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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 13, 2011.
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Church tells schools that Pupils must not be forced to eat halal

From The Mail on Sunday

The Church of England has told its schools to ensure they are serving non-halal food after concerns that a number are only providing meat slaughtered according to Islamic law.

The official guidance was issued after Church members complained that the use of halal meat was effectively ‘spreading sharia law’ across Britain. The Church’s financial arm has also come under pressure to withdraw its investments – worth millions of pounds – in supermarkets that do not clearly label halal food.

More than 10,000 Christians, many of whom have reservations about eating meat from animals that are bled to death while an Islamic prayer is recited, have signed a petition calling for proper labelling.

Animal rights campaigners have also expressed anger because animals are often not stunned before their throats are cut with a sharp knife.

Alison Ruoff, a long-standing member  (and an admirable one too) of the Church’s ‘parliament’,the General Synod, said: ‘The Church is only just waking up to this. We have been pathetic and mealy-mouthed but we should be really concerned about this. There is a lot of fear about upsetting Muslims but as a Christian you have to stand up for Christian values. Because we are unwittingly eating halal meat, we are spreading the practice of sharia law.’

John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford and chair of the Board of Education, which runs more than 4,000 Church schools, told the General Synod in London last week that guidance had been sent across the country. The guidance said if halal meat was served in schools it should not be the only option and suppliers should be changed.

Mrs Ruoff has challenged the Church Commissioners, who manage the Church’s £4 billion assets, to sell its shares in supermarkets that did not clearly label halal food. The Rev Patrick Sookhdeo, an Anglican cleric who runs the international Barnabas Fund charity for Christians facing persecution, said some extremist Muslims viewed the growing  use of halal food as part of their efforts to ‘impose’ sharia law on the West.

Posted on 02/13/2011 5:25 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Greenfield on AOL & Huffpo

Daniel Greenfield writes at Sultan Knish:

AOL's purchase of Huffington Post is not the beginning of a liberal new media monopoly, rather it's the prolonged death rattle of a company that has money, but no reason for existing. AOL started out as the country's biggest service provider, and is now nothing more than a third rate imitation of Yahoo, which is also struggling to survive.

High profile white elephant purchases by desperate dot coms are nothing new. AOL has been doing that for years. It bought Bebo for 850 million dollars and then sold it for 10 million dollars. It bought Xdrive for 30 million and then tried to sell it for 5 million a few years later. Now Huffington Post joins the ranks of Bebo and Xdrive. Another acquisition by a troubled company that has lost its customer base and can't figure out how to get a new one, except by buying up companies tapped into the business model of two years ago.

AOL has tried to sell subscription services. It even tried to give away its services for free. People not only won't pay for AOL, they won't even take it for free. So now it's investing big in content, in paid blogging and content farm spam-- at exactly the time when social media is eclipsing search. But that fits with every stupid decision AOL has ever made. Right back to the AOL-Time Warner merger where AOL's CEO somehow convinced Time Warner's CEO that an ISP dependent on dial up customers in the age of broadband was the perfect company to take over a media empire. There wasn't a worse possible time to buy Huffington Post then during a downturn in liberal popularity and the rise of social media driven sharing.

The Huffington Post business model has worked out great for Arianna Huffington. AOL bought a company that was on track to becoming a white elephant left behind by a changing internet. But what worked for HuffPo isn't going to save AOL. The Huffington Post is a business disguised as political activism, which means that like Ralph Nader, it can rely on a lot of unpaid labor. AOL is still a business, just not a very good one. In the short term, AOL will pick up pageviews. In the long term, it makes Rupert Murdoch's purchase of MySpace look like sheer genius. A year from now, AOL will have new executives and will be frantically chasing after the latest already obsolete business model, whether it be micropayments or collective shopping. And the Huffington Post will either be rolled into whatever remains of AOL's content farms, or get sold off for a few million to some low end liberal outfit, maybe Current TV or the TV end of MSNBC.

Continue reading here.

Posted on 02/13/2011 6:35 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Dispatches tomorrow night - undercover islamic school.

Second verse, worse than the first. From the Sunday Mercury, a midlands paper.

YOUNG Muslims are being taught extremist views in Midland mosques, an undercover investigation has allegedly found. Shock footage of children being taught to hate non-Muslims and even being beaten by their teachers will be aired on Channel 4’s Dispatches tomorrow night.

