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The Real Nature of Religion
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As Far As The Eye Can See
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edited by S.B. Kelly
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edited by S.B. Kelly
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Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
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interviews by Jerry Gordon
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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
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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
















Tuesday, 31 October 2006
our man in Baghdad
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BAGHDAD, Iraq — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Tuesday ordered the lifting of joint U.S.-Iraqi military checkpoints around the Shiite militant stronghold of Sadr City and other parts of Baghdad — another apparent move to assert his authority with the Americans and appeal to his Shiite support base. - from this news item

This countermands the American directive and the cordon which was intended to help American soldiers find the Iraqi-born translator who may have been kidnapped.

Again and again Maliki has shown an indifference to American desires. He was preparing some months ago to offer amnesty to those “insurgents” who had killed "only" American soldiers, until an outcry in this country forced the Bush Administration to tell him he couldn’t do it. He expects the Americans to fight and die for his regime, a regime like the previous one is prepared to soak the Americans for all they are worth, all the billions they can provide (and how many former high Iraqi officials siphoned off how many billions, paid for by American taxpayers most of whom will never know the high life now to be enjoyed, for the rest of their lives, by those “Iraqi” patriots who made out like gangbusters on American aid, and are now living it up, outside Iraq, or in Europe, possibly attending the same defiles on the Avenue Montaigne as Suha Arafat).

He is not, and cannot be, a “friend of America.” He is willing to endure the American presence only so long as it strengthens him, and weakens the Sunni insurgents. And the Sunnis, in turn, or those not in the immediate “insurgency,” may now want the Americans to stay for the same reasons – in order to protect them from the full force of the Shi’a. That’s it. That the Administration refuses to understand this, and keeps making policy based on hope, and on all the Unrepresentative Men (Chalabi, Allawi, Makiya, and the tiny group of semi-decent mid-level former Iraqi officers who have unduly impressed American officers, and thus lead them to all kinds of rosy misconceptions and hopes, but are in fact the rare exceptions, not the rule) that were in exile, or have tried with this or that group of soldiers or policemento do the impossible in Iraq, which is to make them drop their sectarian and ethnic and even tribal allegiances. Simply cannot be done.

Why is this hard to understand? What is so complicated about it?

Why is Maliki, why are any Iraqis, allowed to interfere with American military decisions undertaken to protect or recover its soldiers? Why, for that matter, did Bush ever say that "we will leave" when "the Iraqis" tell us "they are ready to have us leave." When, in the history of the American government, did a President say that "we will leave when the locals are good and ready to have us leave." An incredible attitude, a complete abdication of responsibilty. And if it not the "Iraqis" then it is "the generals" who will tell me about what tactics to employ.

But what if it is not the "tactics" that concern the generals, but the strategy? What if "the genrals" wish to tell Bush the one thing he will not let them tell him -- that he has the wrong policy in Iraq, that we should be exploiting these ethnic and sectarian tensions, not trying to end them. Of course they won't. They haven't been permitted to think for themselves in this area, haven't allowed themselves to learn about Islam and to realize that the "war on terror" is a dangerous misnomer, or to think about the other instruments of war -- propaganda, counter-Da'wa, stopping the demograpohic conquest of the countries of the Western alliance, of NATO -- no, this one cannot expect of them. But one can expect that the way in which Bush has palmed off responsibilities on both the Iraqis and on the American generals, but not permitted any questioning by the latter of his policy, permitting only advice on the tactics by which his stated aims (that "victory" we hear so much about, that damned "victory" in the "war on terror"), ludicrous and self-defeating and wasteful and impossible of achievement as they are, are supposed to be attained.

A nightmare.

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Posted on 10/31/2006 6:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Best Halloween news ever
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Noted just now at the NY Sun:

Anti-Bush Activist in Osama Bin Laden Halloween Costume

"The lawyer who divulged President Bush's drunken-driving arrest days before the 2000 election was arrested Tuesday after he was spotted on a highway overpass wearing an Osama bin Laden Halloween costume and holding a toy gun," the AP reports.

Tom Connolly, 49, was charged with criminal threatening, a misdemeanor, and was released after posting $500 bail. He said he intends to plead not guilty. "There was a First Amendment this morning when I woke up. I don't know how it evaporated with the dawn," Connolly, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor in 1998, told reporters after his release. Police said the costume included plastic dynamite, grenades, and a replica of an AK-47 assault rifle.

"The whole thing is just incredibly bizarre," said Police Chief Ed Googins. "It just crossed the line." The chief said there was no way to tell from a distance if the gun was real or fake.

Connolly also was carrying a sign that said "I love TABOR," a reference to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights on the Maine ballot, but at least one person who saw it thought it said "I love the Taliban," Googins said.

Comments Daniel Freedman:

Does the First Amendment include the right to call fire in a crowded threater? Don't think so.

What does seem clear from this episode is where his sympathizes lie and why he wanted Bush to lose the election.

