Saturday, September 24, 2016

Review: The American Revolution and The Politics of Liberty

It’s interesting that Barack Obama’s newest press secretary, Josh Earnest, characterized the conflict between ISIS and Obama’s friendly treatment of ISIS (aka ISIL), a brutal, mass murdering terrorist organization, as a “war of narratives.” In short, he denigrated any opposition to ISIS, or any criticism of Obama’s overall pro-Islam policies, as arbitrary say-so. Doubtless Earnest would also characterize the arguments between Britain and the colonies in the 18th century as a “war of narratives.”

Pamela Engel, writing for Business Insider, wrote on September 19th:

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told CNN on Monday morning that the US was in a "narrative fight" with ISIS.

Earnest appeared on the network as authorities in New York and New Jersey investigated bombs found throughout the area over the weekend, including one that injured 29 people when it exploded on Saturday night in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

Authorities on Monday morning seemed to be changing their initial assessment that the bombs weren't connected to one another and did not appear to be related to international terrorism.

"What I can tell you is that we are, when it comes to ISIL, we are in a fight, a narrative fight with them, a narrative battle," Earnest said, using an alternate name for the terrorist group, which is also known as the Islamic State or Daesh. "And what ISIL wants to do is they want to project that they are an organization that is representing Islam in a fight, in a war against the West and a war against the United States."

Earnest continued: "That is a bankrupt, false narrative. It is a mythology. And we have made progress in debunking that mythology."

It is a “bankrupt, false narrative” only in the minds of Earnest and the rest of the Obama administration. Islam is without a doubt at war with the West, but the West refuses to acknowledge that declaration of war. It can’t bring itself to concede that Islam is more a political ideology than it is a “religion.” The Obama meme is that Islam is basically a “religion of peace” (continuing the George W. Bush line) that was “hijacked” by murderous renegades. This is the actual “mythology” that should be debunked.

But the Obama administration and the MSM and all their minions will not be persuaded otherwise. It would scuttle their whole approach to combating Islamic terrorism. They have a vested interest in the Progressive/Left ideology that defines their world view. They are ideologues trapped in a locked room in which they go round and round, chasing their own tails.

Robert H. Webking, author of The American Revolution and the Politics of Liberty, contradicts the received wisdom that the revolutionaries were little more than ideologues who had no philosophical or moral foundation on which to base their opposition to the growing expansion of British power over the lives of the American colonists, and so they declared their independence from Britain more from roiling emotion than from principle. Webking is a professor of political science at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Webking offers illuminating insights into the writings and thinking of several prominent revolutionaries, all of them “intellectuals”: James Otis, Patrick Henry, John Dickinson, Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Their efforts contributed mightily to the arguments of colonial churchmen and “activists and to the moral certitude of the “common man.”  

Webking, in his Preface, lays down his plan:

The subject of this book is the political thought of the intellectual leaders of the American Revolution. I seek to clarify the arguments about human beings and their governments made by the most thoughtful and influential of the American revolutionaries to explain their opposition to the policies of the British government during the period immediately preceding the American war for independence….The Americans explained their resistance to the British in principled terms….They claimed that British actions were not merely unwise or impolitic but fundamentally wrong and unjust….” (p. ix)

In his Introduction, Webking elaborates on his purpose:

For much of this century [the 20th] it was the accepted opinion that an examination of the arguments made by the American revolutionaries would yield no important knowledge. Scholarship during the first half of this century was dominated by historians who minimized, if not denigrated, the place of ideas in the genesis of the American Revolution. Known collectively as the Progressives, these historians turned to material interests, class structure, property holdings – in general, to socioeconomic factors – to explain the revolutionaries’ behavior. They believed that the revolutionaries to have been moved by what was in their pockets, not by what was in their heads; or rather…they believed that what is in human beings’ pockets controls what is in their heads.” (p. 1)

 Which is more than just a Progressive state of mind; it is a Marxist state of mind, pure and simple. Men’s minds are governed and fashioned by their “class structure” and “economic circumstances,” not by their independent thoughts, says Marxism. They cannot “think” or behave otherwise, or think outside the sealed Marxist envelope. Among other chalk marks against Marxism, is its denial of human volition. Marxism is a philosophy of determinism.

