Friday, May 24, 2013

The Bible’s Buried Secrets. NOVA Documentary.

The Bible’s Buried Secrets. Video. NOVA. PBS, November 18, 2008. Website with transcript. YouTube.

Found? King Solomon’s Mines. By Sharon Begley. Newsweek, October 27, 2008.

High-precision radiocarbon dating and historical biblical archaeology in southern Jordan. By Thomas E. Levy et al. PNAS, Vol. 105, No. 43 (October 27, 2008).

In a Ruined Copper Works, Evidence That Bolsters a Doubted Biblical Tale. By John Noble Wilford. New York Times, June 13, 2006.

Edom and Copper: The Emergence of Ancient Israel’s Rival. By Thomas E. Levy and Mohammad Najjar. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 32, No. 4 (July/August 2006).

How We Know When Solomon Ruled. By Kenneth A. Kitchen. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 27, No. 5 (September/October 2001).

Were the Victorians Smarter Than Us?

People Getting Dumber? Human Intelligence Has Declined Since Victorian Era, Research Suggests. By Macrina Cooper-White. The Huffington Post, May 22, 2013.

Victorian Era Brits Were Smarter Than Us. By Jennifer Viegas. Discovery News, May 17, 2013.

IQ of Western Civilization dropped since the Victorian Age. By Timothy Whiteman. Examiner, May 24, 2013.

The Victorians were smarter than us, study suggests. By Nick Collins. The Telegraph, May 13, 2013.

Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time. By Michael A. Woodley, Jan te Nijenhuis, and Raegan Murphy. Intelligence, available online May 7, 2013.

Our fragile intellect. Part II. By Gerald R. Crabtree. Trends in Genetics, Vol. 29, No. 1 (January 2013).

The reproduction of intelligence. By Gerhard Meisenberg. Intelligence, Vol. 38, No. 2 (March/April 2010).

The decline of the world’s IQ. By Richard Lynn and John Harvey. Intelligence, Vol. 36, No. 2 (March/April 2008).


Palestine and the Left. By the Editors of Jacobin.

Palestine and the Left. By the Editors. Jacobin, April 2013.

The Oslo Illusion. By Adam Hanieh. Jacobin, April 2013.

For Madonna “Dressing Your Age” Is an Evolving Concept. By Ray A. Smith.

“Dressing Your Age” Is an Evolving Concept. By Ray A. Smith. Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2013. Video.

Madonna on AGE and the MDNA Tour DVD Announcement - EXTRA. Video. mymdna2, May 22, 2013. YouTube.

Madonna at the 2013 Billboard Awards (Photos and Videos)., May 19, 2013. YouTube.

Madonna: Super Bowl Halftime Show Medley 2012. Video. womanizer2008brit, March 7, 2012. YouTube.

The MDNA Tour (Director’s Cut): Full Show– [Edit by BPP Productions]. Video. GLProductions02, May 14, 2013. YouTube. More videos of the MDNA Tour here, here, here, and hereThe Virgin Tour Live 1985. Blond Ambition Tour 1990 Barcelona (also here). Who’s That Girl World Tour 1987 Tokyo. Ciao Italia Concert 1988.

Madonna: Like a Prayer [1989]. Video. warnerbrosrecords, October 26, 2009. YouTube.

Madonna: Take a Bow [1994]. Video. madonna, October 26, 2009. YouTube.

Madonna: The Power of Good-Bye [1998]. Video. madonna, October 26, 2009. YouTube. Also here.

Madonna: Ray of Light [1998]. Video. warnerbrosrecords, October 26, 2009. YouTube.


Madonna continues to push boundaries and buttons. And once again, people are asking if she’s gone too far.

This time, it’s not the costumes she wears in her concerts but the racy clothing she has been wearing (or not wearing) to public events like Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards. Accepting a Top Touring Artist award on stage, Madonna showed up in a provocative and skimpy ensemble. The outfit, custom made by Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, included a black shredded-fishnet dress revealing a garter belt and black briefs.

The outfit set off a round of tweets. “Madonna you are my mothers age. Needless to say i don’t want to see either of you in fishnet tights,” one viewer complained.

Others expressed a blend of revulsion and envy. Madonna “is like 50 years old and has a better body than me oh,” another viewer complained.

To some people, older women often seem to be trying too hard when wearing sexy outfits. The look can come off as desperate, embarrassing, a little sad.

Madonna may be doing what she feels she must to remain relevant and compete with the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Rihanna, who are each in their way indebted to her. Yet if Lady Gaga dressed in one of these outfits, people would probably yawn.

Given Madonna’s age, which is 54, is she making herself look foolish? Why do such provocative outfits seem less offensive when worn by younger women? Should older women wear something a little more covered up?

On the other hand, some people are asking a different question: When did we decide a woman over 50 should stop being overtly sexy? Why, if she still has a toned body, can't she wear risqué outfits?

Yet even Madonna’s fans might be forgiven for wondering how much longer she will continue wearing get-ups like this.

What does it all mean for real women and men entering their 40s, 50s and beyond who want to walk the line between dressing their age, whatever that means, and dressing as if they are denying their age? We'll wait to see what Madonna decides to wear next, when she is expected to appear as a presenter at a big Gucci-sponsored benefit concert next month in England.

