These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 13, 2010.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Zeugma, Or, A Man's Reach Should Exceed His Spam
Yesterday I posted a bit about Bill Clinton that began thus:
"The cheat and charmer, the man who had a young and terminally-naive intern stain her honor and her new brocade...."
It was not the Housman, but the Pope, that got me thinking, not about the sad figure of Lewinsky, but the glad figure of zeugma, which is so often illustrated in the rhetorical handbooks by this very example -- "Or stain her honor, or her new brocade" -- or by another from the Twickenham wit -- twitter that! -- "Thou, great Anna!whom three Realms obey, Dost sometimes Counsel take - and sometimes Tea."
This last line prompts not thoughts of lapsang souchong from Mariage Freres or even of William Maxwell's beloved Hu-Kwa (ffrom Mark C. Wendell, Importers of Fine Teas in Concord, Massachusetts) but, rather, fill him with thoughts of Zeugma, not the Greek -- now Turkish -- city, but zeugma the figure of speech, which the juxtaposition of spam mail -- which we all drop right into the poubelle of pixilated oblivion without allowing that spam to swim into our ken, where it might disturb the balance of our shakily-equilibrated minds --can sometimes, all by itself, manage to create.
Two of the most common spam titles manhandle the same innocent verb: "Grow your business." "Grow your penis." And if those responsible could combine their half-wits (if they only had a brain), their collaboration could yield, zeugmatically, this:
"Grow your business, or your penis."
and only one email would be necessary, where before it took two to express both thoughts.
Not inspiring, I admit. If it invites comparison with Pope, it suffers by the comparison. What is to be done? Perhaps we could elongate the line, making sure that there are at least ten syllables. We might, for example, add temporal modifiers -- as a temporary stopgap -- to both parts of the line, and not worrying about the two inital trochees as long as the line has a chance, by the end, to reassert its iambic identity.
Here's what I had in mind:
"Grow your business by day, your penis by night."
Well, try out the touted secrets that, no doubt, are only $19.99 plus postage and handling if you order now. And something else will be sent along, no doubt, absolutely free. See if the magic potion, for the ithyphallic, or the even more magical bromides, concocted for businessmen-babbitts, that arrive in the mail can work for you. Then report back. Results may vary, of course. Especially if you don't have a business to grow or -- anything is possible -- a penis.
Great Australians, I: The Knight. Lt Gen Sir Stanley Savige, Defender of Assyrian Christians
The other day, whilst googling in search of Saroyan's book '70 000 Assyrians', I found out about a compatriot of mine, of whom I had never heard until that moment. In this dark time, with Muslim enmity and violence against the remaining Assyrian Christians of Iraq steadily increasing it may be good to remind ourselves, and others, of the charity and valour of a young Australian soldier in the Mesopotamian and Persian theatre in World War I.
Here is the article that told me about him, from 2006, still available online:
'Australian-Assyrians commemorate life of Lt General Sir Stanley Savige' - by Gaby Kiwarkis.
'On the 31st of August 2006, Australian-Assyrian community leaders from Sydney and Melbourne gathered at Boorondara cemetery in Kew, Victoria, to commemorate an Australian General for his remarkable dedication and sacrifice towards the safety of Assyrian refugees during the exodus from Urmia [a town located in the far north-west of Persia, just east of the modern border with Turkey, and also not far from the northeast corner of today's Iraq - CM] in August 1918.
'Lieutenant General Sir Stanley George Savige, at that time a 28-year-old captain serving in the specially-assembled Allied unit nicknamed "Dunsterforce", was second-in-command of a supply column assigned to re-supply the Assyrians fighting in Persia.
'Unable to complete the task due to the fall of Urmia, he nevertheless persisted in his endeavour to assist the Assyrians by persuading his British commander that he should remain with them.
'For six weeks Captain Stanley Savige used all the means at his disposal to protect the refugees against the perpetual onslaught of the Turkish forces.
'Reasoning that the Turkish commander would concentrate on killing him before harming the refugees, he strategically placed his command at the rear of the refugee procession and deliberately drew enemy fire.
'By offering his command as a target, even though outnumbered one hundred to one, the captain managed to slow the Turkish advance long enough for most of the refugees to flee.
'This act of courage and self-sacrifice is far beyond what is expected of a regular junior officer in the field.
'Stanley Savige was no ordinary soldier; this righteous young man was born in 1890 in Morwell, Victoria. Commissioned in the field, he served in Gallipoli and France where he won the Military Cross in the second battle of Bullecourt. In 1918 he won the DSO for his part in the Assyrian refugee crisis.
'After the war he established the Legacy Foundation to care for war widows and their children.
