These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 20, 2011.
Sunday, 20 February 2011
Anjem Choudary's latest wheeze
FIREBRAND Islamist Anjem Choudary is set to provoke fury in the US by holding a protest outside the White House. But now he aims to go a step further by leading a demonstration on March 3 calling for hardline Islamic Sharia law to be established across the US.
Last night Choudary, 43, said: “The event is a rally, a call for the Sharia, a call for the Muslims to rise up and establish the Islamic state in America. This is a unique event taking place in Washington, outside the White House which, Inshallah, (God willing) will garner huge support. This is a one-off event organised by the Islamic Thinkers society.
“They have seen our activities in the UK and Europe and have decided they want to challenge the vacuum in freedom and democracy and the people in the front line of the struggle against Islam and Muslims – the American government and the establishment. They have invited Abu Izzadeen and myself and Sayful Islam from Luton to come over to address the crowd and rally support. . .
"It is only right the call is made in the heart of Western civilisation in front of the biggest pharaoh that exists today, which is Barack Obama. I think the American people’s hearts and minds are open to receive Islam as an alternative way of life.”
I think they are deluding themselves that the US authorities will let them in. Abu Izzadeen (or Trevor Brooks to give him his correct name) is only recently released from prison. They other pair are bound to be on some list of undesirables.
I am gradually coming to the conclusion that the UK should stop giving overseas aid - money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries - at least without attaching such strings as will serve our interests. Unconditional aid is a no-no. Usually it goes to rich thugs - the "Wabenzi". At best it supports primitive people in primitive practices by cushioning them from the consequences of such practices. At worst it helps our enemies.
There is an exception to my new rule: we should give aid to victims of Islam and enemies of Islam. Rod Liddle in the Spectator (my emphasis):
There are plenty of objections to our largesse; the first and most immediately relevant is that India has the money to run a space programme and furthermore a space programme which is not predicated upon the efficacy of a giant catapult but is actually quite plausible and, you know, scientific. Therefore as a wealthy country it is undeserving of our money when we can’t afford a space programme ourselves. The Indian space shot costs about $1.25 billion per year; we, meanwhile, are giving them two or three hundred million quid per year to alleviate poverty. They should sort out their priorities, it is argued. Well, maybe, but my guess is that the Indians have a space programme which cuts the corners a bit on health and safety issues in a manner which we in the west can no longer do, i.e. Bacofoil spacesuits or something, and that for this reason alone we should be proud to support them.
It is also mentioned that there are far more billionaires in India than in the UK and that India itself gives quite a lot in foreign aid already to countries which it, in turn, thinks are absolutely useless, such as Afghanistan. And there is another point too, which is that India is a nuclear state. It spends its money on nuclear weapons and indeed a total of £23 billion on defence every year — so how can we justify a single penny of assistance?
This is a crucial point for me. India’s nuclear weapons are pointed at Pakistan. It is my considered opinion that you cannot have enough nuclear weapons pointed directly at Pakistan. If we had hypothecated taxes in this country I would ask that mine be devoted towards high-yield airburst nuclear weapons targeted upon Islamabad, even before we pay the wages of British nurses, teachers and those vital and talented people who work at Ofcom. At least, with India, someone is keeping a very close eye on the Pakistanis. Our foreign aid donation to India is but a fraction of what it costs the recipient country to keep the Pakistanis in check — but, as Tesco puts it, every little helps. Maybe we could just cut to the chase and directly sponsor the production of tritium or lithium deutoride, something which helps in the fusion process, so we know we will be getting a real bang for our buck.
Because who would you rather we gave our money to? Perhaps you think it should be spent on educating all those little black African children? We give somewhere in the region of a billion quid per year for ‘education in Africa’, covering 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. But as the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee made clear late last year, this has been an epic waste of money, subject to fraud on a mammoth scale, siphoned off by predatory companies and individuals.
But then so it is with almost every penny we give in overseas aid; it is either a bribe, in that we are donating the money in order to secure for ourselves favourable trade agreements, or an outright con — in that we donate to a coalition of warlords, thugs, despots and UN workers who will swallow the money up and ensure it never gets to the needy.
WASHINGTON — For eight years, government officials turned to Dennis Montgomery, a California computer programmer, for eye-popping technology that he said could catch terrorists. Now, federal officials want nothing to do with him and are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that his dealings with Washington stay secret.
The Justice Department, which in the last few months has gotten protective orders from two federal judges keeping details of the technology out of court, says it is guarding state secrets that would threaten national security if disclosed. But others involved in the case say that what the government is trying to avoid is public embarrassment over evidence that Mr. Montgomery bamboozled federal officials.
A onetime biomedical technician with a penchant for gambling, Mr. Montgomery is at the center of a tale that features terrorism scares, secret White House briefings, backing from prominent Republicans, backdoor deal-making and fantastic-sounding computer technology.
Interviews with more than two dozen current and former officials and business associates and a review of documents show that Mr. Montgomery and his associates received more than $20 million in government contracts by claiming that software he had developed could help stop Al Qaeda’s next attack on the United States. But the technology appears to have been a hoax, and a series of government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Air Force, repeatedly missed the warning signs, the records and interviews show.
Mr. Montgomery’s former lawyer, Michael Flynn — who now describes Mr. Montgomery as a “con man” — says he believes that the administration has been shutting off scrutiny of Mr. Montgomery’s business for fear of revealing that the government has been duped.
“The Justice Department is trying to cover this up,” Mr. Flynn said. “If this unravels, all of the evidence, all of the phony terror alerts and all the embarrassment comes up publicly, too. The government knew this technology was bogus, but these guys got paid millions for it.”
Justice Department officials declined to discuss the government’s dealings with Mr. Montgomery, 57, who is in bankruptcy and living outside Palm Springs, Calif. Mr. Montgomery is about to go on trial in Las Vegas on unrelated charges of trying to pass $1.8 million in bad checks at casinos, but he has not been charged with wrongdoing in the federal contracts, nor has the government tried to get back any of the money it paid. He and his current lawyer declined to comment.
