Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Charles and Camilla trip cancelled in security alert
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From The Telegraph

An anti-western backlash against the killing of 80 suspected Islamic militants at a madrassa in Pakistan has forced the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to cancel their planned visit to the northern city of Peshawar today.

Fears of riots and demonstrations in the city following yesterday's air strikes by Pakistani army helicopters on the school near the border with Afghanistan has meant that the area is no longer regarded as safe.

In a statement, Clarence House said last night: "An alternative programme for their Royal Highnesses is being considered. The prince and the duchess are disappointed not to be going."

The madrassa was suspected of being run as a training camp by a militant cleric linked to al-Qa'eda. Details of the raid emerged just a few hours before Prince Charles met the Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, for a discussion of issues that included counter-terrorism.

The madrassa was in the village of Chingai in the wild North West Frontier Province, of which Peshawar is the capital. . . Peshawar is only 15 miles from the Khyber Pass and it is along this porous frontier that al-Qa'eda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri are believed to be hiding. The very name Khyber Pass conjures up tales of Rudyard Kipling although sadly I also recall the antics of “Carry on up the Khyber”.  The current situation is not the stuff of saucy comedy.

The tribal areas in the rugged terrain are seen as a breeding ground for Islamist extremists. Some of the more extreme madrassas in the region are viewed almost as jihad factories, feeding young men a diet of extremist ideology then setting them loose to fight their holy war. Several British-born Muslim extremists known to have been recruited by al-Qa'eda had visited religious schools in the country, notably two of the 7/7 suicide bombers.

It was for this very reason that the prince wanted to visit a madrassa that has been working closely with the British Council and which has a moderate way of teaching. His message was to have been that not all madrassas are a threat. Many provide the only means of schooling available for impoverished children.

I think Prince Charles has received a very different message about the madrassa system through this – let us hope that he takes heed of it.

On a trivial note I like some of the Duchess of Cornwall’s outfits for the trip, rather 70s style tunic and trouser suits which meet local conventions but which are still obviously western dress that could be seen in any English county town. The shalwar kameez given as gifts sound very colourful, (I do like a bit of colour) and more like the outfits I remember from my youth. But were the Duchess to travel to India or Singapore would her outfits need to be so carefully moderated?

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Posted on 10/31/2006 2:29 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Royal Marine Commandos in battle in Southern Afghanistan
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This report from The Telegraph
Royal Marine Commandos are believed to have killed up to 10 Taliban fighters yesterday following a brief but ferocious battle in southern Afghanistan. The Marines were conducting a foot patrol six miles east of the town of Gereshk in the southern province of Helmand when they were ambushed by insurgents armed with 81mm mortars and automatic weapons. The attack provoked a fierce response by the commandos, who fired more than 2,000 rounds during the 25-minute battle. No Marines were injured.
It was the first time the Marines, who took over control of Forward Operating Base Price (FOB Price) from the Paras a month ago, had been involved in a sustained "contact" with the Taliban.
Senior officers said the action disproved press reports at the weekend that the Marines had been confined to their makeshift barracks at Camp Bastion because commanders were too afraid to engage the Taliban.
"We are conducting normal military operations to make the province secure," said a senior Army officer. "It is ludicrous to suggest they spend their time just sitting around watching DVDs. This is a tough mission and they are entitled to rest when they are back at base."
Major Ewen Murchison, commander of J Company, who was leading the patrol, said that in the initial stages of the battle none of his men could identify the Taliban positions until they started communicating with each other using mirrors.
He said: "There was a degree of chaos for the first 10 to 15 minutes until things calmed down. If you come under effective enemy fire the first thing you have to do is identify the target and anyone who identifies the target is clear to engage it.
"We were mortared first from the north, then from the south, then we identified the group with mirrors, some of whom were clearly armed and we neutralised them."
Major Murchison, who has seen action in Bosnia and on previous tours of Afghanistan, said: "We engaged them with all of our weapon systems. We employed our.5 heavy calibre machine guns and 7.62mm machine guns and we neutralised two of the three positions."
Although the tempo of operations in Helmand has slowed considerably since the Royal Marines took over from the Paras at the end of September, commanders believe that more attacks are likely because the number of Taliban in the area has grown in recent weeks following the success of British forces in the north of the province.
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Posted on 10/31/2006 1:53 AM by Esmerelda WEatherwax
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Too-ra, loo-ra, loo-ra
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There will soon be a new holiday destination for the most intrepid tourists, according to one newspaper. Osama bin Laden's infamous Tora Bora caves hideout is reportedly being converted - into a £5.3m holiday resort. - from this news item

