The Perfect Swarm

As Bill Whittle might say: relax, get yourself a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable; this may take a while.

I have written previously about the civil war within the mind of the West, and the crippling effect it has on our ability to fight the Great Jihad. Since the kamikaze Left holds the ramparts of our culture, it will require a mass effort to change the subject and subvert the Left’s dominant memes.

Fortunately, the blogosphere has the capacity to be subversive. With many thousands of blogs and many millions of readers, a conversation has emerged which is not under the control of the traditional gatekeepers of our collective intellect. Yet our political leaders — our elected officials and their subordinate policymakers — have been slow to heed the new voices. On contentious issues such as immigration policy and the straightforward prosecution of the war against the Great Jihad, the politicians have instinctively bowed to the PC shrines at the New York Times and the Washington Post, as if theirs were the only readers that matter.

The chances are that on any given day, more people are reading one of Wretchard’s essays than are reading Maureen Dowd, and more touch base with Instapundit than with Richard Cohen. Yet the nervous nellies of Congress and the Administration dance around the MSM’s talking points like the keepers of the vestal flame.

What gives?

It’s not as if the blogosphere hasn’t proved its efficacy. An examination of its triumphs is instructive.

The first one was the Trent Lott affair. The former majority leader’s ill-considered remarks at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party were, strangely enough, about to be buried by the liberal media. Yet the center-right blogs kept the issue alive and eventually raised the temperature under Sen. Lott’s feet until he was forced out of his position.

Next came the blogs’ greatest success, Rathergate. Led by Little Green Footballs and Power Line, and assisted by thousands of alert readers doing the research, cross-checking the facts, and spreading the word, CBS News and its allies in Big Media were prevented from generating the story they had hoped would torpedo the President’s re-election.

Then there was Eason Jordan. Once again, an issue that would have been buried and forgotten was kept alive by the blogs, forcing a CNN executive to resign.

Numerous other instances of the blogs’ effectiveness can be cited — the Pepsi “finger”, the journalists supposedly targeted by the American military, the Oil-for-Food scam, and so on — and others are in process right now, such as the Able Danger/Sandy Berger affair. Each blog swarm, when roused by its defining issue, has demonstrated its power.

But each of these swarms was essentially reactive. The pattern is this: a politician or media figure commits a verbal atrocity, generates a vile fraud, or engages in some kind of political corruption. The traditional media close ranks and bury the story, but the blogs take action to force the matter to a head. Without a stimulus to act against, the blog swarm does not form.

But does it have to be that way? Why can’t the blogs act in concert to advance memes which they generate themselves?

The variety among the center-right blogs is breathtaking. The spectrum goes from hardcore libertarians through dedicated warbloggers to Christians and social conservatives. We have milbloggers, recovering liberals, crusty commentators, shrinks, and satirists. All of these cacophonous voices are arguing among themselves, shooting spitballs and insulting each other. Yet, when they agree on something, they swarm, and the gates of the citadel tremble!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Gates of Vienna is a little blog. Oh, we have our loyal readers (and an uncommonly intelligent and literate group they are, too), but what we say here will cause scarcely a ripple in the big pond of opinion journalism. However, if our words line up with thousands of other blogs, if we act in concert with all the other large mammals, marauding marsupials, flippery fish, etc. of the ecosystem, then the aggregate effect has meaning.

So, instead of waiting for the next outrage on the Left, instead of reacting to events, I propose a new practice of proactive swarming. Each of us should keep an eye out for an important idea whose time has come, and then promote it for a swarm. If you have a blog, post the swarm idea. To misquote the Grateful Dead, if you believe it, pass it on.

The success of Rathergate can be repeated with ideas generated within the blogs, and then amplified by them. If this practice is repeated often enough, the politicians will start checking in with Instapundit over their morning coffee instead of looking in the newspaper to discover what it is they think.

As Wretchard has said,

     The longer it goes on the more dangerous the revolution becomes. Someone compared the rise of the Internet to the invention of the printing press. When books were the province of a few you could only come to knowledge through someone else. When books became common, people could learn for themselves, which put quite a few mediocrities out of business. Doubtless there will be those, as happens with people who interpret scripture do-it-yourself, who will get it all cockeyed. But on the whole mass produced books were a good thing.
There are some who are shocked, shocked at the act of a private person musing out loud about what seems like a staged photograph. ‘How dare you, how dare you raise these questions’. Yet to those who grew up on the Internet, this attitude is puzzling in the extreme. It’s as natural as breathing, a wholly different tradition. There must be hundreds of sites out there saying I’m a jerk. So what? This blog is just a meme, that’s all. I am nothing. I don’t even have a name. There must be zillions out there who disagree with my ideas. But so what? If my ideas are wrong they’ll die. If they are right, not even I can stop them. Scary when you think of it.

To that end I have constructed four icons which can be used to accompany a “swarm meme”:

Blog Swarm!    Blog Swarm!
Blog Swarm!    Blog Swarm!

They are designed to flush left or right , and you can use either the opaque or transparent background. Choose the image you want and copy it, steal it, credit me or not; I don’t care — heck, you can hot-link the image and let eat the bandwidth! If the idea is good, spread it and Swarm It!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

My first candidate for a swarm meme is my old standard; Dymphna will offer her own in the next day or two.

Blog Swarm!

We Are Not Fighting a
“Global War on Terror”
or a
“Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism”.

We Are Resisting
The Third Wave of the Great Islamic Jihad.

It’s been going on since 630 AD, and the defeat at Vienna in 1683 was just a temporary setback from their point of view. It’s high time to call this war by its right name.

If you agree, then… swarm it!

Holy Cops!

He’s baaack! Just when it seemed he’d decided that discretion was the better part of valor and closed his site, up pops The Religious Policeman. It seems he’s moved to Britain, leaving Saudi Arabia. Good Lord, does he think it’s safer there or does he figure it’s an easier place to get lost in? Those limeys, they can’t tell one wog from another, right? Of course the latter seem to be intent on killing the former. Nonetheless, the RP is probably correct: the byways of England are summat calmer than the side streets of Qassim.

