These are all the Blogs posted on Monday, 5, 2008.
Monday, 5 May 2008
New Duranty: JERUSALEM — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a series of talks on Israeli-Palestinian peace here on Sunday, saying she believed an accord was attainable by year’s end. But the process was overshadowed by an intensifying police investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel.
Ms. Rice, who arrived here from a conference in London that focused on international donations to the Palestinian Authority, has held meetings with Mr. Olmert; the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas; and other top officials from both sides. In brief statements so far, all have been tight-lipped.
“We continue to believe that it is an achievable goal to have an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis by the end of the year and by the end of President Bush’s term,” Ms. Rice said. She focused some of her comments on the need for Israel to make daily life easier for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank.
I fail to understand why Israel needs to make life easier for the very people vowing its destruction, or why the "Palestinians" need a state that would allow them to import bigger and better weapons from like minded states. Would the creation of a state automatically confer the ability to govern themselves? Would Hamas and Palestinian Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade all lay down their arms? Is a state what they're fighting for, or is the destruction of the "Zionist entity" what they fight for? Fortunately, Olmert is in no position to make any deals.
But there were more signs on Sunday that the investigation of Mr. Olmert could further bog down the peace negotiations.
The nature of the accusation against Mr. Olmert is under a strict court-imposed gag order, so Israeli commentators, some of whom have received leaks of key details, have been talking around it. “The issue under investigation is serious, of that there can be no doubt,” wrote Nahum Barnea, a columnist for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot. “If it turns out that the allegations against Olmert are well founded, he will have to resign his post if not more than that.”...
Cry Me A River.
Posted on 05/05/2008 7:14 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 5 May 2008
Nabokov In The Danger Seat
An irresistible picture of Nabokov in, bien entendu, not the driver's but the passenger's seat of that Buick. Route 66, if I am not mistaken, but the picture could also have been taken outside Albany (to and from that fair field of Karner blues), or Jackson Hole (to or from the house of stingy James Laughlin), or Telluride, or any number of places, including West Wardsboro (Karpovich's dacha -- see that emblematic couple in "Pnin"), or Ithaca itself, places immortalized even if not named, in "Lolita" and in the list of lepping places found in VN's etymological works, such as that light-green Genus Lycaeides Hubner MCZ publication.
... not the driver's but the passenger's seat ...
Oh, I see. I'd been wondering why ol' Vivalcomb was trying to drive a car with no steering wheel and looking the wrong way. --Mary Jackson
Nabokov is sitting in the Danger Seat, or the Siege Perilous, as another Russian, Eugene Vinaver, put it in his famous recension of Malory. (It was Vinaver who invited Nabokov to speak at the University of Manchester, at a time when Nabokov was hoping to leave Paris for England). Not for the faint-hearted, the siege perilous is located on the right in America, and left in England, the opposite of what students of politics in both countries would expect.
Posted on 05/05/2008 7:56 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 5 May 2008
Unfreedom Of Religion In Iraq
Eli Lake writes in the New York Sun (hat tip: Refugee Resettlement Watch):
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is split along party lines over whether to designate Iraq as a "country of particular concern" for religious freedom.
A recommendation to designate Iraq as a "country of particular concern" would be a blow to the Baghdad government of Prime Minister Maliki, putting Iraq on a list with some of the most repressive countries on the planet, such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. It could also prompt the next American president to cut off foreign aid to Iraq, an option under the International Religious Freedom Act that created the commission.
The commission yesterday sent a letter to Secretary of State Rice, saying, "We remain seriously concerned about religious freedom conditions in Iraq. The commission is traveling to the region later in the month and plans to issue its report and recommendation on Iraq in the near future, including a recommendation concerning the appropriate designation of Iraq this year under the International Religious Freedom Act."...
"I have been very concerned with the plight of religious minorities in Iraq," [Commission member]Ms. [Nina] Shea said in an interview. "This is one of the most intolerant places in the world for religious minorities. Half the Christians and half the Yazidis are believed to have fled Iraq since 2003. Six hundred thousand Christians have fled the country. There are about 500,000 Yazidis left. Eighty-five to 90% of the Mandeans have left," she said...
While the outcome of the fight over Iraq inside the commission is in doubt, it may spur the White House to pressure the Iraqi government to provide more services for displaced Christians. "I think the Bush administration should be doing a lot more and should make keeping these small minorities in the country a priority," Ms. Shea said. "Historically Iraq has been a pluralistic mosaic and these minorities are generally well educated and politically moderate. They help advance democracy and freedom in that country. It will be a Pyrrhic victory to have stabilized Iraq only to find it fanatically intolerant of Christians and other non-Muslim religions."
