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Another quiet day in the Israeli "lull"

Yes, folks, quite and peace reign in Israel today, as the news media will claim after the next successful Palestinian attack. Here's the scorecard from Friday:

Despite the the IDF actions, two Kassam rockets were fired early Thursday evening from northern Gaza, landing inside Israel in an open area near the border fence not far from Sderot. Shortly after, a mortar shell was fired at an IDF post near the community of Gadid. No one was wounded and no damage reported in either of the incidents. Earlier in the day, security forces dismantled and examined the remains of a Kassam rocket found near Netzarim in the northern Gaza Strip which officials believe was fired on Wednesday night.

[...] A soldier from the Nahal Brigade suffered light to moderate injuries when he was shot in the legs by a Palestinian gunman as he patrolled the city streets during the morning. Towards noon, Ahmed Abu Zahara was shot and killed by security forces as he attempted to throw a firebomb at troops.

[...] On Wednesday, security forces found one of the largest bomb factories belonging to Hamas found in the West Bank. The factory was located on three floors of a building where troops found hundreds of kilograms of explosives of different kinds, numerous pipe bombs, a refinery, metal work shops, and various parts used in the composition of bombs. Security forces blew up the building.

In the afternoon, a 57-year-old IDF reservist suffered a light stab wound in the shoulder as he manned the Rama roadblock south of Ramallah. Another reservist jumped the attacker and caught him. The wounded soldier was taken to Hadassah-University Hospital at Mount Scopus.

[...] Elsewhere in the area, at a roadblock south of Tulkarm, a Palestinian woman who attempted to stab a soldier was shot in the legs when she ignored warning shots fired by soldiers and continued to advance toward soldiers. She was treated at the site, taken to a hospital in Israel, and later handed over to security officials.

Earlier, security forces shot and killed a Tanzim fugitive armed with an M16 who shot at troops. In the village Bet a-Rosh Altahta, southwest of Hebron, soldiers arrested Fatah fugitive Khaled Amro who is allegedly responsible for numerous shooting attacks in the area and the deaths of Israeli soldiers and civilians. Two fugitives were arrested in Jenin and three in Tamun.

Yep. All quiet on the Israeli front. Just another three-story bomb factory—excuse me, "metal shop"—destroyed, some stabbings, bombs thrown at soldiers, and, oh yeah—a Palestinian woman is going to claim she was shot by the IDF for no reason. They really should have personnel stationed at the roadblocks with cameras so they can take pictures of these attacks and hand them out to journalists who buy the Pals' lies.

Women and Islam: Imperfect together

Here's a letter I received several weeks ago. I sat on it for about a week, wondering whether to reply.

I was just reading your article on cultural relativism. I think it’s important that I mention that I am a Muslim, and contrary to what most people would believe, none of the things on your site offend me. (because, contrary to what most people believe, im not a bin laden lover, or a fundamentalist, which is what most Muslims seem to be viewed as these days.) Anyway, you said in your article quite bluntly that you thought cultural relativism is bullshit. I guess I have to agree with you, but there is something to keep in mind: that culture and religion are two completely different things. I was asked last week at work by a colleague "why does Islam allow female circumcision, ?" I had to blink several times before I could answer the guy, because honestly, that was one of the stupidest questions I had ever hear (second on my list, the first being "do u wear your veil when you take a shower?")

It seems that ever since September 11th...and probably way before that too, the media powered by the almighty US has been trying very very hard to portray Muslims as evil, smelly terrorists, with an un-quenching thirst for innocent blood. And they seem to have succeeded pretty well. But what really ticks me off, is how everyone, and you included, seem to have a distorted image of Islam and think of it as a culture, rather than a religion.

"Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new concept: That all men are created equal. In this century, of course, the concept also applies to women."

Islam was the first religion to declare women as equal to men. Women in Islamic countries had the right to vote hundreds of years before women in America did. We are seen as equals in every aspect of life. We make our own money (which does not go to our husbands, but to OUR bank accounts) and we drive our own cars. When people think Islam, they think arranged marriages, female circumcision , suicide bombing, oppressed and uneducated women who bear 14 kids, and men with 4 to 6 wives each. But that is where you, along with probably the rest of the world is wrong. In countries such as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, a girl is not allowed to choose a husband for herself...her family chooses for her. In Muslim countries such as Somalia, female circumcision, is one of the most prominent activities. But none of these are a part of Islam.

So if you're going to say that cultural relativism is bullshit, you might as well mention that so is America's views and ideas of Islam.

Also, the values that you say Americans hold true, are probably shared by Muslims as well...

Anyway, you do claim to be liberal, so I hope you'll take this into consideration.

This was my response, to which I've received no answer these last two weeks:

I find it interesting that in my essay, I made it clear that the actions of nations were what was being called cultural relativism. Your letter implies that I said otherwise.

However, in the interests of historical truth, please cite me examples of when and where women voted under Islam, and for whom. I am especially interested in discovering that there was a democratic republic in world history "hundreds of years" before the United States, and that women voted within that republic.

As for considering Islam a culture rather than a religion: When a nation's state religion is Islam, and declared so in that nation's "constitution" (e.g., in Saudi Arabia, in the nascent Palestinian constitution, and in many other Islamic nations' laws), and shari'a is the law of the land, that nation's religion deeply affects its culture. Christianity deeply affected (and affects) European and American culture. To say otherwise would be absurd.

In fact, this Saudi woman uses the very phrase "Muslim culture."

Yes, Islam is a religion. But an Islamic nation is studded with the cultural effects of Islam's religion. If it is fundamentalist Islam, it is generally bad for women. As I'm sure even you will admit, women are not equals under the law in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran (though it's better there than many places), or Egypt--to name a few. Egypt has only just allowed a woman to be a judge. Last year, Jordanian women were finally allowed to be lawyers. Women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia, nor can they leave the country without their guardian or husband's permission. The fact that women need a "guardian" itself speaks volumes for the lack of suffrage in that country.

