Saturday, 30 August 2008
Who's Minding Our English?

I turn on the radio. Some blah-blah about the Middle East, and then I hear the distinguished guest -- some idiot -- say portentously that "that seems to be the penumbra we're in vis-a-vis Syria."

Seeking relief, I open the newspaper. I start reading an article in the business section of today's Times about Carl Icahn, corporate raider, written by the perfectly intelligent Joseph Nocera, who nonetheless writes about someone who "etches out an existence" doing such and such.

Someone is "etching out an existence" is he, possibly in the penumbra of his life? 

Well, in that case, dear reader, in reading this please remember to

"Still be kind/and etch out our performance with your mind." 


Posted on 08/30/2008 2:21 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 30 August 2008
A Musical Interlude: Une Femme, Un Accord?on, Un Caboulot (Lys Gauty)
Posted on 08/30/2008 2:03 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 30 August 2008
The Papers Pounce On Palin

Here is a summary of what the major papers are saying about Sarah Palin this morning. Notice they are all calling her "inexperienced" even though she has been a mayor and is now a governor. Normally the conventional wisdom is that governors are a good choice because they have executive experience, not just legislative experience.

All the papers lead with John McCain's surprise selection of Alaska governor Sarah Palin for his running mate. He shocked election-watchers and scrambled the presidential race with a "Hail Mary pass"--eschewing more conventional choices for the inexperienced, socially conservative, corruption-fighting "hockey mom." Appearing together in Ohio, McCain lauded her reform credentials, while Palin framed her candidacy as an extension of Hillary Clinton's quest to "shatter [the] glass ceiling."

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal call it a risky play to revitalize John McCain's "maverick" image. Choosing Palin undercuts the argument that Barack Obama is too inexperienced, raising questions about John McCain's age and judgment. But it could pay off: Palin--an NRA member and staunch pro-lifer--is energizing evangelicals and tempting Hillary Clinton voters to defect. An LAT analysis piece worries it's a sign that McCain relies on short-sighted "gut-checks," while an early version of the WSJ lead called it a "calculated bet." It's likely a bit of both--McCain's a high-stakes gambler who knows the odds.

Here is a video of her acceptance speech.

Posted on 08/30/2008 7:52 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 30 August 2008
Christianophobia ? Some Part Of The Problem Explicated

Earlier today I picked up on this short piece over at Reuters.