Webking exposes the Progressive determinist premises of such prominent historians as Bernard Bailyn, author of one seminal work, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, 1967):

Insofar as Bailyn is unclear as to what he means by the ideology of the Americans, he has left unanswered a serious question about the causes and rationality, of the American Revolution. There is, however, much evidence in his work to suggest the question. And the evidence suggests that Bailyn’s contention is precisely this: the revolutionary Americans were acting in irrational ways because they were determined to do so by an ideological paranoia that gripped them and left them incapable of both of perceiving political reality and of acting politically like rational human beings.” (p. 7)

Webking notes:

Of course it would be possible for men driven by ideology to attempt to appear rational and prudent by using language they didn’t mean or by uttering prescriptions they never genuinely followed. Still, the Declaration [of Independence] does suggest that the leaders of the Revolution were moved more by rational calculation and less by irrational ideology than Bailyn concludes. (p. 11)

Bust of Patrick Henry in the Virginia State

Capitol, Richmond, by William F. Sievers
The Declaration of Independence is the culmination and high point of Western Enlightenment thought about liberty and political freedom. It is certainly more than mere “rational calculation.”

Webking emphasizes that the first great intellectual leader of the Americans during the period preceding the Revolution was James Otis of Massachusetts. Otis, in 1761, argued that the British “writs of assistance,” which allowed customs officials to search “wherever and whomever” they chose to search property to enforce British anti-smuggling efforts. (p. 16). Webking quotes extensively from Otis’s pamphlet, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved (1764).

Otis closes his introduction with two long quotations from [John] Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government confirming the conclusion that the people have “a supreme power to remove, or alter, the legislative when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them.” (p. 23)  

Webking moves up the hierarchy of intellectual leadership to Patrick Henry, John Dickinson, Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, with an explication of each leader’s contribution to the intellectual and moral foundation of the Revolution. Henry, who was regarded in his time by many of his contemporaries as a crude country bumpkin, was actually better read in the classics and in the political science of the time than most would credit him for. His extensive “self-education” allowed him to author the Virginia Resolves, which denied Parliament the right to tax the colonists without their consent. In May of 1765 he rose in the House of Burgesses, Virginia, and stunned the body with his oratory and rational arguments against the Stamp Tax. Webking writes:

A copy of the Sievers bust of Henry,
at Red Hill, Virginia, Henry’s last home.

It is unfortunate that Patrick Henry’s speech…to persuade its members to adopt the resolves was not preserved. However, it was not the speech that actually passed the House of Burgesses but the resolves as published in the papers [throughout the colonies] that stirred resistance to the Stamp Act…(pp. 31-32)

In Book Four: Empire, of the Sparrowhawk series, I dramatize Henry’s speech in the House introducing the resolves. I wrote speech itself, based on the style of 18th century oratory. Please excuse the hubris, but I think I captured Henry’s style and character. Here is Henry in action, towards the end of his introduction of the resolves:

            Henry had removed his hat and handed it again to Colonel Munford. He took a step away from his seat. “The honorable gentleman there,” he said, pointing boldly to Peyton Randolph, “spoke now, not of the rightness or wrongness of the resolve in question, but of ominous consequences, should this House adopt it. I own that I am perplexed by his attention to what the Crown can and may do, and by his neglect to speak to the propriety of the resolve and the impropriety of this Stamp Act. Should he have examined for us the basis of his fears?  Yes. But, he did not. Perhaps he concluded that they were too terrible to articulate. So, I shall examine them, for I believe that he and I share one well-founded fear:  The power of the Crown to punish us, to scatter us, to despoil us, for the temerity of asserting in no ambiguous terms our liberty!  I fear that power no less than he.  But, I say that such a fear, of such a power, can move a man to one of two courses. He can make a compact with that power, one of mutual accommodation, so that he may live the balance of his years in the shadow of that power, ever-trembling in soul-dulling funk lest that power rob him once again.
            “Or – he can rise up, and to that power say ‘No!’ to that power proclaim: ‘Liberty cannot, and will not, ever accommodate tyranny!  I am wise to that Faustian bargain, and will not barter piecemeal or in whole my liberty!’”
            Henry folded his arms and surveyed the rows of stony-faced members across the floor. “Why are you gentlemen so fearful of that word?” he demanded. “Why have not one of you dared pronounce it?  Is it because you believe that if it is not spoken, or its fact or action in any form not acknowledged, it will not be what it is? Well, I will speak it for you and for all this colony to hear!”  His arms dropped, but the left rose again, and he shouted, stabbing the air with a fist, “Tyranny! Tyranny! Tyranny!  The arm dropped again. “There!  The horror is named!”
            Henry wandered back in the direction of his seat, though his contemptuous glance did not leave the men on the opposition benches. “You gentlemen, you have amassed vast, stately libraries from which you seem to be reluctant to cull or retain much wisdom. Know that I, too, have books, and that they are loose and dog-eared from my having read them, and I have profited from that habit.”  His voice now rose to a pitch that seemed to shatter the air. “History is rife with instances of ambitious, grasping tyranny! Like many of you, I, too, have read that in the past, the tyrants Tarquin and Julius Caesar each had his Brutus, Catline had his Cicero and Cato, and, closer to our time, Charles had his Cromwell!  George the Third may – “
            The opposition benches exploded in outrage. Burgesses shot up at the sound of the king’s name, released now from their dumb silence, and found their argument. They cried to the Speaker, “Treason!” “Treason!” “Enough! He speaks treason!” “Expel that man!”  “Silence that traitor!” “Stay his tongue!” “Treason!”
            Speaker Robinson was also on his feet, shaking his cane at Henry. “Treason, sir! Treason! I warn you, sir! Treason!”
            Henry, determined to finish his sentence, shouted above the tumult, “ – may George the Third profit by their example!”         
            Henry stood defiantly, facing his gesturing accusers, then raised a hand and whipped it through the air in a diagonal swath that seemed to sweep them all away. “If this be treason, then make the most of it!” he shouted. He stood for a moment more, then turned and strode back to his seat. But, he did not sit, for he was not finished. (pp. 235-238, Book Four: Empire. Sparrowhawk)

