March 2004 Archives

Keeping tabs on 'Passion'

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Israelly Cool is doing it. Really. Check it out and email him with any new stories you may come across.

Spring cleaning

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As befits this time of year, I've been tidying up around this blog a bit today. And not trying to type much because I'm still somewhat visually impaired as a result of my eye exam earlier. (My, what large pupils you have, my dear.)

In the process, I noticed that Solly Ezekiel has decided to pack in his blog, at least for now. Bummer. His post on how this came about is very entertaining, though. Go read it and wish him luck in his new job. Gedankenpundit will be missed.

A few links have been deleted, for various reasons, none of which is an attempt by me to criticize the content thereof. It's just time to move on.

Chris Muir on Clarke on Russert

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Daybyday3-24-04.bmp

Day By Day© by Chris Muir.


Syndicate this strip! Today!

Like a baby's bottom

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That was the title of a very long post I'd just finished on the extremely soft Richard Clarke "interview" (more like bottle feeding) on Meet the Press this morning. The page crashed just as I was getting ready to publish it and, frankly, I don't have the stomach to recreate it, but here are the bare bones, with some new stuff and some quotes thrown in.

Clarke is trying to paint himself as the innocent victim of an unprovoked and highly orchestrated White House attack. He is, after all, only "raising a policy issue." Right.

Here's the full transcript. It's a display of arrogance, innuendo, pandering, misdirection and disingenuousness to beat the band.

And you know, Tim, what I would like to do, beginning today, it's been going on for a week now. What I would like to do beginning today, is let's raise the level of discourse. Let's get some civility back into this issue. And let's talk about the issues. Let's not talk about the personalities. I have great respect for Dr. Rice. People have been saying all week that, you know, I must have a grudge against Condi Rice. I have known Condi for a long time. I think she's a very, very good person. And I don't want this to be about personality. I want it to be about the issues, about the war in Iraq and its affect on the war on terror.

He wants to get "civility" back into this issue? While at the same time trying to lay the blame for 9-11 at the feet of the President? Because in this interview, Clarke clearly implies (contrary to his sworn testimony) that 9-11 would have been avoided if the President had just listened to him. Just as Bill Clinton prevented terrible terrorist attacks against this country in December 1999 -- by listening to him.

And then there's this analysis, his main point, it seems, of how the war in Iraq hurt the "war on terrorism:"

Who are we fighting in the war on terrorism? We're fighting Islamic radicals and they are drawing people from the youth of the Islamic world into hating us. Now, after September 11, people in the Islamic world said, "Wait a minute. Maybe we've gone too far here. Maybe this Islamic movement, this radical movement, has to be suppressed," and we had a moment, we had a window of opportunity, where we could change the ideology in the Islamic world. Instead, we've inflamed the ideology. We've played right into the hands of al-Qaeda and others. We've done what Osama bin Laden said we would do.

In what universe were "people in the Islamic world" saying maybe they had gone too far after 9-11? When, exactly, was this "window of opportunity?" Go to MEMRI or Arab News or Al-Ahram and read what was being said in the Arab Press after 9-11. There was sympathy, there was gloating, there were denials, there were accusations against everyone from President Bush to the Mossad, but there was no "wait a minute." There was no "maybe we've gone too far." Clarke's just making that up.


I'm no loyal fan of W. And I have no problem with responsible criticism of his handling of the so-called war on terror if it's based on solid and reliable investigation and evidence. But Clarke is just grinding an axe here. I hope he goes down. I hope he goes down in flames and takes his handlers with him. And I'm just so sorry if that doesn't "raise the level of discourse."

Arabs take marbles, go home

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TUNIS - Tunisia late Saturday abruptly and indefinitely postponed the Arab summit, which had been scheduled to open Monday here, after Arab officials in preparatory meetings failed to reach even a preliminary consensus on an Arab political reform plan, officials said late Saturday.

What? They can't agree on a political reform plan? How can this be?

Some political observers at the summit's preparatory meetings said Yassin's killing had shifted the planned summit's focus and had impaired the Arab leaders' ability to push forth with their reform initiative.

Of course. It's Israel's fault. Gotta be. But wait.

Others said the Arab officials were not eager anyway to pursue a reform plan, but were forced to discuss the issue by a new US plan.

Ya think? Nah, the Yassin excuse sounds much better.

