Important: Read this before sending email

My Amazon Wish List
(Buy me presents)




Indexed Archives

Portal (links)

Contact me

Who am I?


The diary of
Iseema bin Laden

Secret Arafat
Phone Transcripts

Greatest Hits


Letters from
Captain Steve




Screw Syria

Thanks to Lair Simon, I learned that Syria is using its last few days as the world's only terrorist state on the United Nations Security Council to try to screw Israel yet again.

In the same spirit of goodwill and friendliness, I give you this javascript countdown clock:

(Update: Of course, the time is past. I took out the counting script.)

Countdown to the the end of the terrorist
nation's reign on the UN Security Council
days hours min. sec.




And fuck you very much for playing, Syria. Can't wait until W. sets his sights on you. Yeah, we can see you sweating from here, Baby Assad. Say. Been buzzed by any IAF jets lately?

Back to business: Iraq and Israel, not together—still

An interesting article in the JPost says that Iraq is considering returning the property that the regime stole from Iraqi Jews who fled the country in the wake of pogroms after the state of Israel was declared.

He said a 1951 law, which had deprived fleeing Iraqi Jews of their properties, is now under review. The aim of the revision is to restore the properties to their rightful owners.

"We are determined to return all the properties that were taken from the Iraqi Jews and all the others," he said.

In the meantime, he said he had assured representatives of Iraqi Jews who want to visit Iraq that they would be welcome and that the council would ensure their security.

Mind you, not all is peaches and cream between Iraq and Israel, and frankly, I'll believe the reparations when I see them, what with statements like this:

He also said that Israel is to be frozen out of the bidding for lucrative reconstruction contracts: "We have no problem dealing with Jewish businessmen or with Israelis as private citizens," he said, "but we do not feel we owe anything to the State of Israel."

On the other hand, there are some very interesting things later in the article. However, I'm rather suspicious of them and will put them on the back burner for now, and see what happens. Just because a "senior source within the council" said these things doesn't necessarily make them true. I'll wait for confirmation, and hope the source isn't lying or misinformed.

The source also said he believes both the Syrian and Jordanian regimes are now extremely vulnerable – Jordan, because of its activities before Saddam was overthrown, and Syria because of its activities since his downfall.

He revealed that the US administration in Iraq and the council have solid evidence of direct, top-level Syrian complicity in attacks against American and Iraqi security forces.

One of the two Iraqis captured with Saddam in the Tikrit area had acted as Saddam's personal envoy to Syrian President Bashar Assad until just six weeks before his arrest.

He also said that suicide bombers from various Arab countries had crossed into Iraq from Syria, carrying Syrian documents.

[...] He also said that the governing council has acquired evidence that incriminates the most senior members of the Jordanian royal family in allegedly illegal and corrupt dealings with Saddam.

The council, he added, had acquired thousands of documents which expose a network of politicians throughout the Arab world and Europe – including the Vatican – who had accepted huge payments from Saddam in the form of "oil contracts" which were traded by the Iraqi regime on their behalf.

[...] The source said he believes it unlikely the Hashemite throne will survive the detailed revelations that will emerge in the coming months. The governing council, he said, has already informed the Jordanian government that it has halted the arrangement by which Jordan was permitted to purchase Iraqi oil at substantial discounts.

[...] He also revealed that Palestinians who had been living in Iraq – and who were perceived to have been among Saddam's staunchest champions – have been stripped of their Iraqi citizenship and ordered to leave the country. Most are believed to have settled in Jordan.

He laughed when asked whether there has been any communication between the new Iraqi leadership and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. He said many members of the governing council are personally well-disposed toward Israel, and he insisted that the new Iraq would not be hostile to it.

At the same time, however, he said Israel had failed to provide any assistance to the Iraqi National Congress, or even take up its offer of cooperation, while it was operating in exile.

See, that's why I'll just wait and see. Chalabi seems to have quite a grudge against Israel which he blames on Netanyahu, and the article later calls Chalabi "the most senior member" of the council. Perhaps he's the "senior source."

But it's an interesting article nonetheless, presented for your edification.



Boxing Day

The last three days have been almost a complete throwback to the days when I lived in New Jersey and drove down to Virginia for the holiday. My mind keeps slipping back to that four-day weekend in '96, when I visited Heidi for the first time in four years (though we had been in constant touch via phone and letters) and met Sorena, who was barely three at the time. She's ten now, and I just sent her to bed before her mother gets out of the shower or her father comes out of the TV room. She received a few more Christmas presents tonight. We had our big holiday dinner today instead of yesterday, due to various work obligations. J.R. and Sheila are the ones who brought the extra presents. Sheila talked me into making both an apple cake and potato kugel, which was going to be latkes but became too labor-intensive when two more guests were added to the list. It's nice when the food you cook comes out well, but even nicer when the people eating it tell you that several times. Grandma Shirley and Aunt Edith were good teachers.

