These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 22, 2007.
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Santa escapes sleigh clamping by a whisker
SANTA has narrowly missed by a whisker getting his reindeer sleigh clamped in London's East End while delivering toys to kids in hospital.
He stopped off at the Royal London in Whitechapel on Thursday (Dec-20) while parking his sleigh outside to hand over a sackful of presents to the hospital's fundraising co-ordinator Kate Jarman, who is distributing them to the young patients on the Big Day on Tuesday.
The presents were donated by East Enders at a collection point at Specsavers' opticians in Bethnal Green.
But Santa didn't have time to say "ho, ho, ho" to the youngsters... a traffic warden was hovering outside in the Whitechapel Road threatening to clamp the reindeer hoofs, even though it is a Red Route and Rudolf was displaying the correct Red Nose.
Meanwhile, Santa could be subject this year to the latest tough Elf & Safety regulations, the AA motoring organisation said in a pre-Christmas statement.
He may have to undertake a 'risk assessment' of his sleigh which could be subject to an MoT test, according the AA's head of risk management.
The 'top 10' essential Christmas Eve pre-checks the AA thinks Santa may have to contend with this year are:
1: Valid licence to drive an HGV sleigh.
2: Fitting the sleigh with legally-required seatbelts.
3: Securing a heavy load to avoid injury to the reindeer.
4: Not being over the drink-driving limit. A sherry at every house would equate to 75 million units, which might render him legless.
5: Ensuring his sat-nav is programmed to avoid wrong turnings.
6: Not exceeding the HGV drivers' regulations in time spent driving. An average 30mph means four million hours delivering presents, based on a total 122 million miles distance travelled.
7: Checking all Christmas lights and bulbs to include brake lights and number-plate lights.
8: Making sure all reindeer are fed, watered and in good working condition.
9: Easing off the reigns to demonstrate eco-driving with such a large carbon footprint from reindeer emissions.
10: Checking all reindeer hooves for pressure and legal tread. Stopping distances from 70mph on a wet rooftop can increase by 40 yards.
The AA statement highlights the current Granny State red tape... as red as Rudolph's bright nose.
Meanwhile in Lancashire, Worshippers at Bury mosques were given special treatment by parking wardens - on official orders.
Staff were told to "turn a blind eye" at parking offences by Councillor Bob Bibby, leader of Bury Council.
The revelation has annoyed local Labour councillor John Byrne, who . . . complained that areas near the Yarwood Street and Parker Street mosques were being left alone, while neither the police nor East ward councillors including him knew about it.
"I have no problem in varying parking orders if it's right, but not if it's done unilaterally," he told last week's council meeting.
Coun Bibby said that he visited a mosque and had promised to look at parking problems in the area. "It's wrong to say that any alterations have happened," he said. "At the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid, I was asked if there was anything we could do in regard to parking restrictions. I asked our parking people, and we are discussing schemes. We thought it was appropriate to turn a blind eye at that particular time. This was suggested by our parking regulators, and I am quite proud that we did it."
After the meeting, Coun Byrne said: "What are we going to turn a blind eye to next? not paying your rent for six months? Where do you stop? I’m quite amenable to looking at it, but it has to be done for the whole borough and for all religions.”
Posted on 12/22/2007 5:54 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 22 December 2007
"Moderate" "Oxford-Educated" Sari Nusseibeh
"The Israelis now living in the territories of the future Palestinian state should return to living within the borders of the state of Israel. No Jew in the world, now or in the future, as a result of this document, will have the right to return, to live, or to demand to live in Hebron, in East Jerusalem, or anywhere in the Palestinian state." --Sari Nusseibeh
What makes this outrageous but perfectly believable remark, by a so-called "Palestinian," of such note is that the utterer is one Sari Nusseibeh, supposedly the most "moderate" and "reasonable" -- because he is "Oxford-educated" (the epithet is Homeric, in Nusseibeh's case) and scion of one of those Arab families of Jerusalem, and left-wing Israelis, Peace-Nowists, and so on, have always loved Sari Nusseibeh. His declaration that part of the original territory specifically allocated to Mandatory Palestine, which was specifically set up for the creation of the Jewish National Home, is unacceptable. But will those Israelis, and American Jews, who fell all over themselves singing the praises of Sari Nusseibeh now see that all such hopes were false, that in the end (just as in Iraq), whenever Infidels put their hopes on this or that individual, those hopes will be dashed. It is Islam that matters. Nusseibeh is simply being a good and dutiful Muslim. And thank god he has fully revealed himself right now, and not after the idiotic Israelis (surely there is a limit, even for Olmert, Livni, and the unbelievable Haim Ramon) give away more and more of what they have no right to give away.
The Nusseibehs are not as prominent as the Khalidis, the Nashashibis, and slightly lower down on the phylogenetic scale, the Husseinis, the leading Arab families of Jerusalem -- the ones whom many of the British in the Mandatory Authority found so attractive because they were so obsequious, in contradistinction to those noisy, un-obsequious East European Jews who were, in addition, devoid of the local color that those Arabs in their keffiyehs or burnooses offered in such abundance. Of course, there were a few who sided, correctly, with the Jews, a few who remained immune to antisemitism because they knew the history of the West, and as part of that history, and knew what the Jews had meant to Western civilization -- and they knew their Bible. These men included Colonel John Henry Patterson, who early on helped train the Palestine Legion, and Colonel Meinertzhagen, who was an intelligence officer on General Allenby's staff, and Captain Orde Wingate, who was forced to leave Mandatory Palestine because he had the poor taste to actually train Jews in the art of self-defense when they were being attacked constantly by marauding Arabs in the 1930s, and then back in London, there was the inimitable Wyndham Deedes, and in Parliament there was Josiah Wedgewood, and Winston Churchill, who yelled to high heaven about the "betrayal" of the Jews by the British government, not least when the White Paper of 1939, limiting Jewish immigration to 15,000 a year for five years (at a time of the greatest peril), was proposed. These people were not the kind to be impressed by those Arab notables, nor if they were alive today, would they be taken in by the likes of "Oxford-educated" Sari Nusseibeh, or for that matter Tariq Ramadan.
