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Category: Book review

Please email me at matt@wmbriggs.com before sending books to be reviewed.

April 23, 2018 | 13 Comments

GQ: Holy Bible Repetitive, Self-contradictory, Sententious, Foolish, & Ill-Intentioned

The premiere magazine of sock color, celebrity tittle tattle, and lightly disguised advertorials has released their eagerly anticipated opinion of the Holy Bible.

GQ took a moment out from letting us know which “18 On-Sale Style Flexes to Buy Right Now” and advising us to “Set Your Pits Free with Spring’s Best Lightweight Sweaters”, to tell us what they really thought of the Holy Bible, a book that shaped 2,000 years of culture and changed forever all of mankind.

The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned. If the thing you heard was good about the Bible was the nasty bits, then I propose Agota Kristof’s The Notebook, a marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough. The subtlety and cruelty of this story is like that famous sword stroke (from below the boat) that plunged upward through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower.

Any person who is even barely literate and who possesses an intellect above sub-moronic knows the influence that the Bible has had is impossible—as in not possible—to underestimate. You don’t need me to tell you that every, without exception, institution of Western culture has been molded, moved, and motivated by it. This includes the English language itself, which because of King James, is saturated in Biblical imagery, poetry, metaphor.

But this is GQ we’re talking about. A Conde Nasty publication. These are people with money and therefore moral sophistication. They, above us all, know of what they speak.

So it must be that Agota Kristof’s The Notebook as replacement for the Holy Bible is beyond monumental. Beyond stupendous. Beyond even the excitement wrought when reading about “The Best Sex Toys for Couples Will Make Sex Even More Awesome”.

I consider myself blessed that I discovered a mind far greater than my own reviewing The Notebook. Slavoj Zizek even provided excerpts. Zizek tells us:

The Notebook tells the story of young twins living with their grandmother in a small Hungarian town during the last years of the second world war and the early years of communism. The twins are thoroughly immoral – they lie, blackmail, kill – yet they stand for authentic ethical naivety at its purest…

One night, they find themselves sleeping in the same bed as a German officer, a tormented gay masochist. Early in the morning, they awaken and want to leave the bed, but the officer holds them back.

Then comes this excerpt of this better-than-Holy-Bible book:

‘Don’t move. Keep sleeping.’

‘We want to urinate. We have to go.’

‘Don’t go. Do it here.’

We ask: ‘Where?’

He says: ‘On me. Yes. Don’t be afraid. Piss! On my face.’

We do it, then we go out into the garden, because the bed is all wet.

You don’t have that kind of realism from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, boy. Zizek says of this passage that it was “A true work of love, if there ever was one!” God Himself sacrificing Himself for mankind’s sins just doesn’t stand up to Russian-dossier-style fiction.

Zizek next tells us of a priest’s housekeeper who plays “erotic games” with the boys. A procession of starving Jews walks by:

Right in front of us, a thin arm emerges from the crowd, a dirty hand stretches out, a voice asks: ‘Bread.’

The housekeeper smiles and pretends to offer the rest of her bread; she holds it close to the outstretched hand, then, with a great laugh, brings the piece of bread back to her mouth, takes a bite, and says: ‘I’m hungry too.’

Seeing this, the boys “put some ammunition into [the househkeeper’s] kitchen stove so that when she lights it in the morning, it explodes and disfigures her.”

They graduate from that to blackmail and then to “assisting” in suicides. “[W]hen their grandmother asks them to put poison into her cup of milk, they say: ‘Don’t cry, Grandmother. We’ll do it; if you really want us to, we’ll do it.'”

Now isn’t that nice to see young people obeying their elders.

Zizek didn’t mention the “famous sword stroke (from below the boat) that plunged upward through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower.”

Bonus anecdote So you don’t think the news is all bad, I can report that yesterday at mass two dozen kids received First Communion. What made it hopeful was that the kids were accompanied by parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends. The pews overflowed. All were dressed beautifully and appropriately. Here’s the point: many of the people were not themselves communicants, but they still thought it an event worth celebrating and honoring in the proper style—and not being embarrassed about. It’s confirmation (a pun) the GQ’s of the world have not yet completed their work.

March 14, 2018 | 16 Comments

Uncertainty: The Soul of Models, Probability & Statistics. Chapter Abstracts

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This post originally appeared right before the Uncertainty did. Now that we’re 1.5 years out, it’s time for a re-post. Buy it now, but it today, and buy it again tomorrow!

