Sunday, 31 May 2009
A big thank you to Rebecca, Julia, and everyone else involved in juggling the last-minute logistics of the first NER seminar.
Every one of the presentations was excellent, and showed the broad range of perspectives that nonetheless bring us all to the same conclusion: that Western values and freedoms must be preserved and protected, and Islamic intolerance and violence must be rejected.
It's going to take days and weeks to process and digest all that was said, but I have never met such a group of passionate, articulate, and caring people.
Posted on 05/31/2009 11:59 PM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Miss Otis Regrets...
Talking of solitary dining, here's music to give your spirits a lift, or to elevate them, as the case may be:
Posted on 05/31/2009 4:55 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 31 May 2009
I never thought I would find a good word to say about any Labour politician, let alone Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Miliband is utterly ignorant about Islam and much more besides, and has no idea how ignorant he is. Supporting Jacqui Smith’s ban from the UK of democratically elected Dutch MP Geert Wilders over a film he hadn’t seen, he burbled:
"We have profound commitment to freedom of speech but there is no freedom to cry 'fire' in a crowded theatre and there is no freedom to stir up hate, religious and racial hatred, according to the laws of the land."
So I was surprised, gobsmacked even, to read in the newsletter of the Barnabas Fund that he has been one of the few Western politicians to speak out against the law of apostasy:
It is astonishing how few Western politicians seem ever to have spoken out to condemn the Islamic law of apostasy, the law which specifies a range of punishments including the death sentence for adult Muslims who leave their faith
But one exception is Britain’s Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. In the House of Commons on 7 October 2008, responding to a question about human rights in Iran, he said, “We deplore the way in which the Iranian Parliament is also now discussing a draft penal code that would set out a mandatory death sentence for the crime, quote unquote, of apostasy. If adopted, that would violate the right of freedom of religion, which is also an important basis of any civilised society.”
The trouble is, Miliband probably thinks the “crime” of apostasy is an Iranian invention, not part of Sharia law. Can’t he see that his punishing of Geert Wilders for the crime, quote unquote, of speaking out against Islam, helps promote Sharia law, of which punishments for apostasy are but one part?
Save your postcards – no answers needed.
Posted on 05/31/2009 4:24 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 31 May 2009
A Musical Interlude: Dinner For One Please, James (Turner Layton)
Posted on 05/31/2009 4:10 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 31 May 2009
From The Natchez Trace To Bend Sinister
Well Mary, I'm glad I came back from stepping on the Nashville end of the Natchez Trace (to your left, as you face southward, toward Natchez, is the Vanderbilt sports stadium, and to your right, a Wendy's) for, while I couldn't do a thing for poor Meriwether Lewis, at least I arrived back home in time to knit up, just a bit more, your ravelled sleeve of caring about Ernest Dowson and Vladimir Nabokov.
While some know that Dowson supplied "Gone With The Wind" as the title for Margaret Mitchell's antebellum fable, all mammies and mint juleps, the one famously turned into that most famous of MGM epics which, among its unforgettable cast included that quintessential Englishman, Leslie Howard (whose parents were Hungarian Jewish immigrants to England), few may realize that "Flung Roses" is the title of one in a series of books -- both real and made-up -- to be found in Nabokov's "Bend Sinister."
Now please don't get me started on William Bolitho. I just got in the door; I haven't even had time to unpack, or even to take off my darkly sinister and, to my mind but apparently to no one else's, irresistibly seductive sunglasses, the ones I wore day and night in Nashville.
Posted on 05/31/2009 3:46 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Blue Suede Shoe Interlude III
Three later versions done by bands and artist in their own style.
Black Sabbath. Motorhead
I think concluding with the Alvin and the Chipmonks version would be over egging the pudding, just a little.
Posted on 05/31/2009 1:20 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 31 May 2009
There are all kinds of reasons why I am not a philosopher. My failure to understand a recent Times Literary Supplement book review is probably the least of them. The book is Between Saying and Doing, by Robert B. Brandom. Cups and lips probably don’t get a mention. The review is by philosopher Maximilian de Gaynesford:
Between Saying and Doing has two central topics. The first is the relation between the meaning of expressions and their use, which Brandom sometimes articulates as the relation between what is said and the activity of saying it. The second is the relation between the classical project of philosophical analysis and pragmatism, which he portrays as a confrontation between a project primarily concerned with logically elaborating the meanings of expressions, and an approach which focuses more on the use of expressions, the primacy of their practical significance, what they are for. These topics are related in their turn: the first is the battleground for the second.
