Monday, 31 December 2007
Happy New Year
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Not quite Sydney Harbour Bridge but my neighbours enjoyed themselves and so did the rest of the street. A Happy New Year to you all.

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Posted on 12/31/2007 6:41 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 31 December 2007
A Musical Interlude: The Clouds Will Soon Roll By
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Posted on 12/31/2007 3:56 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 31 December 2007
Twilight of the greats
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"Twilight of the greats" is the title of Brian Appleyard's piece in the Sunday Times, which begins:

[2007] was a year in which a certain type of person died — Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Norman Mailer, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Jean Baudrillard.

Still, life goes on.

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Posted on 12/31/2007 11:40 AM by Mary Jackson
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Monday, 31 December 2007
New Years Eve, so far . . .
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Australia celebrated with the usual magnificent displays of fireworks, over Sydney harbour, and the Yarra River in Melbourne, here in The Australian.  Record hot temperatures have been experienced in Australia this week which sounds ominous. Some displays were cancelled due to high winds.
According to the BBC men in Bangladesh (Pic 6) celebrated with midnight fishing trips, the bars having closed early by government decree "to prevent "immoral acts" .
In New Zealand police arrested hundreds of people yesterday afternoon drinking in defiance of a liquor ban.  
Officials in Belgium cancelled the traditional fireworks show in Brussels as the country went on maximum alert over possible terrorist threats.
We are promised a good display in London although I won't be there.

Fireworks display in Sydney
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Posted on 12/31/2007 9:07 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 31 December 2007
Hogmanay Quiz
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What do Wyatt Earp, the celebrated lawman of the American West, and the famous Russian writer Alexander Griboyedov, a contemporary of Pushkin,  have in common?
 
The answer will be posted here, by a we-of-the-never-never  never-say-never ne’er-do-well, tomorrow, that is, on Ne’erday.
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Posted on 12/31/2007 8:44 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 31 December 2007
Which Came First, The Nazis or Jihadists?
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Matthias Kuntzel answers Andrew Bostom's review of his book at Frontpage today and Andy responds.
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Posted on 12/31/2007 8:36 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Monday, 31 December 2007
A Musical Interlude: Auld Lang Syne
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Posted on 12/31/2007 8:39 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 31 December 2007
Democracy Is Not Mere Head-Counting
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"When Iraqis rejected secular candidates and voted for a party that pledged to have sharia, at least in some forms of domestic law, the New York TImes howled that democracy could be "consigning Iraqi women to a life of subjugation." Columnist Maureen Dowd warned that "the Iraqi election may actually be making things worse" because "it is going to expand the control of the Shia theocrats." These complaints might have some plausibility if women or Sunnis were not permitted to vote. But women and men both voted for the Dawa party, and so essentially the Times and Dowd were arguing that if Iraqis don't want equal roles for men and women, their democracy is a sham." -- Dinesh D'Souza 

"Democracy" for D'Souza is mere head-counting. He does not understand what Western democracy is, what other understandings it brings with it. The idea of a representative republic, with careful checks on the vulgus mobile, and Burke's "little battalions," and solicitousness for the individual, and enshrinement of individual rights that make real, advanced Western democracies at least possible, if they are sometimes let down by their cretinized populations, and distortions in the system, but at least are free of the Total System of Islam, one that is collectivist, and that locates the legitimacy of the government not in the will expressed by the people but in the expressed will of Allah.

What a dope he is.

But on the other hand, isn't it pleasant to think that The New York Times, in now hiring as one of its "conservative columnists" the comical and deplorable William Kristol, at least has not hired, for now, the comical and deplorable Dinesh D'Souza?

Look on the bright side.

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Posted on 12/31/2007 8:12 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 31 December 2007
Treason
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"The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers," Macdonald said. "They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way."
-- from a statement by Sir Ken McDonald, Great Britain's chief prosecutor

"Fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals."

Isn't that a perfect description of the men who ran Nazi Germany, the main country with which Great Britain was at war, from September 1939 to May 1945? And were the sympathizers with Nazi Germany watched by agents, and sometimes picked up in Great Britain, and in the United States, and sometimes interned, and sometimes charged with treason, for their sympathies and their plots, and their working to undermine -- in whatever way they could -- the war effort? Not agents of the enemy but merely "members of a death cult," and not to be prosecuted by special courts or charged with treason, for their support of a mortal enemy, and though they may not be guilty of participating directly in terrorist acts, by working to aid or protect or support those who do, and working to confuse or distract or demoralize the rest of the populace. Why should they not be considered enemy agents, guilty of treason?

