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Archive for September, 2010

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Interview with Robert Hanning, author of “Serious Play”

Serious PlayRobert W. Hanning was interviewed, on the publication of his book, Serious Play. Desire and Authority in the Poetry of Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto, by Pocahontas Perelstein, feminist critic and talk show host. A partial transcript follows:

Q: How did this book come about? Why did you choose to write about comic poets, and these three in particular?

Robert W. Hanning: As I indicate in my introduction, I’ve always been attracted to comic writing, and, more fundamentally, to laughter as an important response to the insanities, though not the injustices, of human life. When I encounter a writer who sees humor as a necessary part of his or her engagement with personal and political realities, I am immediately sympathetic to what he or she is attempting, whether it be a contemporary or a premodern author. I called my book, and the lectures on which it’s based, Serious Play because I firmly believe that comedy is, among other things, an extremely profound medium for commenting effectively on important issues without resorting to mind-numbing solemnity. A perfect example of serious play in near-contemporary American writing is Edward Rivera’s superb fictionalized memoir of Puerto Rican immigrant hardship and tragedy, Family Installments. But given my training as a medievalist, specializing in the poetry of Chaucer, it was ultimately easier for me to enter the mindset of, and write about, his comic vision, and then to extend my reach to the Roman Ovid and the Italian Renaissance Ariosto.

Q: You make a distinction between satire and the kind of comedy embraced by Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto. How do you do so, and how defensible a contrast do you really think it is?

RWH: As to the latter point, I’m not at all sure theorists of genre will agree on distinguishing as I do between satire and the kind of comic writing “my” three poets practiced. The argument I make is that a satirist adopts the pose of someone explicitly or implicitly superior to the people and the foibles singled out for (usually exaggerated) critique. By contrast, Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto, each in his own way, make a point of recognizing that they are very much a part of the human errancy on which their poetry battens. Ovid’s supposed Professor of Erotic Studies—both getting in and getting out—is forced to confess that his susceptibility to amorous passion has frequently prevented him from following his own prescriptions for calculated, unecumbered seduction—”I was one sick love doctor,” he admits of one such occasion Chaucer repeatedly casts himself as one who writes about love without being able to experience it, and Ariosto, in a famous passage at the exact midpoint of the Orlando Furioso, defends himself in these words against another’s accusation that he is as pixilated by desire as all those (beginning with his hero) whom love has driven mad: “I tell you that I know exactly what’s going on—as long as my mind enjoys a lucid interval” (OF 24.3.3-4). That is, what separates the comic poet from the objects of his exposure and ridicule is not his innate superiority to them, but his ability (represented by the Italian poet as a “lucido intervallo”) to recognize—and thus to laugh at, if not necessarily to avoid—the same mistakes and follies.

(more…)

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Interview with Seth Stein, author of “Disaster Deferred”

Disaster DeferredThe following is an interview with Seth Stein, author of Disaster Deferred: How New Science is Changing Our View of Earthquake Hazards in the Midwest.

Q: What’s wrong with the stories we hear about the 1811 and 1812 New Madrid earthquakes?

Seth Stein: A lot of what you hear is hype. For example, you hear that these were the biggest earthquakes that ever hit the U.S. In fact there are about 15 earthquakes of the same magnitude somewhere in the world every year. Similarly, the story that they rang church bells in Boston isn’t true. Actually, there’s no record that anyone in Boston felt them. There’s also the story that the Indian chief Tecumseh predicted them. Actually, after the earthquakes he told his followers that they proved that the Great Spirit was on the Indians’ side.

Q: The government says that earthquakes will again happen in the Midwest and cause a huge natural disaster unless we start preparing now. Why do you disagree?

S.S.: Twenty years ago every geologist thought that. We knew there had been big earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, and geological studies showed that there had been earthquakes in about 1450 and 900 AD. So it looked like earthquakes happen about every 500 years. We couldn’t test that idea until about 1990, when the Global Positioning System–GPS–came along. That let us put markers in the ground and measure the position of the Midwestern fault lines using a fancier version of the GPS systems used in cars and cell phones. Geologists started making measurements near faults all around the world where there was a history of earthquakes. They discovered you could measure the ground moving as it stored up energy for a future earthquake. To our surprise, measurements at the New Madrid earthquake zone showed that the ground wasn’t moving. We concluded there is no sign that a big Midwestern earthquake is on the way.

Q: Don’t the small earthquakes happening in the Midwest today prove that a huge one is coming?
S.S.: Our results show that most of those small earthquakes are aftershocks of the big earthquakes from 200 years ago. It makes sense because they happen on the faults we think moved 200 years ago.

