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21st Century Dilemmas

Roger L. Simon found a speech by Haim Harari caled A View from the Eye of the Storm that was delivered and published in April. I missed it then and so did he, but it’s as valuable now as it was then.

The whole thing is worth reading, but here’s an excerpt:

The civilized world believes in democracy, the rule of law, including international law, human rights, free speech and free press, among other liberties. There are naïve old-fashioned habits such as respecting religious sites and symbols, not using ambulances and hospitals for acts of war, avoiding the mutilation of dead bodies and not using children as human shields or human bombs. Never in history, not even in the Nazi period, was there such total disregard of all of the above as we observe now. Every student of political science debates how you prevent an anti-democratic force from winning a democratic election and abolishing democracy. Other aspects of a civilized society must also have limitations. Can a policeman open fire on someone trying to kill him? Can a government listen to phone conversations of terrorists and drug dealers? Does free speech protects you when you shout “fire” in a crowded theater? Should there be death penalty, for deliberate multiple murders? These are the old-fashioned dilemmas. But now we have an entire new set.

Do you raid a mosque, which serves as a terrorist ammunition storage? Do you return fire, if you are attacked from a hospital? Do you storm a church taken over by terrorists who took the priests hostages? Do you search every ambulance after a few suicide murderers use ambulances to reach their targets? Do you strip every woman because one pretended to be pregnant and carried a suicide bomb on her belly? Do you shoot back at someone trying to kill you, standing deliberately behind a group of children? Do you raid terrorist headquarters, hidden in a mental hospital? Do you shoot an arch-murderer who deliberately moves from one location to another, always surrounded by children? All of these happen daily in Iraq and in the Palestinian areas. What do you do? Well, you do not want to face the dilemma. But it cannot be avoided.

Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that someone would openly stay in a well-known address in Teheran, hosted by the Iranian Government and financed by it, executing one atrocity after another in Spain or in France, killing hundreds of innocent people, accepting responsibility for the crimes, promising in public TV interviews to do more of the same, while the Government of Iran issues public condemnations of his acts but continues to host him, invite him to official functions and treat him as a great dignitary. I leave it to you as homework to figure out what Spain or France would have done, in such a situation.

The problem is that the civilized world is still having illusions about the rule of law in a totally lawless environment. It is trying to play ice hockey by sending a ballerina ice-skater into the rink or to knock out a heavyweight boxer by a chess player. In the same way that no country has a law against cannibals eating its prime minister, because such an act is unthinkable, international law does not address killers shooting from hospitals, mosques and ambulances, while being protected by their Government or society. International law does not know how to handle someone who sends children to throw stones, stands behind them and shoots with immunity and cannot be arrested because he is sheltered by a Government. International law does not know how to deal with a leader of murderers who is royally and comfortably hosted by a country, which pretends to condemn his acts or just claims to be too weak to arrest him. The amazing thing is that all of these crooks demand protection under international law and define all those who attack them as war criminals, with some Western media repeating the allegations.

Those who care about international law must do two things. First, fix international law and make it actually relevent to 21st century problems. Second, remember that some people don’t care a whit for international law because it gets in the way of fighting this war – so they won’t do the job for you.

New Column

My new Tech Central Station column is up: Marching Towards a Democratic Iraq.

Aquarius Then and Now

Christopher Hitchens reviews a series of books on the 60s, hippies, Vietnam, and the commune movement for the New York Times. Lots of good stuff came out of that era, civil rights being only the most noted and obvious. (Also, Vaclav Havel – one of my absolute favorite people – considers himself a 60s person. That doesn’t mean nothing.)

But not all was well, and much of the era’s detritus is even worse. Just as I did yesterday, he’s not afraid to use the word reactionary.

If you look back to the founding document of the 60′s left, which was the Port Huron statement (also promulgated in Michigan), you will easily see that it was in essence a conservative manifesto. It spoke in vaguely Marxist terms of alienation, true, but it was reacting to bigness and anonymity and urbanization, and it betrayed a yearning for a lost agrarian simplicity. It forgot what Marx had said, about the dynamism of capitalism and ”the idiocy of rural life.” Earlier 18th- and 19th-century American communards had often been fleeing or preparing for a coming Apocalypse, and their emulators in the 1960′s and 1970′s followed this trope as well, believing everything they read about the impending crash, or the exhaustion of the world’s resources. The crazy lean-to of the Unabomber began to take dim shape at that period, even if many of the new pioneers were more affected by the work of the pacific Tolstoy or of C. Wright Mills (who used to recommend, if memory serves, that people should build their own cars as well as their own houses).

