Friday, May 26, 2017

When a Sitting US President Threatened a Journalist: "Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens, you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"


This is a fairly well-known story. It's one of those "Give 'em hell, Harry!" anecdotes about that Democrat icon. A few years ago, the original letter was offered by Christie's auction house at an expected price of up to $100,000. (I'm not sure what it actually sold for.)

Obviously, comparisons with the recent Greg Gianforte "body slam" come to mind.

Gianforte was elected as a Montana representative to Congress last night, despite credible allegations that he had violently shoved a Guardian reporter, a few days before. It's arguable that his physical show of temper didn't hurt him with the voters and may have actually slightly helped him.

A few points.
  • It's wrong for politicians to physically attack journalists. (This is virtue signaling on my part.)
  • President Harry Truman didn't actually physically attack anyone. He merely threatened to.
  • He was defending (to him) the honor of his daughter, not merely expressing frustration at an annoying reporter sticking a microphone into his face at a campaign event.
  • Still, Truman threatened to do much more to his target than merely break his glasses.
  • The Washington Post decided not to publish Truman's aggressive letter. Imagine what the Post would do today if Trump has written such a missive.
  • Years later the story would have a happy and even heart-warming ending. Note the classy responses of the journalist and Margaret Truman (at the time) and Harry Truman (years later).
  • It's neither here nor there, I suppose, but the threatened critic was an expert on Catholic liturgical music.
The Obituary of Paul Hume, published by the Daily Telegraph, November 28, 2001:
Critic who made Harry Truman fume dies at 85
By Stephen Robinson in Washington
A LINE has been drawn under a famous episode in American presidential folklore with the death of a mild-mannered music reviewer once threatened with serious physical injury by President Harry Truman.
Paul Hume, The Washington Post's music critic, wrote a gently damning review of the singing of Margaret Truman, the president's daughter, at a 1950 Washington recital.
"Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality," Hume wrote of the performance.
"She is extremely attractive on stage, yet Miss Truman cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time. . ."
Truman was livid and fired off a letter, branding Hume "an eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay". Then he added: "Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens, you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"
Truman was prone to what his staff referred to as "longhand spasms" when he would fire off unpresidential letters to settle scores with his adversaries.
Hume took it in good heart and The Washington Post decided not to publish the letter or report the president's outburst. But Hume mentioned it to a colleague on the Washington News and the episode was made public.
Hume, however, showed considerable grace under fire, regarding it as no great sin for a father to be over-protective of his daughter and blamed himself for telling a colleague about the letter.
Margaret Truman was equally forgiving. "Mr Hume is a very fine critic," she said. "He has a right to write as he pleases."
She subsequently gave up her singing career and achieved some success as a writer of murder mysteries set in Washington DC.
Some years later, when visiting Missouri, Truman's home state, Hume looked up the retired resident. Truman was delighted to see his old enemy and played the piano for him in his office before joining Hume at a concert.
Hume, an authority on Catholic church music and the works of Verdi, was The Washington Post's music critic for 35 years until his retirement in 1982. He died in Baltimore on Monday, aged 85.

Muslim Gunmen Attack Bus Carrying Coptic Christians - At Least 28 Dead, Including Children


Ramadan - a "holy" period that usually brings with it increased levels of Muslim violence - started today. 

From the Daily Mail:
Masked gunmen attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians on a visit to a monastery south of the Egyptian capital on Friday, killing at least 26 people including many children, officials said. 
The assailants in three pick-up trucks attacked the bus as it carried visitors to the Saint Samuel monastery in Minya province, more than 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Cairo, before fleeing, the interior ministry said. 
It was the latest attack on Copts after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists bombed three churches in December and April, killing dozens of Christians. 
Pictures of the bus aired by state television showed the vehicle riddled with machine-gun fire and its windows shot out. 
State television quoted a health ministry official as saying a "large number" of the victims were children. 
"They used automatic weapons," Minya governor Essam el-Bedawi told state television. 
Bedawi said police were fanning out along the road where the attack took place and had set up checkpoints. 
Health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said 26 people were killed and another 25 wounded.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Insanity: New Evidence Shows Theresa May FACILITATED Suicide Bomber's Links with Terrorist Groups in Libya

Hashem Abedi, the younger brother of the suicide bomber, posing in Libya. His father posted this picture on his Facebook page, which also contained pro-Al Nusra front (the Libyan arm of Al Qaeda) exhortations. Underneath the photo, he wrote, "Victorious against the infidels...say, Amen!"

It has emerged that MI5 had an "open door" policy for known Libyan extremists living in Britain to travel to Libya to fight in the rebellion to depose Muammar Gaddafi. They were also allowed to return with "no questions asked." Some of them had been under house arrest in the UK.

