:: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 ::
A Whiff of Perfume
Posted by Edward Cline at 4:04 PM
As a break from the compelling and often impetuous need to speak out on pressing issues, I offer here an excerpt from a novel that has nothing to do with current events. It is the first of two detective novels I completed before beginning work on Sparrowhawk.
Early in 1989 I was invited by the editor of Western Illinois University Press to contribute an article on detective fiction criticism for a collection of essays on that subject. My essay was not included in the collection that was ultimately published in late 1990 as The Cunning Craft: Original Essays on Detective Fiction and Contemporary Literary Theory. I received no explanation for the rejection, and, having later read the book, did not wonder why my piece was rejected. For in my untitled piece I took to task academic literary critics who interpreted detective fiction from purely Marxist or sociological perspectives. One or two of those academics cited Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon as a perfect model of sub rosa Marxist literature. (Hammett later in his career was revealed as a communist.)
I argued in my paper that the novel was no such thing, that there was not a single Marxist “message” or “signifier” anywhere in its “deconstructed“ text. The story, first serialized in Black Mask Magazine before being cobbled together in novel form for publication in 1930, predated Hammett’s political conversion and activism.
At the time, I was nearing completion of my answer to The Maltese Falcon, of a detective novel set in the same month and year (December 1928), and set also in San Francisco. I finished China Basin in 1990. While Hammett’s novel is incomparable in plot, dialogue, and characterization, I found it dreary and almost claustrophobic. It did not portray a true picture of San Francisco in that period. My research revealed that it was a lively, vibrant city, and a showcase theater venue. Prohibition was in force, but that only added spice to the vitality of the place. That vitality was one of the things I wanted to bring to life, one commensurate with my own detective hero.
Hammett’s detective hero, Sam Spade, private detective, does not have a cameo in China Basin (although there is a subtle newspaper mention of the murder of his partner, Miles Archer). Cyrus Skeen, private detective, dominates the story. His cognitive skills are comparable to Spade’s. However, he has read more than one book, is a Yale graduate and a scion of Eastern wealth, and writes short stories under a pen name to protect his identity. He has a devoted secretary, as well, Dilys Jones, and friends on the police force. In China Basin he is approached in his office by a fascinating Frenchwoman, partner with a retired British officer in pursuit of a “dingus,” this one a few centuries older than a jewel-encrusted “black bird” that was the object of Spade’s enquiries.
What follows is Skeen’s first encounter with Vanessa Favaul. The late Capucine (actual name, Germaine Lefebvre), an exquisite French actress, served as a model for Favaul. The bust of Agrippa, a Roman statesman, general, and builder under Cæsar Augustus, served as a model for Cyrus Skeen.
Chapter 10: A Whiff of Perfume
The sound of the closing door, and a whiff of perfume, caused him to raise his head. As he did so, the woman approaching him lifted the fine mesh veil of a roundish hat from her face. Rich brown hair in marcel waves draped the sides of an attractive angular face that was frankly ruthless and calculating. Violet eyes beneath arched aristocratic brows haughtily appraised him. A noble, almost straight nose balanced a disdainful mouth whose red lips were never fully parted, but never fully closed. She wore an afternoon crepe satin coat of a dark brown that was nearly black. It was open and flared behind her to reveal a belted, long-sleeved dress of wine red. Long, elegant legs scissored confidently over the rug in black high heels.
The woman’s mouth bent in a formal smile as she removed one of her gloves. She stopped and gracefully extended a hand, saying, in a French accent, “Good afternoon, Mr. Skeen. I am Vanessa Favaul. It was kind of you to see me on so short a notice.”
“Good afternoon.” Skeen took the thin hand, held it for a moment, fought an urge to raise it to his lips, and forced himself to let it go. The effort, he noted, was not lost on the woman. “Won’t you please be seated?” He waved to one of the club chairs. Favaul sat, and crossed her legs with a whisper of silk.
Skeen sat and folded his hands on the blotter. “What can I do for you, Miss Favaul?”
“I am here to ask you to meet someone tonight, a colleague, out of the city, at a place of your choosing.”
“For what purpose?”
“To employ your services as a detective. Specifically, to ask you to find a man who does not wish to be found, and who is very good at it. He is in this city. That is all we know.”
“Why do you wish to find him?”
“He has something of ours. He stole it, in France, in August. He wishes to sell it back, and we are willing to pay. But he is making it very difficult.”
“Can you give me his name, and a description?”
“Yes, of course, though these are things which he changes at whim. They will be given to you if you meet my colleague tonight. You will learn also what the object is and why it is important that we repossess it. If you are able to find him and establish a confidence with him, we wish only to communicate on an amicable basis. Then you may act as liaison.”
Skeen leaned back in his chair. “Why couldn’t your colleague come here himself? Is he incapacitated in some way?”
Vanessa Favaul smiled in amusement at some personal thought. “Incapacitated? Hardly, Mr. Skeen. He is, perhaps, as virile as you. Between ourselves, he is overly and unnecessarily secretive and cautious, but that is his only foible, I can assure you.”
“Why would he wish to meet me outside of the city?”
“Again, I can only say that it is his wish. He does not want to risk being seen by this person until some mode of détente has been agreed to. Naturally, there is much animosity between him and this person.”
“And you can’t tell me now anything about this object you want back?”
“No. Only that it is of immeasurable value and of great antiquity.” Favaul paused to add, “And of some personal sentiment.”
“Would you be at this meeting, if I agreed to see your colleague?”
“No,” said Favaul, simply and finally. She reached into her purse and took out a cigarette and an ivory holder, which she fitted together. Skeen rose, took his desk lighter, and went around to light it. Then he lit one of his Old Golds.
When he was seated again, he asked, “How did you come to pick me for this proposal?”
“We have been in the city for several days. We made inquiries. You are highly recommended.”
“What were your criteria?”
Favaul seemed amused by the question. “Honesty, initiative, intelligence, élan, discretion, and an instinct for risk and venture.”
“You are not honest, Mr. Skeen?”
Skeen smiled. “Yes. Though there are many people who think honesty is synonymous with naiveté.”
Favaul made a throaty sound, a sound someone might make upon tasting good food. “You are wise to make that distinction. Which are you, then?”
“The first meaning. God’s never helped the man who assumed I was naive.”
“Of that I’m sure. What of women who so offended you?”
“I rarely make that mistake.” Skeen let his sight roam over the exquisite face. “What is your relationship with your colleague, Miss Favaul?”
Favaul made the throaty sound again. “Not what you suspect.”
Skeen merely smiled.
“I am simply a partner on an expedition of recovery.” The woman paused. “You should know something else that may affect your decision. There is some…danger involved. The person we seek to deal with is unpredictable and capable of violence. We hired a man of your profession some time ago for the same task -- we were not so demanding in our criteria then -- and he came very close to accomplishing it. However, he was killed. Yesterday, in fact. By the person we are pursuing, very likely.”
“What was his name?” asked Skeen, reaching over to tap an ash into the tray to cover his sudden alertness. “Two or three detectives have been killed in this city recently.”
“It was an odd name. Mungo Browne. Did you know him?”
“No. But I read about it in this morning’s papers.”
“So had we. It came as a surprise to us. We were thinking of dispensing with his services -- he could be very difficult, too -- but he saved us an unpleasant task. We were not sure how he would behave. It should have seemed ungrateful of us. It was through his efforts that we have come this far.”
“And you suspect this other person killed him?”
“We are inclined to believe that. But it may be that Mr. Browne encountered a common thief. It does not matter now.”
“He was shot while he was searching the room of an antiques dealer. Was he on the job there, do you think?”
Favaul shook her head. “It is possible. We do not know why he was there or what he was doing. He had many interests outside of our purpose for employing him.”
“You know, the police would be interested in knowing why he was in town.”
“Would you be interested in telling them?”
Skeen smiled again. “Not at the moment.”
The woman chuckled again. “Well, Mr. Skeen. May we have an answer?”
“My rate is forty a day, plus expenses, regardless of the outcome.”
“That is because you can always guarantee an outcome?”
Skeen nodded. “My clients have not always liked the outcome, but it is an outcome and I expect to be paid.” He paused. “Okay. I’ll see your friend and listen to what he has to say. Then I’ll make a decision. And he’ll have to be a little more forthcoming with information.”
The woman re-crossed her legs. She smiled. “Is there something to sign?”
“No. A day’s fee in advance will do, cash or check. I’ll write a receipt.”
Vanessa Favaul reached into her purse again and took out a small wallet. From this she extracted a fifty-dollar bill and laid it on the desk. “I have nothing smaller, I’m afraid.”
