Friday, June 29, 2007

He should know

New Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

"It's about time that we know what works and what doesn't work," he said. "And it's not enough to stop at statements and pronouncements like, 'Resistance is [the] right of any occupied people.'

"We certainly are [occupied], and that certainly is a right. But I think we have to have some sense of what has happened over the past ... seven, eight years.

"Simple, basic question: Are we better off now than we were then? Then, the situation was not great, but guess what it is like today? It's catastrophic."

"What really matters to me now the most -- before money, before anything else -- is a change in attitude," Fayyad said. "If we continue in this nickel-and-dime approach to dealing with the issues, I'm afraid we are never going to get anywhere, because that has been what has been happening over the past 13, 14 years."

That sounds good. At least, it's a start to recognise the bleeding obvious. However,

"Fatah is facing a very dangerous crisis," said a senior Fatah official here. "Many Fatah leaders and activists are unhappy with the way Abbas and the Fatah leadership have been handling the current crisis. If we don't get our act together, we will lose the West Bank to Hamas."

If Fatah should collapse, what would succeed it? From worse to worst?

The new McCarthyism

From The New Republic.

The latest conflict in the academy between freedom of expression and ethnic and sexual diversity took place at Vassar College recently when minority students called for the banning of a school newspaper called "The Imperialist" because it criticized the creation of special social centers for minority and gay students. (The students were upset by the magazine's "insulting" comparison of these centers with a "ghetto" and a "zoological preserve.") The matter was resolved when the student association that financed "The Imperialist" withheld funds from the publication for one year.

(via Instapundit)

Rage Boy is the The Business!

For all your Rage Boy needs, Cafe Press has the weeds.

Choudhury farce continues

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was back in court yesterday for what was hoped to be the last time. Not so.

Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury returned to a Dhaka courtroom today. In the weeks leading up to it, the new government of Bangladesh had given private assurances to individuals and officials from various governments that it would drop the admittedly false charges against Mr. Choudhury. It did not. Not only did the court set a new trial date of July 18th , but more ominously, the new Public Prosecutor stated his willingness to proceed with this action.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Islamic science

Good article in Discover Magazine about Science and Islam in Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan. It has the usual unsurprising funnies.

“All the wealth of knowledge in the world has actually emanated from Muslim civilization."

[On the 2005 tsunami]
God had expressed his wrath over the sins of the West. Why, then, had God punished Southeast Asia rather than Los Angeles or the coast of Florida? His answer: Because the lands that were hit had tolerated the immoral behavior of tourists.

Both the above quotes were from Egypt, where the convivenza between Islam and science is uncomfortable, to put it kindly. However, in Tunisia, where a repressive secular government is seen as the less worse of the options available and where religion and science are kept much further apart, there are good signs of better to come.

“Islamic science” is not a university subject here, as it is in Egypt; “Islamology,” which looks critically at Islamic extremism, is...There were 139 laboratories across different disciplines in 2005, compared with 55 in 1999.

There is even some achievement.

Sami Sayadi, director of the bioprocesses lab at the Biotechnology Center of Sfax, Tunisia’s second-largest city, spent more than a decade figuring out how to turn the waste of olives pressed for oil into clean, renewable energy.

Jordan, too, in extremely difficult circumstances, is building SESAME, a high-energy physics lab, which, they hope,

will become a knowledge hub for the member states that pay annual dues, a group that now includes Bahrain, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority—and Israel, the one country in the region that has a knowledge-based society but has been excluded from almost every other endeavor.

All those Arab states thus show themselves to have a better understanding of how knowledge is created than a good number of British academics.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Failed States Index

This is worth a look.

The year began with violent protests that erupted from Indonesia to Nigeria over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. February brought the destruction of Samarra’s golden-domed mosque, one of Shiite Islam’s holiest shrines, unleashing a convulsion of violence across Iraq that continues unabated. After Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last July, southern Lebanon was bombarded for a month by air strikes, sending hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing into neighboring states. And in October, the repressive North Korean regime stormed its way into the world’s nuclear club.

What makes these alarming headlines all the more troubling is that their origins lie in weak and failing states.

They then make the point that trouble travels fast and far.

As long as we buy it

Reading a lot about China at the moment. Daughter is just about at the end of her gap year there and Wife is going out to spend a couple of weeks touring with her before they both come back. Co-incidentally, the current Atlantic Monthly is dedicated to it with four fascinating articles. The cover feature is by James Fallows, who now lives there and is well worth a read. He narrates a slide show as well with views of the city of Shenzhen, whose population in the last 25 years has grown a hundredfold.

I came across another slide show, by Ed Burtynsky, this one looking more at what was rather than what is. One of Burtynsky's captions reads:

"Taiwan said 'we're going to become the semi-conductor manufacturer for the world' and now they ultimately produce 50 percent of the world's semi-conductors; Japan said we're going to make cars and electronics and they've become dominant in the world in those two fields.