"Christianophobia" is a growing problem around the world and it must be fought with the same determination as anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, the Vatican said on Friday.
Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican's foreign minister, spoke in the wake of attacks against Christians in India that have left at least 13 people dead this week.
“In order to promote this dignity in an integral way, so-called 'Christianophobia' should be combated as decisively as 'Islamophobia' and anti-Semitism," he [Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican's foreign minister] said.
This week in eastern India, thousands of people, most of them Christians, have sought shelter in makeshift government camps, driven from their homes by religious violence.
Hindu mobs burnt more than a dozen churches and attacked Christians after a Hindu leader was killed.
[...] Hindu groups accuse Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to change their faith, the Christians say lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape a complex caste system.
Last month, Pope Benedict told Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that minority Christians in Iraq needed more protection.
The Archbishop of Mosul of Iraq's largest Christian denomination, the Chaldean Catholics, was kidnapped in February and found dead two weeks later.
The Vatican has often expressed concern that conflicts in the Middle East are greatly diminishing the Christian population in the areas of the religion's birth.
This is not the sort of behaviour that we have come to expect from Hindu people, who are, by and large, tolerant and inclined to see the spiritual in almost all religions and beliefs.
It seems to me that the unrelenting attacks upon the Hindu faith, and the believers in that faith, by Muslims, both indigenous and overseas, is provoking an intolerant backlash against all non-Hindu faiths present on the sub-Continent. Much as that is to be deprecated it is understandable.
Muslims in India today seem to be intent upon promoting themselves as having some sort of status as victims of the Hindu majority. It’s a cunning strategy and one which seems to be working, but in reality nothing has changed in India for its Muslim population. They have exactly the same rights as the rest of the population; they are equal under the law; they have exactly the same opportunities as anyone else in India does. In no sense that makes sense is the Muslim population of India any different from the rest of the population, but they have managed to foment, in the Hindu majority, a feeling of being attacked from within and without and have, very successfully, led that majority to impute the worst of motives to any non-Hindu endeavour or religion.
I do not doubt but that there is a deliberate and wilful attempt by fundamentalist Islamic believers to foment discontent amongst the Hindu believers in India, for it is only by driving all the non-Hindu faiths away from tolerant Hinduism, and creating enmity between us all, that they can achieve their oft-stated and long-term goal of re-islamising India. Divide and conquer is the order of the day in India!
I could wish, I do so wish, that the great Thomine port of Cranganore (the very port where Hippalus landed and the very place of ancient Jewish settlement) – that place where Christianity first came to India in 52AD (Thomas the Apostle landed there) – had rejected Malik ibn Dinar (Malik The Damned in Hindu legend) when he landed there with his wild-eyed, crazy followers of that evil, so-called prophet Muhammed, almost six-hundred years later. How much better the world would have been had he been denied any right at all to build the Cheraman Perumal Juma Masjid (reckoned to be the first mosque in India).
We cannot go back in time and change history, but we can make history – as St. Thomas (Didymus) The Apostle did when he landed on that Kerala coastline and changed the world for the better. We can make history by exploding the lies, the fabrications and the falsehoods that the evil ones, the followers of the false prophet Muhammed, disseminate amongst us today in their silly and vain attempts to drive us all apart – to divide us and to conquer us and to promote the evil that is Islam as some sort of humane life-style.
Wasn’t it Tacitus who said of some enemy or other “Solitudinem faciunt pacem appelant”. Well, that’s precisely what the Muslims of India are trying to do today. Pity we poor Christians caught in the middle. Still, and all, it’s our fight, too!
Posted on 08/30/2008 6:42 AM by John Joyce
Saturday, 30 August 2008
Out-of-office automatic email replies

I very much enjoy setting my out-of-office when I take a welcome break from work. "Let some other bugger deal with it for a change," is what I want to say. Of course one must be more polite.

Doing the email rounds today is a collection of out-of-office automatic email replies that I would like to set:

1. I am currently out of the office at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position. Please be prepared for my mood.

2. You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the  office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn't have received anything at all.

3. Sorry to have missed you, but I'm at the doctor's having my brain and
heart removed so I can be promoted to our management team.

4. I will be unable to delete all the emails you send me until I return from vacation. Please be patient, and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.

5. Thank you for your email. Your credit card has been charged $5.99 for
the first 10 words and $1.99 for each additional word in your message.

6. The email server is unable to verify your server connection. Your
message has not been delivered. Please restart your computer and try  sending again. (The beauty of this is that when you return, you can see who did this over and over and over.....)

7. Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queuing system.
You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in approximately 19 weeks.

8. Hi, I'm thinking about what you've just sent me. Please wait by your
PC for my response.

9. I've run away to join a different circus.

10. I will be out of the office for the next two weeks for medical
reasons. When I return, please refer to me as 'Steve' instead of Wendy.

Posted on 08/30/2008 4:57 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 29 August 2008
Today in the "Religion of Peace?"

On this date, August 29th, in 1981, two people were killed and 23 wounded when the Stadttempel Synagogue in Vienna was attacked by Muslims using machine guns and grenades.

This attack was part of a campaign in the early 1980's to attack synagogues across Europe.

On October 3, 1980, the Rue Copernic synagogue in Paris, France was attacked by "Palestinians" using bombs.  Four people were killed and twelve injured.

On October 20, 1981, a synagogue in Antwerp, Belgium was attacked with a truck bomb; three people were killed, 106 injured.

On September 18, 1982, a synagogue in Brussels, Belgium was attacked by a gunman from the Abu Nidal Organization using a machine gun.

On October 9, 1982, the central synagogue in Rome, Italy was attacked by a men using grenades and machine guns.  A 2-year-old boy was killed, and 37 people injured.

