At Large

At Large

Chad to the Rescue

By 2.2.15

Gamboru has a few things going for it, and would have even more, were the Lake Chad region booming. Situated one of the trans-Africa trade routes, in the east and north of Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, it is on the road to Maiduguri, if you are coming from Chad or Cameroon, and Maiduguri is where the action is, up here in the impoverished and war-torn Sahel, the great stretch of Savannah and desert that makes a belt across the Continent below the Sahara. 

According to reports, Boko Haram fighters encircled the city last week after terrorizing the surrounding region, and launched an assault on the weekend.

Maiduguri is the capital of  Borno state, a big hub and with an airport and roads into the Nigerian interior. While it does not carry the symbolism of a town like Timbuktu in northern Mali, which Islamist insurgents seized in 2012 and held for a year before being chased out by French and African troops, its economic and political importance is greater, and it would be a big psychological and political blow to Nigeria if it were seized, even briefly, by the same kinds of bad guys who grabbed Mali’s Sahel-Sahara regions. 

At Large

Beware of Greeks Bearing Ballots

By 1.27.15

What can you say about a 23-year-old treaty born in Maastricht, the Netherlands that might die? That it was sentimental?

The victory of the Greek leftist party Syriza on Sunday is likely to test the European spirit of collectivism and continued fiscal austerity, and renew spirited debate about the merits of monetary union. Some elements within Syriza are known to favor an exit from the Eurozone.

Established by the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, the Eurozone was originally conceived out of an intellectual longing for one Europe, finally more united and economically focused after a century of war against fascism and Communism. The Eurozone and its currency, the euro, reflected an ideal, originating in some part from Brussels, Paris, and Bonn by civil servants and so-called Eurocrats who were pursuing economic engineering to achieve their vision of a united Europe. This was an emotional and socialistic concept about collectivism — to promote efficient capital movement, trade, and peace.

At Large

America Aced in Space

By 12.29.14

The Obama administration has proved its talent for inflicting both short and long-term wounds on America’s strength.

One, relatively little noted but perhaps the most serious and long-term of all in its consequences, has been the damage done to the U.S. space program, as China’s and, despite its new economic problems, Russia’s programs press steadily on.

The recent landing of an instrument package on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was not an American but a European feat — the sort of thing America used to excel in.

Where America alone has been able to land men on the Moon, and a few years ago led the world with the Space Shuttle, the first spaceship, it now depends on Russian rockets to get personnel and supplies to the International Space Station.

The American space program has become hostage to an increasingly surly and unfriendly Russia, whose commitment to supply and service the ISS only lasts to 2016, after which it will have the U.S. over a barrel.

At Large

Winning the PM’s History Prize and Upsetting the Lefty Luvvies

By 12.19.14

My wife and I were flown to Melbourne for me to receive half of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s $80,000 Prize for History for my book Australia’s Secret War: How Unionists Sabotaged Our Troops in World War II.

The hotel we were put up at, on the south bank of the Yarra River, was a good deal more luxurious than I am accustomed to, with uniformed doormen and all. The “gala meal” at the oxymoronically named Victorian National Arts Centre, was excellent.

My publisher, Keith Windschuttle, editor of the conservative cultural magazine Quadrant, Roger Franklin, editor of Quadrant Online, and former editor Peter Coleman and his daughter shared our table.

At Large

The KGB’s Old Headquarters Lives On

By 12.11.14

Moscow

Red Square is one of the world’s most iconic locales. Dominated by the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and GUM Department Store, the space looks little different from Soviet times. While Lenin’s mausoleum remains, any hint of menace is gone. Indeed, even during the worst of the USSR the square was more symbolic than threatening. For the most part no one went to the Kremlin to die.

Very different, however, is Lubyanka, just a short walk up Teatralny Proezd past the Bentley and Maserati dealerships. 

In the late nineteenth century 15 insurance companies congregated on Great Lubyanka Street, prospering as the great czarist despotism entered the industrial age. The Rossia agency, one of Russia’s largest, completed an office building in 1900. Excess space was turned into apartments and leased out to retailers selling everything from books to beds.

