Montenegro III: Am Not, Are So

Continuing AFOE’s first point-counterpoint debate between two posters, here’s my final post on Montenegrin independence.
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The System of the World

Sorry, this is not a post proclaiming a political theory of everything. It’s a note saying “‘Tis done!” I picked up Neal Stephenson’s The System of the World sooner than I thought and finished it up right quick.

Previous posts on the Baroque Cycle are here, here, here and here. The argument of the trilogy and further thoughts below the fold. Spoilers abound. Doug Muir, I’m finished, we can discuss.
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Sheffield a la mar

I have to confess to having had a fairly sucky 2004. Most of the causes are personal, and frankly not very interesting. But, as an example, my plan to spend the holiday season in Tunisia was abruptly cancelled because my wife got chicken pox. So, needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to 2005.

The wife got over her pox just a few days before Christmas, leaving us scrambling to find a vacation that both fit our respective work calendars, didn’t cost too much, and wasn’t booked solid. Consequently, I found myself at Zaventem airport at four in the morning on Christmas day fighting a miserable crowd so I could spend a week at Benidorm, Valencia, Spain.

I can’t claim I wasn’t warned. I did know that Benidorm – and the rest of the Costa Blanca – is something of a joke in the Dutch speaking part of Europe. After a week there, I still haven’t been in Spain. As far as I can tell, thanks to daily discount charter service between Sheffield and Alicante, the Costa Blanca is simply a warm, low-tax part of Yorkshire.
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Daniel Pipes on Tariq Ramadan: Why French literacy still matters

Readers of my previous comment on Tariq Ramadan will no doubt have come away with the impression that I don’t much like Daniel Pipes. This is not an entirely accurate assessment of my opinon of him. I think Pipes is an unreconstructed bigot and xenophobic fanatic whose academic work fails to meet even the lowest standards of scholarship, whose career has been built on politically driven attacks, and who has set up with his “Campus Watch” as a terrorist front designed to intimidate academics and ensure that there is as little debate, discussion or rational thought on Israel, US foreign policy or Islam as possible. His reseach and scholarship are not intended to better inform action but to support specific agendas, usually revolving around hating some foreign force or people. Instead of fostering debate, his work is intended to intimidate. Pipes advocates religiously targetted surveillance, he supports making federal university funding conditional on ideology, and he has helped to terrorise professors who are named on his website. In short, I think Pipes is swine.

He is a second generation right-wing tool, the son of one of the men most responsible for America’s “Team B”, which grossly overblew the Soviet menace in the 70s and 80s – causing massive US defense spending and resulting deficits – and complained that anyone with a better sense of reality was soft on communism. Normally, Pipes’ parentage would constitute poor grounds for condeming him as having a pathological relationship to facts. But keep this in mind, since it constitutes one of his arguments against Ramadan.

All you need is Google to find out why I think these things about Daniel Pipes. It’s not a lot of work. His own website provides ample examples.

But, today, I will be targeting something a little more specific. Pipes has put up on his website his comment on Tariq Ramadan’s visa denial, originally published in the New York Post on Friday. In it, he makes specific points against Tariq Ramadan, linking, in some cases, to articles on the web in support. These articles are primarily in French. As a service to our non-francophone readers, we will be translating the relevant sections, since they lead one to the conclusion that Pipes assumes his readers will just take his word on their contents.

We report, you decide.
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Rodrigo Rato: Wagging The Finger, Or Wagging The Dog?

I have already posted on my own blog about what I see as the surreal consequences which might follow from this wish becoming a reality. If what I think happens next to the Spanish economy really does happen – and I have no doubt whatsoever that the housing bubble will crash one or other of these days – then the situation will be a bit like having Menem at the head of an IMFwhich is telling Argentina that they should have thought about the consequences before getting into all that trouble……..

My interest here today, however, is more the European dimension of this process. Firstly, if it is true, as the FT seems to contend, that the European candidature will carry the field, what does this tell us about the IMF? Secondly, maybe focussing on the IMF managing directorship is to miss the point. Maybe the real horse-trading is over future control at the ECB. In other words: will this be a case of wagging the finger, or wagging the dog?
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Hannah Arendt: The Banality of Evil

[I’d like to start by thanking the Fistful of Euros team for inviting me to guest-blog here this week. I’m hoping to offer a mini-series on European thinkers, focusing on just an aspect of the ideas of the thinker I choose in each case. I say ‘hoping to’ because I still have to compose the posts. But, anyway, here goes with the first of them?]

Hannah Arendt famously wrote about the Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem in 1961. In doing so she popularized the phrase ‘the banality of evil’, applying it to Adolf Eichmann in particular. Arendt referred to?:

the lesson that this long course in human wickedness had taught us – the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil. [All quotations from Eichmann in Jerusalem, except as otherwise indicated.]

A certain amount of misunderstanding has been generated by Arendt’s use of this phrase. That is in part because it was inapt to her intended meaning; in part perhaps also because it may have been inapt to its principal object – Eichmann.
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