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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
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 Monday, 18, 2006.
Monday, 18 December 2006
There was a young fellow from...

A town in Austria, with heartfelt thanks to Marisol in the comments. And to think people complained about living in Ramsbottom. Where next with the limerick, though? Here are some things you may not know about this small town near Salzburg, which did not feature in The Sound of Music:

The village is known to have existed as “Fucking” since at least 1070 and is named after a man from the 6th century called Focko. “Ing” is an old Germanic suffix meaning “people”; thus Fucking, in this case, means “place of Focko’s people”.

The settlement’s most famous feature is a traffic sign with its name on it beside which English-speaking tourists often stop to have their photograph taken. It is a commonly stolen street sign. Significant amounts of public funds are spent on replacing the stolen signs. In August 2005 the road signs were replaced with theft-proof signs welded to steel and secured in concrete to make the signs harder to take.

In 2004, owing to the stolen signs and embarrassment over the name, a vote was held on changing the name, but the town's residents voted against doing so.

Coincidentally there are two small municipalities just over the border in Bavaria, Germany, called Petting and Kissing.

It is heartwarming to see that Focko's people stood firm over the name change. Now try to read the next sentence without giggling:

Residents of the village are locally known as 'fuckfolk'.

Do they drive around in a Fuckvolkswagen? Ein Fuckvolk, ein Fuckreich ....

Posted on 12/18/2006 4:01 AM by Mary Jackson
Monday, 18 December 2006
Many hands make a good broth

It is very tempting to challenge the lugubrious, gnarled Norfolk peasant who constantly rains on our parade with proverbs. Why can't beggars at least try to be choosers? Yes, there is many a slip 'twixt cup and lip, but we can hope it gets there in the end, can't we? Still, even if they are generally miserable, being the accumulated wisdom and bitter experience of generations, our proverbs make sense to us. In his Spectator review of David Crystal's As They Say in Zanzibar: Proverbial Wisdom from Around the World, Bevis Hillier gives us a few examples that we may find hard to apply in our everyday lives:

You don’t need to be xenophobic or a racist to find some of the foreign proverbs utterly bizarre and to wonder what possible application they could have. ‘Add legs to the snake after you have finished drawing it’ (China). ‘Slowly but surely the excrement of foreign poets will come to your village’ (Mali). ‘Never bolt your door with a boiled carrot’ (Ireland). And ‘They must have clean fingers who would blow another’s nose’ (Denmark).

These oddities, however, are far exceeded by sayings that are sophisticated, witty or wise. ‘Do not blame God for having created the tiger, but thank Him for not having given it wings’ (Ethiopia). ‘Those who have free seats at a play hiss first’ (China). ‘If power can be bought, then sell your mother to get it; you can always buy her back later’ (Ghana). ‘A fire in the heart makes smoke in the head’ (Germany). ‘If familiarity were useful, water wouldn’t cook fish’ (Cameroon). ‘Peace makes money and money makes war’ (France). And ‘The echo knows all languages’ (Finland). That last one is poetic; so is the suggestion from China that the faculty of love need never atrophy: ‘If I keep a green bough in my heart, a singing-bird will come.’

Call me a chauvinist, but one of the convictions this book has given me is that British is best. More specifically, English. Our proverbs are wonderfully concentrated, pithy and telling. ‘Handsome is as handsome does’; ‘One swallow does not make a summer’; ‘Still waters run deep’; ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’; ‘Faint heart never won fair lady.’ I notice how many English proverbs derive their strength from being entirely of single-syllable words. ‘All is fair in love and war’; ‘Make hay while the sun shines’; ‘What goes up must come down’; ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ — I could cite many more, but enough is as good as a feast.

Posted on 12/18/2006 4:54 AM by Mary Jackson
Monday, 18 December 2006
Re: Le Utility del Chose Excusera le Noisomeness del Stink

I found this post, with its apparent franglais title,  fascinating. I had never thought about why we say "last will and testament" and other "doublets", but I suppose it's obvious when you do think about it. "Aiding and abetting", though, are surely both from Old French? There must be other examples.

Many people think that "unlawful" and "illegal" are synonymous. This is not true. The first means "against the law". The second is a sick bird.

I never say "abet" on its own. Does anybody?

"Le Utility del Chose Excusera le Noisomeness del Stink." Del is a shortened version of Derek, made famous by the the TV character Del Boy in the sitcom Only Fools and Horses. Del Boy is a dodgy geezer and a wide boy, who manages to create a noisome stink without being of any obvious utility, so I am pleased to see he finds his way into this sentence twice.

Posted on 12/18/2006 6:30 AM by Mary Jackson
Monday, 18 December 2006
While Leaving Iraq

Surely the southern Sudanese, and at least some group in Darfur, can now beg the Americans to come in, and then the Americans should promptly accede. This should be done right now, without the Americans waiting to leave Iraq. Of course, the Americans should leave Iraq, and that prompt withdrawal should be accompanied by similar measures that will make it clear that the Americans are not leaving Iraq because they were defeated, but because they intend to more effectively counter the varied weapons of Jihad.

