Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Principle of Relativity 

Following a tweet by David Frum: 

A poor man comes to his rabbi to complain about how difficult life is for him, his wife and their six children in a small one-room hovel. The rabbi reflects a bit.

Then he asks: Do you have any chickens?

- Yes.

- Good. You must now keep them inside your home.

The poor man, astounded, nevertheless does as advised. Returning a few days later, he complains to the rabbi that things are even worse now. What to do?

- Do you have any goats?

- Yes, two.

- Good. So you must keep them inside your home with the chickens and all the rest of you. Things will get better.

A week later, the man returns: Rabbi, your advise does not work. The noise, the filth, we can't sleep, we can't breath properly. What kind of advise is this?

The rabbi reflects and tells him: OK. Now go home and remove the chickens and the goats from your home.

The man returns a few days later and hugs the rabbi in gratitude: rabbi, you have no idea what relief your last advice gave my family. We suddenly feel so much better, breathing fresh air in our tiny but comfortable home!

[The principle? I guess it's a version of relativity. Add an extra abrasive element,  create a sense of panic and claustrophobia, then remove the element that should not have been there in the first place. Once removed, the entire culture of the exchange changes. Or so it is hoped ...

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Meaning of "False" 

The adjective FALSE has 10 senses:
 1. not in accordance with the fact or reality or actuality
2. arising from error
3. erroneous and usually accidental
4. deliberately deceptive
5. inappropriate to reality or facts
6. not genuine or real; being an imitation of the genuine article
7. designed to deceive
8. inaccurate in pitch
9. adopted in order to deceive
10. (used especially of persons) not dependable in devotion or affection; unfaithful


AbuKhalil asks a question:

Look at this. The New York Times provides FALSE justification for the Israeli racist bigoted "Law of Return"

"Many European countries, as well as Israel, grant a fast track for citizenship or otherwise give privileged status to people born elsewhere with shared roots."  This is an article about Israel but the sentence begins by a reference to European countries, notice. And which European country grants automatic citizenship purely based on religion? Which one?

Notice how the professor who should know better resorts to a sleight of hand in order to justify his  claim of falseness. The article speaks of European countries granting a fast track for citizenship or privileged status to people with "shared roots".

AbuKhalil  finds it convenient to "contradict" this statement by equating "shared roots" with "religion". But "shared roots" could mean anything from religion to race to nationality to language to culture, etc,.  A religion like Judaism is a shared root.  A language like Hebrew is a shared root. Historical memory, attachment and narratives are a shared root.

To understand how silly and transparent this ploy is, let's imagine a man told by his doctor to avoid eating strawberries. Next day the man shows up with full blown allergy symptoms. What's this, asks the doctor, didn't I tell you not to eat strawberries? I didn't eat strawberries, says the man. Only strawberry ice-cream. You said nothing about strawberry ice cream. That's AbuKhalil's rationalization of his claim of "FALSE justification": He would eat the Strawberry ice cream and blame his doctor for the onset of allergy because clearly when the doctor warned against eating Strawberries he did not specify all the foods in which Strawberries are a more or less important ingredient.  

It is a significant point to understand how AbuKhalil understands/uses/abuses language in the service of his loudmouth, black&white politics. 

Anne Carson (the Canadian genius poet) describes a similar phenomenon in her book of poems "The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos":

What really connects words and things?

”Human beings, tend to use language as Homer says

“the gods do. All human words are known to the gods but
have for them entirely other meanings alongside our meanings.

They flip the switch at will”.

In other words, the gods know that Red is Red and when they speak to mortals, they use it in its proper denotation. But sometimes they prefer to pretend that red is Red. This is when they lie, or try to fiddle with our mind. People do not do well when their minds are fiddled with, which is why Albert Camus is reputed to have warned us about the danger of playing fast and loose with meanings:

"Mal nommer les choses, c'est ajouter au malheur du monde' (Not to call things by their correct names is to add to the troubles of the world)"

Now for the crux of the matter itself:

Here is a list of countries, mostly European, that practice a form of  "special consideration in a country's immigration laws (called "repatriation") which facilitate or encourage the reunion of a diaspora." 


More accuracies from Prof. AbuKhalil:

In this missive, the professor  makes the following statement:

"Israel all but admitted that it has killed Hassan Laqqis..."

It certainly is plausible and possible that Israel is responsible for killing Laqqis, but it is not in anyway a certainty or a fact. So I decided to do a little snooping around and it took all of 2 seconds to find that:

Laqqis was killed in an assassination when reportedly a number of gunmen shot him in the head in his car from close range as he arrived at his home at around midnight of 3–4 December 2013 local Beirut time in the Hadath region, a suburb of the Lebanese capital Beirut. He was rushed to the hospital but died there a few hours later.[5]

A Lebanese Sunni militant group, "Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek Brigade" (Arabic: لواء أحرار السنة بعلبك‎ ), believed to be an Lebanon-based al Qaeda-linked group from the Abdullah Azzam Brigades[6] claimed responsibility for the attack in a message on Twitter. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stated this group “is not a fictitious name... This group exists ... It has its leadership ... and I am convinced it is linked to Saudi intelligence.”[7] Hezbollah has also claimed Israel was responsible for the assassination.[8] Israel has denied any involvement in the matter."

Presumably,  this information is available to a professor who teaches in an American university in America. So it invokes a certain suspicion of bias when he takes these facts:

 1. "A Lebanese Sunni militant group, "Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek Brigade" ...claimed responsibility for the attack in a message on Twitter

2.  "Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stated this group “is not a fictitious name... This group exists ... It has its leadership ... and I am convinced it is linked to Saudi intelligence.

3. "Hezbollah has also claimed Israel was responsible for the assassination.[8] 

4. "Israel has denied any involvement in the matter."

And sums them up as ""Israel all but admitted that it has killed Hassan Laqqis..."

What does "All but admitted" mean? 

"All but"  is a ceremonial "almost", that is,  an "almost" that means "practically", or 0.01% short of absolute certainty.

Is there anything in the list of facts cited above to justify such a level of professed certainty?