Webking describes in detail how each of the five resolves that were passed and promulgated (not by Henry himself) throughout the colonies was interconnected by unassailable logic to each of the others. (pp. 32-38) Patrick Henry “topped” his speech in the House of Burgesses in his “Give liberty or give me death” speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond ten years later.
"Give me liberty, or give me death!"

John Adams, wrote Webking, more or less seconded Henry’s Richmond speech:

In his attempts to balance the evil of mob violence with the evil of despotism, Adams ultimately makes his decision on the basis of the importance of liberty to human beings and of the seriousness of the threat to liberty presented by the principle of absolute parliamentary authority. He concludes that to allow a right so valuable to human beings to be removed without a fight is a greater evil than the right to fight. He says that in such a fight  the people, even if they lose, cannot be unsuccessful: “because, even if they live, they can be but slaves, after an unfortunate effort, and slaves they would have been, if they had not resisted. So that nothing is lost. If they die, they cannot be said to lose, for death is better than slavery. If they succeed, their gains are immense. They preserve their liberties.” (p. 91, Italics mine.)

Robert Webking’s book is highly recommended to anyone wanting to grasp how “intellectual” were the founders and the basic principles on which they argued for liberty. Unlike today’s political establishment, they did not argue as fatuous ideologues who cannot or refuse to explain why Americans must become slaves or wards of the state or deferential lackeys of the political elite (and I include in that condemnation the Left and the Conservatives and the Neo-Conservatives). This is the tactic of the enemies of freedom today. Their purpose is to de-legitimatize this country’s founding principles. They can only snort, smirk, and sneer at those principles.

The American revolutionaries were not engaged in a pathetic non-intellectual “war of narratives” with their enemies. Webking ends his book with this observation:

The leaders of the American Revolution argued, worked, and fought for peace, stability, and, most important, for liberty. The study of their revolution is the study of the rational pursuit of human liberty. (175)

The American Revolution and the Politics of Liberty, by Robert H. Webking. LSU Press, 1989. 181 pages.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Stew Pot of Notable News

You can tolerate a little rape, can't you? Start tolerance!
I could not pass this up. It is one of the dumbest, most politically correct, and insulting pro-immigration ads that has passed my desk. It has appeared on German TV. Paul Joseph Watson reports on Infowars:

A television ad currently airing in Germany invites blonde-haired, blue-eyed women to embrace “tolerance” by wearing the Muslim hijab head dress.

The commercial begins with the text “Turkish women wear the hijab,” as a veiled woman is seen with her back to the camera.

However, when she turns around it immediately becomes clear that the woman is a white, blonde-haired German, before she states, “Me too! It’s beautiful!”

“Enjoy difference – start tolerance,” states the woman.

The campaign is funded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, as well as German taxpayers, who are forced to obtain a state television license or face prison time.

Instead of reversing its suicidal immigration policy, it appears as though Germany is now encouraging its female population to avoid the mass sex assaults committed by Muslim migrants in numerous major cities by submitting to Islam and covering themselves up.

The outfit worn by the model is about as Sharia compliant as a Halloween gypsy costume you might see at a college sorority party. Frankly, it is quite fetching.  It is distinctly not Turkish or any style resembling approved Islamic norms. The woman is not wearing a hair-covering hijab. It is definitely an invitation to rape, as she is decidedly “uncovered meat,” to judge by Sharia measures of “modesty.”