The software he patented — which he claimed, among other things, could find terrorist plots hidden in broadcasts of the Arab network Al Jazeera; identify terrorists from Predator drone videos; and detect noise from hostile submarines — prompted an international false alarm that led President George W. Bush to order airliners to turn around over the Atlantic Ocean in 2003.
The software led to dead ends in connection with a 2006 terrorism plot in Britain. And they were used by counterterrorism officials to respond to a bogus Somali terrorism plot on the day of President Obama’s inauguration, according to previously undisclosed documents.
‘It Wasn’t Real’
“Dennis would always say, ‘My technology is real, and it’s worth a fortune,’ ” recounted Steve Crisman, a filmmaker who oversaw business operations for Mr. Montgomery and a partner until a few years ago. “In the end, I’m convinced it wasn’t real.”
Government officials, with billions of dollars in new counterterrorism financing after Sept. 11, eagerly embraced the promise of new tools against militants.
C.I.A. officials, though, came to believe that Mr. Montgomery’s technology was fake in 2003, but their conclusions apparently were not relayed to the military’s Special Operations Command, which had contracted with his firm. In 2006, F.B.I. investigators were told by co-workers of Mr. Montgomery that he had repeatedly doctored test results at presentations for government officials. But Mr. Montgomery still landed more business.
In 2009, the Air Force approved a $3 million deal for his technology, even though a contracting officer acknowledged that other agencies were skeptical about the software, according to e-mails obtained by The New York Times.
Hints of fraud by Mr. Montgomery, previously raised by Bloomberg Markets and Playboy, provide a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of government contracting. A Pentagon study in January found that it had paid $285 billion in three years to more than 120 contractors accused of fraud or wrongdoing.
“We’ve seen so many folks with a really great idea, who truly believe their technology is a breakthrough, but it turns out not to be,” said Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr. of the Air Force, who retired last year as the commander of the military’s Northern Command. Mr. Montgomery described himself a few years ago in a sworn court statement as a patriotic scientist who gave the government his software “to stop terrorist attacks and save American lives.” His alliance with the government, at least, would prove a boon to a small company, eTreppidTechnologies, that he helped found in 1998.
He and his partner — a Nevada investor, Warren Trepp, who had been a top trader for the junk-bond king Michael Milken — hoped to colorize movies by using a technology Mr. Montgomery claimed he had invented that identified patterns and isolated images. Hollywood had little interest, but in 2002, the company found other customers.
With the help of Representative Jim Gibbons, a Republican who would become Nevada’s governor and was a longtime friend of Mr. Trepp’s, the company won the attention of intelligence officials in Washington. It did so with a remarkable claim: Mr. Montgomery had found coded messages hidden in broadcasts by Al Jazeera, and his technology could decipher them to identify specific threats.
The software so excited C.I.A. officials that, for a few months at least, it was considered “the most important, most sensitive” intelligence tool the agency had, according to a former agency official, who like several others would speak only on the condition of anonymity because the technology was classified. ETreppid was soon awarded almost $10 million in contracts with the military’s Special Operations Command and the Air Force, which were interested in software that Mr. Montgomery promised could identify human and other targets from videos on Predator drones.
In December 2003, Mr. Montgomery reported alarming news: hidden in the crawl bars broadcast by Al Jazeera, someone had planted information about specific American-bound flights from Britain, France and Mexico that were hijacking targets.
C.I.A. officials rushed the information to Mr. Bush, who ordered those flights to be turned around or grounded before they could enter American airspace.
“The intelligence people were telling us this was real and credible, and we had to do something to act on it,” recalled Asa Hutchinson, who oversaw federal aviation safety at the time. Senior administration officials even talked about shooting down planes identified as targets because they feared that supposed hijackers would use the planes to attack the United States, according to a former senior intelligence official who was at a meeting where the idea was discussed. The official later called the idea of firing on the planes “crazy.”
French officials, upset that their planes were being grounded, commissioned a secret study concluding that the technology was a fabrication. Presented with the findings soon after the 2003 episode, Bush administration officials began to suspect that “we got played,” a former counterterrorism official said.
The C.I.A. never did an assessment to determine how a ruse had turned into a full-blown international incident, officials said, nor was anyone held accountable. In fact, agency officials who oversaw the technology directorate — including Donald Kerr, who helped persuade George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, that the software was credible — were promoted, former officials said. “Nobody was blamed,” a former C.I.A. official said. “They acted like it never happened.”
After a bitter falling out between Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Trepp in 2006 led to a series of lawsuits, the F.B.I. and the Air Force sent investigators to eTreppid to look into accusations that Mr. Montgomery had stolen digital data from the company’s systems. In interviews, several employees claimed that Mr. Montgomery had manipulated tests in demonstrations with military officials to make it appear that his video recognition software had worked, according to government memorandums. The investigation collapsed, though, when a judge ruled that the F.B.I. had conducted an improper search of his home.
Software and Secrets
The litigation worried intelligence officials. The Bush administration declared that some classified details about the use of Mr. Montgomery’s software were a “state secret” that could cause grave harm if disclosed in court. In 2008, the government spent three days “scrubbing” the home computers of Mr. Montgomery’s lawyer of all references to the technology. And this past fall, federal judges in Montana and Nevada who are overseeing several of the lawsuits issued protective orders shielding certain classified material.
The secrecy was so great that at a deposition Mr. Montgomery gave in November, two government officials showed up to monitor the questioning but refused to give their full names or the agencies they worked for.
Years of legal wrangling did not deter Mr. Montgomery from passing supposed intelligence to the government, according to intelligence officials, including an assertion in 2006 that his software was able to identify some of the men suspected of trying to plant liquid bombs on planes in Britain — a claim immediately disputed by United States intelligence officials. And he soon found a new backer: Edra Blixseth, a onetime billionaire who with her former husband had run the Yellowstone Club in Montana.
Hoping to win more government money, Ms. Blixseth turned to some influential friends, like Jack Kemp, the former New York congressman and Republican vice-presidential nominee, and Conrad Burns, then a Republican senator from Montana. They became minority stakeholders in the venture, called Blxware.
