One Jew's News and Views


 Monday, June 30, 2003
Inequality by Race.

A correspondent asks:

...do you support AA for... upper-class blacks whose families have been wealthy for four or more generations?

It seems worth pointing out that that is almost the empty set. There are (virtually) no African-Americans whose families have been wealthy for four or more generations. There are (damn few) African-Americans whose families have been wealthy for two generations.

Tom Hertz has a sample of 2,389 African-Americans born between 1950 and 1970s. How many of them had parents whose incomes put them in the top 5% of nationwide incomes? Not 120 (which would be the case if African-Americans a generation ago had the same income distribution as whites). Not 60 (which would be the case if African-Americans a generation ago had half the chance of being in the top 5% of the nationwide income distribution as whites). But 3. Three. THREE.

The incomes of the so-called "Black Bourgeosie" were, by the standards of rich white guys, no great shakes...

[Semi-Daily Journal]

Best Piece on "Lawrence" Yet: Closing The Bedroom Door (William Safire, NYTimes)

"The Supreme Court has just slammed America's bedroom door. Sodomy — defined in the new 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate as "anal or oral copulation with a member of the same or opposite sex" — when practiced between consenting adults, straight or gay, is none of the government's business.

"Libertarian conservatives like me who place a high value on personal freedom consider Lawrence v. Texas a victory in the war to defend everyone's privacy. Homosexuals hail the decision as the law's belated recognition of fairness, which it is, but some would escalate that to American society's acceptance of their lifestyle, which is at least premature.

"...Rather than wring our hands and cry "abomination!", believers in family values should take up the challenge and repair our own house.

"Why do too many Americans derogate as losers those parents who put family ahead of career, or smack their lips reading about celebrities who switch spouses for fun? Why do we turn to the government for succor, to movie porn and violence for sex and thrills, to the Internet for companionship, to the restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner — when those functions are the ties that bind families?

"I used to fret about same-sex marriage. Maybe competition from responsible gays would revive opposite-sex marriage."


The Proletarian Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism - John Edwards calls Bush a crook-coddling pinko (Slate)

A few days ago, John Edwards delivered the most audacious speech of the 2004 presidential season. Just my luck, I missed it. Fortunately, the Edwards campaign has put the text on its Web site. The argument is so clever and ambitious that for now I'm just going to try to outline it. We'll have time to revisit it as the campaign goes on.

1) I'm pro-capitalism and anti-big government. Edwards repeatedly praised "our great free enterprise system." He argued, "American's small businesses create jobs better than any government program. Our markets allocate capital more efficiently than any bureaucrat." He repudiated "the notion among some in my party that we could spend our way out of every problem." He embraced (without crediting Bill Clinton) a philosophy that "trusts people to make the most of their own lives and gives them the chance to do so." He pledged to use savings from the partial repeal of Bush's tax cuts "not for new programs, but to restore fiscal discipline and to give tax cuts to middle-class Americans."


What Makes a Credit Score Rise or Fall?

Double Non-Taxation: How big companies and rich individuals run rings round the Inland Revenue (The Guardian)

"Multinational companies avoid corporate taxes by deliberately overpricing imports and underpricing goods and services for export. The technique goes under the name of "transfer pricing" and the game is to allocate profits to various parts of a multinational group of companies.

"Here are some examples of the prices actually charged by US multinational companies, including those with operations in the UK, to shuffle profits and avoid taxes. Overpriced imports include plastic buckets from the Czech Republic at $972.98 each, fence posts from Canada at $1,853.50 each, a kilo of toilet paper from China for $4,121.81, a litre of apple juice from Israel for $2,052, a ballpoint pen from Trinidad for $8,500, and a pair of tweezers from Japan at $4,896 each. Underpriced exports include a toilet (with bowl and tank) to Hong Kong for $1.75, prefabricated buildings to Trinidad at $1.20 each, bulldozers to Venezuela at $387.83 each, and missile and rocket launchers to Israel for just $52.03 each.

"Such practices make a dramatic difference to tax yields. The UK subsidiary of a multinational company constructs a bulldozer at a cost of £27,000 but sells it for £300 to another subsidiary in the same group of companies based, say, in Venezuela, which then sells it on for its market price of £60,000. For tax purposes, the UK subsidiary could claim a loss of £26,700 and pay no corporation tax, even though the group made a global profit of £33,000. That profit is generated by using British infrastructure, but is recorded in another country with a more favourable fiscal regime.

"Transfer pricing policies should be based on open market prices, but multinational corporations use accountancy and legalistic arguments to justify almost any price. Big accountancy firms play a major role in developing transfer pricing policies for multinational companies and then audit their accounts, declaring them to be "true and fair" None has ever had its accounts qualified for tax avoidance."


 Sunday, June 29, 2003
Time Is Brutal to GWB.

Time is brutally cruel to George W. Bush, leading this week's Iraq story with a passage showing him as so "disengaged" that he does not even know who he put in charge of the anemic and ineffectual effort to find Saddamist nuclear, chemical and biological weapons:

TIME.com: Who Lost the WMD? -- Jul. 07, 2003: Meeting last month at a sweltering U.S. base outside Doha, Qatar, with his top Iraq commanders, President Bush skipped quickly past the niceties and went straight to his chief political obsession: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Turning to his Baghdad proconsul, Paul Bremer, Bush asked, "Are you in charge of finding WMD?" Bremer said no, he was not. Bush then put the same question to his military commander, General Tommy Franks. But Franks said it wasn't his job either. A little exasperated, Bush asked, So who is in charge of finding WMD? After aides conferred for a moment, someone volunteered the name of Stephen Cambone, a little-known deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, back in Washington. Pause. "Who?" Bush asked...

[Semi-Daily Journal]

George Monbiot
"The only thing worse than a world with the wrong international trade rules is a world with no trade rules at all. George Bush seems to be preparing to destroy the WTO at the next world trade talks in September not because its rules are unjust, but because they are not unjust enough. He is seeking to negotiate individually with weaker countries, so that he can force even harsher terms of trade upon them. He wants to replace a multilateral trading system with an imperial one. And this puts the global justice movement in a difficult position."


U.S. Spending Against Terror Is Too Low, Report Warns. The United States is still not spending enough to prepare fire, police, rescue and medical agencies to handle another catastrophic attack, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. By The New York Times. [New York Times: International]


How aWol "supports the troops". Army Times

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary — including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

What what they do, not what they say... [Eschaton]

From the Nile to the Euphrates: Death threat to Jews who buy Iraq land
"A senior Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim cleric has issued a decree, or fatwa, ordering the killing of any Jew who buys real estate in Iraq, an aide has said.

