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interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
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Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
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Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
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Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
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Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
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The New Vichy Syndrome:
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Jihad and Genocide
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Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

The Iconoclast

Friday, 10 August 2007

"Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has been quoted by an Israeli newspaper as saying that a peace deal with the Palestinians anytime soon is 'fantasy.'"-- from this news article

And who was an active promoter of such a fantasy, if not the brave and impressive warrior, and distinctly timid and unimpressive political leader, Ehud Barak? Who wanted to give away the store but was prevented from doing so at the last minute by Yassir Arafat? Who has given no signs, still, of understanding why it is that the surrender of territory, territory to which Israel has the best legal, moral, and historic claim, and territory which it must hold on to if it is to live in a state of difficult, but not utterly intolerable and maximum peril (which is what giving up control of any part of the "West Bank" would mean, control of the invasion routes through the heights of Judea, control of the aquifers -- control, period -- for the Israelis.

Of course "peace" as based on treaties with the Arabs is not merely a "fantasy" for now. It is and always will be a fantasy. You don't believe that? You just can't bring yourself to believe that because it is simply too upsetting? Tough. Go read about the Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya. And then read what, for 1350 years, Muslims have made of the Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya, and how deeply truly passionately they take the model of Muhammad, making his temporary bargain with the Meccans (in 628 A.D.) in order to buy time in which he and his followers could gain strength, to their Muslim hearts.

Unless and until the political leaders in Israel do the most obvious thing -- that is, find out about Islam, find out about what the texts -- Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira -- inculcate, what the model of Muhammad, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, offers them now, unless they understand that the reason that every single agreement made between the Israelis and the Muslim Arabs have been, in ways little and big, been breached by the Muslim side, again and again and again, while the Israelis always scrupulously fulfill their solemn undertakings and then are constantly amazed, surprised, taken aback -- how idiotic can they be? how stupid and uninformed about Islam will they, facing a permanent Jihad that does not disappear no matter what surrenders of territory they make? -- by the Muslim behavior. Were Israeli political figures not so mediocre, they would raise the issue, raise it openly. They would raise it among themselves, they would raise it with the Americans, they would raise it with the goddam "Quartet," they would bring their copies of Majid Khadduri's "War and Peace in Islam," they would quote from Muslim authorities setting out clearly the state of permanent war (though not necessarily open warfare on the battlefield) between Believers and Infidels, they would, in short, get the whole thing out in the open, instead of willfully refusing to find out about this, confronting it, discussing it, holding it up for public inspection, and above all, forcing their enemies to publicly admit to, or publicly repudiate, the doctrine that Al-Hudaibiyya represents.

This cannot be avoided if Israel is to survive. Does its political class have the desire or understanding of what it takes for that tiny, threatened, permanently imperiled country to survive? Peace can be maintained, but only if the doctrine of "Darura" (which google) is relied on: that is, the deterrence that prevents an Arab attack, because the Arabs and other Muslims will understand not only that Israel is more powerful, but that Israel will be overwhelmingly more powerful and will be capable of massively destroying its enemies, and will be willing to do so. That will keep the peace. Nothing else will; all the rest is blague presented by those who don't want to, can't be bothered to, are too exhausted or stupid to, find out the truth and make policy accordingly. And so many others -- think Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller, Martin Indyk, Richard Hass -- all those shuttle diplomatists, negotiators, pretend "experts" on something they call the "Arab-Israeli" or perhaps the "Israeli-Palestinian" problem, and wish to perform the impossible task of dealing with, "solving" in fact, this "problem" (it isn't a "problem" to be "solved" but rather a condition to be recognized and dealt with as best one can, and the best way is to recognize and never forget that negotiations and treaties between Infidels and Believers mean nothing to the latter, or rather, are seen only as a temporary expedient. Too many people have spent their professional lives dedicated to the proposition that they can engage in a soi-disant "Peace Process" involving Muslims, without actually bothering to find out what Muslims believe, what they have acted upon for more than a millennium, when it comes to treaties and treaty-making with Infidels, both those who were too powerful to oppose, and those who turned out, after a while, not to be.

Hamlet without the Prince -- that's what all these Peace Processors are all about. Uneducated about Islam, and still defiantly, even proudly, a group of Yesterday's Men, they need to be mocked, and if possible, pushed out of all their present sinecures at assorted mighty-morph-rangers think-tanks where they are supported in fabulous style by donors who think, quite incorrectly that these are people devoted to the cause of Israel and of peace. They are neither, and they cannot be, as long as they persist in ignoring the centrality of Islam. They ought to be discharged, and replaced by those who do see the war against Israel, correctly, as a Lesser Jihad without end -- but, if the Israelis and the rest of the West, especially the United States, do not lose their heads and act with sufficient determination and understanding, a conflict that is not hopeless but perfectly manageable, just as is the Greater Jihad against Infidels all over the world, in Dar al-Harb, and within Dar al-Islam.

Posted on 08/10/2007 1:56 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Friday, 10 August 2007

In today's Radio Derb, I pass some remarks about "quants"—i.e. quantitative analysts, the guys who do the heavy number-crunching in Wall Street's back offices. These guys generally (though by no means always—it's pure meritocracy on the quant floor) have a Ph.D. or two in math and allied subjects. They are very smart:

IQs up around three sigmas from the mean for their population group.

(Above three sigmas, you're in the top one or two per thousand.)

Well, here is something on the recent market ructions from an actual quant—an exceptionally knowledgeable & accomplished one, who's been doing this stuff for 20 years. I've doctored it slightly to remove identifying traces, and to improve the English. (These guys tend to think too fast to be bothered with formal grammar, and are anyway often recent immigrants with a first language other than English.)

"On the off chance that you or the folks at NER are interested, I thought I'd relate a few of the goings on from the quantitative space of the financial markets. ...

"The program trading systems known as 'statistical arbitrage' have been running for years now and have become very popular. Some of them have made billions of dollars by exploiting small statistical abnormalities in the relationships between various stocks. But the problem is that the vast majority of these programs work based on an assumption of eventual convergence, so as more people do the same thing, the spreads between instruments begin to close and more leverage is required to get the same level of absolute return on the investment. These days, many of these strategies run from 3 to 10 times leverage (I've even heard of one which runs at 12 times leverage) meaning for every dollar they have invested, they have borrowed an additional 3 to 10 dollars and invested that as well.

That causes you to accumulate something called 'liquidity risk', meaning it will take you something like 3 to 10 times as long to sell the position in an emergency.

"When the credit market had its crisis, it caused just such an emergency. Several large players needed capital to meet their margin, so they sold in the most liquid market they have which was the US equity stat-arb space. The problem is, there are only so many assets available in the US market, and only so many statistical abnormalities, so since many of these guys all had the same mathematical training, and were using the same data, they were all finding the same alpha. It's like 10 guys each digging a gold mine only to discover a mile below the earth that they were all mining the same vein, and now the ground above them is too weak to support the roof. The selling by the big players caused stop-loss limits to be triggered at other firms, so there was more selling which caused more triggers to be hit and so on, and so on.

