Friday, October 31, 2003

Those Jews

I was going to blog about another Victor Davis Hanson article today, but it can wait. I read this one today and was simultaneously elated by his clarity and devastated by its implications. I keep seeing so much evidence of anti-semitism that I am no longer shocked, but rather, a bit unhinged. But if there is a silver lining in this, or at least a ray of hope, it is that there are so many non-Jews, like Hanson (and Sullivan and many others) who see what is going on, are equally alarmed by it, and are talking about it again, and again, and again.

Read the whole's all a money quote. And for teasers, try this:
"These are weird, weird times, and before we win this messy war against Islamic fascism and its sponsors, count on things to get even uglier. Don't expect any reasoned military analysis that puts the post-9/11 destruction of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein's evil regime, along with the liberation of 50 million at the cost of 300 American lives, in any sort of historical context. After all, in the current presidential race, a retired general now caricatures U.S. efforts in Iraq and quotes Al Sharpton.

Do not look for the Islamic community here to acknowledge that the United States, in little over a decade, freed Kuwait, saved most of the Bosnians and Kosovars, tried to feed Somalis, urged the Russians not to kill Chechnyans, belatedly ensured that no longer were Shiites and Kurds to be slaughtered in Iraq, spoke out against Kuwait's ethnic cleansing of a third of a million Palestinians — and now is spending $87 billion to make Iraqis free.

That the Arab world would appreciate billions of dollars in past American aid to Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority, or thank America for its help in Kuwait and Kosovo, or be grateful to America for freeing Iraq — all this is about as plausible as the idea that Western Europeans would acknowledge their past salvation from Nazism and Soviet Communism, or be grateful for the role the United States plays to promote democracy in Panama, Haiti, the Balkans, or the Middle East.

No, in this depressing age, the real problem is apparently our support for democratic Israel and all those pesky Jews worldwide, who seem to crop up everywhere as sly war makers, grasping film executives, conspiratorial politicians, and greedy colonialists, and thus make life so difficult for the rest of us.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Even the Broken Clock is right twice a day...

So said the wise sage and loveable Papa Kaufman on Tom Friedman many months ago when I commented favorably on one of Friedman's articles. Well, time and Thomas largely coincided again today with this article, entitled appropriately, "It's No Vietnam." He first grabbed me with this passage:
"The great irony is that the Baathists and Arab dictators are opposing the U.S. in Iraq because — unlike many leftists — they understand exactly what this war is about. They understand that U.S. power is not being used in Iraq for oil, or imperialism, or to shore up a corrupt status quo, as it was in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Arab world during the cold war. They understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched — a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world."
He then followed it with something you can only find in a Post-Raines NYTimes:
"Most of the troubles we have encountered in Iraq (and will in the future) are not because of "occupation" but because of "empowerment." The U.S. invasion has overturned a whole set of vested interests, particularly those of Iraq's Sunni Baathist establishment, and begun to empower instead a whole new set of actors: Shiites, Kurds, non-Baathist Sunnis, women and locally elected officials and police. The Qaeda nihilists, the Saddamists, and all the Europeans and the Arab autocrats who had a vested interest in the old status quo are threatened by this."
Outstanding stuff and right on the money. But alas, time moves on and the clock reveals itself to still be what it is most of the time...broken; Tommy just couldn't help but slam Bush and cast angst-ridden doubt on Bush's ability to follow through:
Can this administration, whose national security team is so divided, effectively stay the course in Iraq? Has the president's audacity in waging such a revolutionary war outrun his ability to articulate what it's about and to summon Americans for the sacrifices victory will require? Can the president really be a successful radical liberal on Iraq, while being such a radical conservative everywhere else — refusing to dismiss one of his own generals who insults Islam, turning a deaf ear to hints of corruption infecting the new Baghdad government as it's showered with aid dollars, calling on reservists and their families to bear all the burdens of war while slashing taxes for the rich, and undertaking the world's biggest nation-building project with few real allies?
Did he just feel he had to throw in this littany to re-establish his left credentials? What the hell does tax policy have to do with an analysis of whether Bush has the staying power for Iraq? Is his foreign policy team that divided? Calling up reservists is wrong because.... (in fact, doesn't it demonstrate his conviction). Look, PLENTY of administration mistakes to talk about. But this was just an add on. And a badly thought-through add on. Whatever one thinks of Bush, only the loopiest would conclude that he invaded and overthrew TWO Muslim countries for political gain. The political risk involved in these ventures, particularly Iraq, where HUGE. And still are. Bush isn't playing politics here. And Thomas just can't fathom that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Israeli 'guard pigs'

Hee, hee. According to the BBC:
An organisation in Israel has gained rabbinical approval to train pigs to guard Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Until now, Jewish settlements have been guarded by men with guns and also by guard dogs.

But a new idea - guard pigs - has been thought up by an organisation called The Hebrew Battalion.

The man in charge, Kuti Ben-Yaakov, insists it is a serious proposal.

"Pigs' sense of smell is far more developed than that of dogs," he said.

