Don't know much about historyOh look, another asshat was given space in the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed section, and it seems fair to say that this asshat is even more ill-informed than the last one. What’s particularly surprising is that this particular asshat, Richard Landes, is a historian at Boston University and yet has absolutely no understanding of Middle Eastern, Arab, or  Ottoman history — it’s kind of fascinating, actually!

In making his brief case [that culture contributed to the respective success and failure of Israel and Palestine], Mr. Romney cited two books: “Guns, Germs and Steel,” by geographer Jared Diamond, and “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations,” by economist David Landes (my father). As in other fields of social “science,” economists argue about whether development derives from cultural advantages or from natural ones such as resistance to disease and access to primary resources. Prof. Diamond, whose book focuses on societies’ natural advantages, last week wrote an op-ed in the New York Times emphasizing both culture and nature and trying to draw Prof. Landes in with him.

Actually, Professor Jared Diamond  wrote an op-ed in the New York lamenting the fact that Romney had “misrepresented” and “simplified” his book and expressing doubt as to whether or not “Mr. Romney had read it.” But tomato, tomahto.

But Israel (which neither book examined) and the Arab world (which only the Landes book examined) illustrate the primacy of culture as both necessary and sufficient for economic development. Israel, a country with no natural resources, an economic backwater even in the Ottoman Empire, rose to the top of the developed world in a century on culture alone. The Arab nations, on the other hand, illustrate the necessity of a certain kind of culture: Even those with vast petrodollars still have among the least productive economies in the world.

No…Palestine was not an “economic backwater” in the Ottoman Empire, so there’s that. And here’s a fun fact for everyone: the idea that “vast petrodollars” are negatively correlated with economic productivity and even human rights is called the “rentier effect” or the “resource curse” and it is not just limited to Arab countries. So oil wealth in fact EXPLAINS the lack of productivity and social justice in Arab (as well as other) countries.

Americans tend to assume that everyone shares their cultural attitudes—that everyone strives to get to “yes,” to positive-sum, win-win, voluntary relations; that everyone holds productive work in high respect and prizes the principles of fairness embodied in the meritocratic principle of “equality before the law”; that everyone encourages criticism, treasures intellectual capital, promotes risk-taking, prizes transparency and fosters innovation. With institutions built on such values—with a culture dedicated to making, not taking, money—a society can make use of whatever primary products a land offers.

Oh Americans value all that stuff? We hadn’t noticed — we were busy watching Congress as they try to cut Pell Grants, NSF grants, and funding for NASA , as well as the White House as they try to clamp down on whistleblowers’ efforts to bring more transparency to the administration.

But there are cultures whose favored mode is not voluntary but coerced and zero-sum relations, where the principle of “rule or be ruled” dominates political and economic life. The elites in such cultures hold hard work in contempt, and they distrust intellectual openness and uncontrolled innovation as subversive. They emphasize rote learning and unquestioning respect for those in authority. Protection rackets rather than law enforcement assure the public order and bleed the economy. Public criticism brings sharp retaliation. Powerful actors acquire wealth by taking, rather than making.

Gosh, what’s that like? Someone go ask Jamie Dimon and Angelo Mozilo and Ina Drew and Leonard Blankfein and John Kanas and Paris Hilton real fast—we’ll wait right here.

Strikingly, Palestinian culture compares favorably with that of other Arabs. Palestinians have higher education, a strong work ethic and successful entrepreneurs. Much of that comes from their close association with the Zionists, who (unlike Western imperialists) settled the land without conquest, by dint of making everyone more prosperous.

See that guys? Palestinians would have no idea about hard work if they hadn’t learned it from Zionists. The oldest and most prestigious university in Africa is right next door in Egypt and was founded in the tenth century, but yeah, Palestinian higher education DEFINITELY comes from the post-Balfour Declaration era.  And even though Arabs  invented Algebra, preserved and translated ancient Greek manuscripts, and developed a sophisticated understanding of astronomy hundreds of years earlier (which you’d think a Richard Landes, Medieval historian, would know about) but yeah, that was also probably somehow due to close contact with Zionists.

In calling Mr. Romney’s remarks “racist” and blaming Palestinian economic difficulties on Israel’s “occupation,” Mr. Erekat illustrated one of David Landes’s major points: Blaming others for one’s own failures prolongs failure. Even though his own government daily chooses a culture of death, not life, Mr. Erekat wants to blame Israel for Palestine’s woes; no admission here that he and his colleagues might have some role in the suffering of their own people….Had Western observers criticized Mr. Erekat for his silly and dishonest response, they might have strengthened those Palestinians who could lead their people to the promised land of independence and prosperity. Instead, they threw the real progressives, the ones who could put an end to the occupation by good faith negotiations, under the bus.

Hey did David Landes invent “The Secret”? Because it sure sounds like it! Let this be a lesson to us all: Palestinians blaming the occupation and blockade for stagnant economic growth just PROLONGS the occupation, the blockade, and stagnant economic growth. Just tell them to think positive and that everything will be FINE.

[the Wall Street Journal]

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  • Judd Hirsch looks TERRIBLE!

    Or wait. Is that General Zod in mufti?

    • Kneel before Kolob.

    • James Michael Curley

      Nah its not Judd Hirsch. Judd Hirsch has looked TERRIBLE for 35 years.

    • OneDollarJuana

      Hmm. I thought it was Pete Townsend.

  • Not_So_Much

    There just aren't enough red-hot pokers to go around for today's stories.

    • Callyson

      Or enough drinks.

    • Who you planning on poking, dood?

      • Not_So_Much

        All these fuggers, red-hot pokers right up the wazoo.

        (It's a quote from a bad 1977 movie starring Robbie Benson. Yes, that's just how hip and current I am.)

        • Oh, I'm totes cool with that.

          Don't feel bad. I'm still looking around in the '30s and '40s.

