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Five years ago I finished my last cigarette pack, after a very long career as a smoker (I started when I was thirteen and was a pack-a-day smoker by age seventeen). I've lost track of how much I've saved, but cigarettes are about $25 a carton here in VA, and about $45 a carton where I used to live. But I'm pretty sure I've saved at least a year's worth of car payments as well as paid for my entire living room and kitchen sets, as well as two paintings, a new TV stand, and, well, yeah, I've lost track.

Yep, I got the tongues wagging in synagogue last night. Wind Rider came to services with me. Of course, that didn't start the tongues wagging as much as my showing up late to services this morning. One might wonder what they were thinking, if one has a gutter mind.

I so have a gutter mind.



The real meaning of ISM

Go check out Laurence Simon's post on the top ten more appropriate meanings of ISM.

There's also another article on the British suicide bombers. Meantime, the Daily Mail says they were radicalized by the hook-handed preacher of hate, Abu Hamza.

Time to look to your own backyard, Tony Blair, before telling Israel what to do.

More proof of ISM terrorist-harboring

Via Charles Johnson, an article in the Guardian backs up the Telegraph regarding the British Muslim suicide bombers using the ISM as their cover method to get into Israel.

The Britons who mounted the suicide attacks in Israel attempted to join the peace movement as cover for their activities, the Guardian has learnt.

As Israeli police mounted a manhunt for the alleged failed British suicide bomber Omar Khan Sharif, fearing he would attempt another attack, human rights sources told the Guardian that Sharif and his accomplice Asif Mohammed Hanif, arrived at the offices of the International Solidarity Movement in Rafah and made contact with its members just days before the bombing.

The contact with the ISM, which has organised human shields and peace protests, could prove vital to the Israeli security services as they try to piece together the movements of the pair following their entry to the country.

One activist, who asked not to be named, recognised the pair when they were shown on Israeli TV. He spoke to them last Friday at the spot where American human shield Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer. He said: "They did not seem tense or edgy. You didn't get the impression they were planning to carry out a suicide bombing within a few days.

Do we need any more proof? Expel all the terrorist sympathizing bastards. Shut down their offices, and outlaw their organization. Their hands are wet with blood.


While searching for the name of the Angel episode we WB-deprived schlubs in Richmond saw this week, I found a list of all the Angel articles in TV Guide online. A few spoilers, but so far, none that sent me screaming from the room looking for someone to remove my brain and shake out the new memories just put in there so I can watch the Buffy finale and be completely surprised.

Yes, I did read about PETA trying to get yet another town named Hamburg to change its name to Veggieburg. If you want to read my thoughts on the matter, you'll have to buy the next issue of the Weekly Standard and read the Scrapbook section. It's available online only to subscribers.

That makes two PETA pieces I've written for the Scrapbook. I'd best change my subject or people will start to think I don't like PETA. Well, okay, I don't like PETA, but still, gotta watch that reputation. I wouldn't want the Legion of Plant Eaters sending me nasty email, would I?

Someone explain to me why, when I left the kitchen door open specifically for the cats to go in and out, and the patio door closed because the noise from the neighbor's air conditioning unit is too annoying, both cats chose to scratch on the patio door every time they wanted to come in, instead of just waltzing in through the open kitchen door. Besides the fact that they're cats, that is. Okay, so that was a rhetorical question. Never mind.

I'm wondering if it was a good idea to leave Gracie on my bed. Tig had a really nasty stomach bug two days ago, and Gracie is showing every sign of having caught it from him. I'm thinking, move cat or wash sheets.

Move cat.

Terrorist supporting "activists" finally being banned from Israel

The "International Solidarity Movement"—a Palestinian backed organization that claims to be for peace, but seems only to be able to shield terrorists—has been implicated, although not directly named, in the latest terrorist bombing in Israel. The two bombers, both British Muslims, posed as "peace activists." Whether or not they did this to get into Israel is unclear, but that's not surprising: The ISM teaches its people to lie about their real reasons for visiting Israel so they won't be turned back at the border.

The two British suicide bombers who blew up a seafront bar in Tel Aviv, killing three people, had posed earlier as peace activists, acting as "human shields" for Palestinians, sources in the Gaza Strip said yesterday.

That's the bad news. The good news is that Israel is finally taking action to send these terrorist-sympathizing assholes out of the country, and stop any new ones from coming in.

Israel will from now on bar pro-Palestinian activists from entering the country and will try to expel at least some of the dozens of activists who are already here, according a new plan drafted by the Israel Defense Forces and the foreign and defense ministries.

Most of the activists, who come from Europe, Canada and the United States, belong to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

[...] The sources said the activists received training overseas in how to deceive border control officials at Ben-Gurion International Airport in order to be allowed into the country.

Yeah, we already knew that. What we didn't understand is why Israel felt it was necessary to allow these pieces of excrement to stay in their country, once their true motives were uncovered. Let me guess: The Israeli courts let them stay. Because the Middle East's lone democracy already believes in the rule of law.

You have no idea how much I hate these people right now. While they lie about what really happened to Rachel Corrie, they cover for terrorists and then say they didn't know they had a terrorist under their noses. Why should I believe them when they have shown a pattern of lying matched only by everything that comes out of Saab Erekat's mouth?

And while I'm at it: If you haven't seen Laurence Simon's response to the attempted canonization of Rachel Corrie for dying while shielding terrorists, then check out this post. I have no sympathy left in me for these people.



Don't try this at home

A friend with a newborn found a unique way to get the baby to stop crying.