The Iran-based cleric, Ayatollah Kazem al-Husseini al-Haieri, also said in his fatwa that selling real estate to Jews was forbidden for Muslims"


 Friday, June 27, 2003
Bush league cover-up: The dishonest State of the Union (Joshua Marshall)
Here's the question I'm wrestling with. How do you rebut or refute the White House's defense against the accusations that they knowingly peddled bogus intelligence when they put the Niger-uranium claims into the president's State of the Union speech?

Oh, wait a second. I forgot. They have no defense!

And I don't mean they have no defense, as in the evidence is too overwhelming. I mean, they have no defense -- as in, to the best of my knowledge, no administration figure has even tried to respond to -- let alone deny -- the allegations. They haven't even discussed the issue.

Have you noticed that?


Tax Cut Casualties. The City University of New York expects massive dropouts following its unavoidable tuition hike of $800 a year. Meanwhile President Bush is raking in $4 million and touting his tax cuts. By Bob Herbert. [New York Times: Opinion]


 Thursday, June 26, 2003
Petrodollars vs Palestinians: Energy For Israel
Sign up for this energy company and you may lower your utility bills... but you'll certainly help Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza! That's because a donation to the One Israel Fund will be made in your honor!


Why The Democrats are Losing (The New Republic)
So what would it mean for a Democrat to play by these same rules?

Well, Dick Gephardt has a plan for universal health care that would cost something on the order of $2.5 trillion over ten years.

But Gephardt could dramatically lower that price tag in the blink of an eye if only he'd be as cavalier about the use of sunsetting as Bush.

All he'd have to do was announce that he intended to sunset the plan after, say, one year, which would instantly cut the ten-year cost of the plan down to $250 billion--a veritable bargain for universal health care.

Then, after a year had passed, Gephardt could criss-cross the country complaining that, because of some "quirk of the law," Congress was about to take away the American people's health care, and that he, for one, wouldn't stand for it. Presto!--bargain-priced health insurance for all.


Measure Calls for Wider Access to Federally Financed Research. A group challenging the power of established scientific journals says legislation will be introduced to make the results of all federally financed research available to the public. By Warren E. Leary. [New York Times: Education]


 Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Buying an attack on the Brooklyn Bridge (Nielsen Hayden)
I don't see why the NYTimes is in such a fluster about this supposed terrorist threat to the Brooklyn Bridge. I just wish everyone who plotted to attack NYC were as incompetent as Iyman Faris.
Continues with an interesting discussion of how to do it right, and the implications of moving the case out of the Constitutional justice system.

From the man who brought us the Bush presidency: Rehnquist's sorry record on racism (Justice Watch)
...In 1964, Justice Rehnquist appeared before the Phoenix City Council voicing opposition to the city's proposed public accommodations ordinance. Additionally, he wrote a letter criticizing the council's decision to the Arizona Republic after the ordinance was passed.


Took them long enough to read the Conservative teshuvah: Orthodox Rabbi: Women allowed to read from the Torah (Ha'aretz)
Women can perform the act of aliyah la-Torah and even read from the Torah, says Professor Rabbi Daniel Sperber, an Orthodox rabbi who is also the chairman of Hemed, the public council that advises the Education Ministry about national religious education.


The decisive argument, according to Sperber, is the argument that the concept of the dignity of the congregation, which from the start was unclear, is now offset by the value of kevod ha-briyot - the dignity of individuals; in this case, the dignity of women who are barred from reading the Torah.

Sperber offers proof that the reasoning of kevod ha-briyot was throughout generations used as a decisive factor whenever there was doubt in Halakhic rulings; it should be applied in the same way in this case, Sperber states.

Sperber explains that his article is not in response to women who have recently started reading the Torah alongside men at Shira Hadasha community in Jerusalem. Rather, he is responding to a debate in Edah, a publication of the modern Orthodox community in the United States.

Sperber's article will likely enable many women and perhaps entire communities to allow women to perform the act of aliyah. However, Sperber feels that, in his own synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, his point of view will not be accepted. "They are so conservative that I cannot even convince them that a woman can dance with the Torah scroll on Simchas Torah."


Meet the new boss: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz will be in charge of military tribunals, CNN reports (TalkLeft)

Right War, Wrong President? Bad Planning (Tom Friedman in the NYTimes)
President Bush is sure lucky no weapons of mass destruction have been found yet in Iraq.

Because had we found these weapons our entire focus today would be on the real issue: why the Bush team — which wanted this war so badly and had telegraphed it for so long — was so poorly prepared for postwar Iraq.

I still believe that with the right effort Iraq can be made a decent place. But that task has been made much harder because of the Pentagon's poor planning for postwar Iraq. If the Pentagon's lapses can be overcome — and I hope they will be — then we should learn from them for future wars. If they can't be overcome, then they will be grist for next year's who-lost-Iraq debate.

Let's start with the biggest analytical failure. The Bush Pentagon went into this war assuming that it could decapitate the Iraqi army, bureaucracy and police force, remove the Saddam loyalists and then basically run Iraq through the rump army, bureaucracy and police.

Wrong. What happened instead was that they all collapsed, leaving a security and administrative vacuum, which the U.S. military was utterly unprepared to fill. The U.S. forces arrived in Iraq with far too few military police and civilian affairs officers to run the country.


Good God? Selected minutes acquired by Haaretz from one of last week's cease-fire negotiations between Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and faction leaders from the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular and Democratic Fronts (Ha'aretz)
According to Abbas, immediately thereafter Bush said: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."


Heavenly Intervention? Space impact 'saved Christianity' (BBC)
Did a meteor over central Italy in AD 312 change the course of Roman and Christian history?

A team of geologists believes it has found the incoming space rock's impact crater, and dating suggests its formation coincided with the celestial vision said to have converted a future Roman emperor to Christianity.

It was just before a decisive battle for control of Rome and the empire that Constantine saw a blazing light cross the sky and attributed his subsequent victory to divine help from a Christian God.


GOP wants to you eat tainted meat. Dan Morgan in WaPo:
Backed by meatpackers, pork producers and grocery chains, House Republicans today will try to undo legislation that requires stores to tell consumers what country their meat and meat products come from, starting in October 2004.


aWol dropped the ball on OBL. Seems like bureaucratic infighting in that famously tight ship, the malAdministration, prevented action.