The observers said officials had been uncertain how to have the summit respond to the killing of Yassin in a manner that would satisfy angry populations, but not antagonize the US.

And another week begins.

Shavua tov.

Imshin says

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. . . people who are afraid can’t really think straight; people who are afraid cannot plan ahead or see the long-term consequences of things.

I'm so glad she's back. And with this nutshell summary of terrorist strategy so succinctly stated.

But it's much better read in context. If you haven't already, please do.

A different take on Spain

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Here's an angle I haven't read elsewhere (thanks, Dad):

Frida Ghitis:
The triumph of terror
Spanish voters send a clear message: We'll cave in

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The March 11 massacres in Madrid set off a spark of idealism, conviction and high purpose among Spaniards. As the images of death flashed mercilessly from their television screens, they vowed that the terrorist attacks would not succeed. With tears still streaming from their eyes, poets, journalists, politicians and people from all walks of life declared that they would stand up against those who, as the daily El Pais put it, hate democracy, hate freedom and hate the differences between free people. They pledged, as did writer Jose Antonio Zarzalejos, to stand with serenity and determination to see that justice is done; to see "the retribution that justice will bring to the assassins."

The people of Spain stood firm in their principles against terrorism. As long, that is, as the terror did not come from Islamic fundamentalists.

The first hints that carnage from Muslim extremists would receive different treatment came early on, when a Basque politician suggested that the reviled ETA terrorist organization was not behind the coordinated bombings of the commuter trains, which killed 201 and wounded some 1,500. Instead, he said, it could be the Arab "resistance."

Spaniards have long expressed their displeasure when others refer to the bloodthirsty ETA as "Basque separatists." They call it a terrorist band. When it comes to Arab and Muslim terrorism, they call it "the resistance." No matter that one of the great injustices they "resist" is the end of the Muslim Caliphate in Spain, defeated five centuries ago.

Read it all here.

Not a shahid

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With all the other news of the past few days, this might have slipped through a crack. Interesting.

'My son is an angel, not a shaheed'
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH

Thousands of Arabs and Jews wept together at the funeral of George Khoury, the 21-year-old university student who was murdered in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood Friday night.

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and two of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's advisers were also among the mourners.

This is the first time the mayor participated in an event alongside top PA officials in Jerusalem. The funeral was one of the biggest held for an Arab victim of terrorism in Jerusalem.

So this is what it takes to bring us together? In the movies, this would be where everyone finally realizes that the hatred and the bloodshed have all been a terrible mistake and vows to put an end to it at once. Not in real life, though.

Ibrahim Kandalaft, Arafat's adviser on Christian affairs, eulogized Khoury on behalf of the PA chairman, describing him as a shaheed (martyr) of the Palestinian cause.

But the victim's mother interrupted him by declaring that her son was an "angel, not a shaheed."

Good for her. A brave woman. My heart goes out to her.

"This is a big tragedy," said one of the lawyers. "This case shows that terrorism is blind and does not distinguish between Jews and Arabs."

Er, except, counselor, that everyone knows the terrorists have already announced, several times, that they had intended to kill a Jew, not an Arab.

Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, claimed responsibility for the slaying, but later apologized, saying the victim was mistaken for a Jew.

Reconcile that.

J Post headline

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Deplorable

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Over at The Command Post, Michelle has posted comments by various world leaders on the execution of HAMAS "spirtual leader" Ahmed Yassin. They're fairly predictable.

Here's another. Ditto.

THE Vatican condemned Israel's killing today of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, saying lasting peace could never be reached by a show of force.

"The Holy See joins the international community in deploring this act of violence not justified in any state (run by) the rule of law," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

The statement said authentic and lasting peace "cannot be the fruit of a simple show of force" but is "above all the fruit of moral and legal action".

Yassin was a mass murderer. He was in Israeli jails twice, and twice he was released, not for good behavior or repentance for his crimes but rather in two rather infamous prisoner swaps -- the first with Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC in 1985 and the latter with Jordan as a result of an embarrassing Israeli faux pas in 1997. In both instances, he went immediately back to doing what he did best. Inciting, directing and orchestrating the murder of innocent people.

Authentic and lasting peace can never be achieved so long as the Ahmed Yassins of this world live and breathe. In fact, the last few years have shown us that even artificial and temporary peace can't be achieved without the elimination of the poison spewed by such individuals. He was only one of many, but he was a big one, and while death is never a cause for celebration, the prevention of future death surely is.