As for my opinion, I applaud Mr. Googins.  I wish more folk would dress more in character.  't'would make things so much simpler.
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Posted on 10/31/2006 3:36 PM by Robert Bove
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Samuel Johnson...
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...had John Kerry's number:  "Sir, the insolence of wealth will creep out."
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Posted on 10/31/2006 1:43 PM by John Derbyshire
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Liberalism in a Nutshell
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Posted on 10/31/2006 1:41 PM by John Derbyshire
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Protect Iraq's Christians
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WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on International Policy has asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consider measures that would help improve the deteriorating situation for Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq. - from this news item

This northern preserve can and should be a semi-autonomous region, connected to an independent Kurdistan. Unlike the Arabs, the Kurds have another identity, other than Islam, to appeal to, and their mistreatment by the Arabs (including the mass murder of the al-Anfal campaign, which elicited not a syllable of protest from any Arab government or the Arab League, or indeed from any Arabs at all, save for Kanan Makiya and possibly another writer or two publishing in London). Many Kurds are genuinely and not unfeignedly grateful, and possibly for quite a while -- for the American protection against Iraqi air power from 1991 to 2003, and for the removal of Kurd-murdering Saddam Hussein and his Arab regime. If Sunni-Shi’a strife could preoccupy the Arabs, this would give the Kurds their best chance to achieve an independnet Kurdistan, and that independent Kurdistan, in turn, would or could inspire Kurds in Iran and possibly Syria to revolt, and not only Kurds in Iran, but also other non-Persian minorities -- Baluchis, Arabs in Khuzistan, Azeris. Thus an independent Kurdistan would threaten in different ways both Iran and Syria. And an independent Kurdistan would also not go unnoticed by Berbers in North Africa, especially in the Kabyle, or for that matter by Berber immigrants to France, who make up most of the membership of the secular groups such as "maghrebins laiques" (and who, to the extent that they can be encouraged to regard Arabs with hostility, are more likely to collaborate with the French security services, and even, perhaps, in France, to jettison Islam altogether).

The problem for the American government is that it cannot be flexible, cannot admit to itself that the original policy in Iraq --- to do everything possible to keep the country together, to force the Kurds to remain within an "Iraq" that most cannot bear to endure any longer -- was wrong. Partly it is a matter of simply wanting to save face, of not being able to take in new information -- about Islam, about the islamization of Europe that is far more threatening than anything that happens, or does not happen, in Iraq and the Muslim Arab states. And partly it reflects the want of imagination and timidity that inhibits American policy -- especially, in this case, timidity towards Turkey.

But it is perfectly possible, given that the United States would be the diplomatic and military supporter of Kurdistan, for the American government to extract from that government a promise not to make territorial demands on Turkey (with Iran and Syria, however, the sky's the limit), on threat of having all military supplies cut. And then the government of Turkey, in turn, would not be asked but told that the American government would be the guarantor of Turkey's borders, and that instead of threatening to invade Kurdistan, the Turkish government should see the wisdom of acquiescence, and of using this new nation-state as a vehicle for weakening both Syria and the Iranian menace.

And there is one other promise to be extracted from the Kurds. And that is that the Kurds must guarantee the continued existence, and help to protect against the Arabs, Sunni or Shi'a, a Chaldo-Assyrian autonomous region, that would be created in northern Iraq, and to which Christians who do not flee elsewhere, could move and retain their ways, their customs, their traditions, and Christianity would still have a presence, albeit a reduced one, in Iraq. During the past century, constant pressure of Muslims has reduced the power and presence of non-Muslims in all the Muslim lands -- Christians in Lebanon and Turkey and North Africa and Egypt have suffered declines in power and relative numbers, and in the same way, for the same reasons, Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh have been harried, persecuted, driven out, murdered.

It may be that Christians will wish to leave Iraq altogether, and try to swell the ranks of Christians elsewhere in the Middle East -- perhaps Lebanon would be the best choice, now that Syria's Alawite despot, baby Assad, has apparently thrown in his lot with the Shi'a of Iran, and of Lebanon, and even permitted Shi'a missionaries to work among not only the Sunnis (understandable from his point of view) but also (and this is amazing) among the Alawites, those entirely unorthodox Muslim worshippers of Mary, as well.

There is one more possibility, mentioned here on many occasions. That is to provide for a continued Christian presence in the Holy Land (right now it is only the government of Israel that guarantees continued Christian access, and the Israelis are under a state of permanent siege, that Lesser Jihad conducted against it that has no, can have, no end) by moving some Assyrians and Chaldeans to the "West Bank."

Room would be made for them, and the Israeli government agree, only if there were to be the kind of population exchange that that took place between Hindus and Muslims at Partition in 1947-48, or between Greeks and Turks in 1922. Arabic-speaking (but non-Arab) Christians from Iraq would settle in those places from which Arab Muslims, who could hardly be pleasant neighbors for those fleeing Muslim Arab persecution, would be removed, to go to the Arab Muslim country of their choice -- Jordan, or for that matter western Iraq, to swell the ranks of the Sunnis, and possibly to dream of sharing in that oil wealth that, of course, will never come to them if they continue to live, and plot, in the place so absurdly renamed the "West Bank."

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Posted on 10/31/2006 12:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
RSVP, allah
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Entire contents of small flyer found in faculty mailboxes last week at Pace University (author and/or organization anonymous), presumably as a reaction to the Qur'ans found in Pace toilets earlier this month (my highlights):

Dear Professor,

You are cordially invited as a conscious human being in charge of promoting knowlege and understanding among your many students to a forum that will seek to educate and inform the Pace University community about the importance and meaning of the Qur'an in the life of every Muslim.

