Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Garry Kasparov's International Relations Analysis

A few nights ago former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov was interviewed on the Bill Maher show. Apparently he’s running for President of Russia, he has little chance of winning (he is very vocal about not liking Putin), but he offered an interesting take on International Relations.

Putin and Iran have been cozying up to each other and many blame this on the Bush Administration’s foreign policies. They argue that all Bush really does is unite people against us (Chavez also is warming up to Iran, and there has been a huge surge in anti-Americanism worldwide). However, Kasparov stated that Putin is in fact making a very calculated move. The Russian economy heavily relies on oil production. If oil prices fall so does the Russian economy, which would give Putin a lot of internal problems.

To ensure that oil prices are high he supports Iran. Iran is de-stabilizing the Middle East. It is attempting to get nukes, it is financing (at least in part) the Iraqi Shiite insurgents, and talks of invading Israel; indeed Iran might be the U.S.’s next target. This leads to marketplace uncertainty, nobody can very accurately predict how much oil will be on the market in the future, which leads to high prices.

This also sheds light on Chavez, who's pseudo-socialist economy also needs high oil prices. But why does it always seems that the U.S. foreign policy establishment is playing checkers while other countries are playing Chess?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Quote from Don Quixote

"It is better to lose with too many cards than too few, because 'this knight is reckless and daring' sounds better to the ear of those who listen than 'this knight is timid and weak.'"
-Don Quixote, Chapter XVIII

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hebrew: the Aleph

The symbol to the left is the Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and it’s the most appropriate way I could think of to begin this entry. It’s been gnawing at me for a while now that I don’t speak Hebrew. I’m Jewish (although I don’t know whether I’m a believer) and I’m a Zionist, so I should speak the Jewish language. With that in mind I signed up for a beginner Hebrew class at the 92nd Street Y and last night I began my Hebrew Odyssey.

After the typical introductions the instructor, a young Israeli woman who speaks perfect English, started speaking in Hebrew. I now know first hand the frustration and turmoil my English students experienced last year in Chile. The only words I was able to make out were “Shalom” and “Ivrit” (Hebrew).

Learning this language promises to be much more challenging than Spanish. English and Spanish share a vast amount of words due to the huge influence Latin and French played on the English language’s development. Hebrew, on the other hand, has very little in common with English (or Spanish for that matter).

By the end of the session we had already learned a lot. Well, we learned a tiny bit, but it really felt like a lot. I’m looking forward to the homework.

There's Nothing New Under the Sun

This is a link to an article about a modernist style painting done in present day Syria around... 9,000 BCE.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

40th Anniversary of the Killing of Che Guevara

His back was to the wall and his head was held high as he spoke his last words, “be easy and aim well. It’s a man you’re going to kill.” Then, on October 9, 1967, Che Guevara was executed in a rural Bolivian school house. The bullets pierced his arm, his shoulder and his heart. Today marks the 40th anniversary of Che the human’s death and the birth of Che the symbol. Although it’s barely mentioned in the American media, it’s a pretty big story in the Spanish language press.

Most of us know Che Guevara superficially through his romantically heroic image emblazoned on t-shirts and Motorcycle Diaries, a 2005 movie starring Gael García Bernal about Che's youthful adventures. Indeed, in 2004 a very conservative friend of mine told me he admired Che because he fought for “freedom.” Sure, his image sells a lot of T-shirts, but who was Che Guevara? He was a leader of the Cuban revolution; but he was not Cuban and Che wasn’t even his real name.

He was born Ernesto Guevara de la Serna to an upper middleclass family in Rosario, Argentina (a city about 3.5 hours from Buenos Aires) in 1928.

He was a sickly kid and after graduating from high school studied to be a medical doctor. Upon graduation from medical school he began traveling. He practiced medicine pro-bono throughout Latin America until the early 1950’s when he met Fidel Castro and Co. in Mexico. He and his then-wife joined the Cuban independence movement. On December 2, 1956, the Cuban revolutionary forces set sail from the Yucatan peninsula on a rickety boat to fight against Cuba’s (then American backed) dictator Fulgencio Batista and conquer Cuba. They engaged the Cuban army in guerilla warfare on the Eastern side of the island. To be sure, they were not the only band of revolutionary fighters, they were one of many. But they were the most visible fighters and Fidel in particular was a hugely charismatic figure.

Ernesto transformed into Che while fighting in the Cuban jungle. Che is a popular term in Argentina, it means “hey/yo” and sometimes “dude,” and it’s a term Cubans do not ordinarily use. Guevara naturally used this term a lot and, to poke fun at him, his Cuban comrades began to call him “Che.” It quickly became his nome-de-guerre.

The Revolutionary forces toppled the Batista dictatorship on January 1, 1959 and Ernesto the sickly child was long gone. Out of the jungle emerged Fidel, his right hand man Che, and their band of fighters.

Fidel was able to maneuver himself to the lead among the various revolutionary factions and quickly consolidated control. Che took responsibility for executions, and was responsible for killing hundreds of people at the Cabaña prison. He killed Batista loyalists (and their families), ‘capitalists’ and dissidents who spoke out against the new Fidel-led regime. Many took to calling him “the butcher of Cabaña prison.”

He was a staunch, dogmatic communist and admired Joseph Stalin. He approved the killing of innocents, even children, if it strengthened his communist cause. He also dreamed of having “one, two, three Vietnams,” to kill as many Americans as possible and have a global communist revolution.

In 1967 Che left his wife and five kids in Cuba and traveled to Bolivia, where he hoped to spark a Communist insurgency. However, he never fermented local Bolivian support. On October 8, 1967 Bolivian forces, with the help of the CIA, captured Che. Forty years ago today he spoke his last words. Then Che was executed in a small school house in La Higuera, Bolivia. Perhaps Capitalism’s ultimate revenge is that his image is now used to make profits. But think before you wear that T-shirt.

(Does Che remind you of anyone in particular? How about Ayman al-Zawahiri? Al Qaeda’s number two and a qualified medical doctor.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Christopher Columbus: A Portuguese Jewish Spy?

Today is Columbus Day. It’s a national holiday, but I’m stuck at work (at least I’m not broke like I was last year). Depending on who you are, you are either: 1 celebrating his discovery of the New World, 2 protesting the post-discovery era, or 3, you don’t really give a shit.

Anyway, when I was 13 I read a magazine article that alleged Christopher Columbus was… Jewish. Ever since that fateful day in my adolescence I’ve been fascinated by Columbus’ life story. He is one of history’s most famous figures, yet we actually know very little about the man and his background. Indeed, how did a slightly above average Genovese sailor gain access to the Spanish court?

People have contended that he was really a Portuguese spy, a former Catalan rebel, even a Marrano Jew. All of these theories are very interesting, if not all HIGHLY circumstantial. Here’s an article from today’s New York Times about attempts to trace his DNA.

Francis Ford Coppola Robbed in Buenos Aires

Francis Ford Coppola (the director of the Godfather) has been working on a new movie, entitled Tetro. The film is set in Buenos Aires and is about the rivalries in an Italian immigrant family of artists. He and his production company have been in Argentina for the past six months preparing to begin filming in February, 2008; But that date might now have to be postponed.

Two weeks ago a band of thieves broke into his Buenos Aires apartment, which doubled as his work station. They made off with a number of valuables, one of which was his personal computer, containing Tetro’s screenplay. The famous director is now offering a reward to get his material back.

This is terrible news for any movie buff or fan of Argentina (I consider myself a member of both categories), and I’m sure Coppola is distraught over all this as well.

If by any chance one of you thieves is reading this: Que le devuelvan sus cosas! Pelotudos!!