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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
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These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 23, 2007.
Friday, 23 March 2007
Free speech victory at Michigan State U

A heartening report from FIRE:

Thanks to FIRE’s intervention, Michigan State University will provide free security for tonight’s screening of the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” hosted by the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The university originally said that YAF would have to pay the overtime wages of any officers assigned to the screening or would incur extra fines if officers responded to protests that broke out at the screening. FIRE wrote to Michigan State on March 16 to stress that holding students responsible for security costs affixes a price tag to controversial expression, encourages other students to threaten violent action, and chills speech on campus because students not able to pay for added security will be forced to cancel their events. FIRE cited the Supreme Court’s unequivocal decision in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992) that “[s]peech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.” Thankfully, FIRE’s intervention led Michigan State to provide security guards at no charge to YAF, allowing the screening to proceed. FIRE will further press the university to reform its security policy so that it cannot be used to discriminate against groups on the basis the content of their expression.

Posted on 03/23/2007 5:59 AM by Robert Bove
Friday, 23 March 2007
Our Soldiers' Experience

"I don't know if you have spoken to any of the soldiers having served in Iraq... but the only unfairness they see is Democrats and Americans abandoning them." --from a reader

1. Yes.
2. Not true. Many soldiers have lost all belief in the "mission" which they have never quite understood in any case, because it makes no sense. Not all of them know what the words "Jihad" and "dhimmi" mean, or know what the phrase "various instruments of Jihad, including Daw'a and demographic conquest" means. But they certainly are acquiring a good sense of what a society, or societies, sufffused with Islam are like. It is not an edifying spectacle, one not soon to be forgotten.

Posted on 03/23/2007 6:02 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 23 March 2007
Supporting Bush's Mad Policy

Often expressed is a curious theory, that goes something like this. If a military action begins, no matter how pointless, or how wasteful, it turns out to be, we must not criticize it, nor attempt to stop it in the only way that, apparently, is constitutionally permissible -- by cutting off funds -- because, you see, that would not be "supporting the troops." And that argument can be repeated for any military intervention, no matter where or when, as long as one can say "we can't cut off support to the troops." And thus a President and his Administration are apparently unstoppable, the runaway train of their policies not ever to be brought to an intelligent halt, even if they appear to be going right towards a cliff, or a wall (choose your metaphoric end).

If the Americans stay, and squander another 150-200 billion, and take another 800 dead, and another 7,000 seriously wounded, what would be the result? Suppose, for a bit, the Shi'a pretend to offer the Sunnis what the Sunnis, for a bit, pretend to accept? So what? How does that further the interests of Infidels world-wide?

The Shari'a is already the final law of Iraq. Just as no law, in this country, will stand that is held to violate the American Constitution (that's what constitutional law is all about), in Iraq, no law can violate the Shari'a. And this in a Constitution which, if anything, will be ignored in one direction and one direction only - in favor of Islam.

Already, throughout Iraq, one can see the reappearance of the women forcibly dressed in the chador (or burqa, or abaya, or whatever it is called in the Iraqi rather than the Iranian or full-body version of the Saudis or the Afghani women). Already liquor stores have been destroyed and salesmen, usually Christians, killed. Already the country has re-islamized, in the south, and in the west, and to keep thinking that the country is full of advanced secularized chalabis and makiyas, or the bloggers with their brave but unrepresentative blogs.

Bush has a history of making bad investments, and then being bailed out by others. He doesn't know when to do what he would call "cut and run." He doesn't understand how one takes in new information, and acts upon it. He may think he's got Islam's number, but it is clear, from both public and private evidence, that he is precisely as bewildered, as unwilling or simply unable to comprehend, that the whole world does not want what he, George Bush, the unthinking child of privilege, assumes everyone wants, and will satisfy everyone. Muslims, in particular, are taught to inhabit a very particular mental universe. Some manage to ignore, or ignore in part, the habit of mental submission, and begin to think for themselves. But in the Muslim lands, it is a very rare and very difficult thing. A few even of the richest Arabs, living in London, a very few - for so many simply accept and wallow delightedly in the most decadent aspects of the West, and find nothing hypocritical about, at home, cutting the limbs off of domestic workers for the most minor of infractions, while they engage in wholesale sinning of every conceivable kind.

Bush isn't up to it. And apparently, many people who become more incensed by those who hate Bush -look at some or many of the so-called "conservative" websites, whose readers and writers are not "conservative" at all. Or rather, they are "knee-jerk conservatives." Bush No Matter What.  The War in Iraq At Any Cost.