Other moves might include, for example, discussion of necessary changes in immigration policy all over the West, loud noises made about security threats to NATO and the danger from Muslims "in Europe seizing control of weapons and armories including nuclear weapons" -- a subject that should be discussed, written about, worried about, and made the subject of great interest right now, all over the nation-states that constitute the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In other words, American (and other Western troops) in the Sudan, as well as Western military aid to Ethiopia or rather to its Christians, can do much to demoralize and dishearten jihadist Muslims throughout black Africa. Those troops and that military aid should be accompanied by a large and well-financed propaganda campaign devoted to the subject of the long and continuing Arab slave trade, and the Arab use of Islam as a vehicle for Arab imperialism, and the mocking of those blacks in the West who have been fooled into becoming pseudo-Arabs, with Arab names and subservience to the Arab National Religion (hence my request for someone to come up with the version of the epithet "Uncle Tom" that could apply to an islamized, arabized black man -- a term that needs to be created, for it could be an effective weapon of ridicule, one making the mahdi-brays of this world the butt of jokes, rather than what they think they are). And anything that can be done to split black Africa from the dominating Arabs and Muslims might also help, if properly exploited, to limit the effectiveness of those well-financed campaigns of dangerous Da'wa in our prisons, especially in the United States and Great Britain. Those Da’wa efforts are directed particularly at black prisoners -- ones who are disaffected and Searching for an Answer. But they must be made to understand that that Answer is Not the Arab National Religion.

For god's sake, is there nowhere in the Pentagon an office devoted solely to figuring out how best to demonstrate resolve while, at the same time, leaving Iraq so that we can take advantage of fissures within the Camp of Islam, just as Muslims in Europe have been exploiting for years the fissures within the Camp of the Infidels, playing especially on the coarse anti-Americanism and the inextinguishable though at times containable antisemitism of too many in Europe?

And there should also be, right next to that office, one labelled "Black Africa" and dedicated to figuring out how to support the Christians in the Sudan, in Nigeria, and in Ethiopia (all of whom have been the victims or targets of violent Jihad -- i.e., Jihad pursued through the instrument of qital or combat). That support should extend, indeed, up and down both sides of the Continent, even in places where the Muslim pressure is hardly noticed in the West but is very clear to the black Christians themselves, as in the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Liberia, Togo, Uganda (when Idi Amin was in power), Kenya, Tanzania, and in many other places.

But one suspects that there is not the Big Office devoted to coming up with a To-Do List of things that must be done before (that is, right now) and during and after the American withdrawal from Iraq, which must be pursued whatever our president, that Captain Queeg, that Man Without A Country, keeps insisting on. This is a democracy, and it is time for the village elders (not the Bakerites of course, not the collaborators of the Raymond-Close variety, but whoever can be rounded up to represent the untainted and the intelligent) to tell this Man Without A Country that the Iraq-the-Modelling Play-Dough just has to be put away. Recess is over.

Posted on 12/18/2006 6:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
The Awful Truth

A poster at JihadWatch recently asked: "There is an excellent PhD just waiting to be written re. the peculiar mental pathologies that Islam inculcates in its adherents....Has that PhD been written?"

Yes. Here and there. Look at Andre Servier's book, now on line (put online by a JW poster alerted to its merits). Look at "The Arab Mind" by Patai; figure out where he avoids the word "Islam" and supply it yourself. Other books -- such as that by John Laffin -- limn the same, sometimes better. Studies of the Qur'an have been completed that show how replete with aggression the text is, and which draw the obvious conclusions -- the conclusions that so few in Washington or other Western capitals will draw, or even dare to think much less talk about -- but at the moment the names of the Danes and the Dutch authors involved escape me.

It's all there. How Islam discourages free inquiry at every step. How Islam encourages submission to the blind and irrational (or at least not necessarily rational, but rather whimsical) will of Allah. How Islam encourages intolerance of others and an inability to compromise, but rather inculcates a zero-sum view of the world as divided between the victor and the vanquished. It starts with Believer (victor) and Infidel (vanquished), but can also be seen in the way that various groups of Muslims naturally treat each other.

Look at the Fast Jihad (Hamas) and the Slow Jihad (Fatah or PLO) in Gaza. Look at Sunnis and Shi'a in Iraq (not to mention Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Pakistan, and even Yemen). All of it clearly related -- and yet somehow never related -- to not merely the tenets, but what has been carefully described here about two thousand times as the "attitudes" and "atmospherics" of Islam, which arise naturally out of the canonical texts -- Qur'an and Hadith and Sira -- and the most authoritative commentators on those texts.

Tenets, attitudes, atmospherics of Islam -- they are all part of the same thing, and they can all be seen at work in societies suffused with Islam. There are those most suffused, with legal systems closest to the Shari'a: Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Sudan, Pakistan. And now Somalia may be added to the list. There are those only slightly less complete and fanatical in their adherence to Islam: Egypt, Jordan, the U.A.E., the so-called "Palestinians" in those territories some call "Palestinian"; areas of Iraq under local control of local Shi'a (as in Basra) or Sunnis (as in Ramadi). Then Islam is observed less still in Morocco and Algeria and Libya (where the colonel has his own ideas, some of them hardly Islamic at all). Then there is still another group, with Tunisia and Oman being even milder in their Islam. In Tunisia this is the result of secularizing Bourguiba and the Destour Party and now Ben Ali, who runs a police-state designed to keep Islam down. Oman is a special case because of the influence both of Ibadiya Islam and Sultan Qaboos's wisdom. Then there is Syria, with its Alawites needing to preserve the role of the local Christians who are no threat to Alawites and who can help withstand the Sunni Ikhwan; Turkey, with its Kemalism tattered but not completely torn; and assorted non-Arab Muslim states, such as the "five stans" of Central Asia, in which so much stamping out of Islam (as of all religion) was accomplished by the Soviets during the basmachi uprisings, and where a non-Muslim population in Kazakhstan, for example, as well as the intelligently secular Kazakhs, have helped to keep Islam down as a political and social force. Indonesia, meanwhile, until recently managed, partly under Dutch rule, and then under the secular Sukarno, to constrain Islam because there was another, non-Arab identity and history to appeal to, whereas Arab Muslims have an ethnic identity that overlaps almost completely with, and reinforces and is reinforced by, Islam.

