how many assholes we got on this ship, anyhow?

Is it possible that we’ve been overthinking The Conservative Mind all this time?

Got that? With all other factors being equal, conservatives were less likely to buy the exact same lightbulb if you told them it would help the environment. They didn’t have any more aversion to buying energy-saving lightbulbs than anyone else, unless the package pointed out that this particular lightbulb was slightly less earth-screwing than the other one. Tell them that, and they were more likely to go for the other one.

Maybe they’re just assholes.

The tomb of the Wise Fool

Sounds like an Indiana Jones movie, right? Or maybe a half-hour cartoon?

About a week ago archaeologists in Turkey claimed to have discovered the tomb of Nasreddin, a heavily fictionalized character in medieval Middle Eastern and Central Asian literature. Nasreddin Hoca, or Mulla Nasruddin, or Nasreddin Efendi, or any of the many other ways he’s known in that part of the world, is the hero of a number of very short tales or fables. He’s portrayed sometimes as a fool, other times as incredibly wise, but always in the service of a moral at the end. Experts in western literature or the literatures of other cultures around the world will no doubt find analogues to Nasreddin in almost every literary tradition, although his is particularly widespread and long-lived, and I’m not sure how many of them have not one, but two alleged tombs out there. The traditional site of Nasreddin’s tomb is in Akşehir, a town in west-central Turkey, where he’s thought to have died in 1284, but this new contender was discovered in Eskişehir, a considerably larger city in northwest Turkey, where Nasreddin was born in 1208. If this newly-discovered tomb is the real deal then I guess he made it back home before he died.

What I can't figure out is how he stayed on that donkey wearing a hat that big.

What I can’t figure out is how he stayed on that donkey wearing a hat that big.

Speaking of cartoons, if anybody speaks Turkish there are several Turkish-language cartoons about Nasreddin Hoca available on YouTube.

Some very funny Nasreddin stories after the jump. Continue reading

what is to be done about syria?

So it looks like Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against rebel forces in Syria. President Obama, having previously referred to the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict as “a game changer,” or a “red line,” or some equally faux-macho vapidity, is understandably interested in letting all the facts come in before America ratchets up its involvement. The problem is, assuming we decide that we do need to get involved, what does that look like? High-ranking military officials are wondering if military involvement will accomplish anything. I make fun of the cries to Do Something by clowns who don’t really know what it is we should do or what the outcomes of Doing Something might be, but “What is is we should Do?” is a serious question. Given my many months of experience as Some Guy with a Blog, I thought I’d take a look at the problem we face in Syria and the considerations for which any intervention plan must account.

It seems to me that America has 4 reasons to be concerned about what’s happening in Syria; in no particular order, they are:

  1. Assad’s body count is massive, as many as 80,000 so far depending on the estimate.
  2. Syria has stockpiles of chemical weapons
  3. There is a strong risk of regional destabilization
  4. Assad is a problem for us and our regional allies in general

Hopefully Iraq established that number 4 is not a sufficient justification to go do war on somebody, absent a real causus belli and strong international support. We know from past experience that number 1 is not enough to get America involved in a conflict, though it’s helpful in building public support when we decide to engage in a war for other reasons. That leaves numbers 2 and 3 as legitimate potential justifications for American involvement; the problem is that, given American interests in the region, it’s not clear that we should be backing the rebels. Morally there’s no justification for supporting Assad and every reason to support the rebels, but strategically? Let’s examine after the jump. Continue reading

you get a cookie! part 6 of ???: tim brando

Earlier today, NBA center Jason Collins became the first male athlete in any of the four major North American sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, which is somehow included in this list despite the fact that, and I say this as a huge hockey fan, you know). Most of the reaction was positive and encouraging, minus the usual grunting and carnival barking, but none of the negative reactions could compare to the saga of Tim Brando, who I’m sure we all know as “who?” Tim is an analyst or broadcaster or janitor for the CBS Sports Network, which is a channel better known to us sports aficionados as “CBS has a what now?” I can only assume that Tim, pictured below either broadcasting a game or having seized a microphone after biting the actual broadcaster’s nose off, is only using this CBS gig to bring in some steady cash flow while he pursues his real career as a person who explains to other people what words ought to mean.

