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Recent Publications from New English Review Press
Easy Meat
by Peter McLoughlin
The Tongue is Also a Fire
by James Como
Out Into The Beautiful World
by Theodore Dalrymple
Unreading Shakespeare
by David P. Gontar
Islam Through the Looking Glass: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J. B. Kelly, Vol. 3
edited by S. B. Kelly
The Real Nature of Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
As Far As The Eye Can See
by Moshe Dann
Threats of Pain and Ruin
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum

Sunday, 31 December 2006
Piazza San Silvestro

Suppose you are looking for a very expensive  book in Italian, an art book, or a book about the monuments of Rome, or a book of proverbs in both Italian and Russian that has been out-of-print for a decade. Let's be even more specific. Let's say you are looking for Paola della Pergola's work on the Villa Borghese, or possibly D'Onofrio's huge volume "Obelischi di Roma," one of those magnificent works that could only have been published because it was underwritten by an Italian bank, sometime in the heady late 1960s or 1970s, for Italian banks are maecenases supporting such works still, though  not quite as readily or expensively as before,  and of which only 2000 copies were printed, and you, like an idiot, didn't buy one at the time.

Well, you might still find such a volume at a bookstore in Rome right on Piazza San Silvestro. Not a dusty alfarrabista carrying all kinds of used books.  No, these are all  books,that have never been bought, but somehow remained in a warehouse or in a store, or perhaps at this very special bookstore on the Piazza San Silvestro, ready to be found by you even though all other copies have been bought up and the only ones you can find are used, even gently used copies "like new," at bookshops where they are priced far beyond your range.

Piazza San Silvestro.

There must be some reason why I'm taking note right now of Piazza San Silvestro. But I forget what it is.

Posted on 12/31/2006 9:51 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Mumblings on New Years Eve
It will be the New Year in Great Britain in a couple of hours and in a few more across the USA. It is tomorrow morning already in Australia and New Zealand.
The Australians sound like they had fun. The weather is bad in New Zealand at the moment and the events in Wellington were cancelled. This children’s event at Auckland Zoo sounds rather good however.  
The zoo opened its gates for a New Year Jungle Party, a chance for children and their parents to enjoy the last day of 2006 without struggling to make midnight. Parents were asked to put their watches forward three hours to see in the New Year at 9pm.
Zoo events manager Jackie Sanders said the idea was adopted from Australian zoos. "If the kids had to stay up until midnight they'd be too tired and wouldn't be able to enjoy themselves."
Here in the UK it’s a dark and stormy night, the raining is falling and the wind is howling. Actually it’s not that bad in the south East but the public events in Belfast, Glasgow, Liverpool and other big cities have been cancelled due to expected high winds. But
Ken the newt-rearer says that the firework London celebrates New Year at the Eyedisplay over the London Eye will go ahead. So that’s all right then. Later - Actually it was rather good.
Kylie Minogue’s concert at Wembley Arena is indoors and scheduled to end at midnight. A few years ago (make that many years) I went to a New Years Eve concert at Wembley by Whitesnake. That started and finished extra early to allow the audience time to get to Trafalgar Square and other parties. I didn’t fancy my chances in such a crowd so I went straight home. Saw the New Year in between Becontree and Dagenham Heathway, me and the tube driver.
I used to like to open my back door to let the old year out and listen to the boats on the river (Thames) all blowing their hooters (yes, I am aware that means something different in the US, but I will not say blowing their horns because of what that means in the UK) on the stroke of 12. These days all I can hear is the sound of fireworks but as there are now so few boats on the river perhaps that is just as well.
I want to wish my colleagues at the New English Review, the team and others associated with us – you know who you are – and all our readers a happy and prosperous 2007. 
Posted on 12/31/2006 3:53 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 31 December 2006
They're celebrating in Australia

Happy New Year from NER!

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our friends and contributors, especially Jason Pappas and Michael Greenspan.

An extra special thank you is in order for our anonymous donor, whose generous support throughout the year has kept NER up and running, 

We also want to thank all our contributing editors who spill their blood, sweat and tears on the page, month after month, without asking a thing in return.

Here's to NER and to another great year! 

Posted on 12/31/2006 3:30 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Predictions On The Trial of Saddam

The effect of Saddam Hussein's trial has been discussed in passing more than once at JW. See, e.g., the fourth paragraph of the following posting from Dec. 15, 2005:

"Not a word here at JW about the Iraqi elections."
--- from a reader

There was a comment, deliberately posted the day before the election [on Dec. 15, 2005], so that whatever predictive value it has would be stronger by being made before, and not after, the event.

That comment was as follows: that the Sunnis who participated in the elections were not doing so as an alternative, but rather as a supplementary way to, express their intention to oppose the transfer of power and wealth to the Shi'a who make up 60% of the population in Iraq.

The comment went on to note that when the returns are in, no matter what they turn out to be, they cannot possibly satisfy the Sunnis who are convinced that they constitute 42% of the population (and that's not counting the Kurds), that if they receive, after their "heroic" efforts at voting, less than that amount of power, if they are forced to permanently surrender their dreams of domination, things will continue exactly as before. The great "achievement" of the election -- where a lot less is there than meets the Administration's eye -- is merely to insure what was already insured by the American invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein's regime: to wit, the end of Sunni Arab rule in Iraq.

And there was another thing noted. And that was that the trial of Saddam Hussein, like the Constitution which the Sunnis wish to have reopened, is not likely to "bring Iraqis together" as the Americans, so naive about Iraq and about Islam, hoped. Rather, that trial, exposing the very different attitudes toward Saddam Hussein (the Americans actually believed that the Sunnis would see him as a monster, whereas many see him, now, as their perhaps-not-entirely-pleasant strongman, protector, and defender of Sunni interests), will exacerbate the Sunni-Shi'a fissures.

