Friday, July 20, 2012


Adam Gopnik one of the best New Yorker writers, says in reaction to the latest mass murder:
Of course, we don’t know, and perhaps never will, what exactly “made him” do what he did; but we know how he did it. Those who fight for the right of every madman and every criminal to have as many people-killing weapons as they want share moral responsibility for what happened last night—as they will when it happens again. And it will happen again.
Yes. This happens way too much in America. One thing we need to realize is that there are many prices we pay, as Americans, for our freedom and Federalism. We are a huge country, and each state is different enough from the other that what is a blessing for some areas is seen as a curse in the others. The problem with the gun situation is that the people who think they are a blessing seem to rarely be the victims.

As a country we seemed to believe that we would restrict our freedom when it comes to air travel and new immigrants in order to not have another 9/11. Yet we seem determined to retain the same freedom - for guns - that will allow domestic terrorism to run amok. I believe the same impulse is behind both aspects of this paradox - the same people who ruin air travel, and who never liked immigrants in the first place - are the same people who demand the guns. The impulse is either myopic xenophobia (which we don't own the patent for), or the adolescent need to have someone else pay for your pleasures.

America has at least two major cultures that at times conveniently line up to the red-state blue-state divide. But suffice it to say that the reason why the US will never truly be an enlightened moral leader of the free world has to do with the burden of the South (and, if necessary, all the Red States). They are the ones who (a) are the worst Xenophobes, (b) hate education in favor of backwards religion [note to surfers, I am a clergyman], (c) want to hit their own kids and lock up other kids in prison for adult crimes, (d) enjoy the death penalty (not support, these guys love it), and the list goes on.

Like many things, American exceptionalism and supremacy - something I grew up believing and want to exist - was a historical necessity during the Cold War. The world was divided into slave and free, seen as Communist vs. Non (South Africa for some reason was part of the 'free' team) and we were the biggest, baddest of the non-Commies. It helped that we weren't damaged by World War II. But even more crucial is that we are a huge unified land mass with crucial natural resources and bordered by two oceans. We have plenty of room for crops and industry, and being under one government allows a stupendous synergy for business. This means we'll never be out of the top 5 world powers - as long as we stay unified, see Russia and China for proof of this. And we're better off than those 2 because much of our land is useable and we have warm-water oceans.

Our might made us right, and thank God we were on the side of freedom. But one aspect of our freedom is that we allow less than half of the population residing in states that due to Federalism give them disproportionate electoral power. These 'freedom loving' states hate much of the world, and distrust anyone who doesn't look like themselves (case in point: Obama hatred... do you believe that people still think he's stupid? You can call him arrogant, aloof, even foreign - there's proof for all of that- but stupid? It makes sense only if you are an inveterate racist, of which there are many).

Is this the freedom we want in America? So far, our vision of freedom not only ensures we have an insane health care system, but also mass murder of our children.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Bush Seriously Hurt Israel

I've been thinking more about the anti-Zionist jackholes on the Left, specifically my recent confrontation with Robert Wright and his ilk (and by that I mean his commenters). Since I try to be wise, I have refrained from commenting on most websites, but this is hard because like anyone born before the internet revolution, I treat emails/blogs as if they were personal communications. If a person said something to me personally what they normally put in a blog, or email, I would react with verbal violence. That was the world until 2000 or so.

Before the internet: to insult someone is to commit an act of violence and can be responded with equal venom. But the internet changed the etiquette in 2 ways: (1) the commonly recognized "internet jackass identity takeover" (aka Online disinhibition effect), which is, to quote the Wiki: "loosening (or complete abandonment) of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interaction during interactions with others on the Internet." People know about this, right? It's pretty common.

However, I am claiming that there's an important balance to this, which is (2) that you will interact with people on the internet that you will never encounter in normal life. This is true on philosophical and practical levels. Philosophically, you can potentially meet all 3 billion internet users while online - and in real life you probably have interacted with, at most, 5000 people (more if you're a public figure). But practically it's true because the disembodied words you read could be coming from a raging, drooling lunatic that you would run from in real life. As the iconic 1993 New Yorker cartoon stated: On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Dog.

There's probably more to add - I have my sociology knowledge confirmed now, as I have achieved my terminal MA in SOC - about how people who comment on websites are more likely to not understand polite human interaction and/or are partisan shills who in either case will be more extreme, rude, and belligerent than anyone you would barely associate with.

