Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The bridge


There is a bridge between man and eternity
and this bridge is Atman, the Spirit of man.

Neither old age, death, sorrow, evil, nor sin
can cross this bridge
because the world of the Spirit is pure.
That is why, after crossing the bridge
the eyes of the blind man can see,
the wounds of the wounded heal
and the sick recover from all sickness.
To that one who crossed the bridge
night turns into day
because in the world of the Spirit
there is a Light that is eternal.

-- Chandogya Upanishad

I realize only too well that my last few postings have been downers. They have been meant as commentary on this world, not to create negativity. The world of appearances is valid on its own level -- as the man said, "Everything is real, as long as you don't take it for more than it is" -- and we must act in it according to our sense of what is right and true.

But there is a greater Reality that is never in danger.

The torch of the sun could burn to ashes, the night fall permanently on our cities and homes, the very globe degrade into countless grains of sand that blow and disperse through the universe, and it would be nothing to the serene Spirit at the heart of everything, manifest and unmanifest.

Strive, hope, seek, and even in our human circumstances, do not fear.

* * *
I'll be out of town for a few days and unlikely to post until after Sunday, August 3. If for some reason I should not return, this is as good an exit as I can manage. But let's try to meet back here next week.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Paranoia strikes deep

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

— "For What It's Worth"
Stephen Stills

The other day, Dennis Mangan put his blog in suspended animation. Among the reasons he gave was: "I've become reluctant to post what I really think, under my real name, for fear of repercussion. The state of the country, mass immigration, the ongoing war against whites and the West, and all of the politicians and liberals who put together this toxic brew that threatens to destroy America - all of it makes me sick. It's possible that potential repercussions will never happen and are a figment of my imagination, but why risk it?"

He seems not to be the only conservative prisoner of conscience with misgivings about what his public quarrel with the idols of the age might cost him. At a rough estimate, about 99 percent of dissidents from the ruling Liberal Establishment use screen names rather than their real ones in blogging or commenting. There are a few brave exceptions, most notably Lawrence Auster and Steve Sailer, but the exceptions stand in glaring contrast. As Stephen Hopewell (which I assume is his actual name, so he is another who dares retribution) says in his blog The Heritage American:
Our movement as yet is manifested mainly on the Internet, invisible to the larger society. To post messages on little-known forums, often under a pseudonym, is unsatisfying to one who feels a moral call to sacrifice his own comfort for the good of his country. And yet, with no publicly recognized base to work from, and the prospect of ostracism and worse in the workplace if one challenges the “politically correct” orthodoxy, for many of us it is still too early to take a stance of open confrontation.
I am not criticizing those who resist the liberal State and its grip on the media, business, and academia while choosing to remain an0nymous. They may be smart to shield themselves. But think about what this says about how really un-free our civil discourse has become. If you can remember that far, cast your mind back to pre-Internet days and newspaper letters to the editor about highly emotional issues of the time — school integration, say, or Rhodesia (issues that are now officially closed; there is only one Correct Opinion). Imagine the newspaper letters being signed "Stray from the Herd" or "High Note" or "Whistler's Daughter" instead of an actual name and home town. How strange would that have seemed then?

True, almost all dead-tree publications still insist on real names, which is one reason you read so little disagreement about "sensitive" topics in the letters section. People who oppose mass immigration or enforced multi-culturalism are either afraid to say so and give their real identity, or the publications simply won't print their letters. Where there is, in theory, unlimited freedom of expression — in the world of blogging — the great majority who hold views contrary to the ruling ideology dare not allow themselves to be known by name.


I sometimes wonder if I am compiling a dossier on myself that will be in the hands of prosecutors at a future date. Even if it never goes that far in the United States (and I'm not at all sure it won't), will I be delivering myself into a jail sentence for thought crimes if I leave these shores, even for a holiday?

At especially paranoid moments — if it is indeed paranoia — I imagine getting off the plane in 2012 at Heathrow in London and going through customs. The woman at the passport control booth looks waves my passport under a scanner and looks at the monitor. She says nothing. In a matter of seconds two security guards appear. "Mr. Darby? Would you come this way, please." It is not a question.

I am led into a room and seated before a desk. A plainclothes security officer introduces himself as Muhammed al-Waziri. "Are you the Darby who writes on the 'blog' called Reflecting Light?"

"Uh, well, I don't know anyone else of that name who writes on Reflecting Light."

