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These are all the Blogs posted on Monday, 28, 2006.
Monday, 28 August 2006
Meet the man who invented book signings

Here' Al Gore in Scotland the other day at the Edinburgh Book Festival.




h/t: F&W
Posted on 08/28/2006 6:43 AM by Robert Bove
Monday, 28 August 2006
America's Muslims Aren't as Assimilated as You Think

Despite propaganda to the contrary about the great American melting pot, American Muslims are following the familiar pattern of growing alienation their belief system makes inevitable. From the Washington Post (h/t JW)

From schools to language to religion, American Muslims are becoming a people apart. Young, first-generation American Muslim women -- whose parents were born in Egypt, Pakistan and other Islamic countries -- are wearing head scarves even if their mothers had left them behind; increasing numbers of young Muslims are attending Islamic schools and lectures; Muslim student associations in high schools and at colleges are proliferating; and the role of the mosque has evolved from strictly a place of worship to a center for socializing and for learning Arabic and Urdu as well as the Koran.

The men and women I spoke to -- all mosque-goers, most born in the United States to immigrants -- include students, activists, imams and everyday working Muslims. Almost without exception, they recall feeling under siege after Sept. 11, with FBI agents raiding their mosques and homes, neighbors eyeing them suspiciously and television programs portraying Muslims as the new enemies of the West.

Such feelings led them, they say, to adopt Islamic symbols -- the hijab , or head covering, for women and the kufi , or cap, for men -- as a defense mechanism. Many, such as Rehan, whom I met at a madrassa (religious school) in California with her husband, Ramy, also felt compelled to deepen their faith.

Posted on 08/28/2006 6:58 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 28 August 2006
divide and conquer

"We should let Israel and Hizbullah weaken each other so that the Muslims can benefit in the long run and will use the opportunity to prepare for the future."
-- from the statement by an Al-Qaeda spokesman in this news article

Erratum Sheet:

For "Israel" read "Sunnis"

For "Hizbullah" read "Shi'a"

For "Muslims" read "non-Muslims"

Posted on 08/28/2006 7:10 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 28 August 2006
"Credentials"

"lack of credentials..."
-- from Carl Ernst's list of charges made against Robert Spencer

Ah yes, "credentials." The "credentials" you will find -- the doctorates all in place, the thesis written that neither the writer nor anyone else will ever wish to read -- at, for example, the MEALAC Program of Columbia. "Credentials" whether of the kind awarded to Rashid Khalidi (the quick, no coursework required D. Phil. that for decades taught at St. Antony's, of course -- in its Middle Eastern section not to be confused with its legitimate Russian section, nor with real Oxford colleges with real dons, demanding real work), or Hamid Dabashi (every single one of whose books that are simply compilations of endless details about the vilayet-e-faqih and all its fascinating promoters, with not the slightest sign of a mind at work -- but if you must have a sign of Hamid Dabashi's mind at work, read "The Moment of Myth" for his ex-unque-leone treacly tribute to Edward Said), and Joseph Massad the full-time propagandist, and so many others, all with their "credentials" and "credentials" and "credentials."

Too many people have gone through what passes for higher education in the Western world, in the United States, too many of them have gone on to graduate school and taken the full measure of many of the offerings in history and literature (hard sciences are a different thing), and the fashions (try, for example, in a French department in a thoroughly modern American university, to find among all the fashionable offerings -- "Blacks and Arabs in Contemporary France" or "Francophone Literature" or "North African Literature" or "Postcolonial Discourse: the Case of France" and "Women, the Arabs, and 'the Other' in Contemporary French Literature" -- something, anything, that might give French literature by the French, in France, since the lais of Marie de France and Charles d'Orleans right up to Proust and Perec. Just try. Oh, one or two courses still given on the 19th century novel, and possibly one semester devoted to that trivial thing, "the Culture of France." But that's it. That's bloody it.

You don't have to wait until you have retired from your 40 years of teaching in some once-tweedy English department, all Theodore Baird and Reuben Brower, to write a book deploring what is happening. You don't have to subscribe to The New Criterion. You don't have to belong to the National Association of Scholars. You just have to have a brain, and some education, to realize what is happening -- and to realize it is much more than a matter of the odd Ward Churchill or vacuous Cornel West, and certainly not merely a matter of a certain kind of politics. Who hires these churchills? Who is ecstatic about being able to offer a university professorship to these cornel wests? Who decides that diane ecks are the best one can do if one is Boston's MFA, for example, and wants a series of lectures on Indian Art, when there are so many learned historians of Indian art to choose from. Who? Why?

"Credentials."

"Credentials."

Posted on 08/28/2006 7:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 28 August 2006
Sorry, kids, it's not all about you
Here's a quiz I've prepared for the first day of a freshman comp class I'll be teaching in two weeks at a university in the Financial District.  After they've calmed down while reading my course requirements hand out ("Students sitting on either side of a student using an electronic device will be marked absent"-- thank you for that one, Mike Adams), I announce the questions and tell them they will be responsible for the answers just after Halloween.   Oh, and they need to provide a photo showing each of themselves at the pertinent locations.  (The smart ones do group photos.)

1.  Who first walked what is now Broadway?  Why that route?

2.  Why is Pearl St. called Pearl St.? 

3.  Does the shadow of the Bank of New York fall on the grave of its founder?

4.  Where did the author of Bartleby the Scrivener work?  Why did he a need job?  What is the building's current function?

5.  Who first turned on the lights in the Woolworth Building?

6.  The name of the baseball team that plays in Shea Stadium is an abbreviation of what word?

7.  Who won the 2006 World Series?

Okay, #6 and #7 don't go on the quiz.  The point is to give them something to tuck away in the voluminous backs of their minds that will percolate through Halloween, the traditional Fall semester date by which most of the students have burned out being students. 

The other point is, I take them on walks on nice days so that they can see things they've never seen before and understand with their bodies that NYC wasn't created over the summer.  One student from a previous incarnation of my course once called it "Gym Class."  The name stuck.  Fact is, students are becoming less ambulatory by the semester.  I've observed that the pain of walking on atrophying legs helps reinforce the lesson--that each week they must write a couple pages about something they haven't seen before. 

All this in addition to weekly essays on things like hindsight, foresight and insight.  Anybody who giggles over the name of the first of these topics gets marked absent.
Posted on 08/28/2006 7:23 AM by Robert Bove
Monday, 28 August 2006
causing disturbances on airplanes
Mr Ashraf and Mr Zeb were removed from the late-night Airbus A320 by order of the captain, who had been contacted by several passengers worried by their appearance and behaviour after they boarded the plane. They were said to have been talking loudly in Urdu, and wearing suspiciously heavy clothes. When the airline looked into details of their itinerary, the pair were detained pending further security checks....

Industry sources revealed they booked their flights after the recent security scare began on 10 August, paying £166 each for the day-trip to Malaga. Although they have claimed that the purpose of the visit was to carry out research for a holiday in September, the pair decided to take an evening flight to the resort. It touched down at 7.25pm, leaving them just a few hours in Malaga before they had to check in for the 3am return journey. from this news item

Possible reasons:

1) A desire to soak the Infidels by bringing lawsuits, after authorities -- the plane captain, crew, or others -- remove them from the plane, or hold them -- behave as authorities should, given their behavior.

2) A desire to behave in an ostentatiously disturbing fashion, merely to entertain themselves by following Muhammad's advice to "strike terror" into the "Unbelievers." So for the price of a round-trip Manchester-to-Malaga (holiendo a azahar, not that there will be much of a scent on the tarmac which is almost all they would have had time to visit), you get to frighten those Infidels, perhaps even in a retiree or two with a heart condition, frighten someone unto death. What fun!

3) A desire to behave in on ostentatiously disturbing fashion, as part of a sustained campaign by Muslims to do so here, and there, in order to unsettle everyone, and also to see if over time, with many false alarms, the Infidel authorities will simply not know what to do, for fear of lawsuits and other kinds of trouble. Just keep behaving badly, but always with some kind of plausible explanation (well, we made a mistake -- "we thought the plane returned not at 3 a.m. but 3 p.m. the next day" and "of course we spoke in Urdu, it is our language even if we do know English" and "we were bundled up because we thought the plane might be cold" and...)

1, 2, and 3 are all possible, singly or together.

Posted on 08/28/2006 7:35 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 28 August 2006
A very hard question

Niall Ferguson opines in the LA Times: What if the Heathrow Bombers Succeeded? (h/t: Real Clear Politics ):

An 8/27 would have been diametrically different. From an American vantage point, a successful terrorist plot launched from Heathrow would have been doubly Britain's fault. Its proximate cause would have been a lapse in British security. Its root cause would have been the infiltration of British society by radical Islamism.

As details emerged about the perpetrators, Americans' worst suspicions about Britain would have been confirmed. It has been clear for a while that Britain's Muslim communities are proving fertile recruiting grounds for Islamist extremists, and that it is the disaffected sons and grandsons of Pakistani immigrants who are most susceptible.

Perhaps even more troubling, it has been evident since the arrest of attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid that ordinary British dropouts can also be lured, via religious conversion, into the terrorist network. Imagine if it had been established that one of the perpetrators of the worst terrorist outrage since 9/11 had been the son of a respected Conservative Party official.

Far from editorializing that "We are all British now," the American media might well have reacted to 8/27 by saying, "The British are all suspects now." The Atlantic would have drastically widened.

The domestic consequences within Britain of 8/27 would have been different too. Far from rallying around a beleaguered leader, British voters would have turned on Tony Blair. Even as things stand, there is complete disillusionment with him. According to a poll published Tuesday in the Guardian newspaper, just 1% of voters think that the government's policy toward the Middle East has improved the country's safety, while 72% think it has made Britain more of a target. An earlier poll for the Spectator found that although 73% of Brits agree with President Bush that we are engaged in a "global war against Islamic terrorists," only 15% believe that Britain should continue to align itself closely with the U.S., compared with 46% who favor closer ties with Europe.

Moreover, whereas 9/11 united Americans (albeit ephemerally), Britain would have been torn apart by 8/27. According to a YouGov poll published in Friday's Daily Telegraph, nearly one in five people believe that "a large proportion of British Muslims feel no sense of loyalty to this country and are prepared to condone or even carry out acts of terrorism." Five years ago, only 32% of those polled said they felt "threatened" by Islam; today, that figure is 53%.
Posted on 08/28/2006 8:06 AM by Robert Bove
Monday, 28 August 2006
Bjorn Again

Hugh Fitzgerald writes below:

 

It is the Arrival, and not the Journey, that matters.

 

Was he thinking of Abba? Unlikely from the context, but you never know, especially as “Arrival” has an initial capital. When I read the final sentence of Hugh’s post, I immediately thought of Abba, cheered up, and forgot all about Sharia law and the impending Islamisation of Europe.

 

"Arrival" is, of course, the title of an Abba song and of their best album. As well as the wistful title track, there is “When I kissed the teacher” – move over, Nabokov – “Dancing Queen”, “Fernando”, “Money, Money, Money” and my favourite, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, with its laughter-through-tears “A- ha-a”. Most albums have a dud track, and Arrival is no exception. A reviewer on Amazon tries to praise “Dum Dum Diddle”, but so faintly as to damn it: 

I've never heard a song about someone's violin practicing paying off and wishing for the same kind of attention to the point that the girl wished she was the fiddle so she'd be noticeable. That about sums it up for "Dum Dum Diddle." The synths here somewhat mimic the fiddle, but not that much.

Arrival is also the name of an Abba tribute band, described by none other than the Stoke-on-Trent Police Force as “like a beacon in the fog of tribute acts”. But the best and most famous Abba tribute band is Bjorn Again:

 

Originally from Australia, this tribute band – technically a franchise, but let’s not get boring – has lasted longer than Abba itself. I have seem them three times at open air picnic concerts, twice at Kenwood and once at Audley End. Everyone, young and old,  gets up to dance, even when it rains. It rained on Saturday through “One of Us” and “Winner Takes it All”. Thousands of umbrellas bobbing up and down defied the elements.

 

It is now cool to like Abba, provided you like them in an ironic way. I have never been cool, except purely by accident, rather as a broken clock tells the right time twice a day. Unless “uncool” becomes “the new cool”, which is not impossible, I am unlikely to be cool in the foreseeable future. You see, I don’t like Abba in an ironic way; I just like them. I laugh at them too, agreeing wholeheartedly with Hugo Rifkind when he says:

 

Two things immediately strike you when you pay close attention to the lyrics of an Abba song. One, they are drivel. Two, you don’t know them nearly as well as you thought you did. However many times you’ve wailed along to it in a nightclub, you still probably don’t know where to put “my, my” or “why, why” in Mamma Mia. That rousing bit in the middle begins “Yes, I was broken-hearted,” not “Years”. And it’s no use looking for hints in the general narrative of the song because they’re all written in such crazy, half-baked Scanglish that, invariably, there isn’t one. Who crosses a stream because they have a dream? Why would a dancing queen have a tambourine? And who the hell was Fernando? Dance captain Tim Stanley takes over, post-lunch, and tells us that they had these problems even in the professional show. Originally, they were beginning the chorus to Waterloo with the familiar line — “How did it feel when you won the war?” It took the personal intervention of Bjorn, or possibly Benny, before they realised that it ought to be “I was defeated, you won the war”. Hard to spot, what with it being nonsense either way.

 

True, of course, but the Scanglish gives the songs an innocent poignancy that they would not have if the band came from Luton. We English tolerate and enjoy the simplicity of the songs because the band is Swedish – or Australian pretending to be Swedish – and the Swedes are a bit of a joke to us:

 

Swedish man goes into a chemist: “I want to buy a deodorant.”

Chemist: “Ball or aerosol?”

Swedish man: “Neither. I want it for my aerumpits.”

 

I wonder if they make jokes about us, and, if so, whether they are as good as that one.

 

Long live Bjorn Again, and through them Abba. Thank you for the music.

Posted on 08/28/2006 10:09 AM by Mary Jackson
Monday, 28 August 2006
Ten Questions our soldiers need to ask

Comments and emails from soldiers who have served or are serving in Iraq are important, and welcome. One hopes that these soldiers who have endured the "gratitude" of the non-existent "Iraqi" people, and puzzled over it -- not having been trained at Fort Jackson or Fort Benning or Fort Bragg on anything important about Islam (the Five Pillars of individual worship are hardly what matter -- what matters are the tenets of Islam concerning Believers and Infidels, and how those tenets give rise to attitudes, to the atmospherics, that suffuse Muslim societies and peoples).

Here are some things for General Chiarelli and others, beating their heads against the stone of "counter-insurgency" techniques, should ask themselves:

1) Why is it that the "Iraqis" the American soldiers meet seem to be so graspingly, or cunningly, eager to get, get, get, whatever they can out of us, the Americans, for themselves and their families and their tribes, but so uneager for us or for others in Iraq, other tribes, other ethnic or sectarian groups, to be similarly treated? Why, except for a handful of officers and perhaps a few thousand men, are Iraqis unable to conceive of the greater good of the nation-state of "Iraq"?

2) What effect has Islam, a belief-system that does not encourage but discourages free and skeptical inquiry, have in creating, among Muslim peoples, and certainly in Iraq, a great susceptibility to the most preposterous rumors, conspiracy-theories, and calumniating of the American soldiers who, far from wishing to remain in Iraq, would like nothing better than to leave,and are there only to create --or at least that is what they are told they are doing, told they have a chance of doing -- a society that, presumably, will be so much better run, with that "democracy" we hear so much about (in truth, that "democracy" in the Western sense, with the guarantees of rights for the politically vanquished, and for individuals, does not and can not exist in Iraq or any other society suffused with Islam).

3) What effect on American decision-making, and on American hopes and dreams, did such unrepresentative smooth, secular-seeming, thoroughly Westernized Iraqis-in-exile such as Allawi, Chalabi, Kanan Makiya have on encouraging a misunderstanding of Iraq by those who made and are making policy in Iraq?

4) What effect on American generals and high civilian officials in Iraq have the Christians, who form the household staffs -- the drivers, the cooks, the cleaners, and so much else -- in the Green Zone, and who have furnished far more of those interpreters/translators relied on by the Americans? Have they received a skewed view of Iraq, a view of it as being populated by those who are civilized, quasi-Western men, and are decisions being made on that basis?

5) What effect has the inattention to Islam, or the cursory treatment, or the apologetics (Islam as "one of the world's great religions" instead of Islam as a belief-system that uncompromisingly divides the world between Believer and Infidel) had on American troops, who may -- if they stop to think about things -- begin to wonder about the "mission" that they have been given, and in wondering about it, and not having been given enough information, may become less enthusiastic, even demoralized.

6) What effect has the failure to properly instruct American officers and men in Islam, out of all kinds of timidity and all kinds of ignorance, had on their greater understanding of things? Once they become disenchanted with the mission for which they are risking their lives, and which is unattainable (it is impossible to imagine the Shi'a ever giving the Sunnis what the Sunnis demand, and impossible to imagine the Sunnis ever acquiescing in being dominated by the Shi'a in a Shi'a-ruled Iraq) and, furthermore, deprives the Americans of the ability to exploit the sectarian fissures within Iraq that will have obvious consequences outside Iraq, as Sunnis and Shi'a in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, Pakistan, and Lebanon are affected by, and identify with, their co-religionists in Iraq.

7) What do General Chiarelli and other generals and higher officers now serving in Iraq think of the Iran-Iraq War? Do they think it was a good thing for the Infidels of this world, keeping Khomeini's Islamic Republic preoccupied for eight of its first nine years in existence, and also using up men, materiel, and money of the aggressive and vicious Saddam Hussein?

8) Why would the consequences of civil strife in Iraq not do the same, in keeping Muslims busy, and buying time? Would not the time being bought, as sectarian (Sunni-Shi'a) and ethnic strife divides and demoralizes the camp of Islam, be an intelligent goal? The Kurds, were they to attain their goal of independence, would show other non-Arab Muslims, such as the Berbers of Algeria and Morocco, an example of what was possible, and in their appeals to fellow Kurds in Syria and Iran, help unsettle both those unsavory regimes. As for the seemingly daunting problem of Turkish opposition that apparently has encouraged the Americans to insist on Kurds remaining within Iraq, that is based on a failure of imagination, and timidity. Turkey is not the "ally" we once thought it to be; based on the assumption that secularism, Kemalism, was permanent. American generals made judgments about Turkey, as they once did about Pakistan, based on their meetings with affable, briskly professional generals -- they forgot, or overlooked, the Muslim masses and the power of Islam in Turkey, and in Pakistan. American guarantees of Turkish territorial sovereignty could be given in order to win begrudging Turkish acquiescence in an independent Kurdish republic, and such a guarantee would have to be honored as well by the grateful Kurds themselves, so dependent on American goodwill, diplomatic, and military support.

And while sectarian and ethnic divisions within Iraq will preoccupy the camp of Islam, there will be time for Americans and other Infidels, watching those conflicts and attaining an even better idea of Islam, to observe and begin to understand that this is not a "war on terror" but a Resistance to a War, the war that Islam naturally makes on all non-Muslims, those who are subjugated, and those who as yet remain unsubjugated in the Dar al-Harb.

9) Why do the officers and men of the American military, repeatedly asked to risk their lives for a mission that is imperfectly conveyed to them because it is both incoherent, and in the end makes no sense, have to endure the continued refusal of their government to teach them effectively about the doctrine, and practice (over 1350 years) of Islam? And does the government bear a responsibility not to have soldiers, who may as they compare their own experience of Iraq and "Iraqis" with what they have been told, may as they become disenchanted and even demoralized, seek for other, false explanations ("So, it really is all about the oil"), rather than the true one: those who make policy had an idea, and now the idea has them. They did not identify the enemy, but merely listed a tactic ("war on terror"). Having failed to identify the enemy (those who participate in, or support in other ways, the Jihad to spread Islam until it subdues its enemies everywhere, until all obstacles to its dominance everywhere are removed, and Islam dominates, and Muslims rule), they also failed to learn about Iraq and its sectarian and ethnic divisions (see: "What Did the Bush Administration Not Know (About Sunnis and Shi'a) and When Did It Not Know It").

10) If the "insurgents" are today Sunnis who refuse to accept the new power arrangements -- arrived at through purple-thumbed process, not mass murder -- how would "reconstruction" and jobs help? Unlike the Communist insurgencies in Malaya, and Greece, and Vietnam, where the conferring of economic benefits could here and there win hearts, win minds, Muslim hearts and Muslim minds are essentially unwinnable by Infidels. The refusal to understand this, the confusion based on personal relations with those who offer feigned affability in order to have the Americans lavish still more aid on them (everyone is waiting to see what military equipment will be left behind, for this or that militia to appropriate, or this or that so-called "Iraqi" army or "Iraqi" police unit to take, and use against its enemies), and to continue to do the work, by risking American lives, what should long ago have been done by Iraqis if indeed there is a sense of "Iraqi-ness" beyond the handful. Asking people, in polls, if they "believe in Iraq" or "want Iraq to remain as one unit" or questions of that ilk do not get to the real problem. One would have to ask Shi'a "would you be willing to remain in Iraq if you had to divide the country's oil wealth, and to share its political power, evenly between Shi'a Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds?"
Reply: No. And one would have to ask the Sunnis: "Would you accept an Iraqi government dominated by the Shi'a, reflecting their 60-65% of the population, and recognize that Sunni Arabs constitute only 19% of the population, and for decades a Sunni Arab despotism treated Shi'a Arabs and Kurds terribly?" Reply: No.

Questions to ask. Questions to be discussed, in the Green Zone or in Forward Operating Bases, or once one is back home, at Fort Bragg, Fort Jackson, Fort Benning, Camp Pendleton, or even in the Pentagon. And for the National Guard and the Reserves, returning to their families across the nation, they should study what they can about Islam rather to discover how ignorance, innocent rather than malevolent, and timidity can give rise to policies as wasteful and ineffective as the one now in place.

There's ten things to think about, ten questions to ask.

War, it has been famously said, is too serious to be left to the generals. For that matter, it is too serious to be left to the civilians. War is too serious a matter to be left to anyone, civilian or military, who refuses to learn what he needs to learn. In the case of fighting the forces of Jihad, that something that needs to be learned is Islam itself, and the sources, promptings, doctrines, and practice of Jihad. And from that study will come a recognition, no longer so difficult, of the fissures in Iraq that present themselves, and that if allowed to develop can only divide and demoralize and otherwise weaken the camp of Islam. Holding Iraq together, and pouring more men, materiel, and money into it from the United States, is not that way. It is the opposite of that way.

Posted on 08/28/2006 10:00 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 28 August 2006
Betjeman Centenary
The fine conservative English poet John Betjeman was born 100 years ago today. That's "conservative" as in "nostalgic Tory." Energetic, intellectual, forward-looking conservatives of the American type — like, for example, us bustling go-getters here at New English Review— would probably consider him a hopeless reactionary. He loved the Monarchy, old churches, and steam trains; he hated air-conditioning (which, in England, you can afford to do). He hardly seems to have noticed the U.S.A. I'll have a piece up in a day or two.

For a taste of Betjeman, try "The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel."

Posted on 08/28/2006 10:38 AM by John Derbyshire
Monday, 28 August 2006
A Premature Anti-Multiculturalist

This story, about an early martyr to political correctness, is worth reading.  A good man had his life wrecked because he spoke the truth... 20 years too soon.

Will Mr. Honeyford receive an official apology from any of those who persecuted him?  Ha ha ha ha ha!

Posted on 08/28/2006 10:43 AM by John Derbyshire
Monday, 28 August 2006
Funny, he looked like a Jewish Israeli...

 Daniel Pipes tells the tale:

An Italian named Angelo Frammartino, 25, espoused the typical anti-Israel views of a far-leftist, as he expressed in a letter to a newspaper in 2006:

"We must face the fact that a situation of no violence is a luxury in many parts of the world, but we do not seek to avoid legitimate acts of defense. … I never dreamed of condemning resistance, the blood of the Vietnamese, the blood of the people who were under colonialist occupation or the blood of the young Palestinians from the first intifada."

Actively to forward his beliefs, Frammartino went to Israel in early August 2006 to serve as a volunteer with ARCI, a far-leftist NGO, working with Palestinian children at the Burj al-Luqluq community center in eastern Jerusalem.

But on August 10, he was stabbed in a terrorist assault at Sultan Suleiman Street, near Herod's Gate in Jerusalem, twice in the back and once in the neck. He died shortly after, only two days before his planned return to Italy. The killer, soon identified as Ashraf Hanaisha, 24, turned out to be a Palestinian affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad. A resident of the village of Qabatiya in the Jenin area, Hanaisha apparently planned to attack a Jewish Israeli but made a mistake...

Posted on 08/28/2006 10:56 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 28 August 2006
Our real mortal enemy
Mark Steyn today in the NY Sun:

The great Canadian columnist David Warren argues that Islam is desperately weak, that it has been "idiotized" by these obsolescent imports of mid-20th century Fascism. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but, if Washington had half the psy-ops spooks the movies like to think we have, the spiritual neglect in latter-day Islam is a big Achilles' heel just ripe for exploiting.

From, "Think Again," the Warren column to which Steyn refers:

Contrary to generally received opinion, the West is not today under siege from Muslim fanatics because of a resurgence of Islam, but because of the West’s own moral and intellectual decline. Even Osama bin Laden knows this. The West invites attack, and the enemy’s strategy in attacking is paradoxically to hide his own weakness.

[...]

If I were a Muslim, with the inheritance of Islamic tradition behind me, I’d be deeply ashamed of the babbling idiots who claimed to speak for me. I would be very loud in contradicting them. Their ideology is tied to Islam, and constructed largely with an Islamic vocabulary and rough grammar, but hardly with an Islamic syntax. By this I mean, that it is inconceivable that anything resembling the “blovulations” of the Salafists, and Shia revolutionists of Iran, could emerge from a purely Islamic course of reasoning. There are too many extraneous elements. In the use of Islamic terms, there is too much slapstick and self-parody.

As many have now observed, the “Islamists” have semi-consciously spun together diverse ideological materials. They have borrowed uncritically from such 20th century totalitarian ideologies as Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. Each of these European ideologies, itself simplistic, had previously played a part in Arab nationalism. The Hitler strain came right off a flight from Berlin, in the person of the satanic old Mufti of Jerusalem. You look at the fascist salutes in the Hezbollah warrior parades, and see that almost everything about these soi-disant “soldiers” is pathetically imitated from a melodrama on some other history channel.

Yes, it is the West's various weaknesses that invite the enemy to greater boldness.  Yes, those weaknesses may well destroy the West from within without benefit of Islamic push.  Yes, the enemy cuts a ludicrous figure.   BUT, it is Islam--and not, say, Taoism--which has grafted the spent ideologies of the West onto itself. 

There is something rotten about Islam, itself--right to the core.  And that is why there are no Muslims screaming at the "radicals Islamists."  As I said here before, "moderate" Muslims not only will not lift a finger to fight the "radicals" in their midst but they will be quite happy to reap the benefits--if there are benefits in the rubble--anytime the "radicals" win.  That includes "American" Muslims.  Poll them on it.  Oh, I forgot: Nobody dares ask them that question. 
Posted on 08/28/2006 12:29 PM by Robert Bove
Monday, 28 August 2006
Kurtz for SECDEF
Stanley Kurtz ROCKS!  I am in the market for a fallout shelter.  Plenty on the internet.

Though thinking about this always reminds me of that Twilight Zone episode where the alarm goes off, the provident family piles into its fallout shelter, and the improvident neighbors then come round begging to be let in.  It's a swamp-the-lifeboat situation, so the family has to deny entry to the neighbors — to leave them to die!  Then it turns out the alarm was just a civil-defense drill...

Posted on 08/28/2006 1:27 PM by John Derbyshire
Monday, 28 August 2006
Morena Alert
A reader notifies me:

"I hope that you have not missed the news that Morena Baccarin is now appearing in Stargate-SG1.  She plays the now-matured genetically-manipulated child that they evil Aurai created to lead their conversion of our galaxy.  If you've dropped out of this series, this relatively new enemy consists of evil cousins of the ascended Ancients who built the stargates.  Morena first appeared this past Friday in the start of a two-parter.  I have no idea how long her role will last.  They do some odd things with her eyes that somewhat detract from her looks, but, hey, she's still stunning."

[Derb]  Odd things with her eyes?  They could give her a St*r Tr*k-style bumpy forehead, I'd still get hot flushes every time she appeared.

Posted on 08/28/2006 1:32 PM by John Derbyshire
Monday, 28 August 2006
Andrew Sullivan's New Book
OK, just finished reading Andrew Sullivan's new book THE CONSERVATIVE SOUL. You need a generous interpretation of "reading" there — I was skimming a lot towards the end.  The book is in fact a bit of a palimpsest, one text arguing for a certain kind of conservatism, the other, one of Sullivan's attempts to reconcile the facts of his own homosexuality and Catholicism.  The former is interesting and quite rewarding; the latter, which pretty much takes over towards the end, is just tiresome.  (Note to Andrew:  It can't be done.)

 

That "certain kind of conservatism" is a restrained, non-ideological sort, emphasizing freedom over virtue.  "The great and constant dream of the conservative is to be left alone by his own government and by his fellow humans, as much as is possible."  ( p.242)  This restraint, based on a thinking man's doubt about the perfection, or perfectability, of our understanding (we hear a lot about Montaigne), goes to Sullivan's religion, too:  "If the acceptance and love of others as they are is the essence of Christianity, then the acceptance of our loneliness and doubt in a world far beyond our understanding is the core of all non-fundamentalist religion." ( p.222)

Unfortunately, as in the first part of that last quote, Sullivan's fundamental hedonism keeps breaking through the surface.  Did Jesus Christ really preach "the acceptance and love of others as they are"?  How does that jibe with, for example, "Go, and sin no more"?  Wasn't Jesus urging the woman taken in adultery to clean up her act?  In places, where Sullivan talks about the need to "let go ... of obsessing about laws and doctrines" ( p.207), he comes awfully close to saying:  "If it feels good, do it!"

The perennial present-centeredness of those who don't intend to reproduce themselves is also visible in several places.  "By letting go, we become.  By giving up, we gain.  And we learn how to live—now, which is the only time that matters."  What Sullivan is urging us to let go of here is not the base desires of our mortal clay—heaven forbid!—but the "ordeal of self-criticism and guilt" that might restrain them.  I'm no theologian, but I had the vague impression that ordeals of self-criticism and guilt were sort of the POINT of religious practice.  That highly un-Christian notion that the present is "the only time that matters" recurs—in fact, it is there in the book's penultimate sentence:  "Now—which is the only time there is."  (Compare John Maynard Keynes's remark that "In the long run we're all dead"—a sentiment we breeders have considerable trouble with.)

Leaving aside all the self-justification, though, I think Sullivan is broadly right about conservatism.  For the preservation of liberty, the skeptical, dry, philosophically modest conservatism that Sullivan argues for is a much better bet than any system based on a belief that human beings, or their societies, can be transformed by state power.

"How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!"

You can't square that with: "We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move."  The former is a truly conservative sentiment; the latter, a declaration of messianic intent, rooted in the conviction that one knows with certainty what is good for people — really, just a species of Leninism.  No wonder GWB has hardly vetoed anything.  There is a poli-sci theorem here somewhere, though Sullivan does not state it explicitly.  Something like:  Any government driven by "inner light" conviction of the absolute type, will spend recklessly.  You might be able to argue that the conviction is conservative, but you can't argue that the consequent spending (=vastly expanded state power) is.

Bottom line on the book:  Some good argument for modest, skeptical conservatism.  Too bad it had to be mixed up with all that "I-can-SO-be-gay-and-Catholic!" stuff.  But that's Andrew for you.

Posted on 08/28/2006 1:38 PM by John Derbyshire
Monday, 28 August 2006
Betjeman on Doubt
With a nod to Andrew Sullivan's new book and his aforementioned endorsement of skepticism and doubt, I return to John Betjeman, whose centenary is today.  Betjeman was a devout Anglican, but his poetry is full of doubts:

[On hearing some church bells at Easter, in the poem "Loneliness"]

...You fill my heart with joy and grief—
Belief!  Belief!  And unbelief...
And, though you tell me I shall die,
You say not how or when or why.

[On making small talk at a funeral, in the poem "Aldershot Crematorium"]

...And thus we try to dissipate our fears.
'I am the Resurrection and the Life':
Strong, deep and painful, doubt inserts the knife.

[On thinking about his own death, in the poem "Good-bye"]

...But better down there in the battle
Than here on the hill
With Judgement or nothingness waiting me,
Lonely and chill.

[On the Nativity story, in the poem "Christmas"]

And is it true?  And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?

Posted on 08/28/2006 1:57 PM by John Derbyshire
Monday, 28 August 2006
Morena -- Controversy Rages
A reader from the Big Apple:  "Too skinny. In SG-1, has clearly done the Hollywood thing and dropped too much weight."

[Derb]  I confess I didn't see Friday's episode.  I hear the voice of Lord Curzon, on seeing a painting of his voluptuous wife, executed by an artist who had made her too willowy:  "Her curves!  Where are her lovely curves?"

Posted on 08/28/2006 2:03 PM by John Derbyshire
Monday, 28 August 2006
Billet doo

As a fan of John Betjeman, I look forward to John Derbyshire’s article about him. I hope that Mr Derbyshire will not make the embarrassing mistake A N Wilson made in his new biography of the poet. From the Sunday Times:

 

HIS one regret, Sir John Betjeman once said, was that he had not had enough sex. So the late poet laureate’s biographer could be forgiven the thrill of discovery he felt when someone sent him a passionate love letter supposedly written by Betjeman to a mistress.

Now, however, it turns out that the poet, born 100 years ago tomorrow, never wrote the letter. Instead, A N Wilson, the biographer, admitted this weekend he had fallen victim to an elaborate hoax.

The trick was so successful that the letter has been published in Wilson’s new book Betjeman as evidence of the poet’s previously unknown “fling”.

The giveaway — and a clue that a bitter rival of Wilson’s may be behind the trick — is that the capital letters at the beginning of the sentences in the letter spell out a vivid personal insult to the biographer.

After a Sunday Times reporter pointed this out to him this weekend, Wilson reread the letter and said: “I should have smelt a rat . . . Obviously the letter is a joke, a hoax.”

The identity of the trickster is not known, but one acknowledged rival of Wilson has denied involvement. Bevis Hillier, author of a three-volume biography of Betjeman, said that, although he found Wilson “despicable”, he was “not guilty” of the hoax.

The “love letter” appeared to have been written by Betjeman in May 1944, 11 years after he had married Penelope Chetwode.

It was addressed to Honor Tracy, an Anglo-Irish writer with whom Betjeman worked at the Admiralty during the war.

So, what was this “vivid personal insult” that Wilson’s enemy had gone to so much trouble to bury in the hoax letter? Some witty piece of Swiftian invective? Well, let’s take a look at the capital letters and see what Wilson missed:

            Darling Honor

I loved yesterday. All day, I’ve thought of nothing else. No other love I’ve had means so much. Was it just an aberration on your part, or will you meet me at Mrs Holmes’s again – say on Saturday? I won’t be able to sleep until I have your answer.

Love has given me a miss for so long, and now this miracle has happened. Sex is a part of it, of course, but I have a Romaunt of the Rose feeling about it too. On Saturday we could have lunch at Fortt’s, then go back to Mrs H’s. Never mind if you can’t make it then. I am free on Sunday too or Sunday week. Signal me tomorrow as to whether and when you can come.

Anthony Powell has written to me, and mentions you admiringly. Some of his comments about the army are v funny. He’s somebody I’d like to know better when the war is over. I find his letters even funnier than his books. Tinkerty-tonk, my darling. I pray I’ll hear from you tomorrow.

If I don’t, I’ll visit your office in a fake beard.

All love, JB

Yes, that’s right: “A N Wilson is a shit.” Perhaps in due course we will find a forged letter in Bevis Hillier’s biography with the coded message: “Bevis is a butthead.”

 

Tinkerty-tonk.

Posted on 08/28/2006 2:18 PM by Mary Jackson
Monday, 28 August 2006
Duck and Cover the British Bulldog

Thanks for flagging Kurtz on Iran, John.  It truly is superb. I emailed the piece to my remaining dovish friends.  They're all taking super-early retirement.  Maybe they know something without quite knowing it.

FYI: By the time I got to junior high, Duck and Cover was a game similar to Spin the Bottle. Innocent we were of some things then, knowing about others, I suppose.  
Posted on 08/28/2006 2:17 PM by Robert Bove
Monday, 28 August 2006
Pronouncing "Betjeman"

Robert asks how to pronounce "Betjeman".

Betjeman was quintessentially English, which means that his name is pronounced so as to confuse foreigners.

It is pronounced in the same way as Beauchampsmain, that is  "Bitch-mun".

Not really. Bet-she-mun is about right.

Posted on 08/28/2006 2:30 PM by Mary Jackson
Monday, 28 August 2006
The Anti-Kate
Deroy Murdock's piece "Ready for Rudy" in the current (Sept. '06) issue of The American Spectator is a sort of riposte to Kate O'Beirne's piece in the NR before last.  (Though given the respective magazine production schedules, it can't have been intended that way.)  Murdock likes Rudy's chances, except he thinks the gun issue will give him big trouble.  Samples:

"While prominent Republicans can give more conservative speeches than Giuliani, one would have to reach back to Ronald Reagan for a leader who had _implemented_ more policies dear to the Right.  'He is America's most successful conservative currently in office,' columnist George Will wrote in October 1998..."

And:

"Giuliani is tough as hell.  It's impossible to imagine him leaving his veto pen unholstered for five and a half years, as did President Bush.  Boondoggles like Alaska's $220 million 'Bridge to Nowhere' would go nowhere with Giuliani in the sadlle.  At last, Republicans could stop preemptively capitulating to, rather than confronting, Democrats."

[Derb] I can't quite push away the thought that if Rudy is our next President, that will make GWB our....  David Dinkins.  Ouch!

Posted on 08/28/2006 3:53 PM by John Derbyshire

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