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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
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
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky
















Monday, 27 February 2006
Graffiti
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Yesterday, I was called a racist for objecting to Mexican graffiti.  I hate graffiti.  I loathe graffiti. Graffiti is a direct assault and affront to the fading establishment we are trying so desperately to revive.  It is an expression of scorn and to view it as anything else, another "human right" say, is delusional.  The existance of graffiti is a reminder of our toleration of scorn for society at large and so its existence accurately reflects our own self-loathing.  Eventually our businesses stop painting over it and the city stops painting over it out of resignation, sadly bowing to the what seems to be the inevitable, ever encroaching chaos.  No one want to fight a losing battle on their own. 

What bothered me most about Tamar Jacoby's talk yesterday was her essential reduction of human beings to units of production and consumption.  She seems to worship the god of the ever expanding economy.  No matter what, we must always do what's best for the economy.  What she described was an "upper culture" built on the backs of a "lower culture" and yet the implications of this arrangement didn't seem to bother her at all.  The tide of cheap labor flowing in over the border today will irrevocably alter, if not rend, our social fabric and will color the nature of our society FOREVER.

Jacoby never addressed the question of culture or what it takes to make a culture cohere.  Homo economicus must sacrifice all to the god of the economy including the most basic right and responsibilty to steer the course of our civilization.

What does it mean to have an "expanding economy" in actual human terms?  Why should we fear an unexpanding economy?  Is it impossible to achieve some sort of economic equilibrium?  How can our economy be expected to expand forever?  Would the sky fall in if it didn't?

Perhaps we could live a bit more simply and with that, a bit more freely as well.  I'll mow my own lawn, thank you.

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Posted on 02/27/2006 8:59 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Monday, 27 February 2006
Such Joy
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I thought this was worth sharing. 

I don't know any Jains but what impressed me with this presentation is the mix of worshippers mingled, men and women,  young and old,  modern and traditional.  The colour of the ceremony.  And the sheer joy of the pilgrims, a joy so infectious that it can be heard in the voice of the photographer who narrates the commentary to his photos.
He is a freelance so I think he is entitled to his joy; I found myself smiling back at one group of ladies in one photo.
And everybody seems to have helped their fellows.  No stampede.  No blood.  No crushing brother pilgrims underfoot. 

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Posted on 02/27/2006 4:55 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 26 February 2006
Iran: "Tom & Jerry" part of global Zionist conspiracy
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That's right. More beloved characters to file under "Innocence Lost," along with Spongebob, and Ernie and Bert.

 From WorldNetDaily:

Tom and Jerry, the lovable cat and mouse locked in cartoon combat, is a Jewish conspiracy, according to an Iranian official.

Prof. Hasan Bolkhari, a cultural advisor to the Iranian Education Ministry, delivered the news last week on Iran's Channel 4 during a broadcast of film seminar where he was lecturing. An excerpt of the video was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

...

According to the professor, "Tom and Jerry" was created to irradicate [sic] the association between mice and Jews created in the minds of Europeans by Hitler.

"If you study European history, you will see who was the main power in hoarding money and wealth in the 19th century," continued Bolkhari. "In most cases, it is the Jews. Perhaps that was one of the reasons which caused Hitler to begin the anti-Semitic trend, and then the extensive propaganda about the crematoria began." ...

What about Itchy and Scratchy? While we're assigning subtexts, I think Scratchy personifies dhimmitude and Itchy the global jihad.

And then there's those "CAIR"-Bears. But hey, *shuffling feet, looking at watch*, that's... you know... "above my paygrade." (Translation: "My cartoons are on.")

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Posted on 02/26/2006 10:30 PM by Marisol Seibold
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Sunday, 26 February 2006
"that's above my paygrade"
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"That's above my paygrade" is a term one hears constantly from Republican politicians and Bushies in particular.  I even heard John Ashcroft say it the other night and cringed.

What is that person saying?  I think he means to say, "I'm not qualified to speak to the issue," but what he is really saying is, "My responsibility  is defined by these narrow parameters and so if I do those well, I may abdicate my responsibilty to my fellow man by not bothering to learn about or to think about the essential issues of our day with an absolutely clear conscience.

Could fragmentation and alienation be any better defined?  This is a war in which every individual must make decisions on questions of moral essences.  Those of us who define these essences are seen as the enemy because we point out real divisions that exist in reality, thereby handing people a moral choice leading to issues of war and peace.  It is a choice easy to make, but I am convinced it is one they don't want to make out of fear.  

Fear of war is worse than war.  And in the end, delay of war always causes war to be more destructive than it needed to be when it finally comes in all its fullness.
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Posted on 02/26/2006 3:39 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Sunday, 26 February 2006
More conference
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Anyone who knows anything about the rules of warfare knows that the first thing to do once war breaks out is to secure one's own position. Since this is a war by civilians on civilians, we must be prepared to defend our civilian population by whatever means necessary. I just came from the last session of this conference and it was specifically on immigration.

Our speakers were Tamar Jacoby and Doug McIntyre. The audience wanted to talk about national security and Muslim immigration, but neither panelist was prepared to speak to the issue much. McIntyre's position was, secure the border first, then let's talk about immigration. He put the number of illegal immigrants at 20 million, the size of the state of New York. He spoke passionately about how corporations no longer have the interests of the nation at heart and how they are not even expected to have the interests of the nation at heart anymore. In this he echoed the vehemence with which Pat Caddell spoke about how the corruption in government was a sickness that will destroy the nation by selling her out.

Tamar Jacoby, when asked sincerely about Muslim immigration by a woman who works through her Church to help these immigrants and then they turn around and call her a kafir, (she said, "and the Koran tells me that infidels, can be killed!!), Jacoby responded, "Oh, Muslims are less than three million, they're like the shavings of a fingernail, they're so small. They're not a problem."

The room erupted! Absolutely erupted! The mood in that room was incredibly hostile. Then another woman from the audience spoke about her experience visiting Germany recently and their Muslim immigrant problem. Jacoby came back with a bunch of baloney about how Europe is lousy about assimilation, but "it's what we do best." Another eruption and a man pointed out how Germany had loyalty oaths and language tests and the whole nine years and still, Muslims didn't assimilate.

During the entire conference the average people were, by and large, way ahead of the speakers on the issue of Islam (except for Robert and a couple of others). That's the good news. Unfortunately, I see the Republican party splitting down the middle on immigration and Islam and then corruption circling in  buzzard like to finish it off.

So now what?

