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Friday, 31 August 2007
Nominating Ernst, Or, I Need A Stiff Drink Before Dinner
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A year ago -- on September 1, 2006 -- I nominated Professor Carl Ernst to be the 2007 recipient of the King Faisal Prize (category: Services to Islam). For some reason he did not get it; I trust my nominating him did not work against him. In any case, I would like to take this occasion to nominate Professor Carl Ernst yet again, for few have worked as tirelessly as he has to promote, through Islamic "art and music," the image of Islam on his own campus, and on campuses throughout America through "workshops" and list-serves and all the rest of what we have come to expect of them.

The best evidence for this tireless working on behalf of Islam are the words of Professor Ernst himself in the interview he gave, to a Chapel Hill paper, about the reasons for his being chosen to receive the Barshrahil Prize. Here in pertinent part, is what he noted:

"Dr. Al-Freih was very impressed by what she saw of our efforts, and she expressed the wish to support this new initiative.[the Muslim Network Consortium] As a member of the jury for the Bashrahil Prize, she was in a position to take action by nominating Following Muhammad [by Carl Ernst] for the prize at its board meeting in May; she did so with a 7-page letter in Arabic that summarized the contents of the book and highlighted its main features, especially the fact that it is written in a clear style that is accessible to non-specialist readers.. She particularly emphasized the point that my book makes regarding phenomena such as extremism and terrorism, as being the results of particular modern political mentalities rather than being somehow essentially part of Islam."

And why was that so important? Well, Professor Carl Ernst explains:

[Interviewer] Why was Following Muhammad nominated for this prize, rather than other books on Islam?

[Ernst] Muslims around the world have become acutely aware that, especially since the terrorist attacks against US targets in September 2001, there has been a spate of publications in America that have increasingly argued that terrorism is inextricably associated with Islam. These anti-Islamic publications range from the urbane and scholarly condemnations of modern Islamic countries by Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis to the rabid denunciations of Islam emanating both from right-wing think tanks and fundamentalist Christian organizations. This stream of negativity causes considerable concern in majority Muslim countries, since these books offer, explicitly or implicitly, a justification for new military incursions that will inevitably be seen as a new colonial regime to the peoples of the Middle East.

Following Muhammad is not an apologetic defense of Islam, nor was it written by a Muslim; defenses of Islam based on Islamic ideals are indeed readily available, but they fail to address the questions raised by the conflicts of recent years. By offering a reasoned critique of colonialism as well as a critique of ideologies like fundamentalism, Following Muhammad demonstrates that it is possible for an American author to provide a fair-minded introduction to Islam for non-Muslims. The book also provides access to Islamic civilization and culture from aesthetic and ethical perspectives, which can be appreciated by readers of any background, and it makes clear how the Qur'an and especially the Prophet Muhammad function as centers for the values and aspirations of Muslims from many backgrounds. Moreover, by emphasizing the multiplicity and pluralism characteristic of Muslim societies throughout history, the book makes it possible to reconsider the phenomenon of Islam from a non-fundamentalist perspective (whether on the part of Muslims or non-Muslims)."

So Ernst's book offers that Old Reliable of the apologists, who if they fail to stop inquisitive students of Islam one way ("you don't know Arabic, so you can't comment on Islam") they will try another: "Islam is not a monolith, so Infidels can never ever generalize about something called 'Islam" or indeed make any statement at all (unless of course those inquisitive students wish to praise it, for special exception is made for such praise). And he uses the "aesthetic" approach -- the same approach, more or less, that is used in the books by his fellow-collaborator John Esposito, with all those pretty pictures of blue mosques and the escalier derobe, in reddish baked clay, of the Samarra mosque, and Iznik tiles, and old prints of turbaned Turks from the 16th century, so that the reader or student is so bedazzled with all the couleur locale of Islam that he stops thinking about such questions as: well, what does Islam teach Muslims to think about, teach them how to regard, teach them how to treat, Infidels? No wonder Carl Ernst chooses to emphasize the "aesthetic" angle. You would too, if you had to defend Islam, wouldn't you? And of course, you would stay far away from such matters as the severe constrictions on modes of expression, on the prohibition on statuary, and on depictions of humans (no portraiture in Islam, no living creatures at all -- and the odd Bellini portrait of one or more of the Ottoman padishahlar is the exception that proves the rule, and Mughal miniatures ditto).

And then he indulges himself. Bernard Lewis is guilty of having produced an "urbane and scholarly condemnation" -- Lewis, who at his apologetic worst has written paragraphs more compelling and useful than the entire output of Carl Ernst, Ph.D. And then there are the "rabid denunciations" of the mad-dog rightwingers, in the cartoonish ernstian presentation of the universe. But "Following Muhammad" is not, Ernst himself says, an apologetic work. Not at all. He wouldn't do what the enemies of Islam do, that Bernard Lewis and so many others have done. Of course he fails completely to list any of those many others who have not presented Islam in anything like the manner of gentle Sufi and sinister apologist Carl Ernst. He tells us nothing, he mentions nothing, about the work of such scholars of Islam as Snouck Hurgronje, Antoine Fattal, Majid Khadduri, David Margoliouth, Joseph Schacht, Edmond Fagnan? Georges Vajda, Henri Lammens, S. D. Goitein, Franz Rosenthal, Gustav von Grunebaum, or a hundred others whose works have transcended their time, and who were not, when they wrote, subject to the bully-boy tactics of Said or epigones of Said, or the MESA-Nostrans who have fanned out across academic America and who, armed with Arab, especially Saudi, money, have done such damage to the understanding of Islam -- damage most apparent in the folly of the effort in Tarbaby Iraq.

Here's a little more of Carl Ernst on Carl Ernst:

"By offering a reasoned critique of colonialism as well as a critique of ideologies like fundamentalism, Following Muhammad demonstrates that it is possible for an American author to provide a fair-minded introduction to Islam for non-Muslims. The book also provides access to Islamic civilization and culture from aesthetic and ethical perspectives..."

Can you stand any more of this? I can't. I quit. For now. I need a stiff drink before dinner.

