Friday, June 30, 2006

An Open Letter to the Victoria and Albert Museum

by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

After my article about the Che exhibit, Zoe Whitley, Curator of Contemporary Programmes of the Victoria and Albert Museum wrote me a thoughtful and caring letter addressing the issues I raised in my article published on June 28 on LaurenceJarvikOnline.

In it Miss Whitley acknowledged that she received many criticisms for this exhibit and that the issues I raised are important and serious. She proceeded to explain, “The content of the exhibition has to do with the legacy of an iconic photograph taken by Alberto Korda in 1960 - not the life of the man in the photograph.

“Again, in no way is the V&A seeking to honour a murderer. We have created a vibrant design exhibition, as is our remit, which in the process raises many issues for visitors to consider. I fully realize this response will not change your valid point of view, but I do hope it might go some way to explaining the Museum's rationale.”

Through the worlds of Miss Whitley I can see that she was aware of Che’s criminal history and that the exhibit focused on the image the late Alberto Korda’s photo – ironically taken while Che was very uncomfortable suffering from asthma - and how it became an icon. There was sincerity in her words and clearly expressed her regret that the exhibit had offended so many Cubans.

I feel compelled to point out the extent of her efforts to respond to the issues I raised. I certainly thank her for the concern and compassion expressed in her response to me. My expectation was that my letter to the museum would not result in a reply, as is the norm when I have written to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting – either silence or an arrogant, snobbish reply.

The problem for Cuban Americans is, why do people and organizations continue to offend us? Why is OK?

As I wrote to Miss Whitley, “The point of your exhibit is certainly an interesting and valid one and the case of the Che photo is a rather unique one, but there are so many, many other examples of the same phenomenon that are not offensive.

“I hope you can understand that every time Cubans see on the streets the careless display of Che paraphernalia we are genuinely offended - it feels like a dagger in the heart as our nemesis is used as a hero.”

After recently returning from Europe a filmmaker colleague told me what she saw there was revolting. “In Lisbon there are complete stores dedicated to Che and Castro merchandising. I entered one of them and complained to the owner and he laughed at me. There is no solution!”

A Cuban intellectual told me in relation to the cult about Che, “Oswald Spengler was correct when referring to the decadence” of the Western Civilization. “Canonizing an assassin, a killer an opportunist only shows once more our profound gullibility and blind search of false prophets.

“Trisha Ziff was absolutely correct arguing that Guevara has become the only symbol and banner of revelry for the oppressed.”

I have watched the sorrowful spectacles of so many Central Americans in my area, both legal and illegal, proudly sporting Che merchandising. I have been deeply offended and felt pity for them because if they knew of Che’s human and social crimes, they would be spiting on his image rather than wearing it.

This intellectual said, “The dreadful thing is, why Guevara? Why has such a nefarious figure become an ‘alter Christus’ in our era? In part it is due to the systematic misinformation and in part to the stupid stubbornness of the left academic-bohemians in relation to the Cuban Revolution. Their brains are profoundly clogged - I don’t want to say cretins.”

A former actor said about my Victoria & Albert Museum’s article, “Magnificent piece, very real (as Cubans know). But sadly we are fighting against something evil hidden under a great lie that to date we haven’t been able to unravel, because these people have a pact with the devil and it is a very hard fight.

“Thanks for your efforts to try to make the world understand our sad situation, but unfortunately it is a lost cause. I hope one day we can prove what we have been trying to convey for so long is true.”

As I replied to Miss Whitley’s nice letter, “As a filmmaker, writer and artist, I certainly appreciate what you are trying to convey in this exhibit. However, as a byproduct of the exhibit, the image of Che Guevara will become even more popular and generate more interest in the generally misinformed public about what he really was.

“Unfortunately, the exhibit will contribute to the Che fashion and interest in Che paraphernalia will increase generating sales, that because of Castro's policy of manipulating royalties will end up in his own pocket, which means more repression for the Cubans on the island.”

Would a respectable institution or a human being want to carry that on their conscience?

© 2006 ABIP
Agustin Blazquez, Producer/director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA, premiered at the American Film Institute in 1995, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles, COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation, premiered in 2001 at the U.S. Capitol in and at the 2001 Miami International Book Fair COVERING CUBA 3: Elian presented at the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival, the 2004 American Film Renaissance Film Festival in Dallas, Texas and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival, COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below, premiered at the Tower Theaters in Miami on January 2006 and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival, Dan Rather "60 Minutes," an inside view and RUMBERAS CUBANAS, Vol. 1 MARIA ANTONIETA PONS

For previews visit:

Author of more that 300 published articles and author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and translator with Jaums Sutton of the book by Luis Grave de Peralta Morell THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra.

Bush on Guantanamo

From the White House press conference transcript:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You've said that you wanted to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, but you were waiting for the Supreme Court decision that came out today. Do you intend now to close the Guantanamo Bay quickly? And how do you deal with the suspects that you've said were too dangerous to be released or sent home?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you for the question on a court ruling that literally came out in the midst of my meeting with the Prime Minister -- and so I haven't had a chance to fully review the findings of the Supreme Court. I, one, assure you that we take them very seriously. Two, that to the extent that there is latitude to work with the Congress to determine whether or not the military tribunals will be an avenue in which to give people their day in court, we will do so.

The American people need to know that this ruling, as I understand it, won't cause killers to be put out on the street. In other words, there's not a -- it was a drive-by briefing on the way here, I was told that this was not going to be the case. At any rate, we will seriously look at the findings, obviously. And one thing I'm not going to do, though, is I'm not going to jeopardize the safety of the American people. People have got to understand that. I understand we're in a war on terror; that these people were picked up off of a battlefield; and I will protect the people and, at the same time, conform with the findings of the Supreme Court.

Q Do you think the prison will close?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I haven't had a chance to fully review what the court said, Terry. I wish I had, and I could have given you a better answer. As I say, we take the findings seriously. And, again, as I understand it -- now please don't hold me to this -- that there is a way forward with military tribunals in working with the United States Congress; as I understand certain senators have already been out expressing their desire to what the Supreme Court found, and we will work with the Congress. I want to find a way forward.

In other words, I have told the people that I would like for there to be a way to return people from Guantanamo to their home countries, but some of them -- people need to be tried in our courts. And that's -- the Hamdan decision was the way forward for that part of my statement, and, again, I would like to review the case. And we are, we've got people looking at it right now to determine how we can work with Congress if that's available to solve the problem.

Francisco Gil-White Talks to Rabbi Tovia Singer

About Iranian-American relations, among other things, on Arutz Sheva-Israel National Radio:
Immediately after the Ayatollah [Khomeini] came to power, one of the first things he did was to absorb SAVAK. Now SAVAK was the late Shah’s security service. It was a mammoth security service -- the biggest in the world after the Soviet Union’s. Now, that’s saying a lot because the Soviet Union was an enormous totalitarian state, and Iran was this tiny little fifth rate power. So to say that SAVAK was the second biggest security service in the world gives you a taste for just how repressive the Shah of Iran -- the great US ally -- was. And SAVAK was created by the CIA. And it was essentially run by the CIA -- SAVAK had very close ties to the CIA throughout the Shah’s reign. And Iran behaved as a feudal property of the US throughout the Shah’s reign. So the fact that the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had been complaining about SAVAK when he was in the opposition, and railing against SAVAK, and promising to disband it and so on and so forth... Well, when he took power he absorbed it wholesale. SAVAK became SAVAMA, the new Iranian security service. That’s point one.

Point two is that the Ayatollah Khomeini, immediately after consolidating his power, provoked a war with Iraq. Now, the Ayatollah Khomeini could not afford to provoke a war with Iraq unless he knew that the US was gonna provide him with weapons. Why? Because the Iranian Revolution depleted the Iranian arsenal -- so he was without guns, in other words. And the Iranian arsenal was entirely, or almost entirely US-made. So unless the Ayatollah Khomeini knew in advance that, if he went to war with Iraq, then the US would provide him with weapons and spare parts, he couldn’t afford to provoke a war with Iraq. And yet that is immediately what he did!

