April 2003 Archives

Yet another new blogmo'

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Go say hey to Nathan at Brain Fertilizer. He's the newest member of the Blogmosis Bunch -- a most excellent credential, if I do say so myself.

The siren's wail

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From today's Israel Insider:

The siren's wail
By Stan Goodenough April 30, 2003

Courtesy of Jerusalem Newswire.

Find yourself, as a gentile, standing on Jerusalem's streets as the air raid sirens sound their remembrance call for the six million Holocaust dead, and again a week later as they wail for those cut down in uniform since the blood-birth of their haven state.

Listen to the pain of a people which has suffered unparalleled persecution at the hands of others, and you can never be the same.

Where else in the world...? The question is spontaneous, unavoidable. In days when others try to play down the extent of Jewish suffering, this question demands a response.

Loud. Long. Keen. The rising sirens immobilize the nation, paralyzing movement up and down the land. Vehicles stop, their drivers alighting to stand, heads bowed, in the streets. On the sidewalks, in shops, offices, schools and cinemas, on beaches and playing fields, people stop dead in their tracks.

Life arrested. The world turned to stone. Sirens howl their pain to the skies. And in the howling are a myriad sounds, hard to listen to, impossible to ignore.

Screaming children torn violently from mothers' arms, their cries reverberating echoes in your mind. Despairing, pain wracked cries of tormented generations.

Listen - Rachel weeps for her children. Through the clash of hooves, tracks, jackboots, steel; the shouts of Roman, Crusader, Cossack, Nazi - impaling children, women, new-born babies on spear, sword, bayonet - she weeps, her cries drowned out by theirs.

"For the glory of Rome!" "By the blood of Jesus!" "Juden Raus!" "Itbach al yahud!" "Death to the Jews!"

More...

And today it continues.

In loving memory

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"Genocide." The deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group."

What does it mean to set out to deliberately and systematically exterminate an entire nation, race or culture? And what does it mean to be the target of such a campaign? Though we use words like "genocide" and "Holocaust" casually in everyday speech, the reality behind the words is too mindboggling to comprehend. And yet, every year, on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan (which is today) Jews all over the world spend a few hours thinking, remembering, grieving, praying, trying to wrap their hearts and minds around the horror that was that reality in the not-so-distant past.

Many of us have friends and family who lived through the Nazi Holocaust. Survivors. Some of us actively seek them out, others prefer to avoid them. Often they're a little strange. Many of them don't talk about it, don't want to talk about it, can't talk about it. Others share their stories as if they were precious gifts. Which they are. With some, you can look into their eyes, if they'll let you, and feel that you're falling into a bottomless well of pain. But you'll find others brimming with an infectious kind of joy, as if still, today, they're marveling that they're alive and free and cherishing each and every moment.

My cousin Trudi (z"l) was one of the latter. She passed away last year in Jerusalem. I'd like to introduce you to her, via this website, which is dedicated to her memory. She was a most remarkable person.

Trudi Birger's privileged childhood is Frankfurt, Germany, ended abruptly at the age of seven when the Nazis forced her and her family out of the life they knew. After several years of hiding, they were captured by the Nazis. Trudi and her family were separated from the rest of their family and sent to a death camp. Trudi was literally snatched from the crematorium door through a miracle that she describes in her book "A Daughter's Gift of Love (The Jewish Publication society, 1992). She made a vow then never to leave a child in distress. After the war she married and emigrated to Israel with her husband and mother. She began to fulfill her vow in the 60's when she was a full-time microbiologist pregnant with her third child. During her work with needy children she became aware of the physical and psychological suffering of severe dental problems. She could identify with those children, having had her own teeth knocked out by a Nazi guard in a concentration camp. In 1978 she established the Dental volunteers for Israel, a non-profit organization. The organization is staffed by volunteer dentists, both Jewish and non-Jewish, from many countries, who pay their own travel expenses. Living quarters are provided by funds donated to DVI. These donations also cover expenses other than direct dental care, such as a very effective oral hygiene community educational program conducted by dental hygienists, in which children and their mothers participate. Unfortunately, the Government aids with only 5% of the expenses. The organization serves 150 of Jerusalem's poor children ages 5 to 18 every day, free of charge, regardless of race or ethnic background. Most of the children come from large families and have a religious background. These children would not have been able to receive dental care without DVI.

(Taken from the article of the Association for Wise Giving by the Sherman Foundation)

Trudi Birger. Beloved mother, cherished wife, devoted daughter, dear cousin and angel of mercy to so many. Her memory is indeed a blessing.

Recoveries

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I'm so glad to see that Vicky's back. And hopefully recovering nicely. I'm sorry to read that Big Cat got hit by a car, poor thing. Best wishes for his speedy and complete recovery, too. This is an unbelievably bad string of luck (luck?) for Vicky and Matt, but hopefully it's all over now.

I myself am under the weather (can you tell?) but determined to snap out of it by tomorrow. It's Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and I do have a few things I'd like to say on that subject. Yes, indeed.

Privacy again

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I really didn't want to dwell on this subject, but the usually eloquent Wind Rider has taken a bit of a flier on this one.* In fact, I'd respectfully suggest that he's engaging in some of the same sort of creative interpretation he starts out by accusing others of.

