Wednesday, 30 August 2006
Stop the Jihad in its African Tracks
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The seizure by Western, NATO forces, using American airpower -- is there any thought of an American base in Ethiopia, the last known address of that fabled Christian king Prester John, and a name which resonates as much today in some minds as it did when the Negus, Haile Selassie, showed up to plead his case before the League of Nations. That mental substratum (Selassie, Ethiopia, fascism, the Christian kingdom beyond the Muslim-conquered lands led by Prester John who would help to rescue beleaguered Western Christendom) can be appealed to, can be played upon. And if a few thousand American and Western troops can wipe out the Janjaweed in a day, which is merely an agent of the Khartoum regime, this will hearten black Africans, especially Christians, everywhere -- in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia itself), in southern Africa (including those in South Africa who in Cape Town have experienced the intermittent acts of nightclub-bombing that the devotees of Islam engage in to remind everyone of the immorality of alcohol and other mild diversions), and of course in West Africa, especially in southern Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast (where the Christian fear of foreign Muslims has been regarded with cruel indifference, even hostility, by the French government that, as we all remember thought nothing of destroying, at one blow, the entire ivoirian air force, and has shown in other ways its hostility to the Christian leaders, and popular street movement, determined not to let the Ivory Coast be overwhelmed).

The West has been here before, with the Mad Mahdi, and The Four Feathers (see the old movie, then read the recently-republished book), and Chinese Gordon, and Kitchener of Khartoum. Yes, and Churchill's "The River Wars." But this time it is not that "we have the gatling gun and they have not" but rather -- we have the planes, the helicopters, the everything, and they have not.

Think of the pictures -- the photographs, not the fauxtogrphs -- of those grateful black faces surrounding the American troops (some of them also black). Think of that spectacle. Think of the declaration that Darfur, and for that matter the entire southern Sudan, which has endured over the past 20 years enslavement and mass murder of the black African Christians and animists, will be "protected" -- yes, the Protected Peoples, but not as Islam defines them -- until such time as a referendum can be arranged. Oh, let the U.N. do the arranging, and let the Muslim, especially Muslim Arab states, raise Cain, raise holy hell, do whatever they can to stop this, and thereby, of course, with each maneuver, and each feint, they will only be demonstrating, to the world's non-Muslims but also the world's non-Arab Muslims, the Arab supremacist doctrine of which Islam has always been the most powerful, most horse-powered vehicle.

Stop the Jihad in its African tracks. Do everything to force Infidels into no longer denying the evidence of their senses. Pull off the cloak of camouflage wherever it exists (as with that careful repackaging of the Lesser Jihad against Israel as merely a striving for the "rights of the 'Palestinian' people." Create situations, through the often modest application of military force, that will expose the fault lines of Islam, between Arab and non-Arab Muslims.

It would take very little. Far less than is risked, or squandered, every day, in tarbaby Iraq. But that tarbaby is using up men, materiel, money, and morale, and getting in the way not of the "war on terror," but the much larger war, using against those promoting Jihad, the very instruments that they employ, or at least diminishing their successful employment of such instruments. Lessen their ability to accumulate, and then deploy, the "money weapon"; make propaganda -- or rather, simply tell the truth, constantly, about the doctrine and practice of Islam over 1350 years, and do not worry about alienating so-called "moderate" Muslims. Their cooperation will be obtained not by lying about Islam, but by threatening their interests, threatening to harm them economically and to expel them from their comfortable positions in the West. That is what will obtain their cooperation with Western security services -- that, and those willing to spy for money, or subject to the kind of pressures that security services in some other countries have employed so so successfully.

There are opportunities.

Iraq presents the perfect opportunity to resurrect, in some fashion, the Iran-Iraq War, by allowing the permanent sectarian split to widen, and doing nothing to prevent the sending of arms, money, and "volunteers" by both Sunni Arab states, and by Iran -- let them, and don't worry about the final outcome, because the situation is such that no final winner is likely ever to emerge, and the fault line between Sunni Islam and Shi'a Islam will run through Iraq, and forever be threatening tremors as far away as Pakistan, Yemen, and Lebanon.

