Tuesday, May 3, 2005
UCLA. Moore Hall. Room 100. Monday, May 2, 2005. Dennis walks in at 4:58pm, after a long plane flight from Denver following his 9am-12pm radio show. I'd describe him as the jolly giant. Heads turn and look at him.
Dennis walks up to Dr. Myers (tall, bespectacled and slender), shakes hands, and banters. I spot Prager's blonde Persian intern and his beautiful blonde wife Fran. I don't see his son David, a UCLA-student.
The tall old black moderator sits in the center of the stage -- Dr. Berky Nelson.
The event was advertised as starting at 5pm prompt. It doesn't start until 5:20 and then there are 10-minutes of useless introductory speeches. With at least 200 people in the audience, I'd place a monetary value on the stolen time at at-least $1,000. Thanks organizers.
The event is jointly sponsored by the Progressive Jewish Students Alliance and UCLA Events.
Barry (?) from PJSA gives a meandering incoherent introduction and says: "...[E]vents that take place here in Israel."
Prager opens the debate with a six-minutes salvo. He says he's often argued liberally for peace in the Middle East. He's often said (up to 2001) that he can't stand the Israeli Right. Prager supported the Oslo Accords (but since 2001 he's said that was a mistake). "For real peace, I'd be willing to compromise on anything.
"I spoke at Stanford two years ago. I was there for a week giving lectures. It coincided with Israel's Independance Day. I spoke briefly at the celebratory rally for Israel. I said it is sad that we have an imbalance -- most Israelis crave peace and most Palestinians crave Israel's destruction. Every poll we have acknowledges that.
"A woman came over afterwards. She said, 'I'm a peace activist and I don't agree with what you said. The Palestinians absolutely want peace with Israel.'
"I said, 'I'll make you a $5 bet.' There were Palestinians demonstrating 50-feet away from us. 'Go to every one of them...and ask them: 'Are you prepared to make peace with the Jewish state of Israel?'
"She comes back ten minutes later. She says she's not sure. 'Everyone I asked if they would make peace with the Jewish state of Israel said, 'What do you mean?'' I said, 'Well, you owe me $5 but I won't collect.'
"That's the whole point. It's one of the incredible events of my lifetime that the obvious is denied. The vast majority of Palestinians do not want the Jewish state of Israel to exist. They think it is wrong. That it is a tragedy, a disaster from 1948 on. It is on their soil and it has no place. The vast majority of Israelis think the Palestinians do have a right to a Palestinian state.
"Everything else...is commentary. One side wants the other obliterated. I say this as someone...who cried when Rabin and Arafat shook hands because I am a naive peace-loving Jew. Jews generally ache for peace because we do not have the power not to have peace and because our tradition calls for it. There are few Jews who want to keep making war. But there is a deep belief on the other side that with enough time, they win. If enough Israelis are slaughtered in cafes and on buses...they will go away.
"That Jewish peace activist in Stanford was surprised to find not one Arab Palestinian leftist activist was willing to say, yes, we want peace with the Jewish state of Israel. Peace with Israel not a Jewish state is ethnic cleansing and Jews have had enough of that in the 20th Century."
Most of the crowd applauds.
Dr. Myers speaks for six minutes. He says Israel can no longer hold on to the occupied territories. He agrees with Ariel Sharon on a lot of things.
I remember discussing these things with Dr. Myers at temple in the summer of 2001. He wanted to write a book on why he no longer supported a Jewish state in the present state of Israel. When I mentioned that Beth Jacob Orthodox rabbi Steven Weil had articles supporting Sharon on his office, Dr. Myers was shocked. "I heard [Rabbi Weil] was a nice man," he said. "You can't be a nice man and support Sharon?" I asked. Dr. Myers said no.
Dr. Myers can sound moderate when he wants to but make no mistake -- he's Left. About 40% of the audience applauds.
Dennis: "Israel already offered all of this at Camp David in the last months of the Clinton administration. President Clinton, who was facile with words, said it was Arafat's fault that it broke down. Dennis Ross said [the same thing]. A contiguous state was already offered. Palestinians responded to a breathtaking offer by murdering a record number of Israeli children... That's what Israel has gotten every time it made overtures for peace.
"I support overtures for peace and I support the pull-out from Gaza. But I live in reality. I don't live at UCLA."
There's widespread laughter and applause. The crowd is 75% students.
"The Palestinians have greeted every Israeli overture for peace by blowing up as many [innocent] Israelis as possible and inventing new forms of torture such as putting rat poison on nails... The great majority of Palestinians support terror against Israel. These [suicide bombers] are the martyrs of the Palestinians. These are the heroes. Their posters are all over declaring how great they are. The more Israelis you kill, the more suffering you inflict on innocent Jews, the better a human being you are the and the more virgins you get in Heaven. That is the civilization Israel is fighting.
"Though that is true, I am willing to take the risks...
"My greatest hesitation in coming here was not that I shun debate. I debate for a living. My hesitation is the chutzpah involved in anybody from America telling Israel what to do for peace. I am blown away by the notion that we who sit in such comfort and security have the audacity to tell Israelis how to risk their lives. I direct that particularly at the American Jewish community."
"I always contend that because my children are American and growing up in America, who the hell am I to tell Israelis what risks to take. I say this to the right-wing as much as to the left. When right-wing American Jews attack left-wing Israeli prime ministers and when left-wing American Jews attack right-wing Israeli prime ministers I am annoyed.
"Israel is a perfectly functioning democracy. If you don't like who they choose, and you are a Jew, move there and talk any way you want."
Dr. Myers: "As members of the Jewish nation, we have an obligation to express our concern when Israeli policy affects Jews around the world."
