Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A short break

Following my longish break from blogging (I just haven't got round to it) I am now taking a short break (a few days) after which I will resume with renewed vigour this preposterous enterprise of sharing with you, faithful reader, the collection of ambiguities and ambivalences that is my mind.

During my break I shall be visiting Shakespeare's birthplace to see 'Merchant of Venice', and the capital of Wales to shout encouraging words at Jason Crump of Belle Vue Aces in the British Speedway Grand Prix. I can't help wondering how many of you could pass so joyously from one of these spheres to the other. What an upbringing!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jewish Humour

The President of Iran was wondering who to invade when his
telephone rang.

'This is Mendel in Tel Aviv. We're officially declaring var on

'How big is your army?' the president asked.

'There's me, my cousin Moishe, and our pinochle team!'

'I have a million in my army,' said the president.

'I'll call back!' said Mendel.

The next day he called. 'The var's still on!' We have now a
bulldozer, Goldblatt's tractor. Plus the canasta team!'

'I have 16,000 tanks, and my army is now two million.'

'Oy gevalt!', said Mendel. 'I'll call back.'

He phoned the next day. 'We're calling off the var'


'Well,' said Mendel, 'we've all had a little chat, and there's
no way we can feed two million prisoners.'


What, do you think, are the chances of this working? Some details:

More than two dozen young people who broke into Robert Frost’s former home for a beer party and trashed the place are being required to take classes in his poetry as part of their punishment.

Using “The Road Not Taken” and another poem as jumping-off points, Frost biographer Jay Parini hopes to show the vandals the error of their ways — and the redemptive power of poetry.

Many people think the arts have the power to make people better. Some think the same of education. The idea is that the more cultured you are, the better you will be. And the more education you have the better you will be.

But this is folly, is it not?

If you educate a thief you only increase his capacity to steal, said a once famous theologian. And I suspect that if you immerse a jerk in the poetry of Frost, you’ll get a jerk who knows the poetry of Frost, not a non-jerk.

Here’s the test. Think of the highly educated and highly cultured. Are they moral people? Are they more moral than the less cultured, and the less educated?

A proposition: the highly educated and the highly cultured have a more difficult time distinguishing good from evil, and decent from indecent. They seek to get beyond good and evil.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein addressed a recent meeting of university chaplains from all over the country, including some imams, on how to deal with anti-semitism on campus.

Here's an excerpt:

'...The New Anti Semitism is in reality the old anti Semitism. When I walk in the street or Campus and someone shouts "Jew" or "Palestine" at me, they have not asked me whether or not I am an Israeli or a Zionist, I am in fact neither, they simply see a Jew and one Jew is guilty of the crimes or perceived crimes of all the Jews… In medieval Europe I killed Jesus. In the New Anti Semitism I am guilty of every alleged crime of Israel, although I have never oppressed a Palestinian or a Muslim in my life… and that is Anti Semitism.

But let me here be frank. Since the founding of the State in 1948 it has created untold suffering. It has been responsible for a massive transfer of population and a huge refugee problem. It was carved out of an existing State and was set up specifically to be the home of one religious group. It is Nuclear armed and has been the cause of several wars with its neighbours, any one of which could have escalated and dragged the world into a third world war. It’s politicians and government are generally believed to be corrupt… But personally I wish Pakistan and it’s people well.'

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Susan Hill again:

Those who take THE TIMES - and it is all online too - will also have read the very sane coverage for Bjorn Lomborg’s latest Copenhagen Consensus. Here is the gist. We need to concentrate our time, energy and resources on feeding the poor of the world not on frivolous pursuit of some GW dream. Our earnest shovelling of every bit of our energy and resources into cutting carbon emissions shows in a different light after you read the following. The attitude of ‘well, even if it does no good, it can‘t do any harm can it ?’ simply will not wash. It can do harm. It diverts our resources and energies from feeding the world. It even, at worst, helps contribute to global poverty. (Use of land for bio-fuels not food.) It certainly helps directly to contribute to the high price of food, let alone of anything else.

What We Really Should Be Doing For People

The top ten most effective economic actions were agreed to be as follows:

1.1.Vitamin A and zinc micronutrient supplements for children. Cost: 60 pence per child. “For just $60m a year, it would be possible to provide capsules of both micronutrients to 80 per cent of undernourished children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with benefits worth more than $1bn. Each dollar does more than $17 worth of good”;

2.2.The Doha development agenda. “The economists’ second-place priority was removing subsidies and tariffs that exclude developing countries from western markets, as is currently being proposed in the World Trade Organisation’s Doha round of negotiations”;

3.3.Iron and salt lodisation (cost: 5 pence per person);

4.4.Expanded immunisation coverage for children;

5.5.Biofortification of plants. Estimated that every £5 spent will yield £60 of benefit;

6.6.De-worming of children;

7.7.Lowering the cost of education;

8.8.Improving the education of girls and women;

9.9.Community-based work on nutrition;

10. 10. Support for the reproductive role of women.