This blogger is a must-read. He is witty, intelligent, and well-educated. His writing style is by turns wry and caustic. His reports on the passing parade will leave you smiling or shaking your head in wonder at the peculiaties of the human condition.

The Religious Policeman despairs sometimes. Who wouldn’t, with his experiences? His blog is dedicated to the young schools girls killed by others’ fanaticism:

     In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.

His posts are most entertaining. It’s difficult to choose just one, but perhaps this will serve to give you the flavor of his delicious puddings:

     Enough of the heavy geopolitical stuff. I’m starting an Advice Column.
“Dear Alhamedi
My wife won’t do what I tell her. What should I do?
Dear “Inadequate from Dammam”. The answer is all in the Quran. As it says there
1. Tell her to behave.
…if that doesn’t work…
2. Go and sleep by yourself
…and if that doesn’t work…
3. Beat her
…because that works every time

No, this isn’t black humor, along the lines of Humphrey Bogart’s ghost’s advice to Woody Allen in “Play it again Sam”:

“Dames are simple. I never met one that didn’t understand a slap in the mouth or a slug from a forty-five.”
Instead it’s real life advice, written by Ghada Al-Hori and published in the “Al Watan” newspaper, in 2005 (and that’s CE, not BC)
Punishing Disobedient Wives

Skipping some of his most eloquently sardonic lines — e.g., the image of Humphrey Bogart and Hannibel Lecter as Muslim pychiatrists, the RP goes to the heart of the matter. He quotes a whining imam who complains that the Western view of Islam’s treatment of women is just a part of our campaign against them. To which RP responds:

     Here we go again. Its the old “nobody loves us, they’re always picking on us, we’re the victims, we are the world’s one and only true religion but everyone’s just horrid to us” moan. You hear it all the time in Saudi but can avoid it in the UK if you choose your mosque carefully, these whingeing imams make you feel you are in a religion for losers. They’ll never appreciate that Islam gets a bad press because certain of our “brethren” fly into skyscrapers and blow up trains and chop peoples’ hands off and say it’s OK to beat women, all in the name of Islam.

Then he does something that is not seen often enough. He lifts an egregious and anachronistic piece of Judeo-Christian scripture and fisks it for our modern sensibilites:

     There is a passage in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, (Deuteronomy 21.18-21) that says:
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
The Jewish and Christian religions moved on from this a long time ago, some millenia in fact. You don’t see piles of battered corpses of youths in baseball caps and trainers at the gates of Western towns. Their religions have kept the most important parts, and left the historical stuff behind. So have the majority of sensible Moslems around the world. So why do we in Saudi Arabia treat the Quran so literally? And why are we surprised when the rest of the world think we’re completely mental?

Is this not a breath of fresh air? Please go visit his site. Read about the women who never, ever, never unveil. Not even in front of their female relatives.

All his stories are good. You can’t say “entertaining” exactly, since he’s talking about real people doing unreal things. But he’s memorable and the fact that he’s out there writing it all down should give us hope.

The Religious Policeman is a Muslim with a brain and a sense of history. Long may his tribe increase.

Protection Racket

Gates of Vienna owes the IRS money. We just found out a few weeks ago: $674, and tomorrow is the deadline. So today I will get out the checkbook and pay up.

We have a tax accountant who does our returns, and he actually got us a refund for this one; now we owe them money. Whoops. Yes, yes, I know; I will have a little talk with him about this one. But it won’t do any good; he says that when the IRS claims you owe them money, it is best just to write the check.

That’s definitely true for $100 or $400, and now I know it’s true for $674. It might even be true for $1000 or $2000; I’ll let you know if, heaven forfend, I ever get dunned for those amounts. But at some point it would become cost-effective to hire the tax lawyer and go through the trouble to fight the bastards. Days off work, trips to the IRS office, signing endless paperwork, showing up in court — maybe $10,000…? $20,000? Readers are invited to offer their own personal opinions on this one.

All I know is that it’s quite a game the IRS has going. Nice little life ya got here — wouldn’t want anything to, like, happen to it, ya know? Pause. Sound of pen scratching on check paper. Tanks. See yez next year!

The IRS has the power to ruin your life. That’s what has made me a libertarian — nobody should have the power to ruin my life without my consent. I didn’t elect those guys in the Treasury building, and my elected representatives have long since lost the masculine wherewithal to rein in those f***ers in D.C. They can extract money from us without due process, guilty until proven innocent, till death do us part, and there’s not a damned thing we can do about it.

If we weren’t so used to it, so numbed by paying up year after year, we would be jumping up and down with outrage, steam coming out of our ears. We would be having coronaries from our fits of rage while writing the check. We would be…

Excuse me — there’s someone knocking at the door…

No, Mr. Field Agent! I didn’t really mean it! I’m sorry! Please… What are you doing with that axe handle?


’Tis Not So Deep as a Well, Nor So Wide as a Church Door…

At last the mystery is solved. And a more knotted, amazing or strange story couldn’t have been made up.

Last week, Gates reported on a story from the Telegraph saying that Steven Vincent had been killed because he was planning to marry his interpreter. The motive for the murders of Mr. Vincent and Nour, the woman who served as his translator during his stay in Basrah was generally thought to be one of vindictive retribution for Vincent’s behavior in shaming Nour. The British military made vague mutterings about Vincent’s “careless” security.

So it seemed, on the surface anyway, like a Romeo and Juliet story, except that Juliet lived. But that was merely the surface.

Here is the deeper, more complicated reality, as told by Mrs. Vincent. Given the fact that she knew her husband for twenty three years, she possesses an authority regarding his truth not held by anyone else. Here is her report about the events in Basrah, taken from an email she sent to Juan Cole. She copied that email to Murdoc Online. You will be deeply satisfied to note that she remains civilized while still (one hopes) raising blisters on Mr. Cole’s very thick skin:

     For starters, Steven and Nour were not “romantically involved”. If you knew anything at all about the Middle East, as you seem to think you do, then you would know that there is no physical way that he and she could have ever been alone together. Nour (who always made sure to get home before dark, so they were never together at night) could not go to his room; he could not go to her house; there was no hot-sheet motel for them to go to for a couple of hours. They met in public, they went about together in public, they parted in public. They were never alone. She would not let him touch her arm, pay her a compliment, buy her a banana on the street, hyper-aware of how such gestures might be interpreted by the misogynistic cretins who surrounded her daily. So for you brazenly claim that she was “sleeping around,” when there is no earthly way you could possibly know that, suggests to me that you are quite the misogynist as well. Cheap shot, Mr. Cole, against a remarkable woman who does not in any wise deserve it.

