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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
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 Friday, 28, 2011.
Friday, 28 January 2011
Egypt protests: ElBaradei held as thousands pour on to streets in biggest protests yet

From The Telegraph

Egyptian authorities have held Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel peace laureate leading protests against President Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime.

Mr ElBaradei was among thousands of protesters who have poured on to the streets of Egypt's towns and cities at the end of noon prayers on Friday, in are expected to be the biggest demonstrations yet in the attempted revolution against Mr Mubarak.

Egypt's authorities responded to the growing threat to the regime by shutting down access to the internet and launching a fresh wave of arrests. Their focus this time was the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, after it threw its support behind the protest movement.

In mosques across the country, imams had been instructed to tell their followers not to take to the streets.  We don't know that they actually did of course, although in Egypt there won't be the problem of imams saying one thing to the Kafir in English, say, and another to their congregation in their mother tongue.

Thousands defied those calls and within minutes of prayers ending, riot police in Cairo were firing tear gas and water cannons at protesters in Cairo shouting "down, down Hosni Mubarak". I always get a bit worried when I hear of Muslims pouring out of mosques in an emotional condition.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the dissident and Nobel laureate who returned to Egypt on Thursday evening, also made his first appearance on the streets after joining Friday prayers.

There were new demonstrations in Suez, the eastern city that has seen three of the seven fatalities reported since protests began on Tuesday.

It is unclear what impact the almost-total shutdown of the internet will have. Organisers have used social networking sites to mobilise the protests but since then, word of mouth has proved almost as effective a tool.

Posted on 01/28/2011 6:38 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 28 January 2011
First prosecution for homophobic hate - leaflets handed outside mosque.

Two men are due to appear in court charged with stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation in the first prosecution of its kind.

Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27, are accused of handing out a leaflet called The Death Penalty? outside a mosque in Derby, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.  CPS lawyer Sue Hemming said: "The charges relate to the distribution of a leaflet, The Death Penalty?, outside the Jamia Mosque in Derby in July 2010 and through letterboxes during the same month. The leaflet is understood to have called for homosexuals to be executed.

The pair will appear at Derby Magistrates' Court today charged with stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Posted on 01/28/2011 1:50 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 28 January 2011
Edward Abington, Former American Diplomat And Arab Hireling

A letter to The Washington Post  from Leo Rennert about Edward Abington:


Dear Mr. Brauchli:
In a Jan. 25 article in the Washington Post, Jerusalem correspondent Janine Zacharia quotes Ed Abington, a former U.S. diplomat, as saying that Al-Jazeera's trove of leaked Palestinian documents show Palestinian negotiators conceding more and more "while gaining absolutely nothing from Israeli negotiators." ("Al-Jazeera angers Palestinians -- Release of peace-talk memos a 'huge blow' to leadership in negotiations with Israel" page A11.)
Zacharia identifies Abington as a former U.S. consul general in Jersualem and longtime American diplomat.  She also relies on him for her own summation that Palestinians now are going to perceive their leaders as abandoning core Palestinian positions "in exchange for little from Israel."
Abington, however, isn't just a dispassionate observer, as Zacharia depicts him.  After his stint as U.S. consul in Jersualem, he signed on as political counsel for the Palestinian Authority and presumably got handsomely compensated for his services. [see the comment below about what Edward Abington extracted for the "Palestinians" from American taxpayers, and what, immediately after, Edward Abington received from the "Palestinian" Authority]
When he asserts that Palestinian negotiators got "absolutely nothing" from Israel, he's speaking as a pro-Palestinian propagandist -- an essential part of Abington's bio that Zacharia hides from Post readers. 
Her failure to disclose Zacharia's PA job is doubly disturbing.  Not only does she represent Abington under false colors, but she relies on him for a demonstrable lie -- that Israel, in negotiations with the Palestinians, offered no compromises and concessions.
The record totally refutes such Palestinian propaganda.  Whether at Camp David in 2000 or in negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, the Palestinians got plenty from Israel.  In the latter talks, Israel offered Mahmoud Abbas all of Gaza, 95 percent of the West Bank, with land swaps to make it 100 percent, a corridor link betwen the West Bank and Gaza, all Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, a big chunk of Jerusalem's Old City, and an international consortium, including Saudi Arabia, to take over administration of Jerusalem's holy sites.  Just imagine:  Israel willing to have Saudi Arabia help administer Temple Mount and the Western Wall, Judaism's most sacred sites.
This generous Israeli offer, which still didn't satisfy Abbas, is hardly  "absolutely nothing," as Zacharia avers by quoting Abington without mentioning his paid Palestinian connection.
Rennert mentions that "Abington presumably got handsomely compensated for his services." But that is unspecific, and too kind.
This is what happened. Edward Abington -- still working for the American government as a diplomat --  lobbied the State Department for a gigantic increase in aid to the "Palestinians" and, partly as a consequence, $400 million was added to their already-amazing amounts of aid the "Palestinian" warlords managed to command, so much of which they managed to squirrel away for their own benefit (Arafat died with billions having gone missing) or that of their children (see how well the children of Mahmoud Abbas are doing, with their loot, in Qatar). And just a few weeks after the $400 million was awarded, Edward Abington signed a contract with the "Palestinian" Authority, one that paid him some $700,000 a year.
That's what Leo Rennert may now wish to send along as an appendix to his letter, hoping -- against hope -- that Brauchli of the Washington Post will ask his reporter, Janine Zacharia, if she thinks identifying Edward Abington a bit more fully for readers might not be out of place -- might even be, under the circumstances, mandatory.
Posted on 01/28/2011 4:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 January 2011
All Just History Now

WHEN I used to ask my young patients to name a British prime minister other than the present one and Mrs Thatcher (they had all heard of her) they used to reply with an answer such as: “I don’t know, I wasn’t born then.”

The name Winston Churchill rang no bells with them, 1066 meant nothing. Queen Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, Horatio Nelson … it was all Greek to them. They’d heard of the slave trade but had no idea whether it came before or after the Second World War.

The majority were unable to give a single historical date. Their geographical knowledge was little better. They’d heard of Paris but not of Berlin.

Indeed almost every part of the earth might as well have been the far side of the moon as far as they were concerned. The only places whose location they knew for sure were local nightclubs and football stadiums.

Let us be clear about it: this state-sponsored ignorance costs us nearly £60,000 a head to enforce. That is what we spend on the compulsory education, or perhaps I should say attendance at school, of each of our children. Never has so little been taught to so many at such cost.

Those who take history are now taught a peculiar version of it, often without any chronological framework on which to add any new information they may acquire. They are not asked to learn facts upon which a later opinion might be based, they are asked to imagine what it was like to be a fishwife in the 17th century, or some such, without having any grasp of the major political or other events of the period.

They are taught history as a morality tale in which there is a politically correct and politically incorrect side. An A-level student whom I met told me she was studying the Rwandan genocide as her special topic.

This was someone who did not know when the English Civil War was. Her only source of information seemed to be the film Hotel Rwanda. As far as I could tell all she knew of the Rwandan genocide was that there was a lot of brutality and that killing 800,000 people with machetes is wrong. She didn’t know that the country had once been Belgian.

It seemed that she would be tested more on the vehemence of her feeling than the depth of her knowledge. If she could emote well then she would pass.