Sheila gave Hanukkah gelt to Sorena and me. I taught Sorena how to play dreidel. I suppose you shouldn't teach a ten-year-old how to gamble, but hey, it was only chocolate money. Besides, I gave her back the coins she lost when the game was over.

She just slipped out of bed with a fairly legitimate reason to postpone bedtime for just a little while longer. It's close to midnight, though, and she's still wired. Time to threaten her with the rubber mallet. Especially since she tends to read these posts over my shoulder as I write them, if she's nearby.

This house is the most peaceful place in the world for me, for the most part. Spending the last three days here has mellowed me more than I realized I'd needed it. I'll be back home tomorrow, but frankly, I'd rather stay here for another few days. No news, no worries, nothing but friends who are more like family. It's good to have friends like these.

Almost forgot. Eighth light.

Eight night of Hanukkah



Busy, busy, busy

So I've been at Heidi and G.'s since yesterday afternoon, and my Christmas present to them took a lot longer than I thought it would. Last year, I bought my digital camera in November of 2002 and made a little four- or six-page photo newsletter. I took some pictures of the family, the pets, and me, gave them captions and set them up in newsletter format in Microsoft Publisher. I thought I'd do the same this year, and started going through my pictures on the 23rd because, hey, why not wait 'til the last minute? And then I discovered that I only have pictures from June on, forgetting that I have the rest of the year on CD somewhere.

Well, I get to Heidi's, we have dinner and hang out. I finally finish cropping pictures and captioning them sometime after eleven Christmas Eve. I still need to print them out, but it's late, I'm tired, and it can wait. Then I realize this morning that G. has on his computer all the pictures I'm missing, since I copied them there—that's right, sometime in June. Now I decide to sit down and copy another thirty or so pictures, and start all over again. But first I need to get rid of a virus on their computer. They got one of those effing pr0n site viruses from an email that was accidentally opened instead of deleted.

They have one that I couldn't clean with Symantec. The virus redirects their browser (IE 6) to a pr0n site. It's not the trojan featured prominently on Symantec's main security page. I wound up searching around for some other solution and while checking the Startup discovered that there is an invisible file in it. There's a blank space where the name and location of the file should be. I unchecked the box, and the redirect no longer works, but I haven't cleaned out the virus yet, nor have I found the proper documentation for what they have. It's a Band-Aid solution that needs to be made permanent. Any tech help would be greatly appreciated.

Anyway. About 9 p.m., I finally finished my newsletter. It's 19 pages long. We test-printed a high-resolution page on glossy photo paper. It came out very nice. I'm thinking that G.'s grandmother, who turns 100 in May, God bless her, is going to be one very happy lady when she gets a copy. And I'm feeling mighty pleased with myself at the moment. Nineteen pages of photos with some pretty snappy captions (wait 'til Sorena sees some of them, she's going to kill me), laid out with rather nicely, if I do say so myself. I think it will make quite a nice piece of memorabilia years from now.

The digital age is a wonderful thing.

And oh, yes: Seventh light.

Seventh light of Chanuka



Sixth light

One last post: Chinese worker story

Tal G. sent an email about it:

Sorry to say this, but the story was in yesterday's Yediot, which also omitted the name of the company.

Yediot obtained a copy of the contract from immigration enforcement officials, and implied that the company was under investigation.

Reader Amir W. saw the article as well:

It includes the following: "When the worker is abroad (from China) he is forbidden from participating in any political or religious activity in demonstrations or strike. If there are any such problems, the project staff (the Chinese company's delegates in Israel) to solve them. If they are not solved the worker may write or phone or fax the project staff or the company, but he is forbidden from going to the Chinese embassy, the commercial attache, and foreign government or non-government organization. If the worker does not comply with this paragraph, the company is authorized to decide the severity of the matter and determine the compensation to be deducted from the bond or to return the worker to China."

I couldn't find anything about sex though (too lazy to read the whole article).

I still need confirmation on the main point of the AP story, which is that Chinese workers are being forced to sign contracts forbidding them from having sex with Israeli women, which was the big kicker that the news organizations I linked to focused on.

Amir also sent me to this site detailing the state of Chinese immigrant laborers in Israel. Once again, I have never pretended that Israel is a perfect nation. I know there are problems. But this company is currently under investigation and will likely be found to have violated Israeli law.

