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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
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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
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by Theodore Dalrymple
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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
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Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
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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:
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Jihad and Genocide
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Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
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These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 9, 2011.
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Asia Bibi gravely ill

LAHORE, PAKISTAN  -- Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Christian mother of five who has been condemned to death under Pakistan's strict blasphemy law, is gravely ill in her solitary confinement cell in Sheikhupura district jail, and there are growing concerns for her life.

According to Jibran Khan, writing for Asia News (www.asianews.it), "The Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy on false evidence is sick with chickenpox, because of the appallingly unhygienic conditions she is being kept in. 

Haroon Barket Masih, president of the Masih Foundation, which is providing legal and financial assistance to Ms. Bibi, has issued a statement which said, "Asia Bibi was diagnosed with chicken pox. She has been kept in solitary confinement for more than three months. We have expressed concern about her health, because she spends 24 hours a day locked in the cell.

"She needs medical care, hygienic and healthy conditions. She fell ill with chickenpox because of the dirty environment, and being unable to clean her room or bed sheets on which she sleeps. Despite her ill health she spends her time fasting and praying for everyone, She neglects her health and prays for everyone else. She is concerned about the current situation in Pakistan. We are trying to arrange a medical examination, and to ensure acceptable hygienic conditions. Until now she has had no medical care. (Chicken pox is no joke in an adult in ideal conditions.) Please continue to pray for Asia Bibi who prays and fasts."

 Bishop Anthony Rufin told AsiaNews: "I am saddened by the news about Asia Bibi, on her state of health and the state in which she lives. The Catholic Church... prays that she will be treated. It's a difficult time for the minorities in Pakistan and incidents of violence are becoming more numerous. For how long will we live in fear? We must work together for a campaign to promote harmony and tolerance. This Lent we pray for peace in Pakistan; a Pakistan where we can all live freely.

Posted on 04/09/2011 3:45 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 9 April 2011
A Musical Interlude: Remember My Forgotten Man (Joan Blondell, Etta Moten)

Listen here.

Posted on 04/09/2011 8:36 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 9 April 2011
What Pro-Outtarra Forces In Ivory Coast Have Done

Ouattara Forces Killed Ivory Coast Civilians During Offensive, Group Says

Forces loyal to Ivory Coast President-elect Alassane Ouattara killed hundreds of civilians, burned at least 10 villages and summarily raped women from an ethnic group perceived to be loyal to ousted leader Laurent Gbagbo, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Fighters often targeted people by ethnicity, and the attacks disproportionately affected those too old or feeble to flee,” said a report e-mailed late yesterday by the New York- based group. “Dozens of women were also detained for a day or longer and repeatedly raped.”

The report of the killings, which occurred during a March offensive by the pro-Ouattara Republican Forces in the country’s west, come as his troops maintained a siege of Gbagbo’s residence in the Cocody section of Abidjan.

Gbagbo, who has disputed Ouattara’s internationally recognized victory in Nov. 28 presidential elections, has taken shelter in a bunker with his family and senior aides. His security forces have largely retreated or defected as rebels now known as the Republican Forces swept down from northern Ivory Coast to Abidjan.

Abidjan was quiet this morning following gun battles yesterday between Ouattara and Gbagbo forces, with electricity returning to some parts of the port city. Ouattara’s administration today attempted to mobilize soldiers from the military formerly loyal to Gbagbo, who was president of the world’s largest cocoa producer from 2000 until last year.

“As part of the mobilization for the resumption of service, the Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, requires officers, junior officers and other ranks of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Gendarmerie Nationale to register on open lists in this manner,” the statement issued by Ouattara’s administration by e-mail today said.

More than one million people have fled their homes during the four-month crisis, according to the UN. French and UN peacekeeping forces in Abidjan have also launched helicopter strikes against Gbagbo’s forces this week.

Prior to February, abuses against civilians were largely committed by security forces loyal to Gbagbo, Human Rights Watch said. That changed after forces nominally under the control of Ouattara’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro launched an offensive in late February. The atrocities culminated in a March 29 massacre of hundreds of civilians in the western town of Duekoue near the Liberian border, home to a large number of people from the Guere ethnic group that largely supported Gbagbo, the report added.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court has also started an examination into alleged crimes in Ivory Coast and Ouattara’s administration has agreed to submit to its jurisdiction.

The European Union yesterday lifted restrictions on cocoa exports from the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro, which have come under the control of Ouattara’s forces. Cocoa in London fell 25 pounds, or 1.3 percent, to 1,889 pounds ($3,095) per ton, at the close of trading yesterday.

Posted on 04/09/2011 8:45 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Be prepared

Sometimes you come across a piece of advice with very limited application, but which is spot on should you need it. For instance, it's most unlikely that you'll ever drive your car into a river, but if you do, you'll want to know how to get out. How you'll regret silencing the pub bore who might have told you the trick: wind down the window, let enough water in to equalise the pressure on the inside and outside, open the door and - Bob's your uncle - up you bob.

In the Dear Mary column of this week's Spectator, I read some advice for a situation even less likely to arise. I'm reproducing it here so that any New English Review readers who don't also read the Spectator, and who find themselves facing a lady's predicament, will know what to do. One day you'll thank me:

Q. We normally drive guests departing our house in France to our nearest station for trains connecting them to Eurostar. One departing guest, an attractive divorcee, had half an hour to kill, so I suggested a croissant and coffee, which meant lugging her very heavy case over to the café and back again to the station where, as I sank exhaustedly onto the bench with the case between us, my elbow activated a battery-driven item in the suitcase. Toothbrush? — I wondered — or something of a more intimate nature? Was it polite to ignore the buzzing, and feign deafness? Or should I have mentioned it, risking some embarrassed scrabbling in the case?

