paleo Ideofact

Saturday, March 23, 2002
Freedom for all...
I've been working on a fairly long post on the collapse of the Incan empire, a 25,000 year old sculpture, a couple of linguistic terms, fundamentalism, and why this site is called Ideofact. I'm not done yet, and I want to go bed. But before I do, I thought I'd share something that Thomas Jefferson wrote about the passage of the bill for religious freedom in Virginia:

...a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read, "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."

Jefferson made his own version of the four gospels; he removed all the supernatural stories, and was left with the philosophy of Christ. Among the books he gave to the Library of Congress (which was the beginning of the library's collection) were two copies of the Koran, one translated into English, the other French. I can't recall which of the two he annotated, but in the margins are his notes from reading the text.

Thursday, March 21, 2002
Well, it's not painful yet...
Andrew Ian Dodge of Dodgeblog has linked me; I'll get a reciprocal (hopefully working) link up soon. Andrew notes that I have "the good taste to use a Mac." I'm guilty as charged. I love Macs. At work I use a PC, and I do all right on it, but then I have a fairly brilliant tech guy who can figure out what I've done to it and fix it without much trouble. The beauty of the Mac is that you buy it, take it home, plug it, turn it on, and you're ready to go.

Andrew adds that "Rumours to the effect that being Dodgeblogged is a painful experience are entirely unfounded." I'll take his word for it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002
What do you want, competence??
Josh Trevino of i330 fame writes noting, among other things, that none of my links work. (He said some nice things and some thought provoking things as well, but I've decided to change the tone in Washington by focusing on the negative.) Actually, I think it's the post that Adil Faroog linked, on the Khilafa view of the history of Western technology, with the problematic links, which I hope I've fixed. If other links aren't working, let me know, but I tested just about all of them and seem to work for me. I think the Khilafa post got screwed up because I wrote half of it in Microsoft Word and pasted it into blogger; I suspect that it has something do with Word's penchant for autoformatting and converting strings like, for example, into hyperlinks. Although, of course, the more likely explanation is that I may just be an idiot.

If anyone else is having the same problem, feel free to let me know.

The other axis...

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit points out that Egypt's Al-Ahram is concerned about the Israeli-Turkish-United States "axis," which Al-Ahram calls the true axis of evil:

Standing at the doorsteps of the White House, following an audience with U.S. President George W. Bush last month, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit proudly announced that Turkey is now a 'global' force. Turkey is now an established partner in the U.S. efforts to rearrange international politics, fight terror, and smother the evil threesome of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. But evil is in the eye of the beholder. For Arabs and Middle Easterners in general, the emerging security pact of the United States, Israel, and Turkey holds woeful consequences.

Al-Ahram is also concerned about recent joint Israeli-Turkish naval exercises and the possibility that Turkey will allow Israeli planes to use its airspace. A recent item on Middle East Newsline points to another area of Turkish-Israeli cooperation:

ANKARA [MENL] -- Turkey has stressed that an Israeli upgrade of the M-60A1 will be swift and replace virtually every system in the main battle tank.

Turkish officials said the technical requirements and speed of the project was not matched in any other bid. The state-owned Israel Military Industries beat the U.S. firm General Dynamics for the $688 million project, the largest ever won by an Israeli contractor in Turkey.

Under the project, IMI will modernize 170 M-60 tanks. The tanks are the oldest in Turkey's M-60 fleet and could represent the first stage in what industry sources assert would be a project to upgrade 1,000 platforms.

The Al-Ahram item frets that Israel, with Turkish cooperation, intends to encircle the Arab states from the north. Just a thought, but maybe Israel and Turkey are trying to encircle the hostile European Union--which hasn't been especially kind to either country--from the south.


Well, I finally got up a few links, and an About me page. And it only took me three hours. I have a real interest in Medieval technology, and the development of the first complex machines. Perhaps that's because something like Villard de Honnecourt's water powered saw, the first industrial power machine to involve two motions (the water drove the saw's back and forth motion, and also fed the log past the blade), stretches the limits of my technical understanding; so html is a real challenge (I figured it would work a lot more like moveable type). As to links, I'm going to try to add them fairly regularly. Some are people kind enough to link me, others are sites I admire, and I'll eventually add a bunch of places that I find are valuable resources.

I should add a thank you for the kind plugs from Muslimpundit (for whom I've finally added a link) and also from Meryl Yourish, who also sent me a nice email. Regrettably, I got the email after I'd done my first round of links, but rest assured I'll add a permanent link to her site soon. (Incidentally, I quite enjoyed this observation of hers):
There are many ways that men condescend to women. Codewords are the most disingenuous. When I am described as "the feisty Ms. Yourish," it raises my sexism radar. When is the last time you heard a man described as "feisty"? How about "spunky"? If you want to die a quick and painful death, come within reach of me and call me "spunky" and mean it.

On the other hand, I correspond regularly with an ex-Army, politically conservative businessman, and when he says "Clever girl" in an email, I take it as it is meant--as a compliment, with no condescension intended. Perception is nine-tenths of the law; you can tell when someone is being insulting, and whether or not it is deliberate.

For what it's worth, I think men are called feisty, although the term is usually restricted to baseball managers (Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, and, more recently Larry Bowa, come to mind).

Tuesday, March 19, 2002
The price of Oslo

This week, Al-Ahram’s online weekly offering is devoted, to the most part, to the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Edward Said writes in What Price Oslo?,

Israel is now waging a war against civilians, pure and simple, although you will never hear it put that way in the US. This is a racist war, and in its strategy and tactics, a colonial one as well. People are being killed and made to suffer disproportionately because they are not Jews. What an irony! Yet CNN never refers to "occupied" territories (always rather to "violence in Israel" as if the main battlefields are the concert halls and cafes of Tel Aviv and not in fact the ghettoes and besieged refugee camps of Palestine that have already been surrounded by 150 illegal Israeli settlements).

Of course, Palestinians have made the cafes, if not the concert halls, of Tel Aviv—and Jerusalem, and countless other places—into battlefields. But Said’s rather one-sided account will have none of this:
And that pseudo-pundit -- the insufferably conceited Thomas Friedman -- still has the gall to say that "Arab TV" shows one-sided pictures, as if "Arab TV" should be showing things from Israel's point-of-view the way CNN does, with "Mid-East violence" the catch-all word for the ethnic cleansing that Israel is wreaking on the Palestinians in their ghettoes and camps.

For Said, and I fear for much of the Arab world, there is no legitimate Israeli point-of-view. Sharon is a war criminal, Israel is an illegal state, the Palestinians suffer more than any other people on earth, etc. etc. Said goes so far as to call their struggle "the story of our time."

I’m not crazy about Ariel Sharon, and I think the Bush administration’s recent about-face on the peace process has more to do with disenchantment with Sharon’s inability to successfully fight terror (the key word is successfully) as it does with any new found love for the Palestinian cause. As I recall from press accounts at the time, after a series of particularly brutal nighttime attacks in Jerusalem (I can't remember the number killed, but there were three separate bombs; I'll look it up on Nexis later today), Sharon visited Washington and made the argument that, proportionately speaking, those suicide bombings were as devastating to Israel as the Sept. 11 attacks were in the United States. Since then, however, the killings of Israelis (and Palestinians, of course) have continued. Imagine if, after Sept. 11, al Qaeda operatives continued to fly planes into skyscrapers, and in response the Bush administration did little more than to bomb the Taliban’s deserted government headquarters, move tanks into refugee camps on occasion, and keep Mullah Omar from leaving Kabul. I know the situations are very different (they’d be closer if, say, al Qaeda and the Taliban were based in the Middle Atlantic states and the Northwest, and had friendly governments in Canada and Mexico), but Sharon’s inability to work out a coherent strategy is behind the Bush administration’s reluctance to back his latest moves.

In any case, Said regards the latest violence in the Middle East and the sufferings of the Palestinians as the result of the “peace process”:

The Palestinian people are paying the heavy, heavy unconscionable price of Oslo, which after 10 years of negotiating left them with bits of land lacking coherence and continuity, security institutions designed to assure their subservience to Israel, and a life that impoverished them so that the Jewish state could thrive and prosper.

I think it’s worth asking what we could expect from a Palestinian state. Would it thrive and prosper absent an Israeli state, or would it be yet another Middle Eastern political, economic and social basket case. The record of the Palestinian Authority isn’t encouraging. And I'm also not sure what he means by "security institutions designed to assure their subservience to Israel..." I suppose he'd prefer that Oslo gave the Palestinians military superiority over the Israelis, but I'm not sure that the Israelis would be willing to go along with that.

Said argues that any peace negotiations should take, as their starting point, Palestinian suffering, and that unless this is enumerated and redressed, well, there's no point in negotiating:
But I would argue that due weight be given to decades of Palestinian suffering and the real human costs of Israel's destructive policies before any negotiations accord undue status to Israeli governments that have trampled on Palestinian rights the way they have demolished our houses and killed our people. Any Arab-Israeli negotiations that do not factor in history -- and for this task a team of historians, economists, and geographers with a conscience are needed -- are not worth having, just as Palestinians must now elect a new set of negotiators and representatives in the hope of salvaging something from the present calamity.

Of course, the history Said is interested in is selective. From 1948 onward, the policy of the Palestinians and their Arab sponsors has been one of war with Israel. They lost. That will lead to a certain amount of suffering. But it’s not entirely up to the Israelis to make restitution for the series of bad decisions that the Palestinians and their leaders made, beginning with clearing out to make for the great Arab armies that would drive the Jews into the sea in 1948 through backing Saddam in the Gulf War to the present.

All of which is too bad. I think, in 1993, Arafat was presented with a rare opportunity. Oslo allowed him to be the vanguard of the Arab world. Had Arafat embraced peace, played Ghandi rather than the thug, insisted on a democratic Palestinian authority, and given the Israelis confidence that they had a partner in peace, he could very well have created a statelet, and then a state, that would stand in sharp rebuke to the rest of those dysfunctional Arab states. He could have turned to the dictators in Syria and Egypt, in Iraq and Iran, and told them that he was building a democratic, secular Palestine. It would not have been easy, indeed, it might have been suicidal. Instead, Arafat played the role he knew best, that of the thug. Long before the most recent wave of violence began roughly a year and a half ago, Arafat had already managed to impoverish his people and strip them of any chance of a decent life. That’s the price the Palestinians paid for Oslo.