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Posted on 02/26/2006 3:32 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Sunday, 26 February 2006
Curt Weldon and more
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Yesterday Congressman Curt Weldon(R-PA) spoke at breakfast here at David Horowitz's fantastic Restoration Weekend in Phoenix Arizona.  So far, he has given the most impressive and moving speech and seems to really understand the nature of this war.  He spoke of jihad in its world-wide totality - the only speaker so far to do so. 

Then I attended a panel on the coming elections that was disheartening.  I'm sorry to say the Republican party seems to be unraveling just like the democratic party.  A couple of the congressmen attacked Tom Tancredo vehemently about his immigration stand.  Tancredo had said bluntly "I'm for a wall" [on our southern border] and expressed the opinion that we cannot allow two separate and distinct societies to exist within our nation.  To which I would add, we must think not simply about economics in this equation - the other congressmen attacking Tancredo kept talking about how we NEED Mexican workers and how unless we are prepared to expel 11 million illegals (size of the state of Ohio)...blah blah blah, as though that would just be unthinkable.  But I can tell you, that thought was not unthinkable to everybody else in the room who are concerned not simply about short-term economics, but the long term character of our nation as well.  One can find little Tihuanas all over the country now.  Every city has them.  It's the price of cheap yard work for one generation.  Sorry, I'd rather mow my own yard than have to put up with Mexican graffiti all over the place. 

Next, I attended a panel on "The Media and the War" with Andrew Breitbart (formerly with Drudge), Tammy Bruce, Bill Sammon, and Frank Gaffney.  It was just sort of a celebration of the decline of the main stream media and the rise of alternative media.  Breitbart was the most knowledgeable on Islam.

After that, I attended a briefing on Guantanamo Bay given by Lt. General Paul Vallely and Lt. Colonel Gordon Cucullu.  Nothing new, but the army is beginning to get it.   I asked, "Since we know that jihad ideology comes directy out of Islam, why are we providing these people with Korans?"  Colonel Cucullu jumped on it and said, "That's not all!  They have imams and prayer rugs and signs all over pointing toward Mecca!"  He understood the inherent contradiction.  Maybe he'll be more likely to discuss it with others in the military now that the issue has been raised.

Then I had a wonderful afternoon talking to our new friends from England.  One man says whenever he talks to Muslims he tells them straight out - "I will never live as a dhimmi under Islam.  I would rather die first."  He says most of the time the Muslims look sheepish and ashamed in response. 
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Posted on 02/26/2006 8:02 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Sunday, 26 February 2006
The Sunday Times - Review
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I post this from The Sunday Times without further comment.  Read the whole article, remarks from me are unneccessary.

Total war: Inside the new Al-Qaeda            

 

Last week’s desecration of a Shi’ite shrine moved Iraq towards civil war. Abdel Bari Atwan, who has had unique access to Osama Bin Laden, explains why Al-Qaeda wants to divide Islam.

 

Osama Bin Laden, who had been sitting cross-legged on a carpet, placed his Kalashnikov rifle on the ground and got up. He came towards me with a warm smile that turned into barely repressed laughter as he took in the way I was dressed. I had been kitted out in baggy trousers, a long shirt and a turban for my clandestine journey to his hideout in southern Afghanistan. The turban in particular made me feel self-conscious, as I had never worn such a thing in my life.

 

I spent three days with Bin Laden in Tora Bora, the only western-based journalist to spend such a significant amount of time with him, before or since. I talked at length to him, slept next to him in his cave and shared his modest food.  Listening to him during that visit 10 years ago I realised he was no ordinary figure, but it didn’t occur to me for one moment that this polite, soft-spoken, smiling and apparently gentle person would become the world’s most dangerous man, terrorising western capitals, inflicting hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of damage on the United States, threatening its economic stability and embroiling it in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq……

 

I was puzzled by Bin Laden’s chosen path. What motivates this man, from a well-known and honourable family in possession of billions, to lead such a comfortless life in these inhospitable and dangerous mountains, awaiting attack, capture or death at any moment, hunted by so many regimes?

We spoke about his wealth, and while he avoided saying exactly how much he was worth he acknowledged he still managed an extensive investment portfolio through a complex network of secret contacts. But this wealth, he said, was for the umma (the global Islamic community).

“It is the duty of the umma as a whole to commit its wealth to the struggle,” he said. “The umma is connected like an electric current.” (Surprising imagery for a man who would wish to take us back 1,500 years.) I discovered that, in contrast with the primitive accommodation, the base was well equipped with computers and up-to-the-minute communications equipment. Bin Laden had access to the internet, which was not then ubiquitous as it is now, and said: “These days the world is becoming like a small village.” ……

More attacks were in the planning stages, he said, and he emphasised that these “operations” took a long time to prepare. He hinted at a strike at the Americans on their home territory, but I confess I did not register the enormity of what he implied when he came out with an unforgettable statement: “We hope to reach ignition point in the not-too-distant future.”

Bin Laden also explained his long-term anti-American strategy. He told me he knew he would never be able to defeat America on its own soil using conventional weapons. He had another plan, one that would take years to reach fruition.

“We want to bring the Americans to fight us on Muslim land,” he said as we walked through the woods in the high mountains at Tora Bora. “If we can fight them on our own territory we will beat them, because the battle will be on our terms in a land they neither know nor understand.”

We are witnessing part of that plan now, in the battlefields of Iraq, which has become a breeding ground for the most ruthless and militant Al-Qaeda fighters we have seen. In the process we are discovering the new face of Al-Qaeda, as a movement involved in bloody sectarian strife against fellow Muslims

Read it in its entirety here.

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Posted on 02/26/2006 7:42 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 26 February 2006
Not enough
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From the BBC

The Archbishop of Canterbury has arrived in Sudan at the start of a week-long pre-Lent visit.

During his stay, Dr Rowan Williams is expected to meet Muslim and Christian leaders and hold services throughout the country.

Sudan emerged a year ago from two decades of conflict between the Muslim north and Christian rebels in the south with the signing of a peace agreement.

Dr Williams hopes to encourage all agencies to "strengthen peace" there.

His first stop on Sunday will be a visit to shanty town Al-Gariya, in capital Khartoum, whose inhabitants have been displaced by war.

Welcome service

BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher said those people were just a small percentage of the two million southerners who squat around the capital, treated as second-class citizens by many of their northern neighbours.

After his Al-Gariya visit, thousand of Khartoum's Christians are then expected to join Dr Williams for a service of welcome on Sunday afternoon.

As head of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop is religious leader of more than three million southern Sudanese and most of his trip will be spent in the south.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey visited the Sudan three times.