"The pigs will also be able to identify weapons from huge distances, and walk in the direction of the terrorist, thereby pointing him out.

"Moreover, this animal is considered to be dangerous by Islam and, according to the Muslim faith, a terrorist who touches a pig is not eligible for the 70 virgins in heaven."

I've always thought that it should be made clear that the remains of any suicide bombers will be buried with pig and dog bones, which, I understand, will prevent a Muslim from going to heaven. Maybe that would stop it.

...And you turn yourself around...

Among other things, Lileks's take on The Hokey Pokey, that childhood classic which my mother routinely used to pull me out of a sulk, by fooling me into doing the damned thing.

Dennis Prager on The Passion

Dennis Prager has an interesting take on Mel Gibson's new movie, The Passion.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Brad and Jennifer try Mid-East diplomacy

Sigh. Evidently Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, and Danny DeVito will be traveling to Israel "in the belief that their charms will work magic on the Israeli-Arab conflict."

Uh, huh.

As Israeli sociologist Oz Almog (which, even I must confess, sounds a little bit like one of the names from Quest For Fire) notes:
Many Palestinians do not even have television sets. What is more, for the past three years here no one has listened to anyone, so what makes these people think they will listen to Danny DeVito?"

And I like all of them. Oh, well.

Thanks to Reasonblog for the pointer.

Rock Paper Scissors through history

Eugene Volokh points to the World Rock Paper Scissors Society home page. As he notes, the best part is the "Historical Archives."

Friday, October 24, 2003

Bad-Driver World Series

From Dave Barry's Blog:


Maybe this has been said before, but i just realized the unifying factor of this World Series: No one with half a brain wants to be anywhere near the traffic when the games let out. This World Series has succeeded in combining the two worst sets of drivers in the world in it's fans: New Yorkers and Floridians. It's only a matter of time before some poor Marlins fan on his way home from a game and in the left lane of I-95 doing 40 with his turn signal on is run down by a Yankees fan doing 'Warp 7' and is surprised that an accident occurred because, after all, 'He should have heard me coming, I've been leaning on my horn for the past mile and a half.'
Just an observation.
-- Daniel 'Nude Klan, Hi!' Kuhn (or possibly 'Unkind Heal')

You're kidding...

The Wall Street Journal discovers that PBS is biased leftward.

Stop the presses.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

All the News that's fit to print....

The headline on line in the New York Times reads:
Bush Is Heckled in Australian Parliament
Four paragraphs in you read
"With thousands of anti-war demonstrators protesting outside the building and two hecklers jeering him from within, ... (emphasis added).
Always best to read the fine print....

Dad's Response to David's Response

This is how you treat your father???? Ah, me.... the Fifth Commandment seems no longer to have any meaning whatsoever.......

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

When Protesters Attack

Evan Coyne Maloney, a guy who goes to protests and interviews people, often showing their relative ignorance about the subject they're supposedly very up in arms about, went to the Palestinian Solidarity Conference near Rutgers University earlier this month, and reports that he was physically attacked at the rally.

Even before the first speaker addressed the rally, people walked among the attendees, once again pointing us out as "Zionists". One protester came up to the camera and started blocking it with his sign. When I moved the camera several feet away, and the protester followed and again obstructed the view. I moved again, and he followed again. I tried raising the camera above the sign, but he just raised his sign.

We started asking him why he was trying to censor us. (One of the complaints made by the protesters was that the university tried to censor them. But if they were so sensitive to censorship, why were they trying to do it to me?) He didn't have an answer. I asked again while moving the camera, and again, no response. The commotion attracted a group of protesters, who surrounded me and blocked the camera's view in all directions.

Once again, I tried to move, but I was now completely encircled. When I tried to escape, the protesters then started smacking the camera with their signs, while others were shoving me from different directions. I started retreating, pushing my way back from the loudspeaker, all the while leaving the camera running and asking the protesters why they weren't letting me film. One man tried to prevent me from getting audio by unleashing a high-pitched squeal into the microphone. Another man asked me whether my camera was expensive, a question that--under the circumstances--I interpreted as a veiled threat.

Alexis and Tim also had cameras and were able to snap some stills and shoot few seconds of video. But they, too, were set upon by protesters. When they tried to use their cameras, protesters would put signs in the way. They dodged and weaved like basketball players, but at each turn, they were stopped. One protester with a masked face lunged at Alexis, threatening to break her camera and telling her, "I'm gonna kick your fucking ass." She was also hit by signs.

There's also a video report of the incident.

Peace lovers, all.

Jukebox From Hell

I just discoved this blog: Jukebox From Hell which helpfully lists the most horrible, wretched, evil songs of all time.

And yes, Dad, T A Y R... is on there, as #49.

But Afternoon Delight is #24.

Told 'ya.

Dad's response...

My father, who doesn't feel like blogging this himself, writes:

It just goes to show you that no matter how brilliant a person is (and my son, David, is unquestionably one of the most brilliant, most humorous, best looking and all around good guys of all time), when it comes to music, he has an incurable blind spot.