'He rose to the rank of Lt General and was knighted.
'He passed away on the 15th May 1954 at a young age of sixty-three and is now resting at Boorondara cemetery in Kew, Victoria.
'The ceremony was opened by prayers from the Army chaplain Peter Lyndenmyer and Reverend Genard Lazar of the Assyrian Church of the East, while the Army catafalque party stood guard.
'Lt General Savige was thanked by all speakers including the Hon. Petro Georgio representing our Prime Minister the Hon. John Howard, Brigadier Keith Rossi of the RSL [RSL stands for Returned Servicemen's League - CM], Lt Colonel Mark Gainsford, Mr John Savige, and five Assyrian community representatives.
'The General was awarded the highest Assyrian medallion and declared a hero by all speakers. A plaque was also accepted by his grandson Mr Stanley Waters on behalf of his Grandfather.
'After the ceremony the Assyrian delegation proceeded to his hometown at Morwell where the Mayor Lisa Price unveiled a bronze bust of the General. The Assyrians were invited to attend and speak at this historic occasion to celebrate the life of the great Australian....
'The Assyrian nation was possibly at the brink of extinction if not for the action of Sir Savige. By the grace of God, this Australian's intervention helped save 50 000 Assyrian refugees in 1918 when enemy forces were determined to eradicate the remnants of an ancient Christian people. Lt General Sir Stanley George Savige is truly deserving of a special place of honour in the heart of the Assyrian nation'...
What more can one say? Few modern knighthoods can have been more honorably earned; he placed himself and his greatly-outnumbered troops between a fleeing company of desperate dhimmi Assyrian Christians, and a pursuing horde of murderous Turkish Muslim jihadists, whose fire he deliberately drew; and he prevailed. Rest in peace beneath the Southern Cross, O verray, parfit gentil knyght.
My daughter and I went on a history walk today from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (very interesting and one day we must get booked on the full tour) to St Pauls. Crossing the road outside the Churchyard of St Mary Matfelon (currently called Altab Ali Park) where the Museum of London are conducting a dig into the remains of the original White Chapel my daughter spotted this sticker on the pedestrian guard rail. It was upside down but the intolerant message is clear at any angle.
We all remember how liberals tried to justify their recent bailout to states and localities. It was going to do things like save teachers' jobs and pay for all sorts of other "needed" services. But its real impact was to enable the ever-increasing out of control spending we have at the state and local levels. Right? Little did we know, however, that Nanny State directives from DC were helping them spend those dollars so eagerly borrowed from China.
In another ridiculous misuse of our limited tax dollars, the Federal Highway Administration has ordered New York City to change "250,900 street signs... from the all-caps style used for more than a century to ones that capitalize only the first letters," according to Jeremy Olshan in the New York Post.
Studies have shown that it is harder to read all-caps signs, and those extra milliseconds spent staring away from the road have been shown to increase the likelihood of accidents, particularly among older drivers, federal documents say.
(These must be the same sort of federal studies that said a disabled vet from Chicago's North Shore could drive to the city's West Side in half an hour-while anyone familiar with the area knows that the drive takes an hour even without traffic, which is almost never.)
"Safety is this department's top priority," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said last year, in support of the new guidelines. "These new and updated standards will help make our nation's roads and bridges safer for drivers, construction workers and pedestrians alike."
Wow, what a guy! The Nanny State is so concerned about avoiding those potential accidents, that it even developed a special font, Clearview, for street signs-which means that numbered signs must be replaced, too. No doubt, LaHood had only the best intentions, but with local officials having to bust open their children's piggy banks to make payroll, did he realize that the price tag for New York City alone would be $27.6 million!
And I did say "New York City alone," because this is a nationwide initiative that will cost us an as yet incalculable amount-in the middle of a recession and the largest accumulation of debt in United States history. Get ready for another bailout when this money runs out because, as the Obama sycophants and cronies tell us, tax cuts not spending force us to borrow.
Ahmadinejad Greeted by Cheering Thousands in Lebanon
BEIRUT (AP) - Thousands of cheering Lebanese welcomed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Lebanon on Wednesday, throwing rose petals and sweets at his motorcade during a visit that underscores the growing power of Tehran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah.
Ahmadinejad is making his first state visit to Lebanon at a time when tensions are mounting between Hezbollah and Western-backed parties in the government. The growing crisis could bring down Lebanon's unity government, in which both sides share power in a tenuous arrangement.
The divisions were thrown into sharp relief by Ahmadinejad's presence. The exuberant welcome in the streets was largely organized by Hezbollah, who encouraged the mostly Shiite crowd to come out in droves. Ahmadinejad's trip also includes a provocative excursion to the border with archenemy Israel on Thursday.