And Sudan presents another: the opportunity to push back the forces of Islam, to foil the Egyptian and Arab League attempt to further islamize the southern Sudan and further arabize Darfur, in the hope of completely refashioning that artificial construct, the largest so-called country in Africa, and then on, ever on, to Ethiopia.

Who was that political boss or magnate in the Mauve Decade who famously said when queried by investigators or journalists, hoping to exculpate himself: "I seen my opportunities, and I took 'em." He was just one more malefactor of great wealth, trying to offer some semi-plausible and semi-humorous defense for his outrageous behavior.

But it's not a bad idea for the Bush Administration, or any successor, to be able to say about the war, the world-wide Resistance, to the forces of Jihad (or Jihad and Shari'a, if you wish):

"We seen our opportunities, and we took 'em."

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Posted on 08/30/2006 10:53 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 30 August 2006
Doing Away with God
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Michael Pakaluk has a good response to Heather Mac Donald here.
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Posted on 08/30/2006 9:41 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 30 August 2006
The Venerable David Gunn-Johnson explains it all to us
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A reader just sent this to me. It really is creepy. Ignorance knows no bounds.

This is Thought for the Day from the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. The speaker is Venerable David Gunn-Johnson, Archdeacon of Barnstaple (in Devon in the far south west of England). 1min 15 he starts talking about Islam. He tells the story of how "pilgrims" came to visit (on their Haj!!!) and he let them stay in the church hall. Sounds a lot to me like Muslim's praying in a place to turn it into a place of worship and claim it for Allah... He also mentions what all the trees and blades of grass will do at the end of days: I'm sure they didn't explain to to him how they'll scream out about the Jews!
 
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Posted on 08/30/2006 9:06 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 30 August 2006
A Triumphant Misfit
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Popular poetry is dead, dead, dead here in the states. But read Betjeman! At least read my tribute to him here.
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Posted on 08/30/2006 8:23 AM by John Derbyshire
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Wednesday, 30 August 2006
Overreaction is good
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David Warren has a fine column up today regarding the kind of sub-men and women the West is breeding these days.  I see cowardice akin to what he describes every day, albeit (and thank God) not under these terrifying circumstances:

I created a scene with a column, many years ago, when I wrote about the young men in the corridors of the University of Montreal, who stood by and watched while Gamil Garbi (alias Marc Lépine) shot fourteen women to death. To a man (if you could call them men), they explained afterwards, “We couldn’t do anything, he had a gun.” As I pointed out at the time, we have bred young men who will stand by and watch a psychopath shoot defenceless women, so long as he assures them he will not shoot them. And we have bred the young women these young men deserve.

Men without chests, men without character, men who don’t think twice.

On the other hand:  United Flight 93 and the heroes at the Pentagon and WTC on 9/11.  But, to bolster Warren's case: the professor who emailed me in response to an essay of mine in support of the men who risked--and lost--their lives that day:  "Ah, yes.  The strong men."  He saw them--and not the terrorists--as wolves.  He was the first to say to me following that day, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."  That professor was also the first of my friends I turned my back on in "overreaction."  When my wife read the email, she who knew seven of those killed in the WTC attacks, she wished out loud he were in the room so she could break his jaw.  If he had been, I would have wished him two jaws, one for each of us.
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Posted on 08/30/2006 7:00 AM by Robert Bove
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Wednesday, 30 August 2006
San Francisco Jihad
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According to this TV report, Omeed Aziz Popal identified himself as a terrorist after he deliberately mowed down pedestrians with his SUV in front of a Jewish community center. His first victim died and at least 14 others are hospitalized. Police told reporters it was not terrorism and the man's statement was not reported in print. The latest story reports he may have been stressed because he had just gotten married. the bride is from Afghanistan and the marriage was arranged. Uh, yeah, that'll do it every time. (h/t JW)

Let the cover-up begin.

