The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Shock on the wire

Vox Day wonders if Hillary Clinton is rollin'.

When I saw this from the second debate... well, let's put it this way. What was that laugh? The host of the video I linked, "Sargon of Akkad", figured that laugh for cold calculation, that Hillary knew the fix was in. To me it looked like something was just totally wrong in her head. Like that tweaker in the job interview in Trainspotting.

Trump suggests she and he do what her husband when he was President told all of us job-seekers to do, which is take a piss test.

UPDATE 10/16: Axelrod responds to this request: skip the debate. That'll assuage suspicions.

posted by Zimri on 18:39 | link | 0 comments

Friday, October 14, 2016

Time to admit Trump is going to lose

Trump makes the fatal promise (h/t, Insty).

So boring to have to listen to this complete lie every cycle.

posted by Zimri on 16:45 | link | 0 comments

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Against the Muslim Jesus

The sect of Manah did survive to the time of Muhammad, but I couldn't find what any contemporary Manichees said about that more recent Prophetic sect.

A collection of essays is out: Islam: identité et altérité, edited by Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi. Guillaume Dye has reviewed this book. I find one essay relevant to our task here, "Un fragment manichéen du Jomjomenâme". To translate Dye's review here:

Michel Tardieu returns to one of the earliest exemplars of Persian poetry, namely a qasîda, in Manichaean script, found in the Turfan Manichaean collections and edited by Henning in 1962 (p. 393-404). After a thorough analysis, he concludes, very plausibly, that the episode mentioned in this fragment is part of a much longer poem, which is likely to concern the tale of Jesus and the skull, famous legend of Muslim preaching and mysticism (whose origins can be identified in Egyptian monasticism). Specifically, the fragment belongs to a standalone version of the Jomjomenāme, due to Manichaean authors inveighing against Islam (and therefore turning a Muslim legend against their opponents). The text would have circulated in the oasis of Turfan during the premongol period.

I swear by all religions' prophets, this is the first time I ever heard the story of Jesus and the skull. Of all the legends which make up Islam's salvation-history, why did the Manichees choose to attack it by way of this story not in the Qur'an? I wonder how old this Jomjomenāme is. I also wonder to what degree any other Islamic doctrines crop up in it.

posted by Zimri on 17:01 | link | 0 comments

Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Armenian Koran

Sean Anthony recommends for subscribers, Adam C McCollum's "Greek Literature in the Christian East: Translations into Syriac, Georgian, and Armenian". I recommend it too - after warning that the typesetting will give you a headache. The article'll be useful for those studying the Syriac-speaking Christian world of Late Antiquity, especially.

I'm interested here in McCollum's quote: there is a manuscript at the British Library with a Qur'an in classical Armenian (translated from Arabic), which dialect the Armenians call "Grabar". McCollum cites Frederick Conybeare, A catalogue of the Armenian manuscripts in the British museum (1913), 350-1. McCollum is unaware of any further scholarly work on this MS. For my part some googling has turned up Mesrovb J Seth, A manuscript Koran in classical Armenian (1924) but this might be a different MS.

Naturally I have some questions.

First, when was this done? Never mind the script or radiocarbon (except as upper bound) - books can be copied. Are there hints in the dialect of Grabar? Glosses? Translation-decisions specific to time and place?

Why was it done? Armenians have plenty of modern Korans in their language today. But until recently, Muslims have tended to be more jealous of their text. For instance the first Latin translations were done by Christians, to aid in refuting it: the Toledan Collection is the most famed of these. The Greeks and Syrians, also, produced translations - we don't own those translations, but we do own Niketas and Bar Salibi (respectively) who used those translations, again, against the Muslims. Depending on when the Grabar Armenian translation was done, a hostile priest seems more likely as translator.

