Thursday, January 31, 2008

Double Speak, British-Style

Snoopygoon is very creative this morning, with this post:

The latest brouhaha in the British parliament clearly shows that some conservatives still cannot figure out the power of PCS (Politically Correct Speak). The new invention of the Home Secretary that will ease the task of isolation and extermination of terrorism is beautiful in its simplicity: if you don't like it - just call it "anti-Islamic". And you are home and dry.Of course, the dreary conservatives who always like things just as they are would vastly prefer to call a terrorist "terrorist", a bomb "bomb", a wife-beater "wife-beater". They just don't get it.I, on the other hand, fell in love with the new idea immediately and have been vigorously applying it in my personal life. Here are some results I am happy to share with you.

Spouse. Definitely Islamic - pure as snow and so good I may even splurge on a burqa as a sign of my appreciation.

Children. Mostly Islamic, but sometimes showing signs of anti-Islamic behavior (like asking for money, refusing to behave, etc.)

Male cat. Definitely anti-Islamic, esp. when stealing food, breaking things and pissing in randomly chosen corners.

Female cat. Generally Islamic, excluding the tendency to cry out loudly at nighttime.

The Japanese car. Superbly Islamic.

The French car. Violently anti-Islamic and may have to be beheaded. Publicly.

Friend #1. Mostly Islamic but doesn't hold his drink. Er... anyway...

Friend #2. Generally Islamic, but doesn't return books. May have to chop off his hand.

Something about British straight-laced struggle to accomodate the promiscuous language of post-modernity stimulates the satirical juices in some people. A few months ago, Norm Geras had this, on more or less the same issue:

First business is to settle on the name of our committee.

'The Struggle Against Terror Committee'?

No, no, Trev, won't do at all; 'Struggle' still contains an adversarial element which might offend any number of people.Hmmm...

'The Campaign Against Terror Committee'?

That's better but still worries me for some reason. Any thoughts, Clarice?

Yes, 'Campaign' is too energetic and, followed by 'Against', it does conjure up the thought of, well, struggle or warfare.I know... What about 'Committee for the Idea that Terror May Be Unhelpful'?

Excellent suggestion!

If I may, Sir Rupert...

Please, David, do go ahead.

Two points. First, I thought it was already decided that we were replacing 'Terror' by 'Extremist Ideology'. Second, 'Idea that etc' retains a somewhat authoritarian ring since it doesn't problematize its own constructed and relative nature. Might I suggest, in light of these two considerations, 'Committee for the Debatable Point of View that Extremist Ideology May Be Unhelpful'

Lovely. We're making brilliant progress here - but I'm sure all members of the committee can now see that 'Extremist Ideology' will have to go as well. It undermines what 'Debatable Point of View' brings out so nicely. To adapt a well-known saying: 'One person's extremist ideology is another person's programme of social liberation.' Clarice?

'Committee for the Debatable Point of View that What Some See as a Programme of Social Liberation May...' Uhh... No... 'May Be Unhelpful' is too abrasive. Got it! 'Committee for the Debatable Point of View that What Some See as a Programme of Social Liberation is Itself Also Debatable'.

Marvellous. Well done, all of us! We now have, for the name of our committe, a real instrument of public harmony.

Excuse me, Sir Rupert...Yes, Rocky.

Haven't we slightly lost sight of the idea that there's something we need to... well, stop from happening.

Oh, put a sock in it, Rocky. That's typical of your macho posturing and lack of feeling for the realities of a world of diverse viewpoints. Meeting closed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Appeaser:

Arbour backs plan that seeks end to Zionism

Louise Arbour, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, has thrown her support behind a major pan-Arab human rights charter that commits to the elimination of Zionism.

Some critics say the wording is code for the destruction of Israel, but in a statement from her Geneva headquarters, the former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada welcomes the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which will come into force in mid-March.

"Regional systems of promotion and protection can further help strengthen the enjoyment of human rights, and the ... charter is an important step forward in this direction," Ms. Arbour says.

What else besides the destruction of Israel does this charter of human rights uphold?

Among other issues questioned by international human rights groups, the charter says certain rights can be suspended in the event of a national emergency.

On marriage, the charter stipulates it can only be between a man and a woman.

Women, who face religion-based discrimination in many Islamic countries, are guaranteed equal rights "within the framework of the positive discrimination established in favour of women by the Islamic Shariah, other divine laws, and by applicable laws and legal instruments."

What "positive discrimination" would that be?

Here is what I found

"Beating in the face is forbidden, even when it comes to animals. When a person is beating an animal... Even if you want your camel or donkey to start walking, you are not allowed to beat it in the face. If this is true for animals, it is all the more true when it comes to humans. So beatings should be light and not in the face. [...]If he beats her, the beatings must be light and must not make her face ugly. He must beat her where it will not leave marks. He should not beat her on the hand... He should beat her in some places where it will not cause any damage. He should not beat her like he would beat an animal or a child - slapping them right and left."

These instructions make great sense. As attested here, it is necessary to remember that this etiquette parleys the principle that:

"These hadiths provide some of the most decisive evidence that Islam protects women and guarantees their rights.Islam has surrounded the woman with a fence of compassion and mercy. It has shown that the twisted nature of women stems from their very creation. This is how Allah wanted woman to be. Therefore, the husband must adapt himself to her and be patient with her. He should not giver her too many things to do, or things that she is incapable of doing. He should not make her do anything that is contrary to her nature, and to the way she was created by Allah."

Just so now we know exactly what Louise Arbour is celebrating.

