Friday, July 31, 2009

Muslims Abduct Two Christian Coptic Girls in Egypt

By Mary Abdelmassih
Assyrian International News Agency
Posted GMT 7-30-2009 20:23:20

(AINA) -- Mrs. Samira Markos, who lives in Alexandria, sent an appeal to Egypt4Christ advocacy, pleading with them to rescue her daughter from forced Islamization. The mother said that her daughter Amira Morgan (born 9/9/1992) was abducted on 7-18-2009 on her way to work in the plastics factory near their home.

Egypt4Christ sent one of its members in Alexandria to verify the mother's plea and met with one of the family relatives who corroborated the story.

"At 10 o'clock of the same morning someone called me and asked if I was Amira's mother. He introduced himself as Sheikh Mohammed, and said that my daughter is fine and will convert to Islam," the mother said. "When I cried and begged him to let me have my daughter back, he said he would let me see her again after her conversion to Islam, and ended the call. I tried calling that cell phone back several time, but there never was a reply."

The mother went to El-Sennin Mosque in her neighbourhood at 1.30 PM, after the Muslim noon prayers, and asked a bearded man emerging from the Mosque regarding Sheikh Mohammed, he laughed and said they have more than fifty Sheikh Mohammeds.

"When I started to cry at the Mosque entrance, one of them came to me and said 'Listen, mother of Amira, I am warning you not to report the abduction to the police or do anything, the price will be your son Meena (9 years old) being slaughtered in front of your own eyes. I am not threatening, I'm talking seriously.'" He further said "Listen, your daughter Amira will convert to Islam next Friday, and we are now preparing her for that. Now go home and stay indoors until everything is quietly over."

After getting this message, Samira said that she was filled with terror, went home quickly and took her son Meena and escaped from the whole region, to somewhere unknown.

Samira Markos lives in Alexandria alone with her two children, Meena and Amira; her husband has been working in Libya for the last ten years.

"All the Muslims in our neighbourhood know about the abduction. I could not get hold of my husband, and even my Christian friends have abandoned me as they are afraid of the Salafis who are in complete control of the region."

Salafi is the name of a movement or sect in which Muslims try to imitate their Prophet Mohamad in every aspect of life. Salafism emphasize the laws and punishments of Islam, and has been equated by some with radicalism and terrorism.

Another episode of Coptic female abduction took place on 7-22-2009, also in Alexandria, when 18-year old Ingy Basta went to repair her cell phone in the Nozha Airport area, and was never seen again. Her father reported the case to the police on 23/7/2009 but she has not been found yet. Ingy was be engaged on Sunday 7/26/2009 to a Coptic man.

Egypt4Christ believes that Ingy was abducted by the same Muslim group which operates in the Nozha Airport area of Alexandria. On 28/5/2009 their Imam falsely accused a Coptic young man of stealing the donations box from the Zawiya corner (prayer room) of El-Nour Mosque, after he refused to convert to Islam. Maged Saad was found innocent of this theft by the court.

Ms Rasha Nour, Head of Egypt4Christ warns that the Alexandria Governorate has become full of intolerance towards Christians, which could lead to a sectarian strife at any time because of the "gangs of Islamization," who fill all the neighborhoods in Alexandria. "Those gangs are headed by a group of Sheikhs who are backed by the police authorities, but mainly the State Security in El-Faraana, downtown Alexandria," says Rasha. "One of these is Sheikh Hassan Saber Khalil who is well known to all the police officers. There are other Sheikhs whose names we reserve and will expose if needed."

The first to report (AINA 7-18-2009) on the lucrative business of the 'brokers' of Islamization of Christians, was the independent Egyptian newspaper Al Fagr (the Dawn) in its May 19 2008 issue, citing the city of Alexandria as an example.

Al Fagr reporter Tamer Salah-el-Din highlighted how the operation, which is funded by Muslim businessmen, is carried out with the collusion of State Security and Mosque sheikhs. The 'trading rates' cashed by brokers for each Christian male and female conversion to Islam, at the time of writing this report, was 7000 Egyptian pounds for males and 6000 for females. The rates for Coptic girls fluctuate depending on how good-looking she is and her family's social status.

© 2009, Assyrian International News Agency. All Rights Reserved.

Another big hit

Ortiz’s positive test latest sorry chapter

By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Columnist
July 31, 2009

Et tu, Papi?

Big Papi, lovable Big Papi, was on the juice. And only the terminally naive could be shocked.

He was a slugger who had a dramatic increase in production, and he is one of many big-name, Caribbean-based stars (Juan Gonzalez, Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada, Adrian Beltre, Jose Guillen, Ruben Sierra, Bartolo Colon, and even Pedro Martinez) who had an association with Angel Presinal, the notorious trainer who was banned from major league clubhouses in 2001. Once I found that out, I pretty much figured it was just a matter of when, not if, we’d have Big Papi with a performance-enhancing drug (PED) on his résumé.

The New York Times has now reported that the name of David Ortiz is on that infamous list of 104 players who tested positive back in 2003.

OK, so what do we make of his strident spring training outburst regarding outed PED users? To refresh your memory, on Feb. 16, Ortiz identified himself as a hard-liner. He said that a 50-game suspension was not enough for someone who tests positive for steroids.

“Ban ’em for the whole year,’’ he declared.

He also said he’d be happy to be tested three or four times a year, whatever it would take. “I think you clean up the game by testing,’’ he said. “I know that if I test positive for using any kind of substance, I know that I’m going to disrespect my family, the game, the fans, and everybody. I don’t want to be facing that situation.’’

He didn’t wag his index finger, a la Rafael Palmeiro, but it was close.

Oops, almost forgot. Manny Ramirez is also on that list. Not exactly a shocker, huh?

Ortiz should be given the benefit of the doubt that he is nowhere near as stupid as Manny, who, despite all the attention focused on PEDs nowadays, as opposed to six years ago, was caught being a bad boy this year. Papi’s Feb. 16 rant was delivered, quite obviously, with Papi knowing he was clean. Now.

But the topic of Boston’s World Series victories in 2004 and 2007 is going to be on the table. And this, of course, is what has always been the aspect of PED usage that people have never chosen to discuss. The issue of PED usage is almost always turned into an extended dissertation on someone’s Hall of Fame chances. The subject of wins and losses is seldom discussed.

Yet nothing in baseball is more important than wins and losses. This is the great harm caused by PEDs. Hall of Fame arguments are irresolvable at any time, even if PEDs are not included. But wins and losses have always, with the exception of the 1919 World Series (mind if we hold off on the many other conspiracy theories for a day or two?), been taken at face value. With PEDs in the equation, our trust has been violated. Now what?

Well, good luck. Let’s get serious. We simply cannot undo the results from the past 15 years, which doesn’t mean the damage hasn’t been done. Imaginations are free to run wild. We all must face up to the fact that plenty of results are now fair game for discussion.

Here’s something else subject to discussion: the Mitchell Report.

When the Mitchell Report was issued, many people were either angered or, at the very least, intrigued by the absence of Red Sox names. There may not have been a single raised eyebrow were it not for the fact that George Mitchell is more than a little associated with the Red Sox. His name is high on the team masthead as a “Director.’’

It was very foolish of commissioner Bud Selig to have Mitchell conduct that investigation. That’s a given.

Here’s another question: What exactly is going on with the leaking of these names?

The names of the 104 who tested positive were supposed to remain confidential. For reasons I’ve never understood, the Players Association did not destroy the list, and now here it is, teasing us with four big, sexy names, three of whom, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, and Ramirez, are drop-dead Hall of Famers, while the fourth, Ortiz, is both a major contemporary star and a regional folk hero.

Why them? Who’s leaking in these dribs and drabs, and why?

That bit of toothpaste is out of the tube, so let’s have it all. Simply in the interest of fairness, we need all the names. Why should the others be protected?

An even more important reason for us to have all the names is that we need to have as complete an understanding as possible as to what went on in order that we can make whatever amends are necessary before we all move on. These periodic doses of bad and/or uncomfortable news are extremely annoying. We can’t have this water torture approach continuing for years. We need to know all the bad news today, so we can get on with the healing.

This news concerning Big Papi is sad, but let’s not get excessively melodramatic and call it “tragic.’’ It’s still sports, and in this day and age all of us who patronize sports must enter into it with a sense of caveat emptor. Drugs permeate our sports, and we must always be on 24/7/365 alert for disturbing revelations such as this.

But the story is certainly troubling. This has been a glorious age of Red Sox baseball, and Ortiz has been its epicenter with his big bat, bigger smile, and impeccable flair for the dramatic, yesterday’s (presumably) non-juiced, game-changing three-run bomb on this crackling news day serving as a rather emphatic Exhibit A.

