And the snake shall lie down with the hamster …

The Cinch Review

A snake has (allegedly) befriended a hamster that was put in its enclosure for it to eat, according to reports from a Tokyo zoo. [Update: I just noticed that this story is from 2006; somehow I came across it today and took it to be new. No matter!]

Their relationship began in October last year, when zookeepers presented the hamster to the snake as a meal.

The rat snake, however, refused to eat the rodent. The two now share a cage, and the hamster sometimes falls asleep sitting on top of his natural foe.


The hamster was initially offered to Aochan, the two-year-old rat snake, because it was refusing to eat frozen mice.


The apparent friendship between the snake and hamster is one of many reported bonds spanning the divide between predator and prey.

Really? Continue reading “And the snake shall lie down with the hamster …”

What if it hadn’t been Sgt. Crowley (who met Professor Gates that fateful day)?

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The Professor

At this point, we have the following narrative on the events of last July 16th in Cambridge, Massachusetts — one which appears to have won majority acceptance by the public (and I think rightly so): A neighbor called the police on seeing two men forcing their way into a house on her street; a house which had been broken into just weeks earlier. (Obviously she failed to recognize Professor Gates as the legitimate resident — but this is hardly a huge surprise these days, in an urban environment, when so few people really know their neighbors.)

Sgt. Jim Crowley, who happened to be very nearby, attended to the scene. Professor Gates, seeing a white police officer in his doorway and hearing a request to step outside of his home to talk, took deep umbrage on an immediate basis. The encounter progressed with Gates yelling accusations and demands, and Sgt. Crowley attempting to ascertain the facts of the situation. It ended with Gates pursuing Sgt. Crowley out of the house, still yelling and carrying-on, in the presence of other police officers and the general public, and with the arrest of Gates for disorderly conduct.

In the days following, competing narratives attempted to hold sway Continue reading “What if it hadn’t been Sgt. Crowley (who met Professor Gates that fateful day)?”

Manuel Emilio Mejia: The 1624th Name

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Brooklyn Bridge, Twin Towers

Yesterday, it was reported that another victim of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center by Islamic jihadists was positively identified, seven and a half years after his death:

The city medical examiner’s office says 54-year-old Manuel Emilio Mejia has been identified from remains found at the World Trade Center site in the months after the 2001 terrorist attack.

Mejia was a kitchen worker at Windows on the World, the restaurant on top of the trade center’s north tower.

Manuel Emilio Mejia was the 1,624th victim to be identified. More than 1,100 others still have not been positively identified.

It’s not easy to find information on Mr. Mejia, other than that he was a 54 year-old man, an immigrant from — I believe — Ecuador [correction: he was Dominican, according to the comment left below], and he worked in the kitchen at that Windows on the World restaurant, in the north tower of the World Trade Center. (A little bit about Windows on the World is at this link.) Although tributes to many of the victims are easy enough to find online, I can’t find anything personalized to Mr. Mejia: no photographs, no written remembrances. I wouldn’t assume from this that no one misses him. I can’t say. It seems very plausible that his loved ones are not the kind of people who spend a lot of time doing things on the internet.

My wife and I had a drink a couple of times at Windows on the World. It wasn’t really our bag; too expensive, basically. We assumed the food was priced at a big premium due to the unique location. But having a drink there, at the top of the world, was a kick, as I’m sure it was for countless other people. The Twin Towers were not what I’d call grand architecture, but they certainly filled their space, and gave work to Manuel Emilio Mejia and so many others. They were never so present in my consciousness as in the days after the attack, when the smell of the smoldering ruins, the grave of thousands of innocent people, swept up through Manhattan.

Also yesterday, it was reported that a jury had found that Ward Churchill was wrongfully terminated from his position as a professor at the University of Colorado.

The Denver jury awarded him just $1 in damages. A judge will decide later whether he gets his job back, reports the AP. […] The professor had claimed he was fired for exercising his free speech rights; the university had claimed that it was not about his views on Sept. 11 victims but that he had engaged in faulty and dishonest research. The jury today decided his firing was indeed about the contents of his essay.

In the essay, published one day after the attacks but widely disseminated years later, Churchill called those killed in WTC “little Eichmanns,” referring to the Nazi bureaucrat who ran the Holocaust machinery.

Adolf Eichmann has been described as the “architect of the Holocaust.” From this online biography:

Eichmann took a keen interest in Auschwitz from its founding and visited there on numerous occasions. He helped Höss select the site for the gas chambers, approved the use of Zyklon-B, and witnessed the extermination process.

At the death camps, all belongings were taken from Jews and processed. Wedding rings, eye glasses, shoes, gold fillings, clothing and even hair shaven from women served to enrich the SS, with the proceeds funneled into secret Reichsbank accounts.

With boundless enthusiasm for his task and fanatical efficiency, Eichmann travelled throughout the Reich coordinating the Final Solution, insuring a steady supply of trainloads of Jews to the killing centers of occupied Poland where the numbers tallied into the millions as the war in Europe dragged on.

