Death for Blasphemy

This the story of a Pakistani Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy.

I cannot guarantee that it’s true but it keeps re-surfacing as if there were a real judicial process unfolding. If someone shows me that it’s not true, I will publish the assertion here, of course.

If anyone wants to defend the sentence, I will be more than glad to lend this blog, of course.

I understand the underlying idea; my ancestors used to do the same. Then, in the West, we had the Enlightenment.


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Surgeon General Gone Missing!

I wonder why we have not heard at all from the Surgeon General of the Unites States in this Ebola kind of crisis, (kind of). I thought he was the chief medical officer of the whole country. Is there something pertaining to him that is being hidden from us?

(His medical school grades?)

Is he in hiding?

Just asking; I swear I don’t know anything.

Update: Oops, my mistake! Follow the informative thread below.

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The Ottoman Empire and Libertarianism; Ebola

A week ago in the allied blog Notes on Liberty, economist Fred Folvary asked in a speculative mode whether the re-establishment of the Ottoman Empire would not be a formula for peace in the troubled Middle East. The question is interesting on several counts one of which is that the regions affected by the Islamic State today, Arab and Kurdish alike, plus all of southern Iraq, plus Kuwait, plus Jordan and Palestine (including the current Israel), plus, more loosely, all of the Arabian Peninsula, were more or less under Ottoman/ Turkish control until the end of World War One.

Dr Folvary alludes to the “millet” system under which many different ethnic or national groups co-habitated peacefully for several centuries. Those are pretty much the same groups that have been eviscerating one another for several years and pretty much every time a strong and dictatorial leader does not clamp down on them. I pointed out a large fault in Folvary’s happy vision, namely the attempted genocide of the Armenians begun under full Ottoman power in 1895 and nearly completed as the empire was falling apart during World War One.

At that point, I got distracted by a discussion with the editor of Notes on Liberty on the issue of his adventurous relationship to facts . (If you are interested, follow the “Restore the Turkish Empire!” thread of comments on Notes on Liberty.)

The millet system of governance should be of interest to libertarians who generally wish for less government, less expensive government , more responsive government and, especially, less intrusive government. Under the millet system, at least when it was fully functional, the Ottoman governor of say, the province of the empire that now encompasses Lebanon and Western Syria would summon yearly the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church. He would address him as follows:

“Your Eminence is well I trust, and his family, and I hope that his sons are brave a wise. I am happy to hear that Almighty God has blessed Your Eminence with many grandchildren. And I am told your community is thriving. Now, based on the figures your office gave me and based on my own information, I think that the Greek Orthodox community must deliver to our master the Sultan, one hundred pounds of gold and three hundred fit young men of military age this year. Agreed? Thank you for your visit and may you and your community, Your Eminence, continue to prosper under the benign, enlightened and fair rule of our great sultan.”

Then, the governor would ask over the main Ayatollah of the Shiite Muslims and deliver himself of a similar oration. And so on.

But I must pause for a confession. The quote marks around the above monologue are metaphorical. I am not reproducing a real monologue. Something like the monologue above must have been delivered thousands of times but I must admit I was not present to hear any of them. (On the other hand, I spent time in Turkey on vacation ten years ago and I regularly drink coffee with Turks. And, I like Turks in general.)

Again, the millet system is a good historical example of extreme decentralization and of minimally intrusive government. It was also very inexpensive to administer. It had little permanent bureaucracy to speak of that could grow upon itself and reproduce itself endlessly thus forever shrinking the area of individual autonomy. At the same time as the comparable Hapsburg Empire was developing a large bureaucracy, at the time when territorially much smaller France was perfecting the art of centralized bureaucracy, at the time when the small Kingdom of Prussia was developing the very model of modern bureaucracy that was to become a model for the whole world, the millet system endured in the Ottoman Empire. In general, the Ottoman government was small and it seemed to treading lightly on the land, you might say. It sounded a little like a sort of libertarian dream.

But, wait a minute, I need to complete significantly the imaginary monologue of the Ottoman governor above. On parting, the governor would have probably added: ” Enjoy life and enrich yourselves. Everything will be fine unless I hear too much about you. If I do, bad things will happen to your community.” Or, he did not even need to utter the words. Everyone knew about the bad things that would happen if disorder arose. Some of these bad things were community leaders’ heads on a spike in village centers.

The Ottoman Empire that relied on the light, non-invasive, decentralized millet system was also famous for the fierceness of its repression. And this haven of diversity disintegrated swiftly throughout the 19th century with a speed that must give pause.