Even the most "moderate" and outwardly acceptable of Slow Jihadists, the kind who can smile, who can speak nearly-native English, turn out, in the end, to be loyal to Islam, loyal to the demand that, little by little, the Infidel nation-state must be destroyed. If the Israelis lose military control of the "West Bank," lose control that is of the traditional invasion route from the East, they will be unable to defend themselves. That's it. And if they lose control of the aquifers, the Muslims can interfere with, divert, or even poison, the water on which Israelis depend. They must throw out the haim-ramons and the ehud-olmerts, and vote in those who know what the legal, historic, and moral claims of Israel are, and will state them, firmly, instead of fearfully worrying, like the Israeli government preventing the tapes showing the Egyptians helping Hamas from being shown to members of the American Congress, about offending the people who, in Egypt and among the "Palestinians," would gladly see them dead and their country destroyed, never to be rebuilt again.
And the big subject that no one will touch, the subject of Islam, and the Hate Whose Name We Dare Not Speak, must be talked about -- to save Israel, and to save, as well, the rest of the threatened Infidel world. The first Israeli leader to talk about the Jihad against Israel, and about the attempt to disguise that Jihad, so far quite successful, as a "nationalist" struggle by the recently-invented "Palestinian people," is the one who will help save the people and state of Israel. And they deserve such a leader. They do not deserve what they currently have for "leaders" or, as they say so often in America today, "people taking a leadership role."
Posted on 12/22/2007 7:02 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 22 December 2007
This is a rum do indeed.
Tony Blair has converted to Catholicism
The former prime minister joined the faith at a service in a chapel in Westminster last night.
Rumours about his impending decision had intensified following his meeting with the Pope during the summer.
Mr Blair's four children were brought up as Catholics and he has attended Mass at Westminster Cathedral with his family and, on occasion for security reasons, in Downing Street.
Three years ago his parish priest at Chequers, Fr Timothy Russ, disclosed that Mr Blair had discussed becoming a Catholic with him.
But Fr Russ added that Mr Blair, whose views on a range of issues from abortion to stem cell research are at odds with traditional Church teaching, had "some way to go" on important moral issues.
I can’t quite work out what this is all about, other than that the Wicked Witch of the West must think it would be a good third career move. I know people who have changed churches, some have left the Church of England others have joined us, motivated either way by sincere commitment which I honour; so why is my gut reaction to this one of cynicism?
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Telegraph, and another message in the Yorkshire Post is the Christmas message from the Archbishop of York.
This Tuesday, in thousands of churches across the country, the same passage will be read to the packed congregations. Taken from the Gospel of St Luke, it tells of the very first carol concert, which took place in an open-air venue, up above a hill near Bethlehem, to an audience of some shepherds and sheep.
Telling the Christmas story reminds us not just of our heritage as a country - a country in which 40 per cent of us will still attend a church, carol or Christmas service this year, and in which cathedrals are having to lay on extra services to cope with demand.
It reminds us of God's agenda - his agenda for the poor and the marginalised, the excluded and the disadvantaged. In the birth of Christ, God not only intervenes in human history but enters into it: not in a palace as a prince, but in a stable as a child, born into poverty in a land under occupation.
Yet there are those who will tell you such ideas are a delusion or irrelevance, and others still who campaign to eradicate from our public life the place of faith.
Despite the welter of books and articles from those attempting to prove a negative - the non-existence of God - the critique of a god who can be defined around our own conceptions and ideologies is not a new idea.
For years, sociologists and others have lampooned faith as being a prehistoric necessity of prehistoric man that has no place in the modern world, where man's own achievements have rendered any sort of conception of God obsolete.
Faith, for people such as these, belongs in the category of superstitious fairy tales, where the works of Augustine and Aquinas are placed alongside those of Aesop and Hans Christian Andersen.
Yet the relegation of religious thought and religious motivation to the lowest form of knowledge robs society as a whole not only of some of its champions of social justice, but also of the essential values of human worth that underpin the meaning of life itself.
As we Africans say, and I say now as an African-Yorkshireman: "It takes the whole village to raise, nurture and educate a child."
Our society has a valuable lesson to teach each child - that God created each as a unique individual, and that they should start living like one. Each has their own particular gifts and abilities.
By learning to use them, rather than dreaming about the lives of others, they can throw away the celebrity magazines and the longing to be someone else. Their own life is much more precious, much more exciting if only they choose to use it, to utilise it. God made each of us a unique person down to our fingertips. So stop trying to be someone else and start being who you are.
There is no humiliation to be feared in audition, no boot camp to fail, only the recognition of your individual talents and gifts, many and varied as they are.
Just ask your family, ask your friends, and ask God. He gave you your talents and came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth so that you could live to use them. . . for in Jesus, born for us, God says an emphatic "Yes!" to the world, and invites us to join Him in transforming both it and ourselves.