(*As usual, Blogger's permalinks aren't working -- scroll down to "Puzzlement," April 26)

What Wind heard:

I find that I must agree with Senator Santorum, or at least my read on what his point actually is, in this particular instance. While there is ample reason to believe that Santorum's personal views do not hold homosexuality, its forms or its practices in high regard, that is not the basis of his indictment. What that is, is that if society has changed so much that the practice of homosexuality, and its forms, are socially acceptable, then in fact, the law, she is an ass. And such laws, specifically with regards to sodomy, should be re-examined by the various legislative bodies of those states that still have such laws, and repealed or modified to better fit the sensibilities and practices of the society we live in.

What Rick said:

We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold -- Griswold was the contraceptive case -- and abortion. And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you -- this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.

Santorum's not saying the sodomy laws should be re-examined, repealed or modified. To the contrary, he says quite clearly, in so many words, that the laws are doing exactly the job they were intended to do -- that they "were there for a purpose," and that purpose is to prevent the undermining of "the basic tenets of our society and the family." And he's stating categorically that polygamy, adultery and sodomy are all "antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family," i.e., to the American way of life as he would like it to be. No one is twisting his words, here. He's twisted them just fine all by himself.

What they both said (via WR):

As I perceive Senator Santorum's concern, I share it. By addressing this issue via the courts, and using this as another opportunity to construct a framework for an argument as to the existence of 'sexual rights', it is of great concern that by opening that door, and giving that concept credence, it would only be a matter of time before it was used to strike down, despite the sense of society as to their necessity as expressed through legislative action, the various laws proscribing bestial or incestuous or other such conduct, on the basis of the 'rights' argument. Put simply, and just as simply pooh pooh'd and dismissed, the slippery slope.

Yep, that's the argument. Postulate that what goes on between consenting adult human beings in the privacy of their own homes is their own business and not that of either their neighbors, the legislature or the courts, and the next thing you know, we'll have to license marriages between brothers and sisters, people and their pets, perhaps even between folks of difference races and religions (ooops, being there, doing that).

Well, I'm going to open a real can of worms and ask, hypothetically: so what? What if, under some (highly unlikely) reading of a Constitutional right to privacy, the Supreme Court decided we had to repeal state laws prohibiting incest and beastiality? Are we actively enforcing those laws much these days? Would it cause a run on such behavior among people who would otherwise find it abhorrent? Would it lessen the stigma attached to those acts? I think not. Isn't the real issue here that some people simply want, at any cost, to prevent or ignore an existing evolution of societal norms (and in my opinion a very positive evolution) with which they personally disagree?


Santorum:

And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society.

What we're seeing in our society is a recognition that love and affection are no longer considered mere tools in the implementation of a survival agenda -- the reproduction of the species, the race, the tribe in the face of possible extinction. This agenda was adopted early on as an exclusive province by church and state alike (and again by our Puritan founding fathers) and for some reason they still conspire to maintain the monopoly. It's a losing battle.

The devout Catholics and the ultra-Orthodox Jews and the fundamentalist Muslims will continue to view the primary purpose of their sanctified unions as procreation and proliferation, but the rest of us have other agendas. In fact, there are those of us who earnestly believe that the key to humanity's survival on this planet lies in discouraging wanton multiplication of the species. But that's a topic for another day.

Rick Santorum and Wind Rider are most certainly entitled to their opinions on this topic. I happen to disagree with both of them, but that's not the point. The point is that Santorum is a U.S. Senator who is clearly infusing his personal religious agenda into his job at the expense of a substantial number of his constituents. He should be held accountable for this. If enough of his constituents and colleagues believe that he nonetheless continues to represent their interests, he'll weather the storm nicely. If not, the democratic process will do its work. In the meantime, lobbying will continue on both sides.

Postscript: the Constitutional "right to privacy" that was first articulated by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut back in 1965 (and that Rick Santorum claims does not exist) has come under attack from many quarters for many years. So far, it's proved to be fairly resilient. Regardless of whether that continues to be true in the future, there will always be behavior that's considered unprotected by any "right," just as there will always be some sphere of privacy recognized into which government may not intrude. How large or small you believe that sphere should be will probably depend upon where you fall on this grid.

Oh, and by the way

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I was much too busy on April 15th to follow up on this -- no, before I link it, I have to say that it's really not worth following. Not even a little. And I say this as an avid science fiction fan.

But if you don't already know and you remember that once upon a time you were mildly interested in what the 8march2003 mystery was all about, and you need some closure, well, ok, click.

See? It's really not worth the energy. What a {predictable} dud.

Just a four letter word

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It thrives wherever difference is despised, where faith is brandished as a club and a sword, whenever there's no room for compromise or understanding.

It exploits the worst in all of us. It takes nourishment from our doubts, our suspicions, our fears, but it's never sated.

It rarely acknowledges its true identity and often accuses those who would see it destroyed of practicing it in their own right.

Its fingerprints are all over crimes like these, but it also lurks behind accusations like this and sanctimonius garbage like this and it stares blankly out of the inanities in messages like the one described here.

It leaves disaster and ruin in its wake. It's self-perpetuating, self-justifying and more resiliant than a cockroach.

I'm so sick of it. Sick of reading about it and sick of reading it, sick of seeing its droppings on television and on my computer screen, sick of listening to those who practice it devotedly trying to throw it back in the face of those who just want to live and love and go about their business without being pushed or shoved or blown up or mowed down.

It's just a four letter word, but it packs a mean punch. Hate. Let's learn to live without it.

Shabbat Shalom.

Bread at last

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We picked up a PIZZA on the way home tonight.

I don't know why, exactly, but every year I find keeping Passover just a bit more tedious. Part of it is that matzah tends to clog up my plumbing (er, yes, excuse me, that plumbing). But the bigger part is that after five or six days, the diet starts to get incredibly boring.