Somehow, in Islamic nations, I keep being told all people are equal. But some people, it seems, are more equal than others.

There were two articles about women and Islam in recent days that buttress the argument that Islamic "republics" (I'd call them theocracies) are the worst thing to happen to women since the days of le droit de signeur. The first article details how women may own a business in Saudi Arabia, but not run it. The second advises Muslim men that they shouldn't beat their wives without cause, and that perhaps they should beat them gently, at first. Until they see the error of their ways, you see. Just to embarrass them. (No, I'm not making that up. Read the article.)

The mind simply reels at how women all over the world can lie to themselves that Islam promotes equality for women. I understand why male muslims will lie about it. It's in their best interests to keep the status quo, or so they think. And I can understand why someone in fear for her life will parrot that standard. But for an educated woman, who can see the truth, to pretend that Islam isn't the main ingredient in the subjugation of women throughout the Muslim world—well, that takes some industrial-strength kind of blinders.

A few howdys

I haven't plugged these folks in a while. So I will.

Pontifex ex Machina has some rather biting (and funny) commentary on several subjects. I like these two recent ones the best.

You just can't choose which of Mac's posts to plug, so just read the whole thing.

Ditto for Sgt. Stryker's place. Sgt. Mom's story of her parents' other son is a paean to human kindness and generosity. And America. (By the way, first-time readers would do well to read this post, which explains both the site itself, and the reason I get such a kick out of the Sarge.)

I am so far behind in my Possumblogging that I'm just going to send you to the main page and you'll have to pick and choose for yourself which ones to read. (Sorry, Terry. It's been a busy coupla weeks.)

By the way, for those of you who may not yet know this, the email you're getting regarding the military history of France was written by none other than our own Bigwig of Silflay Hraka, and it keeps getting published without credit. Kindly email anyone you see using it without linking to Bigwig's post.

E. Nough's got an outstanding post on the reasons why we need to stop Saddam Hussein.

This item over on Rantburg got me to thinking that I should probably post the letter I received from a Muslim woman who insisted that women are just as equal under Islam—if not more so—than women in America. Maybe later today.

A tale of citizenship

Ravenwolf has just become an American citizen, and has written about it on her weblog:

Most Americans think of their citizenship as much as they think about their beating heart; they pay no attention to such an important detail because it's something they were born with. It works on its own, automatically, without any conscious thought and it's always there, never posing a problem. If something something goes wrong, however, they'll sit up to take notice, but once the crisis is over, most people go back to to their lives and forget about everything once it is all functioning normally again.

Congratulations, Ravenwolf, from one of those citizens who often thinks about how grateful she is that her eight great-grandparents all chose to emigrate from Europe and come to Newark and New York. I thank the Reiders, the Sarnoffs, the Yourishes, the Moreins, and the other four families whose names aren't coming as quickly. But I know they came from Latvia and Russia and Germany. I know they were fleeing oppression; Jews were less popular in the late nineteenth century than they are today in Europe, difficult as that may be to believe. And I know that they, like your parents, had something special inside. To leave everything you have ever known and move to a strange country, where you may not even know the language, takes strength and courage. One of the reasons for Americans' eternal optimism, I believe, is because so many people came to this country seeking a better life for their children. That idea has been woven so deeply into our collective unconscious that we think of nothing less for each succeeding generation.

Welcome to America, Ravenwolf.



I'm kvelling

As regular readers of this weblog know, I teach fourth grade at my synagogue's religious school. Tonight, my students led the Friday night Shabbat services. They dressed up, they sat quietly in the front row until the rabbi called them up to the bimah to lead prayers. They did a wonderful job, sometimes all together, sometimes only a couple of them at a time. They were exceedingly cute and extremely well-behaved, and I can't tell who's prouder of them—me or their parents. (But I wouldn't bet on their parents tonight.)

So I have to brag on them, of course. I wish I could have taken pictures. Well, they don't read this weblog, but I'm going to say this anyway: Nice job, Matthew, Aaron, Jason, Max, Rebecca, and Jessica. Well done.

This teaching thing gets easier and easier as time wears on. It's looking more and more likely that I'll be coming back next year.

The thoughts inside my head

So I was trimming my fingernails this morning, and looking at the emery boards, and wondering why so many other trademarks and proper nouns were turned into verbs, but we don't emer our nails.

I think mediocre writing is far worse than bad writing. If I read bad writing, I realize it sucks and it generally goes out of my memory and I think no more about it. But when I read something that's mediocre, it's like nails on a blackboard. I think it's partly because mediocrity shows the promise of someday being good, but bad writing is always going to be bad. Or maybe it's because a mediocre writer knows just enough to make you close your eyes and groan each time s/he writes a phrase that misses what s/he wanted it to say. (And no, this is not directed at anyone, it's just a general statement about bad writing.)

My brother gave me a gift: A moon-phase clock. It's pretty cool, because it sets itself. It searches for a radio transmission from Arizona or somewhere out in the southwest (look, one square state is just like the rest, and they're all red and rocky on the maps, and yeah, I sure do expect email about this one, but remember, I'm a former northeastern snob). So I set it up, and then for three straight days at 6 a.m. couldn't figure out what asshole out front had the strange, beeping car alarm that always seemed to go off at the same time. This was because at 6 a.m. during those three days, at least one person was out front scraping ice from their car. Finally, on the fourth day, I realized that the effing clock had set its effing alarm for effing six a.m. I didn't set it. I don't need to get up at six a.m.

