almostrational:

I don’t know the “Mike” who writes this BLOG. But he is a kindred spirit. This is 2 weeks old but worth a read.

Originally posted on The Mike Report:

The following is an open letter to the University of Washington community from UW Student Jamie Schwartz and the UW Chapter of  Students Supporting Israel. 

Dear University of Washington Community,

Click above to sign petition. Click image above to sign petition.

When I applied to college, I chose to apply to universities with communities I would be proud to be a part of. The University of Washington stuck out as an institution of integrity and diversity which is why I have been grateful to be a student at the University of Washington for the past three years. But recently, my Husky pride has been shaken in response to my shock that ten academic departments and organizations are sponsoring a campus event with Steven Salaita.

This summer, the University of Illinois rescinded an offer of employment to Salaita in response to his Tweets about the conflict between Israel and Gaza. While most of these Tweets were…

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Every year, on this day, I take some time to write my thoughts about the Shoah. Year after year you have seen me refer to the writings of my “guru” Robert Nozick wherein he has said:

I believe that the holocaust is an event like the Fall in the way traditional Christianity conceived it, something that radically and drastically alters the situation and status of humanity.”

Nozick later goes on to say:

“…the Holocaust has created a radically  new situation and status for humanity as a whole, one that the sacrifice of Jesus can not, and was not meant ti heal. The human species is now desanctified; it it were ended or obliterated now, it’s end would no longer constitute a special tragedy.”  

I am certainly unqualified to speak about Christian beliefs; Nozick does so, I think, only as an intellectual exercise. But I do like one of the conclusions he comes to because it speaks to my desire for interfaith dialog. Nozick uses his contention to conclude this:

“The status of the human species can be redeemed, if at all, only through (almost) everyone’s now taking the suffering of others upon themselves”.

In essence, Nozick is saying that after the Holocaust humanity must adopt a post-Christian, post-Jewish, (post-whatever) worldview where we take personal, individual responsibility for the survival of our species. Christianity can’t save us. Judaism can’t save us. Islam can’t save us. Buddhism, Shinto, Hinduism, Mormonism, Scientology, New Age spirituaity, Atheism, NO SINGLE BELIEF SYSTEM CAN SAVE US. Only WE can save ourselves and only if we accept personal responsibility for it. No prophet, no Messiah, no Bodhisattva, no savior, no Mahavatar. JUST US. THAT is my own personal belief and I am grateful to Robert for teaching me how to think about it.

I want to tell you a bit about the way I see myself in this context and my way to actualize it. First, Unlike Jesus, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and other “great souls” I have no plans to forgive the atrocities of the past. This may seem counter-intuitive since I just said that I must take personal responsibility. I do not view my position that way and I’ll explain why momentarily. First, I’ll provide some context.

There are a number of large collections of first hand accounts of the Holocaust: some at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, some at Yad VaShem, some in smaller museums like the very beautiful memorial in Montreal and others in LA, Houston, etc.; still others widely distributed around the universities and libraries of the world. By way of context for my feelings let’s look at some of the words of survivors and liberators.


From the Testimony of Yaacov Schwartzberg:

The Lithuanians became organized squads in capturing Jews to work. They did it voluntarily. They helped the Germans. They actually did more of the capturing and torturing and running and all that and bringing the people to hard work, hard labour, where they took them to work. They captured them in the streets. Some of them were never saw them return. They took them and afterwards I found out about it. I didn’t know at that time. They were taken and shot, murdered in Ponar, which was on the outskirts of Vilna, a forest with big holes there, you know, dug up, craters like, the size of craters, which were dug up there. Afterwards I found out that these craters were prepared by the Russian army to hide over there different equipment from the Germans, but no equipment was hidden there. The Germans used those big holes, these dug out holes, they used them to murder the Jews in and bury them there. They used to walk on the edge, they shot them, they fell in there into these big holes, these graves. Some were even buried alive. Some people that escaped from there came back to the ghetto and told the story. Not too many, but some did.

From the Testimony of Barbara Stimler:

We started going through the… through the gate; the SS men were on both sides. And the girls, young people that could see what state I was in, they had a bit of sugar and they started putting sugar in my mouth to revive me. And when they were going through the gates, they were just holding me up, and was left and right, left and right. I went to the right, they told me to go to the right, the SS men. And we had to be…. we were…. they formed us like fifths, five, five, five, we had to stay in five, five girls. And it was dark; it was dark, and they are starting to march us. And can you imagine the screams, the…. the mother was going to the left, the daughter was going to the right, the babies going to the left, the mothers going to the right, or the mothers went together with the babies… Oy oy! I cannot explain to you the cries and the screams, and tearing their hair off. Can you imagine?”

From the Testimony of Edith Birkin:

…This feeling of death, all these people going in the gas chamber. It was a very weird place, very weird place. With this atmosphere of death all the time you know, and this unbelievable situation of people being… you could smell, you could smell these people being burnt. All the time you smelt this… it was a little bit like you know, when people used to boil glue, it was the bones that smelt like glue.///

From the Testimony of Jeanne Levy:

An SS officer was standing there and a woman said, “But you know I can still work and I am still strong. Please help me.” And he gave her a kick that we felt over the whole floor with his foot and said, “You can only die once.”

From the Testimony of Laura Varon:

We were starving and we thought that they gave us food. And while we approached the bowl, in the nose I smell detergent and my stomach was sick already, got even more sick, and I tried to vomit, but I didn’t have nothing to eat and they were beating us to eat and they were calling us names, “Schwein, Jude, whore Jude.” We learned that after, what this means. And beating us in the head, in the shoulders. And I told my sister, “Eat, eat, because he is going to kill you, she is going to kill you.” My Aunt Fortuné, we ate everything and we were vomiting and eating, vomiting and eating. You understand? …Cleanser. Detergent, like chlorox. They gave us so we didn’t have any more periods. And also to kill, Hitler wanted to kill our genes, but he didn’t succeed because still we can reproduce…

From the Testimony of Jack Oran:

We didn’t know what it meant, to the right or to the left. Little did we know that to the left meant going…to the left meant elderly people, young people. To the right, we didn’t know what it’s going to be with us when they marched us into Birkenau, into the camp. In Birkenau we enquired among other people that were there and they told us: “You see that fire that’s burning far over there? That’s where they burn the bodies of the people.”

From the Testimony of Emil Reed:

… a certain amount they sent to march out from the ghetto some place for transportation and the others, what they killed and they left a certain group to go to Plaszow, to the concentration camp, so we had to clean up all the corpses, what they killed there, and put them on the trucks and go with them up to the cemetery, dig the ditches for them and have them buried there. That’s what they assigned people whom they assigned to go to Plaszow.

From the Testimony of Don Krausz:

In February, 1944, all the Hungarian Jews that were in Holland were sent to Germany. My father and three of his brothers were sent to Buchenwald. Sixty thousand people died in Buchenwald. Of the four of them, only one brother came back. From what that one brother told me, my father was practically beaten to death there.

From the Last Will of Ilya Altman:

“On August 31, in the middle of the day, a car full of people arrived. We didn’t know who they were. After a short break, all of them were driven off to the forest, and only when the car returned with their belongings did we realize that these were our wives and children. Imagine this tragedy! The date of September 1, when we burned our families, we shall remember all our lives. The same fate awaits us, but when this terrible moment will come, we don’t know. We live with the hope that God will let us survive till the moment when we will be able to avenge all our dear ones torn out from our hearts. We ask everyone to avenge us, because meanwhile there is nothing we can do, and we wait for liberation.”

from 1985 remembrances of Dachau Liberator Glenn Edward Belcher:

Immediately in front of me after entering the gate – and about 20 yards away was a moat with water in it about 4 or 5 feet wide – a dead soldier was laying face down in it. Just beyond the moat was a high fence – I’d guess it to be 8 or 10 feet high – I understood it was electrified. On the other side of the fence was a valley which was about 20 feet wide and 8 or 10 feet deep – on the other side of the valley were barracks and those locked up. We did not talk to the prisoners and they did not talk to us – between usthere was a moat, an electrified fence and a steep up and down valley. We stared at them and they stared at us. It was as if they didn’t know what to do and neither did we. On our side of the fence and to the right of where the dogs were – were the gas chambers and ovens where people were killed and then burned. There were stacks of bodies (all looked like skeletons) apparently prepared for burning.

From a letter home by Dachau liberator US 1st. Lt. William Cowling:

Another door with the word showers lead off of this and upon going through this room it appeared to be a shower room but instead of water, gas came out and in two minutes the people were dead. Next we went next door to four large ovens where they cremated the dead. Then we were taken to piles of dead. There were from two to fifty people in a pile all naked, starved and dead. There must have been about 1,000 dead in all.


There came a time after the Shoah when German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer declared publicly that  Germany would pay reparations to the Jews. Doesn’t that imply that Germany was repentant enough to warrant forgiveness? I might consider that a possibility. But, did you know that, at the very moment that Adenauer was offering reparations, his Secretary of State was Hans Globke the man who drafted the Nuremberg Laws and the legislation that gave Hitler unconditional power? Why could Globke serve the German government after the fall of the Third Reich? Easy. He was never an official member of the National Socialist party so he was free to continue serving the government! That is reason #1 for my refusal to forgive: I can’t forgive what has not been atoned for.

Here is reason #2: In Judaism, forgiveness must take place between one man and another as part of repentance. For me to “forgive” a NAZI is meaningless. The only people who could offer forgiveness are but ashes now. No forgiveness is even possible.

Number 3: There are 2 things that Jewish law says are not forgivable: Murder and Defamation of Character. Everyone who died in the Shoah was MURDERED and the propaganda leading up to those murders what expressly intended to destroy the lives and reputations of all Jews then and into the future. First, those are both unforgivable. Second, to defame all Jews is to defame all Jews irrespective of time. So, this was not only an assault on European Jews, it was a personal assault on me and all Jews to come. No forgiveness here.

The 4th reason: Since the Shoah, our global planetary ethics have not improved. If anything, they have worsened. We have seen the Cambodian Khamir Rouge murder over 3 million, the Ethiopian Red Terror resulted in half a million murders, over a million were murdered in the Rwandan genocide, almost a million were murdered in the ustasha genocide in Croatia, the Hutu Massacre in 1972 in Burundi resulted in a quarter million murders, the Chinese government killed between 2 and 70 thousand people for being part of Falun Gong in 1999 (not to mention the insanity of the first 2/3 of China’s 20th century!), AT LEAST half a million people were murdered in Darfur,Sudan between 2003 and 2010, and even as you read this the Yazidis in Iraq are being systematically massacred, abducted, raped, expelled  and forcibly converted by Islamic State (ISIL), And as icing on the Islamist insanity, yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the abduction of 300+ girls (over  200 still missing) by Boko Haram. I’m told I would be “happier” if i could “forgive people” and “get rid of all the anger”. But I don’t want to get rid of my anger because I don’t want to loose my desire to fight  these horrors. So, I would refuse to forgive the ideological perpetrators of these travesties even if Jewish law has a path to doing so.

So, today, as Jews around the world gather to mourn the Martyrs of our Faith I say to you that forgiveness is impossible. Jewish law does not permit it and it would be counter productive to the goal of stopping the insanity of which the Shoah is only my most personal example. I  side with Professor Nozick’s ultimate conclusion:

“The Holocaust is a massive cataclysm that distorts everything around it… a massive and continuing distortion of the human space … It’s vortices and gnarled twistings will extend very far. Hitler too constituted a force that distorted the lives of those around him – his followers, his victims, and those who had to conquer him. The vortex he created has not disappeared.”

The vortex will never disappear. The only way to minimize its effect is through human action directed toward and dedicated to using, love, reason, and respect for all human life in a (still questionable) quest to reestablish a reason to call humanity unique enough to continue it’s existence in a universe that couldn’t care less. Not through simply “remembering” and surely not through blind forgiveness,

It’s up to us.


Sunday, June 21, 2015 – 12:00pm – 10:00pm
The Winter Garden at Brookfield Place
NYC

“Portland, Oregon phenomenons Third Angle New Music bring new reverberations from young innovators including the New York premiere of Quartz by Australian composer Julian Day and a world premiere by LJ White”


Oregon New Music lovers… Non-Oregon New Music lovers… Fans of Matthew Dickman… Fans of Michael Dickman… Have you ever thought it would be cool to go to New York for the annual Bang On A Can Marathon? Well… the time has come!

Now you have the chance to join some really amazing Oregonian musicians, poets, and new music groupies as Lisa Volle, Ron Blessinger, and the awesome folks from Third Angle New Music head to The Big Apple for Third Angle’s first ever opportunity to play the marathon!

But wait! There’s more! The piece that we have commissioned for the event is based on poems by Matthew and Michael Dickman and we’re takin’ the lads with us. This is an AMAZING OPPORTUNITY to support Third Angle, BOAC, and the Dickman twins all at once. For information on how you can join Team 3A in NYC, send me an email.

Can’t go to NY but still want to make some Oregonian dreams come true? Just want to help a couple wonderful poets get to THE CITY? Fear not! There are myriad opportunities to help financially.Email and I’ll hook you up with a lovely lady who’d love to find a way for you to help.

Seriously… come with us or help how you can. The Third Angle New Music Ensemble Board will love ya for it!

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In a world daily ripped apart by violence, hatred, and pain; a world where religious zealotry and irrational dogma routinely takes precedence over love and respect; a world where individual achievement is routinely sacrificed on the altar of conformity; Newberry and his art shine like a spotlight on the all too often ignored values of individual human existence and the power of striving for personal greatness.

Every day, I live in the presence of an array of pastels, prints, and paintings that help me remember how beautiful and noble it is to strive to be one’s best. These are “Our Newberrys”. These are our inspiration.

I remember how touched Patt and I were when, as a show of compassion and concern following Patt’s breast cancer surgeries, Michael called to tell Patt he was naming one of his female nudes in her honor. That was not about money or publicity or the “trader principle” of his Objectivist ethics.  That was simply an expression of love from one individual human soul to another. We remember that to this very day.

I love the non-representational works, the Judaica, the sculpture, and, really, every piece in my collection. I even love my own glasswork and photographs. But, only Newberry reminds me, every day, that my individual human life has intrinsic value. For that I will always cherish his art and his friendship!

Imagine what would happen if World War I had ended, a great peace had been brokered, and then because of a mass loss of memory no one remembered why they had fought or what anger and hatred remained.

Imagine what would happen if, after the American Civil War, no one remembered their lives in the antebellum South or their fight against slavery in the north. What if a great peace were negotiated, the north and south became friends, and then all memories of hatred were lost in a strange fog that occluded all memory?

What if a husband and wife were deeply in love, even after growing to an old age, despite some very difficult events in their past. What if they could not remember that past because of the same mysterious memory loss I just twice mentioned.

Would the loss of these memories be good because they fostered peace?

Would they be bad because the past was forgotten?

And… What would happen when these memories were restored? Should they be? Who would want them to be? Who would not? 

These are the questions that we are forced to ponder when an elderly Briton couple named Axl and Beatrice leave the comfort of their Villiage on a quest to find their son. En route to his Villiage they take custody of a Saxon child and befriend a Saxon warrior on a mission from his king. Thus begins the tale recounted in the long awaited novel The Buried Giant, the 7th by Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Buried Giant was published in March 2015 after Mr. Ishiguro’s long absence from the world of fiction. It is too early in the year to know what is to come. But, it would not surprise me if this book stands as one of 2015’s best.

I’ve yet to find a method to summarize the plot that avoids spoilers. So, I won’t say more about the travels of Axl and Beatrice. What I will say is that, details aside, this book is chock full of metaphor and stands as an extraordinary study of the power and peril of memory. 

I’m a vocal proponent of never forgetting the horrors of the past. I’m a believer in the notion that history is destined to repeat itself. This book did not change my mind and I don’t think that such is its intention. But, one of the powers of the book is that it made me consider the alternative. And… I love stories that make me think!

Kazuo Ishiguro is a master writer. He has well honed his craft. He is a storyteller of great accomplishment who has crafted a beautiful lesson in memory, couched in the guise of an equally beautiful quest.

Any more and I’ll spoil the story. But I will say that it’s a great tale of quest, a finely crafted work of fiction, and a masterful application of allegorical storytelling. 

Enough said, now go and read. Feel free to share you thoughts here because I want to hear them. Is it worth risking the need to confront the past by opening the door to memory? Or is the bliss of forgetfulness a hidden blessing?

You tell me.


I would speak out against any law that allowed someone to refuse service to a woman because their religious belief is that women should stay at home.

I would speak out against any law that allowed someone to refuse service to a black person because their religion taught white supremacy.

I would speak out against any law that allowed someone to refuse service to a Jew because their religion taught that we killed Christ.

I would speak out against any law that allowed someone to refuse service to an atheist because their religion taught the were not “saved”.

Today I speak out against the proposed Indiana law that would allow someone to refuse service to a gay couple on the malicious, homophobic, bigoted premise of “religious freedom”.

How dare you twist the glory of the United States Constitution to meet your bigoted, fundamentalist, misrepresentation of both scripture and original intent. You throw both the holy Bible and the great American testament to human equality onto the bonfire of hatred and we should, none of us, tolerate your wickedness. Long ago our ancestors sacrificed humanity to the notion of compromise  with the blatantly evil “Three-fifths rule”. It took forever to rid our nation of that heresy. There must never again be a 3/5 rule, a 1/5 rule, a 1/10000 rule in American jurisprudence. There must be NO MORE COMPROMISE. Religion, above all else must never stand in the way of love, acceptance, and diversity.

There must only be mutual respect!

Yesterday we saw an Antonioni film we’d never seen before: “Le Amiche“. I’ve shown that I can write thousands of words on Antonioni films but never that I can be succinct. I don’t know much about “Le Amiche” but my wife and I came to the same one-line summary of it. Before we even left the theater we looked at one another and, almost simultaneously, said:

“It’s like a 1960s Black and White Italian “Sex in the City” except Carrie would not have let the end happen”.

We agree. We must be right.

FINE