Sources say when President George W. Bush took office in January 2001, the White House was told that Predator drones had recently spotted Osama bin Laden as many as three times.

Officials were urged to arm the unmanned planes with missiles to kill the al-Qaida leader. But the sources say the administration failed to get drones back into the Afghan skies until after the Sept. 11 attacks. ... The sources say the administration failed to get drones back into the Afghan skies until after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Top administration officials discussed a Predator mission to kill bin Laden just a week before the suicide attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. But they didn't resolve a debate over whether the CIA or the Pentagon should handle the job, or whether Predators armed with missiles would be lethal enough to do the job.

Targeting bin Laden was legally permitted under secret orders and presidential findings signed by President Bill Clinton.

The disappearance in 2001 of U.S. Predators from the skies over Afghanistan is discussed in classified sections of Congress' report into pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures. It's expected to be examined by an independent commission appointed by the president and Congress.

Say, what about that 911 report I keep hearing about? Some commission? Is aWol done censoring it yet? [Eschaton]


Sistine Condition. Vatican Art is now viewable online at the Vatican website. View the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's Rooms in all their glory (sort of). [MetaFilter]

 Tuesday, June 24, 2003
The first Israeli all-music TV station MTV the blue-and-white way (Ha'aretz)
"Our target audience is 12-30 year olds, but older people will also easily make their way to us," says Behar. "On MTV, there's no way you'd see Bob Dylan, for example, but in Israel, because the music culture is very young, everything is mixed. Youth and adults enjoy Barry Saharoff and Shlomo Artzi, and 10-year-olds like Kaveret from 1973." When it comes to how much the station will address viewers' tastes and to what extent it will dictate them, Behar and Kutner are extremely in crafting a response.


An Injustice Wrapped In A Pretense In '48 Crash, the U.S. Hid Behind National Security (Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute in the Washington Post)

"This petition is a vivid reminder that government officials can use the veil of "national security" to shield themselves from criminal prosecution for misconduct, civil legal liability or embarrassing revelations. The only way to minimize those kinds of abuses is to treat legal claims of national security with a healthy dose of skepticism."


What's wrong with an elite university with no black people in it? Equality of Opportunity (Brad deLong)

"To accept one's fair share of the collective responsibility for the evils of slavery and Jim Crow, and to do one's part not to deny or to explain away to erase the marks it has left on our country's African-American community, are burdens that every American who wants to be considered a man needs to stand up and bear."


3000 BCE: Art of the First Cities (Metropolitan Museum via Metafilter)
As it happens, Yael's summer homework for Regional Schechter involves a trip to the exhibit.


When the Constitution is subject to presidential whim: A Perversion of Justice(Warblogging.com)
At some point — almost undoubtedly after it became apparent that the evidence collected against al-Marri was unconstitutionally gathered — the US Government decided to remove Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri from the American system, as the media reports. The Constitution, despite the fact that al-Marri was captured in the United States of America, would no longer apply, they decided.

Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri has now been transferred from Justice Department custody to the custody of the United States Department of Defense. He will be held in a military brig indefinitely, without opportunity for trial, without the opportunity for counsel, without access to the outside world or even, necessarily, sunshine. He now has no rights. He now has no priveleges. He is persona non grata.

Why is al-Marri persona non grata? Because the FBI screwed up the investigation. Because it became apparent that the Department of Justice could not convict him in a court of law where the United States Constitution applied. Because it became clear that this man was, if not innocent, not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The American judicial system exists for a reason. It exists to protect the rights of everybody. It exists to protect al-Marri, just like it exists to protect you and me. We cannot pick and choose who it protects. We cannot say that some are more equal than others, or that "those inalienable and universal rights apply more to you than to me." It just can't be done.

To apply the Constitution selectively to only some people is to cease to apply the Constitution.

President Bush issued a one-page order yesterday declaring al-Marri an enemy combatant. In it, he says al-Marri's change in status was "necessary to prevent him from aiding al Qaeda in its efforts to attack the United States or its armed forces, other government personnel, or citizens."

This is a lie. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Immigration & Naturalization Service and even the Environmental Protection Agency knew that al-Marri was a suspected al-Qaeda operative. His cover had been blown. As any CIA analyst will tell you, an agent is useless once his cover has been blown.

Yudel's Line On June 23, 1972, the key conversations in the Watergate coverup took place. 31 years later to the day, another Republican president pushed along the work of shredding the Constitution.

Incidentally, here's the criminal complaint that the government doesn't want to prove in court.


Israel Trance History (Newzweek Israel via Infected Mushroom)

Israeli's are a force to be reckoned with at all major trance events. Israeli producers and DJ's have created a sub style of their own. Groups of Israelis roam around India, the summer festivals in Europe and basically everywhere where trance parties happen.

Well let us take a look at how did this happen, where do all these Israeli's come from and why do they all love Trance.

It all began back in 1988. In Tel Aviv, Israel's cultural centre, several clubs are active, most of them dedicated to new wave and rock, and the most important one of them is called "The Pinguin". Several people make the "Pinguin" their second home; amongst them are Avi Nisim, Lior Perlamuter, Yaniv Haviv, Har-El Prussky, Itzik Levi, Edi Mis, and Rami Shapira. The "Pinguin" is musically directed towards the fusion between early industrial rock (Einstruze Neubaten), New wave (Depeche mode), Kraftwerk, Psycik TV, Butthole surfers and going in the direction of heavier electronica.


America's Secret Police, Secret Courts, Servile Press: A Fate Sealed Under Secrecy (Jimmie Breslin)
Friday, the newspapers and television reported the following matter with no anger or effort to do anything other than serve as stenographers for the government:

On March 1, give or take a day, in Columbus, Ohio, the FBI arrested an American citizen they say is Iyman Faris. There wasn't a word uttered. He vanished. No lawyer was notified. He made no phone calls and wrote no postcards or letters.

He was a United States citizen who disappeared without a trace into a secret metal world.

This citizen's proper name was Mohammed Rauf. He took the Faris from a street name in his neighborhood in Columbus. I don't know why he did this for sure. A friend of mine in Columbus, Mike Weber, told me Friday that he thought the federal agents wanted him to use Faris because the real name, Rauf, purportedly would alert others that he had been caught. Who knows? You believe the FBI, you belong back in public school.

They held him secretly in an iron world for the next six weeks. This is plenty of time to hand out giant beatings. Oh, yes, don't gasp. If cops are performing a Fascist act, then always suspect them of acting like Fascists. They have fun beating people up.

