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Personal Heroes Series: Louis Brandeis

Jul. 5th, 2011 | 18:06 pm

Louis Brandeis

Louis Dembitz Brandeis
(November 13, 1856 – October 5, 1941)

If we would guide by the light of reason we must let our minds be bold.

Originally published at Total Eclipse. You can comment here or there.

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Hello, TLV

Mar. 22nd, 2011 | 17:38 pm

EWR-TLV CO 84 Confirmed 04:00 PM/09:25 AM +1 Economy / H
TLV-EWR CO 85 Confirmed 11:25 AM/04:35 PM Economy / M

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Oh Twenties, I Hardly Knew Ye

Feb. 25th, 2011 | 03:31 am

This Sunday I say so long, farewell, and goodbye to my twenties.
We started out on the wrong foot, my twenties and I. I was a soldier; Not quite a man, but no longer a child, with responsibilities of the highest degree, I gave it my all. I got to do things I could only dream about when I was a kid, but despite being highly regarded by my superiors (first time, I think, I really accomplished anything really worthy of praise), I think by the end of it, dedication took its toll.

Repressed into regression, by the time I was released (and maybe a bit before, if I am completely frank), I was like a teenager again; free rein and reckless, happy-go-lucky, with a nougat-y core of mischief. The club years were some good years. I regret nothing. Good people, good music, good times. I look back at them fondly, though I feel like I’m past it now. Probably have been for a while. But it’s okay; We all have our time, and I’ve certainly had mine.

I got to travel coast to coast in North America, which is an experience I will continue to cherish for a long time.

I left home to live on my own (with a little help from some friends), in my own world, under my own terms in Tel-Aviv, the city that never sleeps. I got to live pretty much free of discomfort. I studied philosophy and psychology, my first choices, and they both, in their own way, inspired me and opened my mind to new thoughts and ideas. I feel what training the military gave my mind was only refined further and strengthened in academia. And the best part is, I still have curiosity about the world and a desire to learn more, which sadly, is not always the outcome of education.
I got to work at a comic book store. Hell yeah. The first employee of the first comic book store in Israel, and it was an amazing experience from beginning to end. I got to meet some wonderful people, and to work in my favorite medium, even if only as a retailer. I think that’s more than most get to do, and there’s nearly no better way to pass your time than share with others the things you love. Much like certain aspects of my military service, it was sort of like a dream come true.

Following school and some despair over continuing my education, I got a job at a web startup. A quintessentially Israeli experience, one that I had postponed for myself for far too long. Again, I got to work with some incredibly talented, fun, and smart people, doing some amazing work and ultimately bringing the startup to the exit-line, a few months ago. Though my role in the sale of the company was small, I do feel some degree of pride, which is occasionally a good thing, no matter what people say. The little startup sent me to live in New York, the first non-executive they relocated. I’ve wanted the New York experience for myself for years, and I’m happy I got to do it in my twenties.
Again, I met here some wonderful people, and besides that whole New York City extravaganza, with its sights and sounds, music, shows (d’you like comedy?), and architecture – I also got to co-habit with one of my favourite people in the world. Romantic relationships were never a strong point of mine, but so far, so good ..! This is all new to me and it’s quite marvelous.

I don’t really want to write a summary paragraph.. As if by summarizing my twenties, I somehow close the book on them. Truthfully, I haven’t really been paying attention to my age for some time now. I just started noticing how my friends have gotten married. Some even have kids. But when I think of myself, it’s hard for me to imagine I’ll be on the other side of 20.
William Shakespeare says the age of man that follows “soldier” is “justice”: “In fair round belly with good capon lin’d, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances;”. Sounds about right.

I can only hope the next decade holds as much wonder and grace as this past one. If so, I’m in for a treat !

Originally published at Total Eclipse. You can comment here or there.

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Oh, hi LJ

Aug. 19th, 2010 | 14:29 pm
location: United States, New York
music: How To Destroy Angels: The Space in Between

Is anyone still here?

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Punching Bag Mentality

Jun. 2nd, 2010 | 19:42 pm

It’s times like these, I almost fall victim to despair. The immediate feeling of injustice, it’s hard to scale into words. The conflict has leaped into a new strategy, and a new war of de-legitimization is being waged against Israel. We are now being forced into circumstances where the only course of action we have will bring about global condemnation.