I wonder how the destruction of one people's rights, the anti-gay animus, the discrimination of women, how all these are harmonized by the doctrine of "multiculturalism"?

Coffee beans, again:

As I declared in the past, I like reading what this astrologer says to me. He never forecasts anything. Just metes out some good, solid advice that might, just might, serve a Scorpio well.

This is what he advises this week:

Don't be overly captivated by the new, the flashy, and the perfect.

No danger of that. I subscribe to Jane Austen's wisdom when she said: "pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked".

The rough edges are more interesting and have likely already withstood quite a bit of abuse.
Where do you want to live, after all? In the standard prefab bullshit everyone else is occupying?

Absolutely not. And I followed up on that resolution as soon as I irreversibly realized just how much bullshit was involved.

Is that really your style?

No. I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I can't imagine you'd find it more comfortable, ultimately, than the unconventional, unique, imperfect, scrappy place off the beaten path.

However, I'm not so sure the "unique, imperfect, scrappy place" is all that it is cracked up to be. Because, because, once the "imperfect and scrappy" becomes the place to be, it gets just as boring and ostentatious as that other place.

When it comes to choosing between the two this week, keep that in mind.

I promise to keep that in mind...

Comment Trail for the Wednesday:

Bob from Brockley has a guest post by Jogo which I consider important enough to reproduce in full:

Gilad Atzmon and secular Judaism

Jogo writes:

There is probably not a single person of pro-Palestinian persuasion in the world -- certainly not any relatively young, hip, culturally informed person-- who does not know the name Gilad Atzmon.

Gilad Atzmon must be one of the finest and most interesting jazz musicians alive. As a performer he is completely thrilling. I could watch and listen to him for hours. He is very, very great. But I think that, intellectually and morally, he is insane.

It would be possible to work actively for the "liberation of Palestine," yet come far short of the madness and extremism of Atzmon's positions. Unless your idea of the liberation of Palestine was the same as Hamas'."But he is a musician; an artist." No. Atzmon is every bit as much political activist as musician. You cannot see him only as a musician because he himself does not; he has at least two identities that are both of equal importance to him. By his own self-definition he is not "a musician." He is a musician and a political activist.It is specious to call him "a Jew," because in a way he isn't one. He is an Israeli-born person. And that fact is used to give him authority, and to refute accusations that he is a Jew-hater. The idea being: How could he be a Jew-hater?, he was born in Israel and served in the IDF.

He was raised, so says all the biographical material, as a "secular Jew."

Which is to say, NOT as a Jew.

He was raised as an Israeli, with a nationalist identity and a National Story, like any other person from any other nation. He disagrees with the National Story, which in this case is connected to a tribal story that he believes is a fake and malignant story. And in any case, the Israeli National Story, he believes, is an impediment to human progress, an affront to human dignity and a thorn in the side of the world. So he has no choice but to reject his national identity (except insofar as it is useful to his self-presentation and his cause; a piece of armor, as it were). As for cultural or spiritual identity, he never had either.An idea that I shall never give up -- because it has taken me a long time and a lot of serious thinking to come up with -- is: "Secular Judaism" is meaningless. It has meaning only in the abstract. In terms of an individual person, it has meaning only in its short life of a one- or two-generation journey from authentic Judaism, during which certain basic qualities of Judaism may still be vital and vibrant in the soul, intellect, moral intelligence and emotions of a person. And that is its lifespan.Anyone who disagrees with me on this point can try to transmit his "secular Judaism" to the third generation from its authentic root. And then he will see the rubber meeting the road, and he can come back to me and we'll resume the discussion.


Back to Atzmon:

Oliver Kamm nails him pretty good. The Contentious Centrist does as well, a bit more literarily, as is her wont and style.

And Bob From Brockley, an attentive Atzmon observer, has no illusions.

Bob from Brockley editorialises:

Is secular Judaism possible for more than a generation or two? I believe it is, but only if there is a community to sustain and transmit it. Such a community was emerging in Yiddishland in the first half of the last century, with a web of institutions (YIVO, the Bund, the Yiddish theatre and film industries...), and with a rich secular culture. Perhaps this infrastructure and culture was dependent on a certain exclusion from majority cultural life in Central and Eastern Europe (where there was formal equality, such as Germany, there was no such infrastructure; non-religous Jews assimilated after a generation or two). And, of course, that infrastructure was destroyed in the Shoah.

So, the question is, are there enough secular people with enough motivation to devote enough of their lives to the specifically Jewish to sustain secular Jewish culture? Probably not.

Here is my comment:

Very very interesting article by Jogo and Bob's footnote is also challenging, but I will leave my response to Bob's challenge until later.

As I always say, the phenomenon of the "self-hating Jew" belongs in the realm of compassion, not contempt. It is as rational* a product of virulent antisemitism as the death camps were. It is a kind of mutilation of the soul, for which there is no prosthetic.

Atzmon just joins a certain trend in the history of the Jews, the most recent example I encountered was this heartbreaking story of Irène Némirovsky, a Jewish author who wrote successful novels which depicted ugly, monstrous Jews before she was deported to die in Auschwitz.

"And after her arrest her husband, Michel Epstein, pleaded with the German ambassador for her release, arguing that "it seems ... unjust and illogical to me that the Germans would imprison a woman who, though originally Jewish, has no sympathy, and all her books show this ... for Judaism."

It's beyond ironic. Another irony I found in the fact that Nemirovsky, as hellbent as she was on getting away from her roots, married a Jewish man.