You'll find no tears or apologies for his passing here.

A lesson

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Charles Johnson quoted a selection from this MEMRI translation of last Friday's (March 12) sermon at the Sheikh 'Ijlin Mosque in Gaza. That part of the khutba was alarming enough. But in some ways, it actually got worse. This excerpt is truly sick:

"Then an incident took place that was a turning point regarding the Jewish existence in Al-Madina. They started! And they bear the responsibility for their bad deeds and for the venom they spread in the heart of Al-Madina. A Muslim woman went to the Qaynuq'a tribe to sell something. They asked her to uncover her face but she refused. The Muslim woman refused to uncover her face in front of Jews. When finished with the sale, she sat down next to a Jewish jeweler, and this jeweler tied the edge of her garment in the back, so when she rose up, some say her face and others say her legs were revealed. She screamed and cried for help. Then, a noble Muslim came, who could not bear the humiliation of this woman. He rose to defend the Muslim woman's honor, drew his sword and struck that Jew, the lowly jeweler. He struck and killed him. The Qaynuq'a tribe turned against this Muslim and killed him. They killed this Muslim who defended a Muslim woman's honor.


"[The Prophet] prepared his army and went to the Qaynuq'a [tribe]. He laid siege to them for 15 days until they came out and surrendered. The Prophet rejected [their surrender] unless all their men were killed, and only the women and children be allowed to leave Al-Madina.

So here's the lesson: A Jew deliberately exposed a Muslim woman's face, or maybe it was her leg. It doesn't matter. For this, he deserved death, which sentence was immediately carried out by a righteous Muslim who happened to be in the vicinity. But the victim's tribe (can you believe it?) saw this as an act of first degree murder, and in turn killed the perpetrator who, after all, was only guilty of defending a Muslim woman's honor. Thus, the Jews "started," i.e., provoked the Prophet to wipe out their entire tribe, even after their surrender.

The imam goes on to explain, though, that, unfortunately, "Abdallah bin Ubai, Allah's curse upon him" asked that the lives of these Jews be spared, to which Mohammed agreed in order to avoid strife. Instead, the whole Qaynuq'a tribe was exiled or, in today's parlance, dispossessed of their lands, which were then occupied by the conquering imperialists faithful. Happy ending.

This simple story speaks volumes. Libraries, in fact.

The "little" ones

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They tend to fall under the media radar. Nothing so dramatic as a bus or a cafe full of people being blown to bits. A guy goes out for a jog, never comes home.

A 21-year-old man was shot dead by a passing vehicle on Friday evening in the French Hill neighborhood in Jerusalem.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack, Channel Two news reported.

The man, shot twice in the head and once in the stomach, was evacuated to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem, and died in the emergency room.

And I thought I was going to get to end the week on an up note. Sorry.

Shabbat shalom.


Update: As you'll see if you follow the link, there's been a development. The victim, as it turns out, was an Israeli Arab -- a bright young man with a very promising future. His grandfather was murdered in a terrorist attack, as well. And the terrorists had the unmitigated gall to "apologize" to his family and promise that he'll be honored as a shahid. Unspeakable.

Pointing

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My mother always told me it was impolite to point. Well, sorry, ma.

First, pointingfinger.bmp Meryl is soliciting for a very good cause. Rabid anti-Israel forces on college campuses have been managing to stifle pro-Israel speech by creating a security issue that makes it too expensive to sponsor the speakers. A group at Virginia Commonwealth University is trying to raise funds to bring in Daniel Pipes. Check here for details. And watch for similar efforts in your own community. This is happening all over.

pointingfinger.bmp Judith is doing an anniverary blogburst on the war. I'm not focusing well enough today to help her out, but stop on over for links to those who are and for some of her own thoughts, as well.

pointingfinger.bmp Omri Ceren is, as usual, on a roll. I can't pick one. Just start at the top and scroll down.

pointingfinger.bmp Matt over at Bourrez Votre Visage has a good introspective post up about a very different kind of Passion. This is a guy who takes bringing his work home to a whole new level. To know him is to eat very well.


And pointingfinger.bmp speaking of food, now we have "The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act," a/k/a the "cheeseburger bill." Special legislation to immunize fast food purveyors from lawsuits claiming they make people fat. The bill is almost (but not quite) as stupid as the lawsuits. My mother also taught me that two wrongs don't make a right. There's got to be a better way.

