Returning home from Phoenix

I’ve been visiting family in the Phoenix area – “The Valley,”
as the metropolitan area is called. I actually visited last November, too.

I have good reason to be thinking about the area, of course.

I was just listening to a radio voice (a podcast), and the person being interviewed praised President Trump for following through on his promise to roll back some of the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency. Some politicians portray regulations, in this case forcing businesses to protect the environment by spending money that they’d rather not, as onerous burdens for doing business in the United States.

Some of the most onerous burdens during my adult life have concerned auto emissions. Regulations seem to have started in California. At times, Los Angeles was unlivable because of smog. Some of the smog probably originated from manufacturing plants. However, the bulk came from cars, and L.A. has been a car city.

The “onerous burdens” were born by the automobile industry, but what happened? The Los Angeles basin does not have smog. In the meantime, the L.A. metropolis has grown to immense size. Real estate values are so high that Americans who could have afforded to relocate a few years ago (let’s say retire) can’t do it today. All this came about because of governmental regulations that were tweaked over the years by both Republicans and Democrats.

Phoenix has grown immensely since I last visited eleven years ago. The metropolitan area is now home for about five million people, an increase of one half to three quarters of a million people since I visited eleven years ago. But, the air that settles in the valley is fine.

The radio host was Bill Bennett. He’s going to be my bête noire for February. Not that I dislike him, but I dislike his public policy preferences – his policy orientation.



‘Okay’ has become an international word, but no one seems to know where it comes from. The word seems to have had its origin in an English language speech community. From there, everyone who now speaks English says this word a lot.

Not so long ago, it occurred to me that ‘okay’ has a suspicious similarity to the syllable òc which has been associated with the English word ‘yes’.

Òc is associated with the language group of southern France, into Spain and into Italy — Occitan. The region where Occitan has been spoken is Occitania. The Romance language of the south of France was a rival of the speech in the north of France.

The Romance language group that has become France’s national language is called Langues d’oïl (lahng do ee[l]). Oïl is an older way to say ‘yes’ (oui) in the northern part of France. The southern speech of Occitania has been called Languedoc, the language of òc.

From here it’s a jump and a skip to see sailors and merchants in the Mediterranean region exclaiming “oc” when things were okay. The next jump and skip takes the the word ‘oc’ into the English speaking world.

From ‘oc’ to ‘okay’ is no leap, and I don’t see a leap from ‘okay’ to the abbreviation ‘OK’.

Who says okay and who doesn’t

In my casual contact with other speech communities (through television and films), I can share with you that ‘okay’ is now part of the regular speech in several languages. My limited list is: Swedish and German.

On the other hand, I’ve never heard ‘okay’ in French speech, Spanish (both in Europe and the Americas), and Hebrew. Instead one hears d’accord or bon, bueno, and b’seder, respectively.

Once Yiddish came into the English speaking world, Jews have peppered their speech with ‘okay’. Still, it’s preferable to say fein (fine), especially among Yiddish speakers who may not speak English. In Israel, for example, Yiddish speakers rarely speak English.

Well …

that’s OK for now.

While I look at ancestry, I laugh

I’m laughing about the present-day King of Jordan, Abdullah II. What claim does he have to rule full blooded Arabs when he is half British? His mother was Antoinette Avril Gardiner, born in a small village, Chelmondiston, in Suffolk, England.

Ashkenazi Jews and their long-ago European mothers

If this is true, it doesn’t matter.

Being Jewish is being a member of G-d’s Covenant at Mount Sinai. Over the centuries, some women and men said, in effect, “Count me in,” and so they became members of the Covenant by observing its specifics and generalities.

If a genetic study reaches the conclusion that many European women converted, it is consistent with what we know of Roman history.

A history of Jews in the Roman Empire

Until the end of the first century CE, Judaism was the only monotheistic religion. Non-Jews worshiped a pantheon of gods. Some worshiped the god of their own city-state but not the god of any other city-state.

People of the Roman Empire were supposed to worship a statue of the emperor as well as any other god that they chose. The Emperor Hadrian was especially diligent in dedicating statues of himself all over the eastern part of the empire. His was particularly fond of the Greek culture and “Greek love” — pederasty.

We find evidence that non-Jews spent time around and in synagogues. These people have been called G-dfearers and Phylo-Jews — Jew lovers. It’s not so much that they liked Jews as such. They liked the religion of Jews. These G-dfearers were a pool of prospective converts. The “fly in the ointment,” the drawback, for men to convert was that they would be undergoing circumcision. I’m under the impression that adult circumcision is painful and takes a while to heal. It is speculated that not many adult men converted, but women did.

Some of the female converts probably married Jewish men. Perhaps some Phylo-Jews circumcised their sons in hope that these boys would convert. Who knows? And no one knows the numbers.

Perhaps as population genetics improve, studies of Jewish genetics may provide fine grain statistics for reconstructing theories.

Regardless of some of the previous details and the associated speculation, historians have long suggested that about ten percent of the population of the Roman Empire was Jewish. Recent reevaluations are suggesting a smaller Jewish population. But, imagine that the U.S. had a Jewish population of 38 million, or that 19 million Jews lived in the U.S. These figures are about 10 percent 5 percent respectively.

So now back to Rome. However many Jews lived within the Roman Empire, they were not evenly spread out. The largest concentration of Jews seems to have been on the Italian peninsula and in Rome itself. Many Jews did not relocate voluntarily. When the Roman Legions destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (69 CE), and when they destroyed the city of Jerusalem (about 135 CE), Jewish captives were taken to slave markets. As defeated captives, they were paraded through the streets of Rome.

Christian Rome

After Christianity became the official religion of of the Roman Empire (4th century CE), conversion to Judaism was punishable by death. However many European women (and men) had affiliated with the Jewish people before this, no more converted.

In time, Roman Jews (from Rome and Italy) found opportunities northward, over the Alps into the Rhine River valley and also in Roman Gaul. These Jews were the forebears of Ashkenazi Jews. A particular regional identity did not start to develop, though, until Charlemagne’s power reached from the Elbe River in today’s Germany, south and west to the Pyrenees Mountains, and southward to encompass all of Italy. This is the core of the Western Roman Empire, and this is the spiritual birthplace of Ashkenazi customs and their heritage of studying the Bible and the Talmud..

Jews in this region primarily had spoken Vulgar Latin — the language of their neighbors. Charlemagne’s Empire, the Carolingian Empire, brought Germanic speakers into the region from the east and northeast. The legal and language frontier along the Rhine River supplied the core population of Ashkenazi Jews.

Ashkenaz — Germanic Europe

I’m not aware of the reference ‘Ashkenazi’ appearing before the year 1000 or so. The earliest usage referred to the Jews of the Rhine River region and the locality of Charlemagne’s preferred seat of power in Aix-la-Chapelle/Aachen, only a short distance west of the Rhine. It is no surprise that Ashkenazi Jews would come to speak Yiddish —  Jewish German.

This first usage came about when two distinguished Jewish families from Italy crossed the Alps and settled near the Carolingian seat of power around the year 900 (or so).

We find a dichotomy here, though. The spiritual roots of Ashkenaz were in two Jewish cultural and scholarship areas. The guiding spirit of Ashkenazi Jews came from Italy. For the most part, Italian Jews remained in Italy, though.

The much of intellectual ferment of Ashkenaz came from the Torah academies in southern France. Again, for the most part, these Jews remained near the Mediterranean.

Work in progress -- nearing conclusion.


Five Global Empires

The five global empires that I’m writing about are the permanent members of the United Nation’s Security Council.

Three have surrounded themselves with their colonies, and two have had overseas colonies.

France and Britain

France and Britain had overseas colonies, the conventional type where it’s obvious that the national aspiration is to extract the wealth of raw materials from the colonies and then to render the colonies entirely dependent on the colonial power for finished goods, often basic ones.

The International Organisation of La Francophonie serves as a reminder of the former French Empire. The French language cements the members. I don’t know any more about the status of the former French colonies.

A remnant of the British Empire is the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Commonwealth). At one time, Queen Elizabeth II (or forebears) had been Queen/King of most of the realm. The Commonwealth still remains, but Elizabeth II is now Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

So what about the U.S.A., Russia, and China?


The People’s Republic of China is home to about 1.3 billion Han Chinese – people of Han ethnicity. The colonies around the Han people are (in counter-clockwise order):  Inner Mongolia, the Xinjiang Uygur Region, Tibet, small autonomous reserves of people who are anything but Chinese, and Taiwan. China also maintains a sphere of influence around the People’s Republic’s borders. North Korea is notable in this respect.


What remains of the Russian Empire is loosely organized as the Commonwealth of Independent States – independent from Russia for the first time since 1791. Some former Russian colonies, such as the Baltic States, are more recent conquests from the era of World War II. The former colonies are, again in counter-clockwise order:&nbsp Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (the Baltic States), Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Mongolia.

Not so long ago, Russia made efforts to expand its empire into Afghanistan. Poland and Finland have often been within Russia’s sphere of influence. The Soviet Union spread its influence westward into Germany after World War II.

The United States

The first vision of a greater U.S. was the Monroe Doctrine (expressed in 1823) which determined to exclude European nations from interfering in the Americas. At the same time, the U.S. continued to colonize westward across North America, and eastward from California and the Northwest.

The U.S. captured Florida from Spain and its southwest from Mexico. People who were living in sparsely populated Tejas, a colony of Mexico, broke away. Anglos had being migrating to Texas, so it’s not surprising that the independent Republic of Texas joined the Union.

Puerto Rico and part of the Virgin Islands are colonies except in name. Alaska and Hawaii were former colonies and then joined the Union as States.

Cuba is an interesting case. Early in U.S. history, politicians saw Cuba as a natural part of the nation. Some regarded it as a matter of time before Cuba became a state. Never mind that the population mostly spoke Spanish. The riches of Cuba were ripe for the taking, and take the U.S. did. The U.S. wrote Cuba’s constitution. Cubans had a pro forma opportunity to ratify this constitution. Cubans asserted themselves by trying to amend the constitution, but they only succeeded in small ways.

Until the Cuban Revolution, Cuba was useful for an American lifestyle. Organized crime from the U.S. fed the vices of vacationers. The biggest losers at the time of the revolution was organized crime in the U.S. The open criminality in Havana could not be duplicated anywhere on the mainland.

It’s not a stretch to see that mobsters expected that President John Kennedy would vigorously wrest Cuba away from Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. President Kennedy was, after all, the son of a mobster.

To an extent, Canada is within the U.S. sphere of influence although they vigorously assert their political, cultural, and economic independence.

Looking at the United States of America, we see again a nation surrounded by its colonies.


The New Global Law

Rafael Domingo. 2010. The New Global Law. American Society of International Law Studies in International Legal Theory series. New York: Cambridge University Press.

“The dislocations of the worldwide economic crisis, the necessity of a system of global justice to address crimes against humanity, and the notorious ‘democratic deficit’ of international institutions highlight the need for an innovative and truly global legal system, one that permits humanity to re-order itself according to acknowledged global needs and evolving consciousness.

“A new global law will constitute, by itself, a genuine legal order and will not be limited to a handful of moral principles that attempt to guide the conduct of the world’s peoples.  If the law of nations served the hegemonic interests of Ancient Rome, and international law served those of the European nation-state, then a new global law will contribute to the common good of all humanity and, ideally, to the development of durable world peace.  This volume offers a historical-juridical foundation for the development of this new global law.”

  1. The IUS gentium, a Roman concept
  2. The IUS commune, a medieval concept
  3. International law, a modern concept
  4. The crisis of international law
  5. Global law, a challenge for our time
  6. The global legal order
  7. Legal principles of global law
  8. Conclusion: The third time is the charm

Professor Lorenzo Kamel addresses President Donald Trump’s declaration to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Lorenzo Kamel

Università di Bologna, Department
of History and Cultures
, Faculty Member

Lorenzo Kamel teaches History of Colonial and Post-Colonial Spaces at the University of Bologna’s Dept. of History and Cultures. He is also …

In a non-academic article for Al Jazeera , “Trump and Jerusalem: a legal and historical appraisal,” undated, Professor Kamel writes:

“US President Donald Trump has said it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel….”

I already addressed this announcement by President Trump – “The United States Will Not Be Moving Its Embassy to Jerusalem.”  I used primary sources, so as a blog entry it stands as an academic piece albeit without citations.

One can see U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s Press Statement from December 6, 2017.

However, I mistakenly took Kemal’s article as an academic piece. He published it by uploading it to This web site is called an Open-Access Journal for anyone who registers with an email address (which I have done). “Open access” contrasts with the peer-reviewed journals that have survived through subscriptions.

Some sites accept donations or are supported by nonprofit agencies. Some open-access publishers charge Article Processing Fees (APFs). APFs must be paid by the author(s) or by their funding agencies or universities.

Some open-access sites are more accurately characterized as publishers. Some have characterized as a social networking site for academics, but not a journal publisher at all. If reactions to published pieces are then measured and weighted, though, it might become possible to distinguish rigorous science and careful research. Such post-publication reviews separate academics from “opinionators” and “bloviators.” On the other hand, unfiltered reactions are the “wisdom of crowds” where some crowds are simply gangs and wise in the ways of creating mischief.

See in depth: “Open-Access Journal Underdogs Take On Aging Academic Publications,” from (13 June 2014).

Incentivizing Peer Review: The Last Obstacle for Open Access Science,” from (11 July 2014).