Saturday, September 16, 2006

In your Sunday Irae Magazine this week

If Manuel II Paleologus was so wrong…



…why can’t we find the Byzantine Empire on a map?

72 comments:

Desargues said...

Since it's a rhetorical question, I guess you're not really waiting for an answer.

Instead, I'll chose to point out how some guys make the Pope's point, indirectly. Quoth Mohammed Mahdi Akef, from that progressive, peace-loving organization, The Muslim Brotherhood: "The remarks do not express correct understanding of Islam."

That late Palestinian Marxist Edward Said, the darling of many a crypto-Marxist in western universities, would be proud of this feller. Clearly, white guys have no standing when it comes to correctly interpreting Islam. They're being translucent Orientalists. They're looking at Islam with a hegemonic gaze, the objectifying look of the colonialist master intent on dominating the Muslim by denying their full humanity. Only oppressed minorities like the Muslim Brothers have a legitimate right to articulate the tenets of that creed of peace and unconditional love, Islam. Objectification. Reification. Alienation. Eurocentrification. Westernification. -Ation. -Ism. -Ism. Blah. Blah.

[slides into incomprehensible gibberish; "-ism" recurs obstinately]

My point being, I blame the French. Said learned his tricks from two evil frogs, Foucault and Derrida. That other nasty frog, Sartre, mentored Pol Pot and Enver Hoxha. Somebody needs to hold these snail-eaters accountable, I say.

Cantemir said...

These guys should be happy. The Pope might have call Mohammed an illiterate savage with terrible hygiene and a deplorable tendency to baby-raping, but for all his talk, Benedict hasn't actually bombed any Muslims lately. Bush, for all his talk of a noble religion of peace, brotherhood, and puppies, has been notably less forebearing as regards death from above. For that matter, Muslims themselves quite clearly murder far more Muslims than anyone else.

I think the conclusion is obvious: Muslims are safe from Islam's enemies but not from its friends. In fact, we could say that the extent of one's sympathy for Islam directly correlates to the danger one poses to Muslims.

On a personal note, my wife's best friend's mother was quite close to one of the Princesses Cantacuzene, prior to her death from a botched liposuction.

Desargues said...

Was it the Wallachian branch of the Cantacuzenes, or the Russian branch?

For a hysterically funny way to connect Dracula with General Ulysses S. Grant via the Cantacuzinos, see this straight-faced Southerner. Ow, my sides!

Desargues said...

Erm... who died from the unfortunate operation, Cantemir? The prestigious princess, or the devoted friend's mother?

poltroon said...

IIRC it is quite near the Ottoman Empire, suggest you find that one 1st.

Cantemir said...

Ah, crap. English just doesn't mark nouns properly for case. Des, how did you ever learn to speak this awful language?

The Princess, that would have been. The mom is kind of a big shot so the story is credible.

It was the Wallachian Cantacuzinos, since you mention it. I have never met one in person, but I did brush by Alexander Paleologu once at a book fair (and I saw Emil Constantinescu about five minutes later.) I wasn't in Romania for very long, but I saw a lot of stuff, come to think of it. It has that charming small-country feel where people at the top all really know each other and you can meet major intellectuals walking their dogs in parks. Then you can amuse them with your second-rate Romanian until you both just give up and speak French.

Cantemir said...

poltroon, as in adequacy.org??? My goodness. How's elenchos these days?

Ivan the Terrible said...

Edward Said is dead? Kick ass! That cheers me up no end. I think I'll have a drink...

Desargues said...

I believe the phrase can very well be ambiguous in Romanian, too: “… mama ei era foarte bunã prietenã cu printesa Cantacuzino, înainte sã moarã dintr-o liposuctie.” Cine sã moarã?

A mad dog Anglophile, I think English has enough resources for disambiguation. Exempli gratia, "... was quite close to one of the Princesses Cantacuzene, prior to the latter's death from a botched liposuction."

OK, I'll bow out now. Being an insufferable smart-ass is, well, insufferable.

Desargues said...

Oh, Ivan: you may knock back another one for Derrida, too. I know I did. And they say Dick Rorty ain't doing too well, either. But you haven't heard it from me.

Kevin McDonald said...

You guys are really upset with the Muslims, I guess. Everywhere I look I see insults and offence thrown at Islam (see other comments here for example).
My question is, do you actually know any Muslims personally who've upset you so much, or is all this frenzy of hatred just a reflection of what you've seen on your televisions?

Desargues said...

Your liberal use of the H-word strongly reminds me of '90s "mommy" liberalism. I guess we all here just want to be held.

But no, Kevin, I don't hate Muslims. You cheapen the word 'hate' when you equate it with mere dislike. I like some Muslims, I pity some others, I have withering contempt for yet others, and burning hatred for a few of them (that crazy motherfucker Ahmadinejad and that fat piece of shit Nasrallah being two among them). But I guess for a politics-of-difference liberal you either fervently love all minorities, or else you must hate them. Well, time to rethink your basic premise. If you ever expect me to liek anything about the Muslim brotherhood, you must be out of your damned mind.

And now for the presentation of my liberal credentials: some of my best friends are Muslim. Will that do?

Kevin McDonald said...

So the Muslims you like, then, they don't mind when you make obscene comments about their faith such as:

"The Pope might have call Mohammed an illiterate savage with terrible hygiene and a deplorable tendency to baby-raping..."?

And what have that "crazy motherfucker Ahmadinejad" or "that fat piece of shit Nasrallah" done to you, personally, to upset you so much? You seem full of anger at individuals you maybe don't even know on a personal level. Is that rational?

Ivan the Terrible said...

Hello, Kevin, and welcome to our happy little circle.

You make a valid point when you say "You seem full of anger at individuals you maybe don't even know on a personal level. Is that rational?" The interesting thing is that that very question goes to the root of the point that the Pope (and Manuel II) was making - that violence and hatred in the name of God are incompatible with both reason and God. If you don't mind me asking, have you applied that question to any of those demanding apologies at the point of a sword? To hold Christians to higher standards than Muslims is to implicitly concede the point that Christianity is better. Or it could be that you find both religions equally ridiculous. But I don't want to put words in your mouth.