The whole thing reminds me of Louis Malle's film "Lacombe Lucien" in which an illiterate, anti-social French Nazi collaborator who likes to kill things, forces himself on a young beautiful, talented, Jewish woman who lives in semi-seclusion with her father. He takes her to a party where she is treated like a whore. At one point, she says (I'm paraphrasing from memory): I'm so tired of being Jewish... I want to stop being Jewish...

Can we condemn her?

Hannah Arednt understood the Nemirovskys and Atzmons of this world, as she observed in "Rahel Varnhagen": "In a society on the whole hostile to Jews, it is possible to assimilate only by assimilating to antisemitism also".

Cited here;


Engage put up a post about the Guardian's "Comment is Free" moderation, and possibly other, polcies:

This is how the question is discussed on the Guardian website nowadays. Search "protocols" in this page.

My comment:

As scary as some of these comments are, I think (maybe) that it is better to know what some people feel and think rather than suppress their expression and have them swell and fester concealed from sight. Sure enough they are painful to read, not only for their venom. I try to imagine what kind of information, upbringing, cultural inclinations, etc etc have to coalesce in order to produce this much distortion and self-righteous defamation.

I am reminded of Robert Graves' Claudius who said: let all the poisons in the mud hatch out.

Don't we need to know EXACTLY what kind of poisons are trapped in the mud?

I blogged about the Protocols once in response to an article in Counterpunch which seemed to doubt that the Protocols were indeed a forgery.


Anti-Racist blog has posted this article which brings up the "Protocols":

In a particularly distressing probe by Palestinian Media Watch directors Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, we see scarifying evidence that revisionist history and open anti-Semitism of the vilest kind is common currency amongst "scholars" in Palestinian universities. If only shameless historical lies and routine classroom incitement to hatred were criteria for collegial shunning -- the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a standard "text" for Palestinian students -- rather than trumped-up charges of a non-existent "apartheid," Palestinian universities would be instant pariahs. Alas, thanks to our postmodern intellectuals' weakness for moral inversions, it seems even university-sanctioned incitement to literal genocide is no barrier to acceptance in the West's Islamophilic groves of academe.


Sidebar for some context:

If I had to define Bob's politics, I would say he is an awakened Marxist. He and I would be at loggerheads over the origins of Zionism, if it weren't for the fact that he is one of the most civilized interlocutors on the Internet, in the style of Norm Geras. The New Centrist is also a bird of the same feather.

I can explain better what I mean by slightly paraphrasing Cass Sunstein:

The antonym of respect is disdain or (better) contempt; the antonym of charity is selfishness or (better) stinginess. It is much worse to be disrespectful than to be uncharitable. [To] show respect is... not to attack the competence, the motivations, or the defining commitments of those who disagree with [you]. Those who show charity as well as respect tend to put opposing arguments in the best possible form, to praise the motivations of those who offer such arguments, and to seek proposals that specifically accept the defining commitments of all sides.

Sunstein is speaking of presidential candidates, who are, as per definition, moderate in their politics, and whose good will to serve is taken for a fact. Unfortunately, on the Internet, in the Blogosphere, such credentials are rarely allowed and even more rarely encountered. It takes a talent and genuine kindness to be able to maintain this sort of ethos, while keeping to one's position.


*By "rational" I mean a result that plausibly, or even inevitably, follows from certain circumstances. If the goal of antisemitism is the exclusion of Jews from the circles of legitimate humanity, then the concentration camp is one possible result that might optimally achieve that goal. Another possible result would be that members of the "de-legitimized" community will want to escape the boundaries that these exclusionary positions place upon them. And one of the ways to do so is to try and become one of the excluders.

Both are therefore rational consequences of the injustice of antisemitism.

UN Ignominy:

There are genocides that took place, genocides that are taking place and genocides waiting to happen. The UN is an organization that fails to address any of these calamities. Fails, as in, completely.

Normblog today has this to say:

...the right of humanitarian intervention by states cannot be made conditional on UN authorization though it is preferable if there is such authorization; and, second, that one should not continue to labour under the facile delusion that effective international arrangements for the prevention of genocide are already in place. They aren't. But if this doesn't mean seeking outright alternatives to existing arrangements, it has to mean trying to improve them - looking for ways of strengthening the existing Convention and/or better mechanisms for implementing it.

Eric Reeves has a couple of suggestions:

[I]f the primary purpose of the Genocide Convention is prevention, the UN and international community must act before there is juridical or historical certainty. We are obliged to act when there is compelling evidence of large-scale destruction of a "national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such."

...This requires substantial revision of the UN Charter, but fundamental changes at the UN are widely recognized as critical for the organization to remain relevant in the 21st century..

And David Frum has this to say:

At Durban, the UN had allowed an antiracism conference to be hijacked by anti-Semites. But what if it allowed anti-Semites to organize a conference from the very start? What if it made hatred of Jews and the annihilation of the Jewish state the very organizing principle of the conference? Now that truly would be a record low.

And so it happened. The UN has been at work organizing a "Durban II" to be held sometime in 2009. The organizing committee for the conference is chaired by Libya -- with seats offered to Iran and Cuba. Preparatory meetings have been scheduled for Jewish holidays, in an effort to prevent pro-Israel groups from participating.

...But let's also understand more clearly what is at stake at Durban II.

... "The defamation of Islam and discrimination against Muslims represent the most conspicuous demonstration of contemporary racism and intolerance.It is regrettable that the world media has allowed defamation and blasphemy in this form"

These are more than mere words. We have already witnessed attempts to put the UN bureaucracy to work as an international enforcer of Islamic definitions of blasphemy.

... UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, a Canadian, did take jurisdiction of the matter and did promise an investigation.

