Thursday, 31 December 2009
Auld Lang Syne
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Watch, and listen, here.

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Posted on 12/31/2009 9:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Veglione Di Capodanno (Fantozzi)
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Watch, and listen here.

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Posted on 12/31/2009 9:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Wahid And Israel
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From an article here:

Abdurrahman Wahid

Arguably the most signi?cant development after Rabin's visit to Jakarta in October 1993 was the visit of Indonesia's most in?uential Islamic leader, Abdurrahman Wahid, to Jerusalem one year later. As leader of NU, Indonesia's-and the world's-largest Islamic mass organization, Abdurrahman's acceptance of an invitation from Shimon Peres to witness the peace-accord ceremony between Israel and Jordan on 25 October 1994 was highly signi?cant. Of course, the visit looks even more signi?cant in light of Abdurrahman becoming Indonesia's ?rst democratically elected president ?ve years later. But even apart from Abdurrahman's public prominence, his relationship with Israel and with Judaism warrants attention for what it tells us about the development of Islamic thought in Indonesia and about the potential of Islam generally to contribute to building understanding and consol­idating respect and tolerance between peoples.13

 As we have seen, one of the key factors militating against devel­oping relations between Israel and Muslim-majority nations in Asia, home to most of the world's Muslims, is the fear of agitation by conservative and reactionary Islamist groups protesting closer ties with a nation long demonized in their internal discourses. Con­sequently, the impression is given that Islam is a source of problems and that Muslim leaders will invariably play a spoiling role. The example of Abdurrahman Wahid is a valuable reminder that this need not be so.

Born in 1940, Abdurrahman Wahid is the eldest son of the much-admired nationalist leader Wahid Hasyim, an o?cial national hero, leading light in NU, minister of religious a?airs, and friend of Sukarno. Both of Wahid's grandfathers, Hasyim Asy'ari on his father's side and Bisri Syansuri on his mother's, were founders of NU and respected leaders of the nationalist movement. Although not quite as progressive as the remarkable Wahid Hasyim, both of the older men were regarded as innovative and enlightened ulama, or religious scholars, who pion­eered new approaches to teaching in their East Java pesantren (residen­tial madrasah, or traditional religious schools). After Abdurrahman Wahid graduated from his pesantren educa­tion in Central and East Java, he was sent to study at the venerable Al Azhar Islamic University in Cairo. Quickly tiring of the rote-learning approach he encountered at Al Azhar, Abdurrahman spent most of his time in Cairo reading Western literature in the American University library, watching French cinema, and engaging in long discussions in the city's co?ee shops. It made for a great informal education but did nothing for his studies at Al Azhar. In 1966 he transferred to the University of Baghdad, then regarded as the best modern university in the Arab world, where he completed a four-year degree in Arabic literature and Islamic history.

While studying in Baghdad, Abdurrahman worked part-time as a translator cum letter-writer at a textile export company, side by side with an Iraqi Jew named Ramin. Abdurrahman knew very little about Judaism and Jewish history when he arrived in Baghdad, but after four years of daily conversations with Ramin he had developed a deep respect for Jewish religious thought and culture. Upon returning to Indonesia, Abdurrahman fell in love with the novels of the American Jewish writer Chaim Potok, seeing parallels with his own community in the conservative religious community described in works such as My Name Is Asher Lev.

Always an idiosyncratic and original thinker, Abdurrahman's per­sonal engagement with Jewish thought caused him to react critically to the simplistic and prejudicial notions about Israel and the Jews that he encountered in Muslim society. Consequently, for the past thirty years he has made a point of speaking out against anti-Semitic thinking and ignorance about Israel and Judaism. And he has made numerous visits to Israel, the earliest taking place in 1980. It is not surprising, then, that he was quick to accept Peres's invitation to visit Israel in October 1994 and then in March 1997 to join the Board of Governors of the Shimon Peres Peace Center. Nor is it remarkable that criticism about being pro-Zionist by Amien Rais, his longtime nemesis and leader of Muhammadiyah, or negative comments by Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, did not stop Abdurrahman from traveling to Israel in October 1997 to speak at the Peres Peace Center.