What the BBC carefully does not mention is that the "two million southerners who squat around the capital, treated as second-class citizens by many of their northern neighbours" are treated thus under Sharia law because as Christians they are  Dhimmis, and their status is determined by the Koran.

I am a member of the worldwide Anglican womens organisation the Mothers Union.  I cannot get to meetings (but I always go to the Christmas lunch :-) usually I chauffeur the old ladies and am awarded honorary pensioner status for my pains, to get the Golden Oldie discount, as well as my reward in heaven) but I joined when I read about the MU members in the Sudan.  Who were held under house arrest for the triple crime of being women, Christian and organised.  Suddenly this organisation for Christian Family life seemed brave and subversive.  To offer my annual subscription and prayer to help was such a little action.

My father in law was stationed in Sudan during the war.  He made his decison to offer himself for ordination while assisting at the leper colony in Omdurman.  The courage of the Christian girls who worked as nurses there impressed him greatly.

I feel that we have let the Anglicans of the Sudan down greatly.  I am aware of quiet projects, eg from the MU and Dr Carey, that are working in the area and at some risk to themselves,  but Dad and I do think more should have been done at national level. 

NB And we are not the only Anglicans concerned that the church should be more assertive in this area.  Ruth Gledhill the Times religious correspondent does not list Sudan among her several concerns but her view accords with my own.

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Posted on 02/26/2006 3:33 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Saturday, 25 February 2006
Harvard loses its wildebeest
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This piece by Gerard Baker may be of interest to anyone concerned about the rise of political correctness in American universities. Baker argues that, with the resignation of Harvard's President, Larry Summers, the "closing of the American mind" is one step nearer.

TWENTY YEARS AGO the American philosopher, Allan Bloom, published a book called The Closing of the American Mind, a devastating indictment of the nation’s universities and, more broadly, of its cultural elites.

Its premise was that the spirit of openness, a willingness to consider ideas freely, the great virtue of American life and the guiding ethos of a university had been perverted into a cultural relativism. From the 1960s liberal philosophy had taken hold, defiantly asserting that truth was in the eye of the beholder, and that notions of absolute ideals or virtues were anachronistic. In this new world, liberal democracy was no better than totalitarian theocracy, Plato’s philosophy was no more valid than Marianne Faithfull’s and Mozart should be considered on the same terms as the Monkees.

The resignation of Larry Summers as President of Harvard University this week indicates that the closing of the American mind is a continuing process, remorselessly squeezing the light out of its academic enlightenment. ....

These days the values more often prized in university heads have less to do with intellectual candlepower, and more to do with smoothness, access to influence, and above all, a capacity to generate hundreds of millions of dollars. Smooth, Mr Summers was not. In his often awkward personal habits, overweening intellectual self-confidence and execrable management style, he variously appalled and terrified. Never properly socialised, this impatient young man behaved in the rarefied surroundings of government departments, diplomatic salons and academic common rooms like a semi-housetrained wildebeest...

But it was not his arrogance, or his table manners, or even his envy-inducing genius that did for him at Harvard. It was his determined and ultimately futile effort to open the closed minds of America’s proudest academic elite...

Most famously, a year ago, he questioned whether that there were so few women professors at the top of their fields in mathematics and engineering might reflect not only sexual discrimination, but also gender-specific aptitudes in different disciplines.

In the Index of Sins against modern academic political correctness, this is about as grave as it gets. Even to suggest the possibility that there might be innate differences between the sexes or races that could lead to different outcomes is to invite condemnation from the academic Church of the Closed Mind. Despite abject apologies for his errors (which he now regrets), the closed-mind crowd wanted his blood. And this week, after the threat of yet another vote of no-confidence from his faculty members, they got it.

I would be interested to hear what any US readers have to say about whether or not this hounding of a maverick - or wildebeest -  is typical of what goes on in American universities. On the specific point about men's and women's aptitudes for mathematics and engineering, I find it outrageous that Professor Summers is not allowed even to ask the question. Perhaps men are, on average, better at these subjects, just as women may be, on average, better at languages. As a feminist I have no problem even with the idea that men are, on average, more intelligent than women. I have no idea whether this is true or not, and I suspect it is not, but the point is, we are talking about averages. It should not affect any individual man or woman's chances in life. Average ability need have no implications for the opportunities that men and women, or blacks and whites, should be given for study and advancement in these fields. These opportunites should be awarded on merit alone.

I am completely opposed to the idea of quotas by race or sex. If a class of top mathematicians turned out, purely on merit, to be all female and all Chinese, then so what?  It does not mean that there has been discrimination. It is ironic that quotas are often enforced in the name of diversity. The result may be diversity of skin colour and gender, but sadly bland uniformity of opinion.

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Posted on 02/25/2006 11:53 AM by Mary Jackson
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Saturday, 25 February 2006
Beer today, gone tomorrow
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This is a shame, from the BBC.

The World Cup in South Africa is four years away - but the country's beer has been knocked out during qualifying.

American giant Budweiser has gained the exclusive rights to sell beer inside 2010 World Cup stadiums.

Local brands met the same fate as the national side, which made an early exit from the recent Cup of Nations and failed to reach the 2006 World Cup.

SABMiller, the biggest local brewer, says it does not have a suitable brand for the $100m sponsorship deal.

I'm not a huge fan of Budweiser (do I duck and cover now or do US contributors agree with me as I have met several Americans who think the same?)  But one beer I do have good memories of from the days when I had no family responsibilities and could travel is Kenyan Tusker lager.   Made by East African Breweries I found it in my friends fridge, hum, I mean I found it to be refreshing and crisp.  There may have been good reasons why it was not possible but I would have liked to hear of an African beer prominent at an African event.

On our most recent holiday my husband was impressed by the products of the Iceni Brewery.  I prefered her chariot, the one said to have had swords on the wheels.  Which it didn't but the idea scared the Romans, which was a GOOD THING.

Another good thing.

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Posted on 02/25/2006 5:11 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 24 February 2006
Having a wonderful time, wish you were here
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I am visiting the beautiful Arizona Biltmore with a bunch of crazy right wing intellectuals at the behest of the indomitable David Horowitz.  Robert Spencer is here along with Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson and Phyllis Chesler who were all on a panel togeher this morning. 

James Woolsey gave a very disappointing talk at breakfast in which he parsed and teased out every group of Muslims there is and gave little histories of each and how it's a tiny minority Wahabbis and Salafis who are the bad guys and we don't have to worry about "mainstream Islam."  Just when I was to the point of pounding my head on the table in frustration,  Dr. B. (from the UK I might add) came to my rescue and asked the obvious question, "but, Dr. Woolsey, isn't it all just jihad?"  I could have kissed him.  Turns out, he and his father, who is also here, are avid jihadwatch readers.