In mid-April, again in deep secrecy, the government says Faris was allowed to plead guilty to plotting to pull down or blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. He was in a sealed Virginia federal courtroom. If he had a lawyer, that was some lawyer.

After that, he was sentenced. We don't know what the sentence was because it is sealed.

I don't know what Faris looks like or sounds like or what he thinks and what he was doing. He could be the worst. I don't know. Prove he wanted to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and let him paste a picture of Osama bin Laden on the cell wall for inspiration over the next half a century. But first bring him into open court and try him. Pretend you live in America. Even pick a jury. I don't know. What a thing it would be if he comes up not guilty.

What we do know is that this is your country now.


 Sunday, June 22, 2003
Haredi Sage Bans Vocational Training (Jerusalem Post)
"A leading sage of Lithuanian haredim based in Bnei Brak, known for a more pragmatic approach than his Jerusalem counterpart Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, has banned vocational training for yeshiva students.

Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman was previously one of the backers of the Nahal haredi army unit, and of technical colleges for haredim.

The surprise pronouncement which was prominently featured in the haredi press followed a recent offer of tens of millions of dollars, to fund a network of haredi vocational training centers.

The initiative proposed by two Americans was a response to the government budget cuts that challenge the financial stability of haredi families, many of whose adult males learn Torah full-time."


Lost Horizons: Fast forward into trouble (The Guardian)
Four years ago, Bhutan, the fabled Himalayan Shangri-la, became the last nation on earth to introduce television. Suddenly a culture, barely changed in centuries, was bombarded by 46 cable channels. And all too soon came Bhutan's first crime wave - murder, fraud, drug offences. Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy report from a country crash-landing in the 21st century


The Death Wish of Instutional Judaism (Douglas Rushkoff in the New York Press)
"I’m a Jew. Or, at least I was last time I checked.

"But New York’s official institutions of Judaism would say that I’m not, and, most likely, neither are you. No, it’s not because my mom’s not Jewish (the usual, racist, excuse), but because–like so many other intelligent, engaged people on this bagel-fueled island–I don’t happen to belong to a synagogue. As a result, they label me "lapsed" or, in the optimistic language of the market researchers charged with saving Judaism, "a latent Jew."

"Actually, these days they’re calling me an atheist, an Israel hater and an anti-Semite. Not because I’m saying anything bad about God, Israel or Judaism, but merely because I’m asking that we be allowed to discuss these ideas, together.

"We all know that there are some sticking points to being Jewish in America today–particularly with what’s going on in Israel. Luckily, Judaism has a wealth of built-in mechanisms for confronting the lure of fundamentalism, nationalism and tribalism. But in my effort to show Jews some of what is so very progressive and relevant about their dwindling religion, I have instead provoked their most paranoid, regressive wrath.

"What I’m learning is that today’s Jewish institutions have more to fear from Judaism than they have to gain. That’s why they’re going out of their way to keep Judaism from actually happening."

Yudel's Line: Worth reading in toto. What's shocking is that that this Clal-inspired philosophy of Judaism of the beit midrash is still being locked out by the Jewish establishment. Makes me remember why I don't regret dropping out of my post as chronicler to the Jewish establishment.


House Committee on Government Reform - Minority Office
"A new report released by Rep. Waxman shows that while President Bush's plan to eliminate personal income tax on dividends would have little impact on the average American, the three top executives at "Fortune 100" corporations would share an estimated tax savings of nearly $120 million each year. More than 20 top executives would each receive annual tax savings of over $1 million."


'Eating Apes': Almost Cannibalism (NYTimes Book Review)
"Cannibalism seems a quaint, titillating subject where we usually encounter it, in anthropological studies and spooky legends. Dale Peterson's ugly, important new book is essentially about cannibalism as construed more broadly than usual, and in his treatment it's anything but quaint. Picture a gorilla killed with a shotgun, butchered like a hog, its blood-dripping head tossed into a stewpot, its hands smoked like sausage, and you have the idea. That gorilla is no metaphor. ''Eating Apes'' is an examination of the slaughter, for food, of humanity's four closest primate relatives.

"It happens in equatorial Africa, notably those countries (Cameroon, Gabon, and both Congos, among others) where chimpanzees, bonobos (also known as pygmy chimps) and gorillas (now divided into two species by some experts) live in the wild but often find their way, dead, into meat markets, even restaurants. They are typically killed with a 12-gauge shotgun firing big-game cartridges, each cartridge containing nine heavy balls of buckshot. Joseph Melloh, a reformed Cameroonian poacher who at one time was shooting about 50 gorillas a year for the market, has testified that gorilla meat is ''sweet, very sweet.'' Each carcass was worth up to 30,000 Central African francs, roughly $50.

"Ape-eating may sound unambiguously loathsome to us, but it's part of a larger and more complicated regional context. In the Lingala language of central Africa, a trading tongue that spans ethnic divisions, the word eyama means both wild animal and meat. Likewise, as Peterson tells us, the Hausa language of Nigeria and the Swahili of eastern Africa have their variants of the same term (nama, nyama), each connoting both flesh in the forest and flesh in the pot."


Slaves in the Family: One Generation's Shame Is Another's Revelation (Brent Staples, NYTimes)

"I had always known — at least in the abstract — that slavery was somewhere in the past. But it startled me to realize that it was so recent and that my life had overlapped with the lives of people who had been bought and sold. I learned this not from my uncles — who talked ceaselessly about the family — but from a mimeographed family bulletin I came across when I was nearly 40.

"A genealogical chart showed that some of the given names in my generation had come from slave-era relatives, including the white slave owner who sired my great-grandfather. A prime source for this information was my favorite uncle, Paul, who died this spring at the age of 81. He told me hundreds of stories over the years but somehow skipped this one."


The Pet Food Business Some People's Pests Are Others' Meal Tickets (NYTimes)

"Many suppliers say demand is growing for "pinks" and "fuzzies," terms for baby mice of different ages. These mice sell for as little as 47 cents each.

"Loren Leigh, president of LLL Reptile and Supply in San Diego, buys mice from growers and resells them to zoos and private owners of reptiles. The mice are put to death with carbon dioxide, then frozen and shipped. Zoos and suppliers say it is better to freeze the mice, then thaw them just before they are fed to larger animals.

"Shipping live animals is very, very tricky, and there are animal welfare issues," said Jack Brown, director of the Santa Fe Community College Teaching Zoo, near Gainesville, Fla.