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Posted on 08/31/2007 6:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 31 August 2007
A Word To The Wise Is Sufficient
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Let us remember that Robert Spencer is in the business of haute vulgarisation, of mass divulgation. He would like his texts to be read, and have an effect, and he knows he must appeal to a book-buying audience that might find certain kinds of titles too dull, or who would not be put off but attracted by certain kinds of book-covers, blurbs, and so on. And he is well aware -- how could he not be? -- that at present the publishers of books that offer the kind of disturbing and ungainsayable information that his contain -- after all, every quote in his book on Muhammad could have been used by a Muslim author, for a Muslim audience. It is only when the Infidels happen themselves to quote those same Qur'anic passages, those same stories in the Hadith (found in Bukhari or Muslim, or refer to those same details -- Banu Qurayza, Khaybar Oasis, Asma bint Marwan, Abu Akaf, Aisha, Al-Hudaibiyya -- that Muslims become enraged, and denounce the texts, always vaguely of course because they cannot find a single inaccuracy to point to in, for example, "The Truth About Muhammad" -- enraged because the same texts that they have no problem with if those texts are read lovingly, acceptingly, by them and by fellow Muslims, become a source of fury if Infidels dare to reprint or quote or point to them with quite a different attitude. Infidels With Attitudes must be denounced, must be accused of that tendentious, ludicrous thing, "Islamophobia."

But as my cousin M. L. K. Fitzgerald once explained, "Don't judge a book by its cover, but by the character of its contents."

And let me conclude this posting with what another cousin, Archimede Pitagorico Fitzgerald, once told me -- "Chi ha orecchie per intendere, intenda."

Which is to say: A Word To The Wise Is Sufficient.

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Posted on 08/31/2007 6:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 31 August 2007
More happening in Sweden over Mohammed dog.
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I don't know any Swedish, so this was a voyage of discovery on the  Nerikes Allehanda  website, via links on the English language Local.  News from The Local, pictures from Nerikes Allehanda, the Swedish newspaper which published drawings by artist  Lars Vilks depicting Mohammed as a dog.

Just after 2pm on Friday a group of around 300 demonstrators marched the short distance from the Islamic Cultural Centre in Örebro to the offices of Nerikes Allehanda newspaper. The demonstrators chanted slogans and bore placards demanding an apology from the newspaper and calling for a ban on insults to Muhammad. . . But not everybody in the Swedish Muslim community has applauded Friday's demonstration - the second in the space of a week.
The controversy has gained momentum in recent days following official protests from the Pakistani foreign ministry and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Islamic Cultural Centre was not the only group protesting outside Nerikes Allehanda's offices. An hour earlier, representatives from the Liberal Party's youth wing showed for a demonstration in support of freedom of expression.  "We are doing this to protect freedom of expression and freedom of the press. It has come to our attention that there are people don't think people should be able to say what they want and that makes us angry. Freedom of expression is absolutely central,"

Meanwhile the artist behind the controversial caricature of the Muslim prophet Muhammad published in Nerikes Allehanda, Lars Vilks, claims to have begun receiving death threats. . . "There have been a lot of threats. A variety of death threats have come through via telephone, e-mail and in the comment section in my blog," Vilks told TV4.  Despite the death threats, the artist says that he has no regrets about drawing the pictures of Muhammad as a dog.

Final article from The Local  - Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has spoken out about the need for Sweden to stand up for press freedoms following the controversy surrounding the publication by a local newspaper of a drawing of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. (I do like the way that The Local consistently qualifies Mohammed as the "Muslim" prophet, by inference not to be confused with the likes of Isaiah or Ezekiel)
Asked whether Sweden risked being drawn into a similar situation as that faced by Denmark last year, Reinfeldt replied: "I think it's important to say two things. First, we are eager to ensure that Sweden remains a country in which Muslims and Christians, people who believe in God and people who don't believe in God, can live side by side in a spirit of mutual respect.
We are also eager to stand up for freedom of expression, which is enshrined in the constitution and comes naturally to us, and which ensures that we do not make political decisions about what gets published in the newspapers. I want to make sure we keep things that way,"



"Ilskan över Muhammedpubliceringen var påtaglig när 300 muslimer demonstrerade" which I take to mean 300 Muslims demonstrate over Mohammed publication.



"Svenska flaggan brändes i Pakistan" which I think means Swedish Flag burnt in Pakistan.

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Posted on 08/31/2007 5:02 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 31 August 2007
Carl Ernst And Services To Islam
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Students of Carl Ernst or of his colleague Omid Safi, or of other professors in other universities where the Middle East Studies Association MESA-Nostrans (google "MESA Nostra") have steadily infiltrated and now run everything having to do with teaching about Islam and topics connected to Islam, may find amusing the following interview with Carl Ernst, upon the occasion of his winning what is certainly not going to be his last Arab-funded prize, given for his services, past, present and implied future, to Islam, and its "correct reception" in the United States.

Here it is:


Answers with Carl Ernst on the Bashrahil Prize for Outstanding Cultural Achievement in the Humanities awarded for Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World (UNC Press, 2003)
UNC Press, May 7, 2004

How was the book nominated?

Very unexpectedly, I was contacted by Dr. Seham al-Freih, a professor of Arabic literature at Kuwait University, on May 7, when she called to ask me to accept the prize. I had never heard of the Bashrahil Prize, because this year is the first time it has been awarded. After making inquiries, I learned that the foundation established for the Bashrahil Prize is an organization dedicated to the support of literature and culture, and on that basis I was happy to accept the award.

How did Dr. Al-Freih become aware of the book, and why did she nominate it?

Dr. Al-Freih visited North Carolina in January 2004 to take part in the Muslim Networks Consortium meeting held at Duke University; she had been invited by Prof. miriam cooke (Duke) when the latter visited Kuwait to evaluate the Arabic program at the university there. The Muslim Networks Consortium, now consisting of nearly thirty universities in the US and a number of other countries, was created by a group of scholars at Duke and UNC, based on a series of seminars that began in 1999. The aim of the Muslim Networks Consortium is to create new models for Islamic studies, moving away from academic Orientalism, Middle East area studies, and inter-religious dialogue. By using analytical tools such as network analysis, and by embodying a new academic network that cuts across existing boundaries between academic disciplines and geographic regions, this group hopes to bring Islamic studies into the heart of the humanities and social sciences in the American university, instead of relegating them to the status of an exotic subject reserved for specialists. Literature and the arts are key elements for the Muslim Networks project. Among the fruits of the Muslim Networks Consortium is a new publication series called Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks, published by the University of North Carolina Press; my book Following Muhammad is the first book of the series, and its publication was one of the items discussed at the workshop.