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Posted on 08/30/2006 6:19 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 30 August 2006
The Noah Syndrome
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By now, everybody has seen the story about New Jersey husbandman Dirk Milz, ex-ceramic-tile installer turned breeder of exotic species.

His avocation apparently is not rare in the Garden State:



Unlike camels, to which they are related, Alpacas only spit at each other.  And, they sell for as much as $100,000 apiece.
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Posted on 08/30/2006 5:56 AM by Robert Bove
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Wednesday, 30 August 2006
Re: Reciting the Shehada in Gaza
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Centanni and Wiig merely experienced what tens of millions of people experienced over 1350 years, and one thinks especially of all those Hindu ancestors of of today's Muslims in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, trying to avoid either death or the slave conditions in which many of them lived or, at best, the condition of humiliation, degradation, and physical insecurity that constituted the lot of the non-Muslim, if he managed to achieve the status of dhimmi, under Muslim rule. Their behavior under threat was understandable, and perfectly excusable.

What, however, is inexcusable, and should bar them forever from reporting on any conflict, or indeed any area, involving Muslims, were those statements -- the mask of neutrality ripped off -- full of praise for the wonderful "Palestinians" and for Islam itself, and the treacly hope expressed that their kidnapping would not lead to any lessening of sympathetic coverage, nay advocacy, of those "Palestinians" and their presumed cause, which is, as we know, the cause of Jihad.

That behavior was intolerable. And yet, to top it all off, at the end, they chose not to stay in wonderful Gaza, with wonderful "Palestinians." No, they headed right for Israel, no doubt to take full advantage -- just like the members of UNIFIL used to -- of Israel's doctors, Israel's kindness, Israel's remarkably and at the same time maddening ability to overlook the malevolence or bias of those who, having demonstrated such bias or malevolence, presume that the Israelis will not take any of it to heart, will not offer them anything but decency, such a contrast to those whom the Centannis, and the Annans, of this world, appear to favor, no matter what happens.

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Posted on 08/30/2006 5:55 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs held in Nevada
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From Reuters:

LAS VEGAS - Fugitive polygamist sect leader Warren Steed Jeffs, one of the FBI's 10 most wanted men, was arrested after a routine traffic stop near Las Vegas, traveling with $50,000 in cash, 15 cell phones and three wigs, authorities said on Tuesday.

Jeffs, 50, considered a prophet by his estimated 10,000 followers, was jailed on warrants accusing him of sexual assault and other misconduct on minors in Arizona, and as an accomplice to rape in Utah, the FBI and state law enforcement officials said.

"Now he's going to be held accountable," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said of Jeffs' arrest. "Nobody is above the law."

Jeffs, feared as a tyrant by many former members of his sect, is accused of arranging marriages between older men and underage girls in a community that is closed to outsiders. Young men and boys are often forced out to ensure a supply of young brides for male elders.

The sect, long based in an enclave on the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, split from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when the mainstream Mormon Church banned polygamy more than a century ago.

Jeffs' group is believed to be one of the largest polygamist communities in the United States. A joint Utah-Arizona attorneys general report has estimated that 20,000 to 40,000 Americans still engage in the outlawed practice of plural marriage...

For more on American Mormon polygamy see here.

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Posted on 08/29/2006 6:22 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
The Great Divides
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"Some of them are resenting what they see as Arab imperialism and feeling vestiges of pride in their Malay heritage which is largely derived from Hindu/Bhuddist influences (think Bali).