Of course, the mere mention of that vile TAYR..... song (I cant even complete the intitials) has now caused me to go into a humming fit that makes me want to jump out of the window. However, "Afternoon Delight" is one of the great songs of all times. It brings back sunlit memories of law school, strolling in Georgetown and more innocent times.

David can be a disappointment at times!

Stuart Kaufman
Management Recruiters of Great Neck

To which I simply respond that music is a matter of great subjectivity and personal opinion, and my father's is wrong.

Because Afternoon Delight just plain sucks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


Prepare to waste a huge amount of time.

Thanks (?) to Dave Barry.

Who knew?

According to Paul Krugman, it's Bush's fault that the Prime Minister of Malaysia had his anti-semitic hissy fit the other day.
"Now Mr. Mahathir thinks that to cover his domestic flank, he must insert hateful words into a speech mainly about Muslim reform. That tells you, more accurately than any poll, just how strong the rising tide of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism among Muslims in Southeast Asia has become. Thanks to its war in Iraq and its unconditional support for Ariel Sharon, Washington has squandered post-9/11 sympathy and brought relations with the Muslim world to a new low.
Amazing. It never occured to me. If we just had Bill Clinton (or anyone other than the religious zealot Bush) in the White House, there wouldn't be rising anti-semitism in the Muslim world. So simple.

I wonder ... At what point does anyone else in the world bear responsibility for their actions other than the US (actually, just Bush) and Israel?

Liberal Hawks

My heros. Really. I like people who buck the trend, as a principal, ... or at least those that use their head. Various writers with leftish instincts supported the war, the most obvious being Hitchens and Paul Berman (if you haven't read his book, Terror and Liberalism, stop everything and buy it now. No really).

James Atlas from the NYTimes wrote a piece on a number of these guys. While the article has good elements, like all Times articles it comes with a slant.... Atlas decided that perhaps these guys aren't really liberals at all but really Neocons. Now, since I happen to like neocons, that would be fine; but to Atlas, I think, it is really a way to discredit them in the eyes of the left...lest this phenomenon spread. Atlas, as you may remember, was the guy who wondered whether Bush's foreign policy was being run by a 'cabal' of Leo Straus devotees (ahhh, those pesky Jews again).

This sparked some interesting thought, as always, from Norm Geras, Michael Totten and Oliver Kamm. Michael was particularly thoughtful on his own analysis of himself as it relates to neoconservatism; Kamm gave a terrific analysis of the piece itself. What I took away is something I have suspected for awhile. What unites many of those on the right and left in their support of the war and in their view of foreign policy, is belief in the strong defense of a liberal society and democracy against the opposing ideologies of totalitarianism and fascism. Clearly a very general statement, and I have no doubt that there are many of those who opposed the war that feel that they are doing the same thing....although they see the real threat from within the country. The war supporters are unabashed in their defense of this country and its principles and history--warts and all--and see the threat (properly in my view) outside, from forces that will fight us no matter what our foreign policy is.

More earworm things.

Appropos to David's story below concerning Stuart's total aversion to a certain song, here's an anecdote about TAYRRTOOT and Stuart. It's absolutely true.

A number of years ago, Stuart and I were watching TV in bed, when a news story came on about a family with a missing child. The family was interviewed out in their yard, and there were a number of YRs tied around the OOTs. Stuart's looking at it and asks me what's the reason for all the bows. Now, I have been warned (nay, browbeaten) for years against even the mere whisper of that song title, and I was really in a difficult position.

So I said, "I can't tell you."

"You mean you don't know either?" he asked.

"No. I know, I just can't tell you."

"Why can't you tell me?"

"Because I'm not allowed to."

"What do you mean, you're not allowed to? Tell me!"

"No, I can't. Really."

"Who said you're not allowed to? I want you to tell me!!" (getting a little irate).

"You did. Really, I'd be happy to tell you if I could, but I can't."

Exploding, "This is ridiculous. I want you to tell me. Now, come on, why??"

"You'll just get mad."

"No, I won't. I promise."

"No. I know you. You'll just get mad at me."

"I promise I will not get mad at you. Just tell me. It's driving me nuts."

"Okay, well, if you promise."

"I promise. Now, what is it."

"Well, it's because of that song ..."

"Oh, God! No!!! Why did you tell me! Now I'll never get to sleep!! It's going to be rattling around in my brain all night!!!!!

Monday, October 20, 2003

I Need More Cowbell!

Apropos to that earworm thing below, a major earworm for me is the Blue Oyster Cult's (Don't Fear) The Reaper. And apropos to that, here's a link to a great SNL skit where the producer of (Don't Fear) The Reaper "needs more cowbell!"

"Saddam Is A WMD"

Robert Prather publishes what he says is an email from a Marine stationed in Baghdad, who reports on a woman who lost her whole family in the war. From American bombing? Nope.