Is there a moral to point out here? Of course there is. Maybe more than one. The first is that, as Agnew deftly notes, more of her friends ought to have read about the Joad family before setting out. The second is that not all was wasted or futile. Everybody in society now has a better idea of our relationship with the natural order and our kinship with animals, and we are no longer so casual about what once seemed the endless bounty of our environment. In some ways, we have the ”love generation” to thank for this. Meanwhile, though, the anti-globalization movement has started to reject modernity altogether, to set its sights on laboratories and on the idea of the division of labor, and to adopt symbols from Fallujah as the emblems of its resistance. Conservatism cannot and does not, despite itself, remain static. It mutates into something far more reactionary than anything from which the hippies were ever fleeing.

I don’t know what anti-globalization has to do with Fallujah, but Gene over at Harry’s Place noted the movement’s connection to Hezbollah yesterday.

And God Rolled His Eyes

I have little time for writing tonight, so let me just hand it over (so to speak) to Jeff Jarvis for the moment. He wrote an essay on his blog about God, Christmas, and their discontents called And God Rolled His Eyes. He finds the right balance, I think, between the two often ridiculous sides in our annual holiday culture war.

Cities in Amber

If a place is frozen in time, how many years have to pass before it can fairly be called reactionary?

I lived in the Midwest in the mid-1990s. (Iowa City, in case you’re interested. Nice town. Not what most people on the coasts imagine when they think of Iowa. Kurt Vonnegut lived, wrote, and taught there for a while.)

Several of my left-liberal friends liked to make fun of Muncie, Indiana (a city which I have to admit I never visited) because it was supposedly stuck in the 50s. Maybe what they said was true, and maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know because, like I said, I never went there. But if it really was stuck in the 50s at the laughably late date of the mid-1990s I think it would qualify as reactionary. Four decades out of date is long enough. It’s longer than I’ve been alive.

Dr. Frank is reading The Voice of Guns, a book about the Symbionese Liberation Army, published in 1977. (I actually know one of the members of the SLA because I inadvertantly hired him.)

Frank cites an excerpt that describes the decade-old time warp that Berkeley was back in the 1970s. He says, and I agree with him, that Berkeley still hasn’t changed. (I have been to Berkeley recently, so I think I can say this.)

Berkeley is the ghost town of the Movement, the morgue of the New Left. It is a city dominated by the huge University of California Berkeley campus; a college town uniquely caught up in its own peculiar atmosphere in which swift, turbulent currents of the sixties still swirl, settling well outside the American mainstream. Once the premier capital of the counterculture, Berkeley is still mecca for those seeking to discover or re-create the angry, hopeful anarchism that surged across the nation in the youthful rebellion of the last decade…

Here the Revolution never failed, it merely fell into limbo… Among themselves, they created a time warp, an enchanted-village effect in which much of what constitutes time seems frozen in 1969.

I think it’s time we stop thinking of Berkeley as progressive and designate it reactionary instead. It’s the Muncie, Indiana (assuming the old Muncie really was the old Muncie) of our time. Four decades out of date is long enough. It’s longer than I’ve been alive.

Progressive Patriotism

George Orwell is one of my favorite writers, not so much for his novels (which are great) but for the essays he wrote during World War II. One of the pleasures of re-reading his work is to see how the more things change the more they don’t change at all. Also, as a side note, though it’s not what he intended, he shows better than most how closely England resembles America.

In England Your England he wrote about the divorce of patriotism from leftism.

In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British. It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some. If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were ‘decadent’ and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible. Both the New Statesman and the News Chronicle cried out against the Munich settlement, but even they had done something to make it possible. Ten years of systematic Blimp-baiting affected even the Blimps themselves and made it harder than it had been before to get intelligent young men to enter the armed forces. Given the stagnation of the Empire, the military middle class must have decayed in any case, but the spread of a shallow Leftism hastened the process.

