Posted by: L | July 23, 2007

Noah Feldman on tradition and modernity among conservative Jews

Joey Kurtzman refers me to a remarkable and relevant article in the New York Times:

“Quite a coincidence: I discovered your interlocutor Scimitar just last night, when I was up late reading a discussion he had in the comment thread to a post on a white nationalist website. Very interesting stuff, though totally outside the realm of accepted discourse. I’m eager to get back into some of these issues, and I’m going to try to grab a chunk of time to read your interaction with him.

At this very moment I’m in the middle of doing an e-mail interview with Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law school and observant Jew who had an already-controversial article titled “Orthodox Paradox” in today’s NY Times Magazine. He states his professional interest as “the predicament of faith communities that strive to be modern while simultaneously cleaving to tradition,” and in the article he discusses (among other things) some of the ugliest aspects of the theology of traditional Jewish communities, the sort of Judaic dirty laundry I’ve not seen discussed before in the mainstream media. Very interesting.

If you read the article any time today or tomorrow, and have any questions you’d like him to answer, just send them to me and I’ll bounce them off him.”

Well, here’s an excerpt from the piece for publishing which the New York Times deserves a round of applause:

“Goldstein committed his terrorist act on Purim, the holiday commemorating the victory of the Jews over Haman, traditionally said to be a descendant of the Amalekites. The previous Sabbath, he sat in synagogue and heard the special additional Torah portion for the day, which includes the famous injunction in the Book of Deuteronomy to remember what the Amalekites did to the Israelites on their way out of Egypt and to erase the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens.

This commandment was followed by a further reading from the Book of Samuel. It details the first intentional and explicit genocide depicted in the Western canon: God’s directive to King Saul to kill every living Amalekite — man, woman and child, and even the sheep and cattle. Saul fell short. He left the Amalekite king alive and spared the sheep. As a punishment for the incompleteness of the slaughter, God took the kingdom from him and his heirs and gave it to David. I can remember this portion verbatim. That Saturday, like Goldstein, I was in synagogue, too.

Of course as a matter of Jewish law, the literal force of the biblical command of genocide does not apply today. The rabbis of the Talmud, in another of their universalizing legal rulings, held that because of the Assyrian King Sennacherib’s policy of population movement at the time of the First Temple, it was no longer possible to ascertain who was by descent an Amalekite. But as a schoolboy I was taught that the story of Amalek was about not just historical occurrence but cyclical recurrence: “In every generation, they rise up against us to destroy us, but the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hands.” The Jews’ enemies today are the Amalekites of old. The inquisitors, the Cossacks — Amalekites. Hitler was an Amalekite, too.

To Goldstein, the Palestinians were Amalekites. Like a Puritan seeking the contemporary type of the biblical archetype, he applied Deuteronomy and Samuel to the world before him. Commanded to settle the land, he settled it. Commanded to slaughter the Amalekites without mercy or compassion, he slew them. Goldstein could see difference as well as similarity. According to one newspaper account, when he was serving in the Israeli military, he refused to treat non-Jewish patients. And his actions were not met by universal condemnation: his gravestone describes him as a saint and a martyr of the Jewish people, “Clean of hands and pure of heart.”

It would be a mistake to blame messianic modern Orthodoxy for ultranationalist terror. But when the evil comes from within your own midst, the soul searching needs to be especially intense. After the Hebron massacre, my own teacher, the late Israeli scholar and poet Ezra Fleischer — himself a paragon of modern Orthodox commitment — said that the innocent blood of the Palestinian worshipers dripped through the stones and formed tears in the eyes of the Patriarchs buried below.



  1. As the NYT article indicated, Prof. Feldman is no longer observant.

  2. Thanks for pointing that out.

    And I wonder if you could elaborate…

  3. Monsieurs Feldman & Kurtzman, would it be unreasonable to claim that “messianic modern Orthodoxy” is a variable in the glaring murderous occupation of Palestine? A significant variable? An inescapable variable.? Maybe a tiny bit even?

    Is there any similarity between Jewish exceptionalism and smiting the Amelekites and holy Muslims “trying to” smite the invaders, land grabbers, and occupiers?

    AIPAC and the New York Times are always ready in the age of rhetoric. Feldman gives great Jewish history and plugs Joe Lieberman, too. Harvard Law is surely among the best, especially for career.

  4. Maybe so…but still, I think it’s worth two cheers.
    Even if within careful rhetorical framing – it opens a dialogue for others to take up.

    To my mind the article did imply that Jewish orthodox thinking had its problems, just as Muslim orthodox thinking has…

  5. Senator Joe Lieberman Esquire, is a Yalie lawyer, and boola boola, just like Hillary and Bill Clinton. Joe represents Connecticut and Israel in the Senate.

    Joe recently sponsored a bill to protect us and Israel Orthodoxy from murderous Iranian Orthodoxy. The score in the Senate; Israel 97, opponents 0.

    With guys like Joe in the Senate; what me worry?

  6. I don’t know. I still think for Kurtzman to open a Jewish opinion magazine to debates of this nature is a gesture in and of itself. Why regard it as necessarily in bad faith?

    If it’s only in the framework of the NY Times that we get to hear some questions of this kind — what does that matter? It’s still a change in the rhetoric.

    Will it be accompanied by a change in policy? Maybe, maybe not… Maybe it will let other people speak up who were afraid to..maybe some opinion makers will shift positions — even if it is only to be on the right side of public opinion. Maybe some decision maker will get a Damascene conversion..we can’t predict these things. That’s what individuality is all about.

    We can be aware of framing and yet search out and encourage any moves in the right direction.

    It may not be a large move to people who support the Palestinian cause; it may be a tremendously difficult move for those on the other side.

    It was unthinkable that Walt and Mearsheimer could even have come out and said “Israeli lobby” a few years ago….

  7. Some Palestinian history filled with tears, agony, and death. How many Americans would even know the word Nakba, not to mention the vicious Israeli massacre at Deir Yassin.

  8. Yes. And thank you very much for the link. Maybe as we post, more people will come to know…

  9. Lila,my (too brief) interview with Feldman is up on the Jewcy site now, here:

    And for what it’s worth, the article does not say Feldman is no longer observant, just that he’s marginalized because he violated communal norms by outmarrying.

  10. Thanks, Joey, I will.

    Sorry, I didn’t get back to you with questions – had some work to clear up and wanted to give it some thought.

    Re – Feldman’s orthodoxy or lack thereof, I wanted Ed to elaborate for that reason. I wasn’t clear what constituted being observant.

  11. “How many Americans would even know the word Nakba, not to mention the vicious Israeli massacre at Deir Yassin.”

    How many Americans have heard of the Nakba or heard of the massacre at Deir Yassin? That’s an easy question: anyone who is interested in the Israel/Palestine conflict will know a great deal about both. And since the deaths of both Israelis and Palestinians have long received vastly greater media attention than the victims of conflicts that activists and MSM find less sexy (for example, BORING conflicts like the Congolese civil which cost five million lives while Israel/Palestine nabbed all the headlines with its handful of deaths), we can rest assured that the sacred tragedies of both sides in the I/P conflict will continue to occupy their wildly oversized place in the American consciousness.

  12. That is an excellent point.

    Is human life the point, or scoring political points?

    That said, Joey, let me play devil’s advocate for sacred tragedies ..

    If Jews occupy an exceptional position in American society — isn’t it natural that their own history would occupy an exceptional place too?

    I celebrate my own special days, not the special days of every one else in the human race…

    And if we concede the exceptionalism (or centrality) of Israel to modern American politics, then we have to concede that the opposing side also sees its struggle as exceptional.

    The argument as I understand it is not only about human life but also about the power of states…and there is no more powerful state than this and Israel is a central aspect of its power.

    That is the libertarian interest in the matter…

  13. We are not members of an African state. But we are citizens of the US. Thus critique must begin with self-critique, no?

    I set my own house in order..its the first one I should be concerned with…

    Not the only one, but the first..

  14. And can I just ask people to post respectfully? I just realized that a comment with vulgar language went through, so I am censoring it – which I hate doing on a blog about censorship and propaganda.