Bread, wonderful bread! Pasta, pizza, cake and cookies, cereal, rice and NO potatoes (even though I love 'em) for at least a week. Yes!!!!!

White man's burden

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Combing through my email for the last few weeks, I've managed to find all manner of execrable essays by various contributors to the likes of the Arab News, the Jordan Times and the Egyptian English language weekly, Al-Ahram. But so far, nothing has gotten my dander up nearly so much as what I'm reading in the English language online version of Ha'aretz - the Israeli paper to which Imshin recently canceled her subscription.

I mentioned one of their nastier pieces last week. Now I've discovered a real doozie, from way back on April 4, by the ever so annoying Ari Shavit. The last time Mr. Shavit put me in this foul a mood was back in January. But in "White Man's Burden," he outdoes himself. Let's take a look.

The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history. Two of them, journalists William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, say it's possible. But another journalist, Thomas Friedman (not part of the group), is skeptical.

Great start. The neocon (a/k/a Zionist conspiracy) cabal in Washington managed to finagle a war with Iraq to suit their own nefarious needs. If you don't get that from this opening paragraph, believe me, you'll get it in spades before you reach the end of the article.

WASHINGTON - At the conclusion of its second week, the war to liberate Iraq wasn't looking good. Not even in Washington. The assumption of a swift collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime had itself collapsed. The presupposition that the Iraqi dictatorship would crumble as soon as mighty America entered the country proved unfounded. The Shi'ites didn't rise up, the Sunnis fought fiercely. Iraqi guerrilla warfare found the American generals unprepared and endangered their overextended supply lines. Nevertheless, 70 percent of the American people continued to support the war; 60 percent thought victory was certain; 74 percent expressed confidence in President George W. Bush.

Oops! Well, it appears events have overtaken Mr. Shavit just a bit. And I guess most of the rest of this article appears so totally ludicrous to me in part because, by the time I read it, his initial premise had already been discredited. But even without the slight drawback of having been proved totally wrong, his presumptions here are so clogged with hubris, so laced with the perpetual sneer of moral superiority that is his trademark, that they offend regardless of their accuracy.

In the course of the past year, a new belief has emerged in the town: the belief in war against Iraq. That ardent faith was disseminated by a small group of 25 or 30 neoconservatives, almost all of them Jewish, almost all of them intellectuals (a partial list: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Eliot Abrams, Charles Krauthammer), people who are mutual friends and cultivate one another and are convinced that political ideas are a major driving force of history. They believe that the right political idea entails a fusion of morality and force, human rights and grit. The philosophical underpinnings of the Washington neoconservatives are the writings of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Edmund Burke. They also admire Winston Churchill and the policy pursued by Ronald Reagan. They tend to read reality in terms of the failure of the 1930s (Munich) versus the success of the 1980s (the fall of the Berlin Wall).

Are they wrong? Have they committed an act of folly in leading Washington to Baghdad? They don't think so. They continue to cling to their belief. They are still pretending that everything is more or less fine. That things will work out. Occasionally, though, they seem to break out in a cold sweat. This is no longer an academic exercise, one of them says, we are responsible for what is happening. The ideas we put forward are now affecting the lives of millions of people. So there are moments when you're scared. You say, Hell, we came to help, but maybe we made a mistake.

William Cristol. Charles Krathammer. Breaking out in a cold sweat over the possible catastrophe their cleverly manipulated policies may have wrought? Does that sound right to you? I mean, I've been reading and listening to these guys for a long time, and I never detected a whiff of that. And I have a pretty good nose. Nor, by the way, will you detect such trepidation in the "interviews" with these two fellows that follow, except insofar as it's deposited there directly by Shavit. In fact, though the piece is written in quasi-interview style, you won't find a set of quotes anywhere in it. It's impossible to tell what's verbatim, what's paraphrased and what's Shavit's pure invention. Such clever journalism!

The icing on the cake, though, is his capping it all off with an "interview" with Tom Friedman, the pompous windbag who brought us the old and unimproved "Saudi Peace Plan" wrapped in a new pink ribbon. The same Tom Friedman who manages to get it consistently wrong without ever suffering from a noticable lack of credibility in the press. Don't miss this part. It's a classic.

Is the Iraq war the great neoconservative war? It's the war the neoconservatives wanted, Friedman says. It's the war the neoconservatives marketed. Those people had an idea to sell when September 11 came, and they sold it. Oh boy, did they sell it. So this is not a war that the masses demanded. This is a war of an elite. Friedman laughs: I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened.

If you detect a common thread uniting the beginning and end of this story, well, that sums up Shavit's agenda nicely. Nevertheless, for some reason he decided to conclude with a slight backpedal.

Still, it's not all that simple, Friedman retracts. It's not some fantasy the neoconservatives invented. It's not that 25 people hijacked America. You don't take such a great nation into such a great adventure with Bill Kristol and the Weekly Standard and another five or six influential columnists. In the final analysis, what fomented the war is America's over-reaction to September 11. The genuine sense of anxiety that spread in America after September 11. It is not only the neoconservatives who led us to the outskirts of Baghdad. What led us to the outskirts of Baghdad is a very American combination of anxiety and hubris.

I'd suggest that both the anxiety and the hubris belong to Messrs. Friedman and Shavit. But the tin hat ZOG crowd should love this one. It’s right up their alley.

The "right to privacy lifestyle"?