They are foolish. And they will find that other things, things that really matter, will suffer if they continue this mad policy of supporting Bush's...mad policy.

Posted on 03/23/2007 6:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 23 March 2007
They Don't Wanta Go Back to Iraq

New Duranty: A total of 3,196 active-duty soldiers deserted the Army last year, or 853 more than previously reported, according to revised figures from the Army.

The new calculations by the Army, which had about 500,000 active-duty troops at the end of 2006, significantly alter the annual desertion totals since the 2000 fiscal year.

In 2005, for example, the Army now says 2,543 soldiers deserted, not the 2,011 it had reported. For some earlier years, the desertion numbers were revised downward.

National Public Radio first reported on Tuesday that the Army had been inaccurately reporting desertion figures.

A soldier is considered a deserter if he leaves his post without permission, quits his unit or fails to report for duty with the intent of staying away permanently. Soldiers who are absent without leave — or AWOL, a designation that assumes a soldier still intends to return to duty — are automatically classified as deserters and are dropped from a unit’s rolls if they remain away for more than 30 days.

Some Army officers link the recent uptick in annual desertion rates to the toll of wartime deployments and point to the increasing percentage of troops who are on their second or third tours in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Posted on 03/23/2007 6:38 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 23 March 2007
New Translation of the "How to Beat Your Wife" Section of the Qur'an

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new English-language interpretation of the Muslim Holy book the Koran challenges the use of words that feminists say have been used to justify the abuse of Islamic women.

The new version, translated by an Iranian-American, will be published in April and comes after Muslim feminists from around the world gathered in New York last November and vowed to create the first women's council to interpret the Koran and make the religion more friendly toward women.

In the new book, Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar, a former lecturer on Islam at the University of Chicago, challenges the translation of the Arab word "idrib," traditionally translated as "beat," which feminists say has been used to justify abuse of women.

"Why choose to interpret the word as 'to beat' when it can also mean 'to go away'," she writes in the introduction to the new book.

The passage is generally translated: "And as for those women whose illwill you have reason to fear, admonish them; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!"

Instead, Bakhtiar suggests "Husbands at that point should submit to God, let God handle it -- go away from them and let God work His Will instead of a human being inflicting pain and suffering on another human being in the Name of God."

Some Muslims said the new interpretation strayed from the original. Omar Abu-Namous, imam at the New York Islamic Cultural Center Mosque, questioned Bakhtiar's interpretation.  

"There is nothing to stop a woman from translating the Holy Koran. The translator should have good command of the Arabic language in order to convey it and translate it into other languages. I don't know if Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar has good command of Arabic," Imam Abu-Namous said.

"Maybe she is depending on other translations, not on the original," he said.

Posted on 03/23/2007 6:50 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 23 March 2007
Athwart the cult of comfort and covenience

March 23, the date on which Patrick Henry gave The Speech.  From the Conservapedia entry:

Patrick Henry is best known today for the rousing speech that he gave on March 23, 1775 to the 2nd Virginia Convention at Richmond's St. John's Church:

I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery ... We have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated ... We have prostrated ourselves before the throne ... Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence. ...
There is a just God who presides over the destines of nations ... who will raise up friends to fight our battle for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave ... Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.

(Bonus points:  Who said, "Give me liberty and give me death!"?)

Posted on 03/23/2007 6:55 AM by Robert Bove
Friday, 23 March 2007
Another High Level Assassination Attempt in Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie was wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a hall where Zobaie was attending prayers on Friday, police and an aide to Zobaie said.

Two guards were killed in the second assassination attempt on a senior member of the U.S.-backed government in a month.

The aide said Zobaie, a member of the main Sunni Arab political bloc, was hit by shrapnel in the abdomen and shoulder. It was not immediately clear how serious his injuries were...

Police sources said Zobaie was targeted by two coordinated attacks -- a car bomb at his home and the suicide bomber at the prayer hall where he was at the time...

Posted on 03/23/2007 7:00 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 23 March 2007
Trio arrested over 7/7 suicide bombs

So reads the headline in today’s Telegraph.

 

How unfair. There they were, innocently rehearsing for a performance of Mozart’s Divertimento in E Flat, K 563, when those uncultured infidels burst in and clapped the darbies on 'em. Mohammed plays the cello, Khaled the violin and Ahmed the viola, or sometimes, if they’re doing Beethoven’s Archduke, the piano. Occasionally they go a bit wild, dress up as the Andrews Sisters and sing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B”. But terrorism? Perish the thought.

