Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas" (With Apologies to Lionel Trilling)

Brad DeLong:

"As good Millian liberals, we want to promote authentic, articulate, and intelligent advocates of other points of view. Who should we liberals respect--and give a boost to, in terms of reading them, arguing with them rather than mocking them, debating them, and suggesting that others read them?

As far as honest conservatives are concerned, it's a difficult question. Those I usually suggest--economists like Bruce Bartlett and Andrew Samwick and Bill Niskanen, strategists like Richard Clarke and Tom Barnett and Brent Scowcroft, social policy types like Rod Dreher and John DiIulio, unclassifiables like Andrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat--I find dismissed as "not typical conservatives. We want a representative of the conservative point of view. Someone like Larry Kudlow or Ramesh Ponnuru."

It strikes me that those who reject my advice are (as is almost always true) making a mistake. They are going about it the wrong way. We want an "honest conservative"--a conservative intellectual adversary we can respect, who is also intelligent. But their first move is to define a "conservative" as a public supporter of the Bush regime and its deeds. That means, I think, that they are searching the empty set.

Slavoj Zizek applied this to the puppet regimes of Eastern Europe under the iron curtain:

The Trilemma: Of the three features—-personal honesty, sincere support of the regime, and intelligence—-it was possible to combine only two, never all three. If one was honest and supportive, one was not very bright; if one was bright and supportive, one was not honest; if one was honest and bright, one was not supportive...

But it applies just as well to the Bush regime. Sincere conservative supporters are not bright. Bright conservative supporters are not honest. Bright and honest conservatives are not supporters--and so are ruled out, and we are left with Larry Kudlow and Ramesh Ponnuru.

I think we should recognize that the intelligent, honest conservatives out there are not Bush supporters, and turn that to our advantage in selecting honorable intellectual adversaries.

What I would like is a list of "honest conservatives" who fit into the following categories--and let me try to give an example of a person whose existence is recognized by the mainstream media for each class:

  • Class of 2000: People who in 2000 said, "George W. Bush is not qualified to be president, and we should be really worried about this."

  • Class of 2001: People who in 2001 said, "I supported Bush in 2000, but George W. Bush is not listening to his honest conservative policy advisers, and we should be really worried about this." John DiIulio

  • Class of 2002: People who in 2002 said, "I supported Bush in 2000 and 2001, but 911 has unhinged the administration; it's detention and other policies are counterproductive; it needs to be opposed." Richard Clarke

  • Class of 2003: People who in 2003 said, "I supported Bush over 2000-2002, but enough is enough. That's it. I supported the invasion of Iraq because I was certain there was evidence of an advanced nuclear weapons program--otherwise invading Iraq was just stupid. Well, there was no advanced nuclear weapons program. Invading Iraq was just stupid. Plus there's the Medicare drug benefit. These people need to be evicted from power." Tim Barnett, Bill Niskanen

  • Class of 2004: People who in 2004 said, "I've been a Bush supporter. I'm a Republican and a conservative, but I've had enough: I'm voting for Kerry." Andrew Sullivan, Bruce Bartlett, Brent Scowcroft

  • Class of 2005: People who in 2005 said, "I voted for Bush in 2004. But I made a mistake. A big mistake."

  • Class of 2006: People who in 2006 said, "I know I supported Bush up to last year, but that shows I'm not the brightest light on the clued-in tree." Rod Dreher, Andrew Samwick

The class of 2007--people who are now opposed to Bush only because they think Bush will drag the Republicans down in 2008--doesn't count. Dead-enders who are still claiming that Bush is Teddy Roosevelt don't count. They aren't honest conservatives. They are only worth scorn, and fit objects for nothing but mockery. One just doesn't joust with them in honorable intellectual combat. It's not done.

I say divide "honest conservatives" into the classes of 2000 to 2006, rank them by seniority according to the date of their public honesty, and use that as a ranking for who to read, who to respect, and who to promote as worthy intellectual adversaries. Refer to them using this citation form:

Brent Scowcroft, Honest Conservative Class of 2004...

Who else falls where in this classification?" (Brad DeLong, "A Proposed Pecking Order for Honest Conservatives," Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal, June 14, 2007).

