These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 22, 2008.
Friday, 22 February 2008
Look On My Works, Ye Mighty
"Look on my works, ye mighty, and shudder."
-- from a reader
The reader invokes "Ozymandias," and suggests that a relevant line in that poem may possibly end with a "shudder." But both meaning and meter require something stronger. A mere "shudder" by the "mighty" will not convey the feeling they should have as they witness the ruins of a powerful predecessor's monument to himself. And a final iamb is needed here because the previous foot is a pyrrhic, and the metric grid must be reasserted, so as to fulfill the expectation that has been set up in the mind's ear of the reader.
"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair."
Posted on 02/22/2008 2:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 22 February 2008
Towers Of Babble
Paul Constant writes at Utne Reader (hat tip: Arts & Letters):
...The Truth movement’s newest, most popular film is a documentary called Zeitgeist. Not as professional as Change, Zeitgeist still has weird power: Based solely on anecdotal evidence, it’s probably drawing more people into the Truth movement than anything else.
The first 40 minutes explain in detail why Christianity is a sham and Jesus Christ is not the messiah. It’s fairly well argued and revolves around commonly known facts: Many early religions had messianic stories involving virgin births, crucifixions, celebrations on December 25, and so on. The second part is devoted to 9/11 Truth, and it’s probably the most clearly stated case I’ve seen, covering the “facts” concisely. The third part of Zeitgeist lost me entirely—it’s a screed about how everything has always been a part of a master plan to create a New World Order, and the film’s emotional climax involves a documentary filmmaker befriending a loose-lipped Rockefeller family member who blurts out the events of 9/11 . . . nearly one year before they happened!
It’s fascinating, this structure. First the film destroys the idea of God, and then, through the lens of 9/11, it introduces a sort of new Bizarro God. Instead of an omnipotent, omniscient being who loves you and has inspired a variety of organized religions, there is an omnipotent, omniscient organization of ruthless beings who hate you and want to take your rights away, if not throw you in a work camp forever. Zeitgeist is the film most Truthers mention online when they’re new to the movement, and it believes in a magical fairyland dominated by evil villains. It’s fiction, couched in a few facts.
There are even nuttier resources, like Inside Job: Unmasking the 9/11 Conspiracies by Jim Marrs, who’s made a career of writing about the JFK assassination and extraterrestrial encounters. David Icke, who famously believes the world is being controlled by lizard-men (in a plot startlingly similar to the cult NBC miniseries V), has contributed his very particular genius to the genre with Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster. Just type a couple of words into Google and the whole thing spins into crazy within seconds.
You can get sidetracked tearing apart every bit of evidence with a Truther. Was the whole thing done with remote-controlled planes bearing bomb pods on their underbellies? If so, where are the real people who were ostensibly the passengers of those flights? How did they—whoever they are—pull it—whatever it is—off?
I ask Konrad how many people it must have taken to wire the towers to explode.
“If they had long enough, probably you could have gotten it done with crews of 20 or 40 people,” he says.
So how did the government convince those people to execute its evil plan, and why have none of them come forward?
“It’s just my theory,” he says. “But the people who wired the towers to explode are already dead. They probably got three in the back of the head, just like Pat Tillman.”
But what about the people who did the people who did the towers? And the people who told the people to do the people who did the towers? You can imagine a line of men in suits shooting each other in the back of the head extending all the way from New York to Washington, D.C., and ending in the Oval Office, but somewhere along the way, someone’s going to squeal. Truthers tend to implicate the media in the attack, but, as anyone who’s ever gotten drunk with a journalist could tell you, a conspiracy that involves the media would be short-lived.
The secrecy of our government is a major reason why the Truth movement has gained such successful footing in such a relatively short time, and President Bush’s and Vice President Cheney’s refusal to cooperate with the 9/11 Commission can easily be interpreted as an admission of guilt. Plus, Bush and Cheney probably are guilty of a lot of horrible things, some of which we’ll never know about. But wouldn’t a government conspiracy to go after Iraq just have tied the towers directly to Iraq? If the Truth movement’s only job is to uncover discrepancies, it’s dooming itself to forever pulling facts apart. It’s kind of a Zeno’s arrow of illogic: Truthers will never come to a reasonable conclusion because there’s never going to be an absence of doubt. It’s time for them to put up or shut up, in other words—it’s been six years since 9/11 and they’ve yet to produce anything coherent...
