These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 4, 2012.
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Decade's Lesson: Ideology is al Qaeda's Power Not Leaders
Ten years have slipped by since Osama bin Laden’s jihadists massacred thousands of men, women and children in the northeastern United States, prompting the start of what Americans came to know as the War on Terror. The current administration, however, insists on more benign terminology, choosing for political reasons to describe the conflict as an “overseas contingency operation,” and a “war against al Qaeda.” But are we making progress in this conflict, whatever the name? Gaining an objective assessment begins with asking the right questions.
Has the decade-long global confrontation with al-Qaeda been an actual war, or a series of U.S.-led military operations against a single terrorist organization? Has al-Qaeda been acting alone against the U.S., or is it merely one among many in an expansive network of jihadists? Is it U.S. policy that incites jihadists, or a sui generis ideology with a centuries-old agenda? How does the broad-based U.S.-led coalition to defeat al-Qaeda measure up to the jihadist alliance to destroy the U.S.? Have U.S.-led military efforts defeated al-Qaeda globally and within nation-states, or have the jihadists increased their penetration of democracies around the globe? These are the “right questions” that need to be asked.
Traditionally, the Muslim Brotherhood and adherents of the Wahhabi creed have focused on seizing power in their immediate region, the Middle East, through a power struggle with regional regimes, and expanding their presence in the West through “influence operations.” The violent jihadists born out of the Soviet-Afghan conflict preferred a more direct route; they were convinced that war with the United States would allow them to build support for small emirates across the region, as a prelude to a Caliphate. From the end of World War II into the 1990s, the first mode predominated—with militant efforts led by political Islamists who preferred to expand their ambit by influence and indoctrination.
In the 1990s, however, al-Qaeda assumed the lead role in the jihad against the West. Lamentably, the U.S. national security apparatus has consistently failed to recognize the terror campaign against it—or to acknowledge that the efforts of jihadists form a single, intertwined global movement that is at war with the Western world.
A strategic deficiency of this magnitude (especially over the past four years) has led the U.S. and its allies to spend and sacrifice lavishly on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, and other places, and on homeland security, while reaping comparatively meager results. The American failure to grasp the big picture of a coordinated global campaign against it has hobbled Washington bureaucrats in the confrontation with global jihadists and al-Qaeda, political Islamist networks, and the regional Iranian efforts to spread radicalization.
Indeed, today we are witnessing what is in effect a unilateral withdrawal from the field of competition against the forces of Islamism. This new direction in U.S. policy is based on two flawed assumptions: The first, which I refer to as the “jihad as yoga” view, assumes no ideological root to the conflict. Instead of waging a global integrated strategy, it posits, the U.S. is fighting “local wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq—wars in which the only possible objective was not to win, but to quit. Instead of acknowledging a struggle against a jihadi web of influence and operations, it minimizes the current U.S. effort to a limited war against a single organization: al-Qaeda. In this view, the killing of the organization’s head, Osama bin Laden, provides the predicate for declaring success, and a basis for withdrawal from the battlefield.
The second, and related, assumption identifies Islamist political forces as partners in the governance of many Middle East and Arab countries. Since 2009, for example, the administration has steadily drifted toward engagement with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, as well as with the ostensibly “moderate” wings of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban. In doing so, it has gambled that cutting a deal with one segment of the Islamist network would help to isolate al-Qaeda. But the Arab Spring of 2011 demonstrated that regional unrest, at least initially, was ignited by secular democratic yearnings, rather than Islamist fervor. Washington, by failing to adequately back the former while engaging the latter, has found itself on the sidelines of the pro-freedom struggle taking place in the Middle East and as a promoter of Islamist orthodoxy.
Today, in the tenth year of the conflict launched following 9/11, it is the overall strategic direction of Washington—rather than the state of the military struggle— that is the true issue to reflect upon. Whereas the first six years of the War on Terror took the U.S. in what was generally the right direction, flawed implementation eventually led to stalemate; more recently, ideological drift has led to strategic retreat. And now, the thing that prolongs our war with the jihadists is our inability to identify the threat—and therefore to act decisively against it
Posted on 02/04/2012 5:50 AM by Walid Phares
Saturday, 4 February 2012
From The Money-Can-Buy-Everything-Except-Civilization Department
In a reminder of the heady days of high-priced art sales, Cezanne's "The Card Players" [on has sold for more than $250 million, a record price for any work of art.
But it hasn't gone to a major museum such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld or the Barnes Foundation. Those institutions already own works from Cezanne's series depicting card players. This one is owned by the oil-rich country of Qatar.
Word just leaked out on the 2011 sale from a private collector, and was reported by Vanity Fair's website. The sale price leaves the old record -- reportedly $140 million paid for a Jackson Pollock in the pre-recession year of 2006 -- in the dust.
Yes, "$250 million is a fortune," fine arts appraiser Victor Wiener told Vanity Fair. "But you take any art-history course and a 'Card Players' is likely in it. It's a major, major image."
The sale had been rumored for months, he told the magazine, and now "everyone will use this price as a point of departure; it changes the whole art-market structure."
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's "The Card Players" depicts four men and is believed to be the first in the series by the French post-Impressionist. Next came a larger version, which includes a small child, in the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania. The last three depict just two card players.
The Muslim Arabs wjp bought the Cezanne did so not because they have taste -- their taste is no better than that of Eli Broad, or Charles Saatchi, or the people who award the Tate Prize -- but because Cezanne is so famous, and his Card-Player pictures so famous.. Too bad one can't convince the free-spending Qataris, with their unearned hundreds of billions, to buy crap instead of Cezanne. There is so much art junk around -- Koons, Sherman, Beuys, Richter, Catelan, almost anyone from the last few decades shown by the showman and entrepreneur Larry Gagosian -- so why not unload it on the Gulf Arabs, with their unmerited wealth that deserves to be taken from them. They need to be separated from more of their allowance, and the arms buying, and the palaces, and the private 747s, and the planeloads of Western callgirls and food flown in daily from Hediard and Fauchon, and the stables of race-horses, and the bustard-hunting expeditions to Pakistan, and the hotels particuliers in Paris and London, and the Plantagenet hunting-lodges, and the gentlemen's farms in McLean and possibly even riding-to-hounds mellonesque Upperville, just haven't used up enough of the money that they get because the miserable places they rule over happen to sit on lots of oil, or lots of gas, discovered by, produced by, distributed by, the very Westerners who found a use for such oil and gas in the first place.and the payments to Western journalists and businessmen and African rulers and diplomats, just doesn't, in the case of the tinier sheikhdoms
Posted on 02/04/2012 6:57 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Future Tense, VI: Under the Scientific Bo Tree
Le métier d’homme est difficile.
—Georges Simenon, Le neige était sale
In his memoirs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle says that the philosophy of Moleschott was all the rage when he was a medical student in Edinburgh during the late 1870s and early 1880s. Jacob Moleschott (1822–93) was a Dutch physiologist who had also studied philosophy in his youth and was a militant materialist. He is remembered today, if at all, for a couple of aphorisms that sum up his philosophy: “There is no thought without phosphorus” and “The brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile.”
I suppose it is true that, metaphorically speaking, thought can become as blocked as bile, and even more irritant in its effects. But this summary, and surely very premature, dismissal of the puzzle of human consciousness and all its associated problems did not long satisfy Conan Doyle, who perhaps went to the other extreme and came to believe in everything from spirit messages to ectoplasm and fairies at the bottom of the garden. Overall, it is not easy to say which of the pair was the more irrational, Conan Doyle or Moleschott, though it is easy to say which was the more attractive. If I had to choose, however, I should award the palm for irrationality to Moleschott because he was so unconsciously prey to the sin of pride, believing himself to have fathomed the unfathomable (give or take an experiment or two).
Of course, Moleschott was neither the first nor the last to suffer from this beguiling scientistic illusion. Some of the less self-assured among his predecessors and successors have claimed that, while there is no such realm as the unfathomable, there still remains much that is unfathomed. For some reason, however, there has been a tendency for even these more modest types to slide gradually from the belief that everything is explicable to the belief that they have explained everything (again, more or less), and that they have therefore achieved enlightenment, as it were, under the scientific bo tree.
The question of what advance in human self-understanding is to be expected from the almost exponential growth in technological sophistication is not an easy one—though perhaps it ought to be if, as is sometimes claimed, we are fast approaching such understanding. But even the question of what constitutes self-understanding is far from easy. Very often my patients would tell me that they would stop drinking to excess (or indulging in some other kind of patently self-destructive behavior) if only they understood why they did it. “What,” I asked them, “would count as an explanation? Give me an example.”