Let the battle commence. In the Red Corner is Talking the Talk, and in the Blue Corner is Thinking the Thought. Or is it Talking the Thought? Anyway, they slug it out for a while in Gaynesford’s summary:
Amid the heavily technical discussions of automaton theory, computational linguistics, modal semantics and consequence-intrinsic logic, it is possible to discern something like the following picture…..
Oh, good. The reviewer is going to make it easy for us:
Pragmatism ought to be able to see its way through to a milder form, one that retains its insistence on the primacy of use, but is prepared to accept the possibility that this might be consistent with the systematic analysis of meaning. Conversely, analytic philosophy ought to be able to see its way through to a broader base, one that retains its focus on semantic theorizing, but accepts that an appeal to the meaning of expressions gets its point and purpose from attempts to codify and explain their use, and that only their use explains the expression of meanings.
I understood “conversely”, so I assume the second sentence balances the first. But I think we’re a long way from the words, let alone the deeds, and I’m not sure who won the fight. Computational linguistics, I’d guess, is out for the count.
If you can talk the talk and walk the talk and walk the walk, can you talk the walk?
Posted on 05/31/2009 10:58 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Another student terrorist
Shortly after the September 11 attacks I was surprised, even amused, to learn that the word "Taleban" meant "students". This was before I knew anything about Islam; better knowledge has also made me revise the image of "cleric" from its kindly, otherworldly original. Education does not make a Muslim less dangerous. Nor does money. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Reader Tina Trent has drawn my attention to a news item on former Georgia Tech student, Syed Haris Ahmed:
The former Georgia Tech student contemplated an attack on Dobbins Air Reserve Base, but didn’t carry it out. He traveled to Pakistan hoping to die a martyr fighting alongside brother jihadists — but changed his mind and returned home. He took almost laughably bad “casing videos” of Washington landmarks, taping surreptitiously through his pickup truck window in a city where tourists overtly take pictures of everything.
Ahmed, 24, evinces scant concern about the judgment of a temporal court, saying the only laws that matter are the laws of Allah. He agreed to a bench trial so he can deliver what he calls “the message of Islam” during closing arguments.
“It is the duty of every Muslim to deliver the message of God to mankind,” he said in a neatly handwritten motion filed recently. “I hope that Allah will be pleased with this act of mine and forgive me on the Day of Judgment when only He will be the Judge of all mankind.”
In his motion, which quotes from the Quran, Ahmed said he cannot be a “true and loyal servant of God” by arguing for his acquittal because that would be tantamount to accepting the legitimacy of man-made laws.
The trial will show how Ahmed, who grew up in Atlanta’s suburbs, embarked on a spiritual journey toward Islamic jihad, how he played at being a terrorist online. In these online dens, Ahmed and his faceless brethren promoted radical views and called for the annihilation of the enemies of Islam.
His attorney describes him as uncertain and malleable.
“He’s particularly shy and polite, a somewhat immature person who is easily influenced,” Jack Martin said.
Aren't they all. Read it all here. Tina Trent makes some trenchant (trent-chant?) comments:
An interesting trial, perhaps not as cut-and-dry as the reporter suggests
despite Syed Haris Ahmed's desire to testify "the message of Islam." The
defense will doubtlessly use Ahmed's propensity to confess as proof that he
cannot be held responsible for what he is confessing.
Immigrant family, citizenship lottery winners, hard-working Dad, and then
the boy becomes radicalized at college, where, incidentally, his growing
militancy towards America did not compel him to seek the purity of his
beliefs by refusing the free tuition provided to him by the taxpayers of
No, he takes our money, hangs out on campus (where his beliefs are
sacrosanct under the heading of multiculturalism and the reflexive
anti-Western bent of the humanities curriculum), and "uses the public's
largesse to tear down the public's house."
Everything old is new again: we are busy breeding (and subsidizing) the next
generation of campus-based Weathermen.