And so on.

But start with those books. Then go on from there.

Do you think anyone in the Pentagon or the State Department has managed to produce a list such as that above, with a sliding scale that measures the suffusion of a particular Muslim society or state with Islam? It would take a minute. But they don't do it. They don't even think in those terms. And if you think they could produce such a list, and what's more, offer a coherent explanation with reference to local histories as to why one country is this way and another that way, you are far too hopeful. Whatever your worst fears about the level of understanding in our government may be, they do not come close to the awful truth.

"The Awful Truth." A wonderful movie in which Irene Dunne sings a funny song to a bunch of stuffed-shirt swells before Cary Grant again carries her off in his automobile. Funny title for a funny movie.

Not so funny when it applies to that State Department, that Pentagon, that Congress, that Washington press corps.

Posted on 12/18/2006 7:03 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
Mystery Meat: from cafeteria to classroom

Remember "mystery meat," that strange, unpalatable substance served up in school cafeterias as a replacement for real food?  Now, schools that fancy themselves progressive are serving up a similar replacement and calling it education.  I discoverd this while reading Time magazine's Dec. 18 cover story, aptly titled "How to Build a Student for the 21st Century."  (reg. req'd.)

Here's what Time had to say about one Bill Stroud, a high school teacher who peddles 9/11 conspiracy to his captive classroom audiences:

The juniors in Bill Stroud's class are riveted by a documentary called Loose Change unspooling on a small TV screen at the Baccalaureate School for Global Education, in urban Astoria, N.Y. The film uses 9/11 footage and interviews with building engineers and Twin Towers survivors to make an oddly compelling if paranoid case that interior explosions unrelated to the impact of the airplanes brought down the World Trade Center on that fateful day. Afterward, the students--an ethnic mix of New Yorkers with their own 9/11 memories--dive into a discussion about the elusive nature of truth.

This is what the Baccalaureate School says about itself:

The Baccalaureate School for Global Education is the first public school in New York City in which all students prepare for the International Baccalaureate, a degree widely accepted at universities in 110 countries outside the United States. The school, opened in 2002, hopes to combine the spirit of inquiry and discovery that characterizes a good progressive school with the broad curriculum for which good traditional schools are known.

I'll spare you the rest.  What these students could have benefited from was something along the lines of  this interpretation of Loose Change by Erik Sofge in Popular Mechanics:

The conspiracist mythology of 9/11, which recasts the terrorist operation as a government-coordinated assault followed by the most complex coverup in history, is lurching towards a mainstream audience. The newest straight-to-video film in this burgeoning canon, Loose Change, was produced not by hardened, professional conspiracy theorists with established distribution networks, but by unknown 20-something filmmakers. Essentially a repackaging of theories and pseudo-evidence presented in previous books, DVDs and online screeds, Loose Change is available on DVD at, and is advertised on Web sites frequently visited by college students.

What's alarming is the fact that it's being screened for free on campuses across the U.S. To help promote the free screenings, which are spontaneously organized by students, the filmmakers have provided downloadable flyers at the Loose Change site. And not to point any fingers, but a screening at Arizona's Scottsdale Community College was organized by a professor. There's certainly nothing wrong with students being exposed to a variety of viewpoints. But what's troubling is that there doesn't seem to be any effort on these campuses to balance the conspiracy viewpoint with accurate commentary from scientists, engineers, witnesses and other experts who could put these extravagent claims to rest.

While Loose Change isn't about to hit the megaplex anytime soon, a sobering truth has crawled from the wreckage of 9/11--conspiracy theories aren't just for paranoid shut-ins anymore. With the advent of online forums and viral marketing, as well as the current upswell of anti-Bush sentiment, tall tales spread more quickly, and to more people.

Then again, the positive reviews on the Loose Change site are all attributed to fellow professional conspiracists like Alex Jones and Dave VonKliest, as well as to anonymous users from forums on and the gamer-oriented Not exactly the mainstream, but getting steadily closer...

I'd say that since Loose Change is now being shown unchallenged in high schools, we're about a nonosecond from its perspective achieving mainstream status.  After all, Time didn't even bother to critique it.
Posted on 12/18/2006 6:46 AM by Robert Bove
Monday, 18 December 2006
We Are, At The Moment, On Our Own

"what has happened to the Western ability to see through the fog of an issue and analyze it correctly?"-- from a reader

I don't know. Mass democracy and the degradation of the democratic dogma. Everyone has an opinion apparently equal to that of everyone else. The failure or inability to teach literature and history properly. The failure to understand how to take in data and weigh it.

It is not only the matter of Islam. It is also the problem of anthropogenic climate change, or global warming. The fear of intelligently looking at the data, or if not able to interpret it oneself, the unwillingness to trust those who have the right to expect that they have earned our trust, including the many sober scientists, with no axe to grind on either side, who slowly and grimly came to the conclusions that they have come to, but that others, with axes to grind, insist must be a misunderstanding of the data, must be based on some hideous anti-capitalist conspiracy. A refusal to believe, because it is all too painful to contemplate.