Unfortunately, we are left to wonder about what went on a few years back. It’s like finding out that Santa Claus, instead of supervising a team of industrious elves in his workshop, actually had a deal with Walmart. It’s the same toy. You just feel crummy about how you got it.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on He can be reached at

Suffering from 'roid rage'

By Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe Columnist
July 31, 2009

David Ortiz lied to you. It seems safe to say that his entire Red Sox career is a lie.

And those life-changing Red Sox championships of 2004 and 2007? Are they forever tainted?

You bet.

A New York Times report yesterday disclosed that the names of Ortiz and Manny Ramírez appear on a list of players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. A few hours after the news broke, Ortiz hit a game-winning home run in an 8-5 victory over the Oakland A’s at Fenway Park. Then he confirmed that the news report is accurate, and said he was going to look into the matter and have more to say later.

Red Sox Nation is stunned and saddened. Boston fans have taken great pleasure in harpooning the Yankees and their fans since the Sox’ historic comeback against the Bronx Bombers in the 2004 American League Championship Series. It was tons of fun to ridicule 21st century Yankee steroid cheats Roger Clemens, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte, and Jason Giambi. When Alex Rodriguez was outed last winter, it was a national holiday for Red Sox hubris.

Now this.

What can Sox fans say in the wake of this news? It reminds me of a scene in “The Sting’’ when con man Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) gets himself into a high-stakes poker game with a raft of rich guys, including big-time gangster Doyle Lonnegan. Demonstrating masterful sleight of hand, Gondorff makes off with the pot. After the carnage, a frustrated Lonnegan tells his associate, “What was I supposed to do? Call him for cheating better than me in front of the others?’’

That’s pretty much the best argument for Sox fans now.

Our cheaters were better than your cheaters.

Nothing else flies. For the longest time the Sox flew under the radar of the steroid cloud. Big names fell, but the BoSox remained clean. The infamous Mitchell Report, compiled by former Maine senator George Mitchell, who happens to be Red Sox team “Director’’ (fifth from the top on the team masthead), barely acknowledged the existence of the Boston ball club as an MLB franchise. When Ramírez was caught cheating this spring, it was easy for Sox fans to contend that Manny didn’t start juicing until he went to the Dodgers.

Now this. Big Papi, everybody’s favorite, is on the list of those who tested positive for PEDs in 2003 - which just happens to be the year that his career magically turned around.

Ortiz was an average player when the Sox picked him up before the 2003 season. He’d been a big strikeout guy with the Twins. He could hit an occasional homer, but had a big hole in his swing. He started the 2003 season on the bench, playing behind Jeremy Giambi.

Overnight he became a baseball Rambo. He was the Dominican Babe Ruth. He was the greatest clutch hitter in Sox history. He got all the big hits in 2004. In 2006, he hit 54 home runs, bouncing Jimmie Foxx from the Sox record book.

He wrote a book. He opened a restaurant. He kissed babies. He was the heart of the team. He was a gentleman and a gamer. We all loved him.

He was also outspoken about steroids.

This is what Ortiz said in Fort Myers, Fla., last Feb. 16: “I know that if I test positive for using any kind of substance, I know that I’m going to disrespect my family, the game, the fans, and everybody, and I don’t want to be facing that situation. So what would I do? I won’t use it . . . you test everybody three, four times a year and that’s about it. You do what you got to do. Yeah, whatever they say. Ban them for a whole year.’’

It got headlines. Ortiz says one-year ban for players who test positive. It played well to the masses.

And now David Ortiz looks like one of the television evangelists who gets caught in a seedy motel with a hooker.

How could he have been so stupid? Or bold? He must have known. Players who tested positive in 2003 must have been told by the players association. Certainly, the PA should have destroyed the results, just like Nixon should have burned the tapes, but there was never any assurance the names would not leak. And there are still 100 guys who should be nervous about tomorrow and the next day. Hopefully, none of them have made comments like Ortiz made in Florida.

The timing and the numbers are particularly damning for Big Papi. He was ordinary before 2003. Then he cheated. Then he was great. Now there is testing and he is less than ordinary. You don’t need Jose Canseco to connect the dots.

As for Manny, what is left to say? When he got caught this year, Sox fans wanted to believe he started cheating after he left Boston. Now his entire career is flushed down the toilet. Along with Ortiz.

It’s horrible.

No more innocence.

No more fairy tales.

The 2004 Red Sox really were Idiots. Just like the Yankees and everybody else.

Our cheaters were better than their cheaters.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Today's Tune: The Smithereens- A Girl Like You

(Click on title to play video)

Putin Enlists the Church in His Power Grab

A final effort to consolidate dictatorship.

by Kim Zigfeld
July 30, 3009

Two stunning initiatives from the Russian government over the past few weeks illustrate a disturbing fusion of religion and politics as Vladimir Putin’s regime makes a final effort to consolidate dictatorship.
First, the government announced that it would consult the Russian Orthodox Church before introducing any legislative proposals in parliament, in essence giving the church a veto on legislation and allowing the church to promote an openly religious agenda in parliament.

Then, the regime declared it would begin teaching Orthodox religion in schools, ignoring the constitutional requirement of separation of church and state. Study of other Christian faiths, like Protestantism and Catholicism, has already been ruled out, and it’s clear that the lip-service being paid to Islam is only window dressing.

Getty Images

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands on February 2, 2009 with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill during their meeting in Moscow.

As for Judaism, a spate of anti-Semitic acts make perfectly clear that the religion has no more future in Putin’s Russia than it did in the USSR.
It probably should not be surprising to see religion and politics begin to overlap in Russia, since both the leader of the Orthodox Church — Patriarch Kirill — and Vladimir Putin are former KGB spies. Indeed, it was not the men who separated from the KGB, but the organization that separated from them, when it collapsed along with the entire USSR apparatus. Putin has said he views that separation as one of the greatest tragedies in Russian history, and he played a key role in bringing Kirill to the seat of power.

As Russia finds itself more and more in the grip of a paralyzing economic crisis, the blessing of the church offers a handy bit of leverage against popular unrest, allowing Putin to justify further crackdowns beyond the mere grounds of patriotism. “Sure,” Putin can say, “it violates the Constitution. But the church is OK with it, so how bad could it be?” Putin and Kirill often make official state visits together where they pose for candle-lighting photo-ops — as they did recently in the religious hamlet of Valaam — clothing the regime with an extra indicia of authority and legitimacy that makes it even harder for critics to gain traction.

Putin and Kirill have also seemed to move in tandem when cracking down on dissent within their ranks. Putin has abolished the election of regional governors, wiped out opposition parties in the parliament, and crushed critical voices in the media. Most recently, he’s seized the right to open any letter in the Russian mail, a directive that shamelessly ignores a right to mail privacy spelled out in the Russian constitution (even state-sponsored propaganda project Russia Today was appalled). Yet Kirill routinely gives Putin cover on such decisions, praising and blessing his government at every opportunity.

The church has not been shy about playing the role of enforcer, leading many to see it as just another Kremlin ministry of power. It defrocked a priest who dared to question the show trial and conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky after the oil baron began making noises about seeking the presidency. It demoted another priest when he questioned whether the patriarch had too much power. And it excommunicated a third who participated in a government commission that exposed a large number of Soviet-era clerics as KGB informers.

Getty Images

Picture taken on November 29, 2008 shows a Russian Orthodox icon that includes a depiction of Soviet-era leader Josef Stalin at a St. Olga's Church outside St. Petersburg in Strelna. Father Yevstafy Zhakov, the benficiary of St. Olga's Church, recently put up the icon showing Stalin standing before the Blessed Matrona of Moscow, a 20th-century saint. Father Yevstafy commented that, according to legend, Stalin would frequently talk to the woman and that she gave him advice on how to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II.

At the same time, there is increasing nationalism on open display among the clergy. Even as Putin has been moving to rehabilitate nationalist figures like the mass-murderer Josef Stalin by creating new history books that rationalize Stalin’s tactics, one St. Petersburg cleric went as far as to create a holy icon depicting the homicidal dictator — a reflection of a growing movement within the church to canonize the Soviet overlord. For his part, Putin’s many public appearances with Kirill make it absolutely clear which religion Putin approves of.

In a genuinely stunning development, at a recent outdoor religious rally in Tehran, a throng of Iranian worshippers shouted back in unison “Down with Russia!” when called upon by the cleric to chant “Down with the USA!” Iranians are outraged by the unqualified support the Kremlin has provided to their existing government, as they risk their lives challenging their recent national elections as fraudulent. It’s clear that religion is turning into a real powder keg where Russia is concerned and that the rise of Orthodoxy places Russia on a collision course not only with the West but also with the Muslim world — an increasingly significant player in Russian society.

Kim Zigfeld is a New York City-based writer who blogs at Publius Pundit and publishes her own Russia specialty blog, La Russophobe. She also writes for Russia! magazine and is researching a book on the rise of dictatorship in Putin’s Russia.

