Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another sort of cartoon war

Excellent cartoons about terrorism from the Arab press.

Thanks again, Ninme.

The people in the photo

Wonderful, moving story from WW2.

Thanks, Ninme.

PC and Gaia

Reviews of a couple of interesting books, once again from Spiked.

The first is Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case by Stuart Taylor Jr and KC Johnson. The title says it all.

And, of course, we all learn from our mistakes.

The second looks at Earthy Realism: The Meaning of Gaia, a collection of pieces on that other pillar of modern righteousness: environmentalism. It includes this wonderful tip:

Lie on your back on the ground outside in as peaceful a place as you can find, in the forest perhaps, or by the roaring sea…. Feel her [Earth’s] great continents, her mountain ranges, her oceans... Let yourself be “Gaia’ed” by the great round sentience of our living world. Deeply experience what it feels like to meld with the great wild body of our animate Earth...

To think how much time and blood the Church spent on suppressing pantheism, of what benefits we've had from said suppression. Any view that is based on a state of (initial or final) harmony is not only perverse; it's downright dangerous.

[Apologies for my watery contributions to the blogosphere; work and studies dominate.]

Using British libel laws

Five books you can't buy at Waterstones.

Unknown Soldiers: How Terrorism Transformed the Modern World by Matthew Carr - published by Profile Books in August 2006; withdrawn from sale and pulped following legal action in January 2007.

Alms for Jihad: Charities and Terrorism in the Islamic World by J Millard Burr and Robert O Collins - published by Cambridge University Press in April 2006; withdrawn from sale and pulped in August 2007

Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan by Michael Griffin - published by Pluto Press in 2001 and 2003; withdrawn and all unsold copies destroyed in March 2004.

Forbidden Truth by Jean-Charles Brisard, Guillaume Dasquié and Lucy Rounds - never formally published in Britain; withdrawn from all British outlets, including internet bookshops, in 2006.

Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It by Rachel Ehrenfeld, published by Bonus Books in America in 2003 - never formally published in the UK, yet it became the subject of a libel suit here after 23 copies were bought by Britons via internet bookshops, and is now not available at all in the UK.

Spiked asked the authors of five books on terrorism, all of which have been withdrawn because of libel action by one Saudi man, to describe what we cannot now read.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Keeping pace

How to change without changing: keep it quiet.

Between an oil refinery and the sea, the monarch is building from scratch a graduate research institution that will have one of the 10 largest endowments in the world, worth more than $10 billion.

Its planners say men and women will study side by side in an enclave walled off from the rest of Saudi society, the country’s notorious religious police will be barred and all religious and ethnic groups will be welcome in a push for academic freedom and international collaboration sure to test the kingdom’s cultural and religious limits.

This undertaking is directly at odds with the kingdom’s religious establishment, which severely limits women’s rights and rejects coeducation and robust liberal inquiry as unthinkable...

The king has broken taboos, declaring that the Arabs have fallen critically behind much of the modern world in intellectual achievement and that his country depends too much on oil and not enough on creating wealth through innovation.

“There is a deep knowledge gap separating the Arab and Islamic nations from the process and progress of contemporary global civilization,” said Abdallah S. Jumah, the chief executive of Saudi Aramco. “We are no longer keeping pace with the advances of our era.”

That last is a bit of an understatement. I remain convinced that as long as "the Arab and Islamic nations" are not contributing anything the rest of us consider useful, then they will suffer, and they will share their suffering with us.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Don't be clever

This is precious.

The children of Che Guevara, the revolutionary pin-up, had been invited to Tehran University to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their father’s death and celebrate the growing solidarity between “the left and revolutionary Islam” at a conference partly paid for by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president.

There were fraternal greetings and smiles all round as America’s “earth-devouring ambitions” were denounced. But then one of the speakers, Hajj Saeed Qassemi, the co-ordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom (who presumably remains selflessly alive for the cause), revealed that Che was a “truly religious man who believed in God and hated communism and the Soviet Union”.