A.T., London SW3

A. On this occasion your silence will have spoken louder than words. When sudden onset vibrating of this sort occurs, the protocol is to draw attention to it, blinking blandly as you insist that a ‘toothbrush has gone off’. ‘That reminds me,’ you then gasp. ‘I must ring home and check that I turned the oven off.’ By moving away, you grant the owner of the case the privacy to remedy the situation unsupervised.

Remember: Be prepared. Blink blandly. Toothbrush gone off.

Posted on 04/09/2011 8:44 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Good news for schools

Since the destruction of the grammar schools, Britain's state schools have been in decline, thinly masked by rampant grade inflation. Michael Gove's policy is the first serious attempt to reverse that decline, and it seems to be working. From The Spectator:

Anyone who has recently bought a house next to a good school — they typically command a £20,000 premium — has good reason to loathe Michael Gove. The Education Secretary may well be about to bring the whole catchment area game to an end. Quietly, but at a surprising rate, schools are fleeing the control of local councils and becoming academies: independent, but within the state sector. What was a trickle under the Labour years is turning into a flood. This time last year, just one in 16 state secondaries had this ‘academy’ status. Now, it is one in eight. By Christmas, it should be one in four. And by the next election, most state secondary schools in Britain — about 1,600 — should be free to run their own affairs. ..Gove has approved 357 schools, with 470 applications being processed.

This matters because, in Britain, the fastest way to improve a school is to liberate it from the control of incompetent local authorities. It was demonstrated by Labour’s city academy project. Whenever a state school was taken over by an independent provider — such as the Harris Federation or Absolute Return for Kids — its results would skyrocket. If schools are given the powers to set the curriculum, to pay teachers what they like and, yes, to sack whom they like, then the results can be extraordinary. Britain’s schools have the talent, resources and the determination. They just need the freedom.

[...]

School chains are emerging as successful secondaries seek to take over failing primaries. Thus competent school management spreads. And sink schools slide towards deserved extinction.

[...]

When Gordon Brown was retreating, he cleverly transferred power towards the left-leaning judiciary, disguising this machinery under names like the Equalities Act. As a result, almost everything this government does, from the budget downwards, can be subject to a judicial review. The teaching unions know that, if Gove’s trajectory continues, they will have lost control of English state education within four years. They will sue, having been given the power to do so by the last Labour government.

David Cameron is on the cusp of making history. He could become the Prime Minister who ended the national scandal of sink schools, and reversed a decline which started with Crosland’s war on grammars in 1965. In politics, success, as well as failure, can be unforeseen. But when success appears, it must be reinforced and encouraged.

It's about time Cameron got something right - he seems to be getting most things spectacularly wrong.

 

Posted on 04/09/2011 9:06 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Saudi Arabia, World Center Of The Most Dangerous Form Of Islam, Wants $60 Billion In American Arms

From Haaretz, April 9, 2011:

 

Saudi Arabia asks U.S. for prices of warships with air, missile defenses

In October, Obama administration notified Congress of a proposed $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia over 15 to 20 years.

By Reuters 
 

Saudi Arabia has asked the United States for prices for surface warships with integrated air and missile defenses, helicopters, patrol craft and shore infrastructure, the U.S. Navy said on Friday.

The Navy is preparing a rough cost estimate that would be delivered possibly as soon as May, Navy spokeswoman Captain Cate Mueller told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest U.S. arms buyer and is expected to remain so despite political upheaval in the Middle East.

The request for medium surface combat ships and the rest of the hardware was received by the Navy in July through the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, Mueller said.

Earlier on Friday, Lockheed Martin Corp executives said the first phase of the so-called Saudi Naval Expansion Program-II could be worth $20 billion, attributing the estimate to U.S. Navy officials. The company would likely vie for any such orders.

Other likely competitors would be Australia's Austal Ltd and General Dynamics Corp, which teamed up to build a Littoral Combat Ship for the U.S. Navy, as is Lockheed.

Paul Lemmo, a Lockheed vice president for business development, said the company would pitch a multi-mission version of its fast new coastal combat ship, perhaps fitted with Lockheed's Aegis weapon system.

In October, the Obama administration notified Congress of a proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia potentially worth as much as $60 billion over 15 to 20 years. It would be the largest arms deal on record if all purchases are made, including 84 Boeing F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to 70 more F-15s that the Saudis already have.

Last month a Saudi Web site reported that a popular cleric has issued a fatwa urging Muslims to target Israeli interests everywhere, to avenge the attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The site, Rasid, posts news about Saudi Arabia's Shiite community and on Sunday said that Sheik Awadh al-Garni has issued a religious edict urging Muslims to strike anything that has a link to Israel, calling it a legitimate target for Muslims everywhere.

Al-Garni, whose is popular in the kingdom, is not a member of the official religious establishment.

Fatwas are not legally binding, and it is up to the individual Muslim to follow them.

Posted on 04/09/2011 9:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Muslim Protest In Paris Against Burqa Law (In French)

From lefigaro.fr:

Loi sur le voile: 58 interpellations à Paris

AFP
09/04/2011 
Réactions (27)

Cinquante-huit personnes ont été appréhendées aujourd'hui après avoir tenté de prendre part à un rassemblement aux abords de la place de la Nation à Paris pour protester contre la loi sur le voile intégral, rassemblement interdit la veille, a indiqué la préfecture de police.

A la veille de l'entrée en vigueur de ce texte, les forces de l'ordre ont demandé de se disperser à ceux qui étaient venus à ce rassemblement à l'appel d'un collectif d'activistes musulmans et qui, selon la PP, était susceptible de provoquer des troubles à l'ordre public et des "affrontements violents" avec des contre-manifestants. Ceux qui refusaient ont été appréhendés pour "contrôle d'identité", a déclaré sur place le directeur de cabinet du préfet de police, Jean-Louis Fiamenghi.

