Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Law-Giving
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Lots of setting down of laws at this wintry afternoon session of the leets. I'm begining to feel like Hammurabi with his tablets (and the cutest little baby tablet with an abridged version of Hammurabi's code chiselled on it can be seen in the Museum of Near Eastern Antiquities in the Topkapi Complex). Or like Justinian, who codified the law of those steady Romans (Eastern Division) who no longer shook the world. Or Gratian, with his human laws divine. Or Napoleon, who burned the midnight oil ("not tonight, Josephine!") to finish his Code.  

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Posted on 02/27/2007 4:11 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Sod's Law
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Sod's Law you'd know all those bloody laws when I only know one.
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Posted on 02/27/2007 4:16 PM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Benchley's Law
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"The world is divided between two kinds of people--those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who do not."
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Posted on 02/27/2007 4:10 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Snell, However, May Continue to Refract
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As for Snell, he is still free to refract. After all, he didn't name his own law , much less name the person after whom that law was named. So why punish him?

And don't forget  Professor Hironaka of Harvard, who didn't name one of his important theorems after himself, but rather after someone else with a Japanese name, someone  who perhaps did not exist: "Literary author use pseudonym. Why not me?"

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Posted on 02/27/2007 3:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Fitzgerald's Law of Retraction
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You have a point. I have lost my faith in Fitzgerald's Law of Retraction. In fact, I hereby retract it. And that is the very last retracting I will ever do. From now on, I take back nothing. 
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Posted on 02/27/2007 3:56 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Jackson's Law
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Jackson's Law states that whoever names a law after himself does not believe his own law.
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Posted on 02/27/2007 3:26 PM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Boredom, Spleen, Khandra
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"Is anyone else getting bored with Iraq and Islam?" --from a reader

I am. Or rather, I've long been bored silly with the whole business of Iraq and Islam. Not terribly interesting, except as a case study offering a rich variety of different kinds of willful ignorance, sentimentalism, avoidance of the obvious, sheer stupidity in so many different, and differently unappealing, forms. It must have been the same for all kinds of people, though perhaps not Churchill, to have to again and again saythe obvious things (or obvious now), about Hitler, about the Storm Troopers, about Nationalsozialismus, about how "Mein Kampf" was meant seriously and should not be dismissed. Or all those who wrote about Japanese militarism and emperor-worship, that is Kodo, in Japan beginning in the 1920s, with the full menace already clear to some by 1930 (one Western student of the subject lays it all out, even predicts the exact places the Japanese will attack). And don't you think the members of Guistizia e Liberta would have preferred to do other things in southern France then have to worry about being picked off by the secret police of Il Granitico, with those endless harangues matched only by the crazed speeches of Hitler. Imagine having to watch those speeches, or read anything written by either one, or have to solemnly study, for example, the kind of thing Kremlinologists used to study, what went on at the First Party Congress in Minsk, and what Lenin wrote about Renegade Kautsky, and when Stalin first started airbrushing "Bukharin out of those photographs of the Soviet leadership. Who in his right mind can stand it?

 And why would  we want to follow, day by day, what general or admiral in the Japanese Imperial War Office is in, or out, or on his way up, and the ideological origins of Emperor-worship and bushido-cults and all the rest, when when one would much rather, if one were reporting on Japan in those days, write about the cherry-tree ceremony, or Murasaki Shikibu, or possibly that nice exhibit of wazikashi blades in the Japanese War Ministry's museum?

We're all bored, just as bored, even more bored, than you are with Islam, and Jihad, and having to listen to solemn parsing of speeches by Bin Laden, or Ahmadinejad, or Mahathir Mohammed, or analyze some promise made by Mubarak or Musharraf or Mahmoud Abbas. Why should primitive peoples with primitive belief-systems take up our time? Because they can. Because they must. Because the Western world made a big mistake, over the past four decades, and now it is paying for it, and will if something is not done pay much more, for that big mistake of letting into its midst, at the moment of maximum sentimentality and softness in the collective Western brain, people who do not and cannot wish that Western world, its legal and political institutions, well. 