“That’s all right,” said Skeen. “I’m sure you’ll owe me much more before this is over.” He took out a receipt pad and wrote on the top form. “Are you staying in the city?”
“I would prefer not to say now, if you don’t mind.” The woman pulled her cigarette from the holder and doused it in the ash stand, then dropped the holder back into her purse. “You will see me again -- regardless of the outcome.”
Skeen tore the receipt from the pad and handed it over to her. “How did you get here? By taxi?”
The woman frowned. “Why do you ask?”
Skeen smiled. “I can’t see you taking a trolley down Market. You’d have the motorman rear-ending what’s stopped in front of him, or running down pedestrians.”
The frown vanished. “Americans pay the most unusual compliments. Are you always so forward with your clients?”
“Only when I feel there’s a reason to reciprocate.”
“I have hired a car,” said Favaul. “Now, about the rendezvous.”
“Would your colleague be willing to travel thirty or so miles?”
“It can be arranged.”
“All right. I’ll write out the directions. There’s a roadhouse in Palo Alto. That’s a college town south of us on the Peninsula.” Skeen drew a blank sheet of paper toward him and picked up his pen again. As he wrote, the woman rose and wandered about his office. She lingered near the small bookcase at the other end of the room. Her gloved hand reached out and a tentative finger ran idly over the spines of a few titles.
She turned her head. “You read French, I see. Can you speak it?”
“Some. I usually say things I don’t mean.” As he finished writing the directions, Skeen said, “Vanessa isn’t a common French name. How did you come by it?”
“My father was a great reader of Jonathan Swift, who invented it, I believe.”
“Here you are,” said Skeen, rising and holding out the paper. “It’s about an hour’s drive, if he’s driving. Or there are trains from the Fourth Street Terminal that stop in Palo Alto, where he can get a taxi.”
“He will be driving. Thank you.” The woman folded the paper into a square and put it in her purse. “Would eight o’clock be good?”
“That would be fine.” Skeen came around the desk and walked her to the door. “How will we recognize each other?”
“My colleague is about fifty years old, a little taller than you, very fit looking. He has a silver moustache and graying hair. His name is Heywood. He is English. I will, of course, describe you to him.” Vanessa Favaul held out a gloved hand. “Thank you again, Mr. Skeen.”
“Thank me if the job’s done -- and if I take it.” He took her hand. She squeezed his and lingered for a moment before breaking the contact. Skeen opened the door.
“Bon jour, Monsieur.”
“Bon jour, Mademoiselle. And, prenez garde.”
“Beware? Of what?’
“Of men like me.”
She turned to give him one last deceptively frosty, almost amused smile, over her shoulder, and then she was gone.
Cyrus Skeen stood for a moment, his hands in his pockets, contemplating the closed door. A faint aroma of Favaul’s perfume lingered in the air.
Dilys Jones, at her desk, restrained a grin. “What did she want?”
Skeen shook his head once and turned to her. “That,” he said, “was bait.”
© 1990, 2010 by Edward Cline
6 Comments ::
:: Saturday, July 24, 2010 ::
You Don’t Own Me
Posted by Edward Cline at 12:18 PM
Just as the country that sent those 4.7 million young men off to the Great War disrupted or ended those young lives for a larger purpose, today, the country that is America must decide whether it is prepared to disrupt or end young lives for another, greater, purpose.
No, that was not President Barack Obama reading from the Progressivism hymnal to underscore his collectivist agenda. It was Tony Blankley, prominent conservative columnist, pleading for the return of the military draft.
In November of 2003, Nick Provenzo, host of the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism and Rule of Reason, argued in a hard-hitting article that the draft was an anathema to human liberty. He was answering a Washington Times column by Blankley, who claimed that because the country was now at war with the “scourge of terrorism,” and that it was likely our volunteer forces would be stretched to the limit to fight it, it was incumbent on President George W. Bush to “substantially increase the size of our military” by calling for the reintroduction of the military draft.
Blankley and Provenzo were writing after the initial invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003.
In January of the same year, New York congressman Charles Rangel introduced a bill in the House to reinstate the military draft. Those who could not serve in the military because of a physical or mental disability, would be required to perform “community service.”
Noting in the beginning that, as of the time of his writing, only forty-four doughboys were alive of the 4.7 million sent to fight in Europe during World War I, Blankley ended his paean to self-sacrifice and duty with:
Several decades from now, when our children's generation is all dust, save 44 old men, will their grandchildren think as kindly on us as we do on those surviving 44 Doughboys (and their millions of comrades) who left us a richer clay from which to be born?
Nick Provenzo addresses the question of why many conservatives, who even today claim they are for liberty, free enterprise, freedom of speech, and other liberties, are in agreement with their alleged political rivals, the liberal/leftists, that Americans should “give back” to the country that bestowed those liberties on them.
If the war against militant Islam is the preeminent crisis of our day, why call on the draft to fight it? Why frame the issue as a question of whether America is willing to disrupt or end the lives of its young people?
If militant Islamists threaten our lives, freedom and prosperity, defending against them is not a sacrifice for the "greater good." What good could be greater than defending one's own life and happiness? Why does Tony Blankley ignore one's selfish interest in defending one's freedom?
Why? Because Mr. Blankley, like many conservatives, considers selflessness and not selfish interest to be the moral ideal. Even though America is a nation dedicated to protecting the life, liberty and happiness of the individual, conservatives are forever conflicted by the problem of the "greater good" and how best to sacrifice the inalienable rights of the individual to it.
Fast forward to July, 2010. It is nearly amusing that Charles Rangel, who has introduced his draft bill in the House repeatedly since 2003, and has again this year, has been charged by the House Ethics Committee with ethics violations and may stand House trial in September. The charges range from his not declaring assets of nearly $1 million on his Congressional disclosure form, to using his Congressional letterhead to promote a private center at the City College of New York that would bear his name, to taking corporate lobbyist-paid junkets to the Caribbean.
The longtime Democratic congressman from Harlem has failed to report at least $75,000 in rental income from a luxury beachfront villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. Evidently this is because Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the chief tax writer for the United States, doesn't know that money derived from an asset is called “income.”
The byzantine and wholly arbitrary strictures and definitions, and the confiscatory nature of the U.S. tax code, are not the subject here. If Congress had any sense of value of individual rights, this kind of issue would never arise. Someone like Rangel would be charged instead with advocating the usurpation of the Constitution and the violation of individual rights, and with violating his oath of office.
But Congress could hardly throw the first stone at Rangel or anyone else charged with violation of House or Senate ethics rules, when both chambers and the White House regard the private sector -- the only realm that gives value to anything -- as their private preserve to loot, game, and control. Obamacare, the nationalization of the car industry, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the financial reform legislation -- all the socialist/fascist law that has ever passed and been signed in the Oval Office -- originated in the House, and were approved with pointlessly finicky amendments by the Senate, often with Republication abetting.
While the notion of compulsory military and civilian service is repugnant to the American sense of freedom, no matter who proposes it, what sets Rangel’s apart is that it is founded on the ugly phenomenon of envy and “class hatred.” This is in character with the Obama agenda of leveling everything with the demolition ball of expropriatory legislation, of wealth and of liberty. When he first introduced his bill, Rangel made sure that its purpose was not primarily to swell the ranks of the military, but to collar the offspring of the rich and wealthy.
"I truly believe that those who make the decision and those who support the United States going into war would feel more readily the pain that's involved, the sacrifice that's involved, if they thought that the fighting force would include the affluent and those who historically have avoided this great responsibility," Rangel said.
"Those who love this country have a patriotic obligation to defend this country," Rangel said. "For those who say the poor fight better, I say give the rich a chance." According to Rangel's office, minorities comprise more than 30 percent of the nation's military.
Under his bill, the draft would apply to men and women ages 18 to 26; exemptions would be granted to allow people to graduate from high school, but college students would have to serve.
In November of 2006, Rangel again introduced his bill, amending it to include a big proportion of the working population, upping the service age to 42. And again, his Marxist malice was transparent.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars.
“There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” Rangel said.
Rangel, the next chairman of the House tax-writing committee, said he worried the military was being strained by its overseas commitments.
“If we’re going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can’t do that without a draft,” Rangel said.
He said having a draft would not necessarily mean everyone called to duty would have to serve. Instead, “young people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it’s our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals,” with a promise of educational benefits at the end of service.
We haven’t challenged Iran, North Korea thumbs its nose at us, and the principal combat venue has switched from Iraq to Afghanistan. These are all excuses, however, which Rangel and his supporters use to argue for a permanent, peacetime draft that would expropriate the lives of millions of Americans to serve what Blankley claimed in 2003 and very likely would still claim is a “another, greater purpose.”