...Human rights? No, what we are witnessing here is a power grab, an attempt to seize crucial principles of Western individualism and reshape them as weapons of domination.

... an attempt to redefine "human rights" as a tool for the destruction of individual liberty.

And what could better exemplify this strange longing for the demise of our individual freedoms than this suggestion by the Archbishop of Canterbury:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has called for new laws to protect religious sensibilities that would punish “thoughtless and cruel” styles of speaking.

Dr Williams, who has seen his own Anglican Communion riven by fierce invective over homosexuality, said the current blasphemy law was “unworkable” and he had no objection to its repeal.

But whatever replaces it should “send a signal” about what was acceptable.

And we know where the Archbiship's sympathies lie, don't we?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sniffing the coffee beans:

Sense and Sensibility

I watched the new BBC production of Sense & Sensibility a few days ago. I'll try to find a video clip to post, so you can get a taste of it.

I have in my possession two earlier dramatizations: One from 1981 BBC, a 4 hour version. The other is the Emma Thompson version of some ten years ago, with Kate Winslet as Marianne. So I could compare the current production with these two earlier ones. And I must say, it was quite a good adaptation. I thought the delineation of the two sisters, the mother, was really very much true to the novel. Mr. Edward Ferrars, Elinor's lover, was also well cast and represented. The only problem I had was with Colonel Brandon, the thirty five year old man who falls for seventeen year old Marianne. Austen makes him out to be an excellent person, decent, caring, knowledgeable, patient, good "husband" material. However, he is not dashing or exciting. This adaptation made him a Byronic hero: moody, brooding, taciturn, slightly condescending (something that would not be acceptable to Austen by any means). In the attempt to romanticize him, the script writer has him challenge Willoughby, Marianne's feckless lover, to a duel. It hardly makes sense. Not in the plot, not in the character of the man that Austen created.

Since the great success of Pride And Prejudice, the people who translate Austen's novels to the screen, have been trying to inject more explicit sexuality and passion into the story. This strategy worked well in P&P. maybe because of Darcy's passion which was very palpable though concealed. All the dramatiser had to do was just to move the curtain a bit so that passion could be more revealed. But Colonel Brandon was no Darcy and it seems odd that this version tried to make him into one.

Another plot intervention that bothered me was Marianne's illness. Marianne, at the end of the novel, has wasted herself so much in her heartbreak over Willoughby's treachery, that she became severely ill and was actually on the verge of dying. For some reason, this adaptation made light of her illness, having her recover in a matter of hours, almost. It was a strange misinterpretation and I couldn't see the merit in it.

But on the whole it was a pretty enjoyable experience. I am also well aware that any adaptation is bound to disappoint, no matter how successful. As a reader, I have formed own understanding and expectations from the novel. The dramatiser has other notions, other imperatives. So there. The eternal gap of desire between the potential, what can be and what is.

What Price, Multiculturalism?

First They Came for the Gays ...

Once an oasis of tolerance, Europe is slowly but surely succumbing to Islamization. “Sharia law may still be an alien concept to some Westerners,” writes Bruce Bawer. But it’s staring gay Europeans right in the face — and pointing toward a chilling future for all free people.”


Not very long ago, Oslo was an icy Shangri-la of Scandinavian self-discipline, governability, and respect for the law. But in recent years, there have been grim changes, including a rise in gay-bashings. The summer of 2006 saw an unprecedented wave of them. The culprits, very disproportionately, are young Muslim men.


...Such men need not be actively religious in order to feel that they have carte blanche to assault openly gay men and non-submissive women, whose freedom to live their lives as they wish is among the most conspicuous symbols of the West’s defiance of holy law.

Multiculturalists can’t face all this. So it is that even when there are brutal gay-bashings, few journalists write about them; of those who do, few mention that the perpetrators are Muslims; and those who do mention it take the line that these perpetrators are lashing out in desperate response to their own oppression.


One familiar response is: “Well, non-Muslims beat up gays, too!” Yep – indeed they do. Yet for a while there, in much of Western Europe, homosexuality was on its way to being a non-issue...

... The number of reported gay-bashings in Amsterdam now climbs steadily year by year. Nearly half Muslim, the city is a front in the struggle between democracy and sharia, under which, lest it be forgotten, homosexuality can be a capital offense.

...After a group of Amsterdam Muslims beat up Chris Crain, the six-foot-five editor of the gay newspaper The Washington Blade, in May 2005, the head of the Netherlands’ leading gay-rights organization admitted that tolerance of gay people in that city was “slipping away like sand through the fingers” and that “gays and lesbians are less willing to walk hand-in-hand because they might be beaten up.”

So powerful is the determination to turn away from the plain and simple truth that Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen recently commissioned a study by the University of Amsterdam. Its purpose? To try to figure out what motives underlie the increase in attacks on gay men and lesbians by Dutch-Moroccan men in Amsterdam. “Some researchers,” wrote a reporter for UPI, “believe they [Muslim gay-bashers] lashed out at local gays after feeling stigmatized by Dutch society.” In other words, as the straight-talking Norwegian immigration expert Inger-Lise Lien put it sardonically when I showed her the article, “it’s the assailant who’s the real victim.”

...Pim Fortuyn saw all this coming years ago; most of today’s European leaders still refuse to see it even though it’s right before their eyes. Read the rest here

Actually, I don't think "today’s European leaders still refuse to see it even though it’s right before their eyes". They see it all right. They just don't have a clue what to do about it.

Where is Louise Arbour?

The disgrace of the UN Human rights Council

No sooner did we hear of UN Watch Hillel Neuer's latest clash with the Council, than this comes along:

In a letter issued Monday, UN Watch urged UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to clarify a recent endorsement of the Arab Charter of Human Rights, which it said "contains several provisions that promote classically anti-Semitic themes."

The organization pointed to several sentences in the charter, such as "rejecting all forms of racism and Zionism, which constitute a violation of human rights and a threat to international peace and security," as well as "all forms of racism, Zionism and foreign occupation and domination constitute an impediment to human dignity…all such practices must be condemned and efforts must be deployed for their elimination."

On January 24 Arbour released a statement in which she welcomed the ratification of the Arab Charter and its coming into force, saying it was "an important step forward" in strengthening the enjoyment of human rights.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is committed and stands ready to support the States Parties to the Charter in ensuring that core values of human rights are upheld," Arbour said.

"Zionism is the movement for Jewish self-determination and asserts the inherent and internationally-acknowledged right of Israel to exist," UN Watch said. "A text that equates Zionism with racism, describes it as a threat to world peace, as an enemy of human rights and human dignity, and then urges its elimination, is blatantly anti-Semitic."

"Even if the Arab Charter may contain other, constructive provisions, nothing can justify any endorsement of a text with such hateful language," the letter stated.

"We trust that Ms. Arbour was not aware of [the charter's contents], but this must be made clear, and the responsible person in her office must be held fully accountable," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based monitoring organization.

Here is some context:

Where is Louise Arbour?

Where is Louise Arbour?

Where is Louise Arbour?

Here is one place you won't find her:

"Louise Arbour has decided not to meet with the families of the kidnapped soldiers during her visit to Israel . The families of Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit have approached the commissioner two weeks ago already, but after a series of evasive answers, the negative and final answer came Tuesday." (November 21, 2006)

Or here

Or here

But you are sure to find her here:

The top United Nations human rights official has called on the Iraqi authorities to observe a moratorium on executions following the death sentence imposed on ousted president Saddam Hussein and other defendants yesterday, urging that their right to appeal be fully respected.

Laugh to weep:

I. Joozilla vs midgets , From Simply Jews.

II. And this here is another, somewhat, Obama-related post.

Via: Terry Glavin, of the Drenched Ones

Monday, January 28, 2008

Deconstructing Obama:

Well, he certainly is here and there, and everywhere. But what is he really offering?

"I don't know what he stands for other than "hope," "change" and other truisms." says Roger L. Simon. here:

And, like most people when getting the approbation of the
crowd, I imagine Obama is loathe to alienate it and finds himself agreeing with
it as the line of least (temporary) resistance. But Obama's particular crowd is
partly a dangerous rabble that has not thought through the times in which we
live on any serious level and responds in the most generic peacenik manner. As a
single issue voter - the War on Terror - I am more than a little bit

"More charisma than guts", says Christopher Hitchens, in an article whose main thrust is shredding the Clintons:

When Toni Morrison described Clinton as "black" on the
basis of his promiscuity and dysfunction and uncertainty about his parentage,
she did more than cater to the white racist impression of the African-American
male. She tapped into the sort of self-hatred that is evidently more common than
we might choose to think. Say what you will about Sen. Obama (and I say that
he's got much more charisma than guts), he is miles above this sort of squalor
and has decent manners. Say what you will about the Clintons, you cannot acquit
them of having played the race card several times in both directions and of
having done so in the most vulgar and unscrupulous fashion. Anyone who thinks
that this equals "change" is a fool, and an easily fooled fool at that.

Not much, says Sean Collins, on Spiked:

But what kind of change is Obama really offering?

Real change, historic change, has traditionally
involved the implementation of ambitious, sweeping political ideas. A new
organisation of the economy. A new conception of the role of government. A new
morality. Obama is regularly compared with groundbreaking leaders of the past.
Many pundits liken him to John F Kennedy. Obama himself recently drew an analogy
between the scale of his own objectives and those of Ronald Reagan. In truth,
Obama is not in their league, and his idea of change pales in comparison with
earlier upheavals in American politics and society.

He may have received the backing of Kennedy’s
brother (Senator Ted) and daughter (Caroline), but that doesn’t make him the
reincarnation of JFK. Of course, President Kennedy can be criticised for many
things, but he was at least ambitious, far more so than Obama. Where is Obama’s
equivalent for a mission to put a man on the moon?

Obama’s ideas, rather than being pioneering and
forward-looking, are modest and parasitical on the manner in which American
politics is conducted. In South Carolina Obama criticised ‘tactics that divide
and distract’, ‘bitter partisanship’, and those who will ‘say anything and do
anything to win an election’. Many recognise - and are weary of - the petty
bickering and cynical maneuvers of Washington politics (including those coming
from Hillary Clinton’s campaign), so Obama strikes a chord.


Obama, despite his rhetoric, has not really thought
through what should change in the future. In South Carolina, one of his most
well-received lines was: ‘It’s about the past versus the future.’ Okay, we got
the reference to the Clintons representing the past. But what about the future
part? What great policy ideas do we have to look forward to? That all
politicians will learn to play nicely together? Even if he could manage to
control others’ behaviors, that would hardly qualify as a ‘higher purpose’ or as
truly ‘transformative’.


Looking at the size of the displays of emotion at
Obama’s rallies, many pundits conclude that he is more than a candidate. ‘A
political campaign has become a movement with Barack Obama at its head’, says
Roger Cohen (2). Some believe Obama’s drive echoes the civil rights movement of
the 1960s. The attendance at Obama rallies is indeed remarkable. But sheer
numbers do not make a mass movement, and Obama’s campaign isn’t one.

