Many people have already written about the semblance of blaming the victim when we extol the bravery and determination of cancer survivors, thereby implying that those who don’t survive somehow haven’t fought as hard or had the right positive attitude. A recent article about the medical understanding of the quality of random-ness in the formation of most cancers - with the exception of those forms caused or exacerbated by external toxic agents (cigarettes) - is another indicator that individual efforts to stay healthy or recover from an illness may have less to do with sterling character traits than we give ourselves credit for. This thought came to mind while watching Wolf Blitzer’s one hour program focusing on four “Heroes of Auschwitz,” survivors who managed to get to America and create new lives after the war. Though there have been studies showing a correlation between survival and religious belief as well as a purpose in life , it surely is the ultimate chutzpah and dishonor to the millions of victims who were felled to pretend that survival was largely a factor of strong will and therefore within their control.
In watching “Night Will Fall,” the documentary made frm the British and American footage of the liberation of the concentration camps at the close of WWII, what struck me first was the irrationality of Nazis starving a slave population that was intended to work. How inefficient that was as people diminished to skeletal weight and racked by dysentery and typhus could not have performed tasks with even the semblance of purposeful activity. This only adds to the mystery of why the Germans went to the expense and bother of constructing and staffing camps and transporting victims to them, often from great distances, instead of killing people in situ as they frequently did in mass ditches dug by the victims at the outskirts of towns and villages. According to Daniel Goldhagen (How Auschwitz is Misunderstood NYT 1/25), it was to distance the killers from their victims. Though this was true for prisoners brought from all over Europe, it certainly wasn’t true for German Jews who were brought to camps in Germany which were in close proximity to their former neighbors. A look at the map that Alfred Hitchcock created for the original documentary shows camps dotting Germany, often within a mile of cities and villages.
For answers to why so many young Jews are disaffected about Judaism and uninformed and hostile towards Israel, consult The Jewish Week of Jan 23rd. The cover story addresses the meeting organized by Repair the World at a Martin Luther King Shabbat in Crown Heights where three community activists spoke about race, privilege and partnership. The panel included a black woman, Tynesha McHarris (director of community leadership at the Brooklyn Community Foundation; a black man, Mark Winston Griffith (exec. director of the Brooklyn Movement Center) and a white Jewish woman, Amy Ellenbogen (director of Crown Heights Community Mediation Center). A questioner asked how the largely white audience could become effective allies in pursuing racial justice. McHarris responded that people of color needed to be the leaders while white people could follow and support. Griffith disagreed and said that his aency offered leadership roles to everybody. Ellenbogen stated that whites needed to “shut up and listen, and when you’re done with that, shut up and listen some more.” When a question arose concerning the selective filtering of history in the movie “Selma,” Professor James Goodman (History, Rutgers) felt that it was perfectly legitimate to airbrush Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel from the film despite his enormous contribution to the Civil Rights Movement, his prominent position at the march (the iconic photo shows him in the front line) and his close personal friendship with Dr. King.
It’s nice that the United Nations General Assembly held its first meeting recently on anti-Semitism, but while there were some important issues raised, the thing was rife with irony.
The meeting “sparked calls for global action to combat the rising hatred of Jews and a surprising denunciation from the world’s 57 Islamic nations of all words and acts that lead to hatred, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia,” according to the Associated Press.
The denunciation by the Arab World — Saudi Arabia in particular — is indeed surprising, shocking, really, until you note that it threw “Islamophobia” in there, in a cynical effort to equate Israeli self defense and attempts to stop the Islamization of Europe, with murderous attacks against innocent, unarmed Jews in Israel and elsewhere.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, said the statement delivered by the Saudi Arabian U.N. Ambassador on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was “extremely significant,” especially since the United Nations has often been a venue to try to de-legitimize Israel, A.P. reported.
Clearly, Powers didn’t immediately catch on to the Saudi game, because she’s right — the U.N. has become a body focused almost entirely on bashing Israel, and I can’t believe the Arab world has suddenly seen the error of its ways.