Of course, later, in Robert's panel, the questions were all very knowledgeable, which leads me to think that we Americans were giving too much deference to Woosley, but in all fairness, he spoke at length about alternative fuels and so the American were sidetracked, but still...I thought it was the Brits who were supposed to be more deferential to the powerful and afraid of stepping on toes...

On another panel, I must say I was a bit disappointed in Ken Timmmerman's insistence that we must stand with the "people of Iran" against the Mullahs.  I think we've done more that enough of that kind of thing in Iraq.  Why does he think it would work in Iran?  As John Derbyshire says, rubble countries make no trouble.  Bomb their cities, smash up their ports, demolish their infrastructure and then DO NOT go back in and rebuild it,  This is not 1946,  We're at the beginning of this war, not the end.

Last night I got to meet the head of the National Rifle Association.  A petit Jewish woman from Tucson named Sandy Froman.  It's quite a contrast from Charlton Heston and the traditional image of the NRA!  I am just so proud that a woman can hold that job.  And it was impressive to the Jewish people here that she is Jewish, too.  I didn't know that until Horowitz said so introducing her.  Very cool.

I also met a very nice man and his wife from Frontpage magazine, Ben  and Terry Johnson.  Ben is a big reason frontpage magazine is so good, wonderfully intelligent and thoughtful.  They flew in from Ohio where it was 25 degrees when they left.  It's in the high 70's here, sunny and beautiful.

Robert is in good spirits and his talk was fantastic., though he keeps calling me "boss."  I don't know why.  He's heading home tomorrow, but I'll be staying to the bitter end and then some.

More to come..
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Posted on 02/24/2006 3:39 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Friday, 24 February 2006
Hoist with his own petard
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Further to Esmerelda's post on Ken Livingstone, it appears that he has been found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute.

London's mayor has been found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute when he compared a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard.

The Adjudication Panel for England ruled Ken Livingstone had acted in an "unnecessarily insensitive" manner...

BBC London's Tim Donovan said it was likely the mayor would receive a reprimand at the very least for his comments to Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold.

He added that the maximum penalty was a five-year disqualification, although the board which made the complaint was not calling for that...

Here he is, looking a bit sheepish:

Generally I'm against political correctness and believe that, as long as violence is not incited, people, even Ken Livingstone, should be allowed to say what they like. But Ken Livingstone does not share my views. He has been a key player in the race relations industry and in building institutions dedicated to muzzling free speech in the case of other ethnic minorities and, of course, Muslims. So this really does serve him right.

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Posted on 02/24/2006 5:56 AM by Mary Jackson
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Friday, 24 February 2006
Rule Britannia - not
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Tom Utley in The Telegraph has a pop at the English, in particular Stephen Fry, and even compares us unfavourably with the Americans. That's "unfavourably" with a "u", Americans being, as Nancy Mitford would say, "non-u".

What funny ideas foreigners seem to have about the British. According to a survey of 26,000 people from 35 countries, published this week, Britons are seen as the politest, the best educated and most boring people in the world. I can understand the boring bit, but I can't imagine what they mean by the rest.

If foreigners think that we are polite, then they clearly haven't witnessed an altercation between a British motorist and a traffic warden, or visited a provincial town centre at chucking-out time. If they believe that we are well educated, they can't have watched many editions of The Weakest Link or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? - still less can they have interviewed a British school-leaver or university graduate for a job.

The only possible explanation that I can think of for these international delusions about the British is that all 26,000 of those who took part in the internet poll had been watching Stephen Fry present the Bafta awards, beamed across the globe by satellite from Leicester Square on Sunday night. They think that Britons are polite, well educated and boring because they see Mr Fry as the quintessential Englishman.

In a very narrow sense, they have a point. Mr Fry is indeed a kind of parody of a certain sort of Englishman - the better sort, many would say. Nobody can deny that he is extremely polite and clever, and that he knows a great many more facts than most of us about history, philosophy, the arts and the sciences.

It is also true that he is a fantastically boring man - as he demonstrated again and again on Sunday night, when he kept making jokes about pregnant women, whose punchlines we could all see coming from a mile off.

You may think from that last sentence that I don't much like Mr Fry, but that is not quite true. I did go through a phase of loathing him, when he stood up at another awards ceremony a few years ago, with an Aids-awareness ribbon in his lapel, and cracked a joke about "freshly buttered choirboys".

I reckoned that you could either be pompous and preachy about Aids, or you could make lascivious remarks about young boys - but not both at the same time. On the one occasion when I met him, however, I found him utterly delightful, and apparently content to while away 15 minutes of his time at a cocktail party with a nobody whose fame has never extended an inch beyond this page.

But I do have a very strong objection to Mr Fry, which is that he is too damned English by half. Yes, he is polite, but he is so elaborately polite that his good manners sometimes seem to be almost a form of rudeness. To listen to him on Sunday night, introducing the next B-list American celebrity envelope-opener, with ever more flowery and extravagant praise, was rather like eating a whole tub full of clotted cream at one sitting.

Every word that he uttered seemed to proclaim the message: "Please realise that I don't mean any of this. I am being polite only because I am being paid to say how proud I am to be able to introduce a minor character from an American soap opera." He wanted us all to know that he was gently sending up the whole genre of the awards ceremony: "Welcome to this party of parties on this night of nights. All who are graceful, charming and talented are here…." Oh, do shut up, Stephen.

I found myself thinking what a very English vice it is to accept money for presenting an awards ceremony, while trying subtly to put across the idea that one is not at all the sort of person who approves of awards ceremonies.

Poor, cynical Mr Fry is absolutely riddled, from head to foot, with what Anthony Blanche, in Brideshead Revisited, called the English Disease. He dare not speak his true feelings because he is crippled by charm - and, as Blanche so acutely observed, charm is the mortal enemy of the arts.

Like so many Englishmen of his class, Mr Fry is so screwed up that he uses language to mask his feelings, rather than to express them. Oh, how much happier it would have been if the sponsors of the Baftas had roped in a starry-eyed American to present them - somebody who actually believed that these awards meant something; somebody who could speak from the heart.

All this is very painful for me to write, because I was brought up from infancy to believe that Britons - or, more specifically, Englishmen - were superior to Americans in almost every way. Americans were vulgar, naïve, sentimental and obese - all money and no taste. The English may have been poorer, but, by golly, they wrote better, painted better, built better… did everything better, really.