We hope that you will join us this Monday, October 30, 2006 at 12:00 PM in the Multipurpose Room for a few hours of learning, reflection and eventual implementation.

In case you are wondering what the purpose of this forum is, it is merely a humble effort by Muslim students at Pace to educate their fellow classmates and professors about Islam and the importance of Qur'an in the Islamic faith.  In light of the recent hate crimes that have taken place on our camputs, it has become evident that such a forum is in dire need of taking place.  We therefore urge you to participate and receive the true story from its authentic source.

Sincerely,
your fellow human being who adheres to the Islamic faith
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Posted on 10/31/2006 12:11 PM by Robert Bove
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Whom are you going as?
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Actor Frankie Castro (no relation) in his Havana Rialto
dressing room after record 100,000th performance as Fidel
Castro in Death in Cuba: the Musical.

(h/t: It Shines for All)
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Posted on 10/31/2006 1:12 PM by Robert Bove
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Solana et al
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Hamas wants to "liberate the Palestinians," not to destroy Israel, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.  - from this news item

Solana, Patten, Mary Robinson, Miguel Moratinos, Prodi in his previous EU incarnation -- they are the very worst that European political life produces, and of course they end up in, and rise high within, the bureacracy of the E.U., a project that entails minimizing or even effacing differences among nation-states, by minimizing or even effacing in some casees nationalist loyalties, national languages, literatures, and histories. A monstrous idea, monstrously implemented.

Solana is at the top of the list. He is stupid. His stupidity, or certitude about things he does not know and about which he does not wish to know -- he's rather bet the entire future of the West on his expressed need to "hope" -- is of the kind impervious to new information, impervious to reason working on that new information. This kind of stupidity grades by degrees into cruelty and evil. That is the kind Solana possesses, or that oppresses Solana. And it is the same with many of the other E.U. and U.N. bureaucrats, present or past, listed above.

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Posted on 10/31/2006 12:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
A fantastic situation
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"The bottom line is that American aid is the single most important action the people of the three largest Muslim countries want from the United States," writes Ken Ballen, TFT president, in the report's executive summary. "And here's the key to winning hearts and minds: deeper American assistance directly to the people, following their expressed priorities."-- from this news article

Absolute idiocy. Palpable, obvious, total idiocy.

It is absurd to think that Muslim hearts and minds can be won. They can be rented, not bought, and rented only for the shortest of periods. Meanwhile, the rent -- that is the further transfer of wealth from the Camp of the Infidels to the Camp of Islam -- only helps to pay for mosques, madrasas, world-wide campaigns of Da'wa, armies of Western hirelings who conduct public relations and disinformation efforts on behalf of Saudi Arabia, the Arabs and Muslims more generally, and Islam.

Sixty billion dollars has been given by successive American governments to Egypt. Egypt today has still failed to honor any of its solemn commitments under the Camp David Accords (save for that not to engage in open warfare, a commitment that it keeps for the same reason that Syria does not attack Israel -- because of the likely consequences). Tens of billions have over many decades gone from the American government to Pakistan, a country whose military actively encouraged A. Q. Khan in his theft from Western laboratories of nuclear secrets and his subsequent effort to share those secrets with, inter alia, North Korea and Iran. That same Pakistan was not deterred by Western aid from nurturing the Taliban, and then helping its fighters to take over Afghanistan, giving diplomatic and other kinds of support, nor in today, Janus-faced, continuing to protect or support the Taliban members in Pakistan. The billions sent by European countries and the United States to the "Palestinian" Authority has been used to fill the private coffers of Arafat and then of his widow, and his associates, and to allow them to live in luxury in apartments bought outside the area, and also to the subventions to a dozen different groups of armed men, so-called "security services," all of which are dedicated to attacking Israel in any way they can, whatever jostling for money and power among themselves they may also engage in.

Where is the evidence that more such payments will help, since there is not the slightest evidence that the payment of a disguised Jizyah does anything except encourage Muslim attitudes that this Infidel aid must be given, is given as a duty, and what is even more sinister, the Infidel donors behave as if this is indeed the case -- that they cannot stop such payments for fear of the reaction of the Muslim donees.

This is madness from top to bottom. That some in the government think this way, even for a second, shows how little they comprehend of Islam, of its unambiguous tenets and the natural attitudes that flow from them, in any society suffused with Islam. And the ignorance of so much history, some 1350 years of it, and over such a wide swath of different territories once held by so many different peoples, all of them conquered and subjugated, and forced to endure the status of dhimmi -- up until the last half of the 19th century, when Western power forced a change upon a most reluctant Ottoman Empire, and in Muslim countries today, the reversion to persecution of non-Muslims has everywhere led to a great reduction in their numbers -- in the Arab countries (both Jews and Christians have left), and in Pakistan and Bangladesh (where it is primarily Hindus whose percentage of the population has gone down to about a fifth, in Bangladesh, and a tenth, in Pakistan, of what it was at Partition). Then there is the slow demographic conquest of Malaysia, where Muslims now lord it over HIndus and Chinese, and force the local indigenous tribes to accept Islam wherever possible. And the persecution of Christians in the Moluccas, and East Timor, and of Hindus in all the islands where they continue to live except, possibly, Bali, and sometimes even there, shows that even in supposedly "moderate" Indonesia the mistreatment of non-Muslims continues.