That is a good thing. What is not a good thing is that the American administration, getting everything upside-down, thinks that those fissures are a bad thing.

A topsy-turvy analysis, where one mistake engenders another.

And yet, in the end, if the Americans withdraw within the next few months, leaving no important equipment behind, and simply allow things to take their natural course, all the while keeping up a steady patter of rhetoric about how "now it's time for the Iraqis to decide what they want in Iraq for themselves," this will in the end lead to the very "victory" of which Bush prates -- exactly by his failing to do what he wishes to do, and by letting Muslim nature take its course.

[Posted by: Hugh at December 16, 2005 04:21 PM]

Posted on 12/31/2006 2:43 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 31 December 2006
War Without End

"I welcome a rift between the different sects of the cult of Islam but then I also realize they will hold hands, kiss and make up to attack us."-- from a reader

Only if the Americans or other Infidels are there to be attacked. If they are not immediately present, and if the war is one over the country, and the spoils of that country -- that is, the oil wealth -- the sides are too evenly matched, taking into account not only population, where the Shi'a clearly lead, but also military training and aggressiveness, where the Sunnis have a lead, one that has been whittled away, inadvertently no doubt, by the Americans training all those Shi'a volunteers for the police and army, and also the availability of outside help. The Saudis and other Gulf Arabs cannot stand the idea that the "Persians" -- used loosely to include even Arab Shi'a, seen as potential handmaids of the Islamic Republic of Iran -- might control the Land of the Two Rivers, and Baghdad, fabled city, madinat al-salam, of the Caliph Haroun al-Raschid, and essential to the mythology of Muslims about their glorious past. The Sunni Arabs will never acquiesce. The Shi'a Arabs will never surrender, after enduring so much from the Sunnis, the power they now possess. This has no end.

Posted on 12/31/2006 2:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Mid-Riff Crisis

"rift laid bare..."-- from the title of this news item

Not to be read, as I first did, as "midriff laid bare," which would only lead one to wonder what Britney Spears is doing yet again at NER, after her celebrated previous appearance as the head of the "What-Our-Generation-Needs Foundation," recommending some feelgood book on Islam.

Such misreading is an inherited illness. In Florence, in 1966, my father saw a sign for the "Medici Galleries" and read it as "Medical Allergies." There is no known cure.

Posted on 12/31/2006 2:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 31 December 2006
New Year's Eve and New York Times
Since we're scrutinizing the Times this fine Sunday, a few comments are in order about the coverage of Saddam Hussein's execution. 

On the plus side, page one, Marc Santora's account of the dictator's last minutes is riveting, and John Burns' more comprehensive treatment of the execution and its fall-out is characteristically excellent.  (As things go in Iraq, it is noteworthy that, in the early editions of the paper, the sub-headline said, "Violence Limited"; the updated headline observes, "Attacks Go On.")

For once, we don't get the Times' editorialized spin on the death penalty until well inside the first section.  But then it comes out in force. 

There is, naturally, "Around the World, Unease And Criticism of Penalty," by Alan Cowell, typical of which is this drivel from Tim Hames, of the Times of London:  "Mainstream middle-class sentiment in Europe now regards the death penalty as being as ethically tainted as the crimes that produced the sentence."  Of course, this reflects — and could only reflect — not the sentiment of the mainstream middle-class but of elite opinion in Europe, particularly of transnational progressive intellectuals who long for a post-sovereign Euro-state. Commonsense people, even those uneasy about or opposed to capital punishment, have no difficulty distinguishing the evil behind the crime and their reservations about the punishment.  It is only the intelligentsia, which questions the very existence of "evil," that consequently finds itself without a compass for such moral and ethical distinctions.

But the stand-out is Hassan M. Fattah's story, under the inane headline:  "For Arab Critics, Hussein's Execution Symbolizes the Victory of Vengeance Over Justice".  Memo to the Times:  First, very often, vengeance is justice; that is why the most civilized societies (those based on ordered liberty) demand that the punishment fit the crime.  Second, this is an especially counterintuitive headline and theme for a story that purports to convey the cultural sense of the Islamic world (indeed, a story illustrated with a depiction of thousands of "pilgrims" in Mena, Saudi Arabia, observing the Eid). 

In this regard, far more telling — however inadvertently — is the final paragraph of Mr. Santora's aforementioned dispatch:  "[Saddam's] body stayed hanging for another nine minutes as those in attendance broke out in prayer, praising the Prophet, at the death of a dictator."  For the believers, vengeance and justice ... inseparable.