And politics, just writing about anything involving large numbers of people -- so that one writes, actually writes and can't quite believe it, such phrases as "the Iraqis" or "the Arabs" or "the French" or "the Israelis" or "the Hindus" - writes, and then still has to look at oneself in the mirror to keep from cutting oneself when shaving.  One simply has to agree to the rules of the publicistic game, in an age of the degradation of the democratic dogma. What else can one do? No one in the world could be as bored with Islam as I am, not even you, given my natural bent and interests and hierarchy of values.  But it has to be discussed, until enough people understand what the whole thing is all about, and by helping them make sense, they can be helped to come to their senses.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 2:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Iraq's New Oil Sharing Agreement
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"could very well be a key turning point"?

Prediction: The oil-sharing agreement will not have the slightest effect in diminishing sectarian or ethnic tensions in Iraq. Whatever its wording, it will be the cause of argument and worry. And whatever its wording, it will be ignored, when the Americans leave, by those who hold power in Baghdad.

It will have no permanent effect at all. on the project of keeping Iraq one country, under a most unpleasant and whimsical god.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 2:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
How The Land of the Pure Hornswoggles The Home of the Brave
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A little more on Pakistan, our "ally" in the "war on terror," from today's report on Cheney's visit, and his attempt, the umpteenth by a visiting American, to make Musharraf pull up his ever-drooping socks.

The story in The Times, p. A9 -- "Cheney Warns Pakistan to Act Against Terrorists" -- includes this:

"The Pakistani government lashed out Monday with a series of statements insisting that 'Pakistan does not accept dictation from any side or any source."

And later in the story, which bears the subtitle "Reports That U.S. Aid May be In Jeopardy," there is this piquant detail:

"Mr. Musharraf alluded to those payments in his recently published memoir, in which he wrote, 'Those who habitually accuse us of 'not doing enough' in the war on terror should simply ask the C.I.A. how much prize money it has paid to the government of Pakistan.' When asked about that assertion, C.I.A. officials have declined to answer."

So there is it. Pakistan, that has withdrawn its forces from the northwestern region and allowed Al Qaeda to come back in, and allowed the Taliban, too, to regroup and resurrect itself in Afghanistan, where other reports in The Times tell of village elders being rounded up and killed for daring to want the Taliban to merely leave their villages alone.

Pakistan is ruled by a meretricious government, with meretricious rulers, whether generals or zamindars who are only slightly less bad than the generals. Its masses, idiotized by Islam, long accustomed to the habit of mental submission that Islam requires, more than any other non-Arab Muslims, in a state created for Muslims, and run by, and for Muslims and for the greater glory of Islam, have largely jettisoned any pre-Islamic or non-Islamic history or indeed, any other conceivable identity that might conceivably modify, or nuance, or dilute, the identity provided by Islam -- that is, save among the Baluchis of Baluchistan, with their tribal identity kept intact, not least because of the ruthless measures taken against them, for their quite modest demands, by the implacable Pakistani generals who are spending far more time suppressing the Baluchis than they are suppressing Al Qaeda and the Taliban elements still in Pakistan.

The jig should be up. It should not be Cheney using the threats of Congress cutting aid -- it should be Cheney saying that the Administration itself will end all aid, military and economic, if there is not a complete reversal. And it might add, for good measure, that the children of the zamindars and the generals, including the accountant son of Musharraf himself, may all find themselves booted out of the West, and condemned to life imprisonment in the hell of Pakistan.

That might get some attention. Yes, I know that's not the kind of thing we do, in order to preserve ourselves, in the advanced West. It smacks of extortion, of collective blackmail. Of exerting pressure on rulers by telling them the futures of their children in the West will be imperilled.

