Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


You want to know the difference between Libertarians and Conservatives? The Democrats now have control of congress. After assailing the Republican "culture of corruption" the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (notorious for using "undocumented" Mexican labor on the vineyard she and her husband own) nominated John Murtha, unindicted co-conspirator in the ABSCAM sting operation, as House majority leader (voted down), and former Federal judge Alcee Hastings, who was removed from office (by Democrats to their credit) after being compromised in a solicitation of bribery case, as chair of the Intelligence Committee. Hey, if he could squeeze money out of defendants in criminal cases, imagine how much he'll be able to get from terrorists for intel!

Conservatives find this appalling, Libertarians find it side-splittingly funny.

Republicans responded by bringing Trent Lott, famous for making a racist gaff, back from exile as minority leader.

For anyone with a sense of humor, it just doesn't get any better than this.


My wife drew my attention to an article from the Polish press. The European Jewish Council has declared Poland to be the most pro-Israel country in Europe.

Polish-Jewish relations have always been more than a bit on the thorny side, very much so since the end of WWII. On the one hand, Poles are the most represented nationality on the roles of the Righteous Among Gentiles at Yad Vashem. On the other hand, since the rise of a democratic Germany made beating them up for the holocaust a matter of bad taste, some Jews responded by choosing to beat up their fellow victims - the Poles, who were a little further down on the list of peoples to be exterminated. Just below Gypsies. (By the way, Polish Jews I know object strenuously to this.)

Poles have been a bit ambiguous about Israel. On the one hand, they don't like being blamed for the Holocaust one bit, while Germany - and France, get away scot-free. On the other hand, during the Soviet occupation they got a big kick out of the Middle East wars when "our" Jews beat "their" Arabs. And I remember Poles proudly telling me that Israeli Air Force pilots used Polish in combat, because the Egyptian intelligence had Hebrew translators but not a whole lot of Polish speakers.

Now that anti-Semitism is again fashionable in Western Europe, it seems that the ancient Polish-Jewish connection is being revived.


You want to know what the neighborhood around our apartment in Warsaw looks like? Rent the DVD of The Pianist. The area in the first scenes, CGI'd to look like it did during the Nazi occupation, is about four blocks east. About the same distance north of our place was the edge of the ghetto and the site of the great Tlomatski Synagogue, destroyed by the Nazis at the end of the ghetto uprising as a symbol of the extinction of European Jewry.

Under our apartment window is a plaque where people still leave flowers and devotional candles. It marks the spot where 44 hostages were murdered by the Nazis. The plaque is a common form, fill-in-the-blank for date and number of the dead, common all around the city. Around the city center they average about one every three blocks.

So why am I bringing this up? It seems to me that part of the cultural blindness of Americans, and after 60 years of peace the West Europeans too, is that we have forgotten that bad times always return.

We don't have the education or monuments to remind us and teach our youth about this immutable truth. That's OK though, history has a way of calling this to our attention.


At my age I'm a grad student again - and we have a new baby. It's been hard to describe for anyone who doesn't have kids how tiring this is, but I think I've found a way. One new baby equals an extra grad-level class and a part-time job.


It's a lovely day outside, and the leaves on the trees finally look like autumn. My wife remarks, "Yes, and it's ONLY mid-November." That's Oklahoma.


  • At 4:13 PM, Blogger gilmoure@gmail.com said…

    Is it anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe or anti-Israel?

    As for forgetting the bad times, I've made sure to teach my daughter the history of our family and why we had to leave Spain and ended up at the edge of the known world (New Mexico) all those years ago. Never forget and be always prepared. There's been other golden ages in foreign lands (Spain, Babylon, The Netherlands, etc.) but they've always come to an end. Why think America will be any different?

  • At 8:30 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    I'll have more to say about it later, but I don't think there's a difference anymore. As I've said elsewhere, the Jihadists want the Jews dead, not just the Israelis. And more and more I'm becoming convinced that a growing segment of the chattering classes of Western Europe and sadly, the UK as well, think that's a price they can pay to get them to leave them alone. Of course, they're wrong. "Once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you'll never be rid of the Dane."

    Left Spain? Were your people marranos or heretics by any chance?

    On the Scottish side of the family, the MacNabs, were listed among the "broken clans" in a registry of 1658 (I think). A lot of us ran to America, but this is the last place to run to.

  • At 9:03 PM, Blogger Eduardo said…

    Steve, good blog here. I linked you (a dubious distinction at best) on the strength of your writing and not just our shared politics.

  • At 4:10 PM, Blogger gilmoure@gmail.com said…

    Yup, we were crypto-Jews (Raels, short of Israel), up until two generations ago. My great grandmother had an arrainged marriage but ran off and married a genuine Catholic guy. A few years later, her father came over, shot her husband across the breakfast table, put the gun down and waited for the police. He died a few months later in prison. After that, great grandma totally rejected Judaism in her house. My grandmother was similar and wouldn't let anyone speak of it. My mother remembers the old people who spoke the 'funny Spanish' and would pray on Friday nights, wearing shawls. Sad that we made it so far only to have it end.

    Once I learned of this, from my mother, I started to convert but realized that I am just not a religous person and am not going to be a hypocrit. Still, I'm raising my daughter reading the Torah. When she gets old enough, she may want to convert, if religeon is her thing.

  • At 5:49 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    In a word, wow. I encourage you to record and pass on the family history.

    If you can find it, you might be interested in one of Robert Graves' essays on the Schwetas of Majorca. I believe it is entitled 'A Dead Branch on the Tree of Israel'.

    I've sometimes wondered, if and when America falls will there be people scattered around the world, solar system, whatever, still calling themselves 'Americans'and teaching their children that it's not what you're born but what you become that counts?


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