The Elder of Ziyon makes some telling points about the recent attack on people (not all Jews, it turned out) at Jewish centres in Overland, Kansas.
In general, the US is a great place for Jews to live. Jews have little to fear in most of their communities. It is not at all like many places in Europe or in the Arab world.
But antisemitism exists, both from the right and the left, and it regularly manifests itself with extreme violence.
Yet when was the last time antisemitism merited a front page story in a major newspaper or magazine?
Time Magazine in 2010 had a cover story on Islamophobia. As I noted then, the number of antisemitic incidents in the US in 2010 dwarfed the number of anti-Muslim incidents.
Unless I am mistaken, there has not been a single Muslim fatality due to an anti-Muslim hate crime in the US since 9/11. (One Sikh was killed in an anti-Muslim attack and two other Sikhs were killed since 9/11 under unclear circumstances, plus a horrific murder of six Sikhs who were killed by a white supremacist.) .)
There is real hate out there in the US, and real people willing to kill people in service of that hate. And the objects of that deadly hate are not Muslims.
Outside of occasional stories like these, you wouldn't know that.
The Canadian federal gubmnt has consistently underestimated how much it will have to pay out to retirees in the future, and it has consistently overestimated how much income investments will generate. The result is that it has severely underestimated how much the pension liabilities will add the federal budget deficit in the future.
A recent publication from the C.D. Howe Institute suggests that the present value of these deficits is roughly $120 billion. Their conclusion:
An economically meaningful fair-value estimate
of the unfunded liability of federal government
employees’ pension plans puts it at $272 billion –
some $120 billion higher than reported. The same
approach to determining the annual cost of benefits
accruing in these plans shows it to be between
45 and 60 percent of pensionable pay – more than
twice as high as reported, and a far higher rate of
tax-deferred wealth accumulation than is available
to other Canadians. The federal government should
incorporate these numbers in the official measures
of its net debt and annual budget balance. This
would be a key first step toward reforms that would
alleviate a burden that few taxpayers know they
bear, and that would protect taxpayers from risks
few know they run.
Please note that this study refers only to the federal pension liabilities. I expect many municipal and provincial pension liabilities are in even worse shape. As a result, the net drain to future taxpayers will be even higher when these net liabilities are added to burden.
With the news that Russian military spending is greater than US military spending, is another arms race in the offing?
If so, it's a good example of a negative sum game. Both sides feel as if they'll be bigger losers if they don't play than if they play. The only solution is defeat [Reagan vs Gorbachev?], capitulation [Obama vs Putin?] or shaky co-operation.
At one point, the UWO economics department was one of thirty economics departments claiming to be in the top 20 of all economics departments in the world. We were damned good. And by some metrics, we were in the top ten. David Laidler and Michael Parkin were two important reasons we were there, but so many of us had great publication and citation records then.
Look at the talent we attracted and turned out. And not just Steve and Tiff, but many others. And look at the influence the department had. The department went downhill from there for quite some time, but seems to be roughly among the top 50 now.
Addendum: let me just add that David, Michael and a few others could have built their careers at Never-Heard-Of U. UWO was lucky to have them.
I may have to take a nap on April 14th. Here's hoping for nice warm weather that night.
For the Western Hemisphere, the eclipse will "officially" begin on April 15 at 12:53 a.m. EDT (0435 GMT), when the moon begins to enter Earth's outer, or penumbral shadow. But even in clear weather, skywatchers will not notice any changes in the moon's appearance until about 50 minutes later, when a slight "smudge" or shading starts becoming evident on the left portion of the moon’s disk. ...
The first definitive change in the moon's appearance will come on its upper left edge. At 1:58 a.m. EDT (0558 GMT), the partial phase of the eclipse will begin as the Earth’s dark shadow, called the umbra, starts to slowly creep over the face of the full moon.
At 3:06 a.m. EDT, the eclipse will reach totality, but sunlight bent by our atmosphere around the curvature of the Earth should produce a coppery glow on the moon. At this time, the moon, if viewed with binoculars or asmall telescope, will present the illusion of seemingly glowing from within by its own light.
