Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year…. A Bit Early

Today is the first day of 2009. It is time to change the right hand digit on any check you may write. But is it the New Year?

New Years Day is also a Christian religious holiday, commemorating the circumcision of Jesus. The actual date of the birth of Jesus is not established with certainty. Since he was born to an observant family, the one chronological fact of his birth is that his circumcision occurred eight days later. Indeed, even some Christians such as Puritans, in a desire to retain the early character of Christianity as they interpreted it have questioned the inclusion of Christmas on the Christian calendar.

Jews mark the first day of the seventh month as the beginning of a new year, marking the creation of the world. According to the Jewish calendar, we are therefore in the year 5769.

Samaritans calculate the beginning of the year from the first day of the first month, in which occurs Passover. Their months, however did not acquire Babylonian names, as did the of the Jewish months. The Samaritan calendar is dated from the year of the Exodus, which they calculate as 3646. They have a calendar with a leap month that is similar to the Jewish calendar. Jews and Samaritans find this month necessary to keep holidays from sliding around the seasons. Without a leap year, a calendar that is lunar based will lose around eleven day a years against a solar calendar. This would eventually result anomalies like Passover coming out in July, and Hannukah coming out in May. The leap months maintain the seasonal placement of Jewish holidays. Muslims do not have a leap month. As a result, their holidays slide around the Gregorian calendar with no correction.

The Assyrian year is also reckoned from the first day of the first month. They come up with April 1. They are in the year 6758.

The calendric notation for January 1 is 1/1/08. But is it really the first day of the first month? An examination of some of the names for the months tells a different story. September, October, November and December are the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months. July and August used to be named Quintilus and Sextillus before their names were changed to honor Roman emperors. This would make January and February the eleventh and twelfth months respectively.

This etymological examination of the months clearly points to March 1 as the first day of the first month. If you are writing a check, 1/1/09 should therefore refer to the first day of March . I do not recommend using this as an excuse to bounce a mortgage check.

It is additionally interesting to note that the Jewish New Year on the first day of the month of Tishrei is also the seventh month. It always overlaps or is adjacent to September, which is also the seventh month on the Gregorian calendar. Since the Jewish calendar commemorates the creation of the world, it is arguably a holiday of universal importance. Judaism also has a New Year for trees on the 15th of Shvat, which usually falls out in February. This year it starts on the of February 8, and continues until sunset the following day.

Calendars have great political and religious importance. During the French Revolution, one of the revolutionary changes was the French_Republican_Calendar, which abolished the seven day week and the twenty four hour day, replacing them with decimal time. Wikipedia describes it briefly as follows.

“The first day of each year was that of the autumnal equinox. There were twelve months, each divided into three ten-day weeks called décades. The tenth day, décadi, replaced Sunday as the day of rest and festivity. The five or six extra days needed to approximate the solar or tropical year were placed after the months at the end of each year. Each day was divided into ten hours, each hour into 100 decimal minutes and each decimal minute had 100 decimal seconds. Thus an hour was more than twice as long as a conventional hour; a minute was slightly longer than a conventional minute; and a second was slightly shorter than a conventional second. Clocks were manufactured to display this decimal time, but it did not catch on and mandatory use was officially suspended 7 April 1795, although some cities continued to use decimal time as late as 1801.

A period of four years ending on a leap day was to be called a “Franciade.” The name “Olympique” was originally proposed [2] but changed to Franciade to commemorate the fact that it had taken the revolution four years to establish a republican government in France.[3]

The leap year was called Sextile, an allusion to the “bissextileleap years of the Julian and Gregorian calendars, because it contained a sixth complementary day.

The French Revolutionary calendar would have wreaked havoc on religious observance. That is probably what they intended. The Bolsheviks in Russia attempted something similar, but junked it fairly quickly.

A new day does not begin at midnight for everyone. Hindus begin their day at sunrise. Both Jews and Muslims begin the day at sunset. In Jewish calendric calculations, midnight is the mid point between sunset and sunrise. Mid day is the midpoint between sunrise and sunset. These times, which fluctuate with the seasons affect the times for Jewish prayers.

In Judaism, the calendar is considered sacred. Its proper calculation is essential to the observance of all of the Jewish holidays and establishing yahrzeit, the anniversary of death, when the Kaddish prayer is said to aid the ascent of a departed soul. Many Jewish families also observe birthdays according to the Jewish calendar. Observance of the Jewish calendar is a matter of pride to observant Jews. I am sure that many other ethnic and religious groups take special pride in their respective calendars.

There are around forty calendars in use in the world today. It is interesting to reflect upon the history behind each of them and the historical forces which brought about the survival of some calendars and the demise of others. For me, January first is a day when I reflect upon how time is marked. It brings with it a lot of reflection upon events in Jewish and in world history. On this occasion, I wish my readers a happy New Year and strength in their personal resolutions.

Proposition Eight Backlash

A measure of a civilised society is the manner in which its citizens differ. Since Proposition Eight was passed in California back in November, intolerance has skyrocketed. People are losing their jobs for being open about their sexual and political preferences. Are gay activists taking to the streets in protest? No! They are the perpetrators.

According to World Net Daily, discrimination lawsuits have already been filed by individuals who allege that they were asked at work how they voted on Proposition Eight and fired when their choice became known. World Net Daily reports on the situation as follows.

“Pacific Justice Institute reports a growing number of cases where those opposed to the ballot measure have taken out their anger more quietly: by harassing – and even firing – employees who voted for it.

PJI, a non-profit legal defense organization specializing in religious freedom, claims to be representing a San Francisco woman who was fired for voting for Proposition 8, but whose name remains confidential to protect her privacy and legal case.

“Californians have been shocked by the aggressiveness of radical homosexual activists who have ousted several individuals from their jobs and livelihoods based solely on their support for traditional marriage,” states Brad Dacus, president of PJI, on the group’s website. “These tactics of fear and intimidation in retaliation for supporting a lawful ballot measure are completely unacceptable.”

PJI also claims to be advising several others seeking settlements after they too were fired for supporting Proposition 8.

“Unfortunately, this is far from an isolated case,” asserts a recent PJI statement.”

The proponents of gay marriage have used intimidation tactics against individuals and businesses who made contributions to the campaign in support of proposition eight. According to WND,

“Kevin Snider, chief counsel for PJI, told WND of a worker at a financial company who was asked before the November election how he would vote on the issue of homosexual marriage. The employee gave an evasive answer. Following the election, the employee was asked repeatedly how he voted.

When it was learned the employee had voted in favor of Proposition 8, he was written up for discrimination, Snider reports, and fired within a couple of days.”

Firing workers for their political choice takes the struggle to a completely new level. In a time of economic downturn, this is a harsh form of reprisal. It is also a double edged sword. Homosexuals who want to change the attitudes that shape voting behavior would do well to combine openness with tolerance. People who have good workplace relationships with a group they may dislike may well modify their attitudes and political positions. Personal relationships often have an influence on political evolution. This is a slow process, but it a critical one in the evolution of a society’s values and attitudes.

One target of the gay activists was El Coyote, a coffee shop that has been picketed and whose patrons harassed when they entered the establishment. The harassment was so bad that riot police had to be called in to restore order.The owner had made a contribution to a group supporting Proposition Eight, making his business fair game for reprisals.

What is particularly ironic is that El Coyote has among its eighty nine emloyees some that are openly homosexual. It has been tolerant in its hiring and work policies. Now, these workers are in danger of losing their jobs. The net effect of this boycott action is polarisation and resentment. Straights and also gays are losing their jobs when a targetted business goes under. Additionally, chances to soften anti homosexual antagonism are being lost.