It is good news then that Education Secretary Mr Michael Gove wants to return us to a more chronological teaching of history, to history as narrative with facts included.

And since we live here, to British history. He understands that a concerted (and successful) ideological effort has been made in the recent past to disconnect our children from a national heritage, leaving them adrift in an eternal present moment.

The result has not been that large numbers of people are now able to think critically for themselves but that large numbers know practically nothing. All they have been left with is a politically correct penumbra of impressions and feelings.

This does not even serve the cause of multiculturalism because people who know nothing of the history or culture of the country in which they live are unlikely to be interested in the history or culture of anyone else’s country.

Narrative history is important because, without a sense of it, the past has no significance. And if the past has no significance the future has none and the present, being the near future’s recent past, is likewise deprived of significance. All that is left is a shallow, meaningless life in which you drift from moment to moment in search of amusement. If nothing anyone else has done is important then nothing that you can do is important.

There are dangers in Mr Gove’s approach. No one wants children to be indoctrinated with a version of history decreed down to the last detail by government.

For no nation is history an uninterrupted succession of glorious moments, it is not the story of how we have finally reached our present level of enlightenment. Nor should we want to inculcate a sense of pride or belonging in our children at the expense of others.

It should be possible to give children a chronological framework with which they can begin to think about and understand the past.

The Norman invasion was important for our island’s story irrespective of what you think of it from the moral point of view. Of course the closer we come to the present the more difficult it is to take an objective view, which is why very recent history should not be taught to children at school.

This was something that was once understood but seems not to be understood any longer. Mr Gove will find it difficult to change the teaching of history and geography because there are powerful ideological interests against change. We have after all been here before, with governments trying to change the curriculum because they were aware of its deficiencies.

Central government proposes, bureaucracy disposes. It would not be surprising if we ended up with the exact opposite of what Mr Gove wants. But the effort must be made.

Originally published in the Daily Mail.

Posted on 01/28/2011 6:43 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Friday, 28 January 2011
The Game Of Doubles (Re-Posted)


by Hugh Fitzgerald (Aug. 2007)


Each person takes a sheet of paper and a No. 2 pencil or pen. He has ten minutes to write as many pairs of names as he can. These are the“doubles” which give the game its name. These names must somehow be linked in the mind of the person (hereinafter “the Compiler”) who writes them down. Some will be linked merely by some element or figure of sound, so that a certain similarity in the first names, or the last names, or the structure of the names, make one think, almost involuntarily, of the second once the first has been thought of.

Now the party’s gentil organisateur (hereinafter “The Host”) collects the lists. The Host will now read each list in the following manner. He will take one list, and read the entire contents, taking care to stop after every pair of linked names (hereinafter “the Doubles”). He will then, at each pause, ask each of the others, that is everyone present (hereinafter known as “the Participants”), except the Compiler of that particular list, to suggest reasons why the Compiler deemed this pair of names so linkable. Sometimes the link will be obvious. Sometimes it will be very obscure. Often there will be several reasons, some of them factual, some of them downright dreamy, some very obscure but making sense once they are made plain, why Name A and Name B form a legitimiate “double.” Ideally there will be all kinds of different reasons, taking into account many different kinds of considerations. The whole point and fun of the game consists in the imaginative and knowledgeable attempt by Participants  to figure out what it was that made not any Compiler, but this particular Compiler, pair these particular two names.

The more that each Participant has stored away in his brain, and can bring wittily to bear on the matter, the more likely it is that the reasons offered, even if they turn out not to be the right ones, or turn out to be only part of the answer, will amuse and instruct, provide profit and pleasure. At the end of the animated reading-cum-attempted explanation of each item on the first list, the Compiler of that list (who should be taking some notes on who offered what reason) will explain who was right, who wrong, and anything else he has to add by way of explanation as to why A made him think almost automatically of B. Then do the same with the second list, and so on.

A particularly desirable feature of this game are its non-obvious, potentially epithalamic properties. For it forces each Participant (each of whom is also required to be a Compiler) to demonstrate intelligence, knowledge, humor, and wit. Thus the game of Doubles is an ideal activity for all occasions. The usual occasion, when one is just hoping to make life more rather than less interesting for a few hours. And the unusual occasion (which is becoming more usual), when with all of society’s  little battalions permanently demobbed, one has to go out into the big world without a filtering intermediary, to find a suitable date or mate, and has so little time – which happens to be  money, as you know – to spare, and wants to find out quickly, if only to eliminate from the running, what the story is with Miss X or Mr. Y. Call it speed-dating with a library card.

Sound and sight correspondences generally will not be enough, though it is one of the main elements to start with before you get going. Rudolph Guiliani should not make you think of Salvatore Giuliano, nor Hillary Clinton make you think of Edmond Hillary, nor Romney the politician entitle you to pair him, without more, with Romney the painter.  General Boulanger does not make anyone think of Nadia Boulanger. (And don’t put beans up your nose.) But there will always be exceptions to that rule.  The main point is to offer pairs that will be seen, once the Compiler has explained, somehow very right, in some cases funnily and even inevitably right. And the whole effect will be in the reasons, subtle and obvious, offered about each of the names in each pair. Jokes are also allowed, so that some of the pairs may be entirely phony but also full of meaning. However, in this setting the joke “doubles” must be explained. No one should go home disgruntled or confused.

Each Participant should, in the ten minutes allotted (more time would seem, in such a convivial setting, intolerably interminable), come up with as many pairs of “doubles” as he can. By way of demonstration, I compiled my own list, which is appended below. I broke my own rule, because I found that even typing at top speed I couldn’t complete all the names that came to mind  in less than 30 minutes (by the old church clock), which was when I cut myself off, deeming that the absolute time limit I thought I should observe. Awareness of the likely audience of this website probably led me to skew the “doubles” in favor of the English and the academic, though I am not English and not academic. The list is offered merely as an example to those who like the idea of this game, but who at this point may find themselves in a group with others who are a bit reluctant to compile lists themselves, who want to try it only when they feel they have got the hang of it. In order to kick things off, this list is offered so that others may use whatever parts of it they wish, at their own cotter’s-Saturday-night gatherings, and try to explain to each other what that absent Compiler must surely have had in mind.


