Archive for June, 2007
30 Jun 2007

“Gib Frid”

, ,

Daniel Hopfer (c.1470-1536), Old Women Thrashing the Devil
Etching, 22.3 x 15.6 cm (8.8 x 6.2″), purchased at a recent European auction

“Gib Frid (Let me go!),” cries the devil, held to the ground, his pitchfork broken, by three old women pounding him with what I take to be bread boards, as four of his demonic auxiliaries hover nearby in the air, impotent and looking on in alarm.

Artists of the Northern Renaissance apparently viewed the variety of the forms of Nature with considerable suspicion, picturing the devil as an amalgamation of animal and avian forms: with head combining lion, goat, and dragon; limbs of lizard; birds’ heads for knee and elbow joints; and a boar’s head for a phallus.

Hopfer is attempting to convey the moral that life’s labors, the wife’s domestic chores symbolized by the bread boards, pursued with assiduity, may prove a weapon which can effectively defeat temptation.

30 Jun 2007

Dorchester Town Council Rejects War Heroes

, , , ,

Prince Charles proposed a number of historic names with local associations for the names of streets in a newly developed portion of Poundbury, Dorset.

The Prince’s suggestions included the names of a number of soldiers and sailors from Dorset, who served in the Dorset Regiment, or were otherwise connected to Dorset, and were awarded the Victoria Cross;

(descriptions from London Times)

Private Samuel Vickery, of the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment who was awarded the Victoria Cross for the rescue of a comrade under enemy fire in India in 1897.

Seaman Joseph Kellaway, a Dorset-born Royal Navy boatswain, won the Victoria Cross in the Crimea in 1855 after taking on 50 Russians almost single-handed. He landed in a small boat on the shores of the Sea of Azov with orders to burn some haystacks and a farm building. Within minutes Kellaway and four seamen from HMS Wrangler were surrounded by soldiers. Despite a furious onslaught of musket fire Kellaway, 29, went to the aid of two wounded comrades and held off the Russians until his powder ran dry. Kellaway, was presented with the newly instituted Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at a ceremony in Hyde Park.

Captain Lionel Queripel, of the 10th Parachute Battalion, was wounded in the face and arms by withering German fire during nine hours of fierce fighting at Arnhem in 1944. He was awarded a posthumous VC for fighting on with hand grenades and a revolver to cover the retreat of his men. He was not seen alive again.

Captain Gerald O’Sullivan won the VC for leading an attack on a Turkish trench during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. He was killed two months later.

a Dorset survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade;

Trooper Thomas Warr, who died in Dorchester in 1916 aged 87, was one of the last survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade when the British cavalry was cut to pieces by Russian guns during the Battle of Balaclava in 1854. Old Tom died penniless in Dorchester in 1916 and was soon forgotten but his grave was refurbished before a special ceremony by his old regiment last year.

a troopship, saved from fire by the Dorset Regiment;

Sarah Sands was a troop ship which caught fire in the Indian Ocean in 1857. Queen Victoria honoured the Dorsets who helped to fight the blaze.

and the WWII battle of Kohima and the Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars in which the Dorset Regiment served.

But the Dorchester town planning committee rejected the proposed street names, contending that naming streets for war heroes, acts of bravery, or victories might offend someone and would set a dangerous precedent.

Dorset Echo

Chairman of the planning committee, Fiona Kent-Ledger said:

From the start of the Poundbury development the Duchy had a policy of using names from Duchy farms and estates, such as Highgrove House and Hascombe Court, and that’s a nice connection – we like to keep a theme.

“It’s quite a sensitive subject as there are people in Dorchester who have lost loved ones in past and recent conflict.

“We can’t continue to name streets after people, once one street is named the floodgates are open.” …

“It’s not for political reasons or the fact we’re celebrating war, it’s just trying to be practical about where names are used because once they’re there, they’re there forever.”

Max Davidson
thought the council’s decision “smacked of feeblemindedness.”

And veterans thought the decision was an insult.

Mr Julian, who fought in Korea with the Dorsets – now amalgamated into the new West Country regiment The Rifles – said he was furious with the decision.