God trusts and believes in us implicitly. His love affair with us is such that he longs to transform us into those people we were made to be, with each of us as a sacred stand-in for God. Have a blessed Christmas.
Posted on 12/22/2007 7:29 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Vanessa Redgrave helps Guantanamo suspects
The Telegraph: Two suspected al-Qa'eda operatives released from Guantanamo Bay have walked free from court although they are still wanted in Spain on terrorism-related offences.
One of the men, who is accused of distributing extremist propaganda produced by Osama bin Laden, had half of his £50,000 bail surety met by the actress Vanessa Redgrave.
Jamil el-Banna, 45, who was said during a brief court hearing to have helped run a cell called the Islamic Alliance, recruiting people to fight jihad in Afghanistan and Indonesia, returned to his London home tonight.
The other man, Omar Deghayes, 38, a Libyan national freed from Guantanamo and allowed into the UK because he once lived here, is said to have had links to the same al-Qa'eda cell. He was also released on bail.
Spain issued European arrest warrants for both men within hours of their arrival in Britain last night from the Cuban detention centre. Miss Redgrave said: "It is a profound honour and I am glad to be alive to be able to do this.'
She added: "Guantanamo Bay is a concentration camp. It is a disgrace that these men have been kept there all these years."
Posted on 12/22/2007 7:38 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Cold and foggy
Last night, having completed most of my many tasks for the day and seizing a moment where nothing was going wrong, I repaired to a cosy pub in Highgate for mulled wine, mince pies and carol singing. It was a convivial and bibulous evening, and I was able to put the annoyances of the past week in perspective. Unfortunately around half of the choir couldn't make it, and it was easy to see why. Fog had descended with a thud. Freezing, dangerous fog, the like of which I hadn't seen in many years.
I am blessed with sharp eyesight, even in the dark, but I could not see more than about ten yards in front of me. Fortunately we all had only a short walk home, and rang each other when we got in to make sure we were home safely. Once home, heating blazing, I felt blissfully happy and fortunate.
Charles Moore, writing in The Telegraph, says a real winter is as sweet as any season:
Sometimes you read travel brochures selling "paradise islands" on the Equator where there is hot sun all the year round. Surely that is an image of Hell, not of Heaven. There is a special torment in a place where there is no change of season.
And this week, when earth, as in the carol, has "stood hard as iron", has been a nowadays rare reminder that winter is not only the absence of life and heat, but, truly, deeply, a season.
Proper winter: the season when it is unquestionably necessary to wear a coat outdoors, and two jerseys within; the season when I have to light a fire at seven in the morning to be warm enough to start writing this article by nine; the season when sheep start pushing up against the fence in their search for food, and when our poor old dog, normally mad for any walk, now, like Keats's hare, "limps trembling through the frozen grass".
The paradoxical pleasure of any season lies in the feeling that it cannot change, conflicting with the certain knowledge that it will. How could the new life of May ever wither? How could a skeletal December tree ever return to leaf? But they always do.
The frost effects this illusion of permanence so strongly because it has such an intricate life of its own.
Frost takes so many forms. There is rime, the frost which is created from dew already on grass or branch.
There is hoar, the most beautiful, which travels through the air and crystallises spikily the moment it touches the grass.
There is fern frost, which makes those astonishing patterns on our windows, or would, if only we did not overheat our houses. And there is black frost, which forms unseen, and can kill.
Then there is the frost's power to prevent movement ("water like a stone"). Ground that is usually springy turns boney. The earth is under arrest.
William Cowper, a poetical forerunner of romantics such as Coleridge, understood how the depth of winter takes people out of themselves and lets their thoughts wander away from them. In his long poem, The Task, he begins each "book" with what he calls the "argument" - by which he means a summary of the subjects to be covered.
The argument of his fifth book, "The Winter Morning Walk", begins "A frosty morning - The foddering of cattle - The woodman and his dog - The poultry - Whimsical effects of frost at a waterfall".
And his train of thought continues: "The Empress of Russia's palace of ice - Amusements of monarchs - War, one of them - Wars, whence - and whence monarchy - the evils of it - English and French loyalty contrasted".
By the end, the "argument" has managed to reach "Happy freedom of the man whom grace makes free - His relish of the works of God - Address to the Creator".
As for Cowper's fourth book in The Task, "The Winter Evening", the argument alone is enough to fill one with snug melancholy (if that phrase is not a contradiction in terms): "The post comes in - The newspaper is read - The world contemplated at a distance - Address to winter… Fall of snow in the evening - The waggoner … Public houses - The multitude of them censured - The farmer's daughter: what she was - what she is - The simplicity of country manners almost lost … desertion of the country by the rich - Neglect of magistrates… The love of rural objects natural to all, and never to be totally extinguished".
Not a bad run of inspiration where most of us would have contented ourselves with saying: "Bit parky, isn't it?"
Our lack of inspiration comes from the fact that, as Cowper himself puts it, "Our familiarity with the course of nature makes it appear less wonderful than it is."
This frost helps correct that fault.
After contemplating nature, Cowper retreats indoors: "Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast, Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round, And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn Throws up a steamy column, and the cups, That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each, So let us welcome peaceful evening in."
Quite so, although the cup that cheers and inebriates is very welcome too. Happy Christmas.
I'll drink to that.
