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Keep it in your pants, Part II

Several readers have written in to point out that pregnancy prevention is also the woman's responsibility. I never denied that. I merely pointed out that in these discussions, there never seems to be a concurrent admission that the man is fully responsible for getting the woman pregnant in the first place. Only later, once there is a child-to-be, do we get men decrying their lack of legal recourse as to whether or not that child may be born.

(As an aside: My women friends and I have discussed men's responsibility for birth control many, many times. Assuming it was a reality, not a single woman I know ever said she would trust a man who insisted he was "on the Pill." Not one. That's a rather telling note on male responsibility toward the avoidance of pregnancy.)

There are a few more facts that I did not mention the other day, and these will doubtless piss off just as many readers as my previous post, but hey, what's life without a little controversy?

In the overwhelming majority of situations, mothers take care of the children they bear, regardless of what the father of those children does. Fathers leave. Mothers don't. And I'm talking the majority of cases here, so please don't give me anecdotal evidence of the wonderful dads you know, or the horrible moms. Yes, things are changing in some households. But the facts are that generally, mothers are the primary caregiver for their children until the children reach their majority, no matter what the father does. (And there are many fathers who are actually in the house and still do almost nothing to nurture their own children, but that's a whole different topic.)

So when you whine about the poor man who never wanted a child in the first place (who is half the reason the child exists—there are no virgin births out there, people) having to pay for that child even though he didn't want it, I say: Tough. If the man doesn't want to risk paying for a child, don't have unprotected sex. Because all the father is legally required to do is pay child support once a week or so, and many don't even do that. Has a judge ever ruled that a father must spend time with his children? If so, I've never heard of it. The mother is going to spend the next eighteen years (minimum) caring for that child. The child isn't going to take care of itself.

That's why the woman gets to decide whether or not she wants to have the baby, and why the man has to pay even though he has no legal say in the matter. Because of the age-old story: Men leave. Women stay and take care of the children. Cry me a river, part two.

Thursday in the park with Sondheim

The city of Richmond was kind enough to welcome me with a showing of "Into the Woods," a play by the god-like Steven Sondheim and which play, coincidentally, I had just watched on videotape a few weeks ago, when I was first moving in and Heidi was out of town and I needed something to take my mind off the strangeness and my loneliness. (And what a comfort "No One Is Alone" was that night, I can tell you.)

Well, Heidi, her husband, Sorena, Sorena's friend Marissa, and I packed a picnic dinner, chairs, blankets, accoutrements, and set out to get good seats at the Dell and enjoy the free Sondheim in the park. As the girls are barely nine, I thought I'd warn them that although the play is about fairy tale characters, it's not exactly happily-ever-after. Some of the characters died in the play. At the end of Act I, all of the characters were still alive and living the happy-ever-after, and the girls were absolutely thrilled with the play, so I thought I'd mention that Act II is where the bad stuff happens. This time, they wanted to know who died.

"Well, Jack's mother."
[Gasp!] "Yeah, but she's old anyway." "Yeah."
"The narrator."
[Gasp!] "
"Who else?"
"Are you sure you want to know?"
"The Baker's Wife."
[GASP!!!!!] "Oh, no!" "Before or after she has the baby?"

So Act II commences, the various deaths (and two others I'd forgotten) occur, the play ends, and I'm expecting two very annoyed little girls who had their happily-ever-after made very unhappy. After the lights went up, Sorena said, "Aunt Meryl, why did you say it wasn't a happy ending? That was a happy ending!" "Yeah! It was great!" Marissa chimed in. They left the park singing "Into the Woods," and woke up Friday morning full of how wonderful the play was, and how much they liked it.

So talking about it with Heidi, we figured it was a combination of things. Jack's mother was really irritating to begin with, plus she was old. Rapunzel was a minor character. The narrator? Kinda creepy. And the Baker's Wife was dead, yes, but she came back as a ghost. Plus, the remaining major characters banded together as a family unit, which did make the ending rather happy, so the girls were satisfied.

It's funny, but when I first saw the play, I hated it. I thought it was a cynical slap at childhood and innocence. It took me a few viewings (and a few years between the first and second viewing) to realize how uplifting the messages of the play really are.

It was a great pleasure to see girls so young have such a successful introduction to Sondheim. (Dare I hope Sorena's obsession with "Cats" is at an end?) I was more than a little worried the girls would get bored and want to leave early. But the most amusing moment of the evening was watching the girls' reaction as they found out which of the characters were doomed.

I had no idea little girls' eyes could get so big.



Profiles in bloggers

Elana of Middle East Realities arrived safely in Israel, according to her proud but worried papa. She's there to meet-and-greet and learn first-hand what the Israelis are going through. Stay safe, Elana. Learn much, and come back safely. Oh, and you can't call more often? Give your father something more to tell us? [shaking head] Oy. These kids today.

Diane E. is out of patience with the way the left ignores anti-Semitism. (I'm tired of the anti-Semitism from the left; there is a difference.) Atrios took particular offense to her post; Diane took his objections apart.

Not all is gloom-and-doom: Garrett Moritz (whose name, when said aloud, reminds me of the old SNL alum Garrett Morris, and then I start thinking of the hilarious spoof of The China Syndrome, which they called The Pepsi Syndrome (a spilled Pepsi caused a meltdown at a nuclear reactor, the resulting water caused both Garrett Morris, the cleaning lady sent to clean up the flooded room, and Dan Akroyd as President Carter, who went into the room to prove it was safe, to grow into "The Amazing Colossal President" (and his cleaning lady), thereby causing a further hilarious moment when Carter left Roslyn for the Morris' cleaning lady, for obvious reasons, and damn, I'd best get out of these parentheses), and which has caused me much laughter over the years), um, where was I?

Oh, yeah. Garret Moritz takes issue with the CSIS report dissing Giles' Watcher skills.

Michael Porter on Left of Center has a funny story about stupid warning labels. And a really funny picture of a baby taking a bath as a time-saving method.