Posted on 05/31/2009 10:18 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 31 May 2009
When is a cliché not a cliché
It is a while since I saw any Poems on the Underground on the underground. For those not in the know, Poems on the Underground is described on Wikipedia as:
a project to bring poetry to a wider audience by displaying various poems or stanzas on advertising boards across the London Underground rapid transit network.
A foreigner, probably an American, described it thus; no Englishman would use the term “rapid transit network”, least of all to describe the Tube. The poems appear sporadically, sometimes with themes. The last few I saw, on the Central Line, were translations of ancient Chinese poems, all of which seemed to go something like this:
A river rises
A bird flies. I watch, wait
And stay behind.
Perhaps they lost something in translation, but I was sorely tempted to scrawl underneath: © E. J. Thlibb, 1252. The Chinese are overrated if you ask me.
There have been some good ones, though. A few years ago I caught sight of this:
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
The title and author surprised me: “Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam” by Ernest Dowson (1867 to 1900). Well, to judge by his dates, he should know. But it is odd that he should give such a simple poem a long Latin title. I recognised the second verse, as most readers will: it is read aloud by Lee Remick in the film to which it also gives its title. “The Days of Wine and Roses”. The film is a harrowing study of alchoholism, starring that most versatile of actors, Jack Lemmon.
Is “days of wine and roses” a cliché? It is now, because of the film, but was it when Ernest Dowson, who sounds more like an accountant than a poet, first wrote it? And if it was, does it matter?
I like this poem’s second verse very much. Cliché or no cliché in the first line, the other three speak to me of life’s brevity and of the symmetry of darkness that bounds it far better than other images. Shakespeare’s stage, the brief candle, and even – Hugh would naturally disagree – Nabokov’s:
The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.
are better written but they are written from the outside. Julian Barnes sees this flaw in the supposedly comforting idea of the medieval bird flying from darkness into a lighted hall then out again: it keeps on flying, and the reader is sees both the darkness and the hall. In contrast, Dowson’s reader sees only the path, because he is on it, and its beginning and end are not clear, as to an observer, but a mist and a dream.
Dowson came up with “Gone With the Wind” from a less successful poem, also with a long Latin title:
I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind
Too many roses. He died of alcholism at thirty-two. Too much wine.
Posted on 05/31/2009 10:01 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Minus the Haywain
Flatford Mill yesterday evening. Only slightly changed from 1821 when John Constable painted The Haywain.
The water level is higher in East Anglia than it was 200 years ago. The view of the watermeadows beyond is now obscured by a defensive bank built mid 20th century. The trees are not the originals although the National Trust have planted similar specimens and keep them pruned to about the same height. Constable himself altered the roofline of Willy Lott's house to suit his composition.
And the place is more peaceful than it would have been when the mill, which was behind me, was a hive of industry.
Posted on 05/31/2009 9:23 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Iran defuses homemade bomb on plane
From The Washington Post
Security personnel defused a homemade bomb found on an aircraft during a domestic flight in Iran late Saturday, Iranian media said, two days after a mosque bombing killed 25 people in the southeast of the country.
The device was defused after the Kish Air aircraft with 131 passengers on board made an emergency landing in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Fars gave no further details about the incident, which was also reported by other media.
According to the BBC
Plain-clothes security guards, who are believed to travel on every Iranian flight, found it in a toilet.
I expect the cleaning ladies will be executed by tomorrow morning - and don't expect Amnesty Internation to raise a finger with suggestions of full investigation and fair trials.
Posted on 05/31/2009 5:47 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Sacked Muslim police officer arrested over attack on OAP
A less than edifiying story fom the Sunday Mercury - a Midlands newspaper. From our non UK readers OAP stands for Old Age Pensioner.
A SACKED Muslim police officer is being held in connection with a doorstep attack on a Midland pensioner and three suspected hit-and-run incidents, the Sunday Mercury can reveal.
Khawaja Hasan, 33, was arrested following the attack on the 89-year-old pensioner outside his home in the village of Thurlaston, Warwickshire, last Sunday night.
The unnamed victim has undergone surgery for his injuries – a broken arm, broken leg and severe bruising – and remains in hospital in a serious but stable condition.