No, it's not what we do. But it is what we should be thinking about doing. That, and a good deal more.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 1:40 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Yes I Wrote That
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DID YOU REALLY WRITE THIS? It supports the Left and the conspiracies to perfectly --from a reader commenting on this post

My general endorsement of Selig Harrison does not mean that I necessarily endorse every word he writes, or charge he may make. I don't know enough about the early history of the Taliban. I do know that it is a creature of Pakistan, and the I.S.I., and that for decades many in Washington found Pakistan's generals, including Zia ul-Haq, to their liking, and were remarkably negligent in the matter of A. Q. Khan, and furthermore thought that it was right to back anyone at all as long as they were fighting the Red Army. That was a mistake.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 1:30 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Pseudsday Tuesday
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It is not enough for a thinker to think the thought – he must talk the thought, and possibly even walk the thought. Up and down Charlotte Street is a good start:

I remember (can’t recall who or where) someone smiling at a ‘Deleuzian’ who nonetheless prepared a genealogical tree of Deleuze’s thought.

I know what he means. It’s enough to make a cat laugh.

One thinks, similarly, of the Derridean who, when the logic of his rhetoric is revealed to him, appeals instead to the integrity of his intentions. Or people who are happy to talk about ‘positions of enunciation’, ‘discursive context’, ‘phatic functions’ and so on, while displaying wanton disregard for these in their actual human interactions.

Call me primly lower-middle class if you like – Jilly Cooper’s Jen Teale  perhaps - but I don’t hold with “phatic functions” in a public place.

Time and again, thinking operates only within the penumbra of the desk lamp, wilfully blind to its own implications, unable to translate itself into practice or to move from one domain into another - esp. into the domain of the everyday. ‘Deleuze’, or whoever, becomes one more Playstation of the intellect into which a pale narcissus plugs before returning to a life unruffled and intact.

But the point here is not simply to underline the too-familiar contrast between thinking and practice, to repeat the adage that thinking is one thing but life quite another. Firstly, because there is already a thinking immanent in those everyday actions and relations, so that it’s not look, you think this but do that; its look, effectively you think this. Secondly, though, and perhaps obviously, there is a point at which the idea, to think itself further, must pass beyond itself into life; but this passing through itself is also a coming into itself.

Try Windeeze. And a cold shower.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 1:31 PM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
And So Can Any Man
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Those at the Emory Wheel are reduced to this transparent nonsense of Taqiyya and Tu Quoque. How else can they proceed? They know what is in the texts. They know what states, societies, families suffused with Islam are taught. They know the tenets. They know the attitudes. They are well used to the atmospherics. They just don't know how to handle those Infidels who also know those texts, those teachings, those attitudes, those atmospherics.

And there is nothing they can do to stop more and more Infidels, as they pick up their newspapers or turn on the evening news and realize how much of it is about this or that local manifestation of the world-wide and permanent Jihad -- which can only get worse, and examples of which will only proliferate -- from finding out, slowly and then more rapidly, in greater and greater numbers, about Islam. There is nothing they can do, try as they will to lie, or to hide, or to distract with irrelevancies, or by appeals to Western "guilt" and false claims of victimisation (but Islam itself, as the vehicle for Arab imperialism, is the most successful imperialist project in history, the force which caused whole peoples to jettison and ignore, or despise, their own histories, pre-Islamic or non-Islamic), and the raising of idiotic claims of "racism," to make Infidels, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and all others, everywhere and not just here in this country, refrain from finding out about Islam.

It's too late. Cat's out of the bag. The Qur'an is just a click away (www.quranbrowser.com). And so are the Hadith. And so is the Sira -- or you can read the texts about Muhammad, the Muslim texts, the texts of Qur'an and Hadith and Muslim Sira, and Muslim commentators and historians, with connective tissue and organizing principle supplied by Robert Spencer.

