Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Speaking of irony

I can't believe this was done with a straight face.

AFT - where the picture is funnier than the thousand words

That American Federation of Teachers publishes a stupid rag called "On Campus". This paper is not really web-savvy enough to put its pictures on its website, but if it was, this article about "academic freedom" and the proposal by David Horowitz to institute a campus bill of rights. The picture that accompanies the article in the print edition (which I'll scan one day if I get around to it) depicts Michael Berube holding a counter rally (apparently to a Republican rally) and press conference with about 14 students. 10 of the students are clearly depicted wearing identical T-shirts with the slogan:

Horowitz: We can think for ourselves! We don't need your outside agenda.

I wonder how many of them see the irony in 10 people standing behind a demogogue, sloganeering in concert, insisting that they all have the ability to think for themselves.

(This was also reported here and here, neither with pictures.

(I also figure that these rallies and counter rallies were planned at least a day or two in advance as they needed to groupthink the slogan, get and distribute them, and plan on wearing them and assembling. I note this because it is unlike what seems to be implied here suggesting that they somehow found a whole bunch of people to just protest Horowitz.

(And this is a side note to the girl (whose name is apparently Jamie) in the front with the ugly glasses with the offending T-shirt holding a sign that says "Socrates was dangerous too": I take it you never read any Plato.)

By the way, just for the record, I am well behind the sentiment that drives Horowitz, and I think it is the natural reaction to what the left does on college campuses. It is nothing short of horrifying and boderline intellectual student abuse. (whatever that is). . . . That being said, I am pretty sure I am against a bill of rights of this sort. I am really not comfortable with government drafting legislation telling people how to teach in college. I really don't want big brother there. But I really do want today's liberal educators to see what messages they are sending to the country. Let them sweat a little.

Monday, May 22, 2006

. . . where credit is due

For the record, I was the one who left this note on UOJ's blog. It sounds a lot more bitter than I actually am, and the last sentece is more to make people think than an actual truth. It really is, however, a sentiment I felt for a long time though. (It looks like it managed to, at least temporarily, halt discussion. NOT my intention.)

Life imitates. . .

Ali G?

Those of you who recognize this exchange:

"There's a lot to protest at McDonald's."
"Sure, but mostly it's the ketchup thing."

should find this article amusing.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Follow-up to the Kolko-Margolis previous post

I had not realized how much venom there is toward Margolis out there. Naturally I always hated the guy. I am not even sure why. Back when I was in first grade, I remember thinking that he was pretty scummy. I once wrote a short story whose principle bad-guy was "R Margo" the head of an evil empire of child slave laborers. It was a sci-fi story, which as I think about it now, was probably pretty good for a first-grader. I have since lost the story, but once tried to recreate it.

In first grade, I had Rabbi Andrusia(sp?) OB"M, the other first-grade rebbi, so I did not interact much with Kolko. He was really nice. As I recall he used to give out paper-clips when you did something good, and then if you accumulated enough of them, you were somehow rewarded. But I digress.

Here is the text of the lawsuit. The comments make clear that Margolis has LOTS of people who really hate him in the orthodox community.

My family's own interaction with Margolis was when I left Torah Temimah. I started there in pre-one-A. My brother and I were both in the school, I was in middle of 9th grade, and he was a few grades younger (about 4th grade). I was not having a good schooling experience (I detested (I think the late) Rabbi Berkowitz who then was the principle of the high school, and the whole place was way to "frummy" for me.). (I have no idea why I didn't bail after elementary school with a lot of my friends and classmates.) Perhaps it was because of the anecdote that follows. But, there was some "agreement" between me and Berkowitz that I would be better off somewhere else, though I do not recollect the details to well. My brother on the other hand was really doing fine in the school, and was fitting in nicely, and had great relationships with his rabbeim.

To make a long story short, when I was going to switch to the Mir, Margolis sat down with my father and explained that if the school wasn't frum enough for me, it was not appropriate for my brother either, and he would have to be pulled from the school. This of course created a problem, because my brother really did not want to switch, and I needed to. So my brother was asked to leave because I wasn't fitting in. Or, I could have stayed and suffered there so that my brother could fit in. (Again, this "blackmail" of my parents might have taken place after eighth grade when so many of my friends were leaving the school, and Margolis needed to keep some of us and prevent a mass exodus. I am hazy on the details.)