Most of the extremists would end up fighting with Al Qaeda or other militant groups, some of which morphed into the Libyan ISIS contingent a few years later.

The family of the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, seems to have been part of this program. Source in Libya claim that the father had long been associated with an anti-Gadaffi group linked to Al Qaeda.

All members of the family continued to be allowed to travel back and forth from the UK to Libya. (The bomber would also travel from there to other parts of the Middle-East, including ISIS controlled Syria). One source claims that the bomber had returned from Libya only days before his attack.

MI5 reports to the Home Secretary, who, during the time of the Libyan rebellion, was Theresa May.

At the same time, May was imposing a permanent ban on the American "Islamophobes" Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller from entering Britain.

Theresa May should immediately resign.

The following article from today's Daily Mail details the behavior of the British security services under Home Secretary and now Prime Minister, Theresa May, behavior which can only be labeled insane. The last part of it also reports on phone calls between Gaddafi and then ex-prime minister Tony Blair: "Colonel Gaddafi warned Tony Blair that if he was removed from power Islamic extremists would take over Libya with the ultimate goal of conquering Europe."
Rebels living in England claim UK government let them travel to Libya to fight Gaddafi - even though they were subject to counter-terrorism orders - as investigators probe Abedi's visits to Tripoli
  • Former fighters including Libyan exiles and British-Libyan residents described how MI5 'sorted' their travel
  • British government is said to have adopted an 'open door' policy for fighters willing to travel to fight Gaddafi
  • Comes as Home Secretary Amber Rudd admitted authorities knew of the Manchester bomber Salman Abedi
  • Those who travelled fought alongside Islamic militants despite being subject travel bans for posing a threat
Rebels living in England have claimed the UK Government waived travel bans to let them fight Colonel Gaddafi in Libya as investigators probe the Manchester bomber's visits to Tripoli.
Fighters which included Libyan exiles and British-Libyan residents have described how MI5 operated an open door policy for those willing to travel to North Africa to topple the dictator.
It comes as Home Secretary Amber Rudd admitted Salman Abedi, who killed 22 and injured at least 119 people when he blew himself up at Manchester Arena, was known to counter-terror authorities.
Those who travelled to Libya to fight alongside Islamic rebel groups have described how, even though they were subject to counter-terror orders banning them from leaving their homes because they posed a security threat, they were allowed to travel to the hostile warzone.
When they returned to the UK, having spent months alongside groups thought by British intelligence to have links with Al-Qaeda, rebels were said to have been allowed back into the country without hesitation.
Libyan officials have backed up the claims, saying the British government were 'fully aware' of young men being sent to fight, turning the North African country into an 'exporter of terror'.
Abedi's father Ramadan and younger brother Hashem were in custody in Libya last night after being arrested by counter-terror police a day after elder brother Ismail, 23, was detained in Manchester.
Detectives said Hashem had links to ISIS and was planning to carry out a terror attack in Tripoli.
Hashem was accused of having known about his brother's murderous plans for more than a month, while it emerged his father had been a revolutionary fighter against Gaddafi who publicly voiced support for an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria.
In the wake of Monday night's atrocity, former rebel fighters have talked of how easily they were able to slip free from their travel bans and leap into battle.
Sources, some of whom met Abedi and described him as a hothead, told the Middle Eastern Eye claim these trips were facilitated by the British government, something the Home Office said it could not comment on when contacted by MailOnline.
One Brit who travelled to Libya despite being on house arrest over fears he would join militant groups in Iraq expressed his surprise at being given the green light.
'I was allowed to go, no questions asked,' the source told MEE.
He described how he fought alongside people from Manchester and London as well as local rebels from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which descended from a group of Islamist militants thought to have links with Al-Qaeda, according to MI5.
Another British fighter told how he was stopped entering the UK having visited Libya in 2011, but when he told them the name of the MI5 officer he had talked to about fighting in the war-torn country, he was allowed to board the plane and said the security services had 'sorted it'.
The bulk of the fighters, described to be in their late teens or early 20s, flew to Tunisia before crossing the border while others went via Malta.
'The whole Libyan diaspora were out there fighting alongside the rebel groups,' another source told MEE.
One source said he met Abedi at their local mosque in Didsbury, and another said he was a 'hot head' with a reputation for involvement in petty crime.
A statement from the rival interim government in Beida, Eastern Libya, and separate to the Government of National Accord in Tripoli appeared to back up the sources' reports.
It said: 'The Libyan government denounces the terror attack that occurred in Manchester.
'This cowardly attack was an imminent result of terrorist groups' actions that have been operating for decades in the UK.
'That includes the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which has been recruiting Libyan and Muslim youth in the UK and Europe and sending them to Libya and other countries to deliver terrorism and death with the prior knowledge of the British government which provided a safe haven.
'These groups have been destroying our cities and towns in an attempt to shape Libya into an exporter of terror to the whole planet.
'Whilst British officials are fully aware of what the legitimate government of Libya and the Libyan National Army are conducting in fighting and combating these organisations and the terrorist militias they harbour, they insist deliberately to support these groups and encourage them to operate and attempt to control the Libyan people and their resources.
'It is now crucial and imperative for all countries to establish and begin fighting terrorists and their financers through a clear partnership that the Libyan government is willing and ready to participate in.'
Last night, attention focused on how the bomber had been allowed to slip through the net. Key warnings about his descent into jihadism were apparently overlooked.
Yesterday it was alleged that two calls about his conduct had been made to a police anti-terror hotline and that his family had repeatedly raised concerns he was 'dangerous'.
It was also claimed the university drop-out had travelled extensively in the Middle East and received terror training in Syria and that he returned to the UK from Libya just days before the attack.
Meanwhile, the bomber's father Ramadan Abedi was arrested yesterday outside his home in a suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli.
A witness said the 51-year-old, who had earlier insisted his son was innocent of the Manchester bombing, was handcuffed by armed men and whisked away. An official did not explain why he was arrested.
Earlier he had claimed his son seemed 'normal' when they last spoke five days ago and insisted: 'We don't believe in killing innocents.'
A former Libyan security official Abdel-Basit Haroun said Ramadan, a former airport security worker, was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s. The group had links to Al-Qaeda.
Although the LIFG disbanded, Haroun said the father belongs to the Salafi Jihadi movement, the most extreme sect of Salafism and from which Al-Qaeda and ISIS hail.
He once worked for the Gaddafi regime's security apparatus before turning towards hardline Islam: one of his associates once ran a group called the Islamic Martyrs' Movement.
He had also publicly voiced his support for an extremist group fighting in Syria. He posted photos of soldiers clad in black uniforms from the Al-Nusra Front, which was the official Syrian branch of al Qaeda until it broke up last July, on his Facebook page five years ago.
Underneath the photo, he wrote: 'Victorious against the infidels...say Amen!'
Ramadan, a former airport security worker in the UK, also published a picture of Hashem holding a machine gun while wearing a Nike t-shirt and combat trousers. Underneath the picture he write: 'The lion Hashem... is training'.
Ramadan fled Tripoli in 1993 after Moammar Gadhafi's security authorities issued an arrest warrant and eventually sought political asylum in Britain.
Colonel Gaddafi warned Tony Blair that if he was removed from power Islamic extremists would take over Libya with the ultimate goal of conquering Europe.
Newly released transcripts of 2011 phone calls between the pair reveal the ousted Libyan leader's anxieties about the growing influence Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were having in Africa and the Middle East.
He warned jihadis were already wreaking havoc in the North African state despite his governance - and that if he was to be toppled it would pave the way for the rise of an Islamic State that would open the doors to a deluge of migrants heading for mainland Europe.
Blair contacted the dictator and urged him to flee for a 'safe place' in two calls on February 25 2011, eight months before he was beaten to death after being found in a sewer.
Transcripts of the conversations were published for the first time yesterday and MPs said the dictator's fears extremists would take Libya may have been 'wrongly ignored' because he was usually 'delusional'.
However, hindsight appears to prove the former dictator foretold the rise of ISIS - and the knock-on effect it would have on displacing the Libyan people and millions more across Iraq and Syria.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New Manchester Mayor Worked With Terror-Linked Muslim Groups to Shut Down Police Surveillance Programs