        • OneDollarJuana

          "bad 1977 movie starring Robbie Benson"

          Not to quibble, but that's redundant.

    • lulzmonger

      *unloads big-ass crate of red-hot pokers*

  • SorosBot

    Romney: …So I think my insights into Mr. Diamond, well, have a great deal of validity!
    America: Oh, do ya? Well, that's funny, because I happen to have Mr. Diamond right here, so, so, yeah, just let me… [pulls Diamond out from behind a nearby poster]… Come over here for a second… tell him!
    Jared Diamond: I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work!…How you got to govern anything is totally amazing!

    • So – the medium of exchange is the message?

    • I've seen that movie …

    • AncienReggie

      I haven't read the works of Daddy Landes, but that horseshit is definitely not what Jared Diamond has written. At all.

      Now Mr. Diamond did have some really cool insights into why the oak tree has never been successfully domesticated; ditto the zebra. But that bit about those innovative Palestinians learning their chops from their Israeli mentors? Nah. That ain't in there.

      • emmelemm

        Oh, the zebras. (I remember that part.)

    • Nothingisamiss


    • Negropolis

      Family Guy libel!

  • Fukui-sanYesOta

    Why are you hitting yourselves, Palestinians?

  • And here’s a fun fact for everyone: the idea that “vast petrodollars” are negatively correlated with economic productivity and even human rights is called the “rentier effect” or the “resource curse” and it is not just limited to Arab countries.

    Indeed. Would we give a shit about Israel if it wasn't for Arab oil?

    And yet, Israel benefits from outsized foreign assistance, largely from the US Government, because we value jackasses in a strip of desert near some oil countries more than we value people in our own nation. Rentier, indeed. Does anyone think Israel would be a vital, vibrant economy if it wasn't for our fucking military and our fucking tax dollars propping its ass up?

    • anniegetyerfun

      There are people who do, in fact, believe that Israel would survive because Jeebus. Not here, obviously, but you know – out there.

    • doloras

      Well, they certainly know how to sell oranges and cater to fundie tourists who hate them.

    • I love how we call them "America's Greatest Ally [in the region]", despite the fact that they aren't actually a part of any of our defensive alliances, (c.f. Turkey and NATO), have never provided personnel or material support for US combat missions in the region (contra Turkey, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait), and have repeatedly conducted espionage against the US and its allies (including operations that would be causus belli, namely the state assassination of our NATO allies' nationals on their home soil).

      • sullivanst

        But they did kick those browns' asses a couple of times.

      • The fact that they have killed American SERVICEMEN with impunity, not to mention other American citizens, ought to be a real issue for these AmericaFirst nutbags. How do their heads NOT explode from the dissonance?

        • The only one of those incidents that I'm aware of, though, they totally apologized and said it was an accident, though! (Even though that didn't make much sense) (On the other hand there wasn't really a clear reason they sunk that ship in any case)

          Also too, the most recent time the IDF killed an American citizen, that citizen was a brown, so whatevs.

          • wonkettkinkster

            The ship was a signals intelligence ship. They were parked off the Gaza Strip and recorded radio traffic indicating there was a massacre occurring in Rafah. So Israel bombed them.

            Pretty simple!

          • It's sad that we actually have to distinguish between the killings by the phrase "the most recent time."

          • Oh, come on. That was nearly a year ago. Way to hold a grudge, guy!

          • When you're wry, you're funny, you know that?

        • Boojum


  • LastGasp

    The Arab nations, on the other hand, illustrate the necessity of a certain kind of culture: Even those with vast petrodollars still have among the least productive economies in the world.
    This is from someone who obviously hasn't seen the riches of Qatar yet.

  • “Guns, Germs and Steel,” was made into a PBS Special. You can find the whole thing on the utubes. It's interestingg and stuff. If you are super lazy like me, here it starts

    • Tundra Grifter

      There are two long National Geographic specials built around Prof. Diamond's books, and I learned a great deal from both of them.

    • BaldarTFlagass

      Guns Germs etc is also available on Netflix streaming.

    • Man, ALL you guys are like a fucking TREASURE HOUSE of information. (runs off to check various sites)

      • 3 new pictures up.

        • (Big hug) Still so nervous with my camera, I haven't taken a single shot. I know, I know, I need to get off my ass. I actually used to go out shooting with my old SLR. For some reason, I think this new digital baby will fall apart if I drop it.

          • Get a good strap and practice in your yard until you get comfortable with it. You might not have the most interesting birds in your yard, but a good shot is a good shot even if it's a dumb old House Sparrow. Practice stalking up on them. You soon learn to read their body language and can get better shots.

          • Thanks, that's good advice. We actually have a ton of interesting birds because of all the land around (in the middle of some big beautiful parks and wild land). I tried pishing a bluejay the other day and she came REALLY close. (Hugs you) Thanks for not scolding me about it. I scold myself a lot, as it is.

          • Yeah, pishing can work surprising well. It doesn't always work. Some birds don't respond to it and if a bird pops up to see what the heck that noise is, more often then not, they're all like, "Oh, it's just a dumb person." and they go back to hiding. I occasionally will play recorded bird calls on an old Palm Pilot (If I'm looking for specific bird) to draw them out. Like pishing, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It is important not to play calls too much because it can confuse birds. Ie…the Boy who cried Wolf

  • elviouslyqueer

    But there are cultures whose favored mode is not voluntary but coerced and zero-sum relations, where the principle of “rule or be ruled” dominates political and economic life. The elites in such cultures hold hard work in contempt, and they distrust intellectual openness and uncontrolled innovation as subversive. They emphasize rote learning and unquestioning respect for those in authority. Protection rackets rather than law enforcement assure the public order and bleed the economy. Public criticism brings sharp retaliation. Powerful actors acquire wealth by taking, rather than making.

    But enough about the GOP.

    • anniegetyerfun

      Oh, well played good sir.

    • AncienReggie


    • Slim_Pickins

      and the Vatican.

