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Total number of comments: 147 (since 2013-11-28 14:43:01)


Showing comments 147 - 101

  • ‘Shithole countries’: Trump uses the rhetoric of dictators
    • And that's why we, like Winston Smith, find it impossible to even imagine thinking in any other than Trumpian terms--because Big Brother has triumphed over our minds.

      Oh, come now, Trump is too incompetent to be a dictator (not to mention the USA's robust political system), and his language is the language of 4chan, WWE, and the locker room, not some weird Esperanto (although he has his moments) that has somehow taken over our everyday discourse.

  • The Difference between Israeli Policy and Turkish: Calling Each other Terrorist State
    • "Observers believe these initiatives [like the destruction of Sur] aim to kill two birds with one stone: a highly valuable area is redeveloped, boosting local revenues and property values and lining developers’ pockets; and an opponent is literally marginalised, moved to housing on the urban periphery. In the case of Okmeydani, it’s Alevis, Kurds, and leftists. Next up is Sur and its Kurdish residents, along with a smattering of Assyrians, Yazidis and Armenians."

      link to

    • Turkey's military attacks have been against Kurds in general, not just the PKK. In fact Erdogan seems to use the PKK as an exuse for destroying Kurdish cities and imprisoning Kurdish civilians and politicians.

  • Toward a Federal United States of Israel & Palestine?
    • I authored the "Zla'od Plan" in which Israel gets to divide the territory any way it likes, then the Palestinians get to pick which half they want.

    • Why would Israelis ever agree to be entrust their sovereignty to an Arab-majority parliament? And even if the umbrella parliament has no jurisdiction over issues of cultural identity in the two subregions, it would at least control the military, right?

      I dimly recall seeing a blue-sky proposal sort of like this, except with Jordan incorporated as a third component territory.

    • And which side would control the umbrella state? This sounds like Muslim Bosnia vs. the Serbian part of Bosnia.

      Maybe the pope can be included as a tie-breaker!

  • Saudi Crown Prince splashed $450 mn on Jesus painting
  • Far Right's Misuse of Knights Templar, Who were actually Sympathetic to Muslims
    • "The lunatic is all idée fixe, and whatever he comes across confirms his lunacy. You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars…There are lunatics who don’t bring up the Templars, but those who do are the most insidious.” --Umberto Eco

  • Gold trader implicates Turkish Pres. Erdogan in Iran money laundering
  • Militant Buddhism is on the march in South-East Asia; Why Now?
    • The ideal of strict obedience to the vinaya did not really enter Theravada Buddhism until the 19th century, as a result of modernist embarrassment with such things as divination, and has never prevailed among Tibetan or Japanese monks, for instance.

  • Iran's Khamenei to Putin: Isolate US by dumping the Dollar
    • The thing is, China owns too much US-dollar denominated debt for them to want to attack the dollar.

    • China and Russia periodically float the idea of introducing some new, convertible currency that could displace the US dollar, at least in the Eurasian region. (At one point they were talking about pegging it to a basket of commodities.) I wonder why they don't just do it. A lot of people would buy some, even if they don't switch to it 100%.

  • Dear Sean Hannity: Allahu Akbar is in the Catholic Catechism
  • Dear John Kelly: Yes, Slavery was wrong in 1860s & Muslims helped Convince Americans to end It
  • Upshot of Mueller Probe: Putin did to US what we did to Iran and Iraq
    • As for those Texas gun nuts, the majority of those signing "independence" petitions would probably consider themselves patriotic Americans. If you were to ask them to make some gesture against the American flag, for example, they would likely take offense.

    • "the remaining Russian Federation was much weakened and became much smaller, about half the size of the US instead of a peer country."

      No, Russia is still the largest country in the world, even after losing half its territory. It is nearly twice as large as the USA.

  • Yes, White Supremacists, some Vikings were Muslims & Thor was Brown
    • Depending on whom we want to include under the label of "Vikings," ibn-Fadlan records the conversion to Islam of some of the Volga Bulgars, as a result of contacts with the Abbasid Caliphate. I assume that the Volga was the main conduit for Islamic influences into Scandanavia, including these shrouds.

  • Is Trump setting US course toward War with China?
    • I do have a list of countries whose destruction I would cheer (Spain, Turkey, Thailand, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, many do you want?), but none of them really rise to the level of a "civilization." India barely holds itself together and is not much of a threat to anybody but its neighbors. The Islamic world is not united at all, and the MENA part of it will probably integrate with Europe, much as Latin America will with North America. Russia and sub-Saharan Africa are to be pitied rather than feared.

    • The long-term future of the human race will depend on the outcome of the conflict between the USA and China. If the USA does nothing, China will strengthen, until it's "soft power" (economics plus immigration) makes it impossible for the US to combat, and the US is ultimately integrated into a Chinese-dominated world with no human rights and no democracy. The only way to prevent this is for the USA to launch a total war now, while it has the advantage. Blanket China with neutron bombs or something, but end it as a civilization, even if this means nuclear war.

      US leftists cannot write on this subject with any integrity. They sided with China during the Cultural Revolution, I guess because they wanted to believe in Communism, and still side with it today over Taiwan (even though the island is democratic and indeed, everything they could wish for). Conservatives tend to be in bed with the PRC financially. Really, it is only the military that understands the danger. Fortunately Trump is surrounded by military people.

