Friday, February 26, 2010

Christopher Hitchens v. Amnesty International

Writing in The Australian, Christopher Hitchens comes to the defense of Gita Sahgal:
This organisation is precious to me and to millions of other people, including many thousands of men and women who were and are incarcerated and maltreated because of their courage as dissidents, and who regained their liberty as a consequence of Amnesty International's unsleeping work.

So to learn of its degeneration and politicisation is to be reading about a moral crisis that has global implications.

Amnesty International has just suspended one of its senior officers, a woman named Gita Sahgal who, until recently, headed the organisation's gender unit. It's fairly easy to summarise her concern in her own words. "To be appearing on platforms with Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment," she wrote. One may think that to be an uncontentious statement, but it led to her immediate suspension.

The background is also distressingly easy to summarise. Moazzam Begg, a British citizen, was arrested in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan in the aftermath of the intervention in 2001. He was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, then released.

He has since become the moving spirit in a separate organisation calling itself Cageprisoners.

Begg does not deny his past as an Islamist activist, which took him to Afghanistan in the first place. He does not withdraw from his statement that the Taliban was the best government available to Afghanistan.

Cageprisoners has another senior member, Asim Qureshi, who speaks in defence of jihad at rallies sponsored by extremist group Hizb-ut Tahrir (banned in many Muslim countries). Cageprisoners also defends men such as Abu Hamza, leader of the mosque that sheltered Richard "Shoe Bomber" Reid among many other violent and criminal characters who have been convicted in open court of heinous offences that have nothing at all to do with freedom of expression.

Yet Amnesty International includes Begg in delegations that petition the British government about human rights. For Sahgal to say that Cageprisoners has a program that goes "way beyond being a prisoners' rights organisation" is to say the very least of it.

But that's all she had to say to be suspended from her job.

As I write this, she is experiencing some difficulty in getting a lawyer to represent her. Such is -- so far -- the prestige of Amnesty International.

"Although it is said that we must defend everybody no matter what they've done," she comments, "it appears that if you're a secular, atheist, Asian British woman, you don't deserve a defence from our civil rights firms."

That may well change and I hope it does. But Sahgal has it slightly wrong. Amnesty International was not set up to defend everybody, no matter what they did. No organisation in the world could hope to do that.

IRA bombers and Khmer Rouge killers and generals Augusto Pinochet and Jorge Rafael Videla were not Amnesty prisoners when they eventually faced the bar of the court.

Wall Street Journal: Amnesty International Fronts for Taliban

On today's op-ed page, Michael Weiss reports there's apparently no free speech for Amnesty International employees, at least not when criticizing Taliban, in the case of Gita Saghal:
Enter Ms. Sahgal, a longtime Amnesty employee who believed that her organization's support for Mr. Begg betrayed its core principles. She went public with her concerns in a Feb. 7 interview with London's Sunday Times in which she called the collaboration "a gross error of judgment" that posed a serious threat to human rights and to Amnesty's reputation. Amnesty suspended Ms. Sahgal from her job, claiming it didn't want her opinion of Mr. Begg to be confused with its own.

Amnesty continues to defend its affiliation with Mr. Begg and Cageprisoners. Last week, on a Canadian radio program, Amnesty's interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone described Mr. Begg's politics as benign, saying there was so far no evidence to suggest that the organization should sever ties with him.

This is nonsense, says Ms. Sahgal via telephone in her home in London. "Amnesty has messaged him as a human-rights advocate . . . He was in Taliban Afghanistan. He was not a charity worker."

Especially galling for Ms. Sahgal is the fact that she only accepted her job after insisting to Widney Brown, senior director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty, that she be allowed to address the Begg alliance.

"I told her, 'If you don't give me the power to clean up this Begg situation, I won't take on the gender affairs assignment. Widney encouraged me to write a memo on it and even came past my office late one night while I was writing to discuss it. There was no internal resistance against this. So I was promoted with full support. Then, when the Sunday Times story broke, everything I uncovered was deemed 'innuendo.'"

For Ms. Sahgal, her case is not simply a minor lapse in judgment. She thinks the problem is systemic. "This is a very peculiarly ideological approach to human rights, which misses the point."

Novelist Salman Rushdie had harsher words. In a public statement, he said that Amnesty had "done its reputation incalculable damage" by allying with Mr. Begg. "It looks very much as if Amnesty's leadership is suffering from a kind of moral bankruptcy, and has lost the ability to distinguish right from wrong."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are Wall Street Bailout Bonuses 21st Century "Welfare Cadillacs"?

IMHO, Bankers who used federal bailout money to pay themselves bonuses are today's welfare queens. Definition from Wikipedia:
A welfare queen is a pejorative phrase used in the United States to describe people who are accused of collecting excessive welfare payments through fraud or manipulation. Sensational reporting on welfare fraud began during the early-1960s, appearing in general interest magazines such as Readers Digest. The term entered the American lexicon during Ronald Reagan's 1976 presidential campaign when he described a "welfare queen" from Chicago's South Side.
Here's a link to lyrics from Guy Drake's 1970 country-western song, Welfare Cadillac. Just substitute "rich folks" for poor folks, and "mansion" or "penthouse" for shack, and it works for Wall Street executives...
Well, I've never worked much
In fact, I've been poor all my life
I guess I really own is
Ten kids and a wife

This house is a lived in mine
But it's really a shack
But I always managed somehow
To drive me a brand new Cadillac

Backdoor steps
They done fell plum down
Front screen door's off and laying
Somewhere out there on the ground

Wind just now whupped another piece
Of that old tar roofing off the back
Sure hope it don't skin up that new Cadillac

Front porch ?, they're loose at the bottom
It don't make no sense to fix them
Cause that floor just too darn rotten

Wintertime, we sometimes have some snow
That blows in through the cracks
It gets too bad, we just all pile up
Sleep out there in that new Cadillac

I know the place ain't much but
I sure don't pay no rent
I get the check the first of every month
From this here federal government

Every Wednesday, I get commodities
Sometimes, four or five sacks
Pick em up down at the welfare office
Driving that new Cadillac

Some folks say I'm crazy
And I'd even been called a fool
But my kids get free books and
All them there free lunches at school

We get peanut butter and cheese
And, man, they give us flour by the sack
Course, them welfare checks
They make the payments on this new Cadillac

The way that I see it
These other folks are the fools
They're working and paying taxes
Just to send my youngins through school

Salvation Army cuts our hair and
Gives us the clothes we wear on our back
So we can dress up and ride around
And show off this new Cadillac

But things still gonna get better yet
At least that's what I understand
They tell me this new President
Put in a whole new poverty plan

Why, he gonna send us poor folks money
They say we gonna get it out here in stacks
In fact, my wife's already shopping around
For her new Cadillac

Monday, February 22, 2010

Losing Dutch Government Pulls Out of Afghanistan

But, there's a twist, per the Financial Times:
As Mr Balkenende's Christian Democrats and Wouter Bos's Labour party traded blame for the government's collapse, the victors appeared to be the smaller parties. Not least among them was the Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders, the anti-immigration politician.

Opinion polls suggest that Mr Wilders's party could win up to 24 of the 150 seats in parliament, up from nine. The party is likely to beat Labour to second place, with the Christian Democrats keeping the top spot.

That raises the prospect of a European government forming a coalition with a party with policies that include "encouraging" Muslim immigrants to return to their countries of origin, banning the construction of mosques and withdrawing the vote in local elections from non-Dutch citizens.

Spartacus at the Kennedy Center

Friday night, someone I know and yours truly attended a performance of the Bolshoi Ballet's 1968 production of Spartacus. It looked something like a cross between the 1960 Kirk Douglas Hollywood spectacular, a folkloric Caucasian knife-dance, West Side Story, the Gruzia nightclub floor-show in Tashkent, and a Victory Day parade in Moscow. Although we heard some mutterings from Kennedy Center patrons, not accustomed to seeing leaping Roman Legionnaires or goose-stepping in ballets (since the Romans were pretty clearly modeled on Nazis, and the slaves danced a lot like Russians defending the motherland during the Great Patriotic War [aka WWII])--we enjoyed it. Especially since one of our first Russian lessons, in a textbook no doubt originating in the Soviet era, featured going v teatr na Spartak. Finally, after years of hearing about it in grammar lessons, we had finally managed to see Spartak! (Also the name of a football club, and a chocolate brand, among other Russian favorites.)