 

One of the challenges facing journalists in recent years has been how to report incidents of terrorism without mentioning the word “Islam” or “Muslim”. “Asian”, or “of Asian extraction” regularly stands in for Muslim, as if Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and atheists from the Indian sub-continent were as likely as Muslims to plot jihad. A problem then arises if the Muslim terrorists are black, Arab or white. The BBC, more anxious than most of our news media to avoid the M-word, has even resorted to “men”. This narrows the field down to half the population. Should a Muslim woman become a terrorist – and this has happened in other countries – she will be called a “carbon-based life form” (h/t JW).

 

The Telegraph, far from being pro-Islam, nevertheless fights shy of referring to Muslims in its headlines, and, even in the main article, talks about “three men, believed to be British nationals of Pakistani origin”. Euphemisms are counter-productive in the end, as we all know what they mean.

 

Still, I like trio. But they shouldn’t overuse it. Next time three male carbon-based life forms of Pakistani or Arab extraction are arrested, The Telegraph should use another word, for example: threesome, triad, triumvirate, trine, or trinity. Yes, trinity – that’s a good one.

Posted on 03/23/2007 7:32 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 23 March 2007
Never Have So Few Done So Much Damage To So Many

"The battle lines in any case must be redrawn and a lot more of the enemy must be taken out. Western people who have not got the stomach for this continue to be a brake on success and part of the problem .

The war is over only when the jihadis are defeated and they cry uncle."-- from a reader

"When the jihadis....cry uncle?" Is this some kind of schoolyard game? And do you think the phrase "[the] war is over...when the jihadis are defeated" really makes any kind of sense?

Points Never to Forget:

1) This "war" has no end. Even to think in terms of a war with an "end" shows that you have not thought through the problem of Islam. Even if Muslims are weakened, or appear to have let the doctrine of Jihad fall into desuetude, because they may appear, and may in fact be, too weak to act on it (essentially, from about 1800 to 1960, that was the case, and that was the period when some Muslims, recognizing the weakness of the Islamic world, actually tried to think of ways to "reform" it but aside from visiting Europe and noting the need to rival it in military technology, nothing every came of that "reformist" impulse, tiny and ineffectual as it was).

2) This war has no end, because Islam cannot everywhere be stamped out -- have Nazis, or neo-Nazis, ceased to exist? Of course not, nor have devout Communists eager for levelling by the state, nor have Fascists, nor have all kinds of human impulses that, if translated into the political sphere, are mortal enemies of civilization and intelligent freedom. But they have been held in check, their numbers limited.

3) The task of the non-Muslim world is to weaken the Camp of Islam, and the appeal of Islam to the psychically and economically marginal in the West, in the most effective way, and at the lowest cost. Ordinarily that can be done by exploiting the natural pre-existing divisions within Islam. Iraq, for example, offers two of the three main divisions.

The first is the sectarian (Shi'a and Sunni), and sufficiently balanced in power that neither side could easily defeat the other, despite the large Shi'a advantage in population, for the Sunnis are much more ruthless, aggressive, and determined, and have deep-pocketed allies in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait (the Al-Sabah family doesn't want a Shi'a threat fro Iran-cum-Iraq to replace that it faced with Saddam Hussein, especially since there are many Shi'a in Kuwait, who may now be regarded as a potential fifth column).

The second is the ethnic: the justified desire of the Kurds to be independent of the Arabs, who have persecuted them, and murdered them, and taken over their lands, and appropriated the oil wealth under those lands (which lands, in fact, were in reality those of the Assyrian Christians who in fact were, in the post-World War I settlement, dispossessed by some of those Kurds moving south, as in turn, the Kurds were later dispossessed --as in Kirkuk -- by the government-sponsored resettlement of Arabs moving north).

The third, not present within Iraq but certainly present among the Muslim states: is economic: the resentment of poor Arabs and Muslims over the unmerited vast wealth of the rich Arabs and Muslims, a resentment that has not been exploited because, idiotically, the Western world has, instead of drawing attention to the grand theft of "Muslim" resources by a handful of rulers and states, and their refusal to share the wealth not only with many of the people in those states, but also with other Muslims, thus showing not the slightest interest in supporting fellow members of the umma (although payments to other Muslims for spreading Islam in the West, or to engage in acts of terrorism against Israel or India or other Infidel states -- well, that can and is supported by rich Arabs).