Dr. Myers keeps referring to the new leadership of the Palestinian Authority.
Dennis: "I'd like to ask Dr. Myers a question he can answer on his next turn. He keeps saying Yassir Arafat is dead. I wrote a column entitled, 'Is it OK to hope anyone in Hell?'
"Did Dr. Myers speak differently when Arafat was living? Was he then as harsh on Arafat and the Palestinians as they deserved to be in that bygone era?"
Dr. Myers didn't answer the question, even though Prager repeated it, so let me answer it for Dr. Myers: The good professor had a similar approach to the Palestinians and their leadership under Arafat as he does today.
Dennis: "From the little I did read on the internet, he was just as anti the description of Arafat and the Palestinians as terrorists when [Arafat] was living and blowing up Israeli children as now that he is dead.
"I'd like to note that Dr. Myers says there are winds of change of democracy in the Arab world, something I celebrate. Whatever winds of change are there are thanks to someone I know Dr. Myers did not support -- George W. Bush.
"To have so opposed this man who made democracy possible and then to celebrate the winds of change..."
About the settlements: "I don't have any great joy in having Israeli settle among people who hate their guts. But I don't know why it is ok for a quarter of Israel to be Arab but it is not ok for any percentage of the Palestinian Authority to be Jewish? The notion of the West Bank being Judenrein when the attachment of the Jewish people [for 3,200 years] to that area [is deep]... Palestinians are a new [about 100-years old] national entity.
"If the Palestinian position is that this state must not have Jews in it, and I don't know if this has changed since Arafat died, that Jews have no historical rights or basis there... Arafat said Jesus was a Palestinian, and I don't know any Palestinian who contradicted him, echoed what the Nazis said -- that Jesus was an Aryan. The attempt to deny anything Jewish to the Jews in the most Jewish place in the world, a place saturated with Jewish bones and Jewish history, is not healthy. Opposition to settlements is a figleaf for a denial of reality of Jewish existence in that area. And you can't have peace if one side denies the other's historical bonds to the place."
Dr. Myers: "So how should we resolve those competing historical claims? Should we just fight it out to the last survivor? That makes no sense. Settlements are antithetical to peace. Settlements, according to most legal observers, are in contravention of international law (Fourth Geneva Convention, UN Resolution 242)..."
Dr. Myers does much of his speaking directly to Dennis across the stage. Dennis sits and looks either straight ahead or down. Dennis rarely if ever looks over at Dr. Myers while the professor speaks. When Dennis speaks, he addresses the audience. That makes sense. It's not like David or Dennis are going to change the other's mind.
Dennis: "I will leave it to Dr. Myers' students to ask him in class if, when Arafat was Prime Minister, or dictator, whatever title, whether Dr. Myers was characterizing Arafat and the Palestinians in the way they deserved to be characterized. Since he keeps making the differentiation that [Arafat's] dead and we have a new world among the Palestinians. Again, I pose that question. Perhaps you'd rather speak about it to your students and not to us.
"About international law -- there are major jurists who have different takes on the settlements given that Israel's war was entirely defensive [in 1967]... Jordan lost the West Bank because they went into a war of genocide to destroy Israel. They declared their intentions genocidal and Israel survived it. Then Israel's supposed to go back, as if this is all a game of cards. Ok, next gin rummy game.
"Second, morality and law are not the same. The international community, academia and media utterly condemned Israel's  bombing of [Iraq's nuclear reactor]. I'm sure there wasn't one UCLA professor who defended Israel's attacking of Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program. It was condemned by every major newspaper in this country except for the Wall Street Journal. When Sudan is made the head of the Human Rights commission at the UN, I know to take it [international opinion] with a grain of salt."
Dr. Myers: "Thirty years later, the settlements are still there and you're stuck with the same old rhetoric. Living in your world of Olympian moral heights, a world of absolute moral virtue, a world in which the Jew is incapable of an act on injustice...that seems to me moral relativism."
He says that Israelis and Palestinians supported peace negotiations in equal numbers. That Americans and Israelis should economically invest in the Palestinian state, fix their sewage and give them a light-rail system, and that would morally elevate Palestinian political culture and make them see homicide bombing is a moral abomination.
Dennis: "I would love to see Americans and Israelis help Palestinians see terrorists as moral abominations.
"I feel that when I come to universities that I have entered a different sort of world, where people believe that Americans and Israelis can teach Palestinians basic morality, that blowing up innocent people is a moral abomination. It's bizarre to me. Either your culture teaches you that or it doesn't. That Americans would teach Palestinians that rat-poisoned bombs are bad, I feel like I'm entering The Twilight Zone.
"I have more respect for Palestinians, perhaps, than Professor Myers. Either they will teach themselves what basic morality entails or they will not learn it. Americans and Israelis are the last people in the world to shape the moral vision of Palestinians.
"I heard from Dr. Myers that the yearning for peace was the same among Israelis as among Palestinians. Can anybody sing me any of the Israeli peace songs so popular among Israelis? Of course. Anyone who knows Israel can sing any peace song. Israelis go nuts for peace. They OD on yearnings for peace. How many peace songs were played on Palestinian radio? Maybe it was a Palestinian yearning for peace without the little caveat of the Jewish state of Israel like Germans yearned for peace with Poland [before WWII]."
Dr. Myers: "Adolf Hitler is dead, sir."
A quarter of the audience applauds.
Dr. Myers: "From your Olympian moral heights, I'm astonished at your demonized vision of the Palestinians."
Dr. Myers: "This kind of demonization, sir, is dangerous and should be avoided.
"What I had in mind was not sending our best representative of virtue over to the Palestinian territories, Dennis Prager... What I had in mind was economic investment so that sewage does not flow through the streets of refugee camps and parents can put food on the table for their children. So parents can provide an education for their children. This will require a monumental investment by the rest of the world and Israelis...and [move along] an important path towards the maturation of Palestinian culture."
Moderator for Prager: What role can we hope for Israel to play in the Arab world?
Dennis: "That it is not sending moral Olympians like me but economic development of Palestine that will that will stop the celebration of people who blow up children... Marx lives. The notion that economics determines morality. One has to visit the temple of the Left to believe such nonsense.
"We were attacked by wealthy Arabs on 9/11. The leader terrorist of the world [Osama Bin Laden] is a billionaire. He makes more than any university professor.
"This notion that if we only give them lightrail and clean up the sewage in the refuge camps they will stop celebrate death. It is painful to hear it is so wrong. Why the hell are there refugee camps? Has there ever been a more disgusting treatment of one's fellow ethnics than Arabs of Palestinians?"
"I have never argued that Israel has never committed any immoralities. I'm sure that Israelis engage in immorality as much as any other group on earth. I am sure they could treat Palestinians with much greater respect at checkpoints, for example. But the comparison between the cultures is not comparable. One is death-oriented and one is life-oriented. This is not demonizing. They are self-demonizing.
"What role? With peace, it will be perfectly understandable. Palestinians will meet Israelis. Israelis will meet Palestinians. With the low level of Jewish identity among many secular Israelis, there will be a vast amount of intermarriage. If the Arabs had been smart in 1948, they would've accepted the small state of Israel and it would've assimilated except for some ultra-Orthodox Jews.
"But it is moral sewage cleanup, not physical sewage cleanup that is necessary in that part of the world.
"I know Hitler and Arafat are dead. I feel like obituaries are being read to me. It's really helpful for the discussion. Arafat is dead. Palestinians now believe in life. I'm happy I came to UCLA."
Widespread laughter and applause.
Dr. Myers: "You're saying don't get up [and let Palestinians suffer]. It is not our responsibility and it is not in our interest. No."
Dennis: "I, who don't want to lecture Middle Easteners what to do, can hardly be accused of lecturing from Olympian heights. I object to this whole thing of people sitting in LA telling Israelis and Palestinians what to do. And I'm being chided for speaking from Olympian heights?
"I don't think we have anything to say to these people. It is not our business. We have meddled all the time to bail them out from dealing with one another. The West has given the Palestinians billions of dollars, which we don't know where they are because Arafat hid them in Swiss banks. But this doesn't matter in Palestinian culture. The West is responsible. Not the Saudis with their gourging oil prices..."
"Abbas is the duly elected president of the Palestinians and Israel has to talk to him [no matter what Abbas has said or done].
"I live with reality, but I don't fool myself about the moral stature of those I have to deal with. The Palestinians have given evil a new name.
"I believe Abbas is better than Arafat.
"Dr. Myers quoted Abbas in Haaretz [saying the Holocaust was a tragedy]... I'd be interested if that was broadcast in any Palestinian medium in Arabic. What Palestinians say to gullible Israelis, gullible Jews in universities, and elsewhere, and what they say in Arabic to their own people have never had any similarity.
"I'd love to hear him say that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and nothing comparable has taken place with Arabs. It is inconceivable that that would be said."
The crowd is overwhelmingly well-behaved for such an emotional topic.
Each man gets a five-minute closing statement.
Dennis: "Christian Palestinians are as nationalistic as Muslim Palestinians, but there is a moral gulf between the average Christian Palestinian and the average Muslim Palestinian. No Christian Palestinian believe that they go to Heaven and Jesus blesses them if they blow up Jewish children. If you can not see this moral gulf, you are willfully blind.
"Thanks for having me."
6:40pm. I walk past Prager. He's walking to his car with his wife. He's surrounded by a dozen students. I overhear him tell one young woman, "There's a lot of suffering in the world... We can't..."
I'm out of earshot.
Here's the bloodless UCLA Daily Bruin article, which fails to mention the crowd cheered one person (Prager) far more than the other.
Dr. David Myers Emails Dennis Prager
On Tuesday, 5/3/05, Dennis said on his radio show that he won Monday's debate against Dr. Myers.
On Wednesday, 5/4, Dennis read an email from Dr. Myers, which the professor said could be read on DP's radio show as long as he read it in full:
Dennis: "The superficiality and idiocy of this letter is only possible at the university. So I've invited the professor on so we can debate this. This is how the Left thinks. He is a perfect paragon of it. If you believe there is a moral difference between civilizations, you therefore hate all the members of that other civilization. This is how the Left engages in moral equivalence."
At 11:06am, Dr. Myers phoned in.
Dennis: "Dr. Myers, I consider it a foolish letter because you do not understand the difference between moral comparison and group hatred. But you have the floor."
Dr. Myers: "You engage in sweeping and dangerous group characterizations, which fail to distinguish between Islam, the great world religion, and Muslims as a whole, on the one hand, and those who interpret Islam in an errant and diabolical fashion.
"Jews throughout much of the medieval and early modern period faired considerably better under Islam than they did under Christianity. There was not a tradition of Crusades, of demonization of the Jews, of forced conversion.
"We cannot ascribe sweeping fixed categories to one group of people. That is what I found most disturbing about our debate and that is something we should discuss."
Dennis: "I don't know why you found it disturbing because I did not mention Islam once [in Monday's debate]. I had nothing to say about Islam, which is a great religion. I have something to say about Palestinian society vis-a-vis Israeli society. That there is no moral comparison between the two. That you think that they are morally equivalent is part of the reason I think that kids are getting moral nonsense taught to them at university."
