a farewell to shmaltz

     Shmaltz
Fat, especially chicken fat. Used in place of butter in kosher homes when a meat meal is served. The cracklings left after chicken fat is rendered are gribbenes or greevn. My mother made her own chicken fat and kept it in the refrigerator in a Skippy’s Peanut Butter jar.
    There’s a Romanian-Jewish restaurant on the old Lower East Side, Sammy the Waiter’s, that has one of those glass pitchers other restaurants use for cream or maple syrup, filled with schmaltz on every table. Marvin Hamlisch’s dad used to play accordion at this restaurant. It was during one of his breaks that Zero Mostel stood up and shouted at the top of his lungs, “This food killed more Jews than Hitler!”
    My theory is that although Jews in Eastern Europe were poor, we were fairly certain of two good meals a year; for the new year in the fall and for Passover in the spring. So we invented a cuisine we could taste for six months just to remember.
    Shmaltz and its Americanized adjective, shmaltzy (in Yiddish it would be shmaltzik), also refer to high-cholesterol styles of music and tear-jerking drama.

    —Joel Siegel, Lessons For Dylan: On Life, Love, the Movies, and Me, PublicAffairs, 2004, p. 239.
Zero Mostel’s restaurant review is corroborated by The New Yorker, Volume 50 (1974), p. 84.


European cultures are of three kinds: wine drinkers who cook their food in olive oil; beer drinkers who cook their food in butter; and vodka drinkers who don’t much care for cooking, or food. My lifelong project is to ascend from the last position, to the first.

gun control after hitler

Omer Bartov, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of genocide, recounts its lessons to Salon:

Just imagine the Jews of Germany exercising the right to bear arms and fighting the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht. The [Russian] Red Army lost 7 million men fighting the Wehrmacht, despite its tanks and planes and artillery. The Jews with pistols and shotguns would have done better?

As a matter of fact, though nowise limited to pistols and shotguns, my Jewish father and his brother did a lot better inflicting disproportionate casualties upon the Wehrmacht on behalf of the Red Army. By contrast, owing to the Soviet policy of victim disarmament, they were unable to resist the emissaries of their triumphant State, dispatched to convey them to the GULag after the closing of international hostilities.

Is Professor Bartov making the point that in so far as my family and my kind are powerless to resist la raison d’État on our own, we might as well put our trust in our democratically elected princes, and learn to relax and enjoy their periodic infringements of our fundamental rights? Or is his reference to having been a combat soldier and officer in the Israeli Defense Forces, and knowing “what these assault rifles can do” meant to suggest to the contrary, that we Jews ought to arm ourselves with the deadliest small arms available, in consideration of two millennia of oppression and genocide visited upon our ancestors?

Arms, kept and borne individually or institutionally, aren’t a panacea. Thus France was heavily armed, but quickly succumbed to the Nazis, whereupon she used her arms to round up French Jews for extermination on their behalf. Would I and my likes be morally, physiologically, or economically better off armed or disarmed on the occasion, or in the anticipation, of the next Vel d’Hiv roundup?

