International Day is an annual event at my school, where people from the community come together to have fun, celebrate cultural diversity, and raise money for children's charities.
Click on the link above for a glimpse of this special day.
International Day is an annual event at my school, where people from the community come together to have fun, celebrate cultural diversity, and raise money for children's charities.
Click on the link above for a glimpse of this special day.
The Return of Rip Van Winkle (John Quidor, 1829)
Carol Ann Duffy was recently named Britain's first female poet laureate. William Langley (Daily Telegraph, May 5, 2009) provides some background on the poet and her new post. Here's an excerpt :
Click here to listen to an interview with Duffy on BBC Radio 4.
Here's another poem, from Mean Time (1994), entitled Prayer.
(via Adina Gerver)
If you're sick to death, as I am, of the mainstream media's endless gushing over (His Wonderfulness) Barack Obama, here's a more reality-based view of his first 100 days in office.
From 100 Days, 100 Mistakes (The New York Post, April 25, 2009):
17. MEGHAN CLYNE ON: "I WON" AND THE DEATH OF BIPARTISANSHIP"Obama soared to victory on the hopeful promise of a new era of bipartisanship. During his inaugural address he even promised an 'end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.'
"Too bad it took all of three days for the promise to ring hollow.
"Start with Obama's big meeting with top congressional leaders on his signature legislation — the stimulus — on the Friday after his inauguration. Listening to Republican concerns about overspending was a nice gesture — until he shut down any hopes of real dialogue by crassly telling Republican leaders: 'I won.' Even the White House's leaking of the comment was a slap at the Republican leadership, who'd expected Obama to adhere to the custom of keeping private meetings with congressional leadership, well, private.
"It's only gone downhill from there. The stimulus included zero Republican recommendations, and failed to get a single House Republican vote.
"It's not just the tactic of using Republicans for bipartisan photo-ops, and then cutting them loose before partisan decisions, that irks Obama's opponents. The new president wasted no time rushing forward with policies and legislation guaranteed to drive Republicans nuts. The first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — a partisan hot-button that drew all of eight Republican supporters in the entire Congress. Then there was the swift reversal of Bush policies on abortion and embryonic-stem-cell research — issues dear to the Republican base.
"And when Obama and the Democrats in Congress took up SCHIP — the children's health-insurance bill that Republicans say vastly expands government's role in health care — they had an easy chance for real bipartisanship. After all, the bill had been hashed out in the previous Congress, and a bipartisan accord was reached before President Bush responded with a veto. Did the Obama team push for the compromise version in the 111th Congress? Nope. They went back to the drawing board, ramming through the Democrats' dream version.
"Of course, the lack of bipartisanship isn't limited to Capitol Hill. Obama has taken gratuitous swipes at the Republicans who recently decamped Washington, blaming President Bush for everything from the economy and the war to the lack of sufficient puppies and rainbows. And who could forget the Rush Limbaugh flap — in which Obama's top advisers, including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, orchestrated a public relations campaign meant to undermine the Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, by framing talk-radio personality Limbaugh as the real head of the Republican Party.
"For now, Obama's back-pedal on the bipartisanship promise just makes him look insincere. But the real consequences of the mistake will be felt soon enough. As Presidents Bush and Clinton could tell him, congressional majorities do change — and at some point, Obama will need Republicans on his side. He'd be smart to spend his second 100 days making up for the serious snubs of his first."
To this list, I'd add the Chas Freeman debacle; his nonstop apology tours; his Orwellian additions to the English language: "overseas contingency operations" and "man-caused disasters"; his apparent eagerness to throw Israel under the bus; his selling out our allies on missile defense; his losing Kyrgyzstan as a military base; his buzzing Manhattan with Air Force One. Oh, and his belief that Austrians speak Austrian. (I'm sure if I think a while, I can come up with more.)
Not the greatest start.
One particularly popular version, pseudo-scientific in tone, understands Zionism as a political form given to a psychological condition – Jews visiting upon others the traumas suffered by themselves, with Israel figuring as the torture room in which they do it. This is is pretty well the thesis of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, an audacious 10-minute encapsulation of Israel’s moral collapse – the audacity residing in its ignorance or its dishonesty – currently playing at the Royal Court. The play is conceived in the form of a family roundelay, with different voices chiming in with suggestions as to the best way to bring up, protect, inform, and ultimately inflame into animality an unseen child in each of the chosen seven periods of contemporary Jewish history. It begins with the Holocaust, partly to establish the playwright’s sympathetic bona fides (“Tell her not to come out even if she hears shouting”), partly to explain what has befallen Palestine, because no sooner are the Jews out of the hell of Hitler’s Europe than they are constructing a parallel hell for Palestinians.
Anyone with scant knowledge of the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations – that is to say, judging from what they chant, the majority of anti-Israel demonstrators – would assume from this that Jews descended on the country as from a clear blue sky; that they had no prior association with the land other than in religious fantasy and through some scarce remembered genealogical affiliation: “Tell her it’s the land God gave us... Tell her her great great great great lots of greats grandad lived there” – the latter line garnering much knowing laughter in the theatre the night I was there, by virtue of the predatiousness lurking behind the childlike vagueness.