I remember warning some members of the administration in Iraq with Ambassador Bremer about the need to constrain Islam and the reply was something to the effect that "freedom of religion" was what we were fighting for. So, having lost on the "freedom of religion" front not to mention the "freedom of speech" and "freedom of assembly" fronts and restraining ourselves from even using the word "liberty," what are we fighting for now?
Posted on 05/05/2008 8:37 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 5 May 2008
...National security strategy is policy and policy implies a theory -- a theory for action. To date we have no concrete theory of action because we have no fully articulated global threat model. We are seven years into a global war with armed combat and many dead and wounded, and yet still lack a common analytic paradigm to describe and model the enemy. It is a stunning failure to propel the country to war without a fully elaborated threat model that clarifies and specifies the enemy and makes clear our true objectives.
The lack of a threat model and a theory for action explains our schizophrenia, our failures and homeland security shortcomings.
Understanding the enemy -- "the threat," his threat doctrine and the authoritative statements, sources and philosophy undergirding that doctrine is a primary duty. That is the first step in developing a threat model. It is the vital step in the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield
process, to template enemy doctrine by laying it over the terrain: the physical, human and cultural terrain to understand its manifestations in reality. These are the first relevant questions to be answered for US national security analysis.
Our enemy says he is fighting jihad warfare to extend the Islamic faith; the basis of that claim rests on his exegesis of Quranic and Islamic Law injunctions. Irrespective of whether we or other Muslims accept or deny the legitimacy of his claim, if that is his stated doctrine, then that is the doctrine we must study and comprehend. That is the doctrine that will provide the indicators and warnings of future threats, that is the basis of our threat model.
That fact that other Muslims do not engage in violent jihad bears no relevance to our problem set or the analysis of those who do; it is a distraction and ancillary information that does not contribute to the threat model or understanding the enemy.
The fact is we have already so nuanced this war that we have failed to complete those required analyses. Our national security strategies and plans are so nuanced now as to be useless in terms of understanding the threat, defining it, clarifying it, modeling it. Read them, see if you can distill the enemy and orient on a clear objective. Even in our own strategic planning documents we admit to ourselves that we don't agree on the threat.
This completely contrasts with our well-developed threat model in the Cold War, beginning with NSC-68 and the containment policy, national security courses that taught Soviet ideology and world-view, the Soviet threat doctrine series published by DIA, and then wargaming against it at our military schools.. We understood them intellectually, philosophically, doctrinally from the very top down to the tactical bottom.
Seven years into this war we cannot say the same for the global jihad and have failed the same analytic and policy rigor. That is a serious error of omission...
Posted on 05/05/2008 9:51 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 5 May 2008
I came by the device in a Department store while watching a demonstration of “The World’s Sharpest Knife”.
I had seen the demonstration a couple of years ago, and did buy the knife package (the world’s sharpest knife, which is indeed very good, its 2 identical twin brothers, a paring knife, a vegetable knife, and a filleting knife all for the price of 1 knife +£3 with a free gift to everybody who watched the demonstration) but enticed by the offer of a different free gift, a fancy spiralling knife, and having time to kill I decided to watch the demonstration again.
This time the demonstration was performed not by a woman who looked like she had a kitchen of her own in which she did seriously chop vegetables but by a rather cocky young man.
“This is free for anybody who can tell me what it is”, he said, holding up our item.
“It’s a device for gathering up the fluff and crumbs at the back of the cutlery drawer” I said. I have many such. He tossed it to me because of my cheek.
Cheeky boy himself.
Another woman later ticked him off for not handling the knife with sufficient care in front of the children present.
Anyway as he demonstrated, and Del and Special Guest knew, it is “The World’s Smallest Juicer”.
I haven’t tried it out yet but you plunge the serrated edge into the fruit, up to the overhanging lip, upend it into a glass then squeeze the fruit with your fist. The juice runs through the tube at the top, which upended is now at the bottom and into the glass.
So now you know.
Posted on 05/05/2008 11:55 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 5 May 2008
Cinco De Mayo, Or, You See That You Were Wrong
I know what you are thinking. You keep thinking that the fatidic date – Cinco de Mayo -- being celebrated today has something to do with Napoleon, and Spain, and the Peninsular Campaign. You keep thinking that a certain painting by Goya showing a firing-squad and its victims is a painting which you are convinced is called "Cinco de Mayo." And that misremembered "Cinco" of that hazily-remembered painting becomes further imprinted on your brain by a snatch of Garcia Lorca, from what is practically the only poem, or only bit of a poem, in Spanish that, admit, you can remember -- the one about the death, from a goring, of matador Angel Mejía Sánchez, in the bullring at Manzanares, in 1934, a poem (Llanto por Angel Mejía Sánchez) which takes as its haunting refrain the phrase “a las cinco de la tarde," which, according to the poem was the precise time of the matador’s death: "Lo demás era muerte y sólo muerte/A las cinco de la tarde."
