Monday, August 31, 2009

Stalin's Grandson.... He's Baaaak !

In America and Western Europe, this story would be filed as "weird news". Unfortunately, in the former Soviet Union, there is nothing strange about it at all. Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, grandson of Josef Stalin, the infamous Soviet dictator is suing a newspaper for defaming his grandfather's name by "falsely" claiming that he had signed death warrants. Reuters News reports as follows.

"Stalin's grandson, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, is seeking 9.5 million roubles ($299,000) from the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and 500,000 roubles from the author of an article published last April claiming Stalin personally signed politburo death orders.

Leonid Zhura, a convinced Stalinist who is representing Dzhugashvili in court, said that the article -- based on declassified Kremlin documents -- damaged Stalin's reputation.

"Half a century of lies have been poured over Stalin's reputation and he cannot defend himself from the grave so this case is essential to put the record straight," said Zhura."

To westerners, such talk may sound insane. Unfortunately, there are many in the former USSR who view the Soviet era

Economic uncertainty has led many to nostalgia for what they remember as the austere certainty and security of living under Soviet rule. Although millions shared kitchens and bathrooms in collective apartments and waited in long lines for basic consumer goods, the new nostalgia is for a time of certainty and security.

Additionally, there is the loss of the Baltic republics as well as most of Soviet Asia that rankles many who see Stalin as having presided over a vast country. The collapse of the Soviet ruble and the havoc that wreaked upon pensions as well as the economic disparities of the new order anger many. I have ridden with taxi drivers and spoken with Soviet immigrants who voice this dismay that sounds so odd to western ears.

There are still dissenting voices. Ukrainians who recall the famine of the early 1930's , Orthodox Jews and Christians who remember their faith being driven underground and their believers killed in the gulag are not likely to sign off on an attemtpt at introducing a nostalgic reappraisal of Stalin.

But unfortunately, Stalinism and Stalin nostalgia are still a force to be reckoned with. There is even a "National Bolshevik Party" with a flag that bears an eerie resemblance to the Nazi flag. The Nazi style salute of its members validates in a creepy way the suspicion that Nazism and Stalinism are really psychological twins.

It should not be supposed that the fall of Soviet communism has made that part of the world a safe and happy place. Almost every victory in a liberation struggle is really only the first. When a tyrant is overthrown, the people who enabled him and made his system work must then face themselves. When Haiti overthrew Baby Doc, when South Africa got rid of apartheid and when Iraq overthrew Sadaam Hussein, it became apparent that the people who suffered under tyranny were as much victims of themselves as they were the dictator and the system that oppressed them.

A people with an empty stomach is likely to fall for empty promises. A penetrating look at a sick society must include a look at the individual. In the former Soviet Union, the struggle continues. And people like Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, grandson of Josef Stalin are all too willing to peddle their lies to desperate people who want to believe in something.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

11 Year Old Beaten In Crown Heights Bias Attack

It's a beautiful playground, on the side of a public school. After school hours, it is opened to the public. Unfortunately, Nechama Benjamin, 11 years old of Crown Heights Brooklyn found that what is true according to law is not true according to practice. The Daily News reported as follows about what has not yet been classified as a bias attack.

An 11-year-old Jewish girl was attacked at a Crown Heights playground by a band of black youths who slammed her into a metal slide, kicked her repeatedly - and pelted her with anti-Semitic invective, the girl's mom said Wednesday.

"Dumb Jew! B----! Why are you here? Why are you in this world?" the boys screamed as they pummeled Nechama Benjamin at a Montgomery St. playground early Tuesday evening.

The shocking attack by at least three boys is being investigated by police. The beating caused Nechama to black out and left her with a bloody nose - and a terrible fear of leaving home, her mom said.

"My daughter told me she is afraid to go out, to go to the park - to go anywhere," said Elka Benjamin, 31.

"Nechama went to the local park with her 6-year-old brother around 6 p.m. Although Crown Heights has long been plagued by racial and religious tension, Nechama's mother thought it was okay for her kids to go to the playground alone because the family lives on the same block.

Trouble started when one of a group of boys playing soccer tossed the ball at Nechama, hitting her in the leg, her mother said.

She tossed it back - and an argument ensued. The boys surrounded Nechama, taunting her mercilessly, her mother said.

Then the boys grabbed her by the hair and dragged her from the bench to a playground slide."

The attack was serious enough that Greisman had to go to an emergency room after complaining of dizziness. It was determined that she had suffered a concussion during the attack. The response at the 71st precinct, in which the playground is located was underwhelming. Police who questioned the victim said that her story "didn't add up" and there was nothing they could do. Despite a witness and evidence that an attack had taken place, the city crime statistics will record no bias attack as having taken place on Tuesday the 26th of August. Crime is down. And the city has the statistics to prove it.

Getting the police to classify an by a black on a white or a Jewish victim as a bias attack is almost impossible. There is paperwork to fill out. It messes up the crime stats. So you interrogate the victims and save yourself that much more paperwork when the victims throw their hands up in disgust and walk out.

In most matters, African Americans and Jews living together in Crown Heights face a lot of the same problems. There are street robberies, cars being broken into. There are drive by shootings that are kept out of the papers so the street gangs won't proudly flash news clippings of their lethal handiwork. Then there are the "ticket blitzes" during which the city attempts to balance its books on the backs of working people. The perception is that crime is a lot worse as well as the legalised robbery of the "ticket blitzes".

Unfortunately, there are people out there who want to add to the increasing crime by turning different colour skin into the uniform of the enemy.

The Greisman playground beating brings home to me a truth that everyone can see. Bias laws are unevenly enforced. A lot of people in government will not classify an attack on a white or a Jew as a bias attack unless they get notarised statements from the assailants that they were motivated by racial, ethnic or religious prejudice. If hate crime laws are not evenly enforced, then there should be no hate crime laws. For the time being, there is no sign on the Montgomery Street playground saying "Jews Not Welcome." But there may as well be.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mother In Law Sues Daughter in Law Over Jokes

I've heard plenty of mother in law complaints, but the latest news story about mother in law jokes ought to get a prize. A stand up comedy performer is half Swedish and half African American. She has a Hindu first name and was raised Roman Catholic. She married a Jewish guy and converted to Judaism. She was very good at using her personal background in her comedy routine. Until last week, when she was sued by her own mother in law for unspecified damages for defamation because she was using her mother in law's name. The New York Post reports as follows on this odd story.

"In one of her shticks, Croonquist jokes that Ruth Zafrin told another son to "hide her pocketbook" the first time she met her daughter-in-law.

Zafrin's mom -- along with his sister, Shelley Edelman and her husband, Neil -- sued Croonquist for defamation in Monmouth County, NJ, federal court, seeking unspecified damages.

Zafrin yesterday said Ruth and Shelley "never even picked up the phone" to voice their displeasure to Croonquist before filing the lawsuit.

"Getting a lawyer, frankly, was outrageous," Zafrin said. 'Why would you sue your brother -- who is a lawyer?"

He responded by putting three lawyers from his own firm on the case for his wife."

Whatever Croonquist might have said, I can't think of a better way to mess up domestic tranquility than to sue your own daughter in law. And while she's at it, what better way to get laughs than to have a lawyer and a mother in law in the same joke? When this case is finished, Croonquist is going to have some great material.

I've heard a few good mother in law jokes over the years.

What is the difference between a mother in law and a vulture? A vulture waits until you're dead till he eats your heart out.