But the Iranian leader's splashy arrival only exacerbates fears among many Lebanese - particularly Sunnis and Christians - that Hezbollah and Iran are trying to impose their will on the country and possibly pull Lebanon into a conflict with Israel...
Amid the mass of published analysis of the Stuxnet virus, Iran's most obvious vulnerability to cyber-war has drawn little comment: much of the Islamic Republic runs on pirated software. The programmers who apparently cracked Siemens' industrial control code to plant malware in Iran's nuclear facilities needed a high degree of sophistication. Most Iranian computers, though, run on stolen software obtained from public servers sponsored by the Iranian government. It would require far less effort to bring about a virtual shutdown of computation in Iran, and the collapse of the Iranian economy. The information technology apocalypse that the West feared on Y2K (the year 2000) is a real possibility.
On August 25, before the Stuxnet story broke, Brandon Boyce reported on the website Neowin.net:
reported on the website Neowin.net:
The Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology (IROST), an organization directly connected to the Iranian government, is charged with evaluating and advising policymakers on science and technology issues. They are also host to a large FTP server full of pirated software. Searching the FTP you will be able to find a wide range of applications all legal to download and use if you are an Iranian citizen. The FTP server, which was discovered by TorrentFreak, was open to anyone around the world, but shortly after being discovered access was cut off. Initially, they password-protected the FTP and then they cut off access completely to anyone outside of Iran. The server was host to multiple versions of software applications, including Microsoft Office 97 to 2010 or Photoshop 5.5 through CS3, along with appropriate serial numbers, cracks and keygens.
Even the software that the Iranian authorities use to block Internet access is apparently stolen. Wikipedia reports, "The primary engine of Iran's censorship is the content-control software SmartFilter, developed by San Jose firm Secure Computing. However, Secure denies ever having sold the software to Iran, and alleges that Iran is illegally using the software without a license."
and Power Point presentation in the country is loaded with malware created by hostile intelligence services. Sabotage of industrial controls using Siemens' specialized software is only one possible target of cyber-war. Israel reportedly hacked Syrian air defenses in the course of the September 2007 attack on a nuclear reactor site. The spook site Debka.com, not always a reliable source, reports that malware already may have been planted in Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah missiles. But the most devastating effects of cyber-war may be felt in ordinary life.
Iranians, to be sure, can learn to program as well as anyone else. But a software industry depends on such preconditions as enforceable patents. The only success story for Iranian software to reach the Western media recently involves the California-trained programmers in Tehran who built the "Garshasp"
As the Washington Post reported on May 21, though, the "Garshasp" project is an exception that proves the rule. "For Iranians, who live with double-digit inflation, unemployment and constant political and judicial uncertainty, enterprises that do not yield almost instant results are typically regarded as lost undertakings. There are no copyright laws, and music, movies and computer games can be freely copied, distributed and sold."
cannot build its own, even if the sort of individual who excels at software development wanted to live in Iran. Most of those who can, leave. A 2002 study reported that four out of five Iranians who received rewards in international science competitions subsequently left Iran; too few Iranians have won international awards since then to gather comparable data. In 2006, the International Monetary Fund noted that Iran had the worst brain drain of 90 countries surveyed.
Iran has so few skilled programmers that it could be that the security services do not have the capacity to distinguish sabotage from incompetence. That may explain why Tehran blames foreign intelligence services for a recent succession of economic reverses, including the near-collapse of the local markets for gold and foreign exchange.
Iran's economy has teetered towards disaster since early 2008, as I reported at the time (
Asia Times Online, June 24, 2008). Official data at the time reported that Iranian households spent 10% more per month than they earned, a rough gauge of the size of the underground economy (smuggled consumer goods, alcohol, opium, prostitution and so forth).
Iranians coped with inflation in the 20% range by fiddling. Tehran's decision to lift fuel subsidies last month will put poorer households under water, and Iranian authorities have warned of possible riots. A run by foreign-exchange dealers on the Iranian rial reportedly led to street fighting between currency traders and police last week. After refusing to sell dollars to the market, Iranian banks on October 10 flooded the market with foreign currency to break the run.
How much of the country's economic and financial chaos is due to incompetence and theft, and how much reflects economic sabotage, may never be known, if the Cold War is any guide.
A number of commentators have mentioned the precedent of the "Farewell Dossier", an American intelligence operation that in 1982 lead to catastrophic damage to the Soviet Union's Siberian gas pipeline.
My old boss, Norman A Bailey, was then head of plans at the Reagan National Security Council, and deeply involved in the operation. Russia did not have the software engineers to design the required control software, and sent spies to steal it from a Canadian firm. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) learned of Russia's efforts and arranged for the Russians to steal doctored software. A pumping station exploded with a force equivalent to three kilotons of TNT.
