Feb 04 2016

Japanese History Lesson

Published by under Japan Living

This video is a little long-but provides an interesting view of the gamut of Japanese history, albeit told from an American viewpoint. Enjoy it. I did.

In nine minutes, Wurtz goes through a broad but very entertaining history of Japan: theearly settlement through frozen land bridges, the spread of rice cultivation, the internal wars Japanese states fought before final unification, Japan's attempts to shield itself from the rest of the world until America and other Western countries intervened, the world wars, and, finally, modern Japan.

The video is not comprehensive — after all, it's only nine minutes to explain the history of a country that spans thousands of years. It doesn't include, for example, the atrocities Japan committed against Korea and China during and between the world wars, such as the Rape of Nanking and Japan's use of Korean sex slaves.

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Jan 29 2016

The legends leaving us.

Published by under Memorials

The month of January has been a sad one for folks like me, who treasure the music of the 60's and 70's and had some of my best times in life with the great artist's creations in the background as a sound track. 

David Bowie, Glenn Fry. Dale Griffin, and now Paul Kantner.

Bowie and Kantner leaving are real sad notes. I have great memories of both my teen years and my first years of real freedom in Japan listening to those guys.

I was a Jefferson Airplane fan because my sisters were Jefferson Airplane fans. And as they morphed into Jefferson Starship, I remained an active fan. The band in the 70's was awesome. I even loved them when they went on divergent paths in the 80's and 90's. "In June 1984, Paul Kantner, the last remaining founding member of Jefferson Airplane, left Jefferson Starship, and then took legal action over the Jefferson Starship name against his former bandmates. Kantner settled out of court and signed an agreement that neither party would use the names "Jefferson" or "Airplane" unless all members of Jefferson Airplane, Inc. (Bill Thompson, Paul Kantner, Grace SlickJorma KaukonenJack Casady) agreed. " Thus Mickey Thomas formed "Starship" and later went on to do "the worst song ever made. ( Which I love by the way).

Fortunately, Kantner reestablished Jefferson Starship in 1992, and so allowed me to enjoy them immensely my first wonderful year in Japan.

I played the CD for Deep Space / Virgin Sky till it was worn out. My favorite song on the album is this one:

 

 

I loved their music and the sense of rebellion that was the back story in its lyrics.

?God grant them all rest and peace.

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Jan 15 2016

Oh about that GOP debate last night

Published by under Assholes,Politics

You know Ted Cruz fucked up when he gives Donald Trump, that Donald Trump,  a chance to be elegant. I'm no big fan of New York City, but Cruz probably wishes he had not broken out the dog whistles:

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Explanation to be found over at Balloon-Juice:

During Thursday night’s debate, Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump acted out a debate almost verbatim that they’ve been having across separate radio interviews the past couple of days regarding Trump’s supposed “New York values.” And, at least on Thursday night, Trump got the better of Cruz.

Moderator Neil Cavuto asked Cruz to elaborate on his statement that Trump “embodies” New York values.

“I think most people know exactly what New York values are,” Cruz responded. Well, Ted, there are a couple of implications there, and he went with both. “Everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro–gay marriage.” Check. “Focus around money and the media.” Check.

That allowed Trump, as he has in radio interviews this week, to wield the one single time that conservatives have ever shown solidarity with New York City, Sept. 11, against Cruz. He did it well.

“New York is a great place. It’s got great people. It’s got loving people, wonderful people,” Trump began. “When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York. You had two”—an interruption for applause, including from Cruz—“You had two 110-story buildings come crashing down.”…

Trump managed to win the auditorium and make Cruz look callous…

That’s no small feat, Ted — making Donald Trump look like the compassionate, humane guy.

That pretty well covers it, don't you think?

6 responses so far

Jan 13 2016

Now it’s just getting ridiculous.

Published by under Feminist Buffoonery,Navy

It is January and I am traveling again. Not without some trepidation, since my last voyage to points beyond put me in the hospital. But this trip is back to the whining States of America, so I am hoping O.D.'ing on Krystal burgers will be safe. ( I love Krystal burgers-they just don't love me.surprise).