Posted on 02/22/2008 2:55 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 22 February 2008
Preview: When Jihad Came To America
Here is a preview of Andy McCarthy's new book, Willful Blindness, A Memoir of the Jihad at Commentary:
On May 2 and 3, 1990, the U.S. embassy in Cairo alerted its counterpart in Khartoum that Egypt’s “leading radical,” Omar Abdel Rahman, was on his way to Sudan. Warning that his ultimate plan might be to seek exile in the United States, the Cairo embassy asked its colleagues to pass along any information they might learn about his activities on Sudanese soil.
What did U.S. officials already know about Abdel Rahman in 1990? As the 9/11 Commission would later determine, they knew that he
had been arrested repeatedly in Egypt between 1985 and 1989 for attempting to take over mosques, inciting violence, attacking police officers, and demonstrating illegally, and that he had been imprisoned and placed under house arrest until he left Egypt for Sudan.
And yet when, immediately upon arriving in Sudan, Abdel Rahman made application at the American embassy for a multiple-entry visa to the United States, the document was issued to him within a week.
Visa in hand, Abdel Rahman—then fifty-two years old and sightless from a case of childhood diabetes, which had led to his being dubbed the “blind sheikh”—relocated to the United States on July 18, 1990. He first took up residence in a house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, then settled in an apartment across the Hudson in Jersey City, New Jersey. In December 1990, fully six months after first learning that it had issued the visa in error, the State Department revoked it. By then, however, Abdel Rahman had exited and re-entered the United States on three occasions—one of them six days after the visa’s revocation, when he avoided detection by employing a slight variation on the spelling of his name.
At the start of 1991, the New York office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began an investigation to determine whether grounds existed to deport Abdel Rahman for fraud in the acquisition of his visa. At almost exactly the same moment, he officially sought permanent resident-alien status as a “Special Immigrant, Religious Teacher.” Incredibly, the INS responded by granting his request and issuing him a coveted “green card” on April 8. It seems that, unbeknownst to the INS office in New York where he was being investigated, Abdel Rahman had applied for this upgrade in status in Newark, New Jersey. By the time he once again sought to re-enter the United States in July 1991, the authorities could detain him only briefly before letting him back in. After all, he was now a permanent resident.
As is well known, the blind sheikh would be the motive force behind the first effort to bring down the World Trade Center buildings, the bombing that killed six adults, one of them a woman well along in pregnancy, and wounded hundreds more in February 1993. I led the team of prosecutors who in 1995 successfully convicted him and nine others for that conspiracy.
But this was not the first terrorist act on American soil for which he bore some responsibility. It was preceded, only months after his arrival, by the assassination of the radical Jewish activist Meir Kahane. Had American authorities understood the significance of this murder, connected it to what they already knew about Abdel Rahman’s burgeoning activities in America, and worked to mine the reams of evidence left by Kahane’s assassin in his car and home, they would have gathered the information necessary to break up a terrorist ring in its relative infancy and thereby prevent the 1993 bombing—and, perhaps, much else that was to follow.
That is not what happened....
Keep reading here.
Posted on 02/22/2008 2:26 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 22 February 2008
Serb mob storm US embassy in Kosovo protest
Hundreds of Serbs have set fire to the American embassy in Belgrade as they vented their outrage at the West's support for Kosovo's independence.
A group of 300 masked demonstrators broke away from a mass protest organised by the government and smashed their way into the building as police looked on.
Fires were started on two floors of the building and the mob threw furniture from an office window as they were egged on by hardline elements in the crowd of 300,000 people. Flames quickly spread.
The building had been closed in advance of the protest and diplomatic staff were told to stay at home.
However, images of an American embassy in flames in a European country will provoke fury in Washington and stoke tensions between the US and Serbia.
With the rioters turning their attention to the neighbouring Croatian embassy, the Belgrade government took action to quell the growing unrest and sent paramilitary police armed with teargas to expel the intruders from the two embassies. Firemen were then able to put out the blaze. The protesters fled into side streets where they fought running battles with the police.
Sean McCormack, the US state department spokesman, said that while the embassy had been empty, security officials and US marines were in a different part of the mission's compound. The ambassador was at his residence and in touch with Washington.