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One of our local news channels [new link substituted], in the interest of presenting the matter in context, of course, has published the full, unedited segment of the recent interview with Senator Rick Santorum that's gotten him into a bit of well-deserved trouble. And I refuse to print more than just a bit of it here.

Um, this is my senator. This man represents me in the U.S. Senate? I - don't - think - so.

Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.

Well, no. Of course not. And he's not against homosexuals. He's only against homosexuals' "behavior." Please don't mistake this for "picking on homosexuality." It's just likening it to beastialitiy, pedophilia, incest and bigamy. Not picking, though. Definitely not.

Rick Santorum is a Jew and * a proud supporter of Israel. I wonder how he feels when people say, "I have nothing against Jews, it's just their religion I find repulsive." Or, the classic, "I'm not anti-Semitic, I'm just anti-Zionist."

Get a clue, Rick. "Tolerating" what you call "deviant behavior" is not going to bring Western civilization crumbling to its knees, no matter what wacky analogies you dream up to prove that it will. And excuse me for asking, but don't you have anything more constructive to focus your attention on these days?

*CORRECTION: Rick Santorum is a devout Catholic and I humbly apologize for my earlier error. Somehow, with all the press releases about his participation in missions to Israel and various local events sponsored by the Jewish community, my perception became clouded. Color me beet red. The rest of the post stands.

UPDATE (still catching up): There's a wealth of interesting analysis of Santorum's comments and their implications over at The Volokh Conspiracy. Too many posts to link, but start here and scroll up.

And a big mazal tov

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Hey, Meryl's celebrating the SECOND anniversary of her blog today. That's quite a landmark. Make sure to drop on over to check out her anniversary post, where she's reviewing the road from there to here. It's, like, total Meryl.

Guess who?

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America's Fox News network has been demonstrating since the start of the war in Iraq an amazing lesson in media hypocrisy. The anchors, reporters and commentators unceasingly emphasize that the war's goal is to free the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. The frequency, consistence and passion with which they use that lame excuse, and the fact that nearly no other reasons are mentioned shows that this is the network's editorial policy. The American flag lies in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, while the logo accompanying the programming is Operation Iraqi Freedom, the official name given by the Pentagon. Fox journalists display what appears to be genuine happiness, innocent and sincere, brainwashed in nature, in the expectation for the wonderful day when the American army leads the Iraqi people from slavery to freedom.

* * *

As far as the war's motives are concerned, Fox looks like part of the propagandistic campaign of systematic disinformation by the Bush administration, while it accuses the Iraqi regime of disseminating false information about the situation on the battlefield. The motives for the war and measure of its justice are at the heart of the current conflict between the United States and its European allies, and has ramifications over its relations with Russia, China and the Arab world as well as its position as the global superpower. Just as the Iraqi TV deceives its viewers about the situation on the battlefield, Fox misleads its American viewers about the reasons for the war. If only the issue of the human rights of the Iraqi people was at stake, there never would have been a war.


But Fox broadcasts to the entire world. Like CNN, it presents to the globe the face of America and its perception of reality, and it exports its dark side, the infuriating side that inspires so much hostility: the self-righteousness, the brutality, the pretension, hubris, and simplicity, the feverish faith in its moral superiority, the saccharine and infantile patriotism, and the deep self-persuasion that America is not only the most powerful of the nations, but also that the truth is always American. Fox looks like the media arm of the superpower mentality, indifferent to any perspective that is not American and alienating vast portions of the world. Its war coverage is as governmental as that of Iraqi TV. This is American TV.


From whence comes this hysterically anti-American drivel? From some rabid Islamist rag or the ravings of a preacher in Gaza? Or perhaps from some remaining pocket of daft defiance in Paris or in Moscow?

Nope. The foregoing is courtesy of the only slightly (cough) left-leaning Israeli daily Ha'aretz. It's almost two weeks old now, but the melody's still the same. Nice, huh?

Dis and dat

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Oh, my! Another crisis I've missed over the last few weeks and quite close to home. My Blogmosis-mama Vicky has been struck by the asswipe overload virus, a/k/a Trolls Cubed - a common infection that seems to come with Comments. Which is one reason I have none. In the last few months, it's driven the likes of Imshin and Diane (currently down for other reaons) to despair and, worse, to temporary blogging hiatuses. So sorry to see Vicky join the club and I hope she returns soon in all her glory.

Meanwhile, however, at the risk of attracting the ire of "jefe" and his ilk, I'd like to add a personal addendum to this post, which seems to have tipped the bucket.

Some shmoe is suing McDonald's for discrimination in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act.

Connor, who weighs 420 pounds, claims that McDonald's violated the laws when it regarded him as morbidly obese and refused to hire him based on that perception. Further, he alleges that his obesity is a disability, and the restaurant chain violated the CFEPA by deliberately not hiring him.

U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill concluded that Connor must be given the opportunity to prove that he is protected under the law.

McDonald's had argued that obesity, except in special cases where the obesity is due to a physiological disorder, is not a "physical impairment" within the meaning of the ADA.

I'm sorry, weighing 420 pounds is, indeed, morbidly obese. It is not a mere "perception." What restaurant would want to hire a 420 pound person? It's just plain impractical. They wouldn't be able to fit anyone else behind the counter, and the person would certainly eat all of the food. If Connor and his lawyer are successful in making obesity a disability, the next step would be forcing McDonald's to renovate its kitchen so the guy can actually fit into it.

A few years ago, I had just boarded a full flight from Philadelphia to Denver en route to Phoenix. I was occupying the middle seat in a row of three, with the sole empty seat on the plane to my left, when a man came lumbering down the aisle. A man so huge he could move only by squeezing painfully past each row. Aiming his bulk at the empty seat next to me.

