Saturday, 27 May 2006
Currently most politically incorrect U.S. war?
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Lots of possibilities, especially if you include military actions that weren't officially declared wars.  Still,  these days, you'd be hard-pressed to top the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).

Soldiers from that war to remember:

Ulysses S. Grant
Winfield Scott
George B. McClellan
Ambrose Burnside
Stonewall Jackson
James Longstreet
George Meade
Robert E. Lee
Jefferson Davis.
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Posted on 05/27/2006 6:22 AM by Robert Bove
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Friday, 26 May 2006
Abroad is bloody
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“Don’t go abroad,” muttered George VI, speaking for his class and most of his realm. “Abroad’s bloody!” Nancy Mitford’s Uncle Matthew ventured abroad once, but “four years in France and Italy between 1914 and 1918 had given him no great opinion of foreigners . . . ‘Frogs are slightly better than Huns or Wops, but abroad is unutterably bloody and foreigners are fiends’.”

 

When I read these words part of me cheered. Yet I have been abroad many times, to far flung corners of the globe, and loved it. This may sound like a contradiction, but it isn’t. There is a version of abroad in my mind – my Own Private Foreign Parts, if you like – full of funny foreigners eating funny foreign food and doing stereotypically funny foreign things, and there is the reality, where all the stereotypes are confounded.

 

I was delighted, therefore, to read Bernard MacIntyre’s thoughts on an “intolerant travel guide” due to be published in paperback next month, entitled The Clumsiest People in Europe: Or, Mrs Mortimer’s Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World.

 

Mrs Favell Lee Mortimer, an Englishwoman who started out as a children’s author, published three volumes of travel writing between 1849 and 1854, covering the globe from Asia to Africa to the Americas. She was even-handed, in a back-handed way: she despised just about everyone and everything.

The Portuguese, as well as being “the clumsiest people in Europe”, are “indolent, just like the Spaniards”. The Welsh are “not very clean”; the Zulus: “A miserable race of people”; the Greeks: “Do not bear their troubles well; when they are unhappy, they scream like babies”; Armenians “live in holes in the ground . . . because they hope the Kurds may not find out where they are.” Buddhists, Hindus, Mohammedans: all received a thrashing from the aggressively Protestant Mrs Mortimer.

Lao-Tzu, the father of Taoism, is dismissed as “an awful liar”. Roman Catholicism comes off little better: “A kind of Christian religion, but a very bad one.” Oddly, however, she professes a soft spot for Nubians: “A fine race . . . of a bright copper colour”.

Her sweepingly negative generalisations and racial stereotyping seem even more remarkable for the fact that this doughty world traveller didn’t go to the places she described and disparaged. The sum total of her foreign travel was one childhood trip to Paris and Brussels. Her knowledge of Taoism was exactly zero. She had never set eyes on a Nubian. She amassed her pungent prejudices sitting in her English drawing room.

This was once an acceptable British way to travel (or, more exactly, stay at home and not travel). Mrs Mortimer’s all-embracing xenophobia was probably extreme, but it was far from unique. Those sorts of casual prejudices were part of the arrogance of empire, but also reflected a deep-seated insecurity. Mrs Mortimer was terrified of anybody un-English because she stayed in England…

We owe Mrs Mortimer a debt, for her little book is the shining example of how not to travel in the British manner, a reminder of a way of thinking that has gone forever.

Mrs Mortimer wrote her own epitaph: “They always laugh when they hear of customs unlike their own; for they think that they do everything in the best way, and that all other ways are foolish.” Was this some sudden flash of self-knowledge? No, this is Mrs Mortimer, sticking the boot into the Bechuanas of South Africa.

Of course if you do go abroad you take your prejudices with you, no matter how open to new experiences you think you are. One way of dealing with any strangeness and discomfort that you encounter on your travels is to laugh at it.  And what can be stranger, and more uncomfortable, than foreign toilets?