Now, in 2010, Rangel still harps on the alleged class inequities of fighting a war.
"What troubles me most about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the total indifference to the suffering and loss of life among our brave young soldiers on the battlefield," Congressman Rangel said. "The reason is that so few families have a stake in the war which is being fought by other people's children.
"The test for Congress, particularly for those members who support the war, is to require all who enjoy the benefits of our democracy to contribute to the defense of the country. All of America's children should share the risk of being placed in harm's way. "In other words, if you support the war, you should support a compulsory military draft," Congressman Rangel said.
Briefly, Rangel subscribes to the collectivist notion that Americans should “give back” to the country that has provided them the “benefits” of living in a (semi-free) country. What “benefits” are those? Blank out. Is it a “republic,” as he described it in 2006, or a “democracy,” as he called it on July 15? It is doubtful he or anyone else in Congress knows the difference, but we can let that pass for the moment. Mandatory national service would, of course, certainly realize the political dream of “full employment.”
Aside from the evil of claiming the lives of Americans to serve a purpose “greater” than living their own lives -- the emphasis here on the fact that individuals literally own their lives, not the government or “democratic” mob that is alleged to bestow “benefits” on them -- there is in the bill a dangerous provision that grants the president certain discretionary, arguably tyrannical powers.
1(3) The term ‘national service’ means military service or service in a civilian capacity that, as determined by the President, promotes the national defense, including national or community service and service related to homeland security.
And, if not in a military capacity, Americans would be ordered to serve
(2) in a civilian capacity that, as determined by the President, promotes the national defense, including national or community service and service related to homeland security.
(c)….When the induction of persons for military service is authorized by subsection (b), the President shall determine the number of persons described in section 102(a) whose national service obligation is to be satisfied through military service….
Section 105 of Rangel’s bill, “Implementation by the President,” gives the president virtually unlimited powers over American lives. At his “discretion,” he may declare a “national emergency” at any time for any reason he chooses. One can imagine Barack Obama and his ilk in Congress and in the various “czardoms” drooling at the prospect of “remaking” America as a virtual, “full employment” penal colony.
To effectively combat the idea of “national service,” Americans must grasp two critical points: that as individuals, they do indeed own their lives; and that their lives, liberties, property, and their pursuits of happiness are inviolate and integral in their nature and existence as individuals, and are not “benefits” or “privileges” or “stewardships” granted them by a supernatural deity or by “society.” They must muster the courage and pride to tell the Obamas, the Rangels, the Pelosis, and all their ilk in and out of government: “You don’t own me!”
As beings of volitional consciousnesses, Americans can choose to take one political path or another: the one leading to glorious freedom, or the one to ignominious servitude. Time will tell which path they will ultimately take.
The Tea Party movement and the general disgust with government and the Democrats are heartening. But, to paraphrase an Army recruiting slogan, it is not all that it can be.
4 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 ::
Lament of a Federal Reserve Wonk
Posted by Edward Cline at 4:19 PM
A friend of mine, a retired banker, passed on to me the link to an astounding but not so shocking paper written by a senior economist in the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, Virginia. Before joining the Federal Reserve in 2000, Kartik H. Athreya was an assistant vice president at Citibank in New York City (for only seven months). He received his Ph.D. in economics in 2000 from the University of Iowa, and his B.S. in economics from Iowa State University in 1993.
He taught a course, “Topics in Incomplete Markets,“ at the University of Virginia, in the fall of 2003.
As a senior economist at the Federal Reserve, Athreya has churned out several policy papers with titles like “The Growth of Unsecured Credit: Are We Better Off?,” “Equilibrium Models of Personal Bankruptcy: A Survey,” and “”Implications of Some Alternatives to Capital Income Taxation.”
Other papers of his, published or in-progress, include such scintillating subjects as “Consumption Smoothing, and the Measured Regressivety of Consumption Taxes,” “The Case for Direct Methods to Address CO2 Emissions and Other Negative Environmental Externalities,” and “Credit Exclusion in Quantitative Models of Bankruptcy: Does It Matter?”
No, it doesn’t. I have sampled some of these papers, and found them all to be rather contrived, artificial, and, in two words, certifiable snoozers. They are the typical effort of a bureaucratic non-entity attempting originality but only repeating the somniferous screeds of his countless colleagues and predecessors in Federal Reserve banks everywhere.
It is the kind of macro- and micro-economic writing that makes economics so dismal a science. It is devoting thousands of words, lines of equations laden with curious symbols, bewildering pie and graph charts, and jargon-riddled econo-babble to describe the probable causes, consequences and possible solutions surrounding a minuscule crack in a single engine piston -- when the whole vehicle has been totaled in a multi-car pile-up.
Which has been our economy at the hands of the Federal Reserve system for a very long time.
One wonders what passes for “peer review” to vet these studied but wholly busy-work analyses. I imagine it must be the academic equivalents of The Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and the Monty Python troupe, kitted with a Ouija board and a case of Kentucky Bourbon, swapping turns to put their imprimaturs on such ethereal delvings and sorties into Platonic forms.
But the paper of Mr. Athreya’s that wins the prize for hubris and outright elitist condescension is the one originally brought to my attention. With egregious but semi-literate flair, it echoes the yearning of the Obama administration to control the Internet, to regulate speech and thought and to compel everyone to zip it and let the “experts“ talk. These people pose as our Platonic guardians and we are just cave-dwellers, fettered to the dank walls of work-a-day ignorance, who must rely on them to know what is going on outside. His paper has nothing to do with economics, real or whatever alchemy he practices. The paper is called “Economics is Hard: Don’t Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise.”
The title alone should raise the hackles of anyone who now gets his news on the blogosphere and not from the MSM or from the Federal Reserve. Economics is “hard” if it is divorced from reality, reason, and language. It is quite easy and simple if one subscribes to the law of cause and effect. One could embark on a technical discussion of economics, provided one's premises are valid and communicated to the layman.
Mr. Athreya opens with:
In this essay, I argue that neither non-economist bloggers, nor economists who portray economics —especially macroeconomic policy— as a simple enterprise with clear conclusions, are likely to contibute [sic] any insight to discussion of economics and, as a result, should be ignored by an open-minded lay public.
That is not calculated to win Mr. Athreya friends or to influence people. To whom should the lay public turn for advice on economics? Aside from himself, he mentions some obscure economists much later in his paper. But, he continues:
The following is a letter to open-minded consumers of the economics blogosphere. In the wake of the recent inimical crisis, bloggers seem unable to resist commentating routinely about economic events. It may always have been thus, but in recent times, the manifold dimensions of the inimical crisis and associated recession have given ﬁllip (sic] to something bigger than a cottage industry. Examples include Matt Yglesias, John Stossel, Robert Samuelson, and Robert Reich. In what follows I will argue that it is exceedingly unlikely that these authors have anything interesting to say about economic policy.
Remember that these are not the words of a columnist writing for The New York Times or The Washington Post. You bought the paper and can take or leave a columnist’s opinions. This is the assertion of a functionary of the central bank, paid with the tax dollars of all those “open-minded consumers of the economics blogosphere.” I have news for Mr. Athreya: To judge by the content and caliber of his official papers, he is the least likely to have anything of interest to say about economic policy. After assuring readers that he is not being “mean-spirited,” he goes on.
Before I continue, here’s who I am: The relevant fact is that I work as a rank-and-ﬁle PhD economist operating within a central banking system. I have contributed no earth-shaking ideas to Economics and work fundamentally as a worker bee chipping away with known tools at portions of larger problems. It is precisely from this low-level vantage point that I am totally puzzled by the willingness of many who fearlessly and breathlessly opine about economics, especially macro- economic policy.
The worm doth protest too much. He’s just a “worker bee chipping away” at larger problems. I have not lately seen any worker bees chipping away at anything, except in an old Saturday Night Live skit. Buzzing about and alighting on flowers to collect pollen, yes -- but never mind his mixed metaphors. The lesson here is that anyone who boasts so strenuously of his humility is a person to be on guard against.
Mr. Athreya (humbly) considers himself to be a professional economist. He knows what it takes to talk about economics, because he must factor in so many elements and subjects to present “a very precisely articulated model that has been vetted repeatedly for internal coherence.”
Critically, it is one whose constituent assumptions and parts are visible to all present, and can be fought over. And what I certainly know is that to even begin to talk about the effects of unemployment, debt, deficits, or taxes, one has to think very hard about many, many things. Examples of this approach done right in the context of some of the topics mentioned above are recent papers by Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago, Jonathan Heathcote of the Minneapolis Fed, or Dirk Kreuger and his co-authors. Comparing, even momentarily, such careful work with its explicit, careful reasoning, its ever-mindful approach to the accounting for feedback effects, and its transparent reproducibility, with the sophomoric musings of autodidact or non-autodidact bloggers or writers is instructive. For those who want to really know what the best that economics has to offer is, you must look here. And this will be hard.