And I guarantee you that AP will not pick up that story, nor will the media outlets currently carrying the sex scandal also cover its outcome.

The whole thing is a blatant example of the anti-Israel bias of much of the media.

Before I leave...

Tim Blair has culled the best quotes of 2003 from his weblog, and separated them by month. If you start here and click on the previous month's quotes, it ought to keep you busy for hours. So bookmark Tim's site for the downtime you're going to see on weblogs the next few days. And don't be drinking anything while you catch up, because Tim's site is hilarious.

James Lileks:

But I have to admit that this Christmas feels more nervous than the last, for obvious reasons. The Christmas of 01 had a throbbing undercurrent of dread; last year we were waiting for the big Iraqi Boot to drop, but there hadn’t been any attacks along the lines of 9/11, and the Afghan campaign wasn’t as hot as it had been as the year began. We weren’t totally unclenched, but no one really expected to come across a guy in the foodcourt bespeckled with smallpox lesions coughing on everyone. It was a limbo year. Now We Are Orange, as Mr. Milne might have put it, and it’s unnerving. And we’re guaranteed dissatisfaction – if something happens, well, who knows where that leads. Like it or not, know it or not, we’ve always been about five days from a complete bout of transglobal nastiness since 9/11. It all depends on the provocation. But if nothing happens we may never learn what they stopped.

And now, I'm outta here for the holidays. Sorena insists that even though I now live only half an hour away, I have to sleep over on Christmas Eve, since I've been visiting Heidi's family during that holiday since 1996 (that was the year it was a four-day weekend, and it started the tradition). And I have to finish up Heidi and G's presents, which are going to take hours (the curse of having a digital camera and typesetting abilities). Blogging will be light, but I'll be keeping an eye out for letters regarding the Chinese Worker story, and I'll be blogging at least once more today. I have to put up the Virtual Menorah.

To all my Christian readers, have a merry and safe Christmas, and I hope Santa brings you everything you asked for.

Second Temple artifacts found in Jerusalem

They include the remains of a mikva, various bronze and metallic utensils and coins, candles, and a stone oil-storage vessel decorated with shofarot.

Eli Shukrun, who is heading the excavation, which began six months ago, said he hopes to find the continuation of the Herodian street which ran near the Western Wall.

But there was no Temple in Jerusalem! It's all a Zionist lie!


Call for palestinian restraint

The peace process is struggling:

Palestinians Drop Peace Meeting Over Israeli Raid

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinians on Wednesday postponed talks with Israel aimed at bringing about a Middle East peace summit after Israeli forces killed nine people in a raid on the Rafah refugee camp, a militant stronghold.

"The meeting has been put off in protest at Israel's killing of Palestinians in Rafah," a senior Palestinian source said, referring to southern Gaza camp stormed by the army Tuesday in what it called a swoop on gunrunner tunnels.

Top aides to Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had been expected to meet in Jerusalem in ongoing efforts to arrange a summit and revive a U.S.-led peace "road map" battered by renewed violence.

Of course I expect to see Terje Larsen, Kofi Annan, various European heads of state and Colin Powell all urge the pals to "show restraint," and continue with the peace talks in spite of yesterday's events. I want to win the lottery, too, but have no real hopes of doing so.

What? The IDF went into a refugee camp and slaughtered nine innocent pals? Let's take a look at the Israeli side of the story, the second paragraph:

During the operation, Palestinian combatants detonated a number of explosives toward IDF forces and hurled dozens of grenades. In addition, four combatants were observed readying a detonation charge against IDF forces. IDF forces fired at the them, hitting the four, as well as an additional armed Palestinian.

Palestinians reported nine civilians killed, but Brig.-Gen Gadi Shamani told Army Radio Wednesday morning that the nine were all armed combatants. "We were looking for tunnels that service mainly Hamas gun-running, and – based on preliminary debrifings – the nine Palestinians killed were all laying mines."

Oh. Maybe they weren't nine innocent people. Let's go see the longer Reuters piece. Buried in the third-from-last paragraph, we finally find out who those "nine people" killed were:

Medics identified the nine men killed in Rafah as four militants, a policeman, and three bystanders. At least 40 other Palestinians were wounded as gunmen took on the Israeli troops.

Four terrorists, a PA policeman (who have been implicated in many, many suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis; the word "policeman" and "terrorist" is interchangeable when discussing PA police), and three "bystanders." That's a new trick of the pals, to label everyone bystanders. Oh, no, wait. It's an old trick. But even the Reuters reporter acknowledges that four terrorists were killed, yet leaves that fact buried at the end of the story.

