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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
















Friday, 31 March 2006
Hit song of the decade
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The song hit of the decade, far as I'm concerned:

I'm So Ronery
I'm so ronery
So ronery
So ronery and sadry arone  

There's no one
Just me onry
Sitting on my rittle throne
I work very hard and make up great prans
But nobody ristens, no one understands
Seems that no one takes me serirousry

And so I'm ronery
A little ronery
Poor rittre me

There's nobody
I can rerate to
Feer rike a bird in a cage
It's kinda sihry
But not rearry
Because it's fihring my body with rage

I work rearry hard to stay nice and fit
But none of the women seem to give a [expletive]
When I rure the world maybe they'rr notice me
But untir then I'rr just be ronery
Rittre ronery, poor rittre me
I'm so ronery
I'm so ronery

It's the song Kim Jong Il sings as he wanders through the halls of his palace after dispatching Hans Blix to the shark tank.

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Posted on 03/31/2006 6:59 PM by John Derbyshire
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Friday, 31 March 2006
Thank God it's Friday
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I've been working too hard....

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Posted on 03/31/2006 12:19 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 30 March 2006
Google-thwart
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There are many English names containing the word “bottom”. There is Pratts Bottom in Kent, Tikli Bottom in India and Ramsbottom in Lancashire. This last is a very pretty town, which has kept its name despite efforts by some of the locals to change it to a more decorous Ramsdale. Ramsbottom is a unified whole, and not, as some have suggested, divided into Lower and Upper Ramsbottom. In addition to place names, there are surnames: Sidebottom, Winterbottom, Shipperbottom and Longbottom.

 

There is nothing remotely funny about these names.

 

That said, coming across the name Longbottom in the local paper the other day, I was struck by the thought that, while somebody given to puerile jokes might find this name amusing in itself, a more sophisticated person might wish to use it in a bilingual pun: if someone called, say, Arthur Longbottom – known to friends and family as “Art”, died young, he could have on his tombstone the epitaph “Ars longa, vita brevis”. What a good joke that would be, I thought to myself, feeling very clever.

 

Not for long. I googled Longbottom, and the Latin phrase, and it turned up around ten occurrences of this “original” joke, including, by way of consolation prize, a Willie, a John and a Thomas L. There is nothing new under the sun.

 

So my joke was not original. Nevertheless, I did originate it. It’s just that others got there first. I wondered whether there is a name for this kind of thing, specifically in the context of Google. If not, permit me to invent one – the Google-thwart, by analogy with a recent coinage  Googlebuggered, defined as “"the realisation that there is no website which is going to back up your point".

 

“Google-thwart” is the realisation that you are not as clever as you thought you were, and that minds far greater than yours, and sometimes an embarrassingly large number of them, have got there first.

 

Alas, it seems that I am destined to be google-thwarted at every opportunity. Saddened and exhausted after the Latin-for-Longbottom debacle, I started what I thought was quite a good poem:

 

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains my sense

As though of cider I had drunk

 

Better check, I thought. No point in going on with this if some cheeky so-and-so has done it already. Wearily I put my words into Google, and guess what? Rotten old Keats had written the exact same lines except for one word. And even that one word was better in his version, hemlock being a more poetic-sounding drink than cider.

 

Clearly, poetry was not going to be a field in which I could demonstrate any originality. So I decided to try physics, and came up with what I thought was quite a neat equation concerning matter and energy:

 

E= MC3

 

Yet again, Google revealed that I had been pipped to the post. Somebody called Einstein has thought up something very similar. My version was out by just one number, and a small one at that. It doesn’t seem fair, somehow.

 

Sadly it seems that I am not destined to have any original thoughts at all, and must confine myself to lamenting my condition on a website.

 

Update: I cut and pasted this whole entry into Google “exact phrase match”, and hundreds of people have done it.

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Posted on 03/30/2006 11:29 AM by Mary Jackson
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Thursday, 30 March 2006
New immigrants and old anti-semitism
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From Aztlan.net covering the immigration marches in LA:

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villagairosa, a Los Angeles Unified School District victim himself before he turned his life around, is already undertaking a bold moved to wrestle control of the district from a Jewish dominated school board and a White superintendent that are just fleecing the schools of much needed funds. School board Jews like Julie Korenstein, Marlene Canter, David Tokofsky, Jon Lauritzen and Mike Lansing are just enriching themselves and their cronies through crooked deals involving school construction projects, and contracts with so called consultants and vendors. The LAUSD is the second largest in the nation, next to New York, with a multi-billion dollar annual budget. It has an overwhelming Mexican and Latino student population. Jews have their own private schools so why are 5 Jews out of 7 school board members interested in governing the school district? The answer is all too obvious. La Voz de Aztlan has interviewed LAUSD teachers that complained that they have to buy, with their own money, pencils, paper and other school supplies that the district should provide. Something has to be done and Mayor Villaraigosa is on the right track

There are some picture like this one displaying immigrants "yearning to be free" here, thanks to John Derbyshire.

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Posted on 03/30/2006 8:23 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 30 March 2006
Fitzgerald: The art of sinking in geopolitics
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NER's Hugh Fitzgerald has a must read at Jihad Watch this morning:

Kurdistan, as a place and not as an idea, could, by its mere existence, if given a little boost (a boost, not boots on the ground -- they are different things), do a good deal of damage to the interests of both Syria and Iran. ...

The Iran-Iraq War tied two ruthless regimes up for eight years. From the Infidel point of view, it should have gone on forever. There is another chance. The Bush Administration, having still failed to grasp the scope of the problem and the nature of the problem posed by the Jihad and its various instruments (hardly limited to terrorism), is obstinate in its titanic -- in every sense -- efforts. It needs to be forced, through political pressure, to withdraw from Iraq, to end the misallocation of resources, the colossal sums being spent that could so much better be applied to energy projects. It needs to be forced to give to small-scale efforts, as in Kurdistan, a little "equalizer" (as the Colt .45 was once known) to the side that we wish to prevail, but only from afar.

Telemachy -- fighting from afar. And Telemachus was the son of Odysseus. Wily Odysseus. All this nonsense, this hallucinatory nonsense, about how "everyone loves freedom" and how we "are going to win the war on terror" through "our success in Iraq" which will take care of the "terrorists" forever (there is no "forever" that will end Jihad -- containment, and reduction in the size of the threat, is another matter) -- this has to stop. Events will cause it to stop, because in the next presidential election only someone who promises to remove our troops, right away, from Iraq, can conceivably win But the American government should not wait that long. The silence of the Democratic lambs, who are capable, apparently, of breaking that silence only in order to bleat all the wrong kinds of criticism of Bush, rather than the unanswerable, and therefore deadly, kind that is offered here -- needs to change.

It only takes one or two intelligent people. They must exist. Where are they? And the same is true of the Republicans, whose misplaced loyalty to a foolish and wasteful policy could do great damage to their own political survival.

A big failure all way round.

There already exists, as noted above, "The Art of Sinking in Poetry."

Practitioners of geopolitics should look at all the advantages an independent Kurdistan could bring -- not least as an inspiration to non-Muslim Arabs everywhere, who might begin to focus on Islam as the vehicle of Arab cultural and linguistic and political imperialism. They might begin to see Islam -- correctly, despite its universalist pretensions -- as the Arab national religion. This could begin to reduce its appeal to the 3/4 of the world's Muslims who are not Arab.

And that new geopolitics, of selectively sinking this or that threatening ship of state, or even wandering coastal barks, laden with explosives, that have made their way along the shores, or even into the waterways, of the Lands of the Infidels (as Muslims call them), is perhaps a harder art, a colder craft.

Let's call it "The Art of Sinking in Geopolitics."

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Posted on 03/30/2006 8:07 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 30 March 2006
Noonan: immigration and the American myth
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From her column in the WSJ:

Because we do not communicate to our immigrants, legal and illegal, that they have joined something special, some of them, understandably, get the impression they've joined not a great enterprise but a big box store. A big box store on the highway where you can get anything cheap. It's a good place. But it has no legends, no meaning, and it imparts no spirit.