Dr. Al-Freih was very impressed by what she saw of our efforts, and she expressed the wish to support this new initiative. As a member of the jury for the Bashrahil Prize, she was in a position to take action by nominating Following Muhammad for the prize at its board meeting in May; she did so with a 7-page letter in Arabic that summarized the contents of the book and highlighted its main features, especially the fact that it is written in a clear style that is accessible to non-specialist readers.. She particularly emphasized the point that my book makes regarding phenomena such as extremism and terrorism, as being the results of particular modern political mentalities rather than being somehow essentially part of Islam. She concludes, "Some cultivated Arabs believe that the author joins his voice to the voices of the elite thinkers (like Edward Said) in rejecting the notion of an absolute totalizing concept of Islam, which customarily appears in the form of fundamentalist groups, as Islam in the eyes of the West. Through the attempt to demonstrate that there is pluralism in Islam, this diversity reaches the difference of traditions in Muslim societies wherever they are. The author also calls for the need to recognize the importance of seeing these different kinds of pluralism within Islam."

Why was Following Muhammad nominated for this prize, rather than other books on Islam?

Muslims around the world have become acutely aware that, especially since the terrorist attacks against US targets in September 2001, there has been a spate of publications in America that have increasingly argued that terrorism is inextricably associated with Islam. These anti-Islamic publications range from the urbane and scholarly condemnations of modern Islamic countries by Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis to the rabid denunciations of Islam emanating both from right-wing think tanks and fundamentalist Christian organizations. This stream of negativity causes considerable concern in majority Muslim countries, since these books offer, explicitly or implicitly, a justification for new military incursions that will inevitably be seen as a new colonial regime to the peoples of the Middle East.

Following Muhammad is not an apologetic defense of Islam, nor was it written by a Muslim; defenses of Islam based on Islamic ideals are indeed readily available, but they fail to address the questions raised by the conflicts of recent years. By offering a reasoned critique of colonialism as well as a critique of ideologies like fundamentalism, Following Muhammad demonstrates that it is possible for an American author to provide a fair-minded introduction to Islam for non-Muslims. The book also provides access to Islamic civilization and culture from aesthetic and ethical perspectives, which can be appreciated by readers of any background, and it makes clear how the Qur'an and especially the Prophet Muhammad function as centers for the values and aspirations of Muslims from many backgrounds. Moreover, by emphasizing the multiplicity and pluralism characteristic of Muslim societies throughout history, the book makes it possible to reconsider the phenomenon of Islam from a non-fundamentalist perspective (whether on the part of Muslims or non-Muslims).

What is the purpose of the prize, and who were the other winners?

The Bashrahil Prize for Outstanding Cultural Achievement was intended primarily as a recognition and encouragement of artistic creativity in the different areas of Arabic literature. In this respect it aspires to achieve what the Pulitzer Prize does in America, or the Booker Prize in the UK. While certain other major cultural prizes have existed previously in Arab countries (e.g., the King Faisal Prize offered by the Saudi government, and the Owais Prize awarded by the Arab Emirates), the Bashrahil Prize is distinctive in being offered by a private family foundation that is headed by an eminent contemporary Arab poet, Dr. Abdullah Bashrahil. With this award, Dr. Bashrahil and his family honor the memory of their father, the late Shaykh Muhammad Salih Bashrahil, who was an eminent philanthropist in Mecca (known particularly for his founding of an important hospital and also for an equestrian school there)."

From the article above, note carefully the following:

"The aim of the Muslim Networks Consortium is to create new models for Islamic studies, moving away from academic Orientalism, Middle East area studies, and inter-religious dialogue. By using analytical tools such as network analysis, and by embodying a new academic network that cuts across existing boundaries between academic disciplines and geographic regions, this group hopes to bring Islamic studies into the heart of the humanities and social sciences in the American university, instead of relegating them to the status of an exotic subject reserved for specialists."

Yes: "this group [the Muslim Networks Consortium] hopes to bring Islamic studies into the heart of the humanities and social sciences in the American university."

Islamic studied will not be an "exotic subject reserved for specialists" [i.e., those who may know what they are talking about, though so far MESA Nostra, and Arab money, has done a fabulous job at keeping those "specialists" duly inhibited or made sure that only apologists for Islam end up with tenured jobs].

And how will this plan, "to bring Islamic studies into the heart of the humanities and social sciences in the American university"? Oh, by staying away from the texts, the tenets, the attitudes, the atmospherics of Islam. By staying away from the concept of "Jihad" and the concept of the "dhimmi." By staying away from the texts of Islam -- Qur'an (unexpurgated, and not the ludicrous "Approaching the Qur'an" by Michael Sells that none other than Carl Ernst pushed the university to have incoming Innocent freshmen at UNC read the summer before they arrived, in order upon arrival to "take part" in a campus-wide discussion based on that required, but completely misleading, reading.

No, now that it is getting harder and harder to hide the texts of Islam, for they are all on-line (you can get, with a click, five translations of the Qur'an laid out synoptically for easy comparison), now that too many people are beginning to find out about the Hadith, and the "authoritative" muhaddithin, and the assigned levels of likely "authenticity," and those Hadith too, are a click away, that poses a problem for the likes of Carl Ernst. And so too does the Sira. And of course, the biggest problem of all for the likes of Carl Ernst is not Robert Spencer. It isn't Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It isn't Wafa Sultan, or Ali Sina, or Walid Shoebat, or Azam Kamguian, or Irfan Khawaja, or even, lower down, Irshad Manji. No: the biggest problem for Carl Ernst, and his careful new hire, Omid Safi (who had been previously blocked from getting that job at Harvard Divinity School, in "Islamic studies," that he so coveted and that Leila Ahmad and Diana Eck and William Graham had so tirelessly pushed, but the clearer heads on the faculty prevailed).

Here's another quote from the interview with Ernst above:

"Dr. Al-Freih [who visited Ernst in situ in Chapel Hill, and who nominated Ernst for the Bashrahil Prize] was very impressed by what she saw of our efforts, and she expressed the wish to support this new initiative. As a member of the jury for the Bashrahil Prize, she was in a position to take action by nominating Following Muhammad for the prize at its board meeting in May; she did so with a 7-page letter in Arabic that summarized the contents of the book and highlighted its main features, especially the fact that it is written in a clear style that is accessible to non-specialist readers.. She particularly emphasized the point that my book makes regarding phenomena such as extremism and terrorism, as being the results of particular modern political mentalities rather than being somehow essentially part of Islam."