Mrs. Vincent goes on to explain that her husband did love Nour, but it was not sexual, that his love for her arose from his admiration:

     he loved her for her courage, her bravery, her indomitable spirit in the face of the Muslim thugs who have oppressed their women for years. To him she represented a free and democratic Iraq, and all of the hopes he had for that still-elusive creature. And he loved her for the help she gave him – endangering herself by affiliating with him because she wanted the truth to come out about what was happening in her native city of Basra and the surrounding area. Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that it is possible to love someone in a strictly platonic way, but I assure you, it can happen – even between men and women.

Mrs. Vincent is quite correct on that subject. In some ways, Steven Vincent and his companion must have had a bond akin to the filia of soldiers: the bond created under the tremendous pressure of manuvering in a murderous environment. To that extent, he must have felt great responsibility for her well-being; such is soldierly camaraderie and those of us outside that circle can only begin to glimpse its depth.

Mrs. Vincent gives us important, astounding information:

     And yes, he was planning to to convert to Islam and marry Nour, but only to take her out of the country to England, where she had a standing job offer, set her up with the friends she had over there, divorce her, and come back to New York. He had gotten her family’s permission to do so (thereby debunking the “honor killing” theory).

If you find this part unlikely then you haven’t been exposed to the necessity for such subterfuge in arranging movement between countries. Even we, in this small backwater in Virginia, know of such arrangements between students, one of whom needs to stay in the country to continue studying. That is not a far-fetched scenario; it is an excruciatingly practical one.

Mrs. Vincent says she gave her permission for this arranged marriage. She and her husband knew that Nour’s life would be “essentially worthless” once he left. As she notes, because he was an honorable man — and a married one — he asked his wife what he ought to do.

     I told him to get her out of the country and bring her here to New York. However, the only way she could have left Iraq was with a family member or husband. Since her family had no intention of going anywhere, Steven was her only recourse, and it would have been perfectly legal for him to convert, marry her, then take her out of Iraq to give her a chance at a real life.
Now that that avenue is closed to her, I have made inquiries to the State Department about the possibility of my sponsoring her in America.

This is a proud and grieving wife. She explains her husband’s work:

     Yes, Steven was aggressive in criticizing what he saw around him and did not like. It’s called courage, and it happens to be a tradition in the history of this country. Without this tradition there would have been no Revolutionary War, no Civil War, no civil rights movement, no a lot of things that America can be proud of. He had made many friends in Iraq, and was afraid for them if the religious fundamentalists were given the country to run under shari’a.

Then she describes what they did and what befell them:

     They were on the front lines, risking all, in an attempt to call attention to the growing storm threatening to overwhelm a fragile and fledgling experiment in democracy, trying to get the world to see that all was not right in Iraq…
And for their efforts, Steven is dead and Nour is recuperating with three bullet wound in her back. Yes, that’s right – the “honorable” men who abducted them, after binding them, holding them captive and beating them, set them free, told them to run – and then shot them both in the back. I’ve seen the autopsy report.

Finally, Steven Vincent’s wife explains his fatal slip:

     He had been in Basra for 3 months under incredibly stressful conditions, working every day, and towards the end enduring heat of 135 degrees, often without air conditioning, which could not have helped his mental condition or judgment. He was yearning to come home, as his emails to me made crystal clear. But on August 2nd, two days before my birthday, he made the fatal mistake of walking one block – one – from his hotel to the money exchange, rather than take a cab, and now will never come back to me.

So. Mystery solved. He was tired and careless. Had he gotten a cab, he wouldn’t have been available to his kidnappers. But he didn’t, and for that he paid with his life. The British have been critical of his carelessness regarding security. Perhaps they were afraid of being blamed for his death? That makes more sense now. Besides there has always been that cautious-Brit/brash-American tension between us. This is just another example.

Here is Lisa Ramaci-Vincent’s final poignant gift from her husband:

     I got a bouquet of flowers from him on August 4th, which he had ordered before he died, and the card said he was sorry to miss my birthday, but the flowers would stand in his stead until he made it home. They are drying now in the kitchen, the final gift from my soulmate.

Read her full account, especially her excoriation of the chickendove, Professor Juan Cole. Ah, the karma that awaits the man. It makes one shiver to consider how the mills of God will eventually grind his fate.

It is good to have the full story, or at least as much of it as the remaining person knows. And while this is not Romeo and Juliet — as I’d first surmised after reading the British press — Mr. Vincent’s story is no less Shakespearean for that. It is one of the tragic histories and his behavior was truly of heroic proportions.

Mr. Vincent died for his friend. He was not Romeo but Mercutio, a loyal, courageous friend.

Tragedy consists of this: the fatal consequences of heroic behavior.

Two Weeks of Blogging Genius

Watcher's CouncilFamily doings, with college-bound kids leaving and preemie granchildren arriving has backed up the Watcher’s Council voting, which deficit is about to be remedied:

In the August 12th vote, The Education Wonks won handily with a delightfully scandalous story about the great Alaskan pork choke. Our neighbors to the north are raking it in every time many of us fill up for gas.

     Don’t pass-up the opportunity to take a look at this very interesting “thank-you” letter written by Alaskan writer Nick Jans. He shows the rest of us just how much largesse that his state is receiving from taxpayers in “donor” states such as Texas, Florida, Michigan, Arizona and California.

The non-Council Winner was a sobering look at how some very fringe-y people think. And act.

