Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis (aka Bernard Schwartz) has passed away. Ji Jang Bosal. WNYC has put up a link to an old interview which somehow I didn't pass on at the time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interview on Roma Rights

The Leonard Lopate show (guest hosted by Andy Borowitz) has a really great interview regarding the situation faced by the Roma today, fittingly in their "Underreported" series.
In recent weeks, France has been locked in a war of words with the European Union over its effort to expel the Roma living there. But the Roma in Italy have also been facing discriminatory policies and prejudice. On today's Underreported, Bernard Rorke, director of Roma Initiatives at the Open Society, discusses what’s behind these restrictive policies towards Roma.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Of imperialism and second campists

I've been thinking this since Noam Chomsky's reply to Mearsheimer and Walt (Why now? I don't know) but I want to commit it, especially the emphasized part below, to paper.

The first thing to note about it is:
But recognizing that M-W took a courageous stand, which merits praise, we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion.
I have to wonder why such an unconvincing argument (to Chomsky) would deserve praise and merit (from Chomsky). I've noted before that his explanation for the appeal of M&W looks a lot like Chomsky is accusing M&W of scapegoating Jews for American imperialism:
The reason, I think, is that it leaves the US government untouched on its high pinnacle of nobility, "Wilsonian idealism," etc., merely in the grip of an all-powerful force that it cannot escape.
Except Chomsky doesn't seem to recognize the familiar pattern of scapegoating Jews.
M-W focus on AIPAC and the evangelicals, but they recognize that the Lobby includes most of the political-intellectual class -- at which point the thesis loses much of its content.
What Chomsky seems to appreciate is not the argument, but the target.

Israel, for Chomsky, is a client state of the US, not the other way around. He cites several cases where Israel has furthered the interests of the US or bowed down to the interests of the US. (Here, Chomsky shares the definition of American interests with Mearsheimer and Walt as specifically being national security and business interests. I disagree with that definition.) But if Israel is a client state, it should follow that Israel has interests that we, the Left, ought to liberate Israel from American imperialism. I imagine Chomsky may agree with that so far. I've also seen others write in the same vein about how the Miltary Industrial Complex in the US profits off Israel's conflict. But it's plain that if we are to liberate Israel from American imperialism, then we, as Americans, ought to do a better job of listening to Israelis. Otherwise, we're only presenting a different face of American imperialism; you can't liberate anyone by forcing something on them. Israelis want security, and so American anti-imperialists ought to be concerned with Israeli security. Here, it's also plain that Chomsky disagrees that such a principle ought to be applied to Israel. He isn't interested in exploring how Israelis view their interests, except to criticize and undermine Israelis. It's exactly the sort of stance Moishe Postone singles out. Chomsky isn't interested in anti-imperialism, per se, but a perverted form of anti-imperialism. Chomsky is a second campist -- and here I choose the phrase second campist over similar terms such as Manichean entirely on purpose.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Shana Tova, if anyone reads this in time. And also Eid Mubarak to Muslim readers.

And, for September 11, if anyone is in New York, there will be an interfaith/Buddhist memorial at Pier 40. Things will start at 6:30 pm, but people should gather at 6, especially if you want to write a message on a lantern. The organizer, a Japanese Buddhist priest, sends out wonderful news:
This weekend, I am arranging "Hibaku" Piano (the piano which was survived from atomic bombing of Hiroshima) Peace Concert at various places, so I hope that you can join the concert and enjoy yourself.
The schedule will include interfaith prayers and meditation for peace and a Buddhist ceremony. At 8pm lanterns will be set out into the Hudson River (modeled on the Japanese commemoration of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). It's a beautiful ceremony.

I'll be in a meditation retreat, so I won't be there, but I'll talk to our teacher about some chanting. In Korean Buddhism, we chant Ji Jang Bosal for the dead. However, s/he (Boddhisattva's don't really have fixed gender, though Ji Jang Bosal is usually depicted in a male form) is known for the vow to save all being in the hell realms. That would include those who would do such awful things as 9/11 or the Florida preacher who plans to burn Korans. So I chant for them as well. I hope they hear my chanting and realize the truth.

Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal

And, for the victims of hatred and prejudice, I also chant:

Kwan Seum Bosal Kwan Seum Bosal Kwan Seum Bosal

Korean Buddhists chant for specific occasions, such as the death of a loved one, but also at New Years. At that time people chant Ji Jang Bosal for all those who have died in the past year but especially with a certain flavor of karma, such as those who died in war. There are many events on the calendar to remind us to strive to be better. And many ways to strive. But please remember, that is a moment-to-moment struggle within. It's dogma that blinds us when we look for that struggle outside ourselves.


Monday, September 6, 2010

The goyishe kopf (or the plainest case of gentile privilege)

How can I not say: What a goyishe kopf. And by that, I mean, what an outrageous example of privileged stupidity. According to a piece from The Guardian and reproduced at Engage:
Karel De Gucht, the European commissioner for trade, and a former Belgian foreign minister, sparked outrage after voicing his scepticism about the prospects for the negotiations which opened in the US this week. He told a Belgian radio station that most Jews always believed they were right, and questioned the point of talking to them about the Middle East.

De Gucht, who negotiates for Europe on trade with the rest of the world, and is one of the most powerful officials in Brussels, was forced today to issue a statement declaring that the views he expressed were personal.

“Don’t underestimate the opinion … of the average Jew outside Israel,” he told the radio station. “There is indeed a belief – it’s difficult to describe it otherwise – among most Jews that they are right. And a belief is something that’s difficult to counter with rational arguments. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.”

Explaining why he thought the peace talks were probably doomed, he added: “Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. That is the best organised lobby, you shouldn’t underestimate the grip it has on American politics – no matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats.”
First off, what an odd sort of apology to say that one's bigotry is 'personal.'
“I gave an interview … I gave my personal point of view,” he said. “I regret that the comments that I made have been interpreted in a sense that I did not intend.

“I did not mean in any possible way to cause offence or stigmatise the Jewish community. I want to make clear that antisemitism has no place in today’s world.”
In fact, the comments were surely interpreted in exactly the sense in which they were said. His comments did not regrettably cause offense so much as they are plainly offensive in their nature. Look, there's a long history of claiming that Jews aren't rational, but even setting aside that stereotype, his claim about Jews being irrational only points to his inability to listen to what Jews have to say. More importantly, the stuff about that powerful "Jewish lobby" is plainly antisemitic. Whenever you find yourself about to make such an outrageous generalization, you should first assume that the problem is your own insensitivity. Like so many people, he doesn't seem to get the most basic fact of antisemitism: claiming Jews have power way beyond what we actually have is one of the most dangerously antisemitic things that can be said. The immediate implication is that something has to be done to take power away from Jews in order to right the world. In other words, Jews must be oppressed. Because the problems of the world are not actually the fault of Jews, however, that's a useless strategy which inevitably escalates to more severe oppressions in order to sudbue the "powerful" Jews. If he wants to make clear that "antisemitism has no place" he should certainly disavow the whole making-incredibly-antisemitic-comments thing, rather than merely expressing his sincere regret that other people are so irrational and don't get what he's saying when he's making incredibly antisemitic comments. No apology can mean anything here unless De Gucht can take responsibility for the plainly bigoted nature of his remarks. Regardless of his intention, he has precisely "stigmatized" and threatened Jews.

Also, I think it's time the words organized and grip should be seen as inherently problematic in these debates, just like the word cabal. I don't know why I keep seeing grip but it turns up strangely often. Such as here.