He said: “This is an insult to the memory of those soldiers who fought and died. It’s a disgrace to the county.

“I bet those people who took this decision have never fought in a campaign. …

He said only three former members of the Dorset Regiment who fought in the Second World War are still alive – and that the rejection was an insult to them as well.

He said names forwarded to the town council for consideration included Kohima, the Second World War battle that saw the Dorsets in the forefront to get the Japanese out of India. The regiment was awarded battle honours for its part in this action.

Mr. Julian found the council’s explanation for its decision unpersuasive.

He said: “Tell that to the young soldiers whose bones still lie out at Kohima. I’m incensed about it.”

30 Jun 2007

Hamas Mouse Killed Off On Television


AP reports that the Palestinian appropriation of the Disney cartoon icon which provoked such a furor in the international media last May has finally been eliminated, but not without a parting propaganda blast.

A Mickey Mouse lookalike who preached Islamic domination on a Hamas-affiliated children’s television program was beaten to death in the show’s final episode Friday.

In the final skit, “Farfour” was killed by an actor posing as an Israeli official trying to buy Farfour’s land. At one point, the mouse called the Israeli a “terrorist.”

“Farfour was martyred while defending his land,” said Sara, the teen presenter. He was killed “by the killers of children,” she added.

The weekly show, featuring a giant black-and-white rodent with a high-pitched voice, had attracted worldwide attention because the character urged Palestinian children to fight Israel. It was broadcast on Hamas-affiliated Al Aqsa TV.

Station officials said Friday that Farfour was taken off the air to make room for new programs. Station manager Mohammed Bilal said he did not know what would be shown instead.

Israeli officials have denounced the program, “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” as incendiary and outrageous. The program was also opposed by the state-run Palestinian Broadcasting Corp., which is controlled by Fatah, Hamas’ rival.

Earlier posting.

29 Jun 2007

Origins of Domestic Cat

, , ,

New York Times:

Some 10,000 years ago, somewhere in the Near East, an audacious wildcat crept into one of the crude villages of early human settlers, the first to domesticate wheat and barley. There she felt safe from her many predators in the region, such as hyenas and larger cats.

The rodents that infested the settlers’ homes and granaries were sufficient prey. Seeing that she was earning her keep, the settlers tolerated her, and their children greeted her kittens with delight.

At least five females of the wildcat subspecies known as Felis silvestris lybica accomplished this delicate transition from forest to village. And from these five matriarchs all the world’s 600 million house cats are descended.

A scientific basis for this scenario has been established by Carlos A. Driscoll of the National Cancer Institute and his colleagues. He spent more than six years collecting species of wildcat in places as far apart as Scotland, Israel, Namibia and Mongolia. He then analyzed the DNA of the wildcats and of many house cats and fancy cats.

Five subspecies of wildcat are distributed across the Old World. They are known as the European wildcat, the Near Eastern wildcat, the Southern African wildcat, the Central Asian wildcat and the Chinese desert cat. Their patterns of DNA fall into five clusters. The DNA of all house cats and fancy cats falls within the Near Eastern wildcat cluster, making clear that this subspecies is their ancestor, Dr. Driscoll and his colleagues said in a report published Thursday on the Web site of the journal Science.

The wildcat DNA closest to that of house cats came from 15 individuals collected in the deserts of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the researchers say. The house cats in the study fell into five lineages, based on analysis of their mitochondrial DNA, a type that is passed down through the female line. Since the oldest archaeological site with a cat burial is about 9,500 years old, the geneticists suggest that the founders of the five lineages lived around this time and were the first cats to be domesticated.

Wheat, rye and barley had been domesticated in the Near East by 10,000 years ago, so it seems likely that the granaries of early Neolithic villages harbored mice and rats, and that the settlers welcomed the cats’ help in controlling them.

Unlike other domestic animals, which were tamed by people, cats probably domesticated themselves, which could account for the haughty independence of their descendants. “The cats were adapting themselves to a new environment, so the push for domestication came from the cat side, not the human side,” Dr. Driscoll said.

