those specific instructions have been well documented in both cases. Here is a detailed account of the Serbo-Croatian war for those interested.
And if anyone is wondering about the making of such a monster—how a Christian Taliban (in both ideology and appearance) came to be—let's just say the apple did not fall far from the tree. Stella Jatras, the late mother of James Jatras, is a regular contributor to the anti-Semitic conspiracist site AntiWar.org. Her consistent praise of Karadzic, sympathy for Milosevic, denial of Srebrenica's massacre, and overall lunatic revisionism on all Serb-related fronts, can give some insight into the kind of poison James must have been inhaling throughout his entire life. It is worth mentioning that the Jatrases are ethnic Greeks although they sound like Serbian ultra-nationalists. Stella and James Jatras are perfect examples of how ethnic chauvinism and religious supremacy can feed off of one-another in the minds of the demented, and jointly fuel a very predictable kind of hatred.
All that’s been unearthed here is but a whiff of James Jatras’ dark closet, some very rudimentary fragments of which my husband revealed on Robert Spencer’s site two nights ago through the comment sections, and which curiously elicited a defensive volley of verbiage from Jatras himself within just a few hours!
This man is obviously a professional propagandist, and I am actually surprised that the Internet is not littered with comprehensive reports on his outrageous activities and statements. I have no interest in rebutting his entire piece line by line as there are too many lies to counter and it would feel as futile as Don Quixote’s fight against windmills.
Certain claims I cannot ignore, however, nor should I be tempted to, as their debunking is a mere matter of correcting blatant revisionism by providing historical sources. I invite readers to check out his post linked-to-above so that they know exactly what we are talking about:
Regarding Jatras’ “point #1” (i.e. his allusions to jihadist Kosovar violence): So far I have noticed that the claims of Kirk in Human Events regarding attacks in Gjilan, Ferizaj and Prizren seem to all be echoes of earlier attacks by Serbs and then some retaliatory attacks by Kosovars, but as to shooting at KFOR or UNMIK, there is nothing to suggest that these attacks are anything more than old wives’ tales. Searching the KFOR site and The Daily Falcon, which is the newspaper published for the servicemen at Camp Bondsteel, there appears no mention of any hostilities by the Kosovars.
Neither do the laptop bombadiers in the media, who, as they had in Bosnia, cheered on the great Kosovo “humanitarian intervention” in 1999 to stop a nonexistent “ethnic cleansing” of Albanians — and which led directly to the real eradication of more than two-thirds of the Serbian community, as well as Roma (mostly Muslim, some Orthodox Christian), Croats (Roman Catholic), Jews, and others.
It doesn’t seem like James Jatras ever met a psychopathic butcher he didn’t like, and if he came to Milosevic’s defense, equivocating Karadzic’s crimes is small potatoes by comparison. As is genocide denial… What nonexistent “ethnic cleansing” of Albanians? This one listed in great detail at the State Department? Was this also part of the propaganda and misinformation that the US planted to frame Jatras’ poor friend Slobo?
With all due respect to Mr. Jatras, well actually, wait a minute, I don’t owe him any respect; but I lived in Tirana in 1999 myself and I saw with my own eyes floods of people hosted in soccer stadiums, ravaged families, torn families, everyone looking for each others’ lost relatives feared dead.
And should Jatras contend that I along with everyone who was in Albania at the time were simply collectively hallucinating (nothing would surprise me from him at this point), the stranding of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Albania and Macedonia for months at a time is an indisputable fact, and I can assure Mr. Jatras that these people were not out on a picnic. Insisting otherwise is no less absurd than proposing that September 11th, 2001, was as Photoshop job.
Oh, and I almost forgot: His statistics about the displaced Serbs (who left un-coerced, which Jatras conveniently neglects to mention) are also bogus.