Che’s daughter Aleida wondered if something might have been lost in translation. “My father never mentioned God,” she said, to the consternation of the audience. “He never met God.” During the commotion, Aleida and her brother were led swiftly out of the hall and escorted back to their hotel. “By the end of the day, the two Guevaras had become non-persons. The state-controlled media suddenly forgot their existence,” the Iranian writer Amir Taheri noted.

After their departure, Qassemi went on to claim that Fidel Castro, the “supreme guide” of Guevara, was also a man of God. “The Soviet Union is gone,” he affirmed. “The leadership of the downtrodden has passed to our Islamic republic. Those who wish to destroy America must understand the reality and not be clever with words.”

Remember that. Don't be clever with words. Or anything else.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Christopher Hitchens thinks that the term 'Islamofascist' is a good one; ie it is truly descriptive of the phenomenon it refers to.

The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. ("Death to the intellect! Long live death!" as Gen. Francisco Franco's sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined "humiliations" and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to sexual repression—especially to the repression of any sexual "deviance"—and to its counterparts the subordination of the female and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence; both burn books and destroy museums and treasures.

I think there's another reason to allow the term. That is, it is a reaction to the liberal tradition that stems from the Enlightenment. Just as Communism was a sort of Enlightenment Fascism and Nazism (and Fascism itself, though to a lesser degree) an anti-Enlightenment extremism, so the thought and action covered by the term Islamofascism is a radical reaction to the world created the forces of economic and political liberalism.

It is important that we remember that. It is the product of weakness and cultural failure; it does not even present any putative alternative, which is a where it differs from Communism and Fascism. It is an expression of incapacity, one that will help neither its practitioners nor those they claim to represent.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Michael Yon 'expands'

The lone reporter is going corporate. Well, not quite. Michael Yon is arranging to have his pieces syndicated for free, is redesigning the site and translating his work into 16 other languages. The why and the wherefore are here.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007


Cross pollination. This is a comment I posted on Hazar Nesimi's blog Universal Thoughts as a response to his post A Journey of a disaffected liberal. Part 1. I should add that both Hazar and his commenter Riri have lived in the UK.


Classical liberal democracy (which I continue to believe is the least worst of all systems) is not really an ideology because, as it was created in England, it is built on negatives. If you look at the founding documents (Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights of 1688), you will not find anything about the equality of man or any real assertions at all. They are mostly about limiting the power of the central authority, so there's a lot of "The King shall/must not...". These documents are part of a very gradual process, which continued over 700 years. Part of that process was not widening suffrage until people had the education to deal with it.

The point I'm getting to is that the view of liberal democracy in countries that don't have it is probably rather simplistic and sees it as the answer to all problems. (This is also the fault of Europeans, which since the French Revolution, have often championed an ideological democracy, separate from the Anglo-Saxon version, which found its full realisation in the Soviet Union.) It is a means of limiting government and taming conflict, especially religious conflict. It does this, not by oppression (they'd done that - it didn't work), but with a confined freedom. This was epitomised in Queen Elizabeth the First's statement, "I would not open windows into men's souls". Do you know why? She had just put a law through Parliament that established the Anglican Church as the church of England, and which set out what people had to do to show their 'good faith'. But, if people showed the outward signs of 'good faith', no-one was to go and inquire what those people really believed - that would almost certainly be very different and would thus cause problems. So let's avoid the problems by not asking.

Hypocrisy. But socially useful hypocrisy. That was the English method for a long time (the time of their greatest power).

Sorry to go on so much. I'm just trying to say that liberal democracy, as practiced in these islands, is not some grand theory about all human life; it's a gradually evolved method of avoiding and/or channeling conflict (for there will always be conflict) so that it doesn't disrupt society too much. (Do you know how far apart the benches of the governing party and the opposition are: two sword lengths; ie so far that the points can meet but they cannot clash - there are still hooks in the cloak rooms for MPs to hang their swords before entering the chamber.)

All of this is, I know, peculiar to the UK (though it is the basis of the American Constitution). It's not an ideology; it's a way of avoiding ideology. That's why you have someone like Alistair Campbell saying, while speaking on behalf of the very religious Tony Blair, "We don't do God".

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Under the river and over the hills

Aaron Klein is an orthodox Jew and a journalist on World Net Daily. Here he is talking to Ahmed, a 23-year old Palestinian man who volunteered to become a suicide bomber for the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.

Klein: [A] lot of academics in the United States and many of my colleagues in the media claim Palestinians become suicide bombers because they are poor and desperate and because of so-called Israeli occupation. Are you telling me these are not the reasons you want to blow yourself up amongst Israelis?

AHMED: The will to sacrifice myself for Allah is the first and most major reason. It is true that the Zionists are occupying our lands and that it is our religious duty to fight them, including through suicide attacks. The goal is not the killing of the Jews, but that this is the way to reach Allah.

The goal is satisfying Allah and his instructions. No money interests, nothing. No brainwash, no pressure; it is my decision. All the other lies are pathetic Israeli propaganda.

In quoting this, I'm not making any claims at all about the political and economic realities on the West Bank. The question is this: are those realities enough to turn someone into a suicide bomber?

I can believe they are enough to get someone to protest, to commit crimes, to pick up a gun, or a stone. That is the same everywhere and for everyone. But to choose to end your own life by ending the lives of others is different; it comes from some other place, under the river and over the hills, someplace I ain't never been.

It is probable that the establishment of a Palestinian state would keep many young people from exploring that other place. Yet it would still be there; it would still draw acolytes. Personally, I don't know how we can remove the possibility of that choice.

Read all of the interview. Ahmed is quite articulate (and, yes, he thinks he's going to get the 72 virgins). 

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


This is a necessary word, defined by Wikipedia as:

... misinformation packaged to look like fact. The claims of counterknowledge, such as those made by pseudohistorians and pseudoscientists, can be identified because there are facts to contradict them, or because there is no evidence to support them. Systems of counterknowledge can appear sophisticated, even internally consistent, but ultimately they are 'systems of counterfactual belief'.

And there's a website devoted to it, by Damian Thompson, the editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald, where he looks at such claims as "Muslims discovered America before Columbus" (wasn't it the Chinese?). He has another blog at the Telegraph called Holy Smoke.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Do nothing

Libby Purves starts with the hurricane of 20 years ago and ends with a parable.

When things are wrong there are certain necessary actions: safeguard life, reduce immediate harm, put the tiles back. After that you stop and think. Are there promising undergrowths yearning towards the new light? Would a bit of light judicious weeding help them to grow, rather than ploughing everything in and sowing new seed according to a Grand Plan? Do tidiness and symmetry really matter? Might the debris of the past fertilise future growth?

She is marking out here the rather hazy dividing line between the conservative and progressive minds. In fact, most people, parties and politicians are neither entirely one or the other. This is a good thing. The consequences of a too rigid adherence to either are often devastating.

On the one hand, you have the attitude that says, "As it was, so shall it always be". The most visible banners of this camp fly these days from the Middle East. On the other, there are the disasters of the 20th Century utopias in which the bureaucrats would plot the Big Solutions for the future from the terra rasa upwards.

In this country, we are more fortunate in that most people have a foot in both camps and the consequences, either good or bad, are rarely widespread. However, for some time now, the Big Solutions foot has trodden more heavily than the other. The cry of "What's the government going to do about it?" is heard daily, and New Labour always has an answer. Libby Perves gives this example:

“Reading Recovery” (RR), an intensive programme for slow readers at 6, had worked in New Zealand and was piloted here in the early Nineties, studies showing rapid improvement within weeks. It was due to become universal but in 1995 the Conservative Government pulled the plug on its funding and designed its own National Literacy Strategy, focusing not on the worst readers but on all children – whether they needed it or not.

Evidence shows that this works far less well, particularly for those in most need. In 1997 Labour looked at bringing back RR – having championed it in Opposition – but decided to refine the Literacy Hour instead. A limited RR now struggles on, scratching the surface, and teachers trained in it can’t get posts. Thus a promising shoot is trampled by the restless boot of innovation.

It's one of many. Now Gordon Brown is told that he has to project a vision, show that the government is not tired, innovate. Nothing wrong with that; it's just that the "vision" always involves the government doing more, never less. I'm waiting for the day that a minister, put on the spot by John Humphrys with his "What are you going to do about it?" actually has the nerve to say, "Nothing. It'll resolve itself".

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Neighbourhood watch

The paragraph below is quoted by Michael Yon in his latest dispatch. It's from an email by LTC James Crider of the 1-4 CAV stationed in Baghdad.

While the situation is always fragile, we have the initiative and the enemy here spends much more time reacting to us than we do to him. He can hide from us but he cannot hide from his neighbor.
[My emphasis]

That is exactly the situation as it should have been almost from the taking of Bahgdad. That is, a policing operation where criminals (people who break the law and work against the public good) are fenced in first by the very people they threaten most and are captured by the forces of order. Thankfully, al-Queda are so distant from sane as to allow this situation to come into being. The American army is gradually becoming a police force.

When the War on Terror was first declared, I thought it was overblown rhetoric and did too much honour to the bombers. My view was that it should be basically a police operation. Nevertheless, I supported the invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq because such countries were dangerous in what they could allow to be projected from them. I also believed in the democratising project of the neo-cons, and that the Middle East was a mess and would remain a mess unless we gave it a shove. In addition, the American government had not reacted to attacks on its people and property for too long and was sending a signal of weakness. And what is more provoking than weakness?

I never imagined how desperately bloody it would be or how the powerful a weapon was the bloody-minded determination to sow chaos, no matter what the cost. That tactic has now been turned on itself - the lures of blind nationalism and religious identity merely led to complete breakdown and have brought forth their opposite, a citizenry united in the hunger for order. Thankfully, they had a man like Petraeus there to answer the call.

But make no mistake; it began with the Sunnis of Anbar and their recognition that Islamism is a dead end. That awareness seems to be spreading across the country and towards the south. People want order and a half-decent life and the American army is the instrument. That's what Petraeus' new strategy comes down to - giving the people what they want. And, finally, they want what he can give.

Good policing. And that's how we should approach international terrorism. They cannot fight us in a war, but they can provoke us into unwise ones. Sometimes it will be necessary to escalate, but rarely. When that happens, the end-state to be sought will be more or less what is happening in Iraq now: becoming police (but more quickly), ensuring the order that people need to live their lives free of those who would 'save' them. The result in Iraq will not be what most of us would like to inhabit, but it will be better than Saddam and far better than it has been recently. It'll all happen again in one form or another. May we learn the lessons.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007


I loved Doris Lessing's reaction to her Big Day. I heard her first interview and she went on about the "minion" sent by the Nobel committee just to tell her that she'd never get the prize. This is a video of the moment she heard the news; she reacts with characteristic aplomb.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Intelligent Design and peer review

I'm putting this here to keep just in case I ever get into an argument with a proponent of Intelligent Design. It may also be useful to you. From John Derbyshire.

This is an exchange from the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case in 2005. It is between Eric Rothschild, who was the lawyer for the plaintiffs, and Michael J. Behe, an American biochemist and one of the leading advocates of intelligent design.

Rothschild. Now you have never argued for intelligent design in a peer reviewed scientific journal, correct?

[Repetitive exchange omitted.]

Behe. That's correct.

R. And, in fact, there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred, is that correct?

B. That is correct, yes.

Intro to the case (from Wikipedia)

Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., Case No. 04cv2688, was the first direct challenge brought in the United States federal courts against a public school district that required the presentation of "Intelligent Design" as an alternative to evolution as an "explanation of the origin of life." The plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the school board policy thus violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The exchange above was dug out by one of John Derbyshire's readers (unnamed). The reader adds:

All along the Discovery Institute has claimed (which claims continue to this day despite Prof. Behe's unequivocal admission) that there are a plentitude of such articles. (In this regard, I am unaware of any serious academic articles that have appeared since the fall of 2005, when the testimony quoted above was given.) Apparently the Discovery Institute, and people like Mr. Bethell, don't believe even the sworn testimony of the DI's own star fellow. Except for the outcome itself, this was, I thought, the biggest news in the whole trial.

Sideways promotion

David Pryce-Jones about Mohamed Fayed's fixation that the Duke of Edinburgh had the British secret services assassinate his son and Diana.

There is no record of British secret services murdering anyone anywhere at any time. Brigadier Mason-Macfarlane was British military attaché in Berlin before the war, and in a memorandum in 1938 he offered to shoot Hitler. Horrified superiors had him transferred at once to be governor of Gibraltar. Michael Grant, a wartime intelligence officer and afterwards vice-chancellor of Belfast university, once told me how early in the war he had had a hand in recruiting a Military Intelligence team of assassins. The authorities were then so frightened by the men they had trained that they kept them enclosed in a country house in Worcestershire for the rest of the war, and disbanded them as quickly as they could.

I have no idea about the factuality of the above, (though he says carefully, "There is no record..."), but I love the reaction to a man volunteering to shoot Hitler:  make him governor of Gibraltar.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Whose idealism?

Roger Simon charts his journey from the New Left in the Sixties to the neo-con camp in the late Nineties. An emblematic and interesting journey, and well written, too.

As is well known, by the end of the Vietnam War, many of us came to the conclusion there was something seriously wrong with America, largely ignoring the obvious that there will be something wrong with all societies since they are composed of fallible humans. We were the big guys and we were therefore at the greatest fault. And one of the clearest areas of our villainy was that we supported or tolerated right wing dictators like Pinochet, Somoza, the Arab potentates, etc.

Although I didn’t fully realize it then – I considered myself at that point aligned with the New Left – the neocons agreed with that position. They pointed out, however, that in addition, opposition to leftist dictators in China, the Soviet Union and Cuba was justified. Their position against totalitarianism was consistent. Mine, and my friends, was not. We gave a pass to Fidel and company.

It is this opposition to totalitarianism that will bring the neo-cons back into flavour some day. Just as it is the selectiveness of many on the Left with regard to totalitarianism that makes their high-moral-ground rhetoric so hollow. And not only that. As Simon points out, the neo-cons had taken up the banner of idealism at a moment when the Left had little left but resentment. So that today when they call for the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear that there is nothing there of concern for 'the people' or of solidarity with those who might just be able to have some of what we do - no, it is the resentment of those whose day on the high ground is over, and who have nothing left but their antipathies.

The Americans have made many, many mistakes in Iraq and the cost in Iraqi lives of those mistakes has been heinous (even if they are not directly responsible for most of those deaths), but they have not yet committed the biggest mistake of all, which would be to leave the country in this mess.

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Who speaks

"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Big decisions - Little reasons

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been in the news again over the refusal by the Dutch government to continue funding her security arrangements. Pieter Dorsman at PJM analyses what led to this decision, an analysis notable for its lack of hysteria and clear-eyed understanding.

Firstly, on a cultural level the Dutch dislike heroes and outspoken success stories, more than once have I explained to foreigners that famous national mantra “act normal, that is strange enough’. Even at the height of her popularity Hirsi Ali was disliked by most Dutchmen. She was too outspoken, disrupted the existing order even though many felt she had a valid point. Hirsi Ali herself never grasped this and took her newfound freedom literally, never finding the right note that would allow her to really fit into the ‘Dutch debate’. Secondly, on a practical level the entire approach to her – her eviction from her apartment, the questions over her passport and her security – were all dealt with in purely administrative and legal terms. Not once did moral considerations or feelings enter a string of bizarre decisions that on its surface appear to be defensible yet upon closer examination lacked any reasonable basis and merely provided an easy justification for many to expedite Hirsi Ali’s exit. Thirdly, and that is something I have more than once addressed on my own blog, the Dutch are not tolerant by nature: at best they are pragmatic, at worst indifferent.

I think that description of the Dutch could as well be applied here and in many other places. The resolution of big questions often comes down to inertia, legalisms and indifference.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Cittáslow is a movement started during the Nineties in Italy and inspired by Slow Food. Its ambitions are far greater than its parent; it is aiming to transform the life-style of small cities (under 50,000 inhabitants) by controlling many of the most implacable features of modern life.

The Slow City manifesto contains over 50 pledges, such as cutting noise pollution and traffic, increasing green spaces and pedestrian zones, backing farmers who produce local delicacies and the shops and restaurants that sell them, and preserving local aesthetic traditions.

I have two immediate and contradictory reactions. The first is scepticism and a desire to scoff at day-dreams of the Good Life of Yore. The second, inspired by the deep pleasure that Italian (small) city life can give, wants it to succeed.

Despite the anti-capitalist rhetoric that often accompanies such movements, and the bureaucratic tangle that awaits them if they are not clever, now is the time when such luxuries as this can succeed, thanks in part to the technological and educational achievements of capitalism. As the virtual infrastructure takes more and more of the load off the physical one, it becomes more possible to create the necessary wealth to support the Slow City. It would not be feasible in most places. It may well be feasible in Western Europe, and I hope it is.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

You know it's a tragedy

In case you don't follow these things, New Zealand lost the Rugby World Cup quarter-final to France on Saturday. You don't think that's very important, do you? No, of course, you don't. I bet you're also a climate-change denier. Well, be prepared for a consciousness-lift courtesy of the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters.

It would have been a big lift for our country psychologically [winning the World Cup] and a big lift economically as well. When people feel better, they produce more, they work harder, they just are happier. They don't beat up their children and their wives - so you know it's a tragedy.

Hamburg Lessons, Al Quds Mosque, 2000

It won't be a box-office hit. 133 minutes of lessons imparted by an imam in a German mosque, translated into German and delivered by an actor sitting on a bench. No cut-aways, no documentary background, or reconstructions. Lessons, Hamburger Lektionen to be precise by director Romuald Karmakar. His previous film, The Himmler Project, used a similar method to recreate a speech given by Heinrich Himmler at a meeting of SS generals in which he outlined his famous "final solution".

The point is who, and when.

At the end of the 1990s Mohammed Fazazi became Imam of the Al Quds mosque in Hamburg. In January of the year 2000, during the last few days of Ramadan, Fazazi held a number of ‘lessons’ in the mosque’s prayer room, during which those present were able to pose questions on various aspects of life that they would normally have to submit in writing. These sessions were recorded on video tape anonymously and distributed in the mosque’s book shop, but also outside the mosque. After the attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington, it became known that three of the four suicide pilots, but also others – members of the so-called Hamburg Group – had attended the Al Quds mosque regularly, and were in close contact with Imam Fazazi.

Mohammed Fazazi was the spiritual leader of Salafia Jihadia, a Moroccan-based militant group and has been linked to the Madrid bombings as well as suicide attacks in Casablanca for which he received a 30-year jail sentence in 2003.

A quick summary of what he had to say.

Islam dictates every last detail in the life of the believer. Unlike Judaism or Christianity, it is the only "complete", "perfect" religion, to which the law, politics and private life must submit. The appalling physical punishments of Sharia serve to guarantee the well-being of the Islamic community, the Umma. And this community is in the process of fighting a war against the "unbelievers". The West declared war on Islam which is why Muslims living in Germany and other European countries are in hostile surroundings. The Germans, French and English are not non-believers with whom the Muslim can live together in peace by agreement, but rather wartime enemies who one may kill "by slitting the throat" at any time. Whether or not it comes to that depends on the balance of power. After centuries of colonial exploitation, the Islamic world is in a position of weakness. Muslims have to use their strength cleverly. Fazazi's audience – so the subtitles inform us – likes to giggle when the Imam gives this sort of advice.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

What keeps the rich rich and the poor poor?

You will have heard this put in other ways (rule of law, trust, education) but a recent study by the World Bank has sought to quantify it (there's an article about it here). If their figures are in any way credible, the difference made by those factors is incredible.

Put it this way. If you were Mexican, you'd be mad not to make a break for the border. It's not so much that the average American has more money in his bank account; it's the "intangible capital" that the American can draw on that makes the difference: $418,000 compared to $34,000.

The "intangibles" are broken down into the rule of law, which accounts for 57%, and education, 36% of the total. Countries are then rated on each. On the rule-of-law index, for example,

The members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development—30 wealthy developed countries—have an average score of 90, while sub-Saharan Africa's is a dismal 28.
The article quotes the development economist Peter Bauer who in 1972 wrote a book called Dissent on Development (Currently unavailable on Amazon UK). In it, he said
If all conditions for development other than capital are present, capital will soon be generated locally or will be available . . . from abroad. . . . If, however, the conditions for development are not present, then aid . . . will be necessarily unproductive and therefore ineffective. Thus, if the mainsprings of development are present, material progress will occur even without foreign aid. If they are absent, it will not occur even with aid.
I've got no idea how the World Bank came up with these figures, and I probably wouldn't understand it if they told me, but the basic insight seems irrefutable.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

His worth hath no end

If you have tears to shed... I had.

Christopher Hitchens writes about a young man whom his articles had helped persuade to enlist, and who was killed by an IED. It is very moving.

Mark Daily wrote this to his wife of 18 months.

One thing I have learned about myself since I've been out here is that everything I professed to you about what I want for the world and what I am willing to do to achieve it was true. …

My desire to "save the world" is really just an extension of trying to make a world fit for you.

Israeli raid on Syria

Is this the truth about the Israel's bomb raid in Syria this September?

In early July the Israelis presented the United States with satellite imagery that they said showed a nuclear facility in Syria. They had additional evidence that they said showed that some of the technology was supplied by North Korea.

One U.S. official told ABC's Martha Raddatz the material was "jaw dropping" because it raised questions as to why U.S. intelligence had not previously picked up on the facility.

Officials said that the facility had likely been there for months if not years.
Inspires you with confidence in our intelligence agencies, doesn't it?

I think it must be something like this. Otherwise, how else do you explain the reverberating silence around the Arab world after this raid? Either they knew, or the Israelis convinced them with the evidence; either way, they must have approved. Unsurprisingly.

Not surplusage

Another quote from Robert Heinlein.

All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly, which can — and must — be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a "perfect society" on any foundation other than "Women and children first!" is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly — and no doubt will keep on trying.
This is a statement of the usually-forgotten obvious, one which therefore needs restating. The only niggle is that it seems to imply that, as long as the "Women and children first!" rule is observed, it is all right to attempt to formulate a perfect society, when in fact it never all right.

Green Lives

My daughter took these photographs this July in Beijing.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The genealogy of kindness

I just found this page of Robert Heinlein quotes, many of which I have copied into Evernote. The speaker below is actually a man called Jerry Pournelle, who, in speaking about Heinlein, also quotes him.

When I finally decided to get out of politics, academia, and the aerospace industry and try my hand at writing, Mr. Heinlein was enormously helpful. Years later, when I was an established writer, I asked him how I could pay him back.
"You can’t," he said. "You don’t pay back, you pay forward." I never forgot that, just as I never forgot the wonderful things his ‘juvenile’ stories did for me.

"You don’t pay back, you pay forward." When we went to live in Italy with no money and two children, if natural selection had had full sway, we would have been extinct within weeks so gormless was I. Darwinian forces were held at bay by many people, some of whose acts of kindness were prolonged and profound. And of course, being gormless, broke and ignorant, I could never have paid them back. Not then, not ever.

The kindnesses could not be returned, but they could be passed on. And on and on. The genealogy of kindness is not direct like that of revenge, but it travels much further.

Monopoly on good sense unjustly held by others

I find his vehement atheism rather silly, but the fact that Richard Dawkins says things like this below makes me wonder just how much superstition this much-vaunted rationalist carries about with him.

When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.

Presumably, the Jews are able to do this because they can call on God to do some interior lobbying in the dead of night. Or do they use the Kaballah? Is there such a thing as Jewish witchcraft?

Oh, and he's also made that essential PR move of identifying atheists as Victims.

Atheists in the US "have been downtrodden for a very long time. So I think some sort of political organisation is what they need", he said.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

The more you know, the worse it gets

Richard Benkin, who has been working to save Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury from Bangladeshi 'justice' looks at the Islamist infiltration of Bangladesh and one group of its victims.