It is clear that the special position of the English intellectuals during the past ten years, as purely negative creatures, mere anti-Blimps, was a by-product of ruling-class stupidity. Society could not use them, and they had not got it in them to see that devotion to one’s country implies ‘for better, for worse’. Both Blimps and highbrows took for granted, as though it were a law of nature, the divorce between patriotism and intelligence. If you were a patriot you read Blackwood’s Magazine and publicly thanked God that you were ‘not brainy’. If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the Union Jack and regarded physical courage as barbarous. It is obvious that this preposterous convention cannot continue. The Bloomsbury highbrow, with his mechanical snigger, is as out-of-date as the cavalry colonel. A modern nation cannot afford either of them. Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again.

Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again. Can they? Of course. But I can’t say it’s an encouraging prospect considering how very long ago he wrote those words.

That doesn’t stop some of us from thinking about it, though. Via Roger L. Simon I discovered a new blog called Done With Mirrors. The blog’s author Callimachus wrote an essay called Progressive Patriotism. It is your required reading over the weekend.

The Martial Art of Book-Burning

A few days ago I wondered aloud on this page if any prominent conservatives would take on the “right-wing nanny-state jerks in their own party.”

I realize that libertarian Republicans do this on a regular basis. But libertarians are not conservatives. They are “classical liberals.” Many of them (like Glenn Reynolds) are basically centrists. Others (like Matt Welch) tend to lean to the left. What I want to see are actual capital-c Conservatives publicly challenge the right-wing authoritarians in their ranks.

If conservatives want to claim they stand for freedom, they need to actually stand for freedom. Arguing only with leftist opponents of freedom isn’t good enough. It comes across as cheap partisan opportunism that’s more anti-leftist than anything else.

Blogger John Coleman, self-described member of the religious right, seems to agree.

[I]n perhaps the most discomforting moves I have encountered in recent years, [a Republican] is burying books to “protect” our values. This of course, has been tried before, but to see it happen in the country that has served as a cove of comfort for writers from Rushdie to Solzhenitsyn is saddening. Even more frightening is the fact that so few of us have dared to respond. [My emphasis.]

I am not a prominent conservative; but I am a conservative. Moreover, I am a member of the religious right and a southerner by birth (born and raised in the heart of Georgia), and while my opinion matters little, I am ashamed that policies like this are allowed to persist in the party to which I often grant my support.

[...]

What happens when the party of the right leans away from the defense of liberty and toward the despicable martial art of book burning?

The question answers itself. Good for you, John, for asking it. Now if only you can convince Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to do the same.

UPDATE: Unsurpisingly, Andrew Sullivan picked this up. Anyone else want to take this on without waving their hands and saying “nothing to see here”?

SECOND UPDATE: Roy Edroso accuses me of being a psuedo-liberal. Guess what, Roy? I plead guilty. I’m a psuedo-liberal! Just as I’m a psuedo-conservative.

I really don’t understand why these guys don’t just say “fuck it” and announce themselves Republican.

Haven’t we been going over that for the past several days? I swear to you, Roy, there are more than two points of view in this country. Try really really hard and you might scrounge up enough of the popular (yet somehow elusive!) nuance required to grasp this.

To the Woodshed, Once More

Jeff Jarvis takes Juan Cole out behind the woodshed for yet another well-deserved thrashing. He calls the professor pond scum and a hate blogger – and that’s just in the title and the first sentence.

(I’m having dinner with Jeff next month in New York. I hope I don’t rankle him much between now and then. Somehow I think I’ll be okay.)

Neocon Tree Huggers for Gay Marriage

When I read stuff like this I’m tempted to simultaneously declare myself a neocon and throw my support behind a ban on clear-cutting trees just so I can irritate people who deserve to be irritated.

(Oh, and just for the record, I’m not kidding about the trees. I live in Oregon and really don’t like clear-cutting.)

Protect Alabama. Bury Alice Walker.

There are several reasons I’m not a Republican, but the biggest one, the top of the list, is the fact that the Religious Right is a faction in good standing.