Mayor Andy Burnham at the vigil service for the Manchester bombing victims

In a just world, the newly elected mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, would be under arrest for collaboration, or perhaps as an accessory to murder.

The Muslim population of Manchester is close to, if not now over 20%. The Labour Party almost certainly received the large majority of that vote in the mayoral election, three weeks ago. 

From Conservative Review:
...Before becoming mayor of Greater Manchester, Burnham demanded an end to “toxic” counterterrorism programs on Islamic extremism. In fact, it was a centerpiece of his campaign as the Labour Party’s candidate for the mayoral slot. 
The programs to combat Islamic extremism in Britain created “a feeling in the Muslim community that it is being spied upon and unfairly targeted,” Burnham said in June 2016, demanding an end to the surveillance of radicals. “My fear is that [the] Prevent [program] is so toxic now that it will need to be scrapped." 
Later that year, Burnham continued to propose even more dangerous ideas. In September 2016, he argued that Muslims should be allowed to bypass police when reporting hate crimes. “In the midst of all these figures we’ve seen, we know that it is Islamophobia that is absolutely the most virulent strand of this hate that is coming forward,” Burnham said. 
He added: “There’s a lot of people in this country not necessarily at risk from ‘Islamic extremism’ but it’s far-right extremism." 
In his efforts to shut down counterterror programs, Burnham worked side by side with fringe Islamist groups to advance his agenda. 
Andy Burnham was elected Manchester’s mayor on May 5. Less than three weeks later, his city has suffered a massive Islamic terror attack that killed scores of innocent teenage girls. All indications appear to say that Burnham will continue to engage in willful blindness and coddle radical Islamists, much to the detriment and safety of his citizens. 
The Conservative review also reports that Burnham stridently denied that the suicide bomber was a Muslim. Read the rest here.