I've known many Muslims, and have found most to be nice enough people. But Islam as a whole seems a bit short on reciprocity when it comes to respect. If the Crusades were wrong, so was what happened to Constantinople. And if Muslims should be respected in the West, so should the rights of Christians in Pakistan, the Gulf, and Indonesia...

I myself don't hate Muslims. But I do think that Islam is dangerous and false. Hate the sin, not the sinner.

Desargues said...

Sure. It's entirely rational. You don't need to know a wealth of details about one's personal life to assess their moral behaviour. On the contrary, sometimes such details may make you lose the bigger picture. In fact, claiming that moral assessment can only be made after an exhaustive examination of personal circumstances is a fallacy. These details may become mitigating or aggravating circumstances in particular cases. But when an individual exhibits systematical patterns of behaviour, inquiring into his inner life isn't really necessary. Again, I suspect the belief that you can only disapprove morally of persons you know on an intimate basis is an offshoot of a certain kind of mentality originating a decade or two ago. Funny how such people never hurry to inquire into the personal details and mitigating circumstances of the "white male establishment." Clearly, they're guilty until proven innocent.

As to Mohammed's less than impeccable personal hygiene habits, we in the West have had something called the 18th century Enlightenment. We believe we only owe allegiance and respect to that which passes the test of reason. Superstitions and deplorable habits have no sway over us just because they're supported by a foundation of superstitions and the unshakeable faith of other people. If it's condemnable, then it's condemnable on the basis of reasons and arguments alone; what other people believe about it is immaterial to the point. Similarly, marrying a 9-year old is violating her autonomy of decision and possibly her rights. Therefore, it's morally wrong and reprehensible. It is entirely irrelevant who does the marrying -- whether a shepherd in Nigeria or a camel shepherd in Mecca with visions of grandeur. The choice is simple: either you believe that all people have autonomy and human rights, and then you're willing to condemn anybody who violates them (no matter what their religious status), or you think rights and freedoms are relative to cultures and forms of life, and then you have no ground to object to violations of such rights in the Middle East or anywhere else but Western democracies. So what do you choose, Kevin?

Kevin McDonald said...

Thanks for your response, Ivan. You wrote:
"To hold Christians to higher standards than Muslims is to implicitly concede the point that Christianity is better".

which would be true, if we did. However, it is important to note that on the whole, it is Muslims who are dying, at the points of our swords, rather than us dying on the points of theirs. Every day in Gaza around eight more people are killed. Children in Lebanon are now tiptoeing through mine-fields, and in Iraq and Afganistan, well, you know.

The death tolls are in the tens of thousands.

And we're being told it's the Muslims who are on the offensive, here. Look again. Who's dying?

Ivan the Terrible said...

Well, Kevin, you ask who's dying, but I could also ask who's doing the killing? For all the efforts of the Israelis in Gaza and Lebanon, it is Muslim factionalism which is killing most Muslims right now. As for minefields, I don't know about Iraq, but I believe the only ones in Afghanistan are of Soviet vintage.

Kevin McDonald said...

desargues writes...
"marrying a 9-year old is violating her autonomy of decision and possibly her rights."

So is blowing her body apart with cluster munitions, des, but I don't hear you voicing any condemnation of that, as long as it's the Israelis doing the blowing apart.

Ivan, are you suggesting that the US and Israel are killing less people than muslim factions? I'd like to see your statistics there:) And the minefields I mention are inadvertant ones, left over fletchett rounds scattered across Lebanon. The Israelis themselves concede that they dropped over one million such devices in the last 72 hours of that particular adventure.
Again, the question: who's getting bombs dropped on their houses and the doors kicked in by foreign soldiers? Can you imagine how cross you'd be, in that situation?

Desargues said...

I'm actually an equal-opportunity condemner when it comes to that, really. I don't go any easier on fundamentalists in Utah marrying (multiple) 9-year olds.

As to cluster-bombs shredding civilians in Lebanon, of course I condemn it. Not only is it immoral; it's also strategically stupid. But I guess now it's my turn to await for some condemnation of Hezbollah's reprehensible tactics by bien pensant friends of the Arab "oppressed" in the West. If they have any decency left, surely they must acknowledge that targeting Israel and firing Katiushas indiscriminately at civilians is no less condemnable than the use of cluster bombs. Above all, I've been waiting for vocal humanitarians to stridently acknowledge that (1)
Nasrallah's wild bunch has no shred of rationale and/or legitimacy in fighting Israel, and (2) on the contrary, they are the vicious tools of madmen and thugs in Tehran and Damascus.

[silence... crickets chirping... sun sets... sun rises]

Generally speaking, absent from the discourse of the radical left in the West these days is the recognition that some democratic states are faced with a quite new sort of strategic threat -- one that poses new, difficult questions in terms of military tactics and humanitarian law. It is the menace of asymmetric warfare waged by (urban) guerillas and paramilitaries who do not shrink from using their own civilians and infrastructure to inflict damage on the armies of a nation state, yet are never held accountable to the same standards of warfare. Largely, the rules of engagement in military confrontations (and the moral norms for evaluating them) have developed inthe West based on the paradigm of nation states facing each other off with clearly-marked, regimented armies. But this sort of "fourth-generation warfare," as Martin van Creveld calls it, poses quite new challenges to the old paradigm -- and it may be that international law would have to be amended to deal with these new situations.

Clearly, the knee-jerk reaction on the left doesn't help: automatically condemning Israel just because it has the bigger army simply ignores the reality of the situation. You can't expect a state to stick to the traditional rules of battlefield engagement when it's not dealing with a regular army. All the more when it's blatantly obvious that Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad have no intention of adhering to those rules themselves.

In the interest of impartiality, I should declare that I also do not endorse the views of the lunatic fringe on the right that claims, well, the Lebanese have done nothing to disarm Hezbollah, hence they're guilty by association, therefore they're all legitimate targets.

