Saturday, March 15, 2003

These pictures made me even more home-sick than I already am.

Damn world. Why can't everything just fall into place? I don't think that ever before in my life things that I have absolutely no controll over have affected my personal life so much.
Haloscan ate some of the last comments again. I am getting used to it.

Friday, March 14, 2003

I absolutely don't feel like writing today, and barely can do any more reading. I don't know what it is. I guess all this talk just seems pointless, now that war can start any day. I am also pissed off by some things, like Buchanan's article piece of garbage, and by the fact that my dear husband decided to go to Israel next week, of all times.

Tomorrow I'll be out all day. Sunday we are probably getting Brandon. I cringe at the thought of even more dog hair on my floors, but it is probably too late now: Pashosh will be absolutely devastated if I back down now. Besides, it would be hard for me as well.

I might post something tonight, if I get the muse back. And I'll post Brandon's picture after we get him. Have a wonderful weekend, all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

For the first time in a long while I am crying because of good, no, unbelievably wonderful news!
Hey, Pashosh has been doing his part dissing the French and thanking Blair ever since he first went to McDonalds some 6 years ago, and all Israelis have been doing this for years: we always called them "chips".
Nelson writes:
Hello Alisa.
I have an idea that could help clarify a bit the discussion about why more Palestinians have died in this Intifada than Israelis.
It is the following:
To classify the dead according to their origin is wrong, because Israelis have not been killing Israelis, but Palestinians have been killing each other.
Thus, the results should be presented as the total numbers of those killed by the Israelis compared to all those killed by the Palestinians. This last number would include not only those who have been lynched as suspected collaborators of Israel, but also those who died in "work accidents" and the suicide bombers themselves, because what they all have in common is that they were killed by Palestinians (in the case of the suicide bombers, by Palestinian suicide bombers).
I know it may seem somewhat repellent to lump together suicide bombers and their victims, but they were not killed by Israel and it is the Palestinians who are responsible even for their death.
If we classify the data this way, I think we'll obtain more realistic numbers that would help subvert Palestinian victimology.
I have to agree that this would be a much more correct approach. After all, it is a blame game, and blame should focus on the killers, not the killed.
I have lately been trying to answer this question: why the so called WMD are considered less moral than the so called “conventional“ weapons? For one thing, the word “conventional” has really become a misnomer. It’s no longer just guns and bombs. There are some truly exotic gadgets out there. The term “weapons of mass destruction” is also one that I have a problem with, because its accuracy at least in part depends on who is using those weapons. There are some new “conventional” weapons that are designed specifically to minimize the number of non-combatant casualties, but judging at least by some reports in the media, there are also new kinds of nuclear weapons that are being designed to do the same thing. The term WMD may still be appropriate for chemical and biological weapons, though, although that might change in the future as well. In any case, it seems to me that the only real reason one might object to what we call WMD, while not objecting to what we call “conventional” weapons, is not the number of people, combatant or not, they can kill, but the fact that they cause much more unnecessary pain suffering while they kill. And the key word here is “unnecessary”.

War is only one of several ways in which an enlightened state exercises violence, and inflicts pain and suffering on individuals, both their own citizens and others. Everyday throughout the Western world numerous policemen stop, handcuff and push into their police cars numerous individuals. Many of those end up in prisons, where they are further subjected to different forms and degrees of violence. Some end up on the death row, and eventually are subject to the ultimate act of violence. When the state exercises violence towards criminals, it does so to protect the rest of its citizens from that criminal. But it also does it as a way of retribution, by representing the victims, or their loved ones.

I used to be an opponent of the death penalty, one of the reasons being that I saw no practicality in killing someone who has committed a crime, no matter how terrible. My view on this issue began to change after I became a parent. What I realized over the years of having a child is that if anyone had harmed him in a serious way, I would want that person dead. I know full well that the death of a murderer will not bring back the victim, and may not even bring “closure” to the victim’s loved ones. Still, I understand that they want the murderer dead, and they will not rest until he is.

If Osama bin-Laden is caught alive, tried, and is either put in prison for the rest of his life, or executed, it will be done not only to prevent him from plotting more attacks on Americans, but also on behalf of the families of the 3000 of his victims (although, granted, probably not all of them).

The death penalty is an extreme example, because it is irreversible, and that is one of the reasons I am still agnostic on the issue (but no longer an outright opponent). But it is one that to me clearly demonstrates that occasionally the state represents an individual, it acts on his behalf, and occasionally it acts in ways that individual himself would have acted. A less extreme example would be a scenario in which a child is held by a kidnapper, and his accomplice is caught, and would not divulge the location. Would any normal parent think twice before saying: “break his bones until he talks”? And would they think of the pain and suffering caused to that individual as “unnecessary”?

If OBL, or some other bastard close to him, is caught alive, and we know from other sources that he had another attack planned, in which 10, or 100, or 1000 innocent people might die, should we not break his bones until he talks, not only to prevent an attack against our society at large, our economy, etc., but on behalf of the individuals who might die, and their families?

PS: if you have not read this, this, and this - you should. And, I have written on this before here. Since then I was convinced that torture can be effective at least under some circumstances.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

OK, I cannot take it any longer. Let's get on with it and over with, already.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Judith over at Kesher puts a finger on what was bothering me about Mariane Pearl since her husband's murder.
I think different people probably write for different reasons. I usually write to unburden myself, just like I do when I talk to my friends. Most of the times it is something that could be called “an issue”. It can involve a question to which I am seeking an answer. Often, the writing process itself can lead to an answer, or I might get an answer from a reader.
Other times it can just be my opinion on something, that I just feel I have to get out. I guess that would be a case when I think I have answers to other people’s questions, even if they think they did not have a question at all to begin with. (Steve has been getting a lot of those from me).

Sometimes there are issues, though, that I have no way of resolving just by thinking or talking, either because they are beyond my control, or because the price for resolving them is much higher than I am willing to pay. Talking about such an issue helps for a while, but it stays unresolved. Those are things that I think about often, but not all the time. We all have this psychological defense mechanism that lets us suppress things for periods of time. But some times there is an external trigger that brings it back to the surface, and says: “deal with it now”.
Last night on “60 Minutes” there was a segment on people who were conceived by artificial insemination from an anonymous donor. They were not told that their fathers were not their biological ones until they grew up. Then they set out on finding the donor, and found him. It was an amazing thing to watch all in itself, but it also brought my own issue to the surface. And no, I am not dealing with it. I am just unburdening myself for now, which will allow me to suppress it for another while.

- - -

When I was growing up in the Soviet Union in the 60ies and 70ies, there was now such thing as a phone book. Not everyone had a phone at home to begin with - I think phone owners were probably a minority. So people managed without phone books somehow, just like they managed without many other things that people in the West took for granted. I don’t know if they have them now, but following the collapse of the communist regime they were still non-existent. When the Internet came along, most large Western cities made their phone books available online. The Russian big cities had nothing to put online. So some people set out to rectify this. They compiled information from various government records, and put them on the Web. That database was much less user friendly than a typical western online phonebook, but it had one big advantage: it contained the person’s date of birth.

I ran into this database while Googling for my uncle a few years back. My uncle was my late mother’s younger brother. When his father went to jail, he probably was around the age my son is now: 9-10. It was shortly before the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. I think it was when the war started, and my grandfather was drafted directly from jail, that he left home. I can certainly understand at least partly what made him do that: his mother raised me as well, and believe me, it was not a picnic for either of us.
He came back after the war ended. He was around when I was born, but it did not take long for him and his mother to have an argument big enough to lose contact again.

I remember the day when my grandmother finally told me that my mother was not on a work assignment abroad, but died when I was one year old, following some 10 months in a hospital. I was about five then. I was not really shocked or shaken, but I remember feeling dissapointed. I had quite a happy childhood, but I was always envious of my friends who’s families consisted of more than just a grandmother. So when about 6 years later my grandmother told me that she accidentally ran into my uncle in the street, I was ecstatic.
I got to know my uncle pretty well during the few months that we kept in touch. After the war he never went back to school. He became a bus driver. It was a great waste: he was a very intelligent man. He read a lot, and was able to answer any question I ever asked him about anything. He was like a walking encyclopedia, or at least he seemed to me that way at the time.

Pretty soon he and his mother managed to have a big fight again, and lost contact - again. She did call and invite him just before we left for Israel. He came and spent some time with us. We then all said goodbye to each other, and I never heard from him again.
Over the years in Israel I often wondered what was going on with my uncle. I always felt the need to talk to him, to ask him the numerous questions I had about my family’s past, to hear a version different from that of my grandmother. She was getting old, and was increasingly losing common sense, and later passed away. I no longer remembered my uncle’s address, let alone his phone number. The communists were still in power, so there was no chance of finding information without traveling there (which, of course, was out of the question at that time).

Imagine my excitement when, searching that online database, out of a few people with the same first and last name, I found a person who’s full name (which in Russia traditionally includes the father’s first name) and date of birth matched my uncle’s. The address was different, which was not surprising: I always knew that he and his wife would not last together.
I called the number. An older woman answered the phone. I told her for whom I was looking. She could not believe it. She started telling me about my uncle, and then about my grandmother, and my mother, and then about myself. She said that his mother was raising a little girl, and took her to Israel with her. I told her it was me. She was just a woman that shared the apartment with him, the way people did under the communists' rule.

My uncle died 4 years before I called. Apparently the cause of death was the most common one in Russia for many years: his liver could not withstand all the alcohol he was routinely pouring into himself. He was relatively old by Russian standards, though – about 65. The average life expectancy for a Russian male was 57, last time I heard.

There was another person I have been Googling for a while. That database did bring a few results, but not as straightforward as the ones for my uncle: my father’s last name is a more common one in Russia. I did narrow it down to two or three entries. That was a couple of years ago, and I have not called yet. I think about it often, but so far was not able to bring myself to actually make a call. I guess I am just afraid that the price can be too high.

Update. I had serious doubts about submitting this for the COV, but finally decided to do it anyway, because, after all, I did want people to read it. I still am not sure it was the right thing to do, but it's done, so here it is, vanity or not.
The Palestinian parliament on Monday approved the new position of prime minister as part of reforms sought by the United States, Europe and Israel to curb Yasser Arafat's near absolute powers. Well, I was going to ask if anyone remembers the words of "Kumbaya", but it turns out the new PM will not be able to open his mouth, let alone sing, without Arafat's approval.

Beautiful kids. I hope he comes home safely, and marries her, and they have a long and happy life. It happens sometimes, you know.

Good article, too. BTW, does anyone know how correct this statement is: "In the past conflicts, even ones as divisive as the Vietnam War, young people's attitudes have been similar to their parents. Despite the popular image of youthful protesters of the 1960s and early 1970s, most young people supported the Vietnam War, and the Young Americans for Freedom, which supported the war, was the largest student group at the time." ABC is not usually known for being biased towards the right, so there must be at least something to it.