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Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

John Calvert on Sayyid Qutb

Sayyid QutbOn Rorotoko, John Calvert. author of Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism, offers a fascinating discussion of the subject of his book and his ambitions in writing the book.

While recognizing the faults of Qutb’s fundamentalist thought, he also challenges many preconceptions Westerns have regarding his role as a progenitor of Osama bin Laden and the tactics and beliefs of al Qaeda. Qutb, Calvert suggests, would have rejected the use of indiscriminate violence. While Qutb decried the influence of Western secularism in the Islamic world and challenged the legitimacy of secular regimes in Muslim nations, he also looked to Islam to restore “a sense of religious meaning to an immoral and disenchanted colonial world.”

Calvert also describes his critical but empathetic approach to Qutb, which emphasizes his contemporary context of Nasser-led Egypt as well as his own emotional state and his simmering discontent regarding the state of the Islamic world.

Calvert concludes the piece by addressing what’s at stake in his book and the risks of relying on our assumptions about Qutb and his impact on radical Islam:

And if some students of the jihad are careful to situate Qutb correctly in relation to al-Qaeda, still they often consign him to the position of opening act. Rarely do observers of the Islamist scene address Qutb’s singularity.

Herein lies a lesson. In resorting to short cuts, we pass over a history that is as nuanced as any other. We run the danger of succumbing to a “neo-Orientalist” style that subordinates particulars to an essential and enduring identity, and that ignores complexity in favor of simplicity.

It is this kind of essentialist thinking that has led some to posit a “clash of civilizations,” or to consider all Islamist movements as identical in terms of aims, strategies and tactics. There is a great deal of ideological and organizational difference, for example, between the Muslim Brotherhood and the groups inspired by al-Qaeda.

Researchers need to study Islamist thinkers and movements on their own terms, with reference to their distinctive environment and concerns. Only by regarding Islamist discourses as flexible and historically contingent will we, as outsiders to the phenomenon, comprehend the various challenges put forward by Islamists in the contemporary period.

For this reason, I chose in the book to situate Sayyid Qutb firmly in his Egyptian environment, examining the evolution of his ideas with reference to the tumultuous events of the time.

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Jerelle Kraus on the New York Times Op-Ed at 40

Yesterday’s New York Times celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the op-ed section. Part of the commemoration is a video dedicated to the influential illustrations of the op-ed section.

The video includes an interview with Jerelle Kraus, the former art director at the New York Times (1979-1989, 1993-1996), and author of All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some that Wasn’t): Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Page, reveals the true story of the world’s first Op-Ed page. Not only did the New York Times‘s nonstaff bylines shatter tradition, but the pictures were revolutionary. Unlike anything ever seen in a newspaper, Op-Ed art became a globally influential idiom that reached beyond narrative for metaphor and changed illustration’s very purpose and potential.

In the interview, Kraus focuses on how the influx of artists from the Eastern bloc in the 1970s and 80s transformed Times coverage of the Cold War

For more information on the book including a gallery of many of the images found in the book you can visit jerellekraus.com.

Here are some sample images from the book:

Nixon
Obama

Kruger
Bird

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Dosse on Deleuze and Guattari

Francois Dosse, author of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives, has been touring the country discussing the book. To packed houses at NYU, Columbia, and Harvard, Dosse has been discussing the somewhat unlikely partnership that had a profound effect on post-1968 thinking. (Dosse will also be in Baltimore, Alabama, and California over the next few days to discuss the book.) For our French-speaking readers, below is a video of Dosse discussing the book:

For those who don’t speak French, here is a brief excerpt from the Introduction describing the nature of their collaboration. (The Introduction also discusses how the two found each other and how each served an important intellectual function for the other.)

The two men created a veritable laboratory for testing their ideas, thanks to the transversal nature of their work. Guattari’s contribution to Deleuze was above all a breath of fresh air in a rarefied universe. “You felt that he rejoiced in his meetings with Félix. They seemed happy to be meeting, although they didn’t see each other much because they knew how delicate human relations can be.”

The differences in their personalities produced a two-speed machine: “Our rhythms were always different. Félix complained that I didn’t respond to his letters, but I could not answer immediately; it took me one or two months, by which time Félix had already moved on.” By contrast, however, when they worked together, each would force the other into taking firm positions, and this would go on until both fighters were exhausted and the idea they were discussing and arguing about had taken off; something like a “setting” or foundation for the idea arose from their work of proliferation and dissemination: “I considered that Félix had real insights, whereas I was a kind of lightning rod stuck in the ground so that the idea could take a different shape, and then Félix corrected it, etc. That’s how our work developed.”