While [she was] at work Sadamm's men had come to her house and because her family was Christian, Sadamm's men felt that the family would side with the US. So they shot her father, mother, and 3 sisters in the head. They came looking for her but the owner of the hotel hid her till the US troops showed up and took her to her house where her family was still in the yard. She buried them and now lives in the hotel. She runs the computers here and is very grateful to be alive and loves the US.

Yeah, this wasn't worth doing...

Bumper Sticker Hell

David Bernstein writes over at The Volokh Conspiracy about irritating bumper stickers:
Least favorite: "It'll be a great day when schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to have a bake sale to buy a bomber."

Close second: "You can't hug a child with nuclear arms."

Hear, hear! It's like, yeah, yeah, yeah, won't it be wonderful when the armed forces are pathetic blah blah blah fishcakes. I hate those.

It's the overtly earnest ones that are annoying -- the ones that use alliteration or puns -- "He's not the President-Elect, he's the President-Select."

"Re-Elect Gore in '04" -- Get over it already. I was able to get over the fact that the country was OK with President Clinton.

I don't like "Free Mumia," but at least it's pithy -- I just don't think we should.

"Free Tibet" -- well, yeah, OK, I agree. How about the rest of China, too? And while we're at it, let's free Cuba and all other collectivist dictatorships, OK? Who's with me? Probably not you. Because inevitably next to the "Free Tibet" sticker is a "Stop The War On Iraq" bumper sticker.

Then there are the non-political ones that are just dumb:
"Ask me about my grandchildren." -- Well, I certainly have the time to, because you're going 5 miles an hour.

"Beer: It's not just for breakfast anymore" -- If you ever wanted a bumper sticker guaranteed to frighten off any decent woman, that'd be it.

"One Tequila Two Tequila Three Tequila FLOOR" -- This one gives the last one a run for its money and also has the bonus pun factor.

And of course, "This Car Climbed Mount Washington" -- Well, that's nice. And?

..typically caused by Tony Orlando and Dawn...

Evidently, some professor has done a study of what he calls "earworms" -- those songs that get stuck in your head FOREVER!!!!!

Last year, he surveyed about 500 students, faculty and staff on campus asking about the type, frequency and duration of earworms, and possible causes and cures. Among the songs respondents picked as most likely to become stuck were: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” the Chili’s restaurant “baby back ribs” jingle and “Who Let the Dogs Out.”
But the choice that topped the so-called “playlist from hell” was “Other,” meaning the majority of those surveyed chose a unique song of their own as the most probable earworm. That led Kellaris to conclude that stuck songs are highly idiosyncratic.
“There are certain tunes that we would describe as catchy that are more likely to become one, but just about anything can become an earworm,” he said.

Now, the quickest way to make my father nutso is to sing a certain song by Tony Orlando and Dawn. He is so crazed by this song that you can't even say the title. I will, therefore, merely hint at the title -- T A Y R R T O O T. The sentiment addressed in the song has been adopted as a method to show support to troops abroad (which, incidentally, makes no sense, considering the song has nothing whatsoever to do with that, but we'll ignore that for now) and is both criminally catchy and is also so lacking in soul that it amazes me that a guy named Tony Orlando (and not, for example, Pat Boone) sang it.

I'm sure you know the one I mean, now -- the one that soaks into your head and makes you want to put on a powder blue tuxedo with ruffles, so that you can match the song.

It is not, however, in my opinion, the worst song ever. That award goes to "Afternoon Delight," by the Starland Vocal Band. That one is truly terrible.

Also, "Feelings."

Funny, you don't look Jewish...

Turns out that The Thing from The Fantastic Four is Jewish.

Go, know.


An old story by now, but the spasms caused by Gregg Easterbrook's blog on the responsibility of Jewish Hollywood executives for movie violence are still reverberating. If you haven't read it, do so here. It caused quite a stir and many of the bloggers I favor were on it quickly (Totten, Simon, Geras, Yourish....).

It initially put me into quite a tizzy as well, and I jumped into the fray early with this post to Michael Totten's comment site:
"I think Norm Geras put it correctly..."Shouldn't recent European history, to say nothing of much other history, cause everybody to have these second thoughts?" Why is a group singled out to be sensitive, as if a wrong is made more wrong by who committed it. Would it be any better to say that since the Holocaust was committed by non-jews (Catholics and Protestants), then all Christians should be more sensitive to promoting Hollywood violence. I mean some committed it so they all should be sensitive to anything that promotes violence. That is ridiculous. As human beings and what has transpired throughout the past century, we all should be sensitive. Bottom line, fucking leave the Jews alone...why are they being singled out? What does it matter what their background is? If Eisner and Weinstein were not jewish, would it be more understandable to Easterbrook that they distributed the movie? Someone in the comments section said that history dictates that jews should be more sensitive. All jews? Everyone of them? So two people distrbute a movie and their religion becomes an issue. For all we know, they weren't even raised jewish. Irrelevant... as jews, they should be castigated. Had they not been jewish, no big deal. Or at least their religion would not have been an issue or a point to discuss.

