Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Wonderful Irony

*** I’m looking for a beginning. One of the reasons I’m looking, again, is that I did not commit myself seriously to the last beginning. I can’t remember what the last beginning was. The one before this one, this Blog. This suggests a scattered consciousness, one that is not committed to high achievement, that in some important way is not serious, and not serious about itself. I am reminded again that I have long found the weaknesses in my character to be interesting, while I find no particular strengths in it. I also repeat myself a lot.

A couple weeks ago I was driving back to Mexico after being interviewed in head-and-neck surgery at the VA hospital in La Jolla. The surgeon had decided that he did not yet understand the full extent of the cancer and decided against surgery to remove the malignant lymph gland in my throat. He referred me to hematology/oncology. I would have to drive back up to La Jolla the following week.

Now I was driving south toward Baja with my wife, who usually chatters on with an attractive enthusiasm, but was quiet this afternoon. I found myself thinking, not about the cancer itself, not what it would mean for me in the coming months, but how I would write about it. What perspective, what angle would I take with telling the story? There was no anxiety. I wasn’t thinking about the future, about the bother of what was coming or might be coming. I was thinking about the interesting story that, unasked, had come into my life and the literary issues associated with it. I liked thinking about it. When I write that I am not serious, this is something of what I mean.

*** I’ve had a number of new beginnings over the years, in the sense that every beginning is new by definition. Turning my thoughts to revisionism was a new beginning. But then, as we say, every day’s a new beginning. If we are going to be consistent with the new beginning concept, every moment is a new beginning. The problem here is that with the moment there is no beginning, no ending, only the moment itself. So the concept of a new beginning has us talking in circles.

Asking academics to provide, with proof, the name of one person who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz was a beginning, in the way we talk about beginnings. I see it as one. It’s a serious question. To not answer the question implies that academics who forward the Auschwitz story are not serious. Can an academic be serious about other things in our current world and not be serious about Auschwitz? What would it mean for an academic to be serious about Auschwitz? It would mean that she would be willing to participate in a civil conversation with those who do not believe everything she believes about Auschwitz.

*** In the bathroom, dressing, I put my coffee cup on the flat edge of the face bowl. I was putting on my shirt when the coffee cup began to move to the left. I reached out quickly to catch it before it fell, but it stopped moving. It all happened in an instant. Actually, the cup hadn’t moved. What point was there for the brain to see that it had?

*** Spent the morning at the VA Hospital in La Jolla with my oncologist, Dr. Go. Chinese, maybe forty years old. Dr. Go, learning how quickly the gland has grown, brought in his “boss” and the three of us had a talk. The result is that in two days I will go back to La Jolla to get a bone marrow biopsy, and the first of next week I will go to Balboa Military Hospital where those folk will do a Pet (full-body) scan. Six days after that I will return to La Jolla and based on this additional information Dr. Go will begin treatment. And so it goes.

I noticed that Dr. Go has a PhD in addition to being a M.D. I asked him what he got his PhD in.

“Immunology,” he said, laughing happily. “You’re in luck.”

I had been told to take all my medicines with me for this appointment. I explained that I do not use drugs, but that I do use supplements. I was advised to take those. I did. In the event, Dr. Go had no interest in them. Except that he did ask to see what I was taking for the prostrate issue I have. He read the label attentively and returned the bottle to me without comment. I haven’t used drugs for the prostrate in maybe six years. Only supplements. No problem.

*** I have an ethical issue with this cancer business that has a wonderful irony about it. I am about to ask my supporters to help fund a revisionist advertisement to run in campus newspapers in September. If I tell my supporters – and some of them have been with me ten and fifteen years – that I have lymphoma and that it is starting to become a burden on my energy, some may feel hesitant to support the project. What if I take a turn for the worse? What if my energy begins to fail and I cannot follow up with the project to the maximum extent that it requires? What if, essentially, they risk throwing their money down a well? How much funding will I lose?

The answer to this one is easy. I do not have to mention the cancer to my supporters at this stage of the game. I am still moving around pretty well. I can promote the project with as much enthusiasm and good sense as possible. Build a convincing picture of my confidence that the project is going to produce press, and that it will bring in new people, some of whom in turn will become contributors. I can let the cancer issue slide until after the contributions have come in and I am set to initiate and carry off the project.

Ironically, shamefully maybe, I have written many times about how this or that academic will not encourage an open debate on the Holocaust question because he fears that if he does he will place at risk his career, his future, his income. I have looked down my nose at professors for years because they will not risk everything for the ideal of intellectual freedom. And now here I was, I knew what I was honor bound to do, but I was contemplating the benefits of keeping my mouth closed about an issue that might cost me substantial funding.

I decided to run the dilemma past my wife. She said I should tell my supporters the truth and live with whatever happens. She asked me why I thought I should not. I asked the question of one of my primary associates via email. His response read: “We tell the truth.”

I’m screwed.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dr. Death -- always in fashion for those who know how to exploit the story

It was 1941, and an 18-year-old Jew had been sent to the clinic [at Mauthausen concentration camp] with a foot inflammation. [Aribert] Heim asked him about himself and why he was so fit. The young man said he had been a soccer player and swimmer. Then, instead of treating the prisoner's foot, Heim anesthetized him, cut him open, castrated him, took apart one kidney and removed the second, Lotter said. The victim's head was removed and the flesh boiled off so that Heim could keep it on display. "He needed the head because of its perfect teeth,"

[...]

What happened next is unclear, but in 1958 Heim apparently felt comfortable enough to buy a 42-unit apartment block in Berlin, listing it in his own name with a home address in Mannheim, according to purchase documents obtained by the AP. He then moved to the nearby resort town of Baden-Baden and opened a gynecological clinic - also under his own name ...

Check the Codoh Forum for comments and illustrations on this filthy story.