Although I’m an atheist/agnostic, I really don’t care that the Religious Right is religious. Nor do I care that the Religious Right is right (so to speak). What I just can’t abide is the reactionary authoritarian impulse that lurks at the heart of it.

From a Guardian story last week:

What should we do with US classics like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Color Purple? “Dig a hole,” Gerald Allen recommends, “and dump them in it.”

Who is Gerald Allen? Some nut on the fringe that doesn’t deserve my attention? Don’t I wish.

Earlier this week, Allen got a call from Washington. He will be meeting with President Bush on Monday. I asked him if this was his first invitation to the White House. “Oh no,” he laughs. “It’s my fifth meeting with Mr Bush.”

Bush is interested in Allen’s opinions because Allen is an elected Republican representative in the Alabama state legislature. He is Bush’s base. Last week, Bush’s base introduced a bill that would ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that “promote homosexuality”. Allen does not want taxpayers’ money to support “positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle”. That’s why Tennessee Williams and Alice Walker have got to go.

I’ve tried to understand the opposition to gay marriage. I’ve listened to the arguments, at least the sane ones. And I’m convinced that opposition to gay marriage is not evidence of bigotry. For one thing, there are just too many people who oppose gay marriage but do support civil unions. Bigotry can’t explain the difference between my opinion and theirs — at least not in all (or even most?) cases.

But burying Alice Walker in a hole in the ground goes way beyond mere bigotry and slouches toward something far worse.

“Traditional family values are under attack,” Allen informs me. They’ve been under attack “for the last 40 years”. The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is “Hollywood, the music industry”. We have an obligation to “save society from moral destruction”. We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from “re-engineering society’s fabric in the minds of our children”. We have to “protect Alabamians”.

I don’t know if Mr. Allen actually referred to Hollywood and the music industry as part of an “Axis of Evil” or if the writer inserted it for effect. This is the Guardian we’re talking about here, so I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

But there’s more.

Would Allen’s bill cut off state funding for Shakespeare?

“Well,” he begins, after a pause, “the current draft of the bill does not address how that is going to be handled. I expect details like that to be worked out at the committee stage. Literature like Shakespeare and Hammet [sic] could be left alone.” Could be. Not “would be”. In any case, he says, “you could tone it down”

I hardly even know what to say. This guy (who unsurprisingly can’t pronounce Hamlet correctly) isn’t even able to defend William Shakespeare. We rubes “could” end up being allowed to check out the bard’s books if the committee feels like it. Then again, maybe not! Shakespeare might end up being declared a “liberal” or a “fag” who somehow threatens “the children.”

When conservatives rail against “nanny state” liberalism they get my attention. Just once I’d like to see prominent conservatives other than Andrew Sullivan call out the right-wing nanny-state jerks in their own party. Any takers? Or are only liberals and centrists going to keep an eye on this crowd?

Patterico Wins

It turns out that I didn’t win the Wizbang blog award for which I was nominated. Somebody cheated on my behalf and voted for me more than 280 times. I’d say “thanks for trying” but that sort of thing really isn’t okay. Why should I be grateful for the effort? I thought I won, and it turns out I didn’t. And I don’t want to win anything if I don’t deserve it.

Patterico obviously runs a pretty good blog or he wouldn’t have won. So why don’t you hop on over and check him out. I don’t have much else to say tonight because I’ll be busy watching this DVD which finally came out today. (50 extra minutes. Woo hoo!)

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Sick and Twisted

An American was murdered by an Iraqi because he “looked Jewish” and Professor Juan Cole (perhaps the most over-rated blogger in the world) blames, wait for it, Israel!

The Iraqi killer of Reserve Navy Lt. Kylan Jones-Huffman has been brought to justice in an Iraqi court. Although he has since changed his story, he at one point admitted to killing Jones-Huffman with a bullet through the back of the neck while the latter was stuck in traffic in downtown Hilla. The assassin said that he felt that Jones-Huffman “looked Jewish.” The fruits of hatred sowed in the Middle East by aggressive and expansionist Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza against the Palestinians and in south Lebanon against Shiites continue to be harvested by Americans.

This from a guy who arrogantly calls his blog “Informed Comment.”

Well, professor, I suppose you join a phalanx of “informed commenters” who blame the United States for the World Trade Center attacks. Nice company you have there. Do you blame black people for Ku Klux Klan lynchings and cross-burnings? Perhaps you blame the gay rights movement for the murder of Matthew Shepherd. I’m just assuming since you’re a professor that you know how to apply a little consistency in your thinking, but I wouldn’t know. I found this entry via Andrew Sullivan, who reads your blog so I don’t have to.

UPDATE: Michael Kimmitt in the comments seems to think it’s okay to blame Jews in one country for the murder of a guy who “looks Jewish” in a different country.

And precisely how many heterosexual babies were blown to pieces in collateral damage from gay strikes on heterosexual homes? Also, how long have gay occupiers administered the heterosexual US as a conquered territory without its denizens granted the basic rights of life, liberty, and property? I’m curious. Seriously.

I’ll answer that question with another. Would it make sense if a Klansman lynched a black American and blamed it on the confiscation of white farms in Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe?

SECOND UPDATE: Looks like Juan Cole blamed Israel for the massacre of American contractors in Fallujah, as well.

Fisking Juan Cole

I hardly ever – ever – pick fights with other bloggers. But I’m not finished with Juan Cole yet. It’s long past time to give the professor from Michigan a double-whammy shellacking.

Yesterday he made up a conspiracy theory (all by himself, this time) about the Iraqi bloggers who write at Iraq the Model.

A related practice has been called by Josh Marshall “astroturfing,” where a “grass roots” campaign turns out actually to be sponsored by a think tank or corporation. Astroturf is fake grass used in US football arenas. What Mailander is talking about is not really astroturfing, but rather the granting of some individuals a big megaphone.

He wouldn’t want to let any individuals have a big megaphone. Especially not liberal-democratic Iraqis who don’t hate America like they’re supposed to.

The MR posting brings up questions about the Iraqi brothers who run the IraqTheModel site.

See what I’m talking about?

It points out that the views of the brothers are celebrated in the right-leaning weblogging world of the US, even though opinion polling shows that their views are far out of the mainstream of Iraqi opinion.

The brothers call b.s. on this one, but I don’t know. I don’t live in Iraq. Neither does Juan Cole. We’ll see what happens after the election in January.

But why should it make any difference to the right side of the blogosphere whether or not the Iraq the Model guys are mainstream or not? They are obviously friends of Americans. They share our liberal-democratic values. They helped found the Iraq Democracy Party. They aren’t running around bitching about America or cutting off heads. They’re the good guys. That’s why we like them.

Juan Cole would rather align himself with anti-American Iraqis like the blogger Riverbend. Okay, whatever. But I have no idea why he expects conservatives and centrists to do any such thing. Most people in this world don’t reflexively side with those who hate them. One reason he is in the political wilderness and I’m not is because he does and I don’t.

It notes that their choice of internet service provider, in Abilene, Texas, is rather suspicious, and wonders whether they are getting some extra support from certain quarters.

Well, Lord help us. Someone in America supports liberal Iraqis against fundamentalism, Baathism, and jihad. Ooo, how suspicious. Better come up with a “theory.”

Contrast all this to the young woman computer systems analyst in Baghdad, Riverbend, who is in her views closer to the Iraqi opinion polls, especially with regard to Sunni Arabs, but who is not being feted in Washington, DC.

Maybe she’s more in line with the Sunni Arabs. I really don’t know. But she certainly isn’t in line with the Sunni Kurds, who conveniently ceased to exist on the left the instant the United States government took Bill Clinton’s regime-change policy seriously.

But anyway. Why on Earth would an anti-American Iraqi be celebrated in Washington? Professor Cole might want to try really really hard to remember which country he lives in and, more important, which country Washington is in. That way he might be slightly less baffled by what happens outside his bubble.

The phenomenon of blog trolling, and frankly of blog agents provocateurs secretly working for a particular group or goal and deliberately attempting to spread disinformation, is likely to grow in importance. It is a technique made for the well-funded Neoconservatives, for instance, and I have my suspicions about one or two sites out there already.