As a rule of thumb, the more exotic and interesting a place, the worse the toilets are. A relative once threw her hands up in horror when I said that I was going to Cambodia. “Cambodia? You’ll get killed, and what about the toilets? Why not go somewhere nice like Switzerland? The toilets there are so clean.” But as I explained, I can go to Switzerland when I’m old and decrepit, and so tired of life that the sight of a clean toilet and a cuckoo clock lifts my spirits more than sunrise over Angkor Wat.

Still, to give the Cambodians their due, in a couple of hotels we stayed in, they had taken measures to cater to Western standards of toilet hygiene. These measures consisted of chucking a lot of diluted disinfectant down an otherwise filthy, broken toilet, and putting a strip of paper across it, on which were printed the words: “American standard”. Or were they trying to tell us something? A Turner Prize exhibit, perhaps?

In a hotel in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, they went one better. To protect the delicate Western posterior from any unpleasantness, they provided paper toilet seat covers. I have never seen anything like this before or since my trip. Unfortunately with a foreigner’s tin ear for English – and I acknowledge that my ear for Laotian would not even make the base metals – they had named this handy product: “Ars-Ring”.

In the countryside it was worse. After various mishaps, we found ourselves stranded, briefly, in the middle of nowhere. Toilets? In our dreams. If we were lucky, there would be a bucket. In a rhyming fit, I wished I’d gone to Phuket. Still our local guide, the cheerily named Ping, put the best possible construction on things. She spoke excellent English, but as with “Ars-Ring” above, it was in the wrong register. Thus she would invite us to take a “comfort break” and visit the “rest room”. Since the “rest room” was a stinking bucket, there was not much comfort to be had. And rest? All I can say is you would need to be very tired.

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Posted on 05/26/2006 1:17 PM by Mary Jackson
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Friday, 26 May 2006
Not to worry, they're on our side
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Some New York City worryworts,  including my cat Mr. Pants, got into a tizzy when these babies flew very low overhead.  (Wonder if the Derbyshires will be able to see the Jones Beach Airshow from their rooftop this weekend?) 


In advance of the Memorial Day weekend air show at Jones
Beach the U.S. Navy Blue
Angels and flew demonstration flights
over 
NYC. Here, they are flying over the Statue of  Liberty.
(Newsday Photo / David L. Pokress)
May 25, 2006


Speaking of air shows, they have plenty planned in Duxford this summer
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Posted on 05/26/2006 8:00 AM by Robert Bove
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Friday, 26 May 2006
Why do the natives rage?
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Bob Cunningham at Power Line nails it:

Here's what they're missing, and it is the principal reason, in my opinion, WHY the anti-ILLEGAL forces are so upset -- and so powerful.

It has to do with the bad faith, calculated deceit, Orwellian propaganda, dishonest sophistry, misdirection, arrogance, presumption, indifference to, and, indeed, contempt for the beliefs of huge numbers of ordinary Americans -- including LEGAL immigrants and Hispanic natives! --- on the part of political/media elites.

Let's recognize that the political process has --- democratically --- designated the illegals AS illegal. Why? Because we, as a nation, decided that their presence -- NOT themselves per se (as the false attribution of racism would have it) --- but their presence in such numbers for such purposes (the phony Jobs Americans Won't Do/Jobs Americans Are Not Doing) is undesirable. There are perfectly reasonable grounds for that judgment. When did we vote for the Mexification of America? ANS.: NEVER....Indeed, going back to the 1965 immigration "reforms", assurances were REPEATEDLY given (Kennedy) that such reforms would NOT lead to an influx or demographic change. And guess what? The burden of proof is NOT on the nation to justify this stance.

Period. Full stop. End of discussion.

Make no mistake:  a new generation of cynics is being born from the wreckage of the rule of law. 
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Posted on 05/26/2006 5:57 AM by Robert Bove
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Thursday, 25 May 2006
Derb Does Verne
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My New Atlantis article on Jules Verne is now online, here.
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Posted on 05/25/2006 1:36 PM by John Derbyshire
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Thursday, 25 May 2006
Which country should you live in?
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Take the quiz.