  • Chinese Americans came at Same Time as Bannon's Irish
    • And if it hadn't been for the Asian Exclusion Act, the Chinese population of the USA might have soared into...what, tens of millions? They would have amassed wealth and political power, much like their co-ethnics in Southeast Asia.

  • Is Trump's Cabinet Collapsing?
    • Tillerson and Trump publicly disagreed over Qatar. I'm not sure how it happened, or why (I doubt that Trump had strong opinions about the place), but this is not something that normally happens, or should happen.

  • Why Mosul Matters
    • The video presents Turkey as fearing Kurdish independence. This is true with respect to the Syrian Kurds, but it is not at all clear whether this would still apply to Iraqi Kurdistan, whose strongman Barzani is a Turkish ally if not client. Erdogan may well see an independent Iraqi Kurdistan as an opportunity to extend his control. He and Barzani would still disagree about Mosul, though. (The Turks seem focused on the situation of the region's Turkmen population, esp. Sunni Turkmen.)

  • How Soon until we're Using More Than The Earth Can Provide?
    • Humans being divided into competing groups, if one such group shows restraint, it will be out-competed by its rivals. A world government might work, but is more likely to just internalize the competitive pressures. A better solution would be to keep on consuming, while also jostling for a better position vis-a-vis our rivals once the die-off begins. Remember, we're all going to die eventually anyway!

  • Trump's Ally: Saudi Arabia's drive for Aristocratic Hegemony in the Middle East
    • Questions:

      1. What is this map supposed to represent? Not Sunni- vs. Shiite-dominated governments, because Turkey and Russia are the same color as Iran. Not political alliances, because (for example) Turkey and Russia are the same color as each other. Other oddities: Georgia and Armenia seem to have joined into one country and converted to Islam. Yemen is shown as divided, but Iraq is not.

      2. Is Saudi Arabia still on track to go bankrupt soon? This could affect their plans for regional domination.

      3. How come the USA likes Sunnis better than Shi'ites, but Russia likes Shi'ites? Did one of them get to pick first?

  • Top 5 Questions about Kushner's back channel to Moscow
    • I think you are right about the white nationalist connection. Not that Trump is a white nationalist, but he sees political benefit in appealing to white identity generally. I doubt that Trump much cares what happens in Ukraine or Syria, although Kushner (being Jewish) probably does. I also doubt that Trump cares about gays one way or the other--recall that during the campaign, he accepted gay marriage as "settled law," and led Republicans to drop the anti-gay message.

  • Is China Now the Adult in the Room? Xi and Macron Consult
    • Xi Jinping is responsible for crackdowns on Tibetans and Uighurs, Christians, and human-rights lawyers. His "Seven Taboo Phrases" that Chinese institutions have been instructed to censor are: (1) universal values, (2) freedom of speech, (3) civil society, (4) civil rights, (5) the historical errors of the Communist Party, (6) crony capitalism, and (7) judicial independence. He has threatened war over the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and Taiwan, and claimed India's Arunachal Pradesh. Having praised "Xitler," you cannot with any moral consistency complain about the fascist or imperialistic tendencies of the USA.

  • Which Middle East Authoritarian Leader is Trump most Like?
  • Trumpcare is the best Advertisement for Nationalizing Insurance
    • You are misinformed about China, where health care very much operates on the principle of "no money, no honey." (You can even buy organ transplants.) Taiwan's national health insurance is more like what you have in mind.

  • How President Bannon's Whiteboard Sank Trump
    • Boteach wrote that he let his kids play with Michael Jackson, whom he knew was innocent. I call him the World's Dumbest Rabbi.

  • As Leftist Turks Protest, Trump congratulates Erdogan on Authoritarian Turn
    • So LGBT rights issues get too much attention, you say? That was on the HDP platform, and they did pretty well with a "big tent" / human rights focused strategy.

      Turkey is "not suited to too much democracy" and "works better" with a strongman? Well that's rich. I guess that's why the HDP leaders need to be locked up.

      And a constitution "needs regular readjustment to to ensure that it maintains the relationship it had to all citizens when they first brought it into being?" Uh, Turkey's was imposed during a military coup.

      Why are internal revolutions good, but invasions from outside bad? This sounds like the usual Turkish demonization of "foreign" influences.

    • Del Burton: I doubt if Trump cares about the referendum one way or another, but he does have property there.

  • Turkish Democracy in Trouble, but not Because of Presidential System
  • Syria unlikely to be Partitioned: The Resilience of Colonial Borders
    • Another thing: not every ethnic group would need to have its own territory in order to benefit from territorial division. Syrian Christians are de fecto allied with Assad and the Alawis, since a Sunni Arab victory would have most likely resulted in massacre for both groups (think ISIS lite).

    • The Syrian Kurds have been calling for federalism (as have the Kurds in Turkey, back in better days). Assad dismisses this out of hand (as do Erdogan and Xi Jinping and a dozen other centralizing dictators), but it's a reasonable suggestion. A key sticking point would be defining powers--for instance, Rojavan socialism teaches that sovereignty originates at the local, village level.

  • In Trump's Shadow, is East Aleppo on Verge of falling to Regime, Russia?
    • Thank God Syrian Christians may yet escape massacre at the hands of jihadists promoted by Obama and Hillary, Erdogan and the Saudis. Not to mention their fellow travelers in US academia...

  • Return of Virulent Nationalism: how language is being used to mark national borders
    • Meanwhile, virulent multiculturalism can be traced to 20th century hippies. Cxu ni devus interparoli uzante esperanton ?