I am personally aware of other instances of successful economic sabotage. Russia managed to "steal" American spy
that had been doctored by the CIA. They were turned over to engineers at Zeiss, East Germany's great optics firm, but they never quite worked properly.
After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the Zeiss team met with the American intelligence officer who designed the scam. "We thought that if only we could get copies of the original manuals, or talk to the American engineers, we could fix the problem" on the sensitive equipment. To my knowledge, the spy-camera story has never surfaced. Neither have numerous other instances of sabotage that American intelligence has no interest in revealing, and which the Russians are too embarrassed to talk about.
Russia at the height of the Cold War could not handle sophisticated programming and chip-making problems, despite its vast pool of skilled engineers and scientists. It is doubtful that the Iranians have the capacity to program a money-transfer system for a retail bank, or the traffic lights in Tehran, or an electricity distribution grid, or other commonplaces of modern life.
The rancor and disaffection of Iran's diminishing educated class is so great that the government will find very few local technicians whom it can trust, and even fewer capable of diagnosing a bug buried in thousands of lines of code, most of it written years ago by programmers who long since emigrated. Anyone who has managed large-scale information technology projects for corporations knows that the fog of war is nothing compared to the cloud of computation. And that is true under the most benign circumstances.
Tehran cannot be sure how any of its foreign-purchased weapons systems will perform, much less the nuclear reactor it sourced from Russia. Recently, I remonstrated with a Russian friend about his country's sale of nuclear technology to Iran. He said, "You know, sometimes Russian technology isn't so good. There are little problems with quality control, and accidents happen. Remember Chernobyl," he said, referring to the nuclear disaster on April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union).
The only weapons on which Iran can rely are unguided missiles that require no electronic controls and simply shoot in the general direction of a target. At relatively short range and in very large number, these are very effective weapons against Israeli cities, for example.
After the Stuxnet humiliation, and with great uncertainty about the usability of more sophisticated weapons, Iran is likely to risk a demonstration of its power through Hezbollah. The more successful the cyber-war attack on Iran's nuclear capacities, therefore, the more dangerous becomes southern Lebanon.
Sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Cairo, I overheard an English businessman embroiled in a protracted telephone conversation. I surmised that the man's interlocutor did not share his sense of urgency. "I need it now." Pause. "Yes, now." Long pause. Then finally, in exasperation, "No, not inshallah, now." more>>>
Mohammed, as you know, was the purrr-fect man, and as pure Muslims - or Pusslims, for short, you should aspire to live a purr-fect life. Don't miss it by a whisker, for that would be a catastrophe. From Halal Pet Products, with thanks to Esmerelda:
Thank you for visiting the site of Halal Pet Products Ltd, producers of the worlds first commercially produced meat based Halal cat food.
Firstly, there is of course no obligation in Islam on a cat to eat Halal food. The obligation is on Muslims themselves not to handle haram foodstuffs or feed it to either other humans or indeed animals. Muslims would also not willingly want to store haram food in their house.
Secondly, the growing importance of Islam amongst UK citizens and others around the world means that many people are attempting to adhere more strictly to their faith. Many are therefore horrified to discover that other cat foods on the market contain haram meat & meat derivatives. Those that have attempted to comply with their faith's requirement by buying fish based products are doubly concerned on discovering, that even in this supposedly harmless product the coating used on the food itself contains haram meat and even pork.
Muezza Pure, our premium brand of cat food (minimum 39% meat content) is the UK's first Halal pet food for cats. Itgives Muslim cat owners the choice and opportunity of purchasing a 100% Halal pet food for their cats, thus avoiding the need to compromise their beliefs by handling Haram food stuffs in their home.
Research indicates that the UK has over 2 million Muslims with 20% of them being cat owners. Our product aims to provide a Halal option for this customer base and also others that wish to provide their cat with a tasty, nutritious and healthy complete cat food.
And remember, Pusslims are the Best of Cats, and need the Best of Cat Foods for that all important deMOGraphic conquest. Eat up your Muezza and you'll be in your trillions before you can say inshallah.
This is the Whole Truth, not just a bit of KITman.
Watch this" Sacrificing Survivors" trailer for the New York Premiere
In the September edition of the NER, we published an article giving excerpts from the transcript of the new Christian Action Network (CAN) film, Sacrificied Survivors: the Untold Story of the ground Zero Mosque . The CAN films depicts the experiences of survivors and heartfelt losses of victim families and their opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque.
Watch this trailer about the film.