This idea was planted so firmly in my mind that it was not until last summer that I finally dislodged it. Packing for our family holiday, I threw into my suitcase the two nearest books to hand. One was F Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, the other was something by Anthony Powell, whose title I can't even remember. I read the Powell first, and enjoyed his subtle observations of class and manners, as I always do.

Then I read Tender is the Night, and it blew my socks off. Suddenly the Powell seemed insipid, pathetic, utterly unsatisfying - quintessentially English, in short (and no letters, please, pointing out that Powell posed as a Welshman). The realisation dawned on me for the first time that most of the greatest modern novels in the English language have been written not by Englishmen but by Americans - Henry James, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Hemingway…

And what is true of novels goes for so many other art forms as well. How utterly feeble and formulaic British films look - Four Weddings and a Funeral, About a Boy, the entire output of Merchant Ivory - beside the best of Hollywood. How prim and tasteful is a Hockney, or even a Damien Hirst, beside a Jackson Pollock.

I am still charmed by Gainsborough, Stubbs, Turner, Betjeman, P G Wodehouse, Elgar and Inigo Jones. But reading Powell back-to-back with Fitzgerald has made me realise just how true was Anthony Blanche's observation.

Where the arts are concerned, I'm afraid that those 26,000 people polled over the internet may be on to something. Cultivated Englishmen really do tend to be like Stephen Fry: polite, educated and desperately boring.

Of course, this is just the usual English self-deprecation, which comes from confidence in our superiority. If it fooled any US readers, that's just because you don't understand irony. 

Ooops, can't say that. OK, I'll try again.

The English have a reputation for being self-deprecating. However, we're really not all that good at being self-deprecating. The Americans are much better at this than we are.

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Posted on 02/24/2006 5:30 AM by Mary Jackson
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Thursday, 23 February 2006
To infinity and beyond.
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This caught my eye this morning, from the BBC website (again).  The beeb has many faults but for a lot of things they are still one of the best news sources available, and this is one of those things.

A chartered surveyor is hoping to erect Lincolnshire's new flag at the North Pole in an expedition this April.

Andrew Pearce, 42, is one of a team of six taking the 70-mile journey over a nine to 10 day period in temperatures as low as -35C. .....

His team will be led by Nottinghamshire-based explorer Mike Thornewill, whose company Polar Challenge International is organising the trip.

The explorers' physical aptitude for the task was tested by dragging an old lorry tyre along a farm track for about a mile within a given time.

Andrew Pearce in training
He said it will be his toughest challenge to date
And Mr Pearce's training for the expedition has involved pulling a 60 kilo tyre with a make-shift harness made of his wife's riding equipment in his home village of Fulbeck. He has also been cycling and running.......

Mr Pearce, who has met the costs of his trip using his own funds, is aiming to raise £20,000 for Macmillan Cancer Relief and the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance.
Read the article in it's entirety here.

Macmillan Cancer relief is a charity dear to my own heart. But what first caught my eye was the Lincolnshire county flag.  US readers will need to know that a County is a much more important regional unit in the UK than the counties into which your states are divided. The boundary rearrangements of the 70s apart they are centuries old, some date back unchanged to the Saxon Kingdoms of the 9th century. Certain former Saxon Kingdoms have had a shield as their emblem for many generations.  These feature the Saxon seax, not an axe, but a formidible notched sword. They look eastern but they are not. This was the weapon of choice for my ancestors, the freemen.

 essex arms

And recently several counties have designed flags which are proudly displayed.  The Cornish flag was adopted from the Saint of the tin miners, St. Piran. The black is said to represent the ashes of the smelting fires and the  white the colour of the metal.

The Lincolnshire Flag which it is hoped will be placed at the North Pole (or the bit of ice floating over the north pole at that time)  features a red cross with a fleur de lis in the centre on a blue and green background. A gold border represents the crops grown in the county. The blue on the flag represents the sea and sky of Lincolnshire and the green symbolises the fields, while the fleur de lys represents the City of Lincoln. 

Lincolnshire flag

I wish him well.  This sounds barking mad, but within a fine tradition of barking madness.

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Posted on 02/23/2006 3:52 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Thursday, 23 February 2006
We live in hope.
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From the BBC

A hearing into remarks made by Mayor of London Ken Livingstone to a Jewish reporter resumes on Thursday.

The inquiry began after Mr Livingstone accused a journalist of "door stepping" him and likened his behaviour to that of a concentration camp guard.

One charge of failing to respect others was dropped at an earlier hearing.

If found guilty of a second allegation of bringing his office into disrepute, the mayor could be banned from office for five years.

Please, please, ban him from office,

Pretty please.  Pretty please with sprinkles on.  Pleeeaaase!!!!

Nasty man.  Very smug self satisfied face. 

 

London mayor Ken Livingstone

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Posted on 02/23/2006 3:40 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 22 February 2006
Lies must be fought with truth - Daniel Finkelsteim in The Times
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From The Times today.  Daniel Finklesteim on Holocaust denial generally, and David Irvine in particular.

I'll start in the middle of his article, although the beginning is both moving and mind boggleing..

One of Irving’s contentions, one that helped to bring him a three-year prison sentence, was that “74,000 (Jews) died of natural causes in the work camps and the rest were hidden in reception camps after the war and later taken to Palestine, where they live today under new identities”. Let’s examine this for a moment, shall we?

Yesterday my mother told me of the day, as a young girl in Westerbork concentration camp, she said goodbye to her aunt and uncle and to her 14-year-old cousin, Fritz. These much-loved family members had been listed for the Tuesday transport train to Auschwitz. My mother still has the pitiful letter from her aunt promising that “we will meet again”. But, of course, they never did. David Irving presumably thinks that Fritz and his parents survived and are living in Israel. In which case, the joke is over: they can come back now, don’t you think?

With her own eyes, my mother saw Anne Frank arrive in Belsen (she knew the family), yet still Irving and people like him contend that Frank’s story is fake. And I have been to countless meetings, met dozens of people, who saw the Nazi crimes themselves, lost relatives, were scarred for life, only survived (as my mother did) because of unbelievable moments of good fortune.

It is difficult, even for me now, born in safety, free to bring up my sons as Jews, sitting at a desk typing my article in civilised Britain, it is difficult not to feel anger, rage at Irving. It is difficult not to wish him behind bars. And I do feel rage. But I do not wish him behind bars, not for giving his opinion, not for delivering a lecture, however warped and horrible his opinion is. I still believe in the power of truth. And my belief in truth is what separates me from Irving.