Yes, indeed. "She particularly emphasized the point that my book makes regarding phenomena such as extremism and terrorism, as being the results of particular modern political mentalities rather than being somehow essentially part of Islam."

Got that? Make sure, students, that you do. Under no circumstances, if you take Carl Ernst's course, or that of Omid Safi, must you ever give the slightest hint of conceivably wondering if, after all, given what is in the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira, might there not be just a teeny-weeny connection, just the eensiest little connection, between such "phenomena" as "extremism and terrorism" and that Total System of Islam with its Complete Regulation of Life and, at no additional cost, a Complete Explanation of the Universe. Aren't there just a few passages -- just a few -- that might lead an unsuspecting an innocent Muslim to conclude that perhaps "terrorism" and that other "phenomenon" that Ernst calls "extremism" might indeed be connected not unnaturally, with those many quite clear passages in the Qur'an, those hundreds or thousands of relevant Hadith, and those details from the Sira, or life of Muhammad including the slaughtering of the bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, and the attack on the inoffensive Jewish farmers of the Khaybar Oasis in order to obtain loot, and the assassination of Asma bint Marwan and Abu Akaf, and the consummated marriage with little Aisha when she was nine, and the theme of bloody battles, in 78 of which Muhammad took part, and the Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya, which forms the basis for all subsequent Muslim agreements made with Infidels, which are to be broken as soon as the Muslims feel strong enough, and of course, such important bits of advice, nothing like the Sermon on the Mount, as Muhammad's "war is deception."

Students, ask those who have studied with Ernst but are not majoring in Islamic studies and have gone on to other things. Ask if they can define such terms as "Jihad" and "dhimmi" and "naskh." Find out if they can list four or five of the disabilities which dhimmis, that is the non-Muslims who were "ahl al-kitab" or People of the Book, were forced to endure, if they wished to avoid immediate forced conversion or death. Ask them if, since they had taken Ernst's course, they had learned anything that might call into question the usefulness, or the truthfulness, of his course, and of his carefully-composed syllabus of readings, with no Schacht or Jeffrey or Snouck Hurgronje or Vajda or Fagnan or any of the other great Western scholars of Islam, but of course, bristling with such things as Said's "Orientalism" and Maria Rosa Menocal's fantasy, "Ornament of the World." (google that title, and "Jihad Watch," for a sampling)

Go ahead. You would do better, of course, simply to read on your own. You will know less about Islam, and have to undo the damage that Ernst's teaching will cause you, later on. But you are young. You can read the the articles, and the books he will carefully leave out altogether, or attempt pre-emptively, as with Robert Spencer, to blacken his name, or mock him, before you can decide for yourselves. It's an old trick, and an obvious one. But look -- those invitations, that Arab financial support for this or that "workshop" or "consortium," those Muslim colleagues whom one does not wish even in the slightest to offend, that attempt of someone who started from his own Spiritual Search and found Islam to make sure that nothing harms the image of Islam in the lives of his charges, and no doubt at the back of one's mind there is that vision of the letter that comes in the mail -- or is it a telephone call, just like the Nobel -- announcing that yes, you Professor Carl Ernst, have won the King Faisal Prize in the proud category of "Services to Islam."

Who could resist? Students -- oh, who cares what they learn or are kept from learning. They can take care of themselves. Besides, there's a completely new crop, every four years.

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Posted on 08/31/2007 3:17 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 31 August 2007
It All Depends On How They're Used
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Top marks for Chidiock Tichborne's prison lament, with its "And now I live, and now my life is done." Not a polysyllable in the lot. And low marks, I'm afraid, for Samuel Johnson's "Rambler" essays.

And what about Master W. S., who knew exactly what he was doing when he took those doublets from Norman Law French, and ran away with the idea of glossing one by the other: "the expectancy and rose of the fair state" (Hamlet) or "exsufflicate and blown" (Othello)  or, sometimes doing it not through those doublets but with lines following lines, and amidst Tichbornesque monosyllables, a line of Johnsonian Latinate polysyllables:

"No, this my hand will rather/The multitudinous seas incarnadine/Making the green one red." (Macbeth).

No rules of thumb, no guides by the pricking of my thumbs to tell that something wicked this way comes. It all depends on how you use them. either those once-inkhorn terms, or those honest kersey yeas and nays. Some people can handle, for example, both "polypragmonic" and "holmgang" at the same time. And some can not.

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Posted on 08/31/2007 12:45 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 31 August 2007
Radio Derb
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Posted on 08/31/2007 4:23 PM by John Derbyshire
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Friday, 31 August 2007
Anglo-Saxon attitudes
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Isn't it annoying when the Word grammar checker tells you to "consider revising" a perfectly good sentence? This tedious little tool can check for something called the "fog factor":

The grammar checker assess two key factors in a given passage: the length of the sentences and the number of polysyllabic words-words of three syllables or more.  The longer the sentences and the more polysyllabic words in a passage, the higher the reading level.   And the more difficult it is to read.

Passing your proposal sections through the grammar checker will give you immediate feedback.  If the number you get back is, say 15 (a college junior), then you know you either have longer sentences of more difficult words (probably both) than you need to get a reading level of 10.

 A reading level of 10 is what we should aim at, apparently. Perhaps we should follow the example of Spinal Tap, and go "one simpler" - a reading level of 9. No, let's not. Let's go for a real linguistic pea souper - hover in the fog and filthy air. 

The Spectator's Dot Wordsworth, who uses big words like "gerundive", would have little time for the fog factor. However, she has found a website that analyses your English - this one checks how Anglo-Saxon you are:

A company called Optimum has written drawing attention to a website it runs which analyses passages of writing and highlights the words that come from Old English in blue. Very pretty. They have posted up some examples from famous writers free at www.optimumcomms.co.uk. ‘Surviving words from Old English have a special power to communicate,’ says their introductory blurb. ‘Great writers, especially poets, have always understood this.’

