Sunday, August 1, 2010


I was forced to close the comments section of the last blog post when five extremely violent, death-threatening posts came in quick succession.  I can't tell whether they're real, but they also made threats against other people, so I handed them over to the police along with the posters' IPs.  I'm going to keep the comments section closed for a while.  It's a pity because I have always taken pride in allowing those who disagree to state their opinions freely in comments on this blog.  But remarks like "you half-blood pseudo thai-chinese hi-so fem chink - the reds will be painting ratchaprasong with your blood" (and that was one of the milder ones) scare me.  I'm only human. 

My discussion of Mr. Amsterdam has drawn a lot of virulent commentary, but also some praise even from people like the Secretary-General of ASEAN, who said in an email: "it was brilliant... It's the style, the structure of and substance of your argument that are more decisive and critical to publications and readers. Your style reminds me of philosophical debates of the enlightenment...stimulating, entertaining and illuminating at the same time.   The part critical to the PM ... is particularly effective and fundamentally correct. It is powerful in that sense."

Unlike some of the other commentators, Dr. Surin didn't fail to notice that I have no compunction about being critical of all sides in this.

I was flattered that Robert Amsterdam himself would respond to my blog on his blog, but all he really does is try to push the dialogue back to ground on which he feels more comfortable.  He is of course too intelligent to actually have missed my point.  He complains that I only addressed one of the myriad points in his White Paper, but of course, that point having been addressed, he does concede that my methodology for addressing that point is proper and fair.  Well, exactly.  A "fair fight" is in fact possible on Mr. Amsterdam's turf.  As soon as someone pays me as much as Mr. Amsterdam's getting paid, I'll gladly tackle such a fight.  I don't mind giving up my time to do the research if the fees can keep the opera going for the next five years!

Mr. Amsterdam understands that the point of my "rebuttal" (It's not a rebuttal — see preceding paragraph) is to explain that the entirety of the White Paper has validity only insofar as it is understood in the context of Mr. Amsterdam's strategy as a paid advocate.   It may masquerade as truth, but "whole" truth will only be possible if other "white papers" from all the different sides (there are not, despite Mr. Amsterdam's courtroom-based black-and-white portrayal of the case, only two sides in this conflict) are presented at the same time.  He also understand that there is no defense against this point.  His only viable strategem is to drag the argument back to his own turf.  He's a good lawyer and he did what a good lawyer must do.

I am a little saddened that Mr. Amsterdam and others decided to play the seventh card in the shyster deck.  I avoided mentioning it in my post because of all the possible cards, it can only be played "after all else fails."  I am referring of course to the race card.  It's the "Well, if you don't agree with me it can only be because you hate Jews/gays/African-Americans/name your own oppressed minority."

In this case, my use of the word "shyster" has caused him to paint my arguments with a racial bias.

Now, the dictionary in my iPhone, and the Merriam-Webster dictionary as well, both say that this word means "a dishonest lawyer or politician".  There's no racial element in this definition.  I've lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, totally at home in the extremely Jewish culture of neighborhoods like Encino, and I come from a family of highly distinguished lawyers.  English, American English in particular, is my native language.  I don't know every single word in the language, but my novels are twice cited as a source in the Oxford Dictionary of English Idiom.  I have used this word among lawyers, and among Jews, and heard it used by them, my entire life, without racial coloration.

It is my understanding that a minority view that this word has a racial implication comes from an erroneous conflation between the word and "shylock" — a word which is in fact frequently used as a racial slur.  (Although I would have to say that in Shakespeare's play, Shylock is by no means painted as an utter villain, and his speech "hath not a Jew eyes" is as potent an anti-racism statement today as it was five centuries ago.)

Robert Horn, a Jewish writer who works for Time, wrote to me:"I'm Jewish, and I don't regard your use of the word shyster as anti-semitic at all."  I believe that this opinion would be shared by most literate native speakers.

I'm not that sad to lose a word like "gay" to a narrower definition, because its original meaning has many synonyms.  However, I know of only one good word for "dishonest lawyer".  To eliminate that word from the general vocabulary would be a loss for the English language.

I'm a passionate advocate of music by Jewish composers, was the only person in Thailand to contribute a concert to the Daniel Perlmann World Music Days, was the only person in Southeast Asia that I know of to stage a big concert in memory of Simon Wiesenthal.  I'm an anti-Semite?  If there is a jot or tittle of anti-Semitism in my heart, it is known only to ha-Shem!

Now that that is dealt with, I would have to add that I could have played the race card in my article.  For example, I could have said something like "For Mr. Amsterdam to attempt to equate those tragic deaths to the Holocaust is a betrayal of his own racial heritage."  I didn't say that because it is not kosher.  Not cricket. Dirty pool.  And it is something you would only do if you were losing the argument.

One of the commentators said that Amsterdam and I should get to know each other, even work together. I'm not entirely averse to that.  Maybe we could have a TV show, like CNN's "Crossfire".  If you're reading this, Bobby, let's do lunch.