Who is at fault? Those of us who let the myth die, or let it change, or refused to let it be told. The politically correct nitwit teaching the seventh-grade history class who decides the impressionable young minds before him need to be informed, as their first serious history lesson, that the Founders were hypocrites, the Bill of Rights nothing new and imperfect in any case, that the Indians were victims of genocide, that Lincoln was a clinically depressed homosexual who compensated for the storms within by creating storms without . . .

You can turn any history into mud. You can turn great men and women into mud too, if you want to.

And it's not just the nitwits, wherever they are, in the schools, the academy, the media, though they're all harmful enough. It's also the people who mean to be honestly and legitimately critical, to provide a new look at the old text. They're not noticing that the old text--the legend, the myth--isn't being taught anymore. Only the commentary is. But if all the commentary is doubting and critical, how will our kids know what to love and revere? How will they know how to balance criticism if they've never heard the positive side of the argument?

Those who teach, and who think for a living about American history, need to be told: Keep the text, teach the text, and only then, if you must, deconstruct the text.

When you don't love something you lose it. If we do not teach new Americans to love their country, and not for braying or nationalistic reasons but for reasons of honest and thoughtful appreciation, and gratitude, for a history that is something new in the long story of man, then we will begin to lose it. That Medal of Honor winner, Leo Thorsness, who couldn't quite find the words--he only found it hard to put everything into words because he knew the story, the legend, and knew it so well. Only then do you become "emotional about it." Only then are you truly American.

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Posted on 03/30/2006 7:41 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 30 March 2006
"Striking idiocy" of revolting youth
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Theodore Dalrymple in today's Times makes some wise observations about the French protests, linking them to over-dependence on the State, and warns the British not to get too complacent.

THE SIGHT OF MILLIONS of Frenchmen, predominantly young, demonstrating in deep sympathy and solidarity with themselves, is one that will cause amusement and satisfaction on the English side of the Channel....

Of course, demonstrating in huge numbers is what the French do from time to time. We should never forget that to break a shop window for the good of humanity is one of the greatest pleasures known to Man. Trying to topple governments by shouting insults is also great fun.

We like to think of France as having a deplorably statist and centrally controlled economy, while the French like to think of Britain as a land of savage liberalism (in French parlance, the two words are as inseparable as Siamese twins), divided unequally between plutocrats and beggars. In fact, the two countries differ far less than is often supposed. While it is true that there remain some differences — despite Gordon Brown’s best efforts, the British labour market is still more flexible than the French — the similarities grow daily more striking (as it were).

Good to see that I am not the only one to make jokes like that.

The ultimate cause of the demonstrations and strikes in the two countries is the same: the State has made promises that it is increasingly unable to keep. It has pursued policies that were bound in the end to produce not just cracks but fissures that could no longer be papered over. The main difference is that while Dominque de Villepin is tentatively dragging France, albeit kicking and screaming, and with every likelihood of failure, in the right direction, Mr Brown is still stuck on the royal road to disaster, for which the British people, but not of course Mr Brown, will ultimately pay very dearly. When the crash comes, the social dislocation in Britain will make French disaffection seem positively genteel.

Whether they know it or not, the people on the streets in France were demonstrating to keep the youth of the banlieues — who recently so amused the world for an entire fortnight with their arsonist antics — exactly where they are, namely hopeless, unemployed and feeling betrayed. For unless the French labour market is liberalised, they will never find employment and therefore integration into French society. You have only to speak to a few small businessmen or artisans in France — the petits bourgeois so vehemently despised by the snobbish intellectuals — to find out why this should be so. The French labour regulations make employment of untried persons completely uneconomic for them.

It is often pointed out that French unemployment under the age of 26 is the highest in Europe, running at about 25 per cent. Moreover, in the banlieues it is 50 per cent. These banlieues are homes to millions of people, disproportionately young. It follows — does it not? — that there must be a considerable section of the young population in which unemployment is less than a quarter, actually much less. One would hardly have to be de Tocqueville to guess in which section of the young population the unemployment was less: the section from which the demonstrators, or at least their leaders and agents provocateurs, are drawn. In an increasingly desperate situation, the demonstrators are so afraid of the future that they want to hang on to their privileges and job security by hook or by crook, even if it means that the youth of the banlieues will eventually have to be kept in order by the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, the much-feared riot police, the CRS. There is nothing idealistic or generous about the demonstrators, just as there wasn’t in 1968.

There are of course deeper but intangible problems that are even more difficult to solve than the inflexibility of the labour market. If you speak to small businessmen in France, they will tell you that the young in any case do not want to do the kind of work of which there is no shortage. At a time of such high unemployment, artisans have no one willing to be trained by them, even if they are willing to take the risk by taking them on. This is even though such artisans are so overwhelmed by work that a carpenter, for example, is booked up for more than a year in advance and can charge almost anything he likes.

We have no reason to condescend to the French, however, for the British are in fundamentally the same boat, with a few extra problems of our own. The vast and fraudulent expansion of tertiary education, which leaves students indebted for their own useless education, is merely a means by which the Government disguises youth unemployment and keeps young people off the streets. Contrary to government propaganda, unemployment is not low in Britain: but it is now called sickness.

Our economy is corruptly creating public service jobs — endless co-ordinators of facilitation and facilitators of co-ordination — but not many in the private sector, the only true measure of economic health and growth. Any fool can create public sector jobs, and Mr Brown has done so: but not even the most brilliant man can make them economically productive in the long term.

The expansion of the unproductive public sector at the expense of the wealth creating private sector has at last been receiving the attention it deserves in the quality press. Of course, in encouraging this expansion, Labour is increasing its voting base. But in the long term the economy will be the worse for it. I work in the private sector, and when I started work, the pay, relative to the public sector, was high enough to trade against the job security and comfortable pensions that the latter provided. This is no longer the case. Why, then, should talented people go into the wealth creating sector, when the risks are not balanced by the rewards? My response at one time might have been that working for the Government is stifling, that rules, both written and unwritten, jargon and political correctness make day to day working life intolerable. However, the dead hand of bureaucracy is encroaching on business too. As Martin Vander Weyer said in last week's Spectator, Chancellor Gordon Brown:

... hates the free market because he cannot control it...

The prosperous business communities of the south and east of England never needed Brown’s helping hand. But the north and the Celtic fringes could have benefited hugely from a resurgence of the private sector, whether in the form of small, craft-based enterprises or giant, foreign-owned factories. What they have had instead is an explosion of state and local government spending: through my North Yorkshire letter box this week came a council tax demand for double the amount I paid in 1997, accompanied by an invitation to contribute to a ‘Corporate Assessment self assessment’ exercise to help the county council examine how well it works ‘in partnership, to deliver improved outcomes across the board for our communities’. The result of this job-filling, paper-chasing extravaganza across the whole of mainland Britain north of Watford Gap is, according to an analysis by the Financial Times, that public sector growth has been racing away at 4 per cent, more than twice the feeble rate of private sector growth; in the north east, the differential is more than three times. Likewise, public sector wage inflation has been running at well over 4 per cent — though Brown claims he will halve it this year — and when he boasted of a net 170,000 increase in jobs in the past year, he failed to point out that 131,000 are in the public sector. In my part of the world, you can see the results in every large town and city: industrial wastelands and tatty discount shops alongside palatial new offices for quangos and benefits agencies.

Theodore Dalrymple puts it well in his summing up:

The British economy has all the brilliance of a fish rotting by moonlight, and eventually — to change the metaphor slightly — the bill will come in. And since so large a proportion of the population is now dependent, wholly or partly, on the State, the bill will be a large one, not only in financial terms but in social terms as well.

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Posted on 03/30/2006 5:43 AM by Mary Jackson
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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Bostom to speak in NYC tonight
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Panel discussion on the Danish cartoons
A Panel Discussion on Free Speech
 
Panelists: Peter Schwartz, former chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ayn Rand Institute and author of The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America; Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education; Andrew Bostom, author of The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims; and Jonathan Leaf, New York Press editor who resigned over his paper’s decision not to publish the Danish cartoons.
 
Moderator: Dr. Harry Binswanger, professor of philosophy and member of the Board of Directors of the Ayn Rand Institute.
 
What is planned: (1) A display of the controversial Danish cartoons depicting Mohammad. (2) A panel discussion and Q & A on the meaning of the worldwide reaction to the cartoons.
 