A hidden camera installed at an unnamed faith school based in a Birmingham mosque recorded a preacher telling pupils: “The disbelievers are the worst creatures.’’ The schoolchildren, some as young as 11 years-old, are then told not to trust more liberal Muslims.

Their teacher said: “The person who’s got less than a fistful of beard, then you should stay away from him the same way you should stay away from a serpent or a snake.”

“The Hindus, they drink p***, I’ve told you this. Do they have any intellect? No.”

In more footage filmed at a mosque in Yorkshire, teenagers and a preacher are seen to be hitting younger children. Pupils as young as six are seen being slapped and kicked by their elders.

 Dispatches: Lessons in Hatred and Violence airs on Channel 4 at 8pm tomorrow night. Website here.

Posted on 02/13/2011 6:45 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 13 February 2011
A Dozen Bad Ideas

Mark Durie writes (with thanks to Doris Wise Montrose):

Here is a list of false beliefs and modes of thought which make it hard for people in the West to come to terms with the challenge of Islam today.  If you are deeply attached to any of these ideas or ways of thinking, you will have difficulty accepting the truth about Islam's teachings and their impact.

  1. The belief that all religions are the same. They are not.  Different faiths make different claims about what is true, and about what is right and wrong and produce radically different societies.  The same is true for different political ideologies: consider the different trajectories of North and South Korea.  Atheists have helped entrench this belief, because to acknowledge material differences between religions would undermine the atheist (and radical secularist) narrative.
     
  2. The belief that religion is irrelevant as a cause of anything.  According to this view, religion can be exploited or hijacked as an excuse or an instrument (e.g. of oppression – such as an ‘opiate of the masses’), but not an underlying cause of anything.  Marxist ideology has made a significant contribution to establishing this belief. In accordance with this assumption, security analysts all over the Western world presuppose that religion cannot be the cause of terrorism: so they and the politicans they advise must say that terrorists have ‘hijacked’ religion.
     
  3. The belief that we all worship the same God. We do not. Thousands of different gods are worshipped by people on this earth.  These gods manifest different characteristics, and make different demands.  The worship of them forms very different kinds of people and communities.
     
  4. The belief that one can justify anything from any sacred text. This is not true.  It is a postmodern fallacy that all meaning is in the eye of the beholder.  Certain texts lends themselves to supporting particular beliefs and practices much more than others.
     
  5. The belief that the Christian Reformation was a progressive movement. This is not true.  In fact the Christian Reformers aimed to go back to the example and teaching of Christ and the apostles.  Throughout the  whole medieval period reformatio always meant renewing the foundations by going back to one’s origins.   Understanding ‘reformation’ in this way, Al Qa'ida is a product of an Islamic reformation, i.e. it is an attempt to go back to the example and teaching of Muhammad.
     
  6. The belief that dispelling ignorance will increase positive regard for the other. This was the message of Harper Lee’s powerfull novel To Kill a Mockingbird (pub. 1960). Although it is true that racial hatred can feed on and exploit ignorance, accurately dispelling ignorance sometimes rightly increases the likelihood of rejecting the beliefs or practices of another. It is illogical to assume that those opposed to a belief are the ones who are most ignorant about it.  Ignorance can breed positive regard for what is wrong just as easily as it can breed prejudice against what is good.
     
  7. The belief that everyone is good and decent, and if you just make a sincere effort to get to know another person, you will always come to respect them. This is not universally true.  Holding this view is a luxury.  Those who have experienced life under evil governments or in dysfunctional societies are shocked at the naivety of this assumption.
     
  8. The belief that putting something in context will always produce a more innocuous interpretation.This is not true.  Attending properly to context can make a text even more offensive than it would otherwise have been.  Conversely, if you take something out of context you may regard it more positively than you ought to.  In reality, radical interpretations of the Qur’an, such as are used to support terrorism, almost always involve an appeal to a rich understanding of the context in which the Qur’an was revealed, including the life of Muhammad.  On the other hand, many have taken peaceful verses of the Qur’an out of context, in order to prove that Islam is a peaceful religion.
     
  9. The belief that extremism is the problem, and moderation the solution. Warnings against taking things to extremes are as old as Aristotle.  More recently the idea was promoted by Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer (pub. 1951) that mass movements are interchangeable, and an extremist is just as likely to become a communist or a fascist.  He claimed that it was the tendency to extremism itself which is the problem.  This idea has become very unhelpful and generates a lot of confusion. ‘Moderation’ or ‘laxity’ in belief or practice can be destructive and even dangerous, e.g. in medical surgery or when piloting a plane.  Ideas that are good and true deserve strong, committed support, and the best response to bad ideas is rarely lukewarm moderation. 
     