Posted on 12/22/2007 7:43 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 22 December 2007
What Judge Professor Stefan Lindskog Doesn't Wish To Know
"the law should not interfere in religious matters or in matters pertaining to each individual."
-- from this article, quoting Swedish judge Prof. Stefan Lindskog on why he is proposing a law in Sweden to permit polygamy
Here it the problem. Swedish judge Prof. Stefan Lindskog thinks that Islam is merely a "religion" like any other. But it is not. It is a politics, an economics, a system for organizing society, all regulated by the holy law of Islam, or Shari'a. When he complacently insists that the "law should not interfere in religious matters" this means, when applied to Islam, that "the law should not interfere with the Total System of Islam."
And Islam is not, as Judge Professor Stefan Lindskog may dreamily believe, a faith that is, like modern Western democratic states, solicitous of the individual. The individual in Islam does not matter. He has no right to his individual conscience. He may not leave Islam, and if he tries to do so, it is on pain of death. He may not criticize or mock any aspect of Islam; that constitutes blasphemy and is punishable by death. He is the member of the Umma, the Community of Believers, and not an individual. He is to acquire the habit of mental submission, not ever to question the rules set down by Allah, as codified in the Shari'ah, any more than a Muslim girl can question the authority of male relatives over her, in every regard.
When Judge Professor Stefan Lindskog writes what he writes, ignorant of Islam, he is endorsing the prison of Islam, consigning all those who happen to have been born into Islam, and who now live in Sweden, to be subject to the rules of Sharia, subject to what is commanded or prohibited. If Muslim women want the right not to be subject to polygamy, and they do, they have to rely on non-Muslims to outlaw it, to prevent it from being imposed on them. Wafa Sultan, Nonie Darwish, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Azam Kamguian, and a thousand other articulate apostates or secularized Muslims could explain this to him. But I suspect he, Judge Professor Stefan Lindskog, doesn't wish to know.
Posted on 12/22/2007 7:51 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Just Don't Do It In The Mosque During Eid
Reuters (thanks to Alan): The bomber, sitting in a middle row among the worshippers, blew himself up at the mosque where around 1,200 people were offering Eid prayers. Among those inside was Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, a political ally of President Pervez Musharraf. Sherpao survived....
"It was really shocking to hear that it was carried out during Eid. This has never happened before," said Noor Elahi, a cleric standing by a mosque in the eastern city of Lahore...
"No Muslim could even think of carrying out attacks on mosques, and not on Eid-ul-Adha. It is so distressing and deplorable," said Akhtar Ali, a driver in Karachi...
Yes, during such a lovely festival, I can't imagine why anyone would think about death...(a warning to the squeamish and animal lovers, click on that link at your own peril).
Posted on 12/22/2007 8:10 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Iowahawk: I Bring The Gift Of Me
Iowahawk: A Holiday Message from the Burge-Goldstein Presidential Campaign
The holidays are a special time for all Americans. It is a time when we gather together with friends and neighbors to celebrate and share the festive spirit of the season. Some of us celebrate Christmas, some Kwanzaa or Eid; others, like my running mate Jeff Goldstein, Hannukah. In my family we gather around the p'canclhu, and re-enact the transmogrification of Loumbogu, the hundred-headed goat-thing of Su'yocra Tantchohg.
But no matter what traditions we follow, this is a time to look back on the many blessings we share as Americans. Like you, I am grateful for our freedoms and opportunities and material abundance. Above all, as a candidate for President of the United States, I am especially grateful for the opponents that our political process has provided me. Let's pour a glass of eggnog and gather by the fire for a review, shall we?
New New CW
Unstoppable ice queen riding atop sedan chair to inevitable victory
Panic on the Titanic; staff eunuchs now flinging poo from the deck
YouTube and 50 cc's of Botox, stat!
Audacious icon of hope with 100-watt smile
audacious Oprah studio giveaway
Stedman Graham, without the gravitas
Silky-smooth progressive Southern lawyer
Metrosexual millionaire ambulance chaser
Love child? Huh.. I assumed he was gay
Joe Biden, Bill Richardson
Seasoned establishment DC solons
Clueless windbags good for filling
dead air at
These people were actually elected to something?
Pixiesque voice of authentic antiwar liberalism
Santa Claus conquers the Martians
can-do moderate MassGov
Reverend Huck's personal pulpit
Hugh still believes!
Likeable governor with repertoire of tasty bass licks
|The GOP Jimmy Carter
||The GOP Marshall Applewhite
Gutsy centrist Churchill of 9-11
|The Barry White
of Conservative Alpha Males
Alpha Males don't play that
|Screw this, I got a Fall NBC series in development
Maverick centrist war hero with Tim Russert on speed dial
|Hundreds of media friends stumped by lack of traction
||Enjoy your gold watch with our deepest esteem
|Cranky libertarian iconoclast
||Unifying conscience of the insane left and insane right
See what I mean?
But, as a candidate to be the President of all Americans, I also realize my list of scary, floundering, inept blessings are not equally shared by all. That's why I would like to present a special gift to you: the gift of me, candidate Dave. Sure, you're saying, "I could find a better president than you by randomly picking through the phone book." Maybe, but there's also an outside chance that the name you randomly pick out of the phone book might be one of the names above, and is that really a risk you're willing to take?
Oh, I realize I might not seem like much of a gift at this point, like those 3-packs of tube socks and fruitcakes you'll be throwing in the Christmas garbage next week. But when you get inside that voting booth next year and read the slate of alternatives, you'll be grateful you packed me away in the closet for an emergency write-in.