Where: New York University, 60 Washington Square South at NYU Kimmel Center, Eisner and Lubin Auditorium (4th Floor), NY, NY 10012
 
When: March 29, 2006, 7 to 10 PM
 
Summary: ARI's Peter Schwartz will participate in a panel discussion on the Mohammad cartoon controversy. He will explain: Why the eruption of violence and the issuance of death threats make completely irrelevant the question of whether the cartoons are in bad taste. Why the idea that freedom of the press must be "coupled with press responsibility" means that free speech is not a right, but a fleeting permission. Why every Western newspaper and media outlet should have immediately re-published or shown the cartoons in solidarity with the cartoonists. Why the cowardly and appeasing response of many Western governments--including our own--will only invite further aggression. Other panelists will present their own views.
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Posted on 03/29/2006 7:27 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Cock-a-doodle doo, the prophet has got my shoe,
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Two linked stories from the BBC.

A cockerel in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan has saved itself from the pot after crowing what its owner claimed was "Allah", the Arabic word for God.

The two-year-old rooster was set to be turned into chicken soup after its owner, Ibragim Ismatullayev, found it to be extremely aggressive.

However, Mr Ismatullayev has said that as he put the knife to the cockerel's neck, the bird "screamed" and, on hearing this, his five-year-old son said "dad, it's saying 'Allah, Allah'."

The sound of the cockerel was then recorded on a mobile phone, and its life was spared.

Cockerel         Read all about it and listen to the bird here.

The BBC then linked to this story, from Rawtenstall, Lancashire, which I missed in January.

A pet shop owner has found the markings on one of his tropical fish appear to spell the word "Allah" in Arabic.

An Asian customer spotted the markings on the astronotus ocellatus at Walker Aquatics in Waterfoot, Rawtenstall, Lancs, and offered to buy it for £10.

The customer bought the most expensive tank in the shop to house the fish, at a cost of £700.

Shop owner Tony Walker said he would honour the buyer's £10 offer but said he expected more interest in the fish.

The fish is also believed to have the word "Mohammed" in its markings on its other side.

The astronotus ocellatus fish A fishy business in my opinion. 

So an oscar fish marked Allah is worth £10 ($17) while a piece of toast bearing the face of the BVM fetched $28,000 (£16,100) on ebay in 2004.

Spring is sprung

The grass is rise

I wonder where

The birdies is?

 

Some say the bird is on the wing

But that’s absurd.

Surely the wing,

Is on the bird?

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Posted on 03/29/2006 5:55 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Shaming the capital
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Further to Esmerelda's post on the loathsome Ken Livingstone, The Telegraph's leader says it all:

Ken Livingstone has brought further shame upon his country by calling the United States ambassador to Britain a "chiselling little crook". This is the latest in a series of xenophobic outbursts that have exposed the Mayor of London as a boorish loudmouth, wholly unfit to represent the capital in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games.

Many were prepared to make excuses for Mr Livingstone when he insulted a Jewish reporter by likening him to a Nazi concentration camp guard. At the time, he had just emerged from a party, funded by council tax payers, and the consensus among the charitable was that he was not so much anti-Jewish as still in party mood.

That defence began to collapse last week when Mr Livingstone suggested that the billionaire Reuben brothers should "go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs". In fact David and Simon Reuben were born in India, of Jewish stock. Their parents came from Iraq, not Iran. If Mr Livingstone had dared to tell a West Indian to "go back to Africa", he would be facing criminal charges.

The American ambassador, Robert Tuttle, has come in for Mr Livingstone's abuse because diplomats at the US embassy have exercised their right not to pay the daily £8 congestion charge imposed by the mayor. The Americans argue that the charge is a local tax, from which foreign diplomats are exempt under the Vienna Convention.

Mr Livingstone is free to test that claim through the proper channels. But by resorting instead to playground abuse, in the hope of currying favour with Muslim and anti-American voters, he belittles everyone he represents.

Londoners have been much too ready to humour Mr Livingstone - partly, perhaps, because they see the mayoralty as a footling job, not to be taken too seriously. This is in spite of the fact that Mr Livingstone has increased his demands on council tax payers by no less than 118 per cent since he was elected only six years ago.

The sooner voters see through the "cheeky chappie" to the thoroughly nasty, scheming politician underneath, the sooner they will elect a mayor who is fit to speak for London.

I have little to add to this, other than my disgust at the fact that Red Ken is taking a sizeable junk of my money. Taking my money, and taking the piss.  Alice Thompson:

It was the lavatories that finally tipped me over the edge. More than 40 per cent of public loos in London have closed in the past five years. Only 88 out of 255 Underground stations now have them. I am paying £1,098 in council tax to watch an embarrassed, elderly Japanese tourist being forced to urinate behind a tree, and to sneak my children into pubs when they're desperate.

Council taxes have gone up by 4.5 per cent this year, twice the rate of inflation.,.

But Westminster council makes a valid point when it argues that it shouldn't take all the blame. The Mayor of London's "precept" increased by more than 13 per cent this year, and has risen more than 118 per cent since Ken Livingstone was first elected. City Hall, the £43 million mayoral headquarters, has been immortalised this spring with its own model in Legoland, but the London Assembly and its mayor are becoming a divisive waste of money.

Any Londoners reading this, vote him out as soon as you get the chance.

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Posted on 03/29/2006 4:55 AM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 28 March 2006
London mayor calls US envoy a 'chiselling little crook'
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I feel a bit like I'm telling tales here, Oooooh did you hear what he called so and so??  Without wishing to labour the point of Ken Livingstone's abusive and insulting streak I thought this particular remark would be of interest to US readers. From The Times and the BBC.

Ken Livingstone has been reported to a local government standards watchdog after likening the US ambassador in London to a "chiselling little crook"........Mr Livingstone’s latest outburst came in a row over whether diplomats at the US Embassy should pay the £8-a-day congestion charge.

Since last summer, when the charge increased from £5 to £8, the Embassy has maintained that it is a local tax and therefore, under the Vienna Convention, does not apply to foreign diplomats. It now owes more than £150,000.

Mr Livingtone’s ire was directed at the relatively new US Ambassador Robert Tuttle. The Mayor said: "Since this new ambassador took over in July they have not paid. When British troops are putting their lives on the line for American foreign policy it would be quite nice if they paid the congestion charge.

"We will find a way of getting them into court either here or in America. We are not going to have them skive out of their responsibilities. This new ambassador is a car salesman and an ally of President Bush. This is clearly a political decision."

Later, he was even more forthright, telling ITV’s London Today: "It would actually be quite nice if the American ambassador in Britain could pay the charge that everybody else is paying and not actually try and skive out of it like some chiselling little crook."

A spokesman at the US Embassy said the decision had nothing to do with the arrival of Mr Tuttle and added that British diplomats are not taxed in the US.

On Tuesday Conservatives on the London Assembly said they agreed the US embassy, along with 55 others, should pay the charge, but criticised the mayor's "outburst".

"I am not surprised that people have taken offence to these off hand and irrational remarks," said assembly member Bob Neill.

"It seems that these gaffes are coming on a weekly basis now."

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Posted on 03/28/2006 2:42 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 28 March 2006
McCarthy: Cold Comfort on Islam and Apostasy
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Iconoclast contributor and former federal prosecuter Andy McCarthy has a must read piece at NRO:

Here’s a riddle: What begins with words “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,” a formal Islamic salutation also commonly used by militants in their warnings, fatwas, and claims of responsibility regarding terrorist acts?

What extols the virtues of “rightful jehad” (also known as jihad) in its very first sentence?

What in its first article declares its sovereignty to be an “Islamic Republic,” and in its second installs Islam as the official “religion of the state”?

What, in its third article announces to the world that, within the territory it governs, “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam”?

What sets the national calendar by Mohammed’s historic journeys, requires the promotion of religious education, and even mandates that its national anthem must contain the battle cry “Allahu Akbar” (God is great!), most familiar to Westerners in recent times as the triumphant invocation of terrorists doing their dirty work?

What requires that same battle cry to be grafted onto its national flag, along with “the sacred phrase of ‘There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet’”?

What, in the formation of families and upbringing of children, requires the “elimination of traditions contrary to the principles of [the] sacred religion of Islam”?

What requires the nation’s president to be a Muslim, and to swear to Allah, at the beginning of the oath of office, “to obey and safeguard the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam”? What requires the same oath of all public ministers?