The Turkish and Bosnian embassies also came under attack from protesters.
Despite the attack on the US embassy, most demonstrators remained calm as darkness fell over Belgrade's parliament square, the rallying point where bells rang out and prayer vigils were held.
The seething crowds cheered as Mr Kostunica thanked Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, for Moscow's support.
Electronic signs displaying the message "Kosovo is Serbia" were flashed up in Russian, as well as in Spanish - a reference to Spain's refusal to recognise the new state amid its own fears about Catalonia and the Basque country's aspirations for nationhood.
Posted on 02/22/2008 1:46 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 22 February 2008
Americans, as I have shown more than once, use longer words than Britons. They also (generally) stretch them out for longer and put extra words in their sentences. The result is that Americans have less time for holidays, which they wrongly call vacations. Here are some examples, from an earlier post, of long words where we have short ones:
Take your average London office, in an office block. It has a lift. In New York – and New Yorkers talk fast – it has an “elevator”. That is four syllables to our one. Americans take the subway (we take the tube) from their apartment (flat) then take the elevator (lift). Ten syllables to our three. Or perhaps the American uses another form of transportation (transport) such as an automobile (car). And the end of the day he may treat himself to a beer from the refrigerator (fridge).
If they work in accounting, the fun begins. Here are some comparisons, British words first:
Stock vs. inventory
Debtors vs. receivables
Bad debts vs. delinquent receivables
Sack vs. terminate (employment)
Maybe they don’t want to terminate someone, but feel obligated (obliged) to. And the unfortunate individual (poor bugger) will be discombobulated (gobsmacked) and unable to connect (join) the dots.
The extra suffixes and other longitudes have come to the attention of some Times correspondents:
It is always a pleasure when visiting the US to discover which words have sneaked into the English language. After hearing that temperatures would “declimb” in early afternoon and we were likely to get some “frozen precip”, the biscuit was taken by our Harlem tour guide who informed us that the church we were passing was where Adam C. Powell and other leading lights were all “funeralised”.
Excellent. My favo(u)rite is a term for filling up the containers of salt, pepper, ketchup etc in a well known fast food chain. It's known as "recondimenterization".
The Harlem tour guide who reported some leading lights as having been “funeralised” reminds me of some American friends who are eagerly awaiting our Prince of Wales to be “coronated”.
According to the notes on a book of guitar scores I recently purchased, the author, Jerry Willard, has “concertized extensively throughout Europe”.
British English does this kind of thing too, but to a lesser extent. But British English has faults of its own. Apparently we're really sloppy about punctuation. In a hoity toity review of Lynn Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Louis Menand sniffs:
An Englishwoman lecturing Americans on semicolons is a little like an American lecturing the French on sauces. Some of Truss’s departures from punctuation norms are just British laxness.
I assume Lynn Truss was suitably humilificated.
Posted on 02/22/2008 6:19 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 22 February 2008
Muslims shocked to learn that crisps contain alcohol
A dry white wine, such as a sauvignon blanc, is often described as "crisp". But does a crisp get you drunk? From The Times:
Senior Muslim figures have said that they are shocked that a number of Walkers snacks contain traces of alcohol and eating them is therefore against their religion.
A tiny amount of alcohol is used in some products as a chemical agent to extract flavour.
The use of alcohol was discovered by Besharat Rehman, who owns a halal supermarket in Bradford, and reported in the Eastern Eye. Mr Rehman said: “Our suppliers were unaware of the alcohol. Walkers must make it clear on the packaging so customers can make an informed choice.”
Shuja Shafi, who chairs the food standards committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that he intended to investigate. “Certainly we would find it very offensive to have eaten food with alcohol.”
Masood Khawaja, of the Halal Food Authority, said that it had raised labelling issues and alcohol flavouring with Walkers before. “They should have looked into the matter and solved it instead of hiding behind labelling regulations. It does not matter what percentage of alcohol is involved.”
However, a Walkers consumer care team representative was unapologetic. She said: “There is not enough room on the packaging to list things beyond allergy-causing ingredients that can make people ill. A minimal amount of alcohol is used to extract the flavour of some crisps.”