    • Callyson


    • Negropolis

      Oh, this is good, my friend. Reel gud.

  • Mittens Howell, III

    Palestine is not a Kibbutz.

  • WhatTheHeck

    Those who forget history are condemned to pee on it.

    • DustBowlBlues

      Or didn't know it in the first place.

    • zippy_w_pinhead

      maybe they were bit by a jellyfish

  • When the British occupied America you didn't see a bunch of people getting crazy and shooting people or talking revolution – did you!!!!

    Uncultured Palestinians are apparently just prone to violence!

  • MissTaken

    For fuck's sake Wonkette, how can you expect a historian to actually know about history? That's like saying since I'm an accountant I should know how to count to 10 without using my fingers. As if!

    • Hey speaking of accountants, we ended up owing like $2k on our 2010 taxes – which were done by an accountant. He's a right winger, who always likes to tell me about his political views while I'm sitting there like an idiot twiddling my thumbs as he punches numbers into his PC.

      He also has a glass case of assault rifles behind his desk as well, so I usually play along and agree with his latest Nobama conspiracy stories.

      Anyway he made an obvious error – which I caught in about 10 second this morning re-reviewing the return. So much for wingnut accountants!

      I told my wife we should have had dressage horses instead of kids – think of the savings!

      • MissTaken

        I'm not a CPA (cut paste attach) for that reason. Instead I went into the ungodly field of finance, got disgruntled, and became a trainer. Accountants are horrible people. And auditors are Satan's army.

        • montreal_bruin

          Upfist from a recovering auditor/accountant. Hail finance academia, the last refuge for a Marxist cursed with math skills !!

        • Boojum

          What do you train? Dressage horses, I hope?

    • You don't take your shoes off to carry the one?

      You must be a CPA!

    • SorosBot

      But you're a girl, and math is hard!

      • Accounting is not math, it's magic. Math uses logic. Accounting uses "P-E-N-I-S goes in the anus".

    • BerkeleyBear

      Well, expecting a medieval history prof (who probably focuses on bullshit like the sudden upswing in life expectancy post the plague era in Europe but claims it has to do with the re-emergence of learning and nothing to do with biological agents thinning the herd) to know anything about modern geopolitics in the Middle East is somewhat like asking a really smart fifth grader to do calculus without any prior training.

      Never ever trust an academic who makes bold proclamations outside of their field of experience and research. They are worse than engineers when it comes to extrapolating from their narrow actual knowledge to broader subjects.

      • Angry_Marmot

        There's a tendency to believe that expertise in one field extends to skill in all other aspects of human activity. Con men / investment gurus love wealthy doctors for the same reason; their ability in one field makes them plump pigeons in another.

        I learned that from a John D. MacDonald novel a long time ago, and observation seems to bear it out. In my travels, businessmen are the worst barroom offenders for telling someone else how to do their job.

        Me, I warn the table when I'm about to pull something out of my butt, which explains my failure as a stage magician but modest success in Bangkok ping pong exhibitions.

      • I always attributed the upswing in life expectancy to the sudden surfeit of resources available to a smaller population.

        Not correct? Cuz clean underwear saves lives. My mom told me so. She said, "always wear clean underwear in case of an accident."

        Which is hard, because have you ever tried to change underwear after you've pooped them while a plane spirals to the ground? It's no wonder that thing crashed, I couldn't move fast enough.

        • I remember my great-grandmother asking, "what if you get hit by a car?" re: the clean underwear thing.

          I also remember responding, "won't my clothes be soiled from all the blood in that case?" I was six.

    • Boys can count to 21!

  • Callyson

    Americans tend to assume that everyone who is elected to public office shares their cultural attitudes—that everyone strives to get to “yes,” to positive-sum, win-win, voluntary relations; that everyone holds productive work in high respect and prizes the principles of fairness embodied in the meritocratic principle of “equality before the law”; that everyone encourages criticism, treasures intellectual capital, promotes risk-taking, prizes transparency and fosters innovation…
    But there are Republicans whose favored mode is not voluntary but coerced and zero-sum relations, where the principle of “rule or be ruled” dominates political and economic life. The elites in such political parties hold hard work in contempt, and they distrust intellectual openness and uncontrolled innovation as subversive. They emphasize rote learning and unquestioning respect for those in authority. Protection rackets rather than law enforcement assure the public order and bleed the economy. Public criticism brings sharp retaliation. Powerful actors acquire wealth by taking, rather than making.



  • littlebigdaddy

    Does the "resource curse" explain Texas? And do you think Israel would want it?

    • bibliotequetress

      Would it be rude if we return it to Mexico?

      • HistoriCat

        Doesn't Mexico have enough problems right now?

        • Angry_Marmot

          They might welcome the distraction.

    • Dudleydidwrong

      I don't care if Israel "wants" Texas or not. I say we make it a condition of our sending aid–military, financial, yarmulkes, whatever–to Israel. If they want our aid they have to take Texas. Otherwise, no deal.

      • I like this idea. Either they'll refuse our munnies, which means we can pay for our healthcare instead of theirs and the Iraqis'; or, they'll take Texas.


        • HistoriCat

          And if Israel takes Texas then they'll be part of the Mitt Romney approved Israeli health care system. It's a win-win there too!

      • Negropolis

        Well, Texas does have a Palestine, so I'm not sure if the Israeli's could resist taking it.

    • I'm not sure "stupid" is a resource.

      It's certainly unlimited, however.

  • Baconzgood

    I'm impressed. Must be hard to type heavily medicated and with your nose because your in a straight jacket.

  • ProgressiveInga

    But when will David Landes drunk-dial the Palestinians and ask them to apologize for the way they have behaved for the past 3,000 years? Or is this it?……

  • Baconzgood

    Waiter. I ordered bacon with my word salad.

    • zippy_w_pinhead

      Sorry, it's a kosher salad…

      • BaldarTFlagass

        And halal, too also.

