Monday, December 29, 2008

Casus Belli

A question that I have been batting around for the last two days is: what constitutes as casus belli? In some ways I don't think it is a relevant question, or more to the point, there might not be such a thing as a casus belli in a sub-conventional conflict. But if there were (what does that even mean?) what would such an incitement look like?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Notes on Poetry in Islam

I am currently working on a research group examining how Aristotle's Poetics was read in Medieval Islamic, Jewish, and Christian settings. I am particularly interested in how Averroes read the Poetics in his two commentaries on that work and the dangers he may have encountered in his outlook on poetry. Yes, I said dangers. And, as an indication that such dangers are still present today, here is an excerpt from the end of an article, written by someone from Australia on Islamic forms of poetry:
I hope that this short essay will help you to remove from your mind the cobweb that you might have regarding poetry in Islam. If we go by the Islamic rules then only Hamd and Naat (some of them written by the great Islamic poet Golam Mostafa) are the only poems allowed in Islam. Almost all the poems written in Bangladesh are unIslamic and all most all the poets are engaged, in many cases, in blasphemy acts whether they realise this or not. Although there is no specific hudud punishment specified in Sharia for writing poetry, please know that if a poetry is considered grossly offensive and/or blasphemous then the punishment is death by beheading.

As one can see, the message is now very clear. Most of the poets of Bangladesh (or any other country) are the potential targets for capital punishment if an Islamic Paradise is established and ‘real Islam’ is practiced in Bangladesh.

Yikes! If the situation in 13th century Spain was anything like the one described here, Averroes was really living on the edge by discussing and praising Homer and pre-Islamic poetry.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I want a representative, darn it!

So we might get Caroline Kennedy as our U.S. senator from NY. Why can't we get a representative, you know, someone who represents the interests of NYers (and not just those downstate)? Clinton carpet-bagged and spent her tenure making a presidential run. The only up-state work of hers I know is helping to keep the Niagara Falls airbase open and supporting grape growers. It would be nice if someone came along who actually, knew or cared about the constituents.

Brian Higgins 2010!


I live in this universe, and I come to expect bizarre, unthinking behaviors by others. I am still, however, confused by the outpouring of animosity towards Pres. Bush in the wake of the footwear flinging yesterday. Eight years ago the Iraqis were under the rule of a brutal dictator. Then the US went in and removed said evil dictator causing wide-spread elation. Then the Iraqis tried to kill each other, keeping US forces in Iraq. Why are they angry at us exactly?

Here is just one quote:
Abu Ali, a 55-year-old laborer, said: “It is a wedding of all Iraqis. Muntader’s action is less than Bush deserves for killing, displacing and bloodletting Iraqis. I will blame the Iraqi government and American forces if anything wrong happens to Muntader.”
We haven't been wantonly killing Iraqis. This is not a war against Arabs, but against people that want to kill Arabs* (many of whom, happen to be arab themselves, this is true). Now the academic is me wants to analyze this and ask why there exists this deep misperception about the role of the US forces in Iraq. But my other part is utterly confused.

There has been abuse, and it is not a trivial matter, but our troops are drawing down and it will not be a open ended occupation. I can imagine that Iraqis are frustrated by the constraints on their daily lives and blame the US for their woes (though I expect better from academics), but that still does not make it reasonable (not that political science cares all that much whether people are reasonable or not). If the Iraqis feel they are better for not having Saddam around they ought to thank Bush. I can imagine Iraqis saying their lives are worse now than under Saddam, but I cannot believe that the majority want him back.

It is we in the US that would seem to have cause to throw shoes (wiretapping, tourture, misleading the public about a war) not the Iraqis.

*Fine, not initially, but that is what it has turned into.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jerusalem Post Headline

"Haifa: Two teenagers arrested for shooting at each other during Shabbat". Just because the buses in Haifa run on shabbat, doesn't mean you can shoot people on shabbat!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's a Good Thing

Good thing Chicago as a fair-minded, independent and financially stable news source to continue shaking up Chicago Politics. Well, all except for the last part.

Unfortunately, freedom of the press requires solvency of the press.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Flip a Coin!

This is really stupid. Al Franken and Norm Coleman are squaring off in MN to see who will be the next senator of that fine state. Right now Coleman leads by 0.03% and the race will most likely be decided by contested ballots in the courts. Those courts will have judges who are D's or R's with systematic biases to vote one way or the other.

Given that the margin of victory is less than the margin of error in a recount (I don't actually know this, I am only guessing) and given that courts are known to have systematic bias, a coin toss would be the most transparent and fair way to go about deciding this election. I am serious.

Update: I was beaten too it. Drats.
Luckily, Minnesota’s electoral law has a provision for ties. After all the counting and recounting, if the vote is statistically tied, the state should invoke the section of the law that requires the victor to be chosen by lot. It’s hard to swallow, but the right way to end the senatorial race between Mr. Coleman and Mr. Franken will be to flip a coin.