Jatras further says:
With respect to the nexus in Kosovo between religion (Muslim vs. Christian) and nationalism (Albanian vs. Serb), it needs to be kept in mind that sharia rule under the Ottoman Empire ended less than a century ago, in 1912, when Kosovo (then known as “Old Serbia”) was liberated during the First Balkan War. For the preceding centuries, Muslim Albanians had migrated at will over the mountains from Albania, taking over land from which Serbs had fled from reprisals following repeated unsuccessful revolts against the Ottoman caliphate. (That the Serbs are the original inhabitants in Kosovo is beyond question. There are no pre-Ottoman Albanian structures, no Albanian toponyms. There is not even an Albanian word for Kosovo itself, the Albanian term “Kosova” being merely their rendering of the Serbian name — derived from kos, “blackbird,” in reference to the famous 1389 battle — much as we English-speakers call München “Munich” and Roma “Rome.”)
Just like this British historian (one out of many) who is about to prove the factual content of every single clause of Jatras’ every sentence to be false, I do not even think ‘who got there first’ is particularly relevant in deciding the rights and wrongs of any present-day political situation. Still, since James decided to go there:
The previous chapter brought the political history (if such it may be called) of Kosovo up to the final period of Bulgarian-Macedonian rule, before the territory of Tsar Samuel was reconquered by the Byzantine Emperor Basil the Bulgar-slayer. Medieval Kosovo is often referred to in general terms as ‘the cradle of the Serbs’, as if it had been a Serb heartland from the outset; but the reality was rather different. Just over 800 years separate the arrival of the Serbs in the Balkans in the seventh century from the final Ottoman conquest in the 1450s: out of those eight centuries, Kosovo was Serb-ruled for only the last two-and-a-half— less than one-third of the entire period. Bulgarian khans or tsars held Kosovo from the 850s until the early eleventh century, and Byzantine Emperors until the final decades of the twelfth.
All the toponyms which Jatras has been desperately looking to avoid so he could claim their nonexistence are carefully referenced in the source I just provided. The Albanian name for Kosovo was Dardania, by the way, derived from the Illyrian/proto-Albanian word for “pear” because of the many pear trees lining the region. There is at least one town named Dardha (pear) in Albania today.
Kosovo remained Ottoman territory until it was conquered by Serbian forces in 1912. Serbs would say “liberated”; but even their own estimates put the Orthodox Serb population at less than 25%. The majority population was Albanian, and did not welcome Serb rule, so “conquered” seems the right word.
So taking into account Albanians’ indigenousness in Kosovo which is exhaustively sourced by Malcolm in his book, as well as by many other independent historians, we have a classic case of projection with respect to Jatras’ statement:
By the same token, the prevailing attitude among Kosovo’s Albanian Muslims, even those with no discernable Islamic piety, reflects their sense of entitlement to mastery over the land and its rayah (essentially, “cattle”) inhabitants. The attitude is hardly different from those of Turks with respect to Constantinople or Arabs to “al-Quds,” no matter how secular they may be: “we” conquered it, and no one can take it back from us.
My husband has politely informed Spencer of Jatras’ connections, the most problematic of which (his defense of Milosevic) Spencer was already aware of and unbothered by. What seems to bother Spencer, to the point of calling me an Islamist agent in so many words (wait for him to squeal “Where did I write that!” as he’s been in a very literalist mood lately but doesn’t want to either eat his words or regurgitate them, but will instead twist them like worms), is when I set the historical record straight about what has happened in the Balkans, and when I condemned the genocide deniers/sympathizers and self-styled holy warriors with, among other epithets, those which the most flaming ones of them proudly self-describe by. For those new to this blog, I am a non-religious Albanian soon-to-be American, and my father is what Mr. Jatras would call a pagan, for coming from an Eastern Orthodox family himself and marrying my mother, a woman of Jewish descent.
I find it curious that Robert Spencer closes both eyes to atrocities perpetrated by Serbs, because if it had only been Muslims on their receiving end, I would understand now (but of course not justify it) seeing where Spencer is coming from, but Serbs have also fought against Croats and Slovenes —their fellow Christians. Yet he takes the side of the most historically aggressive representatives of his own “Religion of Peace.” Could it be that while ostensibly and quite irrationally denying any violence within Christianity, he in fact secretly and perhaps subconsciously admires violent Christianity?