It is not right that those whose ignorance explains their policy prescriptions should be listened to with respect, should be listened to at all. They have no right to make the rest of us, to make the entire Western world, suffer because they cannot spare the time, or lack the intelligence, to study and to comprehend Islam as a total system.

They should be mocked out of whatever offices, and whatever power or unearned authority, they may currently be said to possess.

Muslim states are not and cannot be our friends. Every once in a while their interests, and ours, may superficially coincide. Saudi Arabia wished the Soviet Army to be defeated in Afghanistan, and so did the United States. But each had reasons completely different from the other. Saudi Arabia wanted the Soviet Army defeated because it was an army of Infidels. The United States wanted the Soviet Army defeated because it was the military force of the Soviet Union, the most powerful Communist power. The American government was against the totalitarianism that Communist power in the Soviet Union embodied. The Saudi government had no objection at all to totalitarian belief-systems as long as those belief-systems consist of Islam, Islam, Islam -- it was merely Infidel Russia, or its avatar the Soviet Union, that was the enemy, that had to be defeated. After that defeat, the Americans paid little attention to the rise of the deplorable Taliban, which finally they saw, too late, as a threat to the liberal democracies of the West. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, saw nothing wrong with the Taliban and indeed recognized the Taliban regime (aside from Saudi Arabia, only the U.A.E. and Pakistan did so).

We don't need to win them over. We need to diminish their power, especially their financial power, and to exploit the natural fissures, sectarian and ethnic and economic, that already exist, and permanently, within the Camp of Islam. That this is not discussed, that this is not even considered, astounds. No one in the history of warfare has ever decided to abjure playing upon the weaknesses of the enemy.

But, of course, the "enemy" has not been identified correctly. In the lemming atmosphere of official Washington, or of the chanceries of the West, the "enemy" is "terror" and the fight is that "war on terror" of which we have heard quite enough.

That's it. Constrain Islam. It won't change, or it won't change for a hundred years if ever. How could it? The canonical texts are immutable. The Qur'an is the uncreated word of God. Nothing can be changed. The hadith cannot be rewritten or assigned new ranks of authenticity, not after more than a thousand years of authority cling to Bukhari and Muslim. The figure of Muhammad cannot be changed, the details of his life that Muslims find so inspiring cannot be changed.

Why is this so hard to comprehend? It is so hard because the difficulties it suggests are just beyond the wit and imagination of so many to begin to think of ways of dealing with, that they prefer to pretend that the problem isn't there, to wish or deny it away. It is possibly the most fantastic situation in the history of conflict, possibly the most threatening situation in the entire history of the West.

Who will come to his senses? How many? And when?

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Posted on 10/31/2006 11:21 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Club for Sloth (Cont.)
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OK, it's nearly 11 o'clock and I've spend THE WHOLE MORNING sitting in an armchair reading Mark Steyn's book. There are many, many other things I should have been doing—writing NR editorials, for e.g.  Mark is so readable, though—even though much of the book is warmed-over journalism that I recalled reading before.  Irresistible.

I'm sorry to report, though, that all the doubts my paleocon friends voice about Mark ended up at the front of my mind.  There are too many contradictions in his outlook.  Minimal govt. at home, but a huge imperialist effort at spreading our values abroad?  Well, it worked for the Victorian Brits, but that was then—when, as Mark himself points out many times, the demographic balance was all different.  Heck, everything was all different.  Like many another, Mark is dazzled to blindness by the example of the British Empire.  Note to Mark:  It was a one-off.

At the end of the book Mark says we have three options:  submission to Islam, the destruction of Islam, or the reform of Islam.  Just so, just so. 

Now I have to get on with doing the things I should have been doing all morning, at triple speed. 

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Posted on 10/31/2006 11:13 AM by John Derbyshire
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Keats, John
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Sometime in the 1970s, the "In Memoriam" section on the Obituary Page of The Times -- often the most interesting and least tendentious part of the paper --there appeared, not on Keats's birthday, October 31, but on the day of his death, February 23, of tuberculosis, in his rooms overlooking the right side (looking hopefully up) of the Spanish Steps, the following:

Keats, John. I always made an awkward bow.

Nothing else. Just the name, and the last sentence of his last letter, written in Rome to Charles Brockden Brown on November 30, 1820.

Who called The Times in advance of the death-day, who paid for the petite annonce, in order to honor Keats and remind us of him and literature and everything else, merely by reprinting without comment Keats's own laconic and haunting farewell? I had to know. I called the paper. Nobody knew. Nobody offered to find out.

Captains and kings have come and gone. Communism has receded. Islam is on its menacing as-yet uncomprehended and therefore unimpeded march. Who's in, who's out, and what's to come -- all still unsure.

And I still don’t know who placed that tribute to Keats in The Times. Thus this Notes-and-Queries request, in the seine of the Net, so that someone who knows someone may see this, and that sought someone may at last be identified and, though he (or she) needs no thanks, thanked.

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Posted on 10/31/2006 11:06 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Baring all
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Thanks to John Utting for this:

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Posted on 10/31/2006 9:04 AM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Pseudsday Tuesday
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“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine,” said Antheme Brillat Savarin.

 

I am a dedicated trencherwoman. I love my food and wine, and am one of the least likely candidates for teetotalism, vegetarianism, anorexia, Atkins, food combining or any other absurd form of life-denial. London, not Paris, has the best restaurants in the world. England, not France, boasts the top wine tasters, so I am well placed to eat my fill. Phil likes his food too.

 

But what a lot of twaddle is talked about food and wine. Wine first. I have been on a wine tasting course and I know that not all language used about wine is pretentious: flinty, mineral, farmyard, apricot, damson, cherries, gooseberries, leathery, woody, mushroomy, tannic, acid, balanced, finish, crisp, buttery, oaky, flabby – all these words and more, mean something.

 

Yes, I admit that a good wine needs to open up, you need to chew it round your mouth and tannin cuts through red meat. However, when somebody tells you that the grape has “sulked on the vine”, you know they are showing off. Here are a few more examples from the Tim Atkin in the Observer:

 

'There are few things more pleasant in life,' claims Serena Sutcliffe in her Wines of Burgundy, 'than trying to decide if the Bienvenues, the Bâtard or the unbelievable Chevalier is reminiscent of hawthorn, blackthorn or May blossom.'…

 

There may be more pleasant things, but I wouldn’t like to say either way.

 

If this tasting note sounds more than a little pretentious, what about the sort of thing published by Robert Parker, America's leading wine guru? Here's Mr P's information-rich description of a Barossa Shiraz with a flammable 16.5 per cent alcohol. 'This wine, which lasted four days in the bottle before I decided to pass the balance through my bowels, displays an opaque black/purple colour and exotic coffee, chocolate, Asian spice, roast duck and blackberry and prune liqueur-like aromas. To say the wine is unctuously textured is an understatement. This wine looks like 10-W-40 motor oil.' Believe it or not, he gave the wine 99 points out of 100….

 

Different nations describe wines in different ways. The French, for example, are very keen on the term sous-bois (undergrowth). They are also fond of sensual terms like séducteur, viril and tendre. Mind you, they never get as racy as the male Australian lecturer I once heard describe a wine as 'long, firm and full in the mouth like a penis'.

 

Mwwwmmphh. So this is why professional wine tasters spit, rather than swallow. And how does he know?

 

And now to food. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose extended tea-making rituals featured in this column a few weeks ago, warns against a kitchen that boasts basil and tells us to get with the programme:

 

Sea kale is the new asparagus
Brussels tops are the new greens (it's a Europe thing)
Parsley is the new basil
Haut Savoie is the new Serrano (which was of course, the old Parma)
Tatsoi is the new Mizuna (which is still the new rocket)
Breadsticks are the new baguettes
Papardelle is the new ravioli
Agen (oil) is the new olive (oil)
Mousse is the new ice cream
Pears are the new apples
Juice is the new wine
Tequilas are the new single malts
Potatoes are the new tomatoes
Gravy is the new jus
John Dory is the new sea bass
Fish is the new meat
Meat is the new bread
Bread is the new cheese
Cheese is the new chicken
Chicken is the new fish

The prize, however, must go to his assertion that mushy is the new al dente. This may not be good news for Phil, above. For more on this phrase and a sideways (or sidewalk) look at naughty pasta, see this exchange here. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

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Posted on 10/31/2006 8:19 AM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Meet William Gawthrop
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WND: The Pentagon must study the Muslim prophet Muhammad and his military doctrine to beat the growing number of jihadists, a former senior Pentagon intelligence official warns.

The failure of Pentagon brass to implement a "systematic study" of Muhammad's military doctrine is hurting the U.S. military's effort to control and defeat insurgents and terrorists, complains William Gawthrop, who until recent months headed a key counterintelligence and counterterrorism program set up at the Pentagon after 9/11...

"If the United States, moderate Muslim governments and the non-Muslim world seek to engage ideological adversaries on their own ground," he said, "they will have to develop, use and maintain the full range of capabilities in the ideological component of national power, and address Islam's strategic themes directly."

This begs the question, why is Gawthrop a "former" senior Pentagon intelligence official? Rumsfeld has embraced the "it's all so complicated and there are hundreds of parameters by which to measure success" non-strategy strategy. But the simple truth is, there is no strategy in the overall war, the battle for civilization. Gawthrop might possibly have pointed this out.

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Posted on 10/31/2006 6:51 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Re: What Armstrong would pass
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"I'm almost afraid to ask.. are those *actual* courses they teach?"
-- from a reader

Ask, and ye shall be told.

No.

But they might as well be.

