Thursday, 31 May 2007
Why Seventeen Years?

I heard on the news yet again about the cicadas in the Middle West coming out, as cicadas will do, for a month every seventeen years. Why seventeen years?  I wanted to know.

I looked in Wikipedia. Here is what I found, sensibly abridged:

Seventeen is the 7th prime number. The next prime is nineteen, with which it forms a twin prime. 17 is the sum of the first four primes. 17 is the sixth Mersenne prime exponent, yielding 131071. 17 is an Eisenstein prime with no imaginary part and real part of the form 3n − 1.

17 is the third Fermat prime. Since 17 is a Fermat prime, heptadecagons can be drawn with compass and ruler. This was proved by Carl Friedrich Gauss. Another consequence of 17 being a Fermat prime is that it is not a Higgs prime for squares or cubes.

17 is the only positive Genocchi prime, the only negative one being -3. It is also the third Stern prime.

There are exactly seventeen two-dimensional space (plane symmetry) groups. These are sometimes called wallpaper groups, as they represent the seventeen possible symmetry types that can be used for wallpaper.

Like 41, the number 17 is a prime that yields primes in the polynomial n2 + n + p, for all positive n < p - 1.

Consider a sequence of real numbers between 0 and 1 such that the first two lie in different halves of this interval, the first three in different thirds, and so forth. The maximum possible length of such a sequence is 17 (Berlekamp & Graham, 1970, example 63).

16 and 18 unit squares can each be formed into rectangles with perimeter equal to the area; and they are the only solutions. The Platonists regarded this as a sign of their peculiar propriety; and Plutarch explains that 17 is therefore an unlucky number.

17 is the tenth Perrin number, preceded in the sequence by 7, 10, 12.

In base 9, the smallest prime with a composite sum of digits is 17.

17 is known as the Feller number, after the famous mathematician William Feller who taught at Princeton University for many years. Feller would say, when discussing an unsolved mathematical problem, that if it could be proved for the case n = 17 then it could be proved for all positive integers n. He would also say in lectures, "Let's try this for an arbitrary value of n, say n=17." There is an unproved conjecture that 17 is the value most likely to be picked as a "random" number when such is needed in journalism which is derived from the Feller number.[1]

17! = 355687428096000

It is a repunit prime in hexadecimal (11).

It is believed that the minimum possible number of givens for a sudoku puzzle with a unique solution is 17, but this has yet to be proven.

There are 17 orthogonal curvilinear coordinate systems (to within a conformal symmetry) in which the 3-variable Laplace equation can be solved using the separation of variables technique.

  • Described at MIT as 'the most random number', according to hackers' lore. This is supposedly because in a study where respondents were asked to choose a random number from 1 to 20, 17 was the most common choice.
  • The numbet of the raka'ahs that muslim perform in Salah on daily basis.
  • A mild swear word in Swedish. The origin is debated, and is commonly used as "sjutton också!" ("seventeen, too!"). It can roughly be translated to "Darn!". It is of course also used for the number 17.
  • The maximum number of strokes of a Chinese radical.
  • The number of syllables in a haiku (5+7+5).
  • The number of trees Dostoevsky could see out of the window of his cell while he was in prison.  
  • In Italian culture, the number 17 is considered unlucky. When viewed as the Roman numeral, XVII, it is then changed anagramtically to VIXI, which in the Latin language it translates to "I have lived", the perfect tense implying "My life is over." (c.f. "Vixerunt", Cicero's famous announcement of an execution.) The Italian airline carrier, Alitalia, does not have a seat 17. Renault sold its "R17" model in Italy as "R177."
  • Some species of cicadas have a life cycle of 17 years (ie they are buried in the ground for 17 years between every mating season).

So at the very end "some species of cicadas have a life cycle of 17 years" -- they are born, they go underground, they emerge -- or do they, or is it other cicadas, born undreground, who emerge? -- and mate and take brief roles in summer-stock plays based on "Le Cigale et Le Fourmi" or possibly Dickens's "The Cricket on the Hearth" and then, tired of being type-cast, disappear as suddenly as they had come, for another 17 years.

But why? Why not sixteen? Why not eighteen? Why not ten or twenty-two? Why seventeen?

Possibly Mother Nature couldn't count, or at least count in a way that would make sense for her proudest creation, man.

But then I realized that the number 17 is at the heart of one of the greatest mysteries in American constitutional history. Senior parties at Fish and Richardson, and winners of the Lemelson Prize at MIT, will know at once what I mean.

Why is it, in not only recognizing (hell, all kinds of countries do that) but in enshrining in the Constitution itself, the length of time that patents may be awarded, did the Framers decide on making the patent term not ten years, or twenty, or thirty, or life plus fifty, but "seventeen years." Why, why, why? I've read Jefferson. I've read George Mason and James Madison, I've looked at the Papers of Count Rumford and even went to visit his house, I've tried to find out but no one seems to have the answer. "No one knows why" is not a satisfactory answer.

Why "17 years" for the length of a patent term? Why? Why?  

Perhaps I should mention that I have come up with a new solar energy invention that will revolutionize the entire field and save the world. I am ready with my claims. I have written up the thing so that it will withstand every challenge. But I won't make a move to submit a patent application, much less tell anyone a thing about it, until someone can satisfactorily answer this question.

Answer me.

Posted on 05/31/2007 10:10 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Relativism vs. Certainty
What the creationism/evolution business is really about is the clash of visions between relativism and certitude, each of which is highly obnoxious to a lot of people—a different lot in each case, of course—for reasons not, in either case, hard to understand. 
Philosopher Julian Baggini tried to split the difference in the Guardian last month.
He didn't, in my opinion, really succeed; but you have to like a piece that quotes BOTH then-Cardinal Ratzinger AND The Big Lebowski.
Posted on 05/31/2007 4:44 PM by John Derbyshire
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Dozy bint not just of the week but of the month.
From the Daily Mirror
THERE isn't much about Sophy Delavigne that surprises her friends anymore.
But none of them could have predicted Sophy's latest - and biggest - surprise.
The 35-year-old pub manager from Chobham, Surrey, went on holiday to Egypt, met local barman Mohamed Ali... and married him 24 hours later.
Now the new Mrs Ali, who has two children from her first marriage, is preparing to sell her home and move to Egypt to be with her husband.
"He completely swept me off my feet," she says. "He's so romantic. I'm not stupid and I know I haven't known him for very long, but I've decided to give this marriage my best shot. And if it doesn't work it doesn't, but at least I've tried."
"I decided to take my book to the bar," Sophy says. "No one else was in there, so I ordered coffee and Mohamed and I started talking. I told him the music they were playing was terrible - and he told me he thought I was beautiful.
"We kept laughing and he then said, 'I'd like to take you out tonight.' And I thought, 'Why not?'" Mohamed, 28, took Sophy to an English-speaking bar nearby.
"He made me feel very special," she smiles. "When we were walking back, he picked a white flower and gave it to me. It was so different to the British men I've dated. At the end of the night he walked me back to the hotel and we had a goodnight kiss. A perfect first date."
But the next day was her last full day in the resort and she met Mohamed for one final drink. "He looked sad and said, 'I want to spend time with you'. We couldn't go back to my hotel room because Carole was asleep there and Mohamed had friends staying at his place, so he took me to another hotel.
"When we got there, he suddenly said: 'In Egypt, you can't stay in a room with someone unless you're married, so shall we get married?' I was shocked - but then I thought, 'What the hell!' I didn't take it too seriously to be honest.
"I signed the marriage certificate they pulled from a drawer and the manager was our witness - and that was that! (I have heard of the hot sheets motel, but not the hot sheets wedding chapel. Ew)
"Looking back, it wasn't very romantic - but we had the most fantastic sex that night. I thought, 'Thank God I've married him, because if I hadn't, I would have done as soon as I could.'"
 Later that day, Mohamed saw Sophy off to the airport. She says: "He looked me in the eyes and said, 'You're my wife now, you're the only one. I want you to be with me.'"
At first, Sophy was cynical about whether Mohamed was telling the truth. "But as soon as the plane landed in England I got a phone call from him, checking that I had got home in one piece." A few days later, Mohamed sent her a gold ring - and now she is convinced they can make their marriage work.
Their marriage isn't yet recognised in Britain, and has still to be registered in Egypt but Sophy plans to do that when they move in together.
She adds: "I'm not stupid, I'm realistic. But I am in love with him and I really want this to last." 
Mrs Delavigne, do yourself a favour. Go to the internet, call up a good search engine and look up Mut’ah. Islamic temporary marriage.
Posted on 05/31/2007 3:35 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Egyptian Villagers Explain Why They Perform FGM On Their Daughters
MEMRI: "The girl becomes smart and calm, and then she grows tall and beautiful."
Posted on 05/31/2007 3:30 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Tunnel of Oppression
A friend sent me this

After a spell of gasping, weeping, tearing my hair, and having the cyanide bottle wrestled from my grip by a loving wife, I googled around on "tunnel of oppression."  The darn things are EVERYWHERE, and have been for YEARS.  One of the links tells me that a Tunnel of Oppression featured in a South Park episode.  (I *really* must watch more TV.)

I have this flash mental image of a stranger showing up on an American campus and asking someone for directions to the Dean's office.  "Sure:  you keep right going here, turn left at the Museum of Tolerance, past the Office of Diversity Awareness, cross over Peace Plaza,  hang another left at the Matthew Shepard memorial, around behind the Tunnel of Oppression, and it's right there, next to the Global Warming Awareness study hall..."
Posted on 05/31/2007 2:44 PM by John Derbyshire
Thursday, 31 May 2007

Pro-Israel statements can be pro-forma. I don't think this one is, and the appeal to the reader to sympathetically engage with the plight of the Israelis -- a permanent plight not to be "solved" with a two-state or one-state or anything-at-all "solution" -- is what strikes the reader. No matter who helped to write this, it is this that Fred Thompson wanted to sign, wanted to express. Possibly he will now help Republicans connect the dots between the war on Israel, the Lesser Jihad, and the larger, world-wide Jihad. That means working to reverse the incessant Arab and Muslim effort, since 1967, to create out of the local Arabs a "Palestinian people," and to work to disguise the Jihad against Israel as a "nationalist" struggle "between two tiny peoples blah blah."

Thompson is smart enough to understand all this, and eloquent enough to express it. He might start by demoting the word "Palestinian" to adjective: "Palestinian Arabs" rather than "Palestinians." This is something that all those hoping to instruct aright should get used to -- and know the reason, and be able to defend the use, of that phrase, and indeed, of the phrase "the Lesser Jihad."

Posted on 05/31/2007 2:31 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Sam I Am
Here is Sam Brownback talking about evolutionary biology. That's a bit like saying: "Here's Paris Hilton talking about partial differential equations"... from which you can deduce that I don't feel much inclined to offer a detailed critique of Brownback's position.

I would though like to draw attention to the following bit of weaseling.

"If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it."

What's going on here is that Brownback has got a whiff of the notion that living species indisputably do change over time. This is so well established that the old creationist position—that species do not change over time—has had to be abandoned. Creationists have retreated to this new position: "Yes, OK, a given species does change over time, but never into a new species." You could summarize this as "micro-evolution yes, macro-evolution no." It's a common creationist line of argument.

The problem with this position is, that you need to observe—or at least, darn it, hypothesize—some mechanism that stops the micro before it goes macro. (Not to mention that you have to posit some mechanism, other than macro-evolution, for the origin of species... But leave that aside for the moment.)

Take, for example, allopatric ("different homeland") speciation. You have a population of living, sexually-reproducing organisms, all belonging to the same species (i.e. able to mate with each other). You observe variations within the population. You further observe, watching across several generations, that some variations (red hair, schizophrenia) are heritable in whole or part, some (appendectomy scars) are not heritable at all.

Now you divide your population in two: Population A and Population B. You separate them geographically. (Hence "diferent homelands.") You observe that A and B have different "menus" of heritable variation (A has more redheads, B more schizophrenics). You further observe that A's and B's environments are different—A's is hot and dry, B's cool and wet.

You sit back and observe for a few thousand generations. Yep, microevolution goes on. A changes, B changes. Because they started out with different menus of heritable variations, and because environmental pressures in the two places are different, they change differently. They diverge. A thousand generations on, the two populations look and behave differently from each other. Ten thousand generations on, they look and behave way differently. Orthodox biology ("Darwinism") says that eventually they will be so different, they can no longer interbreed. Speciation will have occurred. A and B are now two species.

Under Brownbackian evolution—micro yes, macro no—this can't happen. They can't go on diverging. They can only get so different, no more. The divergence must slow down and stop. But... what stops it? What's the mechanism?

I'm not expecting Sam, or any other creationist, to give me an answer. I do wish Sam had at least confronted the question honestly, though. Like this, perhaps:

If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to macroevolution, those small changes accumulating all the way to speciation, then I reject it.

And Sam at least has the interests of scientists at heart.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man's origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome.

With certainty! Well, that should spare biologists a lot of futile research work!
Posted on 05/31/2007 2:03 PM by John Derbyshire
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Thompson: Living in Terror

Fred Thompson writes on his blog (with thanks to Jerry Gordon)

Let me ask you a hypothetical question. What do you think America would do if Canadian soldiers were firing dozens of missiles every day into Buffalo, N.Y.? What do you think our response would be if Mexican troops for two years had launched daily rocket attacks on San Diego -- and bragged about it?

I can tell you, our response would look nothing like Israel's restrained and pinpoint reactions to daily missile attacks from Gaza. We would use whatever means necessary to win the war. There would likely be numerous casualties on our enemy's side, but we would rightfully hold those who attacked us responsible.

More than 1,300 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since Palestinians were given control two years ago. Israelis, however, have gone to incredible lengths to stop the war against them without harming Palestinian non-combatants. But make no mistake, Israel is at war. The elected Hamas government regularly repeats its official promise to destroy Israel entirely and replace it with an Islamic state. Hamas openly took credit for killing one woman and wounding dozens more last week alone.

The Palestinian strategy is to purposely target and kill Israeli civilians. Then, when Israel goes after those launching the attacks, Palestinians claim to be the victims. If Palestinian civilians aren't hurt in the Israeli attacks, they stage injuries and deaths. Too often, they garner sympathy and support from a gullible or anti-Semitic media in the international community.

Israelis, themselves, are often incapable of facing the damage they inflict in self-defense. Knowing this, Islamic extremists are using their own populations as human shields.

I'm beginning to wonder how much longer this vicious plot will work though. International sympathy for Palestinians has diminished as the same Islamofascist extremists have brought havoc to Madrid, Bali, Somalia, London and elsewhere. More importantly, Israelis themselves are suffering so badly, they may be on the verge of losing their sympathy for the people who have sworn to kill them.

Imagine what it would be like to live, knowing that a rocket could fall on you or your children at any minute. Half of those who live nearest to Gaza have fled their homes. Those remaining are traumatized by daily warning sirens and explosions.

The irony is that Israel has the military might to easily win the war that is being waged against them today. They haven't used that might, in the past, out of compassion for Palestinian civilians and because it could trigger a wider regional conflict.

That balance of power is about to change, though. If Iran develops nuclear weapons, the very existence of this tiny nation of Israel will be threatened. The Iranian regime has left little doubt that it intends to see Israel "wiped off the map.” Hamas is using the same language, not coincidentally, and has announced it will begin launching missiles into Israel from the West Bank too.

If the world doesn't act to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions, it must be prepared for the consequences of Israel defending itself.

Posted on 05/31/2007 12:30 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Pathetic analogy of the week

Stephen S. Covey, a management writer, distinguishes between leadership and management:

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

George Formby, who sang about cleanin' windows, might agree. But I'd be tempted to walk under the ladder - bad luck or not - giving it a good kick.

What happens if the ladder is a greasy pole and the wall is a glass ceiling? Why, then you recruit a "diversity sponsor". That's what PA Consulting do:

“We are being asked to tell clients in our tenders what our diversity policy is,” says Neil Amos, a partner in PA Consulting’s government practice. The company recruits a different diversity sponsor every year and this year Amos is in the hot seat. He says that the firm looks at “diversity in the round”...

Does this mean they employ fat people? Probably not, or at least only along with anorexics as part of a multimorphic initiative:

He says that the firm looks at “diversity in the round”, examining three aspects: diversity of individuals, which takes in gender, age and sexual orientation; diversity of working arrangements, such as flexible working; and working style, which means taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of staff and assessing if people are effective team players. “It’s being increasingly recognised that a diverse team can deliver more,” he says.

What has sexual orientation got to do with how well somebody does his/her/his-formerly-her/her-formerly-his job? And hasn't the phrase "team players" worn itself out yet? This isn't cricket, even if we must think outside the box.

I have never been able to fathom what management consultants do that is at all useful, although they work very long hours at whatever it is and get paid a lot for doing whatever it is.  Readers considering management consultancy as a career may like to try this quiz. Sample questions as follows:

In a meeting your boss tells your client that he needs to open his kimono if the project is to succeed. You:

a) Shriek like a schoolgirl and close your eyes

b) Nod in agreement. There’s no getting ahead without a frank discussion of the company’s true financial situation

c) Hope you hid your confusion better than the client did

It’s time for your 360-degree evaluation. Do you:

a) Make the effort to iron both sides of your shirt

b) Greet the occasion with enthusiasm. Understanding what people think of you will help you to improve

c) Hope the colleagues you paid off remember their lines

An experienced colleague advises you that it’s easiest to swallow the frog early in the morning. You:

a) Smile and back away

b) Agree. It’s better to get nasty jobs out of the way than to have them hang over you

c) Make an unPC comment about French people

How many times have you mentioned “multi-sectoral key deliverables”?

a) Once, when last year’s grad trainees hypnotised me

b) Any time there is an obvious commercial imperative

c) Quite a few, but I didn’t have any idea what I meant

Posted on 05/31/2007 9:44 AM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Terror accused refuse to stand for judge
NINE Sydney men who pleaded not guilty to conspiring to plan a terrorist bombing in Australia refused to stand before the bench when they appeared in court today.
The men, all of whom were arrested in an anti-terrorism sweep in November last year, are now likely to face a year-long trial beginning in February.
Omar Baladjam, Khaled Cheikho, Moustafa Cheikho, Mohamed Elomar, Abdul Rakib Hasan, Mohammad Omar Jamal, Mirsad Mulahalilovic, Khaled Sharrouf and Mazen Touma appeared before NSW Supreme Court judge Anthony Whealy today and pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiring to plan a terrorist act.
The men broke with convention and did not stand before the judge as the charges against them were read out and their pleas received, with lawyer Adam Houda saying religious observances prevented them from doing so.
"The accused have a problem with standing up," Mr Houda said, and added the men intended no disrespect to the court.
All of the nine wore beards and five wore traditional muslim islamic attire.
The chatted among themselves, and as they were led away from court some of them exchanged chants of "Allahuakbar" or "God is great" with their friends and supporters in the public gallery.
The matter will return to court in August.
I am only guessing here but I imagine that Australian courtrooms are laid out in a similar style to British ones. Above the Judge’s bench is the Royal Coat of Arms – in Australia it will probably be the Australian Coat of Arms but Queen Elizabeth is still the monarch. When lawyers and court officials face the Judge and bow, they are not bowing to the man or woman but to the authority he or she represents. When the Judge bows back that authority is recognising the respect shown. I suspect that these men decided to try to make a cheap point in not recognising the authority of the court.
I took this Coat of Arms from the Federal Court of Australia website. I have always admired the Kangaroo supporter and the Emu has much to recommend him. There is also the red Cross ofSt George of New South Wales, the Southern Cross of Victoria and the Maltese cross of Queensland.
Posted on 05/31/2007 8:49 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Everyone Thinks So

"As President Bush repeatedly preaches, Islam is a religion of peace."-- from a student newspaper at the University of Michigan

Yes, George Bush. The man who has been right about everything. Now quoted in defense of the proposition that "Islam is a religion of peace." Why? Because CAIR says so. Because Al-Qaradawi says so. Because Sheik Bin Baz used to say so. Because Tariq Ramadan says so. Because Karen Armstrong says so. Because John Esposito says so. Because two dozen former ambassadors to Arab countries, on the take both directly and indirectly, would have us say so. Because Jimmy Carter thinks so -- devoutly, piously, with good wishes for the whole wide world except, perhaps, for those "Zionists" and their supporters.

Everyone thinks so. And President Bush thinks so. Doesn't that take care of it?

Posted on 05/31/2007 7:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Suicide Bomber Strikes As Gunfight Rages
A suicide bomber has killed 25 people in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Another 20 people were injured in the attack.
A hospital source said a bomber wearing a suicide explosives vest walked up to a queue of young men at a police recruitment centre and detonated the bomb.
It came as US forces fought a sustained gun battle with suspected al Qaeda fighters in western Baghdad, reportedly killing a senior terrorist figure and arresting dozens of others.
A source in Fallujah said at least 10 police officers were among the 25 people killed in the suicide attack.
Police said the bomber detonated his bomb at the third of four checkpoints as he stood among recruits who were lining up to apply for jobs on the force.
The centre had only been opened on Saturday in a primary school in eastern Fallujah.
Meanwhile, US forces backed by helicopter gunships clashed with suspected al Qaeda gunmen in western Baghdad in an engagement that lasted several hours.
The fighting in the capital's Amariyah neighbourhood exploded after residents there called for US help.
Members of al Qaeda, who consider the district part of their so-called Islamic State of Iraq, were preventing students from attending final examinations, shooting randomly and forcing residents to stay in their homes, according to an official of the district council.
Posted on 05/31/2007 7:40 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 31 May 2007
"Every illness is a musical problem"
"Philosophy is homesickness—the desire to be everywhere at home."  ~  Novalis (a new translation of Novalis and a book about the poet philosopher are reviewed here)
Posted on 05/31/2007 6:59 AM by Robert Bove
Thursday, 31 May 2007
D'Souza: Wrong Every Which Way

Today's New York Times reports on escalating sectarian conflict in northern Iraq between Sunnis and Kurds. I'm sure Robert Spencer would be on the case, spouting his nonsense about religious wars, except that the Kurds happen to be Sunni as well! -- Dinesh D'Souza

D'Souza appears to think that religion -- that is Islam -- cannot conceivably have been connected to the fighting now between Kurds and Arabs, or the massacres of Arabs by Kurds, and forced arabization of Kurdish lands, under Saddam Hussein.

This shows again how little D. D'S. knows about Islam, and what he does not understand is quite significant. For the discrimination against, and persecution and murder of, the Kurds by the Arabs is prompted by the Arab supremacism that is not called into question by, but supported by, Islam. Islam in fact is a vehicle for Arab supremacism, and owes its origins, that peculiar blend of pre-Islamic Arab pagan beliefs (those djinns), mixed with bits and pieces of stories and figures from both Judaism and Christianity, in a felt need for a "new faith" that would both justify, and promote, the Arab conquests -- justify and promote them among both those carrying out those conquests, and those non-Arab peoples, Christians and Jews and Zoroastrians and assorted others, who were more populous, more wealthy, more advanced, more settled, than the primitive Arab tribesmen who lived by raiding, and who conquered them.

Of course D'Souza is hardly the only one not to understand all the ways in which, despite its universalist pretensions, Islam is that vehicle of Arab supremacism. Many overlook the requirement that, ideally (and certainly up until recent times) the Qur'an had to be read, could only be read, in Arabic. The book that had been revealed to an Arab, and in the language of the Arabs, the best of peoples, is fully itself only in the original Arabic. Converts to Islam routinely take Arabic names -- some, such as Adam Gadahn and John Walker Lindh, find this very exciting. Muslims pray five times a day Meccatropically, and not only to they turn, wherever they are, in the direction of Arabia, but they take as the Model of Perfect Conduct, uswa hasana, as the Perfect Man, al-insan al-kamil, Muhammad, himself an Arab. And they carefully study the stories that convey the words and acts of this figure central to Islam, words and acts that often involve still other Arabs.

Why does this matter? Well, it might help the nicholas-kristofs of this world, who appear puzzled as to why some people who consider themselves "Arabs" are willing to mass-murder those who may look, in some cases, very much like themselves, but whom they consider to be "blacks" and therefore non-Arabs and therefore, fit to be cut down, raped, murdered, the heads of children split open, the wells poisoned, the miserable huts burned.

And it might also help the benighted and insufferably thick Bush Administration, or others for that matter, in beginning to fashion a coherent and intelligent policy of constraining the forces of Jihad, by encouraging division and demoralization within the Camp of Islam. And while sectarian fissures are most obviously present, right now, in Iraq, in the wider world of Islam it is the ethnic divisions -- the divisions between the o'erweening Arabs and the 80% of the world's Muslims who are not Arabs -- that offer the greatest promise of whittling Islam down to size.

D. D'Souza knows none of this. He cannot figure out that when Sunni Arabs kill 182,000 largely Sunni Kurds, that Islam may be involved, that "religion" (if that is what D. D'S. thinks, like Bush, is a sufficient description of Islam) it is indeed a reflection of what is in the attitudes and atmospherics of Islam.

He's wrong every which way but up. No, including up.

Posted on 05/31/2007 6:39 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 May 2007
Seven Underwhelming Wonders of the World

The Seven Wonders of the World (I always forget the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, don’t you?) are not enough. There are to be Seven New Wonders of the World. And they are utterly dreadful:

  1. Sydney Opera House
  2. Eiffel Tower [You're joking. Blackpool Tower is better - M.J.]
  3. Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai [What??!! It's hideous.]
  4. Statue of Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro
  5. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
  6. Empire State Building, New York City
  7. Channel Tunnel [Flood it now!]

A reader - possibly an American - lists his own preferences:

#1 The US Constitution
#2 2nd Amendment, US Constitution
#3 The Old Testament
#4 The new Teatament
#5 The Twin Towers
#6 Israel, State of
#7 Starbucks
#8 Silicon Chip
#9 Hubble
#10 1st Amendment, US Constitution.

That's ten. Eleven if each of the Twin Towers counts as one, or nine if they count as none. And what's a Teatament (#4)?

Posted on 05/31/2007 6:03 AM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Woman 'backed husband's terror plans'
A young mother encouraged her husband to die as a terrorist martyr, the Old Bailey has been told.
Bouchra El Hor, 24, urged on Yassin Nassari, 28, in a letter which was discovered among their luggage at Luton airport, said Aftab Jafferjee, prosecuting. He alleged that the true significance of the letter became more apparent when police found instructions on how to make missiles on Nassari's hard drive.
Mr Jafferjee said: "It is the prosecution case that they are not merely radicalised Muslims, but that Nassari was going to engage in what he and others like him would call a jihad - but what the law describes as terrorism. He held both the ideology and the technology with which that could be achieved.  His wife was not only aware of his intention, but positively encouraged it - despite the fact that his actions would almost certainly result in his death in some form of combat and would also result in their son being without a father."
El Hor denies failing to disclose information on terrorism while Nassari denies two charges of having documents and computer data for terrorism.
The couple, from Ealing, west London, married in London in March 2005 and had a five-month-old son when they were arrested in May, last year.
El Hor - who appeared in the dock in a black hijab, or traditional headscarf - was Dutch while Nassari was born in London.
The moment has come that you and I have to separate for the sake of Allah. I am so proud of my husband. I am happy that Allah has granted you the chance to be a martyr. I am writing to let you know that you have my support and to remind you to be strong and do not let Satan influence you... to remind you that jihad is now compulsory and we are now obligated to protect Islam, to help our brothers and sisters to fight the kuffar [non-believer]. I really wish I could go with you because I too feel obligated. I'd like to participate in any way I can. Everything happens with the will of Allah. Maybe one day I can follow you. If I can't, I will send our son to you so he can follow his father's footsteps."
El Hor had returned to Holland to have her baby and was joined by her husband, who had been teaching in Syria, at the end of April, last year.
They arrived in the UK on an Easyjet flight from Amsterdam on May 13 last year with a "mass of luggage", including computer equipment.  After it was searched, documents including two letters, were photocopied before the couple were allowed to leave, the court was told. The hard drive was examined by police and contained terrorist material.
"It was material to do with the construction of missiles and the handling of those and other explosives such as land mines," added Mr Jafferjee.

yassin nassari

Artists impression of the happy family in the dock (photography is forbidden inside the courtrooms of England and Wales, and I believe Scotland and Northern Ireland) from This is London.

Posted on 05/30/2007 4:00 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Islamic tries to woo gangland killer
An attempt at prison dawa fails down under. From The Australian
AN accused terrorist ringleader has reportedly tried to convert Melbourne's notorious gangland murderer Carl Williams to Islam in prison. Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who has been charged with directing a terrorist organisation and is awaiting trial, approached Williams in the hope he would embrace the path of the prophet Mohammed.
But Williams, who was this month sentenced to 35 years in jail for the murder of three gangland rivals, is believed to have immediately rejected the self-proclaimed cleric's advances.
Williams and Benbrika are separated in different areas of the maximum security Acacia unit at Barwon prison near Geelong, southwest of Melbourne, but the newspaper understands the Algerian-born accused terrorist was able to make contact with Victoria's worst serial killer while the pair were in the jail's exercise yard earlier this year.
Working on the chain gang?
Posted on 05/30/2007 2:17 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Glenda Slagg writes

As well as E. J. Thribb/Throbb, this website now has another Private Eye soundalike - Glenda Slagg, A.K.A. regular reader Paul Blaskowicz. Glenda shares her fickle tabloid thoughts on the subject of my Pseudsday Tuesday post, Fritjhof Schuon:

Glenda says - sure makes me weep to read this - it's soooo beautiful!!.  Reminds me of my old Irish neighbour,Laundrene O'Hara - what a kindly, salt-of-the-earth, old bird she was!!!  "Glenda, darlin',  it's beata simplicitas", she used to say!! It means something like,  to the pure all things are pure!!!  Only hardened, anti-religious cynics could find anything to snigger about here.  Like silly schoolboys!!!  It breaks Glenda's old heart to think of this beautiful scene : the good old Saint Nonnos moved to tears at the magnificence of God's creation, and in contemplation of this sincere and lovely, holy young virgin, St.  Pelagia, about to get christened in the nude into Christ's sacred Church.  Yes: the nude, boys!!!  Get over it!!! Grow up!!!

Jeez!!! What a perve that old so-called saint  Nonny-nonny was!!!  Peeping-tomming a young virgin when she goes skinny dipping in the pool!!!  The old lech!!! Talk about uprisings in the lowlands!!! She should have cut him off in his prime!! Give him a bobbit, Pelagia!!! Hey - isn't Pelagia some sorta skin disease?!?!!  Know what I mean??!!! Hope that pool wasn't at the back of the pox clinic on the ole Appian Way!!! Geddit?

Fritjhof Schuon - howdy!!! How d'ya pronounce ya name, old timer??!! Can I call you Friti??!!!  Gives Glenda a bit of a frisson!!! And you can take my shoe OFF any time you want, honeybun - and everything else.  And Glenda does mean everything!!!  bet that beard's tickled a few fancies in its time!!! Geddit??!!!  Fritjhof Schuon!!! Crazy name!!! Crazy guy!!!


Posted on 05/30/2007 1:46 PM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 30 May 2007

"Condoleezza Rice says there is no substitute for creating a Palestinian state."-- from a reader

Of course there is. The "substitute" consists of ceasing to prate about "solutions" to situations to which there is no "solution" but merely amelioration, and that amelioration can only be achieved by making it absolutely clear to Arab peoples and regimes that Israel is not only more powerful, but overwhelmingly and obviously so (and ten or twenty or thirty billion of the $880 billion squandered in Iraq, if it were spent on military aid to Israel, would have done it for the next decade), so that the doctrine of "Darura" (Necessity) could be invoked by those leaders to explain their refusal to participate in the violent Jihad.

As to the other instruments of Jihad, like Infidel lands elsewhere, the Israelis must first learn about Islam. Those who are hopeless, such as Olmert and Peres and Peretz and Barak and others, need to be kept out of office. And the Israelis must start to talk openly about the Treaty of al-Hudaibiyyah and Muslim attitudes toward treaties made with Infidels. Refraining from doing so, on the theory that this will prevent any improvement in the situation, and that it is always better to play the game of "Let's Pretend" with Muslims, is foolish an dangerous. Let all Infidels understand this. It need not begin with the government of Israel, but other Infidels should not pretend that the case of Israel, and what menaces it, is different in kind from what they face. This is a problem, a problem that some may attribute to the great success Arabs and Muslims have had in redefining that Lesser Jihad as merely a case of "two tiny peoples, each struggling for its homeland" and, as a corollary, the nunc-pro-tunc backdating of a deliberately-created "Palestinian people" to fit that "tiny peoples" bill. There are those who, for example, even if they see the light on Edward Said as to his "Orientalism," persist in believing that "on 'Palestine'" Said "was correct, when it would be easy to show the grotesque distortion of the truth that is on every page of "The Question of Palestine."

Christopher Hitchens, Said's old and still loyal friend, is a good example of this. Hitchens likes to think of himself, with his stout defense of Tarbaby Iraq, as a brave soul, someone Who Has Broken With the Left, Who Speaks Truth to Power (god, what an intolerable phrase that has become), when in truth, he is merely a mountebank, about to get his Support-for-Staying-In-Iraq comeuppance, and a suitably large egg deposited on that faccia-da-schiaffi face.

Posted on 05/30/2007 12:45 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Begin Congressional Investigations Into The D. H. S.

What better way for those who wish to promptly stop, not "micro-manage" but stop, the fiasco (goals unattainable and, in any case, exactly the wrong goals) of Tarbaby Iraq, then to begin Congressional investigations of the Department of Homeland Security, and its policies, all the way from the FBI "outreach" to Muslims and naive use of CAIR, to the minimizing of events, and the suppression of information that might lead to a more sensible apprehension of, understanding of, the nature of the permanent threat that the ideology of Islam, if taken seriously, presents to all Infidels, everywhere.

That will shut at least some up about the so-called "surrendercrats." And failure to combine fury at the squandering of men, money, matériel, and morale, civilian and military, in Iraq, with fury at how inept has been the presentation of the real problem, the inability of those for whom the word "religion" entitles some belief-system to automatic, salaam-salaam respect, and the laziness about comprehending, and the fear of offending -- offending people who are quick to take offense, or pretend to, whenever the least home truth is uttered about the doctrine, or history, of Islam and Jihad-conquest and mistreatment of non-Muslims in Muslim-dominated lands.

Can't someone or some group of someones, both in domestic and in foreign policy connected to Islam, at long last cut the crap? What a sigh of relief, what an explosion of support, would ensure, despite the attempted accompaniment of Duranty-Times bien-pensant tut-tutting, a tut-tutting one can well imagine.

Posted on 05/30/2007 12:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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