What permits its judges to be schooled in Islamic jurisprudence (in lieu of any civil legal training) and requires that, upon assuming their offices, those judges take an oath “to support justice and righteousness in accord with the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam”?

What permits its highest court, even if predominantly comprised of judges trained in Islamic law, to interpret for all departments of government the meaning of any law or treaty?

What requires, when no other law directly applies to a question, that the courts decide it “in accord with the Hanafi jurisprudence” (Hanafi being one of the four major schools of Sunni Islamic law), with the lone exception that Shia Islamic principles can be applied in legal cases exclusively involving Shiite Muslims?

What permits any of its terms to be altered with the sole exception that: “The provisions of adherence to the fundamentals of the sacred religion of Islam and the regime of the Islamic Republic cannot be amended”?

The answer, which will come as no surprise to followers of the Abdul Rahman apostasy trial in Kabul, is the Afghan constitution. This is the celebrated foundational law which came into force on January 4, 2004, to the ringing praises of Zalmay Khalilzad, then the American ambassador under whose kneading the drafting process was completed....

Read it all.

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Posted on 03/28/2006 9:53 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 28 March 2006
Entente cordiale?
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Yesterday's Times carried a news item on a "new European league of IQ scores". Here it is:

It is disappointing that we are not "top nation", but on the other hand we would not wish to be "too clever by half", that very English insult. So does the article express pleasure at beating Finland or Serbia? No. The headline is:

"Germans are brainier (but at least we're smarter than the French)"

This is rather clumsy, as headlines go, but few Times readers will question the sentiment expressed. The first paragraph of the article continues in francophobe form:

BRITAIN and France have experienced long periods of conflict and rivalry but now victory in one area can be claimed: Britons are more intelligent than the French.

A new European league of IQ scores has ranked the British in eighth place, well above the French, who were 19th. According to Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster, Britons have an average IQ of 100. The French scored 94.

The Times is a quality broadsheet, not a tub-thumping tabloid. Yet this kind of thing is not unusual. And there can be few Englishmen who did not rub their hands in glee at this story, or this. But surely we are all Europeans now?

Not according to Robert and Isabelle Tombs, who have written what promises to be an excellent book, That Sweet Enemy. The book is reviewed by Judith Flanders in The Spectator (subscription required):

A French journalist writing in 1999 was succinct: ‘The English hate the French. Who reciprocate … A purée of prejudice on a bed of inherited loathing. The French consider the English to be arrogant islanders, eating boiled lamb with mint, and not knowing how to be seductive. The English consider us talkative, arrogant, dirty, smelling of sweat and garlic, flighty, cheating and corrupt.’ ‘Inherited’ may be the most telling word in that outburst, and it is Robert and Isabelle Tombs’ keynote in this magisterial study of the on-going love-hate relationship between the British and the French over three centuries.

The relationship, as they point out, is unique: it has lasted longer than that between any other European or American nations; and it has affected not only the countries’ political systems, but their economies, their cultures and, not least, their views of themselves as well as of each other. It created the ideas of France and Britain as nations, as each country defined itself by what it was not. Further afield the struggle — and, later, the alliance — between the two countries shaped large swathes of Asia, Africa and the Americas.

After a detailed and what promises to be fascinating discussion of the naval race of the 1790s, the book discusses how this rivalry plays out in literature:

British 19th-century proto-Peter Mayle (depicts) ‘unsophisticated, incompetent, but honest and warm-hearted peasants’; and an early 20th-century British invasion novel, where ‘a doughty Cockney cyclist’, captured as a spy, shouts, ‘La Hongletaire est la première nation de la monde [sic]’, leaving his captors reluctantly murmuring, ‘Sacré bleu, c’est vrai’, as they release him. The prize must surely go, however, to the fashion in 1760s France for novels portraying English characters named Fanni, Sidnei, Wuillaume, Nency, Betsi and ‘Sir W. Shittleheaded’. Yet although the authors have clearly enjoyed these books for their own sakes, they also have historical points to make: just as the 1760s saw a period of Anglophilia reflected in French fiction, so after the Revolution Anglophobia can be measured by the works of Stendhal, de Vigny and Balzac, where the English can pretty well be relied on to be the villains (by the Tombs’ count, nearly all of the 31 English characters in Balzac are morally reprehensible).

Language has always been one of the clearest ways of marking distance between the two peoples...the hysteria of the Académie Française over ‘language-creep’ only focuses on English — no fiats command that pizza should turn into flan au fromage. Fear and disdain are focused solely on English..

For the British remain the Goddams, just as the French are the snail-eaters. These stereotypes were already in place in the 18th century; Victor Hugo restated them more elegantly in the 19th: ‘On one side precision, foresight, geometry, prudence, stubborn sang-froid. On the other, intuition, guess-work, the unorthodox, superhuman instinct.’

Stubborn sang-froid? That would be the typical Englishman's bloody cold that he never quite manages to shake off.

Book reviews can be a pleasure to read whether or not they make you want to read the book. But in this case, my appetite is definitely whetted. I particularly want to find out more about Sir W Shittleheaded. 

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Posted on 03/28/2006 3:44 AM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 28 March 2006
Author Stanislaw Lem dies
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From the BBC today.

Polish author Stanislaw Lem, most famous for science fiction works including Solaris, has died aged 84, after suffering from heart disease.

He sold more than 27 million copies of his works, translated into about 40 languages, and a number were filmed.

His 1961 novel Solaris was made into a movie by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1971 and again by American Steven Soderbergh in 2002........

Lem was born in 1921 in Lviv in Ukraine and studied medicine there before World War II. He moved to Krakow in 1946.

He concentrated on science fiction writing, a genre regarded by the Polish socialist government as fairly harmless in terms of censorship.

However, his first major novel, Hospital of the Transfiguration, went unpublished for eight years until the ideological thaw that followed Soviet leader Josef Stalin's death in 1956.

I am not a huge science fiction fan, but I have actually read quite a bit, for the simple reason that so many of my friends were aficionados, and if I wanted something to read on the train Asimov, Niven and Alldis were readily available.  I bought The Star Diaries as a present for one friend and read it myself. And of all the strange books that I read during that period that is the one that sticks in my mind. Because it was a satire on the absurdities of trying to live in a totalitarian state.  As the title suggests the hero is writing about all the places he has visited in his little spaceship. Such as a world where the robots spoke Chaucerian English. That translated into English quite well and I had the advantage on my technically minded friends there.

Another time when he was stuck in a time warp and copies of himself at every age appeared every hour. He questioned the oldest "him" to find out how he got out of the scrape but "he" was too forgetful. Eventually three of the youngest and most mischievous "hims" mended the ship without him noticing. A city was run on the electricity generated by the children as they naturally fidgeted and jumped over the furniture.

Most profound was an underwater world populated by humans who breathed ordinary air.  In order to survive underwater they learned to hold their breath for long periods but had to keep making excuses to rise to the surface every half hour or so.  Elaborate strategies were developed to excuse these visits, while retaining the illusion that life underwater was fine and dandy.  Sound familiar?  Even I could see that it was an allegory of life under communism but isn’t it reminiscent of what we hear about another ideology that covers every aspect of life?

The Star Diaries seems to be out of print now in English in the UK and is only available (expensively) second hand. Which I think is a shame.

Stanislaw Lem

Stanislav Lem 1921 to 2006

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Posted on 03/28/2006 12:54 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 27 March 2006
She can't figure it out. But we can.
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"Please let us echo in your ears that my brother was and always has been a kind, gentle and pure soul,” she read from a statement. “His current actions and words are as much a source of shock and distress to us as they are to you.”
--  this AP article, from the sister the kind and gentle soul who plowed an SUV into a crowd of college students.

No doubt, for a Muslim, much of it true --a "kind, gentle and pure soul" in many ways. But not toward Infidels. There the adjectives begin to jostle one another. The purer his Islam, the less kind and gentle he would be -- as the Qur'an tells him, as the Hadith make clear in their most authoritative recensions, as the example of Muhammad instructs-- toward Infidels.