Cats are “indicators of human cultural adolescence,” he remarked, since they entered human experience as people were making the difficult transition from hunting and gathering, their way of life for millions of years, to settled communities.

Until recently the cat was commonly believed to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where it was a cult animal. But three years ago a group of French archaeologists led by Jean-Denis Vigne discovered the remains of an 8-month-old cat buried with its human owner at a Neolithic site in Cyprus. The Mediterranean island was settled by farmers from Turkey who brought their domesticated animals with them, presumably including cats, because there is no evidence of native wildcats in Cyprus.

The date of the burial far precedes Egyptian civilization. Together with the new genetic evidence, it places the domestication of the cat in a different context, the beginnings of agriculture in the Near East, and probably in the villages of the Fertile Crescent, the belt of land that stretches up through the countries of the eastern Mediterranean and down through what is now Iraq.

Science article

29 Jun 2007

Immigration Bill Dies, and Some Rightwing Bloggers Hurl Abuse

, , ,

The failed cloture vote dooming the deeply-flawed Immigration Bill was not necessarily, practically-speaking, a bad thing.

The bill represented an incoherent compromise between the political forces seeking to close the gap between reality and our currently unenforceable immigration laws, and the forces seeking to raise barriers and “secure the border.” I don’t think that bill effectively embodied any compelling logical solution, and it would have made partisans of neither side on the issue happy.

I think the country needs to think about all this some more, conduct a serious debate on the subject, and then craft a better solution. The Immigration Bill was an unholy mess, and I think we’re better off giving that one a miss, and trying again another year.

But the Senate vote obviously did manifest some discernible response to the groundswell of anti-immigration popular emotion successfully drummed up by certain segments of the political right. Our nativist law-and-order simpletons won one, and they ought to have been feeling good, but unhappily some members of the right blogosphere’s reaction to their own success at the far-from-difficult feat of evoking a little political cowardice on Capitol Hill was less than attractive.

Rather than celebrating winning a small skirmish in what will undoubtedly be a long war (one in which they are ultimately going to get their butts kicked), a number of bloggers on the right were name calling and demonstrating their own lack of familiarity with how the Wall Street Journal really works. link

Many of our fellow conservative friends are just wrong on this one.

It isn’t difficult to enforce laws against real crimes, against things like murder and robbery which everyone knows are wrong. The laws which are hard to enforce are the laws against things which are not intrinsically wrong, the kinds of laws which ordinary decent people are willing to violate, and which decent law enforcement officers are not eager to enforce. When existing laws prove unenforceable, the right answer is not to redouble efforts at enforcement. The right answer is to change the law to bring the law’s content into better conformity with Americans’ legitimate desires.

Conservatives ought to recognize that when spontaneous, voluntary, mutually beneficial economic transactions between human beings occur, that is a good thing, not a bad thing, and government should get out of the way, and not try to interfere on the basis of anybody’s theory of what the country ought to look like.

29 Jun 2007

Russia Advancing Vast Arctic Lands Claim


The Daily Mail reports:

Russian scientists have returned from a six-week mission on a nuclear ice-breaker to claim that the 1,220-mile long underwater Lomonosov Ridge is geologically linked to the Siberian continental platform – and similar in structure.

The region is currently administered by the International Seabed Authority but this is now being challenged by Moscow.

Experts estimate the ridge has ten billion tons of gas and oil deposits and significant sources of diamonds, gold, tin, manganese, nickel, lead and platinum.

A Russian attempt to claim Arctic territory was rejected five years ago, but this time Moscow plans to make a far more serious submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. …

Ted Nield, of the Geological Society in London, branded Russia’s claim nonsensical.

“The notion that geological structures can somehow dictate ownership is deeply peculiar,” he said.

“Anyway, the Lomonosov Ridge is not part of a continental shelf – it is the point at which two ocean floor plates under the Arctic Ocean are spreading apart.

“It extends from Russia across to Canada, which means Canada could use the same argument and say the ridge is part of the Canadian shelf.

“If you take that to its logical conclusion, Canada could claim Russia and the whole of Eurasia as its own.”