You don't hear that word much anymore. The very idea seems old-fashioned, in this anything-goes-world. Treason. Bring that word, bring that idea, back.

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Posted on 12/31/2007 8:01 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 31 December 2007
Bomb Blasts in Thailand Wound 27
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BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Suspected Muslim insurgents set off five bombs early Monday in a Thai-Malaysian border tourist town, wounding 27 people, many of them New Year's revelers, an army spokesman said.
The bombs exploded in the hotel and nightlife area of Sungai Kolok, including two inside a hotel discotheque and one hidden in the carrying basket of a motorcycle outside a hotel, army spokesman Col. Akara Thiprote said.
"Sungai Kolok is a tourist town and people were here to celebrate the New Year. I think this is why they targeted the town," Akara said.
More than 2,600 people have been killed in the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, and some parts of neighboring Songkhla, since a long-simmering Islamic separatist insurgency flared up in January 2004.
Thailand's population is about 90 percent Buddhist, and many of the country's Muslims feel they are treated as second-class citizens.
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Posted on 12/31/2007 5:02 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 31 December 2007
Kenyans riot as Kibaki declared poll winner
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A bible-toting woman preaches to a crowd of protesters as she stands by riot police in the Mathare slum in Nairobi. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP
A woman protesting in Nairobi
Kenya
was plunged into crisis yesterday after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of a presidential election, amid allegations of fraud and vote rigging. Violence erupted in various parts of the country as opposition supporters took to the streets at the news that Kibaki had been sworn in for a second five-year term.
In Nairobi's slums, protesters clashed with hundreds of riot police who had sealed off the election commission headquarters ahead of the result announcement, evicting party agents, observers and the media.
Kibaki, who had trailed in all the opinion polls and all but the final count yesterday, was given 4,584,721 votes to the 4,352,993 tally of the opposition leader Raila Odinga. Odinga, a fiery former political prisoner, rejected the result, claiming massive rigging by the government.
A joint statement by the British Foreign Office and Department for International Development cited "real concerns" over irregularities, while international observers refused to declare the election free and fair. The European Union chief observer, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, cited one constituency where his monitors saw official results for Kibaki that were 25,000 votes lower than the figure subsequently announced by the electoral commission.
"Because of this and other observed irregularities, doubt remains as to the accuracy of the result of the presidential election as announced today," he said.
The Telegraph is of the opinion that
It is no exaggeration to say that Kenya is potentially facing its most serious crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1963.
Instead of setting an example to the rest of the continent, Mr Kibaki's opponents say that he has joined the unholy pantheon of African presidents who have refused to surrender power.
If he has chosen instead to squander his country's stability and its fragile ethnic harmony it is a tragedy not just for Kenya but for all of Africa.
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Posted on 12/31/2007 3:32 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 30 December 2007
A Musical Interlude: My Fate Is In Your Hands (Vincent Lopez Orch.)
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Posted on 12/30/2007 9:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Sunday, 30 December 2007
Scorn
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Too much peace and goodwill? Too much wine and good food? You're probably in the mood for some scorn. There's nothing like a bit of swingeing invective to cleanse the palate and get the blood circulating. Here's Anthony Daniels, AKA Theodore Dalrymple. It's bracing:

Among my mother’s books was a copy of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. I remember still the cream color of the cover, adorned with a soft-focus drawing of a young man with a thin moustache staring, Svengali-like, into some kind of philosophical infinity. Although—or was it because?—The Prophet was so popular at the time, selling by the million worldwide, I resisted reading it. I suspected that its profundity, or rather its straining after profundity, was bogus, and I was right. It is precisely in its ersatz quality that its popularity resides.

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It is no coincidence, I think, that in Sand and Foam, subtitled A Book of Aphorisms, in which appear large numbers of propositions that are short without being aphoristic, we should find the following: “A work of art is a mist carved into an image.” In Gibran’s case, the reverse would probably be nearer the truth; at any rate, he certainly mastered the difficult art of writing entirely in clichés without saying much that is true. He is so greatly loved because he never forces us to think.