We need first to recognize, and then to exploit, these fissures. I haven't begun to explain, at this site, the kind of propaganda that would help, but most of it should be obvious.

But it is not obvious to the likes of Karen Hughes. It is not obvious to the likes of Cheney's daughter, the one involved in bringing "democracy" to Iraq (what makes her an expert? what allowed her to be pout in charge of such matters?). And it certainly isn't obvious to Condoleeza Rice, with a most limited view of things, whose claim to fame is that she was a good -- i.e., obedient -- graduate student in some branch of Kremlinology, but lacks the learning, the world experience, and the imagination to push her even more limited boss into something like a comprehension of what Islam is all about, and how it makes best sense to constrain and weaken it.

When historians write about the years 2000-2008, they will gasp at the expense, at the squandering, at the obstinate naiveté and failures of intelligence (of every kind) and of imagination. They will be amazed at the lack of ability of the people in charge to comprehend, to articulate, to instruct, and to protect. They will be flabbergasted at the trillion dollars wasted, at the great damage done to the morale of the military and to its capability, at a time of peril. They will not understand why nothing started to be done, then, about the campaigns of Daw'a and the slow but seemingly inexorable (it is not inexorable, it can be halted, and it can be reversed, but this requires a recognition of the problem and an intelligent awareness of what is at stake, and what is permissible -- see the Benes Decree of 1946 for a guide) demographic conquest of the heart of the West -- Europe.

The historians will compare the failure of our leaders, or rather, of those "taking a leadership role" -- with the intelligent awareness, and acts of mass auto-didacticism, whereby many, including those who come to this website, have begun to undertake their own study of Islam, because they sense the discrepancy between what they are told in the press and on television and by their "taking-leadership-role" leaders, and what they see all about them, if they are not deaf, and dumb, and blind.

The political class, the ruling classes, the elites all over the West have failed. They failed when, without study or thought, they began some thirty years ago to let in Muslim migrants. They failed when they continued to avert their eyes from what such migration meant for the indigenous Infidels, their legal and political institutions, their freedoms, their art, their free inquiry, their physical safety. They failed for all kinds of reasons. Stupidity, cupidity, timidity - the Esdrujula Explanation that has been put up here many times. They will not be forgiven by posterity. So many things, now so difficult to deal with, could have been so easily avoided in the first place, had intelligence been properly applied.

Future historians will sum it up this way:

Never have so few done so much damage to so many.

Posted on 03/23/2007 10:57 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 23 March 2007
Eppur Si Muove

I review Doug Hofstadter's new book on consciousness in today's WSJ.  (Hofstadter is the guy whose 1979 book  Gödel, Escher, Bach launched a hundred thousand careers in computer science.  It's still in print, I see.) 

Is a naturalistic explanation of consciousness possible?  Hofstadter makes a very plausible case, but left me still a mysterian at last...  though sufficiently hooked on the whole topic that I went and purchased Prof. Robinson's CDs on Consciousness and Its Implications from the Teaching Company.  I shall listen to the lectures on a long walk I have planned.

The main thing here—and Hofstadter makes the point himself—is that the folk-naive notion of consciousness—the "ghost in the machine"—is so well rooted in our language and habits of thought, this is one of those cases where an old generation (i.e. mine) will have to die off & a new one come up before we can really think straight about this.  If there really is a new synthesis a-coming down the pike, at my age and with my ingrained ways of talking and thinking, I can't hope to do more than glimpse it.  I'll never really get it.

That's always the way with revolutions in thinking.  Isaac Newton didn't even get his own theories.  Action at a distance?  What's that?  He went scratching around in the Bible for an answer.

Posted on 03/23/2007 11:09 AM by John Derbyshire
Friday, 23 March 2007
For the Kiddies

Last night I saw U.S. Attorney General Gonzales on the telly, saying: "I'm not going to resign.  I'm going to stay focused on protecting our kids."

Yo, General, do me a favor:  Let me take care of protecting my kids.  I don't vote Republican so that some nanny state can relieve me of my responsibilities.

And speaking of responsibilities, try attending to yours—defending our nation's borders against unwanted intruders, for example. 

Posted on 03/23/2007 11:11 AM by John Derbyshire
Friday, 23 March 2007
Correction

"Just one technical remark, Mr.Fitzgerald. The 6th paragraph starts with 'It is immortal for Bush and others...' I assume it's a typo and you meant:'It is immoral for Bush and others...'-- from a reader commenting on this post


Yes. It has been corrected.