 If any woman appeared in Germany (or in France, or in Sweden, or in  any Muslim conquered or invaded Continental country) in that kind of outfit she would be immediately surrounded by Muslim men, groped, and thrown to the ground and given the Lara Logan Cairo treatment. The costume would be ripped from her body. Then she could “enjoy the difference” and do her bit in “enjoying tolerance.” Right? If she complained, she could be punished by Merkel’s tolerance police and accused of “racism” or “Islamophobia.” “You did not start tolerance!” they’d shout.

You have to ask yourself what possessed the minds of the producers of the ad to turn out such a putrid piece of propaganda. Well, it could not have been sanity. Speaking of Turkish dress, Turks in Germany are especially brutal as they like to disfigure their European victims after the gang rapes. I’ve only seen Turkish belly dancers so attired in movies.

Please note that it is not Muslims or any of those Muslim male adult “refugees” who are being asked to “start tolerance,” although they may, as criminals, “enjoy the difference” in the act of sexual assault. It is German women who are being urged to submit to Islam by voluntarily covering themselves up and staying out of sight. I would be as welcome to an Obama or Hillary Clinton rally dressed as Uncle Sam or sporting a “Make America Great Again” cap. A German woman would stand a similar chance of non-molestation in any Muslim “no-go” neighborhood. I’d be beaten up by #Never Trump morons and social justice warrior thugs.

On another front, “refugee” champion George Clooney, who owns about a dozen million-dollar mansions around the world, including at Lake Como, Italy, is reluctant to allow migrants anywhere near that personal refuge from reality. As with other members of the establishment “elite,” Clooney wishes to insulate himself from the destructive consequences of his policies. Dealing with the rapes, robberies, and other culturally “enriching” habits of savages is not for him, just for the hoi polloi, otherwise known as the “deplorables.” Hillary Clinton unintentionally handed Donald Trump the perfect meme by calling his supporters “a basket case of deplorables.”
Tolerance for thee, but not for me.

Breitbart reported on July 13th:

The migration of hundreds of people from Arab nations, Africa, and Asia was triggered following the Swiss government’s decision to close its southern border with Italy.

Now, waiting for smugglers to lead them into northern Europe, groups of migrants are camping out in tattered tents around the Lake Como resort.

Flimsy dwellings, clothes and trash are scattered around the Northern Italian town’s railway station, where dozens of new families and refugees have flocked….

The migrant camp is, oddly enough, just steps away from the front door of immigration activists’ George and Amal Clooney’s multi-million dollar lakeside mansion in Lake Como, according to the Daily Mail.

The couple was recently pictured drinking tequila while watching fireworks on a boat near the property alongside their close friend Bill Murray.

The Clooneys have taken refuge from the Hollywood spotlight in their summer home in Italy for years. Last year, Page Six reported that Clooney was mulling putting his Lake Como villa on the market due to ever-present and intrusive paparazzi.

It is unclear if the recent deluge of refugees pouring into town will have an affect on Clooney’s decision to sell or not.

The power couple has spent some time talking about the migrant crisis. The Clooneys met privately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in February and praised and thanked her for her leadership during the crisis….

George has previously described Trump as a “xenophobic fascist” who wants to “ban Muslims from the country.”

I guess Clooney is hoping we don’t label him as a “xenophobic fascist,” as well, for thinking about selling his Lake Como mansion to put some distance between him and his adopted “children.” No, we won’t call him that. Instead, we’ll call him a hypocritical pull-peddler and social justice warrior who is reluctant to rub shoulders with the “refugees” or risk having Amal groped or worse by other culture “enrichers.”  

Amal Clooney, the British-Lebanese human rights attorney who married George in 2014, slammed Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump this past April, saying his immigration stance and promise to build a wall on the Mexican border do not represent “U.S. values.”

George and Amal know as much about “U.S. values” as I do about phrenology or dialectical materialism.

We, the MSM, don't need no stinkin' objectivity!
That also goes for the MSM. It has abandoned all pretense of reporting any news concerning Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and adopted a “what we say goes” philosophy of slander and puffery. It may not pass as “truth,” but who’s to say what truth is? It’s whatever we want it to be, and if you don’t believe it then you’re a racist, xenophobic, anti-Islam pig. Never mind that Hillary is sodden with corruption, chargeable felonious offenses, and treason, we, the MSM, believe she knows all about “U.S. values” and we want this beast to sit in the White House and guide this country to the oblivion it so richly deserves, to continue the destruction implemented by Barack Obama. We stick our tongues out at objectivity and truth.

