Friday, December 7, 2012

Cheap shots: Finite, extraordinary, and unnatural states of affairs

David Brooks, talking on the Teevee:
And so what happened is, the election happened. Obama wins. Clearly, he ran on raising tax or raising revenue from the top 2 percent, centerpiece. 
Republicans are not stupid. They sort of understand that. And so they went through a process. The day after, Boehner said, OK, revenues, but not rates, and some began to drift over, OK, rates. 
And so you have had movement, until Friday or until yesterday, Thursday, when Tim Geithner goes up there and delivers an ultimatum, which is a chest-thumping stick in the eye to the Republicans.
And here I thought Geithner was a lad of some breeding! One never uses one's chest-thumping stick in someone's eye, for heaven's sake, it's like eating soup with the lobster fork.
Harem Bath, Jean-Léon Gérôme (1889). From Melbourne Blogger.
My neighborhood shul:
The leadership of one of New York’s most vibrant Jewish congregations, B’nai Jeshurun, has shocked some of its congregants by sending out an e-mail enthusiastically supporting the United Nations’ vote last week to upgrade Palestine to a nonmember observer state.
A little scripture in the email:
In this week’s Parashat Vayishlach, Jacob battles with the angel and earns the name Israel. It is the first time we are recognized as the people of Israel. Our own struggles were rewarded exactly 65 years ago on 29 November 1947 with the UN partition plan that acknowledged the right of the Jewish people to an independent state.

The Parasha also tells us how Jacob prepares to meet his brother Esau again, 20 years after fleeing from him. The risks are real — Esau has threatened to kill him. This meeting is the biblical prototype of confrontation between Israel and the nations. Before the meeting with Esau, Jacob prepares in three ways: he divides his camp in two, he prays to God, and he sends Esau gifts and conciliatory messages. These three tactics mirror the basic strategies that Israel has at its disposal: preparation for battle, prayer, and diplomacy.
(They've now walked that back a little: the original email was missing "key passages on the diversity of views in our community" and may have caused a "feeling of alienation" among some members.)
Suleiman the Magnificent, attributed to Titian, ca. 1530. From Wikipedia via Potpourri.
Hopeful nugget in a Raw Story account of something else (Dianne Feinstein's ban on indefinite detention): The Oveseas Contingency Operation, or erstwhile GWOT, will end some day!
Although neither Presidents Bush nor Obama have discussed actually ending the war on terror, now in its 12th year, one top official recently did just that. 
Jeh Johnson, one of the Pentagon’s top attorneys, gave a speech on Friday in which he claimed “there will come a tipping point” in which al-Qaeda has been “effectively destroyed.” Once that has happened, and he didn’t say when, Johnson said he believes “our efforts should no longer be considered an armed conflict.” 
“‘War’ must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs,” he added. “We must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the ‘new normal.’ Peace must be regarded as the norm toward which the human race continually strives.”
Hurrem Sultan, 1500-58. Uncredited painting via Unusual Historicals. Suleiman the Magnificent scandalized his court when he took her as sole wife, monogamy not being a normal sultanic practice, and things got tenser still when she moved out of the harem and into his own living quarters.
The Brothers need to chill!

This page is always very tender toward Muslims who want to get involved in democratic politics, from the U.S. to the Maghreb and on to Xinjiang (or East Turkestan, as some of the natives prefer to call it), and nowhere more than Turkey and Egypt, where they oppose a secular establishment that really resists democracy—maybe a good deal too tender, because I do not wish to condone mistreatment of women or exclusion of minorities (as some allege the draft Egyptian constitution would permit).

I should add that they are also capable of making themselves ridiculous, as in the current spat in Turkey over the television series The Magnificent Century, a soap opera version of the love story between Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (reigned 1520 to 1566) and his favorite wife, Hurrem. Apparently since the secular establishment in Turkey continues to celebrate itself as the vibrant young alternative (at the age of 90!) to the Ottoman empire, and vilify the empire as a sink of fez-wearing degradation, the Brothers by oppositional instinct treat the Ottomans as saintly martyrs, and they object to the depiction of Topkapi as the location of sexytime activities and wine-drinking (presumably the most historically accurate elements of the script). Shocked, shocked to learn that there are lawful connubial pleasures being experienced in this harem! 

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