Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Land for Kodak Moment
other fellas when suddenly my foot hit this strange looking bottle, like
an old oil lamp. No sooner was it kicked when a genie popped out. The
genie told each of us on the bench that we get a single wish, which would
be granted at once.
The first fella said his wish was that Israel's inflation rate and growth
rate be better than those in the US. Poof, in a flash of light, it was
so. The second said his wish was that Ehud Olmert should be targeted by a
large number of police investigations for corruption. Again a poof, and
it was so. The third fella thought a moment and said he wishes that Paris
would be inundated in violent riots by Arab thugs. And flash of light
later, it became so. The fourth guy said his wish was that Ilan Pappe
leave Israel, and that Baruch Kimmerling and Tanya Reinhart stop writing
anti-Israel propaganda. And lo and behold, 'twas so.
Then it was my turn. The genie asked what I wanted as my wish. I said,
let me get this straight. Israel's economy is in better shape than that
of the US, Olmert is facing multiple indictments, Paris is in flames from
a violent intifada, and three of Israel's worst academic anti-Semites are
neutralized? Just so, replied the genie. In that case, I said, I'd like
a Diet Coke.
2. Land for Kodak Moment: The Kodak Moment on the Chesapeake:
3. Peace Now does Goebbels:
The ad shows Jewish settlers and the Hamas as allied enemies of
4. Why is the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University hosting anti-Semite Avi
5. Dissecting anti-Zionists:
6. The Pestilinians are not victims but victimizers:
7. Why Annapolis is a waste of time:
8. The World Doesn't Hate America; the Left Does
By Dennis Prager
9. Here is a statement by Deborah Lipstadt, from the OTHER David Irving
court case (not the one in Nazareth):
" In 2000 I spent 12 weeks in court defending myself against charges of
libel brought against me by David Irving. My defense team proved that
David Irving, in the words of the judgment issued against Irving,
.perverts,. .distorts,. .falsifies,. .misrepresents. the facts, and,
simply put, lies. The judge found his writings to be racist and
antisemitic. In the end we defeated David Irving by using facts and
demonstrating that nothing this man has said about the Holocaust . and
many other things -- can be taken at face value.
Why should the Oxford Union give one of its coveted places to a man such
as this or a man such as Nick Griffin, who spews hatred and racial
prejudice? I am firm believer in free speech. In my country the much
maligned First Amendment gives everyone a chance to make a complete .arse.
of themselves. However, the right to free speech does not mean that
everyone is deserving of a platform at the Oxford Union. If the Union
wanted to debate the issue of free speech and laws against expressions of
Holocaust denial and racism, there are many good people with severely
opposing views who could have been invited to do so. Inviting these two
men smacks of a stunt which gives them what they most need to survive:
The President of the Union has claimed that they are not being invited to
spout their views. What then is there for them to say? That they have
been denied the right to speak? Griffin has a platform anytime he wants
it and David Irving used and abused your courts as a platform to spew his
distortions of history.
Some of those who have defended the Oxford Union have called for open
minds. The problem with people with open minds is that sometimes their
minds are so open their brains fall out. And that is the best that can
be said of the organizers of this evening.s debate. "
Deborah E. Lipstadt, Ph.D.
10. A non-treasonous voice from the Left:
11. From Munich to Annapolis:
12. Alternative Peace Plan?
13. British Anti-Semitism goes global:
14. November 28, 2007
By MICHAEL YOUNG
November 28, 2007
BEIRUT, Lebanon -- In September, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner
canceled a meeting at the United Nations with his Syrian counterpart,
Walid al-Moallem, following the assassination of Lebanese parliamentarian
Antoine Ghanem. "I was, forgive me, shocked by this latest assassination,
as I am shocked every time," Mr. Kouchner explained. "I thought that I
should not meet my counterpart as planned. It's an intolerable situation.
We are trying not to be tolerant." He denied that he was blaming Syria for
the killing, but his statement could not be read in any other way.
Almost two months later the French managed to overcome their shock,
offering Syria normalized relations in exchange for facilitating the
election of a Lebanese president. French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent
two top aides to Damascus to secure a deal. Nothing came of it as Syria's
Lebanese allies and adversaries could not agree to a candidate. Now
Lebanon is without a president, with no clear sign of when an election
will take place.
However, the message from France was plain: The West is willing to
overlook Syria's violations of U.N. resolutions seeking genuine Lebanese
sovereignty and independence. Damascus is likely behind the assassinations
of anti-Syrian politicians, journalists and others in recent years, and is
using its Lebanese allies to undermine the government in Beirut. Yet
foreign capitals are increasingly engaging Syrian President Bashar Assad,
whether on Lebanon's future or on regional peace talks, as Syria's
inclusion in yesterday's Annapolis conference shows.
If this engagement is done clumsily -- as it has been so far -- we will
soon be reading the Cedar Revolution's obituary. The 2005 popular
demonstrations that helped end a 29-year Syrian military presence in
Lebanon and the election of an anti-Syrian majority in parliament will
have been in vain.
Syria has spent the past two years in the eye of a regional storm it has
helped create. The Assad regime has exported instability to Lebanon, Iraq
and the Palestinian areas, while strengthening its relations with Iran.