Here’s that list of “Doubles”:


Stephen Crane and Hart Crane

Sacha Guitry and Sacha Chorny

Tommy Lee Jones and Billy Bob Thornton

Bix Beiderbecke and Bunny Berigan

John Suckling and Richard Lovelace

Linda Lovelace and Linda Ronstadt

Ilf and Petrov

Bernard DeVoto and Wallace Stegner

Issy Bonn and Pinky Lee

Li Po and Po Li

Verlaine and Rimbaud

Tasso and Ariosto

Dosso Dossi and Betto Betti

Joan Littlewood and Joan Greenwood

Alain Delon and Johnny Hallyday

Billie Holiday and Judy Holiday

Toto and the King of Naples

Peregrine Worsthorne and P. J. Wodehouse

Alan Coren and Sheridan Morley

Don Marquis and Don Hebold

Marshal Pilsudski and Admiral Horthy

Pisemsky and Gontcharov

Thomas Wentworth Higginson and James Russell Lowell

Richard Burton and Robert Burton

Robert Burton and Thomas Browne

Frank O’Connor and Sean O’Casey

Alice Adams and Alice Munro

Rosa Luxemburg and Kurt Liebknecht

Gerard Philippe and Leslie Howard

Muriel Spark and Iris Murdoch

Bing Crosby and Russ Colombo

Anna Karina and Anna Karenina

Nikolai  Trubetzkoy and Baudoin de Courtenay

Arnaldo Momigliano and Rita Levi-Montalcino

Edmond Jabès and Albert Memmi

Ernst Cassirer and Elias Canetti

Aby Warburg and Fritz Saxl

Josef Albers and Walter Gropius

Max Friedlaender and Erwin Panofsky

Leo Spitzer and Erich Auerbach

Salvador de Madariaga and Ortega y Gasset

Jakob Burckhardt and Jakob Bernays

Miguel Unamuno and Ortega y Gasset

Menendez Pidal and Menendez Pelayo

Damaso Alonso and Amerigo Castro

Silvia Ocampo and Victoria Ocampo

Flann O’Brien and Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty

Edwin O’Connor and Frank O’Connor

James Clarence Mangan and George Kennan

Virginia Lee Burton and Margaret Wise Brown

Quentin Crisp and Peter Quennell

Anjelica Huston and B. H. Traven

Doris Day and Dinah Shore

Winston Churchill and Winston Churchill

Boris Vian and Frank O’Sullivan

Frank O’Sullivan and Flann O’Brien

Roy Campbell and William Plomer

Rev’d Kilvert and Gilbert White

Cornelia Otis Skinner and B. S. Skinner

B. S. Skinner and Quentin Skinner

Quentin Reynolds and Lowell Thomas

Thomas Middleton and Thomas Rowley

Fanny Kemble and Fanny Burney

Edmund Kean and John MacReady

Andrey Platonov and Mikhail Bulgakov

Alain Chartier and Charles, Duc d’Orleans

Jacques Loeb and Jacques Cousteau

Max Planck and Max Perutz

Max Ascoli and Max Lerner

George Polya and Michael Polanyi

Seymour Papert and Seymour Cray

Seymour Glass and J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger and J. D. Watson

J. D. Watson and Francis Crick

Francis Quarles and Bernard Quaritch

“Chinese” Wilson and “Chinese” Gordon

Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner

A.J. Ayer and D.J. Enright

George Moore and George Moore

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Lessing and Schiller

Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor

Martin Landau and Lev Landau

Rod Steiger and Anatoly Shteiger

William Arrowsmith and Martin Arrowsmith

Dorothy Thompson and Dorothy Parker

W. V. Quine and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and George Saintsbury

Sidney Hillman  and David Dubinsky

Evariste Parny and Evariste Levi-Provencal

Alain and Alain Finkielkraut

Joshua Whatmough and John Wansbrough

H. D. Kraus and Karl Kraus

Kurt Weill and Kurt Godel

John Maynard Keynes and John Maynard Keyes

Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky

Tom and Jerry

Brian Vickers and Alistair Fowler

Radhakrishnan and Ramanujan

G. H. Hardy and Keir Hardie

Ernest Bevin and Aneurin Bevan

Hugh Gaitskill and Jo Grimond

Jean Jaurès and Jean Barois

André Gide and Roger Martin Du Gard

Ernest Dowson and Aubrey Beardsley

Wassily Leontieff and Abram Bergson

Leo Spitzer and Erich Auerbach

Enoch Powell and Lord Deming

Maurice Bowra and Gilbert Murray

Gilbert Murray and Oswyn Murray

Oswyn Murray and Jasper Griffin

Jasper Griffin and Peter Brown

Rita Mae Brown and bell hooks

Robin Lane Fox and Peter Green

Jo Stafford and Harriet Hilliard

Charles Perrault and Madame De Genlis

Felix Faure and Edgar Faure

Pierre Mendes-France and Catulle Mendes

Catulle Mendes and Oscar Milosz

Time and Newsweek

Fidelity and Vanguard

Hedge-Schools and Hedge-Funds

Our Mutual Friend and Our Mutual Fund

Neville Chamberlain and Houston Stewart Chamberlain

William Lyon Phelps and Chauncy Brewster Tinker

John Horne Tooke and John Hookham Frere

Alexandre Koyré and Alexandre Kojève

Marie Boroff and Max Beloff

Jean Seznec and Jean Starobinski

Lancelot Andrewes and Jeremy Taylor

Edward Teller and John von Neumann

Issur Danielovitch and Yul Brynner

Vladimir Dukelsky and Vernon Duke

Quentin Durward and Durward Kirby

Posted on 01/28/2011 6:51 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 January 2011
Home of EDL leader targeted.

A report came in overnight of an attack on the home of Kev Carroll one of the senior leaders and founders of the EDL.

This is his interview with BBC Three Counties about the incident. Missiles were thrown at the front of his house. he went out to see who was doing this; which was a young Asian man, 5'10" to 6' tall, aged about 26 who insisted he was only a jogger. As he was returning to the house Kev's wife warned him from the upstairs window that the man had a shotgun and he then chased Kev through neighbouring gardens before making off.

According to the BBC who are the only mainstream news site reporting this so far the Police want to talk to anyone who saw anything suspicious. 

This is not expected to alter the EDL demonstration in Luton next weekend, other than to increase EDL attendance.


Posted on 01/28/2011 6:59 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 28 January 2011
A Musical Interlude: After You've Gone (Jack Teagarden, Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti)

Listen here.

Posted on 01/28/2011 5:26 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 January 2011
Pat Condell On The State Of Free Speech In Europe

In Europe, with the trials (and tribulations)  of Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Lars Hedegaard in Denmark.

Watch, and listen, here.

Posted on 01/28/2011 10:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 January 2011
Britain’s youngest mum (12) was Pakistani sex gang victim

From The Daily Star

BRITAIN’S youngest mum fell pregnant at 12 after being passed around an Asian sex gang. The five-strong mob, made up largely of Pakistani taxi drivers, blitzed the schoolgirl with gifts including phones and sweets.  And after plying her with booze they took it in turns to have sex with her in a car park on “numerous occasions”.

The nation was stunned when the girl fell pregnant and became Britain’s youngest mum in 2002. Police vowed to hunt the dad and prosecute him for statutory rape. But they were stunned when the girl revealed she had been having sex with five men and did not know who was the father. Officers soon uncovered she had been lured into underage sex by the mob, but rather than highlight the problem the authorities decided to “brush it under the carpet”, a whistleblower said. None of the gang was prosecuted. The girl, from South Yorkshire, moved away and brought up her daughter with the help of her mum.

An official involved in the case contacted the Daily Star after reading our exposés of Asian sex gangs. They said: “It was one of the most horrifying examples of the way these gangs operate. The tragedy was she didn’t even know she had been effectively raped by these men time and again. She said they were all her boyfriends and had given her mobile phones, sweets, and drinks. She was ever such a sweet girl really and very, very pretty. But starved of affection in her own home she looked to these men for comfort. They knew that if they befriended her and were nice to her she would respond. Afterwards she was moved away to bring up the youngster and the men involved all just seemed to vanish. Political correctness dictated issues like this just could not be discussed. It was brushed under the carpet.”

And yesterday we revealed Rochdale’s child services chief is to meet ethnic leaders in a bid to drive Asian sex gangs out of the Lancashire town.But where to? Blackburn? Halifax? Rotherham? Pushing it elsewhere is not a solution.

Posted on 01/28/2011 11:59 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 28 January 2011
When It Comes To Islam, Please Stop This "Problem" And "Solution" Nonsense

Fitzgerald: When it comes to Islam, please stop this "problem" and "solution" nonsense

Many continue to believe that if we argue that Islam itself is the problem, this will leave the West with no solutions.

The word "solution" leapt out at me. I have written about it many times before, when discussing those who speak of a "two-state solution" to the Arab Muslim Jihad against Israel. I have written many times about what a foolish idea it is to believe that further Israeli surrenders, of claims, legal and moral and historic, and of tangible assets, especially the supreme asset, as it is viewed in the Muslim world, of land, would somehow change the immutable and uncreated words of the Qur'an, or somehow change the Hadith -- that is, change either the contents, or the rank of "authenticity," assigned to the Hadith (the written records of the words and deeds of Muhammad) more than a millennium ago by the most authoritative Muhaddithin.

I noted that Americans, unlike Europeans, are used to identifying situations that are troublesome or difficult or unpleasant as "problems," and, as problems, they are assumed to be susceptible of solution and therefore can be "solved." In some ways it is an attractive attitude. It testifies to a certain strain in the national character, a belief that may come from the encounter in this country with Nature, that the settlers in order to survive had to learn to subdue. And they felt, in a different way (a way we find not quite so unobjectionable today) it was felt necessary to subdue the indigenous Indians. Nature could be overcome, other men could be overcome. And when there was a need for something to be invented, born of necessity that invention would emerge. Yankee know-how and stick-to-it-iveness, the attitude that there is "no problem in the world that cannot be solved" if we just put our minds to solve it, may seem to some comically naïve, but for many it reflects an attitude that will not disappear, and of which many of us apparently cannot be disabused.

How many times have you heard someone call in to one of those NPR Talk Shows (where the host invites one and all to "join the conversation" and then has his call-vetters carefully keep out any of those well-informed callers whose questions would throw a spanner into the whole party-line works)? The callers who are allowed on the air say that "in the Middle East those folks have been making war on each other for thousands of years" and "apparently we Americans have got to get on in and bash some heads together to solve their problems if they can't do it for themselves." It never occurs to those who make these suggestions, or those who run the shows and hear them, to ask if it is merely a question of a "problem" to be solved, where the Americans come in because the parties in question have lost all sense of perspective or are unaccountably stubborn, and "solve" the problem by a little common-sensical solution - say, that "Two-State Solution" when it comes to the Arabs and Israelis. We already know it is a solution because otherwise, why would everyone in both parties who has been working on such an outcome call it a "Two-State Solution"? Q. E. D.

And what, even for Roger Fisher, he of Harvard Law, who once galumphed all around the world peddling his made-for-television series on "Arabs and Israelis," has been one of the biggest rackets and profit centers in para-academic life? It's "Negotiation." You can learn the craft and art of "Negotiation." You can buy books, you can take courses, you can hire consultants who will help you, help anyone and everyone if the price is right, to Getting To Yes. Many of those who first worked with Roger Fisher now have their careers, and their consulting centers, and their fat, fat fees. It never occurs to anyone that you can always "Get To Yes" if one side can be pressured to giving up what it needs for its survival (see under "Israel"). And it never occurs to anyone that sometimes life is a zero-sum game - very often in fact - and that one side may not wish to listen to Sweet Reason and Get To Yes, because recovery at once of any lands once possessed by Muslims, and then slow but inexorable domination by Muslims of the entire world, is more important than any Getting To Yes could ever be (unless of course "Getting To Yes" is merely a way to weaken the Infidel enemy, a variant on the Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya).

There is no "solution" to the war being waged on Israel. Nor is there a "solution" within Israel to the presence of those, Muslim Arabs, who do not and cannot feel loyal to the state of Israel, and wish the Jews and the State of Israel ill.

But the same thing is true in the case of Muslims all over Western Europe and, to a much lesser extent, in North America. In a few decades of criminal negligence, elites in these places allowed in many Muslims who regard the countries they have settled in as places of great comfort, stability, economic opportunity, and also as places where they must work to establish Islam. They work to increase its power and the numbers of its adherents, inexorably, to expand Muslim political power and, in addition, the power of Muslims, to intimidate outside the political system. And they work against the legal and political institutions, such as the American Constitution, that flatly contradict the spirit and letter of the Sharia. There is a way to handle this, but there is no solution.

Many begin with the idea that there is a "problem" and that, therefore, there is a "solution" or must be, and if we analyze Islam and conclude that there is no "solution" to that perceived "problem," then we shall all have to let loose the dogs of war, and everything will be terrible, and nothing good can come of it.

Those who think this way are using the wrong terms. They are using, as so many do, the language of problem-and-solution, the language of political Mr. Fixits, a language that misinterprets reality.

Is world poverty a problem? Is there a "solution" to this problem? What about human greed? Radix malorum cupiditas est, saith the Schoolmen. The desire for money is the root of all evil. Is that a "problem" to be "solved"? Or is it a condition to be recognized, and warned about, as are all the other Seven Deadlies? What about the innate inequality of intelligence among individuals? Is such inequality a "problem" to be "solved," or simply a condition to be recognized, and one not necessarily to be deplored? Is war (the permanence of) a "problem" to be "solved," or a condition to be dealt with, a threat to be made less rather than more dangerous?

The ideology of Islam cannot be changed, cannot be transformed. None of those who tried, in the early part of the 20th century, to "reform" Islam managed to succeed. And indeed, the only reason they wanted to "reform" Islam was in order to make Muslims stronger, because in the early 20th century it was clear that Muslims all over the world were weak, and the Infidel West was strong. And so some changes were entertained by a few "reformers" because they correctly perceived that Muslim weakness and wished to address its causes, not because they wanted to modify the claims of Islam, or the hold of Islam, on its adherents.

Kemal Pasha, Ataturk, was someone who sensed deeply the connection between the disorder and decadence of the Turkish state, and the political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral failures of Turkish Muslim society, and what Islam inculcated, what atmospherics it naturally gave rise to. He was not a "reformer." He knew that there was no way to change the Qur'an, the Hadith, the Sira. What he wanted to do, and systematically did do, was to curtail the power of Islam, as a political and social force, over Turkish Muslims themselves, and thereby to allow room for the development of a secular class. The tragedy of modern Turkey is that many of those who were the beneficiaries of Kemalism did not continue to work to extend its reach and its effects, and did not attain a majority in Turkey, and those who had remained faithful to Islam bided their time, and then helped bring Islam back, and it is they - Erdogan and his associates - who are in the ascendant in Turkey. Those who thought that Kemalism was forever, turned out to be wrong. It is Islam that is forever.

Apparently, some find recognition of a permanent threat too upsetting an idea. But why? Fascism, in its Nazi variant, and Communism remain political ideas that will always attract some adherents. Antisemitism, a pathological mental condition, has not been, and never will be eradicated even with the most potent of vaccination programs. But the numbers of Nazis and Communists and antisemites, relative and absolute, and their positions close to or far from power, and their consequent ability to do harm, or to influence others - all this is in the realm of what can be effected.

We can divide and demoralize the Camp of Islam. We can make some Muslims aware, even keenly aware, of all the ways that Islam itself explains the failures, political and economic and social and intellectual and moral, of their societies. We can prevent Muslim states and groups from acquiring major weaponry. We can halt Muslim immigration to the West, and make conditions such that the conduct of Muslim life becomes more and more subject to review, critical scrutiny, open discussion. Instead of extending a dangerously naïve welcome, we can make clear that we now understand the texts and tenets of Islam, and as a consequence, we feel justified in viewing those who still call themselves Muslims with suspicion and alarm.

That isn't a "solution" to a "problem." That is something much more complicated and, for those who think we can achieve an identifiable "victory" over the ideology of Islam, or over the bearers of that ideology, a "victory" that will end the matter once and for all, no doubt this view is unsatisfying. Unsatisfying perhaps it may be. But as a way to deal with the never-to-end threat of Islam, it is the one that, being based on the truth, will prove to be the most effective.

And that is the only thing that counts.


[Re-posted, with changes, from 2010[

Posted on 01/28/2011 3:40 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 January 2011
Where Are They Now: Ann-Marie Doreen Murphy's daughter

Reading this story about a 12-year old British girl who was raped by a gang of Pakistani groomers, and then left to raise the resulting daughter by herself, I was reminded of the story of Ann-Marie Doreen Murphy, and her daughter.

In 1986, Ms. Murphy unwittingly attempted to carry a bomb onto an El-Al flight.  The bomb was hidden in her luggage by her fiancée, Nezar Hindawi.  Hindawi was a Jordanian working for the Syrian intelligence agency who met her in her native Ireland.  He impregnated Murphy, then proposed to her and suggested they fly to his native Jordan for the wedding.  He said they'd fly on separate flights, and he thoughtfully provided her with a new suitcase from the Syrian embassy.

Unknown to her, the suitcase contained a false bottom, filled with 3 ½  pounds of the same plastic explosive later used in the Lockerbie bombing.  The calculator "gift" that he pushed to the bottom of the suitcase also doubled as a detonator for the explosives.

Thankfully, the El Al security screener was suspicious of a pregnant Irish Catholic woman with no Israeli friends or relatives, traveling alone during Passover to Israel.  Under heavy questioning, the full story came out, and the explosives were found by airline security personnel.  Hindawi tried to escape England with the help of the Syrian embassy, but was caught and arrested.   He had been instructed by his Syrian handlers to select a woman to carry the bomb to, since it was "more secure that way".  His bomb surely would have killed everyone on the flight, including the fiancée he had kissed goodbye at the airport and their unborn daughter.

As it turned out, Hindawi was already married to a Polish woman he had met in London.  Ms. Murphy, who was adamantly opposed to abortion, had her baby daughter before Hindawi's trial began.  She raised her daughter, alone, in Ireland.  Her daughter, wherever she is today, whatever she knows about her past, is 25 this year.

Posted on 01/28/2011 2:46 PM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Friday, 28 January 2011
A Musical Interlude: Out Of Nowhere (Ruth Etting)

Listen here.

Posted on 01/28/2011 5:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 January 2011
U.S. Threatens To Cut Off Aid That Should Never Have Been Given In The First Place

From The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. Threatens to Cut Off Aid to Egypt


WASHINGTON—The Obama administration Friday threatened to cut off its $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt if security forces in the world's largest Arab nation continue to use violence to crush antigovernment protests sweeping the country, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

The threat capped a day when administration officials began toughening their tone toward the longstanding U.S. ally. The White House struggled to stay ahead of what Mr. Gibbs called "a fluid and dynamic situation," saying publicly the administration's position is clear and consistent, but privately acknowledging that officials are responding to unfolding events.

Mr. Gibbs said a review of aid to Egypt had begun. "We are watching very closely the actions of the government, of the police, of security forces and of all the military," he said.

His remarks came on the heels of similar comments Friday from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the "Egyptian government needs to engage immediately with the Egyptian people in implementing needed economic, political and social reforms."

That came just two weeks after she gave a high-profile speech in Qatar chastising Arab regimes for their poor record of embracing political change.

Friday's stance from the administration was markedly more pointed than just one day earlier. Vice President Joseph Biden said in a television interview Thursday night that President Hosni "Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things…I would not refer to him as a dictator."

Obama administration officials Friday avoided naming Mr. Mubarak, referring always to the "Egyptian government."

Asked if President Barack Obama stood by the 81-year-old Egyptian strongman, Mr. Gibbs said: "This is not about picking a person, or the people of a country," Mr. Gibbs said.

The U.S. tone, while shifting to acknowledge the fast-moving situation in Egypt, remained studiously cautious, suggesting they saw one last chance for Mr. Mubarak to address protestors' concerns. It also was perhaps an acknowledgment that the alternatives to his rule were either uncertain, unknown or unpalatable.

Those words may not satisfy Egyptians rising up against decades of autocratic rule backed largely by the U.S., said Shadi Hamid, an expert of Arab politics and democracy promotion at the Brookings Institutions Doha Center in Qatar.

Arabs perceive Mr. Obama as de-emphasizing democracy promotion after George W. Bush tried to make it a centerpiece of his second term, Mr. Hamid said.

Expressions of "concern" should be condemnation and outrage, Mr. Hamid said. "We are watching history, and Obama is on the wrong side of it."

White House officials bristled at such criticism, noting Mr. Obama's comments on Middle East democracy starting with his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo less than six months into his term.

On Thursday, during an interview on YouTube, the president spoke of "legitimate grievances" in Egypt and said "violence is not the answer."

White House officials say privately the administration has toughened its tone to keep up with unfolding events. Mr. Obama was briefed for 40 minutes Friday morning on the Egyptian situation.

A second meeting of deputies in the government's security and diplomatic agencies was convened at 12:30 in the White House situation room to hear from the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey. The president was then briefed on that meeting, Mr. Gibbs said.

White House officials say neither the president nor the vice president spoke to Mr. Mubarak Friday.

It is no longer clear the administration can shape events in Egypt, said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The protests are not a response to any actions by this administration or the last one, said Mr. Alterman, who travels frequently to Egypt.

"The perception is the U.S. government is with the [Egyptian] government and against the street," he said. "I don't think there's anything the U.S. can say or do that would change that perception."

The U.S. has been trying to jump-start a gradual democratic movement in Egypt for years, channeling tens of millions of dollars in State Department funds to nongovernmental organizations inside and outside Egypt. Few groups have emerged that appear to have the kind of structure that could benefit from or lead the current protests.

U.S. democracy funding has for years been a source of tension with the Egyptian government. Gamal Mubarak, the president's son and presumed successor, told the U.S. ambassador in 2009 about warnings he had delivered six years earlier that such support could be counterproductive, according to diplomatic cables acquired by whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks and published by a Norwegian newspaper.

Friday, for the first time, the Muslim Brotherhood took part in street protests, sparking fears in some quarters that a largely secular protest against economic and political repression could assume religious overtones.

Obama administration officials declined to speculate on the Muslim Brotherhood's role. Mr. Gibbs said the administration has not been in touch with the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed political group which advocates a hard-line, but nonviolent, Islamic agenda.

Analysts said the administration will likely have to figure out how to accommodate a movement that is openly hostile to Israel, even if it is also a sworn enemy of violent groups like al Qaeda.

"If there is change in Egypt, then the Muslim Brotherhood will be part of it, so we must accept it as part of any representative government," said Bruce Riedel, a scholar at Brookings Institute who briefed the Obama administration on counterterror policies.

He said that the Muslim Brotherhood's more extreme tendencies—such as open support for Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the U.S.—would likely be tempered inside any future coalition government.

"It will not be easy, especially on Israel, but the Muslim Brotherhood cannot be excluded from the process," Mr. Riedel said.

Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has sought to rally around him disparate opposition groups that fall outside the country's established opposition. He returned to the country Thursday.

State department officials also mention Omar Suleiman, Mr. Mubarak's head of intelligence, as a possible leader, one who might act as a bridge until elections could be held. But the current roster of opposition figures might not accept him, in part because of his close ties to the Egyptian military.

Egypt has been a pillar of U.S. security policy in the Middle East since the Carter administration, especially for Arab-Israeli peace talks. Egypt has also been a staunch critic, as have many Arab countries, of Iran's goal of acquiring nuclear weapons. A friendly Egypt is important for U.S. access to the Suez Canal, which links the operating areas of two U.S. Navy fleets.

Posted on 01/28/2011 5:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 January 2011
American Aid To Arab States Only And Everywhere Increases Anti-American Feeling

The Americans, and other Infidels, give aid to Muslim governments, if those governments run countries that forgot to be born with large amounts of oil and natural gas. Thus it is that, in addition to the more than fifteen trillion dollars that have gone to the Muslim members of OPEC since 1973 alone -- the largest transfer of wealth in human history -- to that must be added the hundreds of billions that have been, and still are being, transferred to Muslim states that do not possess such unmerited and easy wealth. Western taxpayers, hard-pressed, find themselves supporting the luxurious lives of the ruling classes -- the ruler himrself, the members of, his Family-And-Friends plan, and the assorted courtiers who do the court's bidding and are, in turn, rewarded with a portion of the loot. This is true  in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Afgthanistan, and in the the "Palestine Authority," or as it should be known, Fatah (since this Authority  has little authority outside the Mukata in Rmamallah), or better stil, as the PLO, the "Palestine Liberation Organization" for it continues with the same aims and mental makeup -- the same henchmen to Arafat -- as the PLO. 

Egypt has received nearly $3 billion a year in military and economic aid, aid that started to be given in the afterglow of the halo worn by Saint Sadat, who had managed, with the help of Carter and Brzezinski, to make the long-suffering Israelis sue for peace, and to make it seem as if it were the Egyptians who were grandly conceding this and that, when of course the Egyptians had nothing of value to give, nothing tangible, and as any fool could have predicted, Egypt would not honor its only commitments, those to foster a real peace, an absence of hostilities, between it and Israel. Alas, almost everyone was a wise man, and knew for a certainty that the Camp David Accords were wonderful, a model of peace-making (why, Carter and Sadat and Rabin had their shared Nobel Prize to prove it); there was hardly a fool around to predict exactly what did happen: Israel dutifully giving up, in three tranches, the entire Sinai, together with $16 billion (in 1978 dollars) in infrastructure, and Egypt giving up exactly nothing.

And what's more, Egypt, with a regime understood by everyone to be corrupt, was provided with the Res, the thing, the stuff, the wherewithal, for the corrupt regime of its Rais -- pharaonic gold, dollar-denominated -- by the Americans. And that is one of the reasons that Cairene crowds are full of animus toward Americans. We fed the corrupt, and we keep them fed.

But what if we hadn't done so? So what? Mubarak, and his courtiers, would have still been corrupt, but there would have been not quite so much to go around. And they would still, for reasons of self-interest, still tried to keep the Muslim Brotherhood down. And America would not have been so identified with the corruption of the regime.

Moral: Stop giving aid to Egypt, to Jordan, to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, to the "Palestinian" Authority. No American aid will win friends among Muslims for Infidels. But American aid, and European too, can increase hatred for the Americans and the Europeans, not among those who are most fervently Muslim, for they are already suffused with such hatred, they batten on it, but among the more advanced (a term of relative rather than absolute value when applied to  primitive, semi-savage societies with a political class even more coarse and ignorant and clownish than that to be found in much -- though not all -- of the present-day West), and secular.

There is no need for any further transfer of wealth from Infidel countries to Muslim countries. It does us no good. It does them no good. Cut the aid to Egypt now, not slightly, but completely, and keep it cut -- not to be renewed for any subsequent Egyptian regime. And cut such aid  to Jordan, to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, to the "Palestinian" Authority, Apply the sums saved, instead, to pay for the cost of increased security measures made necessary, all over the West, by the votaries of Islam.

Posted on 01/28/2011 5:40 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 January 2011
Three Principles For Dealing With Muslim Countries

In dealing with the menace within that millions of carriers of Islam constitute in non-Muslim lands, non-Muslims must do much.

But in dealing with Muslim states,  the fewer the dealings,  the smaller the  transfer of wealth and know-how, the less frequent the to-and-froing between non-Muslim and Muslim lands, by diplomats or by busy-body NGOs, or by Muslim immigrants,  the less confusing and dangerous things will be for non-Muslims. Nothing should be done to prevent pre-existing fissures  -- sectarian, ethnic, and economic -- of having their effect within the Camp of Islam.

Here are three principles that should underlie all dealings by non-Muslims with Muslim lands:


1) Chinese: The principle of Dao, that is acting through Go-With-The-Flow inaction, or wei-wu-wei.

2) Hungarian: The principle of non-intervention, so that internal divisions and rivalries and innate violence may work their magic, as set out in Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág, writer, illustrator, and geostrategist.

3) American: The principle of forget-about-the-world nighty-night captured by Rudy Vallee, of Island Pond, Vermont, in the title of his signature song   "Let's Put Out The Lights And Go To Sleep."

Posted on 01/28/2011 6:09 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 January 2011
If You Think Le Grand K Non È Granchè, Think Again

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Fate of the Kilo Weighs Heavily on the Minds of Metrologists

Moves Are Afoot to Redefine Measurements; Le Grand K Feels a Wee Bit Lighter

In a vault beneath a 17th-century pavilion on the outskirts of Paris sits a platinum cylinder known as Le Grand K. Since 1889 it has been the international prototype for the kilogram, the standard against which all other kilos are measured.

But over the years, scientists have noticed a problem: Le Grand K has been losing weight. Weigh-ins at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures show that the bar has shed approximately 50 micrograms—roughly equal to a grain of sand.

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Scientists are using a watt balance (pictured) to calculate Planck's constant, which will be used to define the kilo.

Dr. Phillips and other mandarins of metrology were gathered at Britain's Royal Society to debate an urgent question in the science of measurement—how to re-define the basic unit of mass, as well as other measurements such as the second, ampere, kelvin and mole.

The aim is to tie each to a widely accepted property of nature, rather than to a lump of metal or some other imprecise benchmark. The meter, for instance, was once measured as the distance between two notches on a metal bar. It is now defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.

The new definitions are "as big a change as the introduction of the metric system during the French Revolution," says Terry Quinn, a dapper Briton who organized the seminar and once served as director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, which ensures world-wide uniformity of measurements. Frequent clashes about the best approach mean the temperature of debate has at times "risen quite high," he added, without specifying by how much.

The new definition of the kilo hinges on first determining an exact value for something called Planck's constant—a fundamental constant of physics, much like the speed of light. Once its value is fixed—which could be years away—scientists will be able to plug Planck's constant into an equation, along with other variables, that will define the kilogram. To calculate the value of Planck's constant, they are using a high-tech laboratory scale known as a watt balance.

Dressed in solar-system ties and Alfred Nobel lapel pins, delegates at the meeting at the Royal Society dissected a clutch of experiments that so far suggest Planck's constant should equal 6.62606896 x 10 to the power of -34 joule seconds. Despite extending to an impressive eight decimal places, the number has been deemed imprecise by some. Others criticize the complexity and expense of using a watt balance.


Le Grand K

"This in some ways takes [the kilo] away from the ordinary man...and makes it much less accessible," John Hall, a Nobel Prize winning physicist from Boulder, Colo., warned the gathering.

One scientist from the U.K.'s National Physical Laboratory rose to remind the assembled about the risks of relying on a physical object like Le Grand K to define a measurement. He cited the sad history of the Imperial Yardstick, which was badly damaged by a fire that swept through the Houses of Parliament in 1834, and was only recreated years later. Man-made artifacts, the scientist cautioned, are vulnerable to damage.

Day two of the meeting began at precisely 9 a.m. with a lecture titled: "The Boltzmann Constant From the Speed of Sound in a not Quite Spherical Cavity."

"Thank you," the meeting chairman told the speaker after the 30-minute lecture concluded. "A really clear explanation."

Considering the crowd, other aspects of the meeting seemed inexact. One lecturer admitted to cribbing a definition of stoichiometry from Wikipedia. And when the French astronomer Bernard Guinot asked how much time he had left to conclude his speech, no one seemed to know.

Metrologists are aiming to adopt a framework for redefining the kilo at the General Conference on Weights and Measures, which meets in Paris in October. Much is riding on the outcome: the joule, watt, volt, farad, weber and ohm are only some of the units derived in part from the kilo.

During a tea break at the London meeting, delegates mused on the importance of accuracy. Duncan Burns, a 75-year-old chemistry professor, recalled the time he confused centigrade with Fahrenheit while cooking resins in the laboratory at his first job. "I started a bloody great fire!" he said.

"To the man in the street, these are very fine distinctions," John Everest, an 88-year-old retired mechanical engineer in a tweed suit, said of the meeting's theme. "But they do matter."

Back when Dr. Quinn was director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, he held one of three keys needed to open the safe where Le Grand K is stored, under a trio of glass domes resembling a nesting doll. Three different people hold the keys and must be present to open the safe, "like setting off a nuclear warhead," Dr. Quinn chuckles.

Several dozen copies of the original are stored at national laboratories around the globe. Once every 50 years or so, scientists carry the copies by hand to Sèvres, just outside Paris, in little boxes, to compare them to the original. At the most recent summit in 1989, they noticed that the kilos differed by an average of about 50 micrograms. This is often described as Le Grand K losing mass, though to be precise, it's possible that the copies had gained mass.

Putting a stop to such vagary is what the new definitions are all about. But when one journalist asked whether they would help bring stability to an unstable world, Dr. Quinn paused and shook his head: "We have big ambitions, but not as big as that."

Posted on 01/28/2011 8:44 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 January 2011
Trial by water. British photographer astounded to discover that an advanced western country weathers natural disaster better than a corrupt and chaotic third-world country

Last year, when visiting Australia, Pakistan-born Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali was asked how he felt about the floods in Pakistan.  He responded that the floods were terrible, but that they merely exposed the severe social and political problems that already existed.  One could argue that, by contrast, having also been subjected to a massive and protracted 'trial by water', Australia has emerged with flying colours.

Not that the photographer in the story I will share here who, after photographing flood victims in the UK, Haiti, India and Pakistan,  lobbed into Australia to capture the effect of the floods there, seems quite to have realized that that was the most important, or the most interesting, thing that he was seeing...By Courtney Trenwith, reporting for the Melbourne 'Age'.

'Gideon's International Flood Chase'.

'When international photographer Gideon Mendel flew from the other side of the world to document Australia's flood crisis, he thought he had a good idea of what to expect.

'The London-based snapper has travelled to most of the major floods in recent history - in Pakistan, India, Haiti and the UK - and seen how devastating and incorrigible torrents of muddy water can be to lives, livelihoods and entire nations.

'But as he thrust his lens over parts of flood-affected Queensland and Victoria this month, he saw a unique example of what he had considered to be a reasonably universal natural disaster.

"The main thing which really struck me [in Australia] was the speed and pace and kind of industrial nature of the response", Mendel said. "The scale of the response, I found quite astonishing.  It was incredible how quickly stuff was cleaned up and cleared away and how quickly the landscape changed".

Sir. You should not have been surprised at all.  Australia is, after all, an advanced western nation whose citizens possess, in general, a strong work ethic and an equally strong sense of mutual obligation and charity, and whose government, army and police force- unlike those of Haiti and Pakistan - are relatively free of graft and corruption.  And - why say 'industrial'??  Why not say - 'organised and communal'??  Have you never heard of the expression, 'Many hands make light work'? - CM.

'Mendel was among the scores of international journalists, photographers, and video crews who flocked to Queensland to report on the phenomenal scale of the disaster, which killed at least 22 people and ruined the homes and businesses of tens of thousands.

'Mendel is working on an international project that mainly captures portraits of flood victims embedded in their water-ravaged homes and communities.

'Moving away from convention, he uses a mixture of modern digital photography and a 1950s-era Rolleiflex film camera to document the savage impact of floods that he claims are becoming intensified by climate change.

'As the water dried up in Australia, within hours in many places (and since the post-flood cleanup was so swift and effective - CM) Mendel's work was forced to take a different approach, and one in steep contrast to the images he saw in third-world countries such as Pakistan and Haiti.

Yeah: because even the poorest, most traumatised and bereaved flood victims weren't kicked to the kerb and forgotten like mostly happened in Pakistan and Haiti,  they were scooped up by their neighbours and the appropriate local authorities, and looked after.  So, in the absence of sad-eyed human flotsam to photograph, he chose to focus on what he sees as the flood's exposure of and judgement upon our evil materialistic Western lifestyle-  CM.

'"A lot of my work in Australia turned out to be, and it wasn't something I planned but was a response to what I found, a series of portraits or images of piles of stuff, an immense amount of consumer goods destroyed", Mendel said.

'Consumer goods'.  I wonder whether he would say that to the woman who returned to her wrecked home after the flash flood in the Lockyer Valley, to find that though nearly all of her household things had gone, her wedding dress had lodged in a tree in the garden, from which she lovingly retrieved it?  - CM.

"People in front of their houses and piles of stuff...which I found very interesting.  It struck much stuff we have a flood can shed light on all our mountains of consumer goods. They were effectively flushed out of people's houses, you see all their stuff sitting on the roadside."

Yes: there were all the discarded things sitting by the roadside, tossed out whether sadly or disgustedly by the householders and their army of willing helpers, ready for the very-efficient garbage men to take away.  But unlike Haiti or Pakistan, there were no empty-faced people sitting hopelessly for days or weeks, starving, unclad and destitute...and even stray animals, whether pets, farm livestock or wildlife, such as a half-drowned echidna that washed up on a beach, were as much as possible being gathered up and taken care of, in various places.  Did it even occur to you, Mr Mendel, to wonder whether the kind of society that takes such good care of its own that nobody (even the poorest of 'battlers') is left without food, shelter, clothing or medicine in the wake of a major disaster, and in which ten thousand people volunteer, in just one day, to help total strangers clean and clear out their stinking, muddied homes, might not also be the kind of society that promotes a certain level of economic  productivity, thus ensuring that even its poorer members will end up owning rather more in the way of household goods, than someone on the bottom rung in Haiti or Pakistan?  - CM.

"In Pakistan, where floods raged for weeks through one-fifth of the country last year, about 2000 people died and 20 million were directly affected, according to the government.

'Mendel said six months later, the scenes of devastation still lingered in many areas, and families remained refugees.

That is because Pakistan is a hopelessly corrupt and badly-governed Muslim country, with a general ethos of fatalism, suspicion and aggression. - CM.

'In Pakistan, there's still schools that are full of sand and lots of villages haven't recovered from the floods', he said. "Most of the flood waters have gone, but there's still a lot of damage left.  The pace of reconstruction and rebuilding and dealing with it has been incredibly slow and still most of the [victims) are in camps and not resettled back in their homes yet".

As opposed to all those busy-bee Australians, the fellow-citizens, neighbours and friends as well as the police, army, State Emergency Service volunteers, council workers and tradies, swarming into the flood zones the moment it was safe to do so, to sweep and scrub and shovel and wash and mend and generally put everything back together again as fast as they could.   - CM.

"[In Pakistan] I photographed a huge military camp with 40,000 people living under canvas but on the outskirts and on the roads nearby were people sleeping", he said. "I found the conditions in the camp were quite painful and horrifying but outside there were people desperate who couldn't even get into the camp.  A lot of people had lost their documents in the flooding, they'd lost all their ID.  Without any ID they couldn't get into a camp.  Families and children were sleeping on the roadsides, they'd survived [but] ...they'd lost their ability to support themselves."

Quite a few Australians, especially in the Lockyer Valley that suffered a flash flood metres high, have also lost their means of income, their tools, crops, livestock, the contents of their shops or workshops; but they won't be left in the ditch by their fellow-citizens, as seems to be common practice in Pakistan. - CM.

"The scale of the consequences [of floods in Pakistan and Australia] are very different.  That's not to denigrate the real pain and impact and catastrophe that it is to lots of people.  I wouldn't say what happened to you is minor compared to what happened to people in Pakistan, it's not.  People lost lives and so much that's valuable to them."

'Mendel said the differences said a lot about how the world would response (sic - respond? - CM) to the growing number of climate-change-related natural disasters.

'He wanted his work to capture a statement about the present response.  "My engagement of [flooding] is in a way an absolutely metaphor, a sense of a drowning world", he said. "It's very much as a way of trying to address climate change.  Of course, the science isn't always suggesting there's a clear linkage between flooding and climate change, but I think the consensus is that climate change is going to cause increasing amounts of extreme weather conditions and flooding is one of them."

And Blind Freddy can see that if you belong to a non-Muslim and still quite strongly-Christianised society like Australia, which values cooperation, charity, hard work, and forward thinking, you stand a better chance of coming through disaster, than if you belong to a Muslim society like Pakistan, whose response to Trial by Water (or by Earthquake, or Tempest, or Fire) will be hobbled by the suspicion and aggression and sloth and lack of cooperation and forethought, and general chaos, arising from the dominant ideology - CM.

'His portrayal of each of the floods are set to be displayed in a series of exhibitions...

'Many of the Australian scenes, including a kangaroo being rescued from floods in Victoria, will be included in an exhibition at an international climate change conference in South Africa in December.

"I'm not trying to do conventional news story telling, it's more engaging something that's a bit quirky and creative," Mendel said.  "I'm drawn to the biblical sense of flooding, the sense that it is quite a powerful visual image.  I'm trying to portrait people in their flooded environment - people looking at the camera in a way in which is almost...accusing us, [asking[ what is our personal complicity in the circumstances that helped create climate change.

If you click on the link, the news story includes some of these portraits. However, when I looked carefully at such pictures of Aussies affected by flood, as appear, what I could make out in people's faces didn't look like accusation or blame; the faces seemed to say, 'sh*t happens, but what the hell, mate, we're alive, now let's get to work and clean this mess up!" - CM.

"Our westerly lifestyles - to what extent are we all responsible?".

There is much that can and should be done to prevent or ameliorate climate disruption; and just like Pakistan and Haiti, there are real problems with deforestation and land degradation in Australia, that worsen the impact of severe weather events (though it is likely, because of the nature of their society, that Australians will acknowledge and tackle those problems rather sooner, and more effectively, than Pakistan or Haiti will).  

But does Mendel mean, by focusing on and blaming western materialism, to dodge the uncomfortable truth that a good deal of the reason why flooded-out Pakistanis suffered more than flooded-out Australians, has to do with the bad government of the former and the good government of the latter, and with the fact that in Muslim Pakistan ( probably much more so even than in culturally-Catholic though chaotic Haiti), too many people were dominated by a fatalism, inability to cooperate, and 'devil take the hindmost' attitude that crippled their ability to help each other when the water came roaring through, and equally crippled their ability to clean up and rebuild afterwards?  

Here are four stories - I could link dozens more - that illustrate how a free, well-governed western country - such as, in the present case, Australia -  can work, and often does work, right down at ground level, when disaster strikes. 

First, from Grantham, the town that suffered the worst when taken by surprise by a huge flash flood.  Many people were saved by the charity, quick thinking and courage of their neighbours.

'Mr Adams, 75, said that as the water rose around him he balanced his five dogs on a mattress which floated near the ceiling, keeping them safe.  He and his daughter, 21 year old Angela Adams, were later rescued by their neighbours, Ray Van Dijk and Daniel Moore, who paddled through the fast-moving torrent in a canoe, retrieving 20 people.  Mr Moore,a  41 year old fire-sprinkler fitter who lost everything in the flood, said he was "shit scared" during the rescues, but pushed through the fear to save his neighbours.  "It was a torrent of water and it was just flying", he said, "But I got away with my life, so I'm pretty happy".

Second, from Toowoomba: a young piano teacher, swept away in a flash flood, owes her life to two quick-thinking strangers.

Third, from Victoria, where an enormous flood moves at glacial pace toward the Murray, swamping town after town as it proceeds.  Townspeople celebrated Australia Day by a working picnic: sausage sandwich, and...sandbag-filling, to shore up the levee banks.

'Grab a snag, fill a sandbag: Swan Hill residents work together'.

Fourth, from Queensland, where a group of YMCA teenagers from Sydney gave up their long-planned camping holiday and instead spent five days helping clean up in the worst-hit area, the Lockyer Valley.

'Sydney teens aid relief effort'.

As the 19th-century Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon once wrote: "Life is mainly froth and bubble/ Two things stand like stone/ Kindness in another's trouble/ Courage in your own".





Posted on 01/28/2011 8:33 PM by Christina McIntosh

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