The unraveling of the Ottoman Empire began around 1805 when the large and important Egyptian subdivision gained all but nominal independence through an armed revolt and even waged successful war on the Empire. During the rest of the 19th century, the areas of the Empire now comprising Greece, Bulgaria and Romania decisively seceded. In the meantime, much of the rest of the officially defined Empire drifted away, such as Libya, Tunisia . Later, (as John Love, a commenter on the original piece in Notes already remarked), during World War One, the British (Lawrence) and the French did not have much trouble talking the remaining Arab areas of the empire into open rebellion. And yes, there was a an attempted massive genocide of Armenians, in two phases. The first phase was under full Ottoman power in the 1890s, the second, much larger step occurred during the waning days of Ottoman rule starting in 1915. (References on the Armenian genocide are at the end of this posting.)

Now, one can argue – and historians routinely do – that the spectacular disintegration of the Ottoman Empire was due to external pressures from the rising, fast industrializing European powers. Yet, the fact that national (ethnic) entities took up every opportunity to leave the Empire does not speak well of the effectiveness of Ottoman administration. The fact that they sometimes did it a a cost of great bloodshed, the Greeks in particular, does not strengthen the idea of contentment of the administered. The fact is that the subject people of the Ottoman Empire including the many governed through the millet system described above seem to have left as soon as the opportunity arose.

The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire poses a conceptual problem: Did it fall apart in spite of the admirable millet system of government or because of it? Was internal peace maintained in the Empire for a long time because of the virtues of the millet system or because of the ever-present threat of a large and fierce army facing a divided and unarmed populace?

Was the Ottoman Empire taken apart from within, and also from without, because the administrative principles behind the millet system impeded the supply of the means of self-preservation?


Beyond this lies an even graver question for anyone with libertarian aspirations: Do systems of administration that share the main features of the millet system, decentralization, low cost, low-level invasiveness contain the seeds of their own destruction? Does administrative lightness actually nurture violent intervention from above and/or from outside?
I don’t know the answers to these serious questions. I think libertarians of all feathers don’t discuss these and related issues nearly enough. I suspect libertarian circles harbor their own form of political correctness that paralyzes such essential inquiries. I do what I can. I know it’s not much.

Ebola: Entirely too much noise in the media because none of them likes to announce: “Nothing Much Happened.” As I write, about 4,000 people are said to have died of this frightening illness in three very poor West African countries. The 2009 modest flu epidemic probably killed more than 10,000 people in the US alone. What is clear to me and to everyone with eyes to see is that the Obama Administration response to the overstated Ebola threat demonstrates yet again its gross incompetence and its moral corruption. The man in charge until 10/17/14 was the head of the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) whose former responsibilities were to make sure New Yorkers ate more healthily and did not ingest too much sugar.

The man sounded like a lightweight in all his televised news conferences because he is a lightweight. And, contrary to tenacious rumors, the CDC budget doubled in the past ten years. Some of it, I don’t know how much, was devoted to inspecting and improving children’s playgrounds. Yes, the CDC has a Jungle Gym Division, as required by the Constitution! (To my overseas readers: This is black humor. The US Constitution absolutely, squarely reserves such responsibilities for the states and for local governments.)


Sources on the Armenian genocide

A short overview excerpted from a fundamental document, a whole book by the US Ambassador to Turkey, Hans Morgenthau:

(The references to Ambassador Morgenthau’s actual book are at the end of the statement.)

The document below is supposed to discredit the Morgenthau testimony. It’s unwittingly damning for Turkish power.

See also:

A Turkish journalist of Armenian descent was assassinated in 2007 in full daylight in Istanbul for pursuing the issue publicly. That’s evidence of Turkish innocence, of course!

Hasan Ceymal, a Turkish investigative journalist with many laurels unrelated to the Armenian question recognizes the reality of the Armenian genocide. Mr Ceymal has no Armenian parentage; he is a Turkish Turk.

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Columbus: All You Need to Know

Columbus was brave, brave to the point of insanity.

Columbus had shopped his plan of a western route to India all over Europe before he tried Spain. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel finally agreed to give him a small grant in a moment of exultation as they were a waging a successful war against the last Muslim kingdom in Spain.

Europeans of the end of the fifteenth century knew full well the Earth was more or less a sphere. They were wrong, very wrong about how big it was, however.

Columbus was not a sweetheart.

The Caribs and also the Aztecs whom his Spaniards conquered ate people*, the Spaniards did not (at least, not ordinarily).


