Haggai's Place

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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, April 25, 2003 ::

Poetic justice
Ever since I started following major pro and college sports about 16 years ago, I've seen more than a few poorly officiated games, but nothing matches last night's Minnesota/L.A. Lakers NBA playoff game, including the hundreds of other NBA playoff games I've watched. Referees have a difficult and thankless job that they usually do well, but last night was an outrage. The Lakers (whom I detest, although I seriously don't think that's coloring my perceptions here) benefitted from at least 8 or 9 appallingly bad foul calls on Minnesota in the fourth quarter and overtime. Still, the Timberwolves managed to pull out the victory to go up 2-1 in the best of 7 series, which they have a decent chance to win if they keep playing like they did in Games 2 and 3. Usually one or two lousy calls is enough to make the difference between winning and losing a game that close, which makes Minnesota's win all the more remarkable. I hope those officials will take a serious look at how much artificial help they were giving the Lakers.
5:20 PM
:: Thursday, April 24, 2003 ::
Righteous fury
I have to give a shout-out to Andrew Sullivan for his no-holds-barred ass-kicking over the last couple of days of Senator Rick Santorum's remarks about government regulation of sexual behavior. Sullivan also calls out his fellow conversative media figures for not making an issue out of it:
What exactly would it take to get conservatives to defend the principle of limited government and individual privacy? That it not involve any defense of homosexuals? Look at their defense of privacy when it comes to "outing" people. They have a fit (and rightly so) when some journalist dares ask questions about someone's sexual orientation. But when the government comes crashing through someone's bedroom door, they look politely the other way. Don't they see how transparent their double standards are? Or do they only care about these issues when it could affect "someone like them"?
Amen. It's always comforting to see people on the other side of the political aisle keeping an eye out for this stuff. Sullivan was also all over Trent Lott last December after Lott's wistful paean to segregation at Sen. Strom Thurmond's birthday party, as was Charles Krauthammer, who wrote the best piece on that issue that I remember reading.
11:46 AM
Crossing cultural lines with blogging
One of Imshin's posts from a couple of months ago just came in handy for me. She explained the origin and meaning of a particular idiom:
You had to put your token in the phone, or more than one if you intended to make an inter-city call, listen for the tone and then dial. When the other side answered the phone, the token dropped. From here stems the popular Hebrew phrase "Nafal lo ha'asimon" or "Yarad lo ha'asimon" literally translated as "the token has dropped for him" or "his token has gone down". It means, of course, "He got it" or "He suddenly understood it", an Israeli equivalent of "Eureka!" or a light bulb going on in a little bubble over a cartoon character's head. The funny thing is that young people, like my girls, who have never seen a token operated public phone, continue to use this phrase, without knowing where it comes from or what it really means.
Apparently that phrase is also used in Britain (maybe it originated there). It showed up yesterday in this story about a European Champions League soccer match:
Manchester United skipper Roy Keane admitted his side must start learning some vital lessons after suffering another disappointingly early exit at the hands of Real Madrid last night.

David Beckham came off the bench to score two late goals to give United a thrilling 4-3 win but by that time the tie was lost as Ronaldo's brilliant hat-trick ensured the nine-times European Cup winners a last four clash with Juventus.

It was the third time in four years since winning the trophy that Sir Alex Ferguson's men have bowed out at the quarter-final stage and Keane is becoming frustrated.

'We keep getting these lessons and the penny has to finally drop,' he said.
Had I even noticed that phrase without knowing what it meant (not very likely), I might have wondered if Keane (being Irish and all) had had a little too much to drink before that interview.
9:12 AM
:: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 ::
At least one important person sees a difference
Amidst more flipping out about Abu Mazen's record as a Holocaust denier, it's worth remembering what happened at the Wye River negotiations in late 1998, when Netanyahu was PM and Sharon was his foreign minister. I remember seeing a picture on the web of Sharon shaking hands with Abu Mazen, but I can't find it. Sharon also made a point at that conference of refusing to have any sort of interaction with Arafat. I dug up this interview that Sharon did back in early 1999 where he emphasizes those points
Before Wye, Sharon's colleagues baited him, predicting that he would cave in on his promise not to shake Arafat's hand, just as Netanyahu ended up sharing dinner and cigars with him. "But I did not shake his hand," Sharon says. "He saluted me, but I walked right past and shook the hand of Abu Mazen (his deputy)."
One might guess that in '98, Sharon didn't know about Abu Mazen's study from the early '80s that involved Holocaust denial, but it strains credibility to think that a leading Israeli figure who is as thoroughly cautious about dealing with his enemies as Sharon is wouldn't have known about that.

I'm not saying that Abu Mazen is the answer to everyone's problems, as I doubt that he is. But it makes little sense to trumpet the Holocaust denial as "proof" that he's no different from Arafat when the tough-minded Israeli prime minister himself obviously doesn't think so.
1:30 PM
:: Monday, April 21, 2003 ::
PETA in the "news"
I like the punch line of this news item from this week's issue of The Onion:
Fisherman's 4-Year-Old Son Liberates Bait

INTERNATIONAL FALLS, MN—During a fishing trip Monday, Jason Jorgensen, the 4-year-old son of International Falls fisherman Bill Jorgensen, liberated an entire styrofoam container of nightcrawlers, throwing the bait into Rainy Lake. "Run, wormies, run!" said Jorgensen as he gave the former bait its first-ever taste of sweet freedom. "Swim home now!" Informed of the bold act, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Ingrid Newkirk praised Jason for releasing the worms from his father's "cruel yoke of tyranny."
One can also enjoy other important news briefs in this week's edition such as "Clinton Emotionally Ready To Start Getting Blow Jobs Again."
4:21 PM
:: Sunday, April 20, 2003 ::
A weird combination
Along the lines of the UN inspections thing below, I was wondering about a very common confluence of views among war hawks that strikes me as a bit strange. Many of the people who were the most hawkish on Iraq, and in general the most hawkish on America's ability to change things through its use of power, are also the most eager to undermine international institutions like the UN and NATO. It's an odd mixture of outlooks--total confidence in the positive capabilities of American power, combined with total paranoia that any meaningful discussions about its legitimacy might undermine our ability to exercise it.

Obviously it makes sense to be wary of any foreign attempts to curtail America's ability to decide what it should or shouldn't do. And the UN is an easy target for scorn, considering how corrupt, hypocritical, and incompetent it frequently shows itself to be. But what's the source of the paranoia that even small gestures on our part towards the UN, like letting inspectors back into Iraq, could end up hurting us by strengthening our opponents? The Iraq war was the perfect illustration of how little influence France and Russia actually have when we decide to use force. They were totally opposed to the war, and yet they were powerless to stop it. So why would anyone think that the UN is going to be more able to impose its will on us in the future? If we're determined to do something, we can do it, and no one can stop us. Should we be afraid that at some point in the future, we'll want to do something that France is going to be even more strongly opposed to than the Iraq war, and that the UN might actually be able to unite behind them in some way that's significant enough to stop us? I suppose anything's possible, but that sure as hell isn't likely.

So why not use the UN whenever we can? Actively trying to scuttle it, as so many war hawks are constantly demanding, is just going to send more countries into France's camp. Few countries are as arrogant about opposing America as France is, and fewer still are silly enough to think that's it's always in their interests to do that. But the pissing contest that the Iraq debate descended into served France's purposes, not ours. We should try to be grown-up about dealing with the world, even if others insist on being childish. Faced with choosing between an immature bully and an immature pipsqueak, which is clearly the choice that most of the world saw themselves as having to make in the US/France debate over Iraq, the bully will usually lose. America's monopoly on power makes people uneasy enough as it is without our reminding them of it at every opportunity.
8:10 PM

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