In an interview, Mr. Burns recalled how impressed he was by a video presentation that Mr. Montgomery gave to a cable company. “He talked a hell of a game,” the former senator said.
Mr. Kemp, meanwhile, used his friendship with Vice President Dick Cheney to set up a meeting in 2006 at which Mr. Kemp, Mr. Montgomery and Ms. Blixseth met with a top Cheney adviser, Samantha Ravich, to talk about expanding the government’s use of the Blxware software, officials said. She was noncommittal.
Mr. Flynn, who was still Mr. Montgomery’s lawyer, sent an angry letter to Mr. Cheney in May 2007. He accused the White House of abandoning a tool shown to “save lives.” (After a falling out with Mr. Montgomery, Mr. Flynn represents another party in one of the lawsuits.)
But Mr. Montgomery’s company still had an ally at the Air Force, which in late 2008 began negotiating a $3 million contract with Blxware.
In e-mails to Mr. Montgomery and other company officials, an Air Force contracting officer, Joseph Liberatore, described himself as one of the “believers,” despite skepticism from the C.I.A. and problems with the no-bid contract.
If other agencies examined the deal, he said in a December 2008 e-mail, “we are all toast.”
“Honestly I do not care about being fired,” Mr. Liberatore wrote, but he said he did care about “moving the effort forward — we are too close.” (The Air Force declined to make Mr. Liberatore available for comment.)
The day after Mr. Obama’s inauguration, Mr. Liberatore wrote that government officials were thanking Mr. Montgomery’s company for its support. The Air Force appears to have used his technology to try to identify the Somalis it believed were plotting to disrupt the inauguration, but within days, intelligence officials publicly stated that the threat had never existed. In May 2009, the Air Force canceled the company’s contract because it had failed to meet its expectations.
Mr. Montgomery is not saying much these days. At his deposition in November, when he was asked if his software was a “complete fraud,” he answered, “I’m going to assert my right under the Fifth Amendment.”
Melanie Phillips On The BBC's Treatment Of Geert Wilders
From The Spectator:
The world's most dangerous broadcaster
17th February 2011
I have only just caught up with the BBC1 documentary on the Dutch politician Geert Wilders that was transmitted on Tuesday evening. Did I say documentary? ‘Europe’s Most Dangerous Man' was a vicious hatchet job that was a disgrace to journalism. More than that, it could be argued that by presenting Wilders as a latter-day Nazi who was likely to foment war in Europe between Muslims and non-Muslims, it was in effect inciting violence or the murder of a politician who is already under armed guard 24/7.
There were several aspects of this programme that should have caused any responsible broadcaster to sling it straight into the trash. First and most fundamentally, it simply turned the people threatening the free world into victims and the politician who is trying to defend the free world against that threat into a fascist. Muslims were presented as universally peaceful people signed up to democracy and human rights; Wilders was the presented as the extremist threat to democracy and human rights. Yet as Wilders himself was quoted as saying – even while the script was telling us that these words were ‘extremist’ – he was defending freedom against the threat from Islamists to extinguish those freedoms.
Worse still, look at the two individuals the film-makers used to level the most inflammatory charges against Wilders – individuals who were described as democrats assigned up to human rights. The first, Ibrahim Mogra, is from the Muslim Council of Britain – described by the programme as ‘an organisation seeking to promote a distinct Muslim identity in tune with British cultural norms and values’.
Yet this is the organisation with which the British government has twice broken off relations on account of its extremism. The first occasion was when it refused to take part in Britain’s Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony. The second occasion was in response to the MCB’s deputy general secretary, Dr Daud Abdullah, signing the Istanbul Declaration, a public declaration of support for Hamas and call for violence against the British Royal Navy and Jewish communities.
The film made no mention of this whatever. Instead it used the MCB man to attack Wilders as a dangerous extremist.
The second of these ‘moderate’ individuals wheeled on to attack Wilders was Sheikh Khalid Yasin. The film described Sheikh Yasin as ‘an American Muslim teacher extremely popular among young European Muslims’ who ‘has embarked on a mission to de radicalise them.’ Yasin denounced Wilders for ‘fanning hatred’.
Yet in the Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘Undercover Mosque’ transmitted two years ago, Yasin was recorded saying:
‘We Muslims have been ordered to do ‘brainwashing’ because the kuffaar [non-Muslims] ... they are doing ‘brain defiling’ ... You are watching the kaffir TVs, and your wife is watching right now, and your children are watching it right now, and they are being polluted, and they are being penetrated, and they are being infected, so that your children and you go out as Muslims and come back to the house as kaffirs...The whole delusion of the equality of women is a bunch of foolishness. There’s no such thing.’
And Wilders is called ‘Europe’s most dangerous man’?
Worse, the film then adduced as the final proof of Wilders’s perfidy that he was a passionate defender of Israel. His crime, apparently, was to believe that Israel was ‘the last line of the defence of Europe’ – which indeed it is – and that to solve the Middle East impasse, Jordan should become Palestine -- which indeed it originally was.
Worse again, however, the film suggested that Wilders was an Israeli spy – and, in the words of Sheikh Yasin, that it was doing Israel’s dirty work for it:
‘I think that he [Wilders] has taken and embraced the idea of modern Zionism. And he is using the platform of modern Zionism to espouse the same concepts about Muslims in the world and the Koran, that the Jews cannot afford to say in Israel. But Mr Wilders can do them a favour. He can go outside of Israel with those same feelings and he can characterise the way that the Zionists characterise the Palestinians to legitimise their power. Mr Wilders can characterise Islam in the same way. This is what is taking place.’
So the film suggested, in effect, that Wilders was the front man for a kind of Nazi-Jewish conspiracy -- thus defaming both him and Israel in one go. Others smeared by association with him were the distinguished scholar of Islam (and indefatigable supporter of true Islamic reformers) Daniel Pipes, and the heroic Danish defender of freedom of speech Lars Hedegaard – who recently only narrowly fought off an attempt by Denmark’s pusillanimous prosecutors to silence him through a criminal prosecution for raising concerns about violence within some Muslim family life.