"Don't play the fool, Mr. Darby. Your position is more serious than you know. I have only to press a button and I can call up every article you have written with the keywords 'Islam' and "Britain self-destructs,' which are often cross-linked."

"I didn't realize Reflecting Light had fans in His Islamic Majesty Charles's security service."

"Don't play the fool, Mr. Darby. Our computer data mining has determined that there are no fewer than 336 words, phrases, or sentences that violate the Prophet (pbuh) Anti-Denigration and Apostasy Prohibition Act of 2010."

"Look here, I'm an American citizen, I write in the United States of America — "

"Don't play the fool, Mr. Darby. Your 'blog' can be accessed in the Islamic Kingdom on our security computers, although it is blocked for public distribution. You are in the Caliphate and your acts of disrespect for the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his followers will not be tolerated." The door opens, the two guards re-enter …


That will be then. This is now. Reflecting Light is hosted on Blogspot, owned by Google. By the way, did I mention that the other day I clicked the link on the sidebar to Geert Wilders's video Fitna, about which I laughably wrote, "They can't suppress it"? When you try to play Fitna on YouTube, which is owned by Google, you get a message: "We're sorry, this video is no longer available."

Any time Google is so inclined, they can make Reflecting Light disappear, as if it never existed.

Yes, I could get my own server, but that would involve a deal of expense, maintenance, and technological learning that I'm not up to. I don't have fantasies about how important this particular blog is. But the possibility of one day
speaking their minds without fear was very important to the men who signed our Declaration of Independence, an act which might have led to them being hanged. They did not sign it with pseudonyms.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

The gang that couldn't think straight

That would be the Gang of 535, the U.S. Congress.

I'm getting almost as tired of writing about the United States's economic death wish as I am about Britain self-destructing. But I am also gobsmacked by how little attention our brain-damaged mainstream media are paying to the looming disaster, even as they launch a news bulletin followed by in-depth anaylsis every time His Holiness Cardinal-Rabbi-Imam Obama blinks.

While Wanted posters of the Federal Reserve Board governors should be on every post office wall, the Gang of 535 is an accomplice before, during, and after the fact of the economy's blowup.

Latest exhibit: "the government's" bailout of Fannie and Freddie and its rescue of sharp lenders and mortgage suckers. I use the quotes because, in reality, the government is not making any of them whole. It can't: the government is broke, in debt to the tune of $9,536,116,902, 021.58 as I write this. If the government were a citizen, its credit cards would all have been scissored long ago, its assets divided among its creditors, and it would be allowed to keep the White House and one car.

No, the Gang has voted a banker welfare package of, well, nobody knows quite how much, but somewhere between $25 billion and $100 billion, or maybe more — who's keeping tabs? When you walk through the looking-glass into the financial Wonderland, or Underworld, ordinary laws like gravity and size don't apply.

But, to get back to the earlier point, the government isn't saving anything or anyone: it's borrowing from you, China, Japan, the Sheik of Araby, and anyone else who'll still, for some reason, own U.S. federal securities. It will then use its latest wodge of borrowed money to put scaffolding around the banking system. You know, that system that has hoovered up untold billions of dollars in uncollectable debt, rolled it into a ball, gift-wrapped it, and sold part of it off to dumb buyers counting on high yields. Only now that nobody's dumb enough to bite anymore, keeping the rest of it locked up in the attic where they feed batty granny through a slot in the door.

The difference between you and China, Japan, etc. is that they have a choice about whether to take the U.S. government's funny money certificates. You don't.

The government's other weapon of choice: inflation. Borrow and borrow and borrow, then make the value of your hard earned cash condense, so big-time deadbeats (the biggest-timest deadbeat being the government of these United States) can pay it back in clipped coin.

Disappointed Zimbabwe cab driver
contemplates a stingy tip from his latest fare

The Fanny-Freddie-mortgageholder cavalry rescue is only a symbol. Yes, $100 billion is no more than a postage stamp compared to the whole debt debacle brought about by bubble-blowing cycles of loose money, leveraged debt, and derivatives only two people in the world can understand, and they're not returning calls. The mania has gone on for decades because a few people who figured out how to game the system have gotten stupefyingly rich, some others have supped on the trickle-down, and the masses pushed their credit cards into the red zone in the foolish belief that they were the ones getting rich, and would always be able to keep the juggling pins tumbling in the air.

Sooner or later, though, Nemesis comes calling, as it has now for Americans from the top to the bottom of the food chain. And our überbankers and Congressgang are reaching into your pocket to try to fix the system.