Over in Kandahar, many years ago

My mother sang a song to me in tones so soft and low

Just a simple little ditty in her good old Muslim way

And I'd give the world if I could hear that song of hers today

 

To-ra-bo-ra-lo-ra

To-ra-bo-ra-li

To-ra-bo-ra-lo-ra

Hush now, don't you cry

 

To-ra-bo-ra-lo-ra

To-ra-bo-ra-li

To-ra-bo-ra-lo-ra

That's a Muslim lullaby

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Posted on 10/30/2006 6:36 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles
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Promised in Paradise are the 72 virgins, or possibly, if you do not join the gang ganging up on Luxenberg, raisins. It is the boys who are "pearl-like." Perhaps in Hilali's view the simile applies only to boys, who are "pearl-like," while for girls only the metaphor is appropriate: they are not pearl-like but are "pearls." For more on this, see Taj Al-Din Al-Hilaly and Roman Jakobson, "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles in the Holy Qur'an," Mouton, 's Gravenhage, 1976.*

Or perhaps we should look to Giorgione, who enodwed that girl in "La Tempesta" with a come-hither look, or to Shakespeare, with his bold Beatrice giving better than she got to Benedick, or even to Miranda, espying Ferdinand for the first time.

Those were pearls that were his lies. Something like that.

*No, don't.

Just a joke, meant mainly for Morris Halle and especially for Noam Chomsky, who tells me that he loves, positively loves, this site.

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Posted on 10/30/2006 6:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
James Beck and the ovum struthionis
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possibly the ovum struthionis in the Montefeltro altarpiece of Piero della Francesca, identified as such by Millard Meiss - from an earlier posting

Come to think of it, the ovum struthionis leads ineluctably to the ostrich theme, and ostrich-like behavior, and so might be a suitable emblem to be used, in reminding and monitory mockery, of much of the Western world, including the Western museum-and-gallery going, painting-and-sculpting, collection-developing, connoisseur-and-tyro art-loving or pretend-art-loving Western world.

The ovum struthionis...the perfect symbol to mock those who...well, none so blind as those who will not see.

Yes.

In hoc signo....

An ostrich egg, apposite for ostrich-like behavior.

The essay by Millard Meiss on the ovum struthionis of Piero can be found by googling, unless it turns out to be accessible only through one of those subscription-only services.

Panofsky, Rosenberg, Friedlaender, Gombrich, Kitzinger, and a thousand others who helped raise the level of art history in England and, especially, America -- what would happen to them, what would happen to the art of Europe, if Tariq Ramadan were to get his wish?

The Czechs put in place the Benes Decree for a threat that at the time hardly existed, and only in order not to have to further worry about the loyalties and behavior of ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland, given the record of the previous ten years. We have 1350 years of history to tell us how Muslims treat non-Muslims, and the unambiguous texts of Islam: Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira. Why should we feel abashed about discussing this? Why should it not be discussed everywhere, openly, unapologetically?

