These are all the Blogs posted on Thursday, 29, 2009.
Thursday, 29 October 2009
A Cinematic Interlude: The Happiest Days Of Your Life
Watch Alastair Sim, and Margaret Rutherford, and Joyce Grenfell here.
"Give the boy who wrote his name there fifty lines."
Thus the Headmaster, noting the recently-disturbed, or grenfellated, dust.
To attend a school where the Masters were sure of themselves, and education was not confused with vocational training. To live in a world where, if a boy wrote his name in the dust, he could be "given fifty lines."
Horace? Catullus? Ovid? Or something, perhaps, once thought to be more character-building, stoic sententiae from Seneca, or lines by Virgil on nation-founding, or some sturdy standby from Caesar's Gallic Wars?
Iran would need 18 months for atom bomb: diplomats
(Reuters, United Nations)
Intelligence agencies estimate that it would probably take Iran a minimum of 18 months to develop a nuclear weapon if it chose to build one, Western diplomats and intelligence officials said.
For years the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Britain's MI6, Israel's Mossad, their French and German counterparts and other spy agencies have been struggling to penetrate Iran's secretive nuclear program, often disagreeing internally and with each other on when Iran could have a nuclear weapon.
Tehran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful and says Western spies are lying when they suggest Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons [...] several Western diplomats told Reuters that the top spy agencies generally agreed that Tehran would need at least 18 months to build an atomic weapon if it decided to make one – a much shorter timeline than some of the agencies' publicly released assessments of Iran's nuclear plans.
[A] Western diplomat confirmed the agreement, adding that the assessment was based on the assumption that Tehran would need at least six months to purify its uranium stocks to weapons-grade level and another 12 months for "weaponization" – building the actual nuclear weapon.
The minimum possible timeline is crucial because it gives an indication of how much time the six countries spearheading efforts to persuade Iran to halt its enrichment program – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – have before Tehran could theoretically have an atomic weapon.
Now, let’s analyse that piece. The senior editor, and chairperson, of ‘The Bangladesh Today’ is the respected Colonel Syed Shahabuddin Ahmed (Ret’d.) and the day to day editor of the paper is the equally as well respected Colonel Mahmud ur Rahman Choudhury – he who gave a keynote address at the BIPSS conference, organised jointly with ‘The Bangladesh Today’, back in March of this year. The honourably retired Colonel Ahmed and the editor Colonel Choudhury are not fools. They are both ‘insiders’ in the Bangladeshi political establishment and very well aware of the current, Salafist inspired, turmoil in the Islamic world, as well as in their own country, in which they both live and work. Editor Colonel Choudhury went so far as to assert in the paper which he presented to the BIPSS conference that all the 4 core state institutions [in Bangladesh] are equally ineffective, inefficient and incompetent. That is a very brave position to take in Bangladesh today and it must reflect the opinions of many who make up the membership of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS).
So what can we in the West glean from that event and the papers presented at that BIPSS conference back in March (and I apologise for being so behind hand in offering my analysis of that meeting, but sometimes one has to, one must, allow a few weeks, months, of sober and mature thought and reflection to colour ones responses to events – not everything is susceptible to a knee-jerk reaction, you know). Well, it seems to me, and I might be wrong, that some significant few prominent members of the ruling elite in Bangladesh are members of the BIPSS and that in that article at ‘The Bangladesh Today’, and on the BIPSS website, they are plainly warning the West (and others) about Iran’s nuclear intentions and about that country’s (Iran’s) obfuscations, if not downright lies, about its intentions in the field of nuclear science and nuclear weapons.
The prominent and well-informed Major General (Ret’d.) A.N.M. Muniruzzman is the current head of the BIPSS and he presided over a meeting of the BIPSS which featured no less a person than the renowned climate change expert Dr. Atiq Rahman. But, and let’s be plain here, Dr. Rahman is a discredited expert. He blames the West for all of Islam’s ills. For him, it is our burning of their fossil fuels which is the issue. We can do no right, according to Dr. Rahman. For him, we buy and we burn and we are wrong – if we don’t buy and we don’t burn then we are also wrong. For him there is no right action for the infidel. ‘Damned if we do and damned if we don’t’ is his position. However, he doesn’t offer any solution to the conundrum – he merely condemns everyone involved and that is his weakness.