Police say they are linking that assault with three other incidents which occurred shortly afterwards in the nearby villages of Broadwell and Leamington Hastings.
These included at least two alleged hit-and-run incidents in which two victims were struck by a car. Three people were hurt in total during the attacks, but none seriously.
The 33-year-old suspect was arrested near the scene of the fourth incident, in Leamington Hastings, and was detained under the Mental Health Act.
Police sources have revealed that the suspect is a former Metropolitan Police officer who was sacked from the force three years ago.
Khawaja Hasan, 33, hit the headlines in 2006 after he launched a claim of religious and racial discrimination after his dismissal for disciplinary offences.
The former police constable, who joined the Metropolitan police in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, claimed that he was treated differently from white officers and that he was subjected to two years of “race hell” by colleagues and bosses.
Hasan claimed that he had been “hounded out” of the Met on the basis of minor infringements of the rules, but that the underlying reason was discrimination.
Whatever his motive for these attacks he has certainly confirmed his total unsuitability to be a policeofficer.
Posted on 05/31/2009 5:36 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Fears of Muslim anger over religious book
From The Sunday Times
An academic book about religious attitudes to women is to be published this week despite concerns it could cause a backlash among Muslims because it criticises the prophet Muhammad for taking a nine-year-old girl as his third wife.
The book, entitled Does God Hate Women?, suggests that Muhammad's marriage to a child called Aisha is "not entirely compatible with the idea that he had the best interests of women at heart".
It also says that Cherie Blair, wife of the former prime minister, was "incorrect" when she defended Islam in a lecture by claiming "it is not laid down in the Koran that women can be beaten by their husbands and their evidence should be devalued as it is in some Islamic courts".
This weekend, the publisher, Continuum, said it had received "outside opinion" on the book's cultural and religious content following suggestions that it might cause offence. "We sought some advice and paused for thought before deciding to go ahead with publication," said Oliver Gadsby, the firm's chief executive. The book will be released on Thursday.
Continuum's book may cause a backlash because it sets out to be a factual examination of religious attitudes to women. British writer Jeremy Stangroom and his American co-author Ophelia Benson, whose previous books on philosophy and science have received favourable reviews, cite ancient Islamic scholars to support their case. They roundly attack previous attempts to "soft-soap" the controversial episode in Muhammad's life. In the aftermath of 9/11, the authors argue, a wave of political correctness aimed at building bridges with the Muslim world has meant accusations of "Islamophobia" have been used to silence debate about the morality of social conduct, past and present.
Among the many tragedies they cite are the deaths of 14 young girls in a fire at a school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in March 2002. The girls died after being herded back into a blazing classroom by the country's religious police because they had neglected to don black head-to-toe robes in their rush to flee to safety.
However, the most contentious section of their book is likely to be their conclusions concerning the age at which Muhammad first slept with Aisha.
Stangroom and Benson cite extracts from a highly regarded historian of early Islam, Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, who quotes Aisha as saying: "The Messenger of God consummated his marriage with me in my house when I was nine years old". The authors conclude "religious authorities and conservative clerics worship a wretchedly cruel unjust vindictive executioner of a God. . . a God who thinks little girls should be married to grown men".
Such assertions could invoke the ire of some Muslims. Anjem Choudary, a self-styled sharia judge and former leader of the banned British group Al-Muhajiroun, said: "Talk of Aisha as a child when she married is not true.
"At nine she reached her menses and in those days a girl was considered to be mature when that happened. No one will swallow talk about child brides. It would lead to a huge backlash, as we saw with The Jewel of Medina."
The Jewel of Medina was a fictionalised account of a love match between Mohammed and an Aisha portrayed as a young adult and still caused a furore. How much more damaging will the truth be? Batten down the hatches!
Posted on 05/31/2009 3:13 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Obama sets out to rebuild ties with world's Muslims
From The Minneapolis Star Tribune
WASHINGTON - President Obama has a sweeping goal for his speech Thursday in Cairo, Egypt: to begin remaking the dynamic between the United States and Muslims abroad.
He'll declare a clean break from the Bush administration's "war-on-terror" approach to foreign affairs and forcefully endorse establishing a Palestinian state.