Chapter 1 :: Truth, Argument, Realism

Truth exists and we can know it. The universe (all there is) also exists and we can know it. Further, universals exist and we can know these, too. Any skepticism about truth, reality, or universals is self-refuting. There are two kinds of truth: ontological and epistemological, comprising existence and our understanding of existence. Tremendous disservice has been done by ignoring this distinction. There are two modes of truth: necessary and local or conditional. A necessary truth is proposition that is so based on a chain of reasoning from indubitable axioms or sense impressions. A local truth, and most truths are local, is so based on a set of premises assumed or believed true. From this seemingly trivial observation, everything flows, and is why so-called Gettier problems and the like aren’t problems after all. Science is incapable of answering questions about itself; the belief that it can is called scientism. Faith, belief, and knowledge are differentiated.

Chapter 2 :: Logic

Logical truth is conditional, as are all necessary and local truths, on the premises given or assumed. Logic is the study of the relation between propositions, between premises and conclusion, that is. So too is probability, which is the continuation, fullness, or completion of logic. All arguments use language, and therefore the terms, definitions, and grammar of language are part of the tacit premises in every argument. It is well to bring these tacit premises out when possible. Logic, like mathematics, is not empirical, though observations may inform logic and math, and logic and math may be used on empirical propositions. Probability, because it is part of logic, is also not empirical; and it, too, can be used on empirical propositions. Syllogistic is preferred over symbolic logic for its ease of understanding; syllogisms are an ideal way of grouping evidence. The fundamental principles of logic ultimately are not formal in a sense to be defined. Finally, not all fallacies are what they seem.

Chapter 3 :: Induction & Intellection

There is no knowledge more certain than that provided by induction. Without induction, no argument could, as they say, get off the ground floor. All arguments must trace eventually back to some foundation. This foundational knowledge is first present in the senses; through intellection, i.e. induction, first principles, universals, and essences are discovered. Induction is what accounts for our being certain, after observing only a finite number of instances or even one and sometimes even none, that all flames are hot, that all men are mortal, that for all natural numbers $x$ and $y$, if $x = y$, then $y = x$, and for providing content and characteristics of all other universals and axioms. Induction is analogical; it is of five different kinds, some more and some less reliable. That this multiplicity is generally unknown accounts for a great deal of the controversy over induction. Arguments are not valid because of their form but because of their content.

Chapter 4 :: What Probability Is

Probability is, like logic, an argument. Logic is the study of the relation between propositions, and so is probability. Like logic, probability is not a real or physical thing: it does not exist, it is not ontological. It cannot be measured with any apparatus, like mass or energy can. Like logic, probability is a measure of certainty of some proposition in relation to given or assumed premises—and only on these, and no other, premises, and this includes the tacit premises of language. All probability, without exception, is therefore conditional. Probability is widely misunderstood for two main reasons: the confusion between ontological and epistemological truth, and the conflation of acts or decisions with probability. We know the proposition “Mike is green” is true given “All dragons are green and Mike is a dragon”. This is an epistemological conditional, or local, truth. But we also know the major part of the premise is ontologically false because there are no dragons, green or otherwise. Counterfactuals are always ontologically false; i.e. they begin with premises known observationally to be false. Yet counterfactuals can have meaningful (epistemological) probabilities. Counterfactuals are surely meaningful epistemologically but never ontologically. Not all probabilities are quantifiable; most are not.

Chapter 5 :: What Probability Is Not

Logic is not an ontological property of things. You cannot, for instance, extract a syllogism from the existence of an object; the imagined syllogism is not somehow buried deep in the folds of the object waiting to be measured by some sophisticated apparatus. Logic is the relation between propositions, and these relations are not physical. A building can be twice as high as another building; the “twice” is the relation, but what exists physically are only the two buildings. Probability is also the relation between sets of propositions, so it too cannot be physical. Once propositions are set, the relation between them is also set and is a deducible consequence, i.e. the relation is not subjective, a matter of opinion. Mathematical equations are lifeless creatures; they do not “come alive” until they are interpreted, so that probability cannot be an equation. Probability is a matter of our understanding. Subjective probability is therefore a fallacy. The most common interpretation of probability, limited relative frequency, also confuses ontology with epistemology and therefore gives rise to many fallacies.