"Ironically, it's the best companies (those with the best forward prospects) that are most aggressively being sold off, and the less healthy companies which are being bought up, so this liquidity crisis is actually causing a fairly large value inefficiency in the market, and if someone can figure out when to try to catch the falling knife, they are going to make a lot of money. The economy is still in pretty good shape in spite of this market issue, but their assets are being systematically mis-priced in the market anyway. That can only happen temporarily since the market is so naturally self-correcting, and on that correction someone is going to make a killing.

"As for my personal quantitative strategy, since it identifies value from a different basic operating paradigm than statistical arbitrage, I'm having a small loss (less than 2%) and a rise in volatility, but nothing outside the expectations of the model. In point of fact, my year is still going quite well, but that isn't the case with most of the industry. I was on a conference call yesterday with [name of a renowned quant], and of the [three-digit number] people on the call, I think I was the only one who was still at a healthy profit on the year."

Posted on 08/10/2007 1:46 PM by John Derbyshire

Friday, 10 August 2007

Though it might be thought that America and Israel, the Great Satan and the Little Satan, are the main bogeymen of the Islamic Republic of Iran, "England" (never Great Britain) is the hereditary enemy, the enemy whose wiles long predate the existence of Israel, or the might of America. In this view of England, the coup against weepy Mossadegh may have been carried out by the Americans, with all their money and their operatives, by Kermit Roosevelt and others of that ilk, but behind them, in essence manipulating them, so the Iranian narrative has it, a narrative shared by those who detest the Islamic Republic of Iran but cannot blame Islam for its existence, and find themselves necessarily blaming, in the end, the Infidels, personified by "England" which engineered the coup against Mossadegh which, in turn, supposedly made inevitable a quarter-century later the ascension to power of Khomeini. It consoles the Iranian nationalists, who also allow themselves to believe that the islamic Republic of Iran is a transitory phenomenon, when it is in fact reflective of the primitive Muslim masses, who outnumber the Bakhtiars and the Nafisis and the Hoveydas and all the others, with first names such as "Cyril" and "Darius," who under the Shah, and his father, never had it so good, nor did the Jews, the Bahais, and the Christians.

Despite the loss of its empire, England lives on as a powerful intriguing menace in the minds of Iranians. It must be both amusing, and flattering, for those English people aware of the standing, in a sense, that their country retains in the minds and mythology of even the most anti-Khomeini, and outwardly rational, thoroughly westernized and secularized Iranians. The atmospherics of Islam, the attitudes of Islam, so suffuse Iran that the willingness to believe every kind of conspiracy theory -- so pronounced in Muslim societies -- affects even those who reject most of Islam. Only those who make a clean mental break, and see Islam's encouragement of the habit of mental submission, can get beyond such conspiracy theories. There are never, in any society, many people capable of making a clean break with the prevailing ideology, and when that ideology is such a Total System as Islam, such people are especially rare.

Posted on 08/10/2007 1:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Friday, 10 August 2007

From The Scotsman.
SUSPECTED Muslim militants killed and decapitated two elderly Buddhists, then burned their houses in southern Thailand.
The attacks in Yala province last night followed a security sweep by government forces in the region this week in which 120 Muslim suspects were held for questioning, police and army officials said.
What a silly phrase "suspected militant" is. The article has no doubt that the elderly Buddists were murdered - how much more suspicious can you get?

Posted on 08/10/2007 1:07 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax

Friday, 10 August 2007

From The Scotsman
MAURITANIA has passed a law promising prison terms for people who keep slaves - a monumental step in the north-west African nation's push to eliminate the long-standing practice.
The law, adopted on Wednesday by the country's parliament, calls for prison sentences of up to ten years for people found keeping slaves, and fines and reparations for those who have been enslaved.
Slavery has existed for hundreds of years in Mauritania - a poor nation of Muslim nomads and traders on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Yet it has been hard to know how persistent the practice is, because owners and slaves often have lived together for decades and consider one another to be family members.
The government officially abolished slavery in 1981, but no-one has ever been prosecuted, and no law set a punishment.
"It's a historic moment for Mauritania," said Boubacar Ould Messaoud, president of the activist group SOS Slavery.  We are very happy - the democrats won this battle."

Posted on 08/10/2007 1:04 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax

Friday, 10 August 2007

From The Times:

An Iranian newspaper once quipped that to join the British Foreign Office you had to be an “incorrigible bugger”. Now Iranian media claim to have uncovered further evidence of British perfidy and debauchery.

A secret tunnel used to sneak “spies and prostitutes” into the historic British Embassy in Tehran has been uncovered by local workmen, it was maintained this week.

Labourers digging the foundations for a carpet shop opposite the embassy on a bustling avenue in the heart of the capital stumbled across a “huge” underground passageway, they said.

A blogger who used to work at the embassy claimed on one news website that “the British Embassy is using the tunnel for the comings and goings of spies linked to the embassy and prostitutes”.

Iran’s state-run radio ran a similar report, brief but excitable, and urged listeners to remain tuned in for further revelations.

While the lurid accusations will sound ludicrous to Western ears, they might sound less so to many Iranians who are steeped in the history of British imperial meddling in Iran in the 19th and 20th centuries.

British diplomats in Tehran were not prepared to comment on the claims, giving the impression that such reports were too absurd – and too frequent – to dignify them with a response.

We all know what that means. I believe the Iranians, although it is a bit rich coming from a country where prostitution and "temporary marriage" is rife. Members of our Camel Corps are notorious for swooning over the swarthy.

Posted on 08/10/2007 8:46 AM by Mary Jackson

Friday, 10 August 2007

I am mortified to realise that I didn't spot an obvious error made by Americans on the subject of tea. Not their first, and probably not their last. From my earlier post:

American experts advise that one does not “take” tea; that being a vulgar expression of the lower classes. One “drinks” tea.

A letter in today's Times points out the mistake:

Sir, “Taking” tea, “a vulgar expression of the lower classes”? (“How dare you dunk”, August 8). I quote Pope: “Here thou, great ANNA! whom three realms obey, Dost sometimes counsel take — and sometimes Tea.”


Pope doesn't say what Queen Anne did with her little finger.

Update: Paul has reminded me that the queen had favourites. I hope that doesn't make her a Bad Queen, as well as a dead one. From 1066 And All That:

"Finally the Orange... was succeeded by the memorable dead queen, Anne. Queen Anne was considered rather a remarkable woman and hence was usually referred to as Great Anna, or Annus Mirabilis. The Queen had many favourites (all women), the most memorable of whom were Sarah Jenkins and Mrs Smashems, who were the first wig and the first Tory... the Whigs being the first to realize that the Queen had been dead all the time chose George I as King."

Posted on 08/10/2007 7:35 AM by Mary Jackson

Friday, 10 August 2007

Seen yesterday in Brooklyn Heights.

Bklyn Heights crepe myrtle Aug. 2007 by Robert Bové

Posted on 08/10/2007 5:48 AM by Robert Bove

Friday, 10 August 2007

"The leader [Geert Wilders] of the far-right Freedom Party..."-- from this article, by Bruno Waterfield in "The Telegraph"

What makes Bruno Waterfield describe Geert Wilders as the leader of a "far-right" party? Is the Freedom Party nostalgic for Hitler? For Mussolini? For Franco? Is it a party whose members would have defended Menten? A party that thinks the dealings with the Nazis of the Dutch royals was justified?

Or is it some particular economic policy -- say, laissez-faire capitalism -- that the Freedom Party promotes, or perhaps even some version of Ayn Rand's Objectivism?

Is the Freedom Party dedicated to the proposition that every man is an island, or rather, a sauve-qui-peut grasping Leibnizian monad, wandering alone in the universe, and crushing whatever opposition he may find, for man must necessarily be a wolf to man?

Is it any of those, or some of those, or all of those, or is it, rather, none of those, but one thing and one thing only: that Geert Wilders and the Freedom Party are consumed with worry about the islamisation of the Netherlands, which had 15,000 Muslims in 1970 and has more than a million today? Is that what makes the Freedom Party, and Geert Wilders, "far right"? Is it what made that easygoing, bemused libertine Pim Fortuyn "far right"? Does it make Ayaan Hirsi Ali "far right"? What about the late Oriana Fallaci, an opponent of the Green colonels, of the American war in Vietnam, whose lover was murdered by those same Greek "rightists"? Was she, because she became horrified, after decades of becoming intimately acquainted with the Muslim Middle East, having spent time with the PLO, having interviewed Khaddafy and Khomeini and Arafat, with all that she personally observed and experienced of the behavior of Muslims in Italy, saw how they urinated on Ghiberti's doors in the Battistero in Florence, saw what their growing presence meant in Italian cities, saw what was happening even in the most remote corners of Tuscany, as aggressive and militant Islam tried to establish its beachheads everywhere, even attempting -- so far repelled, but for how long? -- an assault on the quiet, quintessentially Tuscan Colle di Val d'Elsa, where a huge mosque is planned, and if it were to be erected, would have the same effect on Italian psyches as would the building of a huge mosque a hundred yards from the rude bridge in Concord, and Daniel Chester French's statue of the Minuteman. What about Orianna Fallaci -- is she also "far-right"?

Is grasping the nature of Islam, understanding it as a Total System, attempting to impose a Complete Regulation of Life, and offering a Total Explanation of the Universe, and in recognizing that it depends on the notion of a state of permanent war between Believers and Infidels, a war that need not erupt into open warfare when such would not be to the advantage of Muslims, but may be conducted by all such means as prove possible and effective -- such as the Money Weapon, Da'wa, and demographic conquest.

Is that what Bruno Waterfield means? Is that what "The Telegraph" means its readers to understand? Worry aloud, worry terribly, about Islam, and utter your warnings to others as often as you can, makes you "far right"? Is that it?

Posted on 08/10/2007 5:27 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Friday, 10 August 2007

The next Nobel Prize for Peace might be given to a group of freethinking apostates from Islam: Taslima Nasreen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina, and a dozen others (but among those dozen none of the publicity hounds or those who have only half-heartedly analyzed the failure, moral and intellectual, of Islam, such as Irshad Manji). What a bracing surprise that would be.

Posted on 08/10/2007 5:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 09 August 2007

The numbers were wrong.

Better tell Pat Robertson.

Posted on 08/09/2007 5:52 PM by Robert Bove

Thursday, 09 August 2007
Seyla Benhabib, professor of political science and philosophy at Yale University, told Daniele Castellani Perelli ("Mosque and State," Dissent Magazine, Fall 2007) that "Miss Hirsi Ali’s language is a language of confrontation that basically presents a homogeneous, orthodox Islam as closed to reform and transformation. And it is a language that presents a unified, uncritical and un-reflectively positive view of liberal democracies—as if they didn’t have their own problems and reasons to be criticized."

Benhabib says the AK party is “carrying out an incredible experiment and it is unusual for some one who is a democratic socialist like myself to be supporting, and watching very carefully, a party like them. But we are all watching carefully because they also represent a kind of pluralism in civil society, which is absolutely essential for Turkey.” -- from this article

Tu-Quoque from Seyla Benhabib, whose loyalty to Islam trumps all else, including her self-described "democratic socialist" leanings. No, she is like Fatima Mernissi and Leila Ahmad, who quickly draw back whenever they sense Islam itself may be criticized for the treatment of women in Islam. This shows that the loyalty to Islam trumps their supposed devotion to the cause of women's rights. Seyla Benhabib's attempt to call Ayaan Hirsi Ali's piercing and truth-telling remarks into question with the usual blague about "reformation" in Islam is predictable, and nauseating. There is the deceptive ignis fatuus of such "reform," but it keeps receding further into the marecage of Islam, the closer one tries to approach it.

Then she presents us with an equally revealing tu-quoque in telling us, amazingly, something of which we are all perfectly aware and which is irrelevant to Ayaan Hirsi's Ali's criticism -- to wit, that she uses a "language that presents a unified, uncritical and un-reflectively positive view of liberal democracies—as if they didn’t have their own problems and reasons to be criticized.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, of course, does no such thing. And Seyla Benhabib merely reveals where her deepest loyalties lie. And they don't lie with the survival of our most imperfect liberal democracies, not if such survival requires a true grasp of the nature of Islam, that "doubly totalitarian" (Georges Henri Bosquet) belief-system, based squarely on the uncompromising division of the world between Believer and Infidel.

A little Henri Lammens, Georges Vajda, Bousquet, and Bat Ye'or would do Seyla Benhabib, literary theorist, and Defender of the Faith (Democratic Socialist Division) good. That is, they would do her good if she were not impervious to learning truthfully, showing herself willing to end her innate bent toward Islamic apologetics, and being willing to study the tenets, attitudes, and atmospherics of Islam as contained in, or prompted naturally by, Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira.

Muslim apologists --  and non-Muslim apologists too, such as Carl Ernst and John Esposito and Karen Armstrong and, in fact Seyla Benhabib (who is, one has been told, a Sephardic Jew with roots in North Africa) -- would prefer that one stick to the Qur'an, a book that in any case is hard to understand, with its harshnesses often difficult to detect or understand. Such apologists become uneasy when their Infidel interlocutor raises the Hadith, and does not appear quite so willing to roll over and play dead when that single "inauthentic" Hadith (which is nowhere in Al-Bukhari) about the "lesser jihad" of war and the "greater jihad" of domestic wrestling with one's conscience, is trotted out -- the one that Karen Armstrong, for example, puts such stock in.

Still more disturbing to them, the most disturbing thing of all, is for Infidels to raise the matter of Muhammad as the Perfect Man (al-insan al-kamil) or as it says in a Qur'anic verse (33:21), "uswa hasana" -- the Model of Conduct for all time (the phrase also appears two other times in the Qur'an, in reference to Abraham). But it makes no sense to discuss Islam without discussing the figure of Muhammad. He dominates Islam. He is almost more important, in Muslim psychology, than Allah -- no, he is more important.

So what do Muslims believe he did? What do they think Muhammad, Model of Conduct and the Perfect Man, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, did? Well, read the Sira, the biography of Muhammad. Read as well the biographies offered by such Western scholars as Arthur Jeffery, and Sir William Muir and Tor Andrae and even Maxine Rodinson. See what you think of the episode involving the mocking poetess Asma bint Marwan, or all the others assassinated at the instigation of Muhammad, or in order to carry out what was perceived as his desire. See what you think of the attack on the inoffensive Jewish farmers of the Khaybar Oasis. See what you think about Muhammad watching as the 600-900 bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza were decapitated one by one. See what you think of the women, the widows of men Muhammad's men had just killed, seized by him -- such as Saifullah. See what you think of the whole business of little Aisha.

And then decide: does this remind me of some other figure in world religion? Does he remind me in any way of Jesus? Of the Buddha? Of Moses? Or of those who may be said to be religio-philosophical figures, such as Confucius?

No, Muhammad is in a special class by himself. He reminds one of no other figure in other world religions.

It does not matter what the historical Muhammad may actually have done -- or whether or not he existed, or where. What matters is what Muslims believe.

When this whole business of "moderate" Muslims is raised, or as Seyla Benhabib prefers, “reformation” in Islam, one must inquire: what do those "moderates" who are being promoted so busily by assorted Infidels think of Muhammad? The foundation and government grant money is awfully good for those who know what they are doing. Are they willing to jettison the Sira and the Hadith altogether?

And if they are, who will follow them? Who will they represent?

These are the questions that are not trivial, not tangential. They are central. They are unavoidable. And they have no role whatsoever in what Seyla Benhabib (who at this very moment is no doubt enjoying her iwb stout defense, as a non-Muslim, of Islam), calls the AK “experiment” in Turkey.

Posted on 08/09/2007 5:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 09 August 2007

This does it for me. If Christian broadcaster/science maven Pat Robertson has got global warming religion, it must be true:

"We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels," Robertson said during his "700 Club" broadcast on Thursday. The high temperatures in some regions of the U.S. East are "the most convincing evidence I've seen on global warming in a long time," he added.

Evidence, at least, that there is something new in Mr. 700's world view.

Posted on 08/09/2007 3:14 PM by Robert Bove

Thursday, 09 August 2007

Several readers have passed me the Asia Times piece by "Spengler" on the prospects for a Christian China.

I think "Spengler" should take a cold shower. He has let his imagination run away with him.

Among the Chinese of Taiwan, where Christian missionaries have been vigorously active for a century, and where there is actually a wealthy and powerful Christian elite (Chiang Kai-shek and his wife were both Christians), Christianity seems to have peaked at around 4.5% of the population. In Hong Kong, perfectly open to missionaries, with the encouragement of the authorities, since the 1840s, and with many fine Christian schools and institutions, the figure is 10 percent. (I'm taking these numbers from the CIA World Factbook . Possibly they are wrong; but I have lived for extended periods in both Taiwan and Hong Kong, and they look right to me.)

This suggests that there is a natural "ceiling" for Christianity among Chinese people. My impression is that this is so—that Christianity appeals to some small subset—5 or 10 percent—of Chinese people, and not to the rest.

In larger East Asia, something similar might apply, though with different numbers. In Japan, anyone can be a Christian who wants to, and this has been so (though with some variations in the attitude of the authorities) for 150 years. The figure is 0.7 percent. South Korea, on the other hand, is 26.3 percent Christian. Presumably some Christianity has survived in the North, too. Kim Il Sung was raised a Christian; when U.S. forces got to his abandoned bunker in the Korean war, they were surprised to find it contained a church organ, which Kim liked to play.

All in all, while Christianity will likely thrive in China, as it has in the rest of East Asia, my bet would be that it will hit a "ceiling" at ten percent or so of the population, then plateau. A Christian Chinese army marching to raze Mecca? Well... they'll have a willing recruit in Tom Tancredo, I guess.

Mind you, there *have*been Chinese Christian armies. The 1920s warlord Feng Yu-hsiang was a Christian. He used to muster his new recruits in ranks and files and baptize them with a fire hose.

Christianity has entered China several times, beginning much earlier than most people realize. The great Tang Dynasty (8th century) general Guo Ziyi seems to have been a Christian (the evidence is circumstantial). He would have been a Nestorian, of course. There are Nestorian crosses in the "Forest of Steles " in Xi-an. (That article disputes the Nestorian label, but everyone uses it.)

Posted on 08/09/2007 1:43 PM by John Derbyshire

Thursday, 09 August 2007
I missed this on Tuesday.
I am a fan of Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath who were subject to accusations of being satanic in certain quarters in their time. Sabbath got the reputation through songs like Mr Crowley and spoofed the accusations up with an album called Headless Cross. I find myself wondering what Muslim youths do to merit being called “satanic”? A cross in the proper worshipful position perhaps.  The name of Allah or Mohammed spelt backwards?  Demmahom! Has a certain ring, a je ne sais quois.
This is satanic youth in Iran from The Telegraph.
Iran arrested 230 music fans at a "satanic" summer concert where alcohol was being consumed and women were mixing freely with men in contravention of Sharia law.
Local reports said party-goers from Britain and Sweden as well as wealthy Teheran residents had responded to an internet call for ravers to meet in Karaj, a town 30 miles west of the capital.
"Most of them were wealthy young people who were not aware of the satanic nature of the concert," a local prosecutor, Ali Farhadi, said.
"A female singer, who was performing, and some rock and rap music bands were among the detained."
According to the official account, skimpy dresses were handed out as part of a scheme to film young women and later blackmail them with provocative images.
While the event has been described as a rave, it appears radio disc jockeys, rock'n'roll and rap bands were among the featured performers.
Meanwhile  today’s Telegraph article Children of Iranian Revolution need change tells how President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is less and less popular with the people of Iran, especially the young. They are very interested in Western culture, especially American culture.
On the streets of Teheran, young Iranians proclaim their devotion to Western fashion, films and music. Asked which country he would most like to visit, one 27-year-old gave an emphatic answer. "America," he said. "They have freedom in America."
English-speaking Iranians tend to affect US accents. A bookshop outside Teheran university displays a thick blue volume entitled American Accent Training: A guide to operating and pronouncing American English.
Another offering is a Dictionary of American Idiom, which serves as a "practical reference for everyday expressions of contemporary American English".
Posted on 08/09/2007 12:42 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax

Thursday, 09 August 2007

From the Jerusalem Post:

Despite a series of initiatives aimed at generating foreign tourism, the Saudi Arabian government continues to bar Jews and Christians from bringing items such as Bibles, crucifixes and Stars of David into the country and is threatening to confiscate them on sight, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

"A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the kingdom due to religious reasons and local regulations," declares the Web site of Saudi Arabian Airlines, the country's national carrier.

After informing would-be visitors that items such as narcotics, firearms and pornography may not be transported into the country, the Web site adds: "Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are also prohibited. These may include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David, and others."

Contacted by the Post, an employee of Saudi Arabian Airlines in New York, who would only give her name as Gladys, confirmed this rule was in force. "Yes, sir," she said, "that is what we have heard, that it is a problem to bring these things into Saudi Arabia, so you cannot do it."

An official at the Saudi Consulate in New York, who declined to give her name, told the Post that anyone bringing a Bible into the country or wearing a crucifix or Star of David around their neck would run into trouble with Saudi authorities. "You are not allowed to bring that stuff into the kingdom," the consular official said. "If you do, they will take it away," she warned, adding, "If it is really important to you, then you can try to bring it and just see what happens, but I don't recommend that you do so."

Asked to explain the policy, the official said, "Every country has rules about what can or cannot enter."

Steve Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism, which pointed me to the JPost story, also notes that the pertinent Saudi Customs regulations can be found here.

Posted on 08/09/2007 11:05 AM by Andy McCarthy

Thursday, 09 August 2007

"but there is a divergence of opinion over the position of the little finger. He disapproves of raising it while the cup is brought to the lips, but the American view is that it is acceptable to continue a tradition born of the need for balance in the days before tea cups had handles."--from the article below

A few months ago I was watching a quiz show on the RAI (Italian state television) and the question had to do with what were the sure signs of ill-breeding, of someone being "maleducato." A number of possibilities were offered. But the one that represented, to the studio audience of Italians, including several high RAI executives, Piero Badaloni among them, the height of gross behavior was, while raising a cup to one's lips (of tea or something else), also raising and keeping aloft the little finger, the tell-tale pinky, the mignolo.

Everyone seemed to agree: the unpardonable sin was to uplift that mignolo.

So when in Rome, or in Florence, or Venice, or MIlan, or Turin, or for that matter in Tre Castagni in Sicily, remember: Non sollevare il mignolo.

Posted on 08/09/2007 10:24 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 09 August 2007

I won't bother giving the full text. You can find it in "Pnin." But you remember it, don't you? That "highly philosophical, highly satisfying instrument," the pencil-sharpener, the one that feeds on yellow finish sweet wood and that ends up in a "soundlessly spinning ethereal void, as we all must"? Of course you do.

Perhaps you read it. Perhaps you even were present -- do you remember? -- and heard that passage read aloud, at the McGraw-Hill Building, at the Memorial Service, in the late summer of 1977.

And the sound of that pencil sharpener, the old-fashioned kind that was affixed to desks in libraries and in schools, made that special sound, which you haven't forgotten either, have you:

"Ticonderoga, Ticonderoga."

Posted on 08/09/2007 9:17 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 09 August 2007
[Always on the lookout for innovations in the world of science to bring before my readers, I am of course a subscriber to that indispensable compendium of pharmacological data, The Physicians’ Desk Reference. Combing through the pages of the latest edition of this classic, I note the following new products to emerge from the labs of our pharmaceutical companies — the world’s best!]

(uranium caliphate)
Description: Mild psychedelic, enhances out-of-body and religious experiences.
Indications and Usage: Ahmadinezam is indicated where attempted transplant of foreign tissue has been rejected. It has also proven effective in the symptomatic relief of excessive rationality.
Contraindications: Ahmadinezam is mildly radioactive (~100kBq/g) and should be handled with care.
Adverse Reactions: The most pronounced adverse reaction, observed in approx. 10 percent of cases on clinical trial, was moderate dwarfism. Also observed at low to medium frequencies (2-5 percent): strabismus, facial rash (resulting, for male subjects, in inability to shave), loss of some highly specific motor functions (e.g. ability to knot necktie).

Barax (obamalic articulate)
Description: Regulates melanin production.
Indications and Usage: Effective with patients suffering from chronic situational dermatochromal anxiety — i.e. self-perception as “not black enough” when among African Americans yet “too black” when among other groups. Barax induces a “chameleon effect” — increased/decreased melanin production corresponding to perceived average shade of nearby persons.
Contraindications: Barax is contraindicated in patients with non-health-threatening anxiety levels and should not be prescribed for patients with well-established perceptions of their own racial identity.
Adverse Reactions: May cause severe mood swings, from amiable passivity to sudden aggression.

Bimborol (lohanafil)
Description: Aging accelerant.
Indications and Usage: Cosmetic medication. May be prescribed for female patients who, on a voluntary basis, wish to advance speedily from cute preteen appearance to the “burned out” look of late middle age. In suitable patients, with precisely regular dosage, the normal 30-year freckled-moppet-to-raddled-hag transition can be accomplished in as little as 2-3 years.
Contraindications: Bimborol is contraindicated in patients with weak self-control, poor selection of companions, history of drug dependency, and more money than sense.
Adverse Reactions: In clinical trials there were some cases of insomnia, loss of work discipline, and automotive compulsion.

Fredopan (loranorda sublimate)
Description: Maxillary enhancer.
Indications and Usage: Cosmetic medication, successful in treatment of males with receding or pointed chin/jaw-line. Careful application over 6-8 months brings out the square-jawed “magisterial” look favored for certain movie/TV screen roles.
Contraindications: Strongly contraindicated in patients displaying jaylenoid symptoms.
Adverse Reactions: Chronic procrastination and loss of decision-making power.

Daylaboral (latinosin)
Description: Diversity enhancer, wage suppressant, neighborhood trasher.
Indications and Usage: Daylaboral is indicated for the management of elevated wage levels and excessive homogeneity (“whitebread syndrome”). Dosages must be localized and carefully controlled (see Adverse Reactions). Because of a tendency to form unsightly concentrations at night and in early mornings, Daylaboral should not be injected into regions with >500K mean property values.
Contraindications. Daylaboral should not be given to patients taking Ludobsostat.
Adverse Reactions: Uncontrolled dosages may lead to selective systemic failure (schools, hospitals, law enforcement) and elevated populism. Incidents of dorsal hydration, formerly associated with Daylaboral, appear to have declined.

Derbadrine (anglocentrous dumanglumium)
Description: Depressant, antieuphoric.
Indications and Usage: For treatment of euphoria, excessive optimism, religious enthusiasm, and dogged political loyalty.
Contraindications: Derbadrine is contraindicated in patients with low energy levels, depressive/suicidal or alcoholic tendencies, cynicism, reductionism, weak political or religious attachments, or difficulty in maintaining regular employment.
Adverse Reactions: Obsessive-compulsive writing at great length on trivial or highly abstract (e.g. mathematical) topics. Occasional prolonged spasms of utterly nonproductive activity (e.g. treehouse building). Excessive drinking. Homophobia. Sinogynephilia. Poverty.

Hillariphen (distillate of rodhamite)
Description: Attention enhancer.
Indications and Usage: Normally to be prescribed for patients whose work requires regular spells of intense concentration and self-control, e.g. bomb disposal work, attorneys in fiercely adversarial courtroom confrontations, etc.
Contraindications: Hillariphen is strongly contraindicated in patients with low temperature and/or metabolic rate, who may experience freezing of body fluids and consequent immobility.
Adverse Reactions: Some instances of exophthalmia, buccal hypertrophy, and thickening of extremities were observed in clinical trials.

Islamec (cairolsuya)
Description: Stimulant, mood intensifier, diversity enhancer.
Indications and Usage: Highly effective in treatment of tolerance, social equality, rational economics, freedom of worship, and peace.
Contraindications: Contraindicated in female and homosexual patients. Very strongly contraindicated in Jewish patients.
Adverse Reactions: Clinical trials in regions where Islamec and its forerunners (e.g. assassinifil, seljukazyme, ottomanizol) had no market penetration produced strong allergic reactions, though so far no instances of complete rejection. Patients whose metabolism is receptive to Islamec often exhibit irresistible suicidal tendencies.

more here
Posted on 08/09/2007 8:48 AM by John Derbyshire

Thursday, 09 August 2007

Another two-year-old posting on the matter, put up the last time Tancredo raised the matter of deterrence and a retaliatory attack on Mecca, July 28, 2005:

"Congressman Tancredo, a former history teacher, has almost alone in Congress bothered to begin to investigate what Islam teaches, what it is all about. For this he deserves the support of everyone, and everything possible should be done to help re-elect him -- if for no other reason, than to ensure that at least one member of Congress will speak the truth about the belief-system of Islam. He deserves to be supported to the hilt, in any possible way.

And the Congressman did not recommend that "Mecca be bombed." While many people have in the past suggested that -- see the redoubtable Fred Ikle, for example, he who was so important in the Reagan Administration -- Congressman Tancredo said something different, and perfectly understandable.

He was asked about rumors that Muslim terrorists might have already smuggled into the country nuclear devices that they planned to set off, and what kinds of things might deter them. He mused aloud, that one of the things that might deter them would be the threat to bomb Mecca. That was all he said. It was hardly remarkable, and the only thing remarkable about it has been, as has been repeatedly suggested at JW (see, for example, the recent article by Rebecca Bynum) is that all the different ways to inflict damage on the belief-system of Islam have not been discussed. But on the other hand, as long as we are conducting either a "war on terrorism" or a "war on an ideology of violent extremism" that remains carefully unnamed, perhaps in the end it is not surprising that we have no discussion of the kinds of deterrents that would work, and on whom.

For example, there may be no way of deterring the groups and groupuscules of fanatics. But there are ways to threaten, and deter, the Saudis from continuing to send money abroad to support the entire Muslim infrastructure that, as the recent Freedom House report showed, encourages not merely Islam but the most hate-filled brand of Islam -- in other words, there are threats of seizure of assets that might get the attention of the rulers of Saudi Arabia (and the U.A.E. riding pillion), to have them cease using the "money weapon" to pay for mosques and madrasas and Da'wa throughout the Western, Infidel world.

But Tancredo was addressing a different problem. and he did not offer an answer. He offered one among many possibilities that he thought deserved intelligent discussion. And he was right. And this is not a clear-cut case. There are many ex-Muslims, for example, who appear to believe that Tancredo is absolutely right -- that this may be the one thing which, if threatened, or at least considered, could cause Muslims to rethink. It is already clear that the change in the atmosphere in the Western world, the beginning of a glimmer of an understanding that the very matter of Islam needs to be examined, has caused such things as this absurd public-relations effort in damage-limitation, this so-called "fatwa" to be issued by some Muslim groups in America, and announced by that more than doubtful organization, CAIR -- of course the wording will require the closest kind of reading, the kind we ordinarily would reserve for Shakespeare, Keats, or Hardy, applied to the banal taqiyya of Muslim bureaucrats. But the mere fact that people who have been defending certain acts now feel they must, for Infidel consumption, seem to be distancing themselves, is a sign that when danger is perceived, there is a drawing-back. It is certain that the mere discussion of bombing Mecca has both good and bad aspects. The bad aspect is that it is the kind of remark that allows many to get on their high moral horse, and huff and puff, and "deplore" this wild man, Tom Tancredo. Anyone can imagine what editorials in The New Duranty Times and The Bandar Beacon deploring Tancredo might look like. But in our Infidel hearts, we are all secretly pleased, and relieved -- are we not? -- that such a discussion of deterrence has at least been begun. For without such a discussion, there is no way to begin to think straight about the problem of Islam world-wide -- not of "terrorism" but of Islam.

Every intelligent Western observer has noted what Tocqueville, who had been in Algeria, referred to as the "morbid" quality of Islam. Churchill, in "The River Wars," had nothing good to say about the foaming-at-the-mouth fanaticism of the Muslim warriors, but he did note that they did not fear death, for the sensual Paradise that awaited the warrior who died in Jihad was a reality.

And because the usual kinds of threats might mean little to fanatics, one has to figure out what might work as a deterrent. In Israel the punishment of destroying houses has some deterrent effect, given that the families of the "martyrs" will suffer -- and some "martyrs"are wiling to die, but don't want their family members left behind to have to build a new home. It is not true that such deterrence does not work. There are other possibilities. Much Muslim behavior inimical to the West can be deterred.

For example, the family that has seized, and treats as its private property, the vast territory of Arabia -- the House of Al-Saud -- both directly or indirectly helps to support, and even help to create, fanatics in two ways. Within Saudi Arabia, its own despotism and corruption causes young Saudis who are enraged by them to embrace, not Jeffersonian democracy, which is un-Islamic, but rather Al Qaeda or other groups, which provide them with the vocabulary, the imagery, the categories that Islam itself supplies to define opposition to a corrupt caliph or ruler. For it does not do, within Islam, to denounce someone as corrupt, or as a despot. The rulers, after all, are the rulers, and the habit of mental submission that Islam inculcates, and the inshallah-fatalism that is within Islam, helps in large part to encourage submission to the despot, however corrupt -- unless that despot can be seen as, defined as, placed in the category of, "Infidel." Then anything and everything can be done to destroy that "Infidel." And that is exactly what happens among those who oppose the Al-Saud, or the Mubarak Friends-and-Family stratokleptocracy in Egypt -- save for a pitiful, nearly nonexistent Western-style secular opposition in the latter, the opposition will always take on a Muslim cast. Muslims can do no other. And the corruption of the Al-Saud helps create the odd scion of plutocrats who, in Muslim terms most nobly, gives it all up to fight for "justice" against the corrupt rulers, but "justice," alas, Muslim-style, with the Muslim worldview, which means that all evil comes from Infidels, and all who are genuinely evil must be defined as, and treated as, Infidels, even if they may claim --- falsely, obviously -- to be Muslims, as do so many of the corrupt princes and princelings of Saudi Arabia.

That is one way the Al-Saud help swell the ranks of the Muslim terrorist groups.

The second way they do so is in building, and paying for the maintenance of, mosques and madrasas all over the world, but especially in the Infidel lands, the Bilad al-kufr, where those mosques, and those madrasas, can encourage the worst brand of Islam (this does not mean that a "milder" brand does not inculcate hatred of Infidels, for it must -- it is a question of with what intensity, with what fervor, with what single-mindedness, the particular brand of Islam inculcates what is common to all of them, part of Islam itself). Nearly $100 billion has gone from the Saudis as part of the propaganda weapon on behalf of Islam, as part of world-wide Da'wa, and to pay for Western hirelings who will do the bidding and promote the interests of, and deflect criticism from, the Saudis as they continue their malevolent activities throughout the world.

The Al-Saud are rational actors. They can be threatened, and forced to cease their support for the mosques and madrasas and hate-filled propaganda. they can be threatened with seizure of their assets abroad. They can be threatened with a total removal of American guarantees, that they assume are permanent, for their safety. They can be threatened with a loss of secure American or other Western refuges if and when they are overturned. They can be threatened with the removal of Western doctors, and teachers, and a refusal to allow their children to study in the West, or for them to find medical care in the West. These are very dangerous threats -- imagine if someone threatened you that you would never again be allowed access to advanced Western medical care. And in the end, if they think they have that ace-in-the-hole, oil -- you can show that you are willing to seize the oil in the al-Hasa province, oil conveniently close to tankers in the Persian (Persian, not Arab) Gulf, and that there are a thousand-and-one ways to deal with this situation. But this requires a complete change of tone to get the Saudi attention. Such attention will not be attained if those who continue to prate about a "strategic partnership" with Saudi Arabia, which one finds in such deplorable examples of the appeasement-of-the-Saudis mindset in the Op/Ed of one Flynt Leverett, described -- even more disturbingly -- as "former senior director for Middle Eastern affairs at the National Security Council" -- and someone who has clearly been one of those who fails to understand that Saudi Arabia is not, and never has been, and never can be, the ally of an Infidel country, but that, if treated correctly, certain kinds of behavior on its part can be prevented, and certain other kinds of behavior forced from its rulers.

Congressman Tancredo, in raising the question of what would, or would not, work as deterrence, was performing a great service to discussion. It is of course difficult to predict what bombing Mecca would do. I tend to think it would be far better to discuss all the other kinds of deterrence that one knows will work, on the rational actors or quasi-rational actors within the dar al-Islam. And as for the fanatics, one can consider how to limit access to Mecca, airfield by airfield, port by port, highway by highway, until it should be as remote as the highest Himalayas, or some impassable and steaming jungle, or the frozen wastes of Ultima Thule. Mecca would still be there, but to get to it -- that would be the problem. And that kind of deterrence would be a step-by-step affair.

But the question of the psychology of Muslims -- of their combination of grandiosity and living in some mythical great past, and resentment over the miserable and obviously miserable present, where murderous hatred of Infidels is so often part of some grotesque ten-step Self-Esteem Program for those Muslims who have tasted the West, may even have used drugs or lived as criminals and now wish to go straight, Islamically straight -- needs more examination.

However the debate over this or that kind of deterrence goes, the mere fact that such a debate takes place is good, for it automatically ends certain taboos. It makes clear that this is not a "war against terror" alone but a long campaign, very likely without end unless the migration of Muslims to the West is stopped and reversed (and while hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the U.K. claim to "wish to leave" one does not see any of them leaving -- but more significantly, one has not heard, even from the most antisemitic and anti-Israel brigades, any pleas for them to remain), and unless the unearned and entirely unmerited OPEC oil wealth is so diminished that the Saudis, and the rest of them, can be pushed back into that state of obscurity, poverty, and general irrelevance that they were in before an accident of geology gave them power. In the meantime the Infidels, for their own safety, must work to create those conditions -- or to do nothing to prevent the creation of those conditions -- by which, like those in the Soviet Union who concluded that their own system had failed, Muslims themselves will be forced to confront the evident political, economic, social, and intellectual failures of their own peoples and polities, and will have to attribute those failures, correctly, to Islam itself.

Finally, it is hard for Infidels to judge the effect of a threat on Mecca, or a threat to limit access to Mecca, on Muslims. Who might best have some insight into this? Possibly ex-Muslims themselves, the many articulate and acute students of minds formed by Islam, who managed to undo its manacles, and escape from its closed circle. One wonders what views they would have on the threat to bomb Mecca, or to limit access to Mecca, as something that might work on the groups and groupuscules that, unlike the sneering but carefully calculating members of the Al-Saud, are less subject to the ordinary threats of loss of income, loss of access to all the goods and services of the advanced Infidel world, even loss of life."

Posted on 08/09/2007 8:04 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 09 August 2007

"Police said they acknowledged some parts of the programme may have been considered offensive, but, when analysed in full context, there was not enough evidence to bring charges."-- from this article on Channel 4's Dispatches

"Considered offensive" by whom? By the English public of non-Muslims? Of course anything that exposes Islam, or imams, or mosques, as Janus-faced, outwardly offering the Infidels one thing ("war is deception") but offering, in what they take to be the privacy of their own mosques (that ought to be put under permanent, if secret, surveillance, with recording devices -- bugging mosques as routinely as one would bug the Soviet Embassy in 1954), quite a different much more disturbing view of themselves and, of course, of the texts (quoted in the khutbas), the tenets, the attitudes, the atmospherics of Islam.

Why were the police (or, anglice, why "was" the police) so very interested in finding something "offensive" about the program? Why "was" the police so solicitous of Muslim complaints, and what did the police do when they could come up with not a single untruth or misimpression to be derived from the whole program? Did the police apologize for their behavior?

They didn't. Then investigate the personnel, investigate the police, and put them on notice that such behavior, from them, whether it is meant to placate or curry favor with Muslims in the neighborhoods being policed, or even with Muslim police officers, will not, can not, be tolerated any more.

Such behavior by the police is at this point, with these threats, and with the British public desperately in need of the truth -- after all, their lives, the lives of their children, the cultural legacy created over centuries that they inherited and have a duty to work to preserve, their very country, are all at stake -- any attempt to bully those who, as with this program on Channel 4, tell the truth -- is simply intolerable.

Posted on 08/09/2007 7:55 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 09 August 2007

....There were trees in Greenland.


Objection: When the Vikings settled it, Greenland was a lovely, hospitable island, not the frozen wasteland it is today. It was not until the Little Ice Age that it got so cold they abandoned it.

Answer: First, Greenland is part of a single region. It can not be necessarily taken to represent a global climate shift. See the post on the Medieval Warm Period for a global perspective on this time period. Briefly, the available proxy evidence indicates that global warmth during this period was not particularly pronounced, though some regions may have experienced greater warming than others.

Second, a quick reality check shows that Greenland's ice cap is hundreds of thousands of years old and covers over 80% of the island. The vast majority of land not under the ice sheet is rock and permafrost in the far north. How different could it have been just 1,000 years ago?

Below is a brief account of the Viking settlement, based on Jared Diamond's "Collapse".

Greenland was called Greenland by Erik the Red (was he red?), who was in exile and wanted to attract people to a new colony. He thought you should give a land a good name so people would want to go there! It likely was a bit warmer when he landed for the first time than it was when the last settlers starved due to a number of factors -- climate change, or at least some bad weather, a major one.

But it was never lush, and their existence was always harsh and meager, especially due to the Viking's disdain for other peoples and ways of living. They attempted to live a European lifestyle in an arctic climate, side by side with Inuit who easily outlasted them. They starved surrounded by oceans and yet never ate fish! (Note: this was not a typical European behavior, and is a bit of a mystery to this day.)

Instead of hunting whales in kayaks, they farmed cattle, goats, and sheep -- despite having to keep them in a barn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a full 5 months out of the year. It was a constant challenge to get enough fodder for the winter. Starvation of the animals was frequent, emaciation routine. Grazing requirements and growing fodder for the winter led to over-production of pastures, erosion, and the need to go further and further afield to sustain the animals. Deforestation for pastures and firewood proceeded at unsustainable rates. After a couple of centuries, it led to such desperate measures as cutting precious sod for housing construction and even burning it for cooking and heating fuel.

When finally confronted with several severe winters in a row, they, along with the little remaining livestock, simply starved before spring arrived.

The moral of the story for the climate controversy? Much as you can not judge a book by its cover, you can't judge the climate of Greenland by its name.

A bit of related trivia, and further indication of the Vikings' stubborn reluctance to learn from the Inuit: there is no evidence of any trade whatsoever, despite centuries of cohabitation. In fact, the first of only three Norse accounts of encounters with the natives refers to them as "skraelings" (wretches), and describes matter of factly how strangely they bleed when stabbed. How's that for diplomacy?

See also the entry on Vineland if it happens to come up."

Posted on 08/09/2007 7:50 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

Thursday, 09 August 2007

by Ole Jørgen Anfindsen, Ph.D., editor, HonestThinking

and Jens Tomas Anfindsen, Ph.D., editor, HonestThinking


The immigration policies currently in vogue in most Western countries show increasing signs of being unsustainable, and the associated problems are likely to grow ever more severe in the coming years. This is one of the largest ethical dilemmas of our time. We therefore believe the entire foundation for the prevailing regime needs to be reconsidered, and submit this manifesto as a starting point for reasoning about these challenges.

  1. It is a moral duty to promote human rights all over the world.
  2. The concept of human rights must not be confused with any particular legal implementation or formulation of that concept, since such explications could contain internal inconsistencies or imply consequences that would cause conflict with the previous tenet.
  3. The worth of a human being is independent of his or her gender, religion, ethnic background, sexual preferences, culture, language, and other such markers.
  4. Cooperation across cultural, language, religious, and ethnic borders is desirable and necessary.
  5. Even so, culture, language, religion, and ethnicity are instrumental in establishing each individual’s identity, and thus central in forming his or her sense of belonging and loyalty. Any policy aimed at sustainability must take this into account.
  6. It is therefore legitimate for any sovereign state to implement restrictions towards non-citizens in such a way that control over its demographic development is retained.
  7. It is unacceptable, without foregoing careful consideration and proper democratic processes, that political dispositions be made to alter the demographic composition of a state in such a way that its stability, its inner cohesion, and the mutual loyalty of its population be threatened.

We are apprehensive of individuals, organizations, and other legal entities that try to quench free and open debate on the above issues, and regard such political actors as having little or no legitimacy in questions of democracy and human rights. Moreover, ideologies and political movements whose goals are irreconcilable with the above tenets should be considered devoid of moral and intellectual integrity, unless they are able to justify said discrepancy.


[Sounds reasonable to me. Read more at the multilingual (Norwegian, German and English) website HonestThinking.]

Posted on 08/09/2007 7:00 AM by Rebecca Bynum

Thursday, 09 August 2007

Joseph Bottom* waxes lyrical on the "new atheists":

Christopher Hitchens
picks up the rice in a church
where a wedding has been.
Lives in a dream . . .

All the lonely doubters,
where do they all come from?
All the lonely doubters,
do they all belong?

The rest of Bottom's piece discusses Harvey Mansfield's probing into the topic. Fascinating.

*Speaking of names, Mary.

Posted on 08/09/2007 6:50 AM by Robert Bove

Thursday, 09 August 2007

Bukowski. He's not for everybody—but he don't care (and not just because he be dead).

A musical based on his writings is now at the New York Fringe Festival. It's titled Bukowsical!.

A splenetic taste of the SoCal bard from his poem, "The Shoelace":

with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
enters a

And speaking of drunks, actor Stacy Keach has some advice for suicidal pop tarts:

"I did my most important rehab in the Reading Gaol, England's version of very tough love. So tough they wrote songs about it. A 6-by-6 cell for six months, talk about 666," Keach told Page Six. "Rehab is not a walk in the park for two months and out. It's the toughest role you'll ever tackle." Sobriety has paid off in career longevity. Keach, 66, stars in John Sayles' upcoming feature "The Honey Dripper," just finished the Hallmark Western "The Lone Rider," and portrays St. Paul in the star-studded audiobook of the Bible.

Posted on 08/09/2007 5:57 AM by Robert Bove

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