(Hat tip to Freedom and Whiskey.)
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Posted on 05/25/2006 9:40 AM by Robert Bove
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Thursday, 25 May 2006
Nasty, Brutish, and Short
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There is a persistent myth, widely believed by the general public, though repeatedly debunked by anthropologists, that life in primitive hunter-gatherer communities is an idyll of peace and harmony.  In fact, primitive societies have sensational rates of homicide.  Geoff Blaine crunched the numbers in his history of the Australian Aborigines, and concluded that not even in exceptionally violent brief episodes like WW2 did any 20th-century nation have violent-death rates even close those in the Aboriginal outback.

Here comes another debunking

If you are worried about being attacked or killed by a violent criminal, just be glad you are not living in Neolithic Britain. From 4000 to 3200 BC, Britons had a 1 in 14 chance of being bashed on the head, and a 1 in 50 chance of dying from their injuries....

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Posted on 05/25/2006 9:00 AM by John Derbyshire
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Thursday, 25 May 2006
Can we send them home, now, please?
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It no longer should be news that defeatism is rampant among Western elites.  One thinks of the great news the other day that steel from one of the destroyed World Trade Center towers is being used to build a warship (we are at war, aren't we?)--and one notes the immediate attempt by defeatophiles to smear the noble effort. Some of us have been onto their game for a long time. 

Good to read, then, James Taranto, editor of the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web proto-blog, evicerating the "thoughts" of yet another defeat-minded contributor to the Times of London:

But not everyone finds this inspiring. One Martin Samuel, commenting in the Times, is appalled:

In this way, the 2,800 souls that perished as an indirect result of an interventionist foreign policy that achieved the exact opposite of its stated aims can be honoured by a vessel built to ensure that this flawed cycle of violence continues. The USS New York will carry 360 soldiers and 700 combat-ready Marines. It puts to sea with the motto: "Never forget." Except they do. They always do. . . .

In essence what is being commemorated here is failure; the failure of American foreign policy to protect fully the interests of its citizens or make their world a safer place. America came under attack because the actions of successive governments have made it the enemy to large swaths of humanity. Anti-Americanism is growing alarmingly because, since September 11, the world's most powerful nation has continued to alienate and divide even its allies. While not excusing wicked acts committed by terrorists, it would be foolish to view the behaviour of terrorists as motiveless.

What "actions" of the U.S. government does Samuel think caused (even if they didn't exactly justify) the 9/11 attacks? Here are the only ones he cites:

The respected columnist Roger Cohen, writing in The New York Times, identified just 14 years since 1945 when America had not been at war, in some form or other, either metaphorical (the Cold War, the War on Terror) or literal (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq). Some might think the two states do not compare. Then again, some of us have never tried to form a left-wing government in Chile, appeared before the Senate Permanent Investigations Sub-Committee led by Senator Joe McCarthy or been instructed to form a naked pyramid by a gap-toothed cracker with a semi-automatic weapon and a weird girlfriend.

That's right. Samuel is suggesting that the 9/11 attacks was part of a "cycle of violence" to which America's contributions were (1) a coup in Chile in 1973, (2) Sen. McCarthy's mistreatment of American communists in the early 1950s, and (3) the abuses at Abu Ghraib, which had not yet happened. Imagine what he might say if he were willing to make excuses for our enemies.

Good that Taranto boasts an intact mind, unlike the majority of his colleagues in the press, afflicted with some kind of "mad journalist disease" that, starting in the spine, works its way up to the brain, targeting pockets of historical knowledge. 