And it is very, very hard to write coherently about economics, never mind all those pesky autodidacts out there who presume to “muse” about the trillion dollar deficits, the costs of socialist legislation, and the abandonment of all pretense of a federal budget. They should stop writing about this stuff and leave it to professionals like Mr. Athreya to educate the public. Or to Bernard Bernanke. Or Tim Geithner. Or Barney Frank. Or Christopher Dodd. Or Henry Waxman. Or Nancy Pelosi, who wanted Obamacare passed first, and then we could all see its “internal coherence.” All sophomores. Nay, freshmen whose ignorance of economics and indifference to it know no bounds.
Mr. Athreya further on in this bewildering paper attempts to draw an analogy between ignorant bloggers writing about the disastrous consequences of Obamacare and other socialist/fascist legislation (such as President Barack Obama taking over the financial markets today), and hypothetically criticizing seismologists for not being able to predict natural disasters.
These are, of course, the Tsunami in East Asia, and the recent earthquake in Haiti. These two events collectively took the lives of approximately half a million people, and disrupted many more….However, neither of these events was met by (i) a widespread condemnation of seismology, the organized scientific endeavor most closely “responsible” for our understanding of these events or (ii) aﬂurry [sic] of autodidacts rushing to offer their own diagnosis [sic] for what had happened, and advice for how to avoid the next big one. Everyone understands that seismology is probably hard enough that one probably has little useful to say without first getting a PhD in it.
Not a valid analogy, to be sure. Every blogger knows that human actions in the way of trades, contracts, and criminal behavior are observable, and that the movement of tectonic plates is not observable or even predictable. That’s why bloggers did not rush to condemn seismologists, but do rush to speak when Obama destroys another chunk of the private sector. But, Mr. Athreya will have none of that. He insists that bloggers have Ph.D.’s and do course work before inking their pens or touching their keyboards. But then, he’s not addressing bloggers so much as he is those who read them.
So far, I’ve claimed something a bit obnoxious-sounding: that writers who have not taken a year of PhD coursework in a decent economics department (and passed their PhD qualifying exams), cannot meaningfully advance the discussion on economic policy….Many of those I am telling you not to listen to will more than successfully be able to match wits, in any generalized sense, with me. This is irrelevant. The question is: can they provide you, the reader, with an internally consistent analysis of a dynamic system subject to random shocks populated by thoughtful actors whose collective actions must be rendered feasible?
Or rendered coherent? Or comprehensible? Any blogger with half a brain could match wits with His Humbleness because most of them don’t make a career of writing obfuscating treatises that leave laymen cross-eyed and popping headache pills. This essay is written from only one coherent, comprehensible premise: That “amateur” economists should keep still and let the “professionals” do the writing, talking and educating. It’s “hard work,” you know. Mr. Athreya spent years studying economics and got his Ph.D., and now any random bastard can come along and clutter up the landscape with his non-university-gotten ditherings and discourses. It isn’t fair.
Mr. Athreya concludes:
As a result, my hope is that the broader public will ask for a slightly higher bar when it comes to economics, rather than self-selecting into blogs that merely confirm half-baked views that might have been acquired from elsewhere.
Government wonks come a dime a dozen, but I have rarely encountered one with the depth of arrogance and the ingrained sense of entitled elitism as Athreya‘s. This is what such creatures, high in Congress, and low in the faceless cubicles of the Federal Reserve Banks, think of Americans. We are just passive vassals of the state, hungering for enlightenment and waiting for him to show us the way and to answer our questions.
A “higher bar”? Mr. Athreya should discover Ludwig von Mises, Lord Acton, Henry Hazlitt, Frédéric Bastiat, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams, for starters. Any one of them will give him a genuine sense of humility, and teach him just how fighting, arguing, and writing for freedom is such hard and unremitting work.
13 Comments ::
:: Sunday, July 18, 2010 ::
Circe in a Burqa
Posted by Edward Cline at 10:25 PM
In Greek mythology, Circe was a beautiful sorceress who turned Odysseus' men into swine. With help from the god Hermes, Odysseus resisted Circe’s charms, freed his men, and lived with her for a year. The story of Circe and Odysseus had a happy ending. Their union was passionate. Their parting was amicable.
In America, the Statue of Liberty is our Circe, holding aloft the torch of freedom for those who flee servitude and degradation to live their lives unimpeded by tyrants and mobs.
In Islam, Circe (or woman) is an innately corrupting creature, the equal of dogs and monkeys, who must be covered from head to toe lest her charms lead Muslim men astray from the path of purity and righteousness and release the beast in them. It is a version of Christianity’s original sin.
Sean Hannity recently had on his TV show two guests to discuss the recent ban in France of the burqa, and its proposed ban in Belgium: Bridgette Gabriel, president of the American Congress for Truth (ACT), and author of They Must Be Stopped, and Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. It is a measure of the West‘s self-induced vulnerability, however, that all it can fear and combat are the outward manifestations of Islam. Such as the burqa. .
The French ban of the burqa, and the proposed ban of it in Belgium, may be signs of an awakening but belated concern about the incremental Islamification of Europe. But the bans do not address the essential peril posed by Islam, which is its aggressive, all-consuming ideology. The banishers are unable or unwilling to attack that ideology. They forget or ignore the fact that the religion cannot be segregated from its politics; they are one and the same. There is probable truth to Gabriel’s contention that where the burqa is worn in Western countries, that is where the “extremists” may be found. But will banning this degrading attire somehow alter the venues of alleged “extremism“ or “radicalism”? No. Islam is by its nature radical and extremist, as radical, extremist, totalitarian, anti-reason, and anti-individual rights as was Nazism. One may as well have forbidden Nazis from wearing jackboots and flaunting the swastika. Islam is Islam.
Edina Lekovic for the MPAC claimed she is against the burqa, too, but insisted that it is a woman’s choice to wear it. Which is balderdash. It is worn because a woman is an obedient, brain-dead manquétte, or because she is forced to by order of some cleric‘s interpretation of the Koran and Hadith (there are four main schools of Islam), or from fear of reprisal from her husband, relatives and other Muslims if she does not wear it (that, or the chador, or a veil, or some clothing that neutralizes her feminine existence). In many Islamic countries, she would risk arrest by the religious police. No woman would consciously choose to wear the suffocating, gender-obliterating, self-existence-erasing garb. There is no rational reason for any woman to parade in public looking like an inhuman blob. In all instances of its being worn, it is evidence of mindless or fear-based submission. Submission is, after all, the signature act and virtue of Islam.
Towards the end of the Hannity segment, the host brought up the subject of Imam Faisal Rauf and the Ground Zero mosque. He ran a National Republican Trust ad against the Ground Zero mosque, which CBS and NBC refused to air. Gabriel had enough time to mention that Rauf’s father was connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitor of all existing Islamic terror organizations, and that the mosque is an insult to those killed on 9/11. Lekovic claimed the mosque was inspired by a “exact opposite vision of Islam as the one that inspired the 9/11 hijackers,“ and more or less repeated Rauf’s public statements about the mosque’s purportedly benign purpose.
Hannity cited Rauf’s statements in public and from Rauf’s book, in an attempt to underscore the fact that what Islamists say in public, in English, to the West, is the exact opposite of what they really mean when addressing anyone in Arabic. Lekovic simply launched into her own panicky exhibit of taqiya, or the Islamic art of dissimulation, sanctioned by the Koran.
Allow me to quote briefly from Rauf’s Wikipedia entry:
In 1997, Abdul Rauf founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a civil society organization aimed at promoting positive engagement between American society and American Muslims. The organization is now headed by his wife, Daisy Khan. In 2003, Abdul Rauf founded the Cordoba Initiative, another registered nonprofit organization with offices in both New York and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As CEO of Cordoba Initiative, Abdul Rauf coordinates projects that emphasize the bonds that connect the Muslim World and the West.
The name of his organization was carefully devised, but nevertheless is telltale. What exactly are Muslims “advancing” toward? Why do they need an organization to ‘advance“ them? Do they not now enjoy the full benefits of citizenship? What else could there be an advancement to, unless it is a Sharia-compliant America? The acceptance of primitive, Dark Age Sharia law as a multiculturalist-tolerant “coequal” of Western, objective law? Yes. Rauf’s organization is merely a smiley-face front for the conquest of America, just as CAIR and the MSA are. And Rauf himself has terrorist ties. These have been so thoroughly documented that it would be redundant to discuss them here.