This travesty of a documentary was made by two radical Dutch film-makers for a production company called ‘Red Rebel’. Questions need to be asked how the BBC could transmit something on such an inflammatory subject which ignored the most basic standards of journalistic fairness, -- and was effectively the broadcasting equivalent of a flier distributed by the Socialist Workers’ Party.
But of course, we all know the answer to that already. BBC ‘group- think’ means that BBC executives will have assumed the lazy and vicious left-wing demonisation of Wilders is axiomatically true and unchallengeable. They will thus have suspended any critical faculties or professionalism to which they might ever have laid any claim.
Yusuf Al Qaradawiâ€™s Deep Connections to Radical Boston Mosque
Yusuf Al Qaradawi
When we interviewed Dr. Charles Jacobs in the February edition of the NER, “Fighting Muslim Brotherhood Lawfare and Rabbinic Fatwas,” he noted that Yusuf Al Qaradawi had been a trustee of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) run by the Muslim American Society, a Muslim Brotherhood front:
Another ISB trustee was Yusuf Al Qaradawi, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, a cleric living in Qatar, identified as a theologian of hatred by the ADL. All anyone had to do was look him up on the internet, watch some You Tube videos preaching that Jews should be killed, homosexuals should either be stoned or thrown off roofs, wives can be beaten, and Israel has to be destroyed. When I found this out, and here is the really painful part, I called together a meeting of all of Boston Jewish organizations. To my shock and deep disappointment no one wanted to do anything. Not a thing. Instead they said: “We must dialogue with them.
Al Qaradawi has returned to Egypt with the permission of the military council and preached in Tahrir Square Friday about "democracy” under the guise of Jihad for fellow Muslims against unbelievers, especially Jews, apostates from Islam and homosexuals. Doubtless, this was a further example of the Cairo military regime’s deepening outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood ending Al Qaradawi’s four decade exile. He preaches his vitriol via satellite TV to a worldwide audience of over 40 million weekly. Doubtless, the Obama West Wing in the White House will put a spin on Al Qaradawi being an exception to the ‘secular strains’ of the MB cited by NDI James Clapper before the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee and a ‘reformed peaceful man.’ Al Qaradawi's shpiel sounds like classic taqiyyah. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration cannot distinguish what is said in English what is really said in Arabic.
The spiritual leader of the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has a long history in Boston, Massachusetts.
And the relationship continues, despite denials by the leaders of the Boston mosque – the largest in New England -- where Yusuf al-Qaradawi once reigned as trustee.
According to a report released Friday by the Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) organization, the imam who long preached his hatred of Jews, homosexuals and women, is currently the leader of the Islamic American University -- a major project of the Muslim American Society (MAS), the organization that runs the Boston mosque. However, any mention of al-Qaradawi is carefully omitted from the site. In fact, there is no information at all about any of the university's leadership on its site, other than a brief videotaped message by an unnamed "director."
Federal prosecutorshave named the MAS as the arm of the American branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“I will shoot Allah's enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus I will seal my life with martyrdom. Praise be to Allah,” Qaradawi once prayed publicly, according to the APT.
Writing for the organization, Charles Jacobs, Dennis Hale and Ahmed Mansour noted, “On videotape, Qaradawi has said that homosexuals should be killed. When he was a trustee of the Boston mosque, its website featured teachings on how to beat one's wife.”
Jacobs, president of APT, commented, “Considering the relationship between New England's biggest mosque and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, it would seem that the nation's concern over this extremist group should extend from Cairo to the Hub.”
After Qaradawi was banned from the United States by President Bill Clinton in 1999, the Boston mosque featured a video address by the imam at its major fundraiser, held at the Boston Sheraton Hotel.
Qaradawi has since ruled that Muslims are allowed to kill Israeli women under Islamic law, because they serve in the military, and he preached that Muslims should acquire nuclear weapons to “terrorize their enemies.”
Is a graveyard a public amenity or an arena of self-expression? An Essex council recently ordered grieving families to remove ‘decorations’ from the tombs of their dead children. ‘One councillor claimed that it looked like Poundland,’ said Anne Lee, who was asked to remove the wind chimes from her daughter’s grave. ‘But we think they’re beautiful.’
Is a council a better judge of what is right and fitting in funerary monuments than at least some of the citizenry? Municipal cemeteries are among the many achievements of our Victorian forefathers. They are usually still well maintained. In many towns they are by far the best and most peaceful place to walk; and they are also highly instructive, from more than one point of view.
Recently, for example, I spent a few hours in such a cemetery in the West Country. That death has long been a subject of importance but difficulty for human beings is suggested by the number of expressions for it inscribed on tombstones in this cemetery between 1880 and 1930. Here is a non-comprehensive list (the cemetery was very large and I did not examine every tombstone):
Died, Passed away, Fell Asleep, Departed this Life, Was Called to Higher Service, At Rest, Entered into Eternal Life, Was Gently Translated, Called Home, Passed into Higher Service, Entered into the Homeland, Suddenly Fell Asleep, At Peace, Was Changed…
There is surely an embarrassment in this profusion of expressions, as if the nature of something so deeply undesirable and undesired as death could be altered into something nicer by a change in terminology. One hears in it Matthew Arnold’s long, melancholy withdrawing roar of religious belief; we struggle over words when we are uncertain what we want to say or what we mean.
My eye was caught in the cemetery by a distant area in which the subdued shades of green and grey and black natural to a cemetery suddenly burst into bright, metallic primary colours. I saw helium balloons waving in the breeze, and as I approached I heard the whirl of little plastic windmills. It was the area set aside for the tombs of children.
The death of children now seems anomalous to us, as for most of human history it was not. Edward Gibbon, for example, tells us in his Autobiography that he was the only one of seven children to have survived infancy, and even he was often expected to die. The Gibbon family was worse than average for the age, but by no means unusual. Now it seems completely against the natural order of things that a child should die before his parents, and when he does so it is therefore all the more tragic. So it is not surprising if the mourning for the death of a child should be more pronounced than in Gibbon’s day.