The difference with China is that they have no such strategy, they're just saying 'wherever there's money, we're going to do it.' They produce 90 percent of the world's Christmas ornaments and they're not Christians, they don't even know what they're for or what they represent, but they make them because we buy them. They don't care what they're making as long as we buy it."

A new star in the fiery firmament of Muslim rage

The Kashmiri cornucopia of outrage. The virtuoso of vengeance. The raging rent-a-mouth of righteousness. It's Rageboy.

(I wonder if sometimes it doesn't get too much. How long can you live with a fist coming out of your head?)

(via Ninme)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Three anti-war arguments answered

By Pete Hegseth, an Iraq war veteran, in the Washington Post.

The arguments are

A deadline for withdrawal is an incentive for Iraqi political compromise
We can bring the war to a "responsible end" but still conduct counterterrorism operations.
We are "supporting the troops" by demanding an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

Mr Hegseth deals with all three.

Don't miss Michael Yon's latest, which includes al-Queda policies on smoking (cut off two fingers), and

beatings for men who refused to grow beards, and corporal punishments for obscene sexual suggestiveness, defined by such “loose” behavior as carrying tomatoes and cucumbers in the same bag.

Why is the imagination of the Righteous always so lurid?

Yon even takes time out for bird photography; evidently, Iraq is especially rich in bird life and he wants to go back "after" to capture it digitally.

(via Instapundit)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rushdie devides

Loud silence in defense of Rushdie.

If you're wondering why you haven't been able to follow all the columns and editorials in the American press denouncing all this homicidal nonsense, it's because there haven't been any. And, in that great silence, is a great scandal.

At least here, that has not been the case. Apart from editorials, 4 out of the 5 guests on Question Time defended Rushdie and the knighthood in strong terms. The exception was Shirley Williams with the weasely excuse of its 'timing'. Well, of course, Boris Johnson couldn't just agree with the 2 Hitchens and Minister Tony McNulty; he had to make the point that the honour should only be considered on literary grounds, and that as he couldn't finish any of Rushdie's books, he therefore wouldn't have granted the knighthood. However, there was no question of apologising.

Via Instapundit, who, with regard to the American silence, says

I think the best argument for electing a Democrat as President is that as long as a Republican is in office the media powers-that-be will refuse to condemn even the worst atrocities on the part of Islamists, for fear of helping the real enemy in the White House.

That rings true.

There's the enemy. And then there's the enemy.

Michael Totten

But if Lebanon falls, and if Iran gets nuclear weapons, and if maniacs wearing ski masks take over Iraq after the U.S. withdraws, most of them will eventually figure out who their real enemies are. What’s happening to Abbas, Seniora, and Maliki can happen to any and all of them, even Assad.

The fact that Arab governments threaten to build nuclear arsenals to counter Iran’s, but not Israel’s, all by itself tells you who and what they’re really afraid of. Blowback isn’t just for Americans anymore.
[My emphasis]

I'e never thought of it like that before. How long has Israel had nukes? 30, 40 years? Yet no Arab state has felt the need to have their own. Iran starts making nasty noises, and they all start talking about the need for a deterrent.

It must be that, despite the rhetoric, they know, and have always known, that Israel is not expansionist and will not use its weapons unless threatened existentially. The same cannot be said for Iran.

(via Instapundit)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rushdie - Bodyline

Somebody's cross. Actually, he's got a pretty good fast-bowler's action. Except he's holding the ball (well, rock) in the wrong hand. Says a lot that. Could be playing cricket, instead he's throwing stones because of a book he's never read.

Meanwhile, at Regent's Park, they're cursing the Queen and burning flags. Good Friday night out.

Image from Yahoo.

Operation Phantom Thunder 2

Michael Yon from Baqubah.

The combat in Baqubah should soon reach a peak. Al Qaeda seems to have been effectively isolated. The initial attack on 19 June achieved enough surprise that al Qaeda was caught off guard and trapped. They have been beaten back mostly into pockets and are surrounded and will be dealt with. Part of this is actually due to the capability of Strykers. We were able to “attack from the march.” In other words, a huge force drove in from places like Baghdad and quickly locked down Baqubah.

Our guys are winning. Al Qaeda is about to be strangled and pummeled to death in this town, but the local Iraqi leadership is severely wanting. This was most obviously noted in one area in particular, where there were some slight indicators of a possible humanitarian need. “Crisis” certainly is not the correct word, but there are displaced persons numbering at least in the hundreds. LTC Fred Johnson actually took me out there. (The access even to “bad” news is amazing with this Brigade.)

I wonder which part of all that the BBC will report. No count of civilian casualties, but displaced people can go some way to filling that role.

BTW, his criticism of the Iraqi commanders concerns their reaction (or lack of it) to the humanitarian need. The Americans are fighting; could they possibly transport the stuff that these people need? Evidently, only with difficulty. But the stuff is there.

