Since you didn't ask, a zygote is not a human being. Once the embryo starts kicking and sucking its thumb and responding to outside stimuli, it's a different story. Before that, it's a bunch of inchoate cells that could be used by stem-cell scientists to infuse new hope and life into persons with a variety of horrific diseases. Just because a man and a woman have sex and a sperm finds its way into an egg and the thing implants itself in the lining of the womb doesn't mean we're talking about a sentient being. Not to mention artificially inseminated eggs in petri dishes, fergossake. Sentience takes time. We're definitely not with GW on this, and we suspect his wife and his mom aren't either. He may be a brilliant poker player, but he's no brain surgeon, let alone having a clue about reproductive science. Senate Republican leader Doc Bill Frist is probably closer to sound science and common sense on this one. It's all about emotion, though, so there will be no possibility of reasoned discourse. You're either with 'em or against 'em. Faith is like that.
Not that we'd ever vote for Frist for president or anything else. As a medical student he murdered cats:
For us Frist is in the same class of amoral all-about-me types as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who as governor of California was all set last year to kill off stray cats and dogs in shelters early and often as a cost-saving measure. He quickly backtracked when the electorate balked, but by then he'd showed his cards, and it was too late. These people have no soul.
"It's pretty good but not as good as those live California car chases," we half joked to Tuck this morning as FOXNews went on wall-to-wall, breaking-news alert -- via its UK sister network Sky News -- in the upscale Notting Hill area of West London, where armed police were moving in on some of the July 21 terrorist suspects. Our point was that the cables weren't showing us the big picture the way they do with classic car-chase coverage [Thank you, OJ], where helicopter cameras fly over the action in real time, giving us the lay of the land. For safety or strategic reasons, helicopters may have been out of the question in London this morning, but a schematic map or two for perspective wouldn't have hurt. The Telegraph reports:
At least one property had been under surveillance overnight, and witnesses described two properties being raided today -- one near Delgarno Gardens and one in the Tavistock Road area of Notting Hill, less than a mile away.
Tavistock Road runs close to Westbourne Park Tube station where the man who attempted to blow himself up on a train near Shepherd's Bush on July 21 got on to the network.
Schematic Google map of west London's Notting Hill area (slightly larger scale than hybrid map above) focuses on transportation routes, with built areas and open spaces simplified for clarity. The contrast between Hyde Park as a photographic satellite image (top) -- dead ringer for a 19th-century landscape architect's plan -- and Hyde Park as a flat green shape (above) illustrates the power of maps, according to the mapmaker's intention, to convey different kinds of information.
Good schematic contextual maps showed up eventually on CNN. 'Still haven't seen anything but close-ups of police operations, eyewitness testimonials and on-the-scene reporters on FOXNews. Probably not good for business. "In your face" sells. But for our viewing dollar, stepping back from time to time to lend a little perspective would improve the product. And we're not just talking about maps.
Speaking of breaking news and exciting coverage, FOXNews is just now reporting that a fourth bomb suspect was arrested in Rome. The ultimate humiliation for suicide-bomber wannabes: To miss their target and then be caught in their own dens of iniquity by the infidel. Nice police work.
"This is the revolt of the privileged, Islamic version. They have risen so far, so fast in the dizzying culture of the West that they have become enraged, disoriented and vulnerable to manipulation," writes David Ignatius [via Roger L. Simon], locating the London terrorists' self-absorption on the extreme end of a continuum they share with our own all-about-me student radicals of the Sixties:
When you read reports that the Muslim terrorists who bombed the London Underground may have gotten together for a pre-attack whitewater rafting trip in Wales, you realize that this is a very particular enemy -- and one that is recognizable to students of history . . .
People who were students in the 1960s will remember the phenomenon: The kids from elite public and private schools who went to college, felt guilty about their comfort amid a brutal world, and joined the Progressive Labor Party to ally with oppressed Third World workers. There is a cult aspect to this jihad – an extreme version of the logic that has always drawn disaffected kids to self-destructive behavior.
