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

These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 3, 2006.
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Death squads roam Baghdad's hospitals

This is far nastier than anything PD James could dream up.  From The Sunday Times.

EVERYONE seems to be desperate for money to cope with the insecurities of life in Baghdad these days, so Dr Salim Jawad was not surprised when a hospital porter took him to one side and asked whether he would be interested in making some cash. 

Jawad, a busy surgeon and a Sunni, thought he was going to be urged to smuggle drugs out of the building so that they could be sold on the street. But the brutal proposition from the porter Ali, a Shi’ite from the Sadr City suburb of the capital, was far more shocking.

For every patient the doctor identified from the predominantly Sunni provinces of Diyala and Anbar and from the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad, he was told, he would be paid $300 (£151).

Jawad realised that he was being invited to pass death sentences on patients at the Medical City hospital in return for swift and surreptitious payments. “You can make a fortune,” Ali told him calmly. “Doctor, if you have those patients in the future just tell me and I will give you $300 just for that information . . . and do not tell anyone about this little talk.”

There is said to be mounting evidence that Shi’ite death squads are being encouraged to roam hospitals in search of fresh Sunni victims, allegedly at the behest of officials in the Shi’ite-dominated health ministry.

During the summer Jawad first became worried by the mysterious deaths of several patients who had been transferred from American field hospitals.  As others went missing, often in strange circumstances, he learnt that the Mahdi Army of the radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had infiltrated the Medical City’s porters and cleaners.

“I’m an Iraqi doctor, working in one of the biggest hospitals in Iraq and I want you to read this carefully because the suffering and the lives of many poor people have become the cheapest things that you can buy in my country,” Jawad’s e-mail began. The patients who were disappearing and dying were often civilians injured by crossfire in shoot-outs, he noted.

Last month, an anxious paramedic approached Jawad. “What he told me,” Jawad said, “was like opening the gates of hell.”

The paramedic took a phial from the pocket of his white coat and showed it to him. “It was a drug called Neostigmine used by anaesthetists. The only place to find this drug is in operating theatres,” he said. Injected in high doses, it will cause cardiac arrest. “Who gave you this drug?” Jawad asked. “The ministry of health security gave it to me and asked me to give it to one of the patients,” the paramedic said. “But I can’t go through with it.”

“How did they know about the patient?” Jawad asked. The answer confirmed what the porter he called Ali had told him. “If you call them and tell them about patients from Anbar, Diyala or Adhamiyah, you get $300. If you help to get rid of one, you get another $300.  The life of a human being was worth $600 and there were many people willing to kill patients for money,” 

The account appears to corroborate a US intelligence report last December, which said hospitals had become command centres for the Mahdi Army, and Sunni patients were being dragged from their beds. The report was denied by Iraq’s health minister, Ali al-Shamari, a follower of Moqtada al-Sadr.

Posted on 12/03/2006 2:44 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Rochester Dickens Christmas Festival

The Christmas Dickens festival is on in Rochester this weekend.  We went yesterday.  If you can't get there today this is the link to the webcam of the High Street set on the wall of the Tourist Information Centre.  There are lots of people in Victorian costume, some playing the parts of the best known characters. There are three parades, the last by candlelight which ends in carol singing outside the Cathedral with the Cathedral choir. There is also music and street theatre around and about during the day.

These are the ladies of the CORUM handbell ringers.  We met them on the park and ride bus coming in from Strood and they are a nice bunch.

The City of Rochester Pipe Band


Sky at night

Posted on 12/03/2006 4:11 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Annoying Americanisms of the week


This Americanism is so very annoying that it must annoy Americans too. So perhaps it doesn't count.

24/7/365 is even worse. What about leap years? I much prefer the lugubrious and curdmudgeonly "week in, week out".

English people have also started saying "I guess" when they mean "I suppose". I know Chaucer said it, but later we stopped saying it and the Americans carried on, so it came back to us as new-fangled, even though it is old-fangled. I don't mind Americans saying it - it is not intrinsically objectionable - I just don't think we should say it. Vive la difference. Did I really say that? I guess so.

