Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Embarassed Note to My Readers

The good news is that I am just a blogger and not your rabbi. The bad news is that I goofed in the previous posting. Although I correctly named it as parshas Bo, circuitous route out of Egypt and the battle against Amalek belong to this week's parsha, which is Beshalach. My family got a chuckle out of my confusion.

Any of my readers for whom I am the sole connection to Judaism might think that Pharaoh plea bargained the ten plagues down to seven in exchange for the Jews leaving Egypt without great wealth .

"OK we won't chase you out of Egypt. Pharaoh will give everyone a stimulus package check. OK?"

No it didn't happen that way.

Neither did Condoleeza Rice or Henry Kissinger broker a peace agreement to stop the "cycle of violence". The UN did not for that matter send troops to guard the border of Goshen with the rest of Egypt as a compromise alternative to leaving Egypt.

The plain truth of the matter is that I goofed. I take Torah seriously enough to call attention to my own mistake when that happens. I don't want to have anyone err on my account, although my site meter paints a humbling picture of the size of my readership.

When I think of Moshe going back to Pharaoh ten times to get permission to emigrate it is kind of like "deja vu all over again" as Yogi Berra used to say.

How many times does Israel make "painful concessions" after showing good faith to sworn enemies who have no intention of keeping their word? The refrain is not "Let my people go." but "Leave us alone." And this plea was not made once but many times.

Jews chased not only from Europe but from Arab lands are pounded with rockets and murdered in school. They are bombed by airplane and murdered with bare hands.

Meanwhile the Arab street rejoices at every new slaughter.

Finally when we fight back, the world "gets religion" and decides to stop the "cycle of violence, even though we risk our own lives to spare innocent civilians and try to pinpoint armed combatants.

From "Let my people go."to "Leave my people alone" the same pattern repeats itself. Moshe and the Jewish people would have been happy to leave after one or two plagues with a handshake an no severance pay. The choice was not ours. Thousands of years later, it is still the same story.

Some of the events today seem to be open miracles. In terms of body count, Israel is a low level conflict. From 1998 to the present, the Congo has had over five million deaths. Algeria has had over 150,000 deaths in the same time frame. If you throw in Sierra Leone, Algeria and Sudan and all of the other wars in Africa, you have a body count that outstrips the combined Arab Jewish body count by about 1000 to one. It defies reason and logic that a tiny sliver of land commands such attention and is judged so differently from other countries. I see the raw material from which a holy book will yet be written. I see a Greater Hand at work.

I apologise to my readers for messing up on the parsha post. It's embarassing, kind of like walking down Thirteenth Avenue with your fly down. Some people are saying that Israel is going to face some rough times in the near future. I hope they are wrong. If they are right, I hope G-d will tear those pages out of His book. Enough already.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Personal Thoughts about Parshas Bo

At the beginning of this week's parsha, the Jews took a circuitous route out of Egypt. It is noted that this lessened the likelihood of a faint hearted return to Egypt. In looking back on my own life, it seems that the long and winding road made me appreciate success all the more. Sometimes I owe a lesson in life well learned to a struggle connected with it. My difficulties with learning in particular made it easy for me to have empathy with my children. Being behaviorally difficult and having problems with learning was irreplaceable training for parenthood.

At the end of the parsha was an episode which troubled me greatly for years. In it, Moshe held up his hands during the battle with Amelek. When he did so, thebattle went well for bnei Yisrael. When his strength flagged and his hands lowered, then Amelek made gains in battle . The Jews noted this and brought a rock upon which Moshe rested his harms in an upright position. When he did this, the tide in battle turned towards bnei Yisrael.

For years I found this troubling. How could Moshe holding his hands up override all of the other considerations in battle. And conversely, how could his hands becoming heavy turn the tide against even the most valiant efforts?

A close examination of this episode seems to harmonise reliance upon the tsadik, the holy leader of the generation and focusing upon collective and individual good deeds.

We have seen in modern history that a leader can have a transformative effect upon society. Unfortunately, most examples of this phenomenon, such as Hitler and Stalin are negative. Our belief in the messianic redemption is a belief in a leader who will brigng out the good in humanity as openly as wickedness was brought out in the past.

I can not believe that the rock upon which Moshe rested his arms was only a rock. On the literal level, when it was moved, it became a functional object. The solution to the problem came from Moshe's aides. It is not recorded that Moshe asked for support.

What is critical is the theme that the strengths of the leader must be supplemented. The deeds of the people and the institutions guided by the Torah brought down by the leader of the generation are critical. They form the foundation upon which the intervention of the tsadik rests.
The people need the focus and guidance provided by a leader. A leader's greatness is ultimately derived from the people he leads. A nation that passively waits for a miracle worker to deliver them will eventually come to worship the leader and forget about G-d. The relation between the Jewish nation and the tsadik keeps both sides humble and gives G-d an opening through which to shine.

We are a generation of many leaders. In the past, this was a curse, as it seems to be today. The greatest miracle of this generation seems to be two fold, in which G-d saves us from ruthless enemies and from ourselves. This seems to be a recurring theme in Israel's wars and conflicts. Yet again we are heeding advice to have a ceasefire. This idea comes from superpowers who are themselves intimidated and fearful.

May it be G-d's will that Moshiach come speedily in a manner that extinguishes all doubt of his identity. May Moshiach and the Jewish people speedily bring perfection and harmony to a suffering world.

Good Shabbos

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shoe Thrown at Bush Gets its Own Statue in Sadaam Hussein's Home Town: My Comments

I did not make this story up. A statue has been erected in Sadaam Hussein's home town of the shoe thrown at President Bush during his visit to that country towards the end of his presidency.

The Vos Iz Neias web site reports on the footnote to history as follows.

"Tikrit, Iraq - A statue of the shoe hurled at former US President George W Bush has been unveiled in Iraq.Mr Bush had to duck during a press conference in Baghdad when journalist Muntadhar al Zeidi threw his size nines in anger.

Footage of the incident spread around the world, prompting rallies in the Arab world and political satire in the US and UK.

Artist Laith al Amari said his work was in honour of the pride of the Iraqi people.

It is inscribed with a poem which pays tribute to the missile-throwing journalist.

Al Zeidi himself is still awaiting trial for "assault" against a foreign leader.

He reportedly intends to apply for political asylum in Switzerland, after claiming he was beaten up in custody."


I see in the statue by Laith al Amari the start of a new religion. Let's call it The Church of Hope and Change. Its founder Sheikh Zukhini Parma Janna explais it as follows

Its adherents pray five times a day. They pray with their backs turned to the West.Some will face Mecca, some will face Pyongyang. Others may even face Havana. What is important is that they not face West.

The holy emblem of the CHC will be an American flag with fifty seven stars in rainbow colours. It will not be flown or displayed to avoid offending adherents of other faiths.

The other sacred emblem of the CHC will be a wheel. This is symbolic of the belief that all religions are equal, that they all lead to truth. The wheel must squeak loudly. It must also be greased regularly, but never with transfats.

Marriage is sacred according to the CHC. Since it affirms a oneness with the universe, its participants must be from the animal, mineral or vegetative kingdom. Humans are not considered to be separate from the animal kingdom. If someone for instance gets married to a tree, the two partners must be considered equal. The only exception to this reverence for all life is for abortion which is a sacrament in the CHC faith.

Second hand smoke is prohibited in the CHC church. The only exceptions are for marijuana and the American flag.

The CHC believes in freedom of religion. Any faith however that prohibits any practice such as stealing or murder is infringing upon the freedom of its adherents since no morality is absolute. Since only the CHC believes in the absolute equality of all faiths, it is therefore the only true faith. Therefore all other faiths are false and are banned. The only exception to this is radical Muslims, because they get really really mad and they might cut off our heads.

The CHC practices meditation. Its mantra is Ummm....UMMM..... Hmmmm... does it lead to knowledge. Does it bring decisive enlightenment? Well yes and no...

The holy city of Tikrit, birthplace of Sadaam Hussein has a holy statue of the shoe that was thrown at warmonger President Bush by the holy mystic Muntadhar al Zeidi. All members of the Church of Hope and Change are expected to make a pilgrimage to see the holy statue and bow down to it. This is the only place where believers may face west because the shoe symbolises contempt for it.

The Church of Hope and Change may seem absurd to the majority of readers. Is it any less ridiculous than other man made faiths that enshrine the prejudice and vices of its adherents in the garb of faith ?Even a legitimate faith can be transformed into idolatry by selective application of its principles. Even tolerance and pluralism can take on a dogmatism of their own.

I feel that leftist ideology has put on religious garb Jeremiah Wright was the most recent example to acieve prominence. On the Jewish side is Michael Lerner of the Tikkun movement who though he is not hate driven is still propelled by political fashion.

The Church of Hope and Change is a caricature, but I feel that it represents a trend of western self abasement that is likely to become prominent during the Obama Presidency. The shoe in Tikrit is not yet an object of worship, but the concept behind it exerts a powerful sway over too many people. While I wish Obama success for the sake of our country, I fear that he is vulnerable to this intellectual pitfall. I hope that I am wrong.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Persecution of Muslims by Muslims

The commitment in Muslim countries to religious freedom lags far behind that in western countries today. In some conversion from Islam is punishable by death. Even when they were defending Saudi Arabia from invasion, American soldiers were not allowed to openly display signs of adherence to Christianity or any other non Muslim faith.

Even in Turkey, which is still a secular republic, those who wish to do simple repairs on a church are discouraged with bureaucratic obstacles. In Pakistan and in Egypt, there is a serious problem with Christian girls being kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam.

Like Christianity, Islam has theological divisions. The most widely known of these is the division between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. More than a few times, religious divisions within the Islamic world have led to bloodshed. it has been a bitter complaint if Shiite Muslims that Sunni Islam is exclusive in the way that it wields its power over the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina that is expected of every Muslim. So oppressive is this monopoly that Shiites coming to Saudi Arabia have had their Korans taken away.

There have been suicide bombings in mosques by members of rival sects who believe them to be heretical. A Saudi citizen who converts from Sunni to Shia is liable to the death penalty for apostasy.

A critical approach to understanding the world is to approach it with eyes wide open. One should be guided by the past yet live in the present. There is an attitude that has manifested itself in the context of different theologies that all is permitted to save the eternal soul, that the worst atrocities can be justified by the "will of God".

In 1858, Edgardo Mortara , a Jewish child was kidnapped by the Papal police in Bologna, which was in the Papal States, which was at the time an autocratic theocracy. Despite the pleas of the world, he was taken by the Catholic church to be raised personally by Pope Pius the ninth as a Catholic because a maid had secretly baptised him.

The Huguenots are a few of many Christians persecuted by other Christians for their faith. The Catholic church did not engage them in dialogue. It slaughtered them by the thousands,

Martin Luther was in addition to being the founder of German protestantism an author of some of the vilest anti Jewish agitational literature, most famously, "The Jews and Their Lies"'
which I have quoted briefly below



"I had made up my mind to write no more either about the Jews or against them. But since I learned that these miserable and accursed people do not cease to lure to themselves even us, that is, the Christians, I have published this little book, so that I might be found among those who opposed such poisonous activities of the Jews who warned the Christians to be on their guard against them. I would not have believed that a Christian could be duped by the Jews into taking their exile and wretchedness upon himself. However, the devil is the god of the world, and wherever God's word is absent he has an easy task, not only with the weak but also with the strong. May God help us. Amen.

***

He did not call them Abraham's children, but a "brood of vipers" [Matt. 3:7]. Oh, that was too insulting for the noble blood and race of Israel, and they declared, "He has a demon' [Matt 11:18]. Our Lord also calls them a "brood of vipers"; furthermore in John 8 [:39,44] he states: "If you were Abraham's children ye would do what Abraham did.... You are of your father the devil. It was intolerable to them to hear that they were not Abraham's but the devil's children, nor can they bear to hear this today."

Lest Luther's words be dismissed as the blindness of fis generation, it should be noted that Kristallnacht was dedicated by the Nazis to his memory.

It would be the height of folly to avert our eyes from the present day in which Islamic Jew hatred is the most visible. Jews and Christians who are being murdered and persecuted by them have a right and a duty to defend themselves by all means, including military ones.

It is worth noting however that the malignant concept that all is permissable against men for the sake of God is a double edged sword that has felled Muslims at the hand of other Muslims. Stuffing words into the mouth of a God who is silent is in our time the most popular sort of blasphemy.

The Ahmediya sect of Islam elicits fierce controversy among Muslims Across the Islamic world, in Indonesia, Pakistan and beyond, its followers have been murdered and its houses of worship destroyed. The Wikipedia article below summarises the human rights situation of Ahmediya in Islamic countries in part as follows. ThePersecution.org provides case specific information as well that might have been left out of the Wikipedea article.

Pakistan

"In Pakistan, parliament has declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. In 1974, the government of Pakistan amended its constitution to define a Muslim “as a person who believes in the finality of the Prophet Muhammad”.[36] Due to this strong clash of beliefs, Ahmadis have been the target of many attacks led by various religious groups.[50] As a result of the cultural implications of the laws and constitutional amendments regarding Ahmadis in Pakistan, persecution and hate-related incidents are constantly reported from different parts of the country. All religious seminaries and madrasahs in Pakistan, belonging to different sects of Islam have prescribed essential reading materials specifically targeted at refuting Ahmadiyya beliefs.[51] In a recent survey in Pakistan, pupils in private schools of Pakistan expressed their opinions on religious tolerance in the country. The figures assembled in the study reflect that even in the educated classes of Pakistan, Ahmadis are considered to be the least deserving minority in terms of equal opportunities and civil rights. In the same study, the teachers in these elite schools showed even lower amount of tolerance towards Ahmadis than their pupils.[52]"

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, fundamentalist Islamic groups have demanded that Ahmadiyyas be declared “officially” as kafirs. Ahmadiyyas have become a persecuted group, targeted via protests and acts of violence. According to Amnesty International, followers have been subject to “house arrest”, and several have been killed. In late 2003, several large violent marches, lead by Moulana Moahmud Hossain Mumtazi, were directed to occupy an Ahmadiyya mosque. In 2004, all Ahmadiyya publications were banned.[53]

Indonesia

In 2008, many Muslims in Indonesia protested against the Ahmadiyya Movement. With violence and large demonstrations, these religious conservatives put pressure on the government to monitor, and harass the Ahmadiyya community in Indonesia.[citation needed] Many conservative Islamic groups called for an outright ban on Ahmadiyya.[citation needed] In June 2008, a law was passed to curtail “proselytizing” by Ahmadiyya members.[54] An Ahmadiyya mosque was burned.[55] Human rights groups objected to the restrictions on religious freedom.

It should be noted that the situation of Shiites living as a minority in countries with a Sunni majority has been marred by persecution and even suicide bombings. In Iran, mistreatment of ethnic minorities has been the dominant trend of which religious intolerance is in the case of Sunnis simply a subset.

The recurring theme of religious tolerance that comes up in discussions of Muslim behavior is not a theme unique to Western thinking. In ages past, it was the Muslim world that sheltered Christendom's refugees. It must be noted today that the self worship that dresses itself in the garb of Islamic piety has claimed a body count in the Islamic world that is quite high. The fight for religious tolerance in Muslim countries and now even in Europe is one that benefits members of all faiths. In the clash of political values that is occurring today, we must not be confused by the garb of the combatants. Political and religious freedom concerns everyone.


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The following videos deal with anti Ahmediya persecution and a suicide bombing of a Shiite mosque. In the latter is disturbing material Viewer discretion is advised.





Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thoughts About Pope Benedict, Richard Williamson and Interfaith Dialogue

After Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin met in Washington, monitors of Arab media pointed out the vast difference between statements in English and those directed at an Arab audience. The differences were far to great to be attributed to a problem in translation. It was outright duplicity.

Much has been made of Pope Benedict's act of rehabilitation, in which he revoked the excommunication of four right wing Catholic bishops. The most prominent of them, Richard Williamson has been most noted for his open support for and promotion of holocaust revisionism. There has been a chorus of condemnation of Pope Benedict, not only for Richardson's readmission to the Catholic Church, but also for his renewed use of a Good Friday service in which a prayer for the conversion of Jews is said.

I believe that a true enemy is better than a false friend. When the church said they wanted to convert us, then Jews were on guard. I feel that the renunciation of open conversion efforts was a change of approach rather than a change of objective.

I remember when Pope John Paul the Second visited Austria at a time when war crimes allegations were swirling around Kurt Waldheim, who became Chancellor of Austria. There was a photograph of Kurt Waldheim with a his mouth open and tongue out receiving communion from the Pope.

I think as little as possible of my Catholic religious instruction from six years of Catholic school. But when I saw that picture, I flashed back to my fourth grade teacher, who told us "Anyone who has committed a mortal sin must go to confession and receive absolution from a priest. Anyone who takes communion without having done so has committed a mortal sin.'

What I saw in the picture of Kurt Waldheim receiving communion was a public declaration by the Pope without saying a word was that Waldheim was absolved of any sins he might have committed.

The Catholic church can be very decisive when it wants to be. There was a Catholic priest in Massachusetts named Robert Drinan who was elected to congress in 1970. In 1980, he stepped down after being told directly by the Pope that a priest could not be involved in politics.

This stands in stark contrast to Josef Tiso, who was a Catholic priest when he served as the President of the Nazi puppet state of Slovakia, presiding over the deportation of Slovakian Jewry.

In the 1930's Father Charles Coughlin became one of the first mega preachers with his anti Jewish and pro fascist nationwide radio broadcasts. The church chose not to silence him.

What is most disturbing is the failure of the Catholic Church to transcend local ethnic hatreds and tame them. To be fair, this criticism applies to other Christian denominations as well who in Rwanda took part in the genocide in that country in 1994.



In Croatia during World War Two, the Catholic clergy participated actively in the crimes of the Nazi puppet state, through the Croatian equivalent of the Storm Troopers, the Ustasha. Many Serbian Christians in Croatian territory were murdered or forcibly converted to Catholicism.

In Israel, Arab Catholic clergy work hand in glove with political groups who seek to destroy Israel. The Catholic church tends to co opt local beliefs and practices and to blend in. What a Catholic bishop says in New York might differ vastly from the words of a Catholic prelate in Damascus.

There are many good individuals who attend Catholic churches. There are causes that believers of all faiths should support. Those who want to send their children to religious schools, whether Jewish or Christian and benefit from the school taxes they must pay should find common cause together.

Abortion should unite Christian and Jewish believers. Modest fashion, music and films can and should be made for the use of people of all faiths.

Jewish Christian collaboration should be on specific issues. It should be a practical united effort. We might be in such an alliance for our reasons and they for theirs. That is fine. If good will comes of such united efforts, that is even better.

It is foolish for us to lie to ourselves about the Catholic Church . It is pitiful for us to ask them to lie to us about their past and current intentions. It is far more dignified to defend politically issues of common concern to Jew and gentile and to defend our Holy Land with G-d's help and by force of arms.

It is with pained sadness that I present the videos with this posting . One video is about the Catholic Church in Nazi Croatia. The other is a video of an interview with a chromosomal human named Richard Williamson, the Catholic priest recently readmitted to the Catholic Church who denies the murder of six million Jews in World War Two. I juxtapose the two videos to remind the reader that there are Serbian Christians who also were murdered whose deaths Williamson would undoubtedly love to deny. I can not drink enough slivowitz to forget about the crimes committed with the help and blessings of Catholic clergy during World War Two. Forgetting these crimes when sober is impossible. I can not understand why anyone would even try.

I just read a story of a rabbinical court in Israel on Israel Jewish News about a rabbinical court in Israel that retroactively annulled a conversion of a man converted as an infant. It is only one of many anecdotes of chaotic fighting between rival Jewish groups and the unfortunate people caught in the middle of such discord.

Jews are trying to make peace with the Arab world. We are having an ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church. I have a simpler suggestion. Let's have peace talks with each other.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts About Petty Annoyances,Crime and Terrorism

A close family member had their car stolen last night. Most cars cost a few thousand to replace. It is a major headache to file an insurance claim and to get a new vehicle. In a lot of places, car theft is a big yawn. It's just not taken seriously. The impact on people's lives merits that it be considered a high priority felony.

I would like to market a new product called Blo Jak. Unlike the similarly named product that emits a signal to police, Blo Jak would give an ear shattering warning blast over hidden speakers in the car. If that fails to drive the car thieves from the car, Blo Jak would then detonate a concussion grenade which would leave the vehicle intact but cause a blain concussion and other internal injuries to the thief or thieves. Unfortunately, our legal system does not permit such creative defense of personal property.

A friend of mine worked in a factory where the workers stored their lunches in a refrigerator. My friend used to have a seven ounce bottle of beer for lunch, which was fine with the boss. Unfortunately, there was an elusive beer thief. Several times, my friend lost his beer. One day, he opened the bottle and replaced the beer with a brew that he had filtered through his kidneys beforehand. There was no beer thefts after that.

One of my children was in Manhattan on a street corner where the Israelites were preaching. The Israelites are a group of Black supremacists who say that they are the real Jews and that Jews are really children of Satan. It is very common for them to shout verbal abuse at Orthodox Jews and at racially mixed couples. Arguing with them is counterproductive, because it draws in an audience. My son went up to one of them and asked for directions to Herald Square. The guy was shocked. He started screaming at my son about being a white devil. My son repeated his question. The audience looked at the guy like he was nuts. An African American onlooker scolded the guy for being paranoid and for being prejudiced. The Israelite preacher was locked into confrontation mood. When my son asked him a neutral, non confrontational question, he couldn't handle it.

I made an interesting discovery about the Witnesses. Some people complain that they can't get rid of them. That is because they didn't use the Magdeburger Joe method. The method works as follows.

1) Position yourself firmly in the doorway. Do NOT let the missionaries in. This puts you at a logistical advantage.

2)Greet them warmly. Tell them that you are glad that they came, though your time is limited.

3) Seize the offensive ground. You are now the preacher. I launch into a talk about the Seven Noahide Laws. I am friendly yet clearly take the position that they are in need of enlightenment.

4) I use the same line they use on Jews. "At least you worship one G-d. But you are missing a lot of information."

5) They are expecting someone who is immersed in worldly thoughts, someone who will listen. It doesn't even matter so much what you say. They are used to doing all the talking.

6) Panhandlers and true believers always give each other plenty of space. They both work a territory. They are both trying to convert the world or get as much money as they can from it. If you come across as a true believer in soul harvesting mode, they will back off.

I have used this method and invariably within ten minutes they say, "It's been real nice talking with you. But we have to go." By the time they get around to saying this I am pumped up, preaching the Noahide truth. I see in their faces the same desire to get away that I had when I opened the door to them. It's amazing how little salesmanship and persuasion has to do with logic and how much it has to do with body language and speech patterns.

One time, someone tried to sell me a "genuine"Rolex watch for twenty dollars. I told him "I can't afford a real watch. Show me a fake Rolex and I 'll buy it.

Some people are bothered by pan handlers, particularly if they lie. I disagree. When I go for a job, I might experience a dozen rejections. Once I get hired, that is the end of rejection. Pan handlers experience rejection dozens of times each day. This is far more emotionally draining than regular work. If they are lying, it is far more emotionally strenuous.

There is a mitzvah to give charity. It is said that if the recipient is faking, that you don't get the mitzvah. I am concerned about something else. Sometimes I am in an angry, begrudging mood. Sometimes a pan handler annoys me and I realise there is a negativity in me that needs to be tamed. Even if I have not fulfilled any mitzvah, if I use a chance encounter to subdue negative emotions, I have turned it into something positive.

I am more than a little concerned about President Obama sending a signal about criminal behavior by closing the Guantanamo detention facility. Already they have let go some guys who it turns out were Al Qaeda big shots.

According to the New York Post there is already a resurgence of petty crime that is affecting business. The Post reports as follows.

"Overstretched cops are struggling to combat petty crime, according to police sources - resulting in an easing of enforcement that's taking Manhattan down fast, angry New Yorkers told The Post.

"People tell me they're scared to come here," said Greg Agnew, owner of the East Bay Diner on First Avenue at 29th Street. "Guys are hanging out in the street, doing things they're not supposed to be doing, loitering. They cause fights. They urinate on the floor, There's drug use."

Over four days this month, Post reporters watched as large gangs of men loitered around-the-clock outside the 30th Street Men's Shelter on the grounds of Bellevue Hospital.

"We're scared to go outside," said Annie Samuel, 55, a hospital nurse. "When we go home, we always travel in groups."

Anyone who has had a substitute teacher knows the psychology of how the substitute is tested. First the class whispers. Then they talk. Next comes getting out of one's seat. By the end of class it is a free for all and the teacher can't even be heard.

Street crime works the same way. It starts with little offenses against decorum such as graffiti tags and drinking in public. When it is observed that there is no reaction then more blatant violations of law occur. Smoking weed on the street is followed up with selling it. Aggressive panhandling ("Just a dollar? You cheap !@#$ing Jew!) leads to actual robbery. I hope I am wrong but Barack Obama's early measures in office remind me a lot more of some of my more ill fated substitute teachers than a decisive leader. I do not believe that a bad economy makes a resurgence of crime inevitable. What is far more problematic is bad policing, whether it is local or global.

Poverty has a lot more to do with how you live than what you have. The statistics are going to paint a sobering picture for some time. Whether or not our poverty is social as well as economic is not decided on Wall Street or in Washington. Our true well being is largely up to us. The peaceful years in which crime rates plummeted showed us the immeasurable value of peaceful streets and of the rebirth of trust between strangers. We must not settle for a resurgence of crime, whether it is street thugs or terrorists. We must settle for nothing less than the high standards of peace in the streets to which we have become accustomed. If our leaders are dozing off, it is better for us to awaken them than for our enemies to do so.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Announcement to Readers Regarding Free Speech; A Call to Fellow Bloggers

As of Friday, January 23, I instituted a policy regarding free speech issues. Any time I find a report of someone being jailed or prosecuted for using the right of political free speech, I will reserve the right to print the offending material or to link to it. I will in fact seek to do so. I am hoping that other bloggers will follow my example. My logic is as follows.

If "offensive speech" is disseminated more widely in response to attacks and threats, it will serve as a powerful disincentive to silence dissent. I do not object to rebuttal articles and videos. To the contrary, this response to that which gives offense contributes to the robustness of free speech.

I make a distinction between pornography and political discussion. It is interesting that the tolerance for pornography has increased as of late while political discourse has been riddled with taboos. This is itself a topic for discussion.

More troubling to me is the issue of holocaust denial and spreading disinformation about an ethnic group to create hatred. I have come to the carefully deliberated opinion that the cure for disinformation is information. People like David Irving who deny the holocaust should in my opinion be swarmed in cyberspace with information and thereby shamed into silence. It is neither possible nor effective to silence such individuals.

Most disturbing to me is speech which is direct incitement. In Rwanda in 1994, radio announcers used to directly coordinate the genocide of the Tutsi tribe with on air logistical support and information to extermination squads. They interspersed this with open incitement. The only free speech such chromosomal humans have is the last words they utter in front of a firing squad.

I hope my fellow blogger will join me in defending free speech by disseminating materials that are under attack. When our governments abdicate their responsibility. We are the last line of defense. We dare not surrender.

http://www.rudistettner.com/2009/01/free-geert-wilders-free-speech-in.html

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pro Life Pro Labour Pro Feminist: Any Questions?

Warning: Video at the bottom of this posting contains disturbing footage. Parental discretion advised.

The term "pro choice" has such an antiseptic sound to it. Does it mean I like fancy steak? Or does it mean support a wide array of political alternatives? Let's cut to the chase. It means that you want abortion to be legal. It does not mean that you should have the freedom to educate your children in private religious schools unless you are willing to pay tuition on top of your taxes. Are abortion rights central to women's rights? Feminists for Life makes a persuasive case to the contrary on their web site.

'The feminist movement was born more than two hundred years ago when Mary Wollstonecraft wrote "A Vindication of the Rights of Women." After decrying the sexual exploitation of women, she condemned those who would "either destroy the embryo in the womb, or cast it off when born." Shortly thereafter, abortion became illegal in Great Britain.

The now revered feminists of the 19th century were also strongly opposed to abortion because of their belief in the worth of all humans. Like many women in developing countries today, they opposed abortion even though they were acutely aware of the damage done to women through constant child-bearing. They opposed abortion despite knowing that half of all children born died before the age of five. They knew that women had virtually no rights within the family or the political sphere. But they did not believe abortion was the answer.

Without known exception, the early American feminists condemned abortion in the strongest possible terms. In Susan B. Anthony's newsletter, The Revolution, abortion was described as "child murder," "infanticide" and "foeticide." Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who in 1848 organized the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, classified abortion as a form of infanticide and said, "When you consider that women have been treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."

The modern day opponents of abortion are like the child who brings home a goldfish in a plastic bag. He loved the fish> He wanted to bring it home. But it needs a tank, a filter, gravel and food. You cant' skimp on the accessories.

If you are pro life, you must be pro labour. If you are pro woman, you must recognise that which makes her unique and irreplaceable rather than regard it as an inconvenience. Women stand at the frontier where one life touches another. She is the first source of sustenance for an infant. The father can be miles away or even unknown at the time of birth but the mother is always there.

Fighting the Democrats who are pro abortion is easy. It is for them that I posted the chilling, gory video at the end of this article. It is the conservatives, those who wave American flags made in China who have a real attitude problem. They remind me of the line from the Jim Croce song. "You say you love the baby but you crucify the man." A lot of our problems raising children can be traced to modern day serfdom in which the rent or the mortgage takes such an obscenely high percentage of income that the parents are out working all the time. The children in such a situation may have a fine house, but it is barely a home. Part of this problem is also that of consumerism in which needs are created to keep the economic wheels turning.

Class hatred is a two way street. It is most often portrayed as greedy unions choking a profitable business. There are certainly examples of this. But a business owner who puts his workers out on the street as he moves his factory to China is equally a part of the problem. Workers and entrepreneurs need each other. It hurts both for them to see each other as enemies.

I have worked in the garment industry and seen workers suffer grueling conditions with long hours and low pay. Who assigns the value to their labour?

I have walked down the street and seen fashionable women wearing patterns I had a hand in printing on fabric. I smothered the spark of recognition that would have seen both forward and implausible. Such moments of fleeting connection are reminders that we are all connected in a vast complex economy of which we all are a part.

We are now discovering that all of the children we planned out of existence could have been adults by now, paying into the Social Security system that is now faltering.

Values come with a price. Being pro life means caring about the well being of parents who must raise a child. Being pro choice means giving workers choices in how to raise their children and not claiming the right of indoctrination as the price of nanny state patronage. It is far more revolutionary to develop an economy in which workers stand independently with clear title to their wages and the right to spend them independently on raising their families in the values they have inherited or chosen. This is far better than the gilded shackles of the welfare state.

Pro life, fro family, pro choice. Everyone is talking. But do they even listen to themselves? Values come with a price.




Some of the pro abortion crowd think this video is in bad taste. Ain't that just too freakin bad! This is what they want legal. Let's just get it on the table.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Photo Ops, Sick Newspapers and a Straying Readership: Is There Any Hope?

Documentaries on the last days of the Czarist government in Russia sometimes juxtapose the idyllic affluence of the royal family with the mass poverty to which they were so callously indifferent.

The news media is referred to as the "fourth estate" seems to be close on the heels of clueless royalty into what Lenin called the "dustbin of history". We have just finished an election in which the majority of the print and broadcast media functioned as a cheerleading squad for the Obama campaign. Stories circulated about reporters and newspapers that were kicked off the Obama campaign plane for (horrors) doing unflattering stories about the Great One. Many reporters decided to go easy rather than risk being shut out of the loop.

In many parts of the world, journalists are intrepid souls who risk life, limb and freedom to serve as the voice of conscience. American journalists have in large numbers followed in the footsteps of the "Pravda" and "Neues Deutschland " mode of serving as chherleaders for the party.

The realisation of millions of readers and viewers that they are being subjected to party infomercials has had economic repercussions. Newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times and Newsweek are in danger of going under. There is talk of a news media bailout package that would formalise what is now only a common law arrangement by making the government an actual supporter of the foundering news outlets.

I have scanned the horizon for a sign of hope. Perhaps someone will feel a twinge of shame when they compare their journalistic prostitution with the bravery of those reporters such as the Algerian journalists who were killed for their courage.

When I was looking at an article in today's New York Post, I lost any hope I might have had of a return to journalistic excellence in the mainstream media. The indignation of AP, Agence Franc Presse and Reuters has finally erupted into belated indignation at their curtailed independence.
What finally moved them to speak out? The New York Post reports as follows.

Three news agencies refused to distribute White House-provided photos of President Obama in the Oval Office yesterday, arguing that access should have been provided to news photographers.

"The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse said the White House was breaking with longstanding tradition in not allowing news photographers to capture the president at work on his first day.

"We are not distributing what are, in effect, visual press releases," said Michael Oreskes, managing editor for US news at the AP.

The agencies have used administration-provided images in the past for areas in the White House where media access is generally not permitted, such as the Situation Room or the private residence."


As an assertion of journalistic independence, this little snit about photo ops is laughable. For the entire duration of the Presidential campaign, clues to stories that would have proven detrimental to the Obama campaign were buried. His political record in Chicago, the recollections of his enemies and the questionable nature of his friends were ignored in the mainstream media.

An electorate that was anxious to examine Obama's record was slurred as racist when the poll numbers failed to suggest a fitting landslide. Blogs and talk radio became the alternative media , the counterbalance to the fawning coverage on the major networks.

It is clear that the mainstream media is out to shield the Obama administration from criticism. The laughable complaint about lost photo ops has everything to do with wounded pride and nothing to do with journalistic integrity.

If the press wanted to regain some credibility, there are a couple of things they could do.

1) Band together. Protest loudly if a reporter is bumped from Air Force One for being too critical of Obama
2) If banding together does not work, take a question from a banned reporter and ask his or her question when you are called on at a press conference
3) If retaliation by the administration gets to be too annoying, boycott a flight or press conference en masse. Let the President discover that being ignored is far worse than being criticised.
4) Cultivate "unnamed sources" and pool information to keep shunned journalists in the loop.

The auto industry and the news industry have the same problem. They are both turning out a lousy overpriced product. As a result, people are looking elsewhere. We still have a free market economy. Those who want to hear about more than photo ops want hard hitting informative news coverage in our troubled times. With the internet and talk radio, readers have choices. By the millions, they are changing their radio dials and voting with a computer mouse for honest reporting.

The Gray Lady needs a serious makeover because she has some young, hot competition that knows what the public wants. The public is real unhappy with the Gray Lady because she is letting herself go and they are starting to look elsewhere for understanding. Can this marriage be saved? The Gray Lady knows what she has to do.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free Corsica !!! (European Union Hypocrisy Towards Israel)



It is a mitzva in the Torah not to even possess two sets of weights and measures, let alone to use them. In trade, one must employ a single unit of measure.

The English translation of the relevant section of parshas Ki tetze (Deuteronomy 25:13) reads as follows.

"You shall not have in your pouch alternate weights, larger and smaller. You shall not have in your house alternate measures, a larger and a smaller. You must have completely honest weights and completely honest measures, if you are to endure long on the soil that HaShem your G-d is giving you. For everyone who does those things, everyone who deals dishonestly, is abhorrent to HaShem your G-d".

Israel is being judged by standards never adhered to by any nation. It has endangered its own soldiers to minimise casualties among civilians who are used as human shields by cowardly Hamas goons.

It has even sent humanitarian aid into areas under attack while its own cities are shelled. With all of the precautionary measures it has taken to minimise loss of innocent life, It is condemned as Nazi like and barbaric.

If the Arabs living in the Holy Land are being supported by the European Union in their struggle for a state, then fairness dictates that the stateless peoples of Europe must also have their way as well.

It is only fair that the struggles of captive nations in Europe be highlighted. In that spirit, I am declaring my solidarity with the people of Corsica, whose peaceful island in the Mediterranean Sea is under illegal occupation by France. The language of this beautiful island is not French but Corsican, a language that looks and sounds far more like Italian than it does like French.

Since 1976, the National Front For the Liberation of Corsica has waged a struggle against the French occupation. When I read of an Arab who fights Israel by bashing in a four year old child's head, and is then welcomed as a national hero in Lebanon, then I become numb to sectarian violence in Europe that seems almost chivalrous by comparison.

Indeed, the Arab custom when there is a willful massacre of civilians is to honk car horns and pass out candies in the street.

The Corsicans have their own language and proud history. I am so accustomed to the Arab standards of what is acceptable, that I must praise the Corsicans for their relative gentleness. So if innocent people are killed by accident, excuse me for sounding a little jaded when I compare it to violence in the Middle East and react very mildly.

If the European Union is willing to condone attacks on civilians to demoralise Israel into surrender, then surely the same standards could be applied to other conflicts.

The Corsican freedom fighters have never shot at school buses or attacked schools like the Arabs have in Israel. So I see fit to honour the various national liberation movements operating in countries that begrudge the State of Israel reasonable measures for its existence, peace and security.

Perhaps I should be shocked when separatist violence hits the European Union. But I am sorry. Every few years, Israel is coaxed into releasing more terrorists with blood on their hands who have committed crimes that it spoils my day to even think about. When we take normal measures to defend ourselves, there are demonstrations condemning us as Nazis.

So when I hear that you all are having a liberation struggle within your borders, I will give you the same advice you give Israel. Trade land for peace!! Let the people of Corsica have self determination !! And if someone is killed in a separatist bombing attack, be sure to free the perpetrator after a few years. This is the same advice you give us. So now I'm throwing it back at you. Free Corsica !! Free Catalunya ! Free Scotland !!! The list goes on and on of captive nations in Europe. Until you give them all independence, leave Israel the hell alone.


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I hope my readers will enjoy the musical selection from the Corsican freedom struggle










Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts About the Obama Inauguration

Barack Obama has been President for seventeen minutes. In the course of my morning errands I have caught fleeting glimpses of his inauguration. The focus has been understandably on the first African American President taking office.

The first family will be under an electron microscope. I was reading an article titled "Forty Four facts about Barack Obama." This trend towards tabloid news coverage is not at all useless. On a personal level, the Obama family does some things that are worthy of emulation.

In their personal lives, the Obamas have remained focused. They are clearly dedicated to their marriage and to their children. It was not only in the presidential campaign that Barack Obama was focused on an objective. Sticking to his studies and taking the welfare of his children seriously sets an example that is a recipe for success for those who want to follow in his footsteps. There are all too many single parent homes African American communities all across America. 57% of college students are women. Among African Americans the gap is even higher.

Despite the praiseworthy personal example of a stable loving family in the White House, I remain concerned about Obama's economic ideas. It seems that his approach to solving it is to throw and possibly print trillions of dollars at our economic problems. I am afraid that he might wreck the currency without finding a way out of our current crisis.

I remain troubled about Obama's position on abortion when he was in Chicago politics. He opposed medical intervention to save the life of a child who survived an abortion. I do not believe such policies bring blessings to our country. I hope that the dialogue which Obama has initiated with conservative opposition will result in a change in this position.

It will probably be only a matter of time before Obama is tested with an international crisis. I hope that Obama will display realism and resolve when dealing with those whose avowed aim is to destroy America.

I do not believe America should force a "peace" settlement on Israel. The best that can now be hoped for is a peace like that between Taiwan and China, two countries that have not recognised each other for sixty years but quietly deal with each other under the table. No one has pushed them towards this modus vivendi. It has evolved over decades.

It boggles my mind that so little attention is paid to sub Saharan Africa. The Congo alone has had over five million deaths in the last ten years. Millions of Africans are dying of war, disease and poverty. I hope Obama's Kenyan ancestry focuses his heart and mind towards that troubled continent.

I remain a skeptical member of the "loyal opposition". I want America under Obama to thrive. The stakes are too high to wish otherwise.

Some people use games as a metaphor for life. What I dislike about checkers and chess is that pieces are knocked off the board. The game that provides the most compelling metaphor for politics and life is Othello. In it, pieces are not knocked off the board. By flanking your opponent, you change the colour of his pieces to your colour. This is how I see my role as a "labour conservative" opponent of Obama. I seek to change America, one mind at a time, one opinion at a time.

In my metaphorical framework, there is no honeymoon. But from day one, we will all be on the same board, playing the same game, each side trying to turn its opponents into allies.

My prayers are for our President and our country. My opposition si for the good of the country. Congratulations Mr. President. G-d bless America.

Monday, January 19, 2009

COMPEAN AND RAMOS FREED !!! Half The Battle Won

As I was catching up on sleep before my night shift, joyous news sweetened my dreams via the blaring radio. A quick scan of Drudge Report shows me that it was not just a dream. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are coming home. Breitbart News reports as follows.

"In his final acts of clemency, President George W. Bush on Monday commuted the prison sentences of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents whose convictions for shooting a Mexican drug dealer ignited fierce debate about illegal immigration.

Bush's decision to commute the sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who tried to cover up the shooting, was welcomed by both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. They had long argued that the agents were merely doing their jobs, defending the American border against criminals. They also maintained that the more than 10-year prison sentences the pair was given were too harsh."

It is a calming thought that two families that were so savaged by the criminal justice system and a cowardly immigration bureaucracy will finally be reunited. The one blemish upon this time of joy is that a commuted sentence does not wipe the slate clean. It does not restore the jobs and back pay of the two brave men, who remain convicted felons in the eyes of the law.

The convictions that stand against Compean and Ramos send a chilling message to other border patrol agents that they will not enjoy the support of their government in doing their jobs. The suffering already endured by the two men, who served two years in prison under trying conditions. It sends a message of leniency at a time when America struggles with a wave of illegal immigration and the threat of international terrorism.

Additionally, the outrageous lack of border security across our border with Mexico reduces the job of border patrol agents to the level of a fools errand. The failure to supplement the efforts of border patrol agents with credible fences and electronic surveillance reenforcement can only be construed as willful. There are too many people who want immigration enforcement to remain lenient for reasons that range from ethnic and political solidarity to a desire for cheap labour. Those who support strong enforcement of immigration laws must continue to raise their voices in defense of this cause.

Commutation of sentence would be appropriate for Jonathan Pollard, who did indeed spy for a friendly nation but got a sentence that was typical of those who spied for enemy states. It is not appropriate for people who were bearing arms in defense of their country, whose violations of law were purely procedural.

The wave of public indignation at the Ramos and Compean convictions and imprisonment sounded loudly across talk radio and the internet. It undoubtedly contributed to the freeing of the two wrongfully convicted lawmen. A new battle to expunge their convictions and restore them to their posts with back pay should now begin. The tepid support for our border patrol by the government sends a chilling message to those who would think of taking decisive steps to defend our border. It also sends a message to the American people that our borders are not secure.

The victory for Compean and Ramos is a victory for the American people. The injustice that remains is a disservice to us all. For our sake and theirs, the struggle must continue.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Women's Christian Temperance Union and Modern Prohibitionism

The Women's Christian Temperance Union is usually regarded as an archaic curiosity. The image of Carrie Nation and her gang of anti drinking militants smashing up a saloon is regarded as an icon of intolerant militancy.

Some would compare laws against marijuana to laws against alcohol, using such a comparison as an argument for legalisation. I have mixed emotions about that. I have seen the powerfully deleterious effects of marijuana on functioning in society and quality of intellectual functioning. Its active ingredients are fat soluble and build up in the tissues. It is easy to carry around and ingest in various ways, making the potential to become a round the clock abuser much greater.

On the other hand I distrust the tendency to dismiss marijuana as being clinically useless. The terminally ill have reported on its usefulness in alleviating the pain of the terminally ill.


Although I have fought the battle of many parents to keep my home drug free, I offered to buy my mother marijuana when she was terminally ill to relieve her suffering. Because of her experiences working at a fast food restaurant in Los Angeles back in the 1940's she could not shake the negative associations the drug had for her of disreputable elements. For this reason she turned down my offer, which I made despite my opposition to social marijuana use.

We as a society would put so much emphasis on euthanasia and "pulling the plug" rather than alleviating the pain of the terminally ill by any means necessary. We are far too quick to dismiss the possibility of enjoying life in its final stages. It is for this reason that I feel that medical marijuana should be an option for the terminally ill. Despite this, I feel that marijuana should remain illegal for those who are in good health.

I am concerned about creeping prohibition in other areas. I don't mind nutrition labels on food and hazard labels on cigarettes and alcohol. I do mind the efforts to tax tobacco to death and ban transfats that we have in New York City. I feel that basic physical safety of the citizenry should be the sole concern of law enforcement. There is little doubt in my mind that tobacco used as it is by many shortens life. But I feel that education is the solution to tobacco addiction. An additional possibility is to do scientific research into the medical and industrial uses for tobacco. It does not seem implausible that beverages could be designed with some tobacco derivatives with mild stimulant qualities. Additionally, there should be research done into crop substitution in which medical herbs are cultivated on land formerly used for tobacco.

The transfat ban that we have in New York is an absurd example of the government treating the people like children. It raises the spectre of every medical fad making its way into the law books. In many neighbourhoods of New York, violent crime is making a robust comeback. I am far more concerned about gunfire in the streets which I have witnessed than I am about transfats. Escapist and trendy legislation diverts valuable resources from the basic functions of government that revolve around maintaining public order.

The Women's Christian Temperance Union was a progressive organisation that actually still exists today. It supported women's suffrage and labor rights. There was some overlap between abolitionism and the prohibitionist movement.

Modern day prohibitionism has the same place on the political spectrum. It is usually considered "progressive". Its underlying assumtions are elitist, that "the masses are asses" who must be treated like children. Such assumptions are insulting to the citizenry. We live in the age of the internet, where information flows freely. Health decisions should be governed by education and persuasion, not by legislation. We should not repeat the mistakes that this country made by adopting prohibition. Basic safety should be the focus of government. Let's keep it that way.


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With this posting, I am including a WCTU song performed by Alonzo Garbanzo. I am amazed that he is not a megastar. He is a brilliant performer.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Dear Readers

It has been a rough couple of days. The site with which I am associated, American Sentinel is temporarily down. I do not know how quickly it will be back up. They are a great bunch of guys. Paul Zannucci, the site founder taught me a great deal about composition and working in a blog medium. I had no paid professional writing experience. He has been like a college professor. May G-d grant him a blank check inscribed with everything he could want . As we say in Yiddish, he should have gezunt, parnosso and nachas, which translates as health, wealth and joy from family.

The AS crew runs the spectrum of conservative thought. They encompass a wide experiential and ideological range. Corresponding with them behind the scenes has taken me out of New York City. I have had the opportunity to visualise a different audience when writing on the same blog as them. That is a helpful mental exercise.

The support of the AS crew for Israel has been truly touching. It is a welcome contrast to some of the hatred out there.

Between Magdeburger Joe and Rudi Stettner, I have about 180 posts that continue on American Sentinel, which is now down. I have been given permission to put the missing half of the articles on my sites in their entirety. This is a tedious process that should with G-d's help be completed by February 1. If there is an article that you want put up earlier, send me an e mail and let me know. I apologise to my readers for the inconvenience.

My plans remain to keep publishing at least on my own sites with G-d's help indefinately and to b'ezrat Hashem actually get paid eventually for writing about the same topics that comprise my topical range.

I feel a sense of duty to remain at my post. Critical subjects such as smurf videos in Czech, dying languages, micronations and East German Soccer songs would not have their place on the internet if not for me.

I hope that my readers will be patient with me during this challenging time.

Good Shabbos

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fratricide in Allah's Name, A Look At Algeria and Thoughts of China



Years ago, when China was off limits to American citizens, I spoke to an au pair maid who took care of the children next door to me Since she was a German citizen, she had been admitted to China with her parents and traveled extensively there. Because she was accustomed to western style parliamentary democracy, the ubiquitous personality cult of Chairman MaoTse-tung was extremely jarring to her sensibilities.

One image from our conversations that remains with me to this day is her recollection of a long train ride through China. Throughout the ride, there were shades on the windows that were controlled by the conductor and not by passengers. The reason for this was that long stretches of landscape near the train tracks were deemed incompatible with the image China in the sixties wished to project to the outside world.

When I open a newspaper or turn on the television, I am keenly aware of the vast stretches of planet earth that are deemed "not newsworthy" and passed over in daily news coverage. In many cases, there are wars or natural disasters that might be considered less consequential than even the latest celebrity gossip.

As I turn the pages of a news magazine, the image of remote control shades on the train in China flash back from my conversation with the au pair maid on the beach so many years ago. As I chafe at the editorial parameters of news media, the shades on a train in China seem to be an apt metaphor for the blinders between the front and back pages of the daily newspaper.

Nowhere is my sense of manipulated perceptions more acute than the Middle East. In and around Israel, the impression is created that this is the atrocity of the century, an event that establishes Israel as being on par with Hitler's Third Reich.

As I elbow my way through a shuk full of hucksters, trying to sell me their sad tales of victimhood, the numbers don't add up. Even their supporters collapse under the weight of their own absurdity, by claiming in one instance that by their failure to rape Arab women, Israeli soldiers proved themselves to be racist.

Meanwhile, in the Congo more than five million people have been killed in ten years. The total dead in all of Israel's wars since 1948, Arab and Jewish, civilian and military is 120,000 people. Annual Congolese deaths in the last ten years outstrip the annual death rate all of Israel's wars since 1948 by a ratio of 2500 to one.

The Congo is rich in natural resources. Additionally, it has agricultural potential. I am not capable of the intellectual contortionism that would be required to dismiss racism as a reason for the world's indifference to Congolese suffering.

Meanwhile in Algeria, a conflict has dragged on since 1991. In that year an electorate that was bone tired of grinding poverty and byzantine corruption voted in an Islamist government. Acting on the basis of an ancient Arab proverb "A Smith Wesson beats four Aces.", the Algerian military staged a coup d'etat and barred the Islamists from taking power. Since then, between 150,000 to 200,000 people have been killed in the conflict. There were numerous instances in which entire villages were targetted.

Unfortunately for the Algerians, there is little interest in stopping a civil war. A prerequisite for international intervention seems to be a conflict between two national groups or an invasion of one country by another. Perhaps if Israel would invade Algeria, the world might finally start to notice the tens of thousands of deaths that have left it unmoved until now. The death toll in Algeria climbs by the year with no effort from even the Arab world to arbitrate a conflict that has been so costly in both human and economic terms.

I watched the introduction to a Journeyman Films documentary about the Algerian civil war that put a human and geographic face on this little noted conflict. The European country with the most interest in and involvement in Algeria is France, which ruled Algeria for well over a century. With tens of thousands of Algerians living in France, there is ample interest. Journalists are also afraid. There have been assassinations of public figures from Algeria. The long arm of the assassins has even reached into Paris, where Cheb Hasni, a renowned Algerian singer was assassinated.

Watching the documentary about Algeria affected me in an unexpected way. One brief sequence showed Algerian journalists who were covering events from within the country for a newspaper called Al Wattan (The Fatherland). A number had been killed in action. All had been targetted by either the government or the Islamic rebels for assassination. Rather than melt into an obscure profession, they remained at their posts.

When I read about American journalists who fear nothing more than being kicked out of the press section on Obama's airplane, I am ashamed. When I compare America's pampered journalists to Algeria's austere and intrepid press corps continuing at their posts despite fear for their lives, I am humbled. The comparison makes America's fourth estate look like a pack of squabbling children fighting over pieces of Turkish taffy. The average American news reporter would need a cherry picker to stand tall enough to shine the shoes of an Algerian journalist.

In the age of the internet, we are no longer like my German friend the au pair maid whose view was limited by remote control shades on her that was train passing through China. We have the world wide web as a tool with which we may bend the slats in the venetian blind of media censorship. In order to pry the shades, however, we must be motivated to do so by knowledge of a world outside and the desire to know of it. I hope through this article to pique my reader's curiosity about the world outside the media spotlight. At least as important as the facts being presented is knowledge of the reasons why particular facts are deemed convenient and relevant while others are excluded.

As David Duchovny says on X Files, "The truth is out there".


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In honour of the journalists and entertainers killed in the Algerian conflict, I am presenting the following music video from Cheb Hasni.

Attempted Hit On Ramos Family : Have They No Shame?

Having a loved one in prison is a grueling experience. A fleeting visit to a spouse, sibling or father is sandwiched between two car or bus trips that are often many hours long. Some chromosomal human decided that the family of border patrol agent Ignacio Ramos needs to suffer even more than what they are already after he and fellow border patrol agent Jose Compean were sentenced to eleven and twelve years respectively after shooting at a fleeing drug dealer attempting to cross the US Mexican border illegally.

According to World Net Daily, the Ramos family's house was booby trapped after extensive vandalism in an apparent attempt to kill them. WND describes the attack as follows.

"The family of imprisoned Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos was the victim of an attempted hit on their lives this month, as the agent's wife says someone broke into their home and filled it with gas, trashing photographs and pummeling their dog.(emphasis mine)
Just weeks after Monica Ramos spoke with WND about the difficulty of enduring Christmas without her husband, her family returned from visiting Ignacio in prison on Jan 3. While she was away, burglars stole DVDS, a BB gun and cell phone and slashed her couch with a knife.

They even beat her dog and ripped cherished wedding pictures and family photos of their life with Ignacio off the walls, smashing them on the ground."

It could be argued that a recruiter for the Border Patrol helped create a hateful climate in the town where the Ramos family lives by condemning the two border patrol agents in a speech promoting a career on the Border Patrol during which a son of Ignacio Ramos was sitting in the audience. WND reports the incident as follows.



The family of imprisoned Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos was the victim of an attempted hit on their lives this month, as the agent's wife says someone broke into their home and filled it with gas, trashing photographs and pummeling their dog.

Just weeks after Monica Ramos spoke with WND about the difficulty of enduring Christmas without her husband, her family returned from visiting Ignacio in prison on Jan 3. While she was away, burglars stole DVDS, a BB gun and cell phone and slashed her couch with a knife They even beat her dog and ripped cherished wedding pictures and family photos of their life with Ignacio off the walls, smashing them on the ground. But the vandalism wasn't the worst part, Monica revealed in a Jan. 12 interview"It wasn't so much that stuff was burglarized or that they actually took much," she said. "What was really hard was that when we got here, the gas was turned on. It was very intentional in that somebody was trying to hurt us."

Her son opened the front door and discovered the strong odor.

"Right away he alerted me," she said. "He started yelling, 'Mom, don't walk in. Don't bring my brothers.' He said, 'The gas is on!' He ran in and started turning everything off."

Her father, Joe Loya, wrote on his blog, "Thank God no one turned on a light! Monica and her three boys would be gone!"

Monica said she believes the gas was left on for two days.

Her 11-year-old son walked into their home and started crying, 'Look at our house. Haven't they done enough?'

Then he said, "Why won't the president just let my dad come home? This wouldn't have happened."

Both Ramos and Compean face danger in prison, where they must be segregated from a population that includes many illegal immigrants who commited felonies after evading border patrols. Such individuals of course would love to take revenge on those whose job it is to enforce immigration laws. Now the families face a climate of feear in the communities in which they live. What support has the Border Patrol provided ? WND reports as follows

"Her older son has also faced troubling circumstances at school due to his father's imprisonment.

"Three months ago, his high school hosted a career day. Border Patrol agents spoke with students about the field.

Monica said one Border Patrol agent stood in front of the student body and said, "I know many of you may have heard about this Ramos-Compean case, and we just want you to know that we got rid of two bad apples. You know, not all agents are rogue agents. They're not out to break the laws."

"I thought, 'Oh my God. Is this propaganda?' Monica said. "This is what you are using as your hiring technique? Did they not ever think that my son was going to be part of that student body? My son got a lot of heat at school."

She talked to the school and reported the incident to the Department of Homeland Security."

The families of both Ramos and Compean live in areas with a large Mexican population, where sympathy for illegal immigrants runs high. The Border Patrol has taken no consideration of the difficulties faced by the Ramos and Compean family. The speech given by the Border Patrol recruiter in front of Ignacio Ramos' child is tantamount to incitement. It could be argued that the speech in which the two agents were called "bad apples" added to an atmosphere of hatred that made the attack on the Ramos family a likely outcome.

I would have given a different speech in light of the harsh sentences meted out to Compean and Ramos. It would read as follows.

"When you stand at our nation's border, you will be a symbol of our nation's sovereignty. The key word is "symbol". You will be armed. You will have a uniform. But there will be a thick book of directives that change regularly, and you will be liable to imprisonment if you break them.

If you just ride in your Border Patrol car and go through the motions, you will collect a pension at retirement time. If someone gets away from you, no one will care. But if with the help of a prison lawyer and a cooperative jury you are sued, the Border Patrol will cut you loose. So don't make waves. Illegal aliens are big business. They keep wages down. They keep American workers from getting too pushy. You will be a decoration and a well paid one at that. Don't take your job too seriously. Because your government doesn't. Our border is easy to cross because we want it that way. And don't forget it."

The treatment of the Ramos and Compean families is an outrage. Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos should be reunited with their families as soon as possible. George W. Bush wants to be remembered as a compassionate conservative. Pardoning Compean and Ramos will establish that as his legacy. He should pardon them now. It's the right thing to do.