  10. The belief that the West is always guilty. This irrational and unhelpful idea is taught in many schools today and has become embedded in the world views of many.  It is essentially a silencing strategy, sabotaging critical thinking.
     
  11. Two wrongs make a right reasoning. E.g. Someone says that jihad is a bad part of Islam, to which a defender of Islam says ‘What about the crusades?’  Someone says the Qur’an incites violence, to which someone else replies ‘But there are violent verses in the Bible.’  This kind of reasoning is a logical fallacy.
    A specific sub-type of this fallacy is tu quoque reasoning:
    Tu quoque (‘you too’) reasoning: you can’t challenge someone else’s beliefs or actions if you (or your group) have personally ever done anything wrong or have objectionable characteristics. E.g. A Catholic says jihad is bad, but someone counters that popes supported the Crusades. This is a sub-type of the ‘two wrongs make a right’ reasoning: it too is a logical fallacy.
  12. Belief in progress: everything will always get better in the end. This is a false, though seductive bit of wishful thinking.  Bad ideas have bad consequences.  Good societies can easily become bad ones if they exchange good ideas for bad ones.  Bad situations can last for a very long time, and keep getting progressively worse.  Many countries have deteriorated for extended periods during the past 100 years.  It is not true that ideologies or religions will inevitably improve or become more ‘moderate’ as time passes, as if by some magical process of temporal transformation.  But things are not always going to get better.
 
Posted on 02/13/2011 6:50 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Suhail Khan at CPAC: "There is no Muslim Brotherhood in the US"

As the late President Ronald Reagan used to opine: "There he goes again." We could say the same for Suhail A. Khan, sefl-proclaimed 'moderate Muslim" who is a Washington lawyer, Senior Fellow for Christian-Muslim Understanding of the Institute for Global Engagement, a former senior Bush political appointee, and board director of the American Conservative union- the sponsor of this weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, DC. Suhail Khan is a palpable example of radical Muslim infilitration at the highest levels of our political institutions in America. Read what Frank Gaffney, Jr. President of the Center for Security Policy (CSP) wrote about Khan's ascension to the board of the ACU  in this 2007 FrontPageMagazine article, "Kahn Job.".  Diana West in her current weekly column "No matter their U.S. name, they're the Muslim Brotherhood," cited what Gaffney had chronciled as the Khan family connections to radical Islamic groups, part of the Muslim Brotherhood  in America:

But could it also come from a former Bush administration appointee? A board director of the American Conservative Union (ACU), sponsor of the C-PAC convention in Washington, D.C., where the newest batch of 2012 presidential hopefuls have been speech-o-flexing before 10,000 grassroots activists?

The surprise answer is yes. The former Bush official and ACU board member who I am quoting above is Suhail Khan, a protege, you might say, of the weirdly influential, not-very-conservative activist Grover Norquist. Khan's shocking quotation -- shocking, that is, for a classic conservative, but not for a classical jihadist -- comes from a 1999 speech Khan gave at another convention, that of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

As Suhail Khan has said himself, his father, Mahboob Khan, helped found and was very active in ISNA. He said so in that same 1999 speech, further pledging as his "life's work, inspired by my dear father's shining legacy … to work for the umma," which means transnational Islam. According to a key internal document of the Muslim Brotherhood, ISNA is a Muslim Brotherhood front, probably the largest one in America. Which means that no matter what CNN's Anderson Cooper ignorantly accepted from Khan as fact recently, Khan's father, Mahboob Khan, was part of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikhwan) in America.

His enabler is none other than Grover Norquist, Republican K Street lobbyist king, President of Americans for Tax Reform  who was viewed as untouchable by many because of his alleged co-authorship of the 1994 GOP Contract with Anerica and the Bush tax cuts. Norquist had ready access to the oval office in the Bush Administration via Karl Rove and facilitated Muslim outreach during the fractitous 2000 Election campaign. Remember the photos of convicted felon Sam Al Arian, former University of South Florida computer science orofessor and his family at the gathering of 160 Muslim activitts in the Bush Rose Garden in  June 2001. Al Arian had funelled funds to Palestinian terror group Palestinian Islamic. Then there was Norquist's association with Abdurahman Alamoudi, now serving a term of 23 years as a convicted felow in a federal prison for funneling funds to al  Qaeda. Norquist and Alamoudi had founded the Islamic Free Market Institute. Paul Sperry had documented these an other aspect in his groundbreaking book, Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington. This weekend at CPAC an intrepid band of conservatrives and anti-Jihads led by Gaffney of the CSP including several members of the Florida Security Council (FSC), Tom Trento, Randy McDaniels, and  J. Mark Campbell are assisting in documenting the Norquist radical Islam connection to the ACU. 

Watch this fascinating brief video posted on Pajamas media PJ Tatler of a confrontation yesterday between J. Mark Campbell of the FSC and Suhail Khan during which Campbell asks Khan if the Muslim Brotherhood exists in America. Note Suhail Khan's response: 'there is no Muslim Brotherhood in the US"

Here is the full PJ tatler post of the confrontation:

Video: ACU’s Suhail Khan declares that there is no Muslim Brotherhood in the United States

Suhail Khan is a member of the American Conservative Union’s board of directors. ACU hosts and operates the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual conference, and during this week’s CPAC conference in Washington, Khan has come under fire for alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood. During a panel on conservative inclusion at CPAC on Saturday, Khan flatly declared that there is no Muslim Brotherhood in the United States. The Tatler has obtained video of Khan’s remarks, below.

The Muslim Brotherhood identifies many front groups in their own internal documents, documents which were entered into evidence by federal prosecutors in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial. A simple Google search of “Muslim Brotherhood United States” also easily proves Khan’s assertion to be false. Numerous groups working in the United States, in various capacities, have been provably linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. To note but one prominent example, the Council on American Islamic Relations, CAIR, has been identified by the FBI as a group connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas. Hamas itself is the Palestinian affiliate for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The video was shot and brought to PJTV by the Florida Security Council, floridasecuritycouncil.org, led by Tom Trento, J. Mark Campbell and Randy McDaniels.

Posted on 02/13/2011 7:32 AM by Jerry Gordon
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Maureen Dowd: "Je Ne Regret Rien Pas" Except, Now, That Very Phrase

Like other columnists for The New York Times, Maureen Dowd does not have duties that are onerous. She need only produce a column -- or is possibly two? -- a week.. The column need not run, indeed must not run, more than about a thousand words. For this she receives, I have learned, several hundred thousand dollars a year. And that does not count the speaking fees she can command because she is a columnist for The New York Times.

True, she's not a self-promoting idiot like Friedman or Kristof. She's way above them.She can be very funny, at times, as she was with Bill Clinton, while both Friedman and Kristof, though they like  to think themselves, and be thought of, as possessing an easygoing colloquial humor, as the essentially good guys they see themelsves to be, the kind of regular guys who can use humor as well as anyone, are deeply and relentlessly unfunny. They're not quite the same in their lack of humor and essential worthlessness. Friedman likes to retail breathless accounts of what he learns on his trips around the world, to the powerful, and Kristof likes to tell us how his heart bleeds for this group of people and that group (though he is incapable of understanding, much less furthering the understanding of others, about the things he reports on, such as the mass-murdering in Darfur)

But when Maureen Down puts out a Sunday column, as she did today,  and chooses to use a line of French, and when the line is as simple as the one she wrote, she should avoid embarrassment by checking with others. This wasn't a complicated line. It was the first month, or possibly first week, of first-year Freshman French. For her howler today -- "Je Ne Regret Rien Pas" -- was wrong in not one but several different ways. It was wrong as to the spelling of the verb, and even more embarrassingly wrong with the pleonasm of the negation:  no "pas" is necesary, and the verb regretter requires a first-person singular "regrette" -- so that if she were writing correct French, the line attributed to the man she condescedingly calls "Rummy" would read "Je ne regrette rien."

Is it just a little thing? Or is it, given the time she has to prepare this column, a carelessness that is telling? She didn't bother to check the correctnees of her French phrase-making, and that leads one to suspect that she may not check, or as others may not check, the things they assert. It happens all the time.

It's easy to find what's wrong with her line of French. You can pardon her French. But you can't pardon other mistakes, made either by her, or much much more often, by her much dumber colleagues, Friedman and Kristof, when they assert things -- all the time -- that are not true.

For example, there's one statement by Nicholas "Heart-On-My-Sleeve" Kristof, in his column today,  an assertion tossed-off about Israel, that is both vicious, and untrue.

I won't bother to post it here..You can read Kristof's mush, (so similar to Friedman's contemporaneous gush elsewhere on the page) and find it for yourself.

Maureen Dowd is better than that. Or can be. And should be.

Posted on 02/13/2011 9:40 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 February 2011
A Musical Interlude: Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (Edith Piaf)

Listen here.

Posted on 02/13/2011 9:58 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 February 2011
An Exodus Of Tunisians Toward Europe

From lefigaro.fr:

Ces Tunisiens sans repères qui fuient leur pays


Par lefigaro.fr
13/02/2011
En cinq jours, environ 5000 immigrants, pour la plupart Tunisiens, ont débarqué sur la petite île italienne de Lampedusa.
En cinq jours, environ 5000 immigrants, pour la plupart Tunisiens, ont débarqué sur la petite île italienne de Lampedusa. Crédits photo : STRINGER/ITALY/REUTERS

L'incertitude économique et politique a poussé des milliers de Tunisiens à rejoindre les côtes européennes ces derniers jours. L'Italie a proclamé samedi l'état d'urgence humanitaire.

La petite île italienne de Lampedusa se sent dépassée. En cinq jours, ce sont environ 5000 immigrants, pour la plupart Tunisiens, qui y ont débarqué, selon les garde-côtes italiens. Sur la seule nuit de samedi à dimanche, un millier de personnes sont arrivées illégalement. «La situation est difficile», a reconnu le commandant du port de Lampedusa Antonio Morana, «les débarquements se poursuivent à un rythme incessant».

L'incertitude économique et politique règne toujours en Tunisie, alors que le pays s'apprête à fêter lundi son premier mois depuis la chute du régime de Ben Ali. Le gouvernement de transition reste sous forte pression sociale et politique. Les inquiétudes liées à la reconstruction ont poussé des milliers de Tunisiens à fuir leur pays et à tenter de rejoindre clandestinement les côtes européennes. Un voyage qui n'est pas sans risque. Un jeune Tunisien s'est noyé et un autre était porté disparu samedi, après le naufrage d'une barque transportant 12 immigrants, a rapporté l'agence tunisienne TAP.

 

État d'urgence en Italie

Face à cette vague d'immigration, l'Italie a proclamé samedi l'état d'urgence humanitaire. La veille, elle avait demandé l'aide de l'Union européenne et «le déploiement immédiat d'une mission Frontex d'interceptation et de patrouille au large des côtes de Tunisie pour le contrôle des flux», mettant en garde contre le risque d'une «crise humanitaire». La proclamation de l'état d'urgence permet notamment l'utilisation rapide de ressources financières spéciales. Les immigrants tunisiens recevront de l'aide «mais ils ne peuvent pas rester sur le territoire italien», a souligné le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Franco Frattini, indiquant qu'ils seront rapatriés.

Selon le Haut commissariat de l'ONU aux réfugiés (HCR), certains de ces immigrants «fuient la pauvreté et les grèves», d'autres «ont demandé l'asile politique», et enfin, quelques-uns «disent qu'ils ve ulent juste attendre et voir ce qui se passera en Tunisie». Pour les autorités tunisiennes, la bonne marche de la transition politique dépend en premier lieu de la relance de l'activité économique. C'est pourquoi elles ont multiplié les appels à la communauté internationale pour un soutien à l'économie du pays.

 

La nécessaire relance de l'économie

Le secteur touristique, qui couvre 60% du déficit de la balance commerciale et représente 6,5% du PIB tunisien, a été particulièrement touché par les semaines de chaos qui ont précédé la chute de Ben Ali et le flou qui a suivi. Sur 10 millions d'habitants, il emploie plus de 350.000 personnes. Cette semaine, le nouveau ministre du Tourisme, Mehdi Houas, faisait état d'une chute de 40% des chiffres du tourisme pour le mois passé (entrées et recettes), par rapport à janvier 2010.

La situation devrait toutefois s'améliorer, avec le retour progressif des touristes dans certaines régions. Samedi, la France a ainsi levé ses restrictions de voyages vers des villes côtières tunisiennes et l'île de Djerba. L'Allemagne va aussi donner son feu vert pour les zones balnéaires de la côte est, a déclaré le ministre des Affaires étrangères Guido Westerwelle, cité par la télévision tunisienne.

Restent à régler les problèmes de fond de l'économie tunisienne : une masse de chômeurs diplômés (20% des sans emplois); un client principal, l'Europe (77% des exportations), qui va mal ; de nouveaux concurrents asiatiques qui cassent les prix, notamment dans l'industrie du textile. Après 24 ans de règne de Ben Ali, la Tunisie se caractérise «par le nombre extrêmement faible de grandes (0,4 % du total des entreprises) et même de moyennes entreprises (0,3 % ou 1,7 %)», relève Béatrice Hibou, économiste au CERI-Sciences Po. Enfin, selon de nombreux observateurs, la corruption devrait survivre à la dictature, bien qu'à une moindre échelle. Un contexte qui est «peu propice aux investissements», prévient Jean-Raphaël Chaponnière, économiste à l'Agence française pour le développement (AFD).

Posted on 02/13/2011 10:41 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Can't Congress Foil The 100-Million-Dollar Scheme Of War Profiteer And Influence-Peddler Peter Galbraith?

Here is the story, from 2009, in The Times. I've posted that story here, and made other comments here.

Here is a comment on Peter Galbraith's behavior in Iraq, when he was supposedly helping to further the American effort and, in a part  of the world where business is done through whom-you-know methods, he had no trouble convincing the Kurds that if they hired him they would get American backing, and so they did, though there was no need to do so. In other words, Peter Galbraith saw his opportunity to exploit this local misunderstanding of American politics, to make the Kurds think he was worth every penny of what has turned out be a bonanza -- a disgusting bonanza -- for him, of over 100 billion dollars.

This matter should be investigated by Congress. Exactly how he used his position, and his name, to convince others -- all the while supposedly working for American interests -- that they were, with him, buying influence, should come out. He may be unembarrasable.

But that's not the point. The point is to block this deal, to prevent Peter Galbraith from  from pocketing this grotesque sum, from getting away with this. And to make sure that no other, similar would-be war profiteers, get away with it either. No one should be allowed to trade, in a war zone, on his presumed influence to enrich himself. Not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan (just what is Zalmay Khalilzad doing there anway), not anywhere.

Posted on 02/13/2011 10:50 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Talking of bad French ...

Eric tries to better himself, but, as Terence Rattigan said in French Without Tears: “Il a des idées au-dessus de sa gare”.

 

Posted on 02/13/2011 11:27 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Vagueness is all

Hey!

I was kind of reading this article in City Journal and I'm, like, OMG! This is, like, really amazing - this stuff is kind of out there?

My acquaintance with Vagueness began in the 1980s, that distant decade when Edward I. Koch was mayor of New York and I was writing his speeches. The mayor’s speechwriting staff was small, and I welcomed the chance to hire an intern. Applications arrived from NYU, Columbia, Pace, and the senior colleges of the City University of New York. I interviewed four or five candidates and was happily surprised. The students were articulate and well informed on civic affairs. Their writing samples were excellent. The young woman whom I selected was easy to train and a pleasure to work with. Everything went so well that I hired interns at every opportunity.

Then came 1985.

The first applicant was a young man from NYU. During the interview, he spiked his replies so heavily with “like” that I mentioned his frequent use of the word. He seemed confused by my comment and replied, “Well . . . like . . . yeah.” Now, nobody likes a grammar prig. All’s fair in love and language, and the American lingo is in constant motion. “You should,” for example, has been replaced by “you need to.” “No” has faded into “not really.” “I said” is now “I went.” As for “you’re welcome,” that’s long since become “no problem.” Even nasal passages are affected by fashion. Quack-talking, the rasping tones preferred by many young women today, used to be considered a misfortune.

In 1985, I thought of “like” as a trite survivor of the hippie sixties. By itself, a little slang would not have disqualified the junior from NYU. But I was surprised to hear antique argot from a communications major looking for work in a speechwriting office, where job applicants would normally showcase their language skills. I was even more surprised when the next three candidates also laced their conversation with “like.” Most troubling was a puzzling drop in the quality of their writing samples. It took six tries, but eventually I found a student every bit as good as his predecessors. Then came 1986.

As the interviews proceeded, it grew obvious that “like” had strengthened its grip on intern syntax. And something new had been added: “You know” had replaced “Ummm . . .” as the sentence filler of choice. The candidates seemed to be evading the chore of beginning new thoughts. They spoke in run-on sentences, which they padded by adding “and stuff” at the end. Their writing samples were terrible. It took eight tries to find a promising intern. In the spring of 1987 came the all-interrogative interview. I asked a candidate where she went to school.