Yet far from paying a price in terms of international isolation, Syria has
seen foreign petitioners rush to its doorstep. They have attempted to
convince Mr. Assad that he is better off abandoning Iran, Hamas and
Hezbollah. But why would the Syrian leader have any incentive to do so
when it's his dangerous liaisons that are precisely what encourage foreign
visitors to talk to Syria?
Because of the fear that Islamists might replace Mr. Assad if his regime
fell, no one truly wants to see him destabilized. The Israelis told the
French as much during the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the
Russians and Chinese agree. The U.N. has an aversion to fiddling with
regimes, no matter how thuggish. And major European states -- particularly
those with military contingents in south Lebanon, such as France, Italy
and Spain -- worry about what Syria or its local partners Hezbollah might
do to their soldiers in the event of a confrontation with Damascus.
The Bush administration, meanwhile, has advocated "behavior change" in
Syria, not "regime change." That's reasonable, but Syrian behavior has not
changed -- and Washington, for all its post-2005 aid to Lebanon, has done
nothing about it. Indeed, the U.S. has not even made Syria regret
supporting the anti-American insurgency in Iraq.
A silent coup is taking place, with Syria striving to prevent the
consolidation of an independent Lebanese political order. Syria's strategy
for the presidential election was to agree with Hezbollah and the
followers of Lebanon's parliament speaker, Nabih Berri (whose appointment
was engineered by Syria), to boycott the presidential election. Mr. Berri
simply refused to open parliamentary election sessions unless prior
agreement was reached on a "compromise" candidate, effectively meaning
someone acceptable to Damascus. The two parties were supported by
Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, who has tried to use his alliance
with pro-Syrian groups as leverage to become president of Lebanon himself.
While not technically illegal, the scheming by Syria and its allies
represented a travesty of democracy in denying the majority its rights. It
also undermined the spirit of the constitution by obstructing a vote.
European and Arab governments have backed this "compromise" demand. Even
the U.S. went along with Mr. Sarkozy's opening to Syria -- even though
France, by asking Syria to facilitate the Lebanese election, was
undermining Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for "a free and
fair electoral process...without foreign interference or influence."
Ironically, the anti-Syrian majority could momentarily benefit from this
stalemate. Lacking an elected president, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's
government, so reviled by Syria, has constitutionally taken over those
powers. Now the pro-Syrian opposition might demand an election so that a
new government will be formed in which it has a say. This could buy
Syria's adversaries some latitude to impose a president closer to the
ideals of the Cedar Revolution. But Syria still has plenty of means to
engender chaos in Lebanon.
Especially troubling are signs that the U.N. investigation into the
assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri is faltering.
Former lead investigator Serge Brammertz of Belgium has until now refused
to name any suspects, although Lebanese press reports suggest he might do
so in his final report next week. His German predecessor Detlev Mehlis,
never hid his conviction that senior Syrian officials were behind the
crime. The fear is that Mr. Brammertz has been playing it safe, realizing
that the U.N. is not keen to subvert the Syrian regime. His recent
departure to the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a promotion of sorts,
suggests that his instincts may have been correct. Canadian judge Daniel
Bellemare will succeed Mr. Brammertz. And while we should give Mr.
Bellemare the benefit of the doubt, it is troubling that he has never been
in charge of an international terrorist case.
If the Hariri trial is abandoned in favor of an under-the-table
arrangement to protect the Syrian regime, the international community
would lose the only serious leverage it has over Damascus. Abandoned, too,
would be that rare instance in which the rule of law could have been used
to punish a political crime in the Middle East.
Mr. Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut and a
contributing editor at Reason magazine.
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15. November 28, 2007
In Praise of 'Thought Competition'
By REBECCA SEGALL-WALLACE
November 28, 2007; Page A23
Monday: After a long day at his New York City private school, Ben, 16,
heads to my creative writing lab to work on his heartfelt memoir about his
parents' bitter divorce. Tuesday: Alison, 15, rushes from her elite
private school in the Bronx to work on her short screenplay about a
gifted, mean and eccentric boy. Lily, 13, pops in whenever she can to
polish her hilarious short story narrated by an insomniac owl.
Ben, Alison and Lily, along with another few dozen who attend my
afterschool writing program, also attend top-notch New York private
schools that cost upwards of $25,000 a year. So why, one might wonder, do
these kids need an extracurricular creative writing coach? The answer is
simple, though twisted: Their schools -- while touting well-known athletic
teams -- are offshoots of the "progressive education" movement and uphold
a categorical belief that "thought competition" is treacherous.
Administrators of these schools will not support their students in
literary, science or math competitions, including the most prestigious
creative writing event in the country: the Scholastic Art & Writing
Awards. So we at Writopia Lab help these kids to join the 10,000 young
literati from across the country who are hurrying to meet the event's
January deadline, as well as deadlines for other competitions.
For decades now, psychology and pedagogy researchers have been debating
the impact of competition on young people's self-esteem, with those wary
of thought competition taking the lead. Most New York parents of public or
private school students have felt the awkward reverberations of this trend
-- which avoids naming winners -- when Johnny takes home a certificate for
"participation" in the school's science fair. (Do you hang that one up on
But some, and ironically those who attend some of the most desirable
schools in the region, feel the reverberations in deeper, more painful
ways. "Two years after my son left a school that prohibited him from
entering a national math competition," says one mother, "he still writes
angry essays about why the jocks in his former school were allowed to
compete throughout the city while he wasn't allowed to win the same honors
for his gifts." Sam, her son, felt uncool in the eyes of his peers, and
undervalued (and sometimes even resented) by the administration.
"We don't want kids to compete individually, put themselves in vulnerable
positions as individuals," explains a leading administrator. "They can
compete within teams," explains another. "So the focus is on community
building rather than on personal value."
But what about Sam's sense of personal value? Aren't human beings
fabulously varied in their gifts and sensibilities? Excellent teamwork can
be important, but is it the only admirable achievement? Should any school
in the United States prevent broader acknowledgment of a young, creative
Mel Levine, a professor at the University of North Carolina and one of the
foremost authorities in the country on how children learn, believes the
impact of the collaborative education movement has been devastating to an
entire generation. When students are rewarded for participation rather
than achievement, Dr. Levine suggests, they don't have a strong sense of
what they are good at and what they're not. Thus older members of
Generation Y might be in for quite a shock when they show up for work at
their first jobs. "They expect to be immediate heroes and heroines. They
expect a lot of feedback on a daily basis. They expect grade inflation,
they expect to be told what a wonderful job they're doing," says Dr.
What is most surprising about the brand of educational progressivism that
denies creative and innovative teens the right to compete for public
acknowledgment is the seeming lack of interest in distinguishing between
positive or negative competitions. Positive competitions award a good
number of entries with a range of awards, and, in some cases, send
constructive comments back with the manuscripts. Negative competitions, on
the other hand, may charge high fees to enter or award only the top three
Last January, 28 of my students rigorously workshopped, edited and entered
45 submissions to the Scholastic event, and 28 pieces won recognition on
the regional level and another five on the national level. In April, 24 of
these students went to New York University to have honors bestowed upon
them by famous writers, and another five went to Carnegie Hall to receive
Still, students would quietly ask me over the following year why one of
their pieces was or wasn't recognized. We would compare how much time they
put into one piece over another, the risks they took in one, the original
elements of another, and how new a genre was to them. But most
importantly, the conversation turned to a defining aspect of an artist's
world: the reign of arbitrary judgment. My students know that they don't
each share the same response to their peers' work, and they proudly tout
individually refined sensibilities. So the real questions they should be
asking themselves are: Did they try their best? Have they learned in the
process? Are they excited to try again?
The goal of positive competitions is to help young people identify their
strengths, overcome their limitations to the best of their ability, and
process their disappointments. Luckily, there is an extraordinary range of
projects -- both collaborative and competitive -- that inspire kids to
produce their best work, bond with their peers and prepare fully for
Ms. Segall-Wallace is a New York-based writer.
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16. November 28, 2007
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
November 28, 2007; Page A22
What if they held a war movie, and no one came? That's the tale of woe at
this year's fall box office, where Tinseltown's bleak vision of Iraq has
many movie-goers taking a pass. Films from Brian De Palma's low-budget
screed "Redacted" to Robert Redford's star-studded "Lions for Lambs" are
playing to empty seats.
Small wonder. As Hollywood sees it, the fictionalized stories worth
telling about Iraq and the war on terror involve the rape and murder of an
Iraqi girl by American soldiers ("Redacted"); the kidnap and torture of an
innocent Egyptian ("Rendition"); the duplicity of the Army surrounding a
soldier's death ("In the Valley of Elah"), and other American perfidy.
"Lions for Lambs" has performed so poorly that it may not make back its
$35 million investment.
This hasn't been a good year at the box office anyway, but that only goes
halfway to explaining the numbers. Both "Rendition" and "In the Valley of
Elah" have taken in less than $10 million, despite headliners like Reese
Witherspoon and Tommy Lee Jones. Attendance at Mr. Redford's film dropped
by 57% after the first weekend, as word got out of the movie's antiwar
speech-making. One online site, filmcritic.com1, described "Lions for
Lambs" as an "op-ed masquerading as a motion picture." Entertainment
Weekly remarked of "Redacted" that "War is hell . . . and so is this
It is not impossible to make a successful antiwar film, as the "Deer
Hunter" and "Platoon" proved regarding Vietnam. But they also came several
years after that war ended, when our soldiers still weren't fighting and
the public was in the mood for perspective. That's a different audience
than the one now in theaters, which is less than thrilled at the
opportunity to spend 10 bucks to watch American soldiers depicted as
rapists and murderers while our own real-life troops are being killed by
It's always a difficult venture to turn tragedy into entertainment, but
war movies succeed when they capture the complex reality of the
battlefield, as well as the sacrifice and heroism that emerge from it.
Americans don't seem amused to see their countrymen or country portrayed
as immoral imperialists, and they prefer to win the wars they start. Bring
back John Wayne, or at least Clint Eastwood.
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