What more is there to say? Going back full circle: no, I do not find any traces of relativism in Glenn Reynolds’ innocuous statement, nor does the outlook that produced his comment represent any hindrance to the West’s response to the jihadist threat. Quite on the contrary, the most significant drag in formulating an appropriate response stems from those Judeo-Christian supremacists such as Spencer and his associates, who discredit the anti-jihadist movement by overstating its scope (uncontrollably screeching “jihad!” even where none is involved) and who, most importantly, see the fight against jihad as a holy war of their own, in which they end up allying with the devil to further their agendas.
With his honest and balanced dispatches from the Balkans, Michael Totten has crippled these Serbian Nationalist front groups’ propaganda efforts just like he had earlier, along with fellow independent journalist Michael Yon, exposed the mainstream media’s coverage of the Iraq war for the self-serving doom-and-gloom panic mongering that it was.
Spencer has made various controversial and often self-mitigated pronouncements regarding Kosovo, but when push comes to shove his on-record position is one of only-time-will-tell “skepticism.” I don’t know how aggressively lobbying on behalf of an organization that seeks to revoke Kosovo’s independence, thus leaving Kosovar Albanians with no time at all to “tell” Spencer or the rest of the world anything, is possibly reconcilable with self-declared above-the-fray skepticism, but I have a more pressing question for Spencer:
What is his position on the Iraq war, and particularly on US efforts to build a stable, peaceful, and pluralistic democracy in the heart of the Middle East? If the prospect of sound self-governance by the liberal, if not nominal, Muslims of Kosovo is such a tough sell for Spencer, then what about the future of Iraq, whose population is incomparably more religiously conservative? Doesn’t intellectual and moral consistency dictate that if Spencer would rather see Kosovars “kept in check” by Serbia’s violent hand, then he should also prefer the “stability” that Sadam Hussein provided Iraqis with to the fanciful prospect of freeing them so they can govern themselves? Doesn’t intellectual and moral consistency dictate that Spencer be rallying it up with Moveon.org over the almost certainly wasteful loss of American lives and resources into as inherently unachievable, or failing that, at least unsustainable, a project as a Muslim democracy? Consistency is a beautiful thing but some of us feel no ethical imperative to be bound by it.
The question is, at this point, purely rhetorical.If you like this post - buy me a coffee
Drudge loves Peggy, no doubt about it: it's how I got to this latest piece of hers. I found it to be a bit scattered, but overall right on target.
The Democrats aren't the ones falling apart, the Republicans are. The Democrats can see daylight ahead. For all their fractious fighting, they're finally resolving their central drama. Hillary Clinton will leave, and Barack Obama will deliver a stirring acceptance speech. Then hand-to-hand in the general, where they see their guy triumphing. You see it when you talk to them: They're busy being born.
The Republicans? Busy dying. The brightest of them see no immediate light. They're frozen, not like a deer in the headlights but a deer in the darkness, his ears stiff at the sound. Crunch. Twig. Hunting party.
Yes indeed. Republicans are dying. Do not resuscitate. This current crop of Republicans need to run through the last disgraceful phases of their political life-cycle and fade away into oblivion. Maybe it will take the messianic reign of lord Obama to inspire/infuse new blood into the Republican party. But perhaps we are past that now: after all, we all know what happened to the last tide of then(1994)-new blood. The established pockets of corruption traditionally entrenched within the Republican party are there ready to suck in any new blood like leeches. There are simply too many tempting avenues for scoring cheap short-termistic political points through mere pandering.
Does the Republican party have too much baggage? Republicans should take a hint from what happened to Canada's conservatives.
For now, I am ambivalently cheering for Obama out of spite: Republicans need to hit rock bottom in order to digest the reality check of their compounded failures.If you like this post - buy me a coffee
mini-epiphany: when I don't have anything decent to post in terms of 2000+ word articles/essays, instead of abandoning my blog to intermittent decrepitude, I shall post interesting artsy fartsy stuff.