étienne de la boétie on the master-slave dialectic

C’est ainsi que le tyran asservit les sujets les uns par les autres. Il est gardé par ceux desquels il devrait se garder, s’ils n’étaient avilis : mais, comme on l’a fort bien dit pour fendre le bois, il se fait des coins de bois même. Tels sont ses archers, ses gardes, ses hallebardiers. Non que ceux-ci ne souffrent souvent eux-mêmes de son oppression ; mais ces misérables, maudits de Dieu et des hommes, se contentent d’endurer le mal, pour en faire, non à celui qui le leur fait, mais bien à ceux qui, comme eux, l’endurent et n’y peuvent rien. Et toutefois, quand je pense à ces gens-là, qui flattent bassement le tyran pour exploiter en même temps et sa tyrannie et la servitude du peuple, je suis presque aussi surpris de leur stupidité que de leur méchanceté. Car, à vrai dire, s’approcher du tyran, est-ce autre chose que s’éloigner de la liberté et, pour ainsi dire, embrasser et serrer à deux mains la servitude ? Qu’ils mettent un moment à part leur ambition, qu’ils se dégagent un peu de leur sordide avarice, et puis, qu’ils se regardent, qu’ils se considèrent en eux-mêmes : ils verront clairement que ces villageois, ces paysans qu’ils foulent aux pieds et qu’ils traitent comme des forçats ou des esclaves , ils verront, dis-je, que ceux-là, ainsi malmenés, sont plus heureux et en quelque sorte plus libres qu’eux. Le laboureur et l’artisan, pour tant asservis qu’ils soient, en sont quittes en obéissant ; mais le tyran voit ceux qui l’entourent, coquinant et mendiant sa faveur. Il ne faut pas seulement qu’ils fassent ce qu’il ordonne, mais aussi qu’ils pensent ce qu’il veut, et souvent même, pour le satisfaire, qu’ils préviennent aussi ses propres désirs. Ce n’est pas tout de lui obéir, il faut lui complaire, il faut qu’ils se rompent, se tourmentent, se tuent à traiter ses affaires et puisqu’ils ne se plaisent que de son plaisir, qu’ils sacrifient leur goût au sien, forcent leur tempérament et le dépouillement de leur naturel. Il faut qu’ils soient continuellement attentifs à ses paroles, à sa voix, à ses regards, à ses moindres gestes : que leurs yeux, leurs pieds, leurs mains soient continuellement occupés à suivre ou imiter tous ses mouvements, épier et deviner ses volontés et découvrir ses plus secrètes pensées. Est-ce là vivre heureusement ? Est-ce même vivre ? Est-il rien au monde de plus insupportable que cet état, je ne dis pas pour tout homme bien né, mais encore pour celui qui n’a que le gros bon sens, ou même figure d’homme ? Quelle condition est plus misérable que celle de vivre ainsi n’ayant rien à soi et tenant d’un autre son aise, sa liberté, son corps et sa vie !!


Jean-Léon Gérôme, Slave Auction, 1866, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Thus the tyrant enslaves his subjects, ones by means of others. He is protected by those from whom he would have to guard himself, were they not abased: but, as it is well said, to split wood one needs wedges of the selfsame wood. Such are his archers, his guards, his halberdiers. Not that they themselves do not often suffer at his hands, but these wretches, accursed alike by God and man, are content to endure evil in order to commit it, not against him who wrongs them, but against those who, like themselves, suffer him and cannot help it. And yet, when I think of those men who basely flatter the tyrant to profit at once from his tyranny and from the servitude of the people, I am almost as astonished by their folly as by their wickedness; for to get to the point, how can they approach a tyrant, but by withdrawing further from their liberty, and, so to speak, embracing and seizing their servitude with both hands? Let such men briefly lay aside their ambition, or slightly loosen the grip of their sordid avarice, and look at themselves as they really are; then they will realize clearly that the townspeople, the peasants whom they trample under foot and treat like convicts or slaves, they will realize, I say, that these people, mistreated though they be, are happier and in a certain sense freer than themselves. The laborer and the artisan, no matter how enslaved, discharge their obligation through obedience; but the tyrant sees men about him grovel and beg for his favor. They must not only do as he says; they must also think as he wills; and often to satisfy him they must anticipate his wishes. Their work is far from done in merely obeying him; they must also please him; they must wear themselves out, torment themselves, kill themselves with work on his behalf, and since they cannot enjoy themselves but through his pleasure, replace their preferences with his, distorting their character and corrupting their nature. They must continually pay heed to his words, to his intonation, to his glances, and to his smallest gestures: let their eyes, their feet, their hands be continually poised to follow or imitate his every motion, to espy or divine his wishes, or to seek out his innermost thoughts. Is that a happy life? Is that a life properly so called? Is there anything in the world more intolerable than that situation, not just for any man of nobility, but even for any man possessed of a crude common sense, or merely of a human face? What condition is more wretched than to live thus, with nothing to call one’s own, receiving from someone else one’s sustenance, one’s own accord, one’s body, and one’s life!!

—Étienne de La Boétie (1 November 1530 – 18 August 1563), Discours de la servitude volontaire, 1549

chumps of the world, undefeated

Emily Bazelon’s impassioned assault on the First Amendment, made in the names, and on the behalves of, receptive parties in failed romantic relationships, publicly shamed by their former mates, characteristically misses its mark. If speech is actionable, its kind will always already have been chilled, e.g. by statutes that penalize libel or invasion of privacy. The problem with banning “revenge porn” is that in the typical instances its content is true and its subject’s rights to privacy will have been waived through her voluntary communication thereof, by word or by deed, to the alleged tortfeasors who subsequently disseminate it against, or regardless of, her will. Under these circumstances, anti-SLAPP statutes designed to penalize the filing of lawsuits that aim to curtail protected speech, will typically require the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s legal fees and costs upon the ensuing showing that her lawsuit is unlikely to succeed on its merits in view of its Constitutional protection. Put simply, a reasonable expectation of privacy is generally waived through its subject’s voluntary disclosure of the underlying facts to any other party not bound by the duty of confidentiality. And it gets worse: if the former recipient of your sexual ardor wronged you in a way whereby she may wrong others, e.g. by infecting you with an STD, or even by screwing around behind your back in a way that exposed you to the mere likelihood of contracting an STD, your public disclosure of these facts would not be subject to liability under the privacy statutes, in virtue of being of legitimate concern to the public. Arguably, you have a duty to disclose it the general public, in proportion with your good faith belief that your perfidious ex represents a danger to others.

A fine survey of the remains of privacy’s disclosure tort can be found here.

scalia on civilian-legal stingers: no longer limited to the likes of osama bin laden?

Michael Feld points out that “to the extent that the 2d Amendment authorizes citizens to arm themselves against a potentially tyrannical government, whether Federal or State, it simply confounds reason to restrict such arms to small arms, and not to include the shoulder-mounted anti-helicopter missle launchers that drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan; and like that”.

The prevailing understanding of the Second Amendment is that it protects an individual right to keep and bear those, and only those small arms that are commonly used for self-defense and appropriate for service in the militia. Thus brass knuckles and sawed-off shotguns—ungood; handguns and machine guns—doubleplusgood. This is consistent with gun control, e.g. through licensing concealed carry of handguns or registering the ownership of machine guns. But outright bans on ownership and carry have been off the table since Heller and McDonald. Accordingly, I support and expect the reopening of the NFA registry, closed since May of 1986 for newly manufactured machine guns. It never got closed for destructive devices, but the Constitutional bounds of regulating civilian ownership of recoilless gun and rocket-propelled grenade launchers remain to be litigated. I for one do not wish their official distribution to civilians to proceed along the lines whose most prominent success story began with Ronald Reagan’s approval of providing Stingers to Osama bin Laden’s mujahedin confederates in March of 1986, pursuant to the original program finding signed six years earlier by Jimmy Carter.

пидорас в нехорошем смысле

Еврейский анекдот наоборот:
— Мойша, а ты знаешь, что Жора — пидорас?
— Что, он занял денег и не отдаёт?!
— Да нет, в хорошем смысле.

Une histoire juive à rebours :
— Moishe, tu savais que Gégé est un pédé ?
— Quoi, il a emprunté de l’argent et ne le rembourse pas ?
— Non, dans le bon sens.

The contrary of a Jewish joke:
— Moishe, you know that Gerry is a fag?
— What, he borrowed money and refuses to repay?
— No, in a good way.

Tenue de soirée vingt-sept ans après:

seul contre tous

—Tu sais ce que c’est que la morale ? Moi je vais te dire ce que c’est la morale. La morale, c’est fait pour ceux qui la tiennent, les riches. Et tu sais qui a raison à chaque fois ? C’est les riches. Et c’est les pauvres qui trinquent. Tu veux la voir ma morale à moi ?
—Euh… Ouais.
—Ouais ? Tu vas pas regretter après hein ?
—Je sais pas.
—Je crois que tu vas avoir un peu peur. La voilà ma morale. La morale c’est ça. Tu sais pourquoi je me balade avec ça ? Hein… ? Parce que celui qui m’amènera la morale avec son uniforme, OK ? Il aura plus de chance, OK ? D’avoir sa putain de justice derrière lui. Et moi, la voilà ma justice. Que tu te trompes ou que t’aies raison c’est la même chose mon grand.

—You know what morality is? I’ll tell you what it is. Morality is made for those who own it, the rich. And you know who is right every time? The rich. And it is the poor who pay the price. You want to see my morality?
—Uh… Yeah.
—Yeah? Sure you won’t regret it?
—I don’t know.
—I think it’s gonna scare you a little. Here is my morality. That’s morality for you. You know why I’m walking around with it? Huh…? Because the guy in blue shows off his morality, OK? He’s got the upper hand, OK? To have his fucking justice backing him up. But me, here is my justice. Right or wrong, same difference, my friend.

—Gaspar Noé, Seul contre tous, 1998