Posted on 12/31/2006 2:14 PM by Andy McCarthy
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Fraser was warned on Lebanese migrants
The first report of 2007 from The Australian. I like Australians; they say what they think.
IMMIGRATION authorities warned the Fraser government in 1976 it was accepting too many Lebanese Muslim refugees without "the required qualities" for successful integration. The Fraser cabinet was also told many of the refugees were unskilled, illiterate and had questionable character and standards of personal hygiene.
Cabinet documents released today by the National Archives under the 30-year rule reveal how Australia's decision to accept thousands of Lebanese Muslims fleeing Lebanon's 1976 civil war led to a temporary collapse of normal eligibility standards.  (I had wondered how Australia got so many Lebanese; I still cannot understand how Norway got so many Pakistanis.)
The emergence of the documents raises the question of whether the temporary relaxation might have contributed to contemporary racial tensions in Sydney's southwest, which exploded a year ago into race-based riots in Cronulla.
 . . . But demographer Bob Birrell said the relatively depressed nature of Sydney's Muslim community could easily be linked to the lack of education and work skills of the 1970s migrants.
John Howard was accused of inflaming public hatred towards the Islamic community last February when he warned that aspects of Muslim culture posed an unprecedented challenge for Australia's immigration program.
The Prime Minister said while he remained confident the overwhelming majority of Muslims would be successfully integrated, there were unique problems that previous intakes of migrants from Europe and Asia did not have.
"I do think there is this particular complication because there is a fragment which is utterly antagonistic to our kind of society, and that is a difficulty," he told The Australian then. "You can't find any equivalent in Italian, Greek, or Lebanese, or Chinese or Baltic immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of raving on about jihad, but that is the major problem.  I think some of the associated attitudes towards women (are also) a problem."
Dr Birrell, who heads Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research, said a study last year had shown Lebanese Muslims in southwest Sydney were less well-off economically than Lebanese Christians. Dr Birrell said this reflected the lack of work skills and education of many of the refugees who arrived in the 1970s.
 But they have had 30 years in a country once described as the “British working class set down in paradise”. Relatives of mine left the bombed and poor East End for NSW in 1946, worked hard and did very well. I think it was the hard work that was the secret.
Posted on 12/31/2006 11:51 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Injured soldier contracts superbug in British hospital
From the website of This is London , on the dangers of the MRSA infection.
A soldier who was shot in the neck in Afghanistan is recovering after contracting MRSA in a British hospital. Sergeant David 'Paddy' Caldwell, 32, was diagnosed with the superbug on a ward at a Birmingham hospital soon after returning from duty.
The paratrooper was leading 5 Platoon of B Company in an assault on a Taliban compound when he was hit by machine gun fire.
After first being treated at a field hospital in Afghanistan, Sgt Caldwell was then transferred to the intensive care unit at Selly Oak's Royal Centre for Defence Medicine. Most servicemen and women injured overseas are flown to this centre for treatment. This, don’t forget is the hospital where another wounded paratrooper on a civilian ward was abused and threatened by an angry Muslim for “killing my brothers in Afghanistan”.  Sources said that Sgt Caldwell had been at the hospital for a number of months before contracting MRSA, but he has since recovered from the infection.
Fellow soldiers from the 3rd Battalion of the British Regiment spoke of their dismay at the incident. One colleague told the News of the World: "The doctors told him his recovery would take two or three years - but that didn't allow for MRSA. The lads are disgusted."
A spokeswoman from the Department of Health (DOH) said reports of MRSA were taken very seriously. "In the new Operating Framework, the Government has put aside £50 million of capital which Trusts can bid for to tackle MRSA.
"This means that £300,000 is available per Trust. This money can be used for improving washing facilities and building better toilets."
But how do you make people use the washing facilities, in particular those Muslims who refuse to clean their hands for religious reason? It is time to be sterner and more proactive to combat all threats to our wellbeing. 
Last night consultant Peter Golding—who has backed News of the World demands for soldiers to be treated in dedicated military hospitals—said Sgt Caldwell would not have contracted MRSA in Britain's last military hospital at Haslar in Gosport, Hants, which is facing closure.
"Haslar is one of the cleanest hospitals in the country and has almost zero levels of MRSA," he said. "The trouble with super-hospitals like Selly Oak is that they attract superbugs."
One of Paddy's shocked comrades added: "What happened to him is just not good enough. "The thought that if the Taliban don't get you a hospital in the UK will is enough to make you choke."
Posted on 12/31/2006 9:13 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Minneapolis: Somalis Protest US Support for Ethiopia
Star Tribune (h/t JW): More than a thousand Somalis gathered in Minneapolis on Saturday to call for Ethiopian troops to withdraw immediately from Somalia.

Their protest capped a week in which transitional government troops retook Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, with the backing of Ethiopian infantrymen.

The U.S. government "gave the green light" to Ethiopia to work in concert with the transitional federal government in Somalia, and that action was "totally wrong," said Hassan Mohamud.

He is the president of the Somali Institute for Peace and Justice in Minneapolis, which organized Saturday's rally.

"We ask the president of the United States, Mr. Bush, and his administration to stop supporting the terrorists. Ethiopian troops are terrorists," Mohamud said to a cheering crowd.

Somali men, women and children gathered Saturday morning in Peavey Park in Minneapolis, and they carried an array of signs. Some said "No more war" and "Islam is the solution."

Posted on 12/31/2006 8:58 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Pan-Arabism and Pan-Islamism
Nasser and Saddam Hussein had pretensions to become King of the Arabs, but they were Muslims. They were ready whenever necessary to appeal to and exploit Muslim history. Neither one was impelled by a genuine sense of the "secular."

In Nasser's case, it would have made no sense, in the years before OPEC trillions (which Egypt in any case did not share in), or the millions of Muslim immigrants settled deep behind the enemy lines of Western Europe, for him, an army colonel interested in modernizing Egypt and in enlarging his own power and greatness, to appeal to any pan-Islamic sentiment. After all, his main threat were those who were completely Muslim, the Ikhwan al-muslimin or Muslim Brotherhood, founded by Tariq Ramadan's grandfather Hasan al-Banna back in 1928, when the dansants at Shepheard's Hotel were still in full swing, and the syce-runners waiting patiently outside, and Levantines were reading The Egyptian Gazette.

Nasser's only political rivals were the fanatically Muslim, and he represented not true "secularism" but rather, a less intense form of Islam. But, as he demonstrated again and again, he was prepared to use, and be used by, Islam -- and his seizing the property of, and throwing out of the country, Greeks, Jews, Armenians, Italians and others could be seen as an act of "nationalism," but could also be seen as an act against Infidels. Certainly his rhetoric before and during the Six-Day War was dripping with Islamic themes, and so was, for years, the Egyptian press. How could it be otherwise? Egypt was largely Muslim. And it is today.

As for Saddam Hussein, he realized that the Shi'a were more numerous than the Sunnis (though not quite to the extent that they have become today), and that the best way for a Sunni despotism to survive would be to disguise it as something else. Any Islam-based opposition to the rule of Saddam Hussein would have to be, among the Arabs, mosque-based. And that meant many of them would be Shi'a mosques, and that would be dangerous for the Sunni rulers of Iraq.

In Syria, Ba'athism helped to disguise the Alawite dictatorship, and since the Alawites are about 12% of the population, and with their cult of Mary are dangerously un-Islamic. In fact, one of their achievements was to receive, in recent years, a fatwa from Shi'a Muslims in Iran offering the opinion that Alawites were indeed orthodox Muslims -- but as the Sunnis might say, this may be a case of needing a second opinion. They needed such a disguise. The Alawites, a minority despised by the Sunni Arabs, came to power only as a result of their having served the French as part of the "Troupes Speciales," and then having formed a kind of military caste. Finally, the Air Force officer Hafez al-Assad put himself and other Alawites (the only people he could fully trust) in power. He could not possibly abandon "secular" Ba'athism, because he had to appeal not only to Christians (with Armenians forming one of the special household-guard units), who realized the Alawites were their only protectors against the real Muslims, but also to those Muslims who were more alarmed by the Ikhwan than they were offended by the syncretistic Alawites.

In Iraq, a similar disguise was needed by the Sunnis, which is why Iraq was the only country, other than Syria, where Ba'athism took hold. Ba'athism was the perfect disguise for Sunni despotism. It appeared to be, on the surface, a party open to all, free from sectarian or ethnic bias, so that Shi'a Arabs, Kurds, and even the odd Christian (and Tariq Aziz was very odd) might join the Ba'ath Party and to some modest degree at least claim or pretend to have a share in the power. Behind Ba'athism, however, were always the Sunni Arabs, determined to treat both Kurds and Shi'a Arabs (the Arabic-speaking Christians hardly counted, and Jews, who had in 1920 constituted one-third of the population of Baghdad, had disappeared unlamented from Iraq, having left in a hurry, harried out, sent packing, and the pogrom of 1941, or the little pogroms of 1948-1950, or the public hanging of innocent Jews as "Zionist spies" in January 1969, before a Baghdad crowd of a half-million howling with hysteria and rapturous hate, made sure that any who remained would not remain for long).

Saddam Hussein appealed to Islamic history again and again whenever he felt the need. He naturally named his battles and campaigns against Iran after famous battles in that history. He named his war against the Kurds "Al-Anfal" after a sura in the Qur'an. He built mosques, and was making plans for building the largest mosque in the world when he was so rudely interrupted by three American divisions. He commissioned Qur'ans, including one calligraphed using an ink consisting mainly of his, Saddam Hussein's, own blood. He put a Qur'anic inscription on the Iraqi flag. He spoke more and more with Qur'anic phrases and allusions to Islam. It hardly mattered how deeply he felt it; he certainly was no true secularist, but merely someone more interested in the power of the Arabs, and that power meant the power of the Sunni Arabs, and of the Sunni Arabs, it had to mean their great champion, Saddam Hussein, and whatever it took for him to retain and enlarge his power, including being open, for example, to the education of women, not because he had been reading Mary Wollstonecraft but because those educated women could learn such useful things as weapons technology (and Dr. Germ and Dr. Anthrax did), or otherwise make his Iraq, and therefore make him, more formidable.

And had Nasser lived longer, instead of dying of a broken heart from his loss in a war that he alone brought on himself in June 1967, one would not have been surprised to find that he, too, as the occasion arose, would have embraced Islam more fervently, as Saddam Hussein found himself doing in his last decade of power. First, out of political necessity, to keep the allegiance of a Muslim population. Second, because in the end, these were not true "secularists" as this word is commonly used in the West. They were simply just a bit less fanatically Muslim than some other Muslims who were their political rivals. Pan-Arabism was merely the only game in town in the early days, when independence had just come to Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, when Pakistan was still arranging itself, and Indonesia was under the control of the still-secular Dutch-educated local nationalists, and there was no oil wealth to support global dreams. Pan-Arabism is best seen not as an alternative to, but merely as a subset of, pan-Islamism.

And in any case, pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism overlap so much that to set them in opposition is to mislead. For in Islam it is the Arabs who, though they now constitute about one-fourth or one-fifth of the world's Muslims, continue to dominate all non-Arab Muslims. Those non-Arabs must read the Qur'an in Arabic, pray toward Arabia, take as models seventh-century Arabs, claim if they can Arab lineages, even in many cases take Arab names. Fulfillment of a pan-Arab dream would merely be a logical stepping-stone to the next goal, a pan-Islamic state, a single Caliphate with a single, undoubtedly Arab Caliph, that would use the tens of trillions still to come, and the billion unswerving believers, and the tens of millions of Believers now multiplying behind what they themselves are taught to regard as enemy lines.