By Optimum’s analysis, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four takes 74.2 per cent of its words from Old English, only a nose ahead of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice at 74.1 per cent. The percentage for Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is 76.9, compared to 78.3 percent for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and 78.4 per cent for a helping of T.S. Eliot’s poetry. But no one would reckon ‘Prufrock’ simpler than A Christmas Carol.

Nineteen Eighty-Four scored as low as 74.2 per cent because words such as April, clocks, effort, escape, slipped, vile, prevent and swirl do not come from Old English. Swirl may come from Low German, but the point is that the prose could scarcely be plainer. No word is simpler than clock for the object denoted. It just happens to come from mediaeval Latin, which might have borrowed it from Celtic.

Optimum's website is here. You can analyse up to 120 words of your own writing. My words in this post are 67.9% Old English, but the one I made earlier today was 78.6%. I am reluctant to draw any conclusions about this, however, since the extract below was found to contain only 17.65% Old English:

Hwæt! We Gardena     in geardagum,
þeodcyninga,     þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas     ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing     sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum,     meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas.     Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden,     he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum,     weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc     þara ymbsittendra
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Posted on 08/31/2007 10:55 AM by Mary Jackson
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Friday, 31 August 2007
That Old Wudu Magic
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DEARBORN, Mich. — Plans to construct two foot-washing stations continue at the University of Michigan at Dearborn amid concerns that such action would constitute an establishment of religion by the public university. --from this news item

"It's that old wudu magic that someone is weaving so well/That old wudu magic that has the Provost in its spell/That old wudu magic dum dum dum sorry I forget the rest but please just hum along with me and Mitch..."

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Posted on 08/31/2007 8:36 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 31 August 2007
Holy Land Foundation Trial Continues
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The HLF trial will probably be regarded as one of the most important terror cases in US history and yet the story is going largely unreported outside Dallas. Their brochures ressembled those of legitimate relief organizations featuring the sweet, dirty faces of impoverished children. No doubt they raised a lot of money from unsuspecting Christians.

DALLAS: An unknown Islamist militant appealed to a Texas-based Muslim charity for money to help fund a jihad, or holy war, against Israel, according to a letter that surfaced in the terrorist-financing trial of the charity's leaders.

Other letters appeared to thank the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development for helping the children of martyrs — suicide bombers, prosecutors implied.

The letters were among thousands of pages of documents that prosecutors claim show financial dealings between Holy Land, which was shut down in December 2001, and groups controlled by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization.

Five former leaders of Holy Land are on trial in federal district court on charges of raising more than $12 million for Hamas, conspiracy and money laundering. They could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

Defense lawyers, who will begin making their case on Tuesday, have said the men gave humanitarian aid to schools, orphanages and hospitals in Palestinian areas of Israel but denied helping Hamas.

Prosecutors finished presenting evidence on Thursday after six weeks of testimony.

The most inflammatory document introduced by prosecutors was an unsigned, handwritten letter in Arabic from the Islamic Relief Committee, which the U.S. government contends is part of Hamas' network of social organization in Gaza and the West Bank. The unknown author told leaders of Holy Land that Palestinians were happy to see fighters carrying out attacks on Jews.

"Jihad in Palestine is different from any other Jihad; the meaning of killing a Jew for the liberation of Palestine cannot be compared to any Jihad on earth," the author wrote.

The letter implored supporters to "provide us with what helps Weapons, weapons, our brothers."...

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Posted on 08/31/2007 8:18 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Friday, 31 August 2007
Possible Remains of Second Temple Found Below Al Aqsa Mosque
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The Al Aqsa mosque was of course purposefully built on top of the remains of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem as a sign of Islamic triumphalism.

AFP: Remains of the Jewish second temple may have been found during work to lay pipes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem, Israeli television reported Thursday.

Israeli television broadcast footage of a mechanical digger at the site which Israeli archaeologists visited on Thursday.

Gaby Barkai, an archaeologist from Bar Ilan University, urged the Israeli government to stop the pipework after the discovery of what he said is "a massive seven metre-long wall."

Television said the pipework carried out by the office of Muslim religious affairs, or Waqf, is about 1.5 metres deep and about 100 metres long.

The compound, which houses both Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is located in east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967 and then annexed. It is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina...

From Wikipedia:

The First Temple was built by King Solomon in seven years during the 10th century BCE in 957 BCE. It was the center of ancient Judaism and has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia.[1] The Temple replaced the Tabernacle of Moses and the Tabernacles at Shiloh, Nov, and Givon as the central focus of Jewish faith. This First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and was rebuilt seventy years later by Cyrus the Great in 516 BCE. Centuries later, it was renovated by Herod in about 20 BCE, and this Second Temple was subsequently destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. All of the outer walls still stand, although the Temple itself has long since been destroyed, and for many years it was believed that the western wall of the complex was the only wall standing.

Scholarly estimates of the time of Abraham in what was then known as Salem (later Jerusalem) are between the 17th and 20th Centuries BC.

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Posted on 08/31/2007 7:29 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Friday, 31 August 2007
That Ur-Qur'an, That Alfarrabista In Lisbon
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I suggested long ago at this site that someone might discover, deep in the dust-covered corner, of a neglected basement, in the small building once housing a long-gone alfarrabista in a back-alley in Lisbon, an Ur-Qur'an. And that Ur-Qur'an, that is a text much more of which would be in Aramaic, or rather Syriac (the Aramaic of Edessa), and would clearly demonstrate its origin in what was originally (as Luxenberg suggests) a Christian lectionary.

While few scholars in the world would be capable of judging such a find, the few who are would at first be skeptical and then, one by one, even the timid, be forced to recognize -- and there would be carbon-dating, and all the rest of it -- that this was indeed an Ur-Qur'an, from the late seventh century. And when everyone, when Michael Cook and Patricia Crone decide that they must go along with Alfred-Louis de Premare and Andrew Rippen and Gerd Puin and many others from every country, and then a few brave Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only Muslims begin to write, first in the Arab press in London, and then elsewhere, that "we Muslims must allow Islam to be subject to scholarly investigation just as Jews and Christians have allowed" and the all-hell-that-breaks-loose turns out to be not quite so hellish, and the Aga Khan endorses the idea, and then some maghrebin intellectuals follow suit, and so do a handful of disaffected (but carefully not yet declared apostates) Pakistanis living in the West, and then it turns out that that Ur-Qur'an is not only the missing link between that posited lectionary and the received, Muslim version (there are, or were, actually two, but very close, so let's leave that out of it) but has the little added benefit of possibly making Muslims capable of living in peace, rather than in a state of permanent war (though not necessarily warfare) with Infidels, and it no longer will have to be done through hocus-pocus smoke-and-mirror appeals that may in any case be made by so-called "reformers" who wish mainly to get the Infidels off of Islam's case but now, if they wish, can use this Ur-Qur'an to make the case better.