A mistake I've made before, incidentally, but always in the other direction, and only in my thoughts:

"I have immoral longings in me..."

Posted on 03/23/2007 11:15 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 23 March 2007
Re: For the Kiddies

A reader tells me that the USAG was speaking at a Project Safe Childhood Event, which I did not know.  I don't care, though; his remark was just as much of an impertinence, wherever it was uttered.

And this Project Safe Childhood thing smells bad to me.  Look at their banner quote:  "The Internet must be safe for all Americans, especially children."  (That's Gonzales again.)  More nanny-state pap.  You'd think the great child-abuse hysteria of the 90s, and the horrible injustices that flowed from it, had never happened. 

I had occasion to remark on a recent Radio Derb that Gonzales, for all his faults, is at least not Janet Reno.  Now I'm not so sure.  Can we get a DNA test? 

Posted on 03/23/2007 12:09 PM by John Derbyshire
Friday, 23 March 2007
So you're offended?

...asked Stephen Fry, in a debate about free speech. “So f****ng what?” he went on to say.

 

He doesn’t usually swear, but did on this occasion, in order to make a point. Perhaps some were offended by the f-word. People are offended by all kinds of things.

 

Jason Pappas pointed out that The Telegraph’s Speakers’ Corner is running a debate:

Who or what do you think is the greatest threat to freedom in Europe? Is the continent most at risk from Islamic extremism, climate change, a resurgent Russia, uncontrolled migration. "moralising politicians" or some other danger?

Many commenters say Islam. Far more say the EU. But we know which comments would give the most offence to those criticised, which comments may – and if this were the BBC’s website, almost certainly would – get deleted. Islam, though a religion, receives more protection than Christianity. Though a political ideology, it receives more protection than the EU, the Tories or any other political entity.

It shouldn’t, argues David Thompson, in his latest piece, It’s okay to dislike Islam:

One of the creeping, unanalysed myths of our time is that it is somehow wrong to dislike Islam, or any part thereof, and wrong to take a dim view of its tenets and demands, and wrong to take a still dimmer view of the figure who founded it. I can practically hear the distant tutting and grunts of disapproval. Poor Islam. Poor Muslims. Their beliefs are being mocked. How hurtful. How 'racist.' How terribly unfair.

No. It's not unfair at all. What's unfair is a demand for unearned deference and a unilateral exemption from the testing of ideas. What's unfair, indeed despicable, are efforts by Islamic groups to cow dissent and stifle criticism with a well-rehearsed pantomime of victimhood and the projection of false motives. Pretending to be hurt in order to assert one's will over others, even violently, or to gain unreciprocated favours, or to exert control over what others may say and think, is cowardly and malign. Let me say that once again. It's cowardly and malign.

This piece ties in with Thompson’s earlier article, The passive-aggressive jihad. Jihad is not just about physical violence. If it were, it would be easier to deal with. All methods of jihad are permissible, including the verbal equivalent of bursting into tears and stamping the foot. Just as we should ignore spoilt children who behave like that, so too we should deny Islamic cry-babies, far more dangerous than spoilt children, the oxygen of attention.
Posted on 03/23/2007 12:19 PM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 23 March 2007
An unsung hero

Commenter Alan drew NER's attention to an article by Isabel Wolff in the Mail on Sunday, in which she asks how Thomas Clarkson, a hero of the anti-slavery movement, was airbrushed out of history. I had heard of him, but like many people, I suspect, did not realise he was anything like as important as Wilberforce:

But the abolitionists' prime mover, its powerhouse, was Thomas Clarkson.

In his time, Clarkson was a man of colossal reputation. To the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he was 'a moral steam engine' and a 'giant with one idea'. Indeed, he was the only abolitionist to devote his life to the cause of anti-slavery.

Yet thanks to a terrible injustice, his part in the abolition movement was deliberately airbrushed from history to enable Wilberforce to seize the glory.

Wilberforce became a powerful Parliamentary spokesman on antislavery, but it was Clarkson who got him the facts and eyewitness stories that gave substance and urgency to his speeches.

By the end of a five-month tour of the nation's docks, Clarkson had collected the names of more than 20,000 sailors who had served on slave ships and acquired first-hand accounts of the squalor and brutality on board.

He learned that as many British seamen perished on each voyage across the Atlantic as Africans (about 20 per cent) since they succumbed to the same diseases that took hold in the squalid conditions.