But I had to take a moment while I sit here drinking in the lounge to comment on this:

The Marine Corps has been ordered to come up with a plan to make its enlisted entry-level training coed, and to make its job titles more gender-neutral following the recent move to open all military combat roles to women.

In a Jan. 1 memo to Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus requested a "detailed plan" on how the service will fully integrate its boot camp and Officer Candidate School. The plan is due Jan. 15 and will be implemented by April 1, the memo states.

"The Department of the Navy's implementation plan must include gender integration of Marine Corps enlisted recruit training and officer candidate school," Mabus wrote. "In this submission, identify where, if anywhere, this training is already integrated, where it is separate, and specific steps that you will take to fully integrate these trainings."

In a second memo from Mabus to Neller on the same day, the SecNav directed the Marine Corps to conduct a full review of its military occupational specialty titles in an effort to ensure that they are gender neutral.

 

 

WTF? Can we have a nice round of head shakes and swear words please?

Since January is usually the month I piss off feminists, I guess I should put the usual disclaimers here. I really don't give a fuck about your ideas on diversity or how your need to live your dreams. I really don't. I do acknowledge that the world is changing, but good God-it doesn't need to change that much. Thanks for proving me right though, it was never about just "being like the men". 

I mean really. How the hell does it limit your so called opportunities if your title is that of Airman, Seaman, or Fireman? For 200 years, better men ( and women) than you Mr. Mabus,  have worn the title with pride-and provided service to their nation without this level of whining.

And if you just think this is a politician being mis-informed, well, clearly you have not been paying attention. The agenda goes deeper than just words.

Go here and look at the slide presentation at the bottom. Then go here and look at this.

The Navy proposes to "enrich culture". How do they do that?

Evidently it has something to do with child care.

Oh, and "increasing female accessions to 25%"

Remember those words-they get repeated a lot.

It's not about "best qualified regardless of race, creed or gender", evidently.

Oh and this too:"implement a plan to increase USNA and NROTC female accessions".

And since experience has shown that these types of things increase the level of  fraternization inter service marriages, more guaranteed incentivizing of such relationships through co-location policies is in order. And child care, lots of child care.

Never, ever, in all of this discussion of opening up combat opportunities for women, are the words "improving combat readiness" ever used. In external reporting such as a recent report on APM's Marketplace, the central focus was on "improved career opportunity". I generally like Marketplace-but that story sucked.

The Navy is betraying itself by these ideas. I don't care if you think I am a dinosaur and whatever version of the "m" word you choose to use. The Navy is not, has never been, and can never be-a family friendly employer.

I am old enough and experienced enough to point this out. These ideas are going to blow up in the unit commander's face. He ( or she) is being set up to fail, and he or she is powerless to do anything about it.

The whole thing has gotten insanely stupid. Thanks feminists, thanks a lot.

Thank God for Scotch and beer. Can anyone give me directions to the Las Vegas Hilton?

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Gotta run to the plane. This is not the last you have heard me rant on this subject………….   Women at the Nana Plaza have more "honor, courage, and commitment" than the CNO's women's policy office. Yes, I said that.

 

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Jan 04 2016

The power of how one uses language.

Over at Balloon Juice, Annie Laurie has found this interesting video that analyzes the way Donald Trump uses language and how he organizes his thoughts. Bottom line: Because Trump is a salesman more than a politician, he is focused on closing the deal and creating a sense of urgency to buy his product. This differs from a typical politician in that Trump is less worried about having his words come back to bite him in the ass. It's worth the time to view:

 

As Annie points out, this was also examined in detail by the New York times:

The New York Times analyzed every public utterance by Mr. Trump over the past week from rallies, speeches, interviews and news conferences to explore the leading candidate’s hold on the Republican electorate for the past five months. The transcriptions yielded 95,000 words and several powerful patterns, demonstrating how Mr. Trump has built one of the most surprising political movements in decades and, historians say, echoing the appeals of some demagogues of the past century.