So what a surprise it is to discover that the painting by Goya is called "The Third of May."
And what a surprise, as well, to discover that the Cinco de Mayo celebration has nothing to do with French troops in Spain, but rather with French troops in Mexico, and the Battle of Puebla, in 1862, in which the French were defeated by the Mexican army -- thanks to the assistance given by the Tlaxcaltecas, from nearby Tlaxcala, rather than from the locals, the Poblanos, themselves. But it was a hollow victory, because in the end the French won, and installed as Emperor their man Maximilian, a Hapsburg far from home and out of his depth.
Five years later, that hapless Hapsburg was shot, along with two of his generals, by a Mexican firing squad, a scene immortalized in a painting by Manet. One of the generals was named Mejia. Maximilian is reported to have said to his valet (perhaps his valet said to him – I can never remember) “You said it would not come to this. You see that you were wrong.”
So there is not one patibulo-painting in this tale, but two. And the painting by Manet was influenced by the painting by Goyal. But neither painting is about an event that took place on the fifth of May, neither one has directly to do, but both have something in our collective memories to do, with the Cinco-de-Mayo celebration, and no doubt many of those celebrating assume that a famous execution, by firing-squad, took place on the Fifth of May, in some country – Spain, Mexico – where Spanish is spoken.
Nor does the Goya-theme end here. Nowadays, in Los Angeles, in San Diego, in Houston, in Phoenix, in New York and Philadelphia and even, now, in such places as Charlotte -- no relation to Carlota, consort of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico – in the south of North Carolina, the name of Goya comes up again, every Cinco de Mayo. Not the painter, not the desastres-de-la-guerra fellow who influenced Manet not the one to whom the Mexican artist Posada owes something, but rather, the giant food company Goya, that spreads out in supermarkets, for Cinco de Mayo spreads all over the Colossus of the North, its taquitos, its tortillas, its sofrito, its mole poblano, its habichuelas, its chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
So today we can fleetingly honor Maxmilian by repeating his words: You see that you were wrong.
Posted on 05/05/2008 12:05 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 5 May 2008
Star Wars Day
I did not realise that yesterday was Star Wars Day.
May the Fourth . . . be with you.
Posted on 05/05/2008 12:51 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 5 May 2008
The Age Of Educational Romanticism
Charles Murray writes at The New Criterion (hat tip: John Derbyshire):
This is the story of educational romanticism in elementary and secondary schools —its rise, its etiology, and, we have reason to hope, its approaching demise.
Educational romanticism consists of the belief that just about all children who are not doing well in school have the potential to do much better. Correlatively, educational romantics believe that the academic achievement of children is determined mainly by the opportunities they receive; that innate intellectual limits (if they exist at all) play a minor role; and that the current K-12 schools have huge room for improvement.
Educational romanticism characterizes reformers of both Left and Right, though in different ways. Educational romantics of the Left focus on race, class, and gender. It is children of color, children of poor parents, and girls whose performance is artificially depressed, and their academic achievement will blossom as soon as they are liberated from the racism, classism, and sexism embedded in American education. Those of the Right see public education as an ineffectual monopoly, and think that educational achievement will blossom when school choice liberates children from politically correct curricula and obdurate teachers’ unions.
In public discourse, the leading symptom of educational romanticism is silence on the role of intellectual limits even when the topic screams for their discussion. Try to think of the last time you encountered a news story that mentioned low intellectual ability as the reason why some students do not perform at grade level. I doubt if you can. Whether analyzed by the news media, school superintendents, or politicians, the problems facing low-performing students are always that they have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, or have gone to bad schools, or grown up in peer cultures that do not value educational achievement. The problem is never that they just aren’t smart enough....
Posted on 05/05/2008 1:29 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 5 May 2008
by Mary Jackson
I like to make a virtue of necessity. My May article is, of necessity, late, but has the virtue of incorporating the result of the recent election for Mayor of London. The winner, as all British and most American readers will know, was one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Supporters and detractors alike know him simply as Boris. Like his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, he needs no surname. There is only one Boris. more...
