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Fri May 15, 2015 at 07:02 AM PDT

Aunt Pamela Needs You!

by angry marmot

Professional grifter, true Hatriot and Beacon of Freedumb Pamela Geller needs you!

We are now marked. Marked for life. And we need to take extraordinary measures to protect ourselves, and above all, our work for freedom. This involves costs that are so far beyond astronomical, they take our breath away.

Yet this is not negotiable. The NYPD and our own security team have told us in no uncertain terms that specific measures must be taken.

We cannot rely on the Obama administration. The FBI has not even bothered to contact us. Clearly, if we held positions the administration favored, we would be under guard sent by the government right now. But we do not. [emphasis mine; am]

That means that it’s on us. And that means you, because we cannot do it without you. If you support our work, if you support the stand we have taken, we need your help now more than we ever did before. This is going to require a small army. And not just for the next month, but for the foreseeable future.

Glory, glory Hallelujah! Her eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the hoard!

Wed May 13, 2015 at 08:07 AM PDT

The Coveted Geller Endorsement

by angry marmot

Well, it's official. On Sunday, in a post and tweet noticed by at least 300 people, Pamela Geller endorsed the candidacy of Ted Cruz:

I endorse Cruz for 2016. The media is going to try to use this against him. But they have been thoroughly discredited in the past week. They are aligned with our enemies.

Get behind Cruz. I know its early — but the truth is, it’s late in the fight. I have been considering this for some time and will write a more comprehensive post when time permits, but Cruz is the best candidate in the field. Bar none.

The proximate impetus for Geller's endorsement of Cruz seems to have been his bon mot at Saturday's Freedom Summit concerning the events in Garland, TX last weekend. Quipped Cruz:
Thankfully, one police officer helped those terrorists meet their virgins.
Geller's praise for the glib Orientalist humor of Cruz is juxtaposed to her antipathy for Jeb Bush who, on “the topic that has dominated the national conversation over the past week” [Geller's description of her quasi-martyrdom], is seen to bow and scrape like a "quivering toad":
The day before yesterday I published Ted Cruz’s remarks about the jihad attack in Garland. That’s the kind of leader we need: an unapologetic lover of freedom, not a quivering toad.
It will be interesting to see whether Cruz acknowledges the endorsement and, if so, whether at some point he'll feel compelled to follow the path of wisdom trod by Christine “mad political skills” O'Donnell and walk away from Teh Crazy.
A daily series, Connect! Unite! Act! seeks to create face-to-face networks in each congressional district. Groups regularly socialize but also get out the vote, support candidates and engage in other local political actions that help our progressive movement grow and exert influence on the powers-that-be. Visit us at Daily Kos every morning at 7:30 A.M. Pacific Time to see how you can get involved. The comment thread is fun and light-hearted, but we're serious about moving the progressive political agenda forward.

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Good morning, everyone. Today's topic is our reading habits, particularly our preferences for fiction or non-fiction. Me? I'm mainly a reader of non-fiction. Give me a dry, meticulously footnoted academic treatment of some minutiae related to Egypt and/or MENA, ancient or modern, and I'm as happy as a marmot in clover (it's a thing: see Madyu Look's “Psychotropic Effects of Trifolium gymmocarpon,” International Journal of Marmota Studies 14.3 [2007]: 82-94).

Did I mention footnotes? Aaaaahhhh.... give me a moment to collect myself. As Anthony Grafton describes in his The Footnote: a Curious History (Harvard UP, 1997), the form emerged in nineteenth-century scientific inquiry as a supplementary narrative: while the main text narrates the results of inquiry, the footnote narrates the “journey to the results.”1  Yet well-crafted footnotes are more than utilitarian. They can be delightful things, an art form within the genre of non-fiction. It is there in those small editorial and supplementary asides that the personality of the author and her/his value-judgments of others' work—forbidden de rigueur in the main body of the text—are most often discerned. Footnotes are where the flesh-and-blood author actually lives... where the myths of academic objectivity and collegiality may be shaken... where exuberance, humor, snark or derision may raise their heads for brief moments to blow some of the dust from the fusty text. In that sense a well-crafted footnote is reminiscent of one of my favorite sub-genres of non-fiction: namely “the book review.” Finding the right (wrong?) reviewer for a text can be an absolute hoot.2