In one case, that of Islam, the result could be the end of the West, with all of Europe, and all of Russia, islamized, with terrible consequences for the peoples there and those Infidels who would remain, weaker and more isolated and more threatened, in North America. In the second case, that of irreversible and major environmental change, the result could be all kinds of extreme weather, the melting of the ice caps or a great deal of them, and with that even more warming (as the sun's heat would no longer be reflected from the white of those caps) and so on.

In the first case, anyone can do the work to find out about Islam and the history of Islamic conquest. In the second, many cannot or think they cannot learn enough about the science to adequately understand what's what on their own. Often that is true, but they are capable of doing the same kind of quality control that they do when deciding whether they wish to go to, or retain as their doctor, this dermatologist, that cardiologist. You pick up things. You examine what studies were done, what boards taken, whether the doctor in front of you is also a believer in UFOs or happens to be a Grateful Dead groupie, or is entirely sober, and what's more, finds his work of undiminishable interest and gives every sign of keeping up with the literature. And then you figure out whom you should trust, as you figure out whether or not James Hansen or Kerry Emanuel or someone else makes sense, or whether you believe those who pooh-pooh this whole "global warming" business.

Democracy was not cut out for such problems. And then there is the low quality of most, though not entirely all, of our "taking a leadership role" so-called leaders. They have had five years to study up on Islam. In both parties, in both the Executive branch and in Congress, they haven't done what they should. They have neglected their duties. They have not fulfilled their duty to instruct, and to protect, those whom they claim to lead. So far they have largely failed. We are, at the moment, on our own.

Posted on 12/18/2006 7:17 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
Same Goal, Different Motives

Actually, the failure of so many  to understand anthropogenic climate change, and their willingness to listen to the professional contrarians and charlatans, as opposed to the scientists who must be listened to, is exactly like the failure of many to listen to those who have, without parti pris, studied Islam -- not necessarily at the level of Joseph Schacht -- and not only the belief-system, but also the attitudes and atmospherics that naturally arise from it, and not only that, but also the history of Islamic Jihad-conquest, and then of subsequent subjugation of the non-Muslim peoples reduced to the status of dhimmi, a permanent condition of humiliation, degradation, and physical insecurity relieved only, at times, by the benevolence of this or that local Muslim ruler.

And the Great Alliance could or should be formed between those most worried about climate change, and those most worried about Islam, or those who worry about both. Why? Because in both cases, one of the main goals will be to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, in the first case to reduce the man-made component of climate change, and in the second, to deprive the world-wide Jihad of the money weapon. It doesn't matter what the mixture or difference of motives may be: the end result will be the same.

Posted on 12/18/2006 7:31 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
Reasons to shut down schools of education reach 1-million

From the aforementioned Time cover story, "How to Build a Student for the 21st Century" (reg. req'd.):

Learn the names of all the rivers in South America.  That was the assignment given to Deborah Stipek's daughter Meredith in school, and her mom, who's dean of the Stanford University School of Education, was not impressed.  "That's silly," Stipek told her daughter.  "Tell your teacher that if you need to know anything besides the Amazon, you can look it up on Google."  Any number of old-school assingments—memorizing the battles of the Civil War or the periodic table of the elements—now seem faintly absurd.

Hey, kids, here's an assignment!  Name the top weekly news magazines in the United States.  Extra credit:  Name the last year of operation for each of them.
Posted on 12/18/2006 7:35 AM by Robert Bove
Monday, 18 December 2006
Between the Hands of the Hour

As for our political agenda as some people call it, so we find it summarized richly in the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him), “I have been sent with the sword, between the hands of the hour, until Allah is worshipped alone”. --from this interview with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Awful sentiment, but beautifully expressed (in the translation), especially that phrase "between the hands of the hour." No doubt words are the only consolation for the impoverished societies of Islam, and the most fanatical of all can be self-mesmerized by the warlike threats, the hideous poetry of the primitive cruelty that keeps them all going.

But what a title: "Between the Hands of the Hour."

Posted on 12/18/2006 7:42 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
Global warming: what's next?

Ramesh Ponnuru succinctly states a sensible position on global warming:  "I tend to think that the globe is warming, that this warming trend is partly the result of human activity, and that the precise extent to which it is the result of human activity is an open question. I am skeptical of Kyoto-type solutions."

It is hard to imagine a "global" public policy solution to athlete's foot, much less to global warming.  In fact, it is hard to imagine a global entity with knowledge and power to implement a correct solution.  "The Environment" is too large, too abstract, and "environments"—what science actually deals with—too many and too various.  Think of DDT:  save the birds, slay millions of people.  Think of nuclear weapons:  slay millions of people, bring down global temperatures a few notches.  Vast public policies borne on the wings of fear can produce irrational responses to problems logically deduced.  Do we just lurch from one cataclysm to another?
Posted on 12/18/2006 8:01 AM by Robert Bove
Monday, 18 December 2006
Re: Between the Hands of the Hour

"Between the hands of the hour" -- what on earth is that supposed to mean? Hours don't have hands. This line makes no sense to me at all. Why not: "Between the feet of the week"? --from a reader

The "hands" in the original are those of an anthropomorphized Time (as our own Father Time, in about two weeks due to hand over the New Year to someone who looks remarkably like his own great-grandson). But the text is enriched by a knowledge of modern horology, so that readers today,can enjoy that one phrase in that one line (if there is any part of the incondite and unpleasant Qur'an that is to be enjoyed), can think of a ticking clock, on the one hand expressive of the hour, and on the other hand expressive of the minute, and here he comes, the man "with a sword," and comes "between the hands of the hour" to do what he must.

A case of a text into which the modern reader puts something of his own, that something being knowledge. of horological advancements. How much richer the line is now, in 2006 going on 2007, than it was back in 632. Just like Borges's story about the tale of Don Quixote, not the one written by Cervantes in the time of Cervantes,  around 1600, but rather the one written, with not a word different from Cervantes' version, by a certain Pierre Menard, around 1925, in the era of Bergson, and Buster Keaton, and Mussolini at the Piazza Venezia.

Posted on 12/18/2006 8:44 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
Inhofe’s Last Stand

Here, from, is a relevant recent posting about Senator Imhofe's recent hearing on global warming, in which pride of place was given to contrarians dead set on denying what is now no longer debatable except in the popular press, and apparently in Congress:

Filed under: — gavin @ 2:52 pm

Part of me felt a little nostalgic yesterday watching the last Senate hearing on climate change that will be chaired by Sen. James Inhofe. It all felt very familiar and comforting in some strange way. There was the well-spoken 'expert' flown in from Australia (no-one available a little closer to home?), the media 'expert' from the think tank (plenty of those about) and a rather out-of-place geologist. There were the same talking points (CO2 leads the warming during the ice ages! the Medieval Warm Period was warm! it's all a hoax!*) that are always brought up. These easy certainties and predictable responses are so well worn that they feel like a pair of old slippers.

Of course, my bout of nostalgia has nothing to do with whether this was a useful thing for the Senate to be doing (it wasn't), and whether it just provided distracting political theatre (yup) in lieu of serious discussion about effective policy response, but even we should sometimes admit that it is easier to debunk this kind of schoolyard rhetoric than it is to deal with the complexities that actually matter. The supposed subject of discussion was 'Climate Change in the Media' though no-one thought to question why the Senate was so concerned with the media representations (Andy Revkin makes some good points about it though here). Senators have much more effective means of getting relevant information (knowledgable staffers, National Academy of Science reports, the presidential office of Science and Technology etc.) and so this concern was concievably related to their concern with public understanding of science..... or not.

Naomi Oreskes did a good job on the context and provided useful rebuttal to a frankly ridiculous claim that contrarians were not getting any air time on the networks. One point she could have raised was that when Patrick Michaels made the same complaint to CNN - that their climate news stories weren't 'balanced' - a quick scan of their interviewee lists revealed that the scientist most frequently on CNN .... was none other than Michaels himself. A result somewhat at odds with his standing in the community or expertise, but ample evidence for the 'false balance' often decried here.

As for the scientific content, with the sole exception of Dan Schrag's statements, it was a textbook example of abuse of science. Two exchanges summed it up for me. In the first, Bob Carter insisted that CO2 always follows temperature for the ice age cycles (which are paced by the variations in the Earth's orbit and for which CO2 is a necessary feedback) and seasonal cycle (related mainly to Northern hemisphere deciduous trees) . Both statements are true as far as they go - but they don't go very far. Was Carter suggesting that the 30% increase in CO2 decreased after 1940? or that it has stopped increasing in recent years (since he appears to also believe that global warming stopped in 1998?). As an aside by his criteria it also stopped in 1973, 1983 and 1990.... only it didn't. Of course, if this wasn't what he meant to imply (because it's demonstrably false), why did he bring the whole subject up at all? Surely not simply to muddy the waters....

The second great example was Carter making an appeal to authority (using NASA and the Russian Academy of Science) for his contention that world is likely to cool in coming decades. Of course scientists at NASA are at the forefront of studies of anthropogenic climate change so a similar authority would presumably apply to them, and the Russian Academy was one of 11 that called on the G8 to take climate change seriously, but let's gloss over that inconsistency. The nuggets of science Carter was referring to are predictions for the next couple of solar cycles - a tricky business in fact, and one in which there is a substantial uncertainty. However, regardless of that uncertainty, NASA scientists have definitively not predicted that this will cause an absolute cooling - at best, it might reduce the ongoing global warming slightly (which would be good) (though see here for what they actually said). Two Russians scientists have indeed made such a 'cooling' prediction though, but curiously only in a press report rather than in any peer-reviewed paper, and clearly did not speak for the Academy in doing so, but never mind that. Of course, if Carter seriously thought that global cooling was likely, he should be keen to take up some of James Annan's or Brian Schmidt's attractive offers - but like the vast majority of 'global coolers', his money does not appear to be where his mouth is. It's all classic contrarian stuff.

With the new Senate coming in January, it seems likely that this kind of disinformational hearing will become less common and more climate policy-related hearings will occur instead. These won't provide as much fodder for us to debunk, but they might serve the much more useful function of actually helping craft appropriate policy responses.

Ah... truly the end of an age.

* If needed, the easy rebuttals to these talking points are available here, here and here

Posted on 12/18/2006 8:51 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
Shire Network News

Don't miss Shire Network News' last podcast of the year.

Brian of London writes:

In our extended Christmas Special, English Historian Andrew Roberts joins Tom Paine to talk about the History of the English Speaking Peoples of the World since 1900 and his new book on the subject. This is part one of a two part interview. Tom also graces us with a special end of the year message.

Posted on 12/18/2006 9:58 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 18 December 2006
Border Security, R.I.P.
The NYTimes reports that the Department of Homeland Security has given up on a plan to use fingerprint or facial recognition technology to track whether foreign visitors have left the country.  Congress ordered the system in 1996.  It was supposed to be in place at the 50 busiest border crossing points by the end of next year.  DHS, however, has concluded the cost would be prohibitive with currently available technology.
Posted on 12/18/2006 10:04 AM by Andy McCarthy
Monday, 18 December 2006
It's Cold Today In Wagga Wagga

 How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

Below is a complete listing of the articles in "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," a series by Coby Beck containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. There are four separate taxonomies; arguments are divided by:
Individual articles will appear under multiple headings and may even appear in multiple subcategories in the same heading.

Stages of Denial

  1. There's nothing happening
    1. Inadequate evidence
    2. Contradictory evidence
    3. No consensus
  2. We don't know why it's happening
    1. Models don't work
    2. Prediction is impossible
    3. We can't be sure
  3. Climate change is natural
    1. It happened before
    2. It's part of a natural change
    3. It's not caused by CO2
  4. Climate change is not bad
    1. The effects are good
    2. The effects are minor
    3. Change is normal
  5. Climate change can't be stopped
    1. Too late
    2. It's someone else's problem
    3. Economically infeasible

Scientific Topics

  1. Temperature
  2. Atmosphere
  3. Extreme events
    1. Temperature records
    2. Storms
    3. Droughts
  4. Cryosphere
    1. Glaciers
    2. Sea ice
    3. Ice sheets
  5. Oceans
  6. Modeling
    1. Scenarios
    2. Uncertainties
  7. Climate forcings
    1. Solar influences
    2. Greenhouse gases
    3. Aerosols
  8. Paleo climate
    1. Holocene
    2. Ice ages
    3. Geologic history
  9. Scientific process

Types of Argument

  1. Uninformed
  2. Misinformed
  3. Cherry Picking
  4. Urban Myths
  5. FUD
  6. Non Scientific
  7. Underdog Theories
  8. Crackpottery

Levels of Sophistication

  1. Silly
  2. Naive
  3. Specious
  4. Scientific
Posted on 12/18/2006 10:23 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
Saudi High Anxiety

Youssef Ibrahim writes about the Saudis in the NY Sun:

...Inside Saudi Arabia, the demographic sands are shifting. In essence, the kingdom contains three regions — Najd, Hejaz, and the oil-producing Eastern province.

The weightiest, the epicenter of the Wahhabi-dominated culture and the country's heartland, is the core region of Najd, which is teeming with influential figures inveighing against a Shiite Iraq.

In this region, which includes the 5 million citizens of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Iraq is a hot topic because of the blood ties uniting the huge Shammar tribe that spreads over both Najd and the Sunni regions of Iraq. Altogether, Shammar clans number as many as 15 million Bedouin Arabs spread over Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf region, with many in Saudi Arabia, creating family bonds that supersede national borders.

Saudi affairs experts note that King Abdullah's mother, for example, was a member of the Shammar tribe. His wife is a Shammar Iraqi.

Arab intelligence officials have pointed out that among those killed by American forces and Shiite death squads over the past two years were many Iraqis with relatives in Saudi Arabia. Honor and revenge, therefore, beckon.

Amid all this, new rivalries have sprung up among the Saudi princes as the royal clans question the king's abilities to handle a situation that is becoming critical.

The religious fanatic wing of the family, backed by the Wahhabi preachers, is calling for a new jihad in Iraq.

The Faisal brothers — the foreign minister, Saud, and the Washington ambassador, Turki — want to shore up their home base, which represents the pro-Western, liberal wing of the family. The former Saudi ambassador to America, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, is mounting his own campaign to dominate King Abdullah's foreign policy and undermine the Faisal clan.

All this suggests that 2007 will be an eventful year for Iraq, the region, and especially Saudi Arabia.

Posted on 12/18/2006 10:58 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 18 December 2006

This is from the Daily Record.

KRISS Donald's racist killers are begging for a move to an English prison.

Imran "Baldy" Shahid, his brother Zeeshan and Mohammed Mushtaq are being held in three different Scottish jails amid fears for their safety.

A prison insider said last night: "It's true a move is on the cards. They want to go and no one here wants to stand in their way - they're a security nightmare."

The evil trio have been targets for revenge attacks since being sentenced last month.

Kriss, 15, was abducted, brutally beaten, stabbed and set alight while he was still alive - just because he was white. The murderers fear they will never settle into the Scottish prison system and want a switch to notorious HMP Wakefield. The Yorkshire jail has a large Muslim population and is already home to some of Britain's worst killers - including Soham murderer Ian Huntley.

The move would need approval on both sides of the Border.

A prison insider said last night: ". . .  a major security issue for Scottish prisons. Moving them to England makes a degree of sense but there is a question over whether they would really be that much safer there. (I don’t want them to be “safe”) The whole situation poses a logistical nightmare for the Scottish Prison Service. The fact two of Kriss's killers are brothers makes it even more difficult as it means they have the right to visit each other. These guys don't fancy it at all in Scottish prisons and it seems they're willing to take their chances at Wakefield. It's not that far down the motorway from Scotland and they also have family down there."

I like the sound of the place in the US where Richard Reid is serving his time, do you have any vacancies?

Posted on 12/18/2006 11:13 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 18 December 2006
Winter Solstice at Maeshowe

I meant to get this on earlier today but you can still see it tomorrow and everyday until February.  I know that there are a few of you that will be interested, and may even have been there, which I have not. Yet.

