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23 April 2016


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Babak Makkinejad

Well, as I had expected, you are equivocating.

Beyond equivocation remains the path that I had indicated: acceptance of our mutual antipathies and finding non-lethal ways of managing them - such as the JCOPA or the 99-Year Ceasefire of HAMAS.


Tidewater to Babak Makkinejad,

I keep thinking that this forum might better be compared to the London coffee houses that sprang up in the early 18th Century. Foreign aristocratic travellers and the spy-master John Mackey (James II invasion plans, 1682) were among those to marvel at the democratic aspect of these new establishments, where Lords, diplomats,soldiers, fish mongers, clerks, watermen, young bucks--in short, all and sundry, if male--and many of them total strangers, found convivial and intelligent company. They would drink a coffee that was, as the old Turkish proverb put it, "Black as hell, Strong as death, Sweet as love" and forty per cent coffee grinds. The Rules and Orders of the St. James, Covent Garden, and Cornhill coffee houses were posted as early as 1674. "Take the next fit seat you can find." These establishments were "spartan, wooden, no nonsense", there was always a fire, and once a new customer entered cries would go up routinely, "Your servant, Sir, what news of ..." Often enough, the places of interest were then, as now, in the Levant, or Mahgreb; Tangier, for example, a preoccupation of Samuel Pepys. In the case of the coffee house where only Latin was spoken, the greeting was always: "Quid Novi!"

Richard Steele, who brought out the Tatler (1709), and wrote under the nom de plume of Isaac Bickerstaff, assisted from time to time by Jonathan Swift (!), commented on the coffee house scene: Here "men were deposing princes, settling the bounds of kingdoms, and balancing the power of Europe with great justice and impartiality."

Sound familiar?

There is more. "Far from co-existing in perfect harmony on the fire-side bench, people sat in relentless judgment of one another."


I tend to envisage a coffee house with Dr. (Samuel) Johnson surrounded by a number of extraordinary makers of conversation, who yet accord a certain precedence, a gracious deference to the good Doctor's opinions and views,who indeed are inspired with a genuine curiosity to hear his views--views which often enough are found completely satisfying, though which ,if challenged, should not be challenged carelessly, as the good Doctor's temperament was one which brought forth very forcible, sometime explosive, usually decisive concluding exposition on the point, as if, as it were, it were being tempered fine at the forge, to the delight of all the gathering but the one on the other end of the argument. The good Doctor, it was understood, was perfectly capable of kicking you down the stairs.


Tidewater to Tidewater,

Not 1682! Must be 1692. Glorious Revolution was 1688! The eternal Irish hangup that was the Boyne was 1690. Hence James II was back in in France in 1690. John Mack(e)y wrote an account of James II's court in exile at St. Germain(s) 1690-1695. This had to be a plot that fizzled. But Mack(e)y's net seems to have been involved in the later Jacobite plots and landings in Scotland. (Starting in 1707?) Then he became a travel writer. I am reminded of Auberon Waugh's account of his father's remarks upon his return home from university: "There are only two possible careers for a man who has been sent down from Oxford. You must either become a schoolmaster or a spy."

Of course, there was journalism in London for those who have the steely nerve and skill to live out on the edge! He specialized in the British class war. Was on both sides. The title of his memoirs, which I often think about, is a reference to the "only question left hanging in the air ...which every journalist asks himself on submitting an article...WILL THIS DO?" He is too casually professional to mention the fear; though he does mention the hope.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for kindly for this insightful account.

Like so much else, this too came out of England.

Which had, evidently, revived the Platonic Symposium in a different guise.


Here's a possible explanation for the Saudi interest in Yemen, which I have not seem mentioned elsewhere.

Craig Murray suggests that the Saudis want to build a canal by-passing the Straits of Hormuz.

Babak Makkinejad

Please God, make it so.

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