March 2003 Archives

Among friends

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Dr. Aaron Lerner and his father, Joe, are the founders, directors and, well, chief editors of Independent Media Review & Analysis (IMRA), which disseminates news items, commentary and public service announcements relating to Israel and various religous, political and economic issues in the Middle East. IMRA has been an invaluable source of information and revelation to me for over half a dozen years. I'm deeply impressed with the amount of care, work and thought that go into this service and I find myself agreeing much more often that not with the editorial positions expressed there. Occasionally, however, I have a small problem and, today, I'm going to take a moment to pick a nit.

In Aaron's weekly radio commentary last Thursday, he repeated a point he has incessantly and necessarily emphasized over the course of the past several years:

If anyone thought Abu "use all means against settlers" Mazen was going to turn a new page as the PA's new prime minister, consider who he wants to bring in as "Interior Minister" to handle the official Palestinian security forces: Mohammed Dahlan, the former head of the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in the Gaza Strip.

And who do the Americans suggest make sure Dahlan behaves: the CIA.

Sound familiar? Well it should. Because that's exactly the fiasco we had
before.

Under Dahlan's leadership the elite Palestinian Preventive Security forces played a key role building the Palestinian terror infrastructure - contracting the manufacture of illegal weapons. And instead of fighting the illegal militias, Dahlan's Palestinian Preventive Security forces coordinated and directed the terrorist activities of the illegal militias.

And what did the CIA do? To the CIA's credit they did an excellent job training a generation of Palestinian snipers. The problem was that instead of using their skills to fight Palestinian terrorists, these CIA trained snipers have been murdering Israelis ever since.

And how did the CIA do in its role of monitor?

The CIA faces a tremendous conflict-of-interest challenge when put in the "monitoring" role. The CIA is involved in American efforts to deal with terrorists impacting American interests around the world and the Palestinian security officials have intimate contacts and relations with their terrorist brothers around the world. The CIA ignored illegal Palestinian activity in return for Palestinian information and assistance relating to other terrorist groups.

This point can't be repeated often enough. The CIA is not an objective monitor of compliance, it has proven itself not to be an objective monitor and its natural interests operate to assure that it will not be an objective monitor. No argument there. My problem is with the next paragraph.

It should also be kept in mind that the CIA's mandate is not to serve the truth but to serve American interests. When it serves American interests to proclaim that night is day, up is down or that the Palestinians are in compliance the CIA will do just that.

Now, on it's face, I have no problem with this statement, either. In fact, I believe it to be more or less correct. But the use of that nasty little phrase, "the truth," imparts a judgmental and accusatory flavor that misses the mark. Let's try it this way:

It should also be kept in mind that the CIA's mandate is not to serve Israeli interests but to serve American interests. When it serves American interests to proclaim that night is day, up is down or that the Palestinians are in compliance the CIA will do just that.

That's right. That's correct. And, unfortunately, that's the way it should be. The CIA's job, first and foremost, is to protect American security, American freedom, American interests. That's what it's there for. If those interests occasionally conflict with the interests of Israel, one of our strongest allies and (yes, I'll drag out this old chestnut) the only bastion of democracy in the Middle East, then, yes, even it means proclaiming that night is day or up is down, the CIA will do what it has to do to do its job. Protect American interests. As an American citizen, I wouldn't have it any other way. As a staunch supporter of Israel, I would hope such situations are not only few and far between, but virtually non-existent. But this may be one of those situations. So.

The answer is not to berate the CIA for doing its job. The answer is for the government of Israel to exercise its own sovereign powers and the powers of those agencies whose job is to protect Israeli citizens, Israeli freedom and Israeli interests to assure that those precious commodities are never, ever placed at the mercy of the CIA, the UN, or any other entity whose interests justifiably lie elsewhere. That's an imperative that the palestinians recognize fully, which is why they're so hell bent on bringing in the CIA, international observers, anyone at all whose own interests might be brought into conflict with those of Israel. That's why they're screaming, begging, pleading, cajoling and threatening for the immediate implementation of the "Road Map."

Here's my meme for the day: "Just say 'No!' to the 'Road Map'."

Of course, that course of action has consequences. But we've already seen the consequences of following this particular sort of map -- one in which temporary agreements are made for the sole purpose of allowing a beaten down palestinian "resistance" to regroup to fight again another day, while new concessions of land and shipments of guns and money are poured into their hands. It's entirely Israel's choice which set of consequences it will elect, but should it decide to rely yet again on the good graces of conflicted outsiders to protect its interests, let's not blame those outsiders when and if they choose to place their own interests first.

Ultimately, though, there really is very little light between Dr. Lerner's postion and mine on this issue. To put his well articulated point on it:

The challenge for leaders is to know when an issue is simply too important to concede. Menachem Begin did it when he ordered the bombing of the Iraqi reactor - knowing full well the costs Israel faced for the then unpopular move. The same goes today for rejecting the current version of the Road Map.

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Note: It seems to me that Alisa and I are in complete agreement on this point.

Shemini

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This week's Torah portion is called Shemini (Leviticus 9.1 - 11.47), and it's one of those strange ones that people puzzle over a lot. Most of it is what you might call "legalese," and not terribly entertaining (more about that in a minute) but suddenly in the middle, we have a mysterious high drama.

The parasha starts out with a detailed description of the ritual sacrifice, including the duties of Aaron, the High Priest, and those of his sons, and this section ends with the children of Israel being rewarded for their diligence when "the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people."

But then a terrible thing happens. Two of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, make an offering of "strange fire," something apparently out of the ordinary that had not been included in their specific instructions. And they're immediately burnt to a cinder. Now it's not clear what, if anything, they did wrong, but there is perhaps a clue in the nature of the rest of the parasha. After describing the rather circumscribed mourning process that follows the deaths of these two men, the text returns to its careful description of sacrificial rites. And then it goes on to describe, in minute detail, the dietary requirements to which Jews are expected to adhere. If you have any questions about what is or is not permitted under the laws of kashrut, you can find them here.

There are no end of hypotheses about the social, medical and theological foundations of the strict rules that govern what is and is not "kosher," but some say that all of these discussions are just so much hot air. The halacha (Jewish law) has no "rationale," according to this view, and isn't meant to be "understood." It's only meant to be obeyed, without question, deviation or innovation. And so, in the midst of a rather dry recitation of The Law, we find this story of two men, sons of the High Priest, no less, who took it upon themselves to get a little creative in their devotion and paid the ultimate price.

To me, this story says a lot about the circular roots of fundamentalism, and the chasm that yawns between those whose lives are guided by such principles and those who consider them from a distance. For those of us who believe that each person must find his or her own path to God, that sincere efforts tend to lead in that direction and that there is no single "right way," the dogmatism expressed in this week's Torah portion is unpalatable. But for those who strive to live the words of this Torah (or the New Testament or the Koran) in their day-to-day lives, the text simply points out the ultimate error and vanity of such "open" thinking.

The struggle to develop a democratic society in which both of these views can co-exist side by side is indeed a daunting one. Something of which I am reminded this week, as the State of Israel continues in that struggle along with the others that make for more dramatic headlines.

Shabbat Shalom.

A belated salute

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Blogging has been taking a back seat to other things going on around me the last few days, not the least of which has been the magnificent weather that's enabled me to spend some time in the garden playing with green growing things. Refreshment for the eyes, the heart and the soul.