Posted on 12/03/2006 6:21 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 3 December 2006
The veil: it's all politics

Jenny McCartney in The Telegraph makes some sensible points about the niqab, but does not go far enough:

[In Britain], paradoxically, a woman who wears the all-concealing veil is doing so in order to become unusually visible. Her decision to cover her face is a publicly exaggerated proclamation of her devotion to Islam. The veil may be pressed upon her by male relatives, or freely chosen, yet its true purpose is not to deflect attention but to attract it.

Britain, for all its faults, is not a society in which women are pestered or harassed as a matter of course. When we walk outside we have to contend with a tuneless wolf whistle at worst. For a woman here to argue that simply uncovering her face will automatically inflame the men around her to dangerous levels of lust is absurd: indeed, it is ostentatious modesty inflated to the point of vanity. To feel compelled to wear the full veil in Britain is the sexual equivalent of attending a Quaker meeting accompanied by three heavily-armed bodyguards.

Behind this absurdity lurks something rather more worrying, however: the persistent agenda of a minority of Islamic fundamentalists to emphasise difference and push the boundaries of secular society. The arguments over Muslim women's clothing have really been thinly disguised political battles, such as the 2002 attempt by the schoolgirl Shabina Begum to force her school to permit her to wear a cumbersome garment called the jilbab in contravention of school uniform. Begum's brother, who was extremely vocal in court, was a reported member of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hizb-ut Tahrir.

When the representatives of Hizb-ut Tahrir appear in the British media they are extremely articulate and persuasive, focusing skilfully on the hypocrisies in Western foreign policy. The organisation's international website, however, is more blatant about its Islamist aims. It despises democracies because they "deem the sovereignty to belong to the people, not to Allah" and advocates a "clear and pure" Sharia state with "not one single rule that is non Islamic, or a rule influenced by reality".

This is not just Hizb-ut Tahrir; it is Islam.

Personally, I rather like my rules to be influenced by reality, and evidently the Law Lords, despite the best efforts of Miss Begum's barrister, Cherie Blair QC, did too. They eventually found in favour of the school's sensible Muslim headmistress and board of governors, concluding that "a person's right to hold a particular religious belief was absolute, but that a person's right to manifest a particular religious belief was qualified" and could be interfered with if there was justification…

There is no real justification for banning women from wearing the full veil in public. If Britain's streets can afford freedom of expression to punks, hoodies and goths, they can surely cope with niqab-wearing women. There is every justification, however, for a blanket ban on full veils at work, since work automatically involves employees in a contractual obligation to communicate with colleagues and members of the public in return for pay.

A clear, constant distinction between the sartorial obligations of private time and work time would surely relieve us all of mounting irritation, and deprive these wearisome attention-seekers of the substance they seem most eager to breathe in through the niqab: the oxygen of publicity.

Islam does not separate private time and work time, anymore than it separates religion and politics. The niqab should be banned outright, not merely in the workplace. It is offensive, and it is an attempt to seize territory for Islam. Jenny McCartney does not understand the true nature of the threat we face.

Posted on 12/03/2006 6:49 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Was ex-spy trying to sell dirty bomb?

This is from the Daily Express, a paper I read (on line, I wouldn't pay money for it)  with a large pinch of salt.  So far the only other news sites with the story are Monsters and Critics and some of the blogs.  I suspect a smear campaign but would value the opinion of those who understand what is happening in the former Soviet Union better than I do.

The radiation spy scandal took a sensational twist last night with the revelation that KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko had converted to Islam before he died.  Scotland Yard detectives are now trying to discover if he had any secret links with Islamic extremist terror groups.
Their biggest fear is that the former Soviet spy, who died of polonium-210 poisoning in a London hospital, may have been helping Al Qaeda terrorists or other extremist groups get hold of radioactive material to be used in a devastating “dirty” atom bomb.

The shock admission came from his next-door neighbour, moderate Muslim and Chechen dissident Akhmed Zakayev, who revealed: “He was read to from the Koran the day before he died and told his wife that he wanted to be buried in accordance with Muslim tradition.”

Despite the claim, a statement written by Litvinenko shortly before he died referred to “God”, not “Allah” and said he could hear the beating of angel’s wings, leading most people to infer he was a Christian.  Last night his friend, London-based Russian emigre Vladimir Bokovsky said: “It is news to me. I don’t believe it. Why did he refer to God in his statement before his death and not Allah. I think this is misinformation.”