The wind carries a few voices crying out in the wilderness. Jim Rogers, the big-time currency and commodities investor, said Fannie and Freddie are "basically insolvent" and added:
"I don't know where these guys get the audacity to take out money, taxpayer money, and buy stock in Fannie Mae."

Ingo Walter, a professor of finance at New York University, writes:
It is now apparent that governments in the future are likely to participate in bailing-out individual financial firms to stem financial turmoil, whether or not they are banks. In the process, taxpayers will be exposed to significant losses associated with individual financial intermediaries whose collapse is thought to pose a danger to the financial system - not to mention the slippery slope toward bailing out systemically-important nonfinancial companies in the automotive, airline and other sectors whose businesses have been wrecked by market shocks.
Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, says:
Fannie and Freddie are insolvent and the Treasury bailout plan (the mother of all moral hazard bailout) is socialism for the rich, the well connected and Wall Street; it is the continuation of a corrupt system where profits are privatized and losses are socialized. Instead of wiping out shareholders of the two GSEs, replacing corrupt and incompetent managers and forcing a haircut on the claims of the creditors/bondholders such a plan bails out shareholders, managers and creditors at a massive cost to U.S. taxpayers.
Do you think the Fed cares? Hell, it's just money. The Treasury can print as much of it as it needs to cover the debt. It's not like a dollar has to be backed with a tangible metallic standard of value anymore. It's just an IOU — from the world's biggest debtor. There are big printing plants in several U.S. cities where they can keep the presses rolling 24/7. Maybe it can be done electronically now, creating "money" with a few keystrokes. So there will be plenty to go around. For the moment, Zimbabwe has more billionaires than any country in the world, but we're catching up.

Do you think the Gang of 535 cares? Real reform now would mean a lot of short-term pain so that markets and regulations governing them could return to sound principles instead of voodoo and leveraged Ponzi schemes. But there's an election coming up, and for most of the gang another every two years. Opportunism comes cheap when you can give the patient a quick shot of anaesthetic and bill him for it.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Bull dirham


Some of my money is now living in the Middle East. Yes, I'd like to be able to sensibly invest only in U.S.-based businesses, or those in U.S.-friendly countries (if any are still extant). But not only are we in for the mother and daddy of bear markets for an unknown period; even after the market starts a recovery, the long-term picture doesn't look very good.

The American economy has simply gone off the rails. The government is broke as far as the eye can see, but even that's probably not the worst news.


For decades, the the nature of money making in the American economy has shifted: from manufacturing things, to selling services that only an affluent country can afford, to selling Asian-manufactured goods to each other on credit, and finally, to manipulating money obtained largely by debt, with hedge funds and corporations working through increasingly leveraged and arcane transactions.

And if you keep all your savings and investments in the United States, there is no way to put a firewall around them. You can put them in a money market fund but the interest paid to you will more than be gutted by inflation, and by the way, money market funds are not legally insured (read the fine print). You'll lose money on Treasury paper, even so-called Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, because the government's way of calculating inflation has become a con game that makes sure the official rate is far below the real rate.


That bit of flim-flam, as well as the way that risky financial monkeyshines have replaced true wealth building as the basis of the national economy, is explained in Kevin Phillips's Bad Money. Phillips is a liberal, and trusts in government regulation too much, but basically his book is fair, well documented, and a lively (if discouraging) read.

There are many ways not to entrust your savings to the U.S. economy. Foreign mutual funds and ETFs allow you to invest in various non-U.S. regions, market segments, and currencies.

Which brings me to GULF. It's an ETF launched last week by WisdomTree, and lets you buy into 100 dividend-paying companies in
Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar, Morocco, Jordan and Oman. Geopolitics aside, the fact is that on the whole they are getting richer while we are going into the intensive care unit.


Don't get the idea that makes me happy. I'm still an American patriot and want to see us get through our Time of Troubles and be smarter, as we did for a while after the searing experience of the Depression. But that could take a while, and things will very likely be worse before they're better. In the meantime, it's a service to our country as well as to ourselves to stay afloat economically, whatever it takes.

I realize, of course, that those are all Muslim countries. While the idea that terrorism is caused by poverty is mistaken, I don't see any particular reason why the Middle East represents a greater danger because the dirhams are rolling in. In fact, if I know human nature and history, the Muslim fat cat class will go out of its way to rid itself of pests like Al-Qaeda, and probably more ruthlessly and efficiently than the United States has done.


So a small portion of my small portfolio is now at home in GULF. It is disturbing to have to resort to such measures, but there it is. I hope to live long enough to see the United States economy return to sound principles.

