Friday, December 26, 2008

The other pardon

On Tuesday, President Bush granted a posthumous pardeon to 19 more people, among them Charles Winters.

Winters, who died in the 1980s in Florida, was in the airplane business after World War II. He bought up former military cargo planes and used them to transport fruit and other products. He later started helping his Jewish friends who were shipping arms to Jews trying to found their own state in the Middle East.

Winters, a Protestant from Boston, could fly his planes in and out of the region without interference from authorities. In 1948, three of his planes left Miami, picked up weapons in Azores and Czechoslovakia and then left the planes and arms in Palestine.

Winters was convicted of violating the Neutrality Act, fined $5,000 and sentenced to serve 18 months in prison. The act is designed to ensure that financial assistance and arms are not provided to parties in foreign conflicts where the US has not taken sides.

Two others, Herman Greenspun and Al Schwimmer, also were convicted of violating the act, but they did not serve time. President Kennedy pardoned Greenspun in 1961. President Clinton pardoned Schwimmer in 2000.

Kudos to the President for this move. It sends exactly the right message to the enemies of Israel who are also the enemies of the United States. The U.S. had not taken sides in Israel's battle to be born and in the struggle of the Jewish inhabitants of the Mandate to avoid being pushed into the sea. But the U.S. has taken a side now. Or at least up to now. Bush's trust in Abbas, pressure on Israel to capitulate to terror and encouragement of palestinian statehood may be misguided, but in the war for Israel's survival, he's left no doubt as to where the United States of America stands. This pardon rights a wrong and underscores that point. And it will generate much seething on the part of Israel haters and moonbats. Cool.

Of course, the pardon of Winters won't assuage those who are demanding that other pardon. I've made my position on that question crystal clear many times in the past and it hasn't changed. I trust that, notwithstanding this sort of nonsense, the President will leave it alone.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Coal for Channel 4

What could be more inappropriate than a Christmas message from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Thanks. I'll pass.

To all who are celebrating today, I wish you a very merry and Ahmadinejad-free Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Out of darkness

Light!

It's one of the things Hanukkah is all about.

The father of Rivkah Holtzberg, who was killed along with her husband Gavriel during the terror attack on the Chabad house in Mumbai, India last month, held a menorah-lighting ceremony at his Afula home Sunday evening.

Moshe Holtzberg, the murdered couple's 2-year-old son, lit the first Hanukkah candle.

Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg spoke to Ynet about the emotional event: "We conducted the ceremony along with friends and members of my congregation, and Moishe lit the first candle, an honor that was usually reserved for his father.

"We recited the prayer 'He who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time', which has a special meaning now in light of our own Hanukkah miracle – that Moishe is here with us today," he said.

Rabbi Rosenberg said Moshe played with a dreidel while those on hand ate Sufganiot (Hannukah doughnuts); a Chabad flag retrieved from the house in Mumbai hung in the background.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

No news in Minnesota

I thought the Franken/Coleman Senate race was supposed to be decided by now but, alas, 'tis not. The jackass has now pulled into the lead, although there's no particular reason to think he'll stay there. Nor is there any particular reason to think he won't (unless there is a merciful God ...).

On Caroline Kennedy's political aspirations, Charles Krauthammer makes an unoriginal but important point.

The problem is Kennedy's sense of entitlement. Given her rather modest achievements, she is trading entirely on pedigree.

I hate to be a good government scold, but wasn't the American experiment a rather firm renunciation of government by pedigree?

Yes, the Founders were not democrats. They believed in aristocracy. But their idea was government by natural -- not inherited -- aristocracy, an aristocracy of "virtue and talents," as Jefferson put it.

[ ... ]

No lords or ladies here. If Princess Caroline wants a seat in the Senate, let her do it by election. There's one in 2010. To do it now by appointment on the basis of bloodline is an offense to the most minimal republicanism. Every state in the union is entitled to representation in the Senate. Camelot is not a state.

In the real world, Anne Bayefsky has a chilling piece in Ha'aretz this week about the travesty that is to be Durban II and the mounting pressure to get the Obama administration to give it a go. This will be an interesting test. My bet is that he capitulates. My bet is that he wants to capitulate. And not due to the outside pressure so much as due to the pressure of his own ego telling him he can "fix" it, make it better, bring everyone together in a global group hug. I hope I'm wrong. Please let me be wrong.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Greed and corruption

Some days it seems like there's not an honest man or woman left in a position of power anywhere on the planet. The news this week has been shocking. Not that anyone was surprised by the Blagojevich indictment. It's been a long time coming. But the breadth and depth of it, the sheer sliminess of the allegations, go way beyond what most people were prepared for. It might get worse.

Then there's Bernie Madoff. This one's a stinker, for so many reasons. A lot of people are going to get hurt. People who never had anything to do with his Ponzi scheme are going to get hurt. He probably didn't mean to hurt anyone. These guys almost never do. They never think it's going to catch up with them and once it starts to go bad the efforts to patch it, hide it, fix it until things get better (but they never do) just snowballs out of control. I've seen this before. Everyone loses.

Relevant cliché of the day: if it looks too good to be true, it is. Take a deep breath and walk away.

Then again, sometimes even a really bad deal is actually worse than it looks.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tranquility

To end the week on a peaceful note, here's one of my favorite spots on earth.


Ahhhhhh...

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai

Little Moshe Holtzberg will be two years old tomorrow. He'll celebrate his birthday with his grandparents, in Mumbai. His parents, Gabi and Rivka (z"l) are gone. Hundreds of others are dead or wounded.

There is real, true and absolute evil in this world. It must be stopped. Now. What will it take before the civilized world realizes this? Will it be soon enough?

Our heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to the Scherr family, the Holtzberg family, the entire Chabad community and so many others who are grieving tonight.

Baruch Dayan Emet.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving thanks and stuff

You want to watch this? I don't want to watch it. (But I did.)

Overwhelming and inexcusable ignorance on display. Here is a rebuttal, of sorts.

Meanwhile, there are some folks in Mumbai who are in genuine crisis and could use all of our prayers.

It's been a tough year. It could still get tougher. And yet..., and yet we still live in the greatest country on earth at a time when new insights, new discoveries and new inventions are broadening our horizons and our opportunities on a daily basis. As a whole, we live better and have more freedom and, yes, more resources if we would only tap them, than anyone anywhere anywhen. So in spite of all the tsuris, we have a great deal to give thanks for, this year and every year.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Market melt-up

Vastly preferable to the melt-downs of the past few days and obviously attributable to Obama's selection of Geithner. Well, that appears to be one good choice.

So what else is up? Certainly not Sholom Rubashkin, and the fallout from the Agriprocessors debacle is spreading. Hardly helpful in light of the other recent blows to the economy.

Disaster relief efforts have been launched to help the Agriprocessors employees who are still living in Postville, Iowa without paychecks. The direst concern was that electricity might be cut off in local housing just as winter hits. The companies that own much of the real estate in town have not paid utility bills recently, but some fast thinking by Jeff Abbas, who runs the local radio station, got people registered so that their electricity would not be cut off. There also have been a number of separate food-relief efforts. Morris Allen, a Minnesota rabbi who has been a leading critic of Agriprocessors, led a drive to bring kosher food to the many Jewish families associated with the company. Abbas said that through the food drives he has run, “we’re going through 800 to 900 pounds of food a day.”
(Yes, his name is Abbas.)

Ok, breaking news! UN says Gaza on brink of humanitarian disaster!! Meryl has some thoughts (wait ... before you click, guess how long Gaza has been teetering at the edge of this very same precipice. It's gotta be a world record.)

And in other news, southeastern Pennsylvania has snow. Not a lot, but definitely snow.

So. Once more, into the weekend. Hope it's a good one.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Collaborator!"

This is what palestinian arabs who try to help reduce terrorist attacks against Israel can expect.