But I didn't mean to let yesterday pass without at least making some reference to the passing of one of America's truly great public servants. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a man of passionate principle, a genuine gentleman in the best sense of the word and an enthusiastic crusader for the spread of liberty, freedom and prosperity throughout this nation and the world. He was a rare and wonderful individual. His loss diminishes us a bit, but his life more than compensated by enriching us a lot.

May his memory be a blessing.

Iraq for a day

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This is my proposal for a new little virtual reality show, to be enacted on the streets of America. You become a contestant, automatically, by participating in a die-in*, a puke-in, a mass flash or any other substantially disruptive demonstration of moral, intellectual and patriotic bankruptcy. Simple.

Here's the deal. In "Iraq for a day," you have no "rights." You may be whisked off by the "police" at the slightest provocation, locked in a filthy room without air, food or water, tortured in various hideous and unimaginable ways and then dumped ceremoniously back into the street. Your family may be rounded up and subjected to similar treatment for your entertainment. You might even wind up dead if you say or think or believe the "wrong" thing. Or if you refuse to fight and die for your country. That's right. It's not only that you'd better not even think about protesting the war. You're going to go and join it -- or catch a quick bullet in the head. Your choice.

Yes, I know all about that constitutional crap and the rule of law, but this is a game, silly. It's just good, clean fun. And my guess is, most of the contestants would learn how to avoid being voted off this plane of existence real quick by obeying the rules. They might also get a clue just exactly what it is that they're stopping traffic in New York to defend, first-hand, up close and personal. I'm beginning to think that nothing less is going to get through to them.

(* link via Diane)

Oren's "Pianist"

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Michael B. Oren, author of "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East" (Oxford University Press), among other titles, and senior fellow at The Shalem Center in Jerusalem, recently wrote a review* of "The Pianist" for The New Republic. In light of recent events, I found this part of the piece especially interesting. (*Subscription required)

But I have my own suspicion about the reasons for the critical success of The Pianist, especially in Europe. Here is a film that conflates the Jew's identity as victim with the Jew's role as savior; that reduces Europe's guilt to a specific evil and purifies it. Here, at last, is the film that Europe has been waiting for: the one that gets it off the hook. In this sense, this film full of bad news is really full of good news. It holds out the possibility of absolution.

And Oren later elaborates:

. . . [N]ot surprisingly, The Pianist, in particular the Hosenfeld scenes, has been acclaimed throughout Europe. Filmed in Berlin and Warsaw, financed by French cable television, it is a perfect product of Europe, made for its benefit.

For Wladyslaw Szpilman is Europe's stereotypical Jew: cosmopolitan, artistic, child-like, godless, rootless, utterly unprepared for history, and averse to power. Those same adjectives describe a certain contemporary European ideal. (The unfortunate political consequences of that ideal have been analyzed sharply by Robert Kagan.) By conflating Jewish identity and European identity--note the interplay of classical and klezmer melodies in the score--The Pianist has the effect of absolving Europe of its guilt.

By taking these excerpts out of their much fuller context, I'm somewhat obscuring Oren's main focus, which has more to do with Polanski's personal identity issues in particular and those of European Jewry in general, as well as the overall dilutive effect of political correctness in public appraisals of Holocaust "art." But Oren has made a separate and timely point here, which bears closer focus. It's about this process of absolution in which Europe has been bathing itself of late -- absolution from responsibility for the many evils that it permitted to thrive in its midst barely more than half a century ago. This process is allowing Europe the indulgence of reliving its inglorious past. It has, in Santayana's sense, actively solicited and cultivated permission to forget. The consequences are already apparent.

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Postscript: In Googling around for other mentions of Oren's review, I came across this infantile critique, of which I'll share just a representative snippet:

In short, Oren faults Polanski solely for his choice to adapt this particular story, penned by this particular pianist. The only logical conclusion is that Michael B. Oren’s pianist is smaller than Polanski’s.

And, in the same issue:

"Is blogging all it's cracked up to be?"

You have to link for the photo. I won't waste the bandwidth.

Awesome

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A few weeks ago, I mentioned the Kuwaiti ban on journalists passing news to Israel. In Friday's Jerusalem Post (the registration's not that bad), Caroline Glick reports on the trials and tribulations she had to endure in Kuwait as an (undercover) Israeli reporter on her way to being embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq. It's an incredible story. Here's the end:

For me, the main lesson from this odyssey is that to refer to the Middle East conflict as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to ignore the truth.

The truth is that at its root the conflict is about the Arab world's obsession with rejecting Israel. Kuwait hates the Palestinians. The Kuwaitis kicked the Palestinians out of their country.

The way I was treated had nothing to do with Beit El or Netzarim. It has to do with Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and the Bible.

As I joined the 2-7 mechanized infantry battalion on Tuesday night, I realized that it was the first time I had felt safe in 48 hours.

On Sunday afternoon, as I felt my body melting in the oppressive desert heat and its odor - borne of five days in the heat and dust and wind without a shower - wafted into my nostrils and shocked me, I understood how I would know when peace has come. Peace will be upon us when I can feel as safe and welcome at a five-star Kuwaiti hotel as I felt in the Kuwaiti desert with the US army.

Glick's the one, by the way, who broke the chemical weapons factory story.

Mea culpa

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I know, I know. I deserved it. I don't know what came over me, but I turned on the Academy Awards. By accident. Just for a few minutes. At precisely the wrong time.

I had to leave the room before the speech. Otherwise, property damage would have occured. At least, I hear, it got booed.

Next time, I'll take Lar's advice. Without question.

Dear anti-war protestors

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Yes, hello, I'm talking to you. Not that you're listening. Listening isn't one of the things you do well. If it were, if you were actually listening to your leaders and to yourselves, you might be starting to slink home with your heads down, dragging your colorful regalia behind you. You might be starting to wonder what the hell it is you've been doing out in the streets for the past several months, who exactly it is you're supporting and why. But you don't listen. And you don't think much, either. You just act. Acting is more fun.

I know all about it, believe me. I know all about the intoxication of unquestioned moral superiority, the seduction of being one of the in-crowd, knowing better than all those simple people who, by definition, disagree with you. I know all about the rush of luxuriating in the worst sort of self-indulgent behavior while pretending to be moral and altruistic. And I'm quite familiar with the comraderie of the mob, banners and fists defiantly raised, the adrenaline rush as you link arms with total strangers, wearing little more than your naivité, and stare into the helmeted faces of the riot police. Been there. Done that.

I also know all about the happy trek home afterwards, full of righteous indignation and self-satisfaction, feeling like you've done your part and made a "difference," sitting down to a nice hot well-earned meal and a few hours in front of the TV before snuggling in for the deep, restful sleep of the just. Or, in the alternative, slumming it for the night with some flea-bitten, dreadlocked, loser who seemed attractive in the heat of passionate raging against the machine but who, in the cold sober light of morning, looks pretty bad and smells even worse. Been there, too.

But that was a long time ago. When I was a child, and didn't quite grasp that "indoctrination" wasn't the monopoly of the "right." When I thought that to change the world, you had to spit on it, and incite it to spit back at you. When the line between good and evil was defined by who had "power" and who didn't, but only when the power-holders looked and talked and dressed a lot like me. Fortunately, I grew up. You should try it some time. It's not half as bad as it's cracked up to be.