Nothing these people can do, except what they have been doing all along: "three Abrahamic faiths," "one of world's great religions," "hijacked" or "perverted" by "extremists," or adducing in support of this preposterousness, a handful of Qur'anic phrases,-- "there is no compulsion in religion"  (which does not mean what an Infidel who reads only those words would naturally take it to mean), and 5.22 but not 5.23 (Bush does it, Blair does it, even semi-educated fleas do it)., or if not the Qur'an, then one of the inauthentic" Hadiths from one of the unauthoritative collections (Karen Armstrong loves the one about Muhammad returning from the "Lesser Jihad" of war to the "Greater Jihad" of domestic life, without recognizing that the hadith in question is not widely accepted as authentic). Why, I can write the Mosque-Outreach script for Infidels myself, and so can you, dear reader, and so can any man.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 11:41 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Bringing Order and Stability
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Islam was a "stabilizing force" for Somalia according to the BBC.

Yes, it was a stabilizing force.

And the Times of London can provide a whole stack of yellowed sheets on which are printed editorials about the wonders that Mr. Hitler is doing, whatever nastinesses he may have been accused of by his detractors (or sentiments to that effect), in raising Germany from its post-war prostration, and in bringing at long last order, and national pride, and national order, and pride. And those volkswagens for the Volk, and the autobahnen for them to ride on, and the paid holidays for workers, and the tramping through the German forests (ah, that German air! those German hunters! that German game to be shot!), and the healthy Hitlerjugend, healthily learning how to march in lockstep, as their parents were learning how to think in lockstep, and everyone, children and parents alike, were learning to raise their hands in lockstep salute while the goosesteppers walked by: Heil Hitler!

And then there is that other person who Brought Order of the kind the BBC is apparently so fond. That is, Il Granitico, Mussolini, who aside from that little nastiness about Matteotti (oh, and hundreds of others at the same time, often overlooked), aside from the Blackshirts and the Balilla, aside from those jaw-jutting harangues (hence the name "Il Granitico") from the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia overlooking the Piazza Venezia -- aside from all that, he was making the trains run on time, the rapido, the rapidissimo. And draining the swamps.

Ordre, avant tout chose. It doesn't matter how it is achieved. It doesn't matter if it is this totalitarian and menacing belief-system or another, for the BBC as for the appeasers of the 1930s before it.

Order. Nostalgia for order, desire for order. For the Lesser Breeds Without the Law, who need it, even if it is to be supplied byIslam.

Order. Order and Ordnung. And with that Ordnung, a Drang Nach Westen to boot.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 11:36 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Unacceptable Whether By Accident Or Design
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I mentioned Derbyshire’s Law this morning, or rather his assertion that he puts forth for discussion, “ANYTHING WHATSOEVER said by a Gentile about Jews will be perceived as antisemitic by someone, somewhere.”

Hugh's rebuttal was the following sentence: "Jews are the most persecuted tribe in history," confident that no one could possibly take offense at that.

However, I would worry about use of the word "tribe" because I heard it used in a derogatory fashion in reference to Jews once. I would use "people" instead.

Derbyshire writes:

I remember thinking how strange it was, in that special issue of The New Republic devoted to The Bell Curve, that Leon Wieseltier should declare himself “repulsed” at the suggestion, by Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein, that Jews have higher intelligence than Gentiles.

“What an odd thing to say!” I thought to myself. “Why, if someone were to say that my common-ancestry group was smarter than others, I’d be proud!” But that was a very Jewish reaction on Wieseltier’s part. It’s not hard to see why this should be so, historically.

I look forward to Thursday's continuation of this exchange.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 10:24 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Iraqi Oil Revenue Accord ... and Beyond
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The deal reached yesterday by the Iraqi cabinet on revenue-sharing of the country's vast oil reserves could very well be a key turning point in Iraq's road to stability.  It still has plenty of hurdles to overcome — to become law, it has to be enacted by the legislature; to become effective, corruption in the Oil Ministry will have to be addressed and foreign investors will have to be convinced that contracts will be honored and security can be ensured.  But this is an enormous step in the right direction. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad deserves high praise for his perseverance.