In the audience, we ran into someone else we know, who later told me that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotamayor had been sitting a few rows in front of her, in the orchestra (so modest, why not a box?). A google search (for we saw different dancers than the Washington Post critic reviewed) turned up this interesting account of the same performance, from Yelena Osipova, balletomane and explainer of Russian culture--as well as graduate student in Washington, DC:
Tonight, I was joined by two lovely friends for an experience I'm sure I will cherish for a long time: I finally saw Aram Khachaturian's "Spartacus" performed live by Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet, at the Kennedy Center. I admired Khachaturian's work since I was at elementary school (all those hours spent practicing the "fortepiano"...); and later, as I explored classical music a little further, I came to the conclusion that the Armenian-Soviet composer was certainly one of the greatest composers of the 20th Century (not that I'm biased, of course!).
You can listen to some of the music on this YouTube clip:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Phyllis Chesler: Make Ali Alyami US Ambassador to the Islamic Conference

She concludes this interview with the nomination on Pajamas Media's blog:
Q: Have you also taken a stand in favor of tolerance for apostasy? And against honor killing and honor-related violence? What has happened?

Yes to all of the above. We research, write, and analyze and expose these violations of human rights through the internet, conferences and media releases. The results are impressive, especially with Saudis.

Q: Give me some examples of the kind of foundations, institutes, conferences, etc. that have not invited you to speak or that have challenged you in other ways.

A: Only the Hudson Institute in DC has asked me to speak, even though our Center is the only organization focused totally on Saudi Arabia.

Q: Do you believe a pro-democracy political organization launched by Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents can be successful?

A: It depends on the individuals and groups and the form of democracy they seek. Most Muslims believe that democracy American-style cannot work in Muslim countries but can be modified to suit the religious and cultural heritage of Muslim societies. CDHR promotes American-style democracy where the individuals, male or female, are in charge of their lives and destiny.

Q: How have you been treated by apologists for Saudi Arabia?

A: Not well, even though they don’t disagree with my platform. Their disagreement with me is not philosophical as much as concern for material gain for their own projects and institutions. They are hired to promote Saudi policy and interests and to polish their tarnished image.

Q: Have you ever tried to visit Saudi Arabia? What happened?

A: I have. I was denied a visa. I am a peaceful promoter of genuine democratic reforms where power emanates from the people. I am opposed to religious totalitarianism, gender segregations and inequality. I believe that religion is a belief and not a tool of oppression, control, divisiveness, squandering of public wealth, incitement against non-Muslims and justification for child and forced marriages.

Q: Do you correspond with or talk to your family? Has your work endangered them? Have they been forced to cut you off?

A: I don’t talk to my family in Saudi Arabia and they don’t talk to me either. Saudi society is highly self-regulated because of decades of brutal reprisals by the Saudi ruling family and its ubiquitous security apparatus like the legalized terrorist religious police, known as Matawain or domesticators.

Q: What consequences has your leaving had for you in terms of family left behind and for your work?

Nothing can be more emotionally lonely and excruciating for me than not being able to visit my homeland, family, friends and be able to walk in the simple neighborhoods where I was born, reared, grew and worked.

Q: Who or what keeps you going in the face of so many obstacles?

A: Commitment to do something bigger than me. I have lived under the yoke of tyranny. Consequently, I value my liberty, not just for me but for the oppressed people of my motherland whose freedom is in the best interest of the Middle East and the international community.
President Obama should consider Dr. Alyami as another kind of representative to the Organization of the Islamic Conference–one who would be less interested in appeasing them than in facilitating a reformation.

Salim Mansur on the Trial of Geert Wilders

From the Toronto Sun:
Holland is not alone in this effort to appease the Islamists. Across the West, a chill has fallen over the fundamental right to think and speak freely about Islam like any other subject of public interest.

The not-so-curious fact that the mainstream media remains silent by not exposing the travesty in bringing Wilders to court for expressing his thoughts on Islam — it also remained silent by not publishing the Danish cartoons that incited a large number of Muslims around the world to rage and commit acts of violence — is proof of how great is the peril of western societies conceding de facto or de jure to Islamist demands for Shariah-based rulings.

There is terrible irony in this. Muslims remain the first victims of a Shariah-governed society, and the imposition of Shariah is the primary cause of the contemporary retardation of Muslim countries.

But the Islamists have succeeded in making the argument that the faith in, and the practice of, Islam is confined by the Shariah, and anything outside of it is non-Islam.

This argument deliberately obscures the fact that the Shariah is a legal system devised under Arab supremacy during the last three centuries of the first millennium and it was based on a reading of the Qur’an that reflected the prejudices of that age in history.


The Shariah is not merely outdated, it is mostly redundant for any Muslim society straining to be relevant to the demands of the modern age of science and democracy.

Muslims struggling for democracy and freedom understand best that Islam cannot be reduced to the Shariah, and their progress demands the eventual abolition of the Shariah.

Mohamed Charfi, professor emeritus in the law faculty in Tunis and a former education minister in Tunisia writing as a modern Muslim, explains how the Shariah is contextually bound to the thinking of the ancient and medieval world and, consequently, resistant to any reform.

Charfi writes the Shariah or “Muslim law is based on three fundamental inequalities: The superiority of men over women, of Muslims over non-Muslims, and of free persons over slaves.

It recognizes the maximum advantages in the case of a free and rich Muslim male, and the fewest rights in the case of a non-Muslim female slave … Muslim law is therefore fundamentally discriminatory.”

Hence any Shariah compliance by the West undermines the struggle of Muslims for reform of their societies and defeat of the Islamists.

And placing any constraint on freedom of speech means in effect colluding with the Islamists.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mark Weil's Murderers Sentenced in Uzbekistan photo
Mark Weil,
Uzbekistan's most important theatrical impressario
(his family lives in Seattle) was murdered by fundamentalist Islamist extremists--just like Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam--reports the BBC:
A court in Tashkent has found three men guilty of murdering Uzbekistan's most prominent theatre director in 2007.

The men said they had planned the murder of Mark Weil in response to his portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad in his play, Imitating the Koran.

Yakub Gafurov, the man who fatally stabbed the theatre director, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

And two former police officers were sentenced to 17 years each for helping to plot the murder.

The Russian-language Ilkhom theatre company, founded by Mr Weil in the 1970s, staged challenging productions despite Soviet era censorship. has more on the story:
On February 17, 2010 the Mirabad district criminal court held the final session on the case of three defendants: Yokub Gafurov, Alisher Satarov and Kakhramon Pulatov, accused of the murder of Mark Weil, the founder and artistic director of Ilhom Theater.

The judge Shamsutdinova announced the verdict: Yokub Gafurov is sentenced to 19 year of jail, five of which to be spent in the maximum security penal colony. Satarov and Pulatov will serve 17 years of jail in the standard regime penal colony.
Fatima Pirieva, the lawyer of Gafurov, says that in accordance with the decree of Senate Oliy Mazhlis (the parliament) of Uzbekistan "On amnesty due to 18th anniversary of the Republic of Uzbekistan independence", dated August 28, 2009, there is distinct possibility that Satarov and Pulatov will serve no more than 13 years each. Gafurov’s situation, however, is not the case.

All three deliberate criminals were accused of intended killing under article 97 of Criminal Code with aggravating damages, "motivated by religious prejudices" and "committed by the group of people or member of organized criminal group". According to this article, every defendant could be sentenced to 15-25 years of jail and even imprisonment for life.

At one of the last court sessions the prosecutor demanded 19 year term for everyone. However, only Gafurov that killed Weil is sentenced to this term. The court ignored the fact that the murderer ate the dust.

- I am positive that if Gafurov did not eat the dust this case would be never detected! – Pirieva says.

Another assisting offender Umid Iskhakov (allegedly, the manager of the murderous assault) is currently wanted by police. Assumingly, he left for USA.
Curiously, the New York Times, which reported the murder in a story by Anna Kisselgoff on September 8, 2007, has not yet published a single story on the trial and conviction of Mark Weil's killers.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the wanted man "may be living in the United States." If this is true, it raises a serious question: How did a wanted killer of an internationally-renowned theatrical artist manage to obtain a US visa? Who signed off on the decision at the US State Department?

