Day 102. Fickin qwerty

September 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Back from Italy (see previous post)

santaprassedeSanta Prassede, Rome

I naturally found myself without any GBPs, but a fair number of EUR. I wondered whether (say) Argos or Le Gavroche would help me out if I tried to use them; and, as usual, sought the advice of tripadvisor.

Here I indeed found the expected question: ‘ I wanted to change euros in pound sterling, but they dind’t have any. So my quention is, can I pay in london with euros instead of pounds?’ (Birgitta B., her spelling.) I was puzzled to find that no fewer than four successive responses had been removed by the site for ‘inappropriate content’. Had the replies been suggesting that euros can be used to bribe MPs, buy drugs or AK-47s, or

nightclub-promoter-jobsDrugs and sex

underage sex or hire hitmen? You’d need more than I have for anything like that. The most useful answer came from ‘Henneth’ (?) in Missouri: it goes

If he’s anythink ljke me he?s trying to type inan fickin tiny qwerty iPhone keypsd while beong knocked around ona bus journey.

iphonebus(ah, the hassle ofmodwrn life)

With his obsession with modwrn life, he’s obviously, like the rest of us, been reading more Baudelaire and Benjamin than is good for him. More time with Cicero and Montaigne, I say (free on the kindle for sure), and less on the qwerty. And put your euros in the collection at your church, mosque or synagogue.

Poetry: (why leave it to the end?}

Rabbi Brant Rosen who has recently resigned from the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston, Illinois (I would refer you to an article in Haaretz, but you’d have to pay) has been publishing his thoughts on two blogs: “Shalom Rav,” which contains his thoughts on Israel/Palestine and “Yedid Nefesh,” which is devoted to his poetry, much of it also focused on Israel/Palestine. Here’s a poem from the latter:

The Strangled Vine

how long will
this people be wrathful,
this nation that feasts
on the tears of its own trauma
so that it might strike out
again and again
against enemies real and imagined?

this nation repeatedly plucked
from its vine until
it cleared and filled the land,
planting its weapons deep
lifting up higher and higher walls,
spreading dread like an iron dome,
hermetically sealed from
all it ever was
or ever dreamed of being?

can you look beyond
this airtight prison of your own making,
beyond your illusion of shelter,
are you even able to see
the carnage your own fear
has unleashed?

look even further
and you will see
that once glorious vine
now withered and strangling
in the dust,
yet patiently waiting
as the uprooted inevitably do,
to be returned to
its source.

Today’s question:

Is military action, e.g. bombing, by the U.S. and allies against Islamic State targets in (a) Iraq, (b) Syria legal?

Answer: What planet do you live on, man? None of the following U.S.-led wars were legal: Grenada, 1985; Kosovo, 1999; Iraq, 2003. Has anyone been sentenced before a war crimes tribunal for them? What are you going to do about them? I recall that a war is legal under the U. N. Charter if (i) it is undertaken in self-defence, or (ii) it is sanctioned by a U. N. Security Council resolution. (Here‘s a speech about all this stuff if you have the patience to read it.) But the Security Council is never going to sanction anything what with all those vetoes; and the Islamic State,

clooneyGeorge Clooney and Amal Amaluddin – in case you’re getting bored or depressed and need some celebs to cheer you up

loathsome as they may be, haven’t attacked the U.S. In the case of Iraq, according to the Daily Beast, ‘Obama has been relying on the Iraqi government’s invitation as its legal rationale for military action.’ (He doesn’t have Congressional approval.) However, (same source) ‘the administration has said almost nothing about why airstrikes in Syria would not be a direct violation of the international law of armed conflict and the United Nations charter, as both the Syrians and their Russian allies have claimed.’

If you aren’t already an addict of the feministish international law blog ‘IntLawGrrls’, I recommend Milena Sterio’s opinion here. Anyone who starts a para with ‘As we all know, Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter’ obviously knows her stuff.

Here we need to return to our Quaker roots (maybe yours are different) and follow the advice of ‘Quakers in Britain’:


“Quakers ask that Parliament discuss whether this is an opportunity for Britain to export peace in a way hitherto unexplored – through our multi-faith and multicultural connections which spread across the world.

“Quakers again ask for Government to take a further critical look at the role that the arms trade plays in promoting and increasing the likelihood of war.”

Some hope.


Raised in the 50’s on Stan Kenton’s version of the Cuban hit ‘Peanut Vendor’ (I think I may have posted it before), I had no idea what a revelation the original ‘El manisero’ by Rita Montaner – 1927, no less – could be. Here she is, somewhere in downtown Havana…


DAY 101: In Proportion

September 22nd, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

OK, I have another apology for a prolonged absence – and I expect that my loyal readers will have by now given up in despair and started reading lacan.comjadaliyya, or ‘the music salon’ or following Naomi Klein‘s twitter feed in disgust; imagining that I’d given up, been kidnapped by fanatical Pentecostals, or fallen sick of flu or anxiety neurosis or chikugunyachikugunya

 Chikugunya virus

and might never be heard from again. No; the facts, as usual, are simpler – a combination of laziness, a brief break in the neighbourhood of Orvieto;

photoVia del Duomo

and then I became unaccountably preoccupied with the Scottish secession movement, which led me on to a rant about Lincoln, Gettysburg and ‘Gone with the Wind’. And then the whole thing was over, and my planned blast against the new Confederacy was dead before it was off the ground. (I did find a recipe for a delicious dish of potato gnocchi with taleggio and pears, which I’d had in Italy; the recipe is a bit overwritten, mercifully the writer has burnt the walnuts and so decided to leave them out.)

Still, something can/may yet be salvaged. I was, by a lucky chance, sent one of those calls for papers from mags who power the American research publication/academic jobs industry, as follows (I quote):

‘This special issue takes a fresh look at relationships between nature, numbers, and narrative in counting (on) the future. It explores the intersections and tensions between sensory or emotive experiences of nature, on the one hand, and the bureaucratic, political, and scientific quantification of the environment, on the other hand. We explore trans-disciplinary questions about how states, citizens, and other entities quantify and standardize the world around them, as well as their own bodies, perceptions, values, and ethics.

Such questions include the following:
How have attempts to quantify and standardize the human senses alienated individuals

kdlangfrom their experiences, facilitated communication and cooperation, or otherwise altered power relations?
What aspects are rendered more or less visible?
How, where and when does quantification lead to consensus, conflict, co-optation, or competition?
How does quantification mobilize implicit and explicit narratives of what the future will (or should) be like?
What is lost and/or gained through such efforts?’

And so on – you can see the kind of thing. 250 word abstract by the end of October, 7000 word paper by the end of December. Any of you who have read my classic text ‘Write an Abstract in Ten Minutes and a Harvard-Referenced Paper in Ten Hours on 200 Cigarettes and Two Pounds of Coffee’ will know that a project like this is both easy and a fun way of passing the weary hours between demonstrations. It was quickly obvious that the recent Gaza aggression had generated a huge amount of quantification in terms of numbers killed as against supposed strategic gain. Now, as we all know, the 1977 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention says that an attacker has committed a war crime if he/she has not observed ‘proportionality’. Amnesty is always claiming – as recently in Gaza – that the Israeli operations P-fce49772-0b1a-45f6-a4b0-38dae6d134f1were not proportional. Hence – in short – a mathematical criterion can define a war crime.

(At this point readers will certainly point out that the Protocol doesn’t actually contain the word ‘proportionality’, though it’s constantly used by lawyers; that no one has defined the criteria although everyone agrees that there should be some; and so on. One could say, we have a crime which is not only mathematical but formally undecidable. Pretty cool, you’ll agree.) With my background in maths and law, the project seemed a pushover. All it needed to persuade a cultural studies journal to pick it up was the odd reference to Badiou – who loves mathematics and hates human rights – and to Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL to you). I tried to bring in Gödel, but he didn’t quite fit. So here, as a sample of how you do it, is my abstract:


‘The idea of ‘proportion’ is as old as mathematics itself, most famously embodied in Euclid’s difficult Book 5.Triangles within Circles, Lecture Diagram circa 1817-28 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Euclid, illustrated by J. M. W. Turner

(Euclid 2010) By drawing on it to define a principle of ‘proportionality’ (ICRC n.d.) and outlawing attacks which do not conform to it international humanitarian law appears to define a crime whose definition is mathematical, and so in principle calculable; and  it is constantly asserted, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently in Gaza (Amnesty 2014).

However, the law of Law, like that of mathematics, is bounded by undecidability and uncertainty. How much is ‘too much’ (Shamash 2005)? The vast literature agrees both that a ‘calculus’ is impossible, but that something like one must be achieved. The answers have to be decided in the context of international law – rarely enforceable, constantly contested and, one might add, institutionally racist (see Baxi 2005). This paper will draw on ideas of TWAIL as well as thoughts of Badiou (Stramignoni 2008) to construct a counter-politics of proportionality where equity and equality confront the inherently disproportionate power relations which rule the world of international humanitarian law.’

I won’t give you the bibliography except for Esther Shamash, a particularly clever find from the 2005 IDF Law Review, no less. You can see that the abstract is both trendy (so appealing to the hypothetical audience) and confrontational (so salving my conscience). I look forward to hearing from the distinguished referees.

This seems an appropriate place (do you really mean that?) to insert Auden’s poem about the law:


Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day.

Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers feebly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.

Law, says the priest with a priestly look,
Expounding to an unpriestly people,
Law is the words in my priestly book,
Law is my pulpit and my steeple.

Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I’ve told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.

Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Anytime, anywhere,
Law is Good morning and Good night.

Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.

And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is We,
And always the soft idiot softly Me.

If we, dear, know we know no more
Than they about the Law,
If I no more than you
Know what we should and should not do
Except that all agree
Gladly or miserably
That the Law is
And that all know this
If therefore thinking it absurd
To identify Law with some other word,
Unlike so many men
I cannot say Law is again,

No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.
Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyway:
Like love I say.

Like love we don’t know where or why,
Like love we can’t compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.

Last night I ran into a Ladino musician who recommended some of his Youtube offerings. (We were waiting for a meeting, in fact we’d both got the time wrong, and how better to pass an hour than talking about Ladino music?) So here’s ‘Adio Querida‘, which speaks for itself…


DAY 100: Where next?

September 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s a complex world, where too many incomprehensible conflicts are going on all around with human rights violations and ethnic cleansing on all sides, to be able to look at the bigger picture and see it all as part of a whole. (I don’t mean that it’s all in the Book of Revelation, or Nostradamus, or something to do with an alien invasionalien_invasion_occupation – I do have my intellectual integrity to think of.) So it’s a relief when someone comes out with a glimpse of such a picture; it comes to us courtesy of the Times of Israel, which isn’t usually given to hysterical exaggeration. As many of us (particularly Shlomo Sand) have been repeating for a long time, the Ashkenazi Jews – who, remember, constituted most of the ‘founding fathers’ of the state of Israel – Herzl, Weizman, Ben Gurion, etc… and are still the hegemonic group in the country – best jobs, most money, and so on – are in fact (this sentence is surely way too long!) descendants of the Khazars, a ‘warlike Turkic people’ who lived in the Ukraine khazaria-smalland converted to Judaism around the 9th century. So a bit like a Jewish-Ukrainian medieval Islamic State, if you follow me.

This ‘Khazar theory’ has been around for ever so long, and has been routinely considered antisemitic, since it suggests that Weizman et al weren’t ‘real’ Jews, but warlike Turkic converts, and so had no right to claim that God had promised them Palestine. (In fact, google Khazar and you’ll find some really scary nutters whose beliefs have more to do with modern conspiracies than 9th century history. Though as we know from Dan Brown, the two are closely related.) However, if you believe the Times, ‘new genetic evidence’ strongly favours the Khazar theory; and when life hands you an etrog, you build a sukkah, as they say.

So what could be more natural than that ‘it is now revealed, Israel will withdraw its settlers from communities beyond the settlement blocs—and relocate them at least temporarily to Ukraine. Ukraine made this arrangement on the basis of historic ties and in exchange for desperately needed military assistance against Russia.’ Boggle is a feeble description of what the mind does, given all this; but it does as I said at the outset, at least link the Middle East and the Ukraine. (We’ll pass over the alleged antisemitic presence in the current Ukrainian government.) Notice that these neo-Khazars who will relocate to Ukraine, adding to the mêlée and providing needed military assistance to the Ukrainian Government are not the comfort-loving citizens of Tel Aviv dizi_frishi_bar_tel_aviv (3)871835000or Netanya, or even the more embattled settlers of Maale Adumim, but some people from ‘beyond the settlement blocs’ – where? If I were the PA, I wouldn’t consider it a major concession. But if I were Prime Minister of Israel – now there’s a thought – and had managed to arrange the location of some troublesome settlers in the Crimea, I’d start looking for some other hotspots where I could make a similar argument. Babylon comes to mind, as a historic home of the Jews in the time of the prophet Daniel; and again a bit of homeland could be exchanged for some military assistance. Eventually all the world’s conflicts will be reduced to one, which will greatly simplify life for those of us whose weeks are spent on marches opposing this and that, and praying for peace here and there.


It seems that the occupation forces have demolished the dairy factory attached to an orphanage in Hebron.Hebron

The remains of the Al-Rayyan yogurt factory after the Israeli army demolished it. (Photo by Youth Against Settlements)

The factory is owned by the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS) of Hebron and is the primary source of income for the organization, which runs two orphanages, nine schools and provides handicapped and impoverished populations with work and stipends. The organization directly aids 4,000 needy people in the Hebron area. Without the factory it will be have great difficulty continuing its charitable activities. For more details see the invaluable 972-mag here.

Philosophy and Media and stuff

I’ve been asked, in a spirit of irony I think, how many Facebook friends Martin Heidegger, the late German philosopher, has. This is hard, because a quick search shows up half a dozen Heidegger facebook groups, all of them closed. Why? don’t Martin’s friends want to meet each other? But I was lucky, finally, to turn up a humdinger, of which the sage of Freiburg would have been proud. It’s called Die Martin-Heidegger-Gesellschaft für Schwerentitätenforschung, and describes itself as ‘das weltweit führende Institut auf dem Gebiet der experimentellen Fundamentalontologie.’ It looks like something which is essential, as so many of us have difficulties about fundamental ontology, and if we could just download an app which would fix them, we could get back to the ready-to-hand. Latest recruit to the group is Sunday Addams (Warum die Ice Bucket Challenge nicht cool ist’)

Screen shot 2014-09-04 at 14.00.47which shows that you don’t have to restrict your attention to ontology.

Quite a while ago, I described Alice and Bob’s problems in communicating – text, email, whatever. I don’t expect you have any idea what happens to your email in the process of sending – apologies to those readers who know their DKIM backwards. But here’s a simple experiment which you can try, as I did: send an innocuous email (‘Hello,world’, or ‘Bugger off’) to a recipient who doesn’t exist, e.g. me@gmail.cos – note the deliberate spelling mistake.

Back comes a cross email from the server saying, predictably, that you’ve been rejected But on top of this, it describes your message in terms something like this:


How do your dozen letters turn into these reams of garbage? How can Bob, on receiving this, make out what Alice is trying to say?

I’ve been puzzling over this for much too long for my own good; and given the amount I’ve already written in this centenary post, I’ll hold over the fiendish explanation.

goyaThe sleep of reason generates monsters

However, as an aid to figuring it out: all those weird characters (upper and lower case letters, digits from 1 to 0, and + or /) belong to a set of 26+26+10+2=64 symbols which some international outfit has settled on as suitable for transmission by their criteria – e.g. ‘readable by humans’. Patronising, eh? More information next time, or not.

I think it’s time for a poem in quechua (or have I posted one before? I need a proper filing system.)

Viene la Noche por la Puna

Kamayoq = author = autor: June Ireland 


Tutayay Jamun Punata, (Quechua version)

Puman hamun tutayaypi punaman,
chakillampas upallallam,
yawarta maskaspa puma hamun.

Killan hamun tutayaypi punaman,
k’anchay ruk’anantin
juntka, ruiro killa hamun.

Llaman hamun tutayaypi punaman,
quyllor hina ñawintin,
llantullamanta paqarin, llaman hamun.

Wairan hamun tutayaypi punaman,
kichasqa simintin,
qaparistin, waqastin
wairan hamun.

Rit’in hamun tutayaypi punaman,
qespi silluntin,
chiripas chiphchistin
rit’in humun.

Puma ye killa, hanaqpacha llaman,
waira ye rit’i, sumay sumaq.
Punaq tutanpi chainan kausakuni.

The Puma comes by night, (English version)

Comes the puma
through the night
across the highlands
on feet of silence
seeking blood
comes the puma.

Comes the moon
through the night
over the highlands
with fingers of light
full and round
comes the moon.

Comes the constellation of the Llama
through the night
over the highlands
with eyes made of stars
born in shadows
comes the Llama.

Comes the wind
through the night
across the highlands
with mouth wide open
shouting, wailing
comes the wind.

Comes the ice
through the night
across the highlands
with crystal fingernails
sparkling with cold
comes the ice.

Puma and moon
constellation of Llama
wind and ice
beautiful enchantment.
Night in the highlands
thus am I fed.

Music: What could do justice to this special edition? Here, whether or not it’s appropriate, is Dionne Warwick in ‘Walk on By‘…

See you in the next century.

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