Deux des personnes interpellées faisaient l'objet d'un arrêté d'expulsion et devaient être renvoyées dès aujourd'hui samedi en Grande-Bretagne et en Belgique. [One will be expelled to Great Britain, the other to Belgium - but they will still be in Europe. They need to be sent out of Europe, back to countries of origin, or of their parents' Muslim country of origin] "L'un a été arrêté entre Amiens et Paris, au péage de Senlis" alors qu'il se rendait au rassemblement, a précisé Jean-Louis Fiamenghi. Parmi les personnes interpellées figuraient 18 femmes, a-t-il été précisé. La plupart des individus souhaitant prendre part au rassemblement étaient des jeunes hommes de 20 à 30 ans, souvent barbus et vêtus à la mode tabligh.

Posted on 04/09/2011 9:22 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 9 April 2011
In Endlessly Generous Denmark, Common Sense Dictates Changes

From The Copenhagen Post:

Welfare prescription: make immigrants pay

Government comes up with 28 proposals to ease pressure on welfare state – all deal with foreigners

“You realise you’re going to have to pay for this, right?” (Photo: Colourbox)

Government officials are ready with 28 concrete solutions meant to ease the pressure on the Danish welfare state.

The proposals, which are outlined in a report obtained by Berlingske newspaper, aim their sights on one common target: foreigners living in Denmark.

The degree to which foreigners can be blamed for the stress on the welfare state caused great disagreement within the government and is part of the reason why the report remains largely shrouded in secrecy.

The report’s 28 proposals include: mandatory private health insurance for foreigners in their first four years in the country; making foreigners pay to visit the doctor in their first two years here; extending the required residency of foreigners in Denmark from 40 to 45 years before qualifying for a full state pension; a minimum stay of two years in order to qualify for housing subsidies; reduced child care benefits in the first two years; and tightened rules regarding student grants for foreigners.

This proposal suggests a gradual move away from the traditional Scandinavian tax-based welfare model towards the continental European model, in which the payment of welfare benefits are determined by the citizen’s affiliation with the job market over time.

Inger Støjberg, the employment minister, initiated work on the reform in December, saying that the country simply cannot afford a tax-based welfare system anymore.

There’s something fundamentally wrong with being able to come to Denmark and benefit without having contributed,” she told Berlingske newspaper. “It’s important that people earn their benefits. Our current system is vulnerable because it’s too easy to benefit from the system.”

So what does this mean for foreigners in Denmark? Hard to say, as government bickering has delayed the report from being published.

The most popular and obvious objection to the proposal is that it will make it even more difficult to attract skilled workers from abroad – a view represented in government by the Conservatives. However, the Liberal integration spokesperson, MP Karsten Lauritzen, defended the proposal, saying: “I don’t think a well-educated engineer from India would come here to collect social security or housing benefits.”
The government received the report last week, but Støjberg has postponed its publication, apparently out of concern that it would not be wise to have the government parties publicly debating their conflicting views on the proposal’s details.

The government’s main ally, the Danish People’s Party (DF), is puzzled by the postponement and wants the legislation to be in place before the summer break. “If the report is ready, then it’s only fair that it should be published, so we can discuss it openly,” said DF deputy leader Peter Skaarup.

Another possible reason for the delay is that even the government officials who were appointed by the government to produce the report have their own words of caution attached to some of the 28 proposed principles.

If, for example, the government introduces user fees for doctor visits and non-emergency hospital treatment during the first two years of residency, it would lead to annual public savings of only 20 million kroner.

This, the authors of the report argue, could result in foreigners simply refusing to pay and that could leave some foreigners untreated – which could in turn create a need for a completely new administrative system, and thus negate any potential savings.

Another point is that a reduction in child care benefits for foreigners in their first two years would bring in 30 million kroner a year – but could mean that families would choose to keep the children at home, which in some cases could limit the parents from working and hinder both parents and children from fully integrating into society.

The authors are also acutely aware that the general reform could seriously harm the future recruitment of skilled foreign workers.

Gunnar Viby Mogensen, a doctor in economic and social history, told The Copenhagen Post that a great part of the legal system would reject the possibility of tightening any earn-it-first rules for public welfare.

“A decade ago, media lawyers uniformly rejected a tightening of the immigration policy, yet it was easily passed in parliament in 2002. If the legal advice this time around is of a similar quality, then it will be easy to implement tighter ‘points accumulation’ principles for foreigners.”

Mogensen also pointed out that such a scheme would affect the ability to attract well-educated workers from abroad.

“The short-term tax breaks for foreign professionals are only temporary solutions.”

One possible solution, he argued, would be significant permanent tax breaks for foreign professionals, financed in part by a gradual transition to private welfare insurance principles - such as the ones that have existed since 1990 in the form of the occupational pension scheme for the elderly.

Readers of The Copenhagen Post have also voiced their concerns. Responding to the news of the proposal on cphpost.dk last week, one reader responded: “Just how would this affect the foreign spouse and children of a Dane who have returned home from living abroad? Will a Dane essentially never be able to return home because their spouse is no longer welcome?”

Another reader wrote: “Do whatever you want; it’s your country, your laws. If you want to be the most homogenous country in the world, go ahead. We foreigners will just look elsewhere. But please don’t expect the world to wait for you. Political decisions can lift up or condemn future generations. You decide.”

Posted on 04/09/2011 9:31 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Green Lane Dagenham - we do not give up easily.

Return to Dagenham to show that we, the local residents, (of Dagenham and the wider area of east London and Essex) continue to object to the proposed mosque, despite the contempt in which our views are held by those who are supposed to represent us, on the borough council and in parliament.

Regular readers will know the support given at the last demonstration I attended (here), and the behaviour of MP Margaret Hodge (here) who supports the Becontree Heath Islamic  Society’s expansion further into Dagenham.