Read the beginning and the end here.

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Posted on 02/22/2006 8:48 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 21 February 2006
Shame about the boat race
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Shakespeare said: "There is no art / To read the mind's construction in the face." 
 
Would he have said that, had he been able to look upon the face of David Irving, who has been sentenced to three years in prison for holocaust denial? Here he is:
 
Obviously one should not judge a book by its cover, but he does look a bit of a bastard, doesn't he?
 
Of course, he may have gone off, as Abu Hamza did, according to his ex-wife. Perhaps George Orwell got it right when he said, "At 50, everyone has the face he deserves". Irving is 67.

By the way, US readers, who are perhaps puzzled by the absence of any mention here of the rowing competition between Oxford and Cambridge universities, should note that "boat race" is Cockney rhyming slang for "face".

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Posted on 02/21/2006 11:55 AM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 21 February 2006
Pleasure without pain?
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As a devout trencherwoman, I was initially delighted to read of this magic potion brought to us by the French:

"Security Feel Better". Well, with a name like that, it could hardly be English, could it? From The Telegraph:

France's drinkers can now buy a potion which supposedly stops hangovers and makes alcohol disappear from the blood system up to six times faster than usual.

Made from a "secret recipe" based on plant extracts, Security Feel Better comes in tiny bottles and is recommended for use before, during or after a heavy lunch or party.

It is already on sale in a number of French supermarkets and is being exported to Korea, Germany and Switzerland with talks in progress to launch it in America and elsewhere, though not yet Britain...

PPN's website says the product should work within 45 minutes to "prevent hangover and eliminate food and drinks quicker, especially alcohol", and to ease feelings of excess after "a lunch or party".

Come off it. There has to be a down side. You'll be telling us next that it is possible to eat lots of meat, cheese and creamy sauces, and drink copious quantities of wine, and still stay slim and elegant. And I don't swallow this "French paradox" nonsense either.  Parisians are slim and elegant because they diet like crazy. French peasants aren't because they don't. Everyone knows that it is not possible to enjoy oneself without paying some sort of price, especially where alcohol is concerned.

Still, this potion seems to be selling well. So perhaps it is true that you can eat and drink your fill, have some of this and not feel bloated or hungover. If this comes to Britain we'll be able to have a five course meal at Bibendum with wines to match each course and a glass or two of port to follow, then, after downing a glass of this stuff, feel bright eyed, bushy tailed and raring to go. Christmas Day will never be the same again. Instead of slumping on the sofa after dinner in a drunken stupor, fit only to watch the Queen's Speech and The Great Escape, we'll be able to go for a jog and compete a fiendish sudoku.

This, of course, is the down side. The whole point of a good dinner - and you cannot have one of those without plenty of wine - is that you are not "raring to go", that you are unable, afterwards, to do anything requiring concentration or energy. A good dinner is a end in itself, not a means of fuelling up, the better to tackle some purposeful activity. It is supposed to incapacitate the diner, render him fit for nothing beyond the satisfied contemplation of the food, drink and company he has just enjoyed. This is why the whole idea of fast food, or, worse still, the business lunch, which is neither properly business nor properly lunch, is so abhorrent. You might as well just grab a sandwich.

The French used to know this. Do they still?

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Posted on 02/21/2006 7:27 AM by Mary Jackson
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Monday, 20 February 2006
The UN as the Non-Aligned Movement's weapon against the West
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"If the UN is to be a vehicle through which states can meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, it needs to strengthen its relevance, effectiveness, and accountability." Kofi Annan, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2005 (p. 72).

And then there's this, from Reuters, via Yahoo! News:

A group of countries known as the Non-Aligned Movement and a bloc of 132 developing nations and China have formally protested that the council, chaired this month by U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, was trespassing on U.N. General Assembly turf by scheduling meetings this week on procurement fraud and sexual abuse by peacekeepers.

The two blocs argued these were General Assembly matters rather than the council's, a stand Annan supported.

Bolton dismissed their concerns, saying the two U.N. bodies shared jurisdiction over the matters and the assembly was free to hold its own meetings.

"While others talk, the United States will act to solve problems," Bolton told reporters on Monday. "When we uncover problems, we want to solve them. The Security Council is perfectly capable of doing that."

Sounds like a moot procedural disagreement, but it brings to mind so many ways in which the UN allows turf wars, internal corruption, and contrarianism to keep the organization from accomplishing anything, especially when the West in general and America in particular just might have a point.

Small, messy, troubled nations seek stature in the world not by helping to fix the world's problems, but by creating stumbling blocks for those who would: If a cynic were to write the mission statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, the preceding sentence would be it.

It is the history and membership of the Non-Aligned Movement that elicits more than a raised eyebrow in this dispute. Originally an unofficial partner of the Soviet Bloc, it is now the Islamic Bloc, and its agenda, that gives direction to the movement, while maintaining solidarity with other member states through a shared distaste for the US, and mutual aid in resources and technology, most notably between the Mideast and that other distinguished NAM member, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Of course, what that agenda includes is better described by a visit to Jihad Watch on any given day, than anything I can summarize here.

But it seems to be largely underappreciated by the "man on the street" that the remaining Axis of Evil and its satellite countries are united in that larger "Axis of Anklebiters" (as I like to call it) known as the Non-Aligned Movement. And despite Annan's lip service to reform and renewal of purpose, it is rather clear which side he is on, and how determined a reformer he is.

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Posted on 02/20/2006 10:18 PM by Marisol Seibold
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Monday, 20 February 2006
Pray for our men and women in the sandpit.
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Two items from different papers today..

First from the Daily Mirror

TWO Iraqi rioters suspected of trying to kill British troops face a "brutal" grilling - from their own side.

The men were among four filmed being beaten by baton-wielding soldiers after home-made grenades were hurled into a UK military base.

Iraqi officials have vowed to prosecute them for attempted murder. If convicted, they face jail in appalling conditions.

A Whitehall source said yesterday: "Local police know exactly who they are and lifting them shouldn't be a problem.

"They'll be dealt with far more brutally by their own people than by our soldiers."

Secondly from The Times

A BRITISH army sergeant killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq four months ago may have been the victim of a rogue Iraqi police attack, an investigation into his death has discovered.

New evidence on the killing of Sergeant Chris Hickey, of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, last October emerged yesterday, as it was revealed that two British soldiers were facing possible murder charges for allegedly shooting an Iraqi in the head.

