Sunday, February 29, 2004

Deconstructing Ralph.

As Nader embarks upon his fourth protest run against the Democrats in as many elections, there is something slightly ridiculous about the shock of his liberal critics. They still don't know who they're dealing with. Nader is not a heroic figure tragically overcome by his own flaws; he is a selfish, destructive maniac who, for a brief historical period, happened upon a useful role.

A much needed indictment of necro-totalitarian, conspiracy-monger, and blithering anti-semite Ralph Nader is up at TNR. Read the whole thing.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

False Alarm? Apparently, the Pentagon is denying all. (Courtesy of Instapundit.)

Hebrew Press Reports Bin-Laden Captured: Take with a grain of salt, but Haaretz and Maariv are reporting that Iranian state radio has announced the capture on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border of Osama Bin Laden. (Links are in Hebrew, my apologies to Anglophonic readers.)

Here's the story in English.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Go See This Instead. Just caught Sofia Coppola's extraordinary Lost in Translation. One of the best movies I've seen all year: a portrait of a city (Tokyo) on a par with Manhattan and La Dolce Vita. If you haven't seen it yet go. Now.

Andrew Sullivan Didn't Like It. And then some:

I wouldn't say that this movie is motivated by anti-Semitism. It's motivated by psychotic sadism. But Gibson does nothing to mitigate the dangerous anti-Semitic elements of the story and goes some way toward exaggerating and highlighting them. To my mind, that is categorically unforgivable. Anti-Semitism is the original sin of Christianity. Far from expiating it, this movie clearly enjoys taunting those Catholics as well as Jews who are determined to confront that legacy. In that sense alone, it is a deeply immoral work of art.

From an excellent series of posts on The Passion. Just confirms my decision to avoid the damn thing like the plague. Of course, if the Shasniks have their way, it'll never get here anyways.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Wrestling with Jesus. An interesting post at Atlantic Blog on The Passion, with some good links to Jewish responses and debate on the possible anti-semitic impact of the film and their perceptions of Christianity in general. I would really like to reserve judgment on the film until I see it (when and if it ever gets over here). I'm intrigued to see if I can understand some of the Aramaic dialogue (its basically a dialect of Hebrew) and to see how they handle the whole issue of the languages in general. On the other hand, I'm told the movie is obscenely violent and I'm not sure I want to sit through a solid hour of a guy being flayed alive and then crucified...But all this got me thinking of my own relationship to Christianity and Christians in general. Like most American Jews, its been a highly ambivilent one. My father's family came from Eastern Europe and generally held the opinion that Christianity in its devout form was inherently anti-semitic and hostile to Jews and Judaism. On the other hand, I spent my early childhood in an Irish Catholic suburb of Boston where I never experienced even a trace of anti-semitism. I'm not sure I even percieved much of a difference between us and them, besides the fact that we didn't celebrate Christmas. My first experience with devout Christianity, however, was at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where the wall-size midevil depictions of the Crucifixion horrified me as a young child. Its unfair, I realize, but Christianity has in many ways remained that way in my own perception: a kind of bloody death cult, semi-idolatrous and more than a bit fascinated with the ferocious brutality and violence of Jesus's last hours. Something about the Christ figure was always hugely disconcerting to me, and I contrasted it in my own mind with the Judaism I grew up with, which I felt to be, at its best, joyous and enraptured with life, in opposition to the dark, sin-obsessed Christianity I felt I knew. Of course, my experience of Christianity was, at best, tangential. I did not witness a church service until I was twenty, when I saw mass performed at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. That experience changed my perception somewhat: I admired the pageant of it, the tremulous silence of the processional of priests and the way the service made the abstract manifestly physical. I also became very good friends with a philo-semitic Christian Scientist, who proved to me once and for all that the mere fact of being a believing Christian did not axiomatically make one an anti-semite. His grandmother, who died at the age of ninety, had a devout faith in Jesus as a healing force which comforted her through her long illness. Her quiet love for a pastoral, eternally compassionate Messiah bespoke a Jesus who had little to do with the blood-spattered totem who had terrified me as a child. But even that I began to understand. It was not the violence and death that was at the center of the Crucifixion. It was the sacrifice, the willingness of a divine figure to suffer human pain for the redemption of his chiildren. The greater the suffering, the greater the sacrifice. The blood and nails and shattered limbs were not fetishes but the stigmata of a sinful humanity and the infinite compassion of its savior.