  • The Green Current: A Superhero
    • The illustration looks like dc comics' air wave 2

      Otherwise pretty formulaic, you could change "Muslim" to "pothead" and get more or less the same superhero

  • Long Knives in Ankara: Victorious Erdogan begins Purge of Judiciary, Army
  • 3 Surprising reasons Saudi Arabia may be getting out of the Oil Business
  • 5 Worst Foreign Policy Moments of GOP New Hampshire Debate
    • "...a city named Tibet"...?! Say what? It should obviously be Damascus, but is this some kind of misprint, or is Rubio really that confused?

  • UNESCO: "Deepest Concerns" for Mideast Christianity after Daesh/ISIL Razes oldest Iraqi Monastery
    • Well you can't just believe the literal text. These things have to be interpreted.

  • Evangelical Militarism & Islamophobia? Does the Wheaton College Hawkins case signal a Problem?
    • The charge of "blasphemy" only makes sense within specific religious frameworks. Wheaton College has no official denominational affiliation, and its Statement of Faith says nothing about Islam, though it does affirm the Trinity. Larycia Hawkins appears to be a United Methodist (and Wheaton presumably knew that when it hired her). If the issue ever comes before a court (or accreditation board), the judge would have to decide exactly what commitments she made to Wheaton, or it to her--e.g. whether the college has effectively reserved to itself the right to fire employees at will.

      I was frankly surprised to learn that the "Allah is not God" idea (to use the title of a Jack Chick tract--which has been translated into Arabic, by the way, though God knows how) has penetrated into semi-mainstream churches. The question raises thorny issues of philosophical reference, even if theism is assumed (in what sense does the morning star = the evening star?); and non-theists will be left wondering whether 1966 TV Batman "is" the 1986 Dark Knight, or what this sort of statement would even mean.

      As for the facile association of American evangelicalism with "right-wing authoritarianism," conservatives have been known to compare *liberals* to the Nazis. Possibly both sides have a point, though one has to wonder about the politics of those creating the criteria for evaluation--in this case social psychologists of some sort.

  • Biggest Trump Lies 2015: 76% of what Donald Trump Says is Garbage
  • 41% of Trump Supporters want to bomb Aladdin and Jasmine
    • I assumed that "Agrabah" was inspired by Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal (a fantsy version of which appears in the cartoon). The touts and souvenir sellers there ARE getting a bit out of hand, but bombing sounds extreme.

  • Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?
    • "Buddha" is not an alternative name for God. And although Krishna is a god (perhaps even the supreme deity, depending on who you talk to), this does not make him interchangeable with Yahweh.

    • Would that include Muhammad?

    • (Well, the editing certainly made hash out of that comment. Let's try again:)

      Capt. Marvel is "earth's mightiest mortal," but the Hulk is the "strongest one there is." How can this be explained? By realizing that they are fictional characters, whose universes are not 100 % consistent.

    • Page: 1
    • But not Malaysians, because the Muslims there made it illegal for non-Muslims to use the word "Allah"

    • And don't forget J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. Salvation guaranteed, or triple your money back.

      (Perennialize *that*!)

    • (make that "Hulk")

    • Or to translate this into the symbols of the Chinese folk religion, can't we all agree that we all propitiate the same malevolent ghosts?

    • "God" is not something scientists (qua scientists) can meaningfully pronounce upon, although *belief* in God may be a subject of research.

  • Dutch Pranksters tell People Bible verses are from Qur'an & Hilarity Ensues
    • How about the suggestion that David (whom they regard as a prophet) committed serious sins, such as murder?

    • If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.

  • Iraqis wrangle over who should free Mosul: Kurds, Russia, US or Shiite Militias?
    • They should do another poll asking "Which of the following groups deserve to be massacred?"

  • Beyond ISIS: Suicide by World War IV
    • While the USA is fighting WW4, China is poised to dominate the Western Pacific. How important is that in the grand scheme of things?

  • A New Yalta? Can France Craft an alliance of Putin & Obama against Daesh/ISIL?
    • For Putin, Syria is just a bargaining chip. I guess Ukraine is the West's bargaining chip too.

      So will this grand bargain involve Erdogan, or is Turkey due for a regime change?

  • Is Daesh/ ISIL a modern Raiding Pirate state?
  • Another White non-Terrorist Kills 9, Makes Bomb Threats
  • Juan Cole: Syria, Yemen Conflicts only seem to be about Sunni-Shiite from 30,000 Feet
  • Spain at 70% non-Carbon Electricity: Will it be 1st Net Carbon Zero G-20 State?
    • BTW Spain is not actually in the G20, it just gets invited to all the meetings. This is because the organizers wanted to include countries which are not really top-20 economies (like South Africa), for the sake of geographic and religious diversity, but then had to think about what to do with the higher-ranking countries they displaced. The Netherlands was in a similar position, but they stopped getting invited.

  • Indiana: Church of Marijuana founded to Exploit Religious Freedom Act
  • Will Indiana 'Religious Freedom' Law permit anti-Gay Discrimination?
    • I think the Christians are not thinking this through. The law applies equally to all religions--Satanism, you name it. So in theory, anybody who says ___________ (fill in the blank) is required by their religion can go to court with their complaint. Gay marriage for Unitarians? Polygamy for Muslims? Public nudity for Jains?