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Posted on 10/31/2006 6:40 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
What Armstrong would pass
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"Armstrong would never pass a graduate seminar at Weston or Harvard Div...."
-- from a reader

Really? What if these were her seminars:

1. Feminism and Islam: The Search for Common Ground (Prof. Leila Ahmed)
2. Beyond the Church, Beyond the Synagogue: America and the Pluralism Project (Prof. Diana Eck)
3. Sufism as Ritual, Sufism as Worship (Prof. William A. Graham)
4. Islam For A New World (Prof. Tariq Ramadan, Visiting Professor of European Islam Studies)
5. Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira (not given in 2006-2010; may possibly be given in 2011, if budget permits)
6. What the Occupation Does to the Soul of Israel (Bishop Thomas Shaw) -- cross-registration with the Weston School of Theology

I suspect Karen Armstrong would do quite well in seminars #1, 2, 3, 4, and especially 6. About #5, I doubt that it will ever be on offer. But if those budgetary constraints ever loosen , and seminar #6 ever materializes, don't expect the teacher or the students to focus on the Qur'anic passages, and Hadith stories, and details of Muhammad's life, that are helping make news headlines, and disrupting entire societies in the lands of the Infidels, all around this giddy globe. No, such a course will either be taught by a Muslim apologist who is a Muslim, or a non-Muslim apologist such as Esposito or, if one really must have a non-Muslim teaching the course, it will be someone who will offer only the narrowest, most forbidding, most Germanic, most philological, least lively and relevant of approaches, and the course will attract a total enrollment of three ((two of them Muslim and native speakers of Arabic, the third an enthusiastic Japanese exchange-student for whom the course might as well be taught in Sorbian or Mayalam), save for the year when Karen Armstrong, that enthusiast, signs up -- not a moment too soon -- to find out what this Qur'an that one hears so much about really contains.

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Posted on 10/31/2006 6:30 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Re: Re: Do animals know they exist?
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The Telegraph: Researchers exposed Happy, Maxine and Patty - all adult Asian females at the Bronx Zoo in New York - to a square eight-ft mirror and discovered that they were aware that they were looking at their own reflections.

And in the case of Happy, she also touched a mark on her head which she could not have otherwise seen.

In this way, elephants have joined a small, elite group of species - including humans, great apes and dolphins - that have the ability to recognise themselves in the mirror...

For years many people assumed that because dolphins have such large brains, they must have intelligence on par with humans, but my brother, who is a dolphin expert, tells me they actually use only one half of their brain at a time while they sleep the other half. Obviously, if they went to sleep they way most animals do, they would forget to come up for air.  Dolphins are conscious breathers, unlike humans and other animals who breathe automatically and unconsciously, and so must remain awake in at least half of their brains at a time. File under: interesting bits of animal trivia.

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Posted on 10/31/2006 6:10 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Comunicating with the dead
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Answer: The Grateful Dead

Question: Which group played the most concerts at Madison Square Garden?

Story: here.

Official homepage of the Grateful Dead: here.




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Posted on 10/31/2006 5:56 AM by Robert Bove
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Books in review
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Regarding these two book reviews in the Boston Globe

Ilan Stavans, best known for his autobiographical or quasi-autobiographical works on being Jewish south of the border, may have been assigned the books for review, or may have asked to review them. There are strange remarks throughout, and not the strangest is the one at the end that instructs us, correctly, to read the Qur'an, but says nothing of abrogation as a key interpretive principle for reconciling seeming contradictions (and the dating of the individual suras, so that the most malevolent and significant of all, Sura 9, is either the last or second-to-last). Nor does he mention the hadith, nor, in a review of two books on Muhammad, the central role of Muhammad in Islam (close to 90%of the canonical texts are about Muhammad Messenger of Allah and not about Allah directly). Finally, he nowhere instructs us that we must know the most important facts of Muhammad's life because Muhammad is the Perfect Man, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, and so to know Muhammad, to know what he did and what he said, is important for understanding the behavior of most Muslims whose belief-system does not distinguish between the religious and the political (no Matthew 22:21) or for that matter any other spheres. Islam offers or rather insists upon a Total Regulation of Life, and Complete Explanation of the Universe. Furthermore, those born into Islam, or who become "reverts" (demurely called, but only for Infidel ears, "New Muslims"), find that they are soldiers in the Army of Islam who are not permitted to leave, for if they do they are regarded, and punished as, traitors.

Ilans may know all this. He may know all about the political murders of Abu Akaf and Asma bint Marwan and the Jewish poet who mocked Muhammad in verse, he may know about the mass execution of the bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, about the seizure of women whose menfolk he killed, about his marriage to little Aisha at 6 (or 7), and his consummation of that marriage when she reached the age of 9, and why that remains significant today (virtually the first act of the Ayatollah Khomeini was to reduce the marriageable age of girls to 9). He may indeed know all about Muhammad as well as have studied, as he urges others to do so, the Qur'an. But if he has, then why did he mention none of this, or show the ways in which Weinberger and Armstrong both fail to discuss any of this? And if he did not know it, why did he not study up before volunteering to review these books, or before accepting from Gail Caldwell or someone else, the assignment?