Of course, I am still on the outside looking in. Aspects of Christianity still mystify me. I still find the worship of a human being as God discomforting from a Jewish point of view. The Christian use of Jewish scripture to justify Jesus's divinity still strike me as obviously false and distorted. The long history of Christian anti-semitism cannot be ignored. Many Christian denominations seem unable to accept the Jewish return to power and self-determination which Zionism represents. Others seem incapable of relating to us as anything other then harbingers of the Second Coming. There is a fervent love and a fervent contempt for my people among Christians that I often find equally worrisome. As in all great faiths, Christianity has glorious ideals, but it also has corruption, hypocrisy, and venality. Original Sin is an idea which still repels me. I still find myself contrasting Judaism's embrace of life with the Christian concentration on the next world...but what of it? Christianity is not a single creed or ideology. It is a world. A civilization unto itself. A complex mosaic of often conflicting and paradoxical ideas. Mel Gibson's film may or may not be anti-semitic. It may or may not incite further anti-semitism. But whatever it is or is not, it is not Christianity itself. A single film, like a single creed or a single denomination, cannot define an entire faith. Considering the ugly controversy that may be about to ensue, this is something both of us need to try to remember.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

PIGUA IN JERUSALEM. About an hour ago. The bastards on CNN just spent 20 minutes talking about the security wall and the suffering of the Palestinians. Couldn't be bothered to mention the victims of this latest racist atrocity. Apparently the slaughter of Jews is once again beneath mention in certain circles. They even put in a good word for the "One-State Solution", a lovely little euphemism for annihilating Israel. Dispicable.

Israel TV says 7 dead and 50 wounded. I'm guessing that number will rise.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Howard's End. Dean just withdrew, sort of, from the race. Saw it live on CNN. Classic Dean: copious banalities, scintillatingly arrogant, self-righteous, and bordering on the slanderous. Still convinced he's the voice of the people when he's always been the scion of an extremist, privileged, entitled elite. Still convinced the "establishment" did him in, when he is the establishment in every way: the failed establishment of past Democratic swings to the psycho-Left. Still convinced he runs a "movement" and not a semi-organized gaggle of disgruntled fanatics and their college-age offspring. Still loud, still hateful, still petty, nasty, and ungracious. Bye Howard, you sullied your party and the presidential race, defamed the president, and, in the end, no one voted for you anyways. I wont miss you. I doubt anyone else will either.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Denial. Is a terrible thing:

After two days of venomous, hate filled e-mails from self-described "conservatives," I am convinced that there is a large group of people in the country who are not at all interested in a calm rational discussion of the issues raised by the recent ad in The Chronicle taken out by the Duke Conservative Union.

Robert Brandon, chair of the Duke University Philosophy Department, who, upon being informed that his faculty contained not a single Republican, replied thusly:

We try to hire the best, smartest people available," Brandon said of his philosophy hires. "If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire. Mill's analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia. Players in the NBA tend to be taller than average. There is a good reason for this. Members of academia tend to be a bit smarter than average. There is a good reason for this too.

In other words: we don't hire conservatives because the very fact of one's adherence to conservative ideas proves your inferior intelligence. Charming. I like the "calm, rational discussion" line, I've heard it a million times from professors who have just claimed Israel is a Nazi state, or that the president is mentally retarded and are shocked, shocked that someone might respond with equal ferocity. The only thing worse than a hypocrite is a cowardly hypocrite. This is interesting, though:

I accept that the course content might well be different were it taught by a conservative Republican vs. a liberal Democrat. Different, but not radically different. If you study 20th century political philosophy, you will read John Rawls (the textbook definition of a late capitalist liberal) and Robert Nozick (perhaps not textbook libertarian, but libertarian nonetheless).

This is brilliantly telling. First, anyone who calls John Rawls a capitalist is so far to the Left he's rendered himself irrelevant to the discussion; Rawls was unquestionably a totalitarian statist. Robert Nozick is certainly to the Right of Rawls, but he is no conservative. In other words, what Branson says here simply confirms the charges he's denying: no matter who is teaching your course, you wont be studying any conservative thought. Don't philosophers have to study things like, I don't know...logic?

