Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Limited stories

I'm going to provide links to three articles, all of which are confronting the same issue from the same angle. All three are saying that religion, far from the force for evil that some claim it to be, is the very thing we need most here and now. I would put it in the form of a question, one that I have asked myself (a materialist for almost as long as I can remember) many times: can a secular society built on Christian-inspired ideals survive when it has cast off those ideals?

I have wondered about this for a long time, especially since I recognised that Anglo-Saxon liberalism is not essentially an ideal in itself. It is a negative philosophy, a recognition of the inevitable fallibility of all individuals and of the institutions that they create. Far from asserting the equality of all men and women (which seems to me a metaphysical asssertion), it rather rests on acknowledgement that no-one is, or can be, in a position to claim that anyone else is not equal. We are equal before the law only because we have made it that way; it is neither inevitable or necessary that it be so. As a materialist, I must admit that we exist within an enclosed circle of our own making - we assert democracy, equality and the value of individual life and, because we are powerful, we can maintain and defend that assertion and have done so far.

That enclosed circle is not, in fact, impermeable. It must confront the same challenge that all life faces: change. Now, one of the greatest attributes of this system built on fallibility is that it is able to adapt. Because it is not constructed of Temple marble, but of wood, which is more flexible and can be easily replaced piecemeal. However, despite my own confidence that this is the system best suited to its environment, that doesn't mean it always will be or that there are circumstances that will favour other ways of organising things. There are many who believe that we are faced with these circumstances now.

William Rees-Mogg (like Osama bin Laden and Pope Benedict to name but two others) thinks that the West is spiritually impoverished and lacks the means to extricate itself from its self-made 'poverty' trap. (One of those above believes that this will guarantee him victory in the end.) Larry Siedentop, on the other hand, thinks that Europe has fallen into an unfortunate misunderstanding in opposing its secular civil rights to religion. In fact, that "secularism [is] an embodiment of Christian moral intuitions" and the problem is that Europeans in particular are "out of touch with the Christian roots of their liberalism".

Neil Postman goes via the argument of need. We need a Grand Narrative, one that only a god can provide. We need a story which puts us securely inside something far greater than ourselves, with a beginning, middle and end that includes something of our own will. [You will rebut that just because we need it doesn't mean it's true. Maybe. However, it may mean that it is useful.] But he is not urging any final revelation upon us.

He quotes Galileo

The intention of the Holy Spirit is to teach how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.
And Pope John Paul II
Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.
[This is what Benedict was on about in the Regensburg Address.] And then puts out his stall
Science and religion will be hopeful, useful, and life-giving only if we learn to read them with new humility - as tales, as limited human renderings of the Truth. If we continue to read them, either science or Scripture, as giving us Truth direct and final, then all their hope and promise turn to dust. Science read as universal truth, not a human telling, degenerates to technological enslavement and people flee it in despair. Scripture read as universal Truth, not a human telling, degenerates to Inquisition, Jihad, Holocaust, and people flee it in despair. In either case, certainty abolishes hope, and robs us of renewal.
It's worth a few moments' thought.

(The first two via Ninme)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Love locks

If you happen to be in Rome sometime soon, walk across the Ponte Milvio and stop at the middle lamp-post.

Lucchetti d'amore
You are looking at eternal love. Make obeisance.

Couples take a padlock, write or scratch their initials on it, attach the padlock to the chain that was once used to close off the bridge and then throw the key into the Tiber. (See the Chesterton quote below.) There are now so many that members of the ruling Ulivo party demand that Mayor Veltroni have them removed. These dessicated creatures have been dubbed "The Lovers' Enemy" by the right-wing councillor Marco Clarke. "The Left is against lovers", who will "be offended" by this gross breaking of their vows.

The custom was born as a school-leaving ritual, using locker padlocks to mutely announce 'Escape!' to the world. But teenage couples adopted it after the publication of a book by Federico Moccia (Ho voglia di te - "I want you") in which the central couple seal their love with a padlock attached to the chain on the third lamp-post of the Ponte Milvio.

To assess the style that inspired the custom, sample this from Moccia's blog: A reader asks, "Does the chain exist?" Moccia responds

Does the chain exist? Maybe.
It exists for those who believe. Who dream. Who love the sea. Who love the wind, and as the motorbike leans into it, grip to the person in front...For you who dream, the lovers' chain is for you. Maybe one day, you'll go to Rome, to the Ponte Milvio, to the third lamp-post, the one that looks out over the Tiber and watches the Corso Francia bridge. And you'll find it. You'll find the chain.
There's a lot more, but the spirit wilts and the flesh dries up. If you want more, go to his website with its sky-blue banner (his last book was called 3 Metres under the Sky) and the word 'Fede' (Faith) and a bandana-swathed ...strawberry.

I borrowed the photo from Chiara at 06blog.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The coming war

The next war against Israel is being prepared. It will, of course, be entirely the fault of the Israelis if anyone dies. The Times.

Hezbollah, the militant Shia organisation, is building a new line of defences just north of the United Nations-patrolled zone in south Lebanon ahead of a potential resumption of war with Israel.

The military build-up, only six months after the last Lebanon-Israel conflict, is being conducted in valleys and hillsides guarded by uniformed Hezbollah fighters in the rugged mountains north of the Litani river — the limit of the 12,000 strong UN Interim Force In Lebanon (Unifil).
Christian and Druze-owned land is being bought for cash by a Shia businessman. Hezbollah’s opponents believe the goal is to create a Shia-populated belt spanning the northern bank of the Litani, allowing the Lebanese group to operate away from prying eyes.

“The state of Hezbollah is already in existence in south Lebanon,” the Druze leader and arch Hezbollah critic Walid Jumblatt told The Times.
From another article in The Times:
These purchases will create a continuous Shia zone running from the edge of the long-disputed Shebaa Farms area all the way across to the coastline. Lebanon is in effect being physically divided by this initiative. This is terrain in which Hezbollah will soon be able to function much as it wishes. It is beyond the reach of the UN and its soldiers. It is already being described in the region as a “new Maginot Line”.

There is, though, a crucial difference. The original Maginot Line was defensive in its character. This one is not.
In a speech given in South Beirut on February 16, 2007, Hassan Nasrallah said
We are being very clear and we are saying that we have arms. We are not lying and [we are] telling it to the whole world. ...It [Hezbollah] is saying it in public, adding that it is rearming and increasing the scope of its armament in order to get more dangerous arms…

The resistance [i.e., Hezbollah] notes that it is transporting the arms to the front. We stress our commitment to the resistance [interpret as you wish], to the cause of the resistance and to the project of the resistance that defends the homeland...

Hezbollah… is willing to wage jihad and persist with its struggle for justice in all areas…

Et dixit Chesterton

Posting a letter and getting married are among the few things left that are entirely romantic; for to be entirely romantic a thing must be irrevocable.
GK Chesterton

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Wilberforce is getting a lot of attention. Good. Not just for what he achieved, which was monumental, but for the way he did it. Through Parliament. By persuasion and making a law. Not revolution. Progress.

Winning already?

Someone called Patrick Ruffini at Townhall says the Surge is working. It may well be, but no-one can know at this point. It's silly to make pronouncements about an operation as large and complex as this after such a short time. It's not news; it's propoganda.