From Breitbart (April 10th, 2017):
A senior Labour MP vying to be the first elected mayor of Greater Manchester has shared a platform with a Muslim pressure group accused of being led by “extremists”, after implying Muslims should not work with police. 
Andy Burnham, a former cabinet minister, appeared at a mayoral hustings organised by the “anti-Islamophobia” group Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) on Saturday, The Times reports. 
MEND regularly works with members of CAGE, which has supported terrorists and calledJihadi John a “beautiful” man. The group is led by Azad Ali, an Islamist who lost a libel battle with a newspaper that said he was “a hardline Islamic extremist who supports the killing of British and American soldiers in Iraq by fellow Muslims as justified”.
MEND director Mr. Ali has also written on his blog of his “love” for Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda cleric closely linked to terrorist plots including the September 11 attacks, and described al-Qaeda as a “myth”.

Pope Francis Gives Trump a Copy of Amoris Laetitia (and Laudato Si and Evangelii Gaudium and a Signed Copy of His Message for the 2017 World Day of Peace)

Good times

Pope Francis gave Donald Trump copies of three of his most famous works that credit him as the author, along with an autographed copy of one of his speeches. He also gave Trump a medal that "symbolized peace," as well as giving medals and rosaries to the rest of his entourage.

Trump responded, "we can use peace."

For his part, Trump gave the Pope a special set of books containing works by Martin Luther King Jr., saying: "I think you'll enjoy them. I hope you do."

If it had been me, I would have given Francis Raggedy Dick; or Street Life in New York in New York with the Bootblacks by Horatio Alger.

Or perhaps Communism and the Conscience of the West by Fulton Sheen.

Or a short booklet, written last year by the American Catholic prelate and author Raymond Burke and three others. It's been a while so I don't remember its name.

But I think the Pope might already have it.

From CNA:
Vatican City, May 24, 2017 - After months of anticipation, Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump finally met at the Vatican Wednesday in a friendly encounter which included an exchange of gifts and an emphasis on peace and unity. 
The Pope and Trump met at the Vatican May 24, at 8:30a.m., immediately before the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. 
Trump arrived to Italy May 23 after stopping in both Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of his first international trip. He is also set to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 summit in Sicily on May 26 before returning to the U.S. 
President Trump arrived to the Vatican via the side entrance by Casa Santa Marta around 8:15a.m. and was greeted by a group of Swiss Guards in the San Damaso courtyard. After stepping out of the car, Trump and First Lady Melania greeted Cardinal Georg Ganswein and other Vatican dignitaries before entering the Apostolic Palace. 
Pope Francis and Trump smiled as they sat down at the Pope’s desk in the papal library. Pope Francis said, “Welcome!” and Trump responded, “Thank you very much, this is such a great honor.” 
Smiling, Francis explained that he doesn't speak English well and needs a translator, but added that he was “very happy to meet” Trump. 
After the cameras left the two began the private portion of their conversation, which lasted about 30 minutes. In addition to Pope Francis and Trump, only the Pope's English translator, Msgr. Mark Miles, was present. 
After their formal conversation, gifts were exchanged between Francis, Trump and the president’s official delegation. There were 12 people in his entourage, including First Lady Melania Trump; daughter Ivanka, Tump's assistant and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his assistant and senior advisor. 
Also present for the meeting with Pope Francis were U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs H.R. McMaster and Louis Bono, American Chargé d'Affaires ad interim to the Holy See until Calista Gingrich us officially approved as ambassador. 
Despite their differing opinions on climate change, Pope Francis gave Trump a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, as well as copies of his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.” 
In addition to the customary gift of these three documents, Francis also gave President Trump a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, saying: “I signed it personally for you.” Trump responded that he would be reading them. 
The Pope also gifted the U.S. President with a medallion he said symbolized peace and unity, which, after the translator explained in English, he added in Spanish: “Have it so that you become an instrument of peace.” In response, Trump said that “we can use peace.” 
On his part, President Trump gifted Pope Francis a set of books by Martin Luther King, Jr., saying: “I think you’ll enjoy them, I hope you do." 
Members of the delegation each received a medal and a rosary from the pontiff. When greeting Francis, First Lady Melania told him that she would afterward be visiting the hospital. Joking, the Pope asked her if they had given her potica, a traditional Slovenian dessert, to eat, to which she responded, “yes, potica,” as they both laughed. 
Departing with a handshake, Trump said to Francis: "Thank you, thank you, I won't forget what you said."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manchester Bomber was British Citizen, Son of Libyan Refugee Parents

Wounded concertgoers at the entrance to Manchester arena

The original report has now been confirmed by multiple sources.