Arab "secularists" do exist. Bourguiba was one. But neither Saddam Hussein, nor Nasser, were "secular" in anything like the way as the Arab Bourguiba, or the non-Arab Ataturk. Both wished to curb their political rivals, but neither was intent on systematically constraining Islam; rather, each wished to exploit Islam for his own ends. They alluded to Islamic history, appealed to their adoring mobs with Qur'anic passages, gave speeches impregnated with, or rather reflecting, attitudes naturally emanating from Islam. OPEC money, Muslim migrants in the West, and technological advances in the dissemination of Islam's message, all contributed to replace the pan-Arabism of Nasser (first self-proclaimed King of the Arabs) and Saddam Hussein (second self-proclaimed King of the Arabs, by unpopular demand) with what had once seemed merely an impossible dream: pan-Islamism.

Posted on 12/31/2006 7:32 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Immigration Reform
Posted on 12/31/2006 7:16 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Free jihadis on the loose in Pakistan
Anti-terrorism forces in Pakistan have been told to brace themselves for a wave of atrocities. Intelligence officials warned that the security situation is now more precarious than it was before the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Senior officers say they are "back to square one" in their fight against international terrorist groups after the release of dozens of militants by Pakistani courts. High-ranking police officials say that as many as 80 hard-core militants are on the loose after being cleared by the courts or released on bail.
A memo sent by Pakistan's interior ministry to law enforcement agencies around the country warns of a plot to use suicide bombers to target Britons and Americans, including diplomats, in a coordinated campaign involving some of the country's most notorious terrorist groups. The ministry warned that the bombers were also believed to be looking at high-profile individuals and military installations as potential targets.
Last month, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, warned of the growing threat from within Pakistan. She said young British Muslims were being groomed to become suicide bombers and that most of the 1,600 suspects being tracked by her agents were British-born but linked to al-Qaeda in Pakistan. MI5 is reported to have compiled detailed dossiers on British Muslims travelling to jihadist training camps in Waziristan, on the border with Afghanistan, the region where the United States believes Osama bin Laden is hiding. At least two of the British Muslims involved in the Tube and bus bombings in London on July 7 last year are known to have visited training camps in Pakistan.
Counter-terrorism officials are aghast at the decision by the courts to free so many people suspected of involvement in attacks. Police say many have since disappeared off the radar of intelligence agencies and are believed to be planning to strike. Among those released recently are Sohail Akhtar (aka Mustafa), the operational commander of the outlawed Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami group. . . Intelligence officers say Mustafa — who was initially sentenced to death before a court overturned the verdict — is also believed to have travelled to Iraq to establish contact between al-Qaeda and terrorists there. His interrogators described him as "a terrorist genius". One official said: "He was the one who cobbled together all the jihadis, working under various organisations, by coining the slogan, 'The ways should be different but the goal should be one'."
The government has called a meeting in Islamabad this week to discuss the release of militants. It may put forward a strategy to deter the courts from clearing suspects or releasing them on bail.
Don't hold your breath. 
Posted on 12/31/2006 3:26 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Don?t drink and fondle a snake, mate
Darwin’s snake catcher handles the most venomous serpents on the planet. And, he tells Chris Haslam, trying to impress the birds with one can be fatal.
I’m standing somewhat warily on the front porch of a wooden shack in Darwin, capital of Australia’s torrid Northern Territory. Before me is 23-year-old Chris Peberdy, Darwin’s official snake catcher, and he’s not alone.
The 7ft king brown snake he’s holding up is writhing like a fireman’s hose, doubling back on itself in medusan contortions as it tries with all its might to bite its way out of trouble. Although a single nip from this creature contains enough venom to kill about 125,000 mice, 20 horses and any number of overconfident herpetologists, Chris seems unperturbed.


“Nineteen of the last 26 people to die from snakebite in Oz were bitten by these fellas,” he notes, and steps smartly backwards as the snake lunges for his throat. “Steve Irwin was a great man — really loved his snakes — but he taught a generation of Aussies a lot of bad habits.”
He kicks the lid from a plastic dustbin and lowers the serpent inside, then turns as though to pass on a gem of inside information. “You know what? After a night on the piss I leave the snakes alone, mate.”
Like looking for a gas leak with a lighter, drinking and snake handling would appear to be a rather obviously lethal combination. Chris’s former business partner narrowly escaped death after being nailed on the chest by a taipan — the second most venomous snake in the world. “Trying to impress a bird again,” shrugs Chris. “He had a bottle of Jim Beam in one hand and the snake around his neck.” Antivenin, made by injecting poison into horses and extracting the resulting mix, saved his life, but not — apparently — his sanity.
“The mad bastard went off and joined the Foreign Legion after the bite,” says Chris. “He thought it’d be safer. Mate, wrapping a taipan around your neck is like putting your nuts in a blender and flicking the switch on the off-chance you won’t get nailed. Mess with snakes and it’s not a matter of if you’re going to get bitten, it’s simply a matter of when.”
Such was the fate of Chris’s teacher and former city snake catcher, the late Graham Gow. The painted signs for his snake park are still out on the highway, but Graham is long gone. He was bitten over 200 times in his career and “was looking pretty ropey towards the end”, according to Chris. “It was the antivenin that finally got him: he had so much horse blood in him we were going to enter him for the Melbourne Cup.”
Has Chris ever been bitten? “Not yet, mate.” He shrugs. “But today’s a brand new day.” Then his mobile rings. “Chris Peberdy speaking . . . g’day Sharon, what’s the problem?” He glances at me. “Snake in the bathroom. Sheila in distress; no worries darling, I’ll be right there.”
The property is in what Darwinians amusingly refer to as the suburbs. I’d call it the wilderness with a road going through it. Houses round here stand typically in five or 10 acres of critter-infested bushland, but the saying goes that if you’ve got snakes, you don’t have rats.
And — no doubt about it — Sharon’s got snake: 6ft long and comfortably fat, it’s digesting a rodent in the lee of her toilet. The flash of my camera wakes it from its repose and it flicks a black tongue at me. . .
A bashful silence descends on Sharon’s bathroom as Chris grabs toilet paper to staunch the wound. The snakebite contains an anticoagulant so claret is splashing all over the tiled floor. Luckily, the snake was a carpet python and the most he needs is a tetanus jab, but he has clearly had a glimpse of his own mortality. If it had been any other species native to the territory he would now be in serious trouble.
As it turns out, he is merely embarrassed, but Sharon is clearly impressed. As we leave she insists on getting his home phone number . . . just in case. Chris grins as we drive away. “Told you, mate — the Sheilas love a snake catcher.” 
Posted on 12/31/2006 2:37 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 30 December 2006
Re: Saddam Hussein's favoUrite wine