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Admittedly, he is a feeler rather than a thinker, though even his feelings end up being bogus precisely because of his refusal to discipline them by anything resembling thought.

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One looks in vain in these many pages for an arresting or poetic metaphor. I quote at random:

Dip your oar, my beloved,
And let me touch my strings.

It is impossible to plumb the shallows of this.

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Does it matter if substantial numbers of people find consolation in Gibran’s vapidity and excruciating bad taste? It boils down to the question of whether kitsch matters. I feel instinctively that it does, though I do not find it altogether easy to explain why. 

Let me leave you with a typical Gibran aphorism:

The flowers of spring are winter’s dreams related at the breakfast table of the angels.

If that doesn’t nauseate you, you must subsist on a diet of marrons glacés: though there is, in fact, a big difference between Kahlil Gibran and marrons glacés. It is that the first mouthful of marrons glacés is delicious.

This is Dalrymple with his dander up, and his displeasure is our pleasure. It is just as well that the world is not to Dalrymple's liking, because if it were, his writing would be nothing like so entertaining. When it comes to good writing, goodness has nothing to do with it. Paradise Regained isn't a patch on Paradise Lost, and Dante's Paradiso (probably) can't hold a candle to his Inferno. Not that I've read Paradiso - who has? - but Heaven can't be as entertaining as Hell.

Coming back to scorn, generally I can't get enough of it. Click here and here for some scorn. I can be scornful too, at times. When I wrote my December article, The Islamist, I was in full nostril-flaring, lip-curling scorn mode, and it showed. But now I'm feeling content and mellow. It is not good for me. I need to get cross.

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Posted on 12/30/2007 3:46 PM by Mary Jackson
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Sunday, 30 December 2007
Not a War On Terror, But...
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"War on terror" was always an unhelpful phrase, but the British government's decision to drop it is for the wrong, not the right, reasons.

The right reasons are to identify not a tactic of the war ("terror") but rather, the nature of the war, the ideological promptings of that war, the varied instruments of that war now being waged -- because after centuries of weakness oil revenues and Muslim migrants settled deep inside the West provide the main wherewithal -- on Infidel peoples, Infidel legal and political institutions, Infidel states, all over the world.

Islam inculcates in its adherents the belief in the duty of a "struggle" or Jihad to spread Islam, and then to insure the dominance of Islam, everywhere. The means chosen may vary. At the moment the most effective means is not "terror" but, rather, deployment of the Money Weapon (which can do a lot, including buying real weapons), campaigns of Da'wa, and demographic conquest within the Infidel lands. Islam, in other words, insists that between Believers and Unbelievers, Muslims and Infidels, there must be a state of permanent war -- though not necessarily at all times of open warfare -- until all barriers to the dominance of Islam, and rule by Muslims, have been swept away.

How should this be described? The word "Jihad" exists. The problem is that Infidels are not making war on Islam. They are lavishing every kind of benefit on Muslims, in the vain hope that those who are impoverished (but what of all the Muslims who are fantastically rich, and yet seem even more hell-bent on supporting the Jihad?) will somehow be less rigorous in their beliefs, and in also attempting to transplant democracy (for "ordinary moms and dads" as Bush said in his best saccharine manner) to the stony soil of Islam.

But apparently we have all agreed that under no conditions must be call this a "war against Islam" even though the Jihad is a central duty of Muslims. Very well then. Call it a "war of self-defense against the Jihad." Call it a "war against Islamic supremacism." But for god's sake call it something that makes clear that the war is one being waged on us, and that war has been prompted not by a search for new resources and markets and Lebensraum (Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan) but by a search for more places that can be forced to succumb to Islam.

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Posted on 12/30/2007 2:45 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Sunday, 30 December 2007
Separation Anxiety
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A small item in the British Medical Journal recently caught my eye. It was a brief digest of a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the environmental impact of divorce. Researchers from Michigan found that people in divorced households spent 46 and 56 percent more on electricity and water, respectively, than did people in married households. This outcome is not all that surprising: marriage involves (among many other things, of course) economies of scale.