Well, what happened? The US sent billions of dollars in US armament every year of the Iran-Iraq War to Iran. When this was discovered, in the mid 80’s, it was called the Iran-gate scandal, or the Iran-Contra scandal -- and despite the scandal, the arms shipments went on! Now, when caught red-handed, the Reagan administration said the reason for those arms shipments was that -- this is so funny -- that the reason for the arms shipments was that Hezbollah, a tiny terrorist group in Lebanon, a third country, had taken a handful of American citizens hostage, and because the Iranians had some influence on Hezbollah, they wanted the Iranians to beg the Hezbollah to release that handful of US citizens. And that was the supposed reason that billions of US dollars in armaments went to the Iranians every year for the duration of the Iran-Iraq War. Now, this absurd explanation could not be true even in principle because the arms shipments to Iran -- as we now know, thanks to a congressional investigation that was done years later -- that the arms shipments began in 1981. The first hostage in Lebanon was taken in 1982. So obviously the policy of sending billions of dollars in armament to Iran every year couldn’t have anything to do with those hostages. And in fact the arms shipments continued after the last hostage was released.

In addition to this there’s also the fact that the Iran-Iraq war, towards the end, went badly for Iran. So Iran asked for a cease-fire in 1988. Now, immediately after that cease fire, Zalmay Khalilzad, a protégé of Zbigniew Brzezinski who was Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor and the man who invented the policy of creating Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan by sponsoring the mujahideen (whom Osama bin-Laden, by the way, was training for the CIA)... This Zalmay Khalizad, a direct ideological descendant of Zbigniew Brzezinski, complained out loud (I believe it was in the Washington Post... I forget which newspaper now...) but he complained out loud that the outcome of the Iran-Iraq War was very bad because Iran was very weak, and that the US should have a policy to strengthen Iran and contain Iraq. What happened immediately afterwards? The Gulf War of 1991 that destroyed Iraq and left Iran as the big regional power. This war was launched while Zalmay Khalilzad was a policy planner at the Pentagon. Now Zalmay Khalizad, obviously, is the viceroy of the United States in Iraq. He has been responsible for crafting US policy in that area ever since.

In addition... The last point I would mention is -- as Jared Israel of Emperor’s Clothes has documented -- that the Iranians helped the US in the latest US invasion of Iraq. So, ...

Oh, and I forgot one point. During the civil wars in Yugoslavia, the Pentagon teamed up with the Iranians -- this is also documented on Emperor’s Clothes -- to send tens of thousands of mujahideen soldiers (these are the same soldiers that Brzezinski had created staring in 1979, and then throughout the 80’s)... to send tens of thousands of mujahideen to Bosnia to fight for Alija Izetbegovic, and to go on killing rampages against Serbs. That importation of mujahideen soldiers was coordinated between the Iranian government and the Pentagon.

So, if you look at the entire history of US-Iranian relations, yes, on the surface they exchange lots of insults, but the facts of US foreign policy do not reveal an anti-Iranian policy. On the contrary. And in fact, I have an article on where I predict that the US will not attack Iran, as a lot of people think it will. And I explain why: I give the whole history of the US/Iran relationship to support my case.

The Bookseller of Kabul

Over vacation, I read Asne Seierstad's memoir of living in Afghanistan, post-9/11. Someone I know used to work for a Bookseller of New York and a Bookseller of Los Angeles, and told me that they are the same sort of people as the Bookseller of Kabul. So the businessman's character was depicted with 100 percent accuracy. Most interesting to me was the skillful manner in which Seirstad described events with such restraint that the reader didn't fully realize how horrified and repelled the Norwegian journalist had been by her exposure to Islamic fundamentalism -- until the end of the story. It is completely damning, and an indictment of the United States's failures in Kabul, frankly. Poor Afghanistan! 75 percent illiteracy, fear everywhere, the mullahs are back. No wonder people living in Uzbekistan would tell me, again and again, they were so happy not to live in Afghanistan...

Leon Aron: No New Cold War

From AEI's Russian Outlook:
As a result of the growing divergence in values, the ships of U.S. and Russian foreign policies began to drift away from each other. That they have not yet moved as far apart as to lose visual contact is due to the anchors of each side’s strategic assets that are central to the other’s national interests.

For the United States, Russia is crucial in the global war on terrorism; nuclear nonproliferation; the world’s energy security; and the containment of a resurgent authoritarian China, which increasingly threatens the interests of the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia.

In Russia’s strategic calculations, America is featured as an ally in the struggle against domestic terrorism emanating from north Caucasus. Second, Washington is expected to show an “understanding” of Russia’s “special role” (and, therefore, “special interests”) on the post-Soviet territory, where 25 million ethnic Russians live outside Russia and where most of the people and industry are kept warm, lit, and working by Russian oil, gas, and electricity, until recently provided essentially on credit. Third, Moscow hoped for the U.S. decisive assistance in Russia’s integration into the world economy.

But perhaps the key American resource, the most desirable thing the United States can give Russia is esteem and equality. No matter how much America is castigated in the pro-Kremlin or Kremlin-owned newspapers or television channels; no matter what is being said about “Asia” or “Eurasia” as new national destinations, today, as under Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, for people as well as the elite, a parity with America--be it in strategic nuclear missiles or corn, meat or steel, democracy or coal, outer space or Olympic medals--and its appreciation of Russia have always been a key legitimizing domestic political factor. When it comes to Russia’s national self-respect, no one else--neither Europe, nor Asia, nor yet Germany, China, France, or Japan--even comes close.

Daniel Pipes: It's One War...

Daniel Pipes, in National Review, on the Israeli military operations in Gaza:
The Bush administration sees the United States at war with Islamic radicalism; has not the time come for it to see other theaters of this same war – Russia's with the Chechen rebels, India's with the Kashmiri insurgents, Israel's with Hamas – as we see our own, and work for the defeat of the Islamists?

Instead, in the Israeli case at least, Washington urges understanding, restraint, compromise, management of the problem, and other half-hearted and doomed remedies. The result is an ever more exhilarated and aggressive Palestinian population that believes victory within reach.

Washington's mistaken approach goes back to the Oslo accords of 1993, when Yasir Arafat seemingly closed the existential conflict in writing to Bill Clinton that "The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security." But Arafat's assurances were fraudulent and the Arab effort to eliminate Israel remains very much in place.

Israel, with U.S. support, must defeat this foul ambition. That implies inflicting a sense of defeat on the Palestinians, and winning their resignation to the permanent existence of a Jewish state in the Holy Land. Only then will the violence end.

Very Like a Whale

A friend sent me a link to her poetry blog, Very Like a Whale. Here's a sample:
Star Wagon

The black-eyed boy lies in the Radio Flyer,
(Sirius, Canopus)
hands behind his head, eyes fixed on the sky
(Rigil Kentaurus)
weighing his options. His bare foot swishes back
(Arcturus, Vega)
and forth over the meadow’s sleeping dandelions,
(Capella, Rigel)
his musical boy’s voice sounds out the names
(Procyon, Achernar)
of the brightest stars. Suddenly, a whoosh
(Betelgeuse, Hadar)
and when his mother comes out to fetch him
(Spica, Altair)
for dinner, he and the wagon are gone.
Of course, I'm adding it to the blogroll...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

James Na to Kim Jong Il: "Make My Day..."

Writing in The Seattle Times, James Na says it is time to call North Korea's bluff:
Given these conditions, the American message to North Korea should be a diplomatic equivalent of, "Go ahead, launch it and see what happens."

What is vital, however, is that should North Korea launch the missile, the U.S. must not overplay the advantages thusly derived from the situation. The recommendations to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea or destroy the missile on the ground in North Korean territory would be psychologically gratifying, no doubt, but is not advisable. Such a move would forfeit all the diplomatic leverages; the U.S., not North Korea, would now be seen as overreacting and being belligerent, while North Korea would play the victim card of having been attacked by the U.S.

Instead, what the U.S. ought to do is declare a North Korean missile test a grave provocation and an unacceptable threat to both the U.S. and East Asian regional security, and establish a quarantine of all transport in and out of North Korea. Tokyo will likely join the U.S. and even contribute naval and air elements for the effort. Seoul may not participate actively, but will acquiesce in the end.

Crucially, the U.S. should use the occasion to present Beijing with an ultimatum — as "Nuclear Showdown" author Gordon Chang has suggested — to make the continued Sino-American economic and trade relationship contingent upon China's cooperation to disarm North Korea.

Once a quarantine is in place, the U.S. should convey a simple message to Pyongyang that the quarantine will not end until North Korea backs down first. For once, it will be North Korea's turn to give something in return for reverting to the status quo.

But won't the North Koreans escalate? They previously declared that a quarantine would be an act of war. Would they not initiate a military conflict?

They will not, because such a conflict would be the death of Kim's regime and the end of North Korea as a state. Pyongyang has far more to lose.

For too long, North Korea has played chicken with the U.S. and has won. A North Korean missile launch would be, finally, the right moment for the U.S. to play chicken with North Korea — and win.

It's Been WET in Washington, DC

From today's Washington Post:
The rainfall drenching the Washington region has been a once-in-200-years event, and numerous and destructive flash floods have raced down area creeks and streams. But flooding on the Potomac River is not expected to even approach that of major deluges of the past, forecasters said yesterday.

J. Peter Mulhern on George Bush's Problem

From The American Thinker:
Nearly five years into the Global War on Terror we have destroyed one terrorist hideout in Afghanistan and conquered one major terror sponsoring country. George W. Bush seems content to stop there. Not even the imminent prospect of mad Mullahs with nukes seems capable of shaking him out of his strategic torpor. He has lost the initiative both at home and abroad.

We are stalled, our enemies are gearing up and the American people have noticed. This is the most important reason President Bush has been caught in the political doldrums lately.

Even the dramatic success of eliminating Abu Musab al Zarqawi and rolling up his network won’t address the President’s problem. In fact, as our success in Iraq gets more obvious, our paralysis on every other front will get more embarrassing. Hard slogging in Iraq is a convenient excuse for our lack of ambition elsewhere. That excuse won’t work for the President much longer.

George W. Bush tried to fight a war that even the conventional left could love. Predictably, he satisfied almost nobody. The next time Republicans go to the well to select a leader for the nation they need to find somebody with the independence of mind, and the courage, to give the editorial page of the New York Times precisely the attention it deserves. This is the essential prerequisite for both political success and successful policy.

The next Republican presidential nominee will probably have to craft our response to the next major Muslim strike on our homeland. For better or worse, Republicans are stuck with the burdens of power because the Democrats are stuck on stupid trying to win American elections as the anti-American party. This leaves Republican primary voters with a grave responsibility.
Which reminds me of the question, where is R-U-D-Y G-I-U-L-I-A-N-I when we need him?

Agustin Blazquez v. London's Victoria and Albert Museum

by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

Apparently the need for hard currency by the Castro regime – since the greedy tyrant doesn’t want to use the millions he has in Swiss banks – is such that Che merchandising worldwide is among his best bets. Unfortunately there are so many uninformed fools in the world.

A recent victim of the avalanche of Castro propaganda is nothing less than the reputable London Museum of Victoria & Albert.

The museum administration is proudly advertising the exhibit “Che Guevara: Revolutionary and Icon.” You can get the gist of the worldwide Che propaganda and misinformation by checking out this link.

It is funny and pathetic for a reputable British museum to exhibit that junk and to contribute to Castro’s efforts to keep the public misinformed by providing that masquerade of an icon concocted by the longest reigning tyrant in the world.

I wonder how Jews of the world would react to the image of Hitler being made into a “pop celebrity and symbol of fashion’s fascination with the radical chic.” And would Hitler’s “iconic image” have “inspired art, fashion and culture for the past 45 years and is recognizable even in its most simplified form,” as the Victoria & Albert Museum refer to Che in their announcement.

Walking the streets with a Che t-shirt, or a pair of pants, or a jacket or whatever trashy merchandise is put out in the shops of the world is as insulting to Cubans as the likeness of Hitler is to Holocaust victims and their families.

Che was Castro’s executioner.

Che wrote in his diary how much he enjoyed seeing the blood and brain parts of his victims scattered on Cuban soil.

This is conveniently ignored by the Hollywood bozos like Robert Redford in his film “The Motorcycle Diaries,” thus contributing further to idealize this criminal who is nothing less than a disgusting Nazi mass murderer and a subhuman like Charles Manson, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer, though on a much larger scale.

Why would anyone want to make scum like Che into a fashion symbol? What reputable museum would proudly advertise and contribute to an “icon” like this?

I wrote to the Victoria & Albert Press Office, “I learned that the Victoria & Albert Museum is going to have an exhibit about Ernesto "Che" Guevara. For your information - below my note - is my article about the real "Che"-- or . Before a museum as reputable as yours presents an exhibit, you should know your subject well. Apparently you do not. What credibility will your exhibit have?”

Promptly, I received the following reply, “Thank you for your email about the Che Guevara exhibition. Your comments have been noted and passed to the Director of Public Affairs.”

However, I have learned in the U.S. not to expect anything but insensitivity for Che’s and Castro’s victims because most Americans are highly misinformed by the U.S. media and Marxist professors at their learning centers. Apparently the British suffers from the same misinformation problems. So probably this is one more lost cause for people on earth who value truth over propaganda. Of all the pop icons of the world to choose from, they pick a vulgar, mass murderer.

Meanwhile, Victoria & Albert, from heaven, where they have access to the truth, know that this exhibit does not belong in a museum.

© 2006 ABIP
Agustin Blazquez, Producer/director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA, premiered at the American Film Institute in 1995, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles, COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation, premiered in 2001 at the U.S. Capitol in and at the 2001 Miami International Book Fair COVERING CUBA 3: Elian presented at the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival, the 2004 American Film Renaissance Film Festival in Dallas, Texas and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival, COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below, premiered at the Tower Theaters in Miami on January 2006 and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival, Dan Rather "60 Minutes," an inside view and RUMBERAS CUBANAS, Vol. 1 MARIA ANTONIETA PONS

For previews visit:

Author of more that 300 published articles and author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and translator with Jaums Sutton of the book by Luis Grave de Peralta Morell THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Daniel Pipes on Pew's Muslim Opinion Poll

Daniel Pipes says he's not surpised by findings of a recent Pew poll. An excerpt:
Support for terrorism: All the Muslim populations polled display a solid majority [editor's note: actually minority] of support for Osama bin Laden. Asked whether they have confidence in him, Muslims replied positively, ranging between 8% (in Turkey) and 72% (in Nigeria). Likewise, suicide bombing is popular. Muslims who call it justified range from 13% (in Germany) to 69% (in Nigeria). These appalling numbers suggest that terrorism by Muslims has deep roots and will remain a danger for years to come.

British and Nigerian Muslims are most alienated: Britain stands out as a paradoxical country. Non-Muslims there have strikingly more favorable views of Islam and Muslims than elsewhere in the West; for example, only 32% of the British sample view Muslims as violent, significantly less than their counterparts in France (41%), Germany (52%), or Spain (60%). In the Muhammad cartoon dispute, Britons showed more sympathy for the Muslim outlook than did other Europeans. More broadly, Britons blame Muslims less for the poor state of Western-Muslim relations.

But British Muslims return the favor with the most malign anti-Western attitudes found in Europe. Many more of them regard Westerners as violent, greedy, immoral, and arogant than do their counterparts in France, Germany, and Spain. In addition, whether asked about their attitudes toward Jews, responsibility for September 11, or the place of women in Western societies, their views are notably more extreme.

The situation in Britain reflects the "Londonistan" phenomenon, whereby Britons preemptively cringe and Muslims respond to this weakness with aggression.

Nigerian Muslims generally have the most belligerent views on such issues as the state of Western-Muslim relations, the supposed immorality and arrogance of Westerners, and support for Mr. bin Laden and suicide terrorism. This extremism results, no doubt, from the violent state of Christian-Muslim relations in Nigeria.

Ironically, most Muslim alienation is found in those countries where Muslims are either the most or the least accommodated, suggesting that a middle path is best - where Muslims do not win special privileges, as in Britain, nor are they in an advanced state of hostility, as in Nigeria.

Overall, the Pew survey sends an undeniable message of crisis from one end to the other of the Muslim world.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Moonlight Hotel by Scott Anderson

Having just spent 10 days on vacation, I recommendScott Anderson's novel, Moonlight Hotel, as good beach reading for those interested in international affairs. It seems to be based on his real-life work as a war correspondent, and while it has a Hollywood ending, the rest is very realistic, especially the State Department correspondence...

Israel's French Connection

It would be nice if terrible events such as this might lead to reconstituting the alliance that won World War II-- a real allliance, made up of UN Security Council permanent members, instead of the present pathetic "coalition of the willing" led by an unresponsive "unipolar" USA. IMHO, an equal partnership with Russia and China could defeat the Islamists quickly and decisively. Right now, Islamists appear to be cleverly playing "divide and conquer", using the Euro-Atlantic alliance as both a wedge against Russia and China, and a tail to wag the American dog. From Haaretz:
Kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit has dual French-Israeli citizenship and officials in Paris have been working since his abduction on Sunday to secure his release from Gaza gunmen.

Corporal Gilad Shalit was a member of the crew of a tank stationed just outside the border of Gaza, when gunmen from Hamas and other armed groups attacked their IDF position early Sunday morning.

Two members of the tank crew were killed, a third seriously wounded, and Gilad, also wounded, was taken captive and brought across the border into the Gaza Strip.

Shalit's father was born in France and he therefore holds French citizenship.

Yael Avran, spokeswoman for the French Embassy in Tel Aviv, said diplomats are "fully active in order to liberate the soldier." She said French officials in Paris were in touch with Palestinian officials, and the French ambassador planned to meet with the Shalit family, later in the day.

Al Qaeda Kills Russians in Iraq

This recent beheading snuff film is evidence that for the Al Qaeda types, the US and Russia present two faces of the same enemy. From an AP account on Yahoo! News:
CAIRO, Egypt - An al-Qaida-linked group posted a Web video Sunday showing the killings of three Russian embassy workers abducted earlier this month in Iraq. A fourth also was said to have been killed.

An accompanying statement by the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization linking seven insurgent groups including al-Qaida in Iraq, said all four Russians had been killed. Russia's Foreign Ministry said it had not yet confirmed the hostages' deaths.

The 90-second video, posted on an Islamic Web site that frequently airs militant messages, showed the beheading of two blindfolded men and the shooting of a third.

In the footage, two men clad in black and wearing black ski masks shout "God is great!" before beheading the first man. Then one militant appears standing over the decapitated body of a second victim lying in a pool of blood, with the head placed on top of the body.
Why the US government is so hostile towards Russia at this moment, when we need all the allies we can get in the Global War on Terror, is beyond me...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

NGOs v Israel

Here's an interesting powerpoint presentation from an Israeli conference entitled Ethical Norms in a Political World:
NGOs, Human Rights and the Arab-Israeli Conflicts
, entitledInternational legal terminology, politics and human rights.Dr. Avi Bell, who teaches law at Bar Ilan University, argues that many NGO reports critical of Israel actually misrepresent international law in order to attack the Jewish state. Readers of the reports, especially journalists, may be unaware that the report contain lies and misrepresentations--and that authors of such reports by groups like Amnesty International actually state that they do not believe that the term "terrorism" should be used, refusing to use it themselves...

Mark Steyn on Ann Coulter

He reviewed her latest book for Canada's McLean's Magazine:
There are any number of 9/11 widows. A few are big George W. Bush supporters, many are apolitical. I was honoured to receive an email the other day from Deena Gilbey, a British subject whose late husband worked on the 84th floor of the World Trade Center and remained in the building to help evacuate his colleagues. A few days later, U.S. Immigration sent Mrs. Gilbey a letter informing her that, as she was now a widow, her residence status had changed and they were enclosing a deportation order. Having legally admitted to the country the men who killed her husband, the U.S. government's first act after having enabled his murder is to further traumatize the bereaved.

The heartless brain-dead bonehead penpusher who sent out that letter is far more "mean-spirited" than Miss Coulter at full throttle. Yet Mrs. Gilbey isn't courted by the TV bookers the way the Jersey Girls are. Hundreds of soldiers' moms believe their sons died in a noble and just cause in Iraq, but it's Cindy Sheehan, who calls Bush "the biggest terrorist in the world," who gets speaking engagements across America, Canada, Britain, Europe and Australia. When Abu Musab al-Zarqawi winds up pushing up daisy cutters, the media don't go to Paul Bigley, who rejoiced that the man who decapitated his brother would now "rot in hell," nor the splendid Aussie Douglas Wood, who called his kidnappers "arseholes," nor his fellow hostage Ulf Hjertstrom, a Swede who's invested 50,000 bucks or so in trying to track down the men who kidnapped him and visit a little reciprocal justice on them. No, instead, the media rush to get the reaction of Michael Berg, who thinks Bush is "the real terrorist" rather than the man who beheaded his son....

...After the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, I wrote:

"The first reaction of the news shows to the verdict was to book some relative of the 9/11 families and ask whether they were satisfied with the result, as if the prosecution of the war on terror is some kind of national-security Megan's Law on which they have inviolable proprietorial rights. Sorry, but that's not what happened that Tuesday morning. The thousands who died were not targeted as individuals: they were killed because they were American, not because somebody in a cave far away decided to murder Mrs. Smith. . . It's not about 'closure' for the victims; it's about victory for the nation."

But nobody paid the slightest heed to this line. For all the impact my column had, I might as well have done house calls. Then Coulter comes in and yuks it up with the Playboy-spread gags, and suddenly the Jersey Girls only want to do the super-extra-fluffy puffball interviews. So two paragraphs in Ann Coulter's book have succeeded in repositioning these ladies: they may still be effective Democrat hackettes, but I think TV shows will have a harder time passing them off as non-partisan representatives of the 9/11 dead.

So, on balance, hooray for Miss Coulter. If I were to go all sanctimonious and priggish, I might add that, in rendering their "human shield" strategy more problematic, she may be doing Democrats a favour. There's no evidence the American people fall for this shtick: in 2002, the party's star Senate candidates all ran on biography -- Max Cleland, Jean Carnahan (the widow of a deceased governor), and Walter Mondale (the old lion pressed into service after Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash). All lost. Using "messengers whom we're not allowed to reply to" doesn't solve the Democrats' biggest problem: their message. The Dems, says the author, have "become the 'Lifetime' TV network of political parties." But, except within the Democrat-media self-reinforcing cocoon, it's not that popular. A political party with a statistically improbable reliance on the bereaved shouldn't be surprised that it spends a lot of time in mourning -- especially on Wednesday mornings every other November.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Taras Bulba

Last night, watched this 1960s Cinemascope extravaganza starring Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis as Ukrainian Cossacks fighting the Poles during the 18th Century. Not the best picture ever made--but interesting, especially the father-son story, which ends tragically...and in the aftermath of the "Orange Revolution"...and how many Hollywood screenplays are based on a story by Nikolai Gogol, anyhow? Here's an excerpt from the online text:
"Turn round, my boy! How ridiculous you look! What sort of a priest's cassock have you got on? Does everybody at the academy dress like that?"

With such words did old Bulba greet his two sons, who had been absent for their education at the Royal Seminary of Kief, and had now returned home to their father.

His sons had but just dismounted from their horses. They were a couple of stout lads who still looked bashful, as became youths recently released from the seminary. Their firm healthy faces were covered with the first down of manhood, down which had, as yet, never known a razor. They were greatly discomfited by such a reception from their father, and stood motionless with eyes fixed upon the ground.

"Stand still, stand still! let me have a good look at you," he continued, turning them around. "How long your gaberdines are! What gaberdines! There never were such gaberdines in the world before. Just run, one of you! I want to see whether you will not get entangled in the skirts, and fall down."

"Don't laugh, don't laugh, father!" said the eldest lad at length.

"How touchy we are! Why shouldn't I laugh?"

"Because, although you are my father, if you laugh, by heavens, I will strike you!"

"What kind of son are you? what, strike your father!" exclaimed Taras Bulba, retreating several paces in amazement.

"Yes, even my father. I don't stop to consider persons when an insult is in question."

"So you want to fight me? with your fist, eh?"

"Any way."

"Well, let it be fisticuffs," said Taras Bulba, turning up his sleeves. "I'll see what sort of a man you are with your fists."

And father and son, in lieu of a pleasant greeting after long separation, began to deal each other heavy blows on ribs, back, and chest, now retreating and looking at each other, now attacking afresh.

"Look, good people! the old man has gone man! he has lost his senses completely!" screamed their pale, ugly, kindly mother, who was standing on the threshold, and had not yet succeeded in embracing her darling children. "The children have come home, we have not seen them for over a year; and now he has taken some strange freak--he's pommelling them."

"Yes, he fights well," said Bulba, pausing; "well, by heavens!" he continued, rather as if excusing himself, "although he has never tried his hand at it before, he will make a good Cossack! Now, welcome, son! embrace me," and father and son began to kiss each other. "Good lad! see that you hit every one as you pommelled me; don't let any one escape. Nevertheless your clothes are ridiculous all the same. What rope is this hanging there?--And you, you lout, why are you standing there with your hands hanging beside you?" he added, turning to the youngest. "Why don't you fight me? you son of a dog!"

"What an idea!" said the mother, who had managed in the meantime to embrace her youngest. "Who ever heard of children fighting their own father? That's enough for the present; the child is young, he has had a long journey, he is tired." The child was over twenty, and about six feet high. "He ought to rest, and eat something; and you set him to fighting!"

"You are a gabbler!" said Bulba. "Don't listen to your mother, my lad; she is a woman, and knows nothing. What sort of petting do you need? A clear field and a good horse, that's the kind of petting for you! And do you see this sword? that's your mother! All the rest people stuff your heads with is rubbish; the academy, books, primers, philosophy, and all that, I spit upon it all!" Here Bulba added a word which is not used in print. "But I'll tell you what is best: I'll take you to Zaporozhe[1] this very week. That's where there's science for you! There's your school; there alone will you gain sense."
Consider adding Taras Bulba to your Netflix list, or you can buy it from, here:

Hoekstra and Santorum's Declassified Iraq WMD Memo

Via Powerline (ht Roger L. Simon):

Sunday, June 11, 2006

On Vacation

Posting will be erratic for the next couple of weeks.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Official 2006 World Cup Website

Todays' score: Germany 4, Costa Rica 2

Tomorrow: Paraguay v. England

You can watch match highlights here.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Russian View of American Foreign Policy

Sergei Karaganov has a long article that analyzes Bush administration moves, in Russia in Global Affairs.A sample:
American democratic idealism should not be underestimated, nor should we judge American leadership by those who have lost faith. Such a temptation is fraught with costly mistakes.

Another important subject of the president’s message is the declaration of war – I believe, for the first time ever – on Islamic radicalism. All the right words about respect for the great and proud Islamic civilization were spoken. But it was also said that the fight against most militant and billigerent form of Islamic radicalism is the greatest ideological conflict at the beginning of the 21st century; that all great powers have joined forces on counterterrorism; and that this situation drastically differs from the 20th century, when the great powers were divided by ideology and national interests.

Bush stated what many were thinking about but did not dare say aloud. Now it will be more difficult for Russia to ignore this reality, especially since we were the first to take up arms and, having paid a terrible price, won the battle – not yet the war – in Chechnya against this most militant and belligerent form of Islamic radicalism and terrorism.

Yet, by their ill-judged intervention in Iraq the Americans have made this struggle far more difficult for everyone.

Russia’s unique history and geography, as well as many of its partners, are responsible for pushing it onto the battlefield of this new confrontation. Now we are faced with the extremely difficult task of avoiding this fate to the maximum degree possible.

Predictably, Iran – said to be the evil of all evils, overflowing with tyranny, Muslim radicalism, terrorism, and the proliferation of WMD – was declared America’s number one enemy. It looks like the United States has abandoned its attempts (at least for the next two years) to convince Tehran to mend its ways, and will now rely on mostly coercion to achieve its goals. This will not frighten Iranian radicals, but it will certainly drive Iranian reformers into a corner. It would be wiser to fight Tehran’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons rather than fight the Iranian leadership.

Polish Radio: Zarkawi Death Won't End Iraq War

Polskie Radio says to hold off on victory celebrations:
‘The killing of Al Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will not speed up the normalisation of the situation In Iraq’, claims Marcin Grodzki, Polish expert in Arabic studies. Zarkawi, blamed for the death of hundreds in suicide bombings, was killed in a raid north of Baghdad earlier today.

‘Al Qaeda was prepared for such a course of events and their leader’s death may lead to more violence’, Grodzki says. Profesor Janusz Danecki of the Warsaw University agrees that Al Qaeda may now undertake revenge actions on Americans.

Michelle Malkin Vents About the Jihadis Among Us

You can watch the video here.

End of an Era at Oxford

St. Hilda's College, Oxford University's last remaining women's college, has finally decided to admit men... (ht Inside Higher Ed's Quick Takes)

NY Times: US Policies Lost Somalia

A very interesting story in the New York Times today containted this complaint against the US, from Somalia's interim president:
The United Nations report also cited what it called clandestine support for a so-called antiterrorist coalition, in what appeared to be a reference to the American policy. Somalia's interim president, Abdullahi Yusuf, first criticized American support for Mogadishu's warlords in early May during a trip to Sweden.

"We really oppose American aid that goes outside the government," he said, arguing that the best way to hunt members of Al Qaeda in Somalia was to strengthen the country's government.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

EU Aided CIA Torture Flights

The BBC is reporting that fourteen European Union countries helped the CIA with torture flights to secret prisons in Poland and Romania, according to a Swiss report.
The new report says: "It is now clear - although we are still far from having established the truth - that authorities in several European countries actively participated with the CIA in these unlawful activities.

"Other countries ignored them knowingly, or did not want to know."

Spain, Turkey, Germany and Cyprus provided "staging posts" for rendition operations, while the UK, Portugal, Ireland and Greece were "stop-off points", the report says.

It says Italy, Sweden, Macedonia and Bosnia allowed the abduction of residents from their soil.

The most serious charges are levelled at Poland and Romania, where Mr Marty says there is enough evidence to support suspicions that CIA secret prisons were established.

Although the Swiss senator says the US must bear responsibility for the flights, he says the programme could operate only with "the intentional or grossly negligent collusion of the European partners".

The "spider's web" of US rendition flights is based on an "utterly alien" approach that breaches human rights, he concludes.

Henry Kissinger's Moscow Press Conference

Today's newspaper coverage didn't make clear what Henry Kissinger had to say about his meeting yesterday in Moscow with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Luckily, the Kremlin put up an English-language transcript of the Q & A with the Russian press corps, so here it is:
QUESTION: Today many people are talking about Russian-American relations. What do you think is necessary to improve the two countries’ relations? Do you consider that Vice President Richard Cheney’s famous speech damaged relations?

FORMER U. S. SECREATARY OF STATE HENRY KISSINGER (back translation from Russian): First of all I would like to say that I am leaving Russia with a very positive feeling. President Putin and I just had a very friendly, warm meeting. My impression as I leave this country is that there are very significant opportunities for Russian-American cooperation and that next month, when the American and Russian presidents meet, progress will be made in many areas. I think that already in the near future we will be able to talk about the positive state of our relations.

I also think that we are adult enough to understand that that we can differ on certain issues. But our differences of opinion must not stand in the way of our efforts to achieve progress in international relations as a whole and in relations between our two countries. And the cooperation that we saw concerning Iran can, undoubtedly, be expanded into other areas.

QUESTION: Russia is now preparing for the G8 summit and do you think that the fact that Russia is a member of the G8 and holds the G8 presidency represents a victory for the international community? Or do you have some concerns regarding this issue?

HENRY KISSINGER: No, I don’t have any concerns regarding this issue. Russia fully deserves its G8 membership. Decisions that are taken by the G8 would not be possible without Russia’s participation.

QUESTION: What do you think about the fact that certain people express their concern regarding the condition of democracy in Russia?

HENRY KISSINGER: One must think about the evolution that takes place in any country. I have a very positive feeling regarding the evolution that is taking place in Russia. I participated in establishing the G8 in 1975. The issues that we discuss today are better solved thanks to Russia’s participation than those that we discussed in 1975.

QUESTION: Many political analysts predict that there will be a harsh discussion concerning Russian energy policy at the G8 summit. What position do you think the American administration will take on this issue?

HENRY KISSINGER: You must understand that I am simply a citizen and your question should be addressed to government representatives who would be better able to answer it. I am more concerned about the fact that at the summit in St Petersburg they will discuss issues linked with the energy security of all countries and not only one country’s energy policy.

Please excuse me but I must catch my plane. Allow me to use this opportunity to thank all those who gave me such a warm welcome in Moscow and especially here, in Novo-Ogaryovo. And I would like to say that each time I am in Russia I always have the impression that progress has been made during my absence. I will undoubtedly return to Russia again.

Thank you very much.

Inside Higher Ed

A friend of mine just got a job interview for a teaching post, thanks to a listing on Inside Higher Ed. And my favorite Central Asia blog,, just linked to Inside Higher Ed's story about professor Frederick Starr.

Naturally, I wanted to know more about this web publication, so I toured their website's "About Us" section. Turns out at least one of the founders is a veteran of the Chronicle of Higher Education--namely, Scott Jaschik. He did a great job as editor of their news section, and I was surprised when the Chronicle let him go a while back. I had met him in another context, along with someone I know and trust, and we both were impressed with his intelligence, good taste, and reasoned approach to things. So, it's good to see he's back in the saddle, and from the blurb on Inside Higher Ed's website, taking on the Chronicle mano a mano. Unlike the Chronicle, it's free. And free access is one of their stated principles:
So we conceived of Inside Higher Ed with a few underlying principles:

Excellence. We believe deeply in the many missions of colleges and universities: shaping minds, training workers, engaging in discovery. To carry out those missions, the people who work in higher education need the best news and information possible about their professional world. By “best,” we mean above all accurate, thorough, and reliable. We also care about history, about context, about nuance — one of the reasons we love being part of higher education is that the toughest issues here aren’t simple. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily like everything we publish on this site: We take our watchdog role seriously and will do plenty of hard-hitting investigative reporting, sparing no sacred cows. And just because information is authoritative doesn’t mean it has to be bland or boring: We want you to have a little fun when you visit Inside Higher Ed, which is why you’ll find cartoons and humor columns amid our breaking news, incisive commentary and freewheeling blogs.

Accessibility. You don’t need an expense account any more to get the best news, information and career services. At Inside Higher Ed, we’ve eliminated or lowered barriers based on cost. All of our content is free — so everyone can be an insider. Job seekers, too, can use virtually all of our services without paying a dime. And employers will find a comprehensive suite of jobs services at prices that every institution can afford. In every way, this is a site for everyone in higher education.

Community. If we’re doing our jobs well, everyone who works in or cares about higher education should feel, every day, that this site is produced for them. This is a gathering place for all of the many constituents and diverse institutions that make up the rich web of higher education. At Inside Higher Ed, you’ll find no pecking orders or second-class citizens. We invite you — no, actively encourage you — to add your views to our mix. Comment on an article. Submit a letter to the editor. Send article ideas or tips to our staff members. If you have a computer (or heck, a piece of paper and a stamp), you’ve got a voice here.
Well, I'll start by adding Inside Higher Ed to my blogroll...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Make the Legal Case Against Iran at the UN

Today's Washington Post also has this really interesting oped:A Legal Case Against Iran
By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey.
Their bottom line:
So far U.S.-led efforts to have the Security Council directly condemn and impose sanctions on Iran under Chapter VII for its nuclear ambitions have not succeeded. That's why seeking the council's intervention on Iran's illegal threats to use force makes excellent diplomatic sense. Such an approach would provide multiple and reinforcing benefits.

First, it would broaden the international dialogue beyond Tehran's breach of nonproliferation obligations, focusing on the real underlying problem: the bellicose nature of the Iranian regime and the use it might make of nuclear weapons. And since Tehran's violations of the U.N. Charter are, by their nature, issues that can be handled only by the Security Council, bringing them to the council would counter Iran's efforts to displace the U.N. framework in favor of direct negotiations with the European Union and the United States. Indeed, a serious debate on Ahmadinejad's illegal threat would give the United States a unique opportunity to focus the Security Council on the shrill anti-Israeli rhetoric emanating not just from Iran but also from numerous other Islamic countries. This rhetoric fosters regional tensions and nurtures the dangerous "jihadist" sentiments.

Second, demands that Iran withdraw its threat and acknowledge its obligation to peacefully resolve any dispute it may have with Israel would be firmly grounded in international law -- so much so that Security Council members Russia and China would be hard-pressed to oppose the effort. Both of those countries have routinely cloaked their objections to E.U.-U.S. policy toward Iran in the language of international law, arguing, for example, that Iran has a legal right to pursue civilian nuclear activities. No country, of course, is entitled to violate the U.N. Charter.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is how the U.N. system was, and is, supposed to work. When a clear threat to peace arises, it is incumbent upon the Security Council to act in defense of the threatened party to head off the unilateral use of force and to advance "collective security." This imperative is particularly compelling when the very legitimacy of the threatened party and its right to independent national existence have been challenged. Such a challenge goes beyond the violation of Article 2.4 and raises the specter of the most heinous international crimes, including genocide.

Washington's Somali Community Follows Events on the Web

A Washington Post reporter asked the local Somali community what's going on, and learned they get news from websites like
Mogadishu has been the scene of some of the worst clashes since U.S. soldiers withdrew from Somalia in 1994 after a failed intervention.

But unlike then, the chaos in the East African homeland is closer than ever for thousands of Somalian immigrants in the Washington region and across the nation. Technology is propelling the conflict into their living rooms and offices, providing a painful ringside view of the crisis as well as ways to help relatives in danger.

It's the latest manifestation of how immigrants in the region, from Ethiopians to Salvadorans, from Liberians to Iranians, are increasingly connected in real time to violence and political upheavals unfolding in their home countries.

"Everything that happens in Somalia is now instantaneous," said Dahir Amalo, 43, a mortgage banker.

Today, several dozen Internet sites follow every twist and turn of the conflict. They post digital photos of the chaos, blogs and round-the-clock news. It's easy to listen to online radio and video broadcasts from the BBC and Voice of America.

Expatriates have bankrolled Internet cafes in Somalia and helped build one of the most reliable and inexpensive phone networks in Africa, where cellphone and online use is rapidly growing. It's cheaper for Somalis in Mogadishu to phone the United States than the other way around, said immigrants here. And they use text messaging, e-mail and instant messaging to further cut costs.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Smartest Boy in America" (of 1929) Dies

Wilber Huston and Arthur Williams pose with Thomas Edison
According to his obituary in today's Washington Post,in 1929 Wilber B. Huston passed a written and oral examination given by Thomas Alva Edison. He quit working for Edison a short while after graduation from MIT. After spending some time in evangelical missions for "moral rearmament", Huston went to work for the US government at the start of World War II, spending his career as a rocket scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
In New Jersey, the 49 rivals toured Edison's scientific laboratories, rode through the recently opened Holland Tunnel and visited Coney Island. The four-hour exam at Edison's old battery laboratory covered math, physics, chemistry and "general knowledge." Huston recalled that two questions in the last category included "Who is Jenny Lind?" and "When do you consider a lie permissible?" Most of the boys knew the name of the 19th-century "Swedish Nightingale." A lie is permissible, Huston said, "in case of serious trouble, pain and grief, and you do not benefit yourself in any way."

Ten years later, it was revealed that four other boys finished so close to Huston in the written test that Edison decided to add an oral exam.

No contemporary applicant to Harvard, Stanford or Chicago has faced a panel of judges who compare to those who grilled Huston and his rivals the day after their exam. Besides Edison, they included film-and-camera company founder George Eastman, automaker Henry Ford, industrialist Harvey Firestone, aviator Charles Lindbergh, the headmaster of Phillips Exeter Academy and the president of MIT.

After the quiz, the group immediately announced Huston the winner. A moment of silence was followed by cheers, then the other boys hoisted him on their shoulders. The whole group hustled off to a trip around New York on the mayor's yacht and had dinner in a fancy restaurant. "I was impressed by the dinner as well as the check of which I managed to catch a glimpse: $20.00. (Remember, this was 1929)," Huston said in a family memoir that his son has posted on his Web site.

The student awoke the next morning to a transatlantic telephone call from a London newspaper. Huston's photo was on Page 1 of the New York Times, accompanied by a long article and multiple photos inside the paper. The movie newsreels, having missed the announcement, came to his hotel for interviews. The media, which had created a hullabaloo around the event, dubbed Huston "the smartest boy in America," and unwanted publicity dogged him for years.

Huston, who had planned to study chemical engineering, switched to physics and graduated in 1933. Unable to get a scholarship for graduate school, he went to work for Edison's son but four years later became fascinated with an evangelist's "moral re-armament" crusade. He worked for that campaign until World War II, when the need for scientists pulled him back to his intellectual home. He ended up with NASA and lived in Bowie until after his retirement.

But in that heady first week of August 1929, Edison sent word to Huston that he wished to have dinner with him. Huston arrived at the grand Edison home to a formal family dinner, with servants in attendance.

"The first course was a soup," Huston wrote in his family memoir. "After a few minutes Mr. Edison said something, and everyone laughed. I asked my dinner partner what he had said. 'I see he tasted his soup before he salted it' was the reply. Mr. Edison is famous for saying, 'I have no use for a man who salts his soup before he tastes it.' So I guess I passed both his examinations."
Here's a link to the MIT webpage about the Edison scholarshipThere's also a nice tidbit in the Arizona Republic:
In 1944, he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the precursor to National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It was there that Huston met his wife, Dorothy Beadle, a mathematician aide. They married in 1946.

Huston's daughter, Kathryn Grant of Fountain Hills, remembers watching her father deciphering calculations at home. He told her he was figuring out how to put satellites up in space and keep them there.

The New Yorker's Oriana Fallaci Profile

Here. (ht Roger L. Simon) An excerpt:
Fallaci recalled that she found Khomeini intelligent, and “the most handsome old man I had ever met in my life. He resembled the ‘Moses’ sculpted by Michelangelo.” And, she said, Khomeini was “not a puppet like Arafat or Qaddafi or the many other dictators I met in the Islamic world. He was a sort of Pope, a sort of king—a real leader. And it did not take long to realize that in spite of his quiet appearance he represented the Robespierre or the Lenin of something which would go very far and would poison the world. People loved him too much. They saw in him another Prophet. Worse: a God.”

Upon leaving Khomeini’s house after her first interview, Fallaci was besieged by Iranians who wanted to touch her because she’d been in the Ayatollah’s presence. “The sleeves of my shirt were all torn off, my slacks, too,” she recalled. “My arms were full of bruises, and hands, too. Do believe me: everything started with Khomeini. Without Khomeini, we would not be where we are. What a pity that, when pregnant with him, his mother did not choose to have an abortion.”

Canada Busts Ontario Terror Cell

Here's a question: If it is lack of democracy that causes terrorism, as President Bush has said, why are there terror cells operating in Canada? From the Toronto Star:
At a news conference earlier in the day, a CSIS official said a series of terrorist attacks plotted against unspecified targets in southern Ontario were “inspired by Al Qaeda,” adding that the ring of suspects arrested posed a “real and serious” threat.

Three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a commonly used fertilizer used to make explosives, were recovered by police, who say that’s three times the amount used in the bombing of a government building in Oklahoma that killed 168 people.

“It was their intent to use it for a terrorist attack,” RCMP assistant commissioner Mike McDonell told a news conference in Toronto.

“If I can put this in context for you, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people was completed with only one tonne of ammonium nitrate.”

“This group posed a real and serious threat,” he added. “It had the capacity and intent to carry out these acts.”

A source who asked not to be named said information provided by U.S. officials played a part in the Canadian arrests.

An FBI affidavit alleges Amercians Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, both from the Atlanta region, travelled to Toronto in March 2005, meeting with others of interest to U.S. authorities. The men supposedly discussed terrorist training and bomb plots against military facilities and oil refineries.
Maybe this document from Canadian intelligence might explain what's going on north of the border. (ht LGF)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Konstantin on the Essence of Russia

Konstantin says a love of chaos is key to the Russian soul, citing a Moscow News oped by Robert Bridges. An excerpt:
In America, when you go to the doctor's office, for example, you take a number and have a seat in the waiting room. When your number is called, the doctor will see you. Pretty straightforward. In Russia, you walk into a riot, ask who is last, and tell that person to hold your spot and then go shopping or something. You return about an hour later and hop back into line like nothing happened. This drives Westerners nuts. Then (then!), while all this is happening, or not happening, people are attacking the gates from other directions, with all kind of plausible and not so plausible explanations.

Yet, in the midst of this chaos, it seems the Russians truly enjoy the lively debate, the human friction, the feeling of being on the edge of god knows what.

Across the Russian capital, the sound of lawnmowers and the smell of cut grass are becoming more common. Grass is sprouting up everywhere. A woman I know even replaced her lush garden at the dacha with grass seed.
Yes, the weed whacker of Western rationalization is slowly making headway against Russian impulsiveness; I just hope it does not supplant what makes Russia so unique.

British Police Continue Search for Chemical Weapons

The Times of London says the British police are not finished searching--after shooting a man in the raid of a London apartment, after a tip, but finding nothing. British police say they are concerned about possible terror attacks on the World Cup soccer championship, among other possible targets.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Talks to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Here. (ht LGF)
"So I said," Hirsi Ali confides, " 'You know what, darling Europeans? I'm going to tell you about Muhammad!' "

True to her gloves-off approach, Hirsi Ali talked about how Muhammad, who had nine wives, fell in love with his wife Aisha when she was 6 and married her when she was 9. Hirsi Ali outraged Dutch Muslims by accusing Muhammad of pedophilia.

Hirsi Ali says some took the issue seriously. She emphasizes its relevance because "there are more and more men taking minors as wives, and saying that Muhammad is their example."

Hirsi Ali says the debate gave her hope - she received one letter from a Muslim that read, "I don't know what you started in me, but I am thinking... . "

In the same way, Hirsi Ali explains, she'd like to challenge the beliefs of Black Muslims in America. She finds it as unfathomable that African Americans would convert to Islam as that Jews would convert to Nazism.

"I want to tell them about Darfur," she asserts firmly. "The people in Darfur are being exterminated just because they are black. So [Islam] is also a racist doctrine... . People don't know what's going on in Saudi Arabia. All these palaces are full of black slaves! So the black community here converting to Islam is like converting voluntarily to slavery.

"I think if they hear it from a black person," she says hopefully, "it will help."

These days, Hirsi Ali reports, she's working on a book about Enlightenment values - Voltaire remains a great hero. She plans to have it translated into Arabic, Urdu, and other key languages and distributed around the world in video and audio.

"I'm going to resurrect Muhammad, and he's going to have conversations with [British philosopher Karl] Popper and me and [economic theorist Friedrich] Hayek."

Hirsi Ali smiles. "I hope I live long enough to complete it," she says.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Der Spiegel Interview

Mark Steyn said this Der Spiegel article is a "must read". An excerpt:
SPIEGEL: There was great indignation in Germany when it became known that you might be coming to the soccer world championship. Did that surprise you?

Ahmadinejad: No, that's not important. I didn't even understand how that came about. It also had no meaning for me. I don't know what all the excitement is about.

SPIEGEL: It concerned your remarks about the Holocaust. It was inevitable that the Iranian president's denial of the systematic murder of the Jews by the Germans would trigger outrage.

Ahmadinejad: I don't exactly understand the connection.

SPIEGEL: First you make your remarks about the Holocaust. Then comes the news that you may travel to Germany -- this causes an uproar. So you were surprised after all?

Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn't surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.

SPIEGEL: Denying the Holocaust is punishable in Germany. Are you indifferent when confronted with so much outrage?

Ahmadinejad: I know that DER SPIEGEL is a respected magazine. But I don't know whether it is possible for you to publish the truth about the Holocaust. Are you permitted to write everything about it?

SPIEGEL: Of course we are entitled to write about the findings of the past 60 years' historical research. In our view there is no doubt that the Germans -- unfortunately -- bear the guilt for the murder of 6 million Jews.

Ahmadinejad: Well, then we have stirred up a very concrete discussion. We are posing two very clear questions. The first is: Did the Holocaust actually take place? You answer this question in the affirmative. So, the second question is: Whose fault was it? The answer to that has to be found in Europe and not in Palestine. It is perfectly clear: If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe.

On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn't take place, why then did this regime of occupation ...

SPIEGEL: ... You mean the state of Israel...

Ahmadinejad: ... come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.
SPIEGEL: That has long since happened in Germany.

Ahmadinejad: We don't want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians. Why isn't research into a deed that occurred 60 years ago permitted? After all, other historical occurrences, some of which lie several thousand years in the past, are open to research, and even the governments support this.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, with all due respect, the Holocaust occurred, there were concentration camps, there are dossiers on the extermination of the Jews, there has been a great deal of research, and there is neither the slightest doubt about the Holocaust nor about the fact - we greatly regret this - that the Germans are responsible for it. If we may now add one remark: the fate of the Palestinians is an entirely different issue, and this brings us into the present.

Ahmadinejad: No, no, the roots of the Palestinian conflict must be sought in history. The Holocaust and Palestine are directly connected with one another. And if the Holocaust actually occurred, then you should permit impartial groups from the whole world to research this. Why do you restrict the research to a certain group? Of course, I don't mean you, but rather the European governments.

SPIEGEL: Are you still saying that the Holocaust is just "a myth?"

Ahmadinejad: I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it.

SPIEGEL: Even though no Western scholars harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?

Ahmadinejad: But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to investigate and to render an opinion on this very important subject, because the clarification of this issue will contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has taken place in the world and fronts have been formed. It would therefore be very good if an international and impartial group looked into the matter in order to clarify it once and for all. Normally, governments promote and support the work of researchers on historical events and do not put them in prison.

SPIEGEL: Who is that supposed to be? Which researchers do you mean?

Ahmadinejad: You would know this better than I; you have the list. There are people from England, from Germany, France and from Australia.

SPIEGEL: You presumably mean, for example, the Englishman David Irving, the German-Canadian Ernst Zündel, who is on trial in Mannheim, and the Frenchman Georges Theil, all of whom deny the Holocaust.

Ahmadinejad: The mere fact that my comments have caused such strong protests, although I'm not a European, and also the fact that I have been compared with certain persons in German history indicates how charged with conflict the atmosphere for research is in your country. Here in Iran you needn't worry.
BTW, An answer to the Iranian president: Although Iran was occupied by the Allies during World War II, Arabs do share responsibility with Germans for the Nazi extermination of European Jews. They opposed permitting refugees to enter Palestine--one reason so many were trapped in Europe--and Arab leaders, including the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, sided with the Nazis. It's documented. Here's a photo of the Grand Mufti with Hitler: Caption:The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, visits Berlin, meets with Hitler and makes Arabic radio broadcasts to Islamic troops fighting for the Nazi Third Reich.

Cote d'Ivoire's Civil War

There was a very mysterious BBC broadcast today about Ivory Coast. Correspondent Liz Doucette shed almost no light on why the former French colony has been torn by civil war. Her "identity" explanation explained nothing at all. So I looked it up on Wikipedia. It's complicated, all right--but at least one element involves conflict with the predominantly Muslim north. George Packer discussed this element in a New Yorker interview:
Q:How much is Ivory Coast's civil war an ethnic fight—or a Muslim-Christian fight?

A: Ethnicity and religion are closely related in Ivory Coast—if you're a Bete, you're almost certainly a Christian, for example, and if you're a Senufo you're almost certainly a Muslim. There have been attacks on mosques and on Muslim leaders, and some supporters of President Gbagbo have used Christian as well as nationalist rhetoric. (The first lady, Simone Gbagbo, is an evangelical Christian, as are increasing numbers of city dwellers in the south.) Relations between Christians and Muslims throughout West Africa (with the serious exception of Nigeria) have generally been so laid-back and tolerant, however, that, even with a civil war going on in Ivory Coast, I didn't get the feeling that religious hatred was sweeping the populace. Ethnicity is a more powerful identifier in this part of Africa. But, even though the killing has taken place largely along ethnic and religious lines, this remains, more than anything, a political war. It's also a depressingly gratuitous war. Ivory Coast wasn't doomed by geography or history to go to pieces. It's been ruined by its class of leaders. And Ivorians are still stunned by the depth to which the country has sunk.

USAID Seminar Promotes Islamism

According to Little Green Footballs:
...unfortunately, the seminar’s guest speaker was a representative of an Islamist front group:

Guest Speaker: Ahmed Younis
National Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council

The New York Post reports that on July 14, 2002, Ahmed Younis gave a speech in Irvine and implicitly supported the murder of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft

Watching the National Spelling Bee

I really enjoyed watching the National Spelling Bee on ABC last night, and the network deserves congratulations for broadcasting something educational in prime time. It was humbling to realize that a grown person--yours truly--could never compete in the contest with brilliant 10-14 year olds...

However, I have a concern about some of the words contestants were required to spell--ones with more than one acceptable spelling.

For example, the person with whom I watched the broadcast--who studied both Greek and Latin--pointed out to me that endings of Greek words put into English sometimes differ depending on the preferred style of transliteration. Britishers like AEUM, Americans prefer EUM. Or, another example, Encyclopaedia v Encyclopedia.

And then, there is the question of transliteration from living foreign languages, such as Persian and Hebrew. The judges said the word for Persian New Year is spelled: N-a-u-r-u-z. But when I looked it up online, there appear to be a wide variation of acceptable transliterations--including Nowruz, Nourus, Norouz, Noruz, Novrus, Nawrus, Nowrus, Navrus, Navrus, et al. In fact when I looked up "Nauruz" online in the American Heritage dictionary, there was no listing at all. So, what is really the right answer?

The whole world could see this problem in the case of the Hebrew H-e-c-h-s-c-h-er. In the end, judges accepted a variant, Hechsher, on the broadcast. It seems that including transliterated foreign words that have more than one acceptable English variant might spell future trouble for the Bee's judges...

Just a quibble. I guess it doesn't matter in the case of German words like ursprache.

Anyhow, it was a lot of fun. So, here's a link to the official study guides, for those out there who know a child who might compete:

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Kipling on Russia

Alexander at Registan posted this quote from Rudyard Kipling:
Let it be clearly understood that the Russian is a delightful person till he tucks his shirt in. As an Oriental he is charming. It is only when he insists upon being treated as the most easterly of Western peoples, instead of the most westerly of Easterns, that he becomes a racial anomaly extremely difficult to handle. The host never knows which side of his nature is going to turn up next.
I wondered where it came from. Thanks to Google, I found out the quotation comes from his short story titled The Man Who Was.