The Dawn Patrol’s post on Planned Parenthood’s media campaign must be seen to be believed. It’s a gob-smacking bit of unreality…except you know there are people out there who write this stuff and people who read it. Thanks to Dawn Patrol for being willing to lift up the rocks and report on what she sees. Someone has to do it. Shudder.

Alpha Patriot placed second, writing about the final campaigns of WWII.

     When you go home
Tell them for us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today
— From the book by James Bradley, “Flags Of Our Fathers”, pp 246-7

He and Council member Right Wing Nuthouse posted on similar themes. They are best read together.

Look at everything here, from the man who puts it all together so you can just peruse at your leisure.

The past week’s entries were full of stories about Able Danger. This anchor, tied to Berger’s underwear is eventually going to make him look like the little girl in the suntan lotion ad of years gone by.

Dr. Sanity won first place in the Council match with her clinical assessment:

     it seems to me that if anyone in the Clinton adminsitration knew about Able Danger, it would have been Mr. Berger as National Security Advisor. A revelation that he was behind the decision not to allow military intelligence to pass on information to law enforcement officials about a terror cell that included Atta and other 9/11 murderers provides the first, possibly significant motive for Berger’s bizarre behavior in spring of 2004. It would have to be something sensational like this to have made the Clinton official do something that egregiously antithetical to his professional reputation. His actions in stuffing documents into his clothing were those of a person in a state of panic, or high emotion (e.g. fear).

Lots more Berger business this week, too. Be sure to look.

Iraq the Model had a message for Cindy Sheehan in the non-council section. His post won overwhelmingly. Highly recommended for every American to read.

Get all the goodies from the Watcher here.

An Open Letter to Cindy Sheehan

I had to look up your name since I have avoided your story as much as possible. Not out of a lack of compassion for your sorrow, but rather because of my own fragility and the sorrow I carry for my own dead daughter.

Here’s what I know about your story — and when you think about it, to have learned this much despite not having a TV and making an effort to avoid learning about your odyssey, it’s amazing I know as much as I do.

Your son Casey was a soldier and he died in Iraq. At first, you were able to maintain in the face of this catastrophic loss. I believe you even met with the President at one point? See — even I, with no access to regular media and a real wish to avoid your story, even I know these things. Or maybe what I “know” is some garbled version of what has been going on for you in your public grief.

This is a guess — an educated guess from one mother of a dead child to another — but I think things began to unravel as time went on and the reality of Casey’s complete and total and life-long and irrevocable absence hit your consciousness like a fist sinks into a gut. And the bunched knuckles kept coming back to deliver blow after unending blow.

One picture I happened upon in the grocery store showed you on your knees. I presume it was taken in Crawford since someone who didn’t know me well wanted to discuss your story and said you’d gone to President Bush’s ranch. I remember turning away from your face as you knelt there. Yours was a sorrowful visage, a broken face like the reflection from a fractured mirror. My heart twisted for you even though I barely glanced at the picture.

Your grief has served to polarize others. Some say you’re being used, some dismiss you as “crazy” — and tell me what mother of a dead child isn’t crazy? You’ve been cheated of your son; you walk through the valley of the shadow of death and no one comes to greet you. There will never, ever again be a laughing bear hug from this son grown tall and handsome.

When a husband or wife dies, we call the surviving partner the widow or widower. Why do you think it is that there is no one word to describe our condition, Cindy? Mother-of-a-dead-child is the best we can do? The lack of a name gives you some inkling how much our culture avoids the knowledge of this sorrow. If we named it we’d have some power over it. But the condition you and I share is unnamed because since time immemorial parents have dreaded this loss. It is the worst. There is nothing else that can be done to us. A motherless child is a pitiful creature and carries a life-long emptiness he or she tries to fill with other grown-ups. A childless mother is a crazy person and nothing can fill the hole, not if she had a baby a year for the rest of her life.

Do you have other children? I have three. And when people ask me, pleasantly, “how many children do you have?” I look at them blankly. It is all I can do to not to run screaming from the room.

Here is where I liken my experience to what is happening to you: after Shelagh’s sudden death, after the Rescue Squad carried her off and I watched them disappear down the drive, after the Medical Examiner returned her body to us, there was lots to do. The first morning I awoke I heard her say distinctly, laughing, “Mom, welcome to the first day of the rest of your life without me.” I think she was trying to make it easier in her Shelagh way.

There was so much to do. Her children needed clothing for the funeral, there were burial arrangements to make, a minister to call, family visitation to be arranged, a burial service to be created. So many, many people to notify. Elderly grandparents and a large contingent of Irish relatives to talk to and arrange for flights. As the days passed, I thought to myself “I can do this. I can just keep having this whole thing to organize and plan and I’ll be okay. As long as I never have to bury her, I’ll be fine.” Yes, this is crazy thinking. Even then, I vaguely knew that.

ShelaghWhen her body arrived back from the Medical Examiner’s one of her brothers and I wrapped her in a winding sheet. Shelagh could never decide among Catholicism, Judaism, and a local bikers’ church for misfits. So she went to all three. We wrapped her in linen with a small cross embroidered on one end. A priest came to anoint her with oil. Her therapist came very early in the morning and left a small token of their work together, a secret symbol between them (though I knew what it meant). I gave Shelagh some of the lily of the valley left in the garden and her grandmother gave her a rosary. Her children gave her stuffed animals and drawings. She left the room shrouded in fair linen and surrounded by those things we knew she’d loved. The next day she was buried after a funeral in the bikers’ church. Later everyone said it was the most joyful funeral they’d ever been to.

After she was buried, I went back to the church to pay the minister before going on to the hotel to visit with my former in-laws, her father’s family. As I walked into the rest room there, I saw the trash can overflowing with the paper programs from Shelagh’s service. Immediately, I heard my daughter’s laughing voice exclaiming, “Mommm! Don’t these people realize I’m immortal?” She seemed amused and offended at the same time. In an automatic gesture of soothing her, I bent down to pat the overflowing papers… see, we are crazy.

Let me tell you the most important thing, Cindy: none of this matters. Not one piece of it. The only important part, the only piece with any real existence is Casey’s death. He is as gone as though he never existed. And you are so filled with sorrow and grieving you do not see how you will ever turn back from this road of vengeful crying out like some prophet who has wandered in from the desert.