Oh, um, the snowstorm never really materialized, but it was nasty enough this morning that I decided on option B anyway. Procrastination is my middle name.

Dilemma

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More than six inches of snow (surprise!) predicted in the Philadelphia suburbs tonight. Of course, being the dedicated procrastinator that I am, I waited until just about the last minute to sign up for the balance of my mandatory continuing legal education credits, and the seminar is in Center City, tomorrow morning. Natch. I've used up my on-line allowance. So if I don't make it tomorrow, I'm really going to have to scramble.

To make matters worse, S is away and, well, our driveway is rather long and very steep and I just never got the knack of the blower. So if I want to leave the premises tomorrow, I'll probably have to park up at the top of the driveway and then dig myself out after the plow has come through, which, hopefully will all occur in time to get to the train station by 7:30, where the plow will also, hopefully, have cleared enough spaces to park. Then, of course, there's the question of how late and slow the trains will be running.

On the other hand, I could just leave the car all warm and dry in the garage overnight, try to find a way to make up the CLE credits over the next few weeks and spend tomorrow working out with a shovel. That option is looking better and better.

Yes, I know. First cat pictures, now this. Who's hijacked this blog, anyway? It must be an early case of spring fever.

Cat pix

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Yep, I'm linking to cat photos. This one is just too cool. And this one is just too cute.

And, OMIGOD!!!! Meryl has comments!!!!!????? What could be next?

Al Hafs' laugh and a half

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The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades are at it again.

CAIRO (Reuters) - A group that said it had links to Al Qaeda said it was calling a truce in its Spanish operations to see if the new government would withdraw its troops from Iraq, a pan-Arab newspaper said.
(link via LGF)

Who are these guys? And why do they talk so much? It's not that I'm doubting the mounting evidence that Al Qaeda was at the very least involved in last week's terrorist bombings in Madrid. It's just that I'm skeptical as to the connection between Al Qaeda and this Abu Hafs al-Masri bunch.

Abu Hafs issued a quick statement taking "credit" for the Madrid attack. They also issued a not-so-quick statement taking credit for last year's major power blackout in North America. That claim was laughed out of the park. Now they're back and sounding more plausible, so people are paying attention. But maybe they've just learned how to sound that way as a result of past mistakes.

Last Friday, MEMRI published a preliminary analysis of Abu Hafs' statement on the Madrid bombings. He concluded that the statement just didn't reflect either the philosophy or the usual mode of expression of Al Qaeda or its leading luminaries.

Questions about the murky connections between Al Hafs and Al Qaeda have been raised before. This article in last November's Guardian does quite a thorough job, given the information available, of dissecting Al Hafs' background.

This is not the first time the name of Abu Hafs has surfaced in recent months. The same group claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on the UN headquarters in Iraq in August. Yet despite its sudden rise as a self-proclaimed perpetrator of terrorist outrages, the context of the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades is murky at best. The only certainty is that someone wants the world to associate these latest attacks with an individual once at the heart of Osama bin Laden's operations.

And there was this from CNN last week.

Intelligence sources have consistently told CNN that the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade does not speak for al Qaeda, and there is question as to whether it exists at all beyond one person with a computer and a fax machine.

The speculation's been going on for a while. I took a trip through Google to see just how many terrorist attacks Abu Hafs has claimed in the past few years. Just a few. The November, 2003, synagogue bombing in Istanbul, the August, 2003, attack on the Baghdad U.N. headquarters and, that same month, the car bombing of the Marriot Hotel in Jakarta, and, of course, the blackout.

Misinformation is a powerful tool. So, you know, proceed with caution.

On Spain

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Allah gets serious. And he does serious pretty damn well.

Who knew?

Memories are short

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Omer Bartov in the LA Times (invasive registration required) with another take on the new antisemitism. "Memories are Short, Hatred is Forever"

Europe's anti-Semitism did not vanish. It was banished to the fringes of society; it was buried in the recesses of people's consciousness; it was transformed into philo-Semitism and fads for things Jewish; it seeped back in as self-righteous indignation against Israel; and it was exported into the Muslim world. Now that it is back, we can see where it was hiding all these years.

The new anti-Semitism employs images strikingly similar to Hitler's. It condemns the Jews as controlling the world's only superpower and seeking to take over the rest of the world, as promoting a destructive policy of globalization, as supporting the allegedly criminal and illegitimate Nazi-like state of Israel. It is obsessed with fantasies of secret cabals, visions of bloody upheaval and apocalyptic devastation. Like its Nazi predecessor, it promises to do to the Jews what they are supposedly doing to the world. It is inherently, then, genocidal.

I'm torn between feeling that this message can't be emphasized enough and a growing suspicion that we've reached the stage of piling on. It's getting hard to find anything new to say about the "new" antisemitism, and at some point, people are just going to start thinking, "oh, that again" and turning off. Yes, I know some people are probably there already. On the other hand . . .

Bartov also has a few words to say about a certain "nauseating film." But enough of that.

A "conservative" view

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So by now we're supposed to be about ready to get over the 'Passion' controversy and move on to other things, right? But that just isn't likely to happen so soon.

Today, I came across this little piece in the March 15th issue of Pat Buchanan's The American Conservative (no, not a regular read). It's by a guy named John Zmirak, and the minute I saw that name, it sent a nasty little shiver of recognition up my spine. Dr. Zmirak has appeared on this blog before, not surprisingly in connection with his rabid condemnation of the 2002 (not 2003) attempt of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to reject proselytization of the Jews -- a laudable effort that went nowhere.

This time, Zmirak is accusing Jews, and specifically the Anti-Defamation League, of "attempted prior censorship" and, amazingly, "leading a jihad against the cross." All in bad faith, he asserts, because the "key events" in the movie are "confirmed by the Jewish Talmud." This will be big news to most Talmudic scholars, but trust him. He knows better. He even makes up a bit of pseudo-religio-historic fiction of his own to support his, er, point.

In the high priest’s presence, Jesus asserted His own divinity. Faced with this, the high priest had only two choices: bow down and worship Jesus or put Him to death.

There have been too many excellent critiques of Mel's distortions of both the Gospels and the historical record for me to cite here in response. Here's one. Here's another.

As for the not-so-secret agenda of Gibson and his production company, Zmirak himself provides us with a classic glimpse that's rarely acknowledged.


My name wasn’t on the list, so I had to speak with an executive from Icon. A gracious and beautiful woman, she was beside herself trying to keep the event free of hostile press. She asked me a few questions, none of which seemed to come to the point, then finally posed the crucial one: “Are you a believer?”

I said, “Absolutely.” She looked relieved but went on to explain: “It’s just that ever since Mr. Abraham Foxman snuck in to one of our screenings, we’ve had to be very careful …” she said, then paused in thought. “You know, now that he has seen it, I think it will start to work on his heart. Let’s pray that he has a spiritual awakening because of the film. That’s why it was made.”

Lovely. No, this is not going away so soon.


Postscript:

"Perhaps it’s time to turn the tables on Foxman, who freely attributes to his opponents the darkest of motivations," says Zmirak, "and demand of him: How much of our faith do you demand that we renounce? How far do you intend to go?"

Quite a lot of nerve, coming from a man who's expressed unbounded contempt for any Christian willing to reject the ongoing demand that we Jews renounce our faith completely.

Alligator tenderloin

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Grilled and garnished with a touch of cajun butter. Yum.

Not kosher, by a long shot.

Happy International Eat an Animal for PETA Day.

A whole new meaning

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The Spanish people have spoken.

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

And I thought the French were surrender monkeys.

Meryl has a more upbeat take (just in case you missed the Instalink).

Meanwhile, Yasser Arafat's Fatah is now referring to the Israeli port of Ashdod, the site of today's double suicide bombing, which, (not to put too fine a point on it) is in "Israel proper," as "Israeli occupied Ashdod."

And the expected Israeli response to this latest terror attack, not surprisingly, is not quite the same as Spain's.

Depending

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Yay! Susanna Cornett is back, though her comments don't seem to be functioning at the moment. So I'll post one here.

Susanna has some interesting things to say about a local smoking ban in Lexington, KY. And she points to some of the blatant inconsistencies in the positions of both the left and the right when it comes to protecting individual freedom. Liberals, she says, are usually the ones trying to ban smoking (really?), but in this case, they're also the ones invoking local jurisdiction, generally considered a right-wing shelter.

So now we have conservatives trying to pull state rank to protect individual rights, while the liberals are crying "local issue! local issue!" so they can choke individual freedoms.