  • What's Religion Got to do with it? German Co-Pilot as Terrorist
    • And don't forget Aaron Alexis, the ex-Navy Texas Buddhist who killed 12 people in 2013. The news media assumed that the Buddhist connection was just some fluke thing. If he had been a Muslim, though, we'd never have heard the end of it.

  • Yemen Bombing: It's not ISIL and it's not Sunni-Shiite Conflict
    • "Since the mosques were largely attended by members of the Houthi movement in Zaidi, Shiite Islam and Daesh is ultra-Sunni" [...]

      should read something like

      "Since the mosques were largely attended by members of the Houthi movement, who follow the Zaidi sect of Shiite Islam, and Daesh is ultra-Sunni" [...]

  • 'Lone Wolf,' 'Self-Radicalized': Islamophobic Buzzwords never applied to White Terrorists
    • As I recall, the term "lone wolf" was popularized in the 1990's--i.e. after the Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents--with reference to white supremacists, and may in fact have been coined by them (cf. "leaderless resistance" and Phineas priest"). The concept, as opposed to the term, is far older.

  • Shiite Coup in Yemen: $400 mn. in US Weaponry Falls into Houthi Hands
  • What Black & White thinking misses about ISIS/Daesh & why it Matters to us All
  • Top 7 Ways US Intervention in Iraq/Syria could turn Catastrophic
    • Van Buren's "worst-case scenario" viz. the Kurds is my best-case scenario. Why should we be so solicitous of Turkish opinion (let alone Syrian, Iraqi, or Iranian)?

      In fact, the Turks could have had a deal with the Kurds, except that Erdogan is hell-bent on establishing himself as a dictator and Turkey as an Islamic state (albeit less religious than IS). A Turkey with secular Western values and respect for diversity would have been another matter. Kurdistan may not be a democracy (too mafia-run), but they've treated other ethnic groups remarkably well-far better than the others have treated them.

      Long live the Spirit of Sevres!

  • Reza Aslan, religion Ph.D. vs. Sam Harris
    • Azlan paints religion as a complex of symbols by which humans communicate. Okay, then, what are they communicating? Does "Jesus has risen" or "Muhammad is the prophet of God" symbolize something else, other than Jesus and Muhammad? If so, what? (Cue Jungian analysis.) On the other hands, if such utterances are meant as direct utterances, then it is indeed possible for religious statements to be right or wrong, true or false.

      In fact, while religion is not just one thing, it typically serves as a collection of group identity markers (which is the real reason that an "individual religion" seems inauthentic). Such identities only make sense in contrast to other group identities.

      As an aside, let's not get distracted by who has what kind of doctorate--let their arguments stand or fall on their own.

  • Top 5 Ways Lower oil Prices Could Change the World
  • Student Debt Factories: The Scandal of For-Profit Colleges
    • A related issue: the possibility of discharging student loans in bankruptcy (and the hurdles necessary to do this). Default levels should be off the charts after the next recession.

    • They vary a lot. Unaccredited fundamentalist colleges like Bob Jones University or Pensacola Christian College should be shut down with prejudice, and TRACS de-recognized as an accrediting body. All of these institutions are worse than worthless. On the other hand, any number of seminaries and religious colleges are acceptable or even good.

  • Heresy & Superheroes: Broken legs, death threats and fatwas: the trials and tribulations of THE 99
    • Dr. Al-Mutawa, if you think that drawing more attention to your case would help, may I suggest telling your story to geek websites like or ? From there, celebrity support would probably be forthcoming--again, if that's the route you want to go. If I had the privilege of testifying in your behalf, I would emphasize the positive image of Islam cultivated by the comic and cartoon. Good luck in any case!

  • Putting the ‘Hero’ back in ‘Superhero’: How the Muslim Superhero Can Save the Genre
  • China's New Soft Power: Transformers 4, X-Men & Hollywood
    • In X-Men 5, I thought that temple was supposed to be in Mongolia. Not that this would affect the overall trend much.

      On Iron Man, Dr. Wu was always there, although I believe he was originally Vietnamese. (The character was created in the early 1960's). Nobody wanted the Mandarin to be a "Yellow Peril" type villain in the movie--not because of Chinese pressure, but because that would be racist. It was an open question whether the Mandarin could be used at all under those circumstances. Based on Iron Man 1, fans assumed he would be a Middle Eastern terrorist leader (as if that were not equally stereotypical), but Iron Man 3 didn't go that route either.

      Dr. Strange, whose movie should be coming out in a couple of years, has an origin story set in Tibet. It will be interesting to see how Disney / Marvel handles that detail! Not to mention his Chinese manservant, Wong...

  • Iraq: Looming War of Shiite, Kurdish, Extremist-Sunni Militias
    • So the Kurds have taken Kirkuk. Are they going to hold their long-promised plebiscite? Will Baghdad let them keep it? To me, this is as big a development as the fall of Mosul and Tikrit.

  • India Flap derives from America's Gulag Practices and Far-Right Supreme Court
    • Obama is the US head of state who refuses to apologize, either to India or to the American people. He grew up on the mean streets of Honolulu, before packing up to go to ritzy schools.

  • Photo of the Day: Was St. Nicholas "White"?
    • I take it that you support ending Affirmative Action, then? Since this would be a logical consequence of getting rid of the "white" category...?

  • Muslim-American Artists Perform to Challenge Stereotypes
    • And let's not forget the great blow against Muslim stereotypes struck by the 2008 Adam Sandler movie, "You Don't Mess With the Zohan."

  • Ms. Marvel and the Rise of the Muslim Superhero in America
    • There's a book about this called Hey Skinny! link to

      But no, those have gone the way of the fruit-pie ads and x-ray goggles. Occasionally one finds a nostalgic salute to them, e.g. Ozymandias from "Watchmen."

    • For James: link to

      (he was originally going to be called "Captain Slack-Ass")

    • Oh, and have you seen this? DC's "Janissary":

      link to

    • Capt. Monica appears in the Avengers (along with about 50 other characters) under the new name of Spectrum.

    • What can I say? I am ashamed.

      And now, your moment of Zen: link to

    • Or if that's too confusing--the Roy Thomas "Mar-Vell" Capt. Marvel is dead, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) is now Capt. Marvel, and a new character is now Ms. Marvel.

    • It's even more complicated than that. Wikipedia can set you straight, but suffice it to say that the Roy Thomas CM (a pacifist alien named "Mar-Vell") may have resembled the Golden Age "Shazam" character in a few respects, including his name, but was otherwise unrelated. A female spinoff, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers), was introduced in the 1970's. Some felt the name to be too retro, so she was renamed several times (Binary, Warbird). At the same time, other writers liked the name "Ms. Marvel," and either reversed the switch, giving it to her back, or assigned the name to separate characters (google "She-Thing" for another example). Meanwhile, Mar-Vell died of cancer in the 1970's, and his name was reassigned to an unrelated black woman (Monica Rambeau, later renamed Photon, Pulsar, and Spectrum), then to his son, and recently to (drum roll) Carol Danvers, the original Ms. Marvel. The idea behind her and Capt. Monica is that women can be "Captain" too. However, rather than abandon the name "Ms. Marvel," Marvel (the company) assigned it to another, new, unrelated heroine with shape-shifting powers (hence the big hand in the picture).

      Her creation came on the heels of DC's (DC is the rival company which owns Superman and Batman) creation of a Muslim (and male) Green Lantern. (Note that there are various human members of the Green Lantern Corps, and that an alternate-earth GL, who is not a member of the Corps. but has an identical superhero name, has been revealed to be gay.) But the first Muslim superhero in the West may be the Arabian Knight, from the 1970's. He was an Egyptian archeologist with a magic carpet and a scimitar.

  • Dear Press: Stop Enthusing About Habitable Planets until People like Va.'s Cuccinelli Stop Destroying this One
    • There is no good reason to suppose that humans can survive outside of the earth-moon system. Even assuming the discovery of cheap antigravity, what about radiation? And anybody remember Biosphere 2?

      As for the viability of long-term human colonies, consider how precarious pregnancy is, even on earth. Now imagine how things like zero gravity and the absence of a lunar cycle might affect fetal development.

  • Why the US needs Electric Cars: Saudi Arabia threatens Pivot away from US
    • And if the Saudis DID seem to be seriously planning an alliance with China instead of the USA, how do you suppose the USA would react?

  • Top 10 Ways Ted Cruz & the Tea Party Weakened America with Shutdown
    • On (5): I'm no fan of the PRC, but they (and the Russians) have been calling for this for some time now, without making it any more likely than it was before. What could possibly replace the US dollar as the international reserve currency--the euro?! China has made some noises about a currency backed by a basket of commodities, or some such, but if they feel so strongly about it, why don't they go ahead and create this currency, and put it on the market? Word is that they're planning to make the renminbi / Chinese yuan fully convertible by 2015, so there's that.

      (4) is a more serious issue, though I have to believe that the military has kept its eye on the Western Pacific throughout this latest cluster-frakas. China is constantly looking for opportunities to bully its neighbors, so anything that distracts the USA (be it a Middle Eastern war or a budget squabble) is a plus for them.

      (9) is more of a loss of face for the USA than anything else. The country was still represented, and Obama at least got to avoid the issue of whether to meet with Putin one-to-one (made awkward due to the Snowden affair).

  • Militant Secularism in the Middle East?
    • The Arab uprisings were done with one eye on Turkey, where the AKP (a religious party not so different from the Muslim Brotherhoods of Egypt and Syria) has been slowly dismantling the ability of secularists, e.g. in the Turkish military, to dislodge them. Secularists, and those from the "wrong" religions (such as the Alevis) are becoming second-class citizens, while ambitious young people often find it advantageous to join one of the religious networks. If the secularists do not act now to suppress their religious rivals, their power will become permanent, and then what kind of country will Turkey be?

  • Romney's Five Wars
    • Intrade (the leading political futures market) currently puts Obama's chances of reelection at about 65 percent, down from 71 percent before the last debate. This is based on people who are willing to bet money on the outcome, and have presumably factored in things like the electoral college, etc.

      I wish someone would ask Romney for his response to the European economic situation, or China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

  • The Gospel of Jesus' Wife and Sacred History from Judaism to Islam
    • If Jesus didn't exist, then why are the gospels so full of embarrassing details? If the gospel writers were making the story up from scratch, why would they have the hero suffer a humiliating death as a criminal? Why have him baptized by the disciple of John the Baptist (as if he had sins to be forgiven, and as if John were his superior)? Why have the text say that his family thought he was crazy?

    • In the sense that it's "not implausible" that he visited Great Britain too, I suppose you're right. But there's not the slightest evidence for either story.

    • Apparently there is some doubt as to Ayesha's age at marriage (and consummation of the marriage):

      link to

      Denise Spellberg is apparently the source of the suggestion that this hadith tradition (that Ayesha was six at marriage, and nine at consummation) was crafted to reinforce the belief that she had been a virgin, in order to bolster Sunni claims to the succession against Shi'i ones.

  • Netanyahu in 1992: Iran close to having nuclear bomb
  • Obama Plays Hardball and Egypt's Morsi Folds
    • Youtube has famously banned videos critical of the king of Thailand for no reason other than to avoid being blocked by that country. It seems to me that expanding its list of sacred cows (so to speak) to include Islam would not be difficult to arrange, nor would it violate any particular principle adhered to by Youtube.

  • Is Obama more Klingon or more Vulcan? & Michael Dorn Pitches "Captain Worf"
    • Klingons were originally inspired by the Russians (viewed through a certain cartoony lens). They are rival imperialists known for espionage and treachery (and goatees). By TNG they had joined the Federation, reflecting the then-current thaw of the East Bloc, and were threatening to disintegrate into civil war. In one episode they were said to love pain; in another, they were given a messianic religion.

      For the sake of comparison, the Romulans and Vulcans seem to primarily represent China and Japan, respectively. Romulus at the end of TNG seemed on the verge of democratization, much like the China of its time.

      Like most alien races in Star Trek, the Klingons represent a deformity or deficiency of normal human psychology. (The Vulcans lack emotion, the Klingons are too warlike.)

      I would like to see a total reimagining of Star Trek, with the alien characters turned into total non-humanoids. Or alternatively, the show could abandon the concept that they are aliens, and explain them instead as human races or subspecies that evolved (perhaps intentionally) during the process of colonizing space.

  • White Terrorist Plot to Assassinate the 'Commander in Chief'
    • "Origins of the U.S. Military Coup of 2012: Three Privates and a Sergeant Who Took Over Their Army Base"

      Like this would totally have worked. Really, the most impressive part of this was the fact that they could come up with USD 87,000 to buy weapons with.

  • Tampa Area Republicans terrified of Tea Party, Ryan (Guzzo)
    • There is another aspect of Tea-Partyism that often goes unnoticed, and that is the fiscal-reform aspect. Ross Perot's anti-debt message appealed to the same populist mentality, as did the flat tax movement of the last decade, and much of the Ron Paul Revolution. It may be related to anti-IRS sentiment in the far right.

      Anyway, right now the Republicans are considering calling for a return to the gold standard in their party platform. Is this the result of Tea Party influence? I suspect so, since it is just the sort of nuttiness that they are known for.

      I wonder how long it will be before someone gets the brilliant idea to compose a new "bill of rights" consisting of...well, the sky's the limit. English-only? A ban on affirmative action? A declaration to the effect that the U.S. adheres to Judeo-Christian, Western civilization? Dissolution of the Supreme Court? The Tea Party has enough of a nationwide following that if they could agree on what they stand for, they could conceivably push through constitutional amendments like these.

  • Anonymous Billionaires are Stealing Your Election with Attack Ads
    • The problem is not that rich people are "stealing" the election. The problem is that Americans leave themselves vulnerable to such manipulation through their collective ignorance and gullibility.

  • Putin, Pussy Riot, Hooliganism and the Syrian Bloodbath
    • From the video here, we see several members of Pussy Riot mounting the area just before the iconostasis, and dancing in synch with one another, while a security guy attempts to make them leave. (They do not comply.) To the sides, we see other visitors being herded out. Their expressions and vocalizations seem unsympathetic.

  • "Dubai World III" (Gursky Photograph)
    • I want Australia! (You should always start the game from Australia.)

    • Islands in Dubai's famous Avarice Archipelago, that I wonder what they've got there:

      1. "Dubai" island. That's where they put the reception office, right? (Or did they put themselves in "Mecca"?)

      2. "Israel" island. (Is there one?)

      3. "New Orleans" island.

      Strangely, "Siberian" islands are abundant (are these addresses really such a draw?), but "Mongolia" seems to be entirely underwater. I do however see a few that could be "Lhasa" or "Mt. Everest"--great shout-out to "Kevin Costner's "Waterworld" and Roland Emerich's "2012"!

  • Could Michelle Bachmann cost Romney the Presidency?
    • The loss (if any) of Arab and Muslim votes might be compensated by a gain in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim votes--i.e. the Republican base. Many of these are also anti-Obama votes, which Romney can expect to receive anyway, but some of them are, for example, Jewish votes which might have gone either way.

      Your map basically just shows that Muslims tend to live in urban areas (and incidentally, what's that red dot doing up in the Texas panhandle? Is Amarillo really more than 5% Muslim?).

  • Free Syrian Army Controls Border Areas
    • I have mentioned this before, but there has been some speculation that Assad and the Russians may be attempting to create a coastal mini-state where Allawis (in alliance with Christians) can still dominate.

  • Dream Ticket (Poster)
    • Intrade puts her chances at 10 % (fourth place). Perhaps this is because of her abortion stance, lack of elected political background, or for fear that she would alienate the racist vote. CS Monitor thinks that the Romney camp started the rumor to deflect interest in Bain etc. If so, it may have backfired, insofar as it will now be awkward for Romney to choose a white guy instead.

  • States with Highest White Teen Births most Opposed to Obamacare
  • Supreme Court declines to take US Health Care in direction of Sub-Saharan Africa
    • China's medical sector is notoriously capitalistic, and moving backwards. The poor are excluded, while the rich receive harvested organs.

  • "On Democracy"... (H.L. Mencken Poster)
    • Does it mean what I think it means, or did "get it good and hard" carry different connotations back then?

  • 83 Dead in Syrian Military Repression
    • Does the election of a Kurd signal any willingness on the part of the Sunni Arab rebels to change the name of the country to from "Syrian Arab Republic" to "Syrian Republic"? Or to allow a federal structure, with genuine autonomy for the Kurdish areas (as well as Christian and Alawi ones)?

  • Syria and the Rise of the Death Squad
    • What do you think of this speculation that Assad is laying the groundwork for the break-up of Syria, and an Alawi / Christian retreat to a coastal enclave which would presumably become a de facto independent state?

      link to

      Also, I hope you will comment on the following story from Egypt (in which the Muslim Brotherhood candidate is reported as calling for Christians to be treated as second-class citizens):

      link to

  • Minority Births the Majority? On how the whole idea of White People is Made Up
    • The U.S. census lumps persons of "Middle Eastern ancestry" in with whites in order to avoid having to figure out how to treat Jews vs. say, Arab Muslims. Obviously this does not reflect the social category of whiteness. Although Ralph Nader and Casey Kasem are received as white, even by rednecks, identifiable Muslims can obviously expect different treatment.

      Incidentally, I have always wondered about the eastern limits of "the Middle East." What do the census people make of Turks, Iranians, and Pakistanis? Where do they draw the line, and call them "persons of Asian ancestry"? (Itself a strange category, lumping Japanese together with people from India.)

      The most likely evolution would be for many or most American Hispanics to become assimilated into the "white" group. In the Zimmerman / Trayvon case, notice how the revelation that Zimmerman is Hispanic seems not to have affected the discussion at all. People on all sides treat him as white.

      If I were to claim Obama to be white, most people would think that I had said something absurd. And yet he has as much claim to whitness as to blackness. This shows how pervasive these categories are in the USA, and how much they depend on local political conditions (such as the "rule" that no one can be both black and white, or that no "white" can have dark skin.)

      Coherent or not, racial categories are as real as other types of identity groups (religion, nationality, language) and there is no getting around this. On the other hand, they can be negotiated to a certain extent. "Spanish" surnames are often erased, or acquired, through marriage, while language use changes over life cycles and generations. In this light, how can anyone know if someone is Hispanic? That Harvard professor who claimed to be Cherokee has been vilified for "lying," but if she believed herself to be Cherokee, then perhaps in some sense she is Cherokee.

  • AH-64 Apache Helicopter Crashes in Afghanistan
    • Yeah--if they get so worked up about sports team mascots, what about all this stuff? Maybe there's a lawsuit in it somewhere...

  • Top 7 Ways Bin Laden Underestimated Joe Biden
    • Biden supports selling out Taiwan to China. There are rumors to the effect that if they win a second term, Obama plans to give him more East Asian assignments. This disqualifies them both in my book.

  • Santorum Can't Run Away from Limbaugh, who is just taking Santorum's ideas to their logical conclusion
    • PS. All this talk about the word "slut" is just a smokescreen, designed to distract from the issues. (A few weeks ago, the same media were celebrating Slutwalk.)

  • Top Ten Differences Between Rick Santorum and JFK
    • Romney is Mormon for much the same reason that Santorum is Catholic--because they were born into their respective faiths, raised to believe them, and were never the critical types. The difference is that Romney's interest in Mormonism is about average, while Santorum is pretty gung-ho--and in a direction that is unusual for Catholics, but (rather conveniently) more typical of Protestant evangelicals). I'm skeptical of the idea that his conservatism is coming from Opus Dei; more likely he gravitated to them on the basis of beliefs and positions which he had already adopted.

      Oh, one more difference: Years after the fact, the name of "Kennedy" has become a byword for presidential philandering. Years from now, the name "Santorum" may become a byword for...well, you know.

  • Omar Khayyam (24)
  • Syria: Crimes Against Humanity in Homs
    • If you do not understand how Syrian Alawites, like Israeli Jews, can be driven by self-preservation to commit crimes against humanity, then you just do not understand the Middle East.

  • Hoekstra Blames Everyone but Himself for the Deficits He Voted for
    • Questions:

      (1) Who is the actress? I seem to detect a California twang under what I assume to be a feigned accent.

      (2) Where was this filmed? It could possibly be Taiwan...

  • NASA's Dangerous new Blue Marble
    • My first thought: What, this old thing? They've been using the same photo for years. Can't they come up with versions centered on North America or China? Is it a problem of clear weather, or does Africa just reflect better?

  • KAYAOĞLU: Turkey's Crackdown on the Press recalls Military's Tactics
    • What do you make of the Gu:len controversy? I often think of his people as like the U.S. Baptists (who are socially and economically conservative, politically influential, and associated with a few key "wedge issues"), but possibly this is misleading. For one thing, the Baptists are congregationally governed, while the Gulen groups are centralized around a Sufi=style hierarchy, and thus capable of formulating secret plans and such.

    • I am curious as to what will become of the "Alevi opening" which, along with the Kurdish and Armenian thaws, would potentially expand and diversify the AKP's voter base (but at the expense of its doctrinal purity). Alevi demands vary somewhat (e.g., should the hated Diyanet / Religious Directorate be privatized, or diversified to represent Alevism as well?) and may irritate Sunni religious supporters.