At the end we both left, and I am sure we are both better off for it. I don't think my brother regrets it much, and I am sure as hell glad I left. Though I do have to admit, educationally speaking, it really was the best school of its type out there. If all you cared about was learning well, it was a good place to be.

(I do recall having Kolko substitute once or twice for some science class I had in a low grade and I remember thinking at the time that this guy has no understanding of how the weather works. I didn't either, but I am sure he didn't. (Neither did my 5th grade rebbi, but that's another story.))

I however wasn't the "fitting-in" type, especially to a place I really didn't like much. I was actually in Camp Agudah for a summer, and Ma-Na-Vu for one summer. Kolko was no longer involved in Agudah when I was there. But he did own (together with Rabbi Klein, and I think someone else) camp Ma-Na-Vu. I think that my first real interaction with Kolko was when he called me in to his office to give me a Ma-Na-Vu jacket with my name sewn on. It creeps me out now to think that he might have been checking me out. I did like the jacket though. Rumor also has it that the rumors that were spreading about Kolko years ago had something to do with why Kolko and Klein split over Ma-Na-Vu. Kolko then went to head Torah Temimah's Camp Silver Lake. I'll also admit I have few distinct memories of either camp (or the YTT day camp I went to earlier on). I did not particularly enjoy the whole experience.

I again digress, though as I write this I am thankful that my story is not like his or his. Apparently though the 3rd plaintiff in the lawsuit has joined the US Army, so we have something in common. And I thought I was the only Torah Temimah graduate to ever have done that.

Having the press convict Kolko before all the facts are out is one thing, but there is still no excuse for Margolis' behavior. If Kolko was a sexual predator he should have gotten help and been kept far away from children. And this should have happened via the courts long ago. But it is abundantly clear that Margolis spent a lot of time shielding Kolko from the repercussions of the rumors, and spent a lot of time denying them and covering them up. And that is the truly malicious thing here. Knowing the rumors, it is his job to find the truth, protect the students, and the covering up is clear. One does not close ranks when the well being of the children in your care is at stake.

Monday, May 15, 2006

This should have been done years ago

The Orthodox Jewish world has known about this for a while, and there have been rumors, and public letters, but finally something is being done.

I was actually in this guy's school for almost 10 years. (I spent a summer at his camp too.) Thankfully I have nothing to report, nor have I ever heard anything first hand. But Margolis always struck everyone I know who ever encountered him as very smarmy. He is the real problem here. I hope justice is served here. And I feel really bad for the guy in the article.

Darfur is the new Rwanda

So the past few months there has been a lot of talk about what to do with Darfour in the Sudan. At this point we should pretty much be waiting for the book to come out, and then ask Cheadle if he is up for Hotel Darfour.

Some 200,000 people have already been killed.

I remember not being able to get anyone interested in the Sudanese slave trade when I was an undergraduate 10 years ago (and we formed a group then caled ASAP to do this, which I will write more about some other time). I remember both candidates fobbing the Sudan question during the debates, I remember it being refered to the UN who has still done nothing. I wonder if there is still an active committee dealing with this.Weren't they on the human rights committee last year?

But now that the problem boils down to just helping refugees, everyone wants to get involved.

Messed up world we live in. People too scared of not looking politically correct when they ask someone to actually do something.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Higher Ed Today

The New School has invited Sen. John McCain to speak at commencement this year. However, as you would expect from a school like this, there was no shortage of student outrage. Apparently McCain does not like homosexuality. A student who helped organize the dissent, Harper Keenan, is quoted as saying something that pretty much sums up everything that is wrong with college education today. He says "In all of our classes we’re taught the value of inclusion of all people, and we’re taught to question our leaders."

I can hear these same words being parroted on campuses across the nation.

In all our classes we are taught to question authority, but we are never taught to question all of our classes. How sad, that students just believe whatever they are taught to believe when it comes from people they approve of. Someone should tell him that just because they are taught something, does not mean it is dogma. Professors are as fallible (if not more falliable) as anyone else.

Secondly, if there is one thing they should have learned in college, it is that as J. S. Mill might put it, there is nothing more valuable then hearing your views collide with views that you disagree with. It is only the foolish and unlearned, and those who hope to stay that way, who want to hear only voices of people they already agree with.

Thirdly, I am wondering why this "inclusion" that the New School sophmore spoke of, does not manage to extend to John McCain. Isn't his voice one that he has not heard much of around the New School? Or are we to take it to mean that the value of inclusion only extends as far as the 20 or 30 percent of people (in this country) who New School Students are generally likely to agree with?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Inside Man: Is it good for the Jews?

(Spoilers inside)

A few days ago I saw Spike Lee's Inside Man. It was an OK movie, and on some level I found it amusing. It was actually about a rather clever bank heist pulled off by a few people that quickly seems to turn in to a messy hostage negotiation. Denzel Washington plays the negotiator and is the only real multidimensional character in the film.

Rather quickly one begins to root for the bad guy, and after a while, so do the good guys. The real bad guys become apparent soon enough.

The plot is about the bank robbery that never really took place. At the end of the day the thieves, after meticulusly planning the robbery did not take a heck of a lot of stuff, nor did they want to. Actually for a while they can't find anything that was really taken. They took a very select few things. You are never really told how they found about about them, nor do we see any of the back story, and that is what makes me suspicious.

I could of couse concentrate here on the actual movie, but I suspect that Spike Lee might not have had the best of intentions here with the film. Allow me to elaborate. (Here is where the real spoilers start.) As the old joke goes: A Jewish kid goes to his granfather and says "The Yankees won the World series!" To which the granfather replies "Nu, is that good for the Jews?"

I could not help thinking about this at the end of Inside man. The real story is that there is a group of Jews who somehow find out that some big Wall Street bank was started by exploiting something Nazi. Not sure exactly what, but that the owner took advantage of some rich Jews and ended up with the money to start the bank. A cabal comprised of a hanful of Jews decided to plan the ultimate heist and steal the proof of this from the bank. They somehow discovered this, and all they took was the proof and a handful of diamonds that were from that era. The implication was that this would all be used to blackmail the founder of the bank. The founder of the bank went through some trouble to try to prevent this and the bitch who was hired to help bury this took his money and didn't feel very bad for the guy either.

So my question is this: What was Spike Lee trying to sho with this movie? Was he trying to tell a clever story and needed a good plot? Was he trying to show how clever some dedicated Jews are? Was he trying to show that there are these shadowy Jews with a very long memories who will right historical wrongs? What was he getting at.

Honestly, it was not clear which of these sentiments he conveyed. Probably all of them. But I still can't tell you if that is good for the Jews.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

left, right and far left

Reflecting on my last post, I was thinking that there is a clear difference between the left and the right in this country right now. It is this difference that is costing the left a lot of votes. It most likely cost them my vote in the last election, and there is a good chance it will cost them my vote in the next election.

Currently the party in power, at least as far as the executive branch is concerned is neoconservative. That is the more or less official ideology of the current administration. Neoconservatives diverge from conservatives in many many ways. Neocons are not isolationists. Conservatives can go either way. Neocons are not Christian fundamentalists. Conservatives are. Neocons are not anti-abortion. Conservatives are. . . Neocons do not have much to say about stem cell research. Conservatives are opposed. Neocons are not opposed to some pieces of a welfare state. Conservatives generally are. Neocons are not opposed to big government. Conservatives are. Conservatives favor big business. Neocons, at least officially, have no stated preference. There is a long history of toleration for minorities in the neocon tradition, though not in the conservative one. The list goes on and on.

On the other hand when one thinks of the left and the radical left, there is very little real difference. They both favor an increased welfare state. (Perhaps the left is not asking for a real communist government, whereas the radical left sometimes does.) They both favor abortion, gay marraige, no foreign military interventions, anti-unilateralism, increased government intervention in matters of equality, safety, etc.

Moreover the rhetoric always binds together every facet of the movement, so that you can't really taken anything singly. So if you are ever opposed to a view you are opposed to all of them. A rally for one position always turns out to be a rally for every left-wing and far left wing opinion out there. So the rally for the illegal immigrant amnesty had pro-palestinian people, anti-war demonstrators, the usual anti-Bush crowd. From the stories the paper carried there seemed to be nothing on the left you could not be supporting. If you loved Mexian immigrants but also favored the war in Iraq, you were alienated. There is no way to be a good leftist these days without favoring some whole package.