The story below claims that the 22-year-old bomber was born in Britain to Libyan parents.

He was one of four children.

A younger daughter and son apparently recently returned to Libya with their parents, leaving the two eldest sons in Manchester. The bomber, Salman Abedi, died at the scene. His brother has reportedly been arrested.

If this report is accurate, the family was somewhat "westernized." The suicide bomber's sister, has two still live Facebook pages with various pictures of her in "model" of "fashion" poses. Her profile picture features a chic Muslima in a hijab sipping coffee next to a bottle of expensive perfume. There are also many references to Allah, as well as the information that she used to work at at a Manchester mosque.

From the Telegraph
The suicide bomber who killed 22 people and injured dozens more at the Manchester Arena has been named as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, according to US officials. 
Born in Manchester in 1994, the second youngest of four children his parents were Libyan refugees who came to the UK to escape the Gaddafi regime. 
His mother, Samia Tabbal, 50, and father, Ramadan Abedi, a security officer, were both born in Libya but appear to have emigrated to London before moving to the Fallowfield area of south Manchester where they have lived for at least ten years. 
After giving birth to two sons, they had son Hashem Abedi, now 20, and daughter Jomana, 18. 
Jomana, who has two Facebook profiles, attended Whalley Range High School before apparently working at Didsbury Mosque in 2013. 
Although born in Manchester, she states online that she is from Tripoli and has many Libyan connections. Her profile also makes reference to wearing a hijab. 
Abedi grew up in the Whalley Range area, just yards from the local girl's high school, which hit the headlines in 2015 when twins and grade A pupils, Zahra and Salma Halane, who were both aspiring medical students, left their homes and moved to Isil controlled Syria. 
There were unconfirmed reports in Manchester that the whole family apart from the two elder sons recently returned to Libya.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Cardinal Designate Omella Hosted Symposium on Accompaniment - "Populism must be dismantled"

Archbishop Juan Jose Omella and Pope Francis

Archbishop of Barcelona, Juan Jose Omella, one of the five new cardinals-to-be, chosen yesterday by Pope Francis, recently hosted a symposium on "accompaniment." Omella defined it as "being open to new horizons, proposals and ways to explore."

Omella also declared: "Populism must be dismantled." 

From the Spanish journal, Alpha y Omega, March 28, 2017 (cleaned up Google translation):
Cañizares and Omella: "Populism must be dismantled"
A meeting in Barcelona organized by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences on the accompaniment of young people, encouraged "transparency, truth and solidarity."
The theme of the symposium that began in Barcelona on Tuesday is the accompaniment of young people. The meeting, organized by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), has as its context a Europe that seems to show weakness, threatened by a populism that wants to divide it and that can seduce so many young people. This theme had a special weight on the first day.
...The Cardinal Archbishop of Valencia and Vice-President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Antonio Cañizares, and the host, the Archbishop of Barcelona, ​​Juan Jose Omella, in a brief meeting with the press before starting the symposium, referred to the need to "dismantle the untruths of populism," in the words of Cañizares. Omella added that it is necessary to dismantle the atmosphere of lies and corruption in society, that is, to bet on "transparency, truth and solidarity and to dismantle populisms"...
...Omella said in his presentation that the Church is facing the challenge of accompaniment, which is nothing more than "being able to help extract the best from each of those we accompany, helping them to discover the mystery of which they are bearers, and initiate them in the art of discernment concerning the will of God." He made three proposals: to walk in a sincere dialogue, "which implies being open to new horizons, proposals and ways to explore, as well as the search for good practices"; that dialogue leads to concrete proposals; and that it takes place under the guidance of the Holy Spirit...
At the congress, a message from Pope Francis was delivered through the Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, in which he encouraged reflection on the challenges of evangelization and the accompaniment of young people, such that they can "be convinced carriers of the joy of the Gospel to all environments."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Not a Parody: Trump, Tillerson and Ross do the Saudi Sword Dance


Donald Trump's first trip abroad yielded some astonishing pictures and videos today, among them, a video showing Trump and some of his cabinet members participating in (not just observing) a traditional "Ardha" (war) sword dance.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are seen happily/grimly clutching swords while linking arms with the dancers. As far as one can tell, Trump doesn't link arms but spends a few seconds bouncing and jiving to the music with a goofy expression. You can't see it in the video but at one point he does hold a sword, pointing it downward.

