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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Friday, January 17, 2003 ::

It doesn't matter, but I gotta complain anyway
Looking at the list of Golden Globe Award nominees--they were announced a little while back, and the awards are on Sunday--I'm already a bit put off by the lack of a nomination for Jude Law, who was brilliant as the hit man in "Road to Perdition." Paul Newman did get nominated for Best Supporting Actor for that movie, and he was also good in it, but not as good as Law, who is definitely one of my favorite actors. So it's probably unlikely (thought not impossible) that Law will get nominated for the Oscars either. Too bad, he really deserves it. I know that these awards often have little or nothing to do with merit, but hey, movie fans always have to complain when their favorites don't win.
4:00 PM
:: Thursday, January 16, 2003 ::
Fed up with the lack of progress
The usually non-partisan Ze'ev Schiff, veteran military affairs writer for Ha'aretz, has had it with the Sharon premiership:
What Israel really needs at the present strategic juncture is a statesman with a vision who will lead the country out of its complex conflict, and not a power-obsessed leader because of whom the national cart is sinking ever deeper into the mire...

Even when the IDF and the Shin Bet security service achieve a tactical military success, Sharon is incapable of exploiting it for the next step, in the political realm. It is in this context where Sharon's lack of being a statesman-leader is most pronounced. The struggle with the Palestinians has become a war of revenge and prestige, in which the victories on the battlefield slowly dissolve into nothing. On the ground, the settlers are deepening their grip and adding new outposts with a variety of stratagems. Is there anyone who believes that this situation can be dragged out indefinitely?

...[Sharon now has the] understanding, which he did not have during his tenure as defense minister at the beginning of the 1980s, that without the cooperation of the United States he is doomed to fail. He also realizes that he has to base himself on a broad national consensus and not only on the extreme right. However, he appears to be looking for a consensus not for a political initiative but to go on prosecuting a war of revenge and prestige.

11:30 PM
Interesting historical connections
Maybe only interesting to me, but I never knew until now about this particular US Civil War/WWII connection. The commander of the Confederate troops at the Feb. 1862 Battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee was General Simon Bolivar Buckner. When he asked Union General U.S. Grant for terms of surrender, Grant made the famous reply "no terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." They had served together in the Army for several years and were actually good friends. Buckner later became the governor of Kentucky. His son, Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., commanded the US Tenth Army in the horrifically bloody 1945 Battle of Okinawa. Buckner Jr. died in that battle and ended up being the highest ranking US casualty of the Pacific War.
1:32 PM
:: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 ::
What a great turn of events
In their first nationally televised game since getting pounded by Louisville, Kentucky turned what was looking like a disaster in the first half into an astounding 22 point win at Vanderbilt. Down by eight at halftime after a pretty lame performance and some hot Vandy shooting (including an incredibly lucky 3-pointer that went in off the backboard), the Cats completely took over in the second half. Their solid outside shooting, brilliant defense, and tremendous rebounding, combined with Vandy's utter collapse, resulted in one of the most stunning halves I've ever seen in any Kentucky game.
12:24 AM
:: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 ::
I never bought this argument
Tom Friedman brings up the usual demographic conundrum for Israel in his latest column:
If there is no separation, by 2010 there will be more Palestinians than Jews living in Israel and the occupied territories. Then Israel will have three options: The Israelis will control this whole area by apartheid, or they will control it by expelling Palestinians, or they will grant Palestinians the right to vote and it will no longer be a Jewish state. Whichever way it goes, it will mean the end of Israel as a Jewish democracy.
I'm a big fan of Friedman's work, but his conclusion is false in a number of ways. First off, there's not going to be transfer and there's not going to be one bi-national state, as most people in Israel are more aware of the need to allow for an eventual Palestinian state than ever before. The demographic argument, that the dropping of the Jewish population to below 50% in the entire land marks the onset of apartheid and the end of Jewish democracy, has never impressed me at all. It's bad for everyone that one people controls the other, period--whether the Jews constitute more or less than 50% of the total population doesn't make that any more or less true. Israel and the Palestinians are in a terrible situation right now, and if they're still there in 2010, it will be terrible for the same reasons, but not because demographics suddenly become an issue. It won't constitute some fundamental change in Israel's political identity.
11:55 PM
:: Monday, January 13, 2003 ::
What is it with Michigan and these conferences?
Just three months after hosting the propaganda-filled divestment conference masquerading as a peace-gathering, the university has just hosted an America-bashing anti-Iraq-war conference masquerading as a peace-gathering. I didn't attend this one, which not surprisingly had some of the same speakers as the divestment conference. Here are some choice quotes from the student paper's report:
Speaking in the panel discussion of "The War at Home," Riva Enteen, program director of the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, addressed the vulnerability of immigrants, saying they are often profiled as terrorists who subsequently face deportation.

"(Anti-war activists) have to be on the street, we have the numbers and we have the moral high ground," Enteen said. "We shouldn't be frightened of terror, we should be frightened of repression."
I'm all for being frightened of repression when such a thing can be proven, but isn't there a slight problem of terror as well? Does US government repression of its immigrants, even if it can be shown to be a widespread phenomenon, account for that minor matter of 3000 people being murdered on 9/11?
Ann Arbor resident Leon Cribbins said he enjoyed history of science Prof. Susan Wright's lecture, "Iraq, Biological Weapons, and the Rush to Preemptive War."

"What I thought was powerful was when she said that economic sanctions are a form of weapons of mass destruction," Cribbins said. "It's just interesting to hear these kinds of lectures."
Ah yes, sanctions themselves are WMD. We have Saddam gassing 5000 innocent Kurds, and the UN imposing sanctions on his regime. I never noticed that those were two sides of the same issue. I wonder if Prof. Wright thinks that the sanctions on the South African apartheid regime were the equivalent of nuking Pretoria, which her logic (at least as described by Mr. Cribbins) implies.
6:07 PM
Would it have changed Coke to Pepsi? Found my f%^&in' car keys?
I was reminded of the above Pulp Fiction reference by the following part of Mark Steyn's recent article on N. Korea:
Baghdad’s been on the back burner for a year now. The war has lost all momentum and both America’s serious enemies and her knockabout disparagers have been emboldened. If Saddam had been toppled to the cheers of a grateful populace last spring, among other consequences Yasser would be out of office, the ayatollahs would be packing, the House of Saud would be feeling the squeeze of lower oil prices, Boy Assad would have changed course so fast he might actually merit that invite to tea with the Queen, and the European anti-war movement would not have swollen inexorably in inverse proportion to the amount of actual war.
I'm a big fan of his, but does Steyn really believe all this would have happened by now? It's wildly unrealistic to assume that an Iraq war will solve all of these problems in one swoop. Assad changing course and implementing real reforms in Syria? Forget it. The ayatollahs would be packing? I hope for the fall of Iran's regime as much as any neo-con, but I fail to see how toppling Saddam will automatically bring about such an outcome within a year. The threat that Saddam poses justifies action in and of itself without resorting to quixotic statements about how it will transform the rest of the region.
2:23 PM
Do I have to go over this again?
University of Richmond profesor Akiba J. Covitz on Democrats and Israel:
Democratic leaders like former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle will on occasion stand up in support of Israel. But this is presented in such a way as to place as much blame for the "cycle of violence" on Israel as on Palestinian terrorists.
Tom Daschle on June 16 2002, a week before President Bush called for "a new and different Palestinian leadership":
"I do think that it is important for us to be pushing for a regime change, speaking of that, in Palestine as well -- in the Palestinian movement. And I think it is critical that we get help from our Arab allies. We've got to find somebody who can make decisions on a more constructive basis than what we've seen from Mr. Arafat."

12:16 PM
:: Sunday, January 12, 2003 ::
Lots of fun and no cliches
I just saw Catch Me If You Can and really enjoyed it. It avoids the most common cliche of movies where a cop (or an FBI agent, in this case) is chasing after a criminal--the cop makes some wild guesses about the criminal's plans or whereabouts and justifies them by saying "I know what makes this guy tick" or something equivalent. An only slightly less common cliche, but no less annoying, is when the criminal gets caught and tells the cop something like, "But I'm just a reflection of you--you've been chasing yourself all along!" This movie dodges both cliches and tells a wild story in a funny and interesting way.
12:14 PM

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