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

How Unusual Is China’s Currency Policy? — A post by Steven Bryan

Steven Bryan
The following post is from Steven Bryan author of The Gold Standard at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: Rising Powers, Global Money, and the Age of Empire.

There is no great mystery to the appeal of depreciating currencies for countries relying on exports or intent on developing industry or relieving domestic unemployment. Nor is there anything particularly novel about countries seeking the advantages of a depreciated currency. Historically, depreciating one’s currency relative to other countries has been a standard tool to promote economic development. This was true in the late-nineteenth century when the rising powers of the age sought currency systems most favorable to exports and domestic growth. It was true in the 1970s and 1980s when the United States pressured Japan, Germany, and other countries to revalue their currencies. It is true today when China intervenes to depreciate its currency and the United States applies pressure to cause that currency to appreciate.

In broad strokes, depreciating currency aids exporters, and industries that rely on exports, by decreasing prices of exported goods in foreign currency. Depreciation also makes goods imported from foreign countries more expensive in local currency. This is as true today as it was in the 1890s. It is why sudden, relative currency appreciation in exporting countries so often leads to financial and broader economic crises, particularly when tied to borrowing in foreign currency.

Appreciating currency helped spark the economic crises in Asia in the late 1990s and Argentina in the early 2000s. Various studies have found that currency appreciation played a role in Japan’s “lost decade” of the 1990s either by itself or by prompting attempts to combat appreciation that led to Japan’s asset bubble of the late 1980s and subsequent bust. Rapid appreciation of the yen relative to the dollar since late 2008 has exacerbated the effects of the global economic crisis for Japanese industries.

(more…)

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

James Fleming takes the page 99 test and is featured in the American Scholar

James FlemingJames Fleming author of Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate, explains what page 99 of his book does and does not reveal about his work:

Page 99 of Fixing the Sky tells two stories of rain fakers: the charlatans Doctor Sykes and Colonel Stingo who conducted a weather betting scam at Belmont race track, and Irving Krick, who sold rainmaking to farmers and prepared weather forecasts “tailored to be just what the client wanted to hear.” This page addresses the checkered history and tragicomedy of weather control and its commercialization, but does not reveal some of the other themes in the book: climate control, militarization of the sky, and the role that history can play in public policy.

Fleming’s book was also mentioned in an article on geoengineering in the current issue of American Scholar. The article considers some of the scientific, philosophical, environmental, and political arguments made both for and against controlling the climate to help curtail global warming. For his part, James Fleming is decidedly against it. The article quotes Fleming:

“Geoengineering is in fact untested and dangerous. We don’t understand it, we can’t test it on smaller than planetary scales, and we don’t have the political capital, wisdom, or will to govern it. Planetary tinkering is not ‘cheap,’ as some economists claim, since the side effects are unknown. It poses a moral hazard by possibly reducing incentives to mitigate. It could be attempted unilaterally, or worse, proliferate among rogue states, and . . . learning from history, it would be militarized. Geoengineering could violate a number of existing treaties.”

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

“Fried chicken and French fries to snack. Soccer after school. Hip hop music. Nike threads. Family obligations. Difference has rarely been so strikingly familiar”

Justin Gest, Apart

Justin Gest begins his book Apart: Alienated and Engaged Muslims in the West with a description of the young man portrayed on the cover of the book (see above). Zak lives on London’s East End in an unfinished project. Like many teens in the West he eats junk food, listens to hip hop, plays soccer, and wears Nike sneakers and clothes. Yet, as Gest’s title suggests, Zak, because he is Muslim does not feel at home in his surroundings. Gest writes:

Fried chicken and French fries to snack. Soccer after school. Hip hop music. Nike threads. Family obligations. Difference has rarely been so strikingly familiar.

And yet Zak is treated differently. He hears and reads that he actually is quite different. And Zak says, indeed, he feels different. ‘No I don’t feel British,’ he asserts forcefully, almost to himself as much as to anyone else. ‘Their values have nothing to do with mine.’

‘The way we’ve grown up here in the big country of the UK,’ he says, as he gestures back toward the empty lot, ‘we’ve only ever really seen Mile End.’

He goes quiet, and nods in the direction of a neighbor in a flowing white prayer gown, passing by on the uneven pavement. Lowering his voice, he says, ‘You know, yeah, I would love to change the world, but when you think about it, it’s not going to happen. I can’t worry about them, because I got other things. I gotta feed my family…’

He pauses pensively.