And when an Infidel experiences mental desarroi or depression, he can blame his parents, his children, his siblings, his karma, The System, Amerika, the stars, fate, his cholesterol level, his serotonin level, or even --- himself. When a Muslim, with that mental vademecum and pocket prism through which to view the universe, Islam, falls into any kind of distress (and this assumes, which may not be true, that Taheri-Azer did not quite take the tenets and attitudes of Islam as much to heart before, when he was merely that "kind, gentle and pure soul") he can blame the Infidel. As Taheri-Azar did.

This kind of thing, this Muslim version of the old immigrant mother in the Jimmy-Cagney movie assuring the police that "my boy's a good boy" is particularly telling. For it happens all the time, with suspect after suspect -- the terrorists in London or Madrid or elsewhere are always being described, by a brother, an uncle, a father, someone, as "kind" and "gentle" and "pure" and the message always is: How Could It Possibly Have Happened?

Now, two things are possible. Both should not relieve, but increase, the alarm and suspicion felt by intelligent Infidels. One possibility is that this sister is flatly lying, that she knows perfectly well her brother was consumed with the anti-Infidel teachings of Islam, and had given many signs of it. The possibility is that all these family members (that uncle of one of the London bombers, who first expressed his "amazement" at his nephew's action, and later expressed not amazement at all, but pride in the actions) understand perfectly why their son, brother, nephew, did what he did, and the obvious sources for his attitudes and actions.

The second possibility, far less likely, but still conceivable in a few cases, is that some of these people really are not quite aware of the natural effect of Islam on those who take Islam seriously. Again and again "moderate" Muslims, or those who are not even really Muslims but rather "Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only" Muslims, have themselves been amazed, when they return to a Muslim environment, to see the effect of Islam. How many of those the American government listened to in fashioning its Iraq policies, were of the latter kind, the Allawi-Chalabi-Makiya kind, the essentially secular Shi'a who had spent decades in the West, and became westernized, and forgot or allowed themselves to forget just how crazy, how aggressive, how conspiratorial, how antipathetic to the ideas of compromise and power-sharing and common sense, is the world of Islam, a world that combines a dreamy blend of inshallah-fatalism with the duty of Jihad, which requires action, action, action (not the action of Western man, going to work every day, piling one stone on another to build the edifice of an economy or a civilization), that is not to build but to either destroy (what the Infidel has) or to appropriate it (through Jizyah in all of its disguised and undisguised forms) or to seize it, as Muhammad seized the booty of those he would declare, in order to seize that booty, his enemies, such as the inoffensive Jewish farmers of the Khaybar Oasis.

So which is it? Is it the deliberate attempts by all these family members of all these terrorists to deceive us, which means they are exhibiting the problem with so-called "moderate Muslims" (google, especially if you have just come to this website to see what Brian Whitaker is talking about, "Ten Thinks to Think About When Thinking About Moderate Muslims" or simply go to the "Articles" in the bar above and look under those by Hugh Fitzgerald) whose behavior simply deceives us and keeps us fooled a bit longer?

Or are those family members themselves fooled? And if they are, then how is that Infidels should be expected to detect the Muslim immigrant who is like, or will turn out to be, just like Taheri-Azar, and the one who is like, or will turn out to be, just like his presumably inoffensive sister, the one who tells us, with a tone of great sorrow, how "kind" and how "gentle" and how "pure" he was. If we have no sure-fire method of detection, should we not then decide, in the interests of our own physical security, to simply halt all Muslim immigration? If "only" 10% of Muslims in the West support "suicide bombing" (the figure is much higher in the opinion polls) or "only" 40% of Muslims in England support the imposition of Sharia' law in England which would mean the end of England as it has slowly been fashioned since the days of the Standing Stones of Callanish, and Stonehenge, and woad-painted tribesman, what does this mean?

Why should Infidels take a chance, if the likelihood of their being able to distinguish the "moderate" from the "immoderate" Muslim is even slimmer than that of the closest relatives of those Muslims found to have engaged in would-be, or successful, acts of terrorism, and given that the problem is complicated by the "My Son the Fanatic" problem where the children or grandchildren of "moderates" who may be classified mainly as economic migrants "return" to Islam, with dangerous consequences for Infidels.

The sister of Taheri-Azer (like all the other relatives "amazed" at the "inexplicable" behavior of their relatives, are apparently unable cannot figure out what it is, what doctrines and attitudes, what passages in what set of texts, taken seriously, might have caused her kind, her gentle, her pure-souled brother to do what he did.

She can't figure it out. But we can.

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Posted on 03/27/2006 9:40 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Sunday, 26 March 2006
O'Sullivan on Blair
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The interesting and delightful John O' Sullivan has a great piece at NRO on PM Blair's current troubles:

(...)The Profumo scandal, [link mine] international in its day, was largely forgotten until two weeks ago when the death of John Profumo revived memories of it. Profumo’s affair with a good time girl who also happened to be sleeping with the Soviet military attaché was the proximate cause of Macmillan’s troubles. The obituaries recorded that he had spent the forty years after his resignation quietly working for the poor in a settlement in London’s impoverished East End. He sought no further public role. He was remembered by those he helped as a “saint.”

His extraordinary atonement had a contemporary political impact because it coincided with the latest scandal afflicting Tony Blair’s New Labor government. The lawyer-husband of a loyal Blairite minister, Tessa Jowell, had admitted in a letter to receiving a “gift” of over half a million dollars from Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s center-right prime minister and media magnate, in return for protecting him in an Italian lawsuit. Jowell herself had signed a mortgage application on the family home that looked to be a way of bringing the money into the country unnoticed. And to quieten the ensuing row, she announced that she and her husband were separating at least temporarily.

The joke in London was that she was the first minister to give up her family to spend more time with her job. The more sober remark, heard everywhere, was that in contrast to John Profumo: “They don’t do that any more. They don’t resign. Or if they do, they’re back in some new government job six months later. They don’t make amends.”

“They,” of course, refers to the entire political class since the last few years of John Major’s Tory government were almost comically awash in “sleaze.” But because the Blair government has been in power for nine years, the great bulk of public odium now attaches to New Labor ministers. And anger at these multiplying scandals is felt even more deeply on the Labor benches in Parliament than almost anywhere else.

“Jowellgate” with its tales of offshore hedge funds, multimillion-dollar tax avoidance, three-month mortgages on the family home, right-wing media magnates like Berlusconi, and a payment that must be a “gift” because (in the words of the minister’s husband) “what else could it be?” — all this might have been designed to shame and anger the representatives of “the people’s party.” Even if no actual crime was committed, Labor MPs feel that their leaders should not be consorting with the international rich and helping them to play their financial games.

Scandals like this reinforce their long-held suspicion that Blair and New Labor are an alien breed who have grabbed control of a party to which they don’t really belong, which they don’t even like, and which they use for anti-Labor purposes. Blair feeds this suspicion with his plans to reform health and education along lines — freedom for schools and hospitals from bureaucratic state control — that the Tory party pioneered under Margaret Thatcher (and that, ironically, Blair undid with a flourish in his first term.) ...

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Posted on 03/26/2006 10:06 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Sunday, 26 March 2006
Get to the point
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The Spectator's book reviews are very entertaining this week. Byron Rodgers takes a hatchet to Marion Elizabeth Rodgers' biography, Mencken: The American Iconoclast with such evident glee as to make one suspect sibling rivalry, although as far as I know, writer and reviewer are not related.

I confess to being ignorant about H. L. Mencken. He features in my book of insults, saying things like, "Puritanism - the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy" (good), and "Love...the delusion that one woman differs from another" (not so good). I was quite pleased, therefore, to learn from this review that Alistair Cooke was also underwhelmed, at least at first:

‘It seemed to me, as I have since discovered it seemed to most English readers, noisy and verbose, and his invective style was that of a blunderbuss cracking nuts.’ To him Mencken seemed an American mystery, but that of course was before Cooke, too, became an American.

(Alistair Cooke, by the way,  was not all he seemed. As his Telegraph obituary confirms, his real name was Alfred, and he was the son of a metalworker, from Salford, Lancashire. At Cambridge, "none of his contemporaries could remember a trace of a northern accent. It was at Cambridge, on his 22nd birthday, that Alfred changed his name by deed poll to the more dashing Alistair." Still, his weekly "Letter from America", broadcast until very shortly before his death at the age of 95, was a delight.)