Monsters and Critics says that "Radio station Echo Moskvy reported Friday Litvinenko had converted to Islam shortly before his death. Litvinenko, it said, had been read the Yasin surah, or prayer, and given Islamic death rites by an imam invited to his hospital bedside. Ekho, a prominent liberal broadcaster funded by state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom, said Litvinenko would be buried in a Muslim cemetery in London. Goldfarb, a close associate of Litvinenko in London, said no arrangements for a funeral had been made as post-mortem examinations were continuing."

There is one obvious Muslim Cemetery which serves East London and sections set aside in other municipal cemeteries in West London.  The funeral will be widely reported so we shall see.  I am not convinced.

Posted on 12/03/2006 7:11 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Kettles and Pots and Other Bric-a-Brac

Although there are problems with grammar everywhere, one hears much more frequently on the BBC than on American radio "So-and-so told him and I" or even "they would not let she and I do it."  And I have found this even in the written language of English men and women when those of equivalent education in the United States would never do such a thing.

The use of "new-fangled" was, I assume, a deliberate semaphoring. Message received. 

Posted on 12/03/2006 7:37 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Know your a's from your aa's

The English class system is very strict. Here are three Englishmen, chosen completely at random from each of our three classes: upper, middle and lower.

It is obvious which is which. This is because we know our place. In case there is any confusion, click here for more.


Sometimes people get above their station and try to impersonate somebody from a higher class. The most famous class traitor is Burlington Bertie, a Cockney who went up West to cheer himself up. He mingled with his betters, singing jauntily: 

I'm Burlington Bertie, I rise at ten thirty
And saunter along like a toff
I walk down the Strand with my gloves on my hand
Then I walk down again with them off
I'm all airs and graces, correct easy paces
Without food so long I've forgot where my face is
I'm Bert, Bert, I haven't a shirt
But my people are well off you know.
Nearly everyone knows me from Smith to Lord Rosebr'y,
I'm Burlington Bertie from Bow. 

For this upstart behaviour, the little oik was sent to the Tower of London.


One sure marker of class distinction, as Henry Higgins observed, is the way people speak. The long “a” in such words as grass and bath is a shibboleth of southern, and also of upper class speech. It is – or so I thought – one of the main reasons why northerners and Americans will never be able to join the English upper classes. But according to Charles Moore in The Spectator, I was wrong:

Matthew Parris has pointed out that the long ‘a’ is gradually withdrawing from British educated speech. In 50 years, he says, southerners will no longer say ‘laaf’ but ‘laff’, and not ‘laast’ but ‘lasst’. I think he is right, but he does not add that this trend is a reversion. When I was a boy, a lot of old people who considered that they spoke ‘the Queen’s English’ used the short ‘a’ in words like ‘graph’ or ‘Daily Telegraph’. My mother told me that it was would-be genteel to say ‘baastard’ rather than ‘basstard’. When Mr Gladstone declared, ‘All the world over, I will back the masses against the classes’, the ‘classes’ rhymed with our modern pronunciation of ‘masses’. This may have been because Gladstone was born in Liverpool, but it is more likely that he was simply speaking in the prevailing way.

It has already been noted that the Queen’s vowels have been drifting daintily down the social scale. Perhaps this is merely a return to Victorian values.

Even more confusingly, some Catholics pronounce “Mass” as “Marce”, in which case it would rhyme with class in Received Pronunciation. Or would it?

Posted on 12/03/2006 8:13 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 3 December 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters)- When radio host Jerry Klein suggested that all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band, the phone lines jammed instantly. --from this news item

If, here and there, one finds examples of what might be painted as hysterical reactions, thereby calling into question the perfectly sane and rational fear of Jihad and the instruments of Jihad that threaten to transform, possibly are already transforming, large parts of Western Europe, that is the historic center of the West and of freedom, that hysteria is the result of the frustration and fury of feeling abandoned by those whose duty, in government and in the press, to instruct and to protect us. When one feels that that is not going on, that instead there is a deliberate effort to hide or minimize instances of the world-wide Jihad, then one is more likely to be too upset to think straight.

Here are some of the reasons for, in a very few, what some might otherwise hold up for ridicule as an overreaction:

1. How much did you know about the war in Biafra as a response by the southern Christians to a "Jihad"?

2. How much do you find out about Muslim behavior in southern Thailand from NPR or from The New Duranty Times or Bandar Beacon?