(Incidentally, it's Fleet Week here in NYC, and, as I write this, several military fighter jets are flying low over Brooklyn Heights.  Wonderful.)
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Posted on 05/25/2006 8:08 AM by Robert Bove
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Thursday, 25 May 2006
Heart of Dixie
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Yup, that's me on Southern Appeal, THE Alabama legal blog.  Alabama ROCKS!  Jeff Sessions for President!  Bill Pryor for A/G!  If we start work now, we can get Alabamians into all the main positions of federal power in '08.

THEN, at last, we'll have a national Hank Williams Day public holiday.  And a Bear Bryant monument on the Mall.

Come on, folks, let's get going on this.
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Posted on 05/25/2006 7:08 AM by John Derbyshire
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Thursday, 25 May 2006
Methuselah, you young whippersnapper
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A snapshot from the BBC News Website. The headline has since been corrected, so that it agrees with the text underneath. However, the original version, if true, would certainly solve the funding problem.

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Posted on 05/25/2006 6:59 AM by Mary Jackson
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Thursday, 25 May 2006
Boadicea may have had her chips on site of McDonald's
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Archaeologists believe they may have found the final battle site for the warrior queen Boadicea - on the site of a McDonald's restaurant.

Having spent her life in fierce resistance to one empire - the Romans - her last stand is thought to have been overshadowed by another one, this time corporate.

Little is known about Boadicea's last fight, or the way in which she died, but it is widely believed to have taken place in the West Midlands. The site unearthed by experts, in Kings Norton, Birmingham, lies close to the line of a Roman road, and fits many of the few facts available.

According to the Roman historian Tacitus, prior to battle Paulinus deliberately protected his legions by choosing a hilly area virtually surrounded by trees with a single opening.

Experts from Birmingham city council believe the Parsons Hill site matches this description with its landscape and mature woodland, and artefacts found in the dig indicate that Roman soldiers may have been there. The area of land next to the McDonald's is also near the Metchley Roman fort.

Cllr Peter Douglas Osborn, a conservationist, said: "I find it very exciting to think we may unearth something so intriguing right here in Birmingham. It would be bizarre if it is discovered Boadicea's last stand was next door to a McDonald's, but the site does fit the only descriptions we know of.

A spokesman for McDonald's said: "Obviously if a site next to one of our restaurants is found to be where Boudica fought her last battle then we would be quite excited. However, we'll have to wait and see what the archaeologists find."

The warrior queen was described as being "very tall, the glance of her eye most fierce; her voice harsh. A great mass of the reddest hair fell down to her hips. Her appearance was terrifying".

She has also inspired some great beer, although I don't personally believe that she is buried under platform 9 of Kings Cross station, the trains are not that infrequent, or that her chariot had knives on the wheels.  Despite my supermarket trolley pushing style.

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Posted on 05/25/2006 3:54 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Thursday, 25 May 2006
Honour suicides: death by a bullet in the back
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I have posted links about Honour Suicides - the friendly alternative to honour killings before, here and elsewhere.  The Times has published another article today because the subject bears repeating.

ZULFINAN BAYCINAR died from a bullet in her back. Her husband’s family went into mourning for the 27-year-old’s “tragic suicide”. She was very happy, they said, they can’t imagine what got into her.

But now Baycinar’s husband is on trial for murder. Prosecutors say she was killed because she dared to oppose against her husband’s wish to take a second wife, refusing to bow to tradition and know her place.

“This law is a real improvement, but we did worry that tougher punishments would lead to this and were watching out for increased cases of suicide,” said Zelal Ozgokce, founder member of Va-Kad, a new women’s association in Van, near the Iranian border.

She says that where once there would be the occasional whiff of suspicion surrounding a suicide, now she hears of odd cases almost every other day.

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Posted on 05/25/2006 3:31 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 24 May 2006
Exploitable Iranian divisions
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One was startled and delighted to see, for perhaps the first time, in today's New Duranty Times, the complete list of those ethnic groups that constitute half the population of Iran, and all of which have their own grievances which, in the right conditions, and with the example of a completely autonomous or, still better, independent Kurdistan, could lead to local revolts against the Islamic Republic of Iran.  list which visitors to this site have long been accustomed to:

Azeris, Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs.

