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Peter Marmorek
Peter Marmorek
The webby arm of Tikkunista.com



Meet the New Pope

Mar19

by: on March 19th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Let me be clear: my dog doesn’t care about the new pope. He’s not Roman Catholic (he’s labradoodle) and he has no political interest whatsoever beyond when we will next go for a walk and how he can steal other dogs’ squeaky toys. So I haven’t tried to convince him of why the election of Pope Francis matters, and if you share his indifference to the world beyond your immediate senses, then for you there is no reason either to care about any politics, papal or otherwise. Just sit back, hope for good weather, and watch the oceans continue to rise.

But I believe that what happens in the world is worth paying attention to. Maybe it’s an inherited gene: European Jews who, unlike my parents, didn’t pay attention to politics in the 1930s tended to have fewer children. While you are alive, paying attention to the political weather helps you to stay alive. Perhaps sadly, it is not sufficient in the long run, but it really does help in the short term.


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Israel: Losing the Struggle

Apr20

by: on April 20th, 2012 | 28 Comments »

The name “Israel” means “He who struggles with G_d”. Genesis tells how that name was given to Jacob after he triumphed over an angel with whom he had wrestled all night. And indeed there is a tradition in Judaism, unlike any other religion with which I’m familiar, of arguing with G_d. A typical example is Abraham, the first Jew. He argues over the number of righteous people there needs to be in Sodom for G_d to forgive them, and talks G_d down from 50 to 10, which is good bartering with anyone, let alone the Creator of the Universe. But when you struggle, you don’t always win. And it seems clearer that the State of Israel, in their struggle with G_d, has lost.

The story of that struggle has been told as a joke, going back to the founding of the state. Uri Avnery says that G_d asked Israel when it was born in 1947 what it wanted to be, and Israel answered that it wanted to be Jewish, democratic, and stretch from sea to sea (Mediterranean to Jordan). G_d thought about this, and said that Israel could have any two of those, but not all three. There was a time, maybe up until recently, when Israel could have settled for democratic and Jewish, and taken the ’67 borders, and allowed Palestine to be a separate country. But that time has passed. Now the Jewish settlers own so much land in Palestine and use so much of the water in Palestine that it is no longer possible to create any real Palestinian state. “Real” means a contiguous state with enough power to satisfy the Palestinian people. Nor is it possible to pull the settlers out of Palestine, as the power in the Israeli parliament depends on right-wing support. But leaving the settlers there without Israeli protection is also impossible, politically. So Israel will stretch from sea to sea, and now must choose between democratic or Jewish.


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Slouching Towards Armageddon: Israel.Iran.US@Nuclear_Chicken

Nov16

by: on November 16th, 2011 | 15 Comments »

What is happening between Iran and the West? And what is going to happen. Clearly we see increased sabre-rattling, warnings of war, mutual bellicosity. But why now? Who gets served by this? Is it likely that there actually will be some further military action? There’s already been a surprising amount. What does this look like from the points of view of Iran, the US, and Israel? And if push comes to fire, who wins?

There has been a huge push in Western media to demonize Iran. First we had last months farcical false flag fiasco, which claimed that Iranian secret service had hired an almost blind alcoholic and lover of prostitutes in Texas to hire a Mexican drug cartel to kill a Saudi Ambassador in Washington. As Stephen Walt correctly questioned, “If you are going to attack a target in the United States, wouldn’t you send your A Team, instead of Mr. Magoo?” It does continue, as Glen Greenwald noted “the FBI’s record-settingundefeated streak of heroically saving us from the plots they enable.” That issue seems to have gotten dropped quickly, but it’s worth noting that it came just before the publication of a UN report on Iranian progress towards nuclear weapon.

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Ten Thought-Provoking Perspectives on 9/11

Sep11

by: on September 11th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

1) 9/11 is a tragic day. It was on on this day in history that a democratically elected government was attacked, the country’s capital was bombed, its president killed, a brutal military dictatorship installed that killed thousands and tortured tens of thousands. Remember Salvador Allende, killed with the support of the US government on 9/11/1973, a day that didn’t change the world, that was “nothing of very great consequence,” as Henry Kissinger assured his boss a few days later. (via Noam Chomsky)

2. Robert Fisk, in the Independent, points out that  For 10 Years, We’ve Lied To Ourselves To Avoid Asking The One Real Question

By their books, ye shall know them.