How To Do Things With(out) Words

Michael Dorf on free speech and violence:

"As widely reported in the media (see NYT story here), on Tuesday a noose was found on the door of Columbia Univesity's Teachers College Professor Madonna Constantine (who is African American). This ugly and despicable act has prompted a police hate-crime investigation and swift condemnation from students, faculty and administrators at TC and throughout the university, including the following statement from CU President Lee Bollinger:
Tolerance and mutual respect are among the core values of our diverse community, and all of us must confront acts of hate whenever they occur within it. As I said last night, an attack on the dignity of any member of our community is an assault on all of us.
(President Bollinger's full statement appears here. Professor Constantine's statement is currently on the homepage of TC, if you scroll down a bit.)

I fully share the sentiments quoted above, but it's worth noting what President Bollinger did not say. He did not say something like "The hanging of a noose on an African-American professor's office door is symbolic speech of a hateful message. Exposure of the university community to that hateful message in no way implies endorsement of it." And for good reason. In light of the history of lynching in the United States, the message of a noose under these circumstances is not merely abstract advocacy of racism or some related ideology. It is reasonably understood as a death threat. Free speech doctrine rightly treats threats of violence (whether or not racially motivated) as unprotected.

Numerous news stories and blogs have already linked the placement of the noose on Professor Constantine's door---and the university's reaction---to the Ahmadinejad speech. If a university need not permit a threat of violence against a particular faculty member---as it surely need not---why must it permit the speech on campus of one who has threatened to destroy an entire country?

First Amendment doctrine does not, of its own force, apply to TC or Columbia, which are private actors. However, President Bollinger and others within the university have repeatedly argued that because private universities are committed to the exploration of ideas, they should, as a matter of internal policy, be at least as protective of free speech as the First Amendment requires the government to be. And here it reasonably clear that First Amendment doctrine would distinguish between a targeted noose and a general speech. After all, the leading case on proscribable speech, Brandenburg v. Ohio, involved a rally featuring a burning cross and racist and anti-Semitic remarks; yet the Supreme Court held there that the state law, the indictment and the jury charge, in reaching "mere advocacy not distinguished from incitement to imminent lawless action," impermissibly targeted protected speech.

Now critics of the Ahmadinejad appearance have a fair point in noting that Ahmadinejad is not engaged in "mere" anything. As the President of a country that supports terrorism, attacks on U.S. troops, and more, his views do more than give offense. But that objection---if meant as a point about First Amendment doctrine---misses the point that Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia was not incitement, nor did it put anyone in immediate fear (although it was deranged and profoundly offensive). So I'm pretty confident of the results under free speech doctrine in both cases: Ahmadinejad gets to speak (as even Bollinger's critics tacitly acknowledge in failing to have called for the government to block the speech) and the person who placed the noose on Professor Constantine's door, if apprehended, gets charged with a hate crime.

There remains the question, however, of whether a university community committed to free speech principles ought to voluntarily commit itself to every jot and tittle of First Amendment doctrine as decided by the Supreme Court. The foregoing analysis, after all, would permit a racist student group to hold a rally on campus at which crosses are burned and nooses displayed, so long as the racist students made clear that they were engaged only in "abstract" support for racism. One could reasonably conclude that the ideals of a university community include not only free speech principles but also a robust requirement of respect for other members of the university community. And sometimes even nominally abstract advocacy is so inconsistent with the respect requirement that it can be squelched. That, I take it, was the point of those who opposed the invitation of Ahmadinejad." (Michael Dorf, "The Noose, Brandenburg and Ahmadinejad Revisited," Dorf on Law, Oct. 11, 2007).

What Is It Like to be an (American) Bat?

Ezra Klein's correspondent, Jason C. writes:

"My impression from talking to people about current events - and I mean reasonably sophisticated, educated people - is that they see the world as divided into a handful of categories:

- Europeans. They are liberal, effete, atheistic, and are constantly having sex and getting drunk. Anything goes in Europe.

- Middle-Easterners, a.k.a. Muslims, a.k.a. Arabs. This includes Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, etc. These people are crazed religious fanatics who do not care about their own lives. They act only to satisfy their unquenchable blood lust. Sometimes they kill each other, but mostly they hate America and Jews.