The batteries have been removed, as I have temporarily misplaced the directions and I watched in horror as the alarm set itself before my eyes. Uh, no. Six a.m. is for sleeping, in my house.

By the way, D.C. cab drivers really get annoyed at visitors from Virginia who can't figure out quickly enough if they need to go straight or right around Union Station. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Come on up to Manhattan, jerko, and we'll see how fast you find your way around. Better still, come on to Essex County, New Jersey. Newark. Yeah, that'd do it.

Risking my eyes for Angie

Angie Schultz has one helluva fisking of Molly Ivins' latest column defending France. Hell, it starts with the title: "Molly Ivins Can Say That, But She's Wrong" and gets better from there.

I really liked Ivins when she wrote humorously on politics, especially the good ol' boys of Texas politics. She came off a little shrill sometimes, but those occasions were just minor deviations from tone in some otherwise-enjoyable pieces.

But now shrill indignation is her whole oeuvre, and if a little bit of humor crawls into her writing it must fend for itself the best it can.

But wait, there's more! Angie also has a post about the recent wave of violence from certain areas of the blogosphere (yours truly included, I'm sorry to say). And those are only the first two posts on her page. And you simply have to read this one on a cookbook that frightened her as a child (we won't get into its long-lasting effects on the adult Angie). It's hilarious. What does the cake know? Read it to find out.

Every time I read her work, I realize she should be on the everyday list. Angie, can't you change to, like, light blue blogules or something?



I hate when that happens

I've gotten over a hundred hits from some MSN group. WebTrends cuts off the URL, so I've no idea which group, or what they're discussing.

Then again, it could have been there for days without my noticing it, if it hit during an Instalanche.

I'm thinking seriously of converting to MT, but my ISP doesn't host third-party software, which is a bit of a handicap. I'd have to change ISPs. I don't really want to do that. But the world of RSS is goin to leave this blog behind unless I learn it myself (don't want to), hire someone else to do it (yeah, that'll happen), or switch to a blogging tool (still don't really want to do that).

Decisions, decisions.

Changing gears

Looking out my back window at the melting snow on the grass, and the amount of water and mud, I got this sudden urge to throw someone in the mud. At full length.

A little while later, I suddenly got the urge to spit a piece of gum out back, to see if I could get it all the way across the patio and onto the grass.

Yesterday, I wanted a cigarette.

I have the distinct feeling that all of these are related to being snowbound with my mother from Sunday to Monday, and then having her stay extended until yesterday, when I drove up to D.C. to drop her at the train station.

Does anyone want to play later on? I'll dig out my bat and ball. You could even use my glove.

Daniel Pearl's murder: A year later

Judith Weiss reminds us of that fact, and a quick look through Google News brings up a few memorials. There aren't that many, really. After all, it was a year ago, and a lot's happened since then, right? What's one more dead reporter in the grand scheme of things? Well, Larry Sandler of the The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an idea:

Yet Pearl's murder should have stood out as the key to understanding all the rest.

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were too horrible for most civilized people to easily grasp. Explaining everything that has happened since then will eventually fill several libraries.

Pearl's execution, by contrast, was chillingly simple to comprehend. He was killed for three reasons: He was a Jew. He was an American. He was a reporter.

It stands as a concise summary of the terrorist agenda: Get rid of the Jews, get rid of the Americans and, while you're at it, get rid of freedom of speech, too.

Danny's father, Judea Pearl, wrote one:

Much has been written on the new challenges that Danny's murder represents to international journalism. But relatively little attention was given to one aspect of the motives of the perpetrators, specifically to the role of anti-American and anti-Semitic sentiments in the planning and execution of the murder. In fact, what shocked and united people from all over the world was the nature of those motives.

[...] In Europe, Danny's murder has been condemned as an attack against journalism, while the anti-American, anti-Jewish sentiments were played down considerably. This is understandable, considering the anti-American and anti-Western sentiment echoed in editorials in some respectable European newspapers.

In contrast, Danny's captors concentrated on his Jewish and Israeli heritage. Evidently the murderers were confident that Danny's Jewish connections were sufficient to license the gruesome murder they were about to commit. Such a brazen call to condone the killing of human beings by virtue of his religion or heritage is strongly reminiscent of the horrors perpetrated by Nazi Germany.

In a world governed by reason and leadership, one would expect world leaders to immediately denounce such racist calls before they become an epidemic. However, U.S. President George W. Bush was the only world leader to acknowledge the connection between Danny's murder and the rise of anti-Semitism: "We reject the ancient evil of anti-Semitism whether it is practiced by the killers of Daniel Pearl or by those who burn synagogues in France." No European head of state rose to John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner") with the morally equivalent statement, "Today, I am a Jew."

There are a few news articles, too, about all the questions that remain. Most of them are retreads of the same AP piece:

A year after the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief was snatched off the streets of this pulsing seaside city, mysteries still abound.

Authorities are reluctant to discuss the murder. Suspects disappear or are found dead. Crucial dates are confused. Confessions are offered and then recanted.

There is agreement on one point: Nobody who physically carried out the killing has been convicted. None of the four men sentenced is even believed to have ever been at the shed where Pearl was held. Three of the convicted men never met Pearl at all.

Some say he was killed because he was getting too close to proving the connections between Musharraf and Al Qaeda—or at least, Musharraf's top aides and the Taliban/Al Qaeda. But that point has yet to be proven, and his murderers have yet to be brought to justice. Then again, suspects keep on disappearing and dying. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to stop.

Much of the world has yet to even admit that Pearl was killed in large part because of the virulent anti-Semitism of Muslims and the Arab world. Remember the words they made him utter on film before they slit his throat: "I am a Jew, and my father is a Jew."