A prominent narrative of the Jewish tradition

A prominent narrative of the Jewish tradition is that, in every generation, a manifestation of Amalek will attempt to wipe out the Jewish people, just as the original marauding Amalekites did during the Jews' exodus from Egypt. The Romans, Babylonians, Greeks, Soviets and Nazis have all, understandably, been christened modern-day Amalekites – and now . . .

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Bullfighter vs the Eater

Knowing that I used to follow the bulls, an associate sent me an article calling for making bullfighting illegal. It’s a campaign run by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). I agree that killing bulls as a spectacle to entertain a public audience cannot be morally justified. I address this issue briefly in a story about my first formal corrida in Xochimilco, Mexico. In the event, I came down with a liver infection in Guerrero during my third year with the bulls and my career, which had not got very far off the ground, was finished.

This morning when I read the WSPA language about the bulls, bullfighting, and cruelty to animals I found it so misinformed, so ignorant, and so hypocritical that it undermines the work that WSPA itself claims to want to do. WSPA doesn’t touch on the matters of courage and grace that the bullfight addresses – always. Usually without success, but when it happens right, there is a living beauty to the affair that is incomparable.

“Bullfight” is a clumsy translation of “working” the bull, “playing” the bull. It represents a living theater where you risk the soundness of your body and your life to create a few moments, even one moment, of unparalleled fusion of your movement in concert with the movement of the bull, a fusion in which there is no sense of contempt for the bull, but only respect, and the desire to create, with the bull, a scene with equal parts of real courage and real beauty.

Memory recalls a young torero fighting as a novillero in the Plaza Monumental in Mexico City, probably in 1954. His name was Salcedo. That afternoon he was performing with grace and great courage and while I watched and cheered and felt my heart pound with the excitement and beauty of the corrida, I saw the bull tear out Salcedo’s left eye. A few months later, maybe in the next season, Salcedo returned to the ring at Plaza Monumental with one eye and while doing a pass with the small cape, his left leg exposed to the left horn of the bull, the animal tore out the inside of Salcedo's left thigh and his career was finished. If he is alive today he is maybe 75, 80 years old.

I never heard a torero complain about the punishment he took from a bull. It was in the nature of things that the bull never complained. The bull meets the challenge that is put before him in the most serious way he can. He understands nothing of theater, nothing of beauty, of grace, though with his movement he is packed with all of it. The bull ring, the audience, the concept of theater, courage, grace -- none of that matters to him. He's a bull.

The WSPSers who pity the suffering of the bull think nothing about the slaughter of tens, of hundreds of millions of animals to eat them. The Torero is willing to risk life and limb to create a theater of courage and grace for an audience. The Eater risks nothing and remains purposefully unaware of the hidden theater of death and slaughter and filth that facilitates his eating. His endless eating. Always slaughtering to eat, always without grace, always without courage, always without considering the blood of the animals he eats, and eats, and eats. The moral justification of such behavior is seldom, very rarely, introduced as an issue.

If you’re in the mood for the comic with respect to the Eaters, see slaughterhousecam . If you’re in the mood for the really comic stuff, Google “Kosher slaughter.” After you look around, consider how the very best (certainly) among us morally justify it all.

When I thanked my associate for sending me the WSPA article I wrote that the page appeared to be written by old ladies, very old ladies, in some back-country, isolated village, or then again maybe in New Orleans. That maybe it was written by Blanch, or Blanch’s ghost.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Charles Krauthammer: does he need to look into the Auschwitz story?

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for the Washington Post and appears as a regular on Brit Hume’s All Stars. He’s very bright, and sometimes his insights are expressed with an elegance rarely achieved on such shows. This past Sunday I watched the program. There was some chat about bombing Iran, allegedly its nuclear facilities.

Krauthammer was clear about not really knowing if Iran would be bombed any time soon, who would do it, or when. He did say that his sense of things is that the Israelis have the stronger case for bombing Iran than do the Americans because “six million” Jews were exterminated during WWII, and now the president of Iran is threatening to exterminate the Jews of Israel, to “wipe Israel off the map.” Never again, eh?

Krauthammer did not mention that all the Arabs living in Israel would be killed too, but then, they’re Arabs.

Krauthammer is a true believer then about the “six million” fraud, which I can understand, he being an intellectual and a Jewish patriot. What are the odds? What I cannot understand is his belief that Ahmadinejad wants to exterminate the Israeli Jews by wiping Israel “off the map.”

According to American media that's what Iranian President Ahmadinejad said in a speech in October 2005. So what did he actually say? I took the following text from David Irving, but Juan Cole of U Michigan at Ann Arbor was the primary figure to break this hoax.

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"The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." To quote his exact words in Farsi: "Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad."

That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word "Regime", pronounced just like the English word with an extra "eh" sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the Israeli regime.

This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he instead uses the specific phrase "rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods" (regime occupying Jerusalem ).

The full quote translated directly to English: "The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time". A word by word translation: Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e (regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods ( Jerusalem ) bayad (must) az safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of time) mahv shavad (vanish from).

So this raises the question: what exactly did he want "wiped from the map"?

The answer is: nothing. That's because the word "map" was never used. The Persian word for map, "nagsheh", is not contained anywhere in his original Farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase "wipe out" ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran's President threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", despite never having uttered the words "map", "wipe out" or even "Israel".

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Here is the story line. If Israel attacks Iran the act will be morally justified because the Germans “exterminated” the Jews of Europe, particularly at Auschwitz, and it will be morally justified again because now the Persians are threatening to “exterminate” the Jews of Israel. Meanwhile, if there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, the moral jusification for Israeli and/or American policies in the Middle East will be morally compromised. The best thing by far then is to suppress revisionist questions about Auschwitz and destroy those who ask such questions.