This is not to say that I don't read fiction. I do. Yet fiction is almost exclusively reserved for the “decompression” of bedtime reading. And while I purchase quite a bit of non-fiction (rendering my desire to live in a Tiny House a physical impossibility), I get my fiction from the library. With the exception of a few specific authors, I just don't collect fiction in the same way. Surely I'm not alone here... Bueller? Bueller?

There's some thought, and some supporting polling data, that there are gender and age aspects to our preference for fiction or non-fiction. There's also an interesting study showing that reading “literary fiction” (disguising that bodice-ripper behind a dust-jacket for Ulysses doesn't count) actually increases one's social perception.

So, before you call social services on me (“APB out for a footnote-obsessed marmot, last seen giggling to himself while clutching a book about mud-brick architecture in ancient Egypt”) tell me about your reading habits:


1. Footnotes are preferable to endnotes, imo. There's no reason to interrupt the flow of a text by making me flip back and forth. Immediate gratification, baby. And yeah, I said “flip” rather than “scroll.” What of it? No e-reader for me. I love the smell of dead-tree books: smells like victory.

2. I once worked as the assistant to the Book Reviews Editors of a fairly prestigious journal and can attest that while most reviewers were solicited for their erudition, some were indeed selected for entertainment value.†

†. Oh, nothing to add. But footnoting a footnote is something I've always wanted to do. It's like the journey to the journey to the results. Wheels within wheels. The meta of meta. Really, you should comment before calling this in.

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A daily series, Connect! Unite! Act! seeks to create face-to-face networks in each congressional district. Groups regularly socialize but also get out the vote, support candidates and engage in other local political actions that help our progressive movement grow and exert influence on the powers-that-be. Visit us at Daily Kos every morning at 7:30 A.M. Pacific Time to see how you can get involved. The comment thread is fun and light-hearted, but we're serious about moving the progressive political agenda forward.

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If you'd like to join a group, click on a point and a box will pop up showing contact links.
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navajo here: PLEASE WELCOME angry marmot to the CUA team. He'll be subbing for me now and then depending on how susceptible he is to my begging and whining. He appears to be a sucker so far. Sweet!

OK... Bigfoot didn't actually steal my car. I mean, s/he probably wanted to—why else would a Bigfoot be loitering in the lot for so long?—but there's no way s/he would fit in the small cabin and narrow, form-fitting seats of a Volkswagen Golf. Whew! Move along to that big ol' F-150 parked a few spaces down, my hirsute friend.
“Bigfoot stole my car” is a lyric from a 1989 song by MC 900 Ft. Jesus entitled “Truth Is Out of Style” that runs through my mind every time I turn on the History Channel or any of the other cable networks with their seemingly endless loop of shows dealing with aliens, UFOs, ancient astronauts, cryptids, pseudo-scientific and pseudo-historical conspiracy-theorizing in the style of Erich von Däniken (Chariots of the Gods), Barry Fell (America B.C.), Michael Cremo (Forbidden Archeology) or Zecharia Sitchin (The 12th Planet).

For me as a professional archaeologist—sorry, as a “mainstream archaeologist”—such shows are a beautiful disaster. They are slickly-produced, evidence-free, insubstantial, thirty- or sixty-minute Gish Gallops of pure nonsense, litanies of misrepresentations and outright lies. FSM help me, but I watch 'em all...

My current “favorite,” and I use that term with full ironic intent, is H2's America Unearthed hosted by self-described forensic geologist Scott Wolter:

The better marmot and I were falling off the couch in laughter when Wolter drove a one-person submersible in a Wisconsin lake looking for an Aztec pyramid (S02E08)... and when he re-hashed the thoroughly debunked proposal that the Minoans travelled from the Mediterranean to the Upper Great Lakes 3,500 years ago to mine 1.5 billion pounds of copper (S01E03)... and when he uttered the immortal (and improbable) phrase “Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code, may be more fact than fiction” (S03E12)... and when he brought up the Burrows Cave hoax as evidence of pre-Columbian Old World travel to North America (S02E05)... well, you get the picture.