Well, let me repeat Danny's words, because they're equally true for me: I am a Jew, and my father is a Jew. As are my mother, my brothers, my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, my nephew, the children I teach in religious school.

I will remember Danny Pearl, and spread the knowledge of his death by Jew-hating terrorists. Perhaps by this time next year, the terrorists who slaughtered Danny Pearl will have paid for their crime.

Look where I was yesterday

The Capitol

You know, it doesn't matter what your political leanings are. This building doesn't just host Congress, it symbolizes the American democratic process. As bad as the hits were on 9/11, the loss of the Capitol Dome would have been a crushing blow to our symbolism plexus. I'm awfully glad I could take a picture of this in passing today.



The Carnival, colds, and cars

The People's Republic of Seabrook's got the Carnival this week.

I spent much of the morning and afternoon driving to and from Washington, D.C., because Amtrak is not running south of the capital, and my mother was here since last Thursday, and was supposed to have gone home on Monday morning, and we've about had enough of each other. So driving 120 miles each way to put her on a train home was a pain in the ass, but a necessary one. Sorry, Mom. (Don't think she wasn't wanting to get home, too. There's something about sleeping in your own bed, and not getting woken up at six in the morning by an effing moon phase clock that apparently sets its own alarm for you without telling you, that we only just discovered this morning. More on that at a later date. For now, the batteries are out.)

On top of everything else, I am coming down with a cold. I can feel the congestion tightening my chest; I wanted to cough during the whole drive back from D.C. and I don't think it was the pollution, and come to think of it, I woke up dizzy this morning, a sure sign of filling sinuses. Dang.

Well, I have Cold-Eeze, and am currently planning on having four of them before dinner. But I feel a great big grumpy mood coming up, so here's hoping I don't get any more lectures in email. Because I won't be as nice to them as I've been these past few days.

The Google/Blogger deal

I can't find the money quote, but somewhere, yesterday, I read that Evan Williams asked, "How'd you like to be able to search for data in real time?" (If anyone has a link to that quote, I'd appreciate it.)

Google didn't buy Blogger so they could host free weblogs on their servers. Google also didn't do it solely to expand the free exchange of information. Google is first and foremost a business, and it's got a business model in mind. There is always a "why" to a story like this. And here's my take on the why:

One of the reasons I don't use a blogging tool is because they store all your posts in a flat file. Your posts as such don't exist as separate files; they are translated into the page you see when the information is retrieved online. Flat files have their pros and cons, but here's an important pro: Flat files can be searched much faster than, say, my single-file-per-week structure which has a minimum of fifty-two files per year, plus images, plus audio or video or anything else. It's all in the same file in a flat file structure. Also, the flat files will be stored on Google's server farm. Do I have to point out how much easier and faster it is for a corporation to search for data on its own computers than it is to find it elsewhere?

Google is going to market Blogger as a content tool for more than just personal weblogs, and there won't be a free version of the new content tool. Perhaps they will modify it so that newspapers and magazines will store their content on Google servers; perhaps Blogger itself will have a path programmed into it that Google's spiders can access in real-time, and publications will store their data on their servers but allow Google to access this path. In this scenario, Blogger software will always have an advantage over any other blogging tool, because Google will be able to search Blogger content in real time, while having to rely on stored images from normal spiders that crawl the rest of the web.

It's not unfair market practice; it's good business sense. There are advantages to buying a Sony television set, VCR, camcorder, DVD player and computer. Different products from the same brand are built to interact. Google will build Blogger to interact with its own product. And since Google's forte is data, Blogger software will have a natural advantage now that it's owned by Google.

Is this the end of Moveable Type and Radio Userland? Are LiveJournal and Greymatter doomed?

No, but Blogger will continue its dominance of the field, and now I think we'll see the Blogger personal weblog tool catch up to, and surpass, the features we've gotten used to from MT and others.

In the meantime, congratulations, Ev. Enjoy that new car. You earned it.

More moralizing reader mail

Monday seems to have been the day for annoying and moralistic email. This one is in response to my posts from February 16th. (But first go read my post about "the poor bastard from Qatar"—I never called him that, but hey, it looks good in the letter, doesn't it?)

I wanted to comment on your last three posts, but then I saw your other blog about the poor bastard from much anger. I am sorry about your first encounter with the Iranians...I too am an Iranian (does that mean you are going to ignore me? Hate me? Should I hate you? But why should I, we haven't met? Unfair set of questions and assumptions, wouldn't you say? Whatever happened to the wonder and excitement of meeting new people that I am sure we both felt as young kids? Inevitable disappointment..perhaps. Joy of discovery...possible...and again maybe not.)

"I sense much anger in this one. Like her father, she is." Great misreading of what I wrote there, Yoda. Let me quote from the end of that particular post:

Am I saying that I hate you because you're from Qatar? No. I don't hate you because you're from Qatar. I don't hate Arabs because they're Arabs, or Muslims because they're Muslims. I hate the people who hate me. They have taught me how to hate. I can tell in a moment. Sadly, I have far too much experience with hatred.

Funny. It seems I'd already written my statement of belief on anti-Semites a year ago, and simply forgotten that I'd done so. (I've written a lot of words in the past year.) But I still can't find where I said in that post (or any other) that I hate "the poor bastard from Qatar." As for the Iranian students, I related a story about Iranians who hated me because I'm Jewish. Still can't find the spot in the essay where I mention hating them because they're Iranian, either. "The wonder and excitement of meeting new people?" Hey, I wasn't the one who was glaring at my Star of David and muttering insults in Farsi to my friends. Maybe they were less full of the wonder and excitement of meeting new people than my correspondent. Or maybe they just didn't like meeting new Jewish people. Maybe they were just prejudiced.