The usual disclaimer: I am not a financial specialist and have no credentials for offering advice, which this is not intended as.


Friday, July 18, 2008

No Country for Old Men: Two thumbs down

Both of them mine. If I had four thumbs, I'd give it three down.

I didn't see No Country when it was playing in the theaters and the critics were off their heads raving about it. (A quick check at the Rotten Tomatoes site shows it got a 95 percent "fresh" rating from the scribes.) I finally succumbed to curiosity and borrowed the DVD from Netflix. My home theater is pretty good, so I don't think I missed much by not seeing it on the big screen.

The Coen brothers' movies, with the partial exceptions of their first, Blood Simple, and Miller's Crossing, don't appeal to me. They represent most of what is objectionable about today's mass-market, high-budget, pseudo-independent films: lots of grisly violence; "irony" laid on with a trowel; knock-offs of that most tiresomely imitated style, film noir; and a constant striving for effects in lieu of meaning.


Plus pretentiousness. The title gives it away: a literary reference so well known that anyone who ever took an English literature class will get it, feel clever for getting it, and assume the film must be very deep.

Not to say the Brothers Coen aren't good technicians. They know atmosphere, their shots convey mood, they are skillful at the mechanics of suspense. And No Country, unlike most of their films, is well acted. Tommy Lee Jones is about as limited
in range as any star I can think of — from perky Texas good-old-boys to (as here) tired and cynical Texas good-old-boys — but damn, he's good when the part fits him. Actors all say they hate type casting, but there's a reason for the practice: directors know perfectly well that most actors who can do Buffalo Bill can't do King Lear and vice versa; actors have their special abilities and liabilities, just like people in other professions.


Credit where due, Jones brings to No Country a welcome dimension of humanity, and that's no small accomplishment when you're working for a pair of cool dudes who are mainly interested in generating frissons. The Real Bad Guy, whose weapon of choice is a pneumatic shooter the movie suggests is the preferred method of dispaching cattle in the slaughterhouse, is played by Javier Bardem, an actor I've never seen before. The extravagant critical praise for him is unaccountable. He's creepy enough, there's nothing wrong with the performance, but it could have been handled by any reasonably talented actor with the right physical characteristics. To compare it with Anthony Hopkins's work in The Silence of the Lambs is absurd.


So much for the one thumb up. Otherwise, the movie is overwrought and under-thought. The Coens storyboard in terms of "big" scenes, but they're not good at filling in the spaces between, and they don't tie the high points together emotionally or in many cases even logically. Several characters are introduced — well, not really introduced, since we don't always understand who they're supposed to be — for a short-term purpose and then disposed of. For example, Woody Harrelson as some sort of criminal bounty hunter.

There's lots of blood, natch, and while technically it's integral to the plot (since there wouldn't be a plot without it), I rarely felt that it carried any weight beyond an immediate visceral shock. The world-weary dialogue and Jones's opening voice-over soliloquy are supposed to connect the gore with the decline of civilized standards and honor, and their replacement by uncaring savagery on the fringes of society. But a film that has to spell it out so blatantly, both in repetitious imagery and in canned poetry, is indicating rather than embodying its theme.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Daguerreotype portraits


Photographs are the closest thing we have to a time machine. Even "realistic" paintings and drawings of earlier times are inevitably influenced by the artist's style, imagination, and technique (which of course is as it should be). Photographs, though, show how people and things actually looked at a given time. (I exempt "art" photography and, naturally, shots that have been digitally manipulated.)

Daguerreotypes were one of the very earliest media, invented in 1839, according to the Lazy Person's Quick Reference Handbook, aka Wikipedia, and most date from then to about 1850, when other photographic techniques began to replace them. Daguerreotypes were made by exposing an image on light-sensitive chemicals on a metal plate.

Only one "print" could result, a negative, which however looks positive when viewed at the right angle to the light. Seeing original daguerreotypes (not conventional photographic reproductions of them) is a strange, almost unsettling experience: something about the metal on which the image resides, or maybe the chemicals, gives them an uncanny lifelike appearance, as though you are looking through a hole in space-time to another reality — which is not far from the truth.


Photos from the later 19th century are not that uncommon; we've all seen Matthew Brady's Civil War-era pictures. Part of what I find fascinating about daguerreotypes is that they date from a generation earlier, a time not often seen in photographs.