I’m talking about the volumes, the libraries – nay, the very halls of literature – which the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001 have spawned. Many are spavined with pseudo-patriotism and self-regard, others rotten with the hopeless mythology of CIA/Mossad culprits, a few (from the Muslim world, alas) even referring to the killers as “boys”, almost all avoiding the one thing which any cop looks for after a street crime: the motive.

Why so, I ask myself, after 10 years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, lies and hypocrisy and betrayal and sadistic torture by the Americans – our MI5 chaps just heard, understood, maybe looked, of course no touchy-touchy nonsense – and the Taliban? Have we managed to silence ourselves as well as the world with our own fears? Are we still not able to say those three sentences: The 19 murderers of 9/11 claimed they were Muslims. They came from a place called the Middle East. Is there a problem out there?

3. Did Osama win? Andrew Sullivan (The Daily Beast) asks if we let Bin Laden win… but decides that we let our fear win, and concludes that, “Until we decide to grasp hope again, the war will live on. Within us all.”

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A Reading of the Entrails of the Canadian Body Politic

May17

by: on May 17th, 2011 | 6 Comments »

The Canadian election is two weeks behind us in the rear view mirror of history, perhaps offering enough distance for a sense of perspective. There’s agreement on what happened, pending a few recounts, but questions of why it happened and the future implications are more complex. Start with what we know: this election was the most dramatic in memory, and no one is saying any more that Canadian politics are boring. Once it was only Québec which would swing dramatically from socially conservative to the liberal, or from the most religious to the least. This year Québec lead the way, but there were other changes everywhere.

The logical place to start is by looking at the results. Because there are five national political parties in Canada, it’s possible to win a seat with far less than 50% of the vote. The party with the most seats gets the first shot at forming the government, and the head of that party gets to be Prime Minister. Here are both the number of seats won and the popular vote in this year’s election, and in the 2008 election. There are some fascinating changes, for every party. Here’s the data; analysis after the cut.

2011

Seats won

% vote

2008

Seats Won

% Vote

Cons

166 (54%)

39.6

Cons

143

37.6

NDP

103 (34%)

30.6

NDP

37

18.2

Libs

34 (11%)

18.9

Libs

77

26.2

Bloc Q

4 (1%)

6.0

Bloc Q

49

10.0

Greens

1 (0%)

3.9

Greens

0

6.8


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What Is Happening in That Canadian Election?!?

Apr28

by: on April 28th, 2011 | 25 Comments »

We elect a new government next Monday in Canada after a one month election that began with a lot of whimpering, but seems to be ending with a remarkable bang. To the surprise of media, pundits, and most of the country, the NDP, the socialist party that has been forever mired in third place federally (behind the Liberals and Conservatives) has suddenly surged into second, closing fast on the governing Conservatives (3% behind at the last poll). The second place Liberals, who have been advocating that NDPers vote strategically for them on an ABC (Anybody But Conservative) rationale are catatonic with horror as the same rationale rolls round onto them.

Fortunately, Ian Welsh is around to explain what this all means, who the players are, and who owns the teams on which they play. I’ve deeply admired Ian’s analyses (of politics both Canadian and International) over the years in the Agonist, in Pogge, in Firedoglake, and now on his own website. Here’s a taste of his explanation, which aligns with mine so precisely as to make any further comment of mine redundant. His whole piece is well worth reading!

The scourge of the NDP has been the perception that they can’t win Federally. As a result, in most Federal elections vote switching has often cost them at least 5% of their vote, and I’d argue up to 10%….As a result, parties that range from Center to Left (the Liberals, NDP and Bloc) have regularly pulled in about 60% of the vote, and yet the Conservatives have had minority governments for much of the last decade. This is also due to the fact that, like the US system, ours is first past the post, winner take all.

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The Empires Strike Back

Mar31

by: on March 31st, 2011 | 11 Comments »

Twitter! Facebook! Discussion boards! All of these wonderful social media tools now enable the voice of the individual to be heard, facilitate political organization, foster the people’s revolution, and fight the Power of the Man. Oh brave new world, that has such communication in it! Blog after blog attributes the Arab Spring to new technology as through the Singularity, that anticipated moment of nerd rapture, were only a few upgrades away.

And perhaps that is one side of the story. But you need to know the other side as well. Ani Difranco said, “Any tool is a weapon if you hold it right.” And the governments of the world, those men (and a few women) who have their hands clenched on the mice of power all share a common desire not to let those mice get loose. So they’re using those same tools as well, because on the internet – as the old New Yorker cartoon has it – nobody knows you’re a dog. Or a mole. Or anything really.