Military Court in Bethlehem Sentences a Palestinian to Death; PCHR Calls upon Palestinian President Not to Approve the Sentence, and for Abolition of Death Penalty in Palestinian Law

On Wednesday, 12 November 2008, the Military Court in Bethlehem sentenced Ayman Ahmed 'Awwad Daghamgha, 24, a member of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, from al-'Arroub refugee camp north of Hebron, to death by firing squad. The trial was administered by a panel of 3 judges (Chief Justice Fares Douda; Judge Fadi Hijazi; and Judges Ahmed Jaddou'). It was held in the headquarters of the Military Court in Bethlehem. Representatives of the prosecution, Major Ibrahim Abu Saleh and First Lieutenant Akram 'Arar, and the defendant's lawyer, Khalil al-Heeh, were present in the trial.

The court convicted Daghamgha of treason in violation of article 131/A of the Palestinian Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, and sentenced him in consensus to death, a sentence that needs the Palestinian President's approval and which can be appealed against. The bill of indictment presented against the defendant states that he started to collaborate with the Israeli intelligence service when he was working in a gas station in "Kfar Etzion" settlement, south of Bethlehem, in 1999. Since then, he had monitored stone throwers and students and provided information to the Israeli intelligence in exchange of little money. Later, he joined the Palestinian Naval Police in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) before he moved to the General Intelligence Service. He started to monitor Palestinian resistance cells and to provide information on them to the Israeli intelligence. Such information allowed the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to extra-judicially execute Jad 'Atallah Salem and Ahmed Is'haq Hamamda, members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (an armed wing of Fatah movement) on 8 March 2008. He also cooperated with IOF in arresting a number of Palestinians.

I'd point out that this "Military Court" is convened in Bethelem under the PA, not in Gaza under Hamas. And implementation of the sentence (under the law, anyway) requires the approval of moderate man of peace President Mahmoud Abbas.

So what will happen? Stay tuned.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Under the bus

Ok, this is all kind of creepy.

US President-elect Barack Obama's White House chief of staff apologized to the Arab-American community on Thursday for remarks his Israeli-born father made to Ma'ariv.

Last week, Benjamin Emanuel talked about his son Rahm Emanuel's new job and told the Israeli daily that "obviously he'll influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to be mopping floors at the White House."

That prompted an outcry from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which called on Rahm Emanuel, a former Israeli citizen, to condemn the "unacceptable smear."

On Thursday, Rahm Emanuel called the group's president, Mary Rose Oakar, to apologize on behalf of his family.

"These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family," the group quoted him as saying.

Oakar said the apology was accepted.

I think Dr. Emanuel's comment was taken the wrong way, but I can see how it could be interpreted badly. It would have been nice to see his son stick up for him and explain what he really meant rather than tossing him under the bus, but that wasn't how things were done during the Obama campaign and it looks like we can expect more of the same in the Obama administration. Too bad.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A good election result

It looks like Jerusalem, despite a few shenanigans, made a good choice.

Secular businessman Nir Barkat won the Jerusalem municipal election and will succeed Uri Lupolianski as mayor of the capital.

The result was officially declared Wednesday morning when votes had been counted at all 707 polling stations, with Barkat garnering just over 52 percent of the vote, MK Meir Porush of the United Torah Judaism Party just over 43%, Israeli-Russian billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak 3.5% and Dan Birron of the Green Leaf Party wining 0.5%.

However, despite his win, Barkat's party, Jerusalem Shall Succeed, did not win a majority in the city council, but rather came in second behind United Torah Judaism. Wake up Jerusalem, a new party made up of young, mostly secular Jerusalemites, won two mandates, while Gaydamak's Social Justice party did not win any seats.

Barkat made a victory speech to a crowd of celebrating supporters at a Bayit v'Gan hotel, calling the win "a victory for Jerusalem, Israel and the Jewish people... for the Left and the Right, the secular and the religious."

The East Jerusalem Arabs, as usual, mostly boycotted the election. Too bad for them. They don't seem to have a problem accepting all of the benefits that their Israeli ID cards provide, and they certainly don't want to lose those benefits by being turned over to gentle mercies of the Palestinian Authority. But participating in the choice of their next municipal government? That just might be seen as acknowledging Israeli Jewish sovereignty over our eternal capital. No can do.

Like I said, too bad for them. And warm congratulations to mayor-elect Barkat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thanks

I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thanks to all our veterans.

Once a year, we set aside a special day for this, but hopefully this day serves to remind us to thank them all year 'round. Because that's when they serve. Every day, every hour, every minute, they've had our backs, and the backs of freedom loving people all over the world. Those who are veterans and those who will be veterans when their service is over. Although their service is never really over. Those who have served usually continue to serve, in one way or another.

Without them, we wouldn't be here.

So thank you, one and all, from the bottom of our hearts.

Happy Veterans' Day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Food fight

Although this is old news already, it deserves a mention here as part of the ongoing theater of the absurd that we seem to be living now. Can it get any worse? Of course it can.

After decades of war, invasion and occupation, Lebanon and Israel have plenty of tension simmering between them; but the latest source of strife is literally cooking.

From the deep-fried chick peas that make falafel to the parsley and burghul wheat of tabbouleh, the salad that's almost a national obsession - green-fingered enthusiasts once held the world record for making a dish weighing one and a half tonnes - Lebanon's foodies are pushing back against what they see as Israel's appropriation of their cuisine.

"At ethnic food exhibitions our producers go to the Israeli stand and find most of the specialities they are marketing as Israeli foods are Lebanese," said Fadi Abboud, president of the Lebanese Industrialists' Association (LIA). "Our culture goes back a few thousand years. It's time to set the record straight."

Time to set the record straight? Well, ok, but be careful what you wish for. First, the "justification" being bandied about for this move is, well, just plain ridiculous.

"Foods like falafel are not Lebanese but they're certainly not Israeli either. How can they be when Israel is only 60 years old?" asked Rami Zurayk, professor of agriculture and ecosystems at the American University of Beirut, and author of a book on "slow food" in Lebanon.

"But Lebanon's borders are only 60 years old as well. There is an instinctive response in the region against what is seen as Israel's theft of land and appropriation of culture, but to register falafel as Lebanese is almost as absurd and chauvinistic as Israel trying to register it as Israeli."

But the thing is that Israel has never tried to "register" any of these foods as Israeli, as far as I know. What the LIA is upset about is that Israel appears to be doing a better job of marketing them overseas than Lebanon is. Whose fault is that? (Sorry. Silly question.)

According to Ynet (via Wikipedia), the origins of falafel are murky but may date back to the Egyptian Copts, India or even ancient Egypt.

Likewise, hummus, although that dish may (or may not) have originated in or around eighteenth century Damascus (i.e., back when it was a part of the Ottoman Empire known as "Greater Syria"). The same would appear to be more or less true of tabbouleh.

According to this Beirut based website, the palestinian arabs also claim ownership of falafel although, again, the argument is anachronistic.

But Lebanon may be opening up a can of worms by claiming falafel, tabbouleh and hummus as Lebanese because the Israelis are not the only ones in the game.

Siham Baghdadi Zurub, a Palestinian chef in Ramallah and author of The Palestinian Cuisine, staked her own claim in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

Zurub argues that the Palestinians were in fact the first to make hummus from chickpeas given that they were plentiful in ancient Palestine, unlike in Egypt or Syria where the fava bean was more common.

Sounds reasonable ... except that there were no "Palestinians" (i.e., arabs) in ancient Palestine. On the following point, however, we're in complete agreement.

But, said Zurub, "No one has the right to call hummus and falafel as his national dish. Putting copyright on certain dishes is a selfish trend that reflects insecurity and a lack of common sense."
Thank you. It's also an effort that's unlikely to get very far beyond an official nod by the Lebanese government. And, no, the "Greek precedent" isn't going to help them much. Greece has been around for a little longer than Lebanon and has a pretty airtight claim to feta cheese. And, nevertheless, the enforcement thing just doesn't seem to be happening, even there.