(via Instapundit)

Tom & Jerry: The Jewish Conspiracy

This is labelled on YouTube as a "Film Seminar on Iranian TV" and has the Prof explaining why "Disney" produced Tom and Jerry to create a more favourable image of the Jews, whose dirty, stingy ways provoked Hitler into trying to wipe them off the face of the Earth, despite his "contacts" with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The worst moment is the last. A young, headscarfed woman noting all this down as if he were explaining how to deliver a baby.

(via Daniel Finkelstein and Instapundit)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Accommodating all (well, 3% of all)

The reductio ad absurdum of multiculturalism. I refer to the new "guidelines for schools" from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). It tells the schools of this country how they should adapt to meet the "needs of Muslims". That is, how 97% of the country should adapt to 3% in almost every aspect of school life: collective worship, PE, dance, swimming, exams, school meals, sex education and parents' evenings.

Schools "should accommodate" Muslim girls so they are allowed to wear "a full-length loose school skirt or loose trousers, a long-sleeved shirt and a head scarf"
Boys should be allowed to wear beards
Primary schools should use portable partitions in changing rooms and all schools have "individual changing cubicles"
Sports involving physical contact should happen only in single-gender groups
Schools should limit certain activities during Ramadan. They include science lessons dealing with sex, parents’ evenings, exams and immunisation programmes.
School trips should be made single-sex
All British children should learn about Islam, but Muslims must have the right to withdraw their children from RE lessons dealing with Christianity and other faiths.
And so on and on. I could exclaim, What gives them the right?! But of course, we have,with the idiocy of multiculturalism. I might wonder, What about the Sikhs, Hindus, Rastafarians, Jews and, dare I?, Christians? But, of course, they don't for the most part make these demands. Maybe they should, and we'd have a school year consisting of 2 days, one for the boys and one for the girls.

These 'proposals' should be rejected out of hand. Inoffensively, of course.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jews on the Dome of the Rock

Yehuda Litani tells a story about the Temple Mount in 1899 and 1992 and about what happens to awkward archeological evidence in the hands of the Waqf.

In the years 1992-3 the late King Hussein of Jordan financed the renovations of the golden dome, which was carried out by a construction company from Northern Ireland. On a visit to the site during those renovations I discovered a story that wasn’t known until then, regarding the Jewish-Ottoman-Palestinian connection to the mosques on Temple Mount.

The Dome of the Rock was surrounded with scaffolding, and before ascending one of them a friend of mine drew my attention to an iron panel that lay on the floor and was inscribed in French. The foreman of the Irish construction company said the panel had been found between the two halves of the crescents at on top of the mosque, and was temporarily dismantled so that the dome could be coated in gold.

The words in French revealed that the Mosque had been renovated in 1899 during Turkish rule, and that the works had been assisted by the Jewish community in Jerusalem led by a public figure called Avraham (Albert) Entebbe, who among his numerous other activities was also the principal of the city's "Kol Israel Haverim" school...

[T]he inscription noted that for the purpose of renovating the mosques on the Temple Mount five acclaimed Jewish artists had been invited to Jerusalem...The inscription also noted that all the students at Entebbe's school were given a three-month leave in order to assist their Muslim brothers in the renovations works on Temple Mount.

I told the Irish foreman about my discovery, and asked him to look after the iron panel so that I could take a photograph of it. The foreman apparently told Waqf representatives about the panel, and when we came back to the site the next day the panel was no longer there. The foreman said the Waqf had taken it away. When I asked one of them a few days later where the iron panel was, he said that he didn’t know what I was talking about.

Carnival and endogamy

It seems that German Carnival floats will be back to normal this year, at least in Düsseldorf. Last year, after the Cartoon hoo-ha, the subject of Islam was banned as a target of satire. It was one of the many cases of pre-emptive censorship confirming Europe's spinelessness. Well, one vertebra may not a backbone make, but it's better than none.

The organisers don't publicise the floats before the big day, but there are photos here of some that were banned last year. One shows four Muslim women. The first wears a head-scarf, the second a niqab and the third a burqa. The fourth is inside a bin-bag.

Speaking of which, Stanley Kurtz puts the restrictions on Muslim women into a broader context of a society based on patrilineal family loyalty and honour. He takes you on a not-entirely mind-contorting journey through the anthropological concepts of endogeny and exogeny, parallel-cousin marriage and cross-cousin marriage and cultural con- and discon-tinuity. But it is a fascinating exposure of Arab exceptionalism - almost the only social group in the world to prefer marriage within the patriarchal group to outside it and so reject the benefits of what many anthropologists, including Levi-Strauss, had seen as a fundamental human survival technique.

There are two parts, here and here, with more promised.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Up with the goats

If you have a 5-year-old that won't be read to unless the book has animals in it and one of whose lifetime highlights is seeing a goat from close-up, then hop over to this site and look at the photos.

(via Ninme)

Us and them against them

Robert Satloff is the author of a book called Among the Righteous: Lost Stories From the Holocaust's Long Reach Into Arab Lands. He recounts the experiences of many Jews who were saved from Nazi persecution by their Arab neighbours, one of whom Khaled Abdelwahhab, is being considered for the award of Righteous Gentile from the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembrance authority. I excerpted from an article about the book here.

Satloff has just been to Cairo to present the book and speak to a lot of very influential Egyptians. He notes a turn in Sunni opinion that we should use to our advantage: they are frightened of the growing reach of Shia Iran. He thinks we must seize this "possibility of building new forms of cooperation across old battle lines". At the cultural level, this includes engaging Sunni Arabs candidly and frankly on once-taboo topics such as Holocaust denial.

At the strategic level, this means challenging Sunni Arab leaders to build on their common interests with Israel and force a practical regional framework to counter Iran.

Insurgent fractures

A very interesting post by Bill Roggio about splits within the Sunni insurgency. Mishan al-Jabouri, the owner of al-Zawraa, or Muj TV, assumed until now to be the propaganda arm of al-Queda in Iraq, has broadcast a fierce attack on them. Bill summarises the main points.

It struck me that, to judge from these criticism, al-Jabouri sees al-Queda as a merely destructive force without any vision of an even putatively viable state to fight for. He says

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has divided the Iraqi people...[and has] "broken the back of national unity in Iraq and they resulted in bringing great suffering upon Iraqis".

The Islamic State of Iraq has no system of law or justice. "Is this the State you want to establish? To kill people without an accusation, or investigation, without a judge or nothing.

"Al-Qaeda in Iraq is intentionally targeting members of the Iraqi Army and police forces, who al-Jabouri and other insurgents believe are acting in the best interest of Iraqis. [This one doesn't bode well for the Iraqi army that we are trying to train.]

The goal of the Islamic State of Iraq is to serve as a stepping stone to attack other nations, which endangers the Iraqi people
At a certain point they'll figure out that the best way to get the Americans and British out is to pacify and stabilise the country.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Et dixit Johnson

The causes of good and evil are so various and uncertain, so often entangled with each other, so diversified by various relations, and so much subject to accidents which cannot be foreseen, that he who would fix his condition upon incontestable reasons of preference, must live and die inquiring and deliberating.
Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, p77

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Candle in the window

The Church of England just cannot trust itself any more. Time to stop being silly and go back to Daddy.