I thought this post by Laurence Simon was hands-down the most tasteless post I've ever read on a weblog. Then Bigwig wrote this one. Warning: I'm not kidding when I say they're tasteless. Don't complain to me if you're shocked or grossed out.

Found Andy at the World Wide Rant via an obscure post on Lair's place (sorry, I don't get the reference). But Andy's got a good post on why writers write, right? Seriously, I agree with much of what he says. Granted, I started this weblog partly to force myself to write every day, but if I had no readers, there'd be no weblog. And wouldn't you feel silly staring at a blank screen?

Have you noticed that every so often, you keep seeing the name of a weblog and you keep telling yourself, "I've got to get over there one of those days."? Well, I finally got over to Fred Pruitt's Rantburg, and I'm wondering why I didn't do this months ago. Fred is simply hilarious while being informative at the same time. He intersperses his comments with the news articles—I suppose you could call it a Blogger version of MST3K, except it's funny. (I always hated that show. Save the outraged emails, you can't argue a matter of taste. Well, you can, but I won't respond.)

Pontifex ex machina went to the San Diego Comicon and came back with pictures of the Hulk! Really!

Okay, he came back with pictures of Lou Ferrigno, who actually looks better now than he did during the series.

He also stuck his nose into a battle that I'm steering clear of, but don't mind reading about. Actually, Pontifex, my original question would have been "Why the hell are you bringing Israel into a post about the "humiliation" strategy and why we shouldn't get into a war with Iraq?", but I'm not getting into this one. Nosirree, not me.

Ralph over at There Is No Cat sent me this link to a Hulk road trip, which is kinda high-graphic, low humor, but it's a little bit cute. Okay, now that I've damned it with faint praise... Ya know, I think I need a Hulk doll. I'll have to keep an eye out for them. Oh, wait. The movie's coming out next summer. Ang Lee directing. Yeah, I think comics have hit the mainstream, fer shure.

Clueless Eurocrats: The dumb Danes

A major DUH! to the Danes:

Danish justice minister: Will not ban Al Aqsa organization

The Copenhagen-based newspaper Politicken reported that the Danish justice minister announced that the country will not ban the Al Aqsa organization, Israel Radio reports.

The Al Aqsa organization is accused of opening a bank account in Denmark and collecting donations for the Hamas terrorist organization.

The Danish minister said they will need to first investigate whether it is appropriate to label Hamas a terrorist organization, the radio said

Let's see if we can help the Clueless Eurocrats:

Meanwhile, Hamas published a pamphlet Thursday warning that for every Hamas leader killed by Israel it would kill 100 Israelis. Hamas said that it would exact the heavy price for both military and political leaders.

"In response to the Israeli assassination of any leader from our movement ... we will kill 100 Zionists at least."
The group said the university blast, which was caused by a planted bomb and not a suicide attack, was "one of a series" of reprisals for the raid that killed its military wing head, Salah Shehade.

"We ask our military groups to continue military operations and martyr operations," it said. Hamas blamed Wednesday's blast on the Israeli occupation of east Jerusalem and vowed to "teach (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon and (Defense Minister Binyamin) Ben Eliezer a lesson after they came to assassinate our leader."

Let's add Denmark to the list of nations whose products I will no longer buy. Let's see—Hamas publishes pamphlets promising the deaths of Israelis in 100-1 proportions, Hamas claims responsibility for attack after attack after attack against Israeli civilians, and the Danes are so fucking stupid they can't figure out if Hamas is a terrorist organization.


Tell me, Vegard—are there any Europeans besides you that have even half a brain? Because I'm beginning to wonder.

Update: Vegard answers the question. I see your point, but we already do differentiate here in the U.S. Yeah, some organizations complain, but they're always the ones who seem to get caught sending money to terrorists. However, the issue is not the Al-Aqsa organization. The issue, according to the Danish Minister of Justice, is first to determine whether Hamas is a terrorist organization. That one's the no-brainer. If the Danes can't figure that out, they have serious idiocy problems.

Sex and the single man

Glenn Reynolds comments on Dahlia Lithwick's piece in Slate that discusses the recent court ruling that refused to force a woman to bring a baby to term because the father wanted it, but she wanted to abort. He managed to get an injunction that prevented her from getting the abortion. It was overturned, and then she miscarried. But the controversy continues.

Here are the most cogent parts of the Lithwick piece:

The fathers' rights groups have a tougher time suggesting laws to protect fathers from being shut out of reproductive decisions because ironically, while just about everyone agrees that excluding fathers from these decisions is unjust, no better alternative exists. The womb wins. The courts won't stomach forcing a woman to bear a child against her will.

[...]In situations where one parent was being given a veto—have the baby or don't—the court determined that it could not give fathers veto power the state itself did not posses. The court found that a woman's relationship with her own body is simply too intimate for the state to interfere.

This was the logic of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 abortion decision that reaffirmed a woman's right to privacy in part because "The mother who carries a child to full term is subject to anxieties, to physical constraints, to pain that only she must bear. ... Her suffering is too intimate and personal for the State to insist, without more, upon its own vision of the woman's role." What can dissenters do with that logic, other than grouse about what any of it has to do with the Constitution?

Here's the thing, Glenn. You don't need Richard Bennett for this one. No matter what argument he may bring, the fact remains that only a woman can have a child. Until they develop an artificial womb, the woman is the final arbiter of whether or not she wants to carry a pregnancy to term. The courts have upheld this time and again

I agree that it sucks that a man has no legal choice in the matter, but must pay child support if he is the father. But here's the thing that always gets ignored in this argument: If the man had kept it in his pants in the first place, there'd be no baby to pay child support for. That wasn't an immaculate conception. And the rules are: You play, you pay.

If men don't want to have to face that problem, then it is incumbent on them to be sure to use reliable birth control. The burden is still all on the woman for that. Where's the male Pill? What else is there for men other than condoms? Why is it that forty years after the Pill was developed there is still no new, reliable birth control for men? Need I remind you that the majority of medical research scientists are male?

And don't even get me started on medical insurance not paying for birth control pills but springing for Viagra (at least when it first came out).