Meanwhile, this review should not be held against him, or his books on Latin America, especially if one's tastes run to the Andre-Acimanish theme of Growing Up Jewish in all kinds of exotic places (i.e., anywhere but the United States and Western Europe), and if Albert Memmi and Edmond Jabes and even Canetti haven't covered that particular waterfront -- and it's a fairly interesting place, with lots of people who coulda been, or actually were, contenders -- then you can always move on to Being Jewish in Mexico City, in Sao Paolo (oops, did I forget Clarice Lispector?), and of course Ciudad Trujillo (let's not forget, let's honor, the Trujillos for their admission of Jews fleeing Europe, at a time when no one else would, even if that act of mercy was justified as a way to to "help the economy" of the Dominican Republic), and even to Bolivia and the Escuela Israelita in La Paz or possibly Cochabamba, with cute little Ruthie Salomon in her pigtails, and pinafore, and her father who was taken in by the Bolivians (and thus escaped Europe early in the 1930s, when the mene-mene-tekel-upharsin was on the wall for some) by volunteering to serve as a military doctor during the Gran Chaco War.

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Posted on 10/31/2006 5:51 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Just another excuse for higher taxes
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Ruth Lea, formerly of the Institute of Directors and now head of the Centre for Policy Studies, talks a lot of sense about tackling climate change. From The Telegraph:

Britain produces a mere two per cent of total global man-made carbon emissions and, as Stern himself has said, even if Britain closed all its power stations, that would be equivalent to only a year's increase in China's emissions. Last year, China embarked on a programme for building more than 560 large coal-fired power stations by 2012. Admonitions from the British Government will not stop them. It is an illusion to believe that if Britain leads, others will follow. This is a sad fantasy, I fear.

The record of international co-operation on climate change has so far been discouraging. Take the current Kyoto round, for example. Signatory countries agreed to binding reductions on greenhouse gas emissions averaging six to eight per cent below 1990 levels for the years 2008-12. But key countries, including America and Australia, did not ratify Kyoto, and China and India were excluded from the reductions scheme.

The EU15 countries have purported to be enthusiastic supporters, but most are well-off target. Britain, France, Germany and Sweden may hit their targets. Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are emitting as if Kyoto doesn't exist. And the EU's emissions trading scheme is so slack that it is having no effect on the EU's total carbon emissions at all — and it does have the unfortunate side-effect that British business is forking out £500 million a year to buy spare permits from rivals in other member states.

Kyoto is, therefore, ineffectual. Talks are under way for its successor round, but there are enormous doubts as to whether it will be any more successful than the current one...

There is a case for green taxes. I favour reducing this country's dependence on fossil fuels, which will increasingly have to be imported from politically unstable regions of the world. If green taxes are used to incentivise the development of indigenous, non-fossil fuel sources of energy for transport and electricity generation, this is to be encouraged. But if such taxes are introduced, they should not just be seen as revenue raisers. There should be offsets for business in the form of, for example, corporation taxes cuts and for individuals.

Green taxes can be mightily unpopular, as shown by the fuel protests of September 2000, which led to the suspension of the fuel duty escalator. Perhaps the Government feels that, by emphasising the moral case for saving the planet, this will sweeten people's attitudes. I'm not so sure.

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Posted on 10/31/2006 5:46 AM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Charles and Camilla trip cancelled in security alert
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From The Telegraph

An anti-western backlash against the killing of 80 suspected Islamic militants at a madrassa in Pakistan has forced the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to cancel their planned visit to the northern city of Peshawar today.

Fears of riots and demonstrations in the city following yesterday's air strikes by Pakistani army helicopters on the school near the border with Afghanistan has meant that the area is no longer regarded as safe.

In a statement, Clarence House said last night: "An alternative programme for their Royal Highnesses is being considered. The prince and the duchess are disappointed not to be going."

The madrassa was suspected of being run as a training camp by a militant cleric linked to al-Qa'eda. Details of the raid emerged just a few hours before Prince Charles met the Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, for a discussion of issues that included counter-terrorism.

The madrassa was in the village of Chingai in the wild North West Frontier Province, of which Peshawar is the capital. . . Peshawar is only 15 miles from the Khyber Pass and it is along this porous frontier that al-Qa'eda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri are believed to be hiding. The very name Khyber Pass conjures up tales of Rudyard Kipling although sadly I also recall the antics of “Carry on up the Khyber”.  The current situation is not the stuff of saucy comedy.

The tribal areas in the rugged terrain are seen as a breeding ground for Islamist extremists. Some of the more extreme madrassas in the region are viewed almost as jihad factories, feeding young men a diet of extremist ideology then setting them loose to fight their holy war. Several British-born Muslim extremists known to have been recruited by al-Qa'eda had visited religious schools in the country, notably two of the 7/7 suicide bombers.

It was for this very reason that the prince wanted to visit a madrassa that has been working closely with the British Council and which has a moderate way of teaching. His message was to have been that not all madrassas are a threat. Many provide the only means of schooling available for impoverished children.

I think Prince Charles has received a very different message about the madrassa system through this – let us hope that he takes heed of it.

On a trivial note I like some of the Duchess of Cornwall’s outfits for the trip, rather 70s style tunic and trouser suits which meet local conventions but which are still obviously western dress that could be seen in any English county town. The shalwar kameez given as gifts sound very colourful, (I do like a bit of colour) and more like the outfits I remember from my youth. But were the Duchess to travel to India or Singapore would her outfits need to be so carefully moderated?

