Friday, July 31, 2009

Florida Horses Stolen, Killed For Meat

Another disturbing animal cruelty story came up in today's news. at least 17 heartbroken horse owners have endured the shock of finding that their missing horses had not only been stolen but slaughtered for their meat. My Way News reports as follows on the disturbing crimes.

"Since January, police say at least 17 horses have been butchered, their carcasses left on roadsides or in stalls or rural pastures.

Police tiptoe around questions about who is doing the killing and why, but animal rights advocates believe the meat is being sold on the black market to people from other countries where horse is a delicacy.

"It's a real ugly problem we're trying to take hold of and eliminate," said Richard Couto, an investigator with the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has recently looked into six horse killings. "Extremely, extremely difficult to find the people that are doing the slaughtering."

Ivonne Rodriguez had never heard the horror stories, never seen the pictures, until her horse, Geronimo, disappeared from his pasture one February morning. She missed work to post fliers and canvass her neighborhood, asking others if they had seen the good-natured pinto who liked apples and was friendly around children.

A few days later, she got a call from her father. The horse's remains had been discovered under a palm tree, partially hidden by fronds. It had been decapitated and butchered, apparently by thieves who took its meat."

The owners of the Miami Dade horses were badly shaken to see animals that had been family companions reduced to a rotting smelly carcass. I would hope that a high priority is given to prosecuting the perpetrators of this series of disturbing crimes.

The My Way News article raises an additional question when it brings up ethnic groups living in Florida that are fond of horse meat. It reports as follows on the availability of legal horse meat.

"Until a few years ago, as many as 100,000 horses were killed annually in the United States for meat for foreign markets. In Florida, it is legal for horse owners to kill and eat their own horses on their own land, but horses cannot be slaughtered and sold to others for human consumption.

A 2007 federal court ruling closed the nation's last horse-processing plant, though some groups are currently pushing to renew the slaughter of horses in the U.S. Horses that are sold for meat are now sent to processing plants in Mexico and Canada."

Why should the sale and consumption of horse meat be illegal? Is the meat inherently toxic? Years ago horse meat was considered to be inferior in quality to cow meat. Laws against horse meat sale were intended to protect consumers. Additionally, the emotional bond between horses and humans made the consumption of horse meat taboo and repugnant to many.

I have no desire to consume horse meat, which is forbidden under Jewish dietary law. But I see no logical reason to deny those who wish to consume horse meat the opportunity to do so. The slaughter and butchering of horses should be regulated by the government, just like that of other animals. Changing demographics in America is highly likely to create some strange culinary enclaves. Indeed, some of the more adventurous tourists in China have sampled its dog meat cuisine. Here in New York, some urban legends revolve around ethnic restaurants that serve cat meat. These stories have been debunked on

Stealing and killing a beloved pet should be a crime. But eating meat from species we consider pets should be legal, as long as the sanitary and humane conditions are regulated by the government in a manner comparable to that of cows, pigs and poultry. It is time to wake up and smell the .... Horse meat, as repulsive as that may be to some. If that turns a few more people into vegetarians, that's fine with me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Obama Beer Summit: What Did They Drink?

The beer was ordered for the White House summit well in advance. Much to my surprise, it is on the White House lawn that I found my common cause with Henry Louis Gates in his reported taste in beers.

Barack Obama is reported to have had Bud Light, an alcohol enriched mineral water sometimes mistakenly referred to as beer.

Sergeant Crowley had Blue Moon beer, a microbrew from Seattle. A microbrew is brewed in much smaller batches and is comparable to the best European beers. If the American auto industry would do for automotive quality what Seattle has done for beer quality, American cars would rule the world.

Henry Louis Gates chose Sam Adams Beer, which is brewed in Boston and can stand up to the best of German beer. It comes in quite a few varieties.

It had been originally reported that Henry Louis Gates had Red Stripe beer, which is brewed in Jamaica. It is a high quality lager beer that comes in an amber coloured glass bottle with a non twist off cap. It is very popular in parts of Brooklyn with a high population of West Indian immigrants.I used to drink it on the street out of a paper bag until the New York City Police Department made that a costly proposition for me one hot August afternoon. Apparently, "buy American" was the order of the day tonight on the White House lawn

Joe Biden made the wisest choice of all. He had a non alcoholic beer called Bucklers. He might do well to drink it regularly to avoid the misstatements to which he is most gamously prone.

It was not reported how many beers each participant in the beer summit drank. With the exception of Bud Light, I would be tempted to try selections other than my own in any beer summit, especially as a gesture of openness to other opinions.

In general, everyone came out of the "beer summit" looking pretty good. It took the attention off Obama's foolish statement criticising Sergeant Crowley and cast him into the role of a peacemaker. Crowley and Gates rose to the occasion as well, conversing amiably together.

The biggest winners were the breweries who got a windfall in product placement. Obama might stimulate the economy with other "product placement moments". In Britain and other countries they have "purveyors to the crown." These are people who do business with the royal family and in turn are permitted to put a logo attesting to this on their product. Is America ready for this? I don't know.

Obama is a very good salesman. Unfortunately, he is saddled with some pretty mediocre merchandise such as his health plan. My advice to anyone invited by Obama to have a beer and discuss his health plan is as follows. Do like Biden. Stay away from the alcohol. And look at the fine print.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Michael Savage and the New Yorker

This latest issue of the New Yorker ought to get a prize. When the the New Yorker does an article on a topic, they sometimes devote twelve pages with four columns each. They did an article in one of the May 1994 issues about a blind man who regained his sight in his late fifties. It was fascinating on a scientific and a psychological level. One of the benefits of my subscription is that I can retrieve it from the archives on the site.

The Michael Savage interview in this latest issue was a great piece of writing. Savage is a challenge to those who would pigeonhole conservatives. His love of animals and his ethno-botany credentials make him a man who can command respect in wide circles. Additionally, he has wide ranging and eclectic musical tastes. The portrait in the New Yorker by Kelefa Sanneh was neither fawning nor a hatchet job but a vindication of the confidence I have had in the New Yorker for years. I am very much in agreement with a lot of Michael Savage's politics. A recurring vision I have is of a radio and television network with the style and format of NPR and the politics of Michael Savage and Michael Reagan, who is the son of the late President Ronald Reagan and also a conservative talk show host. There are many people who are put off by talk radio who could be drawn in by a conservative version of NPR.

My parents subscribed to The New Yorker. I enjoy it on its own merits and as a reminder of my childhood. Unfortunately, I can no longer let my kids look at the cartoons as I once did. There is the occasional four letter word and also cartoons dealing with "sensitive material". I frankly do not want a New Yorker cartoon to force a "birds and the bees" discussion.

This latest issue of the New Yorker discusses the relative merits of the Kindle and other portable reading devices. It discusses in detail what it is like to use a Kindle and compares it with some other quality devices that have not gotten as much press but that do better than the Kindle in various areas. I think that wireless reading devices really do have a future. The New Yorker article discusses this issue in depth.