Mateus Rosé? That is soooo Seventies. Soooo Abigail’s Party. Those twee little lampshades. It belongs with prawn cocktail, chicken-in-a-basket, Berni Inn Steakhouses, avocado bathroom suites and avocado vinaigrette, serving hatches. “Like a top up, Tone?” “Oooh, don’t mind if I do. It’s like going to the lavatory, pardon my French.” Beg pardon, I'm soiling the doilies.


Dictators are nothing if not tacky. Saddam had a gold toilet seat. Kim Chong [sic – I’d say Jong, but we don’t speak Korean so we’re both wrong] Il , 5’2” in heels, probably white stilettos, likes Hennessy Paradis Cognac. I’ve never tasted it, but it’s probably a bit like Cherry B, the Eighties tipple of the Essex girl. And the Juche tower – well think Blackpool, or if you’re American, in which case the foregoing will mean little, think (possibly) a “cone” handed to you by a “soda jerk”.


Being tasteless and nouveau riche/lower middle class is not the worst aspect of being a dictator. But it seems to be a constant. A dictator has nobody to tell him that murdering millions of people because they disagree with him is a bad idea, and nobody to tell him that sunken baths and gold-plated taps are a bit naff.


What these blighters need is a good dose of John Betjeman. Perhaps the ridiculous English class system, and our sense of the ridiculous, has preserved us on grounds of taste from the totalitarian movements that have bedevilled continental Europe. Here’s P. G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster, talking to Spode, the parody Fascist:


"The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone. You hear them shouting 'Heil, Spode!' and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: 'Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?'"


Tamada? Haven’t heard that word for a couple of months.

Posted on 12/30/2006 5:54 PM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 30 December 2006
Irony free zone
I guess when lawmakers ban smoking in casinos they feel good about protecting people from vice.

How about banning alcohol when men visit prostitutes in Nevada? Or preventing people from smoking marijuana while shooting up their heroin in Vancouver's needle parks?

There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity.
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
Herbert Spencer (1820 - 1903)
Posted on 12/30/2006 5:28 PM by Mark Butterworth
Saturday, 30 December 2006
Saddam Hussein's Favorite Wine

Today’s New Duranty Times contains a long story about Saddam Hussein. There was not much context: no mention of the assorted coups, by and then  against Colonel Qassem, no mention of the man who was for at least twenty years the most important plotter and power-holder, Nuri es-Said, nor any mention of how he died. Important matters are not given the right amount of attention: what was that public hanging of “17 Zionist spies” in January 1969 all about, and why were the accused  13 Jews and four Christians, all of them completely innocent? Why was there no mention of Saddam Hussein’s great hero, Joseph Stalin, about whom he had accumulated a library? What was Ba’athism, and why did it make sense for a Sunni despot to call himself a Ba’athist?


There is no description of the displays of self-mutilation – cutting off of fingers or ears, and much worse, by those wishing to demonstrate their loyalty to Saddam Hussein – but there is this, and though irrelevant to larger matters, the English version of some Arabic original does manage to stick:


“The entertainment at public events often consisted of outpourings of praise for Mr. Hussein. At the January 2003 inauguration of a recreational lake in Baghdad, poets spouted spontaneous verse and the official translators struggled to keep up with lines like, “We will stimulate ourselves by saying your name, Saddam Hussein, when we say Saddam Hussein, we stimulate ourselves.”


And there is this:


“His wine of choice was Portuguese, Mateus Rose…”


So there we have it. Mateus Rose as the favored wine of Saddam Hussein. Among the grape varietals used to make Mateus (a wine that began to be made only in 1942) is Bastardo.


Mateus Rose can now be listed along with other wines favored by famous despots Stalin remained loyal, from his early life on the lam as Koba to his later life as Kremlin ruler, to the Georgian wine Khvanchkara. Once unheard-of outside of Georgia, Khvanchkara (kara, or black, "something") can now be obtained in wine shops in the West, wherever Russian refugees have settled, and you too can throw a party, act as your own tamada (the Georgian master of ceremonies, and assigner of toasts) and offer the very wine, if you wish, that Stalin favored, despite or because of that fact.


And then there is Kim Chong-Il, with his taste not for wine but for Hennessey Paradis cognac. He is said to import for his own use (or possibly to share with the most favored of officals) more than a thousand bottles a year, and this costs the government of North Korea about $750,000 a year, approximately equal to the annual income of a thousand North Koreans.