There are plenty of situations where people of the same gender live together who are not homosexual. Two elderly women may share an apartment. They may be best friends who mention each other in their wills and want visiting rights in a hospital. I have no problem respecting their rights to have a partnership. People can be siblings, pals or lovers and feel a need for some benefit of legal recognition. I have no problem with that. I don’t need it spelled out for me what happens when the shades are pulled and the lights go out. That is none of my business.

I am against gay marriage. But I am in favour of tolerance. Tolerance does not just mean letting gays be gay. It means letting others dislike homosexuals and even detest them as long as they don’t hurt them. This principal applies to any matter about which citizens may differ, whether it is religion, politics, race or sexuality. It is the foundation of a civilised society.

We think of censorship and repression as the sin of the political right. We think of Fanny Hill and Ulysses being banned in Boston. We think of Lenny Bruce being busted for obscenity or John Birch Society members warning ominously of communist infiltrators.

There is a new “McCarthyism” in America, complete with blacklists and gentleman’s agreements. I speak of the intolerance of the left, emboldened with a sense of self importance and self righteousness that banishes any shame or self examination.

Any proposal for change in societal attitudes must be preceded by frank dialogue. Right now, such dialogue is being stifled with witch hunt tactics and raw intimidation. This is a recipe for confrontation. People of faith in America already feel that they are being marginalised , bullied and ridiculed. The collective sense of aggrievedness among citizens of faith matches and outrage that could be mustered on the left by gay activists and their sympathisers.

When my siblings and I used to fight, it used to unnerve my mother. When we seemed to be close to inflicting bodily injury upon each other, she used to say “Please ! At least be civil to each other!”

Years later, I equate civility with a grudging pledge not to inflict bodily harm. It is not the best way for siblings to feel about each other or even neighbours . But sometimes it is all you can expect. America has a good record for civility. Let’s keep it that way. Tell me how to act. No problem. But don’t tell me what to believe or how to feel.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Critic of Israel Writes to Me: My Answer

I knew it would not be long before I heard from someone who would be critical of Israel's attack on Gaza. Predictably, a comment showed up today. I printed it in its entirety. Not only that, I am printing it in this posting, along with my answer.

Sorry, I do not say this to offend .. I do accept that the Jewish people have had a tough time over the past few thousand years .. BUT .. am I the only person to see a horrible 'similarity' between the current Gaza 'Prison' and the infamous 'Warsaw Ghetto' ?

People 'driven from their homes and collected in a sealed Ghetto' ?

I am a mere Christian, so I guess you can ignore me .. but we are taught that 'two Wrongs do not make a Right' .. please tell me what Israel hopes to achieve in the long term ?

Surely nobody seriously thinks it is posibble to will 'wipe out' all traces of Palestinian identity ? From my perspective this 'onslaught' is making things a lot worse .. surely it will take generations for the children of Gaza to forget these events.

Granted the Hamas rhetoric and Rocket attacks are equally repugnant, but 'who cast the first stone' ?

This is a serious response to your post, and I would genuinely love to read an equally serious and thoughtful answer. Please Educate me if you have a sincere wish to get the wider world on your side.

I noted that there was not any obscenity in this letter. Although I am at complete odds with its contents, it shows civility and merits an answer. The comment "I am a mere Christian, so I guess you can ignore me" is as insulting as calling me a racist. I have treated my readers with respect and learned from them without regard to creed or ethnicity. I will forgive your implied insult, even though you did not ask me to do so.

The Warsaw Ghetto was a tiny section of the city of Warsaw. It was not a "Jewish Homeland" or "Hebrew Authority". It was a collection point for eventual extermination. Gaza is not a tiny part of a city. It is 139 square miles. Israel was hoping that it would be the start of a partnership, that its residents would use their autonomy to build an economy sufficient to sustain its people. I feel that this hope was extremely misguided. Daily rocket attacks on Israel, perpetrated and celebrated by Gaza residents constituted a danger to life and acts of war that no one should have to tolerate. Far from condemning and preventing the attacks, Hamas has applauded and facilitated them. Military targets were purposely located in civilian areas. According to the Geneva Convention, this constitutes a violation by Hamas.

Under the circumstances, the extreme restraint showed by Israel over the past months is an act of cruelty to its own people and ultimately to the people living under the authority of Hamas. Even in the course of the attack, Israel has tried to minimise civilian casualties. The Hamas strategy of locating military targets in civilian areas has made this almost impossible. Despite this, Israel tries to show mercy to its enemies that remains unreciprocated by its neighbours and unappreciated by much of the world.

Thankfully, Israel is interested belatedly in defending itself rather than dangerous efforts to court world opinion. Its Gaza offensive was a moral imperative, an obligation to its own citizens. "Two wrongs don't make a right" has no place in this discussion. Hamas, a freely elected party considers every Jew from the toughest soldier to the most helpless infant to be an enemy to be exterminated. That does not leave much room for discussion .

You are concerned about the children of Gaza. I believe that the Israeli government shows them far more concern than does Hamas or Fatah. They are being indoctrinated in hatred in school and on their television stations. Their government has chosen war. Even pregnant women and retarded children have been used as suicide bombers. This is child abuse of the worst sort, but not by Israel.

The Palestinians suffer terrible discrimination... Throughout the Arab world. Sixty years after 1948, Palestinians living in Lebanon are not allowed to own land. They are banned from a long list of occupations. Jordan, Kuwait and many other Arab countries also have discriminatory laws aimed at Palestinians. This does sound like some of the discriminatory laws imposed on Jews throughout history. But these laws are imposed upon them by other Arabs.

It saddens me that the tremendous economic potential of the Middle East has been squandered in warfare. Israel has made overtures and efforts for peace that I believe are suicidal. It has gone beyond all reasonable limits to satisfy its moral obligations to its enemies. This has fed a cycle of Israel making concessions that embolden its enemies who reward further concessions with more violence demands more concessions and inflicts more injury.

Israel was founded not only by European Jews but by Arab Jews as well. Close to a million Arab Jews were driven from Israel's neighbouring Arab states. Many of these people came from families that had roots in Arab countries going back centuries. Now they are being hounded and tormented in Israel, wher e they made a new beginning. This facet of the problems in the Middle East is almost completely overlooked.

Israel has not tried to "wipe out all traces of Palestinian identity" as you suggest. It has tried to prevent itself from being wiped out.

You do not sound like a hateful person, but you do sound like you have been given a heavily edited set of facts mixed in with an abundance of deception. This is not your fault. I hope that you will formulate your opinions based upon a more complete picture. I thank you for your letter.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Gaza Offensive, A Reaction From the "Jewish Street"

Israel has finally responded in a way that makes sense after daily threats to its survival. The recent air attacks on Gaza followed an unsuccessful policy of "Turning the other cheek" that was treated with contempt

According to digitaljournal.comIsrael is continuing to send humanitarian aid to Gaza, to cities in which there was dancing in the streets in the aftermath of past attacks on civilians. Despite this, the crescendo of condemnation and calls for revenge are coming from around the world. There is vigilance not only throughout Israel but around the world where anyone identifiable as a Jew is considered to be a representative of the "Zionist Entity".

When Avraham and Rivka Holzberg were murdered, there had been no Gaza offensive. During the Farhud (or Arab anti Jewish pogroms) in 1941 there was no State of Israel. In 1929 in Hebron, there was no State of Israel and the Arabs murdered anti Zionist Jews who were reconciled to dhimmi status.

We are hearing about anger in the Arab Street . This is a tired phrase that is intended to evoke fearful images ofthe enraged Arab masses rising up in full fury. In the interest of equal time, I want to speak of the "Jewish street". In the "Jewish Street, the sense is developing that there will be rage directed at us no matter what we do to be "nice". We are continually urged to "take risks for peace". We are supposed to feel Arab pain at the accidental death of Arab bystanders. Meanwhile, an Arab who killed a four year old Jewish girl was released into the arms of joyous crowds at home in Lebanon, where a national holiday is declared in his honour. (See video with this posting.)

Here is word from the "Jewish street." I am numb from recounting the Jewish victims of a blood lust that will never be sated. I am sick to death of watching videos of Arabs passing out candy and celebrating as Jewish mortuary volunteers pick up body fragments from the streets. I am livid with rage at suicide bombers for defiling the remains of their victims by dying among them.

Here is the word from the "Jewish street" from an ignorant Jew with only three months of yeshiva to his credit.

I learned in Yeshiva that if you say a blessing and I say amen that I get credit for your blessing as much as you do. This way, a whole room of people can get the reward of a blessing uttered by one person.

I am going to be purely logical. In the "Arab Street" it is considered to be a "mitzvah" to kill Jews as much as it is for a Jew to say a blessing over bread. I see your preachers stressing this all the time. When people gather in the street to celebrate a four year old Yahudi girl being grabbed by her legs and being smashed against rocks, then they are, after a fashion saying "amen" to the "mitzvah". I am sure that if somewhere a Hamas sympathiser is reading this, he or she will not contest my logic.

So to review this logical progression if someone says "amen" to a blessing on a mitzvah, they get the same credit as the person who actually did it. Since the streets of Beirut and Gaza City fill up daily with people saying "amen" to the murder of Jews, then they should get credit for the same mitzvah as the chromosomal human who waves his bloody hands in the air to cheering crowds. Since G-d decides what is and what is not a mitzvah, let him judge them according to the frenzied "amen" that they shout in the streets of their cities and towns.

Here is the word from the "Jewish street". If you are going to kill us no matter what, we may as well do whatever is logical for our survival. We may as well take out the murderers and their cheering groupies who scream "amen" and pass out candies in the street. Because their gonna bitch no matter what we do.

As Bonnie Raitt said in her famous country song, " Let's Give 'em Something to Talk About."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thoughts About Obama and America

When I was about nine years old, my mother used to take me to a little coin shop about a mile from where we lived. It was meant as a reward for transcending my extremely poor attention span and getting passing grades in my weak subject of math. It was a powerful incentive, but the proprietor made it clear to my mother that I was one of his more annoying customers.

One coin that my mother talked me out of buying bore the following inscription.

"This coin is redeemable for one dollar at the first bank to open its doors for business on the moon before December 31, 1970."

At fifty cents, the coin seemed to be a good way to double my money in only five years. It was with difficulty that my mother finally impressed upon the the implausibility of such conditions being met within in that time span.

Back in the mid 1980's, the Lubavitcher Rebbe advised his followers in Israel to break ground for a housing development for Soviet professionals newly arrived in the Holy Land. To many, it seemed as unlikely as a shopping mall on Mars. Followers of the Rebbe still followed the Rebbe's advice, despite its seeming implausibility.

Subsequent events vindicated the Rebbe's amazing prescience. The Soviet Union is a memory. I still look with astonishment upon money that bears no communist icons or symbols. What was all the more astonishing is that Mikhael Gorbatschev was a loyal communist who had no intention of dismantling his country's godless political system. He had envisioned a shakeup along the line of Krushchev and his Twentieth Party Congress , which resulted in a shakeup that left communism intact.

The late eighties and early nineties brought with them an abundance of miracles, including the general fall of communism throughout Europe and the dramatic , almost surreal fall of the Berlin Wall.

I can not put my finger on it, but I smell the scent of miracles in the air. The world has been badly shaken by an unprecedented financial crisis. The power of image and mood in keeping our monetary system afloat is out there for all to see.

Obama's election was a remarkable departure from the established order. I do not laud it at all, despite my understanding of its meaning to African Americans. Obama had a disturbing collection of friends, from the racist Reverend Jeremiah Wright to the unrepentant flag trampler Bill Ayers, Obama inspires in me no confidence. The mainstream edia's role in promoting Obama's candidacy defies all logic. They passed up countless stories that would have pumped up sales in a troubled industry. Serious questions about Obama's constitutional qualifications were swept under the rug. I look at this entire election as a departure from the norm, a suspension of the normal rules of operation.

It saddens me greatly that religious Christians and Jews tacitly (and in some cases actively) supported Obama. I don't know how this can be reconciled with any sort of faith in G-d.

Somehow, I see Obama and am reminded of the saying "the hearts of leaders are in the hands of G-d." I see him as someone who might make the right decisions in spite of his own inclinations. I hope and pray that G-d guides him in the right path.

It seems like we are headed into uncharted waters. My confidence in the future has nothing to do with my faith in our leaders. To the contrary, I believe we are a blind people being led by leaders no better than ourselves.

I voted for McCain, who I feel had greater loyalty to biblical values. The majority voted otherwise. My vote was cast as a prayer for our country's future. I will continue to pray. The hearts of leaders are in the hands of G-d. And so is the world.

Aramaic Lives!

Many people became aware of Aramaic as a spoken language through the blockbuster film The Passion of the Christ, which portrays the last hours in the life of Jesus.

Assyrian is a Semitic language very similar to Arabic and Hebrew. In the Israeli paper Haaretz, some examples of linguistic similarities are detailed. “Aramaic is a Semitic language and has similarities with Hebrew and Arabic. Water is “moyeh” in Aramaic, “maim” in Hebrew and “miye” in Arabic. Carpenter is “nagouro” in Aramaic, “nagar” in Hebrew and “najar” in Arabic.”

Those who have noted the similarities between Spanish, Italian and French have a good idea of the familial closeness of these three languages.

The opinion of Gibson’s movie that interested me greatly was that of the folks at This web site serves the Assyrian communities all around the world. It has an abundance of information about Assyrian history, language and culture. Its link page offers enough material for research and education to keep those interested in this fascinating community busy for a very long time.

A poll taken about Mel Gibson’s movie showed up on the site. The consensus was overwhelming that the Assyrians were glad that their endangered language was getting some major publicity. Mel Gibson put a great deal of effort into creating linguistic authenticity in his famous movie. The web site details Gibson’s efforts in an article they reprinted from the web site.

“Gibson sought the help of Father William Fulco, chair of Mediterranean Studies at Loyal Marymount University and one the world’s foremost experts on the Aramaic language and classical Semitic cultures. Fulco translated the script for “The Passion of the Christ” entirely into 1st Century Aramaic for the Jewish characters and “street Latin” for the Roman characters, drawing on his extensive linguistic and cultural knowledge. After translating the script, Fulco served as an on-set dialogue coach and remained “on call” to the production, providing last-minute translations and consultations.

To further authenticate the language, Gibson also consulted native speakers of Aramaic dialects to get a sense of how the language sounds to the ear. The beauty of hearing this dying language spoken aloud, he recalls, was very moving.

Ultimately, the entire international cast of “The Passion of the Christ” had to learn portions of Aramaic — most doing so phonetically — becoming perhaps one of the largest groups of artists ever to take on an ancient tongue. For Gibson, the film’s “foreign language” had another benefit: learning Aramaic became a uniting factor among a cast made up of many languages, cultures and backgrounds.”

Most people who know Assyrian, Chaldean or Aramaic (all variants of Aramaic) know it only as a liturgical language. About half a million people speak it in their homes. There is an Assyrian diaspora around the world, including a large number in the Detroit area.

In some villages in Syria, the language is preserved as a spoken language at home and in the street. I watched recently a video clip (included in this posting of a visit to Maloola, a remote village in which the language is proudly spoken. What was heartening in the video was the manifest pride of the villagers in their precious cultural heritage.