They were never able to do so. Their very attempts died on their lips as they made them. Was it their genes, their peculiar biochemistry, their upbringing, their drinking environment, the price of alcohol? (There is a strong inverse relationship in any society between the quantity of alcohol consumed per capita and its price.) Some algebraic combination of all these? No human being believes or can possibly believe this of himself, except perhaps for self-exculpatory purposes that he knows in his heart to be dishonest. It is possible to believe it only of others. The man who claims to understand himself in this fashion is like an army that declares victory and goes home.
Of course, intellectuals are as avid for fame and power as for truth, and deep skepticism or the acknowledgment of radical ignorance is not the way to create a following. Claims to total understanding, at least in outline, of human existence have not been lacking, most notably in the last century by Marxists and Freudians, with Behaviorists coming in a poor third. No human conduct ever puzzled a psychoanalyst, at least not for long, only until he had successfully fitted a few facts into the Procrustean bed of his theoretical presuppositions; likewise no Marxist possessed of the laws of dialectical materialism ever found any historical development surprising. And since the numbers of intellectuals in the last century desirous of a non-religious explanation of everything increased very rapidly, the number of people thinking that the heart had been plucked out of man’s mystery was greater than ever before. Meanwhile, of course, men continued to behave badly and history continued to produce its surprises.
It is easy to see the attraction, or seductiveness, of what one might call Moleschottian reductionism. For example, if an elderly patient were to begin to behave in an uncharacteristic way, to experience hallucinations, act aggressively, and so forth, and the doctor discovered that his blood had a low level of sodium, the doctor would consider that the change in behavior was sufficiently explained. Restoring the level of sodium in the blood would almost certainly restore the patient’s behavior to normal. Of course, the question would still arise as to why the level of sodium fell in the first place (a question that must be asked in order to restore it to its correct level), but the doctor would not waste his time on the metaphysical question of the relation of biochemistry to consciousness. He would consider merely that he had solved a problem.
Continue reading here.
Posted on 02/04/2012 8:12 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Saturday, 4 February 2012
In Syria, The Beat Goes On
From The New York Times:
Feb. 4, 2012
Death Toll Is Said to Rise in Syrian City of Homs
BEIRUT — Syria opposition leaders raised the death toll to 260 in a military assault Saturday on the ravaged central city of Homs, an attack that opposition leaders described as the government’s deadliest in the nearly 11-month-old uprising.
Reports were contradictory, given the difficulty of communications with Homs, and the Syrian government flatly denied the toll, calling it an attempt at propaganda ahead of a United Nations Security Council meeting Saturday on Syria. But videos smuggled out of the city and reports by opposition activists showed a harrowing barrage of mortar shells and gunfire that left hundreds more wounded in the city.
“It’s an unprecedented attack,” said Mohammed Saleh, an opposition activist from Homs who recently fled to a nearby town to escape the mounting strife there.
As word spread of the barrage, opposition protests broke out Saturday at Syrian embassies around the world, including Egypt, Germany and Kuwait.
Accounts by activists, independently basing their information on what they described as contacts in Homs, said the barrage was apparently unleashed after defectors attacked two military checkpoints and kidnapped soldiers. One activist put the number of abducted soldiers at 13, another 19. They suggested that enraged commanders then ordered the assault, which lasted from about 9 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday, focusing on the neighborhood of Khaldiya. Five other neighborhoods were also assaulted.
At one point, a resident said, people left the top floors of residential buildings, fearful that shelling they described as random would wreck their homes.
The precise number of dead was almost impossible to obtain. The Syrian National Council, which has sought to act as an umbrella group for the opposition, said more than 260 were killed. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the toll in Khaldiya and the other neighborhoods was 217. Both groups, along with other activists, said the wounded numbered in the hundreds, though again, there was no specific number.
One opposition activist said the Syrian military suffered casualties, too.
“It’s a real massacre in every sense of the word,” said a resident in Khaldiya, who gave his name as Abu Jihad. “I saw bodies of women and children lying on roads beheaded. It’s horrible and inhuman. It was a long night helping people get to hospitals.”
As it has since the uprising started, the Syrian government accused media and activists of fantastically exaggerating the toll. In a report Saturday on the Syrian state news agency, SANA, it complained of “frenetic media campaigns against Syria disseminating false information about Syria Army shelling of civilians in different blamed Arab satellite channels for inflaming the strife in different Syrian governorates.”
The agency, citing its correspondents across the country, declared that “life is normal in the Damascus countryside, Hama and Homs.”
Near the border with Lebanon, in western Syria, Homs has been a critical hub of the uprising, which stands as one of the bloodiest of the Arab world’s revolts. The city mirrors Syria’s own diversity, with a Sunni Muslim majority that has backed the uprising. But at least three neighborhoods are populated largely by Alawites, a heterodox strain of Islam that provides much of the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
In past months, sectarian strife there has dangerously intensified, offering a grim window on what a broader civil war could look like in Syria. Though protests started peacefully there, defectors have begun operating checkpoints, and tit-for-tat kidnappings and killings have paralyzed parts of the city, where something as simple as the choice of a television news station can belie a person’s loyalty. Some activists have tried to bridge the sectarian divide, but even they fear the violence may overwhelm those attempts.
“The army has weapons, and the people have weapons,” one opposition activist said on condition of anonymity, recounting Saturday’s bloodshed. “Syria is finished for me. It is a civil war and nothing will save us anymore.”
Funerals took place Saturday in Homs, as a relative calm was reported in the city. At one funeral for 20 people, a resident said, armed defectors were offering protection.
The bloodshed reverberated around the world, demonstrating the power of social media. As reports of the mounting toll were carried by Twitter and Facebook, protests gathered at Syrian missions in the Middle East and Europe. As many as 100 demonstrators stormed the Syrian embassy in Cairo at about 3 a.m. Saturday, tearing its iron gate off it hinges, burning parts of the first floor, and demolishing much of the ambassador’s office. By the morning, the floors were littered with broken glass, furniture that was torn apart or burned and the detritus of office equipment.
It was the second time in two weeks protesters had breached the embassy, but the previous attack had destroyed not much more than framed pictures of Mr. Assad.
Amman Arsan, the embassy’s media counselor, said he saw no connection between the events in Homs and what he called “the terrorist attack” on the Cairo mission. "The Syrian army is conducting an operation against terrorist groups in Hama and Homs,” he said. “This is a crime. Nothing in the whole world justifies this.”
The simultaneous attacks on Syrian embassies in Berlin, Kuwait, Amman, Cairo and elsewhere, he said, was evidence of a coordinated assault by Syria’s enemies.
Posted on 02/04/2012 7:24 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Excerpts from Notes from a Simple Citizen, forthcoming Spring 2012
9 May 2001
But let’s get back to logic: Deborah Sontag, writing in the IHT, congratulates the Mitchell Report for its objectivity; it doesn’t blame the Palestinians or the Israelis for the outburst of violence in the summer of 2000, neither does it exonerate one or the other. This is what passes for objectivity in our times.
Bashar al Assad is not burdened with such scruples. He blames the Israelis today, and the Jews forever. His slurs, upheld and relayed by homegrown religious authorities, were repeatedly thrown in the face of the visiting Pope without provoking the slightest reaction. To each his mission, to each his logic: the Pope’s spokesman maintains that his opposition to antisemitism being established beyond the shadow of a doubt there was no need to reiterate it in front of his Syrian hosts who, apparently satisfied by this eloquent silence, explained that the Pope didn’t have to articulate approval of this condemnation of the Jews because his presence alone was sufficient proof of assent.
26 juin 2001
Bashar al Assad is at one and the same time a figure of continuity, pursuing his father’s efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and a president in rupture with the legacy, initiating tremendous changes in Syria: freedom of speech and association, an open economic system …
We mustn’t forget that for twenty years Syria disputed Lebanon with Israel before finally expelling the Israelis from Lebanese territory, a major victory for Syria. Now we must understand that Syria had never accepted being separated from Lebanon, which it considers to be an integral part of its territory. This is why there is no Syrian ambassador to Lebanon.
The visit of Bashar al Assad is an opportunity for France to expand its role in the resolution of the Mideast conflict. Syria hopes to see France, with the European Union, act as a counterweight to the crushing pro-Israel influence of the United States that, it should be said, has done nothing to solve the conflict.
It’s true that President Bashar al Assad made some awkward statements [see May 9] . But we know that those who contest his visit are motivated by the intention to embarrass the President of the République, in fact, to embarrass France. Those awkward statements were meant for domestic consumption. Day after day Syria sees Palestinians killed, bombarded, humiliated, occupied. The Golan Heights are occupied. I do not think he will repeat those statements during his visit to France.
