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THE TWENTY DEFECTS OF THE ARAB MIND

[Tarek Heggy, a native Arab Egyptian, is one of Egypt’s most prominent intellectuals and most successful business managers. He is the author of innumerable articles and several books, and is a frequent guest lecturer at Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England.]I have written many books and articles over the last ten years about the defects in the Arab mind-set, all of which are cultural defects stemming from three main sources. The first is the repressive climate that prevails throughout Arab societies, the second a backward educational system that lags far behind modern educational systems and the third a mass-media apparatus operated by those responsible for the climate of political repression to serve their interests. The following are the most obvious defects from which the contemporary Arab mind-set suffers:

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FRED THOMPSON AND THE IOWA CUCKOO’S NEST

Those who watched the Republican presidential "debate" in Iowa yesterday (12/12) now understand why the Des Moines Register is such a lousy newspaper. "That was not just the worst debate of 2007, that was the worst debate in Western history, and that includes the ancient Greeks," said columnist Charles Krauthammer.  "There is no record in any major European record of a debate this transcendingly and crushingly dull." This wasn't the fault of the candidates, all of whom turned in credible performances.  The blame for this flop belongs to the debate's moderator, Des Moines Register editor Carolyn Washburn.  While most commentators compared her to an overbearing elementary school teacher, Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard likened her to Nurse Ratched, the villain in Ken Kesey's 1962 novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." There was a ray of hope.  The highlight of the debate, such as it was, came when Fred Thompson, like Kesey's hero Randle McMurphy, defied Nurse Ratched.  His putdown was quickly put up on YouTube:

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PRICE-GOUGING POLITICIANS

If you bought a home 10 years ago for $100,000 and just sold it for $300,000, have you engaged in price gouging? Most people would say "no," provided there were willing buyers and sellers of both sides of the transaction merely responding to the market at the time. As a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, some politicians have demanded prosecution of "price gougers." In many states, like Florida, "price gouging" is illegal. The Florida statutes say, "It is illegal to charge unconscionable prices for goods or services following a declared state of emergency." Hmmm, I know what the law means when says burglary or murder are illegal, but an "unconscionable price"?

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2006: YEAR OF THE BLACK REPUBLICAN

The thunderous boos of New England Patriots fans in Boston Stadium during the performance of black racist singer Kanye West during the NFL Kickoff Show September 8th are only the start of a massive backlash. West’s earlier claim - at a fundraising telethon for Katrina victims - that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” was appropriately condemned by First Lady Laura Bush as “disgusting.” That’s going to be the view of more and more Americans towards the left’s deranged politicalization of Katrina. The Left Stream Media’s warnings of how Bush’s alleged “failures” regarding Katrina are going to hurt Republican candidates in 2006 is just wishful thinking. One reason is that 2006 is shaping up to be The Year of the Black Republican. This coming revolution in US politics will take place in a huge swath of America, from Chesapeake Bay to Lake Superior, and it has the potential to gut the Democrat Party.

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THE SWAG NIE

Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003, and probably won't be able to build a bomb before 2015 if it does restart it, a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has concluded.  That's very good news...if it's true. But that's a BIG if.  The NIE is a SWAG (Scientific Wild-Assed Guess), not a statement of proven fact.  It's a SWAG from an Intelligence Community (IC) whose predictive record about the Middle East has been poor.  It's a SWAG that's challenged by Israeli intelligence, whose predictive history is much better.  And it's a SWAG that is diametrically opposed to the last SWAG the IC issued on Iran's nuclear program. An IC that had "high confidence" in a 2005 NIE that Iran was building a bomb and was resistant to international pressure now has "high confidence" that Iran stopped building it two years before that NIE was issued! 

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KATRINA SHOULD CAUSE LESS GOVERNMENT, NOT MORE

Assume you were a regular blood donor but had an accident in which you lost a considerable amount of blood. Do you think you should increase or decrease the size and frequency of your blood donations until you recover? Though most politicians are smart enough to answer, "decrease the blood donations," many seem not smart enough to understand that, when you take an economic hit, you don't want to unnecessarily add burdens to the economy. I refer to the call from some politicians to increase taxes or not extend President Bush's tax cuts to "pay" for Katrina.

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THE DANGER OF DEMOCRAT DENIAL

Denial is the first stage of grieving. Democrats seem stuck there when it comes to the war in Iraq. It's odd that his fellow Democrats are mourning success in Iraq, Sen. Joseph Lieberman said in a speech Nov. 8: "Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress we are now achieving, or even that the progress has enabled us to begin drawing down our troops there." Democrats have been enabled in their denial by a news media which has been reluctant to report the dramatically improving circumstances in Iraq.  But that's changing.  The New York Times has had positive stories two days in a row.  The Los Angeles Times and Newsweek have noticed. This is dismaying for Democrats because journalists are herd animals.  When the bell cows point toward a new story line, the herd stampedes in that direction.  "The herd is likely to grow larger because the evidence of success in Baghdad and elsewhere is so palpable that reporters, regardless of their view of the war, were bound to acknowledge it at some point," said Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard. So Democrats had better work their way through the denial phase of grief fast, because if they're saying in January what they've been saying in November, they'll look ridiculous -- or worse.

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WHY ARE THESE LITTLE COUNTRIES SO RICH?

Why is this cold, rainy land with its stark volcanic landscape, without much in the way of natural resources, one of the wealthiest places on Earth? Small states, in the past, were most often poorer on a per capital income basis than large states, but in the last half-century many have become much richer then their large neighbors. Among the wealthiest places on the planet, we now find Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Denmark and Ireland, none with many natural resources. In a just-concluded meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in Iceland, some leaders of small states that have developed very successful economies met with some of the worlds' leading free-market economists and policy institute professionals, partly to discuss what lessons the rest of the world can learn from these small states. Here is what they concluded.

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NO BLAME

One of the many markers distinguishing civilized from primitive and traditional societies is that the former possess the concept of luck, both good and bad, while the latter do not.There is no word for luck in the language of many American Indian tribes such as the Navaho, African tribes such as the Azande, Amazon tribes such as the Yanomamo, or New Guinea tribes such as the Dobu. The concept is absent, literally inconceivable, in their thinking about the way the world works.How could something, anything, happen out of sheer blind chance? Whatever happens to anybody, good or bad, it was caused by spirits placated to be benevolent or goaded to be malevolent. Man is always the toy of demons. That’s a primitive mind at work.Thus the primitive compulsion to find someone to blame for misfortune. Since there really is no such thing as sheer misfortune, tragedies must always be someone’s fault, the someone who incurred the anger of the spirits and brought down their punishment suffered by all.So the primitive mentalities of leftist intellectuals and politicians within hours of the horror of Katrina began a chorus of blame, pointing their spiteful superstitious fingers at President Bush.

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A CHURCH IN BAGHDAD

Thanksgiving was celebrated a week early at the reopening of St. John's Assyrian Catholic Church in the al Doura district of Baghdad.  The pews were packed. The church had been shuttered after two nearby churches were bombed in 2004.  The al Doura neighborhood had been predominantly Christian until al Qaeda began targeting Christians.  Since then, most of the Christians have fled to Syria, Jordan, or northern Iraq.  Now they are returning. The reopening of St. John's is a heartwarming story of Iraqis reaching across sectarian divisions for peace, and a powerful indicator of how much the security situation in Baghdad has improved since the troop surge began.  On Nov. 7 Michael Yon, a former Special Forces soldier turned freelance journalist, took a photograph of Iraqis, Moslems as well as Christians, placing a cross atop the refurbished church.  The photo bears a startling resemblance to that of the Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in 1945. Here it is, truly symbolic of what American victory is achieving in Iraq:

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