There seems to be a widespread perception that professors reward students for agreeing with them and penalize those who disagree with them. That has certainly not been my experience; not as a student, nor a professor. Philosophers value good argumentation. If your professor is a Rawlsian and you offer a strong argument for preferring Nozick's position to Rawls' you will be rewarded. You don't need to agree with your professor in order to learn from him or her.

In typically professorial fashion, Branson tells us just to take his word on this. Unfortunately, anyone who's ever been to college knows its wishful thinking at best and an outright falsehood at worst. Some professors can leave their politics at the door, but most are petty, frustrated intellectuals who react violently to any questioning of their political point of view. I and a million other conservative students have horror stories of being attacked and humiliated in class, having one's grades lowered for expressing conservative opinions, and being forced to wade through reams of Leftist readings without a single conservative voice to be found. There is a reason Leftist political bias is becoming an issue: students (both Left and Right) are sick and tired of the oppressive hegemony of a single political ideology, a hegemony which Branson, for all his pretentions, can't even bring himself to acknowledge.

Finally, let me go over what I did and did not say. The DCU seems to believe that the difference in the politics of the faculty vs. the population as a whole is due to hiring bias. The claim is that we liberals only want to hire other liberals. The process for hiring faculty in our university is largely decentralized. The hiring units in universities are departments, not the administration. I did not presume to speak for other departments, but I did categorically deny that there was any such bias in the hiring practices of Duke's philosophy department. None of us would want such a bias to be there, and in virtually all cases there is no mechanism for it to be there.

Typically, we know nothing about the candidates' politics until after they are hired.

This is ridiculous. Not a single Republican on the faculty and he wants us to believe this is purely coincidence? What difference does it make if the hiring process is decentralized? Everyone on his faculty is a liberal. They hire other liberals. This is not difficult to understand. His last line is so absurd I don't think its worth mentioning, most candidates politics would be obvious in their doctoral work.

If one looks carefully at what I was quoted as saying in The Chronicle, I did not say that all conservatives are stupid, nor even that most conservatives are stupid. I will go on the record as saying that some conservatives are stupid, but so are some liberals; there is plenty of stupidity to go around.

Actually, that's a lie. You did not say some conservatives are stupid, you said conservatism is the natural tendency of stupidity and, moreover, that this also explains the political attitudes of most of your fellow Americans. The fact that you are now desperately trying to parse your way out of such a titanically arrogant and asinine statement doesn't change this fact.

If conservative Duke students object to being taught by liberal professors, there is not much they can do about it in the short term. But over the longer haul they could change the political landscape of leading research universities. Study hard, do well in school, go on to get a Ph.D. and get yourself a job teaching at a university. But if you do you might find that political indoctrination is not really what animates academic life.

Well, judging by what you've just written, Mr. Branson, what animates academic life is close-mindedness, arrogance, patronizing platitudes and a monumental self-regard for one's own intellectual and moral superiority. Moreover, your desperate evasions and deliberate distortions of a reality I and many others have experienced first hand do nothing more than convince me of the truth you are so ferociously denying. Perhaps it is you who ought to change the political landscape of leading research universities, by resigning and making room for smarter, more honest intellectuals whose ideas may contribute to a free and diverse learning environment rather than the frigid, intolerant hall of mirrors over which you preside.

[Thanks to Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan for the links]

Monday, February 09, 2004

Forebodings. From the NY Times:

There is considerable evidence, Democratic campaign aides said, that people are voting for Mr. Kerry even if they do not agree with him on some positions, and even if they have not particularly warmed to this gawky Northeasterner. This also shows the extent to which fierce anti-Bush sentiment is shaping this presidential election for Democrats.

Mr. Trippi said he believed that the new voters Dr. Dean had drawn into the system would stay with the Democratic Party, no matter who wins the nomination. "It's now obvious to everybody that there is huge energy within the party because of the desire to get rid of Bush at the grass roots," he said. "So people, regardless of which candidate they were motivated by to get in, will stay in."