Rodgers (the reviewer) is unimpressed by his namesake's efforts.

Her book, 662 pages long, ends, or nearly ends, with acknowledgments to ‘My parents, Maria Arce [sic] Fernandez and William Livingston Rodgers, whose love sustains me, my siblings Linda and Bill Rodgers, who read several chapters’, and so on, down to her editor (‘rightly called ‘Editor Nonpareil’), and her uncle, whose ‘steady hand helped me over many a rough passage’. It could be the film star Gwyneth Paltrow at the rostrum, Oscar in one hand, tears flowing. This is Miss Rodgers in full earlier flow:

Baltimore’s weather throughout February 1899 had been colder than previous years. At first, the light snowfall brought high-stepping trotters. Throughout Union Square and outlying areas the tinkling of bells could be heard as laughing couples, dripping with furs, skimmed over the powdery roads in sleighs. In a matter of days, however, the snow was accompanied by a biting wind that whirled ice from the roofs into the faces of pedestrians.

How the hell does she know? And how can you drip with furs? More to the point, what are all those furs and bells to do with H. L. Mencken? The paragraph ends, ‘Outside the Herald offices, the drifts would have been up to Henry’s knees.’ Ah, apparently it is to show his determination to get a job on the paper, turning up night after cold night. But all he himself seems to have said was, ‘I hoofed it ever hopefully to the Herald office, and then hoofed it sadly home.’

He has a point. There is filling in of gaps, and there is sheer invention. More of the same follows:

And then there is summer. ‘The hot summer months dragged on. Street lamps were littered with the shiny corpses of June bugs; at Union Square, dead moths floated in the fountain.’ Again, how does she know? Yet again, who gives a…? Clearly the Editor Nonpareil did not feel his duties involved taking a red pencil to this tosh, for here even the fact that it was hot has absolutely no relevance.

My friend Geraint Morgan, a university lecturer, once set his students an essay on the causes of the first world war. One began, ‘It was hot that summer in the Old Kent Road. The doors of the public houses stood open, the sound of tinkling pianos drifted out, past the small children clustered round the door…’ Geraint was not sure what to say, for the writer was a mature student and easily embarrassed. In the end he came up with ‘Do you think, might it be possible, for you to get down to the … er, boom boom boom a bit earlier?’

Unfortunately Rodgers never gets down to the boom boom boom at all....she is loth to quote anything. H. L. Mencken was a writer, which was why she wrote the book in the first place, and why I was reading it. And it doesn’t much matter whether he had dazzling blue eyes or siblings, and was a laugh in bars. It doesn’t even matter that he married tragically, his wife dying five years after the wedding, when all a reader wants to know is what he was like as a writer. He published hundreds of thousands of words. Did his style change, his approach, his subject-matter? Why does she not publish a single complete column? She had enough space, and, God knows, I would have traded in all the June bugs and the furs for that.

As it is I still don’t know what the fuss was about. It has given me no pleasure writing this.

Now that I don't believe. 

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Posted on 03/26/2006 8:22 AM by Mary Jackson
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Sunday, 26 March 2006
I have got a cartoon of Mohammed on my back.
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My husband and I attended the March for Free Expression in Trafalgar Square London yesterday afternoon Saturday 25th March 2006. It was actually a rally as there was no procession.

 

We got there in good time to hear the first speaker Maryam Namazie who spoke on conditions in Yemen, her native Iran and elsewhere in the world in such terms as to make us realise the importance of freedom of expression and the seriousness of any threat to it.  Thinking we had more time than we did we then popped away to get something to eat and check out other things happening just off Trafalgar Square and kept coming back to catch other speakers. In St Martin’s Lane a Chinese group were handing out copies of the Epoch Times informing people of abuses in Chinese prison camps.  In the Strand a drum band urged us to “Wake up as Zimbabwe is dieing”. Again a salutary warning of how precious freedom is.

 

So we didn’t see all the speakers. I understand from reading the posts of others who went that Peter Tachell (who I regret missing; I agree with very little of what he wrote that he was intending to say but anyone who has the guts to attempt a citizens arrest of Robert Mugabe has something to commend him) was commendably concise and that the unexpected speech by Labie Siffre was a bonus.  We heard Sean Gabb speak of his concern about how in the last few months people as diverse as Nick Griffiths, Abu Hamza, David Irving and Dr Frank Ellis had been disciplined in some way for expressing their opinion.

 

We even made it into one of the photos here; I won’t say which one, although most of me is thankfully obscured by a large umbrella. 

 

There was a large contingent from The Secular Society.  I thought that the official slogans were worthy, but too wordy to be effective on the small placards. Two or three carried pictures of the cartoons. I understand that one of these was challenged but as I did not see this I cannot comment.  There were several placards urging that Abdul Rahman be freed but nobody mentioned the persecution of Christians in many countries at all.  There was no obvious British National Party presence, although I read on the blog later that several members claim to have attended in their personal capacity. They have the right to do so.

 

The crowd was good humoured, and the police relaxed.  There were Danish flags and some ladies in pink wigs and rabbit ears but the promised unicyclists and jugglers did not appear.  My husband spotted the best t-shirt afterwards in the warmth of the National Gallery.

On the front “I have a picture of Mohammed on my back”

On the back “Only kidding!”

 

On the down side turnout was low, I would have liked to see more information about the cartoons and more inspiration from the speakers.

 

On the plus side some of the cartoons were available to view if the effort was made.  Everything went peaceably and I do know of events with even smaller attendances. The BBC reported it and took the aims seriously.

As a first event this has potential.

And I had this exchange with a passer by.

"What's all this about?" he said.

"Freedom of speech" I said.
"Oh" he sneered, "another waste of time".
"Well" I said, "not while you retain the freedom to say so".

Trafalgar Square free speech protest

 Nelson expects.

Monday morning, I find the chap my husband spotted.  He didn't get the exact phrase for me but never mind!

tee-shirt-front.jpg  tee-shirt-back.jpg

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Posted on 03/26/2006 6:32 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Saturday, 25 March 2006
Damning with faint praise
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Damning with faint praise is a big subject. Or not a small one, at any rate. I will tackle it a greater length on another occasion, when time permits. Today, however, I would like to share this example from a book review by Jonathan Sumption in The Spectator (subscription required).

The book in question is by Karen Armstrong, and is entitled: The Great Transformation: The World in the Time of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and Jeremiah

That's right. The Great Transformation: The World in the Time of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and Jeremiah. Over to you, Jonathan:

Karen Armstrong likes to take on large subjects, and they don’t come much larger than this. Her latest book is nothing less than an attempt to describe the historical origins of all the great world religions. The nearest analogy is The Key to All Mythologies, the grandiloquently named tome which George Eliot’s Mr Casaubon never got round to finishing. But it would be unkind to press the analogy too far. Armstrong is not a pedant, and whatever else may be said about this book she has certainly finished it.


I won't be reading Ms Armstrong's book, but I'm glad she wrote it.

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Posted on 03/25/2006 11:20 AM by Mary Jackson
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Saturday, 25 March 2006
MEANWHILE, IN OTHER DEATH PENALTY NEWS FROM THE RELIGION OF PEACE ..
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Bloomberg News reported on March 9 (I'm just catching up) that in Yemen, prosecutors are calling for the death penalty for a newspaper editor who published the Danish cartoons.

``I am afraid but I am also hopeful,'' Muhammad al-Asadi of the Yemen Observer said in a telephone interview today from the capital, Sana'a. ``We were against the cartoons and we wanted only to explain about Islam. I hope the judge will see that.''

Al-Asadi was arrested in February and charged under a press law that bans publication of anything that ``prejudices the Islamic faith and its lofty principles, or belittles monotheistic religions or humanitarian creeds.'' He said the prosecution may be motivated by the English-language newspaper's reporting on corruption in the country's embassies. Calls to the Information Ministry, which oversees the media, weren't answered.

 

The story goes on to explain some interesting facts about Yemen, where, you may recall, a top al Qaeda operative recently escaped from prison. That man, Jamal Badawi, did not get the death penalty, and was thus serving since a sentence for the comparatively minor infraction of bombing the U.S.S. Cole (killing 17 American sailors) in October 2000.

