Friday, April 30, 2004

Columnist Charles Krauthammer's latest editorial in the Washington Post, titled "The Real Mideast 'Poison'," to me seems a little narrow-minded. Well, here's what I sent him:

In your editiorial, "The Real Mideast 'Poison'," published the day before in a column in Houston Chronicle under the more telling title, "The Absurdity of Criticism Against Israel", you say that anti-Semitism "has gone global." Sure, criticism of Israel is high now because of the anger of much of the Arab world since the US invasion of Iraq, but is that anti-Semitism? I don't think so, just as much as criticism of the US government isn't anti-American; in fact, criticism of the government, to a large extent, defines a democracy society, including Israel, which you rightly term the only true democracy in the region. The most important issue here, I think, concerning this, is whether the actions of the Sharon administration will actually lead toward peace in the Middle East, or rather will further accelerate the cycle of violence. You mention Israel's offer to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip, and how this has led to Israel being "almost universally attacked." However, the criticism was because the administration's plan for the *West Bank* included annexing some Palestinian territory. You mention how Israel "will also evacuate four small West Bank settlements," but you omit the other settlements that will remain. You mention that the Arab people, as a whole group and not particularly as any group of radical militarists like, say, al Qaeda, "have variously denounced [the plan for "withdrawal" from the West Bank] as Israeli unilateralism." What many Arabs, not "the Arabs," are criticizing is the deliberate territorial expansion being pursued by the Sharon administration into Palestinian territory, for which I see no other possible future other than the perpetuating of violence and terrorism. The Palestinian people deserve the same rights as the Israeli people, and land to call their own, as well. The security "fence" being erected is, as a writer for Foreign Affairs noted in the Feb./Mar. issue, an "admission of failure"; it is also a mistake, for the reason that it will only continue to foster resentment by the Palestinian people toward the Israelis: al-Jazeera, the leading Arab news network based in Qatar, refers to it as an "apartheid wall". The "Nuremburg atmosphere" you cite, to me, is nonexistent; sure, the Jewish State is being heavily criticized now by many Arabs and Muslims for its state-sanctioned murders of so-called "spiritual leader" Yassin and terrorist Rantisi, both of which the international community condemned. Referring to the latter assassination, the US made an official statement where it warned Israel to consider "the consequences" of its actions. (Nelson Mandela was once considered a terrorist, too, but that's irrelevant.) And I do not believe for a second that all of this is the beginning of another wave of pogroms, or at the very extreme, another Holocaust. Ultimately, I believe in humanity. I believe that the majority of Arabs and Muslims who criticize Israel do not hate the Jewish people themselves. After all, there is a sharp distinction between the state and the citizenry; with Israel, I believe, it is no different, and nor it should be. But missiles launched from helicopters to assassinate whomever the state deems necessary (in itself a dangerous precedent), a "fence" that will (among other aims) excise Palestinian land and further anger the Palestinian people and illegal settlements, all for the purpose of suiting a self-destructive policy enshrined by an administration led by right-wing radicals, will not acheive this worthy goal. As a fellow Jew, of course I believe the state of Israel has the right to exist. It must. But so does the Palestinians' right to self-determination: the right to their own state that, God willing, can co-exist with Israel and end the violence.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Wow, where to start. First off, the situation in Iraq seems to be rapidly spiraling out of control. The insurgency is escalating, the US military is being forced into a self-destructive offensive that will no doubt lead toward terrible Iraqi civilian deaths, and the country is becoming submerged into a civil war that will leave the country in ruin. Secondly, a new flag for the country was introduced to the Iraqis by the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). However, the Iraqis didn't like it, to say the least, mostly because of the removal of the Islamic incantation "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Great"), and that the design of the flag very much resembled Israel's. So, in the midst of the criticism, the IGC redesigned it by making the blue slightly a darker shade; the "Allahu Akbar" is still gone, and so it still may not be accepted by the Iraqi people. Personally, I believe that there are parallels, some of them quite significant, between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War. According to an article from the South Bend Tribune, some Vietnamese, in remembrance of the disastrous intervention in Indochina a generation ago, are calling for the US to get "out of Iraq before it's too late." Although we are told that Iraqi sovereignty will be "handed over" to the Iraqi people on June 30, we learn from an article by the BBC that the transitional government "will not have sovereign powers" until elections in January 2005. And, according to an al Jazeera poll, 87% of the over 20,000 polled believe that Iraq will remain occupied by the US after the June 30 deadline. And then, there is talk of renewing the draft, due to the fact that our troops are spread dangerously thin and that the administration had badly underestimated the number of troops needed to occupy Iraq in the first place. Well, it looks like that things are not going very well in the world, but I remain optimistic for humanity.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Lately some people have been puttin' down the Onion (see below), which I believe to be one of the greatest "news" publications of all time. I, of course, quote the word because it's not really, you know, factual. But it's not supposed to be. It's a great satirical paper, and an extremely funny website, now updated on Wednesdays instead of Tuesdays. Here are some of the negative reviews of the site from Alexa, an emporium for websites that features traffic and reviews:

* A Bitter Onion, April 20, 2004
Reviewer: A customer from Santa Barbara
The Onion was once funny -- now it's just shlocky!! What once was satire is now 10th-grade high school humor (and what's funny about that)? I've heard the owners sold out to a big corporation. God, I feel sorry for the shareholders of that place. Fire the CEO right now! Goodbye and farewell, Onion, you had your hayday -- now you're just a relic of the dot-com bomb internet.

Here's another one:

* Nowhere near the quality of the Onion of yore., April 17, 2004
Reviewer: A reviewer from New York, New York
Back in the day, the Onion was required reading for all those who loved to laugh. Nowadays, it's a pale shadow of itself. Don't believe me? Go to a bookstore and check out the older Onion articles versus the new stuff on the website. No comparison. Major props for them keeping it up all these years, but they're getting weak and losing their game. Is Gary Kroeger writing for them?

I don't get what this guy's problem was ...

* What the hell happened?, July 1, 2003
Reviewer: A customer
I used to love the onion. I used to look forward to each weeks issue, and i used to laugh out loud reading articles. But somewhere along the line it went wrong, and now it just reads like just another anti-America Michael Moore wannabe diatribe. What a shame.

[My question is, Since when is legitimate criticism of the government anti-American?]

And another:

** USED to be funny., April 8, 2003
Reviewer: A customer
This site used to be the best, but what happened??? The Onion has gone from being a hilarious satire to just another mouthpiece of the Left-Wing pinhead crowd. (yawn.)

Fuck 'em. I still love the Onion.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

The perennially hilarious Onion has a new "premium" service out that, for either $7 per month or $30 per year (this, by the way, is relatively cheaper), will provide readers with full archives (the Onion's archives, therefore, are no longer free), no ads, and a bunch of extras. I love the Onion, but I'm not really willing (or, as a matter of fact, able) to actually pay them for their great paper. Sorry guys, but no-can-do. At least until I get a job. Well, the regular website is free, and, if you live in New York City, so is the print edition; elsewhere the Onion in print is something like $50 annually. I know, kind of crazy, but these Wisconsin college kids gotta make a living somehow, right? It would be funny to see the Onion become acquired by a media conglomerate in twenty years and lose its soul, wouldn't it? No, it wouldn't. Scratch that. That would really suck.
A message to the Sharon administration: DON'T ASSASSINATE ARAFAT. It will be a mistake that will have negative consequences that will be unparalleled in their intensity, and will unleash global condemnation and outrage from the Muslim world. And, most importantly, it will set a very dangerous precedent. Sure, Arafat is an arch-terrorist; but so is Sharon, who is just as much a hard-liner asshole and very dangerous man. Do the Palestinians, therefore, have the same right to assassinate Sharon? Of course they don't. And neither should the Israelis. It's a very volatile situation as it is. Ariel, for the good of your nation, don't make it worse.
I find it very disheartening that none of the mainstream media had FOIAed the government for the pictures of the coffins. The media are not doing their job. I highly commend the Memory Hole for keeping democracy alive in these dark times.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Relating to the coffins, it is absolutely despicable that the military had attempted to ban the media from releasing the pictures. The families of the dead deserve to see the pictures, and it does a great disservice to them by barring the public from seeing the real, human cost of war.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The military doesn't want you to see the pictures of the coffins of our dead soldiers returning from Iraq. However, in respect to their families who deserve to see the pictures, the Memory Hole FOIAed the government for them. And here they are.

Monday, April 19, 2004

After having seen the 2nd volume of Kill Bill, I can with no hesitation that Quentin Tarantino is a master of the art. The film displays a virtuoso command of cinematography, direction, pacing, dialogue, pretty much everything. This masterpiece shall cement for all of history Quentin Tarantino to be one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema.

Friday, April 16, 2004

The long-awaited (six friggin' months) Volume Two of Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece, "Kill Bill," comes to theatres today. (I can't fuckin' wait to see it. If any out there have been reading my blog with some regularity, you might know by now that I think the first was absolutely brilliant.)

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The cost of the war in Iraq is nearing $110 billion. Goddamn. 110,000,000,000 dollars. That money could have done a whole lot of good ...
Kerry, in a speech to Georgetown University, proposed to cut social programs in order to reduce the massive deficit. As I have said before, a fraction of the money being spent now on the military (nearly half a trillion dollars) would cover a lot, with plently to spare. Of course, if Kerry did actually cut that miniscule piece of the military's budget in exchange for badly needed social funding (assuming he wins the Presidency), he would be accused by the Right as gutting the military and not wanting to fight terrorism. However, fighting terrorism is not our responsibility alone. In order to make the world safe, we must pool the resources of many nations, each sharing an equal burden. Instead, Bush has done the opposite ... with devastating results, as the escalating quagmire in Iraq shows. Admittedly, Kerry would not be my prime candidate for the Presidency. I would much rather have Clark be the President, or at least the Vice President (which is still a possibility). He looked more principled. As the saying goes, nevertheless, Kerry is clearly the lesser of two evils.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

What the hell, I'm keeping this great "Google bomb" alive by saying, "In 2004 we're gonna kick out that miserable failure. Kerry in '04!"
The "original" Star Wars trilogy will finally be sold in DVD format on September 21 of this year. I put the word original in quotes because they won't be the original films. In fact, they won't even be the DVD version of the 1997 "Special Edition" version of the trilogy, which many people have objected to. According to Amazon customer reviews of the upcoming DVD box-set, the DVDs will be updated even further from the 1997 version, in which all of the imperfections that made the original version of the films (which are very hard to obtain these days) a classic will be done away with. In 2007, it is said, yet another DVD release (assuming DVD is still a valid format then), said to be called the "Ultimate" or "Archive" edition (for the 30th anniversary), which will have all six films and the originals will be manipulated to the point where they all seamlessly flow together as a continuous narrative. However, I fear that the essence of the "originals" will be hopelessly lost by all of this pointless tweaking. That episode of South Park was ahead of the curve.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

The great folks at Google, Inc. are crafting up a free, web-based email service that will be in direct competition with Hotmail (only Google Email, or Gmail, will have 1000 MB of free storage). It looks like it's gonna be great.

UPDATE: After having been using a Gmail account for some time now, I can safely attest that Google is the best ... sort of. The only real problem I have is that messages deleted in the "sent mail" folder will delete the same messages in the "all mail," which is supposed to function as the "archive". Also, I've read in Gmail Help that, whereas other web-based email services terminate your account after 30 days of inactivity, Gmail won't delete your account until nine months of inactivity, which is really cool.