Obama and his coterie of advisers have total
control; it is not a democratic organisation. They have one purpose in mind -
getting him elected - not a goal of social advancement as such that will
continue after the election. And most of the ‘mass’ of supporters are not
actively engaged in politics. A student going to a rally has a more active
relationship with politics than if he or she watched it on TV, but it is still
an essentially passive, distanced stance.


I don’t expect Obama to create a true mass movement.
But why is he so reluctant to engage the public in debate on policy specifics
that can take us forward?

Update: Obama's Scary Advisers

"Contentions" follows up on Samantha Power's possible advice to Obama:

Question: Let me give you a thought experiment here, and it is the following: without addressing the Palestine - Israel problem, let’s say you were an advisor to the President of the United States, how would you respond to current events there? Would you advise him to put a structure in place to monitor that situation, at least if one party or another [starts] looking like they might be moving toward genocide?

Answer by Samantha Power:

What we don’t need is some kind of early warning mechanism there, what we need is a willingness to put something on the line in helping the situation. Putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import; it may more crucially mean sacrificing — or investing, I think, more than sacrificing — billions of dollars, not in servicing Israel’s military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine, in investing the billions of dollars it would probably take, also, to support what will have to be a mammoth protection force, not of the old Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence. Because it seems to me at this stage (and this is true of actual genocides as well, and not just major human rights abuses, which were seen there), you have to go in as if you’re serious, you have to put something on the line.

Unfortunately, imposition of a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful. It’s a terrible thing to do, it’s fundamentally undemocratic. But, sadly, we don’t just have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide our policy, or that are meant to, anyway. It’s essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark, rather than a deference to [leaders] who are fundamentally politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people. And by that I mean what Tom Freidman has called “Sharafat.” [Sharon-Arafat; this is actually an Amos Oz construction — NP] I do think in that sense, both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And, unfortunately, it does require external intervention

Note that this is a thought experiment in which Power is cast in the role of an adviser to a President. Well, the thought experiment is no longer confined to the laboratory. It has become a near-reality, with Power advising Obama on how to conduct his foreign policy vis a vis Israel. And her advice is pretty chilling: Attack and break Israel, build up Palestine. And translated into simpler language, attack a democracy in order to empower an Islamic totalitarian genocidal regime.

And she now has Obama's ear, who has assembled a team of advisers who all share her fundamental urges; Obama, who has been a devoted member in a church that openly celebrates Louis Farrakhan.

I think, I hope, these grave concerns will reach a certain critical mass which Obama may be forced to face down. I'm looking forward to hearing him articulate some very clear ideas and positions about his intentions towards Israel, hopefully followed by decisive deeds. Like getting rid of his bunch of Achitophels...


And for those who keep referring to his speech to AIPAC, let me draw your attention to this little story from Ali Abunimah, from "The Electronic intifada". By Abunimah's own testimonial, this is what Obama said to him in

"the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies.

As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front." He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, "Keep up the good work!"

Does it need translation? Isn't Obama practically saying that he cannot reveal his genuine sentiments about the Palestinians because he is in a campaign to get elected? What remains unsaid but pretty clear is that as long as he needs to court the Jewish voice, he cannot be "upfront" about his own position.

As Abunimah himself helpfully adds later in the article:

... given his historically close relations to Palestinian-Americans, Obama's about-face is not surprising. He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power. Palestinian-Americans are in the same position as civil libertarians who watched with dismay as Obama voted to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, or immigrant rights advocates who were horrified as he voted in favor of a Republican bill to authorize the construction of a 700-mile fence on the border with Mexico.

Only if enough people know what Obama and his competitors stand for, and organize to compel them to pay attention to their concerns can there be any hope of altering the disastrous course of US policy in the Middle East. It is at best a very long-term project that cannot substitute for support for the growing campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions needed to hold Israel accountable for its escalating violence and solidifying apartheid.

A quick tour of the rabid anti-Israel Left blogs and media outlets can reveal some other telling quotes which suggest Obama's so-called staunch support of Israel is merely a convenient pose. Like this, for example:

Less than two weeks after Obama gloated to AIPAC about his love for Israel, he unexpectedly admitted the truth while campaigning in Iowa recently. "[N]obody is suffering more than the Palestinian people..." said Obama, "the Israel government must make difficult concessions for the peace process to restart..."

So we have it on the best of the Indecent Lefty's authority that when Obama says

"[N]obody is suffering more than the Palestinian people..."

(Really? Not even the genocided people of Darfur? Not even genuinely starving, AIDS victim kids in Africa? Not even persecuted women in Pakistan and Iran? Not even the residents of Sderot, with the daily barrage of Qassams being lobbed at their children, by the very people who suffer most in the world ???)

he is "unexpectedly admit[ting] the truth".

Shades of Carter, Tutu.. etc etc..

Can this be a coincidence, when Obama's choice of Foreign Policy expert includes "Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, who says that Obama offers “a new definition of America's role in the world.” (Here)


Late update: When I invoked Carter's name, I did not know that he was an Obama admirer, and an active one, too:

Former President Jimmy Carter lavished praise on Illinois Sen. Barack Obama during an interview at his home on Monday, though he won't formally endorse any candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination.

"Obama's campaign has been extraordinary and titillating for me and my family," Mr. Carter said.

Ah, well. The vapid ex-president, ostensibly "neutral":

* nonetheless goes on record beaming with avuncular delight as he "lavishes praise" upon the anointed one's head

* reports, discreetly, on a conversation with Bill Clinton about Obama

*and expresses confidence that the candidate "could carry some southern states if he becomes the Democratic nominee."