Snacks that are likely to be boycotted by Muslims are Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli, Doritos Chilli Heat Wave and Quavers Cheese.
Cursed be the snacks of the infidels! Allahu snackbar!
Cheesy Wotsits are halal. And Allah SWT knows best.
Posted on 02/22/2008 6:59 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 22 February 2008
Is fog the new snow?
Shortly before Christmas I posted about the dense, freezing fog that descended on my part of north London. In truth, I rather enjoyed it, but perhaps this is because we don't get proper winters anymore. The daffodils are out already, and we haven't had any snow, at least not of the kind that sticks and makes London beautiful. Perhaps fog is now as good as it gets. Robert Crampton in The Times:
There used to be a scarcity value to fog of the sort that now attaches to snow. “Freezing fog” (along with the even more dreaded, verging-on-the-supernatural “black ice”) was the great terror of Seventies motoring, spoken of in the fearful, hushed tones adults also then reserved for The Exorcist, or Carlos the Jackal. Fog, of any temperature, wasn't something that happened very often.
Yet this winter, as the climate gets ever tamer, it's been foggy more often than not, often all day. I haven't seen the pyramid on Canary Wharf or the dome of St Paul's since new year. Weeks pass with enough grey stuff hanging over the capital to inspire a Stoker, a Conan Doyle, an Eliot, a Monet, a Turner even. It's only a matter of time before cabbies start making reference to peasoupers and men in capes start throwing very long shadows up walls.
Snow, meanwhile, is a commodity as rare as Christmas. Having grown up on a fair bit of sledging plus a guaranteed day or two off school, I feel cheated. Another February is three quarters gone and not a flake of snow has landed in the city, or anywhere else I know of in the South East. A majority of the English probably won't witness any snow in our own country this winter. My children, 10 and 8, have seen snow from their own windows fewer than half a dozen times.
Clearly the challenge is to make fog as melodramatic as snow. But it's a struggle. “Look children!” I shout, pulling up the kitchen blind at 8am, “it's fogged again in the night! A magical fogfall of virgin fog, draping the drab cityscape in a low-lying light grey cloud, reducing visibility quite remarkably! Let's get our hats and scarves on and go and, er, sneak up on someone!”
They aren't interested. And who can blame them? It's not as if you can (or would want to) dash into the park to build a fogman or lose an impromptu fogball fight to the local rough boys on the way to school. An airport can be fogged in, but a home? Not without cloaking reality in a shroud of untruth. Fog just doesn't lend itself to mythologising. Fog White and the Seven Dwarfs? I don't think so.
Posted on 02/22/2008 7:48 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 22 February 2008
Soft Pedaling Radical Islam: The New York Times Discovers the MSA
Steven Emerson exposes the continuing shoddy reporting when it comes to Islam at the New Duranty.
Neil MacFarquhar's latest paean to radical Islam appeared in Thursday's New York Times, "For Muslim Students, a Debate on Inclusion," in which he praises a known radical leader of the Muslim Students' Association as some kind of moderate. MacFarquhar begins the story with a sweet vignette about Mertaban's alleged moderate bona fides:
Amir Mertaban vividly recalls sitting at his university's recruitment table for the Muslim Students Association a few years ago when an attractive undergraduate flounced up in a decidedly un-Islamic miniskirt, saying "Salamu aleykum," or "Peace be upon you," a standard Arabic greeting, and asked to sign up.
Mr. Mertaban also recalls that his fellow recruiter surveyed the young woman with disdain, arguing later that she should not be admitted because her skirt clearly signaled that she would corrupt the Islamic values of the other members.
"I knew that brother, I knew him very well; he used to smoke weed on a regular basis," said Mr. Mertaban, now 25, who was president of the Muslim student group at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, from 2003 to 2005.
Pointing out the hypocrisy, Mr. Mertaban won the argument that the group could no longer reject potential members based on rigid standards of Islamic practice.
Mertaban the non-hypocritical "moderate," as MacFarquhar would have you believe. Mertaban apparently likes girls in miniskirts – at least enough to not refuse them admission to the MSA.
But what does Mertaban have in store for this flouncing, attractive, be-miniskirted undergrad? Here's what he told an MSA audience at U.C. Berkeley in April 2007:
So you never compromise on your faith. You be confident in every aspect of life. In every aspect of Islam you are confident. Four wives? Yes men are allowed to have four wives within this context.
