Wednesday, February 22, 2023

A Cracking Good Word

 I like crack.

The word, that is. Specifically, I like how wide-spanning it is. I like words that have many multiple meanings that are seemingly unrelated and distant from one another. Some words have many definitions but you can kind of trace how they're all connected. But "crack" covers a wide range and the connection points are, in many cases, at least not superficially obvious.

Let's trace some of the ways "crack" can be used:

First, of course, there is "crack" as in a gap or fissure ("A crack in the foundation").

There's also "crack" as in a loud noise ("A crack of lightning.").

Then there's "crack" as in to solve ("I cracked the case!").

There's "crack" as in elite ("Crack troops guarded the valley").

There's "crack" as in an attempt ("I'll take a crack at it").

There's "crack" as in making a joke ("'No soap, radio!' he cracked).

And of course there's also "crack" as in the drug -- crack cocaine.

That's a very expansive range -- and it doesn't count the related conjugates (i.e., crack as fissure is the noun, but there's also the verb form to crack -- to create such a fissure). Moreover, I don't intuitively see the pathway by which the various meanings came into being. The one exception is "crack" as solve, which I can imagine (though this is speculation) comes specifically from cracking a safe, i.e., solving the "puzzle" of a safe which results in opening it a crack. So those two I can perhaps tie together. But other than that? It's a mystery I cannot crack.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Diaspora Minister To Diaspora: Shut Up

Israel has a "Minister of Diaspora Affairs" -- a cabinet official whose very job is predicated on recognition of and respect for the unique relationship the state of Israel has with the global Jewish community.

And now, as hundreds of thousands of Israelis march in protest over the Israeli government's attempt to neuter an independent judiciary, the Minister of Diaspora Affairs has a message for the Jewish diaspora and international community who are backing these protesters and echo their concerns: shut up.

The Israeli minister responsible for relations with Jews in the Diaspora has a message for the government of the country where most of them live: “Mind your own business.”

Amichai Chikli made the comment Sunday in a radio interview in Israel, where he was asked to address recent comments by U.S. ambassador Tom Nides, who said he was urging Israeli leaders to “pump the brakes” on their controversial effort to change the country’s judiciary.


Chikli had a retort: “I say to the American ambassador, put on the brakes yourself and mind your own business,” he said. “You aren’t sovereign here, to get involved in the matter of judicial reform. We will be happy to discuss foreign and security matters with you. But respect our democracy.”

I especially appreciate the frankly laughable notion that the Israeli government is more inclined to listen to international and diaspora voices when it comes to foreign policy and security matters. These are in fact the areas where the Israeli government is most obstinate in the notion that outsiders lack skin in the game and ought not dare second guess the policy choices of the people who actually live there ("the people who actually live there", of course, does not include Palestinians, whose opinions it is entirely proper and indeed mandatory to ignore altogether).

But the actual consistent policy is straightforward: Israel does not care what the diaspora thinks. As much as a "Minister of Diaspora Affairs" suggests otherwise, the position of the Israeli government is that there is no special relationship between Israel and the global Jewish community. Our role is to sit back and shut up.

At the end of the day, though, Israel is a sovereign nation, it is indeed up to them to decide how to exercise their sovereign powers. And likewise, it is up to America and other countries throughout the world -- also in their capacity as independent sovereigns -- to decide what their own policies will be towards Israel as a result of the choices Israel makes. Sovereignty meets sovereignty.

Biden Visits Ukraine

President Joe Biden made a top-secret (but now public) visit to Ukraine in a show of solidarity as the country continues to face down Russia's war of aggression.

I don't have a lot to add to this except to say that as symbolic gestures go, this is quite the move. It obviously is reminiscent to trips Presidents Bush and Obama had made to Iraq and Afghanistan, but even more difficult to pull off given that Ukraine doesn't have American troops on the ground providing a security buffer.

As the GOP continues to play footsie with Putin's authoritarian thuggery, and the usual red-brown alliance pushes for Ukrainian capitulation and subjugation, this act of solidarity by the President is more than welcome.