Fearless in Fishnets: At 54, Madonna sported a provocative outfit from Givenchy
 to an awards show on May 19. Getty Images.

Madonna wore something slightly more demure—also from Givenchy—
at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute gala on May 6. Getty Images.

The 20th Anniversary of Waco. By Peter Berger.

A Grisly Anniversary. By Peter Berger. The American Interest, May 22, 2013.

Waco in red and blue: 20 years after the siege. By Philip Jenkins. Christian Century, May 15, 2013.


Jenkins astutely describes how the Waco incident has supplied contradictory symbols to both the progressive and conservative camps in the ongoing American culture war. On the Left, Waco has come to symbolize the lethal potential of religious fundamentalism. The notion of mass suicide has obviously appealed to this constituency: Waco can then be interpreted as a companion piece of the Jonestown incident, when in 1978 another sect leader, Jim Jones, ordered the mass suicide of 918 people (also including children, and also in response to a perceived threat from the US government) at his so-called Peoples Temple in Guyana in South America. Then as now, this type of fundamentalism is associated by progressives with the Christian Right, the “gun culture” of the National Rifle Association, and conservatism in general. I suppose a proof text of this perspective could be the notorious statement by Barrack Obama, made at a fundraiser in 2008, saying that jobless people in small towns “get bitter [and] cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them”. (One may wonder what sort of religion Obama was “clinging to” during the twenty years he was a member of Jeremiah Wright’s church in Chicago.)

And on the Right, Waco symbolizes government overreach, tyranny and the attack on the Second Amendment of the constitution. On this side of the aisle, of course, there is the propensity to blame the FBI for the tragedy—a massacre by government forces rather than a mass suicide by the Davidians. It is then put in the company, not of Jonestown, but of Ruby Ridge, Idaho, where in 1992 federal agents (also from the FBI and the ATF) besieged the compound of the “survivalist” Randy Weaver and in the resulting firefight killed his wife and son.

I think that Jenkins is right when he suggests that the contradictory symbolizations of the Waco incident not only demarcate the boundaries of the two camps of the American culture war twenty years ago, but continue to do so today. He expresses the view that the tensions have lessened somewhat. I rather doubt it. Perhaps the ideological rhetoric is a bit less strident, but the polarization in politics has deepened, as the two major parties are more clearly aligned with one or the other camp in the culture war. Both moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans, the kind of politicians who make compromises possible in a democracy, have been marginalized if not eliminated in their respective parties. And survey data show that the religious profile of an individual is a major predictor of which side he or she belongs to. The polarization continues, as does the mutual demonization of the two camps manifested so clearly in the conflicting interpretations of Waco. Of course both stereotypes are distortive—most conservatives are not religious fanatics with guns, most progressives are not bent on federal thugs running roughshod over the Bill of Rights. Stereotypes can be empirically false, yet be very useful politically.

The Mideast Crack-Up.

The Mideast Crack-Up. Roundtable Moderated by David Samuels, with Robert Worth, David Goldman, Edward Luttwak, Amos Harel, Nathan Thrall, and Lee Smith. Tablet, May 21, 2013.

John Kerry’s Silly Play. By Lee Smith. Tablet, May 22, 2013.

The Myth of the Arab State. By Aaron David Miller. The National Interest, May 21, 2013.

Tell Me How This Ends. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, May 21, 2013.

“Liberal” Think Tank Caught with Hand in the Cookie Jar. By Walter Russell Mead.

“Liberal” Think Tank Caught with Hand in the Cookie Jar. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, May 23, 2013.

The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks. By Ken Silverstein. The Nation, May 21, 2013.


Yet the clumsy incompetence of CAP management aside, there’s a bigger problem here that The Nation doesn’t want to confront. The American Left, whose soul and conscience the magazine purports to be, wants to give Washington politicians more and more influence over the economic reins and resources of the country. This inevitably drives more money into the political process and creates more incentives for exactly the kind of behavior The Nation deplores.

The problems of the American Left are much deeper than amateur-hour leadership of a think tank. Left politics in America are caught in a trap. The Left doesn’t pose a serious threat to the broad contours of the capitalist system in the US; the Constitution and public sentiment block any real shift in American politics away from liberal market capitalism. Thus the Left oscillates ceaselessly between a futile politics of “purity” with no prospect of ever affecting anything important and a toxic “partnership” with the powers-that-be—a relationship in which it is inevitably manipulated and abused.

The chief function of the American environmental movement, for example, is to paint green lipstick on corporate pigs like Solyndra or the ethanol scam. The Nation is right to chide the Center for American Progress for becoming the servant of corporate interests rather than an opponent of them; what it misses is that this relationship describes the limits within which the movement as a whole is bound to operate.

There is no actual or potential social or political basis in America for genuinely anti-capitalist politics. Those who try to convince themselves otherwise are indulging in the kind of petty bourgeois self-deceit for which Karl Marx reserved his fullest and most biting contempt.

For an example of the Left’s “futile politics of ‘purity’” that Mead refers to, see: Letter to “The Nation” From a Young Radical. By Bhaskar Sunkara. The Nation, May 21, 2013. Also Bhaskar Sunkara video, Beyond the Welfare State. See also Jacobin, left-wing magazine edited by Sunkara.