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Posted on 10/31/2006 2:29 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Royal Marine Commandos in battle in Southern Afghanistan
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This report from The Telegraph
Royal Marine Commandos are believed to have killed up to 10 Taliban fighters yesterday following a brief but ferocious battle in southern Afghanistan. The Marines were conducting a foot patrol six miles east of the town of Gereshk in the southern province of Helmand when they were ambushed by insurgents armed with 81mm mortars and automatic weapons. The attack provoked a fierce response by the commandos, who fired more than 2,000 rounds during the 25-minute battle. No Marines were injured.
It was the first time the Marines, who took over control of Forward Operating Base Price (FOB Price) from the Paras a month ago, had been involved in a sustained "contact" with the Taliban.
Senior officers said the action disproved press reports at the weekend that the Marines had been confined to their makeshift barracks at Camp Bastion because commanders were too afraid to engage the Taliban.
"We are conducting normal military operations to make the province secure," said a senior Army officer. "It is ludicrous to suggest they spend their time just sitting around watching DVDs. This is a tough mission and they are entitled to rest when they are back at base."
Major Ewen Murchison, commander of J Company, who was leading the patrol, said that in the initial stages of the battle none of his men could identify the Taliban positions until they started communicating with each other using mirrors.
He said: "There was a degree of chaos for the first 10 to 15 minutes until things calmed down. If you come under effective enemy fire the first thing you have to do is identify the target and anyone who identifies the target is clear to engage it.
"We were mortared first from the north, then from the south, then we identified the group with mirrors, some of whom were clearly armed and we neutralised them."
Major Murchison, who has seen action in Bosnia and on previous tours of Afghanistan, said: "We engaged them with all of our weapon systems. We employed our.5 heavy calibre machine guns and 7.62mm machine guns and we neutralised two of the three positions."
Although the tempo of operations in Helmand has slowed considerably since the Royal Marines took over from the Paras at the end of September, commanders believe that more attacks are likely because the number of Taliban in the area has grown in recent weeks following the success of British forces in the north of the province.
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Posted on 10/31/2006 1:53 AM by Esmerelda WEatherwax
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Monday, 30 October 2006
Too-ra, loo-ra, loo-ra
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There will soon be a new holiday destination for the most intrepid tourists, according to one newspaper. Osama bin Laden's infamous Tora Bora caves hideout is reportedly being converted - into a £5.3m holiday resort. - from this news item

Over in Kandahar, many years ago

My mother sang a song to me in tones so soft and low

Just a simple little ditty in her good old Muslim way

And I'd give the world if I could hear that song of hers today

 

To-ra-bo-ra-lo-ra

To-ra-bo-ra-li

To-ra-bo-ra-lo-ra

Hush now, don't you cry

 

To-ra-bo-ra-lo-ra

To-ra-bo-ra-li

To-ra-bo-ra-lo-ra

That's a Muslim lullaby

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Posted on 10/30/2006 6:36 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles
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Promised in Paradise are the 72 virgins, or possibly, if you do not join the gang ganging up on Luxenberg, raisins. It is the boys who are "pearl-like." Perhaps in Hilali's view the simile applies only to boys, who are "pearl-like," while for girls only the metaphor is appropriate: they are not pearl-like but are "pearls." For more on this, see Taj Al-Din Al-Hilaly and Roman Jakobson, "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles in the Holy Qur'an," Mouton, 's Gravenhage, 1976.*

Or perhaps we should look to Giorgione, who enodwed that girl in "La Tempesta" with a come-hither look, or to Shakespeare, with his bold Beatrice giving better than she got to Benedick, or even to Miranda, espying Ferdinand for the first time.

Those were pearls that were his lies. Something like that.

*No, don't.

Just a joke, meant mainly for Morris Halle and especially for Noam Chomsky, who tells me that he loves, positively loves, this site.

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Posted on 10/30/2006 6:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 30 October 2006
James Beck and the ovum struthionis
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possibly the ovum struthionis in the Montefeltro altarpiece of Piero della Francesca, identified as such by Millard Meiss - from an earlier posting

Come to think of it, the ovum struthionis leads ineluctably to the ostrich theme, and ostrich-like behavior, and so might be a suitable emblem to be used, in reminding and monitory mockery, of much of the Western world, including the Western museum-and-gallery going, painting-and-sculpting, collection-developing, connoisseur-and-tyro art-loving or pretend-art-loving Western world.

The ovum struthionis...the perfect symbol to mock those who...well, none so blind as those who will not see.

Yes.

In hoc signo....

An ostrich egg, apposite for ostrich-like behavior.

The essay by Millard Meiss on the ovum struthionis of Piero can be found by googling, unless it turns out to be accessible only through one of those subscription-only services.

Panofsky, Rosenberg, Friedlaender, Gombrich, Kitzinger, and a thousand others who helped raise the level of art history in England and, especially, America -- what would happen to them, what would happen to the art of Europe, if Tariq Ramadan were to get his wish?

The Czechs put in place the Benes Decree for a threat that at the time hardly existed, and only in order not to have to further worry about the loyalties and behavior of ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland, given the record of the previous ten years. We have 1350 years of history to tell us how Muslims treat non-Muslims, and the unambiguous texts of Islam: Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira. Why should we feel abashed about discussing this? Why should it not be discussed everywhere, openly, unapologetically?

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Posted on 10/30/2006 6:13 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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