Unknown Country

Hans de Borst, father of one of the victims of the terrorist attack that brought down Flight MH17, wrote an impassioned letter to Putin about his horrible loss. There is a part in the letter that is very telling:

But suddenly she is not here anymore! She has been shot out of the sky, in an unknown country, where there is a war going on!

Borst’s country is a lot smaller than Ukraine but he doesn’t see anything wrong with dismissing it as “unknown.” Ukrainians are so dedicated to the idea of becoming part of the EU, to being finally considered as real Europeans. That is a fool’s errand, though. Once you are on the margins, there is no getting out of that role. Just ask Spain, a country which paid very dearly for its obsession with finally joining Europe.

The center needs the margins to exist because without them it will stop being central. Russians understood this very well and decided not to be the “unknown country” or the margins. So they are now trying to organize a new group where they will be the center.

Here is a response to Borst’s letter from Alexandra Kovaleva, a Ukrainian.

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Come on, People!

What, nobody will even try to guess? It’s a classic of American literature. Every day I see at least one student reading it. It’s the most popular book on campus after The Game of Thrones. It was recommended to me right here on the blog as a book that anybody who is even remotely interested in the United States has to read.

In case anybody is too literally minded, the book is not about Jews at all. But the part about women is quoted pretty much verbatim.

The non-Americans probably have no idea but Americans should know.

Can You Guess What Book I’m Reading?

My name is Jacob Rabinowitz, and here’s the story of my life. I grew up in a nice Jewish family. I will never forget the good times we had when my father would come home from his work stiffing nice old ladies out of their last penny. Like any good Jew he was greedy to the point of oblivion. By the time he’d be back from the pawn-shop, Mom would return from whoring all over town, which is something all Jewesses do as part of their identity.

We’d sit down to a dinner of some plump and juicy Christian babies, and I will never forget the lovely stench of garlic emanating from the whole family. Uncle Moishe would come by, bringing our share of proceeds from the conspiracy to rule the planet that all of us Jews were in on and we would have a grand old time discussing how we’d fooled everybody by faking the Holocaust. That was one good hustle!

Of course, after my Mom went crazy because of all that whoring and Uncle Moishe choked on a rib of some particularly nasty infant, I knew immediately whose fault it was: Gentiles! I hate those vicious anti-Semitic creatures who keep coming up with ridiculous stereotypes about us Jews almost as much as I hate women.

Brrr, women. The domineering, castrating creatures that are weak and frail by nature should be kept in line by us, men.

So I knew what I had to do to combat anti-Semitism. Praise our Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven for showing me that the best way to stick it to those mean anti-Semites was to convert to Christianity.

Tenure Dossier Woes

Preparing one’s tenure dossier is back-breaking work, people. And I mean that literally since I’m running all over the place with very heavy folders that I need to scan and enter into the Internet-based system. As my Jewish luck would have it, I belong to the first generation of tenure applicants at my school who have to complete the entire tenure dossier online. This means that all of the massive paperwork I have prepared over the years now has to be scanned and entered into the online system.

What really bugs me is that I can’t enter any of the citations of my scholarly work into the dossier. Seven scholars from different countries have cited my research. Yes, it might seem like nothing, but to me these seven citations are priceless. The problem is that all of these are citations of the articles I published before starting my tenure-track at this university. So they don’t count. Nothing of what I did before starting here counts. This is obviously fair and just as it should be, but it isn’t exactly like I’m drowning in citations of my later work. 

Yes, these are very trivial problems. And I’m very much entitled to worry about something small and trivial for a change.

Child Labor

On my favorite show Shark Tank I often see kids aged between 7 and 17 who “own businesses” and whose parents gush happily over how the kids work all day long making money. There are also articles such as these:

The child savant is a hot ticket, evident in the gush over Flynn McGarry, the 15-year-old Los Angeles cooking prodigy, whose pop-up dinners are sell-outs. In Silicon Valley, competition for young talent is now so intense that interns as young as 13 are scouted; Facebook flies in kids with their parents to meet Mark Zuckerberg. It’s not uncommon for some to make a year’s salary in a summer, or receive a $100,000 grant.

What I don’t get is this: isn’t child labor against the law? I always thought that one of the greatest achievements of organized labor was outlawing the practice of making children work. Isn’t that still true? What is the deal with 13-year-old interns and 9-year-old “business owners”? These kids have their childhoods stolen from them and nobody bats and eye-lash. 

Tom Frank on Obama

Tom Frank has been publishing some really garbagey articles lately, but there is a paragraph in the most recent one that does make sense:

In point of fact, there were plenty of things Obama’s Democrats could have done that might have put the right out of business once and for all—for example, by responding more aggressively to the Great Recession or by pounding relentlessly on the theme of middle-class economic distress. Acknowledging this possibility, however, has always been difficult for consensus-minded Democrats, and I suspect that in the official recounting of the Obama era, this troublesome possibility will disappear entirely. Instead, the terrifying Right-Wing Other will be cast in bronze at twice life-size, and made the excuse for the Administration’s every last failure of nerve, imagination and foresight. Demonizing the right will also allow the Obama legacy team to present his two electoral victories as ends in themselves, since they kept the White House out of the monster’s grasp—heroic triumphs that were truly worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.

It’s true that the whole “the bad, mean right-wingers are not letting me do all the wonderful things I would have done otherwise” spiel is getting old. Five and a half years of hearing the same excuse has become nothing but annoying.

How Russia Sees the Tragedy of Flight MH17

A very good article on how the tragedy of Flight MH17 is perceived in Russia:

Did you know Malaysia Air Flight 17 was full of corpses when it took off from Amsterdam? Did you know that, for some darkly inexplicable reason, on July 17, MH17 moved off the standard flight path that it had taken every time before, and moved north, toward rebel-held areas outside Donetsk? Or that the dispatcherssummoned the plane lower just before the crash? Or that the plane had been recently re-insured? Or that the Ukrainian army has air defense systems in the area? Or that it was the result of the Ukrainian military mistaking MH 17 for Putin’s presidential plane, which looks strangely similar?

Did you know that the crash of MH17 was all part of an American conspiracy to provoke a big war with Russia?

Obama is showing great leadership in addressing the tragedy. Of course, if back in February he had started doing and saying what he is now, things would be different. But better late than never, I guess. I’ve been listening to his speeches on Ukraine with horror, afraid of hearing something that will put me off him for good. On the day the plane was shot down, Obama disappointed with a vastly insensitive, “This looks like it might have been a tragedy,” but yesterday and today he’s been very clear and forceful on the subject. Which is good news.

Russian Speakers in Ukraine

Another idiotic phrase that bugs me beyond belief is “Russian speakers in Ukraine.” I just heard a long segment of a radio show discussing whether Russian speakers in Ukraine had legitimate grievances. The show’s hosts didn’t mention who the Russian speakers in Ukraine had grievences against for an obvious reason: there isn’t anybody else there.

Everybody is a Russian-speaker in Ukraine. Talking of Russian speakers in Ukraine is as idiotic as talking of “the English-speaking community of Southern Illinois.” There are people in Ukraine who are trying to revive Ukrainian, and good for them. But people who only speak Ukrainian, who have never spoken anything but Ukrainian and who are not native speakers of Russian simply do not exist. Where on Earth would they come from all of a sudden?

Foreign Policy and Whiny Voices

I just watched a program on C-SPAN, and it was beyond hilarious. A foreign relations specialist was talking about 15 million dollars that the US has given Mexico to train Mexican military.

People with whiny voices kept calling to ask, “But why can’t Mexico invest its own $15,000,000 to train its own military?”

The specialist kept explaining, with the patience of an early Christian saint, that of course Mexico was spending hundreds of millions on training its military, and of course, in foreign relations, $15 million only matters as a symbolic gesture with zero practical consequences, and of course the return that the US was getting on this puny little investment was in the billions. Yet the Whiny Voices persisted.

Then an even bigger genius called to propose, in a happy voice of somebody convinced he has solutions to every problem on the planet, that if the US legalizes drugs this would eliminate Mexico’s gangs. The poor foreign relations specialist tried explaining that a scenario where a gangster says, “Hmm, nobody needs my drugs anymore, let me go get a minimum-wage job at McDonald’s” is not realistic, but that wasn’t making much of an impression.