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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
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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 Monday, 26, 2009.
Monday, 26 October 2009
Tackling Extremism

Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation, an organization of "moderate Muslims" in London who claim to be dedicated to fighting "extremism," writes this in The Dawn in Pakistan:

[...]

In 1999, when the Pakistan military was preoccupied with Kargil and the cricket team had lost the World Cup final to Australia, I was particularly interested in another development the year before — the country’s newfound status as the seventh nuclear-armed state in the world.

The news of this ‘Islamic bomb’ was what drew me from Britain to Lahore in the summer of 1999, not yet 22 years old. Spurred on by revolutionary zeal and dreams of erecting an Islamist caliphate, I arrived as part of a vanguard to set up a Pakistani branch of the global Islamist group Hizb ut Tahrir (HT). The plan was to radicalise the country and foment a military coup against the democratically elected ‘client’ ruler Nawaz Sharif, so that our future caliphate could go nuclear. I was determined not to let anything get in my way, and nothing really did.

During the following decade everything changed. Having spent four years as an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience in Egypt I had time to think, question and gain perspective on the extremist cause I had dedicated my life to.   [Wait.  So prison dawa caused a True Believer to become LESS fervent and observant?  Hmmm.]

It led me to finally understand the crucial difference between the faith of Islam and the political ideology of Islamism — a realisation that necessitated my leaving HT as I no longer believed in their ideas and the ‘Islamic’ justifications they used to support them. I thus decided to return to Pakistan this year, this time to push back against the insidious spread of Islamist extremism that I myself was partly responsible for.

Pakistan’s university campuses were the natural choice for me to start. Aided and supported by the local youth development NGO Bargad, I embarked on a four-week, nationwide university tour to address thousands of students on the bankruptcy of Islamist ideology. Along the way I was asked several times, often by students themselves, why I hadn’t chosen to go to madressahs first — after all, it seemed to be what everyone was doing.

My response was always the same: while it is true that the madressah system has supplied a steady stream of jihadists over the years, a little-highlighted fact is that the leading ideologues of Islamist movements have invariably been educated, are elite and socially mobile. After all, Bin Laden is an engineer and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a doctor.

Twisted logic.  OBL has an engineering degree, but he didn't learn the tenets of Islam and jihad in his Thermodynamics 101 class.  Al-Zawahiri's medical degree is not evidence that we need to scour our medical schools for jihadis.  Their jihadist beliefs came in spite of their secular education, not because of it.  However Al-Qaeda chooses their leaders, it is almost surely not based on the applicants' CV or their level and type of university degree.

Many of the pseudo-intellectuals of HT are also highly educated, including the nuclear scientist and computer and telecom engineers who were recently arrested along with other HT activists during a police raid in Islamabad. It came as no surprise to me that nuclear scientists were among those accused of belonging to HT, considering that this is exactly why I was sent to Pakistan as far back as 1999. In the year 2000, I had also personally met Pakistani Army officers in London, who had been training at Sandhurst. HT had recruited them to its cause, and then sent them back to Pakistan.

[...]

It was sad evidence to the fact that British citizens continue to export Islamism to Pakistan, along with playing a crucial role in exporting the ideology to countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mauritius, India, Egypt and Denmark. Only when the governments of Britain and Pakistan wake up to take responsibility for the rot on their doorsteps will we ever be able to reverse these trends.

As violence in Pakistan surges and ordinary Pakistanis feel increasingly insecure in their own homes, we cannot afford to stop at just a military response to this problem. Greater emphasis needs to be given to winning the struggle for ideas; to foster an understanding that taking a stance against Islamism does not equate to a rejection of Islam.

The Quilliam Foundation was the recipient of $1.4 million of UK taxpayers' money in January 2009.  Don't you think that there are other organizations, including New English Review, that could do much more "fostering of understanding" about Islamic beliefs with similar resources?  What are the chances of that, and why is that?

Maajid Nawaz and Quilliam co-founder Mohammed Husain gots the street cred for being former members of Hizb ut Tahrir, and who doesn't love a reformed bad guy.  They've got the insight into what motivates the as-yet unreformed bad guys.  Now how much would you pay?  $1.4 million?  But wait, there's more.  If you order by midnight tonight, they'll throw in a brand new "Western Islam," free of extremism, absolutely FREE!