You cannot of course tell the whole story of anywhere in 10 minutes, but then why would you want to unless you conceive it to be simple and one-sided? The staccato form of the piece – every line beginning “Tell her” or “Don’t tell her” – is skilfully contrived to suggest a people not just forever fraught and frightened but forever covert and deceitful. Nothing is true. Boasts are denials and denials are boasts. Everything is mediated through the desire to put the best face, first on fear, then on devious appropriation, and finally on evil.
From Christopher Hart, writing in The Sunday Times (February 15, 2009):
A leaflet handed out before the show, inviting donations to Medical Aid for Palestinians, tells you how “brutal” Israel’s “invasion” of Gaza has been. “Bombardment”, “devastation”, “earthquake”: these are reassuring little signposts. Otherwise, you might worry that Churchill has written a play that considers both sides of the conflict. In seven one-minute acts, Israeli adults discuss what to “Tell her” — in each case, an imaginary young Israeli girl. About the Holocaust? Suicide bombings? About 1967? “Tell her not to be afraid” is a recurring and poignant refrain. This simple device could have been highly effective, but it’s ruined by the play's ludicrous and utterly predictable lack of even-handedness.
We all agree, I think, that the scenes coming from Gaza are not good. But the enormously complex reasons for such horrors are not considered here. Instead, Churchill comes across like a very minor Old Testament prophet, bewailing the Wickedness of my people Israel (Jeremiah 7:12). And the final lines, delivered by an Israeli in full rant, about how the Palestinians are “animals”, how he wants to see their children “covered in blood”, are simply outrageous.
“Tell her we killed more of them” is one suggestion earlier. Ah, yes, the idea that you can fairly judge the righteousness or wickedness of either side in this miserable conflict by looking at the casualty figures. You hear this on the BBC, too. Hamas rockets rarely kill anyone. They don’t really mean it, they’re just teasing. Not like those ruthless Israelis. In fact, Hamas would love their rockets to kill Israelis — men, women, children, whatever. The reason their rockets rarely kill anyone is that they’re really rubbish at aiming them. Israel, on the other hand, despite having directly caused the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians in Gaza recently, does not deliberately target queues of people at bus stops.
Seven Jewish Children isn’t art, it’s straitjacketed political orthodoxy. No surprises, no challenges, no risks. Only the enclosed, fetid, smug, self-congratulating and entirely irrelevant little world of contemporary political theatre. Fresh air is urgently needed. But I’m not holding my breath.
Theatre J, a Jewish theater in Washington, D.C., is now staging a production of the play. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic debates the theater's director, Ari Roth, on the merits of the play.
This is sure to make you smile.
Teachers are told to report there instead of their classrooms. No reason is usually given. When they arrive, they find they've been put on some kind of probationary status, and they must report every day until the matter is cleared up. They call it the Rubber Room. Average length of stay? Months, sometimes years.
You can listen to a podcast of the show here. (Look for Full Episode on the left of the page. The report begins at 7:25)
There's also a movie called The Rubber Room by Five Boroughs Productions. Go here to watch the trailer.
From The Onion:
WASHINGTON—More than a week after President Barack Obama's cold-blooded killing of a local couple, members of the American news media admitted Tuesday that they were still trying to find the best angle for covering the gruesome crime.
"I know there's a story in there somewhere," said Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, referring to Obama's home invasion and execution-style slaying of Jeff and Sue Finowicz on Apr. 8. "Right now though, it's probably best to just sit back and wait for more information to come in. After all, the only thing we know for sure is that our president senselessly murdered two unsuspecting Americans without emotion or hesitation."
Added Meacham, "It's not so cut and dried."
Since the killings took place, reporters across the country have struggled to come up with an appropriate take on the ruthless crime, with some wondering whether it warrants front-page coverage, and others questioning its relevance in a fast-changing media landscape.
"What exactly is the news hook here?" asked Rick Kaplan, executive producer of the CBS Evening News. "Is this an upbeat human-interest story about a 'day in the life' of a bloodthirsty president who likes to kill people? Or is it more of an examination of how Obama's unusual upbringing in Hawaii helped to shape the way he would one day viciously butcher two helpless citizens in their own home?"
"Or maybe the story is just that murder is cool now," Kaplan continued. "I don't know. There are a million different angles on this one."
So far, the president's double-homicide has not been covered by any major news outlets. The only two mentions of the heinous tragedy have been a 100-word blurb on the Associated Press wire and an obituary on page E7 of this week's edition of theLake County Examiner.
While Obama has expressed no remorse for the grisly murders—point-blank shootings with an unregistered .38-caliber revolver—many journalists said it would be irresponsible for the press to sensationalize the story.