Crucially, this enabled him to argue that slavery was not just immoral, it was uneconomic - an argument the Establishment was far more likely to take heed of.

And as he toured the country, Clarkson drew together disparate groups of abolitionist believers to create a national protest movement.

At inns and in private drawing rooms, he described the ghastly day-to-day conditions on the ships. Mixing showmanship with righteous zeal, he demonstrated to his audiences the hideous apparatus of the 'man-merchants' - the traders who profited from inhumanity. ..

In August of that year, Wilberforce died of a flu-related illness. And it is at this point that Clarkson's rightful place in history was snatched from him.

Five years after Wilberforce's death, his sons, Robert and Samuel (a bishop, no less), published a five-volume biography of their father, A Life Of William Wilberforce. Clarkson, by then 78 and half blind, read the book with astonishment and dismay.

Robert and Samuel, to whom he had lent letters and books to aid the research for their biography, suggested that far from originating the abolition campaign, Clarkson had been nothing more than a hired hand or paid agent who ran errands for their father...

If this month's bicentenary serves any purpose, then, it should be to reinstate Clarkson to his rightful place as one of the greatest of British heroes - an ordinary man who achieved truly extraordinary things.

I agree. As well as unsung heroes, the slave trade has unsung villains. Very little continues to be made of the Arab slave trade, which started earlier than the transatlantic trade, finished later, and worst of all, is sanctioned by the Koran.

Posted on 03/23/2007 12:31 PM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 23 March 2007
Novels

I am of the same kidney as Disraeli, who said: "When I want to read a novel, I write one."  And I am in fact writing one.  And that's the one I most look forward to reading.

Narcissism aside, I am dismayed to say that there are no novels or fiction authors I intensely want to read, in the sense of thinking 2 or 3 times a day: "Gosh, if I could only find the time to get started on reading X!"  This is, I'll agree, sad; though since I recently got all the way through Neal Stephenson's spacetime-bending 3,800-page tetralogy, I think I'm doing my duty fiction-wise.

But, let's see.  I think I'd like to read some sci-fi.  People have being recommending Vernon Vinge to me for just about ever, but I haven't even cracked a spine.  With the Heinlein centenary coming up (7/7/07—there's a birth date to covet!) & the probability that I shall want to write something about the great man, I'd like to round off my Heinlein reading, too—there are at least two of his books I've never touched.

In short, my answers are therefore:  (A) John Derbyshire, (B) Robert A. Heinlein.

Posted on 03/23/2007 1:30 PM by John Derbyshire
Friday, 23 March 2007
This Naive and Sentimental Age

The Sentimentalism of the Age, this intolerably Naive and Sentimental Age.

"Our kids." "Our seniors."  "Folks just want...."

Gonzales is going to stay the course here at home so as to "stay focussed on protecting our kids."

Bush is going to stay the course in Iraq so as to bring "freedom" to "ordinary moms and dads" in the Middle East who will, once they have that "freedom," do their own "protecting" of their own wonderful "kids."

Posted on 03/23/2007 1:36 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 23 March 2007
Pakistan
Soon after 9/11, National Review got a courtesy visit from some White House national-security gofer.  It was one of those occasions where you just get a couple of questions in edgewise.  Mine were:  (1) "Do we have any clue where Osama bin Laden is?"  and (2) "Does the admin. have a contingency plan for Pakistan going belly-up?" 

The WH guy went into high verbal mode, but the upshot of it all was:  (1) No, and (2) Not really.

I hope we've advanced some in the past five years, but have my doubts.

Pakistan is nuclear, but not yet fundamentalist.  Iran is fundamentalist, but not yet nuclear.  The chance that both things will go on being true for much longer is, I should guess, vanishingly small.

Posted on 03/23/2007 1:41 PM by John Derbyshire
Friday, 23 March 2007
You Want to Talk About a Surge?

Here is a real eye-popper from this FPM symposium.  It comes from the excellent Steve Schippert:  "[T]he Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance is believed to have amassed combined-forces strength of about 200,000 fighters throughout the FATA and NWFP region [of Pakistan]."

Let that sink in — 200,000

There are about 40,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan (20,000 U.S.).   

Meanwhile, we are arguing over a temporary addition of up to 30,000 troops on top of the less than 150,000 in Iraq.  Democrats want to wind all of it down, sooner rather than later. 

Anybody want to guess what happens in the region if we leave Iraq too soon?