The Daguerreian Society has an online collection, arranged by category. The pictures of buildings &c are interesting enough, but some of the houses and offices, or similar ones, are still standing. What I am most drawn to are the portraits: people like us, yet living in a physical and social environment so different that most of us have trouble imagining it.

I'm posting a few samples here. They are in Flash format, and I cannot enlarge them when I transfer them here (or if there's a way to, I don't know it). But If you go to the Daguerreian Society site and look them up — I've included their identification numbers — you can zoom in on any part you want to see up close, such as faces. (You click the image and then navigate by clicking the plus and minus signs and arrows.)


Most of the men and women are well dressed — they would be, wouldn't they? When photography was a rarity, it was the well-to-do who had their pictures taken, although they were probably comfortable middle class. The very rich still had their portraits painted, and probably thought getting your features captured by a bizarre new device was déclassé.

Surprisingly, quite a few portraits are of blacks, looking reasonably prosperous. These portraits were almost certainly made in the northern states.

Not many of the women are dressed in formal wear (some of the men are), but their gowns look well tailored and accessorized (nice shawls). Women's jewelry doesn't change much over time. Plenty of jewelry in museums from ancient days could be worn today without attracting particular notice.


The women's dress fabrics and patterns are often pleasing, especially if you visualize them in color, but bonnets strike us as goofy. Even the attractive woman above can't pull it off (according to our standards).


The way people wore their hair is another thing that leaps to the modern eye. While the women's hair is styled, ringlets and buns don't do much for their sex appeal. As for the men, well, the very concept of hairstyling didn't exist. I guess the best a bloke could hope for was a competent barber.


There aren't many smiles in these portraits. Partly, that may be because taking a photo wasn't the instantaneous process it is now. The subject had to sit still for a minute or more to let the image register on the plate.

Nevertheless, it's hard to doubt that this was a generation for whom life was a very serious business. They knew they or their loved ones could be taken out of it by illness with little prior notice, and most of them expected they would be judged severely in the afterlife. Yet it was more than that, I think: they believed in reflecting dignity and earnestness to the world. Did that take some of the fun out of their existences? Perhaps. But fun isn't happiness. And happiness isn't everything life is about, which the people in these daguerreotypes may have known better than most of our contemporaries do.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Take! Me! Out! of! the! Ball! Game!

Lawrence Auster's correspondent Shrewsbury had a shock when he went to a baseball game recently:
Shrewsbury briefly made it back to New York last summer, and took Shrewsbury fils to a game at Yankee Stadium, the third deck of which the elder Shrewsbury were wont to haunt as a yute in the 1960s; Shrewsbury fils is a rabid Yankees fan, apparently by some process of Lamarckian inheritance, since the elder Shrewsbury had ceased to follow baseball soon after he had procreated, and made no attempt to encourage yankeephilia in his progeny.

For the elder Shrewsbury on this foray there was one madeleine-biting moment when he inhaled an air of "dawgs wit kraut" in the heavy Bronx atmosphere--not the hideously dry, odorless California vacuum which is such a depressing contrast to the rich, muggy, nourishing humidity of Gotham. Generally however the experience was rather ghastly for him. The atomic PA system, the hideous Jumbotron where erewhile the sedate centerfield scoreboard had stood, dominated the environment, filling every moment with strobe effects, colossal images of the players' talking heads, blaring, eardrum-abusing samples of each player's favorite pop song whenever he came to bat, with enough bass to liquify one's internal organs--a scene from Idiocracy. The actual baseball game seemed to be reduced to an insignificant sideshow.

Baseball is a contemplative game, but not one moment for contemplation was permitted. Gone were the sublime summer sounds of wood smacking and leather slapping horsehide, the lazy crowd murmurs, an awareness of breezes...no, it was more like being trapped in a video game than attending a baseball match.
I have not been to a baseball game in decades. My wife suggested the other day that it might be fun to go to one, and I was inclined to take her up on it … partly out of nostalgia, but partly out of some agreeable memories. I can still recall my astonishment when, as a 12-year-old, my dad took me to my first game and I saw what a long ball to center field actually looked like, as opposed to only the alpha and omega I saw on TV (the batter hitting it, the outfielder catching it, or not, with the ball vanishing into an etheric untelevised realm in between). Or how a "pop-up," which the TV announcer reported with narcoleptic boredom, was in reality a magnificent sight, the white sphere shooting up with the speed of a cannonball to what seemed to my young eyes almost a vanishing point.


