Category: Uncategorized

The Bad Stats of Adolph Eichmann

On January 18, 1943, Heinrich Himmler relieved Adolph Eichmann of his responsibilities as official statistician of the Shoah. Eichmann had botched the job of gathering data on the regime’s kill rate, leading Himmler to replace him with Richard Korherr. It was one of the great humiliations of Eichmann’s career. As Himmler explained to Eichmann’s boss Heinrich Müller: “The statistical documents produced thus far lack scientific exactitude.” The Nazis may have been liars, but when it came to mass murder of the Jews, they wanted to crunch the numbers just right.

Jews, Camps, and the Red Cross

A mini-controversy has broken out over a new research paper that analyzes four detention camps Israel ran during and after the 1948 war. There the Israelis held some 5000 Palestinians, who were subject to forced labor, beatings, torture, and ritual humiliations. Writing in Haaretz, Amira Hass cites the testimony of one former inmate, who claims that prisoners were lined up and ordered to strip naked as a punishment for the escape of two prisoners at night. [Jewish] adults and children came from the nearby kibbutz to watch us line up naked and laugh. To us this was most degrading. All told, Israel may have run as many as twenty of these camps from 1948 to 1955, and may have held […]

The Problem with Liberalism Today

Over at The National Interest, my Crooked Timber co-blogger Henry Farrell has a dissection of a certain strand of contemporary liberalism—embodied in the critiques of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald offered by Sean Wilentz, George Packer, and Michael Kinsley—that is well worth reading. Some highlights: Yet their problems go deeper than sloppy practice and shoddy logic. For one thing, Wilentz, Packer and Kinsley are all veterans of the Clinton-era battles between liberals and the Left. Wilentz in particular poses as a latter-day Arthur Schlesinger, shuttling backwards and forwards between his academic duties and his political fealties. As for Packer, he has championed a muscular liberalism, pugnacious in the fight against moral purists at home and political Islam abroad. And Kinsley, a […]

On Arendt and Jewish Collaboration with the Nazis

Here’s another interesting factoid that I just learned from Deborah Lipstadt’s The Eichmann Trial. For all the abuse heaped on Arendt for what she wrote in Eichmann in Jerusalem about the issue of Jewish collaboration with the Nazis—leading some to claim that she put the Jews and the Nazis on the same level, a charge that Lipstadt unfortunately indulges*—there’s an irony to the trial that few have noticed. In the words of Lipstadt: The law under which Eichmann had been tried, the 1950 Nazis and Their Collaborators Law, was instituted in response to grassroots pressure from survivors, not to punish Nazis, but to punish Jews. The Knesset did not adopt the law in anticipation of the arrival of Nazi war criminals […]

What’s the point of having a political theory of American insanity when American insanity so seamlessly theorizes itself?

From Jezebel (h/t Anthony Galluzzo): A proposed new law in Arizona would give employers the power to request that women being prescribed birth control pills provide proof that they’re using it for non-sexual reasons. And because Arizona’s an at-will employment state, that means that bosses critical of their female employees’ sex lives could fire them as a result. If we could harness the power of the crappy ideas coming out of the state of Arizona, we could probably power a rocket ship to the moon, where there are no Mexicans or fertile wombs and everyone can be free to be as mean a cranky asshole as they want at all times! Arizona Heaven! Yesterday, a Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Republican […]

George Lakoff and Me

In the current issue of The Nation, in an article called “What Liberals Don’t Understand About Freedom,” George Lakoff writes: FDR, in giving his Four Freedoms speech of 1941, suggested that Democrats’ mission was to expand human freedom. Yet today Democrats have ceded the very concepts of freedom and liberty to Republicans. It’s time to take freedom back as the central Democratic issue. … For conservatives, individual responsibility is central: democracy provides the “liberty” to pursue your own interests, without any help from others (which would make you dependent and weak) and without any responsibility for others. This is the exact opposite of the progressive view…democracy is about citizens caring about one another and working through their government to provide […]

Princeton Hillel Ponders Barring Princeton Professor from Speaking at Event on His Own Campus

A PR flack for the Israeli government at Princeton’s Center for Jewish life is thinking of barring a Jewish professor of history at Princeton from speaking at Princeton’s Hillel. Because that professor has the wrong position on Israel. Inside Higher Ed reports: As one of the student organizers, Kyle Dhillon, the president of the Princeton Committee on Palestine, explained it, his group and two others – Tigers for Israel and J Street U Princeton – got together at the end of the summer to organize a panel on the Gaza conflict. They planned to invite Princeton professors – including Max Weiss, an associate professor of history and Near Eastern Studies – and they decided to seek co-sponsorship from the university’s […]

David Greenglass, 1922-2014

David Greenglass has died. Actually, he died over the summer. He was 92. In the Book of Daniel, there’s an Aramaic phrase for an informer: Akhal Kurtza. Its literal translation is “to eat the flesh of someone else.” By his own admission, David Greenglass made up testimony that sent his sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the electric chair. David Greenglass was worse than an informer. Update (9:30 pm) In 2001, Greenglass was interviewed by Bob Simon for 60 Minutes. Here’s a brief account of part of that interview. Why did think Julius and Ethel maintain their silence to the end? Greenglass has an answer: “One word: stupidity. My sister was not very smart about what she did. She should’ve confessed.” But […]

There’s got to be a better way to prep for class

There’s got to be a better way to prep for class. First I read the assigned text, taking notes while I’m reading either in the back of the book or, when space runs out, in a little pocket notebook that I carry. Then I read through those notes, highlighting specific passages or commentary that might be potentially relevant for lecture and discussion. Then I re-type some (hopefully more coherent) version of those highlighted notes in a Word file, organizing them in some kind of thematic fashion or outline. (Sometimes, I divide that step up into two steps: first, I retype all the highlighted notes in a Word file; then I organize those notes into outline form in a new Word […]

Von Mises to Milton Friedman: You’re all a bunch of socialists

In 1947, Milton Friedman and George Stigler traveled together to Europe for the inaugural meeting of the Mont Pèlerin Society. In 1992, Friedman reminisced about that trip in a memorial to Stigler, who had died the previous year. Here’s the conclusion: One incident above all impressed George and me. In the course of a spirited discussion of policies about the distribution of income among a group that included Hayek, Machlup, Knight, Robbins, and Jewkes among others, Ludwig von Mises suddenly rose to his feet, remarked, “You’re all a bunch of socialists,” and stomped out of the room. H/t Suresh Naidu

Cynthia Ozick and the Palestinians

I’ve talked on this blog many a time of my love of Cynthia Ozick‘s writing. On Twitter tonight, a bunch of us are talking about her again, particularly her confrontation with Norman Mailer at Town Hall in 1971. But Cynthia Ozick has also said some terrible things about the Palestinians. Like this from the Wall Street Journal in 2003: By replacing history with fantasy, the Palestinians have invented a society unlike any other, where hatred trumps bread. They have reared children unlike any other children, removed from ordinary norms and behaviors. And they have been assisted in these deviations by Arab rulers who for half a century have purposefully and pitilessly caged and stigmatized them as refugees, down to the […]

What Is Wrong With Zionism

I could convert to Christianity, declare myself no longer a Jew, start and sell a line of artisanal bacon, raise my daughter to be a Wiccan, and many Jews I know would be totally cool with that. But oppose the State of Israel—a state, let us recall, a state—and suddenly I’ve crossed a line. I’m no longer a Jew in good standing, I’ve betrayed some basic trust, I’ve become a problem. This is what Zionism has done to Judaism. This, among other things, is what is wrong with Zionism.

A Letter from Bonnie Honig to Phyllis Wise

In the midst of a conflict like the Salaita affair, it’s easy for individual voices to get lost. The persons involved, and their fates, get forgotten. Particulars are submerged into principles, the din in the head crowds out the distinctive sights and sounds of the case. That’s why, when I read this letter from political theorist Bonnie Honig to Chancellor Wise and the UIUC community, I knew I was hearing and seeing something different. No one that I know of has written a letter like this, which insists on remembering the specificity of not only Steven Salaita but also Phyllis Wise. Professor Honig has kindly allowed me to reprint it here. • • • • •  August 24, 2014 Dear Chancellor Wise, […]

All the News That Was Fit to Print Ten Years Ago

New York Times: For instance, while much has been written about the F.B.I.’s first and most influential director, J. Edgar Hoover, and his hunt for communists and his suspicion of the civil rights movement, little attention has been paid to his effort to unmask gays in government and academia. Ahem: According to John Cheever, 1948 was ‘the year everybody in the United States was worried about homosexuality’. And nobody was more worried than the federal government, which was rumoured to be teeming with gays and lesbians. One might think that Washington’s attentions would have been focused elsewhere – on the Soviet Union, for example, or on Communist spies – but in 1950, President Truman’s advisers warned him that ‘the country […]

There’s no business like Shoah business

I’ve been reading Alisa Solomon’s Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m hoping to blog about it when I’m done, but for now, I wanted to tell this little story from the book. In 1966, Anne Marisse, who was playing Tzeitel in Fiddler, was fired after she missed a performance on Rosh Hashanah without, the producers said, giving advance notice. Marisse’s firing proved controversial in the Jewish community. For two reasons: first, because Fiddler was a show about preserving Jewish traditions in the face of the secular (and other) demands of modernity; and second, because Sandy Koufax had refused the previous year to play in the World Series on Yom […]

Did Bob Dahl Really Say That? (Updated)

As some of you may know, the Yale political scientist Robert Dahl has died. The Monkey Cage is promising to post personal reflections from a former student next week, but in the meantime they have a roundup of the various obituaries. The Times obituary was quite good. I found this passage especially arresting. Professor Dahl, who taught at Yale for 40 years, provided a definition of politics memorized by a generation of students: “The process that determines the authoritative allocation of values.” When I first read that, I thought to myself, “Wow, Dahl was more of a Nietzschean than I realized.” I’ve only read a few of Dahl’s books, but I hadn’t ever stumbled across that particular statement or sentiment […]

Freud on Global Warming

Whenever I think about global warming, and our suicidal rush to destroy the planet, I think of these bleak lines of Freud, which he composed after witnessing a similar headlong rush toward destruction in the form of the First World War: It would be in contradiction to the conservative nature of the instincts if the goal of life were a state of things which had never yet been attained. On the contrary, it must be an old state of things, an initial state from which the living entity has at one time or other departed and to which it is striving to return by the circuitous paths along which its development leads. If we are to take it as a […]

My Life

The Ghost Writer: I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning. And if I knock off from this routine for as long as a day, I’m frantic with boredom and a sense of waste. Pretty much.

Jackson Lears on Edward Snowden

I don’t agree with everything in this editor’s note on Edward Snowden by historian and Raritan editor Jackson Lears—I actually think the traditional left/right distinction is still of value and relevance, even on this issue; I’m not so partial to the framers of the Constitution; and I’m not big on calls for restoration, even (especially) a constitutional restoration of the framers’ vision (Seth Ackerman’s views here are closer to my own)—but on the fundamental question of the surveillance state I could not be in more agreement. Besides, reading anything by Jackson is always a treat. So check it out. And then subscribe to Raritan. It’s one of the best journals around.