Check this out! I've never seen anything quite like this before. Italian street artist BLU canvases a neighborhood in graffiti (which I am not a fan of), but turns the graffiti into an animation which spans many city blocks --- one word: amazing.If you like this post - buy me a coffee
Which way is the babe spinning? Supposedly, if she is turning right then your right brain hemisphere is dominant; if she is turning left, your left hemisphere is working. Very few people can see her turn both ways!
...pretty mesmerizing once you actually witness the change of spin right in front of your eyes because initially it sounds impossible to even conceive of her spinning in the opposite direction. What an amazing subtle optical illusion!
If you just don't get it, keep staring at the page, perhaps look away for a second and focus on it again. Do not leave this page until you notice it: this is one of the best mind tricks I have ever seen!
If you like this post - buy me a coffee
It's only so fun to hold that sign in a South Park alternate universe. Make your own avatar here. You'll have a good time with it...If you like this post - buy me a coffee
Money doesn’t buy happiness, of course, but it ought to remove almost all obstacles lying in its way. $109 million, 109 million opportunities for yourself, yet all you care about are the so many “opportunities” you have for our country? All these glorious master-plans you have concocted for us little people… Who the hell do you think you are Hillary, and what’s your excuse for being so miserable despite your riches?
Donate all your millions first, before you get the audacity to screech for raising taxes for the rest of us. What a contemptible hypocritical corrupt power-hungry Leftist byotch! It makes me feel all toasty inside to know that despite your fortune, you always have been and always will be miserable! That’s the story of your life.If you like this post - buy me a coffee
That the GOP is experiencing an identity crisis is self-evident. Over the last few months the Party cannibalized herself as one candidate after another tripped over his feet trying to climb on top of her shaky political pedestal. No one can convincingly say what Republican voters were looking for, but we must infer they’ve pretty much found it in John McCain. Yet there is restiveness in the so-called Conservative sector, once hailed as the core ideological constituency of the Right but now finding itself marginalized to the peripheries of the Republican Party whose political headquarters are being rebuilt Leftwards.
Most Conservative icons have criticized the Arizona senator’s controversial Conservative credentials, but some have gone as far as to boycott the Party over his nomination, thus translating the Conservative tantrum into a highly leveraged ultimatum. So Conservatives indeed feel betrayed by the GOP’s leadership, but have they ever scrutinized their faithfulness to their own principles? Most importantly, have they ever coherently articulated what Conservative principles represent? …Can they?
The notion of a true Conservative is farcically reinvented ad nauseum by the latest self-proclaimed specimen, the same way that “change” has become a politically prostituted mantra for the Left, devoid of any substance or pretense thereof. Yet change can ultimately mean anything to Leftist “revolutionaries” preaching overhaul for the sake of overhaul: nothing ideologically uncomfortable about it. While the Party of perpetual “progressive” reform need not be bothered with the intricacies of well-defined “change,” conserving for the sake of conservation just doesn’t fly as well. The future is necessarily open-ended, but anyone invested in preserving valuable aspects of a supposedly cherished past, ought to be able to coherently pinpoint what is worth preserving (or even restoring, if the past is remote enough) and fluently articulate why.
The Conservative movement has lost its conceptual anchor into the essence of America’s greatness and is now consumed with merely conserving the Conservative movement. The future has historically been unkind to reactionaries; hence Conservatives’ recent fall from relevance should come as no surprise.
Vague platitudes of a Conservative golden era are ludicrous. There was never such a thing as a glorious way of life Americans ought to have preserved like an insect captured in the amber of history. Allusions to morally airbrushed “good old days” founded in sound “Judeo-Christian” values are nothing but blurred second-hand collective hallucinations of a generation disastrously failing to grasp modern-day ideological challenges. Before ever being entitled to a dominant voice in this country’s future, Conservatives must sever their romantic attachment to this idealized fabricated past.
American traditions and lifestyles always have and always will be in a vector of flux and experimentation toward modernity. However, the political recipe for human flourishing and sustained prosperity is timeless. America’s founders lucidly articulated it throughout the Founding Documents and embedded it in the early American institutions. This philosophical prescription for maximal individual liberty and limited government has transcended centuries as America’s fundamental nature.