And next December, when you turn on the TV and see my U-Haul pulling up to the White House, and the panic starts setting in again, just come back to this post and consider what might have been.
Posted on 12/22/2007 11:06 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 22 December 2007
I'll always remember the Wombles
Posted on 12/22/2007 3:06 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Mike Nichols Disappoints
Mike Nichols' new film, "Charlie Wilson's War ,"is getting good reviews and an Oscar buzz, but I thought there was nothing much to it but a banal attack on the CIA and evangelical Christians -- unsurprising targets. It fails to enlighten the audience about the one thing that was absent from the minds of the characters on screen - Islam. It seemed to be accurate as to events, but not so as to men, that is in the depiction of the three main characters.
Tom Hanks played the part of Congressman Charlie Wilson convincingly. Philip Seymour Hoffman was good, although his character implausibly realizes, at the very end, after the Soviet retreat, that "crazies were pouring into Kandahar!" If he didn't realize the mujahadeen were fanatical Muslims before that...well, how clever could he have been, anway? On the other hand, there are C.I.A. agents who even today recall proudly their role in arming the Mujahideen and appear never to have considered whether it might not have been better for American interests had the Soviets crushed them. It is this agent who must spell out the law of unintended consequences for us but does so without any reference to the Muslim view of all Infidels (not merely Russian ones) or to Jihad. Julia Roberts was wooden as the evangelical Texas fundraiser, but that may have been the performance Nichols wanted for that character -- dumb, manipulative, hypocritical, repellent.
The movie condescended. If we had just stayed in Afghanistan and built schools, we are expected to believe, then Mullah Omar and the Taliban would never have taken over. Does that mean we should stay forever, this time round, in Afghanistan? In Iraq? I doubt that that is what Mike Nichols thinks. Finally, the score was gratingly intrusive. Don't give the makers of the movie any more money. I've already given them $12.50. It was a matinee, and my husband posed as a Senior Citizen.
Posted on 12/22/2007 3:58 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 22 December 2007
The Good Egg?
How do you review a book that isn't a book, a 283-page pose?
It's not a rhetorical question. Some assumption of good faith by the author is an important part of how critics operate, but Hitchens simply cannot be this stupid.-- Jeremy Lott's review of Chistopher Hitchens' book, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, here
Hitchens likes to think of himself as a brave iconoclast, speaking-truth-to-power and all that I'm-George-Orwell-of-this-age-and-I-take-no-prisoners sort of thing. I've mocked him before at this site, many times, quand il fait son petit Orwell but the longest whack at him, with Hitchens providing the evidence against himself, is the piece "Hitchens and Said" which, by the way, is listed at the Wikipedia entry for Hitchens. It appeared on Feb. 21, 2007.
Here it is:
Hitchens and Said
There are many examples that one can find on-line of the work of this "good egg" who "writes like a dream." [these were phrases used about Hitchens by someone who objected to some previous mocking of Hitchens by me].
A great friend and unctuous admirer of Edward Said, and though his tribute to Said does not reach the bathetic depths, or yawning heights, of Hamid Dabashi's tribute (google "Hamid Dabashi" and "Edward Said" -- you won't regret it), Hitchens own tribute to Said is memorable, for the same reasons, on a slightly different scale:
"The loss of Professor Edward Said, after an arduous battle with demoralizing illness that he bore very bravely, will be unbearable for his family, insupportable to his immense circle of friends, upsetting to a vast periphery of admirers and readers who one might almost term his diaspora, and depressing to all those who continue hoping for a decent agreement in his birthplace of Jerusalem.
To address these wrenching thoughts in their reverse order, one could commence by saying quite simply that if Edward's personality had been the human and moral pattern or example, there would be no "Middle East" problem to begin with. His lovely, intelligent, and sensitive memoir Out of Place was a witness to the schools and neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Cairo where fraternity between Arabs, Jews, Druses, Armenians, and others was a matter of course. (His memory also comprised a literary Beirut where the same could be said.) He took an almost aesthetic interest in the details, eccentricities, and welfare of his own particular confession—the Anglican Christians of Jerusalem and especially St. Georges school in the eastern part of the city—but it's hard if not impossible to imagine anyone with less sectarian commitment. When talking to him about the various types of sacred rage that poison the region, one gained the impression of someone to whom this sort of fanaticism was, in every declension of the word, quite foreign.
Indeed, if it had not been for the irruption of abrupt force into the life of his extended family and the ripping apart of the region by partition and subpartition, I can easily imagine Edward evolving as an almost apolitical person, devoted to the loftier pursuits of music and literature. To see and hear him play the piano was to be filled with envy as well as joy: One was witnessing a rather angst-prone person who had developed the perfect recreation to an extraordinary pitch. To ask him for a tutorial and a reading list, as I more than once did, was to be humbled by the sheer reach of his erudition. I can still hear the doors that opened in my mind as he explicated George Eliot's rather recondite Daniel Deronda.
On one occasion in New York, after giving us a tremendous tour of the Metropolitan Museum during its show on the art of Andalusia (and filling out the most exquisite details on the syntheses and paradoxes of Islamic, Moorish, and Jewish Spain), he took my own wife on a tour of the shops to advise her expertly on the best replacement for a mislaid purse. I never met a woman who did not admire him, and I never knew him to be anything but gallant. As I look back, I am inclined to be overcome at the number of such occasions, where his bearing and address were so exemplary and his companionship such a privilege.