An excerpt: 'You are a shame to the Malay race for saying that the Arabs are smarter than us. Arabs with all the money and oil in the world, cannot even educate their own. Most smart Arabs are living in Bushland the USA/ England. If you love Tantawi so much, why don't you migrate to Saudi? Nearer the stone what....Oh yes to the rest of the Malays who wants to be Arabs, the ARAB RELIGION is nothing more than piagarisation of the religions of the Middle East, mainly Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and pagan stone worship all in one...So Melayu, get out of your blind stupor and hypnosis by the Arabs and start living a life, for GOD's sake...It is as though there is an awakening from the shackles of the Arabs and the lies that they attribute to GOD are slowly being exposed and eroded. To all those Melayus who wants to be Arabs, we are watching you from afar. Why watching from afar, because whatever bad that happens to you is because of your own doing and we, the Melayus who do not want to worship stones, have nothing to do with it.'"
-- from a reader in reference to this article

The resentment of non-Arab Muslims for Arab Muslims, so far limited only to the most farseeing and intelligent, should be encouraged in every way. For this is one of the three Great Divides in the Camp of Islam. The two others are: the Sectarian Divide between Sunni and Shi'a (adherents of Ibadiya Islam are far too few to matter), and the Economic Divide between the oil-and-gas rich Muslim states, especially those around the Persian Gulf, and the poor Muslim states, such as Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, and that pseudo-polity and pseudo-people known as the "Palestinian Authority" and the "Palestinian people." The latter group of states and pretend-states have been allowed to come to rely entirely, as their due, both received and given in the spirit of the Jizyah-tribute paid as protection money by non-Muslims to Muslim masters in Dar al-Islam, on foreign aid from Western Europe and North America.

So it would be good for this theme to be repeated by intelligent Muslims, exercising their quasi-freedom of speech in the period before the full darkness of Shari'a descends, during that soomerki svobody, that Twilight of Freedom, for which a melancholic and mandelshtamian note is apposite, appropriate, a positive killer app. Hard to believe that Malalya was, in the early 1950s, not at all a center of Islamic madness, that the Malayan rebellion put down by the British was Communist in its promptings, and that Malaya, or later Malaysia, had not yet succumbed to the steady demographic conquest by Muslims that has been the most important development in the history of the area. Hard to believe, too, that just fifty years ago, in Singapore, the leading political figure among the local labour movement, the man who became the Chief Minister of Singapore following independence, was David Marshall, from a well-known family of Iraqi Jews (formerly located in Mumbai, quondam Bombay, where one of them even had as a fellow classmate young Bhutto, in the pre-Pakistani period of his existence), similar in their histories, if not quite as famous, as the Sassoons and the Kadouries who left Baghdad (in the 1920s, the second Jewish city of Asia, after Jerusalem), and established themselves in Hong Kong and, almost as an aside, also became the founding fathers of that city now seen as the embodiment of modern China, Shanghai.

On a different note, some will recognize in the seemingly unremarkable phrase "the two others are" an echo of the list of unpublishable themes enumerated in "On a Book Entitled 'Lolita'" and wonder if the poster (HF) meant it deliberately. He did. Indeed he did.

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Posted on 08/29/2006 4:02 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
Security alert
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I hate to stereotype, so I let others do it for me. With thanks to Mert at JW. (By the way, although the UK is now "the enemy", it is safe for Americans to read this post, inshallah.)

The British are feeling the pinch in relation to recent bombings
and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved'.
Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated"
or even "A Bit Cross". Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the
blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out.

Terrorists have been re-categorised from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody
Nuisance". The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised
its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels
in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate". The rise was precipitated
by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.

It's not only the English and French that are on a heightened level
of alert.

Italy has increased the alert level from "shout loudly and
excitedly" to "elaborate military posturing". Two more levels remain,
"ineffective combat operations" and "change sides".

The Germans also increased their alert state from "disdainful
arrogance" to "dress in uniform and sing marching songs". They have two higher levels "invade a neighbour" and "lose".

It is no wonder Islam thinks it can win.

But us Brits have another security level that we have been keeping for a special occasion: “Absolutely Bloody Furious”.