 
The suspicion that Iraqi police were behind the death of Sergeant Hickey would appear to undermine the comment from John Reid, the Defence Secretary, yesterday that it was “not far off” from when British troops could start coming home from Iraq.

Sergeant Hickey had spent the six months before his death training the Iraqi police who would play a key role in maintaining stability in Iraq.

Different papers, different incidents. Common thread.

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Posted on 02/20/2006 10:52 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 20 February 2006
From Buckinghamshire with Love
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This has caught my fancy from the BBC.

 

The planning agency which designed Milton Keynes has been handed the job of reshaping a city which is no stranger to adversity: Najaf, in Iraq.

At first glance the stacks of labelled box files which line one wall of Martin Crookston's London office are a trot through some familiar locations in provincial England.

Smethwick, Birmingham, the Black Country and Telford, Newcastle, Najaf.…

And while most of the residents of the holy city have probably never heard of Milton Keynes, the company assigned the job of reshaping Najaf was responsible for designing Britain's most infamous new town.

Much has changed since 1970, when Richard Llewelyn Davies laid down plans for a new settlement to cater for the growing number of families fleeing London in search of a better life.

By the 1980s Milton Keynes had become a byword for both the pros and cons of post-war British urban planning. It was to some a spacious, modern, landscaped town, and to others a dystopic, soulless home to shopping centres and skateboard parks…..

Anybody who knows Milton Keynes will be familiar with the famous concrete cows.  Apparently the artist also made a concrete pig but it was so big she couldn’t get it out of the studio door.  Phew!                  

                      From this <--       

   

 

                        To this -->

                           (possibly)

 

 
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Posted on 02/20/2006 10:07 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 20 February 2006
Death of the essay (continued)
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I remember, many years ago, my university tutor holding up my first essay and that of a fellow student. "I was impressed..." he said, and I inwardly breathed a sigh of relief, "....by neither of these essays." He then dropped the essays, which drifted to the floor, along with my confidence. (We didn't have self-esteem in those days.) What a bastard. It did me no harm, though, as I "got my act together" as people used to say at the time.

Following on from my post about the death of the essay in schools, I wondered what the position is in universities. Do students still write essays, as we did? And do tutors rip them to shreds, sometimes literally?

I googled "Death of the Essay". I was alive to the possibility that this wording might turn up only one side of the argument, unless, of course, my search returned articles entitled "Rumours of the death of the essay are exaggerated", or "Death of the essay? As if!". In fact, not much came up, apart from this article from 2001, by Professor David Punter of the Department of English at the University of Bristol. That's Bristol, England, in case there's one in the US. I was surprised and not best pleased to read that "radical changes in the structures of information and authority make the essay, and its conventional place in assessment, anachronistic":

We live at a time characterised by, among other things, the death of the signature and its replacement by pin numbers and similar techno-authorisations; and a consequence of this is that what we have all been living with for some time, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, is a furthering of uncertainty about where our students’ words (or even our own) are coming from...

My concern ...is with the sustainability of the student essay itself within systems that have moved consistently away from exams and towards coursework, continuous assessment, periodic assessment, and all the other permutations of assessment that we now practice and encourage. The notion of the student essay is itself, of course, open to a variety of interpretations. We may say that it encourages the construction of a reasoned and coherent argument, and thus allows for the demonstration of identifiable transferable skills. We may locate it centrally in the procedures of assessment. We may regard the marking of and commentary on—whether in person or not— such essays as an essential, or in some cases the essential, component in the development of student learning....

I wonder whether in attaching this value to the essay we are now not merely living in the past, but refusing to admit to the ‘presenting’ of the future. Processes of information retrieval and deployment have changed radically over the last twenty years, changed perhaps to a point of unrecognisability...

I think that the days when we could approach student essays looking with a refined eye for originality of thought, penalising over-reliance on sources, speculating on the quality of mind shining through the odd unfortunate phrase, and all the rest of the panoply of distinction on which our grading and classification systems appear to continue to rest, are decisively over.

Bristol is a very good university, and not, as far as I know, one plagued by faddish teaching methods. So are essays dying throughout our universities? If so, I think it is a pity. I believe that they stretch the mind and encourage clarity of thought, if not originality. Of course other assessment methods may do this too, but that is no reason to jettison a tried and tested method of bringing out the best in a student. 

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Posted on 02/20/2006 8:18 AM by Mary Jackson
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Monday, 20 February 2006
Rothstein on Dennett and Iconoclasm
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Edward Rothstein writes in this morning's New Duranty Times:

An ant climbs a blade of grass, over and over, seemingly without purpose, seeking neither nourishment nor home. It persists in its futile climb, explains Daniel C. Dennett at the opening of his new book, "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" (Viking), because its brain has been taken over by a parasite, a lancet fluke, which, over the course of evolution, has found this to be a particularly efficient way to get into the stomach of a grazing sheep or cow where it can flourish and reproduce. The ant is controlled by the worm, which, equally unconscious of purpose, maneuvers the ant into place.

Mr. Dennett, anticipating the outrage his comparison will make, suggests that this how religion works. People will sacrifice their interests, their health, their reason, their family, all in service to an idea "that has lodged in their brains." That idea, he argues, is like a virus or a worm, and it inspires bizarre forms of behavior in order to propagate itself. Islam, he points out, means "submission," and submission is what religious believers practice. In Mr. Dennett's view, they do so despite all evidence, and in thrall to biological and social forces they barely comprehend.

Now that is iconoclasm — a wholehearted attempt to destroy a respected icon. "I believe that it is very important to break this spell," Mr. Dennett writes, as he tries to undermine the claims and authority of religious belief. Attacks on religion, of course, have been a staple of Western secular society since the Enlightenment, though often carried out with far less finesse (and far less emphasis on biology) than Mr. Dennett does; he refers to "the widespread presumption by social scientists that religion is some kind of lunacy."

Mr. Dennett understands, too, that iconoclasm, with its lack of deference, can also give offense. But not even he could have imagined the response to the now notorious Danish cartoons that have so offended Muslims around the world, leading to riots, death and destruction. It was as if the problem of religious belief in the modern world had been highlighted in garish colors. If Mr. Dennett's attack is a premeditated spur to debate, the Muslim riots shock with their primordial force. Together, they leave us with a tough set of intertwining questions: Can religion — with its absolute and sweeping assertions — make any claim on a society whose doctrines require it to defer, in part, to all, even to blasphemers? Can religion be as dramatically shunted aside as Mr. Dennett desires? If not, what sort of accommodation is needed?