The fathers of Modern American Conservatism—Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and William Buckley Jr.—are now all dead. Instead of bemoaning their loss as tragically irreplaceable and praying in vain for a second coming, Conservatives better adjust their intellectual rear-view mirror until the founders of the American Nation come into clear sharp focus. Ironic corruption of language notwithstanding, it is Liberalism, as it is classically understood, that Conservatives better get in the business of conserving, and in so doing, shed some ideological dead-weight of their own.
The inane treatment of Judeo-Christianity as a proxy for Western Civilization should be first to go. Tying the moral foundations of the American Nation with cultural archetypes of prehistoric Biblical Jews, or with those of devout Europeans emulating them is beyond preposterous. The dogmatic authoritarianism inherent in Judeo-Christianity and its ubiquitous tradition of framing Man as a wretched sinful creature fallen from grace since birth, are antithetical to a societal infrastructure built around individual freedom and dignity.
Judeo-Christianity provides no coherent moral justification for why humankind deserves freedom. The Bible presents men and women as fundamentally unequal and incorrigibly flawed, offhandedly condones slavery, and offers absolute monarchy as the sacrosanct form of government prescribed by God.
The reference to the Creator in the Declaration of Independence by the Deist Thomas Jefferson was appropriate in so far as it further legitimized the proverbial self-evident truths through divine pedigree. Free enterprise is not the coincidental result of collective utility maximization by enlightened social engineers. It is rather the inescapable byproduct of the enshrinement of individual rights, which are inalienable and morally absolute, and which deserve philosophical protection as such. The loose mention of a non-denominational Creator served as a rhetorical shield to the indisputability of natural rights, through appealing to Colonialists’ lowest common philosophical denominator. But nothing in the founding documents insinuates individual rights to be derivatives of religious dogma.
The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion. —John Adams
Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. —James Madison
Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry... The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. —Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson casually defines the protection of citizens and their property from aggression to be the only legitimate domain of government intervention. Such negative rights retain their internal consistency even when scaled up for large complex communities and are always straight-forward to enforce.
Social Conservatives seeking to use government to legislate morality to the masses have been poisoning the well for too long by destroying the consistency of negative rights, thus opening the door to government co-optation by demagogues with various agendas and malignant vested interests from all sides of the political spectrum. Their religiously inspired diatribes against full American freedoms continue to alienate people in droves, particularly because most Americans today are rightfully oversensitive regarding matters of conscience, religion, social institutions, and private behavior.
Until it extirpates this reactionary faction, the Conservative movement’s defense of free markets is hopelessly doomed to intellectual impotence. Economic self-reliance through free proud enterprise on the one hand, but moral paternalism in matters confined to the bedroom or uterus on the other hand, are ideologically irreconcilable positions both of which sound hypocritical when preached by the same voice.
Judeo-Christian values are neither sufficient nor even necessary components of Americanism. Conservatives with a mental blind spot to this reality often try to justify the institutionalization of Judeo-Christianity by deeming it to be the only absolute ideological shelter for freedom. Plato alone has spoken with more clarity and conviction about absolute transcendental values such as Justice and Goodness, than there can be found throughout the entire Bible. Natural Law has enjoyed a fertile tradition in Western Philosophy, originated by Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, carried out by the Stoics, and augmented by many great thinkers up to the present day.
Not only is the firm binding of natural law with religion not dictated by any philosophical necessity, it is also a strategically self-defeating position for Conservatives to take in the ongoing battle for hearts and minds. I cannot think of a more dangerous proposition for the future of American institutions than the prospect that their desirability and justification depend on the dubious existence of Abraham’s God.
Didn’t Conservatives get the memo? Organized religion is dying at a head-spinning rate not only in this country but across the entire Western world. The proverbial writing on the wall could be seen for decades but reality checks for Social Conservatives come with a time lag. The Religious Right has been running on very tenacious fumes against the demographic tide of events thanks in part to the politically convenient tendency of its base to vote as a block on pet issues. The levels of bi-partisan pandering Social Conservatives have enjoyed in the past are no longer sustainable.