What is the difference between a mother in law and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist.

A woman is complaining to her husband.

"Admit it! You don't like my family at all !

"That's not true." The husband answered. "I like your mother in law much better than mine."

I used to have a good time joking with my in laws. With a northerner marrying a southerner, there was plenty of opportunity for humour.

I once was changing my son's diaper when my mother in law (who is from down south) was visiting. I called out to my wife "I'm cleaning the south side of this northern boy."

Another time my mother in law called on my wife's birthday. I told her I was taking my ex fiance out to dinner.

There is a lot of opportunity for humour in marriage. The same things you can fight about are the same things you can laugh about. This lawsuit is a family fight. It doesn't belong in a courtroom. I hope it is wrapped up in time for the high holidays.

I included a classic 50's song which seems relevant to this news item

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Christian-Newsom Verdict: Life Without Parole

In a stunning move, the jury in the Christian-Newsom rape and murder trial has sentenced Letalvis Cobbins, the first perpetrator convicted in the case to life in prison without parole. The sadism and brutality of the case shocked even seasoned courtroom observers. Although widely covered in Tennessee and across the internet, the case has been left out of national news coverage. Many observers feel that such an omission was intended to sidestep a national dialogue on anti white racism and its sometimes murderous manifestations.

The Christian and Newsom families, who lost their daughter and son in the horrific attacks expressed strong disappointment with the jury's sentence, according to, which reported from the courtroom as follows.

"I think the jury has let us down," said Mary Newsom, mother of murder victim Chris Newsom. "I think they've let Channon and Chris down. We were hoping for the death penalty."

Astonishingly enough, the family of Letalvis Cobbins showed up to plead for mercy in sentencing, citing the usual story of a dysfunctional and violent family life.

Misha Davidson, a sister to Cobbins and another defendant paid lip service to feeling the pain of the victim's families while rolling callousness and audacity into a succinct statement when she said of her brother as follows.

"I know you hate his guts, but we love him."

I have read about the cas in the two and a half years it has taken to come to trial. It is clear that the defendants have made numerous statements that have in a self serving way pushed off responsibility on each other and minimised the horror of their crimes in a manner that was belied by forensic evidence. There was a coordinated effort among the defendants prior to capture and after their arrests to lie about and conceal their crimes. It is disgusting beyond words that the family of the convicted murderer of two innocent young people would rub salt in the emotional wounds of the bereaved by showing their faces and speaking in his defense.

Even Cobbins' attorney said prior to sentencing "Make him suffer for every day of his life for what he did."
The only hope left in this world is that prison justice will correct the shortcomings of the justice that was dispensed today in Tennessee. If this case does not merit a death penalty, then what on earth does?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Judge In Michigan Faces Hijab Lawsuit

It was just a routine legal matter, a name change that brought Raneen Albaghdady to the courtroom of Judge J. William Callahan in Wayne County, Michigan. The court appearance was anything but routine when according to the Detroit News the judge said "No hats allowed in the courtroom."

As a result of this disregard for the religious sensitivities of Raneen Albaghdady,Callahan is facing a lawsuit sponsored by CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations that has been filed with the hope of preventing such incidents in the future.

Albaghdady was not covering her face with a burqa, which would have interfered with seeing her face during testimony. She was wearing a hijab, which covered her hair and left her face completely exposed.

After the 30 second clip which played on You Tube, the woman allegedly said, "It doesn't matter anyhow. " without any reference to religious requirements that it be worn. The secretary to Callahan defended him by saying that he would never ask a woman to remove her hijab. Despite this, the You Tube tape clearly shows that he repeated his request that she remove her head covering and interrupted an attempt by her lawyer to explain her attire. She clearly seemed intimidated by the judge, who did not seem ready to hear an explanation of Islamic customs.

It is hard for me to believe that a judge in Michigan would be ignorant of the range of Muslim customs when there is a large Muslim population in that state. I have heard judges ask people to remove all non religious head covering while in their courtroom. There is a need to establish decor in a court of law. But even a judge has limits. There should be a reasonable effort to accommodate the practices of religious minorities who appear in court. The prejudices or accustomed ways of a judge should not be imposed upon people who are appearing in his courtroom.

The Detroit News quotes Melanie Eturk, who is representing Albaghdady as saying "This judge targeted a Muslim woman's religious attire, but he could just as easily have demanded the removal of a Sikh turban, a Jewish yarmulke or a Catholic nun's habit,"

America has been built by people with differing religious beliefs and cultural norms who were willing to support basic American law and ideals. I hope that Mrs Albaghdady is successful in her lawsuit, which establishes precedents that are of benefit to other religious minorities as well. Defining Americanism within excessively narrow parameters ultimately endangers our American way of life. In case Judge Callahan is not aware of Islamic, Jewish and other types of religious garb, he might want to confer with judges in jurisdictions with greater ethnic diversity that he has experienced already. I hope this suit is settled quickly and amiably.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Puhdys Look At The Berlin Wall

One of the greatest rock bands of all time is in my opinion, the Puhdys. The East German government tried to limit the influence of pop music from the west by having East German bands that they kept under their watchful eye. Bands during the had to have some training in communist ideas on art and music. They needed to pass security clearance in order to play or record professionally. It was the price of doing business. The Puhdys did a very good job of balancing their duties to artistic truth as they saw it with the demands of the regime. They did a fairly good job of speaking the truth and staying out of jail. Their lyrics sounded pretty universal themes about love and life that resonated no matter what side of the Berlin Wall you lived on.

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Germany had been divided politically for 45 years and with a physical wall for almost 30 years. the collective experience of living under communism versus living in the West created a deep division that survived the fall of the wall. There is still a sense of "Ossi" and "Wessi" identity that runs very strong.

The Puhdys did a song after the Berlin Wall fell and after reunification called "Du Braver Soldat".
which translates as "You Faithful Soldier." The subsequent lyrics cast the title in a bitterly ironic light. I have often wondered how ordinary East Germans view the old regime in retrospect. I was particularly curious about the Puhdys, who had to do a balancing act of speaking allegorically if they had anything subversive to say. The song "Du Braver Soldat" satisfied my curiousity about their feelings about the old regime. I am presenting the German original lyrics and a very rough English translation as well as a video of still photos with "Du Braver Soldat" as accompaniment.

Du braver Soldat
kannst Du Dich erinnern an die Nacht
mit Deinem Gewehr
hast Du die Grenze bewacht.

Mitten im Frieden
traf mitten ins Herz Dein Schuß
am Stacheldraht
hast Du eine Hoffnung zum Schweigen gebracht.

Hast Du als Mensch denn auch daran geglaubt Soldat
daß der, der gehen will, kein Recht zu leben hat.
Oder hast Du vielleicht nur selber Angst gehabt.

Du braver Soldat
sahst Du keine Zweifel im Visier
sahst Du sein Gesicht
oder fiel er mit dem Rücken zu Dir

Du braver Soldat
kannst Du ruhig schlafen in der Nacht
und ist Dir auch klar, daß ein Befehl Dich zum Wahnsinn gebracht.

Hast Du als Mensch denn auch daran geglaubt Soldat
daß der, der gehen will, kein Recht zu leben hat.
Oder hast Du vielleicht nur selber Angst gehabt.

You faithful soldier
Do you remember the night
with your weapon
you guarded the border.

In the midst of peace
your shot to the heart
on the barbed wire
reduced hope to silence.

Soldier,did you personally believe
that those who wanted to leave
had no right to live?
Or were you perhaps
only fearful for yourself?

Faithful soldier
did you see any doubt through your gun sight?
Did you see his face?
Or did he fall
With his back to you?

Dutiful Soldier
Can you sleep peacefully at night?
And is it clear that a command brought you to madness?

Did you personally believe
That those who wish to leave
had no right to live?
Or were you fearful for yourself?


It is twenty years since the Berlin Wall fell. As that chapter in German history fades from current events and into history it is worth remembering that ordinary North Koreans function in the repressive machine of Kim Jong Il's regime. I can not listen to the Puhdys sing about East German border soldiers without wondering if such crises of conscience are now troubling the hearts of North Koreans. I hope and pray that the day will soon come when the Puhdy's song is translated into Korean and sung in Pyongyang.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Taliban Cuts off Voter Fingers

Before the Afghan elections, it was a threat, now it has become a reality. According to the Los Angeles Times the Taliban said they would cut off the ink stained fingers of anyone who voted.

The Los Angeles Times reports as follows about the grisly amputations.

"Today, two days after the balloting, election observers disclosed that they had confirmed two such cases in the south of Afghanistan, and were investigating a third in an eastern province.

The two known finger amputations took place in Kandahar province, where the Taliban movement was born. Officials asked that the name of the district not be disclosed because it would endanger the observer who reported the grisly act."

The brutal tactic turns against the government the technique of dipping voter's fingers in ink to insure that voters only vote once. The Taliban had hoped to deligitimise the elections by creating through a mix of apathy and intimidation a low turnout. Widespread reports of corruption and voter intimidation could form the basis for challenges to the legitimacy of the elections. Pressure was particularly strong on women not to vote.

Corruption has dimmed voter enthusiasm for the Hamed Karzai government that has ruled since 2004, after the Taliban were deposed with the assistance of American and allied forces in 2001. It should not be assumed that the Taliban had clean hands either. It is widely reported that one effect of driving women from the open workplace was a surge in prostitution. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, no friend of the Americans or of the Taliban reports of the degradation of Afghan women under Taliban rule. The RAWA report on prostitution in Afghanistan notes in part as follows about the grim situation in that country.

"Taliban arrival has increased the social and especially the economical problems of Afghan women. The women of Afghanistan live under monstrous oppression of both Jehadi and Taliban fundamentalists in disastrous situations where most of their basic human rights are denied of them. The Taliban denial of women to have a job has created a flood of unemployed women in Kabul. These unemployed women face serious financial problems and as a natural consequence their children suffer from hunger, malnutrition, different illnesses and a chronic state of poverty. Most of them has have lost their last resorts of income and have sold most of their possession to buy food. Those who could afford leaving the country have done so, and those who could not are making the bulk of beggars in our country. A large number of these beggars are ex teachers and civil servants.

Bad state of economy especially in Kabul has hit hard the pity income of these beggars. The ban on female beggars to enter shops, inns and other trading premises is even further affected their income forcing a number of them to enter into prostitution for their survival, and survival of their children.

A large number of young widows who are the sole breadwinner of their families and with all doors of opportunity closed on their face are joining prostitution as well."

The report makes for depressing reading. It is also a wake up call for the Taliban's useful idiots in the west who want to push the belief that any enemy of the west is a standard bearer of peace and progress.

It seems that the Taliban has limited its participation in Afghan national life to intimidation and the use of military force. Since the Taliban is cutting off voter's fingers, it might be interesting if ten Taliban tough guys found their trigger fingers and their thumbs missing for every voter that lost a finger. Such deterrents have been used before in combat areas. It might be a desirable alternative to school teachers and schoolgirls having acid thrown in their faces.

The Cindy Sheehans and Michael Moores of the world might want to blame Afghanistan's problems on the evil west. Unfortunately, it seems as though Afghanistan has some home grown evil of its own. Whatever decision America and its allies make about the level and nature of their presence in Afghanistan, we should certainly not wring our hands in pious dismay if the government in Kabul gives the Taliban a dose of its own medicine.

What is most unfortunate is the realisation that on 9/11, war was brought to our soil before we ever were in Afghanistan or Iraq. However appealing isolationism may be to Obama and his supporters, it seems that a war with Islamofascism has been thrust upon us, whether we want it or not.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lockerbie Bomber Released: Victim's Kin Seethe

The Lockerbie bomber, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment returned to a hero's welcome in Libya on "humanitarian grounds". Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was reportedly suffering from prostate cancer and was given around three months to live by doctors who assessed his condition. His family had reportedly taken up residency in Britain and visited the convicted bomber regularly.

The judge in the case says he was bound by "Scottish values' to release the bomber, who received a thunderous welcome from a waiting throng upon his return to Libya. Despite the hollow claims of "Scottish values", it should be noted that the victims were American as well as other nationalities. Al-Megrahi had claimed innocence of the charges. The sole reason for releasing him should have been that he was wrongfully convicted. There is a legal procedure for asserting and proving a wrongful conviction. Until such evidence is presented and ruled upon, al Megrahi remains guilty. It would be far more fitting justice for a relentless cancer to gnaw at his prostate than to release him in a misguided act of mercy.

The British justice system is notoriously lenient. When a man was convicted in the murder of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl, the British government protested the death sentence that was handed down. CNN reported as follows on the case back in 2002.

"Although we support suspected terrorists being brought to justice it is well known that we oppose the death penalty in all circumstances," a spokesman told the Press Association.

"The Pakistani authorities are already well aware of our position on this issue."

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will go to Pakistan on Saturday after visiting India on Friday, the spokesman added.

The death penalty in Pakistan is traditionally carried out by hanging."

"When 10 year olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson murdered James Bulger,age two, they lived far better during their eight years incarceration than they did at home. The judge gave a stern speech at sentencing about how they would remain imprisoned for a very long time. When they turned 18, the government spent $8 million dollars to release them under assumed identities. CNN reported as follows about the manner in which a 15 year minimum sentence was whittled down to eight years.

"The trial judge called it "unparalleled evil and barbarity" and gave them an indefinite sentence.

British Parliament Member Michael Howard, then Home Secretary, imposed a 15-year minimum on the amount of time they should spend behind bars. "If a murder of this kind, this terrible kind, had been committed by adults, they would have served, in my view, at least 25 years in prison," Howard said. "Now obviously you have to make an allowance for the fact that those who committed this particular murder were young. And that was the sort of consideration that led me to the view that 15 years was the appropriate time."

The public, outraged by the crime, supported him. But a few years later, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Howard had overstepped his remit. That decision cleared the way last fall for a senior British judge to, in effect, rule the boys should be released at 18."

Britain has notoriously lenient sentences for murder. A powder wigged judge named Lord Woolf unveiled sentencing guidelines back in 2004 that could reduce sentences for murder to as little as ten years.

Then there is the story of the man from Romania who traveled to Britain to commit a rape because his brother had written him about the great conditions in British prisons. The Daily Mail reported as follows about that bizarre case.

"In January, a pre-sentence report revealed Majlat had told a psychologist: 'When I was on the railway station I thought I should rape this lady in order to get a place to eat and sleep and learn the English language.'

Hearing this was understandably difficult for Louise. 'I felt so angry. It's awful he would come over to do things like this, that I should have suffered for that. The judge was appalled.

'I think they should send him back to Romania where the prisons are worse and make him learn his lesson as he's got it easy here. I also think that prison in Britain should be harder.'

Last Friday, a judge at Leeds Crown Court granted Majlat his wish and ordered him to serve an indeterminate custodial sentence.

'I was really pleased with the sentence. I went to court for it, as although I never want to see his face again, I needed to see for myself that he was being taken away,' says Louise.

'I do feel justice has been done because his barrister says he has changed his mind about prison since being bullied and beaten up while on remand. But it is important to me that he will be deported afterwards, that he won't be allowed to stay here and hurt someone else."

The people of Britain have long suffered the effects of a criminal justice system that does not reflect their righteous indignation. Lenient sentences have for years been an affront to the feelings and safety of the public. It is now the world community that shares the outrage of the people of Britain. By organising a hero's welcome forAbdel Baset al-Megrahi the Libyan government has spit in the face of Lockerbie's 270 victims . As terrible as this may be, they could not have done it without the Scotland's judiciary. As the families of Lockerbie's victims now mourn in anger, they understand far better the suffering of the British citizenry.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Questions About Maltese Mystery Ship

The world was shocked when the Arctic Sea, a Maltese ship owned by a Finnish company and manned by a Russian crew vanished under suspicious circumstances on July 24. Russian authorities launched a determined search for the ship, which was supposedly bound for Algeria with $1.3 million worth of lumber.

According to News, there is growing suspicion that the hijacking might not have even taken place. News reports as follows.

"Russia on Tuesday arrested eight people on suspicion of hijacking the Arctic Sea off the Swedish coast and sailing it to the Atlantic Ocean, ending weeks of silence about the fate of a ship which has intrigued European maritime authorities.

Limited information from Russian officials has failed to satisfy skeptics who voiced doubts about whether the piracy actually took place or was a convenient cover story to conceal a possible secret cargo of arms or nuclear material."

The Malta Maritime authority deepened the mystery of the entire puzzling incident by saying that the ship "never really disappeared". Russian authorities are maintaining the official story that the guilty parties were nationals of Russia, Latvia and Estonia.

The Moscow News, an English language Russian paper has cited a number of questionable elements to the story, including a smaller ship that was traveling with the "Arctic Sea". Voice Of America reports as follows on the suspicions of Yulia Latynina, a Russian political analyst and opposition figure.

"Some observers, including Russian political analyst Yulia Latynina, say that many elements surrounding the ship's disappearance, including initial speculation that it had been seized by pirates, do not add up.

Latynina says she believes the incident was neither a pirate attack nor involved ordinary cargo, but rather involved some kind of "highly illegal cargo." She says the cargo was possibly nuclear components or, more likely, weapons being sold to a Middle Eastern country.

Latynina says she thinks there was a disagreement between the various people involved, and does not rule out the involvement of "special services."

Particularly disturbing is her report that two weeks worth of repair work while docked in Kaliningrad involved the removal of the ship's bulkhead so that something very large could be loaded on the ship.

News Daily concludes its article with its Latynina's blunt assessment.

"To put it plainly: The Arctic Sea was carrying some sort of anti-aircraft or nuclear contraption intended for a nice, peaceful country like Syria, and they were caught with it,"

It seems highly unlikely that an act of piracy in fact occurred. In reviewing the mysterious path of the "Arctic Sea", new questions present themselves.

Was the ship's alleged disappearance the result of its secret cargo being interdicted? Or was the alleged piracy all a part of an elaborate hoax to obscure the uncharted transfer of highly illegal arms or even nuclear material to a rogue state? Someone could "hijack" a shipment and take it through uncharted channels. If contraband were shipped under cover in a legal shipment, there would be a paper trail. If Russia was in on some kind of plot from the beginning, it is highly unlikely that they will provide candid answers. Any satisfaction of the public's curiosity is likely to come from the intelligence services of other nations. Considered in conjunction with attack submarines off of America's east coast, it seems as though the intrigues of America's cold war with Russia are still very much with us. As dead as communism may be, reports that the death of the cold war may be quite premature.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Egyptian Priest Under Death Fatwa

Father Estefanos Shehata wanted to be able to perform marriages and officiate at funerals in his home in the Egyptian village of Ezbet Dawood Youssef. If you are a Christian in Egypt, there is an unnavigable bureaucracy to face before you can build or repair a church. Father Shehata received far more than the usual rejection notice when he requested permission to use his home for Christian clergical duties. He was named in a fatwa that called for his death. Not only may he not use his home for marriages and funerals, he may not even sleep there. AINA News reports as follows about the surreal and outrageous sequence of events.

"I know we are not allowed to have a proper church in Egypt, but until now I pray for the dead and hold marriage ceremonies in the street." Father Estefanos told Waguih Yacoub of MECA in an audio recording.

"I appeal to President Hosny Mubarak, Interior Minister, State Security and the human rights organizations, that we are Egyptian citizens and we have the right like everyone else to place our dead in a dignified place," said Rev. Estefanos.

He said that it took him nearly two years to prepare this 100 square meter room to be used for these rites, before approaching the state security for the necessary licenses to start using it.

"I went to the state security to get the necessary licenses for using this space in my family home, but they told me I need first to obtain the 'permission' of the village Muslims, as they (state security) want no problems in the village," said Father Estefanos. "I told them that there would be no problems in getting this permission as we have always had good relations with the village Muslims and we love and consider them as our brothers." Father Estefanos has been brought up in Ezbet Dawood Youssef.

When Reverend Stefanos told the villager Muslim elders what he was intending to do, they called for a meeting with the elders of the neighbouring villages. "They were extremely angry at my proposal and instead a death Fatwa was issued against me!"

The eight hundred Coptic Christians in Ezbet Dawood Youssef are not even permitted to build a church for their use. The local Muslim authorities claim that they are being kind in "allowing" the Christians of the village to go to a village three miles away for Sunday religious services.

There is a pattern in Egypt's treatment of the 15% of Egyptians who are Christian. Impressive laws are enacted in Cairo. But at the local level there is no follow up to see that the laws are enforced. in many cases, civil government is under the thumb of Muslim extremists. Police who receive complaints of violence against Christians often refuse to take action. When Christian girls are raped, kidnapped and forcibly married to Muslim men, there is in practical terms very little legal recourse.

Even under Islamic law, there is supposed to be protection for Christians, who are, like Jews considered to be "people of the book." The Muslim extremists in Egypt are not only violating the rights of Christians. They are also going against their own faith.

Americans should express their concern and outrage at the mistreatment of Father Shehata and the 12 million Egyptian Coptic Christians, whose faith goes back further in Egyptian history than does Islam. Americans of all faiths should vocally express their solidarity with Egypt's Christians. Silence is consent. We must not be silent

Monday, August 17, 2009

Missing Cargo Ship Found !

A cargo ship that went missing on July 24 has been found near the Cape Verde Islands according to a report from the BBC. The ship was located by the Russian searchers who had been scouring the high seas for their missing countrymen. The 15 crew members were reportedly in good condition and spirits. They have been taken on a Russian Naval vessel, where they are reportedly being debriefed about the mysterious disappearance of their ship. Finland had reported a demand on Saturday for ransom. The demand could not be authenticated. The BBC reports as follows.

"The Arctic Sea was found at 0100 Monday (2100 GMT Sunday) 300 miles (480 km) off Cape Verde in the Atlantic Ocean, Tass news agency quoted Mr Serdyukov as telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev."

It reported further of Malta's interest in the ship's disappearance as follows.

"Malta's Maritime Security Committee confirmed that the vessel was in the hands of the Russian military. Further clarification in the case was being sought, it said in a statement.

Carrying timber reportedly worth $1.8m (£1.1m), the 4,000-tonne Maltese-flagged vessel sailed from Finland and had been scheduled to dock in the Algerian port of Bejaia on 4 August."

Despite the good news of the well being of the ship's crew, there are no answers yet to questions about the mysterious events that unfolded in Swedish waters, far from most reported instances of piracy. The ship was an odd mix. It was Finnish owned with a Russian crew following under a Maltese flag. Both Malta and Finland are small, democratic countries that function in the shadopw of the Arab world and the eastern bloc, respectively.

Was it a mafia type dispute? Was the ship really only carrying lumber? Or was some kink of espionage or intrigue involved? If this is a cloak and dagger affair, it will be of less concern than if it is plain and common piracy. The answers, if any to come out of Russia's investigation will be of pressing interest to all.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bus Travelers Bitten By Greyhound

When I made my reservations with Greyhound three days in advance, I thought that my wife and I had secure seats coming and going. I have shopped in supermarkets and bookstores that could give you a minute to minute inventory on what was in stock. When I saw the bar code on our Greyhound Bus tickets, I thought it was a part of some control system for allocating seats. I was dead wrong.

Going to Pittsburgh from the Port Authority was fine, aside from an almost complete lack of signs directing us. I must concede that all the buses run by Greyhound were clean. Drivers were polite and helpful.

It was coming back from Pittsburgh that our trip fell apart. When we were waiting to board the bus back to New York, an authoritative sounding driver asked passengers bound for New York to raise their hands. My wife and I raised our hands for ourselves and for two of our children who were traveling with us. Our direct bus to New York melted away. We were sent to a bus going to Baltimore.

"Don't worry." The driver assured us. "You'll arrive in New York a half hour earlier than you would have if you had gone direct."

We got on the bus, which had weak but passable air conditioning. There were numerous local stops. We arrived in Baltimore with minutes to spare to catch our bus to New York at 2:45 PM.
The driver told us the bus was full, and that the next bus would leave at 5:30.

My next stop was at the information and ticket sales desk. Even though I already had our tickets, I had to wait behind a slow moving line of people who were buying tickets. I asked if a partial refund was possible, since my sons were staying in Baltimore after all. I was told that tickets are non refundable. I was also told that the only way to get to New York was to wait until 5:30 for the next bus, that there would be no backup bus. I was very dismayed and said, "With this kind of service, I will think twice before traveling with Greyhound again." When I walked away, the lady called out, "Don't think too much." There was not a word of apology for the inconvenience.

At around four o'clock, a bus was announced that was departing for New York City. I quickly folded my newspaper, gathered our bags together and ran to catch the bus. The bus was a Carolina Trailways. The driver did his best to make us comfortable, despite the fact that the air conditioning was broken. He was very apologetic and opened overhead windows so no one would get sick from the heat. He informed us that he would be taking the bus out of service in Philly and putting us on a New York bound bus there. I thanked him for taking good care of us under trying circumstances. We left Philly a little after 6:00 PM. This time, we had air conditioning.

The last bus ride was uneventful. The air conditioning worked. The bus was clean. Our direct route from Pittsburgh ended up having two impromptu transfers. It was clear that despite the detailed itineraries on our tickets, that there was no system of reserving seats. Drivers were polite, although a backup bus should have been ordered in Pittsburgh instead of shoehorning us into buses that were obviously overbooked. The Carolina Trailways driver was classy and considerate. Even if his bus had defective air conditioning, he really worked to keep us comfortable.

Baltimore's main bus station's sole saving grace was outlets for recharging cell phones. Although the station was spotless, the food in vending machines was a poor selection of overpriced junk food. The station could use some restaurants and concession stands. The customer service in Baltimore was the worst. The people at the ticket sales and information desk were indifferent to the discomfort of their customers. I would guess that they were probably accustomed to a steady stream of customers who had experiences similar to mine.

In the future, I will explore other ways to travel before I go by Greyhound Bus. I probably could have gotten bargain airplane tickets or a car rental. Even paying a few dollars more is worth avoiding the aggravation. With all of the concern about the environment, it would be wise to upgrade the awful service that is routine at Greyhound Bus Lines. Unfortunately, most of the people who go on Greyhound Bus Lines tend to be working class people without a lot of economic clout. People like that are easy to shoehorn into overbooked and at times poorly maintained buses.

I have gone many times on Greyhound Bus Lines over the years. I have good memories of good service in years past. On this trip, the quality of service took a nose dive. What a pity.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Warehousing Foster Children In Florida

Its the biggest dirty little secret in modern medicine. psychiatric drugs are a lot cheaper than talking through your problems. Back in the 1950's some antipsychotic drugs such as Thorazine enabled people with intractable mental illnesses to live a semblance of a productive life outside long term institutional care. Drugs like Lithium and Depakote enabled people with bipolar disorder to achieve a leveling of their moods.

There are also times of acute crisis when short term stabilisation can be achieved with antipsychotic drugs. The next logical step should be counseling and exploring lifestyle changes as well as evaluating familial relationships.

Unfortunately there is a big temptation to use drugs as a mainstay of treatment. Once a month with a psychiatrist to tinker with meds and a weekly appointment with a less trained therapist is cheaper. Sometimes, it might be appropriate, but HMO's are already looking for economically determined treatment options.

According to the Palm Beach Post, the most vulnerable and traumatised members of our society are being pumped full of psychotropic drugs. I speak of children in institutional foster care. These are children who have been displaced and traumatised, who have been taken from families that were disfunctional and possibly toxic to begin with, but who now face institutional care. The Palm Beach Post reports as follows.

"Admitting for the first time what critics have claimed for years, state child-welfare authorities say caregivers for children in state custody frequently use powerful mind-altering drugs to manage unruly kids, rather than treat their anger and sadness.

A panel of child-welfare experts, including two top administrators from the state Department of Children & Families, examined the death of a 7-year-old Broward foster child who was on psychotropic medications — without the required consent — when he hanged himself in a Margate home.

The panel's report, expected to be released publicly later this month, says child welfare authorities too often rely on the potent medications to manage abused and neglected children — but fail to offer psychiatric treatment to help them overcome the trauma they suffered.

"Psychotherapeutic medications are often being used to help parents, teachers and other child workers quiet and manage, rather than treat, children,'' the report says. It adds: "We have not clearly articulated the standard of psychiatric care expected for children in state foster care.''

Gabriel Myers hanged himself from a detachable shower hose April 16 at a Broward foster home. He had been in foster care since the previous June, when his mother had been found slumped in her car, surrounded by a stash of narcotics.

After The Miami Herald reported that Gabriel had been given several psychiatric drugs linked by federal regulators to potentially dangerous side effects, including suicide, DCF Secretary George Sheldon appointed a work group to study the care given to the boy, as well as the agency's overall reliance on mind-altering drugs."

The State of Florida should be commended for starting to recognise what has been a dirty secret in foster care. There is a high number of kids in institutional foster care not only in Florida but in New York who are taking large doses of psychotropic drugs, some of which are contraindicated for children. These children have no advocacy teams that are independent of the facility advocating for them. State inspections are perfunctory. There should be a census of children in institutional and private home foster care and an inventory of the drugs they are prescribed. Unfortunately, it is far cheaper for the state to fork over money to residential treatment facilities and to not ask too many questions. This dirty little arrangement works out great for the drug companies, for the residential treatment facilities and for the state. The kids are the ones who get short changed. They almost never have parents to come in and ask inconvenient questions. They don't even have a concept of rights.

It is unspeakably sad that Gabriel Myers ended his own life in despair at such a young age. Unfortunately, it is not surprising.

Geraldo Rivera blew the lid off the horrible conditions in state institutions in New York back in the 1970's with the Willowbrook scandal. Sweeping changes resulted from his investigative work. If anyone looks into residential treatment facilities, the high percentages of drugged children and the high doses of medication to which they are subjected, it should result in a sweeping reevaluation of the status quo. Someone should be meeting with these children and looking into their drugged faces. They should be matching their age, build and weight with the drugs they are receiving.

As sad as the death of Gabriel Myers is, I do not realistically believe that his death will be the last due to psychiatric malpractice in state licenced residential treatment facilities. I would like to be wrong, but the iron curtain of indifference has muffled far to many cries for help. Is anyone listening?

Dumb@$$ Criminal of the Week

A would be armed robber in Wisconsin picked the wrong bar to rob. Alonzo Rucker walked into a bar with a bandana on his face and his hands in his pants, simulating a weapon. According to AOL News, he ended up not only on candid camera but encircled by off duty policemen. It seems that the bar he picked was full of off duty cops. Even as the crisis unfolded, one of the gumshoes at the bar shouted incredulously "You've got to be kidding me"

Rucker claimed that he did not intend to rob the bar, that he simply did not want to be recognised. His hands were jammed in his pants, it seems because he was trying out for the Wisconsin pocket pool championship.

It is always a pleasure when a criminal saves police the trouble of looking for him by delivering him or herself into their custody. There was recently a story of a drunk driver who was so tanked that he drove up to a police station and asked for a room, thinking it was a hotel. He ended up with a free room and a breathalyser test.

I know someone who actually got busted because he dropped his driver's license at the scene of a burglary.

On a far more serious note, my favourite dumb criminal story actually involved a serial killer in Brooklyn who was a suspect in the murder of a woman whose body was found in a vacant lot. Although he was a suspect, the police did not have sufficient evidence to arrest him. They asked for him to voluntarily submit a DNA sample . He refused. The cops had no choice but to let him go. One detective was sharp enough to watch him as he walked out of the precinct. The suspect spit on the sidewalk. The detective scooped up the spit, which had enough blood in it to yield a usable amount of DNA. The DNA matched that found on the scene. The suspect was arrested. Thank G-d for dumb criminals and for smart cops.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Italian Names For Yuppie Food

Whenever I prepare for a trip, I always think about Italian trains. There was always a certain ambiance on the train platform. people stayed by the departing trains until the last minute. One drink that comes to my memory is red wine from a pry off metal topped glass bottle mixed with seltzer.

Here in the US, I find Italian names for food that are nothing like what I remember. Here in America, if you buy a "panini", it is likely be an overpriced little sandwich that will set you back about seven dollars. In Italy, "panini" means "little roll". When it does refer to a sandwich, it is usually a bare bones roll with a single piece of cheese or ham. Even in the train station, it was usually around a dollar.

"Formaggio" in Italy is cheese. In America it starts at ten dollars for twelve ounces. People like to dress it in oversized adjectives. Usually, its sole advantage is having been to places that you haven't. The only time I buy expensive cheese is if it smells so bad that my kids run out of the room. My father did the same thing to me with foul smelling German cheeses. Stinky food is a macho thing. My son gets me back with shmaltz herring . It makes me want to gag.

Prosciutto is just the Italian word for ham. It has none of the snooty connotations that it has in gourmet delis over here.

I have never had a "latte" in America. In Italy, it means "milk". End of story.

I do like to have the feeling of traveling when I shop. I like vegetables with Chinese names that I can't pronounce and coffee from places with sawdust on the floor. I like beer from places I wish I could visit. What I like most is going to ethnic music stores and getting local pop music.

Italy is a beautiful place with vast climatic and linguistic diversity. I am very fond of Italian foods, espresso and wine. What I don't like is when Italian words are put on yuppie foods. Nothing personal But that is why I like to keep a big dirty river between me and Manhattan

Great Italian song from 1973 by Anna Identici

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vatican Speaks Up For Iraq's Christians

Iraqi Christians are in danger of disappearing, and the Vatican has spoken up in their defense. The Catholic News Service reports as follows.

"A leading Vatican official called for greater protection of Iraq's beleaguered Christian minority, saying the disappearance of Christianity from the country would be an enormous religious and cultural loss for everyone.

Archbishop Fernando Filoni, who served as the Vatican's nuncio to Iraq from 2001 to 2006, said it was important that Iraqi Christians stem the widespread emigration of their community. That can only happen if they are given a sound basis for hope in the future, he said.

"The authorities must do everything they can so that Christians are a respected and integral part of the life of the country, even if they are a minority," Archbishop Filoni said in an interview Aug. 11 with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

"The Iraqi government meets regularly with church leaders and in theory is committed to protecting Christians, but "this also has to be translated into concrete facts," he said.

The archbishop pointed to the recent restitution of three church-run schools as an important step in the right direction. The schools, two in Baghdad and one in Kirkuk, will be run by Chaldean Catholic nuns, who managed them before they were nationalized under Saddam Hussein.

"This seems to be an important signal that offers hope and indicates appreciation for the contribution Christians can give to the future of the Iraqi nation," he said.

"Even today, many Muslims remain grateful for the education they received in the Christian schools," he said."

Iraq's Christians are a living link to the pre Islamic past of that country. Although the majority speak Arabic and pray in Aramaic, a small minority actually speaks Aramaic in their daily lives. The Christians of Iraq are divided into Chaldeans, who pledge loyalty to Rome and have their own liturgy and Orthodox Christians of both the Syrian and Armenian Rite. In addition, there are Nestorians, A Christian denomination that was once persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church. All Christians in Iraq were relegated to third class citizenship under successive Islamic governments over the centuries.

There is a tiny minority of Jews, most of whom have migrated to Israel who still speak Aramaic. The Talmud is of course in Aramaic, written in a Hebrew rather than a Syriac alphabet. Assyrian, like Hebrew is a semitic language. The names for its letters are the same as those for the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The five letters in Hebrew that take final forms take final forms in Assyrian as well. The survival of Assyrians in our time is of interest to Jews, who were once exiled in what is today Iraq.

There is only so much knowledge of our collective past that can be derived from archaeology. When a minority survives as a living community, it transmits its historic narrative, folkways and beliefs to following generations. When source of collective memory is lost, the general society loses a context in which to see itself.

It is fortunate that the Roman Catholic Church has finally found its voice in defending Christians in Iraq. It is sad enough when artifacts are destroyed as they have been in Israel and Afghanistan by Muslim fanatics. But when people are destroyed to make way for a history made of lies, the tragedy deepens exponentially.

Heinrich Heine once said ""Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings." Books, artifacts and human beings stand as contradictory witnesses to a past that is inconvenient to those who would shape our future. When you read about burning books and terrorising Christians and other minorities in Iraq, you are witnessing a crime. And what does a criminal do after committing a crime? He gets rid of witnesses.

Below are links to a Dutch documentary about the persecution of Christians in Iraq. It is subtitled. It will be well worth your while to stop the video as often as needed to keep up with the subtitles.

Iraq's persecuted Christians part 1

Iraq's persecuted Christians part 2

Iraq's endangered Christians (English)

Iraq's Christians deserve to live safely in Iraq. If this is not possible, they should be admitted to the US, where they have proven to be among the most grateful of immigrant groups

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Noah's Ark in Modern Times

My son called me up with a joke. It was well worth pulling over to the side of the road to answer my cell phone.

Noah came back to life in modern times. G-d appeared to him and said yet again, that the world was full of iniquity and to build an ark yet again.

"The world is full of iniquity. Build an ark out of gopher wood and board it with your family. Take seven pairs of every kosher species and one pair of every other creature. I will return in six months with a flood that will destroy the earth.

After six months, G-d appeared to Noah. Noah raised his voice to heaven and said, "L-rd, six months is not enough. The city has demanded that I get a building permit. They have issued a cease and desist order demanding I stop construction.

There is an EPA hearing next week . I have to install a waste disposal system within the space you have allotted.

PETA has filed a lawsuit. They don't like the space design for all of the animals. Not only that, they feel that I am discriminating against non kosher animals. My legal bills are astronomical. There is no way I can make your deadline."

"Fear not." said G-d to Noah. "Go to your home in peace. You have obeyed My word. I will not destroy the world with a flood. The government seems to be doing a great job of that already."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Iran Starts Sham Trials For Espionage

Iran has stepped up its efforts at repression within Iran following the June 12 elections widely condemned as fraudulent. A French woman, two employees of the British and French embassies as well as dozens of others have been charged with espionage. They are facing possible death sentences. Reuters News reports as follows.

"An Iranian court on Saturday charged a French woman, two Iranians working for the British and French embassies in Tehran and dozens of others with spying and aiding a Western plot to overthrow the system of clerical rule.

The European Union, France and Britain all condemned the trial. The Swedish EU presidency said in a statement "action against one EU country, citizen or embassy staff, is considered an action against all of the EU."

"This is obviously a show trial directed against the EU," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Reuters.

It was the second mass trial in a week aimed at uprooting the moderate opposition and putting an end to protests that erupted after the disputed June 12 presidential election.

What sort of activity passes for espionage these days in Iran? They are not charged with passing military or nuclear secrets. The defendants are accused of sending verbal accounts, photographs and films on unrest in the streets of Teheran. The fact that British and French embassy workers are included in the roundup is a clear signal to the European Union that the Ahmadinejad regime will use whatever means it feels are necessary to suppress dissent.

The get tough signal to the international community has sparked a strong reaction in EU circles. Reuters continues as follows.

"France renews its demand for the immediate liberation of the young academic, since the accusations against her are baseless," France's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Britain earlier described the trial as an "outrage."

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he had received support from France and from Sweden, which holds the European Union presidency.

"We have reaffirmed our solidarity in the face of this latest Iranian provocation," he said."

The media in America and Europe has done its best to bury the story of the June 12 theft of the Iranian elections. The manner in which the elections and there aftermath were covered was geared to a minuscule attention span. Weight matters like the death of Michael Jackson pushed Iran off the back burner and into the freezer.

But the anger of the Iranian people has not dissipated. What started as a protest against a fraudulent election has deepened. The Iranian people want systemic changes. Iran has complex demographics. only 51% of its 72 million people are Iranian. More than two thirds of its population was born after the Iranian revolution in 1979. There are millions of people whose interpretation of Islam is far milder than that of the leadership. To many people, the idea of morality police handing out tickets for exposed ankles or nail polish. In underdeveloped areas, there is fierce anger at the regime for subsidising warfare in Lebanon while nutrition, roads and schools are neglected within Iran. Whatever the man on the street may think of a nuclear Iran, there is anger that Iran must ship its crude oil abroad in exchange for gasoline instead of being able to produce its own gasoline.

Iran is a deeply conservative country. Even without the compulsion of a theocratic regime, its people do not seek to imitate the west in our approach to entertainment and human relationships. But there is clearly a widespread desire to have an unfettered national dialogue about Iran's future.

It is perhaps fortunate that westerners and European diplomatic interests were dragged into Iran's internal political situation. It is clear that up until now, the hope in Washington and in European capitols was that the civil unrest within Iran would fade away. It is clear now that this will not happen. The All-h to whom Iran's leadership pays lip service is everywhere in Iran. But its theocratic leadership can not lay such a claim to omnipresence. Dissent has spread to such a wide extent as to make efforts to suppress it seem ludicrous.

It was a grave tactical blunder for Iran's leadership to pull the west into its internal difficulties. But in the long run, it will be better for the Iranian people that its bumbling and inept leadership made such a foolish tactical error. It almost seems as though a Greater Hand has covered the eyes of Ahmadinejad.

Despite the decision of our mainstream media to banish Iran to the back pages of the news, events in that troubled country remain compelling to those of us who look beyond the headlines.The Iranian people are not slaves to our political fashions. The deeply felt dissatisfaction with its stagnant and corrupt leadership will continue to erupt and deepen. The future of Iran is of vital importance to the world. Even if we do not care about it, we should. This story is not going to fade. Keep watching.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nigerian Muslim Militant Dead: Christians Fearful

According to The Guardian of the UK, Mohammed Yusuf, leader of Boko Haram (Western Education is Sinful) was shot to death by Nigerian security forces in the aftermath of sectarian violence that has claimed hundreds of lives in recent weeks. It should not be assumed that this means the end of anti christian violence. In addition to the social divisions that gave rise to Boko Haram, there are still those who subscribe to its philosophy of intolerance. Some of its members might want to avenge Mohammed Yusuf's death. Continued vigilance is advisable

The situation in Nigeria for Christians is getting very difficult. Nigeria is about half Muslim and half Christian. The religious divisions tend to follow geographical and tribal divisions. According to the web site "", three Christian ministers have been killed and twenty churches burned to the ground by a Muslim group known as Boko Haram, which translates as "Western education is forbidden." reports as follows on the escalating violence in Nigeria.

"Washington -- International Christian Concern (ICC) has received additional details on attacks by Islamic extremists against Christians and churches in Maiduguri, Nigeria. ICC first reported this story on July 29 ("Islamic Extremists Kill Pastor, Raze Churches in Nigeria"). We have now learned that the Islamists killed 12 Christians, including three pastors, and razed twenty churches.

Sabo Yakubu, pastor of a Church of Christ congregation in Nigeria, Rev. Sylvester O. Akpan, pastor with National Evangelical Mission, and Rev. George Orji, pastor with Good News of Christ Church, were killed by members of an Islamic extremist group known as Boko Haram (which means "education is prohibited"). The group opposes Western education and fights to impose Sharia law throughout Nigeria, including areas that are majority Christian.

The Islamists also razed churches including: Deeper Life Bible Church, St Joseph's Catholic Church, St. Michael's Catholic Church, Church of the Brethren, Church of Christ in Nigeria, the National Evangelical Mission, Life Church, the Charismatic Revival Ministries Watchman (Lord's Chosen), Elijah Apostolic Church, the Good News of Christ Church, and the Celestial Church of Christ.

The violent attacks carried out by Boko Haram were originally directed against government buildings. The attacks on churches and Christian clergy is an escalation and deepening of the conflict in Nigeria.

The goal of Boko Haram is the imposition of Shaaria law not only in predominantly Muslim parts of Nigeria but in Christian areas as well.

ICC (International Christian Concern) has appealed to concerned people the world. It has provided an article with background and things you can do to help besieged Christians in Nigeria. The article has links to a petition that can be signed on line or on paper.

Twelve thousand Nigerians have died and thousands made homeless in sectarian violence in Nigeria since 1999. The latest increase in civil strife in Africa's largest country should concern us all.

There is no doubt that there is help from Islamic extremists abroad going to Boko Haram in Nigeria. Nigeria must not fall victim to American and Western apathy. Make your voices heard. Nigeria's leaders must know that the world is watching.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Democrats Lose Faith in the People

I'm getting dizzy from all the spin as our nation debates health care. When President Obama or Nancy Pelosi gets a tear jerker letter that supports their positions on health care and taxes, they are "reading the mood of the people" or "tapping into the popular mood."

But if someone speaks against Obamacare, and asks specific questions about all its fine print, then they are "astroturf lobbyists." A really good website called "The Bookworm Room" compiled some of the most egregious examples of the mind numbing hypocrisy that has become commonplace in our day to day political discourse.

Henry Reid will decide whether or not you are a "grass roots activist" or something subversive. Here is what he will say if you don't pass his test.

“In spite of the loud, shrill voices trying to interrupt town hall meetings and just throwing a monkey wrench into everything, we’re going to continue to be positive and work hard.”

What ever happened to at least listening to your constituents?

Lloyd Doggett , a Democratic Congressman of Texas had choice words for constituents who opposed Obamacare.

"This notion of a grass-roots campaign is totally and completely phony. The Republican Party has coordinated this apparent outrage and stirred it up."

What ever happened to "community organising"? Wasn't Obama a community organiser?

The Democratic National Committee is using harsh language to vilify opponents to Obamacare. Consider the following statement from Brad Woodhouse.

"The Republicans and their allied groups - desperate after losing two consecutive elections and every major policy fight on Capitol Hill - are inciting angry mobs of a small number of rabid right wing extremists funded by K Street Lobbyists to disrupt thoughtful discussions about the future of health care in America taking place in Congressional Districts across the country."

That sound pretty harsh to me. It seems that there are a lot of different groups in the country. There are the uninsured. There are people with bare bones policies and people who are very well insured. It is entirely reasonable for people with their own concerns to express an opinion about proposed legislation that will affect them.

There are certain code words that have crept into our political discourse. Whenever an issue threatens to derail a Democrat's agenda, it is a "distraction".

When Obama says we need a "national dialogue " about race or any other subject, what he really means is that he wants to lecture you.

According to The Statesman, LLoyd Doggett stated when asked at a town meeting if he would support Obamacare even if his constituents opposed it said that he would oppose it. So much for representative democracy. I wonder how many of his constituents will remember that the next time he is up for reelection?

But don't worry. Consider the following quote in which the White House on its web site asks you to spy on your neighbours.

"There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to"

Isn't it nice to know that even if your government is not listening to you that they are at least watching you?

I once read a quote from a communist dissident who said, "When the government loses faith in the people, it is time to dissolve the people and elect another". It is this looking glass logic that seems to power the thinking of our elected representatives. Perhaps they need to be reminded just who elects who.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rahm Emanuel Gets a Beat Down

President Obama brought one of his best friends from Chicago with him to Washington DC. Rahm Emanuel is infamous for his filthy mouth and his take no prisoners style. The following anecdotes from Obama speeches give insight into Rahm Emanuel's character and personality. It is said that they contain more than a grain of truth. The speech excerpts come from an article by Roger Simon. They read as follows.

"At the Radio-Television News Directors Association dinner last week, Obama said: “In Egypt, we had the opportunity to tour the pyramids. And by now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures of Rahm on that camel. I admit, I was a little nervous about the whole situation. I said at the time, ‘This is a wild animal known to bite, kick and spit. And who knows what the camel could do?’”

At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last month on the day before Mother’s Day, Obama said: “This is a tough holiday for Rahm Emanuel because he’s not used to saying the word ‘day’ after ‘mother.’”

In 2005, at a roast to raise money for Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, then-newly elected Sen. Obama said of Emanuel: “I think, as many of you were aware, he was working at a deli, [had an] accident with a meat slicing machine, he lost part of his middle finger, and as a result of this, this rendered him practically mute.”

It seems that the chuckles are fading away in Washington. Rahm Emanuel has been doing some of his legendary arm twisting, attempting to mute criticism of Barack Obama's stimulus package. With a lifetime of getting paid for doing what he does best, perhaps Rahm Emanuel was surprised, but there is a stink brewing in Washington over his not so veiled threats to cut money from state budgets of those who oppose Obama's economic programs.

The Web Site for the Committe on Oversight and Government Reform had a lot to say about Rahm Emanuel's brass knuckles style of persuasion. Darrell Issa (R) CA is quoted as follows on the Committee web site.

WASHINGTON. D.C. – Following reports that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been orchestrating an effort to intimidate members of Congress and Governors who raise legitimate concerns regarding the effectiveness of the stimulus, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent a letter to Emanuel saying “While this type of scare tactic may work In Chicago, it will not work to intimidate me or other Members of the United States Congress.”
“I and others have dared to bring these facts to the attention of President Obama, the Congress and the American people,” Issa wrote. “You’ve unfortunately reacted by once again resorting to the playbook of the Chicago political machine.”
Last month, Politico reported that Emanuel had “launched a coordinated effort to jam” Senator Kyl and other Administration critics… “[A]fter seeing Kyl and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) again paint the legislation as a failure on Sunday talk shows, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel directed that the letters from the Cabinet secretaries be sent to [Governor] Brewer, according to two administration officials.”
Issa noted, “The fact that the letters were coordinated by you to maximize the level of intimidation is supported by the timing, structure, and content of each letter. Not only were the four letters all sent the day following Senator Kyl’s remarks, but they were also remarkably similar in tone and sentence structure.”

What did the letters say that was so upsetting to Issa? The following is an excerpt from a letter sent by Ray Hood to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

On Sunday, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl publicly questioned whether the stimulus is working and stated that he wants to cancel projects that aren’t presently underway. I believe the stimulus has been very effective in creating job opportunities throughout the country. However, if you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to your state, as Senator Kyl suggests, please let me know [emphasis added].

Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior chimed in at the same time with a similarly worded letter. It reads as follows.

Some key Republican leaders in Congress have publicly questioned whether the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is working and suggested cancelling all projects that are not currently in progress. I believe they are wrong. The stimulus funds provided through the Recovery Act are a very effective way to create job opportunities throughout the Country. However, if you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to Arizona, please let me know [emphasis added].

The Rahm Emanuel bare knuckles style of dealing with the Republican opposition is turning a lot of people off. Rahm Emanuel and his handlers will ultimately have to face the American people. Regardless of the trust placed in Obama by the American electorate, his ideas about the economy face determined and well reasoned opposition. The ideas of fiscal responsibility and helping the economy heal itself have bipartisan support. The difficult times we are coping with should be faced by the American people as a united front. The strength and resonance of ideas should rule, and not the party label. Chicago (or New York) style arm twisting has no place in discussions this critical to our nation's funeral.

My personal opinion is that a diminished Democratic plurality would force the proponents of fiscal irresponsibility to listen to reason. This is what arm twisting is meant to be in a democratic society. Rahm Emanuel has shown us with unadorned frankness what sort of America Obama seeks to create. The Democrats deserve credit. They are willing to fight hard for the sort of America they want. What about the GOP. Are they up for the fight?