Thursday, December 08, 2005

Blood and Ballots

More evidence that the Arab world doesn't quite get the whole democracy/rule-of-law thing:

ZAGAZIG, Egypt -- Police barricaded polling stations and fired tear gas and rubber bullets yesterday to keep supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood from voting in the final day of parliamentary elections. At least eight persons were killed, including a 14-year-old boy.

Supporters of the banned Brotherhood fought back, hurling stones and Molotov cocktails and cornering security forces in some towns.

Hundreds have been wounded and more than 1,000 arrested, mainly supporters of the fundamentalist Brotherhood, which -- while banned -- has fielded candidates as independents.


Government supporters armed with machetes emerged from a police armored car in this Nile Delta city and attacked supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the government's main rival in the voting.


Independent monitors and human rights groups have reported numerous irregularities, including busing of state employees to polling stations, tampering with ballot boxes and blockading of polling stations.
I'm no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood, but it's hard to find any good guys to root for here. One rule of thumb: "machetes" and "voting" just don't belong in the same sentence.

UPDATE: Michael J. Totten visits Big Pharaoh in Egypt and provides some sobering thoughts along the same lines. There plenty to read but here are my two favorite points:
"You’re not worried about the secret police?"
"Not any more," he said. "It is a real change from last year. Last year there was no way. But it’s better now, more open. Do you know why?"
"No," I said. "Tell me."
"Because of pressure from George W. Bush."
That is the only piece of good news I have to report from Egypt.
And, furhter down:
"At some point," I said, "if you want to live in a democracy you’re going to have to accept the fact that conservative religious political parties exist. You may never like them, but they won’t always be a terrorist threat. Democracy has mellowed out the Islamists in Turkey, for example."
"Yes," he said. "But Turkey has a secular constitution. They want to enter the EU, so the Islamists are forced to play by the rules of the game. They cannot step on the freedoms that the Turkish people take for granted. The Egyptian people, though, since the time of the Pharaohs, have been a flock. They follow the shepherd."
"My biggest fear," he continued, "is that if the Muslim Brotherhood rules Egypt we will get Islamism-lite, that they won’t be quite bad enough that people will revolt against them. Take bars, for example. Most Egyptians don’t drink, so they won’t mind if alcohol is illegal. The same goes for banning books. Most Egyptians don’t read. So why should they care if books are banned? Most women wear a veil or a headscarf already, so if it becomes the law hardly anyone will resist."

Red Diamonds and Yellow Stars

I mentioned here and here the insanity about trying to remove the Red Cross symbol from aid packages in Muslim countries due to the danger of anti-Christian terrorist attacks. Now we have an anti-Semitic angle from the Geneva Convention:

A diamond-shaped red crystal on a white background is to join the Red Cross and the Red Crescent as an emblem for ambulances and relief workers.
Geneva Convention member states voted by a two-thirds majority for the symbol, ending a decades-old row and opens the way for Israel to join.

Israel had been denied entry because its Red Shield was not approved.
There is more background here. Frankly I don't see any valid reason for the use of the Red Crescent, since the original symbol of the cross comes from the Swiss flag, not the religious symbol. But even acknowledging that the organization was deeply influenced by its founders religious faith, there is no reason to exclude the Star of David, if the Crescent is to be included. And the idea that the new symbol "is regarded as being free from religious, national or cultural connotations" is incoherent when you consider the national and religious significance of the other two symbols.

I suppose from a practical perspective the inclusion of Israel is a step in the right direction, even under such odious terms. But I can't help thinking that when the Nazis wanted to degrade the Jews, they made them wear little yellow stars. Ironically, that would have offended modern-day anti-Semites, but for all the wrong reasons.

(Via Tammy Bruce and CUANAS)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Church Beats State in Hurricane Relief

My instinct in this post that the proper source of aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina was the church not the government was evidently correct:

Louisiana residents gave churches higher marks than government agencies in responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and most prefer that the federal government control rebuilding funds rather than local officials, according to a Louisiana State University study.

On a scale of one (not effective) to 10 (very effective), residents gave churches the highest mark of 8.1, and New Orleans city agencies and state agencies received the lowest rating of 4.6.
Sadly, the same residents also draw the wrong lesson about federalism:
The majority of Louisianans, 54 percent, said the federal government should pick up the tab for rebuilding, and a 40 percent plurality said they trusted the federal government to have primary control over how funds are spent.

Only 23 percent said local governments should control the purse strings, and 27 percent favored the state as the watchdog.
This probably reflects the legendary corruption of Louisiana politicians and is probably an accurate reflection of the situation there. But it is unfortunate that people seem incapable of seeing the desirability of smaller government, even in the same breath that they recognize that government does not handle social and charitable issues well.

I have said this before, of course, but it bears repeating: if people paid less money in taxes, there would be more available for charitable giving. Many argue that disaster relief requires the efficiency of centralized planning, but this experience with Katrina should prove the flaw in that argument. Should, but probably won't, alas.