And World Peace will reign. And Harmony, Universal Harmony. And the World's Great Age will begin anew.

You heard it here first.

Hollywood: what about that movie deal? Write to me c/o NER.

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Posted on 08/31/2007 7:05 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 31 August 2007
War Is Deception
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"Bedier declined to answer questions about his testimony, saying he wanted to check with the national headquarters of CAIR about what he was allowed to say."
-- from this news article

And in order to decide what to tell Bedier how much of the truth he can avoid telling, and exactly how, CAIR will no doubt wish to consult the Good Books, including that book of Hadith in which Muhammad tells Muslims, as part of his spiritual testament, that "war is deception."

Robert Spencer didn't make that up. Ayaan Hirsi Ali didn't imagine it. Wafa Sultan didn't pull that out of thin air. Ibn Warraq and Ali Sina were not weaving tales to scare us. Muhammad, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, is the one who said, according to that most authoritative of all the muhaddithin, al-Bukhari, that "war is deception."

Bedier calls CAIR. And CAIR officials whisper together, and consult with their lawyers, what oh what should we have him say what oh what might the Feds already know, what oh what kind of trouble can he get into? Because we are all here engaged in a sacred mission, the mission to remove all obstacles to the spread of Islam in America, no matter what obstacles those Infidels and their ridiculous nation-state attempt to maintain. Steady, relentless pressure we will put, doing this and saying that, or saying this and doing that, and undercutting at every turn, or trying to, and never being discouraged, whatever road-blocks or obstacles their stupid Infidel legal and political institutions may present. We are on a higher mission than any Infidel nation-state or its obstinate inhabitants could possibly understand.

Now we, we those obstinate Infidels, with our stupid legal and political institutions, now have clearly on record -- the statement of Ahmad Bedier himself -- that he, Ahmad Bedier, will be calling the home office of CAIR, right smack in Washington, to find out "about what he was allowed to say."

"What he was allowed to say."

We already know what he is not merely allowed, but told to think:

"War is deception."

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Posted on 08/31/2007 6:58 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 31 August 2007
Dog rage
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Send in the mutt-awa? From The Telegraph:

Fears grew of a new confrontation over images deemed blasphemous by Muslims as Pakistan joined Iran in protest over a sketch by a Swedish artist portraying the prophet Mohammed as a dog.

Why is that an insult? Some dogs do rather well.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said it had summoned the Swedish charge d'affaires to condemn "in the strongest terms, the publication of an offensive and blasphemous sketch of the Holy Prophet".

The move adds to a chorus of criticism over the series of drawings, by artist Lars Vilks, one of which was published earlier this month by a regional Swedish newspaper....

The drawings show the head of a turbaned man attached to the body of a dog, in front of various settings including a football goal.

The publication, in the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, came after several galleries had refused to display the drawings, apparently for fear of violent retaliation from offended Muslims....

Artist Lars Vilks has not confined his provocative cartoons to Islam however. Another drawing, featured on his website, features a giant hook-nosed pig looming over hillside houses.

The caption reads: "Modern Jew sow, swollen by capitalism, on her way to tear apart some peaceful villages".

Are Jews killing over this? And if they did, would The Guardian and the BBC express "understanding"?

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Posted on 08/31/2007 5:55 AM by Mary Jackson
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Friday, 31 August 2007
On moderate Muslims
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Moderate Muslims, we are told, are the answer. They've got to be. The Spectator's James Forsyth (h/t Alan) is sceptical, and comments drily:

"Never have so few been invoked by so many."

Quote of the week, I think, if not the year.

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Posted on 08/31/2007 5:26 AM by Mary Jackson
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Friday, 31 August 2007
New London
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Old London is changing, and not in a good way. Harry Mount in The Telegraph:

If you want an accurate picture of the rich bits of London today, look at the poverty maps drawn up by the social reformer Charles Booth in 1899 as part of his Inquiry into Life and Labour in London. Using a colour-coding scheme, Booth shaded different parts of London according to wealth.

He painted the lowest class - "vicious and semi-criminal" - in black. The very poor - "casual or chronic want" - were in dark blue. And the "upper-middle and upper classes - wealthy" were in yellow.

With uncanny symmetry, the same colour scheme would apply to modern London. The city still looks some great big bruise, gradually healing the further west you go: black and blue in the East End; red or middle-class in the fashionable old bohemian villages of Camden and Islington.

And the bruise turns yellow in Belgravia, along the fringes of Regent's Park and south-eastern Notting Hill.

The big difference now is the nationality of the people making up the yellow bits. In 1899, those richer classes would have been almost entirely British, with the odd European noble emigré among them.

There are quite a few rich British people still there. The big change is that they have been joined by a mass influx of international rich - the biggest in London's 2,000-year history.

[..].

Now you have a new phenomenon: the international rich choosing to leave their native countries, and all heading for our yellow bits.

The other thing that has changed is the extent of the wealth: the fortunes held by hedge fund managers and Russian minerals and utilities oligarchs are so great that Booth would have to invent a new, richer shade of yellow to describe them.

A lot of the new billionaires are leaving perfectly functioning countries to come here. The American voices you hear in Mayfair are more likely to belong to residents than tourists these days.

Some of the regimes the new billionaires are leaving are still inhospitable, though. It's striking that most of the great billionaire Russian oligarchs are Jewish: Boris Berezovsky and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich are only too aware that President Putin has appealed to voters through tacit anti-Semitism.

[…]

London has become Gotham, with great tides of wealth sluicing through the streets, and international men of crime riding the crest of the wave behind.

A decade or two ago, the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko wouldn't have been murdered in London and there would have been no attempt on Boris Berezovsky's life. That's just for the simple reason that the billionaires and the dissidents wouldn't then be seen dead - or alive - in London. New York, Paris or Monaco would have been their natural destination of choice.

