Mind Over What Matters
Jay L. Zilber's commentary on political, social, and cultural fringe matters.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
I'M BACK! I wish I could say that I just got back from a nice, relaxing vacation sipping Pina Coladas in Bermuda -- (Actually, I could say it anyway, and you'd never know the difference. But it would be wrong.)
-- Actually, I've just been atypically swamped with real-world deadlines, and the Blog takes a back seat while I'm scrambling to keep my clients happy. That's all.
Now that I'm past all that, I have a question for my New York State readers: Does anyone here really care who wins the Democratic primary in the race for New York's Governor next week?
I've never actually voted for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in my life. In fact -- and in spite of whatever impression some people may have of my political leanings -- I'm actually a registered Democrat. (It's often said that you have to be a Dem in New York City, if you want to have a say in any local primaries that matter.)
But this time around, I'm leaning Republican for a couple of reasons:
(1) Andrew Cuomo; and (2) Carl McCall.
Cuomo has hardly been able to open his mouth in this campaign without embarrassing himself and everyone within earshot -- and I say that as one who has no regrets about voting for Mario four times.
By contrast, McCall seems harmless enough -- but that's exactly the problem. It seems to be his only significant selling point. His campaign slogan may as well be: "I'm harmless; don't be afraid of me."
Granted, Pataki is the ultimate empty-suit politician who came from nowhere and only sailed into high office as a puppet clinging to Al D'Amato's bribe-encrusted right hand. I'm hard-pressed to think of any high-profile accomplishments for which Pataki has legitimate bragging rights, other than lowering taxes -- and throwing the state into a budget crisis. I'm half-tempted to vote Pataki this time around, if only because it was his short-term political opportunism in the good times that created the revenue shortfalls in these hard times. People should have to clean up their own messes.
(Oh -- and of course, Pataki signed the death penalty into law. As if anyone's ever going to be executed in this state. Had Tim McVeigh blown up the New York Times building -- as Ann Coulter famously regretted last week that he hadn't -- McVeigh would have gotten 20-to-life.)
But the other half of my temptation is this: There are actual, practical, pragmatic reasons for sticking with Pataki for another term. For one thing, he's on good terms with the Republican mayor and the Republican president, and this is a particularly good time for the Governor not to be at odds with the people he has to curry favor from. There's something to be said for maintaining continuity during this crucial time of rebuilding and economic reinvigoration.
And in the end, I can't point to anything Pataki's done -- or failed to do -- which demonstrates gross incompetence or a tin ear for the will of the people, or any other failing so egregious that it would warrant his removal from office.
If anyone wants to convince me otherwise, there's a Comments section below:
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
WHICH BAAADASSSSS ARE YOU? I'm Foxy Brown's nemesis, Katherine Wall.
Thursday, August 08, 2002
AND THE SURVEY SAYS... From the mailbag (thanks, favorite brother!):
The U.N. conducted a worldwide survey last month. The only question asked was this: "Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?"
The survey was a HUGE failure:
In Africa they didn't know what "food" meant.
In Eastern Europe they didn't now what "honest" meant.
In Western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" meant.
In China they didn't know what "opinion" meant.
In the Middle East they didn't know what "solution" meant.
In South America they didn't know what "please" meant.
And in the U.S.A. they didn't know what "the rest of the world" meant.
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
CAGE BAGS COMICS COLLECTION: Has actor Nicholas Cage decided to become a "minimalist"? Or does he just not love them any more?
Monday, August 05, 2002
FRANK DIALOGUE: Apparently I need to elaborate on last week's post entitled "What's Wrong With This Headline." If you've been spot-checking the Mind Over What Matters "Comments" sections, you may have noticed that a gentleman by the name of "Frank" has recently made a few caustic remarks about my coverage, which call for some clarification.
Frank is a an old buddy of mine, who has recently revealed to me that he identifies with the Palestinian side of the Middle East conflict. He's here at my invitation. If Frank continues to participate in the dialogue here, I believe he will find that I am not wedded to any monolithic, immutable point of view -- that I welcome honest debate, and that I have no agenda other than the pursuit of intellectual honesty. I accept the possibility that I may learn a few things from his perspective -- but I do also hope that he will manage to restrain his cynicism long enough to reopen his own mind as well.
My purpose in illustrating the news coverage of an unsuccessful suicide bombing on July 30th was emphatically not because I endorsed one version of the coverage over any other, as Frank suggests. Rather, my purpose was to illustrate how, with carefully chosen words, a description of the same event can be flavored in substantially different ways, thereby revealing the biases of the reporter and/or the publisher.
My larger, implicit point was that if one is to have a prayer of piecing together a clear understanding of what is actually happening in the world, any responsible citizen who presumes to consider himself well-informed must get his news from many different sources. Anyone who becomes dependent on a single or narrow source for information and opinions runs run the risk of allowing their factual knowledge to become distorted by the publisher's or broadcaster's biases.