Some people also forget all too easily that Israel is in a quite special position in the area. It is no secret that some groups have made it their objective (whether overtly stated or only implicit) to annihilate that state entity. Again, I will not commit the right-wing fallacy of thinking that some Palestinian teenagers throwing stones at Jewish tanks endanger the continued existence of the Righteous State. And I'm the first to acknowledge that, by resettling parts of the West Bank, Israel has put itself in a very uncomfortable position. But that will not blind me to the two following facts: (1) left unchecked, Hezbollah can only pose a greater and greater stategic danger to Israel's continued existence, and (2) handing the occupied territories back to the Palestinians without a comprehensive peace agreement that includes enforceable security guarantees is only a recipe for future disaster. One has no good reason to trust Hamas and Islamic Jihad; on the contrary, it's fairly clear that, in the long run, they'd use their recovered territories to amass real weaponry and take the fight to the Jewish homeland. I take it that's not what a reasonable person wants. But that's just me.

PI said...

Des I had lunch opposite Sartre way back when. He was a revolting looking creature with a tarty looking blonde with an inch wide black parting before it was fashionable. Such a let down.

PI said...

Well Kevin the Muslims have been pretty offensive in Britain.

Ivan the Terrible said...

Pi puts it all in perspective, as ever :) Thanks for shaking us out of our doctrinal trees, there, Pat!

Meanwhile, I'm afraid I'll have to put to bed this non sequitur around who's dying in greater numbers. After all, if casualties alone were sufficient to give Islamism the moral high ground (in a war that they started), then the sword of righteousness in WW II would have belong to Stalinism, with Nazism in close second. And hopefully were all way past that horrific error...

Desargues said...

I was told Sartre never encountered a tarty-looking blonde he didn't take to bed. Either they all had very low self-esteem as a group, or the collective situation of men in France is beyond repair. Otherwise, those femmes willingness to spend a single minute with someone so repulsive is an inscrutable mystery.

PI said...

But Des not only is power sexy but also the little grey cells. Both my husbands had/have masses. And that is why I am so in thrall with you lot, although I understand very little.

Desargues said...

Where does one find such women, Pi? Ain't too many of'em left where I live...

Ivan the Terrible said...

They still exist in surprising numbers in Paris, Des. Must be something in the water. Alas, they're all conditioned from birth to simper over dirigiste lefties. Could be that's why France has so many dirigiste lefties, even in their sad excuses for right wing parties.

It was the same at Uni in my day - you could talk sense or you could get laid, but not both...

poltroon said...

"Both my husbands had/have masses." Who said English has enough resources for disambiguation? He needs to work that one over.

And cantemir, it's poltroon as in "craven coward", not formerly of adequacy or any other .org.

And Kevin, I think it's wonderful you have such love for our Muslim brothers, I really do.

Desargues said...

Yeah, I guess committed libertarians have to resign themselves to long bouts of celibacy during their best years -- the twenties. [sigh] A dedication to true principles always involves some sacrifices, I'm sure I'm not the first to trot out this piece of trite wisdom.

I dunno, but in Manchester I got the impression that being a fierce, but articulate contrarian may endear you with a few of the ladies (admittedly not your first idea of a British rose, but no matter). Besides the crypto-commies in the graduate program, the favorite target of my vitriolic outbursts was this oily-faced, rubicond, oleaginous Muslim guy who was writing a master's thesis on why he thought Islam is incompatible with democracy (needless to say, he preferred the former). Most of the evidence for his argument came from some 14th-century Muslim theologians. Fourteenth. Fucking. Century. Can you believe that? I couldn't. Neither could I believe the unfeigned earnestness with which my British colleagues and our South African professor were listening to his shtick. Coming as I do from East Europe, I have virtually no patience for this sort of retarded bullshit, so I kept taking (argumentative) jabs at him; it amused me a great deal to see his theological patience cracking at the seams. Too bad my English wasn't too good back then, I'd have demolished that stupid moron in less time than I actually needed. But I kept having the persistent feeling that, for the British onlookers in that graduate seminar, we were both some quaint objects in a museum of incomprehensible life-forms sparring with each other, while they were listening with the politeness required by a good upbringing and allegiance to the tenets of political correctness. Probably they felt they owed us some presumption of absolute innocence that supposedly comes with being a 'victim' -- very likely less so in my case, since Albion regrettably never had any colonies in East Europe.

Desargues said...

All husbands have mass -- both inertial and gravitational -- merely in virtue of their being material objects. Some husbands have a greater mass than others, depending on their diet, lifestyle habits, and genetic constitution. As to religious masses, I think English cannot disambiguate (with good reason) in a present tense context: "Both my husbands have masses" strongly implies polygamy, which is illegal in most of the Anglo-Saxon world. In all fairness, one can only expect a language to deal with predictable or possible states of affairs. That's why many old Indo-European languages, for instance, do not have past tenses for "to die."

All snark aside, Poltroon's example, while funny, is entirely beside the point. I did not suggest there are no ambiguous grammatical constructions in English. Of course there are. Normally, it is the pragmatic context that removes uncertainty as to which meaning was intended. What I suggested that English also has formal mechanisms for disambiguation. One can, for instance, rephrase to "Both my husbands had several masses each." I thinks that makes it pretty clear who had how many religious services.

sol kashberg said...

Ivan, OK, I guess you're correct. Let's continue with the slaughter!
Seriously though, you have a point, although you're not actually making it. I'll try to do it for you:

Imagine you have a Father who is like Tony Soprano, a big tough gangster, running protection rackets all over town. He provides you with a luxury lifestyle, fridge full of expensive, perishable foods. I guess it'd be churlish to keep whining "But Dad, you're just a thug! You kill thousands of innocent children across the town, etc, etc, blah blah.:"
I for one am not willing to sacrifice my goose-liver pate on the altar of 'fairness' or 'justice'. If it comes down to a zero sum game, I suppose I'd side with you people, crying out for the extermination of the faster breeding towel-heads. Fair enough.
But let's not pretend it's any kind of 'moral' position. Let's just be honest. There's not enough of whatever to go round so we struggle, kill, invade, etc, to make damn sure it's US who maintain their full refrigerators.

Desargues said...

It's far from clear what a "thoroughly moral" position in global affairs entails with respect to the oil fields in the Middle East. Perhaps Chinese soldiers garrisoned in the House of Saud would be more compatible with the dictates of global social justice, whatever that means? Or maybe those two paragons of human rights and democracy, Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez, should me entrusted with managing the underground resources of the Arabian Peninsula? Appointing Fidel Castro to the task naturally suggests itself. He sure knows how to run a country.