His feeling for the injustice done to Palestine was, in the best sense of this overused term, a visceral one. He simply could not reconcile himself to the dispossession of a people or to the lies and evasions that were used to cover up this offense. He was by no means simple-minded or one-sided about this: In a public dialogue with Salman Rushdie 15 years ago, he described the Palestinians as "victims of the victims," an ironic formulation that hasn't been improved upon. But nor did he trust those who introduced pseudo-complexities as a means of perpetuating the status quo. I know a shocking number of people who find that they can be quite calm about the collective punishment of Palestinians yet become wholly incensed at the symbolic stone he once threw—from Lebanon! Personally, I preferred his joint enterprise with Daniel Barenboim to provide musical training for Israeli and Palestinian children. But for Edward, injustice was to be rectified, not rationalized. I think that it was, for him, surpassingly a matter of dignity. People may lose a war or a struggle or be badly led or poorly advised, but they must not be humiliated or treated as alien or less than human. It was the downgrading of the Palestinians to the status of a "problem" (and this insult visited upon them in their own homeland) that aroused his indignation. That moral energy, I am certain, will outlive him.
I knew and admired him for more than a quarter-century, and I hope I will not be misunderstood if I say that his moral energy wasn't always matched by equivalent political judgment. Indeed, it should be no criticism of anyone to say that politics isn't their best milieu, especially if the political life has been forced upon them. Edward had a slight tendency to self-pity, and the same chord was struck even in the best of his literary work, which often expressed a too-highly developed sense of injury and victimhood. (I am thinking of certain passages in his Orientalism and some of the essays in Culture and Imperialism as well.) He was sometimes openly alarmed at the use made of his scholarship by younger academic poseurs who seemed to despise the classical canon of literature that he so much revered. Yet he was famously thin-skinned and irascible, as I have good reason to remember, if any criticism became directed at himself. Some of that criticism was base and outrageous and sordidly politicized—I have just finished reading the obituary in the New York Times, which in a cowardly way leaves open the question as to whether Edward, or indeed any other Palestinian, lost a home in the tragedy of 1947-48—but much of it deserved more patience than he felt he had to spare. And he was capable of stooping to mere abuse when attacking other dissidents—particularly other Arab dissidents, and most particularly Iraqi and Kurdish ones—with whom he did not agree. I simply had to stop talking to him about Iraq over the past two years. He could only imagine the lowest motives for those in favor of regime change in Baghdad, and he had a vivid tendency to take any demurral as a personal affront.
But it can be admirable in a way to go through life with one skin too few, to be easily agonized and upset and offended. Too many people survive, or imagine that they do, by coarsening themselves and by protectively dulling their sensitivity to the point of acceptance. This would never be Edward's way. His emotional strength—one has to resort to cliché sometimes—was nonetheless also a weakness.
I was astonished, when reading his memoirs, to learn that such a polished and poised fellow had never lost the sense that he was awkward and clumsy. And yet this man of enviable manners could be both those things when he chose. He did come, as a member of Yasser Arafat's Palestine National Council, to meet at Reagan's State Department with George Shultz. (Indeed, he could claim to have been the intellectual and moral architect of the "mutual recognition" policy of the PLO at the Algiers conference in 1988.) When invited to the summit between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat in Washington in 1993, however—which I happen to know that he was earnestly entreated to attend by the Clinton White House—he told me that it was quite simply beneath his dignity to take part in such a media farce. Now, by no standard did the 1993 meeting sink below the level of the Shultz one, and by no means had Arafat become on that day any more contemptible than Edward later discovered him to be. But it wasn't just that inconsistency that distressed me: It was the feeling that Edward was on the verge of extreme dudgeon before I could press the matter one inch further. I can't shake the feeling that a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian agony is contained in this apparently negligible anecdote.
There is at present a coalition, named the Palestinian National Initiative, which never gets reported about. It is an alliance of secular and democratic forces among the Palestinians that rejects both clerical fundamentalism and the venality of the Palestinian "Authority." It was partly launched by Edward Said, and its main spokesman is Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a distinguished physician and very brave individual, to whom Edward introduced me last year. In our final conversation a few weeks ago, Edward challenged me angrily about my failure to write enough on this neglected group, which certainly enjoys a good deal of popular support and which deserves a great deal more international attention. Perhaps then I can do a last service, and also dip a flag in salute to a fine man, if I invite you to direct your browsers toward the sites for Barghouthi and the PNI."
From first to last, this is unbearable, stupid and sentimental and in many places, flatly false. As for that writing "like a dream" - it would take about two minutes to edit the piece, cutting here and there, to make the prose, awful as it is (there's nothing to be done about the thoughts and feelings of this "good egg"), much better.
Said was dismembered in feline fashion by Bernard Lewis in "The Question of 'Orientalism'." Last year Robert Irwin's "For Lust of Knowledge," a refutation of Said, essentially a book-length footnote to Lewis' article, appeared. Irwin demonstrates conclusively what many (but not Christopher Hitchens) knew, that Said's misrepresentations of several centuries of distinguished Orientalists was comical in the things he got wrong, the things he left out, his inability to comprehend disinterested curiosity or disinterested scholarship, so foreign were they to the mind and even imagination of Edward Said. Everything that he could get wrong, Edward Said got wrong.