The hatred in that scene is on the part of the Iranian students, in their attitude toward me, yet the correspondent turns it around to make it look like I hate him because he's Iranian.


I was roaming around on the net and got to your web sight via Daniel Drezner. I was struck by the first three entries because you gloated over the misfortunes of the human shield group;

Yes, because it was funny. Sure, humor is subjective, but the stupidity of Ken O'Keefe destroying his U.S. passport and thinking that he would have no trouble going over several international borders with his home-made "Citizen of the World" passport is hilarious. It's like a Cheech and Chong movie come to life, without the pot.

you wished painful death on the anti-semites(which I have come to learn, includes anyone who might be critical of Israel--am I wrong?)

Bzzzt! Wrong. I wished painful death on anti-Semites. I said nothing about "anyone who might be critical of Israel." You did. Best be careful. Your agenda is showing. (You've come to learn so much about me after reading only four posts, but, well, you're all wrong.)

and you level the charge of stupidity against the anti-war crowd and indicte them(millions) on the basis of your assumption of their silence during all other instances of human suffering.(true? If they were the usual crowd, then chances are some have been protesting about one or some of those issues all these years. And if so many people were involved, then chances of their involvement increase astronomically.)

Fine. Cite me cases. Give examples. Prove me wrong. Point me to news articles on all the marches held in response to the causes I mentioned in my post. What's that? You can't?


I think I can sort of intuit the reasons for the anger-- the sense of being under siege.

You know me so well from reading what, four of my posts? Wow. You're just amazing.

Your visceral animosity towards the Arabs (and the Iranians?),

Ah. My visceral animosity towards the Arabs and Iranians. Folks, go reread the first three posts at the bottom of this page, and tell me where you can find an expression of visceral hatred towards Arabs. Oh, wait, it's from his misreading of my post about Qatar—the one that was written after I found out about the death of Danny Pearl at the hands of Islamic extremists. The one where I say, "I don't hate Arabs because they're Arabs, or Muslims because they're Muslims." Yeah, that's some visceral animosity there. Ouch!

I am sure, is rooted in your empathy towards other folks Jewish. And you are angry at the suffering inflicted on them.

Gee, ya think? I have empathy towards other folks Jewish? I am angry when Jews are murdered and tortured? Ya think?

But where does your empathy cease? Does it not extend beyond? I suspect you feel no joy in the suffering of a dog? And Your neighbor? Or A colleague ? A total stranger struggling in the snow? But all you feel when you encounter an anonymous visitor from Qatar is suspicion and hate?(by any other name...)

Well, I don't really like my neighbor on the one side, but... okay, kidding. Again, the misreading of my words leads to lies. You would almost think it was deliberate . Asking if the caller from Qatar hates me because I'm Jewish is suspicion and hate? Read the essay again, pal, because you've missed the point so badly I think you left it three counties over.

And perhaps you missed this part of the essay, so let me repeat it:

Another of my closest friends was Polish, too. His parents were from the old country, but they didn't seem to have a problem with their son and me being friends. And my dearest friend now is of German descent. That's three deep friendships I made with people who, had each of us been in Europe instead of America, would probably have never crossed paths--let alone been allowed to be friends.

Wow, that's some batch of hatred and bigotry you found on me. I give up, I'm guilty as charged. There I go, only showing kindness to people I agree with or like or are accidently born into (huh?).

Does't take much to be kind to the people you agree with or like and are accidently born had no choice, I assume, in being Jewish, as I had none in being Iranian or for that matter the poor soul who meandered on to your sight and kept on coming back(a wonder given the warm hospitality offered.)

That's actually a huge assumption on your part. I had no choice in what I was born, no, but I have every say in how I choose to live my adult life. And I choose to remain Jewish. I choose to take pride in my heritage. I could just as easily be a Chomsky Jew and choose to negate my roots. But I do not.

Oh, and I'm guessing you're not going to be back after this warm hospitality, either. Let me state, once more for the record, Your Honor, that the witness did not make any of the statements the prosecution says she made.

The real challenge is to hang on to your humanity when it becomes hard to do.

I have no problem hanging on to my humanity. The real challenge here is to get people like you to read the words I wrote, instead hearing of the words that are echoing inside your head.

You are right of course. There is a great deal of hatred in the Arab world and in Iran and in the Iranian community. Do we need a change of attitude? Absolutely. But are you any better than the rest of us? You decide.

Well, I didn't say I was better then the rest of you, but I'm sure as hell better at reading comprehension than someone I could mention.

wish you peace and joy.

No, you don't, because if you did, you wouldn't have sent the letter in the first place. It never ceases to amaze me how many people think they have a sworn duty to point out the ills in my way of thinking, and then expect me to change my mind, admit I'm wrong, and be sweet and thankful for it. I normally ignore them, but I'm getting tired of that.

And the singular hubris of this particular letter-writer is all the more galling because of his many misreads and false claims. Maybe the air up on those high horses is harder to breathe—and affects reading comprehension.



Mark Steyn: Still on the marry-me list

I haven't quoted him for a while, mostly because everyone else links before I can get a chance, but Mark Steyn's latest is a great one.

Hitler's problem was that he was over-invested in ideology. He'd invented a universal theory -- the wickedness of the international Jewish conspiracy -- and he persisted in fitting every square peg of cold hard reality into that theory's round hole. Thus, Churchill must be a "puppet of Jewry." As a general rule, when it's reality versus delusion, bet on reality. That held true in the Cold War. Moral equivalists like Harold Pinter insisted that America and the Soviet Union were both equally bad. But the traffic across the Berlin Wall was all one way. East German guards were not unduly overworked trying to keep people from getting in. The Eastern bloc collapsed because it was a lie, and the alternative wasn't.