Excellent, acerbic commentary on Wolter's “America Unearthed” (and “Ancient Aliens” and other pseudo-science, pseudo-history shows) can be found at Jason Colavito's site. Don't miss it.

The question remains, however, why are these shows so popular? What need(s) do such shows fill for their audience(s)? Why do people subscribe to any conspiracy theory? Is it the thrill of challenging authority? Is it the sense of in-group belonging with people who are similarly smart enough to see through mainstream thought? Is it comforting that a theory, no matter how off the wall, might lend order to otherwise worrisome randomness? Is it just a matter of being a contrarian for pleasure of it? Are pseudo-science and pseudo-history the inevitable outgrowth of postmodernity?

In short, your question for the day is why is it that “truth is out of style”?

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In the wake of the attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo, right-wing “experts,” pundits and politicians have unsurprisingly breathed new life into the meme of “no-go zones,” a well-established trope of the reactionary propaganda of the trans-Atlantic “Counter-Jihad” movement. Most visible, and most risible, were Steven Emerson's and Nolan Peterson's comments on FOX News regarding "no-go zones" in England and France, for which both Emerson and ultimately the network were compelled to produce rare nopologies. Of course Emerson and Peterson are not alone in making declarative statements about “no-go zones” over the past few weeks, let alone over the past decade or so: it's become a common and predictable refrain for a) the stable of national-security and terrorism “experts” who flit among right-wing media venues, b) right-wing pundits and their insensate devotees throughout the blogosphere and c) similarly insensate right-wing politicians and cultural leaders such as Bobby Jindal and Tony Perkins.

Robert Mackey's Open Source column for the New York Times has produced two valuable meta pieces concerning the “no-go zone” commentary and the criticism and mockery such claims have engendered:  "Murdoch and Fox News Mocked on Twitter for Claims about Muslims" (12 January 2015) and "Fox News Apologizes for False Claims of Muslim-Only Areas in England and France" (18 January 2015). Of particular interest in the latter piece is Mackey's discussion of the origin of the myth of the 751 French “no-go zones” in the 2006 misrepresentation of administratively defined Zones Urbaines Sensibles by Daniel Pipes who, having then visited several ZUS, updated his original 2006 piece on 16 January 2013 with this: “[h]aving this first-hand experience, I regret having called these areas no-go zones.” In Pipes' most recent update on 17 January 2015, he denies credit for coining the term “no-go zone”:

Jan. 17, 2015 update: Research into the term no-go zones referring to Muslim habitations in Western Europe done by the pseudonymous Yoel Natan finds its earliest use to be on my website, An Australia resident who calls himself "fed up" wrote on March 22, 2006, that "In Sydney, Australia, we have large areas of our city that are deemed no-go zones."

The next use was by the Norwegian analyst who calls himself Fjordman, on July 13, 2006, who defined "Muslim no-go zones" as places "where anything representing a Western institution (post office truck, firemen, even mail order delivery firms) was routinely ambushed with Molotov cocktails."

Then came my use of the term on November 14, 2006.

Pipes is correct that his was not the first use of "no-go zone(s)." Among numerous examples antedating his or his citations' usage, we could note the meme's appearance in Tony Blankley's 2005 publication The West’s Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?. Indeed, the relevant paragraph from Blankley's book was copied and pasted into his prepared statement for the farcical hearing before the House Committee on International Relations (Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia) entitled Is There a Clash of Civilizations? Islam, Democracy and U.S.-Middle East and Central Asia Policy (14 September 2006):
Muslim parts of Paris, Rotterdam and other European cities are already called ''no-go zones'' for ethnic Europeans, including armed policemen. As the Muslim populations expand and their level of cultural/religious assertiveness expands, more and more European geography will be ''reclaimed'' for Islam. Europe will become pock-marked with increasing numbers of ''little Fallujah's'' that will be impenetrable by anything short of military units. [p.40]
Yet Blankley can also not be credited with any neologism here. Used officially in the 1970s to identify barricaded areas in cities and towns of Northern Ireland controlled by Irish republican paramilitaries, and then used in British media accounts of impoverished, high-crime housing-estates during the 1990s, the "no-go" meme was further adapted to the service of nativist rhetoric in the context of the racial tensions among British Asians (Pakistanis, Bangaladeshis, Indians, Sri Lankans et alii) and whites in Northern England during the late 1990s, tensions that erupted into violence in the Spring and Summer of 2001.