- Asia. Where communists and very tiny things come from. A continent of industrious gnomes.

- Africa. Where starving people live.

- South & Central America. Where Mexicans come from.

They then interpret events like 9/11 by imposing these categories on them. So when a student says "Why did God let the Iraqs attack us on 9/11?" he's really just saying something like, how come all those crazy Muslims want to kill us? He picks "Iraq" just because it's a prominent example of a Middle Eastern country." (Jason C. in Ezra Klein's blog, "My Commenters is Smarter than I: Broadbrush Edition," Ezra Klein, Dec. 12, 2007).

Intellectual Agonistes

Another gem from a Philosophy Job Market Blog:

"So last year in the interview I had with a teaching school, I got the question, "Which do you see as your primary focus--teaching or research?" No problem, right? I'd gamed out that question before hand and I had what I thought was a pretty awesome answer.

I launched into my whole thing about how I didn't really accept the dichotomy of teaching and research. I was all about how I want my teaching to compliment my research by always forcing me to sharpen my knowledge of classic texts and ideas in the face of inquisitive young skeptics, and how I want my research to compliment my teaching by giving me fresh ideas to bring into the classroom and allowing me to model for my students the sort of curiosity I want them to learn in my class. So the thing about teaching and research is finding the right balance to make each compliment the other and blah, blah, fucking blah.

And the best thing about this answer is, I really think it's true. Maybe I'm an insufferable asswipe for buying into that shit, but I swear to god, I buy it all. So not only was I giving an awesome answer to the teaching/research, question, I even believed it. Holy shit, right? I figured I was hitting that one out of the park.

As it happens, I wasn't hitting it out of the park. I wasn't fouling the ball off, let alone connecting for a respectable base hit. I wasn't even striking out. No, I was standing at the plate with my eyes closed, swinging wildly at nothing in particular while I peed my pants for fear of getting hit by the ball.

No doubt, some schools would have eaten my answer up, but not the school I was interviewing with. The farther I got into my whole thing, the more the department chair's eyes narrowed and the less interested he got. By the time I was done, I knew I'd lost him. He'd asked whether teaching or research was my primary focus, and it was clear as day I'd lost him as soon the first word out of my mouth wasn't "teaching."

So I fucked up that interview. Oh, well. I'm still not changing my answer to that question." (Pseudonymous Grad Student, "I Made A Lot of Mistakes, In My Mind, In My Mind," A Philosophy Job Market Blog, Dec. 5, 2007).

And in the comments...

This advice to 'be yourself' is simply bad advice, since it presupposes that 'being yourself' with no job is preferable to 'compromising yourself' with some job. And no one thinks that's true -- except for the rare case where the job would actually make you miserable.

If the thought is 'Well there's nothing you could have done; they just didn't like your style," I can see the point. But it's just asinine to console job seekers with the thought that market conditions permit a strategy of such self-weeding.

The people who have good jobs but are drawn to this blog, as I am, by the pathos of reliving their earlier struggles need to remember better what those struggles involved. Don't forget how much you simply lucked into your job. Do remember your smarter, more deserving classmates who got a worse job or none.

The saddest thing about this profession is how normal it feels at each stage to assume that the weeding was warranted. It does look warranted, since some jobs permit and motivate lots of research and some nearly forbid it. (And likewise, in reverse, for teaching.) But we can all see, looking back at the people we know, that the weeding was thoroughly haphazard.

So yes, you do have a 'say' in where you wind up: like anyone, you too can be unjustly passed over for a job. (Anonymous, comment to the above, Dec. 6, 2007).

Conflict of the Faculties

Via the terrifying A Philosophy Job Market Blog, a line from the Simpsons:

"We are down at the Springfield unemployment office, where we see that unemployment doesn't just affect philosophy majors, it is begining to affect useful people..." (Dec. 10. 2007).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Wouldn't it be simpler for the Zionists to dissolve Israel and choose another?" (With Apologies to Brecht)

What do you call a person who accuses other Jews of being involved in a vast anti-Semitic conspiracy?