One more view from the Reuters article:

In Rafah, home to thousands of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war of the Jewish state's creation, dozens of families found themselves dispossessed once more by Israeli bulldozers that reduced rows of shanties to rubble in the 24-hour raid.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said troops demolished a three-story building found to be concealing a tunnel she said was used by militants to fuel the Palestinian revolt in Gaza.

"Are they really looking for tunnels? I do not think so. They only want to displace us again," said a Rafah woman as she tried to recover flour from the kitchen of her wrecked home.

Nice little touch of editorializing in that news article, hm? Let's take a look at the Israeli article.

Soldiers discovered a tunnel, 17 meters deep and 800 meters long, used for smuggling weapons under the border. The entrance was inside a house in the refugee camp, and soldiers blew up the tunnel before withdrawing from the camp Wednesday.

[...] Since the beginning of the year, Israel has found more than 40 such tunnels, the army said.

Aha. So the bulldozers destroyed a house that had a smuggling tunnel under it. That's quite a difference from randomly destorying homes. But then, that's Reuters—the company that lets palestinians write their own news copy—for you.

Oh, and once more: How can you tell a palestinian "spokesperson" is lying? His lips are moving. Perhaps I should change that line to add "How can you tell a Reuters reporter is lying? He's reporting."

More on the Chinese worker story

Amir W. and others have been emailing me with links to "police spokesman Rafi Jaffe." Yes, I've learned that Rafi Jaffe is an actual police spokesman. You can Google his name and find him quoted on many news articles and websites. I neglected (until now) to update the post below. But the reality or unreality of Jaffe makes no difference to the story as a whole. That's not the point.

The point is that simply because he is real does not make the story true. There are still exactly zero facts in the story. What company in Israel? What do they produce? How big are they? Where are the quotes from Chinese workers affirming the story? Where is a copy of the contract? Even if this story is true, this is the crappiest reporting I've ever seen from a news service.

Yes, I understand that Israel has its share of crooks and jerks. There's a major mob war going on right now that used car bombs as a tactic and killed innocent civilians. Yes, they need to treat their immigrant workers better. (Name a single country that does not have these same kinds of stories to tell.) But this story has pegged my bullshit meter all the way up as untrue.

I have emails out to several Israelis, including one in an Israeli ministry. I'm waiting for some kind of results from then. Until I learn otherwise from sources in Israel, I won't retract a word of my post. I stand by the hoax accusation.

As to why this story bothers me so much, Amir: I hate lies. Ask the Agonist how much I can't stand liars.



The hoax Chinese worker story spreads

The Guardian has picked up the story, and Guardian writer Conal Urquhart is claiming the byline all for himself. Nice reporting, Conal Urquhart in Tel Aviv. I have several questions for you:

What is the name of the Israeli company that is supposedly forcing Chinese workers to sign the contract?

Do you have a copy of the contract or is this all second- and third-hand?

Have you spoken to Rafi Yaffe yourself lately?

Please name one Israeli minister to whom you have spoken about this story.

If you can answer any of these questions, I'll take back my assertions that a) this is a false story, b) you did absolutely no research on it yourself and c) you've been snookered.

Hat tip: Jeremy S.

Update: I called the AP international desk to tell them that this story is a hoax. I pointed out the lack of the company name, the fact that a police spokesman is being invoked instead of a company spokesman, and that there is no real evidence offered in the story. He checked the wire, found it on the wire, and refused to believe me when I suggested that the AP was being played for fools. He blew me off as a crank, basically.

Fine. Time to get the Israeli correspondents working on this.

Fifth light, and a Hanukkah story or three

This morning, I received the following letter:

I was wondering if you might provide a little clarification for us non-Jewish folks in the audience. As I'm looking at your lovely Virtual Menorah, I can't help but notice that the number of lights you mention doesn't match the number of candles in the picture. For example, Fourth Light, five candles. In the words of the great Lou Ferrigno...what? Rather than go to Google and research this myself, I'd much rather ask you to explain it, since I'm already reading your site anyway.

No problem, Mr. Moses (that's his real last name, and since I rarely publish full names I'm not going to publish his first, and the last name is important because, uh, dude—your name is MOSES and you're not Jewish? Bummer).

Fifth night of ChanukahI'm happy to tell you the answer to the story, but you have to understand that as with all questions on Jewish traditions, rituals, and customs, there is more than one answer. Some may even be the right answers. I can't guarantee you'll find that here.

The purple candle you see in the picture on the right is called the shamash, which means in English, "candle you light the other Hanukkah candles with" (see? Hebrew isn't hard at all). Oh, sure, some people get all literal on you and tell you it means "servant," but I say those people have no imagination. None.

So, Mr. Moses, that's why you see six candles on the fifth night of Chanukah. There is even more confusion if you consider that today, Tuesday the 23rd of December, is actually the fourth day of Hanuka, and we light five candles tonight. That's because all Jewish holidays begin the night before they are shown on your calendar, unless you have a Jewish calendar, in which case you have to scratch your head and wonder when Easter is, because, uh, there aren't any Christian holidays on Jewish calendars. It's quite annoying, because I live in a nation that is mostly Christian, and I need to know exactly when I can shop for my 50%-off chocolate bunnies. Oh. Fourth day, fifth night. Friday, December 26th, will be the seventh day and eighth night of Hannukah. We mostly ignore the eighth day of Chanukah, because by then the candles are all gone, the chocolate gelt (money) has been eaten, we're not going to make latkes again, too much work!, and, well, it's been a week, already. It gets old, y'know?

You may have noticed that there are many different spellings of Hanukkah. That's because some people won't let go of the old Chanukah spelling (I'm trying to modernize), and because, well, we're Jews. You know the old saying: You have two Jews and three opinions. We argue, and most of us cannot stand change, so we stick to traditions as closely as Spider-Man to a wall. (Stan Lee is Jewish.)

Hannukah is a very minor holiday for religious Jews, and a major holiday for mostly-assimilated Jews who want their children not to feel left out at Christmas. (If the Maccabee rebellion had occurred in the summer, most of you wouldn't ever have heard of Chanukah. I'm betting you have no idea what Tisha B'Av is. It occurred in the summer.)

You may have other questions about that extra shamash candle. I may not bother to answer them, but I can tell you more Hannukah stories.

My grandfather, who was Orthodox, and who lived with us from the time I was twelve years old and ultimately had the room that should have been my bedroom, thankyouverymuch, always used to blow out his shamash and not let it burn. This resulted in having seven extra candles each year, and constant nagging by us grandchildren for him to at least let the shamash burn on the eighth night, when we had all four menorahs going full-blast and turned off all the lights to watch the candles for a minute before coming back to the modern world. I seem to remember him agreeing only on the final night. Zayda wasn't the only one who didn't let the shamash burn, resulting in seven orphaned candles per person per year. I hear that someone finally started a program that will place the orphaned candles with people who are too poor to afford their own, and until now had to draw pictures of candles and put them in the menorah each night.

And I think that's enough about the shamash. I need to light my candles and make myself some dinner. I hope that helped, Mr. Moses the non-Jew. (Such a name! Oy.)

Passing along lies

By the way, I have been updating and editing the below post. And I just sent off three letters to the editors of the sites where I found the hoax story, alerting them to the hoax. I also emailed Fark editors and told them they need to change the label from "weird" to "fake". We shall see if the letters make a difference.

I'll be letting you all know if I need your assistance.

You know, I ended two of my letters like this:

There's enough bile about Israel without publishing something that someone made up.

I mean, really.

Lies, lies, lies: The root of all anti-Semitism

Combustible Boy sent me a link to a story making the rounds about an Israeli company that has purportedly made its Chinese migrant workers sign a contract assuring that they will neither have sex with nor attempt to convert Israeli women. Big brouhaha, right?

Wrong. Big fake story fooled some mighty big news outlets.

A quick Google search found three references: South Africa's News24, The Australian, and the Canadian CNews site. CB sent me this link to another Australian site. All I have to say to the editors who approved the story is: Suckers. You've been hosed.

Let's see the story that these idiots think is a real news story, shall we?

JERUSALEM (AP) - An Israeli company has required thousands of Chinese workers to sign a contract promising not to have sex with Israelis or try to convert them, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

First problem: Anyone can write "(AP)" on their story. I couldn't find the story on any AP site. Second problem: What is the name of the company? How could an AP reporter file this story without supplying the name of the company? Answer: He couldn't. It's not an AP story. Also, why is a police spokesman speaking for the Israeli company?

According to the document, male workers cannot come into contact with Israeli women - including prostitutes - become their lovers or marry them, spokesman Rafi Yaffe said. He said there was nothing illegal about the requirement and no investigation had been opened against the company.

Rafi Yaffe. Say it with me, folks. Sounds Israeli. Bet he doesn't exist, or if he does, he's not a police spokesman.

The labourers are also forbidden in the contract from engaging in any religious or political activity. Those who violate the agreement will be sent back to China at their own expense.

About 260,000 foreigners work in Israel, having replaced Palestinian labourers during three years of fighting. When the government first began to allow the entrance of the foreign workers in the late 1990s, ministers warned of a "social time bomb" caused by workers assimilating with Israelis.

Believe it or not, Israel is the only country in the middle east that has religious freedom. More lies. Also, here we have more accusations with no backup. What ministers? Which departments? Notice, however, the quotes, making it seem more authoritative.

More than half the workers are in the country illegally. Israeli police have increased efforts to deport those working without permits in light of high Israeli unemployment, which has reached 11 per cent in recent months.

Once again, a statement with no factual backup. Israeli police are looking for undocumented workers, true, but so does every nation with an immigrant labor force.

Israeli advocates of foreign workers - who come also from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania - say they are held by employers in nearly slave-like conditions and their bosses frequently take their passports and refuse to pay them.

More libel. This reads like a page right out of the ISM handbook, and trust me, someone connected with an anti-Israel organization is smiling today.

A spokesman for the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry did not return calls requesting comment.

Whoops. There is such a ministry in Israel. But again, it's rather easy to write the above. There are still exactly zero facts regarding this mysterious contract in the article.

CB, kindly send the Farkers who were stupid enough to fall for this lame, bogus story this way. Or send them to Snopes. Maybe they'd learn something. My bullshit meter went off on the first sentence of this piece of crap.

You know, there's more than enough being blamed on Israel. One would think someone with half a brain would be able to deconstruct such an obviously fake story without even working up a sweat.



Fourth light

4th night of Hanukkah

Virtual menorah, part IV.

Palestinians to world: Pay us for Christmas Mass in Bethlehem

The pals are charging a lot of money to networks wishing to cover one of Christianity's holiest services, Christmas in Bethlehem. Guess their blood money funds really are drying up.

The Palestinian Broadcasting Authority has sent letters in the past few days to international and Arab television and satellite broadcasting networks, notifying them of an unprecedented decision by the Palestinian Authority to charge fees from any networks wishing to broadcast on Christmas from the area near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Fees will be charged all three dates of Christmas: December 24, for Catholics, Protestants and others; January 6 for Orthodox Christians; and January 18 for Armenians.

The letter was sent by the deputy head of the authority, Ali Abu Rian. He explained that this year - as opposed to previous years - the Palestinian police and the Broadcasting Authority will supervise and arrange all the broadcasts from the Manger Square outside of the church. The fees will be $1,000 for users' fees and another $500 for film and sound crews for each of the three planned holiday dates.

[...] The price for broadcasting the Midnight Mass for each of the three different Christmas dates is $2,000 for foreign television stations, while the news agencies will be charged $6,000 for each date. According to the letter, print journalists and stills photographers will not be charged for covering the ceremonies.

The letter has been met with an angry response from networks, since most conduct live broadcasts from Bethlehem during all the days of the Christmas holidays. Pictures from the church on Christmas reach hundreds of millions of viewers all over the world.

Waiting for the international cries of outrage over this. Calling the Pope... hello? hello?

Brought to you from the same organization that shot their way into the Church of the Nativity and held priests hostage for five weeks last year.

The next time you hear a palestinian spokesliar talking about how all religions will be respected in the palestinian state, remember this.

Really bad targeting strategy

Check out this review of Return of the King over on Now, I think it's a wonderful review, and quite erudite, but perhaps the writer should have remembered who, exactly, can be expected to read something on I'm not his target audience.

"The Return of the King" — the third and concluding installment of director Peter Jackson's unprecedentedly splendid "Lord of the Rings" trilogy — is a cavalcade of wonders. The movie is three hours and 20 minutes long and it flies by. There is virtually not one moment that doesn't pulse with grandeur, with thundering spectacle and epic emotion and stupefyingly beautiful visual inventions. Words almost fail to concisely describe this picture. Almost, but not quite: It's astounding.

The story, as anyone who's ever experienced the enchantment of the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novels upon which this one is based must know, is irresistibly gripping, and anything but simple.

Yes, and this review is anything but simple. Get a load of this next line:

This skeletal précis hardly begins to suggest the movie's abundant marvels and rich satisfactions. Jackson's cameras — whether zooming up the cliff-like ramparts of Minas Tirith, the encircled Gondorian capital, or soaring above vast, clamorous battlefields and through darkening skies filled with shrouded Nazgûl on their hideous, bat-winged serpents — never stop moving. Astonishing events are always in-progress, under way, pulling you into the action. The film's custom-crafted digital technologies — way out on the cutting edge of computer-generated imagery, or CGI — provide creatures and settings so persuasively "real" you sometimes want to leap from your seat to applaud the sheer exuberance of their execution.

I envision fifteen-year-old boys trying to read it and saying, "Dude, WTF is 'précis'? And, like, 'skeletal,' isn't that the bad guy from the old He-Man cartoon?"

Five bucks says that most of the people who watch MTV don't know the meaning of the word "clamorous." And I wouldn't lay odds on "exuberance," either.

Perhaps I'll put up a review in the language I think the reviewer should have used. I have to finish a few things first. But I have a few LOTR parodies boiling in the cauldron. Expect some later in the week.

More stories of the non-lull in suicide attacks

Another suicide bombing was stopped.

Security forces thwarted a suicide bombing in Ramat Gan last week, the army's Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe (Bogey) Ya'alon told reporters Monday.

The general said that a number of terrorists, including at least one suicide bomber, were captured last week after an "intense chase".

Ya'alon told Army Radio that the vast majority of recent terror activity is emanating from Nablus on the West Bank.

He added that 90% of these attacks have been thwarted.

The unfortunate truth is one of them is going to get through. The news articles will then lay the blame on Israeli security measures, call it a "break" in the x-weeks level of calm, and deplore Israeli measures in response to it.

The above attack was the 40th suicide bombing prevented since the October 4th bombing of Maxim's restaurant (which killed 22).

The widespread arrests made daily in the West Bank since the attack in Haifa have led to the capture of 22 key terrorist leaders, and the discovery of four bomb factories and six explosive belts. Those arrested, particularly the key leaders, have revealed to interrogators much information about suicide bombers, those who assist them, and the weapons stockpiled by terror organizations.

Nablus remains the terrorist haven of the West Bank. Its terrorists are responsible for the majority of attempted attacks. Terrorist organizations there attempted to launch 13 suicide attacks inside Israel and five against targets in the West Bank. There were five attempts by the terrorist infrastructure in Jenin to launch attacks, and four attacks stemming from Bethlehem were thwarted.

An attempted attack stemming from the Jordan Valley was thwarted, as were two from Tulkarm and two from Hebron.

The security fence has seriously hampered activity, forcing would-be attackers to seek out alternative routes that adds to the time factor and heightens their chances of being confronted by IDF forces.

Finish the fence, Arik. Israel needs it.

Score one for Microsoft

Microsoft is sueing one of the world's biggest spam kings.

Hard to believe I'm saying this, but: Go, Microsoft!

By the way, if any of you have been sending me email lately and wondering why I'm ignoring you, it's possible I didn't get it. I keep adding to my spam filters, and I'm tired of getting letters from Santa Claus (yeah, right) or spams that use the title "Christmas greetings!" I've also added many more rules to counter the avalanche of junk mail.

By the way, anything with Christmas in the subject gets deleted on the server. Sorry. Hanukkah greetings will still get through, though.

Menorahs in Mesopotamia

Iraq, that is.

The link to the story.

The link to the NY Times illustration.

Irony is a wonderful thing.



Third light

Third light of Hanukkah

Your friendly neighborhood virtual menorah service.


Andrea, do me a favor. Let's get into a disagreement so that I can make sexist remarks in the comments about your having PMS and—oh, wait. If I did that, you would be able to use the "I know you are, but what am I?" response.


(By the way, at last! Someone else who has never been able to watch Gone With the Wind! I'm not a freak!)

I would like everyone reading this post to email Mac Thomason and urge him to set up an Elvis tribute in his local courthouse, just to prove or disprove his theory. Really. It'd be great. Terry, you could help him. Okay, well, then at least you could egg him on.

And now I fear I must get back to work on the synagogue newsletter, which is due tomorrow, and which needs to get out of my home and into the congregation's eventually, and, well—sigh—it won't happen by itself.

Michele the mensch: Donuts for the IDF

Michele is soliciting contributions for pizza and donuts for Israeli soldiers for Hanukkah for the second year in a row. Check out her post, or go right here to donate.

Thanks, Michele. You're the best.

Why Israel exists: The human side

Imagine being separated from your family at age 11 and age 5. Imagine not seeing your brother or sister for 65 years. Then imagine sending in a form to Yad Vashem to see if your sibling is still alive. No luck. But four years later, a woman visits Yad Vashem, and a clerk there persuades her to enter her information into the database. Within a week, she meets the brother she hasn't seen in six and a half decades.

Benny Shilon, 78, and Shoshana November, 73, were separated when their impoverished parents sent them to foster homes in 1936. They met once since then, in 1938.

In 1942, November was sent to Auschwitz. She said her life was saved by a woman who pushed her out of the line of those waiting to be gassed. Instead she ended up at the adjacent Birkenau work camp.

Shilon had escaped to Russia and volunteered for the Red Army and took part in the liberation of Auschwitz.

This is why Israel was established. This is why Israel must exist. The one-state solution is not a solution for Jews. The palestinians have never protected so much as a single Jewish religious site. What makes you think they'd care about an old man wanting to see his little sister after 65 years?

This is only one of the miracles that is Israel. Am Yisrael chai. The people of Israel live.

New voices

Last week, this guy Rv. Agnos (which I'm sure stands for something that I'm too lazy to Google) commented at Amish Tech Support, and I responded to his comment in a way that may have made him think I dislike him. Well, no, actually.

How can I dislike someone who fisks an article arguing against gay marriage like this?

Now, by "spousal unity", one might think that Morse is talking about spiritual harmony and growing closer together as people. In fact, as now is clear, she is in fact referring to "unity" in the sense that "the two people are physically in the same location." So, for example, if my spouse and I are jammed face to face on the #42 bus because it's rush hour and there are no seats, this would meet the "spousal unity" definition as used here. Sitting in a movie theatre holding hands would not, because that is only making the "beast with one double-wide back and two breast on the same side of the front."

There are many more laugh-out-loud moments. Check it out for yourself.

And while I'm at it, Iowahawk, who has given us many funny parodies in the comments of Little Green Footballs, has his own blog now. And it's funny. This one is priceless. He made up a Nigerian spam letter to send to an idiotic Guardian columnist who fell for a Nigerian scam (via snail mail, no less).

Also, a belated addition to my regular Israeli reads: Sha.

There are days when you just walk around with a contented smile on your face. Yesterday was one of those.

One of the world's most evil men has been captured. A lot of Iraqis are breathing more freely. The US endeavor to sort out Iraq has received a big boost. What's not to like?

I got the news right after lunch. I called my wife, who was out and about with the baby. "Did you hear the news?" I asked her. "Oh my god, how many dead?," was her reaction. In Israel, when someone calls you and asks if you've heard the news it generally means there was a big terrorist attack. This time the news was good for a change, and we spent a fun evening with visiting relatives watching Bush's speech and the footage of Saddam's medical examination over and over again.

And this:

If I were a bigger man, I would be content feeling happy for the Iraqi people and satisfied that justice has been served. However, I'm small and petty especially when reading stories like this about the reaction of the Palestinians to Saddam's capture. For the Palestinians, yesterday was "a black day." Sadness has descended upon the streets of Nablus and Ramallah:

Khairiyeh Said, 43, a high-school teacher, said she wept when she watched Saddam in captivity. "I was sitting with my friends when we heard the bad news," she said. "We all started crying because we love Saddam and we hate [US President George W.] Bush and [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon. This is a big victory for Bush and Sharon and all the enemies of the Palestinian people.

Awwww. Poor thing.

During the first Gulf War, as Saddam lobbied his scuds at Ramat Gan (one of which caused the destruction of my grandmother's house), the Palis danced on their rooftops crying "Ya Saddam, ya habib, udrub udrub Tal Abib" ("Oh Saddam, oh dear one, strike, strike at Tel Aviv"). They looked to him as their savior and he, in turn, helped bankroll the families of suicide bombers.

Nearly 13 years later, Saddo is sitting in American lockdown waiting to be hanged by his own people. The Palestinians are crying over the loss of their habib, and I'm playing the world's smallest violin for all of them.

My kinda guy.

RETA: Readers eating tasty animals

A couple of letters regarding yesterday's post. From Fred Z., whom I would have adored in grammar school because he would have had to stand behind me in line (damn the alphabet!):

Venison. Not only do I eat it it, I kill it. Not only that, I try to get a doe. I kill Bambi's mommeeeee. Ha Ha.

Best cooked with a French or central European recipe. The traditional North American methods of cooking venison are barely acceptable for starving hunters in camp or starving and primitive aborigines, but not moi.

From Mark F.:

Re "More PETA pity parties", alligator is tasty, tastes a lot like chicken. I wonder if PETA cares about cute, cuddly alligators?

Of course they do, but I don't. In fact, alligators and crocodiles are my least-liked animals, so I encourage all my readers to eat heartily. Some day I may even explain why I hate crocs.


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.