Friday, June 30, 2006

europe and the muslims

I was struck by this line in Christopher Caldwell's essay in the Times Magazine After Londonistan. It seems to me to go to the heart of the problem of defining what constitutes a "moderate Muslim". Is it someone who only disavows the means but not the ends of the radicals, the ones who succumb to calls for jihad? Or is it someone who disagrees with the extremists on the means as well as the ends? And if yes, the latter, then how much can they help in maintaining law and order, an important goal in its own right?
Strident political voices are not just admitted to conversation — they are the preferred voices, because they are seen as more "authentic." If the government's top priority is finding people with the street credibility to dissuade potential terrorists, then the ideal Muslim interlocutor is someone who shares the terrorists' goals while publicly condemning their means. Standing up for Holocaust victims and for fellowship among Britain's peoples is not much of a credential.
The question remains: what ends do most Muslims sympathize with generally? And the answers are not very helpful either:
Shariah does not quite command majority support among British Muslims. A poll in February in The Daily Telegraph showed that 40 percent of British Muslims favor the establishment of Islamic law — but only piecemeal, and under certain circumstances. Even in heavily Muslim neighborhoods, there is no great public clamor to ban alcohol — usually a telltale sign of pro-Shariah agitation. And Britain's relaxed laws regarding religious dress — more akin to the American model than to the French — have allowed it to avoid the controversies over the Muslim headscarf that have roiled the rest of Europe. But Mustafa's other claim — that the vast majority of citizens in heavily Muslim Whitechapel sympathize viscerally and overwhelmingly with the radical position on Israel and, more generally, on foreign policy — must be faced squarely. For Mustafa is unquestionably correct.
More reads: An essay in Foreign Affairs. Also this essay on Hamdan Vs Rumsfield which appeared a while ago. What a difference it makes, now that the Supreme Court has made its decision.

linda greenhouse should try fiction!

Linda Greenhouse, the New York Times' reporter for the Supreme Court has this line in her article today on Hamdan vs Rumsfield, the Supreme Court ground-breaking decision on the military tribunals created by the Bush administration, :
In the courtroom on Thursday, the chief justice sat silently in his center chair as Justice Stevens, sitting to his immediate right as the senior associate justice, read from the majority opinion. It made for a striking tableau on the final day of the first term of the Roberts court: the young chief justice, observing his work of just a year earlier taken apart point by point by the tenacious 86-year-old Justice Stevens, winner of a Bronze Star for his service as a Navy officer in World War II.

UPDATE: In an otherwise routine round-up of the cases the Supreme Court decided this term (the round-up is routine, the cases are anything but), Greenhouse still goes for this headline: Roberts Is at Court's Helm, but He Isn't Yet in Control . Now that's what I call drama!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

what a wonderful description...

The venerable Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic on what he calls the Tower of Pisa Law:

Harari and De Pelegri understand the basic law of farce construction--what I call the Tower of Pisa Law. That tower, contrary to popular belief, did not lean after it was finished: it began to lean when it was only ten meters high, and they kept on building it, logically and well. Good farce writing must start with a canted base and then grow-- grow is the key word -- logically, but at an odd angle. A mere succession of gags is the death of farce: it must move organically, one action resulting inexorably in the next. This is what happens in Only Human.

Friday, June 23, 2006

becektt's hundredth anniversary

From a a beautiful essay in The New York Review on Beckett, this quote from Beckett's second novel, Watt:

Personally of course I regret everything. Not a word, not a deed, not a thought, not a need, not a grief, not a joy, not a girl, not a boy, not a doubt, not a trust, not a scorn, not a lust, not a hope, not a fear, not a smile, not a tear, not a name, not a face, no time, no place, that I do not regret, exceedingly. An ordure, from beginning to end.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

why jane austen was such a good judge of human nature...

Nothing illustrates the almost unlimited European capacity for self-praise than this article in the Los Angeles Times (which I found through this Kevin Drum post). Isn't it neat! -- that while ostensibly praising the American capacity for optimism, Europeans lose no opportunity to congratulate themselves on their "darkness" or "realism" or whatever it is they possess. This quote speaks for itself:

But there is something else too, a quality that is quintessentially American, Scolik said. "In American programs, people have problems, serious problems. In 'Grey's Anatomy,' people are dying, it tells you that life will be very, very hard, but at the very end they get a little hope and there is a way to get through," he said. "In German shows, which we also get on Austrian television, it is mostly a hopeless situation, it is too heavy."
And it only goes to show what I've long believed, that Jane Austen is an unmatched observer of human nature:

"Oh!" cried Miss Bingley, "Charles writes in the most careless way imaginable. He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest."
"My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them--by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents."
"Your humility, Mr. Bingley," said Elizabeth, "must disarm reproof."
"Nothing is more deceitful," said Darcy, "than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast."
"And which of the two do you call my little recent piece of modesty?"
"The indirect boast; for you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which, if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting." [emphasis mine]