This is a webcam into the stone chamber of the neolithic chambered cairn at Maeshowe in the Orkneys. At midwinter sunset the light floods down the chamber passage to illuminate the back wall.  The webcam stops every evening at 4pm GMT, so I think in the eastern US you had best check the site first thing, about 8 in the morning. Further west please make the calculation yourself - you know your time zones far better than I.

If you follow the links within the site there are plenty of still photos of the best of previous days.

Posted on 12/18/2006 11:28 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 18 December 2006
By Gad, He'd Better

"I tend to think that the globe is warming..."
       -- Ramesh Ponnuru, quoted below

Many remember Carlyle's retort to Margaret Fuller, the Concord transcendentalist who said "I accept the Universe" to which Carlyle, upon hearing of this, replied "By gad, she'd better."

Posted on 12/18/2006 12:13 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
The Shammar Tribe
It is good that Youssef Ibrahim mentions the Shammar, the largest tribe in the Middle East, extending across Iraq into Saudi Arabia, and the hereditary enemy of the Al-Saud.

One can find prevous mention of the Jabal Shammar in several postings at JW a few years ago which may be worth re-posting here and now:

"Though the debauches of the Saudi princelings far outdo anything mere Westerners could dream up, these practices take place behind high walls of the palaces and palacettes of Saudi Arabia, or in Belgravia, or the Avenue Foch or, especially, in villas in the south of Spain and south of France. (Prince Bandar, to be fair, has the Plantagenet hunting-lodge of Wychwood, not to mention that little place in Aspen, where he had a small American mountain earth-moved, because it annoyingly spoiled his view). Where is the CIA, collecting mountains of incriminating photographs and videos of these people, to threaten them with exposure that will cause them great difficulties among their own puritanical people, and which might be used, not to earn their friendship (which is simply not possible) but their dutiful collaboration, which is.

The tribute the ruling princelings pay, if they are to continue robbing the country (the country which, through its oligopoly rents, is robbing all the rest of us) and to spend what they grab as they see fit, requires them to support to the hilt the religious establishment, and not to veer from Wahhabi Islam. They will lie, and delay, and pretend that they are practically holding a constitutional convention on the American model, and talk grandly of "reform" and one or two princes will write a "daring" article that more-or-less says something close to the obvious, and we will always be on the verge of some bold new program, just enough to let Tom Friedman wax poetic about it, and a few Senators (including one or two Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee who seem quite soft on Saudi Arabia) will be pleased, and we will have the mixture as before. Saudi princes will not change course, or change their malevolent system and hostile country. They can't. They don't want to. They won't.

Stop talking, stop writing, stop hoping, about "our Saudi ally." Saudi Arabia is not our ally, and never has been. It was not when FDR met Ibn Saud in 1945. It was not when the forces of Abdul Aziz's father, accompanied by Captain Shakespear, were soundly defeated, in 1915, when they went out to do battle with the tribesman of Jabal Shammar (yes, the very same Shammar tribe, that runs from Syria to northern Saudi Arabia, one of whose leaders is the new president of Iraq). Saudi Arabia sells oil to us, as it sells oil to everyone else. It sells oil to us, at precisely the same price it sells oil to everyone else. Got that -- it is just a huge gas station. No friendship, no special favors, nothing. When the Saudis "helped" in Afghanistan, they did so not as a favor as us, but to help fellow Muslims against the Infidel Russians. That's it. End of extent of "friendship." Why does the press, why does television, why do people in Washington continue to call Saudi Arabia an "ally," a "friend," or as the BBC likes to do, a "staunch ally"?

The Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Qataris, the "United Arab Emiratians," the Kuwaitis, fill in the rest yourself here, are not, and cannot be, friends to us, for we are Infidels. We can persuade them, through pressure, to do what we want. Their people are not our friends. Their press and television are not our friends. Their worldview, which comes out of Islam, ensures that they will not be our friends (but will believe everything bad about us, for we are Infidels).

It is time, finally, to defeat the Jihad and Save the Earth (environmentalists, we are with you, but possibly not for quite the same reasons). all at one go. Time to internalize the true costs of that oil that funds the Jihad. Do everything possible to diminish the Saudi revenues. Let them work for a living, the way we Infidels have to.

Yes, some businesses will suffer. Revenues will go down for the house and croupiers at Monte Carlo, among the arms dealers, at the houses of high-end cognacs, and also among the champagne-producers in Ai and Epernay and Rheims. The taxable income declared by madams in every major Western city will decline, highest-end leather goods on the via Condotti and via Tornabuoni will also suffer. Too bad. Don't worry, you who will suffer a temporary loss of business -- some other group of undeserving tycoons will come along to make it up to you. Undeserving, but not mortal threats to the rest of us, the non-Muslims of the world."

[Posted by: Hugh at June 8, 2004]

Posted on 12/18/2006 12:18 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
Saudi Arabia Ridimensionato
Here is another posting -- about the need to re-size Saudi Arabia -- that mentions the Jabal Shammar, and the large tribe centered in it, the Shammar, who deserve more attention from Pentagon planners than they get:

This or that leader is killed. A dozen people, two dozen there, are rounded up. so what? As long as the Saudi "royal" family (self-annointed monarchs since they defeated the Jabal Shammar in 1920, or soon thereafter) exists, and appropriates most of the nation's wealth, there will be those who will, as Muslims, find their resentment and outraged channeled into Islam as the total explanation of everything. And terrorism will continue in Saudi Arabia until the end of time. Let it. The only business the Infidel world has with Saudi Arabia is to attempt to have as little business with Saudi Arabia.