  15. Kurtzman argues that the multi-billion dollar Israeli propaganda machine is working. Yabut, whaddabout the Congo for some real murder. How both sides suffer. Lawyerly.

    Don’t be bamboozled by the feigned religiosity of law professor Feldman and his scripted agonies. Dershowitz and Feldman are working the same agenda – from different angles. Ditto for Kurtzman. They are doing their best for the Israeli army of cyber typers.

    Anybody who plugs for Joe Lieberman can’t make any pretense of objectivity.

  16. Individuals can always change and grow. They learn new things. They have experiences. The context changes, public opinion moves. It only takes a certain concatenation of events, or the right person to set things off in a completely different direction. Let’s not be deterministic in our thinking. Nor should we demonize anyone.

  17. The more that I learn about yuppie lawyer Feldman, the more that I claim the Israeli Dershowitz connection.

    Feldman; a trained academic of Islamic studies, Yalie lawyer, and Orthodox Jew, was posted to Irag expressly to draft the Iragi Constitution. He was supposedly chosen for his scholarship and legal acumen. The whole scam failed miserably leading to more death and destruction.

    Leave it to Supernation to send an Orthodox Jew and Israeli firster to Islamic Iraq in order to insure compliance and deep comprehension of the same democracy that turned their country into a rubble heap and cemetary. It looks like these Ivy Leaguers don’t know jack about framing or even faking it.

    Sounds like the lawyer ad on the back of my Telephone directory. “Have you been injured? Let us help you.”

  18. The Palestinians and Iraqis are surely changing. They are being carbonized by real weapons.
    As always, we are asking who is doing what to whom.

  19. Interesting about Feldman. Thanks for the info.
    I am listening to the Democratic debate.
    It’s about Darfur.

    The vanity of it all is amazing. We do not have a US government. We have a global government which thinks nothing of intervening everywhere on the planet….

    The whole world should be paying US tax, sitting in US legislatures and drawing social security too..why not?

  20. On the contrary. Let’s be very deterministic in our thinking and method. Abandon determinism and all hope abandon, as in Dante.
    Determinism doesn’t make anything happen. Determinism attempts to describe events as they occur. Determinism merely describes how the moon revolves around the earth, for example.

    I accused you some time ago of being a classic literary intellectual. Literary people often confuse determinism with fatalism.

  21. No – I don’t think I confuse the two.
    I mean determinism…we assume that external circumstances – structures – genetics – culture determines actions…and that they are predictable…Jews are like this, Palestinians are like that…right wing left wing…

    And to some extent that is the case. But if we just press on articulating what we have to say, without rancour…the mix could change…
    the unpredictable could happen

    That’s what I mean.

  22. And I think Noah Feldman was being honest and quite brave and the piece did not strike me as feigned.
    That’s my sincere opinion.

  23. “We are not members of an African state. But we are citizens of the US. Thus critique must begin with self-critique, no?”

    Hi Lila, just thinking out loud here, but…I agree that American influence in the Middle East gives Americans cause to pay disproportionate attention to suffering in the Middle East. And if you define yourself first and foremost as a citizen of the state under which you live, then yes, you will privilege suffering in Israel/Palestine over the suffering of, say, sub-Saharan Africans.

    Though I take my responsibilities as a citizen seriously, there are other frames of reference that are also important to me. And as an individual, self-critique involves looking at how I choose my causes, and whether those choices serve my self-interest more effectively than they serve the principles I claim to pursue. For example, if I claim to hate needless suffering, if I claim to hate seeing small children die, does my activism or self-sacrifice actually reflect that? Or am I moved off course by some other set of interests?

    I do engage in this sort of self-critique, and I recommend it to everyone, because I think you find that the vast majority of people who claim to hate, for example, seeing small children die needlessly, do not in fact care very much about this at all. A person is only likely to get emotional about the death of small children if three crucial criteria are met: (1) You must have no significant personal ability to influence the fate of that child; most especially, there must be no prospect that a material sacrifice on your part will make a significant difference. This is why you can get 100,000 people out onto the streets of Los Angeles (where I live) to protest against the Iraq war…and why a great many of them will arrive in Mercedes, Jaguars, et cetera, even as six million children die per year for want of the most meager resources. People feel very strongly about dying children so long as those children have the courtesy not to make implicit demands on their wealth or status. (2) Defending the child must give you the opportunity to shake your first upward at the powerful. If there is no clearly identifiable “bad guy,” the kid is shit out of luck. (3) Defending the child must give a person the opportunity to sneer downward at the ignorant hordes whose lack of compassion for one’s favored victim and whose lack of access to a middle-class progressive reading list has left them so hopelessly vulgar.

    One victim who meets these criteria will receive more attention than ten thousand who do not. And of course, if you have some kind of ethnoreligious connection to the kid, AND he meets the criteria, then wow…the humanitarian in you just explodes to the surface.

  24. 1. Yes. There is grandstanding going on among some activists. There usually is in any political situation. Then there are professional agitators. There are always plenty of those.

    But most serious activists gain little from their work and there is nothing to be gained at all in the US, outside select left wing circles, and even then, only if your opposition is articulated within certain well-scripted parameters….

    Try being a right libertarian and see if it will gain you cache with anyone. You will be seen as a defender of money by the left, a crypto racist by some others, a cultural degenerate by social conservatives etc. etc…and a simpleton by all who worship the state.

    2. The either/or is your alternative.
    Most people I know who are actively involved in antiwar efforts are also very much concerned about dying children and your point is made any number of times by activists.

    In fact my very first published article had the sentence…”death from dehydration is as bad as death from war…”

    Although..I must say multinationals have been beneficiaries in both cases and intimately involved in creating both..

    Most activists I know are active on a number of issues, from the environment to social issues in Asia — Palestine is just one more — but the ME is important to many people for very obvious reasons. It is the centerpiece of a cold war strategy that many feel is no longer warranted.
    What’s happening in the ME is not isolated or fortuitous.

    3. “And if you define yourself first and foremost as a citizen of the state under which you live, then yes, you will privilege suffering in Israel/Palestine over the suffering of, say, sub-Saharan Africans.”

    No. I don’t privilege one suffering over the other.

    “I” am not directly responsible in either case. States are. Plus, not being a utilitarian, I don’t believe that everyone in the world has an equal claim on me at all.

    No one really believes they do either. The fact that you own more than 1 shirt and eat more than 1 meal a day proves that you believe your luxuries are worth more than the necessities of millions of your fellow man.

    I accept that. It does not bother me at all.

    Respectfully, I come out of traditions (Hindu and Christian) that would say that spending a thousand dollars on your elderly mother’s extra comfort while giving a much lesser quantity of money toward someone else’s dire necessity is OK morally. For me, it is not only OK, it is morally superior to treat my elderly mother more lovingly than I treat anyone else. If I treated her like anyone else, I would deserve …I do not know what…

    Why? Because what she did for me was infinitely more than what anyone else did.

    That said, yes, excess and conspicuous consumption are not a good thing. More on that another time.

    I read your piece on the real estate developer who gave away everything he had and felt sorry for him. I did not admire him any more than I admire Simon Stylites. It is a form of self flagellation that doesn’t appeal to me. I felt intensely sorry for his family — he wronged them in a way that isn’t made right by the good he did with his money(to my mind). Morality/ethics is not a mathematical equation or a monetary exchange of that kind. Of course, he might have felt a calling in that way and I respect that. But I do not consider it a universal duty. We would have nothing to give and no one to give it to, if we all aimed at self dispossession. I prefer self actualization.

    I am neither a socialist nor that much of a materialist to demand poverty, even if it is only mine and voluntary.

    I think it is necessary to do as much as we can do but I think the tithe (10 percent), whether given routinely, or in volunteer work, or in a lump sum or an inheritance is fair eough…

    Yes, I understand if you have to divvy up scarce resources, such as water, then you have to be a utilitarian…That’s true of the commons.

    Outside some few resources and goods, however, I don’t subscribe to the view that your needs equate automatically to a right.

    Which does not mean I don’t think the rich have an obligation to the unfortunate. They do. My obligation may not always be your right, though. That’s why I liked your piece about making giving rather than squandering socially honorable. I applaud that. It was right on.

    But the state is not the means.

    One’s first obligation before giving to the poor is to not steal from the poor.