Over time, jihadis may change their tactics and techniques, but their goals remain the same.  Past jihad fads include plane hijackings, car bombs, timebombs on airliners, bomb-vests on buses, mortars, and rockets.

Previous Days in the "Religion of Peace™":

Aug 28: Poet Laureate Baraka
Aug 27: Bombardment of Algiers
Aug 26: Sistani vs. Sadr
Aug 25: Cape Town Jihad
Aug 24: Hebron Massacre

Posted on 08/29/2008 9:06 PM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Friday, 29 August 2008
Shi'a Cleric: Still Waiting After All These Years

Oh no, not again!  Today marks thirty years since this Shi'a cleric mysteriously vanished.  Maybe he's also hiding in the bottom of a well?  Maybe he's in a library somewhere working furiously, trying to work out the proper spelling of Mohammar Qadafi?   From AP:

 BEIRUT, Lebanon - For the rest of the world, the disappearance of the imam Moussa al-Sadr is probably at most a footnote in the checkered history of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. In 1978, the Lebanese Shiite Muslim religious leader flew to Tripoli for a week of talks with Libyan officials. He was never seen or heard from again.

But in Lebanon, the mystery of the missing imam remains a burning issue for Shiites, including leaders of the powerful Hezbollah movement — an indication of al-Sadr's potency as a symbol for a community that in 40 years has gone from a downtrodden, impoverished sect to a major political player.

Al-Sadr is one of the pioneers of Shiite empowerment that has become a force across the Middle East, spurred by the 1979 Islamic revolution in Shiite Iran and more recently by the rise to leadership of Iraq's majority Shiites after U.S. forces ousted Saddam Hussein and his Sunni Muslim-dominated regime.

Framed photos of al-Sadr adorn the shops and homes of Lebanese Shiites, and the day he was last seen, on Aug. 31, 1978, is marked annually in Lebanon, with this year's major ceremony planned in the southern town of Nabatiyeh.

On Wednesday, Lebanese judicial officials said prosecutors had just charged Gadhafi and six other Libyan officials with "incitement to kidnap and withhold the freedom" of al-Sadr. The charge could carry the death penalty, but the officials, insisting on anonymity since they were not authorized to speak to the media, conceded it was unlikely Gadhafi would ever be tried.

Most Lebanese presume al-Sadr is dead — he would be 80 if alive — but some cling to the belief he remains in a Libyan jail. It's an appealing idea for Shiites; a major tenet of the faith is that a revered 9th century imam has been hidden by God and will return as mankind's savior.


Brotherly love and mutual respect between fellow Muslims alert:

Most of al-Sadr's followers are convinced Gadhafi ordered al-Sadr killed in a dispute over Libyan payments to Lebanese militias, but the imam's family argues he could still be alive in a Libyan jail.

Posted on 08/29/2008 11:32 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Friday, 29 August 2008
A Politico-Musical Interlude: Walkin' My Baby Back Home (Lee Morse)
Posted on 08/29/2008 2:16 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 29 August 2008
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: Vote For Honest Abe (Eddie Cantor)
Posted on 08/29/2008 1:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 29 August 2008
Muslim man jailed for killing BNP neighbour who racially abused him

From The Telegraph
A Muslim man has been jailed for eight years after stabbing to death a BNP activist neighbour who had racially abused him.
Habib Khan, 50, was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter after a jury heard he had been tormented for years by his neighbour over a planning dispute.
Stafford Crown Court heard that Khan, described as a "mild and calm-mannered family man", had intended to use the knife to threaten Mr Brown, who had hold of one of his sons.
Judge Simon Tonking said Khan had acted "in the honest belief that he needed to protect his son" but in doing so had killed his next door neighbour Mr Brown.  He added: "It is beyond question that, by acting in the way that he did, Mr Khan killed Mr Brown unlawfully and, whatever their differences, the fact is that Mr Brown lost his life. "That is a consequence for which Mr Khan must be punished with a significant custodial sentence."
The court heard that the families' feud began when Khan put in a planning application to build a new house on his land a few years prior to the incident.  Mr Brown objected and when permission was granted and building work began, he "took steps to obstruct it". The situation escalated over the years, with one incident leaving Khan in hospital.
Judge Tonking ordered that Khan serve consecutively six-and-a-half years for manslaughter and 18 months for wounding Mr Brown's son.
Mr Brown and his son had been leafleting for the BNP a year earlier, the court heard, and the party's leader, Nick Griffin, had attended Mr Brown's funeral. Speaking outside the court, Stoke-on-Trent BNP members slammed the sentence, which they said did not reflect the severity of the crime.
BNP Councillor Michael Coleman said the court case was an example of "liberal politics going on".  He criticised Staffordshire Police for "going softly on ethnic minorities" and being hard with "the indigenous population of this island."
A very unpleasant affair.