Well, the Soviet Union's gone now so Pinter no longer has to observe the pox-on-both-their-houses niceties. Addressing the demonstrators on Saturday, he declared that the U.S. is "a country run by a bunch of criminals ... with Tony Blair as a hired Christian thug."

Got that? It's not Saddam who's the thug, it's Tony. It's not the Baathist killers from Tikrit who are the bunch of criminals, it's the Republican Party. It's not the million-man murderer of Baghdad who's the new Hitler, it's George W. Bush. It's not the Iraqi one-party state with its government-controlled media that "crushes dissent," it's the White House. It's not the Wahhabis who are the fundamentalists, it's Bush, Blair and the other Christians. It's not Osama bin Laden who's the terrorist, it's American foreign policy. Supporting the continued enslavement of the Iraqi people is "pacifist," but it's "racist" for America to disagree with the UN, even though it's Colin Powell and Condi Rice doing the disagreeing and the fellows they're disagreeing with are a bunch of white guys from Europe.

The new Universal Theory, to which 99% of Saturday's speakers and placards enthusiastically subscribed, is that, whatever the problem, American imperialist cowboy aggression is to blame. In fact, it's not so different from the old Universal Theory, in that the international Zionist conspiracy is assumed to be behind the scenes controlling the cowboys: Bush is a "puppet of Jewry," just like Churchill was -- notwithstanding the fact that America's Jews voted overwhelmingly for Gore. But, if you believe that the first non-imperialist great power in modern history is the source of all the world's woes, then logic is irrelevant. "It's all about oil"? Yes, for the French, whose stake in Iraqi oil is far more of a determining factor than America's ever has been or will be. "America created Saddam"? No, not really, the French and Germans and Russians have sold him far more stuff, and Paris built him that reactor which would have made him a nuclear power by now, if the Israelis hadn't destroyed it in the Eighties.

Read it all, it's great.

Morality lesson for the day

I really hadn't intended to revisit this, but my correspondent sent me another morals lesson that I thought I'd share with my readers. I think I'll also share my correspondent's nom de plume, because I'm quite sure he's not the author himself, but only someone using his name: David Foster Wallace. How can I be sure? Well, I'm guessing the letters would be slightly more literate than this:

You see, the reason I don't click on that X button is that, just as you once did, I have this hope that you could be changed.

They've taught you how to hate? What do you think of simple moral formulae like "Two wrongs don't make a right"? Aren't MLK and Gandhi any kind of inspiration?

Tit-for-tatness is a kind of cowardice, no? When we interrupt two children fighting and they both offer "He started it!" as an excuse, we tend to think they're being petty. We tend to think they're missing the point. A person who excuses a hateful action with "He started it!" is just absolving himself of responsibility. You're running away from it, trying to pin your actions on someone else.

Once again, I call bullshit. For some reason, I thought I'd hear a little more about the "fighting words" doctrine. Instead I get finger-wagging and clichés. This is a classic tactic when one hasn't got a logical leg to stand on.

So now I'm both childish and running away from my responsibility. No, actually, "David" is avoiding the point which was, originally, that I'm supposedly in violation of the "fighting words" doctrine, and that it's wrong for me to hate but all right for the anti-Semites to hate. I'm still not seeing any facts to back that up, though I did point to a page that has the Supreme Court rulings on previous rulings. I won't hold my breath waiting for anything other than name-calling and sophistry, but I don't think I'll be publishing "David's" letters after this one. A troll is a troll is a troll, after all, even one that isn't being quite as mean or stupid as the many trolls on comment threads. I have my ideas who I think he is, but I'll just keep them to myself for now.

I also thought I was pretty clear about the kinds of actions that got me to realize that it's useless to hope for change in those who hate me, but since "David" brought up MLK and Gandhi, I'll point out that neither of their movements would have worked in, say, Syria. Or Iraq. Or Saudi Arabia. Oh, wait—didn't they try it in China a few years back? Yes, in the Tiananamen Square demonstration—where the Chinese murdered hundreds of their own children to stop a nascent movement for democracy. All they were saying was give nonviolent resistance a chance. Yeah, that went well.

Nonviolent resistance can only work in a democratic nation, or, in India's case, with a fairly democratic colonial government on its way out of being a colonial government. So it says more for the nations in which these movements succeeded than it does for nonviolent resistance, which movement has worked nowhere else in the world.

On the other hand, violent suppression works just swell on people who refuse to fight for themselves. As my pal Diane E. used to have prominently displayed on her blog, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" (Hillel)

Since I'm not about to change my mind on this topic no matter how many morality lessons I receive from "David," I'll probably just keep my anger right where it is, and leave the forgiveness for God. I'm the one that has to live in this world, after all.



Around the blogosphere

Bigwig has written his best essay on Iraq, ever. At least until the next one.

NZ Bear's got the roundup of the Grand Cross-Blog Iraq Debate. And he survived the experience.

Diane E. will be away from the blog for a few days. Her computer is being repaired.

Imshin, I'm still here! And so is my mother, who came in for a visit and can't get back until Amtrak starts up again.

Tig on sheets of sleet This one's for Michele. Notice that there are no paw prints. Sixteen pounds wasn't heavy enough to make an impression on the sleet here. Tig didn't care for it enough to stay out very long, either.

Lowering myself to their level

The past few days it seems I've been receiving lessons in morality via email. Here's the latest of the bunch:

You recently wrote: "Anti-Semites of the world, just die." Only this time I'll add, "painfully."

You know, in our country, we have a freedom of conscience, which means that Anti-Semitic beliefs have First Amendment protection. Hate speech *is* protected, but fighting words aren't. Wishing death on people, besides being uncivil and lowering you to their moral squalor of those you're attacking, falls under fighting words.

Well, I could ask The Professor about the legal doctrine known as "fighting words" and get into a long, boring battle over whether or not what I said falls under that doctrine, but then, both Glenn and I have more important things to do with our time, and you can easily Google it and find something like this and make the call yourself. (For the record, I call bullshit on my correspondent's assumption that they're fighting words.)

Or I could write about whatever the hell "freedom of conscience" is supposed to be, but let's just leave it there in all of its incomprehensible glory.

But as far as I can make out, the writer of this letter is saying that people have the right to have anti-Semitic beliefs, but I don't have the right to have similar beliefs about anti-Semites. This is, in fact, a perfect example of most of the letters I get regarding my outspoken anger and hatred regarding anti-Semites, anti-Semitic actions, and all things anti-Semitic. I don't pretend to understand the logic of treating hatred with patience, or kindness, or tolerance. Because that works so well on, say, skinheads looking for someone to beat up. It worked really well at SFSU last spring, where students held a rally for peace in the Middle East and wound up being backed up against the wall by screaming, threatening counter-protesters. The students were wearing t-shirts with the word "peace" on it in three languages: English, Hebrew, and Arabic. They sang "Oseh Shalom," a song of peace, to the screaming, foaming-at-the-mouth, counter-protesters.

It didn't make a difference.

In the interest of perhaps stopping a few of my would-be morality lecturers, here is my statement of belief on anti-Semitism:

I used to think that anti-Semites could be changed. I used to think that eventually, the hatred would cease, and Jews would be accepted. How many thousands of years does it take before Jews can claim the same right to exist as everyone else, after all? Surely, the world would give up its longest hatred.

And yet, anti-Semitism remains. I have stopped trying to comprehend it. There is no reason for it. There is no logic to it. There is no basis to it. And yet, it remains.

So at last, I am forced to realize that where anti-Semitism is concerned, there is only hatred. And now, on my end, the hatred is returned. I hate those who hate me because I am Jewish. And I will not apologize for it. It is they who have changed my way of thinking. It is they who have hardened my heart. It is they who have taught me how to hate.

If you don't like it, well, the virtual version of "Don't let the door hit you in the ass" is: there's a little x up in the right-hand corner of your screen. Click on it.

Because I really don't need any more lectures on my moral standing. I sleep with a clean conscience every night. And I wish death on Yasser Arafat and his ilk on a regular basis.

Deal with it.

Reuters: Now, a newer, more anti-Israel boilerplate

Check out these two photo captions:


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (foreground) is watched by his son Omri, a new Knesset member, during a ceremony for the opening of the 16th Knesset in Jerusalem February 17, 2003. Israel's 16th parliament, elected last month and the first to be elected in the militant mood which emerged after peace talks collapsed in July 2000, saw Shinui, a militant anti-clerical party emerge as Israel's third-largest political force determined to end the participation in government of ultra-religious parties it considers unpatriotic.


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (L), Israeli President Moshe Kazav (C) and eldest Knesset member Shimon Peres toast along with other party leaders during a ceremony for the opening of the 16th Knesset in Jerusalem February 17, 2003. Israel's 16th parliament, elected last month and the first to be elected in the militant mood which emerged after peace talks collapsed in July 2000, saw Shinui, a militant anti-clerical party emerge as Israel's third-largest political force determined to end the participation in government of ultra-religious parties it considers unpatriotic.

Check it out: "the militant mood which emerged after peace talks collapsed in July 2000." This, of course, has nothing to do with the terrorism that arose after the peace talks collapsed. Israel just suddenly woke up in August of 2000 all pissed off and more militant. Also note the slamming of the Israeli "ultra-religious" parties, yet no such slamming of Islamic fanatics in any other articles.

Reuters should change their name to Al-Reuters. Or Al-Jazeera Jr.

Rantburg: happy happy joy joy

I was getting mighty tired of the bad news, so I headed over to Rantburg for some cheering up. And Fred did not disappoint: I found an article there about the "human shields" traveling to Baghdad that simply slayed me. And it wasn't even Fred's comments that did it.

Squabbling peace activists were recovering from a chaotic overland journey yesterday after limping into Iraq aboard two London buses, a day late for the worldwide series of anti-war demonstrations.

Three double-deckers, all crammed with "human shields", had set out from London on Jan 25 to reach Baghdad in time for the day of global protests. But only two of them, with 65 activists, including 18 Britons, made it to the Iraqi capital late on Saturday.

The third was abandoned in Italy after breaking down. Everyone crammed aboard the others, one of which had to be dug out of snow drifts near Istanbul. Several activists dropped out on the way.

The rest endured bitterly cold weather, illness, poor living conditions and a great deal of bickering. When they arrived at Iraq's border with Syria on Friday, Iraqi officials held them overnight, which made them miss Saturday's peace demonstration in Baghdad.

Wait, that's not the funny part. This is:

Ken O'Keefe, their informal leader and a former American marine, burned his US passport and designed himself new travel documents proclaiming him a "Citizen of the World". As a result, he was detained in three countries.

Mr O'Keefe has yet to arrive in Baghdad and Mr Joffe-Walt last heard of him in Syria.

Social Darwinism in action. Go visit Fred and co. at Rantburg. They'll cheer you right up.



What they're saying

British anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head. Writer A.N. Wilson (off my list of "authors-to-read" forever, now) quotes a Holocaust denier in his latest column, and then says there's really nothing wrong with that. Damian Penny explains. (Go read this one of his, too.) Bill Herbert adds his usual eviscerating response.

Also on Bill's blog, I saw this quote on the news and almost lost my lunch. Seems I'm not the only one whose gorge rose at the unmitigated gall and hypocrisy of the French foreign minister. By the way, Bill, Jim Henley has lost all pretense to any kind of moral high ground (as far as I'm concerned) since regularly quoting and linking noted anti-Semite and tin-foil hat conspiracy theorist Justin Raimondo. Perhaps you should send Henly over to your debunking of Raimondo to let in a little knowledge about the man he so blithely quotes with conspiracies on why ANSWER was denied the permit to march.

May I say, yet again, "Anti-Semites of the world, just die." Only this time I'll add, "painfully."

Five million exiled Iraqis say yes to the American-led invasion of Iraq. Can we count their voices against the "peace" marchers and subtract from the overall total?

Gary Farber, who always seems to take my posts so personally, also wrote about the Ivory Coast. Chill, Gary, I wasn't talking about you.

Joshua Sharf has words and pictures from a Rally for America: 2,000 people showed up to support President Bush's policies on terrorism.

The Diablogger (who?) has pictures from the anti-war protest in Tallahassee (where?). Just kidding, I know where it is. In a state that's far, far warmer and with no white stuff on the ground, and kinda where I wish I was right now. Mom's been on the phone with Amtrak for the past half hour or longer, just so she can change her ticket home from Monday to Tuesday.

The hypocrisy of the no-war marchers

Maybe I do have it in me today. I saw something over at Imshin's blog that made me angry. Not at her. At the people who marched for Saddam yesterday, under the guise of marching for peace.

Tell me, oh peaceful ones: When is the march to end the killing in the Sudan going to occur? How about the march for the Ivory Coast? French soldiers have been there for weeks, fighting and killing. Where is the world's protest over that? Where is yours? Why is that war okay, but the war on Iraq is not?

When will you march for peace in Liberia? How about Eritrea? How about just a march for all the African refugees from war? What's the matter, not glamorous enough? Too hard to make slogans for intertribal warfare? Oh, that's right, I forgot—you marched for peace when the Hutus slaughtered the Tutsis in Rwanda. What's that? You didn't? No? Was Susan Sarandon speaking out against the slaughter then? Was Hollywood using its influence on Bill Clinton to get something done?

Will you march so that food can get to starving Kenyans? Or is it only "starving" Iraqi children you care about? Is Western Sahara on your social radar? How about Burundi and the Congo? (You think maybe the Belgians should take some responsibility for the latter, or should they just keep on accusing the U.S. of empire and colonialism?)

Where are the marchers to protest the decades-old Syrian occupation of Lebanon? Whoops, sorry, Arab-on-Arab violence is fine by you. I keep forgetting. So is Pakistan vs. India, apparently, because the world came pretty damned close to a nuclear exchange, and I didn't see a march for peace anywhere by the folks who are marching against the war in Iraq.

So, let me see if I'm clear about my conclusions here: A war anywhere else in the world is okay, with, of course, the exception of Israel defending itself from terrorists. But the United States' attempt to destroy one of the most corrupt, repressive, and brutal regimes in history must be stopped at all costs—because war is harmful to children and other living things.

I don't believe the article in Ha'aretz. I don't think the Bush Administration is going to postpone its war plans because of the marchers, or even because of the feeling at the UN. I think W. has his plan in mind, and his day in mind, and he's going to put it into motion when all the pieces are on the board. But I am angry beyond belief at those who marched yesterday, because their ultimate, albeit unwitting, goal is the protection of Saddam Hussein. His people cannot depose him without intervention. Denying that intervention is sentencing the Iraqis to decades more of the same, as his sons are as corrupt and despotic as he.

Fallout ShelterOf course, if we do nothing, it will be more than decades, and the danger will be more than Saddam lobbing a few SCUDs at Israel and Saudi Arabia. He'll have nuclear weapons in five years. Then we'll have a situation with Iraq like that we have with North Korea. Or maybe he'll just give them to Al Qaeda. That may not be what the marchers want, but they're possible outcomes. Then you kiddies get to learn what it was like for those of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies, and lived under the fear of nuclear war as a constant threat. We had regular air-raid drills when I was a child, and our schools all bore the distinctive fallout shelter sign. I had nuclear nightmares regularly. They went away with the fall of the Soviet Union. They're back now.

Memorize that sign, kiddies. Because if you get your way, you're going to need to know the directions to the nearest shelter someday. Oh, and by the way—the shelters are useless. We didn't know it then. But we do now. There really is nowhere safe from nuclear attack. That's one of the reasons Saddam wants the bomb. And you "peace" protesters are his greatest ally. Way to go, dipwits.

Maybe it's the weather

I don't know, but I can't seem to find it in me to write about the stupidity of the anti-war protesters (if it were Groundhog's Day, we could say "Six more weeks of Saddam!"), or the latest thwarted terror attacks in Israel, or the deaths of an Israeli tank crew in the Gaza Strip (feeling better about the toys vs. tanks situation, Molly? Isn't that what you wanted?).

I don't want to discuss the sad fact that twice as many Israelis died from terror attacks in 2002 as did in 2001, which is the reason for the current crackdown of the terroritories.

I don't even really want to talk about the fact that it's been sleeting for about 24 straight hours, and I shoveled up a solid half-inch of ice below about an inch of fluffier stuff, and cleaned off my car (which I will be doing again tomorrow, no doubt), and that my mother is going to have to take the train home on Tuesday instead of tomorrow, because there's a blizzard going on in New Jersey. Amtrak will get her there, but then she'd have to stay in the train station for the night, as none of my relatives would be able to get through what may be a couple feet of snow.

So yeah, it's been a big quiet on my blog these last couple of days. Maybe it's the weather. Or maybe I just have a lot less time and energy due to a visit from my mother. I report. You decide.


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.