Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Iraqi museums

While I have not had a chance to address this, I thought someone ought to mention what happened to the museums in Kuwait. There has been a ton of complaining about the Iraqi (and journalist) looting of Iraqi museums. What goes unmentioned is the Iraqi looting of Kuwaiti museums when they invaded Kuwait in 1991.

I am not sure what to make of this. Perhaps we should have realized that Iraqis have this thing for destroying museums and made some greater effort to stop it. Perhaps we should have thought that this is something they would only do to foreign museums and not done anything. Perhaps we should have assumed this would happen and see their own destruction of their own museums as an incident of ironic cosmic justice. Someone should mention the two events together and think about it.

Keeping track of bad predictions

Last month I suggested that someone keep track of the things that are baselessly attributed to Israel that end up being false. Another idea is to keep track of all the predictions that were made about Israel that end up being false. He starts by reminding us about a letter signed by all these professors of Middle Eastern Studies that claimed that Israel will exploit the Iraq war to expel the Palestinians.

The interesting this is that these people are "experts" on the middle east. They teach this stuff. That means that they have participated collectively in god-knows how many teach-ins, and lectured to countless students and the press about what will definitely happen - and they were wrong. Somehow I'd bet that false predictions don't count against social scientists in the same way they would count against a real scientist. If a real scientist, say a biologist, would publish a prediction about what will happen when you perform a given experiment, and it just doesn't happen, that is the end of his reputation. That is the scientific method. You don't put something forth as the expected result unless you have some evidence that suggests your prediction will be borne out. How do people get away with this? How do their collegues ignore this (and I know they do)?

To the extent that it was just a guess, then anything could have been a guess. They could have just as easily said that If the US invades Iraq, then Israel would take the opportunity to give all the Palestinians lots of money. That guess would have been just as valid, but it would not have been the hate-filled, anti-Israel propaganda that they were going for.

The only out that these people have is to make the unfalsifiable claim that by their letter they actually prevented it. That too is bad science.

Someone ought to keep score, just to remind us of how little we can actually trust people who make these baseless statements day in, day out, and help shape public opinion and even public policy. Half the people at the anti-war marches who were well meaning, must have been there because they listened to people who are completely clueless and uninterested in making real predicitons about the actual state of affairs, and just want to spew their anti-Americanism and antisemitism or whatever. They were all duped, and they should know that.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Yom HaShoa

Today was Yom Hashoa. I really do not think about Yom Hashoa much. The shoa was something that had a great impact on my parents' generation. But it did not really affect me. My grandparents, of course, had their lives changed and irreperably damaged. One of my grandparents was in concentration camps, another in Nazi labor camps. The other two managed to flee to Russia and end up in work camps there.

Those of you who follow my life here know that having spent a lot of time in Germany, I have given this considerable thought. (See the August blogs.) I think there is a lot more power in forgetting. I do not want to appear to be in denial about the Holocaust. I just really believe that the best revenge is living well. The best way to defeat those who strove to destroy you is to show them how much in vain their efforts turned out to be.

Again, that is not to say that I am against Yom Hashoa being a national day of mourning for Israel. I do not want to be seen either as if I am capitulating to Norman Finkelstein, who claims that Jews have over-exploited the holocaust. But for me the holocaust is kind of like the crusades. It really is ancient history. My grandparents all suffered, but by raising me in the US they protected me from this. I was sheltered to the point that while I thought the Europeans were and probably still are barbarians, I could not get too worked up about it.

I have no business forgiving the Europeans. They harmed my ancestors, not me. Nor would I forgive them if was harmed. But nor can I take it any more personally then the Egyptian bondage, the Spanish inquistion, the pogroms all over Europe for centuries, etc. "Behol dor v'dor omdim alenu lehaloteinu. . ." and yet I am still here, and most of them are gone. I have survived them all.

I am part of a new generation that has absorbed the lessons of history to the point where I really do not need to think about it. I am part of a generaltion of Jews who don't take that crap.

Blue Jay

I saw a blue jay this morning.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Media Vanity

The media is so vain. They spend more time looking at themselves in the mirror than anyone else. There are way too many TV hours spent with the media analyzing its own role in the events of the day. There are articles in the papers about how the newspapers and TV look at criminals. There are TV programs about how the reporters are treated in Iraq. And so on and so forth.

It is the viewer's job to examine the media. It is not the media's job to examine themselves. First of all they are blurring the lines between the news and the reporting of it. Didn't there used to be a fly-on-the-wall standard for what the journalist's role was supposed to be? Second, there is no reason to believe that the media is any more accurate, fair, or honest when telling you about themselves then they are when they tell you about the news. It is just second-order nonesense, or as someone or other said, it is "nonesense on stilts". How honest are the CNN analyses of their own reporting? Who knows. They already admitted to soft-pedaling all the news in Iraq for the past 10 years. So what is the whole thing worth? Not much, if you ask me.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Jenin Jenin

There is a controversy about the movie "Jenin Jenin". "Jenin Jenin" is a movie about the events in Jenin last year. Jenin was a media fiasco wherein there were some 50 people who were killed in numerous gun battles but hundreds of deaths were reported in the first few days. There were initial reports on al-Jezera of all the males being rounded up and shot in nearby football fields. There were all sorts of stories flying. At the end they were all found to be false.

Anyway, someone made a movie about what happened, and now the film maker is being sued by a group of reservists.

It seems to me if someone is going to make a film about what happened there and is going to distort the picture so that Israel looks really bad despite the facts, then what incentive does Israel have to restrain itself ever? If their bottom line is negative publicity, all they have is moral constraints to prevent them from not actually going through with it next time. I see the generals thinking to themselves: "Either waste Israeli lives and be extra cautious, or just destroy everyone who is in the way. Well, we can't afford the negative publicity, so we should behave. But last time caution got us bad publicity anyway. So why bother?"

This film just cost more Palestinians their lives. I hope the producers are satisfied.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

I Joined the Army

. . . The US Army Reserves, to be precise.

Today I enlisted in the Army. It was a pretty much spur-of-the-moment decision. I decided to do it a week ago. Now I am in. It was an awfully tiring day. So much happened. First, I did not sleep last night because I had to be up at at 3:15 AM to be at Fort Hamilton. My recruiter met me at 4:15 this morning and drove me to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Service). Then I took the ASVAP (Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery). I scored a 99/99, and did pretty well on most of the subparts. Then I took a long physical. There was a bit of poking and prodding by some doctors, and there was some collective hanging out in our shorts checking out each other's tatoos. (Unfortunately, I don't have any.)

I took a blood test, a urine test and filled out thousands of forms. We then had lunch and then I waited a long time for a counselor to show me all the jobs I was eligible for. I took the one with the most convenient schedule with a unit stationed in Queens. I then took my oath to uphold the constitution from all enemies, foreign or domestic, and to obey the orders of my superiors and the orders of the president of the United States. I must admit that I got a bit misty-eyed. Then I came home. I am exhausted. It will hit me later what I have done. This is all very surreal.

What struck me as interesting was every one's story. Every one had a story. Everyone had a reason why they joined. Everyone had their own agenda and purpose for being there. I am not sure anyone was as confused as I was. I have not really thought this army thing through. But I am committed to doing this right. I am proud to have the opportunity to serve my country in this way.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Review of Capek's R.U.R

R.U.R is an old play by Karel Capek. It was the first place where the word "robot" appeared. That is pretty much the thing that made the play famous. It was actually pretty good for its time. Basically some company starts manufacturing soulless people to do their manual labor, until they take over the earth. It was cute, and worth the hour it took to read it.

Review of Fallaci's The Pride and the Rage

Review of The Pride and the Rage by Oriana Fallaci.

Reading The Pride and the Rage by Oriana Fallaci is a real trip. She is obviously a loon, but in the most charming way. It is clear that she answers to no one. She has a fierce independence of thought and a very unique style. She takes this book as an extension of her article that was circulated a lot after 9/11. The book is a long tirade against Islam and Islamic extremism. It is peppered with personal anecdotes, harsh invectives, and the occasional expletive. The writing is very stream-of-consciousness and idiosyncratic. English is clearly her second or third language, but somehow that only serves to add to the charm of the book. There are no real coherent arguments or deep theological or philosophical discussions, but again the point is to talk about opposing civilizations and the problems with radical Islam.

After all is said and done, I am not sure what one gains by reading it. If one is predisposed to thinking that Islamists are crazy, and that the flow of radical Islam all over the world ought to be stopped now, then you will enjoy reading what Fallaci has to say about it. If you think that Radical Islam is a good thing then you are probably sharpening your pencil to write her fatwah.

It seems like Fallaci is trying to compete with Rushdie on some of these Islamic top 10 lists.

Review of Stoessinger's Why Nations go to War

Review of George Stoessinger's Why Nations Go To War

George Stoessinger's Why Nations Go To War does not really answer the question of why exactly nations go to war, but that does not make it a really bad book. The book starts out slow. First he discussed World War I and the Austro-Hungarian empire to go to war. Then he talks about WWII and Hitler's decision to go to war. To me those to case studies are really selective about the facts and really ignore the big issues. Those two cases focus on the personalities Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler, and attempt to show how it is the personality of the leaders caused the wars. I could not disagree more. The facts can be arranged to show it is most anything. What it really is, is complicated. His account there is way too reductionistic.

In the case of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Israel-Arab conflict, the India-Pakistan conflicts, Saadam Hussain, and the case of Milosovec he does a somewhat better job, I think. There are occasional places where I would quibble with a statistic here or a fact there, but overall I think he does a decent job of outlining why the countries went to war. The case of Vietnam is really tricky, and again, it is unclear how politically clouded the whole thing is, but the effort to boil the conflict to the relevant facts is admirable. The best chapters are when he talks about Hussain and Milosovec. He believes that along with Hitler, those are the two most evil people of the last 100 years. He does a good job of making the case.

The final chapter is a good summary of the lessons learned from the eight case studies. Again, not all of the lessons should have been derived from the cases that he uses, but it is not a bad chapter. It might actually be worth it to read that chapter, and skip the way he gets to them. It is certainly a decent summary.

The book is an OK read, at least as an introduction to the issues here.

Three Days

I am pretty sure that Jane's Addiction had three day Yom Tovs in mind when they made that song.

Democracy in Iraq

The big question today is what happens to post-war Iraq. Here is the concern: will Iraq become the next Iran? Will the Shi'i sweep the elections? The answer is: if the elections take place today, yes. Why? Well, any screwed-up, disenfranchised people will go religious. That is normal. Currently Iraq is a screwed-up disenfranchised place. Look at France. Their first elections for Islamic leaders are fanatical Shi'i, precisely because they are all poor, religious, unused to democracy, brainwashed, and scared. Once the fanatics are in power it will be really hard to dislodge them. If they were to control the whole country as in the Iraqi case, they can arrange the laws such that it is really hard to dislodge them. The Shites have already set up a massive infrastructure in post-war Iraq.

But as in Lebanon, the Shites who at first welcomed the Israelis and ended up kiling them, we should not take this as a sign that they will like us tomorrow, or even today. As a matter of fact as soon as we liberated the country, the Shi'a started to make religious pligrimages that were not allowed for the last thirty something years under Saadam Hussain. So what do they do as soon as they get there? Thyey go to the shrine of Imam Ali and chand "Death to America, Death to Israel". There is something retardedly ungrateful about the culture.

Once a democracy is in place and Islamic fanatics win, two things happen. First, we are screwed because it would be wrong to interfere with a democracy, and two, we get blamed for whatever they do, because "we caused it".

So the only real solution is to hold on to the country until it is no longer scared and poor then have elections where there are few if any fanatics on the tickets. Then make sure none of them win, and then help the moderates succeed. If the moderates succeed, then the next election can be truly free. The US is hoping for a good secular Jeffersonian democracy. When Arabs think of democracy they think of elections. (Thanks to A- for that formulation.) Iraq had elections, so does Syria. But they are not free. We need to create the conditions such that a free election produces good results. Until that happens we cannot leave Iraq. We need to solve their problems before they become our problems again.

Islamic Imperialism

How come no one is talking about Muslim Imperialism? Rage against American Imperialism is all the rage. But Islamic Imperialism is the much bigger threat. Islam professes a policy of imperialism. That is the distinction between the Islamic Daar Islam and Daar al Harb. (The Islamic domain and the domain yet to be conqured by Islam.) Under the guise of Political Correctness Islamic Imperialism is dismissed as "their religion". This is just the effect of being in the grip of an ideology, and clearly not one of thinking.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Passover Break

I have been taking it pretty easy over the Pesach break. Spent some time with the family, and some time trying to work out what my summer will be like. I will write more as I learn more details.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Why the past two American military engagements have been unsatisfying so far: recapitulation of a biblical theme

Those of us who are in the least familiar with the history of art have come across at least one version of the Judith story as depicted by Michaelangelo, Botticelli, Carravagio, Jan Van Bijlert, or one of the many others who have depicted this scene from the apocrapha. It was a rather common theme in biblical art.

The story of Judith goes something like this: Judith's city was about to be attacked by Holofernies, the general of Nebuchadnezzer. Nebuchadnezzer (king of Assaryia (actually Babylon)) had just made a deal with all the neighboring provences that gave him the full right to repress and enslave all of them in exchange for not massacering them, and Bethulia, the Judean city was next. So Judith gets herself in to the enemy camp, gets herself seduced by Holofernies and cuts off his head as he sleeps. Afterward she takes the head and sneaks back to the Jeudean camp where the Jews are inspired by it, and Holofernies' arny is in dissarray without a general.

It seems to me that the story is really recapitulated in modern times (down to the Saadam comparing himself to Nebuchadnezzer in the past) except for one little detail - we do not have his head on a platter.

In both the Saddam Hussain and the bin Laden cases we have fought these massive battles without the satisfaction of seeing the leaders brought to justice, or without them being dead. We have had to settle for a fallen statue in Iraq, and there are no real defining moments in Afghanistan. When it came to the fall of the Berlin wall that was a symbol, but that was fine, because there was no one individual whose death would have signified the fall of communism. The wall itself was the symbol. In the case of Afghanistan, we wanted the man, same in Iraq.

We are in the end looking for something worthy of a michaellangelo painting. A statue with a flag over its head really didn't do it for me.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Sunday in Manhattan

Now that the weather is great out in New York, the East Village is really nice again. I got a "Mean people suck" sticker, from the mean-people-suck-sticker-man. There are tons of really dumb as nails political flyers all over the place, and there are PEOPLE. I went to St. Mark's bookstore and Strand bookstore, and to Union Square where there were tons of people just hangin' out, and a shirtless guy with a large cardboard sign that said "6 ft 7 inch Jew will rap for loot". I went down Broadway where there was a street fair, and I just caught the end of it.

Shwarma place

Last night I spent a whole bunch of hours in Esperanto with "A-" Then we found this good "Shewarma" place right next to the waverly theater. The owner said that it had been there for like 8 months. It is kosher too! They were out of shawarma when I got there, but I had the shnizle and "A-" had the steak sandwich. They were both good.

I totally see myself as a frequent visitor to that place.

Saturday, April 12, 2003


I am at this party somewhere in the east village. There are tons and tons of people here, and lots of music and drinks and stuff. It is lots of fun for a bit. You should all be here.

addendum-The party was later broken up by the police after numerous neighbor complaints.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Reading on the train

I was reading on the train today when this girl from Barnard starts talking to me about the book she is reading over my shoulder. We had a little chat about the book and it was all nice and friendly. I enjoyed it very much actually.

Chicago tried having this thing a couple of years ago where the mayor would encourage the whole city to read the same book so that people would just have something in common they can all talk about. It was like Oprah but for everyone. They tried to get books with broad appeal. I think we should do this here in New York. It is nice to have a chat with a complete stranger about something you are reading.

Gay Sodomy stickers

Those of you who spend time in Manhattan might have seen those crude black on white stickers that say "Fight Gay Sodomy" or something like that. They are white stickers about the size of an index card, and they are on busses and phone booths and stuff. If you haven't seen them, keep an eye out, the're all over.

Anyway, I saw the guy who puts them up. I always thought it was some creepy bible thumping geeky Christian fundamentalist who was abused as a child. I saw this guy sticking one fo his stickers to the back of a bus in broad daylight. It turns out that he is a creepy-looking, cigarette-smoking, Orthodox Jewish guy whith a white beard and who was probably abused as a child. Go figure.

Review of B. Netanyahu's Fighting Terrorism

Benjamin Netanyahu's Fighting Terrorism in not as packed with insight as I had hoped. The book was written in 1995 and reissued in 2001, after 9/11. The post-9/11 part of the book was confined to reproducing a speech he gave, which I recall seeing on TV. The book severely need updating, to the extent that I would say that it was irresponsible to have reissued it without adding stuff. The book reads like ancient history. In the beginning of the book there is talk about an impending "moment of truth" that the US has not yet faced vis-a-vis terrorism. That moment came, and everything is different. The book is old.

That having been said, in the book Netanyahu did predict Afghanistan, and he also called the Iran problem, which if he is right will only get worse. He also has a few good lines about the Soviet connection to terrorism during the cold war.

He has a decent chapter about terrorism and defense and civil rights. He makes the argument that states have the obligation to protect, and that citizens have the right to protection. The citizens also have certain civil liberties. Moreover the infringements of civil rights will likely only effect a few people, wheras the right to protection extends to many. Therefore, the duty to protect, and the right to protection of the many outweigh the civil liberties that will effect the few.

Also, the book annoyingly has no index.

Otherwise the book looks like it was meant to convince some people to take terrorism seriously. It looks like it did not succeed. Now we of course do not need his warning.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Good old fashioned jihad

What happened to the good old days when Muslims would wage Jihad with swords? Why, when it comes to weapons, and only when it comes to weaponry, must they be caught up with the 21st century?

Environmental myths explored

I noticed on slashdot of a day or two ago (I am very behind) this article about global warming. It turns out that in the middle ages it was much warmer than it is now.

One day liberals will realize that they simply do not know what is happening to the environment. When I was very young (and before that) all anyone was told about was the impending ice age. Now it is the impending global greenhouse.

The problem really is that scientists are simply unable to tell what is going on. We have various models for determining what the weather will be like in 30 years. Moreover, whenver the model is asked to input old data and predict today's weather, it fails. (I heard this somewhere.) Also, the apparatus for measuring all this is hopelessly unavailable. Strict conditions for measurement that are required to even establish today's temperatures are unavailable. The UN and Russian organizations who are charged with doing a lot of this monitoring are so underfunded that we cannot be sure we are getting anything right.

So we have all this data that is very contradictory and we attempt to come to all these conclusions. We are all clueless.

It is a worthwhile precaution to cut our use of pollutants as much as is possible, and look for alternative energy sources. But Bush was sort of right for ignoring the Kyoto Protocol. (As a political move he should have just signed the stupid thing, but not on environmental gorounds.) But let us be very cautious before giving doomsday scenarios to the world.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Guy on the Train

Today I was going to Brooklyn on the (Q) train and I was sitting next to this guy who was pretty obviously gay. He got off a few stops before me, like on Beverly road or something. But he was reading this book called _The Love Compatability Book: Twelve Personality Traits Taht Can Lead You to Your Soulmate_. He was quite obviously trying to hide the title, though I did manage to unobtrusively get a look at it. He was sitting in the seat next to the window. Every now and then he would face the window and let out a sniffle or two. I think he was really sad. I really felt bad for him.

I think I will crash in Brooklyn for the night. I am too tired to go to Manhattan right now.

Monday, April 07, 2003

From the in-case-you-need-another-reason-to-detest-the-French department

Here is an article making the rounds. Apparently a third of the french want Saadam to win the war, while the peace protesters attack Jews.

The Greeks

Today's NY Times reports that a poll from a month ago found that most Greeks are more favorably disposed to Saadam Hussain than George W. Bush.

I wish that there was something worth saying about this. I suppose that it just makes me realize why it has been over 2000 years since anyone cared what that culture produced.

Congolese massacre

As long as we are on the subject of the Belgians (see entry below) . . . it is worth knowing that the NY Times today reports that 966 villagers were slaughtered last week in the Congo. While it is not clear who did it you can be sure it will not go down anywhere in the annals of history. No one seems to care enough to do anything or say anything. You can bet that there will be no UN resolution, no big investigation, no blue-ribbon panel investigating this, and no minute-by-minute account a la Thomas Friedman, like we had with the massacres of Sabra and Shatilla.

("Why not?" you ask. The answer lies in the unfortunate historical fact that there are no Isrealis near the Congo. Had there been an earthquake inthe Congo last week and Israel would have sent a few troops or rescue workers to the country to help out, I am certain that the UN would be there trying to figure out how to tell the world that since Israel was in the region, she is responsible for this. But for the poor Congolese who have no one to blame but their own pitiful civil war, they will have to settle for a mass obituary of about 5 column inches in the New York Times.)

It is rather sick that massacres are only good as political cash. If there is nothing to be gained from exploiting their deaths, 966 people will die, and the world will barely notice. The biggist exploiter is of course the UN. They are charged with the responsibility of dealing with this. Failure to adequately deal with this will be yet another stain on their already filthy image.

Where are the Rachel Corries of the world? Where is the ISM defending the Congolese? Why are their lives worth less than the home of a weapons smuggling terrorist?

Belgian courts

As long as we are on the subject of courts (see the entry below), the NY Times reports today that the Belgian court announced today that it is easing the rules for who can be brought up on war crimes charges. Now victims have to be Belgian, the plaintiffs have to live in Belgium for at least three years, and the accused has to come from a non-democratic country that cannot administer justice itself.

There are a few ups and downs to that new legal modification. On the up side: 1) Sharon and Bush can now have all the waffels they want - ie, they can visit Belgium. 2) We do not have to rename Belgian waffels to something stupid sounding. On the down side: 1) I can no longer request that Arafat be brought up on charges for crimes against humanity.

This all seems like a move to make the US happy, and not risk getting bogged down in whatever punishment will get metted out to the French come the end of the war.

Judicial and extra-judicial systems

Today's NY Times reported on the trial of Marwan Barghuti. Apparently everyone involved on the Palestinian side is just sitting around and making fun of the trial, instead of participating. Wittnesses are asking for movies to be held inthe court room, and people on the stand are just ripping up papers handed to them by prosecutors.

Naturally I feel the frustration of the courts, as well as the participants. However if the Palestinians do not cooperate in the court system and do not attempt to take it seriously, Israel will have little choice but to start doing everything extrajudicially. Extra-judicial punishments are the last resort of a system when one side is outside the pale of the judicial infrastructure.

Sunday, April 06, 2003


Rachel Corrie, the professional activist who was killed by an Israeli army buldozer, is now a celebrity. Lebanese women are now naming their children after her, reports the Deborah Sontag in the Times today.

According to the article "she began her education at an alternative elementary school that her mother helped found. In fifth grade, she and her class gave a press conference on world hunger; in seventh, she helped organize a student walkout in support of striking teachers."

Now she is dead.

. . . And so concludes a brief, but no doubt unproductive, career of speaking out about things she understand poorly. It is a shame and a sick thing that we encourage people to speak before understanding what they are saying. The fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinion does not mean that everyone's opinion is equally valid. The fact is we encourage people to speak and we do not really emphasize the relationship between language and thought. Rachel Corrie did not understand the situation, neither do most of the groups there. They understand that they do not like someone or some situation. So they react.

When Rachel Corrie was in fifth grade she did not understand much about global poilitics, or the economics of feeding the poor. In seventh grade she certainly did not understand the issue of striking teachers. Anyone involved in higher education knows that this is a mst complicated affair. In both cases, to employ a favorite expression of hers, she was a tool of some organization that wanted a little girl's face to put on their stupid campaign.

In elementry school she was a tool of Sally Struthers and her teahcers. Now she was a tool of the American Left and the palestinians. First they put her behind a striking barracade. This time they put her between an army and a terrorist. This time she was killed.

There is a line from Zamyatin's We that comes to mind: "In her case the velocity of the tongue is not calculated correctly: the velocity of the tongue per second should always be a trifle slower than the velocity per second of thought, and not by any means, the reverse.'' In Corrie's case the velocity of her actions was a trifle slower then her thought. There is nothing noble about being impulsive and making mistakes. IF (and this is a truly big if) she meant well, she should have given her actions a bit more thought. She should consider what the army was doing, and who she was protecting and why. If she meant well, whe should have considered what the best way to generate peace in the region was. Defending the home of a terrorist is not the way to achieve peace.

I wonder how many more "martyrs" these peace organizations plan on creating to support a cause they simply do not understand and do not comprehend the stakes for both sides.


I had dinner with "L" and "S" and "N" and "S" at this place on 6th between A and 1st. It was called something like Deram Cathcer. The place was vegan and had a menu full of this crap about live food. Live food is just food that is fresh and still has all the live bacteria that was there when your salad was still sitting in the dirt.

They did have this China Cola which wasn't awful. I had this sandwich with mushrooms, it was OK.

The whole experience was too trendy for me. I need protein.

Friday, April 04, 2003


There is a rather interesting article here which is a response to an article by Martha Nussbaum about cosmopolitianism. Martha Nussbaum is a rather famous contemporary philosopher. Cosmopolitianism is a rather trendy topic in philosophy these days as well as an interesting topic. Cosmopolitianism is concerned with the question of whether one ought to attempt to be a patriot to some country or a "citizen of the world". Is there a good reason to favor one particular group of people over your own beside for the fact that it is your own.

I do not have the inclination here to go in to any lengthy discussion of this, but what seems important is not any particular piece of country, that one ought to have any alligence to, after all, a country is just a piece of land. What one ought to be allied to is an ideology. Why do I say that? I think I am very fond of freedom and democracy. I like the United States pretty much because it provides this. If the US became a theocracy or a tyranny, who here would like it?

There is nothing sacred about land, there is something sacred about liberty. Should one be cosmopolitian? I think not. Should one be a patriot? I think not also. Should one support a good and just state? Of course. If one's state is good and just, should you support it? Of course. It is for that reason that we fought the communists throughout the cold war. It is for that reason whe defended Israel all these years. It is for that reason we are now fighting Iraq. It is for that reason that one needen't feel bad about lack of participation by the UN in the war against Iraq. The UN is made up of contries that are are just and good, and also countries that are pretty sh!tty. As long as we are with the good countries, we are on safe moral ground.

When we speak of truth, justice and the American way, we are promoting an idea. There is nothing wrong with being Canadian or Japaneese. There is soemthing wrong with promoting an ideology that runs counter to the ideal that we want to foster.

So when people speak of the cosmopolitian question, what they should be asking is what kind of genocidal maniac are they supporting along with everythig else.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Dinner at Rush Hour

Last night I had dinner in this place called "Rush Hour" in the Lower East Side. It is right off Rivington on Ludlow. It is open pretty late, and the food is realy good. It is mostly a burger place, but they have some good other stuff too.

Media Ethics

It is the fate and responsibility of journalists to make certain sacrifices. It is sad, but true. Becoming a journalist is a trust that is rarely taken with the gravitas that it merits. When one becomes a journalist they must give up their committments to two things. First they may have no opinions. Their opinions are to be subordinated to the facts. They must be opinion-celebate - ie, not have any. A journalist with an opinion is not a journalist, he is someone who tell you what he thinks, not what happened. Journalists tell you what happened. Second, a journalist sacrifices his right to be news, in favor of reporting it. Journalists are given a certain amount of fame and publicity and public recognition in exchange for their simply gaining access to those media that are clost to those of us whose lives costrain us away from the news. When a journalist becomes his own story he has hit the farthest point from objectivity. A journalist who cannot even put up the pretense of objectivity is not a journalist.

Peter Arnet violated both of those by giving an interview to Iraqi TV. His responsibility was to be there and tell us what happened, not to be someone we have to find out about too. Airing his opinions, and even just having them, also violates what we want in a journalist, someone who will give us the news.

He deserves to be fired, and removed from whatever professional organizations journalists have. He is a disgrace to the profession. He forgot where the line was between making and being the news, and he also forgot the line between the news page and the op-ed page.

If anyone now says "Oh, such and such is true - I saw it on the news" it is suspect. We can reply "It is like when Peter Arnet reports something, you got his OPINION".

No ne had any illusions that anyone inthe media was objective, but apparently he tried the least.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Back in the USA

I have returned to my homeland. I love JFK. It really makes me feel like I am in New York.

I need sleep. . . .


Sunday in Tel Aviv

I spent Sunday in Tel Aviv with "YG". We did lunch at Café Nona, and then took some pictures around Kikar Rabin visited Steimatzky book store, and then had some ice cream in a place called something like Cicilieria (or whatever).

I then went to the Old City of Jerusalem where I hung out with "YS" and had a chat with a teacher of his. It was a truly interesting experience.

Sheva Berachot and cosmopolitanism

I spent Shabbat at some old age home cum weekend hotel for Sheva berachot. It was nice. The other side of the family was British. I was glad. Lately I am getting used to the idea of the British as allies. It was one of those interesting sort-of arranged marriages where the groom and bride met about two or three times before they were engaged. The wedding was really out of some really old story where two families living two thousand miles apart were united because they were both headed by well respected Torah scholars and their children were almost destined for this. There were many backs and forths no doubt. It was facinating seeing these two houses unite and observing what they had in common. They were so similar. Because of their cultural similarity the transition from one family to the other was seamless.

There was a moment on Friday night when the family of the groom all left the room to ritualistically wash their hands, and the family of the bride was a bit dumbfounded because they wash their hands only after the Friday night blessings are said. The groom was of German origin and the bride descended from Eastern Europe. Otherwise their songs, dress, and vernacular were identical. I can admit that it was a bit odd hearing Yinglish (Yiddish-English) in a British accent. It must be nice being part of such an international community.

My past few days

On Thursday I went to have lunch with some old friends at the van Leer Institute in Rehavia, and then had a smaller lunch with another friend at Hebrew University. We ate in the Sinatra cafeteria. The Sinatra cafeteria is a place I used to eat in often when I was a student at Hebrew U. This summer it was blown up by a suicide bomber. I also had luch at Moment two days ago, as I mentioned, and then on Saturday night I met a friend (and teacher) at Atara, all places which have been attacked by suicide bombers. On Friday, I bought olives in Machne Yehudah, also the scene of previous suicide attacks. I can only conclude that suicide bombers want to attack places where I go. They keep missing me, but hmmmm. It is enough to make one a bit paranoid.

The olives were really good. They were the kind that were very spicy. They were the ones soaked in hot pepper something or other. I ate them all weekend, and my mouth was burning, but they were soooooo addictive.

Security Checks

It seems like every time I come to this country the way they handle security gets more and more pervasive. Today my bag must have been searched six or seven times. On my way in to the university, the bus station, the café, the Machne Yehudah market. . . I think there is a real market here for transparent backpacks. That might expedite this whole bag checking thing. It used to be one of those cute Israeli things that made this country unique. At some point it becomes a real burden. The central bus station now has both metal detectors and x-ray machines. It is almost as if half the country is employed in checking and protecting the other half. This has got to stop. The country cannot go on like this. It is enough to make one nuts and think that all the world's problems are the fault of the Palestinians.

Clock Changing time

Israel changed the clocks a few days ago. As if my Jetlag and crazy schedule was not enough to mess me up.

Taxi Driver Wisdom

Yesterday I was in a cab and I asked the driver if there was anything interesting on the news. Naturally he told me. And he told me.

The Americans, he explained, have an ideology and rally behind their flag and their president. He claimed that such was not true about the Israelis. He went so far as to claim it was never true. That really shocked me that it was like that. I thought that such might have been true since 1980 or maybe even since the mid 70's, but he was quite serious.

I was somewhat taken aback. Then he went on to criticize Americans for being 1) so naive and squeamish, and 2) for caring about Iraqis. He says that it is obvious that if we just bombed the hell out of the place and then invaded with massive amounts of ground forces we would loose some people but we would just get the whole thing over with quickly. So we loose a few hundred people, he says. It would be worth it. Moreover, he claims that we should not try to hard with the Iraqi soldiers. They are not people who deserve the mercy that the US is giving them.

I was not all that much in the mood to argue with a cab driver, moreover I had to get off.