"There's been some debate around the office about whether we should report on this at all," Washington Post senior reporter Bill Tracy said while on assignment at a local dog show. "It's enough of a tragedy without the press jumping in and pointing fingers or, worse, exploiting the violence. Plus, we need to be sensitive to the victims' families at this time. Their loved ones were brutally, brutally murdered, after all."
Nevertheless, a small contingent of independent journalists has begun to express its disapproval and growing shock over the president's actions.
"I hate to rain on everyone's parade, but we are in the midst of an economic crisis here," political pundit Marcus Reid said. "Why was our president ritualistically dismembering the corpses of his prey when he should have been working on a new tax proposal for small businesses? I, for one, am outraged."
The New York Times newsroom is reportedly still undecided on whether or not to print a recent letter received from Obama, in which the president threatens to kill another helpless citizen every Tuesday and "fill [his] heavenly palace with slaves for the afterlife" unless the police "stop the darkness from screaming."
"President Obama's letter presents us with a classic journalistic quandary," executive editor Bill Keller said. "If we print it, then we're giving him control over the kinds of stories we choose to run. It would be an acknowledgment that we somehow give the nation's commander in chief special treatment."
Added Keller, "And that's just not how the press in this country works."
(via Don Preston)
HONG KONG -- This city's three billionaire Kwok brothers have just the answer for the rising waters threatening the global economy: the world's first life-size replica of Noah's ark, built to biblical specifications off the coast of this recession-struck Chinese financial center.
The message in its 450-foot-long hull, its rooftop luxury hotel and 67 pairs of fiberglass animals: "The financial tsunami will be over," says Spencer Lu, the Kwoks' project director at Noah's Ark, which is opening soon.
The land-bound ark wasn't built in response to the current global turmoil; it has been in the planning for 17 years. But the financial storm provides a nice marketing hook for the Kwoks' ambitious project, which will probably need to lure visitors from beyond Hong Kong's city limits to be an economic success. It also ups the ante in the competition to build a big ark. Middle brother and ark champion Thomas Kwok insisted that it be constructed according to biblical specs, in part to distinguish it from one in the Netherlands that actually floats and boasts real farm animals but is just one-fifth the size of the biblical original.
Here's a slideshow of some other arks that have been built.
On my Christmas holiday, I traveled to Kolkata, India.
Here are some photos from my trip.
(Music: Calcutta City by Amjad Ali Khan)
Update: Because of the huge size of the file (90 MB), some people are having difficulty viewing the slideshow. Therefore, I've decided to post some of the images here.
From Emanuele Ottolenghi's The Left Among Us Like Victimhood (The Jewish Chronicle):
Calls abound for Jews to repent, condemn Israel, hear the gospel of anti-Zionism and convert to a new, exciting form of Judaism, based more on Karl Marx and Rosa Luxembourg than Theodor Herzl and David Ben Gurion. So is the rush to heed them. With antisemitism rising across Europe alongside violence in the Middle East, Jews have been under pressure for several years now. Instead of getting sympathy for the harassment they are subjected to, Jews have earned only scorn for their refusal to denounce Israel first.
That is the sad truth — one that anti-Zionist Jewish intellectuals, with their demonising rhetoric against Israel and their patronising attitude towards fellow Jews, have irresponsibly abetted. To shield themselves from shame and abuse, Jews are asked to discard Israel from their own collective identity. This step, and an active denunciation of Israel as the antithesis of progressive and Jewish values (themselves, in this vision, synonymous with one another), will gain them full acceptance. Scores of Jews, especially among the progressive intellectuals, indeed comply in public acts of mea culpa, thus lending an alibi to antisemites and gentrifying anti-Jewish prejudice in the process.
A simple explanation is at hand for this: it is lonely, on the left, when you step out of line. And the party line, when it comes to Israel and the Jews, is that one can express a proud Jewish identity only through the experience of suffering and victimisation from the past, which the Holocaust has come to embody above all. The Jew as a victim and as a witness of the quintessential, archetypal experience of suffering emerges as the positive Jewish role-model, in sharp contrast to the pro-Israel or even Zionist Jew, who is chastised for having betrayed both universal values and what is seen as the authentic Jew. Again, to borrow from Christian terminology, the Jew as the sacrificial lamb, the Agnus Dei, is what we are being asked to be.
(via Melanie Phillips's Diary)
Click on the image to enlarge it.
(via The Washington Post)
"Walt and Mearsheimer are careful to say they are not anti-Semitic or conspiracy-minded. But their main inference — that Israel, the Israel lobby and Jewish neoconservatives called the shots for Bush, Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld — is not only rubbish, it is dangerous rubbish. As “mainstream” scholars, Walt and Mearsheimer cannot avoid the historical pedigree of this kind of charge. Every generation has seen accusations that Jews have dual loyalties, promote war and secretly control political structures.
These academics may not follow their claims all the way to anti-Semitism. But this is the way it begins. This is the way it always begins."