Radical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope are to be published this year, The Times has learnt.

The proposals have been agreed by senior bishops of both churches.

Why go?

From a piece by 2LT Mark Daily on MySpace.

Maybe the reality of politics makes all political action inherently crude and immoral. Or maybe it is these adventures in philosophical masturbation that prevent people from ever taking any kind of effective action against men like Saddam Hussein. One thing is for certain, as disagreeable or as confusing as my decision to enter the fray may be, consider what peace vigils against genocide have accomplished lately. Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics. Often times it is less about how clean your actions are and more about how pure your intentions are.
He died last month in Mosul. In Iraq Journal has a larger excerpt and links, including one to the LA Times, whence this
In typical fashion, he sought out new points of view. In one discussion, he wrote that he asked a Kurdish man whether the insurgents could be viewed as freedom fighters. The man cut him off. "The difference between insurgents and American soldiers," Daily said the man told him, "is that they get paid to take life — to murder — and you get paid to save lives."

"That Kurdish man's assessment of our presence means more to me than all of the naysayers and makeshift humanists that monopolize our interpretation of this war," Daily wrote in a Dec. 31 e-mail.

New Kennedy film

The just-released film of Kennedy driving towards Dealey Plaza pulled out of the attic of someone called George Jeffries is here. It's in lovely colour and there are some marvellous shots of the people waiting along the pavement - the atmosphere is relaxed; it's time off and there are smiles everywhere. Notice how gently the policemen moves pedestrians off the road. One of them, a young woman, turns to a man, who says something, and she laughs a sort of you-cheeky-thing laugh. Later on, there's a shot of a man who looks just like Lee Harvey Oswald, standing in the crowd gazing at nothing. Might there have been a conspiracy?

Et dixit Johnson

Inconsistencies cannot both be right, but, imputed to man, they may both be true.
Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, p56


An excellent piece by Christopher Hitchens at Slate about the war within Islam and how dangerous it is both to them and to us.

All over the non-Muslim world, we hear incessant demands that those who believe in the literal truth of the Quran be granted "respect." We are supposed to watch what we say about Islam, lest by any chance we be considered "offensive." A fair number of authors and academics in the West now have to live under police protection or endure prosecution in the courts for not observing this taboo with sufficient care. A stupid term—Islamophobia—has been put into circulation to try and suggest that a foul prejudice lurks behind any misgivings about Islam's infallible "message."

Well, this idiotic masochism has to be dropped. There may have been a handful of ugly incidents, provoked by lumpen elements, after certain episodes of Muslim terrorism. But no true secularist or even Christian has been involved in anything like the torching of a mosque. (The last time that such a thing did happen on any scale—in Bosnia—the United States and Britain intervened militarily to put a stop to it. We also overthrew the Taliban, which was slaughtering the Hazara Shiite minority in Afghanistan.) But where are the denunciations from centers of Sunni and Shiite authority of the daily murder and torture of Islamic co-religionists? Of the regular desecration of holy sites and holy books? Of the paranoid insults thrown so carelessly and callously by one Muslim group at another? This mounting ghastliness is a bit more worthy of condemnation, surely, than a few Danish cartoons or a false rumor about a profaned copy of the Quran in Guantanamo. The civilized world—yes I do mean to say that—should find its own voice and state firmly to Muslim leaders and citizens that respect is something to be earned and not demanded with menace.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Innocent Iranians strike back

Another great fauxtograph. After the Americans accuse them of supplying arms to the insurgents, the Iranians come back with the old You too! beloved of school children the world over.

The Fars news agency published an article saying that home-grown terrorists are being supplied by the US and they have a photo to prove it. The LA Times swallows it and regurgitates it. Charles Johnson and friends demolish it.

Red Brigades write back

The Genovese daily Il secolo XIX has received a leaflet signed "24 January 1979 Group" (an important date in the history of the Red Brigades) which, among other things, threatens grave repercussions on Genoa for the arrest of their comrades on the 12th.

Excuse me thrusting this on you. It's just that the mind-numbing rhetoric of these people never fails to fascinate me.

About the arrests

The action is of no concrete significance because the banner that fell has been promptly regathered for the struggle and the proletarian emancipation from the Zionist and imperialist bourgeois. To the slandering bourgeoisie, to the forces of the constituted and anti-proletarian bourgeois order, to the holders of the means of production, we say that our struggle goes on and will always go on in name and on behalf of the oppressed masses. The illegal action of the bourgeois police will come to nothing but the intensification of our concrete action against the city of Genoa. We shall strike whoever tries to chain the liberty of proletarian thought, the response of the masses, and the intention to attain Socialism as the only way to overthrow the system.
Don't you love the phrase "the liberty of proletarian thought". And also "the forces of the constituted and anti-proletarian bourgeois order".

I haven't been able to render the full flavour. For example, where I have written 'holders', the Italian has 'padroni', which is, literally, 'masters', but I was sure you would think I was taking the mickey. Now the best rendering of the word would probably be 'bosses', but that doesn't have the Olde Worlde connotations that are needed. Because the complement of 'padrone' is 'servo', which may mean either 'servant' or 'slave'. You can see why they continue to employ the term.

Another inadequacy in my translation is 'response' in the phrase "the response of the masses". The Italian word in "riscossa". We would need a noun to match the meaning of the phrasal verb 'strike back', as in The Empire Strikes Back. I can't think of one. You need both the meaning of 'hit back' as well as that of success in your counter-attack.

This is now. That was then.

This article recounts what happened in 1996 to what is probably the most valuable archeological site in the world for many years now out of bounds to archeologists.

[T]he Waqf [the Islamic authority of Jerusalem, to which Israel gave authority over Temple Mount after the '67 war] has a nice, simple policy regarding archaeological digs on the Mount. Don't bother applying; none are allowed. The world's most important archaeological site is off-limits to archaeology.

The Waqf is supposed to respect the status quo and ask Israeli approval before making changes. In 1996, the Israeli government approved a Muslim request to build a large new underground mosque on the Mount. Construction began, and a request to build an "emergency exit" for the new mosque followed, and was also approved.

Enormous excavations were carried out. Thousands of tons of soil and fill were scooped out and trucked away... And trashed. Hundreds of truckloads were unloaded in municipal garbage dumps. Some drops were made late at night. This was vandalism on a breathtaking scale, and the vandals knew it.

What the figures say

At Ninme's place, the numbers are toted up and conclusions are drawn.

There has been a monthly average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theatre of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2,112 deaths. That gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.

The firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000 persons for the same period.

That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in the U.S. Capital than you are in Iraq.

Conclusion: The U.S. should pull out of Washington.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Under this flag

From The Australian

SENIOR Muslim leaders have called for the Australian flag to be flown outside the nation's mosques as an expression of the Islamic community's "loyalty" and commitment to this country.

Muslim clerics yesterday urged Australia's 300,000 Muslims to back the idea as a symbol of "integration" and pride.
Whatever you may think of putting flags on places of worship, this is surely a sign of the right people making the right moves in the current climate. It is also a confirmation that John Howard's hard-headed approach to the dangers of radical Islam is one that gets results.