Perhaps you never will. Not all of us come back, and certainly none of us return as the people we were before our child died. We are some other person, a stranger even to ourselves sometimes. But you will be less afraid of death yourself. Your son has gone before you, and that is harder than our own passing. Much, much harder. The lump in your throat will probably never disappear either.

As you’ve no doubt discovered by now, men and women handle their griefs very differently. Shelagh’s father and I split the cost of her funeral. I paid for everything else and he did the flowers (I’m afraid I said “f*** the flowers” — in my mind she had her beloved lily of the valley and what else was necessary or even good?) and he also paid for the burial plot.

Well. When you own a burial plot it is you who decides what headstone will go there. And if you decide there will be no headstone, then no headstone it is. So my beloved Shelagh, despite our entreaties, lies in an unmarked grave and I cannot bear to go visit where she lies there because of that.

For a long time, I considered her father’s behavior simply cruel and evil, but having had these two years to contemplate such a bizarre thing, I have come to think that perhaps it is his way of not having to face her death. No headstone? No dead daughter. It makes a crazy kind of sense, doesn’t it? Anyway, one day her brother called me and said he had a message from his sister. In a perfect imitation of her tossed-off wit, he said that Shelagh had told him, “Tell Mom not to worry about it. I always lived in substandard housing anyway.” It was so exactly her voice and humor that I started laughing. I still smile when I think of it.

For a long time, too, I hated time passing. Each day carried me further downstream away from Shelagh. I resented each holiday, each special occasion, things she would have wanted to be there for — as when, several weeks after her death her youngest brother had his Eagle Scout ceremony. Now, after several years, I have rearranged the furniture of seasonal celebrations. We do different things so that the hole where Shelagh is supposed to be doesn’t show so plainly.

Other bereaved parents tell me that your child will visit you. Some special “thing” you had together. That hasn’t happened for me yet, though the day she died we had terrific tornadoes and blackened skies. They were a greenish-black and the clouds moved with incredible speed over the green fields of May. One thing that does happen to me, like an emotional ‘twitch’ is that when I see a date written down, I automatically parse it: the date is either when Shelagh was alive or it is A.S. — After Shelagh. And the date of her death is like a gong…May 8th, 2003, May 8th, 2003, May 8th, 2003….

I don’t know what kind of hell your loss is creating, Cindy, and I can’t pretend to offer any solace. There simply isn’t any. Some things are unbearable and this is one. Nor will I suggest that you be brave. To hell with being brave. Wail until you can’t make another sound. Then sing this. It was one she used to have her brother play on his guitar:

     You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

In the end, Cindy, we are all stripped bare — nothing we have really belongs to us. In particular, we don’t have our children. Much as we cherish them, they belong to themselves and they belong to God. If you can open your hands and place them together in prayer, rather than bunching them in fists of rage, then you can let Casey go home… just let go.

If you don’t, then Casey can’t come back to you.

With my thoughts and my prayers for all of you who loved Casey,


The Truth Project

A new blog worth looking at is The Truth Project, whose mission is “Promoting the Dissemination of the Truth about Islam”. It posts quotes from Muslims with quotes from kaffirs for comparison. My favorite Muslim quote:

     Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faiths, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.
-Omar Ahmad, Co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

It doesn’t get any clearer than that, does it?

Gates of Vienna recommends a look at the Truth Project.

You Have to Live Like a Refugee

The inimitable James Lileks, in his most recent Screedblog, discusses the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip:

     Perhaps it was a waste of resources to defend 8500 settlers living next to 1.5 million Muslim refugees; unfortunately you can’t give up the land without the sweet lads at Hamas claiming victory and wishing to press their momentum. [emphasis added]

In a sign of how entrenched the Leftist “narrative” of the Palestinian conflict has become, Mr. Lileks uses the word “refugees” to describe the non-Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip. One presumes his use of the word is careless; after all, his position on the Palestinian issue is well-known, and very clear in this particular essay.

How did the children and grandchildren of the Arab residents of the British Mandate of Palestine come to be called refugees? Their ancestors were residents of the Mandate before 1949, and then residents of Egypt or Jordan until 1967. Since that war of Arab aggression, they and their descendants have been residents of the “occupied territories”, left in a limbo created by the intransigence of the Palestinian Authority and the cynical refusal of their Arab neighbors to accept them as residents and citizens.

So now they are all “refugees”, as will be their descendants in perpetuity, until, presumably, they become the joyous citizens of a new Palestine when the Zionist colonizers are finally driven into the sea…?

 The Death of Wolfe by Benjamin West, 1770 (National Gallery of Canada at Ottawa)Given this definition of “refugee”, as concocted by Islamist irredentists and their usefully idiotic Leftist fellow travelers in the West, it is high time to recognize other groups which deserve the same rights as the suffering Palestinians. We will begin with the Acadians of Louisiana, commonly known as “Cajuns”. Their French ancestors were forced out of Nova Scotia and parts of New Brunswick by the British after the end of the Seven Years’ War (known in North America as the French and Indian War, a war of French aggression). A number of them migrated south and settled in Louisiana, which was still French territory at that time. When Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803, they were once again subjected to the brutal rule of the Anglo-Saxons.

I call for the right of return for the Cajuns, that they might re-occupy their ancestral homes in Moncton and St. John and Halifax and Prince Edward Island, and drive the hated English colonizers into the sea!

Then there are the Tories who fled the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution, grabbing anything that could be piled onto a wagon and hurrying to Ontario or Quebec to escape the oppression of their Yankee overlords. When will their great-great-great-great grandchildren gain the right to return to Manhattan and claim their rightful properties?

Or how about the Germans who, after the War of Nazi Aggression, were deported from their homes in Königsburg in 1945 by the Red Army and resettled in the rump state of Germany? Now that the Soviet Union has attained its well-earned place in the trash compactor of history, the rightful heirs of the East Prussia should be able to return to Kaliningrad, drive their Slavic oppressors into the Baltic, and resume their status as Junker landowners.