You want to stop situations where a man has no say whatsoever in whether or not his baby is born? Fix the system where it's already broken—before there's a baby to be fought over. Make men more responsible for preventing unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. Until that happens, I simply don't want to hear about how the poor, downtrodden fathers-to-be have no say in the decision. They had a say in it. They chose not to exercise caution. Cry me a river.



The sacrifice of Abraham

Joe Katzman writes about Abe Avremel Zelmanowitz, the man who died in the WTC on 9/11 because he refused to leave his paraplegic friend until help arrived. But time ran out. The Ha'aretz article details the funeral.

Fortunately, Abe belonged to a better faith, and a better master. "How can a simple Jew like myself show his love of God?" Many have striven all their lives to answer Abe's question. Abe's answer marks him as an equal of those great Jewish Rabbinical heroes he revered. He gave Issac's answer - but with full foreknowledge. He also gave Abraham's answer, as one of his relatives notes in a tribute page:

"[Like Abraham] Our Uncle Avremel was also thrown into a fiery furnace, but his supreme act proclaimed to the world, that his G-d was a G-d of kindness, and he would not forsake Him. He gave his life in a totally selfless way to help another person, and sanctified the Name of G-d before all mankind."

"Yitgadal v'yitgadash, shemay rabah... (Magnified and sanctified be the name of the Lord...)" The Jewish prayer for the dead. A prayer of continuance in life. You did, Avremel. It was.

Abe Zelmanowitz. A true hero, was buried in Israel yesterday.

Let's have another glass of water

In that amazing way the Internet has of fact-checking our asses, I received several letters from readers about why water has a sell-by date, and that, indeed, it can go bad. Color me astonished. I also received several letters from readers who were motivated to point out more amusing things that the water sell-by date made them think of. Which brings me to today's kvetch: It was a humor schtick! It doesn't matter if there's a logical reason for it, I was making with the funnies. You people can be so serious sometimes.


Today is the 30th day I've been a Virginia resident, after spending most of my life in New Jersey. And though this has been planned for and worked toward for several years, and it's what I want, I'm discovering a bit of internal resistance to becoming a citizen of the Old Dominion.

I hesitated to send back my changeover of automobile insurance until the agent called me on Monday. I only set up a bank account here yesterday. (Don't tell the authorities, but I haven't got my VA license yet, or switched my car over. That's all scheduled for today or tomorrow.) It even took me a week or two to let the agencies I have a relationship with know that I'm here now.

My cats have adjusted to being Virginia residents faster than I have.

I suppose it's only natural. After a lifetime spent in one area, I'm consciously and unconsciously expecting things here to be what they were there. And when there's an incongruity in our lives, or when we feel stressed, we tend to withdraw into familiar patterns and avoid what seems frightening or strange. So I let the bills pile up for a while, since the longer I refused to send out checks to Virginia utilities, the longer I could pretend that I was still in New Jersey, but it was a lot bigger and there were a lot fewer people (who talked funny). And I still have my New Jersey bank account, so I can write those checks and use that bank card in the grocery stores. I haven't changed my cell phone to a Virginia number yet; the old familiar New Jersey area code is comforting to me. It's a signal that I haven't yet broken all my ties with my old home state. I'm heading back on Monday, and I keep saying, "I'm going home on Monday." But it isn't home, not anymore. It's that Other Place now, the place I used to live. The place where I know all the routes to all the stores for everything I need, unlike here, where I'm stumped at finding a major pet store and was literally blind without a phone book (which took two and a half weeks to deliver; how provincial can you get?!). The kosher food is in the aisle labeled "International" (that's funny, I thought I was a citizen), and there is no fresh kosher meat, only frozen.

And damn, I can't stand my empty freezer anymore so I'm heading back to NJ on Monday and I'm bringing my giant Coleman cooler with me (the one that's nearly as old as I am, is made of metal, and has a bottle opener over one of the handles) and loadin' her up with meat. I also have to do things like pick up my vaccuum cleaner and close my NJ bank account and bully my landlord into giving me my security deposit back, as well as force his employees to return my wall clock and laser printer, which they stole from my apartment after I left. I'll probably have to file a claim in court for them, but that's a story for later.

In the meantime, I'll stay with Brenda and James next door to where I used to live, and we'll go to James' favorite Chinese restaurant one night, and I'll see my family, and then on Wednesday I'll go to the kosher butcher shop and pick up six weeks' worth of nonfrozen meat, with a side trip to the other kosher butcher shop where I get my corned beef.

And then I'll come back home.



Water, water everywhere

I discovered an amazing thing at the supermarket today: Bottled water has an expiration date.

The mind reels. I picked up a store-brand gallon container and realized it actually has a sell-by date.

Which begs the question: What the hell do they think is going to happen to the water after the sell-by date? Is it going to go sour? Will it develop that yucky stuff in it that old milk develops? Curdled water? (Can we make water cheese out of if that happens?) Will it give us botulism? Is FEB 20 03 when the chlorine in my gallon of water turns into poison gas, or what?

And wait—picture this: I find a gallon of water with an expired sell-by date on it. Can you imagine the reaction of the clerk when I try to return it? "I'm sorry, but I can't drink this water. Look, it expired last week." I get the feeling they'd talk to me slowly and calmly and signal for their manager to dial 911 for the men in the white suits to come get me.

Is this not the most unbelievably stupid thing? A sell-by date for water. Because everyone knows, if you drink water after its expiration date, you may as well be downing an anthrax-smallpox cocktail, you'll have only moments to live!

Has anybody else begun to think we have far too many regulations in this land? I suppose I should be grateful it doesn't have an ingredients list. "Ingredients: Water." Duh.

Water. Next thing you know they're gonna have a warning label on your kitchen sink about the chemicals they put into tap water. Oh, no—I hope I didn't give anyone an idea.

Buffy and the homefront: A reader speaks

Steve Johnson of Fredericksburg, Virginia (my neighbor to the north) sent me the following in a letter in reference to a post from a couple of days ago. It's so good I think it deserves to be its own post.