A few months from now Ibn Warraq's "Defending the West: A Response to Edward Said" will be published. I have read the manuscript. That book deals with how Edward Said, and his acolytes and worshippers and epigones, have so crudely misconceived and misrepresented the nature of the Western world and its art, its literature, its scholarship, its openness to what Said and friends like to call "the Other" and to then claim for that "Other" a long history of victimisation. At long last, that Saidian wind that kills, and has had chilling and killing effects for nearly thirty years on innocent students and on fearful or careerist teachers, who have been bullied by Saidism in how they learn about, how they write about, how they teach about,how they comprehend or fail to, works of lasting artistic and literary value produced in the maligned West, works that always and everywhere, in the impoverished and thoroughly politicized mental universe of Edward Said were always reduced to ideological counters,and playthings, and weapons. For one example, consider only Said's comments on Jane Austen, and the reasons for his dismissal of her. Is that the work of a critic? Is that what Samuel Johnson, or Coleridge, or Matthew Arnold, or Jacques Barzun, or Vladimir Nabokov, or anyone of sense at all, would regard as legitimate literary criticism? Said did, and so did his worshippers. And among those worshippers was, for several decades, Christopher Hitchens, who is a "good egg" and who "writes like a dream." And Said did the same in his treatment -- not exactly reminiscent of Gombrich or Panofsky, is Edward Said -- of painters on Oriental themes (and this, too, is dealt with magnificently by Ibn Warraq).
Said's "Orientalism" gave license not only for him but for others to offer the same approach to books and paintings, and the results we see, circumspectly, all about us. And "Orientalism" was not the only ludicrous work that Said produced. There is his work of blatant propaganda, "The Question of Palestine" which a week in the library would cure anyone of taking seriously. It is so full of falsity, so easily rebutted, but apparently a great many people never took the trouble to rebut, the same people who go about prating about the "Palestinian people" who since time immemorial have been tilling the soil of a place called "Palestine." One wishes that those who took Said's work seriously, as Hitchens did, to have the decency, before continuing to spout off, to read something sober on the matter, such as the studies by the the Australian scholar of jurisprudence Julius Stone, and then the nonsense would stop. But Christopher Hitchens never had time to spare, and still doesn't, to engage in such reading, though he continues to hold all kinds of self-assured views on the "Palestinians" and on Israel, views entirely unaffected, one might note, by the glimmer of understanding he is beginning to show -- but just a glimmer -- about Islam. Nor would he likely to engage in a thorough study of the demographic and cadastral history of the area known as "Israel" or "Palestine," over the past two millennia or over the past few centuries, or even during the period from the establishment of the Mandate for Palestine. Why should Christopher Hitchens, at any time during the past three decades of pontificating about "Palestine" and the "Palestinians," ever have bothered to study the exact terms and intentions of the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations in establishing that particular Mandate, and how the Charter of the U.N. requires it to honor those terms and intentions, not to change them. That's too much for Christopher Hitchens. He's got a column to write. He's got lectures to give. He's got appearances on television to get ready for. He's got to have opinions on so many things. So many opinions to give, so little time. It would be like asking him to discuss Resolution 242, what those who carefully crafted it intended that Resolution to mean, and who opposed its adoption, or tried before its adoption to change its wording, or who afterwards deliberately denied that it meant what they knew perfectly well it meant (which is why they had tried so long to change it), and endowed it with a different meaning, one which they then convinced many others to accept. Does Christopher Hitchens have the time to find out Lord Caradon said, and Ambassador Arthur Goldberg, and British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart, about Resolution 242, or such "details" and that little phrase "secure and defensible borders"? Of course he doesn't. It's too complicated, for the broad sweep of that truth-to-power legitimate heir to Orwell, Christopher Hitchens.
Hitchens never saw through Edward Said -- but Edward Said was a collection of things that could be seen through, and were seen through, by those whose, such as Bernard Lewis or Clive Dewey or Keith Windschuttle or a thousand other historians, art historians, literary scholars, were not for one minute taken in by, or inveigled to agreeing with, the primitive notions of art and literature and history that Edward Said held, and put into practice, and preached. This should not be forgotten or forgiven just because more recently Hitchens has properly denounced George Galloway (is that an achievement?)and others of that ilk. If the bar is to be set that low, then all should win the glittering prizes.
What is offered here is just a sample of the quality of the thought, and of the prose, of Christopher Hitchens. Some are apparently satisfied with little here below -- Norman Mailer, say, rather than Nabokov or Joyce. Some may find Hitchens is perfectly acceptable, a "good egg" who even, another someone suggests, "writes like a dream." But I allow myself to believe that not everyone is so easily pleased, and that many not-easily-pleased souls come to this website because they expect something better, from those not so easily pleased. .
Much more might be offered into evidence, but I don't have the time. All kinds of things have come up. But for now that is enough. That is more than enough.
Posted on 12/22/2007 6:17 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 22 December 2007
A Former French Diplomat On The Suicide Of Europe
L’administration bruxelloise admet officiellement qu’il entre chaque année dans l’Union européenne, quelque 550 000 immigrés en provenance d’Afrique, du Moyen-Orient et de la Chine, plus des Sud-Américains andins. En réalité, il s’agit du double, c’est-à-dire plus d’un million.
Nous allons voir brièvement ce qu’il en est pays par pays.
L’Italie tient la palme ces temps-ci. Il a fallu pour qu’on le sache, qu’un Tzigane agresse, viole et tue une jeune Italienne. Rome, alors, s’est vue contrainte de révéler que l’Italie, un pays encore plus mal gouverné que la France, ce qui n’est pas peu dire, compte désormais 3,7 millions d’immigrés, chiffre officiel, que 700 000 nouveaux arrivants ont été enregistrés en 2006 et que 560 000 Tziganes s’y sont fixés.