We’ll start with Facebook, and link to a memorable piece from The Guardian‘s report on the SXSW computer conference that illustrates that point clearly:

Not long ago, according to the new-media guru Clay Shirky, the Sudanese government set up a Facebook page calling for a protest against the Sudanese government, naming a specific time and place – then simply arrested those who showed up. It was proof, Shirky argues, that social media can’t be revolutionary on its own. “The reason that worked is that nobody knew anybody else,” he says. “They thought Facebook itself was trustworthy.”


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All the Heart Can Hold

Mar16

by: on March 16th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

An excerpt from a wise and compassionate piece by my friend and teacher Oriah on the crisis in Japan, and how one might choose to respond to it.

…Here is where we get to practise what is needed and discover something truly amazing about how we are made. We are built for compassion. Yes, I know we are capable of insensitivity, cruelty and greed, susceptible to fear and bad choices. But we are built for compassion in a way that the mind barely grasps. How do I know this? Because I experience it in myself and in others. I am seeing it in the many stories of mutual assistance amongst those most directly effected in Japan. I hear it in the voice of the skilled health-care providers who are helping me with my parents. We really do have the capacity to be with situations and information that is heart-breakingly painful, that is about loss and destruction and suffering. We can hold the world in our hearts, we can follow the impulse to help, and we can do this without comforting platitudes or explanations, without knowing why something happened or how it will unfold.

We discover this capacity within ourselves by practising it, by grounding ourselves in the details of life, in our bodies, in the earth beneath us, in our communities of care, in doing what needs to be done to take care of those who need our help. We discover it by following our breath and praying however we pray- whether that is in a structured form from some tradition or simply in a willingness to focus on our hearts, feel what arises and hold those who are suffering with each breath. We do it by offering what material aid we are able to offer and choosing to be with those who are suffering in our awareness, sending our love and a silent, “You are not alone.” We do it by allowing a larger Heart to hold us- the Heart of community, of the Mystery, God, Life itself- when we are too tired and discouraged to do it alone.

A Chaotic Journey

Mar8

by: on March 8th, 2011 | 38 Comments »

“Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be….”
Ophelia (Scene 5, Act 4Hamlet)

I was sitting a few feet behind a friend last Friday, as the man at the other end of the room sentenced him to life plus five years.

I can’t say it came as a surprise, though the whole story still seemed unbelievable to me. His Honour had just told us the whole story, justifying the sentence he was pronouncing, and he clearly found it believable. He might not have been willing to bet his own life on it, but he was evidently willing to bet Shareef’s life on it. And that was the bottom line.

It was four years and eight months since I had looked at the front page of the Toronto Star one otherwise unmemorable morning, and found that my ex-student of ten years ago, Shareef Abdelhaleem, was one of the “Toronto 18″, eighteen young Muslim men who were charged with planning to set off three tons of ammonium nitrate in downtown Toronto. Shareef had remained in touch with me, coming in to the high school in which we had met periodically after his graduation, so I returned the favour, going in to Maplehurst penitentiary to talk to him a few times as the first the months and then the years trickled by before his case, his conviction, and now his sentencing.

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iThink therefore iAm

Jan25

by: on January 25th, 2011 | 5 Comments »

Here I am. Over there are my iMac, my iPod, and my iPad. Sometimes I find myself worried over the fact that I can no longer clearly tell where one ends and the other begins. My sense of who I am, and certainly of what I’ve done in the world, is accessed more easily on them than on me. McLuhan talked of media as extensions of our senses, and predicted that computers would become the extension of our central nervous systems. They certainly have, and at other times I get really excited by that. Many people certainly share one or the other of those positions, which means that neither of me feels alone, though I mostly learn about these other views through my iBrain or as Scott Adams, (Dilbert’s father) calls it, my exobrain. Adams had a wonderful column last week in which he argues that we have become cyborgs based on our increasing use of exobrains, brains outside our bodies. Here’s an excerpt:

Don’t protest that your cellphone isn’t part of your body just because you can leave it in your other pants. If a cyborg can remove its digital eye and leave it on a shelf as a surveillance device, and I think we all agree that it can, then your cellphone qualifies as part of your body….You’re already a cyborg. Deal with it.

Your regular brain uses your exobrain to outsource part of its memory, and perform other functions, such as GPS navigation, or searching the Internet. If you’re anything like me, your exobrain is with you 24-hours a day. It’s my only telephone device, and I even sleep next to it because it’s my alarm clock.


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