Yet I can't help recalling my own childhood. More or less up to the generation before mine, Catholics in Australia considered themselves outsiders. The establishment was English and Anglican; 'we' were of Irish background and Catholic (somewhat muted in my case being only a quarter Irish and half Lebanese). 'They' had all the best jobs, made the decisions that counted (always in favour of the Empire) while 'we' stayed in our ghetto and thought more about what the Pope said than the Prime Minister.

There's a story, which may even be true, about Cardinal Manning of Melbourne and his relations with the 'Proddy' powers of the land. After the First World War, the Cardinal wanted to hold a procession for the Catholic fallen. He was told that the procession would have to be headed by the Australian flag. There was a bit of a kerfuffle, but in the end he relented. He found an acquaintance in a pub who had started celebrating several hours previously, put in his hands a flag about the size of a hat, and placed him at the head of the procession. He evidently made it to the end, though he needed some help. Not surprising really. He must have walked twice as far as everyone else what with the weaving and stumbling.

Even when I was young, the idea of putting up that flag with the Union Jack in its top left-hand corner could not even be considered. I wonder how it is now.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Remind Prime Minister Prodi

I've just come across Inside Iraq, a blog at Time Online by Stephen Farrell and others stationed there. He tells this story of a press conference held by Nouri al-Maliki.

An Islamist Shiite who lost more than 60 close relatives to Saddam's regime and was at that moment sitting in the former home of Saddam's cousin Kamal Hussein, he [Maliki] was about to be challenged on the former dictator's unseemly execution, and he knew it.

Seated first right as we went clockwise around the table, the Italian journalist got to ask first question, and it was a zinger.

"Prime Minister, President Bush said the death of Saddam ....looked like revenge, a sectarian revenge. And in Italy the Prime Minister, Mr Prodi, condemned the death penalty and asked you to cancel it. Can you comment on that?'

There was a pursing of Islamist lips, a 15-minute justificatory address in Arabic, all par for the course.

Then the killer coda.

"I would like to remind Prime Minister Prodi about Mussolini and the way Mussolini was dealt with."

All thoughts in the room turned to an upside-down Italian dictator and his mistress hanging from piano wire in Milan's Piazzo Loreto. Both manifestly un-legal-processed and riddled with machine gun bullets delivered by - depending on who you believe - Italian partisans or British intelligence agents.

Sniggers from the Americans to the left. Shia imperturbability straight ahead. And I think I even detected a half-muttered 'ciao.' It might have been 'ouch'. Hard to tell.
(via Hot Air)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Drenched in blood, despair, wipe out, atrocities

No-one's died yet, so for that small mercy, we should be grateful. But how long will it be? Judge for yourself from the tone of moderation exhibited below.


Kashmir on Friday shut in protest against Israel's excavation and repair work around Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The strike was called by radical Islamic terrorist group Jamiatul Mujahideen.

All shops and business centres remained closed. Transport also remained off the roads, thinning people's movement. The impact of the strike looked complete as the government offices were closed due to holiday on the eve of Hindu festival Maha Shivratri.
The head of the northern branch of Israel's Islamic Movement on Friday called for an intifada (uprising) to save the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel Radio reported. In a fiery speech at his protest tent in the East Jerusalem, Sheikh Raed Salah accused Israel of attempting to build the Temple on al Aqsa while drenched in Arab blood, according to the report.

"Israeli history is drenched in blood," Israel Radio quoted Salah as saying. "They want to build their Temple while our blood is on their clothing, on their doorposts, in their food and in their water."
Mr Amil said that the region had been “thrown into despair” by the Israeli actions in and around the Haram al Sharif compound.
"Now the Zionists want to wipe out this chapter in history and judaise the gate," he told Al-Attajdid newspaper in an interview. "This is the battle of all people from the Arab Maghreb," he said.
Iran at the UN
An Iranian official here Tuesday strongly condemned Zionist atrocities in occupied Palestinian lands, particularly the recent acts of profanity on the al-Aqsa Mosque in Al-Qods' old city.
The Zionist regime not only continues to flout 16 UN Security Council resolutions denouncing its expansionist policies but also continues its savage crimes on Palestinians, the Iranian envoy reiterated.
Russia demanded the Israeli occupation Wednesday to stop digging around al-Aqsa mosque and end the siege imposed on the Palestinian territories.

Like a wave

Among the three books to which Philip Pullman makes acknowledgement for inspiring His Dark Materials is Paradise Lost, the source of the title of the trilogy. He reserves a special thanks for the teacher who introduced him to Milton's epic. It is not really until the third book, The Amber Spyglass, that his Romantic take on Milton's world comes to the fore, but there is one moment in the first, Northern Lights, where he makes explicit use of the rhetorical device that Milton had borrowed from Virgil, who'd had it from Homer: the epic simile.

Such a device would have little use in this book, which is, for the most part, seen through the eyes of a young girl. But in the battle for the throne of Svalbard between the usurper, Iofur Raknison, and the rightful king, Iorek Byrnison, Pullman adopts the heroic tone and it is completely fitting. He signals the importance of the fight by beginning it with one Homeric simile and ends it with another.

Iorek Byrnison looks beaten; he's badly wounded and limping. Iofur Raknison closes in for the kill unaware that for the second time in 24 hours he has been deceived.

Like a wave that has been building its strength over a thousand miles of ocean, and which makes little stir in the deep water, but which when it reaches the shallows rears high into the sky, terrifying the shore-dwellers, before crashing down on the land with irresistible power - so Iorek Byrnison rose up against Iofur exploding upwards from his firm footing on the dry rock and slashing with a ferocious left hand at the exposed jaw of Iofur Raknison.
Northern Lights, p 353

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Apartheid - a semantic corrective

Generally, as soon as someone uses the word 'fascist' about a political opponent, I turn off. It has no attributive value any more. It was abused in the 30s by the Communists and its fellow travellers, and has been ever since. It current value, almost its meaning now, is to signal the speaker as another political hysteric.

Other words are going the same way. For example, apartheid. The most popular abuse of this term is in relation to Israel. Irshad Manji asks a series of rhetorical questions in a (probably vain) attempt to allow the word to maintain some real meaning.

In a state practising apartheid, would Arab Muslim legislators wield veto power over anything?
At only 20per cent of the population, would Arabs even be eligible for election if they squirmed under the thumb of apartheid?
Would an apartheid state extend voting rights to women and the poor in local elections, which Israel did for the first time in the history of Palestinian Arabs?
Would the vast majority of Arab Israeli citizens turn out to vote in national elections, as they've usually done?
Would an apartheid state have several Arab political parties, as Israel does?
Would an apartheid state award its top literary prize to an Arab?
Would an apartheid state encourage Hebrew-speaking schoolchildren to learn Arabic? Would road signs throughout the land appear in both languages?
Would an apartheid state be home to universities where Arabs and Jews mingle at will, or apartment blocks where they live side by side?
Would an apartheid state bestow benefits and legal protections on Palestinians who live outside of Israel but work inside its borders? Would human rights organisations operate openly in an apartheid state?
Above all, would media debate the most basic building blocks of the nation? Would a Hebrew newspaper in an apartheid state run an article by an Arab Israeli about why the Zionist adventure has been a total failure? Would it run that article on Israel's independence day?
Would an apartheid state ensure conditions for the freest Arabic press in the Middle East, a press so free that it can demonstrably abuse its liberties and keep on rolling?
Finally, a statement
[Israel is] the only country in the Middle East to which Arab Christians are voluntarily migrating. And they are also thriving there, notching much higher university attendance rates than the Arab Muslim citizens of Israel, and enjoying better overall health than Jews.