Religion never provided a particularly satisfying map of reality for its subscribers, its main redeeming quality being community building. Churchgoing used to be an essential social event for millions of interaction-starved Americans. It is no longer so. With new lanes being added to the information highway, increasing opportunities for remote social networking, and free access to scientific materials, the Church cannot compete with the sophisticated social outlets Americans can afford today.
That is not to say the new generation is ready to live without dogma, but modern outlets for mysticism cannot be so blunt. The religionists’ children are rejecting their parents’ stale Judeo-Christianity only to fall prey to “secular” new-age religions. These new cultural bubbles can be harder to burst than organized religions because proud “secularists” aren’t self-aware of their own mysticism and violently resist being called out on it. Reality escape-routes unmarked by 6,000-year-old Earths and Noah’s Arks are necessarily and conveniently more elusive.
If religion ever was the opiate of the masses, the “secular” Left is crack cocaine for the ideologically-vulnerable apostates of organized religion. New generations are laughing Judeo-Christian superstitions out of the cultural scene but are also rejecting economic freedom and limited government by association. The Religious Right nearly drowned the baby in the filthy bathwater, and the “secular” Left is ready to throw both out altogether.
Many thumbs sticking in the wind are becoming increasingly sensitive to the “spiritual hunger” aspect of the Zeitgeist. Al Gore and Barack Obama are already successfully exploiting it to bootstrap their own glamorous personality cults. Feminism, radical environmentalism, animal rights, anti-globalization, anti-Americanism, global-warming hysteria, and all-encompassing Statism, are all very much in vogue.
Such developments should attune Conservatives to the cultural necessities of our times: Americans are experimenting with many templates of morality, but they would rather succumb to nihilism or moral relativism than return to the “caves.” Judeo-Christianity is going to die and unless Conservatives genuinely reform their movement to develop enticing modern ideological propositions, the Left will undoubtedly win by default and civilization will succumb to the void.
The name Conservatism should be second to go. Its taxonomic subtleties don’t scale well across long periods, as the ideological reference-point can be easily lost with such a term that doesn’t directly address what it is conserving, but only that it is conserving it. This inherent vaguery is a potential melting crack pot for multidenominational reactionaries. The mental associations are not sexy either in a world where Saudi Arabia can claim conservative as a label.
Liberalism may be a suitable replacement, though I am not convinced enough Conservatives can be de-programmed to call themselves Liberals. It would certainly be an interesting exercise in ideological self-assertion, forcing a public fight over what true classical Liberalism stands for and who deserves to call oneself a Liberal. Putting the Left on the defensive would allow today's Conservatives to define the boundaries for tomorrow's battles.
The stance on abortion must also go, and I don’t care about the order in which it does. There are intelligent arguments on both sides of the fence, but in so far as the anti-abortion cause is religiously inspired, it is lost. What is worse, Conservatives are earning compounded surpluses in the hypocrisy department with shady political maneuvers. Nowhere does the Constitution address the issue of abortion, therefore the Tenth Amendment spells doom for universal anti-abortion activists.
Lacking the kind of demographic muscles needed to erect a Constitutional Amendment for their pet issue, Social Conservatives have repeatedly tried to pressure the Supreme Court as a backdoor toward their ends. Conservatives who spiritedly call out Democrats on their big-government insinuations that flagrantly violate the Tenth Amendment need to look in the mirror first. There will never be popular support for an anti-abortion amendment, and such political middle-ground is clearly unsustainable. Abortion is an unfortunate issue for Conservatives to tarnish their reputation as committed defenders of the Constitution.
Indeed, the sanctity of life is a moral topic deserving great political attention. Just as there may genuinely remain environmental issues to be dealt with collectively after, but not until, full property rights are conferred and enforced, there may remain hues of uncertainty to be settled politically (preferably at the state level), as to when an embryo becomes a fetus and when a fetus becomes a person. However, this issue is hardly worth political priority until full Constitutional rights are restored for non-uterus-bound citizens, or at least a general contraception/early-abortion alternative is secured for all women. In any case, no cause is worth the corruption of Constitutional channels.