I arrived in Green Lane where there was no sign of the seven Union officials last seen on the No 158 bus heading out of Dagenham last month. This time it was ‘Dagenham Unity’ who were calling on members to rally against the ‘chavs’ of the EDL.  They were called to gather in Goodmayes Park which is a little further along Green Lane just into London Borough of Redbridge. They were urged to bring “dohl (which is a type of Punjabi drum) . . . acoustic instruments – peace and love is the message”. I suppose that is preferable to their comrades of Brighton Unity last year urging their members to “bring weapons” to March for England’s family St Georges Day parade.

Here they are gathering in the park.

I made my way back to the junction of Burnside Road and Green Lane. The police presence was less this time, and no shops closed, other than the halal butchers opposite who covered their stalls outside for a short period. Experience has shown them that our marches are well behaved and well stewarded.

I heard the march before I saw it. They took a different route from the muster point this month and came to the demo site along Green Lane from the east. The demonstration took place outside the premises where TJ Florist is continuing to trade; she is not required to move out quite as quickly as she first expected. There were the obvious London and Essex Divisions, other divisions from the South East, local people as individuals and friends from March for England.

A good PA had been set in place and while we waited for speeches to begin we heard the chants of E,E,E, DL and the one we claimed back off the UAF, “Whose streets? OUR streets!”

I heard one local woman standing the other side of the road before I crossed say to her friend “Yes, they are our streets, don’t we all live along Green Lane? “

Both Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll had made the journey from Luton. Tommy spoke first.

He said that as well as this application for a bigger mosque on a new site he understands that there are other applications for new or extended mosques locally. Nationally there are thousands such applications and the EDL cannot counter every one. So the EDL will shortly be announcing a national action to call for a moratorium on all mosque building until certain conditions are met by the Islamic community to do with their regulation and reform. Full details will be released in the next two weeks.

He the spoke of the recent disagreement with a certain small group within the North west which came to a head in Blackburn last week. He emphasised that this involved only a small number of people and that unity and solidarity within the EDL is high.

He then went on to pay tribute to Guramit Singh and his work for the EDL, his patriotism as an Englishman, and his courage and passion in saying things in certain circumstances which, in his opinion, was only rivalled by the passion of Geert Wilders.

He said the EDL are not racist, not violent, but no longer silent.

Kev Carroll then spoke.

He mentioned the final incident of the last meeting with Margaret Hodge which I did not witness. As she left St Thomas’s hall that evening someone called to her to the effect that if a Judicial Review was the only way to challenge the council’s decision then that is what the local residents will do. She apparently turned and sneered “You couldn’t afford it”.

Kev Carroll pledged that the EDL have a sum set aside which they will put up to get counsel’s opinion on the matter with a view to proceeding if he so advises.

“So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Margaret Hodge. We may see you in court after all”.

There was a round of applause for the stewards whose marshalling was excellent as usual. A further round of applause to show respect of our armed forces, some members of which were present.

He ended "God save the Queen and God bless the EDL".

There was an announcement that on the way back to the departure point a stop would again be made to lay flowers at the railway station in honour of the young man killed there in February.  Thanks were given to the proprietor of TJs Florist for her help in allowing the demonstration to take place outside her shop and it was suggested that anyone intending to lay flowers should buy some now.

Music including Land of Hope and Glory was played while the march prepared to move off. I could see that the 9 members of Dagenham Unity had moved from the park and were performing a two fingered bop to maraca accompaniment on the corner by the halal butchers. They also had a tambourine and one drum I assume was a dhol. The chap in the statement shirt seems to also be holding a small doll - perhaps he intended to stick pins in it later? I couldn’t make out what they were shouting.

 As the EDL moved past them their two finger movements got ever more frenzied.

After the march passed two policemen escorted them back to the park. The trade union officials who got the bus out of town did have their member’s subscriptions to cover their expenses; this group looked like they would have difficulty in raising a half fare to Cranbrook Road between them. And they had no chance of earning anything busking en route.

I find it strange that young women in casual clothes (and unkempt hair – I really object to being condemned as a “chav” by a chit of a girl with such a birds nest on her head) should support by singing and dancing, a citadel of an ideology that would forbid them music, dancing, free movement and would impose hijab on all women.

It was evident from the waves of bystanders, the cheery toots from passing cars and comments I overheard as I walked along the pavement that the demonstrations in opposition to the mosque expansion have a lot of support from local people, many of them elderly.

I joined the others at a welcoming pub where there was a barbeque in the beer garden with bouncy castle for the children.

I was later told that several shop keepers have spoken to customers about intimidation from members of the mosque; that if they object to the expansion on to the new site there will be consequences involving a glazier and a lot of expense. If this correct and it is happening to you and you read this I beg you to report it to the police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. This is hate crime and must not be tolerated.

Photographs  E Weatherwax April 2011

Posted on 04/09/2011 12:03 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Libya Rebels Claiming "Nato Has Become Our Problem" Shows Lack Of Realism, Lack of Gratitude

The rapidity with which Libyan rebels have turned on NATO shows several things.

First, it shows the lack of realism -- the Cargo Cult belief, so widespread among Muslims, that the West, the hated Kuffar West, can nonetheless work miracles. The Iraqis who were disappointed that the Americans did not, as some expected and said, "turn Baghdad into New York" or "Iraq into America," have no idea, it seems how that cannot possibly happen, and it was both absurd and telling for them to think in such terms. What is expected of the West, in war and peace, by Muslims, by way of transformation of their societies, is not only impossible, but could only be achieved if they, those Muslims, understood that it was Islam itself that explained so much of what ails them, explains their failures, political, economic, social, intellectual and moral.

Second, it shows the volatility of Muslim attitudes: At Your Feet, or At Your Throat was the old saying. The crowds that hail you, like the smiling souk merchant who declares "Effendi, I love you more than I love my mother, I love you more than I love my father" and "for you, Effendi, a special special price" will, if you don't buy that rug, turn on you, mutter about you as you leave the store, and regard you as an object of hatred for your refusal to be a mark. 