But he couldn't get in. He tried, several times, to maneuver it. No luck. And then the unbelievable happened. This man reached behind him, raised the armrest between our seats and plopped himself down, with approximately one-third of his bulk resting on and just beginning to squash the crap out of my left leg. To which I responded by rapidly and mindlessly extricating the leg from harm's way.

This foolish move allowed our friend to settle comfortably, with an audible sigh of relief (I swear) into both our seats. The space left for me was less than one-half of the seat I'd previously occupied. The flight attendant flatly refused to do anything about it. When I pointed out to her that FAA regulations supposedly require the armrest to be down for takeoff, she shrugged. She offered to escort me off the plane, which offer I declined.

Fortunately, the passenger to my right was my travel companion. I basically sat on his lap for the entire flight. When I filed a formal complaint in Denver, I was offered a $75 travel voucher and assured that the airline had no choice. Had they insisted that this man occupy only one seat, they said, they would have been sued. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I didn't believe it then and I don't believe it now. Vicky, I'm with you 100% on this one. And please -- come back soon.

Then and now

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Almost exactly one year ago, I was searching for some stuff on the internet and stumbled across a thing called a weblog. And life changed. The blog was Chris Newman's Dagger in Hand (the stuff I was searching for was info on Oriana Falacci), and in the process of my quest for more explanation of this blogging phenomenon, I followed a link to Yourish.com. Thus began a most rewarding cyber-friendship. But I had never actually met Meryl, or even spoken to her, until yesterday.

Well, Philadelphia (and its suburbs) are more or less smack dab on the way between northern New Jersey and Richmond, VA, so S. and I enjoyed a great visit with the delightful Ms. Yourish, who's now on her way back home. She might even post some photos from Valley Forge National Park, which was brimming with people out to enjoy yesterday's beautiful weather. And we treated her to a feast of beasts that would definitely make PETA (and probably even some with less delicate sensibilities) squirm. Copious amounts of wine were consumed, as well, though I fear I did quite a bit more of that consuming than did Meryl. And has anyone else noticed how incredibly bright it seems to be today?

Once upon a time, when I was a kid, we had things called "pen pals." These were people with whom one was encouraged to establish a written correspondence over a relatively vast distance, resulting in exposure to different and more varied cultures, beliefs and ideas. Or so the theory went. I suspect it was basically a ruse to encourage us to express ourselves creatively through the written word, which is a very good thing. It was also more dramatic and, well, proper, than picking up the phone and calling a perfect stranger. But most of those correspondences petered out in relatively short order due to lack of interest.

E-mail correspondence, due in part to its immediacy and its informality, bears only surface resemblance to the pen pal sort. Especially since it's usually launched by an initial discovery of commonly held views and values rather than as a shot in the dark. I find it fascinating that over the past year I've discovered so many far flung "friends" and established so many and such varied relationships through this blog and those of others without a clue as to how accurate or complete my perceptions of them are. Well, "normal" personal relationships have the same issues, I guess, but they enjoy the benefit of hundreds of little clues of facial expression, vocal nuance and body language, not to mention sheer physical presence, that we learn to rely upon in moving closer, backing off or choosing how to respond in any given instance.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere in particular. Just some musings on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Oh, and this. I think we bloggers should try to get together in person more often. Maybe even with others who are not of like mind. It might enrich the tone of our encounters. And it can be a hell of a lot of fun.

Safe trip, Meryl. Let's do it again sometime soon.

And to all of you who are celebrating Easter today, here's wishing you a peaceful and joyous holiday.

Another day

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I've spent a good part of the day catching up with mail. Ugly. The best part, the part that's had me mesmerized, are the excerpts from the Arab press on the war with Iraq. It's fascinating to read how the Americans are losing the war, how we're being surprised and thwarted at every turn. Hmmmm. Not all that much different than the reports by much of the American media, I guess.

I haven't quite gotten up to date yet, but I notice the sun has already set. And I haven't even started truly preparing for the arrival of a most illustrious houseguest tomorrow (more on that later, I suspect). Time to get a move on, here.

Shabbat Shalom.

Phooey!

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I see that while I've been otherwise occupied, Diane has been obliged to close up shop and take down her blog. This is extremely annoying, but apparently it can't be helped.

We'll miss you, D. Big time. Hope you find a way back soon.

Pesach. It's almost here.

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Oh, my. Where did this day go? Well, everything I wanted to say will have to wait. The fish is chilling, the brisket and the tsimmes are in the oven, the table is set, but still much to do before guests arrive.

I wish to all who are celebrating this festival of our freedom a safe, peaceful, wonderful holiday.

Chag sameach.

The incredible shrinking story

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The older the Rachel Corrie story gets, the less of a story it turns out to be. The real story, it would seem, was the rush to hyperbole with which this young nitwit's death was welcomed in certain quarters. Not to mention the deafening silence from those same quarters that's greeted the unravelling of the fabrications.

The latest, via IMRA:

Follow up on ISM and the death of Rachel Corrie

Excerpt from NGO Monitor April 10, 2003 5763 Nisan 8

The IDF has completed an exhaustive investigation of the death of Rachel Corrie, and as the findings hardly matched the original "eyewitness reports" of fellow ISM protestors, NGO Monitor thought it would be beneficial to provide a brief follow up. As one may recall, Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old American woman, was serving as an international peace protestor/human shield with the Palestinian International Solidarity Movement when she was allegedly killed by being run over by an IDF bulldozer.