Chapter 6 :: Chance & Randomness

Randomness is not a thing, neither is chance. Both are measures of uncertainty and express ignorance of causes. Because randomness and chance are not ontologically real, they cannot cause anything to happen. Immaterial measures of information are never and can never be physically operative. It is always a mistake, and the cause of vast confusion, to say things like “due to chance”, “games of chance”, “caused by random (chance, spontaneous) mutations”, “these results are significant”, “these results are not explainable by chance”, “random effects”, “random variable”, and the like. All this holds in quantum mechanics, where the evidence for physical chance appears strongest. What also follows, although it is not at first apparent, is that simulations are not needed. This statement will appear striking and even obviously false, until it is understood that the so-called “randomness” driving simulations is anything but random. Coincidences are defined and their relation to cause explained. The ties between information theory and probability are given.

Chapter 7 :: Causality

Cause is analogical. There is not one type, flavor, or aspect of cause, but four. A formal, material, efficient, and final or teleological. Most causation concerns events which occur not separately, as in this before that, but simultaneously, where simultaneous events can be spread through time. Many causal data are embedded in time, and there two types of time series which are often confused: per se and accidental. These should not be mistaken for non-causal data series (the most common) which are all accidental. All causes are activiations of potentials by something actual. A vase is potential a pile of shards. It is made actually a pile of shards by an actual baseball. All four aspects of the cause are there: form of shards, clay fragments, efficient bat, and the pile itself as an end. Deterministic (and probability) models are epistemological; essential causal models are ontological and express true understanding of the nature of a thing. Causes, if they exist and are present, must always be operative, a proposition that has deep consequences for probability modeling. Falsifiability is rarely of interest, and almost never happens in practice. And under-determination, i.e. the possibility of causes other than those under consideration, will always be with us.

Chapter 8 :: Probability Models

A model is an argument. Models are collections of various premises which we assign to an observable proposition, i.e. an observable. Modelling reverses the probability equation: the proposition of interest or conclusion, i.e. the observable Y, is specified first after which premises X thought probative of the observable are sought or discovered. The ultimate goal is to discover just those premises X which cause or which determine Y. Absent these—and there may be many causes of Y—it is hoped to find X which give Y probabilities close to 0 or 1, given X in its various states. Measures of X’s importance are given. A model’s usefulness depends on what decisions are made with it, and how costly and rewarding those decisions are. Proper scores which help define usefulness are given. Probability models can and do have causative elements. Some probability models are even fully causal or deterministic in the sense given last chapter, but which are treated as probabilistic in practice. Tacit premises are added to the predictions from these models which adds uncertainty. Bayes is not all its cracked up to be. The origin and limitations of parameters and parametric models are given.

Chapter 9 :: Statistical & Physical Models

Statistical models are probability models and physical models are causal or deterministic or mixed causal-deterministic-probability models applied to observable propositions. It is observations which turn probability into statistics. Statistical and physical models are thus verifiable, and all use statistics in their verification. All models should be verified, but most aren’t. Classical modeling emphasizes hypothesis or “significance” testing and estimation. No hypothesis test, Bayesian or frequentist, should ever be used. Death to all p-values or Bayes factors! Hypothesis testing does not prove or show cause; therefore, embedded in every test used to claim cause is a fallacy. If cause is known, probability isn’t needed. Neither should parameter-centric (estimation, etc.) methods be used. Instead, use only probability, make probabilistic predictions of observables given observations and other premises, then verify these predictions. Measures of model goodness and observational relevance are given in a language which requires no sophisticated mathematical training to understand. Speak only in terms of observables and match models to measurement. Hypothesis-testing and parameter estimation are responsible for a pandemic of over-certainty in the sciences. Decisions are not probability, a fact with many consequences.

Chapter 10 :: Modelling Goals, Strategies, & Mistakes

Here are highlighted only a few of the most egregious and common mistakes made in modeling. Particular models are not emphasized so much as how model results should be communicated. The goal of probability models is to quantify uncertainty in an observable Y given assumptions or observations X. That and nothing more. This, and only this, form of model result should be presented. Regression is of paramount importance. The horrors to thought and clear reasoning committed in its name are legion. Scarcely any user of regression knows its limitations, mainly because of the fallacies of hypothesis testing and the over-certainty of parameter-based reporting. The Deadly Sin of Reification is detailed. The map is not the territory, though this fictional land is unfortunately where many choose to live. When the data do not match a theory, it is often the data that are suspected, not the theory. Models should never take the place of actual data, though they often do, particularly in time series. Risk is nearly always exaggerated. The fallacious belief that we can quantify the unquantifiable is responsible for scientism. “Smoothed” data is often given pride of place over actual observations. Over-certainty rampages across the land and leads to irreproducible results.