As usual, Susanna has put her finger on an interesting dichotomy. But here's my question. Since when is the individual freedom to breathe considered less worthy of protection than the individual right to smoke?

Yeah, I'm out of the closet on this one, folks. A more rabid anti-smoker you will not find in the blogosphere. That's a promise. But many of the people I know personally who agree with me on this issue are die-hard conservatives with whom I can't even discuss abortion or gay rights. Go figure.

Amazing

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Some people really bend over backwards to make an utter ass of themselves. It's kind of amazing, and so unnecessary. The effort, I mean.

But, hey, you want hateful, spiteful, mindbogglingly stupid, adolescent graffiti? You got it. With cheerleaders, to boot.


Update: Well, ok, maybe this post was a bit of an overreaction. Maybe a lot. I still don't think it's funny, but, well, yeah, overreaction.

The game extravaganza

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With sincere apologies to Imshin (whose gentle and positive approach has vastly increased my sympathy for the (non-PETA) vegetarian POV and, therefore, to all (non-PETA) vegetarians out there), well, apologies notwithstanding -- like I said, lots of tasty animals. Here goes. We had:

-- ostrich bruschetta
-- musk-ox ragout
-- stuffed rabbit loin
-- duck breast salad with fruits and orchids
-- wild boar with carrot and pine nut dressing
-- 'gator gumbo on toast

-- foie gras in choux pastry
-- quail stuffed with truffles and wild 'shrooms, and
-- buffalo tenderloin, roasted to perfection

All accompanied by a sort of timeless live quartet of violin, recorder, cello and lute, in the nave of a really beautiful Romanesque cathedral repro (hell of a place for Shabbat dinner, eh?).

Beat that.

Getting meat

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As many of you know, March 15th is International Eat an Animal for PETA Day. For those who don't, the history is here.

Since IEAFPD is on a Monday this year, we figured we'd make a whole weekend of it. So tonight, we're going to a Shabbat game dinner (though I somehow doubt that many people there will even know it's Shabbat) with lots of different tasty animals. Menu to be posted next week.

Shabbat Shalom.

In case you're wondering

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On this one, I have no problem. Although headlines like this are just plain stupid. It's nothing to cheer about, and the actual content of the article belies the title.

Meyers' brother, Bob Meyers, told reporters, "There are no winners today."

"This was not a victory," he said. "But it was something that had to be done, and it was done right."

The appeals will go on for a lot longer than a year, I suspect. Certainly long enough to grow a noisy protest movement, several websites and at least a dozen marriage proposals.

Wrong decision

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No, of course it's not for me to tell Israelis how to run their country, but I know a big mistake when I see one.

The Knesset voted Wednesday against a bill proposing the enactment of civil marriages. The bill fell by 58:29 with 9 abstentions.

I've expounded on this topic before. At considerable length. This bill represents a missed opportunity of the first order. It's a shame.

The good news (I guess) is that it looks like this may be a simple case of Israeli politics-as-usual, and that a new bill could be introduced shortly that would receive more support. Stay tuned.

Bringing on the love

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It appears the ADL is at it again, flinging unwarranted criticism at Mel Gibson's movie. This time, they've cleverly collaborated with a bunch of skinheads, white supremacists and neo-Nazis to create the illusion that the film doesn't promote a message of tolerance and understanding. Laura found this over at the ADL website:

White supremacists and anti-Semitic extremists are expressing delight over the controversy surrounding "The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson's film which depicts the last hours and crucifixion of Jesus. Christian white supremacists have traditionally believed that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus; indeed, the term "Christ killers" is a common anti-Semitic epithet. Although non-Christian white supremacists may not focus on the death of Jesus, they still hope that anti-Semitic sentiments will be inflamed by the film. Christian and non-Christian anti-Semites alike have eagerly anticipated the opening of "The Passion of the Christ" and are planning ways to use the movie and the controversy surrounding it to promote their anti-Semitic messages.

Some, such as the Arizona anti-Semitic group We Hold These Truths, have welcomed Gibson's movie because they think it will incite anti-Israeli sentiments: "It should remind us that the brutality of 1st Century Judea is little different from 21st Century Israel."

Yes, they give specific examples. E.g.,

James Wickstrom, a vicious anti-Semite and Christian identity adherent, not only urged followers to watch "The Passion of the Christ," but also promised to create fliers to distribute during and after the release of the movie, to "further educate those that have had their eyes opened to the REAL murderers of Christ." He urged all Identity adherents to prepare a literature drive to coincide with the opening of the film. "This anti-Christ non-human scum MUST be identified and purged from our White Christian society by ANY means necessary," he emphasized. As the release of "The Passion" neared, white supremacists began to think of ways they could capitalize on the film and its controversy.

And

Anti-Semites on the discussion forum of Stormfront, the most popular neo-Nazi Web site in the U.S., shared ideas on how to exploit the film's preview. "The opening at theatres would be [a] good time for the NA [the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group] to get some flyers out about Jewish media control," suggested one member in February. "No one would doubt it after the flap that has been caused…"

There are plenty more.

Shortly after reading this, I heard Michael Medved on MSNBC claiming that people are responding to 'The Passion' with love. It's not that I'm not looking, but I really haven't been able to find those stories. Please feel free to send me one.

Judicial activism

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Excellent, coherent discussion of this increasingly abused meme, with links to additional excellent, coherent discussions of same, over at Volokh. This is an argument I've found myself trying to make repeatedly over the past few weeks, but the gross and cynical appropriation of this term by those with an agenda, not to mention the complicity of the media, is making it an unhill battle.

No good news

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Well, the cold, wet weather is back, the miserable nasty cold virus got me, after all, and now I see that Imshin is taking a break from blogging. Here's hoping it's a short one and that she comes back rested and refreshed real soon.

Shushan Purim

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Second verse, same as the first . . .

Happy Purim to my mom! And to everyone else who lives in Jerusalem or within sight (or one kilometer) of the walls of the Old City! For them, Purim began tonight, rather than last night. It's one of those hard-to-explain things.

Reflections on Oberammergau

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In recent discussions focusing on (what else) 'The Passion,' I've seen several people question the connection between the Nazis and the use of passion plays. The Nazis were, it's pointed out, anti-religious.

A recent article in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent helps to clear the air on this one. Robert Leiter discusses Columbia University professor James Shapiro’s recent book, "Oberammergau: The Troubling Story of the World’s Most Famous Passion Play:"

In perhaps the most shocking pages of Shapiro’s book, the author describes just how extensive the village’s Nazi connections were. For example, of the 714 actors who performed in the play during the 1930s, many of whom were children, 152 joined the Nazi Party by 1937, “the arbitrary cutoff date used by the Allies after the war to define ‘pure Nazis.’ An unspecified number ... joined after that date.”

As for Hitler, he first attended the Passion play in August 1930 and returned in 1934 for the 300th anniversary performance, just a year after the Nazis had seized power. At a dinner on July 5, 1942, he was recorded as saying:

“One of our most important tasks will be to save future generations from a similar political fate and to maintain for ever watchful in them a knowledge of the menace of Jewry. For this reason alone it is vital that the Passion play be continued at Oberammergau; for never has the menace of Jewry been so convincingly portrayed as in this presentation of what happened in the times of the Romans. There one sees in Pontius Pilate a Roman racially and intellectually so superior, that he stands like a firm, clean rock in the middle of the whole muck and mire of Jewry.”

That's the connection.

Recently, the Oberammergau passion play has been undergoing some long overdue revisions in which Shapiro has been a participant. One of his duties was instructing the actors in how to recite a Jewish prayer.

As it happened, it was Shapiro who helped two German actors learn the prayer over the bread. He noted that it was 60 years beyond Kristallnacht (“Night of the Broken Glass”), when the only Jew in Oberammergau, Max-Peter “Jud” Meyer, as he was known by all, had been run out of town in the village’s own infamous Judenaktion.

Meyer was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, a mere 75 miles from his hometown. As it happened, the Nazi Party member who helped “escort” the village’s only Jew out of town was chosen that year to play Jesus.

At the end of his book, Shapiro wonders what poor “Jud” Meyer, who survived the Holocaust, would have made of his instructing German actors in the correct way to pray in Hebrew.

I wonder that myself. All in all, it's a very illuminating article.

Absur ditties

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Barry Chamish, way up there on my list of whacked out conspiracy theorists, has written to advise me that he has a blog. (Snort!) No, I'm not going to link it. And don't even think of going looking for it unless your tin foil hat is securely in place.

For reference: Daniel Pipes on Chamish.

Oh, and HAPPY PURIM!!!!

Today

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It looked like a nasty day shaping up. It started out grey and foggy and the employment report wasn't good news for President Bush or the stock market. But the market bounced back after an early (and fairly limp) sell-off. And it sounds like John Kerry, at least, was making the best of it. The sun actually came out for a while, too.

Martha Stewart didn't have a good day at all. I can't say I've paid much attention to this case. I just keep wondering how many other people have gotten away with much worse because they aren't household names. Ah, well. The price of fame. Or something.

It's Adar. We're supposed to be happy. Purim is right around the corner, immediately following this Shabbat. So why am I down in the dumps? Well, mostly, I suspect, because the really nasty cold that hit S. yesterday seems to be trying to work its way through my defenses. I'm not giving up so easily, though. If all else fails, perhaps I'll pickle it for Purim.

Shabbat Shalom.

Imitating art

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Remember that scene in Annie Hall where Woody drags Marshall McLuhan on screen to eviscerate a pontificating pseudo-intellectual? One of the great moments in movie history. Anyway, something similar has been going on over at Roger L. Simon's blog. Sort of.

I first caught a link to Nidra Poller's incredible Commentary piece over at Occam's Toothbrush, and then found the link to the discussion at Roger's via Ocean Guy.

Ms. Poller is a friend of Roger's, so it's not surprising that she showed up to respond to her (rather snarky) critics in the comment thread. Whether Roger himself pulled her in from stage right or she just happened to wander by on her own is anybody's guess. Needless to say, she held her own.

By the way, I sent a copy of the Commentary article to my mother in Jerusalem. She suggested that, as Ms. Poller clearly doesn't feel at home in either France or the U.S., there is another alternative.

Yes, well, that's a thought.

Stranger than fiction

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This local little story is one of the strangest I've heard in a while, and it's now attracted international attention. Back in 1997, 10-month old Delimar Vera disappeared in her burning Philadelphia row home. Though no body was discovered, the police declared her dead. The fire was more than hot enough to have consumed the remains, they said. Her parents never believed it, but the case was closed.

Then, a few weeks ago, Delimar's mother saw a six-year girl at a birthday party and instantly recognized her as her daughter. She had the presence of mind to stay calm and use the pretense of removing gum from the child's hair to obtain strands for a DNA sample. The results proved she was right. And it gets a bit stranger still.

It appears that the infant Delimar was kidnapped from her bedroom by Carolyn Correa, a "cousin" of her father's, who then allegedly set the house on fire to cover the crime. Correa subsequently raised the little girl as her own child, just across the river in New Jersey, gave her a new name and even managed to obtain a fake birth certificate for her. And she probably would have gotten away with it if she hadn't taken her to the wrong birthday party. Life is definitely stranger.

Carolyn Correa turned herself in to the Philadelphia police yesterday. The little girl is in the custody of the New Jersey Youth and Family Services while they sort everything out. It appears that she'll be returned to her birth mother, and from an adult standpoint, that's certainly as it should be. But it's hard to imagine how this bizarre turn in her life will ultimately affect this child. I expect this isn't the end of the story.

A peaceful celebration

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Dozens were killed and hundreds wounded yesterday in multiple suicide bombings in the holy Shiite city of Karbala. There was similar carnage in Baghdad.

The attacks at Karbala coincided with the major Shiite holy day of Ashura and interrupted what was described, by one radio report I heard, as a "peaceful celebration." Charles has photos. And, no, these are not pictures of the victims of the terrorist attacks. They're snapshots of the peaceful celebrants, doing their thing.

The real Jesus

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The Real Jesus: How a Jewish reformer lost his Jewish identity is the cover story of this week's US News & World Report. Highly recommended.

So where's the outrage?

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The Islamists, among whom Yasser Arafat was a pioneer and is still at the forefront, want to drown the Judeo-Christian world in blood, and they're succeeding. They've got Bethlehem and the Temple Mount, the parts of the Holy Land they control are almost empty of Christians and the Jews are supposed to be yanked out by their government, and they're gunning for the rest. It may be that the Bush administration, out of a mix of geopolitical calculation and coziness with the Saudis and others, has a hand in making the Israeli government behave in ways that appear bizarre, suicidal, and criminally irresponsible. If Islamists can take over the town of Jesus' birth, drive the Christians out, use it as a base to slaughter Jews in Jerusalem, and get away with it - we're not doing well.

Right-o.

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