The Libyan rebels apparently expected NATO to work miracles. They seem unable to understand that NATO pilots cannot distinguish in all cases who are the rebels and who the pro-Qaddafy forces, and that is particularly true if the rebels failed to inform NATO that they now had tanks and would be employing them. The rebels, of course, cannot stop even for a second to  think coherently about such matters.

And so they whine. 

And if the French or the British -- the excitable Sarkozy, for whom the French interventions in Libya and the Ivory Coast are unlikely to end well, and the confused and not well informed David Cameron -- continue in their folly, the peoples of Great Britain and France will have one, though only one,  consolation: at least they didn't waste three trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan, building that goddam Bridge Over The River Kwai.

Here's the story:

Libya rebels vent frustration on Nato and a silent leadership

Benghazi rebels feel they are being denied the promised air power and kept in the dark by revolutionary council

wounded prisoner
Libyan rebels take a wounded prisoner back to hospital for treatment. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

The chants of the demonstrators in Benghazi and among furious rebel fighters on Libya's frontline reflected the sudden shift in mood.

"Where is Nato?" demanded the same people who only days earlier were waving French flags and shouting "Viva David Cameron".

But behind the growing anger in revolutionary Libya over what is seen as a retreat by the West from air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's forces – a fury compounded by two botched Nato raids that killed rebel fighters – there was a second question: where are our leaders?

Nato's failure to use its air power to reverse days of military setbacks for the rebels prompted a collapse in confidence in the West's intentions among Gaddafi's foes. Conspiracy theories flew. The West wants a divided Libya so it can control the oil, said some. Turkey, a Nato member, is vetoing air strikes because it supports Gaddafi, said others.

Nato denied it was scaling back attacks and explained it faced new challenges in striking Gaddafi's forces now that they have switched from relying on tanks and heavy armour in favour of smaller fighting units in pick-up trucks that are harder to hit. Not many in the liberated areas of Libya were interested. They were angry – and wanted their leaders to tell the West. But the revolution's self-appointed chiefs in the interim national council were nowhere to be seen.

Eventually it took the leader of the rebels' armed wing, Abdul Fattah Younis, to voice the anger. "Nato is moving very slowly, allowing Gaddafi forces to advance," he said. "Nato has become our problem."

The incident highlighted the virtual invisibility of the revolutionary administration to the ordinary people it claims to lead. That was not much of a problem when the uprising appeared to be advancing. But recent setbacks have shaken confidence and raised concerns that Libya might be facing an extended civil war or division, which means divided families among other things.

People in rebel-held areas want to know what the revolutionary council – a 31-person body that functions around a core of 11 people who have been publicly named and meet regularly in Benghazi – is doing about it. But they are getting few answers.

The council's two principal leaders, Mahmoud Jibril and Mustafa Abdul Jalil, are hardly visible. Both men are, in any case, regarded by those dealing directly with them as sincere and well-meaning but lacking in either charisma or authority.

One person working closely with the council's day-to-day operations was deeply frustrated at the fact that "they don't understand the need to communicate with the Libyan people.

"They don't understand that no one knows who they are. These lawyers and doctors in Benghazi who say they are a government, it's like kids playing dress-up for a lot of them. They don't understand the need to explain to the people what it is they are doing," the source said.

The council meetings themselves reflect the new-found freedoms Libyans in the rebel-held areas possess to say what they think without fear of persecution, but they are not necessarily an efficient form of governance.

"They talk a lot. It's seen to be rude to interrupt and everyone who has had to suppress his opinion all these years is enjoying expressing it," the source said. "But while they talk a lot they've slammed the brakes on making decisions on some things – the constitution, economic planning for the future – because the country is still divided and they don't want to be accused of imposing decisions on the other half of the country when Gaddafi is gone. They say there has to be a national discussion before these decisions can be made."

But even where decisions are made, few of the people affected by them are told. Domestic opinion is not the priority because of the revolutionaries' need to win international recognition and access to desperately needed Libyan financial assets frozen overseas.

"The international arena is the most important for the time being, more important than the military front," said a council spokesman, Essam Gheriani. That led to the incident last week in which Jalil, without consulting with the rest of the council, signed a document in the name of the Libyan people apologising for Gaddafi's support of IRA attacks and the Lockerbie bombing, and promising compensation.

"There's a lot of upset about that. The British got him in a room on his own and bounced him into it. The rest of the council knew nothing about it," said a source. "It is another factor in the diminishing confidence in the intentions of the West among ordinary people. No one thinks Jalil should have done that. That it was done in secret and not explained by the council has not helped."

Another source close to the council said that its advisers have pressured Jalil to be more open and to engage with the public.

The source related an incident two weeks ago in which it was agreed that Jalil would make an important speech that would address three key messages: praising young fighters for their role, but urging them to fall under the command and discipline of a military structure; offering an assurance to people in towns still under Gaddafi's control that there will be no retribution when the rebels take over; and reassuring the international community that, despite the revolutionaries having been forced to take up arms, theirs is essentially a peaceful movement that eschews political and religious extremism.

The speech was written. Plans were made for Jalil to make his address on the rebel radio station and to ensure that it got attention. But nothing happened for days. Jalil said he was too busy.

Eventually an aide was sent to read it on the radio and the speech sank without trace, to the deep frustration of those who saw it as important in building the council's credibility with Libyans. "There was no promotion. No one knew about it," said the source. "I see this every day. They're doing stuff, working day to day, decision after decision. Decrees are made.

"But it's not communicated. Things happen and no one knows that they've happened. There's a massive gap between the people and the council, and it's a problem."

That gap is being partly filled by the only revolutionary leader who appears to have any real charisma, Younis. Sources close to the council say that it pushed Younis to the fore on Nato in part because no one else wanted to criticise the West publicly but also because he is the "most dynamic and authoritative" of the revolutionary leaders.