He does all this, and still maintains that he is keeping out of the race to the White House. No doubt he also believes it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The road to shame: Canada and Durban II

I welcomed Canada's decision to absent itself from Durban II here. However, I am still not convinced that Canada will follow through on her commitment. Here is why:

The Canadian Arab Federation has come out strongly against the Canadian government's decision, supported by the NDP, to not participate in any way with the upcoming UN-sponsored Durban II conference on racism. The position of the Conservative government, supported by the NDP, is that Durban II is shaping up to be an exercise in the most vile and repellent anti-Semitism, as was experienced by the Canadian delegation that attended the Durban I conference in 2001.

The CAF has every right to take a different position. But to call Jason Kenney an Islamophobe who is contemptuous of Arabs and of Islam?

But then CAF president Khaled Mouammar, who has all sorts of links with the Liberal Party, declares anyone who sympathizes with Israel to be guilty of complicity in war crimes.

(Read the rest on "Angry in the great white north")

I'm posting this comment in service to my Canadian readers, especially those who think they can prevaricate about their moral commitments, making soothing noises in both directions. The day of reckoning is drawing near when they will find that if they take a stand against antisemitism, they will be branded Islamophobes. Somehow, I don't quite see them taking a stand against antisemitism. Bystanders become addicted to their indifference.

On a personal note, I find it ironic how the bystanders are the ones most likely to quote Pastor Martin Niemöller's famous homily . What they can be thinking of beats my intelligence. When you choose to remain neutral, even in the face of obvious perversion of truth and common sense, speaking to both terrorists and victims as though they were on an equal footing to be reasoned with, they in actuality eschew personal responsibility. They rightly deserve Dante's scorn.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Obama's ease with anti Israel proponents:

Persuant to this , this and this:

Ed Lasky, on January 16:

In contrast to his canned speeches filled with "poetry" and uplifting aphorisms and delivered in a commanding way, behind the campaign façade lies a disquieting pattern of behavior.

One seemingly consistent theme running throughout Barack Obama's career is his comfort with aligning himself with people who are anti-Israel advocates. This ease around Israel animus has taken various forms. As Obama has continued his political ascent, he has moved up the prestige scale in terms of his associates. Early on in his career he chose a church headed by a former Black Muslim who is a harsh anti-Israel advocate and who may be seen as tinged with anti-Semitism. This church is a member of a denomination whose governing body has taken a series of anti-Israel actions.

As his political fortunes and ambition climbed, he found support from George Soros, multibillionaire promoter of groups that have been consistently harsh and biased critics of the American-Israel relationship.

Obama's soothing and inspiring oratory sometimes vanishes when he talks of the Middle East. Indeed, his off-the-cuff remarks have been uniformly taken by supporters of Israel as signs that the inner Obama does not truly support Israel despite what his canned speeches and essays may contain.

Now that Obama has become a leading Presidential candidate, he has assembled a body of foreign policy advisers who signal that a President Obama would likely have an approach towards Israel radically at odds with those of previous Presidents (both Republican and Democrat). A group of experts collected by the Israeli liberal newspaper Haaretz deemed him to be the candidate likely to be least supportive of Israel. He is the candidate most favored by the Arab-American community. (Read the rest, here)

More Ed Lasky on January 23:

...One of his advisors in particular, Robert Malley, clearly warrants attention, as does the reasoning that led him to being chosen by Barack Obama.

...Malley has seemingly followed in his father's footsteps: he represents the next generation of anti-Israel activism. Through his writings he has served as a willing propagandist, bending the truth (and more) to serve an agenda that is marked by anti-Israel bias; he heads a group of Middle East policy advisers for a think-tank funded (in part) by anti-Israel billionaire activist George Soros; and now is on the foreign policy staff of a leading Presidential contender. Each step up the ladder seems to be a step closer towards his goal of empowering radicals and weakening the ties between American and our ally Israel.

... Malley is a revisionist and his views are sharply at odds with the views of others who participated at Camp David, including Ambassador Dennis Ross and President Bill Clinton. Malley's myth-making has been peddled in the notably anti-Israel magazine, Counterpunch and by Norman Finkelstein... (Read the rest, here)

Noah Pollak in Contentions:

But there is another Obama foreign policy adviser–a prominent one–who has so far escaped criticism. This is Samantha Power, a Harvard professor, journalist, and human rights specialist who of late has become a high-profile liberal critic of American foreign policy.

For one, Power is an advocate of the Walt-Mearsheimer view of the American relationship with Israel. In a recent interview published on the Harvard Kennedy School’s website...

Power is not just assenting to the Israel Lobby view of American foreign policy, but is also arguing that Israel had something to do with the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003–an appalling slander, and a telling one.

...Does Power actually believe that the NIE put to rest concerns about the Iranian nuclear program? If she actually thinks that — and it appears she does — she deserves voluminous ridicule from thinking people everywhere.

Does anyone think that if the time comes that Power has President Obama’s ear, she will advise him to do anything other than repudiate America’s greatest ally in the Middle East in favor of appeasing its greatest enemy? And here’s an even better question: Does Barack Obama have a single adviser who would tell him to do anything else? (Read the rest, here)

You may well ask what has re-awakened my interest today of all days when there has been nothing about any of it in the news.

Well, it is this comment I ran across, on Solomonia, in a thread that was discussing the latest staging of Palestinian ad misericordiam show:

It's great that you guys can laugh it up about these photos. This was done to illustrate the point that Israel did indeed plunge the Gaza strip into darkness when it cut off fuel supplies last week. Israel also cut off supplies of food and medicine. Do any of you deny this? And you wonder where the terrorists come from.'

If you think collective punishment is a valid tactic, please explain to me the difference between your morality and that of the terrorists when they blow themselves up in Tel Aviv?
You people are in a moral swamp.

Stupid clowns

The comment was placed by one calling himself "Obama supporter". Now of course this crude type of "criticism" can hardly be Obama's fault. After all, how is he responsible for what his supporters think about Jews or pro-Israel advocates? I realize all this. And yet I cannot help being very anxious when a presidential candidate's name is flagrantly asserted in connection with the kind of opinion this poster propagates. It seems unlikely that someone with such a strongly-worded animus towards Israel would choose to emphasize his/her support for a presidential candidate who was unambiguously supportive of Israel.

Alan Dershowitz explains it better, here:

''Change" alone cannot be a basis for deciding which candidate to support... What matters is the direction of the change, who is in charge of bringing it about--and who is supporting the candidate. When I cast my vote, I look not only at the candidate but at who is supporting him or her. Elections empower not only the winning candidate but the constituencies that helped to elect that person. I worry about the constituencies that are supporting some of the candidates.

For this reason, I favor the nomination of a centrist Democrat, one who is capable of attracting independents, moderates, and the growing number of anti-Bush Republicans.

What makes Obama such a desirable candidate to so many die-hard "Liberals"??

Here is one possible answer:

Many white liberals feel that his success in coming this far - and especially if he wins - tells us so much about how the United States feels about itself. David Greenberg called him the ‘great white hope’, and quoted social critic John McWhorter as saying: ‘What gives people a jolt in their gut about the idea of President Obama is the idea that it would be a ringing symbol that racism no longer rules our land.’ (7)

Hah. That's what I've been saying for quite some time now.


And here is a view from Israel:

.. Obama is still considered a candidate that's not as friendly and supportive as those leading the pack. The panelists, in written responses, explained that they are still bothered by his "lack of international experience," "ideological tendencies and constituency," and "emphasis on international organizations." One of the panelists expressed doubt as to his true feelings and said, "We don't know and have no way to know to what extent he really means what he says." The panel agrees - it was skeptical when we asked if the speech reflects Obama's actual views. However, some stated that, "The mere fact that he made the effort is encouraging and telling."

We asked the panel to compare Obama to the other Democratic candidates in a head-to-head race. The outcome is quite telling: Obama has a hard time convincing the panel that he will be better than his leading colleagues. However, he does manage to be judged as favorably as some of the second-tier candidates - Dodd and Clark.

Bottom line: This seventh survey need not disappoint Obama's supporters (at least those among them who care both about Israel and about the survey). His effort, clearly, has moved the panel - reluctantly, suspiciously, slowly - in a more positive direction. However, the "unknown factor" of previous surveys is still playing a big role. One of the panelists told me: "You can't change the perceived image of a candidate by making one or two speeches."


Yid with Lid has more:

Question remains:

Why would Barack Obama have on his foreign policy staff a man who has been widely criticized for a revisionist history of the Middle East peace process sharply at odds with all other accounts of the proceedings?

Why would Barack Obama give credibility to a man who seems to have an agenda that includes empowering our enemies and weakening our friends and allies?

How did Robert Malley, with a record of writing that reveals a willingness to twist facts to serve a political agenda, come to be appointed by Obama to his foreign staff?

Was it a recommendation of Zbigniew Brzezinski to bring on board another anti-Israel foreign policy expert?

What role did the left-wing anti-Israel activist George Soros play in placing Robert Malley (or for that matter, Brzezinski himself) in a position to influence the future foreign policy of America?
What does it say about Senator Obama's judgment that he appointed a man like Malley to be a top foreign policy advisor?

Or does it speak more to his true beliefs?

Here is something for the guys to brighten the Saturday morning blues:

Carla Bruni is Sarkozy's new fiancee.

Here are some thoughts about French transparency and Clintonian modesty, for those who need more than just candy for breakfast...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Inconvenient Victims

Sign and Sight

In recent days a new chapter in the emotional debate over Polish anti-Semitism has opened in Poland. The occasion is the Polish edition of a new book by the Princeton historian of Polish origin Jan Tomasz Gross. The book with the punchy title "Fear. Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz" (New York 2006) revolves around a central question: "How was Polish anti-Semitism possible after Auschwitz?" According to the reports by Holocaust survivors cited by the author, rather than being welcomed with open arms, Polish Holocaust survivors were met in their hometowns by the cynical question "Are you still alive?!"

The Holocaust victims were confronted with more or less open hostility on the part of the Polish population, which ultimately ended in pogroms. Gross' book examines three of these in detail, in Rzeszow (1945), Krakow (1945) and the most notorious pogrom in Kielce (1946) in which 37 Jews were murdered.

For Gross, neither the allegedly widespread participation of Polish Jews in the slowly consolidating Communist regime nor the horror stories circulating about the ritual murder of Christian children were the real reasons for these occurrences. Ultimately, economic interests were behind the events. Many Poles had taken possession of Jewish property after the German occupiers fled, and the Holocaust survivors' return was perceived as a real threat. Regardless of the pretexts for the pogroms, Gross writes, their real purpose was to get rid of the inconvenient victims.

Although many Poles had heroically come to the aid of their fellow Jewish citizens by providing them with shelter at their own peril, most had looked on with indifference – sometimes even approval – at the crimes committed by the German occupiers on the Jews. Pangs of conscience can be very effective, destructive even, especially when they veil a clear interest . (Read the rest here)

Via: Will, at the DSTPW

Alan Johnson on Primo Levi:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5