Later I spoke with Major Jerry Gardner who is in charge of humanitarian needs. Gardner said he has 70,000 kilos each of flour and rice (bought from Iraq), and enough bottled water to keep 5,000 people going for 15 days. He can get three times that amount with a phone call. He’s got about 30,000 MREs, and also a complete “W.H.O. kit” that he says can feed 30,000 people for a month. Gardner said he can get four more kits like that if needed.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Operation Phantom Thunder 1

Unlike CNN, TIME, Reuters and the BBC, Michael Yon is actually there in Diyala Province with the troops engaged in Operation Arrowhead Ripper. As is New York Times reporter Michael GordonBill Roggio gives an overview of Operation Phantom Thunder, the name given to all four operations now underway around Baghdad.

Grail NOT in The Da Vinci Code

An Italian archeologist, Alfredo Barbagallo, claims to have found the Holy Grail right where it should have been: in the church raised above the tomb of St Laurence, the man entrusted with it in the 3rd Century. Thus on the floor, there is this 13th Century mosaic:

Image of a chalice on the floor of S. Lorenzo Fuori Le Mura
Directly under it and next to the saint's tomb

is a room of about 20 square metres with a vaulted roof ceiling. "In the corner of a wall-seat there can be seen a terracotta funnel whose lower part opens out over the face of a skeleton," he wrote.

Da Bra then explains that giving liquid refreshment (refrigerium) to the dead was part of ancient funeral rites. According to Mr Barbagallo, who heads an association called Arte e Mistero [Art and Mystery], this funnel is the Grail.

Giuseppe Da Bra is quoted because the catacombs of which this room is part are closed and Sgr Barbagallo has not been able to see the funnel/grail.

Saint Lawrence (c. 225 – 258) was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred under the persecution of Roman Emperor Valerian in the year 258. In 257, Lawrence was ordained a deacon by Sixtus, the Bishop of Rome, and was placed in charge of the administration of Church goods and care for the poor - two contradictory tasks, you might have thought, but it gave rise to this famous story about the saint.

The treasures of the church
After the death of Sixtus [martyred 3 days before], the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom.

Honour lists

Equal merit, equal honour.

A group of clerics, the Pakistan Ulema Council, has given bin Laden the title "Saifullah", or sword of Allah, in response to the honour for Rushdie, the council's chairman said on Thursday.

"If a blasphemer can be given the title 'Sir' by the West despite the fact he's hurt the feelings of Muslims, then a mujahid who has been fighting for Islam against the Russians, Americans and British must be given the lofty title of Islam, Saifullah," the chairman, Tahir Ashrafi, told Reuters.

It is interesting that they consider that bin Laden is fighting for Islam rather than for a perversion of a peaceful creed. A man who instigates the murder of thousands is on the same level as one who writes novels.

Ijaz-ul Haq, the man who declared, and then retracted, that Muslims were justified in murdering Rushdie, has been invited to Britain. You'll never guess why.

"Yes, I may travel to Britain next month as a British delegation has invited me to guide them on how to engage khateebs and imams (sermon deliverers and prayer leaders) in a constructive dialogue," Haq told AFP.

However, there may have been a communication mix-up there because another source has the guidance going the other way.

Haq told reporters he had been invited to visit Britain to help develop clerics' communication skills but he would only go if Britain apologised for Rushdie's knighthood.

Haq's co-nationals are also doing their bit for inter-faith dialogue.

Pakistani traders on Thursday announced a reward of 10-million rupees [£82,710] for anyone who beheads Salman Rushdie following Britain's decision to award the novelist a knighthood.

John Reid put it well.

I think we have a set of values that accrues people honours for their contribution to literature even when they don't agree with our point of view. That's our way and that's what we stand by.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Save money - capitulate

From Der Spiegel.

In 1972, more than three decades ago, Danish lawyer and part-time politician Mogens Glistrup had an idea that brought him instant fame. To save taxes, he proposed that the Danish army be disbanded and an answering machine be set up in the defense ministry that would play the following message: "We capitulate!" Not only would it save money, Glistrup argued, but it would also save lives in an emergency. On the strength of this "program," Glistrup's Progress Party managed to become the second-most powerful political party in the Danish parliament in the 1973 elections.

Glistrup had the right idea, but he was a number of years premature. Now would be the right time to set up his answering machine.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stop one war. Start lots.

Donald Horowitz on the consequences of withdrawal from Iraq.

BBC: Professional deformation

Side by side with the ongoing disgrace that is the BBC's coverage of the events in Gaza and the West Bank is the mealy-mouthed commentary on the events in Iraq. For PM's report on the bombing today, we heard from Andrew North (about 16 minutes in). The background to the bombing comes in one line.

There had been a relative lull in these attacks.

No reason for the "lull" is given, though it is implicit in what follows. Clearly, he can't possibly say that there have been some successes in Baghdad.

He then moves on to the operations going on north of the city.

It comes on the same day as American troops have launched a massive offensive against Al-Queda in an area outside Baghdad, in the city of Baqubah. Now, in effect, this is a response to the Surge because to some extent, the insurgents and Al-Queda have moved out of the city as a result of the US troop build-up here, but now the Americans have had to respond by moving extra troops up there to try and confront them in an area where al-Queda has virtually taken control. We're hearing reports of very intensive fighting from the ground. We don't have details yet on ...