In a battle of taqiyya artists, Yvonne Ridley and others criticised Quilliam Foundation, saying:

The foundation has no proven grassroots support within the Muslim community, although it does seem to have the ear of the powers that be, probably because it is telling them what they want to hear. It is quite possible to be a politically engaged Muslim without wanting to fly planes into tall buildings. Yet the foundation equates all forms of political Islam with extremism and terrorism. But those misguided few who are willing to cross the line into terrorism are not driven by disfranchisement or Sayyid Qutb's writings; they do it because they are furious about western foreign policy.

So, is jihad the result of western foreign policy, or extremists who have twisted the peaceful Qur'an and ahadith into something violent?  We guillible kufrs are getting confused now.  Who do we make the cheque out to?

Posted on 10/26/2009 12:56 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Monday, 26 October 2009
More on the Quilliam story

The Quilliam Foundation named their organization after Abdullah Quilliam (1856-1932).  William Henry Quilliam of Liverpool became a revert to Islam and changed his name to Abdullah (actually, Abd'Allah, but that's another story).

Quilliam started the first mosque in the U.K. in 1889.  He moved to Turkey, and before and during WWI his open allegiance to the Turkish Caliphate and his seditious anti-British writings forced him to use a pseudonym, H.M. Leon, in order to gain re-entry to the U.K.  He was a pan-Islamist, dedicated to the idea of a worldwide caliphate.

Here are some samples of his writings, taken from Yahya Birt:

Know ye, O Muslims, that the British Government has decided to commence military and warlike operations against the Muslims of the Soudan, who have taken up arms to defend their country and their faith. And it is in contemplation to employ Muslim soldiers to fight against these Muslims of the Soudan.

For any True Believer to take up arms and fight against another Muslim is contrary to the Shariat, and against the law of God and his holy prophet.

I warn every True-Believer that if he gives the slightest assistance in this projected expedition against the Muslims of the Soudan, even to the extent of carrying a parcel, or giving a bite of bread to eat or a drink of water to any person taking part in the expedition against these Muslims that he thereby helps the Giaour against the Muslim, and his name will be unworthy to be continued upon the roll of the faithful.

A Muslim's loyalty must always be to the ummah, not to the nation-states of men.

Among Muslims none should be known as Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Ajem, Afghans, Indians or English. They are all Muslims, and verily the True-Believers are brethren. Islam is erected on the Unity of God, the unity of His religion, and the unity of the Muslims. History demonstrates that the True-Believers were never defeated while they remained united, but only when disunion crept into their ranks.

At the present time, union is more than ever necessary among Muslims. The Christian powers are preparing a new crusade in order to shatter the Muslim powers, under the pretext that they desire to civilise the world.

This is the man after whom the founders of the Quilliam Foundation chose to name their organization.  This is the model of "moderate Western Islam" that they hope to foist upon the guillible kufrs.

Ka-ching.

Posted on 10/26/2009 2:11 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Monday, 26 October 2009
Damn the Infidels

Charles Lewis writes in the National Post (with thanks to Mohammad Asghar who discusses the nature of Islamic prayer in his essay in the month's NER):

A Toronto-area imam is under fire for using derogatory language against Jews and Christians, calling for Allah to "destroy" the enemies of Islam from within and calling on God to "damn" the "infidels."

The address, given last Friday by Imam Saed Rageah at North York's Abu Huraira Centre and then posted on YouTube, is an attack on those who have been calling for a ban on the niqab and burka, both of which cover the faces of women.

"Allah protect us from the fitna [sedition] of these people; Allah protect us from the evil agenda of these people; Allah destroy them from within themselves, and do not allow them to raise their heads in destroying Islam."

Tarek Fatah, a Canadian Muslim author and commentator, said that type of language could be interpreted as a call to violence. As well, the imam asks Allah to "damn" Christians and Jews.

"The cleric's ritual prayer asking for the defeat of Christians and Jews and the victory of Islam is not unique," Mr. Fatah said. "It is uttered by many clerics across Canada spreading hate instead of harmony. There should be no room in Canada's mosques for such hatred, especially when most of these institutions get [tax-free status]."

In America, Imams are less likely to preach openly in this manner, but they hand out DVD's of other Muslim preachers saying this kind of thing.