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Posted on 08/29/2006 2:55 PM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
Nominee for the 2007 King Faisal Award
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Last year I offered a write-in nomination for Karen Armstrong to be awarded the King Faisal Prize, in the category of Services to Islam.

But apparently Armstrong did not make the Saudi grade. Perhaps her bizarre flitting from this to that (what is it this week from the fingers and mind of Karen Armstrong? A treatise on Buddhism? How to Bring World Peace? The Search for Bridey Murphy?) and her favorite forms of recreation -- if rumor reached them -- no doubt offended those dour and so very judgmental Saudi judges. But she didn't win, and I suspect now that she won't. She's become too much a figurine of fun.

But I have another someone, not quite so obviously silly as Karen Armstrong. True, there is that little matter of all those Shambhala shambolic sham books on Sufism, which Saudis would hardly find satisfactory, but there is one sure way to free those judges of their doubtful minds and warm their cold cold hearts. And that way is to point not only to the hagiographical "Following Muhammad" but far more important, to take note of the tireless toiling in the vineyard of the Lor-- no, make that toiling or perhaps lolling in the conquered oases of Muhammad, as shown by the effort -- really, beyond the call of dhimmi duty -- in inveigling or forcing non-Muslim students, right in the heart of what Saudis no doubt think of as hopelessly Christian evangelical country (unaware as they must be of the special case of Chapel Hill, and even of North Carolina, the state that in the last century produced, inter alia, Ava Gardner and Walter Clay Lowdermilk, and is hardly part of the Deep South), to read not only Sells's "Approaching the Qur'an" but as part of further reading on given, large doses of both Esposito and Armstrong.

If such an achievement, which required ignoring the criticism by parents and students, does not merit recognition as a Service to Islam, and beyond that, a well-endowed (va-va-va-voom) prize, offered in recognition of that recognition, then one hardly know what would.

And thus it is for me both a rare privilege, and an honor, to nominate at this very posting, at this most relevant website, Professor Carl Ernst, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to be the 2007 recipient of the King Faisal Prize.

I am sure a great many people, some of them no doubt Professor Ernst's faculty colleagues, will be happy to second that nomination.

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Posted on 08/29/2006 2:54 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
Red Diaper Babies and the damage they do
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Just as the new vehicle for expressing one's antipathy for The System (whatever The System may be) has become for some who are economically marginal, Islam, some in the ACLU seem not so much eager to get up in the morning and defend, with a sense of the measure, a sense of history, a sense of how vulnerable advanced democracies can be, a sense, even, that Islam is akin to Fascism in many things, including its division of the world, for Believers, between Believers and Infidels, its Complete Regulation of Life, which Believers may not adhere to, but of which they are keenly aware; the Total Explanation of the Universe (which leads the primitive Muslim masses to be far more primitive, and in much more dangerous ways, than the primitive non-Muslim masses) and finally, the discouragement of free and skeptical inquiry intended to protect Islam, but also managing to damage the prospects for better understanding, and amelioration, of the political, economic, and social failures of Muslim societies, within and without the Dar al-Islam, but defend Islam they do.

"Red Diaper" babies, the children not of those accused of being Communists but who really were Communists, could be the subject of study. Those whose parents lit out for the territories -- that is, the territories controlled by Chairman Mao -- and who were raised in Communist China, have returned to the United States, and their employment, as professors of law, as makers of documentary movies about China, and so on, reflect their greater understanding of things. Nothing like a childhood in Communist China to set a Red Diaper baby straight. But those Red Diaper babies who never had the good fortune to experience the awfulness of, say, Soviet Russia or Communist China, and who were raised in the bad old U.S.A., may remain convinced...convinced of what? Not so much Communists, or Trotskyites hawking some paper on Telegraph Avenue or Harvard Square, as the busy students bustle so disappointingly by. Convinced, rather, that the United States remains the main source of evil in the world, and that, it doth follow as the day the night, that Islam, now regarded as the chief threat to "American hegemony" or American somethingorother, needs to be protected, defended, seen not as the menace as it is, not as the fascism it so closely resembles, or as the nazism that in its worst it so obviously can become -- think of those black-balaclaved Kalashnikov-clutching bezonians of Hamas, or Hezbollah, or Al-Qaeda, or Islamic Jihad, think of those collective acts of mass prayer that make any intelligent non-Muslim shudder, where every large mosque expresses and reinforces that collectivism that puts one in mind not of some dimly-remembered songs from the hymnal, but of voices swelling in unison, as Leni Reifenstahl films it all.