What is equally telltale was Rauf’s refusal to condemn Hamas, an organization that is inspired by the “exact opposite” of what purportedly inspires Rauf.
"Look, I’m not a politician. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question," he told WABC interviewer Aaron Klein.
Asked again for his opinion on Hamas, an exasperated Rauf wouldn't budge. "I am a peace builder. I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy," Rauf said, insisting that he wants to see peace in Israel between Jews and Arabs.
And, what bonds connect the Muslim World and the West? Are they the bonds of master and slave? No such bonds ever existed or exist now -- unless we let them grow, and then they would become fetters. Hamas’s conception of peace is the nonexistence of Israel. Rauf knows this.
The West and the Muslim World are not religious, but ideological antagonists.
Disagreement exists about the Ground Zero mosque. Some of it is honest disagreement. The preponderance of evidence that cites the mosque’s actual purpose is on the side of those who oppose it. American liberty is under attack on at least two fronts: by our own government, and by Islam. Opposing the one attack to the neglect of the other still imperils us. Both attacks are of equal importance to me, posing the same mortal dangers, and both can be repelled and defeated by using the same arguments: if one opposes Islam (and Sharia law) because it violates individual rights, that is the same as opposing the government’s violation of individual rights to impose de facto socialism. (The Islamists are also enemies of capitalism, and have made no bones about it.)
If we are addressing sentient beings whose minds are open to reason, they would concur with the corollary. If Sharia law is repugnant to American values for that reason, why should not secular socialism/fascism be equally repugnant? Switch the subjects around and ask the same question. The same argument can be made against Obamacare and similar legislation, such as financial reform, environmental regulations, and so on, as against all the totalitarian attributes of Islam.
The hypothetical victory of men of reason and advocates of individual rights that saw the retreat of statism might lay the groundwork for repelling the incursions of Islam. But, how long would it take to achieve such a victory? A generation or two? In the meantime, Islam would be “advancing” in this country. It is no coincidence that the left has allied itself with Islam and is friendly to any force that would vanquish its political institutions and Americans alike.
Defenders of the mosque backers’ alleged property rights must concede that our situation is absurd and unprecedented: We are burdened with a government whose current stewards have a ravenous appetite for power, and who seem to not mind the incursions being made in this country by a rival ideology, because that incursion will also help to dissolve the country they hate and wish to “remake” as a “people’s republic.” Which one do we take up intellectual arms against first? This column has written with equal fervor about Obama and his policies as well, as it has against Islam and the Ground Zero mosque and the horrors of its own.
How, then, should one weigh the parallel evils? In both the short and long runs, which phenomenon poses the most immediate peril to American liberties? Should we suffer incremental impoverishment from socialism and fascism, or should we suffer the risk being maimed or murdered by a car bomb and have the American population at large become fair game for activist and intimidating domestic jihadists, as the Europeans are?
I can understand Leonard Peikoff’s caveat during his recent podcast on the Ground Zero mosque, that his calm delivery should not be mistaken for disinterestness or distance from the subject. I do not think he ever imagined that the U.S. would descend to such an ignominious state and that the culture would become so irrational that it would defend its destroyers.
From my perspective, the insinuation by stealth and “tolerance” under the auspices of multiculturalism of Sharia law poses just as much a “clear and present danger” to me as the machinations of Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et al. to transform this country into one big prison of indentured servants to the state.
I reject with equal passion the prospect of Circe (or the Statue of Liberty) draped in a burqa, just as I reject the prospect of Barack Obama dressed as Uncle Sam.
5 Comments ::
:: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 ::
Everybody Drew a Fatwa
Posted by Edward Cline at 8:27 AM
The Islamists mean to censor us one way or another: if not from fear of retaliation, then by retaliation. Shut your mouth, still your pens, stop thinking, or we will do it for you. Permanently.
Molly Norris, mild-mannered cartoonist, started a fire she cannot put out. As Rick Santelli’s “rant” on TV from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade fueled the Tea Party, Norris inspired thousands revolt against Islam. In a desiderative whim, she drew innocuous, refrigerator-door magnet caliber pictures which she claimed were images of Mohammad: a spool of thread, a teacup, a spoon, and other mundane things. Overall, they looked more like idle doodles than passionate expressions of the freedom of speech. She posted them in protest of Viacom’s Comedy Central forbidding its cartoon show, “South Park,“ to depict Mohammad in a bear suit.
That spawned the immensely popular “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” on Facebook. And thousands did draw. It is interesting to note that one can invite people to “draw Lincoln,” and we would see images of Lincoln ranging from good to unrecognizable. But how does one draw an image of a person whose face has never been seen, except in imagination? Imagination took hold.
Numerous responses have appeared on Facebook where artists comment, "We have reached 50,000 members. As the news of the rebellion against the attacks to our liberties are heard, brave people join the campaign to stave of those who would annihilate that which we believe in, freedom. Thomas Jefferson's quote is also on the Facebook page. "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
Americans and their friends across the globe responded en masse. The defiance was overwhelming, producing more cartoons than the Danish could draw, many of them ingenious. For a while, everyone was a Guy Fawkes, or a Paul Revere, or a Joan of Arc.
But -- Molly Norris was criticized. Islam answered. Muslims demonstrated. Shut up. Molly Norris recanted. She didn’t mean to offend Muslims. She was only expressing her right to freedom of speech.
Too late. Contrition doesn’t carry much weight in Islam. No one has a right to offend Islam, or blaspheme against it. Whether Mohammad is depicted as a pedophilic ogre, as a knock-off of Charlton Heston’s Moses, or as a teacup, it matters not. It is forbidden. “Sorry” doesn’t cut it. Facebook also caved to Muslim demands and took down the page.
A fatwa has been issued against her and anyone who participated in Everybody Draw Mohammad Day. It appeared in an Al Qada online “magazine” and was issued by a former American turned Muslim cleric, Anwar Al-Awlaki, who now lives in hiding in Yemen. Molly Norris is now a “prime target” to be murdered.
"A cartoonist out of Seattle, Washington, named Molly Norris started the 'Everyone Draw Mohammed Day,'" the article attributed to the radical Yemeni cleric says. "She should be taken as a prime target of assassination, along with others who participated in her campaign. "The large number of participants makes it easier for us because there are many targets to choose from," reads the article in the magazine of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
The killings should not, however, be limited to "Draw Mohammed" participants, the article says. "Because (participants) are practicing a 'right' that is defended by the law, they have the backing of the entire Western political system. This would make... attacking any Western target legal from an Islamic viewpoint."
Molly Norris should know that Islamic "legality" is consistently irrational and brutal. It is not a matter of a slap on the wrist and a fine. Submission to Islam must be total -- or not at all. The "justice" metted out to those who only partially submit is perilous. Even Muslims are not exempt from it.
So, Molly Norris’s life, and that of anyone who drew Mohammad on Facebook, is in danger. So is the right to freedom of speech. The law that defends it is also fair game. The First Amendment is targeted for assassination, as well, not only by President Barack Obama’s wannabe censors, but by Islamists who want to replace the Constitution with Sharia law. Anwar All-Whacky is just as determined to see censorship imposed as is Cass Sunstein (by government force) or Stanley Fish (censorship by proxy). Excuse the mocking nickname; my powers of illustration fail me.
Stanley Fish, self-appointed academic ombudsman of free speech, quibbles about the use of the term censorship, not understanding, or not wishing to understand, that if fear results in the silencing of speech -- a fear sired by the threat of direct force, or of a costly, ruinous lawsuit -- that is as much censorship as the employment of force itself.
So what Random House did was not censorship. (Some other press is perfectly free to publish Jones’s book, and one probably will.) It may have been cowardly or alarmist, or it may have been good business, or it may have been an attempt to avoid trouble that ended up buying trouble. But whatever it was, it doesn’t rise to the level of constitutional or philosophical concern. And it is certainly not an episode in some “showdown between Islam and the Western tradition of free speech.” Formulations like that at once inflate a minor business decision and trivialize something too important and complex to be reduced to a high-school civics lesson about the glories of the First Amendment.
Fish manages to denigrate not only Salman Rushdie in his New York Times piece, but also business itself. He has no grasp of what is fundamentally of “constitutional or philosophical concern.” It's all so trivial, nothing to get worked up about. Save your concern for something important. And that would be...?
“The large number of participants makes it easier for us because there are many targets to choose from,” boasted All-Whacky. True. How are he and his American proxies going to find and slay 50,000 offenders? No problem. He has designated any Western target for destruction. Perhaps someone who “drew Mohammad” will be one of the bomb victims.