CAN is holding a premier of Sacrificed Survivors in New York City on October 28th. Here are the details:
The film includes undercover footage at the mosque-Yes, the controversial mosque is already constructed and holds services every Friday. The proposal in question is to expand this facility into a 13-story, $100 million Islamic center within eye's view of the former site of the World Trade Center.
"It is a 45-minute film that is fueled by the testimony of the survivors and the families of the victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001. It is about how they feel about the mosque being built on the site where their loved ones lost their lives," said Jason Campbell, CAN's Projects Director.
In "Sacrificed Survivors," CAN's staff go undercover into the mosque so the viewer can see the prayer room that is already being used and feel like they are a part of the drama that is unfolding in New York City...
Join CAN and PRB Films at the premeir of this film in New York City on October 28th, 2010 at 6:00 pm. The Event will take place at 3 West Club in New York City.
Peter Hitchens On His Visit To Gaza And The "West Bank"
Not great, with quite a few outrageous remarks (I've noted a few) that show a lack of understanding of the nature, and permanence, of the war against Israel (meaning; Hitchens is unable to come to grips with Islam), but when he sticks to direct observation of how the Arabs ("Palestiians") live, and compares how they live with what the outside world has been told, then he's a valuable witness. Otherwise, he shows his limits, his conventional understanding of men and events, and no undrstanding, or sympathy, apparently, for what the Mandate for Palestine was intended to achieve, and why. And the demographic and castral history of the area is beyond him. It's just too much, too complicated apparently, for him to study in detail. There are all kinds of "experts" on the "Arab-Israeli conflict" who are, in that respect, and in that lazy ignorance, exactly like him.
Lattes, beach barbecues (and dodging missiles) in the world's biggest prison camp
It is lunchtime in the world's biggest prison camp, and I am enjoying a rather good caffe latte in an elegant beachfront cafe. Later I will visit the sparkling new Gaza Mall, and then eat an excellent beef stroganoff in an elegant restaurant.
Perhaps it is callous of me to be so self-indulgent, but I think I at least deserve the coffee. I would be having a stiff drink instead, if only the ultra-Islamic regime hadn't banned alcohol with a harsh and heavy hand.
Just an hour ago I was examining a 90ft-deep smuggling tunnel, leading out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt. This excavation, within sight of Egyptian border troops who are supposed to stop such things, is - unbelievably - officially licensed by the local authority as a 'trading project' (registration fee £1,600).
Tale of two cities: Gaza's sparkling new shopping mall offers a stark contrast to the images of slums we are used to
It was until recently used for the import of cattle, chocolate and motorcycles (though not, its owner insists, for munitions or people) and at its peak earned more than £30,000 a day in fees.
But business has collapsed because the Israelis have relaxed many of their restrictions on imports, and most such tunnels are going out of business. While I was there I heard the whine of Israeli drones and the thunder of jet bombers far overhead.
Then, worryingly soon after I left, the area was pulverised with high explosive. I don't know if the Israeli air force waited for me to leave, or just walloped the tunnels anyway.
The Jewish state's grasp of basic public relations is notoriously bad. But the Israeli authorities certainly know I am here. I am one of only four people who crossed into the world's most misrepresented location this morning.
Don't, please, accuse of me of complacency or denying the truth. I do not pretend to know everything about Gaza. I don't think it is a paradise, or remotely normal. But I do know for certain what I saw and heard.
The new Gaza Mall
There are dispiriting slums that should have been cleared decades ago, people living on the edge of subsistence. There is danger. And most of the people cannot get out.
But it is a lot more complicated, and a lot more interesting, than that. In fact, the true state of the Gaza Strip, and of the West Bank of the Jordan, is so full of paradoxes and surprises that most news coverage of the Middle East finds it easier to concentrate on the obvious, and leave out the awkward bits.
Which is why, in my view, politicians and public alike have been herded down a dead end that serves only propagandists and cynics, and leaves the people of this beautiful, important part of the world suffering needlessly.
For instance, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently fawned on his Islamist hosts in Turkey by stating Gaza was a 'prison camp'. This phrase is the official line of the well-funded Arab and Muslim lobby, who want to make sure Israel is seen by the world as a villainous oppressor.
Well, Israeli soldiers can and do act with crude brutality. Israeli settlers can and do steal Arab water and drive Arabs off their land. Israeli politicians are often coarse and insensitive. ["steal Arab water"? "Throw Arabs off their land"? Is he unaware of the Mandate for Palestine? Does he not know where many of those "since-time-immemorial" Arabs came from, between 1900 and 1940? What is Hitchens talking about?]