Steve Bannon stands around, looking uncomfortable.

The outdoor pavilion appears to be filled almost exclusively with men, most of them robed. The regal Melania Trump and an unidentified (to me) American woman seem to be the only two females in the crowd. Both have their heads uncovered.

By the way, President George Bush participated in a sword dance in Saudi Arabia. So did Prince Charles. As everyone knows, Middle-Eastern Arabs are notoriously racist. Perhaps this is why President Obama was never invited to participate. Or maybe they just didn't respect him. But that didn't stop Obama from bowing.

An earlier video features Mr. and Mrs. Trump emerging from the plane and greeting the King and his entourage - with Trump not bowing and his wife wearing pants with uncovered hair.

There are three ways to look at all of this. One is of free and civilized people holding their heads high while extending the hand of friendship to (sorry to say it) semi-barbarous exotics (I'm talking about the Trumps not Tillerson and Ross, obviously). 

It sounds silly, but that plane entrance reminded me of the scene in C.S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy, where the free kings and queens of Narnia, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy stride confidently up the main thoroughfare of Tashbaan, the capital city of the cruel, quasi-Muslim Calormenes.

Okay, that more than sounds silly. But still.

The second way to look at it is naive and awkward westerners pretending to be best buddies with primitives in order to score political points at home, aid an alliance, negotiate a favorable oil deal or whatever.

In Saudi Arabia, they do not only use swords for dancing.

The third way to look at it is that it's necessary realpolitik. We're all grownups here, right? And the Iranians will get the message.

Here is a short video of the dance, featuring Trump at the beginning and Tillerson/Ross at the end, as well as a video of the Trumps emerging from that plane.

For good measure I've also included a clip from Lawrence of Arabia - "So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous and cruel..." That's half-right, of course, though I'm not sure the tribe vs. tribe thing was the main problem.





Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell - You Know My Name


About all I know about Chris Cornell is his name. And the fact that he was in Soundgarden, a band that I never really got into.

And the fact that he composed and sang one of the best James Bond themes ever, "You Know My Name."

Here's the music video, as well as the neat opening of Casino Royale.

And I don't know how he died. But I do know that fifty-two is too young.

Requiescat in pace.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trump to Give Speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia


The AFP Tweet reads, "Trump to Give Speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia: White House."

Here's a blurb from the Independent:
Donald Trump will give a speech on combatting radical Islam to a group of Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia during his first trip abroad as US President. 
Mr Trump will speak to around 50 Muslim leaders and will take part in opening a centre there which is dedicated to promote moderate Islam, said national security adviser H R McMaster. 
The President will “will deliver an inspiring but direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam to dominate across the world,” Mr McMaster said. 
“The speech is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilization and to demonstrate America’s commitment to our Muslim partners,” Mr McMaster added. 
Saudi Arabia will be the first country Mr Trump will visit since his Inauguration.
This Trump voter (and, I assume, millions of others) just cringed.

Ah, yes, opening up a "center" devoted to "moderate Islam" in, all of all places, Saudi Arabia.

Isn't that the country where if you mispronounce "Muhammad," they kill your whole family?

I exaggerate, but not by much.

The wags on Twitter had a field day:
People always ask me about Islam, It's fantastic. Let me tell you about Islam. I do very well with Islam. No one loves Islam more than me 
BELIEVE ME. We're going to have so many Islam you are going to get sick of Islam. The Islam just got 10 feet higher. I have the best Islam 
I love Muslims, there great. Brillant I know some Islams, great people. Some of my best friends are Islams. Very smart great people. 
The Ottoman Empire, that was huge believe me. Bigger than you can imagine. I gotta tell you I'm very surprised it ended the way it did 
My kids loved Aladdin, a tremendous film. Arab girls are hot. And my hotels in the Middle East are doing well. I love Islam. Just love it.
And so on.

The crisis continues.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

On Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthey: He took the tortilla from the Gorgon and ate it.

Two days ago, I was harshly critical of the movie The Road (2009), based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. I didn't mention McCarthy in the blog text, but he did come up in the blog comments. While good movies can be made from bad books, and bad movies can be made from good books, I think it's fair to say that McCarthy casts a long shadow over the movie, for better or worse. I think it's for worse.

Cormac McCarthy is not a very good writer.

It was the critic B.R. Myers who most famously called out McCarthy in "A Reader's Manifesto," a 2001 Atlantic Monthly article, which then became a book. Myers named McCarthy as one of five novelists including Annie Proulx, Don DeLillo, Paul Auster and David Guterson who represented the "growing pretentiousness in American literary prose." Or, as Myers would also put it, "some of the most acclaimed contemporary prose is the product of mediocre writers availing themselves of trendy stylistic gimmicks."