What anti-semtisim is about is just that. Beyond all the stereotypes (money-loving, yada yada yada) and other crap, it is the treatment of jews as something different for no other reason than that they are jewish. They are apart from all others and deserve (or should I say "history mandates"; why not start with Judas for that matter) unique inspection. They can't do things without their jewishness becoming a weighing factor in the analysis.

Sorry, but religion and collective history can't be binding or relevant to only one party.
That caused a response from Tom Perry that left me bewildered (I don't think I can link to it, so you will have to go to it if you care; it wasn't his best stuff to say the least.... he was all over this issue and said some outrageous things, but is a bit better and arguably thoughtful now at his site (isntapundit)). Having said all that, I have softened a bit ... at least as it relates to Easterbrook. In part that is due to the defense offered by Andrew Sullivan (he has been terrific on the issue of anti-semitism) and Wieseltier, as well as the conversations Easterbrook had with Simon and Yourish. But what really did it for me today was Taranto. I think he nailed it:
"Well, allow us to explain. Easterbrook's essay was an expression not of anti-Semitism but of a lesser, though still insidious, form of prejudice. Call it liberal condescension. This sentence from his apology reveals all: "How, I wondered, could anyone Jewish--members of a group who suffered the worst act of violence in all history, and who suffer today, in Israel, intolerable violence--seek profit from a movie that glamorizes violence as cool fun?"

"Members of a group": This is the language of liberal identity politics. And note that this is a philo-Semitic prejudice, not an anti-Semitic one. Easterbrook's premise is that the suffering of the Jewish people ennobles Jewish individuals--or should--even if those individuals have not themselves suffered. Thus he presumes to hold Jews to a higher moral standard by virtue of their Jewishness--though in fact all he's doing is asking them to agree with his highly debatable opinion (does it really make any sense to liken stylized Hollywood violence to the Holocaust?).

Ideologically, Easterbrook's earnest criticism of Jewish studio executives is of a piece with Maureen Dowd's racist rant against Clarence Thomas. Because Thomas is black, Dowd, like other liberals, expects him to conform to liberal orthodoxy and thus treats his conservatism as a far greater offense than that of, say, Antonin Scalia. This kind of prejudice may not lead to pogroms and lynchings, but it's divisive and often ugly all the same.
I don't think Easterbrook is anti-semitic. I have read him for years and always found him interesting. But I do think he is the way many of the Left think about is usually a device used to bolster up disenfranchised group of peoples, which I understand, but it has unfortunate ramifications. It is not an explicitly rascist or prejudiced way of looking at society, but structurally, it can't help but be. The subservience of individual recognition in favor of group affiliation is a form of prejudice. And I think it is that orientation that Easterbrook suffered from. Anyway. perhaps I will expound on this sometime, but I thought Best of the Web was again the best today.

James Lileks goes to the circus...

Nothing exciting, no political statements. Just James Lileks writing a sweet column about going to the circus with his daughter.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Gay Marriage

David Frum writes in OpinionJournal today about why gay marriage is "bad."

He notes important truths and then misses the point entirely.

For example:
As always seems to be the way, we've come to understand the importance of marriage at exactly the moment that the institution is approaching the verge of collapse. A generation of social scientists has documented the benefits to children of growing up in a father-mother household; yet today, an American child has less than a one-in-two chance of reaching the age of 18 in the same home as both of his or her parents. That fact should concern us all.

Yep, that's right, it should concern us all. And then he goes on:
And any changes in family policy ought to be directed at one supreme goal: improving children's odds of growing up in a stable home.

That presumes that marriage's only benefit is "to the kids." It ignores the fact that there are plenty of married couples who are childless, either by choice or biology. My grandmother got remarried last year -- is her marriage somehow not something to be championed? (Actually, her marriage is not supported by the government; her social security benefits were reduced because of the marriage.)

Marriage is a valuable civil social institution because it champions that highest "conservative" value: Responsibility. A married couple stands before an official and declares that henceforth, they take responsibility for each other; they are one unit. Part of that, certainly, is directed toward childraising and creating a stable environment for kids. But not all of it.

OK, let's go on:
Allowing same-sex marriage would reduce those odds. That's not an assertion; it's an empirical observation. In the past decade, same-sex marriage or something like it has entered the law of eight countries: Denmark, France, Hungary, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and, most recently, Canada. Each has its own distinctive approach to the matter. But in all of them, the push for same-sex marriage has had the same result. Rather than get into a fight with religious organizations for whom the term "marriage" refers to one of their own sacraments, governments try to mollify everybody by creating a new legal category very similar to marriage, but not exactly the same. France, for example, has enacted into law something called a Pacte Civile de Solidarité, a registered partnership that grants any two people who live together a bevy of rights while holding each responsible for the other's rights and obligations.

Compared to marriage, a civil pact is harder to get into (some of its benefits do not arrive until a couple has been together for two or even three years) and much easier to get out of. That is very appealing to couples nervous of marriage--and these days, who isn't nervous? It's been estimated that some 40% of the couples entering "civil pacts" are heterosexual.
Something similar is going on in Canada, only there the categories are even blurrier. A couple that simply lives together for two years automatically and without any formal act acquires many of the rights of a formally married couple. The exit from a relationship is just as blurry as the entry: In one famous case, a Canadian court ordered a man who had divorced his wife before he became wealthy to pay her an increased settlement based on the income he had begun to earn after the marriage ended.

Now think about what this means. Marriage used to have a bright clear line: you were married or you were not. It was a serious commitment--and most people understood that if they weren't ready for this commitment, they ought to postpone having children until they were.

Well I agree with him on one point. "Civil pacts" or "marriages lite" are probably worse than the current system. And marriages lite with respect to straight couples are a disaster.

There has to be a bright line test, which he notes. But then he goes on simply to assert that it will not happen, and therefore, it is a bad idea. That's not an argument against gay marriage, it's an argument against the in-between fuzzy civil union stuff. After all, I think it's really unlikely that we're gonna enact a flat tax any time soon -- doesn't make the flat tax a bad idea.

Let me hasten to point out that I'm only discussing the civil concept of marriage -- not the religious. The Catholic Church and the Orthodox and Conservative branches of Judaism do not (and should not) recognize gay marriage, any more than they should be required to solemnize an intermarriage.

Letter to Jim Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

I wrote the following e-mail to Mr. Woolsey. I think that the article should be spread from the rooftops and screamed on street corners. Woolsey is a good and true man. It should be noted that, as Director of Central Intelligence under Clinton, he saw the President... twice. So much for Clinton's intelligence (both meanings absolutely intended).

Dear Mr. Woolsey:
I have just finished reading your article at:, and I wanted to take a moment to thank you for taking the time, effort (and, yes, courage) to write it.
I don't want to take up your busy time by writing too much. However, I wanted to let you know that I was greatly moved by it.
May G-d bless you and your family for many years to come.
Stuart Kaufman
Management Recruiters of Great Neck
stuartk at

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

How about these PEOPLE, Michael?

I wonder whether the three Americans murdered today would be considered "people" by Michael Moore.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Yes, Virginia...

If you ever needed proof of the existence of G-d, check out this story:

A convicted child molester was beaten unconscious by one of his past victims while they shared a jail holding cell, authorities said.

The former victim, a 22-year-old man being held on a probation violation, recognized Kevin Kinder as the man who abused him and three other boys when he was 11.

He jumped on Kinder, punched him repeatedly and knocked him unconscious Thursday, said the man's lawyer, Ricky Escobar.

It's such a fluke that these two ended up in the same place at the same time," said the former victim's mother, Judy Coronett. "But think about how (my son) feels. He was finally able to confront Kinder and fight back after 11 years. I think it's damn therapeutic."

Now that's some bad luck.

Twenty Facts...

Bill Bennett, Jack Kemp & Jeane Kirkpatrick note 20 facts about Israel and the Middle East.

Of particular note:

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964—three years before Israel controlled the West Bank and Gaza. The PLO’s declared purpose was to eliminate the State of Israel by means of armed struggle. To this day, the Web site of Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA) claims that the entirety of Israel is "occupied" territory. It is impossible to square this with the PLO and PA assertions to Western audiences that the root of the conflict is Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The West Bank and Gaza (controlled by Jordan and Egypt from 1948 to 1967) came under Israeli control during the Six Day War of 1967 that started when Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran and Arab armies amassed on Israel’s borders to invade and liquidate the state. It is important to note that during their 19-year rule, neither Jordan nor Egypt had made any effort to establish a Palestinian state on those lands. Just before the Arab nations launched their war of aggression against the State of Israel in 1967, Syrian Defense Minister (later President) Hafez Assad stated, "Our forces are now entirely ready . . . to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland . . . the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation." On the brink of the 1967 war, Egyptian President Gamal Nassar declared, "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel."

. . . .

Israel is smaller than the state of New Hampshire and is surrounded by nations hostile to her existence. Some peace proposals—including the recent Saudi proposal—demand withdrawal from the entire West Bank, which would leave Israel 9 miles wide at its most vulnerable point.

"We are all Jews."

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey writes a column that will be beloved by both Jews and Anti-Semites.

Jews will like it for obvious reasons. Anti-semites will point to it as proof that the Zionist Occupation Government runs the CIA.

The most beautiful words...

I have decided that the most beautiful words in the English language are not "I love you," or "Congratulations, you're a father!"

They are actually, "You have no new voice messages."

Dumbass "Whistleblower"

Lileks fisks an op-ed by Colleen Rowley.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Michael Moore -- still an idiot.

Lee over at Right-Thinking on the Left Coast provides a rather thorough fisking of a column by Michael Moore in the Guardian.

Hippie Crap.

"Hey, in my herb-addled brain, the "60's", a tumultuous period during which the US was plagued by domestic terrorist groups like the Weathermen and the SLA, was involved in an unpopular foreign war and endured riots at the Democratic Convention, is actually a fantastic time to be emulated 35 years later! But where can I buy Hippie Crap? At, of course!"

Thursday, October 09, 2003

The Case Against Jordan

Alan Dershowitz makes an interesting case against Jordan. The entire article is good, but I thought this was the point that would be most surprising for the majority of people:
Jordan killed more Palestinians in one month -- September 1970, known as Black September -- than Israel has killed during the three years of suicide bombings that began in the fall of 2000. The brutality of the Jordanian Army toward Palestinian dissidents and terrorists was far more egregious than anything Israel has ever done.

A subgroup of the Arafat-led Fatah movement took Black September as its name, but then went on to kill Israeli (not Jordanian) athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

Martin Ginsburg

Well, even tax lawyers can be funny. This is the bio of Martin Ginsburg, who is of counsel in the Washington office of the law firm I work for, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson.

So that you can appreciate the final paragraph of his bio, he is married to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and his daughter is a professor at Columbia Law School.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Captains Courageous

On a related note, Ross and another guy, Matt Cohen, also came up with something the Trekkies/Trekkers among you will appreciate:Captains Picard and Stubing; compare and contrast...

Yom Kippur Vs. The Super Bowl

I missed posting this before Yom Kippur, but back in '92, a friend of mine, Ross Garmil, co-wrote something in the Brandeis University comedy magazine, Gravity, that has made the Internet rounds. I post the link (a) Because it's funny; and (b) because Noel Rappin and Ross Garmil deserve the credit. So, here's the link to Yom Kippur Vs. The Super Bowl.

What a weird year.

Hmmm. 2 Republicans split more than 60% of an election in California.

Next, you'll tell me that The Red Sox and The Cubs are contenders...

Moore: No people died of terrorism last year.

According to Jeff Jarvis, Michael Moore stated on the Today Show that:
"There is no terrorist threat."
Lester Holt, shocked, says is there not evidence of a terrorist threat just two miles away?
Moore says, "How many people died because of terrorism last year? None." He calls the bombings of the World Trade Center "occasional, horrible incidents."

I haven't been able to find a transcript online, but I have no reason to doubt Mr. Jarvis. Certainly, Moore's said "there is no terrorist threat" before. (Do a search for the words.)

Now, Michael Moore has proven himself, time and time again, to be a big honking gasbag, but:

That's my cousin, Rabbi Elimelech Shapira. He was murdered by terrorists on July 25, 2002.

And that's him with his wife and 8 kids.

But maybe I'm being unfair. After all, he did say "in the past year." All right. I guess none of these are people.

And I guess nobody on this list, who were murdered not quite a year ago in Bali is a person either.

Michael Moore, you disgust me.

Motives vs. Consequences

Instapundit posted a wonderful open letter to Paul Krugman from Arnold King, a fellow MIT graduate of Krugman's. King talks about the differences between thoughtful ways of having a debate on issues... one that focuses on the potential consequences or results of a particular policy, and debate-ending methods...ones that focus on the motives of the party advocating a particular policy. Smart stuff... and nails the issue I think and what tends to be so frustrating about political discussion these days. It is impossible to have a real conversation on Iraq or school vouchers or taxation or anything without it becoming a conversation-ending accusation of imperialism, racism or class warfare. That is horrible. Krugman is the king of the motives style of debating. It is all about accusations against Bush and his motives. No real thoughtful conversation about the merits. And it really epitomizes the positions articulated by the angry left these days. And it is nothing new. The right has done it too, when it lost its mind and was out of power. But it seems to be getting worse.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Move On...

Well, apparently the people at "," (a group I became familiar with thanks to a member of an email list I'm on who thought they were just the greatest thing in the world, until she heard of Dr. Dean and started gushing incessantly about him) became very upset with the New York Post because they didn't agree to fire Bob Novak. I don't really understand why they would want Novak fired; he was the columnist who started the whole kerfuffle about the "burnt CIA agent" that threatens to reignite the independent counsel, and he was against the war in Iraq, so you'd think would love him.

Anyway, apparently,, upset that the Post didn't agree not to run his column, deluged a Post columnist with phone calls.

Every time I hear anything about these guys, I am less impressed.

Send Pizza and Pepsi to the soldiers.

You can send pizza and Pepsi to U.S. Soldiers serving in the Gulf and the MidEast or send pizza, burgers and ice cream to an Israeli Defence Forces soldier.

I did both.

Too much to hope for.

The world's most honored terrorist is evidently ill.

If he dies, I expect Israel will immediately be condemned in the UN Security Council for "hounding a great leader to death" or something. They're already talking about poisoning.


What a fantastic idea. I heartily encourage its adoption in this country.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Anti-Semitic Murals

Wow. That's pretty much all I can say, other than "Why is anyone eating at
this guy's deli?

Friday, October 03, 2003

Understanding American Pie

Well. An entire website devoted, as the URL indicates, to "Understanding American Pie."