* I am not judgmental myself. I blame a largely vegetarian diet. Watch out!

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Obama’s Ebola; Wall Street Journal a Wimp; Fake Feminist Figures

Old men in all ages have had a tendency to declare that the world is going to pot. I don’t think it is. I think it’s better than it was in the 20th century, in general. This does not prevent me from noticing unpleasant developments.

Ebola: Don’t try to understand; it’s obvious: President Obama is showing the world and especially American conservatives the proper use of an army, the moral projection of American power abroad. It’s only to save the lives of the poor. He will fall on his face as in everything he has attempted. At least, he will have done something finally to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him five years ago by a bunch of senile old Scandinavians.

If I were in charge, I would throw money, a lot of money, at the problem knowing full well that much or most of it would land where it’s not intended. Between them, the most exposed countries, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, and Guinea have about 23 million people. Spending half a million dollar on each of their inhabitants would amount to a total expenditure of USD 12 billion. That’s chump change. Assuming that half the money stuck to officials’ fingers with no good consequences for health, we would still have USD 125,00 actually spent per inhabitant. That’s several times the less than $8,000 per year we spend on health in the US in normal times. (Advanced European countries spend a little over half of that amount.)

I would use a bidding process open to both private companies and national health systems. Most actual payments would be dependent on preset procedural achievements, such as 95% effective airport departure screenings, partly on preset performance goals involving a slowing down of the progress of the disease. I would not risk the life of a singly American military person except possibly in inspection roles. Even then, I would use only volunteers. I would give them combat pay.

Again, chump change; no coalition needed. America helps the world again!

The progress of political correctness is distressing especially where you least expect it. While the Islamic State was murdering, raping, torturing Arab civilians in its conquest of Syria and Iraq, the Wall Street Journal referred to its members as “militants” as if they were like people seriously opposed to smoking, for example. After it began beheading Americans and Brits on video, the Wall Street Journal allowed itself to switch to “extremists.”

People who slaughter masses of civilians deliberately to spread terror are not terrorists according to the WSJ. I guess you would have to do worse things.

Even the Wall Street Journal has become wimpy.

I had noticed earlier the disappearance from the WSJ of a common word:”foreign.” In the old days, when two Canadians had an affair, it was a foreign affair to Americans; nowadays, it’s an “international affair.” Makes no sense, of course. They are not doing it across the border, in most cases.  I mean, they are not doing with one leg in Canada and two or three legs in the US, for example. The old respected scholarly publication Foreign Affairs – which deals with the political affairs of countries other than the US – will have to change its name, like the Redskins. Of course, if it switches to “International Affairs,” it will be false advertising.

The descriptive word “foreign” is now a dirty word. Foreign food= dirty food. The hidden ethnocentrism here is delightful. I would not dare make up half this kind of feces.

Silliness in words isn’t just silliness; it impairs our ability to think clearly.
Conceptual clarity began when one of our cave ancestors added “Oomph” to the usual “Grumpt.” We are regressing.

The midterm election campaign airwaves are overflowing with the same familiar old false, dishonest statement, with the full complicity of academics who know better: “Women earn only 77 cents when men earn $1.” This proves job discrimination against women, of course, is the implication. It does not. As I have explained extensively on this blog (There is a Part Two; find it on this blog.). The figure does not (NOT) express unequal pay for equal work but unequal pay for UNequal work.

Feminists can’t stop lying*. Just like girls!

* I keep thinking that if your cause is just and factually supported, you don’t need to lie.  Old school stuff!

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How to Date a Woman and Why I Love America

Young men are confused nowadays because even this kind of talk is politically incorrect. I am talking about talks on how to please women and influence their decision to do this or that. I am an experienced man from another era when men knew what they were doing and the women appreciated it. So, here is some guidance based on a recent dating experience I had.

First thing first: Women don’t primarily want love or riches or wondrous sex (though neither one or the others hurt).

They want to be entertained, endlessly.

Women want to be amazed by unfamiliar objects but within a context where they feel safe. so, I took my date to a print shop. She had never been to one. I checked the progress of a new poster for my book (“I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography.”) She thought that was very, very nice. A long time ago, I even took a woman on a date to the municipal dump. I followed with a greasy fried eggs and bacon breakfast in a greasy spoon. She was delighted. “I had never been to a dump,” she commented.

