The poisonous Protocols

Umberto Eco on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion:

Intellectual anti-semitism as we now know it originates from the modern world. In 1797, Abbé Barruel wrote his Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du jacobinisme to show that the French revolution was a plot of the Knights Templar and the freemasons. Later it was an Italian, Captain Simonini, who suggested to him that it was above all the perfidious Jews who were acting behind the scenes. It was only after this point that the argument surrounding international Jewry began, and the Jesuits seized on it as an argument against the sects of the Carbonari. The controversy raged throughout Europe, but found its most fertile soil in France, where Jewish finance was now identified as an enemy to defeat. The controversy was certainly fuelled by Catholic legitimism, but it was in secular, political circles that the ill-famed Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion slowly took shape. These were then published in Russian Tsarist circles and were finally used by Hitler. Guardian UK Books

The Darwin Wars:

Origin of Specious:

In the heated, often venomous battle over Charles Darwin’s legacy, (Stephen Jay) Gould faced a redoubtable crew from the fields of sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, genetics and philosophy. What’s more, many of these individuals, including E.O. Wilson, Stephen Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Robert Wright, have literary and polemical talents rivaling his own. Science will decide the relative merits of their arguments over topics such as punctuated equilibrium, speciation and the nature of complexity. But the cultural stakes of the dispute are obvious already. Gould’s opponents advocate one form or another of a digital Darwinism. Their grand syntheses are unimaginable without the computer revolution. Their reductionist emphasis — and their hopes for a single, internally coherent theory of everything from mitochondria to the human mind — draws heavily on the tools, methods and examples of digitalization. Gould’s views, on the other hand, owed next to nothing to computers. His Darwinism would have sounded much the same without computer code, artificial intelligence (AI) or the Internet. The American Prospect

When in doubt, blame the US

Review of The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World by Mark Hertsgaard, and After the Terror

by Ted Honderich:

A well-researched cultural and ideological history of anti-Americanism, exploring its history, its different strands – Leftist, Rightist, Euro-nationalist, Cold War, Islamic, Third Worldist and so on – and, above all, the strange interactions and cross-fertilisations between them, is a book that I would dearly like to read. But, if one is being written as a response to September 11, do not expect it to appear just yet. Serious research requires more than the six months’ writing time that went into most of the current crop of anniversary publications. Telegraph UK

The Left and 9/11

Never mind the Right; progressives are their own worst enemies since 9/11, says Adam Shatz:

The prowar left and the antiwar left have both tended to view the conflict through ideologically tinted prisms. Reflexive anti-Americanism is one such prism. As Don Guttenplan, a London-based correspondent for The Nation, observes, for a small but vocal section of American radicals, “there is only one imperialism, and if it isn’t American it’s not imperialism.” In the past decade this theology of American evil has assumed increasingly twisted forms, including, in some cases, a creeping sympathy for Serbian nationalism. It has also produced a highly selective solicitude for the oppressed: “Muslim grievances” are to be heeded when they emanate from Palestine, but ignored or even repudiated when they arise in Bosnia or Kosovo. This has damaged the left’s moral standing and widened the chasm with human rights activists, who should be our natural allies. The Nation

And Michael Bérubé wonders why the left can’t get 9/11 right


…(Y)ou would think that if the president was having a hard time making his case to the Republican policy elite, let alone the UN, it would be a simple matter for the American left to rally popular opposition to the war as well.

You might think that, but you’d be wrong. Most liberals in Congress are either mumbling under their breath or speaking up only to call for a ”debate” they themselves are unwilling to begin; the progressive left has been noisier, but the progressive left has its own problems, mired as it is in an Afghanistan quagmire of its own making. It would be a positive service to democracy if left-wing public intellectuals would take the lead where elected liberals cannot or will not, urging their fellow Americans that the war on terrorism requires many things – peace in Israel and Palestine, an end to the United States’ long-term addiction to oil – before it requires any regime change in Iraq. But the left is having some trouble providing that service, because one wing of it actually supports military intervention in Iraq, while another wing opposes all military interventions regardless of their objectives. Boston Globe

Turn Back the Arms Race:

Orchestras are becoming louder every year. As the argument goes, concert halls grow larger and orchestras have to get louder, especially as a louder and louder world causes earlier and earlier hearing loss. The cost hs been “a drastic degrading oftone colour” and, in particular, the drowning of the strings in a wash of brass. “Today’s musical instruments are like freakishly gigantic vegetables: the volume is prodigious, the flavour insipid. “

Lambasting cultural ‘parasites’:

Brit Art’s brats get a pasting from Rattle

Less than two weeks before taking up the baton as head of one of the world’s greatest orchestras, conductor Sir Simon Rattle has launched a furious attack on British attitudes to culture and dismissed modern British art as ‘bullshit’.