The Poor as a Handy Distraction (NYTimes editorial)
The gravest questions of fiscal responsibility for the nation are being ignored in the freakish sideshow now under way in Congress over yet another tax cut in these fiscally difficult times. President Bush and the Republican leaders should be candidly debating the $2 trillion-plus mountain of deficits and debt they are rolling onto the backs of future generations through the administration's serial tax cuts. Instead, they are obsessed with the 2004 election cycle, wrangling over how best to throw a last-minute bone to low-income Americans shortchanged in last month's tax giveaway to the most affluent Americans.

Republicans voice concern that they seem compassionate, yet not extend "welfare" to the working poor. Lost in that debate is the fact that various indefensible tax shelters were protected as corporate welfare in the lobbying frenzy for the new tax cuts. Unmentioned, too, is the fact that the nation's richest 1 percent will garner better than 25 percent of the revenue cut. Those earning more than $500,000 will average $17,000, while those down in the $40,000 bracket average $320."


Exaggerating The Threats (Newsweek)
"What we discovered about the Soviet Union after the cold war was that it was every bit as evil as we had thought—indeed more so—but that it was a whole lot less powerful than we had feared. That is what we will probably discover about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq."


Dept. of Politicized Security: Don't those bombastic fake "operations" make you want to throw up?  (Atrios)
"Anyhow, combine this (just posted by Atrios, below) on "Operation Tribute to Freedom":

[Rummy's] staffers have been phoning city officials, including some in Orange County, and strongly urging them to structure Fourth of July celebrations around the war in Iraq.

"I got the impression that they had a list of every city in the nation that had applied for a pyrotechnics permit, and were calling them to persuade them to be part of the program," said one OC city official. [italics mine]
with this (posted here June 11):

Under the federal Safe Explosives Act, aimed at improving homeland security, people wishing to put on large fireworks displays as of May 24 must have a permit from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
[italics mine]
and you've got your smoking gun that the Department of Homeland Security has already been highly politicized by the malAdministration in a mere matter of months. First DelayGate, now this.

"Good thing the DHS employees have civil service protection so they can resist pressure from aWol's political operatives. Oh, wait ...

"Operation Shameless Weasel is complex and has many components, of which Operation Tribute to Freedom is but one."


Book Review: 'Isaac Newton': Do Sit Under the Apple Tree (NYTimes)
"The most public of all of Newton's controversies concerned the priority dispute with the German polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz over the invention of the calculus.

"Yet the public brouhaha concealed a secret underside, as modern investigations of the manuscript legacy reveal.

"When Newton, as president of the Royal Society, appointed an independent investigating committee to look into the matter, the 18th-century public could not know that it was Newton who wrote draft after draft of the committee's report, and who also wrote the anonymous review of the report that appeared in The Philosophical Transactions, the official organ of the Royal Society.

"The Newton-Leibniz rivalry was not limited to the invention of the calculus. After the ''Principia'' appeared, Leibniz wrote to acquaintances saying he had had no idea Newton was working on the problem of motion, and so he published his own, presumably earlier account. When Newton saw it, he opined that Leibniz couldn't have done it without seeing his own work. Late in the 20th century, when Leibniz's manuscripts were finally sorted out, his first draft was found to contain frequent page references to the ''Principia''!"

Yudel's Line: For more Newtonian fun, you might want to check out Newton in a Bottle, a computer animated video featuring gravity, action-reaction, and color blending in a calm, toddler-friendly format. No voice over; just classical music and an animated cat / ball rolling along.


 Friday, June 20, 2003
The Bush Economy: Less Than Zero - How next week's Fed interest-rate cut will jostle $2 trillion in money-market investments (Slate)
"What a blow it would be to the Fed if reducing interest rates to 45-year lows winds up increasing borrowing costs for businesses it's supposed to benefit."


Religion of Peace Burns Churches in Kenya (Little Green Footballs)
"In Kenya, five Christian churches have been burned down, apparently by followers of a pastor who converted to the peaceful religion of Islam"


 Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Fighting That Contagion of the Classroom, Senioritis. More and more schools are reacting to the traditional senior slump, also known as senioritis, in innovative ways. By Marek Fuchs. [New York Times: Education]

For Those Who Can Afford It, 2 New Chances to Fly to Space. An American company and the Russian space agency are to announce an agreement to resume tourist flights to the International Space Station in 2004 or 2005. By John Schwartz. [New York Times: Business]

Antiques Authority: 'James Ossuary' is a modern-day forgery [Haarez updates]

 Monday, June 16, 2003
A commercial message....


Roadkill for Revenue: I Told You So (The Agitator)
Studies show that lengthening yellows actually prevents more accidents than traffic cameras. But lengthening yellows doesn't generate millions for city coffers.

Politicians and cops sold us on traffic cameras under the guise of safety. Well, they sold you. The rest of us knew it was about revenue. Now you have neither safety nor freedom. They're making intersections more dangerous, and they're ticketing you every chance they get.

Yudel's Line: This bit of fiscal wickedness is really a logical consequence of the Republican anti-tax mantra. Once taxation is no longer politically-correct, governments will be looking at less fair ways of keeping themselves going.


Don't Try This at Home: Tacit Knowledge -- Writing a Book (Two Blowhards)
"Isn't it interesting how many people dream of writing a book? It's sweet, and it's (mostly) harmless, and I guess I once semi-shared that dream, and I guess one or two brain cells still make room for the possibility that I will someday write a book (fat chance). But, but, but ... Then I followed the book-publishing industry for 15 years."


Advertisement for Myself
Time to buy a SimpleTech 256 MB CompactFlash Card for my digital camera.


Well, Now He Certainly Knows How it Feels..  (Allison Kaplan Sommer)
"A front-page story in the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot reports that U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer lost his beloved cousin Anna Orgel, 55, in the recent Jerusalem bus bombing. They were the same age and apparently very close.

"When he learned of Kurtzer's loss, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately met with him and consoled him "with very personal words," Kurtzer speaking of his cousin "with tears in his eyes," describing their "close relationship over many years."

"Kurtzer's mother was the first cousin of Orgel's father. Because both families are Holocaust survivors, without many branches left on their family tree, according to the paper, the Orgels are the Kurtzer's family's closest surviving members. Kurtzer attended her funeral but no eulogies were given, and he, like everyone else, stood silently, Yediot reported.

"Orgel was single without children, having devoted her life to the arts, working at the Jerusalem Cinemateque and in museums."


