The Contentious Centrist
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
Iranian Hatefest (and a corner of love):
What this man said.
After World War II, they invented the so-called "genocide of the Jews." Throughout Europe and in countries under the control of the Western superpowers, they established an anti-Jewish movement. By means of propaganda and a certain psychological atmosphere, and by using the issue of the so-called "crematoria," they created the sense that the European Jews were oppressed. They used the pretext that some Jews were oppressed and were harmed during World War II and by the wave of anti-Judaism in order to lay the foundations for the establishment of the Zionist regime. Later, of course, they called it "the massacre of the Jews," and only after World War II did they call it "the Holocaust." They made this issue more sacred than all the sacred things in the world.
How can it possibly be that you have turned this phenomenon – a phenomenon which you yourself invented after the war, and which you began calling "Holocaust" only in 1975 – into something so sacred that nobody is permitted to even raise questions about it? In World War II, there were several incidents similar to a plane crash. Later, under the pretext of these incidents, they have been perpetrating an ongoing genocide of historic proportions in Palestine. They have been perpetrating an ongoing crime in Palestine.
They permit themselves, under the pretext of the Holocaust, to commit every type of crime. They even built secret prisons in Europe, and they kidnap people and publicly announce that they would kill them.
This woman says Iran is defamed, every complaint is a lie.
This woman says it like it is:
“They brutally attack and slaughter mothers and children, all, at once. There is no creature more horrible that these people”. This was how a guest on a TV show on the state-run Channel 3 was introducing the Israelis to the spectators when the studio experienced a blackout. Accidentally, the microphones were not lost and the crew were not fast enough, so a “politically incorrect” sentence was aired.
Moussavi (the guest): “It was the Jews [who cut the power]”, laughs.
A Technician: Silence! Silence!
And Oliver Kamm analyses, here and here:
... so far as I'm aware, not a single serious analyst at any reputable university or NGO in Europe and North America believes Iran's nuclear programme is intended for purely non-military purposes....
The proper question seems to me not whether Iran is inviting attacks but whether Iran is threatening them. The answer.. is surely yes, in which case the onus is on the UN Security Council and its member states to counter those threats.
Iran's proxies and client state give a consistent message. Hamas is launching rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah has rebuilt its weaponry with Iranian rockets shipped through Syria. Syria itself is plainly engaged in a murder campaign directed against non-compliant politicians in Lebanon. Iran's Revolutionary Guards are equipping and training Shi'ite groups in Iraq to attack US and Iraqi forces with improvised explosive devices...
Iran's President is a messianic crank belonging to an end-of-times cult (at the Jamkaran mosque near Qum). He is a racist who denies the historicity of the Holocaust and cheerfully anticipates the extinction of the Jewish state. The revolutionary regime supports terrorist groups financially and with materiel.
The emerging problem with Iran is not whether it is actively building nuclear weapons but whether we can take the regime at its word that a civil nuclear programme will not be used for military purposes. The answer to that question dominates all other considerations, because if and when Iran has access to the full fuel cycle, then the technology to fabricate material for nuclear weapons is essentially all there. Because the regime is deceitful, supports terrorism and anticipates the extinction of a member state of the UN, that prospect is ominous.
Iran is a cradle of civilization. Many of its people are struggling to remember, to recuperate the vestiges of their ancient culture, the culture that began with Cyrus twenty-five centuries ago. Selma, the talented blogger, poet, writer, thinker and translator, from Tehran, remembers and reminds her readers today, 29 October:
The Cyrus Cylinder artifact was inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform at Cyrus’ command after his conquest of Babylon.
The cylinder has been considered as the world’s first known charter of human rights, as there are passages in the text have been interpreted as expressing Cyrus’ respect for humanity.
It promotes a form of religious tolerance and freedom, and the abolishment of slavery. He allowed his subjects to continue worshipping their gods, despite his own religious beliefs....
Well… see what we were and where we are … all we want now is to “dwell in peace”!
Saturday, October 27, 2007
A stinky Affair - II:
I received important feed back on my post from Ian Thal, an artist who used to participate in the Bread and Butter Puppet Theatre and broke with them after realizing that the show which they were rehearsing had anti-Semitic content.
Here's an excerpt from a long and thoroughly researched article by Thal:
Palestinian cause is so one-sided that one is forced to consider the hypothesis that it is an emotional stand-in for the Silesia he lost as a child.It is a failure of those who sympathize with the Palestinian cause when they engage in Holocaust denial of either soft core or "hard core" variety, often by crassly appropriating the very iconography of the Holocaust. Those who survived the genocide and mass murder committed by the Soviet Union and its client states, the People's Republic of China, the Khmer Rouge, Imperial Japan, Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist movement and other such regimes, do not need to appropriate the symbols of the Holocaust in order to educate the world about these histories, but anti-Zionists like the ones encountered and encouraged at the February 12, 2007 symposium are not interested in truth, healing, or reconciliation. They are interested in equating Jews with Nazis. Why?
To quote Hilberg:
Preventive attack, armed resistance, and revenge are almost completely absent in two thousand years of Jewish ghetto history. Instances of violent opposition, which may be found in one or another history book, are atypical and episdoic. The critical period of the 1930's and 1940's is marked by that same absence of physical opposition.
On the other hand, alleviation attempts are typical and instantaneous responses by the Jewish community. Under the heading of alleviation are included petitions, protection payments, ransom arrangements, anticipatory compliance, relief, rescue, salvage, reconstruction-- in short, all those activities which are designed to avert danger, or, in the event that force has already been used, to diminish its effects- Hilberg, p. 14.
While these stratagems had ensured the survival of Jewish communities over millennia despite having overwhelming force arrayed against them, they became completely dysfunctional when, as during the Holocaust, the oppressors' aims ceased to be conversion, segregation, humiliation, exploitation, scapegoating, and deportation, but a "final solution" of annihilation.
What outrages many who call themselves "anti-Zionists" is that Israel represents a Jewish people who no longer behave as "ghetto Jews" when threatened with violence. In the imagination of an "anti-Zionist" a "bad Jew" is a Jew willing and capable of defending both himself or herself and the community, while a "good Jew" is a pacified Jew, who will suffer under the yoke of tyranny or, if so commanded, die. This line of thought, in most cases, is probably only held on a sub-conscious level by "anti-Zionists" and serves as the conceit by which they deny being anti-Semitic; They simply do not grasp the anti-Semitic logic underlying their beliefs -- but this is because they have absorbed the status quo of the Christian-European and Islamic-Arabic worlds: That Jews are supposed to be a humiliated and weak people.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Brian Habana-na II
There is evidence that a member of the South African Jewish Lobby may have contacted the Master of the Universe in order to fix the results of the Rugby match I mentioned here.
Normblog, as always, is on the case:
I have further evidence, says Norm, of you-know-who controlling the world. These are said to be the words spoken by Rabbi Yossy Goldman of Sydenham synagogue in Johannesburg before the final of the Rugby World Cup last Saturday:
Mi Shebeirach Avoseinu... May He who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless Jake White, John Smit, Schalk Burger and all those vilde chayos [wild animals] in the entire holy congregation of Springboks in their clash in Paris after Shabbos. May they be successful in their scrums and matzliach [successful] in their mauls. May they be spared any distress or tzorres [trouble]. May Hashem put the fear of Heaven into the English and may their defenders be terrified. May Jonny Wilkinson quake in his boots and may our Percy Montgomery be perfect. May Bryan Habana score many tries speedily in our day so that all their efforts will be crowned with triumph and they bring the Trophy home. And let us all say... Amen!
Can you doubt it? How, I ask you, do you otherwise explain Brian's floating ability?
Normblog posted this comment about this event:
Historians dispute the claim by a British journalist that Nazi fanatics attending a party near the Austro-Hungarian border in March 1945 killed 200 Hungarian Jews as an "additional entertainment" laid on by the hosts. The massacre did happen, though, and the circumstances surrounding it remain unclear.
Hitler's defeat was imminent when the massacre took place.
A row has broken out among historians about one of the most spectacular Nazi crimes committed in Austria. On the night of March 24 to March 25, 1945, some 200 Hungarian Jews were murdered in the Austrian town of Rechnitz near the Austro-Hungarian border. The bodies of the victims still haven't been found.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Nonie Darwish speaks at Berekely
Watch her interviewed by Al-Jazeera, here.
Solomonia has a post. Interestingly, this is what one comment says:
As a part of "Islamofascism Awareness Week", Nonie Darwish spoke at U.C. Berkeley on October 22. As usual, Islamofascists and their Dhimmi supporters have shown their unwavering resolve to crush any type of dissent. One the members of the "Students for Justice in Palestine" claimed that the purpose of the "Islamofascism Awareness Week" is to reinvigorate anti-Muslim and anti-Arab campaign. Given the fact that the speaker, Nonie Darwish, is both Muslim and Arab it truly shows the depth of brainwashing on campus.
Berkeley, the recipient of The Dhimmi Award.#4
Posted by: Muslims Against Sharia at October 25, 2007
Why is it interesting? Because the Insane Left, given the choice between Nonnie Darwish's Islamic message of peace and tolerance and the self-appointed Islamic rejectionists of peace and compromise represented by these "Islamofascists and their Dhimmi supporters", will opt to root for the latter.
Bob succinctly puts the moral emphasis where it belongs:
It takes no courage to heckle a meeting. But it takes very great courage to be Nonie Darwish.
Another similarly bizarre alliance was noted by Terry Galvin, here:
It's about the shameful absence in Canada of any effective solidarity with Iran's pro-democracy forces. And sure enough, one of the first responses contains the accusation that the column is "neocon propaganda," which perfectly confirms Samira Mohyeddin's observations, and my own, and Danny Postel's, too.
Many Canadians tend to define themselves as what they are not. The most popular thing not to be these days is American. With the outrageous result that active support for promotion of democracy in Muslim countries, especially women's rights, is seen as helping and abetting the Bush administration's "neo-con" campaign. It is a horrible travesty of the saying: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It is like saying my friend who my enemy supports becomes my enemy, too. At least de facto, if not in pure intent.
Another example, via Oliver Kamm:
.. "All over Europe, there are Muslims who are exercising their right in a free society to change their religion, or to become atheists. And they are regularly being threatened, beaten, and burned-out, while the police largely stand by, inert."
The bravery of these ex-Muslims is remarkable, and I pay tribute to them. One of them, whom Johann interviews, is an Iranian dissident, Mina Ahadi, who was awarded the title "Secularist of the Year" by the National Secular Society at the weekend. ... It's still more extraordinary how scant, or at least how quiet, is the support for their cause among progressive organisations.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The Peel Commission Report (July 1937)
As one thing leads to another, I came to read today this historic document, where one sentence distinguished itself to me:
Considering what the possibility of finding a refuge in Palestine means to thousands of suffering Jews, is the loss occasioned by Partition, great as it would be, more than Arab generosity can bear?
And then I remembered what I learned from recently watching the Israeli produced docu-drama about the Kastner Trial.
One of the most chilling testimonies in the trial was that of Joel Brand, which demonstrated how impotent was the Jewish Agency in 1944 when it came to mobilizing the British and American powers to intervene in any way on behalf of the doomed European Jews.
"Brand later testified that Lord Moyne, the British Minister Resident in the Middle East and a close friend of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was present during one of the interrogations and is alleged to have said: "What can I do with this million Jews? Where can I put them?"
The first statement was written in 1937, when the world was beginning to get wise to what was being planned for the Jews, but even so, the report can only imagine "thousands" of suffering Jews getting a lease on life if permitted to immigrate to Palestine.
The second statement is made in 1944, when most of the world was already familiar with the dire reports that kept coming from Europe about the annihilation of millions of Jews. In the interim, the British Mandate restricted severely Jewish immigration, in spite of the warning in the Peel report that things looked very bad for the Jews in Europe. The Peel Report does not say that the land is saturated to the point where it can no longer accept more immigrants. Quite the contrary. It stipulates the importance of continued Jewish immigration and British commitment to it. Yet the British restricted immigration, because they buckled to Arab pressure to do so.
The Arabs of Palestine, though addressed with the most explicit plea in the report for showing "generosity" to the persecuted Jews of Europe, existentially threatened, did not for a second consider this possibility and continued to mount their pressure on the British to seal the borders. When there was hardly a country in the world open to accept Jewish refugees fleeing from Hitler's ominous programmes, Mandate Palestine, which had been commissioned with the provision of a safe haven for Jews, chose to close ranks with the Arabs and seal the borders, against the Jews.
The only place that would have welcomed these refugees and could have saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, joined the rest of the world's complicity in these crimes.
Today, the staple Palestinian argument is that they had no responsibility whatsoever for what happened to the Jews. But they did. They bear at least the same responsibility as as every country that ever refused to accept Jews who were looking to get out of Europe.
The Grand Mufti's special relationship with Hitler is another aspect of Arab complicity in the annihilation of the Jews:
As German political scientist Matthias Kuntzel chronicled in his work ... the Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned the PLO's Fatah as well as al-Qaida, Hamas and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, owes much of its ideological success and pseudo-philosophical roots to Nazism."
"In the 1930s, the mufti of Jerusalem, Amin el-Husseini, rigorously courted the Nazis. When, in 1936, he launched his terror war against the Jewish Yishuv in the British controlled Palestine Mandate, he repeatedly asked the Nazis for financial backing, which began arriving in 1937." "From 1936-39 Husseini's terror army murdered 415 Jews. In later years, Husseini noted that were it not for Nazi money, his onslaught would have been defeated in 1937. His movement was imbued with Nazism. His men saluted one another with Nazi salutes and members of his youth movement sported Hitler Youth uniforms."
With this history as a model, the Palestinian Foundational documents which call for the destruction of Israel make a lot of sense. They were not conceived out of the blue, a reaction to the Six-Day-War and occupation, but were the natural denouement that began in 1920, premises taken to their logical conclusions.
Rag doll Palestinians
Within two days of publishing Prof. Makdisi's fanciful harangue , Seattle PI published another anti-Israel opinion piece, this time by Edward Mast, a Seattle playwright who volunteers with the Palestine Information Project. As might be expected, it contains a litany of predictable descriptions of Palestinian humiliations vs. all sorts of accusations against Israel's perfidy.
Two quotes, two comments:
Mast writes: “Israelis are told the wall is for their security.” implying this is a lie and the real reason, as Palestinians told him (and they should be believed without any brow raised) is that "Israel intends to annex the West Bank."
The separation Fence was begun in 2002/3, after nearly two years of daily suicide bombings and other types of terrorist attacks upon Israelis, mostly taking place in centres of cities such as Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv and Haifa. As the fence grew longer, the attacks became fewer and more sporadic. More recently, there has been one or two in the space of months, not hours, or days, as it used to be. So Israelis are not mislead into believing the fence keeps them safer. They know it, since they no longer have to attend multiple funerals every other day.
Since the barrier is effectively keeping away the terrorists, there is less call for IDF’s incursions into densely populated Palestinian areas where the terrorists, their handlers and their weapons workshops are being accommodated in apartment buildings and private houses. That means, less live fire confrontations, less civilian casualties.
So, on both sides of the fence, less people are being killed, which is a good thing. But you wouldn’t know all this, from Mast’s lachrymose account.
Mast is simply relaying the Palestinian list of grievances, well known to all who have an interest in the conflict: Israel is the irredeemable villain, both in intent and deed while Palestinians are completely supine, blameless and have no responsibility whatsoever for their dreary life and difficulties getting to school and work and visiting.
“Israelis are more concerned about the corruption charges against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, coming on the heels of corruption charges against previous governments. Palestinians and their issues, my friends told me, are becoming more and more invisible to the Israeli people.”
Mast seems to snicker at an Israeli ethos, which does not tolerate corruption in its leadership. He is criticizing ordinary Israelis, for what he considers their insouciance in not demanding truth. This begs the question: how come such an admirable trait in a democratically minded populace, is deemed contemptible by Mast? Israelis insist on an honest, clean, transparent leadership. This, in turn, guarantees a government that cannot lie to its people, or keep atrocities invisible from the public eye. As any visit to major Israeli news outlets will reveal, Palestinians are anything but invisible to Israelis. It is not passiveness vis-a-vis Palestinian suffering that Israelis project. It is the result of a well-learned lesson, from experience, that the equation is not (as Mast would have us believe)
Palestinian unhindered movement = X number of Israeli dead.
It is a struggle between Palestinian right to live free of hassle versus Israelis’ right to live. In my scheme of things, the right to life is the more fundamental right. When Palestinians get the message, change their desire to destroy the state of Israel, the Wall/Fence/Barrier will collapse like a house of cards. It’s totally up to them.
Israelis are waiting for Palestinians to take charge of their own destiny and future happiness, start making some life affirming choices. Only Palestinians can help Palestinians achieve a normal existence, free of the coersive powers of the IDF. Simply put, they need to grow up, stop being infantilized by the likes of Mast, as though they have no agency whatsoever, as though they are but rag dolls, completely without will or power.
Friday, October 19, 2007
What do Parochial Muslim schools teach?
Miss Kelly investigates:
"... the winning entry in the 8th grade Al-Hamra Religion fair, a Powerpoint presentation about the "History of Islam in America".
"Muslims have played a titanic role in the development of this country." (Interesting word choice, titanic.) The presentation is slide after slide of fabricated history, full of unsubstantiated claims that Muslims were here before Columbus, North African Muslims brought Islam to Native Americans, and Christopher Columbus saw a mosque in Cuba. This is largely based on Saga America, a book by Barry Fells, a Harvard marine biologist, whose "history" has never been accepted by serious scholars and historians. No one - aside from Fells and some deluded Islamists- believes this stuff, because there is no documentation, relics or substantiation of these claims. One of the local proponents of this cult archeology is Salih Yucel, who currently serves as a Muslim Chaplain at Harvard Medical School's Brigham and Women's Hospital, Children's Hospital Boston and North Shore Medical Center. Deafening Silence provides a thorough debunking of the Islamists's misappropriation of Native American culture here. Deafening Silence also skewers the Barry Fells make-believe.
The PowerPoint further goes on to explain that many African slaves became Muslims in order to "confront" the European slave traders. Righhhht. No mention of the far larger Arabic slave trade which enslaved millions more Africans than the Atlantic slave trade did, except to say that "Muslims were also more open to be captured for the slave trade because they moved around Africa a lot for the purpose of spreading Islam." Righhhhht. Someone is hallucinating here. Who is feeding this stuff to 8th graders? More fantastic claims:
"Muslims developed the art of "autobiography" and and their stories, letters, and personal quotations became the primary sources for people today learning about slave experience on ships. The growing collection of Arabic documents that were once buried in libraries and archives provides the solid evidence of African Muslims in the Americas."
Really? Where are these Arabic documents? Buried in which libraries? More details, please. The PowerPoint contrasts the illiterate European Masters with the literacy of the noble Muslim slaves, and exposes the great deceit by American colonists:
"Later the American colonists conjured the idea that they would trick people by saying that the Muslims were Arabs, since everyone knew how smart and clean the Arabs were, so it wouldn't arouse any suspicion."
Tricky American colonists!
This nonsense won a prize at a Religion fair? I'm ever so slightly consoled that it didn't win a prize at the History Fair. Did Bill Bennett, director of the commission on independent schools at the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, read this winning entry?
Somewhat ironically, the second article on Islamic schools I read today was this one, in the Washington Post:
"An independent government agency that monitors worldwide religious freedom will suggest today that the State Department shut down the 23-year-old Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia on the grounds it is fomenting hate and religious extremism."
"The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which advises Congress, the State Department and the president on religious-freedom issues, has issued a 30-page document saying the Saudi Embassy, which operates the 933-student academy, is violating U.S. law. It will explain its findings at 10 a.m. today in Room 538 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building."
"....At issue are textbooks the USCIRF says contain "highly intolerant and discriminatory language, particularly against Jews, Christians and Shi'a Muslims." Its findings are based on a three-year study of Arabic-language textbooks, some of them from the Saudi Academy, by the Center for Religious Freedom in the District."
Hmmm, kind of makes you wonder what sort of Arabic textbooks they use at Al-Hamra, dunnit?
Give the ball to Brian Habana-na
My most favourite trusted voice on the blogosphere is Norm Geras, author of "Normblog".
He writes with wise and shrewd cognition about this or that, politics, culture, family, anything. Every once in a while, however, he posts something so unfathomable that it defies my understanding. I mean, completely. Mostly it's the Cricket posts. So I learned to skip over them. What's the use? I just don't get it. I didn't think this post is about cricket, which is why I read it. I don't know what it is about. It might be about Cricket after all, or maybe football? There is a ball being sung about. Clueless, I am. Yes, it's football, or rather, Rugby. And the star player seems to defy gravity.
My state of ignorance still did not stop me laughing furiously when I came to this.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
On RED, BLUE and (Fucking)
Steven Pinker, who I would describe as a cross between psychoanalyst and linguist, explains in a long, informative and entertaining article in The New Republic why people curse, or, as Sign and Sight indelicately put it, the difference between f**king and making love.
Let me just insert parenthetically, an odd tidbit about myself, before I go on. I never curse. I mean it. I may say "bloody this or that" or "darn" from time to time but I never, no even once, used the F-word, on anybody or on anything. Instead of "shit" I say "shoot", and forget about "asshole", no way. It is a fact I'm not proud of. I don't curse in my native tongue, too. I may say the equivalent of "lousy" ("Zift") or "bloody hell" (la'azazel) or "what the heck" (the closest in Hebrew is the rather bizarre expletive: Le'chol Haruchot, which means, literally, "to the winds"!). It's not for lack of a very rich genre of expletives, curses and profanity that thrives in Hebrew slang. I can't blame my linguistic puritanism on any poverty of the Hebrew language.
In fact, the curse vein in Hebrew is rich and versatile and feeds upon many resources: Biblical, Arabic, Russian, Polish (there is Polish equivalent of "motherf***er" which was very popular at one time, I swear. I wish I could represent the sound of it but I would badly bowdlerize it if I tried). The more recent curse slang has been fertilized by Americanisms, which I'm less familiar with, since I've been away from Israel in the last two decades or so.
I have a friend, an Israeli author, Rony Lakish, who wrote a novella which I'd love to translate into English. But I won't be able to do it without a consultant on curse words since the text is simply suffused with the most astonishing variety of curses and profanity. Not one sentence escapes, except when some of the other characters, not the protagonist, speak. Curses are impossible to translate, anyway. The only way is to re-locate the entire story into the receiving culture and adapt it. It's a wonderful story, by the way, of a strange and innocent soul, someone reminiscent somewhat of Dostoevsky's Prince Myshkin in the "Idiot". The dissonance between curse-laced language he uses and the purity of that heart is one of the swaying powers of this novella.
Anyway, to go back to Pinker's piece. I highlighted two passages on which I had some thoughts:
1) The response is not only emotional but involuntary. It's not just that we don't have earlids to shut out unwanted sounds. Once a word is seen or heard, we are incapable of treating it as a squiggle or noise; we reflexively look it up in memory and respond to its meaning, including its connotation. The classic demonstration is the Stroop effect, found in every introductory psychology textbook and the topic of more than four thousand scientific papers. People are asked to look through a list of letter strings and to say aloud the color of the ink in which each one is printed. Try it with this list, saying "red," "blue," or "green" for each item in turn from left to right:
red blue green blue green red
Easy. But this is much, much, harder:
red blue green blue green red
The reason is that, among literate adults, reading a word is such an over-learned skill that it has become mandatory: You can't will the process "off," even when you don't want to read the words but only pay attention to the ink. That's why you're helped along when the experimenters arrange the ink into a word that also names its color and slowed down when they arrange it into a name for a different color.
In the second example, our mind experiences a certain un-ease, caused by the dissonance created when the denotations of colour do not correspond to the colours implied. Something is wrong here. The two plates of signification, which should fit snugly one upon the other, to create harmonious meaning, instead grate upon one another, refuse to match. This could mean either a mistake was made, which needs to be corrected, or a lie is being attempted.
Anne Carson describes a similar phenomenon in her book of poems "The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos":
“What really connects words and things?
”Human beings, tend to use language as Homer says
“the gods do. All human words are known to the gods but
have for them entirely other meanings alongside our meanings.
They flip the switch at will”.
In other words, when we see RED BLUE we instincively reject it as either a mistake, or, as Anne Carson more explicitly puts it, a lie. The gods know that Red is Red and when they speak to mortals, they use it in its proper denotation. But sometimes they prefer to pretend that red is Red. This is when they lie, or try to fiddle with our mind.
The Carson's essay is a poetical analysis of the narrator's love, marriage and divorce. She tells her readers that she loved her husband, though he was a liar who cheated on her constantly and stole her work to publish under his own name. Why did she love him? Because of his beauty. The beauty of RED. There was a dissonance between the beauty of the husband (as I understand it, more than just physical beauty is implied, maybe a way with words, a seductive entry into her soul) and the essence, the rottenness, the unreliability of the character, eventually unescapable.
2) "Fucking requires that the male act on one who has less power and this valuation is so deep, so completely implicit in the act, that the one who is fucked is stigmatized."
This observation took me in a completely different direction. Following the recent proliferation of interest in what homosexuality means in te Arab world, I found this explanation which is directly relevant to the comment made by Pinker:
In fact, homoerotic acts that did not involve penetration were not even considered major sins. Moreover, falling in love with a boy was regarded as an involuntary act and outside the scope of religious concern ...
Quite clearly, Islam was hostile to anal intercourse, and if this is regarded as the distinguishing characteristic of being homosexual, it was anti-homosexual. Islam was not as antagonistic to activities that many would now call homoerotic.... Women, because they cannot penetrate, were not considered capable of being homosexual.
Isn't this quite exraordinary, in that both perceptions or judgments seem to spring from valuing some primitive urge to dominate, invade, and humble? Both attitudes imply an unconscious repugnance of sexual activities in which the penetrated is held up for much more severe punishment, or derision, or social censure, than the penetrator.
If Pinker's theory offers any method for evaluating the fundamental urges at work in humanity, it clarifies how we humans are still, deep down, much enthralled to brute force.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
A campaign of intimidation ...
The Seattle PI published an opinion piece by Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UCLA Saree Makdisi. It is a breathlessly shrill screed, in which he complains about loss of academic freedom and other freedoms due to the onerous power of the Jewish Lobby. It is an astonishing piece of writing, since it appears to want to garble the principles, which the good prof purports to uphold.
Let’s take two principles, with an example for each.
The first principle discussed is academic freedom and its twin brother, freedom of speech:
Prof. Makdisi quotes Martin Kramer:
"Academic colleagues, get used to it… you are being watched. Those obscure articles in campus newspapers are now available on the Internet, and they will be harvested. Your syllabi, which you've also posted, will be scrutinized. Your Web sites will be visited late at night."
Prof. Makdisi, who probably publishes in academic newspapers and who posts his syllabi on the Internet, takes issue with this “warning”. Kramer tells him that his articles will be read, and the material he will teach to his students will be looked at, and the prof. finds these promises scary! It’s an encroachment upon his academic and other, freedoms!
How so? Does he not publish in order to be read? Does he not post his teaching material to inform students, colleagues and any Internet surfers of his academic intentions? Isn’t speech primarily meant for communication, where one orates and the other listens and responds, agrees, disagrees, criticizes, challenges, etc ? Where is the encroachment? Where is the danger? If I put up a good case, supported by facts, good arguments, appropriate context, and some suspension of blinding anger, why should I be afraid that other academics, writers, students, and general readers would read and scrutinize my writings?
The second: Attention to Truth in teaching and reporting
“So although Michael Oren, an officer in the Israeli army, was recently allowed to lecture the council about U.S. policy in the Middle East, two distinguished American academics were denied the same privilege.”
This statement leaves the reader with the impression that Michael Oren gets to speak to American students as an officer in the Israeli army, while the “two distinguished American academics” are denied access to university audiences.
Never mind that Mearsheimer and Walt have been feted and showcased on every major media outlet, including the late night talk shows, and got to address audiences far greater in numbers by orders of size than the audience Dr. Oren was given.
Never mind that.
Let’s look at the omission in this statement, which discards the main reason why Michael Oren was deemed appropriate to address a campus audience. Not because of his service in the Israeli army, as Prof. Makdisi would have us believe.
Who is Michael Oren?
"Born in New Jersey, U.S., Michael Oren received B.A. (1977) and M.I.A. (School of International Affairs, 1978) at Columbia University and M.A. and Ph.D. (History of the Middle East) at Princeton University. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard University and Yale University."
Michael B. Oren (born in 1955) is an American-Israeli scholar, historian, and author best known for his best-selling and highly acclaimed books on Middle Eastern history. Born an American citizen, he has published books, articles and essays on the subject of Middle Eastern history, and is the author of the best-selling Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, which was listed as a New York Times bestseller and won the National Jewish Book Award and the Los Angeles Times History Book of the Year Award. He is a Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and a contributing editor to the The New Republic and the Shalem Center's quarterly journal, Azure. He currently lives in Jerusalem.
All quotes from Wikipaedia, available on the internet. In other words, widely available to all Internet perusers, including Prof. Makdisi.
Looks like Prof. Makdisi omitted to tell his Seattleite readers that Michael Oren is no less a distinguished and fully-credentialled scholar than the Messrs Mearsheimer and Walt. And if I may venture a personal opinion, a much more reliable researcher and thinker than either of the two, or even prof. Makdisi himself, to judge from this article.
BTW, judging by Oren's age (52 years old), it's been probably 15 years at least since he saw active service, as a Miluimnik, an IDF reservist who would be called up in cases of military emergencies, such as war. This, again, does not cast Maktidi's charcterization of him as an "IDF officer" in the best of lights. Looks like misrepresentation, to me.
These are just two examples from an article which is replete with similar examples of disregard to sustainable reasonable argument and factual veracity. I find it depressing, coming from a teacher of students in an academic institution.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Why was Kennedy the only Catholic ruler of America?
The answer is related via Egyptian blogger The Big Pharaoh, here:
When asked about the MB’s program clause that bars Christians from running for the president office in Egypt, his answer was as follows:
“In America a Catholic cannot become president and this is based upon the understanding of the American constitution. And the first time that a Catholic ruled America, Kennedy, he was killed after a year and half in office.” (Ana Ikhwan; Arabic link)
...The world is marching forward and we’re still dicussing whether a Christian and a woman can run for president in Egypt. What a wretched nation we are. We had a Christian prime ministers, Christian foreign ministers, and a Jewish finance minister in the first half of last century and we, in 2007, in God damned 2007, are still discussing whether a Christian or a woman can become president.
Women in the Arab world:
MEMRI brings a selection of cartoons, here.
Of the 24 cartoons featured, 10 come from Saudi newspapers. I wonder if there is some significant activity going on there, with regards to women's rights. I've seen a few manifestations of women asserting themselves against the blanket authority which Islam seems to accord men over women.
They do not exist
Joseph Massad, candidate for tenure at Columbia University, taught his students that "Zion" is a Hebrew word for "penis". Certainly, the man has a sexual turn of mind, if we judge by his latest book, in which he explains, that homosexuality, per se, does not exist in the Arab world. It is a Western-construct, a colonizing plot, hatched by Americans and Zionists, meant to weaken the moral fibre of Arab society in order to better rule it.
There is a new article reviewing Massad's extraordinary thesis in "The New Republic". Here are some selections:
"..Yet while the audience in the Roone Arledge Auditorium and millions of television viewers laughed and booed at the Islamist rube, there was one man--ensconced at Columbia University, no less--who was likely nodding along in agreement. His name is Joseph Massad, Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History, and he legitimizes, with a complex academic posture, the deservedly reviled views on homosexuality espoused by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
According to Massad, a Palestinian Christian ... the case for gay rights in the Middle East is an elaborate scheme hatched by activists in the West. ... such activists constitute the "Gay International" whose "discourse ... produces homosexuals as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist." The "missionary tasks" of this worldwide conspiracy are part of a broader attempt to legitimize American and Israeli global conquest by undermining the very moral basis of Muslim societies, ...
.... What's worse, he says, is that the attempt to "universalize" this supposedly provincial Western homosexual identity onto Arabs is used as a tool to distinguish between the "civilized" West and the "barbaric" Middle East.
... As one illustration of his thesis, Massad chooses the "Queen Boat" incident of May 11, 2001, when a horde of truncheon-wielding Egyptian police officers boarded a Nile River cruise known as the Queen Boat, a floating disco for gay men. Fifty-two men were arrested, and many of them were tortured and sexually humiliated in prison. In a sensational, months-long ordeal, they were paraded in public, and images of them shielding their faces were blared on state television and printed in government newspapers. Most of the men were eventually acquitted, but 23 received convictions for either the "habitual debauchery," "contempt for religion" or both.
State repression against gay people happens on a frequent basis across the Middle East.
Massad, however, who claims to be a supporter of sexual freedom per se, is oddly impassive when confronted with the vast catalogue of anti-gay state violence in the Muslim world. Massad, unlike Ahmadinejad, does acknowledge that "gay-identified" people exist in the Middle East, but he views them with derision. Take, for instance, his description of the Queen Boat victims as "westernized, Egyptian, gay-identified men" who consort with European and American tourists. A simple "gay" would have sufficed. He smears efforts to free the men by writing of the "openly gay and anti-Palestinian Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank" and the "anti-Arab and anti-Egyptian [Congressman] Tom Lantos" who circulated a petition amongst their colleagues to cut off U.S. funding to Egypt unless the men were released. He then goes on to belittle not just gay activists ... but the persecuted men themselves. The Queen Boat cannot be Stonewall, Massad insists, because the "drag Queens at the Stonewall bar" embraced their homosexual identity, whereas the Egyptian men "not only" did "not seek publicity for their alleged homosexuality, they resisted the very publicity of the events by the media by covering their faces in order to hide from the cameras and from hysterical public scrutiny." Massad does not pause to consider that perhaps the reason why these men covered their faces was because of the brutal consequences they would endure if their identities became public, repercussions far worse than anything the rioters at Stonewall experienced. "These are hardly manifestations of gay pride or gay liberation," Massad sneers.
...It becomes clear why Massad views gay-identifying Arab men with such scorn. In his mind, they have become willing victims of colonization. That's why Massad tacitly supports Middle Eastern governments' crackdown on organized gay political activity: He sees this repression as a legitimate expression of anti-colonialism. "It is not the same-sex sexual practices that are being repressed by the Egyptian police but rather the sociopolitical identification of these practices with the Western identity of gayness and the publicness that these gay-identified men seek." Thus, Arab gays (or, to use Massad's terminology, "so-called 'gays' ") should not identify as such, because to do so is accepting Western cultural hegemony. Massad even throws in a swipe at the "U.S.-based anti-Arab British Iraqi writer Kanan Makiya," a strong supporter of the Iraq war, for his alleged attempt to include protections in the new Iraqi constitution for homosexuals. How dare these men fight for their dignity as homosexuals!
...Five years ago, a few months after Massad's article exposing the "Gay International" appeared, Yossi Klein Halevi wrote a piece for The New Republic about the condition of Palestinian gay men living illegally in Israel. Halevi interviewed young men (who, Massad should note, all identified as homosexual) who had formed an unlikely subculture on the streets of Tel Aviv, fleeing their own families out of fear for how they'd be treated if they came out of the closet. Some had been the victims of torture by Palestinian Authority officials. One 21-year-old man given the pseudonym "Tayseer" was implicated in a sex sting devised by Palestinian police. Halevi reported:
Tayseer refused to implicate others. He was arrested and hung by his arms from the ceiling. A high-ranking officer he didn't know arranged for his release and then demanded sex as payback. Tayseer fled Gaza to Tulkarem on the West Bank, but there too he was eventually arrested. He was forced to stand in sewage water up to his neck, his head covered by a sack filled with feces, and then he was thrown into a dark cell infested with insects and other creatures he could feel but not see. ("You slap one part of your body, and then you have to slap another," he recounts.) During one interrogation, police stripped him and forced him to sit on a Coke bottle. Through the entire ordeal he was taunted by interrogators, jailers, and fellow prisoners for being a homosexual.
We in the West may scoff at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's views on homosexuality in Iran, but while we laugh, a Columbia University professor--currently up for tenure--carries forth an insidious attempt to convince the world that men like Tayseer are somehow figments of the Western world's imagination. And who are we to complain about the murders of people who "do not exist"?
The "people who do not exist" is the thesis of another Palestinian intellectual up for tenure at Columbia, Nadia Abu el-Haj, who wrote one book in which she attempts to deny Jewish history in Palestine and a second book in the making in which she denies that there is such a people as Jews*. Both she and Massad are the intellectual descendants of Edward Said who, in the twilight of his life, wrote a hateful Little book in which he claims that there is no such thing as a Jewish Identity. He purported to prove, by psychoanalytical theory, that the Hebrews of the Exodus were not at all proto-Jews but rather freed Egyptian slaves. The linchpin of his theory was that Moses was actually an Egyptian prince.
An interesting way of "resisting" Western Imperialism. I can't wait to hear what or who else do not really exist...
______________More on this subject, here
* if this information is any indication, el-Haj will have to invent some new theories and genetic research results:
..."The researchers suggested that the approximately 12.7 percent of Ashkenazic Jews who have the Eu 19 chromosomes ...descend paternally from eastern Europeans (such as Slavs) or Khazars. But the majority of Ashkenazic Jews, who possess Eu 9 and other chromosomes, descend paternally from Judeans who lived in Israel two thousand years ago. ....new study revealed that Jews have a closer genetic relationship to populations in the northern Mediterranean (Kurds, Anatolian Turks, and Armenians) than to populations in the southern Mediterranean (Arabs and Bedouins).