Despite the incessant (and patently false) drum beat out of the Arab world that Israel is an Apartheid state, the real Apartheid is found in Saudi Arabia where Jews aren’t really allowed to be at all. By contrast, a large minority of Israel’s population is Arab — Muslims and Christians — and they have completely equal rights, serving in the Knesset and the military and as doctors and patients in Israeli hospitals and teachers and students in Israeli schools and universities.
Most sites on the issue of Jews in Saudi Arabia, however, suggest that if Jews deny being Jews, they might be allowed to visit the kingdom, but not if they have ever visited Israel. Israelis are verboten altogether, and no Jews have lived in Saudi Arabia since the creation of the kingdom.
This was not always so.
The so-called holy city of Medina was, in ancient times, first settled by Jewish tribes, according to historical references. Some scholars even suggest the roots of the virulent anti-Semitism in the Muslim world today, may be traced to the ancient Jews’ refusal to accept Muhammad as a prophet.
“One of the reasons for ‘this discrimination’ against the Jews is… because the Jews’ development of land and culture was a prime source of booty in the Arabian desert peninsula,” one source says. “Beginning at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam — from the expulsions, depredations, extortion, forced conversions or murder of Jewish Arabians settled in Medina to the mass slaughter of Jews at Khaibar — the precedent was established among Arab-Muslims to expropriate that which belonged to the Jews.”
So, unless the Saudis have suddenly seen the light, they are merely trying to do it again — to expropriate the fight against anti-Semitism, and turn it around to suit their purposes.
But, let’s examine the meaning of the two words — anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The one means the irrational hatred of Jews and the other means the irrational fear of Muslims. To my mind — and when held up to historic review and against today’s headlines — the one has no realistic basis and the other, kinda doesn’t seem necessarily irrational. The Jews have never deserved the periodic waves of attacks against them through the ages — the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust. But, one need not be Einstein to notice that Islamo-Fascists are wreaking havoc, slaughtering innocents, worldwide.
It is not irrational to fight to keep the irrational mindset that drives the Islamists from taking root in the West, because a world under the jackboot of Sharia Law would not be worth living in.
So, that Saudi/Arab announcement, seeking to equate Jew hatred with fear of Islamists, is going to be used against the Jews and the West in years, or maybe days, to come. I’m sure of it.
Part of the reason that Islamic terrorism continues to proliferate in the western world is that too many of our opinion-molders and interpreters have been hamstrung by not understanding that we are fighting a war which always means that certain freedoms need emergency adjustment. We all accepted the need for us to remove our shoes and submit to personal searches when airplane hijacking became part of our new normality. But we also submitted to the notion that blaming Islam for the murderous deeds of a minority was somehow a “phobic” over-reaction and unacceptable in our politically correct society. So we went out of the way to mislabel a terrorist attack at Fort Hood as “workplace violence” and to insist that not erecting a mosque less than two blocks away from the killing fields of Ground Zero was an assault on our freedom of religion. Some among us became enraged at the revelation of how much data the NSA had collected in its extraordinary surveillance, forgetting that the loss of some privacy may have been essential for increased security from terrorist acts. The tagline for Nicholas Kristof’s article in today’s Times is “Let’s not respond to extremists with our own brand of intolerance.” (1/8/15)
Remember your personal physician? He or she may not be yours much longer. And even if they are still your doctor, the odds are they are not really working for you. Soon, most doctors will have abandoned their private practices and become employees of hospitals, multihospital affiliations, or the Government. Only 35% of doctors currently describe themselves as independent, compared with 62% in 2008. This trend will undoubtedly continue; a doctor graduating from medical school today has little or no chance of starting their own solo practice. How did this happen, and why does it threaten patients?
It seems to me the Palestinians must be feeling pretty confident that the world has completely ingested the revisionist Arab narrative to take what even the A.P. called the “risky” step of trying to bring war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
Before seeing “Mr. Turner,” written and directed by Mike Leigh, it would be wise to get some background information on JMW Turner, the great British painter who transformed seascapes into ephemeral swirls of impressionistic light and color decades before impressionism became a movement. In the movie, Turner is played by Timothy Spall who creates a persona not unlike the hunchback of Notre Dame - a man whose default facial expression is a tight-lipped scowl, underscored by frequent grunts and inappropriate gropes. Though he wears a top hat and is clearly an acclaimed member of the Royal Academy, it’s hard for his peers and the audience to know what to make of his behavior. Does he suffer from Tourettes syndrome or some personality disorder? What accounts for his attractiveness to the kind and caring Mrs. Booth who doesn’t know that he is the famous painter until well into their relationship? Leigh does little to try to explain Turner’s peculiarities, wanting us to accept him at face value - an eccentric genius and a riddle for which there is no answer.
A decade ago, a Danish publication posted cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that roiled the Muslim world, resulting in death threats for the editor whose life was subsequently lived under constant security watch. Although this was international headline news, The New York Times refused to publish any of the cartoons, buckling in fear for the security of its own establishment. So of course it’s ironic and amusing that their editorials have been so self-righteous about the need to uphold our absolute freedom of speech in the wake of No Korea’s hacking of SONY and threats to theater owners of a 9/11 type of retribution for screening The Interview. The most sensible suggestion I have read is that the government pay SONY for the rights to the film and then air it free on television and over the internet. It seems patently unfair to call for greater courage from commercial theater owners than the Times was able to summon in its role as dispatcher of all the news that’s fit to print.
In considering the sequence of events, I’m troubled by the notion that private businesses, in this case theater owners, should be expected to pay the penalty for the foolishness of other for profit private ventures. Even if no act of terrorism resulted from the hackers’ threat, wouldn’t audiences stay away from that possibility and wouldn’t theater owners suffer a financial loss? And what would their liability have been if any act of violence had occurred? Would Seth Rogen’s movie have been any different with a fictitious name for an Asian dictator? Is any work of fiction justified in using the real name of a living head of state or public personality? At what point does freedom of speech clash with the right to live without being threatened? What would the reaction of American pundits have been to a satiric movie about President Obama being lynched? We live in a society where you cannot say or print the word nigger without euphemizing it with just its initial - does that represent freedom of speech? Is one word more inflammatory than a movie whose plot concerns a political assassination?
If the Times wishes to restore its bona fides in this area, let it now publish the Mohammed cartoons along with an apology to the American public for its dereliction of duty the first time around. And perhaps a mea culpa to SONY and the theater owners for the Times having made the same decision themselves ten years ago, before deciding to lambaste them for their behavior would be sheepishly appropriate.
I last saw Brenner about a year ago in New York City. Although graying a bit, he was as sharp and edgy as ever both on stage and off. His observational humor included stories about how New York City has changed through the years. Bike lanes and taxis were among his targets. Many of his longtime social and political subjects are equally relevant today–overcrowded prisons, America’s school system, Congress and lobbyists. He described his humor as talking about the simple things in everyday life. He stayed up-to-date on current events and discovers the ridiculous side of them in his stand-up act.
“If Satchmo played the trumpet, I wouldn’t have to do anything,” a recently svelte Paula West said. “I’d just sit back and let him make a load of money.” She was referring to her five-year-old French Bull dog sitting at her feet. The dog is named after the late legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong. Satch, who accompanies the vocalist everywhere, relaxes in the green room during her performances. “Satch is a big attention whore; he’s changed my life.” She continued, “I don’t trust people who don’t like dogs. It’s as offensive as saying, ‘I don’t like Mexicans or I don’t like Blacks.’” She feels those folks are missing something in life. She clarifies, “he’s not my kid; but he’s my baby. The plus side is the ramifications of ‘F’ ing up a kid are worse.”
It only took the first day of Cheryl Strayed’s 1,000 mile odyssey to make me uncomfortable - the moment when she yanks off her rotting toenail and watches her shoe tumble down a ravine, then tosses its mate furiously after it. I worried about the details - wouldn’t she be in pain hiking without a toenail? why didn’t she bandage her toe to protect it from infection? Did she bring along an extra pair of boots? By day 3, my concern about her foot was eclipsed by my fears about her marching through a scorching desert all day long without a hat - a blue-eyed blonde with ivory skin - wouldn’t she have been burnt toast by day 1? When a director chooses to structure a movie by the calendar, we expect a greater degree of versimilitude; he is telling us “this is how it was day by day - right from Chery’l diary.” So here she was, a woman who had packed about 40 lbs of equipment to carry on her back through open wilderness without even a 6 oz baseball cap. She had a tent, a stove, a pot, chemicals to turn swamp water into potable liquid, dried packaged mush, enough books for a small sidewalk stand in Greenwich Village, enough condoms for a professional, but NO HAT.
About six weeks before the 2012 presidential election, I was walking through Rockefeller Center in New York when I heard a woman’s voice calling my name. I hesitated before I turned around: As a conservative in Gotham, I never know if I’ll be accosted by a raving leftist screaming “fascist!” at me. (Yes, that happened.)
Nothing illegal transpired when the grand jury voted not to indict the policeman who put Eric Garner in a chokehold. People may not have liked that decision but no one has accused the prosecutor of not following the proper guidelines of the law or the jury of having been corrupted. There are remedies for dissatisfaction with this conclusion and they have already started to go into effect. The federal govt has begun preliminary investigations into the possibility of a Civil Rights lawsuit and the family of Mr. Garner will undoubtedly initiate a civil suit against the city for wrongful death. A prestigious law school should have used this event as an important lesson in how our legal system works and how individual rights are balanced against other forces and considerations. Instead, Columbia Law School has deemed this event a trauma for its students and has decided to postpone final exams for those students too impaired to take them. By this reasoning, every time a lawyer loses a case, he should be excused from his immediate work load. The only people who can properly be considered traumatized by Garner’s death are members of his immediate family; students of all colors who are displeased should still be held to their academic responsibilities or the definition of trauma gets diluted down to sheer meaningless-ness.
While the Rev Al Sharpton was in Ferguson last Sunday, whipping up continued frenzy over the refusal of the grand jury to indict white Officer Darren Wilson for killing a black man who had just committed a robbery and when apprehended, tried to grab the officer’s gun, 8 black people were shot - 3 fatally - in Newark and 4 more at a baby shower in Brooklyn. These were all young adults whose lives were snuffed out or brutally impacted by other blacks, though no arrests have been made so far. A month ago, a black man used his car to plow into a crowd of black people who had also attended a baby shower, killing one and injuring two. The racial violence of black on black is a nightmare for law-abiding urban black citizens, most of whom understand that the police are there to protect them, not act as executioners. But for the Reverend Al, playing the race card has always been and continues to be his only modus operandi. It’s the ticket to his overwhelming acceptance by American political leaders, too intimidated to excoriate a lying tax cheat who profits from his motor-mouthed characterization of black people as continually oppressed and victims of white racism.
Those who are certain that numbers don’t lie and that the 15 women who have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and molesting/raping them stand as evidence of truth should be reminded that 37 people claimed to be afflicted by witches in the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. This doesn’t mean that Bill Cosby is innocent of the charges but it does mean that this isn’t a class action suit and that the details of each of these experiences may differ significantly enough to not be proof of anything. As of now, we are listening to women tell about events that happened as far back as four decades ago, a long enough time for anyone to forget or re-interpret the past. Some of these women accepted money from Cosby, often over a long period of time. Some, like Janice Dickinson, made a career out of bedding famous men and bragging about that in interviews and books. Many of these women admitted that they were hoping for acting jobs on Cosby’s popular tv show. There was never a shortage of female groupies who considered sexual experiences with entertainers as trophies for their collection or women who aspired to careers in show biz who were perfectly comfortable with the requirements of the casting couch.