This is interesting in that it provides a window into the mind of a modern secularist.   He fears religion in all its forms because he rightly surmises that belief dominates and ultimately controls reason (because it sets the parameters of reason).  Unfortunately, Mr. Rothstein does not differentiate between beliefs: between "true and false".  He assumes that he is free from this kind of a priori control himself and so can be an impartial and rational observer of the irrational. 

Allow me to contend for the moment that all mind requires parameters in which to think.  Those who call themselves atheists still adhere to the dominant parameters of "religious" thought, i.e. that the observable world is rational and conforms to rules that can be comprehended by the mind, and that these rules are ultimately dependable.  These are at bottom "religious" assumptions, whether one admits the existance of God (the rule maker) or not.  

Islam is entirely contrary to this and that is why the challenge Islam poses for the modern world is so great.  The Muslim God is capricious and undependable.   Science could no more arise under Islam than Muhammad could fly to the moon, or the moon fly to him as the story goes.   Allah has more in common with ancient, bloodthirsty tribal dieties than with our modern conception of a universal loving father.  This is the crux of the conflict and no amount of quasi-historical "we've been through this in the west before, nothing to worry about" ala Mr. Rothstein, is going to change that.

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Posted on 02/20/2006 7:14 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Monday, 20 February 2006
Six impossible things before breakfast.
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I have often wondered how anybody could deny the Holocaust when the evidence is so overwhelming.  Especially for someone of my age whose parent’s contemporaries survived the camps, or were involved in their liberation.  It was beyond belief that so many millions of people, of different languages, nationalities, creeds, many of them enemies, could be involved in a conspiracy of such accuracy, such consistency, worldwide, for so long.

 

It came to me this morning when I was thinking about something else.  Leaving David Irvine (about whom more later) aside the main denyers of the Holocaust are Muslims.  The people who brought us taqiyya, and the principle “War is Deception”.  The people who consistently don’t tell us what is in the Koran. The people who insist that the Bible is corrupt, but who cannot tell us when pressed, who corrupted it, when, how, in what stages.  Who cannot produce an incorrupt version, or a partially corrupted version, but who continue to insist that it is so.

 

If they believe that, they can believe anything.  The “Holocaust never happened” is small beer compared to the deceptions they have practised for centuries.  Lewis Carroll understood.

 

"I can't believe that!" said Alice.

"Can't you?" the queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

 

Back to David Irvine, from The Times:-

The British revisionist historian David Irving said today that he would plead guilty to criminal charges of denying the Holocaust, as he went on trial at a court in Vienna.

 

 

Mr Irving faces a maximum sentence of ten years in jail under strict Austrian laws making it an offence to publicly diminish, deny or justify the Holocaust. He has been held without bail since November on charges stemming from two speeches he made to Austrian rightwingers in 1989.

But, speaking to reporters as he was escorted into the courthouse, Mr Irving said that he was no longer questioning the deaths of millions of Jews in Nazi death camps during the Second World War.

"I am not a Holocaust denier. My views have changed," he said. "History is a constantly growing tree: the more you learn, the more documents are available, the more you learn, and I have learned a lot since 1989.

"Yes, there were gas chambers," Mr Irving added. "Millions of Jews died, there is no question. I don’t know the figures. I’m not an expert on the Holocaust."

“I’m not an expert on the Holocaust” he says!  No, he knew nothing about it because he denied it existed. Because he denied it existed, he was in no position to learn about it.  Still he has changed his tune now. One down. 1.2 billion to go.

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Posted on 02/20/2006 4:58 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 19 February 2006
The art of the essay is dying
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In an earlier post I expressed concern about "over-googling" making one's brain lazy. In particular, children may be cutting and pasting information from the internet without thinking about it.

In The Telegraph, Dr Andrew Cunningham, who has taught at two very good schools, laments the "death of the essay":

But don't just blame our text-generation teenagers for not caring about the essay. Blame the exam boards, with their insatiable thirst for bullet points and bite-sized information. Their preoccupation with "modules", coursework and "assessment objectives" mitigates against flair, originality and individuality - the very essence of the successful essay.

As coursework now accounts for at least 20 per cent of all GCSEs and A- levels, even the slackest pupils realise they need to present essays neatly. Thus, all coursework essays are typed up. And those scripts reflect the cut-and-pasted nature of so much of the content: 25 identical essays on Romeo and Juliet, peppered with the same bullet points dictated in class to "meet the syllabus requirements".

Now, at the back of every teacher's mind, is a new worry: whether that essay has been downloaded from the internet. The spread of companies offering pre-written essays signals to pupils that essays aren't important: they're another service which, like anything else, can be bought. And what are exam boards doing about them? Very little.

Thus the art of essay-writing has become a mechanical process. The "student" will be worrying whether he has managed to tick off enough boxes in the "assessment criteria grid" that the teacher distributed.

If any parent should glance at the marked essay in their child's folder, instead of helpful comments tailored to the child's needs they will see the teacher covering himself by showing the examiners he too knows the assessment objectives. Comments like: "Jolly good - but how about mentioning Romeo and Juliet's nasty parents?" have given way to: "AO3 - yes"; "No AO5 (ii) here"; "What about some AO4?"

George Orwell's advice on writing clearly, in the 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, is of more use than most syllabuses. If parents want to help to improve their child's style and content, they should show them Orwell's rules. Perhaps someone should show the exam boards.

When I studied history at school we had to write essays all the time. My recollection of any factual content imparted in those history lessons is "numb and vague", and confined to stock phrases such as "peace with honour" and "under the British flag", or "Tory Acts, Factory Acts, Satisfactory Acts and Unsatisfactory Acts". Actually, that last one was from Sellar and Yeatman's "1066 And All That", but you get the picture. However, writing all those essays did teach one to structure an argument, and to follow one. Is this a dying art? It is hard to learn this skill later in life, while surfing the internet is something that can be picked up at any age.

Craig Brown has written a sequel to Sellar and Yeatman's classic, called "1966 And All That". It is in the spirit of the original, although not as good. Like the original, it contains those spoof test papers - "Why are you so numb and vague about Arbella Stuart?", "What price glory?", "Who was in whose what, and how many miles awhat?". Many of these are updated for the new style dumbed down GCSE paper, in which candidates are spared the pain of facts or analysis and asked to empathise:

Imagine you are Adolph Hitler. It is the morning of 30 April 1945. How are you feeling? Unburden yourself in no more than 50 words. Ask yourself: where did it all go wrong? On balance, might you have better career prospects if you had stuck to being a painter?

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Posted on 02/19/2006 6:07 AM by Mary Jackson
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