More on this story in the European Jewish Press. Details of the Ilkhom Theatre's production of Puskhin's "Imitations of the Koran" can be found on their website. From Mark Weil's statement:
The poetical spirit of Pushkin - the Russian poet with African roots - is just ABOVE everything, including nationalism and the religious pettiness as well. That is quite possible to be the main reason the Russian poet wrote the Imitations of the Koran.

We took our time trying to find the right way to understand and express the text - we showed some sketches to the spectators 2 years ago. We were working over the final variant of, when the 11th of September in New York shocked the world - the terrorists tried to approve the action as if the Koran made them to. Also we do understand those who directed that devil's performance in New-York would never take in the Imitations of the Koran performance as any interpretation of Koran on the stage. There appeared a lot of people of different persuasions who were surprised found us working the Koran's theme. What's more they took the Koran as the instruction for the terrorists. However, the fact doesn't surprise us: the world is blind and ignorant still. Our will is Pushkin - who was ABOVE everything - to reconcile us all. It's out of the fact he was interested in nothing but the spirit and the philosophy of the primal source, the beauty of his poetry that he as the great poet appreciated so much.

We do not try to disprove a well-known Kipling's saying that East is east as West is west - they could never change. Our aim is to prove the synthesis of national and cosmopolitan consciousness promotes the creation of the contemporary art, and nothing more.
Le Monde carried this story, in French.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Classic Poetry Aloud

In looking for material for my undergraduate writing class, I came across an interesting website featuring classic poetry podcasts: Classic Poetry Aloud. Here's a link to their version of James Russell Lowell's "We Will Speak Out."
We Will Speak Out
by James Russell Lowell (1819 – 1891)

We will speak out, we will be heard,
Though all earth's system's crack;
We will not bate a single word,
Nor take a letter back.
Let liars fear, let cowards shrink,
Let traitors turn away;
Whatever we have dared to think
That dare we also say.
We speak the truth, and what care we
For hissing and for scorn,
While some faint gleamings we can see
Of Freedom's coming morn?

Mark Steyn on the Trial of Geert Wilders

Despite the cone of silence at the Washington Post, New York Times and other mainstream media outlets, Geert Wilders' trial has sparked intelligent commentary from columnists such as Maclean's Mark Steyn:
In the Low Countries, whenever anyone seeks to discuss Islam outside the very narrow bounds of multicultural political discourse, they wind up either banned (Belgium’s Vlaams Blok), forced into exile (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) or killed (Pim Fortuyn).

It’s remarkable how speedily “the most tolerant country in Europe,” in a peculiarly repellent strain of coercive appeasement, has adopted “shoot the messenger” as an all-purpose cure-all for “Islamophobia.” To some of us, the Netherlands means tulips, clogs, windmills, fingers in the dike. To others, it means marijuana cafés, long-haired soldiers, legalized hookers, fingers in the dike. But the contemporary reality is an increasingly incoherent polity where gays are bashed, uncovered women get jeered at, and you can’t do The Diary of Anne Frank as your school play lest the Gestapo walk-ons are greeted by audience cries of “She’s in the attic!” Speaking as a bona fide far-right nutcase, I rather resent the label’s export to Holland: Pim Fortuyn wasn’t “right-wing,” he was a gay hedonist; Theo van Gogh was an anti-monarchist coke-snorting nihilist; Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a secular liberal feminist; Geert Wilders says he’s opposed to Islam because of its hostility to gay equality, whereas the usual rap against us far-right extremists is that we want the godless sodomites to roast in hell.

It’s not “ironic” that the most liberal country in western Europe should be the most advanced in its descent into a profoundly illiberal hell. It was entirely foreseeable. Geert Wilders is stating the obvious: a society that becomes more Muslim will have fewer gays. Last year, the Rainbow Palace, formerly Amsterdam’s most popular homo-hotel (relax, that’s the Dutch word for it), announced it was renaming itself the Sharm and reorienting itself to Islamic tourism. Or as the website put it: “Gay Hotel Turns Muslim.” As a headline in the impeccably non-far-right Spiegel wondered: “How much Allah can the Old Continent bear?” It’s an interesting question, albeit if an increasingly verboten one. The Wilders show trial is important because it will determine whether the subject can be discussed openly by mainstream politicians and public figures, or whether it will be forced underground and manifest itself in more violent ways.

Yet, despite its significance, the trial has received relatively little coverage in the Western media, in part because, for those of a multiculti bent, there’s no easy way to blur the reality—that this is a political prosecution by a thought police so stupid they don’t realize they’re delegitimizing the very institutions of the state. Still, the BBC gave it their best shot, concluding their report thus: “Correspondents say his Freedom Party (PVV), which has nine MPs in the lower house of parliament, has built its popularity largely by tapping into the fear and resentment of Muslim immigrants.”

Gotcha. This democracy business is all very well, but let’s face it, the people are saps, gullible boobs, racist morons, knuckle-dragging f–kwits. One-man-one-vote is fine in theory, but next thing you know some slicker’s “tapping into” the morons’ “fears and resentments” and cleaning up at the polls.

Strange how it always comes back to a contempt for the people. Whenever the electorate departs from the elite’s pieties, whether in the Netherlands or in Massachusetts last month, it’s because some wily demagogue like, er, Scott Brown has been playing on the impressionable hicks’ “fears and resentments.” To the statist bullies at Canada’s “Human Rights” Commissions, their powers to regulate speech are necessary to prevent hate-mongers like me tapping into the fears and resentments of the Dominion’s millions of birdbrained boobs. Yes, that would be you, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Schmoe of 22 Dufferin Gardens. Sure, you’ve voted for the Liberals every year since Expo, but c’mon, in your heart you know even you might be…susceptible…impressionable.

In the old days—divine right of kings, rule by patrician nobility—it was easier. But today’s establishment is obliged to pay at least lip service to popular sovereignty. So it has to behave more artfully. You’ll still have your vote; it’s just that the guy you wanted to give it to is on trial, and his platform’s been criminalized.

To return to where we came in, what does it mean when the Ministry of Justice proudly declares that the truth is no defence? When the law stands in explicit opposition to the truth, freeborn peoples should stand in opposition to the law. Because, as the British commentator Pat Condell says, “When the truth is no defence, there is no defence”—and what we are witnessing is a heresy trial. The good news is that the Openbaar Ministerie is doing such a grand job with its pilot program of apostasy prosecutions you’ll barely notice when sharia is formally adopted.

Another Great Paul Solman Segment on the Financial Mess

Paul Solman interviews William Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE: You can buy the book from at this link:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Professor Warned University About Alleged Killer's Mental State

According to this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the University of Alabama at Huntsville professor still fears for his safety:
Another professor, however, has long been wary of Ms. Bishop. He asked The Chronicle not to use his name because, considering recent events, he is worried about his own safety. The professor, who was a member of Ms. Bishop's tenure-review committee, said he first became concerned about Ms. Bishop's mental health "about five minutes after I met her."

The professor said that during a meeting of the tenure-review committee, he expressed his opinion that Ms. Bishop was "crazy." Word of what he said made it back to Ms. Bishop. In September, after her tenure denial, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging gender discrimination. The professor's remark was going to be used as possible evidence in that case.

It was then, the professor said, that the associate provost of the university, John Severn, came to him and asked whether he truly believed what he had said about Ms. Bishop. (Reached by phone, Mr. Severn declined to comment.) The professor was given the opportunity to back off the claim, or to say it was a flippant remark. But he didn't. "I said she was crazy multiple times and I stand by that," the professor said. "This woman has a pattern of erratic behavior. She did things that weren't normal."

No one incident stands out, the professor said, but a series of interactions caused him to think she was "out of touch with reality." Once, he said, she "went ballistic" when a grant application being filed on her behalf was turned in late. The professor said he avoided Ms. Bishop whenever he saw her, on or off the campus. When he spotted her not long ago at a Barnes & Noble bookstore, he made sure he was out of sight until she had left the store. He even skipped a faculty retreat because he knew she would be there.

To be clear, it wasn't as if the professor told the university that he thought Ms. Bishop was potentially violent. And, at the time, the university was narrowly focused on the legal fallout from a possible lawsuit by Ms. Bishop, he said.
The Chronicle also republishes some responses, including this interesting observation from a psychoanalyst:
Prudence Gourguechon, president, American Psychoanalytic Association:
Every story in the media I've seen so far mentions the fact that she was recently denied tenure. This is an experience likely to lead to feelings of anger, humiliation, shame, and resentment in any human being. ...

