Sunday, September 16, 2007

Random pickings from the blogosphere:

Mark Steyn: My favourite Saudi

But Ghazi's not just a comedian, he's also a poet. He wrote an ode to Ayat Ahkras, a Palestinian teenybomber who detonated herself in a Jerusalem supermarket and took a couple of hated Jews with her. The ambassador was evidently smitten by "Ayat, the bride of loftiness". "She embraced death with a smile," he cooed.

"How come he's never written an ode to me?" I brooded bitterly. "Who do I have to blow up to get in an Algosaibi anthology?" The Foreign Office rapped him over the knuckles, but Ghazi stuck to his guns - or, rather, her plastic explosives. He insisted that he personally would be honoured to be a suicide bomber if he weren't so old and out of shape.

This struck me as a pretty feeble excuse. I mean, how fit do you have to be to strap on a Semtex belt and waddle into a pizza parlour? The talk in the diplomatic corps is that that's why Ghazi was recalled. Alternatively, he was doing so much shtick in The Spectator, Crown Prince Abdullah has finally twigged he's Jewish

The Raccoon: Shana Tova and Ramadan Kareem!

So, what presents did we get for the New Year/Ramadan?

The most relevant to your truly is the IAF bombing targets in Syria and all the brouhaha around it.

The bombed site was, apparently, a joint North Korean-Iranian installation. The Syrians had no idea what was going on there (the place was "leased" to Iran) and were extremely surprised both by the bombing and by the fact that the site was, apparently, some sort of a nuclear installation.

Another interesting bit about this incident is the Turkish reaction and involvement - apparently, Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) assisted IAF in this operation without the knowledge of the government. I'd say that this was a message more than anything - to Syria that Turkey is ever vigilant, to Israel and USA that Turkey is a staunch ally, to the Turkish government that they're at TAF's mercy. All in all, from TAF's and IAF's point of view, this was a huge success.

Normblog: The Facilitating Condition

... there's a review of the new Saul Friedlander volume in today's Observer:

Jewish persecution, argues Friedlander, could not have been taken to its genocidal extremes without the personal obsession of Adolf Hitler; yet the course it took only became possible because of endemic European anti-Semitism. 'Not one social group, not one religious community, not one scholarly institution or professional association in Germany and throughout Europe declared its solidarity with the Jews.'


Captain's Quarters: Academic Freedom - Redux

Summers may well be wrong about gender differences impacting educational aptitudes in a general or specific sense. Does that mean that Summers should get barred from addressing academics in the future? Does he need to do a Galileo and issue public recantations while muttering E pur si muove under his breath? Because as long as institutions like UC Davis continue to surrender to the dogmatists, Summer will never be heard, and his views will never get proper refutation or support in accordance with the evidence, as opposed to the passions of the day.

Shutting down debate and silencing voices is the antithesis of academic purpose, imposing a politically-correct party line rather than a true pursuit of truth. On the other hand, UCD professor Maureen Stanton, who organized the petition demanding Summers be silenced, would probably be the first to object to firing a dean for his liberal views. It's fascinating to see what happens when the other ox gets gored.

Via Bob from Brockley: On the usefulness of facts and the seduction of ignorance

But denial is not just about the protection of vested interests; it has deeper psychological roots. Psychologists and philosophers have shown that denial is a crucial part of human survival. In psychoanalysis, denial is a process in which human beings protect themselves against unbearable (self-) knowledge. In Ernest Becker's classic The Denial of Death, it is knowledge of mortality that is unbearable, and against which belief systems such as religions attempt to protect humanity.

Humanity's search for comfort and security against a cruel, mortal world can often lead us into embracing ideologies that are not only based on fear, prejudice and authoritarianism, but that also deny their own ultimate cruelty. What is interesting is that even those who embrace such ideologies frequently do so using language of care, love and human betterment. One legacy of the Enlightenment is that everyone claims to be on the side of progress and human betterment.

In the modern world it is inconceivable that a person might stand up and celebrate ignorance, pain and suffering, even if this is an inevitable consequence of his or her actions and views. Rather, the person is driven to deny that ignorance, pain and suffering is occurring or has occurred. That is why deniers cannot be persuaded by facts alone - they cannot back down, as to do so would result in the collapse of their entire worldview, their sense of self-worth.


Money quote: From one commenter on Pajamas Media:

I am waiting for a piece that people will read and understand, including the effect of virtually unlimited Arab oil money on US business, immigration policy, foreign policy, and politicians at every level. When people understand this element as well as the goal of world conquest inherent in Islam they will understand the stupidity of the Walt/Mearsheimer book.

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