Yet it seemed to me that some other shift had occurred that was visible in the children’s section of this municipal cemetery. There was an extravagance and kitschiness to the commemoration of dead children that is of recent origin, and struck a false note.
In simplicity is feeling. I was much moved, for example, by a small tomb which gave the name and dates of a child who died aged three months in 1964, by the side of which had recently been placed some fresh flowers. By 1964, of course, the death of a child was already unexpected and anomalous, a tragedy rather than a natural event that, however regrettable, was normal: and this is proved by the fact that 46 years later the parents, now probably in their seventies, remember the child with grief still in their hearts. It takes very little effort of the imagination, surely, to visualise the couple at the cemetery, dignified and undemonstrative, with their small bunch of flowers. But if we move on to more recent infant deaths, we find a significant change.
There has been a Disneyfication of death, in many cases literally. Golden-yellow figures of Winnie the Pooh, always in the crude Disney version and never in the subtler and tender E.H. Shepard version, are engraved on many black shiny tombstones (the favourite national material for tombstones now, the funerary equivalent of the fitted kitchen). There are many Mickey Mice on or scattered about the tombs; there was a Mickey Mouse on the tomb of the only child with a Muslim name in the cemetery (a reassuring example of acculturation at work). Some of the tombstones are actually in the shape of teddy bears; the main literary influence on the inscribed sentiments appears to be that of Hallmark cards:
Fly where only angels sing
Our little man who was born asleep but awoke as an angel
Also now visible is a spirit of competition: he grieves most who grieves most conspicuously and leaves the most plastic detritus on and around the tomb of the departed. In this instance, there was a clear winner of the competition, at least for the time being — the relatives of a child who lived for two weeks and had now just ‘celebrated’ his first birthday. The victory was no doubt so complete because the extravagance was recent; the crown will soon enough pass to others.
There were more toys on his tomb than I received during my entire childhood (and I was not deprived), including some soft toys now rather sodden by the rain. Helium balloons, wishing the infant many happy returns, were tied all around the grave, waving in the air; there were plastic windmills; bouquets of flowers in baskets; a birthday cake with a candle; and many birthday cards, not from the parents alone. One said ‘Happy birthday little one, wish you could of been here’. Another, from a ‘friend’, claimed that not a day passed without her thinking long about ‘you, little one’.
How is it that the fraudulence of this emotionality, its sheer inauthenticity, not to say mendacity, is invisible to those who indulge in it? Here indeed is a puzzle for psychologists. I am reminded of those people who cannot see the fraudulence of American television evangelists the moment they appear on the screen. It is as if we, or at least some of us, are in the process of becoming people without inwardness, who measure their own feelings by outward manifestations only. So many teddy bears, so much grief. How and why have we become like this?
WASHINGTON (AFP) – A growing, more affluent population competing for ever scarcer resources could make for an "unrecognizable" world by 2050, researchers warned at a major US science conference Sunday.
The United Nations has predicted the global population will reach seven billion this year, and climb to nine billion by 2050, "with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia," [i.e. Dar al-Islam] said John Bongaarts of the non-profit Population Council.
To feed all those mouths, "we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000," said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
"By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable" if current trends continue, Clay said.
The swelling population will exacerbate problems, such as resource depletion, said John Casterline, director of the Initiative in Population Research at Ohio State University.
But incomes are also expected to rise over the next 40 years -- tripling globally and quintupling in developing nations -- and add more strain to global food supplies.
People tend to move up the food chain as their incomes rise, consuming more meat than they might have when they made less money, the experts said.
It takes around seven pounds (3.4 kilograms) of grain to produce a pound of meat, and around three to four pounds of grain to produce a pound of cheese or eggs, experts told AFP.
"More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet," Clay told AFP, urging scientists and governments to start making changes now to how food is produced.
Population experts, meanwhile, called for more funding for family planning programs to help control the growth in the number of humans, especially in developing nations [i.e. Dar al-Islam].
"For 20 years, there's been very little investment in family planning, but there's a return of interest now, partly because of the environmental factors like global warming and food prices," said Bongaarts.
"We want to minimize population growth, and the only viable way to do that is through more effective family planning," said Casterline.
Western family-planning consultants are going to find their influence at a minimum in convincing Muslim men that they should have less children.
I remember the predictions in the 1970's that we would run out of oil by the 1980's. That didn't happen, but that doesn't mean that there are infinite oil resources.
I don't know if 2050 marks the year that world population exceeds the earth's resources; I only know that at some point, with a growing population, we will reach and exceed the limit.
The death toll in Libya has reportedly risen above 200. In Benghazi, where Qaddafi’s sons Khamis and Saadi are charged with crushing the uprising, police and army forces are picking off demonstrators with sniper and artillery fire. The State Department has gone so far as to express “grave concern,” while the EU is “very worried.” That’s how bad things are.
So this is probably as good a time as any to revisit the sagacity of Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson, who in 2009 was granted access to Libya and duly announced the unfolding of a “Tripoli Spring.” HRW had just spent a year in relative silence as Qaddafi’s thugs neglected to death long-imprisoned dissident Fathi al-Jahmi. In the aftermath they neither called for an independent investigation nor held the Libyan regime directly responsible for the death. But lest you think they were totally unmoved by al-Jahmi’s plight, Whitson did namecheck him in the first paragraph of her gushing report on Libya’s burgeoning civil society:
What Fathi al-Jahmi died for is starting to spread in the country. For the first time in memory, change is in the air in Libya. The brittle atmosphere of repression has started to fracture, giving way to expanded space for discussion and debate [and] proposals for legislative reform… I left more than one meeting stunned at the sudden openness of ordinary citizens, who criticized the government and challenged the status quo with newfound frankness. A group of journalists we met with in Tripoli complained about censorship… [b]ut that hadn’t stopped their newspapers… Quryna, one of two new semi private newspapers in Tripoli, features page after page of editorials criticizing bureaucratic misconduct and corruption… The spirit of reform, however slowly, has spread to the bureaucracy as well… the real impetus for the transformation rests squarely with a quasi-governmental organization, the Qaddafi Foundation for International Charities and Development.