The product of a former English major who desperately needs to find a life, the website's author notes that he [insert preparatory throat clearing here]:

found myself laboring under the constraint of keeping it all as clear as possible to avoid losing track of the song's emotional arc. This required that I distill events, simplifying and generalizing what was in reality a very complex period in American life. So that when I write of the placid conformities of the 1950s, it is not to say that the 1950s were entirely tranquil: the civil rights movement was in fact born in that decade, which, along with the paranoia of the Communist Red Scare and nuclear proliferation, laid the groundwork for the formation of the 1960s New Left; just as the Beat Generation of this decade gave birth to the Counterculture a few years later. And in speaking of the turmoil of the 1960s, I am not suggesting that every individual was in the front lines of the revolution; the majority of Americans, in fact, were not. But these are necessary short hands, helping to sort out what were undeniably profound shifts in our lives and the way we saw ourselves—as anyone who lived through this period can attest to.

Oh. This is that annoying song, right? The one that, well, pretty much is the album The Best of Don McLean. (Yeah, yeah, I know, Vincent. Whatever. If someone says "Don McLean" you're not gonna think "Hey, that's the guy that sang Vincent!")

Well, anyway, if you're dying to know exactly what the hell a "levee" is, or why anyone would be driving a Chevy there, here you go.

Soaring over sorrow

This is an older story, but I just found it.

It seems that as part of celebrations surrounding the 85th anniversary of Poland's air force (and that's quite the record they've got -- by my count, they're 0 and 2) 3 Israeli Air Force F-15s did a fly-over over Auschwitz-Birkenau.

That link is a column on the event, here's a link to a brief story (second story down) on the flyover. Evidently the museum objected to the flyover, saying that "the show of military might was an inappropriate way to commemorate the victims."

On the contrary. The show of military might is the most appropriate way to commemorate the victims.

The museum's position is the way to invite more victims. "Let us all bow our heads, and contemplate, but heaven forbid stop it from happening again. That would interrupt our tsk-tsking. Don't display any ability to fight back -- we like our Jews silent, passive, and marching into ovens. Then we can sigh mournfully, and discuss how it was the killer's upbringing, lack of social-worker guidance and meat-eating that led him to murder people. If only he'd been a vegan."

As Brigadier General Amir Eshel pointed out, the IDF "got here 60 years too late."

Of course, if they'd done anything, the UN would condemn them for attacking, instead of "waiting for the inspections to be completed."

Thursday, October 02, 2003


As an addition to David's tale about his movie magic premiere debut: the publicists put the little pisher in the geographic center of the entrance to the theater. On all sides were the professionals, doing all that they could to get the attention of the cameras, but the only one that they were filming was David. Needless to say, David was the only one who was shown on TV that night.... Our escape from the theater had to be assisted by a police escort!

David's Dad

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Jackie Flosso, RIP

Jackie Flosso, one of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, has died.

When I was about 4, my grandmother took me to his shop and I basically continued to go there every weekend until I was 11 or so, and then I'd go back periodically.

I went up to his shop not long after I graduated college. I certainly couldn't expect him to recognize me, but he did, greeting me warmly, and reminding me that he had gotten me on television once.

I was 8 years old, and, as usual, in his shop, when a publicist for the about-to-be-released and soon-to-sink-without-a-trace movie The Magician of Lublin walked in. The publicist wanted a bunch of magicians to perform at the opening. Jack said "How about him?" and pointed to me.

I was invited, along with some other, more, well, seasoned magicians to come. I set up my little table and did a trick called The Magicians Insurance Policy and, being the cute-as-a-button kid I was, managed to steal the spotlight from all of the professional (and now really annoyed) magicians who had come hoping to get some publicity. I even did the trick for the radio, describing what I was doing as I did the trick.

He sold his shop (which had once been owned in part by Houdini) a few years ago and it lives on as a magic memorabilia auction site.

But I'll miss him.

Iraqi Wright Brothers

Michael Ramirez makes a decent point, I think...

(I confess that a major reason for this post was to see if I could make the image appear on the blog...)

Well, that's one solution...

Crain's New York Business notes that (I don't know if the link is for subscribers only:
NY allows loans for financing closing costs

Mortgage guarantee insurers can now write policies up to 103% of the value of real estate in New York to enable closing costs to be financed, under a new law aimed at encouraging home ownership.

The law, recently signed by Gov. Pataki, stipulates that any insurance written above 100% of the property’s value can be used to finance fees and closing costs.

New York joins more than 40 states that allow loans for financed closing costs. The refinancing craze of the last few years, sparked by dropping interest rates, made New York’s previous 100% limit “stick out like a sore thumb,” says Bernard Bourdeau, president of the New York Insurance Association. “This brings us into the 21st century.”

I don't have a problem with increasing the limit -- people should be permitted to finance whatever they feel like financing and I'd repeal the limit, in fact.

But one of the major costs of financing is the mortgage recording tax, which can, in commercial financings in NYC, cost up to 2.75% of new money advanced as a loan secured by a mortgage. It's slightly less in the context of a residential deal, but if the state really wanted to "encourage home ownership," reducing or eliminating the mortgage recording tax would be a great start. Most states do not have such taxes and they constitute a significant restriction on development.