Marxism's Main Critic

Leszek Kolakowski, 1927-2009

by Roger Kimball
The Weekly Standard
08/03/2009, Volume 014, Issue 43

The Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski was just a few months shy of his 82nd birthday when he died at his home in Oxford on July 17, after what his daughter Agnieszka described as "a brief and very sudden illness." For anyone inclined to despair that we live in intellectually diminished times, Kolakowski provided a glittering counterexample. He was an intellectual giant. What is even more extraordinary, he was an intellectual giant whose accomplishments were widely celebrated. Kolakowski died full of honors as well as years. The coveted if often risible MacArthur "genius" award: He got that. The Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the humanities--a cool $1 million for that bijou: Kolakowski got that, too. Honorary degrees and lesser awards, honors, lectureships, and sundry recognitions: He received, and deserved, them all.

AP Photo

FILE - In this Nov. 5 2003 file photo Leszek Kolakowski, an anti-communist Polish philosopher, speaks at the Library of Congress in Washington. Kolakowski, a Polish philosopher and historian whose decision to disavow Marxism pushed him into exile and made him an inspiration for his nation's struggle against communism has died. A death announcement placed by his family in the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper on Saturday, July 18, 2009, said he died Friday in Oxford, England, where he had lived for decades, "after a sudden, short disease." It gave no further details.

Kolakowski lived through and thought through the varieties of the totalitarian temptation. He was 12 when the Wehrmacht overran Poland. He witnessed the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto later in the war. In 1945, Soviet tyranny succeeded the Nazi variety, and Kolakowski grew up witnessing what a proletarian paradise looks like. Although he came of age as a professed Marxist, by the mid-1960s his disillusionment was far advanced. It was mutual, for Kolakowski found himself subject to constant police surveillance and, in 1968, was expelled from Warsaw University for "forming the opinions of young people in a direction glaringly contradictory to the dominant tendency of the development of the country."

Later that year, Kolakowski left Poland and embarked on a career in the West. He made stops at Berkeley, which gave him an opportunity to learn firsthand about and therefore despise the New Left culture of the 1960s; at Yale, where I studied with him; and the University of Chicago and Oxford, his intellectual homes for the last decades of his life.

Kolakowski is best known as a critic of Marxism and its spiritual allotropes. His magnum opus, Main Currents of Marxism, is a three-volume work of philosophical demolition. Sidney Hook aptly called the book "magisterial." It is typical that Kolakowski starts not with Rousseau or Hegel but with Plotinus (fl. A.D. 240) to explain the "origins of dialectic." The middle volume offers a detailed anatomy of Marx's thought, and the work concludes with a survey of 20th-century varieties, from the "Marxism in action" of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and Mao to the bloviating theoretical Marxism of Lukács, Sartre, and the so-called Frankfurt School (Adorno, Marcuse, et al.). "At present," Kolakowski observed, alluding to Marx's famous adage, "Marxism neither interprets the world nor changes it: it is merely a repertoire of slogans serving to organize various interests."

Main Currents demonstrates how Marxism, committed in Kolakowski's words to "the self-deification of mankind," became "the greatest fantasy of our century." It was an idea, he wrote, that "began in Promethean humanism and culminated in the monstrous tyranny of Stalinism." As such Marxism provides a permanently valuable admonition about the danger of utopian schemes, what Kolakowski called "the farcical aspect of human bondage." There were, as Kolakowski recognized, many aspects to that farce, as his observation that "one should be as careful about believing in a green utopia as in a red one" shows. I hope some charitably minded person sends a book by Kolakowski to Al Gore.

A corollary of Kolakowski's criticism of Marxism was his appreciation of the virtues of capitalism and the free market as indispensable enablers of freedom. "Capitalism," he noted, in 1995,

developed spontaneously and organically from the spread of commerce. Nobody planned it, and it did not need an all-embracing ideology, whereas socialism was an ideological construction. Ultimately, capitalism is human nature at work--that is, man's greed allowed to follow its course--whereas socialism is an attempt to institutionalize and enforce fraternity. It seems obvious by now that a society in which greed is the main motivation of human action, for all of its repugnant and deplorable aspects, is incomparably better than a society based on compulsory brotherhood, whether in national or international socialism.

Main Currents of Marxism is not of historical interest only. As Kolakowski reminded us in the preface to the 2004 edition, notwithstanding the collapse of the Soviet Union, Marxism remains eminently worth studying, not least because its aspirations continue to percolate in the dreams of various utopian planners. (You needn't go to China or even Cuba: Just look at the increasingly pink and authoritarian complexion of the European Union.) As Kolakowski put it in his introduction to My Correct Views on Everything (2005),

Communism was not the crazy fantasy of a few fanatics, nor the result of human stupidity and baseness; it was a real, very real part of the history of the twentieth century, and we cannot understand this history of ours without understanding communism. We cannot get rid of this specter by saying it was just "human stupidity," or "human corruptibility." The specter is stronger than the spells we cast on it. It might come back to life.

Although it is at the center of his scholarly work, the murderous tradition of Marx formed only a part of Kolakowski's intellectual portfolio. He moved with commanding ease from the intricacies of Plotinus, Augustine, and the Church Fathers through Descartes, Pascal, the English empiricists, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Bergson, Husserl, and the whole congeries of issues and figures we congregate under the rubric of Modernity and its Discontents.

Part of Kolakowski's genius was his ability to enliven even the most abstruse philosophical or theological subjects. He did this by means of things missing from most academic writing these days: clarity, humor, and existential urgency. He was blessed with a formidably logical mind and, correlatively, a style of writing that put a premium on intelligibility. He was also possessed of an uncanny appreciation for irony and paradox. This gave bite to his writing which flowed from the recognition that human life is instinct with contradiction and absurdity: for example, "the awesome paradox whereby good results may flow from evil, and evil results from good. That these two can thus support each other is a shattering fact about human experience."

The humor proceeds from the same recognition at one remove. I recommend in particular "The General Theory of Not-Gardening," reprinted in Modernity on Endless Trial (1990): "Those who hate gardening need a theory. Not to garden without a theory is a shallow, unworthy way of life."

Part of what made Kolakowski's reflections on freedom and its vicissitudes so fruitful was his understanding that human freedom is inextricably tied to a recognition of limits, which in the end involves a recognition of the sacred. In an interview from 1991, he argued that "mankind can never get rid of the need for religious self-identification: who am I, where did I come from, where do I fit in, why am I responsible, what does my life mean, how will I face death? Religion is a paramount aspect of human culture. Religious need cannot be ex-communicated from culture by rationalist incantation. Man does not live by reason alone."

Kolakowski showed how the tendency to believe that all human problems have a technical solution is an unfortunate inheritance from the Enlightenment--"even," he notes, "from the best aspects of the Enlightenment: from its struggle against intolerance, self-complacency, superstitions, and uncritical worship of tradition." There is much about human life that is not susceptible to human remedy or intervention. Our allegiance to the ideal of unlimited progress is, paradoxically, a dangerous moral limitation that is closely bound up with what Kolakowski calls the loss of the sacred. "With the disappearance of the sacred," he wrote,

which imposed limits to the perfection that could be attained by the profane, arises one of the most dangerous illusions of our civilization--the illusion that there are no limits to the changes that human life can undergo, that society is "in principle" an endlessly flexible thing, and that to deny this flexibility and this perfectibility is to deny man's total autonomy and thus to deny man himself.

These are wise words, grippingly pertinent to an age conjuring with the immense technological novelties of cloning, genetic engineering, and other Promethean temptations. We pride ourselves today on our "openness" and commitment to liberal -ideals, our empathy for other cultures, and our sophisticated understanding that our way of viewing the world is, after all, only our way of viewing the world. But Kolakowski reminded us that, without a prior commitment to substantive values--to an ideal of the good and (just as important) an acknowledgment of evil--openness threatens to degenerate into vacuousness. As Kolakowski argued, "The denial of 'absolute values' for the sake of both rationalist principles and the general spirit of openness threatens our ability to make a distinction between good and evil altogether."

Evidence of that threat is not far to seek. The large issue is one that has bedeviled liberal societies ever since there were liberal societies: that in attempting to create the maximally tolerant society, we also give scope to those who would prefer to create the maximally intolerant society. It is a curious phenomenon. Liberalism implies openness to other points of view, even those points of view whose success would destroy liberalism. Extending tolerance to those points of view is a prescription for suicide. But intolerance betrays the fundamental premise of liberalism, namely, openness.