3. What have you learned about the tenets of Islam over the past five years since the attack on the World Trade Center?

4. What television program has dared even once to discuss Muhammad as uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, to explain his central role in the mental and emotional lives of Muslims, and to further mention, even once, Muhammad as a warrior who took part in 78 battles, 77 of them offensive?

5. What newspaper, magazine or for that matter the professional journals for those in up to their necks in the "Middle Eastern Studies Association:" (google "MESA Nostra" and "Jihad Watch" for more) have discussed, in detail, the life of Muhammad, and included his approval of the decapitation of the 650-900 bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza; his pleasure in the murders of Abu Akaf and Asma bint Marwan; his attack on the inoffensive Jewish farmers of the Khaybar Oasis; his marriage to little Aisha; his "treaty" with the Meccans at Hudaibiyya; and so much more.

5. On what television or radio program, in what publication intended for a mass audience, can a confused but worried and angry non-Muslim find out more about Islam, find out that central to the teachings and worldview of Islam, far stronger and fiercer than any other part of the doctrine, is that the world can be divided between Muslims and non-Muslims, Believers and Infidels, and it is the duty of the Believers to enlarge the Dar al-Islam at the expense of Dar al-Harb until the latter has been swallowed up entirely by the former; that all loyalty is to be owed only to fellow members of the umma al-islamiyya; that unthinking submission, without further, is required to the Will of Allah as expressed in the Qur'an and properly glossed by the Hadith.

6. Where, at Fort Jackson or Fort Benning or Fort Bragg, are the instructors who teach the recruits and even the soldiers going off, again and again, to fight in a war that becomes a puzzlement and that demoralizes them, for they are not told about Islam, or told only about a few of the rituals (how they need to pray five times a day) or what are demurely described as "cultural attitudes" (i.e., how women are treated, how they may not wish you in their homes, how the mosque is ordinarily off-limits to non-Muslims) but are never given anything like the tenets of Islam, nor the attitudes that arise naturally from Islam, which if the soldiers knew about, would be invaluable in preparing them, in steeling them, for the dangers they are about to pass, and are passing, and would have created a cadre of several hundred thousand well-informed people who would comprehend Islam. Instead they are told nothing of value, and certainly not informed about the hostility toward Infidels, the practice of smiling taqiyya that means nothing, the ferocious aggression that Islam encourages (and that can be played out against Infidels, or against one another), the constant lying and manipulating that is a way of life for so many, the hysterical belief in a Past Greatness that is itself a figment of exaggeration, fed by generations of those who are too lazy to examine the actual contributors to what is called "High Islamic Civilization" and what they actually did, and how that stacks up to what went on, has gone on, elsewhere in the world.

No, not the civilians, not the military, not the journalists (those fierce crusading journalists do not know what to do, will not touch, the subject of Islam), not anyone will intelligently, in the mass media or the in government, deal with Islam. Nobody. No, I meant to write -- Almost nobody.


Where in the Western world is there the steady, intelligent dissemination of this knowledge, which the threatened but insufficiently comprehending peoples of the West deserve and need to have if they are to properly defend themselves?

Posted on 12/03/2006 8:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Rumsfeld's leaked memo

"If only there were a little less scapegoating of the wrong man, Donald Rumsfeld, who was one of the least enthusiastic and least messianic and most eager, among the main participants in what turned out to be, but did not have to be (and still doesn't, if "victory" is interpreted to mean leaving Iraq in a state which will inevitably cause those sectarian and ethnic divisions to flourish, thereby dividing and demoralizing and weakening the Camp of Islam)to leave Iraq. One had the feeling that Rumsfeld never wanted the troops to stay, and he seldom engaged in the kind of rhetoric about "freedom" that Bush and Rice and Cheney all indulged in.

When will "victory" be defined correctly? When will this nonsense about abhorring "instability" and about the need to "avoid the catastrophe of civil war" stop, and sensible people see how this is not to be deplored, but to be received with grim, and growing, satisfaction." [Posted by Hugh at November 10, 2006]
-- from this posting put up the day after Rumsfeld submitted his resignation

Those who were raised in the Cold War, those who were handed, that is, the pieties and certainties of that war and did not have to learn or think for themselves overmuch, have demonstrated their limits. However well-spoken they may be (and Rumsfeld is well-spoken and far more intelligent than Bush, Rice, or most of the others), they have been raised in an environment where completely independent thought simply is hard to find.