Pope made do with a dish of bohea. Recent presidents have been known to favor coca-cola. What does it matter? There is nothing here to point a moral or adorn a tale.But when you next visit a  wine store, and happen to pass, if that  wine store has a Portuguese wine section, the horizontal racks of vinho tinto and vinho branco, and happen to catch sight, somewhere in the middle, of an inoffensive bottle of Mateus Rose, a shudder may go through you, as you think, unwillingly, of Saddam Hussein. And  the same goes for Khvanchkara, and Hennessey Paradis cognac. It’s not their fault.


But if you have a taste for Mateus Rose, or Khvanchkara,or Paradis cognac, and have found out who their secret admirers are, it may be a bit harder to recommend  them to friends. Can you easily say “into thy hands I commend my spirit” if that spirit or wine was known to be a favorite of Joseph Stalin, of Kim Chong-Il, of Saddam Hussein?

Posted on 12/30/2006 4:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 30 December 2006
Muslims and Alcohol
It is an insult to Islam to tempt Muslims into trafficking directly in the sale of alcohol. The very least the British government should do is to forbid the awarding of alcohol licenses to Muslim-owned stores, or stores in which Muslims may work. And there should be no liquor license granted, not even the right to sell beer, at any Muslim-run restaurant or cafe. It is not fair, it is not right, to put temptation in the path like that. The whisperings of Shaytan. And if a restaurant wants to have a liquor license, then it will simply not be allowed the privilege of hiring Muslims on the staff. It will have to choose.
Posted on 12/30/2006 3:52 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 30 December 2006
Muslims 'refuse anti-MRSA gel'

The Sun Online (h/t LGF)

SOME Muslims are undermining the battle to rid Britain’s hospitals of killer infections by refusing to wash their hands when visiting sick relatives.

Dispensers containing anti-bacterial gel have been placed outside wards at hospitals all over Britain in a bid to get rid of superbugs like MRSA and PVL.

It prevents people bringing in more infections. But some Muslims refuse to use the hand cleansers on religious grounds because they contain alcohol.

This is clearly reckless endangerment - endangering the lives of all the patients, Muslim and non-Muslim,  in hospitals across Britain and should not be allowed. No scrub up, no admittance.

Posted on 12/30/2006 2:08 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 30 December 2006

From a Soomaali website:

"Aren't we all the citizens of Soomaaliya, and enjoy the benefits and luxury of living anywhere in Soomaaliya, without worrying about deportation. God. And I thought I could live even in Soomaali Galbeed or in NFD peacefully and without any worry about who I am or any tarxiil {even from Kenya or Itoobiya authorities}. But now, I don't think so.

Another question of mine; say I visited to Burco or Berbera, would I be deported without me having a proper document? I mean, I am Soomaali, my blood says so. So is my skin. A further question: Say a person who hails from one of the major tribes in that region, but was born and raised in some other city in the deep South. But that person went back to that region, will that person immediately considered as a citizen of that specific region because of only of his/her qabiil? Again in a same situation, but slightly reversed: A person was born in Hargeysa, but that person do not belong any main clans in that region. What would his/her status be? Deported as well????

Well, this is something new to me then, honestly speaking.

Don't get started any REGIONAL POLITICS in here. We all do know that, even as the name clearly says SOOMAALI-land. That is my land too. I am as Soomaali as any other one. So is it my land. What I really mean, though, is that even if that supposedly separate region, won't they allow ANY Soomaalis to live in there? Without any restraint or any qabiil linked. Oooh, it is another complete sovereign nation that has its own constitution. My bad. I didn't realize this then. I will check the United Nations' list of the world's countries, 'cause the last time I checked I hadn't seen a country named Soomaali-something on it.

Heey, Soomaali-landers {or as the old folks used to call Soomaalileen}, don't get offended. I am kidding, of course. I just love EVERYWHERE Soomaalis live and co-exist. Nothing else. And where they prosper is really something that makes me proud. So whether in the North or South, or West or East, I am proud of the ENTIRE BANNER UNDER THE FIVE STAR NATION OF SOOMAALIYA! or Soomaali-land."

The author blogs from -- Dublin.

Is he Irish as well as Soomaali? If, as he puts it, "SOOMAALI-land. That is my land too. I am as Soomaali as any other one. So is it my land" one wishes to know if he has managed to obtain Irish or other Western citizenship. His interest, his heart, his loyalty all seem to be directed to Soomaalileen, Land of the Somalis.

One wonders what the Irish naturalization service makes of all this. Or does it make nothing of all this, because it is exactly like the British, the Canadian, the American bureacrats each in their own inhibited version of the INS, those Western bureaucrats all pretending not to see, for they are confused, and don't quite know what to do, confused and lonely and afraid, in a world they never made.

Posted on 12/30/2006 1:57 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 30 December 2006
Iraq's Borders

"The British drew the boundary lines and created the Shia in an attempt to foment tribal warfare. The Shiite is a creation of the western mind."-- from a reader


1) "The British drew the boundary lines...."

The most important "boundary line" is that separating Arabs and Persians -- the line between Iraq and Iran. That line was drawn not by the British but by representatives of the Ottoman Empire (for Iraq did not then exist, but consisted of three Ottoman vilayets, Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul) and the Persian Empire. This Treaty of 1847 was brokered by Russia. Great Britain had nothing to do with it.

2) "The British drew the boundary lines and created the Shia in an attempt to foment tribal warfare."

The Shi'a have existed for 1300 years. They were not "created" by the British but rather by a dispute over the rightful line of succession to Muhammad, and from that initial rift, grew a number of other differences in belief and ritual. But on the matter of treatment of Infidels, Shi'a and Sunni do not differ.

The British who were in Iraq from 1920-1932, the period of Sir Percy Cox and Gertrude Bell, had no desire to "foment tribal" or any other kind of warfare. Gertrude Bell wrote in her letters about the Shi'a tribes that did not want to accept control by a government in Baghdad, especially one Sunni-dominated (Hashemite king, Sunni Arab elite, with an admixture of non-Sunnis and even non-Arabs).

3. "The Shiite is a creation of the Western mind."

This denies 1300 years of history, denies theology, denies the persecution and murder of Shi'a (hence the Shi'a-originating doctrine of taqiyya, designed to protect them from Sunni Muslims).

Posted on 12/30/2006 1:48 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 30 December 2006
Another piece in the jigsaw.
You may recall that I am of the belief that the robbery of the travel agent in Bradford during which PC Sharon Beshenivsky was murdered was to secure funds for the furtherance of jihad. So far as I know this was never mentioned in court, but is merely my opinion based on the obvious reason why Pakistanis and Somalis should join forces together.
You will also recall that one of the wanted men, who was not deported to Somali for earlier crimes for fear of his safety, despite his family being influential there, escaped using his sisters passport and veil. This is from the Telegraph and Argus a local Yorkshire paper and shows an exclusive (albeit out of date) photo of Piran Ditta Khan who was described during the trial as the architect of the armed robbery.
Piran Ditta Khan, who lived and worked in Bradford when he came to England from Pakistan at the age of 18, is thought to have fled at the beginning of this year to return to a remote village in his homeland.
The photograph obtained by the Telegraph & Argus shows Khan when he owned a restaurant in Aberdeen. A spokesman said: "There are ongoing inquiries but we cannot say anything more at this stage. This does appear to be a picture taken a number of years ago. However it is not a good likeness. The man we are seeking is now in his late 50s."
Suspect Piran Ditta Khan, who is now 58, in a photograph obtained by the Telegraph & Argus
Waqas Yousaf, managing director of Universal Express, said Khan, a former customer, (that is the travel agency robbed of money paid for trips to Mecca) was reported to have turned to religion, grown a beard and be helping to rebuild a mosque in Pakistan.
He said he and his business partners first suspected he was involved in the robbery when the police came to see them shortly afterwards.
"They were asking if we knew an Uncle P Khan who used to be a customer here," said Mr Yousaf. "They took all our records and then we realised that they must think he was involved."
So for what religious purpose does a mosque building man turn to crime? 5 letters, begins with J.
Have you seen this man, now aged 58?
Posted on 12/30/2006 1:19 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 30 December 2006
It's my hotel and I have the papers to prove it

New York Daily News: ...A Staten Island man allegedly tried to steal the trendy $76 million hotel's deed by filing phony papers with the city.

But the con failed to make a hotelier out of Kouadio Kouassi, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the bizarre scam, authorities said yesterday...

An employee with the city Department of Finance alerted investigators after Kouassi allegedly tried several times to file paperwork that would have transferred ownership of the hotel to him.

"The documents were not filled out in a professional way or not filled out at all," Gill Hearn said. "It was just not the kind of filing you would see if it was a real commercial transaction."

Posted on 12/30/2006 1:04 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 30 December 2006
Re: Saddam's Death

"Marginally enhances Iraq's prospects,and ours..." --Andy McCarthy

More likely to do two things: First, create a Sunni martyr, a permanent symbol of the loss of Sunni power to the Rafidie dogs, the Shi'a.. Second, because the Shi'a rulers insisted on this quick execution, and refused to wait until the trial, already begun, devoted to Saddam Hussein's mass murdering of the Kurds, this will be taken by the Kurds as a symbol, as it should be, of the essential Arab indifference or disinterest in what happened to them at Arab hands.

Both will contribute to the break-up of Iraq. Both will help to divide and demoralize the Camp of Islam.

Thus the execution, done as it was done by Muslims themselves, will help the Camp of Infidels.

Posted on 12/30/2006 12:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 30 December 2006
Auster: The Minimum

Lawrence Auster writes: For any commentator who describes Islamization as a calamity that must be prevented at all costs, here is what I would see as the minimum position on Muslim immigration and the regulation of the Islamic religion that is consistent with such a view:

  • All new mass immigration of Muslims under the national quotas and other general immigration laws, not just from Muslim countries, but from all countries, must stop. Only select numbers of Muslim individuals with particular connections to the U.S., of a family or business nature for example, can be admitted.
  • To the extent possible, all Muslims here illegally must be found and be made to leave (the U.S. made a nice start of that in 2002 and 2003 when it got a large number of Pakistani illegals to depart voluntarily).
  • All legal resident alien Muslims must be subjected to an...examination of their beliefs and allegiances. Anyone found to support sharia and jihad, or who on the basis of his background and associations, can be reasonably expected to support sharia and jihad, will be deported. As compared with the outright exclusion of prospective immigrants that I propose above, the milder expedient of a questionnaire is suitable in the cases of legal residents because these are persons who have already been admitted to the U.S.
  • Mosques and Muslim schools must be closely examined and monitored for promotion of jihadist beliefs and those that fail the test will be closed.

I would support such a platform if put forward by immigration reformers. Despite the fact that republicans try to minimize the importance of it, immigration reform will likely be a top priority issue for voters in 2008 both pro and con. We must answer the question,"what is America?" once more.  This is a pivotal query that occurs once in a generation and eventually leads to another, deeper and even more urgent question, "what is man?" which goes to the heart of this conflict, but needs be answered only once a century or so.

Posted on 12/30/2006 12:05 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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