But, and to quote the BIPSS’s own words:
Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) will be the first such institution in Bangladesh for informed analysis on all aspects of broad spectrum of security, peace and security studies in the region as well as of the global. It will serve as a critical space for reflection, a forum for research, training, exchanges and dialogue between practitioners, academics and activists at all levels. The view that growth and development cannot be realized without a secure and stable environment in which every citizen is a stakeholder, able to participate fully in the processes that govern his or her life, is rapidly gaining ground in many parts of South Asia. Previously, discourse on peace and security was considered the sole preserve of the military, and not civilians. And security was seen largely in the narrow sense of defending a state from threat external to that state. The conflicts, insecurity, human misery and slow pace of development across South Asia, which resulted partly from decades of social exclusion, gross human rights violations and poor governance have compelled new thinking on what security is all about.
Please, do let us hope that the fascistic nature of Islam has indeed compelled new thinking about human rights in Bangladesh – and the rejection of Salafist Islamist norms. Not the rejection of belief for that’s too much to expect – just the rejection of the philosophically invalid Sharia norms. Although Dr. Rahman blames the West for the self-caused implosion of Islam he is nowhere naive enough to believe that more, and stricter, Islam is the answer to the problem – quite the reverse, in fact.
However, Dr. Rahman aside, members of the Bangladeshi ruling elite believe, as insiders in the Islamic world, that we in the West face a threat from a nuclear Iran and that that threat could be realised within some few months. They believe that they, too, are under threat! Further, they believe that the fundamentalist nature of this new attack upon our, and their, freedoms is serious and that we should, as they do, take it seriously.
The sub-text to Dr. Rahman’s criticism of the West and its burning of fossil fuels is something that Hugh has often mentioned in his posts here at NER (and elsewhere). By burning the fossil fuels found so abundantly underneath those countries within which Sharia holds sway we merely transfer our wealth (Hugh mentions in his articles, I think, some ten trillion dollars (US) or more to date) into the hands of those people who mean to do harm to our societies.
What the BIPSS see, rightly in my opinion, is that those Muslim countries which have benefited from this vast transfer of wealth also mean to harm such Muslim countries as Bangladesh as it strives to modernise and understand a broader and much more wholesome path of law and decency than the restrictive Sharia interpretation of the Koran as embodied by the Salafist fundamentalists and the traditionalist (and as exemplified by some Egyptian clerics) believers can assert.
What the existence of the BIPSS demonstrates is not that that Islam is monolithic, as all Salafists would like to assert, but that there are strands and divisions within Islam and within the Islamic world which choose to believe differently from the Salafist/al-Qaida norm and that they do so with some theological and philosophical validity. However, and much more importantly, the existence of the BIPSS also demonstrates just how little we understand the modern Islamic world. Hear the undersong and not the air.
And as far as Britain is concerned – well, at least those few of us British who still exist – hear the undersong and not the air: hear it here.
PESHAWAR: A remote-controlled car bomb killed at least 105 people – including women and children – and injured around 200 others at the provincial capital’s Meena Bazaar on Wednesday, said officials, hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Pakistan to bolster the two countries’ alliance against Taliban and Al Qaeda.
“We have received 92 bodies and some parts of bodies and 200 injured people – including 70 women and children,” said Haider Afridi, chief executive of the Lady Reading Hospital. He said around 25 people – mostly women – were in critical condition, while only 25 bodies had so far been identified.
“Nineteen of the dead are women and 11 are children. All the dead are civilians,” Dr Zafar Iqbal told the AFP news agency as staff declared an emergency and called for blood donations.
NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain, however, said, “More than 80 people were killed ... around 200, mostly women and children, were injured in the car bomb blast.”
Bomb disposal squad chief Shafqat Malik told reporters that 150 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the remote-controlled blast. He said that some people were still trapped under the rubble.
Addressing reporters at the Lady Reading Hospital, Iftikhar linked the Meena Bazaar blast with the ongoing military operation in South Waziristan against the Taliban, saying, “foreign terrorists – including Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks – stationed in Waziristan are carrying out attacks in Pashtun areas”.
In a message to foreign and local Taliban, the minister said, “We (civilians and the army) have won the war in Malakand division ... the fight against terrorism will continue and we will eliminate terrorists even if we have to pay with our lives.”
Although nobody claimed responsibility, suspicion immediately fell on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- The deadliest bombing in Pakistan in two years quickly overshadowed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's first official visit here Wednesday, drawing attention away from her goal of promoting a broad U.S.-Pakistan relationship based on more than the shared fight against terrorism.
In a dinner toast to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Clinton tried to address the military's battle against Taliban insurgents as well as the U.S. development assistance she came here to highlight. "Those who your brave soldiers are fighting against as we meet here tonight are destroyers, not builders," she told guests at a gathering Zardari hosted in her honor at the presidential palace.
Just a few hours earlier, at least 100 people were killed and 200 were injured when a powerful car bomb tore through a crowded market in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Hospital officials said two-thirds of the dead were women and children.
News of the attack reached the capital just after 2 p.m., as Clinton was discussing a $125 million energy aid package with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. At a news conference immediately afterward, Clinton said: "I want you to know this fight is not Pakistan's alone. . . . These extremists are committed to destroying what is dear to us as much as they are committed to destroying that which is dear to you and to all people. So this is our struggle as well."
The energy assistance program is aimed at rebuilding Pakistan's electricity-production capacity, beginning with repairs and upgrades to local power stations. Clinton's three-day visit is geared toward public appearances, with the goal of quelling rising anti-Americanism among the public and assuring the Pakistani political opposition and military that the Obama administration seeks a full partnership with the country.
Zardari's administration has been placed on the defensive in recent weeks by accusations from domestic critics that his government is an American puppet. The criticism has been fueled by conditions that Congress placed on a multibillion-dollar aid package, which anti-Zardari forces in Pakistan say are designed to undermine the nation's sovereignty.
The piece below was first posted in April, 2008. Only one of the choices then presented (of both- the eternal and the ephemeral kind) -- has definitively been made. We know now the answer to "Obama or HIllary." Today I decided that I was faced with a decision: "To repost or not to repost." I decided to re-post:
Olive oil or butter? Butter or jam? Jam or Patum Peperium? Rice or Pasta? Steak or Lobster? Mu Shi Pork, or Mu Shi Chicken? Mushrooms or Bamboo Shoots? Sushi or Sashimi? Franks or Burgers? Coke or Pepsi? Gherkins, or Bread-and-Butter Pickles? Ciabatta or Whole-Wheat Bread? Equal or Splenda? Le Cru ou Le Cuit?
The Guelfs or the Ghibellines? The Red or the Black? The Blue or the Gray? The Federalists or the Jeffersonians? The Colorados or the Blancos? The Descamisados or the Sans-Culottes? The Liberals or Conservatives? The Democrats or Republicans? The RedStates, or the BlueStates? Obama or Hillary?
Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton? Leno or Letterman?Bix Beiderbecke or Bunny Berigan? Picasso or Matisse?
The English “Office” or the American “Office”? The Little-Enders or the Big-Enders? The Wave-Theorists, or the Particle-Theorists of Light? Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard? Provence or Tuscany? Rent, or Buy?
Harvard or Yale? Exeter or Andover? Oxford or Cambridge? Macintosh or MS/DOS? Dickens or Thackeray? Shakespeare or Dante? Leonardo or Michelangelo? Dryden or Pope? Corneille or Racine? Ambrose Bierce or Bret Harte? Damon Runyon or Finley Peter Dunne? Benchley or Thurber?
The Wise Man or the Fool? The Blonde or the Brunette? The Prude or the Libertine? The Crossword, or Puns and Anagrams? Capablanca, or Kasparov?
Roundheads or Cavaliers? La Montagne ou La Gironde? Bolsheviks or Mensheviks? Clerics or Anti-clericals? Syllabotonic or free verse? Keats or Shelley? Browning or Tennyson? Stevens or Frost?Georgia or Abkhazia? Tibet or China? China or Xinjiang?
Marie Boroff or Max Beloff? Jean Seznec or Jean Starobinski? Alexandre Kojève or Alexandre Koyré?
Dos Equis, or Kirin? Kirin or Tsingtao? Tsingtao or Dos Equis? Burgundy or Bordeaux? Barolo or Amarone? Beggers or Choosers? Debtors or Creditors? Eve or Lilith? Mars or Venus? Scylla or Charybdis? The Devil, or the DeepBlueSea? David Copperfield, or Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea?
Pinyin or Wade-Giles? Senecan Amble, orLipsius his hopping stile? The Metaphoric, or the Metonymic Pole?
Humbert Humbert, the protagonist in the novel Lolita, is the classic literary portrayal of a pedophile. Evidence is presented that the author of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, was himself consciously a pedophile who acted out his desires vicariously through his writing. Drawing upon his literary works and biography, the manifest and genetic origins of Nabokov's pedophilia are traced back to an unresolved oedipal conflict complicated by childhood sexual abuse. The raw power of Lolita derives from the abreactive discharge of a libidinal cathexis denied any other mode of expression.
This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.
By convention, a politician about to be promoted to high office makes noises about not being worthy. He has no ambitions in that direction, runs the wording, but if such an opportunity arose he would put personal preference aside and serve his country to the best of his ability. No such false modesty for former Prime Minister and future Emperor of Europe, Tony Blair. From The Times:
Tony Blair will stand for the presidency of the European Union if its leaders agree that the role is a substantial one requiring clout on the world stage, The Times has learnt.
The former Prime Minister would give up his lucrative commercial interests for a job that would allow him to “make a difference” for Europe, friends say.
Greater love hath no man than this, that he give up "a £2.5million-a-year consultancy with the US investment bank JP Morgan, a £2million deal to advise the finance firm Zurich and speaking engagements worth £100,000 a time" in order to "make a difference".
When asked if, as well as making a difference, he would like to "give something back", he was not so keen.
Established in 1969 to safeguard global Muslim interests, the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) is the second largest inter-governmental body after the UN.
In its 40-year history, the OIC has worked with the UN and others to settle conflicts and disputes, particularly among its member states.
While the preamble to the OIC's charter holds that Islam "is a strong factor for rapprochement and solidarity between peoples", conflicts continue to rage in many parts of the Muslim world.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary-general of the OIC, says the organisation has gained prominence in recent years as a trusted mediator in conflicts involving the Muslim world and was the "initiator" of a UN war crimes inquiry in Gaza.
Al Jazeera's Firas al-Atraqchi spoke with Ihsanoglu on the sidelines of the seventh annual Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue.
Al Jazeera: The UN's Goldstone report has been in the headlines in the past few weeks - not without controversy - and has brought to light the conduct of the Israelis and Hamas during the war on Gaza earlier in the year. Does the OIC see this as a step forward in recognising what transpired during that war and in bringing the plight of the Palestinians to the fore on an international scale?
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu: Let me first start by completing the story of the history of the Goldstone report. What I would like to put on record is that the OIC was the initiator of this process...
LAHORE, Pakistan — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a visit meant to improve relations with Pakistan, strongly suggested Thursday that some Pakistani officials bore responsibility for allowing Al Qaeda terrorists to operate from safe havens along this country’s frontier.
“I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are, and couldn’t get to them if they really wanted to,” she said to a group of Pakistani journalists on her second day here. “Maybe that’s the case; maybe they’re not gettable. I don’t know.”
It is extremely rare for an official of Mrs. Clinton’s rank to say publicly what American politicians and intelligence officials have said in more guarded ways for years. The remarks upset her hosts, who have had hundreds of soldiers and civilians killed as Pakistan has taken on a widening campaign against certain militant groups that have threatened the state from the country’s tribal areas.
But they gave voice to the long-time frustration of American officials with what they see as the Pakistani government’s lack of resolve in rooting out not only Al Qaeda but also the Taliban leadership based in Quetta, and a host of militant groups that use the border region to stage attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Mrs. Clinton’s statement was only one of several pointed remarks on issues ranging from security to poor tax collection during a day in which she ran into a wall of distrust and mostly hostile questioning in public appearances intended to soothe relations, suggesting she was no longer willing merely to listen to Pakistan’s grievances.
Listening patiently to a litany of grievances from journalists about American policies, Mrs. Clinton said, “I am more than willing to hear every complaint about the United States.” But she said the relationship had to be a “two-way street.”
Why should the Devil have all the best tunes? Answer: he doesn't, but God's tunes seem to need a little inspiration here on earth. And where better than the Scottish islands? The prize for the best tags (reproduced below from YouTube) goes to this fusion of gospel song and Celtic reel. Enjoy - how can you not? And if your foot isn't tapping by 2:10, you're dead, or Muslim, or both.
With Alacrity, FBI Agent Andrew Arena Tries To Protect Image Of Islam
News Story #1:
"Andrew Arena, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, contacted local imams and civil rights leaders in Detroit during Wednesday's operation "to bridge any gaps that could possible come over this," FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.
"He'd rather they hear it from him," she added. "We have a good relationship with the community and we want to keep it that way."
News Story #2:
"But as the case[of the Muslims in Dearborn whose arrest made headlines Thursday, the FBI moved to downplay the connection to Islam, saying that Abdullah and his organization should be considered a fringe group.
"Any Muslim who took a look at what these people believed would not recognize this as the Muslim faith," said Andrew Arena, who heads up the FBI's Detroit bureau."
News Story #3:
Arena on Thursday declined to offer any other details about the raid.
"This is obviously something we don't relish. But in the end, we take solace that we took some bad people off the street," he said.
Neither Abdullah nor his co-defendants were charged with terrorism. But he was "advocating and encouraging his followers to commit violent acts against the United States," FBI agent Gary Leone wrote in an affidavit filed with the 43-page complaint Wednesday.
The FBI said Abdullah, also known as Christopher Thomas, was an imam, or prayer leader, of a faction of a radical group named Ummah whose primary mission is to establish an Islamic state within the U.S.
"This is a very hybrid radical ideology. I don't know that I'd call it a religion," Arena said.
News Story #4:
U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg also asked people not to connect the group, headed by Luqman Ameen Abdullah, with Muslims in general. Abdullah, 53, was killed in a shootout with FBI agents Wednesday at a Dearborn warehouse.
Berg said the group in question “is a specific brand of radical ideology.”
My, how important it appears to be for everyone to rush to assure Muslims that in no case is a group consisting entirely of Muslims -- not all of them apparently recent converts -- using the language of Islam, relying on the texts and tenets of Islam, spouting -- in ways more aggressive and violent than we are used to hearing in this country -- their understandeing of Muslim doctrine, which has a heavy admixture, or subtext, of anti-white feeling. But Da'wa campaigns are especially strong, we all know, among black prisoners, seen, because of their social and economic marginalization, and a psychic desarroi that makes they ready prey for such campaigns -- imagine if all the black prisoners who convert to Islam instead became, because of clever government support for black ministries, Born-Again Christians. They'd be a bore, perhaps, but they wouldn't be have become a mortal threat, with an ideology that provided them with a justification for what, before, had only been seen as sociopathic behavior.
Of course "any Muslim" who "took a look" would be quick to deny a link between the Greater Cult and the Lesser. What would you expect? But what about those of us who are not Muslims, but have a perfectly good grasp of the contents of the texts, and of how those texts are received, through long familiarity with Muslim sources, guides, Internet sites, and long observation, sometimes from close up, of the behavior, and expressed beliefs, of adherents of Islam? Would we, if we "took a look at what these people believed," truly "not recognize this as the Muslim faith"? Could Andrew Arena tell us what it was, exactly -- really, give us the details -- that makes him be so sure that one can distinguish what these people hoping to establish an Islamic state in North America believed in and what other, presumably orthodox, Muslims are taught to believe in. A difference in timing and tactics does not matter. What matters is whether the ultimate goals are shared or not.
Andrew Arena of the FBI owes the public much more of an explanation of his curious remark.
And he also should think to himself, and then possibly aloud, as to the ways in which that "very hybrid radical ideology" that he, Andrew Arena, thinks he doesn't know if he would "call it a religion" differs, if at all, in its texts and tenets and attitudes and atmospherics, from the perfectly orthodox Islam described by every articulate defector -- Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, Ibn Warraq, Magdi Allam, Ali Sina -- from the Army of Islam.
Why does Andrew Arena think all of those defectors must surely have misunderstood, or must surely be lying, and that he knows better than they? Is it because the Muslims he monitors, at such great expense, tell him so?