I know what you think, after reading the above. You think I stopped by the Syrian embassy (we are not yet a province of Syria) to pick up some literature on my way to the demonstration (intended to undermine the foundations of the République Française). No, I simply tuned in to Radio France Internationale at about 9 :30 PM. A specialist on Syria and an ambassador--no doubt former—got the red carpet mike treatment from one of those journalists who invites you to say what’s on your mind and would never have the effrontery to contradict or even question you.
It’s crystal clear and unambiguous. State-owned and operated taxpayer- financed RFI is not at all bothered by the “awkward statements” of Bashar al Assad nor by his War Minister’s call to murder. When the glory of France is at stake and an opportunity is offered to hoist itself up to the level of the big bad superpower, the folks targeted by those little awkward statements can just move over and clear the way.
And what are we supposed to do? What should we say? It’s not a reprimand, not a rhetorical question. We say and do so very much and why is it that the message just doesn’t get through?
France is sinking, France is excluding itself from the best conflict of the decade, France lowers itself, shrinks, makes a fool of itself and our boys at RFI think they’re so clever to throw mud at us, Jews of France, with a shilling for Syria broadcast. Bashar Al Assad dines at the Élysée and our public radio rolls out the red carpet for two airheads and all these punks are so proud to be doing an advert for the Syrial killers. They still think it’s going to stop with the Jews!
Posted on 02/04/2012 8:41 AM by Nidra Poller
Saturday, 4 February 2012
La France Chante Son PrÃ©pas Ou KhÃ¢gne Ã Sucre
Prépas, l'excellence au prix fort
LE MONDE CULTURE ET IDEES | 03.02.12
La France a l'amour vache. En envoyant ceux qu'elle considère comme les meilleurs de ses enfants en classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles, elle leur inflige un régime dont la rigueur étonne ailleurs, dans les pays nordiques et anglo-saxons notamment. Pour un pays qui s'autoflagelle si volontiers au motif qu'on n'y travaillerait pas assez, c'est remarquable.
A peine sortis d'un bac auquel ils ont généralement obtenu une mention "Bien" ou "Très bien", sélectionnés avant l'examen sur leur parcours scolaire, ces jeunes de 17 à 20 ans vont connaître, pendant deux ans, parfois trois, des semaines de travail de soixante heures en moyenne (autour de 35 heures de cours, le reste chez eux). Ils seront évalués avec sévérité. Leurs enseignants utilisent volontiers un arsenal de méthodes pédagogiques qu'ils ont eux-mêmes connues, et qui sont destinées à endurcir : contrôles longs et fréquents, notes très basses, classements permanents.
Leur vie sociale se réduira souvent à leur entourage familial et scolaire. Beaucoup seront amenés à abandonner la musique, le sport ou le théâtre. On leur demandera de se consacrer avec une exclusivité jalouse à un apprentissage des savoirs et des méthodes afin de pouvoir reproduire avec la plus grande rapidité les modèles académiques. Ce dispositif conduit à une série de concours, au terme desquels un certain nombre intégreront les grandes écoles, où de super-profs finiront de polir ceux qui seront les cadres de la nation. Les autres, s'ils y sont autorisés, pourront rempiler pour une troisième année et retenter leur chance, ou partiront se chercher d'autres chemins dans le vaste monde.
S'il n'opérait que la sélection de quelques-uns au détriment de tous les autres, il est probable que le système ne survivrait pas. Sa force - et son attrait - repose sur les travers de l'université qui perd plus de la moitié de ses effectifs en trois ans. Elle résulte aussi du caractère généraliste de son enseignement, qui assure aux élèves des connaissances que l'enseignement secondaire seul n'a pas permis d'acquérir, ou d'étayer. Ceux qui ne seront pas admis dans les grandes écoles utiliseront ailleurs les acquis de ces deux années à marche forcée.
A SOCIÉTÉ CRUELLE, FORMATION BRUTALE
A société cruelle, formation brutale. Dans le pamphlet effaré qu'il consacre à l'école française (On achève bien les écoliers, Grasset, 2006), l'Américain Peter Gumbel compare les prépas françaises à l'armée américaine en guerre, telle qu'elle est représentée dans le film Full Metal Jacket, de Stanley Kubrick. La comparaison est outrancière mais elle est historiquement juste. Créées au XVIIIe siècle, institutionnalisées sous la Révolution française puis le Premier Empire, les grandes écoles et la préparation qui devait y conduire étaient initialement destinées à former des ingénieurs et des cadres pour l'armée. Il leur en reste ce côté "Sir, yes Sir !" et cette ambiance de service militaire qui laisse à ceux qui l'ont connu des souvenirs ambigus, mélange de souffrance et de fierté. Ce que Gumbel stigmatise comme un "syndrome de Stockholm".
"Quand Napoléon crée les élites de la nation, ajoute la psychanalyste Claire-Marine François-Poncet, il remplace la noblesse de naissance par une noblesse de mérite. L'effort qu'on lui demande doit être à la hauteur des catastrophes de la Révolution et des guerres napoléoniennes. On a tué l'aristocratie de privilège. Il faut payer le crime."
"LA MOITIÉ DE LA CLASSE ÉTAIT SOUS ANTIDÉPRESSEURS"
Il n'existe pas de statistique du mal-vivre en classes préparatoires, de données sur les suicides, maladies, anorexies... Une étude avait bien été initiée, au début des années 1990. "Nous n'avons jamais eu ni l'argent ni l'adhésion des grandes écoles" pour la faire, expliquait la psychologue et épidémiologiste Marie Choquet, dans Le Monde Magazine, en 2010. Mais on peut aussi s'asseoir à une table, et laisser parler les étudiants, principalement en lettres et en maths (khâgneux et taupins, les structures fermées générant leur lexique). Dans un premier temps, ils insistent loyalement sur ce qu'ils ont gagné. Ils ont "appris à travailler", "à s'organiser". Ils y ont trouvé une "ouverture d'esprit". Ils y ont gagné beaucoup de "rapidité", une grande facilité à "parler de tout". Et tout cela, certainement, est "inestimable ".
Chez les très bons élèves, ceux que leur triple héritage bourdieusien (social, financier, culturel) sur-adapte au système ou ceux, plus rares, que des dons singuliers distinguent, le constat en reste là : deux ou trois années enrichissantes et plutôt heureuses.
Mais chez les autres, les juste bons, les moins conformes, le discours se fissure vite. Il apparaît que l'inestimable se paie, cher. Ce sont les nuits de trop peu de sommeil, les repas avalés en vingt minutes, l'épuisement. Le sentiment de l'insuffisance, de l'incapacité, entretenu par quelques enseignants, minoritaires mais marquants, sur des élèves qu'ils "cassent". "Sans mentir, dit Valentine, qui sort d'une khâgne dans le nord de la France, la moitié de la classe était sous antidépresseurs." Pour Lucie, qui a quitté un lycée parisien pour un autre en banlieue, "plus humain" : "En khâgne, ils ont l'air morts. Ils vivent sous une pression totale."
Samuel, qui sort d'une classe étoile (le haut du panier scientifique) dans un lycée des Hauts-de-Seine, se souvient de "cette fille qui travaillait tellement qu'elle ne se faisait pas à manger. On l'a vue perdre dix kilos en quelques semaines". Salomé, qui a abandonné l'hypokhâgne pour préparer les Arts Déco, se revoit se lever "très tôt et fixer longtemps le plafond ; plus rien ne passait dans ma tête". Chez certains, le régime aboutit à la paralysie. "Cette année, je n'arrive plus à rédiger une dissert de philo, dit Lucie. Je me dis qu'il faut que je montre mes idées. J'ai trop peur." "Les moqueries publiques en colle sont cruelles, ajoute Clara, en khâgne à Paris. Je ne sais pas comment on est censé réagir dans des situations pareilles. Moi, je me recroqueville."
On leur a dit et répété qu'ils étaient la crème et le gratin, et les voilà dans le même temps traités comme des enfants un peu rétifs. Pour Samuel : "Je n'avais jamais eu l'impression, avant, d'être un délinquant qu'il fallait remettre dans le droit chemin." Il s'interroge : "C'est une politique d'intimidation dont je ne vois pas très bien l'utilité." Lors d'une épreuve de concours blanc (une semaine et demie d'examens, six heures d'épreuves par jour), Valentine fait un malaise et se retrouve à l'infirmerie "bondée d'élèves de prépa aux yeux rouges". Le médecin qu'elle consulte lui conseille de tout arrêter. L'enseignant auprès duquel elle s'excuse constate : "Je commence à en avoir marre de tous ces gens malades en pleine épreuve." Clara note : "Les absences prennent une importance considérable. Même avec un bon classement, si tu as des absences, tu n'es pas admis en khâgne. On a tous peur d'être malades."
"Est-ce qu'on est obligés d'en passer par là ?, se demande Lucie, qui n'est pas la seule à s'interroger. Tu es tellement stressé que tu n'as plus le temps de voir l'essentiel, de bien travailler. Tu survoles, avec l'impression de faire toujours la même chose." "Tout est très rhétorique, on apprend à parler de ce qu'on ne connaît pas. La pensée n'est jamais globale", regrette Hélène, en khâgne dans le 5e arrondissement de Paris. "A un moment, ça devient contre-productif, note Samuel. J'ai redécouvert le raisonnement mathématique en arrivant en fac."
Posted on 02/04/2012 11:07 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
A Literary Interlude: "Il Faut Laisser Maisons..." (Pierre Ronsard)
Il faut laisser maisons et vergers et jardins
Vaisselles et vaisseaux que l’artisan burine,
Et chanter son obsèque en la façon du Cygne,
Qui chante son trépas sur les bords Méandrins.
C’est fait, j’ai dévidé le cours de mes destins,
J’ai vécu, j’ai rendu mon nom assez insigne,
Ma plume vole au ciel pour être quelque signe,
Loin des appas mondains qui trompent les plus fins.
Heureux qui ne fut onc, plus heureux qui retourne
En rien, comme il était, plus heureux qui séjourne,
D’homme, fait nouvel ange, auprès de Jésus Christ,
Laissant pourrir çà-bas sa dépouille de boue,
Dont le sort, la Fortune, et le Destin se joue,
Franc des liens du corps pour n’être qu’un esprit.
Posted on 02/04/2012 11:19 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Libya Builds A New Nation
Arab Spring's First Fruits (Libyan Division)
Libyan diplomat was tortured, died in detention, rights group says
February 3, 2012
(CNN) -- A Libyan diplomat died 24 hours after he was detained by a militia based in the city of Zintan, Human Rights Watch said.
The French Foreign Ministry confirmed Omar Brebesh's death in prison, though it did not have any information as to the circumstances. The ministry said Brebesh, 62, had served as the charge d'affairs in France from 2004 to 2008.
CNN's attempts to reach Libyan officials were not immediately successful. However, Libya's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Shalgham, told the United Nations this month that Libya does not approve of any abuse and was working to stop any such practices.
Brebesh was detained January 19 and appears to have died from torture, Human Rights Watch said Thursday after viewing a preliminary autopsy report.
The autopsy report said the cause of death included multiple bodily injuries and fractured ribs. Photos of Brebesh's body, seen by Human Rights Watch, show welts, cuts, and the apparent removal of toenails.
The rights monitoring group said it also read a Tripoli police report that said Brebesh had died from torture and that an unnamed suspect had confessed to killing him.
His death comes amid various reports of detainee abuse and sharp criticism that Libya's new leaders have failed to establish the rule of law.
Amnesty International said this month that several detainees have died after being tortured in recent weeks. And the medical charity Doctors Without Borders said it was halting its work in detention centers in Misrata because detainees were tortured and were denied urgent medical care.
Human Rights Watch said Libya's militias will continue torture and abuse unless they are held to account.
"Libya's leaders should show the political will to prosecute people who commit serious crimes, regardless of their role in the uprising," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the group's Middle East and North Africa director.
"The rule of law, and punishment for crimes, apply to all Libyans, including those who fought against Moammar Gadhafi," she said.
Brebesh's son Ziad told Human Rights Watch that his father voluntarily submitted to an investigation by the Al-Shohada Ashura militia at their base in the Tripoli neighborhood of Crimea. Brebesh had been called there for questioning.
Ziad escorted his father, who entered the base at 5:30 p.m. January 19. Ziad said he stayed inside for tea before being told to wait outside.
After 45 minutes, militia members took Ziad away to retrieve one of the family cars and a firearm. He returned later that night but was prevented from entering the area where his father was being interrogated, Human Rights Watch said.
The next day, following a visit to the Al-Shohada Ashura base, the family heard that Brebesh's body had appeared at a hospital in Zintan, about 100 kilometers southwest of Tripoli. Ziad's brother Muhammad went there in the evening and described what he saw:
"I saw his face. There was blood on his nose and mouth. But I didn't see the rest of his body or his face from the other side. There was a bump on his forehead. After that, I kissed him and that was it. Later, when we saw the other side of his face at the hospital in Tripoli, it looked like his jaw was broken, like his face was not in the right place."
Brebesh's family showed photographs of his body to Human Rights Watch that revealed welts and extensive bruising on the abdomen, lacerations on both legs, and a large wound on the sole of the left foot. Some of his toenails appear to have been removed, the rights group said.
Posted on 02/04/2012 11:29 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
A Musical Interlude: En Cueillant La Noisette (Fred Adison Orch., voc. R. Toussaint)
Sing along, if you wish, with the lyrics here:
Un jour, la tendre Annette,
Le cœur plein de désir,
Délaissant sa chambrette,
A pris bien du plaisir
En cueillant la noisette et la fraise des bois
En cueillant la noisette et en gaulant des noix
En cueillant la noisette et la fraise des bois
En cueillant la noisette et en gaulant des noix
Elle croisa Gustave
Le garçon, fort ému,
Prit son bel accent grave
Et son accent aigu
Il la prit par la taille,
Il la sentit frémir
Et dans ses yeux canailles,
Il lut bien du plaisir
Il la prit par la taille,
La prit par le menton,
Elle, dans la bataille,
Tomba sur le gazon
Ah! Maudite culbute
Jugez du désarroi!
Le gredin, dans sa chute,
Avait vu... son émoi... Oh
En cueillant la noisette et la fraise des bois
En cueillant la noisette et en gaulant des noix
Dans cette pirouette,
Elle eut le cœur troublé,
Elle perdit la tête
Tout en perdant... le pied
En cueillant la noisette et la fraise des bois
En cueillant la noisette et en gaulant des noix
Sa robe, sa coiffure
Ne pourront plus servir
Belles, de l’aventure
Gardez le souvenir.
Posted on 02/04/2012 11:34 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Yemen Builds A New Nation
Report: Al-Qaeda will transfer war hotbed from Afghanistan to Yemen and North Africa
| Yemen Post Staff
The Yemen-based Abaad Centre for Studies and Researches has cautioned that some factions seek to collapse Yemeni cities militarily under the pretext of Al-Qaeda as happened in Radda and Abyan provinces scenarios.
"This scenario may be carried out in Ibb, Dhala'a, Lahj, and, Hadhramout and other cities would be controlled under the pretext of fighting Al-Qaeda as it is expected to happen in Dhamar, Taiz, and Hodeidah.
In a periodic report, Abaad pointed out that Al-Qaeda has no systematic structure and its goals are foggy, affirming that it lacks strategic visions.
"Therefore, Al-Qaeda was penetrated by local and international bodies, and only those bodies take advantages of Al-Qaeda," added the centre. "Even some figures benefited from Al-Qaeda as that clearly appeared during its control and withdrawal of Al-Amria in Rada when Tariq Al-Dhahab could get his brother out of the custody."
"There are figures affiliated to Al-Qaeda, some were in Abyan and others who escaped jails, are currently existed in Sana'a, and some Al-Qaeda fugitives live with the displaced people inside schools in Aden."
The report ruled out that Al-Qaeda has the ability to take over any town, if it does not receive direct and indirect logistic support by some sides that are in connection to the power transfer process.
"Al-Dhahab withdrew from Radda after he failed to recruit enough numbers to completely control the city as well as he got his main demand, release of his bother" the report added.
The periodic report revealed that Al-Dhahab was not the real leader of Al-Qaeda in Radda.
It further cited that Al-Qaeda senior leaders, Nasser Al-Wohaish, the leader of Al-Qaeda, and Ebrahim Darwish, another Al-Qaeda leader were at Alzahir district of Baidha governorate when Radda was taken over.
"Decisions were taken by Al-Qaeda Shura council consisted of 20 persons who are selected of 60 persons, the real division of Al-Qaeda which is called " Almuhajreen" which includes a Saudi and Pakistani nationals. Their duties were not external protection. Some Bedouins, tribesmen and other escapees joined Al-Qaeda in its fighting with the aim of getting money and others were contained as a result of Al-Dhahab's charisma in the area.
"While the real leader was not known in Radda, there was a field leader who is called Abu Hamza and another high-ranking leader called "Abu Hamam" , and they were considered the main decion-makers in Radda"
Abaad said that assassination incidents against officers and soldiers of the Political Security and other security services were clear-cut indicators of Al-Qaeda expansion.
"Before Al-Qaeda control on Radda, three of the Political Security officials were killed in Baidah, capital of the governorate, and Al-Qaeda was behind their assassination," the report added "One of these officers, Ahmed Samba was kidnapped and executed by Al-Qaeda in Abyan,"
"Security services believe that Al-Qaeda was behind killing of approximately 70 security officers including 20 ones affiliated to the Political Security. Most of them were killed in the eastern and Southern governorates in the period from January 2011 to January 2012. This number is 25 percent of all those officers and soldiers killed since the eruption of anti-regime protests."
The report affirmed that Al-Qaeda used the Yemeni political gap and the power transfer process to strengthen its control, pointing out that Saleh's regime directly or indirectly contributed in Al-Qaeda control on Abyan and Radda.
"As Al-Qaeda took over Al-Qaeda in Zinjibar in April 2011 and seized control on the Central Security camp without fighting, it was supposed that Major General Adel Al-Masri, nephew of the Interior Ministry, be investigated.
"However, Al-Masri was appointed as a security director of Radda a day after the signature of the GCC-brokered power transfer deal," the report added.
"After Almasri became the first security official in Rada, Al-Qaeda could seized control Radda at the same way it took over Zinjibar,"
"As a result of Al-Qaeda operations, some regional and international powers would move to Yemen's territorial water, particularly the United states,"
"Its military move is motivated by presidential elections race, particularly after it achieved victories in Afghanistan and Yemen as well as the success of its covert operations which led to the killing of Bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki,"
"Pentagon said it deployed a large floating base to serve as a "mother ship" for commando teams to the Middle East as tensions rise with Iran, Al Qaeda in Yemen and Somali pirates, but the main goal was the implementation of an agreement with Taliban for which the American forces would leave Afghanistan in return for allowing Al-Qaeda leaders would exit Afghanistan with guarantees of not endangering their lives,"
"Because Iran is interested in getting Americans and Al-Qaeda out Afghanistan, so it would facilitate the mission," added the report.
"As for the US-Iranian competition at Bab-el-Mandeb strait, particularly after Tehran threatened to close Hormuz strait, the report said that Americans seek to secure Bab-el-Mandeb, and then expand to the east Africa, but they know that Iran's existence in the African Horn would make them accept share as happened in Afghanistan and Iraq" the report concluded.
It expected that Washington would support Turkey's efforts to decrease the ceiling of Iran's demands which start with the United States' suspension of its support to the Iranian opposition and ends with turning blind eyes to Iran's repression against Sunnis in Balochistan , Ahwaz and Kurdistan.
It also cited that Washington and Tehran would reach an agreement that put an end to bargaining, pointing out that the Gulf Cooperation Council states would have their roles in the agreement as they are considered the closest partners to the United States.
"Yemen could be included in bargaining and Iran may abandon its influence in the African Horn, Yemen, Syria , Bahrain, particularly if it felt that it is fragile from inside and that its "Guardianship of the Jurist" system faces collapse in conjunction with parliamentary elections and Arab spring revolutions" it added.
The report concluded that bargaining reveals that Al-Qaeda organization is used as a justification for regional and international race to took over region's resources.
It ultimately called the Yemeni Consensus government to set an emergency plan to deal with Al-Qaeda which includes economic reforms, political openness, debates and dialogues with all Yemeni forces including Al-Qaeda and the Houthi group.
"The government must take into consideration the military and security action as the last solution," the report said.
Posted on 02/04/2012 11:41 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Holocaust Center Should be Commended for BESA Exhibit
Exhibit that Proves the Exception to the Rule
I attended the excellent presentation at the Holocaust Museum on Jan. 29 and was impressed by the photos and film portraying the courageous acts of heroism among Muslims in occupied Albania during World War II. No other Muslim community displayed such a commitment to humanitarian aid to their Jewish neighbors.
When the question is asked why was not similar behavior encountered anywhere else in the Muslim world in that period, it is imperative to understand what made the Albanian brand of Islam so different, and the Besa tradition of hospitality and honor so wholly atypical.
Indeed it was startling to see Albanian Muslims proudly displaying their Certificates of Honor from Israel, listening to Albanian politicians boasting of their close ties with friends and colleagues in the Albanian-Israeli Friendship Association and listening to veterans among the former partisans who fought against the German and Italian occupying forces recount their exploits and members of the Communist Party singing their International hymn.
What is also worth remembering is that Albania, Turkey and Iran were the first three Muslim countries to extend diplomatic recognition to the State of Israel in 1949-50 and all three incurred the wrath of the entire Muslim world for refusing to go along with the invasion of Palestine by the armies of six Arab countries in order to crush the nascent Jewish state in May 1948. These three states were long regarded throughout the Muslim world as “renegades.” Albania’s recognition of Israel was de jure (like that of the USSR and not simply de facto as was the case with American recognition).
The Muslims of Albania have traditionally been divided into two main communities: those associated with Sunni Islam and those associated with the “deviant” Bektashi Sufis, a mystical Dervish order that arrived in Albania during the Ottoman period in the 18th and 19th centuries. This sect is to this day considered heretical by most mainstream Muslims. The Bektashis are found primarily in the lands of the south where the Tosk dialect of Albania prevails (in contrast to the Gheg variety in the North).
It is in the South that we find most of the courageous acts of Muslim aid to the Jews in World War II. In the North and especially in neighboring Bosnia where there has always been a strong Albanian minority, the record of collaboration with the Axis and even participation in a German organized SS unit (The Skanderberg Dvision) is very different.
The 21st Mountain Waffen Skanderberg Division was established by Heinrich Himmler in March 1944 and named after George Kastrioti Skanderberg, the national hero of Albanians who resisted Ottoman invasion for 25 years. Its purpose was to crush the resistance movement in Yugoslavia and promote ethnic Albanian identity and possible creation of a “Greater Albania” but it had little success as most of its conscripts were not enthusiastic about their being dragged into the conflict.
The tradition of close Albanian cooperation with their Jewish neighbors and even pro-Israel sentiments is still alive today. On a recent three-day trip in November 2011 to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and in meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha criticized unilateral efforts by the Palestinian Authority to achieve the status of a sovereign state. He stated that “Such moves do not advance a political solution. The Palestinians must understand that this is not the way. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians must pass through direct negotiations and promises of security for the two states.”
Berisha has sought to boost business ties with Israel further, encouraging investors to participate in projects such as the construction of new hydropower stations and development of joint projects in the areas of agriculture, fishing, education, tourism, information technology and energy.
Albania’s readiness in April 1949 to recognize the State of Israel, although not followed by an exchange of ambassadors, was a courageous act. It demonstrated the unwillingness, shared with Turkey and Iran (all three are non-Arab Muslim countries) not to fall prey to Muslim extremism, so common in the Arab world to promote hostility to Israel as a religious issue.
Turkey, the first Muslim state to recognize Israel, had under its national leader Kemal Attaturk completely divorced Islam from the state institutions and legal codes of the Turkish Republic and the Iranian Shah, who also recognized Israel in 1950 was a pro-Western leader who realized that economic development and progress for his people would most likely be realized if he followed the Turkish model of secularism.
The Holocaust Museum is to be commended for the Besa exhibit and adding an important and moving positive portrayal of the record of Righteous Gentiles.
Originally printed in the The Heritage- Florida Jewish News, Feb. 3, 2012.
Posted on 02/04/2012 2:08 PM by Norman Berdichevsky
Saturday, 4 February 2012
A Cinematic -- And Pointed -- Interlude: The Last Scene Of High Noon
Posted on 02/04/2012 4:57 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Except That Israel, Alas, Much As It Might Like To, Can Never Throw That Badge In The Dust
Everyone pulls out -- all the townsfolk -- as the gang finally arrives, the gang that is not a threat only to the forces of order, that is to Gary Cooper, but to everyone. For if they kill him, they will do what they want with the town. In the end, he finds himself, despite earlier signs of others perhaps joining him, all alone. So he does what he must, dealing with the forces of evil as he surely has had to do in the past.. He rids the town of the malevolent gang that was a menace to everyone, and and without the aid of anyone save a winsome Grace Kelly who, at the very last, gets off the train, runs back, and ends up managing to kill the penultimate member of the gang, even shotting him -- quite justifiably -- in the back. After it is over, when those who had abandoned him emerge, relieved that he’s taken care of everything, and hoping somehow that he will be able to overlook or forgive how they behaved, he glances briefly at them in quiet disgust, and pulls off his badge, and throws it into the dust. He’s had it. He's had it with them.. He's sick of them. He's not going to do their work for them. And the townsfolk can only mill about, and the camera pulls back, so as not to show their individual faces of confusion and embarrassment. and not knowing quite what to do or even how to look at each other..
If anyone in the Western world thinks that Israel will ever again listen to anything anyone in that world presumes to preach or lecture or hector that permanently beleaguered tiny country, and its citizens, as to what it must or must not do for “the sake of peace” or in order that the spoiled and frightened Western world need not worry about a most temporary loss of a few drops of oil, or so that it can put off, to its own great future sorrow, confronting the problem and threat of Islam, and of Muslims who acquire the most dangerous of weapons, if after this is all over the Western world, the Obama administration, the European Union apparatchiks, the inneffective I.A.E.A., the corrupt and corruptingUnited Nations, if anyone dares after this is all over to try to get Israel to “make concessions" and "take chances for peace" to the shock troops of the endless Jihad that is waged against it, if when Israel’s l citizens enduring dangers and daily imperilments that no citizens anywhere else n the West would ask themselves to endure even for one minute -- precisely because of all the chances it has taken, at the urging or under the pressure of others, and because of all the compromises with its own security Israel has so often made, and because of all the times it has not been allowed, or not allowed itself, to finish what it set out to do because of pressures from its so-called allies and so-called friends in the West, then all of those people – I allow myself to believe, and perhaps you do too -- have another think coming.
Posted on 02/04/2012 4:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Putin And His Billiion-Dollar Villa On The Black Sea
Putin's palm-fringed palace is giving Livadia a run for the Russian government's money:
From The New York Times:
February 4, 2012
From Success at Putin’s Side to Exposing Corruption
SERGEI KOLESNIKOV is a soft-spoken biophysicist who once thought he would spend his career toiling in placid obscurity inside a secret Soviet military institute.
Then, as Communist rule collapsed, he became a prosperous businessman and part of the crony capitalist web surrounding Vladimir V. Putin, by his own account working with some success to rebuild Russia’s primitive health care system.
But today he is a whistle-blower on the run, working to expose what he believes to be the defining corruption of the Putin era.
It is a risky personal campaign that Mr. Kolesnikov began 13 months ago with a splash, publishing an open letter to President Dmitri A. Medvedev that revealed a billion-dollar palace on the Black Sea that he said he had helped build secretly for Mr. Putin.
Mr. Putin’s aides denied that he had anything to do with the palace and the sprawling estate that surrounds it, whose owner of record was a company run by an old friend of the Russian leader.
But questions keep arising: a Russian version of WikiLeaks posted eye-popping photographs that rocketed around the Web; Russian activists and journalists who tried to visit the site said they were stopped and questioned by the Russian equivalent of the Secret Service; and Novaya Gazeta, the Russian newspaper most critical of Mr. Putin, reported that it had obtained a 2005 contract proving that the Russian president’s office was involved in the construction. Last March, Russian news reports said the palace had been sold to another friend of Mr. Putin for $350 million.
By then, Mr. Kolesnikov had fled Russia, eventually settling in Estonia and providing journalists with documents that appear to support his account of his role in a network of businesses with purported Putin connections. He has also kept a wary eye out for agents of a government he believes would like to see him silenced.
“For me, I think it’s dangerous everywhere,” Mr. Kolesnikov, who wears rimless glasses and looks much younger than his 63 years, said in an interview in a Manhattan coffee shop last month during a brief visit to the United States. “But, you know, if you could show the whole truth to the whole country, about this palace and all these machinations, Putin would be gone in two weeks.”
The sudden ferment in Russian politics, with two big anti-Putin demonstrations in Moscow in December and another set for Saturday, has given Mr. Kolesnikov’s crusade a less quixotic feel. He said Russia was responding to the same combustible combination of Internet and video-armed smartphones that propelled the revolts of the Arab Spring.
“Today, it’s impossible to hide anything,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder for politicians to lie.”
HE is scathing about the hurried political concessions offered up since December by Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Putin, currently the prime minister, who is running for a third presidential term in elections set for March 4.
“People think he’s entering negotiations. No way. He has Qaddafi’s mentality,” Mr. Kolesnikov said, adding that he would cling to power with the tenacity of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the late Libyan leader.
Mr. Kolesnikov’s family history and résumé might have been invented by a novelist trying to reflect the distinctive periods of Russia’s tumultuous recent history. His father was a military man who fought in World War II; his mother, still living, is a physician who as a teenager survived the brutal siege of Leningrad.
He earned a doctorate in biophysics in the early 1970s and spent more than 15 years conducting military research in Leningrad on “biological defenses” against cutting-edge weapons like lasers. He liked the work, which paid well by Soviet standards.
“There were good points to the Soviet system,” Mr. Kolesnikov said. “There was not such a huge gap between the top and the bottom. People didn’t obsess about money. The state controlled too much, but many people could pursue their creative work.”
He married and had a son, who trained in physics and now runs an information technology business. His first wife died of cancer, a loss he described as “the greatest tragedy of my life.” He has since remarried.
In 1989, after private ventures were legalized under Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s perestroika, Mr. Kolesnikov started a medical equipment business. His partner was a bureaucrat in Leningrad’s health department who also was a K.G.B. officer and an acquaintance of Mr. Putin, himself a career K.G.B. man.
In 1991, the year Leningrad reverted to its old name, St. Petersburg, Mr. Kolesnikov said Mr. Putin, then a city official, invited him and his business partner to create a joint venture with the city to import and build medical equipment and renovate decaying hospitals. The firm was called Petromed, and it thrived.
When Mr. Putin was elected president in 2000, Mr. Kolesnikov was enthralled.
“He was young and smart, and immediately began to bring order,” he said. “Everyone was tired of drunken Yeltsin. Everyone was tired of oligarchs who were really thieves.”
A close associate of Mr. Putin proposed a curious but ambitious national role for the medical equipment company. Oligarchs supporting the government would be asked to donate large sums that the company would use to renovate and equip hospitals, with 35 percent of profits diverted to other investments across Russia, including a lumber company and a shipyard.
THE project was started with a $203 million contribution from Roman Abramovich, one of Russia’s richest men, said Mr. Kolesnikov, who backed his story with a number of contract documents that appeared to be authentic.
He said some of the money went, mainly as loans, to companies operated by Mr. Putin’s relatives or friends. “I understood very well that Putin was helping his friends,” he said. “But I felt we were doing good work. We were investing in Russia.”
Mr. Kolesnikov said he met with Mr. Putin more than a dozen times, but usually dealt with aides. Over time, he said, the tone changed. The aides began to refer to their boss as “the czar” and directed money to the Black Sea villa, known as “Project South.”
Costs ballooned to $500 million while he was involved, Mr. Kolesnikov said; with a new road, electric and natural gas service, and security installations, he said he believed that the price probably reached $1 billion.
When the global recession hit in 2008, and money ran short, Mr. Kolesnikov said Mr. Putin’s associates ordered him to cut off all other projects and spend all available cash on the palace. Then he learned that costly construction materials were illegally bypassing customs. He protested, wrote his open letter and left the country.
Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, dismissed Mr. Kolesnikov’s account, saying that to the best of his knowledge, Mr. Kolesnikov had fled Russia because he was in a conflict with his business partners over money that had been stolen from the company. In an interview this week, Mr. Peskov called the allegation about the palace “absurd,” and only one of many rumors that ascribe extraordinary riches to Mr. Putin.
“Have you heard about the fact that Putin owns 5 percent of Gazprom, that he owns half of the company called Gunvor, and that his personal wealth is more than $30 billion?” Mr. Peskov said, laughing. He did not rule out that the building could have been built for the Kremlin.
“Look, we have congress halls built for the Kremlin, we have different sites for international events, for congresses, international negotiations, but if you call each of them ‘Putin’s palace,’ it’s absurd; it’s nothing but absurd,” Mr. Peskov said.
Mr. Kolesnikov says he wants to return to Russia as soon as he judges it safe — presumably in a post-Putin era. And he all but rules out a political role for himself in Russia.
“I’m already pretty old,” he said. “There have to be new, young political leaders. Our job is to help them.”
Posted on 02/04/2012 5:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
A Musical Interlude: Black Jim (Mieczyslaw Fogg)
Posted on 02/04/2012 5:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
No Comment Necessary
CAIRO - Egypt is on the brink of political and economic collapse and the West has an obligation to sustain the country with financial aid and diplomatic support, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official has warned.
Posted on 02/04/2012 7:49 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
"The Days Of Blank Checks Are Over"
"In a sign of congressional anger, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who chairs an influential Senate subcommittee that oversees some foreign aid, on Friday warned the Egyptian military 'that the days of blank checks are over.'"
But why did they ever begin?
Why was Egypt given tens of billions of dollars for the great sacrifice of receiving, from Israel, the entire Sinai, together with 16 billion (1979) dollars worth of infrastructure, which it had lost in a war that it started?
If it was to make sure Egypt honored the Camp David Accords, the Egyptians did no such thing, but violated all of the solemn commitments to encourage tourism, cultural exchanges, and other signs of normalization of relations with, and encouragement of friendliness toward, Israel.
If it was to make sure that at least Egypt would not attack Israel, there was no chance of that because the Egyptians would not want to lose the Sinai for the third, and last, time.
And if one really wanted to make sure Egypt did not attack israel, the best way to do that -- and to discourage the Egyptian army from continuing to be the corrupt and vicious institution it is -- would be to cut all military aid to Egypt. After all, why does Egypt need such military aid? To fight Libya? To fight the Sudan? It can only be in order someday to threaten Israel, and by supplying it to Egypt, the American government does damage to Israel, and causes even more headaches for its defense planners. Why do that to a real, as opposed to a false, ally?
Posted on 02/04/2012 8:51 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Andrew Roberts Reviews Deborah Scroggins
From The Tablet:
Wanted Women, a new joint biography of two Muslim women, refuses to distinguish between an al-Qaida terrorist and a feminist intellectual
There are occasionally some books that are so deeply unpleasant, indeed repulsive, that one feels like washing one’s hands after reading them. Dripping with unremitting bias, and utterly missing the big picture, such books leave one despairing of the moral vacuum in which they were written. Such a work is the American journalist Deborah Scroggins’ new book Wanted Women , which explicitly seeks to draw a parallel between the lives of two women she presents as “mirror images” in the war against terror: the Pakistani-born convicted Islamist terrorist Aafia Siddiqui and the Somali-born campaigner for Muslim women’s rights, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
One understands immediately why Siddiqui might justify the term “Wanted” in the book’s title: She featured on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list in May 2004. Yet the only way in which the word applies to Hirsi Ali is that since a fatwa was pronounced upon her after the murder of her friend, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, the same year, Islamic fundamentalists have wanted to murder her. It is precisely this loose, facile equation of a lawful, constitutional, democratic entity such as the FBI with vicious murderers like van Gogh’s killer Mohammed Bouyeri, who beheaded the filmmaker one November morning in Amsterdam, that makes this book so thoroughly objectionable. Besides a couple of mea culpa sentences that are clearly inserted for pro forma reasons, Scroggins’ entire leitmotif drips with despicable moral equivalism. She even devotes alternate chapters to each woman throughout the book.
The author’s obvious personal aversion to Hirsi Ali makes it seem that of the two women she is profiling, Scroggins is keener to explain away the actions of the terrorist rather than the target of terrorism. Hirsi Ali, readers will recall, is a human-rights activist who fights against forced female genital mutilation, decries so-called honor killings, and highlights the way the Quran justifies the mistreatment of women. Siddiqui is a viciously anti-Semitic terrorist serving 86 years in prison for attempted murder.
Throughout the book there is the assumption that political conservatives of all stripes are unthinking bigots and that “Westerners who want to keep the Muslim world under Western rule have used Islamic attitudes towards women not so much to help free Muslim women as to justify the West’s continued domination of Muslim men.” What complete unadulterated tripe. Westerners haven’t wanted to keep the Muslim world under Western rule since the Suez Crisis of 1956, and Islamic attitudes toward women genuinely disgust Westerners, male and female, conservative and—theoretically, at least—liberal. Lastly, where are these countries where Muslim men suffer “continued domination” by Westerners? Scroggins doesn’t name a single one. If anything, given many Muslim countries’ draconian laws, it is Jews and Christians who suffer “continued domination” almost throughout the entire Middle East—a phenomenon that the Arab Spring, tragically, shows no sign of alleviating.
Writing of a speech that Hirsi Ali was set to give, Scroggins alleges that “some of the anti-gay Islamic attitudes she planned to criticize weren’t very different from those of some conservative Republicans.” Really? Show me a bill in which conservative Republicans have attempted to change the law so that homosexuals are hanged, as happened to three gay men  in Iran this past September. Those innocents were only the most recent victims of that country’s blood lust against homosexuals.
In alleging that Siddiqui and Ali are, as she puts it, “mirror images of each other,” Scroggins, a former award-winning foreign correspondent for the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ought to be able to produce serious factual evidence to back up her case. Yet her book is replete with tell-tale words and phrases that suggest that she is simply using guesswork to fill the enormous gaps in her knowledge that lie between the sources—often mere websites, magazine articles, and other books as tendentious as her own that she cites in her footnotes. Thus we get scores of weaselly phrases such as “it’s said,” “some of her friends wondered,” “by one account,” “she is said to have been,” “probably,” “must have been,” and “reported to be.” These are not good enough to support a sustained 539-page attack on Hirsi Ali, someone whom many people—including this reviewer—see as one of the bravest and most admirable women alive today.
Several of Scroggins’ attacks are self-contradictory. Hirsi Ali’s husband, the British historian Niall Ferguson, is accused of being “tight-fisted” but also of “reputedly picking up the tab for many thousands of dollars” at a birthday party for her. Hirsi Ali is likewise accused of going into “hiding” in America, but also of being constantly self-promoting and high-profile. The author’s relentless sneering—Hirsi Ali “wails” rather than argues—very quickly palls as a literary technique.
According to this book, Hirsi Ali has a “one-track mind”; she once used a ghost-writer; she’s had her hair straightened; she “joined the AEI choir” (i.e., agreed with many of the stances adopted by the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington-based think tank). Yet when one analyzes these attacks a bit more closely, they either collapse or fall resolutely under the heading: So What?
For, far from having a one-track mind, Hirsi Ali has, as her best-selling autobiographies Infidel and Nomad prove, led a rich, varied, fascinating, and courageous life. She has been a Dutch MP and is an accomplished public speaker. She has an interest in the arts, speaks several languages, has worked in an orange-juice factory and a cookie factory, has advised presidents and prime ministers, and is now the mother of a 1-month-old baby. How many more tracks does Scroggins demand? Now, if the same people who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Theo van Gogh were to put a fatwa on me, I might well develop a one-track mind. But it’s not true of Hirsi Ali.
Indeed, if the obsessive criticisms in this book are anything to go by, it is Scroggins herself—what a wonderfully Trollopian name, by the way—who suffers from the one-track mind. The way in which she tenderly recalls and reprises every negative review Hirsi Ali has ever received for her books—including rude picture captions from the gutter press—while skating over the admiring ones, also underlines the utter lack of objectivity in this book.
There are also no fewer than 15 pages devoted to Hirsi Ali’s supposed lying. The lies that Scroggins refers to Hirsi Ali making are about her age and full family name on her immigration form for entry into Holland, about which she herself has written at length long before Scroggins put her pen to paper. Of course a woman attempting to escape her family and religion was not about to put all her correct details on immigration forms—a thought that does not seem to have occurred to the ever-censorious Scroggins, who describes one of Hirsi Ali’s books (wrongly) as “a thin patchwork of heavily-edited opinion pieces,” which is ironically precisely what her own book is, except this work is not edited heavily enough. She as good as admits that she can’t back up her allegations that Hirsi Ali invented her arranged marriage to a cousin she had never met, and so we are left with a young lady desperate to escape her country, family, and faith telling two small lies to immigration officials. Let us therefore compare those essentially understandable white lies to the gross, sustained black ones told by Siddiqui in her trial two years ago, which Scroggins covers in less than three pages.
When Siddiqui was arrested in Afghanistan in July 2008 after five years on the run, she was in possession of a computer thumb drive containing plans for conventional weapons and WMD, notes on planned terrorist attacks written in her own handwriting, instructions on how to construct missiles that could shoot down drones, descriptions of New York landmarks containing references to mass casualties, and two pounds of sodium cyanide in a glass jar. At her jury selection in a Manhattan court in January 2010, she demanded that no one must be allowed to sit on the jury “If they have a Zionist or Israeli background. I have a feeling everyone here is them—subject to genetic testing.”
How—under such circumstances, and given the murder Siddiqui subsequently tried to commit with an M-4 assault rifle once captured by American and Pakistani forces—Scroggins can write, “If Aafia had listened to her lawyers, she might have been found not guilty,” is anyone’s guess. When Siddiqui took the stand, the prosecutor very soon caught her out lying about almost every single aspect of the shooting incident, and then about her life and career, just as al-Qaida operatives are trained to do. To compare that, as this book implicitly does, with Hirsi Ali not telling real-estate agents that she doesn’t like the houses they are showing her, is so pathetic as to be laughable. Yet, Scroggins writes, Siddiqui shows “piety” and “academic excellence.” While she raised money for a charity in Bosnia, Hirsi Ali is portrayed as mendacious and “free-spending.”
The forced clitoridectomy that Hirsi Ali underwent in Somalia at age 5 is treated with something akin to blithe disregard in this book, which states that her parents “probably didn’t regard female genital mutilation with the revulsion many Westerners felt.” There goes that word “probably” again, yet we do know that her father had stated that he did not want it to happen to his daughter. But because “nearly every woman they knew was infibulated,” Scroggins implies that they were making a fuss about nothing much, and perhaps feels that it’s a form of Western domination over Muslims to express revulsion over such traditional practices anyhow. “Like the bikini and the burka or the virgin and the whore,” writes Scroggins with breathtaking viciousness if one considers the context, “you couldn’t quite understand one without understanding the other.” Siddiqui wears the burka, so what does that sentence imply Hirsi Ali is?
Don’t bother reading this morally hollow book. If you do, keep water and plenty of soap nearby.
Posted on 02/04/2012 9:35 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
It All Depends On What You Mean By Cavendish
Dukes Of Devonshire?
Towns In Vermont?
Now study each of the names below and assign each, in turn, to one of the four categories of Cavendish given above:
James Clerk Maxweil, Irina Alberti, Varlam Shalamov, J. D. Watson, Henri Salvador, Max Perutz, Adele Astaire, Scrabble, Carmen Miranda, The Kniphausen Hawk, Jacques Chirac, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ray Ventura
Now show your work -- not to me, but to someone hanging around your house, possibly a family member, to whom you will explain your reasons for what you did..
Yes, I know it's a silly way to spend one's time which like the tide waits for no man: Eheu fugaces.....ah, fugeddaboutit.
I never should have posted this.. But once I wrote "Cavendish" I just couldn't stop.
I'll try not to let it happen again.
Posted on 02/04/2012 10:45 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Australia: Angry Mob, Most Likely Comprising Sunni Muslims, Attacks and Trashes Syrian Embassy in Canberra
I do not like it that these persons - who are most likely to have been Sunni Muslims acting in support of the Sunni Muslim campaign to overthrow the Alawites and replace them as Top Dogs in Syria - thought themselves able to do this sort of thing to an embassy in Australia's national capital, and get away with it. If they are caught - one hopes they left fingerprints all over the scene of their riotous activity - their citizenship credentials (if they have Australian citizenship) and their backgrounds should be examined and investigated and cross-checked most minutely.
First, the account that appeared in the ABC.
'Syrian Embassy in Canberra Attacked'.
'The Syrian Embassy in Canberra has become one of several Syrian consulates to be attacked around the world.
'The attack on the embassy comes as Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to stand down.
I observe that the rioters refrained from going anywhere near either the Russian or the Chinese embassies. Perhaps they feared that attacking those might involve them in...difficulties, either at the time, or later. - CM
'A group of up to 40 men stormed the embassy in the southern Canberra suburb of O'Malley about 9: 30 pm (AEDT).
'Once inside, they smashed everything in sight on the ground floor of the building.
'Superintendent Mick Calatzis says three embassy staff took refuge in the basement.
"It was obviously not a pretty sight", he said.
"We are obviously concerned about it and three staff members from the embassy were present when the men forced entry. However, no-one was injured".
'So far no arrests have been made and police are not commenting on whether this was a co-ordinated attack.
'Superintendent Calatzis says ACT Policing, federal police and other Commonwealth agencies are all investigating.
My question is why our Australian police and security agencies appear to have been caught napping in the first place. They should have expected it, once things hotted up in Syria; it is necessary to anticipate this sort of behaviour from Mohammedans toward rival or deemed-insufficiently-Islamic Mohammedan entities, just as it must also, regrettably, be anticipated - once one has foolishly admitted a sufficient number of Mohammedans into one's country - toward non-Muslim targets, such as the embassies of nations high on the Mohammedan hate-list, most notably Israel and the USA. - CM
"The foreign government of Syria is a representative here in Australia...and they have very much cooperated with us as well", he said.
"They've given us permission to investigate this matter as well. We have to respect their sovereignty in Australia as well".
'Syrian embassies in London, Berlin, Cairo, and Kuwait among others have all come under attack from protesters (sic: most probably, from Sunni Muslim mobs - CM) in recent days.
The local newspaper, the Canberra Times, has a little more. Lisa Cox reporting.
'Syria's Canberran embassy invaded'.
'A group of 20 to 30 broke into the Syrian embassy in O'Malley at 9.40 pm last night, terrorising staff and causing extensive damage to the building.
'Three embassy staff were in the Culgoa Circuit building at the time and they barricaded themselves in an office at the rear of the building and called police for help after the men left.
Why only after the attackers left? Surely the embassy staff would have had mobile phones on their persons? This bit puzzles me. - CM
'No details were available regarding the intruders and police were searching for them late last night.
'Police cordoned off streets around the embassy while they hunted for those responsible.
'The Syrian embassy in London was similarly attacked yesterday, with five people arrested after gaining entry as a protest erupted at the building, Scotland Yard said. About 150 demonstrators descended on the embassy in Belgrave Square amid reports of more than 200 people killed in a deadly barrage in the central city of Homs...".
There are more details on those other attacks on Syrian embassies within other non-Muslim countries - Britain, Greece, Germany - in this ABC article.
"...In London six people were arrested [after] protesters broke into the Syrian embassy, police said. Around 150 demonstrators had gathered outside the plush property in central Belgrave Square.
'A Scotland Yard spokesman said five people had been arrested for gaining access to the building after the demonstration started around 2:00 am (local time).
Around 2 in the morning on a freezing February morning? What a peculiar time for a 'demonstration'. That is not the usual time for holding rallies and protest marches or even, for that matter, 'demonstrations', since at that hour most of the potential audience will be fast asleep. It is, however, precisely the time when military surprise attacks are made, or when a mob will set out to conduct a lynching or a pogrom. - CM
'A sixth person was arrested for assaulting an officer.
It will be interesting to discover who exactly these six people are. I would expect that they are Sunni Muslims, and that they may not all even hail from Syria. - CM
"We will keep an eye on the situation and keep an appropriate policing plan in place", the spokesman said.
At least the UK police weren't caught napping quite as thoroughly as the police in Canberra appear to have been...It seems our Aussie police have yet to fully take into account the deplorable Mohammedan propensity for rioting and smashing things - whether buildings or people - at the drop of a hat, or the circulation of an inflammatory rumour. - CM
'Some of the [London] embassy's windows were reportedly smashed during the proest.
'In Athens, about 50 mostly Syrian protesters (sic: rioters - CM) broke into their country's embassy, smashing windows and painting anti-government slogans on the walls, a police source said. Police detained 12 Syrians and an Iraqi.'...
'12 Syrians and an Iraqi'. What are '12 Syrians and an Iraqi' doing in Athens? I doubt they are Syrian Orthodox Christians. They are more likely to be Sunni Muslims, who have entered Greece among the million or so illegal 'immigrants', the vast majority of whom are Muslim males of military age, who have poured into Greece via Muslim Turkey within the past five years or so. - CM
'A day earlier in Berlin around 20 protesters (that is, rioters - CM) broke into the Syrian embassy and "destroyed furniture, hung a flag from a window" and wrote slogans on the walls. All were arrested, but released (why? - CM) after police took their details."
At least the British, Greek and German police managed to catch some of the rioters. In Australia, the Syrian embassy staff failed to raise the alarm in time and in any case our police seem to have been caught flat-footed.
Footnote: There are six mosques of some sort in Canberra. The oldest was built in 1960 by the Pakistani, Malaysian and Indonesian governments, just across the road from the Iranian Embassy in Yarralumla. That is: three Sunni-dominated countries combined to plank down a Sunni mosque precisely opposite the embassy of Shiite-majority Shiite-ruled Iran...
If I were the Australian Federal Police I would begin at that mosque - the oldest and largest Sunni Muslim mosque in Canberra - when conducting the investigation into the raid on the Syrian embassy.
Take-home point from this story? The more Mohammedans you have in your country, the more likely it is that you will have - as Australia, and Greece, and the UK, and Germany have just had - outbreaks of mob violence, involving either intra-Mohammedan quarrels, or else Mohammedan attacks upon non-Muslims. And the more trouble and expense you will incur, in attempting to prevent or to punish such outbreaks of Mohammedan violence.
Posted on 02/04/2012 11:09 PM by Christina McIntosh