He'll talk about his respect for Islamic culture and call for an era of partnering with Muslim nations in areas of common interest,
Tying together all the elements of such a speech is no easy proposition, for his worldwide audience -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- reflects competing priorities and concerns.
Consider: Lebanese go to the polls just three days after he speaks, Iranians will be preparing for pivotal elections June 12, and both contests pit moderate parties against radical forces. Afghans and Pakistanis are girding for increased U.S. military and political engagement.
Palestinians and Israelis have conflicting stakes. In the United States, Republicans will be looking for any window to paint the Democratic president as anti-American, anti-Israel or soft on terrorism.
Obama won't lay out a detailed vision for resolving the Arab-Israeli crisis. "I want to use the occasion to deliver a broader message about how the United States can change for the better its relationship with the Muslim world," the president said Thursday.
The speech will fulfill, with about a month's delay, Obama's campaign promise to make a major address in a Muslim city in his first 100 days in office.
Muslims tell pollsters that one of the most important things Westerners can do to improve relations with them is to stop seeing them as inferior, said Dalia Mogahed, the Egyptian-born executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.
Mogahed also serves on the White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which provided input for Obama's speech.
"If I were to convey the three major themes that I think would be important to cover in the speech, they would be the idea of respect, cooperation and a demonstration of empathy," she said.
White House aides have emphasized that Obama will gear his remarks in Cairo to the masses, more than to governments, and to all Muslims, not just Egyptians.
Obama has been laying a foundation for goodwill with Muslims for months now, with an interview in January with Al-Arabiya television, videotaped remarks to Iranians on the Persian new year and a speech while he visited Turkey in the spring.
Mogahed said Muslims considered Obama "a testament to what people say they admire the most about the United States, which at the end of the day is meritocracy. He's the son of a nonwhite immigrant in America and was able to go from being the son of a single mom to being president. So it's very significant historically for Muslims around the world."
Obama's familial ties to Islam through his father's side of the family and his experience living in Indonesia as a boy, even though he chose Christianity, make "people believe that he won't have the level of prejudice that they believe George Bush had," Mogahed said.
His audience will want more details about the future, however. Will former Guantanamo detainees be tried in civilian or military courts? Will Obama use U.S. leverage to ensure that Israel doesn't attack Iran, to compel a halt to settlement construction and to adopt a more humanitarian approach to Gaza?
"The speech just can't be only about culture and religion," Mogahed said, "without dealing with the very real policy issues that have divided the societies."
The comments are interesting so keep going at the end of the article.
Posted on 05/31/2009 2:55 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Blue Suede Shoe interlude II
The version most people will be familiar with; that of Elvis Presley. From the Milton Berle Show aboard USS Hancock on 3rd April 1956.
Posted on 05/30/2009 8:27 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 30 May 2009
The BNP - a red herring
I am quite fond of Harry’s Place, philosemitic blog of the Decent Left. The main contributors pass the Israel test with flying colours, care about free speech and are good at ferreting out misdeeds of what they call “Islamists”. They remain in denial about Islam, however, preferring to believe that the many “extremist” groups and groupuscules they uncover do not represent true Islam. Secularist to a man – and the absence of female posters may be one reason they cannot see the full horror of Islam – they think that because all religions are equally fanciful, they are equally harmless.
Recently, Harry’s Place has been very exercised by the rise in support for the British National Party (BNP), which is set to pick up a lot of votes in the forthcoming European Elections. Many readers, myself included, have pointed out that this is not because Britain is getting more racist, but because people believe the mainstream parties are failing to tackle the threat of Islam. When challenged to explain why Hindus and Sikhs (the same race as most UK Muslims) do not arouse such hostility, the Harry’s Place writers have no answer. The problem, as Will Cummins so succinctly put it, is the black heart of Islam, not its black face.