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Posted on 10/30/2006 6:13 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Re: Do animals know they exist?
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This happens to be a question I have put a lot of thought into. I believe that animal and human minds are not qualitatively all that different and higher animals are certainly conscious. But, are they conscious of their consciousness? I don't think so.  They don't seem to have access to the transcendent and imaginative levels of mind that would allow them to reflect upon themselves (as selves) and so to ponder their existences. I also think animals universally experience love, but I have no graphs, statistics, quantitative measurements, or experiments of any kind to back any of this up. I'm just putting it out there because I think it's interesting to think about.
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Posted on 10/30/2006 5:36 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Do animals know they exist?
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Email from a geneticist friend:

[Quoting me] "But doesn't the I, the Me, that I mentioned earlier  the self-awareness that we humans uniquely have  doesn't that make us special? Do tigers, toads, and ticks have an I ? Do they have a connection to the Creator? I don't know. Perhaps they have a fuzzier one; perhaps higher animals, at any rate, see through a glass as we do, but more darkly. "

[My friend comments] Francis Crick's last paper was a brilliant piece of work that shed some light on this very question. .... Long story short, there is an organ called the claustrum that all mammals share. Very little is currently known about it, but it is like a sheath around the brain that is in contact with a number of parts of the nervous system. Disrupt it in lower organisms, such as mice, and they are very confused. VERY confused.

One might even say they had lost their sense of self...

[Derb] Does Boris, our family mutt, know that he exists? After 14 years of bonding with Boris, including several thousand miles of daily walkies, I can say pretty confidently: Yes, he knows.
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Posted on 10/30/2006 5:33 PM by John Derbyshire
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Still another beheading
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According to the Assyrian website ankawa.com, a 14 year old Christian Assyrian boy, Ayad Tariq, from Baqouba, Iraq was decapitated at his work place on October 21.

Ayad Tariq was working his 12 hour shift, maintaining an electric generator, when a group of disguised Muslim insurgents walked in at the beginning of his shift shortly after 6 a.m. and asked him for his ID.

According to another employee who witnessed the events, and who hid when he saw the insurgents approach, the insurgents questioned Ayad after seeing that his ID stated "Christian", asking if he was truly a "Christian sinner." Ayad replied "yes, I am Christian but I am not a sinner." The insurgents quickly said this is a "dirty Christian sinner!" Then they proceeded to each hold one limb, shouting "Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!" while beheading the boy - from this news item

This has been happening all the time, all over the Muslim Middle East. An Armenian from Haleb told me that, years the civil war in Lebanon, he was visiting an area of Lebanon right on the border with Syria. Passing a Druse village, he saw, right outside, dangling from a pole, the body of a very young boy, a Christian boy (under the age of ten), with some kind of warning placard affixed. Though I have known him for years, he never had spoken of this before, but did so this summer, apparently prompted by my approvingly recounting Walid Jumblatt's criticism of Hezbollah. He did not think this an isolated case. He did think that I still did not quite get the ways that prevail in the Muslim Middle East, even by quasi-Muslims such as Druse who can naturally be affected by, and adopt, the same ways, or reflect the same atttitudes.

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Posted on 10/30/2006 2:54 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Monuments and Tourism
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Look at the ads all over Europe for cheap holidays in wonderful safe Egypt (stay in those Red Sea resorts, they've never had a problem, or visit Luxor before the tourists discover it) and Tunisia (les gentils organisateurs vous attendent, mesdames et messieurs, and gentilles ones as well), and Turkey (visit the wonders of Turkey -- that is, the museum at Zeugma, with whatever the Packard Foundation managed to rescue from the rapidly rising waters, and all the remains of Greek, and Roman, and Byzantine civilization that managed not to be destroyed by the hostile or at times indifferent Islamic one. Forget about the odd bomb on Istiqlal Caddesi, or thrown at Western sunworshippers on a too-bikini-ed beach. Come to Egypt, come to Tunisia, come to Turkey. Explore Petra, rose-red city half as old as time, and don't worry about the taxi drivers. Half of them are security personnel, keeping tabs on the other half -- you see, we in Jordan know our fellow Muslims, and we don't have oil, so of course we need tourism and for that reason, will try to keep you safe. Nothing personal, you understand. We just can't lose a major source of income.

