sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

December 31, 2013

The Forward Krupp

Filed under: Jewishness, politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:26 am

Is Ethan Krupp Jewish because The Forward said so (via Instapundit)?  I suspected the boy might be of Hebrew lineage when I saw the picture of the anonymous hipster clad in Christmas pajamas, but since my Jewdar is known to be too sensitive I figured I shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  Then it turned out that the imp bares a not so nice surname.  I seriously doubt that The Forward “fact checkers” require a poof of tribe membership as onerous as Chabad’s, so allow me to remain agnostic on the matter of boy Ethan’s Jewishness.  Especially since, as it turns out, blacks also claim him.

In a very excellent post Susan L.M.Goldberg noted that Krupp is Jewish the way Marx was Jewish.  Marx, who, if we recall, was born into a Christian German family, was haunted by his Jewfro and wrote anti-Semitic tracts.  Similarly, boy Ethan is Jewish because somebody somewhere might think he looks like a walking Jewish stereotype, in which case Ethan himself is guilty of perpetuating said stereotypes.  Why-oh-why couldn’t he style himself into a Zionist?

Blond Jew found!  A Zionist!

Needless to say, The Forward presented no evidence of any anti-Semitic right wingers pounding on poor Ethan because of his presumed Hebrew curls; I am yet to read of anyone saying: “That Jew, to the oven!”  As RS McCain said:

Jay Michaelson [The Forward author] tells us very little about conservatives who made fun of a silly ad, but tells us an awful lot about the strange ideas that swirl around inside Jay Michaelson’s deranged mind.

A pj onesie could be good humor, but, evidently, not in an act performed by a hipster.  Being a humorist is a tough job, a bit above the pay grade of the hopelessly insecure residents of Williamsburg.  The insecure feel the need to create an air of superiority about them which destroys comedy.  One can imagine Groucho Marx wearing pj’s, or Woody Allen (I’m pretty sure he did it on films) and be hilarious, but the boy Ethan with his all-knowing eyebrow hardly raises to aesthetic standards of Jewish comedy.  He doesn’t wear his pj’s to let the audience laugh at him, he wears them because it’s like irony dude: you think he’s a dork, but he’s actually brilliant, and to make sure we all get that he’s brilliant he makes a haughty face. He’s not funny, he’s irritating, and his “comedy” is designed to defend existing power structures.

One problem with American secular Jews is that they don’t know how to be secular Jews.  Russian Jews are for the most part non-believers, but would a Russian Jew ever brag, like The Forward-defended twenty-something, “We have no morals”?  No, that’s wholly idiotic, because, as Jews, we have to understand that our greatest contribution to civilization was the introduction of monotheism.  Only Jews totally oblivious to their heritage can run around yapping about “no morals”.

Equally antithetic to anything Jewish is boy Ethan’s one venture into the abortion debate, which he admits he lost, but:

To this day, I haven’t fact checked Chip’s scientific report. Beyond the women’s rights implications, I’m afraid it would be the ultimate surrender if I knew the truth.

A former co-worker of mine converted to Judaism because she liked the idea of doubt being an essential part of faith.  This is what a Jew is required to do: doubt the existence of almighty to prove it.  Jews take the spirit of vigorous debate to worldly matters; that’s why we are so successful in letters and sciences.  And in politics — just watch the Knesset at work.
From time to time my fingers start typing paragraphs about the sad state of American Jewry of the last quoter century.  Then my head prevails, and I move the post into the garbage bin.  Because, really, what Russian Jews think of American Jews is not that hard to find out if one knows how to use Google translate.  And it’s that: they’ve been hijacked by know-nothings whose idea of debate is bashing Israel, and who are only too happy to squander their political capital.  Their greatest achievement of the post-Cold war period is a nuclear Iran.  Is it any wonder that the Forward defends boy Ethan?

December 24, 2013

A Final Twilight for Soviet Idols?

Filed under: politics, Ukraine — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:23 am

UPDATE: Many thanks to Professor Jacobson for linking.
A while ago I commented at a Legal Insurrection thread about the removal of Euromaidan protesters that I hope the protesters destroyed that Lenin statue they toppled, so that the Ukrainian government will not re-erect it.  You see, interested parties want to do just that — according to a Russian language newspaper Vecherniy Kharkov, shortly after the monument was brought down, Kharkiv politician Mikhail Dobkin tweeted that he is donating 50,000 hriven (a little over 6K) to a fund to restore the statue.  Dobkin claims that fellow residents of this East Ukrainian city inundated him with supportive phone calls and so far pledged 100, 000 hriven to his restoration fund.  Dobkin, who maintains that the monument is on UNESCO protection list, expressed optimism that he will be able to raise 500,000 to restore Ilych, as the old Soviet media affectionately called the Bolshevik leader, to his former glory.

This is not the first time the monument in Kiev was attackeed.  In summer 2009 it was damaged by five Ukrainian nationalists (and, as one Russian state source implied, neo-Nazis).  Back then it was restored at the expense of the Ukrainian Communist Party.  Shortly after the incident BBC interviewed a babushka who, after hearing of the disturbance expressed a peculiar sentiment:

But 80-year-old Raisa Petrivna tearfully declares: “I was resting at my dacha when I heard about this act. I came here to ask his forgiveness. I said to him: Ilych, forgive them for what they did to you…”

Several months after the incident, Ukrainian First lady Kateryna Yushchenko called for the removal of Lenin monuments in Ukraine, equating the ubiquitous communist landmark with idolatry.  As it happens, that part of the world has a history with iconoclasm.  When in late 10th century Kiev* Prince Vladimir the Great baptized Russia, he ordered destruction of pagan idols.  In 1917, Bolsheviks blew up temples and ruined Romanov eagles.

In 1931 the Soviets blew up Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow

At least one statue of the founder of the workers’ paradise blessed every town in the Soviet Union.  These sculptures, typically of dubious artistic merit, were a part of the visual noise that filled Soviet population centers.  Now the outsized posters, red banners and other fixtures of Soviet life are gone, but many Lenin monuments survived the first wave of removal of the early 90’s.  Granted some of them are in a state of decay, which is a natural state of infrastructure in Eastern Slavic lands.

What to do with Lenin statues has been a matter of a debate.  Are we going to [gasp!] destroy history?  No matter that historic buildings are regularly torn down, and without much discussion.  Build a museum of socialism and move all known Lenin monuments there?  I don’t believe there were ever funds to complete such ambitious project.  Plus, there is something totalitarian about that idea, too.  I find it heartening that the fate of the Soviet landmarks is resolved not by decree of a great leader, but on the local level.

Fiercely nationalistic Western Ukrainian cities removed all signs of proletarian leader in early 90s.  In the Black Sea port of Odessa Lenin statue was transferred from a central location into a park.  In 2011, in Uzhgorod, where the statue was dismantled a decade ago, local leaders threatened to smelt unless Communist Party pays up 75,000 euros.

The communist party influence had been waning in the recent years, and it might just be that we’ll see the dismantling (detraction, as was the case in Cherkassy in 2009) of remaining Ukrainian Lenins.  Still, in Eastern parts of the country where much of the population still speaks Russian, the defiant communist party put up new monuments, like the Stalin statue in Zaporozhie — although I suspect   — I hope — that was a last hurray.

The main Kharkiv Lenin monument is alive and well.  Perched in the center of the city, in the vicinity of several major colleges, the monument steps are now a popular student hangout.  They are very inviting, those steps, a good place to meet a lover or to eat lunch.  From time to time communist lay flowers on the pedestal.  Dismantling the gargantuan figure requires political will, so for the time being lovers can meet at the feet of the old syphilitic.

Ukrainians feel embarrassed by the ubiquitous Soviet relic.  When the country co-hosted European soccer championship last year, the now toppled statue in Kiev was digitally erased from the promotional video.

It’s not just Ukraine that’s aching to part with the past.  One night in the town of Pushkin near St. Petersburg some kids with a sense of humor (possibly of nationalist monarchist persuasion) put a bomb in Lenin’s rear end.

No human beings were hurt in explosion.

At this point, I wouldn’t want to dismantle this figure.

…My unsolicited thoughts on Euromaidan:

As an American, I see it in our interest that Ukraine continues to develops ties with the West, and that Russia is isolated.  Bringing Ukraine into Western sphere offers obvious strategic benefits to the US and allies and promotes the cause of liberty worldwide.

Euromaidan crowds want to see Ukraine in the EU, but this is not currently on the table, and if I were a German, I’d be weary of the idea.

Our sources in Kharkiv, even those who were energized during Orange revolution, are now apolitical.  To enter the EU, Ukraine, the land with great potential and educated population but best for babes with painted boobies, would have to restructure it’s economy.  It’s not just that many in Eastern Ukrainian feel betrayed by their leaders and no longer trust any of them, but after a quarter century of post-Soviet ordeals, ordinary citizens have no appetite for reform.  My parents’ septuagenarian friends are most worried about the cost of prescription medications.  My friends are preoccupied with New Year, which remains the biggest holiday in post-Soviet countries.

Kharkiv social media users are largely disinterested in anything political, although I did find a few relevant videos.  Among them:

  • One Russian language commentary argued that Latvia was much better off producing canned fish and shortwave radios for USSR then is now as a part of EU;
  • Ukrainian Greco-Catholic priest Arsenich Palka calls for violent nationalist revolution;
  • An edited video of of protesters attacking Berkut special police forces;
  • A Russian channel 24 investigative report showing Euromaidan astroturf.  Their findings are hard to deny, but toppling of the Lenin statue, clashes with police, protesters sleeping in government buildings and a half a million strong demonstration looked all pretty real.

Kharkiv sentiment is probably fairly typical of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.  Prior to dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kharkiv wasn’t even properly speaking a Ukrainian city; now it drifted away from Russia a bit, with Ukrainian becoming the language of instruction in grade schools, one can hear Ukrainian spoken on the streets.  If Ukraine falls apart, Putin will score Crimea, the strategically important majority ethnic Russian peninsula on the Black Sea.

If the country keeps itself together, I’m not sure Ukrainians are ready for the ordeal of freedom — so many of them would rather have Moscow redistribute canned fish than reform their economy.  And they should really do the second, whether or not they get into EU… Then again, it’s easy for me to pontificate about their economy and their lives, and it’s not like there is nothing to privatize here, starting with our health industry.


*Many centuries before Ukraine became a cultural and political entity, Kiev was the first capital of Russia.  Ukrainian nationalism dates back to the 17th century Cossack upraising against Poland-Lithuania and the 18th century destruction of the Cossacks of Zaporozhian Sich by Catherine the Great.

December 9, 2013

Mandela: As Overrated as U2

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:48 pm

President Obama is very much a Nelson Mandela — if white boy Billy Ayers is a Sakharov.  The two Americans share skin color with celebrated foreign symbols of resistance, and in our world race is given a primary consideration when selecting role models or, in Ayers’s case, objects of envy.

Mandela was a brave man, and the apartheid had to go, but he was also a communist terrorist, and South Africa of today is not exactly a bastion of freedom and prosperity. I find it telling that Amnesty International didn’t consider the South African a prisoner of consciousness and never took on his case.  After his release AI found it necessary to hob-nob with him, contributing to the whitewash of his record.  The end of apartheid was not so much a personal achievement of Mandela’s, who, apparently, was not much of a leader, but a course of history (h/t The Daley Gator).  To say that the man’s record is checkered is an understatement.  His ANC and his wife were supportive of lynching (see some  lovely pictures at The Camp of The Saints), which I take to mean that the chattering classes will be comparing Mandela to Tea Party in 1, 2…  never mind.

Mandela’s deification is in full swing with Empire State building lit in colors of the South African flag, and our own flags flown half-mast.  None of that happened on the occasion of passing of, say, the Czech hero Vaclav Havel.  After all, he only fought of freedom of pasty-colored individuals in snowy northern stretches where no lofty neo-marxist post-colony theory applies (although I’m pretty sure an enterprising employee of a four-year college can invent such neo-marxist theory in exchange for tenure).  Also, Havel was not known for clinching fists.

And G-d forbid we officially mourn the death of Margaret Thatcher, a great friend of our country.  Obamas, who are now on their way to South Africa in two separate planes, elected to save taxpayers’ money when Havel and Thatcher were laid to final rest.  Because what nations need shared values and friendship when you have post-Marxist theory and skin color?

What the masses know about Mandela is a low-brow version of post-colonial theory.  He was black, he was in prison, he was freed and somehow at some point he befriended a recording artist who wrote a non-committal protest song thus solidifying his reputation for, like, being political.

Nelson Mandela’s story is certainly meaningful to blacks and those who project into them.  Obamster, for instance, dutifully tweeted a picture of self against a background of some Mandela-related artifact, and Michael Shear of NYT gushes that ‘Without Nelson Mandela, there might never have been a President Obama.” (H/t Rush).  OK, I get it, Barry Soetoro, the abandoned child, had to find a black-skinned role model, and maybe Mandela filled the niche — or not, we know very little about the president’s personal development.  We do know, however, that the first family is very much enthralled by South Africa with the First Lady draping her progenies into South African flags and their dear friend Oprah Winfrey doing some charity work there.  So thank you Nelson Mandela for saddling the free world with our 44th President.

First Lady Michelle Obama and kids arrive to South Africa for a private publicly-financed trip in 2011. During the visit Michelle introduced her two teenage daughters to the South African bigamous president Zuma.  The Obama family values

Did you know that the Czech PM Jiri Rusnok was caught on hot mike complaining about having to go to Mandela’s funeral?  Bibi is sitting it out, allegedly due to the high cost of the trip, but I can’t help thinking that maybe he’s trying to make a statement about post-colonial marxist drivel and and is avoiding our treacherous president.

I can understand Mr. Rusnok: why go to Johannesburg if you are in Prague?  Apartheid ended shortly after Berlin Wall fell, and while nearly everyone in the West agrees that that Mandela is “inspirational”, who wants to visit to South Africa?  Few people know of Havel, but who will refuse a trip to Czech Republic, which, to be sure, has a lot to do with the country’s long history and friendly people.  Heritage Foundation put Czech Republic at #29 on its current world index of economic freedom and the country’s leadership deserves some praise for that.

December 2, 2013

Keeping It Unreal

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:54 pm

Dear friends and readers, happy belated Thanksgiving to you all and happy Hanukkah to fellow members of the tribe.  I’ve been overwhelmed by the holidays and consequently off the net, except when I had to buy presents.

The kids got into a digital pet app called Talking Tom.  I initially downloaded the sample app with only a couple of a few graphics, but then, in a fit of generosity, paid $.99 for the full version that involves the titular cat playing cymbals, catching a bird and farting.  The later action absolutely delights my 4-year-old son.

My daughter saw a Talking Tom plush toy at a store and immediately fell in love.  I found the cat on Amazon for half the price and had to hurry up and order it before Hanukkah is over.  In the meantime she keeps reminding me about how she can’t wait for “the real Tom”.  Real?  The digital pet was there first, he can fart and the owner can chose a hat for him or what not, but he’s not real until she can cradle him in her arms.  I suspected as much about the digital toys and their 3-D replicas.

This Tom doesn’t purr when his belly is rubbed, but we can imagine he does

Having said that, I like a touch of unreality in my life.  When taking care of family gets a little too real, it’s nice to have an online outlet.  So, dear friends and readers, I will see you soon.

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