Mr. Trump’s breezy stage presence makes him all the more effective because he is not as off-putting as those raging men of the past, these experts say.

The most striking hallmark was Mr. Trump’s constant repetition of divisive phrases, harsh words and violent imagery that American presidents rarely use, based on a quantitative comparison of his remarks and the news conferences of recent presidents, Democratic and Republican. He has a particular habit of saying “you” and “we” as he inveighs against a dangerous “them” or unnamed other — usually outsiders like illegal immigrants (“they’re pouring in”), Syrian migrants (“young, strong men”) and Mexicans, but also leaders of both political parties…


I'm not sure is what is worse, that Trump is a big a huckster as he is, or that Americans are stupid enough not to be able to see through these techniques. I am leaning towards option 2. After all hucksters have been around since Eve first fucked over Adam. But Americans are supposed to be smarter than this.

It's going to be a hell of a year.

One response so far

Jan 01 2016

Happy New Year!

One of the traditions I like in Japan is their New Years greeting: Akimashite omedetou gozaimasu! Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shimasu! ( Happy New Year. In this year too, please favor me).

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(It's a one size fits all Nengajo- New Years Card). This year is Heisei 28.

Here in Germany, the S.O. and I were witness to the annual carnage that is Germans going nuts with fireworks. It was foggy this year so we could not see the adjoining villages as clearly as last year, but the carnage full throated with a low level of fireworks going from about 8 o'clock and all hell breaking loose at midnight. One can buy all kinds of fireworks in the grocery stores in the period right before Christmas.

Sadly, I was not at a New Years party much as I would have liked to be. So we enjoyed some of this:

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The S.O. fell asleep and I watched the London and Edinburgh fireworks on BBC. Quite impressive-and made me want to be there myself.

In Munich there was a terrorist alert, police ward of an "imminent threat", while in Dubai there was a major building fire. True to form the Arabs showed how utterly tasteless they can be by going ahead with their huge fireworks show anyway.

Brussels, on the other hand canceled its fireworks because of credible information about terrorists. After all, they probably can only support one police orgy per year.

The Sydney, Auckland, Hong Kong, and Singapore fireworks looked awesome-wish I had been there.

But here I am at home-yet again. Meet the new year-same as the last year.

Happy New Year.

 

 

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Dec 28 2015

200 dollars well spent.

If there are only two news outlets you can subscribe to, I recommend the following: The Economist ($139.00/yr) and the products of STRATFOR ($99.00/yr). It is money well spent and when you think about it is just a years worth of Netflix and Hulu.

STRATFOR recently published its 10 year forecast for the decade through 2025. It makes for an interesting read. Its worth the time and effort to read and understand-and even better, right now you can get it for the low , low, price of ZERO dollars. That's right you can download it free.

STRATFOR makes not pretensions of trying to be 100% accurate. "We do not forecast everything. We focus on the major trends and tendencies in the world." Nonetheless they get it right more than they get it wrong:

This is the fifth Decade Forecast published by Stratfor. Every five years since 1996 (1996, 2000, 2005, 2010 and now, 2015) Stratfor has produced a rolling forecast. Overall, we are proud of our efforts. We predicted the inability of Europe to survive economic crises, China's decline and the course of the U.S.-jihadist war. We also made some errors. We did not anticipate 9/11, and more important, we did not anticipate the scope of the American response. But in 2005 we did forecast the difficulty the United States would face and the need for the United States to withdraw from its military engagements in the Islamic world. We predicted China's weakness too early, but we saw that weakness when others were seeing the emergence of an economy larger than that of the United States.

So now its the end of 2015. What do they have to say?

The European Union- STRATFOR projects a weaker Europe. 