Of course the entire article was written in a tone of “liberal changes are oh-so fragile” equivocation, the increasingly frayed rhetorical insulation with which Middle East experts coat their apologias for repressive Arab and Muslim regimes. But given the choice between emphasizing the Libyan government’s irredeemably autocratic character or its potential for reform, Whitson emphasized the latter. If Qaddafi falls in an insurrection after murdering hundreds of Libyan citizens, it won’t be because some kind of vaunted public sphere liberalized exploited legislative reforms. It’ll be because the suffocating choke of government control — which Whitson and her ilk insisted was loosening — finally became unbearable, and was met with violence to overthrow entrenched thugs.
Whitson actually made the same move a few months later when she applauded Hamas for promising to investigate its Cast Lead war crimes. Sure the eliminationist Iranian proxies were only lying so they could could enable Western apologists to highlight the Goldstone Report, but at least they were helpfully lying. So they got supportive praise and a gold star.
Unrelatedly, HRW released their libelous White Phosphorous report a few months after Whitson’s article. In any case, this is usually where it’d be appropriate to remind readers that Whitson cut her teeth as an intifada-era pro-Palestinian activist and as an apologist for terrorism, and to gesture toward Alana’s comprehensive roundup of how HRW spent 2010 ignoring terrorist crimes and rogue regimes while demonizing Israel. But insofar as the organization is now hiring actual senior Palestinian terrorists to help the campaign against the Jewish State, previous HRW terrorist enabling seems almost quaint.
CHICAGO — Locked in a climate-controlled vault at the Newberry Library here, a volume titled “The Pen and the Book” can be studied only under the watch of security cameras.
The book, about making a profit in publishing, scarcely qualifies as a literary masterpiece. It is highly valuable, instead, because a reader has scribbled in the margins of its pages.
The scribbler was Mark Twain, who had penciled, among other observations, a one-way argument with the author, Walter Besant, that “nothing could be stupider” than using advertising to sell books as if they were “essential goods” like “salt’ or “tobacco.” On another page, Twain made some snide remarks about the big sums being paid to another author of his era, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.
Like many readers, Twain was engaging in marginalia, writing comments alongside passages and sometimes giving an author a piece of his mind. It is a rich literary pastime, sometimes regarded as a tool of literary archaeology, but it has an uncertain fate in a digitalized world.
“People will always find a way to annotate electronically,” said G. Thomas Tanselle, a former vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an adjunct professor of English at Columbia University. “But there is the question of how it is going to be preserved. And that is a problem now facing collections libraries.”
These are the sorts of matters pondered by the Caxton Club, a literary group founded in 1895 by 15 Chicago bibliophiles. With the Newberry, it is sponsoring a symposium in March titled “Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell.”
The symposium will feature a new volume of 52 essays about association copies — books once owned or annotated by the authors — and ruminations about how they enhance the reading experience. The essays touch on works that connect President Lincoln and Alexander Pope; Jane Austen and William Cooper; Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau.
Marginalia was more common in the 1800s. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a prolific margin writer, as were William Blake and Charles Darwin. In the 20th century it mostly came to be regarded like graffiti: something polite and respectful people did not do.
Paul F. Gehl, a curator at the Newberry, blamed generations of librarians and teachers for “inflicting us with the idea” that writing in books makes them “spoiled or damaged.”
But marginalia never vanished. When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa in 1977, a copy of Shakespeare was circulated among the inmates. Mandela wrote his name next to the passage from “Julius Caesar” that reads, “Cowards die many times before their deaths.”
Studs Terkel, the oral historian, was known to admonish friends who would read his books but leave them free of markings. He told them that reading a book should not be a passive exercise, but rather a raucous conversation.
Books with markings are increasingly seen these days as more valuable, not just for a celebrity connection but also for what they reveal about the community of people associated with a work, according to Heather Jackson, a professor of English at the University of Toronto.
Professor Jackson, who will speak at the symposium, said examining marginalia reveals a pattern of emotional reactions among everyday readers that might otherwise be missed, even by literary professionals.
“It might be a shepherd writing in the margins about what a book means to him as he’s out tending his flock,” Professor Jackson said. “It might be a schoolgirl telling us how she feels. Or maybe it’s lovers who are exchanging their thoughts about what a book means to them.”
Just about anyone who has paged through a used college textbook has seen marginalia, and often added comments of their own.
Not everyone values marginalia, said Paul Ruxin, a member of the Caxton Club. “If you think about the traditional view that the book is only about the text,” he said, “then this is kind of foolish, I suppose.”
David Spadafora, president of the Newberry, said marginalia enriched a book, as readers infer other meanings, and lends it historical context. “The digital revolution is a good thing for the physical object,” he said. As more people see historical artifacts in electronic form, “the more they’re going to want to encounter the real object.”
The collection at the Newberry includes a bound copy of “The Federalist” once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Besides penciling his initials in the book, Jefferson wrote those of the founding fathers alongside their essays, which had originally been published anonymously.
“It’s pretty interesting to hold a book that Jefferson held,” Mr. Spadafora said. “Besides that, if we know what books were in his library in the years leading to the writing of the Declaration of Independence, it tells us something about what might have inspired his intellect.”
In her markings, Rose Caylor gave us a sense of her husband, the playwright Ben Hecht. In her copy of “A Child of the Century,” which Mr. Hecht wrote, she had drawn an arrow pointing to burns on a page. “Strikes matches on books,” she noted about her husband, who was a smoker.
Some lovers of literature even conjure dreamy notions about those who have left marginalia for them to find. In his poem “Marginalia,” Billy Collins, the former American poet laureate, wrote about how a previous reader had stirred the passions of a boy just beginning high school and reading “The Catcher in the Rye.”
As the poem describes it, he noticed “a few greasy smears in the margin” and a message that was written “in soft pencil — by a beautiful girl, I could tell.” It read, “Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”
Adam Garfinkle: On All The Commotion In The Middle East
From The National Interest:
The Real “Iraq Model”
OK, now things are finally starting to get interesting in the Middle East. Tunisia was noteworthy, but not critical. Egypt has been very dramatic, though wildly misinterpreted by most observers in the United States. Jordan is still more or less stable, but is in fact more portentous a stake in some ways than Egypt. But with Libya, Yemen and Bahrain in bloody flames, we’ve got a real story here.
To me, the story is double-sided: There is what is going on in the region, and there is what American non-expert (whatever they claim) commentators are saying about it. The latter is almost as pulse-raising as what’s going on in the region.
* * *
Tunisia has long been anomalous even by regional standards. Thanks to Habib Bourguiba, it is the only Arab country where women wearing the veil has long been illegal. It is in many ways both a city-state, Tunis being the major point of reference for everything, and a trading state from way back when—back when, in Hamuda Bey’s time, Tunis imported wool from Europe to make its renowned shashiyas for export. (A shashiya, for you non-Middle East experts out there, is the deep-red fez cap, with a tassle, obligatory for men of a certain class in Ottoman times, and which, in old Tunisian children’s stories are carried away in baskets by monkeys… but never mind.) So this is and has been a cosmopolitan and, in recent times, very French-speaking place—hardly typical for an Arab country. Combine this history with suddenly very high food prices, an educated and young population denied opportunity, and an old regime no longer with the verve to defend its plundering of the country, and you get a revolution. Very nice; and not a real strain on the old noggin.
Tunisia under Ben Ali did cooperate with the U.S. government in counterterrorism policy, but reports that it was a classical “friendly tyrant” were quite wrong. The U.S. relationship with Tunisia was very marginal; it was really on the French and EU watch, and watch it they did, though not in the way we or they had hoped. The French Foreign Minister was vacationing there when the ball went up; she could not be bothered to notice what with the beautiful beach and the mojitos and all. We did supply tear-gas to the police and so, note to selves: Stop printing “Made in the United States” on the canisters. Considering that we knew the by-far most likely use for these things… talk about dog-shit dumb.
* * *
But somehow, astonishingly, in the mostly empty but fevered minds of American pundits and bloggers, Tunisia became a model for Egypt. In this the Middle-Easternly untutored made three slackjawing errors in their observations. The first was to conflate Hosni Mubarak the man with Egypt the military-bureaucratic regime, as if getting rid of the former would be tantamount to getting rid of the latter. They got rid of a sick 82-year old way past his sell date, and by so doing they got rid of a dynasty in the making. But they have not yet got rid of the regime, and, in my view, they are not likely to either. A person really has to know approximately nothing about Egypt to make such a mistake, but there you go.
The second error was to conflate a political ooze on the streets of Cairo with a “democracy movement.” Young disgruntled Egyptians had lots of reasons to be pissed off and take to the streets, but a yearning for liberal democracy was not foremost (or probably even hindmost) among them. They felt stifled, humiliated, dishonored, more than occasionally abused and just generally “had” by the state. They claimed they wanted Mubarak to go, but beyond that they could not agree on “what next.” I read as many signs unfurled in Tahrir Square as I could: I did not see a single one in Arabic script with the loan word “democracia” on it. (I also loved how Arabic-ignorant commentators referred to “Tahrir Liberation Square”, which is like saying “Mount Fujiyama”, since tahrir means liberation and yama means mountain. You’d think these people would be at least retrospectively embarrassed. There’s no sign of that so far.) For some, the model for Egypt was the Philippines’ people power uprising against Ferdinand Marcos and his wife’s shoe collection. I could not stop laughing for almost ten minutes. I can think of no event less like the Egyptian uprising than that in the Philippines, where democratic traditions were widespread, if a little shallow, where no significant strategic stake existed for the United States at the time, and which used to be a colony of the United States.
And from the first and the second errors you get the resultant conclusion that with the deposing of Mubarak the thing is for all practical purposes over. The cameras move on to Manama and San’a. Wrong again. The real pushing and shoving is just beginning in Egypt. On the one side are Omar Suleiman, Hussein Tantawi, Ahmed Sidqi, Sami Enan and an army now vastly stronger than before with the routing of Gamal Mubarak and his USA-MBA buddies, who had reformed the state party and put an impressive charge into the Egyptian economy. Now that these slicksters have been shown the door, the army is counting its money, licking its lips, and taking aim at striking workers. On the other side are, frankly, a lot of enthusiastic but completely inexperienced amateurs who are divided among themselves (oh, I forgot Mohamed ElBaradei, but I may be forgiven, I think, because almost no Egyptians take him remotely seriously. For the American press, however, ElBaradei is the only non-regime Egyptian they’ve ever heard of, so he suddenly becomes important….) Some among the opposition have seen the inside of an Egyptian jail, and so they know who and what they are up against. But few of these good-hearted twittering souls could manage their way out of the back of a mini-mart. Which side would you bet on to prevail in the end?
* * *
Nonetheless, out have come the models for the Egyptian democratic revolution, which is maybe akin to counting chicks before they hatch, maybe akin to counting them before the rooster has even entered the barnyard—we’ll see which is which in due course, I guess. Some unrepentant neocons have claimed that Iraq, via the Bush “forward strategy for freedom,” is the model that Egyptians looked to for their democratic revolution. There is essentially no evidence for this claim, although, as Fouad Ajami said back in the spring of 2003, it is hard to know how underground rumbles roll. Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt did break the chains of political tradition, though it took a long time for it to become manifest in some places—so who knows what will be in five or ten or twenty years? But it would be nice to have evidence for this, and there is none besides the one or two reported (invented?) remarks some reporters have been able to coax, in English, from the mouths of impressionable young protestors. Most Egyptians do not want to replicate the experience of Iraq, and do not think of it as a model for anything positive. Besides, what explains a lot of what has happened in Iraq hinges on its sectarian and ethnographic heterogeneity, a condition that does not apply to Egypt.
Others recently have trotted out the Turkish model, namely, that of an Islamic democracy. This is silly. In Turkey democracy came way before the rise of the current wave of political Islam. It came because there was a strong secular-minded leader who knew what he wanted, at a time when the rest of the world supported secularism as political orthodoxy. That’s hardly Egypt’s situation today, an Egypt in which a man like Yusef al-Qaradawi returns home and becomes an instant political force.