First, it has been determined the "eyewitness report" that the world received following the death of Corrie was fictional. The IDF performed a complete and exhaustive investigation of the death and discovered the following: 1) Corrie was not sitting in front of the bulldozer, but was obstructed from it by a mound of earth; 2) She died not from being hit by the bulldozer - apparently there was no contact between her and the machine - but rather was hit by heavy building debris that the vehicle was moving; 3) the bulldozer was not demolishing homes at all, but was flattening out an area frequently used as a staging ground for terrorism and arms smuggling, in order to increase Israel's ability to maintain security control of the area. Judy Lash Balint of the Jerusalem Diaries prepared an informative article documenting the discrepancies in the account.

Judy Lash Balint's essay (called "Peace Activists in the Middle East: Out of Their Depth") is also well worth reading, as it goes into quite a bit more detail, albeit without the benefit of all the findings listed above. This is one instance in which, it seems, the more we learn, the less there is to know.

Wecome wagon time

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Well, it's with great pleasure that we welcome Laurence Simon's Amish Tech Support to the exploding Blogmosis family. We all wish him good health and happiness in his new home. He seems to be settling in quite nicely.

In the meantime, here's Lar's take (from an interim location) on Friday's nauseating Eason Jordan revelations. He's looking at this picture through a wider lens than most. Let's pay attention.

Brain dead

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One of the occupational hazzards of blogging is that it seems new and exciting ideas for posts are always popping into one's head at the most inopportune moments. Caught in traffic (without a dictaphone handy) and miles from a keyboard or in the shower rushing to get ready for an important meeting or on the treadmill at the gym, the most profound essays will crowd my brain just begging to be translated into bits and bytes.

Well, I've found a way to stem the flow. Spend a week entering someone else's (several someone elses's) spectacularly unprofitable stock trades (hundreds of them), real estate tax and mortgage payments, business expenses, charitable contributions and W-2 information into the computer for translation to the magical Form 1040. I find my brain to be stripped of all creative impluses. Numb. Someone should have suggested to the powers-that-be that scheduling a war during tax season was cruel and unusual punishment for tax preparers who would like to be paying attention, let alone creating commentary.

Ah, well. It's almost over. And once my house is cleaned and my gefilte fish is chopped, mixed, formed and boiled, once the last cup of wine has been drained and the afikomen eaten -- in other words, once the Passover Seder is over, I expect to return to some modicum of normalcy. In the meantime, I thank those of you who are still here for bearing with me.

This Shabbat, the last one before the beginning of Passover, is called Shabbat Hagadol, which means "the great Sabbath." I've been browsing around trying to find out why, but the explanations I'm finding simply do not have the ring of truth about them and, well, my usual investigative demon is asleep at the switch. I may follow this up over the next week or so if I find anything interesting (or if anyone emails me something that doesn't have to do with Egyptian kids killing their parents because they wouldn't let the Jews go -- gimme a break).

In the meantime,

Shabbat Hagadol Shalom.

Cutting through it

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Another precious gem from Imshin.

Kuwaitis rising

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I'd say this is a very good piece of news, if true. As a matter of fact, it could potentially be the beginning of something quite spectacular. (Via IMRA)

Monday, April 7, 2003
Kuwaiti Worshipers Said Opposing Anti-US Sermons, Preachers

GMP20030406000044 Kuwait Al-Siyasah (Internet Version-WWW) in Arabic
05 Apr 03
[With thanks to www.mideastweb.org/mewnews1.htm]
[FBIS Translated Text]

Al-Siyasah has learned that a new phenomenon has emerged in some Kuwaiti mosques. The worshipers have begun to reject the extremism that some imams express in their sermons and their advocacy of fighting the Americans and viewing them as enemies. Worshipers at a mosque in the Janub al-Surrah neighborhood interrupted the prayer leader Nabil al-Awadi when he began to call down imprecations on the heads of the Americans during last Friday's sermon. They demanded that he stop doing that. Friday worshipers at the A'ishah Habib Mosque in the Al-Jabiriyah neighborhood yesterday shouted the slogan: "O God, grant a lofty status to Islam and grant the same to the United States." They did this to express their opposition to the anti-American announcements that the mosque's imam was making.

Pollard being Pollard

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It's truly not my intention to devote much of what little blogging time I can scrounge right now to Jonathan Pollard. But it seems that his name is suddenly popping up with annoying frequency again (there are lulls in this storm) so today I thought I'd simply let him speak for himself.

The following is a letter released by Pollard's organization. It was written to Uri Ariel, a member of the Knesset since October, 2001, who has had the audacity to send Pollard a number of letters recently, wishing him well, but has so far apparently spent insufficient political capital lobbying for his release.

TO: MK URI ARIEL, NATIONAL UNION PARTY

DATE: APRIL 7, 2003

FROM: JONATHAN POLLARD #09185-016
FCI BUTNER
POB 1000
BUTNER, NORTH CAROLINA
USA 27509-1000

Via Regular Mail

Dear Uri,

Please stop sending letters to me. All they do is underscore the blatant cowardliness and treachery of our political establishment.

Despite your "best wishes," Uri, when it comes right down to it, both you and your party are no better than the bootlickers who abandoned me 19 years ago.

And just who are you, Uri, to "fight for my freedom"? What a sick, pathetic joke. Kever Yosaif [Joseph's Tomb] lies in ruins and your so-called "party" joins a Government of liars and murderers! Ma'araht HaMachpela [Tomb of the Patriarchs] is besieged on all sides, and the National Union negotiates for a place at the trough! Our holy Temple Mount has been destroyed for a 3rd time, Uri, and you pathetic politicians run around the Knesset like a bunch of scared hens, afraid of Edom and Esau. What a disgrace to all of our martyrs who have fallen dreaming of a proud, independent Jewish national homeland!

For 2000 years Uri, our people prayed for a restoration of our sovereign right to The Land, and all we have to show for it is the political equivalent of a cheap whore house. G-d must look at you and weep.

So Uri, my friend, let me give you some very good advice: worry about yourself. The Lord G-d of Israel will save me.

Jonathan

'Nuff said.

The map

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Just a few more ramblings on the "Road Map" to close out the week.

Ever since this proposal started circulating, it's had an odd smell to me. On the one hand, it bore the distinct odor of Oslo (and at this point, that's quite a stink). On the other hand, it was being promoted by a U.S. administration that seemed last summer to "get" that continued Israeli concessions, in the absence of concrete evidence of palestinian efforts to reign in terror, were counterproductive. If nothing else, Bush's June 24th speech seemed to acknowledge that the "peace process" could only continue if both sides demonstrated a willingness to reach an agreement. And it made clear exactly who Bush considered the obstacle. Hint: it wasn't Israel.

So what is it with this "Road Map?" I've suggested before that it may be just a ploy to keep our allies (both real and imaginary) off our back until the war is over. But that doesn't really ring true. Of course, the UN is pushing hard for it. So are the EU and Russia. The real stinker, though, is the vehemence with which the palestinians are pushing for it. Even if I didn't find its terms alarming in their own right, the fact that it's so darn attractive to one side of the conflict would be a flashing red light in my brain. Why is it that the "Quartet" doesn't seem to notice?

Here's just a sampling of comments made for public consumption by various palestinian officials over the past few weeks.

March 15:

[Chief Palestinian negotiator and cabinet minister Sa'eb] Erekat stressed that "what is wanted from the United States is to find a real mechanism to carry out the roadmap, impose it on Israel with a timetable and international observers."

March 15 again:

The [PLO] Executive Committee said the “roadmap” is not a subject of fresh negotiations but a formula that requires immediate implementation, including a stop to all forms of aggressive action, withdrawal from all territory occupied by Israel, and ceasing all settlement activities, in accordance with the Tenet Understandings and the UN Security Council Resolutions.

The “roadmap” to peace in the Middle East was put forward by the “Quartet” of mediators comprising the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. It envisions a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel by 2005 and gives Israel Arab-wide recognition.

Implementing the “roadmap” should also include “applying the Mitchel Recommendations, lifting of siege, and terminating the policy of collective punishment, house demolitions and killing of thousands of civilians, as well as the detention of thousands of Palestinians amidst other war crimes,” the committee stressed.

I've quoted this one at some length to point out what the Executive Committee is sort of missing in its reading of the terms of the map. Like this stuff:

In the first phase, the Palestinians will start immediately implementing an unconditional halt of violence according to the specific steps as outlined below; Palestinians and Israelis will resume security cooperation on the basis of Tenet Plan to end the violence, terrorism and instigation through restructured and effective Palestinian security services; the PA will undertake a process of comprehensive political reform. . ..

Now, why is that? Perhaps because the Committee doesn't really see those things as necessary. Look at the language. The palestinians will "start immediately implementing. . .," "undertake a process. . .." Weasel words. Israel, on the other hand, will "withdraw from . . .," will "freeze all settlement activities . . .." The whole document follows a similar pattern. Concrete physical and territorial concessions made for "efforts," "processes" and "attempts" that may or may not succeed and, in fact, are not required to. Anyway, back to the rave reviews.

March 23:

“Consequently, we call on the members of the Quartet and the American administration to apply as soon as possible the ‘roadmap’ setting the steps toward creating a Palestinian state by 2005,” Arafat’s media adviser Nabil Abu Rudaineh said.

And that is, after all, the big attraction. The creation of a palestinian state. After which, all bets are off.

March 29:

Washington and London have come under fire by the Palestinian leadership for their decisive pressing ahead with the war on Iraq while constantly delaying publication of an internationally drafted “roadmap” to end the 30-month Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian chief negotiator and cabinet minister Sa’eb Erekat slammed the repeated delay.

“It seems the delay in the peace process is in marked contrast to the immediate and final decision for a war on Iraq. The decision for war was not delayed, but the decision for peace has been delayed six times in four months,” he said.

I confess, this one is sort of my favorite. For the hundredth time, I find myself wondering what planet Sa'eb Erekat lives on. One can only hope that the "Road Map" is introduced, if at all, with the same sense of "immediacy" as was the war against Saddam. That would mean, what, 2015?

April 3:

[Palestinian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil] Shaath stressed the Palestinian rejections to any amendment to the roadmap saying " if the American side agrees to consider these amendments, this means the end of the Roadmap." Shaath added "any Israeli amendments on the Roadmap would foil it and we are not ready to discuss any amendments."

They're so in love with this roadmap that any change to it whatsoever will mean "the end." Is the writing on the wall here, or what?

In the meantime, they're sending suicide bombers to Iraq to express their appreciation for the impending introduction of the roadmap by blowing up American and British soldiers. Maybe it's just me, but something definitely seems wrong with this picture.

Yes, ending the week on another sour note. Well, maybe not. This interesting item just popped up in my inbox.

