Friday, June 18, 2010

Batman on Terrorism

    I'll be the first to admit it: I really, really like the new Batman films.  One of the things that struck me in The Dark Knight was how the screenwriter decided to portray the Joker as a terrorist.  I don't know how that idea made it into the script, but it was extremely effective.  Tonight I was reading four psychologists' assessment of "Genocide Girl" -- the young Muslim woman who verbally accosted David Horowitz recently.
     These psychologists offered their thoughts on what Islamic culture reinforces in its adherents, and what psychological trends in suicide (really homicide) bombers are.  Here's one point:

"Also, Western totalitarian movements, like Islamofascism, have been particularly attractive to the psychologically compromised, those whose personal Psychopathology has led them to be particularly drawn to absolutist ideologies with defined objects of hatred. And, again like Islamofascism, Western totalitarianisms have widely made use of the psychologically damaged in their searching out of agents for their murderous agendas."  (Read the rest here).

     This reminded me again of the Joker, and his skill at recruiting the psychologically compromised to his side.  It just goes to show: the Devil just isn't original.

Monday, June 14, 2010


"90 percent of life is just showing up." -- Woody Allen

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


I was just flipping through the CRC handbook when the opening pages caught my eye.  It's a list of the collaborators and contributors for this edition.  What struck me as I skimmed the list was the locations of those who made this edition possible: the U.S., Canada, England, and Israel.  The orderly framework of Judeo-Christianity has done wonders for science.  May the unique relationships between Western nations (especially American-Israeli relationships) continue, and strengthen.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Phar Lap

I just came across an interesting bit of news.
Do you remember that movie about the Aussie racehorse Phar Lap?
As I watched it, I thought that since Phar Lap lived through the attempted shooting, he was going to live a nice, long life and end up cropping grass in a pasture.  When he died abruptly from unknown causes, I was horror-stricken. 

Of course, a lot of people at the time were, too!  No one knew for sure what killed him.  There were lots of ideas, but everything was unclear.  Some people suspected colic, and others thought it might have been poisoning.  The autopsy was inclusive, and by the time they got around to testing for arsenic poisoning, Phar Lap's remains had already been preserved -- using a process that involved arsenic.

Eighty years after Phar Lap died, there's some light shining into this mystery.  A group in Australia (appropriately enough!) studied samples of Phar Lap's hair with a method that could distinguish between arsenic that was applied to his coat and arsenic he would have eaten.  They found that Phar Lab was poisoned with arsenic.

Boy, is it sad, but at least we know part of what happened!  Of course, what's still not known for certain is who actually poisoned him.

Here's the findings from the paper:

Determination of Arsenic Poisoning and Metabolism in Hair by Synchrotron Radiation: The Case of Phar Lap

Kempson, I.; Henry, Dermot. Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, 2010, 49, 4237-4240.

Fresh physical evidence about the demise of the racehorse Phar Lap... has been gathered from the study of mane hair samples by synchrotron radiation analysis with high resolution X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) analyses. The results are indicative of arsenic ingestion and metabolism, and show that the racing champion died from arsenic poisoning."

(I checked the Wikipedia article about Phar Lap, and while this paper was just published this year, evidently this research group first released these results in 2008.  I hadn't heard about it until I saw this paper, though, so I thought I'd pass it along!)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Our 1960's

Today it's uncontroversial to denounce the racism of anti-African-American statements.  Yet two generations ago, discrimination and violence against Africans-Americans were common.  The easiest response was to ignore what was seen as a hopeless or uninteresting situation.  Yet some -- including many who were not personally being oppressed -- stood up to injustice.  These were labeled "radical," and were told their efforts were fruitless.  Yet, they prevailed -- in the face of atavistic, well-funded, outspoken, and sometimes brutal opposition. 

Today another group of people are fighting stereotypes and intolerance.  Only this time around, the discrimination isn't based on skin color -- it's based on Judaism.  Even as their cultural heritage and very existence are demeaned and attacked, Jews face the double challenge that many in the public do not recognize the racism of anti-Semitism.  Here's one way to remind ourselves: if Ms. Albahri had expressed her vehement hate against any other group of people (for example, African-Americans), could her words have been viewed so passively?  One we see the racism we must decide what our response will be.  The short-term "easy" choice is to shrug it off as "not my problem."

But this nation can only justly be called the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave" if we stand up for all who [are] oppressed -- whether or not we personally are affected.   UCSD can take a pivotal role in educating the public and helping Jews fight for a voice and a haven.  It's time to hold Jumanah accountable for her words, investigate the anti-Semitism of the UCSD MSA, and take a lead in the struggle of our time.  Many of us were not alive during the 1960s, but today we have our own chance to fight racism.  Our opposition is more widespread, bank-rolled, violent, and well-established than even MLK's was, but we can do it!

It's time for all of us, Jews and non-Jews, to recognize and denounce the racism of anti-Semitism and defend those struggling for equality today.