Plus de 100 000 d’entre eux sont arrivés depuis le 1er janvier 2007, donc en dix mois.
Plus de 50 % de la délinquance en Italie est le fait de ces « Roumains ». Il entre, par ailleurs, en Italie, chaque année, via l’île de Lampedusa quelque 60 000 immigrés en provenance de Tunisie et de Libye où le colonel Kadhafi reconnaît lui-même que son pays est envahi de « Subsahariens » qui attendent de gagner l’Europe et qui vont finir par y arriver. De façon générale, il est facile, apprend-on, de pénétrer en Europe par l’Italie où l’administration est « laxiste »…
En Grèce, c’est pire et Chypre est l’une des grandes portes de pénétration en Europe.
En France, rien n’a changé. On peut considérer qu’il entre toujours dans notre pays, 350 000 nouveaux immigrés par an, 70 % en provenant d’Afrique. Le nombre des visas accordés n’a pas diminué. Il est toujours de plus de 2 millions – 2 038 000 en 2006 – ce qui prouve que la lutte contre l’immigration déferlante est, comme le reste, purement verbale.
À ce propos, je note en passant que la commune d’Aulnay-sous-Bois, dans la Seine-Saint-Denis, vient de connaître quatre jours et nuits de combats de rue entre bandes d’« Afro-Maghrébins » et les forces de l’ordre, selon la presse elle-même. À Villiers-le-Bel, Val d’Oise, c’est plus grave encore. La police, attaquée au fusil, s’est révélée impuissante. Ces émeutes, pour être maîtrisées, relèvent désormais d’unités militaires spécialisées dans le combat de rue, d’autant que se constituent dans les banlieues des stocks d’armes de guerre en provenance des Balkans.
En Allemagne, se trouvent 4 millions de Turcs. Il en arrive chaque jour de nouveaux. Un Allemand m’a confié que les Turcs islamistes se sentaient beaucoup plus à l’aise pour pratiquer et exercer leurs activités en Allemagne qu’en Turquie musulmane !
En Grande-Bretagne, 50 puissantes associations musulmanes contrôlent des millions de fidèles en majorité pakistanais. On trouve désormais au Royaume-Uni de Grande-Bretagne et d’Irlande du Nord, sous le sourire de sa gracieuse Majesté très chrétienne, des écoles coraniques où les enfants peuvent être recrutés pour en faire des kamikazes à la voiture piégée.
En Espagne, le sud est envahi par plusieurs millions de musulmans d’origine maghrébine. La reconquête annoncée de l’Andalousie par Al-Qaïda est en bonne voie. De plus, par les Canaries, arrivent chaque année, quelque 50 000 Sénégalais et Maliens, qui sont réconfortés, soignés, nourris et transportés sur le continent où ils reçoivent papiers et pécule, ce qui permet à beaucoup d’entre eux de se retrouver en France, direction Montreuil.
Aux Pays-Bas où vivent de nombreux Maghrébins, Antillais et Indonésiens musulmans, les troubles graves se multiplient. La presse écrit que la situation devient « à la française », c’est-à-dire : magasins pillés, voitures incendiées, affrontements très violents avec les forces de l’ordre.
La Scandinavie n’est pas en reste où l’on observe que, pour être au goût du jour, la Norvège a découvert et recruté, comme ministre de son gouvernement, une femme noire, francophone, originaire de la Martinique.
J’ajoute qu’il n’y a aucune politique commune européenne d’immigration. L’Espagne et l’Italie ont régularisé des millions de clandestins – formidable appel pour les autres – sans même informer leurs voisins.
En revanche, dans les pays de l’Est, pas d’immigrés. Pourquoi ? Parce que les pays de l’Est qui ont subi le communisme et qui donc sont sous-développés, ne distribuent pas allocations, logement, soins et instructions gratuits.
Certains disent qu’il ne faut pas dramatiser. Les grandes invasions du IV au VIIe siècles, ne s’en est-on pas finalement arrangé ? Grande ignorance. Il faut savoir en effet que ces invasions n’ont eu qu’un effet limité sur le peuplement de la France naissante. Généralement, en effet, les bandes d’envahisseurs, des pillards, ne comptaient que quelques milliers d’individus qui ne se sont pas fixés en France, sauf les Francs à l’est. De plus, assez rapidement, ces barbares se sont convertis au christianisme, plus exactement l’arianisme.
Il est vrai qu’à l’époque, la monarchie mérovingienne ne distribuait pas à ces barbares des allocations de toutes natures en leur déclarant : « Vous êtes une chance pour la France. Venez nombreux nous rejoindre avec vos grandes et belles familles ». À l’époque, on avait encore du bon sens.
Et maintenant que va-t-il se passer ? Sur le court et le moyen terme, l’immigration va continuer à déferler. Les troubles qui n’ont jamais été aussi élevés vont continuer à s’étendre et à s’aggraver, et sur le très long terme, l’Europe qui a créé la plus belle civilisation qu’ait engendrée l’humanité, va disparaître.
Ancien ambassadeur de France
Posted on 12/22/2007 7:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 22 December 2007
A Musical Interlude: It Can't Go On Like This (Helen Morgan)
Posted on 12/22/2007 7:28 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald