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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
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Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
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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
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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, 5, 2008.
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Which bit of 'I wouldn't put it past them' does Hugh not understand?

"I wouldn't put it past them." "I don't doubt it." "Of course they were capable of it, and much more besides."

These are my comments on the alleged "choose a child to be killed" sadism of the Nazis, which finds a parallel in yesterday's story about the Taliban.

I asked, in all sincerity, purely as a point of information, whether this particular act of sadism was documented, as opposed to being portrayed in the film Sophie's Choice. Hugh infers from this:

You, with your presumably vast knowledge of what the Nazis (and others, too) did, appear to find this choice-of-child sadism implausible or unverisimilar.

By what mental twists, turns and leaps can one get from what I said to its exact opposite?

Anyway, I have my answer:

The movie is baed on a book of the same title, and the book, according to Styron himself, was based on conversations he had had with survivors, and in particular with one female survivor he had known as a young writer, having arrived from Virginia and the Marines after the war, in New York City. I take this to mean that he was told of such an incident.

In other words, Hugh doesn't know. Fine. Just say so, Hugh. It won't kill you.

Hugh is not the only person who reads. I, too, have read widely about the Nazis and seen countless documentaries on the subject. Not once, outside the film Sophie's Choice, have I heard of this particular form of sadism happening. Which doesn't mean that it didn't happen, or that the Nazis weren't capable of it, or that much worse - if worse can be imagined - didn't happen.

Facts do matter. Even when you're talking about the Nazis, facts matter. It is not enough to say that an atrocity is "the kind of thing" they would do. The question is, did they do it? There are more than enough facts to prove the Nazis evil without resorting to hearsay and bluster.

Update: thanks to Esmerelda for confirming the story without any unnecessary huffing and puffing:

He [Styron] had been struck by two stories. The first, in "Eichmann in Jerusalem" by Hannah Arendt, was a passing reference to a Gypsy woman forced to pick which of her children would be slaughtered.

 In other words, it is from the film that the story is - rightly - widely known. Which is not to say it didn't happen on many other, undocumented occasions.


Posted on 10/05/2008 7:06 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 5 October 2008
A Musical Interlude: Sing You Sinners (Belle Baker)
Posted on 10/05/2008 8:20 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 5 October 2008
An Army Fit For Nation Building

There is a common misconception that military men, as a result of their occuptation,  are always "tough-minded"  and "realistic." in the policies they promote. The Washington Post reports on a new American plan to transform our armed forces from a  force dedicated to fighting to one that will engage, and not tangentially, in  "nation-building." This newly-assumed task is based on the acceptance, even enthusiastic acceptance, of a misunderstanding that has already been disproved in study after study, that poverty and lack of democracy causes terrorism and political instability, not Islam. So much for tough realism.

The Army on Monday will unveil an unprecedented doctrine that declares nation-building missions will probably become more important than conventional warfare and defines "fragile states" that breed crime, terrorism and religious and ethnic strife as the greatest threat to U.S. national security.

The doctrine, which has generated intense debate in the U.S. military establishment and government, holds that in coming years, American troops are not likely to engage in major ground combat against hostile states as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead will frequently be called upon to operate in lawless areas to safeguard populations and rebuild countries.

Such "stability operations" will last longer and ultimately contribute more to the military's success than "traditional combat operations," according to the Army's new Stability Operations Field Manual, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

"This is the document that bridges from conflict to peace," said Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where the manual was drafted over the past 10 months. The U.S. military "will never secure the peace until we can conduct stability operations in a collaborative manner" with civilian government and private entities at home and abroad, he said.

The stability operations doctrine is an engine that will drive Army resources, organization and training for years to come, Caldwell said, and Army officials already have detailed plans to execute it. The operations directive underpinning the manual "elevated stability operations to a status equal to that of the offense and defense," the manual reads, describing the move as a "fundamental change in emphasis" for the Army.

Yet the concept has drawn fire from all sides: Military critics say it will weaken heavy war-fighting skills -- using tanks and artillery -- that have already atrophied during years of counterinsurgency campaigns. For their part, civilian officials and nongovernmental groups with scarce resources say armed forces are filling the gap, but at the cost of encroaching upon their traditional overseas missions.


Today, such fragile states, if neglected, will pose mounting risks for the United States, according to Lt. Col. Steve Leonard, the manual's lead author. Weak states "create vast ungoverned areas that are breeding grounds for the threats that we fear the most, criminal networks, international terrorists, ethnic strife, genocide," he said. "The argument against it is: Forget all that; you still have . . . near peer competitors who are on the verge of closing the superpower gap."

The new manual aims to orchestrate and plan for a range of military tasks to stabilize ungoverned nations: protecting the people; aiding reconstruction; providing aid and public services; building institutions and security forces; and, in severe cases, forming transitional U.S. military-led governments.


The critics challenge the assumption that major wars are unlikely in the future, pointing to the risk of high-intensity conflict that could require sizable Army deployments to North Korea, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere. "All we need to do is look at Russia and Georgia a few months ago. That suggests the description . . . of future war is too narrow," said Col. Gian P. Gentile, an Iraq war veteran with a doctorate in history who is a leading thinker in the Army camp opposed to the new doctrine.

"I don't think the Army should transform itself into a light-infantry-based constabulary force," Gentile said. Instead, he said, "the organizing principle for the U.S. Army should be the Army's capability to fight on all levels of war."

Civilian officials and nongovernmental groups voice a different concern: that the military's push to expand its exercise of "soft power," while perhaps inevitable, given the dearth of civilian resources, marks a growing militarization of U.S. foreign policy.

"When the military is handed the task of stabilizing an area, that means doing everything. That's not really what we want to have happen," said Beth Ellen Cole, a senior program officer at the Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations of the U.S. Institute of Peace who worked on the manual. However, she said, "we are in an unfortunate situation where the civilian side is not resourced or equipped to do these things." ...

"not resourced"?

Posted on 10/05/2008 7:33 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Enthralled By The Incomprehensible
Posted on 10/05/2008 8:32 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Selective scruples

Any grandmothers reading this? Don’t tell The Guardian. Rod Liddle writes in The Spectator on The Guardian’s list of taboo terms:

There are too few active homosexuals and career women in the Third World. This is because blacks and Asians — from Australasia to Bangalore — have a tendency to put them in a pot, cook them and eat them. Primitive African tribes also eat crippled people — those in a wheelchair, or merely suffering from a hare lip — and indeed those they consider to be ethnic minorities. I know of one handicapped spinster who committed suicide rather than be eaten by some gypsies in Bombay. Her illegitimate daughter, an air hostess, who herself had given birth to Siamese twins in Calcutta, appealed for clemency but this fell on deaf ears. She is now an illegal asylum seeker living in the province of Northern Ireland — and a grandmother to boot, with a bachelor son.

Oh, enough, enough. I had intended to work my way through the entire book, but that will do for now. There’s 27 of them up there, in that peculiar opening paragraph; words or phrases which have been banned by one of our national morning newspapers, the Guardian. It recently gave away a free style guide to its readers, just in case they were mystified by its occasional weird language. Most of my transgressions you will be able to spot, I would guess — Third World, active homosexual, crippled, handicapped, deaf ears (a phrase which makes deaf people cross, apparently, although not if you whisper it), career women (all women are potential career women, OK?) and grandmother (why refer to her familial position at all, you reactionary pig?). Others may come as a surprise — ethnic minorities is not on, you have to say minority ethnic instead. There is of course no semantic difference between these two constructs, any more than there is between the currently fashionable ‘people of colour’ and the utterly de trop ‘coloured people’. Australasia is out because it’s ethnocentric, we should say Oceania instead. The phrase ‘in a wheelchair’ is frowned upon for reasons I simply cannot comprehend and saying that someone committed suicide might distress relatives, so you should say ‘killed themselves’ instead, which will make them feel a whole bunch better. But Bangalore? We should be saying Bengalooru, you idiot, even if it is a place most Guardian readers have never heard of and will have to scurry away to their left-wing atlases to locate.

The renaming of foreign, and especially Third World, places is a political act. The BBC and others refuse to call Burma ‘Myanmar’ and its capital ‘Yangon’ simply because we don’t like the regime there, but are happy to cede to Beijing, Mumbai, etc. It seems to be largely the Third World which is afforded our linguistic deference — we don’t call Nuremberg ‘Nurnberg’ or Lisbon ‘Lisboa’, still less Moscow ‘Moskva’. I assume that we have succumbed with Mumbai et al at least partly out of some confused notion of guilt about our imperial and colonial past — in other words, for incoherent, leftish, political reasons. If so, perhaps we should start calling Bollywood ‘Mumblywood’ instead.



I’m with Liddle on Beijing, and don’t get me started on “Palestinians”, “settlers” and so forth.


There is one minority group that The Guardian is less scrupulous about offending. They have only just got around to sacking a blogger who vilified them. Care to guess which group was exempt from the usual taboos? David T of Harry’s Place:


One of the nastiest posters is a woman who calls herself Tehrankid77, whose stock in trade is the peddling of Jewish world conspiracy theorising.

Here are a few of Tehrankid77’s low points from the last year or so:

Star of David has been flying inside number 10 since Thatcher days; you are just too blinded by your hatred for the Muslims to notice it.”

“The republicans have killed millions across the Middle East and elsewhere to please their darling Israelis, what more are you moaning about??? What else the American-Israeli gov’t in Washington can do to please their SUPER-masters in Tel Aviv??? More killings, may be this time they are after Persian bloods??? Who knows, these gods always get what they want…mindless, selfish, arrogant lot….”

Journalist Julie Burchill left The Guardian a few years ago because of its anti-Semitism. But we’re not anti-Semitic, goes the Bunting cant, we just oppose Israeli policy.




Posted on 10/05/2008 8:47 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 5 October 2008
The Nobel Committee For Literature Doesn't Understand American Letters

Adam Kirsch lets 'em have it at Slate (h/t: Arts & Letters Daily):

When Saul Bellow learned that he had won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1976, he reacted to the news in the only way a great writer can or should: He tried hard not to care. "I'm glad to get it," Bellow admitted, but "I could live without it." This month, as the Swedish Academy prepares for its annual announcement, Bellow's heirs in the top ranks of American literature—Roth, Updike, Pynchon, DeLillo—already know they're going to live without the Nobel Prize. Horace Engdahl, the academy's permanent secretary, made that clear this week when he told the Associated Press that American writers are simply not up to Nobel standards. "The U.S. is too isolated, too insular," Engdahl decreed. "They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining."

It did not take long for American writers to rise to the bait. The Washington Post's Michael Dirda pointed out that it was Engdahl who displayed "an insular attitude towards a very diverse country": It is a bit rich for a citizen of Sweden, whose population of 9 million is about the same as New York City's, to call the United States "isolated." David Remnick noted that the Swedish Academy itself has been guilty of conspicuous ignorance over a very long period: "You would think that the permanent secretary of an academy that pretends to wisdom but has historically overlooked Proust, Joyce and Nabokov, to name just a few non-Nobelists, would spare us the categorical lectures."

All of these criticisms are, of course, true. But the real scandal of Engdahl's comments is not that they revealed a secret bias on the part of the Swedish Academy. It is that Engdahl made official what has long been obvious to anyone paying attention: The Nobel committee has no clue about American literature. America should respond not by imploring the committee for a fairer hearing but by seceding, once and for all, from the sham that the Nobel Prize for literature has become.

When Engdahl accuses American writers of being raw and backward, of not being up-to-date on the latest developments in Paris or Berlin, he is repeating a stereotype that goes back practically to the Revolutionary War. It was nearly 200 years ago that Sydney Smith, the English wit, famously wrote in the Edinburgh Review: "In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book?" Ironically, though, while Engdahl decries American provincialism today, for most of the Nobel's history, it was exactly its "backwardness" that the Nobel committee most valued in American literature.

Just look at the kind of American writer the committee has chosen to honor. Pearl Buck, who won the prize in 1938, and John Steinbeck, who won in 1962, are almost folk writers, using a naively realist style to dramatize the struggles of the common man. Their most famous books, The Good Earth and The Grapes of Wrath, fit all too comfortably on junior-high-school reading lists. Sinclair Lewis, the first American to win the Prize, in 1930, wrote broad satires on American provincialism with nothing formally adventurous about them.

Such writers reflected back to Europe just the image of America they wanted to see: earnest, crude, anti-intellectual. There was a brief moment, after World War II, when the Nobel Committee allowed that America might produce more sophisticated writers. No one on either side of the Atlantic would quarrel with the awards to William Faulkner in 1949 or Ernest Hemingway in 1954. But in the 32 years since Bellow won the Nobel, there has been exactly one American laureate, Toni Morrison, whose critical reputation in America is by no means secure. To judge by the Nobel roster, you would think that the last three decades have been a time of American cultural drought rather than the era when American culture and language conquered the globe.

But that, of course, is exactly the problem for the Swedes. As long as America could still be regarded as Europe's backwater—as long as a poet like T.S. Eliot had to leave America for England in order to become famous enough to win the Nobel—it was easy to give American literature the occasional pat on the head. But now that the situation is reversed, and it is Europe that looks culturally, economically, and politically dependent on the United States, European pride can be assuaged only by pretending that American literature doesn't exist. When Engdahl declares, "You can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world," there is a poignant echo of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard insisting that she is still big, it's the pictures that got smaller...

Posted on 10/05/2008 9:01 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Bitter pill

Dhimmi Watch has posted a story from The Telegraph about a Muslim pharmacist who refused to sell a woman the morning after pill because it was against his beliefs:


Ruth Johnson, 33, who has two children, including a month-old baby, had not been using her usual method of contraception with her fiancée.

She went to the Tesco dispensary in Hewitts Circus, Cleethorpes, Lincs, and asked an as assistant for the pill Levanelle.

Miss Johnson was told it could only be dispensed by the locum pharmacist who was called to speak with her.

She said: "He came out from behind a screen and told me that he would not be allowing me to buy the pill from him because he had a right to refuse to sell it on the basis of his personal beliefs.

At first sight, this looks like the other Tesco case, in which a Muslim man refused to handle alcohol. However, there is a significant difference:

A Tesco spokesman said the pharmacist was acting within his rights to refuse to sell the pill and the customer was advised where else she could buy the product.

He said: "We do apologise to Miss Johnson for the inconvenience caused. However, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's code of ethics allows pharmacists the right to refuse."

The Society said its code of ethics and standards is adopted by all healthcare bodies.

Its does not require a pharmacist to provide a service that is contrary to their religious or moral beliefs but any attempt by a pharmacist to impose their beliefs on a customer seeking professional help without offering an alternative could form the basis of a professional misconduct complaint.

 In other words, this is a legitimate conscientious objection. Four years ago, an almost identical case was reported involving a Catholic pharmacist:


A UK pharmacist has refused to sell the morning-after-pill to a woman customer, citing his Catholic beliefs.




Andy Murdock, Lloyds' pharmacy director, said: "He objected on religious grounds, which he is fully within his rights to do. Another member of staff, and a supervisor, had lengthy discussions with Ms Gooch and partner. They were given advice as to alternative sources."

Many Catholics and other Christians – Sarah Palin included – believe that the morning after pill is a form of abortion and that abortion is always wrong. They are mistaken, in my view, but I think it is right that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Code allows a religious opt-out. Nobody is denying a woman her rights; there are plenty of other chemists.


Tesco is taking a lot of flak at the moment. That’s the price it must pay for being Top Supermarket.


Posted on 10/05/2008 9:18 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Makes Ben Hur look like an epic!

Posted on 10/05/2008 9:54 AM by Esmerelda WEatherwax
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Worse than being talked about

Spare a pensée for two pansies - sorry, French intellectuals. Que la vie est dure. But those thinkers should think themselves lucky that they are French. How can this be? Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times:

Two of France’s most prominent intellectuals, the vacuous philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy and the delightfully misanthropic novelist Michel Houellebecq, have written a book together complaining about how appallingly they are treated in their home country. Vilified in newspapers, public whipping boys and so on. They should be so lucky: if they were English intellectuals they’d be ignored entirely.

It is true that some people wished to chop off Salman Rushdie’s head, but most of those were fanatical Muslim jihadists (and a few fellow British novelists, obviously). By and large our intellectuals live their lives entirely free of even the briefest consideration in the national press, which is far too busy with nonintellectuals such as Amy Winehouse, Jade Goody and Giles Coren.

It helps that in France the parents of intellectuals get in on the act – Houellebecq’s mum recently called her son a “stupid little bastard”.

I remember that:

“My son, he can f*** off wherever he wants, with whom he wants, because I don't give a stuff about him. But if he has the misfortune to stick my name in one of his things one more time, he's going to get hit in the gob with a walking stick and that'll knock all his teeth out, that's for sure.”

In other news, Jacques Derrida's maman called her son a "f*ckwit", and said that if she clapped eyes on his ugly mug again she would deconstruct it.

Posted on 10/05/2008 10:17 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Athens, Immigration & Violence

Following up on what was reported in the African press about street battles between the Somalis and Sudanese, here is the IHT on the broader problem of immigration in Athens:

ATHENS: About 80,000 migrants have traveled to Greece this year and decided to stay illegally, according to the authorities, who say the country can no longer handle the task of guarding the European Union's southeast flank.

While initial problems with the flood of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who are desperate to enter Europe centered on the Aegean islands, migrants are now wreaking havoc in the capital.

The historic center of Athens has been riven by several street battles in recent months, involving what the police characterize as rival groups, often involved in dealing drugs, from Afghanistan, Iraq and war-torn African countries wielding swords, axes and machetes.

After 11 people were hurt in one such brawl in late August, the police began 24-hour patrolling of the area. Store owners and residents are leaving the busy central shopping and restaurant district.

According to a residents' group, dozens of people renting in the area have left their homes in the past year, and several stores have closed, chiefly small but long-established neighborhood conveniences like bakeries, hardware stores or delicatessens.

"People are scared and depressed, it's getting worse and worse," said Vassiliki Nikolakopoulou of the group, Panathinaia.

The top policy adviser for immigration issues at the Interior Ministry, which also oversees public order, blames the influx of about 80,000 migrants this year.

"Because of this phenomenon, we see more and more immigrants in central Athens trying to survive, often through illicit activities," the official, Patroklos Georgiadis, said in a telephone interview. "This unpleasant situation - for the migrants and for us as an EU country - has become unbearable."

Georgiadis said that Greece supported the stricter line on immigration being promoted by the bloc's French presidency. "There will not be another wave of legalization of immigrants in Greece in the near future," Georgiadis said, referring to the three programs that have granted work and residence permits to some 500,000 migrants, most of them undocumented foreigners - at least half from Albania - since 1997.

The unrest in Athens has triggered a backlash from the far-right party Laos, whose popularity has jumped to 5.4 percent in opinion polls from 3.5 percent when it entered Parliament a year ago.

"The city center has been taken hostage by gangs of illegal immigrants with knives - isn't it about time we asked ourselves if we have too many of them?" a Laos legislator, Antonis Georgiadis, said during a recent television debate. He is not related to the immigration official...

Posted on 10/05/2008 10:41 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 5 October 2008
‘Ethnic English’ Charity Gets Recognition

Thanks to Alan for this piece of relative good news. From the Brussels Journal:

For those of us who are concerned for Europe’s indigenous cultures, good news seems to be in short supply. But, in Britain, there is at least one ray of hope in all the gloom. The Steadfast Trust – the first and, indeed, only charity for the indigenous English – has been making strides in the last few months.
The charity was established to promote English culture (and, in particular, to encourage English children to learn about their heritage), to conduct research on behalf of the indigenous English community, and to fight discrimination against the English in England.
In 2007, The Steadfast Trust (then known as the Ethnic English Trust)
sued the Commission for Racial Equality, arguing it had issued guidelines that obscured the legal recognition of the English as an ethnic group. And, in the same year, it challenged the Environment Agency when the latter barred Abigail Howarth, 18, from applying for an advertised apprenticeship, because she was “White English.” The Trust wrote to the Environment Agency, suggesting that the wording of the advertisement was illegal, and this action resulted in it being withdrawn (although a new advert was written and posted a month or so later, apparently after legal consultation).
Since then, the charity has begun to archive government and university reports on problems facing the English (such as education, where poor White boys are almost the lowest achieving group in Britain), has expanded its website, and is now putting out a regular newsletter.
The Steadfast Trust has also received some unexpected recognition. The Mounted Games Association has shown its support for the charity, with its riders wearing the Steadfast Trust name on their polo shirts during one recent competition. And the
British Library has sent the charity an invitation to have the current website permanently archived, as part of its prestigious web preservation program. According to the letter sent to The Steadfast Trust, the British Library selects sites, “[…] to represent aspects of UK documentary heritage,” and will make the website available to researchers well into the future.
Having witnessed the most extraordinary government hostility toward the English over the last decade – and
continuing still – this is nothing short of a remarkable achievement.

Posted on 10/05/2008 1:07 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 5 October 2008
A poem learnt by heart is a friend for life

Sensibly old fashioned in many ways, my education had succumbed to the tyranny of progressive ideas in one important respect: I was never made, or even encouraged, to learn poems by heart. Why ever not? Did they think our heads would explode? At least I was made to learn my times tables, which have a kind of poetry to them.

In The Sunday Times, Daisy Goodwin explains why children should stock their minds with verse. (To stop them storing something worse?)

Learning a poem at an early age is an investment for the future. As T S Eliot said, you don’t need to understand a poem to enjoy it.

A seven-year-old might miss every nuance of Kubla Khan or Ozymandias — but, learnt young, the poems will stay in the head for life, adding lustre to the good moments and illumination in the bad. Memorising a poem means you own it.

As a child, I was paid by my grandmother to learn Shakespeare sonnets at 50p a pop. Back then the fringe benefits of a good memory were a steady supply of Maltesers; now I can call up “Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang” every autumn and “Th’expense of spirit in a waste of shame is lust in action” every time I look at the News of the World.

Think of the Beirut hostage Terry Waite, whose five years of captivity were made tolerable by the reams of Milton and the Book of Common Prayer he had committed to memory. Senator John McCain, who learnt the Victorian spine-stiffener Invictus (by W E Henley) as a boy, said it helped him to survive a Vietnamese PoW camp — he even gave an impromptu recital when he won the South Carolina primary, using its lines “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” as the opening to his speech.

It must have been a spontaneous quote, as his spin doctors would have told him that the last person to use that poem so publicly was Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber.


It is time to rebrand poetry as an achievement, not a soppy indulgence. To this end the BBC, together with my production company Silver River, has launched a poetry recital competition open to every child in the country between the ages of seven and 11. Every primary school in Britain can hold a poetry recital competition and put forward one child to take part in a series of regional heats held in libraries up and down the country.

You're never too old to start, as Jeanette Winterson scarily makes clear:

I’m a walking poetry book; I learn a poem off by heart every two weeks. My friends often ask me to recite a poem to cheer them up. If I find myself on a long train journey with nothing to read, it doesn’t matter because I have it all in my head. Learning poetry is central to a healthy brain and a happy life — it gives you a whole library to draw from.

I'll leave the last word to Alan Bennett, via comedian Rory Bremner:

The most concise distillation of why poetry matters is in Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys. When one of the boys complains that most poetry is about things that haven’t happened to them yet, Hector replies: “It will. And then you will have the antidote ready. Grief. Happiness. Even when you’re dying. We’re making your deathbeds here, boys.”

Right, that does it. I'm convinced. There once was a Bishop of Birmingham....

Posted on 10/05/2008 1:13 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Lessons Left Unlearned

The inability of so many -- of everyone, apparently -- in the Bush Administration to sit still, even for a few hours a week, and learn about the texts and tenets of Islam, and about the 1350-year history of Islamic conquest and subsequent subjugation of many different non-Muslim peoples, ranging from Spain to the East Indies -- led to the folly of Iraq today, where the failure to find weapons of mass destruction quickly turned a mere notion, of "helping the people of Iraq," into something else, a full-fledged and world-without-end effort to transform Iraq, first by bringing "freedom" to "ordinary moms and dads" -- a "freedom" that was identified with head-counting democracy -- and then by providing security, and "national reconciliation" (Sunnis and Shi'a, Arabs and Kurds) so that the country would enjoy a unity it had never in the past truly possessed, and -- for good measure -- the Americans would spend hundreds of billions to make Iraqis "prosperous" because, Marxists that the Bush Administration's defenders-of-economic-privilege turn out to be, under everything lies economics.

Yes, Islam need not be investigated, the attitudes and atmospherics of Islam can be ignored because it is, you see, a "religion" and all right-thinking people know that Belief Is A Good Thing (it saved Bush from demon drink) and All Religions Are Good, and there's an end on it.

Now, when all kinds of threats loom, a cockamamie doctrine is apparently being confidently proposed by not-very-intelligent men in the Pentagon, compounding the folly of Iraq, the folly of Afghanistan.

These men have not, will not, cannot bring themselves to study and think about the doctrines of Islam, about the hold of Islam on the minds of its adherents, and about the nature of the threat that Islam poses to the entire Infidel world. They will not look, they do not appear to recognize, at the countries of Western Europe, and the effect of the burgeoning Muslim threat there. They are military men, but unlike the military men in the Cold War, or World War II, or World War I, they seem impervious to the notion that a propaganda campaign must be conducted to demoralize the enemy -- and the chief way to demoralize the Muslim enemy is to first grasp the nature of Islam, and then to firmly insist, and repeat on every occasion, that the failures of Islamic states and societies -- political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral failures -- come from, can be linked directly to, Islam itself. It is not hard to do, but apparently it is too hard for the tens of thousands of people who work in the Pentagon and the State Department even to begin thinking along those lines. All the work has been done for them, by the way, and they need only google around at this, and another website, to locate the lineaments of such an understanding, of such a policy.

When will the men currently ruling the roost in the squawking Pentagon, with all of its solemn, bureaucratic studies, ever allowed themselves to enjoy what is apparently a luxury: a time for study, and then reflection, and then a little common sense? 

When will they choose to look at Western Europe, and at the main weapons of Jihad -- the Money Weapon, campaigns of Da'wa, and demographic conquest? When will they realize that the vast sums squandered on Iraq could have been much better spent on energy projects to diminish that Money Weapon, and on propaganda to divide and demoralize the Camp of Islam, and to immunize populations who are the most obvious immediate targets of Da'wa? 

Who will draw, while there is still time, the correct lessons from the colossal folly of Iraq? 

Who, that is, with the power to do something? 

Posted on 10/05/2008 2:01 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 5 October 2008
FEC To Investigate Irregular Obama Contributions

Michael Isikoff writes in Newsweek:

The Obama campaign has shattered all fund-raising records, raking in $458 million so far, with about half the bounty coming from donors who contribute $200 or less. Aides say that's an illustration of a truly democratic campaign. To critics, though, it can be an invitation for fraud and illegal foreign cash because donors giving individual sums of $200 or less don't have to be publicly reported. Consider the cases of Obama donors "Doodad Pro" of Nunda, N.Y., who gave $17,130, and "Good Will" of Austin, Texas, who gave more than $11,000—both in excess of the $2,300-per-person federal limit. In two recent letters to the Obama campaign, Federal Election Commission auditors flagged those (and other) donors and informed the campaign that the sums had to be returned. Neither name had ever been publicly reported because both individuals made online donations in $10 and $25 increments. "Good Will" listed his employer as "Loving" and his occupation as "You," while supplying as his address 1015 Norwood Park Boulevard, which is shared by the Austin nonprofit Goodwill Industries. Suzanha Burmeister, marketing director for Goodwill, said the group had "no clue" who the donor was. She added, however, that the group had received five puzzling thank-you letters from the Obama campaign this year, prompting it to send the campaign an e-mail in September pointing out the apparent fraudulent use of its name.

"Doodad Pro" listed no occupation or employer; the contributor's listed address is shared by Lloyd and Lynn's Liquor Store in Nunda. "I have never heard of such an individual," says Diane Beardsley, who works at the store and is the mother of one of the owners. "Nobody at this store has that much money to contribute." (She added that a Doodad's Boutique, located next door, had closed a year ago, before the donations were made.)

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said the campaign has no idea who the individuals are and has returned all the donations, using the credit-card numbers they gave to the campaign. (In a similar case earlier this year, the campaign returned $33,000 to two Palestinian brothers in the Gaza Strip who had bought T shirts in bulk from the campaign's online store. They had listed their address as "Ga.," which the campaign took to mean Georgia rather than Gaza.) "While no organization is completely protected from Internet fraud, we will continue to review our fund-raising procedures," LaBolt said. Some critics say the campaign hasn't done enough. This summer, watchdog groups asked both campaigns to share more information about its small donors. The McCain campaign agreed; the Obama campaign did not. "They could've done themselves a service" by heeding the suggestions, said Massie Ritsch of the Center for Responsive Politics...

Posted on 10/05/2008 4:49 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 5 October 2008
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Fats Waller, Jenny Legon
Posted on 10/05/2008 7:23 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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