    Through financialization, for instance.

    Much good it is to steal from those who work and save in this country and abroad (through labor arbitrage, credit fraud, rigged trade rules, currency devaluation and financial irregularities) and then throw the money around ostentatiously. It wasn’t yours to start with. That’s what a lot of charitable giving is — even by individuals..and its always that way when it’s the state.

    Don’t steal first, through fraud, and then do good with stolen goods — that’s what the warfare-welfare state does..

    That’s a racket ..

    Then there is also the idea of appropriate giving

    Giving may only exacerbate some problems.
    I am talking about many third world governments.

    For eg. it seems to me that the World Bank did more harm than good in India with its “giving”…
    It corrupted the bureaucracy and allowed it to leach off the public and strangle business..

    So giving is not always good and often isn’t even giving, but hidden agenda setting, arm-twisting, bribing …that needs the aid recipient to pay back in military or other purchases…
    Personal giving is different.

    4. ME versus Africa. Different states are involved. In the case of the middle east, the state committing the aggressive act (the Iraq war is what I am talking about) is acting in my name and with money I sent to it. I would think it’s always my first responsibility to stop doing something wrong myself (or letting my involuntary proxy, the state do it) before I act to stop some other state. Non injury before do-gooding. My surgeon is obliged to desist from hurting me before he start trying to save me.

    If you want to help humanity, do it yourself, don’t employ the state to do it…

    By defining myself as a citizen of everywhere, I have responsibility nowhere for my wrongdoing. If I am powerful enough I can always call attention to some other state’s wrong doing. And there’s pretty much something unpleasant going on everywhere all the time…

    But all of the world’s wrongs or the world’s suffering simply is not any one person’s responsibility. There are many things we only make worse when we interfere. Saddam was a brutal dictator. He was better than what we have today in Iraq.

    Its not a popular message. The popular message is we should be everywhere doing everything. And the result is what you have..messes everywhere..state-created, most of them.

    If I live decently, earn my money honestly, try to fight to keep the system just for everyone, and help the unfortunate, personally, whom I come across them and know what I am doing — that is all that’s needed. Not cutting your rival’s throat in business is as much a moral act as giving money you don’t need to someone.

    But should we all do more for the least fortunate?


    Should we let a state hide behind national soveriegnty to perpetrate a massacre, no.

    But. Joey, there is more going on in Darfur than meets the eye, don’t you think?

    Let’s be vigilant, apply moral pressure and humanitarian aid…and let people govern themselves.

    Do I trust a government to be an honest broker?

    Frankly I do not.

    And I do not trust any state, not just the US, when it’s too far from its citizens to do much of anything. If any good is done, it will be only through creating more injustice somewhere else.

    5. Which is why in general we should keep our eyes on things that are close to what we know and where we are most responsible.

    By the principle of subsidiarity, which I think is a center piece of libertarian thinking, we always think of the most local, decentralized way of dealing with an issue. Stop conflicts started by the state in which you live, before looking elsewhere.

    Clean up your back yard and turn off the lights before you worry about something further away.

    Reduce defense spending and nukes here before calling on minor states to do the same.

    Give rights back to the states on social issues, instead of forcing a one-size-fits-all morality over the whole nation and then the whole globe.

    ” Subsidiarity is the principle that any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.”

    A global government with global responsibilties is a world state, with world bureaucrats…

    It would be a world which would rapidly be run for the benefit of a handful of clever plutocrats who would always be able to find some disaster to use to distract from their much more sizeable blunders/ misdeeds in pursuit of power .

    Which is what we have.

    6. I was writing about globalization in India, and water shortage before I got into activism about Iraq and I got into that in 1994 when the effect of the sanctions became apparent.

    I can assure you NO one wanted to listen to it. No one was interested and it wasn’t trendy. It has made me no money and lost me a number of friends. As for limousines, since I didn’t drive until my thirties I don’t know anything about them. I was a music teacher.

    My American friends weren’t interested in reading what I wrote. They were embarrassed or hurt or didn’t believe it. It was something they politely ignored. But now, some of them have got around to agreeing. That will have to be my reward. That and a few gibes from the editor of Jewcy about grandstanding (chuckle).

    I am sure grandstanders DO go along with a number of things..and waste tremendous amounts doing it — like the recent global warming shindig…. They bore me.

    But you cannot seriously believe that the educated opinion of almost the entire world and most university faculties is all about grandstanding. Tell me you don’t. I want to believe that we have not become so insular in this country. That we only talk to people who think like us here…or abroad.

    Personally, I have never been to a protest in my life. I hate crowds. Signing and circulating petitions is very tedious, anonymous work. I believe I was writing about consumer issues then, and about waste recycling, and female foeticide in India — not exactly glamorous topics —
    and not paid….. or paid a pittance..

    Then it became apparent that global companies were interfering and actually worsening the water situation in Chennai..and as I researched those companies, I started finding out more about the trade rules and how connected that is to a number of other issues..including financialization…

    The more I read, the more it became clear to me that in fact financialized markets have as much to do with the outsourcing of intelligence and Abu Ghraib as they have to do with overbuilding in Chennai and water shortage there…

    It is connected. Tremendously.

    I did not want to agree with my lefty friends with whom I don’t see eye to eye on a number of things– I was compelled to, by the evidence. Then I discovered the Mises Institute and fortunately was able to retain my intellectual conservatism without giving up my honesty…

    Murray Rothbard and Antiwar are to be thanked for that. Not that I agree with them on everything entirely.

    7. As to the humanitarian angle..

    Say, I kill my obnoxious neighbor and his children, take possession of his house and set myself up in a strategic position there that aids my self-interest; meanwhile, I also knock out the drug pusher who is dealing in the corner and hence stop some of his trade; do I then set myself up as the acme of ethics…?

    That would be a bit of a laugh, no?

    8. And I don’t have any ethnoreligious connection to anyone to Iraq.. but I have a degree in American foreign policy and some knowledge of the media and of propaganda and ideology..
    So my natural and best contribution to an antiwar effort would be a study of propaganda in the war…the most propagandized war in history probably.

    Iraq and the Middle East have intimate connections to India — to the Kashmir issue and to terrorism. It is not a question of ethnic-religious preference – although I see nothing wrong in focusing on what you know more of and what affects people you know..

    — just as you might have a deeper interest in the interaction of Judaism and modern Jews than in say the interaction of modern Tamils in Malaysia with Hinduism..

    Its very logical. No “privileging” of humans….

    But since I enjoy the privileges of the American state I must undergo its burdens and its responsibilities…don’t you think? Either that, or we should extend those privileges to the whole globe too…that might be a thought, actually. Then they should all be free to live here too..How would that work I wonder, when Iraqis cannot be allowed to live in their own country without interference….

    Not being impertinent. Being thoughtful.

    Either we go OVER states to make a superworld government..or we break DOWN into decentralized smaller states and groups and cities..self organizing in new ways that lessen the hold of the state…

    The moment of choice is in these years.
    The situation is truly make or break.
    I am for break.

    The biggest and most powerful and dangerously armed state in history is the US.
    Now it is discarding centuries of legal traditions developed by the wisdom of the learned and the suffering of the dispossessed.

    Now it is declaring preemptive war and laying waste countries which did not attack is spying on citizens without warrant..dismantling habeas corpus..seizing property…

    None of this bothers you?

    It is at the heart of an unprecedent global bubble caused by banana-republic type currency manipulation…that could destabilize global growth…topple governments, ruins milliions, and send this country into severe recession..

    That is not a crisis?

    So reigning in the US state is for me the logical first step. That should be done in conjunction slowly with the reigning in and reduction of ALL states — No privileging of any of them. But let’s deal with the king of the jungle before we go after the lesser beasts..

    I would see them all, especially the empires, break up into smaller, self reliant states like Switzerland or better yet into trading city-states like Hong Kong, each with its own definitive character — self-selected and affiliated and cross affiliated in a way that checks the aggrandisment of any single one.

    That’s my vision.

    It’s doable.

    Either that or we have a world empire. The police state — all over the globe.

    Other than that, I have zero interest in politics and would rather be getting my fiction published than annoying important reviewers with political positions that are not popular no matter what you say..especially coming out of the mouth of immigrants.

