Thursday, December 28, 2006

Conference in our nation's capitol

I'm now in boring professional conference in Washington DC. Those of you who have been here must be struck by the difference of culture that exists inside the beltway and the culture of other big cities. I wonder what it is? Anyone know what percentage of Washington DCers were born and raised here, and how many are transplants? I wonder if that makes a difference.

Meanwhile, I will just enjoy my professional conference and listen to talks that can possibly interest a handful of people on the planet, me being one of them.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Now its twice

This is now the second time I've been declared the person of the year by Time magazine. The first was in 2003, as you may recall. I really wish they'd give someone else a chance.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It didn't happen

Personally I am skeptical that there really was a holocaust denial conference in Iran this week.

Well maybe there were a few people in "Iran" who got together to talk about not liking Jews. And everyone knows that Iranians exaggerate their numbers just to advance their anti-Zionist agendas. And everyone also knows that Iran simply doesn't have halls big enough to hold all the holocaust deniers.

Borat, who was allegedly at the conference is widely believed to be fictional. It is also unclear if Iran actually exists. I understand there is a conference pending about that. Americans and Israelis, and miscellaneous "Jewish" conspiritors who were allegedly at this perported conference have no legal way of actually getting to Iran.

So one wonders what the Persian agenda is here. Why pretend to hold a conference about a subject so unpopular in the west? Moreover, why pretend to hold a conference when it is probably just as east to just actually hold one. Faking conferences seems like more trouble than it is worth.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Review of Lewis' What Went Wrong

As usual, Bernard Lewis produces a great piece of writing. What went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response is a well-told tale of the relevant bits of Islamic history leading up to their poor position in the world today.

Islam, once a real force in culture and science and even justice, has been reduced to an almost negligible space in the intellectual, financial, economic, moral, and scientific outlook of the planet. Their ownership of fossil fuels being their only positive contribution to the rest of the planet. After the 15th century Islam stopped

The book talks about many things that hindered Islam's inability to modernize. The ones that stick out in my mind are Islam's inability to separate between church and state - a big impediment to modernization. Islam's lack of interest in anything that was not religious seems like a problem too. Real efforts to modernize seemed to have been spurned on by their need to win wars, something they have not been doing lately. (From being controlled by the secular Ottomans to the British and French, to the loss against Israel. . .)

My only gripe about the book is that I wish it was clearer about what went wrong. It does a good job at looking at the history, and the title made a promise that it did not deliver on, namely what went wrong. The conclusion chapter made some strides in this direction, but the reader is left to put the pieces together for himself.

Otherwise a pretty good read.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Memo to the Simon Wiesenthal Center

There are no facts you can tell the leaders of Iran that they can't google themselves, if they just visited a neighboring country that had unrestricted Internet access. When they hold an event questioning the holocaust the correct response is not to hold an event to "counter it". To do so is to miss the point. When they hold an event such as this they are trying to piss you off. It is not about researching the most well documented event in human history, it is about hating you.

Here are two responses that are better than getting upset.

1. Ask world Jewery to set aside one minute of today yawning. As in - who cares what kind of bigotry they exhibit in Iran. You have to be an upper-East Side New York liberal Bush hater to still find it surprising that Iran hates Jews. When Bush put Iran in the axis of evil, it is because the Irani leadership really are bastards, not because Bush just needed a third country to not like.

2. Piss Iran off yourself. Hold a conference - "Iran, is it really there?" or "Islam - the billion most gullible people on Earth" or if you were feeling charitable "Crisis in the Muslim world: The obvious reason why they have produced no historians of note - ever"

(Be prepared for a few days of rioting)

Even Palestinians will be banned if they are not toeing the party line here. As an old activist once said, if someone calls Jews dogs, would you hold a conference that provided unequivocal proof that dogs have tails, and Jews don't, and dogs bark, and Jews speak a human language, dogs walk on four legs and Jews on two. . .? If someone calls a Jew a dog, they are not making a biological point. If someone challenges the historicity of the holocaust, they are not making a historical point.

The Weisenthal center is dignifying this sort of hatred with a response because they need to show that (1) Iran is not evil in any way that can't be corrected with a simple conference, that this is about ignorance, not hate, and (2) so that the Weisentahl center can claim to actually be doing something about this.

But despite what "education theorists" have been saying for decades, you can't just teach someone something and expect them to be the way you want. Virtues such as those it would take to make Iran our friends have to be inculcated over a long time with the proper upbringing for a whole generation of leaders. This will not start with a conference. A conference shows that you take them seriously - which you shouldn't.

The Weisenthal Center justifies its budget on the grounds that it does something about anti-semitism. Well, perhaps here the best thing to do is nothing. Somethings are just not meant to be taken too seriously. The best way to respond, is to find a disincentive for Iran to do this. It has to be made to be not worth it for Iran, or Iranians. But this is too hard, so the Center is just doing the next best thing, which is actually not a good thing at all.