Or maybe, to be more in tune with the requirements of truly international ethics, those oil fields ought to be returned to their rightful owners--the people. That's normally an infallible recipe for an unstoppable march towards general prosperity, egalitarian democracy, and the rule of law. One only needs to look at the various vibrant democracies in the Middle East. Should that not suffice, there's plenty of other examples elsewhere: Russia, Venezuela, the luckiest among the ex-Soviet "republics" in Central Asia, or the future centres of instability in the oil-rich parts of Africa. The West could surely learn from such luminaries of good governance and representative democracy.

The analogy with Tony Soprano, while appealing at first sight, is nevertheless misleading (Thomas Pogge at Columbia engages in the same trick; it works in talks, but it falls apart when you take a closer look at it). Tony Soprano does illegal things, but he doesn't get caught. It's not clear the United States (or the rapacious West, I suppose) engage in the same practices. It may be that the war in Iraq violated several articles of international law. Other than that, I don't know of too many bodies of law that spell out what 'global justice' requires of the First World (funnily enough, these imperatives of justice never seem to require anything at all of the 'oppressed').

sol kashberg said...

Yes, desargues, let's change the rules of warfare so that the Israeli's don't feel left out of civilized society.
Funny, I don't recall the British army dropping a million cluster bombs on Belfast following the IRA's asymmetrical attacks on Birmigham and London. By your reasoning, we should have launched air, sea and land artillery barrages at their civilian infrastructure, killing over a thousand people in the process. Yeah, right, desargues, that's the Enlightenment for you.
And I note that you think it fit, in a World where we are supposedly promoting democracies across the globe, to support the World's only ethnic based state. I have an English friend, who has lived for over ten years in Israel. He's a citizen on paper, because his work was valued by the state. He cannot, however, marry an Israeli woman in Israel. Why? Because he is not a Jew. He's a Christian, you see. They don't want the races getting mixed up in the 'Jewish Homeland'. How enlightened your friends the Jews are!
And by the way, I don't love the muslims. I think the towel heads are backward, primitive, smelly, macho idiots on the whole. However, I'm also prepared to recognise that, in this instance, they're the victims of our aggression, not the other way round.

Desargues said...

Mr Kashberg, note that I didn't use the premise of fourth-generation warfare to infer that it's OK to blow civilians on either side to smithereens. I was just suggesting that, given new realities on the ground, the rules of military engagement may have to be reinterpreted. What the content of those new rules could be, I don't know.

Deafening is also your silence on Lebanese Shi'as attacking Israeli civilians with crude rockets. But I guess that, since Israel is always the "aggressor," those Jews in the north of the country were just asking for it. Serves them right, innit? While we're at it, perhaps you'd care to enlighten us on another matter: what exactly is the point of Hezbollah as a military movement, and what shred of legitimacy could it possibly have? Surely global ethics must have something to say in this regard. Let me guess: they're the voice of the voiceless, speaking on behalf of the oppressed heaving under the Jewish jackboot?

With regard to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, again I'm not sure in which sense Israel is the aggressor. Those are territories occupied in the wake of a war, initiated by three Arab countries. Or perhaps Israel simply committed a sort of metaphysical aggression, in virtue of its mere existence, as it were? There are German and French philosophers who would not hesitate to use such ontological abstractions, but I take it that's not what you have in mind here.

As to Israel being a state entity along ethnic lines, of course I'm uncomfortable with such a notion. Clearly it does not fit with modern ideas of Western statehood, and it rests a good deal on Western guilt over the past persecution of the Jews. But again, I'm not sure what follows from this. I don't think it entails a complete loss of legitimacy for the Jewish state. Note also that most Palestinians haven't chosen political integration and equal rights as their preferred strategy; a large part of them still adhere to the path of a separate existence obtained by military means. Granted that, I don't see why Israel should take the initiative and integrate them voluntarily. It is not, after all, Willem de Klerk's South Africa.

Most irksome I find the hypocrisy of some 'globalists' in the West and elsewhere to hold only Israel to First World standars of behaviour. That is certainly their right, but that comes with the obligation to acknolwedge openly that the Israelis are dealing with an enemy that doesn't deserve the same sort of recognition. Let them say something along the lines of, "yeah, we know they're a bunch of uncouth, violent savages, but go easy on those poor fuckers; don't slap them so hard. It's simply not done around here." Or words to that effect. But of course they won't bring themselves to say that. Israel is the aggressor, and all Arabs are a priori morally impeccable -- in virtue of being the victims.

Kevin McDonald said...

desargues writes:
"It's not clear the United States (or the rapacious West, I suppose) engage in the same practices. It may be that the war in Iraq violated several articles of international law."
Good God, man! Has your television been on the blink? It was/is a war of aggression, based on what we now call intelligence errors. They hanged quite a few Germans after Nurenberg, on charges of having launched a war of aggression against Poland. The Germans also published spurious tales of 'imminent threats' and Polish 'terror' actions against Germany, prior to invading.
The whole premise of our invasion of Iraq was at best an illusion and at worst an outright lie. Yet you still seem comfortable with this. Did they have the Enlightenment in Eastern Europe, too?

Desargues said...

In general, there's always a superior alternative to strident criticism from supposedly moral positions: suggest a better course of action. But it has to be realistic--ludicrously utopian proposals or unfeasible plans won't do, obviously. In the case of the recent confrontation between Israel and Nasrallah, I'm the first to admit that the Righteous State behaved disastrously. It massively overreacted, and it ended up with a public perception debacle. They could have fired off a few shells into the Bekaa Valley, then quietly engage in negotiations to release those soldiers. Or they could have sent some commandos to kill a few of Hezbollah's big wigs, and make them change their minds. But vociferous condemnations of Israeli aggression are no answer to the question, so what would you do? Obviously, I'm no strategist myself. Just a guy with a wireless connection.

Desargues said...

No. Ours came rather late. Around the mid-19th century or so. I know Bush lied about those weapons. I never thought that was the real reason. I was just glad to see that mustachioed bastard go. East European enthusiasm for being liberated, by force if necessary. Sic semper tyrannis and all that. Shortly after that, I remembered that the Mesopotamians don't like being liberated by Westerners, what with their memories of colonialism and stuff. Then I saw how appalingly incompetent the Cheney Administration was in running the post-occupation, and I calmed down. So here, mea culpa. But you know, you break it, you own it.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Damn! I came to this late and have probably missed all the fun by now.

