Monday, March 29, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A note on Invictus

Invictus by William Ernest Henley happens to be one of the handful of classic poems that can be considered genuinely popular. The sort of poetry mavens who like John Donne and William Butler Yeats tend to look down on it, but it has made quite an impression on the popular consciousness. It is very frequently quoted and likely to show up almost anywhere. There is, for instance, a sometimes hilarious anthology of pieces spoofing literary criticism called the "The Overwrought Urn" by Charles Kaplan. Many of the pieces are about very familiar works, and inevitably one of the pieces is about Invictus.

Charles Johnson of the pioneering blog Little Green Footballs notes in a recent post that someone in the comments thread at Michelle Malkin's blog has posted Invictus, and he informs us that the poem was "the final statement of Timothy McVeigh" as if that is the poem's principle claim to fame and as if it quoting it marks one as some sort of political extremist (or whatever point Charles thinks he is making). He needn't have bothered posting a photo of McVeigh's handwritten copy of the poem. McVeigh's use of the poem is simply one of the many examples of the poem's tendency to show up in odd places--now including LGF.

Monday, March 22, 2010 delighted over epic litigation

As you may have heard
UP TO 95,000 descendants of the prophet Muhammad are planning to bring a libel action in Britain over “blasphemous” cartoons of the founder of Islam, even though they were published in the Danish press . . .

[The lucky lawyer] said the descendants could argue that the cartoons — which first appeared in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in 2005, sparking violent protests around the world — were a direct slur on them. [...]
The Times article explores the jurisdiction issue--is this the latest and ultimate example of "libel tourism" in Great Britain? I'm struck by the dubious notion of a libel suit over the portrayal of a figure from the distant past. Can all those "descendants" prove that they are descendants? thinks glorious days for the Ummah are here again:
This is fantastic news and the way to go in lands that protect blasphemers. Muslims need to pool their monetary resources and bring ingrates who insult the prophet to justice. Like we have said before, a few high profile cases that bring offenders to ruin will dissuade would-be transgressors and restore our honour for the Prophet retains his among the angels and the believers. It is WE who have shamed ourselves by our inaction, indolence and apathy.
Wow--riots resulting in over 100 deaths are described as "apathy." They're not exactly shrinking violets, are they?

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Holy to Three Faiths

There is certain statement, actually a cliché: Jerusalem, we are often told, is “holy to three faiths.” It is holy, we might say, to Judaism and to every other religion derived from it. That’s correct, isn’t it—and even obvious? Muslims don’t avoid pork, pray towards the east, name their children the Arabic versions of Abraham, David, and Solomon, and practice circumcision by accident, do they?

There are various other ways to paraphrase that statement. If I were in the mood to really offend people, I could state Jerusalem is holy to all true Judaisms (all one of them) and a great many pseudo-Judaisms. Not a terribly diplomatic thing to say, is it? They say it about Jews all the time, however. Many religions assert that Abraham had a certain relationship to G-d and his descendants did also and then at some point something went wrong. The relationship was taken away and given to somebody else. And who might the “somebody else” be? Whatever successor religion is making the assertion at the time, of course: Xianity, Mormonism, Islam, whatever. According to the Wikipedia entry on the Baha’i faith:
In the Bahá'í Faith, religious history is seen to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and the capacity of the people. These messengers have included Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and others, and most recently . . .
And most recently their guy, of course. That’s how it always is. They are currently catching hell in Iran for including Muhammed in this parade of the now-replaced.

The replacement assertion takes different forms, but somehow all these religions assert themselves to be in possession of a truth that used to be in the Torah. The latest, greatest prophet arrived to announce the new dispensation, the Torah was revealed to have been changed by the Jews to cover up the fact that Ishmael was really the one bound to the altar, the Torah was revealed to be figuratively rather than literally true, etc. Whatever form the assertion takes, Judaism is held to have a successor or a reversion to what it originally was, or something that is somehow the true identity of the now false Judaism.

So all those replacement theologians want to stake out Judaism’s spiritual turf in some way. In fact, all those successor religions think of Judaism itself as a pseudo-Judaism. It's really quite perverse. Why would the true Judaism be anything else but, well, Judaism? Would anybody believe that the “Old Testament” is really a bunch of allusions to somebody or that Abraham sacrificed Ishmael on the altar if not for the demands of this or that replacement theology?

Besides the spiritual territory of Judaism (in which various groups claim to be the new residents), Judaism happens to maintain a relationship with a certain physical territory, especially Jerusalem. Jerusalem is more than merely holy to Judaism. The word "essential" comes to mind. A great deal of the Jewish religion can only be practiced there. The bitter herbs we eat nowadays at a Passover seder are not Biblical bitter herbs. The Bible commands somebody (the Jews perhaps?) to eat a Passover offering with bitter herbs. Jews are not currently able to prepare a Passover offering because that requires a Temple in Jerusalem. The bitter herbs we eat now are a Rabbinically enacted commemoration of the Biblical bitter herbs.

As far as I know, Jerusalem is not crucial in this way to the other two of the “three faiths.” In fact, this aspect of Jerusalem was de-emphasized or dismantled in Islam and Xianity, precisely, as near as I can tell, to put distance between Judaism and the later faiths. Mecca now plays a comparable (and surely derivative) role in Islam. Jerusalem was the “first Qibla” of Islam, the direction one faced for prayer. Not anymore. Jerusalem remains the center of Xian symbolism, Blake wanted to build Jerusalem in England’s pleasant shores, but I don’t think Jerusalem is actually necessary for any practical act of observance that individual Xians in the world at large are required to perform. In Islam and Xianity, Jerusalem was demoted from crucially and practically holy to merely holy, as in, well, “holy to three faiths.”

Did you know that besides practicing a Jerusalem-centered religion for over 3000 years, Jews have been the majority population of Jerusalem for all of the last century and most of the one before that? This has been true since before “living memory,” meaning that there is nobody alive who remembers when it wasn’t so. This state of affairs came about when no Zionist olim had yet arrived and when the Jews of Jerusalem were impoverished and politically vulnerable. What political conclusions should you draw from all this? Whichever ones you like. However, the next time you hear that Jerusalem is “holy to three faiths,” notice how lacking in nuance the statement is. That will do for now.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Shi'ism: the ultimate conspiracy from you-know-who

Did you know that some Sunni Muslims believe that Shi'ism is a Jewish plot? Here is a sentence from yet another recent post from, attacking Shi'ism and citing what they evidently see as a particularly damning fact:
The religion of the Shia’ was founded by a Jew from Yemen called Abdullah bin Saba’ and spread after with the assassination of the rightly guided Khalifa Uthman, branching into many sections.
According to something called
. . . when the Jews were convinced they are unable to halt the fast growing and spreading of Christianity by means of force, they planed to destroy it from within. This mission was successfully carried out by Rabbi Paul. When Islam came, likewise, the Jews again attempted to abort this new religion. Their endeavors took many forms and shapes, from attempts to assassinate the Apostle of Allah [saw] to waging wars that ended in deporting most of them from al-Madinah or executing those who betrayed the truce. Similarly, they were convinced that the best way to destroy Islam and the Muslims' unity was to resort to the plot they used with Christianity. A Yemenite Jew by the name of Abdullah bin Saba' , as Paul did, pretended to have embraced Islam to plant secretly the seeds of this new cult which he successfully performed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Airport Musing

Let's see, they make you dispose of your drink before going through security. On the other side sodas cost almost four bucks. I see a pattern there . . .

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Don't look now . . .

. . . but Gilad Atzmon is currently trying on Holocaust Denial to see if it matches his eyes. It's you, Gilad!

Radiantly brilliant Tom Friedman column

Tom Friedman has just published his masterpiece. It purports to be about how Joe Biden should have walked away from Israel in order to pressure the recalcitrant Zionist entity into taking advantage of the great present opportunity for peace, in which even Hamas "has halted its attacks on Israel from Gaza." In reality it is a very clever plan to end Yankee Imperialist meddling in the GZP, the Grand Zionist Plan. Don't do it, Joe! Don't throw us in the briar patch!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What's new at

I have been interested in MPAC-UK (Muslim Public Affairs Committee) for some time as a sort-of window into the clash of civilizations. They have a blog-like website in which half the posts are often attacks on Israel and one of their founders once gave money to David Irving. Nevertheless, they were once invited by the BBC to provide a more democracy-minded alternative voice to that of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Recently, an Irish MPAC has appeared on the scene. The website seems to be modeled on that of MPAC-UK., however, seems more extreme than its UK sister-organization. Their posts, for instance, are often liberally sprinkled with the word "Kuffar," which MPAC-UK seems to avoid. Let's take a little stroll into the world of, shall we? One of the more interesting current titles proclaims "Saudis Help Christians to be more ‘Christian.’" Really? How does that work?
[...] The Saudi ban on ‘church buildings’ has meant that Christians in that land have now partly returned to the New Testament model of worship (they still maintain many polytheist practices that have nothing to do with the religion that ‘Isa (Jesus) brought) in the same way that the early Christians did, in small joyful gatherings.

Islam has once again demonstrated its position as the true criterion between what is right and wrong in the former religions. [...]
If you say so. Another post is about what will happen to cartoonist Lars Vilks in the after-life (see here for background):
[...] The punishment for mocking the Prophet in an Islamic state is severe, both for Muslims and non-Muslims. However the situation for those in the Hereafter is far worse.

For while the Muslim who commits the grievous sin may repent, s/he will still be subject to execution in this life – their repentance will benefit them in the Hereafter. There is no such recompense for the non-Muslim. [...]
And finally, a post about how shameful it is that it takes a Socialist organization to hold a protest on behalf of Aafia Siddiqui:
[...] What is wrong with Muslims that the Kuffar have now become the protectors of the Ummah’s most vulnerable. Where are the men who once went to war over the honour of ONE Muslim woman?

Last year we subjected ourselves to Socialists who led anti-war marches against the onslaught in Gaza, they called for a socialist Middle east while Muslims were forbidden to chant our solidarity with those fighting the aggressive occupier in our land. What is wrong with us?

It’s time to wake up and take a lead in these matters, if conscientious non-Muslims wish to come under OUR banner then they are most welcome, but it is WE who should dictate the direction of campaigns NOT them.
Show those Noam Chomsky types who's boss!

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

Musical performance "reflected . . . militant stamina of the KPA"

Another one of those art performances in which the song titles are hard to distinguish from the news agency headlines. "A Thriving Nation Is in Sight," declares one of them. Yeah, right. According to another one, "Mass-production of Vinalon" is "a Sign of Happiness." Vinalon, in case you don't know, is the official Juche synthetic fabric. According to Wikipedia, "Vinalon is resistant to heat and chemicals but has numerous disadvantages: it is stiff, uncomfortable, shiny, prone to shrinking and difficult to dye." It's a sign of happiness, nevertheless, vile Imperialists!
General Secretary Kim Jong Il enjoyed a performance given by the KPA Song and Dance Ensemble.

Put on the stage were such colorful numbers as mixed chorus "Glory to General", male chorus "Appearing in the East and in the West, It's the Anti-Japanese Guerilla Style", female quartet "Push Back the Frontiers of Science", female solo and chorus "Mass-production of Vinalon, a Sign of Happiness", kayagum ensemble "Thinking of Journeys for Songun Leadership", dance "We Are Defenders and Builders of a Thriving Nation" and mixed chorus "A Thriving Nation Is in Sight".

The performers enthusiastically sang of the might of the heroic KPA which has grown to be a matchless army under the care of the great brilliant commander and the indefatigable stamina of Songun Korea and fully demonstrated the rock-firm faith and indomitable will of the army and people of the DPRK to accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche, following the Party forever.

At the end of the performance, Kim Jong Il acknowledged the enthusiastic cheers of the performers and audience and congratulated the performers on their successful performance.

Expressing great satisfaction over the fact that the artistes of the ensemble gave a splendid performance rich in ideological contents and high in artistry as it fully reflected the noble ideological and moral world and the militant stamina of the KPA, he highly estimated the success made in the performance and extended thanks to them.

The ensemble has powerfully encouraged the army and people of the DPRK in the revolution and construction through its revolutionary and militant art creative activities in the past, he said, once again highly appreciating its great feats.

He advanced important tasks that would serve as guidelines for the revolutionary art creation and performing activities. [...]
The latest editions of Haveil Havalim are "rich in ideological contents and high in artistry."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

JPost: "‘Hamas losing control over Strip’"

A current item at JPost has the hopeful title "‘Hamas losing control over Strip.'" Are people getting fed up with Hamas? Maybe, but that isn't what the title refers to. It just seems that the thugs are competing for power:
Ahmed Ja’abri, commander of Hamas' armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, recently sent an urgent letter to Hamas leader in Damascus Khaled Masha’al, warning that the situation in the Gaza Strip was “deteriorating,” and that Hamas has started losing control over the territory, London-based Arab-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Saturday morning. [...]

According to the report, Ja’abri wrote Mahsa’al that “several worrisome explosions recently occurred in Gaza, security anarchy is extensive, and al-Kassam men are being killed.” [...]

The paper quoted Palestinian sources as saying that Hamas operatives who oppose Haniyeh were behind the attacks. Others suggested that the explosions were carried out by fundamentalist Islamic jihad groups.
Besides Hamas, I assume that means.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Ahmadinejad: "World is flabbergasted at Iran’s grandeur"

Mehr News:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Iran’s grandeur has astounded the world.

Those who thought that the Iranian nation’s power has been undermined are now astounded by its grandeur, he said in a gathering of provincial governors in Tehran on Monday.

He also pointed out that the current unity among the Iranian nation is unique.

"The national cohesion and the unity which is currently dominant in our country is much more that the last years," he said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Ahmadinejad emphasized that no one should attempt to classify the people into groups because “the nation consists of 70 million believers and supporters of the system." [...]
You'll be flabbergasted at the grandeur of the latest Haveil Havalim.