What is remarkable is that despite the controversy that erupted after his October 1994 visit, Abdurrahman was elected to a third ?ve-year term as executive chairman of NU just weeks after returning from Israel. Although in the 1980s Abdurrahman had enjoyed a reasonable working relationship with Suharto, since 1990 the relationship had turned increasingly antagonistic. Abdurrahman was particularly crit­ical of Suharto's new ploy of co-opting and appeasing both social-conservative and radical Islamists and warned of the dangers of grow­ing sectarian sentiment. But he was also generally critical of the Suharto regime's record of human rights abuses and rampant corrup­tion. He made full use of the measure of protection conferred by his status as NU leader to boldly confront Suharto in a manner that few others dared attempt. So when Abdurrahman announced after returning from Israel that he had decided to reverse his previous decision to retire from leadership after a decade at the helm of NU, and that he was running for a third ?ve-year term at the November ?ve-yearly congress of NU, Suharto was infuriated.

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Posted on 12/31/2009 8:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Wahid, An Easygoing, Relaxed, Syncretistic, Not Terribly Observant Muslim, Dies
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From The Wall Street Journal: 

Indonesian Leader Resisted Extremists

By TOM WRIGHT

Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid was a key religious moderate and spiritual leader of one of the world's largest Muslim organizations.

Mr. Wahid, an almost-blind and wheelchair-bound cleric whose health had deteriorated in recent years, died in Jakarta on Wednesday at age 69.

As head of the Nahdlatul Ulama, an Islamic organization with 40 million members founded in 1926 by his paternal grandfather, Mr. Wahid came to be seen as a key ally of the West in its ideological struggle against Islamic radicalism.

A witty, charismatic speaker, Mr. Wahid fought to keep the NU out of politics in the 1980s and 1990s at a time when Muslim organizations across the Middle East and Asia were agitating to implement Islamic Shariah laws.

"He was against political Islam as a concept," said Robin Bush, the Indonesia country representative for the Asia Foundation, a San Francisco think tank.

[Wahid] Getty Images

Abdurrahman Wahid

In the late 1990s, as Indonesia experienced political ferment in the wake of a financial crisis and the resignation of its longtime president, Suharto, Mr. Wahid entered politics as head of a formally nonsectarian party. After elections in 1999, the nation's highest legislative body appointed him president of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

In recent years, Indonesia has experienced a rise in more-conservative forms of Islam. But a majority of Indonesia's 240 million people remain moderates who lean toward Mr. Wahid's vision, and his death is unlikely to open the door to more radical Islamists, analysts say.

Mr. Wahid, who was widely known by his nickname "Gus Dur," embodied the nation's varied religious traditions that meld more austere Middle Eastern strands of Islam with older Hindu and animist strains.

The descendent of an old Hindu royal family, Mr. Wahid enjoyed being irreverent about Islamic traditions. He said he disliked his time in the 1960s studying at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's premier seat of learning, because of the dull rote-learning of verses from the Quran, Islam's holy book.

Mr. Wahid's term as president between 1999 and 2001 disappointed many followers. Although he worked to roll back the role of the military in political life and to decentralize power to Indonesia's far-flung provinces, his administration was characterized by unpredictable cabinet reshuffles and allegations of nepotism.

His term ended with his impeachment for alleged corruption for misappropriation of state funds. Mr. Wahid stepped down but denied wrongdoing. He was never tried on criminal charges.

More recently, he founded the Wahid Institute, which promotes moderate Islam and is headed by his daughter, Yenni Wahid.

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Posted on 12/31/2009 8:18 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Abdolkarim Sorroush Deserted The Sinking Ship of Theocracy, But The Makeover Is Not Complete
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Those who understand Farsi can watch, and listen here.

But evreyone who knows English can  read the many comments critical of Abdolkarim Sorroush, in his new guise, and critical, too, of his being allowed to enter, and speak, in the U.S., like a great many other former Iranian revolutionaries who are not to be trusted, for even if they dislike the current regime, they are still supporters of Islam and not of a Persian version of Kemalism. The criticisms, too, of the clerics, even of the dissident ones such as Montazeri, who never issued a fatwa against Khamenei, the clerics who continue apparently to support the notion of clerically-guided rule, are instructive.

I agree with those Iranian commentators who are not charitably disposed toward Sorroush, despite his abandonment, or repudiation, of his earlier enthusiasm for the Islamic Republic of Iran, when he helped to ferret out "socialists" and other leftists from universities. He has been a lecturer at Harvard and Yale, and made much of in the West, among those who keep being hailed as "one of those former enthusaists for the Islamic Republic -- just like that "co-founder of the Revolutionary Guards" or that apparently inexhaustible supply of "students who took over the American Embassy" who have now  changed their minds, and who get a lot of play for their mind-changing. The problem is that few of these people turn out to have fought their way mentally all the way to complete secularism, and to  an understanding of how Islam, by stunting moral and mental growth, is the cause of so much of what ails Iran, and it is not so easily assigned a role, pace Sorroush, that will divorce "state and religion." It was to be tied in knots (see Ataturk), and even then, eternal vigilance, and an endless chipping away at its legitimacy in the minds and hearts of its supporters, is necessary if Iran is to have a reasonable future.

The comments of the Iranians in the link, below Soroush's speech, show their own doubts about him, which some will regard as too unforgiviing, as uncharitable. So be it. These are  doubts which a non-Iranian should share. When did Abdolkarim Soroush  turn on the regime,, and before he turned on it, how much damage did he do? And did he turn on it wholeheartedly, or in a less convincing way, full of the kind of ostentatious moderation" that doesn't really fit the bill, that doesn't really show a full understanding of the nature and function of Islam, and why, when a state is full of Muslims, only Kemalist or Destour-Party restraints, ruthlessly imposed, on the political and social power of Islam, gives the people a chance to escape the usual Lords of Misrule and the baleful effects of Islam, Islam, Islam.

[An "akhoond" is a Muslim cleric.]

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Posted on 12/31/2009 7:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
A Musical Interlude: Time On My Hands (Lee Wiley)
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Listen here.

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Posted on 12/31/2009 6:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
The Fourth Wise Man
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by Esmerelda Weatherwax (January 2010)


One Christmas when I was a child I watched a television programme where a kindly looking man told the story of the Fourth Wise Man. We were living in Stoke Newington at the time and as we left there in 1963 this must have been Christmas 1961 or 1962.  

I remembered parts of the story clearly. That the Fourth Wise Man left late carrying three great jewels, a pearl (of great price) a ruby (big as a pigeons egg, or red as a pigeons blood) and another (couldn’t remember). He was late arriving in Bethlehem, and late to the crucifixion, by which time he was jewel-less. I remembered what he did with the first and last jewels but not what he did with the second and how he spent the 30 odd years in-between. more>>>

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Posted on 12/31/2009 5:03 PM by NER
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Going to Hell
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by Ares Demertzis (January 2010)

 
(i)
It was an arranged marriage. His father having died when he was three, a solicitous uncle performed the obligatory function of proposing for his nephew to the father of a singularly attractive young woman; her complexion was as unblemished alabaster, her hair black as a raven´s wing, and her eyes, her eyes, the pale, ethereal softness of a vaporous, illusory gray. Surprisingly, notwithstanding her exceptional beauty she was unwed, the direct consequence of what was referred to by her relatives as a “spirited personality.” She had consistently elected to reject all previous suitors as trivial, and appeared undaunted by that approaching statistical age after which matrimony was considered unattainable within the steadfastly hermetic society to which she belonged. The uncle´s choice was motivated not so much by the young woman´s comeliness, but by a financial consideration: the prospect of a lucrative dowry for his nephew; the solicited bride was the daughter of an affluent family in that small, isolated mountain village where the probable future groom had also been born thirty eight years ago.  more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2009 4:58 PM by NER
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Di-vision - Div-ision - Divi-sion - Divis-ion
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by Jack Dixon (January 2009)


My topic is simply the question of word division-- mostly in English, but with a diplomatic glance at French. My title has been devised, not to prognosticate dire social chaos in the future, but to suggest both the simplicity and the difficulty of word-division. To begin with, the term 'word-division' means different things to different linguists. more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2009 4:50 PM by NER
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Aspiration through Art
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by David Hamilton (January 2010)



Our high traditions of sacred and imaginative Art have nearly died with the decline of religion and the spiritual uplift it brings to the artistic imagination and our higher natures. Religiously inspired art has been replaced by a negative attempt to destroy those traditions. The benefits of a firm common religion to art is the transforming of creative imagination into something higher and raising it above the base and the mundane. The driving force of our civilisation has always been creative imagination and the sense of striving for something higher while rooted in the human and everyday. Western civilization has largely sprung from a sense of piety and holiness and reverence for God and his creation and not just the need to secure one’s position in life. As, George Frederick Handel put it: “If I merely entertain them, then I have failed. I wish to make them better.”  more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2009 4:47 PM by NER
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Saul Alinsky and the Rise of Amorality in American Politics
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by D. L. Adams (January 2010)


Saul Alinsky and his "community organizing" methods and philosophy have had a profound influence on the politics of the United States. Recent history would suggest that this influence is just short of catastrophic.

Alinsky's book, "Rules for Radicals," published in 1971 still has enormous effects on our country today. Hillary Clinton wrote her Wellesley College thesis on Alinsky, interviewing him personally for her research. After her graduation Alinsky offered her a job with his organization, which she refused to pursue other opportunities. President Obama worked for Alinsky organizations and taught seminars in Alinsky tactics and methodology during his "community organizing" period in Chicago.  more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2009 4:43 PM by NER
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
On the Seventh Day of Christmas
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The Seven Stars Carey Street London and Seven Swans loitering with intend.
The Seven Stars is a very old pub opposite the back entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice. The pub (1602)  is nearly 300 years older than the court (1875). Carey Street used to be the entrance to the Bankruptcy Court (the sign remained into my day, although hearings in London are now done in the new Thomas More Building). The warning to a foolhardy business venture "He'll end up on Carey Street" is no longer current. Next door to the pub is an exquisite jewellers called The Silver Mousetrap, founded in 1690, although no longer run by the original family.
The Swans are, from top to bottom, and left to right, The Swan Wells Somerset, the White Swan and Cockoo in Wapping, the Black Swan in Harrowgate. I'll put my hands up, I didn't take that one as so far I have not passed a Black Swan pub with a decent sign. That picture is the work of Alexander Kapp on the
PubsGalore website. As the pub is closed and according to the CAMRA website will reopen shortly after considerable building work as the Swan on the Stray I felt able to use his photograph as it is now a historical document.
Next is the White Swan in Fetter Lane London, the White Swam Pimlico, then the Swan holding the clock of Dipplers the Jewellers in Norwich. Not a pub sign but lets not be pedantic, its all part of the historic charm of our cities. The final swan is The Swan in Leadenhall. Leadenhall Market does duty as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.

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Posted on 12/31/2009 4:18 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Kreisky?s Children
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by Dexter Van Zile (January 2010)

 

Bruno Kreisky, the first (and only) Jew elected to serve as head of government of a German speaking country, had a problem.[1]Soon after Kreisky was elected chancellor of Austria in 1970, renowned Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal reported that Hans Ollinger, a newly appointed cabinet member, had been a member of the Nazi party in the 1930s. Kriesky, who had lost 20 members of his family in the death camps during the Holocaust, needed to send a message to the people of Austria about how they should deal with their country’s Nazi past.[2]
 
Kreisky sent a message, that’s for sure. more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2009 4:39 PM by NER
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
The Bible Code
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Enigma, God’s Prophecies, Soothsaying, or the Peculiarities of the Hebrew Language?

by Norman Berdichevsky (January 2010)


For more than a decade, Biblical scholarship, archaeological research and theological speculations have been put on hold or eclipsed by the world-wide popularity of The Bible Code, launched by Michael Drosnin that was a runaway best seller. Published in 1997, it asserted that the Old Testament contains a secret code based on the equidistant spaces of Hebrew letters arrayed as a continuous chain. It is indeed amazing that diverse people in many different cultures and traditions, some with a profound understanding and appreciation of the Old Testament,  have accepted the validity of the code. more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2009 4:36 PM by NER
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
How Many Lone Wolves Does It Take To Make A Pack?
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by Nidra Poller (January 2010)


How many lone wolves does it take to make a pack? How many packs make a battalion? How many battalions make a full-fledged enemy in a genuine war?
President Obama copped out on another grave security threat with disingenuous promises and heartfelt finger pointing. Slow on the uptake as usual he finally got around to blaming the CIA—the one G.W. Bush left him-- for missing the red flags that should have kept the Jock Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, from boarding Northwest Airlines flight 253 bound for Detroit—in the minds of unsuspecting passengers—and bound for destruction by the will of Abdulmutallab’s Allah. At first glance Obama’s accusation is plausible. It will reinforce the illusions of softening critics fooled by the Oslo Peace Prize speech and too willing to believe that the American president is finally catching on. more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2009 4:32 PM by NER
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Arts & Sciences
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by Rebecca Bynum (January 2010)


Throughout the twentieth century and into the first decade of the twenty-first, the life sciences have increasingly been devoted to examining the traits and characteristics man shares with other animals. The trend has been toward minimizing man’s unique qualities and magnifying man’s animal nature. The theory of natural selection, coupled with sexual selection is now being stretched to explain all aspects of human behavior and psychology. This has the effect of diluting the concept of will, and ultimately, of denying the non-material aspects of human experience entirely, including the reality of mind itself. more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2009 4:28 PM by NER
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Richard Rubenstein: Jihad and Genocide
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a review by Bat Ye'or (January 2010)

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n Jihad and Genocide, Richard Rubenstein discusses and clarifies the most important issues of this century. Having written a number of books on the political and cultural processes that led to the genocide of the Jews in World War II, he now detects in jihad the same dynamic targeting Israel.

Most Westerners ignore the meaning of dhimmitude and Islam’s dichotomous division of the world into dar al-Islam (the land of Islam) and dar al-Harb (the land of war). Yet those concepts are fundamental pillars of jihad and encompass the entire Islamic worldview. They affect both everyday life and the future of the West, as is evident every time an airline passenger submits to an intrusive search before boarding a flight. In our nuclear age, these concepts will determine the preservation of our freedom and ultimately of humanity’s survival. In reality, today’s jihadist genocidal rage targets more than Israel. It targets the entire civilized world.  more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2009 4:24 PM by NER
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Flight 253 passenger Kurt Haskell Claims Abdulmutallab had Accomplices
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And he fears this is being covered up.

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Posted on 12/31/2009 3:00 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
Only Bangladeshi welcome - or Indian.
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I had business in London Borough of Newham today - the area served by Stratford and Plaistow Stations.
Ethnically very mixed, but certain sections not keen to mix more.
These are a sample of the adverts for accomodation available in three newsagents/general stores in Plaistow High Street and Stratford Broadway. I have croppped them and hidden the telephone numbers but retain the full sized and untouched originals.
Whenever racism crops up as a topic of conversation among the chattering classes someone may mention the phrase used by Johnny Lydon (Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) and Lord Taylor of Warwick the most senior black politician as the title of their respective biographies "No blacks, No Dogs, No Irish". This, it is claimed, was the sign placed in the windows of racist landladies in the 1950s and 1960s. But while there was racism then I never saw such a sign myself, nor have I met anyone who did. It was always someone's mother, or cousin, who saw it, or something similar in London, or Birmingham or Liverpool. The photgraphic eveidence is always the same photograph used in Johnny Lydon's book which has found its way onto all the Hope not Hate and Stop the BNP websites. I am not the only person who believes this to be an urban myth.
Two wrongs do not make a right, of course. But can you imagine an advert for a bedsit saying only English girls need apply? Only Welsh boys will be welcome? There would be a furore.
Hope not Hate would picket the shop. Questions would be asked in Parliament.
Stop the BNP would be phoning the number in relays t express their displeasure.

And before you say, "but these are shared facilities" the facilities were nearly always shared in working class homes in the 50s and 60s.

Photographs E Weatherwax - LB Newham 31 December 2009

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Posted on 12/31/2009 2:13 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Thursday, 31 December 2009
US Releases Iranian-backed Terrorist Behind murder of US Troops
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Bill Roggio writes at the Weekly Standard:

The British are all smiles over the release of Peter Moore, a British citizen who was held hostage by an Iranian-backed Shia terror group in Iraq. But there is little talk about the price paid to secure Moore's release. The US military has freed Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, as well as his brother Laith, several Qods Force officers, and more than 100 members of the terror group, in exchange for Moore. And that isn't all. The British also received the corpses of three security contractors who were working to protect Moore when he was kidnapped at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The three contractors were executed by the Asaib al Haq; another is also thought to have been killed.

Qais Qazli wasn't just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali's men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

The attack on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center was a complex, sophisticated operation. The assault team, led by tactical commander Azhar al Dulaimi (who was later killed by the US military), was trained in a mock-up of the center that was built in Iran. The unit had excellent intelligence and received equipment that made them appear to be US soldiers. Some of the members of the assault team are said to have spoken English. They drove SUVs that looked like ones used by US contractors.

Andy McCarthy is not amused:

Back in the early summer, I wrote about how, even as the Iranian regime continued killing American troops, the Obama administration had engaged in shameful negotiations with an Iran-backed terror network (the League of the Righteous) in Iraq — negotiations that resulted in the release of Laith Qazali, one of the terrorists responsible for the murders of five American soldiers in Karbala, in exchange for the remains of two British hostages.

Shortly thereafter, the Obama administration released the "Irbil Five," commanders from the Iranian IRGC's elite "Quds Force" who had been captured by our military after coordinating terrorist attacks in Iraq that have killed hundreds of American soldiers and Marines. 

Today, New Year's Eve, while everyone's attention is understandably on family and friends, we learn (thanks to the ever alert Bill Roggio, reporting on the Standard's blog) that the administration has now released Qais Qazali, Laith's brother, who is the head of the Iran-backed terror network, in addition to a hundred other terrorists. In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered).

So, as the mullahs, America's incorrigible enemies, struggle to hang on, we're giving them accommodations and legitimacy. And the messages we send? Terrorize us and we'll negotiate with you. Kill American troops or kidnap civilians and win valuable concessions — including the release of an army of jihadists, and its leaders, who can now go back to targeting American troops.

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Posted on 12/31/2009 2:01 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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