    Try getting hired if you have blogged openly on the kind of topics I have. Not just the war..but torture..or the CIA..or the Israeli lobby or race and immigration…

    If you are looking for a literary prize, the way is to write about your desi identity, intercaste marriage, your conversion from oppressive patriarchal religion to empowered female of the modern world…exotic east or squalor.. …megacities or mango chutney..or something equally safe and remote from your civic responsibilities here..

    Look the other way while a constitutional republic transforms itself under our very eyes into an outlaw….and all in the name of law.

    So that is my petty personal sacrifice; its all I am willing to make and its not much — but considering how dear writing is to me…I can assure you it wasn’t something I made happily.

    Only because the war turned out badly has it become unpopular..

    Had it not — had we gone on relentlessly and unchecked to Syria and Iran..then what?

    Contrary to what you think, I HAVE thought about all those questions you bring up. They just don’t persuade me and don’t agree with my understanding of the moral or ethical life.

    The conscience is individual. What strikes your conscience is a call to YOU at that moment..
    On that particular thing…you cannot evade it by imagining another easier duty.

    It might be Joey K’s duty to do what he does in Africa. For me this is now mine.

    It is a particular duty for a particular individual.
    Not a diktat from a global bureaucrat.
    Even a well meaning one.

    Think of it like this. Say it was the USSR and Soviet armies were in Hungary…or Germany, and Panzer troops were sweeping across Europe…would it really have been grandstanding for Russian or German writers to object to what was happening?

    When they saw their neighbors being crushed, or beaten up, or jailed or even killed…

    Where did their first moral responsibility lie?

    Do we think better of those who kept quiet..even if they kept quiet because they were busy supporting orphanages in China?

    Would that have been more moral in your eyes?

    (Fill in Germany, Pakistan, India, Rwanda, anywhere..).

    I appreciate your input….

  25. Joey Kurtzman’s lengthy post above is all about reframing and “children” or possibly about defending not defending children. It’s about suffering children – no mention of the thread that he started.

    He says that chooses his causes carefully. He claims that many people who demonstrate in L. A. against the Iraq war arrive in spiffy cars, Jags and Mercedes. Moreover, he implies that these anti Iraq war activists are routinely haughty and holier than thou. Indeed, these activists may not really love the children. Get it.

  26. Some of them may not.

    A cause doesn’t have to rest on the perfect goodness of all its proponents.

    No human cause is every completely pure, if you look at all the people who join it. No human victim is every completely innocent if you look at other parts of their lives.

    That does not make either a cause less just or a victim less genuinely victimized.

    That there are grandstanders about Palestine has nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of the situation I think.

    And I think JK is smart enough to know that.

    But there are some people whose moral posturing – even when right – can be obnoxious….I guess he meant those.

  27. This deserves a fuller response, but time being the scarcest of resources at the moment…

    “That there are grandstanders about Palestine has nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of the situation I think.”

    Agreed one hundred percent. A worthy cause is invalidated not a whit by the support of a googolplex of shrill grandstanders.

    My point was really just that self-critique involves more than assessing the way in which the state under which you live abuses its power. But of all the forms of power that affluent, resource-rich Westerners wield, they generally seem to spend the most time fretting about the power they wield as a citizen of their state. I’ve said before that if Noam Chomsky didn’t exist, the upper middle-class would have to invent him. The power you wield as someone with a Jaguar in a world where one billion people live in absolute poverty…much less willingness to critique that. So Chomsky’s pretty comfy.

  28. Kurtzman states that “American influence in the Middle East gives Americans cause to pay disproportionate attention to suffering in the Middle East.” This, then, causes tragic neglect of the suffering of others, such as sub-Saharan Africans. So, if you want to exercise yourself about suffering, there are lots of candidates other than the ME, for goodness sake.

    The Israeli Lobby, the most powerful lobby ever devised in the sordid history of lobbying, is NOT the most important variable in both the American influence and the Israel-as-ally propaganda. It’s the spontaneous interest of American citizens. Hilarious and Obama’s “debate about Darfur was NOT designed to keep the schmuckery out of touch with Israeli genocide.

    The disproportionate lack of attention to the glaring genocide in Palestine is NOT the issue. There is just to much attention paid to the whole ME. Israel wants your support, but they sure don’t want you to see their storm troopers committing genocide.

    According to Kurtzman, we should pay more attention to the Congo, Darfur, and all sub-Saharan Africa. Most importantly, we had better get our lights focused on someplace else lest people keep paying too much “attention” to daily Israeli atrocities.

    Whatever you do, don’t pay any more disproportionate attention to the Middle East. Mais oui, that is where the Israeli murder machine commits the now routine horror of genocide in Palestine.

    And, of course, there are the suffering children, too. Many of them in Gaza.

  29. Mr Kurtzman now knocks Chomsky for being “comfy.” If this ain’t desperate Israeli peeyar, I don’t know what causes daylight.

    We had all better cure ourselves first through self critique (Whatever that is?) before we sling any stones or address genocide in Palestine.

    Three critical questions have been raised and can now be addressed.
    1. Is Professor Feldman observant or not?
    2. Does Chomsky drive a Jaguar?
    3. Is Professor Dershowitz comfy?

  30. Yes — poverty is a huge issue.

    But a lot of it — most of it — is created by the states under which those impoverished populations live and the rulers who are corrupt themselves and further corrupted by affluent states…The level of corruption and theft in the bureaucracy is extremely high.

    I could go down the list..

    That’is mostly why communism– bad as an economic ideas — found its niche. The govt was seen as necessary to break up family holdings and caste domination that was crushing landless and bonded laborers and preventing any competition.

    These are intensely complicated issues — its not a matter of throwing money at it..and in fact, in my opinon aid makes the situation worse..

    Had these countries at least some of the laws of property and civil freedom that exist here (correction — used to exist)…and were they free from interference from external influence they too would likely be prosperous..

    War and poverty in these areas has been the result mostly of state interference or action of some kind…

    [T]he evidence strongly suggests that the rate of economic development is related to both the rate of state expansion and collective violence in a way that runs contrary to the way postulated by the dominant view on such matters… state expansion seems to produce much more violence than economic growth… Rather than state expansion being an antidote for the violence produced by economic modernization, our rather limited evidence shows that it is economic modernization which is the antidote to the violence produced by state expansion. (Cohen, Brown, and Organski)”

    That Congolese civil war you mentioned for eg can’t be understood without understanding the Belgian empire and the divisions in the country it left….or without mentioning Mobutu or Pat Robertson…or mining rights..and multinationals….

    Go down the line and you will see it is centralized state government and external imperial (or communist) influence that fostered the poverty in nearly every case. That’s why undoing the legitimacy of the state system is the issue for me…

    I am convinced that prosperity will follow from that

    But if the model out of which prosperity depends itself becomes corrupted and goes the way of tin pot dictatorships…and moreover does it while it is still overweeningly powerful, that’s a pretty dangerous situation. Because it will set the agenda everywhere…and it does.

    Re setting agenda – take countries like Pakistan, Indonesia where the US has effectively propped up dangerous and corrupt regimes:

    Mind you – a lot of the prosperity in this country also rides on the military power that keeps trade rules shaped in favor of the financial classes with the dollar artificially propped up and other countries paying for our economic and other sins while we reap the benefit…so Chomsky’s structural analysis of the situation is not wrong at all…

    My impression of him is that he is a remarkable man personally..and I hold that opinion even though I come from the opposite direction and see his limitations…

  31. And actually, re Israel-Palestine, I don’t really concern myself with the issue that much as it has more to do (directly, anyway) with those countries. I am more concerned with the US in Iraq. And I am opposed to sanctions against Israel, as I was opposed to sanctions against Iraq…and against S. Africa too…

    So I am consistent at least..though the 3 cases were each different.
    But for me — the state is nearly always the problem, not the solution; injuring a civilian population to coerce its government sounds morally wrong.

  32. JK,

    Allow me to say that your website (Jewcy, I believe) is a refreshing change of pace from the status quo. I would imagine this has generated no small amount of incoming flak from the more PC types. You rightly note the amazing difference in coverage between the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and, say, the bloodbaths of Central Africa during the 1990s. Another example of this would be post-Apartheid South Africa which the MSM seems to have forgotten about in its ridiculous hero worship of the terrorist Nelson Mandela. These are subjects which they would much prefer to keep quiet about.

    Also, you are entirely correct about the faux humanitarianism of the “concerned” amongst our upper middle class. It is, above all else, a way for them to look down their noses at the average Americans who are less cosmopolitan, more parochial, less urban than they are. For all their cant about “bigotry,” these people are as bigoted as anyone else; indeed, positively obsessed with their status. They simply have a more genteel way of expressing it. Recently, it has even become fashionable for Hollywood celebrities to adopt third world children.

    It is typical primate dominance behavior: look at how superior I am to you, I can afford to raise a poor child from the third world and wear the most expensive designer clothes; I am insulated enough from my neighbors to praise illegal immigration. Who, pray tell, will do the dishes, clean the pool, or cut the grass if the legal status of our 12-20 million illegals is not adjusted? Gosh, this world of our is heating up, and it is imperative we do everything we can to save the planet. I might own a fleet of SUVs and fly around America in my private jet polluting the planet, but I purchase enough indulgences/carbon credits to lecture ordinary people about how they need to change their lifestyles.

    Moral masturbation of this sort is a serious problem in our culture. These people really don’t give a fig about Africa. If they truly did, they would support the re-establishment of colonialism there. Colonialism certainly had its flaws, but for decades the standard of living in Sub-Saharan Africa had remarkably improved. Sixty years ago famine, war, malnutrition, disease and so forth was becoming uncommon there. Sub-Saharan Africa was actually a bright spot on the world scene compared to war-torn Europe or East Asia.

  33. If the state were really the sort of problem you make it out to be, then Somalia, New Guinea, and the Andaman Islands would be human paradises, not Japan, Sweden, or New Zealand. Libertarians are too narrowly focused on their jihad against the state. Much of the bloodshed in Sub-Saharan Africa has been fueled by private mercenaries and the general anarchy of the region. The scramble for the natural resources of the Congo is a symptom of the weakness of the state.

    Obviously, the existence of poverty can’t be blamed on the state. Witness what followed the demise of “the state” in post-Roman Europe during the sixth and seventh centuries when European living standards collapsed to pre-Roman levels. In contrast, the rise of Western Europe to world dominance went hand in hand with the rise of the state – in England, France, Holland, and Spain.

    Numerous other examples of this come to mind. Look at Japan under the rule of warlords or European serfs who lived for centuries under the heel of manor lords. The most destructive violence in the world goes on amongst hunter-gatherers. Think of the San of South Africa and Botswana or the Yanomamo of Brazil.

  34. Just briefly.

    When an imperial system collapses, as it did in the Congo, what follows is not the natural disorder that exists in the absence of the state, but the unnatural disorder that follows state intervention. The Belgian imperialists were remarkably cruel to the local people by all accounts.

    Post colonialism, borders are redrawn arbitrarily, forcing groups together who had never been together; mercenaries intervene; external powers play kingmaker; the very worst elements are armed and set at each other. Then the various armed leaders leave behind their own powerhungry bureaucrats and corruption rots the country. That is the end result of the virus which had infected the organism – the state. It is not the healthy organism,

    To blame culture alone for any of that is a very tendentious reading of history. If you are blaming genetics, I assume our genes must be in the habit of changing from year to year…

    Let’s say, there was an all out invasion by the concerted forces of the world, the DC gvt collapsed, we were bombed, and all our prisons were opened, we were under blockade, lacking in food, and say hundreds of thousands flooded over the borders — actually, since this is a wealthy, spacious country, it’s hard even to imaginatively recreate what is going in Iraq. But let’s say we can Don’t you think people here would act pretty savagely?

    You know, during the Siege of Leningrad, cannibalism took place among people who were starved…the Germans, the acme of civilization, did unspeakable things; the British, famed for their laws, starved people in South India (read Mike Davis’s remarkable “Late Victorian Holocausts” — Lord Lytton appears to have been quite as mad as Mao…some 29 million died in the Victorian period, generally thought to have been such a benefit to the benighted wogs).

    Yes – the Mughal empire was bloodthirsty and despotic, but at least in its heyday it didn’t drain wealth entirely out of the country.

    I recommend you Panikkar’s “Asia and Western Dominance,” Romesh Palme-Dutt as well as Mike Davis. I think even the neocon’s favorite historian, Niall Ferguson in his footnote-scarce encomium to empire, can’t deny the facts – he can merely dress them up with specious reasoning.

    I wish I knew African history to controvert your claims better, but as I don’t I will leave it to some one else.

    As to your aguments, first, your facts could be accurate (and I am certainly not sure of that) and your entire reading off base for want of philosophical training and knowledge of first principles of intrepretation.

    You should always make it a point to read the best arguments of the other side.
    It seems to be a failing of public debate here, that people seem to like to talk to themselves.
    And you should write under your own name, if you are so certain your views can hold up to public debate from historians.

    Many of the western countries you cite were rich and prosperous despite imperialism..and when they became mercantilist and imperialist, they ruined themselves.

    War and empire do not create prosperity.
    Read the history of Rome..or of the Moghuls..the further they pushed abroad, the more their institutions departed from the republican ideal..grew corrupt and collapsed of it.
    This not to say that the colonized states did not have elites which conspired in their colonization. They did. That is why the state system as a representation of a society or community is simply a charade. It is why true libertarians CANNOT be racists of your sort.
    Should anyone be interested in the Paul campaign as a prelude to a white supremacist government, he would be sorely mistaken. There would be far less racial tension. Commercial and cultural life would dominate, instead of the states and real harmony among the races would prevail, not the current PC regime of repression

    By the way, I went through your site and related sites. I find them to be not racialist at all, but rather definitely racist in quite an unpleasant way — and distorted.

    Yes, you gather some facts. But the way you read and interpret things is quite incorrect on the matters of which I have some first hand knowledge. I am not sure you are really interested in studying race honestly as you are in promoting your already firmly held views that no amount of argument could possibly change. So I wonder that you want to engage me in an argument that can do me no good.

    As to your theory about Jewish influence, I wish that you would take it to Joey K – he is quite upto the task and being Jewish himself may not need to fend off slurs about antisemitism for the rest of his natural life for the dire error of having assumed that free speech especially extended to controversial political arguments..

  35. 1.) I’m not all that familar with Joey, but from what I have read on his site, I came away impressed with his honesty and candor. Let’s hope that PC was a hang up of a single generation.

    2.) Re: the Congo. It may interest you to know that, as an IR major, I have always had something of a perverse fascination with that country. As for the Belgians being responsible for its current disorder, nothing can be further from the truth.

    The Congo was actually a success story immediately prior to its independence. In fact, it was doing so well that it was simply assumed at the time that it would develop into a thriving industrial democracy. The Congo actually had an annual rate of economic growth not unlike China today. It is not true that disorder naturally follows “state intervention.” If that were true, then South Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore would be economic basket cases as well. Obviously, that’s not the case. In fact, the most developed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are precisely the ones where the influence of colonialism was the greatest, not the Ethiopias and Liberias.

    When the Portuguese arrived in the Congo in the fifteenth century, they discovered that the Congolese preferred the taste of human flesh to their own cattle. This was a cultural delicacy there and has remained so ever since. If you would like, I can post some horrifying stories for you from mainstream historians of the Congo. Since when has the Congo -aside from the early twentieth century – ever not been what it is today? What happened when colonialism ended is that the natives simply reasserted themselves and the result is what we can all see.

    3.) Re: “post-colonialism.” The American Union is an example of a nation which emerged out of European colonies. In that case, the metropole (Britain) lost control over its periphery in a popular insurrection like the French lost control over Vietnam and Algeria. Americans put together a thriving capitalist economy and a limited constitutional government that protected individual rights like no other nation in the history of the world.

    Numerous other examples come to mind: Quebec, lost by France in the Seven Years’ War; the Afrikaners in South Africa; Costa Rica, formerly part of New Spain; South Korea, formerly a possession of Imperial Japan; Singapore and Hong Kong, formerly British possessions. Did civilization collapse in any of these countries? Obviously not. Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore are incredibly ethnically diverse, too. The United States was formed out of all sorts of European ethnicities. Canada too.

    What’s more, if anything is true, your model should apply to Belgium itself more than any other country. Belgium, formerly the Spanish Netherlands, is an artificial state (originally a British pawn like Czechoslovakia) that was created in aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. It is linguistically diverse; divided by French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemings. So, why aren’t the Belgians knocking each other out like the Congolese?

    4.) I won’t go into the details of my views about race and culture here. I will simply note that I am in no way surprised that the United States, Canada, South Korea, and Singapore are all thriving successful postcolonial nations whereas Haiti, Zimbabwe, and the Congo are not.

    5.) Re: your analogy. No, I don’t find that persuasive, and here is why: that is exactly what happened to Germany and Japan during the mid-twentieth century. They were firebombed into the Stone Age by the USAF. In the aftermath of the Second World War, both countries were placed under American military rule. They were in economic ruins. But guess what? Berlin, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Dresden – extending this analogy – Hanoi, Seoul, Warsaw – all came back. They came back because of what was not lost in those wars – the irreplacable human capital that is the ultimate well-spring of civilization.

    6.) Re: Cannibalism in WW2. Yes, it did exist, but that is no way comparable to what goes on in the Congo. In the Congo, cannibalism is has always been associated with the culture and religion of the people who live there. Again, if you would like, I can quote mainstream historians to this effect. I don’t want to turn the stomachs of the guests of your blog though.

    7.) Re: India and the British Empire. Famines are nothing particularly unusual in backward, underdeveloped countries. Famines were endemic in Western Europe proper well into modern times; in Russia and Ukraine, into the twentieth century. Why didn’t Canada, New Zealand, Australia suffer from these problems? They were all equally a part of the British Empire, but unlike India, they all had developed modernized economies.

    About Aryans. As an Indian, you are more of an “Aryan” than I am. It is only appropriate to use the term to refer to Indians and Iranians, especially the latter. And no, I am not averse to reading “non-Aryan” writers. I do so all the time. In fact, I mentioned just the other day that I admire W.E.B. DuBois.

    8.) In IR, “post-colonialism” is merely one school of thought amongst others. Obviously, I reject that sort of Marxist swill. The problem with Africa is not that it is being exploited. That charge is transparently ridiculous: what percentage of American GNP comes from trade with Africa? Japan, Mexico, Canada, China, and the EU are our leading trade partners. Mexico, which most Americans would classify as a basket case, is the richest country in Latin America. Africa’s problem is, if anything, a deficiency of trade which ultimately stems from corruption and poor human capital.

    9.) For obvious reasons, I don’t write under my own name. Not to crow, but I have a background in history solid enough to warrant at least a master’s degree in the subject. I know more about history than I do about political science.

    10.) Which Western countries are these?

    11.) War and Empire do not create wealth? What historian of the British Empire, Roman Empire, French Empire, Dutch Empire, or Spanish Empire would agree with that? No, the Pax Romana indisputably brought fantastic wealth to much of Europe for centuries, and when the Roman era ended, so did the former prosperity, almost overnight. “The state” vanished and took civilization down along with it.

    12.) Re: me changing my mind. I’m entirely open to persuasion. Those who have known me for any considerable amount of time know I have changed my views a hundred times about all sorts of things.

  36. About Ron Paul. The reason that racialists like James Bowery support his campaign is mostly because of his stance on what is known as “civil rights.” Amongst other things, Ron Paul voted against the Emmett Till Civil Rights Act and the renewal of the Voting Rights Act last year. If I recall correctly, he vetoed a House resolution that honored the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a few years ago.

    From a racialist perspective, that is impressive, but it is important to keep in mind that Paul voted that way for totally different reasons. In a way, Ron Paul reminds me of Barry Goldwater, who wasn’t a racialist, but nonetheless shared some common ground with them. An America free of forced integration would be free to resegregate at will. That’s a very attractive possibility to the James Bowerys who salivate over white’s only schools, white’s only businesses, white’s only neighborhoods, etc.

  37. I don’t have time to hash over things too well known to bear repeating.

    1. I will start with one obvious thing – Indian refers to a nation state not an ethnic group. Indians are very mixed – that the Indo-European branch of Aryans came into India a very long time ago does not translate into this ‘all Indians are Aryans’ meme unless you have some specific racial agenda you want to carry on. There was a preexisting(?) Dravidian population as well as other groups. We are mongrels for the most part and quite happy to be so…[I referred to Aryans, because in a comment that I deleted, S referred to “Aryan integrity” — which I thought was a racist phrase (I mean apart from being idiotic — I mean what would Dravidian or Australoid integrity look like?), implying as it does that only Aryans possess integrity].

    2. The famines had natural causes and manmade one that were bitterly exacerbated by British policies. You must explain to me why the Indians and Chinese had the highest GDP in the world until the mid 18th century otherwise. This is not an endorsement of the Moghul or Chinese depots…..the reason for the prosperity was that despite the existence of despotism..large parts of the economy..especially trade in the Indian Ocean (until the Portugese got into the act), was rather peaceful. The well-known maritime historian Philip Curtin, who is also an Africanist, has written on the subject. Curtin is a liberal humanist but by no means PC. And he is one of the great economic historians.

    3. The Spanish economy after a short speculative enrichment was indeed ruined by silver from S. America. Britiain collapsed from the burden of empire and its inter-imperial wars. And the US, despite being artificially propped up by neo-imperialist policies is sagging into decline because of them. The Soviets spent themselves into decline and then let the banking elites
    deliver the coup de grace. Long terms prosperity is not caused by empire but sustained inspite of it. An initial plundering or looting eventually acts detrimentally. Wealth is a result of peace.

    4. I don’t deny differences in culture, nor do I deny some cultures are more effective at something and others at other things. Calvinism seems to have been more productive for Capitalism than Catholicism, for example. There are cultures which exhibit too great levels of hostility, or anxiety, or social tension, or something else which may not work. We should always be seeking out the best system that works and imitating it. I think the constitutionalist traditions of the US, and its non interventionism, are one such system – and to be preferred to a big despotic government. In that sense, I certainly do concede it is a better form of government. The Victorian work ethic is something I admire. But is American constitutionalism the only form of limited government? No. I posted a piece on the Irish tuath society which was very libertarian and free of large scale war.

    As for the Congolese cannibalism you refer to – I will research it but it still does not alter my argument. Those negative traits of a culture can be changed (if they become a threat to other groups) by persuasion or trade, as well. Imperialism is not needed. The greatest cultural achievement does not justify imposing your culture by force on someone else who didn’t ask for it. Am I justified in busting into my neighbor’s house and rearranging his furniture and throwing out his wife because I thought both were ugly?
    I am not suggesting that every ill in the world comes out of the state system. I am suggesting that whatever is bad in society will get worse and whatever is good is neutralized
    because of it. And violence is magnified a hundredfold. Nor am I suggesting that all cultures are the same or equal. Of course they are not. Some are technologically sophisticated, some are not. Some share everything common; others are acquisitive; some are more aggressive.
    But the damage they do is contained by the limits to size and absence of huge bureaucratic state.

    I really think you should take this to Joey’s blog.
    I was in an IR program before I joined a doctoral program and my impression of the reading in IR programs is that it is dominated by diplomatic history of no great depth…

    And I would strongly refer to you any of the writings of Murray Rothbard on the Mises blog or the writings of the old right scholar Garet Garett.

    Life is short and one need not reinvent the wheel.

    Oh — and it takes a bit of doing to bring up peaceful European societies after a century with 2 major world wars largely fought by European countries, a cold war in which other were used as proxies for European states, innumerable interventions and killings which if added up run into the tens of millions. And napalm, white phosphorus, sodomy as torture, concentration camps, chemical gassing…higher tech than eating someone’s flesh but just as savage. Think about it. The savagery is just normalized and accepted. Also — the level of crowding in thirdworld societies is simply phenomenal compared to western countries. Were Indians to emigrate freely and crowding to decline, living conditions would improve for sure. And were Western countries subjected to the same levels of stress, I wonder how peaceful or how prosperous they would remain for long. [Update: I am posting a piece on mob behavior and its encouragement by the state in India — to show you I have no axe to grind on the matter. The state’s role in fostering mob behavior in India – constant rioting, property damage and demagoguery– can’t be overlooked; they have police state laws in the NE which have done nothing but increase violence. Reduce the state and things will get better I am convinced. Civil society will begin to develop the institutions it needs to function adequately]

    Malaysia – a multicultural secular Muslim country has done quite well economically; HongKong has prospered. Their success has to do with the relative integrity and transparency of laws protecting private property and free enterprise. Hernando Soto comes to similar conclusions..
    if I have read him right (have read only a bit).

    So these are economic and cultural factors — not genetic.

    As for savagery, the US government starved nearly half a million children under five over a period of 10 years while continously bombing a country with no air defense…..

    And never forget, at least some part of prosperous lifestyles among the elites in the West is propped up by people all over the world who are robbed of their proper reward by global currency manipulation, rigged trade and subsidies and all the rest of the suspect activities of transnational elites based mostly in the west whatever their ethnic origin.

    So there has been plenty of misery caused by apparently very peaceful states, only its not in their own backyard — you simply can’t see it. Just as the wars these states fight in or encourage are always abroad — the economic fall out is borne by someone else.

    Come to Bombay and you will see the misery outsourced from prosperous nations…Nor is this an endorsement of the government in India, which is insanely corrupt — how could it not be after 1000 years of Muslim and British colonization and even long periods before of Hindu empires? That’s what empire does to the colonist and the colony…

    I am not an absolutist about libertarianism. I am a gradualist and pragmatic. In each society a different form of association is bound to be needed and needs to be developed out of the existing institutions.

    But in principle I am firmly libertarian. The state is mostly an evil. And knowing your views now, I am even more certain that it is and that we need a libertarian candidate.

    Racism, Social Darwinism and Statism – with the current laws in place — what a prospect.
    There is nothing further to be gained by this conversation.

  38. I noticed your riposte on your blog, so in kind:

    The fact that you advocate resegregation when, outside the workplace, society here is rather segregated de facto, suggests to my mind that if some members of your racial group chose to mix with other races they would then lose their membership privileges. That combined with language stating that “whites” should impose themselves over the world and colonialism should return to Africa is enough I think to make any objective reader classify that as racIST rather than racIAL speech — if it is a seriously held position and not just mouthing off.

    I have no desire to censor such speech by the way. I think it’s an excellent thing that we have free speech laws so we can fully understand the implications and purport of things that we might otherwise pass off as more innocuous.

    Furthermore– people of European descent ARE spread out over most of the globe, far from their homelands, (usually having displaced intentionally or unintentionally the indigenous people, so I read). Compared to equivalent numbers of any other racial group don’t you think they take up a fair proportion of land as theirs?

    Just observing and wondering where this sense of dispossession comes from.

    And I am not sure whether you understand the concept of cultural transmission and cross-fertilization — that the kind of “white” culture you discuss does not exist in purity.

    Christianity has as its central figure a Semite. The Greek heritage of Europe derives from Egypt, which shows some influence at least of Africa; your mathematics is based on Arab numerals and the Hindu decimal system all developed in the context of advanced civilizations long before Europeans; and nothing of the classical tradition would have survived in Europe were it not for the Byzantine empire and the Caliphates….American music today would hardly be what it is without the contribution of blacks; Silicon Valley depends on Indian and Chinese engineers and computer scientists. No one disputes the success or achievements of European culture, what I dispute is that empire is part of those achievements. Instead, it seems to be integral to the corruption of culture. That wealth plundered from abroad supported the arts and sciences does not make the plunder either admirable or necessary to the art and science.

    The state intervention I was talking about was the dreadful policies pursued in the Congo. There were no such policies in Hong Kong which was remarkably laissez faire and indulged neither the business classes nor the middle classes in any kinds of boondoggles. That — rather than Han Chinese IQ was probably more responsible for HK’s success. If IQ alone produces a thriving society, I am at a loss as to how the Chinese IQ didn’t help them out under Mao…

    All this I am sure you know. Or should, in order to theorize about world history, I would think.

  39. Noah Feldman is a joke. He once said that people in the Middle East “ do not normally act rationally” among other gems.

    I checked your about section. You say you are a right libertarian (with strong reservations about financial flows and the commons) and think the state is at best a necessary evil and quite probably unnecessary, replaceable by customary or community laws and private police.
    ” Private Police!”. Quite interesting.
    I thought you were a leftist.
    I can only hope Alexander and Jeff St .Clair won’t publish this “private police” tripe on their website.
    So you are also opposed to sanctions against Israel. Quite Idiosyncratic Indeed.
    Or shall I say, pretty ridiculous.
    And it’s really amusing you seem to think Hong Kong didn’t indulge it’s Business Classes and Middle Classes in any kind of Boondoggles.

  40. I am not a “leftist” or a “rightist” — my positions are close to the Independent Institute (though not always) to which many “leftists” as you term them contribute – Barbara Ehrenreich, for one (Not that I endorse what she writes… or even know it; I don’t read every word that everyone I mention has ever written…I am interested in the validity of ideas, not in vetting the people who hold them.)

    Private police may be tripe.. I don’t know. It was a speculative it would actually work I don’t know, because it is far from doable now. It would only apply when corporations are not of the monopolistic size they are now. It would work in small states and cities where business is ethical and government was limited and monopolistic conditions didn’t obtain. Clear enough ? That looks a lot less tripe than nuclear weapons all around, don’t you think?

    Furthermore there is nothing idiosyncratic about my views of private police or sanctions. Both are classic libertarian positions, held by preeminent theorists. I think Hoppe was one…(ohh no…ideological purity alert! I don’t agree with Hoppe on anything else! I read him, I swear, only once or twice. Ohhh! I swear by Allah, Yahweh, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Great Goddess, and the Empty Void. And I also have read Edward Said and like and respect him! And I think that Orientialism was a very important piece of work and influential…but that doesn’t alter my view of Feldman…nor of Said!!

    Call the thought police; the purity of my affinities has been sullied…I am a Zionist masquerading as a leftist or a CIA stooge or a member of the vast right wing conspiracy….or merely an idiot who does the unthinkable by thinking their own thoughts …!)

    In a small state or city I can see a citizen posse and police drawn from the community…there is nothing bizarre about that idea except to statists. It’s common in anarchist literature left and right.

    Possibly you haven’t read any anarchists. Figures.
    That is the trouble. Too much stereotyping and not enough actual interest in analyzing problems or looking at new ideas.

    I think there are many on the left who hold my position on sanctions too. They hurt a general mass of people as a punishment for the actions of a few. Immoral. You can have targeted boycotts of selected industries, journalists, or scholars who are specially responsible. Generally punishing the population is not a good idea — for any country. Not Israel or India or Cuba or anyone else. Targeted boycotts of academics or journalists or particular businesses, legal censure, civil resistance…all can do the same job without attacking a broad population. That is the same position I hold against the Iraqi sanctions way back in 1992-3 when I wonder what you were doing.

    Suppose someone decided that the Indian government’s position in Kashmir was not to their liking and organized a boycott of India – what then? How would you consistently oppose that?

    Hong Kong probably does indulge its business classes; I based my view on what I have read of its initial growth..things may have changed. But things are relative not absolute, right? I doubt HK is as corrupt as India. I may be mistaken. I only gave it as an example of a kind of commercial city state,

    You might be surprised to know that Alexander Cockburn has rather libertarian ideas.
    Most thinking individuals have broader more complex ideas than the part of their audience, which wants partisanship, rah rahing, and ideology rather than improving things or supplying news ideas or ways of thinking. I believe in case by case analysis not ideology in general – an axiomatic rather than an abstractly theoretical approach. Libertarianism is not a content-based ideology like socialism — it is simply the use of certain axioms in political thinking.

    And what I wrote about Noah Feldman referred only to his article in the New York Times. I am not in the habit of dredging up every comment made over a lifetime by someone before I analyze something. I would never be able to make a remarkif I did. And as I read the piece you sent, I see only that Edward Said did not like him and he made an offensive remark of the sort people make all the time. Is he a colonial administrator? Of course! Sheesh — Why else would the New York Times publish those remarks! You don’t suppose they would put my thoughts on Islamicists or Maimonides or Palestinians on their pages, do you? The whole point of the piece was who it came from.

    Were I to apply the same test, I would not be able to support Ron Paul either, for his remarks which offended many black people. Incorrect, crude, and insensitive remarks. Yet, I am quite confident he is a well-meaning and principled individual. Feldman may or may not be. I can only go by what I have seen so far. That article sounded generous.

    Ridiculous and tripe are ad hominem.
    I prefer arguments. Try them.

  41. >>Call the thought police; the purity of my affinities has been sullied…I am a Zionist masquerading as a leftist or a CIA stooge or a member of the vast right wing conspiracy….or merely an idiot…!
    oy vey…You are neither a zionist nor a member of Vast right wing conspiracy. Don’t worry about it.Whatever the CIA may be, I don’t think It is muddled enough to employ you.
    About the last one, I don’t know. Maybe.
    >>Suppose someone decided that the Indian government’s position in Kashmir was not to their liking and organized a boycott of India – what then? How would you consistently oppose that?
    Why on earth I should oppose sanctions against India? There are plenty of crimes being committed by Indian State and it’s various branches. If they are called to account atleast for some of them I have no problem.
    If the Indian State is really committing great atrocities ( I don’t have much doubt about it) in Kashmir then it deserves the sanctions. Anyway, Kashmiris are the best source of Information for it. They have endured it for so long. The same applies to Every state whether it is China or Israel.
    The victims of South African Apartheid Regime definitely called for sanctions and supported it. The same way now Palestinians are calling for sanctions against Israel. In all these cases it is the victims who have the right to call for sanctions. The same applies to Kashmiris.

    >>In a small state or city I can see a citizen posse and police drawn from the community…there is nothing bizarre about that ideas except to statists.>>
    That is not private police as propounded by libertarian theorists. Citizen Posse and others similar can happen when the State collapses and People have to defend themselves. Like some localities in Baghdad do now. I have no problem with it. But you said you liked the Idea of Private Police.

    >>Hong Kong probably does indulge its business classes; I based my view on what I have read of its initial growth..>>
    Is there any capitalist system in history which was something other than “Socialize Costs and Privatize Profits”. You are pretty naive to think on that lines.

    And Hong Kong “probably” does indulge. It is the same way Israelis “probably” kill lot of palestinians. And Hitler “probably” killed lots of jews.

    Anyway, I may be interfering with your readings on Ramana Maharishi and Aurobindo. Sorry.

  42. How do you jump from Hong Kong to Hitler???
    Oh – I disagree with you on economics so I am a Holocaust denier. Nice logic. [The way you phrased it implied I supported the slaughter of Jews – which is why I wrote that first, but then corrected it …..that kind of implicit slur is pretty cheap these days and common with the official left and right.] I guess that’s why the average person turns off of both sides.

    Get a grip.
    I said “probably,” because I haven’t got statistics in front of me — so I was agreeing with you, but just saying it was relative.


    And by the way, I once studied with a leading Marxist theorist — we studied religion routinely in his class. He didn’t seem to have any problem with arguments from the right or left. .. or the way I think. He had a genuine interest in ideas. And he was fascinated by religious thought.

    And yes, I have read Aurobindo — it was required reading at the MA level in English in India; I have also read Marx..and Jaroslav Pelikan…and Bakunin…and Spivak..and Nozick and Taylor and a lot of people of all sorts of bends…. and Pyarelal’s multi volume biography of Gandhi, who, contrary to the official version of him, was influenced by occult literature of various kinds. Including Tantra and theosophy..He was not a “leftist.”

    Perhaps you should consider tabooing him too.
    A little learning is a dangerous thing, as they say…

    Update: I deleted Pandit Ajit’s response because it was more of the same…I’m a moron..etc. etc. Thanks…. I already know that. We’re all morons compared to what there is out there to know. That’s why a little humility toward differing opinons is in order.

    People who can’t behave civilly to someone who agrees with their positions for the most part, and on their personal blog no less, plan to bring peace to the Middle East…


    Update: Re sanctions — I really don’t know why ordinary people should be penalized for what their governments do. A fat lot most people can do about their governments. We certainly can’t in this country. Economic sanctions tend to lead to wars and they strengthen the worst elements in a country. Why is it killing or ruining masses of innocent people never bothers some of these armchair revolutionaries?

  43. From a Mother Jones interview with Feldman Do you think there’s a possibility that the US presence in Iraq is actually exacerbating some of the sectarian/ethnic tensions, how that needs to be weighed against the security benefits we are providing?

    “NF: My honest view is that the deeper we get, the more we will start exacerbating these tensions. For example, we haven’t been able to get the Iraqi military going. So the U.S. has ended up relying heavily on the only effective Iraqi fighting force available—the Kurdish militias—for security. Now that can have the effect of inflaming sectarian tensions in a place like Mosul, which is a mixed Arab/Kurdish city, and where National Guard units are basically Kurdish fighters. So yes, we do find ourselves in that situation sometimes, invariably because we have been insufficient in terms of providing our own manpower and in terms of successfully training the Iraqi armed forces.

    But our absence could also do a lot more to inflame the situation. The main thing that keeps the sectarian tensions going is precisely the sense that there’s no state there. So that’s the tradeoff. A point could arise where our presence is only making things worse, but I don’t think we’ve hit that point quite yet…”

    It’s an interesting piece…and it shows all the fallacies of statists….for instance, his idea that it’s the presence of the state in the situation that holds off chaos. Feldman – like my charming interlocuter above – simply can’t see the world without states…

    How does he know that an immediate withdrawal would not entirely reconfigure the situation? How does he know that the situation isn’t promoted by the state and its sanctification of violence? He really doesn’t…

  44. The article is still causing much controversy:

    Sent: Wednesday, August 8, 2007 3:14 PM
    Subject: NYC Board of Orthodox Rabbis Burn Harvard Law Prof. Noah Feldman in Effigy

    The New York Board of Orthodox Rabbis today convened on Times Square in Manhattan to protest Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman for his blistering attack on Modern Orthodoxy that was published in the New York Times Magazine two weeks ago. During the demonstration, which took place in front of the New York Times building, several protestors set fire to an eight-foot puppet resembling Feldman, which they subsequently paraded along Broadway. Across the street on Herald Square, another group held aloft a giant photo of Feldman, which they proceeded to cut with a giant scissors while chanting, “Get cropped, Feldman!” This was an allusion to Feldman’s claim that he and his non-Jewish Korean American girlfriend were intentionally cut out from a photo from the Orthodox Maimonedes High School in Brookline, Massachusetts.

    “Feldman has no business attacking modern Orthodoxy for not accepting him when he goes out and marries a [non-Jewish woman],” said Ze’ev Greenstern, who claimed he was spearheading a movement to extradite Feldman to Israel to be prosecuted for slander in a religious court there. “I don’t care if he is law professor at Harvard or the Whitehouse or even the moon, what business does he have airing his dirty laundry in a [flithy cloth used to wipe up dust and garbarge spills] like the New York Times?”

    Some in the crowd seemed to misunderstand the nature of the protest, with several calling for the publishers to “bring Feldman out” and to “stop hiding him.” Police scuffled with two bearded men with black skullcaps who tried to storm the building with a wooden log. One man who pelted the side of the building with eggs and gefilte fish was taken into custody.

    Nathan Strassky, president of the Coalition of Tri-State Alumni of Modern Orthodox Day Schools (COTSAMODS), called on those demonstrating to show restraint but to raise their voices against those who “wage war against the quality of our community and our schools.”
    Strassky stated that he himself would be writing an article for the Times countering Feldman’s controversial “Orthodox Paradox,” which appeared in the July 22, 2007 Magazine. Strassky says that he expected that his article, which he said was called “The Feldman Paradox: Why Noah Feldman is Dead Wrong,” would be published this Sunday.

    “Look for it,” said Strassky.

    Protestors began to disburse after Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for calm, urging the throngs that his administration was working hard to restore civil order in Modern Orthodox neighborhoods, and noted that his office was right now in meetings with the UJA-Federation and AIPAC to explore means of achieving constructive dialogue between Feldman and the North American Jewish community.

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