In an extraordinary verbal assault, Rattle, the new artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic, said that Germany was willing to spend money on the arts in a way that Britain never could. He also slammed the ‘anything goes’ attitude of British post-modernism and denounced leading Brit Art bratpack figures… Guardian UK

A Man On a Gray Horse

I ‘m amazed that Reinhold Niebuhr hasn’t made a comeback since September 11. After all, he was one of America’s most profound writers on war and international conflict. At the start of World War II and then again at the dawn of the Cold War he wrote sweeping books that helped readers to connect their historical situations with broad truths about God and human nature. Yet a Nexis search on Niebuhr turns up only a handful of references to him over the past year. And the few substantive essays that have appeared were written for conservative publications, whereas Niebuhr propounded a hard-nosed liberal view of the world. The situation is depressing: Niebuhr’s arguments were big and ambitious, whereas our debates are small and wonky.” The Atlantic

The Odds of That

“…all these scientists dying within months of one another, at the precise moment when tiny organisms loom as a gargantuan threat. The stories of these dozen or so deaths started out as a curiosity and were transformed rumor by rumor into the specter of conspiracy as they circulated first on the Internet and then in the mainstream media. What are the odds, after all?” NY Times Magazine

Bloomin’ Genius

Joseph Epstein feels that puncturing the bloated balloon that is Harold Bloom is necessary to rejuvenate literary criticism:

Harold Bloom’s success is of a peculiarly American kind and yet not easily fathomed. As a critic, he is not all that accessible and is capable of producing sentences, paragraphs, lengthy stretches that are quite incomprehensible. (“Like Thoreau, Whitman has a touch of the Bhagavad-Gita, but the Hindu vision is mediated by Western hermeticism, with its Neoplatonic and Gnostic elements.” Yeah, sure, as the kids say, right!) He claims to be of the school of aesthetic critics, remarking that, in an ideological age, “I feel quite alone these days in defending the autonomy of the aesthetic.” Yet he himself doesn’t seem to have a clue about how to produce anything approaching the aesthetically pleasing in his own writing. In an interview in the Paris Review, he declared that he never revises his prose, and nothing in his work refutes this impressive claim. Any critic ready to avail himself of such gargoylesque words as “psychokabbalistic” and “pneumognostic,” who can refer to a passage in Montaigne as an “apotropaic talisman,” and can write about the cosmos having been “reperspectivized by Tolstoy,” may be many things, but he ain’t no aesthete. Hudson Review

Here They Are, Science’s 10 Most Beautiful Experiments:

When Robert P. Crease, a member of the philosophy department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the historian at Brookhaven National Laboratory, recently asked physicists to nominate the most beautiful experiment of all time, the 10 winners were largely solo performances, involving at most a few assistants. Most of the experiments — which are listed in this month’s Physics World — took place on tabletops and none required more computational power than that of a slide rule or calculator.

What they have in common is that they epitomize the elusive quality scientists call beauty. This is beauty in the classical sense: the logical simplicity of the apparatus, like the logical simplicity of the analysis, seems as inevitable and pure as the lines of a Greek monument. Confusion and ambiguity are momentarily swept aside, and something new about nature becomes clear. NY Times: Science

Aerial Hysterics:

Bob Herbert: High-Altitude Rambos: “On a recent flight, two U.S. air marshals reacted to an erratic passenger as if they were trying out for Hollywood’s latest action extravaganza.” NY Times op-ed

Fall Equinox

From the Bear Tribe Newsletter:

‘This year, the Autumn equinox falls on September 23rd. We will spend the early part of the day cooking and preparing for the Harvest Celebration. We will set an Altar of fruits, vegetables and brightly colored leaves and then we will light candles of brown, gold, orange, blue and black. The candles will burn all night in gratitude of all we have received from the season past. The next morning, the bounty of our Harvest Altar will be placed in the woods as our give-away back to the Earth and “all our relations.” ‘

Aurora Season Begins:

“Autumn is special in part because lengthening nights and crisp pleasant evenings tempt stargazers outside; they see things they ordinarily wouldn’t. But there’s more to it than that: autumn really does produce a surplus of geomagnetic storms–almost twice the annual average.

see captionIn fact, both spring and autumn are good aurora seasons. Winter and summer are poor. This is a puzzle for researchers because auroras are triggered by solar activity. The Sun doesn’t know what season it is on Earth–so how could one season yield more auroras than another?” NASA

The Childhood Origins of Terrorism

by Lloyd deMause:

“Because so much of the world outside the West has for historical reasons fallen far behind in the evolution of their childrearing practices, the resulting vast differences between psychoclasses have recently turned into a global battle by terrorists against liberal Western values. In order to understand this new battle, it would be useful to know what makes a terrorist – what developmental life histories they share that can help us see why they want to kill “American infidels” and themselves – so we can apply our efforts to removing the sources of their violence and preventing terrorism in the future.

The roots of terrorism lie not in this or that American foreign policy error, but in the extremely abusive families of the terrorists. Children who grow up to be Islamic terrorists are products of a misogynist, fundamentalist system that often segregates the family into two separate areas: the men’s area and the women’s area, where the children are brought up and which the father rarely visits.”

wood s lot comes back out of forced retirement after four days, thanks to the kindness of strangers.