Muzzled "national leaders"

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Tikkun writes:

The media claims to be "objective" and non-partisan, yet the voices of the most effective national leaders against the war are rarely quoted. To take 3 examples--Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Rabbi Michael Lerner, and Professor Noam Chomsky. Would you be willing to contact media and write individual letters to media people complaining about the coverage? If so, please contact media@tikkun.org--and we will give you some addresses of key people to contact, plus sample letters.

Bwahahahahahaha ha ha ha! "The most effective national leaders," but they're "rarely quoted." Right. Well, I'd be more than willing to contact media and write individual letters to whomever Tikkun wants to refer me to. But I think I'll write my own material. How about you?

Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, by the way, was one of the 21 House Democrats who voted "present" yesterday on the non-binding resolution in support of our troops.

That address again, in case you forgot it or a spambot missed it, is media@tikkun.org. That's media@tikkun.org.

Pathetic pity party

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Atrios thinks we should "weep for [ ]our country."

Thomas Spencer says our President is a "war criminal." He's weeping, too. He's also suffering from a nasty perception problem.

Justin Raimondo is tripping all over himself trying to belittle the military offensive, but he hasn't quite managed to catch up to current events yet (no, I won't link -- it's the one called "Bluff and bluster: 'Shock and awe' gives way to shuck 'n jive").

Seth thinks Jim Moran may have been unjustly accused of anti-Semitism.

And Jim Henley sez: "If you seriously maintain that "neoconservative" is a code word for "Jewish," you are an ass." Well, Jim, here's my other cheek.

Finally, Barry has posted a reverant memorial to the despicable Rachel Corrie over at Amptoons.

It seems that the peaceniks are being driven to utter distraction by the rapid progress of the war, the massive surrenders and desertions of Iraqi troops, the minimal civilian casualties and the warm welcome our forces are receiving more often than not. Not to mention that the stock market has just finished its best week since 1982.

Weep for my country? I don't think so.

Shabbat Shalom.

419: Fighting back

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Blogging has been slow here, partly due to excessive time spent watching TV and reading over at The Command Post. But this (slightly stale) item came to my attention this morning. While certainly not the recommended response to Nigerian 419 scammers, it's interesting.

A notorious e-mail scam has resulted in the murder of a Nigerian diplomat in the Czech Republic.

Fifty-year-old Michael Lekara Wayid, Nigeria's consul in the Czech Republic, was shot dead by an unidentified 72-year-old Czech at the Nigerian Embassy in Prague on Wednesday.

[* * *]

It is not known whether the suspect was contacted by e-mail or other means. The 419 scams were carried out by postal mail until the advent of e-mail, but, according to FBI reports, most 419 scams are now conducted, at least in the early stages, by e-mail.

According Nigerian newspaper reports, the suspect arrived at the embassy and said he needed to discuss a business matter. He was referred to Wayid. Soon afterward, an embassy receptionist heard raised voices followed by shots and went to investigate.

The receptionist was then reportedly shot in the hand, but managed to flee and call embassy security, who detained the suspect until police arrived.

The suspect was arrested and is now hospitalized at Prague's Central Military Hospital after collapsing at the scene. The receptionist is also being treated at the same hospital. Both are expected to recover.

Nigerian newspaper This Day reports that the shooter had visited the embassy "regularly over the past year" in an attempt to recover the money he had lost.

"This is the first time such a thing has happened to Nigeria in any of our embassies abroad.... The Czech ambassador to Nigeria has been summoned," said Dubem Onyia, Nigeria’s minister of state for foreign affairs, in a statement.

Onyia said that in light of the incident, security at Nigeria’s foreign offices would be reviewed.

Photo-progaganda

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I have nothing interesting to say right now about the war in Iraq. Which has now begun. Finally. I've been numbed into submission by listening to other people who had nothing of any value to say trying nevertheless to say something to their TV audiences for the last few hours.

So, instead, I'll just mention a little blurb that doesn't seem to have made its way onto the front page of any blog I can find, but which deserves some attention while we're waiting for the war to develop more, er, shock and awe.

Mis-captioned Reuters photo transforms accidental death into homicide.

Joe Smith, age 21, came with his college friend Rachel Corrie this past Sunday, March 16th to Gaza to protest against terrorist home demolitions as part of his activity with the International Solidarity Movement.

Both Joe and Rachel had studied at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington.

Joe was witness to Rachel's tragic death late that afternoon, and described what he saw to my colleague, recounting that "she was sitting on a mound of earth in front of the bulldozer. The earth started to move under her when the bulldozer digs in. You have a couple of options you can roll aside-you have to be very quick to get out of the way. You can fall back, but she leaned forward to try to climb up on top. She got pulled down, and the bulldozer lost sight of her.Then, without lifting the blade, he reversed and she was underneath the blade". Joe Smith did not sound accusatory nor vindictive against the IDF bulldozer driver.

So why did the world have a different impression of what had happened?

Well, a picture is worth a thousand words.

The picture distributed by the Reuters News Agency showed Rachel Corrie standing in front of the Bulldozer with a megaphone. That is the picture that appeared on page three of the New York Times on March 17, 2003

The Reuters caption stated what the picture said that this picture was taken before Rachel Corrie was crushed by this bulldozer, giving the reader the distinct impression that Rachel Corrie had been standing with a megaphone in clear sight of the bulldozer.

That would have made this act some kind of homicide.

The next photo distributed by Reuters showed Rachel lying in front of the bulldozer.

And then I began to notice something.

The lighting of the Gaza sky was different in both pictures of what were supposed to be sequential shots.. The landscape in each picture was different.

I checked with Reuters to find out about the discrepancy of the picture sequence. The Reuters photo editor said, however, that these were NOT their pictures. They were sent by the International Solidarity Movement. Indeed, these pictures did appear on the ISM web site at www.palsolidarity.org. The Reuters photo editor assured me, however, that the pix were clearly labeled as ISM pictures. A check with the Reuters web site showed that they were labeled as Reuters pix.

A call back to Joe Smith about the sequence of the pix revealed another unknown fact. Smith said that no one was on the spot with a camera before Rachel Corrie was mauled by the bulldozer, and that the picture of Rachel with the megaphone had been taken many hours earlier.

Well, what a surprise! Some of these discrepancies were noted by several bloggers and blog commentators previously, but not everyone has the access or the determination to fact check that David Bedein has.

So do read the full article for the full story of the follow-up. The misleading photos have now been removed from the Reuters site, and websites (like www.lizziegrubman.com/rachel_corrie.htm) that linked to them there now have blanks where the photos should be. But they're still on dazzling display here, of course, as well as on numerous Indymedia sites (where they're correctly labelled and linked as "ISM handouts").

Shushan Purim Sameach!

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I was sort of preoccupied with other stuff yesterday, and forgot to wish all of you a Happy Purim! It's not too late, though. At least not if you happen to live in an ancient walled city.

Today is "Shushan Purim." Way back when, you see, the Jews in Persia narrowly averted a government sanctioned massacre by winning the permission of that same government to defend themselves. It's an intriguing story, including great heroism on the part of Esther, the Queen, and great evil on the part of Haman, the Prime Minister. At the end of the bloody day in question, the Jews prevailed, Haman and all of his sons were hung up on the gallows and the Jews celebrated their victory with (what else?) a feast. Because the battle in the walled capital city of Shushan lasted a day longer than it did in the rest of the realm, the feast there was celebrated one day later. And so, even now, Purim is observed a day later (today) in walled cities than it is everywhere else (yesterday).