        • SigDeFlyinMonky

          But I ordered six degrees of bacon with my word salad!

  • I love the part about "without conquest". That certainly explains where the 700,000 refugees came from.

    Edit: Also I'm not sure how a terrorist campaign waged by multiple paramilitary groups counts as "making everyone more prosperous", either.

  • KeepFnThatChicken

    It sounds like Mittbot webcrawled and indexed the book, but didn't parse it.

  • So, the Palestinians and the rest of the Middle East would be better if they would just band together, and through collective action and shared resources, work together with a strong, regulatory central government toward a veritable workers' paradise.

    Just how long has the WSJ been a Marxist rag?

  • poorgradstudent

    As a member of the historical profession (sort of, more or less…okay, my "office" is a desk in the middle of a hallway) I feel like I have to apologize.

    But you have to admit it is kind of fascinating. Do they even *realize* deep in their hearts that their "research" on Islamic cultures in the Middle East might as well come from anti-Semitic pamphlets from 100 or so years ago?

  • Dr_Zoidberg

    Thank god for Learned White Men who correct the rest of the world when they quote facts!

  • It's the same old bullshit: "Nothing can keep a good man down. You're down, so you aren't good." I'm having a hard time keeping a good lunch down.

  • doloras

    In fact, the "resource curse" is commonly as the "Dutch disease", after what happened when the Netherlands got oil-rich in the 60s. So Mr Landes is going to go to Amsterdam and chew them out for their inferior pot-smoking cheese-making culture, right?

    • I thought the Dutch disease was the one that makes it burn when you pee.

      • viennawoods13

        I thought it happened to elms.

      • Negropolis

        I thought the "Dutch disease" was what happened when they got all infected with tulip spores and sold the bulbs for the price of mansions.

  • anniegetyerfun

    No, my brain quit on this one. There's just too much stupid to counteract. Good on you, Kris, for taking a stab at it.

    • Kris E. Benson

      It was rough, man. And there’s a lot of stupid I left out, believe it or not.

  • RadioBowels


  • "…prizes the principles of fairness embodied in the meritocratic principle of “equality before the law”

    Um — Mr. Dumbass, "equality before the law" is not a principle of meritocracy, wherein the government is run by those who (according to some scale of value) deserve to run it. "Equality before the law" is a principle of humanism, which professes that all humans are equal and the law applies as much to the lawmakers as it does to their subjects or citizens.

    The two aren't necessarily incompatible, but they certainly aren't the same.

    • sullivanst

      And they certainly aren't practiced by the GOP, least of all Mitt "shred everything, and buy the harddrives so you can them to me to dissolve in acid" Romney.

  • And the WSJ is supposed to be the "intellectual" conservative newspaper.

    • anniegetyerfun

      Well, to be fair, this still bests the others by a long shot.

    • That was the reputation that Rupert Murdoch wanted it to skate on while he destroyed said reputation advancing his noxious agenda.

    • Tundra Grifter

      Just like Ole Newt is the genius of the GNoP.

      • thefrontpage

        The Wall Street Journal sucks as a newspaper! There's no comics and no astrology column!

        • Sure there is! In fact, there's an entire section on the stock markets!

    • The Journal is a good newspaper, but it's editorial section sucks ass. It was bad enough, but under Murdoch has become a poor mix of FOX News and The Corner.

      • Back in the '80s, I had a hardcore Marxist graphic designer friend who read the WSJ religiously, because she said its news coverage was the best.

    • One_who_wanders

      I read WSJ for the pictures.

      Actually Lionel and Chet are (as always) correct. I haven't read it for years (since I stopped getting it for free) but the editorials section always seemed like it was imported directly from the 1920's. The backward part of the 1920's.

    • Intellectual and conservative do not belong in the same sentence.

  • doloras

    Also, it's true that only inferior cultures who deserve conquering blame others for their own problems. In other news, US America's economy is taking because of the nigra communist in the White House, Mooslin terrists who hate our freedoms, gay marriage, and the dastardly Chinese manipulating their currency.

  • Really, how strong could either Palestine or Israel be if they were ruled by step stools for so long.

  • TribecaMike

    When I hear the word culture I reach for my taser.

    • thefrontpage

      Don't culture taser me, bro'!

    • lulzmonger

      Don't reify my contemporary paradigm, bro!!

    • Angry_Marmot

      There was a punk 'zine (sorry I don't remember the name) that said the trouble with liberals is that when someone mentions guns, they reach for their culture.

  • Poor Kris. I would hate to be on Wall Street Urinal detail.

  • TribecaMike

    Good grief, what's taking the construction of those death camps so long?

  • DustBowlBlues

    Shit. I'm on the wonket because I'm avoiding shit that I don't want to do. I'm on this thread because all the others were so full of responses, but this one makes my headache worse because it's so hard–hard as the floor I fainted onto last night. (Not a health issue, just a poorly chosen combo of late-night herbs for the arthritis, Lunesta to sleep and an empty stomach after working outside, hard and vast, before it was too dark to see what I was doing. Lateness owing to the temps dropping to 102F and making it cool enough to leave the AC).

    PS don't tell anyone in my family, lest I have to explain why they don't need to send me to a specialist for an MRI.

    Sorry for the OT shit, but this is the most caring, nurturing group of friends I know. Because they won't turn me in for using herbal relief for pain nor condemn me for it. I hope.

    • anniegetyerfun

      Oh, I'm so sorry! Hitting the floor must not help with the arthritis.

      I fainted a couple of times recently – they're making me see a cardiologist today. So lame. It's obviously the fetus's fault.

      • emmelemm

        Everything is the fetus' fault.

      • DustBowlBlues

        You pregnant? Congrats, if you are happy about it. Or as someone who has also been through it, if you are happy about it most of time. Swollen ankles, an aching back and a ninth month without sleep, esp. if there is an old man next to you in bed and he snores blissfully, enjoying the sleep you so deserve, which only makes you angry and more awake. Or so I read in the books.