The European Union will be unable to solve its fundamental problem, which is not the eurozone, but the free trade zone. Germany is the center of gravity of the European Union; it exports more than 50 percent of its GDP, and half of that goes to other EU countries. Germany has created a productive capability that vastly outstrips its ability to consume, even if the domestic economy were stimulated. It depends on these exports to maintain economic growth, full employment and social stability. The European Union's structures — including the pricing of the euro and many European regulations — are designed to facilitate this export dependency.

This has already fragmented Europe into at least two parts. Mediterranean Europe and countries such as Germany and Austria have completely different behavioral patterns and needs. No single policy can suit all of Europe. This has been the core problem from the beginning, but it has now reached an extreme point. What benefits one part of Europe harms another.

 

As a result they see a division at the Alps with Poland becoming stronger and the Europe south of the Alps becoming disenfranchised from the rest of Europe. Germany will suffer because of this-but Poland will gain. ( Which probably does not bother the Poles so much).

What will define Europe in the next decade is the re-emergence of the nation-state as the primary political vehicle of the continent. Indeed the number of nation-states will likely increase as various movements favoring secession, or the dissolution of states into constituent parts, increase their power. This will be particularly noticeable during the next few years, as economic and political pressures intensify amid Europe's crisis.

Russia- Putin may think he is strong now, but STRATFOR says it can't last. It is not structurally stable enough to do so and low oil prices will exacerbate that situation.

It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form. Russia's failure to transform its energy revenue into a self-sustaining economy makes it vulnerable to price fluctuations. It has no defense against these market forces. Given the organization of the federation, with revenue flowing to Moscow before being distributed directly or via regional governments, the flow of resources will also vary dramatically. This will lead to a repeat of the Soviet Union's experience in the 1980s and Russia's in the 1990s, in which Moscow's ability to support the national infrastructure declined. In this case, it will cause regions to fend for themselves by forming informal and formal autonomous entities. The economic ties binding the Russian periphery to Moscow will fray.

The problem of course, as they go on to point out is that Russia falling apart is not just Russia's problem, it's every one else's too. After all, Russia has nukes.

Middle East- Pessimism rules the day.

The Middle East — particularly the area between the Levant and Iran, along with North Africa — is experiencing national breakdowns. By this we mean that the nation-states established by European powers in the 19th and 20th centuries are collapsing into their constituent factions defined by kinship, religion or shifting economic interests. In countries like Libya, Syria and Iraq, we have seen the devolution of the nation-state into factions that war on each other and that cross the increasingly obsolete borders of countries.

This process follows the model of Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, when the central government ceased to function and power devolved to warring factions. The key factions could not defeat the others, nor could they themselves be defeated. They were manipulated and supported from the outside, as well as self-supporting. The struggle among these factions erupted into a civil war — one that has quieted but not ended. As power vacuums persist throughout the region, jihadist groups will find space to operate but will be contained in the end by their internal divisions.

This situation cannot be suppressed by outside forces. The amount of force required and the length of deployment would outstrip the capacity of the United States, even if dramatically expanded. Given the situation in other parts of the world, particularly in Russia, the United States can no longer focus exclusively on this region.

Their is a lot more to read. I'd publish a link to the article itself, but that's not how you get to read it. STRATFOR gets you to sign up for their e-mail list and then they send you the article via e-mail. The key takeaway, however, is one that readers here have heard me say many times before: the rise of the multi-polar world is happening and the US will have to be able to compete in a world where it is not alone as the predominant power anymore. We can't stop its rise, and in fact -we will its rise into overdrive through the reckless and uncalled for invasion of Iraq. That-as they say in alternate history stories-is the point of departure. It probably would have happened anyway, but probably slower. Our friend George W. Bush put an end to all that.

So, big times ahead for China, right?

Not really.

China has ceased to be a high-growth, low-wage economy. As China's economy slows, the process of creating and organizing an economic infrastructure to employ low-wage workers will be incremental. What can be done quickly in a port city takes much longer in the interior. Therefore, China has normalized its economy, as Japan did before it, and as Taiwan and South Korea did in 1997. All massive expansions climax, and the operations of the economies shift.

And since international capitalism thrives on screwing little people, China's slave labor farms will be replaced by new ones they project. In Africa and Southern Asia."No one country can replace China, but we have noted 16 countries with a total population of about 1.15 billion people where entry-level manufacturing has gone after leaving China."

So it will be a heady decade if you are a rich oligarch. For the rest of us-the next ten years are going to suck.

 

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Dec 27 2015

Star Wars-No spoilers yet allowed

Published by under Movies and Books

On Christmas Eve, following some last minute shopping as is my tradition, I went to see Star Wars VII-The Force Awakens. All in all, I thought Disney did a good job with the movie. I do have some criticisms, but those will have to wait until the "No Spoilers" embargo which one sees all over Facebook and Twitter is lifted.

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It is hard for me to believe that there is yet another Star Wars movie in the series. After all, I was all of 20 years old when I saw the first Star Wars movie ( which in the convoluted counting system that George Lucas came up with is actually episode IV) during my 2nd class cruise in San Diego. It was at the theater on the main street in Coronado. Is that theater even there anymore? ( Its been over 4 years since I was last back in San Diego). I was young and the franchise was young.

Now of course, we are both a lot older.

I am both a Star Wars fan and a Star Trek fan, although given a choice I have to give the nod to Star Trek. Which is why I was concerned when I heard JJ Abrams was going to direct this latest Star Wars movie. I have never fully forgiven him for the shredding of the Star Trek canon he did in the Star Trek re-boot,  and I have to admit, I was afraid he was going to do the same thing here.

I am happy to report that he did not do that. Thus if you have not been to see the movie, then by all means get out to see it and help Disney make another billion dollars by the 15th of January. As a Disney stockholder, I strongly want you to. As I science fiction fan, I don't think you will be disappointed.

But if you have watched all the previous movies, don't be surprised if you end up playing "connect the Jedi" during this movie.

I've liked all the Star Wars movies and I have never understood why George Lucas was so savagely criticized for the prequels. Yes, Yes, he does have the sin of creating Jar Jar Binks to atone for, but the prequels filled in some necessary history and background on everything in the Star Wars universe. Episodes IV-VI did not do that so well IMHO. Your mileage may vary, but I think you will find the new movie carries on the traditions of the galaxy far, far away pretty well.

How did you enjoy the movie?

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2 responses so far

Dec 26 2015

Happy Boxing Day!

Greetings to one and all!

Contrary to some reports, rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I am still alive, still thinking,  and hopefully now, able to return to writing.

My original plan had been to return to posting after we got back from the cruise. Unfortunately events took another turn and I have spent the last couple of months first traveling, then in and out of hospitals and doctors offices-as a result of that travel. I'll spare you the details, but while I was in Israel, I became violently ill. Rather than do the smart thing and go to an Israeli ER-I gutted out eight hours on a plane back to Germany. That only made things worse and I ended up going straight from the airport to the hospital.

Moral of the story? Be careful where and what you eat! And don't let yourself get dehydrated!

However, that is not all of the story. The other part was-I just did not feel like I had anything useful to say. My passion for American politics remains, however it does not take a skilled observer to point out that American politics is currently a huge mess. 2016 is going to be a critical year for the land of my birth and I am quite depressed with the prospects. I fear we , as Americans, will do our best to take a bad situation and fuck it up beyond all repair. It's what we do. I mean really, Donald Trump?

The final piece of the puzzle was doing some professional thinking about the remainder of my working life, which is not as long as it should be, or as well resourced as it needs to be.  Regrettably,  I have not been able to find my way back to Asia-but I did get some good news after my hospital stay(s) which helped balance out what was otherwise a depressing outlook in general.

And then there is the demon known as Netflix………….

Over the course of the next week I will have some prognostications regarding the upcoming year. And it is my intent to more actively discipline myself to write. We'll see how well my stick to itivness is on that subject.

Nonetheless, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukuah, and any other holiday that you are to celebrate.

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5 responses so far

Sep 25 2015

Going Nordo.

Published by under Politics,Travel

Walking up the brow this weekend and going haze gray and underway. No wait a minute, the ship is white.

How about , "Bright white and out of sight!"surprise?

Either way posting will be non-existent for a bit. ( again).

But I could not let the good news / bad news of the day pass unnoticed.  Because the Pope has to be a powerful guy.

 

 

 

I admit, I did not see that coming. I mean wow-I never would have thought that would happen.

But here is the problem-there are any numbers of blatantly deranged psychopaths that are waiting in the wings to take his place.

And in news pretty much guaranteed to fuck up my world-I think it pretty much guarantees a government shut down.

Just one more reason to buy that unlimited drinks package , I guess.

See you on the other side!

 

2 responses so far

Sep 19 2015

Day late and more than a couple of dollars short

Published by under Beer and Babes

For beer and babes. My apologies. I wish I could say its because I got a better offer-but that would require the S.O. to actual remember that she is supposed to have sex. sad

But one can still admire this:

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And drink some of this:

BudweiserBudvar500ml

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Sep 17 2015

Not liking the competition

Published by under Sex,Technology

Back when I was in Japan, I remember vividly the complaints of Western Women, evil arch enemy of all us great guys who savored living there, complaining about us coming down with "Yellow Fever". 

Now it seems technology is going to replicate that cultural conflict on a grand scale:

A campaign has been launched calling for a ban on the development of robots that can be used for sex.

Such a use of the technology is unnecessary and undesirable, said campaign leader Dr Kathleen Richardson.

Sex dolls already on the market are becoming more sophisticated and some are now hoping to build artificial intelligence into their products.

Those working in the field say that there is a need for such robots.

Dr Richardson, a robot ethicist at De Montfort University in Leicester, wants to raise awareness of the issue and persuade those developing sex robots to rethink how their technology is used.

"Sex robots seem to be a growing focus in the robotics industry and the models that they draw on – how they will look, what roles they would play – are very disturbing indeed," she told the BBC.

She believes that they reinforce traditional stereotypes of women and the view that a relationship need be nothing more than physical.

And the follow up question should be, "So what's your point?"

Really? Robots are going to replace real women?  I don't think so-but at the same time, having an alternative that is not loaded with baggage is not exactly a bad thing either.

Besides as Sam Kinison pointed out, market forces are at work here:

 

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Sep 13 2015

Recent Reading

Besides the volume of recent work, I have been deeply involved in several books recently. Not really an excuse for my lack of steady posting, but it did provide a different sort of diversion. Below are my reviews of three of the best of the group. ( I have finished 7 in all since mid-July).

The first book was an oldie,  but goody. It is from the 1970's and it is Saul Bellow's, To Jerusalem and Back, A Personal Account. Published in 1976, the book is a fascinating series of anecdotes and stories about all aspects of the experience of Israel during that decade and the decades before. Bellow writes of a discussion with Jean Paul Sartre published many years earlier. He has a brief view of the power ( or lack thereof) of the United States Sixth fleet, back during the time that the US Navy actually put ships in the Mediterranean ( of which I was a part in the late 1970's). The book is a report of the authors personal experiences but it is much, much more than that-it is a series of vignettes that show the complexity of modern Israeli life. What is amazing to me is just how forward looking Bellow was. He was writing in 1976, but his observations still hold true today.  As one critic said, " Forty years later, it's like reading last week's news analysis from the Middle East. If he hadn't been one of the great novelists of the 20th century, Bellow might have been one of its greatest journalists." That's a pretty good summation of the book.

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Along the same lines, and as an adjunct to my job, I try to read a lot of background material on Israel. I had stumbled on Bellow's book in the library and I am glad I did. Interestingly enough, I tried to add it to my Kindle library and Amazon said it is not available to readers in the US, due to copyright restrictions. I found that interesting, if not a trifle disappointing. 

For the reason I listed above, I also completed reading a newer book that does the same thing as Bellows book-provide unique insights into the complex puzzle that is Israel.  The book is by Ari Shavit, who is a writer for Haaretz newspaper, and it is called, My Promised Land. The book is a series of interviews and retelling of specific pieces of Israel's history staring with the first waves of Aliyah ( emigration to Israel) that began in the 1890's and moving up to present day ( 2012).

We meet Shavit’s great-grandfather, a British Zionist who in 1897 visited the Holy Land on a Thomas Cook tour and understood that it was the way of the future for his people; the idealist young farmer who bought land from his Arab neighbor in the 1920s to grow the Jaffa oranges that would create Palestine’s booming economy; the visionary youth group leader who, in the 1940s, transformed Masada from the neglected ruins of an extremist sect into a powerful symbol for Zionism; the Palestinian who as a young man in 1948 was driven with his family from his home during the expulsion from Lydda; the immigrant orphans of Europe’s Holocaust, who took on menial work and focused on raising their children to become the leaders of the new state; the pragmatic engineer who was instrumental in developing Israel’s nuclear program in the 1960s, in the only interview he ever gave; the zealous religious Zionists who started the settler movement in the 1970s; the dot-com entrepreneurs and young men and women behind Tel-Aviv’s booming club scene; and today’s architects of Israel’s foreign policy with Iran, whose nuclear threat looms ominously over the tiny country.

As it examines the complexities and contradictions of the Israeli condition, My Promised Land asks difficult but important questions: Why did Israel come to be? How did it come to be? Can Israel survive? Culminating with an analysis of the issues and threats that Israel is currently facing, My Promised Land uses the defining events of the past to shed new light on the present. The result is a landmark portrait of a small, vibrant country living on the edge, whose identity and presence play a crucial role in today’s global political landscape.

 

In reading the book I was struck by two of the main points that he raised. First, he points out that both the Israeli right and the Israeli left have yet to come to grips with a central fact that lies at the heart of Zionism-namely that whether they realized it or not, the movement was built on the foundational idea of dispossessing the current occupants of Palestine, in favor of a group of people who had no modern historical ties to that particular chunk of real estate. They only have a thousands year old religious mystery to cling on to that underpinned the reason why Palestine and only Palestine could be the Jewish State. Shavit very skillfully points out that one cannot duck that particular fact, and it is at odds with the narrative of Israel as a benign civilizing force in the region.

The second issue, and its one I had not given much thought to before, is the idea that the Holocaust changed the demographics of the Zionist movement dramatically. It is important to remember that Herzl's vision of Zionism was essentially a European one. The Jewish State he envisioned was to be a a modern, sophisticated and technologically advanced and Europeanized society. Herzl was aware of the Sephardic Jews ( Oriental or non-European Jews) but he tended to discount that.
 

Herzl completely rejected the race theories of Israel Zangwill. He became increasingly aware of the existence of Sephardic Jewry, but he envisioned the Jewish State as a state of Europeans, who might speak German. In his diaries he wrote:

"I believe German will be our principal language…I draw this conclusion from our most widespread jargon, 'Judeo-German.' But over there we shall wean ourselves from this ghetto language, too, which used to be the stealthy tongue of prisoners. Our teachers will see to that." (June 15, 1895, Diaries, 1: 171)

In The Jewish State, Herzl envisioned the government of the new state to be an "Aristocratic Republic," apparently modeled on contemporary Austria or Germany. In 1902, Herzl published a utopian novel about the Jewish state,  Altneuland (old-new land) a vision complete with monorails and modern industry.  Altneuland envisioned a multipluralistic democracy in which Arabs and Jews had equal rights. The novel concludes, "If you will, it is no legend."

Der Judenstaat and  Altneuland were visions of a Jewish state to be populated by European Jewry, who in 1900 were far more numerous than the tiny remnant of oriental and Sephardic Jews in Muslim lands and the Balkans. Herzl himself was no doubt aware of Zionist yearnings among Sephardic Jews. His grandfather was a friend of RabbiYehudah Alkalai, a Zionist precursor. But Herzl addressed his vision to the Jews of Europe.