Myer's critical approach was not subtle or complicated. It was largely to simply take well-known passages from these authors and point out how bad or silly their writing was. The emperor had no clothes.

Here he is on a passage from McCarthy's The Crossing (1994):
He ate the last of the eggs and wiped the plate with the tortilla and ate the tortilla and drank the last of the coffee and wiped his mouth and looked up and thanked her. 
...In McCarthy's sentence the unpunctuated flow of words bears no relation to the slow, methodical nature of what is being described. And why repeat tortilla? When Hemingway wrote "small birds blew in the wind and the wind turned their feathers" ("In Another Country," 1927), he was, as David Lodge points out in The Art of Fiction (1992), creating two sharp images in the simplest way he could. The repetition of wind, in subtly different senses, heightens the immediacy of the referent while echoing other reminders of Milan's windiness in the fall. McCarthy's second tortilla, in contrast, is there, like the syntax, to draw attention to the writer himself. For all the sentence tells us, it might as well be this: "He ate the last of the eggs. He wiped the plate with the tortilla and ate it. He drank the last of the coffee and wiped his mouth. He looked up and thanked her." Had McCarthy written that, the critics would have taken him to task for his "workmanlike" prose. But the first version is no more informative or pleasing to the ear than the second, which can at least be read aloud in a natural fashion. (McCarthy is famously averse to public readings.) All the original does is say, "I express myself differently from you, therefore I am a Writer."
And here is Myers discussing a well-known passage from All the Pretty Horses (1992):
As a fan of movie westerns, I refuse to quibble with the myth that a wild landscape can bestow epic significance on the lives of its inhabitants. But novels tolerate epic language only in moderation. To record with the same somber majesty every aspect of a cowboy's life, from a knife fight to his lunchtime burrito, is to create what can only be described as kitsch. Here we learn that out west even a hangover is something special. 
[They] walked off in separate directions through the chaparral to stand spraddlelegged clutching their knees and vomiting. The browsing horses jerked their heads up. It was no sound they'd ever heard before. In the gray twilight those retchings seemed to echo like the calls of some rude provisional species loosed upon that waste. Something imperfect and malformed lodged in the heart of being. A thing smirking deep in the eyes of grace itself like a gorgon in an autumn pool. 
It is a rare passage that can make you look up, wherever you may be, and wonder if you are being subjected to a diabolically thorough Candid Camera prank. I can just go along with the idea that horses might mistake human retching for the call of wild animals. But "wild animals" isn't epic enough: McCarthy must blow smoke about some rude provisional species, as if your average quadruped had impeccable table manners and a pension plan. Then he switches from the horses' perspective to the narrator's, though just what something imperfect and malformed refers to is unclear. The last half sentence only deepens the confusion. Is the thing smirking deep in the eyes of grace the same thing that is lodged in the heart of being? And what is a gorgon doing in a pool? Or is it peering into it? And why an autumn pool? I doubt if McCarthy can explain any of this; he probably just likes the way it sounds. 
No novelist with a sense of the ridiculous would write such nonsense. Although his characters sometimes rib one another, McCarthy is among the most humorless writers in American history.
In fact, Myers's thought McCarthy's bizarre "hangover" passage was so emblematic of his theme that the working title for "A Reader's Manifesto" was The Gorgon in the Pool.

Since the publication of Manifesto, the stars of the other four writers have arguably dimmed, as Myers predicted they would, but McCarthy's star has only grown brighter. These days, McCarthy dislike appears to be a minority opinion. But that opinion is nevertheless held strongly. If you want a few laughs, check out the Selections from One-Star Amazon Reviews of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Clips from the reviews for that violent book are arranged in poetic wave form:
The characters are not really sympathetic 
He is obviously a sick man psychologically. 
all about violence and no plot what so ever. 
if I was a trained geologist I might like it better. 
too many words that are not in standard dictionary 
I guess people think he is cool because he writes so violent. 
This one guy peed on some clay stuff to create a bomb like thing 
murder, slaughter, killing, massacre, beating, stabbing, shooting, scalping 
It consists of a series of almost unconnected scenes of unspeakable violence. 
Esoteric words, eccentric expressions, pedantic philosophizing, arcane symbolism 
I have to believe that he must be embarrassed to have this book back on the market. 
A bunch of guys ride around Mexico killing everyone they come across for no particular reason 
If you’re a fan of babies, quotation marks, and native americans, then avoid this book like the plague.
Now, I know all popular books have their share of one-star reviews. But still. In this case I think they are appropriate. One pro-McCarthy partisan actually had the chutzpa to write, "McCarthy’s use of language is razor-sharp and spare." Actually, I think that's true of those review clips.

