Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mark Helprin Writes of the Threat and the Beauty of Winter

Mark Helprin, a warrior poet, writes in "The Fire We Tend Against Winter" of the threat and terrible beauty of winter. The column first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Feb. 18, 2011, and is now available at his website. Here is a sample to whet the reader's appetite:
The world changes as snow and cold test one's fiber and ingenuity, something that brings far more satisfaction than just living easily. You become both more contemplative and more alert. The fire you make and tend against winter is one of the great things in life if only because it stands for life itself opposing the forces that someday will end it.

Of course here in Southern California we know little of that.

The Lara Logan Episode: How Identity Politics Influence Media Coverage at Cairo's Tahrir Square and Elsewhere

In a column republished at Jewish World Review, Caroline Glick raises some interesting questions:

Why have Western media outlets provided so little coverage about the widespread attacks on foreign journalists in and around Cairo's Tahrir Square?

In the case of the beating and sexual assault suffered by CBS correspondent Lara Logan, why was so little attention given to the perpetrators of the attack? Why has there been so little comment on the misogyny of Egyptian society. (Here Ms. Glick valuably contrasts the absence of the misogyny angle from the Lara Logan story with the media attention given a lawsuit filed by former U.S. servicewomen right around the time of the Lara Logan incident against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, claiming that both men and the U.S. Defense establishment are responsible for the sexual assaults the female soldiers suffered during their military service.)

Radical leftist journalist Nir Rosen has been roundly attacked by reporters and commentators after he wrote defamatory attacks on Lara Logan on Twitter. In the past, Rosen has called for the destruction of Israel, chapioned Hezbollah, Hamas and the Taliban (with whom he was an embedded reporter) and cheered on the enemies of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. For his previous efforts, Rosen earned praise, awards and fellowships from the journalistic community. Why were only his attacks on Ms. Logan viewed as crossing a line of journalistic propriety?

Ms. Glick convincingly argues that the answer to all of these questions, and indeed the leitmotif that determines coverage of events by Western media, is the role of identity politics in current journalism, specifically the hierarchy of victimology. She notes:
Identity politics revolve around the narrative of victimization. For adherents to identity politics, the victim is not a person, but a member of a privileged victim group. That is, the status of victimhood is not determined by facts, but by membership in an identity group. Stories about victims are not dictated by facts. Victim stories are tailored to fit the victim. Facts, values, and individual responsibility are all irrelevant.

In light of this, a person's membership in specific victim groups is far more important than his behavior. And there is a clear pecking order of victimhood in identity politics. Anti-American Third World national, religious and ethnic groups are at the top of the victim food chain. They out-victim everyone else.

After them come the Western victims: Racial minorities, women, homosexuals, children and animals.

Israelis, Jews, Americans, white males and rich people are the predetermined perpetrators. No matter how badly they are victimized, brave reporters will go to heroic lengths to ignore, underplay or explain away their suffering.

In cases when victim groups are attacked by victim groups — for instance when Iraqis were attacked by Saddam or Palestinians are attacked by the PA, the media tend to ignore the story.

When members of Western victim groups are attacked by Third World victims, the story can be reported, but with as little mention of the identity of the victim-perpetrators as possible. So it was with coverage of Logan and the rest of the foreign reporters assaulted in Egypt. They were attacked by invisible attackers with no identities, no barbaric values, no moral responsibility, and no criminal culpability. CBS went so far as to blur the faces of the men who surrounded Logan in the moments before she was attacked.

Indeed, Ms. Glick notes, "The fact that Logan was brutalized for 20 to 30 minutes and that her attackers screamed out 'Jew, Jew, Jew,' as they ravaged her was absent from the CBS report and from most other follow-on reports in the US media."

According to Ms. Glick, Mr. Rosen's unforgiveable error, in the eyes of his peers, was his failure to recognize that by being sexually assaulted, Ms. Logan had moved into a category of protected victim, this being the case even though her assailants were themselves identified victims--third-world Islamic peoples--whose culpability has not been discussed and is not to be discussed in the limited press coverage of the attack on Ms. Logan.

Indeed one might say that the only person likely to be held culpable in the Western media for an attack on Ms. Logan is poor Mr. Rosen. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Libya and the UN Commission on Human Rights

Dry Bones continues to zing them in on the political crises sweeping the Arab world. Now his targets are Libya, Gadhafi and the UN Commission on Human Rights. Normally that body is interested in singling out only one nation for condemnation--Israel. Will that change as Gadhafi massacres Libyan citizens by the thousands?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is This a Fair Criticism of the Obama Administration's Foreign Policy?