By the way, I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend this blog, which I keep forgetting to add to the blog roll over there. Hummus is one of my very favorite foods, even though it's (still) really hard to find much worthy of the name around these parts and I still haven't figured out a way to make it well. Anyway, here's heaven.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Things fall apart

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The Second Coming
William Butler Yeats

Rapidly becoming one of the most over-quoted poems ever, it pretty much sums up my feelings today.

Barack Obama has been elected President of the United States (with 78% of the Jewish vote). Al Franken might very well soon be poisoning a seat in the U.S. Senate (though on this one, I still have hope).

Joe Sestak has been returned to the House of Representatives for two more years, due to the utter failure of the Pennsylvania GOP to advance even a modest campaign for his very worthy opponent (who nevertheless garnered an impressive 40% of the vote). And Proposition 8 passed in California.

Nothing makes sense.

Read the rest.

P.S. Did I forget Murtha? Yeah, I did.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This is it

Well, folks, it's do or die time. If you haven't already, please get out there and vote.

No matter how long the lines, no matter what you think your candidate's chances are. This isn't one to sit out.

And please keep this in mind.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Greetings from Phillie-delphia

Well, wow. Just wow. I skipped the parade, though. Philadelphia sports fans tend to get ... overheated. I got caught in the middle of the 1983 Sixers celebration. Never again.

As if there wasn't already enough excitement, Chase Utley just went and dropped an "f" bomb on live radio (link). The crowd didn't seem to mind. But I expect fallout.

What else? Well, there's this: Obama warns of overconfidence; Pa. polls still show Obama lead. Yes, but it's shrinking. I spent the afternoon working at my local McCain HQ. Who knows? We just might pull it out.

And speaking of elections, this is encouraging: Rightist bloc leads Left in 'Post' poll

The Rightist bloc led by the Likud will defeat the Left, led by Kadima and Labor, by eight Knesset seats in the national election on February 10, according to a Jerusalem Post/Smith Research poll.

The survey, taken on Wednesday of 501 respondents representing a statistical sample of the electorate, found that Likud, Shas, Israel Beiteinu, the National Union-National Religious Party and United Torah Judaism would combine for 64 seats, while Labor, Kadima, Meretz and the Arab parties would together win only 56.

If those numbers prove to be correct, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu could form a right-wing government that would likely end negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and perhaps with Syria. However, Netanyahu told the Knesset this week that he wanted to see Kadima and Labor in his government.

Hey, it's Friday and it's the last day of the month. And the DJIA actually had a (very) positive week. Happy Halloween!

And Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Irony

The Who are playing the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia tonight.

And Tommy is about to be coronated King of America. It doesn't get much more ironic than this. The generation that thought it invented the greatest challenge to blind obedience to authority and mind control has utterly succumbed to both and is about to elect a figuratively blind deaf and dumb candidate to lead this nation into the abyss.

If we weren't living it, it would be theater. But we are. So it's tragedy on a grand scale.

Update: Of course, it ain't over until the fat lady sings ...

I tend to post negative but I'm not ready to roll over yet.

(No, I'm not bi-polar ... there aren't enough poles to define my mood swings in this election)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sponge mode

Over the past few weeks, I've found myself reading obsessively. It really is getting out of hand. Maybe once the election is over ..., no, maybe once the financial meltdown reverses ..., no, maybe once Israel schedules new elections and they're over ..., no, well, it seems I'm in sponge mode, for the time being. Not very productive, I'm afraid.

The least I can do is share some of the most enlightening and elucidating essays and articles I've come across over the past several days. Some of them are more recent, others less, but these all focus on the upcoming presidential election, to varying degrees, and if you're still on the fence about it or wishing you had some lucid arguments to make to others who are, they may help.

Allies Want McCain by Richard L. Benkin

Poll after poll shows that respondents in every European (and Muslim) country want us to make Barack Obama president in November. On the other hand, those people who are on the front lines of our war against Islamist extremism feel just as passionately that an Obama victory will undermine their efforts.

TO THE UNDECIDED VOTER by Neal Boortz

The Republicans don't deserve power in Washington just as you don't deserve a boil in the center of your forehead. There are worse things, however. Complete Democrat control or, in the case of your forehead, a nice big melanoma. Pretty much the same things, actually.

It's not that the Republicans did everything wrong. They got the tax cut thing right, and they responded correctly, for the most part, to the radical Islamic attack on our country. They just did so much wrong at the same time. They got drunk with power, and the hangover affects all of us.

Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights? by Orson Scott Card

If you had any principles, then surely right now, when the American people are set to blame President Bush and John McCain for a crisis they tried to prevent, and are actually shifting to approve of Barack Obama because of a crisis he helped cause, you would be laboring at least as hard to correct that false impression.

Your job, as journalists, is to tell the truth. That's what you claim you do, when you accept people's money to buy or subscribe to your paper.

Wright 101 by Stanley Kurtz

However he may seek to deny it, all evidence points to the fact that, from his position as board chair of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, Barack Obama knowingly and persistently funded an educational project that shared the extremist and anti-American philosophy of Jeremiah Wright. The Wright affair was no fluke. It’s time for McCain to say so.

McCain for President by Charles Krauthammer

The case for McCain is straightforward. The financial crisis has made us forget, or just blindly deny, how dangerous the world out there is. We have a generations-long struggle with Islamic jihadism. An apocalyptic soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. A nuclear-armed Pakistan in danger of fragmentation. A rising Russia pushing the limits of revanchism. Plus the sure-to-come Falklands-like surprise popping out of nowhere.

Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? [ ... ]

Today's economic crisis, like every other in our history, will in time pass. But the barbarians will still be at the gates. Whom do you want on the parapet? I'm for the guy who can tell the lion from the lamb.

Indeed. Well, as they say, I hope these help.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, October 17, 2008

On a positive note

That's how we're ending this week. They're few and far between these days, it seems, but this is good. Very good.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Japan handily defeated Iran for a non-permanent seat on the U.N. security council and Austria and Turkey edged out Iceland in secret ballot voting Friday.

Iran — under U.N. sanctions for its nuclear program — received only 32 votes from the U.N. members compared to 158 for Japan for the Asian seat.

Austria and Turkey beat Iceland in the battle for two non-permanent European seats on the 15-member council in voting at a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

The Security Council is the powerhouse of the U.N. with the ability to impose sanctions and dispatch peacekeepers.

The other two seats went to Mexico, which will represent Latin America, and Uganda, which will represent Africa; both ran unopposed.

You would think Iran's defeat would be a foregone conclusion but, really, you can't take anything for granted when it comes to the U.N. Today, sanity prevailed. Somewhere.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Shabbat greetings

There are some really lovely Jewish greeting cards available at this site. Unfortunately for me, it appears that you need to be in Australia to take advantage of them. If you are, please do.

I hope they don't mind my using this image here.



Wishing all a peaceful and refreshing Shabbat.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sabbath of Sabbaths

Tomorrow, the markets will be open on Wall Street and Main Street and most people will go about their business. Those of us observing Yom Kippur, unless we live in closed Orthodox neighborhoods, will slip in and out among them on our way to and from shul or just taking quiet walks or sitting at home.

In Israel, of course, it's a different story. And especially in Jerusalem, where everyday life comes to a complete standstill. It's something to behold, something I've felt privileged to have been able to carry with me and retrieve every year back here in the USA.

The headline at JerusalemPost.com now reads:

Jpost.com will resume updates after Yom Kippur

And at Ynet, the latest Update banner, similarly:

Ynetnews will return after Yom Kippur

InContext, likewise, will resume after Yom Kippur. To all of you observing the fast, may it be an easy one.

G'mar hatimah tova (may you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year).

Friday, October 3, 2008

I heart Jackie Mason

What a mentsch!

I've never heard of Sarah Silverman before and I wish I hadn't now. She's an extremely unfunny and rude little girl with a very nasty mouth. Someone should wash it out with soap.

Meanwhile, I lost track of how many whoppers and bloopers Joe Biden pulled off in the debate last night. Little Green Footballs has a list (with backup). Some of them, I think, I hope, were just Joe's mouth operating without direction. Others were, well, clearly deliberate lies.

Ok. I know. Too much lashon hara, especially for this time of year. Who decided to put elections right after the High Holy Days anyway?

Hey, I finally got my lawn sign today! Two of them, in fact. I'm probably going to need more because, unsurprisingly, someone is going around the neighborhood ripping up the McCain Palin signs. Yes, so far, anyway, only the McCain Palin signs. Go figure.

I have more to say but I'm out of time, as usual. But, oh yes, thanks to the U.S. Congress for stepping up this week. Let's hope they weren't too late. Some of the speeches on the House floor today were truly memorable (Nancy Pelosi's wasn't one of them this time ... thank God). I realize there's no consensus whatsoever on this, but I do feel that we took a step back from the brink of the abyss today. We'll see.

Shabbat Shuva Shalom.

Monday, September 29, 2008

L'Shana Tova Tikatevu

What a year this has been.

Here's wishing all a much better 5769, full of peace, prosperity, good health and many blessings.

Shana Tova!

Friday, September 26, 2008

A hard-charging populist

So neither candidate has distinguished himself so far in his response to the economic crisis. McCain has on more than one occasion jumped the gun and made a few bad calls. He's been obliged to do way too much walking back. Obama, as usual, tries to say and do nothing. It's safe and, sadly, effective. He's rocketing up in the polls.

But now he's trying to take credit for offering solutions to the problem ahead of time. And it's bogus. How far he'll be allowed to go with these claims, I have no idea. The media, after a brief attempt at achieving more balance, now seems to be deeper in the tank for Obama than ever.

In a speech in Florida on Wednesday, Obama took this swipe at McCain:

Now, in the last few days, my opponent has decided to start talking tough about CEO pay. He's suddenly a hard-charging populist. And that's all well and good. But I sure wish he was talking the same way over a year ago, when I introduced a bill that would've helped stop some of the multimillion-dollar bonus packages that CEOs grab on their way out the door. Because he opposed that idea.

Really? If McCain is sounding like a populist, it's hardly the first time and not at all sudden. But let's look at that bill. Obama's referring to S.1181 - the Shareholder Vote on Executive Compensation Act, which he did, in fact, introduce in 2007. It never got out of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee (on which John McCain does not sit). The Congressional Research Service summarized the provisions of that act as follows:

Amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to require a proxy, consent, or authorization for a shareholder meeting occurring on or after January 1, 2009, to permit a separate shareholder vote to approve executive compensation.

States that such shareholder vote shall not be binding on the board of directors, nor construed: (1) as overruling a board decision; (2) to create or imply additional fiduciary duty by such board; and (3) to restrict or limit shareholder ability to make proposals for inclusion in proxy materials related to executive compensation.

Requires proxy solicitation material for a shareholder meeting occurring on or after January 1, 2009, concerning disposition of substantially all of an issuer's assets, to disclose compensation agreements or understandings with the principal executive officers of either the issuer or acquiring issuer regarding any type of (golden parachute) compensation which: (1) relates to such disposition; and (2) has not been subject to a shareholder vote.

Provides that proxy solicitation material containing such executive compensation disclosures shall require a separate shareholder vote to approve such agreements or understandings.

States that such shareholder vote shall not be binding on the board of directors, nor construed: (1) as overruling a board decision; (2) to create or imply additional fiduciary duty by such board; and (3) to constrain shareholder ability to make proposals for inclusion in proxy materials related to executive compensation.

So his bill would have required a non-binding shareholder vote on golden parachute compensation agreements where a company was going belly up (but not in other cases and only after 1/1/09). (A number of companies have already adopted such measures voluntarily, BTW.) Gee, yeah, that would have gone a long way toward stopping those multi-million dollar bonus packages. Not.

BTW, there's no evidence whatsoever that McCain "opposed the idea." He didn't sponsor the bill, true. Neither did 91 other senators. Politifact (which glosses over the huge gap between what the legislation would actually do and what Obama now claims it would have done) called the Obama campaign to pin that one down. They obviously weren't satisfied with the answer.

Neither was that the end of his disingenuous attacks and distortion of McCain's record in that speech alone. Unfortunately, the full text appears to have vanished from the web (for the moment at least), but there's enough of it here to catch the drift.

I expect more of the same in the debate tonight.

Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Leaving the left

It's been a long time since I linked Caroline Glick, and for some pretty good reasons, but I'm breaking the ban today, for some equally good reasons. In this column, she sums up, in excruciatingly accurate detail, the incredible imbicility of the dis-invitation of Sarah Palin to yesterday's anti-Iran rally in New York, the mindset of Jewish Democrats and the Democratic Party in general. And in so doing, she also sums up something else: the reasons why, after a lifetime of hanging out in those circles, I have ultimately left the left.

American Jews have good reason to be ashamed and angry today. As Iran moves into the final stages of its nuclear weapons development program - nuclear weapons which it will use to destroy the State of Israel, endanger Jews around the world and cow the United States of America - Democratic American Jewish leaders decided that putting Sen. Barack Obama in the White House is more important than protecting the lives of the Jewish people in Israel and around the world.

On Monday, the New York Sun published the speech that Republican vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would have delivered at that day's rally outside UN headquarters in New York against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and against Iran's plan to destroy Israel. She would have delivered it, if she hadn't been disinvited.

[ ... ]

The lives of 6 million Jews in Israel are today tied to the fortunes of those [Iranian] women, to the fortunes of American forces in Iraq, to the willingness of Americans across the political and ideological spectrum to recognize that there is more that unifies them than divides them and to act on that knowledge to defeat the forces of genocide, oppression, hatred and destruction that are led today by the Iranian regime and personified in the brutal personality of Ahmadinejad. But Jewish Democrats chose to ignore this basic truth in order to silence Palin.

They should be ashamed. The Democratic Party should be ashamed. And Jewish American voters should consider carefully whether opposing a woman who opposes the abortion of fetuses is really more important than standing up for the right of already born Jews to continue to live and for the Jewish state to continue to exist. Because this week it came to that.

Please read every word. That's only the beginning and the end. There's so much more in between.

And if you haven't yet read the text of Palin's intended speech, please do that too.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Brief thoughts

Are we glad this week is over or what? I really don't even want to talk about it. So, briefly.

Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel, says Israel's banks are "doing well." I imagine they are, but does this look like a happy camper to you?



The DJIA ended the week just a few dozen points below where it started. Of course that was only due to heroic measures. Will they work? Who knows?

As for Sarah Palin's disinvitation to Monday's anti-Ahmadinejad rally in New York, please read Soccer Dad. The priorities of the liberal Jewish organizations in this country are just totally screwed up. We should throw them all under the bus. Except that, well, they've got too many people brainwashed and befuddled and, somehow, we need to keep trying to reach out to those people and help them. (Ok, yes, I do know how condescending that sounds. I'm in a mood.)

Meanwhile, I think McCain probably made a mistake jumping on the Franklin Raines thing. It's just flimsy at this point and it gives his detractors a solid peg to hang their accusations of bad campaign tactics on. Just saying. There's so much more important stuff out there.

Like this (followed up with this), for instance. This campaign in getting more bizarre every day.

Hey. It's that time.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lipstick

Speaking of things changing in a New York minute, how about this? The Intrade Predictions for the Presidential race now favor John McCain over Barack Obama by three points. The Real Clear Politics Electoral map today shows Obama leading by one (1) electoral vote with 105 still up for grabs. Suddenly, even that massive Democratic victory in the upcoming Congressional elections is looking dubious. Whodathunk?

Of course, this can all change tomorrow. How much of it is due to the Sarah Palin phenomenon and how much to Obama fatigue, it's hard to say. The former may well burn itself out (but maybe not) and the latter could reverse course. The media, of course, will play a part, but it's unclear what that will be, as well. The partisanship and blatant lack of objectivity by the major networks appear to be wearing thin. Will they pull back or will they just completely lose the people's trust? And if they lose it, where will people go?

There's that saying about counting your chickens. Those of us supporting the Republican ticket shouldn't get to cocky.

Still, two essays I read this week pretty well bookmarked this issues that I believe define this race. The first, by Fouad Ajami at the WSJ, addresses the differences between the candidates on foreign policy and American's role in the world. The second, by Newt Gingrich and Peter Ferrara at The Weekly Standard, addresses the economy. Both excellent must-reads.

But all that serious stuff aside, in the end this election just may turn out to come down to one word. Lipstick. Imagine that.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years gone

9-11-2001

Do we still remember?

I sure hope so. I know I do.




Charles Johnson has invited his readers to share their memories of that day over at Little Green Footballs. If you're registered there, you can chime in. If not, there are over 500 personal stories to read, each one unique, many of them quite inspiring.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What's up?

TS Hanna is headed this way. Tomorrow promises to be wet and windy. The wet, we really desperately need. Hopefully, it will come in gradually. Torrential downpours on this parched ground could be a real disaster.

Not nearly the disaster, of course, that Gustav could have been. There's a blessing we say after the aversion of disaster, praising God who (paraphrased) bestows favors on the undeserving, and has shown every kindness. Roger that.

Disasters loom in many places and in many forms, though. I see good old President Shimon Peres made the headlines again today, announcing his opposition to the use of military force against Iran. He's convinced the world will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. He wants to sit down to tea with them and chat about it. And, while he's at it, he wants to chat with Bashar Assad about giving back the Golan. Because this negotiating thing has worked so well for him (and for Israel) in the past.

McCain's speech. It wasn't bad. It could have been worse. It went too long for the substance it contained. Oh, look. I didn't like it. Sue me. McCain gives lousy speeches. He can, OTOH, be very good extemporaneously. In those respects, he's the polar opposite of Obama. He did a great job at Saddleback. I think he'll do well in the debates, and the less scripted, the better.

Sarah's speech ... awesome. There are, as I've said elsewhere, a lot of things I don't agree with her views on, but I'll have to process that over the next few weeks. For some reason, the thought of her as VP doesn't scare me one bit.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to Meryl, a huge mazal tov on her move and her homeownership and may she enjoy her new condo in most excellent health.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, August 29, 2008

What a week!

It started out early last Shabbat morning with Obama's VP roll-out debacle, leaked at 2 AM to the dismay of all those supporters promised an exclusive text message preview. Biden, a disappointing choice, to say the least. And then, the Spectacle, culminating in the SuperSpectacle. Michelle's tense and earnest speech, every other sentence beginning with "See...," as if there was a message she was desparately trying to convey but never quite hitting the mark. Hillary's lackluster but determined speech, slogged through and finally finished, hitting all the obligatory talking points, never quite admonishing her supporters to give it up and vote for ... him. And outside, the embarassing demonstrations, marches and theater. The roll call drama (would they or wouldn't they?) and melodrama (terminated by HRC herself). Bill's speech (sorry, obnoxious, turned it off after two minutes). Biden's speech (wasn't interested). And then, last night, the huge, surging, roaring crowds, the flags (finally), the single man on the podium, rallying and exhorting the faithful, saying nothing new (surprise), the lights, the music (awful), the fireworks, the confetti. Now, blessedly, over.

Today, McCain announced his VP pick, having been much more successful at controlling the leaks (and what does that say about leadership qualifications?), a bold choice that was a surprise to many. I'm pretty pleased, although of course I have reservations. We may disagree on a lot of things but Sarah Palin is going to be a fearsome fighter and a loyal partner for John McCain. She brings a lot to the ticket. She may bring a lot of undecideds to the ticket. She brings me more enthusiastically to the ticket.

So that was it. One more convention to go and then we're into the home stretch. I can't wait until it's over, frankly. I've been sick of it for months now. But today was kind of exciting. I'm a little less sick of it tonight.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Convergence

From yesterday's Jerusalem Post:

The IDF shut down BBC radio transmitters in Hebron on Wednesday, acting on orders of the Communications Ministry and citing interference with communications at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The IDF Spokesman said the transmitters were illegal, adding that the Communications Ministry had found them to be jeopardizing contact between Ben-Gurion's control tower and passenger aircraft.

BBC employees had raised the issue during a press conference held by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday. A government official said in response that in addition to the BBC's transmitters, a number of additional transmitters had been shut down, including some inside Israel, as they were "endangering civilian aviation, a problem we have been suffering from for a long time."

The official added that the BBC was broadcasting on a wavelength allocated to it by the Palestinian Authority without prior coordination with the Communications Ministry. "We are now trying to solve the problem," the official said.

And then there's this:

The BBC has denied charges that money raised by a BBC charity was used to recruit and train the terrorists involved in the 7/7 terror attacks on London that killed 52 people in 2005.

The BBC's own Newsnight current affairs programme reported on Tuesday night's broadcast that the BBC's Children in Need charity had donated around £20,000 to the Leeds Community School, Yorkshire, between 1999 and 2002 which went towards funding the activities of the terrorists behind the July 2005 attacks.

On Thursday the BBC said that there is no evidence that the money was used for terrorist activity.

The school funded and shared premises with the Iqra Islamic book shop where the suicide bombers Muhammad Siddique Khan and Shezhad Tanweer regularly met. Khan and Tanweer attempted to radicalize youths by showing propaganda films at the bookshop, which became a regular meeting place for young Muslims at the time - including Jermaine Lindsay, who went on to become the King's Cross bomber.

Busy little BBC.

And in the three grains of salt category, I'd like to close the week with this bit of presidential campaign pandering (or is it?) from last week. Obviously, this is a matter of grave importance to me, but the way politicians shamelessly manipulate it time and again for the consumption of gullible voters is truly mindboggling.

US Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain said on Friday he will promptly move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv if elected president. The firm pledge comes in contrast to his Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama’s vague stance on the issue of an “undivided Jerusalem.” During an interview in which he was asked about moving the embassy, McCain said, “Right way…. I’ve been committed to that proposition for years.”

I'm sure he is. Yes. Terrific. In case you don't remember, here's the fly in that ointment, later on in the same item.

Both President George W. Bush and former president Bill Clinton also vowed to move the embassy during their initial campaigns for the White House, but both used a presidential waiver authority granted by Congress in the 1995 Embassy Relocation Act to postpone the move on national security grounds.

So I'll believe it when I see it. Who knows? McCain could be the one we've been waiting for ...

Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The failure of hasbara

Martin Sherman has this column at Ynet today, intriguingly entitled "Explaining Israel's PR failure." That's always a fascinating and frustrating topic. And he actually provides some answers. Or part of an answer.

For many, both in Israel and abroad, the failure of Israeli diplomacy and public relations (Hasbara) is difficult to understand. After all, the Jewish State has many features that, prime facie, should bestow on it the unqualified support of Western democracies: Free fair (and frequent) elections, general gender equality, religious freedom, an open press, tolerance of sexual preferences and so on. Even if in everyday practice there are flaws and imperfections in some of these areas, they are certainly far closer to the desired ideal than in any of its Muslim adversaries and certainly more so than the areas under Palestinian rule (or misrule.)

In fact, the explanation of the failure is very simple – although it may not be easy to accept. For the truth of the matter is that Israel is losing the battle for world opinion because…it simply has no desire to win! At first glance this explanation seems inconceivable. However, an even a cursory examination of the facts will suffice to provide solid evidence to support it.

But the evidence doesn't. Or does it? He goes on to say, for example, that both Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin were elected on the basis of tough, anti-appeasement platforms that they abandoned once they got into office. True. But his explanation for that turn of events doesn't work.

In actual fact, people who dominate the socio-political mechanisms and in effect are those who "make things happen" in Israel comprise a trinity of elites who, although unelected, impose their views on the general public with great effectiveness. These are the elites in the legal establishment, in the mainstream media, and in academia (at least that portion of academia that interfaces with the previous two elites – principally in the faculties of the social sciences and the humanities, where the politically-correct dominates the factually- correct.)

Thus for example the legal elite can obstruct any assertive initiative that the elected polity may wish to implement (as was the case with the attempt to cut-off the electricity supply to Gaza); similarly, the media elite can initiate any concessionary initiative that the elected polity may be loathe to implement (as was the case with the Disengagement and, to a large degree, with Oslo); and when the stamp of professional approval is required, the amenable academic elite is ever-ready to provide it.

But it was neither the courts nor the media nor the academy that drove the Oslo and disengagement engines. It was a change of heart inspired and/or encouraged by a trusted political sidekick (Peres, Olmert). Could Rabin and Sharon have gotten away with it if Sherman's triumverate of defeat (courts, media, academics) hadn't collaborated? Hard to say. Sharon ignored the consensus in his own party so surely he wasn't beholden to the popular will. But, anyway, what does that have to do with the failure of hasbara?

Sherman's analysis of the insecurities, the narcissism and the avoidance of cognitive dissonance that power the elites' world view is spot on, IMO. But it doesn't explain the government's seeming inability to do what the Arabs have done so well for so long: effectively represent its point of view in the court of world opinion. Israel's hasbara couldn't be muzzled by the courts, the media and the intelligensia ... if Israel actually had a program of hasbara. But it doesn't.

In this respect, Sherman is assuredly correct that Israel seems not to want to win the PR war. But of course that's ridiculous. Isn't it? Unfortunately, Deputy PM Ehud Olmert said it best, in front of the Israel Policy Forum more than three years ago:

We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors, and I believe that this is not impossible.
What or who is responsible for this fatigue? Is it the courts, the media, the academics? Surely they contribute, but it is has to be something more. That's what I'm still looking for and haven't been able to find yet. Sherman again.

Thus a situation has been created in which Israel finds itself unable to embark on a offensive strategic Hasbara initiative designed to defeat its adversaries, and thus restricts itself to tactical defensive responses, designed merely to temporarily ward of enemy offensives and doomed to inevitable failure.
Right.

This then is the explanation for Israel's abysmal performance in the fight for public opinion. Remedying this regrettable condition is not any easy task. While the difficulties should not be underestimated – neither should they be over-estimated. As with any problem, the first stage toward a solution requires an accurate articulation of the issues involved as a necessary condition for their diagnosis and for the formulation of ways to contend with them.

The precise details of these formulae for solutions constitute a topic for a separate discussion, but their overriding objective would be to publicly expose those responsible for the diplomatic debacle, unveil their myopia and their malice, undermine their standing, and erode their status. This is the only way to neutralize their influence and the enormous damage that they inflict on the nation.

But Sherman is mostly describing effects here, of whatever-it-is. Not so much the cause. Still looking ...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Krauthammer on Russia

An awful lot has been written on this topic this week. I think this piece by Charles Krauthammer nails it.

What is to be done? Let's be real. There's nothing to be done militarily. What we can do is alter Putin's cost-benefit calculations.

We are not without resources. There are a range of measures to be deployed if Russia does not live up to its cease-fire commitments: . . .

You'll have to click through for these.

. . . The most crucial and unconditional measure, however, is this: Reaffirm support for the Saakashvili government and declare that its removal by the Russians would lead to recognition of a government-in-exile. This would instantly be understood as providing us the legal basis for supplying and supporting a Georgian resistance to any Russian-installed regime.

Here's a different view of the conflict. I disagree. But I'm nevertheless deeply disturbed by the virulent hostility that's been directed against Robert Spencer over his position (such as it is) on this issue in the past few days. Something is rotten in the blogosphere and we'd better root it out, pronto.

My thoughts and prayers tonight are with the people of Georgia and their sovereign, mostly democratic state.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Out of the ruins

I found this "talkback" at (naturally) Ha'aretz today in response to an article about "progressive" attempts to make Tisha B'av more "relevant." (Huh?) It's from someone named Eyal in Rehovot.

Tisha B`Av is one of the most beautiful days in the Jewish calendar, commemorating our emancipation from the backwardness of a sacrifice cult run by a priestly class using religious law to extort tithes from the citizenry and to freeload.

The end of the Beit Ha`Mikdash was the birth of Judaism. Those who call for the reinstatement of the Beit Ha`Mikdash are calling for the end of Judaism, the end of everything that was worthy in our teachings. Sacrifices to one who does not want nor need them.

As the famous story of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai goes:

Once, Rabban Yochanan was coming forth from Jerusalem, Rabbi Joshua, a disciple, followed after him and beheld the Temple in ruins. "Woe unto us!", Rabbi Joshua cried, "that this, the place where the iniquities of Israel were atoned for, is laid waste."

"My son," Rabbi Yochanan said to him, "be not grieved; we have another atonement as effective as this. It is acts of loving-kindness. For I desire loving kindness and not sacrifice."

Actually, I happen to share his view, though I'd phrase it somewhat differently. I've always had this problem with Tisha B'av. Not that I don't understand the importance of solemnity and reflection on this anniversary of so many tragedies that have befallen our people. I do. It's unfortunate that too many Jews don't acknowledge or even know of this day of commemoration. But I'm skeptical of the various rabbinical proscriptions that have been heaped on top of that. (Actually, yes, I'm pretty skeptical of rabbinical proscriptions in general.)

Like Eyal, I tend to see the destruction of the Temple as the catalyst for the birth of Judaism as we know it today. The fact is that back in 587 BCE, this Judaism really didn't exist. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been destroyed back in 722, and all that remained of the Israelites were the residents of the Kingdom of Judah (Yehuda), who came to be known as Jews (Yehudim). Their lives were centered around the Temple in Jerusalem and its daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycles of festivals and offerings, feasts and sacrifices, all orchestrated by the Kohanim under the watchful eye of the monarchy. It was a life few of us can imagine leading.

It's unlikely that this small civilization, its language, its literature, its rituals or its values would have been preserved in any form even into the next millenium if not for the catastrophic events of the Temple's destruction and the people's exile. Out of that devastation grew the Talmud and the ascendancy of our prophetic, rabbinic and liturgical traditions. Minor themes at first, those innovations came to form the core of the Jewish belief and practice that sustained us after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. And continue to sustain us today.

Or at least that's one way to look at it. It's not the fundamentalist way. It's not even the traditional way. But every year at this time, I meditate on what we lost and what some pray we'll regain. Numbers 28: 1-6:

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Command the children of Israel, and say to them: My food which is presented to Me for offerings made by fire, of a sweet savour to Me, shall you observe to offer to Me in its due season. And you shall say to them: This is the offering made by fire which you shall bring unto the LORD: he-lambs of the first year without blemish, two day by day, for a continual burnt-offering. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at dusk; and the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a meal-offering, mingled with the fourth part of a hin of beaten oil. It is a continual burnt-offering, which was offered in mount Sinai, for a sweet savour, an offering made by fire to the LORD.

This was, in essence, the "Judaism" of 587 BCE. Not something I mourn the passing of. Not something I aspire to return to.

For all those who do, I wish you an easy and meaningful conclusion to your fast.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Crapes

It's that time again! SoccerDad posted his last week. Here are mine.

The lavender crape myrtle:

And the pink one:


I didn't get to them early enough in the day today, so they're not showing as well as they do in direct sunlight. I'll work on that.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Shoaib's trial begins

Along with many thousands of other supporters of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, I received this email message from him this morning.

HELLO FRIENDS!

GREETINGS FROM DHAKA.

TODAY, AUGUST 6 2008, FINALLY THE TRIAL BEGAN WITH THE PLAINTIFF GIVING HIS TESTIMONY IN THE COURT. TOMORROW [THURSDAY] IS THE DATE FOR CROSS EXAMINING THE PLAINTIFF.

SO, NOW REALLY MY LUCK HANGS INTO PENDULUM OF BEING EITHER ACQUITED FROM THE CHARGE BY THE COURT, OR ACCORDED CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. THE PROSECUTION IS POSSIBLY HOPING TO SEE ME DEAD. THAT IS MY PERSONAL OPINION ALTHOUGH.

WITH BEGINNING OF THE TRIAL, BANGLADESH GOVERNMENT HAS FINALLY LEFT A STRONG MESSAGE TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY THAT THEY DO NOT CARE UNITED STATES OR EUROPE OR US CONGRESS OR EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT OR AUSTRALIAN SENATE OR MILLIONS OF MY FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS AROUND THE WORLD.

SO, TODAY [WEDNESDAY] I WENT TO THE COURT AT 9:00 AM AND HAD TO STAND IN THE DIAS TILL 5:00 PM. TOMORROW WILL BE THE SAME THING.

AS I SHALL FACE THE TRIAL, I WILL REMEMBER, MY FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS AROUND THE WORLD ARE SPIRITUALLY WITH ME, PRAYING FOR ME AND I AM NOT ALONE.

LET US REMAIN STRONG, AND LET US DEFEAT THOSE ENEMIES OF PEACE TOGETHER. G-D IS WITH US AND WE SHALL WIN.

REGARDS

SHOAIB

If you're not familiar with the story of how this brave pro-Zionist Muslim Bangladeshi journalist arrived at this juncture, you can find out here*. It's quite amazing.

(*Yes, I know, it's Wikipedia. Will wonders never cease?)

Please send him all the good thoughts and prayers you can spare. And a few more.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

GIGO

How often do you get those political polls through the mail or on the phone? You know, like the ones that ask how well you think the country is being run and whether we're safer than we were eight years ago; the ones that ask whether you really want to ruin the pristine wilderness in the ANWAR and the ones that ask how you feel about paying $10 a gallon for gas in order to avoid discomfort to a few polar bears; and the ones that ask whether you support murdering unborn babies and the ones that ask whether you support the rights of women to make informed choices about reproduction.

They're usually targeted to audiences that share the ideology of the commissioner. Some are genuinely intended to take the pulse of the people. Many of them are designed to get you to give money to the cause, in which case there's a beg at the end. Others aspire to gather data that will support their agenda.

A few weeks ago, J-Street, that self-defined "progressive alternative to AIPAC," commissioned a poll that I expect fits into the latter category (I doubt it had a beg). Among other things, it asked American Jews to rate the popularity of various political and quasi-political figures like, for example, Senator Joseph Lieberman and Pastor John Hagee. That part has gotten a bit more publicity than the rest, no doubt due to the efforts of J-Street itself.

According to the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percent, Lieberman scored an unfavorable rating of 48 percent, compared to a favorable rating of 37 percent.

Hagee, the leading right-wing Christian Zionist whose endorsement of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) triggered a firestorm earlier this year, fared even worse: The pastor registered a 7 percent favorable rating, while his unfavorables came in at 57 percent.

The poll was based on interviews with 800 Jewish respondents between June 29 and July 3.

At least Hagee did better than the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But not by much.

J-Street has helpfully published the raw data for the poll and it's illuminating in so many ways. It provides insight into J-Street's agenda (in case you didn't know it already).

Q.6 Generally speaking, do you think that things in this country are going in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track?

It offers a pretty frightening glimpse into the opinions of what, I'm afraid, is a fairly representative segment of the American Jewish Left.

Q.32 Below are some pairs of statements. After reading each pair, please mark whether the FIRST statement or the SECOND statement comes closer to your own view, even if neither is exactly right.

...

Q.41 Israel is more secure as a result of George Bush's presidency because this president understood that Israel's struggle is part of the war on terror, provided unwavering support for Israel, and removed Saddam Hussein.

OR

Israel is less secure as a result of George Bush's presidency because America is militarily stuck in Iraq, we have less credibility and influence across the Middle East and Iran has become a stronger regional power.

And it supplies a magnificent example of how a poll can be used to shape public sentiment, as well as to assess it.

[400 Respondents] Q.35 (SPLIT A) Israel needs all the support it can get and it does not matter who lobbies the US government in support of Israel.

OR

If right wing Christian Zionists are the most vocal lobbyists for Israel and set the agenda, they will lead America's Middle East policy in the wrong direction.

[400 Respondents] Q.36 (SPLIT B) Israel needs all the support it can get and it does not matter who lobbies the US government in support of Israel, even if they have their own agenda.

OR

Israel needs all the support it can get, but we send the wrong message when Jewish organizations form alliances with right wing Christian Zionists who have their own agenda.

And then there's the stuff that's just downright dishonest. Let me be clear. I'm not a big fan of Hagee or CUFI. I find a large number of his positions and statements to be offensive and I don't trust his agenda. But that's a different issue and questions like this are just a cheap smear tactic.

Q.74 Below are some more facts and statements about Reverend John Hagee of Christians United for Israel. Please mark whether you think these facts and statements are CONVINCING REASONS TO OPPOSE forming alliances with Reverend Hagee and Christians United for Israel?

[400 Respondents] Q.75 (SPLIT A) Reverend Hagee says, "the coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty and will lead to Armageddon and the second coming of Christ." To bring this about, Hagee has said Iran's President is the new Hitler and Hagee has made Israel the centerpiece of his campaign for America to go to war with Iran.

That "quote" from Hagee is a cobbling together of parts of several statements he's made. Had they put a period after "certainty," it would have been an accurate representation (e.g., here). But J-Street is not about accuracy. It's the agenda, stupid.

A final note. They didn't do so well on this set of questions.

[400 Respondents]Q.39 (SPLIT A) Established Jewish organizations like AIPAC do a good job of representing my views on Israel.

OR

Established Jewish organizations like AIPAC do a poor job of representing my views on Israel.

[400 Respondents]Q.40 (SPLIT B) The traditional Jewish organizations do a good job of representing my views on Israel.

OR

The traditional Jewish organizations do a poor job of representing my views on Israel.

They were looking for a vindication of their raison d'ĂȘtre there, for a vote of no-confidence against AIPAC and "traditional Jewish organizations." They didn't get it.

Go see for yourself.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Disinformation

I hardly know what to think of this, whether to laugh or to cry.

A peace agreement with Syria is within reach, according to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's envoys to talks with Syria, who returned from another round of indirect negotiations in Turkey and were quoted in a Ma'ariv report Friday.

According to the report, the sides have already formulated a sketch of a peace deal and have told the Turkish mediators that they are willing to pay the price, which, for the Syrians, would include cutting off Iran.

The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the report.

Of course it couldn't. The "report" is absurd, even if true, which would not be to say that Syria has any intention of living up to such an agreement, just that they have pretended they will. Ridiculous on its face but not nearly as ridiculous as anyone believing it. The Post goes on to say as much. Well, not exactly.

According to the report, there was no way to directly prevent Syria from having ties with Iran. The agreement could, however, forbid Damascus from providing weapons to - or harboring representatives of - nations or organizations that threaten Israel.

The report quoted officials familiar with the negotiations as saying that the Syrians had expressed their awareness of Israel's demand and did not reject it.

The officials also said that talks with Israel had already exacted a price from Syrian President Bashar Assad in terms of his relationship with Teheran.

Yes, I expect that Ahmedinejad has cracked a rib or two from laughing so hard. As if Assad really has any choice in the matter.

I guess the most interesting question is who or what is behind this rather pathetic disinformation campaign. It's not a tough guess. Soccer Dad has analyzed the hysteria in Washington generated by Olmert's not-imminent-enough departure: it's all about the danger to the "peace process," stupid. And, yes, it's very disturbing. More clues here.

Olmert, for all his political prowess, is a whiney little baby and he may just try to give as much of his country away as he can before he leaves office, partly as a payback for being treated so unfairly and partly because (I suspect) he labors under the illusion that history will reward him for it. And at this point he is simply desperate for glory. In the stands cheering wildly, of course, will be the U.S. State Department, which seems more Clintonesque every day.

God save and protect Israel from lame ducks everywhere.

Shabbat Shalom.

Fairy tales

For those who continue to claim that the Hebrew Bible is all a bunch of made up stories with no factual foundation ... that ice under your feet is getting thinner every day.

A seal impression belonging to a minister of the Biblical King Zedekiah which dates back 2,600 years has been uncovered completely intact during an archeological dig in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, a prominent Israeli archeologist said on Thursday.

The seal impression, or bulla, with the name Gedalyahu ben Pashur, who served as minister to King Zedekiah (597-586 BCE) according to the Book of Jeremiah, was found just meters away from a separate seal impression of another of Zedekia's ministers, Yehukual ben Shelemyahu, which was uncovered three years ago, said Prof. Eilat Mazar who is leading the dig at the site.

Pretty cool, yes?

Of course, Gedaliah and Yucal weren't exactly the heroes of this story. They were among the many advisors to King Zedehiah who tried to silence Jeremiah and who convinced the king to ignore his advice, leading ultimately to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's a wrap

So both my vacation and the suspense over when and how Ehud Olmert will finally, actually, exit stage left, are now in the past.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held a special press conference on Wednesday at 8 p.m. where he announced he will not run in the Kadima primary scheduled to take place in September.

Olmert said he would resign from office upon selection of a successor, and would allow his successor to attempt to form a coalition.

And that's all we need to know. If you want to read more about Olmert lashing out against his opponents, protesting his innocence, whining about how mean everyone has been to him and declaring what a resounding success his premiership has been, it's all here. I'll pass.

Ah! A caveat.

While Prime Minister Olmert clearly stated that he would resign after the election of a new Kadima head in the upcoming Kadima primaries, Israel Radio has been broadcasting the following clarification in its hourly news bulletins starting with the 9 PM news:

"Our state affairs correspondent Shmuel Tal clarifies that the person who is elected to head Kadima will be asked to form a government and until he succeeds in doing it Olmert will continue to serve as prime minister. If the new chairman of Kadima fails to form a government Olmert will serve as prime minister until after the coming general elections."
He's said this before. The cat and mouse game is getting a little ... tired, Ehud. Give it up already.

Monday, July 21, 2008

And he's outta here

Well, it took long enough but it appears (appears) that Ehud Olmert is on his way out of office in disgrace. His party (or, rather, Arik Sharon's party) has at long last shown him the door and placed his hat firmly in his hand.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be replaced as Kadima leader in mid-September, barring unforeseen circumstances, after the Kadima council received the necessary votes on Monday to initiate a party leadership primary.

It took 12 days of voting, but a majority of the council's 180 members voted to change the party's constitution to allow the primary to take place. The next step is for Kadima's election committee to set a date for the primary and a mid-August deadline for potential candidates to join the race.

Sources close to Olmert said he would likely wait until the last possible moment to announce that he is not running in order to minimize the time that he would be considered a lame duck. Olmert's associates said there was almost no chance that he would run, because he is aware that he would have no chance of winning.

Ya think?

The damage that Olmert has done to his country and his people probably won't really be known for years. It remains to be seen whether his successor (probably Livni) will be able to forestall new elections and keep Kadima in power and whether the changing of the guard will actually signal the dawn or a new day or just more of the same.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fluffy kitten pix

Ok. This is cool. Heh. (via Solomonia)(update: ooops...never mind...TGTBT)

Treppenwitz has three excellent posts this week relating to the Worst Deal Ever. The first one, I linked a few days ago and the last one is a re-post that needed re-posting, but maybe you missed them. Please don't.

Karnit Goldwasser's father (poor man) made what's arguably the stupidest among a boatload of stupid comments that have been made about the WDE.

Speaking of Smadar Haran, who lost her husband Danny and her two daughters Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, in the 1979 terrorist attack in Nahariya led by terrorist Samir Kuntar, Avni said that it was brave of her to support a deal which brought the release of her family's killer.

"She understood with this exchange which led to the return of the two men, Kuntar has finally been involved in something positive," he said.

Try to wrap your mind around that.

So how do you end a week like this on an up note? Well, the stock market made a decent recovery and oil is still way off its high. And then there's this ... some nice fluffy kitten pix from Meryl.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Worst deal ever

Solomonia has a round-up of some of the round-ups. And some worthwhile comments of his own. I don't have the heart to write any more about it right now.

And it begins

From Ynet:

VIDEO - Celebrating in Gaza and Ramallah as well: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday welcomed the execution of the prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hizbullah. Abbas congratulated the family of released Lebanese murderer Samir Kuntar and sent his condolences to the Lebanese families receiving their loved ones' bodies as part of the deal.

More on the same page:

Shortly after the implementation of the Israel-Hizbullah prisoner exchange deal, candy was handed out to residents in Gaza.

Ziad abu al-Enain, director-general of the Ministry for Prisoner Affairs of the Salam Fayyad government and one of Fatah's senior members in the territories, said Wednesday morning, "The Palestinians congratulate Hizbullah and its leader and send their best wishes to all the Lebanese people and to all the Palestinians upon the completion of the deal and the release of heroes, headed by the prisoners' leader, Samir Kuntar."

He added that processions would be held in the territories Wednesday to express the Palestinians' solidarity following the completion of the deal.

And yet more:

Samir Kuntar's mother joined the cries of joy on Wednesday afternoon, praising Hizbullah leader Nasrallah for "the huge achievement."

In an interview with the al-Manar network, Kuntar's mother, also known as Um Jabar, said that "there is no limit to my joy today. I cannot express my feelings. This is complete liberty. For three days I have been getting phone calls from residents of Palestine, Yemen, Morocco and other countries, who congratulate me and I congratulate them."

I can't express my feelings, either. Joy, however, is not among them. I hope and pray that the smile will be wiped off that woman's face. Soon.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Identified

IDF Completes Identification Process

The identification process has been completed and the IDF has confirmed that the two coffins transfered to the IDF from Hezbollah contained the bodies of of First Sergeant Ehud Goldwasser and Sergeant First Class Eldad Regev

http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/

Time to lock and load.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

R.I.P. Tony Snow

Man. This hurts.

And I prefer Newt Gingrich's remarks to most others I've heard today because they best embody the spirit of the man as I perceived him.

May he soar on eagles' wings and find peace everlasting. And may his family be comforted in the trust and faith that he will.

His wisdom, humor and talent will be missed.

Friday, July 11, 2008

And again

AP/Ha'aretz reports:

Two Israelis were wounded in a shooting attack Friday at an entrance to Jerusalem's Old City, police said. The two were seriously wounded the Magen David Adom rescue service said.

The attacker shot toward a group of Israelis at the Lion's Gate of the walled Old City from a Muslim cemetery, police said.

One of the victims was reportedly hit in the head and the second in the chest. Both were evacuated by helicopter from the scene.

Armed people in the targeted group shot back and it was not immediately clear if the attacker was hit, police said. The perpetrator was not immediately found when police began searching the area, police said. Several suspects have reportedly been brought in for questioning, though it is not certain yet if the shooter has been apprehended.

(update note: have the AP editors gone on strike?)

Just to the south of the Lion's Gate is the Golden Gate. Now about that Muslim cemetery that the "attacker" shot from. I'm pretty sure it was this one.

Muslims expect the Golden Gate to be a part of the last judgment of men at the end of history. In 692CE the Dome of Rock was built by Caliph Abdel-Malik on the top of the Temple Mount. It's believed that it was right around that time when Muslims sealed off the Golden Gate with 15 foot thick stone structure in order to prevent the fulfillment of Zachariah's prophecy and keep the Jewish Messiah from entering the Temple Mount.

Just to be on the safe side they also built a large cemetery all along the Golden Gate gate in a belief that the messiah will not pass through it due to the Old Testament law that prohibits the high priests (the Kohanim) from coming into contact with the dead. But many Jews believe that the Messiah will be the descendant of King David and not the Kohen and therefore can pas through the cemetery without breaking any Jewish laws.

(~) See also Wikipedia for a slightly different version.

Yeah. That's just not going to work. But today, it looks like the cemetery is providing shelter for terrorists. Or "attackers," as AP is calling them. Whatever.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, July 4, 2008

And now for some fireworks

WOW! ...... or you can make your own.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!!

And Shabbat Shalom.