I said, "McCarthy dislike," but what about McCarthy hate? In a piece written in 2007, "Cormac McCarthy: Owning My Hate," Levi Asher explains why he feels the way he does about the author's prose. And feels is the operative word here. Many anti-McCarthy people are so insecure about their unpopular view that they've stopped trying to argue for the objective truth of the matter - that McCarthy is a bad writer - but rather are content merely to try to explain their own subjective opinion.

Asher doesn't cherry-pick his bad McCarthy passages but rather chooses the opening sequence of The Road (2006):
When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath. He pushed away the plastic tarpaulin and raised himself in the stinking robes and blankets and looked toward the east for any light but there was none. In the dream from which he'd wakened he had wandered in a cave where the child led him by the hand. Their light playing over the wet flowstone walls. Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some granitic beast. Deep stone flues where the water dripped and sang. Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours and the days of it and the years without cease. Until they stood in a great stone room where lay a black and ancient lake. And on the far shore a creature that raised its dripping mouth from the rimstone pool and stared into the light with eyes dead white and sightless as the eggs of spiders. It swung its head low over the water as if to take the scent of what it could not see. Crouching there pale and naked and translucent, its alabaster bones cast up in shadow on the rocks behind it. Its bowels, its beating heart. The brain that pulsed in a dull glass bell. It swung its head from side to side and then gave out a low moan and turned and lurched away and loped soundlessly into the dark 
...He watched the boy and he looked out through the tress toward the road. This was not a safe place. They could be seen from the road now it was day. The boy turned in his blankets. Then he opened his eyes. Hi, Papa, he said. 
I'm right here. 
I know.
There's another monster and his pool, again (this is me talking now, not Asher). I'd almost peg McCarthy as an OD&D fan.

I think the above passage is horrid, but to save words I won't explain why. I think the pretentiousness and silliness of it, complete with its humorlessness, faux ponderous tone and grammatical foibles practically croaks out its mediocrity, like a rude beast emoting in a cave. Anyway, Asher nailed it in his piece, which I highly recommend.

But I will quote one passage. Asher claims that he tried to read The Road and, thus, give McCarthy a fresh start. But
[t]he fresh start didn't pan out. The crimes against the English language committed in the first eight pages of this book are so deplorable that I could not reach the double digit page numbers at all. I also feel offended -- yes, offended -- by the mean, miserable view of humanity this book shoves in my face. But my dislike for this book seems to transcend any mental or aesthetic considerations, because as I suffered through these first few pages I felt my body physically rejecting this book like a badly transplanted organ. I would look down at my hands and discover that the book was closed. I'd open it, struggle through a few sentences more, and then look down and discover it closed again. Reading The Road felt like swimming in a pool of thick hard mud, and I tried and I tried but I could not get past page eight.
For the fun of it, I decided to rewrite the above passage in full Cormac McCarthy style:
The man wanted to begin anew but time flowed along as it does and there was no new beginning nor was there an end. The man was reading a book and he imagined that some criminal had bent over the first eight pages and vomited. I am offended and it is mean and it is a miserable view of humanity the man thought in the endarkening light though he could not look away. Above the grey smoke the hatred of the man hung like a grisping cloud while beneath it there were considerations that the man framed with words like mental or aesthetic and he suffered still and his body rejected the book like a badly transplanted organ. He would look down dimly at his coarsish hands and see that the book was closed. Then he would open the book again and close it again and open the book again and close it again until there was no light left to open and close it and he couldn't look down any more. He dreamed that he was swimming in a dark pool of thick hard mud and the pendulum at the heart of the world had stopped over page eight of that accoladed tome. But the mans hatred continued to burn like a glowing ember soundlessly imperched upon his ever beating heart.    
The boy came into the room and turned on the light. Hi, Papa, he said. 
What happened. 
I think you fell asleep on the couch while smoking do you know where the remote control is.
Now, I know you might be thinking how clever I must think I am. But the point is that I am not particularly clever. It's actually remarkably easy to write a McCarthy parody (even I can do it). But the thing is, unlike, say, a Hemingway parody, where the author's stylistics quirks are exaggerated or used to describe a non-Hemingwayish activity like decorating a Christmas tree or whatever, there is really very little difference between a Cormac McCarthy parody and, well, the real McCarthy.

He takes the worst parts of Hemingway, Faulkner and Brett Easton Ellis and combines them. The very worst parts. And he combines them in an unpleasant way.

Cormac McCarthy is not a very good writer.

And I mean that as an objective statement, not merely a description of my own subjective opinion.

You are, of course, free to have another opinion. As I said once on a different subject, though in a similar context, if you disagree with me on this, that doesn't make you a bad person. I hope we can laugh together over a beer sometime...at how wrong you were on the issue.

Crossposted at Save Versus All Wands.