Saturday, April 01, 2006

An anniversary, an ending, and a new beginning

I searched "anniversary" on google images, and this one leaped right out at me:

Happy anniversary to me! I'm a sucker for a woman in high-cut knickers and a halo.

One year ago today, I started blogging by posting some thoughts on the Terri Schiavo controversy.

Twelve months have now passed … and it's time to drive a stake through the heart of Simply Put. We'll leave it out there in cyberspace, orbitting forever like debris cast off from a space station.

When I started Ragged Glory, I tried to compartmentalize myself, segregating my thoughts into a secular blog and a Christian blog. I wasn't able to manage it very successfully, so I am decommissioning both my blogs. (Ragged Glory readers won't want to miss my final post over there.)

And now introducing … (drum roll, please) …

Toward Jerusalem!

As the header indicates, I'm going to focus primarily on theological posts. But the greater goal is to reintegrate the constitutent parts of my psyche.

In other words, I will continue to offer social and political commentary. And occasionally I'll throw around opinions on subjects I know nothing about, to prove that nothing has actually changed.

There you have it:  an anniversary, an ending, and a new beginning.

device enables woman to pat herself on the backIn case some of you don't follow me to the new URL … thanks for sharing your opinions with me over the past year. I'm sure you were far more patient with my B.S. than I deserved.

The purpose of Simply Put was to encourage respectful dialogue on some rather complex and controversial topics, and you delivered magnificently. Give yourselves a pat on the back!

But hands off the haloed woman — she's all mine.

copyright © 2006, Stephen Peltz

Friday, March 31, 2006


An anniversary, an ending, and a new beginning.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Time to pull the plug?

April 1st will be my one-year anniversary as a blogger. I didn't get a tracker until late June. Here's the history of unique visitors to Simply Put since July 1.

bar graph

And the word of the day is? … moribund.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Remaining CPT hostages rescued

You've probably heard the news by now:  James Loney, Harmeet Sooden, and Norman Kember were rescued yesterday after being held hostage in Iraq for 118 days.

The rescue began when US forces detained two Iraqis and learned where the hostages were being held. The house, located in west Baghdad, was raided within hours. The hostages were bound but apparently healthy. Their captors were not present.

It goes without saying that Loney, Sooden, and Kember are lucky — or blessed — to be alive. A fellow hostage, American Tom Fox, was killed earlier this month.

On Friday, an early evening mass will be held in Sault. Ste. Marie, Ontario (where Mr. Loney's parents live), to mark the safe release of the other three hostages.

Two of the former hostages are Canadians. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Canadian soldiers played a role in the rescue:
[Canada's] Department of National Defence yesterday would not disclose any role in the successful mission, saying they don't comment on the secret affairs of [Joint Task Force 2], which is based in Ottawa.

But British and American military sources yesterday, however, made a point of crediting Canada's key role in the mission. Pentagon and British military officials said that Canadian and special forces took the reins of the ground operation.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that a high-level squad of diplomats, soldiers and intelligence officials from the three countries had been working closely together for "weeks and weeks," along with civilians and Iraqis in order to secure the hostages' release.
Britain runs a special intelligence network, the Black Task Force, aimed at tracking hostages in Iraq. The unit was created after the deaths of kidnap victims Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan last year.

Kudos all around, then:  to the USA for gathering the intelligence that made this rescue possible; to Britain for the work of the Black Task Force; and to Canada's JTF2 unit for taking a lead role in the ground operation.

In the comment section of an earlier post, a few of us speculated about what story the captives might tell after their release. They are about to become pawns in the great public relations battle precipitated by the Iraq war.

When they joined the Christian Peacemaker Teams mission, they believed that Iraqis are the good guys and Americans are the bad guys. Do they see things differently after they were held hostage by Iraqis and rescued by the Americans (among others)?

They are going to experience some pressure to say the "right" thing whenever they talk to Western media. But of course, the "right" thing depends a great deal on your vantage point.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Thanks for saving us; now f*ck off

The Iraq war has been in the headlines again this week, because we have just arrived at a milestone:  the war's third anniversary.

Many of the Iraqi people are of two minds about the U.S. invasion. Their attitude is summed up in the title of this post:  "Thanks for saving us from Saddam; now f*ck off out of our country."

That is my conclusion, based on data published by the Globe and Mail this past weekend. ( is the original source of the data.)

I've put together three bar graphs for you. First, 77% of Iraqis think all the hardships they have suffered have been worth it to be rid of Saddam Hussein. (Click on the graph for a larger version.)

bar graph

Second, 87% of Iraqis believe that the US-led forces are still needed in Iraq. (The Globe expresses the data the other way around; 13% think the forces are no longer needed.)

bar graph

But here's a kick in the head for you:  47% of Iraqis approve of attacks on the US-led forces!

bar graph

To be blunt about it, some Iraqis are quite irrational. There's only one way to account for the data. In many cases, the men and women who are glad to be rid of Saddam and who, moreover, recognize that the US military presence in Iraq is necessary, are the very same people who are glad to see American soldiers killed.

Thanks; we really couldn't do it without you; but I still love to see you get your head blown off!

Many of the Kurds and the Shiites fall into this camp, even though they have benefitted from the "regime change" (whereas the Sunnis lost power).