March 13, 2018 | 72 Comments

Take Burnham’s Test To See If You’re A Progressive: Suicide of the West at 50

This classic column appeared in July 2015. Besides some editing, I would now change ‘liberal’ to ‘progressive’, which I have done in the title. I made no othre change. See especially the prediction about Donald Trump!

It’s (past) time we examined James Burnham’s under-appreciated classic Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism, a book written fifty years ago (in 1964). Everybody (yes, including you) should buy this book and follow along.

Since the test of a good theory is how accurately it makes predictions, we’ll review the many predictions Burnham made half a century ago and see how well his theory stands up.

What is that theory? That liberalism was and is going to cause the death, via suicide, of classic Western civilization. So what’s a liberal? Burnham spent a lot of time on that important question. Chances are you, dear reader, are a liberal, either in its progressive manifestation or its conservative variant. Reactionaries are few in number.

To find out who’s who, Burnham created a test of “thirty-nine sentences“, which do not quite mirror the 39 articles, to which you may assent or disclaim. Let’s try (pp 31-35 in the edition linked above) and then we’ll have a go at modernizing the list. This only serves as a quick filter. Burnham had much more to say on this subject.

1. All forms of racial segregation and discrimination are wrong.
2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.
3. Everyone has a right to free, public education.
4. Political, economic or social discrimination based on religious belief is wrong.
5. In political or military conflict it is wrong to use methods of torture and physical terror.
6. A popular movement or revolt against a tyranny or dictatorship is right, and deserves approval.
7. The government has a duty to provide for the ill, aged, unemployed and poor if they cannot take care of themselves.
8. Progressive income and inheritance taxes are the fairest form of taxation.
9. If reasonable compensation is made, the government of a nation has the legal and moral right to expropriate private property within its borders, whether owned by citizens or foreigners.
10. We have a duty to mankind; that is, to men in general. 11. The United Nations, even if limited in accomplishment, is a step in the right direction.
12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong.
13. Wealthy nations, like the United States, have a duty to aid the less privileged portions of mankind.
14. Colonialism and imperialism are wrong.
15. Hotels, motels, stores and restaurants in southern United States ought to be obliged by law to allow Negroes to use all of their facilities on the same basis as whites.
16. The chief sources of delinquency and crime are ignorance, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.
17. Communists have a right to express their opinions.
18. We should always be ready to negotiate with the Soviet Union and other communist nations.
19. Corporal punishment, except possibly for small children, is wrong.
20. All nations and peoples, including the nations and peoples of Asia and Africa, have a right to political independence when a majority of the population wants it.
21. We always ought to respect the religious beliefs of others.
22. The primary goal of international policy in the nuclear age ought to be peace.
23. Except in cases of a clear threat to national security or, possibly, to juvenile morals, censorship is wrong.
24. Congressional investigating committees are dangerous institutions, and need to be watched and curbed if they are not to become a serious threat to freedom.
25. The money amount of school and university scholarships ought to be decided primarily by need.
26. Qualified teachers, at least at the university level, are entitled to academic freedom: that is, the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, in or out of the classroom, without interference from administrators, trustees, parents or public bodies.
27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.
28. The national government should guarantee that all adult citizens, except for criminals and the insane, should have the right to vote.
29. Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.
30. There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types.
31. Steps toward world disarmament would be a good thing.
32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
33. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression.
34. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
35. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
36. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.
37. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.
38. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.
39. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Before commenting on the slightly dated nature of some of these questions, here are Burnham’s rules on scoring.

A full-blown liberal will mark every one, or very nearly every one, of these thirty-nine sentences, Agree. A convinced conservative will mark many or most of them, a reactionary all or nearly all of them, Disagree…I have confirmed experimentally…that the result is seldom an even balance between Agree and Disagree…self-defined liberals almost never drop below 85 percent of Agree answers, or self-defined reactionaries below 85 percent of Disagree; a perfect 100 percent is common. Certain types of self-styled conservatives yield almost as high a Disagree percentage as the admitted reactionaries…

These sentences were not devised arbitrarily. Many of them are taken directly or adapted from the writings of well-known liberals, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, or liberal questionnaires that have been put out in recent years by the American Civil Liberties Union. The last eight are quoted verbatim from the United Nations’ ‘Universal Declarations of Human Rights,’ adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Yours Truly scored well into the reactionary camp, but I read the test with a historical eye. It’s clear that liberals, most on the progressive side of the scale, no longer care about some of these articles or no long interpret them in the same way. It’s the changes that are fascinating. Every mutation has been for the worse, as we’ll see.