The escape from this disease of liberalism lies in understanding that "tolerance" and "openness" must be limited by positive values if they are not to be vacuous. Our enlightened, secular society is extraordinarily accommodating to diverse points of view. But in order to continue to enjoy the luxury of freedom, we must say No to those movements that would exploit freedom only to abolish it. Our society, like every society, is founded on particular positive values--the rule of law, for example, respect for the individual, religious freedom, the separation of church and state.

Western democratic society is rooted in what Kolakowski called a "vision of the world." Part of that vision is a commitment to openness, but openness is not the same thing as moral agnosticism. "In order to defend itself," Kolakowski wrote, "the pluralist order should voice [its fundamental] values ceaselessly and loudly. There is nothing astonishing or outrageous about the fact that within the pluralist society, the defenders and enemies of its basic principles are not treated with exactly the same indifference." Given the shape of our post-Soviet, technologically infatuated world, perhaps it is that admonition, even more than his heroic demolition of Marxism, for which Leszek Kolakowski will be honored in the decades to come.

Roger Kimball is coeditor and publisher of the New Criterion and the publisher of Encounter Books.

Related Link

Leszek Kolakowski: the quiet assassin, by Roger Scruton


By Ann Coulter
July 29, 2009

You could not ask for a more perfect illustration of the thesis of my latest book, "Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America," than the black president of the United States attacking a powerless white cop for arresting a black Harvard professor -- in a city with a black mayor and a state with a black governor -- as the professor vacations in Martha's Vineyard.

In modern America, the alleged "victim" is always really the aggressor, and the alleged "aggressor" is always the true victim.

President Barack Obama planted the question during a health care press conference, hoping he could satisfy the Chicago Sun-Times, which has been accusing him of not being black enough. He somehow imagined that the rest of the country might not notice the president of the United States gratuitously attacking a cop in a case of alleged "racial profiling."


Suddenly, with the glare of the national spotlight being turned on a small local story, it became clear that there was no "racial profiling" involved -- other than by the black Harvard professor, who lorded his credentials and connections over a white working-class cop.

We wouldn't have known about this case at all if the professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., hadn't blast e-mailed the universe that he was harassed by racist cops. Gates thought it would be a feather in his cap, not realizing there are huge areas of the country where people don't think it's heroic to browbeat cops checking on you after you break into your own house, such as 99 percent of the country outside of Cambridge.

Contrary to liberals' ardent desire, Sgt. James Crowley was not on tape saying, "I know it's his house, but let's stick it to this uppity negro." (Curiously, the tape of Gates' call demanding to talk to the chief of police to "report" Crowley has been withheld. Some watchdog group has got to demand that tape.)

But what if Crowley hadn't been a model policeman who taught diversity classes and once famously gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a black athlete?

What if the 911 caller had identified the suspected burglars as black, which it turns out she did not?

What if Crowley hadn't been fully supported by other cops at the scene, one Hispanic and one black? (Liberals will say cops stick together, but I say liberals stick together.)

What if, at some point in his life, Crowley had been accused -- falsely or not -- of racism?

His life would be ruined.

Desperate to blame the cop, despite the facts, some liberals have begun making up their own facts. Radio talker Opio Sokoni claimed Crowley told Gates to "shut up" and "I'm going to win, you're going to jail." Even Gates doesn't claim the cop said that.

On MSNBC's "Hardball," Chris Matthews said that Gates did not say, "I'll speak with your mama outside," as stated in the police report.

"He didn't say this," Matthews asserted as fact. This invented fact allowed Matthews to accuse the cop of engaging in "projection" and to conjure Crowley's psychological state, saying, this is "what a white guy thought a black guy would say."

Eugene Robinson endorsed Matthews' invented fact, saying: "I cannot imagine in this universe Skip Gates saying, 'I'll speak with your mama outside.'" As proof, Robinson explained that Gates "rolls with kings and queens and Nobel Prize winners." (I'm not "projecting" what I think a black man would say; he really said that.)

And then they both had a laugh about the cop applying racist stereotypes to such an esteemed figure as Professor Gates, who apparently would NEVER use the phrase "your mama."

First, unlike these aesthetes, I don't consider "your mama" such an implausible expression for someone to use.

Second, Sgt. Crowley wrote his police report, including the "your mama" line, long before he, or anyone else, could have imagined the arrest was going to become nationwide, front-page news.

Third, there's a video of Gates using the N-word all over the Internet, and in that short, three-minute video, Gates uses the phrase "your mama."

The only contrary evidence is that Gates recently denied that he told the cop he'd "speak with your mama outside." He also desperately wants to drop the subject.

The left's last-ditch attempt to defend a powerful black man's attack on a powerless white man is to say the arrest was improper. In Time magazine, Lawrence O'Donnell factually announced, "Yelling does not meet the definition of disorderly conduct in Massachusetts."

You can argue the facts in court, but there's no question that the police report described the misdemeanor offense of "disorderly conduct" under Massachusetts law, which includes engaging in "tumultuous behavior" in "any neighborhood," thereby causing public "inconvenience, annoyance or alarm."

As everyone who's read the police report knows, Gates is described as going on an extended tirade against the officer, calling him a racist, saying the officer didn't know who he was messing with, acting irrationally, following the officer outside to continue haranguing him, and engaging in "tumultuous behavior" in and outside his house, drawing a small crowd of alarmed onlookers and police.

Suppose a cop didn't arrest a guy who was ranting and raving -- in his own home -- and, an hour later, the hothead assaults someone. Policeman: I was as surprised as anyone that he shot his girlfriend! Every liberal in the country would demand the cop's head.

And by the way, try screaming at a judge that he's a racist and see what happens. Why should police officers deserve less protection than judges? They're in more danger.

The disorderly conduct charge was not dropped because it wasn't a good arrest. It was dropped, according to Gates' own lawyer, because of Gates' connections.

Before liberals declare that this a case of racial profiling and move on, how about liberals produce one provable example of racial profiling that isn't a hoax?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Michigan: Muslim principal fires legendary Christian coach after student converts

Posted by Robert Spencer
July 28, 2009

In Dearborn, of course. Is the Islamic denial of the freedom of conscience going to come to America unchallenged? In a sane society, this school would be investigated and statutes developed making the implementation of Sharia provisions that are at variance with American laws and societal norms a crime. "Legendary Christian coach canned after student converts: Muslim principal allegedly irate that wrestler left Islam to be baptized," by Drew Zahn for WorldNetDaily, July 27 (thanks to all who sent this in):

A high school hall-of-fame and Christian wrestling coach in Dearborn, Mich., claims he was muscled out of his long-tenured coaching job by the school's principal, a devout Muslim, because the administrator was furious over a student wrestler who had converted to Christianity from Islam.

Gerald Marsazalek has coached wrestling for 35 years at Dearborn Public Schools, amassing more than 450 wins and, in addition to being added to the Michigan High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, was named "Sportsman of the Year" by the All-American Athletic Association.

Despite Marsazalek's success, however, Principal Imad Fadlallah of Dearborn's Fordson High School ordered the administration not to renew the coach's contract, allegedly in retaliation over the student's conversion and to continue a campaign of flushing Christianity out of the school.

"We are getting a glimpse of what happens when Muslims who refuse to accept American values and principles gain political power in an American community," said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing Marsazalek. "Failure to renew coach Marszalek's contract had nothing to do with wrestling and everything to do with religion."...

Read it all.

UPDATE: Debbie Schlussel had some very revealing information on this school and its principal back in May 2008.

Posted by Robert at 9:12 AM Comments

North Carolina Jihad

By Robert Spencer
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Six American citizens and one U.S. permanent resident were charged in North Carolina with, according to the Justice Department, “conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad.” The indictment centers around the activities of an American convert to Islam, 39-year-old Daniel “Saifullah” Boyd (a drywall contractor who was apparently the ringleader of this group). It reveals yet again the international scope of jihadist activity – giving the lie to the common Leftist assertion that various jihads around the globe are isolated nationalist insurgencies with no connection to one another.

Reuters Pictures

Daniel Patrick Boyd is seen in an undated handout photo from the Wake County City/County Bureau of Identification. U.S. authorities on July 27, 2009 arrested seven people from North Carolina who have been charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks overseas, including in Kosovo, Jordan and the Gaza Strip. U.S. prosecutors said the ringleader of the group, Daniel Patrick Boyd, trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 1989 to 1992 and used that experience to set up his own organization to train fighters, raise money and carry out attacks abroad.

Above all, in the words of U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding, “these charges hammer home the point that terrorists and their supporters are not confined to the remote regions of some far away land but can grow and fester right here at home.” How did seven American citizens, with their leader a convert to Islam, get the idea that supporting terrorists and participating in terrorist training was consonant with their religion – and was, indeed, a religious obligation? Holding didn’t say. But that is the question that must ultimately be answered, and policy formulated accordingly, if homegrown jihad activity of this type is to be prevented in the future.

