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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 23, 2014.
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Catherine Ashton Gets Her Comeuppance

At it again with her palpable lack of understanding and sympathy, Catherine Ashton is rebuked by Israel's Foreign Minister here.

Sois-belle et tais-toi, Catherine.

Posted on 04/23/2014 9:40 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
A Musical Interlude: Now That I've Found You (Jack Buchanan)
Listen here.
Posted on 04/23/2014 3:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
'Trojan Horse' schools: Birmingham City Council tries to blame the Telegraph for revealing the scandal

Birmingham City Council’s leader, Sir Albert Bore, today attacked the Telegraph for its “wholly reprehensible and completely unacceptable” publication of a leaked Department for Education report into three of the so-called “Trojan Horse” schools taken over by Muslim hardliners. This is what in the trade is called “deflection": try to make the story about the leaking of the report, rather than the contents of it.

It’s not hard to understand why Sir Albert wants to change the subject. The contents of the leaked report – which substantiate many of the claims made against the schools – make his and his council’s past behaviour look rather silly.

Little more than a month ago, Sir Albert was calling the Trojan Horse allegations “defamatory” and saying that there were “no serious flaws” in Birmingham’s school management. Just over two weeks ago, his chief executive, Mark Rogers, said there was no plot, merely “new communities” raising “legitimate questions and challenges” to the “liberal education system.”

Within days, however, the council announced that it had frozen the recruitment of school governors and was setting up a six-month enquiry after receiving around 200 complaints from parents and teachers.

Sir Albert now announces that the council is setting up a whistleblowing hotline for parents and teachers, saying that it has “received information in respect of 25 schools.”

Let us hope, however, that Birmingham council is not merely preparing a more sophisticated form of whitewash. The members of its investigation include the headteacher of one of the 18 schools inspected and the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart, who has attacked the publication of this story for “demonising sections of the local community.”

The members also include an as yet unnamed representative of the hardline Birmingham Central Mosque – the organisation which last month banned the BBC from asking on its premises whether it was all right to be Muslim and gay. Until his recent death, the mosque representative was to have been its chairman, Mohammad Naseem, who recently appeared to compare gay people to murderers and paedophiles.

The council has known about the Trojan Horse allegations for around six months – and known that something is wrong for a lot longer. It repeatedly ignored concerns raised in private. It only acted once the allegations got into the media. That, in short, is the value of disclosure.

Posted on 04/23/2014 4:29 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Robert J. Gee And The National Graduate School Of Quality Management


There was Leslie Cohen Berlowitz, of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, barking her orders, bullying her staff, awarding herself degrees she did not possess, and arranging that she be paid $600,000 a year for dictating to a staff of fewer than two dozen.

The was Evan Dobelle, who was once a Carter administration (and so was his wife)apparatchik, the Chief of Protocol, and then eventually one thing led to another, and he managed to become president of a college in Hawaii (some trustees mightily impressed with his resume, and his mountebank's patter and coney-pitch about "preparing students for the New Economy"), where he spent money on himself like crazy, and eventually was forced out, but credulous dopes, sedulous apes, on the Board of Trustees at Westfield State College thought nonetheless Evan J. Dobelle would be just the ticket to propel that college into the big leagues.

And now there is Robert J. Gee, who founded his very own National Graduate School of Quality Management, whose students don't even have to show up -- classes can be taken long-distance -- and then they can become, if they pay enough, the proud owners of a diploma certifiying they have -- what? a doctorate? -- in Qualitgy Management, from the National Graduate School of Quality Management.

And that's just a few of many such stories. No end to this.

Posted on 04/23/2014 8:32 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
The Future of Ukraine

After ducking the subject for two weeks and grasping at improbable straws, I bow to the inevitable and return to the Ukraine crisis. Everyone with the slightest insight into Eastern European or Russian history saw this problem coming. No full-blooded Russian, not Alexander Solzhenitsyn or any other dissident, has ever conceded for a minute Ukraine’s right to continue indefinitely as an independent country. A complicated and often infelicitous combination of Lithuanians, Poles, Tatars, and Russians, Ukraine rebelled against the Poles and adhered, semi-voluntarily, to Russia when, in 1795, that power and the Austrian Empire and Prussia joined in the division and elimination of Poland as an independent state. Nearly 200 years of Russian occupation and dominance followed, punctuated by the French and two German invasions of Russia, Stalin’s liquidation of the independent farmers, Hitler’s genocide against the Ukrainian Jews (who were 10 percent of the population), and various purges and assorted other atrocities of both those psychopathic monsters. 

All of the 15 constituent republics of the Soviet Union seceded from the USSR in 1990 and 1991, including Russia itself, and none has so far remerged with Russia, though Belarus is very expressly under Russian influence, Georgia has been intimidated by a military intervention in two provinces of that country, a couple of the Asian republics have been infiltrated to some extent, and the status of Moldova is unclear. When Vladimir Putin set out to rebuild the status of Russia in the world, he certainly targeted many of the former republics as the place to start. Even if, as seems to be the case, he regards China and the East and the Muslim countries to the southeast and south as Russia’s natural opponents, Putin has always implied that he does not accept the durability of the arrangements with the West that included the complete independence of the former western, Baltic, and Caucasus components of the USSR. Although Putin squashed the complete independence of Georgia in the last days of the administration of George W. Bush, there could be no real question of Russia’s becoming too assertive in these matters until the Obama administration became well entrenched with its policy of almost unlimited appeasement, unilateral disarmament, and abdication of leadership of the Western alliance. The infamous “reset” of relations with Russia was followed by the unilateral scale-back of the European missile-defense system, to ensure that Putin retained his first-strike capacity against the European allies of the U.S., most of whom had gone through the Cold War and its immediate aftermath in the front lines and in lockstep with eleven consecutive American administrations.

Putin can be pardoned for believing that the absolute shambles of the Syrian misadventure, in which Obama drew his red line on Assad’s gassing of fellow Syrians, surrendered the role of commander-in-chief to the Congress, scaled back his promised punitive expedition, and then staved off congressional defeat by handing the entire task of securing voluntary surrender of the Assad regime’s sarin gas to Putin, has given the Kremlin a green light to do what it wants.

The same message has been generally conveyed by the ineffectual posturing over the Iranian nuclear program, which the Russians will probably live to regret having supported. Putin and Medvedev, his chief subordinate, presumably thought they were complicating the lives of the Americans by making the achievement of their promised prevention of the Iranian nuclear capability more difficult. The United States has effectively conceded the issue, and Russia will have to deal with a Middle East bristling with nuclear weapons, probably including Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia as well as Iran, Pakistan, and Israel. In this as in other contemporary matters, we are seeing the full play of the law of unintended consequences.

And it must be said that the United States is not alone among major countries in making hollow promises of retribution in recent times. Germany, which is fundamentally the strongest country in Europe, as it has been since Bismarck’s time, has allowed its armed forces virtually to evaporate. The German army, which invaded France with 3,000 tanks in 1940 and crushed that country in six weeks, now has no tanks. The capable Chancellor Merkel has talked a good line on this matter, as someone who was brought up as a practicing Lutheran under the jackboot of the Red Army in East Germany. She has no love of nor illusions about the Russians, but she has allowed German military strength to atrophy. The Poles and Canadians are putting on a better performance, and Canada has even promised to send six CF-18’s to Ukraine, but militarily, Canada has descended to the level of a paper tiger cub. The Poles are a bit stronger and can always be counted on to treat the Russians with skepticism, but Poland certainly cannot, by itself, see off even Putin’s truncated Russia.

And in the unfashionable and generally unappealing cause of fairness to Putin, I should mention that he apparently believed that he was the durable influence on Ukraine once the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych became president of Ukraine in 2010. But Yanukovych actually tried to establish Ukrainian independence by signing an economic deal with the European Union. Chancellor Merkel would approve only if Yanukovych released former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison; though there are very few innocent politicians in the country, she was almost certainly convicted and imprisoned for false reasons. Merkel and other EU leaders also decided, reasonably in all contexts except the instability of Ukraine, that that country would have to sign an economic package that would ensure that it conformed to the fiscal conduct of a hard-currency country.

The economic requirements of the EU, already weighed down by the surplus baggage of irresponsibly managed countries that signed false prospectuses to enter in the first place, conflicted with the geopolitical interests of the West to get Ukraine, a country of 46 million people, out of the Russian and into the Western orbit. Putin had declared that if Yanukovych followed through on such an arrangement, Russia would apply sanctions and reduce natural-gas supplies to Western Europe. The Europeans waffled, Germany and Poland leading a chorus of King Lear–?like threats even hollower, if of more recent devising, than the Obama-Kerry-Clinton addiction to the same genre. Yanukovych folded to Putin and was sent packing by the Ukrainian-ethnic and anti-Russian 70 percent of the country. Putin seized Crimea, mainly Russian ethnically, and is agitating the eastern zone of the country where most of Ukraine’s remaining 20 percent of ethnic Russians live, and which is the coal-and-steel heartland of Ukraine as a nation of heavy industry.

Last week’s Ukraine-Russia-EU-U.S. agreement on a cease-fire had all the hallmarks of these slippery arrangements in which this U.S. administration specializes, of vague and unenforceable commitments exchanged with a regime (the Kremlin) that never honors any agreement unless a (preferably nuclear) gun is held to its head. The agreement promises that occupied buildings and squares be vacated but that all sides avoid violence and “provocative actions.” This, in practice, means that Putin will interpret any attempt by Ukraine to remove Russian agitators from Ukrainian government buildings as a violation of the agreement and grounds to increase the boldness of his intervention, and the agreement seemed to have broken down after three days.

There are four possible outcomes: In the first, Ukraine is defended in its post-Crimean borders by the West and takes the Merkel deal. (Ms. Timoshenko has already been released and may well — given the shrinking number of Russians in the post-Crimea Ukraine electorate — win the election in three weeks.) In reality, this won’t happen, because no one in the West except the Poles (with distant cheerleading from Canada) has the stomach for such a thing, and heavier influences will be necessary to face down Putin, palsied though Russia is, despite its president’s Mussolini-like strutting and posturing. The second possibility is what was called during the Cold War “Finlandization,” in which Ukraine is neutral but does nothing to offend Russia, and contains ethnic Russian “autonomous zones” used by the Kremlin to represent its interests within Ukraine. This appears to be Putin’s current objective, and the weaklings who mainly lead the West now could set it up for him, while pretending to do better for the Ukrainian nationalists.

Third is a de facto partition of the country, in which the Russian areas secede and join Russia and the continuing Ukraine is made less ambiguous politically. It could then join the West, having adopted a consensus to behave fiscally and politically like a serious country, something it has never managed before, in distant or recent history. The West should be pulling itself together for the achievement of this objective, which is distinctly attainable. And last is the nightmare scenario that Putin would execute if he could: the reconquest and reabsorption of all of Ukraine into Russia. There can be little doubt that this is Putin’s long-term objective, but he is pursuing it in two or more bites, because an outright Russian invasion of the whole of Ukraine would lead to a terrible guerrilla war and provoke even helpless flounderers like Obama, Hollande, Cameron, and the Italian leaders (whoever they may be) into doing something that would be a serious inconvenience to Putin. It could even elicit a response from China, which is not so comatose as the West has become.

It is a choice between options two and three; experience would indicate two but inextinguishable desire screams for three. In the circumstances, no sensible person can fail to fear the worst, and to wonder again how the West got to this pitiful point less than 25 years after we won the Cold War.

First published in National Review.

Posted on 04/23/2014 3:20 PM by Conrad Black
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Blair Good And Bad

Tony Blair: west must take sides against growing threat of radical Islam

In keynote speech on Middle East, former PM blames Islamic extremism for failures of western intervention in region

Western military intervention in the Middle East has so far failed due to the distorting impact of an Islamic extremism so opposed to modernity that it could yet engender global catastrophe, Tony Blair warned on Wednesday in a keynote speech on the state of politics in the Middle East.

With support for intervention ebbing fast, especially in Britain, Blair urged a wilfully blind west to realise it must take sides and if necessary make common cause with Russia and China in the G20 to counter the Islamic extremism that lies at the root of all failures of western intervention.

He admitted there was now a desire across the west to steer clear at all costs following the bloody outcomes in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, but said the extremism still represents the biggest threat to global security in the 21st century, saying it is holding back development across Africa and the Far East.

In a speech to Bloomberg in London on Wednesday, the former Labour prime minister claimed the west was reluctant to look unflinchingly at Islamic extremism because the world of politics is uncomfortable talking about religion.

He said: "For the last 40 to 50 years, there has been a steady stream of funding, proselytising, organising and promulgating coming out of the Middle East, pushing views of religion that are narrow minded and dangerous. Unfortunately we seem blind to the enormous global impact such teaching has had and is having.

"Within the Middle East itself, the result has been horrible, with people often facing a choice between authoritarian government that is at least religiously tolerant; and the risk that in throwing off the government they don't like, they end up with a religiously intolerant quasi-theocracy."

Insisting that the west had to take sides, he described Islamic extremism as "not about a competing view of how society or politics should be governed within a common space where you accept other views are equally valid. It is exclusivist in nature. The ultimate goal is not a society which someone else can change after winning an election. It is a society of a fixed polity, governed by religious doctrines that are not changeable but which are, of their essence, unchangeable."[this describes not "extremists" but those who believe in Islam]

The region's chaos was not a battle between Sunni or Shia, or primarily due to the lack of economic opportunity, but due to "a common struggle around the issue of the rightful place of religion, and in particular Islam, in politics".

He argued: "There is a Titanic struggle going on within the region between those who want the region to embrace the modern world – politically, socially and economically – and those who instead want to create a politics of religious difference and exclusivity.[all those Muslims who take Islam to heart, constitute "those who...want to create a politics of religious difference and exclusivity.] This is the battle. This is the distorting feature. This is what makes intervention so fraught but non-intervention equally so. This is what complicates the process of political evolution. This is what makes it so hard for democracy to take root."

An inability to understand the common cause of the failure of western intervention leads to the west being baffled by the apparent failure of regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, although he added that people may come to view the impact of those engagements differently with time, even if at present there is no appetite to do so.[not everyone in the West was "baffled by the apparent failure of regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq" -- no one who understood what the texts of Islam taught, and what were the effects of Islam on the minds of its adherents, would have had the "faith in regime change" that Tony Blair, above all others, had. He pretends his error was shared by everyone. It was not.]

He also admitted Libya was a mess, destabilising neighbouring countries, and described Syria as such an unmitigated disaster that it may now be better to come to a repugnant interim deal that leaves its president, Bashar al-Assad, in power.

But his condemnation of western foreign policy in Syria is complete, saying: "We call for the regime to change in Syria, we encourage the opposition to rise up, but then when Iran activates Hezbollah on the side of Assad, we refrain even from air intervention to give the opposition a chance. The result is a country in disintegration, millions displaced, a death toll approximating that of Iraq, with no end in sight and huge risks to regional stability."["stability" in Muslim lands is not necessarily good for non-Muslims; let those Muslim lands collapse, keeping their populations busy, and less likely to pose a threat to Infidels. Instead of invasions, as with Afghanistan, attacks from afar -- as with the drones in Yemen -- are most effective at least expense]

He suggested the west should once again consider no-fly zones, subject to the opposition groups not receiving support from Iran.

Aware he is an increasingly lonely advocate of intervention, he said: "I completely understand why our people feel they have done enough, more than enough. And when they read of those we have tried to help spurning our help, criticising us, even trying to kill us, they're entitled to feel aggrieved and to say: we're out."

But in an impassioned call not to see the Middle East as a battle between two evils he said: "The important point for western opinion is that this is a struggle with two sides. So when we look at the Middle East and beyond it to Pakistan or Iran and elsewhere, it isn't just a vast unfathomable mess with no end in sight and no one worthy of our support. It is in fact a struggle in which our own strategic interests are intimately involved; where there are indeed people we should support and who, ironically, are probably in the majority if only that majority were mobilised, organised and helped.

"But what is absolutely necessary is that we first liberate ourselves from our own attitude. We have to take sides. We have to stop treating each country on the basis of whatever seems to make for the easiest life for us at any one time. We have to have an approach to the region that is coherent and sees it as a whole. And above all, we have to commit. We have to engage"[No, the result desired is best achieved by staying out of Muslim-ruled lands and allowing sectarian, ethnic, and economic divisions within the Camp of Islam to widen. And if "moderate" Muslims are forced to spend their time trying to survive by crushing "extremist" Muslims, let them do so mostly on their own, lest the will-o'-the-wisp of "moderate Islam" continue to prevent people in the advanced West from being unable to realize that the ideology of Itself is the menace, and "moderate" Muslims within their countries who defend or promote Islam, or obscure what it  says, constitute a permanent danger themselves]

Blair caused controversy when he sided with the Egyptian military's overthrow of the democratically elected government of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his intervention in Iraq in 2003 has been cited as one reason why the west has refused to intervene more in the three-year Syrian war.

Blair warned: "The threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world. It is destabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation. And in the face of this threat we seem curiously reluctant to acknowledge it and powerless to counter it effectively."[Good]

In a clear reference to Saudi Arabia, he said: "It is absurd to spend billions of dollars on security arrangements and on defence to protect ourselves against the consequences of an ideology that is being advocated in the formal and informal school systems and in civic institutions of the very countries with whom we have intimate security and defence relationships."[Good, so why would Blair argue --- illogically --- for Western intervention in Syria on the side supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar?]

He claimed some of these countries wanted to break out of this ideology, but needed the west to make it a core part of the international dialogue in order to force the necessary change within their own societies.

Posted on 04/23/2014 2:42 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Fitzgerald: Strategies Of Denial (Re-Posting)
Posted on 04/23/2014 9:32 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Alain Finkielkraut At The Academie Francaise, And Those "F├ęcondes Sottises"


And from April 10, Ivan Rioufol on what the election of Alain Finkielkraut signifies.

Posted on 04/23/2014 10:29 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Van Doorns, Father And Like-Minded Son, Find Peace In A Simple Solution To The Universe

And, as a bonus, it helps ensure that no maddened Muslim will try to kill you for your previous anti-Muslim activity.

The bizarre father-and-son converts (islamice, reverts) are on display here. This kind of conversion (reversion) is very exciting for Muslims. They carefully list each Western convert, hoping that this will buck up those Muslims who are becoming demoralized.

Posted on 04/23/2014 10:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Alain Finkielkraut On What The Muslim Invasion Of France Has Wrought

The interview, conducted by Der Spiegel, is in two parts. So after reading Part1, be sure to click on Part 2.


Posted on 04/23/2014 12:34 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
How To Prepare For Scottish Independence

It may not be coming. But it may. Why wait until September to be sure? So in addition to laying in a stock of McVitie's, I've just bought a second copy of The Oxford Book of Scottish Verse just in case the vote is for independence. And though, when you read through the promiscuous list of Oxford anthologies -- conveniently collected in the just-published Oxford Book of Oxford Books -- it seems unlikely, could it not be that in a pique of post-independence resentment, the Syndics of Oxford University Press might refuse to republish that particular florilegium, its fairest flowers gathered for the Clarendon Press, for the last time, in 1966, by John MacQueen and Tom Scott?

And it is both a mild disappointment and a great relief to discover that  the poem I had first come across in that anthology, and had wanted to post at this site -- "The Young Man and the Young Nun," by A.D. Mackie -- is not to be found among the decumans of data, the tsunamis of fact, available on the Internet. If you want to read it, you must get hold of your own copy of The Oxford Book of Scottish Verse, and turn to page 528. Independence or no independence, lay up that store of riches now.

Posted on 04/23/2014 1:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
In Praise of Walking

Shiv Visvanathan writes in The Hindu:

My father loved to walk. It was his great ritual, his idea of prayer and work. Every morning at four, the house would echo with the thump of his shoes, the tumbler of coffee, as he hurried out. My dachshund, a wise ten-year-old would wait impatiently, grumbling melodramatically about any delay. Whoever talked of walking a dog never understood man or beast. Walking was an act of companionship, a way of saying hello to the world, sniffing, grumbling, greeting every morsel, smell, object, sight and human being. To add to the excitement, my neighbour’s dog, an oversized young Doberman called Marcus would join them. It was a strange troop — a dachshund striding in front, Doberman casually behind, each attentive to every signal from my father. As the years went by, the Dachshund got older and more tired but he refused to miss his walk. My father would carry Fritz around the lake and release him just as he reached home so he could stride the last lap with dignity, the Lord of all he surveyed.

My childhood memories are full of walks. It left me convinced that, without a walk, friendship was impossible and old age insufferable. As one walked, one remembered, one talked of worlds far away. Walking becomes a way of mapping the world. Philosophy, I felt, began with walking. Think of Thoreau, Emerson, Certeau, Heidegger, Patrick Geddes. Because they literally walked the talk, their philosophies were richer and more concrete.

The many messages of walking

There is something about walking as a ritual, elegant in its routineness that we must grasp. Walking is a great equaliser, democracies’ greatest act, more primordial than the vote. Walking is the act of the body exploring itself as it traces the world. It could be in an alley in a street, a meandering amble by a river, an act of communing in the forest or merely marking turf in a neighbourhood. Walking is exploration, discovery, conversation, companionship, meditation, reflection, prayer , even a constitutional, unlimbering the stiffness of a tired body. I cannot think of any one act that combines so many messages in the routineness of its being.

It was play and pain as you challenged the body to do that last mile as sweat raced its rivulets down your body. No conqueror was more triumphant than an individual who walked that extra mile as he collapsed for his tea and Parle-G at a welcoming dhabba. When you walk, you talk to your deepest self, even as you listen to the silence of the body and its rhythms. Walking is therapeutic, curative, even an act of exorcism. Walking beats psychoanalysis as it lets you live with yourself. It is, as a wise man told me, a way of living with the world.

One wishes there was a history of walking. Yet a walk is one of the celebratory movements of life. When a baby first walks, after all the tentative painful experiments, the joy of parents is indescribable. It is a toast to life. Even the child has that unbelievable look of heroism, of achievement. No medal or prize can beat the poetry of the moment. Parents and grandparents break into echolalic storytelling, merely watching the moment. The first step is history in the making.

Walking invites the sensorium, the collective repertoire of the senses. You see, you touch, you pause, you remember: a flower here, a face there. Walking is always an act of memory. In retracing your world, you remember it, sense the presence of the familiar, savour silences and absences. It is the beginning of civics and citizenship. I always felt curiosity begins with walking and so does science. In walking you not only converse with the world but question it, seeking a deeper understanding. Walking and time go fascinatingly together. In a way, the space of walking creates a sociology, while the time of walking creates a philosophy. Walking is the body in rhythm; each step a statement of presence.

People often talk of walks in nature but today walking defines the nature of the city and its politics. Gandhi argued that a locality should be defined by a day’s walk. Walking is the drama of enacting a public space and cities have become hostile to walking. Pedestrians are seen as a threat. Walking is biology but a vehicle is seen as intrinsic to the history of city. I feel great cities and neighbourhoods survive because of walkers. Their rituals defined the city, created zones of familiarity, symbolic markers which gave meaning to a city. A bicycle is still human, but with the car you begin the dehumanisation of the city.

I believe city planning has to begin with the walk. When you walk a city, you live a city, you embody it. When you survey a city, you abstract it as a grid. It is geometry or space without life. A survey is space without a sense of place. Walking curbs your sense of power and domination, provides you with a sense of modesty and locality. I remember Patrick Geddes, the great urban sociologist, believed that urban planning should begin with a walk. When you walk a city, you treat it as a friendly organism. Demolitions, grids begin when the walker is no longer the prime citizen of a city. The footpath as a way of life, as home to the hawker, the peddler, disappears when walking dies as the megalopolis is born. Walking loses its poetics and literally becomes pedestrian at that moment. Without walking, one cannot understand or care for the informal economy where 70 per cent of our citizens live. In fact, walking defines the informal rhythms of a city because when you stop walking, cities die. The bazaar, the roadside café disappear because these are but punctuation marks in the everyday travelogue we call walking. Imagine Marina beach without its walkers, or Connaught place without its flâneurs walking lazily around the circle, peanuts in hand. Walking creates the affordable city. Chaat walachai walabhel puri man, peanut seller, paan wala, hawker, scavenger, peddler… they can only belong to a city which understands walking. Food, sound, entertainment, and the familiarity of strangers all make walking the everyday adventure of the city.

I remember many older people talk of walking as a form of ethics, of character building. When they talk of their friends they often add that they walked everyday. It was as if walking was almost spiritual, a substitute for the act of prayer.

Continue reading here.

Posted on 04/23/2014 2:03 PM by Geoffrey Clarfield
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Sugared Sonnets, One Of Them Tetrametric

Sonnet 66

Tir'd with all these, for restful death I cry,
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And guilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly (doctor-like) controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
   Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
   Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sonnet 129

Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murd'rous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight,
Past reason hunted; and, no sooner had
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so,
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
    All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
    To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Sonnet 130

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare

Sonnet 145
Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate,'
To me that languish'd for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
'I hate' she alter'd with an end,
That follow'd it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
   'I hate' from hate away she threw,
   And saved my life, saying -- 'not you.'
Posted on 04/23/2014 7:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
The Water Wars: Ethiopia, Egypt, And A Dam
Posted on 04/23/2014 8:27 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
A Musical Interlude: Three Little Fishies (The Smoothies)
Listen here.
Posted on 04/23/2014 8:33 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Even When Blair Begins To Get The Idea, Something's Wrong

Blair on Islam and Western policies here.

Greedy opportunist Tony Blair, with his Tony Blair Faith Foundation (as his American analogue, Bill Clinton, has his Cliinton Global Initiative, staffed by his, and by his wife's, Lady Macbeth's, political apparatchiks), knows there is something dangerous about Islam. But he can't say exactly what, so he sticks to this business of "Islamic extremists" or "Islamic radicals." It was the policy of his government to admit, in ever-larger numbers, so many of the Muslims whose presence in the West has "created a situation for the native non-Muslims, and for other, non-Muslim, immigrants, that is far more unpleasant, expensive, and physically dangerous" than would be the case without such a large-scale Muslim presence. It was the policy of his government to participate in the Tarbaby Iraq fiasco, intended keep Sunnis and Shi'a from fighting (why?), and to make Iraq "prosperous" by handing out tens of billions of dollars in aid that was stolen or misspent by its Iraqi recipients. How a unified and prosperous Iraq would further the interests of the West, which is in a divided and demoralized Camp of Islam, was never made clear.

Even when he starts to make a little more sense, Blair misrepresents things, and communicates his state of confusion. He's not intelligent enought to sit still, think about  Islam -- the ideology of Islam, the texts of Islam -- or under what conditions those texts are taken or might be taken to heart (answer: no one can say because a "moderate" can become "extremist" for all kinds of reasons, some having nothing to do with the outside world), nor does he understand the blend of self-interest, filial piety, and embarrassment that causes Muslims to protect and defend their faith, and to refuse to admit to what it inculcates.

He's useful now for one reason: to hold up his words and thoughts to inspection, as a representative of many others. But certainly not to heed him.

I wonder how much he pocketed from Bloomberg London for his confusions.

Posted on 04/23/2014 8:55 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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