On what? On the success of this important mission against the killers of children? On casualties among our closest allies, soldiers who fight shoulder to shoulder with our own men? Al-Queda casualties, even? (Oh, no. Bad taste that one.) On what then? In order to understand this confusing, difficult and crucial situation, we need details on...

civilian casualties, although it's quite likely there will be some.

So, that's all the BBC is interested in. Civilian casualties. Not to say that they are not important, but if all you know about a battle is the number of civilians killed, what will be your conclusions about the operation? That it was unnecessary and cruel. And that the cruelty is all the fault of the Americans.

Andrew North continues.

The Americans seem to be saying that this could carry on for some time. But I think many are saying, well we've seen this before - the americans launching major offensives, but then, yet again, the insurgents move on as we saw in Fallujah in 2004 and in so many other places. The problem now they have is they have all the extra troops that were called for under the Surge. There are very few others that they can call on and it's hard to see how they will stop the insurgents yet again moving on.

In other words, it's all a waste of time and civilian lives.

Notice the assumptions.

  • The terrorists took over Diyala because of American 'surge' pressure. Yes and no. Baqubah was set up last year as al-Queda headquarters for its Islamic State of Iraq. Its adherents who fled Baghdad were merely adding to those already there.
  • It's just Fallujah all over again. No glimpse of what Petraeus has been doing in the capital, the slow but sure build-up of a security network, the winning of allies, the securing of individual zones. Nothing.
  • It's all just a reaction to their reaction. No thought. No planning. This is not part of the Surge, but merely striking out against those pesky and invincible terrorists.
  • It's doomed.

Accursed be the sowers of discord and defeatism.

If you want some real information, go and read Bill Roggio or Michael Yon or Michael Totten.

Monday, June 18, 2007

And now...The Surge

This is what David Kilkullen was talking about. With the Battle of the Belts, the Surge is now really under way.

In the June 16 briefing given by Defense Robert Gates, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, General Petraeus explained that the past four months have set the stage for the "large, coordinated offensive operations" which kicked off over the weekend. The combat, logistics and intelligence pieces have been "put in place over the past several months," while a clear intelligence picture was developed of the regions surrounding Baghdad. "We have been doing what we might call shaping operations in a lot of these different areas [in the belts], feeling the edges, conducting intelligence gathering, putting in special operators."

The benighted fulminate

From The Telegraph.

"The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologises and withdraws the 'sir' title," Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, the religious affairs minister [of Pakistan], said.

"If Britain doesn't withdraw the award, all Muslim countries should break off diplomatic relations."

Can't imagine why the West accuses Muslims of extremism and terrorism. Can you?

I think this is Tony Blair's parting shot (as PM) at the great issue of our times - the nature of a liberal society, and where the boundaries of its tolerance lie.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Offended re-offended - Recidivists!

Salman Rushdie must be such a bad man. He's done it twice!

What's it worth to you?

From an article by Robert Kaplan called "Forgetting the Obvious".

“Decadence” is the essential condition of “a society which believes it has evolved to the point where it will never have to go to war.” By eliminating war as a possibility, “it has nothing left to fight and sacrifice for, and thus no longer wants to make a difference.”

It is in precisely such a situation that historical memory becomes lost, and forgetfulness obscures the obvious. When pleasure and convenience become values in and of themselves, false ends displace necessary means. It is as Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz said: While a good society should certainly never want to go to war, it must always be prepared to do so. But a society will not fight for what it believes, if all it believes is that it should never have to fight.

If you live in a society that has achieved such prosperity and stability that war seems to many inconceivable, to most a mistake, are you therefore rendered incapable of defending that society? If you have never had to fight for what you have, will you be able to when called on? Or will you think it better to curse those who call you to fight and take the part of the enemy? Will you defend the right of the enemy to attack you while attacking your own society's right to defend itself?

Nature has made up her mind that what cannot defend itself shall not be defended.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, June 15, 2007


 George Orwell, quoted by Nick Cohen.

Do remember that dishonesty and cowardice always have to be paid for. Don't imagine that for years on end you can make yourself the boot-licking propagandist of the Soviet regime, or any other regime, and then suddenly return to mental decency. Once a whore, always a whore.'

Or in the words of the dreadful old imperialist:

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:—

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”
Kipling, Dane-Geld

The usual suspects

Just in case you were wondering who should bear the responsibility for the chaos into which Gaza has plummeted, the BBC's PM has cleared it up. The fault is America's, Europe's and Israel's. BBC Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen, was on FiveLive this afternoon and he said the same thing. So there you have it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Il mio mistero

I clicked on the link because Tim Blair said that it led to something "absolutely brilliant". When I saw it was a talent show, and that a chubby little bloke from the Carphone Warehouse with crooked teeth was going to sing opera, I thought, 'The poor bugger is going to be humiliated'. So when I clicked play, I kept my finger ready to switch it off at the first bad note. I didn't click again.

I was glad to be sitting up here by myself in my lofty gloom so embarassing was my reaction. From what is seen of the audience and the judges, especially the woman, I was not alone.