‘Besides, you’re just a pawn in their game. They just want your vote. They don’t give a [damn] about you.’

(more…)

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Jonathan Soffer on the Legacy of Ed Koch

Ed Koch

Sam Roberts begins his New York Times review of Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City by citing a decade-old survey of scholars, which ranked Koch as the 15th worst mayor in American history. Not too good. But is this assessment fair?

In his book Soffer offers a new view of Koch’s legacy, arguing:

Koch faced challenges greater than any New York mayor of the 20th century and met many of them, quite simply the greatest turnaround accomplished by any New York mayor in the 20th century, including Fiorello H. La Guardia.

According to Soffer, Koch’s own style, his cockiness, not to mention his racial divisiveness did not help his reputation but that should not negate the fact that “Koch bravely faced one of the worst crises in New York history, restructured the city with minimal help from the federal government and kept it solvent and growing for a generation.”

For more on the book, you can also read an interview with Jonathan Soffer.

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Bloggers from around the World Review Pomodoro!

Tomato

The Crispy Cook organized other bloggers from around the world to review David Gentilcore’s book Pomodoro!: A History of the Tomato in Italy. Bloggers from Athens, Crete, England, Canada, Hawaii, and upstate New York not only weighed in on the book and its surprising history history but also offered some interesting tomato recipes.

Recipes include a garlicky tomato sauce, oven roasted tomatoes, stuffed Roma tomatoes, a “sexy” tomato and goat cheese tart, and the classic Caprse salad.

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City

Benjamin Schwarz’s “Editor’s Choice” in The Atlantic includes a discussion of Jonathan Soffer’s Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City. (The article unexpectedly begins with the “sequel” to The Preppy Handbook and ends with Soffer’s book.

Schwarz praises Soffer for his analysis of Koch’s administration as both stabilizing New York City during the late 1970s and setting the stage for the city’s later revitalization. Schwarz writes, “[Soffer] has written a precise and scrupulously honest, Marxian-inflected assessment of Koch’s mayoralty.” As one might suspect from this praise, Soffer’s book also criticizes Koch for some of his failings, and for pinning the city’s fortunes on the financial sector, a trend which continues to this day:

But of necessity [Koch] yoked the city’s revival and future health to the tax revenues garnered from the financial, insurance, and real-estate sectors—the ballooning and busting of which have fundamentally altered the city’s character, and perhaps vitiated the nation’s economy and public morality.

On a different note but still related to Koch, here is a clip from the Web site Old Jews Telling Jokes. Koch’s joke recounts an experience he had during his first run for mayor in 1977. The joke crystallizes the way many New Yorkers felt about the city at the time.

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

The Changing Face of the Taliban

TalibanIn a recent issue of the London Review of Books , Jonathan Steele examines the current situation in Afghanistan and reviews two recent CUP books, My Life with the Taliban, the autobiography of former Taliban leader Abdul Salam Zaeef, and Decoding the New Taliban, edited by Antonio Giustozzi.

Steele, who interviewed Taliban leaders when they were in power in 1996 notes changes in the organization’s ideology and also corrects Western assumptions. Citing Giustozzi’s book, Steele describes the Taliban as no longer technologically averse, frequently using it for propaganda purposes but also less ideologically strict. Steele writes, “They no longer ban TV, music, dog-fighting and kite-flying; nor do they insist on the old rule that men grow beards long enough to be held in the fist.”

Steele also recounts Zaeef’s description of his reactions to 9/11 in My Life with the Taliban, an event which took him totally by surprise but also one he realized would create problems for Afghanistan:

Zaeef maintains that he was shocked by al-Qaida’s attack on 9/11, of which he had no foreknowledge. He says he wept when he watched TV pictures of the burning buildings and people throwing themselves out and falling to the ground like stones: ‘I stared at the pictures in disbelief.’ He immediately saw the likely repercussions. ‘I knew that Afghanistan and its poverty-stricken people would ultimately suffer for what had just taken place in America. The United States would seek revenge.’ He admits that some of the Taliban watching the scene were jubilant and thought the US was too far away to retaliate. ‘How could they be so superficial?’ he asks.

(more…)

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Andy Smith on Breakfast Cereal

Captain CrunchOn Friday, Andy Smith, author of Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine, was on The Leonard Lopate Show to discuss the history of breakfast cereal.

Joined by none other than Edwin Chavey (aka Mr. Breakfast), director of The Cereal Project , Smith discussed the popularization of Quaker Oats in the 1890s, the invention of shredded wheat, and revealed the role of vegetarians in promoting breakfast cereal as an alternative to the heavily meat-inflected breakfast meal of ordinary Americans in the nineteenth century. Smith and Chavey also looked at the “dark side” of breakfast cereals—sugar—and the ways in cereal has been marketed to children.

Finally, no discussion would be complete without touching on why Grape Nuts are called “Grape Nuts” despite having neither as ingredients and how Rice Krispies achieves its snap, crackle, and pop.

Listen to the entire discussion:

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Jonathan Soffer at the Brooklyn Book Festival

Jonathan Soffer, Ed KochJonathan Soffer, author of the forthcoming Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City will be on what promises to be an excellent panel at this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 12.

Soffer’s panel, “Change Gonna Come: The Fluid Life of New York City,” will be from 1-2 and be held at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Here’s a description of the panel:

Change is Gonna Come: The Fluid Life of New York City

In a city like New York, change is constant. Yet coupled with that change comes numerous and often times competing interests. Sharon Zukin (Naked City), Roberta Brandes Gratz (The Battle for Gotham) and Martin Lemelman (Two Cents Plain) consider the perpetual ebb and flow of The Big Apple and how it affects us all. Moderated by Phillip Lopate (Waterfront).

The Brooklyn Book Festival is one of, if not the best literary event in New York City, gathering some of the best writers from the New York City area and the world.

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Counter-Archive and Photos from the Albert Kahn Collection

counter-archive-paula-amad

In Counter-Archive: Film, the Everyday, and Albert Kahn’s Archives de la Planète Paula Amad examines one of the most extraordinary collections of film and photography.

Tucked away in a garden on the edge of Paris is a multimedia archive like no other: Albert Kahn’s Archives de la Planète (1908-1931). Kahn’s vast photo-cinematographic experiment preserved world memory through the privileged lens of everyday life, and Counter-Archive situates this project in its biographic, intellectual, and cinematic contexts.

At the heart of the book is an insightful meditation upon the transformed concept of the archive in the age of cinema. While Amad’s work offers the first comprehensive study of Kahn’s films, the photographs from the collection, documenting life in the early twentieth century are also extraordinary.

Recently the Web site City Noise posted photographs from the collection. Some examples are below and click here for more.

Counter-Archive

(more…)

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

The Number One Cause of College Happiness — David Leibow

David Leibow, What to Do When College Is Not the Happiest Time of Your LifeOn his blog The College Shrink, David Leibow, author of What to Do When College Is Not the Best Time of Your Life, uncovers the reason why college students are so unhappy.

How unhappy are they? According to a 2009 survey conducted by the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment, 39 percent of college students will feel hopeless during the school year and 25 percent will feel so depressed they’ll find it hard to function, 47 percent will experience overwhelming anxiety, and 84 percent will feel overwhelmed by all they have to do.

The primary reason for their unhappiness? As Leibow points out, academics, by a fairly wide margin, causes the most anxiety and angst for college students. Expectations and pressure to succeed take their toll on students fearing they will disappoint parents or jeopardize their career opportunities.

The reason why students have so much trouble with academics, Leibow suggests is that they are unprepared and in particular they don’t know how to study. This is a problem among students from both weak and strong high schools. Students are reluctant to ask for help and colleges are reluctant to take up the responsibility of teaching students how to study.

Leibow writes,

Since few colleges are currently offering this instruction, there’s room for innovation. To be successful, however, one stubborn facet of human nature cannot be ignored. I speak here of pride – the bravado of students, the ambition of faculty, and the grandiosity of institutions of higher learning.

If pride isn’t taken into account, some college students, some faculty and even some universities will view themselves as above taking, teaching or offering these courses. They’ll carry on letting students learn by trial and error. And they’ll continue to be dismayed when good students do bad work, or give up altogether. Courses on how to study have to be mandatory for all college students no matter what kind of high school they come from.

The best way to legitimize college courses on how to study is to make them as intellectually rigorous and pedagogically sound as any other course. When students study chemistry, foreign languages, or music composition they have a didactic component, where they learn theory, and they have a lab, where they get to put what they’ve learned into practice. Courses on how to study should emphasize the lab.

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Bruce Hoffman and Faisal Devji and Their New Venues

For those seeking smart, original commentary or commentary events and the “war on terrorism,” Bruce Hoffman and Faisal Devji, two prominent Columbia University Press authors recently started new writing ventures that should be of great interest.

Earlier this summer, Bruce Hoffman, author of Inside Terrorism and the series editor for Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare, began blogging for The National Interest. Hoffman’s posts weigh in and analyze events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, and Palestine. Needless to say, he also comments on efforts to combat terrorism but there are also surprises, including his picks for great fiction reading and a look at Osama bin Laden’s “rebellious” son.

Faisal Devji, author of The Terrorist in Search of Humanity: Militant Islam and Global Politics, recently wrote his first column for Current Intelligence. His first post, “The Moderate Muslim’s Fate,” offers a new perspective on the controversy about the proposed mosque to be built in downtown Manhattan.

Devji argues that most of the discussion surrounding the planned mosque fail to “address the controversy’s larger and more lasting implications.” Among other arguments, Devji suggests that the debate reflects that those who oppose the mosque “have realised that the Global War on Terror is effectively over, and that the US faces no existential threat from terrorism, despite the continuing possibility of random attacks at home and the need that still remains to deal with some insurgencies abroad.”

(more…)

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Rashid Khalidi and Menachem Klein on the Middle East Peace Process

“Moreover, as an Israeli I do not see my government building public trust in the peace talks or in the Palestinian partner, nor expressing serious desire to achieve peace and building public enthusiasm for it.”—Menachem Klein

Room for Debate, an online feature on the New York Times website invited Rashid Khalidi, author of Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness , and Menachem Klein, author of the forthcoming, The Shift: Israel-Palestine from Border Struggle to Ethnic Conflict to contribute to a discussion responding to the question, “Will Netanyahu or the Israeli government ever be able to bring the settler movement on board in any peace process?”

Rashid Khalidi argues that “if the Obama administration accepts the myth that dismantling settlements is impossible for Israel, there are no prospects for peace.” Khalidi believes that the settlements were a project to colonize Palestinian land that has been supported by the Israeli government since 1967. He also suggests that settlers would move with suitable incentives and that the United States could help finance housing settlers within Israel’s borders.

Menachem Klein, who is an Israeli, shares Khalidi’s pessimism about Israel’s commitment to the peace process. His piece, entitled “A Lack of Commitment” also focuses on how the Israeli state has been the main supporter of the settlers.

(more…)

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Summer Reading from The Immanent Frame

Kip Kosek, Acts of ConscienceThe Immanent Frame, a blog on secularism, religion, and the public sphere hosted on the Social Science Research Council’s site, recently asked some of its contributors what they had read and liked over the summer. It is a great list and we were glad to see that a couple of contributors identified Kip Kosek’s award-winning book Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern Democracy, including Tracy Fessenden, who also recommended the forthcoming book After Pluralism: Reimagining Religious Engagement, edited by Courtney Bender and Pamela E. Klassen.

Also recommending the book is aforementioned Pamela Klassen, who writes:

“Kosek’s book tells the story of a “radical religious vanguard” of liberal Protestant pacifists in the United States between the two world wars. A mix of theologians, clergy, and lay activists, the Fellowship of Reconciliation forwarded a sophisticated political and religious critique of state violence that was informed as much by their interpretation of Jesus as by Gandhian satyagraha. Kosek’s attention to the uses of ritual in the movement, and the Fellowship’s influence on later versions of civil disobedience offers an important corrective to overly intellectualized portrayals of Protestant political dissent.”

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Interview with Ami Pedahzur — The Israeli Secret Services & The Struggle Against Terrorism

The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism
The following is a reprint of an interview with Ami Pedahzur, author of
The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism. The book is now available in paperback:

Q: Have you ever worked for the Mossad or any other intelligence agency?

Ami Pedahzur: No. never. I was a senior medic in the IDF, and there was nothing clandestine or exotic in that.

Q: So what led you to the topic of the Israeli secret services and their struggle against terrorism?

AP: When I was six years old, IDF stunned the world when its elite forces released the Israeli and Jewish Hostages of Air France flight 139, who were being held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Entebbe, Uganda. Like most of the kids of my generation, I idolized the heroic soldiers and started reading whatever I could find about the Israeli struggle against terrorism. I have not stopped since then.

Q: One cannot avoid noting the critical tone in your book. What happened? What made you change your outlook?

AP: Well, after a decade of studying terrorism and especially during the second Intifada with the long campaign of suicide attacks, I started asking myself the following question: If Israel is indeed such a superpower in counterterrorism as it wants the world to believe, why has terrorism against Israelis only intensified and become more deadly over the years?

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