Happy Shushan Purim! And may the fate of Haman and his sons serve as an inspiration in more, um, current conflicts.

Sorry, no sale

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Nick Denton's whining about Jewish insecurity might be interesting if it had even the slightest factual basis. Let's see. Would Israel be better off with Saddam Hussein gone? Yes. Would Kuwait be better off? Yes. Iran? Turkey? The U.S. of A.? Yes, yes and yes. Wouldn't just about anyone in the world be better off with Saddam Hussein gone? Of course they would. So why, I wonder, does Nick Denton think it's really about Israel? Hmmm. Let me think....

I'm unfortunately short on time, but no need to prattle further. Judith Weiss and Gary Farber have already handled the situation. Really well.

It's time

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I could sit here and repeat the pontifications about how no one wants war, but other people have already done an excellent job of that and, really, it ought to go without saying. My mother and my brother and my nieces and nephews live in Israel. I have cousins and friends there, as well. I worry about all of them and I worry about potential acts of retribution that may be coming here, as well.

But I've been worrying for a long time. Worry has almost become a way of life since 9/11, as it has been for Israelis since long before that. Doing nothing hasn't worked. Diplomacy hasn't worked. Empty threats and pleas and ultimatums haven't worked. Enough, already.

48 hours, Saddam. Ready or not, here we come.

Israel needs this?

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Raelian cult claims demands pour in from parents to clone children killed in intifada

By Lior Kodner

* * *

Dr. Boisselier strode firmly toward the throng of journalists awaiting her at ZOA House in Tel Aviv. She landed in Israel five days ago, and has already visited what her cult claims is the first cloned human baby in the world, Eve - who happens to live here. Boisselier had hoped Eve's parents would join her at the press conference, but they canceled at the last minute. According to Boisselier, this was due to fear of the authorities: Israel banned human cloning in 1998. For this reason, the Raelians are careful to stress that Eve was cloned overseas.

* * *

Soon afterward, Boisselier produced the headline of her visit to Israel: To date, she has received 55 cloning requests from Israelis and Palestinians. She attributes this enormous demand to the violent conflict. "We received many requests from Israeli and Palestinian parents who wanted to clone children who were killed in the war. We can comply with only half of these requests, since in the other cases too much time has passed since the moment of death. Because all clones made to date were defined as experimental, we produced them for free. But this is a very expensive process, so from now on, we will need to demand payment. We will publicize the exact fee shortly."

This is a very odd article, even for Ha'aretz, in which the author appears to be utterly oblivious to the absurdity of Clonaid's claims, as well as the rabid anti-Semitic bent of the Raelian cult.

Why war?

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Beth at Mutated Monkeys has asked a very serious question.

Why are we going to war with Iraq at all? Why not just move in with a surgical strike and kill Saddam Hussein, and then see if the country falls peacefully?

I answered with my best guess (more where he came from, how could we be sure and WMD) by email. She's soliciting opinions, so drop her a line with yours. Or blog it and send her a link.

Oh, and while you're over that way, check this out. Cat people rule!

This may surprise some of you

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It appears I'm a

Roosevelt
Democrat - You believe that there should be a free
market which is reigned in by a modest state
beaurocracy. You think that capitalism has
some good things, but that those it helps
should be obliged to help out their fellow man
a little. Your historical role model is
Franklin Rosevelt.


Which political sterotype are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I'm wondering what the stereotype is for people who answer "none of the above," because on a few of those questions, that would have been my choice. Nevertheless, I'm still registered as a Democrat, so there must be some truth here.

Well, almost

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I'm afraid I did consume an itty bitty bit of bunny last night. It wasn't intentional. My partner in, well, everything assured me there was no rabbit in the Hunter's Chili and, of course, I believed him. But today I found the full ingredient list and discovered otherwise.

What happened was, in an attempt to sample as many tasty animals as possible yesterday, we added a small patty of the "chili" to our butterflied quail salad, thereby also sampling bits of buffalo, venison, boar (uh oh), pheasant, kangaroo and, yes, rabbit. Add to that the chicken sausage, more buffalo (tenderloin) and a few slices of marinated London Broil for lunch and our total for the day came to nine. Pretty good, but I guess we should have had some smoked salmon for breakfast to bring it to an even ten.

For some mouthwatering photos (from the website of my "source") that would drive PETA absolutely nuts, go here. And here. And here.

I kept my promise

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I must confess, I'm not a rabbit fan. I once thought they were cute, but that changed when I moved out to the suburbs. We have a yard full of 'em and they sit there and stare at you with their beady little eyes and their noses twitching and the minute you look away they plunder your herb and vegetable garden. They're just not so cute close up and personal. Oh, and they're very tasty, too. Nonetheless...

No rabbit tonight. I promised Diane.

It was tough, though. My butcher was out of fresh venison and antelope as well as pheasant paté and both pheasant and venison sausage. So we had to "settle" for a few semi-boneless quail for the salad and a nice buffalo loin. That rabbit sausage was looking better and better, but we ended up with chicken sausage instead. 'Cause I promised.

We also picked up a fresh pheasant, a few nice hunks of veal shank and something called "Hunter's Chili," which is the ground meat of several game animals mixed with herbs and spices for later in the week. So I figure, maybe we'll just dedicate the whole week to PETA. Yeah. International Eat Several Animals for PETA Week. I like the sound of that.

Hey, Murray Hill's already extended it to 40 hours.

Better than nothing, sort of

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Denmark upholds conviction of radical for flyers urging Jews to be killed

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - The spokesman for a radical Muslim group that urged people to kill Jews had his conviction of violating Denmark's anti-racism law upheld Friday.

Fadi Abdullatif, the Danish spokesman for the Hizb-ut-Tahrir group, was convicted of breaking the country's anti-racism laws and given a 60-day suspended jail sentence in October 2002, but appealed.

The Eastern High Court upheld his conviction and the sentence.

Members of the group passed out handbills outside Copenhagen mosques in spring 2002 quoting a verse from the Qu'ran: "And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out."

The text of the flyer, which was also posted on the group's Web site, called Jews "people of slander" and said they should be killed.

Wow. A 60-day suspended sentence.

Shabbat Shalom.

50 pounds of fertilizer

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President Bush coughed up a speech in the Rose Garden today that can only be described as the proverbial 50 pounds in a 5 pound bag. The disastrous "Road Map" to no peace in the Middle East that appeared to be well on its way to the oblivion it deserved has now been resurrected in all its putrefaction on the basis of the absurd parody of "reform" that the palestinians are in the process of delivering still-born.

Said Bush:

To be a credible and responsible partner, the new Palestinian prime minister must hold a position of real authority. We expect that such a Palestinian prime minister will be confirmed soon.

Immediately upon confirmation, the road map for peace will be given to the Palestinians and the Israelis.

But the palestinians have already announced that the new "prime minister" will have no authority whatsoever. To quote their own doublespeak,

As for the authorities of a new PNA prime minister, Abed Rabbo emphasized that the amendments made to the “Basic Law” give the premier “real, genuine” powers, which cannot be exercised except through “permanent, continuous coordination with President Arafat”, as well as the different Palestinian parties and institutions.

Is this the price of passage for the Security Council Resolution? If so, it's certainly understandable that the President would rearrange his priorities in order to obtain that consensus, and presentation of the "Road Map" means little more, practically speaking, than the beginning of another round of negotiations. But by appearing to buy one pack of lies in an attempt to put paid to another, the President is in danger of undermining his own policy objectives. Just one more reason why we need to get on with it, already.

Where it hurts

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Ralph Peters' most recent article in the New York Post ("Dead Americans") has been linked by just about everyone.* It should be. He makes some devastating points about the probable real cost of French hubris and betrayal in both American and Iraqi lives.

Of special interest to me, though, was a postscript that (understandably) hasn't received as much attention.

Ralph Peters has canceled his orders for 2000 Bordeaux. And he will cancel his support for the Bush administration if it does not punish France for its betrayal.

This is no small matter. It's been quite a while since there was a vintage in Bordeaux of the overall quality ascribed to the 2000. Uber-wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. has declared it "the greatest vintage ever." Allotments of the best wines are relatively scarce, considering the huge volume of production. The early prices for pre-paid "futures" orders were astronomical and have only continued to skyrocket. And those lucky enough to have procured a stake can probably expect to recoup their entire investment by selling off a small portion of it via auction in coming years.

So if Ralph Peters has released his futures, well, he's really putting his money where his mouth is. As I've said before, I don't support organized economic boycotts. But my hat's off to those who exercise their convictions in their own purchasing practices. And French products are becoming more and more unpalatable every day.

(* I found it at Moe's.)

EAFPD - 2 days and counting

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We're working on our menu for International Eat an Animal for PETA Day. That's this Saturday, March 15, if you didn't know. Our original plans hit the skids, but we've regrouped and decided to stay home and grill some stuff. The tentative menu involves some sausage hors d'oeuvres (maybe chicken or rabbit) and a nice pheasant paté, some kind of salad with tasty bits of duck or quail and a main course of grilled venison loin or maybe eland chops. Remember, PETA, this one's for you.

We're not going whole hog, mind you, because we were already signed up for a game dinner a few nights later that's going to feature sauteed quail, herbed ostrich, sauteed rabbit, roasted venison shank and buffalo filet, among other things. So we'll keep PETA in mind for that one, too.

You know, just clicking on their site to paste that link has put me in the mood to skip the pasta tonight and go for a few lamb kibbe (the cooked version), instead. Yup, I think that'll be just right.

Let's get the word out, folks. Let's let PETA know that their campaign has backfired so big-time they might never recover. And don't forget to write and let them know how you feel about it.

An ongoing legacy of hate

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Al Hayat Al Jadida is an official daily newspaper of the Palestinian Authority. Here's a translation (with commentary) of an article that appeared in that paper earlier this week, on the anniversary of the death of that great palestinian heroine, Dalal Mughrabi. (You may remember that name -- there was quite a fuss last summer when it was learned that USAID funds were being used to renovate a girls' school named in her honor.)

(Courtesy of IMRA, translated by Palestinian Media Watch)

On the morning of March 11, 1978, a woman Palestinian fighter [Fedayeen], Dalal Mughrabi, created a legend that would be taught for many years, when she and her Fedayeen unit infiltrated the Palestinian coastal plain near Tel Aviv [Edit: -the Palestinians routinely define all of Israel as "occupied Palestine"] causing tens of killed and injured, after taking Israeli passengers as hostages on a bus along the coastal highway. She and her unit opened fire at the military vehicles in the vicinity, resulting in hundreds of injuries among the occupying soldiers, especially because this highway is frequently used by military vehicles transporting soldiers between the Zionist colonies in the suburbs and Tel Aviv. [Edit: Palestinians define all of Israel's cities as illegal "colonies"]

The army, headed by [Ehud] Barak, and with the assistance of tanks and helicopters, pursued the bus until it was finally stopped near the colony of Herzliya. A real battle took place between Dalal and her unit and the occupation forces . Journalists' cameras captured the blind hatred that overcame Barak and his soldiers during the operation.

Twenty-five years after this heroine's death as a Shahida [Dying for Allah], many Palestinian women are following in her footsteps every day. Examples include Wafa Idris, [First woman suicide bomber] and Ayyat al-Akhras, [second woman suicide bomber] who performed acts of Shahada- Seeking during the blessed al-Aksa Intifada to protect the homeland. The Shahida Dalal Mughrabi shall remain one of the symbols of the Palestinian national struggle. [Al Hayat Al Jadida March 11, 2003]

Not to belabor the point, but this paper, which reflects official, current palestinian policy, continues to this day to refer to "the Palestinian coastal plain near Tel Aviv," to style Israeli cities in that region "Zionist colonies," and to glorify and praise the slaughter of innocent civilians (including an American photograher). There are those of us who, for the sake of accuracy, prefer to refer to Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip as "disputed territories" rather than "occupied territories." But the sad fact is that every single square inch of Israel is "disputed," as far as the palestinians are concerned. That didn't change at Oslo and it hasn't changed since.

Some good news, for a change

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Great news, in fact.

WELCOME HOME, ELIZABETH!

Wiping the slate clean

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And speaking of Abu Mazen (otherwise known as Mahmoud Abbas), IMRA points to an interesting development over the Israel Defense Forces website. It seems they've removed an article that quoted some very recent, rather incendiary statements by Mr. Abbas. Fortunately, the full text of the deleted item is still available at IMRA. And you can find even more of the interview itself here. The money quote, I suppose, is this one:

Abu Mazen: It is our right to resist. The Intifada must continue and it is the right of the Palestinian People to resist and use all possible means in order to defends its presence and existence. I add and say that if the Israelis come to your land in order to erect a settlement then it is your right to defend what is yours.

The story has now been picked up by Ha'aretz. Correspondent Nadav Shragai hypothesizes that the item was removed because it was being used by settlers to demonstrate Mr. Abbas's lack of "moderation," and to chastise the Israeli government for failing to acknowledge this. But there's a quote later on in the article that's more telling, I think.

In recent days, members of the American diplomatic corps have asked Israel to give Abu Mazen room for maneuver, and to ease the pressure on him. It is entirely possible that the decision to remove the material from the IDF website is related to this request.

Bigger changes

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Check out this entry over at Haggai's Place. And don't peek at the end until you finish the quote. It gave me chills. But I wouldn't count on a similar change of heart by Abu Mazen.

Not happy

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Susanna has suggested that I'm not very happy with her. And that just reminds me of why I despise getting involved in this kind of blog war. Susanna's blog is one of my favorites. She's a great writer and I generally appreciate her points even when I don't agree with them. I've jumped into these interfaith debates before with both feet and managed to offend people I had no desire or intention to. Sometimes, though, it can't be helped.

Meryl began this dialogue by suggesting that a movie accusing "the Jews" (again) of responsibility for the execution of Jesus would be likely to collaterally revive the anti-Semitism that has always accompanied such assertions. Susanna, while strenuously deploring any potential anti-Semitic response, appeared to be saying that, regardless of the consequences, it was more important that the movie "tell the truth." Which immediately raises more questions than I can even summarize here. Among them:

What is "the truth?" A incredibly sticky question, especially when religious beliefs are involved, that millions have fought, died and anguished over since the dawn of civilization.

It's a friggin' movie. Since when is it so important that a movie "tell the truth?"

Since it's clear, nonetheless, that popular films can influence trends in thought and action, what responsibility do filmmakers have for the foreseeable consequences of their work?

Isn't it better to just ignore such speculation, sit back and hope there will be no consequences to worry about?