Healthly Temple Mount discussions

As an illustration of how to create an imbroglio from which nothing sensible can be extracted, some of today's articles about the construction of the footbridge to Temple Mount.

From The Palestine Chronicle

This represents the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict as Jews claim that their alleged Haykal (Temple of Solomon) exists underneath Al-Haram Al-Sharif.

In an attempt to confront Israeli schemes threatening the mosque, the Waqfs Ministry released some one million copies of an electronic guide about the mosque and its compound.
Hassan Al-Haifi in the Yemen Times
It is hard to believe that the West is still hypnotized to the goody-goody image of the Zionist thieves that took Jerusalem and most of Palestine from its rightful owners and are adamant on finishing up the job of ethnic cleansing and eating up the remains of the Palestinian homeland. What proof does one need to underscore the fact that the Zionist menace will ensure that the world faces another calamitous war just so a few eccentric Jewish fanatics show contempt for all things non-Jewish within their surroundings, including an important religious shrine like the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which for 1500 years was left without any claim to it by any Jewish faction as "the Temple of Solomon"?

Will the Zionist thugs in Tel Aviv and their supporters in the International Zionist Establishment have it their way for the next century or even decade until they find the right opportune moment and demand to take Medina, on the false pretext of once belonging to the Hebrew Tribes of Khaybar and Quraitha?
Meanwhile, Meron Benvenisti in Haaretz sees the situation as a little more complicated. He has harsh words for Sheikh Raad Salah, who claims that the new bridge is part of plans to "create a stranglehold around Al-Aqsa Mosque, in order for the Israeli establishment to fulfill its darkest dreams of building a Jewish Temple [in its place]."

But he also has a bone to pick with the Western Wall rabbi and the mayor of Jerusalem, who is Orthodox, both of whom he says "have no interest in preserving free access for Jews and tourists to the Temple Mount." This because of the Torah prohibition to go to Temple Mount from the Western Wall plaza. They designed the bridge to be as long as it is so as to cut off access from the plaza.

If you want to have a look yourself, there's now a webcam on the site.

How to survive a terrorist attack

From the Department of Homeland Security (well, the pictures are). See here for the rest.

People, animal corpses and the biohazard symbol are all at risk of being sucked into the time-tunnel vortex.

A quick family snapshot in front of the latest scene of a terrorist attack may became a treasured family keepsake that will preserve precious memories for years to come.
Satellite photos of Texas show the large embarrassing radioactive crop circle in Southeast Texas.
(via Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic)


From an article by Virginia Postrel in the Atlantic Monthly.

In Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty, Nancy Etcoff, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School, reported on experiments that let people rate faces and digitally “breed” ever-more- attractive composite generations. The results for female faces look a lot like the finished product in the Dove video: “thinner jaws, larger eyes relative to the size of their faces, and shorter distances between their mouths and chins” in one case, and “fuller lips, a less robust jaw, a smaller nose and smaller chin than the population average” in another. These features, wrote Etcoff, “exaggerate the ways that adult female faces differ from adult male faces. They also exaggerate the youthfulness of the face.” More than youth, the full lips and small jaws of beautiful women reflect relatively high levels of female hormones and low levels of male hormones—indicating greater fertility—according to psychologist Victor Johnston, who did some of these experiments.

More generally, evolutionary psychologists suggest that the features we see as beautiful—including indicators of good health like smooth skin and symmetry—have been rewarded through countless generations of competition for mates. The same evolutionary pressures, this research suggests, have biologically programmed human minds to perceive these features as beautiful. “Some scientists believe that our beauty detectors are really detectors for the combination of youth and femininity,” wrote Etcoff. Whether the beauty we detect arises from nature or artifice doesn’t change that visceral reflex.
I accept the conclusion of the evolutionary psychologists. It makes sense. Our first instinct is to survive; our second, actually springing from the first, is to reproduce. Our senses must lead us towards those ends. But since when?

I remember many, many years ago walking around the museum on the Acropolis looking dutifully at one statue after another of kourai, maidens who accompanied the annual procession of Pallas Athena to her temple. All the same. Stiff, unrelenting Egyptian proportions that made them look terribly important in an official way, but little else. Another koure. Yet another bloody koure.

Then I felt the top of my cranium lift off. The changes were so, so slight. Was it the angle of her head, the curve of her hips? Now, I can't remember. But it was as if, all of a sudden, I was looking at a human face, one with thoughts that I could not be privy to. Melodramatically, I described it in my diary as 'the birth of human consciousness'.

Which, obviously, it wasn't. I have looked to see this magic moment recreated in a book with photos, but have yet to come across it. However, people say similar things about the Kritian Boy supposedly dated to 480BC and attributed to Kritios.

Kritian Boy
I do wonder why it was the Greeks who first 'noticed' what we call beauty, or at least, first made an image of that beauty. Presumably, people had been choosing their mates on the principles described above for quite some time. And why did it take them another hundred years to start creating images of women, again, presumably, the main objects of senses primed for reproduction?

Aphrodite, attributed to Praxiteles
Go on, then. Answer that.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Offensive footbridge

This is how "America's Best Political Newsletter" describes the current fuss in Jerusalem.

While the attention of the concerned Palestinian public was riveted there, Olmert struck in Jerusalem.

As pretext served the "Mugrabi Gate," an entrance to the Haram-al-Sharif ("the Noble Sanctuary"), the wide plaza where the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock are located. Since this gate is higher than the Western Wall area below it, one can approach it only over a rising bridge or ramp.

The old bridge collapsed some time ago and was replaced with a temporary structure. Now the "Israel Antiquities Authority" is destroying the temporary bridge and putting in its place - so it says - a permanent one. But the work looks much more extensive.

As could have been expected, riots broke out at once.
According to this writer, Uri Avnery, this is all the Israelis' fault. Note the steps he takes above.
You can get from the Western Wall Plaza to the Mugrabi Gate only via a footbridge.
The old one collapsed.
They put up a temporary structure.
They are putting up a permanent footbridge.
Riots break out. As could have been expected.

Sorry, I forgot the real reason: "the work looks much more extensive". Is this a repeat of the rent-a-mob-to-switch-on-the-outrage tactics of the Danish cartoons affair? It certainly looks that way. The footbridge is outside the Temple Mount platform and can present no threat at all to its structure, let alone that of the mosque, which is several hundred yards away. But for some, it is a case of the "Israeli destruction of Islamic holy sites in occupied Jerusalem".

Could there be another reason? There is, as is obligatory in any new building in Jerusalem, an archeological dig to extract or protect whatever might be buried there. Could that be causing this further 'offence' to the most offended people in the world? It is one of the many fantasies of the Palestinians that there was never a Second Temple, nor even a first. According to Yasser Arafat, Solomon's temple "was not in Palestine". The Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh `Ikrima Sabri, told Die Welt in 2001

There is not [even] the smallest indication of the existence of a Jewish Temple on this place in the past. In the whole city, there is not even a single stone indicating Jewish history...There is not a single stone in the Wailing-Wall relating to Jewish History. The Jews cannot legitimately claim this wall, neither religiously nor historically.
How knows what Israeli archeologists might dig up that might taint the image of this Muslim city? Here is an AP photo of the offensive structure.

Temple Mount from the south-west
And one from Google on which I have outlined the area of construction.

Temple Mount from Google Earth
Of related interest, therefore, is this professor's claim that he can identify the location of the Second Temple.

Syntactic wisdom

How to beat Jeremy Paxman in debate and never be at a loss for words because you use almost the same ones every time. Make maximum use of meaningless symmetry. Degrade discussions and marginalise argument. In one lesson.


One man's freedom is another man's slavery.
One man's truth is another man's lie.
One man's ceiling is another man's floor.
One man's man is another man's woman.
It's all here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Red Brigades are back (behind bars)

An extraordinary roundup of terrorists in Italy - old-fashioned terrorists these, descendents of the Red Brigades. Fourteen men aged between 21 and 55 and a woman of 26. They call themselves the Partito comunista politico militare, which means the Communist Polical Military Party and is typical of their prose style. Ideologically, they hark back to one of the many splinter groups of the Red Brigades, one called the Second Position (I am not making this up). Only someone with a severe disorder would want to know what the Second Position is, let alone the First. I started reading about it, but was overcome by numbness. Several of them are workplace representatives of the CGIL, one of the largest and oldest Italian unions.

Evidently, they'd been under observation for two years. It is not immediately clear why they had not been picked up before, and why they have been now. One night last November, the police filmed them at shooting practice in the Veneto. These people seem to have been filmed and bugged 24/7. During one conversation, last August, Comrade Bruno Ghirardi spoke of his frustrations to Comrade Claudio Latino.

CBG: I can't get my mind off Ichino.
CCL: What else can you do? He's gotta go down.
Andrea Ichino, an economist at the European University in Florence, is a proponent of the liberalisation of Italian labour law (though he may have done worse).

They talk about another target.
He's one of the top managers. You put yourself in front of the door. It'll be a clean strike, right under his house.
They did enjoy talking about it but don't seem to have done much. However, according to the police, they were planning something "inflammatory" this Easter.

The Pcpm may be down, but it's not out. Corriere della Sera was contacted by phone yesterday.
I give you a message from the Red Brigades. Nothing will go unpunished and the banner that fell we have taken up again.
Doesn't really have the same ring anymore, does it? They've been superceded; their revolution is obsolete; they even want to live. They're sad and they're funny, and they're both because they haven't seen that in the idiot stakes of revolution, their tickets were bought in lira, and even then were counterfeit. Fools twice over.

The Second Coming

Why The Second Coming is, and is not, about Iraq.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
William Butler Yeats
Though this poem has a few memorable phrases, it is them rather than the poem that stay in the mind. It doesn't sing; though I don't suppose in its grimness it should. It is heavy-footed and too visionary. There are too many symbols and they all seem yanked together. Quite different from the exquisite miniatures of Long-legged Fly, which is just as visionary, but set in the opposite civilisational moment, and entirely successful.

(via Pajamas Media)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Salvation for athiests

One of the great weaknesses of Classical Liberalism is that it does not give adequate ritualised space to two permanent human qualities: the sense of guilt and the consequent need for salvation. Both are necessary to a well-run society, but like sex, are very difficult to keep in proportion. Religion, which gives them a greater importance, is a more congenial home for them.

Industrialisation has been a great progenitor of guilt. It has granted an unparalleled power over nature and an enormous and visible inequality of means and wealth. The violence generated in the 20th Century to overcome or rationalise those gaps is indicative of the sense of guilt induced by them. (Mr Smith's speech to Morpheus in The Matrix is a good expression of this.) We have been made aware of the enormity of what we have created at the same time as we have slowly realised just how inadequate our power and importance are in relation to time, space and the rest of it. Unconscionable power and inadequacy: explosive combination.

So, where lies salvation? Let's save the planet. Our nest. Surely that will help. That's gotta be a plus. At the end of the days.

The new religion. Environmentalism.

the religion of choice for urban atheists ... a perfect 21st century re-mapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.
Michael Crichton
A new book by a mathematician called David Orrell, The Science of Prediction and the Future of Everything, describes the inadequacy of our models, our need for prophecy and “the gospel of deterministic science”. There's a review here.

Mercy on us

Jerusalem being what it is, this is not, perhaps, a case of multiculturalism über alles but it is the same story in the end. The same, I mean, as the recent case we had here of anti-discrimination laws vs the Catholic Adoption agencies.

On the buses. What do you think this means?

Ragen said she was told [by the bus company, I gather] there was a voluntary arrangement allowing passengers to decide among themselves where they sat.
[my emphasis]
You're right. Anything but voluntary.
In practice, this meant that Haredi [untra-orthodox Jewish] men insist all women sit at the back, regardless of their religious belief, and even if there are free seats at the front.
This is not the only sphere where the 'orthodox' are flexing their muscles.
In recent weeks, "modesty police" have stepped up patrols of ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods, chastising women whose clothing is deemed to be provocative, and even attacking clothes shops. At a demonstration last week, the "immodest" clothes were burnt publicly.

"We will get rid of the tight clothes, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, will place his mercy on us," one placard said.
Personally, I had some sympathy with the Catholic church in its stand over the adoption agencies' freedom to decide who they should house children with. Unfortunately, the logic that would permit them to do so would also permit (and has done) others to do a lot worse. It is impossible to run a society under the rule of law if ethnic and/or religious conviction is allowed as an exception. A free society requires a hierarchy of values; some must be seen to be 'superior' to others. Otherwise, that society will not be free for long as there are convictions, strongly and sincerely held convictions, that will, if allowed to invade the public space, crowd out all others.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


The rest is silence.

Same ol'

Nick Gisburne makes videos about, and against, religion. He's made several about the Bible, which evidently have quite a following. Then he uploaded one about the Koran made up entirely of quotes (nasty ones about what happens to unbelievers). It was pulled for "inappropriate content". The attack on the Bible remains.

Here's a video of Gisburne speaking about the case. (He's no Tony Blair.)

Et dixit Lewis - Taproots

Re: recent fuss about some dead bimbo whose name I can't remember and will not look up.

There, right in the midst of our lives, is that which satisfies the craving for inequality, and acts as a permanent reminder that medicine is not food. Hence a man’s reaction to monarchy is a kind of test. Monarchy can easily be debunked, but watch the faces, mark well the debunkers. These are the men whose taproot in Eden has been cut: whom no rumour of the polyphony, the dance, can reach - men to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch. Yet even if they desire mere equality they cannot reach it. Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.
CS Lewis

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Snake Eater

This is a great feel-good story of civilians mucking in to do what the Government cannot. In this case, it is to create and supply a policing tool to the army in Khalidiya, a town north of Baghdad.

This is a story of can-do in a no-can-do world, a story of how a Marine officer in Iraq, a small network-design company in California, a nonprofit troop-support group, a blogger and other undeterrable folk designed a handheld insurgent-identification device, built it, shipped it and deployed it in Anbar province. They did this in 30 days, from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15. Compared to standard operating procedure for Iraq, this is a nanosecond.
The blogger was Bill Roggio, who played the courier. For the rest, see this article from the WSJ. Bill Roggio sees the "Snake Eater" in action.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More cartoon japes

The Cartoons kerfuffle rumbles on. Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly, is on trial today in Paris accused of breaking anti-racism laws. They reprinted the 12 Danish cartoons last February and added a few of their own.

How do you tell the difference between attacks on ideas and attacks against people? If the ideas are essential elements of the way a person maintains their identity, then, for that person, there will be no distinction between the two types of attack. Thus, the Great Mosque of Paris and the Union of Islamic Organisations of France accuse Charlie Hebdo of

public insults against a group of people because they belong to a religion.
For them, it seems that you can't criticise the religion, or certain ideas within that religion, without slandering the people who follow that religion. This is obviously an impossible connection to maintain in a secular society and legal system, though if you have laws against Holocaust denial, you have already muddied the waters and set an unfortunate precedent. The real place for such 'rules' is in the realm of either scholarship or good manners and socially-useful hypocrisy.

The lessons of retreat

Senator Joseph Lieberman speaking in the US Senate against the non-binding resolution to not support the war effort.

We cannot have it both ways. We cannot vote full confidence in General Petraeus, but no confidence in his strategy. We cannot say that the troops have our full support, but disavow their mission on the eve of battle. This is what happens when you try to wage war by committee. That is why the Constitution gave that authority to the President as Commander in Chief.

Cynics may say this kind of thing happens all of the time in Congress. In this case, however, they are wrong. If it passed, this resolution would be unique in American legislative history. I contacted the Library of Congress on this question last week and was told that, never before, when American soldiers have been in harm’s way, fighting and dying in a conflict that Congress had voted to authorize, has Congress turned around and passed a resolution like this, disapproving of a particular battlefield strategy.

Our enemies believe that they are winning in Iraq today. They believe that they can outlast us; that, sooner or later, we will tire of this grinding conflict and go home. That is the lesson that Osama bin Laden took from our retreats from Lebanon and Somalia in the 1980s and 1990s. It is a belief at the core of the insurgency in Iraq, and at the core of radical Islam worldwide. And this resolution—by codifying our disunity, by disavowing the mission our troops are about to undertake—confirms our enemies’ belief in American weakness.
[my emphasis]

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bernard Lewis interview

I have a lot of time for Bernard Lewis because he has a lot of respect for the culture he so often criticises. This long and very interesting interview with the Jerusalem Post is typical.

He's hard on the Iranian regime, but soft on the Iranian bomb. He wants regime change, but not an invasion of Iran. He draws good distinctions. On the bomb.

Look at it from the Iranian point of view: The Russians in the north have it, the Chinese in the east have it, the Pakistanis in the south have it, and the Israelis in the west have it. "Who is to tell us that we must not have it?"
Previously it had some support, but it is now increasingly being realized that this is a method of strengthening the regime, which means that it is bad.
Is a closed system of government inherent in Islam?
No, it is not inherent in Islam. It is inherent in the kind of government under which they have lived for the last 200 years or so. In the earliest stages of Islam, the government was more open. Traditional Islamic governments devoted great importance to consultation, to content, to limited authority, to government under law; all these things are part of the traditional Islamic background.
This is a good question.
A Syrian philosopher published an article not long ago in which he said the only question about the future of Europe is: "Will it be an Islamized Europe or Europeanized Islam?"


You may remember me eulogising an Australian army captain called David Kilcullen, who had done a PhD and written a few articles on counter-insurgency operations. At the time (all of a month ago), the tone of the articles about him was that of a bright young thing mixing it with the big boys. Things have changed.

For one, it seems that he is now a lieutenant-colonel, but more important than the upping of rank is that he about to get what every theoritician desires and fears most: the chance to put his theories to the test. And this is a test that will be marked in human lives. He's been put on the staff of General Petraeus in Baghdad.

Petraeus has gathered about him a lot of bright boys who have been blowing rasberries at the conduct of the Iraq operation for some time. I know nothing of any of them except Kilcullen, but there's one thing about this Surge (that word still makes me snigger) that lifts my despondency. It is the fact the American administration and military are willing and able to look failure in the face and say, 'OK. That didn't work. Let's try what our critics have been saying'. They are displaying the prime quality of the beast that survives: adaptability (though I hope without the evolutionary randomness bit). They are learning from experience and making the appropriate adjustments. It's what closed systems cannot do (vd the Soviet Union) and healthy open systems can.

Bill Roggio on the Surge: "a process, not an event."

General David Patreaus, the new Multinational Forces Iraq commander, recently stated the results of the new Iraq strategy won't be known until the summer at the earliest. The Coalition must be prepared to alter the plan as needed, and remember the enemy always has a voice in war. Sadr, al-Qaeda and other Anti-Iraq Forces will probe for weaknesses, both militarily and politically, and attempt to exploit them. The real failure in Operation Together Forward, the Baghdad security operation in 2006, was a failure in imagination. The U.S. military kept plugging away with the same plan, refusing to alter operations in the face of a concerted enemy campaign that exploited the operation's weaknesses. America and the Iraqi people cannot afford the same mistakes in 2007.
[my emphasis]

Sunday, February 04, 2007

His ya-yas are out

Creationism ("Darwin caused Fascism and Communism"), the conspiracy of the freemasons, Holocaust denial, Anti-semiticism and The Protocols. Is there any Western nonsense that the Middle East won't swallow and regurgitate? Now someone has kindly sent almost every school and university in France L'Atlas de la Création by a Turk going under the name of Harun Yahya. One of the many illustrations in the book shows the Twin Towers burning above this caption:

Those who perpetuate terror in the world are in reality the Darwinists. Darwinism is the only philosophy which validates and encourages conflict.
There's much more about this happy chap at Direland.

(Via Instapundit)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Global warm air

I preface this with a disclaimer: I know next to nothing about geology, climatology, ecology or hysterology. Moreover, I will add now that the following is not a reasoned or even reasonable reaction to the sincerely expressed and strongly felt concerns of many people. But ...

It's just that as soon as someone starts talking about apocolypse or amageddon or both, I immediately file them under the bulging Cranky, Loud and Annoying tab to sit snugly next to Holocaust-deniers, 911 conspiracies, the Priory of Sion and the followers of the Great Prophet Zarquon. I just can't help it.

So with the human impact on climate change. That the climate changes is obvious. That it is changing therefore follows. That it's all our fault doesn't. A couple of hundred thousand years ago, there were forests in the Antarctic. Now, that's warm. It was, I believe, a period when life flourished on Earth as never before or since. What did humans have to do with it?

This current hysteria seems to me egotistical (it's all about ME), without perspective and ... hysterical. It may have some good effects through the technology it brings into being, but I foresee way too much public space for the puritans, the party-poopers and the eternal in-your-face change-your-life-now finger-pointing Righteous. I stand with Jules Crittenden.

Re Earth. It gets hot. It gets cold. This is what Earth does. No one knows why. Even the scientists who say its getting hot because of human activity, when pressed, have to admit it might be only heating up at a greater rate because of human activity, but even then, no one can really say for sure.