The Yemeni editor who published the cartoons, it seems, spent nearly two weeks in a special prison Yemen has under the stewardship of something called its "Prosecutor for the Press." Apparently the editor is not alone -- three other Yemeni journalists also have been jailed for reprinting the cartoons.

The legal argument and reliance on precedent in the editor's case were also noteworthy for all you you up-and-coming lawyers out there:

As many as 21 Yemeni prosecution lawyers asked for the death penalty in yesterday's proceedings, arguing a precedent was set during Muhammad's lifetime, according to al-Asadi. He said the lawyers recounted a story in which the prophet praised one of his companions for killing a woman who had insulted him.... The prosecution, commissioned by the head of a legislative committee, also called for the confiscation of the newspaper's property and assets, and for compensation, al-Asadi said.

After a meeting a few months ago between Secretary of State Rice and high-ranking Yemeni officials, the State Department heaped praise on Yemen for its strong alliance with the U.S. Still, Sec'y Rice's spokesman conceded: "There are some areas where we think it needs more work, particularly with respect for freedom of the press and fighting corruption and I think we've made that point. And I think we also expressed the close friendship and close partnership that we feel between the two countries."

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Posted on 03/25/2006 7:04 AM by Andy McCarthy
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Friday, 24 March 2006
Hello Hamid? Condi here.
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Echoes of Dr. Strangelove: Condoleeza Rice On the Phone With Hamid Karzai:


"Hello?... Ah... I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes... Fine, I can hear you now, Hamid... Clear and plain and coming through fine... I'm coming through fine, too, eh?... Good, then... well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine... Good... Well, it's good that you're fine and... and I'm fine... I agree with you, it's great to be fine... a-ha-ha-ha-ha... Now then, Hamid, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with that Sharia of yours... The Sharia, Hamid...... The Islamic Sharia... Well now, what happened is... ah... well, you know, our people, Hamid, they're just a little funny on the subject...just a little funny in the head, and they don't always understand...just a little funny in the head... you know... just a little... funny. And, ah... they've gone and done a silly thing... Well, I'll tell you what they've done, Hamid. They've been protesting, Hamid....No, we have to let them, we don't have a choice....That's right, Hamid. No, really, they do have that right....Well, Hamid, I'm afraid they want us to stop supporting your government....Yes, Hamid, your government. They don't like your....No, Hamid, I don't think it is fair. I know you're trying....You don't like them, either, Hamid? I understand. I completely understand....Well, it's like this, Hamid. Some of them think that if that convert is killed...they don't see why our government should keep supporting your government. Ah...yes, I know it's none of their business. Yes...but they think it is, Hamid.... They think that everyone should have the freedom to....Well, let me finish, Hamid... Let me finish, Hamid... Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?... Can you imagine how I feel about it, Hamid?... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello?... Of course I like to speak to you!... Of course I like to say hello!... Not now, but anytime, Hamid. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible is happening... It's a friendly call. Of course it's a friendly call... Listen, if it wasn't friendly... you probably wouldn't have even got it... They will not be able to turn our policy around for at least another few months, Hamid... I am... I am positive, Hamid... Listen, I've been all over this with your ambassador. It is not a trick... Well, I'll tell you. We'd like to give your judges a chance to declare the man insane...Yes! That's right, Hamid. So you won't have to kill him. Is that all right, Hamid? Would that be....You don't have to get mad, Hamid. I am not insulting Islam, Hamid... No, not at all. I mean i-i-i-if we're unable to stop his execution, Hamid, then... I'd say that, ah... well, ah... we're just gonna have to stop helping you, Hamid....I know you need them, Hamid. But they're our boys...and our planes, and our equipment. And our money.... C'mon Hamid, be reasonable. No, Hamid, we don't owe it to you... No, Hamid, it is not something we have to give you, or else...Stop talking like that, Hamid. That's not nice....Of course we won't leave till you tell us we can go. No, not in Iraq either. Promise....Okay, can you calm down? Did you calm down? ....Yes, I know it's a religion of peace, Hamid....Yes, and tolerance. Peace and tolerance, Hamid...Both together, yes, Hamid....No, I won't forget that for a minute, Hamid. I promise. Not for one minute.... Okay, are you calm, now? Hamid, can you please calm down? ....All right, we'll listen now. Who should we call?... Who should we call, Hamid? The sheiks at Al-Azhar? Al-Qaradawi...? Someone in Saudi Arabia? Hamid, are you Sunni or Shi'a?... Why do I ask? Well, Hamid, I think it matters, doesn't it? Not sure, but I think you guys have some differences, isn't that right, Hamid?...You tell me, Hamid. You tell me what I should think you think...whatever you say goes...No, Hamid, I am not making fun of you. Believe me, Hamid....Hamid, listen, in these things you're the boss, okay? ...Oh, yes I should have known. Right, our ambassador in Iraq, he's one of you, isn't he? And he's a Sunni... Right, Hamid. I just forgot. Sorry. I should have known....No, Hamid, I'm not being sarcastic....No, Hamid....Hamid, does that mean you are all Sunnis over there, or are you like in Iraq? Any Shi'as over there? Could that judge be a Shi'a judge? ....No, I'm sorry, Hamid. I didn't mean any disrespect. Just trying to figure it all out.....Yes Hamid, it is complicated for us here.... Why does it matter? Well, you tell me, Hamid. Does it matter? Should it matter, Hamid? Should I think it should matter? I mean, do you get executed if you are a former Sunni or just if you are a former Shi'a?...What's that, Hamid? Oh, it doesn't matter? Not the least little bit? Not even the teeniest little bit? Same punishment? Gosh, Hamid, you guys really take it seriously, don't you?... No, Hamid, I didn't mean that. No, Hamid, I didn't mean to insult you. It's fine...Yes, Hamid. Yes, I apologize. I sincerely apologize. I won't say that again....No, Hamid, I'll never do it again...How sincerely, Hamid? Very sincerely, that's how sincerely...Is that alright?... No, the President won't either. No, I can guarantee it, Hamid. I promise, Hamid... Yes, Hamid, I'll have him call you and tell you him...Of course not...Yes, I know how you feel... No one in the American government will ever ever make fun....uh, you, sorry, you faded away there... So what's the best person to call about this, Hamid? Oh, you'll call them first, will you?... Uh-huh... Listen, do you happen to have the phone number on you, Hamid?... Whe-ah, what? I see, just ask for Cairo information... Ah-ah-eh-uhm-hm... I'm sorry, too, Hamid... I'm very sorry... All right, you're sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as well... I am as sorry as you are, Hamid! Don't say that you're more sorry than I am, because I'm capable of being just as sorry as you are... So we're both sorry, all right?... All right."

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Posted on 03/24/2006 6:24 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 24 March 2006
Language of diplomacy...
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From AP via Yahoo! News: "A Frenchman Speaking English? Mais Non!"

When top business executive Ernest-Antoine Seilliere announced to the meeting of the EU's 25 government leaders that he would "speak in English, the language of business," Chirac had heard enough.

As opposed to the language of love: German (efficient, precise love).

Together with French Finance Minister Thierry Breton and Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, Chirac promptly quit the ballroom where European leaders were meeting and returned only after Frenchman Seilliere, the head of the UNICE business lobby, stopped speaking.

"We people speak in both French and English around the table in the European council and obviously a lot of business is conducted in English," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday. But he did not want to blow the incident out of proportion.

"People do get up and go for all sorts of reasons," he said.

*Polite cough.*

Typically officials at EU gatherings speak in their native tongue, and their remarks are translated.

The incident occurred at the start of the two-day summit on economic issues, often pitting free marketeers from the Anglo-Saxon model against those, like the French, backing a more closely supervised economic system.

Seilliere was warning against protectionism in his speech, but French officials said Chirac's decision to leave had nothing to do with the content, only the language.

The diplomat denied that Chirac had officially left the meeting. "He didn't leave the summit, he just briefly made himself absent."

Euphemisms: The universal "language of (attempted) diplomacy."

European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet, also a Frenchman, spoke in his native language.

Paris has long led a losing battle to keep French a dominating force in politics, business and diplomacy, only to see English make ever deeper inroads.

Could it be that the use of the French language is waning because the ideas stated by those who would speak it as these gatherings, fail to resonate with anyone, once translated into the other participants' languages?

It even has to fight the tide of "Franglais" at home — the use of English terms in the language of Moliere itself.