Posted on 05/05/2008 1:35 PM by NER
Monday, 5 May 2008
I didn't find out the name of this Morris side at the Rochester Sweeps festival this weekend. I just managed (more by luck than judgment) to catch them at the exact moment the middle man was swung over his fellow's swords. Rather dramatic and I had never seen that particular manoeveur before.
Bands seen this weekend.
Festival Marquee - The Battlefield Band supported by The Dealers. The Dealers come from Deal; they do not do deals.
City Wall - Pigs Ear
Boley Hill Stage - Hot Rats - Those were The Days in Russian
The Crown - The Prague Castle Orchestra - The Smallest Orchestra in the World.
Posted on 05/05/2008 2:52 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 5 May 2008
Hugh misses a joke
In my post here, I describe how a professor of "writing" hypercorrects, and says "whom" when she means "who". I wrote:
Between you and I, her hypercorrection suggests she is not someone whom can be trusted.
Hugh "corrects" this to "between you and me", thereby completely missing the point.
As if I wouldn't know that. I thought it was only my jokes about Nabokov that he didn't get.
Unless it's some kind of elaborate double bluff.
Posted on 05/05/2008 3:20 PM by Mary Jackson
Monday, 5 May 2008
A Musical Interlude: Shimmy Like My Sister Kate (Bunk Johnson)
Posted on 05/05/2008 3:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 5 May 2008
I will stop banging on about Boris eventually. He isn't God, after all. But I thought I'd post this, from David Thompson. His piece highlights some reactions from the bruschetta brigade to the prospect of Boris becoming Mayor. If Boris can annoy The Guardian, he must be doing something right.
A breathless Zoe Williams writes:
God alone knows what this moneyed creep would get up to… He despises gays and he despises provincials… and he despises Africans. He despises them, and he despises those of us who would hold such judgments to be bigoted and inhuman.
He despises people who are not of his class because he is a snob.
An ironic statement, one might think, coming from a Guardian columnist, especially one whose own elitist affectations have entertained us so. This denunciation of snobbery is almost immediately followed by,
We know what London is. Boris is not London.
So no snobbery there.
Williams’ piece concludes with some quotes from notable Londoners. The actress Arabella Weir, daughter of former British ambassador Sir Michael Weir, offers this:
How do we trust a guy who says he knows about London, when he’s just taken three of his kids out of state school and put them into private schools?
Then there’s this, from fashion designer Vivienne Westwood:
Boris as mayor? Unthinkable. It just exposes democracy as a sham, especially if people don’t vote for Ken.
Ms Westwood appears to have difficulty grasping the concept of democracy, which generally entails the possibility that other people – perhaps a great many of them – will have preferences that differ from one’s own. Still, there’s an almost charming megalomania to the implication that a system which allows people to vote on those preferences must be a “sham” when the people doing the voting disagree with Vivienne Westwood.
It’s a safe bet that the Guardian’s imperious dowager in residence, Polly Toynbee, won’t be too chuffed either. Toynbee famously said of Johnson,
Perhaps because he was not born to great wealth… he revels in everything elite - intellectual, social or monied.
Unlike Polly - a member of the rather grand Toynbee family and descendant of the Earls of Carlisle - who was born into wealth. As Guardian readers will know, Polly’s peeves include private education and other people’s money:
He earned more than £400,000 last year in journalism and after-dinner speaking on top of his MP’s salary.
Oddly, while Toynbee makes a point of announcing the earnings of others, supposedly on principal, she refuses to disclose the details of her own salary and extracurricular income; though one might assume her Guardian salary alone is comfortably within six figures. And it’s worth noting that Johnson earned less than Polly’s employer at the Guardian, the privately educated Alan Rusbridger, who last year was paid £520,000.
Johnson’s reply to Toynbee is worth reading in full, but here’s a taste:
She joins the usual Labour snarling against fee-paying education, and selective education of all kinds. In reality, of course, she is the beneficiary of a highly selective education and also sent her own offspring to one of the most expensive public schools in the country, an establishment way beyond the means of most people. Of course there will be those who accuse her of monstrous hypocrisy, and wonder… how on earth she can insist on imposing a one-size-fits-all comprehensive system on the rest of the country, and close down the opportunities of so many poor but bright kids, when she has so ruthlessly maximised the opportunities of her own children…
Then there will be those who complain that it is hypocritical of Polly to have her lovely second home in Italy, to which she doubtless repairs on so many cheapo flights that she has personally quilted the earth in a tea-cosy of CO2; to which I say, yes, it probably is wrong of Polly to keep calling for higher taxes when that would put such opportunities - for air travel to second homes - beyond the reach of millions slightly less fortunate than her. But never mind the hypocrisy: look at the fundamental Tory behaviour. At least she's renting the villa out at pretty keen rates.