Posted on 08/29/2008 1:53 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 29 August 2008
Fatwa For Today

MEMRI: According to a report on, the Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee has issued a fatwa permitting the hacking of American and Israeli websites that harm Islam and Muslims, and also permitting damaging them, as part of "electronic jihad."

Posted on 08/29/2008 1:51 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 29 August 2008
Palin Agile And An Understandable Mistake

On July 7, 2008 I began a posting of advice to McCain thus:

"A woman as his running mate is for McCain a good idea, but not just any woman, and definitely not Carly Fiorina. "

I went on to discuss  as a plausible not-just-any-woman candidate the memorably-named Olympia Snowe, noting she came from Maine, the state that is farthest north, and thus a nice complement to the southwest of McCain, a stately  way of raising Arizona. 

I made a mistake. I overlooked Sarah Palin, whose bone structure holds up even better than that of Katrina vanden Heuvel.

But the mistake I made was understandable. Because, before I made that one, I had made a larger one..No one, you see, had ever bothered to tell me that Alaska, some years ago, had finally achieved statehood.

Now I know.

Posted on 08/29/2008 1:29 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 29 August 2008
Controversial mosque gets go-ahead in Germany

I have been waiting all day for a report about this to appear on line from a source that was a bit more reliable than Middle East on-line. From The Telegraph A large mosque in the German city of Cologne, famous for the soaring spires of its Gothic cathedral, is to be built after the city council finally gave it the go-ahead.The mosque, which will hold up to 2,000 people, will be one of the largest in Europe and is to feature minarets 180 feet high, a third as tall as the nearby cathedral.
Building work was due to get underway last autumn despite a vigorous protest movement, which has featured both Jewish intellectuals and the political far-right.
Some reports suggested the city's council only agreed to the project after designers agreed to trim down the size of the mosque's minarets.
But Miriam Berndt, from the architect's cabinet behind the project said that nothing had changed. "The minarets will remain as tall as planned, and this will be one of Germany's biggest mosques," she said. "We will start building work this winter and will be finished in a year or two."
Next month, the far-right group Pro-Köln, which has led protests against the mosque in the city, is to host an "anti-Islamisation conference" in Cologne, with far-right politicians from across Europe, including France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, to attend.
Meanwhile in the UK, apart from the secrecy surrounding the application for the megamosque quite a few other mosques are not getting what they asked for from the local councils.
Pendle Today- PLANS to extend a Nelson mosque are being recommended for refusal by Pendle Council officers.
Express and Star Controversial plans to build a new mosque in Walsall have been thrown out by planning bosses. But that was an Ahmadiyya mosque opposed by other Muslims as well as non Muslims.
OldhamAdvertiser PLANS for a mosque and multi-purpose community centre on Manchester Road in Werneth have been rejected.
Swindon Advertiser MUSLIMS have been told ‘no’ for now to their hopes of building a purpose-built mosque in Swindon.
Only in Huddersfield are the Mosque builders, Ahmadiyyas again,  having a modicum of success.
The Huddersfield Examiner. CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn an historic sports club site into a mosque have been given the green light by councillors.
Hundreds of people objected to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association’s plan to transform The Pavilion at Fartown into a mosque and community centre. 