Obviously all translations of this Arabic book derive from an Arabic original. But how do we know that this translation was so direct - since nobody's studied it? I would expect an Armenian to prefer a translation from the (also Indo-European) Greek as easiest, then to check that against an Arabic exemplar. That was generally how they played the game of translation. (After all, that is how I play the game of translation.) I suspect that somebody stuck a foreword onto it, or a title, maybe even the translator claiming he did it from Arabic. But I don't have to believe him.

posted by Zimri on 17:34 | link | 0 comments

Aramaic style-switching… in Egypt

Benjamin Suchard has a paper up on “two cases of Aramaic style-switching in Biblical texts set in Egypt”. He’s not done editing it yet; for the next three weeks he’s running a “session” for subscriber feedback. We the "Orientalists" are all aware of Aramaisms in suras 12 and 18, which cover the same texts – Genesis and Exodus respectively. I am not on the Bible beat anymore, and I haven’t joined Suchard's session. But his thesis does interest me, so I’ll muse on it here.

Of interest to Suchard for these Aramaic terms is that the context here is Egypt. One might wonder why not an African language like, oh, Middle or Late Egyptian. Suchard picks on Genesis 41 raqqot for “thin” (plural) and Exodus 2 ‘alma for “girl”.

I will note here that several exegetes of Genesis and Exodus, down to the Qur’an’s author(s), have noticed that the Genesis king is not a Pharaoh – sura 12 calls him ‘Azîz. The ancient Egyptians treated these regimes differently too. Their historian Manetho assigned Moses to the Nineteenth Dynasty, and the first Jews to the riff-raff of the Hyksos before them. The Hyksos, as it happens, had entered in from the Semitic Near East. So the seventh-century-BCE Israelites would not have found it so anachronous that a court of Oriental usurpers might speak Aramaic. That much can account for the earlier Aramaic word, raqqot.

When we get to Exodus, the court is no longer speaking in Aramaic. In this case, though, the ‘alma is none other than Moses’ sister. She'd have been an Oriental like him.

posted by Zimri on 16:48 | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


Yale professor Frank Griffel has posted to Academia his Die Welt des Islams review of SF Starr, Lost Enlightenment. This is not Griffel’s first rodeo; the man has reviewed other books that tackle “the Muslim Mind” of the post-Umayyad Middle Ages. Of Griffel’s targets, the one I’d read before our reviewer got to it was Reilly’s Closing of the Muslim Mind. I was unimpressed with Griffel’s take on that book. Griffel has issues with this one, too… and, again, I have issues with Griffel’s review. I disclose up front that, this time, I have not read the source material. But that wasn’t necessary in this case…

Here, Starr was working the Central Asian beat. The Silk Road has featured in several recent English-language treatments, of variant quality. A few of these books have been reviewed at Razib’s place. I shan’t complain about yet another book on this topic, concerning its Islamic period; I’d had to read up on this context for mine own work, especially “Throne of Glass”. And Griffel does commend Starr for tying Islamic Central Asia into a narrative.

I concede with Griffel that Starr has fallen into ethnocentric bias. Starr knows Reilly’s phrase closing of the Muslim mind (Griffel, 278) but doesn’t share Reilly’s enthusiasm for the Mutazila (Griffel, 275). The Mutazila happened to include many Arabs. I add that, when the ‘Abbasids favoured this school, their caliphate was (famously) tolerant to its Christian and Jewish subjects, of whom the former in its Asian provinces were predominantly Aramaean and the latter still spoke in Aramaic. Elsewhere Griffel argues that Starr is ethnocentrically pro-Iranian. That might explain why Starr downplays the Semites of the Mutazila and its clients. Based on Griffel’s quotes Starr doesn’t much like Turks, either, whilst we’re on topic.

I also agree that it’s high time Islam-skeptics quit holding Ghazzali as the great satan corrupting the (Sunni) Islamic mind (Griffel, 276-7). Everyone knows that something “went wrong” in the Sunni mind over the last few centuries, but for that Ibn Taymiya and Ibn Kathir are more culpable. As to what I said about Reilly ignoring Ibn Khaldun, here the man whom Starr ignorantly ignores is Fakhr al-Din al-Razi. And we’re all awaiting a good study of the Nishapuri school of tafsir – we don’t even yet have proper editions of most of those tafasir, from Wahidi to Tha’alibi.