28 Jun 2007

Derbyshire Updates Betjeman

, , , ,

Today’s Congress evidently provoked John Derbyshire to update John Betjeman’s Slough. The Corner’s link simply never produced anything for me. The lovely and talented Dr. Sanity, however, both linked and quoted it. My thanks to her.

Come, friendly bombs, fall on D.C.!
It’s not fit for humanity.
There’s nothing there but villainy.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs, and blow to kingdom come
Those pillared halls of tedium—
Hired fools, hired crooks, hired liars, hired scum,
Hired words, hired breath.

Mess up this mess they call a town—
A seat for twenty million down
And rights to the incumbent’s crown
For twenty years.

And smash his desk of polished oak
(Paid for by honest working folk
Toiling ‘neath taxation’s yoke)
And make him yell.

28 Jun 2007

Star Spangled Banner (JibJab Version)

, , , ,

The ever-cheery video makers at JibJab have a new 1:26 video featuring a lively version of the national anthem performed by a remix of recent US presidents. Their sunny perspective is refreshing, as always.

28 Jun 2007

The Condition of Al Qaeda Prime

, , , , ,

Fred Burton and Scott Stewart, writing for the subscription service Stratfor’s Terrorism Intelligence Report, use several metrics to assess the current condition of al Qaeda’s organizational leadership core. The article is quoted in its entirety by Watch n’ Wait.

Al Qaeda’s media branch, As-Sahab, released a statement by Ayman al-Zawahiri to jihadist Internet forums June 25. In it, al Qaeda’s deputy leader urges Muslims to support Palestinian militants by providing weapons and money, and by attacking U.S. and Israeli interests. Although al-Zawahiri’s message is interesting, especially the fact that he urges support for an organization he has criticized heavily in the past, perhaps most telling about the release is that it contains no new video footage of al-Zawahiri himself. …

The fact that al-Zawahiri chose this format rather than the more engaging and visually powerful video format suggests al Qaeda’s apex leaders are feeling the heat of the campaign to locate and eliminate them. Although many people believe the al Qaeda leadership operates as it pleases along the Pakistani-Afghan border, evidence suggests otherwise.

Last week’s Terrorism Intelligence Report discussed the campaign conducted by the United States and its allies against al Qaeda’s regional and local nodes. Though these efforts have been under way in many parts of the globe, the United States and its partners have been pursuing a concurrent campaign against al Qaeda’s apex leadership, al Qaeda prime. Like the campaign against the regional nodes, the effort against the prime node employs all of the five prongs of the U.S. counterterrorism arsenal: military power, intelligence, economic sanctions, law enforcement operations and diplomacy.

The overall success of this campaign against al Qaeda prime has been hard to measure because there are few barometers for taking al Qaeda’s pulse. By its nature it is a secretive and nebulous organization that, in order to survive, has taken great pains to obscure its operations — especially since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that flushed its leaders from their comfortable and well-appointed refuge inside the Taliban’s Islamic republic.

While bin Laden and al-Zawahiri have escaped U.S.-led efforts to locate them, a large number of second-tier leaders and operatives have been captured or killed. This means the group’s organizational chart has been altered dramatically below the top rung, making it difficult to determine the quality of the individuals who have been tapped to fill in the gaps. … with so many unknown players filling critical positions, it is difficult to determine precisely how much the attrition has affected the prime node’s ability to plan and execute attacks.

Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that their operational ability has been diminished. The group has not launched an attack using an al Qaeda “all-star team” since 9/11. Meanwhile, outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, the attacks conducted by its regional nodes, or by regional nodes working with operational commanders sent from al Qaeda prime, have decreased in frequency and impact over the past several months. The first six months of 2007 have been quieter than the first six months of 2006 and far more peaceful that the last six months of 2005. And, not to downplay the loss of life in London, Madrid, Bali and other places, but in terms of numbers, the death tolls and financial impacts of all those attacks do not hold a candle to the 9/11 attacks — even when many of them are combined.