Having incubated in some unseemly discursive communities for several years, the meme gained considerable traction in right-wing commentary on the "Muslim riots" in France beginning in late 2005. Tony Blankley, Daniel Pipes, Peder Jensen (aka Fjordman) and others in the "Counter-Jihad" movement—what the Center for American Progress so efficiently and effectively denoted as Fear, Inc.—are representative of this phase. Their rhetorical innovation was layering the "no-go zones" meme atop the raving and rancid conspiracy-theorizing of Gisèle Littman's (aka Bat Ye'or) Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, published in 2005. Steven Emerson, whose recent comments illuminated the "no-go zones" meme, is likewise deeply enmeshed in Fear, Inc., as amply discussed in both CAP's 2011 report and David Miller's and Tom Mills' "Misinformed Expert or Misinformation Network?" (15 January 2015; h/t poco).

That is the broad outline of the origins and propagation of the "no-go zones" meme. Follow me below the orange whazit for more detailed discussion.

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A handful of diaries and comments over the past few days have motivated me to set up a new Group here named Cursus Inhonorum to discuss the "experts" whose claims are so beloved by right-wing media and politicians.

My points of reference:

1) the intro to BruinKid's diary from Monday:

Fox News terrorism "expert" Steven Emerson made quite a splash when he made this bizarre claim.
2) the intro to News Corpse's diary from this morning:
Earlier this week Fox News hosted Steven Emerson, an alleged terrorism expert, who claimed that the entire city of Birmingham, England was occupied by radical Muslims and was inaccessible to anyone else.
3) Jeremy Scahill's articulation of a "Terrorism Expert Industrial Complex," discussed in this diary from Tuesday by xxdr zombiexx:
Scahill: "You have people on as paid analysts that are largely frauds who have made a lot of money off of portraying themselves as terror experts, and have no actual on-the-ground experience.”
4) Hunter's typically delightful mockery of Louie Gohmert in Wednesday's America's Dumbest Congressman praises Egyptian dictator, still thinks Obama is a secret Muslim.

That last one, Hunter's diary on Gohmert, may at first glance seem a strange fit with the three other clear references to purported/alleged/self-proclaimed "experts." Yet when I followed some links to Gohmert's wild-eyed speechification I came across an additional point: namely, that Gohmert had also read into the Congressional Record that day a piece from PJMedia by another purported terrorism and national security "expert" by the name of Patrick S. Poole.

I discussed Poole—his lack of qualifications and credentials, his rise through the ranks of right-wing groups, his associations with "Fear, Inc." and his theocratic bent—at some length in last year's On the Inexpertise of a Right-Wing Expert and I sincerely believe that similar efforts addressing the stable of purported and self-proclaimed right-wing "experts" would be of tremendous value to this community.

While I absolutely love Hunter's and others' mockery of the right's truth-claims, it seems to me that there's a compelling need to delve below the superficial idiocy of such comments and citations and expose in some detail the biographies and associated discursive communities of "experts" like Emerson and Poole who are, in reality, more "performers" than pundits.

So, anyone up for excavating these bullshit-artists?

Drop a note in a comment, join the group in whatever capacity you'd like, and let's start brainstorming how to make this work!

New Group: Cursus Inhonorum

Profile: Ever wonder how those purported “experts” beloved by right-wing media and politicians gained their claims to authority? Wonder no more! Cursus Inhonorum seeks to publish and republish materials that delve below the superficial idiocy of truth-claims made by such “experts” in order both to lay bare their actual inexpertise (biography) and to expose the networks-of-interest (discursive analysis) whose views they represent (performance) as neutral truth. Welcome to the meta below the mockery.


Mon Oct 06, 2014 at 02:37 PM PDT

Said's Orientalism

by angry marmot

[nota bene: the following diary is a republication of a diary I originally posted on 5 August 2011 for the "Books That Changed My Life" series. The recent resurgence of diaries and comments here on dKos related to Islam and Islamophobia, particularly those dealing with Bill Maher, set me to thinking that a republication might be in order. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.]
As I sit here and gaze at what must be my fifth or sixth tattered copy of Edward Said’s Orientalism—it is almost time to order yet another—I find it difficult to underestimate how profoundly this work of cultural criticism has altered my lives. ‘Yes,’ odd as it may seem, the plural ‘lives’ is deliberate. On the one hand, my first encounter with Orientalism during my senior year in college (egads, has it been that long?) began the process of restructuring my academic interests by problematizing nearly all of the ‘knowledge’ of the Ancient Near East I presumed to have learned, a constant and welcome challenge over the course of my graduate work and professional life as an archaeologist. On the other hand, Orientalism served and continues to serve as a touchstone for my political life (such as it is) by informing my interests in documenting the origins, manifestations and rationalizations of Islamophobia and anti-Arab bigotry in our contemporary political discourse. Orientalism is thus for me a kind of gadfly: an enduring provocation to think critically about the vexing relationships between present and past, between West and East, between academia and politics as well as between the professional and the personal.

It would be beyond reason to attempt to treat comprehensively in the format of a diary either the arguments and criticisms contained within Orientalism or the reception to the work, positive and negative, since it was first published in 1978. All I can do here is provide some broad contours, relate how this book changed my life/lives and hope that I've piqued in you an interest to engage or re-engage a work of scholarship which I rank among the most significant of the late twentieth century.

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One evening, almost two decades ago, I found myself standing amidst the ruins of a small Palestinian village, a high vantage-point from which to survey the landscape. The sun was setting, casting the muted colors of evening across the hills of the Upper Galilee and southern Lebanon. Lower on the tel I could see the active archaeological excavations revealing traces of the Persian, Hellenistic and Byzantine history of the site. Out of my line of sight, where the road cut through the lower northwest slope of the tel, was evidence of Early Bronze Age habitation. Across the road to the northeast, in the lee of a Roman temple, I could just make out the small pull-off and park where modern pilgrims came to picnic among Roman sarcophagi ascribed in popular imagination to Deborah and Barak of the period of the Judges. In the distance, dominating the viewshed, rose the mass of Djabal al-Shaykh / Mount Hermon. To the southwest, where the road wound uphill toward the border, stood the graffitied remains of a pillbox constructed by the British during the Mandate. Off to the east, somewhat obscured, lay the moshav with the guest-house where I was residing, maintained by a family who had emigrated from the Maghrib in 1963. In the lowlands just southeast of the tel were the grazing lands for the cattle of the kibbutz that was established in 1949, a few kilometers distant, by former members of the Palmach who had fought here. As for the hilltop village itself, a few courses of stone served to  mark the footprints of some fifty homes while broken millstones and the remains of an olive-press, strewn here and there amid the overgrowth, bore mute witness to the rhythms of daily life for the village's few hundred occupants.

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Salah al-Din's Capture of the True Cross at Hattin in 1187 CE (Matthæus Parisiensis, Chronica Maiora Volume I
[Corpus Christi College Library, Cambridge, MS 26], c.1250 CE)

Surveying the past twenty months of crass and exploitative howling of “BENGHAZI!!1!” has brought to mind the dialogue scripted between Balian and Salah al-Din in Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven (2005) at the surrender of Jerusalem in 1187 CE:

BALIAN: What is Jerusalem worth?

SALAH AL-DIN: Nothing. [pause] Everything.

What is “BENGHAZI!!1!” worth? What does “BENGHAZI!!1!” even mean? I contend that this right-wing obsession, manifest in Boehner's intent to form a House Select Committee under Trey Gowdy (SC-04), is simultaneously both meaningless and gravid with meaning. It is meaningless in the sense that the “new,” “smoking gun” evidence (the Ben Rhodes email) has been obviously, willfully and risibly misread. There will be no significant new evidence or substantive criticism of the reality-based and fact-rich report and recommendations from the Accountability Review Board. There is no “there” there, and there never has been.

Yet that is not the point of “BENGHAZI!!1!”

No, “BENGHAZI!!1!” is foremost an emblazoned banner under which all manner of irrational criticisms and unhinged conspiracy theories can march. In that sense it is packed with meaning, with metanarratives that are—for those heeding its Siren's call—more real than reality.

Join me over the frassed piece of the True Cross for fuller commentary...

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Sat May 03, 2014 at 09:44 AM PDT

Ave atque Vale, Jim Oberstar

by angry marmot

Sad news this morning. Jim Oberstar, our longtime (1975-2011) Representative from MN-08, died in his sleep last night at the age of 79. Jim was an honorable man, a damned fine representative for our district and a tireless advocate for transportation issues (infrastructure, public transportation, bicycling) on the national political scene.

Not much to say, so I'll close with the final lines of Catullus' poem 101:

Atque in perpetuum frater ave atque vale.
"And so for eternity, brother, hail and farewell."

Or, The Cursus Inhonorum of a B-List Right-Wing Crank

This is going to be a loooong one, folks, so bear with me. I was pulling together some thoughts and fact-checking for a long overdue Egypt-related diary when I came across a purported “expert” whom I'd not previously encountered. Wading through the Intertoobz in search of this “expert's” credentials proved to be quite a fascinating exercise, as I hope to document below. Some readers may say “oh, angry marmot, that non-expert is just a B-List right-wing crank, hardly worthy of so much time and ink.” There's some truth to that: perhaps “tenacious marmot” or “obsessive marmot” would have been a more apt username. Yet my sense is that both the inflated credentials and titulature of our “expert's” curriculum vitae as well as the stepping-stones of his cursus inhonorum these past eighteen years or so are indicative of broader phenomena among the class of aspiring right-wing talking-heads: namely, a curriculum vitae littered with exaggerations, misrepresentations, half-truths and lies, and a cursus inhonorum demonstrating the interconnections among right-wing organizations of varied and at times seemingly contradictory stripes.

Let's meet our chump over the fold, shall we?

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Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 07:15 AM PST

George Shultz Opines on Iran

by angry marmot

So... this happened.

In an interview with the BBC's Sharanjit Leyl last week, former Secretary of State and godfather of the Bush Doctrine George P. Shultz offered a few comments on the negotiations in Geneva regarding the future of Iran's nuclear program.

"The Iranians are known as great rug-merchants, not for nothing. They're good at this business of smiling, encouraging you on and then cutting your throat. So you have to be tough-minded, you have to be realistic. Iran is the country that's the biggest supporter of terrorism in the world. They do it directly, they do it through proxies such as Hizb'allah, so they're a pretty tough customer."

Read that again:

"The Iranians are known as great rug-merchants, not for nothing. They're good at this business of smiling, encouraging you on and then cutting your throat."

Witness, please, the kind of orientalist fantasies that suffuse much modern Western "thought" on the Islamic Middle East, North Africa and Western Asia, not only in the popular Western imagination but also, and much more dangerously, in the imaginations of some purportedly Very Serious People.

Look closely at Jean-Léon Gérôme's The Carpet Merchant of 1887 (Minneapolis Institute of Arts). Look through the warped lens of the Bush Doctrine and the neoconservative Clash of Civilizations; look through the spinning prism of the hasbarists who have cited Shultz' conception of perfidious Islam so approvingly in the last few days; look through the polarizing filter of Fear, Inc.

There, to the right of center.

See him now?

No, not him. A little further to the right. The other bigoted, antiquated, orientalist stereotype.

Ah, now you've got it.

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