But there was also that contemplative side: despite the pitching and running, so much of the game occurred at a lazy, ambling pace, most of the players just standing there most of the time, so unlike our other national big-time sport. They were Men in White, it was summer, probably afternoon. (Later, I read that Henry James said the most beautiful words in the English language were "summer afternoon.") Between moments of acute excitement, you relaxed, your retinas soothed by the green grass, the milky blue sky, the pennants on the bleachers roofline shimmying in the breeze. Have another beer.

Per Shrewsbury, I guess it's not like that anymore. Some years ago I read a newspaper story that said Americans were going off baseball. Not enough action. It must be true: when I drive past school athletic fields, the kids are out there playing football or soccer. The new schools they build probably don't even have baseball diamonds.


So the baseball corporations wised up, I suppose, and decided to give the fans what they liked: noise and Vegas-style razzle dazzle. Why do the teams still wear white uniforms? Wouldn't they be cooler if they dressed like hip-hop musicians?

I find the idea of playing loudly amplified pop music during the game — between innings would be bad enough — particularly appalling, contrary to what was the spirit of the sport. But the people who manage our public spaces seem to agree that we've got to have our eardrums whacked all the time or we'll up sticks and leave. Even if we can't leave, like when we're in an airport boarding lounge. And they're making stores nearly unbearable for some of us.


Normally I ask for a recount and appeal to the Supreme Court before I agree to go shopping, but this weekend I went twice. My old reading lamp had packed up and I needed a replacement, because for a bookworm like me, reading comes with the basics in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Anyway, I steered myself to a Target and an IKEA.

They've changed too. Target had bilingual signs throughout, and the designer stuff they featured a few years ago has mostly gone, replaced by
lowest-common-denominator style merchandise. The clientele was mostly Third World immigrant. Target has decided where its — and America's — future lies.

IKEA, which I once thought was a model store of its kind, offering furnishings with some aesthetic appeal at sensible prices, shook me up. Now it, too, plays uptempo music-while-U-shop, punctuated with KMart-type announcements. O tempera! O mores!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Twit disguises himself as priest to fool congregation

Say what you like about the Daily Mail — or what you don't like — but it never fails to provide material for an amateur satirist such as your blogger.

Here's today's installment:

Priest disguises himself as a tramp to teach his own churchgoers a lesson

When Reverend Rigby wanted to teach his congregation a lesson about being kind to others he came up with a rather colourful way of demonstrating his point. As the 70 churchgoers turned up for their regular Sunday morning service at the Methodist church in Prestatyn, north Wales they found a scruffy tramp sitting in the church porch. Stinking of beer and dressed in filthy clothes, the disgusted churchgoers did their best to ignore him as they filed past. This task was made even harder when the unwanted guest joined them on the pews, surrounded with syringes and drinking from a can of lager.

‘It was interesting to see the reaction from people - I was totally ignored. It showed that we don’t recognise God at work and in each other.’

He said: "In other places I was given as much as £4.50, a packet of biscuits and a blanket - but in Prestatyn I got nothing. ‘I told the congregation they are a stingy lot. Everyone was amazed and later complimented me on my acting skill, though some said I had made them feel terrible.’

Let's examine the moral implications of this stunt.

Reverend Rigby believes that the churchgoers should not have reacted with distaste to a "scruffy tramp" sitting on the porch of their house of worship. They should have looked through his earthly form and seen the God within. But, being a "stingy lot," they failed to immediately shower him with love and money.


The priest is right to this extent: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. However far we stray — and certainly there are people who stray a lot farther than the "tramp" — we are all connected with God and perfection, no matter how much we fall into the delusion of believing we are no more than human, or perhaps no more than animals, or machines.

Many good people come to misfortune, are down and out through no fault of their own or even through faults that should not earn them rejection by human society. If the congregation of Prestatyn consists of ordinarily decent people, I'm sure they recognize this.

But that isn't the lesson Reverend Rigby wants to convey. If the article is an accurate account, there seems no other conclusion to draw than that he wants his flock to accept the "tramp's" behavior. Namely, sitting on the porch steps, probably blocking the way in. Smelling like a brewery. And then, sitting in a pew, tossing back the booze, "surrounded with syringes."


Such a person is expressing contempt for the congregation as well as whatever spiritual presence the church represents. He is quite brazenly spitting in the eye of society, declaring by his actions that he is not bound by even the ordinary conventions of good manners. He is completely indifferent to propriety.

Reverend Rigby expressing his real identity (above)
and posing as a spiritual leader (below)

I doubt that all, or even most, of the churchgoers Reverend Rigby ministers to are rich. Some of them probably make sacrifices to be able to put a few bob on the collection plate. They may be no better or worse than the run of us people, but they have enough respect for themselves and each other to know how to behave in church.

So tell me why they should accept a lout in their midst and, in effect, reward him. In fact, the priest tells us they ignored him, which shows considerable forbearance. In another day and time, a couple of beefy men in the congregation would have persuaded the man who was defiling the service to take himself away, with whatever degree of persuasion was necessary.


Yes, people who have lost their minds, who have destroyed themselves or cannot help themselves do not lose all claim to empathy. In a different setting, in another way, most of the congregation would probably help someone taking the initiative (or at least cooperating) in trying to turn his life around. That, I think, is compatible with what God wants of us.

But to imply that we must tolerate and enable anti-social behavior in the name of compassion is not Christian, is not spiritual, is not virtuous if a society wants its self-destructive citizens and its unfortunates to be something greater than dole collectors. But today's Britain has no higher aspirations for them.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

French government site warns against U.S. no-go areas

A French government Web site is bluntly honest about parts of U.S. cities that its country's tourists ought to stay away from.

In its "Advice to Travelers," the Ministère des Affaires Étrangères offers guidelines for Places to Miss, complete with maps. (Click the tab labeled "Sécurité"— French for "safety" as well as "security.")

The heading says, "The increased risk of terrorism should not make you forget that the principal risk remains criminality." Scroll down to see the city maps. I've translated some of the descriptions:

Boston: "Avoid foot traffic at night in the districts of Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury." It also warns of the "revival of juvenile delinquency."

New York: Be vigilant in tourist areas like Times Square and the Statue of Liberty, "as well as in airports, railroad stations, the subway, restaurants, museums, and certain hotels on the West Side. Do not go alone in Harlem, the Bronx, and Central Park at night."

Washington: "Avoid the northeast and southwest quadrants, as well as the bus stops and Union Station at night. In the tourist areas of Georgetown and Dupont Circle it is a good idea to be vigilant at night. The Anacostia area is not recommended either by day or night."
Pittsburgh: Les lieux dangereux
(circled in red), according to the French government.

"Baltimore is considered a dangerous city except for downtown."

"Detroit: The center is not recommended after offices close."

New Orleans: The warning is long and boils down to, avoid most of the city and be on your guard everywhere. "Do not hesitate to take a taxi, even for a short distance."

Los Angeles: "Large areas are to be avoided, notably the east, south and southeast districts, such as Watts, Inglewood, and Florence" and caution should be exercised in tourist areas. In the West Side (much of which is considered posh) watch out for aggression, carjacking, burglary in hotels and on private property.

The site also counsels French visitors on the dangers of "natural catastrophes and meteorological dangers," hurricanes (ouragans), tornadoes, seismic risks, floods, seaside hazards, and shark attacks.

Mais oui, but still, the Euro fort, the dollar faible … there's never been a better time to visit the USA!

Good on the French authorities for warning tourists about some of the less savory realities that the tourist industry glosses over. And it's not anti-American prejudice. The French government is equally forthcoming about the "sensitive urban areas" at home.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Police sniffer dogs shake their bootees


Canine Detective Inspector Milo Plimsoll

Police sniffer dogs will have to wear bootees when searching the homes of Muslims so as not to cause offence.

Guidelines being drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) urge awareness of religious sensitivities when using dogs to search for drugs and explosives. The guidelines, to be published this year, were designed to cover mosques but have been extended to include other buildings.

The Sunday Times (London), July 6, 2008

Special Branch Office
Sensitivity Station no. 2844
London ES5 GL9

7th July 2008

To our esteemed neighbours:

In an announcement which I am sure that you will applaud, I am happy to inform you that on those occasions (which I am confident will be extremely rare) when it is necessary to perform a search for explosives or drugs in the Old Smithy area of Wretchley -- be assured we on the Force will prosecute anyone using the term "no-go area" -- a new team has been formed to fully respect the sensitivity of inhabitants who are followers of The Prophet (pbuh).

Our search team will be led by Canine Detective Inspector Milo Plimsoll, pictured above. CDI Plimsoll has been thoroughly briefed on correct attire for explosives or drugs detection and seizure, in the unlikely event that such detection and seizure should occur.

In the spirit of reaching out to the community, I invite you to stop by Sensitivity Station no. 2844, only a camel trot from the mosque on Gorse Road, and meet all the members of the new team. Please provide 24 hours advance notice so that we can ensure that all squad members are wearing their proper kit.


Canine Detective Sergeant Camilla Sleed-Bramway

Kind regards
DCI Markham Down

Special Branch Office
Sensitivity Station no. 2844
London ES5 GL9

12th July 2008

Dear Sheikh Al-D'Alusia,

Yours of the 10th has been received and noted with the greatest sensitivity. In response to your protest that "boots do not make an unclean animal clean in the eyes of a Believer," a special meeting of the Community Relations Council, chaired by the Anti-Terrorism Assistant Minister for Diversity (Acting) herself, was called yesterday. I am pleased to inform you that in the interest of harmony among our rich tapestry of citizens, a new policy is now in effect. Taking note that the equine species is in much favour among your community -- is there not a breed called Arabian? And did not The Prophet himself (pbuh) ride off to heaven on a steed called (I believe) Burqa? -- the search team has been thoroughly reconstituted. I invite you and all your community to stop by Sensitivity Station no. 2844 at any hour of day or night (no advance notice required) to acquaint yourselves with our new explosives inspectors.


Equine Detective Inspector Racing Stripe

Hoping that you will greet this gesture of respect with equine-imity, uh, scupper that, I meant to say with full acceptance,

Kind regards
DCI Markham Down


Thursday, July 03, 2008

We don't need this cringing defense of a free society

Weasels who want to play the courageous defender of freedom while keeping their dhimmi qualifications intact often use a standard ploy. It works like this: claim that a flap over something said to be offensive to the Muslim population is just down to over-sensitive non-Muslims. Like this:
What I would not do was make a police spokesman go down on his knees and grovel for supposedly causing offence by putting a picture of a dog sitting in a policeman's hat on a poster for a new non-emergency number. …
The idea that Muslims are offended by the very sight of a dog seems to derive entirely from one Dundee councillor, and even he didn't try to make out that he was upset, only that others “could” be. By rolling over and apologising, the police have made themselves look weak and inadvertently given the impression that Dundee's Muslims are an intolerant bunch intent on Islamifying the British way of life.
Do writers for what was once, in its pre-Murdoch days, England's most respected and literate newspaper no longer have to know syntax? You do not mix a conditional tense ("would not do") with a past tense ("was"). But that's a side issue.

Clark, the columnist, obviously feels he dares not step out into the clear without first strapping on his flak vest and singing the multicultural company song: "If I were diversity officer at Tayside Police I would go to great lengths to avoid offending Muslims. I would make sure that they were not stopped and searched just for looking a bit shifty, and, nothwithstanding the Government's victory in the Commons, I would want to make sure that young Muslims were not driven into the hands of radicals by being incarcerated for 42 days without charge."


Take that, you racist Islamophobes! As though someone had suggested that a police "diversity officer" — Lord, how I hate that expression — should offend Muslims by not going to great lengths. As though he were bravely standing in the way of a howling mob demanding Muslims be stopped and searched "just for looking a bit shifty." This is what is known in slightly more rational circles than those our pundit inhabits as a straw man argument.

Next, he presents a one-off incident and generalizes as if it applies to every situation in which Britain's multi-culti commissars bow to the ground to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities. Maybe no one did complain about the advertisement. But there certainly are cases on record (see here and here) in which Muslims have been so offended by "the very sight of a dog" that they refused to perform the public service jobs they were licensed to do. The police diversity officer was hardly excessive in imagining that Muslims would wax indignant yet again.


And why would the police hire a diversity cop and all of Britain's officialdom go tippy-toe around anything to do with Muslim beliefs if they weren't afraid of trouble — complaints, political pressure, maybe even calls for the heads of infidels? Yet the clear implication of the article is that the problem is in the minds of non-Muslims. They're making the mountain Mohammed went to out of a molehill.

But the main reason why arguments like Clark's are despicable is that, under the cloak of sweet reason and criticism of the deepest fathoms of political correctness, they actually reinforce dhimmitude. He implies that his society should trim its discourse to please its most fanatical colonists. To him and people like him, it's axiomatic that Muslims must never be offended. The only thing that can legitimately be discussed is whether any speech or act really offends them.


Every day Muslims in a Western country are wound up about something the "Crusaders" do. A great many Muslims are "an intolerant bunch intent on Islamifying the British way of life," as Clark says with lofty irony.

So he reassures his Muslim readers that here's one good dhimmi who'll be their sword and shield, while assuring everybody else that all this carry-on would stop if only they'd quit expecting Muslims to run true to form. What a guy.