How gripping, by the way, that Litvinenko had his sushi garnished with polonium-210 in Itsu, a smart Japanese restaurant in Piccadilly, and Berezovsky's would-be assassin was arrested at the Hilton on Park Lane.

If Charles Booth were around today, he'd have to elide the yellow and the black areas into a bee-striped category where international riches meet international skulduggery - "upper-middle and upper classes, wealthy, vicious and semi-criminal".

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Posted on 08/31/2007 4:55 AM by Mary Jackson
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Friday, 31 August 2007
Old London
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I love London, my adopted city. Yes, my adopted city -I will never be a Londoner, even though there will come a time when I'll have lived here for longer than I lived in the north. But I chose this city - although at first it, or circumstances, chose me - and I love it all the more because of that. Altogether now, in your best Cockney accent (Americans may take their cue from Dick van Dyke or Audrey Hepburn):

Maybe it's 'cos I'm not a Londoner
That I love London tahhn

Shortly after the July 7 bombings, I stumbled upon a rather colourful description of London. I have no idea where it came from or who wrote it. Some of it may be wishful thinking - the jury's still out. And it doesn't really make sense in places. But I quite like the sound of it:

Old London, you must understand, is a cackling old whore. She is big, ugly and has blackened teeth and bad skin under the caked make-up; her warts are ill-hidden and her clothes not of the current mode. She is the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, throttling the life out of the Indies and the tea trade; she is Mother Gin, dashing her children's brains out against the steps in the rookeries of St. Giles. She is a villainess of the blackest stripe, of the old school. Mind your purse when you walk with her, because her fingers are nimble and her morals as open as her old sewers.

But she's built on the bones of Boudicca and the Gloriana herself; she's seen kings and queens and lords and she's seen a fair few of them lose their heads. She won't lose hers over such a little trifle as this. Jacobites and Chartists and Fenians and Roaring Boys and Nazis and the IRA have all boasted that they'll bring the old strumpet to her knees, and where are they now? They cast themselves against her and she wore them all down in the end.

This is the city of Hawksmoor and Wren; the city of the Ratcliffe Highway and the confessions of de Quincey, of Spring-heeled Jack and Francis Dashwood, of small quarrels in Deptford and great reckonings at Tyburn, of old Leather Apron and his red days of autumn. What do these poor fool people imagine they can teach old London of wickedness?

London's bones were old before the Romans came. Fire has scoured her flat; plague raddled her and still she reels out of the shadows, too much make up, stinking of cheap gin, skirts ridden up and though you know you shouldn't, still you can't resist her leering grin and promise of adventure in the dark.

History sits to one side plotting new abuses to heap upon her, this fallen woman of a royal line, and she endures defiant and unbowed, with a twisted grin and a dare. Don't worry about old London. She's seen off her share of black eyes in the past. Save your pity for those who have done it, for when London finds them she'll show none, like the cool and ruthless businesswoman that she is; no. In lieu of pity, she'll show them her own justice.

Let's hope so. My next post gives some cause for concerrn, but whatever becomes of London, I hope it will never become bland and pretty like so many capital cities.

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Posted on 08/31/2007 4:25 AM by Mary Jackson
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
A Good Night For Nothing
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"As the song goes, 'nothing from nothing leaves nothing.'"
-- a reader speaks 

Shakespeare put it better, and earlier:

"Nothing will come of nothing."

Speak again.

(It's not every day that you can do that.)

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Posted on 08/30/2007 6:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Make A List
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Take thirty minutes. And write down, for each of the other "two abrahamic faiths," a list of one hundred people who now are part of the history of art, literature, science, philosophy. You may include names of those who, while they may be atheists, certainly came out of, were formed by,  a civilization that can reasonably have been called Judeo-Christian and is now called, possibly a bit too optimistically, "Western civilization")

In one minute flat you should be able to write Newton and Locke and St. Augustiine and Shakespeare and Dante and Leonardo and Michelangelo and Einstein and Spinoza and Maimon...oops, time's up for me.

Now, when you have completed those lists, try to do the same for Islam. Remember, you are not writing a list of "famous Muslims" but of Muslims who have contributed significantly to the art and science and thought of the Western world or even to the world. Go ahead. One hundred names. Thirty minutes. Make it thirty hours. Make it thirty days.

Try.

________________________

This link provides a list of the Five Greatest Muslims (listed as the "Five Greatest Persons" under the website's more general title "Five Greatest Muslims") of all time.

These are...the envelope, please.....yes, The Prophet Muhammad....well, no surprise there....The Prophet Abraham.....The Prophet Jesus....The Prophet Moses....and, finally, wait, I can't see the bottom of the Teleprompter...there, that's better...The Prophet Noah.

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Posted on 08/30/2007 4:03 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
On The Stump, Still Apparently Stumped
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The Bush administration has decided to sharply scale back its plan to screen U.S. foreign aid contractors around the globe for potential terrorism connections, deciding instead to begin with a pilot program involving aid recipients in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip before expanding it worldwide. -- from this news item

What candidate for President will raise this matter, will protest this ill-considered and dangerous decision? Who will raise it? Who will go further, and start to say "Stop the Jizyah." And by doing so, raise an issue that must be raised, and introduce the concept of "Jizyah" to the broad public, and even to members of our permanent political class who appear to think they can discuss Iraq, supporting the President or criticising the President, and discuss Iran, supporting this or deploring that, and can discuss Pakistan and the Taliban, or Pakistan and India, or unrest in southern Thailand, or the southern Philippines, or the electon of Gul and the unhappy secularists in Turkey, or the future of the E.U., or the future of NATO, or the so-called "peace process" between Arabs and Israelis that will supposedly lead to what some brightly describe as a "solution" to the Arab war -- a war without end, though a containable war, a war that will permit Israel to survive and to deprive the triumphalists of Islam of a significant and dangerous triumph -- signing Op/Ed articles, delivering speeches, holding hearings, making all kinds of pronouncements, but never ever anything of much worth, because ever and always it is a case of ignoring the texts, the tenets, the inevitable attitudes, the stifling atmospherics, in societies and states and even among families suffused with Islam.