I think its becoming clear that what we're about to see is not just a dirty, divisive campaign, but the single most violent, aggressive, semi-psychotic campaign of derision and slander ever directed towards a sitting president of the United States. This is going to make what the Liberal Establishment did to Nixon look tame. Its already begun with Dean's hateful conspiracy theories and Kerry's hypocritical lies about the president's service record. As for the grassroots, they've simply gone insane, nothing matters to them, including their own country's welfare, outside of destroying Bush. The reason: the Democrats have bought their Leftwing's propaganda to such an extent that they actually believe Bush is the moral equivalent of Hitler. I am not looking forward to this.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

A French Conscience Speaks. From a fascinating interview with French-Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut:

...multiculturalism is a chimera. This charm, of the various identities, is not real. What, in fact, is replacing assimilation? Is there really such a thing, a carousel of identities, as the elite is trying to convince us? Is there really a possibility that all the cultures will be of equal worth and leave equal space for one another? In fact the opposite is happening: Anyone who doesn't want to assimilate, anyone who doesn't make an effort to learn the language and become part of French culture and the French heritage - French culture assimilates into his identity. And this is already evident in the schools and on the street - that children aren't speaking French, but rather a jargon composed of Arabic words and meager French. There is always a culture that emerges victorious. In no society is there a vacuum. But this would not be grave were it not a part of this trend, which wants to obliterate France and its values entirely.

I certainly concur with that. Multiculturalists cannot grasp that, just as complete equality of individuals is impossible, so is complete equality of collectivities. I must say, some of the best critiques of Leftist anti-Semitism have been from Leftists of conscience themselves. Multiculturalism may yet become the God that Failed for our times. Read it all.

Friday, February 06, 2004

The Company Man Does His Penance. UC Berkeley enacts a bizarre auto-da-fe:

Under the glare of bright lights, Mr. McNamara, 87, faced an audience of graying hippies, men with Vietnam draft lottery numbers still imprinted in their minds and an assortment of 1960's radicals who had devoted the better part of their youths opposing him...

But instead of angry exchanges, there was applause and nods of sympathy from Mr. Ellsberg and many of the others, as Mr. McNamara, his voice pitched and his ballpoint pen jabbing in the air, spoke pointedly about the lessons of war.

"We human beings killed 160 million other human beings in the 20th century," he said. "Is that what we want in this century? I don't think so..."

Mr. McNamara got some of his biggest applause Wednesday night for comments that were stridently antiwar. He spoke against pre-emptive war and regime change as ways to deal with nuclear proliferation. He spoke of a United States divided between multilateralists and unilateralists, and a nuclear policy that had not been fully debated in public.

McNamara is a fascinating figure: the ultimate Establishment figure, the perfect company man. When the Establishment wanted Vietnam, he gave them Vietnam. When they rejected it, so did he. When they made it the center of their moral condemnation of America, he took upon himself the role of chief flagellent. Extraordinary; a man with absolutely no capacity for individual thought whatsoever. No wonder he fit in so well at Berkeley. It must have been a deep satisfaction to the likes of necro-Chomskyite traitor Daniel Ellsberg, who lust for self-regard and self-satisfaction with a religious desperation. This is now McNamara's role in a bankrupt and decadent Establishment, to provide them a circus of affirmation, a glorious feast of moral narcissism. Its actually a little sad, isn't it?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Scott Ritter was just on CNN. I'm not sure I've ever seen a more odious display of necro-Chomskyism. Not a word about the nature of Saddam's regime, not a word about the very real possibility that the WMDs are now in Syrian hands, not a word about David Kay's unequivocal statement that the war was absolutely necessary, not a word about the fact that Saddam invaded another country and was treaty-bound to allow the access he refused to grant, not a word about anything except frenzied apologetics for the Baathists and genuflection before the eternal gloriousness of the UN. Ick.

The Gaza Withdrawal. I've advocated something like this for a long time, mainly because its an inevitability anyways and putting it off is a senseless waste of lives and treasure. Gaza has always been the least valuable and most costly piece of real estate won in the Six-Day War, Yitzhak Rabin used to say that his dream was to wake up one morning and discover that Gaza had fallen into the sea, and, given the demographic realities there, there is simply no way the major settlements well be able to stay there indefinitely. Our presence there also causes serious schisms in the Israeli public, since young students can't figure out why they're being dragged away from their studies to go protect a settlement of five people and a dog in an extremely dangerous area of no strategic value whatsoever. I can see the national/religious attachment to much of Judea and Samaria, especially places like Hebron and Shechem, which have enormous cultural/religious significance and where Jews ought to be allowed to live whatever the political situation there, but there is nothing for us to look for in Gaza, and we ought to get out as soon as possible. There is no reason to spend another dollar or place another soldier in danger there.