This is clearly a man who knows words, and their meanings.

This is clearly a man who knows Words, and their Meanings.

Tim needed to say this about that:

Tim is well-positioned to explain to us all what the word “hero” should, nay, must, mean to each of us, because he uses the word only in the most appropriate of ways, like to refer to other broadcasters, or “Hootie”* from “Hootie and the Blowfish,” or a golfer one time. Heroes all, and you can take that to the bank.

But explain at us some more, largely unknown TV sport guy!

No, that’s not history, that’s everything I ever ate in my entire life, which I just threw up on the floor on account of you making me think about a Tim Brando SEX tape. Tim was willing to concede that what Collins did took bravery, but THAT DOES NOT MAKE HIM A HERO BECAUSE WORDS AND SHUT UP.

YEAH! IT DOESN’T TRANSLATE TO HEROISM AND IT IS A–wait, what the hell? “It’s a choice?” Tim, you’re not saying that–

Oh, OK, the TIMING is a choice! Well, heh, that is true, I mean…wait, I’m sorry, there was earlier stuff you twitted at people?

Hm, no, sorry. Tim was definitely talking about teh ghey when he twitted “it’s a choice.” Twitter kind of blew up at him over that, so Tim, who, despite being the sole human repository of what heroism is, is a coward as well as a liar, tried to back his way out of there. Unfortunately, Tim, twitting is forever, dude.

So here, have a cookie and hope nobody at your little network thingy reads Twitter or cares about their employees twitting really stupid stuff on it. I offer you your choice; you may consume whichever cookie does it for you:
penis cookies

or

vagina-cookies

Your call.

UPDATE: I don’t know how I left out this sad little whine:

This is clearly a man who knows who The Real Heroes are. AND, he’s got admirers!

what some are saying

It looks like it might be time for another edition of “what some folks out there are saying”:

  • It has been suggested by some that Fox News’ Andrea Tantaros is actually a Reptiloid operative tasked with weakening public trust in media in advance of a full Reptiloid attack on the planet Earth. Obviously we here at fasteddie’s wonderments take reports like this with a grain of salt, but it is notable that Ms. Tantaros has yet to publicly deny the allegations.
  • Some say that, if the definition of insanity really is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” the entire Republican House caucus should be getting fitted for straight jackets.
  • Some people are talking about the unholy alliance between conservative media and conspiracy-mongering garbage, arguing that it is destroying the credibility of conservative media, but others are countering that conservative media had already done that to itself.
  • A lot of folks say that if you combined the brain matter of the three hosts of “Fox and Friends,” you couldn’t make one fully-functioning brain.
  • Folks are starting to wonder if maybe even Republicans who claim to care about “out of control government spending” don’t actually give a shit about government spending.
  • Many are saying that, basically, the word “pornographic” has lost all meaning because of stories like this.
  • Plenty of people would like to say to former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, “you can stuff your sorries in a sack, lady!”
  • Inexplicably, there’s still been no comment from Glenn Beck regarding the heinous rumors that have been surrounding him for years now. We will update this story if anything develops.

As always, fasteddie’s wonderments is not suggesting that any of these stories is accurate. We are simply reporting what people out there are talking about. Follow those links, read the articles, study them out, pray on them. If they seem true to you, then believe them.

Islamic History, Part 1: Introduction

Islamic History Series

I thought there might be some interest out there in a very bare bones, “just the facts” history of Islam, and why not do it myself? Why let silly technicalities like a “lack of any real qualifications” or my “barely literate writing style” get in the way, right? I mean, obviously I have many important commitments and my house smells of rich mahogany, but I’ll do it just the same, for the children, you know? They are our future. Anyway, this is a strictly off-the-top of my head project, so no footnotes or whatnot, because for one thing this is a blog and not a journal, and for another, that really would get to be a bit much for everybody, no? I’m going to stick as closely as possible to the most commonly accepted historical narrative, for two reasons: one, because the field is refined to the point where what is widely accepted is probably a fairly good approximation of what really happened, and two, because the commonly accepted narrative (particular for the origins of the faith) is what most people learn and therefore what animates their behavior today. In other words, if you’re trying to understand the Islamic world today, knowing the history that most Muslims learn is going to be more important than wading into all the controversies and debates about that particular version of history. Where there are still big scholarly debates going on, that I know of, I will try to at least mention them, but nothing I write here should be taken as settled fact. I don’t know how many parts there will be of this, that depends on how often I can write them and feel like writing them, and on whether they generate any response.