    • You might get some condemnation for not sharing. And don't forget to eat and hydrate, okay?

    • MissTaken

      Feel better soon!

    • Nothingisamiss

      DBB, I look forward to your every missive. As someone who lives in the deep red states I always find the fact that you live in OK and are still human and humane something of an inspiration.

      Don't combine those particular three things like that again.

    • Barrelhse

      Easy on the Wolfbane and Foxglove, DBB, especially on an empty stomach (and I should know!)

      • DustBowlBlues

        I've reformed. Imagine if I still drank, and had laced that milk I was putting in the nucelator with some Bailey's. Actually, it wouldn't have mattered, as I was lying in a puddle of hot milk. One of the cats was lapping it up, so I guess if I'd spiked it, the cat would have given me away when she began stumbling around the house.

    • emmelemm

      Feel better! Rest, eat more.

      • DustBowlBlues

        It's not so much a matter of volume as timing. I was already bummed out for unknown reason, probably poll numbers that sucked, so I'd made the ultimate comfort food–homemade mac and cheese– for dinner. It was great. Even had a little Velveeta in it. This is not an everyday dish if you desire to be either slim or healthy.

    • HempDogbane

      Sounds like someone has a culture problem !

      • DustBowlBlues

        A big one, like the bump on the back of my head.

    • Boojum

      Do the herbs work? I mean, for pain relief, not as a way of lying down unexpectedly.

    • Angry_Marmot

      This bunch is more likely to condemn you for not doing it more often.

    • 102 is cool?????

  • DHarcavy

    Too snarky and wrong in many places. Who knows what Romney actually meant in his remarks. But the big difference between Israel and the Arab states is government. Israel's government is secular, even though Judaism is the state religion. It's really a western social democracy — an open society — the only one in the Middle East. Yes, the Arabs preserved much of Greco-Roman knowledge and established fine universities. Then came Islam, and it all disappeared (you could look it up). Why read Ptolemy or Aristarchus when the Q'uran has all the answers? With a population of 7.7 million, Israel has ten Nobel laureates; 110 Nobel laureates are Jewish. The Islamic states? Eleven. Total. And I don't count Arafat. Most Islamic states are oppressive medieval throwbacks run absolutely by the immams and mullahs, with all the economic power at the top and grinding poverty at the bottom. The contrast with Israel is striking.

    • anniegetyerfun

      Oh, seriously? You don't think that US support of both oppressive Islamist regimes AND the Israeli government has anything to do with it? It's really all about how smart the Jews are?

      "Yes, the Arabs preserved much of Greco-Roman knowledge and established fine universities. Then came Islam, and it all disappeared (you could look it up)."

      I have – I studied it in college. Islam occurred around 623AD – all the GOOD stuff happened AFTER that. They don't call it The Golden Age of Islam for nothing.

      • They also invented modern medicine, developed germ theory 600 years before the whole thing with the well water and cholera in 19th-century London, and were practicing a form of vaccination for nearly 100 years before Louis Pasteur "discovered" acquired immunity also in the 19th century (in that one factor that led to this 'discovery' was that a form of smallpox innoculation was already in vogue in Istanbul at the time).

        But, that all happened before Islam ruined everything, I'm sure. Islam was invented in the 1800's, right?

    • sullivanst

      You're even more ignorant than the Journal's hack, aren't you? Suddenly I miss the downfist button that I never even saw…

    • TribecaMike

      Israel may have been a secular state for many years, but it's become more and more of a religious state since the eighties.

    • doloras

      What massive freakin' ignorance. The Arabs ONLY STARTED translating Greek philosophy and culture in the Islamic era. Before Islam they did nothing but live in the desert, have feuds, write poetry and bury the girl babies alive.

    • kakotechnia

      I am a professor, and I have never seen a student in my classroom literate in Ptolemy, but my Muslim students rule pretty hard anyway. Unfortunately for your argument, the reason I'm able to work so closely with Greek philosophy myself is because Islamic scholars protected Greek texts while the Medieval church destroyed these "Pagan works." And we've spent the past century having to strip the scholasticism and religious Platonism out of anything left over.

      (Not snarky enough, but right in many places)

    • BaldarTFlagass

      And El Cid was an enlightened liberator, right?

    • MosesInvests

      Some of your points are correct, mainly the one about Israel being a largely secular democracy (though the religious parties in the Knesset need to be eliminated, and the democracy made completely secular). However, your assertions about Islam are completely off-base. Arab *Islamic* culture (along with Jews in the Muslim world) preserved Greco-Roman knowledge. The problems came when Islamic *fundamentalism* took over, and the answer to any scientific question became "because it is the will of Allah".
      The big problem that the Palestinians (and indeed, most of the Middle East) has, is that first the Soviets and then the Saudis and Iran have been pumping billions of dollars into extremist movements. The Soviets did so to try to cause enough chaos to take control of the Middle East, and the Saudis/Iranians do so because unrest in the Middle East causes oil prices to rise.
      Greed and extremism feed off each other, in the Middle East as well as other places. And that includes Israel, BTW.

    • LetUsBray

      Hey, be nice, people; how often does Senator Lieberman visit wonkette?

      • thefrontpage

        I hear that Joe's moniker on Wonkette is OrthodoxIndependentGuy.

      • You rang?

  • Blueb4sinrise

    OH YEAH?!!!!!!!! Well I read Collapse
    So THERE!!!!!!!!!

  • Fox n Fiends

    The Voice of Murdoch is strong in this one.

  • sullivanst

    If Israel's development was achieved purely through their culture, why the fuck have we been showering billions of dollars per annum on them since forever?

    • anniegetyerfun

      Because Jesus.

      • thefrontpage

        Because Moses!

        • Boojum

          Because yogurt? (Culture joke).

          • Chichikovovich

            Oh, for petri's sake.

  • viennawoods13

    "Much of that comes from their close association with the Zionists, who (unlike Western imperialists) settled the land without conquest, "
    Without conquest. Really. Yeah, because without the constant presence of heavily-armed Israeli troops, those illegal West Bank settlements would totally be ok. Because moving people onto land that DOESN'T BELONG TO THEM with military support is in no way a conquest.
    Quick googled definition: Conquest: "The subjugation and assumption of control of a place or people by use of military force." Yeah, that was what I thought.

  • BoatOfVelociraptors

    Sanctions, blockades, and an occupying militia limits investment and growth? Who could have known?

  • Nostrildamus

    Speaking of germs …

  • rickmaci

    Seems the phrase "Republican intellectual" is an oxymoron.

  • Extemporanus

    The sins of the father shall be revisited by the son.

    [c.f. Krystol, Kagan, Goldberg, Podheretz, Landes, et al.]

    • anniegetyerfun

      Bush libel!

      • Extemporanus

        Are you saying that I should've been more Gentile in my criticism?

    • TribecaMike

      Murdoch libel!

      • Extemporanus

        That's redundant!

    • Boojum

      Romney li…..oh fuck, never mind.

    • Angry_Marmot

      Now that you mention it, I revisit the sins more often than I visit the father.

  • cheetojeebus

    oh crap, more shit to read about another dumb ass who thinks he's smart. i can't wait.

  • ttommyunger

    Guns, Jews and Gentiles. Shem, Ham and Japeth: same mom and dad. Killing and maiming within the same family for at least 5,000 years. Toss all the words you want at the problem, it will never go away. BTW, how long can the tail (Israel) wag the dog (USA)? Just another one of Truman's good intentions gone bad.

    • TribecaMike

      Ham saw his dad drunk and naked, which quite logically calls for his descendants to be cursed forever. Spoiler Alert: I've seen my dad drunk but never naked, so my spawn needn't have any worries and will just have to settle for being cursed the old-fashioned way, by earning it.

      • ttommyunger

        See you there, T.

  • kakotechnia

    If I have to hear one more dipshit mouth the "SOME people don't believe in hard work" strawman argument, I will lose my goddamn mind.

    Name them. Name the people–worse, "the culture" that expressly denigrates hard work. And you better be ready to prove it. I'm not talking cultural rejection of aimless busyness, or refusal to be alienated from labor, or an appreciation for taking time, or a balancing of ones public and one's private labor. I mean an entire group of people who think that engaging in labor is expressly worthless and should be shamed. I'll wait forever.

    • sullivanst

      Every racist knows Arabs are lazy.

    • BerkeleyBear

      There is a group of Wall Street Superheroes – Titans of the Universe – who do seem to think working hard, in the sense of fair play and sweat of your brow, is pretty stupid when you can gamble with other people's money and extract fees either way. And they generally seem surrounded by spouses and children who don't exactly prize work for work's sake. But I'm not sure if they qualify as a culture, as opposed to typical lazy rich fucks.

    • Walmart cashiers.
      Based on observation of their posture, speed of gum-chewing, and inability to hand me a bag filled with cheap, thoughtlessly produced, eventual landfill.

      Please tell me I won a $5 Walmart gift card, redeemable only for expired Kraft or Pepsi products.

    • Millionaires. They need continual tax cuts, constantly, or else they lose all will to do any work whatsoever, for no other reason.

    • vulpes82

      Aristocratic cultures tend to denigrate manual labor and heavy work as the domain of peasants and slaves and such, but that's really not quite the same thing. The peasants and slaves and such still need to work hard (lest they starve, if nothing else).

    • CthuNHu

      What is Southern antebellum upper-class society, Alex?

      In other news, that is exactly the historic model most idealized by modern poor white southern rednecks, who are now just what they were 150 years ago, some of the hardest-working and least-rewarded people around, except now they look fondly back on the racist aristocracy their forefathers loathed, resented and were screwed by.

  • metamarcisf

    A whole empire based on putting your feet up.

  • bibliotequetress

    My life as a crypto archivist/libraryperson has been a total waste. If some dumb fuck with an advanced degree, a TEACHING position, and enough wastable time to be pud pulling in the WSJ can't be bothered to do primary source research– especially when those primary sources are now available in square tonnage mutliple places online– why not just burn our carefully preserved originals of the McMahon Agreement and the Balfour Declaration and etc et al and let everyone make history the fuck up? Mr. Peabody and Sherman are more reliable than Richard Landis.

    • HistoriCat

      Bear in mind that the primary sources don't really support Landis's pre-conceived conclusion. He has absolutely no incentive to partake of research.

      • bibliotequetress

        Sad, Historicat, sad but true.

  • Antispandex

    …"culture as both necessary and sufficient for economic development. "

    Well, it MIGHT be true. I've been to Kansas, and there isn't much of either there.

    • sullivanst

      Of course, to prove it as stated, you'd have to demonstrate both that there are no nations that have succeeded economically despite inferior culture, and that there are none who have failed economically despite superior culture.

      More likely, if you're a WSJ hack, you'd just stick your head up your own ass and define superior cultures as those that have succeeded economically, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done, cash your wingnut welfare check from Mr. Murdoch, and go drink scotch with the other old white assholes at your country club.

    • thefrontpage

      Kansas does have the Kansas City Royals, The Crop Circles Museum, and the Topeka Museum of Corn.

      Does that count as culture?

      • BaldarTFlagass

        The best thing Kansas has is I-70 West to Denver. Not THAT big an improvement, but at least there's some vertical relief.

  • Tundra Grifter

    After Spain tossed out the Moors, it enjoyed the remarkable political combination of a strong monarchy with the spirit of a much more representative government.

    It proceeded to plunder the New World, bringing back each year more gold than existed in all of Europe. It didn't take long to move on to silver and other resources.

    How did Spain spend this untold wealth? It did manage to import massive inflation and that was about it. Spain, by the calcuation of most people, is a Western European nation with the culture to match.

    • Oh no they ain't! Africa begins at the Pyrenees!

      • thefrontpage

        I'm Spanish, and I did not approve this post.

      • vulpes82

        It's all wogs after Calais.

    • TribecaMike

      They shoulda bought US Savings Bonds.

    • Misty Malarky

      It's the MOOPS!

  • pinkocommi

    "Much of that comes from their [Palestinians'] close association with the Zionists, who . . . settled the land without conquest"

    Wow. Maybe the asshat should ask a Palestinian if the 1947-1949 War, the 1967 War, the military checkpoints and enormous "security" wall and the many, many bulldozers are indicators of Zionist settlement of Palestinian land "without conquest."

    • BaldarTFlagass

      Let's not forget 1956 and 1973. They may not have started those, but they sure reaped some land.

  • James Michael Curley

    There are five Trader Vics in the UAE. They all claim to have invented the Mai Tai.

  • arihaya

    The reason Middle East has struggling since late Ottoman period are complicated. BUT mainly -in my opinion; due to changes in trade route from inland route through Middle East into sea route via Atlantic that was dominated by Western nations.

    This change effectively isolated Middle East from commerce and innovation flows, while giving Western nations growing advantage in economy, technology and military.

    But for wingnuts its all about Jesus , Jesus, and Jesus.

  • Billmatic

    I agree that Americans hold productive work in high respect, as long as it's coming from someone else.

  • azeyote

    that whole settled without conquest thing and their culture bringing them wealth is hard to choke down, in fact it's making it hard to type. i'm too lazy to get the hard facts but don't we send like a boatload of cash to isreal every year, like the equivilent of 50 large per person., and i must have missed something but aren't the palestinians refugees after getting the boot when isreal didn't do the conquest thingy?

    • Angry_Marmot

      And booted onto land with the shittiest water supply this side of an Indian reservation.

  • Billmatic

    All those who collaborated on Mozillo's tan should be tried at the Hague.

  • BlueStateLibel

    OK, so Mitt Rmoney sucks at history, economics, politics, foreign affairs, behaving like a normal human being, and running a campaign for president. But he's real good at firing people, working the Excel and hitting bad people up for money, what more do you want?

  • James Michael Curley

    "How did Spain spend this untold wealth?"

    Oo! Oo! Oo! I know. Three plagues in the 16th Century?

  • MinAgain

    I really hope he isn't a teacher at Boston University, because his tests would be murder for anyone who actually read something other than the Wall Street Journal.

  • LetUsBray

    Bay State wonketteers help me out here: Is Boston U. or Boston College the wingnutty one?

    • Neither, really. They're both primarily a bunch of drunk, overprivileged teenagers. But BC is nominally Catholic, Jesuit, so maybe they're a little more wingnutty.

      • Aren't Jesuits supposed to be the "good" Catholics? I mean, at least, that's what I heard from my friend, who's taught at a few Catholic schools over the years (the one she teaches at now isn't Jesuit, so she's a lot more secretive about the fact that she's a pagan and cohabitates with her boyfriend, who makes a living playing poker, I wonder if I should be spreading this story around as much as I do)

        • I know Jesuits don't take a vow of poverty….

        • TribecaMike

          Never heard that they were the "good" Catholics, but supposedly they're the smart ones.

  • mosjef

    I'll never forgive Richard "Shemp" Landes for replacing Curly in The 3 Stooges.

  • thefrontpage

    Two developments:

    1. According to documents filed with the FEC, Richard Landes is the campaign manager for Mindy Meyer for New York State Senate.

    2. According to The Boston University History Department and Faculty Senate, Landes has been officially referred to the University Psychologist, the University Psychiatrist, the University Judicial Board, and the University Committee to Investigate Stupid Faculty (UCISF).

  • Slim_Pickins

    I tried to read the elder Landes' book, but it was a "just-so" story. He shot at a blank target and drew the bulls eye around the hole.

  • Graham Cracker

    You know what the Arab culture gave us?

    Zero, Nothing!!!

    • biraweeyaz

      I see what you did there.

    • TribecaMike

      They got it from India, which got the basic concept from the Babylonians, but I see what you did there.

  • docterry6973

    See? Palestinian poverty has nothing to do with what Israel inflicts on them; it is their own damn fault for having a bad culture.

  • barto

    and of course $6 billion plus in US aid to Israel every year hasn't had any impact either…

  • Estproph

    Until now, I wasn't aware that someone could become an authority on history and cultures simply by reading Reader's Digest.

  • TribecaMike

    If Randy Travis is an example of our own culture, we're up shit creek without an auto-tuner…

    • C_R_Eature

      "Nude, Drunk and Stupid is no way to go through life, Son."

    • not that Dewey

      He managed to get the Kwicky Mart clerk to sell him a pack of cigarettes while he was naked, so he must have been doing something right.

      • TribecaMike

        That's star power.

  • HistoriCat

    Off topic – I appreciate the female form as much as the next person but can we move on from beach volleyball?

    • How about some sailing, with commentary by Irish Television:

    • Callyson

      I am impatiently waiting for the women's 200M race, now that you mention it. But it will be historic to see if Misty and Kerri can three – peat (it's on in the background as I type this…)

    • I know dude. I saw that the Dutch Women Field Hockey Team were playing and I was like YES! Know what was on? Fucking Beach Volleyball…AGAIN!
      They spent a Billion or so dollars for the rights to show the Olympics…then show the fucking Olympics already. There are things going on at 3:00 a.m my time…then show the fucking things. Use Bravo or the NBC Business channel for crying out loud.
      Thank God for the Internet! I've been about 40% successful in finding ok streams of live events.

    • Oh for fuck's sake, they're showing fucking Beach Fucking Volley Ball again!

      • HistoriCat

        But what does Ryan Seacrest have to say about it?

  • Gotta love this: Oregon Dems – "Democrats don't want your guns, we've got our own"

  • Just sent this to tips… hopefully someone still reads it???

    Ann Romney named as Ambassador to vagina owners…. Others include such capable female Americans like Carly Fiorina:

    – Johnny Zhivago (commenter)

    • LetUsBray

      Well, that'll get people to stop talking about his tax returns, not to mention his campaign's politically disastrous endorsement of his own health care plan.

      • sullivanst

        I mentioned elsewhere, but the best part of Andrea Saul's endorsement of Romneycare was that she did it in such a way that highlighted precisely why states can't fix healthcare on their own, because when one state forges ahead, their savings from reform are cancelled out by the inward migration of sick people.

    • TribecaMike

      That crowd sounds way to tight for me.

      • Angry_Marmot

        Wouldn't that make them over qualified?

  • Negropolis

    OT, but it looks like election fraudster Thad McCotter in Michigan's 11th congressional district may be indicted along with some other lackeys, tomorrow. Oh god, let this be true.

  • BZ1

    One of the wingnuts responding to the WSJ article succinctly put it: "… we object to helping the less fortunate, becoming a way of life for those recipiants <sic>, who can and should eventually make their own way." Pretty much says it all.

  • Negropolis

    Much of that comes from their close association with the Zionists, who (unlike Western imperialists) settled the land without conquest…

    Ummm, excuse my French, but what the fuck?! I think a group of people would argue otherwise. I can't believe I just read that. I've seen plenty of stupid shit from the right, but this ranks right up at the top in either its gross revisionism or rank stupidity.

    BTW, it's only welfare and depdency when the Palestinians get it.

    • mlle_derp

      Crikey, didn't any of you folks read 'Exodus'? Arabs are bad, Israelis are awesome. The end.

      • TribecaMike

        Well, the old guard Zionists were socialists, so like d-yuh.

      • Negropolis

        You see, because Ishmael was a little, brown bastard….

    • TribecaMike

      Chaim Weizmann is spritzing in his grave.

    • mlle_derp

      And speaking of revisionism, have any of y'all read "The Yiddish Policemen's Union"? Apparently the Coen Bros are/were thinking about making a film based on the novel.

      • TribecaMike

        Haven't read the novel (I've only read Chabon's two collections of essays), but am looking forward to the Coen's Dave Van Ronk flick.

        • mlle_derp

          Yes, that should be good.

          I liked TYPU- it's funny, but pretty dark…

      • bobbert

        Wow, that would be pretty ambitious. Like Blade Runner, but more complicated.

  • mlle_derp

    OT, but it's Mark Fiore being hi-larious again:

    • viennawoods13

      Nice one.

  • lulzmonger

    Wow, someone's cultural imperialism is showing … I'm kind of a dolt when it comes to Mideast history but even my tiny brain knows that them Ay-Rabs were writing awesome literature & doing serious science while my ancestors were fucking their sisters & livestock while worshipping thunderstorms. There was also that whole "Cedars of Lebanon" thing that made the region one of the richest places on Earth for a very long time, with nary an OPEC in sight. Good land in abundance will trump any amount of "work ethic" ten times out of ten … unless you're dim enough to seriously think that Bangladeshis or Ethiopians or Mauritanians are lazy.

    Israel does wonders in high-tech because it's their heritage – but not by choice: most formal trades that paid well were strictly off-limits for Teh Chosen Peeps, so the only things they had any chance to make a decent living from were literature, the arts, moneylending & inventing. Also, their intellectual elite – the clergy – were allowed to marry & spawn, unlike certain other Abrahamic religions.

    As for Landes' buggery-sans-lube of modern Mideast history, it ill behooves me to bomb the rubble left by my distinguished fellow Wonkeratti, thus I shall refrain … other than to remark upon the magical process of spontaneous inflation that Israel has enjoyed (albeit with the odd setback) since its inception, all of which was surely a joyous gift from its Arab neighbours. The Palestinians in particular seem utterly overjoyed with their gentle tutelage, to the point of being packed together arse-over-teakettle in the Gaza Strip in their eagerness to share the delights of their company.

    • Angry_Marmot

      My ancestors worshiped their livestock and tried fucking thunderstorms, which may explain our low numbers. Great-Uncle Fodbgen-mac-Asafoetida wrapped tinfoil around his maypole; a partial success, but he died without issue.

  • worrierqueen

    The entire point of Guns Germs and Steel is to trash Romney's "the arabs deserve it" nonsense. Perhaps Romney's horse read Diamond's book to him and it lost something in the translation from horsey to evil.

  • bflrtsplk

    Racist garbage in, racist garbage out.

  • dennis1943

    Since opinions are possessed by those who possess assholes,what,pray tell,is possessed by those who are ALL asshole………….

    • Angry_Marmot

      It's like the old Borden milk can showing a cow with a milk can showing a cow with a milk can– it's assholes all the way down.

    • lulzmonger


  • DahBoner

    Israel, a country with no natural resources

    Best Money Handlers in the World?

  • Is it just me, or does this part:

    But there are cultures whose favored mode is not voluntary but coerced and zero-sum relations, where the principle of “rule or be ruled” dominates political and economic life

    read an awful lot like those defenses of Bush's torture programs who claimed that torturing detainees was just a "culturally sensitive" way of interrogating them?

  • johnnie_utah

    Ha ha, without conquest. That guy is HILARIOUS.

  • Rhiphopopotamus

    I had this professor at BU. For a class entitled "History of Heresy and Persecution in the 11th and 12th centuries [in the French languedoc region]'. I can confirm he is, in deed, an asshat.

    (Who did offer a make up class at an inconvenient time once, but he totally offered to bring wine, which resulted in the one time he was not an asshat)

  • Lazy Media

    The only thing I know for true about Arab culture is that their armies suck. But lovely people once you get to know them (spent a year in Iraq working closely with 10 Iraqi translators).

    • Negropolis


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