But while the rebel military leader is good at whipping up confidence, despite repeated military setbacks, some worry at the rise to prominence of a man who just a few weeks ago was Gaddafi's minister of the interior and how he might exploit that in the future.

First, though, there still is a revolution to win.

The council members generally recognise that victory is unlikely to come on the battlefield. They are now counting on Gaddafi's own people deserting him and an implosion of the regime.

"It's a hope. Well, it's more of a prayer actually," said the source.

Posted on 04/09/2011 1:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Bill Maher: One Swallow Doesn't Make A Summer, But....

Watch him, and others including Elliot Spitzer, here.

Posted on 04/09/2011 1:23 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 9 April 2011
What Happened When A Muslim Mob Attacked U.N. Staff In Mazar-e-Sharif

From The Wall Street Journal:

Inside the Massacre At Afghan Compound

By DION NISSENBAUM And MARIA ABI-HABIB, April 4, 2011

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan—Officials are painting the weekend killings at the United Nations mission in northern Afghanistan's largest city—which sparked cascading violence across the nation—as the handiwork of a small band of insurgents that used a protest against a Quran-burning as cover for a murderous plot.

But a Wall Street Journal reconstruction of Friday's assault, based on unreleased videos, interviews with demonstrators and the U.N.'s own recounting of events, shows a more complex picture and indicates that ordinary Afghan demonstrators played a critical role in the attack.

Stirred to action by a Quran-burning at a Florida church, thousands of people swarmed past hapless Afghan police officers, heading toward a lightly protected U.N. compound. There, members of the tight-knit staff had been paying little attention to the angry protest unfolding at the city's central mosque.

Mazar-e-Sharif has long been considered one of the safest cities in Afghanistan. So the diverse U.N. staff—including a female Norwegian fighter pilot, a seasoned Russian diplomat and German woman who had been at the mission for only a week or so—took few precautions even when the mob converged on their compound, burned an American flag and threw stones at the blast walls.

By sunset, seven U.N. workers were dead. In the ensuing days, demonstrations cascaded across Afghanistan, claiming more lives Saturday and Sunday in Kandahar, far to the south.

Based on interviews with survivors, Staffan de Mistura, head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, concluded that a handful of insurgents—including Afghans with accents suggesting they came from other parts of the country—spearheaded Friday's attack on a safe room in the compound.

The rioting, which the Taliban say erupted spontaneously, adds a disturbing new threat in a country that is fighting a mostly rural insurgency. Foreign and local military forces alike are ill-prepared for riot control.

"Every security-force leader's worst nightmare is being confronted by essentially a mob," said Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of 150,000 U.S.-led coalition forces, in an interview Sunday, "especially [a mob] that can be influenced by individuals that want to incite violence, who want to try to hijack passions, in this case, perhaps understandable passions."

 

The Quran-burning, held March 20 at the Dove World Outreach Center by church leader Terry Jones in Gainesville, Fla., was "hateful, extremely disrespectful and enormously intolerant," Gen. Petraeus said. [Building his bridge over the River Kwai, in Afghanistan as he did in Iraq, General Petraeus cannot possibly see that his entire effort has been folly -- how could he, really? -- even when, or perhaps especially when, it seems, in short-range blinkered official American policy terms, to have "worked," as with that much-ballyhooed and essentially meaningless "surge" that simply delayed the day when Iraq would once again revert to type, and Shi'a refuse to surrnder power to Sunni Arabs, and Sunni Arabs refuse to acquiesce in their loss of power, and both Sunni and Shi'a Arabs refuse to allow Kurds the autonomy, and the rights, to which they now know they have the power to demand.]

 

Mr. Jones called Gen. Petraeus' remarks "unconstitutional" and disputed that his actions complicate U.S. efforts to fight the Taliban.

"I do not necessarily think that our actions make his job more difficult," he said in an interview Sunday. "The Taliban or radical Islam will use any excuse to incite more violence. If they don't have one, they will make up an excuse."

 

Friday, thousands of people gathered in Mazar-e-Sharif's revered Blue Mosque. Speaker after speaker denounced the Quran-burning, which for Muslims is abhorrent because Islam teaches that the physical book is holy.

"Stand up against the enemies of the Quran with your pen," one of the men shouted from the podium, videos show. "Stand up against them with your voices. Stand up against them with weapons. It is everyone's right to stand up against them and make a jihad."

The protesters then surprised police by pouring into the street and marching toward the U.N. office, more than a mile away. At one point, according to videos reviewed by the Journal, the badly outnumbered police tried to use a six-foot wood beam to hold back the crowd. The protesters easily surged past.

Only about 60 police were deployed, and they appeared uncertain how to respond. Initial attempts to disperse the crowd by firing warning shots appeared only to inflame the demonstrators. The besieged U.N. staffers headed to two safe rooms intended to shield against intruders and bombs.

They phoned for help from the nearby military bases of German and Swedish forces, according to a person briefed on the situation. The U.S.-led military said the situation "escalated rapidly" and that a swift-reaction team didn't arrive until after rioters were gone.

Once demonstrators flooded the compound, a dozen Afghan police guards—the first line of defense—dropped their weapons, said Brig. Gen. Esmatullah Alizai, the provincial police chief. "They were surrounded and confused," he said.

Inside the compound, a small contingent of Nepalese Gurkha guards working for the U.N. faced a conundrum: They were under U.N. orders not to open fire on demonstrators. The videos show one guard feebly trying to wave an elderly demonstrator out of the compound.

Nearby, videos show, demonstrators used bent metal rods to smash a row of white U.N. SUVs.

Among those attacking the U.N. vehicles was a young religious student from a small village not far from the city. The student said in an interview that he and one of his friends found a propane tank that they shoved under one vehicle and set off an explosion.

Nearby, the student said, two Afghan policemen were hiding with a foreigner behind a tanker. When one of the officers shot and injured a young demonstrator, the student said he saw a chance to disarm him.