Consider “2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.” Liberals today assent to this readily enough, unless they suspect the opinion they’re about to hear is “hurtful”, “bigoted”, “hateful”, “x-phobic” (x is a variable) or something similar. People who will speak politically incorrect views are not entitled freedom, many liberals say, especially campus liberals.

While the reactionary might join the progressive in forbidding certain (but obviously not the same) speech—for instance, the reactionary might happily ban pornography while the liberal insists it be shown to grade schoolers—it is only the liberal who would punish thoughtcrime. Where the liberal will demand assent the reactionary will happily let people keep their mouths shut. Right St Thomas More?

Perhaps like the fortune cookie joke, we should add “as long as it is not hurtful, hateful, bigoted, sexist, or x-phobic” to the end of all items dealing with thought.

Likewise, the liberal will probably still assent to “12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong”. But who is it in practice who storms podiums or throws tantrums in order not to hear “disturbing” opinions? Fortune cookie it.

Item 15 is dated, but it can be modernized easily enough: “Stores ought to be obliged by law to participate in ceremonies of those professing same-sex attraction.” Quibble with the wording, but I can’t think of any liberal dissenting, while every reactionary would.

Number 18 has passed us by. Perhaps: “We should always be ready to negotiate with the socialist and other communist nations.”

The liberal will agree with 20, except in his own backyard. Ask one if it is okay for, say, Texas to secede. Theoretically, or to be consistent, he should agree. But he won’t. The liberal desires control above all.

Item 21 is dead. No liberal now thinks of allowing the freedom of religious practice. Modern version: “We should respect the right to religious worship but perhaps restrain or proscribe certain traditional religious practices if they interfere with the public.” Liberals Yes, reactionaries No, because both sides know what’s behind these words.

Like the other items mentioning speech, item 23 is now suspect. Liberals are firmly against censorship—of their ideas. But they like it fine for the opposition. Fortune cookie.

Most liberals will like 26 still, but that’s because the academy has been purged of all reactionaries and nearly all conservatives. Item 27 is out: quotas are in. This question is now the exact opposite. Perhaps: “…quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors which will enhance diversity are to be encouraged.”

The boogyman of the hour has changed in 29, but the idea is the same. Even George Bush is fading from memory, replaced maybe by Donald Trump or Scott Walker or Emmanuel Goldstein.

Item 32 is another polar opposite. Modern version: “Everyone is entitled to political and social rights and race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status shall be used to determine the extent of these rights.”

Numbers 33 and 34: fortune cookie.

Have we left anything out? Or can we live without Once we discuss these, I’ll put up the modernized list.

Read Part II: The Perfectibility of Man.

March 2, 2018 | 4 Comments

Glubb Pasha’s Experiences With American Democracy

[The image above flashed by on the interwebs, and it struck me as humorously apt, though I can’t now recall where I first saw it. If the picture has any truth it is that we should advocate for Monarchy at least for a restoration of manly moustaches.]

We earlier met Lieutenant General Sir John Glubb—Glubb Pasha—through his mandatory essay analyzing how civilizations end. According to Glubb, all contract the same diseases and die of the same causes—just as all deny until the end that they are ill. Our civilization will last forever, though. We’re better, we’re different. Just ask Steven Pinker.

Glubb in his retirement was prolific, writing mainly on Arabic history, having been himself an integral part of it. Essential are his The Life and Times of Muhammad, objectively and with great sympathy detailing the adoption and rise of the Muslim faith. In The Empire of the Arabs he draws out the near-term consequences. (The latter book is part of a worthwhile series.) Glubb reminds us that at its peak the Arabic Empire was larger than the Roman, and that it was a very near thing it wasn’t larger still.

About his own contributions to history, we have The Changing Scenes of Life: An Autobiography (1983).

There are many quotable passages, and none better than those relating his arrival to the Mideast after WWI, and his riveting tales of becoming the founder and leader of the famed Arab Legion (this sentence skips over almost thirty years of tumultuous times!). Glubb was, of course, on the losing side of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Glubb was a Christian. He was also another rare thing: an honorable man. Importantly, Benny Morris, a Jew who can find whiffs of “antisemitism” lurking inside empty coffee cans, corroborates all Grubb’s main recollections in Morris’s The Road to Jerusalem: Glubb Pasha, Palestine and the Jews (the two men differ in judgement of consequences, of course).