Dr. Myers: "I don't think that they are morally equivalent."
Dennis: "So you believe Israel is a morally superior society to Palestinian society?"
Dr. Myers: "Suicide bombing is an abomination."
Dennis: "That is irrelevant to my point. Do you believe that they are morally equivalent societies?"
Dr. Myers: "I don't believe that they are morally equivalent societies because it is very difficult to measure the degree of morality of a society."
Dennis: "You are not prepared to say Israel is a morally better society than the Palestinians?"
Dr. Myers: "I am not prepared to say that the entirety of the population is morally superior..."
Dennis: "Oh, come on. That was demagoguery. Nobody said every Israeli or every Palestinian. I'm talking the sum total. Are gays treated better? Women treated better? Dissenters treated better in Israel?"
Dr. Myers: "We have different ideas of what constitutes morality."
Dennis: "I agree with you."
Dr. Myers: "I believe morality is individual and is measured by action."
Dennis: "Mine too."
Dr. Myers: "To inveigh against Palestinian society constantly... I would call your attention to, you as an advocate of situational ethics, should take stock of the fact that attitudes change. For example, you suggest that a majority of Palestinians support suicide bombing. I would suggest you take a look at the most recent survey (March 2005) by Shitaki..., the most important demographer in Palestinian society and will be teaching at Brandeis University next year, shows that Palestinian support for suicide bombing has plummeted to 29%. That is far too high."
Dennis: "Plummeted from what?"
Dr. Myers: "Seventy seven percent. When the window of opportunity for peace is open, there will be a significant shift in attitude, including in the support for suicide bombing."
Dennis: "When it was 77%, would you have been prepared to say that there was a moral gulf between Israel and the Palestinians?"
Dr. Myers: "I would've been prepared to say then that that was extremely disturbing."
Dennis: "I don't care whether it was disturbing. I'm not talking about emotions. I'm for negotiations and the withdrawal from Gaza."
Dr. Myers: "When there is a movement towards peace, there is a shift in attitudes."
Dennis: "That's not why. The shift in attitudes came because it [suicide bombing] was worthless and useless. It did nothing but make the Israelis weaker and make the Palestinians look like [evil]."
Dr. Myers: "When there are changes in historical conditions, there are also changes in moral attitudes."
Dennis: "You have been incapable throughout this dispute, when it was at 79% [support for suicide bombing], that there was a moral gulf between Israel and its enemies. That moral equivalence is what is typical of what is taught at the university. You are an example of it."
Dr. Myers: "I see the university as a place where diverse, important life-saving research takes place...
"I am very unsettled by something in your representation of the university. You inveigh against the university repeatedly. I don't know the way of radio, so you will have to instruct me. And yet you a pitchman, and a very effective one, for a college preparatory course. Is not the end result of a college preparatory course entry into a university?"
Dennis: "I'm asked that all the time. I have contempt for the liberal arts, not the natural sciences. The rejection of the ability to search for truth... When the president of Harvard says one possible reason for the lack of women in engineering and science is that male and female brains differ in those aptitudes and he is pillored as though he is a medieval inquisitor..."
Dr. Myers: "We are not to study language, history... These are liberal arts."
Dennis: "No. Are you available for more or do you have to go?"
Dr. Myers: "No. I have to go teach a class."
Dennis: "Do I have the time in your class that I gave you on my show?"
Dr. Myers, after a pause: "You have ten minutes in my class."
Dennis: "I would give you more on this..."
Fade to four minutes of advertising.
Dennis: "One can say, this is a safer neighborhood than the other neighborhood. Every major city has safer and less safe neighborhoods. Do you hate the people in the less safe neighborhood? It's a non-sequitar. One hates all members of a civilization that one thinks is on a morally-lower plane? Isn't a society that protects its women on a higher plane than a society that doesn't?"
A caller points out it was contradictory of Dr. Myers to argue that medieval Muslim society treated Jews better than medieval Christian society and then say you could not assess a society's morality.
Jerry, an acquaintance of mine and a student of Dr. Myers, phones in and says how wonderful his professor is.
Dennis: "There is nothing more frightening than a person living in a decent society who is unable to judge the difference between decent and indecent societies. [Dr. Myers] is a gentleman with scary ideas.
"We may agree on the roadmap to peace but he still scares the daylights out of me...because he can not say the United States is morally superior."
What Do You Say When You Learn Your Friend Is Undergoing Chemo-Therapy?
My mother died of cancer when I was four. I've known a lot of people who've undergone chemotherapy and the like.
I don't pour out concern when I hear the news. My response is almost always, "Oh." And then I take my cues from the person I'm conversing with.
This is both natural to my instincts to listen rather than to try to console (listening is my form of consoling), as well as my following of Judaism's teachings about entering the home of a mourner. You let the mourner start and direct the conversation. They might want to remember their loved one or they might want to talk about something entirely different. Similarly, someone diagnosed with cancer might want to take the conversation in many different directions.
A friend writes today: "I sort of love the fact that you didn't so much as say, "Oh no." Or "My prayers are with you." Or anything resembling concern. You are a strange bird, though."
Any time I've told someone that I will pray for him it's been meant as a joke.
I'm not arguing my response is the right one. Different responses are natural to different people. I'm not somebody imbued with tremendous common-sense and a take-charge attitude to other people's problems. I'm not a leader. I'm an observer.
I was bed-ridden for six years with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and still struggle with CFS. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated. Instead of spending their time praying for me, they should just buy me a massage (it doesn't even have to have a happy ending).
JMT writes: "It doesn't matter what you say. Just say *something,* and stay in touch. When I went through that, I couldn't believe how little contact I had from some people I considered friends. On the other hand, I had people I hadn't seen for years, even decades, come out of the woodwork and be supportive. People are funny."