That being said, Gaza is a hotbed of terrorism and some kind of Israeli presence will continue there for a long time to come. The key, however, is that it be both military and easily mobile, so it doesn't get us bogged down defending bases and settlements which are easy targets for attack. Gaza can be dealt with militarily, and perhaps more efficiently then it is now, without the presence of settlements.

Where this leaves Arik, though, is another question. He seems to be banking on either a) a national unity government with Labor, or b) his Right wing wont have the guts to walk out of a governing coalition over this issue. I think he's putting all his eggs in one basket in a dangerous way. Labor may refuse to join and the Right will, in my opinion, definitely bolt, which will lead to the government's collapse and new elections. Arik may be thinking that Shas will rejoin the government if the Right bolts but if he thinks that he's crazy. Shas is vindictive the way only religious parties can be and they will never forgive him for bringing their archenemies Shinui into the government.

In short, the decision is excellent strategically, but likely disastrous politically, at least for Sharon. Of course, considering the metastatizing scandals he's been facing, he may be forced out of office fairly soon anyways. If Sharon goes, I strongly doubt that he will be replaced from the Left, the obvious successor is Netanyahu, who will be distinctly less likely to make these type of risky decisions. Sharon may be anticipating something like this, which is why he feels free enough to make some of these serious moves. It may be that, looking his political demise in the face, Arik may have conjured up the sort of fatalistic courage which sometimes afflicts politicians in the twilight of their careers. If a Gaza withdrawal is the result, we can only be grateful for some of stranger vicissitudes of fate.

America's Dumbest Self-Hating Jew Continues Making an Ass of Himself. From Eric "I can't think, talk, or write, but it doesn't matter 'cos I'm a Leftist" Alterman:

ABC News lies for Bush: Here is the direct quote from Sunday night’s broadcast, thanks to Todd Gitlin: “Reporters investigating Mr. Bush's military career found that, while he missed some weekends of training, he later made up for them and was eventually honorably discharged.” That sentence is a falsehood. In fact, as I explained in Newsday, only one reporter, the Boston Globe’s Walter V. Robinson, investigated the charge with any kind of probity and he found that Bush missed not “weekends of training” but approximately eighteen months. A May 2, 1973, Annual Performance Report noted that he has "not been observed at this unit" during the previous year and could not be evaluated.

Unfortunately, its the Josef Goebbels of the necro-Left who's the liar:

It's time to set the record straight . . . . Bush may have received favorable treatment to get into the Guard, served irregularly after the spring of 1972 and got an expedited discharge, but he did accumulate the days of service required of him for his ultimate honorable discharge.

The New York Times reported Nov. 3, 2000:

But a review of records by The New York Times indicated that some of those concerns (about Bush's absence) may be unfounded . . . . A review by The Times showed that after a seven-month gap, he appeared for duty in late November 1972 at least through July 1973.

Now, one would think that most sensible people would greet any statement by Todd Gitlin, former head of the neo-Nazi Leftist group Students for a Democratic Society (more widely known by the nickname of its terrorist splinter group, the Weather Underground), with a grain of salt. Things become clearer, if you scroll up you can see Alterman praising I.F. Stone and Edward Said for their "decency". Considering that Stone and Said spent most of their lives in praise of slaughtering as many innocent people as possible in the name of fanatical political ideologies (Said on the dime of the PLO, and Stone the aforementioned Weathermen), Alterman's blubbering credulity can hardly be surprising. I do find it interesting that this self-appointed arbiter of America's righteousness can only tear himself away from his semi-homoerotic obsession with Bruce Springsteen to speak in praise of psychotic apologists for mass murder, terrorism, and political evil. Thanks Eric, I'll take the president's word for it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Why I'm So Glad I Live in Israel. Ah, the beautiful people:

I wish the Cambridge Forum and the ART much success in staging this wonderful work of hate. I am sure there are members of the Cambridge booboisie who will pay the top ticket price of $300 to finance more bile like this. I wish only that the sponsors wouldn't tout their production as "controversial." There is nothing controversial about pandering to an audience's bigotry and narrow-mindedness. A controversial play would place Ariel Sharon's late wife onstage with the souls of the dead Palestinian children her husband's armed forces have killed. But who would pay $300 to see that?

Great. Bashing Leftwing degeneracy by recommending anti-Semitism as a substitute. That's Boston for you.

...for what I really think of the subject of this article click here.