One of the interesting questions that this little piece of research poses is whether the environmentalist lobby will now throw itself behind the cause of family values. Will it, for example, push for the tightening of divorce laws, and for financial penalties—in the form, say, of higher taxes—to be imposed on those who insist upon divorcing, and therefore upon using 46 percent more electricity and 52 percent more water per person than married couples who stay together? Will environmentalists march down the streets with banners reading SAVE THE PLANET: STAY WITH THE HUSBAND YOU HATE?

For myself, I doubt it. Yet these figures, if true, are certainly suggestive. The fact that there will be no demonstrations against environmentally destructive divorcees, who probably emit as much extra carbon dioxide as the average SUV, suggests that the desire to save the planet is not nearly as powerful as the desire to destroy a way of life.

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Posted on 12/30/2007 10:35 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
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Sunday, 30 December 2007
Automatic lovers
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Christmas is a time for tacky old pop songs, and they don't come much tackier than Dee D. Jackson's Automatic Lover. (I wonder what the "D" stands for.) Click on the picture, and you'll be crying out for John Cage:


"See me, feel me, hear me, love me, touch me"

Nice helmet; shame about the voice. Dee D's automatic lover is "cold and unfeeling" and looks a little bit too metallic. But the song is from 1978. Since then, sexbots have become sexpots, according to David Levy, whose book Love and Sex with Robots is reviewed in the Washington Post by Joel Achenbach:

Here's a prediction that'll make you squirm: In the future, people will fall in love with robots. Robots will not be cold, predictable machines, but actual lovers -- precocious, sexy, and remarkably humanlike in appearance. Humans will even marry robots in certain obliging jurisdictions. Now send the kids into the other room while we mention the obvious, bizarre implication: Someday, people will have sex with robots.

And not just cold, mechanical sex that barely incites a feeble meep-meep-meep from your robot lover: No, we're talking about real elbow-pads-and-helmets sex. Electrifying sex! (And afterward the robot will take a drag on a cigarette and say, "That really recharged my batteries.")

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"Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans," Levy writes, "while the number of sexual acts and lovemaking positions commonly practiced between humans will be extended, as robots teach us more than is in all of the world's published sex manuals combined."

Levy goes on to imagine a world of robot prostitutes, or "sexbots," which would offer people a chance to practice their technique before entering a human relationship. "With a robot prostitute," he writes, "the control of disease is implicit -- simply remove the active parts and put them in the disinfecting machine."

Most important, robots will have to learn to act like humans; one researcher, Levy reports, has designed robots that can exhibit 77 human behavior patterns.

Seventy-seven? I don't think I've got that many behaviour patterns, and I'm a human.

The key is that these technological advances will someday be complemented by cultural changes, and cavorting with robots just won't seem weird anymore. "It would not surprise me if a significant proportion of readers deride these ideas until my predictions have been proved correct," Levy writes, and then makes a cheap analogy to people who once were hostile to the idea that the Earth was round rather than flat.

Levy's book is entertaining in parts, such as the eye-opening (even climactic) section on the evolution of vibrators. "A steam-driven vibrator invented in the United States in 1869 was inconvenient for doctors to use because they repeatedly had to shovel coal into its boiler," he writes. (Who among us has not heard the command, "Keep shoveling"?)

Casey Jones - a-steamin' and a-rollin'.....

The problem is, a robot programmed to fall in love with a person is essentially a fancy inflatable doll. Imagine the awkward moments:

Robot: I love the clever way you comb those few, thin, feeble locks of hair all the way over the vast bald region of your head.

Human: You're just saying that.

Levy stipulates, near the end of the book, that an important part of sexuality is "the possibility of failure or denial," and thus sexbots will need to be able to mimic human "capriciousness."

A robot that sulks and says "no" when it means "yes"? It might be cheaper to get a human.

Different cultures would require different models, especially for the female sexbots. The "capriciousness" feature would be disabled in Muslim countries, and extra compliance widgets added.

Will the automatic lover go down well in France? I hope so - it will keep them quiet.

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Posted on 12/30/2007 8:13 AM by Mary Jackson
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Sunday, 30 December 2007
Britain Drops 'War on Terror' Label
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Military.com (hat tip JW):: The words "war on terror" will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country's chief prosecutor said Dec. 27.

Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless "death cult."

They think of themselves as soldiers and their cause is not aimless, but political.

The Director of Public Prosecutions said: 'We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language."

London is not a battlefield, he said.

"The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers," Macdonald said. "They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way."

His remarks signal a change in emphasis across Whitehall, where the "war on terror" language has officially been ditched.

Officials were concerned it could act as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, which is determined to manufacture a battle between Islam and the West.

The term "Islamic terrorist" will also no longer be used. Officials believe it is unhelpful because it appears to directly link the religion to terrorist atrocities.

How many times do they have to tell you? Their cause is religious and political at once. There is no separation between the two in Islam.

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Posted on 12/30/2007 8:14 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Sunday, 30 December 2007
A nation of shoppers
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There is an old joke that says that if you save money by running behind a bus, you save even more by running behind a taxi. A joke is a joke, not a moral statement, but I think there is a nugget of wisdom in this, particularly when it comes to the post-Christmas sales.

I have nothing against bargains, but common sense says that something is only a bargain if you really want what you're buying.  A genuine bargain is where you want something so much you would pay full price for it if you had to, and getting it cheaper is a bonus. I say "want", not "need"; I am far from being a puritan about food, drink or consumer goods. Buying things you don't need is fine if they will give you pleasure and you can afford them, and if you get them cheap, so much the better. But buying things you don't even want, just because they are cheap, is madness, and it seems Britain is going mad. In The Times, Janice Turner injects a note of sanity, arguing that "to shop excitedly so soon after Christmas is as nausea inducing as eating a whole turkey dinner then stuffing yourself with pizza":

Feeling a bit porky and raddled after your December debauch? Want a new you for the new year? A plastic surgery firm is offering three treatments for the price of two. That's right, have, say, your lower eye-bags removed and your breasts enlarged and they'll throw in a labia reduction (a lucrative new source of self-hate apparently) or a neck lift absolutely free! But hurry — all surgery must be completed before the end of January.

A labia reduction? Not exactly conspicuous consumption, although I have heard that knickers are down in Marks & Spencers....

Clinics offering cut-price ops, this week condemned by Which?, encapsulate the utter rubbishness of sales mentality: allowing yourself to be harried into buying something you don't want — and certainly don't need — under the guise of saving money.

In Selfridges on Thursday for my traditional exchange of wrong-sized Christmas sweaters, I watched women in the handbag section snatch up totes and clutches, barely looking at what they were buying. To shop so excitedly so soon after Christmas is to me as nausea-inducing as eating a huge turkey dinner, patting your straining stomach, then stuffing down a deep-pan pizza.

What kind of consumer gluttons have we become that the head of PC World can gloat that his customers prefer to spend Christmas Day shopping online rather than “sitting in front of elderly relatives playing charades”. You've just opened your presents, but why waste time talking to the people who bought them when you could be shovelling up more stuff.

[...]

A million British people are so broke that they're funding their mortgages or rent by credit card, repaying one kind of debt by creating another. The notion of living within one's means is as archaic as rationing. No one saves for anything, never anticipates a pleasure: why wait when you can slap it on the plastic. The gap between a desire and its satiation is fleeting. And so the craving never ends.

But I have never bought anything I truly love in a sale. A good deal on a new washing machine was appreciated when our old one was bust. But how can you care for a dress dragged from a discount bin, in a store like a ransacked shantytown, which was rejected by all who came before you? Once inside the fitting room the colour is draining, the cut unflattering. It is in the sale for a reason. And sales encourage us to ignore an item's intrinsic worthlessness and be seduced by the hokum of designer branding. OK, it's a crop-top purple cowl-neck shroud — but, hey, it's cheap and it's DKNY! Yet one perfect full-price frock gives better value than four bits of tat that never quite fit.

"It is in the sale for a reason," says Turner. And she's right. There are very few genuine bargains around; I'm inclined to think that the only reliable bargains are items bought in bulk at a discount, and even then only if  you want them.

So, we are a nation of shoppers. It could be worse. We could be a nation of shoplifters.