You may ask what does this have to do with George Bush and Israel? Well, I have been wondering why the left-wing hates Israel so very very much. I have a few theories, some I will try to publish one of these days. But here are a few of them (I'm sure I've talked about a lot of these things before, so I'm sorry to repeat myself):
  1. The current government of Israel is one of the worst right-wing groups in Israel's history. I actually believe this. Bibi has aligned himself with Avigdor Lieberman and the Haredi parties, and the glimmer of hope that we had for rationality - the joining of Kadima to the gov't - was quashed yesterday over a Haredi issue. So, just as the anti-American sentiment skyrocketed while Bush was in office, so anti-Israeli sentiment has under Bibi-Lieberman. It's sad but true. And just as people all over the world asked in 2004 how Americans could be so dumb, painting all of us with that brush, so Israelis are painted with the anti-Likud brush.

  2. The key problem is this: Bush and crew committed two sins that the American left will not forget (for 15 more years, if the post-Vietnam amnesia is any indicator): (a) we attacked Iraq under false pretenses, and (b) Bush supporters, especially the shadowy 'neocons' who trumpeted for war, put pro-Israelism as the centerpiece of their rhetoric and policy positions.

    Now, as I've said many times, Bush was a terrible 'friend' of Israel. He (i) destabilized the region with the botched attack on Iraq, which eliminated the historic buffer on Iran, and also convincing Iran (and every other Axis of Evil card-member) that they'd need nukes to prevent another crazy invasion. Bush (ii) forced Palestinian elections which led to the legitimation of Hamas, and (iii) whenever it was convenient, Bush held Israel's feet to the fire for concessions.

    Despite the truth of all this, there are many Jews (mostly Orthodox) who believe that Bush was great and that we need more Bush wackiness. So the Left has a legitimate belief that "pro-Israel" people can be aligned with Bush policies.

  3. The two problems come together in this way: The Left believes that just like Iraq was pumped up to be a threat when they weren't, so is Iran. And just like the supporters of the Iraq war were also big supporters of Israel, so are the people who talk about Iran's threat. And it's not helpful that the Press constantly describes Iran's potential nukes as primarily a problem because of Israel.

  4. Now, you might say, that Iran is truly a threat, unlike Iraq. And that Iranian nukes are feared by all the countries in the region, as the Wikileaks documents showed. And that Iranian nukes would be a direct threat to the US, whether its in our military bases, or citizens traveling abroad, or even to the 'homeland.' Yes, all three points are correct. And those who don't understand the 3 points are dangerously ignorant (or purposefully so due to their hatred of Jews, cf. Mel Gibson). And that's where we bring it all together:

  5. Because (A) Bush completely invented the Iraqi threat out of thin air, because it was an elaborate con-job that involved the Defense Dept, the State Dept, and the CIA, and because (B) Bush followers focus so intently on Israel, and because (C) the current Israeli government displays the same belligerent idiocy as Bush's = that allows generally low info or low concern people (i.e. 99% of Americans) to think that the Iran situation is the same BS as Iraq in 2002.
Again, the Leftist anti-Zionist idiots are contemptible and I don't exonerate their hate. But I believe that Bush's policies made the current situation that much harder for those of us who want *all* Americans to take Iran seriously.

Moreover, the feeling that Israel somehow benefited from the Bush evil, and that they want more of the same from America, is allowing latent anti-Semitism to rise in America, and to give legitimacy to the rabid anti-Semites, under the guise of "Israel criticism."


I've been thinking about the value of journalists vs. columnists, sparked by a number of outrages and incidents over the past few months. I've been studying journalism for close to 20 years now (e.g. I wrote my senior thesis on the subject after studying with Roger Mudd) and I believe strongly in the 1st Amendment, a free press (sorry: A Free Press), and the need to keep tabs on government & unregulated business, and generally to be the voice of the populace.

Sadly, as I've pointed out often the commercialization of the press has brought down this mighty tool. And while I agree that we're actually living through a great age of information, there is something fundamentally flawed with a press who needs to be interested in sales as opposed to their Constitutionally protected and necessary role. Especially since all the journalists I read and know all believe that what they do is 'speak truth to power' or something like it.

That's why it's key to distinguish between a reporter and a columnist. Both could be under the category of 'journalist', but a reporter appears to still be the role for the fact-gatherer. The columnist is the opinion spewer. And what is clear is that they operate under different grundnorms.