How better to vitiate the First Amendment than to frighten men from upholding it? Those who refrain from drawing Mohammad, or from satirizing him and his Moonie-like flocks in word or deed out of “respect” or “tolerance,” or from sheer funk, or who counsel others to refrain, are just as culpable in the loss of that liberty as any Washington censor or duty-bound Muslim.
Of course, one needn’t have drawn Mohammad to become a prime target for assassination. Watching a soccer match in Uganda is also a punishable offense. Or publishing an Islam-friendly novel about the adventures of Mohammad’s child bride -- without illustrations. Or an imageless history of the images of Mohammad. Or employing terms that identify the enemy in national security reports (that would be “profiling” a “religion of peace”).
Those who drew Mohammad last spring cannot all go into hiding, as doubtless Molly Norris must now do. The FBI has advised her to take the threat seriously. There are countless Muslims -- itinerate loners or residents of Muslim enclaves in this country or the patrons of the proposed Ground Zero Mosque -- willing to do All-Whacky’s bidding. We are at war with Islam, and the enemy is amongst us.
Is America fated to become a nation-in-hiding? You, the reader, decide. Our government will not acknowledge the war declared against us. It is up to Americans acknowledge it, and to never surrender this country to Islam or to its secular, Obama-esque form -- to never let it go.
1 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, July 07, 2010 ::
When the Sun Rises in the West
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:09 AM
As a respite from political commentary, I offer here a chapter from We Three Kings, a suspense novel I completed in 1980. It is the second of a three-title series featuring Merritt Fury, an American entrepreneur hero first introduced in Whisper the Guns, published in 1992. The chapter is not entirely irrelevant in relation to the Islamic jihad, the Ground Zero mosque, and the pragmatic vacuity of American foreign policy. Because it is uncertain when and if this novel will ever be published, I thought it appropriate to give readers a sample of what many who have read the entire novel say should see the light of day.
In We Three Kings, Fury has come into possession of a rare and highly prized gold coin, the British Queen Una, given to him by a man whose life he saved but who was subsequently murdered by a Saudi sheik’s thugs. The sheik, who is a close relative of the ruling family and who holds a diplomatic post at the United Nations, wants the coin, and also suspects that Fury killed his younger brother during the first assault on Stephen Crenshaw, the murdered man. Fury also suspects the sheik of engineering a warehouse fire that destroyed some of his imported property. The sheik has been given leave to deal with Fury by an appeasing, circumspect State Department, not abroad, but on American soil. His interests are represented by a disgraced Texan politician, Cooper Dean.
The scene is a palatial residence in a suburb of New York City, Forest Hills Gardens, owned by the sheik. Fury has been invited here by the sheik to discuss the coin. The occasion, attended by the diplomatic corps, is to display a model of a museum the Saudis are planning as a showcase of Western culture. The disputed coin is to be one of its exhibits, in the Hall of the Firmament. During the soiree, Hamdan Khair escorts Fury to the sheik’s sanctum for the interview. He is one of the sheik’s functionaries, bested by Fury in a previous encounter.
* * * *
Sheik Ali ibn Quamisi, standing courteously behind a Louis Quintz desk, cut a dashing figure. Unlike other titled Arabs, he was slim, tall, and showed no sign of fat. His hands were graceful, almost effeminate, and there was a pleasant, regal grace in all his movements. His face was so light-complexioned that Fury speculated that his ancestry must have included a strong mix of Circassia and northern Spain; he could have easily been nicknamed “The Blond Bedouin.” He wore the common spade beard which accentuated the chin and framed the mouth, his black hair was Western-styled, and the black eyes were intelligent, alert and perceptive. He wore a chalk-striped, three-piece suit, a white shirt, and an English striped tie.
Quamisi gestured expansively and with unconscious practice. “You see, Mr. Fury?” he chuckled, “I have not even the time to attend my own celebrations! Always the business, always the proposals and negotiations! Fortunately, you are my last caller. Welcome to my house, newly purchased that it is! You are well?” He waved to a green leather armchair in front of the desk.
Fury answered, “In spite of everything,” then sat down.
“I am pleased.” Quamisi snapped his fingers. Khair appeared from behind Fury and went to the silver coffee service on the desk. With it on a leather blotter were an antique telephone, a marble ashtray, and a tall object that was covered with cheesecloth. Khair poured two demitasse cups; the sterling silver looked fragile in his thick hands, but the liquid spilt nowhere but into the cups. Quamisi accepted a cup from him, then with a smile and another wave bid Fury to accept the other. Again, Fury obliged. Khair retired to his station across the room, out of Fury’s sight.
“That is Hamdan,” said Quamisi, nodding in Khair’s direction, “one of my ablest and most trusted bodyguards.” He grinned. “I believe the two of you have met?”
“Not intentionally, I’m sure,” said Fury. He tasted the black coffee, which was incredibly sweet.
Quamisi chuckled again. “No, not intentionally. I apologize for the clumsiness of my men. Needless to say, Hamdan is not eager to broaden his acquaintance with you, Mr. Fury.” He paused. “You have heard of our religious police?”
Fury nodded yes.
“Hamdan and Yosef -- the guard outside the door -- are former members of that esteemed organization. Ardent members, and somewhat controversial. One of their duties was to ensure observance of our laws and customs by the countless foreign workers in my country. As you may know, alcohol is proscribed by Islamic law. Hamdan and Yosef once caught an American transporting a large volume of it in a van, many cases of it smuggled into the airport. They tied him to the steering wheel of that van and set fire to it. The man did not so much consume his alcohol, as it consumed him.”
Fury lit a cigarette. “Now they set fire to warehouses and murder Americans in their own country.”
Quamisi smiled innocently, and sipped his coffee. He set the cup down, then studied Fury for a moment. He said, “You know, when I was attending school in your beautiful California, I heard many native pearls of wisdom, one of which was: Never discuss politics or religion at a party.” He shrugged. “I thought nothing of it until I assumed the leadership of my people. At parties, politics and religion -- somewhat embellished with alcohol -- may spoil enjoyment and good will. And in business, they may ruin the chance for profit. All the businessmen I have ever dealt with avoid these subjects with a discretion I am not sure is either flattering to them or a courtesy to me. However, I can appreciate how this discretion makes things easier for all concerned.” Quamisi paused to light a cigarette himself. “You, I suspect, are different, Mr. Fury.”
Fury finished the coffee and put the cup and saucer back on the silver tray. “And I don’t attend many parties, either.”
“I thought not. I sense that you can be extraordinarily voluble, given the opportunity.”
Fury wondered what the man was driving at. “It all depends,” he replied.
Quamisi gestured with his cigarette. “I grant you the opportunity,” he said with a smile. There was genuine curiosity in his words.
Fury waited a moment, then said, “For openers, you’d never find me begging for contracts or concessions in Riyadh, Lagos, Moscow, or Peking. As for religion, I can ridicule the faith of your choice. But you will excuse me if I refrain from levity. Inventing jokes was never one of my strong points.”
Quamisi frowned. “You are not a man of God, Mr. Fury?”
Fury smiled. “I don’t even worship the false ones.”
“That makes you the universal infidel,” said Quamisi, who then laughed. He smiled generously at Fury. “Truly a man of the world, with no eye on the next one. And he knows this world.” A distant, speculative look came to the sheik’s face. “A formidable man,” he added. “I must thank you for accepting the invitation, Mr. Fury. You have been the sole bright note in what has been a tedious evening.”
“I didn’t come here to celebrate,” said Fury.
“I imagine not. But it is difficult to fit you into the familiar categories. I confess I am at a loss.”
“Stephen Crenshaw,” Fury said. “Queen Una and the Hall of the Firmament.”
“Yes,” said Quamisi tentatively. “I understand from Mr. Dean that you do not wish to sell the coin in question for any figure. I am certain now that your words are not mere sales strategy. I would make you an extremely high offer for it, but I feel that it would simply be adding zeroes to zeroes.”
“Mr. Dean’s been dirtying his hands lately,” remarked Fury.
Delight spread over Quamisi’s face. “You know something of our attitudes, Mr. Fury! What a pleasant surprise!”
“The dirt on Mr. Dean’s hands is not the usual kind, gotten through honest work.”
“Truly cosmopolitan!” exclaimed Quamisi. “Tell me: What is your view on the state of the world today?”
Fury sighed. “I don’t do soliloquies on the obvious.”
“Poor Mr. Crenshaw,” said Quamisi.
“Not so poor,” replied Fury.
Quamisi shrugged and permitted himself a smirk. “If one man owns a handful of marbles, and another the quarry from which they came before being encased in glass, I will not quibble over the issues of scale.”