Jane writes: "You need to make sure you don't leave the person alone. You visit, you bring food, you help out... It applies to Shiva (mourning the dead) and it applies to Bikur Holim (visiting the sick). You don't need to constantly ask how they're doing, but you do need to ask a few times, you can't just expect them to start talking without a little bit of solicitation. You need to check in, you need to offer help, you need to make clear that you're willing to go out of your way..."
I have this big emptiness inside that I am always trying to fill by blogging about myself, self-publishing books about myself, Googleing my name every week, checking Technorati daily for any reference to me, checking my email every five minutes, posting on chat boards to get a reaction...
I just realized how empty my life by emailing somebody who I expected had SpamBlock. And I found myself thinking, "Good, I know I will get a reply, because I will get that automatic reply from a spam blocker."
One of the things I hate about pitching an article is that half the times I do it, I get no reply. And when I do get a reply, it tends to come after a week or so. I so hate rejection (because my sense of my own worth is so fragile), that I rarely pitch editors with stories and I rarely ask out women I'm interested in (if I think they are too beautiful or too good for me).
Dennis said the headline and lead were misleading if only one in five mothers feel less valued.
Dennis says: What percentage of men would say they felt valued by society because of their work? And men don't usually have the choice to stay at home and be dads. How much respect would we give a fulltime dad? Dennis can't remember meeting a fulltime dad (then he remembers Andre Bologh, the violinist and fulltime dad, married to a doctor).
DP: We get far more stories about women's problems than men's problems because women complain more. You have an entire department at university devoted to women complaining -- women's studies.
Dennis and a caller said it was usually women who give a hard time to women who leave work to devote themselves to their children and home.
Prager says it is not motherhood as such that is less respected but anything to do with children (as opposed to Israel where teachers are venerated). There's a dearth of child psychiatrists, according to an article Prager read years ago. There was a quote that there was less prestige in child psychology than adult psychiatry (even though child psychiatry requires more training).
Then Prager started thinking -- an elementary school teacher gets less respect than a high school teacher who gets less respect than a college professor. If you said you taught Medieval Bestiality at the local university, you'd get more respect than fulltime mothering.
One reason is money. Another reason -- what men do, feminists value.
DP: The only groups I know that respect work with children is religious groups. That's the only group that has a fair number of male teachers of young children. In Orthodox Judaism, you will have a lot of rabbis teaching kids (while in public school, male kindergarten teachers make up about 1% of teachers).
DP: When I was in the Soviet Union, half the doctors were women and being a doctor got less respect. Is it true that when women pour into a profession, it gets less respect? Airline pilot gets respect. If half of such pilots were women, would it have less respect?
LF: The Marines are the most respected of the US Armed Forces and they are the most exclusive and least open to women.
A female caller said fulltime mothers who value their own responsibilities are not slighted by others' opinions.
The wife of Prager's producer Allen Estrin, Susie, does an ad with Dennis for Regenex (to regenerate thinning hair, just what I need).
Khunrum writes: "Good going Luke. I boinked several fatties before switching to Asian women. They usually have low self esteem and therefore are easier to get horizontal. Just thing of the deep footprints she'll leave in the sand during your romantic walk along the beach. Why not do this again on the university of Aussie puke rockers. The LRB...When Little River Band formed in 1975, Australia immediately took notice."
Lionel Hutz writes on Velvet Rope: "Reprehended? What does that mean?"
JMassif writes: "It's the reprehensible reprimand... the lowest and meanest kind... like when you put the wrong woman's name on a bouquet of spring wildflowers."
Dannya writes: "Wow. And I thought my life was meaningless and pathetic."
JMassif writes: "Just because he's a vegan Air Supply fan looking for love on a message board about Air... .... oh... yeah, damn he IS a loser ..."
Luke replies: "I am not a loser. I am a highly respected journalist."
Corey3D writes: "This is pathetic. This guy is using any excuse to whore up his career and try to get his hands in a vegan gal's pants."
Mike Albo writes:
JMassif writes: It's actually translated as: "Please don't wear a skirt on our date, as I'll be the pussy wearing one."
Zero Interest writes:
LA Times pop music critic Robert Hilbrun writes today: "Between these extremes, other Coachella acts dealt with love in various forms, such as the gentler, rock-noir style of the Raveonettes, the Danish team with lots of Phil Spector and Blondie influences, and the superficial romanticism of Keane, a British band that reaches for the beauty of Coldplay but sometimes ends up as slight as Air Supply."
The Sacred and the Profane
It'll just be our little secret. Now I'm off to meet the Sabbath bride.
The Big Book of Jewish Conspiracies Is Pure Torture
A page into the first chapter, I felt a depression settling over me as I realized I would have to struggle through another 256-pages of these lame jokes simply because this book was written by my friends (friends in the loose Los Angeles sense).
Yes, there were a few moments where I chuckled but oy ve this thing was heavy lifting without reward.
It reminded me of being stuck in Kalamazoo?, waiting around for desserts I couldn't eat because it was Passover and for women I couldn't touch because of my religious beliefs (and the fear that they'd call the police on me if I did).
I found Big Book to be a tiresome exercise akin to writing an essay (a form I hate) for somebody else who's going to have ultimate authority over my words, have me rewrite them several times, then force me to come up with a conclusion (at which point I quit because I do not want to be didactic about parts of my life). OK, this was my experience with Dave Deutsch as my editor at Heeb magazine, but that's not why I am being nasty now. I just really hate this book on its own demerits.
I fear that Heeb Editor/Publisher Joshua Neuman created a monster when he called Dave "the world's worst Jewish comedian." To any normal man who wanted to be funny, this title would've been taken as the grossest insult, but for Dave it only encouraged him...and now we have this awful book destined for remainder shelves.
Halfway through, I lay down on my floor and took a nap, hoping to rid myself of the burden I felt to compose questions for Dave in our upcoming interview. But there's absolutely nothing I want to know. In fact, the less I know about the composition of this book (like the composition of Kalamazoo?) the better. The less said about this book the better. I shouldn't even be writing this entry.
I felt so upset I couldn't rest and was driven to my keyboard by my commitment to truth (and that verse in Leviticus about not standing by while your neighbors are bored) to warn my readers about the sheer awfulness of Big Book. Frankly, the works of the late William Pierce are much more entertaining.
It's because of books like Big Book that gas chambers were built.
I won't be surprised if some rednecks tie Dave and Josh to a pickup truck and drag them around Manhattan until they promise not to publish anymore.
I am not endorsing this type of behavior. I just say that I would understand it.
Dave Deutsch writes:
In This Week's Torah Portion We Learn About The Exodus From Egypt
Every Saturday morning in a traditional synagogue, we read aloud the Haftorah (which translates into English as the Book of Profits). In this week's portion, we cover the story of David Vs. Goliath:
No wonder nobody wanted to go with me to this movie. It stunk.
The premiere was scheduled for 7:30pm at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre at 8949 Wilshire Blvd. I've been to premieres there three times before and never liked a film yet. I only get invited to such a cool place when they are desperate to fill seats.
I wanted to make sure I could find easy street parking, so I arrived at 6:35pm and sat in my van and read for 40-minutes. After I get out and walk the 20-yards to Wilshire Blvd, this big black man drives up and asks me if I'm going to the premiere. I say yes. He asks me where he should park. I don't know. I suggest he drive around.
Once the movie gets going, I find out the black man was one of the actors.
I sit between two women -- a writer and a cameraman's assistant. I chat them both up, but once the movie finishes, the writer leaves. I turn to the remaining woman and say, "Nice camera angles."
She stares straight ahead. I keep my gaze. Finally she turns and looks at me with the neutral expression you give a mad man. I beat it down to the dessert table. Unfortunately, because of Passover, I can't eat anything but strawberries.
As I sip a cup of decaf coffee, a tall handsome man filled with Mid-Western goodness approaches me. He says he's Matt Jakubowski, staff writer for the Kalamazoo Gazette. I guess it is a real town of about 70,000 people in Michigan. Writer/producer Joanna Clare Scott and producer Dana E. Kowalski are from there. (I wince whenever I see a Polish name because I'm having terrible luck with Polish women this month.)
Matt asks me my opinion of the movie. I say it was a complete flop. It's a shame that Joanna and Dana would devote years of their lives to this (it's about their only credit) because the movie said nothing. It was a tissue of cliches. Why devote so much of yourself (the movie was obviously a personal statement for the women producers, and the show tonight was co-sponsored by Women in Film) to something where you have nothing to say?
I know I'm in trouble with a movie when there's only one character I want to date (Josie Davis) and even here my urge wasn't so intense that it hurt. I mean, I wouldn't have thrown her out of shul for eating crackers during Passover, but...
I guess this movie is a big deal in Kalamazoo, but I doubt it will have meaning anywhere else.
The crowd of about 500 people seemed largely made up of family and friends of the people behind the movie. And their reaction was subdued. At the end, there was only a smattering of applause. Many people fled the building rather than lie to the makers about how much they enjoyed the film.
The main problem was with the script. It had nothing to say. The actors did the best they could.
March Book Sales
Behind The Scenes At eYada.com
From Lukeford.net Wire Services Ltd:
Late in the year 2000, the staff of now-defunct internet radio network eYada.com ebulliently played its first and last company softball game. New York Met Keith Hernandez stood at the plate, and despite drizzly weather, Team eYada was jazzed a sense of privileged media insiderism. Host Bob Berkowitz, formerly of CNBC, coached first base. New York Yankee Mike Mussina's brother, Mark Mussina, co-host of a sports show, played left field. On the sidelines sat Daily News gossip columnist/eYada host Joanna Molloy.
Hernandez hit a dribbler to the pitcher, shook hands with the employees, and disappeared. Shortly thereafter the game broke up. It was later revealed that Hernandez was paid for his guest innings in eyada's game.
In a similar spirit, at approximately 4:00 pm on January 7, eYada.com CEO Bob Meyerwitz, who once hosted the King Biscuit Flower Hour and had made a fortune on ultimate fighting, assembled a meeting of the staff in eYada's state-of-the-art Times Square offices, where a zip sign on the wall cycled the words: "Live Streaming Now." Proclaimed Meyerwitz, "For many of you this will be your last day."
And so it came to pass. Among the casualties were host Michael Lewittes, of US Magazine and other publications too numerous to mention. During his tenure, the then-New York Post columnist sat in his glass studio, refusing to take guests, regaling his audiences with hot juicy morsels of celebrity poop. Often he sang a self-authored theme song: "If it's a little comedy you're after, Michael Lewittes will supply the laughter/ Call me, call me toll-free at eYada. It won't cost a dime -- I'm talkin' nada!" In point of fact, according to eYada insiders, that's just about how many listeners the Yale-educated, devoutly Jewish, Upper East Side native Lewittes had.
Following the wave of firings that included Lewittes, eYada was left with 12 shows and 50 employees. According to one insider, "When eYada started in the fall of 1999, Meyerwitz apparently thought he had a business that would change the face of talk radio. Listeners could actually hear and watch their hosts on their computer screen. Chase Capital was so taken with the plan, they dumped 25-mil into the concept. Sure, there was money, and eYada was not shy about tossing it around. Some hosts made more than six figures. Others hosts and producers made yearly salaries of $65k."