Justin Raimondo of the LA Times reported in his August 2nd article, “To fight Trump, journalists have dispensed with objectiviity.”  He asks:

Why are the rules of journalism being rewritten this election year?

This transparent bias is a national phenomenon, infecting both print and television media to such an extent that it has become almost impossible to separate coverage of the Trump campaign from attempts to tear it down. The media has long been accused of having a liberal slant, but in this cycle journalists seem to have cast themselves as defenders of the republic against what they see as a major threat, and in playing this role they’ve lost the ability to assess events rationally….

To take a recent example: Trump said at a news conference that he hoped the Russians — who are accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers — would release the 30,000 emails previously erased by Clinton’s staff. The DNC went ballistic, claiming that Trump had asked the Russians to commit “espionage” against the United States. Aside from the fact that Trump was obviously joking, Clinton claims those emails, which were on her unauthorized server during her tenure as secretary of State, were about her yoga lessons and personal notes to her husband — so how would revealing them endanger “national security”? Yet the media reported this accusation uncritically. A New York Times piece by Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker, ostensibly reporting Trump’s contention that he spoke in jest, nonetheless averred that “the Republican nominee basically urged Russia, an adversary, to conduct cyber-espionage against a former secretary of state.” Would it be a stretch to conclude from this description that the New York Times is a Trump adversary?

Polls shows that journalism is one of the least respected professions in the country, and with Trump calling out media organizations for their bias, widespread slanted reporting is bound to reinforce this point — and to backfire. Trump’s campaign is throwing down the gauntlet to the political class. If journalists are seen as the mouthpiece of that class, they may soon find themselves covering Trump’s inauguration.

Raimondo concludes that his local newspaper, the Sonoma County Press-Democrat, “is  clearly in the tank for Hillary Clinton,” and that can be said as well for the rest of the MSM.

Sheep that could not recite the Shahada, had its throat cut.
In the meantime, Barack Obama wants us all to “enjoy the difference” and help Muslims in America celebrate Eid al-Adha, the “holiday” when Muslims butcher animals by slitting their throats and letting them bleed to death in agony. It’s a religion, don’t you see? It’s halal. It’s culturally “enriching.”

He said, on September 12th, to help “commemorate” 9/11:

“We are reminded of the millions of refugees around the globe who are spending this sacred holiday separated from their families, unsure of their future, but still hoping for a brighter tomorrow,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “And as a nation, we remain committed to welcoming the stranger with empathy and an open heart — from the refugee who flees war-torn lands to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life.”

Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of the Sacrifice, began Sunday night and ends Thursday night.

I wonder who really wrote that. Angela Merkel? George Clooney? Hillary Clinton? Loretta Lynch? You see, there is no difference between halal butchery of animals and what ISIS and other Islamic Justice Warriors have done to or wish to do to all Jews and infidels: slit their throats and let them bleed to death. 

Remember how the stewardesses and pilots of the 9/11 planes died with those boxcutters? That’s halal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How to Celebrate Islamic Eid

A “festival” of slaughter, or sacrifice, halal style, not necessarily limited to livestock by bleeding them to death, but is often practiced on infidels

Here are some excerpts from The Black Stone, a detective novel set in 1930 San Francisco, in which the hero, Cyrus Skeen, discovers the bizarre, brutal, and murderous nature of Islam. The volume of information available to us today about Islam did not exist in 1930. But what he was able to find caused him, his wife, Dilys, and Mickey Kane, a top rank newspaper reporter, to make disbelieving, defamatory, and wonderfully blasphemous remarks about Islam. Skeen is investigating the horrendous murders of a young Jewish girl and a newspaper reporter who had stolen the “Black Stone” of the Kaaba. He is pursued and murdered by members of The Muslim Brotherhood. Skeen encounters an agent of the Brotherhood, and deals with him in his typical no-nonsense style. He discovers another murder in his own office building. Enjoy the excerpts.

Cover Illustration:  Leader of Ikhwan Sultan bin bajad Al-Otaibi, who allied himself and his tribe with the Sauds to conquer the Arabian Peninsula. The Sauds did not wage war against the Ottomans, but sat out WWI sipping tea with the British. The Sauds are erroneously depicted in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia as following Lawrence to attack and slaughter a Turkish column.