Shavit points out that the Holocaust destroyed that vision and changed the planned demographics of the new state of Israel. A lot of the initial immigration to Israel came from the Sephradi population, especially as the Arabs turned away from toleration to outright hostility. Those population numbers had a distinct impact on Israel's politics and societal views and Shavit points out that those effects are still present.

Shavit is a great writer and the book is very readable and fascinating to immerse yourself into. For non-Israelis, and Americans in particular I would recommend this book as a must read. It shatters a lot of myths-and that is a good thing. Americans need to understand Israel as it really is, not as they think it it is.

 

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The final book I have been reading off and on is a return to one of my favorite writers and historians, Arthur Schlesinger. A while back I read his collection of letters and posted a review.  Subsequently his journals have been published. They are much more candid than his letters and his insights into many of today's political figures when they were younger are amazing to read.Schelsinger is a great writer and I particularly got some great satisfaction out of his description of Charles Krauthammer. It is simply priceless as it points out what a slug Krauthammer really is, long before the rest of us really knew about him:

Last night I appeared on ABC's Nightline (Ted Koppel), leaving an entertaining dinner party given by Ahmed and Mica Ertegun for Irving Lazar. My combatant on the show was a fellow named Charles Krauthammer who writes particularly obnoxious neo-conservative trash for the New Republic and other right wing journals. His special line is that a mature power must understand the vital need for an imperial policy and for unfettered executive secrecy in the conduct of foreign affairs. He argues this line with boundless self-righteousness and sublime ignorance of American history. He is also, alas, a paraplegic, having dived into a waterless swimming pool. The joy of dealing with Krauthammer perhaps tempted me into undue vehemence. I have been trying to establish a new and more benign television personality. His performance was surprisingly feeble, and I was unnecessarily testy. Still, it gave me much satisfaction. [Political cartoonist] Jules Feiffer called this morning and said, "If Krauthammer were not already in a wheelchair, he certainly would be now after the pounding you gave him last night.

The puzzle is that there are people who take Krauthammer seriously as a deep thinker.

Those lines were written in 1986, long before Krauthammer sold his soul to the devil that is Fox News.  They remain as true today as they were then. Schlesinger saw his mediocrity long before the rest of us. 

Its a fantastic insight into a half century of history and well worth the time to read. The best part is, that because it is a journal, you can leave it and come back to it. That is what I have done for the last month. Whenever I have extra time, my old friend Arthur Schlesinger is there-thanks to the modern innovation that is Kindle.

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Aug 29 2015

Sea Credit

For the record, my sea duty counter when I retired stood @ 5 years, 7 months and 21 days. Since I was in aviation, that time was all embarked on US Navy vessels and most of it was underway. So it would seem more than odd that I am actually looking forward to another week and a half at sea.

Yes, the SO and I have confirmed that both us have officially entered the land of the old timers by booking a cruise this fall here:

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On the plus side, this will be the first cruise I make where I don't have to hide my drinking on board. cheeky

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Aug 27 2015

Writers bloc

Not much posting. As E   @   L, points out, some of it is due to "too much time on Famebook." But most of it is due the fact, that while I have a lot of ideas, I have little desire to write them down.

Maybe I am just depressed. After all, there is a lot to be depressed about.

A sizeable number of stupid people think Donald Trump is fit to be President.

People are defending Megyn Kelly as a "responsible journalist" ( Trump is right on that one. "We have already established what you are, Madam, now we are just negotiating over price).

The other 16 members of the clown car are just as bad.

It could be because I desperately need some of this:

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Or because I have not traveled in 4 weeks.

But take heart, I did not forget women's equality day. ( Which was yesterday)

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No sir, I remembered it.

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Just as I remembered it was National Dog Day:

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But none of that helps with my writers bloc. Perhaps the urge is dying? Perish the thought!

 

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