The Conservative position on immigration is also overdue for a makeover. The need for secure borders is a forgone assumption, but most other problems and solutions are open-ended and politically challenging. Under current arrangements, illegal immigrants largely subsidize a thoroughly corrupt Mexican government, thus indirectly supporting a vicious cycle: destructive socialist policies keep Mexico’s economy paralyzed--in turn further promoting more employment-seeking adventures across the border.
America has invaluable leverage for pressuring Mexico’s government to reform. Here the proverbial stick is not as effective as a politically-engineered carrot. Offering realistic guest-worker programs contingent upon Mexico meeting well-defined milestones could spark an economic renaissance in Mexico and greatly discount economic despair as a motive for illegal immigration. Only the cream of the crop of today’s Conservatives could devise a coherent platform of concentrated classically liberal measures for Mexico.
Other pro-capitalist templates for combating the roots of illegal immigration are available. Undocumented workers are attractive to American employers because as a source of labor, they exhibit none of the problematic rigidities of the domestic labor pool: they don’t unionize, are not owed social security or other benefits (though millions of undocumented workers pay payroll taxes), absorb below-minimum-wage positions, cannot sue the employer over work-related damages, and provide much needed overall labor liquidity. Undocumented workers are meeting a demand which only a free labor market could satisfy by itself. Domestic reforms dismantling labor’s internal barriers are not only very American per se, but would also essentially dissolve the comparative advantage illegal immigrants currently enjoy.
Such proactive solutions require leadership of a level currently unknown in the Republican mainstream. Even if immigration reform were successfully implemented, it would not be more than a patch-up solution. Establishing a principle of citizenship is the only final answer.
The Constitution outlines an implosion-proof political structure that leaves virtually no channels for economic parasitism by any groups or individuals. To an American it isn’t supposed to matter much who her fellow citizens are, their culture, customs, race, or language, because the only way they can legitimately affect her is through voluntary trade and cooperation, which are mutually beneficial by definition. The corruption of American institutions through collectivist meddling in general and welfare statism in particular, turns every American into a partial slave to his fellow citizens. It is not fashionable to resent such arrangement, but who wants the collective pool of burden to grow!
Nativist immigration policies chronologically coincide with the rise of the Welfare State, but this is more than a coincidence. Aspiring Americans get the short end of the stick, which is regretful because Americanism by choice is nobler than merely by birth. Immigrating to America is itself a highly entrepreneurial act and the Right ought to welcome the many millions of worthy aspiring Americans from across the world.
The Left has astutely cultivated the victimization, destructive subsidization, and exploitation of every under-class into a politically lucrative enterprise. When Democrats screech out for unconditional amnesty for the twelve million illegal aliens, don’t think they mean it! The Left needs this permanent under-class to remain such, but these outbursts earn sympathy from minorities and force Republicans into the ugly nativist role, a role which many have displayed great natural talent for.
Republicans cannot afford to be the anti-immigration Party, and no, insincerely squealing against “only anti-illegal immigration” will not cut it if they are clearly unwilling to propose any practical channels for foreigners to legally settle into the country. Until these rhetorical attitudes are drastically revamped, the Left will win over new Americans by default.
Full circle back to the current election…
The brief taste of political relevance Conservatives enjoyed with Reagan may be ironically preventing them from moving forward. Their movement seems tragically chained to the past by a delusion of bygone grandeur. For many, the Reagan administration symbolized the triumph of unadulterated Conservative principles, a golden era they nostalgically evoke the return of, a glorious legacy not to be compromised. Having once had it their way, the prospect of ideological reformation is now an unpalatable concession, akin to selling out.
I don’t think most Conservatives have an appreciation for the unrepeatable constellation of historic factors, all the odd stars perfectly aligning to momentarily propel their movement into prominence in the 1980s. As powerful as Reagan’s appeal was, the 1980 election was equal parts a rejection of Nixon and Carter’s destructive Statism. Even the supposedly untainted Conservative principles implemented during the Reagan years were largely divergent elements cobbled together in an unstable mandate. Those times will be no more because they can be no more. “True Conservative” principles are too ideologically explosive for any Republican executive to handle consistently (e.g. the failed Contract with America). Something’s got to give. Unless they are content with perpetual scraps from their own Party (i.e McCain), Conservatives need to challenge the nation to get excited about freedom, individualism, entrepreneurship, the dignity of self-reliance, and the future.