 Sunday, June 15, 2003
Summer weddings should be in waterslide parks.  [Philip Greenspun Weblog]

Thus far this summer I've endured two weddings.  One was at a golf course by the sea and the other in a fancy hotel in Harvard Square.  Both seem like cruel wastes of a day.  It is so painful to sit indoors and look out the window and think "we could be out there moving around, having fun, enjoying the warm weather."  The feeling is especially acute if one has driven a long distance to attend the wedding.

Imagine instead a wedding held at a waterslide park.  The ceremony would be at the top of one of the big waterslides and people would leave the aisles by jumping into the tubes.  Instead of warmed-over surf and turf guests could wander around getting freshly grilled hot dogs from the usual theme park vendors.  Rather than having to buy expensive and ugly bridesmaid dresses the guests need only show up in a swimsuit.  Most important everyone would remember that they left the house and had a lot of fun.

Most weddings seem to cost at least $200 per guest and therefore the cost of renting out a smaller and/or older theme park should not be prohibitive.


Down and Out in White-Collar America (Fortune)
"The scariest blue-collar parallel, however, is only just beginning to be felt in the white-collar world: overseas competition. Like automakers that moved production from Michigan to Mexico or textile firms that abandoned the Southeast for the Far East, service firms are now shifting jobs to cheaper locales like India and the Philippines. It's not just call centers anymore. Indian radiologists now analyze CT scans and chest X-rays for American patients in an office park in Bangalore, not far from where Ernst & Young has 200 accountants processing U.S. tax returns. E&Y's tax prep center in India is only 18 months old, but the company already has plans to double its size. Corporate America is quickly learning that a cubicle can be replicated overseas as easily as a shop floor can."

But: Joel Sopolsky says: "
This is, quite frankly, no different than four years ago during the "New Economy" bullshit when they were blabbing about a new, permanently high level for stock prices as if there would never be business cycles again. It's just bullshit. The economy is cyclical and has been for hundreds of years. In fact the sure sign that things are about to change is when the conventional wisdom becomes, "things will never change.""


Fresh From Consumer Polls, Pint-Size Watermelons (NYTimes)

 Friday, June 13, 2003
The Value - and Price - of Jewish Education: Why Jews Don't Farm

Botticini and Eckstein explain why other groups didn't leave the land. The temptation was certainly there: Skilled urban jobs have always paid better than farming, and that's been true since the time of Christ. But those jobs require literacy, which requires education—and for hundreds of years, education was so expensive that it proved a poor investment despite those higher wages. (Botticini and Eckstein have data on ancient teachers' salaries to back this up.) So, rational economic calculus dictated that pretty much everyone should have stayed on the farms.

But the Jews (like everyone else) were beholden not just to economic rationalism, but also to the dictates of their religion. And the Jewish religion, unique among religions of the early Middle Ages, imposed an obligation to be literate. To be a good Jew you had to read the Torah four times a week at services: twice on the Sabbath, and once every Monday and Thursday morning. And to be a good Jewish parent you had to educate your children so that they could do the same.

The literacy obligation had two effects. First, it meant that Jews were uniquely qualified to enter higher-paying urban occupations. Of course, anyone else who wanted to could have gone to school and become a moneylender, but school was so expensive that it made no sense. Jews, who had to go to school for religious reasons, naturally sought to earn at least some return on their investment. Only many centuries later did education start to make sense economically, and by then the Jews had become well established in banking, trade, and so forth.

The second effect of the literacy obligation was to drive a lot of Jews away from their religion. Botticini and Eckstein admit that they have little direct evidence for this conclusion, but there's a lot of indirect evidence. First, it makes sense: People do tend to run away from expensive obligations. Second, we can look at population trends: While the world population increased from 50 million in the sixth century to 285 million in the 18th, the population of Jews remained almost fixed at just a little over a million. Why were the Jews not expanding when everyone else was? We don't know for sure, but a reasonable guess is that a lot of Jews were becoming Christians and Muslims.


Convicted Monopolist Watch: Linux Version of Microsoft-Acquired Antivirus Product Doomed (PC World)
"Is Microsoft using this as a method to take away commercial products from the Linux community?"


Borrow and Spend: House Democrats Look for G.O.P. Votes to Defeat Tax Cut (New York Times) (NYTimes)
"The Congressional Budget Office projected that this year's deficit would exceed $400 billion, by far the largest ever. A report prepared today by Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal budget group, found that one of every three dollars spent by the federal government this year outside of Social Security would be paid for by borrowing, the highest such percentage since World War II."


The DeLay Danger 'Some Crazy Guy' (Paul Krugman)
"A telling anecdote: When an employee tried to stop Mr. DeLay from smoking a cigar on government property, the majority leader shouted, "I am the federal government." Not quite, not yet, but he's getting there.

So what will Mr. DeLay and his associates do with their lock on power, once it is firmly established? They will push through a radical right-wing agenda. For example, expect to see much less environmental protection: Mr. DeLay has described the Environmental Protection Agency as "the Gestapo."

Above all, expect to see the wall between church and state come tumbling down. Mr. DeLay has said that he went into politics to promote a "biblical worldview," and that he pursued President Clinton because he didn't share that view. Where would this worldview be put into effect? How about the schools: after the Columbine school shootings, Mr. DeLay called a press conference in which he attributed the tragedy to the fact that students are taught the theory of evolution.

There's no point in getting mad at Mr. DeLay and his clique: they are what they are. I do, however, get angry at moderates, liberals and traditional conservatives who avert their eyes, pretending that current disputes are just politics as usual. They aren't "


Sweet Smell of Nostalgia : The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (via Boing Boing)
The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 Edited by David Ahl, published 1976

My first computer magazine subscription when I was a kid. Contents include Hunt the Wumpus and other BASIC games!


"Hell is other people. Except you, you're different." The political philosophy / political theory pick-up line contest (OxBlog)

The brave of the peace: Egypt bans 'too religious' Matrix (BBC)
"Despite the high technology and fabulous effects of the movie, it explicitly handles the issue of existence and creation, which are related to the three divine religions, which we all respect and believe in," said the Egyptian censorship board.

The movie "tackles the issue of the creator and his creations, searching the origin of creation and the issue of compulsion and free will," it said.

"Such religious issues, raised in previous times, caused crises."


Freedom fries are just another million for the Jews? McDonald’s to sponsor kosher ed after lawsuit proceeds divvied up (JTA)
The following five Jewish groups were selected to divide the $1 million:

  • Jewish Community Centers Association will receive $200,000 to develop curricula about kosher food laws and practices. The curricula will be distributed to JCC’s throughout the country and staff will be trained to develop new educational programs.