The right is now split. You can have a Christian fundamentalist view, and be a traditional conservative, or you can be a neoconservative. They have to join forces for the moment because there is no hope for such a schism on the left. So as long as the left is a package, the right will be one too.

Those on the left seem to feel that any agreement with the right is selling uout. Leiberman traditionally gets branded a traitor to the left because he is a democrat who does not seem to vicerally hate Bush, even though Bush beat him in an election. The left has a lot of work to do before it can declare itself in line with mainstream America.

Monday, May 01, 2006


In the United States, Labor day is celebrated on the first Monday in September. In communist countries, and in countries that are far more sympathetic to various kinds of left-wing socialism, the traditional day for celebrating the workers and their achievements is May 1, or today. May 1 has been associated with the left, and leftist movements since around 1886.

One wonders which marketing idiot came up with the idea to choose today to protest for the rights of illegal immigrants undocumented persons, and then on top of that to start with the national anthem in Spanish. (Notice in the link that no one bothered to proofread the site.)

Somebody failed to explain to radicals that the reason they are considered radical is because there are not a hell of a lot of people around here who share their neo-Marxist vision of the universe. That being said, the way to get the US to agree with you is not to go around and rub in their face how different the illegal immigrants are and how very much they want to change our social system. The establishment likes our social system. If they didn't, they'd change it. They have that power because that is what it is to be the establishment.

So lemme give a little advice to radicals. Give it up. Realize that unless you really have the whole society behind you, which you really don't in this case, to get what you want, you show the American people that you want to part of their way of life, not that you plan on radically altering it to accommodate you.

I realize that a huge social system and greater welfare net will help illegal immigrants. After all it would be great to just sneak in to a country and then take their welfare and spit on their way of life, and mock their rules. I realize that more rights for people who came in to this country illegally is important, and that it is only a matter of time before you demand affirmative action for people who are illegally here.

But you seem to not realize that if you want American sympathy do it in a way that shows what you can do for America, not what you expect America to do for you. Do not sneal in to the country illegally just to tell us that your idea of a social system is so much better than ours. If your idea is so good, then go try it in your own country. Of did you already try it, screw it up, and now you want to do the same to mine.

I appreciate that I was born here, and I have rights, and I have it a lot easier than you did in your country. I sympathize with you. However, I also expect that you appreciate that however my ancestors got here, they did so legally, and they followed US law, filled out US forms, learned a bit of English, paid US taxes, however inconvenient that was.

You have all officially lost any sympathy I would have had for you. By holding a rally on a day that is symbolic for a small minority of the US population, and is considered insulting to those millions who were killed for the sake of some glorious revolution, you have alienated those middle of the political spectrum types who would otherwise think that you just want to come to the US to share in our verison of the good life and make this country home.

This whole thing is really a sign of how out of touch the left is with mainstream America.

Update: I'd like to (crib an email I just wrote to) clarify what I wrote above, just so no one gets the wrong idea.

Whenever I start to feel some sympathy for a leftist cause, like I did this time, someone goes and makes it in to a radical left cause.

I mean, I think that everyone can sympathize with someone who says "look, I’m from a shitty country like Mexico. I came here to work and be a part of a better system and a better economy with more opportunities." But no one said that very loudly. All we saw was (1) it was held on May Day, a day with a lot of symbolic significance for a different kind of economy, ie, a socialist and/or communist economy. (2) There were flags of dozens of countries, especially Mexico, ie, people who are proud that they have a strong allegiance to somewhere else and intent on reminding everyone that the US is not necessarily their favorite country, and (3) they go and announce that the national anthem is just as meaningful in Spanish, telling us that the language of the people here is not for them either.

I mean if you really want US rights, why run around carring a foreign flag, a symbol of your pride is some other place??? Seriously, why?

So as I see it, they display a rejection of our economic system, our social system, our language, and any pretense of loyalty to the US, and then I’m supposed to support this? The message they should have sent was the one I said before: "Mexico-crap, US-good. Please take me in, I’ll help continue making this country great!" I would totally have sympathy with someone who articulated that, and I'd be inclined to look for a solution that does not involve the INS and deportations. Moreover, I’ll bet that a huge chunk of illegal aliens really believe that. But they have organizers who have communist and revolutionary interests at heart and not the interests of the illegal aliens themselves.