The treatment of Israel's Arab citizens is one of the great missed opportunities of history, needlessly mean and short-sighted. [this is nonsense, and the only great "missed opportunity" was that of not immediae incorporation of the unallocated parts of the Mandate, that Israel always had superior title to, but not possesion so as to be able to enforce that title, until June 1967]. The seizure of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 were blunders, made worse by later folly. [the blunder was in not immediately and permanently annexing the "West Bank" before the "Palestiinian people" business got going, and when the close thing of srael's escape from destruction was still fresh in Western minds].
But if you think Israel is the only problem, or that Israelis are the only oppressors hereabouts, think again. Realise, for a start, that Israel no longer rules Gaza. Its settlements are ruins.
No Israelis can be found inside its borders. And, before you say 'but Israel controls the Gaza border', look at a map. The strip's southern frontier - almost as hard to cross as the Israeli boundary - is with Egypt. And Cairo is as anxious as Israel to seal in the Muslim militants of Hamas.
Gaza was bombed on the day I arrived in retaliation for a series of rocket strikes on Israel, made by Arab militants. Those militants knew this would happen, but they launched their rockets anyway. Many Gazans hate them for this.
Peter Hitchens by the rubble of a Palestinian ministry building destroyed by the IDF in the Gaza Strip
One, whom I shall call Ibrahim, told me how he had begged these maniacs to leave his neighbourhood during Israel's devastating military attack nearly two years ago. His wife was close to giving birth.
He knew the Israelis would quickly seek out the launcher, and that these men would bring death down on his home. But the militants sneered at his pleading, so he shoved his wife into his car and fled.
Moments after he passed the first major crossroads, a huge Israeli bomb burst on the spot where his car had been. The diabolical power of modern munitions is still visible, in the ruins of what was once a government building.
It looks as if a giant has chewed and smashed it, and then come back and stamped on it. If you can imagine trying to protect a pregnant woman from such forces, then you can begin to understand how complex it is living here, where those who claim to defend you bring death to your door.
For the Islamist rocket-firers are also the government here, supported by Iran and others who care more for an abstract cause than they do for real people. They claim that their permanent war with Israel is for the benefit of the Palestinian Arabs. But is it?
The true state of the Gaza Strip, and of the West Bank of Jordan, is full of paradoxes and surprises
Human beings will always strive for some sort of normal life. They do this even when bombs are falling and demagogues raging. Even when, as in Gaza, there is no way out and morality patrols sweep through restaurants in search of illicit beer and women smoking in public or otherwise affronting the 14th Century values of Hamas.
So I won't give the name of the rather pleasant establishment where young women, Islamic butterflies mocking the fanatics' strict dress code with bright make-up and colourful silken hijabs, chattered as they inhaled apple-scented smoke from their water-pipes.
Their menfolk, nearby, watched football on huge, flat-screen televisions. Nor will I say where I saw the Gazan young gathering for beach barbecues beneath palm-leaf umbrellas.
Of course this way of life isn't typical. But it exists, and it shows the 'prison camp' designation is a brain-dead over-simplification. If it is wrong for the rich to live next door to the desperate - and we often assume this when wecriticise Israel - then what about Gaza's wealthy, and its Hamas rulers?
They tolerate this gap, so they are presumably as blameworthy as the Israelis whose comfortable homes overlook chasms of poverty. Then there is the use of the word 'siege'.
Can anyone think of a siege in human history, from Syracuse to Leningrad, where the shops of the besieged city have been full of Snickers bars and Chinese motorbikes, and where European Union and other foreign aid projects pour streams of cash (often yours) into the pockets of thousands? Once again, the word conceals more than it reveals.
In Gaza's trapped, unequal society, a wealthy and influential few live in magnificent villas with sea views and their own generators to escape the endless power cuts.
Gaza also possesses a reasonably well-off middle class, who spend their cash in a shopping mall - sited in Treasure Street in Gaza City, round the corner from another street that is almost entirely given over to shops displaying washing machines and refrigerators.
Peter at the Sderot Police Station with Kassam rockets that have been fired into Israel from Gaza
Siege? Not exactly. What about Gaza's 'refugee camps'. The expression is misleading. Most of those who live in them are not refugees, but the children and grandchildren of those who fled Israel in the war of 1948.
All the other refugees from that era - in India and Pakistan, the Germans driven from Poland and the Czech lands, not to mention the Jews expelled from the Arab world - were long ago resettled.
Unbelievably, these people are still stuck in insanitary townships, hostages in a vast struggle kept going by politicians who claim to care about them. These places are not much different from the poorer urban districts of Cairo, about which nobody, in the Arab world or the West, has much to say.
It is not idle to say that these 'camps' should have been pulled down years ago, and their inhabitants rehoused. It can be done. The United Arab Emirates, to their lasting credit, have paid for a smart new housing estate with a view of the Mediterranean.