But Griffel overreaches too. Griffel notes that Starr sees ethnic conflicts between Turks, Iranians, and Arabs; to Griffel, Starr creates or rather projects these. If I am reading at all correctly Darwin Press’s books Studies on Muslim Apocalyptic and Arabs and Others in Early Islam, these conflicts did exist; Muslim Arabs composed reams of paranoid apocalyptic rant that we can hardly avoid labelling as racist. I can add Ethiopians and Berbers to the many foreigners the average Muslim Arab of the time feared and hated. On the ‘ajami side, I raise the phenomenon of Crone’s “Nativist Prophets”; and that it didn’t take all that long for the ‘Abbasids’ outer provinces to go it alone, like the Samanids and their “Iranian Intermezzo”. This is all hard to explain if Arab rule was so wonderful to the locals. We on the Dissident Right see ethnic friction as an inevitability in any diverse empire. So I have no idea why Griffel is complaining about this basic fact, unless it’s that Starr didn’t footnote well enough; or that Griffel has his own, anti ethnocentric, bias.

Griffel slips back into cant (American neo-conservative, 275; Islamophobe, 278), which still annoys me, but from his pen I’m having to get used to it. I also observe that Griffel accuses Starr of a “bias against Islam” (275) where just a few lines later he lets slip that Starr defends the Ismaili Shia (276) and laments the divisions between Shia and Sunni generally (278). Griffel offloads further self-contradictions on Iran’s relation to Central Asia. First Griffel complains that Starr includes Khorasan and Sakastan / Sijistan. These, Griffel wants for Iran and the wholly artificial modern entity “Pakistan”, two countries that are not part of Central Asia. Later Griffel complains that Starr does NOT include Iran (278). Even given that, anyone must be amused at this reviewer’s attempt to stick the freethinker Ma‘arri into Starr’s Oriental Islamic culture. All I’ll say to Griffel on this is, be careful what you wish for.

It seems we do need a better treatment of post-conquest Central Asia than what Starr has given to us. But tiresome politically-driven pieties are of no service to any reviewer. At this point of reading Griffel’s reviews I don’t anymore think the man can help himself. That’s why we need good editors, better than the ones Die Welt des Islams got.

posted by Zimri on 18:44 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Concern troll escapee

Joss Whedon is a Leftist stooge, but that doesn't stop him from doing Rightist material where it serves him. (I was going to post this in July 2012, an election-cycle ago, but somehow didn't finish it.) Fortunately for the longevity of his oeuvre, Whedon is also short-sighted.

I found out about Whedon (in earnest) when there started up some buzz about his "Firefly" show. But I knew about the show before that. I first found out about this in early 2004, looking over the local Best Buy in Houston. At the time I just thought - MEH. Here is a box with a bratpack of youngish actors all of whom look far too pretty. And it's a Copperhead show - at the time, I was still pro-Bush, and I (accurately) saw "Firefly" as an attack on Bush's crusades from the Right.

Then I broke down and bought a used copy of the box. To my surprise I loved this show; sort of an Outlaw Josey Wales In Space. And then came the big damn movie in 2005 and it just laid all out for us, what this whole series was about. Here was THE great Burkean space epic: a people united in a common mission under a Captain, not democratically elected, but just the man in charge of the ship. If you wanted a better Captain, the show implied, you got off and found another boat.

However - after 2005 - Whedon screened the movie at "Equality Now" events. I went to one and was given a t-shirt; the "Serenity" logo with the symbols for male and female superimposed. I never did wear it much.

Female agency is one thing. The women on the show get a say in the plot in several episodes and also in the movie. But ultimately... feminism wasn't what the series was about. The women never took command. And that made me think that Whedon never wanted the franchise to do what it did. "Firefly" was only ever meant as a means to weaken Bush's support amongst the thinking caste on the Right. For Whedon, it was a concern-troll. Once its main task was complete, Whedon needed to pivot it to something else. Like "feminism".

But - everything goes somewhere. You can't stop the signal. The message of "Firefly" outlasts administrations. It will long outlast Whedon's stupid treasonous destructive politics.

posted by Zimri on 08:43 | link | 0 comments

Friday, September 30, 2016

Hit 'em up

Meet the craziest white boy in Tennessee:

Tristan Rettke, an 18-year-old freshman, wore overalls and a gorilla mask and, holding a burlap sack with a Confederate flag and a marijuana leaf on it, offered bananas to [Black Lives Matter] students who were protesting, according to the ETSU police department report. He was arrested and charged with civil rights intimidation.

Leave aside how one civilian can possibly "intimidate" a whole enemy mob, or deny their "civil rights". Just wait wait wait. Arrested? At an anti-police rally where they chant stuff like "pigs in a blanket"?... Oh: A woman at the protest called police.

UPDATE 10/2: Ooga booga!

posted by Zimri on 19:57 | link | 0 comments

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ruins of Intrigue

I've been looking through my old D&D materials, of which I have rather a lot, and I found one I hadn't read at the time. This was Mike Mearls' Ruins of Intrigue. It is billed as a campaign sourcebook rather than as a campaign, "module" for you first-edition grognards out there.

RoI is set in the Arcana Evolved setting "Diamond Throne". Way back in the early 2000s I'd bought Arcana Unearthed, the first edition of this; the "evolved" edition came out (too) soon afterward, and I resented having to pay twice. So when I got RoI it was, I admit, by accident. Since then I'd broken down and found a used copy of AE. But I still hadn't read RoI until the last few nights.

So, background: the Diamond Throne setting was the brainchild of Monte Cook, to house the Arcana Unearthed rules itself part of Cook's larger project of bending the rules of Dungeons and Dragons' third edition (which he had helped author). Among AU / AE's deviations was to do away with alignment - sort of. The main protagonists were (supposedly) not evil, they just had their own agendae.

In the world of the Diamond Throne, though, there used to be evil.

One of the "totes not evil, reallies" powers of old, a dragon by name of Nithogar, during his planar jaunts stumbled across some magical artifacts called "tenebrean seeds". The seeds' nature evolved over the course of Cook's imaginings of the setting. First, they were just banes that corrupt sentient beings. As of AE they could be used to "evolve" certain races (but not, interestingly, humans) to be closer to a Platonic ideal of such races. Anyway Nithogar used them on his own race, the dragon, adding some further eldritch substance to his experiment. What came out was an arachnid-humanoid-draconid hybrid. (Why arachnid? Ask Monte.) These dragon-scions, the dramojh in Draconic, grew powerful and prolific - too much for the dragons to control. They struck out east and conquered the human lands there, enslaving the humans and subjugating every other race to varying degrees. Later some giants from even further east, across an ocean, sailed west and conquered the land from the dramojh, slaying every last one of the abominations. In the second edition of our story, which is AE, the western dragons have been contacted and are now re-exploring the east.

The Ruins of Intrigue are where the western dragons and the eastern giants have met, upon a just-discovered ruin - the city Serathis. This city is where Nithogar had first created the dramojh. Now, one dragon in particular, Krovacatharis, is keen to explore the place. The giants have arrived here too because they worry about potential banes getting loose.

Mearls has clearly been steeped in Da Rools of Diamond Throne, which is that "good" and "evil" are relative. Every major agent in RoI has two or even three possible ways the DM can play him/her/it, as a good guy or as a bad guy or as a mix of either. However worthy this ideal is - personally, I think it adds confusion - I don't think Mearls has succeeded.

Serathis by its nature cannot be other than a dramojh nursery. The giants have no interest and no ability in reviving the dramojh. That goes double for their human subjects. The only entities here who could use Serathis are the dragons and the dracha, and maybe some lunatic mojh (human draconic wannabes). It becomes clear when exploring this ruin that its founder Nithogar was the greatest villain in this world's history: so callous in his experiments that he let loose a plague. Even if Krovacatharis himself isn't attempting Nithogar's example, other dragons will.

Given that, a good proportion of Mearls' "maybe this, maybe that" text boils away to superfluity. The giants (as a whole) are the good guys and the dragon is the villain. Anything else is a distraction - maybe it can extend the life of the campaign, but that's it. So this "sourcebook" is not a sourcebook at all: it is a frame for an adventure against a scheme to revive the dramojh.

If Mike Mearls had accepted this, his story would have been more coherent.

posted by Zimri on 19:16 | link | 0 comments


I learnt a new word today! Unfortunately it's Russian and I cannot pronounce it. I can barely transliterate it based on my Byzantine Greek background: ne-dogovoros-posobnye? I'll have to look that up later. I don't have to look up the definition, though, because the Saker is on it (h/t Beale):

What that word means is literally “not-agreement-capable” or unable to make and then abide by an agreement. While polite, this expression is also extremely strong as it implies not so much a deliberate deception as the lack of the very ability to make a deal and abide by it. For example, the Russians have often said that the Kiev regime is “not-agreement-capable”, and that makes sense considering that the Nazi occupied Ukraine is essentially a failed state.

The Saker goes on to apply this to the United States under its system where we elect a Field Marshal every eight years and a usually-oppositional Congress every two. Goooood bye Vietnaaaam!

What I'm also reminded of, is the Umayyad caliphate - Khalid Yahya Blankinship's "jihad state" - as defined and defended (after its death) by Awzai. Awzai claimed no or little responsibility for whatever Muslims might do to infidels. Every treaty signed with such a state is, therefore, worthless and deliver to its enemies a ready-made excuse any time they choose to sucker-punch the caliphate. Which, indeed, Constantine V did. (One of the 'Abbasid regime's early reforms was to assert its sovereignty over Syrian Muslims, which entailed wiping out Awzaism.)

As long as the US remains недоговороспособны, other nations have little choice but to treat it as a rogue state or even, as Vox Day puts it, as an oversized Libya.

posted by Zimri on 08:28 | link | 0 comments

Thursday, September 22, 2016

And in the folders bind them

In light of Skittlegate, which the media claims to care about, I'm taken back to 2012 when Romney made his "gaffe" about Binders Full Of Women. Romney's intent was clear but it's not like any pack of animals cares.

There did exist some feminists out there who saw Romney's stammering comment as objectification but that slander was easy to dismiss. Others claimed this was Romney being a tokenist, with a little more support, but not many took that serious-like either.

The real problem, deep down, is that Romney's claim was defensive and poorly worded. It looked like Romney had gotten flustered. Those who weren't going to vote for Republicans anyway that year seized upon this, because they figured they could rattle him some more. They brought with them the sort of hominid who loves to join in on a good gang-bang.

I went to high school too. I know how this game is played.

As for Trump (Junior)'s comment here, meh. I don't think the ginned-up narrative is going to work so well at forcing "lulz" this time. It'll just reinforce the underlying imagery, of a box of Whatevers among which some may be toxic. Which image Sadiq Khan has reinforced, that we just have to accept terrorism once we allow Muslims among us.

posted by Zimri on 17:15 | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Iraqi time capsule, 2014

One Benjamin Isakhan (Mizrahi Jew?) back in 2014 delivered a fascinating rundown of how Maliki connived to take power in Iraq: Shattering the Shia: A Maliki Political Strategy in Post-Saddam Iraq. He is not above some sneering at "Orientalists", but he only does this once that I noticed. Besides that bow to academic fashion, he argues an unpopular position: that it was the Shi'a in Iraq who clamoured for Americans to come give them democracy, and it was the Shi'a who bickered amongst themselves until Maliki took over.

After the 2006 "surge", when Americans and their Sunni allies in Anbar defeated Islamist rebels there, Americans didn't care much about the squabbling in the more-peaceful Shi'a regions. We remembered what a rabble-rousing jerk Sadr had been in the early years, which goes to explain why we later supported Maliki when the two came to blows. Also, I'll add, the Communist victory of Obama and his voters here meant people like me had more to worry about at home. So we forgot about Iraq.

Isakhan fills that void in our knowledge. He stops at 2014, which is the year Baghdadi's goons in Syria crossed to take Mosul. But his essay explains how it is that Iraq couldn't keep Mosul.

posted by Zimri on 17:08 | link | 0 comments

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