"Watching Jamie Kirchik accuse Daniel Levy of being an anti-Israel conspiracy theorist is an impressive thing. I think, in the tribe, we call it chutzpah. But it's worth reading the whole five paragraph screed. Read it slowly. Take time to enjoy the scenery. Whistle appreciatively as Kirchik's argument builds, the innuendo stacks. And remember to have a camera out when you arrive at the final, stunning, vista, in which Kirchik places Daniel Levy in the tradition of the John Birch Society.

Who knew The New Republic had begun publishing performance art?


But Kirchik's evident mania fits nicely into an interesting, emergent pattern on the Likudnik Right: The need to paint the actual members of the Israeli government as insufficiently pro-Israel. Levy, for instance, was a senior adviser to the Israel Minister of Justice, and a peace negotiator for both Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin. He's an individual who, quite literally, has devoted his life to the peace and security of the Jewish state. And Kirchik wants to paint him as the anti-Israel incarnation of the John Birch Society. Similarly, Commentary magazine, where Kirchik also contributes (TNR must be so proud!) recently published an article excoriating Israeli Prime Minister for being insufficiently pro-Israel as if, as Matt Duss put it, "to exhume parody, strangle it with piano wire, and rebury it."

But entertaining as all this is to watch, it's evidence of a deeper insecurity among the American Likudniks: As MJ Rosenberg put it the other day, the Israeli mainstream is coming to accept reality. The center is shifting left, the traditional hardliners, exhausted by decades of war, accepting that tough compromises will be required en route to peace. That's tricky for, as Daniel Davies put it, "nationalists of a completely imaginary [Israeli] state, one which has no meaningful politics of its own, no need to compromise with reality and no national interests other than constant war." In order to keep internal coherency, Israeli politicians with some interests other than war need to be painted as betraying the national interest. As more and more Israeli politicians do this, however, the list of targets grows ever more comical, and this group of Zionist dead-enders grows all the stranger, and all the more unbalanced. Which is how you get Daniel Levy as a John Bircher, and Ehud Ohlmert as an anti-Semite." (Ezra Klein, "The Likudnik Dead-Enders," Ezra Klein Blog, Dec. 11, 2007).

Waiting for the Barbarians

The problem with history is that it is a little inconvenient. Juan Cole reports:

"I just saw this campaign ad for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. He says that Iran held US embassy hostages for 444 days. Then they were released within one hour. That was the hour after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president, succeeding Jimmy Carter. Giuliani goes on to tell us that this incident shows how you deal with "Islamic terrorists." You get tough on them and don't back down.

The problem with this assertion is that it is not true, and indeed the opposite is true. Gary Sick showed in October Surprise that:

' Piercing the shadowy netherworld of international espionage, Sick has written one of the most controversial and disturbing accounts of political intrigue to appear in recent years. In 1980, William Casey, then campaign manager of the Reagan-Bush ticket, without the knowledge or approval of the legitimate government, arranged a deal with the Iranian government that in return for military equipment, the Iranians would not release the 52 American hostages until Ronald Reagan was safely inaugurated. '

So the hostages weren't released because Reagan was tough on the Iranian regime. They were released because Casey promised that the Republicans would sell Khomeini weapons if they kept the hostages for an extra couple of months and denied Jimmy Carter the sort of diplomatic coup that might have rescued his presidency.

Not only was Reagan not in fact 'tough' on the ayatollahs in Tehran, he later on stole Pentagon weaponry from the warehouses, illegally sold this US military materiel to a terrorist regime (that of Khomeini), then pocketed the money from the illegal arms sales to 'Islamic terrorists' and laundered it through shadowy bank accounts, sending it to far rightwing death squads in Nicaragua.

Besides, they aren't "Islamic" terrorists because Islam forbids terrorism. They might be Muslim terrorists, but then not very good Muslims. When will Giuliani denounce the "Catholic terrorism" of some prominent priests who were active in the Irish Republican Army? Would he talk about "Jewish terrorism" in regard to the blowing up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem?