Beyond the personnel losses al Qaeda has suffered, the loss of its dedicated training facilities in Afghanistan also has changed the way the prime node works. It is less autonomous and far more dependent on the largesse of Pakistani and Afghan feudal lords who control training camps along the border — and who are key to the security of al Qaeda prime. … Another way to gauge the health of the organization, or at least the comfort level of the group’s apex leadership, is by looking at its public relations efforts and the statements it releases to the public. Al Qaeda prime has produced a steady supply of messages in order to keep local nodes — and perhaps more important, grassroots jihadists around the world — motivated. These releases, however, reveal a change over the last several months in the way al Qaeda communicates to the world.

The number of messages from al Qaeda’s two top leaders has fallen, while the use of video has dropped dramatically. Before the October 2006 missile attack in Chingai, Pakistan, 14 out of 15 messages were released in video format; since then, only three of the nine have included video. The switch to an audio format indicates concern about operational security. It also is noteworthy that bin Laden has not been heard from in any format, audio or video, since July 1, 2006 — nearly a year now. All these factors considered, it is apparent that the apex leadership feels threatened.

Read the whole thing.

28 Jun 2007

Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Mudie Boileau (1926-2007)


Tuesday’s Telegraph records the passing of Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Boileau,

a dashing cavalry officer and Arabist whose adventurous post-war career took him to a succession of remote outposts.

(He attended) Cranbrook School, Kent, whence, aged just 17, he enlisted in the Royal Armoured Corps.

His entry to Sandhurst having been delayed by ill health, Peter was commissioned into the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards in August 1945. He joined the regiment in Palestine, served there for 18 months during the Zionist disturbances, and then spent a further year at Cyrenaica, Libya, as regimental transport officer.

On his return to England Boileau discovered that service at home was beyond his means. He volunteered for the East African Independent Armoured Car Squadron, shifting for the next two years between Kenya and Somaliland.

Impressed by his flair for languages, Boileau’s commanding officer recommended him for the official Arabic course. A year’s instruction at Beirut qualified him as a second-class interpreter, and he was posted to HQ British Troops in the Canal Zone. As a GSO 3 (Intelligence), he was responsible for the interrogation of prisoners and for translating captured documents in a period of mounting tension.

There followed three months as Commander of the Libyan Army – he had been promoted to temporary major but was known by the native title of kaid (chief) – until he was relieved by a Turkish officer.

Still as a temporary major, Boileau came into his own with his appointment, in December 1952, as armoured car adviser to the Sheikh of Kuwait, a state newly enriched by oil. Relations with the Arabs deteriorated after Suez, and the Kuwaiti minister of defence delighted in making Boileau’s life difficult. Much to his relief he was transferred, after six years in Kuwait, to HQ Intelligence at Maresfield, Sussex, his services being recognised by his appointment as MBE in 1959.

In 1960 Boileau was appointed equerry to Crown Prince Mohammed of Jordan during an official visit. Bored and truculent, the young man showed little interest in military organisation. He was unaware that Boileau understood the dialect in which he conversed with his entourage, usually to plan some more agreeable distraction. Bewildered that he was constantly forestalled, the prince cut short his visit after only three weeks.

Later in the year Boileau was posted to Aden in an unglamorous intelligence role, and from July 1962 was military liaison officer to the Arab minister of defence in the Federation of South Arabia. In 1964 he was seconded as a political officer in the Radfan area. Back in Aden in 1965, he was upgraded to deputy permanent secretary in the ministry, in the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Boileau was a marked man with the terrorists, who made a last attempt to assassinate him before he left. A grenade was thrown on to his terrace while he was sitting there with his wife and some friends. Boileau miraculously escaped injury, though his wife was peppered with fragments and all their companions were more or less seriously wounded.

Boileau decided to retire, and joined a firm of overseas consultants, based in Beirut, with responsibility for its office in Rome. In 1971 he moved to Rhodesia, and later to Cyprus and Andorra, before settling at Mirande in the Gers, where he shed the anglicised pronunciation of his name (“Boylow”) in favour of the French one.