They're expecting humiliation, too, but they can't switch it off or turn away. Why is the effect so strong? I think because we witness a fairy story in 3 minutes - Cinderella or The Ugly Duckling. There among God knows how many hopefuls is this very ordinary bloke with an extremely dull job who puts himself forward to have his self-delusions crushed in front of millions. And where pop is supreme, he's going to do it with something as pretentious as opera. He looks entirely wrong. He must fail.

But he doesn't. Far from it. With one of the great tenor show-off pieces, rising to a note which echoes even in the ears of angels, he triumphs. And the audience is with him all the way up.

Isn't that why these shows are so popular? They enact the universal fantasy of recognition for our hidden uniqueness, the wonder of us that we can never quite find the means to reveal. As the song says,
Il mio mistero e' chiuso in me
My mystery is locked within me

Not now, not for Paul Potts it isn't.

Forked question

From the excellent article in this month's Prospect by Shiv Malik about the background of Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 bombers, there is this conversation with Khan's brother, Gultasab.

I was sitting in his house for what would be the last time and we were going through the BBC script when Gultasab told me that he himself had become more religious over the last three years. For some reason, I translated my usual question of whether he thought what his brother had done was "good" or "bad" — he had said that it was a terrible thing several times — and instead asked him whether he thought 7/7 was halal (permitted) or haram (forbidden) in Islam. Only when a look of stunned surprise come over Gultasab's face did I realise that I must have been asking him an entirely different question. After a brief pause, he replied. "No comment."

All of us live with/in doublethink - it is not deplorable, it is inevitable. The difference between the importance of any single one of our acts on a national or worldwide scale and its importance on a personal scale is immeasurable, though that doesn't stop us from making use of it (What does it matter in the greater scheme of things if I betray you/do nothing/do what suits me/etc?). The reality of this difference is present in every day life, for example in the application of standards of behaviour which becomes gradually looser towards others the further from our inner circle they are. Thus the classic school conundrum: who would you rather died, your mother or 100 Sudanese? Thankfully, we rarely have to make such choices.

But what about Gultasab? How does he manage the doublethink, especially if one standard is in daily tectonic friction with the other? How typical is he? How widespread is Gultasab's hesitation before this forked question?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

David Kilkullen: Surge yet to start

Austin Bay interviews David Kilkullen, Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser to General Petraeus in Baghdad. Highly recommended for its clarity. If you want to understand what is going on in Iraq, this is a great help. For instance, Kilkullen doesn't like the word "surge" (though he slips occasionally himself) because it gives the wrong impression. According to the media, it started in January, 5 months ago, so why hasn't it worked yet? Kilkullen says here, the surge hasn't started yet. What's happened up to now has been preparatory. The Surge is about to start.

Media woe

Tony Blair's speech on politics and the media is everywhere in the media, as you would expect, but in the blogosphere as well. Ninme has gone so far as to promise to name her firstborn Anthony, though I think she's a bit promiscuous with her firstborn's name; I'm sure she's promised that before. Hugh Hewitt just played it all to his listeners and contented himself with a very occasional comment. I can't think of a greater tribute than that for a politician's speech.

I think Blair is right to focus on the technological and market forces that have created the context in which the modern media work. I wrote about this here concluding that the point of view adopted particularly by the television and its need to evoke sympathy, empathy and pity above all else was dangerous because it fatally weakened us.

A view dominated by sympathy is extremely limited. Precisely because it has such a hold over us, it is a great impediment to understanding. It distorts perspective; it does not allow the individual events to take their place in a longer and broader view. It reverses the visual logic in Egyptian murals by making the foot-soldier thrice the size of all the other figures in the landscape thus rendering the scene incomprehensible. He had to fight, and he died - that's all, apart from the pity, we will get. It also leads to passivity because it is a litany of helplessness and a rollcall of victims. Since we cannot, through this eyeglass, even glimpse the elements that led to the decisions distantly made; since the potentials averted by those decisions are invisible and weightless, how can that suffering appear if not senseless and cruel?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Books burn up the world

I must disseminate this. Gill obviously had such fun writing it, and if I were as exposed as I suppose he is to the New Righteous, I would be saying similar things.

But let me tell you, you Peruvian-hatted puritan apostles of grassy nihilism, the single hottest problem facing the planet is not global warming, but the viciously smug fundamentalist prohibitionists of the green movement. Those wholemealy-mouthed ecologists, who devoutly wish to reduce everyone else’s existence to a self-righteous nose-drip probity that never moves more than four miles from the communal yurt, never eats anything that hasn’t been grown in the communal dung and never thinks anything that isn’t collectively miserabilist, are going to destroy life as we know it faster than an equator of traffic jams, a continent of unlagged lofts and a squadron of circling jumbos.

As he descends from High Dudgeon, he points out something that I had never thought of.