You wouldn’t guess that Stephen Hawking’s inspiring and dramatic life would need embellishment by withholding pertinent information and distorting facts, yet that is precisely what occurs in the film “The Theory of Everything.” Based on his first wife’s book (”Travelling to Infinity”), Jane Hawking is portrayed as a fresh-faced, forever young martyr who manages to take care of a completely paralyzed man and three children while working on her Ph.D and vacuuming the house - all unassisted. Since we have already witnessed that once Stephen required a wheelchair, he needed to be lifted and carried to his next location, we know that it just isn’t possible that they lived without additional help yet we don’t see a nurse enter until the children are fairly grown. In truth, as of 1974, a student always lived and traveled with the Hawkings to help with Stephen’s extraordinary health care needs.
The most remarkable thing about Foxcatcher, a movie about two seriously damaged protagonists, is its refusal to offer anything resembling a psycho-babble interpretation for the unusual circumstances we have witnessed. There is no over-arching tying up of unraveled cords as frequently occurs in movies when the creators don’t trust their audience to parse the subtext accurately. Instead, the screenwriters, director and cast have all done their jobs so expertly that we have understood what the characters have thought and felt without any verbal explanations.
In early 2009, newly minted President Obama invited Republican leaders to the White House. In the spirit of good will, the GOP offered ideas about how they could work together. Mr. Obama offered a sharp rebuke: “I won.”
Two of New York’s grandest and most important landmark buildings - The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The New York Public Library - have now been trashed by commercial food and tchochke vendors. According to their mandate, The Landmarks Preservation Commission is charged with being “responsible for protecting New York City’s architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites by granting them landmark status, and regulating them once they’re designated.” The officers of the commission deserve impeachment for their dereliction of duty in what are undoubtedly, the two most significant examples of great civic architecture and cultural purpose in our city.
Though it is unclear as I write this if or how the Obama Administration is going to react to the rash of murder-by-car terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, but as much as it may want to downplay them as “traffic incidents” or the work of lone nut jobs, this is clearly the Jihadis’ new tactic.
A week or so ago, a terrorist ran down a bunch of people at a light train stop in Jerusalem, killing an American baby and a young woman from South America in an act of terror the U.S. Administration called a “traffic incident,” and which barely even made the news. This was the same week that a similar attack took place in Canada, followed by another terror attack there not involving a vehicle.
The fact that the U.S. Government and the intentional press chose not to see the terror-driver attack in Israel as terrorism may be keeping authorities worldwide from connecting the dots; understanding this new tactic and addressing it.
There can be no doubt with these three terror-by-vehicle attacks in Israel — two in one day — that this is the savages’ new thing. This might be made slightly more difficult if the U.S. and international press continue to insist that there is no such thing as terrorism if the victim is Jewish or Israeli, but at this point, even the stupidest, anti-Semitic ignoramus has to get the picture.
And this time, Hamas is “taking credit” for the most recent attack, unlike the last one, in which it only glorified the baby-killer as a “martyr.”
Hamas said this second attack, was meant to “protect the city’s most sensitive and sacred site” the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.”
The third terror-by-car attack was in the West Bank, later the same day, “when a Palestinian motorist drove into a group of soldiers, wounding three in a suspected attack,” according to the Associated Press.
Bear in mind that these attacks appear to be motivated by a call by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, for his minions to protect Judaism’s holiest site from Jews coming to pray there, because, somehow, the site is “defiled” by the presence of Jews.
There has been an attempted assassination and calls by Jordan for the Jews to be kept away from this Jewish holy sites so Muslims may pray there undesturbed by the presence of Jews.
If anyone uttered that same sentence with the roles reversed, the resulting worldwide righteous indignation would be epic.
But Antisemitism is cool these days.
It’s not just Jews under attack, however. There were the two attacks in Canada, the ax attack against some cops in New York and the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma — each of which has radical Islam in common. So, no matter what our government tries to say, these are not random, unrelated attacks.
So, now that we know the loony-toon Islamists have taken to using their cars as weapons, wouldn’t it make sense to deny them legal access to vehicles?
I know I’m going to be called names for making this suggestion, but under any other circumstances, it would be clear that this group should be made to turn in their drivers licences and all motor vehicles registered to them should be confiscated. And I don’t just mean in Israel and the Palestinian-Arab occupied territories — I mean everywhere there are radical Islamists — which is, basically, everywhere.
Israeli police said they plan to set up barricades near train stops to prevent the attacks, but we could be more effective by removing the temptation to drive into people by removing the vehicles from the terrorists.
Hamas, the A.P story says, praised the violence as a “glorious operation” and called for more, because attacking a bunch of unarmed, unsuspecting people waiting for a bus really makes you a man. Murdering infants is terribly taxing. Right.
All this murder and mayhem by the Arabs, which has drawn no international condemnation whatsoever, is taking place while the U.S. and the European Union are bent all out of shape over Israel’s announced plans to build housing in East Jerusalem.
In this world, construction brings condemnation, cold-blooded murder does not. Apartments “seriously call into question Israel’s commitment to peace,” A.P. reports — as opposed to the Palestinian’s slightly more violent approach. That’s just fine, I guess.
Nothing shows commitment to peace like mowing down pedestrians with a minivan.
I can’t seem to shake the feeling that we’re all down the rabbit hole.
I vote at P.S. 6 on the upper east side of Manhattan, in a neighborhood with no bodega in sight between 5th and 2nd avenues yet the posters outside the school and all along the block said Vote Here and underneath, Vote Aqui. Below that, in fainter type was the same information in Chinese. In other words, we no longer expect Hispanic voters who use the same alphabet as English to understand the four letter word “here” even when used in context on Election Day at a polling station. This is even worse than translating SALIDA when EXIT is universally printed in bold red above a door frame. Mayor De Blasio has just designated a $150 million appropriation to improve some of New York’s ineffective schools but Vote Aqui is a prime example of one of the causes of failing in school - the patronizing soft bigotry of lowered expectations for minorities.
Tucked inside the first section of today’s WSJ (11/4) on page 7 is the followng headline: “For Ebola Survivors, Sex Carries Added Risk.” In the article we discover that the virus can live in sexual fluid for as much as 90 days after people are cured of the disease. We learn that Doctors Without Borders warns discharged patients to use condoms and other African clinics give survivors certificates that emphasize NO SEX FOR 90 DAYS in capital letters. Apparently, here in our own country the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued similar warnings. Why has the general public not heard of this? The NYTimes devotes two full pages to a discussion of ebola in its Science Section today - not a mention of this topic; nothing about it on the tv talk and magazine shows.
Sometimes, the truth of a situation appears in small details before the big picture emerges. Poker players learn to scrutinize their opponents for their “tell,” the reflexive movement or twitch that an individual isn’t even aware of making. So, Disgraced, the Pulitzer prize-winning play now on Broadway, opens onto a set of an expensive, upper-east side penthouse apartment with French doors leading to the terrace, a coffered ceiling with expensive lighting and a corridor leading to the rooms beyond. This is clearly a classic Park Avenue apartment yet everyone who comes to visit knocks on the door as if this were Jerry Seinfeld’s apt on the upper west side. What, no doorbell? Even in a building with a doorman buzzing upstairs to announce a visitor? Even dinner guests dressed for a formal evening? Knocking?
When my nephew was in St. Vincent’s hospital after being run over by a murderous driver, he was in a lot of pain. I went to the nurse’s station to ask if someone could come to check him out and was angrily told by the head-nurse that they were all busy tending to my nephew’s roommate, a gentleman who had AIDS. Her meaning was clear: in the hierarchy of patient needs, AIDS always trumps fractured bones. Two days later, it was the AIDS patient who was released while my nephew was dead from lack of attention to a blood clot that wasn’t caught in time.
What are we to make of sexual behavior on campus? On the one hand, schools do their best to facilitate sexual activity between adolescent students by providing co-ed housing and bathrooms, frat parties and an atmosphere encouraging them to feel like independent and mature adults. Until the students realize that they aren’t, and that like all other relationships in the real world, sexual ones are fraught with misunderstandings, complications, differing interpretations and ulterior motives. At that point, the school steps in and attempts to act as judge and jury as to what happened between two individuals who have contrasting accounts of an experience that one calls rape.