  • The Orthodox Union will receive $150,000 for education about kosher observances via meetings and publications and on its Web site. The money also will go toward educating kosher food supervisors, through national seminars, for example.

  • Star-K/Torah.org will receive $300,000 to expand its Web site to offer an online, interactive course for schools, hospitals, synagogues and others on creating and maintaining a kosher kitchen. Among other services, the site will respond to questions from individuals who observe dietary laws less strictly and will provide research on the kosher status of nutritional supplements.

  • CLAL — National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership will get $50,000 to host conferences on kashrut and disseminate the resulting ideas.

  • Two-thirds of Hillel’s $300,000 allotment will go toward building and renovating kosher dining facilities on campus. The remaining amount will be used for an educational program, “You Are What You Eat: A Kashrut Conversation,” and to supply students with kosher recipes.

Yudel's Line: Pardon me for a moment of pointless JTA bashing. From the story's lead: "McDonald’s and kashrut? Only in Israel, one might think." Well, one might think that. Unless one read the numerous articles about the topic such as, ahem, the one I wrote for the Forward nearly a year ago.

Then again, maybe it's unfair to take potshots at JTA. I mean, its pretty up-to-the-minute, for a telegraph agency.


Courage: Upstart Rabbinical School Set To Fight for Pulpit Jobs (The Forward)
An upstart rabbinical school housed in the basement of a Manhattan synagogue is poised to fill more Orthodox pulpits a year than the Modern Orthodox flagship Yeshiva University.

This is the projection put forth by the fledgling Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the brainchild of the charismatic Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Bronx.

According to the school's figures, pulpit rabbis from Chovevei Torah could soon outnumber those ordained by Y.U.'s rabbinical school. In the past four years, Y.U.'s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary has ordained 147 rabbis, but only 24 of them have gained full-time posts leading congregations. Weiss's yeshiva, with its intensive pastoral training, plans to secure pastorates for most of its growing student body, now numbering 31. If the rabbinic internships are any indication, Weiss may achieve his goal of minting around 8 pulpit rabbis a year — starting with the first official graduating class of 2004.


The Local Angle: New Jersey Senator's Daughter Injured In Jerusalem Terror Attack (WCBS)
TRENTON -- The daughter of a New Jersey state senator says she wants to stay in Israel, even after she was wounded in a suicide bombing.

Sarri Singer, 29, was recovering at a Jerusalem hospital on Thursday after surgery to remove a large piece of shrapnel from her shoulder. She is the daughter of New Jersey state legislator Robert Singer, a Republican from Ocean County.

On her way to visit a friend for dinner, Singer was sitting in the back of the Egged Lines no. 14 bus as it rumbled down Jaffa Street, past the outdoor market and into the heart of the city, when a Palestinian suicide bomber stepped on and detonated his explosives, killing himself and 16 others and wounding about 70.


 Wednesday, June 11, 2003
At Auschwitz, with Arabs and Jews: Pilgrims' Progress (Yossi Klein Halevi in The New Republic)
"We gather for the Israeli custom of reciting the names of victims. This time, though, Arabs read the names. While much of the Arab world promotes Holocaust denial, here Arabs are affirming the legitimacy of our story. Whatever disagreements await our return to Israel, I know that, for my Arab partners, the notion of Jews being murdered for being Jews has become unbearable. Listening to the Yiddish names recited in Arabic accents, I sense a new language being born."


To this site's newest visitor
Welcome to whoever it was who came here by searching Google for proudly nude little boys. Enjoy your search for the photos and pictures on this site.....


Good for the Greedy: The Estate Tax and Charitable Giving (OMB Watch)
The total annual loss of charitable giving would thus be approximately $10 billion per year. Finally, there are reasons to believe that losses may be greater than these estimates.

The largest dollar impact would be on private foundations. Using the Bakija and Gale estimates, in 2001, private foundations would have lost between $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion.[10] This is the equivalent of starting a new foundation larger than the grantmaking Carnegie Corporation of New York each year. Most foundations accrue net investment income, thus sustaining ongoing grant-making each year. This means that the impact of estate tax repeal would have a long-term impact on philanthropic support of community activities, ranging from support for education to arts, from environment to community development, and from research to advocacy.


Study on Effectiveness of Faith-Based Services Shows Little Difference (OMB Watch)

The study found no difference in the job placement rate or starting pay for people in the two types of programs. However, participants in the faith-based programs worked fewer hours and were less likely to have health insurance.

The study also surveyed congregational leaders interested in seeking government grants, and found that 67% did not know that government funds cannot be used to support prayer and bible study in programs.


Michael Savage vs. the First Amendment: What is the Weiner lawsuit against Take Back the Media really about? (TakeBackTheMedia.com)
"It's about a large corporation attempting to take away the free speech of regular Americans with a point of view. It's about people with deep pockets using money and influence to run roughshod over people who don't agree with them.

"It's about a radio blowhard with pitifully thin skin, whose radio show is failing miserably, and whose TV show can't even finance itself through national advertising due to its toxic, stunted, hateful, pathetic content, taking out his failure on web sites who speak truth to power. It's about boosting ratings, and providing talking points, and throwing red meat to a tiny audience who can't raise themselves out of bed in the morning unless they have a target for their festering hate.

"It's about a small-minded bully who has raised professional victimhood to obscene levels. It's about a loudmouth who regularly rants about the evils of 'trial lawyers' hiring batteries of those same evil trial lawyers to intimidate and silence people with a lot less money.

"It's about rendering the 'power of the purse' - the right to boycott products, services and media outlets you disagree with - a thing of the past. By equating criticism of hate speech with denying him his a right to make a living, Weiner wants to take your right to protest via boycott away from you."


 Sunday, June 08, 2003
Not a Fan: On Seeing Hillary in Action (Brad de Long)

"My two cents' worth--and I think it is the two cents' worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994--is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life. She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn't smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly.

"So when senior members of the economic team said that key senators like Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have this-and-that objection, she told them they were disloyal. When junior members of the economic team told her that the Congressional Budget Office would say such-and-such, she told them (wrongly) that her conversations with CBO head Robert Reischauer had already fixed that. When long-time senior hill staffers told her that she was making a dreadful mistake by fighting with rather than reaching out to John Breaux and Jim Cooper, she told them that they did not understand the wave of popular political support the bill would generate. And when substantive objections were raised to the plan by analysts calculating the moral hazard and adverse selection pressures it would put on the nation's health-care system...

