Joshua Stein
Hope is a motto worth preserving PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 29 April 2011 02:54

Joshua SteinJoshua SteinIn 416 BCE, the citizens of Athens decided to invade Melos, an island neutral in the slaughter known as the Peloponnesian War, so as to compel it to join their side. When its forces landed, the Athenians would brook no opposition. Join us or face the consequence of slaughter or slavery, they told the “Melians.” The Melians protested. We don’t want to be on either side.

We want to remain neutral. You have no hope, the Athenians told them. Sparta is too far away, and the gods are on our side.  Hope, they told the Melian ambassadors, was the last refuge of the defeated. And the Athenians were right. The people of Melos resisted rather than become the slaves of Athens and the city was destroyed, the men were killed, the women and children were transported into slavery. The hope of the Melians was their last resort, the straw they clung to as help never arrived.

Historically accurate or not, Passover holds many pleasures PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 April 2011 18:39
Joshua SteinJoshua Stein

The only recognizably Roman Catholic member of the clergy I could identify was a nun sitting in the front row. We (and a capacity audience) were watching the North American première of Howard Brenton’s “Paul” at the Gamm Theatre. When the play was over, she was the first person to stand and applaud. I turned to my wife, tapped her on the shoulder, gestured with my chin to the nun and asked, “Did she see the same play we did?” It’s hard to imagine.

Some background: According to the Book of Acts, the fifth book of the New Testament, those who knew and followed Jesus were still Jews, but thought the Messiah had come in the person of Yeshua (Aramaic for Joshua). They still obeyed the traditional laws, but were persecuted because they had been baptized and because they shunned both Pharisaic and Sadducean authorities. Their principal persecutor was Saul of Tarsus who, hearing that there were Jewish followers of Yeshua in Damascus, decided to go there to stamp out the community. On the road to Damascus, he experienced a blinding light and heard a voice say “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Realizing that only the voice of Yeshua would say such a thing – though he had been crucified and was presumed dead – he converted to the new faith.

I am a Jewish humanist PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 01 April 2011 20:19
Joshua SteinJoshua Stein

A recent letter complains that The Jewish Voice & Herald is becoming a platform for the Democratic Party with a leftist agenda that alienates conservatives; the letter writer uses my last column and me as his prime example.

I admit to being an economic liberal. In fact, I’m proud of it. I think that taxing the wealthy to support public programs such as bridge repair, heath insurance, medical research, etc. is all to the good. I think that former President George W. Bush was right on target when the announced that his form of conservatism was “Compassionate conservatism,” suggesting that the other kind, the usual kind, the Reagan kind, is not. It’s too bad that his words were lip service only.

In his 1988 acceptance speech when nominated by the Republicans to run for president, George H. W. Bush talked of making America a kinder, gentler nation. Although that upset Reagan acolytes, he, too, was on to something. Do liberals have all the answers? No. Do I disagree with some liberal positions? Yes. As to being called a liberal or a conservative, I think the terms have lost their meanings.

Free speech isn’t free PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 18 March 2011 14:25
Joshua SteinJoshua Stein

If turn-about is fair play, if the majority cannot simply clobber the minority into submission in the land of the free and the home of the brave, let’s pass a law that calls for annual election of governors of Wisconsin and not have their salaries automatically deposited.

Let’s pass a law that for every dollar a billionaire donates to one party he has to donate 50 cents to the other. Free speech isn’t free, after all. Soon enough it will be Passover and we will be reminded again about Pharaoh’s unfair labor practices. At our table I think we’ll contrapuntally read excerpts of the conversations between Governor Walker and the man he thought was David Koch. If that fundraiser from National Public Radio (NPR) resigned after he was caught in a sting; if the woman who was NPR’s chief executive officer resigned after her subordinate was caught in a sting; doesn’t fair play suggest that Walker resign too? (When kosher pigs fly. Maybe.)

I’ve been thinking about union-busting a lot lately. You can’t avoid it; it’s everywhere: Wisconsin, Ohio, Providence. The old manufacturing unions are pretty well pre-busted. Not because American workers abandoned them, but because capitalists decided to close shop up north and move south – only later to discover that they could make even more money off the backs of cheaper labor in Asia, so they hightailed it across the Pacific.

Purim is a time for telling tales PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 04 March 2011 02:34
Joshua SteinJoshua Stein

Paul Krugman stole my Nobel Prize. I don’t hold it against him, but I think the guy should at least publicly acknowledge the debt. As many of you know we were roommates in college (Yale ‘74) who’ve maintained our friendship over the decades, meeting each year on Boxing Day to exchange gifts and get hammered (he’s a Jameson’s man, I go for Glenlivet). It was my idea that resulted in the paper that he was cited for in his Nobel citation; he just did the statistical analysis. He doesn’t exactly deny this, but he claims that anything written on a sleazy bar’s coaster dated Dec. 26 any year doesn’t count as co-authorship. “Nonsense,” I counter, but he rejoins with “Ha!” and shows me his medallion.

But now his guilt feelings have paid big dividends as he’s shared with me in strictest confidence an explosive WikiLeaks revelation that he’s planning to release in his column on March 20, “Just in time for Purim,” he tells me. He thinks I’m going to sit on this, that I’m not going to scoop him, not beat him to the publication punch, that the promise I made last Dec. 26 to keep his confidences holds the same weight as if spoken when sober? He thinks the Nobel is his exclusively? Ha! Read on.

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