Peace and quiet

I never thought of that. Sometimes, it's the simple solutions that work the best. Now I'll know what to do next time I babysit.

The Woodpecker War: Victory

When last we left our chronicle, we were worried that the lump on the chimney hood was Woody Effing Woodpecker's small (but rotund) corpse. Maintenance Guy had put sticky stuff around on the roof, and we wondered: Was it too sticky? Did Woody land on it and then get stuck to the chimney, struggle to get free, and die of the shock and trauma of having his annoying little feet stuck to the metal sounding board he had been using to try to get woodpecker broads?

I didn't know, but there were no more early-morning wakeup pecks from Woody. It seemed that he was, indeed, dead. And then the guilt set in. I didn't really want Woody dead, well, except when I was outside in my bathrobe at 6:30 in the morning, throwing ice cubes at him to make him stop pounding on the chimney. But during the day, my murderous rage dissipated. Usually. I admit I did have fantasies of leaving Tig on the roof overnight in the hopes that he would eat the bird the next morning, but I couldn't figure out how to a) get Tig on the roof and b) make him stay there and c) not have him yowl to be taken off the roof all night, thus cancelling out any benefit I might have gotten by Tig's scaring Woody away.

But the information you've all been waiting for (and don't think I haven't been tempted to pull a Whittle and write twenty or thirty pages before getting to my conclusion): The lump on the chimney is the bottle of conditioner that I threw on the roof the day before Maintenance Guy got there. He was slightly amused as I told him this morning I thought it was Woody. "No, it's the shampoo bottle. You told me it scared him off. Can't you see the lump is red?" Ah, no, I couldn't. The color you see in the picture is the color it looks like from down on the ground. Black. But that explains why I could hear Woody singing in the surrounding trees since his "death" on an almost daily basis. I can deal with his singing for a mate. It's when he starts pounding on my chimney hood that we have problems.

And so the story has a happy ending. I showed Maintenance Guy his picture, and tried to explain to him exactly what it is I do. It worked. He asked me to help him with problems he's been having sending email.

Okay, the story doesn't have a happy ending for me, as I don't use Microsoft Outlook and this guy may very well track me down and try to get me to help him, but at least we know that Woody is still somewhere out there, looking for woodpecker babes, and maybe even starting a family. Which family will not be on my chimney hood next year, thanks to Maintenance Guy and Vidal Sassoon.

Though I gotta admit, I'm starting to get a little worried about the nest of starlings in the tree in front of my bedroom window.

Smoke-filled rooms

I was surprised with another Bingo volunteer night, so my hair reeks of smoke, and my clothes are in the washer, and once again I refuse to shower before going to bed because by tomorrow morning I'd have bedhead so bad I'd have to wash my hair again, and anyway, I hate taking two showers a day and it's not like I'm sleeping with anyone tonight. Oops. Too much information in that last sentence. Forget you read it.

The overwhelming majority of Bingo players, if not the entirety, are the working poor and the working class. I haven't counted heads, but it seems to be fairly balanced between whites and people of color. Most of the people are in the senior citizen range, with a few fortysomethings and a few more young people. Some people come alone, some with friends, some with spouses. Many of them come for the entertainment. It's something to do on a Wednesday night. A lot of them come wanting to win big. You can tell the difference. The ones who want to win the most are the least patient.

I'm starting to know the regulars by face now. Most of them are quite kind, although they get impatient with having to tell you something twice. Tonight, I got a bunch of laughs by wondering aloud (several times) if the Bush boys had ever set foot inside a Bingo parlor. Of course, they have not. Children of privilege probably have no clue how to even play Bingo, let alone what kind of people choose to spend their weeknights trying to win a jackpot. Perhaps Clinton's mother played Bingo, but I doubt he did. And I'd lay odds that Hillary thinks Bingo is the name of a dog in a children's song.

My mother played Bingo, once upon a time. When I was a child, the Jewish families in our neighborhoods all went to Bradley Beach during the summer. In the evenings, after dinner, the mothers would go to the Bingo parlor on Ocean Avenue, and the children would take their quarters to the Arcade, where we played skeeball and pinball and put nickels down on the wheels, trying to win prizes. We were working class families, too, with a fair number of middle class families thrown in. But all white, and mostly Jewish, at least on Bradley Beach. Belmar to the south wasn't a Jewish beach, and Ocean Grove to the north forbade nearly everything, so I don't know if Bingo was legal.

Males could not go shirtless on the Ocean Grove boardwalk. If you were walking from Bradley Beach to Asbury Park during the daytime, boys had to put their shirts on to cross the mile or so of boardwalk that was Ocean Grove. I seem to remember that girls had to wear something over their swimsuits, too, but my memory of it is getting spottier by the year.

Ocean Grove used to chain off the roads on Sundays. Newspaper deliverers left the papers in bundles at the edge of town and shopkeepers got their own papers on Sunday mornings. The town started out as a Methodist Camp Meeting place, and grew from there. Their town government was intertwined with the church leadership in town, which is why they had to revamp it entirely and change their laws after losing a church-vs.-state lawsuit. New Jersey is too populous an area to be able to leave a prime beach town to what many thought were religious zealots. It was only a matter of time before changed was forced.

I always found it amusing that the "Jewish" beach was right next door to the devoutly Christian Ocean Grove. I never experienced a single awkward moment there, either, nor heard of any complaints (other than what a pain it was to have to detour around the town on Sundays) from my friends and relatives.

My only experience with the Bingo parlor in Bradley Beach was running inside to beg for more quarters from my mother. I have only vague memories of a lot of women, loud noise, and long tables. My mission was to get in and out as quickly as possible, so I tried never to do more than say a polite hello to my mother's friends and relatives.

Now, I'm one of the people walking up and down the rows of tables hawking the various games. I've met the sweet elderly couple who come to play Bingo regularly for their evenings out. They're devout and think that Jesus is the one responsible for their winning a jackpot tonight. There's the African-American woman who I could have sworn was no older than 60, who is 74 and a home healthcare worker. One of her patients is a few years older than she. There's the woman who won the major jackpot tonight—$4,500. Then she won a second instant prize of $250, when she hadn't stopped shaking from winning the first prize. She is old enough to be a grandmother, and she told me that she was going to take her two foster boys, aged 10 and 11, and buy them new clothes tomorrow. "Toys too?" I asked. No, she said. Let them buy their own toys. There was an Asian man there tonight, obviously new to the game, and having no luck. He came alone. I always feel a little bad for the people who sit alone, but they're quite cheerful when I stop and sell them a Winner Take All or a Jackpot sheet. Come to think of it, Healthcare Worker was alone, and quite pleased to say hello to her acquaintances and take her place by the office door, by herself.

I was thinking tonight that most of our nation's leaders have no clue what the working class is really like. Oh, I'm not talking state legislators. I'm thinking more in terms of our Congressional leaders, and the President and his staff and advisers, the business leaders, and the media elite. Somehow, I can't imagine Cokie Roberts or Sam Donaldson or Tom Brokaw ever having set foot in a Bingo hall.

As a matter of fact, I think there are a lot of bloggers out there who don't have a clue as to what the working class life is all about, except for maybe visiting a blue-collar bar now and then. Me, I lived it for much of my life, and don't have a problem switching right back into working-class mode. I may have a white collar life now, but my roots are blue. It's a permanent blue, I think. That's a good thing. I don't really want it to disappear. I can't say I'm a big fan of smoke-filled Bingo halls, but the people who go to them are as American as soccer moms.

I like blue roots.



Downtime required

I added a few things to my wishlist, since Marduk pretty much depleted it a few weeks ago. (Give someone else a chance this time, Marduk.) I can't find Hulk Hands via, though. Bummer. But I did find a Hulk collection I don't have yet. (I am so close to resuming my comic collecting habits. Help me. Please.) And there's a new Lemony Snicket book due out in a week or so, which is a relief, as two of the three orphans were hurtling down a cliff to their doom at the end of the last one, and I've been unable to sleep properly for months. No, really. Okay, perhaps my sleeping problems were due to cats and woodpeckers, but I wasn't lying. Much.

I added all of Terry McGarry's books that I don't already own signed copies of. (That's the advantage of knowing the author.) And a few of Peter David's because, well, he's funny. And because he wrote the Hulk for twelve years, and frankly, even if Peter lost all of his writing talent and turned into the next Piers Anthony (God forbid!), I'd still buy his books simply out of gratitude for twelve excellent years of one of the best comics ever. (Okay, don't click on Peter's website if, like me, you live in a WB-deprived backwater and have to watch Angel a week after the rest of the nation sees it, and don't like spoilers. Goddammit, Peter, it's a good thing you didn't give it away in the first line or I'd have to come after you. With my aluminum baseball bat.)

I'll be adding more things to the list later. I'm on a low budget these days while the irons that I have in various fires heat up. I don't have a tip jar, but you can send me presents. I love presents. They make me extremely happy. Hm. I wonder if you can send someone flowers via their Amazon wishlist? If you can't, you should. That'd be nice.

Crickets vs. the U.S. Army

My bug story below inspired Wayne T. to send me this hilarious story of a cricket that followed him all the way to Kuwait:

While in Kuwait we stayed for a while at Camp Doha, which at that time was basically storage warehouses (air-conditioned, thank goodness) rigged to serve as barracks. When you entered the 'barracks' there was a little foyer (for lack of a better word) with wooden pallets stocked with boxes of water. Next to that was the rec-area (such as it was) with a TV and a few tables where we played cards (I got real good at spades in the months I was there). Then further in was the sleeping area, with the bunks, lockers, etc.

Anyways, one of my first evenings there in Kuwait, I was unable to get any sleep because (if you can believe this) of a damn cricket. It was so friggin loud, it reverberated the entire 'barracks'. After about an hour of tossing and turning I finally got up and tried to locate the bugger ... following the chirping, I found myself going towards the 'foyer' and when I got there I found one of my army buddies standing next to one of the pallets - he'd been unable to sleep as well, and determined that the cricket was hiding somewhere among the water bottles stacked on the pallet. So we set to the task of unloading the bajillion boxes of water off the pallet - this was somewhere between midnight & 1am - pausing every couple of minutes to get a bearing on him; unbelievably, he never moved!

After a looooong while, the water boxes were strewn all over the foyer - such that nobody would have been able to get in from the outside - and still no cricket. We stood there & looked at each other for a few moments, and finally ... chirp! We tilted the pallet and found him hiding inside a little space on the bottom. We flushed him out and proceeded to exterminate him with extreme prejudice. THEN we set to the arduous task of putting all of the water boxes back on the pallet ... by the time we went back to sleep, it was about 3am.

But here's the kicker ... when the pallet was finally loaded back up my buddy and I congratulated each other on our successful cricket-clearing mission and went back to the sleeping area. As soon as I crawled into bed - and I swear I am not making this up - we heard a loud, bone-piercing chirp! Apparently his buddy was hiding inside the pallet BESIDE HIM!

Poor guys. Bad enough they were in Kuwait to begin with, but to be unable to sleep because of an American cricket. That's more than any serviceman should have to bear. Hey! Maybe it was an Iraqi cricket, sent to ruin our troops' morale by making them tired and cranky. Or it was a plant from Al Qaeda. Yeah. A terrorist cricket.

Captain Steve heads for Iraq

Last night's sortie was uneventful, but what we lacked in mission activity was made up for with spectacular sights. First was a night refueling under clear skies. If you're tired of reading about in-flight refueling, it's only because I've failed to describe what an impressive event it is. I won't bore you further with it other than to say that it is even more amazing at night under a sky streaked with falling stars.

With air superiority so solidly in our grasp, we no longer fly south to refuel over the Saudi desert. It's safe enough for tankers to meet us deep inside Iraq, and now as we take our gas we see cities glowing beneath us that we'd seen before only on our charts.

After taking about 45,000 pounds of gas, we overflew Baghdad on the way to our orbit. As I watched the lights of the city slide by below I thought of how just a couple weeks ago the same airspace was defended by one of the world's deadliest integrated air defense systems. Now we fly above it unarmed and unafraid.

After dawn I got to spend a few minutes in the copilot's seat. The scattered clouds cast steeply slanting shadows across the dramatic landscape below us. To the east the serpentine Tigris glinted silver and a long low mountain range was notched by saw-toothed ridges, purple shadows nestled in their folds. After months of unbroken flat desert, mountains are breath-taking.

As the sun rises higher, more colors resolve themselves below us, and we see that the mountainsides and cultivated fields are covered with the tender green of new spring growth. We realize how long it's been since we've seen green in any amount.


Amazing luck. I've been picked to join a team headed into Iraq. Not sure how long I'll be there, but there's a good chance I'll get home at about the same time I would have anyway.

It's short notice. I'm scrambling to pack my gear while attending planning meetings, getting refresher training on the 9mm pistol and the M-16. I've also got to pick up gear issued for the trip - sleeping bag, mosquito net, flak vest, knee and elbow pads, ruck sack. Somehow I'll find room for cameras and my painting gear. This will be a far cry from my comfy seat on the jet. I'm excited and scared. Two of my favorite emotions.

My leaving early parts me from my crew, filling me with emotions I'm not so fond of. If you've been reading these letters for a while you probably think I'm a sentimental type of guy, but for the most part I'm not. I have to admit though, when I saw the new roster for my crew - a roster with a different name on my seat - I felt a little choked up. I've come a long way with these folks. They've been remarkably patient with me and taught me more than I ever thought I would know - about our mission, and about being a member of a team. I'll miss working and griping and arguing with them.

I know I'll see them in a few weeks when we're all back in the world, but we'll never be all one crew again, and I can't help feeling a little lost when I think of that. How will I ever share a jet with people who haven't gone through these things with me?

I'll leave you with that for now. I don't know if I'll have access to email or not where I'm going. When I do find myself in front of a computer I'll drop you a line and let you know how things are up north.



May I say that I understand the efficacy of leaf blowers, but that I loathe them with a passion, and that I especially loathe them when the maintenance guys are out in front of my apartment—in front of the picture window—with an effing leaf blower right now, doing their bit toward giving me permanent hearing damage.

Finish up blowing the detritus into a circle around the effing pine tree and get out of here, will you? Jeez.

The Third Watch finale: Something felt wrong

I used to love Third Watch, but I stopped watching this season because the show has degenerated into a bad soap opera where things blow up. Really, how many times can we have a multi-vehicle car crash on a New York City street? (Because they're so common there. When I was living in NJ I remember reading or hearing about, well, none). But I wanted to watch the finale to see who had told the writers that they needed to get off this boat before it sank.

So Monday night, I'm watching to see who they're going to kill off, and of course it's Amy Carlson (Alex Taylor), one of the best actors on the show and a favorite of mine from her days as Josie Watts on Another World (late lamented soap). And they blew her up real good. The scene where she died was extremely disturbing to me, though, and I couldn't shake the feeling of unease. Every time I thought of that scene, I was creeped out. It was rather graphic for a television show. Alex was blown up, and her body landed in pieces on the ground, but of course you saw her only from her torso up, and she got to say some dying words. I could not figure out why I was so shaken by that scene. It wasn't really gory, and most was left to your imagination, and of course, Alex wasn't really dead. It's just a TV show. Yet, driving home from dinner tonight, I was still thinking about that scene and wishing I'd never watched the episode.

And then I read about the latest terror bombing in Israel, and finally, it struck me why I was so disturbed by that scene: Because it's really happening, in Israel, on a regular basis.

The owner of the restaurant, Gal Ganzman, his shirt covered with blood, said that he was standing behind the bar when he heard the explosion. “I’m alive, I’m fine,” he said. “One of the waitresses lost an arm but she’s still alive. The boom was just outside the entrance. The security guard must have stopped him.”

It's not remotely entertaining in real life. And it wasn't entertaining for me while watching it on a television drama. Because in Israel, things like that really happen.

I don't believe I'll be watching next season. That explosion was just a little too tasteless for me.



Regarding Yom HaShoah

I found some information on Yad Vashem that I shared with my students today, but that bears sharing with the rest of you. Out of the six million Jews killed, an estimated one and a half million were children.

Andy and I had the fourth and fifth grades together again for our Yom HaShoah discussion. They were all shocked and upset to learn that fact. But it needs to be told. A quarter of the murdered Jews were children.

I really don't understand evil. God forbid I ever do.

On forgiveness

Daniel S. sent me this quote in a letter upon reading my post below on Yom HaShoah:

"I do not bring forgiveness with me, nor forgetfulness.
The only ones who can forgive are dead; the living have no right to forget."

Chaim Hertzog, President of Israel, on being the first Israeli head of state to visit Bergen-Belsen

Things that bug me

Last night as I was winding up my evening, I was startled by what sounded like an alarm going off really close by. The chirping of the alarm turned out to be the chirping of a cricket three feet behind me, on the kitchen floor. It was completely untouchable in the runner that holds the sliding glass doors, but I wasn't about to leave a chirping cricket in my kitchen. So I chased it along the runner until it came to a place where I could capture it, and threw it outside. Then this morning, I picked up the magazines and baseball caps that Tig had knocked off the glass table next to the door, and found out exactly why I had heard frantic scrabbling on paper while I was upstairs, and why there were things on the floor. There was another cricket under my Yankees cap. I showed him the door as well.

You know, I'm starting to think that the only thing that could get me back to New Jersey are the number of bugs around here. I mean, ew. I'm constantly removing spiders and crickets and killing gnats and mosquitoes, and come to think of it, it's time to put the flea stuff on the cats before that becomes a problem, and the next time I go hiking I have to remember to wear a hat or risk ticks. Caterpillars have decided that they like crawling into my apartment as well. I thought there was an odd-lookin black mark on the wall; closer examination proved it to be (sigh) a caterpillar. And let's not even talk about the number of times I've reached into my teacher's bag and had to remove a spider (I should stop leaving it on the floor, I suppose). Or trying to walk into my apartment at night, shooing away the dozens of night-flyers hanging on my door.

I repeat: Ew.


My website got a search hit last night via Reason Hitler Killed Jews. It reminded me that Monday night began Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust remembrance day. Imshin has some testimonies from Yad Vashem on her blog, and one of them in particular has exactly the reason why I will not stop pointing out examples of anti-Semitism, no matter how many people think I'm doing it too loudly and too much.

From The Testimony of Lucille Eichengruen
Interviewer: What happened after 1933?
Answer: In 1933 the climate changed. There were restrictions, there were ugly incidents - we walked to school, children would beat us up. Children would yell at us and make nasty remarks. We were told to be quiet on the streetcar. We were told not to draw attention to ourselves, and slowly and gradually people began to leave. Students, teachers - it was a very unsettled situation. It was constant turmoil and for a child it was not conducive to learning.

"We were told not to draw attention to ourselves." It's what Jews used to do. It's what Jews had to do. It's what the world was used to Jews doing. That's why the German police told its Jewish population to stop wearing any outward signs of Judaism so they wouldn't be attacked by thugs—last year. It's one of the attitudes that got six million of us slaughtered then, and countless thousands more murdered over the centuries.

We don't keep our heads down anymore. We won't.

During the 1980s, there was a controversy over Ronald Reagan's visit to Bitburg Cemetery in Germany, a cemetery where many SS officers and German soldiers were buried. American Jews (and American veterans) were livid that Reagan would choose to dishonor the memory of the victims of the Nazis. Back then, popular opinion, stated by Reagan's camp, was: "It's been long enough. Time to forgive and move on." But he had no right to declare that sentiment.

There was an essay in Time Magazine that week that I never forgot. It was called "To the Victims Goes Forgiveness." The main point of the essay was that Reagan didn't have the right to offer forgiveness. Only the victims of the Nazis have that right. And while I don't say that only Jews have the right to say what is and isn't anti-Semitic, the main burden is on our shoulders, because the damage is to our people. Anti-Semitism doesn't kill Christians or Muslims. It doesn't kill atheists or Buddhists. It kills Jews. And speaking out against anti-Semitism is one of the ways to make sure another Holocaust does not occur.

I don't give a damn if people think I'm too quick to claim anti-Semitism. I don't give a damn if you think my meter is set too low. Because you're not the ones who are going to suffer the consequences of anti-Semitic acts. It's going to be me and mine.

Growing up, I lived on a block next to three sisters who survived the concentration camps. They never spoke about it. In the summertime, my brothers and I would play with their children, and the sisters would be outside on their front porches in their sleeveless housecoats, the faded blue numbers clearly visible on their arms. I asked one of their sons, once, about his mother and aunts and the camps. "She won't talk about it," he told me. "None of them will."

Never again. That's why we observe Yom HaShoah every year.

Never again.



I have two new titles

I'll bet you didn't know that I'm so well-liked around the blogosphere, that I was given two new titles this week. That's right, not one, but two new titles.

First Aziz called me "Super Hero Against Hitler Clones and Defender of the Jewish People." (My costume is in the mail.) Today Tacitus called me a master of juvenile scorn. (That's master, is that cool or what? Although it is rather the incorrect gender, but I think "mistress of juvenile scorn" makes me sound kinda dirty.)

I'd link to Tacitus' comment, but it's way the hell down at the end of the comments in the post that I've already linked to, like, three times, so I don't want to link to it again because, frankly, he's gotten enough traffic from me and I don't care to give him any more.

Say, Tac—what would it take to become a master of grownup scorn? Is there, like, a class I can take? Do I have to pay for it? Or do I just have to harrumph a lot at people like me and use a pseudonym of a dead Roman historian? (You know, I think he's really just jealous that he doesn't do juvenile scorn well at all. We can't all be gifted, Tac. Don't feel bad.)

Ooh, this post is so filled with juvenile scorn, it makes even me a little annoyed. Bad Meryl! Bad!

There. I'm going to stand in the corner for a while, you all carry on.

A link to warm the cockles of a typesetter's heart

Note that I am using the word typesetter, not typist, or desktopper, or typist, or typist, or effing typist. (You have no idea how many times over the years I told people I was a typesetter only to be asked, "Really? How fast do you type?") And for your effing information, over 100 wpm, and I don't know how far over because I haven't been clocked in more than seven years. I refuse to take any more typing tests, Kelly can kiss my—where was I? Oh. Typesetter.

My friend Jay sent me this link, which both explains the history of Lorem Ipsum and supplies a dummy type generator. I'm going to use it to create the next paragraph.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Mauris ut tellus. Donec pharetra commodo odio. Maecenas id nulla. Cras vitae nisl id felis eleifend vestibulum. Nulla facilisi. Donec porttitor lorem nec mauris. Duis ut wisi. Duis consequat, magna id tincidunt dignissim, justo erat aliquet risus, et auctor metus elit nec lacus. Nunc malesuada lorem ut dolor. Quisque vitae lorem. Praesent commodo, ligula id blandit sagittis, nibh tortor dictum arcu, nec consequat est tortor et nibh. Nam aliquam, arcu eget mollis iaculis, nibh quam euismod urna, sed dapibus purus ipsum et velit. Quisque ullamcorper. Cras sollicitudin orci eu lorem. Pellentesque et est. Etiam sagittis consequat augue. Sed porta, sapien eu interdum scelerisque, lacus felis fringilla mauris, ac commodo nibh felis ullamcorper purus.

Generated 1 paragraphs, 121 words, 822 bytes of Lorem Ipsum

That was cool. Feel free to do this at home, kids. And while the site gives a good set of reasons why Lipsum is better than printing "Content goes here" over and over again, they miss a critical step, thus proving the person who wrote that is not a typesetter. When you use the same few words over and over again, you wind up with the same paragraphs, the same spacing, and utter sameness after a while. It's not a true representation of what the text might look like, and as you're setting up dummy text, you need to see different spacing, etc., which you can't see with only ten or twelve words repeated over a page.

Thanks, Jay.

The last word on Aziz and Tacitus, dudes

Judith Weiss wrote a wonderful summary of what went down, but I realized that I need to sum up for my own readers, in my own way. Go to Kesher Talk for the links if you think you need more information. I'm like, too beat after writing this.

Like, Joe was reading a post by Aziz, and Aziz was like, whoa, Israel is making an Arab gene bomb, and Joe was like, whoa, Aziz, that's a load of crap and, like, dude, anti-Semites use that line and Aziz was like, no, Israel is making a gene bomb, dude, and Joe was like, take it back, dude, or we're not gonna be buds anymore. So then Diane and Judith said, whoa, dude, those are anti-Semitic lies, and Aziz said, dudes, why are you all ganging up on me? And, like, Israel might be working on the gene bomb, so I, like, wasn't wrong. And then I was like, dude, you're passing along an anti-Semitic lie, and it, like, really stinks, man, and then Aziz was like, dudes, it's possible to make a gene bomb, and stop calling me names and ganging up on me.

Then Aziz goes to these science dudes, and he goes, dudes, is a gene bomb possible? And I was like, science dudes, watch out! He wants to use your brains for evil! And Aziz was like, go away, SuperJew. But then I went, dude, you're still passing along anti-Semitic lies, stop, dude, and he was like, stop calling me names.

Then Tacitus goes, Meryl, stop calling Aziz an anti-Semite, and I was like, dude, I didn't, I said he's passing along anti-Semitic lies, and he was like, dude, I'll be the one who says who can and can't say when it's anti-Semitism, and I was like, dude, but what about Aziz? And he was like, dude, stop calling him an anti-Semite, and I was like, dude, howcome you're picking on me and not saying that Aziz was passing along anti-Semitic lies and he was like, dude, I said I would be the one to say what is and isn't anti-Semitic, so, like, shut up, bitch. Okay, he didn't say it, but like, he was thinking it.

And I was like, dude, that's rude, and like, you're just ignoring the issue and sticking up for your bud, and he was like, all right! and then he goes, dude, you're still using anti-Semitism too much and I didn't say you could. Oh, and like, I never said nothin' about you before, so you're like, busted, dude.

So now I'm like, dude, you're right, it wasn't you, I was wrong, it was some other jerk who said I use the word anti-Semitic too much, but who cares, 'cause you're still a schmuck, and Aziz is still passing along anti-Semitic lies, and you're still, like, refusing to say so. So I'm like, whoa, I am so done with this.

New from Captain Steve

Why it's Called the "Mean Time"

From my limited experience, war seems to consist of moments of action and purpose set in sharp relief against weeks of paperwork and waiting. As this campaign draws down we are flying fewer and shorter sorties (only 11 hours last night) and spending more and more time on paperwork. We're writing our lists of lessons-learned and recording the good work of our people for their performance reports and medal write-ups. It's important work to be sure, but it's painfully boring.

A poll taken today might indicate that most of us would prefer to go back to being shot at occasionally.

We expect to hear any day now which of us will be going home soon, and who will be staying a bit longer. In spite of the commander's admonishments to the contrary, people are going wild with speculation. They seize on every odd gesture or unusual choice of words as an omen of impending joy or sorrow.

In the mean time I'm keeping my ear to the ground hoping to find my way into Iraq. Whether it's to help keep order or distribute aid or establish the interim government, I would like to get on the ground over there. Years ago the Air Force invested a considerable amount of Arabic language training in me - an investment they compound from time to time with refresher training - and I would love to be able to provide a return on that investment now. Of course the prospect of visiting Mesopotamia might have something to do with wanting to get there.

Of course that desire is at odds with the growing ache to be home again with my family. All I can do is make myself available in case there is a need for my skills. If I'm not called, I can return home in good conscience whenever my turn comes up.


The Services Squadron held a big party today, beginning with a 5K race this morning at 0500. I was still in the air, so I didn't race. In fact, I missed just about all the festivities. I got back to my room and hit the sack at about 0800 and slept for 11 hours. That's a personal record. By the time I woke the talent show was over and the bar-b-que chicken and steak were things of the past. The only thing left was a dance in the theater tent (I have a personal policy about that - never let the people you work with see you dance.) and the Daewoo 100.

Daewoos are tiny Korean trucks we use here. They are too small to pass US safety standards so you won't see them at home, but they are cheap and relatively durable so the DoD uses them overseas. (That's right. They're too dangerous to sell to farmers and small business owners who need cheap transport, but we buy them for 19 year-olds to tear around in overseas.) They are so small that when I was in Korea it was a popular diversion for 3 or 4 men to walk around base picking up parked Daewoos and carrying them to hiding places. After a while so many man-hours were wasted by people searching for their cars that the Wing Commander had to forbid the sport.

Here, instead of carrying them around, we push them, engines off, along a 100 foot race course. Three pushers and one driver constitute a team, and 2 trucks race down the center of our compound at a time. It draws a big enthusiastic crowd and most importantly, it kills a couple of hours.

In the hopes of killing time yesterday, I went to the theater tent and saw the movie, "The Fast And The Furious." Unfortunately, instead of making time go more quickly, this film made it pass more slowly. It's a story about an undercover cop who penetrates the street-racing world, hoping to break up a ring of thieves. It's been done before, and it's been done better. But if it ever has to be done again, it should be done like the Daewoo races.


Our Friendly Hosts

I got a priority mail package from home today. My wife mailed it on the 18th of March. Why a collection of newspaper clippings and family photos took more than a month to get here I can't say, but I'm willing to bet it has something to do with the "Inspected by Host Nation Customs" sticker on the outside. I wonder how long it sat in their warehouse, and whether the delay occurred before or after they cut the ragged hole in the box and patched it half-heartedly with a single piece of tape.

Our enlightened hosts are not burdened with the infidels' sense of property rights. Items have been known to disappear from our packages. The excuse is offered that the item was somehow objectionable. When we deployed here customs agents confiscated every single DVD that came with us, theoretically to assure themselves they contained no pornography. We'll never know if they assured themselves or not. All we know is we'll never see those DVDs again. Somewhere along a road off base there is probably a little guy in a tent selling them at a discount.


CNN Can't Get it Right

CNN seems to be getting a kick out of reporting on Shiites protesting American "occupation" and predicting all sorts of obstacles to a republican form of government. There are just a few problems with that. First, CNN has no credibility. They gave up any attempt at journalistic integrity years ago, and even admit now that they sat on first-hand knowledge of Saddam's butchery in order to keep a presence in Iraq. (Their admission of complicity in Saddam's regime might be the first actual reporting they've done in years.) Also, their bias is obvious. Over here we've been entertaining ourselves for weeks by comparing CNN's headlines with those of other news agencies covering the same stories. A headline from the Brit news source Sky News might read, "Allies win the War," but CNN would say, "Suffering in Iraq Continues."

The other problem is that CNN implies these protests are being led by everyday Iraqis. I find this very unlikely. I suspect that the protests are the work of militant Shiites coming across the border from Iran, eager to spread the power of the Ayatollahs. The vast majority of Iraqis are thrilled to be released from Saddam's power and are looking forward to the establishment of a secular republican government. They are in no hurry to exchange one dictator for another, and they are well aware of the repressive conditions that exist in Iran, where a Shiite theocracy is struggling against growing demands for freedom. Besides, you can't tell me that after nearly 30 years under a government that tolerated no dissent the Iraqis aren't struck by the fact that America's presence in Iraq is exactly what enables people to protest. Instead of "Iraqi's Protest American Occupation" maybe the headline should be, "Iraqis Sample Freedom," or if they really wanted to be journalists, "Iranian Shiites Oppose Free Iraq."

Nice try, CNN. No wonder you're hemorrhaging market share.


A crew tradition is a top 10 list for every flight. I'll leave you with the list from last night's sortie:

Top 10 Reasons Saddam was Hiding Millions of Dollars

10 - Looking for really good tax shelter
09 - Going to build new line of baby milk factories
08 - Saving to have unsightly body hair removed
07 - Just holding it for Noble Iraqi People
06 - Expecting Hans Blix to resume UN inspections
05 - Chirac ended up being a lot cheaper than expected
04 - Didn't want it wasted on crackpot schemes like buying food, water, or medicine
03 - Was part of statue-cleaning fund
02 - None of your business you war-mongering capitalist imperialist with your heart set on Iraqi oil

And the number one reason Saddam was hiding millions of dollars:

The information minister assures us that there is no money, and anyone who says differently is a Zionist puppet.


A grand slam

Some days, everything just goes right.

On Saturday, the fifth grade teacher stopped by and we wound up having dinner and an evening together. We've been talking about putting our classes together in some sort of project for a few weeks, and we thought Israel Independence Day might do it. But the project we first came up with was too involved, so I told him we'd have to bag it. Then, shortly before leaving, he came up with another idea that seemed right, so we did some fast internet research, printed out tons of things, and came up with a quick plan for our classes. Murphy's law tried to step in—I'd completely forgotten that my two teaching assistants had planned a lesson on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) for my class yesterday morning. I told them I hoped they didn't mind, but they were going to teach the combined fourth and fifth grades. The lesson went over extremely well, with my class clown—the class clown—contributing and asking questions above and beyond almost anything else he'd ever done. (I suspect this is partly because his grandfather is a survivor of one of the camps, but I wasn't questioning it.)

Then our presentation on the birth of Israel went fairly well. I knew which of Andy's students were the biggest challenges, and knew most of the kids by name, and the single threat of splitting the classes and going back to reading boring books kept them fairly well behaved. Again, one of the more unruly students in the other class was a major contributor to the discussion, to our amazement.

So we had a good first hour and a half, and then the music session was unexpectedly shortened, and we went on to the talk on marriage and weddings given by a fifth-grade student's parents (still with the classes together). It was pretty amusing to see the girls hanging on every word and the boys slightly less than fascinated, but still, another overall success. Plus, well, it was quite a sweet courtship and proposal story, as well as a wonderful illustration of marriage.

Then back to my classroom with my kids to dole out points for the day, and discovering that three of my students actually did practice reading Hebrew over the break, as I'd suggested. Points all around, and by the end of the day, a student went home with 40 points, a prize, and the record for most points given in a single session.

But wait, there's more. A parent told me how well his children read at the Seder this year, and how pleased and proud he was. And the students attributed their performance to me. It was very, very nice to get a compliment like that from the children and the parent. I've been wondering exactly how much of a difference I've been making, as teaching religious school is rather frustrating at times, and I often think the kids have gotten out of class having learned nothing that day other than how to make Ms. Yourish lose her patience.

But I hit a home run yesterday. The ball went out of the park, and out of sight. Sunday was my most satisfying day as a teacher this year.

I think I'll make it through the last six classes now. I was beginning to wonder.



Deconstructing Tacitus

Now I'm angry and inattentive, it seems. I didn't read the comments in Tacitus' post, is his response to my suggestion yesterday that he link to the Winds of Change article that started the Aziz Poonawalla brouhaha instead of concentrating on my two little posts. Well, I read the comments, and I still didn't catch a single linked reference to Joe's post until Yehudit put one up.

I'm not angry, Tacitus, though I am puzzled and slightly annoyed. You have chosen to focus on the charge of anti-Semitism, instead of the issue of Aziz's execrable contention that Israel is developing a biological bomb that would affect only Arabs. Why is that? This isn't the first time you've accused me of this, either. Is there something you're trying to tell me that I'm just not getting?

More on that later. But let's review. My exact phrase was "why does the stench of anti-Semitism stand out over this post by Aziz Poonawalla?" We could argue for days whether or not I am being disingenuous by saying that I didn't call Aziz an anti-Semite. But since you're so hot for it, I'll concede the point, as both you and Aziz think that's what I said. For the record, I wrote this after reading Aziz's accusation:

And he's beating his breast at being called an anti-Semite by some, though I merely said his post bore the stench of anti-Semitism. Mind you, if he wants me to trade up and call him an anti-Semite, that's fine with me. He's passing along the typical bullshit theories that Jew-haters blithely tell one another on a regular basis.

[I could toss charges right back at you by pointing out that Aziz accused Laurence Simon of racism (that "I guess all brown anti-Semites look the same to them" line sure sets off my racism detector), but then, why complicate the issue.]

What I see here is a circling of the wagons regarding Aziz's transgression, and an inordinate amount of attention paid to the charge of anti-Semitism by me. Though Tacitus labeled his post "An open challenge to pro-Israeli partisans," mine were the only posts linked. It would have been more accurate to title the post, "Meryl, stop accusing Aziz of anti-Semitism," I think. But I still don't get it. I came pretty late to the party. My comment on Joe's blog was, like, the 25th comment. And I didn't call him an anti-Semite there, either.

I really don't recall on what other issue you didn't care for my use of the phrase anti-Semitism, Tacitus; you'll have to refresh my memory. But I find it rather interesting that out of all the words written on this, you chose to single me out, and my two small posts on the matter, rather than discuss the issue at hand. Why, it's almost as if you found an issue you could defend Aziz on, unlike, say, his ludicrous charge that Israel is developing WMG (and his frantic search to prove that a gene bomb can be created after he was challenged on that as well). When last I looked, Joe's post had over 80 comments, and Aziz's post had more than 40. So why me, Tacitus?

You say I'm crying wolf? I didn't cry wolf. I'm not the one making more out of my statements than should be made of them. You don't like the frequent accusations of anti-Semitism that come out on my weblog and elsewhere? Tough. I'm not looking for your approval, or permission, to state when I believe something is anti-Semitic. My anti-Semitism meter is more sensitive than yours. That's a fact, and it's not going to change. And spare me the false concern for my reputation; I'm quite content with the one I have, and have never feared looking foolish (you really don't read my weblog often, do you?). When I'm wrong, I admit it. But what I am not wrong about is that Aziz's accusation that Israelis are trying to develop weapons that would kill Arabs while leaving Jews unhurt is a base, anti-Semitic lie. The accusation does, indeed, go back to the ancient blood libels, in ways that Judith Weiss and Diana Moon both pointed out in Joe's comments and elsewhere.

I don't really know what your problem is, Tacitus. But I do know this: I'm not the one looking foolish here.


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. 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.