For the moment great sums of money flow in, and they will continue to flow in. But this does not mean that every effort cannot be made to diminish that flow of money (instead of aiming at a ludicrously irrelevant "energy independence" for the United States, which is both unachievable and would have no effect on Saudi Arabia or other Muslim oil states, for oil not sold to America will simply be sold to others, unless collective demand goes down).

Arms sales, at prices that reflect Saudi pricing on oil, of Western equipment and planes can continue, but only if that equipment os sabotaged so that, should it be used by the Saudis, we can -- from afar -- render it harmless. The beauty of this policy is that they will never know when this has happened, will never be quite sure that it has, or has not, occurred.

Keep them guessing, always and everywhere. Saudi Arabia needs to be "ridimensionato" -- that is to say, cut down to size. "Money can buy everything - except civilization." It is a barbarous place; its government is barbarous, its economy barbarous, the mental state of its inhabitants barbarous. A very few, who have spent a long time in the West, can appear to have acquired the habits of thought of Western man. And a very few of those may actually manage to do so. But only just.

[Posted by: Hugh at July 3, 2005]

Posted on 12/18/2006 12:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 18 December 2006
Wiki-like curriculum site

Last mention of that Time article on the future of education I posted on here and here:
The chairman of Sun Microsystems was up against one of the most vexing challenges of moder life: a third-grade science project.  Scott McNeally had spent hours searching the Web for a lively explanation of electricity that his son could understand.

Needless to say, McNeally found one and in the process came up with the idea for  Says McNeally on the site's intro page:

Access to basic knowledge and learning tools for our children should never be proprietary. In fact, this can and should be a basic right of every child. Yet, over 100 million kids around the world do not have access to these primary education tools. We want to change this. The benefits to providing universal access to an education are endless.

At Curriki, the sole mission is to educate. By building a world class learning environment that is community developed and supported, and publishing it for free on the Web, Curriki works to ensure that anyone, from anywhere can participate.

This is about No Child, Parent or Teacher Held Back. This is about delivering access to free, quality curricula so that kids can go as fast as they can. This is about unleashing, not stifling, those who could solve some of our biggest problems, like avian flu or global warming.

Welcome to Curriki. We hope that children will learn as much as they can as fast as they can. We hope that everyone will share curricula, insights and lessons (and yes, funding) to help eliminate the educationdivide. By contributing and participating, you will personally make a difference. And, you may even learn a little yourself.

Which, of course, sounds absolutely marvelous.  If you're a science educator or mathematician who actually knows your subject, check out what they have up so far curriculum-wise: environmental science, intro to calculus, intro to physics.

Curriki's "Leadership Team" comprises three folks hired from McGraw-Hill, one of the biggest players in textbook publishing.  As in the kinds of textbooks Hugh decries in his comment to my post here—not a good sign for what we might expect to see when Curricki tackles the humanities and social sciences, judging by the uniformly banal literature textbooks the industry now produces.   Perhaps they'll just forget to get around to it.

Posted on 12/18/2006 12:06 PM by Robert Bove
Monday, 18 December 2006
Hugh's posts on Global Warming
Are Hugh's posts arguing for the case of man made global warning? If so, count me as one of the skeptics who finds that long tree of refuting  arguments of skeptics a silly pile of balderdash.

In the case for man made global warming, so called concensus is indeed collusion. There are so many modern junk science myths that have been created by self-aggrandizing scientists one hardly knows where to start. The herd instinct among scientists is as strong as it is for others who go along to get along. Plus the need for funding drives the bulk of them. Scientists and integrity? Don't you dare put the two together.

But let's talk about the enormous concensus among scientists for the Big Bang theory. Proof? Zero. Belief? Absolute. How about the theory of disk formation of planets? Proof? Zero. Belief? Absolute. How about the the means of light and heat generation by the sun? Proof of interior nuclear fusion? Zero. Belief? Absolute. The notion that comets are made of dirty ice? Proof? Zero. Belief? Absolute. The belief that Red Shift of galaxies is caused by primordial explosion? Proof? Zero. Belief? Absolute.

Let us discuss the psychological need for scientists to foment and believe in apocalyptic scenarios of global destruction and the end of the world before we join any concensus of such events occurring.

That argumentation tree that Hugh linked to is similar to Aquinas' Summa. It's support for a theological position and not factual scientific evidence. Talk about your true believers.

When we see a religious fanatic proclaiming the end of days, we are a bit amused and find the fellow pitiable. Is there anyone so pathetic and disgusting as a scientist pretending to prophetic certainty about the future of complex systems?

Just watch Al Gore for ten minutes. If you don't see a True Believer assuming the mantle of messianic prophet, what are you seeing?
Posted on 12/18/2006 1:52 PM by Mark Butterworth
Monday, 18 December 2006
Discretionary income is the better part of valor

"Why aren't you lecturing somewhere...?"-- from a reader

Invite me. Let me charge a fraction of what the frauds charge. We will all be happy.

If anyone were to send me money, the way Infidels lavish money on the people parading around Gaza with kalashnikovs, but unlike them, I would be most grateful and certainly not try to kill you, or be furious if you didn't keep up the Jizyah.  And as an extra treat, until January 1, 2007, I am willing to  compose an immortalizing couplet, tailor-made just for you based on whatever details you provide.. Give it a whirl. What do you have to lose? Let me take all risks. Discretionary income is the better part of valor.

Posted on 12/18/2006 2:34 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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