It all started in 1989, when, according to the indictment, Boyd went to Pakistan and Afghanistan, attended jihad training camps, and fought alongside jihadists in Afghanistan. He didn’t leave Central Asia until 1992. His wife Sabrina Boyd has pointed out indignantly that in Afghanistan in the late Eighties, Boyd was battling the Soviet invaders “with the full backing of the United States government.” Indeed. But at that time the U.S. was aiding the Afghan mujahedin against the Soviets – and once they drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan, those same mujahedin quickly dashed hopes that the U.S. had won over their hearts and minds, hewing closely to the jihadist perspective that both the Soviet Union and the United States represented Satanic superpowers at war with Islam. If Boyd was fighting alongside the Afghan mujahedin in the late Eighties and early Nineties, that hardly constitutes evidence that his commitment to America was strong, or that his commitment to jihad was weak.

Besides Pakistan and Afghanistan, Boyd also visited another jihadist hotspot, Gaza, in March 2006. According to the DOJ, he went there with one of his sons (two of whom are among the seven suspected North Carolina jihadists), in order to introduce the young man to “individuals who also believed that violent jihad was a personal religious obligation.”

AP Photo

The Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman Mosque is seen in Durham, N.C. , Tuesday, July 28, 2009. Daniel Patrick Boyd , one of six men indicted in the Eastern District of North Carolina's federal court on terrorism charges Monday attended this mosque occasionally. Boyd is accused of military-style training at home and plotting "violent jihad" through a series of terror attacks abroad.

Then a year later, Boyd and some of the others who have just been indicted went to Israel “in an effort to engage in violent jihad, but ultimately returned to the United States after failing in their efforts.” But Boyd didn’t give up: in February 2008, he “allegedly solicited money to fund the travel of additional individuals overseas to engage in violent jihad” and plotted with two others among the seven who were indicted, Anes Subasic and Hysen Sherifi, to send mujahedin to prime areas of jihad activity around the world, and to fund their activities. Sherifi traveled in July 2008 to yet another hotbed of contemporary jihad, Kosovo. Meanwhile, Boyd and the others were allegedly conspiring, according to the DOJ, “to provide material support and resources to terrorists, including currency, training, transportation and personnel. The defendants also conspired to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad during this period. The object of the conspiracy, according to the indictment, was to advance violent jihad, including supporting and participating in terrorist activities abroad and committing acts of murder, kidnapping or maiming persons abroad.”

Sabrina Boyd, however, maintains her husband’s innocence: “We’re an ordinary family. We have the right to justice, and we believe that justice will prevail. We are decent people who care about other human beings.” However, that is not in dispute. The question is whether Boyd, his sons, and the other accused plotters cared about other human beings enough to wish to impose their vision of divine law – Islamic Sharia – upon them by violence, in accord with traditional tenets of the Islamic faith. Appearing to militate against this idea was the Boyd family’s unremarkable normality. A neighbor reported that “they were great neighbors. We never had any trouble with them. Their kids played with our kids.” Another added: “We never saw anything to give any clues that something like that could be going on in their family.” But from the looks of the indictment, the group never had any plans to wage jihad in suburban North Carolina. However, the fact that they were there at all should give law enforcement officials pause.

Owen D. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI, declared: “The threat that extremists and radicals pose to America and our allies has not dulled or gone away. These arrests today show there are people living among us, in our communities in North Carolina and around the US, that are honing their skills to carry out acts of murder and mayhem.” Yet Harris and other law enforcement officials have shown little public interest in the question of exactly how converts to Islam and other Muslims in the U.S. come to believe that violence and hate are integral requirements of their religious observance. Until that changes, as time goes by Americans will be introduced to many, many more people like Daniel “Saifullah” Boyd.

Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

7 arrested in terror plot

Neighbors say the men they knew appeared friendly and unthreatening.

The Raleigh News & Observer
July 28, 2009

RALEIGH - To those they lived among, seven men accused of an intricate terrorism plot lived simply, quietly and kindly.

Daniel P. Boyd (AP)

To neighbors and friends, Daniel Boyd was a father who stopped his work at noon each day for prayer. Dylan Boyd, Daniel's son, was a college student at N.C. State University who until last year worked as a clinical services technician at WakeMed Raleigh Campus. Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan was a newlywed; his father owns a Raleigh car dealership.

To federal authorities, these men and four others plotted to kill themselves and others in the name of Islam. Their activities, tracked by FBI agents over three years and detailed in federal indictments released Monday, tell of an elaborate scheme hatched in a quiet Johnston County neighborhood and nondescript apartment complexes across Raleigh and Cary.

Those arrested Monday include Daniel Patrick Boyd, 39, who was considered the ringleader of the group, and who fought with Afghan Muslims against the Soviets; Hysen Sherifi, 24; Anes Subasic, 33; Zakariya Boyd, 20, and Dylan Boyd, 22; Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 22; and Ziyad Yaghi, a 21-year-old Cary High School graduate.

All but one of the defendants are American citizens. Sherifi, a native of Kosovo, is living in the United States legally.

All seven men are charged with conspiring to provide support to terrorists and conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim and injure people abroad. Each is expected to have a detention hearing this week. Until then, they are being held without bond. They have not been appointed lawyers. Efforts to reach their families were unsuccessful Monday night.

Hysen Sherifi (AP)

Federal authorities stormed the men's homes Monday and arrested them. Hours later, they stood before a federal magistrate and learned they could spend the rest of their lives in prison if found guilty of the charges against them. At nightfall, federal agents continued to search their homes, taking several vans and dozens of agents to their quiet neighborhoods.

News of the arrests rattled those in the Triangle whom the seven had befriended.

"If he's a terrorist, he's the nicest terrorist I've ever met in my life," said Charles Casale, a neighbor to Boyd and his sons who often chatted with them. Casale said the senior Boyd often invited him and his wife to visit. When the two chatted near the pond that separated their properties, Boyd would excuse himself to pray when the sun reached its noon-day height.

Federal documents released Monday detail a half-dozen trips members of the group made to Israel and Pakistan. Investigators believe the men meant to wage a violent jihad, killing themselves and others in bombings meant to defend Muslims from oppression. All failed, for reasons not specified in federal documents.

A cache of weapons

Investigators say the Boyds stockpiled military-style weapons and trained at a rural site in Caswell County, on the Virginia border north of Alamance and Orange counties. The investigators say that Daniel Boyd split from his mainstream mosque in Raleigh this year over "ideological differences," according to the indictment.

Ziyad Yaghi

A spokesman at the Islamic Center in Raleigh said he did not know the suspects; an estimated 1,200 people attend Friday services at the center. Hassan and Yaghi both attended Al-Iman School, which shares space with the Raleigh mosque, according to former teacher Samar Hindi. Most recently, Daniel Boyd had been attending Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman, a mosque in Durham.

"In our dealings, we found them to be people of good moral character," said Hisham Heda, board chairman at the Durham mosque.

Federal officials heralded the arrests as a victory and invoked memories of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"These charges hammer home the point that terrorists and their supporters are not confined to the remote regions of some far away land but can grow and fester right here at home," said George E.B. Holding, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. "Terrorists and their supporters are relentless and constant in their efforts to hurt and kill innocent people across the globe."

According to the indictment, the men intended to become mujahedeen -- holy warriors -- and die as shadid, martyrs to the jihad.

Jihad, as a Muslim idea, means to strive or struggle. The "jihad of the sword" is the struggle to defend the faith when it is under attack. Those performing jihad of the sword believe they are defending their fellow Muslims against oppression. The Boyds and their recruits may have targeted Israel as part of a radical belief that all Israeli civilians are to blame for the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel captured in 1967 and has held onto since.

Mohammad Aly Hassan

To neighbors in Johnston County, Daniel Boyd was a mild-mannered father who worked as a general contractor.

To U.S. intelligence officials, Boyd is an extremist with long, deep ties to terrorists in Afghanistan. Investigators blame the senior Boyd for "radicalizing others, mostly young Muslims or converts to Islam, to believe in fard 'ayn , the idea that violent jihad is a personal obligation on the part of every good Muslim," according to the indictment.

Daniel Boyd's childhood did not foreshadow his future. He graduated from high school in Northern Virginia and is the son of a U.S. Marine who was stationed at the base in Quantico for a period, according to news reports about Boyd.

After his parents divorced, though, Boyd converted to Islam when his mother married a Muslim man, according to a story in The Washington Post in 1991.

In 1989, Boyd, the high school sweetheart he married, Sabrina, and his brother moved to Pakistan to work with Afghanistan's mujahedeen rebels, who were fighting the Soviet-backed government of Kabul.

A turning point

The Boyd brothers ran afoul of Pakistani authorities, who ordered that the Boyds have their right hands and left feet cut off after being found guilty of robbing a bank. Pakistan's supreme court overturned the convictions. The brothers came home to the United States.