It’s hotter now than it’s been since the time of Jesus. What that means is, 2,000 years ago, the Earth was as hot as it is now. I’m blaming Iron Age farming practices and smelting for that New Testament uptick. Or maybe it was the righteous fire and burning passion of the age … have to go back and have another look at the ice cores. Might find some particles of faith.

By the 14th century, it was wicked cold. And I do mean wicked. Like, medieval cold. Even all those witch burnings had no effect. But not as cold as it was 10,000 years ago. We’re really only just starting to warm up from that. We have a long way to go before it is as warm as it was 66 million years ago, you know, Everglades in Montana warm.
(via Confederate Yankee)

You may also be interested to know that Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and every other planet in the solar system are warming globally because of ...the sun, which is hotter now than it has been for 1,000 years. An article in Corriere della Sera (in Italian).


After the winds have come and gone, of what use is a fallen tree?

Kids on a fallen tree

February fog

Fog in the Carrs

fog on the Bollin
And look what's on the way.


Losing faith in godlessness

I have a strong feeling that, if Europe is to rediscover its confidence and its élan, it will, in part, be through a resurgence of the Catholic church. It will not just be that people flee from relativism towards dogma, but rather that they will accept the framework of an intellectual tradition built on the idea of truth achieved through reason though built on faith. Pope Benedict XVI is the embodiment of this tradition; his Regensburg Address was one fruit of it. His church is the daughter of Greek as much as Hebrew civilisation.

It has another strand, one that has an important political dimension.

"Within this history of mankind which is ours," Ratzinger wrote, "there will never be the absolute, ideal condition." Which more or less means: Salvation is not of this world, let's not fool ourselves, but instead try to live truthfully.
Islam is going to attract a lot of adherents among those who previously were drawn to communism and fascism and their millennial promises. In its more radical versions it, too, imagines a world turned upside down, a revolution that will bring about the triumph of virtue. It imposes a discipline that can shut down doubt and uncertainty. It enables righteousness armoured with victimisation. The Catholic church has always postponed the New Jerusalem indefinitely, thus encouraging both hope and caution, essential political qualities.

It has other weapons in its armoury. According to this article, Benedict is planning to bring back some of the more sensual faith aids.
The dramatization of the sacred - Gregorian chants, billowing incense, ritual formulas murmured in Latin, the whole marvelous mystery play with a soupçon of Dan Brown - is a "unique selling point" on the faith market, and should not be thoughtlessly cast aside.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Greater love

A very moving story by Michael Yon, based in Mosul at the moment. It happened in a village just outside the city. A suicide bomber dressed as a woman, the explosive packed with ball bearings to maximise the kill, approached a mosque at prayer time. One of the mosque guards saw through the disguise, ran to the man and gripped him in a bear hug, so setting off the bomb.

Read Yon's complete account; it's very good. It includes this digression about bomber tactics.

I remember the story told to me by Tennessee National Guardsman of another such man who had grabbed the hand of a nearby child as cover, then walked over to some policemen before detonating himself and the child. I remember the bomber who rammed a car full of explosives into vehicle full of American soldiers in Mosul. The Americans had been surrounded by Iraqi children, and the bomber could have waited a block or two then attack the Americans man-on-man, but instead he chose to blow up the Iraqi kids. Sometimes we see the torn and mangled hunks of flesh. Sometimes their open bodies curl a baleful steam into the cold morning air.

Bad and worse

Bernard Lewis, speaking to the staff of The Jerusalem Post, didn't go out of his way to cheer them up.

Instead of fighting the threat, he elaborated, Europeans had given up.

"Europeans are losing their own loyalties and their own self-confidence," he said. "They have no respect for their own culture." Europeans had "surrendered" on every issue with regard to Islam in a mood of "self-abasement," "political correctness" and "multi-culturalism," said Lewis, who was born in London to middle-class Jewish parents but has long lived in the United States.
He's not about to be moving home.
"The outlook for the Jewish communities of Europe is dim." Soon, he warned, the only pertinent question regarding Europe's future would be, "Will it be an Islamized Europe or Europeanized Islam?"
And can you blame him?
Attacks on Jews reached their highest level for more than two decades last year, an authoritative research report said Thursday.

There were nearly 600 anti-Semitic assaults, incidents of vandalism, cases of abuse and threats made against Jewish individuals and institutions, it found. The number of attacks was up by nearly a third on 2005.
Who is doing the attacking? Here eucumenism is flourishing.
White attackers were responsible for anti-Semitic incidents in fewer than half of those where the colour or racial background of the perpetrator was identified. More than a third, 37 per cent, of attackers whose background was known were Asian or Arab.

Since 1984, when the recording of anti-Semitic incidents by the trust began, white attackers have been in a minority only last year and in 2004.
It is Islamophobia we are supposed to be worried about, yet according to the police figures, a Jew is four times more likely to be attacked than a Muslim. Surprisingly, despite the fact that there is a lot of suspicion about towards Muslims, it rarely seems to spill over into violence. All the more surprising given that the provocation has not been lacking. Brendan O'Neill at Spiked Online.
Amongst the left and their allies in self-selected Muslim community groups, it’s widely claimed that Islamophobia is stalking the land. In fact, Islamophobia is a myth, an invention by groups keen to play the victim card against what they view as a seething white mob of Muslim-haters. For all the hysterical talk of ‘an orgy of Islamophobia’, acts of anti-Muslim hatred or violence remain remarkably low. One Muslim commentator says Muslims in Britain are ‘subject to attacks reminiscent of the gathering storm of anti-Semitism in the first decades of the last century. In truth, there are a tiny number of attacks on Muslims. At the end of last year, the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that in 2005-2006 – in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, when politicians, the police and others predicted there would be an anti-Muslim pogrom – there were only 43 cases of religiously aggravated crime, 18 of them against Muslims (or ‘perceived’ Muslims). This represented a decline from 23 anti-Muslim crimes in 2004-2005 (3). Kristallnacht it ain’t.
Fairness demands that I add that O'Neill then goes on to lambast the ‘anti-Islamist intelligentsia’ and their fears of civilisational takeover. He makes some good points; eg that the number of terrorist attacks has fallen in the last 30 years. However, terror was a broader church in those days. A more salient point:
the anti-Islamist intellectuals dodge the harder task of interrogating what it is about British and Western society that can make the backward and obscurantist ranting of Islamic sects seem like an attractive alternative for often well-brought-up and educated young Muslims.
Rather unconvincing, though, is this logic inherited from the appeasers of the 30s.
The one thing that seems to sustain their [terrorist] violence is the Islamo-obsessions of the political and cultural elites.
I don't think so.

You will be good

The council to the people of Herouxville, Quebec.

"We wish to inform these new arrivals that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here," said the declaration, which also says women are allowed to drive, vote, dance, write checks, dress how they want, work and own property.

"Therefore we consider it completely outside these norms to ... kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them etc."
This is funny and serious at the same time. This council is laying down the terms on which the people of this town are willing to accept those from different cultures, just as Australia has done. Though without the comic vividness. We must stop pretending that we can accommodate everything. We can't. Human rights are not 'natural'; they are an imposition on the world. And it is an impostion that will endure as long as we are willing to impose it.