And the EU has bulged from six members, of which three spoke French, to 25 now, many of whom increasingly use English. Questions at the EU press briefings used to be exclusively French, now English dominates.

The EU provides plenty of guarantees for all official languages of the member states and has an army of translators to back it up.

Even if the language issue was important enough for Chirac to walk out, some barely noticed.

"That was not dramatic at all," said Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson.

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Posted on 03/24/2006 10:15 PM by Marisol Seibold
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Thursday, 23 March 2006
Nobody does it better - makes me feel sad for the rest. Ken Livingstones does it again!
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With his suspension for insulting a Jewish reporter lifted pending appeal London's Mayor Ken Livingstone strikes again.

From This is Local London

LONDON mayor Ken Livingstone has defended his insult against two Jewish billionaires in a new racism row.

Yesterday he slated David and Simon Reuben, the businessmen behind the massive Stratford City development in east London a key part of the 2012 Olympic facilities.

"Perhaps if they're not happy they can always go back (to Iran) and see if they can do better under the ayatollahs," Mr Livingstone said during a press conference at City Hall.

The Reuben brothers are not Iranian, but were born in India from Iraqi Jewish parents..... 

 The Times  picks up the story

Yesterday Mr Livingstone declined to apologise to the Reubens and instead flippantly said: “I would offer a complete apology to the people of Iran to the suggestion that they may be linked in any way to the Reuben brothers. I wasn’t meaning to be offensive to the people of Iran.” He said he had not been aware the brothers were Jewish and from their names would have thought they were Muslims.

He thought two men named David and Simon Reuben were Muslim.  Is he a complete fool, or is he so arrogant that he takes us for fools?  The Times comment  that he is a lout.  I wouldn't argue with that.

I can't quite work out what the Brothers Reuben have, or have not done regarding the Olympic building project that is so heinous. They apparently own part of the Stratford City site which is integral to the Olympic developement.  I remember Stratford City when it was Stratford market, a not very good market as street markets went, next to the bus station. This, by the way is Stratford atte Bow we are talking about, where Chaucer's Prioress came from.  She who spoke bad French (which failing persists as I prove).  Not Stratford on Avon where Shakespeare came from which is more scenic.

The Brothers Reuben, who were born in Bombay, came to the UK in the 1950s and started with a scrap metal business,  may have reservations about the 40,000 capacity mosque (I was going to say seater, but that's not accurate, 40,000 prostrater perhaps) that is being planned. They may be holding out for the best price for their land. I don't know.  I do know that it will bring a lot of disruption to the area and I don't expect it to bring permanent jobs of the sort that provide stability and long term prosperity. 

London Assembly member Brian Coleman said Mr Livingstone's ayatollah jibe was his "latest anti-Semitic remark".

Suggesting that the Reubens, who are Jews, go to a radical Islamic regime in Iran was "shocking, outrageous and grossly offensive to the entire Jewish Community".

        David and Simon Reuben.

 

Ken Livingstone

        Ken Livingstone.  Would you buy a burnt out bendy bus from this man?

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Posted on 03/23/2006 3:05 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Thursday, 23 March 2006
Saletan silliness
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William Saletan has a very silly article over at Slate this morning arguing that gay marriage shouldn't be threatened by the "hyperventilating conservatives" who see it as a gateway to polygamy.  His reasons?  That one on one relationships conform better to "human nature" and polygamy inherently unstable due to the jealousy factor. 

If you're going to make the "human nature" argument one might extend that to gay marriage as well, seems to me, but the argument that polygamy is inherently unstable is completely specious.

Muslims have been practicing polygamy for 1400 years and Fundamentalist Mormons have been practicing polygamy continually in this country since the 1830s (that's 175 years).  How much longer must they carry on in order to prove their stability?    He claims,

"Women shared [note the past tense - RB] husbands because they had to. The alternative was poverty. As women gained power, they began to choose what they really wanted. And what they really wanted was the same fidelity that men expected from them.

"Gays who seek to marry want the same thing. They're not looking for the right to sleep around. They already have that. It's called dating. A friend once explained to me why gay men have sex on the first date: Nobody says no. Your partner, being of the same sex, is as eager as you are to get it on. But he's also as eager as you are to get it on with somebody else. And if you really like him, you don't want that. You want him all to yourself. That's why marriage, not polygamy, is in your nature, and in our future."

Gays may be seeking relationship stability through marriage, but it is unlikely they will find it there.  Meanwhile, polygamy will continue so long as there are people who believe it to be divinely sanctioned.

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Posted on 03/23/2006 10:19 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 23 March 2006
Slantendicular
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In an earlier post I refer to the claim that using an unfamiliar word can increase your brain power. If this is true, my IQ has suddenly shot through the roof. In an article in today's Times there are a number of words which must be unfamiliar to most of us outside Norfolk. (That is Norfolk, England, of course. Very flat, as they say.) Like the made-up words in Round the Horne, they sound a bit rude but aren't. Here's the story:

WHEN Norfolk schoolchildren are tussling in the playground, the shout will no longer be: “That girl’s teasing me!”

 
Instead, a victim might say: “I’m having a little bit of squit alonga the mawther.” To add extra spite, the bully would be called “slummican great mawther” — a fat young girl.

Tired of the misconceptions about the way people in Norfolk speak and concerned that their dialect — now spoken by only older members of the community — is slipping into oblivion, an action group called Friends of Norfolk Dialect (Fond) has successfully lobbied for schools to teach an appreciation of the local tongue.

That should put some colour back into the cheeks of the fond lover.

The project, called Lost in Translation, which is supported by Norfolk County Council, has received £24,600 from the Local Heritage Initiative — an offshoot of National Heritage — and will be introduced in 11 schools from April...

Tim Groves, a teacher at Sheringham Primary, said that most children would have had contact with the dialect only through their grandparents, but that with exposure, it was easy to understand.

Well, I have been to Sheringham and one or two other places in Norfolk. It is, as they say, very flat. It is also cold, and appears to be in a time warp, but is none the worse for any of this. However, my trips would have been greatly enhanced by a knowledge of the local dialect. Here are a few handy phrases to help you get by in Norfolk:

Do we go play on the titty totty tittermatorter?
Let’s go and play on the very small see-saw

That angle is slantendicular/on the huh
That angle is not quite perpendicular/not straight

I’ve got suffin goin about. I’ve got the uppards and downards
I don’t feel well. I’ve got diarrhoea

I have a tizzick
I have a troublesome cough

He’yer fa’ got a dickey, bor? 
A Norfolk greeting, literally: “Has your father got a donkey, boy?” The correct reply is . . .

Yis, an’he want a fule ter roid ’im,will yew cum?
Meaning “Yes, and he wants a fool to ride him, will you come?”

"Slantendicular" is a wonderful word, slicing right through the formality of the Latin-derived model and making it English and homely. Use it today, please. But why "uppards", in the context above? And as for the first one, I believe we have a rival to "gruntfuttock", but this one is real.

On the subject of "handy" words and phrases, here is an extract from a review of Rough Guide phrase books which tittered my torter something rotten. The review is entitled, "The Postillion Has Been Struck By Lightning":

This phrase has entered the language as a verbal eccentricity, the rather odd opening entry in one of the first published foreign language phrasebooks in Regency times. Perhaps it’s not as ludicrous as at first it seems. Consider, if you were doing the Grand Tour in 1800, rattling through some little Alpine mountain village, and a dreadful storm broke out, you might well want to tell the indigenous populace if a bolt from above had finished off your coachman.

I have a wonderful collection of phrase books. My favourite has to be a French one from the 1920s, which contains such memorable phrases as:

Do not starch my cummerbund.
This wine cooler has grit in it. Bring me another.
Polish my dancing pumps.
(Note the autocratic omission of ‘please’.)

Another great one is an Italian phrase book given to my uncle when he was in the army in Italy in 1944, which has these gems:


Please direct me to the German tanks.
This weapon is not loaded. (Bet that was a lie, whichever weapon he meant.)
I do not wish to come with you. (Another lie too, no doubt, in some circumstances.)
I shall dig a latrine here. (Let’s hope this was never used in the Vatican or La Scala, Milan.)

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Posted on 03/23/2006 5:49 AM by Mary Jackson
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