Blogs and websites such as ours, have been saying this for years, but it is good to see a mainstream publication, The Spectator, touching on it, although the editor Fraser Nelson is not as explicit as he might be:
The far Right’s historic mistake was to advertise its racism — a prejudice which does not much animate the British working class in the early 21st century. Research shows just 20 per cent of working-class Brits believe that being white is an ‘important factor’ in being British; among the young, the suggestion that national identity is dependent upon a particular ethnicity is regarded as simply bizarre rather than obnoxious. Studies show that the BNP derives no electoral advantage from an influx of Indian settlers to a neighbourhood, and do badly in areas where there are many Britons of Afro-Caribbean descent. It is in places with Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities — that is, Muslim areas — that the BNP does well. Its focus there is not how people look, but how some act.
The trick is to take the minority of veiled or bearded Muslims as a proxy for Islam as a whole. If a (mainly white) local authority bans Christmas lights, so much the better for the BNP. This is why the mill towns of the North are now proving more fertile ground than the London suburbs — and this is why Griffin has chosen the North West to stand in.
The BNP presents a conundrum for the Conservatives. They argue that the BNP prospers in neglected Labour fiefdoms and is best regarded as the beneficiary of a left-wing splinter vote. Yet there is no denying that Margaret Thatcher destroyed the National Front by showing herself sensitive to the cultural anxieties of whites who felt ‘swamped’, never coming close to the incendiary rhetoric of Enoch Powell but using plain language which spoke directly to working-class voters. Suddenly, people like Mrs Higham in her council house felt they had a tribune — and no need of the far Right parties.
I am staunchly opposed to the BNP, as I have made clear on many occasions, at New English Review and elsewhere. Their whites-only policy would see the likes of Ibn Warraq and Ayaan Hirsi Ali “voluntarily” repatriated, while white Muslim convert Yvonne Ridley is not even barred from party membership. Nick Griffin, the party leader, is a Holocaust-denier. Their policies other than racism – real racism, not the manufactured kind – are statist, if not Socialist. (People forget all too easily the Socialist part of National Socialism.) They have nothing to offer. But nor are they the threat that Harry’s Place sees. Any party that addressed people’s concerns about immigration and the rise of Islam could easily beat them.
Fight Islam, and fight the BNP. Go on, UKIP, you can do it.
Posted on 05/30/2009 7:21 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 30 May 2009
I would dearly love to ban the word “racist”. It has been so exhaustively abused that it now has but one meaning: the user has run out of arguments and wants you to shut up. Even the most lucid minds dare not criticise a black person without scrabbling around for a white counterexample. Fear of the charge of racism has had a pernicious effect on any discussion of Islam, which is not a race, and has led to woefully misguided policy of “affirmative action”, under which the undeserving are promoted beyond their competence. Sadly, accusations of “racism” are multiplying, and there is no defence. Theodore Dalrymple writes on the McPherson Report, produced after the botched investigation of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, which found the police guilty of “institutional racism”, a charge as unanswerable as it is meaningless. From City Journal:
Among the report’s many pernicious recommendations was the following: “The definition of a racist incident should be any incident which is perceived as racist by the victim or any other person.” Nothing could be better designed to destroy the possibility of easy—dare I say normal—relations among people of different races. For the notion that racism is so pervasive and institutionalized that it is everywhere, even where it appears not to be, induces in the susceptible a paranoid state of mind, which then finds racism in every possible situation, in every remark, in every suggestion, in every gesture and expression. It is a charge against which there is no defense.
Two incidents in my clinical experience illustrate this nonfalsifiability. In the first, the lawyers for a black defendant asked me to appraise his fitness to plead. The defendant faced charges of assaulting another black man, out of the blue, with an iron bar. The man was obviously paranoid, his speech rambling and incoherent; his lawyers could obtain no sensible instructions from him. I argued that he was unfit to plead. Whereupon the man’s sister denounced me as a racist: I had reached my conclusions, she charged, only because her brother was black. Her 15-year-old daughter started to describe to me her frequent difficulties in understanding her uncle, only to be told to shut up by her mother. The lawyers had been unable to obtain instructions from the defendant only because they were white, the sister persisted. Give her brother black lawyers, and he would be perfectly reasonable. Of course, if I had said that he was fit to plead, she could have claimed with equal justice (which is none) that I came to that conclusion only because he was black.