The "Buffy Syndrome" article amused me some, although the context doesn't raise a lot of grins. But the author does appear to have used the Buffy analogy as a stunt or gimmick: Buffy faces threats which appear out of nowhere and come in such a wide variety that she cannot predict what is likely or even possible. So do biological-defense planners.

Thud. End of analogy.

I once did some thinking on what it would be like to live in a comic-book world, where magic, space aliens, vast cosmic forces, etc. threatened the world on a daily basis. In comic books, there is hardly anything "off the table" the way there is in the real world. The real Pentagon (I hope) doesn't spend much time thinking about what we would do if Martians invaded, or if everyone named Johnson were revealed to be robot spies for an underwater mastermind with telepathic powers, because such threats are so unlikely as to be effectively impossible. Captain America, as leader of the Avengers, cannot make that same assumption.

So I decided that Cap would probably have to do two things: first, vigorously compare notes with every superhero and spy on the planet, to compile files on every threat that had ever come up, so that in the future, similar threats could be dealt with in similar ways. My example was,

"Lava men? Never seen those before. But they're made of rock, and Thor fought some Stone Men from Saturn once. He tried fire, he tried hitting them with a hammer, he tried rain; none of those worked. But using wind to simulate the natural force of erosion eventually wore them down. Let's try wind on these Lava Men, and not bother trying hammers or fire."

The other response to a world too complicated to predict was to constantly train to improve the capabilities we'd need when the time came. Rather than try to devise a Rock Man Gun on the off chance we'd encounter a Rock Man, Cap and his Avengers would practice their strength, speed, teamwork and ability to think quickly under pressure, because those are general skills that would come in handy in virtually all situations. Professor X's insistence that the X-Men learn airplane maintenance, psychic defenses, close-quarters battle, weaknesses of man-shaped robotic weapons, etc. in the Danger Room was a sort of combination of both approaches. The X-Men faced a lot of mind-controllers, so psychic defense was likely to be handy in future battles. They also tended to fight a lot of robots. They didn't spend as much time learning, say, fire and movement tactics, because few of their enemies used guns. Professor X took stock of the X-Men's past experience and devoted his training hours where they seemed they'd do the most good.

So the author could have said, "Because Buffy cannot predict the nature of the threats that will emerge, she concentrates on honing those skills most likely to prove useful in a wide range of battles, such as her martial arts skills and Slayer senses. Her support team, notably Giles and Willow, study constantly to have a wide range of knowledge available -- note that they study widely, not deeply. When something happens, they don't always know a great deal about it, but they know where to look it up, or at least start looking. And rather than exclude friends who seem to have little to offer, like Xander, or who don't seem all that trustworthy, like Spike and Faith, she includes them in the planning and execution of missions because sometimes they turn out to have had the right tools all along."

He could then have said, "This works because it's a TV show, of course. But governments trying to respond to biological attack could draw some useful lessons from the way Buffy handles her threatening world:

Build up a robust capability likely to be useful in a wide range of situations, rather than one narrow "worst-case" threat. For example, build up a supply of smallpox vaccine, but also (and perhaps more importantly) greatly increase the vaccine-production system which can be used for a variety of vaccines. Right now it takes months or years to produce enough vaccine to inoculate the entire population against a new disease, because only a few drug companies make vaccines and then only the amount they can expect to sell. The government should establish huge vaccine-making complexes and test them to make sure they work before a biological attack.

Compile all available information relevant to biological defense in a single place. Have several of these "expert centers" so that if one is taken out the research capability isn't crippled.

Invite participation from several sources: military, medical, police, civilian. Every profession has strengths, but also blind spots.

But he didn't do any of that. Hmmph.

The problem with Islam

From Scott Johnson at

Truly, the center did not hold for the Muslim world, and it in fact ended with a whimper. The cold truth is that were it not for the geographic coincidence of petroleum and the logistical convenience of using natives to pull it out of the ground, Islamic culture would have been largely destroyed a hundred and fifty years ago. The Czars of Russia wanted an Orthodox mass spoken in the Hagia Sophia, the church of the Holy Wisdom in the center of Istanbul, and if it weren't for the British there would've been little the Ottomans could've done to stop them.

Islam, especially the Arabic heart of Islam, has simply never come to terms with these events. The native leadership, the ones who "own the Arab street", still wait for Islam to retake its rightful place as the epicenter of the world. They are to this day taught in midrasas from an early age that one day the West will see the light of Islam and all will fall down at their feet. The fact that it keeps not happening is something utterly incomprehensible. And when the human animal is confronted with the failure of an idea loved to the core of its soul, violence is a natural result.

But Islam must come to terms with this. By insisting on refighting a war lost eleven generations ago, by refusing to embrace change, by denying the need for a fundamental restructuring of beliefs, Islam cannot and will not succeed. By using violence as a method of political advancement, by embracing outrageous expressions of destruction as leitmotifs of a belief system, Islam makes itself worse than irrelevant. It makes itself a clear and present danger to people who are rapidly gaining the technological capability of dismantling and destroying it by remote control at no risk to the conquerors.

Read the whole essay, I'm finding it impossible to think of a one-line description. (Try not to read any more of Ellen's kitten updates while you're there; they're going to make you want that kitten.)

Color me a warmonger, then

Bill Quick has a good post on why we should go to war with Iraq. I'm agreein' with him.

But even terrorists don't exist in limbo. They must have money, communications, weapons, places to train, places to hide, places to store up supplies and otherwise create the infrastructure that even a non-territorial organization needs to maintain effectiveness. And that is where real states come in. For various reasons, (usually of deniability or unpredictability), certain states find the ability to make use of terrorist organizations not directly controlled by themselves to be highly useful. And in order to make use of such groups, they offer to trade the things the terrorists need in return for the right to task the terrorists with missions favorable to their own goals and interests.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq is such a nation. The documented connections between Hussein's regime and innumerable terror groups are legion. Even today, it is Iraqi and Saudi money that principally bankrolled the various Palestinian Arab terror groups - even to subsidizing the families of the suicide bombers.

He's also of the opinion that the war will start before the midterm elections. I'm agreein' with that, too. I don't believe there will be any progress in the Middle East until you wipe out the financial support for terrorism, starting with Iraq. Don't forget: Syria has Hezbollah lined up in Lebanon with thousands of Katyusha rockets pointing towards Israel, Iran was caught red-handed sending 50 tons—50 tons!—of weapons to the Palestinians, and 15 of the 19 came from Saudi Arabia.

But the problems in the Middle East all stem from Israel, right? Yeah. Right.

Eliad Moreh: "The voice burning inside of me."

Eliad Moreh, a survivor of the Hebrew University bombing, spoke to Michael Ledeen of National Review Online (via Little Green Footballs):

If I have survived while the young man sitting next to me — my dearest friend Diego David — was assassinated, it must be because I am obliged to speak out. You must not say "killed," these people who peacefully had lunch in the cafeteria were assassinated. And the aim of the Palestinian terrorist who put the bomb there was to murder as many human beings as possible. They were systematically targeted for death, not killed as if in an accident. The seven people murdered here were targeted because they were Jews, and found themselves on the soil of Israel. That was their crime, that was why they were assassinated. And because I have survived the attack of this assassin, I will speak my mind with all my strength. In fact at the very moment I came out of the cafeteria, feeling the pain in my neck, I felt I had to scream my message to the world.

[...] I see history repeated. It is again considered a crime to be a Jew, just as it was during the thirties and forties. Nobody gives a damn. Just as in the thirties and forties, the rest of the world stands by while Jews are assassinated every day. The difference is, thank God, that today we have a state. But we are refused the right to defend ourselves against our enemies, which is a more perverse way to forbid our existence. By finding reasons to justify the assassins, some people in Europe encourage them to shed more Jewish blood.

[...] It is only the beginning. The political conflict in Israel is only used as a pretext. The truth is that the aim of fundamentalist Islam is to dominate the world, in every place, no matter who is the population. Look at the conflicts in the world, in the Philippines, in Pakistan, in Iraq, in Algeria, fanatic Muslims are every time involved. Muslim Fundamentalism represents a danger for the whole of humanity, wherever there is democracy and freedom. It does not concern Israel only. The sooner the world understands it, the sooner we will be able to vanquish these forces of evil. And I have no doubt we will triumph because the forces of life are stronger than those of death.




The further adventures of Captain Euro, et al

Mac Thomason has another Captain Euro episode, this time without the Space Ghost Group, but it's equally as funny. You have got to read the punchline. I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

Combustible Boy wants me to check out some posts on his site, but I really have to run, so just go see what he has to say and get back to me, will you? Thanks.

Lynn B. is stirring up the blogosphere now that she's gotten back from her vacation.

Win Fitzpatrick rebuffs today's Washington Post editorial, which takes the "cycle of violence, yadda yadda yadda" moral equivalency tack—again. Win also made me finally look up the word "sanguine." (Oh. That's what it means.) Here's my favorite part:

The Post admits that "Israel cannot be required to spawn a terrorist state on its borders," but dodges the inevitable consequence of that position. Any Palestinian state established within the current conditions of the Middle East, and endowed with qualities that flow from the current Palestinian mindset, will be a terrorist state. There can be no Palestinian state so long as those conditions, and that mindset, prevail.

I need to link to (and read) some blogs that I haven't linked to in a really long time. If yours fits that description, please drop me some email.

Revisiting the Blogathon

I just reread my Blogathon posts—all 50 of them—and a lot of them were pretty damned good, in light of the circumstances. (The hell with false modesty.) For those of you who have just joined us, the challenge was to post every 30 minutes for 24 hours, while also making the posts interesting enough for my readers to actually, well, read them. It was all for charity, and I chose Shaare Zedek Medical Center, one of four hospitals in Jerusalem that is so phenomenal it gets 41% of the terrorist bombing victims. They need to upgrade their trauma center, and if you didn't contribute during the Blogathon, you can still send a check anytime to


You can also click on the link above to find an address closer to your region, or you can send the check directly to Shaare Zedek in Jerusalem if you like. And if you put in the memo field, it will show them how badly they need to upgrade their website. (I've been speaking with their reps about that. Even offered to help pro bono.)

Their need hasn't ended because the Blogathon is over. In fact, the recent terrorism attacks have shown how much Shaare Zedek needs that money. If you can spare as little as ten dollars, it will be a good thing. If you can spare more, it will be a better thing.

Color me embarrassed

During the Superhero Studfest, I found a very funny post on a weblog called "Making Light," and mistakenly thought it was Patrick Nielsen Hayden's weblog and mentioned it here. It wasn't his. It was Teresa Nielsen Hayden's, and I attributed it incorrectly. For some reason, I thought Patrick kept a seperate weblog for the funny stuff. That'll teach me not to look around a weblog just because the author is linking to me. (I normally do; I am just so embarrassed that I didn't in this case.)

So forgive me, Teresa. I've fixed the attribution in the post (and cleared it of the wrong gender references, Patrick). Major oops.

Janis Coulter: An American victim of Islamist terror

From Judith W.:

Here on the Upper West Side of Manhattan - a very lively, diverse, spiritually and academically knowledgeable Jewish community - I am surrounded by people who roomed with, studied with, were close to the Americans who were killed. Friday night at B'nai Jeshurun the young rabbinic intern who led the early service spoke of the American students as people known and loved by many in the congregation. Saturday morning at Ansche Chesed a young woman spoke about how Hebrew U, where she studied for several years, was a special place where Jews and Arabs studied together (as well as students from all over the world), how it always felt safe because there aren't that many entrances and they check everyone's bags. How her first year roommate was the first Jordanian to study in Israel, and how that symbolized for her the potential of the place. Then she spoke, her voice breaking, about her friend Janice Coulter, who was in the process of converting to Judaism when she was blown up.

This is from Janice's teacher, Jay Berkovits

The horrible events of this past week, especially Wednesday's bombing at the Hebrew University, have been difficult and trying. Because I work daily at the Hebrew University, though at a different campus,and have had connections to the University for almost 30 years, this attack felt frightfully close. Young people, mostly Americans, including two who had just completed post-graduate Jewish studies at Pardes, perished that day. But it is because of my connection to one of the victims, Janis Coulter, that I feel compelled to share some thoughts. Janis was my student at UMass about thirteen years ago. She studied in our department, and was also a History major. She was a lovely person, applied herself diligently to her studies, and accomplished quite a lot. Because of her intelligence and excellent record, she assisted me in grading exams in our department's introductory survey of Jewish civilization. But the most striking thing I remember about Janis was the uncommon warmth with which she approached the history of the Jews. She wasn't Jewish, but she certainly had a yiddishe neshomoh. After finishing UMass, she went to the Univ. of Denver to get a graduate degree in Judaic Studies, then attended the Hebrew University. From time to time I would see her at the Association for Jewish Studies meetings, and at some point she decided to work with students, to encourage them to study in Israel. She met with students at campuses throughout the U.S., and eventually became the deputy director of the New York office of the American Friends of the Hebrew University.

It therefore was not a complete surprise when Janis told me that she had converted to Judaism. I could never have predicted it when we first met, but it seemed so obvious. When I think about the Talmud's description of what is expected of a prospective convert (Yevamot 47a), I think of Janis. The gemara says that when a person comes before the beit din with the intention of converting to Judaism, that person is asked why s/he would want to join the Jewish people. "Don't you know that the Jewish people are despised and persecuted?" the beit din asks. If the ger answers, "I know and I am not worthy", s/he is accepted immediately, and only then is instructed in the commandments. Rav Soloveitchik, zz"l, explained that first the ger enters the covenant of fate (physical) -- "brit goral" -- and after this enters the covenant of destiny (the Torah) -- "brit ye'ud." What this teaches, continued the Rov, is that the first thing we demand of the ger is not a leap of faith, but a leap of empathy for the Jewish people. This is what we learn from converts about being Jewish.

With the empathy she displayed for the Jewish people, Janis taught us all a great deal. Her personal journey became intertwined with the destiny of the Jewish people she loved so much, but ended tragically, on a trip accompanying students to Israel from the U.S.

By converting to Judaism, Janis embraced the Jewish people as her family. At this sorrowful time, the Jewish community must show its support for this wonderful young woman, a genuine woman of valor, and for the others who perished in the same attack. This is a time to stand together with one of our own, and with the people of Israel. I can't think of a better expression of Kiddush Hashem than to attend her funeral and mourn her loss "betokh avelei Tzion vi-Yerushalayim".

And so we bury another innocent Jew, killed by another fanatic Arab Islamist. There is a difference in the victims. The terrorists deliberately target innocents. The IDF does not. There will be a reckoning.



Another excellent blog

Or, "So much to read, so little time!"

Jim Miller has been blogging away in secret for more than a month; he should have contacted me sooner. There are many interesting posts and articles, particularly this one, "What Would Mohammed Do?," a look at why fanatic Islamists are doing what they're doing.

Jim's promising permalinks in the near future. Do put some in, Jim. Feel free to steal mine; they're easy to make but a pain in the butt to do by hand. Such is the life of a Lone Blogger. (Where's that Blogicon again?)

More frightening than Buffy's demons

Gary Farber points out a New York Times article from the last Week in Review that mentions this frightening report on the threat of biological weapons to the U.S.

Interestingly, neither the Times analysis, nor Cordesman, take note of the fact that the parallels they draw between Buffy's errors and the US government's errors are drawn from Buffy's earliest seasons, when she was naive and inexperienced, and that as she learned, her techniques and planning grew far more sophisticated and ever-more-capable of dealing with higher and higher level threats. Morever, despite Cordesman's criticisms of her early flaws in technique, she was always successful.

That was my initial reaction, too, but then I started reading the report, and realized that Anthony Cordesman is only using Buffy as a come-on; his report proves he's far too smart to compare a fictional character in a dramatic program, who must always defeat evil and win at the end, to real-life biological warfare, where, if we screw up, millions may die.

The Times piece doesn't nearly do this report justice. (Scroll down to "Biological Warfare and the Buffy Paradigm"). In fact, the Times piece plays up the Buffy parts far too much; it's a 42-page report, and can't be boiled down to the few paragraphs given it by the Times. (And the report is more ammunication in the argument as to why we must eliminate Saddam Hussein.)

I stopped reading a third of the way through, and I'm sure that I'll be having nightmares tonight, probably featuring Charlton Heston in New York City and deformed zombies who can't stand daylight trying to kill me, but hey, that just proves that I watch too many awful movies.

But to get back to the piece: It's quite frightening, and I hope they sent it along to someone who's actually supposed to be preventing biological attacks on the home front (are you listening, Norm?). Scroll down to page 37 for the author's suggestions, as it's in PDF format and can't be copied and pasted. Or go straight to it via this link.

Happy days are here again

I mentioned the local cable access channel a couple of weeks ago. I've actually not been watching it at all lately, but I caught it tonight. Indian music videos were on again as I was channel-surfing, and I stopped to watch one. it was near the end of a pretty cheerful video that was obviously about a man and woman getting married (even the mother of the bride—or was she the mother of the groom?—got to sing some). Well, at the very end, the entire wedding crowd launched into an Indian version of—I swear to God—"Happy Days Are Here Again." In English. Only it wasn't our tune, and wasn't even sung Western style. Picture it sung in the high, quavering pitch of the Subcontinent, and then make it fast and not resembling our tune at all, and throw in lots of extra "happy"s, and you've got it.

I tellya, I don't know what we did when it was only nine or ten channels. Okay, when I was a kid, we just turned on the TV until the test pattern was replaced with a show, but that's not nearly as much fun as "Happy Days Are Here Again" sung by an Indian wedding party.

A trucker's lament

Mike of Cold Fury has a great story of his latest truck run. Then he has the sequel. Damn. I'd offer to let him stop here next time, but I get the feeling he doesn't have any time to stop. Not at all like my dad driving for Pabst way back when. All he did was deliver in New York and New Jersey. (Via Susanna Cornett)

Not that I ever wanted to be a truck driver, but after reading Mike's stories, uh, I never want to be a truck driver.

The right way to do it

Scott of (yeah, that's really its name) sent me this link to his essay on why John Edward and other frauds do harm, even to those who believe in them. And then some checking around on his weblog found these stories about cats and kittens. Kittens. Skeptics. The Hubble Telescope. And an essay about why America rules, but doesn't. What's not to like? (I thought at first that this explains my Arkansas readers, but they're in northern VA now. Hm.)

Shoutin' out

Hey, I got a reader from Belize for the first time ever. Kewl.

A shout-out to Conway, Arkansas! I don't get many readers from Arkansas, which is, frankly, one of the neatest state names to pronounce, because you always wonder why Kansas is pronounced just as it's spelled, and Arkansas isn't pronounced like "ar-kansas". Would that be because people would think I'm trying to keep their state? Nah. You can have it. (Not said in a condescending manner, I just like it here.)

Saying hello to Deptford, New Jersey. Just goes to show you, you can live in New Jersey most of your life and still go "Huh?" when you hear a town name you've never heard before. I'm guessng it's in the other Jersey, South Jersey. And of course, a quick Google search tells me that I'm correct. What do I win?

Attention, WebTrends: Your programmers still can't spell "Medford." (It's "Medofrd" on the chart, and I pointed it out months ago. Programmers. Tsk.)

My Arpanet guys showed up on the first of August. That was a huge relief, because they didn't check in at all during July, and I thought they'd left me for another. Y'all come back more often! (Ooh, look, she's in Richmond four weeks and she thinks she's southern. Poseur.)

By the way, the traditional beginning-of-month search engine post is being postponed because, well, the searches have been boring or disgusting or downright stupid. (Ann Coulter pictures? SHE'S NOT HOT! I don't care what you say, SHE'S NOT HOT! Gawd. Are conservatives that hard up that they think she's a good example of feminine beauty? Feh.)

But I digress. Later. However, I will say that John Edward lost first place in the search engine phrases to (drumroll please) Laurie Zoloth of SFSU! However, Laurie was only number two. The number one search in July? The Dreaded Chinese Snakehead Walking Fish. Fins and tails above the rest of them. (Going now.)

Stationary statuary

Mac Thomason posted an article (not the Dreaded Chinese Snakehead Walking Fish article) that reminded me of something that happened to me the first time I visited my mother in Florida.

When I was in college, my mother transferred to the Miama branch of Eastern Airlines and moved to Hollywood, a town next to Fort Lauderdale. Since I was still in school, I had flying privileges and could fly very cheaply. Well, the day after I arrived for my first visit was a typical southern Florida summer day—hot, sunny, perfect sunbathing weather. But I didn't really want to go to the pool, as there were just too many "old farts" there (remember, I was in college). So I took my towel and sunscreen and went behind my mother's condo and set the towel down near the bank of the canal. Florida is filled with canals, both natural and man-made, of various sizes. This one was fairly small, but it went the length of some of the buildings and served as a border betwen Mom's condos and the neighboring complex. When I got bored just lying in the sun, I went to the pool.

The next morning, I walked out onto Mom's patio and saw that the next-door neighbors had a statue of an alligator, about three feet long, on the lawn behind their condo. I was impressed with how life-like it looked, and took a few steps toward it to see it better. The statue ran down the bank and slipped into the water.

I stopped sunbathing by the canal.

My brother and his friend eventually caught that alligator and a few other small ones, and released them in the nature preserve down the road. And a grown woman is not really in a whole lot of danger from a three-foot alligator.

But still, I stopped sunbathing by the canal.



They destroy; we will build

Teddyflipped sent me the URL to this site, which is urging Jews to celebrate Rosh Hashana with Israeli honey. You satisfy tradition and help the Israeli economy while you're at it. Yeah, it's a little more expensive. But the Israeli economy is hurting, and that's exactly what the terrorist scumbags want. Of course, you don't have to be Jewish to order the honey. Or to check out Teddyflipped's pages for Israeli products. Or even to buy something in the kosher aisle at your local supermarket that says "Made in Israel" on it.

We can't personally stop the terrorists from blowing up innocents, but we can help Israel's economy thrive. And nothing aggravates the terrorists and anti-Semites like a thriving Jewish state.

Borrowing from weblogs

Policies on come into being either when I realize that I have none and feel like making one up, or, alas, when they have to be created. There are now guidelines on borrowing material from this site. There's a certain person out there who likes to engage in futile debate on an arab chat board who needs to read it. (I saw verbatim theft on that message board of both my and Joe Katzman's material; the least you could do is give us a link. We don't get nearly enough hate mail from angry Muslims.) I also found it on Larry Elder's message board. That image cost me at least two and a half megs of bandwidth before I caught it, due to it being copied and quoted in the thread. Not nice. Not nice at all.

Mixing it up with MeFi

(Note: I was debating whether or not to post this. In light of the recent series of terror attacks on Israelis, here it is. So, Todd, were these attacks "obvious" Hamas retaliation as well? Does Hamas get to say "Okay, we're done, we retaliated enough"? Are you keeping score? Who's winning?)

Apparently, I am in disfavor with mediareport, a.k.a. Todd Morman, a MetaFilter contributor. It seems someone linked to my post regarding the Gaza celebration of the death and destruction at Hebrew University, and Mr. Morman doesn't like some of the things he found here.

I found it interesting, dhartung, that the link Meryl provided to the disgusting reaction of those Palestinian kids itself provided a link to this JPost story: "Palestinian study finds nearly half of West Bank-Gaza children suffer malnutrition."

Worth a look as you consider the horror of what those kids are learning about life as they grow up. And while nothing excuses the monstrous cheering of innocent deaths by children, I'm left wondering how many of the people in that picture knew some of the 150 or so wounded or 11 dead babies who were innocent victims of that one-ton bomb Israel dropped on a residential Gaza Strip neighborhood just last Monday. Surely a reasonable observer would consider that as they linked to a story about Gaza Strip reaction to an obvious Hamas retaliatory strike.

Oh, but then Meryl doesn't seem primarily interested in being reasonable, does she?

Todd doesn't like my approving link to and posting of the BarCodeKing's parody of "Dead Skunk" written about dead Sheikh Salah Shehada. Nor does he like my post titled "Anti-Semites of the world: Die." They're not reasonable he says. (We won't get into wondering how many posts he read before he came to his conclusion about the reasonableness of this weblog. Oops, I guess we did.)

But I do wonder: Todd, did you read the latter post? Did you follow the links? The ones detailing the murder of the Orthodox Jewish man in Toronto, and to the MEMRI translation of the latest Saudi government-sponsored calls for the death of Jews and Americans? Or did you just read the headline to my post and decide that you needed to read no further?

But hey. Maybe you did read further and you were just too tired to explain how my railing against things like anti-Semitism, the firing of professors merely because they are Israeli, and calling for the death of Jews and Americans are unreasonable actions.

So let's see what you consider reasonable:

And while nothing excuses the monstrous cheering of innocent deaths by children, I'm left wondering how many of the people in that picture knew some of the 150 or so wounded or 11 dead babies who were innocent victims of that one-ton bomb Israel dropped on a residential Gaza Strip neighborhood just last Monday. Surely a reasonable observer would consider that as they linked to a story about Gaza Strip reaction to an obvious Hamas retaliatory strike.

Ooooooohhh. That's what "reasonable" means. When I see a picture of Palestinians in Gaza celebrating the deaths and dismemberment and wounding of civilians in a horrific nail-bomb attack—in the cafeteria of a university during exams and registration—I shouldn't be angry. I should think instead, "Gee, those kids have the right to be upset, because their buddy Ahmed was one of the civilians hurt when the Israelis targeted the mastermind behind the murders of hundreds of Israelis (most of whom were civilians)." And notice how Todd prefaced his remarks with a cover-your-but-phrase. "Yeah, I know they're wrong, BUT—" Then comes the "it's all the Israelis' fault" reasoning. It's the favored tack of the moral equivalence crowd.

(Quick aside: Find me one instance of Israelis celebrating the death of the civilians in the Shehada attack. Yeah, I know, you can't. Bummer, huh? Those pesky Israelis just refuse to crow about the death of innocents.)

As to the terrorist bombing, Todd says it was an obvious retaliatory strike, so that explains the (reasonable?) actions of the depraved celebrants. Todd absolutely is the judge of what is and isn't reasonable reaction. I'm sure, because I took a peek at the various threads Todd's started or commented on, and found exactly zero decrying any terrorist attack in and of itself. Lots decrying the "obvious" Israeli reactions to same, though. I think I may be onto his definition of what is reasonable, and it doesn't include defense against terrorism, or Palestinian responsibility for the execution of innocents.

There was no outrage from Todd on the attack of the bus filled with civilians only a couple of weeks ago. There were lots of posts by him insisting that the poor, downtrodden terrorists are only reacting to the evil wargmonger Sharon and those nasty "religious" settlers. Nothing on a five-year-old girl shot in her bed by a terrorist. After all, she was just one of those damned "settlers." I believe Damian Penny found the phrase you're looking for on nazimedia that's currently in vogue: "future land thief."

Let's see if I can predict what Todd would say about those last: "cycle of violence, yada yada yada, despair, no hope, occupation, yada yada yada."

I'll pass. It gets tiresome after a while, listening to people like Todd keep making excuses for murderers, and then getting on the case of those of us who refuse to do so. Funny. Gandhi and King made their points and changed their societies without resorting to murdering grandmothers and their grandchildren in an ice cream parlor. And yet, the Palestinians are all given a bye—by reasonable people like Todd.

Richmond stories

This afternoon about 1:30 I was catching up on my weblog (reading and writing), when there was a loud, sudden knock at the door. I immediately began my mental grumble, because after three and a half weeks, I can recognize the knock of the door-to-door solicitor. Still grumbling inside, I open the door to a young man who asks, "Is that your Jeep?"

"Yes," I reply, noticing a strange odor (not emanating from the young man) and trying to comprehend an olfactory and aural incongruity. ("What's that smell? What's that noise?" I wondered.)

"Well, you probably want to move it. The dumpster's on fire. I don't know what happened—"

All the rest of his words ceased to exist for me as I looked to his right and saw that the trash dumpster standing two parking spaces away from my car was completely encased in flames, spitting ash and smoke. I grabbed my car keys from the light-switch next to the front door where I hang them, ran to the car while yelling, "Thank you!", unlocked it, dove in, turned the key in the ignition, backed out, and moved my car in probably under fifteen seconds. I do not move slowly in emergency situations, and I think no more than is necessary to decide what needs to be done. I did not stop to put on my shoes. I took about a half a second to imagine my car on fire and decided that was not an acceptable outcome.

After my car was safe, I stopped to watch the fire and chat with the neighbors while we waited for the fire engine to show. We wondered if the tree near the dumpster would catch, why the flame was in vortex (I pointed out the plastic top and two side panels to the dumpster had burned, leaving quite a cross-current of oxygen to feed the flame), whether we were stupid to be outside breathing in what might be toxic smoke, but acknowledging our unwillingness to go indoors. We were also concerned that a spark would light the plentiful covering of pine needles on the ground outside our building. I did, at one point, decide to go inside and put on shoes. Just in case I had to move the car again, or stamp out a fire. The Richmond FD got there in plenty of time and put the fire out quite thoroughly and efficiently, not even needing a hydrant.

Some idiot probably threw a lit cigarette in the dumpster. Now it's a burned-out hulk. And a story to tell about my first month in Richmond.


Last week's blogs are archived. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.