"You go ahead," said Skeen when they returned two hours later. They stood outside their bedroom door. "I want to look up something. It's something Professor Lerner mentioned. It won’t take a moment." 
"Don't be long, Cyrus. You look tired in spite of your energy."
In his study, he consulted his several sets of encyclopedias for information on Islam. None was to be found in the Funk & Wagnall's, nor in the Collier's. There was some information on mosques and something called the Kaaba in Mecca in the twenty-volume New International Encyclopedia. All the articles he was able to find referred to Moslems as "Mohammedans."
He was up until two o'clock. He closed the last volume, yawned and stretched his arms. He had acquired some basic information about Islam from the articles, but not nearly enough to satisfy his appetite or his curiosity. He would be taking the roaster back out tomorrow after all, to the library and some book shops. He switched off the desk lamp and went to the bedroom…..

"Did you know," Skeen asked casually over breakfast the next morning, "that Mohammedans, when they go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, must walk counter-clockwise around the Kaaba seven times, and run between some hills looking for water, and perform a schedule of other rituals, all designed to make them feel like silly, worthless asses?"
 "Kaaba?" asked Dilys, who was paying only half attention to her husband. "Sounds like a Greek dish, smothered in the finest feta cheese sauce, and best served with ouzo." She was reading the morning Observer-World. She had fixed a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. Skeen had just poured himself a second coffee and was on his first cigarette of the day. He was reading from notes he had made last night in his study and had passed the newspaper over to Dilys.
"The Kaaba," read Skeen, "is a cube-like structure smack in the middle of an open-air mosque about the size of Kezar Stadium, about forty-four feet high and fifty in length. Other scholars reverse the dimensions. It is built of granite on the outside, marble on the inside. It sits on a spot, according to Mohammedan lore, that Allah designated that Adam and Eve should build a temple, or an altar." Skeen paused. "Of course, that story must have been concocted after the Kaaba had been a pagan shrine for an undetermined number of centuries, housing scores of other deities. Allah's own genealogical antecedents seem to be rooted in a moon god of fecundity."
Dilys looked up from the newspaper. She said, wearing an incredulous but amused frown, "You're making that up."
Skeen chuckled. "No, I'm not. It's all in the encyclopedia…"
Skeen smiled wickedly. "Great material for a stand-up comedy monologue at the Fantasma Theater." He went on. "The Kaaba is skirted by an enormous black silk table cloth, with Koranic verses embroidered in gold, high enough out of reach of light-fingered pilgrims." He paused. "Presumably, the roof is bare, but somehow water-proofed. All in all, the Kaaba that exists today is just one of several that have been built, destroyed, collapsed by floods, damaged in war, redesigned, and gussied up ever since it probably began as a stone shanty erected by heathens thousands of years ago, housing wart-nosed witches they probably called vestal virgins, visited by decrepit old priests who performed Masonic-like rites over bowls of foul-smelling incense."
Dilys chuckled. "I can just picture it now. Thousands of the heathen votary doing a syncopated conga around the place to a mad drum beat. Some cranky old priest on the roof with a megaphone acts as a cheerleader, prompting them to shout en masse some obscene imprecation in Arabic, or whatever they spoke back then."
"A very fine parody, darling," said Skeen, "worthy of Cecil B. DeMille's talents." He continued reading. "Today, observers write, about one hundred thousand pilgrims perform the Hajj annually."
Dilys looked up from the newspaper again. "Hodge? As in hodge-podge?"
Skeen shrugged. "I suppose so. Or perhaps it it's 'Hadge,' as in 'badge.' There was no pronunciation guide in the encyclopedia." He frowned. "As for Mecca, historians and cartographers aren’t even sure the place existed when the alleged prophet, Mohammad, or Muhammad, is said to have graced the Kaaba with his presence and laid the Black Stone. They think it might have been a backwater town, a kind of camel stop, noted by Ptolemy, called Macoraba. Which, in turn, raises a question mark over the existence of Mohammad himself. It's all quite hilarious." Skeen put aside his notes. "And that's all I was able to glean from my sources here." He finished his coffee. "I'll be going downtown today to find more books on Islam. Care to come along…?"
Skeen returned early in the afternoon with a bag full of books on Islam he had purchased in two Market Street bookshops. He repaired immediately to his study. Aside from three recent books on current events in the Middle East, he had bought The Qur'an, by Mirza Abul Fazi, which featured the text in Arabic and English, and The Holy Qur'an, by Maulana Muhammad Ali, which featured annotations on the English text. The two other books were Whither Jerusalem? by Hortense Abigail Pickett, a traveler in the Mideast who taught at Oxford University, about the Jewish-Arab conflicts beginning in the late 19th century, and two books by H. St. J. B. Philby, The heart of Arabia: a record of travel and exploration, from 1922, and Arabia of the Wahhabis., from 1928, both books published in London by Constable.