Group pans selection of Phila. man for panel
By David O'Reilly
Inquirer Staff Writer

The White House yesterday announced that President Bush had nominated Daniel Pipes of Philadelphia, a controversial scholar of militant Islam, to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

An American Muslim advocacy group that Pipes has called "Osama bin Laden's representatives in Washington" quickly denounced the appointment as "insensitive" and called on Bush to rescind it.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) yesterday described Pipes as "the nation's leading Islamophobe" and an advocate for Israeli interests.

On this Sabbath eve and at all times, let there be light.

Shabbat Shalom.

No place for Pollard

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This is an issue I've kept quiet about for a long time. I really have little constructive to say about it, to tell the truth. But I've now been provoked into putting my $.02 in. I guess I'm easily provoked.

Background: Jonathan Pollard was a U.S. naval officer who, back in the early 1980s, took advantage of his position to pass highly classified information to Israel about Iraqi offensive plans and capabilities (against Israel) that our government preferred to keep to itself. Then he got caught.

The Pollard case is a messy one. I don't have the time or the inclination to embellish or annotate it right now. A quick search, though, will reveal more commentary than you can sift through in a year. The long and short of the matter is that Pollard's information was apparently instrumental in facilitating Israel's defensive meaures against Saddam Hussein prior to the near global awakening to the threat posed by his regime. When his espionage was revealed, though, Israel denied that Pollard was working for them and continued to deny it publicly for years.

But secretly, Israel turned over extensive documentation of his work to the US government under a solemn pledge that the documents wouldn't be used to convict him. At the same time, Pollard agreed to plead guilty to the only charge against him (one count of delivering classified information to an ally) in return for the government's promise not to seek the maximum sentence.


As a result of a secret memorandum sent by then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to the judge, Pollard received a life sentence. This, notwithstanding the plea agreement, the conditions under which Israel turned over the evidence in its possession (which was used in violation of those conditions) or the fact that no other spy for a friendly power had ever received more than a token sentence. Something unpalatable was clearly at work here.

Jonathan Pollard has now served more than 17 years in prison for his crime. His health is bad. There are anecdotes awash on the internet and elsewhere that he has been subjected to anti-Semitic abuse in prison. His release was half-heartedly bought and paid for by Benyamin Netanyahu at Wye and thoroughly squirreled out of by Bill Clinton on the grounds that he was afraid of George Tenet's response. The whole thing stinks. And yet. And yet.

What is it about Jonathan Pollard that makes every US administration from Regan to Bush to Clinton to Bush determined to keep him in prison while pardons abound for other criminals? What has made every Israeli government from Peres to Shamir to Rabin to Netanyahu to Barak to Sharon reluctant to lauch a full press for his release? Why do leaders of the American Jewish community consistently shy away from this subject? Is it anti-Semitism? Is it simply that Pollard doesn't have the charisma of a Mumia Abu Jamal?

I don't know the answer, but I suspect there is more to it than is readily apparent and I, for one, have had my fill of the incessant string of Pollard press releases and published letters castigating this or that public official, the Israeli government, the leadership of the American Jewish community and any writer who dares to question or criticize Pollard's complaints. Whether this stuff comes from him, his "network" or his wife (not the wife who was charged as his collaborator, but the one he married in prison after his divorce), it all reeks highly of W-H-I-N-E. Thus, yesterday, the following landed in my mailbox:

Jonathan Pollard's rabbi, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, His Eminence HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu, has given his blessing to a proposal by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner calling on all of Israel to set a place at the table for Jonathan Pollard on Seder Night. His empty chair symbolizes the longing and hope of the Nation to see Jonathan (Yehonatan Ben Malka) free and speedily returned home to Israel.

No. No, thank you. I have no intention or inclination to set a place or even cast a thought in Mr. Pollard's direction at my Seder this year. I understand that his heart may have been in the right place. I understand that he may have contributed greatly to Israel's security (though the extent to which this is true remains unclear). I understand that, based on all the information I've been able to obtain, his punishment is way out of proportion to the severity of his actions as well as to that doled out to similarly situated criminals in this country. But I also understand that he committed an act of espionage against the United States of America. That's a serious crime.

The truth is that there doesn't appear to be more than a handful of members of "the Nation" who give a high hoot whether or not Pollard is set free and "returned" to Israel (where he's never lived and to which he only applied for citizenship after his arrest). Having been barraged by the ludicrous and, frankly, caricaturisticly religious appeals with which his organization has flooded my mailbox over the past few years, I know that I've lost most of my former interest in and sympathy with his plight. I guess this is the heart of my dilemma. It isn't the arguments of Pollard's detractors that have turned me from his cause. It's Pollard himself.

I do highly recommend a vist to the "official" website devoted to and authorized by Jonathan Pollard and, in particular, his latest letter to Israel's new Interior Minister, Tommy Lapid. Let me know what you think.

Like clockwork

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Once a year, it comes. Inexorably. Without mercy. April 15th.

In my real life, I prepare tax returns, among other things. But at this particular time of the year, that's often all I do. Eating, sleeping, blogging, all that other stuff takes a back seat. So posting is likely to be sparse the next few weeks. Not to mention I have to put together a Seder for the night after TAX DAY, complete with homemade gefilte fish (I insist on making it myself).

To all those wonderful people who have waited until the last possible moment to submit their receipts, their brokerage statements and their shoeboxes full of bits and scraps of unintelligible scribbles, I utter unpublishable expletives. To the rest of you, I apologize. I'll be here in dribs and drabs over the next few weeks, but I'll be back full force in due course.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2003 is the previous archive.

May 2003 is the next archive.

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