Posted on 08/29/2008 11:56 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 29 August 2008
2 Police Killed in Xinjiang Jihad

Even China is now described as "restive".  From AP:

BEIJING (AFP) - Two policemen were killed and five others injured in China's restive Xinjiang region, authorities said Friday, bringing the reported death toll from a wave of unrest there this month to 33.

Assailants stabbed the police officers late on Wednesday night in a town close to Kashgar, a city in the far west of Xinjiang where the deadliest of this month's attacks took place, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"Suddenly, many criminal suspects that had been hiding in a cornfield came out from behind and attacked using knives," Xinhua said, citing local police.

Xinhua gave few other details but US-funded Radio Free Asia reported the police were ambushed while searching the cornfield following a tip that a woman suspected of helping assailants in an earlier attack was hiding there.

"We didn't expect to come under attack in that cornfield," Radio Free Asia quoted a local policeman named Omerjan as saying.

Analysts have said Xinjiang is enduring its worst violence in years, partly triggered by separatists wanting to raise publicity while the world spotlight was focused on China for the Beijing Olympics, which ended on Sunday.

Xinjiang is a vast area bordering central Asia with about 8.3 million ethnic Muslim Uighurs, many of whom say they have suffered decades of repression under communist Chinese rule.

China has blamed Uighur "terrorists" for much of the previous unrest this month.

In the first of the reported incidents, Chinese authorities said two assailants murdered 16 policemen on August 4 in Kashgar.

The attackers, who were later captured, drove a truck at a group of policemen, then attacked the officers with machetes and explosives, according to the official account.

Also near Kashgar, three security officers were killed on August 12 when assailants jumped off a vehicle passing through a checkpoint and stabbed them, according to Xinhua. A handful of suspects had been arrested for the attack, Xinhua reported late Friday, quoting a police spokesman.

Eleven attackers and one security guard were reported killed in bombings and a shoot-out with police on August 10 in the remote city of Kuqa.

Exiled Uighur organisations and rights groups have reported that a massive security crackdown in Xinjiang in the months leading up the Olympics has remained in place after the Games.

Posted on 08/29/2008 11:17 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Friday, 29 August 2008
Mus'ab Hassan Yousef Interviewed On Arab TV

Mus'ab Hassan Yousef, son of a West Bank Hamas Leader, gives an interview on Arab television on early life as a Muslim and his conversion to Christianity. 

Posted on 08/29/2008 9:59 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 29 August 2008
Sarah Palin

Rumor has it McCain may pick Governor Palin as his VP.

Wiki: Sarah Heath Palin (born February 11, 1964) is the current Governor of Alaska, and a member of the Republican Party. She is the first female governor of Alaska, its youngest, and is the first governor born after Alaska achieved statehood. Brought to statewide attention because of her whistleblowing on ethical violations by state Republican Party leaders,[1] she won election in 2006 by first defeating the incumbent governor in the Republican primary, then a former Democratic Alaskan governor in the general election.


In 2006, Palin, running on a clean-government campaign, executed an upset victory over then-Gov. Murkowski in the Republican gubernatorial primary.[3] Despite the lack of support from party leaders and being outspent by her Democratic opponent, she went on to win the general election in November 2006, defeating former Governor Tony Knowles.[3] Palin said in 2006 that education, public safety, and transportation would be three cornerstones of her administration.[8]

When elected, Palin became the youngest governor in Alaskan history (42 years old upon taking office), and the first woman to be Alaska's governor. Palin was also the first Alaskan governor born after Alaska achieved U.S. statehood. She was also the first Alaskan governor not to be inaugurated in Juneau, instead choosing to hold her inauguration ceremony in Fairbanks. She took office on December 4, 2006.

Highlights of Governor Palin's tenure include a successful push for an ethics bill, and also shelving pork-barrel projects supported by fellow Republicans. Palin successfully killed the Bridge to Nowhere project that had become a nationwide symbol of wasteful earmark spending.[13][17] "Alaska needs to be self-sufficient, she says, instead of relying heavily on 'federal dollars,' as the state does today."[6]

She has challenged the state's Republican leaders, helping to launch a campaign by Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell to unseat U.S. Congressman Don Young[18] and publicly challenging Senator Ted Stevens to come clean about the federal investigation into his financial dealings.[13] Palin supports holding occasional legislative sessions outside the state capital, and municipal revenue sharing to help local governments.[citation needed]

Palin's tenure is noted for her independence from big oil companies, while still promoting resource development.[6][13] Palin has also announced plans to create a new sub-cabinet group of advisors, to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions within Alaska. [19]

Shortly after taking office, Palin rescinded an appointment by Murkowski of his former chief of staff Jim Clark to the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority, one of thirty-five appointments made by Murkowski in the last hour of his administration that she reversed. [20][21] Clark later pled guilty to conspiring with a defunct oil-field-services company to channel money into Frank Murkowski's re-election campaign. [22]

In March 2007, Palin presented the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA) as the new legal vehicle for building a natural gas pipeline from the state's North Slope.[23] Only one legislator, Representative Ralph Samuels, voted against the measure,[24] and in June Palin signed it into law.[25][26] On January 5, 2008, Palin announced that a Canadian company, Transcanada, was the sole AGIA-compliant applicant.[27][28]

In response to high oil and gas prices, and in response to the resulting state government budget surplus, Palin proposed giving Alaskans $100-a-month energy debit cards. She also proposed providing grants to electrical utilities so that they would reduce customers' rates.[29] She subsequently dropped the debit card proposal, and in its place she proposed to send Alaskans $1,200 directly and eliminate the gas tax.[30][31]


Palin is strongly pro-life and belongs to Feminists for Life.[8] She opposes same-sex marriage; but, she has stated that she has gay friends, and is receptive to gay and lesbian concerns about discrimination.[8] While the previous administration did not implement same-sex benefits, Palin complied with a state Supreme Court order and signed them into law. [32]

She supported a democratic advisory vote from the public on whether there should be a constitutional amendment on the matter.[33] Alaska was one of the first U.S. states to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage, in 1998, along with Hawaii.[34]

Palin's first veto was used to block legislation that would have barred the state from granting benefits to gay state employees and their partners. In effect, her veto granted State of Alaska benefits to same-sex couples. The veto occurred after Palin consulted with Alaska's attorney general on the constitutionality of the legislation.[35]


What's not to like?

Posted on 08/29/2008 7:39 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 29 August 2008
Proust quiz - any more takers?

Here's my Proust Quiz from yesterday. Reactionry has come up a partial answer that may - or may not - be correct:

What has Proust got in common with a female Guardian columnist referred to at this site as a demented loon?

Can Proust change your life? If so, what has that to do with a disproportionate number of frivolous items posted today?

What is the connection between Proust and Bolton?

Answers tomorrow. No time Toulouse.

Answer in the fullness of lost time.

Posted on 08/29/2008 7:44 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 29 August 2008
Great - or grumpy - minds think alike

On Tuesday I deplored the pseudery of the latest marketing slogan for the Orange mobile phone company. "The future is no longer Orange," I wrote. "It's no longer bright. It's trite." This was the slogan that assailed my pseud-sense:

I am who I am because of everyone.

Reader Paul commented:

I agree: this new series of Orange ads are totally vomit-making with their  bogus sincerity and ultra-nice characters. 

Like the Boots the Chemists' ads of a few years back:  (paraphrastically) You are marvelous, you're unique  - your heart beats 70 times a minute every minute of your life and pumps 10,000 litres of blood every 24 hours.  Your lungs expand and contract  26,000 times a day. Your kidneys filter 180 litres of water every day...&c &c.  And that is why we are here - so that you can stay marvellous and unique - Boots supply everything that keeps you  marvellous and unique.  We care.

And don't get me started on L'Oreal, with their natural liposomes that "reduce the appearance of" wrinkles. Why? "Because you're worth it." And isn't Andie MacDowell the most irritating woman alive? For the "Andie" alone, she deserves to be locked up, preferably sharing a cell with a "Toni" or two.