While I'm not in favour of forming my political opinions around mediaeval ideas and faith, I will say this for the Dark Ages. Many of their wars were fought by two opposing armies meeting on a battlefield at an appointed time and having it out until the side with most people still groaning at the end could claim victory. Crude? Of course, but all war is. My point is that this method of waging war, soldier to soldier, is far more "surgical" than our current methods, less destructive to the citizenry, and therefore less inflammatory all round.

It would be very easy to say, "But Sam, the citizens of the Middle Ages were woefully unprotected against anyone including their own governments and institutions", and no doubt there were many battles that didn't conform to the wee sketch I have above. I agree, but just as an ideal, professional army against professional army, lets have it out and keep innocents right out of it.

"Impractical, Sam, that couldn't work in today's conflicts against multi-national terrorists!" you might also charge, and be right, but a girl can still have ideals can't she? Even if, depressingly, one of them is an ideal about a better way to wage war, if we absolutely must. These mediaevals didn't get it ALL more bass-ackwards than we do.

I'm not sure when citizens started to become legitimate targets - perhaps with the advent of air war - but, when it's open season on everyone, the consequently larger numbers of dead in any conflict become part of that most evil of sentences we must all agree is the world's most odious euphemism: "In any conflict there is always a regrettable amount of collateral damage." Spoken by wicked old men the world over.

Women are attracted to intelligent men at a greater rate than men are attracted to intelligent women. Intelligence is always a bonus for a man whereas for a woman it is usually an absolute must have. We tire of cute fluff far more often and more quickly than men do. Case in point: do you think if Stephen Hawking was a woman she'd be married? Truthfully. Or Shane McGowan?

I make no moral judgment about this because it's simply a fact that the sexes are wired differently. Men react far more strongly to what they see, and women to what they hear. Vive la difference, I say, but chaps, lets not go lamenting the fact that some women will always be more attracted to Mel Gibson than to Peter Cook because then you would also have to explain why the multi-billion dollar porn industry and its ever more unlikely breasts caters overwhelmingly to men, not all of whom can be idiots.

Desargues said...

...Intelligence is always a bonus for a man whereas for a woman it is usually an absolute must have...

I know a few feminists who'd harshly excoriate you for betraying the Sisterhood with those words, Sam.

Desargues said...

You should say something like, "intelligence comes naturally in women, but it's a rare find in a man." That'd set you in good standing with them.

Kevin McDonald said...

By the way, desargues, you mentioned earlier 'The Muslim Brotherhood'. Wasn't there an incident, back in 1953, in Egypt, where they were running around, bombing British & U.S targets? Only didn't it turn out to be someone else? Wonder who that was. The Lavon Affair, or as they call it in Israel, 'Operation Suzannha'.

Desargues said...

Yeah, I guess. There was Jewish terrorism, too. Albert Einstein denounced it. It's in the NYT, check it out. So what gives? The Jews are conniving bastards, while the Brothers are innocent lambs set up by the Sons of Darkness?

Kevin McDonald said...

Now you're talking!

Desargues said...

As Feynman would put it, surely you must be joking, Mr McDonald.

Kevin McDonald said...

And let's not get our Jews mixed up with our Israelis, here. I didn't know Einstein was a Israeli. Thought he was a German.

Kevin McDonald said...

Let's argue later. Class to give.

Desargues said...

Born in what is now Poland, in Ulm. I guess he was made an honorific citizen of the Righteous State. But he considered himself a citizen of the world republic.

Desargues said...

Cool. I gotta give a section tomorrow, too.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Des, despite the fact I was never in favour of the Iraq war I have to say I am of the we broke it now we must fix it school too. (Didn't we British have a major hand in breaking Palestine too though?) How exactly this is to be done now after such a complete balls up of the whole thing is for smarter people than me to figure out.

I hate to see our soldiers dying, especially now we appear to be in the middle of a centuries old Sunni/Shi'ite struggle where we don't belong, but I think if we were to withdraw now, the country would tear itself apart and we would be responsible for that. That would be even more unforgiveable than our going in in the first place.

I'm slightly left of centre - although I dislike both parties equally, and the neocon cabal particularly and savagely - but in our house it is my husband, the Republican, who was in favour of pulling our troops out a year ago, and me who urged stay the course. Strange bedfellows indeed.

As the weeks march on and the news gets worse, I'm having a lot of trouble with stay-the-course, play the longer game etc. though. It is very difficult to see a way out of this mess.

Just, you know, saying.

On Islam, I have to confess my disappontment with moderate Muslims who should be asserting themselves much more against their extremist brothers and cleaning house a bit more effectively.

Believing in one dusty desert prophet over another seems to make no sense, but at the moment I will side with whichever faith is not lopping heads off innocent people whilst shouting "God is great!" There is much about Christianity that I believe: in the existence of Jesus as a prophet; its essential goodness - when kept out of the hands of committees; its messages of humility, peace and love which almost none of us manage; There's much I don't believe: a virgin birth; the fact that somone with a robe and a hat on can know more than the rest of us about life's mysteries and should be trusted as final arbiter on matters of doctrine. I believe in God and prefer to use the reason He put in my head than the notion that the bible should be taken literally and is not largely parable for an illiterate, ancient audience. (The early Christians I mean, not my mother-in-law)

I'm finding Islam increasingly difficult to respect not so much for its nutters, who are mad by definition, and every faith or cause has its madmen, but because of the lack of assertion of moderate Islam against them. That and the fact that, too often, women are subjugated horribly in its name.

There seems to be no teaching in Islam that you should render unto God the things that are God's and unto Caesar, the things that are Caesar's - the terrorists who claim to be acting for your God. Why are more of the extremists not turned in by their moderate counterparts? Why do the battens go down on the hatches when questions are asked in Muslim areas of Britain about suspected terrorists living amongst them? Why are women treated so poorly in Islamic states? Why the hue and cry about profiling at airports when it might save lives and be the most patriotic AND faith-fulfilling thing a Muslim could do? Not all Arabs are Muslims granted but the patriotism and the saving of lives would make it worth it, surely?

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

"...Intelligence is always a bonus for a man whereas for a woman it is usually an absolute must have..."

I mean that men think of intelligence in a woman as an added extra to the curves, not required (and often not even wanted!) whereas women tire quickly of a man who can't or won't think. Abs won't be charming for a woman for as long as breasts will be for a man. He's looking, she's listening.

I cannot see anything in that assertion that could possibly offend any woman who is not already angry and prickling about something else. It is just a fact I have gathered from my enormously rigourous scinetific study of my male and female friends in Britian and America.

Kevin McDonald said...

Sam, I think you underestimate men when you say they don't really care about womens' intelligence. Personally, the brighter the woman, the sexier she becomes. We love throwing talkative Phd students onto beds and tearing off the blouses of girls who read Derrida. Or maybe that's just me:)
desargues, of course, individualy the Israelis are not the Sons of Darkness. However, if you're looking for a drug-smuggling polititian, an identity stealing mossad agent, a child-porn making Consular official or a rapist president, then Israel's your location of choice. Perhaps the western powers are also to blame for these kinds of Israeli behaviour? If it's crime, corruption and sin you're after, then the Promised Land is a past master. Israeli ranks proudly amongst the nations as a leading player in the slave-trade (human trafficking) market and you can't turn around there without bumping into runaway Jewish Russian billionaires, who now live in palatial homes in North Tel Aviv. And on the diplomatic front, can you explain why Israel has never been compelled to comply with, what is it now, 60 plus UN resolutions? Not a word is ever mentioned about this serial noncompliance, whereas Lebanon was roasted for not obeying one particular resolution. Iraq was invaded for less, Iran is having resolutions waved in its face right now, preparatory to the next invasion. And all the while, Israel goes on, blithley ignoring the international community and building new settlements under our very eyes. How come, desargues? Is it some kind of reverse antisemitism, do you think? Or have the Israelis got pictures of Blair and Bush doing the naughty with underaged girls/boys? I can think of no other explaination for it.

Kevin McDonald said...

STOP THE PRESS! I just heard that Venezuela(?) and Iran have signed a long term economic agreement. How dare they!
Bet we start hearing about the Iranians building a Death Star pretty soon.

Kevin McDonald said...

desargues writes: "Said learned his tricks from two evil frogs, Foucault and Derrida."

So a Jew and a homosexual are to blame for Said's crucial contribution to the rise of Islamic fundmentalism? And let's face it, Foucault was only a snip away from being Jewish himself, or he would never have survived, been celebrated and prospered in such a largely Jewish academic milieu. You know how it goes - I'll recommend your articles if you appoint this friend of mine....etc etc...jobs for the boys. Got a radical, unintelligle critique of western gentile culture? OK, we'll publish that. Got a treatise which undermines the foundations of post-enlightenment political Europe, OK, we're listening.
Ah, dear old, antisemitic France, the country which has, since 1945, had not one, not two, but THREE Jewish Prime Ministers. Those evil frogs, indeed.

sol kashberg said...

Here's a sub-heading from an article on the pope's fracas with the Muslims. The Israelis are very excited about this, as they love to see the wedge driven even deeper, between Christians and Muslims.
I guess this sub-heading (the main title was 'The Pope Did Us All A Favour') is a clarion-call, a HenryV moment, in the Judaic crusade to rid the earth of all but themselves. Here's the sub-heading,:

"We all have a little box of horrors full of what we truly believe. It's time to open it, to let the venom drain."

Scary, no?

sol kashberg said...

I forgot to mention, that's from today's Haaretz newspaper. Haaretz is the most liberal, most western style of Israel's three newspapers.

Ivan the Terrible said...

Jeez, guys - go get some sleep! You're all gonna be grumpy in the morning :) We can pick it up again when you've had some rest...

Desargues said...

Kevin, I did not reproach Foucalt and Derrida for being gay and/or Jewish. I'm not that stupid, you know. What I object to is their sloppy thought, and their occasional deliberate deception. And their extreme political naivete, despite being among the first to argue that the political seeps into the most minute aspects of thought and language. But none of this is the privilege of Jews or homosexuals. On the contrary.

I have already acknowledged that I'm not OK with Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. I know that they're illegal under international law, and I don't contest that Israel will always find them the source of many a headache. They still dream of Judea and Samaria--so be it, but I'm skeptical about their little fantasy. And, when some of them will begin to wake up, it may tear the country apart. But I find it remarkable that, in living memory, virtually no American politician, with the possible exception of Reagan and Bush the Elder, ever excoriated them for this reckless enterprise. Quite on the contrary, I should say.

As to corrupt and devious Israeli politicians, I can't complain too much about that. Where I grew up, that was pretty much part of the territory. Much like the rst of the Middle East these days, I presume. That's why I left for America. Of course, there's the occasional president who sexes up an intern, a Randy Cunningham here, a Bob Ney there -- but I guess that's what makes this country great. ;-)

poltroon said...

Fully disambiguated form (I hope): "Each of my husbands, former and current, each had masses of little grey cells, severally. That's 'masses' with a little 'm'."

Kevin, calling women "bright" is not exactly the best way to assert your feminist bona fides. That's a joke. Don't get angry at me please.

And seriously, if you are that passionate about the Israel/West vs. Islam thingie, then I'd guess you are motivated by extreme love for one side or extreme hate for the other. I know for me it is the love for myself and family and everyone I know, Muslims included, that informs my choice of which side to take. It would be nice to choose morally perfect allies in this war but the history I've read so far doesn't have any examples of this.

But, if you want a moral equivalence argument, consider this question: which of the two sides, Israel or Palestine, is more likely to respond to a unilateral cease-fire and withdrawal by the other by ceasing hostilities itself?

Kevin McDonald said...