As for Iran-contra, I feel a golden oldie coming on:

And, Shultz told both Rumsfeld and Saddam that the US was trying to curb weapons flows to Iran. Yet it is well known that Israel was supplying Iran with weaponry in return for Iranian oil. Only a little over a year later, Shultz double-crossed Saddam by getting on board with the Iran-Contra weapons exchange, which was suggested by the Israelis in the first place. The White House illegally sold Iran hundreds of powerful TOW anti-tank and HAWK anti-aircraft weapons [which Reagan came on television and told us were shoulder-launched weapons!], for use against Washington's newfound ally, the Iraqis, who were being assured that the US was trying hard to "prevent an Iranian victory . . ."

These weapons sales contravened US law, under which Iran was tagged as a terrorist nation. (Even today I can get into trouble for so much as editing a paper by an Iranian scholar for publication in a US scholarly journal, but it was all right for the Republicans and Neocons to send Khomeini 1000 TOWs!) Not only that, but Reagan's team then turned around and used the money garnered from these off-the-books sales to support the contra death squads in Nicaragua. In the US Constitution, how to spend government money is the purview of Congress, and Congress had told Reagan "no" on funding the death squads. So Reagan's people essentially stole weapons from the Pentagon storehouses, shipped them to Israel for transfer to Ayatollah Khomeini, and then took the ill gotten gains from fencing the stolen goods and gave them to nun-murderers in Latin America." (Juan Cole, "Giulian, Reagan, and Kissing up to Ayatollahs with Fancy Cakes," Informed Comment, 12/11/2007).

Defying the gods

Stephen Danley reminds us that good sports writing is still alive:

"Any player will tell you that there are nights when the basketball gods simply don’t want you to win. They normally come on the back end of a road trip, or the second night of a back-to-back. On those nights career 19 percent 3-point shooters go 5 for 5 from behind the line and players like Shaquille O’Neal don’t miss a free throw. It seems as if everything the other team throws up fall through the hoop and you’re playing in quicksand.

Wednesday was one of those nights, and the Celtics won anyway.

On a snowy night in Philadelphia, the basketball gods blitzed the Celtics from the get go. The 76ers’ Andre Iguodala, who is known more for his athletic prowess in the open court than his one-on-one ability, made five tough buckets to open the game, including two 20- footers with a defender in his face. He finished the game 10 for 17 from the field.

Andre Miller, whose jump shot is an affront to the aesthetics of the game, came out and made six of his first seven shots. Many of those were tough fadeaways from 17 feet and were so ugly that parents should have shielded their children’s eyes from the replays.

As a team the Sixers shot 60 percent in the first half. With 43 seconds left they were up, 57-48.

It was at that moment that the Celtics got back into the game.

With the amount of time left on the clock everyone in the building knew the Celtics would try to get two more scoring opportunities. The problem with trying to squeeze two possessions out of the last 40 seconds, is that it’s easily anticipated. An evenly matched opponent will tighten up their defense and instead of having even one good possession you end up with two bad ones.

The Celtics had no such difficulties. They pushed the ball down the floor and Pierce sliced to the basket quicker than pie disappears on Thanksgiving. His layup fell through with 33.9 secondss left. That virtually assured Boston of another possession.

On the other end, the Sixers showed their inexperience and turned the ball over, leaving the Celtics with 23.1 seconds.

Tony Allen held for the last shot and executed perfectly. He drove into the lane with about 7 seconds left. His layup attempt rolled off the rim but because he made his move with enough time, Garnett had a chance to grab the rebound. Garnett ended the half with a vicious dunk punctuated by a primal scream.

The Celtics went into the locker room down by 5 points, having almost completely negated the outstanding play of the Sixers.

The second half started with more of the same: Garnett dunk, Ray Allen 3-pointer, Pierce jump shot, Sixers timeout.

Just like that the Celtics were back in the lead, and although Iguodala hit a wild scoop shot to momentarily stop the momentum, the Celtics were like sharks circling their prey. Their passes were crisper, their ball movement was better and they had an energy that was absent in the first half.

When James Posey came in for Garnett with 3 minutes 40 seconds left in the third quarter, Garnett went to each of his teammates on the court and pointed at them. Then, coming off the court, he gave a fist pump and let out a yell.

Garnett’s message was simple: They had put the Sixers back on the ropes. Now they had to finish them off.

There was one problem; the Sixers kept throwing punches of their own.

Every time the Celtics looked poised to pull away the Sixers would answer with a tough basket. They simply didn’t miss shots.