If you are an Iranian patriot, by now you understand that if the government of Iran successfully acquires nuclear weapons, then the regime will be impregnable, and Iran will be doomed to another quarter-century, or more, of the hideous regime it now possesses. And Iran as you once conceived it, will be doomed.

And you realize that if the Americans have to do all kinds of things to stop it, those things will include not an invasion (that is not wise nor possible), but support for those Azeris, Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs. And no appeals to Muslim solidarity by Ahmadinejad and others will work, and what remains of what was the Persian Empire will be considerably reduced in size, reduced as was Turkey after World War I, and it will be, especially if the oil of Khuzistan is lost, never again an important country.
And Iran, as you once conceived it, will be doomed.

Such an Iranian patriot, then, knowing full well that Sunni Arabs, still courted by the Americans, would love to have Iran completely dismembered, and wishing to prevent that outcome, should be working with other patriots to prevent, to sabotage, to reveal secrets about, that nuclear project and its scattered facilities, so that the Americans will be able to deal with it with minimally invasive surgery, and not rip the entire Iranian body politic, and body, to shreds by encouraging those Arabs, those Baluchis, those Azeris, those Kurds. It's up to the Persians. The hideous Islamic Republic was helped to come into existence by the Arabs (think of all the help extended by Arafat, the first official visitor, and the PLO, to Khomeini early on). Now the Sunni Arabs are smacking their lips over the prospect of the dismemberment of Shi'a Iran. It would not be regrettable for them if Iran, Persia, were to be reduced to its component parts, as Yugoslavia has been.

Nuclear bombs or the continued existence of Iran in its present configuration. For an Iranian in exile, or in Iran, one not Islam-mad, the choice should be clear. Or -- made clear.
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Posted on 05/24/2006 9:09 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 24 May 2006
"Best Teacher in America" now teaching in... Bolivia
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Remember the film Stand and Deliver, the hit schoolroom drama of 1988?

If you do, you remember Jaime Escalante, the teacher portrayed by actor Edward James Olmos, and the school, East Los Angeles’ Garfield High School, where Escalante successfully prepped woefully unprepared, low-income Hispanic students for the AP calculus exam. That program was killed by the Clinton Administration, and the now-75-year-old Escalante eventually returned to his native Bolivia to teach in a private college.  Lucky for them.

Education Week caught up with him recently in Sacramento, CA, where he had gone to receive an award.  From their interview (reg req):

Q. You taught there for 12 years before you came to the U.S. How would you compare teaching in Bolivia with what you experienced in California?

A. First of all, we don’t have gangs. You don’t have discipline problems. The kids follow directions. And they don’t have [textbooks]. You have to copy everything from the chalkboard, whatever the teacher is telling you. This country gives [out] new books, and soon the books are full of graffiti. In Bolivia, the kids appreciate education. They want to be something. Over here, education is, for some students, a punishment. Over there, it’s a privilege.

As Ezra Pound said, no discipline, no education.
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Posted on 05/24/2006 7:59 AM by Robert Bove
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Wednesday, 24 May 2006
Hope and chuckles
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Here's the latest on the big-hearted Barbaro:


There was more good news Tuesday from the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, where Barbaro was transported Saturday night directly from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

"He's actually better today than he was even yesterday and he was pretty good yesterday," Richardson said, noting the colt was able to balance himself enough to scratch his left ear with his left hind leg. "He's walking very well on the limb, absolutely normal vital signs. He's doing very well."

The latest update was encouraging to the Jacksons, who live about 10 miles away from the center. Gretchen Jackson is on the board of overseers at the hospital.

"We've run the gamut of emotions from the euphoria of the Kentucky Derby to the devastation of the Preakness," said her husband, Roy. "Even though he ran so well in the Kentucky Derby, we probably didn't see his greatest race. But that's water over the dam. We're just glad we jumped a hurdle here so far."


A cartoonist sums up everything:

"If you play The DaVinci Code backwards, it says, 'Paul is dead.'"


Is the following joke as old as I think it is?

A young couple had a fatal car accident on the way to their wedding.  When they met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, they asked him if it was possible for them to marry in heaven.  He said he would make some inquiries and get back to them.

A year later, St. Peter found the couple and told them they could get married.  "Could we get a divorce if it doesn't work out?" they wanted to know.

"Good grief!" St. Peter exclaimed.  "It took me a whole year to find a priest up here--and now you want me to find a lawyer."

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Posted on 05/24/2006 5:38 AM by Robert Bove
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Wednesday, 24 May 2006
Over the moon? No, ekoo yareni!
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From The Scotsman.

Sick as a parrot or over the moon? For fans who want to express their emotions to foreigners during next month's World Cup in Germany, a new guide might be able to help.

It may not be widely known, for example, that the national dish of participating nation Ecuador is roast Guinea Pig or that brandy is the top tipple in Angola, but the free booklet from travel agent Thomas Cook puts those information deficiencies to rights.

Actually I did know that.  I remember seeing a picture of the interior of a church somewhere in the Andes where a local artist had painted a mural of The Last Supper. Surrounded by his disciples Christ was about to carve a roast Guinea Pig on a platter, flanked by a basket of bread and a flagon of wine. 

Fans hearing "rozhodci nestaci!" during a match involving the Czech team will be able to understand that it means "you've lost the plot ref!", while the Ghanaian term "ekoo yareni" translates as the well-known phrase "sick as a parrot."

Who's a pretty boy then?

But if favourite Brazil captures the Cup again there may be no need to look up a translation for "sobre a lua" because it will be self-evident that the team and its fans are "over the moon".    

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Posted on 05/24/2006 5:11 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 23 May 2006
One Great Leap for State Socialism
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God bless the Heritage Foundation — they are all over this appalling Senate immigration bill.

Here is Tim Kane demonstrating that (a) the certain effect of the bill would be to create a vast new federal labor bureaucracy, and (b) the probable intent of it is to move us towards a centrally planned economy, with wage rates dictated by Washington.

The Senators promoting this dreadful bill EITHER are very wicked people striving to destroy our liberty, and ultimately our country, OR have not got a brain between the lot of them.  I prefer to believe the latter, but it's getting harder every day.

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Posted on 05/23/2006 3:20 PM by John Derbyshire
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Tuesday, 23 May 2006
The Yellow Badge of Denial
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Andrew Bostom has another important piece up at The American Thinker where he point out that the Islamic revival we are witnessing is bringing with it a host of words and concepts we need to understand in order to understand things like Jews possibly  being forced to wear a yellow badge in Iran. The concept here is najis: the same pesky thing that has been tripping up acolytes of the good Ayatollah Sistani like Tom Friedman. Here's Andy:

Eliz Sanasarian’s important study of non-Muslim religious minorities during the first two decades after 1979 provides a striking illustration of the practical impact of this renewed najis consciousness:

In the case of the Coca-Cola plant, for example, the owner (an Armenian) fled the country, the factory was confiscated, and Armenian workers were fired. Several years later, the family members were allowed to oversee the daily operations of the plant, and Armenians were allowed to work at the clerical level; however, the production workers remained Muslim. Armenian workers were never rehired on the grounds that non-Muslims should not touch the bottles or their contents, which may be consumed by Muslims.

Thus, if formal badging requirements for non-Muslims were now to be implemented, these measures would simply mark the further retrogression of Iran’s non-Muslim religious minorities, completing in full their descent to a pre-1925 status.

Invoking the Nazis?

Many people have reacted to these reports with a comparison to Nazi requirements of Jews to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing. Major Jewish organizations, including both The Simon Wiesenthal Center (in an almost apoplectic statement by Rabbi Marvin Hier,

“This is reminiscent of the Holocaust…Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis.”

and The American Jewish Committee,

“…the story, with its chilling echoes of the Shoah, is another heinous example of the Iranian regime’s contempt for human rights”

have followed this rhetorical path.

I sent my original background essay on this sad state of affairs to ranking officials in the Wiesenthal Center, and the American Jewish Committee (AJC). Their responses were neither edifying nor reassuring. The Wiesenthal Center official acknowledged that my essay raised an “historical and Islamic context” which “factored in”, but was (apparently) trumped by this non-sequitur observation, i.e., the “…proliferation of Iranian websites and blogs that are appearing in the last two months that specifically embrace and promote  Nazism”. The official from the AJC rebuked me for even discussing “…legislation that to the best of our knowledge at this time does not exist.”

In response I posed the following five questions to the AJC official (and they certainly apply to the Wiesenthal Center as well), which remain unanswered:

• Why doesn’t the American Jewish Committee (AJC) discuss…what najis is, how najis (practices) have been restored under Khomeini (and continued under his successors), and thus why the initial report of “badging” was plausible?

• Why didn’t the AJC include this clear statement from Prof. Laurence Loeb’s study of the Jews of Iran (Loeb lived there to do his anthropological field work) published in 1977, as appropriate background?

[the] badge of shame [as] an identifying symbol which marked someone as a najis Jew and thus to be avoided. From the reign of Abbas I [1587-1629] until the 1920s, all Jews were required to display the badge

• What does any of this have to do with “Nazism”?

• Why can’t AJC and the other major Jewish organizations speak honestly based upon the real (and sadly living) history of such sanctioned Islamic doctrines—najis, the dhimmi condition, discriminatory badging, etc.—and their implementation for centuries (in Iran)?

• What is to be gained by such denial and obfuscation other than further isolating us (i.e., Jews—I was writing as a Jew, albeit a “lapsed” Jew) as a tiny minority from the rest of the victims of jihad hatred (in this case the Christians and Zoroastrians also targeted by the putative dress regulations)?

While memories of the Holocaust are fresher and more widely held than memories of traditional Islamic oppression of Jews, such comparisons should be avoided. To invoke the Holocaust blinds us to the far longer and much more deeply-rooted traditions in the Islamic world which predate the rise of Nazism by well over a millennium.

In our struggle to defend our civilization and our freedoms, we must understand our enemy. Those who insist that anti-Semitism be seen exclusively through the lens of Nazism and the Holocaust divert our attention and hobble our understanding of the forces against which we defend ourselves.

It is my fervent hope that I receive serious, informed responses to the five queries posed to the AJC so as not to squander this “teachable moment.”

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Posted on 05/23/2006 12:39 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 23 May 2006
Whither the permanent things
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Conservatives and others rightly complain that movies that reflect their values need to be made as a counter to the prevailing left-liberal ethos of Hollywood, a Hollywood which has embraced the most intrusive barbarism of our times, rap "music."  They complain, quite eloquently, that even the most celebrated art museums are awash in kitsch, drek and scatology (not to mention coprophilia,  auto-eroticism, and blasphemy).  The permanent playpens from which issue these steaming turds are often taxpayer-financed universities and institutes that, so far, seem impervious to complaint. 

In lieu of significant backing for art that builds on the bountiful heritage of masterful ancestors, the advice is to vote at the box office, buy music that inspires heart and not mayhem, and support those increasingly rare museum shows, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art's recent Byzantium show, which represent the permanent things and not the institutionalized nihilism that seeks to make a handsome buck while tearing down beauty.

One should also support more modest efforts--and by them I mean the literary arts, now hostage to those same universities, and to their graduates running the publishing houses, which for too long have enshrined the banal, the didactic, and the professionally rebelious because it's easy.  

Poetry, of course, is in a bad state precisely because it was captured by ideological, anti-esthetic academia a generation ago, in consequence of which the poetry buying audience has evaporated.  (Yes, the alarming growth of illiteracy plays a part.)  Poets themselves don't even buy poetry books, if I can judge by the poets I've known.  Not having studied what has come before, their eyes look in blankness at, say, anything published before they were adolescents (did I say "were"?). The enormous box of tools bequeathed to us gathers dust.

Still, there are outlets for exemplars of the craft.  National Review publishes a few poems a month, though, inexplicably, they stopped publishing them online a few years ago. The New Criterion regularly not only publishes poems but first-rate criticism of poetry.There are others, including First Things, a journal that aims to keep religion in the public square.

First Things is first rate. Here's editor Joseph Bottum promoting FT's efforts:

The sapphic stanza is hard to do well—English not being Greek or Latin, after all—and even done well, classical verse forms usually aim at something sad and sonorous. No wonder Swinburne liked the sound:

      Newly fledged, her visible song, a marvel,
      Made of perfect sound and exceeding passion,
      Sweetly shapen, terrible, full of thunders,
      Clothed with the wind’s wings.

So when the poet Julie Stoner—who in her spare time is a home-schooling mother in California—mentioned that she had an idea for a funny poem in sapphics, no one was hopeful. But she managed to use the suspension of that short fourth line for perfect comic effect:

      Terra Firma
     
      Yes, you’re right. I’m sure Armageddon’s coming:
      wars, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, locusts,
      killer flus, et cetera. Yes, I’m awed by
      all the destruction.

      I concede your point that the world might end, and
      all your puny labors will be as nothing.
      Still, you can’t go out with your friends until you’ve
      folded the laundry.    
 
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Posted on 05/23/2006 8:00 AM by Robert Bove
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Tuesday, 23 May 2006
Carry on up the arts
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We've had Tracey Emin's Unmade Bed. We've had pickled sharks, dodgy lights, sheds that turn into boats (and back) and knobbly pervy sculptures. Just when you thought that the world of contemporary art could not get any more ridiculous, here's the latest from Tate Modern. Tracey Emin can't hold a candle to it. She would be ill-advised to, in any case, as will become clear:

CURATORS defended their decision to include a tape of flatulent noises as part of the rehang of Tate Modern yesterday, despite complaints from staff that it drives them mad.

Martin Creed’s Work No 401 is a recording of nine minutes of the artist blowing raspberries into a microphone, which is played back on a loop. It can be heard throughout the new Material Gestures wing, which contains works by Claude Monet and Mark Rothko.

 
Vicente Todoli, the Director of Tate Modern, said that Work No 401 was a case of art reflecting life. “This kind of acoustic — you hear it every day of your life,” he said. “This is not a cathedral with the relics of a saint in which you’re supposed to kneel down in front of it.”

Frances Morris, the permanent collections curator at Tate Modern, said that she expected Creed’s tape to draw ridicule. “Many of these great works of art were originally deliberately provocative and were met with utter derision. We wanted to rough it up a bit and keep it like real life.”

Creed is best known for Work No 227: The Lights Going On and Off, his Turner Prize-winning installation in which a pair of gallery lights were programmed to turn on and off at regular intervals.

One of the gallery’s staff said that she dreaded having to sit near the raspberry noises for her 30-minute shifts. “I think it’s horrible,” she said. “We move every half hour, but you can hear it all over the floor.”

Perhaps she should leave and claim constructive dismissal, as the lady did in the case of the flatulent chair.

Ms Morris said that it did not spoil the atmosphere in the rest of the gallery, despite being clearly audible in the Rothko room, which is designed so that visitors can sit in quiet contemplation.

This is art with a capital "F". Creed should combine this concept with the dodgy light theme and have a gas ring with an intermittent flame. The mixture could be explosive.

Anyway, it's good to see that the spirit of Josef Pujol is alive and well. Not to mention the Two Ronnies, whose Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town contributed far more to the sum of human happiness than most of the stuff in Tate Modern.

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Posted on 05/23/2006 5:27 AM by Mary Jackson
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