Do you know how many books are published in this country every year? Think of a figure, double it and times by your age: 206,000. More than any other country in the world. America vomits out 172,000. Oman, by comparison, publishes seven; Niger, five. The total number of books published in 1996 was 1,170,620. That’s new books. And it’s an underestimate. Given an average print run of, say, 5,000, that makes about 5.85 billion books a year. Each costs about £1.30 to make. How much cash is that? How many trees is that? How much trapped CO2 released back into the atmosphere? How much bleach and chemicals? How much power to run plant, dyes and glues and packaging and marketing? How much transport? How much effort?

But, of course, there is no end to this. Every activity we do contributes to global warming, especially mouthing off about it. For the next decade, anyone overtaken by the need to be trenchant will be able to turn on you, sneer half way up his (or her) nose, and spit, "Do you realise...Do you have any idea ... of the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by people travelling to spend Christmas with their families? By lighting up their Christmas trees? By baking their turkeys? [Insert others according to taste and mood]"

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Jihadi Rules of slaughter

It is difficult not to laugh. I tell myself that these people are serious, but my happy childhood works against me and I just want to laugh. The Jihadi Rules of slaughter (according to The New York Times)

Rule No. 1: You can kill bystanders without feeling a lot of guilt.
[Mind you, they're not alone in this one. we mustn't forget our revolutionary forebears for whom the set of 'Innocents' in capitalist society was empty. And of course there's the immortal "Slay them all! God will know his own!" spoken by Arnold Amaury as he looked down upon Beziers during the Albigensian Crusade. The more you look, the more popular this position has been in history.]

Rule No. 2: You can kill children, too, without needing to feel distress.
[Difficult one this. You can't help but admire the fact that this is discussed; most would put it aside until after. Not our Jihadi imams. Comprehensiveness is all. And goes so far as to think of 'after'.

[C]hildren receive special consideration in death. They are not held accountable for any sins until puberty, and if they are killed in a jihad operation they will go straight to heaven. There, they will instantly age to their late 20s, and enjoy the same access to virgins and other benefits as martyrs receive.

Commendable. I do wonder about the age. I mean, given the number of virgins that they have to satisfy, would it be wiser to jump them to, I dunno, 18 or 19, when the hormones are strong enough to keep pumping beyond all sense and reason?]

Rule No. 3: Sometimes, you can single out civilians for killing; bankers are an example.
[This used to be a standard joke on British sitcoms. There could be copyright issues here.]

Rule No. 4: You cannot kill in the country where you reside unless you were born there.
[You get your passport by right of birth - you can kill by right of birth. Sounds reasonable.]

Rule No. 5: You can lie or hide your religion if you do this for jihad.
[Well, it's obvious, isn't it? You can't say that these people ignore the practicalities. I assume Osama has been told. If I were him, I'd go for Kevin, from Slough.

Rule No. 6. You may need to ask your parents for their consent.
[What further proof do you need that these people are serious and only have our well-being in mind (long-term, I mean)? Though I think that "may" shows a bit of pinky flip-flopping.]

(via PJM)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Age of Abundance

This puts it beautifully.

On the left gathered those who were most alive to the new possibilities created by mass affluence but who, at the same time, were hostile to the social institutions responsible for creating those possibilities. On the right, meanwhile, rallied those who staunchly supported the institutions that created prosperity but who shrank from the social dynamism they were unleashing.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A diversity of ghettos

An interview with Sonya Dyer.

[T]oday’s establishment-led diversity policies emphasise the supposed difference and separateness of non-white artists.

Paradoxically, this only ghettoises such artists, pushing them into separate systems of funding and exhibition. It also unfairly places a ‘burden of representation’ on ethnic minorities, who are expected to demonstrate their ethnicity in their work or be responsible for bringing in ‘diverse’ audiences into galleries and museums. It is as if the subject matter of non-white artists should always be about negotiating identity and certain members of the public can only appreciate work that reflects their own ethnicity. As Dyer asks: ‘Can’t we (non-white people) ever just make art?’

Good question that. (Though I would replace that "paradoxically" with "consequently").

Hell in Jerusalem?

Two articles on the same theme. Revolutionary fervour is great for a few months, especially for gung-ho young males with nothing else to do, but it does wear thin after a bit. It wears so thin that whatever social fabric you once had becomes so ragged that you can barely cover a woman's face with it. Such is the situation in the West Bank and Gaza. Two quotes. From US News.

'Give me hell in Jerusalem over paradise in the PA.'

From Reuters.

Jum'a said ordinary Palestinians were so fed up with the armed groups "they now wish the Israeli occupation would take over in Gaza or hope for the return of Jordanian rule in the West Bank" to get rid of them.

Very significantly, the Palestinians living in Jerusalem are arguing with their feet for the maintenance of the status quo; ie Israeli sovereignty. Why? Because, despite the fact that they are discriminated against in comparison to Isreali nationals, they live far better than their fellows over the fence.

"They just want to live normal lives, with security, with a little money in their wallets. They want their kids to be able to go to school. They want what everybody wants."

They want what everybody wants. Isn't that what Bush and Blair have been saying for some years now only to be shouted down as Western supremecists with no right to say what Others want? The evidence. Not in what people say, but in what they do.