I had thought this point was painfully self-evident -- but in hindsight, perhaps it needs to be made explicit from time to time.
That said, I have made no secret of my own biases here. But they are arrived at not by listening exclusively to voices with which I am already predisposed to agree. That's why my Blogroll includes links to writers who cover the whole left-to-right spectrum of political thought. Not by accident, it includes such diametrically opposed Big Media presences as The National Review and The Nation. You should read them all, from time to time, and form your own conclusions. That's how I formed mine.
Yes, if you read this space regularly, you know that I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the citizens of Israel, and that I have no confidence that the Palestinian people are in any position to run, much less demand, a state of their own. This is a position which I have arrived at relatively recently. I would not have made such a categorical, forceful remark two years ago. But the reality is that the Palestinian people could have had a state a dozen times over, if Arafat were statesman enough to bargain in good faith. Now we know, as his true agenda has been laid bare by recent bloody events, that the Palestinian pursuit of a "two state solution" was nothing but a diversion, a duplicitous stalling tactic. Arafat's counter-offer was Intifada -- the deliberate spilling of non-combatant Jewish blood -- and in doing so, he leaves no doubt as to his true nature and purpose.
But tell us what you really think, Zilber.
Arafat is a small man, a leader with no vision, so driven by past hatreds that he could not step up and accept peace when it was genuinely offered to him. Instead, he has embarked on a multi-generational plan to pass on his own hatreds and jealousies to all of those who live under the control of his "authority."
Clinging ever more tenuously to power, unable to acknowledge his own failures -- unable to step aside and let someone else have a crack at calling the shots -- this tin-pot dictator is desperate to convince his citizenry that someone else -- anyone else but he -- is to blame for his own home-grown culture of oppression, and for a non-existant domestic economy which is now entirely dependent on U.N. welfare and, ironically, on the availability of low-wage jobs in Israel.
Toward that end, Arafat's schools, his controlled media have all been converted to propaganda mills, fixated on blaming and hating Jews in order to divert attention from his own nominal government's manifest incompetence and corruption.
So that, now, by a huge majority -- confirmed by their own polling aparatus -- the only clear consensus of the Palestinian people is that they should conspire to to kill Jews. The Palestinian culture is a death cult. These people worship at the alter of nihilism. They have been taught no trades, no skills, no expertise -- except for explosives and munitions. They would sooner themselves die than accept the relative success and durability of the Jewish culture, literally a stone's throw from the pit they have created for themselves.
Meanwhile, their nominal leaders have no political goals, except to remain in power so that they may live in relative luxury.
And their hatred -- both of the Jews and of themselves -- is by now so inbred within the Palestinian culture that it will probably require the passing of at least two generations before its people will be capable of entering into good faith negotiations with any part of the civilized world.
And yet, Frank, you are wrong when you say that I do not consider them human. I truly feel sorry for these people. I do not wish them ill, and I certainly don't wish them dead. I wish only that they become well-informed -- that they not rely on only one narrow, state-controlled source for information about the goings-on in the world.
These throngs in Gaza, who dance and celebrate in the streets after every suicide bombing -- who did much the same on 9/11 and would shed not a tear if either you or I had been among the casualties on that day -- are not sub-human. They are dupes. They are brainwashed pawns in a much larger game that has virtually nothing to do with the issues of Palestinian statehood.
Look at the big picture, Frank -- look beyond yourself, beyond the rantings of frauds and hypocrites like Chomsky and Said -- and tell me how to account for all of the European leaders, organizations and media outlets, once sympathetic to the tale of Arafat the underdog, Arafat the Nobel Prize winner -- now unable to crawl over one another fast enough to distance themselves from Arafat the weak, small, impotent liar.
No, Frank, I do not write these words to express my hate for subhuman Palestinian bastards. I write in the hope that perhaps a few of them -- the so-called Palestinian "moderates" -- those few who can get beyond Arafat's state-sponsored firewall -- those who can get on the Internet and read English -- might be willing to learn some hard but undeniable truths about the real world, and pass those truths along to their brethren.
What they need to know is that we will not negotiate a just peace with their corrupt and duplicitous leaders. We can deal with them on the terms they have chosen -- a fight to the death, which they will, in the end, lose. Or, if they wish to eventually become a people with a country, we will deal with them as members of the world of free men and women -- a world that Arafat had not the courage to lead them into.
That's what I meant to say, Frank. Sorry for any misunderstanding.
UPDATE #1: Natalie Solent comments here:
[Zilber] makes the the harshest of judgements about the present culture and morals of the Palestinians without ever denying their humanity. [Emphasis added]
UPDATE #2: Andre S. at Middle East Realities comments here:
[Zilber] writes about Palestinian culture. And he nails it on the head. OUCH!
UPDATE #3: Frank replies in the Comments section directly below...