Well, I'll respond briefly to that last question. By definition, bloggers tend not to ignore controversies that are important to them. Inevitably, intervention brings with it a firestorm of point and counterpoint arguments that usually get nowhere, but there's usually a point at which each of us feel it necessary to put in our two cents anyway. And damn the consequences.

Susanna, I'm not happy with the position you took on this issue, and I'm really not happy with the direction the comments by many of your readers has taken. As a matter of fact, if they're any indication, the impact of this movie is likely to be far worse than I would have thought possible. But I am happy that you continue to call 'em as you see 'em. I wouldn't want it any other way.

An old, old battle

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It's not that I have nothing to say about this discussion over at Cut on the Bias, trust me. It's that I have too much to say. Keeping quiet isn't my forté, but I'd be hard pressed to be as diplomatic or erudite as Meryl, Meryl again, Meryl yet again, and Diane have been. So, for now, at least, I'll just leave it at this: what they said.

Oh, and add Judith Weiss (Yehudit) to that list, though she said it on Susanna's comments (3/10 at 6:23 pm) and there's no link or number. Well worth scrolling for.

Betrayal

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Judith Weiss has written at length (and from a very personal perspective) about Mariane Pearl's betrayal of her husband's legacy.

In the weeks after Daniel Pearl's death, I noticed the downplaying of his Jewishness in the press, and I noticed how his widow avoided it as well. It made me acutely uncomfortable, but I avoided looking squarely at my feelings. No one wants to speak ill of the grieving widow, and I didn't want to acknowledge that here was yet one more supposed Jew-lover who wouldn't take a stand when the chips were down. Now, a year after Daniel Pearl's death, I can say that Mariane Pearl enrages me. I am sure that the mother of her "Buddhist" son - named Adam, the original Jewish name - is unaware ("in denial" is more accurate) of her own private act of ethnic cleansing against the man with whom she chose to make her life. She loved this man, but not all of him - only the part of him that is "universal." His Judaism was supposed to be a vestigial tribalism that he would disavow, leave behind, in the brave new world of international journalism that they would inhabit.

Taken out of context, this paragraph has only a shadow of the power of the full post. Read the rest.

Quotes for thought

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The editor of Israel Insider is sounding more and more like he needs a blog. But he's doing a fine job as is. Here are two gems from today's newsletter (by subscription) that gave me a lift in spite of the utter seriousness of their topics:

Do we talk too much?
The morning papers and the radio shows were full of reports of American anger that Israeli officials had "chattered" and "leaked" about the likely date of the American offensive.

There were complaints from the Israeli consulate in New York that Israelis seem too eager for war, too anxious to get on with it, all of which complicated the consulate's job of explaining that this conflict had nothing to do with us.

Well ex-cuuuuuse us for being a bit curious about when we should need to strap on our gas masks and seal our rooms. And if we support this war it is not because the disappearance of Saddam is good for the Jews (which it is), and good for Israel (which it is), but also because we know that it is the only way to deal with tyrants and terrorists. The rest of the world may not understand, but we are pleased to show our American friends that we do. And we CAN keep a secret.

Psssst.... Just.... give us a hint.

And this:

Well, except for being a Holocaust denier and an advocate for killing Israeli soldiers and settlers, Palestinian PM frontrunner Abu Mazen is really, well, not as bad as some of the alternatives. Trouble is, his boss Yasser Arafat doesn't want to hand over to him little powers like security or negotiations with Israel. So what's the Abu to do? How about another book on WW II?

I've also found a few interesting quotes from the new palestinian prime minister-in-waiting himself, actually, and I think I'll post a few of them here. Behold, The Moderate:

IN THE MARCH 1976 issue of Falastin a-Thaura, then the official journal of the Beirut-based PLO, Mahmud Abbas ("Abu Mazen"), PLO spokesman, wrote: "The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny but, instead, they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live."

(via IMRA)

And here's "Abu Mazen on the Peace Process," interviewed 8/8/00 (just weeks before the launch of "intifada 2") in the Israeli-Arab weekly Kul Al-Arab:

Question: The Israelis want you to forget the past and turn your gaze to the future...

Abu Mazen: According to this logic, he who wants to forget the past [namely, the Israelis] should not claim that the [Jewish] Temple is underneath the Haram. They demand that we forget what happened to the refugees 50 years ago and at the same time they claim that 2000 years ago they had a holy place there. I challenge the assertion [that there has ever been a Jewish temple.] But even if it were true, we do not accept it because it is not the logic of someone who wants a practical peace. We took a historic step when we accepted resolution 242 while three quarters of the Palestinian people rejected this resolution [242] and demanded, as a minimum, the Partition Resolution [of 1947]. Have the Jews forgotten that in 1948 they owned only 5.6% of Palestine while the Partition Resolution gave them 56% and that they took over 79% through occupation. We do not forget history.

(via MEMRI)

Palestinian motto: We do not forget history. We just make it up.

Democracy in action

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Headlines like this always give me a chuckle. Who do they think they're fooling?

Castro Re-Elected to Sixth Term as Cuban President, Speaks of His Own Mortality

Elections are so much more fun when you're the only "candidate." Oh, and in case anyone is interested, there's also this load of wind:

Speech made by Dr. Fidel Castro on the current world crisis, on the occasion of his inauguration as President of the Republic of Cuba. Havana, Cuba, March 6, 2003.

Short version: the current world crisis can be laid at the door of the "decadent imperialist capitalist system," i.e., US. Hey, consistency is a virtue.

No news for Israel

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Not only do our good friends in Kuwait ban Israeli reporters from the Emirate, they're threatening journalists who pass information to Israel with dire consequences.

From Ha'aretz (by Reuters):

KUWAIT CITY - Authorities in Kuwait, hub of the U.S. and British military build-up for a possible war against Iraq, warned foreign media on Saturday against passing reports to Israeli news organizations.

Any company or journalist who did so would face legal action, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information said in a statement posted at the main media center in Kuwait City.

Kuwait, like most other Arab nations, does not recognize Israel and supports the Palestinian independence cause.

"Please note that current law of the State of Kuwait prevents any kind of cooperation and interaction with Israel. The Ministry of Information notifies against feeding Israeli news and broadcasting organizations with reports for broadcast from the State of Kuwait," the statement said.

Gibson blog and other stuff

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Oh, my, another one. Discovered accidentally on N.Z. Bear's Ecosystem. Well, if I was excited by finding that Bruce Sterling had a blog, I was just about blown away on discovering William Gibson's.

The problem is, though, that as much as I enjoy both of these guys in print, their blogs are just a wee bit, well, artistic is one word but, especially in Gibson's case, promotional might be another. Add this to the other (sadly predictable) quasi-bogus-SF letdown of the day -- the miserably anti-climactic almost-conclusion of the (yawn) 8march2003 saga and, well, I've slipped into one of my cynical modes.

So tonight may not have been the best night to finally watch LOTR (FOTR) for the first time. Actually, I only made it through the first half, but I'll get to the rest tomorrow. Plus, in another example of spectacularly bad timing, I just got around to finally seeing The Matrix over the weekend. Well, I wanted to wait until the sequel was almost ready (that's a fib) and I didn't study the cast listings beforehand (that's true).

Anyway, Agent Smith as Elrond isn't working for me. In addition to which, I was warned that the movie needs a big screen, and someone is about to tell me she told me so. Yeah, ok, I never doubted it. I don't like movie theaters much any more, though. I'm beginning to get the feeling there might be a brand new HD TV somewhere in my (hopefully) not-too-distant future. Hmmm. Maybe I should reconsider putting up a tip-jar.