An elemental objection of many of us democracy-project skeptics has been whether the Iraqis really view themselves as a single country with a common destiny.  The jury is still very much out on that, but a path to success is clear:  the three major factions have to come together not to sing kumbaya but to solve difficult national challenges jointly. 

The Iraqis have two such challenges in their immediate future:  the security situation and laying the groundwork for a functioning economy in which Iraqis perceive it is more in their interest to be together than to go their separate ways.  Longer-term challenges will involve the role of Islam in Iraqi life and the nature of relations with Iran.  None of this is easy, but none of it is hopeless — far from it, and it is entirely possible that success in overcoming the immediate problems would foster a unity that would clear the path to reasonable, joint solutions on other challenges.  That kind of unity, tested by fire, is the kind of foundation real democracy might be built on.

Victory here is by no means assured, and there is still great cause for concern that we are not sufficiently focused on how to win the wider war against jihadists.  But a way for the U.S. to win in Iraq is taking shape.  It's visible.  It will require patience and resolve.  Which is a long-winded way of saying:  It is utterly irresponsible at this critical moment to be doing anything other than supporting the mission — no matter how you feel about whether we ought to be in Iraq in the first place, and no matter what you think about the way things have been handled up until now.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 10:17 AM by Andy McCarthy
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Grand Rounds
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"al-Qaeda is a religious cult, but a perverted one.

Religion turned William Wilberforce into a Protestant saint, but Wahhabism has turned Osama bin Laden into a devil."--

Is Al-Qaeda a "religious cult"? Does this mean that the members of Al-Qaeda believe something other than what is in the canonical texts of Islam? Do the members of this "cult" believe something that is not in the Qur'an and the Hadith (in the most authoritative collections), and the Sira? Would Rees-Mogg care to explain exactly how, ideologically, the members of Al-Qaeda are not true Muslims but the members of a "religious cult"? Why doesn't he say it otherwise -- that Islam is now strong enough so that the permanent doctrine of Jihad, that falls into desuetude at times of Muslim weakness, has been revived and put into practice, that the sources of Muslim strengh are three -- the OPEC oil trillions, the millions of Muslim migrants settled deep within the Lands of the Infidels, and the Western technology of every kind, but especially weaponry, and the means for disseminating propaganda (audiocassettes, videocassettes, satellite television, the Internet)for Daw'a (the Call to Islam) and for Muslim causes (Iraq, "Palestine," Kashmir, etc.) all over the world -- even unto southern Thailand or the remotest parts of the Sudan.

Osama bin-Laden is not a "devil." He is an orthodox Muslim who takes his duties as a Muslim seriously. That is all. Not all Muslims, fortunately, take their duties quite as seriously. But many do. And he not only takes his duty to perform Jihad seriously, but also believes that the best instrument of Jihad is terror. There many Muslims differ. They think that "terror" for the moment is not necessarily the best way, especially in Western Europe. They are patient. They see the call to Islam, targetted at the economically and psychically marginal at first, and thence by degrees to others, will win converts to Islam in the Dar al-Harb. They think they can continue to exploit the freedoms of Infidel lands in order to promote their own position and the cause of Islam, that is in the end to ensure the goal of all Muslims, encapsulated in Muhammad's remark that "Islam must dominate and is not to be dominated." They differ, where they do differ, with Osama bin Laden, on the means to that end. Some are more patient, just as Mahmoud Abbas is more patient than Haniya of Hamas.

Rees-Mogg has gone far, in Infidel terms. But he has not gone far enough. It would be too painful.

And the idea that "religion isn't the disease, it's the cure" should perhaps be modified. After all, the most important apostates from Islam include many who are without belief: Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ali Sina, Azam Kamguian, Irfan Khawaja. Among the keenest Infidel writers on Islam have been those without any faith: Oriana Fallaci, Pim Fortuyn, Geert Wilders all come to mind. And what, after all, is a Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only Muslim if not one without any faith, but who perhaps insists on such continued self-identification out of filial piety, the remembrance, say, of humble parents who did everything for you (including sending you to Christian schools in, say, Cairo) -- surely that is behind Magdi Allam's continued self-identification as a Muslim rather than as an apostate. And the same, one would think, is true for Kanan Makiya (not liking attacks on Islam because he thinks at once of his pious, humble grandmother, and becomes defensive).

There is no one "cure" and perhaps there is no "cure" at all. But one could say, as we metaphorically continue to make our Grand Rounds, that some patients respond to one form of treatment, and others to another.

All are to be tried.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 10:08 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
What About The Treasure of Her Tongue?
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How many native speakers of Russian will be left in 2020? In 2050? I wonder if Putin, that philistine, cares. What does the word "Russia" mean to him? To other members of the KGB, or the FSB, or whatever it now calls itself? One used to think that, at least, their authoritarianism was based on Russian nationalism, on a wounded national pride and a desire to recover for the nation power and even glory. But is it? Or are they simply grasping at the gold, like those privatizers and privateers they pretend to deplore, but really only wish to replace?

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Posted on 02/27/2007 10:01 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
What a Difference a Day -- and an Assassination Attempt -- Makes
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One sobering result of the Taliban's attempt to murder Vice President Cheney in Afghanistan is that the New York Times has tamped down — at least for a day — its standard caricature of the dark, secretive Veep. 

Compare the following.  This is from yesterday's pre-bombing coverage of Cheney's Pakistan trip:

The vice president’s office asked news organizations that knew of Mr. Cheney’s upcoming trip, and the small number of reporters traveling with him, to withhold any mention of his travels until after he had left the country. That request went far beyond the usual precautions as American officials travel into and out of Pakistan....  It was unclear if the request reflected Mr. Cheney’s well-known penchant for secrecy — he said nothing in public during his visit — or an increasing unease by the Secret Service about how freely Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives are moving in Pakistan. There have long been doubts about the loyalties of some members of Mr. Musharaff’s intelligence service, and assassination attempts against him have been linked to Al Qaeda.

Now, here's today's post-bombing coverage of Cheney in Afghanistan:

Mr. Cheney’s trip to the region had been shrouded in unusual secrecy. News organizations that were aware of Mr. Cheney’s travels were asked to withhold any mention of the trip until he had left Pakistan. This appeared to reflect growing concern about the strength of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the region, and continuing questions about the loyalties of the intelligence services of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

ME:  Whaddya know, no mention today of Cheney's "well-known penchant for secrecy." Apparently even the Times now grasps that the Veep had pretty good reasons to be discrete. Maybe Cheney's not nuts!  Maybe the Taliban and al Qaeda really do want us dead after all. Who knows — maybe tomorrow the Gray Lady will even acknowledge that the Patriot Act and the NSA program are not sinister power grabs but modest, sensible precautions against people who are hellbent on killing us.  Naaaaaaahhhhh.
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Posted on 02/27/2007 9:58 AM by Andy McCarthy
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Russia and Islam
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MOSCOW - Russia will push for the lifting of an economic embargo against the Palestinian government, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday during a visit by Hamas political director Khaled Meshaal. --from this news item

Meanwhile the population of Russia goes down, and the Muslim population booms -- not least in Moscow itself. And everyone pretends this is not a problem, because, just like the French who complacently believed that "we know the Arabs" the Russians think, because of their experience in Soviet Asia, that "we know the Muslims" or "we can handle the Muslims" or "our Muslims are not like Middle Eastern Muslims." Perhaps, after the Soviet repression, including the destruction of thousands of mosques, those Central Asian Muslims were for a time quiescent.

But are the Russified elites of Central Asia, thoroughly secular, Muslims-for-identification-purposes Muslims if that, representative, or rather a special case that, save in Kazakhstan, are unlikely to prevail? And what about those Muslims outbreeding the non-Muslims all over not only the Caucasus, but deep into historical Russia itself?

Why does the Russian government think it will not have a problem? What does it intend to do about that problem, other than appease and support the Arabs outside of Russia, in their Lesser Jihad against Israel -- in other words, in continuing the nonsensical policies of the Soviet past?

Perhaps it is merely a case of mental exhaustion and inertia. We used to support the PLO. Abbas got his degree at MGU. So we will continue to support, in effect, the PLO, whatever its current name is.

In the same way, the American government for the last five years has been suckered by the Pakistani government, partly because for decades the Pakistani generals were our friends, just like the Saudis -- both of them were "bulwarks against Communism." Seeing them as something else takes quite a while, a lot of evidence to the contrary, before thick skulls in Washington get the point, or are retired or removed, so that others, without such a parti pris, more mentally agile, more willing to consider the overwhelming force of Islam in molding the minds of Muslims, can replace the yesterday's men incapable of dealing with today's, or foreseeing tomorrow's, trouble.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 9:09 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Pre-Islamic History: The "Time of Ignorance"
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"It is well known that the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids; they regarded these structures as a national project for ancient Egypt," said Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Hawass filed an official complaint to the Egyptian attorney general of Egypt against a Cairo high school for teaching the students that it was the Israelites who built the pyramids.

Hawass, prominent figure in Egyptian culture and around the Arab world, criticized the school curriculum for "insisting that the Jews built the pyramids and highlighting the fact that those who refused to partake in the building were physically tortured." --from this news item

The Muslims were entirely indifferent, and remain largely indifferent (save insofar as a handful of Western-educated Arabs have begun to take an interest, and insofar as antiquities such as the pyramids provide Western currency from tourists) to their own pre-Islamic past.

The great Egyptologists have all been Westerners. The Frenchman Champollion deciphering the Rosetta Stone, the German Lepsius, the Englishman Howard Carter discovering the tomb of Tutankhamen, these and many other Westerners were not only the founders, but also the creators of Egyptology. The scholars of Coptic, right up to the present and Bentley Layton, have all been Westerners.

And the same is true for all the other antiquities. It is not the local Arabs and Muslims who rediscovered Babylon, or founded the field of Assyriology. It is Henry Austen Layard, whose books have been reprinted by George Kiraz, who dug in the Land of the Two Rivers, and the fabulous treasures of Ur were discovered by Leonard Woolley and by others with support from, not any Muslim group, but the University of Pennsylvania.

And what about the only two museums of antiquities in the Muslim Arab world worth anything? The Cairo Museum was a product not of Egyptians, but of the Frenchman Mariette, who thought, in those days when there were still considerable numbers of Levantines in Egypt, and the further arabisation of the country not foreseen, that Cairo would be the proper repository for pre-Islamic, pharaonic antiquities. Thank god a lot of the stuff has nonetheless managed to get out, to the MFA in Boston, to the Louvre, to the British Museum, else we would all have to risk our lives visiting the Cairo Museum which, under the ubiquitous, presumptuous, and absurd locals such as Hawass, are much more akin to warehouses full of stacked stuff than to museums intelligently displaying material, in the Western sense.

And the other museum is that of Baghdad, which is essentially the product of Gertrude Bell, herself an archaeologist (see "From Amurath to Amurath" about excavations in Syria), who began the Department of Antiquities that metamorphosed, with further British help, into the Baghdad Museum and where, as one might expect, the staff was heavily non-Islamic, right up to its last Director, Donny George.

Now comes Zahi Hawass, a self-promoter who gets himself often on the news. His position does not reflect any great contribution to archeology, but rather his being politically connected, good at extracting money from foreign audiences or at least trying to (see the latest Egyptian Pay-Per-View Exhibit -- no, on second thought, refuse to go see it, refuse to pay).

Knowing what we all know about the Muslim Middle East, we should thank god that our intelligent forefathers removed some of the stuff, so that we in the Western civilization, a civilization receptive too, wide-open to, the so-called "Other" of which the Saidians and their epigones like so much to prate, can see the stuff without fear of being attacked or blown up in our tourist bus, between hotel and museum.

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Posted on 02/27/2007 8:56 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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