The US military isn't exactly triumphing, either. Here's a look at the trend with respect to civilian deaths:

bar graph

So far, each year has been worse than the one before it. (The fourth bar represents total US casualties — not a reduction in civilian deaths.)

According to the Globe, attacks by "insurgents" increased by 29% from 2004 to 2005. In the latest shocking turn of events, Iraqi gunmen stormed a prison and released 30-odd prisoners.

If there's a bright spot to the story, it's this:  US casualties in Iraq (2,314) are much lower than they were in the first three years of the war in Vietnam (19,159).

I'd like to believe that this is a winnable war. I'd like to believe that the USA is making real progress in Iraq; that it's only a matter of time before the country becomes stable and democracy takes root.

But we're nowhere near that point — not yet.

copyright © 2006, Stephen Peltz

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Whither multiculturalism?

There was an excellent column in the Globe and Mail this weekend by Margaret Wente, one of the Globe's regular columnists. It is subscription-protected, but you may be able to access it by googling the title, "End of the multicultural myth".

Welcome to the new millenium, in which radical Muslims are driving the global socio-political agenda. The West is stuck in a defensive posture, reacting rather than taking initiatives. Some of our most beloved notions are wearing thin:  including, as Wente points out, the multicultural ideal.

The Netherlands are leading the way — forward or backward, I'm not sure which.

Until very recently, the Netherlands was the most "progressive, liberal, tolerant nation on the planet," according to Wente:  but not anymore.
Starting this week, would-be immigrants (but not from the European Union or North America) are required to watch a video about life in the Netherlands. It includes shots of bicycles and windmills, and also of a topless woman and two men kissing. "People don't make a fuss about nudity," says the narrator, who also informs us that men can marry other men, and that women have equal rights.

"These are little facts we just want to give," said one government spokesperson. But critics call the new immigration policy culturally biased and anti-Muslim. "This isn't education, it's provocation," said Abdou Menebhi, who chairs a Moroccan interest group in Amsterdam. "The new law has one goal:  to stop the flow of immigrants, especially by Muslims from countries like Morocco and Turkey."

Dutch politicians deny it. But the critics are largely right. The Netherlands wants to slam the door on Muslims. The multicultural ideal has been a failure.
What has happened to bring about this reversal of values? A series of awful shocks, beginning with two murders:
of the gay politician Pim Fortuyn, who had warned about the threat of unassimilated Muslims, and then of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Muslim kids began harassing gay men and women on the streets. Instead of finding Dutch-born wives, second- and third-generation immigrants made arranged marriages with uneducated women from back home. Despite strenuous efforts at integration, Amsterdam's school system became completely segregated.
We've all heard about the violence many times, but there is a second cause for alarm:  the demographic trends.
Today, this little nation of 16 million people has a Muslim population of 920,000. Six hundred thousand immigrants don't speak Dutch, and as many as 60 per cent are unemployed. Many of the foreign imams who are their main source of authority tell them they have no obligation to obey the rules of secular society. Theo van Gogh's killer, a Dutch-born Moroccan, was so popular in some neighbourhoods that kids put pictures of him on their schoolbags. …

Islamic radicals are convinced that time and demographics are on their side. This week, Mullah Krekar, a leading Muslim supremacist living in Norway (which faces similar problems), said the triumph of Islam in Europe is inevitable. "The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes," he said. "By 2050, 30 per cent of the population in Europe will be Muslim."

In the circumstances, Holland's tough new immigration laws look less like discrimination than a desperate grab at cultural survival. "We demand a new social contract," Jan Wolter Wabeke, a high court judge in The Hague, told Newsweek. "We no longer accept that people don't learn our language, we require that we send their daughters to school, and we demand they stop bringing in young brides from the desert and locking them up in third-floor apartments."

The new laws include tough restrictions on the practice of importing women for arranged marriages. The city of Rotterdam has passed a new "code of conduct" requiring that Dutch be spoken in public. Nationally, the burka has been banned.
Violence and demographics — these two trends are causing all European nations to reconsider the multicultural ideal:
Even before the Danish cartoon wars, attitudes had begun to harden in much of Europe. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy says France should take a cue from the Netherlands. Some German states are now requiring would-be immigrants to take 600 hours of German-language courses. One German state has a citizenship test that asks about a person's views on forced marriage, homosexuality and women's rights. Another has introduced a test that asks whether the applicant believes in Israel's right to exist.
North Americans are a little more insulated, but we cannot escape the issue that Wente has illustrated so effectively.

My oldest child begins university in September. I worry about what kind of a world my generation will pass on to him and his children.

I find climate change alarming. I worry that the human race will precipitate a global ecological crisis and try to slam on the brakes when it is too late to avoid a calamity.

And I worry about the decline of the West, as our lofty (but naive?) values are swamped by violence and demographics.

What do you think of the Netherlands' attempts to discourage Muslim immigrants? Of its banning of burkas? Of Rotterdam's law that people must speak Dutch in public?

What do you think of France's schools forbidding children from wearing anything that would identify their religious affiliation? Of the citizenship test in one German state that asks about a person's views on forced marriage, homosexuality and women's rights?

I entitled this post, Whither multiculturalism. But perhaps I should have spelled it wither.