The Islamic extremists are often described as "Salafists," and it's interesting to explore just what this says about their spiritual moorings. The Arabic word salaf means "past," and the Salafists are often said to be trying to re-create the pure values of the ancient ones who were the Prophet's companions.
According to Vincenzo Oliveti in his fine study of the Salafists, titled "Terror's Source," their religious teaching casts aside the traditional canon – the "Sunna" that make up Sunni Islam – in favor of a have-it-your-way smorgasbord. A favorite saying of the Salafists, according to Oliveti, is nahnu rijal wa hum rijal, which he translates loosely as "We are all men so why should we accept that anybody knows better than us?"
Reading those words, we thought of Ibsen. If you read Roger L. Simon regularly [Doesn't everyone? --ed], you'll know why.
The modernity of Ibsen's thought hardly needs further emphasis. The
elevation of emotion over principle, of inclination over duty, of
rights over responsibilities, of ego over the claims of others; the
impatience with boundaries and the promotion of the self as the measure
of all things: what could be more modern or gratifying to our current
In Ibsen’s philosophy, everyone -- at least Nature’s aristocrats,
for in fact Ibsen was no egalitarian or democrat -- must examine every
question for himself and arrive at his own answer: for example, whether
the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is historically true -- or at least
historically true for him.
Babe leans into the pet on a sultry afternoon yesterday.
We never knew anyone who loved to pet as much as Baby Cakes. Slow to rise, his purr is deep, dark and delicious, a rumble in your ear once he gets going. The Great Satan to small birds and mammals, Cakes The Magnificent to his peers as First Among Equals, to us he is just the sweetest boy ever was, a booful, fluffy pussycat (forget about those scars on our arm, souvenirs of the time we got caught in the crossfur between him and Lucie on her homeland turf Down East -- scroll down to comments for reference).
In all such cases of international criminal psychology, we have no
choice but to move beyond police work and questions of political
motive, and reach for the tools of the forensic psychologist -- most
importantly, the art of profiling.
But it is not only or even primarily the killers and their tutors that
must be so examined: Thorough profiling demands that we also study the
victims, who in cases of terrorism are whole societies. The point is
not to see those societies as they actually are, but as the planners of
the outrage saw them.
"These questions will not be answered by focusing on the grievances by
which the terrorists later claimed to have been propelled," notes Carr:
When the situation is viewed through this lens of victim profiling (never to be confused with "blaming the victim"), we can begin to see why al Qaeda's leaders and affiliates evidently began to think themselves capable of breaking an alliance that once withstood the assaults of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. For a widespread psychological phenomenon has gained strength in Britain in recent years, coming to a crescendo in the last few months [as blogged here the other day] . . . many Britons have subscribed to a new narrative of the post-9/11 world, one in which the U.K. is portrayed, not as a willing partner in the invasion of Afghanistan, nor as the author of much of the incorrect and/or deceptive intelligence that so rallied support in the West for invading Iraq, but rather as the largely innocent tool of a nefarious U.S.
Nations that experience collective psychological crises frequently attempt such reinventions, just as do individuals. By revising the facts surrounding irrationally violent incidents so that they themselves are somehow made responsible for them, victims often seek to exert some kind of control over if, when and how their tormentors will inflict their random cruelty. But what British citizens who have participated in this revision of the historical record do not realize -- just as Americans in 2001, Turks in 2003, and Spaniards in 2004 did not -- is that showing fear and self-disparagement in the face of al Qaeda's threats only marks the society in question as a suitable candidate for attack. Sociopaths revel most in assaulting terrified, submissive victims; and a Britain so concerned with avoiding attack that its ordinarily wise citizenry would give voice to the kind of simplistic thinking expressed in the media in recent months evidently fits that description to an extent irresistible to al Qaeda's minions within its borders.