Only 15 percent of them (Jerusalem Arabs) voted in last year's PA elections—compared with 78 percent of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

[I]n return for the taxes they pay to Israel, Arabs in Jerusalem receive healthcare and social benefits. And if Israeli police tend to be overly suspicious or worse toward Jerusalem's Arab population, they also tend to know their limits.

They are reporting crimes to Israeli police in greater numbers. There is also a big shift in the schools away from the PA-approved curriculum to the one approved by Israel—at the insistence of Jerusalem Arab parents.

The reasons for all this are certainly not entirely due to Israeli goodwill. If nothing else, it is simply the contrast between good governance and bad.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

D-Day ca. 2007

How today's media would report D-Day.

(via PJM)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Michael J. Totten interviews Professor Barry Rubin, author of The Truth About Syria.

Syria is not a radical regime because it has been mistreated by the West or Israel but because the regime needs radicalism to survive. It is a minority dictatorship of a small non-Muslim minority and it offers neither freedoms nor material benefit. It needs demagoguery, the scapegoats of America and Israel, massive loot taken from Lebanon, an Iraq which is either destabilized or a satellite, and so on.

Take the simple issue of the Golan Heights. It is commonplace to say that Syria wants back the Golan Heights. But one need merely ask the simple question: what happens if Syria gets it back? If Syria’s regime made peace with Israel it has no excuse for having a big military, a dictatorship, and a terrible economy. The day after the deal the Syrian people will start demanding change. The regime knows that.

Or economic reform. Again, many in the West take it for granted that the regime wants to take steps to improve the economy. But it would prefer to keep a tight hold on the economy rather than open it up and face enriched Sunni Muslim Arabs who hate the regime both due to their class status and their religious community.

The list goes on.

There's a lot more, including strong indications that the Syrians are behind the troubles in the Palestinian camp of Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon.

Rubin's logic carries force because it relies on the simple, direct logic of survival. Now I'm not entirely sure that the removal of Bashar Assad's regime would be a huge boon to mankind given that it would probably be succeeded by a Sunni religious regime. Nonetheless, we shouldn't kid ourselves about the nature and needs of the tyrants in power there now.

(via Instapundit)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

June 7th, 1967

A live broadcast on the Voice of Israel Radio, June 7th, 1967, as the Israeli Army enters Jerusalem. There's an English translation below.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The thing not done

John Derbyshire

Caught up with Hamlet and his hesitations, I found myself thinking of the thing not done. Does everybody have a thing not done? Perhaps not. I have one, and think of it daily-hourly, at dark times. For most of us, the thing not done is far better left undone, carried in silence to the other place; but Hamlet's is too imperative. After trying to keep his doubt alive by feeding it all the learning of the ages, and the new understandings of his own time, he goes and does the thing not done, taking us with him to the edge of the world.

I think I shall put Hamlet back on the shelf for a while, a long while.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The sins of the fathers

Dr. Josef Joffe is publisher-editor of the German weekly Die Zeit.

To regain moral stature, Europeans have turned anti-Fascism into a worldly doctrine of transcendence, into a secular Decalogue that reads: Thou shalt not pray to the discredited gods of nationalism; thou shalt not practice power politics, thou shalt relinquish sovereignty and rejoice in cooperation. From there, it is but a short step to the darker side of redemption. Don't the Israelis-and the Americans-behave in the evil ways we have transcended? Aren't we better than those who are a grating reminder of our unworthy past?

On Europe's military dependence on the United States.

A high official in the Pentagon recently told me that every French plane that took off in the post-Yugoslav skies had to be accompanied by four American planes. One to go in front to do the defense suppression, electronic warfare. One on each wing for protection. And one on its tail for damage assessment, which the French apparently have no capabilities for.

So here's the reason why the United States, by dint of its incredible conventional technological superiority-at this point at least-is forced to carry most of the burden, as it has in Bosnia and Kosovo, and of course in the Gulf War. It's easy for the Europeans to hang back because they know Big Daddy is there, and Big Daddy is incredibly rich and has technological goodies for which we don't have the money. So that too explains why the United States would trigger so many resentments because of its power, [and because it still] remains a much-needed player in these games.

On the 2006 war against Hizballah.

Morally, it was not exactly a shining moment, given the destruction of civilian infrastructure. But in Europe, there was something relentless, obsessive, and merciless about the criticism. For instance, in a poll taken six days into the war (Der Spiegel, 24 July 2006), almost two-thirds of the German respondents opined that ‘Israel had no right to eliminate the attacks of the radical-Islamic Hizballah'; only 22 percent conceded that right. Does this mean Israel should return to the classic Jewish role as victim? I hope that these figures don't prove that.

On anti-Zionism in Europe.

When one analyzes the basic anti-Zionist thrust of European opinion, one is quickly drawn to Europe's past that will not pass away. Many Europeans, though generations later, may feel a sense of inherited guilt about how their countrymen collaborated in the Holocaust or just stood by. Norway, perhaps the most anti-Israeli country in Western Europe, may have come to terms least with its collaboration. There was a lot more than Quisling. It is also among the fiercest critics of Israel. We might assume a correlation between the two.