Women want to be shown beautiful things. They don’t have to be original. Sunsets are always winners, sunsets on the ocean even better, best of all are sunsets on a lake. So, I drove with her along Monterey Bay for a couple of miles. It was the afternoon. There was no sunset. She has been there a hundred times. She liked it anyway.

Women like the prospect of spending money. They like it even if there is no actual spending. They like it whosoever’s money it is. Plus, they like presents, all presents. I took my date to a tile place. I bought two small samples of tiles that I gave her, one black, one white. She was impressed because the ensemble was impossibly classy.

Then, we went to the forest together and we spent some time looking at the trees in silence. That was to revive, to agitate residual, atavistic feelings. It helped her get in touch with the more primitive side of her nature . (That’s the side women spend a lot of energy concealing from themselves.)

Soon it was dinner time. Dinner is when a lot of young men fail. Here is the key: A woman wants to be somewhere where she is the most elegant person in the place. Yet the gap between her and other women there must not be too great. It has to be of such dimension that other women wish they were her but without much resentment. If the other women act crushed, it’s a failure. The other women have to think about the elegance gap loudly enough that she almost hears it. The food has to be interesting rather than very good. Few women are gourmets. They like to be fed because it reminds them of the times, 20,000 years ago that it was the way hunters won their favors. I took my date to a barbecue place. (It was not as easy as it sounds in largely vegetarian and vegan, sustainable agriculture-ridden, half-Buddhist Santa Cruz.)

The barbecue place was a stroke of genius on my part (if I say so myself). There were long strange-looking, large black machines outside where the meat was slowly cooking. Inside, the tables were covered with gay old-school waxed clothes. (I don’t mean that the table cloths were somehow sexually inverted but that they gave the place a merry look.) And then, there is always a happy buzz in establishments of all ranks that serve large amounts of meat and beer. (A salad bar, on the other hand, makes one feel virtuous but it’s a sad place.) The restaurant was almost filled with ordinary working stiffs of all sexes in their work clothes. In her impeccable white blouse, my date stood out like a beacon of sober elegance. The side-glances of the women of all ages in the place would have told me so if I had been the kind of slob who does not perceive such nuances. Her presence there would have simply been a triumph if triumphs could be discreet and subdued. She glowed with satisfaction while playing with her over-spiced hot tri-point. I observed her proudly from behind my slightly dry barbecued brisket.

While we ate, a baseball game was going on a large flat TV in a corner. Half-way through our meal, a small scruffy-looking reggae band began playing softly. They played rather well. ( This is Santa Cruz, California where good music is common.) The baseball game went right on on the TV. That’s what I love about America. Normally, here, you are not forced to chose. Europeans and Japanese think that “you can’t have everything.” In America, we believe fervently that you can and should. You can have the one thing and the other thing all at once. Life here is like an unending combo-plate at the barbecue joint: There is beef, and chicken, and also short ribs, all crowded on the same plate.

Right after dinner, I took my date to my house. Her hand was on my bare knee while I drove with baroque music playing on the radio.

She was a in a glow about me because I appreciated and catered to her profound superficiality. (No, for once, this is not clumsy writing. I am fully aware of what I am doing using the words “superficial” and  “profound ” next to each other.)

You want to know exactly how well the date ended? Don’t be vulgar! It’s the mother of my children you are referring to here. We have been married for 38 years. And no, that’s no cheating. Yes, knowing the lady well is an advantage, on the one hand. On the other hand, she has every right to be bored with me and my shenanigans.  The longevity of this marriage is evidence that my formula works. It’s possible there will soon be a new black and white tile floor  in our kitchen.

Another day, I will divulge other secrets to young men left high and helpless on the beach of ignorance by the feminist wave.

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Les pumas de grande-banlieue: histoires d’emigration

Un recueil étonnant par un immigrant de longue date qui n’a jamais oublié être élève de Diderot et de Voltaire (en plus du poète Jacques Prévert). Il y raconte la Californie en trois courtes nouvelles, trois micro-essais et une mini-autobiographie. On y trouvera: des pumas, bien sûr, une voisine infernale et casi-meurtrière, une cocasse leçon d’Anglais, une interrogation critique sur le lien possible entre francophonie et indifférence aux faits, une présentation insolite de la discrimination raciale, la pêche à la langouste, la bourride, le patriotisme, la vie dans un château d’eau en bois, la traversée des Etats-Unis an auto-stop, la débâcle du Marxisme, l’université Stanford, la transformation de vergers en Silicon Valley.

En version electronique sur Amazon:

En France:

Aux Etats-Unis

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