U.S. marshals prepare to escort seven men who were indicted in federal court on charges related to terrorism. - STAFF PHOTO BY SHAWN ROCCO

During the past three years, the Boyds settled into a routine at their home in a new subdivision in Willow Springs, a crossroads community in northern Johnston County. Several generations of Boyds often gathered on their back porch, overlooking a pond that backed up to their home.

Their three sons went to West Johnston High School. They chatted with neighbors about vacations and religion.

In 2007, they lost a son, 16-year-old Luqman, in a single-car accident near their home.

Neighbors who watched their family buckle under the grief of Luqman Boyd's death spoke about the possible consequences of the death. They couldn't help but blame the Boyds' troubles on such a traumatic loss.

"That was such a huge blow to the family," said Lorie Sienkwicz, a neighbor who often talked religion with Daniel Boyd. "We're all looking for reasons. That's mine."

News researcher Brooke Cain and staff writers David Bracken, Kevin Kiley and Thomasi McDonald contributed to this report. or 919-829-4891

The Case Against The Seven

According to a federal indictment, investigators built their case around the following:

•The defendants' fundraising for and travel to Israel and Pakistan.
•Their collection of military-style weapons.
•Their training in military tactics on private land in Caswell County.

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Photo gallery: Men indicted on terrorism charges
Terror arrests weren't first brush with law
Alienation grew with Islamic faith

Boyd's zeal drew followers
Terror suspect was tried in Pakistan
Contrasts veil terrorist suspect
FBI agent: Boyd spoke of 'jihad right here'
FBI: Boyd said he attended terror camps
Bulk of terror evidence concerns Boyd

Video: Residents react after neighbor indicted
Read the indictment (PDF)

From Ricci to Gates-gate: Listening to "The Conversation"

By John McWhorter
The New Republic
July 26, 2009

Gates-gate is the culmination of one of those occasional spates of race-related events that occur and flow into one another over a month or so. These spates are, in fact, precisely the “conversation” on race that Attorney General Eric Holder claims does not happen in America.

What, after all, has all of this talk been from the Ricci decision through to the uproar over what happened on Henry Louis Gates’ front porch? If this hasn’t been conversation, of a thoroughly vital nature, then there is a fundamental disagreement as to what conversation is.

As I argued here earlier this year, the issue is not that America is in some kind of denial about race. It is that people like Holder are frustrated that America does not arrive at a conclusion that black America’s main problem is still racism. The reason is because it isn’t – and that’s what The Conversation has been reaffirming over the past four weeks. It’s been quite a ride, through which this single consistent thread has run.

The Ricci decision, reversing a decision to accommodate the less-than-excellent performance of black firefighters on a promotion test by throwing out its results, was Exhibit A. The key issue was whether the test, in having “disparate impact” on black test takers, was therefore an inappropriate requirement. To decree that it was would have left an elephant in the middle of the room – an assumption that black firefighters simply could not, under any realistic conditions, be expected to perform as well as the others.

The Supremes--the majority being, in this case, mostly “wise Caucasians”--rejected this condescending overapplication of the disparate impact doctrine. And where are we now?

Cries from assorted quarters that the very possibility of Civil Rights claims are now threatened were as predictable as rain. But we’ll see plenty of Civil Rights litigation in the future – only based on what discrimination was thought of as being in the old days. Bayard Rustin, Roger Wilkins and A. Phillip Randolph would have been appalled at the idea of calling for black people to duck a challenge as “Civil Rights,” and in this, they were “wise Blacks” indeed.

Mainstream thought, in the meantime, is on the Supreme Court’s side. The upshot of the “conversation” about Ricci has been that at the end of the day, refusing the white firefighters the promotions they earned by following the rules as they were when they took the test just isn’t fair. Or, that it can only be seen as fair according to a torturous kind of reasoning that only compels a certain subset of people who seem driven more by emotion than logic.

You can be perfectly aware of racism, its history, its legacies and the rest--and still be unable to reconcile yourself to the thought of Mr. Ricci denied his promotion because black colleagues didn’t do as well on the test as he did. That is a Conversation no more inherently flawed than, say, Brown v. Board--argued against via torturous argument by many at the time.

Then came the grilling of Sonia Sotomayor. Okay, Republicans pushed too hard on the “wise Latina” comment and the issue of empathy. It was clearly the attempt of a party on the ropes trying to play to the base and pretend some semblance of ideological passion. But attempts to portray Sotomayor as Anita Hill redux were, most charitably, an attempt by journalists bored with the formulaic nature of the hearings to make something out of nothing.

They certainly were neither historiography nor honest commentary. Sotomayor was not a victim of racism during those hearings in any way worthy of comment. Her critical questioners would, in a cartoon, have squeaky voices.

Any sense of her as under some kind of civically inappropriate threat were based on a similar sense during Barack Obama’s campaign that it was somehow gauche to subject a black candidate to the kind of pressures we expect white ones to accept as a matter of course.

She acquitted herself well (including sidestepping the sloppy “wise Latina” business as she had to), is clearly highly qualified for the position, and will be confirmed. The Conversation does not now assume that the Sotomayor hearings were most interesting in proving that Selma isn’t as far back as we think. The Conversation is now that, well, we have a gifted Latina female Supreme Court justice--a conclusion based on psychic health rather than paranoia.

Next up: Obama lectures the NAACP on “responsibility” and the usual black suspects complain about the media eating up speeches by black people of that kind (perfect example of this sort of take here). We are to worry that this is about white people not understanding that they are still “on the hook.” But this worry will not touch the national Conversation for a simple reason: black people like speeches about responsibility.

The NAACP audience was cheering Obama along. Just as the black audience was at his similar “Father’s Day speech” last year, despite Jesse Jackson’s famous discomfort expressed via a threat to deprive Obama of flowering equipment. And just as black audiences across the country lustily applaud Bill Cosby’s “responsibility” speeches despite the wary coverage of his message by black journalists--a different breed from black folks. Or just as you can watch black audiences cheering for comedians like Chris Rock when they strike the “responsibility” chord. (“’I ain’t never been to jail.’ What do you want, a cookie?”)

The people itching whenever blacks are reminded that they are masters of their fate--i.e. that they are human--do not set the terms of The Conversation in 2009 and never will again. They are, today, a powerless minority, overrepresented among academics and writers and good for TV hits, but out of step with how the largest number of black people think. A black professor I will not name tried putting over the “you are powerless victims” message on a mostly black bookstore audience a few years ago and met so much resistance things almost got ugly.

And finally, Gates-gate. As my Bloggingheads sparring partner Glenn Loury nailed it Sunday in the Times, people have leapt in to point to what happened to Gates as evidence that racism is still front and center in American life. In my previous post I tried to explain the roots of Gates’ piqued reaction to what happened to him. My conclusion, more explicit here, is that whites and blacks need to work together to keep cops from encountering black men at all any more than they encounter whites, and to help dispel stereotypes that are not entirely disconnected from fact--for reasons that do not lend themselves to blame but are real nevertheless (on this, see again Glenn’s piece).

However, The Conversation on this has still refused to go the way the usual suspects were hoping. Obama first condemned Sergeant Crowley--which the Racism Forever crowd could take as making up for the “punitive” NAACP speech. But the next day he apologized and invited Crowley (and Gates) to the White House to talk things out. So--no imprimatur from on high for keeping the white man “on the hook.” Obama’s fundamental reflectiveness extends to refusing to enable this camp--Hallelujah.

Plus, the Gates incident will never resonate the way, say, the shooting death of Amadou Diallo did eleven years ago. Gates was questioned in his house, but arrested for his highly belligerent behavior. Crowley is not a Klansman in his spare time, but actually taught classes on avoiding racial profiling, and has no record of racial problems a la Mark Fuhrman in the O.J. days. The Diallo incident was plainly all the cops’ fault. The Gates case was a subtle business for which we have two crucially differing stories, with plenty of blacks feeling, along with whites, that Gates needed to just calm down (Richard Thompson Ford at Slate has a representative view of the reflective black take on the matter).

The Conversation has classified Gates-gate as a strange, sad, tangled affair. That is: what America has concluded is that there is some racism and it may have played some role in what happened on that porch--but a great deal of what happened was, understandably or not, about Gates rather than racism.

The Conversation is going to keep coming out this way. If it were to come out the way the naysayers want it to--and think about how odd and tragic it is that so many want the situation to be worse than it is--then the New Haven firefighters’ test would include questions about whether Bordeaux is a kind of Sauvignon Blanc, Sonia Sotomayor would have been asked why she thought a Latina was qualified to sit on the Supreme Court at all, Obama’s NAACP speech would have made a joke about welfare queens, and Gates would have been stopped in his car and pulled out and slammed against a wall for asking why.

Only in that America would we need to have a Conversation on Race different from the one we are having. That one acknowledges something the professional Cassandras, despite their keen minds and extensive educations, cannot: progress that is incomplete, yet so vast that the lenses of the old days are no longer of use.

There comes a time when racism is just what it’s most stimulating to talk about. Helping people is about work.

Posted: Sunday, July 26, 2009 2:12 PM with 7 comment(s)

Dishonorable Muslim Mass Murder in Canada

Dishonorable Muslim Mass Murder in Canada

An Ongoing Cultural Autopsy

By Phyllis Chesler
July 27th, 2009 8:36 am

The information is so overwhelming and so awful that even the mainstream media has increasingly been forced to describe the plight of women in Muslim lands. Over the weekend, Nicholas D. Kristof (who has always been good on this) tells the story of a new Pakistani hero: Sixteen-year-old, Assiya Rafiq, who was kidnapped, sold, beaten and raped for a solid year—and then raped again when she went to the police to press charges. She, her supportive parents and siblings now live in hiding as she prepares to prosecute both the gang-members and the police.

Today, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both have articles about the return of the Taliban to the Swat Valley in Pakistan and about what that means: The increased kidnapping and indoctrination of children into becoming jihadic warriors and the parallel brutalization of women, infidels, and civilians through beheadings, acid attacks, forced, harsh veiling, and bans on women shopping.

Islam Watch has just reported an increase in the caning of women in Bangladesh (a dangerous and crippling punishment). The same article also discusses the typical nightmare of one battered Afghan wife whose husband and in-laws kept trying to kill her—and whose own brothers are now trying to kill her because she dared flee and divorce the human monster. This one particular woman has lost custody of her nine children and lives in hiding with the help of an American charitable NGO. This is a picture of Afghanistan today.

Canwest News Service

Left to right: Mohammed Shafii, Hamid Mohammed Shafii and Tooba Mohammad Yahya have been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of conspiracy to commit murder, according to Kingston police.

Which brings me to the Afghan-Canadian family which has just been charged with the mass murder of four of its female members. We in the West had better start factoring in the international and cultural realities that govern the histories and psychologies of immigrants from Muslim countries.

When a story is breaking and I’m on deadline, I try to do the best I can—but sometimes, I get important details, as well as minor details, wrong. And, I do not always draw certain conclusions right away.

For example, the Canadian Kingston police did not describe the cold-blooded murder of three innocent Afghan-Muslim girls (Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Safi) and one innocent Afghan-Muslim woman (Rona Amir Mohammed) as a “Muslim honor killing.” The Canadian radio announcer did so as did other journalists. The police were very careful, and rightly so, to refrain from explicitly saying this.

However, according to all accounts, the police are on record as saying that they have evidence that the submerged car, in which all four victims were found drowned, had been driven or tampered with by the three Safi family members now under arrest; and that a female relative of Rona’s who lives in France told the media and the police about credible “death threats” that were leveled against Rona, who was Mohammed Safi’s first wife, (a fact that Mohammed did not disclose to the police or to his neighbors). Implied, but not yet clear, were possible death threats against Zainab Safi, the oldest of the three murdered daughters, who was becoming too “western.”

It is my guess that Rona supported the girls in their desire to become “Canadians” and that no love was lost between her and Mohammed’s second wife, Tooba Mohammed Yahya, also charged with her murder. Please understand: This is a wild, intuitive guess on my part, subject to change.

Westerners—perhaps it is only me—often have a problem with the Muslim names. No, it is not because I am a “racist Islamophobe” but rather because everyone seems to be named Mohammed or Mumammed; it becomes quite confusing. In this one case, we have Mohammed Safi, Rona Amir Mohammed, Tooba Mohammed Yahya. Also, the spelling of names (shades of Ellis Island and all our ancestors!) is also subject to change. Thus, this Mohammed’s last name is spelled Safia, or Safii or Safi.

Another mea culpa. Safi and his second wife have seven children altogether. Three are now in state care and one, Hamid Mohammed, (another Mohammed!) is now in police custody.

Here’s a small but important detail that I did not develop. Initially, the family members put on quite a performance. Mohammed Shafi, his second wife, Tooba Mohammed Yahya, and the biological mother of the three murdered girls, went to the police to report that their family members and second car were missing. They wept, appeared distraught, seemed in shock, carried on like mourners. But it all may have been an act.

Now, where else have we seen such behavior? Ah yes: The iconic Mohammed al-Dura’s father was also distraught about his son’s death—presumably at Israeli hands. That death turns out to have been staged by Palestinians. The world was sold a bill of Pallywood goods. Read Philippe Karsenty, Richard Landes, Nidra Poller, and Pierre Rehov on the al-Dura case and on other instances in which Palestinian Muslim propagandists and terrorists have tricked the world media into believing that Israel was the “Nazi” aggressor—all the while diverting attention from Palestinian crimes against their own people, as well as from their considerable aggression towards Israelis, Jews, and Christians.

The entire world also believed that the Israelis committed a “massacre,” a “genocide” in Jenin—when the truth was quite the opposite; to avoid world condemnation, Israel chose to send soldiers in on foot, (24 angels died), to heavily booby-trapped streets and to buildings which hid expert Palestinian snipers dressed as civilians who, in turn, held real Palestinian civilians hostage. Palestinians subsequently spoke to the media on camera weeping about the “genocide,” claiming false injuries at Israeli hands, alleging that Israeli hospitals would not treat them. I wrote about this in my book The New Anti-Semitism. The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It.

My points: Mainstream media should be linking Islamic, terrorist jihad and the subordination of women far more closely; the behavior of some Muslim immigrants in the West may often conform more closely to the culture in which they were raised than to the western culture in which they now live—especially where women are concerned.

Also of interest: A number of Canadian newspapers from Vancouver and Montreal to Toronto have cited my study on honor killings which appeared in the spring issue of Middle East Quarterly. To a lesser extent than usual, the media also found people who said that this may not be an honor killing (I agree, the case has not yet been proven in a court of law); that dishonorable honor killings are rare and certainly not as epidemic as western-style domestic violence (not true—not all domestic violence ends in femicide); that honor killings have nothing to do with Islam (alright, but if so, why are so many—mainly–Muslims murdering their daughters, sisters, and wives?)

A final point: My piece about the Kingston mass murders/dishonorable killings has drawn yet another Islamist to my site. For those who are interested, take a look. One fellow (maybe it’s a woman, who can tell?) first tried to convert the other commentators to Islam; then dismissed any and all criticism of Islam/Islamism by “unbelievers”; and finally ended by cursing the non-believing Kufar infidels.

Who could make this up?
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There's no * beside Aaron's career

True HR king, Gossage slam Steroids Era stars

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


At long last, someone whose opinion really matters -- legitimate Home Run King Hank Aaron -- has spoken out about how players from baseball's Steroids Era should be remembered.

Can you say asterisk?

Aaron, speaking during the Hall of Fame induction weekend for Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice and the late Joe Gordon, said it's only right that the accomplishments of the steroids players are duly explained. "Do you put guys in [the Hall] with an asterisk behind their name and say, 'Hey, they did it, but here's why.' To be safe, I think that's the only way you can do it ... I've played the game long enough, and you've watched it long enough, to know it's impossible for players, I don't care who they are, to hit 70-some home runs [in a season]. It just does not happen."

I have just two things to add to that:

1) Bravo.

2) Take that, Barry Bonds!

It was Bonds who set the single-season home run record at 73 -- phony as it might be -- in 2001 and it was Bonds who broke Aaron's career mark in 2007, also amidst great controversy. Although Bonds technically holds both records, more and more people, inside and out of baseball, as they learn more about the Steroids Era, are recognizing Roger Maris and Aaron as the true home run champions.

Which is as it should be.

That Aaron finally decided to speak out so strongly about the issue is significant. He has just as much clout in the game now as he did when he whacked 755 home runs. Maybe it was all of the steroids talk this season -- Alex Rodriguez's admission that he was a user earlier in his career, Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension and news that Sammy Sosa failed a performance-enhancing drug test in 2003 -- that pushed Aaron to go public with his thoughts. The reason doesn't matter. What matters is that when he talks, clear-thinking people listen. They need to know that what the Steroids Era did to baseball is a travesty.

Aaron said something else the other day that was just as instructive. He said more than a few of his fellow Hall of Famers would boycott the induction ceremony for any of the steroids players or -- worse -- walk off the stage when those players were introduced.

What a nightmarish embarrassment that would be for baseball.

A deserved nightmarish embarrassment, of course.

"I'd boycott, or whatever you want to call it," Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage said at the same media briefing Saturday. "What this place means ... it is so sacred.

"I think if you cheated, you shouldn't be allowed in. ... What's an asterisk? I don't think they should be allowed in."