Of course, polygamy is illegal in the United States. And Mertaban's speech that day was not limited to Islamic marital relations. He continued:
Jihad? Yes Jihad! Jihad is the tightest thing in Islam. Don't compromise on these little things. Be proud of it. Why? Because Islam is a perfect religion. If you sit here and you start saying, 'Jihad is only an internal this and that,' you are compromising on your faith.
That's very moderate, indeed. Of course, you won't read this in the New York Times, but Mertaban began his speech that day with a stirring defense of none other than Osama Bin Laden, imploring his audience that, no matter what Bin Laden may – or may not – have done, Muslims are obliged to defend him "to the end." Here's what he said:
War in Iraq or Afghanistan or Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. Don't ever compromise on Islam! And don't ever compromise on your Muslim brothers and sisters in which you have no evidence. Osama bin Laden- I don't know this guy. I don't know what he did. I don't know what he said. I don't know what happened. But we defend Muslim brothers and we defend our Muslim sisters to the end. Is that clear?
At the same conference, Mertaban defended radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on the same grounds:
Time magazine had this one article on Muqtada al-Sadr. Who knows who Muqtada al-Sadr is? He is one of the individuals in Iraq who is one of the leaders of the Shi'a resistance movement against U.S. troops. Anyways, Time magazine dramatizes everything. So here is Muqtada al-Sadr, ok? And I want you to look at my facial expression, because this is very powerful how they used him … They're attacking Muslims not based on you and how you look and how you look - based on how he looks.
I don't even know the guy. The guy is probably a tight Muslim. I don't even know him. I don't really care too much about him to tell you the truth. But the idea is how they use individuals like that to portray Muslims.
Posted on 02/22/2008 7:49 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 22 February 2008
I am not generally in favour of extra suffixes. I prefer “obliged” to “obligated” and “transport” to “transportation”. (Transportation used to mean shipping people to the colonies, but now the colonials are shipping their long words to us.) There is one exception, and it isn’t a proper English word, but a mistake made by an Armenian tour guide. The word is “abandonated”.
Armenia is a beautiful country, with thousands of old churches and monasteries. It is also dotted with rusting factories from the Soviet era, and grim old Ferris wheels that never turn. Our guide told us that the factories were “abandonated”. He said this in such a dignified, elegiac voice that it seemed a pity to correct him. “Abandonated”, with its suggestion of “desolate” and “dilapidated”, is a far better word than “abandoned” for these ghostly factories, once bustling with workers fulfilling five-year plans. Independence, as the older generation of Armenians will tell you, has been a mixed blessing. Of course the old factories were inefficient, but the new efficiency came at the price of unemployment. Young people left their home towns, and even left Armenia. Small towns and villages – and their Ferris wheels - are now abandonated.
"Abandonated" doesn't fit Britain or Europe. The Health and Safety busybodies make sure nothing is left alone long enough to acquire an extra suffix.
Posted on 02/22/2008 12:52 PM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 22 February 2008
Greg Davis (of Jihadwatch) on the BBC World Service
Thanks to Alan for this. The BBC, especially the News and the World Service, has been absurdly pro-Islam and anti-Israel. But, as I have said many times, it is not, unlike Islam, monolithic. Newsnight and Panorama, in particular, have produced excellent programmes, incisively challenging Islam. And it was on the BBC that the Danish Cartoons were shown close up. Now they are featuring Greg Davis, a relative newcomer to Jihadwatch.
It is 38 minutes, that is around two thirds, into the timeline.
Unfortunately I have no time at the moment to listen to this clip, and will comment later. Alan comments:
I thought that Greg Davis did a very good job on BBC World Service spot, in what was a short mini-debate (less than 10 minutes), with an imam-type;
Greg countered the familiar 3-prong mantra that Islam has been only historically defensive, that it is a religion of peace, and that Muslims are free to leave Islam. Greg pointed to the strong counter historical evidence showing the perennial violence of Jihad, and the predominantly aggressive intolerance of Islamic texts.
Posted on 02/22/2008 5:47 PM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 22 February 2008
A Musical Interlude: Who Am I? (Al Bowlly)
Posted on 02/22/2008 7:15 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald