Thursday, September 30, 2004


The presidential debate just ended. Boy did they both just suck. I can't even bother to comment. They both sucked so bad. I can't believe I have to vote for one of these people.


I am totally behind on my music. But I am sure that Interpol has some great publicists, because, even though I do not read that many magazines, every one I picked up this week had a spread on them. They were in Details, Time Out New York, and New York Magazine. It was weird how often I saw their name this week. I think I will have to go out and hear what the're all about.

Monday, September 27, 2004

It's about time

It is about time that those racist Frenchies did this. They now have their first non-white newscaster. And for my money, she does not look too black. The French have been resisting dealing with non-whites forever. Most of Europe is like that. It is no wonder that they never want to go in and help free a country. The last time a European country sent in troops to help someone was in the Balkans, where everyone is white. They TALKED about the Sudan, they sighed in retrospect about the lack of US intervention in Rawanda, and they endlessly bitch about the Israelis and Arabs. But they have hardly lifed a finger in the support of non-whites. It is no wonder. Until now, it was supposed to be that the non-white were the news and the whites reported it. That must color (no pun intended) the way they see the world. They have not learned anything from World War II, have they?

Chechnya and the Russians

It dawned on me that in the struggle between the Chechnyans and the Russians, The russians are fighting an unjust war, though there is no indication that they are fighting it unjustly. The Chechnyans are fighting a just war, though they are fighting it unjustly.

It is hard to escape the feeling that the Chechnyans are more in the wrong here, but I suspect that that feeling comes from the fact that it is psychologically worse to see someone fighting and using children in the process.

I think that this is an entirely mistaken way of looking at it.

To the extent that the Chechnyans are worse off for being ruled by the Russians, the Russians are in the wrong in a very specific way. The Chechnyans are also in the wrong in a very different way. It seems that this is a very clear example of an unjust war versus a war fought unjustly.

Yellow Bracelets

What is the deal with these neon yellow foam bracelets that everyone is wearing? Are they symbolic or something, or are they a fashion statement? I actually kinda like them.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Asian rockers

Why are there so few Asian-American music figures, as compared to Whites, Blacks, Latinos, or even Jews?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Civil Wars

Lots of people are talking about civil wars. First there is the war in the Sudan. That is serious, and I will save that for another time. But the other two big discussions are about the possibility of civil war in Iraq, and the possible Jewish civil war in Israel. I suspect that there is a third that wought to be looked at.

First, the one in Iraq is happening. Mosques have been attacked by muslims almost since the beginning of the US overthrow of the regime. That is clearly a sign of an impending civil war, so I think that there is a chance that unless the US or Iraqi army takes strong control over Iraq, there will be a civil war. It is actually typical of Arab countries to have a civil war as soon as there is a power vaccuum. This is a way of life that goes way way back. After the prophet Mohammed, in a hurculean task, managed to unite the warring Arab tribes during his lifetime they reverted to fighting almost right after his death. That fued still goes on. That is the Sunni Shi'ite dispute. Mohammed left and there was a power vaccuum, and two groups wanted it filled.

We see the same thing in other places where there are/were power vaccuums. Take Lebanon. Lebanon's civil war was started essentially because there was no strong suppoirt for a central power, effectively creating a situation where no one group had power. Ther is much in Arab history that can support this.

Israel is different. I suspect that reports of a civil war in Israel are highly exaggerated. Israel had a civil war about 3000 years ago, but it would seem like the army would not go and attack Israelis today, even the settlers. There will no doubt be much tear gas, and perhaps even the occassional rubber bullet, but I suspect the body count in any confrontation will not come near the triple digits. The overwhelming majority of the settlers, for all their fanatacism, I would bet, could not bring themselves to open fire on the IDF. Not at all near it.

What we should all be concerned about is the impending civil war in Gaza. If Sharon pulls out, there will be a big power vaccuum in Gaza with the PLO, Hamas, and a whole plethora of religious groups, communists, moderates, and power junkies trying to wrest controll of Gaza. Currently no one has enough support to take controll and I do not see democracy emerging without a fight.

Naturally a civil war would be good for Israel in the short run, but probably not in the long run. Moreover, lots of Palestinians would get killed. Naturally someone would have to step in and do something. Either way Israel will get blamed for causing it.

It would behove the EU, UN, US, and Israel, before they rush to solve this problem, figure out how they will go about solving the one that will emerge. We do not need another Lebanon bordering Israel. We do not need another lebanon, period.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I moved

I have recently moved to a new apartment. I am totally in love with my new neighborhood, and apartment too. I never knew that a simple purchase involved my signing so many documents, and at the end it was fairly unceremoniously over. There are so many things one has to do. It is odd how many things you initially need when moving in to a new place. This has taken up a ton of my time, and I expect it to take more. But it is a labor of love.

But, if anyone has any advice. . .

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Rosh Hashana

I would like to wish everyone out there a happy Rosh Hashana.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Ethics question about voting

I was wondering about the following ethics question. It is one of those questions that I see an ethicist writing a long drawn out paper with proofs and lemmas and lot of other stuff, but I really do not have a clear intuition about, so I am not sure where to start.

What if I am poorly informed about the electoral process and the candidates available in the election in which I am eligible to vote. Am I ethically obligated not to vote? We tend to take it for granted that voting is your right, but it is very plausible for one to have a legal right to do something which you have a moral right to refrain from doing.

I would think that it is fairly irresponsible to vote for someone you know little about, in an electoral process you barely understand. Moreover I would guess it is unethical.

Then again, perhaps one might say that if I chose to vote using a non-reliable procedure, such as heads I vote for Bush, Tails I vote for Kerry, I am not violating any ethical precepts. It may be silly, but not unethical.

Do I have any obligation to vote for someone who I believe would be 1)in my best interest 2) In the best interest of the country? 3) In the best interest of humanity 4) in the best interest of Jesus and his followers? 5) In the best interest of the least well off?

I can really see this one going either way. Perhaps in the same way that I feel I have personal obligations to myself or others, I can feel I have to use my influence to make the public to take on those obligations as well. On the other hand, I can see it being argued very well that I have personal obligations to myself, the poor, the Arab world, or whomever, but I have no right, or no obligation in any case, to attempt to sway the vote (with my personal vote) toward a candidate who will aid me in fulfilling my personal obligations. Perhaps I prefer to have the president elected by luck (Ie, the coin-toss).

This can get really involved. I think I need to think about this more.

on the old notion that Zionism is Racism

In the olden days (up until a few years ago) there was a standing UN resolution that Zionism was racism. Not like I care about UN resolutions, nor should you, but bare with me.

I think I now understand why all of Europe was able to take this resolution seriously, and even perhaps why they believed it independent of their antisemitism.

Nationalism means different things to different people. In Europe nationalism is a very bad thing. When you hear that say a Frenchman or a German is a nationalist, what you are supposed to think is that he believes in a whole bunch of things. First he believes in the inherent superiority of his local culture, race, language, ethnicity, and religion. He believes in removing all other traces of otherness from HIS land. He believes in a form of racial cleansing, and he believes that his language is the only accptable and pure language. He believes in a whole bunch of crap that no self-respecting human believes in anymore.

When an American calls himself a nationalist, he means none of this. An American means he believes in democracy and capitalism, and he happes to like his life in the U.S. Being a nationalist in the US has no racial connotations, or anything like that. SOMETIMES it means that you think everyone should learn English. That is about it.

So when Americans and Europeans fight over the the goods and evils of nationalism, they are generally not really understanding each other. Each thinks the other is talking about something the other is in fact not talking about. This is obvious to anyone who is American and has had a conversationa about natioanlaism with a European.

But on to my main point.

Zionism is clearly a form of nationalism. There are various forms of Zionism, but however you look at it, it has something to do with Jews building a nation, and a nationality. When you have nations and nationalities, you have nationalism.

So when Europeans heard that someone wanted to equate Zionism with racism, it was natural for them to agree. After all, Zionism is a nationalist movement. Nationalist movenents(in their world) tend to be racist, so Zionism is probably racism. Thus it was natural for them to support that.

Americans on the other hand, had no such notion. For us, nationalism is not associated racism, it is a naive patriotism, which is something we are generally comfortable with: if you have a good country, there is nothing wrong with liking it.

I think this explains how, whith a straight face, Europeans can insist that anything Zionist is inherently racist, and how with an equally straight face, Americans can think that Europeans are just being Antisemetic.

In reality, the Europeans are not being antisemetic, they are simply projecting, that is, they are assuming that since many Europeans are racist facists, and call it nationalism, so to are the Zionists.

Monday, September 13, 2004

9/11/04, and 9/12/04

Once again on September 11 I was in the Army. Last year I first checked in to my unit on September 11. This year I returned after training. There was a fire department ceremony on my base which I saw. It was a rather uninteresting traininig drill, but we actually did a bunch of semi-productive things.

Why modern moderate muslims should study the Talmud

According to this article new moderate muslims are fighting to change the shariah, or code of Islamic law. There are many things in Islamic law that need reform. Some things are doctrinal, such as the preaching of hate against infidels, and other things are legal, such as divorce law.

The doctrinal stuff are fairly unimportant. Anyone can preach anything, and call it anything. You can preach tolerance and call it Islam, or you can preach hate and call it Islam. Religions are like that. So some mosques will get more fanatical, some less, and others will stay the same. Any of those can happen, and the moderate enlightened Muslims can feel relatively free to do what they want.

The legal stuff is trickier. Judaism has had a ton of legal stuff that were very unpopular. Some legal requirements were not just unpopular, but burdensome and dangerous. Jews have dealt with this in two different ways, neither has been picked up by Islam, with dangerous results.

Here is how Jews have dealt with it. Jews have done two things. First, There have been demonational rifts, where some people develop a new theology within Judaism, but different. This should ideally keep everyone inside Judaism, but barely. But when you have a Jewish theology, it is hard to deny their Jewishness even if it is radically different than xorthodox theology. The second way Jews have dealt with the problems of modernity was through legal innovation. Jews have been doing this for over two thousand years. There is an old expression that goes something like "where there is a rabbinic will, there is a halachic way". This is true, usually. When the Rabbis needed social change they looked right in to Jewish law, and found the loopholes they needed. As any lawyer will tell you, there is no such thing as a contract without a loophole. Neither is there a Jewish law that can't be bent or molded or gotten around.

Jewish law has countless examples. One of the oldest and most famous is the pruzbul, a document that allowed Jews to collect debts even after the sabbatical year passed. The collection of private debt after the sabbatical year, is prohibited by the bible. However at some point the rabbis saw an economic problem arise from people who were simply not loaning money out of fear that the debt will be dragged out until the sabbatical year and then be absolved. The rabbis found a legal way around it by developing a contract that transfers debts to the public sphere. Public debt were not absolved during the sabbatical year, and with this contract society benefitted in a much needed way.

Islam apparently, has two other ways of dealing with problems. 1) Ignore the problems and revert to a reactionary fundamentalism. 2) Those who want to change will change, and simply stop being accepted as real muslims.

There is unfortunately no middle ground. Again, middle ground is not compromise, but rather working within a system to show how it can be molded to suit today's needs. Moderate muslims need to learn how to use the legal system, instead of being used by it. The law of God should be taken precisely, and so should the exceptions. There must be clever enough Muslims out there to find some.

A process like this should be by people who have authority within the Islamic world. Many authors are calling for reform. Some are simply advocating for something akin to a protestant reformation. That is, chuch the old, and simply change. This might work for some, but it will just make a further rift in Islam. This is fine, but not enough. What Muslims need to do are find people who are respected in the community of Islamic law and justify and explain how some new reforms are within the confines of the will of Allah.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Perhaps he is running in the wrong country

According to this poll Kerry is much more popular in other countries than he is here. Perhaps he should run for office in the Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan, or Iran. I would certainly vote for him as the president of Lybia.

Poor Kerry. It must suck to be him and believe in democracy.

Past few days

The past few days have been rather hectic. I have been staying all over Brooklyn and Manhattan. I ate in all sorts of new retaraunts, and did not sleep enough. I am still readjusting to civilian life. I have not had much time to think about anything, but the news has been mildly depressing, and did not inspire me to write about it.

Yesterday was interesting. The subways were all jacked up. It took me forever to get where I was going. For half my trip I had this guy from Jersey who did not speak any English follow me around to get to 81st street. He was passed off to me by this MTA worker who didn't speak any English when I asked her how I could get to roughly the same place.