Instead Conservatives have chosen to overextend their electoral reach with a stubborn bluff from which their movement can only emerge bankrupt. The tantrum is unsatisfiable because their demands are helplessly incoherent. They won’t get their cake and are politically starving no matter how obnoxiously they want to both have it and eat it: low taxes but swelling deficits, individual freedoms but moral paternalism, limited government but virtuous intervention, a strong military but the equivalent of suicide in the battle of ideas, attacking terrorists overseas but refusing to coherently communicate how and why.
Amidst resentment and overall stupefaction, the GOP’s ideological foundations are cracking louder and louder as the presidential election approaches. One thing is clear in this mess: The GOP is haphazardly dragging her dirty political consciousness further to the Left with her candidate choice, despite sparkling friction from the Conservative base.
Judging by the relatively far-fetched and often unrelated or even contradictory explanations presented over the course of the nomination race, I suspect that even pundits are just as confused as everyone else by what’s happening. Some rightfully emphasize that none of the more ideologically appealing candidates were interesting or inspiring; others contend that the leadership has fallen out of touch with the base over core issues, and cite the Republican record on spending in recent years to corroborate their case.
This macro-scale shift to the Left cannot be blamed on any renegade political actor usurping the electoral spotlight. Unhappy Conservatives are giving too much credit for the Republican fallout to John McCain, the reheated electoral left-over from the 2000 campaign. The nodes on the cause-effect chain can be elusive to trace, but we must not get this pivotal issue backwards: The shift to the Left has already happened in America, the witnessed reflection into politics being a mere manifestation of this deeper sadder reality.
Eight years of vacant leadership, blurred sense of purpose, and compromised half-measures by the Bush administration have left America confused, disheartened, and hyperpolarized. Republicans simultaneously slammed on both the gas and the brakes of their political machine through very curvy terrain.
A politically expedient immigration plan was unconvincingly presented and quickly swept under the carpet. The administration halfheartedly fought Democrats over spending, only to outdo them with reckless Republican deficits, thus absurdly equivocating the principles behind the otherwise greatly beneficial tax cuts.
George W. Bush sleepwalked through his ambitious mandate in the Middle East, unwilling or unable to communicate to the nation the strategic purpose of the fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond, failing to defend the many successes, and refusing to provide assertive counter-narratives to the “Bush lied, people died” hysterics. Unchallenged, the Left has monopolized nearly all communication channels assessing the progress of American foreign policy and has compoundingly invested its political comeback in the debasement of America’s efforts abroad in general, and in the framing of Iraq’s war as a meaningless failure in particular.
And now a giant sore economic boil is imminently bursting, leaving many intelligent and well-meaning Americans confused, vulnerable, and in many cases helpless, from their last taste of this politically constipated Republican rule. The themes running through Barack Obama’s campaign are evidence to how attuned the vanguard Left is to this moral void. Soothing tales of collectivist utopias are creeping into the nation’s cultural subconsciousness through the widening cracks of the Republican status-quo.
America is the world’s highest-philosophical-maintenance institutional experiment, but many of her traditional defenders are unworthy of today’s challenges. The problem is that the Right doesn’t know what it is fighting for. Freedom isn’t free, but until freedom is even properly understood, let alone defended, America’s future is in urgent jeopardy.If you like this post - buy me a coffee
My early rants on this blog were about how the University pisses my money away on stupid events and services virtually no one on campus cares about. I think I have possibly found the vilest waste yet of our incidental fees. Why is the University of Waterloo inviting 9-11 Troothers to campus??
You can read the poster yourself (double-click on image to blow it out)... Who the hell are these turtlenecked moonbats!If you like this post - buy me a coffee
What's this blog's motto? "My piece of mind"?If you like this post - buy me a coffee