Dilys came into the study around midday and espied the pile of books on Skeen's desk. "Well," she said, sitting on the edge of the desk, "I guess I won’t be seeing much of you today…."
Skeen said, "I've been dipping in the Koran. It's worse than the Bible in many respects. Utterly schizophrenic in parts. One moment you're being urged to behave like St. Francis, and be kind to all animals, even Jews and other infidels. The next it's inveighing against Jews and other infidels, calling for their extermination. It's beginning to read like a manual for a career in sadomasochism, authored apparently by a person currently incarcerated in Sing Sing, and provided with a liberal and lifetime supply of cannabis or some other hallucinatory pharmaceutical product. You know, one of those serial killer convicts who finds religion."
Dilys said, "Surely you're exaggerating."
Skeen shook his head. "Remember that my sole encounters with Islam in the past were two of Mr. Winston Churchill's books about his experiences in the Sudan and the Northern Frontier in which he describes Moslems, or Mohammedans, or Muslims and their practices and fanaticism, then my declining an invitation to join the Ancient Arabic Order of the Noble Shrine last year – can you picture me wearing a red fez decorated with mystical symbols? – "
Skeen obliged. "In the one Philby book I discovered the Saudi Ikhwan – "
"The icky one?" asked Dilys, pausing to scrutinize her husband's face for a moment.
"The Ikhwan," repeated Skeen, spelling the term. "Plural for Moslem 'brothers.' Tribal allies of this Saudi king. They're Wahhabists, sticklers for pure Islam."
Again, Dilys looked incredulous. "Wahhabists? As in the Wabash River? Or should it be the Swanee?"
"No, not quite. I'm not sure of how to pronounce it, either. Say! I think I'll use that phrase of yours the next time anyone asks me about the Ikhwan."
"What phrase?"
"The icky ones."
Dilys shrugged. "I thought that was what you said. You're welcome to it."
"According to Philby and Picket, they're first-class throat cutters. Very similar to the Thugees of India." Skeen chuckled. "That would be a sight. Allah versus Kali. More interesting than both Dempsey-Tunney fights. Kali, you see, would have twice the punching power."
"She'd have four arms. She could deliver a double sucker punch. I wouldn't put my money on Allah."
"I'm not a betting woman…."
Kane made a face. "But, what's with this blasphemer stuff? What do you think that's all about?"
Skeen took a deep draught on his cigarette. "I have a hypothesis, but first, I put the question to you: What kinds of people would resort to murder in the name of their religion?"
Kane shrugged. "Klansmen? Really wicked Bible Belters? Evil Evangelicals? Babbling Baptists? Recidivist Revivalists?" He paused to wag a finger. "And it wasn't just murder, Skeen. Dwyer was tortured while he was strapped to that chair. There were cigarette burns and knife cuts all over his torso, and on his face. There was a cigarette butt in one of his eye sockets." He paused again. "And his hands had been cut off, too. I saw the police photos. Getz saw them, too, but didn't mention any of that in his article, just the head in the wash basin. He said Bauer, our editor-in-chief, said there was a limit to describing murders for the public."
Kane finished his sandwich last, and went for another coffee. When he returned, he asked Skeen, "So, fill me in on these Mummers."
Skeen chuckled. "Mohammedans. Or Moslems. You can look up all the variations at the library." He lit a cigarette and briefly described Islam and its fundamental tenets and rules.
Kane looked incredulous, but he believed what Skeen had told him. "What a bunch of crackers!" he said. "Do these guys also speak in tongues, and roll on the ground, and foam at the mouth?"
"They probably speak Arabic, for starters. At least, that's what the Koran is written in, although there's evidence it was originally penned in Aramaic. They pray five times a day, on their hands and knees, and bang their foreheads on the ground or floor. As for foaming at the mouth, that seems to happen when they're on the warpath, or beating their wives, or cutting men's throats."
"And this Catawba in Mecca, these pilgrims run around it seven times and kiss something called the Black Stone? Is that anything like the Blarney Stone? You kiss it and you're given the gift of gab?"
Skeen chuckled again. Kane was just as amusing as was Dilys. "It's the Kaaba, and I don’t know of any purpose in kissing the Stone, other than to prove you have a rock fetish, are not a little addled, and wish to be in the company of a multitude of fools."
"Do you think any of these Catawbans live here?"
Skeen shook his head. "It's doubtful."
"That Hajj pilgrimage you described: It sounds like one long college fraternity initiation." Kane sighed. "Well, I think I'll read up on this gang, too. Library, here I come." He put out his Lucky Strike. "But where can you take it from here? What can you do about it? I mean, suppose it wasn't a genuine Catawban who killed the Lerner girl and Dwyer, but someone who wants everyone to think it was…?"
The hallway on the thirteenth floor was usually quiet. This evening, there were more visitors than usual. The line of frosted glass doors identified an insurance office, a dentist, a personal injury law office, and, at the very end, a literary agency. Skeen was only acquainted with the tenants. He had never exchanged more than ten words with any one of them.
 As he approached the elevators, three people stepped into the cab. The elevator operator closed the doors immediately. A woman came out of the law office, shouting "Hold it, please!" but she was too late. She pressed a button and stood waiting. As Skeen approached, she turned to look to her left. Hearing Skeen, she glanced at him and said, "There's something wrong with that man down there. He must be having a conniption fit."
Skeen sighed. It was probably Mr. Schupe, whom he had left at the elevator to wait for a ride. He must have been sicker than he realized.
He crooked his head to look past the woman. He saw a man in a blue suit on his hands and knees on a gray spread of cloth, bowing and muttering to himself, and performing other supplicating motions with his hands. Then he bowed completely and banged his head on the floor three times. His overcoat, shoes and socks lay to the side of the cloth.
"What the hell?" he thought at first. Then he realized what was happening and what the man was doing. What startled him were the red streaks on the side of the man's face he could see.
He raced back down to his office, causing Clara to jump out of her chair. Dropping his briefcase on her desk, he rushed to his office, quickly unlocked a desk drawer, and took out a Colt revolver.
Checking the cylinders and thumbing off the safety as he ran back out past an alarmed Clara, he saw that the man was still performing his ritual. The woman at the elevator frowned and spotted Skeen's revolver. She screamed.
The man at the end of the hallway looked up to face Skeen, who had slowed to a quick walk, the Colt at his side, ready.
The man's face was a swarthy tan and pockmarked. He had black hair, a black moustache, and black marble eyes. The eyes glared back at Skeen.
His face also bore the scabs of many scratches, on the cheeks and neck and around the eyes, evidence of recent wounds that were healing too slowly.
Skeen raised the Colt. "Hands up, mister!"
Instead, the man rose to his full height and spat on the floor with contempt. His face wrinkled into one of unmistakable malice. He reached into his coat and drew out a bloodstained dagger. Raising it high in the air, he cried, "Alluha Akbar!" and charged Skeen, his bare feet slapping on the marble tile.
Skeen fired and hit one of the man's left kneecap.
The man cried once and instantly collapsed to the floor. But he raised himself to one knee and tried to hobble towards Skeen, his dagger raised again over his head.
Skeen fired at the man's dagger wrist. The wrist jerked back and the dagger flew out of his hand and landed with a clatter in front of the insurance office door.
With his other hand, the man clasped his injured wrist. But he still tried to move towards Skeen, shouting indecipherable imprecations at the top of his lungs, staring up at Skeen with indescribable hatred.
"Oh, be quiet!" said Skeen, who thumbed on the safety, gripped the Colt by the barrel, and pistol-whipped the man on his skull.
The man's eyes closed and he fell unconscious, his forehead striking the tile in front of him. White froth oozed from his lips….
It was a one-room office. Skeen saw a desk, bookcases, and tables with piles of manuscripts. In the rear were a coffee table and two plush armchairs on a modish carpet. Next to a couch was a stand holding a coffee urn. Nothing seemed to have been disturbed.
Judith Juliette was a thin, fiftyish woman with black hair that was turning silver. She and Skeen had exchanged the usual morning and evening greetings when they encountered each other in the hallway or in the building lobby.
Now she lay on the floor in back of her desk, her mouth open with a curled up sheet of paper clenched between her teeth. She had apparently been gagged with a woolen scarf, which now covered her eyes. Her throat had been cut, as well as her wrists, and her face had been beaten to a pulp. Her blouse had been ripped open, and her bra removed. Slashes and gashes were all that were left of her breasts and chest. She had not been raped. Her skirt still covered her legs. Skeen bent and moved the scarf from the woman's eyes. They had not been gouged out, but stared back up at him in frozen agony. He gently closed them.
Skeen rose and fought an urge to be sick.
Instead, he bent and pulled the sheet of paper from the woman's mouth and opened it. In primitive lower case letters, it read: ded ju bitsh. alluha akber. It had been scrawled on the back of a blank memo. 

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (64/62 BC – 12 BC), Roman statesman, general, and architect, Louvre, Paris; resembles Cyrus Skeen, according to Dilys, his wife, who owns a copy of the bust.