Tall, fine-featured and bookish, Boileau loved music, poetry and armoured cars in equal measure. His tolerant, philosophical view of life made him the most relaxing of companions and inspired a devoted following, which included cats and dogs, and children for whom he made up stories.

Always a nonconformist, he had no intention of retiring to Dorset like his father. He once astonished friends and fellow diners at a Chelsea restaurant by bursting into song in Italian. His marriage, in 1950, to Jean, daughter of Walter Fitzgerald Hill, whom he had met in Mogadishu, was in defiance of his commanding officer. He described her as the wittiest and kindest of women and they were a devoted couple until her death in 1999. There were no children.

Boileau’s daily routine at Mirande included collecting his reserved copy of The Daily Telegraph from beneath the town’s ancient arcades, and strolling across the square to greet French Muslim veterans, or harkis, in Arabic. In his final maison de retraite, he was curtly ordered by a newly-arrived nurse, of North African appearance, to undress and put on his pyjamas. He reproved her gently in Arabic: “Would you speak to your father like that?” The girl swiftly joined the ranks of his admirers, observing that he “spoke the Arabic of kings”.

Peter Boileau was an active member of the Anciens combatants at Mirande who provided a guard of honour at his funeral.

27 Jun 2007

Civil Unrest in Iran

As the mullah’s regime approaches nearer and nearer to open war with the West, the impact of UN sanctions is producing domestic unrest.


Iranians rioted in the streets of Tehran after the government imposed rationing of gasoline, which the country spends $5 billion a year to import.

Starting today, drivers will be allowed 100 liters, or about 26 gallons, of gasoline a month, Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh said on state television. Taxis will get 800 liters. Lawmakers said earlier this month drivers would probably get five or six liters a day, 50 percent more than the program actually grants them.

“At least” five filling stations in Tehran were burned and damaged following the announcement, Nasser Raissi-Far, the head of Tehran province’s filling station union, told state-run Mehr news.

Although Iran holds the world’s second-biggest energy reserves, it imports more than 40 percent of the gasoline it uses. Demand is buoyed by subsidies while supply is restricted by waste and lack of refinery capacity. Service stations in Iran sell the fuel at 1,000 Iranian rials a liter, about 42 U.S. cents a gallon.

The dependence on imports makes Iran vulnerable to United Nations economic sanctions, which are likely to increase in coming months if it refuses to suspend uranium enrichment. Since December, the UN Security Council has limited the transfer of nuclear technology and the international travel of some Iranian officials.

PJM has video.

27 Jun 2007

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Suicide Units in Iraq

, ,

Depkafile has a followup on yesterday’s Sun story.

Early this week, Tehran deployed in southern Iraq and southern Iran contingents of Revolutionary Guards Corps of suicide fighters in anticipation of an American attack on Iranian soil.

Those units were posted to fight off a possible US Marines landing in southern Iran. Tehran believes the American force will be assigned with destroying RG bases and infrastructure in the south and sabotaging the oil wells and installations of Iranian province of Khuzestan.

The RG fighters were dropped by helicopter in southern Iraq on June 24 and 25. Their task will be to launch suicide attacks on US and British bases and command posts in the region the moment Iran comes under American attack.

Also in anticipation of a showdown, Tehran announced Tuesday at only two hours notice the rationing of gas for Iran’s private motorists to 100 liters per month. Protesters started torching gas stations Wednesday.

For lack of refining capacity, the oil-rich country imports 40% of its gasoline needs and oil products. Tehran sharply reined in private consumption to free up reserves for the armed forces in case of war and keep power stations and water supplies running in an emergency.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that these two steps in three days attest to the certainty of Iran’s government and military that a military confrontation with the US is around the corner.

The British Sun newspaper first disclosed the Iranian troop thrust into southern Iraq Monday, June 25, reporting: “It is an extremely alarming development and raises the stakes considerably. In effect, it means we are in a full war with Iran – but nobody has officially declared it.”

DEBKAfile’s military experts add: In effect, the Iranian military incursion of Iraq is the fourth military invasion of foreign territory underway in the Middle East at this very moment. None are officially admitted.

Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted for June 2007.

Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark