Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dershowitz vs. Chomsky

So, my alma mater, Harvard, has brought Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky together for a debate on Israel. I wish I could have been there.

I loathe Chomsky; he singles out Israel and the US for his criticism while letting Sierra Leone, Sudan, China, North Korea and countless other ruthless dictatorships escape his lens. Perhaps I detest him so much because some of his points are valid; Israel is oppressing the Palestinians, through the security barrier, through landholding laws, through its policies in the occupied territories.

Israel exposes itself to scrutiny because of its unusual position: it attempts to maintain some democratic structure, but it is founded upon a religion. Until Israel becomes a true democracy or a true theocracy, voices like Chomsky's will challenge the contradictions in its philosophy instead of going after purer theocracies (like Iran, which the MIT professor praised, or Saudi Arabia, which admits no one but Muslims into Mecca and Medina).

Israel is no colonial occupier. The Holocaust refugees from Europe needed a refuge, and the Jews in Palestine gave it to them when other countries did not (including the US, whose newspapers downplayed the Holocaust and whose government officials turned back ships with Jewish refugees). As one famous Jew put it: "When you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose."

Israel seized Palestine fair and square, in the purest way possible: through military might. The Israelis defeated the Arab armies and conquered the territory that constituted the pre-1967 Jewish state. Chomsky may speak of justice, but for Jews whose backs were to the Mediterranean Sea, the only justice was survival.

It makes sense for Israel to expand -- to a point. More land means more places to put people, and Israel needs to nurture its Jewish population if it wishes to remain a Jewish state. The settlers should move into the West Bank. It has water and other agricultural resources. However, it also has millions of Palestinians who want to hold onto their land, and who can blame them?

Chomsky, Dershowitz and myself spend the bulk of our lives in the comfortable West. We don't worry about suicide bombers on Jerusalem buses, and we don't live in squalid (or not-so-squalid) refugee camps in Jenin. It's very easy to talk about equality from a Western standpoint. But how freely do they live in Saudi Arabia? Is there an equivalent of B'tselem in Riyadh?

Because they both want the same land, Israelis and Palestinians will never live in peace. All they can hope for is a state of cold war, and an enhanced standard of living on the Palestinian side.

I hope to translate this into a newspaper column sometime soon.

Cities and their politics

The Bay Area Center for Voting Research study, which I referenced in a previous post, continues to intrigue me. Is it possible to quantify whether a city is liberal or conservative?

A city's voting patterns may not reveal its true nature. Just because its residents choose Democratic or Republican candidates doesn't necessarily indicate a political leaning. Many Massachusetts cities voted for John Kerry in 2004, but their stance on liberal issues like gay marriage is more ambiguous.

The race issue is complex as well. Does a large African-American population automatically make a city more liberal? Not necessarily. There can be some significant differences of opinion within these populations, due to the roles played by income and religion.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Belichick Illustration

Belichick Illustration
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
Here is an illustration I drew for a column in the Daily Item about New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Manny Illustration

Manny Illustration
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
This is the illustration I drew for my column about Manny Ramirez in today's Daily Item.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Living in America

Where do you want to live? Someplace liberal or someplace conservative? If you're a city person, then check out the following study.

Among its surprising findings: Liberals are less educated than conservatives. Less surprising revelations: More people are married in conservative cities than in liberal ones. With regard to ethnic composition, cities with large African-American populations tend to be liberal.

Two cities from my home state, Cambridge (No. 8) and Boston (No. 24), are in the Top 25 list of most liberal. No representation for us Bay Staters in the "other" Top 25. But geography doesn't necessarily dictate politics, especially if you're from California. From liberal Berkeley to conservative Orange, the state is well-represented in both Top 25 lists.

Why the sudden interest in geography as it relates to politics? (Mysterious smile.)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Another sad story

Reading this article and seeing the corresponding photos of two abused baby cheetahs in eastern Ethiopia made me further depressed. The two cubs are being forced by Mohamed Gudle, a restaurant owner, to fight each other for the entertainment of his customers. The female cub is blind because a poacher kicked her in the eye. US soldiers and Ethiopian government officials are trying to rescue the cubs. I hope they succeed.

This week...

...was one in which I did not write anything on this website (except, of course, for this post). Tomorrow I turn 27. But there is a more meaningful date that is weighing on me: November 20, when my grandmother died.

She was one of the most encouraging people in my life. The daughter of two Polish Jews who died in Auschwitz, she was the only one of four siblings to escape. In 1938, she left for America and never saw anyone from her immediate family again.

Over the years that I knew her, she taught me much. When we differed on political issues (she supported the Rosenbergs, I questioned their innocence), she said that people can disagree on certain topics and still love one another. Her story of survival and escape from an anti-Semitic Europe made me determined to nourish my own Jewish identity in the United States. Her interest in Israel helped spur me to visit my "second" homeland this past January.

We lost her at age eighty-five to what was almost certainly cancer. She spent nearly a month in a nearby nursing home before being hospitalized in Boston. Her last day was in a hospice.

I regret that her last month was so difficult, and I regret that this country makes it so difficult for its senior citizens to live stress-free lives. Our nursing homes need improvement; they must be more affordable, and their residents must be separated between those who are mentally sound and those who have dementia.

Writing about a loved one who died is difficult for me. Yet I feel that my grandmother's life, and the way it ended, both deserve remembrance.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bill Belichick column

My column about Bill Belichick, and why his stature is diminished after losing his top two assistants, has been published on Page C1 of today's Daily Item. Accompanying it is a graphic drawn by yours truly, which I will work on scanning and putting online.

When I'm on the cell phone, I have enough trouble walking straight. But a teenage woman in Virginia was actually able to rob several banks while chatting, or appearing to be chatting, on her cell phone. Some people are just better able to compartmentalize than others!

Monday, November 14, 2005

On health insurance

The Boston Globe has a good article about twenty- and thirtysomethings in Massachusetts who choose not to buy health insurance. Young people like myself make good news subjects because of our glamorous, unpredictable lifestyles, which explains the New York Times' focus earlier this year on Gen-Xers who live with their parents and, now, the Globe's study of health care.
Based on primarily anecdotal reportage, writers Scott S. Greenberger and Maria Cramer relate the stories of five young'uns, ranging in age from 23 to 31, with no health insurance. There are 200,000 people in similar circumstances in this state. What to do? Some people simply don't want the expense. "I have a mortgage on my insurance," Ulises Rosa, 31, tells the Globe. "You try to maintain a certain lifestyle. After that, all your money is gone."
However, the two reporters mention a salient fact. "Employer-provided health insurance is becoming less common, as companies try to trim costs and turn to independent contractors," they write. "Many healthcare specialists are convinced that an individual mandate is the only way to achieve the goal of covering everyone in the Bay State."
Hard to force people to buy something they don't want. But I'm sure there are plenty of other people, young and old alike, in this state and across the country, who are uninsured and need access to health care. Investing in a healthier, more secure America is in our nation's best interest.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The twisted logic of suicide bombers

Three people blew themselves up at three separate hotels yesterday in Amman, the Jordanian capital. The Grand Hyatt, Regency SAS and Radisson hotels each suffered explosions. Fifty-seven people died and 115 have been injured.

Hotels, and luxury housing in general, have become the new target for terrorists. Among the attacks: On July 23 of this year, two suicide car bombs and a planted bomb killed at least 83 people and injured 200 at the Ghazala Gardens Hotel in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. On Oct. 7, 2004, terrorists bombed the Taba Hilton in Egypt and nearby resort areas.

In Israel and Iraq the murderers from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaeda blow themselves and others to smithereens in marketplaces. Witness the Oct. 26 suicide bombing at a felafel stand in an open-air market in Hadera. There appears to be a difference when suicide bombers operate in countries that they may not see as "occupied." To them, Israel (which, of course, is merely a pretext for Palestine) and Iraq are both "occupied" -- Israel by the Israelis, Iraq by the Americans. Why do they focus on public spaces in occupied places and private property in Muslim nations?

Let's look at what they want. Obviously it would be ideal for them if they could shatter the Israeli government and drive the Americans out of Iraq. So they kill shoppers in public spaces and soldiers outside bus stations to deflate confidence in the ruling authorities.

In Muslim nations, it's a different occupier that the terrorists seek to drive out: the foreign presence. The hotels blown up in Jordan, and the ones in Egypt, are popular spots for tourism, including Israeli visitors. The terrorists' goal is to expel all foreign visitors from Muslim soil, and so they adjust their plans accordingly.

Western liberals, a group with which I identify, say that the best way to unite people from two hostile cultures is to encourage more interchange between them. The terrorists' attempt to sabotage this interchange shows that this sounds easier than it is.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Return of the Native

Theo Epstein's departure from the Boston Red Sox left a lot of people wondering "Why?" They should be asking, "How soon before he comes back?" Read my explanation.

Also, today's Boston Globe has a funny interview with Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in the James Bond movies. This man stands a whopping seven feet, two inches tall, and he weighs an incredible 320 pounds.
Kiel comes across as a talented and interesting guy, albeit one who will always be carrying around the reputation of the fearsome monster with the killer teeth who consistently comes close to planting those choppers in 007's flesh. "I'm an intelligent guy who always plays these huge thugs," he tells the Globe's Mark Shanahan. Shanahan, whose past subjects have included Tom Brady and Sarah Silverman, deserves some credit himself for not being intimidated by this behemoth and focusing on getting answers to his questions.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Horror in France

By Richard Tenorio

Three words explain why France is being ripped apart by violence and the United States isn’t.
Action versus ignorance.
Gangs of urban youth are torching hospitals, schools, and cars in France. They bludgeoned 61-year-old Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec into a coma and let him die. The riots have lasted more than a week – 12 days, as of yesterday – and show no sign of stopping.
It’s time for French president Jacques Chirac and prime minister Dominique de Villepin to stand up and take responsibility. But not only them. Everyone who has a hand in French governmental policy should hold themselves accountable for a Muslim resentment that has festered for decades, and is only now growing into a conflagration.
To understand France’s crisis, it is first necessary to ask: Who are these young men throwing gasoline bombs and rocks at police, and why are they so upset?
These rioters are the second or third generation of Muslim immigrants to France. Their parents or grandparents come from North African nations that France once governed, directly or indirectly. One of the two youths whose deaths caused the riots was of Mauritanian descent. The other’s family came from Tunisia.
Instead of trying to integrate Muslims into the larger society, the French government let them isolate themselves in crime-ridden ghettoes. How horrible are the ghettoes? In 2003, Samira Bellil, a French Muslim woman, published a book, Dans l’enfer des tournantes (“In Gang Rape Hell”). In its pages, Bellil described being gang-raped multiple times within mainly Muslim housing projects or cites.
Poverty by itself doesn’t cause crime. But when poverty is isolated from the larger society, it becomes toxic. And the French have proven unwilling hosts. They have ordered Muslim schoolgirls not to wear the hijab, or ceremonial headgear, and they have discriminated against hiring Muslims in the workplace. This hostility isn’t recent. In 1961, Paris police killed between 32 to 200 Algerian immigrant protestors. They threw them into the Seine River and murdered them inside a police station. The French government did not acknowledge this until 1998. The city of Paris waited three more years.
Contrast this mistreatment with American policy toward immigrants. Yes, we have our Pat Buchanans and our migrant-worker laws, and historically the US has been unkind to immigrants. Today, however, instead of ignoring the immigrant issue, we have taken action and become a hospitable nation. Affirmative-action policies are achieving the purpose intended by President John F. Kennedy: ensuring that groups formerly discriminated against will get fair and equal treatment when applying for jobs. Because of this, immigrant families here have a chance to escape the ghetto within a generation or two.
France owes its citizens, immigrant and non-immigrant alike, a harder, better effort to integrate its society. Otherwise the rapes and riots will continue. And the chilling words of a European Muslim in a similarly troubled country will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Second- and third-generation Muslims are without the don't-rock-the-boat attitude that restricted our forefathers,” 27-year-old Dilpazier Aslam wrote in The Guardian almost a week after the London subway bombings. “We're much sassier with our opinions, not caring if the boat rocks or not.” The Guardian fired Aslam after discovering his membership in a racist, sexist and homophobic Islamic group. Yet four months later, his words are proving more and more resonant.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


I have a new illustration up on One good thing about drawing illustrations is that you learn about many different topics, including some you never thought about depicting before. That was the case for this article.

It's horrible to hear about the rioting in France. The segregation of Muslims in the country is its biggest problem. Discriminated against at work, isolated in Islamic ghettoes, they are angry, poor, and determined to release their hostility on society in general. I hope the French government can reclaim control of the situation. I also hope that this will show the country how important it is to integrate the Muslim population; the only alternative is civic unrest.

Last week I heard Grover Norquist speak at Harvard. One theme he made me think of was the conservative coalition. Last week, Patrick Guerriero, the head of the Log Cabin Republicans, also spoke at my alma mater; how, one might ask, can gay people possibly consider joining the party of Pat Robertson?

Apparently it's all an issue of what you want. If a gay person is very interested in, say, fiscal restraint, that might convince him or her to join the Republican Party. If other Republicans disapprove of homosexuality, they may not necessarily bolt if the party welcomes gays. They will bolt, however, if the GOP pushes for higher taxes. (It's also true for abortion.) This evokes images of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's coalition, which united such mutually loathing groups as African-Americans, Southern Democrats, and big-city union bosses.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month, and prospective novel writers have a chance to write 50,000 words (175 pages) of prose by Nov. 30. To those who accept this challenge, my congratulations. Good luck; you will need it.

Speaking of novels, my friend Alfonso Mangione is selling his on "Pottersville" is an intriguing look at the Chicago of a few years ago, after the dot-com crash and 9/11. Through the eyes of narrator Marcus Compton, a twentysomething ex-Navy man, we learn about religion, relationships, and romance at the commencement-de-siecle.

Each of Marcus' friends, lovers and acquaintances adds a different layer to his life: drunken, debauched Neil embodies the spirit of "hooking-up" previously chronicled by Tom Wolfe; sober, sincere Mike manifests the Midwest and its red-state resistance to Neil's excesses; Captain Ron, head of the startup for which Marcus works, represents American business through his deadly combination of authoritarianism and ineptitude; and endearing, offbeat Allison shows us a hope for salvation, however imperfect.

The impact of 9/11 and the subsequent economic recession, affecting companies from Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and HealthSouth, created a sense of helplessness in the United States. Marcus' attempts to patch up deteriorating conditions in his work and social lives reflects this helplessness. His journey toward resolving these issues makes the book a worthwhile read and an impressive debut.

Want to read some interesting articles? Steven Holmes, in The Nation, dissects two books on the Iraq war and liberals' reaction to it. And Christine Rosen, in Policy Review, continues the conservative assault on the therapy culture. Conservatives and liberals both want to re-make the world in their image, but the difference is that liberals are content with hoping that it happens, while conservatives actually want to make it happen. Let's hope they don't succeed...