In this light, the trigger for the London bombings was far less the presence of British troops in Iraq, and far more the media circus that surrounded protestors outside the G-8 summit, as well as the utterances of musical and other celebrities during the "Live 8" performances.
We love the way this guy's mind works. He concludes:
As a branch of sociopaths, terrorist leaders possess their own deformed cravings for fame, which makes them particularly susceptible to the false realities projected by celebrities. And if al Qaeda or one of its cohorts indeed mistook the angry but deeply confused language recently bandied about Britain as final proof that that nation's will to fight terrorism had become mortally compromised, then we may well have our answer for why the London attack occurred when it did: The long-sought-after moment when a seemingly retreating Britain could be fully separated from the U.S. had finally arrived. It only required violent exploitation.
Two images cropped from the same photo . . . Remarkable how the puddy in the background -- Tiny, atop the table upper left -- is so much smaller than the one in the foreground -- Baby, upon the terrace, lower right. To the naked human eye they appeared to be the same size.
Did you know that while you're waiting for your Mac version of Photoshop to replace the Windows one -- order faxed last Thursday and not due to be shipped till the end of this week at the earliest -- you can download a FREE! 30-day tryout from Adobe? No one told us when we ordered, but the gal we talked to today when we were trying to trace the shipment of said software said there was no problem, and it's true. We're soakin' in it (see above photos).
Pretty soon it will be second nature to us now, and we won't even speak of it.
"This is not a program, really. It’s a wraparound justification for a violence whose real end is the expiation of shame through massacre,” says BBC editor Mark Urban, cited by The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik as a voice in the wilderness among Britain's chattering classes. "The theory that the terrorist threat was exaggerated or that it wasn’t immediate . . . had become extremely powerful on the respectable [Huh? --ed] left," writes Gopnik. Momentarily mugged by the reality of 7/7 and 7/21, they managed to quickly regain their "senses," explaining away the London bombings as "inevitable payback for the war in Iraq" [Bush/Blair Lied, People Died]:
Against this argument is the view that the new kind of terrorism is essentially nihilist and apocalyptic, and that Iraq is only a kind of inchoate excuse. “After all, the African embassy bombings happened before Iraq,” Mark Urban, the diplomatic editor of the BBC program “Newsnight,” said. “The I.R.A. had a political arm, and a political goal, however unreal: they killed to get people to the table. What is there to negotiate with these people? An end to the American presence in Saudi Arabia? All right, we’ll consider it. The elimination of the State of Israel? Hmm, that may be a bit more difficult. The restoration of a universal Islamic caliphate? It may be a bit of a deal-breaker, that.
Jolly good, Mr. Urban. We couldn't agree with you more. There may be hope for Western Civ yet. Even as the more numerous head-in-the-sand staffers continue to guzzle the Kool-Aid, the Beeb shows itself capable of popping its head up from time to time to see what's really going on out there. Notes Clive Davis:
An interloper enters the realm of the Chelsea Grays, caught by the camera's eye slinking in like a tiger amongst the indoor potted plants summering at the edge of the terrace.
Constrained by their tethers out on the lawn east of the terrace, Tiny and Baby are on high alert, frustrated at not being able to take action to oust the unwanted visitor.
A moment of joy for the battle-scarred tom as he happens upon a catnip plant set out upon a table on the terrace this morning preparatory to being planted out front for maximum sun and good drainage. The puddy grabs the entire plant, complete with soil ball, and wrestles it to the ground. Like night and day, the contrast between a predatory feline scouting out unfamiliar turf and a catnip-mellowed pussycat laid back and just enjoying being a cat.
Once the intruder had had his fill and moved on to other fields, Tiny and Baby moved back into the area for a full gathering of evidence -- meeping everything in sight -- and thorough analysis of future threats. Had they not been held back by their tethers, they would have quickly dispatched the evil doer beyond the pale.