His story begins in Afghanistan in 2004 as Al-Qaida members on the run after the invasion were helped by Pakistani border guards into Kashmir and then, via negotiations on their behalf by Islamists in Pakistan's Nepalese Embassy, on to the protection of the communist insurgents in  that country. From there, they worked on gaining institutional power in Bangladesh, a process already well under way at their arrival.

Bangladesh is an incredibly poor country in the throes of a huge ideological and cultural battle. Among the many victims on this field of conflict are Bangladeshi Hindus. There's a law called the Vested Property Act according to which the government can

seize property belonging to non-Muslims and hand it over to Muslims of their choice, forcing the former (mostly Hindu) to flee the country...Dr. Sachi Dastadar, who has studied this phenomenon for decades, used the government's own figures and counted 1.3 to 3.3 million acres of Hindu land seized in the 1990s alone. The victims have been subjected to murder, mutilation and ritualized gang rape, as well as the legalized thievery. At first, private gangs committed the atrocities, but later victims reported government officials and uniformed men led the attacks.

These Hindu Bangladeshis flee to West Bengal, to the charity of their co-religionists, or so you would think.

But the area bordering Bangladesh, West Bengal, has had a communist government since 1977 and offered no succor. Rigid atheists, the communists reject any bonds of faith in favor of their internationalist goals and have thrown their lot in with the Islamists. VPA victims have been put in camps then sent on forced marches when the government decided to seize the land. The West Bengal Stalinists refuse to recognize them as refugees or give them any legal standing, though many of them have been living there for decades. It also has turned a blind eye to cross-border attacks and further Muslim atrocities.

These people don't seem to be high on anyone's list of those in need of help. Richard Benkin has been asked to investigate and publicise their plight.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Redundant stupefaction

This is way out of date, and, no, I haven't been following the conferences, but did Gordon Brown really say, "British jobs for British workers"? He must have had to jolly along some unionists so that they wouldn't cause him any trouble when ... Is this the vital clue that he is going to call an election? Surely only the need for union support in an election could wring out of him something so inane and demagogic. Ha! I've cracked it.

...Well, did he do it? Is there going to be an election? That's British jobs for British workers, isn't it?

Bad guys falling

From the Long War Journal.

The September 20 capture of an Iranian Qods Force - Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commander in the northern Kurdish province of Sulimaniyah created a stir inside both Iran and Iraq. The Iranians swiftly closed the northern border, claiming the man was an Iranian trade delegation representative named Agha Farhadi on a sanctioned business trip. Multinational forces Iraq later identified the Iranian as Mahmud Farhadi. Today, Major General Kevin Bergner, the spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq, disclosed that Farhadi was in fact the commander of one of the three Iranian commands inside Iraq.

A man on a 'sanctioned' business trip is taken prisoner and they close the border?

Also, another al-Queda chief gets copped, their "emir of the Iraq/Syrian border" (wonder if that's what's on his office badge).

Bergner said several documents were found in Muthanna's custody, including a list of 500 al Qaeda fighters from "a range of foreign countries that included Libya, Morocco, Syria, Algeria, Oman, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom."

Isn't that great? Everyone's contributing, even us.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Guerillas with tenure

I have posted about Western self-hate many times (in fact, it is probably the main theme of this blog), so the quote below (from here) says nothing new. I just wanted it for the Irving Howe coinage.

The Western world is the only civilization in history whose intellectual class has embraced societal self-loathing as a mainstream ideology — even as we have single-handedly launched a global human-rights revolution that, to our everlasting glory, has liberated gays, women and a dozen other formerly persecuted groups from discrimination. In the Cold War, our ivory-tower “guerillas with tenure” (to cite Irving Howe’s phrase) didn’t sink our ship because the enemy was itself a hollow shell spouting an ideology nobody believed.

On the importance of Ahmadinejad, please read the comment by Hazar Nesimi to the post below. It includes the unlikely snippet that Iran has created "religious heavy metal". I'm not at all sure what to make of that.

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