The game seesawed back and forth until Garnett took things into his hands once again. With the Celtics up by 89-88, Garnett made a steal.

The Celtics pushed the ball and Eddie House launched a 3-pointer from the right corner. Garnett, trailing the play, swooped in to corral the rebound. He held the ball for a second, letting the offense reset, then waved for both Pierce and House. He sent House into the corner and tossed the ball to Pierce for a pick and roll.

As Pierce drove into the lane he drew both his and Garnett’s defenders. House’s defender slid down to pin Garnett and prevent an easy dunk. There, standing all alone in the corner where Garnett had placed him, was House.

Bang. 3-pointer. 11-2 Celtics run. Game over.

In the end it didn’t matter that the Sixers never really cooled off.

The Celtics won the decisive fourth quarter, even though the Sixers more than 50 percent from the floor.

The Celtics winning formula was simple enough. They did the things any championship team does on a nightly basis. They finished the first half strong, they won the first five minutes of the second half and they executed down the stretch.

On a snowy night in Philly, that simple formula was enough to defy the basketball gods." (Stephen Danley, "Winning when they Shouldn't," NYTimes, Dec. 11, 2007).

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Principle of Universality

Noam Chomsky:

"In fact, one of the-maybe the most-elementary of moral principles is that of universality, that is, If something's right for me, it's right for you; if it's wrong for you, it's wrong for me. Any moral code that is even worth looking at has that at its core somehow. But that principle is overwhelmingly disregarded all the time. If you want to run through examples we can easily do it. Take, say, George W. Bush, since he happens to be president. If you apply the standards that we applied to Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, he'd be hanged. Is it an even conceivable possibility? It's not even discussable. Because we don't apply to ourselves the principles we apply to others.

There's a lot of talk about 'terror' and how awful it is. Whose terror? Our terror against them? I mean, is that considered reprehensible? No, it's considered highly moral; it's considered self-defense. Now, their terror against us, that's awful, and terrible.

But, to try to rise to the level of becoming a minimal moral agent, and just enter in the domain of moral discourse is very difficult. Because that means accepting the principle of universality. And you can experiment for yourself and see how often that's accepted, either in personal or political life. Very rarely." (Noam Chomsky, "The Responsibility of Intellectuals," Arts and Opinion, vol. 6, 2007).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rhetoric as Epistemic

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond—
Invisible, as Music—
But positive, as Sound—
It beckons, and it baffles—
Philosophy—don't know—
And through a Riddle, at the last—
Sagacity, must go—
To guess it, puzzles scholars—
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown—
Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies—
Blushes, if any see—
Plucks at a twig of Evidence—
And asks a Vane, the way—
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit—
Strong Hallelujahs roll—
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul—
—Emily Dickinson, (c. 1862)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Generous Orthodoxy

"I am not one of those Stalin-like secularists who won't rest until the last rosary bead has been ground into a fine dust. Let theology flourish." (Jacques Berlinerbalu, "What's Wrong with the Society of Biblical Literature?" Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 10, 2006).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If They Hadn't Invented the Game, They Would Kill It

Martin Amis is a thuggish racist. But this article, an analysis of the England-Portugal 2006 World Cup quarterfinal, did make me laugh:

"When Owen scored in the third minute, the euphoria was soon qualified by the following intuition: with time added on, England were now going to spend an entire football match in frazzled defence, dropping back ever deeper, the beleaguerment solidified by ever-more paranoid substitutions. As Rooney limped off, after 20-odd minutes, you felt you were complicit in an act of unilateral disarmament. But by now it was taking some doing not to notice a qualitative difference between the teams: the abysmal gulf in technique.


"The days when an England player's first touch could often be mistaken for an attempted clearance or a wild shot on goal — those days are over. The deficit is not in individual skill, it is in collective skill; it is in the apparently cultural indifference to possession. In 2004, football is no longer a dribbling game, still less a long-ball game (and how many balls did we float to our two haring midgets up front?); it is a possession game. The 'clearance', as practised by England, is simply an anachronism. When an international defender heads it away, he heads it to a teammate. When we 'clear' it, we just clear it, for two or three seconds.