      The AKP is certainly moving slowly on all these reforms. It is possible to conclude that it does not really support them, but only pretends to for the sake of electoral benefits and/or avoiding outside pressure (as in the case of the Armenians). Of course these things are domestically controversial, and the AKP must move slowly in order to avoid alienating its core supporters. One wonders, then, whether the resistance to such reforms is internal or external. Perhaps the question loses meaning in the case of mass organizations like the AKP.

      EU membership would be such a plum (even now, despite all that has happened), that the electorate could forgive almost anything that might make accession more likely. This is one of the things that has allowed them to stay in power--not only vis-a-vis other political parties, but also vis-a-vis the military, whose latest coup threat came to nothing because the AKP was able to call its bluff.

  • The Way Forward in the Middle East -- Peled & Peled
    • I bet the Maronite Christians of Lebanon wish they had retained sovereignty over a much smaller state dominated by themselves. Ditto white South Africans.

  • Christian Priests Brawl at Jesus' Birthplace
    • Sure, Jesus said to turn the other cheek--but he only said to do it once. As you said, this happens every year. If we don't stand up for our rights and fight back, they'll keep on taking advantage until they own the whole church.

  • Pyramids Partially Closed in face of New Age "Threat"
    • I thought it was supposed to be a New Age plot, not a Jewish plot. (Don't New Agers have rights too? Maybe al-Azhar could be persuaded to declare them to be Sabeans.)

      Zahi Hawass, the former Antiquities Director of the Giza Plateau, was in bed with the Edgar Cayce people (who believe that records of Atlantis lay somewhere under the Sphinx). He briefly joined Mubarak's cabinet, just in time to be on the losing side of the revolution. So I guess the new guys are sensitive about New Agers.

  • Perry's Lapse likely owing to Bad Faith and Destructive Politics
    • I think I know who will appear on the cover of this year's Texas Monthly "Bum Steer" awards.

      Okay, watching Perry make a fool of himself (again) was all very entertaining, but it's not like he had much of a chance before the debate either. Meanwhile, Europe is on the verge of imploding financially, and threatens to bring about global recession. Did this come up in the debates?

  • Newt's new Crusade against the Arab Spring
    • Is it possible to discuss the plight of the Copts and other Middle Eastern Christian groups without subordinating it to the issue of Newt Gingrich's presidential ambitions (which are hardly likely to lead anywhere)? Really, I would appreciate hearing your views on what, if anything, ought to be done to protect them. And not only the Christians, but the 'Alawi in Syria probably have excellent reasons for avoiding the tender mercies of Arab "democracy." (Democracy doesn't work very well when its electorate doesn't constitute a coherent "people.")

  • Why a No-Fly Zone won't Work in Syria
    • In the event that "democracy" breaks out in Syria, what would be done to protect the (ruling minority) 'Alawi population? Do they predominate in any particular region that could be given autonomy? This calculation goes far in explaining the desperation with which they cling to power.

  • Steve Jobs: Arab-American, Buddhist, Psychedelic Drug User, and Capitalist World-Changer
    • Many do.

    • While I met any number of Western "dharma bums" in places like Dharamsala. I guess we just move in different circles. But surely you must be aware that many, perhaps most Tibetan dharma centers in the West originated in this Indian milieu...? This is not a small thing.

  • Al-`Awlaqi Should have been Tried in Absentia
    • To me, the elephant in the room is that al-'Awlaqi was in Yemen (and not say, on the high seas) when he was attacked and killed. He therefore fell under the legal jurisdiction of that country (or perhaps some portion of it if its borders contain more than one de facto state).

      What was the legal status of the American drone operators? If they were not acting with the permission of the Yemeni government, then the strike would qualify as an act of war by the U.S. (however reluctant Yemen might be to admit this). If the drone operators were effectively acting as agents of that government, then the question becomes one of whether al-Awlaqi's civil rights under Yemeni law (such as they are) were sufficiently protected--and the responsibility for this would fall to the Yemeni government--and perhaps, on whether the U.S. forces violated human rights in attacking him. (Here we have to consider not only the attack on him, but the military risk to bystanders.)

      Bin Ladin was in a similar position with respect to Pakistan. As an aside, "going for a weapon" would have been a justifiable response to the unannounced armed invasion of his home--as it turned out, by foreigners acting outside of Pakistanti government sanction (at least that the Pakistanis have been willing to admit). Would a team of Iranian agents be legally justified in shooting, say, American politicians on U.S. soil, on the grounds that resistance was expected?

  • Al-Tamimi: The Norway Attacks and the Paranoid Mindset
  • Collapse of Kabul Bank Points to Fatal Corruption of Karzai Government
  • Turkey Shelves Israeli Cooperation,
    Considers breaking off Ties;
    Israel Lobbies in Congress denounce Ankara
    • Methinks that Palestinians could have grounds for suing U.S.-based supporters of Israel.

      Or vice versa.

      Oh, to be a lawyer...!

  • Obama hints that Two-State Solution may be Impossible
    • (1) In view of steady advances in weapons technology, and the relative decline of their main patron, it would be prudent for the Israels to make its peace with the Palestinians now, before things get out of hand.

      (2) Where the hell is J-Street, the dandy new lobby group that was supposed to represent the other half of the Israeli political spectrum? It seems that the U.S. Congress still answers to AIPAC.

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