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Posted on 08/30/2007 3:57 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Warner in CSM
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Bill Warner writes in the Christian Science Monitor:

FRANKLIN, TENN. – Arguing about religion is fruitless, but we can and should talk about politics. Discussion about the relationship between Islam and secularism must be based on an understanding of political Islam and its dualism. What is Islam? Answers from Muslims and Westerners are contradictory and confusing. But the scientific method gives clarity.

Scientific analysis shows that there are two Korans, one written in Mecca (the early part) and the second written in Medina (the later part). The two Korans include contradictions. "You have your religion and I have mine" (109:6) is a far cry from "I shall cast terror in the hearts of the kafirs [non-Muslims]. Strike off their heads…" (8:12). The Koran gives an answer to these contradictions – the later verse is "better" than the earlier verse (2:106). The Koran defines an Islamic logic that is dualistic. In a unitary, scientific logic, if two things contradict each other, then one of them is false. Not so in dualistic logic – both can be true!

Read the rest here.

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Posted on 08/30/2007 3:50 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Steve Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism Launches Website
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Steve Emerson has been a giant in the war on terror, which he was fighting before most of America knew we had a problem.  He is America's premier expert on Islamic radicalism, and his organization, the Investigative Project on Terrorism, has long been an invaluable source for policy makers, law enforcement, the intelligence community, the media, academia and people elsewhere who want to understand the threat we face.  Today, Steve announced the launch of the IPT's website.  Check it out.  It is certain to become one of the most important sites around.
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Posted on 08/30/2007 3:48 PM by Andy McCarthy
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Tout Se Tient
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"the judge relied on a two-year old letter from former French President, Jacques Chirac, that did not refer to the Al Durah incident at all, but simply complimented Enderlin as a journalist."
-- from this article, one of the first of a hundred appalling details in the piece, of which even those who realized early on that the Al-Durah "atrocity" was staged, have until now likely been not fully aware.

Tiens.

Yes, that should do it, that should absolve the French television or Charles Enderlin from having to produce their 27 minutes of tape. A letter, forsooth, from Monsieur le President, Jacques Chirac, he who received that jewel-encrusted falcon (see "Cahiers du Cinema, or, Pardon the French" for more) from Arab admirers decades ago, he who used to have those private meetings with Hariri, who would arrive with a briefcase the contents of which were never disclosed, he who used to require the simultaneous services, so it was said, not of one, not of two, but of three -- count them, three -- poules de luxe, whose ministrations must have cost him, Jacques Chirac, a pretty penny, and who can best supply those pretty pennies nowadays, if not les Arabes qui l'admirent?

Yes, a letter from Jacques Chirac. About what a good journalist Charles Enderlin has been. We began with a "tiens" and we ought, in a cherchez-le-fric mode or mood, to conclude by ringing a slight change on that opening bell to make it a closing knell: Tout se tient.

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Posted on 08/30/2007 3:43 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
No, It's Not Chekhov, But Still.
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Posted on 08/30/2007 2:57 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
But It's Hard To Concentrate On The Back Of A Ute
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Pastor had sex with daughters

"A fundamentalist church pastor had sex with two of his teenage daughters to educate them on how to be good wives, a South Australian court has heard.

The 54-year-old man, who cannot be named, was today sentenced in the SA District Court to eight and a half years jail after pleading guilty to seven counts each of incest and unlawful sexual intercourse.

The court heard that the man had sex with his daughters for nearly a decade from 1991 when they were aged 13 and 15 at the family property.

The sex took place at various locations including in a shearer's shed, a paddock, on the back of a ute and, on one occasion, at the girls' grandparents house.

The man told the court the sex was not about fulfilling his desires but about teaching his daughters how to behave for their husbands when they eventually married, as dictated in scripture.

In sentencing, Judge David Lovell said the misrepresentation of scripture used to justify the abuse of the girls "defied belief", and that he had "hypocritically betrayed" his religion and principles.

"You said the acts were about learning about sex rather than engaging in the acts of sex," Judge Lovell said.

"I do not accept that.

"You treated your daughters as your property ... using them to satisfy and gratify your sexual urges."

Judge Lovell gave full credit for the man's guilty pleas, saying he was genuinely remorseful and had a good chance of rehabilitation as his wife and the church remained supportive.

The man will be eligible for parole in four years."

Well, I never. This is one for the books, provided those books were not written by Alan Clark and inscribed, in triplicate, to three women in South Africa. And not only I never. We of the Never Never also never. Surely the learning curve couldn't, over a full decade, have remained as flat as all that. Or is it something about the water in Alice Springs?

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Posted on 08/30/2007 2:11 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
You lucky, lucky people.
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I used to have a friend who was very fond of science fiction novels which he would insist I borrow. One which sticks in my mind is Ringworld by Larry Niven. An alien creature, a Pearson’s Puppeteer is assembling a team for an expedition to the Ringworld. He recruits Louis Wu, an intergalactic all action hero, aged about 202, a couple of scientists, some other motley aliens with useful abilities and a bimbo called Teela Brown. It turns out that in the over populated Earth of the future reproduction is carefully controlled and limited to people of proven ability, with exceptions granted to winners of the birth lottery. Teela is the offspring of 8 or so generations of lottery winners. The human race has been effectively breeding for luck and the Puppeteer needs some luck to succeed.
There have been sequels but I have not read them, science fiction is not really my preference.
But I was reminded of this character when my attention was called to the website of the Office of the Schools Adjudicator recently, and I looked at his decisions concerning entrance to Secondary Schools of England and Wales for September 2007, which will affect how that school admits pupils in 2008.
Every complaint by parents whose children were admitted or declined by an oversubscribed school by a lottery or at random was rejected.
“. . . is no more likely to cause distress to individual children or uncertainty to parents than any of the available alternatives. . . chosen mechanism is clear and objective and consistent with the requirements of the Code”.
Every complaint that I read where a local authority objected to a school, particularly a school with a speciality (such as “Bogthorpe Comprehensive A Specialist Sports College”) trying to assess whether prospective pupils had any aptitude for the speciality, was upheld and the assessment deemed invalid. Even a school that asked parents to write a brief paragraph as to why they wanted their child to go there was held to be penalising certain sections of society.
Like Mary I went to an old fashioned Grammar School and while the selection process used in 1965 could have been improved I believe that in principle identifying those children who would benefit from the opportunity for an academic education is a good thing.
Certainly better than what we are doing now, which is breeding for luck. 
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Posted on 08/30/2007 1:05 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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