At Large

Crowning Moments in Britain’s One-Sided Culture War

By 12.3.14

Christians are being killed in tens of thousands in the Islamic World and Africa. A Christian woman in Pakistan is sentenced to be hanged for drinking from a Muslim cup. An official who tries to save her is murdered by his own bodyguard, who becomes a popular hero, and Jewish babies are murdered by more Islamic heroes in Jerusalem.

The Church of England, meanwhile, devotes its energies to attacking the British Education Secretary for plans to teach “British values” in schools, calling them potentially “dangerous, divisive and undemocratic.”

The London Telegraph reported that the church, which is responsible for educating about a million children in England, voiced fears that a “narrowly focused” definition of British values would be used to test whether people were loyal and safe.

At Large

Boots in the Face

By 11.14.14

What’s the perfect way for a government to indict itself, to show the public they’re being governed by a tyrannical regime that’s establishing the nightmarish society depicted in George Orwell’s 1984, a nation where individualism and free thought are crushed and the ruling party is all-pervading?

Answer: Have the police arrest anyone who is caught reading Orwell’s 1984.

“The crackdown on opposition to the May 22 coup continues,” Time magazine reported this past summer regarding the Thai government’s suppression of pro-democracy, anti-martial law demonstrators in Bangkok. “On Sunday, June 22, eight people were arrested outside the capital’s Siam Paragon mall — one for reading George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984, copies of which have become symbols of the protest movement. Others were arrested for holding sandwiches, which have also become a tongue-in-cheek pro-democracy prop.”

At Large

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

By 11.11.14

November 9 marked the 25th anniversary of the day the Berlin Wall cracked and Communist East Germany and its Kremlin overseers silently acknowledged Cold War defeat. As East and West Berliners began tearing the Wall to pieces, they began the dicey process of post-World War II German reunification.

Twenty-first century Germans believe that process is complete. Or at least they did. Current events may have tempered celebrations in Germany and throughout what was Communist-controlled Eastern Europe. On that same day in 1989 the dangerous and now demonstrably incomplete process of USSR dissolution commenced. The Kremlin’s current czar, Russian president Vladimir Putin, regards the Soviet Union’s dissolution as a historical tragedy. Many Eastern Europeans see Putin’s March 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula as a signal that the Kremlin intends to regain military control of Ukraine and the Baltic States.

NATO nations whose troops for some four decades defended Western Europe from Communist Russian attack also commemorated the Wall’s demise, as a moment of joy and immense relief more than victory.

At Large

Nothing Macho, Please

By 11.10.14

Some very odd, things are going on in the upper echelons of the Australian Army.

A much-decorated Australian soldier, Major Bernard Gaynor, is fighting, largely alone, a battle against homosexual servicemen marching in uniform in “Gay Pride” parades that also mock and insult Christianity and with obscene displays before audiences that include children.

Gaynor served three tours of duty in Iraq while serving in Army intelligence. He has several awards recognizing outstanding conduct and was awarded the United States Meritorious Service Medal for operational performance in Iraq in 2008-09.

I have written elsewhere of Royal Australian Air Force Squadron-Leader Vince Chong receiving a gold commemoration from the vice-chief of the Australian Defense Force for his efforts as chairman of the Australian Defense Gay and Lesbian Information Service.

The activities of this body include having servicemen and women of all ranks marching in uniform in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

At Large

‘Life Imprisonment Is a Hidden Death Penalty’

By 10.30.14

Recently Pope Francis reiterated papal opposition to the death penalty and, going a step further, also renounced life imprisonment, which is the alternative that many death penalty opponents typically cite.

“All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty. And this, I connect with life imprisonment,” he said at an October 23 event with the International Association of Penal Law. “Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty.”

Evidently Vatican City has abolished life imprisonment, which obviously is mostly symbolic, since the papal enclave is hardly teeming with violent crime. The most serious crime there in recent years was the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, after which the assailant was tried in an Italian court.

Pages