For that alone, I’m quite pleased Boris is London’s new mayor. And besides, what could possibly go wrong?
Posted on 05/05/2008 3:58 PM by Mary Jackson
Monday, 5 May 2008
The Current Plight Of Christians In Iraq Was Predictable
The current plight of Christians in Iraq was all completely predictable.
Saddam Hussein, out of self-interest, protected, in his ruthless way, the non-Muslim minorities from those who took their Islam just a bit too seriously, and that meant, largely, the fanatics among the Shi'a (the Ba'athist facade permitted continued Sunni domination, and the Sunnis were less fanatical, more "secular" in a limited sense).
It is amusing to see Christian Iraqi exiles, such as Donny George, express their rage at the American effort in Iraq. They cannot, of course, come right out and say that they miss Saddam Hussein, just as they cannot explain how, or why, Saddam Hussein was their protector, or why Islam is a permanent menace, and needs to be constrained, by a strong, even ruthless ruler, such as Ataturk, or, for quite different reasons, Saddam Hussein. So Donny George (former head of the Baghdad Museum) and other Iraqi Christians in the United States, do not really explain the position of Christians, and keep saying, quite misleadingly, how well everyone got along in the old days, but not explaining what that statement really means. And what it means is that since the Christians never represented a political threat, Saddam Hussein could trust them, could use them (his tasters, his drivers, his household staff were made up, in significant part, of Christians -- who proceeded to perform the same tasks for the Americans in the Green Zone).
It is no different in Syria. There, a ruthless and cruel regime, the regime of the Alawites, nonetheless protects the Christians because the Sunni Muslims are a shared threat, and the Alawites, with their syncretistic worship of Mary, are regarded by orthodox Sunni Muslims as not quite Muslims at all, and the Alawite rulers -- some of whom have been deliberately intermarrying with Sunni Muslims, for protection -- are keenly aware of this. A few years ago a fatwa was obtained from a Shi'a cleric in Iran, declaring that the Alawites were indeed full-fledged (Shi'a) Muslims. This was, the Alawites felt, an important achievement. Of course, all of this is completely unnoticed, unremarked, un-understood, by those who write busily about Syria, and presume to make Western policy toward Syria. In Syria the main threat to the Christians are Sunni Muslims, in Iraq the main threat has and is the Shi'a Muslims, those whom Donny George and his fellow Christians from Iraq carefully refer to as "the turbans."
Posted on 05/05/2008 4:05 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 5 May 2008
Still Riled Over Those Cartoons
Saturday in Karachi, courtesy of AP
Posted on 05/05/2008 5:14 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Monday, 5 May 2008
Radicalism Here And Abroad
One of my last cases as a federal prosecutor was a lengthy litigation to keep Weather Undergrounder Susan Rosenberg in prison serving her richly deserved 58-year sentence, imposed by a federal judge in New Jersey. (She was claiming that she was lawlessly being denied parole because of New York conduct — the infamous Brinks robbery — for which she had never been convicted.) After I finally convinced the New York federal judge not to disturb the sentence, Clinton pardoned Rosenberg and another Weather terrorists, Linda Evans (serving a 40-year sentence), on his last day in office. To get a sense of what a Clinton/Obama web this is, Bill Ayers' wife, Bernadine Dohrn, did several months in the slammer for contempt of a grand jury subpoena — she was refusing to testify about
... Susan Rosenberg.
But I want to weigh in on a more important point — this notion that we are not supposed to concern ourselves with someone's radical politics as long as she (at least ostensibly) rejects violence and agrees to work through a political process.
This is not just a Democrat problem. Not to beat a dead horse, but it is a big part of the Bush administration's democracy project (of which McCain is clearly a fan). Our general approach to radical Islam has boiled down to: as long as you are not actively blowing up a building, at least today, you are a moderate; as long as you pledge (however convincingly) to work through a political process, we're not going to trouble you with a lot of questions about what you hope to achieve through that process. This is how we end up in the sack with Fatah, Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to name just a few. This elevation of process over substance is how we delude ourselves into thinking we can usefully negotiate with Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il.
Now, to be clear, I am not insensitive to the differences here. Under the guise of "social justice," lefty radicals are trying to transform America because they despise it; today's Wilsonians, by contrast, recognize America's greatness and want only to remake other parts of the world in the dubious conviction that the project will make America safer. That is not a small difference. But we are undermining our ability to condemn radicalism here when we wink at it as viable politics elsewhere.
Posted on 05/05/2008 7:23 PM by Andy McCarthy