One would like to know, one has reason to suspect the answer, how many Red Diaper babies are now beavering away at the upper reaches of the ACLU, performing -- in a different way -- services that will weaken the undeclared but felt enemy (that is, the United States), by supporting, by defending, by everywhere taking on as a matter of moment, even such things as this ridiculous lawsuit by these Muslim football players -- a lawsuit, nonetheless, that represents one more betrayal of the ACLU as it once was, and perhaps might still, under different management and with a truer mandate, become.

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Posted on 08/29/2006 2:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
It's got bells on it
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Libby Purves was as amused as I was by the Great Betjeman Love Letter Hoax. Do read this story if you haven’t already done so – it is well worth a click. She goes on to argue that it is better to read great writers’ works, rather than their biographies:

In youth I learnt much formative wisdom from Howards End before I ever found out that E. M. Forster was gay, or indeed a bloke at all; I read Evelyn Waugh at 12 in an equal state of uncertainty about the author’s gender, and nonetheless revelled in the acid beauty of the prose.

Later, in long university months of studying Paradise Lost, I dutifully checked up on the politics and religion of the time but felt only a passing interest in the fact that the blind poet dictated it to his daughters (and that interest was mainly because my tutorial partner and I had a theory that the damn thing was meant to be six times as long, only the duty daughter sometimes got bored and sneaked out of the room for a nap leaving Milton orating to the cat). As for Betjeman’s sex life, I find I can read Death in Leamington or In a Bath Teashop without giving a hoot whom he slept with.

So far so unarguable. But what if the poet brings his life experience into his work, and that experience isn’t quite authentic? It appears that Betjeman has been a little economical with the truth. From today’s Times:

JOHN BETJEMAN’S carefully cultivated image of himself as a devil-may-care student who “failed in divinity” at Oxford has been exposed as a myth after the discovery of his examination results.

Far from being unfazed by his failure, as depicted in his biographical poem Summoned by Bells, he resat his compulsory divinity examination twice, passing on the third attempt.

The Poet Laureate fooled the academic community for 40 years by relating only part of his academic record in chapter nine of his poem, published in 1960. “Failed in Divinity! O, towers and spires!/ Could no one help? Was nothing to be done?/ No. No one. Nothing.”

He lamented that his dreams of “Reading old poets in the library,/ Attending chapel in an M.A. gown/ And sipping vintage port by candlelight” had been dashed.

But curators at the Bodleian Library stumbled across his examination results while researching an exhibition to mark the centenary of his birth today.

Judith Priestman, co-curator of the Betjeman exhibition at the library, said that she had argued with the archivist because she could not believe that Betjeman had passed. “That is how he presented himself. He needed myths to keep himself going. But he didn’t leave Oxford as a Byronic figure.

“He was a good boy really. He presented himself as this great outsider, but actually he did jump through the hoops. He wanted to be an aristocrat, and an aristocrat would have said ‘I’ve failed, so what?’ and swanned off. He came back like the good bourgeois that he was.”

Whatever next? Will Philip Larkin’s parents turn out to have been decent sorts after all? I have long suspected they were, and that Larkin was an ungrateful little bastard. But he could hardly say so. In an earlier draft of “This Be The Verse”, Larkin thought about telling the truth:

They’re not so bad, your mum and dad

They try to do their best for you

But he thought better of it.

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Posted on 08/29/2006 12:05 PM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
The Bird Flu Dance
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Caption to a picture on the Beeb website:

"A young Ivorian man does the bird flu dance in a nightclub in Abidjan. The moves are said to resemble a diseased chicken trying to dance to hip-hop."

[Derb]  What next?  The AIDS shuffle?  The Malaria two-step?  The Bilharzia Bounce?  

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Posted on 08/29/2006 11:06 AM by John Derbyshire
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
Borders, bloody and otherwise
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I read this piece in Armed Forces Journal by Ralph Peters with its Big Bright Idea. I disagree with many of the things said in it, but above all with the belief that the problem with establishing a more "peaceful" Middle East is, for example, to weaken Israel (any further weakening of Israel will whet Muslim appetites), its inattention to the problem of Christians scattered about in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and its assumption that most of the problems are those that can be solved with border changes. Borders are not entirely trivial, but the main problem was, is, and remains Islam. If the prescription were to be followed -- and it is simply a fantasy, fun apparently to write -- and all those borders were somehow to be realigned, how would this weaken the camp of Islam? If every Muslim state in the Middle East no longer has to worry about internal conflicts, because of a conscientiously-applied program of border adjustment and large-scale rearrangement of sectarian and ethnic minorities, why would that make things better for the West or other non-Muslims? Would Islam itself be more peaceful, would its doctrines have changed?

I don't like these kind of fantasy articles, especially when they appear in military journals and temporarily find enthusiasts for the wrong things -- it is not the Saudi mismanagement of Mecca and Medina that is the basis of unhappiness with the regime, it is the entire regime, and its appropriation of much of the nation's wealth, and in order to protect the continuance of corruption, its compensatry . I don't agree with much of it, including its implications for Lebanon and Israel.

The question I would ask is not whether the individual Muslim states would have an easier time of it, but whether the Camp of Islam, as a whole, would be weakened as a result, or not. The one important goal that Peters mentions, as has been mentioned by all kinds of people, is the usefulness of creating a free Kurdistan. He argues for it on moral grounds (36 million Kurds, etc.). He says nothing about the importance of establishing an example of a non-Arab Muslim people throwing off Arab domination, and thereby inspiring other non-Arab Muslim peoples, such as the Berbers or the black African Muslims of Darfur. Nor does he consider the possibility that constant unsettlement of Syria and Iran, by its Kurdish population, might occupy and preoccupy both of those countries, and the effects would be better than if somehow, magically, the Kurdish-populated areas were to become part of Kurdistan.

Finally, his analysis of what is the source of discontent is often flatly wrong. In Saudi Arabia he thinks it is the Saudi role in Mecca and Medina. That may annoy people outside Saudi Arabia, and Sami Agarwal the Saudi architect, and a few others may deplore the destruction of old Ottoman forts and even older sites in both cities, but the real fury is directed at something unlikely to change: the appropriation of much of the country's oil wealth by the 30,000 or so princes, princelings, and princelettes, who have no intention of giving it up, as little as they would their role as Guardians of the Two Holy Places.

This suggested scheme to rearrange all the borders of the Middle East is fantasy, but not useful fantasy. It ignores the real problem for Infidels, which is Islam, and were it somehow to be carried out it would not necessarily weaken, and might even strengthen, the individual components, the Muslim-dominated "nation-states" that in Islam possess less significance than they do in the non-Muslim world, for to Believers it is the Umma that matters, and the nation-state an artificial and unnecessary construct.

As a fantasy, it is little different from those lists made by young girls, as they sit dreaming in class, in which they take their own first name, and then ring changes on the last names, supplying those of potential husbands: Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Wentworth Miller. And during that class period, during which Mrs. Caruso was boringly talking about tomorrow's test and what they should study for it, by the time the bell rings, all that Kimberley has to show for the hour is a sheet of paper with her name, and ten or fifteen possible married names -- Kimberley Depp, Kimberley Pitt, Kimberley Miller. Fun for Kimberley, but when she has to take the test tomorrow, she won't be laughing.