The list goes on and on — Lapps, Finns, Basques, Welsh, Poles, Irish… Forget the Irish, what about the Fir Bolg who preceded the Celts in Ireland? When will they gain the right to evict their vicious oppressors? The Etruscans. The Minoans. The Assyrians. The Paleolithic inhabitants of North America who were driven off their land by the “Native Americans” who arrived from Siberia.

The case can be made that we are all refugees, and have the right to return to the places from which we were wrongfully ejected.

As a matter of fact, my great-great grandfather fought for the Confederacy during the War of Northern Aggression. He returned in 1865 to his plantation between Richmond and Petersburg to find that it had been burned out by Union troops, and his family had fled to Richmond. Forced into penury as a result, he and his wife were reduced to the position of running a boarding house.

I claim for myself and the future Baron the right of return to that idyllic and hallowed ground in Colonial Heights, and I look forward to the day when we drive the evil Yankee occupiers into the James River.

Baghdad: Little Russia

A naturalized Canadian citizen who returned to his native Iraq six months ago was kidnapped on August 2nd in Baghdad and killed two days later. His captors used the victim’s own cell phone to demand $250,000.00 from his family for his release. When it was not forthcoming they shot Zaid Meerwali and dumped his body.

Meerwalli was a Shia Muslim who left Iraq in the ’90s and settled in Canada. His brother described him as a “trader” and said that Meerwali had married since his return to Baghdad. Claiming that his brother wanted only to help rebuild his native country, Munir Meerwali went on to say that his brother was targeted because he was a Canadian.

That’s disingenuous at best. Mr. Meerwali was targeted because he was wealthy and it was a good opportunity to make a quick killing on an easy target.

His grieving brother was closer to the truth when he described the process in Iraq for new arrivals:

They go only for certain kinds of people — doctors, engineers — people they come from outside usually, and those guys they have connections.”
He said that whenever a foreign professional arrives in Iraq, kidnappers are notified through a network of informers placed at airports, borders and telephone companies.
“Anybody come, they call those people in these places. They call the people in the intelligence, so they follow him until the right time and they kidnap him.”

That’s closer to the truth. Mr. Meerwali was killed because he prospered and because Iraq does not operate under the rule of law. It may be a long, dangerous slog to reach that goal, too.

As the paper noted, more than two hundred foreigners have been kidnapped. It does not say whether ransom was involved in all of them or if some were simply infidel killlings. It also does not mention the large number of native professionals –doctors, lawyers, etc., — who have been kidnapped and held for ransom. Many such men now hire bodyguards to prevent being taken.

This is just one of the booming businesses in a brutal land. The legacy of Mohammed lives on.

Those who are struggling against the corruption and thuggery are courageous to simply keep on keeping on. This poor, benighted country has had more than its share of sorrows.

It is fortunate for them that their culture frowns on alcohol consumption. Otherwise, they might be like the Russians, dying of alcoholism at an ever-increasing rate as the gangsters make life there not worth living. Or at least not worth living sober.

The next time someone complains about this country, suggest they consider emigration to a friendlier, safer clime. Say, Russia, perhaps. Or Cuba. Or Haiti. Or France, for that matter. There is nothing like living elsewhere for awhile to open your eyes to the niggardly size of our problems compared to most others. Not all, mind you — there are a few spots left in the Anglosphere where you might feel safe.

Count them on one hand and have some fingers left to count your blessings.

The Boys From Pluto

The world with which the London bombers identify is neither their parents’ culture nor that of their home countries. This tertium quid they have devised, this generational chasm, is one of the reasons the perpetrators of 7/7 could make their plans in the midst of their families with no one the wiser. The parents, stunned, simply call it brainwashing. If only it were that simple. Here’s the profile — what they are, what they are not — taken from Homegrown Terror:

**These are young people who have broken mentally with their backgrounds, even if they are often relatively well integrated in social and economic terms.

**Contemporary terrorists are jihadists, since they have opted from the outset for armed struggle – a struggle that has taken over the targets of the far left in the 1970s, such as US imperialism.

**[They are] both Salafist and jihadist. Salafists seek to purge Islam of all outside influences, starting with the cultures and traditions of Muslim societies, and restore it to the letter of the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet.Salafism is fundamentally opposed to all cultural or national forms of Islam.

**These radicals are not fighting for a specific national cause. They are part of the contemporary global jihad: Bosnia, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir and now Iraq.

**Their enemy is the US and the West in general. They are not fighting to establish an Islamic state in Iraq or Palestine.

**They are not concerned with solidarity networks or fundraising; nor are they involved in the conflicts and practical problems of Muslim populations in Europe.

**None of them is known to have been active in Muslim trade union, political or communal organisations.

**Those who have attended mosques have often done so under the patronage of fundamentalist organisations, such as Jama’at ut-Tabligh, which do not advocate political action.

** The young second-generation Muslims radicalised in the run-down suburbs and inner-city slums of Europe are motivated by their own situation, not Iraq. They have not been sent to fight somewhere: they fight where they live and where most of them were born.

These are different boys than we thought. This second-generation of al-Qaida has global intetions. Their vision of The New World Order is not atttached to anything we have share. These new warriors are not tied to love of a people, a place, or the desire for freedom. Above all that, these are Salafi jihadists. It would be hard to say which part of that term is primary.

The the rest of us are from Mars and Venus, preaching either the need for war or for love as a response to aggression. These boys are from Pluto, the farthest planet (usually) in the solar system. Pluto was the god of Hades and he is who they worship, whether they know it or not. Their belief is a logical extension of Marxism, caricatured and twisted into a cruel post-modern posture that only a deconstructionist could love.

What grotesquery Marx foisted on the world. And now, London, where he concocted his theories, is merely the latest victim of his diabolical ideas. Most certainly it is not the last.

Uleashing the Dogs of Immigration

“Calling President Bush, calling President Bush…the Hispanic vote is moot now. Time to protect the citizens (please read your oath of office, sir)…Karl Rove was right until he was wrong, sir, which is now….”

     Governor Bill Richardson on Friday declared an emergency in four New Mexico counties along the border, an action that lets him free up money to be spent on everything from fighting drug smuggling to fencing a livestock yard.
The executive order, issued after Richardson toured the area around Columbus, makes $750,000 immediately available to Dona Ana, Luna, Grant and Hidalgo counties. He pledged an additional $1 million.
The money will aid state and area law enforcement efforts, fund a field office for the state Office of Homeland Security and help build a fence to protect a Columbus-area livestock yard where a number of cattle have been killed or stolen.

Well, thank you Governor Richardson. Checkmate. Now let’s see if the federales will be permitted to do their job — that is if Bush would just give them the go ahead. Perhaps, Governor, your judo move will unleash the dogs of immigration.

It would be the most horrific of legacies if Bush is left with his honorable response to 9/11 being overshadowed by his lack of attention to the terrible conditions on our southern border.

Is this genetic? George the First did a bang-up job on the First Gulf War only to pull back from the denouement, leaving the world saddled with Saddam for all those tortuous years and putting our pilots in danger with those interminable flyovers. GHW Bush will have some questions to answer when posterity ascends to the Judgment Bench. Meanwhile, please do not let it be George the Second’s legacy to have led us through the horror of 9/11 only to founder in the deserts of New Mexico and Texas.

God watches over fools, drunkards, and the United States of America, but surely we’re pushing it.

Hat tip: VDare

See You Next Year in Jerusalem

There are more than two opposed ideas about the Gaza Strip closing — actually there are probably as many variations on this theme as there are Jews to tell them. The two positions presented here are sensible; they do not agree so much as they dovetail with on another. Each has a good case to make.

The first position says that removing the Jewish settlers is wrong and will lead to further trouble. The second point of view says, no, the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is proof positive of Israel’s bona fides in the “peace” “process” or whatever it is you care to term the attempts at bringing down the temperature in the Israeli-Palestinian conflagration.

Hugh Fitzgerald, the vice president of Jihad Watch sees the closing of the settlements in Gaza as both unlawful and immoral:

     Israel’s destruction of its own villages, some of which long predate the existence of Israel as a state, and all of which are on land which, by the terms of the League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine, were part of the tiny territory assigned for the sole purpose of the establishment of a Jewish National Home, is nothing less than geopolitical and moral idiocy. (The Mandate’s Preamble states that the Mandatory authority, Great Britain, had to “encourage close Jewish settlement on the land.”)

He compares Israel’s occupation with other incorporations in times not too long past — including the eventually successful French claim to Alsace-Lorraine and the United States’ acquistion of California. As he points out, Israel was victorious in the Six-Day War. He’s right, too — that was a war Israel neither wanted nor started. The smug, supremacist Arabs thought they had a cakewalk going in. What they did, however, was to change the perceptions of the rest of the world about who was the paper tiger in the Middle East and who was the real panther in the flesh. But now, Israel, in order to appease, is leaving what is rightfully theirs:

     Sharon had an idea. Now the idea has him. He thought that in order to pre-empt pressure from the E.U. and others, he would simply, unilaterally, get out of Gaza. He failed to change course even though it was clear that the Europeans themselves were coming to a new understanding of what Islam, what the Jihad, is all about. And what is still worse, he never made Israel’s case. He never explained, nor did the Israeli Foreign Ministry, that Israel had a perfect right to remain in those villages.

Fitzgerald doesn’t call it a “teachable moment” but that is what he is describing when he points out the lost opportunity here:

     It was a moment to tell people that these villages were built entirely on sand — on sand that was owned first by the Ottomans, and then by the Mandatory authority, and then by the successor state, Israel, which has the strongest legal, historic, and moral claims. But Sharon, and the helpless, hopeless, Israeli leaders never made any of this clear.

The mess has been made, so what kind of clean-up and salvage does Mr. Fitzgerald envision?

     There is only one way to retrieve some small victory out of this self-inflicted defeat. It is for the Infidel world to do nothing to disguise what goes on in Gaza… That is to not help conceal in any way the “Palestinians” as they shriek with joy, ululate with orgasmic pleasure, over the remains of those tidy houses and orchards, which they themselves have never managed to create anywhere in the lands that they have controlled.

Here’s what the light should shine on

     The chaos and the shooting in the air, the whole mess — let it be exposed. No Infidel aid. No infusions of money from American taxpayers to people who hate, and have been instructed to hate, and hate, all Infidels — “the Jews and the Americans” and everyone else who is not Arab and Muslim.

In other words, accept the inevitable and make sure the results are reported in signficant and detailed accounts to the West. This is a fine idea.Further, the Christian churches so eager to “dis-invest” from Israel can give aid to the Palestinian “victims.” The churches had better not hope for an accounting of their aid funds, however. That’s not how Hamas operates.

The other view, from a long account on Norm’s Blog, is that of Linda Grant. She has been on the ground in Israel for some time, doing her research for a forthcoming book. Ms. Grant is knowledgeable about Israel’s far Left, and found them firm in their conviction that the whole idea was a hoax. They were sure the withdrawal would never happen. Writing before the gates closed, she said:

     On Sunday the army is expected to arrive at the remaining settlements, as part of a deployment of 55,000 troops and police … and those who plan to practise non-violent resistance will be led in handcuffs from their homes. There is only so long the recalcitrant can stay.

They expect violence from the small far-Right parties, who may try to take on the Army. It is not expected that the resistance will last.

Ms. Grant says that this last gasp is predictable. When she was in Gush Katif (part of Gaza) it seemed apparent to her that the majority would go while a sizeable minority would be carried out kicking and screaming and a very few might dangerously resist. However what she noted was the response last Autumn of the far Left. It was disdainful dismissal:

     ‘You don’t believe,’ they said to me scornfully, ‘that the disengagement is actually going to happen, do you? You poor deluded tourist, we know the government. Don’t believe a word of what they say.’

They were certain, as rock-hard certain as Leftists tend to be about matters their absolutes. In other words, there is no room for entertainment of an opposite possibility.

     The Israeli far left were certain no disengagement from Gaza could take place. A blog, updated regularly until May of this year, collected articles amassing the evidence that the Gaza disengagement was a hoax – a conspiracy hatched during the period when Sharon was under investigation for corruption during the Greek Island Affair, or to divert attention away from the ICJ’s ruling on the fence. It would be quietly dropped or indefinitely delayed. But it would never happen. And if by any chance it did, it would be derailed by civil war.

There is some kind of intellectual comfort in knowing that the extremes in any culture deal in paranoia as a way to devalue whatever causes dissonance in their world view. These people sound much like our very own moonbats, don’t they?

Since the settlers didn’t want to go, they made their alliance with the far Left. The settlers were convinced that the will of God and the “better instincts” of their fellow Israelis would provide a way out of the closure of the Gaza strip.

As Ms Grant observes, both factions were living in a dream world. It was not a world which allowed them to gauge realistically the mood of the rest of the country or the commitment of their government to get on with it. As she says, both were “impervious to reason,” even if for different reasons. She describes the emotional climate in the lead up to the locking of the gates to Gaza:

     The settlers believe that God gave them the land in perpetuity and would not permit it to be removed. The far left thought that Zionism was a colonial expansionist movement that would not give up an inch of what it regarded as eretz-Israel, the Promised Land. Not only would it not give up any land, its intention was to acquire more.

These residents of LaLa Land are impervious, believing the Iraq war to be simply a diversion so that Palestinians could be removed forcibly from the West Bank and shipped to Jordan while the world’s press was looking the other way. Not only that, but this current withdrawal is just a pretext, a cover for the massacre to be perpetrated in Gaza. As Ms. Grant notes—

     conspiracy theory is no substitute for a proper analysis. We do not have to applaud Sharon’s actions or intentions, we merely need to understand what exactly they are…It was…stated clearly from the outset that the Gaza disengagement was part of an overall plan to defuse what was seen as the demographic time bomb, a future in which Jews would be a minority of the population, between the Jordan and the sea.
It should now be obvious that the function of the fence was to construct a de facto border, behind which would be a Palestinian state smaller and more fragmented even than in the offer made by Ehud Barak at Camp David.
It suits the purposes of Sharon for Gaza to sink quickly into anarchy, for Hamas to rise, for it to become another failed Islamic state, without even the dignity of statehood. Then he will be able to say to the international community, ‘See? How can you do business with these people? They’re barbarim’ – barbarians.
We should not mistake Sharon’s plans for anything other than what they are: realpolitik – the scheme of a master tactician intent on political survival. The Sharon vision is that of disconnected, powerless bantustans.

Grant seems to think that the true significance of the Gaza withdrawal lies in a reality that is seldom discussed here:

     …that both a government and the rest of the Israeli population are at long last prepared to stand up to the power and arrogance of the settler movement who have sought to substitute eretz Israel, the land of Israel, for the state of Israel.

And what is the distinction? It is the difference between theocracy —living under a Jewish version of Shar’ia Law — and a democratic, secular state:

     The Israeli public backs the disengagement, and so do the majority of Jews in the Diaspora – the Greater Israel movement is effectively dead as any significant force in Israeli society, one with a future. They have lost the argument and are losing the war.
Dror Etkes of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch [said]:
…Let’s not fool ourselves: there will still be missiles, there will be a long war of attrition after the withdrawal. It will turn Gaza into a prison, yes, but one with fewer guards, a bit less friction, a bit less blood, and a first and a not-even-third world economy a metre away from each other. It will still be hell for the Palestinians, just a slightly sweeter hell. But the withdrawal is a necessary precondition to ignite the end of the conflict and the beginning of reconciliation. Its cardinal advantage is the introduction of history, of real political considerations. [Italics LG’s.] The majority of Israelis are terrified, traumatised people seeking to reach normality and, as in any other society, they are far from being equipped with a good political memory or able to assume real responsibility for democracy.

So now begins the struggle for the future. It is a struggle which engages all of us. Mr. Fitzgerald thinks it can bring only failure unless we keep the spotlights on over Gaza. Ms. Grant thinks it’s a good opportunity to have a truly secular state.

Time will tell which analysis is the correct one. Or perhaps they both are, with Ms. Grant’s having a more optimistic outcome.

We Americans find it hard to ‘wait and see.’ The Israelis have been playing some tense and traumatic version of this tune since 1948.

Romeo and Juliet, Muslim Style

Romeo and JulietFrom Barcepundit to Dhimmi Watch to The Scotsman, we rewind the film to ascertain the real motive for the murder of Stephen Vincent.

And I hate to say this, I hate it ….because I didn’t have the courage of my convictions when I read of his death. Some little nugget of intuition said “this is about the woman, this is about the woman…” But I ignored what I knew at a visceral level because there was no information. I know; I looked. It was hard to even get her name. It was infuriating that she might die without a name.

     An American journalist who was shot dead in Basra last week was executed by Shiite extremists who knew he was intending to marry his Muslim interpreter, it has emerged.
Steven Vincent was shot a week before the planned wedding to Nouriya Itais and had already delivered a $2,500 dowry to her family.
     In America, his death was taken as retribution for his article. But in London yesterday, British officials pointed out that the police in Basra believed it was retribution for his affair.
“We warned him to look after his security in a more professional manner than he was doing,” said the official.
The couple were found by Iraqi police after being shot by their captors. Medics managed to save Ms Itais.

So what does “looking after his security in a more professional manner” mean, precisely? That he should’ve spirited Ms. Itais out of the country before marrying her? Probably so. He must have known the penalty for a kaffir marrying a Muslim. Surely he did?

Stephen Vincent was knowledgeable about Islam and about Muslim customs. He knew Iraq. But he was led by his heart and it got him killed.

As they say, follow the money — in this case right to the dowry. But first, follow your heart. Turns out mine was right. Dammit.

Don’t you wonder now if her family was complicit in this? My intution tells me thay had the $2,500.00. Were they willing to lose a daughter?

Yeah…follow the money and trust your gut.

Two more questions: what do you think Ms. Itais is doing right now? Shakespeare killed her off but the Iraqis let her live. Do you think they are letting her live in peace?