For our purposes, we’re interested in Glubb’s views of forms of government; specifically, democracy, and its inherent limitations. For instance:

For public figures, [avoiding self-preoccupation] is much more difficult, particularly perhaps for politicians under our system of government. Their retention of office depends not so much on the honesty or efficiency of their work, as on whether people will like them and vote for them. Almost invariably, to be popular is their chief preoccupation, and to malign their characters or their intentions the objective of their opponents.

Democracy, that magic word, sounds so ideal a system of government—‘the people are free to choose their own rulers’. But what an unsavory mass of intrigue, libel and misrepresentation it conceals. Politicians are almost inevitably led to attach chief importance to the winning of popularity by every form of device or deception. People complain that politicians are insincere, but it is difficult to expect anything else when their success seems to depend so much on public caprice.

There isn’t much in that not said and noticed daily by democracy’s denizens. But it sets the tone. Now Glubb’s book were when issued popular, so he was asked by his publisher to hit the speaker circuit in the States. This tour for the most depressed him, mainly because of his experiences with our universities, which had at that time already began their downward slide.

Democracy sounds such a fine word, ‘America is a free country,’ visiting foreigners are told with pride. But the word is now so small that, to win votes in an American election, politicians unintentionally sow wars and disturbances in other continents. This is especially so in a presidential election.

I particularly remember speaking on the Arab-Israeli confrontation at a large college. After my talk, the president of the college said to me that it was the first time in life he had ever heard it suggested that there could be a single point or argument in favour of the Palestinians. Every exposition he had heard hitherto had emphasized that Israel was one hundred per cent right in all she did.

Of course, the temptation to exaggerate these exchanges would be upon poor Glubb. He was still smarting from his ignoble exist. But then he fills in details of what happened to the Palestians who woke one morning to find themselves voted into what was now (to them) enemy territory. They discovered they were not wanted, and were not so politely asked to scoot. This created a large wave of refugees, who weren’t exactly warmly welcomed by their neighbors.

Whole villages were bulldozed down and then ploughed over [by the nascent Israelis], so that the refugees would have no homes to which to return. After the armistice, some of these refugees attempted to return to their homes at night to see if they could retrieve any of their possessions. All such persons caught by Israeli patrols were shot dead on the spot, without arrest or trial.

As a result, the infiltrators began to carry weapons and a little sub-guerrilla war developed, which need never have happened…

The second principle on which their action was based was that of ten-fold reprisals. If one Jew were killed by a refugee infiltrator, ten Arabs must be killed in revenge. For this purpose, a platoon of Israeli soldiers would be sent across the line to kill ten Arabs in a border village.

Glubb, perhaps surprisingly, does not outright condemn the Jews for these actions. He instead argued that the Israelis learnt this method of suppression from the Germans, who (of course) used it with murderously great success. The Jews, “bullied” by Germans and Russians, became themselves “bullies.” They knew nothing else. And if the Palestinians eventually fell into the habit of terrorism-by-bomb, they learnt that from the Jews in Palestine, who successfully terrorized, murdered, and bombed the British out of that territory before it was ceded to them by the United Nations. There are no real good guys to this story.

One last book-tour story. Recall that this in the late 1970s, or very early 1980s. See if you can identify the tune the students were singing.

On one occasion at an American university, I happened casually to remark that the Germans seem to be more musical than the British. ‘You cannot say things like that in the U.S.,’ I was told. ‘We believe all races to be equal.’

This remark, which at the time surprised me, seems to typify a good deal of modern thinking. It illustrates the common confusion of thought to the effect that ‘equal’ means identical…

As ever, desire for Equality of treatment inexorably leads to demands of equal of outcome. We are equal only in nature.

As a result of mixing with his colonial cousins, Glubb came to an interesting prognostication about wholesale immigration. Was he right or wrong?

The British and their offspring, the Americans, have an annoying habit of trying to teach all other nations how to live, a characteristic perhaps inherited from the Puritans. We have already noted that the Americans, living in isolation, are unaware of the existence of other cultures, founded upon often unconscious traditions, thousands of years old, which have become second nature…

Idealists who [therefore] welcome immigrants from other continents into Britain are playing with fire. Of course all men are equal, but differing cultures and races do become rivals and enemies if they form large communities in one country. To boast that we have a multi-racial society in Britain is therefore dangerous.