“Mr. Crenshaw did not come into possession of quarries that others were afraid to own.”
Quamisi smiled. “And poor Mr. Dean. I expect too much of him, perhaps. His behavior lately has been quite erratic. I asked him to find the man who had been involved in some hooliganism.”
“And he found him.”
“But he can’t be punished,” said Fury. “Not yet, at least.”
Quamisi smiled in reluctant agreement. “Indeed a problem.” He paused. “You know the ways of my people, Mr. Fury. So you must know my feelings on the matter. While this hooligan is still alive, I have a chance to possess that coin. So I must make him regret everything, including his being alive.”
“More warehouse arson?”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not.” Quamisi leaned forward in earnest. “I had sincerely hoped that Mr. Crenshaw would at least see reason. But, he did not, and I have no patience with men who had no good reason not to see reason.”
“It isn’t anyone’s reason you address.”
Quamisi sat back in his chair and waved his cigarette affectedly. “Who was it that said, ‘One should not like to tie one’s hands down for the future by agreeing to something reasonable’?”
Fury, in the midst of putting out his cigarette, frowned, then answered almost immediately, “Lord Clarendon, British foreign secretary, commenting on Austrian peace proposals between Russia, France, Turkey, and Britain, on the occasion of the Crimean War.”
Quamisi looked so stunned that Fury was tempted to laugh.
Fury asked, “You did intend Clarendon’s remark to be pertinent to our discussion?”
Quamisi sighed in concession. “You are a remarkably literate man, Mr. Fury.”
Fury shrugged. “Literate, or well-read. There’s a difference.”
Quamisi chuckled. “Quite. In the future, I shall be more cautious with my allusions.” With meticulous attention, he put out his cigarette in the ashtray. Twisting the filter one last time, he said, “Mr. Fury, I seem to be failing to put the fear of God in you.”
“Perhaps it’s because I never had it that you’re bound to fail.”
Quamisi, his sight fixed shyly on the desktop, smiled foolishly. “Mr. Fury, it is not an issue of ownership we discuss here. Surely you realize that. Another one of your native pearls of wisdom is that ownership is nine-tenths the law. A uniquely Western concept. But as you may have deduced for yourself, the law has, for the moment, forgotten you, and the outstanding fraction has suddenly and quite inexorably become the rule of your life. You are quite isolated, Mr. Fury. More isolated than if you were alone and lost in the Empty Quarter.”
“You can’t have the Queen Una,” said Fury. “It’s mine.” He was beginning to grow bored and impatient with Quamisi. He had come with the hope that he could glean some unique gesture or other facet of the man that would define the essential in him. Perhaps it was wrong of him to come here; perhaps there was nothing more to Quamisi than what he had already known.
Quamisi abruptly grinned. “But -- enough of that for the moment.” He turned in his chair and removed the cheesecloth from the object on the desk to his right.
The thing took Fury’s breath away. It was a foot-high sculpture, on a black onyx pedestal, of a young, nude woman in frosted, translucent crystal. She was standing on her toes, her slim body arched gracefully upward, her head thrown back, her eyes closed in rapture, her arms stretched out to her cupped hands to capture the rays of the sun. The sight of the statuette stirred him instantly, arousing a response whose root was both sexual and esthetic.
“It is a remarkable representative of Western art, is it not?” said Quamisi, studying both it and Fury. “My team of specialists say it was one of three copies, done by some French artist early in this century. His name eludes me at the moment.” Quamisi smiled affectionately at the statuette. “I have another copy of this in my villa at Cannes. The third, I am told, is lost forever, probably destroyed during the last European war.” He turned to Fury with a beguilingly sincere expression. “I acquired this recently at a private auction. Do you attend auctions, Mr. Fury?”
“Not often,” Fury replied. For a reason he sensed rather than knew, he regretted having shown his reaction to the statuette.
“I would say it is priceless, except that I was able to purchase it,” Quamisi continued. “And it was a very private auction. There were only two items for sale, and I was the only bidder. There was the previous owner -- some moderately wealthy recluse in Minnesota whom my specialists reported was not open to a sale -- and this statuette. The previous owner did not think his life was priceless, not after some senseless vandalism and two near-fatal accidents. It was while he was recovering from cardiac surgery that he agreed to price.” Quamisi paused to find Fury staring at him. “It is exquisite. Do you like it, Mr. Fury?”
Fury answered, “I'd say that the man who did not was either esthetically blind or exceptionally corrupt.”
His answer caused Quamisi to frown briefly. Clearing his throat, the sheik said with mock blandness, “But, it is a shame. I had intended to present this piece to Riyadh University, but I have recently received word that certain doctrinaire members of its administration promise to cause trouble if this piece is added to its infant collection. As you may know, human images, exquisite or not, are forbidden in my religion. So, I must dispose of it.”
Quamisi beckoned to the silent Khair and spoke to him casually in Arabic. An expression of bewilderment flattened the servant’s face. Quamisi sharply repeated himself. Khair took the statuette, crossed the room, and stood about fifteen feet from the fireplace. With one last baffled glance at his employer, he pivoted on his feet and flung the statuette into the fireplace with all his strength.
The crystal shattered on the brick behind the flames. A thicker, less delicate crack was made by the onyx pedestal, which ricocheted back onto the rug with other exploded pieces of crystal. The head, severed neatly from the neck, shot back out and rolled to Quamisi’s feet and touched one of his shoes. He glanced down from watching Fury and saw it. Quamisi bent and picked it up and held it in his hand. The crystal that had disintegrated in the fire began to emit odd sounds.
Fury stood up and regarded Quamisi for a moment. Quamisi looked back at him, a pleased, eager and expectant expression in his eyes. Fury said, “I trust you’ve made yourself clear.”
Quamisi tossed the crystal head to Fury, who caught it. “That is for you to decide, Mr. Fury. Have I?”
Fury hefted the crystal head in his hand once. “If this is supposed to be a reminder to me of your power, then yes, I think you’ve made yourself clear.”
“And what is the only possible conclusion to draw from my demonstration?”
Fury glanced at the crystal head in his hand, then smiled at the sheik’s gloating face. “That this is going to make a very interesting souvenir.”
“Get out!!” bellowed Quamisi, jumping up and overturning the coffee service, which tumbled off the desk and clattered to the rug, the pot’s contents spilling over the colors. Hamdan Khair, his face aghast, stood in frozen immobility by the fireplace. “Get out, killer of my brother!!” Weakened with pent-up rage, Quamisi leaned with both arms on the desktop. “I will have you, and I will have that coin!!”
“Of course you will,” replied Fury. His expression had turned to mild contempt. “When the sun rises in the west.” Then he turned and left the room.
© 2010 by Edward Cline
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:: Thursday, July 01, 2010 ::
The Insidious Ground Zero Mosque
Posted by Edward Cline at 8:51 PM
I will begin with a comparison between two buildings, because a question of property rights entered recent debates and disputations about the propriety of the Ground Zero mosque, the rightness or wrongness of opposing its construction, and the nature of Islam itself. This mosque, to be called “Cordoba House,” is just a brief walk from Ground Zero in New York City. Its construction, to replace a private office building damaged on 9/11, has been approved by a city council. But, first allow me to discuss another building.
Years ago Korean Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church, bought a defunct, former first-class hotel in Manhattan, the New Yorker, and turned it into a center for the propagation of his religion, and also as a dorm and office space for his local followers. Doubtless many readers remember the Moonies, converts who had to be “de-programmed” by their parents of the brainwashing these young adults had experienced in Moon‘s “madrassas.”
There were countless numbers of them all over the country, knocking on doors and spreading literature about the Unification Church. They were as annoying as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, but as immune to reason as any Witness and Mormon traveling recruiter. And about as dangerous. They were squeaky clean, nicely dressed and well-behaved. One had the impression they were manufactured on an assembly line.
But, when Moon bought the hotel, no one objected. It was private property. I am guessing that Moon got tax and zoning exemptions and the like from the city government because his was a religious organization, just as I am sure Faisal Abdul Rauf and his cohorts will get them for the Cordoba mosque, as well.
It was inconceivable at the time that the Moonie elders were preaching anti-Americanism and Moonie jihad in the hotel. No one could imagine that they encouraged hate and called for conquest and replacing, with violence, if necessary, the Constitution of the United States with a Moonie Compact of Love and Peace. No one imagined that bombs and suicide vests were being assembled in the hotel basement, or that classes were being held on how to rig a vehicle to explode with the maximum number of casualties. Moonies who happened to live around town outside of the hotel were not regarded with suspicion by their neighbors or the authorities. No one contested Moon’s right to turn the property into a center for his creed (which is an amalgam of pacifist tenets borrowed from other creeds, but especially the Christian).