Besides, Arabs as a rule do not take Turkey, their former colonial overlord for four centuries, as guide for their own conduct. What some Turks may think is another matter. In a slightly different way, what a lot of American academics think is, too. For them, thinking about Turkey as a model for Egypt is a pleasant diversion from worrying that Islamic Turkey may succeed in putting an end to Turkish democracy altogether. That prospect, in truth, is far more likely than Turkey’s ever being taken seriously in Egypt as a model for anything.
* * *
Ah, but if you like models, here’s another that is much more plausible, one that no one, as far as I know, has raised yet… but surely many will in due course. It’s the Iraq-as-Shi`a-revolution model.
The first prospective application of this model is obviously Bahrain, where extremely pissed-off Shi`a outnumber Sunnis and their monarchy. If they overthrow the monarchy—and it’s still not clear that this will happen of that it’s even what most of the protestors want—then the same “model” may well pop up in al-Hasa province in Saudi Arabia. There are lots of Shi`a in al-Hasa, right there with all that oil. I am sure the Al-Saud is already having laundry problems over what is going on right across the causeway in Bahrain.
Yes, folks, the real Iraq model may well end up not being that of a beacon of democracy for the autocracies of that poor benighted region, but the one that propels radical Shi`a to destroy the Al-Khalifa dynasty, summarily expel the U.S. 5th Fleet from its base there, threaten Saudi control over their oil, and veritably invite the mullahs of Tehran to turn Bahrain into another regional ally, with the causeway reshaped as a dagger pointed toward the heart of Riyadh. Now wouldn’t that be just like the world-historical political irony we have come to know and love so well?
* * * [It is as this point that Garfinkle speculates and becomes suddenly implausible]
Just one last point, about Saudia. The Saudis are not only in deep dudgeon about now—thanks to an “ally” that, as they see it, pushed Hosni Mubarak into the pit of doom and has failed to reinforce the backbone of the monarchy on Bahrain—but they are also very likely calculating the pros and cons of switching sides. I mean by switching sides trading in one proven feckless protector for another that, while lacking lots of assets the United States still possesses, may have a keener sense of what being in the great-power protection business is really all about. I am speaking, of course, of China.
The Chinese don’t have the power projection capabilities of the United States, to be sure—but what good are those capabilities if their possessor won’t use them? They don’t own Aramco or lead in oil-industry technologies either. But they are allies with Pakistan, which is in turn Saudi Arabia’s go-to nuclear weapons connection in duress. They will never lecture Saudis about reform or democracy. They will never put limits on military purchases, and they don’t have a Congress to complicate relations. The two governments have done security business before—Sidewinder missiles, remember those?—and the Saudis probably believe the hype about America’s decline and China’s rise.
No one here really knows for sure what the Saudi princes discuss among themselves. But I’d be prepared to wager that these thoughts have already at least flitted through their minds. Have they flitted through the minds of people in Langley, and in the Old Executive Office Building? I used to think I knew the answer to that question. These days I’m not so sure.
Read about the Copts and their travails, under the new dispensation, here.
Sally Moore, that mediagenic Coptic lady who describes herself as a leftist, wears a cross-and-crescent sign (in truth, an apotropaic amulet though she would hardly dare to recognize its true significance), and tells the world that ''I like the Brotherhood most, and they like me.'' She's whistling in the Cairene dark. She really should do a little research on noble, doomed Shahpour Bakhtiar, and for god's sake, she should try, in the depths of her being, to take the real measure of minds on Islam, of which, among her Egyptian countrymen, there are so many.
Those High Hopes Of That Tahrir Square Celebrity, Sally Moore
In Tahrir Square one Coptic woman, Sally Moore (whether "Moore" is an anglicized version of a Coptic name, or a married name, I don't know) received a great deal of publicity. She wore a cross-cum-crescent dangling thing, which was supposed to symbolize a (factitious) harmony, but in truth was much more akin, in its significance, to an apotropaic amulet, designed to ward off the evil of Muslim hatred for Infidels. She was pals, it was clear, with some of those advanced Egyptians, the ones who had lived in, perhaps even were citizens of, the West, the kind who thought of themselves as "secularists" or, as Sally Moore described herself, as "leftists." She's trying to find a place for the Copts, and in this she reminds me, in her transparent attempts to persuade her Muslim fellow-countrymen and potential oppressors to "see beyond religion," akin to the co-founder of the Baathist Party, the Syrian Christian Michel Aflaq, who wanted to stress pan-Arabism -- which would provide a place and space for Christian Arabs -- in order to limit the power and tug of Islam. At the end of his life, on his deathbed, Michel Aflaq "reportedly" converted to Islam, in his own version of You Can't Fight City Hall, especially when City Hall is an Umayyad Mosque.
Perhaps Sally Moore will continue to hope, hope that the removal of Mubarak will somehow change the nature of Egypt's Muslims, and of what Islam inculcates, when it comes to Infidels such as sweet, goodlooking, "leftist" figher for Egyptian freedom -- Mubarak is gone, however, but the stratokleptocracy remains, and even more important, Islam remains and for the sally-moores of Egypt, Islam is a permanent threat. She may think, because she has been befrineded by a handful of advanced young Egyptians with Western experiences and Western-oriented lives (or so they allow themselves to believe), that this, her posse, or her pals, are the real, the true Egypt, the Egypt she can trust.
Meanwhile, she should ponder all the stories now coming out about who is, and who is not, on the committee to rewrite the Egyptian Constitution, and the alarm among Copts about whether or not Article 2 will remain in that Constitution, or be jettisoned. She can contine to insist that ''I like the Brotherhood most, and they like me." Or she can get serious about what the Copts have, and do, and will suffer, because of Muslims who, unlike her new friends in the Movement, take their Islam to heart. .
She might ponder the life, and works, and end, of Shahpour Bakhtiar, of Iran. An exemplary life, a monitory end. And she can read about Coptic outrage over their vile treatment, unaffected apparently by the disappearance of Mubarak (though the stratokleptocracy remains) in the foreign press here, or the Egyptian press here