"Hillary Rodham Clinton has already flopped as a senior administrative official in the executive branch--the equivalent of an Undersecretary. Perhaps she will make a good senator. But there is no reason to think that she would be anything but an abysmal president."

 Tuesday, June 03, 2003

From Electrolite:

David Scott Marley was always one of our favorite Well posters, whether under the "hudu" ID or otherwise. On his weblog, he quotes Newsweek:

It is disheartening that the military was unable to secure Saddam's large nuclear-material storage site at Al Tuwaitha before the looters got there. Materials for a "dirty bomb" could have found their way by now into the hands of terrorists.
Says Scott:
I like "unable". Makes it sound like they tried and couldn't pull it off. It is disheartening that Enron was unable to balance its books. It is disheartening that Neil Bush was unable to return the profits he made off the S&L deregulation scandal. It is disheartening that Jeb Bush was unable to ensure an accurate count of his state's ballots. That kind of thing.

[Semi-Daily Journal]

Death of a Thousand Cuts: President on security: Tough talk, soft funding (Miami Herald Op Ed)
The Bush administration has won a reputation for toughness by claiming sweeping surveillance authority and broad emergency powers to detain citizens and foreign nationals without judicial approval. But when money is needed, homeland counter-terrorism priorities repeatedly take a back seat to the president's tax-cutting agenda.

Last year, Congress appropriated millions to enhance airport security, FBI counter-terrorism technology and protection of the food and water supply. But in August, President Bush froze the bulk of these funds, stressing the need for ''fiscal restraint.'' Obviously, cutting taxes cuts revenue.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency that protects our nuclear stockpile and weapons laboratories, has had a shortage of security guards. Yet the agency was forced to announce a hiring freeze last November because of budget constraints.

The administration identified 123 chemical plants where a terror attack could kill thousands of people, but it accepted a weak bill that leaves responsibility for security with private industry (repeating the mistake we thought we had learned from Sept. 11) and provides little funding for enforcement.

The White House has rebuffed efforts of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla., and other congressional leaders to meet the needs of police, firefighters and other ''first responders''; in the current budget cycle, the administration opposes a $5-billion grant program crafted by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and attempted to eliminate $900 million in law-enforcement grants sought by House Republicans.

Security for our ports is an urgent priority. The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 mandates extensive improvements but provides no money to meet the need, a deliberate omission repeated in Bush's 2003 budget. The 2002 maritime act also mandates vulnerability assessments at the nation's 55 largest ports, but at the current pace, slowed by lack of funds, the assessments won't be completed until 2009.

Efforts to upgrade facilities at the Centers for Disease Control lag badly. Though he often refers to the catastrophic dangers of bioterrorism, Bush has sought no increase in funding for the CDC. His 2003 budget actually cuts overall funding for the CDC and trims more than $10 million from its crucial Center for Infectious Diseases. The funding squeeze stymied CDC plans for an urgently needed emergency-operations center. The center was finally completed last month, only because a private donor contributed $4 million for the project.



 Monday, June 02, 2003
Varieties of Religious Experience: Joseph Dan Reviews Rachel Elior (Ha'aretz)
Rachel Elior's broad historical perspective on mysticism and the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls demands that the reader grapple anew with the essence of Jewish tradition . Here new book, "Mikdash Umerkava, Kohanim Umalachim, Heikhal Veheikhalot Bamishkan Hayehudit Hakduma" ("The Temple and Chariot, Priests and Angels, Sanctuary and Heavenly Sanctuaries in Early Jewish Mysticism"), which was discussed extensively by Prof. Yehuda Liebes (Haaretz, January 31, 2003), is one of a very small number of research books that bring up, sharply and in depth, the question: "Who, in fact, are we?"

It deals with many historical issues and ideas, some of which were discussed in Liebes' review.

However, in this book, unlike the others, these issues come together as a whole that casts doubt on notions that have been accepted for many years and demand of the reader that he grapple anew with the essence of Jewish tradition as a whole.

The three of us - Prof. Elior, Prof. Liebes and myself - share a broad common denominator, which is a deep interest in questions that are connected to the beginnings of Jewish mysticism, and each of us, in his or her own way, has devoted decades and scores of articles to clarifying the issue.

However, the book by Elior that is now before us goes beyond this framework.

 The beginning of the Jewish mystical tradition is one of the facets that becomes clear from within an overall picture of the history of the Jewish religion in the period between the construction of the Second Temple and its destruction, a period that laid the foundations for Jewish life in the subsequent periods.

Elior's conclusions - and additional conclusions that derive from the acceptance of her theoretical approach - can on the one hand undermine and, on the other, lead to innovation in significant aspects of the experience of Judaism. I was very familiar with Elior's prior studies in this field that were published in journals in Israel and abroad, as well as studies that have not yet been published, yet nevertheless I was quite surprised by reading the book and by the radicalism of the conclusions it suggests. With respect to a number of issues I have not formulated an opinion, and with respect to others, I have doubts and difficulties. However, I hope that a ramified and thorough debate will develop and Prof. Liebes did well to open it.

I shall set forth here a selection of key issues that in my opinion are at the center of this debate... [continue reading...]


Flash Frying the Neighborhood: King David Says... (Gil Ronen)
Yudel's Line: I don't know which is scarier: That the cartoonist who made this piece thinks this is hasbara, or the scary new meaning this King-David-In-Our-Time cartoon provides for the "slingshot effect"


Same Old, Same Old: Rushkoff Interview Yanked From UJA Website (Rushkoff.com)
I'm doing a charity talk next week for Camp Wellmet - a Jewish-sponsored camp for urban kids. It's being hosted by the United Jewish Appeal center in NYC, so everyone thought it would be a good idea for me to do an interview for the UJA website.

I just received an email from the interviewer, who told me that the "interview was removed from the UJA-Federation Web site. Although the piece had been previously approved, a heightened sensitivity to some of the topics we discussed emerged here at UJA-Federation once it was actually posted."

Further, he went on, "Although it was only online for a day or two, it was included in our weekly email newsletter and I'm happy to report that it received many more click-throughs than the other items in the message. I am hopeful this evidence will compel us to promote a wider array of viewpoints and opinions in the future.

Yudel's Line: Someone bright shares his talents and his thoughts with the UJA. People click on the email newsletter to read what he has to say. And then the powers-that-be pull it from the web site. Memo to Machers: The cluetrain is passing you by!


© Copyright 2003 Larry Yudelson.
Last update: 12/23/2003; 1:44:48 AM.