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Posted on 10/30/2006 2:50 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Who will save the monuments?
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BAMIYAN, Afghanistan --  In a huge cavity dug into the side of a cliff, workers search through the rubble to exhume the remains of the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan.

At the scene of the crime carried out in 2001 all evidence points to Osama Bin Laden as the mastermind. "This is the terrorism of the Taliban," says Rahim, an official at the work site in front of the empty niche of the biggest of the two statues, one of which stood 55 meters (182 feet) tall and the other 38 meters. - from this news item

The article below was first posted five months ago, but rather than rewrite the thing ab ovo (possibly the ovum struthionis in the Montefeltro altarpiece of Piero della Francesca, identified as such by Millard Meiss), here it is again.

"Who will save the monuments?

The threat to Western art posed by the Islamization of Europe:

Already statues have been vandalized by Muslims in public places, and in churches, in both France and Italy. The destruction of the monuments and artifacts and hence part of the histories of Infidels, that so many Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists in the Middle East, in North Africa, in the Balkans and southeastern Europe, in Central Asia and Hindustan and in southeast Asia know well, now has come to Western Europe. What will happen in Italy, where every street corner in Rome has something that could be damaged by determined Muslims? What will happen to the churches, to the frescoes (including that which Muslims have been taped planning to destroy in Bologna), to the paintings in the Louvre, the Prado, the National Gallery, the Rijksmuseum, the Alte Pinakothek, the Uffizi? Has any organized association of museum curators, or of art scholars, even dared to think of organizing a conference on the protection of art in Europe, and the prohibitions of Islam against sculpture of all kinds, against paintings of living creatures?

Is anyone at all thinking about this, and contacting others? What about Philippe de Montebello or J. Carter Brown or Anne d'Harnoncourt or any other museum directors or retired directors, or any celebrated collectors, or those who already belong to such groups as Save Venice or Save Florence or FAI or Save Art here and there and everywhere? What about those who fund foundations that will pay to rescue Roman mosaics from the rising man-made floods that covered Zeugma, or the Temples near Aswan, but have a new kind of inundation to deal with, the flood-tide of Islam's adherents, who to the extent that they take their Islam seriously, can only threaten Western art, as they once not only threatened, but managed to destroy, so much of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Greco-Bactrian monuments, stupas, manuscripts, temples, artifacts, to erase, or to appropriate as their own, the signs and symbols of anything pre-Islamic or non-Islamic?


This cannot wait. Raising the matter publicly, noisily, so that everyone is made aware of the problem, so that Muslims themselves (the same ones who pretended to be outraged by the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas but in truth helped the Taliban, as those Pakistani and Saudi engineers did, and were secretly pleased at the result) are put on the defensive, and forced either to admit to or to change their ways.
Raising the issue will offend Muslims -- or at least, many will feign indignation. But why? The issue is real. The prohibition is real. Any Muslim can find it in Qaradawi's handy guide to what is halal and what haram. Any Muslim can read what the Egyptian Grand Muft said recently about this. Muslims have been acting on those prohibitions for 1350 years. Now they exist, in large numbers, within the Lands of the Infidels, the Bilad al-kufr. This poses many problems for Infidels, their laws, customs, understandings, political and social institutions, physical security -- and for their artistic heritage, the heritage that, supposedly, belongs to everyone.

Time to bring it all out into the open. Who will be brave enough to discuss it? If not the heads of American or European museums (who, for all I know, are eager to obtain Arab money for some pathetic "Islamic art" wing and as craven in their pursuit of such money, and hence in their willingness to remain silent on all sorts of questions, as college and university presidents whose every statement is cleared with the Development Office, that beating heart of the modern university) then who?

