Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wisdom of Ahmedinijad

Mahmoud Ahmedinijad's lecture and Q&A at Columbia University turned out to be a farce. Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia, opened with an attack on his guest, calling him a petty and cruel dictator. Interesting. I thought being a petty and cruel dictator should bar a person from speaking at a university. When it came his turn to speak, the Iranian president said nothing new, except for the revelation that homosexuality doesn't exist in his country. Other than that, he pretty much repeated old mantras.

In the end, the event didn't do any harm, but it didn't do any good either. If anything, it harmed Ahmedinijad and Columbia University. It still should not have taken place. As could be expected, it did not turn into an intellectual dialogue. Bollinger and the audience insulted Ahmedinijad without really challenging him with specific questions. Ahmedinijad gave general replies, but didn't really answer anything.

A Christiane Amanpour interview with Ahmedinijad is scheduled to air Wednesday night on CNN. I hope she'll ask him the pointed questions that should be asked, like what specific aspects of the Holocaust have not been researched - a question he probably won't have a good answer for.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Light Unto the Nations?

Avraham (Avrum) Burg, the former chairman of the Knesset and the Jewish Agency, has a new idea. The Jews need to be a bridge between the Christians and Muslims of Europe. As the former "other" of Christian Europe, we can work to bridge the gaps between Christians and Europe's new "other", the Muslim population.

Huh? Who the hell wants us to be a bridge? Muslims generally aren't crazy about us Jews, many Christians aren't either. Besides, we can't claim neutrality. Despite all that Christianity has done to the Jewish people since the 4th century, most Jews would probably side with Christians in disputes between them and the Muslims. That's doubly true about Israeli Jews, who would rather see themselves as a European country rather than a Middle Eastern one.

Burg has become quite a theorist, as in theories that have nothing to do with reality. The problems of integrating Europe's Muslims is none of our business as the Jewish people. It's only the business of European Jews - not as Jews, but as Europeans. We need to take care of our own problems before we start meddling in others, and before lecturing Europe about how it treats its Muslims we should take a good look at how we treat our own.


I just added a new widget, Blogrush, to my blog. As their website describes it, "BlogRush is a "Cooperative Syndication Network" that rewards its users for their contributions to the network -- from the impressions they provide of the BlogRush Widget to the referral of other users through 10 'generations' of activity and the impressions of the widget that they provide. BlogRush was designed to be incredibly viral and to provide its users with tremendous distribution leverage to receive exposure for their blog content (onto related content blogs) that they could never achieve on their own; at least without a massive advertising budget."

Blogrush uses the category you provide and combines it with a scan of your blog's content to place links to your posts on related blogs, and to link to related blogs from yours. Too bad only one category can be chosen for the whole blog and not per post. I picked "politics", even though I also write about other things. Hopefully, the content scanner will be effective, so when I write about autism the link will be placed on another blog about autism, rather than on a website about politics.

I should mention that I first came across Blogrush on Gert's blog.

Friday, September 14, 2007

They Don't Make Transformers Like They Used To

Two of my favorite toys as a kid were transformers. One was a fire truck and the other was a race car. They were very easy to tranform - no more than five steps that took less than a minute to complete.

Remembering the hours of joy my transformers provided, I decided to buy my nephew Transformers for his birthday. I bought him a set with two robots - Optimus Prime, who turns into a fire truck, and Megatron, who turns into a tank. Only when my nephew opened the box did we learn that it comes with a full page of instructions for each robot, with a gazillion steps. He lost interest immediately because it was too hard. I spent a couple of hours figuring out how to transform them. When I finally succeeded, I realized that now I have no idea how to turn it back into a robot. After a long struggle to make it a robot again, I saw that it would take me hours to do this a second time and that I had absolutely no chance of teaching my nephew how to do this. You need a goddamn engineering degree to figure it all out!

Another problem with the toys is that in car mode, the pieces don't fit neatly. Also, the different parts come off very easily. They don't break and you can easily put them back on, but I'm sure the pieces will go missing very quickly. In the Transformers from the 1980's, the only removable parts were the weapons and the head (which became a passenger while in car-mode).

I should look for my old transformers. I don't know if they're still around, and they definitely are headless and weaponless, but they're heck of a lot of fun. My nephew will like them and have no problem transforming them, and that would compensate him (and me) for the bad experience for the crappy new transformers.

Toymakers, remember: toys should be user-friendly and simple, not hideously complicated!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Happy New Year 5768

Rosh Ha'Shana, the Jewish new year, has come upon us. What awaits us during the 68th year of the 58th century? Hopefully, no wars with Syria or Lebanon. Maybe this year we'll start a real dialogue with the Palestinians, the Arab League and Syria. So far, that hasn't happened. Olmert has just gone through the motions regarding the Palestinians but hasn't done anything of significance.

It will be the year of the presidential primaries in the United States. The November elections themselves will already be in 5769. So who will it be? Hillary vs. Rudy, I hope.

Politics and war and peace aside, what do I hope this year will bring me personally? I hope it will be a good year. I hope to finish up my studies and find an interesting thing to do afterwards - either start working somewhere or continue on with my studies, who knows where or on what continent. I hope that if I start working, I'll find something that won't be a damn desk job but rather something that really interests me. I hope a lot of writing will be involved, and of the interesting kind.

Until next year (or rather, the next post) Shana Tova!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

CNN and Slate Quoted Me

I just googled "Emmanuel Schiff" and discovered that I'm famous. Okay, not famous, but this blog was mentioned once on national television in the United States and quite possibly worldwide, as well as being quoted a few months later in one of the Internet's most widely read e-zines.

My search brought up a transcript of live coverage of Pope John Paul II's death on CNN. This April 4, 2005 broadcast included a segment about reactions to the pope's death on the blogosphere. Here's the part where the reporters talk about me (and maybe even show my blog on-screen):

TATTON: And, of course, not everyone is full of praise for the pope or the Catholic Church here. Emmanuel Schiff, this is a poli-sci, a political science student, in Israel. He's saying that the pope was way too conservative on many issues, but also progressive on many other things, such as relations with Jews. Emmanuel goes on to look at who the next pope might be. He's got his list of the top five on his site here.

This is something very popular amongst bloggers today. They are looking at what happens next.

They are referring to this post from the same day. Now that I got into it to remind myself of the post, I noticed there's a glaring typo there - " He way too conservative on many issues" (I wonder if the "way" is supposed to be "was" or I forgot the word "was" and meant to say he was way too conservative). What a shame, the only time millions saw my blog - it had a typo.

Next I found an article in Slate about blogger reaction to Mohammed ElBaradei's Nobel prize. The writer refers to me as a conservative blogger based on that one post. Shame on him! Quoting my entire post from October 7, 2005, he writes:

Other conservatives respond with equal parts incredulity and cynicism. "I was under the impression that prizes, especially the most prestigious ones, are supposed to reward success and remarkable achievements," writes political science student Emmanuel Schiff. "I was wrong. As it turns out, inaction and repeated failures may not prevent a person and/or organization from winning."
It's quite amusing to discover I was quoted on CNN and in Slate long ago without my knowledge. Now I wonder if I've been mentioned anywhere else in the mainstream media, mentions that have no trace in regular Internet searches.