Poltroon, the answer is obvious: the side with most to gain by achieving peace. Israel is not now and has never, sought peace with its neighbours, other than by buying off (with U.S money) Egypt and Jordan. The continued slow-motion genocide by Israel of the indiginous peoples of the region is an affront to everything the 'modern' world is supposed to stand for. The Palestinian arabs are still living in refugee camps for god's sake. There's still little electric in Gaza (remember Gaza?) since the power station was destroyed by Israeli air attack in collective punishment against a city of one million souls. It's very hot in Gaza now. Think of all those thousands and thousands of children, poltroon. How would you feel, if the Israelis did that to your own kids? Meanwhile, the Israelis are driving SUVs, sipping cocktails and laughing at the stupidity of what they call 'the outside world', at having done their bidding so obediently for so long. They think you're the biggest suckers around. They KNOW what assholes they are. They laugh openly about their nefarious characteristics. And they are delightedly, bemusedly, surprized that the rest of the world doesn't see it. Go and see the country, poltroon. Live among them. Or better still, go to India or Thailand, where the locals will tell you how much they dislike the Israelis. Did you know that Israelis are banned from many many hotels and hostels in Asia and India? Yes, there are actually signs on the door saying 'No Israelis'. They are sick of the arrogance, dishonesty, and wanton destructiveness of this 'people', and so they banned them. This has been the case for several years, ever since Israelis started travelling in nymbers to the Far East. They're trouble. You don't want them staying in your hotel. Go figure what kind of country they've been raised in, poltroon.

poltroon said...

To reiterate, I'd rather be on the side of the obnoxious Israelis who are not welcome in Thai hotels because they would steal the towels, stiff the waiters, and trash the room, than the guys who would blow up said hotel.

And do you honestly believe that the guys flying airplanes into buildings and killing nuns are doing it for the Palestians?

Kevin McDonald said...

Poltroon says he'd rather be on the side of the Israelis than..."the guys who would blow up said hotel". Is he certain they're not the same guys? I mean, there's a history here, with the Israelis.
And as to his other point, no, they're fighting for themselves. And I don't see too many Israeli hotels exploding.

Cantemir said...

Des,

That's Romanian all right, but I wouldn't have used that word order or phrasing had I been speaking Romanian. In any case, Romanian isn't my first language. I didn't know you spoke it.

Mr McDonald,

Meanwhile, the Israelis are driving SUVs, sipping cocktails and laughing at the stupidity of what they call 'the outside world', at having done their bidding so obediently for so long.

I hear that they have heavy lips, hooked noses, and a penchant for brutally violating Christian girls as well. I heard all this on Egyptian TV.

Cantemir said...

Des,

In particular, I would have put 'printesa' in the genitive, and used 'her death' instead of 'she died' in the subordinate clause. I don't think that's any better than what you wrote, though, and I concede the point.

Kevin McDonald said...

Cantimer writes:
"I hear that they have heavy lips, hooked noses, and a penchant for brutally violating Christian girls" as well. I heard all this on Egyptian TV."
Well, actually, yes, many of them do have heavy, sensuous lips and large noses. I don't think either of these features has any thing to do with their being the leading exporters in the world of Eastern European girls, sold into the brothels of Tel Aviv and elsewhere. Oh, I forgot, Cantimer, I'm just being fooled by the tricky Arab media. Christ, you goyim really do deserve to be gulled like you are. You're like children compared to the Jews. They know it, talk about it, joke about it and acknowledge it as just another fact of life: they're clever and cynical, while you, cuntimer, are as innocent as a little lamb and almost as smart.

Cantemir said...

Mr McDonald,

Do you generally go around presuming to inform actual Eastern Europeans of the problems of Eastern Europe? It seems a shame to waste your time so frivolously. Most of us find it rather tough to ignore the facts of life in our countries.

I find your allegation that Eastern Europe is insufficiently anti-Semitic to be fascinating and enlightened. Would you please elucidate? Perhaps that rootless cosmopolitan Soros is to blame for our problems?

Kevin McDonald said...

First of all, I apologise for any presumption on my part. I hadn't realised you were an Eastern European.

Of course you are aware of the enormously influential role Jews have played in that region's recent history, (by the way, cantimer, my using the word 'Jew' is something that you probably didn't blink at, but which most western european gentiles would wince to see in print. that's another topic:) and I'm not going to list the long roll of Jews who have led Eastern European nations or headed military security and intelligence during those same periods. You know all about the NKVD and all that, I presume, and anyway, Eastern Europe's political, cultural and economic domination by Jews is all in the recent past by now; it can't possibly have any bearing on the present.
Which country are you from, cantimer? Has it ever had a Jewish leader? What was the status of Jews there during say, the last one hundred years? Were they disliked because they performed the role of 'bailiff', on behalf of the law, or monarch. Were they traditionally disliked because they were willing to do whatever unpleasantry was necessary for these paymasters, having no alliegance with, or sympathy for, the native populace?

You'll say it was all a dream, I suspect. But you can't make it go away just by wishing it hadn't happened.

Was there a famine in Ukraine, cantimer, or is that a dirty lie? If there was a famine, what were you taught as being the famine's causes? Who administered the actions by Government at that time? Who collected the corn, cantimer? Who gathered up the grain?

Ivan the Terrible said...

Hi Kevin - I very much hope that that ad hominem mispelling of Cantemir a couple of posts back was accidental. Other than that, carry on - this is a first amendment shop we run around here...

Kevin McDonald said...

And very much appreciated, Ivan.

Ex muslim said...

Israel is not now and has never, sought peace with its neighbours, other than by buying off (with U.S money) Egypt and Jordan.

Your bias is showing here Mac. Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt. All it got in return was normalized relations with Egypt (sort of) and a peace treaty. Clearly Israel DID want peace with Egypt and it's a lie to imply otherwise. It's also clear that Israel did have hopes for peace with the Palestinians when it signed the Oslo accords with Arafat.

The continued slow-motion genocide by Israel of the indiginous peoples of the region is an affront to everything the 'modern' world is supposed to stand for.

I believe the Israeli Arab population of Israel has doubled over the last 40 years. Similar rates of increase in the West Bank and Gaza too. If the Israelis are practising genocide, they're not very good at it. Sort of ironic that you're making this accusation when a real genocide is going on in the Sudan.

The Palestinian arabs are still living in refugee camps for god's sake.

Not because Israel is forcing them to. That little arrangement suits their leaders just fine so they can keep the problem festering and carry on getting handouts from the UN.

Meanwhile, the Israelis are driving SUVs, sipping cocktails and laughing at the stupidity of what they call 'the outside world', at having done their bidding so obediently for so long. They think you're the biggest suckers around. They KNOW what assholes they are. They laugh openly about their nefarious characteristics. And they are delightedly, bemusedly, surprized that the rest of the world doesn't see it.