In this week's Spectator, Theodore Dalrymple takes up the curmudgeon's cudgel, in a column that begins: "I think I should abandon the world: I am too easily irritated by it."

I come across an advertisement for a telephone company that funds a literary prize. It features the most recent prize-winner, ending with a slogan that makes the death of Little Nell seem like a detached clinical report. ‘I am who I am because of everyone’, it says.

This suggests such grandiosity and self-congratulation masquerading as humility that I feel as though I am wallowing in treacle laced with nitric acid.

Read the whole column. Dalrymple's dander is up and his displeasure is our pleasure.

Dalrymplian grumpiness is a goal I aspire to, and have not yet attained. I suspect a world without irritations would irritate him. It would irritate me, and perhaps Paul, too. We should be obliged to be cheery - a chilling thought.

Posted on 08/29/2008 7:05 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 29 August 2008
Al Jazeera In Scotland?

The Herald (h/t GMBDR): ARABIC news network al Jazeera is considering setting up a Scottish bureau.

The proposal for a Scottish office was made at a meeting between the network's director general Wadah Khanfar and Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow.

Al Jazeera is the largest news channel in the Middle East and was launched in 1996 as an Arabic news and current affairs satellite TV channel. Since then it has expanded into a network with several outlets.

Mr Khanfar was in Scotland to deliver a speech at the International TV Festival in Edinburgh when he attended the meeting arranged by the Scottish-Islamic Foundation...

Posted on 08/29/2008 7:26 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 29 August 2008
Titan prisons will only brutalise their inmates

An excellent article from Theodore Dalrymple in The Times.
The idea that giant institutions are efficient is a primitive superstition that daily experience disproves, so is just the kind of thing that British governments are inclined to believe.
I do not often agree with the Prison Reform Trust, but on the proposed construction of giant prisons - the criminal justice system's answer to giant casinos, I suppose - I do wholeheartedly.
The dangers of gigantism in prison are very great. Running a prison without resort to brutality requires a delicate balancing act. The necessary co-operation of prisoners cannot be obtained by brute force alone, but staff need to maintain the upper hand. As every prisoner knows, most brutality in prison comes from prisoners, not staff. When the staff lose control, brutality increases.
I've seen this for myself in extreme form when I visited Lurigancho prison in Lima, Peru, years ago. It had 7,000 inmates. I visited the comparatively salubrious part, el jardín, the garden, so-called because there was a tree somewhere in it. Brutal as it was, it was like a garden party compared with the part reserved for the worst prisoners, where the staff never ventured. I observed it from a roof, and within a few minutes saw one prisoner try to kill another with a huge shark hook. Food was thrown over the wall to the prisoners.
. . . and although the Government will claim that it will never cut corners to produce the same conditions in Britain, who will believe it? The temptation to park large numbers of prisoners together and leave them to get on with it will be great, especially in times of economic stringency. And most times are times of economic stringency.
Of course, some might think that more unpleasantness is just what prisoners need, that our prisons are much too soft.
The main purpose of prison is to keep wrongdoers off the streets for as long as necessary, which is usually much longer than our courts acknowledge. It is not to brutalise or humiliate prisoners, which vast and impersonal prisons are more likely to do.
As one prison officer said, not to me, I read this but cannot remember where, “Men (I expect he included women) don’t go to prison to be punished within, their punishment is the curtailment of their freedom by going to prison”.
My experience of prisons as an official of the Lord Chancellor's Department was wider than most of my colleagues though as nothing compared with Dr Dalrymple who spent many years as a prison doctor. And my post for the 8 years prior to my retirement did not involve any prison visits at all. However I recall the concern among Prison officers at the money saving closure of workshops, prison farms, constructive classes (literacy, woodwork, printing) and suchlike and the increase in “banging up” in cells for 22 hours a day. The phrase “Satan makes work for idle hands” is a bit old fashioned (though true) and I am not calling for the chain gang or labour camps. But it has proved to be a false economy to cut down on the greater level of supervision needed to engage prisoners in constructive dignified work.
That is where money should be spent, not on cumbersome Titan prisons. 

Posted on 08/29/2008 6:58 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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