PETA's not-so-new campaign

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See, I told you I try to pay no attention to PETA. So I didn't know that their comparison of Holocaust victims to livestock is nothing new. Did you?

In a 1983 interview with The Washington Post, [PETA president August Ingrid] Newkirk equated the Holocaust with the poultry industry. "Six million Jews died in concentration camps," she said, "but 6 billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses."

Rushing off

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On the news yesterday, I heard a blurb about a poll out of Quinnipiac University purporting to show that three-quarters of the American people believe the Supreme Court should be influenced by public opinion. Now I discover, to my horror, that my thoughts on this "survey" are most aptly summed up by, of all people, Rush Limbaugh. I find myself agreeing with Rush far too often lately. That worries me. Nevertheless, I heartily endorse the following analysis:

There is a troubling Quinnipiac poll out there which found that 75% of Americans think public opinion should influence decisions of the Supreme Court. That is an absolutely terrifying indictment of the public education system.

The high court was set up specifically - with lifetime terms for members - because justices ought not give diddlysquat what anybody thinks about an issue before them. The only thing that should matter to them is the law, the Constitution and their interpretation of it. The old saying, "The Supreme Court watches the election returns, too," misrepresents democracy. They're human beings, but that shouldn't influence the law as written. The majority can change the law in the legislature, but courts must not do so. If any of you people in this audience think the Supreme Court should listen to public opinion, you need to get your minds washed.

I also found a worthwhile discussion here, the kernel of which is this:

There are very few individuals who have earned the right, or possess the jurisprudence, necessary to render decisions that have the potential to alter our fundamental rights.

The system of checks and balances used to keep one government branch from wielding too much power does not include citizens in its mix. Citizen involvement comes at the ballot box, in choices made for the executive and legislative branches. The judicial branch, at least at the federal level, is an example of cooperative effort (or, in the case of Miguel Estrada, uncooperative wrangling,) between the other two branches.

Now surely all of this will just provide more fodder for the nut cases who run this website, one of the creepiest, most paranoid pieces of work I've seen in a long time. If you're interested in learning all about "the international conspiracy of the lawyers to destroy the United States from within," link on over.

And on that note, I bid you all

SHABBAT SHALOM

The sacrifice of Saddam

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Throughout history, the ritual of sacrifice has been employed as an attempt to appease angry, jealous gods. Human sacrifice was prevalent in many ancient cultures and remnants of that practice are still evident in the core traditions of both Judaism and Christianity. Animal sacrifice was the primary focus of Jewish ritual until the destruction of the Second Temple. In many parts of the world, inanimate objects of importance as well as grains and other agricultural products are still offered up to the powers that be.

The sacrifice is an intentional offering of something valuable, something that will be perceived by the gods as a capitulation, an homage, an appeasement, something that will appeal to their vanity and allow the sacrificers to go on about their business free of the retribution and meddling that those powerful and capricious beings might otherwise have imposed upon them. The sacrifice must be voluntary, it must be painful and it must be convincing enough to dissuade those to whom it is made from their course. But in the long run, it must not interfere with the plans or intentions of those making it. It is simply a decoy.

By now it's probably pretty clear where I'm headed with this. I've been awed over the past week by the wide-eyed gullibility with which much of the world has embraced Saddam Hussein's casual sacrifice of his Al-Samud missiles. Can anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with this man's behavior over the past dozen years seriously doubt that this little production was planned in advance, up to and including the brief protestations for which Dan Rather was generous enough to provide a platform? Does anyone really believe that this carefully calculated "surrender" is anything more than a ritual designed to fool those willing to be fooled and to complicate life for those who are not?

To the sacrificial performance with which Saddam has taken such pains to regale us, I say, Bravo! Well done! Good show! Standing ovation!

But the show's over. Now let's please get on with the business at hand, before it's too late.

Another 'human shield' blunder

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From yesterday's (March 6, 2003) Jordan Times:

Human shield buses stuck in Beirut

BEIRUT (R) — Two red double decker buses and a white London taxi that ferried anti-war activists to Baghdad to serve as “human shields” are stranded in Beirut with their owner short of the $5,500 it costs to ship them home.

The buses and taxi, dusty after a six-week overland journey that began at London's Tower Bridge, were plastered with signs saying “No to a war on Iraq” and “No to war, Yes to peace.”

“The buses have to be shipped back. It's just not practical to drive them,” said owner Joe Letts, adding that he would fly to London on Thursday to try to raise cash. “I thought I would let people know it's a problem,” he added, sitting in a makeshift kitchen on his bus in central Beirut.

Letts said he left London with 45 human shields of 10-12 nationalities, and picked up a dozen or so more in Turkey before arriving in Baghdad, where he spent a week sleeping in a power station hoping to prevent a possible US-led attack.

More and more, it seems that these people are totally oblivious to the logical consequences of their own actions.

The past revisited

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I've made a couple stabs at posting something on today's suicide bus bombing in Haifa, but what's to say? I think Charles has summed it up quite well. So on to other things, for now.

(UPDATE: Imshin has posted a painfully personal take on this tragedy. The explosion was detonated at the bus stop she used as a child.)


One of the reasons for my trip to Pittsburgh over the weekend was to help my father go through some old boxes and files. Among the many interesting items we turned up was an old newspaper, "The American Jewish Outlook," dated Friday, March 1, 1935.

So glancing through this paper on Saturday, March 1, 2003, (weird) a number of articles caught my attention. The more things change, . . . as they say. Well, here are some excerpts from a few of them:

JERUSALEM, Feb. 28. (JTA) -- Contending that Palestine will never become a Jewish state, Moshe Smilansky, president of the Jewish Farmers Association and one of the leading figures in Palestine, proposed that the Jews of the world concentrate on a demand that Palestine be declared a crown colony, with a view of eventually becoming one of the British dominions.

Talk about shortsighted! Today, Smilansky is known for the motto he contributed to the Pardess Hanna Agricultural school, "If agriculture is here, then the homeland is here." Huh.

And then there's this one:

LONDON, Feb. 28. (JTA) -- The charge that the High Commissioner of Palestine is giving undue preference to Arabs in Jerusalem, a city of a Jewish majority, was made in the House of Commons by Colonel Josiah Wedgewood, an Independent.

And this:

PHILADELPHIA, Mar. 1. (JTA) -- Protests continued to pour in Saturday from many Jewish organizations against the action of the Purple Heart Association, which on Washington's Birthday, permitted a contingent of the German Steel Helmet Association to participate in its parade while wearing Swastika banners. The Purple Heart Association is an organization of veterans who have been cited for valor or meritorious service and has many Jews in its ranks.

The ACLU would be proud. And, in the tradition of some of our favorite world leaders today, this example of disastrous wishful thinking:

BERLIN. Feb. 28. (JTA) -- The recent statement by President Roosevelt in which he announced the failure of a proposed barter pact between the United States and Germany, may lead to a decrease in anti-Jewish propaganda in the Reich, it was learned today.


Backed by a number of influenctial exporters and merchants affected by the foreign boycott of German goods, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, economic dictator of Germany, has faced Nazi party leaders with the request that Jew-baiting propaganda in the German press be discontinued. Dr. Schact is of the opinion that this propaganda is more harmful to Germany's economic interests than to the Jews in Germany.