“Columbia?” she replied. Or asked.

“And you’re majoring in . . .”

“English?”

All her answers sounded like questions. Several other students did the same thing, ending declarative sentences with an interrogative rise. Something odd was happening. Was it guerrilla grammar? Had college kids fallen under the spell of some mad guru of verbal chaos? I began taking notes and mailed a letter to William Safire at the New York Times, urging him to do a column on the devolution of coherent speech. Undergraduates, I said, seemed to be shifting the burden of communication from speaker to listener. Ambiguity, evasion, and body language, such as air quotes—using fingers as quotation marks to indicate clichés—were transforming college English into a coded sign language in which speakers worked hard to avoid saying anything definite. I called it Vagueness.

By autumn 1987, the job interviews revealed that “like” was no longer a mere slang usage. It had mutated from hip preposition into the verbal milfoil that still clogs spoken English today. Vagueness was on the march. Double-clutching (“What I said was, I said . . .”) sprang into the arena. Playbacks, in which a speaker re-creates past events by narrating both sides of a conversation (“So I’m like, ‘Want to, like, see a movie?’ And he goes, ‘No way.’ And I go . . .”), made their entrance. I was baffled by what seemed to be a reversion to the idioms of childhood. And yet intern candidates were not hesitant or uncomfortable about speaking elementary school dialects in a college-level job interview. I engaged them in conversation and gradually realized that they saw Vagueness not as slang but as mainstream English. At long last, it dawned on me: Vagueness was not a campus fad or just another generational raid on proper locution. It was a coup. Linguistic rabble had stormed the grammar palace. The principles of effective speech had gone up in flames.

In 1988, my elder daughter graduated from Vassar. During a commencement reception, I asked one of her professors if he’d noticed any change in Vassar students’ language skills. “The biggest difference,” he replied, “is that by the time today’s students arrive on campus, they’ve been juvenilized. You can hear it in the way they talk. There seems to be a reduced capacity for abstract thought.” He went on to say that immature speech patterns used to be drummed out of kids in ninth grade. “Today, whatever way kids communicate seems to be fine with their high school teachers.” Where, I wonder, did Vagueness begin? It must have originated before the 1980s. “Like” has a long and scruffy pedigree: in the 1970s, it was a mainstay of Valspeak, the frequently ridiculed but highly contagious “Valley Girl” dialect of suburban Los Angeles, and even in 1964, the film Paris When It Sizzles lampooned the word’s overuse. All the way back in 1951, Holden Caulfield spoke proto-Vagueness (“I sort of landed on my side . . . my arm sort of hurt”), complete with double-clutching (“Finally, what I decided I’d do, I decided I’d . . .”) and demonstrative adjectives used as indefinite articles (“I felt sort of hungry so I went in this drugstore . . .”).

Is Vagueness simply an unexplainable descent into nonsense? Did Vagueness begin as an antidote to the demands of political correctness in the classroom, a way of sidestepping the danger of speaking forbidden ideas? Does Vagueness offer an undereducated generation a technique for camouflaging a lack of knowledge?

I'm, like, whatever?

Posted on 02/13/2011 1:19 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 13 February 2011
I'm not a pheasant plucker ...

... I'm the pheasant plucker's son. I'm only plucking pheasants till the pheasant plucker comes. This hair-splitting defence might work for pheasants, but when it comes to eyebrows, you're an accessory. Islam-online tweezes out these highbrow matters:

As for removing the hair from between the eyebrows, it is lawful, because it is not part of the eyebrows. [Not any more - M.J.]  But as for plucking the eyebrows, it is forbidden and not permissible in Islam, according to the Hadith: 'May Allah's curse be inflicted upon women who pluck their eyebrows, and women hired to do this.'

What is prohibited is an-Nams, which denotes removing the hair of the eyebrows by plucking in order to make it thin. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have cursed both women who do the plucking and those who seek to have it done. (Reported by Abu Dawud)"

Those plucking bastards.

You can also read:

Straightening the Eyebrows

If you are still in need of more information, don't hesitate to contact us. Do keep in touch. May Allah guide us all to the straight path!

No pun, on past Islamic form, intended. Not now, not ever.

Posted on 02/13/2011 2:40 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 13 February 2011
A Musical Interlude: Was That The Human Thing To Do? (Anson Weeks Orch., voc. Bill Moreing)

Listen here.

Posted on 02/13/2011 7:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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