I had known of a religious rift among Assyrian speakers between members of indigenous Assyrian Christian denominations and those Christians who pledge allegiance to the Roman Catholic pope. What I am astounded to learn is that there are Muslim speakers of this ancient language in Maloola and perhaps elsewhere. The remoteness of the area and the bond of a rare tongue seem to create a harmonious climate in the area. Perhaps the fact that Assyria has Muslim speakers will afford the language some protection in a volatile region.

For the overwhelming majority of Jews, Aramaic lives on as the language of the Talmud, of parts of the daily prayers and of Kaddish, the prayer that marks death but makes no allusion to it. I heard a story of an Iranian boy who attended an American yeshiva and understood the Aramaic Talmudic texts with no translation. There are indeed scattered Jewish speakers of Aramaic. It would be a pity if the chain of oral transmission of Jewish Aramaic were to die out. Even if this dialect of the language were artificially recreated, some crucial elements would be lost. There is a multitude of Jewish diaspora languages, most notably Yiddish and Ladino. Hopefully, the State of Israel will devote some resources to their preservation.

One factor working in favour of Aramaic survival is a body of popular music in that language, including singer Evin Aghassi. I saw a video once when he went on tour in Syria where the crowds went wild as Aghassi inched through the streets of Damascus. As a show of their love and admiration for the famous singer, they picked up his Mercedes with him in it and walked through the streets. It was a unique and priceless display of the fan’s devotion.

The second video that I am including in this posting is a song by Evin Aghassi in Assyrian. It is set to a video from the movie Happy Feet. I show it to friends and tell them that it is a video from my son’s wedding. What is interesting about the video is its fusion of American influences with local culture. It drives home the point that a culture is in a process of evolution. Saving a language does not mean putting it in a sealed container. It means a certain measure of adaptation to new conditions.

I have found that many people who speak interesting and endangered dialects are ashamed of their fluency. Most feel that the endangered language marks them as a “green horn” or a “country bumpkin”. When a person who speaks an endangered language sees a world famous movie dubbed into their mother tongue, it gives them the feeling that their village has almost “made it to Hollywood.”

It would be nice to see Sesame Street and other staples of popular culture adapted to promoting the survival of endangered tongues. Perhaps it would also be possible to promote unique local cultures as having a value to a select type of tourist that wants to hear the languages that once were used to rule empires. It is truly ennobling to realise that one is in possession of a cultural treasure that is appreciated around the world. Divinity schools might be particularly suited for and disposed to this type of study.

When I hear that an old person has passed away, an image flashes through my mind of a library burning. There is a terrible sadness to the death of a language, when a body of folklore and inherited traditions finally lies down and draws its last, lonely breath. Jews, Muslims and Christians owe a great cultural debt to the Semitic languages. Any effort to preserve this cultural legacy offers an opportunity to deepen our respect for human life and our appreciation of diversity. All should applaud and assist those who facilitate the survival of Aramaic or indeed any other endangered tongue.

The second video mentioned in the article cannot be embedded due to copyright restrictions, but it can be viewed here:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thoughts About Haleigh Poutre's Miracle and of a Nursing Home in Minnesota

Once in a great while, miracles occur that remind us that our knowledge is limited, that our supremacy in the world is illusory. A simple snowstorm should be humbling for most of us.. The sight of a BMW spinning its wheels on a patch of ice and being pushed by helpful neighbours is a reminder that we do not control the skies and that we sometimes even lose control on the ground as well.

Most of the time, our delusions of greatness are amusing. When we start assessing the value of human life, it becomes downright sinister. Abortion hardly makes anyone flinch. It's a matter of "choice". After abortion comes "mercy killing" which essentially puts humans on the level of dogs that can be "put to sleep".

The idea of brain death became more feasible as organ transplants became more common place. If you redefine death in a way that enables you to harvest fresh organs, then you can trade a "low quality life" for one that seems more worthwhile. Medical experts are rapidly redrawing ethical frontiers with thought seldom given to where we are headed.

Haleigh Poutre is a girl who is challenging some of the new notions about "quality of life" without saying a word. Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin has taken up her cause and educated the public about its specifics and far reaching implications.

Who is Haleigh Poutre? Michelle Malkin explains as follows.

"She's the miracle child who was nearly beaten to death by her barbaric stepfather three years ago. Hooked to a ventilator in a comatose state, she was then nearly condemned to death by Massachusetts medical experts and the state's criminally negligent child-welfare bureaucracy, which hastily declared her to be in a hopeless vegetative state and wanted to pull the plug on her life."

The first strike against this child in her difficult time on earth was the neglect of the Massachusetts child welfare bureaucracy, which failed to uncover and stop the ongoing abuse that nearly killed her. They took an activist stance only when she had been beaten into a coma. Their contribution to her welfare was to go to court to have the plug pulled on her, declaring her to be in a "persistent vegetative state"When the Massachusetts courts gave them they wanted, Haleigh confounded all expectations by starting to breathe on her own. The miracle did not stop there.

Michelle Malkin describes Poutre's progress as follows.

" God had a different plan. The government's campaign to kill her was stopped after the then 11-year-old girl started breathing on her own and responding to commands. This little girl with an iron will to live has been nursed back to health by an amazing team of caring therapists. Her plight brought end- of-life issues again to the fore - issues that so many on both the left and right would prefer to ignore.

Haleigh the "vegetable" can now write her name, brush her own hair and feed herself. Haleigh's suffering and sacrifice carry powerful reminders against blind trust in the deadly duo of Big Nanny and Big Medicine - reminders that money can't buy."

A spiritually deadened generation needs miracles to be awakened from its spiritual coma. When it is proven that communicative life can rise from the "brain dead" then that is accepted as reason to question medical omnipotence. Stories like Haleigh's grab us by the lapel and show us the awesome mystery of human existence.

Hopefully, this will lead to a reevaluation of our current view of life, which views it to be a human possession. The traditional view is that we are trustees of even our own lives, which are a gift from G-d. Murder is ultimately extinguishing a Godly manifestation and destroying something that is not ours.

What do we become when we start to pass judgement on the value of a life? If a person is capable of nothing more than smiling at a curtain flapping in the breeze or making throat noises, who are we to decide that watching art films or singing opera is better ? What if I hate art films and opera? Shall I decide that a person who has different tastes is a lesser person than I am?

Does earning power make a life more valuable? What happens when a person can no longer work, or they can only work a few hours? Does that diminish their value? Who is weighing the value of life? Is it doctors? Who is paying the doctors? Is it inheritors watching an estate evaporate?

There is something very valuable to the life of someone who is not capable of working or even communicating. Most of the time, we protect life because it makes sense. Most of us enjoy life enough to want to stay alive. When we protect a life that is that of a person with no self awareness or measurable cognitive skills, we are making a statement that life belongs to G-d.
We are also investing in our future, because much of our life is spent in decline. Some people feel devastated when they become blind or crippled. Some want to commit suicide. There are those who find value in such individuals and those who face life with disabilities with an intact desire to live give. These people give inspiration to others who are fighting the battles we all face. When we consign another person to the waste heap, a part of us dies with them. The value and meaning of our lives are diminished by our negation of others.

Those who are severely disabled enrich the world by the compassion and warmth they elicit from others.

A corporation is dissolved when it can no longer produce wealth and only costs money. A human being is more than a profit and loss statement. The more we internalise this awareness , the happier our own lives will be.

When we decide that some lives are just plain worthless, then others will take this calculating logic to more blatantly depraved levels, like the girls in a Minnesota Nursing home
who are alleged to have horribly abused residents in the nursing home in which they worked.

The Smoking Gun describes the allegations as follows.

"A group of teenagers working at a Minnesota nursing home abused and sexually humiliated elderly residents suffering from Alzheimer's disease and dementia, prosecutors allege. The six young female caregivers were named yesterday in criminal complaints charging them with a variety of cruel behavior at the Good Samaritan Society nursing home in Albert Lea, a city in southern Minnesota. Only two of those charged--Brianna Broitzman, 19, and Ashton Larson, 18--are named in the complaints since they were not minors when the alleged abuse occurred."

If you look at the girl's pictures, they do not look hideous, but enviably attractive. Spiritual ugliness can dress up like a fashion model. Were they raised in a world where fading physical beauty is a sin or a horrible fate? I don't know. I am sure that they weren't directly taught to behave as they allegedly did. Where did they pick up such attitudes?

Where did they get the idea that some lives just aren't worth much, that self awareness is everything and that life has no sanctity? Such attitudes are in the air all around us like invisible spores that sprout on our lawns in the morning dew. When such things happen as the abuse scandal in Minnesota, can we really be so surprised ?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Josipa Lisac and Memories of Zagreb

The rain today was bone chilling. When you are riding a motorcycle in the rain, the velocity at which you travel pounds the wetness into your clothing. Unlike bus and train passengers, however, I always get a seat. The downside is that I have no way to read or listen to music while traveling to work.

This weather with its damp wind reminds me of when I was in Zagreb back in 1973. It was there that I discovered Croatian rock music and Croatian naive art.

One of the most talented singers in what was then Jugoslavia is Josipa Lisac who was born in 1950 in Zagreb, Croatia. She was originally the lead singer for Zlatni Akordi, a group popular in Jugoslavia in the 1960's. I am including three songs of Josipa Lisac in this posting. One of them is called "Jedna Kratka Vjest" , (A Small Report). Another is titled "Srela Sam Se S Njim" The last song, "Sreca" which translates roughly as ""Sweetheart" is one of my favourite songs of all time in any language.

To provide a visual complement to this posting, I am including some samples of Croatian Art, which is very much treasured by European art collectors. There are very many artists in the genre of Croatian Naive Art. I hope the two samples below will spur google searches among my readership for this type of art.

What most troubled me during my visit to Jugoslavia was their official calendar, upon which Christmas was a regular work day and New Years day a double holiday, observed on January first and second. It bothered me that the traditions and wishes of a predominantly Christian populace would be so flagrantly ignored. Fortunately, the old calendar has been restored. It is a pity that the Tito government did not work harder at inculcating ethnic tolerance in the former Jugoslavia instead of its futile promotion of atheism.

Jugoslavia has a reputation not only for its art, literature and music but also its bloody internecine struggles. It never ceases to puzzle me that a culture that produces such beautiful art and literature also gives rise to such inhumanity and bloodlust. This question is not unique to Jugoslavia. Many other countries also produce such a dichotomy. I have no answers. Just questions...
Perhaps a day will come when the family of mankind will transplant the beauty from their art into their actual lives. May such a day come soon.

Butterfly By Ivica Fister

Two Cows By Drago Bobovec

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jimmy Carter, the Art of the Striptease and Hatred of Israel

The major newspapers are able to produce a well written obituary for a public figure at the snap of the fingers. They are able to do so because they have an article on the life of the deceased prepared in advanced.

I have stored the video for which I had similar intentions. I was going to put it up on my site on a happy day when Jimmy Carter would stop giving longevity a bad name by assuming room temperature. The latest news about him has moved me to post this video sooner.

Jimmy Carter reminds me of an ancient striptease video we used to watch at the carnival as kids. It was the kind where you flipped through a deck of cards with pictures on them that ran like a movie. This device is known as a fantascope and was invented in 1834. By the time I was in grade school in the mid sixties, it was not uncommon for these devices to be set up in penny arcades with old cartoons and slapstick skits of about two minutes duration .

Most of the fantascope selections were tame and family appropriate. When I was in fifth grade on a school trip we found one that was not, and we were delighted. It was of a woman dancing around in her birthday suit with a towel that always rescued her from charges of indecent exposure at the last moment. We spent countless nickels trying to find a split second in which the dancer was uncovered but she always managed to stay legal. It took a level of skill seldom seen today, and it seemed so effortless.

Jimmy Carter reminds me a lot of the woman on the deck of flipping cards on whom we wasted so many nickels.

When he ran for President,Carter started out with the usual talk of how much he loved Jews and Israel. He had no trouble attracting Jewish votes.

When Carter started the Camp David accords, no one faulted him for wanting to make peace between Israel and Egypt. It seemed like such a nice thing to do. Opposing Carter's efforts seemed like saying that you were in favour of world hunger.

Reports came out of Camp David that Carter and Mondale were really piling on Menachem Begin. Sadat was presented as avuncular and pleasant. Begin was cast as dour and intransigent. When Sadat showed up in Israel with swastikas on his necktie, no one said anything. I mean, how can anybody be so blatant. He was smiling and talking with Begin like a good buddy.

People became suspicious of Carter that he might be giving Egypt and the Arabs too much benefit of the doubt. Was he an anti semite? Nah forget about it! Don't be paranoid. And just when people were ready to peg Carter as being pro PLO, Clinton showed up on the White House lawn with Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. Even though Carter hardly bothered with a towel or even a fig leaf to cover his hatred of Israel, Bill Clinton stepped in front of him at the last moment.

The latest news about Jimmy Carter is that he has been back in the Middle East again. This time he has been advising Hamas, the terrorist group now in charge of the Palestine Authority. He was not just saying hello. He was offering political advice and painting them with a veneer of respectability on his website. Between the lines of Carter's slick announcement was a touch of vile perfidy. Carters notes of his trip to Syria are as follows.

"In the afternoon Bob, Hrair, and I met with Khaled Mashaal and his fellow Hamas politburo members, all of whom are scientists, medical doctors, or engineers – none trained in religion. It was the anniversary of Hamas' founding, and they were watching Prime Minister Haniya's speech in Gaza to an enormous crowd. We discussed items on my agenda that included an extension of the ceasefire in Gaza, life there under the Israeli sanctions, the Arab peace initiative, reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the future of Palestinian leadership and elections in the West Bank and Gaza, and formulas for prisoner exchange to obtain the release of Corporal Shalit. Like the Syrians, they are patient, relatively satisfied with the status quo, and putting all their eggs in Obama's basket. We had to caution them about expecting too much of an immediate change in U.S. Middle East policy."

Corporal Shalit has been missing since June of 2006 when he was kidnapped by terrorists. He is not being held in a summer camp style prison like those in which Arab prisoners are kept. No one knows where he is or if he is alive. But Jimmy Carter is advising Hamas on what price to charge for his release. He has no information to offer Shalit's family. He has no assurance that Shalit is alive, only that Hamas is "satisfied with the status quo". The Geneva Convention, observed so scrupulously by Israel is of no concern to Carter.

Jimmy Carter has dropped the last towel and shredded the last fig leaf covering his naked loathing of Jews and Israel. The focus with this chromosomal approximation of a human being is on whether or not Hamas is"satisfied with the status quo" and and not the well being of a prisoner who is most likely being mistreated, if he is indeed alive. Carter is an adviser to Hamas, pure and simple. Even if you make the dubious assumption that Hamas is not an enemy of the US, Carter is interfering with American foreign policy by negotiating with foreign powers. He is arguably in violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits such negotiations . The act, passed in 1799 and amended in 2004 reads as follows.

§ 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments.
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply himself, or his agent, to any foreign government, or the agents thereof, for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

1 Stat. 613, January 30, 1799, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 953 (2004).

Carter is no longer the artful striptease performer of anti semitism. If such a striptease establishment were to employ him, he would be tossed onto the street for indecent exposure and for selling himself to the highest bidder. The older he gets, the sloppier he gets about covering himself up, and it's gotten downright ugly.

Like all citizens of the US, Jimmy Carter has a passport that remains the property of the State Department. Even if he is not prosecuted for violating the Logan Act, why is his passport not revoked. It is hard to fully assess the damage Carter has inflicted upon the United States and Israel, its ally. If Jimmy Carter wants to sit in Plains Georgia and jabber about his glory days in Washington, that is fine. But his friendliness with America's enemies makes him a security risk. What is Carter doing in Syria? What information is he sharing? We should stop wondering about Jimmy Carter with his bump and grind hatred of Israel. Tap his phone. Yank his passport. Do it now.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Israeli Army: OK for Soldiers to Take Food in War

Close friends of mine who served in the Second Lebanon War two years ago told me about what they saw and experienced. From leaving their boots on for days at a time to marching for miles at night, they gave me a detailed picture of what it was like. It was long stretches of tedium punctuated by terror at intervals.

One prominent feature of the Second Lebanon War was a shortage of food and drinking water for the soldiers. Israeli soldiers were under strict orders to take no food or drink from any Arab houses that they searched. many villages were temporarily evacuated in anticipation of an Israeli invasion. These were villages full of Hizbullah sympathisers. As would be expected in a religious Muslim home, they were under strict orders not to vandalise or destroy Islamic religious articles.

“We are not like them.” was a recurring theme.

There was a strong decision made at the highest levels that the Israeli army should not plunder. Because of this decision, Israeli soldiers went with little to eat. Upon his return from Lebanon, my friend who was there told me that he could not eat more than a few spoonfuls of food at a time. His stomach had shrunk during the invasion and took days to return to normal.

It is in light of this anomalous concern for the rights of a ruthless enemy that I was pleased to note that the Israeli army has modified its strict policy, showing a measure of compassion finally to its own soldiers.

According to Israel National News “IDF legal advisers announced Thursday that in times of war, soldiers may take food and water from civilian homes and stores. The ruling was part of IDF efforts to deal with problems encountered during the Second Lebanon War.

One of the serious issues hindering IDF soldiers during the war was the lack of supplies, including food. Many soldiers went without food for days. When soldiers who were left without rations attempted to take food from Lebanese homes, they were reprimanded by their commanders and told to leave the food in its place.”

The decision was not taken lightly but after months of soldier testimony and high level deliberation. The Israel National News article continues as follows.

After months of deliberations, IDF legal experts determined that soldiers located in enemy territory in wartime who lack rations may break into civilian homes and stores to take food and drink. Taking food in times of need is acceptable under international law, they decided, and foreign armies do so as well.

When I read the vehemence with which Israel is condemned in the media, I expect to hear heart rending testimony of Israeli atrocities such as those that occur in Sudan and the Congo. Instead I read of civility that is unheard of in the rest of the world’s war zones. A part of me is proud to be a part of such a nation that so insistently clings to its decency and compassion.

The other side of me is angry that Israel seems to have turned mercy into a vice. When I see pictures of a man (I use the term in the chromosomal sense) who bashed in the head of a four year old with a rifle butt walking proudly back to Lebanon, where he was welcomed him as a hero, I am angry. His corpse should have been marinated in pig fat and thrown at the feet of his family. Instead, he was fed for years and treated with a civility unknown in the prisons of his homeland. Compassion shown to such individuals is a form of mental illness.

I sincerely believe that every word of criticism of Israel is being weighed on heavenly scales and that the compassion that they show their enemies is being weighed on the other side. There is something unnatural about the harshness with which Israel is being judged. This story of the extraordinary lengths to which Israel goes to maintain high humanitarian standards brings home to me the injustice with which Israel is judged in the court of world opinion.

If America applies unrealistic standards to Israel or any of its other allies in troubled parts of the world, it risks paying a high cost for doing so. Iran was lost in 1979 to Khomenei during the Carter Presidency in good part because of an insistence on the rights of dissidents who had no respect for the rights of others. Although President elect Obama has showed a considerable measure of realism in his appointments and pronouncements, the issue of foolish compassion to America’s enemies must be raised and reiterated.

Meanwhile, Israel will always be found wanting by its implacable critics no matter what it does. The same realism that informed its decision to allow taking food from homes should apply to all of its national security decisions. There is a saying that sums up Israel’s dilemna..” Anyone who has ever gotten a kick in the family jewels while fighting according to gentleman’s rules would understand this concept very well. America should take stock of its enemies and behave accordingly.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Look at Turkish Music: Grupa Yorum

There are a number of musical groups and even schools of music revolving around political themes. In Latin America, there is Cancion Nueva or the New Song movement. Its basic principle is that American culture has a very strong and corrosive influence over local culture. They believe that "cultural imperialism" is reflective of economic imperialism. Their solution is to produce and promote indigenous music that is laced with a political message.

This movement, which I would designate as "cultural secessionism is in my opinion a part of a larger phenomenon that stretches across the political spectrum. Christian rock acts upon the realisation that music is laced with moral influences that might be objectionable. It seeks to produce high quality music that does not spiritually weaken adherents of Christianity and instead strengthens their faith. There are Jewish groups and producers who have acted upon the same realisation. There is a vibrant Jewish music scene that reaches into all styles and genres, from Arab Jewish to klezmer, from rock to cantorial. It would be possible to listen to nothing but Jewish music 24/6. Many people do so.

Years ago, I got into an argument with a Jewish fan of Wagnerian opera. Richard Wagner was a composer who drew on German folklore and mythology. Hitler was a prominent fan of Wagner. Festivals of Wagner's operas were attended by both Hitler and members of Wagner's family, putting a Nazi imprimatur on Wagner's music.

Not long after, I had a rude awakening. As a long time fan of Mikis Theodorakis, I found that his enmity to the State of Israel was so vehement that my fondness for his music was as inconsistent as that of a Jewish fan of Wagner. Across most of the extreme left of the political spectrum, hatred of Israel is uniform and strong.

Some people say that opposition to Israel is not the same as antisemitism. In my opinion, this is only theoretically true. The inconsistency with which Israel is judged in contrast to the standards by which other nations are judged is blatant and inexplicable in any rational framework. Although is tactically ill advised to call an opponent of Israel a Jew hater, it is desirable to point out the inconsistencies in Israel's treatment in the court of public opinion.

There is a musical group named Yorum that is very popular around the world despite the fact that they sing in Turkish. The group was founded in 1985 by for friends at the University of Marmara. They are banned in Turkey, and have hundreds of trials and arrests of their membership to their credit. Despite the banning of their concerts and the seizing of their albums, they are one of the most popular groups in Turkey. They are pro Kurdish and sometimes sing in that language.

Kurdish language and culture function under severe restrictions in the Turkish Republic. There have been terrorist groups which championed the cause of Kurdish nationalism. There has been violence from both sides. The Turkish government can not be expected to play by gentleman's rules.
Despite the fact that I am repulsed by their politics, which is hostile to Israel the music of Yorum is breathtaking. There is a string instrument that figures very prominently in their music that sounds like a bouzouki. It is almost a reminder that Greeks and Turks once lived in adjacent houses rather than adjacent countries. During the population exchange of 1923, a river of bloodstained tears flowed between the two countries. It was a sorrowful chapter in Balkan history.

There is a place in my mind that bears little resemblance to the world in which we live. In that place, ethnic diversity is not a threat but a gift to the world of cuisine, of literature and of music. Listening to the music of political opponents is not a repudiation of realism but a reminder that humanity's lapses into warfare are tragic even when they are necessary.

There is a moment of the Passover seder in which ten drops of wine are spilled from the cup of wine to symbolise the spilling of Egyptian blood during the exodus from Egypt. According to one opinion, it is considered a misfortune that Egyptian blood had to be shed in the Exodus, that the death of a human being created in G-d's image diminishes G-d's joy. Spilling wine from a cup that symbolises a measure of happiness is a reflection of this world view.

It is in this spirit that I listen to groups like Yorum. Their music is a reminder to me of the beauty in the human race and experience and the sadness that I should feel that nations fight, even though in some cases there is no choice.

I hope my readers will listen to this music presented with this post and look beyond it into the amazing world of Turkish music.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Belated Replies to Readers To Letters About The Shoe Thrower and Concerning Anti Muslim Violence

If I get a friendly comment, it is a fairly simple matter to print it. I have learned in my short time blogging that a reply is desirable.

Sometimes, when I disagree with a comment, I will pair it off with a reply. Since I am a procrastinator, this can take some time. I am now going to print three comments and reject a fourth. I will put the fourth up in this posting with the profanities appropriately bleeped out, along with my reply.

I expressed the opinion that it was unwise for American opponents of George Bush to be happy that he had shoes thrown at him. I felt that the disrespect was also intended towards America .I got one reply from Tundra Tabloids in Finland agreeing with me. It read as follows.

In full agreement. Obama should have expressed his outrage. what do you think is going to happen to him once the Muslims abroad figure out that he's actually an apostate?

The other reply was quite angry in its disagreement with me . It was anonymous and reads as follows. The first sentence is an excerpt from my article, followed by a rebuttal.

"Traditions of Arab hospitality demand that guests be protected."
What would you do if the person who killed your wife/children/parents and is still torturing the rest of your family comes to your home as a guest? Prepare the best food you can and entertain him? I will not throw shoes at him. Neither will I make food for him. I will kill him. Or hand him to the cops and ensure he is hanged!

I was a bit confused by the commenter's rebuttal. Because his rhetorical question could have easily described Saddam Hussein. Additionally, a large percentage of events fitting that description since America went into Iraq are committed by rogue militias, some loyal to the old regime.

Although it is true that American troops sometimes committed crimes against Iraqis, they still had to face public exposure and a military trial. Under Saddam Hussein, prisoners had their tongues cut out. Some dissidents were sent videos of their family members being raped and tortured. I will not belabour the point that America is held to a higher standard. What is admirable is that we actually try to live up to that higher standard.

The next comment was from someone who felt that I was one sided in my coverage of anti Christian violence by Muslims in Nigeria. He wrote as follows.

Stop lying and tell the truth!!

381 Muslims Massacred in Jos, Nigeria With Complete Black Out of International Media
Written by
Monday, 01 December 2008 21:06
While US main corporate media units, particularly CNN and Fox TV stations, were 24-7 covering the Mumbai attacks, Muslims were massacred in the city of Jos, in Nigeria. In terms of the number of the victims, Nigerian Muslim victims were double of the number of the Indian victims.
In Iraq, dozens were also killed, and scores were injured, in addition to protests against the US-Iraqi security pact, which allows US forces to stay in Iraq three more years, meaning that the Iraq war may continue for the same period.

In Afghanistan, 61 Afghanis were massacred in just two days by US-led NATO and Afghani forces.

The Israeli brutal siege of Gaza Strip continues, punishing about 1.8 million Palestinians, who began to starve and who are living in darkness after the severe shortages of food and fuel supplies as a result of the Israeli occupation government siege.

The CNN-Fox continuous coverage of the Mumbai attacks for the last five days was a golden opportunity to run away from the news they do not want the American people to know.

It has been a perfect example of how certain news are focused upon and others are ignored completely even if they are more important.

It is also an attempt to impose the defunct 'war on terror' on the Obama administration.

America is in need of a publicly-funded and independent TV network, which tells the American people the truth as it is, not as the special interest groups want it to be.

I checked out Akhter's letter. He brought up the legitimate point that there are indeed instances of anti Muslim violence in Africa. Whether it is also tribal in nature does not excuse it. I thank Akhter for pointing this out. I intend to write about this. My support of religious freedom is non partisan. If Muslim missionaries reached a particular village before the Christians did, it does not diminish the humanity of the villagers.

The violence in Iraq and Afghanistan is in a context of enemy attacks. I need more facts and a lot less reasonable doubt before I can concur with Akhter on that one.

Akhter then goes and plays a numbers game, saying that the Mumbai massacre got more attention than it should have. He pointed to the Gaza strip, complaining that it is being economically strangled by the Israelis, who are stopping the traffic of needed commodities.

I would like to note that the Palestine Authority has declared war on Israel. It permits rockets to be launched from its territory. It tolerates and encourages suicide bombings, even sending in women and children to do it. I agree with Akhter. Israel should lift the blockade on the Gaza strip. They should then annex it using deadly force against any area that sends rockets into Israel. Any celebration of a suicide bombing should be brutally suppressed. The families of suicide bombers should have their property impounded and given over to their victims. There should be no terrorists alive to exchange for Israeli bodies. Yes Akhter, blockading is wrong.

While we are playing numbers games Akhter, why doesn't the world care more about four to six million dead in the Congo wars since the late nineties. What about Liberia and Sierra Leone? The body count in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon is a miniscule fraction of that in sub Saharan Africa. I think that the UN is racially biased against Africans, whether they are Christian or Muslim. And while we are on the subject, let's blow the lid off of the Muslim world's dirty little secret. They have a caste system. Arabs are on top. Indians and Pakistanis are a lot lower. And African Muslims are on the bottom. Maybe if you scream loud enough about the Jews, the world will forget Muslim racism. By the way Akhter, if you are Pakistani or Indian, this means that you are not considered quite top shelf. But don't feel bad. They don't like me much either.

Akhter, you have shined some light on some of my blind spots. For this I thank you. But I hope you will look at a country by country body count and start asking some tough questions. Thank you for coming to my site

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The New York Times, and Walter Duranty: America Sleeps

The Madoff affair has triggered an “autopsy” in which the Security and Exchange Commission is reviewing its lengthy list of regulatory failures dating back to 1999.

According to Bloomberg News, “Chairman Christopher Cox said yesterday that his agency failed to act on “credible, specific” allegations about Madoff dating back to 1999. The Madoff affair will be at the center of planned congressional hearings on the reform of the SEC, said a senior Senate official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The allegations “were repeatedly brought to the attention of SEC staff, but were never recommended to the commission for action,”

It is strange that almost ten years elapsed before Bernard Madoff was ever investigated. Even then, it was only his own confession to his sons that sparked investigatory action. For almost ten years, the SEC relied upon information provided voluntarily, rather than the use of warrants or subpoenas. As a result, charitable foundations that relied upon Madoff are shutting down and formerly wealthy individuals are facing ruin.

One would think that certain patterns in financial transactions would trigger an automatic audit. Instead it seems as though the investigators decided that Madoff looked like a nice man and gave him a pass.

In looking at our news media, there seems to be a pattern similar to the SEC with Bernard Madoff in which favoured individuals are given only the most cursory scrutiny, receiving instead “powder puff” treatment instead from fawning reporters.

How are we to view today’s New York Times story? It was written during the week in which the Governor of Obama’s home state and political party was arrested on corruption charges. Shudders are going down many a Chicago spine, but nothing sticks to Obama.

What was the story?

“Obama Pledge Stirs Hope in Early Education”

The story features photography of Obama, his Education Secretary and Joe Biden in a photo that looks like it was posed and produced by the Obama campaign. The story was clearly written from the Democrat’s point of view, with no attempt to present the Bush administration’s defense of its own record.

What is a far more central problem is the financial crisis that affects our ability to pay for social programs or anything else. There is plenty of investigative work available checking out the Senate Finance Committee, headed by Democrat Barney Frank. Probing questions would certainly be in order but no one is asking questions that could provide helpful insights into costly failures.

Seventy Five years ago, Walter Duranty, while reporting for the New York Times filed Pulitzer Prize winning reports about the collective farm campaign in the early 1930’s in Stalin’s USSR. He wrote glowing reports of its success that were later proven to be totally false. In truth, there was mass starvation, millions of deaths and even cannibalism. Today, Duranty is regarded as Stalin’s accomplice in the man made massive famine. Those who give him the benefit of the doubt regard him as a useful idiot.

The New York Times has had 75 years to atone for its complicity in the “holdomor” or Ukrainian genocide by refusing to rubber stamp governments of which it approves, to look for the uncomfortable truths that it needs to uncover for the common good.

It seems that the New York Times is busy not on a new path but making new mistakes. What is even worse is that it is dancing down the road to its own oblivion with a pack of imitators following it.

A sick person needs a doctor who will ask questions and run tests. We have a sick economy and no one in the main stream media is asking the right questions.

Walter Duranty is dead. The New York Times might well soon follow him. But don’t worry, the spirit of Walter Duranty lives on in the work of thousands of reporters all across America

Troubled Times for Yemen’s Jewish Remnant

In a sensible world, Rabbi Moshe al Nahari could have been a propaganda windfall to those who oppose a Jewish State. He was an orthodox rabbi who was born in Yemen and educated in the anti Zionist yeshivas of Satmar. Rather than live in Israel, he returned to Yemen and became a rabbi and shochet (ritual slaughterer) in Raidah , a small town in Yemen that is off the beaten path and under only tenuous government control.

Instead of being held up as an example of Islamic tolerance, the Jewish community of Raidah lives in fear. Acting in the name of Islam, Raidah’s Jews are threatened by Islamic militants who order them to convert to Islam or expect death.

Back in the late forties, there were tens of thousands of Jews in Yemen. Then as today, they preserved a pure Hebrew with nuances and details lost elsewhere in the Jewish world. They are a distinct When they moved to Israel, it was a bittersweet victory. Although physically, the community was saved, the socialist government in Israel in the 1950’s and sixties sought to undermine Yemenites loyalties to their traditions. Some resisted assimilation into a secular life style. A few hundred Jews remained in Yemen, where their ancestors had lived for many centuries.

It is hard for a westerner to imagine the sacrifices that Moshe al Nahari and his small congregation endured to remain in Yemen. In past years, even under tolerant governments, Jewish orphans were handed over to the Islamic authorities to be raised as Muslims. To avoid this, parents had to marry them off as toddlers so that they would not be in danger of being kidnapped.

Where Muslim men are required to carry a ceremonial sword, Jewish men are forbidden to do so. It is difficult to secure reliable pledges of safety for the Jewish community. Although the government expreses sympathy, in many areas they are only in nominal control. The central government has offered to relocate the Jews to the capitol, Sanaa but seems unable to protect them in the town they have lived in for centuries.

News Yemen reports of chaos that persists even as the government has announced the arrest of eight suspects in the killing.

Some suspects allegedly continue to threaten a group of Jews in Al-Souk al-Jadeed area of Kharef district of Amran province, north Yemen, and prevent them to leave homes.

Rabbi Yehiya Yaish, one of the leaders of Jewish community in Yemen, said that he and other Jews are home arrested as eight suspected of killing his brother Moshe Yaish Nahari last Thursday are surrounding their houses since Saturday evening.

“We are home arrested and cannot even open doors due to threats by the gang that is surrounding houses in the area and throwing stones to windows and doors,” said Rabbi Yaish in a telephone call with NewsYemen.

Yaish said that the “gang” is led by a companion of “a powerful” figure in the area, denying any official or unofficial procedures taken to stop threats and assaults against Jews.

Yaish said the order of the Interior Minister to arrest the eight suspects was “just for media coverage, but what is happening is that we are being attacked in broad daylight.”

Yaish refused to bury his brother Moshe and said Moshe would be buried together with the killer, calling Muslims to protect Jews.”

The Jews still living in Yemen are a tiny group that lives in peace with its Muslim neighbours. They have sought only to live quiet lives, following their ancestral faith and earning their living in occupations permitted under local interpretations of Islamic law. Their appeals to the government in Sanaa, their neighbours and world opinion are for rights to which they are entitled under the dhimmi statutes of shaaria, which assure peaceful coexistence of “people of the book” with the Islamic majority.

The western news media is eager to write this off as an act of mental illness. News Yemen reports as follows.

Ahmed Yahya al-Suraihi as saying that Abdul Aziz al-Ubadi, 40, had confessed to committing the murder but showed no remorse as he said that he killed Masha Yaesh Bin Yahya Yahuda for the sake of Allah.

Mental illness has also been cited as a possible cause. al Ubadi, the confessed killer had killed his wife two years prior to Rabbi al Nahari’s murder. It is reported however that he had a “tribal reconciliation” with his murdered wife’s family.(indicating that murdering one’s wife is just not so serious in that country) It is interesting that only now is the killer’s alleged insanity being discussed.

The murder of the rabbi is a part of an escalating pattern of violence against the tiny Jewish community of Yemen. News Yemen reports as follows.

The rabbi claimed all Jews in the two district of Raida and al-Souk al-Jadeed suffer many violations and continuous attacks.

He said that he filed several complaints about this to tribal elders and officials in the area but all went in vein, saying all people are unable to protect us.

” The situation of Jews has more worsened as my brother was killed in the daylight, in a market before the eyes of many people, but none was moved.” The rabbi said.

He said Jews are prevented from carrying weapons and wearing the traditional danger Jampyah.

He urged President Ali Abdullah Saleh to take actions to protect Jews as they are free non-Muslims.

” If the government can’t do something for us, so.. pay for our properties and help us leave the country.” The rabbi noted.

The rabbi said Jews are maltreated in the area and people inspect their homes and investigate their guests.

Sometimes they are beaten and threatened, but no official bodies do anything to help them, he added.

Some of the relatives of the victim have arrived from outside to pay respects and further relatives are expected to arrive later.

But the date for the funeral has not been set yet in fears that other murders could be committed towards the arriving relatives. (emphasis mine)

The Jews of Raidah are not Zionists. Rabbi al Nahari left Israel. He preferred the protective isolation of Yemen, away from modernising influences. He could have been an example of Islamic tolerance, along with his community. The only way his murder is logical is if in fact, Jews everywhere are targetted by jihadi Muslims.

Some people look for leniencies in religion to find an outlet for their passions. Some find loopholes for bingo. Some find religious loopholes into which larger quantities of alcohol can be poured. The passion of fanatical Muslims seems to be murder. These are people who will avert their eyes from a woman’s uncovered wrist who gleefully record and watch videos of beheadings. These individuals are worshippers of a god created in their own image. They wrongly appropriate a name of G-d for their god of murder. It is the responsibility of silent Muslims who privately believe in tolerance to rein in these murderous bands. If they do not, then the blood lust that now threatens Jews will consume Muslims as well.

It is a step in the right direction that the central government in Yemen is offering relocation and some protection to the Jews of Raida. But the world must continue to monitor the situation and hold the government to their promises. A vocal and active faction in the Islamic world has declared yet another war of extermination against the Jews. As during World War Two it is the silent majority that makes their evil work possible. Wherever the Jews of Yemen choose to live, they must be defended in their choice. Those who attack them today will turn on their Muslim neighbours tomorrow. The eternal blood lust of Rabbi al Nahari’s killers will always garb itself in new excuses. May G-d avenge Rabbi al Nahari’s death.

Yemenite Jewish "Elegy to G-d"

Situation of Jews in Yemen