It could be one of those scholars grateful for the training he received, perhaps at the Warburg or at the Courtauld, in the days when that instruction would have been given by some unforgettable, irreplaceable Jewish refugee from another totalitarian belief-system, that which ruled Germany and almost wrecked European civilization.


There is one celebrated art historian whose clashes with the Belle Arti in Italy have been based not on any deliberate damage inflicted, but rather on the unintentional damage that may have been caused by well-intentioned cleaning that may have removed what the artists in question (Michelangelo, Jacopo della Quercia) foresaw, and intended to be, the pleasing effects created by the patina of time on the Sistine Chapel, on the giant statue of Ilaria del Carretto in Lucca.

So perhaps someone will kindly pass on this suggestion to Professor James Beck of Columbia. He would at once grasp the gravity of the problem that large numbers of Islam's adherents, now in Western Europe, pose to our civilization and its artifacts, as the behavior of Muslims who conquered initially through the sword, and completed their dominance through demographic conquest demonstrates.


And as the boys from the Belle Arti, and some Japanese businessmen who were awarded proprietary rights in the Cappella Sistina reproductions have discovered to their own great dismay, nothing and nobody intimidates James Beck."


[Posted at June 14, 2006 09:17 AM]

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Posted on 10/30/2006 2:42 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Derbyshire's Mysterianism
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John has a basic problem as a Mysterian.

A man can say, I don’t know God. But how does he say, I know that I can’t know God?

Isn’t the defining problem - how do I learn (or know) the Truth about anything and everything?

My experience is that people who sincerely want to know, hunger and thirst after righteousness, and can accept some guidance both temporal and supernatural, who seek to discover how to pray - these people make some progress.

I am also certain that you have to love truth more than life if you want to know the truth about anything and everything. You can certainly do that outside of religion (but not initially. Other people and discipline are important.), but you can’t do it apart from God. You can’t maintain a vague, unknowing, distrusting, or indifferent attitude and expect to ever get much truth out of him.

Also, consider the idea -- why should God trust you with the experience of him? You have earn God's trust just as you have to earn anyone's trust.

How can a man trust he knows anything if he can't know what truth is?

Affliction often makes humans reject faith in a fit of pique. "After all I did for you, God, and this is how you treat me!?"

I understand that very well, but what if God doesn't want good deeds, babbling petitions, and rote submission? What if he really does want to put you on a cross and murder every bit of ego, willfulness, and the Self you possess?

Isn't it more likely then that God isn't the one hiding from people, but that they are generally running away from him?

It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a living God, indeed.
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Posted on 10/30/2006 2:00 PM by Mark Butterworth
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Pennis from heaven
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Few of us, no matter how good our computer firewall, have avoided being offered "v1Ahgrra" for our "ercetoin" problems.

Cunning spammers, possibly the most unscrupulous kind of spammers, penetrate anti-spam software by random incorrect spelling. I got an email today, offering a "tonic tab created to help your pennis":

Happy day! Younger and older males face this difficulty. Whatever your age, you have the answer. Gain confidence with Extra-Time, a ground-breaking thing making your life better. Don't let your partner leave you because of being unhappy with the duration of your acts. All you need is here: (web address). Keep her satisfied tonight and any night in the future. She'll love it!

No price was given for this "ground breaking thing", but I imagine it is a case of "take care of the pennis and the pounds will look after themselves."