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Posted on 12/30/2007 7:39 AM by Mary Jackson
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Sunday, 30 December 2007
Grasping Iraq
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New Duranty: CAPT. SEAN MILLER shook his head like a big brother. He and his marines had just walked by a cluster of large orange garbage bins, American-bought, from which thieves had ripped the wheels, and now they confronted a cemetery entrance that Captain Miller had paid an Iraqi contractor to fix. It was still broken.

He snapped a photograph and moved on.

It was one more day on the job here in Anbar Province, where fighting has given way to fixing. But reconstruction was hardly the only thing on the captain’s mind. Falluja’s past as the epicenter of the Sunni rebellion was with him too.

“The road we just walked down, I lost three marines on that road,” said the captain, a compact 32-year-old company commander from Virginia. “I was wounded in Falluja too, so walking down these streets — it’s not easy.”

“Reconciliation,” he said, eyeing some Iraqi policemen nearby. “It’s a hard pill to swallow.”...

Battle-scarred marines and soldiers are now doing what they couldn’t fathom less than a year ago, working beside Iraqis who may have tried to kill them. Ordered to act as mentors and honest brokers, to suppress personal feelings for the common good, the troops are surrounded by a language they don’t speak, rejiggering alliances they don’t quite fathom, while they try to rebuild a broken, politically immature nation on bedrock American values of enterprise, tolerance, hard work and optimism. Horatio Alger and Audie Murphy — those archetypal “can do” Americans — once again are hearing “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” ...

Around lunchtime, Captain Miller and his marines walked to a second school, where the captain was treated like the mayor of a poor American city. He had expected to discuss awards for students who had recited passages from the Koran. But in the principal’s office, he found a handful of strangers.

“Who are these guys?” he asked.

For the next hour, they bombarded him with demands. Two men asked about a relative who they said had been detained several years ago.

A bearded man seeking work pushed forward a contract that included a $50,000 charge for a generator that Captain Miller knew he could buy for $8,000.

Captain Miller listened, initially calm. He took notes. But as the requests kept coming, he grew more annoyed, firing baffled glances at a marine sitting next to him.

Then a man in a leather jacket leaned forward. He told Captain Miller that another marine had promised to pay him for burying 535 Iraqis killed during the American assaults on Falluja in 2004.

“So someone told you we would pay you to bury dead bodies but never gave you anything in writing?” Captain Miller said.

The man nodded.

And Captain Miller lost his cool.

“Those guys were trying to kill me,” he said, his voice just shy of a yell. “You want me to pay to have them buried?”...

In the principal’s office, Captain Miller simply changed the subject. He returned to awards for the students, and agreed to tour the school so the bearded contractor could explain his proposal for the generator. Captain Miller, who hands out between $500,000 and $1 million to Iraqis every month, told the contractor that he would have to weigh the cost against other needs...

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Posted on 12/30/2007 8:02 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Sunday, 30 December 2007
Restoring Pure Islam
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Restoring pure Islam is the goal not only of al Qaeda but of many devout Muslims and it is important to remember the experiment in Afghanistan to do just that, using the Taliban, was supported by the Pakistani intelligence service.

New Duranty: ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Qaeda network accused by Pakistan’s government of killing the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is increasingly made up not of foreign fighters but of homegrown Pakistani militants bent on destabilizing the country, analysts and security officials here say.

In previous years, Pakistani militants directed their energies against American and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan and avoided clashes with the Pakistani Army.

But this year they have very clearly expanded their ranks and turned to a direct confrontation with the Pakistani security forces while also aiming at political figures like Ms. Bhutto, the former prime minister who died when a suicide bomb exploded as she left a political rally on Thursday.

According to American officials in Washington, an already steady stream of threat reports spiked in recent months. Many concerned possible plots to kill prominent Pakistani leaders, including Ms. Bhutto, President Pervez Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif, another opposition leader.

Al Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks on the Pakistani government and Pakistani people,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters in Washington on Dec. 21.

The expansion of Pakistan’s own militants, with their fortified links to Al Qaeda, presents a deeply troubling development for the Bush administration and its efforts to stabilize this volatile nuclear-armed country.

It is also one that many in Pakistan have been loath to admit, but that Ms. Bhutto had begun to acknowledge in her many public statements about the greatest threat to her country being in religious extremism and terrorism...

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Posted on 12/30/2007 7:37 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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