And they are busy, busy, busy. Those reports. Those endless meetings. Those more reports. Those bullets. What in god's name did Rumsfeld, the smartest of the lot, understand about Islam and about the idiocy of the phrase "war on terror"? What did Rumsfeld, the smartest of the lot, understand about how the Muslim Arabs (the Kurds are a special case, because they were grateful for past protection, and eager for future support protection that can only come from the United States) were inevitably going to treat their "liberators" after a short while? What did he know about the Sunnis and the Shi'a, and how everything that has happened has happened inevitably, was perfectly predictable (and was, at this website and JW, predicted and predicted and predicted)? What does Rumsfeld, know about the notion of Jihad, and of the instruments of Jihad?

Perhaps, now that he is out of office, Rumsfeld will start to learn, and without having to get up at 4 a.m. to be driven into the Pentagon, to work all day without ever taking the time that he long ago should have taken, and so should they all, to study quietly, to read quietly, about Islam -- starting let's say with Bat Ye'or's "The Dhimmi" and "Islam and Dhimmitude" (he can read them, he's the smartest of the lot), and the books intended for a mass audience by Robert Spencer, including "The Myth of Islamic Tolerance" and "Onward, Muslim Soldiers" and his "Muhammad," and Ibn Warraq's "Why I Am Not a Muslim," and then to the anthology "The Legacy of Jihad" and to keep going, not to stop, until finally the scales fall from his eyes, and he sees that the goal should never have been Iraq the Model, Iraq the Light Unto the Muslim Nations, but rather a single and unswerving goal by the Americans and its remaining allies and others that might be allies yet again: to weaken the Camp of Islam, and to do it by dividing and demoralizing that camp, playing upon the pre-existing divisions, the three main ones being sectarian (Sunni and Shi'a), and ethnic (Arab and non-Arab) and economic (the Muslims with vast unmerited wealth, and the Muslims who have no oil or gas deposits). Two of these divisions present themselves in Iraq today. The Administration -- whose smartest member was Rumsfeld, remember -- keeps taking as its goal, declaring as its definition of "victory" -- exactly the wrong thing.

Rumsfeld now has time to learn all that, and to start with a little mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, about this, and then to go around and explain, in the corridors of power, just how wrong he -- and all the others -- were. He is much more intelligent and articulate than Bush. He owes the country, after his participation in this Big (and nearly universal, because the assumptions about the nature and severity of the threat were, and remain, also completely misunderstood by the opposition to Bush) Mistake, a Big Correction.

Rumsfeld was not to be faulted for this or that tactical error. Those who like those chocolate soldiers Kristol and Kagan (the egg on their faces cannot be wiped off, and shouldn't be) keep arguing for more troops to be sent now, or those who keep saying that "if only" Rumsfeld had sent a half-million men earlier on, everything would have gone according to Bush's plan, are wrong. Once the Sunni despotism of Saddam Hussein was removed, there was never a chance that the Shi'a would accept anything but what they have steadily been achieving, and which, by rights, they deserve: control of the political and economic resources of a country in which they constitute 65% of the population, and under whose territories all of the Arab oil wealth (the rest belongs, or should, to the Kurds) in Iraq can be found. And once that occurred, it was also inevitable, and would not have been changed by a larger American force (such a force might have seemed, at first, to "defeat the insurgency" but that "insurgency" was endlessly replenishable unless the Americans were somehow, without a draft, to send several million men and to remain for several generations. It makes and made no sense).

It is not on tactics that Donald Rumsfeld should be faulted. It is on not even on his initial trust in others who impressed him but should not have impressed him, such as Paul Wolfowitz, someone who never understood the significance of culture and ideology, and who, for reasons that may also have to do with a sentimentalism exhibited by too many of those "supporters of Israel" who did not want to believe that Islam was the problem, and who took such pride in their own friendships with utterly unrepresentative Muslims, Muslims of the Muslim-for-identification-purposes Muslims, such as Chalabi, Ambassador Francke, or in Wolfowitz's case, a great and good female friend who represented, for him -- so misleadingly -- the world of Islamic "reform" and Islamic "possibilities" that stand in the way of an unsentimental approach to the matter, which requires that Islam itself be seen, unblinkered, as the problem.

Rumsfeld, free of those meetings and all that hectic vacancy, can now turn his attention to learning that he made not so much a tactical mistake as a strategic one. He agreed with the others. He didn't see, sufficiently, that Bush has turned into what he always was, an inflexible, because not nearly intelligent enough, Capt. Queeg on a listing ship of state. Rumsfeld, out of office, can now study and utter, not the way McNamara did a quarter-century later, but in a few months, even early next year, a Mea Culpa about his own ignorance of Islam and of Iraq (including the Sunni-Shi'a divide that would not, could not, conceivably be healed by the Americans, nor should the Americans, if they had their wits about them, wish to do so).

Those who continue to argue that more troops would have made a difference, or would so now -- such as Generals Kristol and Kagan -- also miss the point about both the proper goal to be sought, the victory to be plucked from Tarbaby Iraq, and about out of the Iraq tarbaby. Those who merely argue for a "course correction" are also off. Something entirely different, based on an entirely different comprehension of what is going on with the world-wide Jihad, and on an understanding of what needs to be done to provide a Demonstration Project or two of a country, or people, on Islam, in order to remedy the palpable, perceived weakness of the West, held in check, especially in its domestic arrangements, by its own mind-forged manacles.

Something needs to be done beyond a mere "course correction." Something much bigger. Despite being demonized, Rumsfeld is one of the few who, one suspects, still has his wits intact. He can help. He should try. He owes it to the country.

Posted on 12/03/2006 8:50 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Free Fall
Another day, another explosive classified leak published in the New York Times.

This time, it's a November memo from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to the White House, urging a complete rethinking of military strategy in Iraq.  The Times today publishes the classified memo in conjunction with its page-one story.

The memo itself is extraordinarily interesting, even to us non-military types, especially given (a) how little regard Sec'y Rumsfeld seems to have for a lot of the strategy either currently being employed or likely to be proposed by the Iraq Study Group; and (b) how Rumsfeld seems a lot more interested in quick strike capability against al Qaeda and Iran elements than having U.S. forces enmeshed in Iraq's sectarian infighting.  It will be a lot more interesting to get analysis from people like Mac Owens, Jim Robbins and Fred Kagan — who actually know what they're talking about in this regard — than from me.

My strictly non-military observation, based on many years in government, is:  We appear to be in for two years of increasing dysfunction. 

If high officials — in wartime, no less — figure they better not give their best, most candid advice on sensitive, publicly-charged issues because opposing policy factions are going to leak each other's memos to the press, the initiative and creativity of the smart people we want in government is stifled.  And the leaks will be used to portray the administration as disintegrating into rancorous chaos, which avalanche feeds on itself.

Like watching a train-wreck in slow motion.

Posted on 12/03/2006 9:03 AM by Andy McCarthy
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Chaucer And An American Thang

Mary, I assumed that the use of the words "newfangled" and "oldfangled" together with "Chaucer" meant you were signalling, to me in my Sopwith Camel, that yes, you knew perfectly well the source of "newfanglenss" so don't get  high and mighty (hoogende-moogende) and start pointing out anything about that word.

But, since I now have your attention (I do, don't I?), and you claim not to have been semaphoring me at all (yes, and why aren't you appearing under the Biltmore Clock as I requested? Afraid someone else will see us? But nobody knows, take my word for it), I would like to say a word or two before you go about "newfangleness." Generations of American students of Chaucer, from those who listened to William Cabell Greet at Barnard in 1939 or possibly 1940, to those who listened to tart-tongued down-easter  B. J. Whiting at Harvard in the 1950s and 1960s, to those who today, quite possibly, still teach a full course on Chaucer (which must be, along with Layamon's Brut and the contents of the Exeter Book, one of the few subjects in English literature taught without students having to endure, much less parrot back, such words as "hegemony" and "discourse" and "post-modernism") have all, unprepared by Skeat, endured the same etymological confounding. For  in those courses taken by American students, those dutiful students (the good ones take Chaucer) are always surprised to discover, usually when they are going through The Squire's Tale, but if they are reading more of Chaucer than The Canterbury Tales (and Sir Thopas is worth the price of admission) then also in The Prologue to the Legend of Good Women and possibly in few other places as well,  the appearance of the word "newfanglenesse." For such a word, to those American students, has the homespun Gabby-Hayes gold-panning ring of tales by Bret Harte or Ambrose Bierce, and all kinds of other writers on Western or Californ-eye-ay themes, like Bill Nye, now mostly forgotten. For Americans if asked would assume that "newfangleness" is a mid-to-late 19th century creation, offered in the same spirit, by the same people, who gave us, in their "darn tootin'" folkways, fake or real, both "flabbergasted" and "discombobulated." So when we see that word "newfangleness" in Chaucer, we are flabbergasted, we are discombobulated.

It's an American thang.

You may not understand.

And if you dare to tell me something like "the first appearance of 'flabbergasted' is in England in 1772" I won't believe you. I just won't. A human being can only take so much.

Posted on 12/03/2006 9:48 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Elizabethan Kentucky
..."Now the people who inhabit the Kentucky mountains came into that region nearly two centuries ago, bringing wth them what many students affirm to be survivals of Elizabethan culture and even Chaucerian speech. These they modified somewhat, of course, in the new situation, but a considerable part of the inheritance they preserved, and naturally they added something of their own until they had one of the most distinctive or individually flavored cultures in the United States. The whole cultural complex - their special way of looking at life and of doing things - was kept intact right down to the most recent times. Their speech, their balladry, their music, their social codes and their religiosity - for despite tales of violence one hears out of those hills, there is a strong strain of religiosity in those people....then came radio and television, and the Kentucky mountaineer was no more." - - Richard Weaver "Reflections on Modernity" from In Defense of Tradition (Collected Shorter Writings of Richard Weaver 1929-1963) pg.112
Posted on 12/03/2006 10:26 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Not before time

Church bookshops are to stop selling the Koran. From The Sunday Times, via Islamophobia Watch, the latter site being, inadvertently, an excellent source of good news:

BRITAIN’S oldest chain of church bookshops is to remove the Koran from its shelves because it believes it is “inimical” to Christianity.  

The decision not to stock any non-Christian holy text has been taken by SPCK Bookshops, formerly part of the 308-year-old Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

In practice, the Koran is the only text affected because those of other religions such as Judaism and Hinduism were rarely stocked by the shops, which are located near many British cathedrals or in their precincts.

The new policy follows the society’s sale of a majority stake in the chain on November 1 to the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, which is tied to the Eastern Orthodox church.

“Stocking books which are inimical to Christianity, which without question the Koran is, could well create the wrong impression among some that we endorse the belief systems of other religions as equal or viable alternatives,” said Mark Brewer, the Texan lawyer who chairs the trust.

The stated aim of the trust is to take the bookshops back to the missionary roots of the SPCK and reverse the advance of Islam and secularism.

The new approach is likely to offend some in the Church of England who promote a more accommodating approach to Muslims, but echoes recent calls by John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, and Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, to recover Christian values.

Perhaps Church bookshops should start stocking books on Islam by Christians, such as Rev. William St.Clair Tisdall. This, along with other books on Islam pre-dating political correctness can be found here.

Posted on 12/03/2006 10:31 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Benchley Or Else

Unfair to Peter De Vries, author of "Mackerel Plaza" and "No But I Saw the Movie" and "The Tunnel of Love" and many other excellent books published in the 1950s and 1960s. Unfair to Leo Rosten, whose "Hyman Kaplan" and "Return of Hyman Kaplan" are two of the funniest books in the world. Unfair to that immortal  masterpiece "Up the Down Staircase" by Bel Kauffman. Unfair to Finley Peter Dunne and his creation the Chicago barkeep Mr. Dooley. Unfair above all to Robert Benchley, author of much more than the much-anthologized tale "The Treasurer's Report." Think, for example, of such books -- with such titles -- as  "David Copperfield, or Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" and "My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew." Think of Benchley's "What College Did To Me" that begins "My college education was no haphazard affair," a story that used to be in the anthology, "Toward Today," sometime staple of  Freshmen English courses in the good old days (my mother thought it excellent), but not today, not today.

Why has the Library of America not yet put out a volume of Robert Benchley? The series should run from Bartram to Benchley, unless they want to push it back to the Mather boys, Increase, Cotton, and Samuel, with emphasis on the middle one and "Magnalia Christi Americana." (And let's not mention the 20th-century Harvard professor of geology Kirtley Mather, of the same Mather-House Mathers, lest the House Un-American Activities Committee call itself back into session).

I want my Library of America Benchley. And I want it now.

Posted on 12/03/2006 10:49 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Buzz words
Mary is correct. As an American, I have hated 24/7 since I first heard it. What's more, I hate the words -- buzz word.
Posted on 12/03/2006 11:25 AM by Mark Butterworth
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Those deserving Library of America editions are...

A Library of America Richard Weaver, after a Library of America Jacques Barzun, after a Library of America Benchley, wouldn't be a bad idea either. Would it?

Feel free to add to the list.

Posted on 12/03/2006 12:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Library of America: chacun a son gout

Okay, if no one takes my proffered bait*, then I will.  

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Or has he been done already, either by himself (Judge Posner, no doubt, presiding) or possibly in some legal omnium-gatherum volume along with Learned Hand and Brandeis and Jackson and Roscoe Pound and even a little bit of Scott on Trusts and Wigmore on Evidence and John Chipman Gray on Real Property  (Restrains on the Alienation of) and...well, the whole Langdell line. 

John Chipman Gray -- no, sorry, here though not above I mean John Jay Chapman. It's the perennial problem of those doubles. You know how it is when you get older. You're always confusing Marie Boroff with Max Beloff, and Alexandre Koyre with Alexandre Kojeve, and even -- but this won't happen for a few years yet -- Jean Seznec with Jean Starobinski. It just happens. Nothing to be done but grin and bear it. Anyway, as I was saying -- John Jay Chapman.

And did they do Nathanael West yet? I can't remember. If not, then now's the time.

Historians: not individual volumes, perhaps, but a 19th century sampler with Fiske and Bancroft and Hay, and then an accompanying 20th-century volume, with Beard and Becker and Parrington and Perry Miller and Morgan and Handlin and Bailyn and.. well, just a bit of each.

Ambrose Bierce -- does he rate a volume? Or should he be included in a volume on 19th century humorists of the sub-Twain (just below the Mississippi steamer's Plimsoll line) variety, along with less known figures, including Bill Nye in the West and James Russell Lowell's dialect (Yawcob Strauss) verse, and others who need to be memorialized. Or has that too been done?

Famous environmentalists if they too don't have separate volumes: John Muir to Aldo Leopold to Rachel Carson right up to the grim present, where everything has come true, and with a vengeance.

Letters by those whose chief claim is their correspondence with the great. Think of all those large houses, from Oyster Bay to Kennebunkport, that  contain the two-volumed "Letters of Walter Hines Page" and also those of Colonel House to Woodrow Wilson, or if the libraries were continuously stocked, then the Holmes-Laski Letters (those more likely to be found on Martha's Vineyard than in Maine). Why not collect the best, and put them together in companion volumes of Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century, and Twentieth Century Epistolary Prose?

Medicine: a similar collection of major papers up to about 1920, when the literature may become too technical. Start with Benjamin Rush on smallpox and go on to a description of the first use of ether by Morton at what is now called the  Ether Dome at the Mass. General, then right up to the quinine-treated malaria at the Panama Canal. Lots of doctors and doctor's wives will buy it, and specialized courses in "Science Writing" are all the rage in "Writing Across the Curriculum Courses" from metallic MIT to the greenswards of Berkeley.

That's enough for now. Time for a walk. It's not going to stay warm much longer, you know. Then again, perhaps it's going to stay much warmer, much much longer. But just for today, please,  read New English Review, trust in God, and take short views.

Posted on 12/03/2006 1:12 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Annoying Americanisms

To clarify, there is bad English on both sides of the Atlantic. When I refer to annoying Americanisms, I mean bad English from America that is making its way into proper British English.

There is no equivalent. America is now Top Nation which is a Bad  Good Thing, so bad English travels in only one direction (from the uppity colonials who can't spell properly)

Americans are my favOrite people. I hope y'all realiZe that I love y'all's way of talking and think it's darn tootin' (or whatever). I'm y'all's Number One Featherstone.  Better stop there.

Posted on 12/03/2006 4:03 PM by Mary Jackson

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