These feelings, these life events, do not lead to mass murder.

This has become a habitual approach for the media in stories of this type. When Major Hasan killed 13 fellow service people at Fort Hood last November, the media reports focused obsessively on the stress of working with veterans returning from combat, Dr. Hasan's imminent deployment to Iraq and his opposition to the war, and burnout among military mental-health professionals. ...

Getting it wrong in the media does us all a disservice. If true but irrelevant facts are continually referenced, we start to think these things (e.g., stress) are relevant and truly causal, as opposed to possible triggers. And, the media rarely or never mention the factors that are more important to consider: Delusions. Paranoia. Major mental illness. Schizophrenia. Psychosis. The vast majority of human beings who suffer from these symptoms or disorders are not violent or dangerous and can do very well with appropriate treatment. But these might be the things that lead a few human beings pick up a gun and shoot their colleagues. That, plus easy availability of firearms.

Why have we substituted "stress" for psychosis as a causal concept? Why have we confused triggers for causes? What is the consequence for our society? One consequence I fear is that there will be a continually diminished tendency to consider and diagnose and treat psychosis and major mental illness, and therefore there will continue to be undiagnosed and untreated disordered minds picking up guns and going to a meeting to kill. (Psychoanalytic Excavation, Psychology Today)

NY Times Discovers BBC Radio Four Podcasts

We've been listening to BBC Radio Four podcasts for years (NOT the dreadful, politically correct, BBC World News paid for by the Foreign Office), so were delighted to see that they have finally been noticed by the NY Times. Today's editorial column by Adam Cohen mentioned a particularly interesting Melvyn Bragg In Our Time program about the siege of Muenster--the moral of which appeared to be that one way to convert fanatical militant religious terrorists into lovable pacifists is through a crushing military defeat (something Mr. Cohen failed to notice):
“In Our Time,” a program on “the history of ideas,” is in a class of its own. Each week the host, Melvyn Bragg — a BBC veteran, whose Life Peerage makes him Lord Bragg of Wigton — offers a panel of academic experts, with Oxford and Cambridge heavily represented. The guests have titles like “associate professor in philosophy and senior fellow in the public understanding of philosophy at the University of Warwick.” They talk about arcane topics from history, literature, science and philosophy, throwing off casual asides on subjects like Sigmund Freud’s theory of “gain through illness” — the idea that people become neurotic because it is useful to them.

Mr. Bragg doesn’t spare the stage directions: Would you please tell us about this? And We’ll Get to That Later. But his careful questioning and quick wit underlie the brilliance of “In Our Time” — its ability to draw in listeners on subjects that they would not expect themselves to care much about, or perhaps even to be able to tolerate.

I convinced a friend to start downloading the program when I mentioned an interesting discussion of logical positivism. The next time I saw her, she told me that she was hooked and that a new episode on the Siege of Munster — which had popped up on my iPhone, but which I had not rushed to hear — was surprisingly fascinating.
BTW, we also like Broadcasting House with Paddy O'Connell...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Uzbekistan's Successful Economic Development Plan

From Terry McKinley's study, published by the Center for Development Policy and Research at the School of Oriental and African Studies (UK) (ht BrettonWoodsProject.Org). Conclusion:
In general, Uzbekistan’s heterodox policies have served it fairly well. It was able to successfully moderate the hardships of its early transition, resume credible rates of economic growth by the late 1990s, and substantially restructure its economy to be more self-sufficient in such critical items as energy and food.

Its restructuring has enabled it to avoid some of the worst effects of the food and fuel crisis of mid-1998 and the global financial crisis and recession of 1998-1999. Aspects of Uzbekistan’s development model could certainly be criticized (see McKinley and Weeks 2009). Employment growth has consistently lagged behind economic growth and poverty reduction has been slow.

Yet by any standard barometers of economic performance—as well as by comparison with other low-income countries—Uzbekistan has been relatively successful over two decades of transition and development, though its achievements appear to remain a frustrating puzzle to many orthodox economists.

Heroic Professor Moriarity Speaks

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, an insider's account of the University of Alabama, Huntsville murders:
Debra M. Moriarity, a professor of biochemistry whose laboratory was next to Ms. Bishop's and who was perhaps her closest colleague in the department, acted quickly and, according to the president, probably prevented further carnage.

Ms. Moriarity, who is also dean of the graduate school and has been at the university since 1983, said she and her colleagues had assembled on Friday for a routine faculty meeting. For almost an hour, the meeting focused on departmental business. Ms. Moriarity was looking at some papers on the table when the first shot was fired, killing the chairman of the department, Gopi K. Podila.

Ms. Moriarity looked up and saw Ms. Bishop fire the second shot. Apparently, Ms. Bishop was simply going down the line, starting with the people closest to her, killing Mr. Podila, Adriel D. Johnson Sr., and Maria Ragland Davis, all professors, and severely wounding Stephanie Monticciolo, a department administrator, and Joseph G. Leahy, a professor. All were shot in the head.

Another professor, Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera, was shot in the chest.

After the second shot, Ms. Moriarity dove under the table. "I was thinking 'Oh, my God, this has to stop," she said.

Ms. Moriarity crawled beneath the rectangular table toward Ms. Bishop, who was blocking the doorway. She grabbed at Ms. Bishop's legs and pushed at her, yelling, "I have helped you before, I can help you again!" Ms. Moriarity had in fact worked with Ms. Bishop, and they shared some similar research interests.

Ms. Bishop stepped away from her grasp. While still on the floor, Ms. Moriarity managed to crawl partially out into the hallway. Ms. Bishop, who continued shooting the entire time, then turned her attention to Ms. Moriarity, placing two hands on the gun and pointing it at her. Ms. Bishop's expression was angry—"intense eyes, a set jaw," Ms. Moriarity recalled.

With Ms. Moriarity looking up at her, Ms. Bishop pulled the trigger twice. The gun clicked, apparently out of bullets.

Ms. Moriarity scrambled back to the room. Meanwhile, Ms. Bishop, now barely in the hallway, appeared to be rummaging in her bag, perhaps attempting to reload. Ms. Moriarity took advantage of Ms. Bishop's fumbling and closed the door. Others in the room then helped her push the table against the door, fearing that Ms. Bishop would continue her rampage.

But the shooting was over, and two professors were already calling 911: Mr. Cruz-Vera, who had been shot in the chest, and Joseph D. Ng, a professor who was not hurt.

Mr. Cruz-Vera did not immediately realize he had been injured; he was treated and released from the hospital Saturday. Mr. Ng later sent an e-mail message to a colleague at the University of California at Irvine, which was published by The Orange County Register. "Blood was everywhere with crying and moaning," he wrote. "We were in a pool of blood in disbelief of what had happened."

Ms. Moriarity, who is 55, said she grew up in a hunting family and is familiar with guns. "If somebody is shooting a gun and you want to get away from it, you flatten yourself," she said. Ms. Moriarity said she has been reluctant to talk about what happened for fear of upsetting the relatives of Ms. Bishop's victims and the others who were in the room.

Though only two days had passed since the shooting, Ms. Moriarity was back at work Monday. She plans to go to the campus Tuesday, too. The memory, however, is still fresh, and her knees are still bruised.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ann Althouse on the Global Warming Scandal

Ann Althouse comments on a recent Daily Mail story:
"The admissions will be seized on by sceptics as fresh evidence that there are serious flaws..."

"... at the heart of the science of climate change and the orthodoxy that recent rises in temperature are largely man-made."

Huh? Why would it just be skeptics who would be interested in evidence of serious flaws in the science? I'm amazed by paragraph 6 of an article that begins:

The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.

Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers.

Professor Jones told the BBC yesterday there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is ‘not as good as it should be’.

The data is crucial to the famous ‘hockey stick graph’ used by climate change advocates to support the theory.

Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.

And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.

Everyone should perceive flaws! To talk about "sceptics" as the ones who will "seize" upon "evidence" of flaws is unwittingly to make global warming into a matter of religion and not science. It's not the skeptics who look bad. "Seize" sounds willful, but science should motivate us to grab at evidence. It's the nonskeptics who look bad. It's not science to be a true believer who wants to ignore new evidence. It's not science to support a man who has the job of being a scientist but doesn't adhere to the methods of science.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

More on Goldman Sachs from Paul Solman

From Friday's PBS Newshour:
A Follow-up on Front-Running
February 12, 2010 12:12 PM

Paul Solman: In the wake of considerable reaction to last night's Goldman piece in what my mother derisively called "cyberspace," a brief anecdote, before all is forgotten in the wake of tonight's Goldman II. Forgive me if I've mentioned this story before, but it seems especially relevant in view of Goldman I's discussion of "front-running" one's clients.
In talking to a longtime Wall Streeter recently, off the record, the subject of "front-running" came up. He told of a top management meeting at another Wall Street firm, years ago, in which one of the firm's jefes suggested getting rid of the elaborate, and very expensive, business of trading for customers -- for small and ever-decreasing commissions. The firm's money was mostly made trading for its own account, it was pointed out, based on its insider's "feel for the market."
The proposal was taken very seriously, said my source, until someone blurted out words to the effect of these: "But we make money by front-running our customers. How can we do that if we have no more customers?" The proposal, said my source, was tabled.

Kung Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!

It's the year of the Tiger...


Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Finally, Paul Solman Takes On Goldman Sachs

On the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, last night and tonight. His understated report made Goldman Sachs look like a bunch of crooks... A sample:
PAUL SOLMAN: So, Goldman might insist that, technically, it isn't front-running, or that the charge could never be proved.

So, let's move to another. How about the extravagantly profitable bets, for its own account, that "Goldmine Sachs," as some call it, placed with insurer AIG, against the very products, mortgage-backed securities, that the firm was trading to customers?

McClatchy reporter Greg Gordon was the first to uncover the practice.

GREG GORDON, investigative reporter, McClatchy Newspapers: In 2006, Goldman began, in different ways, to make bets that the housing market would turn south. When you're selling $40 billion in securities, U.S.-registered securities, to investors here and abroad in 2006 and 2007, and, at the same time, you're secretly betting that these securities are going to go south, are going to lose value, well, that raises a big question.

PAUL SOLMAN: Lloyd Blankfein's response?

LLOYD BLANKFEIN: What we do is risk management. Because we had this risk, because we were accumulating positions, which, by the way, we acquired from clients who want to sell them to us, we have to go out ourselves and provide and source the other side of the transactions, so that we can manage our risk. These are all exercises in risk management.

PHIL ANGELIDES: Well, I'm just going to be blunt with you. It sounds to me a little bit like selling a car with faulty brakes, and then buying an insurance policy on the buyer of those cars, the pension funds who have the life savings of police officers, teachers.

LLOYD BLANKFEIN: These are the professional investors who want this exposure.

PAUL SOLMAN: Professional, sophisticated investors, who should have known what they were getting into with mortgage backed securities, a theme Blankfein hit again and again.

LLOYD BLANKFEIN: A sophisticated investor that creates the exposure that these professional investors are seeking.

Again, the most sophisticated investors, who sought that exposure.

PAUL SOLMAN: And, look, says investment adviser Jeff Macke, even if Goldman's people are more sophisticated than their clients, Blankfein's still right.

JEFF MACKE: Caveat emptor. Goldman Sachs didn't get to become Goldman Sachs because they're bad traders. Of course they know more than the other guys. They're packaging the goods. It's their book. They know more about it than anyone. And, if they're selling it, well, you probably don't want to be a buyer. I want to buy things from people who I know more than, not people who are creating these instruments for me to buy.

PAUL SOLMAN: But pension funds don't bring in the math whizzes, the quants, the people that Goldman Sachs has. They're no match for Goldman Sachs' salespeople or traders.

JEFF MACKE: Generally speaking, they aren't. So, what is a pension fund doing involved in these securities?

PAUL SOLMAN: Even if you think Macke and Blankfein provide a reasoned defense, however, one huge last question remains: Has the firm been making record profits with your and my money?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An Uzbek Crime Story the NY Times Missed Today

From, a report that the alleged murderers of world-renowned theatrical impressario Mark Weil (whose family lives in Seattle, Washington), are finally facing trial:
At the same time with the first hearings of absurd charges against the photographer and documentary producer Umida Akhmedova, the Mirabad interdistrict criminal court in Tashkent held the first session on the murder of Mark Weil, the prominent stage and artistic director of Ilhom Theater.

Ferghana.Ru reported earlier that in November of 2009 three crime suspects were arrested in Uzbekistan; the murder took place in the night of September 6-7, 2007.

The judicial process is not open to public. Some unofficial sources note that four people were accused of murder: Yakub Gafurov (the citizen of Tajikistan), Satarov (allegedly, the grandson of General Satarov, the former Chief of Tashkent police department), Iskhakov (the native of Uzbekistan; Russian citizen, currently wanted by police) and Pulatov.

Scarce information sources, available at Ferghana.Ru office, indicate that the suspects may be sentenced to 20 years of jail. Perhaps, the accusation statements will be announced at the next judicial sitting on Monday, February 15.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reading for a snowy afternoon...

Aleksander Sergeevitch Pushkin's short story: The Snow Storm:
(The present translation, by T. Keane, first appeared in The Prose Tales of Alexander Pushkin, London, 1894.)


TOWARDS the end of the year 1811, a memorable period for us, the good Gavril Gavrilovitch R— was living on his domain of Nenaradova. He was celebrated throughout the district for his hospitality and kind-heartedness. The neighbors were constantly visiting him: some to eat and drink; some to play at five kopek "Boston" with his wife, Praskovia Petrovna; and some to look at their daughter, Maria Gavrilovna, a pale, slender girl of seventeen. She was considered a wealthy match, and many desired her for themselves or for their sons.

Maria Gavrilovna had been brought up on French novels and consequently was in love. The object of her choice was a poor sub-lieutenant in the army, who was then on leave of absence in his village. It need scarcely be mentioned that the young man returned her passion with equal ardor, and that the parents of his beloved one, observing their mutual inclination, forbade their daughter to think of him, and received him worse than a discharged assessor.

Our lovers corresponded with one another and daily saw each other alone in the little pine wood or near the old chapel. There they exchanged vows of eternal love, lamented their cruel fate, and formed various plans. Corresponding and conversing in this way, they arrived quite naturally at the following conclusion:

If we cannot exist without each other, and the will of hard-hearted parents stands in the way of our happiness, why cannot we do without them?

Needless to mention that this happy idea originated in the mind of the young man, and that it was very congenial to the romantic imagination of Maria Gavrilovna.

The winter came and put a stop to their meetings, but their correspondence became all the more active. Vladimir Nikolaievitch in every letter implored her to give herself to him, to get married secretly, to hide for some time, and then to throw themselves at the feet of their parents, who would, without any doubt be touched at last by the heroic constancy and unhappiness of the lovers, and would infallibly say to them: "Children, come to our arms!"

Maria Gavrilovna hesitated for a long time, and several plans for a flight were rejected. At last she consented: on the appointed day she was not to take supper, but was to retire to her room under the pretext of a headache. Her maid was in the plot; they were both to go into the garden by the back stairs, and behind the garden they would find ready a sledge, into which they were to get, and then drive straight to the church of Jadrino, a village about five versts from Nenaradova, where Vladimir would be waiting for them.

On the eve of the decisive day, Maria Gavrilovna did not sleep the whole night; she packed and tied up her linen and other articles of apparel, wrote a long letter to a sentimental young lady, a friend of hers, and another to her parents. She took leave of them in the most touching terms, urged the invincible strength of passion as an excuse for the step she was taking, and wound up with the assurance that she should consider it the happiest moment of her life, when she should be allowed to throw herself at the feet of her dear parents.

After having sealed both letters with a Toula seal, upon which were engraved two flaming hearts with a suitable inscription, she threw herself upon her bed just before daybreak, and dozed off: but even then she was constantly being awakened by terrible dreams. First, it seemed to her that at the very moment when she seated herself in the sledge, in order to go and get married, her father stopped her, dragged her into a dark bottomless abyss, down which she fell headlong with an indescribable sinking of the heart. Then she saw Vladimir lying on the grass, pale and bloodstained. With his dying breath he implored her, in a piercing voice, to make haste and marry him. . . . Other fantastic and senseless visions floated before her, one after another. At last she arose, paler than usual, and with an unfeigned headache. Her father and mother observed her uneasiness; their tender solicitude and incessant inquiries: "What is the matter with you, Masha? Are you ill, Masha?" cut her to the heart. She tried to reassure them and to appear cheerful, but in vain.

The evening came. The thought that this was the last day she would pass in the bosom of her family weighed upon her heart. She was more dead than alive. In secret she took leave of everybody, of all the objects that surrounded her.

Supper was served; her heart began to beat violently. In a trembling voice she declared that she did not want any supper, and then took leave of her father and mother. They kissed her and blessed her as usual, and she could hardly restrain herself from weeping.

On reaching her own room, she threw herself into a chair and burst into tears. Her maid urged her to be calm and to take courage. Everything was ready. In half an hour Masha would leave forever her parents' house, her room, and her peaceful girlish life. . . .

Out in the courtyard the snow was falling heavily; the wind howled, the shutters shook and rattled, and everything seemed to her to portend misfortune.

Soon all was quiet in the house: everyone was asleep. Masha wrapped herself in a shawl, put on awarm cloak, took her small box in her hand, and went 'down the back staircase. Her maid followed her with two bundles. They descended into the garden. The snowstorm had not subsided; the wind blew in their faces as if trying to stop the young criminal. With difficulty they reached the end of the garden. In the road a sledge awaited them. The horses, half-frozen with the cold, would not keep still; Vladimir's coachman was walking up and down in front of them, trying to restrain their impatience. He helped the young lady and her maid into the sledge, placed the box and the bundles in the vehicle, seized the reins, and the horses dashed off.

Having intrusted the young lady to the care of fate, and to the skill of Tereshka the coachman, we will return to our young lover.

Vladimir had spent the whole of the day in driving about. In the morning he paid a visit to the priest of Jadrino, and having come to an agreement with him after a great deal of difficulty, he then set out to seek for witnesses among the neighboring landowners. The first to whom he presented himself, a retired cornet of about forty years of age, and whose name was Dravin, consented with pleasure. The adventure, he declared, reminded him of his young days and his pranks in the Hussars. He persuaded Vladimir to stay to dinner with him, and assured him that he would have no difficulty in finding the other two witnesses. And indeed, immediately after dinner, appeared the surveyor Schmidt, with mustache and spurs, and the son of the captain of police, a lad of sixteen years of age, who had recently entered the Uhlans. They not only accepted Vladimir's proposal, but even vowed that they were ready to sacrifice their lives for him. Vladimir embraced them with rapture, and returned home to get everything ready.

It had been dark for some time. He dispatched his faithful Tereshka. to Nenaradova with his sledge and with detailed instructions, and ordered for himself the small sledge with one horse, and set out alone, without any coachman, for Jadrino, where Maria Gavrilovna ought to arrive in about a couple of hours. He knew the road well, and the journey would only occupy about twenty minutes altogether.

But scarcely had Vladimir issued from the paddock into the open field, when the wind rose and such a snowstorm came on that he could see nothing. In one minute the road was completely hidden; all surrounding objects disappeared in a thick yellow fog, through which fell the white flakes of snow; earth and sky became confounded. Vladimir found himself in the middle of the field, and tried in vain to find the road again. His horse went on at random, and at every moment kept either stepping into a snowdrift or stumbling into a hole, so that the sledge was constantly being overturned. Vladimir endeavored not to lose the right direction. But it seemed to him that more than half an hour had already passed, and he had not yet reached the Jadrino wood. Another ten minutes elapsed—still no wood was to be seen. Vladimir drove across a field intersected by deep ditches. The snowstorm did not abate, the sky did not become any clearer. The horse began to grow tired, and the perspiration rolled from him in great drops, in spite of the fact that he was constantly being half buried in the snow.

At last Vladimir perceived that he was going in the wrong direction. He stopped, began to think, to recollect, and compare, and he felt convinced that he ought to have turned to the right. He turned to the right now. His horse could scarcely move forward. He had now been on the road for more than an hour. Jadrino could not be far off. But on and on he went, and still no end to the field—nothing but snowdrifts and ditches. The sledge was constantly being overturned, and as constantly being set right again. The time was passing; Vladimir began to grow seriously uneasy.

At last something dark appeared in the distance. Vladimir directed his course towards it. On drawing near, he perceived that it was a wood.

"Thank Heaven," he thought, "I am not far off now." He drove long by the edge of the wood, hoping by and by to fall upon the well-known road or to pass round the wood; Jadrino was situated just behind it. He soon found the road, and plunged into the darkness of the wood, now denuded of leaves by the winter. The wind could not rage here; the road was smooth, the horse recovered courage, and Vladimir felt reassured.

But he drove on and on, and Jadrino was not to be seen; there was no end to the wood. Vladimir discovered with horror that he had entered an unknown forest. Despair took possession of him. He whipped the horse; the poor animal broke into a trot, but it soon slackened its pace, and in about a quarter of an hour it was scarcely able to drag one leg after the other, in spite of all the exertions of the unfortunate Vladimir.

Gradually the trees began to get sparser, and Vladimir emerged from the forest; but Jadrino was not to be seen. It must now have been midnight. Tears gushed from his eyes; he drove on at random. Meanwhile the storm had subsided, the clouds dispersed, and before him lay a level plain covered with a white, undulating carpet. The night was tolerably clear. He saw, not far off, a little village, consisting of four or five houses. Vladimir drove towards it. At the first cottage he jumped out of the sledge, ran to the window and began to knock. After a few minutes the wooden shutter was raised, and an old man thrust out his gray beard.

"What do you want?"

"Is Jadrino far from here?"

"Is Jadrino far from here?"

"Yes, yes! Is it far?"

"Not far; about ten versts."

At this reply, Vladimir grasped his hair and stood motionless, like a man condemned to death.

"Where do you come from?" continued the old man.

Vladimir had not the courage to answer the question.

"Listen, old man," said he, "can you procure me horses to take me to Jadrino?"

"How should we have such things as horses?" replied the peasant.

"Can I obtain a guide? I will pay him whatever he asks."

"Wait," said the old man, closing the shutter. "I will send my son out to you; he will guide you."

Vladimir waited. But a minute had scarcely elapsed when he began knocking again. The shutter was raised, and the beard again reappeared.

"What do you want?"

"What about your son?"

"He'll be out presently; he is putting on his boots. Are you cold? Come in and warm yourself."

"Thank you; send your son out quickly."

The door creaked; a lad came out with a cudgel and went on in front, at one time pointing out the road, at another searching for it among the drifted snow.

"What is the time?" Vladimir asked him.

"It will soon be daylight," replied the young peasant. Vladimir spoke not another word.

The cocks were crowing, and it was already light when they reached Jadrino. The church was closed. Vladimir paid the guide and drove into the priest's courtyard. His sledge was not there. What news awaited him! . . .

But let us return to the worthy proprietors of Nenaradova, and see what is happening there.


The old people awoke and went into the parlor, Gavril Gavrilovitch in a night-cap, and flannel doublet, Praskovia Petrovna in a wadded dressing-gown. The tea-urn (samovar) was brought in, and Gavril Gavrilovitch sent a servant to ask Maria Gavrilovna how she was and how she had passed the night. The servant returned saying that the young lady had not slept very well, but that she felt better now, and that she would come down presently into the parlor. And indeed, the door opened and Maria Gavrilovna entered the room and wished her father and mother good morning.

"How is your head, Masha?" asked Gavril Gavrilovitch.

"Better, papa," replied Masha.

"Very likely you inhaled the fumes from the charcoal yesterday," said Praskovia Petrovna.

"Very likely, mamma," replied Masha.

The day passed happily enough, but in the night Masha was taken ill. A doctor was sent for from the town. He arrived in the evening and found the sick girl delirious. A violent fever ensued, and for two weeks the poor patient hovered on the brink of the grave.

Nobody in the house knew anything about her flight. The letters, written by her the evening before, had been burnt; and her maid, dreading the wrath of her master, had not whispered a word about it to anybody. The priest, the retired cornet, the mustached surveyor, and the little Uhlan were discreet, and not without reason. Tereshka, the coachman, never uttered one word too much about it, even when he was drunk. Thus the secret was kept by more than half a dozen conspirators.

But Maria Gavrilovna herself divulged her secret during her delirious ravings. But her words were so disconnected, that her mother, who never left her bedside, could only understand from them that her daughter was deeply in love with Vladimir Nikolaievitch, and that probably love was the cause of her illness. She consulted her husband and some of her neighbors, and at last it was unanimously decided that such was evidently Maria Gavrilovna's fate, that a woman cannot ride away from the man who is destined to be her husband, that poverty is not a crime, that one does not marry wealth, but a man, etc., etc. Moral proverbs are wonderfully useful in those cases where we can invent little in our own justification.

In the meantime the young lady began to recover. Vladimir had not been seen for a long time in the house of Gavril Gavrilovitch. He was afraid of the usual reception. It was resolved to send and announce to him an unexpected piece of good news: the consent of Maria's parents to his marriage with their daughter. But what was the astonishment of the proprietor of Nenaradova, when, in reply to their invitation, they received from him a half insane letter. He informed tliem that he would never set foot in their house again, and begged them to forget an unhappy creature whose only hope was death. A few days afterwards they heard that Vladimir had joined the army again. This was in the year 1812.

For a long time they did not dare to announce this to Masha, who was now convalescent. She never mentioned the name of Vladimir. Some months afterwards, finding his name in the list of those who had distinguished themselves and been severely wounded at Borodino, she fainted away, and it was feared that she would have another attack of lever. But, Heaven be thanked! the fainting fit had no serious consequences.

Another misfortune fell upon her: Gavril Gavrilovitch died, leaving her the heiress to all his property. But the inheritance did not console her; she shared sincerely the grief of poor Praskovia Petrovna, vowing that she would never leave her. They both quitted Nenaradova, the scene of so many sad recollections, and went to live on another estate.

Suitors crowded round the young and wealthy heiress, but she gave not the slightest hope to any of them. Her mother sometimes exhorted her to make a choice; but Maria Gavrilovna shook her head and became pensive. Vladimir no longer existed: he had died in Moscow on the eve of the entry of the French. His memory seemed to be held sacred by Masha; at least she treasured up everything that could remind her of him: books that he had once read, his drawings, his notes, and verses of poetry that he had copied out for her. The neighbors, hearing of all this, were astonished at her constancy, and awaited with curiosity the hero who should at last triumph over the melancholy fidelity of this virgin Artemisia.

Meanwhile the war had ended gloriously. Our regiments returned from abroad, and the people went out to meet them. The bands played the conquering songs: "Vive Henri-Quatre," Tyrolese waltzes and airs from "Joconde." Officers who had set out for the war almost mere lads returned grown men, with martial air, and their breasts decorated with crosses. The soldiers chatted gaily among themselves, constantly mingling French and German words in their speech. Time never to be forgotten! Time of glory and enthusiasm! How throbbed the Russian heart at the word "Fatherland!" How sweet were the tears of meeting! With what unanimity did we unite feelings of national pride with love for the Czar! And for him—what a moment!

The women, the Russian women, were then incomparable. Their enthusiasm was truly intoxicating, when, welcoming the conquerors, they cried "Hurrah!"

"And threw their caps high in the air!"

What officer of that time does not confess that to the Russian women he was indebted for his best and most precious reward?

At this brilliant period Maria Gavrilovna was living with her mother in the province of —, and did not see how both capitals celebrated the return of the troops. But in the districts and villages the general enthusiasm was, if possible, even still greater. The appearance of an officer in those places was for him a veritable triumph, and the lover in a plain coat felt very ill at ease in his vicinity.

We have already said that, in spite of her coldness, Maria Gavrilovna was, as before, surrounded by suitors. But all had to retire into the background when the wounded Colonel Bourmin of the Hussars, with the Order of St. George in his buttonhole and with an "interesting pallor," as the young ladies of the neighborhood observed, appeared at the castle. He was about twenty-six years of age. He had obtained leave of absence to visit his estate, which was contiguous to that of Maria Gavrilovna. Maria bestowed special attention upon him. In his presence her habitual pensiveness disappeared. It cannot be said that she coquetted with him, but a poet, observing her behavior, would have said :

"Se amor non e, che dunque?"

Bourmin was indeed a very charming young man. He possessed that spirit which is eminently pleasing to women: a spirit of decorum and observation, without any pretensions, and yet not without a slight tendency towards careless satire. His behavior towards Maria Gavrilovna was simple and frank, but whatever she said or did, his soul and eyes followed her. He seemed to be of a quiet and modest disposition, though report said that he had once been a terrible rake; but this did not injure him in the opinion of Maria Gavrilovna, who—like all young ladies in general—excused with pleasure follies that gave indication of boldness and ardor of temperament.

But more than everything else—more than his tenderness, more than his agreeable conversation, more than his interesting pallor, more than his arm in a sli'ng—the silence of the young Hussar excited her curiosity and imagination. She could not but confess that he pleased her very much. Probably he, too, with his perception and experience, had already observed that she made a distinction between him and the others. How was it then that she had not yet seen him at her feet or heard his declaration? What restrained him? Was it timidity, inseparable from true love, or pride or the coquetry of a crafty wooer? It was an enigma to her. After long reflection, she came to the conclusion that timidity alone was the cause of it, and she resolved to encourage him by greater attention and, if circumstances should render it necessary, even by an exhibition of tenderness. She prepared a most unexpected dénouement, and waited with impatience for the moment of the romantic explanation. A secret, of whatever nature it may be, always presses heavily upon the human heart. Her stratagem had the desired success; at least Bourmin fell into such a reverie, and his black eyes rested with such fire upon her, that the decisive moment seemed close at hand. The neighbors spoke about the marriage as if it were a matter already decided upon, and good Praskovia Petrovna rejoiced that her daughter had at last found a lover worthy of her.

On one occasion, the old lady was sitting alone in the parlor, amusing herself with a pack of cards, when Bourmin entered the room and immediately inquired for Maria Gavrilovna.

"She is in the garden," replied the old lady; "go out to her, and I will wait here for you."

Bourmin went, and the old lady made the sign of the cross and thought: "Perhaps the business will be settled to-day!"

Bourmin found Maria Gavrilovna near the pond, under a willow-tree, with a book in her hands, and in a white dress: a veritable heroine of romance. After the first few questions and observations, Maria Gavrilovna purposely allowed the conversation to drop, thereby increasing their mutual embarrassment, from which there was no possible way of escape except only by a sudden and decisive declaration.

And this is what happened: Bourmin, feeling the difficulty of his position, declared that he had long sought for an opportunity to open his heart to her, and requested a moment's attention. Maria Gavrilovna closed her book and cast down her eyes, as a sign of compliance with his request.

"I love you," said Bourmin. "I love you passionately. . . ."

Maria Gavrilovna blushed and lowered her head still more. "I have acted imprudently in accustoming myself to the sweet pleasure of seeing and hearing you daily. . . ." (Maria Gavrilovna recalled to mind the first letter of St. Preux.) "But it is now too late to resist my fate; the remembrance of you, your dear incomparable image, will henceforth be the torment and the consolation of my life, but there still remains a grave duty for me to perform—to reveal to you a terrible secret which will place between us an insurmountable barrier."

"That barrier has always existed," interrupted Maria Gavrilovna hastily. "I could never be your wife."

"I know," replied he calmly. "I know that you once loved, but death and three years of mourning. . . . Dear, kind Maria Gavrilovna, do not try to deprive me of my last consolation: the thought that you would have consented to make me happy, if . . ."

"Don't speak, for Heaven's sake, don't speak. You torture me."

"Yes, I know. I feel that you would have been mine, but I am the most miserable creature under the sun—I am already married!"

Maria Gavrilovna looked at him in astonishment.

"I am already married," continued Bourmin: "I have been married four years, and I do not know who is my wife, or where she is, or whether I shall ever see her again!"

"What do you say?" exclaimed Maria Gavrilovna. "How very strange! Continue: I will relate to you afterwards. . . . But continue, I beg of you."

"At the beginning of the year 1812," said Bourmin, "I was hastening to Vilna, where my regiment was stationed. Arriving late one evening at one of the post stations, I ordered the horses to be got ready as quickly as possible, when suddenly a terrible snow storm came on, and the post master and drivers advised me to wait till it had passed over. I followed their advice, but an unaccountable uneasiness took possession of me: it seemed as if someone were pushing me forward. Meanwhile the snowstorm did not subside. I could endure it no longer, and again ordering out the horses, I started off in the midst of the storm. The driver conceived the idea of following the course of the river, which would shorten our journey by three versts. The banks were covered with snow; the driver drove past the place where we should have come out upon the road, and so we found ourselves in an unknown part of the country. The storm did not cease; I saw a light in the distance, and I ordered the driver to proceed towards it. We reached a village; in the wooden church there was a light. The church was open. Outside the railings stood several sledges, and people were passing in and out through the porch.

" 'This way! this way!' cried several voices.

"I ordered the driver to proceed.

" 'In the name of Heaven, where have you been loitering?' said somebody to me. 'The bride has fainted away; the priest does not know what to do, and we were just getting ready to go back. Get out as quickly as you can.'

"I got out of the sledge without saying a word and went into the church, which was feebly lit up by two or three tapers. A young girl was sitting un a bench in a dark corner of the church; another girl was rubbing her temples.

" 'Thank God!' said the latter. 'You have come at last. You have almost killed the young lady.'

"The old priest advanced towards me, and said:

" 'Do you wish me to begin?'

" 'Begin, begin, father,' replied I absently.

"The young girl was raised up. She seemed to me not at all bad looking. . . . Impelled by an incomprehensible, unpardonable levity, I placed myself by her side in front of the pulpit; the priest hurried on; three men and a chambermaid supported the bride and only occupied themselves with her. We were married.

" 'Kiss each other!' said the witnesses to us.

"My wife turned her pale face towards me. I was about to kiss her, when she exclaimed: 'Oh! it is not he! It is net he!' and fell senseless.

"The witnesses gazed at me in alarm. I turned round and left the church without the least hindrance, flung myself into the kibitka and cried: 'Drive off!' "

"My God!" exclaimed Maria Gavrilovna. "And you do not know what became of your poor wife?"

"I do not know," replied Bourmin; "neither do I know the name of the village where I was married nor the post station where I set out from. At that time I attached so little importance to the wicked prank, that on leaving the church I fell asleep, and did not awake till the next morning after reaching the third station. The servant, who was then with me, died during the campaign, so that I have no hope of ever discovering the woman upon whom I played such a cruel joke, and who is now so cruelly avenged."

"My God! my God!" cried Maria Gavrilovna, seizing him by the hand. "Then it was you! And you do not recognize me?"

Bourmin turned pale—and threw himself at her feet.

A New Blog on our Blogroll...

Our blogging buddy Charles Crawford contributes to the newly listed Business and Politics.

Geert Wilders Prosecution Yields Dutch PvdV Opinion Poll Gains

It seems that the more Dutch authorities pick on Geert Wilders, the more popular he becomes with the Dutch population, according to Angus Reid's Global Opinion Polls.
(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - The far-right Party for Freedom (PvdV) has once more become the most popular party in the Netherlands, according to a poll by Maurice de Hond. A prospective tally of seats shows that the PvdV would win 27 mandates in the next legislative election, up two since early January.

The ruling Christian-Democratic Appeal (CDA) is in second place with 24 seats—down three in less than a month. The Democrats 66 (D66) and the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) are tied for third place with 22 mandates, followed by the Labour Party (PvdA) with 16, the Socialist Party (SP) with 14, and the Green Left (GL) with 13. Support is lower for the Christian Union (CU), the Party for the Animals (PvdD), the Reformed Political Party (SGP), and Proud of the Netherlands (ToN).

Dutch voters renewed the Second Chamber in November 2006. The CDA—led by current minister president Jan Peter Balkenende—secured 41 out of 150 seats. In February 2007, a coalition encompassing the CDA, the PvdA of Wouter Bos, and the CU of Andre Rouvouet was assembled.

In June 2009, the PvdV won four of the 25 Dutch seats in the European Parliament

The PvdV has recently gained notoriety due to Geert Wilders, its controversial leader. In 2008, Wilders released a movie titled Fitna depicting Islam as a violent religion, and comparing the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s "Mein Kampf". In January 2009, an Amsterdam court ordered prosecutors to call Wilders to trial for inciting hatred. Wilders has called the decision an "attack on public debate."

As Seen On Laudator Temporis Acti

By coincidence, I had just started reading Royall Tyler's The Algerine Captive (1797) after seeing a reference to the novel in Michael Oren's history Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present, when someone I know called attention to this post on Michael Gilleland's blog:
A Homeric Scholar in Polite Company
Royall Tyler, The Algerine Captive; or, The Life and Adventures of Doctor Updike Underhill, chapter 7:

Fatigued with the vexations of my school, I one evening repaired to the tavern, and mixed with some of the young men of the town. Their conversation I could not relish; mine they could not comprehend. The subject of race horses being introduced, I ventured to descant on Xanthus, the immortal courser of Achilles. They had never heard of 'squire Achilles, or his horse; but they offered to bet two to one, that Bajazet, the Old Roan, or the deacon's mare. Pumpkin and Milk, would beat him, and challenged me to appoint time and place.

Nor was I more acceptable among the young women. Being invited to spend an evening, after a quilting, I thought this a happy opportunity to introduce Andromache, the wife of the great Hector, at her loom; and Penelope, the faithful wife of Ulysses, weaving her seven years' web. This was received with a stupid stare, until I mentioned the long time the queen of Ulysses was weaving; when a smart young woman observed, that she supposed Miss Penelope's yarn was rotted in whitening, that made her so long: and then told a tedious story of a piece of cotton and linen she had herself woven, under the same circumstances. She had no sooner finished, than, to enforce my observations, I recited above forty lines of Greek, from the Odyssey, and then began a dissertation ou the caesura. In the midst of my harangue, a florid-faced young man, at the farther end of the room, with two large prominent foreteeth, remarkably white, began to sing,

"Fire upon the mountains, run boys, run;"

And immediately the whole company rushed forward, to see who should get a chance in the reel of six.

I was about retiring, fatigued and disgusted, when it was hinted to me, that I might wait on Miss Mima home; but as I could recollect no word in the Greek, which would contrue into bundling, or any of Homer's heroes, who got the bag, I declined. In the Latin, it is true, that Aeneas and Dido, in the cave, seem something like a precedent. It was reported all over the town, the next day, that master was a Papish, as he had talked French two hours.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

National Review Symposium on Geert Wilders' Dutch Trial

A sample post from National Review's discussion group about Geert Wilders' court case in Holland, headlined "Western Civilization on Trial":
BAT YE’OR--Geert Wilders is a hero for those countless Europeans who cherish a free and democratic Europe — a Europe proud of its Judeo-Christian and humanistic values, its civilization, and its achievements in the field of human rights. But this is not today’s Europe. In today’s Europe, synagogues, Jewish schools, clubs, and cemeteries need to be guarded — as if going to a Jewish school or praying in a synagogue were a crime punishable by death as in Nazi-occupied Europe. Intellectuals, scholars, and those who protest the creeping Eurabization of culture and society are threatened, boycotted by their colleagues, thrown out of their jobs, forced to leave their families and go into hiding, or obliged to live with bodyguards. Wilders has devoted his life to freeing Europe from Eurabia’s clutches. To this titanic struggle he has sacrificed the security of his life and the joys of family. Threatened by a desert whirlwind blowing hatred upon Europe from the south, spending days and nights shielded by bodyguards, persecuted and tormented by his feckless Eurabian opponents, Geert Wilders incarnates the free soul of an unbending Europe.
Meanwhile, for coverage of his trial--currently blacked out by major US media--you might turn to Wilders' own website: Or, the University of Pittsburgh's JURIST legal news aggregator.

Monday, February 08, 2010

We're Number One!

Heard about the new Country Brand Index rankings on a BBC Radio Four Podcast of Thinking Allowed. And for 2009, the winner is... the United States of America...

Complete listing at

The projection problem and the symmetries of physics: On the possibility of the scientific realist case, by Harvey Fields

My late cousin, Harvey Fields, worked for Karl Popper as a research assistant for a number of years in the late 70s and early 80s, after a career in physics (studies at MIT) and subsequent doctorate in philosophy and history of science (from Tel Aviv University). I believe that that at the time he worked for the legendary author of The Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper had become quite unpopular among academic philosophers--and not yet championed by the likes of George Soros. As a result, it was not possible for my cousin to find full-time employment in his field. For many years, he worked independently on his own book about the philosophy of science. Harvey was private, and modest. He never showed his drafts to me, never discussed his work. After a while, I doubted whether there really was a book... However, I recently learned that his opus has indeed been published, posthumously, on the internet, by the Philosophy of Science Archive at the University of Pittsburgh.

I can't say that I could understand it. But perhaps some of the readers of this blog might, so here's a link to the full text, in the hope that it might make a small contribution to the advancement of knowledge: The projection problem and the symmetries of physics: On the possibility of the scientific realist case by Harvey Fields.