As little as I know about Mr. Manuel Emilio Mejia, I am at least confident that he was not any kind of Adolf Eichmann. May he rest in peace and may the Good Lord have mercy on his soul.

Ward Churchill — for me at least — deserves no further comment.

Rabbi Leon Klenicki

Rabbi Leon Klenicki died this past January 25th, and may he rest in peace. By all accounts he was a giant for the last several decades in the field of Jewish/Christian dialogue.

In 1989, a book was published called “Believing Today: Jew & Christian in Conversation.” It was in effect a conversation between Rabbi Klenicki and Richard John Neuhaus (then a Lutheran pastor). I’ve found this little book to be endlessly fascinating, and I get some fresh illumination every time I pick it up again. Neither Klenicki nor Neuhaus are pretending to represent every practitioner of their respective faiths; it is just what it is: a conversation between two intelligent and knowledgeable believers who value being faithful to their respective traditions. There is no subject from which the two men shy away, be it the history of Christian anti-Semitism, the holocaust, the Messiah, the secularizing impulses of American Jewry, etc, etc. The book is not about holding hands and pretending that everyone believes the same things, but rather about understanding differences, and probing for genuine and firmly-based common ground. Which seem like good goals for Jewish/Christian relations in general. Continue reading “Rabbi Leon Klenicki”

Greil Marcus Is Optimistic About McCain’s Chances

Not to pick on Greil Marcus (we almost never do that here), but Expecting Rain linked to something he just wrote for Salon about the current election.

My whole life, my upbringing, education, travel and talk, from working in Congress as an intern at the height of the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s to every election in which I’ve ever voted, makes it all but impossible for me to believe that, on Tuesday, a single state will turn its face toward the face of a black man and name him president of the United States.

I disagree with Marcus about that. I’ve long believed that America could elect a black president. However, I did always think that the first black president was more likely to be a conservative. The results of today’s election will have something to say about all this, obviously.

What I find difficult to believe is that America will elect someone as extremely liberal and as lacking in true accomplishment as Senator Barack Obama. The truth about the race issue is this: Were it not for Barack Obama being of mixed race, he would not be the Democratic nominee at this point in time. He would be just another young liberal white politician from Chicago, and his odds of getting on a national ticket would be remote. It is his mixed race that has made people see him as a “transformational figure.” Certainly, his ability to give a good speech has helped him too, but without the powerful symbolism of his racial background, I do not believe he would have overcome the barriers presented by his political background. As it is, his political identity — based on his record — has been a secondary story.

Greil Marcus’s article provides another reason for McCain supporters to have hope, beyond Marcus’s apparent belief that Americans are irredeemably racist. It is in lines like this one: “The more likely an Obama victory seems, the more monstrous the alternative has become.” To Marcus and many others, it is simply unacceptable, it is morally wrong, for anyone to vote for John McCain. Obama must be elected. It is what we as Americans owe to history, apparently. This kind of attitude has not been lost on many ordinary Americans when they have been polled and asked for whom they intend to vote: that there is a right answer and a wrong answer. I’ve seen it reported that 80% of those first reached by some pollsters have refused to respond.

It is the very intolerance of the alternative reflected in this article by Greil Marcus (and in the behavior of academics who tear up McCain/Palin signs) that can give us hope that many quiet, ordinary Americans — the kind who don’t like picking fights or getting into yelling matches with wild-eyed liberals and rock critics — will come out today and peacefully but decisively express themselves in the polling booth.

Jimmy Carter: Let’s have a moment of silence in memory of ME

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There’s been some bad press for former President Jimmy Carter lately, in reaction to his book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” Alan Dershowitz has notably eviscerated in him in columns here and here. Fourteen of the advisors on the board of Jimmy’s Carter Center have just resigned in protest at what they call his “malicious advocacy” and his “strident” positions as expressed in the book.

Putting aside Carter’s visceral antipathy towards Israel, which to me is beyond debate at this point in time, there was recently a stunning example of just how spectacularly ungracious and self-serving this former president is. I’d seen him before in the kinds of public settings where graciousness is de rigeur, displaying very little of it (e.g. the opening of someone else’s presidential library). It has long seemed to me that he never got over being defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1980, and that his bitterness has only festered and grown through the years, as much as he tries to hide it behind that trademarked smile. Still, despite my extremely low expectations, even I was taken aback when I turned on C-Span recently and saw him attempting to use his eulogy for President Gerald Ford to score what can only be called political and self-aggrandizing points.

His eulogy for Ford followed that of Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld, as you would expect, spoke movingly in tribute to Ford (that’s generally the idea with eulogies). Carter took a somewhat different tack. His eulogy was far more about himself than it was about Gerald Ford. The general thrust of his references to Ford seemed designed to illustrate all the many ways in which old Jerry agreed with Jimmy Carter. Gerald Ford, although only a few feet away, was ill-situated to correct the record in any respect. Continue reading “Jimmy Carter: Let’s have a moment of silence in memory of ME”