Posted on 03/23/2007 1:43 PM by Andy McCarthy
Friday, 23 March 2007
In That Dawn

John Backus, who invented the FORTRAN language, has died at age 82.

This news will be of interest to old mainframe-heads, and to nobody else at all.

I must say, I never warmed to FORTRAN.  It had a sort of angular clunkiness about it that was apparent even in the 1960s.  That FORMAT statement—hoo-ee! 

The inherent inefficiency of any high-level language in any case grated on my pure-math sensibilities.  I was an Assembler guy at heart, "coding down to the metal." 

Nobody does that any more, and computers are just boring now, like cars.  I increasingly find I have to drag myself to the keyboard nowadays.  Boy, was it exciting at the time, though!

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!

etc., etc.

Posted on 03/23/2007 1:50 PM by John Derbyshire
Friday, 23 March 2007
More On Foghorn Leghorns

Iran recently threatened to kidnap American soldiers and feed them to roosters.

Roosters? Feed American soldiers to the roosters?

These days I am often led to think of Senator Foghorn Leghorn.

But thinking of Senator Foghorn Leghorn is not a result only of the Iranians threatening to throw our soldiers to those roosters. No, there are other reasons for such a thought.

Look at Congress.

On the one side, those Bush loyalists, who repeat all the same idiotic phrases instead of showing they have minds of their own. What are those phrases? Oh, that "we can't cut and run." That "failure in Iraq is not an option." That "we can't leave until the mission is accomplished." That "we need to achieve victory in Iraq." That "if we don't deal with them over there, they will follow us home and we'll have to deal with them over here."

Every single one of these phrases does not stand up to ten seconds of intelligent scrutiny. What is the "mission," and why would it, as Bush defines or tries to define it, be helpful to the effort too weaken the Camp of Islam? What is that "victory" that he prates about? What does it mean to say "they will follow us home" and then "we'll have to deal with them over here"? Aren't there millions of Muslims already here? Aren’t all of them inculcated with the idea of the duty of Jihad to spread Islam, and aren’t at least quite a few of them taking that duty seriously indeed, even if they are inclined at times to lie low, or to conduct Jihad using the "money weapon" and Daw'a and demographic conquest, rather than bombs in subways? Meanwhile, all Bush can talk about, while Western Europe is slowly islamized, is this goddam "war on terror."

And then there are the Democrats, who oppose the war but have yet to offer the kind of criticism offered here, the unanswerable and deadly kind, the kind that frightens the Bush administration because it shows up the folly of that Iraq War: that it makes no sense if one has correctly identified the war not as "war on terror" but as a worldwide campaign between the Camp of Islam on the one hand, with its many and varied instruments of Jihad, and the Infidels. The Camp of Islam and Jihad commands vast sums -- trillions -- of unmerited oil money, and tens of millions of Muslims have been carelessly allowed to enter and settle deep within the Lands of the Infidels, where they conduct campaigns of Da'wa that are unhindered, and procreate at rates much higher than the indigenous non-Muslims. They keep up steady pressure everywhere, never giving up, for changes in the social arrangements and legal and political institutions of the Infidel nations, to which they cannot, as Muslims, possibly feel any real loyalty. For their loyalty must be, they are taught, only to the umma al-islamiyya and the need to spread Islam, so that "Islam dominates and is not to be dominated."

No, instead we get Democratic blowhards who appear incapable of explaining to the public that the best reason for leaving Iraq is that it ties us down, it squanders enormous resources, it does terrible damage to our military, it preoccupies us and weakens us in the very place where the most important fissures within the Camp of Islam -- sectarian and ethnic -- are there for the exploiting, if only we got out of the way.

What, ladies and gentlemen, would you think of people who cannot stand the American presence in Iraq but apparently cannot bring themselves to recognize, much less articulate, the most convincing and unanswerable of reasons why such a withdrawal -- an immediate withdrawal -- makes sense? Why?

Perhaps you can understand, then, why the mention of feeding American soldiers to roosters made me think again -- not for the first time these last few months and years -- of Senator Foghorn Leghorn. In a certain sense, American soldiers have been fed, for quite some time, to roosters -- to all those Senator-Foghorn-Leghorns who simply will not take the time to study the clear doctrines of Islam, or the history of Islamic conquest, or the psychology of Islam, or the history of the mistreatment of non-Muslims under Islam, or all the other things that would inexorably lead them to exactly my conclusions, put up here hundreds of times.