It shows what could happen if the Arab world cared as much as it says it does about Gaza. Everyone in Gaza could live in such places, at a cost that would be no more than small change in the oil-rich Arab world's pocket.
But the propagandists, who insist that one day the refugees will return to their lost homes, regard such improvements as acceptance that Israel is permanent - and so they prefer the squalor, for other people.
Those who rightly condemn the misery of the camps should ask themselves whose fault it really is. As so often in the Arab world, the rubbish-infested squalor of the streets conceals clean, private quarters, not luxurious and sometimes basic, but out of these places emerge each day huge numbers of scrubbed, neatly-uniformed children, on their way to schools so crammed that they have two shifts.
I wish I was sure these young people were being taught the principles of human brotherhood and co-existence. But I doubt it. On a wall in a street in central Gaza, a mural - clearly displayed with official approval - shows an obscene caricature of an Israeli soldier with a dead child slung from his bayonet.
A Palestinian woman holds her daughter as she sits in her family's tent, where she has lived since her home was destroyed in northern Gaza Strip
Next to it is written in Arabic 'Child Hunter'. Other propaganda, in English, is nearby. My guide is embarrassed by this racialist foulness. I wonder how so many other Western visitors have somehow failed to mention it in their accounts.
I was still wondering about this as I travelled to the short distance to the West Bank, where Israel still partly rules. I was the recipient of hospitality in many Arab homes - a level of generosity that should make Western people ashamed of their cold, neighbour-hating cities.
And once again I saw the outline of a society, slowly forming amid the wreckage, in which a decent person might live, work, raise children and attempt to live a good life. But I also saw and heard distressing things.
One - which I feel all of us should be aware of - is the plight of Christian Arabs under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. More than once I heard them say: 'Life was better for us under Israeli rule.'
One young man, lamenting the refusal of the Muslim-dominated courts to help him in a property dispute with squatters, burst out: 'We are so alone! All of us Christians feel so lonely in this country.'
This conversation took place about a mile from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where tourists are given the impression that the Christian religion is respected. Not really.
I was told, in whispers, of the unprintable desecration of this shrine by Palestinian gunmen when they seized the church in 2002 - 'world opinion' was exclusively directed against Israel. I will not name the people who told me these things.
I have also decided not to name another leading Christian Arab who told me of how his efforts to maintain Christian culture in the West Bank had met with official thuggery and intimidation.
My guide and host reckons there are 30,000 Christians in the three neighbouring municipalities of Bethlehem, Beit-Sahour and Beit- Jala. Soon there will be far fewer.
He has found out that 2,000 emigrated between 2001 and 2004, a process which has not stopped. What is most infuriating about this is that many Christians in Britain are fed propaganda blaming this on the Israelis.
Arabs can oppress each other, without any help from outside. Because the Palestinian cause is a favourite among Western Leftists, they prefer not to notice that it is largely an aggressive Islamic cause.
Palestinian supporters of the Islamic group Hamas raise their right index fingers in the air as a sign of loyalty
And in this part of the world, political correctness does not exist. Picture yourself on a comfortable sofa in an apartment in a West Bank town. Nearby runs the infamous, absurd, barrier dividing the Arab world from Israel.
Think about this wall. I acknowledge that it is hateful and oppressive - dividing men from their land, and (in one case) cutting across the playground of a high school. But I have concluded that it is a civilised response to the suicide bombing that led to its being built.
My host, a thoughtful family man who has spent years in Israeli prisons but is now sick of war, has been talking politics and history. His wife, though present, remains unseen.
Suddenly he begins to speak about the Jews. He utters thoughts that would not have been out of place in Hitler's Germany. This is what he has been brought up to believe and what his children's schools will pass on to them.
The heart sinks at this evidence of individual sense mixed up with evil and stupidity. It makes talk of a 'New Middle East' seem like twaddle. So, are we to despair? I am not so sure.
Not far from this spot there is an unmarked turning at a roundabout on the route back into Jerusalem. It's an unnumbered road running south from Route 437. About a hundred yards along, it is barred by concrete blocks. It is a ghost road.
If it ever opens, it will be part of a network of secure roads and tunnels that would link Nablus and Ramallah in the northern West Bank to Bethlehem and Hebron in the south.
It would enable people to do the normal things they want to do - visit relatives, go to work, go shopping. It would not make Arab Palestine a state. It has nothing to do with the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank - a problem made worse by Barack Obama's call for a moratorium, a demand even the Palestinian leadership had never made.