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Posted on 08/29/2006 10:48 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
Kakutani: portait of the artist as a young jackass
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Michiko Kakutani lets 'er rip today in her review of Jonathan Franzen's new book “The Discomfort Zone":

In his new memoir, “The Discomfort Zone,” Mr. Franzen turns his unforgiving eye on himself and succeeds in giving us an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass: petulant, pompous, obsessive, selfish and overwhelmingly self-absorbed. He tells us that as a child he was “a small glutton for attention, forever turning conversations to the subject of myself.” He tells us that he felt put upon by public entreaties to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. (“Why should I pony up for this particular disaster?”) And he tells us that he used to find it difficult to enjoy nature’s beauty: a hike up to a spectacular summit was never enough; instead he would imagine himself “in a movie with this vista in the background and various girls I’d known in high school and college watching the movie and being impressed with me.”

While some readers will want to give Mr. Franzen points for being so revealing about himself, there is something oddly preening about his self-inventory of sins, as though he actually reveled in being so disagreeable. And while it doubtless takes a degree of self-absorption for anyone to write a memoir, in the case of this book the author’s self-involvement not only makes for an incredibly annoying portrait, but also funnels the narrative into a dismayingly narrow channel.

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Posted on 08/29/2006 9:22 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
Islamic Revival Led by Women Tests Syria?s Secularism
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 The New Duranty Times has the story:

Enas al-Kaldi stops in the hallway of her Islamic school for girls and coaxes her 6-year-old schoolmate through a short recitation from the Koran.

“It’s true that they don’t understand what they are memorizing at this age, but we believe that the understanding comes when the Koran becomes part of you,” Ms. Kaldi, 16, said proudly.

In other corners of Damascus, women who identify one another by the distinctive way they tie their head scarves gather for meetings of an exclusive and secret Islamic women’s society known as the Qubaisiate.

At those meetings, participants say, they are tutored further in the faith and are even taught how to influence some of their well-connected fathers and husbands to accept a greater presence of Islam in public life.

These are the two faces of an Islamic revival for women in Syria, one that could add up to a potent challenge to this determinedly secular state. Though government officials vociferously deny it, Syria is becoming increasingly religious and its national identity is weakening. If Islam replaces that identity, it may undermine the unity of a society that is ruled by a Muslim religious minority, the Alawites, and includes many religious groups...

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Posted on 08/29/2006 9:04 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
I'm So Ronery
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I liked this story.
Presumably when we finally have Kim Jong Il in leg irons we'll make him watch Team America.
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Posted on 08/29/2006 8:41 AM by John Derbyshire
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Tuesday, 29 August 2006
Pseudsday Tuesday
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This week's pseud lives in Charlotte Street, and discusses bruschetta as barthesian mytheme. Readers of Harry's Place will have seen this before, but it deserves another outing:

I saw in the paper the other day another snide reference to the 'bruschetta brigade'. What is the imitative zeal that sends a phrase like the ‘brushetta brigade’ through the press and blogosphere? What makes it so infectious?...

‘Bruschetta’ has the added advantage of sounding foreign – there is always something somehow foreign and unpatriotic about these intellectuals, non? Thus, the phrase glides along grooves ideologically pre-prepared. It is little more than a Barthesian mytheme.

Finally, there was also, in the ‘bruschetta brigade’ trope a more specific project, a familiar rhetorical trick or fallacy whereby you discolour a particular argument through tying it to some disliked group. (Of course, referring an argument back to the question of 'who speaks' is basic sophistry). In this case, the particular suggestion was that the anti-war argument was somehow the preserve of an ensconced and self-referential metropolitan elite. This is course is nonsense, but (nonsense + familiar mytheme) quickly congeals into fact.

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Posted on 08/29/2006 7:51 AM by Mary Jackson
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