The reporter is an academic-lite - both fields are ostensibly about amassing expertise, knowledge, facts and then publishing (reporting) them. Reporters are held to a lower level of book knowledge but they are to make up for it with street knowledge and with speed. The grundnorm is both cases is the desire for fact. This ability to acquire and publish fact is the real freedom of the American system and the keystone of our liberty: the 1st Amendment (which, even more than the text of the Constitution, is the most important contribution to world history).

A columnist, however, is in the politics or entertainment field and their grundnorm, besides the lust for power/money could be the "ethic" of free expression. This is a more recent "ethic" - it's like the 1960s hippie BS mixed with the 1970s+ self-esteem movement. Whatever its source, it is ugly. And that is what I see in the work of most online columnists (and probably those in print, but I almost never read a print newspaper unless its Shabbos and I'm at someone else's house).

Columnists are definitely a scourge of our democracy but, as my vaunted 1st Amendment asserts, I need to protect their rights. But I can still condemn them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stage 4 Sullivanism = Stage 1 Gibson

So, Wright has quickly moved into a new category. I don't know if it's a new 'stage' of Sullivan, but Wright's reaction to the murder of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria is to claim - citing some an unlinked person - that Israel has been attacking Iran *in order to* have Iran kill Israelis *in order to* allow Israel to go to war:
US officials have privately expressed concern that one of the purposes of Israeli attacks in Iran has been to generate an Iranian response that could serve as a casus belli for Israel. That way, Israel could target Iran's nuclear facilities without paying the heavy political cost of starting a preventive war.
Got it? Wright believes that Israel desperately and un-reasoningly wants war. As if there's no 'casus belli' between Iran and Israel already, given the constant state of attacks from Iranian proxies against the State of Israel and Jews all over the world. Nope, to haters like Wright, the only reason for Israel is what Wright's putative hero, Mel Gibson, said: Jews are the cause for all wars. Enough. The Atlantic needs to get rid of this guy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stage 3 Sullivanism

The Atlantic is one of my daily reads but they have had an irritating tendency to employ and promote some idiot columnists (a dirty word in my house, as in "hey who was the columnist who spilled bat guano on my tuxedo and didn't clean it up?!.") But the worst they have, as of now, is Robert Wright, as I mentioned here.

He exhibits the classic trappings of a columnist: many opinions, little fact, and a whopping great ego. Now, I too have a big ego, so my complaint isn't as much about the size but about it leads ignorant fools (aka 'columnists') into aggressive solipsism.

For a wonderful example of how a columnist can convince himself that he can and should comment on anything, see Wright's set of 3 columns from July 2 to July 7. The first, entitled, Turkey's 'Islamists' Remarkably Like Republicans. I was intrigued enough to read it despite my near allergic reaction to journalistic idiocy. Naturally, as soon as I delved in I got brain hives. How are the Turks like Republicans? Well Rob discovers that the right-wing party in charge of Turkey has a coalition made up of uneducated religious fanatics as well as the (de-facto secular) moneyed elite.

What's galling is not that he's right, it's the fact that he finds it news that a right-wing party is made up of these groups. As any student of modern History will tell you: ALL RIGHT WING PARTIES ARE MADE UP OF THESE GROUPS. It's what right-wing stands for: nationalism. Speaking as an academic, I find that I won't comment on a subject if I don't feel knowledgeable enough. That fear is excised from the typical columnist.

Then, soon after I discovered what a complete raging idiot Wright is - as if being anti-Israel wasn't a tip-off - his next column was entitled: "What This Higgs Boson Thing Really Means." So now the ignoramous about Mideast politics, and history, was switching to physics? This was confirmed by the next column title: "Higgs Boson Continues to Not Make Sense."

Who the hell does he think he is? OK, so cutting-edge particle physics doesn't make sense. To you. And that's news? The hubris is astounding.

However, I didn't pause in my exam prep just to vent about Robert Wright's past idiocy, as he graced us with some new idiocy, back in his 'expertise' in hating Israel.

His column is entitled: Neo-McCarthyism. What's his problem now? Well he claims in his first line that "The charge of anti-Semitism is starting to lose its force" - and this is entirely predicable for Wright to say because, as the title of this post states, Wright is at the third stage of becoming Andrew Sullivan.

Sullivan used to be a decent read but at some point his utterly confused mind decided that he should hate Israel. And when Sully hates, he hates. It was stunning to watch. At first, I just checked it off to Sully being British - and UK has a built-in anti-Semitism that's hard to fathom. But now that Wright is following the same path, I can say that there's a real pattern to the descent.

Stage 1 Sullivanism is to start by being a columnist - which means to prize your self-satisfied ego, avoid facts and research, and to believe that whatever opinion pops in your skull is worthy for everyone to believe (and unbelievers are heretics to the Pantheon of You). Yet not all columnists become Israel haters, and not all Sullivans are columnists (Mearshimer and Walt come to mind). The egoism is the path to darkness here: the person is question needs to not have anything to do with Israel or non-secular Jews. Israel is the 'other.' And if the person was raised with a religion, it helps for that religion to be a good solid elder-brother hating Christianity (Sully is Catholic, Wright says he was raised bible-belt Baptist).

At stage 1, the columnist will see Israel as the embodiment of what they hate in their own lives. This is the root of anti-Semitism as well, for those keeping score. Moreover, these guys will have sentimentality as their prime ethical impulse - if something makes them feel bad, then that thing itself is bad. So moral difficulties get reduced to the solipsism that governs their working life.

Stage 2 Sullivanism is when your creeping dislike of the Jewish state makes you frequently quote with approval other, more rabid, anti-Semites and to use their rhetoric (e.g. "Israel Lobby" or "Israel Firsters" or "Mein Kampf"). The common people to quote are Mearshimer and Walt, Andrew Sullivan, and - increasingly - Peter Beinart. Now Beinart isn't a clear anti-Semite, but I've seen his views be repeated so often by the Sullivans of the Internet, that I believe approval of him is a sign of anti-Zionism/Semitism. And since Beinart is almost certainly a self-hating Jew - he loves himself, but the hate the Jews that will make the goyim reject him. Quite standard policy for the self-hater.

Stage 3 Sullivanism is when you lose your understanding of anti-Semitism completely. Basically, in Wright's column, he weaves an utterly confusing story of he-said-this-about-what-someone-else-said-about-another-guy, that I have no idea who is what. Suffice it to say that Wright is just so fed-up of people using the term "anti-Semite" that he rules that it is losing its meaning. Oh, and since using the term 'anti-semite' is meant to 'silence' someone, ipso facto calling somoene an anti-Semite is an act of McCarthyism.

To review some important facts:

  1. Robert Wright is not Jewish. He is a White Anglo-Saxon (ex) Protestant. He is a prominent journalist columnist. He has power, probably money, and is part of the complete majority of US History starting from the 17th Century. He has no place to determine when a historically persecuted minority is allowed to complain about their treatment. This is a self-test for everybody: if you think the historical victims of organized mass murder are 'too sensitive' then you may be part of the problem.

  2. I should remind everyone that anti-Semitism, like most hatreds, are public health problems. There was a point in history when anti-Semitism was leading cause of death for Jews in Europe. It is one of the main causes in Israel today. It is creeping back up in Europe today as well. Anti-Semitism is real and it kills.

  3. Anti-semitism is not only those with arm-bands and guns. The Holocaust happened because most people in Europe and America felt that it was OK to eliminate the Jews from their midst. If you need a historical note, recall back to the 1980s when most people openly believed that AIDS was fine because it would kill of only gay people. Hatred kills even in its small forms. And bigotry is never good in any dose.

  4. Censorship and McCarthyism only apply to the government, not to your fellow citizens. The government telling you to shut-up is censorship, my telling you to shut up is free speech.

  5. The reason why Wright, a now stage-3 Sullivanite, *thinks* it's McCarthyism is because he is so egotistical that ANYTHING that reduces his ability to shriek, or the impact of those shrieks - such as someone thinking he's wrong - then he considers that censorship.

  6. For cases in point, see the post-Mein-Kampfing of Mearshimer and Walt who just hate it when they are told by private organizations that they are anti-Semites; or Norman Finkelstein, or Tony Judt, or other well-established "misunderstood anti-Zionists."
Ultimately, the reason why Wright claims that "anti-semitism" is losing force is because all the people who he agrees with, starting with himself, are being called anti-Semites. And since he doesn't think of himself as a bigot, ipso facto, the term is meaningless.

Well, OK, the term may be meaningless to Wright, or to others who use anti-Semitie in the same way as 'racist' to mean "a wholly unredeemable caveman," but for those of us who could be killed by this disease, the term still carries some meaning. Wright cares about the term only insofar as it can affect a reputation or 'discourse.' He has no idea - because he's the guy in charge and has nothing really to fear - that people like him are the reason why my relatives were murdered in Europe and are killed around the world til this day.