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Posted on 10/30/2006 8:39 AM by Mary Jackson
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Radical sheik blasts judges on rape
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THE leader of the nation's most radical Islamic group has fuelled the Taj Din al-Hilali controversy by accusing Australian judges of discriminating against Muslim rapists.
As Sheik Hilali yesterday took "indefinite leave" from preaching after a "heart attack", The Australian can reveal Melbourne cleric Sheik Mohammed Omran told his flock on Friday that rapes committed by Australian non-Muslims - such as "bikies" or "football stars" - were treated more leniently than those committed by Muslims.
"They make a big fuss about these kids because one of them, his name is Mohamed. Even if you kill someone you don't go for 60 years," he said, referring to Sydney's 2000 gang rapes in which Lebanese Muslim Bilal Skaf was initially sentenced to 55 (55! – that’s another reason I like Australians) years' jail, but later had the sentence reduced on appeal.
Sheik Omran strongly defended the besieged mufti, who until yesterday had defiantly resisted demands from Muslims and the wider community to step aside for likening women to uncovered meat and suggesting rape victims should be held responsible for enticing attackers.
In a statement issued in his name later, Sheik Hilali - who came under more pressure yesterday when The Australian also uncovered recent comments supporting military jihad against US and Australian forces in Iraq and Afghanistan - said he would step aside. "The pressure of the last couple of days has had an obvious effect on my health and wellbeing," the statement said. "I ask the public to give my family and I some privacy, time and space to recover. I have also asked for indefinite leave from duties at Lakemba Mosque."
The decision came as the federal Opposition demanded that the Government investigate whether Sheik Hilali's support of jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan constituted treason and John Howard repeated his advice to Muslims to overthrow their spiritual leader. "One of the things that does bother me is that when he goes overseas he carries the title of Mufti of Australia and that represents to the world a view of Australian Islam which I feel very uncomfortable with," the Prime Minister said.
Sheik Omran, one of the country's most outspoken and controversial fundamentalist clerics, said on Friday that attacks on Sheik Hilali were attacks on Islam. "His name is a mufti and we should respect that name - we should respect the turban on his head," Sheik Omran said in the sermon, an audio copy of which was posted on his Ahlus Sunnah Wal-Jamaah Association website yesterday. "This is the sign of a scholar - you are not attacking Sheik Taj here, you are attacking the scholars, you are attacking ... Islam."  Sheik Omran has said bin Laden was a good man and the US, rather than the al-Qa'ida leader, was behind the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. 
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Posted on 10/30/2006 8:24 AM by Esmerelda WEatherwax
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Fast Jihad, Slow Jihad
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A Palestinian home-made rocket landed in an open area near "a strategic site" in the south of Israel's coastal city of Ashkelon, Israeli Radio quoted Israeli army sources on Monday.

Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad (Holy War), claimed responsibility. In a statement faxed to the press, the brigades said their fighters launched a medium-range rocket on Ashkelon at about 6:00 a.m. - from this news item

Fast Jihad, Slow Jihad.

Even if there were a dime's worth of difference, it wouldn't be worth a plugged nickel.

Or, as the Gazan psychiatrist could but I very much doubt would tell his patients when they come in, wondering whether to pledge their allegiance to less corrupt Hamas or more corrupt Fatah, the Fast Jihad or the Slow Jihad:

Oedipus, schmoedipus, so long as he loves his mother.

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Posted on 10/30/2006 8:16 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
God & Me
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I get a small but steady trickle of reader e-mails asking me various things about my thoughts & feelings in the religious zone. Goodness knows why anyone would care, but since some readers obviously do, here are the commonest questions, with my answers. I’ll confess, this is mainly for my convenience. Now, instead of writing out answers & getting into repetitive exchanges, I can just refer curious readers to this link. At least I can for a while; I’ve been going through some changes, as will become clear, and there may still be some moving targets here.
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Posted on 10/30/2006 8:13 AM by John Derbyshire
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Monday, 30 October 2006
A walk in the park
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Strong reaction to a plan for a women-only park in Istanbul has focused attention on the divisions between Turkey’s secularists and supporters of the ruling AK Party, which has its roots in political Islam. - from this news item

Turkey, we are often told, especially by secular Turks who wish to have their country enter the E.U. so that the problem of Islam in Turkey can be forcibly shared with Infidels and secularists throughout the European countries, is a splendid blend of East and West, bestriding the Bosphorus not only literally but more important metaphorically, and hence offers a Lesson To Us All.

One can see it in this park situation. Those, in this corner, representing the East, want Turkey to be more Muslim, to emulate in its parks the system of the Saudis, and if they had their way, Turkey would end up with a system of all-male parks and all-female parks.

And then, one assumes, those who represent in Turkey the West would insist that the parks be regulated, as one more place of public entertainment, according to the rules that once upon a time regulated the English stage (see Colley Cibber -- no, on second thought, don't), and will insist, as a myopic Turkish informant schooled "in Cambridge" (that is, at the "Cambridge School of English" a half-mile from Trinity Great Court), "female parks should be taken by male parks." Secular Turks, eager to mimic the West, but understanding the need to do so always in retardo, will promptly enact such legislation.

And then where will that leave the would-be Turkish flaneuse? Worse off than before.

Of course we know what those single-sex parkistes are worried about. They remember that old Al Bowlly song:

"A walk in the park/A kiss in the dark
In London on a night like this."

They needn't worry. London isn't just like Istanbul. Yet.

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Posted on 10/30/2006 8:04 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Mexican thespian keeps pace with Hollywood inanity
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From an interview in yesterday's NY Post with two-time Che portrayer Gael Garcia Bernal, now appearing with stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in Babel

Q: Which is one of the points of "Babel." But some people, like the busload of U.S. and British tourists, come across worse than others, don't they?

A: Well, there's two points of view about this movie - you can see that, OK, the people from the U.S. are portrayed as scared people, really worried about health and dirt. But you can also see the other side: Why are the ones that die always from poor countries? We are always the ones that die.

Q: Your character in "Babel" makes pretty bad decisions after he's stopped by an aggressive cop at the U.S.-Mexican border. Have you, or someone you know, ever experienced anything like that?

A: My character makes a bad mistake in a drunken state. But yeah, when you're Mexican, it's a bit of a situation. You have to apply three months before, and it costs $80 for the visa. Sometimes you have to show bank statements to show you're earning money, you're not coming to the U.S. to work. It's kind of stupid - as if money was a sign of honesty, or goodwill. It's a rite of humiliation. They act as if you are coming here to steal.

Q: Is it easier for you to avoid this than most, though?

A: No, no - the last time I crossed the border, walking, I was asked, "Where do you come from?" And I'm like, "Well, I'm from Mexico." And they say, "No, where do you come from?" And I say, "I come from Mexico." I mean, what am I supposed to explain? And they say, "What were you doing in Mexico?" And I say, "Well, I live there." And they say, "No, but what were you doing right before you came here?"

I'm not gonna answer that. Because - you know, what do you care? We're radicalizing the process of integration, and that's terrible. Because it's going backward in time. But it's not just the U.S.'s fault - Mexico is shamefully not providing a place for people to work and live properly. It's everyone's fault.

Q: Did that experience make you want to avoid the U.S.?

A: No. I mean, we share the same territory! But Bush just signed off on the law to start building a wall. It's the second biggest wall that's ever going to be built, it's going to rival the Great Wall of China. And it costs so much money, and so much human resources. Maybe I'm stating the obvious here, but it's kind of ridiculous to build a wall. Walls are always destroyed eventually.

And celluloid fades along with its makers.  (But in some cases, not soon enough.)
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Posted on 10/30/2006 6:52 AM by Robert Bove
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Stupidity, Cupidity, Timidity are everywhere
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Relatives and friends of two French teenagers who were electrocuted as they fled from police a year ago have gathered in Clichy-sous-Bois near Paris. A plaque was unveiled in front of their school, and a wreath-laying ceremony was held at the power sub-station where the teenagers tried to hide.

The deaths of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore sparked three weeks of violent riots in France's poor suburbs as the young and unemployed vented their anger over what they saw as lack of opportunity and racial discrimination. The crowd gathered in silent prayer wearing t-shirts with the slogan "Dead for nothing". - from
this news item

Monumental brass.

Not France. Not the French. This particular mayor, in this particular town. And all others who think like him. And even if there are millions of them, there are other millions in France who do not think like him, who are appalled at the whole thing. Some, in their desperation, run to Le Pen. Others, more assured and collected, support Philippe de Villiers or, in the belief that they must support someone who will win and not to support someone who may influence policy but cannot win, will go, at this point, with Sarkozy. Many now wish they could undo the last 40 years of crazed immigration policies. Some would like to strangle all those who undid France, in such wanton fashion. But why do some attack "France"? Why attack "the French"? Attack those who deserve it. They are everywhere. And everywhere there are those who don't deserve it, and don't deserve to pay for the stupidity or venality or fearfulness of others.

The Esdrujula Explanation, one more time: Stupidity, Cupidity, Timidity.

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Posted on 10/30/2006 6:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Egypt and Gaza
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How is it that 20 tons of explosives, not to mention many guns of every kind, have been smuggled into Gaza from Egypt? Can it really be that the Egyptians have made every effort to prevent it, or have they in fact done little or nothing to prevent such arms smuggling, and in fact possibly even aided it? What has Egypt done to merit any confidence that it will fulfill a single one of its solemn obligations under the Camp David Accords? It has prevented Egyptians from visiting Israel, prevented Israelis from participating in Cairo film and book festivals, allowed press campaigns that vilify Israel, put on the state television a series based on the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," and made Egypt a world center of antisemitism.

And the American government, which pushed the terms of that disastrous accord (if the Israelis were going to give up the Sinai for the second time, to Egypt, a country which acquired most of the Sinai only in 1922, and to which by its aggressive acts launched against Israel from Sinai had forfeited any title to the superior one of Israel as the winner in several wars of self-defense) has done nothing in the nearly thirty years that have passed to make Egypt obey fulfill those obligations -- and apparently lost much interest in such fulfillment just as soon as Israel, in three tranches, handed over the entire Sinai with its oilfields, and its roads, all built by Israel.

Now the Israelis, some report, wish to finally put paid to those many smuggling tunnels. Like idiots, some Israeli journalists have reported on this, and now, by alerting Egypt, have possibly made it politically and militarily impossible for Israel to do what it has every right to do, and should do.

Those journalists in Israel should think a bit. Not "well done, thou good and faithful servant." But shame and disgust at their heedless reporting.

And Israel should not be deterred if the Egyptians are moved up. The tunnels are there. If they are not to be destroyed, the alternative is to retake Gaza. Let that be made clear, to Egypt and to an American administration that is at a complete loss as to what to do, and so, in its failing and its flailing, unable to extricate itself from Iraq apparently because of the loss of face it fears it would have to endure (when, in fact, six months after such withdrawal the chaos and confusion and sectarian troubles all over the Muslim world would demonstrate the real "victory" achieved, and inevitably achieved, but never understood or recognized, once Saddam Hussein was removed), will try to pressure Israel all it can, in the hope that somehow -- doesn't Brzezinski believe it? And Scowcroft? and Baker and the Baker Commission? -that in some undefinable way, that will lessen the Jihad when, in fact, it is the reverse. The Lesser Jihad against Israel does not cause the Greater Jihad against Infidels but is only a subset that started earlier, before the OPEC revenues and Muslim migration allowed for an enlarged world-wide battlefield. The Lesser Jihad against Israel has, in fact, for a long time actually protected the West, serving as a lightning-rod for the general anti-Infidel fervor that is not a product of "extremist" Islam, or "Wahhabi" Islam, or "Wahhabi Salafist" Islam, or of something some call "Islamism," but rather of Islam. Unmodified, unadjectivized, unsuffixed Islam.

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Posted on 10/30/2006 5:57 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
New York City Council news
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Monday, 30 Oct. 2026 — City Council sends hundreds of police detectives to Staten Island after reports that 2 micrograms of flavor were discovered in refrigerator in abandoned house.
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Posted on 10/30/2006 5:21 AM by Robert Bove
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