Some Republican leaders have actually praised the way that the Obama Admnistration has handled the unrest that is now erupting across the Arab world. This cartoonist chose a more cynical slant?
What say you, Hedgehog readers?

Movie Review: "Unknown"

My son and I just saw "Unknown." I would have saved it for airplane, Netflix, or DVD viewing, but Kenneth Turan, the L.A. Times movie critic, wrote a good review so we decided to see it. It's really quite good, sort of in the same genre as "The Bourne Identity" movies. I think it'll do quite well. It has a good plot that keeps you guessing, some good twists, decently acted, and a couple of the obligatory car chases and explosions (but less of that, and more credible, than in the Bourne movies).

It's also safe for family viewing for those who are comfortable with a PG-13 rating. There is one barnyard epithet in the whole movie and there are a fair number of dead bodies (it is, after all, a spy movie), but no gore. Well-done, all in all. Recommended!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Michael Medved Takes on the Paranoid Style in American Conservatism

Michael Medved is a wise and reasonable man. He must be, since we agree so much of the time. In today's Wall Street Journal, he criticizes the current fashion among some on the political right, including Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, of accusing President Obama of deliberately attempting to weaken the United States. Mr. Medved would not agree with that charge even when leveled at his "gold standard" of a misguided President, Jimmy Carter.

Writing his Wall Street Journal column took some considerable degree of political courage. Conservatives publicly take on Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh at their peril. There will be fallout, and one hopes that Mr. Medved is wearing his radiation suit. But his message needed saying. Mr. Medved may have been mindful of the words of Rabbi Hillel in the Sayings of the Fathers (Pirke Avot 2:6), "In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man."

There is indeed a certain kookiness that manifests itself more often than one would like in conservative political discourse. Of course, there are both nuts and fruits on both ends of the political spectrum and even sprinkled in the middle. Mr. Medved, who hosts a weekly "conspiracy hour" on his radio show, during which his listeners may vent their paranoid fantasies, knows this as well as anyone. However, when the kookiness begins to creep into the conservative political mainstream, one needs to address it.

Conservatives should limit their criticism of President Obama's policies to the demerits of the policies themselves, which are numerous and create--and please understand that we are speaking figuratively here--a target-rich environment. The right should not resort to groundless and often luny accusations regarding motives. Let's leave that to and the Daily Kos. [photo credit Ben Lautman.]

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dry Bones: The Middle East Election Hotel

Alright, everyone, rush over to the Dry Bones Blog. Yaakov Kirschen has been working overtime on Egypt and the results are very, very funny. Here's a sample:

Soros Says Israel is "Main Stumbling Block" to U.S. Support of Egyptian Democracy!

In an opinion column published February 3, in the Washington Post, entitled "Why Obama has to get Egypt Right," financier George Soros wrote, "President Obama personally and the United States as a country have much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy."

Fair enough. I concur that the United States should do its utmost to help foster a peaceful, stable transition toward a democracy in Egypt. But then, incredibly, Soros adds:

"The main stumbling block is Israel. In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks. And some U.S. supporters of Israel are more rigid and ideological than Israelis themselves. Fortunately, Obama is not beholden to the religious right, which has carried on a veritable vendetta against him. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is no longer monolithic or the sole representative of the Jewish community. The main danger is that the Obama administration will not adjust its policies quickly enough to the suddenly changed reality."
(Emphasis added.)

You say what? Soros is dredging up the old bromide that Israel and its American supporters control U.S. foreign policy, to the detriment of American interests.

I await the outcry and condemnation of Soros' column from any of the 400 some rabbis who demanded that Fox News discipline Glenn Beck for his remarks about Soros. Those rabbis ignored the fact, indeed were probably completely unaware, that during the very week that Glenn Beck made the remarks about Soros that they condemned as anti-Semitic, he featured Rabbi Daniel Lapin as his guest for an entire show. Some anti-Semite. Of course many of those 400 rabbis probably consider Rabbi Lapin unJewish on account of his outspoken political conservatism.

Fortunately, we don't have to wait for a response from the rabbis who signed the anti-Beck petition to Fox. In this week's Jewish Journal, columnist David Suissa castigates Soros for his op-ed, and points out that Israel is the beacon and model in the Middle East for Arab nations wanting more democracy, not the stumbling block.

Why does David Suissa see so clearly that it is the words of George Soros, not Glenn Beck, that should be viewed as a legitimate affront by American Jews? Well, it may just be a coincidence that David Suissa is a traditionally observant religious Jew, Orthodox, if you will, unlike, I would wager, nearly all of the signers of the anti-Glenn Beck petition. But I don't think so. The true religion of too many American rabbis is liberalism, not Judaism, and that is why Glenn Beck so offends them.

EGYPT--Too Soon to Call

To those loyal Hedgehog readers posed at the edge of their seats waiting for a meaningful comment on the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the Kosher Hedgehog believes it's simply too soon for meaningful punditry. I already outlined the possible outcomes back on January 30 ("Woody Hayes, Hosni Mubarak and the future of Egypt"). To the three alternatives I listed in that article, I would add the possibility of a military dictatorship essentially similar to the Mubarak regime, with only the face of the ultimate leader having changed. It will be a year or more before we have any idea how this will all sort out. Let's talk then.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Chill Out about Egypt, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity--It's the Muslin Brotherhood, Not the Muslim Brotherhood

Based on briefings from confidential sources, I am convinced that Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Frank Gaffney are all worked up over nothing, a mixup if you will. The organization trying to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is not the Muslim Brotherhood, but the Muslin Brotherhood, a trade organization trying to promote the export from Egypt of muslin cotton cloth. Naturally this has met with strong opposition from American cotton-growing interests, who had the foresight to outbid, or outbribe, the Mubarak government, which explains why Murbarak has suppressed the Muslin Brotherhood. Murbarak and the American cotton growers also connived to portray the Muslin Brotherhood as Islamist fanatics. However, as the illustration of 1838 Muslin fashion at left, courtesy of Wickepedia, tastefully demonstrates, the Muslin Brotherhood is not Islamist in dress or manner.

I look forward to explaining the confusion to Sean, Rachel or Chris, whoever books my appearance first.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

DRY BONES on Egypt

Readers may not be aware that according to one Jewish midrashic interpretation, the Valley of Dry Bones vision of the Prophet Ezekiel took place in Egypt, along the Sinai coastal plain. According to this midrash, the dry bones seen by the prophet were people from the Tribe of Ephraim, who jumped the gun on the exodus from Egyptian slavery, tried to reach the Land of Israel along the shorter coastal route, and were attacked and massacred by the Philistines.

So it is fitting that Yaakov Kirschen of DRY BONES, while not a prophet, at least gives us his graphic punditry on the situation in Egypt. Here are two offerings:

Not content with pictures, Kirschen adds these pithy thoughts:

"Sadly, for his entire Presidency, Mubarak squelched all sport and cultural exchanges with Israel, and prevented Egyptian tourism to the Jewish state. If he had allowed Egyptians to see and visit the free and democratic state next door, the "pro Democracy" riots would have broken out years ago ...but the Moslem Brotherhood would not have been waiting to pick up the pieces.

* * *
A thought: If the demonstrations sweeping the Middle East are the natural outpouring of a desire for freedom, why is it that they all seem to be targeting pro Western regimes? How come we're not seeing thousands of demonstrators in the streets of the cities of the Iranian-aligned Syrian dictatorship?"

Beautiful Mosaic Floor Uncovered at Site of Prophet Zacharia's Tomb in Israel

Israel National News/Arutz 7 reports that archaeologists have uncovered an especially large and beautiful mosaic floor at the site in Hirbat Madras, on the Judaen coastal plain, identified by scholars as the residence and tomb of the Prophet Zacharia. The report states that the finds at the site include the ruins of an ancient synagogue dating back to Second Temple times. Hirbet Madras was known as the site of a large, important Jewish community from the Second Temple period. The city was destroyed during the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135 CE.

However, the destruction of Hirbet Madras did not end its use as a religious site. According to archaeologists, "Based on the results of the excavation, a church dating to the Byzantine period was apparently built inside a large public compound from the Second Temple period and the Bar Kochba Revolt. Eight marble columns bearing capitals especially imported from Turkey graced the nave of the basilica."

It is unclear to me from the Israel National News report whether the mosaic floor dates back to the Second Temple structure or was installed later in the Byzantine church. Regardless, other discoveries at the site bore witness to its use during the Second Temple period. "Among the items found in the rooms were coins from the time of the Great Revolt (66-70 CE) and the Bar Kochba Revolt (132 - 135 CE), stone vessels, lamps and various Jewish pottery vessels from the period."

Of course, since according to Palestinian "scholars" Jews never lived in the Land of Israel before the Zionist invasion, clearly there has been some colossal misunderstanding by the archaeologists and Hirbet Madras must be the remnants of the ancient Palestinian Arab civilization. I hope there is no Hebrew writing on those coins--it would be embarrassing.