Eyada shelled out for events as well, spending an estimated $40,000 on the first- and last-ever "gossip summit," in which gossip writers from all over the country were invited to discuss "the state of gossip in the Millenium" at Shelley's, a 57th Street eatery. Richard Johnson of Page Six, George Rush and Joanna Molloy of the Daily News, and of course the ubiquitous Michael. Out of town gossipists were flown in and lodged at eYada's expense. Oz star and former Hell's Angel Chuck Zito provided "security."
Attendees walked down a red carpet and were greeted by actors paid to pose as paparazzi. Inside, a lush buffet disgorged jumbo shrimp, roasted duck and the open bar dispensed cocktails in abundance. The event garnered wide media attention including spots on Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood.
The dot.com shakeout was already under way, but Myerowitz, according to insiders, believed eYada to be an exception
Still, in early January and February, 2001, eYada started to unravel. Nineteen shows, mostly ones dedicated to sports and health and fitness, were canceled. Pink-slipped were marathon runner Grete Weitz and Kevin Cook, the well-respected contributor to Sports Illustrated and other major market mags. Several of eYada's 40k-a-year BBS operators were let go as well.
To create an illusion of a full and functioning operation, Meyerowitz had the skeleton staff moved from a back office and into the newsroom. Although eYada still had about 60,000 listeners a week, advertising numbers were negligible. Recalled an eYada insider, "One ad exec finished listening to an eYada rep's polished pitch, then went to his window and let out a primal scream, informing the salesman that more people heard him than would ever hear his eYada ad. Eyada's months-old billboard ads, depicting men in a sauna, stayed up because none had been purchased to replace them.
Trying to forestall the inevitable, eYada's marketing director used guerilla tactics to reign in listeners, such as posting celebrity interviews on the GO TO site. If a listener clicked onto eyada through the link, eYada paid Go To pennies for each listener. Meanwhile, producers were ordered to send out eYada links to as many sites as possible. Recalled an insider, "Howard Stern fan sites seemed to be the most productive. Ultimately eYada got its biggest boost of exposure from the King of All Media ---particularly Stern Wack Packer-turned-eYada host Chaunce Hayden, who convinced Stern to tell his millions of listeners to log on to eYada.
Stern predicted that eYada's server would be unable to handle the heavy usage and crash. For 17 minutes, eYada's "15 minutes," eYada stayed afloat on Stern's show. Hayden, with a pomp and circumstance usually reserved for unrolling Torah scrolls, implored Stern's in-studio strippers to fish out their breasts.
The simulcast-like arrangement was costly: eYada was paying for each listener to stream the show, but the post-Stern show numbers hovered around 300,000 listeners a week.
By summer, four of eYada's 11 shows were dedicated to sex. On the Thursday before the July 4th weekend, Meyerwitz announced that that eYada was on its last legs. Chase Capital was wavering and not putting forth more money. "The fat lady is standing," he said at a hastily called staff meeting. Meyorwitz proclaimed that he would make one desperate attempt to get the money.
Meanwhile, in a publicity-seeking frenzy, host Chaunce Hayden, parroting the Stern show, encouraged a guest to defecate in his hands. Despite Hayden's hands poised athwart her buttocks, the woman was only able to deliver two blasts of flatulence as nauseated eYada staffers sat by in shock.
Shortly thereafter, Meyerowitz pulled the plug on eYada, dismissing his staff with no severance and the words, "The fat lady has sung."
I've Lost My Mojo
I'm going to a movie premiere tonight. I've asked half-a-dozen different women to accompany me. Some women with honorable professions and some with other professions. Some white and some not-white. Some Jewish and some goyish. But there was one thing they all had in common -- and that was their reply: "No."
Google and NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) are killing me.
'If Women Show, Men Can Look'
If women wear revealing clothing, men can look, says Dennis Prager on his radio show. He referred to the case in Atlantic City where various employees used security cameras at a casino to focus on women wearing revealing clothing. "It is crass for the guy to ogle, but the notion that the woman wearing revealing clothing is a victim is not intellectually honest," says Prager.
Female callers say they are sick of women acting like victims. If women are showing their breasts, then they should expect male attention to that part of their anatomy.
Is Yori Yanover The Constitution Man?
Over the past nine months, there's been a lot of nasty anonymous email and spam (often sections of the constitution, a la senator Robert Byrd's favorite filibustering tactic) to such blogs as as the late Protocols, Jewish Whistleblower (JWB), and the Jewish Survivors of Sexual Abuse (JS). This stuff has been attributed by some bloggers (including JS and JWB) to Yori Yanover. I asked him if it was true.
On his website USAJewish.com, Yori has added jokes as well as explanations of why they are funny.
Fundraising For The First Female-Written Torah Scroll
Progressive Seattle congregation Kadima has sent a woman (Aviel Barclay) to Israel to become certified as a scribe (demands great holiness and rectitude) and she's a quarter-way through writing a Torah scroll (the first five books of the Bible).
Every few minutes, Marsha takes a break and brings on cantor Aviva Rosenbloom, the only person in the crowd, aside from me, who's wearing a yarmulke.
Avivia says that when she was hired by Temple Israel (Reform), she was the first full-time female Jewish clergy hired in Los Angeles (about 30 years ago).
When Aimee began speaking to the crowd of about 100, her voice repeatedly and dramatically cracked. I feared she was going to start crying (few things frighten me as much as a woman's tears). I don't think it was public speaking nerves that brought this on but rather the intense emotions she felt talking about her work, her grandparents (Holocaust survivors, the grandpa taught her metal work) and her new faith in God and Torah (brought on by studying the verses of 'Hear O Israel' contained in the mezuzot she crafted).
Aimee will make the crown of the covering around this new scroll. Marsha will make the breastplate. Asked about her design plans, Marsha says, "I am addressing the breast plate. I imagine it will be shapely."
"Torah" is a female word in Hebrew. She is a tree of life to those who hold her close (words we sing in Hebrew when we put the Torah away every Sabbath morning, it's my favorite part of the service).
Everywhere I go, people ask me to write articles about their activities for the Jewish Journal. I don't know how to explain that I am unemployable without prompting them to call the police and take away the madman in their midst.
Folks, if you've got a good story, email AmyK at JewishJournal.com. She's the managing editor and my biggest fan. Just tell her I sent you.
Baby, I was born to blog.
Now I must put on my aluminum beanie cap to receive further instructions from planet Venus.
I have so much love to give (cue Air Supply music). It's a shame I have no better receptacle than this tawdry blog.
Making It To Mickey's Blog
Mickey Kaus writes 4/27: "...human Echelon Project Luke Ford..."
For me to show up in Mickey Kaus's writing is like Air Supply phoning to wish me a happy birthday (I turn 39 May 28) or Michael Kinsley inquiring about me, "What is his story?"
Mickey, Michael and Air Supply have played an enormous role in my life. For 20-years, Mickey and Michael taught me through their writing that opinion journalism can be funny and unpretentious (Cathy Seipp taught me the same thing over the past decade about media criticism) and Air Supply gave me hope that one day there will be two less lonely people in the world.
I had to click on Mickey's link to remember what the Echelon Project was. I guess it is electronic surveillance.
The profiles I keep on people who interest me (the one I did on Mickey is entirely fictitious) are the type of note-keeping I'd appreciate if I had to write about something or somebody for a regular journalism outlet. My profiles rarely have a point and I rarely shape them towards any end (aside from my desire to publish compelling material).
I have to assure some acquaintances that I am not keeping files on them and I will not write on them. Still, I am not as widely welcome as I should be.
What caught English professor Josh Kun's eye about my writing was not the sex or the Torah but my semi-academic tone. As he so eloquently put in his column: "...Ford's ranty, wanna-be-scholarly essays..."
I sent off polite interview requests today to Michael Kinsley and Andres Martinez as part of my ongoing project to raise the level of discussion in Los Angeles. I wonder what these two deep thinkers truly believe about decriminalizing bestiality and allowing people to marry their animal companions. Our society still has a love that dare not speak its name (except in Luke Ford Land, where tolerance reigns).
Last night, Hugh Hewitt mentioned he'd been reading me for years and described me as a pioneering blogger.
Mickey wonders why so few of the bloggers in attendance discussed last night's announcement of a new blogging ad network.
I haven't because I have little business expertise and few tools for knowing how seriously to take the new venture. Also, I don't want to speculate about something that might put money in my pocket.
I don't think I've ever written much about blogging. To me it's just another communication technology and what is important is what you do with it. I'm not a blogger triumphalist and I don't find talk about blogging per se interesting. I find smart people and smart ideas interesting and bloggers qua bloggers are no smarter than cell phone users (though, as blogging is a form of writing, I believe it is inherently beneficial to the person who does it (if he would not otherwise spend his time writing), and the discipline of regular writing should clarify the person's thinking and make him more self-aware).
Born To Blog?
A professional journalist friend told me that my blog about my dinner with Michael Kinsley was one thousand times better than an essay I'd written for publication in the Forward (killed at the last minute). He said I was born to blog.
Chaim Amalek writes:
LA Press Club Party
Hugh Hewitt was the guest of honor.
He reminds me of former Buzz magazine publisher/editor Allan Mayer. Both are at the top of their professions. They are prolific writers. But it is in their gracious sensibility, good manners and easily-read emotions that that they remind me of each other. With their fair skin, they blush easily. They are most proper (James Wolcott-types might call them supercilious). Whatever Hugh and Allan are feeling is written in big letters across their faces.
Bob Sipchen, Sunday LA Times Op/Ed editor, made the conventional case for newspapers. He appeared completely at ease in a crowd largely hostile to The LAT.
After Sipchen, Mickey Kaus spoke for 30 seconds to the crowd: "It would be a tragedy if newspapers went out of business, but it wouldn't be a tragedy if the L.A. Times went out of business [as whatever replaced it would be better]."
What exactly was Mickey's line here? "The LA Times is like the Lands End catalog of newspapers. They think they are a newspaper, but they're not changing fast enough."
Blogger Patterico had the misfortune of following Kaus, the model of an unpretentious intellectual, and said one-tenth as much as Mickey in ten times as much time (even though he'd been told ahead of time he'd be a featured guest, which should have clued him that he'd be speaking).
Patterico writes me:
As soon as I see Brady Westwater, my intuition immediately tells me that this man is a killer (he later confirmed that he is).
The intellectual brain power at the event was high but the number of attractive single young ladies was low.
James Wolcott writes: "Roger Ailes [not the one at Fox News], however, questions Mickey Kaus's presence at the event, since Mickey is not a book author and snipes at the LA Times whenever he has a spare moment, of which he has plenty."
Kaus wrote a highly acclaimed book on reforming welfare -- The End of Equality.
Every time I see Mickey with that hot blonde Kim Serafin (looks 18), I burn with jealousy and remember Michael Kinsley's remark about Mickey's preference for "whacky right-wing blondes."
Overheard At The LA Times Book Fair
David Rensin: "So you had dinner with Luke Ford."
Michael Kinsley: "What's his story?"