This will be mostly a kings and wars history, sorry, but I’ll try to talk about theology, philosophy and (probably less often) the arts and sciences as well.

Part of the problem with doing Islamic history is deciding what you mean by “Islamic history.” For example, I can tell you right now that, assuming we get to the point where Indonesia comes into the Islamic world, you will hear almost nothing about Indonesia from me, because I don’t know anything about it. Yet what is the country with the highest number of Muslims in the world? That would be Indonesia. Nigeria will likewise be getting a pass from me, but Nigeria contains more Muslims than any Arab country except Egypt. India has the third-largest population of Muslims in the world, but apart from the period when India was actually ruled by Muslim emperors, it doesn’t factor very much in the story. Really doing a history of all Islam, everywhere, would take forever and overwhelm people with information, so I’ll be limiting the scope of this somewhat. Yes, that means that calling this “Islamic history” is actually kind of a lie, but I’m doing it anyway.

I feel like this might be a bit much.

I feel like this might be a bit much.

Limiting can go too far as well. Keeping ourselves to, say, the “Arab” world (Iraq, Arabia, Syria, and North Africa from Egypt to Morocco) would be geographically more defined, but would ignore Turkey, Iran, and south Asia, which just so happen to be the homes of the three greatest early modern Islamic empires (the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals), so that’s clearly not the right approach. I figure, this is a blog, I’m probably never going to finish this project anyway, so I can make up the rules as I go along. I’ll try to follow the main course of Islamic history as somebody would learn it in an academic setting today, which means the Arab world I just described plus Anatolia (Turkey), Iran (the geographical Iran, which includes Afghanistan), south Asia (sometimes), central Asia (sometimes) and the Caucasus (sometimes). Some places will pop in and out of the story, like Andalusia (modern southern Spain), India, Russia, even Arabia (where, despite it being the birthplace of the religion, very little of importance happens for big chunks of Islamic history). If I want to do an entry on sub-Saharan Africa, or south-east Asia, or even China, I will, but that’s for later determination.

This would not be enough, plus there's no South Sudan, which is bullshit.

This would not be enough, plus there’s no South Sudan, which is bullshit.

The last consideration is how we divide things up over time, which admittedly is less of a consideration for a random collection of blog posts but is a major consideration for historians, who are forever dating things like the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-January 1945) and people like Abraham Lincoln (d. 1865), and then taking those things and people they just dated and cramming them here and there into periods. Any historical period is necessarily a completely made-up concept, because nobody (other than Petrarch, and I’m pretty sure everybody hated him for being such a goddamned downer) ran around in, say, the Middle Ages, going, “Gosh, these Middle Ages really suck! I can’t wait until the Early Modern Period starts and we can get some sewer systems up in this mother!” But periods are vital in trying to make sense of an otherwise never-ending series of events, and help historians note trends over time across regions, etc. So we have to deal with them. The commonly accepted periodization for Islamic history is (note the care that historians have employed in crafting interesting names for these periods):

  1. The Early Period (610 or 622-945): this runs from either Muhamamd’s first revelations, which would eventually be collected into the Qur’an we know today, or his flight from Mecca to Medina (the foundational event in Islamic history and the Year 1 in the Islamic/Hijri Calendar), until the conquest of Baghdad by an Iranian dynasty, the Buyids, and the subjugation of the caliph, who until that point was the most powerful figure in the empire.
  2. The Middle Period (945-1789): this period, which itself can be divided into as many as three periods (breaking at 1258 when the Mongols sacked Baghdad and again at 1501 when the Islamic world more-or-less coalesced into three large empires out of a chaotic mess of many smaller principalities), runs from the subjugation of the caliph in Baghdad to the first serious “modernization” (“Europeanization” if you’re an annoying cynic like me) movements in the Ottoman Empire in 1789 (which also closely enough coincides with the end of the Safavid Empire and the almost total loss of power by the Mughals in India to a Hindu confederation and, later, to the British)
  3. The Modern Period (1789-???): one assumes that if we don’t kill ourselves anytime soon, this period will have to end and will be called something else, but since the period before it went on for 800 freaking years, we’ve probably still got some time before that happens.

So, geography and chronology established, it’s time to start. Next time: the world before Muhammad.

Hey, thanks for reading! If you come here often, and you like what I do, would you please consider contributing something (sorry, that page is a work in progress) to keeping this place running and me out of debtor’s prison? Thank you!

should we call it “lanny davis disease”?

I’m trying to think of the right name for the peculiarly Beltway condition whereby the actual harm a politician does to countless numbers of people while in office can be countered by a story of the one time that politician showed basic human decency to one person in a way that didn’t substantially change anything. Lanny Davis offers a great case in point:

As I have written before, I remember sitting next to Bush when we were in the same residential college at Yale (Davenport — he graduated a year after me). I recall an evening when a group of us was sitting in the common room outside the college dining hall after dinner and a fellow Yale student walked by who was known to be gay, but in those days was not “out.” Someone said some ugly homophobic slurs. I didn’t like it, but sat silently. But Bush snapped, saying something like “Hey, knock it off. Why don’t you walk in his shoes awhile and feel what he feels?”

I remember thinking, “Whoa. This guy is much different inside than the fun-loving frat brother partying with me at Delta Kappa Epsilon.” As I watched him grow and evolve over the years, overcoming times of great personal pain and challenge to become a two-time governor of Texas and a two-term president of the U.S., I only came to admire and like him even more than that evening at Yale.

Somehow, in Lanny’s mind, this one time, in band camp college, when W was nice not a jerk to a gay person is proof that he’s a good and decent person, and completely overwhelms all the political actions he took, later in life, that materially worsened the lives of LGBT people all across the country, like such as:

  • Opposing, while governor of TX, any efforts to repeal the state’s anti-sodomy law (the one struck down by the USSC in Lawrence V. TEXAS in 2003)
  • Appointing special counsels who invented excuses not to enforce federal anti-discrimination policies with respect to sexual orientation
  • Threatening to veto a DEFENSE REAUTHORIZATION BILL AT A TIME WHEN THIS COUNTRY WAS FIGHTING TWO WARS because said bill included the Matthew Shepard Act (expanding federal hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation, among other things) as an amendment, forcing the amendment to be removed (President Obama signed the act into law in 2010)
  • Cynically pushing anti-gay marriage referendums during the 2004 presidential campaign in order to whip up turnout among religious conservatives; 11 states passed measures banning gay marriage in 2004, and Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign manager Ken Mehlman has since both come out and apologized for his role in this part of the campaign.

How does the math on this work? How many more gays were tangibly harmed by what Bush did as a politician, compared to that one gay man whose life was marginally improved for a few minutes a long time ago because Bush acted like a decent guy for five seconds?

B-b-but Bush appointed a couple of gay dudes to good jobs, like Mehlman, and his openly gay ambassador to Romania! It’s nice to know that some rich and well-connected LGBT folks could still succeed in George Bush’s Amercia.

Oh, and Bush was nice to his dog, too, so I guess that makes up for everything else.

So what kind of condition does Lanny have, where the thing he witnessed one time is more illustrative of someone’s character than the vastly more impactful things that person has done since then? I think I’m going to go with “sociopathy.”

"Sociopathy affects many rich and powerful Americans who don't care about what happens to anybody but themselves. Won't you please help us by not talking about your little people problems so much? Thanks, Lanny"

“Sociopathy affects many rich and powerful Americans who don’t care about what happens to anybody but themselves. Won’t you please help us by not talking about your little people problems so much? Thanks, Lanny”