— Michael Gerson, Seeds of Anti-Semitism (The Washington Post, September 21, 2007)
A friend directed me to a fascinating portrait of the Israeli billionaire, Lev Leviev.
From The Missionary Mogul by Zev Chafets (New York Times Magazine, September 16, 2007):
Three years ago the [Azerbaijan] government, concerned about the influence of neighboring Iran and the spread of local madrassas, decided to close all the private schools in the country. This, of course, included the Jewish school in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. The community elders petitioned the government, but to no avail.
“They even tried to get American Jewish organizations to intervene,” Leviev recalled. “But the Jewish organizations couldn’t do a thing.” He smiled thinly. He has a generally low opinion of American Jewish activists, especially his fellow billionaires.
And so Leviev decided to ride to the rescue. He flew to Baku on his private plane, parked at the airport and went straight to the synagogue.
“The Jews were all gathered there,” he recounted in what is obviously a favorite story. “I told them to wait while I talked to the president.” At the time, that was Heydar Aliyev. “There were journalists in his outer office. Everyone was excited to see me there, because they thought I had come to invest money in the country. Heydar thought so, too. He said: ‘Just tell me what you’re interested in — oil? Gas? Tourism? What can I do for you?’
“I asked him, ‘How can I invest in a country that doesn’t like Jews?’ Heydar got very upset when I said that. He began telling me how many Jewish friends he had and how much the Jews had contributed to his culture and the country and so on.
“ ‘But you’re closing down the Jewish school,’ I told him. ‘I’ve come to ask you to allow it to remain open. Right now the Jews of Baku are gathered in the synagogue, awaiting your answer.’ ”
Leviev paused at this point in the story. Dramatic tales of peril and salvation are part of the Chabad oral tradition.
“Heydar consulted his advisers,” Leviev said. “Then he returned to me and said: ‘The school can remain open. All right?’
“I told him: ‘Well, there’s another problem. The Jewish institutions here are in bad shape. Can you arrange for me to acquire a plot of land to rebuild?’
“ ‘Yes,’ said Heydar. ‘Is that all?’
“ ‘Not quite. I’d appreciate it if you would personally open the school next year. That way there will be no misunderstandings about what the government’s position is.’
“Heydar said: ‘I’ll do that. Are you satisfied now?’
“I told him: ‘Just one last thing, sir. Those journalists in your outer office? Would you mind announcing our agreement to them?’ ”
After Aliyev’s press conference, Leviev remembers returning triumphantly to the synagogue to deliver the good news. Shortly thereafter, Aliyev died and was succeeded by his son, with whom Leviev is on friendly terms.
“And did you invest after that?” I asked.
Leviev smiled. “No,” he said. “Azerbaijan has so many natural resources they don’t need my investment. But I told them that they would get a blessing from God.”
A professor dying of cancer delivers his last lecture.
From Moving On by Jeff Zaslow (Wall Street Journal Online):
Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.
He motioned to them to sit down. "Make me earn it," he said.
They had come to see him give what was billed as his "last lecture." This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted "Last Lecture Series," in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?
It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O'Connor recently titled her lecture "Get Over Yourself." At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled "Desire," spoke about sex and technology.
At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.
You can see a video of his lecture here.
The greatest threat to the Jews and the civilized world today, Iran's President Ahmadinejad, is coming to New York, and civilized folks are rushing to honor him with speaking engagements. Columbia University was the first. Then the National Press Club. No doubt others will be issuing flattering invitations.
This is nothing new for Columbia University. Back in the dark days of Nazi Germany, they gave the VIP treatment to Hitler's ambassador.
From Rafael Medoff's Columbia Invites Hitler to Campus — As It Did in 1933:
Seventy years before this week’s invitation to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Columbia rolled out the red carpet for a senior official of Adolf Hitler’s regime. The invitation to Iran’s leader may seem less surprising, but no less disturbing, when one recalls that in 1933, Columbia president Nicholas Murray Butler invited Nazi Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Hans Luther, to speak on campus, and also hosted a reception for him. Luther represented “the government of a friendly people,” Butler insisted. He was “entitled to be received ... with the greatest courtesy and respect.” Ambassador Luther’s speech focused on what he characterized as Hitler’s peaceful intentions. Students who criticized the Luther invitation were derided as “ill-mannered children” by the director of Columbia’s Institute of Arts and Sciences.
Columbia also insisted on maintaining friendly relations with Nazi-controlled German universities. While Williams College terminated its program of student exchanges with Nazi Germany, Columbia and other universities declined to do likewise. Columbia refused to pull out even after a German official candidly asserted that his country’s students were being sent abroad to serve as “political soldiers of the Reich.”
In 1936, the Columbia administration announced it would send a delegate to Nazi Germany to take part in the 550th anniversary celebration of the University of Heidelberg. This, despite the fact that Heidelberg already had been purged of Jewish faculty members, instituted a Nazi curriculum, and hosted a burning of books by Jewish authors. Prof. Arthur Remy, who served as Columbia’s delegate to the Heidelberg event, later remarked that the reception at which chief book-burner Josef Goebbels presided was “very enjoyable.”