Oh dear, Mac, I think you've been reading too much 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion', which sells very well in the muslim world. From what I know of Israeli students, there is not a grain of truth in your crude racial stereotype.

Ex muslim said...

Israel is not now and has never, sought peace with its neighbours, other than by buying off (with U.S money) Egypt and Jordan.

Your bias is showing here Mac. Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt. All it got in return was normalized relations with Egypt (sort of) and a peace treaty. Clearly Israel DID want peace with Egypt and it's a lie to imply otherwise. It's also clear that Israel did have hopes for peace with the Palestinians when it signed the Oslo accords with Arafat.

The continued slow-motion genocide by Israel of the indiginous peoples of the region is an affront to everything the 'modern' world is supposed to stand for.

I believe the Israeli Arab population of Israel has doubled over the last 40 years. Similar rates of increase in the West Bank and Gaza too. If the Israelis are practising genocide, they're not very good at it. Sort of ironic that you're making this accusation when a real genocide is going on in the Sudan.

The Palestinian arabs are still living in refugee camps for god's sake.

Not because Israel is forcing them to. That little arrangement suits their leaders just fine so they can keep the problem festering and carry on getting handouts from the UN.

Meanwhile, the Israelis are driving SUVs, sipping cocktails and laughing at the stupidity of what they call 'the outside world', at having done their bidding so obediently for so long. They think you're the biggest suckers around. They KNOW what assholes they are. They laugh openly about their nefarious characteristics. And they are delightedly, bemusedly, surprized that the rest of the world doesn't see it.

Oh dear, Mac, I think you've been reading too much 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion', which sells very well in the muslim world. From what I know of Israeli students, there is not a grain of truth in your crude racial stereotype.

Kevin McDonald said...

Ex-Muslim writes:
"It's also clear that Israel did have hopes for peace with the Palestinians when it signed the Oslo accords with Arafat."
How is that, EM? The accords were signed in 1993 and Israel agreed to withdraw from the West Bank & Gaza. Three years later, and before anything had been done to implement this committment and two weeks before the scheduled Palestinian elections, in January of 1996, Israel assasinated Hamas leader Yahya Ayyash, by blowing off his head with a bomb in his cell phone. At that point, in January 1996, there had been no terrorist attacks or suicide bombings in Israel for over five months. Predictably enough, terrorist attacks resumed immediately and the accords were put back onto the back-burner.

But I don't want to talk about all those little details right now. Let's keep it simple, so everyone can understand.

It is important for us to remind ourselves that it is not the citizens of any arab state or nation who have crossed the oceans by air and by sea to occupy Birobidzhan, the still thriving, Jewish Autonomous Region of Russia.
So let's get that particular squint out of our eye and remember who is in control here.

And with regard to the refugee camp existance of two out of the three million palestinians under occupation, EM claims:

"That little arrangement suits their leaders just fine so they can keep the problem festering and carry on getting handouts from the UN."

Which only shows how slow people are to absorb the changing reality of this world. EM, you may have missed the news recently, but since the Hamas electoral victory, (in an election observed by international watch-dogs and given the thumbs up) and under pressure from Israel via the U.S, the UN no longer gives any handouts to the Palestinian Authority.

That's why we've had Palestinian ministers crossing into Palestine with suitcases of millions of dollars. They're having a hard time paying public sector salaries. So this extra little incentive, of poverty and malnutrition, may be one more way in which Israel expresses its willingness for peace.

And in their search for that longed for peace, Israel inadvertantly drops over (yes, I know you're sick of hearing it but you should keep hearing it until you see it in your mind's eye) 1.2 million explosive devices, hundreds of thousands of which are now scattered about the towns, villages and countryside of Lebanon. In a month, Israel kills over a thousand Lebanese, plus several UN observers, in their search for two missing soldiers. And the world stands there and watchs it.
Imagine if this were some other country doing this.
America is behaving in a similar way recently, and the world is standing there watching that, too.
What have these two countries got in common, I wonder, that they seem so immune from the censure of the all-powerful West?
In America's case, it's easy to answer; America is big and rich, dominating the trade of the world, and the U.S is also the most highly armed entity on Earth. Nobody's going to say 'boo' to that guy.

But Israel? Israel is poor, as big as New Jersey, and is dependent upon financial support for its existence. So how come the all-powerful West is scared to say, for instance: "Israel, you've had this UN resolution against you since 1967, demanding your withdrawal from the West Bank & Gaza. You have flagrently ignored this and almost seventy other UN resolutions until now, and we insist you begin to comply."?

Why aren't we carpet bombing Israel like we did to Belgrade? Why aren't we demanding that Israel disarm or face sactions?

Israel is the only player in the region with nukes.

Remember what Sharon once answered, when reminded by some Jerimiah that the Arabs have all the oil, which gives them immense power. Sharon said, "Yes, the Arabs have all the oil, it's true. But Israel has the matches."

Ex muslim said...

Kevin, your last comment is full of outright falsehoods. I'm curious to know where you get your facts from. Noam Chomsky? Jon Pilger? David Hirst? Your anti-Israeli biases are even greater than my own muslim relatives, which takes a lot of doing.

The first suicide bombing against Israeli civilians was in April 1994 not 1996, Yaha Ayyash was not a 'Hamas leader' but a terrorist bomb-maker known by the Palestinians as 'The Engineer', the UN has not cut off support to the Palestinian refugee camps, the EU and the US have cut off funds to the PA because Hamas refuses to accept previous agreements made with Israel, no UN resolutions 'demand' Israeli withdrawal from the WB and Gaza, UNSCR 242 links an Israeli withdrawal to a permanent negotiated peace in which Israel has secure borders.

As far as getting accurate facts are concerned, I would recommend a journalist called Anton La Guardia whose book is available at amazon.com. He is pro-Palestinian, which should appeal to you, but he gets the facts right and gives an accurate picture of the viewpoint of both sides.

Of course, if you prefer biased sources you could try this.

Sorry for using your blog for this debate, Ivan. I won't say any more in this thread.

Kevin McDonald said...

Aah, the intrepid La Gaurdia, the man who suggested of the Palestinians that:
"they persist in actions guaranteed to reinforce the very fears that drive Israel to repress them."

It was her fault, your honour. She shouldn't have been wearing that skirt.
Thanks for allowing us to talk, Ivan.