But it might help create a society in which a happy life was possible for many people. I suspect it is nearly finished. It is not the only sign that the human yearning for normality is strong. In Ramallah, unofficial capital of Arab Palestine, it is a pleasure to visit the busy streets around Manara Square at twilight, with the cafes and the shops invitingly bright.
A few years ago, the bullet-torn corpses of 'collaborators' were displayed here. Now the displays are of smart clothes - but not as smart as those in Ramallah's opulent shopping mall, stocked with designer goods, and with camel rides for the children outside.
Even in notorious Hebron in the south, famous for its massacres and its aggressive Israeli enclave, the mall culture is in evidence three miles from this seat of tension. And on the road from Hebron to Jerusalem stands a cut-price supermarket so cheap that Israeli settlers and Palestinians mingle happily at the cash tills.
I might add that an Arab intellectual, sitting in a Gaza cafe, recalled for me the happy days when Gazan women used to wear short skirts (now they all wear shrouds and veils) and you could get a beer by the beach.
But perhaps best of all was the comment of the Arab Israeli who mourned for 'the good old days before we had peace'. It may well be that no solution to the problem of Israel is possible[the "problem of Israel" is also "the problem of the entire West" though Hitchens does not recognize that] , and that it will all end, perhaps decades from now, in a nuclear fireball.
But if outside politicians, more interested in their reputations than in the lives of Arabs and Israelis, would only stop their search for a final settlement, might it be that people - left to their own devices - might find a way of living together, a way that was imperfect, but which no longer involved human beings being dissolved into hunks of flying flesh by high explosive?
Great Australians, II: The Dame. Dame Joan Sutherland, 'La Stupenda', 'Queen of Bel Canto'
Having just celebrated the career of a heroic Australian knight and rescuer of dhimmi Christians, I think it proper to also draw attention to another great Australian: in this case, a lovely lady whose life of song continuously celebrated one of the greatest gifts of Western civilisation. As such, it was also a continuous insult to the Islamic sharia ban on music (which ban rests, among other things, on a Hadith that tells us, nastily, that in 'on the day of resurrection allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress').
Dame Joan Sutherland, dubbed 'La Stupenda' by an Italian audience after a triumphant performance of the title role of Handel's 'Alcina' at La Fenice in 1960, died on 10 October 2010, in her home in Switzerland, aged 83.
'Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini has led tributes for Dame Joan Sutherland, the stunning Australian soprano who passed away at her Swiss home aged 83.
'Terracini said Dame Joan, who dazzled audiences worldwide from the 1950s until retiring in 1990, inspired a generation of young Australian singers.
"You can't overestimate the contribution that Dame Joan Sutherland made to the cultural life of Australia", Terracini told ABC News Breakfast.
'But certainly, specifically with opera, we wouldn't have the sort of operatic life we have in Australia now if it hadn't been for Dame Joan Sutherland.
"(She will be remembered for) the generosity of spirit she demonstrated in giving of herself so much and sharing that talent with so many Australians, and also younger singers she was tremendously interested in.
'Terracini described Dame Joan as a great communicator - both on and off stage. "When she came into the rehearsal room the whole place would light up, and I think in performances that joy communicated from the stage to an audience", Terracini said, recalling the late 1960s when he worked alongside Dame Joan. "I think she transcended not only the operatic form, but was a great communicator to the wider public..."
'Former Sydney Opera House chief Norman Gillespie called Dame Joan "One of the great operatic icons of the 20th century. Extraordinary range, dazzling range, extraordinary accuracy, extraordinary power. There really only was one voice like that, it was the great voice of the century", he said.
"New Zealand opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa also recalled Dame Joan's unique talent. "You will never ever hear another voice like that", she told the ABC. "I certainly haven't heard one like that in the last 40 years. It was elite, it was supreme, no-one could ever reach that. We've all tried, but I think with a lot of us it failed. Just listening to the articulation, the...athletics of the throat, she was just amazing. When you're young and stupid you actually feel you're almost equal," she added. "As time went on, the more I felt that I didn't deserve a place beside her at all".
'Milan's La Scala opera house, where Sutherland performed in the 1960s, hailed her as the "queen of bel canot" - a vocal style used in opera in the 18th and early 19th centuries. "This is how La Scala remembers Joan Sutherland: not just a master virtuoso, but an obligatory example for all those who have sung Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti after her", a statement said.
"Her voice...and her ability to interpret gave Italian bel canto the impulse of a rediscovery of forgotten or underestimated titles and above all the force of a new stylistic consciousness."...
'Dame Joan had been ill for some time and died at home with her husband, conductor Richard Bonynge, and son Adam at her side.
'Her funeral will be a small family commemoration'.
For more details, such as her friendship with Luciano Pavarotti, and a complete list of roles, her wikipedia biography is really quite good.