The idea that the Moonies were planning something awful and homicidal and destructive never occurred to anyone -- because no one had any reason to doubt the “benign” purposes of the hotel purchase. More often than not, Moon and his followers were the butt of jokes. (Try making a public joke about Islam, or Mohammad, or Allah today.) And, nothing happened. No car bombs exploded in Times Square, no massacres of commuters occurred in Grand Central Station. No planes were hijacked and flown into the Empire State Building.
The Moonies have faded from memory. The Islamists, however, do not want us to forget Islam.
Islam is not a Moonie religion. Moon’s religion did not attempt to incorporate or integrate a political agenda with its theological agenda. Islam does. Moon did not declare war on America from South Korea. Islam’s leading lights have, Shiite and Sunni, from all quarters where Islam reigns supreme. The religious and political elements of Islam are mutually supportive, complementary, and coextensive. They are based, in the Koran, on action -- by force or fraud or dissimulation -- with the sole object of conquest and anchoring Islam in the host, and soon-to-be vanquished country.
Someone remarked to me: We are not at war with Islam. War is tanks and machine guns and going over the top. We cannot be at war with an ideology.
Yes, we are at war with Islam. Just as we have been at war with Kant and his philosophical successors, and with John Dewey, and Marxism -- in short, with every anti-individual, anti-life, anti-rights, anti-mind philosophy. it is a war of ideas. “War” is not strictly a metaphor for the conflict that is raging right now under our noses. Islam is a body of ideas totalitarian in nature, designed to wipe out the individual and inculcate mindless obedience to irrational and arbitrary dictats spoken by an angel to a barbarian prophet. From a ghost. The “war” is a battle for men’s minds.
Reason seeks to enable men‘s minds. Islam seeks to cripple them. it is as simple as that.
In this culture, it is irrelevant that neither President Bush nor President Obama (nor their immediate predecessors in the White House) ever declared “war” against Islam, or against states that sponsor terrorism. If by chance we declared war on Iran -- with full, but belated justification -- that would be perceived on the Muslim or Arab Street as a declaration of war on Islam. Fine, I would answer. Have it your way. You are a tribe of manqués and we are about to take down one of your kingpins. Send Allah your Imprecations to slay us. But do not take it out on your moral superiors if nothing happens.
Many believe that opposing the Ground Zero mosque would be a violation of property rights. But where do property rights enter the picture? They do not, as least as far as mosque-building Muslims are concerned. Mosques are centers of indoctrination and propaganda, and of exhortations to wage war against the infidel -- us. Mosques are venues for spreading and entrenching Islam. They are field headquarters of conquest, and they have sprung up all over the country. The piety and good citizenship standing of the flocks of rank-and-file Muslims are irrelevant. They subscribe to the ideology, do not question it, and remain silent when their brethren blow up things and kill people. Their creed commands the silence, but it is still a matter of choice, of volition, and Muslims as a rule choose to remain silent. No man of reason should sympathize with them.
Some have cited the 14th Amendment as an intrinsic good to be brought to the defense of the builders of the Ground Zero mosque, forgetting that, first, that Amendment has been violated countless ways by our own government, and second, that we are indeed at war with Islam and its advocates. To iterate: Just as we were at war with Nazism, another body of inimical ideas (Hitler was its Mohammed, and he sought the help of Muslims to exterminate Jews in Palestine), we are at war with Islam. Islam respects neither individual rights, nor property rights, nor capitalism. It is a holistic vehicle for conquest and subjugation of all who do not subscribe to it. Period.
Faisal Rauf may look like a kindly, gentle cleric, but that is the soft, friendly face of Islam. The Koran permits falsehoods, deception, and lies -- taqiya -- in the name of Islam and Allah. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem looked harmless and well-meaning, too. Think again.
Rauf, the leading light of the Cordoba mosque, has said publicly that the Cordoba mosque is intended, among other things, to be a venue for “interfaith dialogue.”
However, Walid Shoebat, former terrorist but now a dedicated anti-Islamist, notes that, as a rule, public pronouncements by prominent Muslim spokesmen are consciously intended to say one thing for Western consumption, but these same spokesmen reveal their thoughts in Arabic. Rauf is a prime example:
For that we searched Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf’s own words – in the Arabic and not what he says in English to the western media. It should shock every American to find out that Faisal Abdul Rauf stated to the popular Islamic media Hadiyul-Islam on May 26th, 2010 in an article by Sa’da Abdul Maksoud.
In it he states that an Islamic state can be established regardless of the government being a kingdom or democracy. In another article titled “I do not believe in religious dialogue” should alarm the ardent skeptic on the mindset of the Islamic visionary who advocates establishing Islamic lobbies throughout the West.
The defenders of the mosque forget, or have never grasped as a first-hand understanding, that as we live in a mixed economy, we are also living in a culture of mixed epistemologies and metaphysics. The 14th Amendment is only as powerful as the culture that values and respects it, it is only as good as the government that upholds it. So, how can one reconcile the "rights" of the exponents of a religion that denies rights, in a deteriorating political culture, in which individual rights are usurped daily everywhere one looks?
An argument in defense of the Cordoba mosque, based on the 14th Amendment, is dependent on two conditions: that Islam is not an ideology inimical to freedom, bent on conquest and subjugation, and that we are not at war with it; and that our government, through the courts, is moved by an absolute fealty to reason, and so receptive to an argument based on the inviolability of property rights. Neither of these conditions exists today.
Respecting the alleged rights of the mosque builders is not going to stall or reverse the statist trends of our own government. On the other hand, “violating” them is not going to accelerate our own government’s “jihad” against reason and our freedoms. The Obama administration already has the pedal of power to the floor.
It could be about “property rights” were trends reversed and we were on our way to a recognition of individual rights and the sanctity of the Constitution. If we were, Islamists would not bother trying to infiltrate and conquer us by stealth. But, that is not the trend. We are hurtling faster and faster in the direction of fascism. Upholding the “rights” of the mosque builders is pointless when neither our government nor Islam recognizes individual rights. Look at today’s Supreme Court decision on guns and Citizens United. How do they jibe with its decision on Kelo and with its other decisions that nullify individual rights? The Supreme Court is an instance of our living in a culture of mixed moralities, mixed premises, mixed values. The irrational element in the culture is in the ascendant, despite the occasional semi-rational triumphs.
I do not know any more how better to argue the case against the Ground Zero mosque, other than to refer people to Dr. Leonard Peikoff's podcast on the issue.
We are living in an unprecedented time, when this country is under attack by secular jihadists in the White House, and religious ones from Mecca and Medina, both sides demanding unquestioning obedience from Americans, and no one is doing much about it. This is the larger picture -- an aerial photograph of the battlefield, if you will -- that must be grasped. It is and it is not about “property rights.”
Abundant information exists on the means and ends of Islam, on Faisal Rauf’s double-think and purposes, on the record of Islam’s depredations. Read Robert Spencer’s article, or Alyssa Lappen’s, or go to Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project site. These articles were picked at random from a mountain of information open to anyone willing to think.
We are engaged in a literal war, both physical and ideological, a war that has exceeded the time such a war should have been waged. A paramount example of it is Afghanistan. We went into that country looking for the Taliban, Al-Quada, and bin Laden. Seven or eight years later, we are still there -- building roads and hospitals and community centers and handing out candy and good will, now and then taking out a group of killers with a drone. In the meantime we are dealing with an unreliable and reluctant ally, Pakistan, and propping up Karzi's corrupt and "open-to-a-deal" government. Is this war a hallmark of rationality?
There’s no reconciliation possible between reason and faith, between reason and Islam. So, even though it may seem futile, I am opposed to the Ground Zero mosque, because of its symbolic power, because it is evidence of an invasion of this country by an alien philosophy inimical to my life and limb, because its backers are necessarily linked to terrorism and the jihad being waged against this county, and because I refuse to grant Islam any semblance of respect or advantage.
We are not battling Moonies here, but killers and enslavers who wish to offer Americans the choice of becoming Muslim Moonies -- or dhimmitude or death.
Again, no one should be deceived by the kindly, grandfatherly demeanor of Faisal Rauf. He is just a front man -- one of many such front men -- of a larger phenomenon. As a friend remarked to me in the middle of the battle, “Toohey was impeccably dressed and drank Cointreau.” Rauf looks like he would not hurt a fly, either. But, think again. Think twice. Take his assurances for what they are worth -- nothing -- and use his image as the portrait of our enemy. That kindly face hides a mind that subscribes to a philosophy that attacked this country on 9/11 and continues to attack it.
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