To try and express what it feels like, it feels like being the nerdy kid in a classroom that always gets picked on. That no matter what you do, you’re going to be picked on. Right or wrong, you’re always going to be picked on. Other kids in class get away with absolutely ridiculous feats of idiocy, but no one cares about that. They only care about what you do. Succeed or fail, try and defend yourself or bite the bullet, it doesn’t even matter, you’ll still be picked on. In private, when no one else is watching, some of the kids in the class are willing to befriend you, and admit that what’s going on is crazy and wrong, and would really like to have those biotech/solar tech/agricultural tech/military tech/etc. innovations you made. But then, when other kids in the class are watching, those kids just join in the choir of hate like everyone else, or at best abstain. Everybody knows that the rowdy kids who lead the aggression are assholes, so while no one really wants to be their friend, no one really wants to mess with them either, and besides, as long as you’re taking the heat, it’s less slack off their back anyway. The rowdy kids, they get away with murder because no one expects them to behave, and no one wants to stir up their anger and no get oil. Basically, you’re the punching bag for the whole world, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You just want this bullshit to stop, but the rowdy kids have basically told you that the only way they’ll ever stop picking on you is if you jump out of the window and break your neck. Sometimes some Stockholm-Syndrome voices in your own head tell you that maybe you should try and make the plunge. Maybe you won’t break your neck trying, if you could only receive certain guarantees and not be pushed over the ledge and plan your jump really well… But any time you even approach the ledge, the rowdy kids start yelling and shoving and make moves to push you off, and so you back away.

I could continue with this metaphor forever I think. I don’t know if the point gets across as much as I’d like, but there’s this feeling of helplessness and injustice which just burns through my stomach.

The specific points of recent events don’t even matter. Of course Israel and Egypt are allowed to enforce a blockade against a hostile territory; of course force can be used to divert or destroy ships trying to break the blockade; of course it would be better if it didn’t come to it; and of course innocents suffer due to the blockade — this is true in Gaza as it is true in North Korea, Iraq, and anywhere else that has been under a blockade. Gazans are not the only people in the world suffering due to evil or foolish leaders. It sucks but who is to blame?
The path to end this blockade has been known from the start – essentially, an end to hostilities.
The international quartet (UN, US, EU and Russia) imposed 3 demands on Hamas:

1. Renounce Violence.

2. Recognize Israel.

3. Accept all previous agreements signed by the Palestinian National Authority.

Any sane person can see that these are absolutely reasonable requests.
Hamas, however, is allowed to behave unreasonably. It’s allowed to deny access to International Red Cross to it’s captive soldier Gilad Shalit. It’s allowed to fire rockets from schools, directed at schools. No one cares. They’re allowed to be unreasonable, but Israel is condemned for legitimately trying to defend itself from these attacks.

As I try and figure out “Why?” why are they allowed to behave unreasonably? Why does the world not expect and demand the Palestinians behave like civilized peace-seeking human beings? The only answer I have is: Orientalism. Or, Racism, of the worst kind. Hamas is allowed to do whatever it wants, play by whatever rules it chooses, behave as violent savages behave, because it is comprised of brown people. And the west is used to expect a lot less from the “savage” brown peoples of the world.
That’s the only reason I can think of why everybody expects Israel to cease the blockade, but no one expects Hamas to cease the hostilities which brought about the blockade in the first place.

The real question is, when does it stop being the world’s (or Israel’s) responsibility to dance around the savage behavior of radicals, and it starts becoming the people of Gaza’s responsibility to change their leadership? Yes, it’s terrible that Gazans suffer due to the blockade, just as it is terrible that the people of North Korea suffer due to the roguish behavior of their leadership, but when does it stop being our fault and start being their responsibility to enact change? Who will guarantee Israel’s safety if ships are allowed to freely access Gaza? Just this month more than a dozen rockets landed in Israel’s poor southern towns. Who will guarantee that Iranian or Syrian weapons, more accurate and more powerful will not reach the hands of the terrorists who now control Gaza, whose overt goal is not peace, but the destruction of Israel, annihilation of the Jews, and the establishment of an Islamic Republic in all of the territory between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea?

That’s what I thought.

Sorry, this post is a mess, no proper beginning and no proper end, but I just needed to throw some of these thoughts into the air. I need them to leave me because they’re eating me up. Hope you understand, meager readership.

Originally published at Total Eclipse. You can comment here or there.

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Personal Heroes Series: Sergey Korolyov

Mar. 19th, 2010 | 03:39 am

Sergey Korolyov

Sergey Pavlovich Korolyov
(January 12, 1907 – January 14, 1966)

The road to the stars is open.

Originally published at Total Eclipse. You can comment here or there.

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(no subject)

Dec. 23rd, 2009 | 22:26 pm

haxx0red by le_futurisme! hahahaaa!

an old joke, but a good one.


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Sep. 23rd, 2009 | 13:12 pm
mood: excitedexcited, anxious, adventurous
music: Strangelove - TIme for the Rest of Your Life

A lot of people reading this probably already know. Those who don't and deserved hearing from me in person, sorry for being cagey. Its all been pretty hectic and stressful and I just didn't really want to talk about it until it was a dead certainty.

So, anyway. Life-changing dramatic news is I'm being relocated to New York City!

I was at the US embassy yesterday morning, and if all goes according to plan, I should be landing state-side next Saturday.

le_futurisme has graciously offered her services as both hostess and Gal Friday until I get myself sorted (thankewww <333) so don't worry, I'm being well taken care of :)

ATTN NY/NJers: If I'm not friendly in the first few weeks it's because I start working straight away in a new, tough position, and have to juggle getting a SSN / bank account / phone / apartment / life / etc. in a foreign land at the same time. I assure you I'm not a dick, it'll just take me a while before I can get really social :)


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Four Dogmas of the Radical Left

Aug. 1st, 2009 | 17:06 pm

Political Disclaimer:
Before diving into deeply contentious subjects, I’d like to precede by stating that I am and always have been a member of the Israeli peace camp. I support the Palestinian’s right to self-determination, within the boundaries of the land acquired by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
Having said that, It is often the case that I find myself at greater odds with those who are left of me than those who are to my right, regarding the true nature of the conflict and the convulsed history involved. This is why I’m adding this disclaimer here.
The main issue I take with the radical left is with the post-modern movement of historical revisionism, to which I would like to point out that post-modernism works both ways.
Much of the problem regarding the history of this conflict has to do with prior suppositions and biases regarding the nature of history and justice.
So without further adieu, three contentious claims that have indeterminate truth values and one more:

1. Who is aboriginal to this land?

Up until fairly recent history, it was taken as a truism in the west that it is the Jews who are the only people in the world who can rightly claim to be aboriginal to the land of Israel (this is despite the bible being filled with depictions of the Israelite conquest of Knaan). The Muslims were merely the latest in a long line of conquerors.
I believe Lord Balfour’s remarks from 1920, quoted below, are very telling of the prevalent attitude:

“So far as the Arabs are concerned –I hope they will remember that it is we who have established an independent Arab sovereignty of the Hedjaz. I hope they will remember it is we who desire in Mesopotamia to prepare the way for the future of a self-governing, autonomous Arab State, and I hope that, remembering all that, they will not grudge that small notch — for it is no more than that geographically, whatever it may be historically — that small notch in what are now Arab territories being given to the people who for all these hundreds of years have been separated from it.”

That last sentence – “…territories being given to the people who for all these hundreds of years have been separated from it.” is what I refer to. Of course, the Arabs in Palestine never knew any better. Most had probably barely met a Jew before Zionism began in the late 19th century.

I believe it is this interpretation which brought about the Balfour declaration three years prior to these remarks, and it is this interpretation which stood at the basis of the the four great powers’ and League of Nation’s backing of Zionism as a solution to the Jewish problem.

It is important to note that for many (if not most) Jews, this interpretation remained unchanged during the 20th century. While the consensus in the west (particularly in Europe) may have swung in favor of the Palestinian narrative after 1967, regardless of whose claim is more just or bears more “historical truth”, it is certainly a contentious point, and a matter of interpretation.

2. Can land be legitimately captured during war?

Likely originating in the Stimson Doctrine, there was a significant shift in the way the international community regarded this question during the 20th century from the idea that it is trivially true that land can be conquered to the idea that it is absolutely forbidden.
This is a completely new notion in the history of nations, and even since this new concept emerged, it’s application was ignored many times in the international arena.
It is unclear how “natural” this idea is. All states are birthed in sin. While certainly war is itself an affront to justice, the idea that rules of justice (or “international law”) can be applied to such horror is absurd. This does not justify “land grabs” but certainly puts into perspective and historical context that this idea is not self-evident. It is new, almost untested, and has not stood up well to the test of time and the requirement of fair and even application.

Most international jurors would agree there is a distinction between “aggressive conquest” and land gained during a defensive war. While Gaza might be up for dispute (I do not think it is, personally), certainly no one twisted HK Jordan’s arm and forced them to join the 1967 war. In fact, Israel quite expressly warned them not to. Since Jordan initiated aggression against Israel, the west bank captured during this war clearly falls under the ‘defensive war’ category. While some of the land captured from Jordan was originally Jewish-owned land, or land that was to be afforded to the Jewish state in the 1947 partition plan, it is unclear to my intuition what “natural rights” people have to land owned by their grandparents and lost during war. This remains unclear regarding Arab land lost in war, even if we choose to ignore the distinction between aggressive conquest and land gained during a defensive war (as many on the left do).

3. The legitimacy of the Nation State

The Enlightenment era idea of the nation state, predicated on the right to national self-determination, has in recent times fallen out of favor in the west.
Again this is a new popular idea, as democratic Europe shifts towards the American model of pluralism, it suddenly becomes unclear why the Jews of all people require a state all of their own. This is of course demagogy, often defended by proponents of a ‘one state” solution, or those who oppose Israel’s national character. Even today, most democracies are nation-states. Many such nation states, such as Germany, Japan or Finland, have laws designed to defend the demographic nature of the nation state, or allow for preferred immigration of certain nationalities or ethnic groups.

Often antagonists would argue that the Jewish people do not represent a nation, but rather a religion, and therefore are not entitled to self-determination. This is a misunderstanding of the complex ethnoreligious taxonomy of Judaism. Suffice to say though, that even according to religious halachaic doctrine, a Jew is first and foremost someone born to a Jewish mother. Thus, even by religious terminology, Judaism is a matter of heritage, not religious belief. Just as Jews don’t get to determine for Palestinians whether they are a nationality or not, so no one else gets to determine for Jews their status as a nationality. I believe that idea lies in the core of self-definition.

4. Reverse causality of occupation and war.

This last point isn’t contentious at all, but is often overlooked. Occupation is not the cause of the current state of war between the Jews of Israel and the Arab world. On the contrary, first there was ‘illegal’ war, and then there was ‘illegal’ occupation (* as noted in section 2, the question of legality of these terms are quite abstruse), not the other way around. Clearly, the 1929 Hebron pogrom cannot be explained as a “reaction” to Jewish occupation of land in 1967. The root cause of the conflict does not lie squarely in occupation. So while I’d be the last to argue that occupation and settlement were wise or beneficiary to Israel or to the promotion of peace, it is also false to presume that they are the cause of war or the sole obstacle to peace. As Ben-Dror Yemini rightly points out, the great injustices in this conflict (which he quantifies in a body count) occurred during wars instigated by the Arab side, not during 40+ years of occupation. Quite simply, there is a complex history to this conflict, it does not begin or end with an injective “one-to-one” function between occupation and war.

To all these points I’d like to add my main point in writing this — While it is certainly a legitimate position to believe that the nation-state is an antiquated idea, or that the Palestinian’s claim to be aboriginals to this land is truer to title, one must accept that these are contentious positions, akin to opinions, and not universally held to be fact. I would like to hope that accepting the disputable nature of these core-ideas, by both parties in the conflict, will lead to a more pragmatic understanding of the need for peace. Too much is fought over in the name of ‘historic justice’, by both sides. With this understanding of the liquid nature of history, I don’t know what justice is. And yet, even without it, I still see a need for compromise and for peace, because people need to live free and safe. This is my realpolitik, and I believe it holds a truer relation to our reality than either of the competing radical narratives.

Originally published at Total Eclipse. You can comment here or there.

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Per ardua ad astra

Jul. 20th, 2009 | 14:04 pm

Buzz Aldrin on lunar surface

Forty years ago today, the lunar module Eagle landed on the moon, fueling the imagination of of an entire species for decades to come. Two men stepped outside the lunar module and roamed about the magnificent desolation that is the Sea of Tranquility. After two hours and thirteen minutes, they returned to the Eagle, the tailwind of history on their side.

Originally published at Total Eclipse. You can comment here or there.

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