I repeat:


Those who are sympathetic to the steroids players or don't care that they used performance-enhancers to achieve their prodigious statistics don't realize what's at stake here. The Hall of Fame truly is a sacred place. Those people need to know that many of those who honored the game with their legitimate performances want nothing to do with those who disgraced it.

Certainly, many Hall of Famers would cry if the day comes when Pete Rose gets in. Not Aaron, who, surprisingly, is pro-Rose for the Hall, but a lot of the others. Rose shook the integrity of the game by betting on baseball and deserved the lifetime ban he received 20 years ago. He shows up in Cooperstown, N.Y., each induction weekend to shamelessly sell his autographs and memorabilia. It's nice to think that's the closest he'll ever get to the Hall.

It's just as obvious that Gossage isn't alone among the Hall of Famers when it comes to the steroids issue. I'm guessing a majority don't want those who have been linked to performance-enhancers -- directly or indirectly -- in their exclusive club.

I promise to do my part in their honor.

I have a Hall of Fame vote and I won't be casting it for the steroids players.


Not for Bonds, Rodriguez, Ramirez or Sosa. Not for Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield or Roger Clemens.

I can't pretend that those players didn't exist or that their inflated numbers didn't happen, but I sure as heck don't have to vote for them to receive the game's greatest honor.

That seems like the least I can do as conscientious voter, not just for Aaron, Gossage and the others, but for the sacredness of the Hall.

Ron Cook can be reached at More articles by this author
First published on July 28, 2009 at 12:00 am

Monday, July 27, 2009

Paris in a New Light

Revising a classic portrait of expatriate writers in the 1920s

The Wall Street Journal
July 24, 2009

After Ernest Hemingway put a shotgun to his head in the summer of 1961, his wife—his fourth—claimed he had died while cleaning it, but unsurprisingly the story didn’t fly. More believable was her tale of Hemingway’s having, before his death, more or less finished a Paris memoir, which he considered almost ready for publication.

Though Hemingway had once told Charles Scribner, his publisher, that writers turn to memoir only when they have nothing more to say, Mary Hemingway claimed that she had found an autobiographical typescript by her husband in a blue box, ­“together with his dated draft of his preface and a list of titles.” At the urging of literary critic Malcolm Cowley, by her account, Mary then edited the manuscript, adding or ­removing commas, checking spelling, and occasionally cutting “repetitious words or phrases which I felt sure were accidental rather than intentional.”

Eyedea/Everett Collection

Ernest Hemingway in 1926, the last year of the period covered by his Parisian memoir, ‘A Moveable Feast.’

She and Harry Brague, Hemingway’s editor, also hammered together a new preface, “switched about a couple of chapters for continuity’s sake,” and added as an epigraph Hemingway’s comment to his friend, the writer A.E. Hotchner, that “if you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” A book was born.

But was it the book Hemingway intended?

Not according to the newly ­“restored edition” of “A Moveable Feast,” edited by Seán Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s grandson. He pronounces it “a less edited and more comprehensive version of the original manuscript material.” And maybe this new version is in fact closer to the real Hemingway, ­whoever that is.

But when writers have not ­personally approved a manuscript for publication, or even when they have—as in the case Raymond Carver, who later bristled at ­emendations made by his editor, ­Gordon Lish—it is difficult, if not impossible, to figure out what their ­intentions were. Consider the poems of Emily Dickinson, who left no ­instructions about how she might want her almost 2,000 unpublished poems to appear or whether they should be printed at all. As a result, various versions of them have been circulating for more than a century. Which of these most truly represent her? We just don’t know.

A cynical view of the new ­“Moveable Feast” is that its publisher invented an anniversary—the 50th year since Hemingway completed a draft of the Paris sketches—to burnish Hemingway’s image and, of course, sell books. Yet motive matters little. What counts is Hemingway’s unmistakably tactile prose, almost abstract in its mellifluousness: “All of the sadness of the city came suddenly with the first cold rains of winter,” he writes, “and there were no more tops to the high white houses as you walked but only the wet blackness of the street and the closed doors of the small shops.”

A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition
By Ernest Hemingway Scribner, 240 pages, $25
Read an excerpt

The new edition of “A Moveable Feast” contains 19 sketches (the same number that Mary Hemingway used), slightly rearranged and no longer chronological. Hemingway evidently intended to delete some sketches that Mary included in the first edition. They are now presented separately in the back of the book, alongside other Paris sketches—notably one about the spoilage of his first marriage, called “The Pilot Fish and the Rich,” and presented in its entirety for the first time.

Mary Hemingway evidently did more than trim accidental or ­repetitious words: Here and there, as in the book’s entertaining if ­ambivalent portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald, she cut words or phrases (now reinstated) that may have ­altered the original manuscript’s meaning or emphasis, if only in ­minor ways. And where the 1964 ­version of “A Moveable Feast” is shaped and polished, with a ­beginning and an ending, the ­restored edition, covering the same period, 1922-26, seems more ­provisional and hesitant. With its nonchronological structure, for ­example, it does not achieve the sense of finality found in the 1964 version; nor does it impose one.

Although “A Moveable Feast” ­purports to be a series of vignettes capturing the young Hemingway’s ­actual experience of the writers and artists and fellow expatriates he knew in Paris in the 1920s, and ­although the narrative voice is ­Hemingway’s own, he declares—in the restored edition—that “this book is fiction and should be read as such.” It is a point he makes more than once. “This book is fiction,” he writes again, “but there is always a chance that such a work of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.”

Indeed it does. Hemingway’s dark portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald is freshly cruel (even if Seán ­Hemingway claims the restored ­passages make it kinder). In ­Hemingway’s account, Fitzgerald is a craven alcoholic willing to barter his talent for filthy lucre and the ­approval of his jealous wife. We again read of Fitzgerald helplessly asking Hemingway for reassurance about his manly credentials. No less unkind is Hemingway’s description of Ford ­Madox Ford, the English man of ­letters who, according to Hemingway, was a habitual liar, one who “lied about things that left scars.” As for Gertrude Stein, whose salon ­Hemingway frequented, she comes across as wise, peremptory and largely incapable of “ever speaking well of any writer who had not ­written favorably about her work or done something to advance her ­career.”

But these chapters say less about Hemingway’s vengefulness than about the competitive, insulated and ambitious world of expatriate writers during the so-called golden age of Paris in the 1920s. The 1964 ­“Moveable Feast” appeared just when they and other survivors of the Lost Generation were nostalgically ­recalling their well-spent youth. Now, 45 years later, this particular Paris in the springtime reads, in part, as a ­romantic fabrication. It was born of the antic imaginations of authors such as Gertrude Stein (her inventive “Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” appeared in 1933), Matthew ­Josephson (whose 1962 “Life Among the Surrealists” chronicles his Paris years) and John Glassco, whose “Memoirs of Montparnasse” is a ­raucous celebration of Parisian joie d’vivre. And of course Papa H., whose portrait of himself in “A Moveable Feast” as a young artist in Paris was hailed upon its publication as a ­masterpiece of pride, pleasure, ­melancholy and love.

JFK Presidential Library

A manuscript page from the chapter ‘Miss Stein Instructs,’ about Gertrude Stein, in Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast.’

Melancholy, for sure. His tribute to the irascible Ezra Pound as a good friend “always doing things for ­people” sets a benchmark for generosity that Hemingway cannot reach. As we repeatedly see, he is forever judging and labeling and comparing—the writer and artist Wyndham Lewis has the eyes of an “unsuccessful rapist,” the stories of Katherine Mansfield are “near-beer.”

And a sense of impending failure is built into his prose. “In those days you did not really need anything, not even the rabbit’s foot.” Though ­disenchantment had always been his métier, it holds court in this ­ominous, poignant book, not least when it refers obliquely to the ­dissolution of his marriage to Hadley, his first wife, the long-suffering and idealized center of the book, whom Hemingway betrays with her friend Pauline Pfeiffer (his second wife and the grandmother of Seán Hemingway). In one sketch, Hemingway writes: “The bulldozing of three people’s hearts to destroy one happiness and build another and the love and good work and all that came out of it is not part of this book. I wrote it and left it out.”

Gifted in the not-said and in the wresting of emotions from the ­declarative, Hemingway casts himself in “A Moveable Feast” as both an ­ingénue learning his craft and an older, sicker, still deliberate man who, finally turning to memoir, writes of the past as honestly as he knows how—which is to say, as a novelist. The newly restored edition gives us an opportunity to meet Hemingway less as the controlled craftsman that he long pretended to be than as the embittered, frightened, sharp-eyed avoider of feelings who captured them unerringly. But in many ways the book remains what it was: the elegiac testimony of a writer sensitive to time and change, to false starts and to false people, most especially himself, and all those “limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring.”

—Ms. Wineapple’s most recent book is “White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.”