(via Little Green Footballs)
MEMRI has a video of one of Ahmadinejad's latest rants, given on Iranian TV on August 28, 2007. Here's an excerpt:
In principle, the Zionists lack any religion. They are lying when they say that they are Jews. They have no religion. They are against religion, because religion means friendship, brotherhood, peace, and justice. Religion means to respect the divine prophets. Note this. Religion means to respect others. It means friendship between peoples. Note that wherever the Zionists are, there is war, and wherever there is war, they are the ones behind it. As a matter of fact, if you examine American society, you will see that they oppress the Americans. They oppress the Europeans, even though they are a minority. They infiltrated in an organized manner... No more than 10,000 of them are part of the organization, and the rest just follow them.
...Therefore, because the Zionists have no religion, I strongly suspect that they are behind [the Swedish cartoon], and that they want to embarrass the Europeans, and make the European governments face a challenge. They want to instigate a war, because war is the essence of their existence. If the world is calm, the people of Europe the Germans... If the world is calm, they will eradicate the Zionists. I’m convinced of this. Do you know how many messages I get from Germans every day? They have an aversion to the Zionists. The Zionists humiliated the German people very much. But the Zionists are in control. The moment the world is calm and people can express their views, you will see that they will drive them out of Europe. The people of Europe themselves will drive them out. The [Zionists] do not want such a thing to happen, and that’s why they instigate new turmoil every day.
From Anna Bayefsky's Sanctioning Human Wrongs (National Review, September 7, 2007):
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, traveled to Iran this week to take a front row seat and listen attentively to Holocaust-denier Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The occasion was billed as a human-rights meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), currently chaired by Cuba.
While Arbour was hobnobbing with anti-Semites, butchers, and anti-democratic forces from around the world, Iranians were being prepared for public hangings. Arbour was reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency as having “expressed pleasure with being at the NAM meeting and described Iran’s representation office in the U.N. in Geneva as ‘very good.’”
...The day after Arbour left Iran the government felt sufficiently buoyed by their U.N. stamp of approval, that they executed 21 prisoners. People are executed in Iran for charges like “enmity against God” or “being corrupt on earth.”
...Arbour’s visit occurred at a time when suppression in Iran is brutal and the numbers of opponents of the regime hanged both in public and in prisons is increasing. It also took place in spite of Iran’s refusal to cooperate with many of the U.N.’s own human-rights investigators, who have sought entry into the country for many years. Arbour’s visit was kept a little-known secret. According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, as soon as she arrived in Tehran members of families of political prisoners and those on death row, tried to contact her, some rushing to Tehran for the mere chance to see the U.N. chief on human rights, and to deliver their personal appeals. But after spending an hour outside the U.N. building in the hopes of meeting her, they were attacked by the State Security Forces (SSF).
Photo by Stan Honda/AP
Andrew Anthony writes eloquently about how 9/11 smashed many of the assumptions he had about the world. Here are some excerpts from The Day Reality Hit Home, Part 1:
A midlife crisis did indeed ensue after 9/11. In truth it had been brewing for some time. It wasn't my midlife crisis, however, but that of Western culture at large. No matter what other aims may have motivated this singular act of terrorism, it was beyond question that it was planned as a symbolic, as well as a lethal, attack on 'the West', whether the target was militarism (the Pentagon), capitalism (the WTC), or cosmopolitanism (the heterogeneity of the victims). The problem was many in the West were not sure that it was worthy of defence.
...What all these reactions [from liberals and the Left] had in common, I realised, was not complexity but simplicity. For all of them this was an issue of the powerless striking back at the powerful, the oppressed against the oppressor, the rebels against the imperialists. It was Han Solo and Luke Skywalker taking on the Death Star. There was no serious attempt to examine what kind of power the powerless wanted to assume, or over whom they wanted to exercise it, and no one thought to ask by what authority these suicidal killers had been designated the voice of the oppressed. It was enough that Palestinians had danced in the West Bank. The scale of the suffering, the innocence of the victims and the aims of the perpetrators barely seemed to register in many of the comments. Was this a sign of shock or complacency? Or was it something else, a kind of atrophying of moral faculties, brought on by prolonged use of fixed ideas, that prevented the sufferer from recognising a new paradigm when it arrived, no matter how spectacular its announcement?