At 3:46 a.m. EDT, the sun, Earth and moon will be almost exactly in line and the light of the moon will appear at its dimmest. "Totality" ends at 4:24 a.m. EDT, and the moon will completely emerge from the umbra at 5:33 a.m. About 20 minutes later, the last vestige of the fainter penumbral shadow will disappear from the moon’s upper right edge, and the body will return to its normal brilliance.
Addendum: Unfortunately, it turns out we likely will not be able to see the eclipse here --- a forecast of clouds and possibly 5cm of snow overnight.
The 2014 London Fringe Festival will be held June 4 - 13 during which Out Of Sight Productions is presenting a one-hour play, "Academia Nuts" by Paul Kinsella.
The play is a romantic comedy about a theology professor (me) who is on sabbatical leave. An attractive female Romanian graduate student (Tiffany Blom) wanders into his office looking for help with conversational English. Much hilarity, confusion, tenderness, frivolity, joyful awakening, and compassion ensue. For more about the play and about Out of Sight Productions, see this.
Academia Nuts, at The Spriet Theatre (second floor of the Covent Garden Market, London, Ontario), Identified as Venue #1 for the Fringe Festival:
- Wednesday, June 4, 5:30pm
- Friday, June 6, 5pm
- Saturday, June 7, 2:30pm
- Monday, June 9, 8pm
- Wednesday, June 11, 8:15pm
- Friday, June 13, 5pm
Because "Academia Nuts" is part of the Fringe Festival, it is likely you will need to purchase a button as well as a ticket to see the play, but there are typically quantity discounts for packets of tickets, so it might be fun to see 5 or 10 of the shows during the festival. Last year the buttons were $5, and the tickets were something like $10, but I have no idea what the pricing will be like this year.
If Brandeis University doesn't want Ayaan Hirsi Ali for their commencement speaker, and apparently doesn't want me (at least I haven't received a call or email from them yet), perhaps they should invite this man [ht MA].
[Alain] Finkielkraut, 64, the son of a Polish Jew who survived Auschwitz, is retiring as a professor of philosophy and the history of ideas at the world-famous Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, a post he held since 1989. ...
Finkielkraut’s proud Jewish origins, his pro-Israel opinions and open Zionism, his critiques of Islamism and massive immigration to Europe, and of racism, have been for a long time controversial in the country, but much more since he published in late 2013 L’identité malheureuse (“The Unhappy Identity”), a book on the crisis of French (and European) identity.”...
He has been accused of Islamophobia (and of being an”agent of Sharon” after he defended during second intifada the right of Israel to exist and to defend itself – he participated to demonstrations for IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, then a captive in the Gaza Strip).
Mark Steyn pulls no punches in a piece, "The Wretched Jelly-Spined Nothing Eunuchs of Brandeis". An excerpt from a conversation with Jamie Weinstein:
JAMIE WEINSTEIN: And people when they get honorary degrees, it's not like they only go to non-political people. Universities have awarded them in the recent past to people that want Israel to be wiped off the map and destroyed. Is that not right?
MS: Yeah, that's true. And that was Brandeis, a guy called Tony Kushner... I stand back and occasionally roll my eyes at the dreary left-wing hacks invited to give commencement speeches, garlanded with state honors, things that if you trend to the right side of the spectrum, you know you're going to be labeled 'controversial conservative', and you'll never get anywhere near. But this woman is a black, feminist atheist from Somalia. And so what we're learning here, which is fascinating, in the hierarchy of progressive-politics identity-group victimhood, Islam trumps everything. Islam trumps gender. The fact that she's a woman doesn't matter. It trumps race. The fact that she's black doesn't matter. It trumps secularism. The fact that she's an atheist doesn't matter. They wouldn't do this if it was a Christian group complaining about her, if it was a Jewish group complaining about her. But when the Islamic lobby group says oh, no, we're not putting up with this, as I said, these jelly-spined nothings at Brandeis just roll over for them.
I have sat through many, many convocation/graduation ceremonies. Steyn is right. Pronouncements from left wing, caring, elitist interventionists proclaiming moral superiority are common; among the most egregious at UWO was Maude Barlow. Only rarely are outspoken pundits from the right (e.g. Mark Steyn? or EclectEcon?) invited to such events.
Here. Some excerpts:
Those who talk of “role models” for young women can search the globe, and will not find a more dignified, accomplished and courageous exemplar. In the Netherlands she was constantly under siege from radical Islamists and others, but courageously continued her public life speaking for the rights and dignity of women — especially, as she saw it, for the rights of women trapped in Islam. ...
And students at the university, deploying the other cant formulation for unacceptable ideas — “hate speech” — collected 85 names from a 350-person faculty petitioning the offer be rescinded. Their petition carried the now-familiar prissy, hollow whines that some students would be “uncomfortable,” would “not feel welcome,” if Ali, with her learned views on Islam and women — derived mainly from her personal life experience, mind you — were to be honoured.
Is this what Western thought and philosophy at the university has come to — setting up intellectual quarantines lest the immature and frightened be made uncomfortable or to feel unwelcome? Is this university or daycare? Giving into such adolescent whimpering is despicable; giving in to in on a university campus is unforgivable. ...
Why in Aristotle’s name do institutions dedicated to higher learning tolerate these rags of verbal flannel — uncomfortable, unwelcome — from putative adults? Damn it, a university exists to unsettle, to throw down established attitudes, to shine the searchlight of reason on all ideas. Universities are supposed to be bold, confident, courageous institutions, whose biggest duty to their students is to expand the range and depth of their ideas, not confirm their prejudices.
Brandeis, on this account, is a failure. It cringed at the first criticism. It suggested Ali somehow offended its “core values” — and what would those be? Surrender at first fire, perhaps, and gaudy specious rationalizations afterwards? — and had the gall to talk of respecting debate....
Universities are losing their halo. They are now factories for reinforcing received opinions, what the market holds as right and true — so-called “progressive” ideas. They have a deep hostility to ideas and opinions that wander outside their small circle of acceptability. They choose which protests they endorse and which they deplore. Oprah can get 10 honourary degrees and a winsome reception for her third-rate psuedo-therapies. But a real warrior in the cause for woman’s rights — a woman who truly rose by virtue of her courage, intelligence and industry — must walk, shamed, away from the platform she was invited to.
Every other university on the continent should have something to say about Ali’s treatment, but very few will. Because they are all of the same timid herd: great trumpeters of intellectual freedom and courage, which when faced any real test of independent thought or challenge to comfortable assumptions are sheepish, intimidated, closed shops.
A tight prior: I believe so strongly that the creation story of Genesis is chronologically and factually correct that no evidence to date embodying physics, biology, chemistry, whatever can possibly sway me from my beliefs. So I'm not even going to study the alternative hypothesis.
And then there's ignorance in combination with tight priors, as in Oklahoma:
Much of the debate about evolution in public schools concerns the content of textbooks. But a new study points to another worrisome trend: teachers who have misconceptions about evolution might be passing those ideas along to their students.
Researchers surveyed Oklahoma high school biology teachers, and found that 23 percent of them misunderstand several key concepts.
When I lived in California or Hawaii or Michigan, I could buy wine, beer, and liquor in the grocery store, off the shelf. It is convenient and inexpensive. Now, Ontario [I mean the province in Canada, not the city in California] is taking very small baby steps in that direction.
The Ontario government is pushing ahead with a plan to put liquor kiosks in grocery stores, a bid to shake up the way alcohol is sold in the province and head off the champions of privatization ahead of a possible spring election.
It won't be much of a "shake up", believe me. Many large grocers already have kiosks that sell Canadian wine. Having additional kiosks to sell liquor is a small step. But this is nowhere near the much freer markets in other jurisdictions.
The only benefit I see from the change (and it is not really a small one despite my scorn for the plan) is that people who are happy to buy the types and brands of liquor sold at the kiosks will be saved an extra trip to an LCBO outlet. I imagine, however, that the kiosks will be expected to favour Ontario and Canadian products primarily, if not exclusively, much as the wine kiosks already do.
And those of us like Ms Eclectic and me, who like single-malt scotches, will almost surely be out of luck.
From Wikipaedia, about Bo Burnham (about whom my granddaughter insisted I should learn):
Burnham's first experience with controversy regarding his music came on March 3, 2009, when fifteen Westminster College students (members of the campus' Gay-Straight Alliance, Black Students Association, International Club, and Cultural Diversity Organization) protested his concert there that evening. Of the controversy, he said, "It's so ironic because gay bashers were the ones labeling me in high school, [...] I try and write satire that's well-intentioned. But those intentions have to be hidden. It can't be completely clear and that's what makes it comedy." Despite the college's admission that they had booked Burnham while ignorant of his show's material, dean of students John Comerford praised the opportunities for discourse the controversy brought the school. [emphasis added]
Similar situation. In both instances, the admins claimed they were unaware of something others deemed worthy of protest.
In the Ayaan Hirsi Ali case, Brandeis University caved to the protesters. Here, the dean welcomed the opportunity to open up dialogue.
Addendum: Also see this, calling the Brandeis decision, "Rank Appeasement."
At Brandeis, of course, it’s fine to criticize Christianity and Judaism, and to savage America and Israel. Witness its presentation, in 2006, of an honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner, who has repeatedly expressed contempt for the Jewish state. (Critics of Kushner’s award were brusquely informed that “the university does not select honorary degree recipients on the basis of their political beliefs or opinions.”) That’s not all: Brandeis, as it happens, hosts one of the most active chapters of the poisonously anti-Israeli group Students for Justice in Palestine, which, under the tolerant eye of the university administration, invites terrorist sympathizers to speak at the school and disrupts campus talks by members of the Knesset. Until recently, moreover, Brandeis even had a cozy “academic partnership” with Al Quds University, a hive of fanatical Jew-hatred. But criticism of Islam—even by someone with firsthand experience of its systematic and brutal oppression of women—is off-limits.
Dear Brandeis University:
Here are some reasons you should invite me:
1. I have a cap and gown that have been described as cool or sexy (click here to see a photo). [apparently that link no longer works. see photo below]
2. I look very professional and academic with my gray beard and glasses.
3. I have considerable experience listening to bad commencement addresses, so I know what not to do or say.
4. I am an award-winning professor, with considerable acting and speaking experience.
5. I promise not to cuss (unless you want me to).
There are some additional points made in that original posting that do not apply in this case. For example, I would NOT promise to be silent about the Ayaan Hirsi Ali uninvitation. And I would seriously criticize those who favoured that uninvitation. But Brandeis, if you can live with this understanding, I'm your man.
One of the reasons speculative bubbles might exist transitorily is known as the bigger fool theory: I'm willing to pay more for something so long as I believe I can sell it to someone else soon for even more. I strongly suspect there was an element of this theory at work in the real estate bubble of 2002-6 and likely again in some parts of the UK today.
This theory is captured very well in this two-panel Hagar cartoon [via MA]:
The cartoon is applicable to any type of speculative bubble: tulips, real estate, mortgage-backed securities with liar loans, etc.
One thing for sure that has contributed to sky-rocketing housing prices and other recent bubbles related to real estate and housing finance is gubmnt programmes. They were major contributors in the naughts and they are again: People worry about affordable housing so they implement programmes designed to increase the demand for housing, driving prices even higher. Duh.
From the previous link,
Concerns have been mounting about property prices overheating in the South East amid ... the launch of Government mortgage support schemes such as Help to Buy, which have unleashed a flood of first-time buyers into the market.
I really wonder if voters and legislators understand this simple proposition. Worse, I wonder if they even care.
Over the past year, Brandeis University worked on having Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak at the spring commencement and receive an honourary degree. Not surprisingly, given her outspoken criticism of fundamentalist religions that promote female genital mutilation, forced child marriages, wife-beating, and child-beating [notably Islam in many places], their decision was criticized.
Brandeis caved. What's worse nearly a quarter of their faculty members signed a letter asking that she be uninvited. I find that appalling, even unsettling.
In their most caring, open-mindedness, one person wrote,
...if I were a Muslim, I would be deeply offended by her comments against my entire religion. (Which I don't believe she has stepped away from.) Of course, she has the right to make those comments, but whether she deserves an honor like this in light of them is a different question."
Given what her former religion has done to her, I see no reason for her NOT to have made the comments she has made. And I would gladly cheer on any institution that has the, not strength or anything like that, the decency and the commitment to human rights and would invite her to be a commencement speaker. As others have responded,
"Brandeis has honored Tony Kushner and Desmond Tutu, who made similar comments about Jews, and without the factual predicate of being a victim of FGM and subject to fatwas. It wouldn't be too hard to find honorees who've criticized Christianity, I imagine. I'm deeply offended that a critic of Islam is considered beyond the pale of Brandeis."
"Would Brandeis shrink from offering an honorary degree to a prominent Western feminist who has used strong language to condemn Christianity's impact on Western society -- for instance decrying it as inherently patriarchal, racist, sexist, even fascist?"
Brandeis University, you are a bunch of illogical, disgusting, pandering, inconsistent, wimps. I hope this incident steers many good faculty members and students away from what otherwise could have been a fine institution.
When Brandeis approached me with the offer of an honorary degree, I accepted partly because of the institution’s distinguished history; it was founded in 1948, in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, as a co-educational, nonsectarian university at a time when many American universities still imposed rigid admission quotas on Jewish students. I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin. For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called “honor killings,” and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse as wife beating or child beating. Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices. So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against my being honored in this way.What did surprise me was the behavior of Brandeis. Having spent many months planning for me to speak to its students at Commencement, the university yesterday announced that it could not “overlook certain of my past statements,” which it had not previously been aware of. Yet my critics have long specialized in selective quotation – lines from interviews taken out of context – designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree.
What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles.
Just in case there is any question, the shaming is all on the shoulders of Brandeis, which should be deeply ashamed of its wishy-washy-ness and for its backhanded implicit approval of the very things Ali has challenged.
This is not from The Onion or other similar sites. [via Jack]
I can imagine many thoughts, feelings, comments. I'll abstain.
Canada Revenue Agency has shut down public access to its tax-filing data amid reports of a major security flaw in a commonly used code for login services. ...
It looks as if the attempt to get the peace talks restarted will continue to be unsuccessful. I am not surprised.
... Abbas doesn’t have the legitimacy. With half of Palestine (namely Gaza) controlled by his rejectionist mortal enemy Hamas, he doesn’t have the authority. And he doesn’t have the intention. Abbas openly refuses to (a) recognize Israel as a Jewish state, (b) yield the so-called right of return (which would flood Israel with millions of Palestinians, destroying the state demographically), or (c) ever sign any agreement that ends the conflict once and for all. Any one of these refusals makes a final peace impossible. All three make the entire process ridiculous.
So here are some thoughts (edited) that I wrote to a friend last week about Israel and the Middle East:
As I may have written at one time, historical and biblical claims to the land mean nothing to me; it seems to me lots of people live on land that was taken from someone else at some point in time.
The Ottomans lost; the Brits got to decide what happened to the territories. The Brits buggered it up most places throughout the world but likely couldn't have done much different in Israel/Palestine.
Once Israel was created and acknowledged, and once it had successfully defended itself in the late 1940s, that is pretty much where I start from. It exists; it thrives; it champions freedom and human rights more than any of its neighbours. These points, not biblical history, are the main reasons I am an Israel-phile, I think.
The wars of 1967 and 1973 made it very clear that so long as Israel's arab neighbours were allowed to live next to the pre-1967 borders, Israelis would not be safe. Hence the need for a buffer zone ("need" being from the perspective of Israel, not from the arabs, of course). I saw this same thing, trivially, in my war against the geese last month. If I just drove them off the lawn, they came right back. I had to drive them out of the buffer zones as well.
Quite clearly, relinquishing control of Gaza and forcing Jews to leave the settlements there did nothing to further "the peace process", whatever that means. There has been a rain of thousands of rockets onto Israel from Gaza which has been menacing and murderous. It is intriguing that Egypt has many policies that isolate Gaza more than Israel does. And it is maddening that Palestinian refugees from the 1940s (most of whom left at the urging of the neighbouring gubmnts, not because they were forced out by the Jews) were not integrated into the neighbours' countries.
I know there are politically important groups in Israel who believe Israel should include the entire west bank. But their reasoning seems to me to be more historical and religious, not political in a real-politik sense. I don't buy it.
Friends who have visited the settlements on the west bank understand both the need for a buffer zone AND that the expansionism rampant in some settlements is troublesome. As a result, I am left confused. I recognize Israel's need for the buffer areas, the fences, and the checkpoints. At the same time it is not clear to me that there is much, if any, justification for further expansion of settlements into the West Bank areas.