The second case, far more serious, ended in a man’s death; the blame was partly mine. A black man in his mid-twenties arrived at our hospital with severely cut wrists. He was nearly exsanguinated and needed a large blood transfusion; his tendons also needed an operation to repair. By all accounts, he had been a perfectly normal man, happily employed, a few weeks before, but suddenly he had stopped eating and become a recluse, barricading himself in his house until police and family broke in to reach him. His suicide attempt was not one of those frivolous gestures with which our hospitals are all too familiar. If ever a man meant to kill himself, this man did.
His mother was by his bedside. I told her that her son should remain in the hospital for treatment (you’d hardly have to be a doctor to realize this). At first she was perfectly agreeable; but then a friend of the young man, himself young and black, arrived and instantly accused me of racism for my supposed desire to lock the patient up. I tried to reason with this friend, but he became agitated and aggressive, even menacing. Whether from conviction or because she, too, felt intimidated, the mother then sided with the friend and started to say that I was racist in wishing to detain her son.
I could have insisted on the powers granted to me by law—asking a court to have social services replace the mother as the patient’s nearest relative for the legal purpose of keeping him in treatment. But I did not fancy the process: the young friend had threatened to bring reinforcements, and a riot might have ensued in the hospital. Instead, I agreed to the demand that I let the patient go home. The two said that they would look after him, and I made them sign a paper (of no legal worth) acknowledging that I had warned them of the possible consequences.
This piece of paper they screwed up into a ball and threw away immediately outside the ward, where I found it later. I had made copies, and it was one of these that I sent to the coroner when, six weeks later, the young man gassed himself to death with car exhaust. The notion of ubiquitous, institutionalized racism resulted in his death; and I resolved that it would never intimidate me again.
Posted on 05/30/2009 7:07 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Pinkification, or WAG-in-Training
To readers who have missed my posts – or is it just the one? – I have been a little under the weather. Now I’m back, and I’m getting on my soapbox in response to an ugly but useful coinage: pinkification.
WAGs, as I wrote here, are terrible role models for girls. WAGs stands for Wives And Girlfriends, decorative appendages of famous – usually rich – men, who apply such brains as they have to manipulating their meal ticket and dressing up. WAG-in-Chief is brash mediocrity, Michelle Obama, grievance-toting product of “affirmative action” turned clothes-horse for the twitterati. Margaret Thatcher, the best Prime Minister after Churchill, came to power thirty years ago. Who could have imagined that the WAG, that most old-fashioned of creatures, would still be around, let alone held up as a role model? How does it happen? Well, the training starts early. Antonia Senior in The Times on the pernicious pinkification of little girls:
Where have all the pirate queens gone? Where are the cowgirls and the Supergirls? Today's fancy dress parties divide strictly on gender lines. The boys' side holds a handful of Batmans, a sprinkling of Spider-Mans, some soldiers and the odd cowboy. And on the girls' side, ten identikit princesses, swathed in pink, encrusted with fake crystals.
Is this, then, the summit of their ambition, the ultimate fantasy wish of modern girlhood - to be a princess? A role that can be inherited along with genetic mutations from generations of inbreeding. You can work for the role, it is true. Be pretty enough, my darling girl child, and mute enough, and bland enough, and you too could marry a prince. Because every girl's dream should be to lead a life of buffed and pedicured leisure, courtesy of a balding, chinless aristocrat, Whisper it, but the frog, as long as he's funny and kind, would have been the better bet.
There is an alternative to being a princess, a second costume beloved of today's girls. They shun the Ice Queens and the Elven warriors, ignore Artemis, the huntress, and Athena, the wise. Instead they celebrate the Fairy; three inches of cute, winged blondeness, dressed, inevitably, in pink.
This creeping pinkification of girlhood is ubiquitous. Toys and clothes have split down gender lines. It is impossible to buy a gender- neutral bike any more. Bikes come in blue, or in pink; as do baby walkers, and mini-keyboards, and any other toy that might once have been - imagine it! - purple or green.
These girls will one day grow up. Even though the number of women at university is increasing rapidly, they are not narrowing the gap in science, maths and computer science. As graduates then, they leave the lucrative jobs in the City, in laboratories and in computers to the boys. Armed with liberal arts degrees - a useful accoutrement in the marriage market, like a little French and dancing once were - they may marry their prince after a few years pretending to have a career at an auction house. But happy ever after is a lie. Divorce statistics suggest he is likely to leave for a pinker, younger version.