This article betrays just how clueless the American Jewish community was about Hitler's priorities, while further demonstrating (in 20/20 hindsight) how utterly ineffective economic boycotts can be. But don't Dr. Schact's statements, obviously propaganda in their own right, sound strikingly similar to recent calls by the Palestinian Authority for a halt to suicide bombings -- not because they're immoral, of course, but because they're harmful to international support for the palestinian cause?


Finally, I quote in its entirety this somewhat contradictory article about an all-too-timely topic, anti-Semitism in Iraq:

LONDON, Feb. 27. (JTA) -- Sharp disapproval of anti-Semitism in Iraq, formerly a British mandated territory, was voiced last week from the tribune of the House of Commons by Sir John Simon, British Foreign Secretary, in answer to interpellations on the subject from members of the various parties.

Confirming recent reports of the extensive growth of anti-Semitism in Iraq, "from my own sources," Sir John added significantly, "I believe my own feeling on the subject of anti-Semitism is well-known."

Anti-Jewish feeling in Iraq, now a member of the League of Nations and an independent country, does not touch on the question of British Palestine and therefore the matter of representations to the government of Iraq do not arise, the British Foreign Secretary said.

Jewish communities in Iraq, particularly in Bagdad [sic] and Basrah, have suffered in recent weeks from a virulent form of anti-Semitism openly encouraged by the government of King Ghazix. Jewish officials have been dismissed from civil service posts, Jewish children have been exposed to indignities in public schools and all foreign Jewish newspapers and all foreign papers regarded as friendly to the Jews have been banned from the country.

One school teacher beat a group of Jewish children for denying that they knew the Zionist anthem Hatikvah. He informed other children that Jews were enemies of Iraq.

Last week, a member of the famous Sassoon family of Baghdad was arrested by police and charged with carrying on illegal Zionist activities. He was freed, but a permit from the British Ambassador, legalizing his activities for Zionism, was confiscated.

Which is to say, the roots are deep. Anyone who imagines that a post-Saddam, "democratic" Iraq is going to be friendly toward Jews or Israel had better think again.

And speaking of legal stuff

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There are two fascinating threads going on over at The Volokh Conspiracy. The first is a discussion of the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals over the weekend not to reconsider last summer's "Pledge of Allegiance" case. That means that, pending appeal to the Supreme Court, the ruling stands that the inclusion of the words "under God" are unconstitutional, at least within the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit. Enforcement of the ruling, however, has again been stayed.

As usual, Volokh has a number of excellent points to make here, with additional follow-up here, here and here. I'd also make a point of checking out Mark Kleiman's analysis (to which Eugene links).

To me, this whole controversy has seemed overblown, and I have no scintillating legal analysis to add to the above or to Jack Balkin's discussion of "ceremonial deism," which sheds an additional interesting light on the subject. But Attorney General Ashcroft's idiotic comment the other day really set me off.

We will defend the ability of Americans to declare their patriotism through the time-honored tradition of voluntarily reciting the pledge.

Well, of course we will, regardless of whether or not The Pledge includes the words "under God," which, after all, were added to the "time-honored tradition" a scant 49 years ago. My dad remarked this weekend that he (and his entire generation) grew up reciting The Pledge every single school day without once uttering the words "under God" and never felt any less American for it. Both Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Newdow, as well as their various supporters in Congress and elsewhere, should just shut up now, please, and let the Court handle this.

Of equal if not greater interest to me, anyway, is a thread on the role of the civil courts in enforcing religious regulations. This one focuses primarily on the controversy over New York laws regulating the designation of products as "kosher," but it delves as well into matters of Jewish divorce and includes one reader's exposition on the battle between the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform denominations for the soul of American Jewry. If this kind of thing is of any interest to you at all, I'd make a point of following the whole discussion, which starts here (with a link to this article by Jacob Sullum in Reason) and continues (so far) here, here, here and here.

A little legal humor

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The practice of law or, rather, the discussion of law, has its moments of levity. This question, for instance, was posted today on a legal listserve of which I'm a member. I had to share.

Has anyone done any estate planning for clients in the event that the clients are taken in the Rapture? For example, my clients are concerned that their son, in the event that they are taken and he isn't, will not have access to their assets until the statutory period for presumed death passes. They would like for him to become the owner of their estates if their bank accounts are not accessed for a period of 60 days (or if there is other evidence that they have been raptured). I'm considering some sort of power of attorney or a joint revocable trust with the son as a co-trustee and potential beneficiary. I wouldn't otherwise suggest a revocable trust for them, so I'd prefer a different option.

Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.

Now, yes, I do understand that a great many people take this Rapture stuff seriously, but it isn't the kind of question one ordinarily comes across in daily practice. And the responses have ranged from "what is a Rapture?" to suggestions that if the son is left behind he'll have more important things to worry about than getting his hands on his parents' assets.

The consensus, however, seems to be that there will be plenty of lawyers left behind with him to help him work it out.

A busy weekend

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Heck, I go away for a few days and all hell breaks loose. The biggest piece of garbage in Al Qaeda gets caught napping, Turkey shows her true stripes (?) and PETA goes extra-offensive with its new ad campaign.

I imagine that among these stories, the least important is PETA. As a matter of fact, PETA has never registered anywhere on my priority list since I first became aware of its unfortunate existence years ago. But the other topics have been fairly picked over already and I just got home. I have lots of catching up to do. So right now I just want to take the opportunity to join Meryl's latest campaign: International Eat an Animal for PETA Day.

To the vegetarians reading this blog, I apologize. (As Meryl points out, there are ways for some of you to participate in this event, as well.) I'm hardly in favor of cruelty to animals, but I deliberately made my letter to PETA as obnoxious as possible. Well, almost.

Hey PETA,

How are you all doing? Just fine, smug and self-satisfied as usual, I'm sure.

I'm just writing to let you know that I'll be joining with many of my friends, relatives and neighbors in a special tribute to your nauseating and utterly offensive campaign wherein you have the unmitigated gall to compare the slaughter of animals for food to the slaughter of human beings out of pure hatred. We'll be making a point of consuming animal flesh, animal fat, animal parts of all kinds and shapes and tastes that day. In your honor. Because of you. Make sure you understand this. We're all going to go out of our way to carve up and eat a beast, a fowl, a fish, a crustacean or some combination of the above, to minimize our intake of vegetables and grains and to max out on meat for a day, just to show our outrage, our anger and our disgust -- at you. Stick that in your tofu and smoke it.

You really are quite pathetic, all of you. For years, I've watched the antics of PETA and become more and more outraged by the fact that as you strut around purporting to "care" about sensitivity toward animals, you demonstrate such an utter lack of civility, such a total failure to grasp the very concept of "sensitivity," that your theatrics are nothing more than a sick joke. But no one is laughing. More importantly, you've done more to alienate people who might otherwise be inclined to such sensitivity than any other entity I know.

Have a nice day.

Lynn B.
blogging against unethical exploitation of animals for self-aggrandizement at http://incontext.blogmosis.com

I got a nice little canned auto-response back, asking, of course, for my support. I think not.

Gotham's scoop

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Just a quick note from the road and this incredibly slow dialup connection. . .

For those who haven't already slogged through it, the Financial Times article that Diane posted last week, fascinating as it was at the time, now seems remarkably timely, as well. For a detailed history of the incredibly slippery career of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, right up to the week before he was captured in Pakistan, go here.

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