It's all worth reading.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007


Charles Moore imagines the reaction if Israeli, and not Palestinian, nutters had kidnapped Alan Johnston. It is, in fact, all too easy to imagine. Just apply double standards, mix in righteous indignation, a touch of old Marxist rhetoric that you can't seem to shake off, and it's done.

Throughout Mr Johnston's captivity, the BBC has continually emphasised that he gave "a voice" to the Palestinian people, the implication being that he supported their cause, and should therefore be let out. One cannot imagine the equivalent being said if he had been held by Israelis.

Well, he is certainly giving a voice to the Palestinian people now. And the truth is that, although it is under horrible duress, what he says is not all that different from what the BBC says every day through the mouths of reporters who are not kidnapped and threatened, but are merely collecting their wages.

The BBC is, of course, not alone. Front stage, please, for the Universities and Colleges Union backed by the fearless National Union of Journalists.

The main universities of Israel are, in fact, everything that we in the West would recognise as proper universities. They have intellectual freedom. They do not require an ethnic or religious qualification for entry. They are not controlled by the government. They have world-class standards of research, often producing discoveries which benefit all humanity. In all this, they are virtually unique in the Middle East.

The silly dons are not alone. The National Union of Journalists, of which I am proud never to have been a member, has recently passed a comparable motion, brilliantly singling out the only country in the region with a free press for pariah treatment. Unison, which is a big, serious union, is being pressed to support a boycott of Israeli goods, products of the only country in the region with a free trade union movement.

Oh, how the Left has made itself ridiculous, institutional suicide bombers of the civilised world.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Boys are back

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden is proving a big hit in the US, helped not a little by support from Glenn Reynolds. Today he points us towards a reader's review on and this splendid GK Chesterton quote.

A child's instinct is almost perfect in the matter of fighting; a child always stands for the good militarism as against the bad. The child's hero is always the man or boy who defends himself suddenly and splendidly against aggression. The child's hero is never the man or boy who attempts by his mere personal force to extend his mere personal influence. In all boys' books, in all boys' conversation, the hero is one person and the bully the other. That combination of the hero and bully in one, which people now call the Strong Man or the Superman, would be simply unintelligible to any schoolboy....

But really to talk of this small human creature, who never picks up an umbrella without trying to use it as a sword, who will hardly read a book in which there is no fighting, who out of the Bible itself generally remembers the "bluggy" [bloody] parts, who never walks down the garden without imagining himself to be stuck all over with swords and daggers--to take this human creature and talk about the wickedness of teaching him to be military, seems rather a wild piece of humour. He has already not only the tradition of fighting, but a far manlier and more genial tradition of fighting than our own. No; I am not in favour of the child being taught militarism. I am in favour of the child teaching it.

My 5-year-old is confirmation of all the above, except maybe I wouldn't insist too strongly on the 'good'. Cricket stump as sword, beanpole as lance, bin lid as shield, he plays the original boys' game with great gusto and at great length, hauling into it Maccabees, legionaries, knights, Darth Maul, deinonychus and his brother. Above all, he likes winners. (Darth Maul's death upset him greatly.)

The Dark Room

From JonathanH, one of Tim Blair's commenters.

My son just broke up with his girlfriend because she and her friends like to pass the time on weekends by taking ecstacy or powdering up Ritolin and snorting it. Good kids, from nice families, with no fucking idea what they are doing. They’re seeding their own little cancer of misery deep into their bones and will quite possibly spend the next twenty years or possibly their whole lives in thrall to it, no doubt believing it’s somebody else’s fault. Weak, weak, weak.

Back in my younger days as an insufferable arts prick I used to tour with an Aboriginal comedian who was one of the happiest, most well-adjusted blokes I’ve met, despite seeing his father and most of his uncles commit suicide or rot away in prison. He used to get all sorts of racist abuse at times, and he never let it bother him. I asked him once how he stopped himself from getting angry. He just smiled and said: ‘I grew up in a dark room, and I got out of it and into the sunshine. I ain’t never going back into that dark room. Not for nothin’ or nobody.’

That’s what I call strength. Mastery of the self is the first essential step on the road to happiness. Yet we live in an age when the authentic self is not even held to exist anymore. So unhappiness abounds.

Clear messages

From the horse's mouth.

THREE former Islamic terrorists have praised Prime Minister John Howard for his tough stance on Muslim extremists in Australia.

Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani - all former covert operators for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation who now speak out against Islamic radicals - yesterday encouraged other world leaders to follow Mr Howard in being vocal against fundamentalist groups embedded in western nations.

Saleem, a computer software engineer who had terrorism training in Islamic cells around the world, said Mr Howard was an inspiration.

"We are so proud of John Howard and I would challenge any nation to look to what he did when he said 'if you don't like it in this country, get the hell out'," Saleem, 49, said yesterday.

"He's got guts and has given a clear message."

They should know.