There is an article in this current issue that is the part one in two articles about Siberia, a vast part of the Russian far east that is as big as the continental US and most of Europe combined. Under communism, the Soviet far east was a place you could earn huge salaries in exchange for putting up with harsh living conditions. Many people were lured east by the prospect of saving money and living better. When the USSR fell apart, so did the economy in Siberia. Now, there is anger and poverty there. I am looking forward to reading in this issue of the New Yorker about a region that has always fascinated me.

The New Yorker web site offers some whole articles and some teasers to get you to subscribe to the magazine. A one year subscription will cost you $40.00, bringing a magazine with a $5.00 news stand price down to 85 cents an issue. I bought my subscription on the Barnes and Noble web site with a discount coupon and saved even more money. Once you subscribe to the print edition, you can register for a password and enjoy the full benefits of the New Yorker site. To me, the New Yorker site is a big intellectual play ground. Some issues are better than others, but this issue was a five star winner.

There is another way of rating a magazine and that is by the "shelf life " test. Newsweek and Time generally have dated content. When they get old, they are mostly stale. Reader's Digest, Harpers, National Geographic and the New Yorker have long shelf lives. I keep a stack of my old copies of Harpers and the New Yorker. There is always something that is still fresh enough to bite into after months and sometimes years in the New Yorker.

It is interesting to see how the internet and traditional print media join forces. The New Yorker has put together a magazine and a web site that complement each other nicely. A magazine that delivers so nicely deserves to survive and prosper. I hope my readers check out the New Yorker site and the magazine.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Scottish Beer Sets World Record

Most of the wine I drink is between six and nine percent alcohol. A Scottish brewery now has a beer that is quite possibly the strongest beer in the world. "Tokyo", a beer brewed by BrewDog brewery in Scotland has come out with a beer that is 18.2 % alcohol, which is a little less than half the strength of vodka. The brewery has come under fire from public health advocates who say that the beer is promoting alcohol abuse. The Daily Record reports as follows.

"A SCOTS brewery has been blasted as "irresponsible" by health campaigners after launching what it claims is Britain's strongest beer - with an 18.2% alcohol content. A 330ml bottle of Tokyo*, made by BrewDog, contains six units of alcohol, which is twice the recommended daily limit. The drink's creators, who came under fire last year for launching a 12% beer, claim the new brew will help alleviate the country's irresponsible binge-drinking culture - because it is so rich that people will consume less of it."

It is hard for me to imagine that beer with such a high alcohol content will taste good. When I was out in Seattle, I had "barley wine" which was 12% alcohol. Apparently local regulations prohibited calling it beer. I found it to be a little like one of those cheap , strong malt liquors that you buy the day before pay day when you can't afford the good stuff.

I don't think that cranking up the alcohol content will cut down on binge drinking. I think that a good solution might be to offer evening entertainment packages with a meal, a quart of beer, bowling and soft drinks after the game. A quart of beer is not an outrageous quantity. If someone is bowling for two hours after a meal and they have not had any additional alcohol, they might be able to drive home with no problem. Another possibility might be to offer all night parking to anyone who gets drunk, or a discount on the tab to anyone who passes a breathalyser test.

The entertainment industry is very good at selling food and recreation. They should market sobriety and moderation in a positive way. Getting the government into the game of promoting healthy habits is not the best way. Moderation should be made attractive. You can't just stand on the bar and preach temperance. Set up an evening of good times with more than just a row of bar stools and you may get someplace.

My stomach is not up to 18.2% alcohol. My favourite beer is (I didn't make this up) "Arrogant Bastard Ale" Just looking at the bottle makes me smile. Their slogan is "You're not worthy of it."When I buy a round for a friend, he wonders if I'm really his friend, or if I'm trying to tell him something. The last bottle I drank was large enough that I didn't need a second one.

I'd love to see how what comes of Tokyo beer. The UK is home to a lot of good beer. I hope some makes it over here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Beating Up On Plaxico Buress

I have been reading with disgust about the treatment given to Plaxico Burress by the Manhattan District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau. According to the New York Post, the Plaxico Burress legal team had agreed to a year in jail for the incident in which Buress shot himself in the thigh in a Manhattan night club. The New York Post reports as follows on Robert Morgenthau and the publicity he has managed to extract from an unfortunate gun accident in November of 2008.

Negotiations in the gun-possession case against ex-Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress -- who accidentally shot himself in the leg at a Midtown nightclub last November -- fell apart earlier this year after prosecutors insisted he do two years' state time on a plea to a lesser gun charge, the DA told The Post.

The Super Bowl XLII star was willing to bite the bullet and do jail time, but he wouldn't agree to more than a year, the DA said.

"We've always taken the position that he's going to have to go to jail, whether by trial or by plea," the legendary DA -- who retires at year end after 34 years in office -- said, breaking his public silence about the case."

There are so many mitigating factors in the Burress case. First, he had a Florida permit for his gun, which unfortunately had expired. He was living in an area in which he felt he needed protection, in a state where you don't need political connections to pack heat.

He caused himself serious injury that was both medical and financial. His gun went off by accident. He was not threatening anyone or attacking anyone. A man who causes himself serious and painful injury in accidental shooting does not need a jail term to remind himself of the stupidity of mishandling a gun. If his leg weren't in such bad shape, I am sure he would kick himself for losing a $35 million dollar contract.

Robert Morgenthau, a mediocre District attorney is plainly grandstanding. He is using Burress to show that everyone gets equal treatment in the Manhattan justice system. I am not impressed. Burress was clearly stupid, and should have had training in handling a gun. But plenty of famous and well connected people in New York get concealed carry permits. A hard working bodega owner who needs to protect himself usually has to break the law to do so.

I want to hear what Morgenthau is doing to get some of the wilder parts of Manhattan under control. He pulled out all the stops to nail Bernard Goetz, who shot five thugs who were trying to rob him on a New York City Subway in 1984. New Yorkers from all five boroughs phoned in fake tips about Bernie Goetz sightings. Yet common people who are victims of violent crime are treated like cattle.

I think Plaxico Burress should get lessons in how to handle a gun. He should probably pay a fine. But he is not a bad man, and he should not spend a day in jail. The financial losses and serious gunshot wound sustained by Buress underscore sufficiently the cause of justice.

Robert Morgenthau has in his waning years found a way to remain in the limelight. It is a pity and a waste of time for this never-has-been of a District Attorney to be extracting photo ops from this unfortunate incident.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Studyiing the Prophets on Line With Berel Wein

To me, there are certain essentials in life. The love of family means the world to me. A job is critical, not only as a means of sustenance but as a conduit for contributing to society. The third relationship besides that with my family and community is with the written word.

For the past few months, I have been reading the books of the prophets with the Meam Loez rabbinic commentary It is rendered from the original Judaeo Spanish into a flowing and readable English. It is enjoyable enough that I am not restless to return to my secular reading. The books of the Jewish biblical canon were chosen because under divine inspiration, they spoke to the generation they came from to all the generations after. Meam Loez is very helpful in bringing out both aspects of the books of the prophets. In the vast area of Torah studies, I feel most connected to the study of the Prophets. It is a project that will keep me busy for a long time.

My biggest weakness in any studies is that I am very forgetful. It is very discouraging to finish reading a book and realise how much I have forgotten. As I have been working my way through the prophets, I realise that review is essential. When I was little, I would read up on a subject by going to the library and looking it up in a dozen different encyclopedias and books. The repetition with different focuses was useful in painlessly absorbing facts in areas ranging from philately to the Cuban revolution, from frogs frogs and gerbils to endangered languages.

This past experience has been helpful in taking up the study of the Prophets. After improvising my review with different materials around my personal library, I turned to the internet and found the web site of Rabbi Berel Wein, who is trained as both a lawyer and a Rabbi.

I am a person who loves history. I am old enough to see the current events of my youth turn into the history studied by my children. My parents were as aware of this transition as I am and made the events within their lifetimes and that of their parents. I in turn have passed on what I have observed and lived through to my children.

Rabbi Wein has the gift of imparting a vividness and clarity to any chapter of Jewish history he teaches. Faced with the danger of forgetting a lot of my studies, I wanted Rabbi Wein to be one of my teachers who would help bring permanence to my studies. His web site has sets of CDs and MP3's Some are moderately priced, some are sets of 30 lectures that can be expensive as a set.

I went to his site and signed up for newsletters and updated before shopping. I was looking for a lecture on the Book of Joshua . I found the lecture I wanted in a set of 9 CDs that went for around $58.00. There was an option to buy each lecture individually as a CD for $10.80 or an MP3 for $4.50. I went through the on line checkout and within less than five minutes had downloaded the MP3.

Rabbi Wein has an engaging style of digressing into current events that shed light on the subject of his lecture and the moral lessons of what he is discussing. There is no disconnect between past and present, or between the actions of an individual and the actions of famous leaders. When you are under Rabbi Wein's spell, the events of thousands of years ago are as vivid as anything on Drudge Report. One of my children who was in the room with me when I was listening to Rabbi Wein also found his style engaging. Instead of sadly struggling to recall fading details of my studies, I was able to have the chronologically distant past transported to the present day in my living room for the price of a round trip subway fare.

I am very pleased that Rabbi Wein has used the flexibility of internet technology to make his life's work available to those of modest means. I admired his site not only for the quality of his life's work that is made available on it but the manner in which it makes merchandise available to the public in a way that passes savings to the consumer and protects intellectual property. Berel Wein and Meam Loez will be keeping me busy for a good while. I am also interested in Rabbi Wein's lecture on Austria's Emperor Franz Josef II, which is a part of his series "Great Non Jews In Jewish History" Sometimes, as a mental exercise, I try to listen to a lecture about a subject in which I have no interest. This is often a way of opening new horizons. I look forward to trying this with some of Rabbi Wein's lectures.

It is a source of serene pleasure to know where to go for answers to academic and personal questions. My personal weakness, which offsets my thirst for knowledge is my forgetfulness. Learning the same thing a dozen different ways is how I cope with this. I thank Rabbi Wein and those who manage his web site for assisting me in working with my intellectual limitations and overcoming them. I hope my readers will visit his site and see what I am talking about.

This article is an unpaid and unsolicited expression of my personal opinion.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Iran's Revolution: While Obama Slept

Anyone who thought Iran was getting back to normal after the theft of its June 12 elections has been surprised by recent events.Ayatollah Khamenei who had been revered by Shiite Muslims around the world is now seen as little more that a political hack, stitching together ill fitting religious garb to cover the ugliness of the Iranian body politic.

The regime in Iran has resorted to kicking down people's doors and beating them in their homes. Women and girls as well as boys face rape and beating in prison. There have been demonstrators executed. How have the Iranian people responded? The Ethiopian Review paints a picture of incredible bravery, of people who take to the streets with the full knowledge that they are risking everything for the sake of their country. The Ethiopian Review reports as follows.

"Thousands of protesters streamed down avenues of the capital Thursday, chanting "death to the dictator" and defying security forces who fired tear gas and charged with batons, witnesses said. Turning garbage bins into burning barricades and darting through choking clouds of tear gas, the opposition made its first foray into the streets in nearly two weeks in an attempt to revive mass demonstrations that were crushed in Iran's postelection turmoil. Iranian authorities had promised tough action to prevent the marches, which supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi have been planning for days through the Internet. Heavy police forces deployed at key points in the city ahead of the marches, and Tehran's governor vowed to "smash" anyone who heeded the demonstration calls. In some places, police struck hard. Security forces chased after protesters, beating them with clubs on Valiasr Street, Tehran's biggest north-south avenue, witnesses said. Women in headscarves and young men dashed away, rubbing their eyes in pain as police fired tear gas, in footage aired on state-run Press TV. In a photo from Thursday's events in Tehran obtained by The Associated Press outside Iran, a woman with her black headscarf looped over her face thrust her fist into the air in front of a garbage bin that had been set on fire. In another image, a man dropped to his knees, overcome by the effects of tear gas. But the clampdown was not total. At Tehran University, a line of police blocked a crowd from reaching the gates of the campus, but then did not move to disperse them as the protesters chanted "Mir Hossein" and "death to the dictator" and waved their hands in the air, witnesses said. The crowd grew to nearly 1,000 people, the witnesses said. "Police, protect us," some of the demonstrators chanted, asking the forces not to move against them. The protesters appeared to reach several thousand, but their full numbers were difficult to determine, since marches took place in several parts of the city at once and mingled with passers-by. There was no immediate word on arrests or injuries."

Pictures have been smuggled out of Iran via the internet and an interesting contradiction is readily apparent. Iran is proud of its language and its millenia of history. It remains a strong regional power. Yet the picket signs in the streets of Teheran are in English. Anyone who is familiar with Iranians living in America knows that they are proud of their nation's culture and maintain a strong affection for and interest in the land of their birth. The picket signs in English are an appeal to the court of world opinion.

The English speaking world is overwhelmingly democratic. There are religious people in Muslim countries who believe that a G-d who silently suffers disobedience and disorder is best served by those who emulate His patience even as they cling to a straight and narrow path. Democracy in English speaking countries has purified itself and expanded the circle of those who enjoy its freedoms. Even those who look with contempt upon the decadence that has come from the west see how a list of basic human rights could enoble and better their existence.

It makes a difference to Iranians risking their lives in the streets of Teheran that people in the west care about them. In their own country, they are bombarded with the message that they are evil and worthless. To know that thousands of miles away they are revered for their bravery and moral courage is a source of unimaginable strength. By whatever means possible, this message of encouragement should be beamed to Teheran, Shiraz, Qom and every town and village in Iran.

Given the risk to life, limb and freedom, why do men and women, young and old, students and workers take to the streets of a fear stricken and violent country? Slavoj Zizek, writing in the London Review of Books ventures an explanation that has the resonance of truth to it. He writes as follows.

"When an authoritarian regime approaches its final crisis, but before its actual collapse, a mysterious rupture often takes place. All of a sudden, people know the game is up: they simply cease to be afraid. It isn’t just that the regime loses its legitimacy: its exercise of power is now perceived as a panic reaction, a gesture of impotence. Ryszard Kapuściński, in Shah of Shahs, his account of the Khomeini revolution, located the precise moment of this rupture: at a Tehran crossroad, a single demonstrator refused to budge when a policeman shouted at him to move, and the embarrassed policeman withdrew. Within a couple of hours, all Tehran had heard about the incident, and although the streetfighting carried on for weeks, everyone somehow knew it was all over. Is something similar happening now?"

It is also interesting that the opponents of Ahmadinejad have chosen green, a quintessentially Muslim colour as their trademark and All-hu Akbar as their chant. In this symbolic framework they are challenging the regime's Islamic credentials.

In 1968, the Soviets led the Warsaw Pact nations in ousting communist reformer Aleksandr Dubcek from the Czechoslovak leadership. For thirty years, Czechoslovakia existed as a drab puppet of the USSR. When Czechoslovakia had the "Velvet Revolution" in 1989, it swept away communism completely. In East Berlin, "Neues Forum" sought to bring a humane communism to East Germany in the late 1980's. In doing so, they risked arrest and imprisonment. When East Germany had its first free elections in 1990 Neues Forum was forgotten.

Alexander Dubcek and Neues Forum had a critical role despite their relegation to history's footnotes. In their respective countries, they were midwives of a new era.Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad's opponent in the June 12 elections has quickly joined Dubcek and Neues Forum. In the birthing room of Iran's future, he is an attending doctor. With G-d's help, when the birth pangs of Iran's future have subsided, he will be sent home with a handshake and heartfelt thanks.

Eastern Europe took about 35 years to overthrow communism. The Islamic Republic of Iran is 30 years old. It is showing a lot of the signs of flagging that were seen in the last days of communism in Eastern Europe.

Ahmadinejad and his minions have wielded their spades with vigor. They have done their best to bury Iran's next revolution. But they are mistaken, because the green revolution is not a corpse, it is an acorn.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Greeks Scammed in Phony Telethon

It sounded perfect. Progressive Greeks opened their hearts and wallets to rebuild a hospital that was bombed by the Israelis. The pep talks during the telethon were full of anger at Israel as the donations poured in. $1.67 million was raised to help rebuild the hospital, including a child who broke open his piggy bank and sent in $14.00. There was one little problem with the telethon. The hospital did not exist.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported as follows about the Greek telethon.

"For nearly a week in February, Greece’s official state television network inundated viewers with news about a telethon that would take place Feb. 9 to raise money to “rebuild the Christian hospital in Gaza that Israelis destroyed with their bombs” during the Israeli army’s operation there in January.

In its announcements, the network made clear that it was referring to a specific Christian hospital destroyed by Israel.

The telethon included recorded video messages by Greek President Carolos Papoulias and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni, along with a parade of Greek politicians, singers, public personalities and trade unionists. Many used the telethon to cast broadsides at Israel.

The campaign raised $1.67 million, according to telethon organizers, who said little Greek children had gone so far as to break their piggy banks to offer $14 to Palestinians in need.

A JTA investigation revealed, however, that no Christian hospital was on the list assembled by the United Nations and the Red Crescent Society of structures in Gaza damaged and destroyed as a consequence of the Israel-Hamas war in January."

It is interesting to note that the Greek President and Foreign Minister lent their prestige to the telethon without using Greek intelligence sources to verify the truth of the reportage that led up to the telethon. The television network that hosted the telethon bowed out of any responsibility for the phony telethon, directing Jewish Telegraphic Agency to the General Confederation of Greek Workers and to the Foreign Ministry.

As $1.67 million sits in a Greek bank, irate Palestinians want to know where the money will go. The "mistake " was conceded not on the front pages of the Greek newspapers but in a tiny blurb buried in Kerdos, the Greek financial newspaper in which proposals were solicited on how to spend the money that was raised on false pretenses. The announcement read as follows.

“A project is being sought in Gaza to be financed by the money raised from the Solidarity Telethon organized last February by the Technical Chamber of Greece and another nine trade union organizations in cooperation with Greek Public Television,” the item read. “A delegation of the bodies involved will visit the area in the near future in order to decide where the 1.2 million Euros raised for a project that will provide substantial services to all the area’s residents will be allocated.”

To date, everyone is passing the buck or $1.67 million bucks, to be more specific. No one knows who should apologise to the Israelis for all of the lovely things said about Israel during the telethon. I doubt that Israel's foreign minister is staying late at the office to take a call from the Greek foreign minister.

It is amazing how many people were willing to suspend disbelief for the duration of the telethon, which was described as a six hour fiesta of anger directed at Israel.

It is amazing how tempting a cocktail mix of altruism combined with hate for the State of Israel will knock out the healthy skepticism of a President, a Foreign Minister and an entire trade union. It certainly makes one wonder what other disinformation is shaping Greek public opinion. It will be interesting to see what happens to the money that was raised.

There is an old trick that was used by pickpockets on the New York subway. One guy gets on and announces "Watch out for pickpockets", while his partner works the crowd and lifts a few wallets. Athens thieves have the same idea, except they announce, Watch out for Zionists."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sotomayor "Doesn't Know" About Self Defense

Sonia Sotomayor had an interesting case of amnesia that should have been flagged by her skeptical opponents. When asked about the constitutional right to self defense, her repeated reply was "I don't know."

Senator Tom Coburn, (R) Senator from Oklahoma, zeroed in on this critical question in constitutional law. According to and to film and transcripts, Sotomayor had a very interesting reply.

“I’m trying to think if I remember a case where the Supreme Court has addressed that particular question. Is there a constitutional right to self-defense? And I can’t think of one. I could be wrong, but I can’t think of one.” She then went on to explain that self-defense rights are usually defined by state law.”

It is interesting to note that local statutes, such as a gun control law in Washington DC have been ruled upon by the US Supreme Court. This would seem to indicate that there is a strong role for the federal government. compiled a list of Supreme Court rulings on self defense with which Sonia Sotomayor should as a federal judge be familiar. They are as follows. Those who want to check's list can do so in the Heller Case book on

Ms. Sotomayor is a federal judge. If she is unfamiliar with the abundance of Supreme Court rulings on self defense, then it casts a major shadow of a doubt on her judicial qualifications. Is she feigning amnesia? That would raise questions of what her hidden agenda might be. She could have said that future cases might raise new issues not covered in previous decisions. She did not state that. Her stammering ignorance of the Supreme Court's record on self defense leads me to wonder what other areas of the constitution might lie submerged in her sea of jurisprudential amnesia. provided the following list of decisions with which Sonia Sotomayor should have been familiar.


KEY: Name Date Citation Page

Acers v. United States 1896 164 U.S. 388 238
Is fear of a deadly attack, without reasonable demonstrated grounds for the fear, sufficient to support a claim of self defense [NO]; Must the danger be immediate [YES]; Can any object be considered as a deadly weapon depending on how it was used [YES].

Alberty v. United States 1896 162 U.S. 499 231
If a husband sees another man trying to get into his wife’s room window at night is it natural for him to investigate further [YES]; Is the husband under a duty to retreat when attacked with a knife under such circumstances [NO]; May the husband use only as much force as is necessary to repel the assault [YES]; If in an ensuing confrontation the husband shoots and kills the other man, then flees, must his flight in and of itself be seen as evidence of his guilt [NO].

Allen v. United States 1896 164 U.S. 492 241
Are words alone sufficient provocation to justify an assault [NO]; Are words alone sufficient to reduce murder to manslaughter [NO]; Can premeditation and intent to kill be determined from your actions [YES]; Although flight after a possibly criminal event may suggest guilt, does it prove it conclusively [NO].

Allison v. United States 1895 160 U.S. 203 216
Is it reasonable to believe that you’re in immediate deadly danger if a person, known to be abusive, known to carry a pistol, and who has made public threats against your life, makes a motion as if to draw down on you, even if it turns out he wasn’t armed at the time [YES]; If there is no corroborating evidence besides your testimony, may the jury decide to take your word for it and acquit based on your credibility [YES]; If you have your deer rifle with you while visiting a friend’s house and your adversary shows up, and in an ensuing confrontation you shoot him, can the judge instruct the jury that you’re guilty of murder if you armed yourself to go hunt down your adversary, when there is no evidence to support this claim [NO].

Andersen v. United States 1898 170 U.S. 481 255
If an indictment is brought charging that a defendant shot and then threw a victim’s body into the sea, so the exact cause of death cannot be known, is the indictment flawed and invalid [NO]; Do the elements of self defense have to be present for an accused person to successfully claim self defense [YES].

Beard v. United States 1895 158 U.S. 550 208
Can you stand your ground with a shotgun against an unprovoked armed attack on your property near your home [YES]; Is there a greater duty to retreat on your own property than in your house [NO].

Brown v. United States 1921 256 U.S. 335 285
Is there a duty to retreat when attacked by a man with a knife [NO]; Believing you’re in a mortal conflict, if you fire a shot in the heat of combat, which in cool reflection later may be seen as unnecessary, may you still be acquitted on grounds of self defense [YES]; Is your right of self defense roughly similar in your home, on your land, and at your work [YES]; Can detached reflection be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife [NO].

Gourko v. United States 1894 153 U.S. 183 189
If you shoot someone who has repeatedly threatened you, and the circumstances of the shooting are not found to be justifiable as self defense, does the fact that you armed yourself in response to the threat automatically make the shooting murder (as opposed to manslaughter) [NO].

Logan v. United States 1892 144 U.S. 263 180
Does the 2nd Amendment guarantee a preexisting right recognized by the Constitution, and not a right created by the Constitution [YES]; Is a prisoner in legal custody entitled to protection “while he is deprived of the ordinary means of defending and protecting himself” [YES].

Rowe v. United States 1896 164 U.S. 546 247
If a man is provoked into making a minor assault on someone, and then backs off in good faith, is his right to self defense restored if the person he assaulted attacks him with a deadly weapon? [YES]; Is he required to retreat under such circumstances [NO]; Is he under an obligation to try to only wound an attacker when fighting for his life [NO]; Can either party in a mutual combat claim self defense [NO].

Starr v. United States 1894 153 U.S. 614 196
If a law officer legally serving a warrant shoots at a suspect without identifying himself, is the suspect justified in shooting back and killing the officer in self defense [YES].

Tennessee v. Garner 1985 471 U.S. 1 428
Is the use of deadly force by police to prevent the escape of all felony suspects constitutionally unreasonable [YES]; Is the use of deadly force by a police officer permissible under the 4th Amendment, if necessary to prevent the escape of a felony suspect who threatens the officer with a weapon, or if there is probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm, if, where feasible, some warning has been given [YES].

Thompson v. United States 1894 155 U.S. 271 203
Does arming yourself after being threatened, and then traveling the only road in the area where you know your adversary may be, turn a subsequent shooting of the adversary during a confrontation into murder? [NO]; Is arming yourself for legitimate self defense premeditation [NO].

Wallace v. United States 1896 162 U.S. 466 224
Is it up to the jury to decide whether a homicide is murder, manslaughter or justifiable [YES]; Does a perfect right of self defense require blamelessness in the confrontation and an act of necessity only [YES]; Can you claim self defense if you had intentionally brought about a lethal conflict [NO]; Is it up to the jury to decide whether you armed yourself defensively or otherwise [YES]; Is it murder if you enter a quarrel without felonious or malicious intent, and then, under reasonable belief of imminent mortal danger, you kill the assailant [NO]; Does the fact that you deliberately go and arm yourself, for self defense or other innocent purpose, turn a subsequent shooting necessarily from manslaughter to murder [NO]."

Let's be honest. Our timid and self apologetic Republican Party seems to be writing off the idea of opposing Sotomayor. This does not make it a duty for others to surrender. Her ignorance of a critical and strategic area of constitutional law is indeed an issue of qualifications. It raises the additional issue of what other blind spots may dot Sotomayor's legal vistas.

Sotomayor claims to have derived valuable perspectives from her tough life growing up in the Bronx. Don't tell that to Jeffrey Deskovic, who spent six extra years of the sixteen years total he spent in jail because Sonia Sotomayor tossed his appeals on a technicality.

What was the technicality that so captivated Ms. Sotomayor's fine judicial mind? The New York Times reports as follows.

The court denied the request because the paperwork had arrived four days late. Mr. Deskovic and one of his lawyers — who he said had been misinformed about the deadline for filing — appealed the decision to the federal appellate court on which Ms. Sotomayor sat. Ms. Sotomayor, along with the other judge on the panel, ruled that the lawyer’s mistake did not “rise to the level of an extraordinary circumstance” that would compel them to forgive the delay. There was no need to look at the evidence that Mr. Deskovic insisted would affirm his innocence, they said.

"No need to look at the evidence ." Canyou imagine how those words must have haunted Jeffrey Deskovic as he languished in prison? I do not understand what in Ms. Sotomayor's tough life in the Bronx did to sensitise her to the rights of the accused. Deskovic's papers arrived at court four days late because his lawyers screwed up. And Sotomayor simply didn't care.

The classic liberal exhibit in any argument about criminal law often involves the rights of the wrongly convicted. It is a question that haunts me and stops me in my tracks. Sotomayor came face to face with an innocent man and turned away in complete indifference. It is the one time that her alleged liberalism could have made a difference and she walked away. The Deskovic decision is beneath contempt.

If you want a judge who sees "No need to look at the evidence" and displays encyclopedic ignorance of second amendment legal precedents, then you could not do much better than to pick Sonia Sotomayor to sit on the Supreme Court. If on the other hand you care about the terror of a someone who hears glass breaking in the dead of night or a wrongfully imprisoned man whose light of hope has died on a judge's desk, then Sonia Sotomayor should frighten you.

There are those who argue that Sonia Sotomayor has all the right credentials. The same could have just as well been said of Robert Bork, a conservative judge who had an impressive resume when he was grilled in the Senate and ultimately rejected in 1987.

Sonia Mayor may have all the right credentials. But the argument that this entitles her to a seat on the Supreme Court died back in 1987 when Bork became a verb* in the English language. The Democrats may have a majority in the Senate. But common decency has a seat in the heart of every decent human being. It is time for its voice to be heard in the US Senate, and for Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to be rejected by the full Senate. Until the day of that final vote, every American should raise their voice on this critical issue.


–verb (used with object)
to attack (a candidate or public figure) systematically, esp. in the media.

1988, Americanism; after Judge Robert H. Bork, whose appointment to the Supreme Court was blocked in 1987 after an extensive media campaign by his opponents.

Main Entry: Bork
Part of Speech: v
Definition: to seek to obstruct a political appointment or selection; also, to attack a political opponent viciously
Etymology: from the incident involving Robert Bork, US Supreme Court nominee in 1987
Usage: politics

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bias Attack By Akron Mob

A June 27 fireworks display was supposed to be a family event, to be enjoyed in the calm of a summer night. Unfortunately, a group of rampaging youths had other ideas. According to, the marauding gang set upon a family that was enjoying the summer evening. John Alchier,who is wheelchair bound watched helplessly as his family was attacked. reports as follows.

All John Alchier could do was sit and pray.

His call to 911 was put on hold, he said, as he sat in his wheelchair and watched a group of teens pummel his brother and friend.

Alchier, 40, had a front-row seat as the teens swarmed a family gathering on Girard Street following the June 27 fireworks show at Firestone Park. Helplessness overtook him as he prayed out loud.

The story has a number of disturbing components. The lethargic response of the Akron police was most frightening to the victims, as well as reports that the frightening wolf pack attacks were a regular occurence. elaborates as follows.

"Those who witnessed the assault or survived it say this was no isolated incident, and the beatings to Greg Alchier and his friend, Marty Marshall, extended farther than Girard Street that night. A third victim is identified in a police report. More are believed to have been treated for injuries."

In a clear indication of bias motives, victims of the attack were quoted by as follows.

Greg Alchier recalls someone from the group of black teens yelling: ''This is our world.''

Marshall has said he also heard a teen saying: ''This is a black world.''

The FBI in Ohio is investigating to see if racial bias was a motive in the attack. In an odd and encouraging development, Al Sharpton, who in the past had been active in aggravating racial tensions has called for an investigation into the racial angle. If he comes out and pickets on behalf of the victims, I might believe he is serious. I suppose an official statement is a start.

If this were an African American family picnic that was set upon by white thugs, I have no doubt that there would be a national outcry. Unfortunately, there is a blatant double standard. The victims of the June 27 attack were definitely targeted because of their race. Because the victims are white, there seems to be reluctance to treat it as a hate crime. It is clear that robbery was not a motive. If civil rights laws are not invoked to prosecute the perpetrators of this attack, then civil rights laws are not civil rights laws at all. There is a disturbing tendency in mainstream news coverage to only recognise racism if the victims are the right colour. And that, my friend is racism.

I close this picture to underscore the abhorrent nature of
any racism by lumping African American Racists in with the KKK

Monday, July 20, 2009

British Teacher Fired For Protesting Bigotry

Bigotry is banned in Britain, unless you happen to be Christian. That is how it seems to Nicholas Kafouris, a British teacher in a private school in East London who lost his $60,000.00 a year position after complaining of anti Christian bigotry.

Bigland Green primary school has become a school that is predominantly Muslim. Rather than teach civility towards non Muslims and tolerance of diversity, Kafouris found jarring instances of anti Christian and anti British intolerance. Most teachers see their job as being that of transmitting civic and moral values along with facts and skills. It was this naive assumption that cost Mr. Kafouris his job. The Daily Mail, a British newspaper reports as follows of the travails of Nicholas Kafouris.

Nicholas Kafouris said he lost his £30,000-a-year post because he would not tolerate the 'openly racist' behaviour of pupils as young as eight.

He said the predominantly Muslim youngsters openly praised Islamic extremists in class, and hailed the September 11 terrorists as 'heroes and martyrs'.

Greek-born Mr Kafouris, 40, taught for more than ten years at Bigland Green Primary in Tower Hamlets, East , where according to the most recent Ofsted report 'almost all' the 465 pupils are from ethnic minorities and a vast proportion do not speak English as a first language.

He is taking the school, its headmistress and assistant head to an employment tribunal where he will claim he was forced out after highlighting the rise in racism among pupils.

In 2006, said Mr Kafouris, he brushed against a boy while giving him a book.

'He said rather brusquely to me, "Don't touch me, you're a Christian". I found this very offensive."

The story details a succession of events in which Mr. Kafouris attempted to address incidents in which ethnic hatred was voiced in a school setting. Although the school had a "Racist incident reporting sheet" which Nicholas Kafouris filled out on numerous occasions, the head mistress, Jill Hankey turned a deaf ear to his complaints. Britain has a school rating system called the Ofsted rating. Complaints such as those of Mr. Kafouris can lower the rating. According to Kafouris, a desire to skew the school ratings was as much of a motive as a desire to be politically correct.

Reading the story created the impression that the school had cultivated through neglect an atmosphere of anti Christian and anti Jewish bigotry. In the Daily Mail article, Mr. Kafouris cites two such incidents as follows.

"And in January 2007, he claims some pupils 'expressed delight' that a child had died when a wall collapsed on him in London.

When asked why, he said one of the children replied: 'Because he's English.' The following month, during a religious education lesson about Jonah and the whale, he claims one of the pupils asked if Jonah was a Jew, before shouting: 'I hate the Jews, they're our enemies."

The Daily Mail article raises disturbing questions. The pervasive attitude of bigotry that was apparent in the Bigland Green school had been a long time in developing. It is apparent that the transmission of civic values is totally being neglected in that school. There is a very real danger that lethal hatred is being incubated in the Bigland Green School.

Britain is no stranger to sectarian strife. Northern Ireland was a battlefield for years between Protestants of English ancestry and an Irish minority of the Catholic faith. It would be a pity if the sectarian strife of Northern Ireland were to be replaced with Asian Muslim-English ethnic warfare. It is not hard to imagine the students of the Bigland Green School growing up to be violent sectarian militants. It is said that "As the twig is bent, so grows the tree." I do not look forward to reading of Bigland Green's graduates.

It certainly seems that Nicholas Kafouris was wronged by the administration of Bigland Green, as were the students who were denied moral guidance. If the school can not be changed through strong new leadership, perhaps it should close its doors. If enough schools fail as has Bigland Green, I fear that Britain will fail as well.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Legal and Official Rape in Iran Prisons

Women who demonstrate against the government in Iran are risking more than we can imagine. Demonstrators against the regime in Iran are faced with the death penalty. this includes demonstrators who are well under eighteen years of age. But Iran makes justice run through the twisted labyrinth of Shaaria law as it is interpreted by Iran's corrupt theocracy.

How twisted is it? Consider this. according to the Jerusalem Post, girls who are virgins may not be executed, no matter what their crimes. So how do you execute a girl who is a virgin? Very simple. You have a prison guard marry her. When he consummates his "marriage" to the condemned, then she can be executed the following morning. The Jerusalem Post reports a conversation with a member of the Basij militia as follows.

"When he was 16, "my mother took me to a Basiji station and begged them to take me under their wing because I had no one and nothing foreseeable in my future. My father was martyred during the war in Iraq and she did not want me to get hooked on drugs and become a street thug. I had no choice," he said.

He said he had been a highly regarded member of the force, and had so "impressed my superiors" that, at 18, "I was given the 'honor' to temporarily marry young girls before they were sentenced to death."

In the Islamic Republic it is illegal to execute a young woman, regardless of her crime, if she is a virgin, he explained. Therefore a "wedding" ceremony is conducted the night before the execution: The young girl is forced to have sexual intercourse with a prison guard - essentially raped by her "husband."

"I regret that, even though the marriages were legal," he said.

Why the regret, if the marriages were "legal?"

"Because," he went on, "I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their 'wedding' night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning. And they would always fight back, so we would have to put sleeping pills in their food. By morning the girls would have an empty expression; it seemed like they were ready or wanted to die.

"I remember hearing them cry and scream after [the rape] was over," he said. "I will never forget how this one girl clawed at her own face and neck with her finger nails afterwards. She had deep scratches all over her."

The individual who spoke with the reporter was himself later arrested. What was his crime? Knowing what was in store for a female detainee, he set her free, rather than subjecting her to a legalised rape and execution. Apparently there is a decency among common folk that seems to elude their spiritual leaders. Even the "professional husband" employed by the Ahmadinejad regime suffered pangs of conscience.

The article in the Jerusalem Post also describes Basij members abusing their authority to go on "wilding "sprees which include robbery, violence and sexual abuse. The populace has no recourse against the goon squads that have been invested with official powers.

The image of Islam is disgraced by the latest revelations to come from Iran. The supposed 'theocracy" in Iran is nothing but a pack of gangsters that should be denounced and fought for their violence and their fatuous fatwas. The factions of the clergy in Iran should speak out against the atrocities committed in the name of Islam. What started out as a revolt against a stolen election will become a revolt against corrupt theocracy. Silence is complicity

This is the new Iran, supposedly voted for overwhelmingly by its electorate. Even though there is little our government can do directly, where is our voice? Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State who has spoken so loudly for women's rights is silent. Are Iranian women children of a lesser god? It is unfortunate that Ms. Clinton recently broke her wrist in a fall. Did she lose her voice as well?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Joe Biden: Economist and Sage

Times may be tough, but we sure got a vice president who can make us laugh. Joe Biden's latest bit of wisdom is that we have to spend more money to end the deficit. Did he really say that? CNS reports as follows.

“And folks look, AARP knows and the people with me here today know, the president knows, and I know, that the status quo is simply not acceptable,” Biden said at the event on Thursday in Alexandria, Va. “It’s totally unacceptable. And it’s completely unsustainable. Even if we wanted to keep it the way we have it now. It can’t do it financially.” “We’re going to go bankrupt as a nation,” Biden said. “Now, people when I say that look at me and say, ‘What are you talking about, Joe? You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt?’” Biden said. “The answer is yes, that's what I’m telling you.”

Maybe Biden can show me how to do that, how to spend money and save it too.

We now have a new word in the English language. "Bidenism." What is a Bidenism? telling you would be like describing the colour orange. There is just no one like good old Joe. We haven't had so much fun since Dan Quayle was Vice President. They made a joke about Dan Quayle speaking to an African American audience. In the joke he told the audience that he was a great admirer of Malcolm the Tenth.

Biden is better than Quayle. He makes up his own material. Consider the following from the All Great Quotes site.

Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S.

Biden at an election rally. Oh well. Even if he can't count, at least he can spell.

"If you want to know where Al Qaeda lives, you want to know where Bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me. Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are."

Speaking to a gathering of National Guardsmen, September 2008.

Maybe he can collect the 10 million dollar reward for catching Bin Laden and retire.

When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, "look, here's what happened."

Television was not in existence in 1929 and Herbert Hoover was President, not FDR. OK Joe, for $64.00, where is Wall Street?

A man I’m proud to call my friend. A man who will be the next President of the United States — Barack America!

This was at his first rally with Obama. At least he didn't say Barack Kenya.

"Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

Joe Biden October 2008. Since then, all the bad guys have been lining up to kick sand in Obama's face.

In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.

Joe Biden 2006. If George W. said that, they'd be demanding his resignation. The following quote about Barack Obama is frosting on the cake.

I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.
But my favourites are the videos of Joe Biden drunk. I have included one with this posting. Whatever may be awaiting us as a nation, Joe Biden will be there, ready to entertain us.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Barbara Boxer Gets Called a Racist! Ouch !!

Barbara Boxer was holding a hearing about green energy sources. She wanted to make the point that in her opinion, it would create jobs and be good for the economy. Appearing at the hearing was Harry Alford, a CEO and a chairman of the Black Chamber of Commerce. He was expecting to debate the bill on its merits. He was opposed to the bill.

Rather than move towards his reasons for opposing the bill, Boxer read from some resolutions by African American organisations.Alford apparently felt that the issue should be decided on its merits. He resented Boxer's approach of bringing out opinions on the basis of race. He felt that the Senator was being condescending by bringing out the opinion of an African American group when she had an African American at the hearing. He seemed to feel that race had no place in classifying opinions.

It was interesting seeing a member of the party that postures as a friend of African Americans being dealt a race card and being accused of being racially prejudiced and divisive. Fortunately, the delightful exchange was captured on video. Judge for yourself. Did Mr. Alford have a point?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Human Rights Watch and Saudi Donations

Human Rights Watch usually makes the news while highlighting egregious human rights violations in countries around the world. From Turkey to China, and even in western democracies, Human Rights Watch has established a whistle blower.

The latest appearance of Human Rights Watch in the news does not look so pretty. The Wall Street Journal and the Atlantic Monthly both report and comment on a Human Rights Watch trip to Saudi Arabia. Was the trip taken in defense of women's rights? Was the focus on the rights of foreign domestic workers or the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia?

The main focus of the latest Human Rights Watch trip to Saudi Arabia was not in pursuit of justice but of money. It was a fund raising trip. The Wall Street Journal describes it as follows in their editorial today, July 15.

"The delegation arrived to raise money from wealthy Saudis by highlighting HRW's demonization of Israel. An HRW spokesperson, Sarah Leah Whitson, highlighted HRW's battles with "pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations." (Was Ms. Whitson required to wear a burkha, or are exceptions made for visiting anti-Israel "human rights" activists"? Driving a car, no doubt, was out of the question.)'

It doesn't take much courage to criticise Israel on Saudi soil. To the contrary, it is pretty much expected. It would have been far more courageous to lend voice and support to lonely and fearful voices of conscience within Saudi Arabia. But the trip by Saraah Leah Whitson was not about courage and giving solace. It was about money.

The Atlantic Monthly attempted to get the Human Rights Watch side of the picture. Ms. Whitson claimed that there was indeed discussions during the visit of women's rights and the rights of domestic workers. There is undoubtedly a large number of Saudis who would like a more liberal version of Islam to prevail in Saudi Arabia. The large number of Saudis educated in the west along with the nagging voice of conscience make for a viable base of support for human rights in Saudi Arabia. Put simply, human rights is not an foreign import unwanted by Saudi Arabia's people.

This makes Ms. Whitson's appeal all the more questionable since she based her fund raising appeal largely on the Human rights Watch record in Israel. This certainly does not take any great amount of courage. If money was raised from donors in Saudi Arabia based on their approval of HRW's activities in Israel, what might the donors expect within Saudi Arabia? If Sarah Leah Whitson had focused on the situation in Saudi Arabia, she might have raised less money. But the money would have likely had less strings attached to it.

The fund raising trip to Saudi Arabia raises a multitude of questions about the role of donations and their source in the setting of the HRW agenda and priorities. Saudi Arabia has a record of giving money to Muslim terrorist groups in exchange for their staying out of Saudi Arabia. Who knows? It might work for Human Rights Watch as well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Pleasure of History Podcasts

Every year, during the summer months, there is a three week period on the Jewish calendar that begins with a day fast and ends with a twenty four hour fast. It commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Other dates such as the start of World War One and the expulsion from Spain fortuitously coincide with the 9th of Av, which is the last day of the Three Weeks, the day on which the Temple was destroyed.

Underlying the sadness of the season is the persistent hope and firm belief that the Temple will be rebuilt, that the nations of the world will achieve peace and unity.

During this time, it is customary to refrain from celebrations and listening to instrumental music. I find that I need this time to reflect not only upon the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash, the Temple but upon the senseless and destructive elements that blight so much of our earthly existence. Withdrawing from music is something I need to do to maintain my balance. Doing so as an observance on the Jewish calender affirms a sense of peoplehood and a historical perspective that is itself consoling.

Every year I switch from music to documentaries, news and other sorts of entertainment during "The Three Weeks". I particularly like history podcasts. This week, I found, which has amazing podcasts about historical events and figures that can be downloaded and listened to on an MP3 player. Even in a secular context, the idea of studying the lives and lessons of the generations that preceded us lends balance and calm to our lives in the present day. It is for this reason that I am particularly fond during this time on the Jewish calendar not only of Jewish History but any sort of history at all.

I was particularly drawn to an episode titled "The Wickedest City in America", which deals with the history of Phenix City, Alabama, a town of 30,000 which has since lived down its reputation. I will not spoil the suspense of my readers. Suffice it to say that the title is not an exaggeration.

I hope all of my readers will check out as well as the general genre of history podcasts, whether it is for religious reasons or simply to enjoy a change of pace in the daily routine.

Monday, July 13, 2009

KIM JONG ILL !!! (Hope He Stays That Way)

Kim Jong Il, the "Dear Leader" of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, according to AP News, which quoted South Korean television. The "Dear Leader", whose fondness for imported scotch and women is well known, has been looking rather gaunt lately. Afflictions of the pancreas, which affect the metabolisation of sugar, make the consumption of scotch and rich foods a highly taxing proposition. Pancreatic cancer is known as particularly intractable. The "Dear Leader" has in recent photographs started to resemble more closely some of his long suffering subjects, over two and a half million have died in what is generally agreed to be a man made famine. Portraits of those who hang on by a thread in the aftermath of the Kim family's colossal mismanagement of the captive nation elicit far more emotion from me than the gaunt looking North Korean dictator.

What is of far greater concern to the world is the question of who might succeed Kim Jong Il, who has spawned a number of likely candidates to continue the dynasty. There is also the possibility of the military mixing into a succession struggle. Which outcome will best favour the people of North Korea? The current regime has done its best to make sure that only those it considers to be friends receive food donated by the international community. Indeed, foreign aid is often sold instead of distributed.

North Korea is divided into zones. Pyongyang and a few other places are showcase areas built to impress foreigners and lavish the best resources on the country's elite. Outside the showcase areas are different areas, some set aside for enemies of the state and their families. Beneath that are labour camps, which also include entire families. Any type of travel from one zone to another requires permits.

A few intrepid individuals have managed to smuggle film footage out of North Korea. Millions of North Koreans are also living as refugees in China, where they live in fear of deportation and exploitation by Chinese gangsters. Even this shadowy existence is preferred by many to the hellish life in North Korea.

This article was supposed to be about Kim Jong Il. Why am I writing about his country? I am doing so because I do not give a damn about Kim Jong Il or his worthless and disgusting family. As painful as pancreatic cancer might be, Kim Jong Il would need to die of it ten thousand times to even make a down payment on his place in hell.

Our concern about Kim Jong Il should be channelled into actions that help the suffering people of North Korea. I am including some links at the bottom of this article. I hope my readers will check them out and make a donation. And I hope that Kim Jong Il stays ill.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Secret Palestinian Jews?

There was a sense I had when visiting Israel that it wasn't a matter of "us against them". Many times, I have felt kinship to Arabs that flew in the face of the hostility that seems to dominate the news. I saw a video on You Tube about Palestinians who are of Jewish origin. It is well known that many Jews who stayed in the Holy Land converted to Islam over the centuries. Some maintained customs and knowledge that tied them to Judaism. A few such individuals are openly declaring their Jewish origins. Some actually want to return to the Jewish people. There is a Jewish man who wants to encourage them to return. There is genetic research that confirms the Jewish origins of many Palestinians.

There is undoubtedly many mysteries buried in Arab villages. The Turks settled Bosnians, Circassians and other ethnic groups in Palestine to strengthen the Turkish claim to the land. In addition to Jews who converted to Islam, there are Samaritans, a sect that recognises only a modified version of the Five Books of Moses and the Book of Joshua.

Could this be the beginning of the ingathering of the exiles? Could these be our long lost brothers and sisters? There is something poetic about finding that bitter enemies are truly family. I want to believe that this can happen. I hope and pray that hidden Arab Jews can return to the Jewish people. Change of heart is a part of change on the ground. I hope we can be reunited with the hidden Palestinian Jews. B' ezrat Hashem, Insh-llah it should happen soon.


I hope my readers will watch the following video (divided in two parts) and make up their minds for themselves