The modern, Western world has emancipated women and made breadwinners out of them. Yet we are imprisoning our little girls in pink straitjackets, and then acting surprised later when their academic ambitions fail to outshine their accessories.
If peer pressure is one driver of demand, the other must come from the parents. Perhaps this is a backlash against the Seventies, when boys called Orlando were forced to play with dolls, and girls wore trousers. Feminist theory has developed since then, recognising that there are differences between the sexes. But this seems to have mutated into an insistence that we emphasise the differences. If a girl old enough to choose begs to dress as a princess, it would be dogmatic to refuse. But why encourage this inanity in babies and toddlers too young to care?
My childhood was devoid of pink, not because of political correctness, but because there wasn’t the money to spend on pointless pink things. I wonder, too, if popular music plays a role. Punk is not pink, even if the hair is. Compare the Barbie-doll girl bands of today. Pinkification carries through to adulthood. Where did that huggy thing come from – not the affectionate hug, but the hug gaggles of girlies get into where they squeal and run up and down on the spot?
Perhaps, on reflection, pinkification has its uses. Try getting the pinked-up princesses to wear a niqab, and they’ll scratch your eyes out with their gold-lacquered nails. And better Sweet Valley than Swat Valley, any day.
Posted on 05/30/2009 6:27 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Iran hangs three over deadly mosque bombing
The Iranian government doesn't hang about (pardon the pun when dealing with the serious business of peoples lives and deaths) wasting time on stuff like investigations and fair trials and appeals. The mosque was attacked on Thursday evening, the US was blamed yesterday (Friday) and men considered responsible were hanged this morning, (Saturday) and its barely lunchtime in Tehran.
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran executed in public on Saturday three men convicted of involvement in a bomb attack on a mosque that killed 25 people, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The bombing in a crowded Shi'ite mosque on Thursday evening wounded more than 120 people in the southeastern city of Zahedan, two weeks before a presidential election in the Islamic Republic.
"Three people convicted of being involved in the recent terrorist bombing in Zahedan were hanged in public on Saturday morning," IRNA said, adding that the executions took place near the mosque where the bombing took place.
A Sunni opposition group named Jundollah (God's Soldiers), which Iran says is part of the Islamist al Qaeda network and backed by the United States, said it was behind the bombing, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Friday.
Ebrahim Hamidi, a local judiciary official, said the men were convicted after going through the normal judiciary process, adding that they were also involved in past "terrorist activities."
"The bombing happened with the explosives these three convicted criminals brought to the country," Hamidi said.
"They were convicted as 'mohareb' (one who wages war against God), 'corrupt on the earth' and acting against national security," he said.
Posted on 05/30/2009 2:59 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 30 May 2009
BBC offers apology to Muslim Council of Britain over guest's remarks
Not just an apology but £30,000 of my hard earnt licence money. FromThe Times, because I can't bear to use the BBC's own report.
The BBC has offered £30,000 and an apology to the Muslim Council of Britain after airing accusations that it encouraged the killing of British troops.
The corporation offered the settlement after a Question Time panellist accused the council of failing to condemn attacks on British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Charles Moore, a former editor of The Daily Telegraph, made the comments on the programme in March during a debate about Islamic protests at a soldiers’ homecoming parade in Luton. He claimed that the council thought it was a “good thing, even an Islamic thing” to kill troops.
The council, an umbrella organisation representing about 500 Islamic bodies in Britain, said that his claims were a “total lie” and threatened the BBC with legal action.
The council’s lawyers are now considering the BBC’s offer.
It is believed that Mr Moore was not consulted over the BBC’s decision to settle.
A BBC spokesman said: "Question Time is a programme that includes input from a wide range of contributors. On occasion this means that those who are not present don’t get a chance to put their case. This was one of those occasions.”
Question Time is filmed one hour before it is broadcast for legal advisers to check its content. No concerns were expressed at the time over Mr Moore’s remarks, which were seen as provocative but not defamatory.
This raises all sorts of free speech issues, or at least free speech for those appearing on the BBC, to be able to air an honest opinion in an open debate.
Posted on 05/30/2009 1:26 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax