The Spine

Rogue's Gallery
and
September 28, 2006

Relying on various news agencies, Haaretz reports on a briefing by Fouad Siniora for news folk in which the Lebanese prime minister slammed Israel and its military presence in his country as the "mother of all ills." If the Israel army were to be totally withdrawn from Lebanon, "there won't be any valid argument then," Siniora assured, "for the continuation of weapons in the hands of Hezebollah." Siniora is not an idiot. But he is a rogue if not actually a liar.

Artistic License
and
September 27, 2006

I don't know Mozart's opera Idomeneo. But a production of it by the Deutsche Oper Berlin has been cancelled. This production, created by director Hans Neuenfels, contains a feature not suggested in the original: the decapitated heads of Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha, and Poseidon. The decision to close down the opera was not, believe me, in response to wounded Christian sensibilities. Once again, however, the rage of Muslims has been invoked by artistic liberals to justify the shutdown of an artistic work. Forgive me, if this doesn't reek of fascism--Islamofascism, to be exact--what does?

Debating Society
and
September 27, 2006

I''ve posted two pieces on The Spine (here and here) about John McWhorter's New York Sun article on Barack Obama. Then, legal scholar Cass Sunstein and American historian Michael Kazin wrote (also here and here) their responses to McWhorter on Open University, of which they are "faculty." Now, John himself, also a faculty member, has responded to his critics. Don't miss any of this laden controversy. This gentle contretemps raises important issues about race in the United States and about racial preferences in the Democratic Party.

Is Islam More Prone To Murder?
and
September 27, 2006

OK, I am obsessed by the Muslim avalanche against Pope Benedict ... and against what he said. There will now be many scholarly battles about the aptness of the pontiff's citation of a conversation between a late Christian Byzantine emperor and an erudite Muslim, a medieval affair. They will surely seem to some of us more than a bit nit-picky. I have linked to some pretty nit-picky writings myself.

Fast Food For Thought
and
September 26, 2006

For a bit of comic relief from the nightmare that is Iran, here, through MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), is a Tehran TV news channel's report about Coca Cola, McDonald's, other evildoers, Zionist capitalism, and Israel. Watch it or read it. This is not a spoof. It's for real.

Laying Blame
and
September 26, 2006

There's an old Yiddish saying, "Az men lebt derlebt men," which means "If you live long enough, you live to see." Of course, sometimes if you live long enough, even then you don't live to see. I suspect, for example, that I won't live to see the Palestinians coming to terms with the fact of the existence of Israel. One question is on whom the elites and the general public in Europe and the United States put responsibility for this. In America, it has never been Israel. Moreover, there is more support for Israel than ever, or almost ever. In Europe, it has always been a very different story.

Poking Fun
and
September 26, 2006

I don't know who collected these comments on France. Let me assure you though that I am not a Francophobe. It is true that for a few years in recent times I have not bought French wines. But I did drink the ones I had in my cellar. In any case, there is some silliness in what follows. But there is also some wisdom, wisdom garnered from historical experience. If you are a Francophile, you may not want to read this. It's your choice. Feel free to send this to friends if you like. That's how I saw it in the first place. "France has neither winter nor summer nor morals.

Close Reading
and
September 25, 2006

I've introduced Andrew G. Bostom before, once on The Plank and the last time here on The Spine. Bostom is continuing his scrutiny of recent papal pontifications (yes, I guess the word comes from "pontiff") about Islam and the hyper-hysterical reactions in the Muslim world.

Underestimating Political Fanaticism
and
September 25, 2006

Jeffrey Herf, the eminent historian of modern Europe, with an emphasis on totalitarian Germany, is a long-time contributor to TNR. He is also on the "faculty" of our Open University blog, and yesterday posted a brief comment "What is political sophistication?" It seems to be just an historical observation about the underestimation by European elites of Hitler, in particular, and Nazism, in general.

Interfaith Dialogue
and
September 25, 2006

In the coming week's TNR (and later online) there will appear a very learned essay by David Nirenberg arguing that the Pope's disquisition about the dialogue between the Byzantine emperor and the Muslim scholar was an inevitably, that is, an inextricably doomed argumentation. The scholar Andrew Bostom (to some of whose recent writings I, who am not a scholar of Islam, have posted links) believes that the 14th century exchange is not only relevant but enormously illuminating.

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