With full attribution to Jimmy Cannon, New York newspaperman who popularized the phrase: nobody asked me, but…

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR’S CNN REPORT, “THE WAR WITHIN,” looks at the radicalization of Moslem young men in Great Britain and the rise of Islamic extremism. Amanpour is clearly troubled by what she has found, and blames the Iraq war for much of the anger and for the growing appeal of fundamentalist ideology. In a side-bar column on CNN.com, Amanpour writes about the response of some Britons to the jihadist movement:

While Britain’s Scotland Yard and MI5 intelligence service regularly warn of Islamist cells plotting violence — some 30 potential plots have been identified — some Muslim preachers, activists and ordinary people are beginning to see that they have to take the responsibility of seizing back their religion from the small band of extremists who have hijacked it.

Amanpour fundamentally misdiagnoses the problem, however, when she talks about a “hijacking” of Islam. The extremists in London, and in the Middle East, do not stray very far from mainstream interpretations of the Koran in their calls for violence against the infidels.

Author and military historian Caleb Carr, for one, amply documents this theological foundation for warfare against the West in his “The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians,” published in 2002, and Carr argues: ”Islam must finally reinterpret those contextual, anachronistic passages of the Koran that were so necessary to the survival of the faith in seventh- and eighth-century Arabia but that now propel men to self-defeating acts of terror against civilians.” (It is true that South Asian Moslems practice a more moderate and tolerant Islam, but—broadly speaking— that is not the case in Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and the Arab states).

The notion that there is a political solution to this challenge is misguided. A reformed Islamic theology must come first—an antidote to the virulent fundamentalism preached by Sunni followers of Wahhabism.

WONDERING WHAT FORMER EAGLES’ SINGER DON HENLEY is up to these days? He has been nominated for a Grammy for his 2006 country duet with Kenny Rogers, “Calling Me.” Rogers and Henley share a long history: in 1968 Rogers backed Henley and his Texas band, Shiloh, in Henley’s first West Coast foray into the industry.

NOW THAT THE FOOTBALL SEASON IS OVER (more or less), how about a change in the way interceptions are recorded? Whenever a pass bounces off a receiver and is intercepted, why not treat it as a TINT (“Tip interception”), recognizing that the quarterback isn’t at fault. Yes, I’m from the school of thought that if you touch it, you should catch it. Why should QBs be statistically punished for butterfingers or shaky catching skills on the part of ends and backs?

SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL had the right rejoinder to Vice President Dick Cheney’s comment that American public may not have the “stomach for the fight” in Iraq.

On PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, Hagel had the following to say:

Oh, I’m so sorry the vice president so underestimates the people of this country. He has so little faith in this country to say something like that. That’s an astounding statement from the vice president of the United States.

You’re telling me — or maybe more directly, maybe the vice president should tell the families of those who have lost their lives, over 3,000, and over 23,000 wounded, some very seriously for life, that they don’t have the stomach?

Some context: Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, is a Vietnam War combat veteran. Cheney asked for and received five deferments from military service during that conflict, later explaining “”I had other priorities in the 60’s than military service.”

THE CONCERNS OVER GAY SHEEP RESEARCH raised by PETA and gay activists, worried by the prospects of future genetic engineering for humans, have focused attention on the question. They are right to be concerned. Count on this—if there is a prenatal genetic “fix” for homosexuality, or deafness, or dwarfism, there are parents who will want it, and doctors who will offer it.

A troubling question: what are the unintended consequences of selecting out given genetic profiles? Should we so directly intervene? Or should such tampering be legally constrained?

FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR MARIO CUMUO once observed that: “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” He made that observation in 1985, well before the first three national campaigns of the 21st century (2000, 2004 and 2006), where poetry of any sort was noticeably absent. The new permanent (and costly) Presidential campaigns shaping up—with candidates rushing to announce 22 months before the election—means we are likely to experience premature posturing instead of soaring poetry.

I GIVE NEW CRITERION EXECUTIVE EDITOR DAVID YEZZI FULL CREDIT: his Wall Street Journal review of a new biography by Scott Donaldson of American poet Edward Arlington Robinson was intriguing enough to send me in pursuit of the New England poet’s work. (That’s high praise for a book review).

A few interesting facts from the review (drawn from the book): Robinson, who died in 1935, worked as a New York subway construction inspector; his brother married a woman that he also loved; he won three Pulitzer Prizes for is verse; and he explained his multiple rejections earlier in his career by saying: “My poetry is rat-poison to editors.”

THIS WEEK’S QUOTE comes from one of Don Henley’s favorites, naturalist and explorer John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club: “Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.”

Reprinted from Neither Red nor Blue 

Copyright © 2006 Jefferson Flanders

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