"During the second half it was a full-time job not noticing what the chasing game does to a side's morale. Pass it to a teammate? We couldn't even throw it to a teammate. A Martian, looking on, would have wondered at the mysterious discrepancy: whenever the ball went into touch, it seemed that it could only be reintroduced to a player in a red shirt. Portugal's equaliser was both completely inevitable and richly deserved. And then the crouched supporter was left to believe that England, this booting, blocking, sliding, nutting, hacking behemoth, this hysterical combine-harvester, was about to transform itself into an instrument of attack." (Martin Amis, "We Have to Face It: English Football is just No Good," The Guardian (courtesy of Eamonn Fitzgerald).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Zionism is Fascism

M. J. Rosenberg:

"Something terribly ugly is happening in Israel. It started during Yitzhak Rabin's term as prime minister when right-wing extremists and religious fanatics joined in calling for his death and it would seem to have culminated with his assassination.

But the ugliness continues. Yigal Amir, Rabin's assassin, turned out to have been no "lone lunatic," no Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan who acted for reasons that were perhaps psychological and not political.

Not Amir. Yigal Amir was inspired to kill the prime minister by a community which believed that taking Rabin's life was a necessity ordained by God. Rabin was preparing to give up land promised to the Jews, and so it was necessary to kill him. Amir has always been proud of what he accomplished. In his mind, he did it for Israel. A joyous, triumphant smirk can be seen on Amir's face in every photograph for twelve years.

The ugly thing to which I refer is not just the assassination itself. The killing of Rabin was the worst disaster in the history of the Jewish State. Its repercussions are felt every day. I believe that had Rabin lived, Oslo would have ended with an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty and a resolution of the conflict. (By the last years of Oslo, there was virtually no terrorism in Israel thanks to IDF-PLO security cooperation.) The assassin and his friends also believed that Rabin would achieve peace which is why they wanted him dead.

But even uglier than the assassination is the nauseating fact that Yigal Amir is today a hero to a portion of the Israeli public, especially the ideological settlers. He has been treated with kid gloves by the Israeli judicial and prison system, which not only allowed him to marry while in jail but also allowed him to father a child. This week the assassin’s son was circumcised in prison so that the proud father could attend.


Last week in Haifa during a major league soccer game between Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa, a moment of silence to commemorate the Rabin assassination was interrupted when half the stadium hissed and booed Rabin's name and sang songs extolling the virtues of his assassin.

Most Israelis were appalled. Many commentators said that these fans were a small minority of soccer hooligans. But many observers disagreed, including Prime Minister Olmert who said that the assassination cheerleaders were “not a small group, as some would like to minimize it, but a large, loud, influential and raging group. . .”

To be fair, these extremists have their counterparts here too. Just as Rabin's murderer is a hero in certain parts of Israel, he is also a hero in parts of the New York metro area and Los Angeles. There are people among us who believe that all is fair in the effort to preserve the settlements and keep the Palestinians under occupation -- even murder.

In a sense, it is not surprising that occupation produces this kind of ugliness. By definition, occupation coarsens the occupier.

Furthermore, an occupation that started as the retention of lands won in a defensive war evolved, once the settlement movement began, into a fierce religious nationalist movement that is less about love of Israel than hating those perceived as Israel’s enemies, especially fellow Israelis and Jews.

These new nationalists, for the most part, have little use for the State of Israel and its leaders. Their attachment is to the Land of Israel, a place located in the Bible, in their hearts and in the West Bank settlements. They have as little use for Tel Aviv and Haifa as they do for Cairo and Damascus.

These are the Israeli counterparts of the ballyhooed Islamo-Fascists--although the people so up-in-arms about Muslim lunatics tend not to see the similarities with their Jewish brethren, and vice versa. That is one of the remarkable things about extremists. They never recognize their mirror image in the people they hate most.

One of the many things these fanatics have in common is that their biggest fear is Arab-Israeli reconciliation. That is nothing new. Following Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995, the far right in Israel organized to defeat Prime Minister Shimon Peres in order to ensure that the Oslo process had died with Rabin. At the same time, Hamas terrorists began a campaign of suicide bombing to achieve the same goal. Hamas succeeded when Peres lost the election." (M. J. Rosenberg, TPM Cafe, Nov. 9, 2007).