As it turns out, Jeff Jarvis – who was an outspoken supporter of John Kerry – probably helped pro-American Iraqi bloggers, including those at Iraq the Model, more than anyone else. But it’s much more fun for a certain kind of person to write off Arabs who support freedom and democracy as pawns in a neoconservative plot. Every time I come across this hystetical knee-jerk formulation my opinion of neoconservatives goes up and my opinion of illiberal so-called “liberals” goes down.

It’s no wonder, really, that so many conservatives dismiss liberals and leftists out of hand as self-declared enemies of freedom and democracy. Not everyone on the left is like this, I know. Jeff Jarvis is only one of the more obvious examples of a liberal who’s actually liberal. But Juan Cole is the “national security” hero on the left side of the blogosphere. It’s not the right’s fault that it has come to this.

UPDATE: Ali at Iraq the Model responds to the professor.

[Y]ou’d better focus on something other than Iraq. Talk about Lebanon, or Yemen. Yemen is good! You haven’t messed up with a Yemeni blogger I assume? Or if you can’t live without talking about Iraq, then keep it poetic. It saves my time and your reputation.

SECOND UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis, bless his bleeding liberal heart, accuses Juan Cole of libel and says he is pond scum.

THIRD UPDATE: Barb O. in the comments section points to Juan Cole’s page on RateMyProfessors.com. Some of his students don’t like him very much. The person who wrote the top entry says he’s “a hypocritical, double-standard spouting apologist for racism and religious fascism.”

CORRECTION: The professor linked to a Martini Republic post about “blog trolling” (his characterization.) I didn’t read that post so I didn’t realize MR came up with this silly conspiracy theory first. Cole didn’t invent it, he just repeated it.

I’m Losing Here, People (Updated – I Won It)

Patterico is ahead in the Wizbang blog awards. He’s posting “vote for me” over at Free Republic, exchanging blogroll links for endorsements, bashing me as a “liberal” over at Little Green Footballs, and pulling all sorts of other shenanigans. That kind of behavior can’t be rewarded. But so far…it is!

So please go here and correct it by voting for me.

Thanks, all. Your regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly.

UPDATE: Okay, polls are closed and I won best blog for the top 100-250. (Unless, that is, somebody cheated on my behalf – please tell me you didn’t.) Thanks, everybody. And congratulations to Patterico and Meryl Yourish who took second and third place. They’re both on my blogroll, and both well worth visiting on a regular basis.

When in Rome

I considered moving to Tokyo to teach English right out of college but then chickened out. I wasn’t ready to live abroad in an alien culture at 22. (Actually, I probably was. I just thought I wasn’t.) Six years ago, before the eruption of the second intifada, I agreed to move to Jerusalem for an Intel tech writing job. But I didn’t go because the position was eliminated before I could start.

I thought long and hard about what it would mean to live in a culture different from mine. The first thing I would have to do — obviously — is accommodate myself to people who are different from me. If I moved to Japan I would expect to encounter Buddhism once in a while. If I moved to Jerusalem I’d expect something around a Jewish theme. And if I ever decide to move to Istanbul (to pick a random example), I’ll expect a reduced selection of restaurant options at noon during Ramadan.

I can’t imagine moving to one of those places and pitching a fit about and getting “offended” by the local traditions. Only the ugliest of ugly Americans would even think of it.

But some people do behave that way and — amazingly — fools let them get away with it.

Last week, a public elementary school in the northern [Italian] city of Treviso decided that Little Red Riding Hood would be this year’s Christmas play instead of the Christmas story.

The teachers said the famous tale was a fitting representation of the struggle between good and evil and would not offend Muslim children. The school’s traditional nativity scene was scrapped for the same reason.

In another school near Milan, the word “Jesus” was removed from a Christmas hymn and substituted with the word “virtue.” In Vicenza province an annual contest for the best Nativity scene in schools was canceled.

Conservative politicians and Churchmen blasted the moves.

“Are we losing our minds?,” said Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli, an outspoken member of the populist Northern League. “Do we want to erase our identity for the love of Allah?”

Some places are more hospitable than others, and the Muslim countries are at the absolute top of that list. But there’s a flip side to hospitality. It ought to go both ways. Let’s not forget there’s such a thing as a rude guest. Those brats and their parents in Italy are perfect examples.

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