A previous study ... showed that about 70 percent of Jewish paternal ancestries and about 82 percent of Palestinian Arabs share the same chromosomal pool. The geneticists asserted that this might support the claim that Palestinian Arabs descend in part from Judeans who converted to Islam."
What a mess. Imagine that, most male Palestinians are actually descendants of converted Jews. My, my. Speaking of identities and all that.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I'm in the middle of watching two TV dramatizations.
One is "Idiot", a Russian production, based on the novel by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. It's nearly 10 hours long and I've watched five hours of this rather breathless paean to the great Russian soul. It's pretty well made, as far as recreating the period is concerned. But the acting is rather operatic, the characters quite flatly essentialized into their archetypal roles: The saintly Prince Myshkin, fair coloured and usual clad in light-coloured cloths. He is the titular "Idiot" would have been a heartbreakingly innocent and good man, except that he becomes all too soon quite excruciatingly verbose and beyond human. Someone called him "Christ-like', which is as good a description as any. There is the heroine of easy virtue, with a dark and conniving soul, who walks in and out of rooms and relationships to the tune of illegible logic. There is Rogojin, her sometimes lover, a garden-variety "Black Russian", tall, dark and brooding, dressed in black, always, perpetually smouldering eyes and the inevitable dagger in his waistcoat pocket. He loves her, beats her, begs her forgiveness by standing in his knees for days without food or drink. She taunts him, rejects him, pulls him back, promises to marry him so he can kill her. As I said, full-volume opera. I am, however, determined to watch this to the end. Another five hours to go.
The other an Israeli dramatization of the trial and story of Rudolf Kastner. This is an attempted recreation of a trial that shook Israel in 1954 and exposed the weaknesses of Ben-Gurion's ability to deal with the subject of the Holocaust and Holocaust survivors in Israel. Much has been written yet the fog of that "grey zone" has hardly been cleared away. The more I read the drearier becomes that benighted time for the Jewish people. The TV drama manages to touch upon the many aspects of this sliver of history, provoking not emotion but thought.
It's kind of ironic how the evil of the Nazis, because it is so ungraspable by the standards of our own ethical rules, is simply shunted aside. Whatever evil is discussed and scrutinized, if evil it be, is that of harm, arrogance, lust, greed, power, pity, family, the stuff of human fallibility that the human mind can actually understand, relate to.
One of the most chilling testimonies in the trial was that of Joel Brand, which demonstrated the ineffectual fumbling attempts by the Jewish Hungarian Leadership to help save some Jews in 1944, the impotence of the Jewish Agency when it came to mobilizing the British and American powers to intervene in any way on behalf of the doomed Jews, and the shrunken moral universe which the Nazis erected around the Jews where moral choices were shaven to their bare bones:
Brand later testified that Lord Moyne, the British Minister Resident in the Middle East and a close friend of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was present during one of the interrogations and is alleged to have said: "What can I do with this million Jews? Where can I put them?" Lord Moyne was assassinated in Cairo a few months later on November 6, 1944 by Eliyahu Bet-Zuri and Eliyahu Hakim of the Lehi (Stern Gang). Ben Hecht writes that Ehud Avriel, the Jewish Agency official who had accompanied Brand to Aleppo and had assured him the British would not arrest him, insisted that it was not Lord Moyne who had said this, and asked Brand not to repeat Moyne's name in Brand's autobiography, Advocate for the Dead. However, Brand repeated under oath during Eichmann's trial that it was Lord Moyne who had said it.
Lord Moyne's feeble dismissal of one million Jews echoes Canada's pre-war policy of refusing to accept any Jewish refugees from Europe: "none is too many". Except that in Canada's case, the more charitable might attribute this indifference to disbelief that actual harm may befall the European Jews. Moyne's retort comes in 1944, when reports of the mass extermination of the Jews have already filtered through and spread into public awareness. It's frightening how the obvious answer to that question was not readily available to Moyne's mind.
The fact is, it was the kind of war which left decent people bereft of any of the usual tools we use to maintain our decency. No options were there that could be taken without harming other human beings, in some other way. Impossible, actually, for any mind to contain the magnitude of the evil that ruled this planet during those years. We speak and can comprehend a chain of compassion. We cannot understand the depths of that malevolence which created a chain of damages, of snowballing human debasement.
I only watched half the series. I'll watch the rest of it next Friday.
There is something decent and honorable in the state of Denmark
Ayann Hirsi Ali, who was left - abandoned - like a fragile twig to twist in the wind by her adoptive motherland, Holland, was offered refuge in Denmark.
What a relief.
"Brian Mikkelsen, the Danish culture minister, has indicated the government would be willing to allow outspoken Dutch-Somali author Ayaan Hirsi Ali to live in Denmark under its protection from fanatical Muslims seeking to kill her.
Over the weekend Mikkelsen sent out a request to the country’s municipalities to invite the threatened author and filmmaker to live here. The move is supported by a recent parliament proposal to establish several ‘free cities’ for persecuted writers, a programme to be created with the support of the International City of Refuge Network.
‘Ayaan Hirsi Ali will be number one on the list of authors we should invite to Denmark,’ Mikkelsen announced on Sunday. ‘She has fought for the freedom of expression and has personally received threats on her life.’
Ali had been under Dutch protection until last week, but the Netherlands' parliament withdrew her official protected status because she has been living in the United States.
Mikkelsen said the government would be willing to pay all the expenses relating to Ali’s residence in Denmark.
‘It’s obvious the protection of Hirsi Ali would be a substantial expense,’ he said. ‘But we have to view that from a positive standpoint.’
Mikkelsen’s invitation is expected to receive broad backing from parliament members." ( Via: The Iconoclast)
While the Dutch coast along upon their famous reputation for tolerance and friendliness, it is their neighbours, the Danes, who actually do the heavy lifting when it comes to follow with deeds what some know only how to preach very prettily and emptily.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Strange bedfellows do not always love make...
When Indecent Lefties confer with Khomeinist Zealots, the music they make is a surrealist cacophony.
Amir Taheri describes the conference that "would produce a synthesis of Marxist and Khomeinist ideologies and highlight what the Iranian leader has labeled "the divine aspect of revolutionary war." here.
Highlights from the event:
Things went pear-shape thanks to ... Hajj Saeed Qassemi, whose title is "coordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom." Praising the late "Che" as "a true revolutionary who made the American Great Satan tremble," he "revealed" that Guevara had been "a truly religious man who believed in God and hated communism and the Soviet Union."
Demanding the right to respond, Aleida Guevara told the conference that Qassemi's claim might be based on a bad translation: "My father never mentioned God," she said as the hall sighed in chagrined disbelief. "He never met God."
The remarks caused a commotion amid which Aleida and her brother were whisked away, led into a car and driven to their hotel under escort.
Qassemi returned to the podium to unleash an unscripted attack on "godless communists." He called on "the left in Latin America and elsewhere" to clarify its position. He claimed that Guevara and his "Supreme Guide Fidel Castro" had decided to hide their religious beliefs in order to secure Soviet support."
And the end was inevitable:
By the end of the day, the two Guevaras had become nonpersons. The state-controlled media, which had given them VIP billing, suddenly forgot their existence. The anniversary of Guevara's death was mentioned in passing with no reference to his Marxism.
The only significant comment in the whole came from Parviz Jamshidi, who represents imprisoned trade unionists in Iran, in response to "The [Guevra] siblings' refus[al] to mention the mass arrest of workers' leaders throughout Iran in the last few months or condemn the current wave of repression against trade unions, women's organizations, teachers and farm workers.
"These people don't give a damn about the toiling masses... To them workers represent nothing but an abstraction, an excuse for appearing left and chic. They don't see that the Khomeinist regime is at war against the poorest sections of our society."
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Blogger "With Love from Tehran" celebrates "Eid"
I hope anyone who reads this will drop by to leave her a gift of good wishes, a poem, a story or just good vibes. She is certainly one to watch, writer, poet, translator, thinker, and only twenty-five years old! What a talent!
All right, I know I said I had only two-cents to put on Anne Coulter's brawl, but I stumbled upon this comment from David Horowitz. It is the first time I read him, though I remember him being referred to as something horrible for some reason, maybe because he is an unapologetic Jew with a big mouth which some people find insufferable (Jews are supposed to be extra dainty and taciturn, especially when vilified, to set an example on how freedom of speech works) and some Jews find embarrassing (a phenomenon embarrassing in and of itself). So here is what he is saying, why he still finds the anorexic blond cool:
I have received a surprising number of emails from friends basically asking "What are you going to do about Coulter?" This is a reference to her recent comment that she is hoping for the perfection of the Jews. My response is this: what else would a Christian hope for? That's the message of the New Testament: Jesus came to fulfill, complete, perfect the Law. If you're a Christian, that's what you believe. If you don't accompany this belief by burning Jews who refuse to become perfected at the stake why would any Jew have a problem?
Which is exactly what I said, though less succinctly. How nice to be understood.
Upon the heels of the demand by Palestinians to control the Western Wall which is the holiest place for Judaism, another demand comes up, in another place of the globe, upon another religion:
The first day of the summit quickly became controversial when Moussa demanded that the Cathedral, which was once a Mosque, be made available for Muslim prayer.
“All churches and mosques are built for prayer and to be used for this end; I think there wouldn’t be a religious clash at all; the clash would be instead of a political nature,” Moussa said. However, he ignored questions pertaining to why Christians are not only forbidden to pray in mosques but are even prohibited from building churches in some Muslim countries.
“The seventeen centuries of Cordoba’s Christian history deserve to be respected,” Bishop Asenjo said at that time. Recent work by archeologists has shown that the Cathedral’s sub-floor dates to the 4th and 6th centuries. The Cathedral was completely destroyed after the Muslim invasion of 711.
(H/T: The Iconoclast)
Dead Parrots and Invincible knights
New English Review has this post on today (which I'm replicating in full)
Remember the first time you heard the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch? It was funny, wasn't it? But despite being the best known, it's by no means the funniest Python sketch. Certainly, when you've heard it parroted for the thousandth time by some nerd who can't make up his own jokes, the plumage loses its colours. In fact the funniest lines come right at the end, when, having finally acknowledged that the parrot is dead, the pet shop owner agrees to replace it, but he's all out of parrots. "I've got a slug," he suggests hopefully. "Does it talk?" asks the customer. "Nah, not really." It's the word "really" that tickles. And then the sketch goes on to make the famous "palindrome" of Bolton: Notlob. But now I'm getting nerdy, so I'll stop digressing.
If repetition is bad for the sketch, philosophical analysis must surely be fatal. But Gary L. Hardcastle has done one, according to Stephen Asma:
An emblematic approach can be found in Gary L. Hardcastle's article "Themes in Contemporary Analytical Philosophy as Reflected in the Work of Monty Python," a chapter in Monty Python and Philosophy: Nudge Nudge, Think Think!, a 2006 book in the Open Court series. Hardcastle, an assistant professor of philosophy at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, unpacks the 20th-century epistemological debate between verificationism (logical positivists like M. Schlick, R. Carnap, and A.J. Ayer), and semantic holism (W.V. Quine, Thomas Kuhn, and the later Wittgenstein) by using the famous Python parrot sketch and the Black Knight dismemberment fight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In the parrot sketch, John Cleese (Mr. Praline) attempts to return a dead parrot to the pet store where he purchased it, and Michael Palin (the shopkeeper) uses an infuriating casuistry to deny the deceased state of the parrot. Hardcastle has to do a fair amount of real philosophy before we can appreciate this point, and when he analyzes the sketch, it actually sheds some light on the philosophical debate.
Hardcastle explains that "Mr. Praline, the man attempting to return the parrot, is our verificationist, as is evidenced by his attempt to verify the death of the parrot by reference to experience, such as seeing that it's motionless, its falling to the ground when sent aloft, its being nailed to its perch, and so on. The shopkeeper is our philosophically more sophisticated holist. He knows that maintaining the truth of other statements, concerning for example the bird's strength and its affection for the fjords, will allow him to maintain that the parrot is alive."
Notice that the shopkeeper is like the famous Black Knight from Holy Grail, who, despite having his limbs successively chopped off, continues to define himself as the victor in his battle with King Arthur. The holist shopkeeper need never accept that the parrot is dead, if he keeps explaining the observation of its motionless state by appeal to increasingly elaborate theories.
I just know this will come in handy for describing some outlandish arguments that keep springing up all over. So until it is put to good use, enjoy it as is :-)