The Abu Huraira Centre attracts about 800 to 1,000 people to a typical Friday service. A man who worked at the centre said that many women who attend only wear the hijab, which covers the head, and do not wear any covering on their faces.

The National Post repeatedly attempted to reach Mr. Rageah for an interview, but was unsuccessful.

Throughout the 35-minute speech he uses the word "kuffar" to describe non-Muslims.

In referring to those Muslims who would seek allies outside the Muslim community to bring about legislation that would ban face coverings, the imam said: "You will see a lot of them going to the kuffar, taking them as friends and allies. The wrath of Allah is upon them. If they were true believers they would never take them as allies."

At its most benign, kuffar means "non-Muslims." But others say the most common usage is considered highly offensive, akin to calling a black person a "nigger," Mr. Fatah said.

"It goes back to the Arab use of the word against black slaves. It's used in a very derisive manner."

Professor Amir Hussain, who teaches theology at Loyola Marymount College in Los Angeles, but grew up in Toronto, said he does not read the word "destroy" in a literal way.

"For me, I don't see the remarks 'destroy them from within themselves' as hoping for violence. Rather, I see it as him asking that the group implode from within. Granted, implode and destroy are of course violent metaphors, but I liken it to him asking for the organization to disintegrate."

It takes an academic to be able to turn black to white and to explain that words don't really mean what they mean.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Muslim Congress called on Ottawa to ban the wearing of the burka or niqab in public. They said the right should not be protected by the Charter's guarantee of religious freedom because nowhere in the Koran is there a requirement for women to cover their faces in public. They argue that the burka "marginalizes women." The Koran does call for modesty.

(...)

Walid Saleh, professor at the centre for the study of religion at the University of Toronto, said much of what Mr. Rageah said must be taken in the context of how Muslims may use terms in the midst of a religious service.

"If you ask me [kuffar] is unreformed language that is unbefitting for a multicultural society. That being said, it is religious language that is Quranic, and in the hadith [the oral tradition], so the issue is internal: how do traditional Muslims want to refer to non-Muslims? Using this language is regrettable, but one is not sure how far one can go in demanding a change."

However, he said the imam could have simply used non-offensive language to refer to non-Muslims.

"He could call them Christians and the Jews, either by their [neutral] Arabic names or even better, Ahl al-Kitab, or People of the Book, a rather positive Islamic term. In this sense there are options. That he chooses to use the term kuffar, is not innocent as such."

However, Prof. Saleh said it was important to note that he was asking his members to write letters to the government to make their objections known.

"So, you can see that the democratic notions are seeping through. He is fully aware of the limitation of his position."

Like I said, it takes an academic...
Posted on 10/26/2009 7:09 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 26 October 2009
Egyptian Sunni Cleric Denounces Shi'ite "Dogs"

From MEMRI here.

 

The rant is from last July. It might have been from ten years ago, or ten centuries. It does not date.

Posted on 10/26/2009 11:55 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 26 October 2009
A Musical Interlude: Why Am I So Romantic? (Sam Lanin Orch.)

Listen here.

Posted on 10/26/2009 12:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 26 October 2009
MPAC Leader To Speak At J-Street Conference

From the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report:

A Jewish NGO known as “J Street” has invited the head of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) to speak at its conference being held today and titled “” According to the conference schedule, Mr. Salam Al-Marayati will be appearing in the following conference workshop:

How Jews, Christians and Muslims Can Work Together For Peace

Greg Khalil, President and Co-Founder, The Kairos Project

Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council

Mark Pelavin, Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Maureen Shea, Former Director, Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations; Former Churches For Middle East Peace Chair

Moderator: Ron Young, Co-Founder, National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace

The J Street web site describes the organization as:

… the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. J Street was founded to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. We support a new direction for American policy in the Middle East and a broad public and policy debate about the U.S. role in the region.

MPAC itself was established in the mid-1980’s by individuals whose backgrounds are likely rooted in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and since its inception has acted in concert with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. Although proclaiming a love for the Jewish people and engaging in interfaith dialog, MPAC has made frequent anti-Semitic statements that assert or imply an organized Jewish campaign to defame and exclude U.S. Muslims. MPAC has also gone beyond criticism of Israel, engaging in demonization of the Jewish state. Such demonization includes accusations of “rape of the Palestinians” in regard to the Al-Aqsa mosque, comparisons with Nazis, accusation of apartheid and genocide, accusations of “butchery”, and suggestions that Israel is seeking the eradication of Islam from its territories. Mr. Al-Marayati suggested on a talk radio show on September 11 2001 that Israel might have been behind the 911 attacks. stating:

If we’re going to look at suspects, we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what’s happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies.

Posted on 10/26/2009 3:51 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 26 October 2009
The Paris of the north west?

Well, it's a French car that's been set on fire. Sale, as Paul B. but not many other readers will know, is a town near Manchester. From the BBC:

Police are investigating after eight cars were thought to have been set on fire in less than 30 minutes on neighbouring streets in Sale.

Firefighters were called to Hurst Avenue on Monday after reports that a Renault Megane had been set alight.

Less than 15 minutes later, they received calls that another three vehicles were also on fire just yards away, a spokesman said.

Crews then then dealt with another four cars on fire nearby.

I wonder if it was Asians, or youths, or Asian youths, or a trio, or people of North African extraction, or extremists (of-any-religion-Christians-are-just-as-bad-whatabout-the-King-David-Hotel) or simply "men". Or "women".

From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men;
From Sale and profanation of honor and the sword;
From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord!

Watch this space.

Posted on 10/26/2009 6:11 PM by Mary Jackson
Monday, 26 October 2009
Hamas Not Radical Enough Say Challengers

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- On the streets of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, clusters of men wear long tunics over baggy trousers, a costume common in Pakistan but virtually unknown among Palestinians -- until recently.

It is an emblem of the Salafi, a branch of Islam that advocates restoring a Muslim empire across the Middle East and into Spain. Some preach violence, even killing Muslims deemed not pious enough. While historically a fringe group in the southeastern Mediterranean, they have sought inroads in Lebanon and Jordan and are battling Hamas in Gaza.

While al-Qaeda, which shares the Salafis’ conservative religious views and promotion of holy war, hasn’t gained a foothold in the region, Salafis may be the wave of the future. In Algeria and Morocco, similar movements have expanded in the past two decades to create havoc through civilian bombings and attacks on police.

“This is the challenge we face in the world,” said Bilal Saab, a researcher in Middle East security at the University of Maryland in College Park. “We are getting better at dealing with insurgencies, though Afghanistan is proving to be an exception. It is much more difficult to combat the constant threat of underground urban terrorism.”

Armed Salafis are challenging the authority of Hamas, the Islamic party that rules the Gaza Strip and has fought Israel for two decades. Gaza Salafis say Hamas surrendered its credentials as an Islamic resistance group when it declared a unilateral cease-fire after a 22-day war with the Jewish state that ended Jan. 18. Hamas’s Health Ministry said 1,450 Palestinians were killed in the conflict. The Israeli Army put the toll at 1,166 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

‘Given Up’

“They believe Hamas has been neutralized and has given up the fight,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor at Al-Azhar University in Gaza.

Hamas, on the U.S. State Department list of terror organizations, is holding dozens of Salafis in jail, trying to persuade them to end their opposition, said Hamas police spokesman Rafik Abu Hani. “They want to implement their own ideas through weapons, and we can’t allow that.”

Arrests began after an Aug. 14 Hamas raid on a mosque in Rafah where armed Salafis belonging to a group called Warriors of God had gathered. Its leader, Abdel-Latif Musa, proclaimed an Islamic emirate in Gaza directly challenging Hamas rule, according to a transcript published by the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based translation and analysis organization. Musa and 21 other people, including six civilians, died in the battle.

‘Crossing a Line’

“The emirate idea was crossing a line of Hamas tolerance,” Abusada said. “Hamas basically said, ‘Don’t mess with us.’” Since the crackdown, Salafis have been responsible for two bombings that didn’t cause any casualties, he added.

The Warriors of God group is among at least four armed Salafi organizations in Gaza, along with the Army of Islam, Victory of Islam and Lions Den of Supporters, Abu Hani said. Members total no more than 400 to 500, he estimated. Abusada said there are many more: between 4,000 and 5,000, including defectors from Hamas.

The next step would be for these groups to unify and organize, attract more newcomers dissatisfied with Hamas and try to forge ties with al-Qaeda, Samir Ghattas, a Palestinian analyst at Gaza’s Maqdis Center for Political Studies, told a Sept. 30 terror conference.

Refugee Camps

In 2007, a Salafi group in Lebanon called Fatah Al-Islam held off a three-and-a-half month siege by the country’s army on the Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. The combat left about 400 militants and 168 soldiers dead, according to Lebanese press reports.

Salafi remnants have probably taken refuge in other Palestinian camps in Lebanon, Saab wrote in the September issue of CTC Sentinel, a publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Security forces have also foiled Salafi attacks in Jordan, he wrote.

The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat has spearheaded several years of civil war in Algeria. After pledging allegiance to Osama bin Laden in 2006, the group changed its name to al- Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. It has bedeviled Algeria with bombings and ambushed security forces, even though membership is only in the hundreds, according to U.S. State Department statistics.

Radical Groups

While there’s no indication of any direct relationship between militant Salafis and al-Qaeda, they have become a reference point for radical groups from Morocco to Central Asia. One Salafi in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis who called himself Abu Iyad said he doesn’t belong to any armed organizations but understands people who do.

Hamas adherents “say they resist Israel, but they stopped fighting,” he said. “Why did all the people die? Hamas is acting just like Fatah,” the movement led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who favors peace talks with Israel.

“What the Salafis don’t understand is we need to give the people a break; we need to rebuild and prepare for the next battle,” said Younis Astal, a Hamas member of the disbanded Palestinian parliament. “We can’t have perpetual war. That would be inhuman. Anyway, they want to make Gaza like an al- Qaeda base, and we don’t want that.”

Posted on 10/26/2009 8:53 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 26 October 2009
Stating What Should Have Been The Obvious
From
October 23, 2009

A flawed philosophy that bolsters the BNP

The chatter of the chattering classes fades to a whisper whenever cultural difference comes up. That’s why extremists flourish

Philosophy, despite the best obfuscatory intentions of philosophers, occasionally seeps out of the ivory towers and informs our lives. We may not be able to cite the theorists whose theories we live by, but culture is shaped by great minds as much as by our collective will.

The dominant philosophical framework of the postwar era has been moral relativism; the notion that there are no universal truths. Truth, and moral worth, are entirely relative to a culture or society.

I think bacon is divine; you are a vegetarian; he thinks pig meat is an affront to God. Each of these positions is true, because truth is in the eye of the believer. I think Nick Griffin is a buffoon; you think he is a dangerous fascist; he thinks he is a fearless hero of the Right.

It is so easy to be a moral relativist. It means never thinking through an argument, never offending anyone, never feeling as if you are channelling the unsavoury views of a lunatic fringe. Relativism has a long tradition; the Greek historian Herodotus had some relativist sympathies in the 5th century BC.

It took off in the 20th century, prospering in a haze of post-colonial guilt, feeding off a desire to atone for our forefathers’ racism and assumptions of superiority.It is a moral code for those who do not want to be impolite or rude. It’s the ideology of holding hands in a circle or drinking tea together. Small wonder it has been so seductive within these shores. Moral relativism, as philosophies go, is just so nice.

It’s a shame, then, that it is also incoherent, logically flawed and utterly tired. Few philosophers take it seriously any more. Yet having escaped the ivory towers, it has taken on a life independent of the theorists. It sits at the heart of our society like a jolly, beaming tumour, eating away at our ability to take on the BNP and their ilk.

The incoherence is laughable. The relativist’s position is that all cultural views are equally valid, unless your culture is that of a white, male racist. In which case, you are wrong and the relativists are right, despite the fact there is no objective right and wrong, only cultural practices. Eh?

The logical flaws are also obvious. Take female genital mutilation. I think it is an abhorrent, evil crime. Yet the woman slicing out the clitoris of a child with a rusty knife thinks she is doing the right thing. Clearly, one of us is absolutely right and one of us is deluded. If your culture believes in genital mutilation and mine does not, then my culture is right and good and yours is wrong and bad.

This is an argument made persuasively by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch MP and political activist. Ali argues that Western feminists retreat into silence when faced with the subjugation of their Islamic sisters, hobbled by their unwillingness to criticise other cultures. Germaine Greer famously accused the critics of circumcision as launching attacks on “the cultural identity” of the circumcised. “One man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation,” she said.

But Greer’s defence of the indefensible was ten years ago now. Consciously or not, we have moved away from a world where she could say something so absurd and be taken seriously.

It’s impossible to be a cultural relativist when faced with daily examples of other cultures getting it wrong. There is no validity in any view of right or wrong expressed by the Taleban. There is no truth in any cultural creed that treats women as inferior, let alone those that mutilate them. There is no cultural excuse for child abuse disguised as exorcism.

Relativism is in retreat, but there is no coherent moral framework taking its place. It helped us move from the certainties of the imperial age into a more tolerant era, but it’s almost impossible to work out what comes next.

For those of us who grew up with a ubiquitous relativism, it is incredibly hard to break its bonds, even though we know we must. We are squeamish about dealing in moral absolutes. It feels counter-intuitive and unbearably arrogant to stand up and say: “I am right and you are wrong.” It feels embarrassingly strident to be vocal about the facets of British life that are better than elsewhere; such as women’s rights and freedom of speech and the fact that Mehmet Goren is on trial for the suspected honour killing of his daughter, where elsewhere the lack of a body would have been a convenient excuse to let it lie.

Part of this squeamishness comes from a fear of being accused of racism. My generation is terrified of being accused of racism, not because we’re all secret racists afraid of being outed, but because we find racism shocking and offensive. But the problem is also a more general unease with dealing with moral absolutes: fascists and fanatics have monopolised certainty.

There seems to be no middle ground between an absurd relativism and a shouty, strident nastiness. This poses a problem: the chattering classes stop chattering as soon as a culturally sensitive topic comes up.

The only way to decide if a proposition is true or not, or if an action is right or wrong, is to test it and debate it. This takes more rigour than a lazy assumption that all views are truth and rightness is relative. It’s also tricky if you are an atheist, as so many of us are. Religion is like a moral short-cut, providing a template against which you can test moral propositions. Without God, certainty is even harder to come by. Who am I to say what is right or wrong? A little divine back-up would be useful, if only I could find a scintilla of faith.

So, paralysed by our inherited relativism, fearful of seeming racist and adrift in a Godless world, we fall silent just when we should be debating and talking. Into this silence strides Nick Griffin, Britain’s own fascist hobgoblin. If he is the only one talking about immigration, or the role of women in Islam or the sense of alienation and disenfranchisement felt, rightly or wrongly, by some white Britons, then his voice will be amplified. He is shouting while we whisper. If his voice is heard above ours, we have only ourselves to blame.

Posted on 10/26/2009 9:16 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 26 October 2009
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: Lipstick On Your Collar (Graveside Scene)

Watch, and listen, here.

Posted on 10/26/2009 10:10 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 26 October 2009
Talk Fahrenheit, Talk Centigrade, Say Something We Can Comprehend

AP IMPACT: Statisticians reject global cooling

WASHINGTON – Have you heard that the world is now cooling instead of warming? You may have seen some news reports on the Internet or heard about it from a provocative new book. Only one problem: It's not true, according to an analysis of the numbers done by several independent statisticians for The Associated Press.

The case that the Earth might be cooling partly stems from recent weather. Last year was cooler than previous years. It's been a while since the super-hot years of 1998 and 2005. So is this a longer climate trend or just weather's normal ups and downs?

In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

"If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect," said John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina.

Yet the idea that things are cooling has been repeated in opinion columns, a BBC news story posted on the Drudge Report and in a new book by the authors of the best-seller "Freakonomics." Last week, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 57 percent of Americans now believe there is strong scientific evidence for global warming, down from 77 percent in 2006.

Global warming skeptics base their claims on an unusually hot year in 1998. Since then, they say, temperatures have dropped — thus, a cooling trend. But it's not that simple.

Since 1998, temperatures have dipped, soared, fallen again and are now rising once more. Records kept by the British meteorological office and satellite data used by climate skeptics still show 1998 as the hottest year. However, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA show 2005 has topped 1998. Published peer-reviewed scientific research generally cites temperatures measured by ground sensors, which are from NOAA, NASA and the British, more than the satellite data.

The recent Internet chatter about cooling led NOAA's climate data center to re-examine its temperature data. It found no cooling trend.

"The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record," said NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt. "Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positive, which means warming."

The AP sent expert statisticians NOAA's year-to-year ground temperature changes over 130 years and the 30 years of satellite-measured temperatures preferred by skeptics and gathered by scientists at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Statisticians who analyzed the data found a distinct decades-long upward trend in the numbers, but could not find a significant drop in the past 10 years in either data set. The ups and downs during the last decade repeat random variability in data as far back as 1880.

Saying there's a downward trend since 1998 is not scientifically legitimate, said David Peterson, a retired Duke University statistics professor and one of those analyzing the numbers.

Identifying a downward trend is a case of "people coming at the data with preconceived notions," said Peterson, author of the book "Why Did They Do That? An Introduction to Forensic Decision Analysis."

One prominent skeptic said that to find the cooling trend, the 30 years of satellite temperatures must be used. The satellite data tends to be cooler than the ground data. And key is making sure 1998 is part of the trend, he added.

It's what happens within the past 10 years or so, not the overall average, that counts, contends Don Easterbrook, a Western Washington University geology professor and global warming skeptic.

"I don't argue with you that the 10-year average for the past 10 years is higher than the previous 10 years," said Easterbrook, who has self-published some of his research. "We started the cooling trend after 1998. You're going to get a different line depending on which year you choose.

"Should not the actual temperature be higher now than it was in 1998?" Easterbrook asked. "We can play the numbers games."

That's the problem, some of the statisticians said.

Grego produced three charts to show how choosing a starting date can alter perceptions. Using the skeptics' satellite data beginning in 1998, there is a "mild downward trend," he said. But doing that is "deceptive."

The trend disappears if the analysis starts in 1997. And it trends upward if you begin in 1999, he said.

Apart from the conflicting data analyses is the eyebrow-raising new book title from Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, "Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance."

A line in the book says: "Then there's this little-discussed fact about global warming: While the drumbeat of doom has grown louder over the past several years, the average global temperature during that time has in fact decreased."

That led to a sharp rebuke from the Union of Concerned Scientists, which said the book mischaracterizes climate science with "distorted statistics."

Levitt, a University of Chicago economist, said he does not believe there is a cooling trend. He said the line was just an attempt to note the irony of a cool couple of years at a time of intense discussion of global warming. Levitt said he did not do any statistical analysis of temperatures, but "eyeballed" the numbers and noticed 2005 was hotter than the last couple of years. Levitt said the "cooling" reference in the book title refers more to ideas about trying to cool the Earth artificially.

Statisticians say that in sizing up climate change, it's important to look at moving averages of about 10 years. They compare the average of 1999-2008 to the average of 2000-2009. In all data sets, 10-year moving averages have been higher in the last five years than in any previous years.

"To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous," said Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution at Stanford.

Ben Santer, a climate scientist at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Lab, called it "a concerted strategy to obfuscate and generate confusion in the minds of the public and policymakers" ahead of international climate talks in December in Copenhagen.

President Barack Obama weighed in on the topic Friday at MIT. He said some opponents "make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change — claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary."

Earlier this year, climate scientists in two peer-reviewed publications statistically analyzed recent years' temperatures against claims of cooling and found them not valid.

Not all skeptical scientists make the flat-out cooling argument.

"It pretty much depends on when you start," wrote John Christy, the Alabama atmospheric scientist who collects the satellite data that skeptics use. He said in an e-mail that looking back 31 years, temperatures have gone up nearly three-quarters of a degree Fahrenheit (four-tenths of a degree Celsius). The last dozen years have been flat, and temperatures over the last eight years have declined a bit, he wrote.

Oceans, which take longer to heat up and longer to cool, greatly influence short-term weather, causing temperatures to rise and fall temporarily on top of the overall steady warming trend, scientists say. The biggest example of that is El Nino.

El Nino, a temporary warming of part of the Pacific Ocean, usually spikes global temperatures, scientists say. The two recent warm years, both 1998 and 2005, were El Nino years. The flip side of El Nino is La Nina, which lowers temperatures. A La Nina bloomed last year and temperatures slipped a bit, but 2008 was still the ninth hottest in 130 years of NOAA records.

Of the 10 hottest years recorded by NOAA, eight have occurred since 2000, and after this year it will be nine because this year is on track to be the sixth-warmest on record.

The current El Nino is forecast to get stronger, probably pushing global temperatures even higher next year, scientists say. NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt predicts 2010 may break a record, so a cooling trend "will be never talked about again."

Posted on 10/26/2009 10:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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