"Grab his weapon," the student said he shouted to his friend, who wrestled a Kalashnikov assault rifle and used it to shoot the unarmed foreigner.

Inside the building, other attackers targeted one of the safe rooms. The door proved little protection against the mob.

As intruders penetrated the safe room, Pavel Ershov, a Russian diplomat who speaks fluent Dari sought to protect three staff members by distracting the assailants, the U.N.'s Mr. de Mistura said.

"Are you Muslim?" the assailants asked Mr. Ershov, according to one diplomat briefed on the attack. Mr. Ershov lied and said he was, the U.N. said.

The assailants tested him by asking him to recite the traditional profession of belief in Islam, which begins, "There is no God but Allah."

 

When he successfully completed the test, his life was spared. Still, he was dragged into the street and beaten badly, according to a local shopkeeper who said he participated in the assault.

The attackers searched the darkened bunker with a lamp and discovered Lt. Col. Siri Skare, a 53-year-old Norwegian military attaché—the former fighter pilot—seconded to the U.N., along with Joakim Dungel, a 33-year-old Swede who had been working in the human-rights office for less than two months, and Filaret Motco, a 43-year-old Romanian who headed the mission's political section.

As Lt. Col. Skare attempted to flee the bunker, she was intercepted by the Afghan demonstrators who had set the car on fire. She was shot with the rifle commandeered from the police officer, one of the men said. Lt. Col. Skare died of her wounds. Messrs. Dungel and Motco were killed elsewhere.

Four Afghans—men also described as "insurgents" by Gen. Alizai, the police official—were also killed. Video footage of demonstrators leaving the U.N. compound shows two men carrying Kalashnikovs and one showing off a large, blood-spattered knife.

As the attackers focused on the four U.N. workers who had been hiding in the first safe room, diplomats said, three or four others, including the German newcomer, were sheltered in a safe room in another building. They survived.

Posted on 04/09/2011 1:29 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 9 April 2011
“Those darn Israelis- did it again�- IDF provides First Field hospital in Japan to treat Tsunami Victims in Miyagi Prefecture

You remember the Haitian earthquake last year? The Israelis were the first to set up a functioning field hospital. CNN Health reporter Elizabeth Cohen reported on that humanitarian effort. Watch this You Tube video.

As someone commented, "darn those Israelis, they did it again.” They set up a field hospital in Miyagi prefecture ravaged by the tsunami. Watch this video of preparations for the IDF medical contingent dispatched to Japan.

As with the IDF field hospital in Haiti during that Earthquake health crisis, the field unit in Miyagi is fully equipped as noted in this Israel21C report:

The field clinic has wards for pediatrics, surgery, maternity and gynecology, ophthalmology and intensive care, as well as a lab and a pharmacy. It is expected to operate for several weeks to alleviate some of the medical emergencies that the Japanese face in this region, which is an hour and a half from the closest hospital.

As in the Haitian earthquake episode the IDF medical hospital team brought a large inventory of supplies. Here is the list from a blog post, “Those Israelis Are At It Again!” on the New Jersey Jewish Standard:

ISRAEL’S IDF MEDICAL CLINIC STARTS WORK
IN TSUNAMI-STRICKEN MIYAGI PREFECTURE OF JAPAN

â—�CNN: “Israel is first to set up Surgical Unit in Japan”
â—� The Israeli clinic includes orthopedics, surgical and intensive care units as well as a delivery room and pharmacy.

â—�The delegation includes 50 doctors.

â—� They brought with them:

1. 32 tons of equipment 2. 18 tons of humanitarian aid—-10,000 coats, 6,000 gloves and 150 portable toilets

â—�With all their billions of “petro-dollars”, where is the humanitarian relief from the Arab countries?

Watch this IDF blog video of a visit by Japan’s deputy Foreign Minister to the IDF Medical Clinic in Miyagi Prefecture:

Watch this video of the IDF Medical Team treat an Elderly Japanese woman with knee problems.

Watch this video of the IDF clinic staff treating an 11 month baby girl.

All this humanitarian aid to the beleagured Japanese victims of the earthquake-Tsunami while IDF combat commands retailiate against terror from the skies over Gaza  launched by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihadis.

Posted on 04/09/2011 8:10 PM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Marjorie Garber's Book Receives Its Due

From Slate:

The Right Questions To Ask About Literature

Harvard's Marjorie Garber gets them all wrong.

Portrait of Marjorie Garber.Marjorie Garber's new book brought me back to my days as an English professor; I thought I was reading a freshman essay. My marginal comments might as well have been written in red: "What is the point of this paragraph?" "Where are we in the argument—and what exactly is the argument?" "Sloppy thinking." "You need to unpack this." "Again, is there a point here, or just a mass of notes?" "You have to develop your thesis, not just keep reiterating it." The Use and Abuse of Literature purports to be a rallying cry for serious reading by a decorated and prolific Harvard professor, but once you pick your way through its heap of critical detritus—its mildewed commonplaces and shot-springed arguments, its half-chewed digressions and butt ends of academic cliché—you uncover underneath it all a single dubious and self-serving claim: that the central actor in the literary process is, what do you know, the English professor.

 

Garber begins with the ancient question of pleasure vs. use. Is literature valuable because it feels good or because it's good for you? Her answer is, neither: It is valuable as a "way of thinking." This is the thesis she keeps belaboring: that literary thinking means endless interpretability, the never-ending multiplication of meanings, questions leading not to answers but to further questions. Literature isn't "about" anything but itself, refuses "to be grounded or compromised by referentiality" and so must be disentangled from issues of its "outcome, impact, and application"—that is, of pleasure or use.

Needless to say, the common reader (whom Garber condescends to as "a crucial ancillary part of the world of readers," though she's paraphrasing Samuel Johnson and Virginia Woolf and may dispute the "crucial" part) is not up to the task. For that we need the heroic professor. "A manifesto for literary studies"—literary studies, mind, not literature—"will claim for it an unapologetic freestanding power to change the world." How? By "asking literary questions: questions about the way something means, rather than what it means."

The argument is both remarkable and banal. Banal, because the self-enclosure of the literary artifact has been a commonplace of theory since the New Criticism of the 1930s—in fact, since the art-for-art's-sake aestheticism of the late and indeed the early 19th century. Remarkable, because it cuts literature off from the very thing it most obviously wants to connect to: the world. Garber speaks of a procession of meanings, but what does she think meaning means? We can (and should) debate what Hamlet has to say about the moral content of violence, or the burden of the past, or yes, the nature of language, but when we do we're making claims about the play's ideas about that which lies outside itself. Yes, I said "ideas"—a dirty word in criticism these past many decades, but a fair one nonetheless.

Click Here!

Because literature, for Garber, is self-enclosed, so are literary studies. The point of asking questions, it seems, is just to ask questions. Call it crit for crit's sake. That is the reason that Garber can only repeat her central idea, never take the risk of explaining or exemplifying it. Why does literary reading have the "freestanding power to change the world"? Does it make us more alert, more skeptical, more humble, more open? She can't say, because any one of those would be a "use."

 

The answer to the use-pleasure conundrum is not neither, but both. What is more, they are the same thing. "Use" does not mean instruction, as it did to Horace or the Victorians, the inculcation of virtue through the presentation of moral exempla. It means awareness. Literature is "useful" because it wakes us up from the sleepwalk of self-involvement—of plans, anxieties, resentments, habits, the fog that clings to our eyes as we stumble through the day, stumble through our lives—and shows us the world, shows us ourselves, shows us life and experience and the reality of other people, and forces us to think about them all. The pleasure of serious literature is not escape or fantasy, it is this very shiver of consciousness, this troubling exhilaration. Reading is thinking and feeling, both at once and both together, simultaneous and identical. Pleasure is use, use pleasure.

The distinction between "the way something means" and "what it means" is equally false. No, poems aren't essays. Literature expresses meaning through form—which is why it needs to be explicated, not paraphrased. But we discover the "what" by examining the "way." Form and meaning go together like letters and words. How you can look at one without the other I don't really understand, though I certainly believe that it happens in a lot of classrooms. That kind of approach is all practice and no game, all cleverness and no conviction. As such it's of a piece with Garber's prose, which exhibits the weaseliness of a lot of contemporary academic writing. "We might want to make the … claim that," she writes at one point, a phrase that backs away three steps from any kind of commitment. True to her theory of literary thinking, Garber's favorite expository tactic is to reel off a skein of questions, then drift on to the next topic without braving an answer: not question-answer-question, understanding deepening through successive turns of analysis, just question-question-question, rhetoric glibly skimming the surface.

Garber devotes one of her longest chapters to another old warhorse: What is literature? Does a piece of writing achieve literary status by virtue of its intrinsic quality, or only as a product of social consensus? Garber plumps for the second, of course. She'd practically have her Ph.D. revoked if she didn't. That's the first thing you learn when you get to graduate school: that the notion of literary value is hopelessly naïve, even pernicious, a white male heterosexual bourgeois conspiracy. In fairness, Garber is half-right. Standards of value do change. Any number of literary genres, as she explains, have risen from disrepute to literary respectability: ballads in the Romantic age, novels in the 19th century, Renaissance ephemera such as sermons, tracts, and conduct manuals in recent decades.

But she is also half-wrong. "Is it literature," she says, is not the right question. "A better question might be 'Is it responsive to literary reading?' Are these texts … ones of which … a critic can usefully ask literary questions?" The critic, again, at the center of the enterprise. But ballads and novels didn't rise to literary status because of English professors, for the simple reason that there weren't any yet. They did so because, despite their lowly standing, certain readers found them—yes—valuable: in particular, the most important readers, other writers. As for Renaissance ephemera, the only people who read them are the ones who make a career out of studying them (and the students who take their classes).

"Is it literature?" is indeed the wrong question, but the right one is "Is it good?" Devising a test of literary merit is not actually that hard. Here it is: Would you read the thing again? Not for a course or a monograph, but just because you want to. No, this doesn't constitute a measure of universal value—art is personal; art is subjective—but it does begin to get us to the next best thing. For when we add up all the little "yous"—when a lot of people, in different places, over many years, have answered that question in the affirmative—we arrive at something like intrinsic quality: not universal, not eternal, but widespread and long-lasting, which is the closest we can hope for in human affairs. Books are unjustly forgotten, Auden said, but they're never unjustly remembered.

The thing is, Garber believes this herself, she just won't permit herself to acknowledge it. I don't know how you can teach literature without believing it. How would you decide what to put on your syllabi, if some sense of value or worth didn't enter your thinking? Garber makes all the right contextualist noises—"art made out of non-literary writing is literature if it is presented and received as such"—but she also says, about discovering the language of the King James Bible, "I … found my way to some of the greatest examples of English prose and poetry." "Greatest"? Sounds like a value judgment. In fact, Garber's standard of criticizability is itself a value judgment. "Is it responsive to literary reading?" is just a way of saying, "Is it good enough to be worth looking at carefully?"

Critics and professors, to paraphrase Garber, are a crucial ancillary part of the world of readers. The main reason they aren't more is that writers do not write for them. They write for the common reader, and above that, for other writers, the most qualified judges of their work. Another reason, though, is exemplified by Garber's vacillations and confusions (self-enclosure vs. referentiality, form vs. meaning, intrinsic value vs. social construct). Professors are usually too worried about striking the right attitudes to be honest about their responses. The abuse of literature begins with that. Reading, like politics, is not a thing that should be left to the professionals.

Posted on 04/09/2011 8:30 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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