In the end I reached the conclusion that 11 September had already brutally confirmed: there were other forces, far more malign than America, that lay in wait in the world. But having faced up to the basic issue of comparative international threats, could I stop the political reassessment there? If I had been wrong about the relative danger of America, could I be wrong about all the other things I previously held to be true? I tried hard to suppress this thought, to ring-fence the global situation, grant it exceptional status and keep it in a separate part of my mind. I had too much vested in my image of myself as a 'liberal'. I had bought into the idea, for instance, that all social ills stemmed from inequality and racism. I knew that crime was solely a function of poverty. That to be British was cause for shame, never pride. And to be white was to bear an unshakable burden of guilt. I held the view, or at least was unprepared to challenge it, that it was wrong to single out any culture for censure, except, of course, Western culture, which should be admonished at every opportunity. I was confident, too, that Israel was the source of most of the troubles in the Middle East. These were non-negotiables for any right-thinking decent person. I couldn't question these received wisdoms without questioning my own identity. And I had grown too comfortable with seeing myself as one of the good guys, the well-meaning people, to want to do anything that upset that image. I viewed myself as understanding, and to maintain that self-perception it was imperative that I didn't try to understand myself.
(via Kesher Talk)
Does anyone else find this scary?
From Sex for the Motherland (Daily Mail, July 29, 2007)
Remember the mammoths, say the clean-cut organisers at the youth camp's mass wedding. "They became extinct because they did not have enough sex. That must not happen to Russia".
Obediently, couples move to a special section of dormitory tents arranged in a heart-shape and called the Love Oasis, where they can start procreating for the motherland.
With its relentlessly upbeat tone, bizarre ideas and tight control, it sounds like a weird indoctrination session for a phoney religious cult.
But this organisation — known as "Nashi", meaning "Ours" — is youth movement run by Vladimir Putin's Kremlin that has become a central part of Russian political life.
Nashi's annual camp, 200 miles outside Moscow, is attended by 10,000 uniformed youngsters and involves two weeks of lectures and physical fitness. Attendance is monitored via compulsory electronic badges and anyone who misses three events is expelled. So are drinkers; alcohol is banned. But sex is encouraged, and condoms are nowhere on sale.
...Attempting to raise Russia's dismally low birthrate even by eccentric-seeming means might be understandable. Certainly, the country's demographic outlook is dire. The hard-drinking, hardsmoking and disease-ridden population is set to plunge by a million a year in the next decade.
But the real aim of the youth camp — and the 100,000-strong movement behind it — is not to improve Russia's demographic profile, but to attack democracy.
Under Mr Putin, Russia is sliding into fascism, with state control of the economy, media, politics and society becoming increasingly heavy-handed. And Nashi, along with other similar youth movements, such as 'Young Guard', and 'Young Russia', is in the forefront of the charge.
The Palestinian Authority recently held a soccer tournament named after one of its most beloved citizens, now deceased. When he was alive, was he a doctor, a scientist, a philanthropist? A great soccer player, perhaps?
From Israel National News:
Da'as, a Fatah commander in Tulkarem, planned a shooting attack on a girl's Bat Mitzvah reception in Hadera on January 17, 2002. The terrorist, who also carried grenades, killed the security guard on duty at the hall where the reception was held, burst in on the 180 guests and opened fire with an automatic rifle. He succeeded in killing six people and injuring 25 before being pushed outside by determined guests. The Bat Mitzvah girl's step-grandfather, Edward Bakshayev, 48, was murdered in the attack.
Among other terrorist activities, Da'as was also involved in the kidnapping and murder of two restaurateurs, Etgar Zeitouni and Moti Dayan, in January of 2001. The pair were seized as they sat down for lunch in Tulkarem with an Israeli Arab associate.
...This was not the first time a PA sporting event was named after a well-known terrorist, as PMW [Palestinian Media Watch] has repeatedly noted. A 2003 PA soccer tournament was named for the suicide bomber responsible for the 2003 Passover massacre, in which 31 Israelis were killed at a communal holiday meal. In January of this year, the Tulkarem municipality announced that its youth center would be holding a soccer tournament "named after the shahid and leader, Saddam Hussein." (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, January 10, 2007, as translated by PMW)
"You grew up in freedom, and you can spit on freedom, because you don't know what it is not to have freedom."
A repulsively smug and condescending Canadian interviewer, Avi Lewis, takes it on the chin from Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The whupping is so one-sided (much like the interviewer's anti-American views) that it reminded me of another Ali bout: Ali vs. Liston (their second fight), May 1965. KO in the first round.
Watch the whole thing here.
Antioch College, a school I attended briefly as a freshman, is set to close its doors next summer, 155 years after its founding. I arrived there from Minnesota in the summer of 1970 and, despite a fairly good dousing in the counterculture during my junior and senior years at high school, I was nowhere near prepared for what awaited me at the Yellow Springs, Ohio campus.
Actual HIPPIES (which is how my father would've described them with a shudder and a sneer) picked me up at the airport in Dayton.
On the first night in my dorm, students moved all the furniture from the common area into the bathroom, and proceeded to get high with every drug imaginable.
Marijuana was openly grown in the college greenhouse. Some students were tending plants in their dorm rooms.
The bathrooms and showers on my floor were co-ed.
Every Friday night there was a nude swim party in the college pool. (And every Friday night I had the same excuse ready: sore throat.)
For the first time in my life, women got angry if I held the door open for them.
For the first time in my life, I saw women going braless.
I myself went shoeless and sockless — until the fourth week of school, when I stepped on a bee and got a nasty infection.
My first roommate was black. We lasted about a week together because every night members of the black separatist dorm invaded our room, scaring the bejesus out of me and intimidating him until he "left whitey" and joined their ranks.
My second roommate listened to the Grateful Dead 24 hours a day. I still haven't forgiven him.
During the summer session, the college was closed down three times on account of strikes. (In the last strike — in support of cafeteria workers' pay demands — we held the vice-president of the college hostage. I collected his doodles, which I later handed over to the editors of the college newspaper for publication.)
I took a class in Zen Buddhism which was taught by one Bishop Nippo Syaku. During the first session he expounded upon the idea that "Everything is nothing" and "Life is illusion". In the next session, he delivered the very same lecture, word for word. When the third session began in the same way, I pondered whether it was really happening or whether it was illusion, and then I turned my back on Zen Buddhism forever.
I took another class called Man and Survival. To satisfy the survival test requirement of the course, I hitchhiked to Michigan with four other students to attend the Goose Lake Pop Festival. It was a three-day event with such rock luminaries as Ten Years After, Chicago, and Jethro Tull appearing. There were over 100,000 people jammed in the park, with only a dozen or so Porto-Potties, so it was indeed a rigorous survival test that my professor surely had to admire.
At Antioch, there were no tests, no grades. You could petition for credit for any cockamamie idea; for example, becoming pregnant and keeping a journal about your experience.
People seeking enlightenment, who had heard about the college's reputation, made pilgrimages to the college as if it were Mecca. I met one such pilgrim, an Abbie Hoffman disciple, who persuaded me to leave school and hitchhike with him to the East Coast. Six hours into the trip, we parted ways after he stole a pair of shoes from our driver. He claimed he was only heeding Hoffman's message of Steal Now, Pay Never.
The highlight of that summer? When two friends came to Antioch, not to be enlightened, but simply to visit me. We camped out under a tree on the campus grounds, eavesdropping on the stoned-out talk and fornicating of my fellow classmates. The next day we drove to Dayton and laughed ourselves silly watching Beyond the Valley of the Dolls — a wonderfully bizarre world which, in truth, seemed no weirder than the place we had just left.
Here is more reminiscing about Antioch from former NPR commentator Michael Goldfarb (New York Times, June 17, 2007):
Here's a wonderful poem by William Meredith, called Tree Marriage. I heard it for the first time six weeks ago at my sister's wedding, where it was recited, beautifully, by her new husband.
Here's more about the life and poetry of William Meredith, courtesy of NPR's All Things Considered.
I recently spent a few days in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
Here are some photos:
From Sarah Honig's Pardon Us for Living:
Every year at this season we're urged to beat our breasts in agonizing contrition and atoningly exclaim a collective "pardon us for living." Pardon us for being Israelis, for founding a Jewish state and defending it despite incessant efforts to annihilate or drive us out. Pardon us for daring to exist like other nations, on our own turf, where our own language is spoken — where our customs, holidays, celebrations, lamentations and memories take center stage. Pardon the abnormals' desire for normalcy.
It must be a transgression indeed, since as each Independence Day nears, we're exhorted to apologize for breathing this region's air, infringing on Arab/Muslim hegemony and contaminating illustrious Arab/Muslim liberality, pluralism, freethinking, nonviolence and Scouting Movement values. Before our resolve to rebuild what we impudently claim to be our national homeland, reality here was harmoniously blissful (just read pertinent depictions in Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad).
We maliciously marred the indubitable perfection of a depopulating desert ringed by putrid, malaria-ridden swamps. For that we earned eternal condemnation, according to our foes and in-house enlightened moralists who empathize with enemy pain. Our domestic guardians of virtue (the likes of whom aren't tolerated in the great Islamic realm) blame us for Arab genocidal antagonism, dating back to the 1920s under the revered pan-Arab would-be fuhrer Haj Amin el-Husseini, the soon-to-become avid Nazi collaborator, Berlin-resident Holocaust accomplice, and wanted war criminal.
We're branded culpable for what the Arabs call nakba, their homegrown "calamity" and insidious synonym for our self-determination. Nakba is the lead entry in their lexicon of Israel's delegitimization and its ongoing effect on the Arab psyche is potent.
Read the whole thing.
Now students in the UK will know even less about history thanks to their government's slow but steady march towards dhimmitude.
From the Daily Mail:
Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Government-backed study has revealed.
It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.
There is also resistance to tackling the 11th century Crusades — where Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem — because lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.
The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using history 'as a vehicle for promoting political correctness'.
The study, funded by the Department for Education and Skills, looked into 'emotive and controversial' history teaching in primary and secondary schools.
It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.
The researchers gave the example of a secondary school in an unnamed northern city, which dropped the Holocaust as a subject for GCSE coursework.
The report said teachers feared confronting 'anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils'.
It added: "In another department, the Holocaust was taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils.
"But the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades at Key Stage 3 (11- to 14-year-olds) because their balanced treatment of the topic would have challenged what was taught in some local mosques."
A third school found itself 'strongly challenged by some Christian parents for their treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict-and the history of the state of Israel that did not accord with the teachings of their denomination'.
The report concluded: "In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship."
But Chris McGovern, history education adviser to the former Tory government, said: "History is not a vehicle for promoting political correctness. Children must have access to knowledge of these controversial subjects, whether palatable or unpalatable."
The researchers also warned that a lack of subject knowledge among teachers — particularly at primary level — was leading to history being taught in a 'shallow way leading to routine and superficial learning'.
Lessons in difficult topics were too often 'bland, simplistic and unproblematic' and bored pupils.
If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no violence.
If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.
From Jon Medved's A 'Family' at War:
While it may seem strange to feel at war while living in the eerily peaceful atmosphere of Jerusalem, just a 90-minute drive from battle-scarred northern Israel, all it takes is a quick glance around our synagogue to know that, yes, our families are fighting for their very lives. With so many of our sons and daughters in the thick of the fight, this war is our war.
In front of me, Bob Rosenschein's two boys are missing from their regular seats and are sitting instead inside tanks. Steve Zerobnick's son is a commando, Asher Ostrin's son is in field intelligence, David Arnowitz's daughter is training soldiers, Yaron Shor's boy is in the air force, Meir Fachler's son just started basic training, and Howie Kahn's son Eli has emerged as one of this war's first heroes, retrieving an enemy grenade and throwing it back to kill two Hezbollah terrorists.
Perhaps I am more affected by all of this because I am the father of three teenage boys and one girl. My oldest son, Momo, 19, will be inducted into the IDF next week. My second son, Yossi, 17, just got his first call-up notice, and my son Itamar, 15, will not be far behind.
Herein lies a great secret of why we fight, why we have gone to war after the kidnappings of three Israeli soldiers. Why 90-plus% of the Israeli public backs this war. Because our army is our kids, and Jewish kids will not be kidnapped and slaughtered ever again without there being hell to pay. Because we will no longer sit idly while our enemies openly call for our destruction and amass the means to carry out their threats. Because we refuse to accept as normal a life where we must be afraid of a missile landing on our porch while we drink our morning coffee. Because this war is not being fought over territory, but our right to exist. It is for this that we fight the war critics call "disproportionate."
(Illustration by Tamar Messer) .............................................................................
From Jonathan Tobin's In Every Generation, They Rise Up (Jewish Exponent, March 29, 2007):
The Haggadah speaks of the Divine promise of the redemption of the children of Israel in Egypt by reminding us that "this promise has sustained our fathers and us. For not only one enemy has risen against us, in every generation men rise against us to destroy us." The answer to that puzzle — why it is that, in century after century, intolerance for the Jews continues, and why the will to destroy them is so immutable — is one that has challenged religious scholars and philosophers for as long as we've been reading that text. But though the explanations put forward are not in short supply, the basic truth of the assertion is not a matter of debate. Over the ages, the labels chosen by the haters has changed. In the past century, anti-Semitism has been adopted by fascists, Nazis, and Communists. Today, a new variant championed by Islamists and Arab nationalists finds itself in loose alliance with the remnants of the far left and right. But no matter what they call themselves, all seek Israel's extinction. Interestingly, the willingness to find inspiration at the seder for the courage needed to persist in our current battles runs somewhat against the grain for some. These days, many seek to make our religious rituals "relevant" by transforming the Jewish festival of freedom into a metaphor for every cause but our own. In these times, it sometimes feels as if to even raise the question of the Haggadah's prophecy of an endless assault on the Jews is to run the risk of being politically incorrect. It may be easier for many of us to view Passover through the prism of other struggles, but it's necessary to remind ourselves that it is still a tale of Jewish struggle and redemption. That's why students of all ages, as well as their parents, must recall that the goal of contemporary anti-Semitism is specifically to detach us from our history and our connection to Israel. The retelling of the story of the Exodus seems to inspire free people everywhere. Yet it also represents the aspirations of countless generations of Jews, who dreamed not merely of universal freedom but of the revival of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. We owe it to them — and even more, to ourselves — and to those who will come after us to never forget that. Refocusing on that narrative is daunting when you consider the rising support for Palestinian dreams of eradicating Israel and the world's willingness to tolerate Iran's faith-based drive for nuclear weapons to help accomplish that horrifying goal. In the face of such hatred, it's possible to lose heart and to stand silent while an intellectual mob bays for Jewish blood. But as difficult as the times may be, the words of the Haggadah, which may be hastily read or stumbled over in the rush to get to the food, can still supply us with the courage that we need. It's a lesson we must teach again to our children and ourselves. Like each Jewish generation since the Exodus that preceded us, we can dine well on the inspiration and the promise these words offer.