Yes, the Executive and Legislative branches, both of them, with their foghorn-leghorn braggart soldiers and why-can't-we-all-get-alongers, offer on both sides of the aisle a spectacle that leaves many Americans confused, and not quite knowing what to support, and expecting to have leaders -- or those "taking a leadership role" -- who will both know how to instruct and to protect them.

But they mostly don't because they mostly can't because they mostly won't stop to learn what they have a solemn duty, at this point, to learn.

Foghorn Leghorns. Roosters. And other obvious words that come swimmingly to mind.

Posted on 03/23/2007 1:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 23 March 2007
Old Chestnut

I'll wager this joke is a hundred years old at least.  It was new to me, though, and tickled my fancy.  Very American somehow.

What's he going to be?
 
An old southern Baptist country preacher had a teenage son, and it was getting time the boy should give some thought to choosing a profession.
 
Like many young men, the boy didn't really know what he wanted to do, and he didn't seem too concerned about it.
 
One day, while  the boy was away at school, his father decided to try an experiment. He went  into the boy's room and placed on his study table four objects:
 
A Bible,
A silver dollar,
A bottle of whisky,
A Playboy  magazine
 
"I'll just hide behind the door," the old preacher said to  himself, "and when he comes home from school this afternoon, I'll see which object he picks up.  If it's the Bible, he's going to be a preacher  like me, and what a blessing that would be!  If he picks up the dollar,  he's going to be a businessman, and that would be okay, too.  But if he  picks up the bottle, he's going to be a no-good drunkard, and, Lord, what a  shame that would be!  And worst of all, if he picks up that magazine he's gonna be a skirt-chasin' bum."
 
The old man waited anxiously, and soon  heard his son's footsteps as he entered the house whistling and headed for his room. The boy tossed his books on the bed, and as he turned to leave the room he  spotted the objects on the table.
 
With curiosity in his eye, he walked  over to inspect them.  Finally, he picked up the Bible and placed it under his arm. He picked up the silver dollar and dropped it into his pocket. He  uncorked the bottle and took a big drink while he admired this month's Centerfold.
 
"Lord have mercy," the old preacher muttered in disgust,  "he's gonna be a Congressman."

Posted on 03/23/2007 2:15 PM by John Derbyshire
Friday, 23 March 2007
Senator Byrd

Senator Byrd is most famous for bringing home the West Virginia bacon. If you are home, waiting for that bacon, and don't care how wastefully -- for everyone -- that bacon may have been acquired, then he's the Senator for you.

But his Roman-toga act, as imaginary heir not only to Americans Webster and Clay and Calhoun, but also to Cicero thundering against Catiline, the brave lone Senator Byrd standing athwart some imagined road to disaster, does not quite fit, and for two reasons.

The first can be found in paragraph one below, with the allusion to the pork-barrel legislation for which this Lawgiver is justly famous. Grub, grub, grub -- not exactly senatorial, in the ways of the ancients.

The second is Byrd's oratory. In order to be Webster or Clay or Calhoun, your periodic sentences, your solemn perorations, must not be a Hollywood scriptwriter's notion -- in one of those 1930s movies, when they still paid quaint attention to words, as they did to character development and even to plot (imagine!)-- of how those pre-Civil War Senators spoke (think of Paul Muni as Clarence Darrow, and you are beginning to get the idea).

No, Everett Dirksen was closer to that ideal, than Byrd, and certainly had a much more resonant voice, though even Dirksen too was comical. Up on Capitol Hill, lo these many years, they just haven't been able to cut the Macaulayan mustard.

Byrd's speeches may put some, chiefly elementary school students, in mind of a book of Great Orations of the Past. He puts me in mind of the cartoon cock-of-the-walk allusion which got this whole brouhaha started.

Posted on 03/23/2007 2:19 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 23 March 2007
Foghorn Leghorn

Foghorn Leghorn is a Suthun Roosta, for those of you who may not know him.

He's a Warner Bros. cartoon originally voiced by the great Mel Blanc in 1948.

He is continually tormented by a little chicken hawk (Now see here, son.) and pursued by the homely but sweet Widow Hen.

Posted on 03/23/2007 3:16 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 23 March 2007
State (Of Mind ) Motto

Dum spiro spero. (That's the state motto of South Carolina. In my youth I thought it had something to do with Mr. Agnew.) --Robert Spencer

My state of mind also has a Latin motto:
Something about "meos iambos."

Posted on 03/23/2007 3:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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