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5/06/05

Briefs

Are they or aren't they? Okay, so is Syria ignoring U.S. demands on terrorism, or are they acceding to them? Only the Dorktator knows for sure. He said:

KUWAIT CITY -- Syria has ignored U.S. demands to stop foreign fighters from crossing the border into Iraq and "terrorists" operating from Syrian territory, a top U.S. commander said.

"We have provided Syrians with very specific information and asked them to help in securing the Iraq-Syrian borders to stop foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq," Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. forces in the Gulf, was quoted as telling Arabic-language Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-Aam.

"More importantly, we asked them to cooperate with us in chasing terrorists operating out of Syria, in addition to Iraqi Baathists present in Syria who are trying to organize military operations inside Iraq.

"We have been very specific and clear in our demands. Unfortunately, all these demands fell on Syrian deaf ears, and they did not respond to any of it."

She said:

RIYADH (Reuters) - Syrian authorities are holding 137 Saudi nationals suspected of trying to cross into Iraq, where militants have been waging a two-year insurgency since the U.S. invasion, the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan said on Thursday.

Citing unnamed sources it said the detainees included 62 in the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour and 25 in the town of Albukmal -- both near the Iraqi border -- as well as others held in jails run by security forces.

But he said:

WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Thursday renewed economic sanctions on Syria implemented a year ago, saying its government still supports terrorism and is undermining efforts to stabilize Iraq.

I think I'm gonna go with what he said.

Quick! Call the United Nations and Human Rights Watch! Schoolchildren were deliberately targeted in the Gaza Strip. Think the international tut-tutters will be outraged?

Nah. It was only Jews being targeted. The world yawns.

Palestinians on Friday morning fired an anti-tank rocket on Friday morning at school bus carrying children outside the southern Gaza Strip settlement of Kfar Darom, shaking the fragile lull in violence. The rocket failed to hit the bus.

Global anti-Semitic attacks hit a 15-year high: Way to go, France, Britain, Canada, and Russia! That'll show the world how much you love the Jews.

TEL AVIV - The year 2004 was marked by a drastic increase in anti-Semitic incidents, a Tel Aviv university study revealed on Wednesday, saying the number of violent incidents last year marked the highest recorded since 1989.

Anti-Semitic violence had risen by dozens of percent, especially in physical assaults, the report said. The highest number of such incidents was recorded in France, Britain, Canada and Russia, mainly due to immigrant absorption problems, financial or social difficulties, and prejudice.

Physical attacks on Jews occurred mainly on streets and in educational institutions. About 180 people, including children and teenagers, reported such assaults, saying they were mainly attacked by Muslims.

But it isn't anti-Semitism. It's anti-Zionism.

Peta's non-apology apology, take two: I think this is the full text in Israeli Insider. I still haven't gotten to taking it apart myself. I will.

"Free and fair" elections: Surprise, surprise. Fatah won. Surprise, surprise. Fatah cheated.

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Peta's non-apology apology

Wesley J. Smith pretty much sums up what I was going to say. Doesn't mean I won't have my say later. I'm working on my piece, but I'd like to see the email in full. If any of my readers have access to the unedited PETA email, please forward a copy to me.

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5/05/05

Yom HaShoah: Survivor stories

At Rahel's, the story of the Menorah vs. the swastika

At Discarded Lies, two stories, of two different survivors

Lair Simon has a serious post that proves to the rest of the world what I already knew: He's an excellent writer.

Put more in the comments and trackbacks, and I'll put them out in this post. It's been a long day and was a short night last night.

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Lost episode summary: The Greater Good

Once again, if you haven't seen the episode, don't read this. I don't have a "more" prompt for spoiler warnings.

Announcer: Previously, on Lost. [Flashbacks to old episodes. If you didn't see them, or don't remember them, tough noogies on you. I'm not wasting space telling you about them.]

[The Cave. Sayid looks sad. He watches Shannon, who is looking sad. She's smoothing Boone's hair. Boone is looking dead.]

Sayyid: He was brave. He died like a true warrior. Oh, wait. This isn't Lord of the Rings, even though I speak with a British accent.

[Flashback: In which we learn more about the tough Republican Guard who now acts like an Alan Alda Sensitive New Age Guy, complete with girly-man hair]
Tough-looking CIA chick: I'm a tough-talking CIA chick, and you will obey me.
Sayid: Hey, you're not Lynndie England.
CIA chick: Do you want me to be Lynndie England?
Australian Fed: Hey! Hey! Standing right he-eere!
CIA chick: Tell him, Ozzie. I love that accent.
Australian Fed: We lost 300 pounds of C4. We want you to get it back.
Sayid: Hey, I'm a former Iraqi Republican Guard, interrogator and torturer. I'm not a terrorist.
CIA chick: No, but your former college roommate is. Oh, and remember that chick you let out of Saddam Hussein's prison? We know where she is.
Sayid: Hassan! My old buddy! Where is he, can't wait to catch up on old times! There was this one kegger....

[Back on the island. SuperKate is tracking Jack, who is leaving pefectly cut shreds of clothing on leaves.]
Jack: Kate, what are you doing out here?
Kate: They've turned me into a really annoying Earth-mother type who can't seem to do wrong, who looks pensive and sad when the music is dramatic, and by the way, um, they want me in as many scenes as possible. Shannon may be cute, but I am H-O-T.
Jack: Go away, girl, you bother me. And I don't mean in that way.
Audience: WE DO!
Kate: You're walking in circles.
Jack: Look! Wabbit twacks!
Kate: Jack, you're the unelected leader of the island, and the extras are all walking around aimlessly looking frightened. We need you to come back so they can stand around and smile instead.

[On the beach: Hurley, the man most likely to die of a heart attack from strenuous activity, lowers the bier with Boone on it. Boone still looks dead. Everyone else looks sad. Sayid looks at Shannon, a heartbroken expression on his face. This guy is the Wussiest. Republican Guard. Ever.]

Jack: Shannon, you wanna say something?
Shannon: You mean, I wish I'd done him one more time before he died?
Islanders: EW!
Audience: EW!
Sayid: Boone was brave. Blahblahblahblahblah.
Locke: It was my fault! My fault! And for some reason, I can't open my right eye in the sun.
Jack: Nice Popeye impression. Now watch me do Bluto. Where were you!? [Attacks Locke. Gets pulled off by regulars in spite of the fact that three seconds ago he was gasping for breath at the effort of carrying half the Boone bier.] WHERE WERE YOU! [The effort causes him to collapse.] He's lying.
Sayid: What do you mean?
Jack: Boone said something about the hatch.
Sayid: Richard Hatch? Wrong island. That was those other survivors. You need to get some sleep.
Jack: Why?
Sayid: Because it's time for another flashback to show everyone what a good Iraqi I really am, in spite of the fact that I was in the Iraqi Republican Guard.

[Flashback: A mosque, where Hassan finds his old college buddy. Then a house full of Iraqi men in Sydney. If you watch 24, you've seen this scene fifty times so far this season. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he's going to join the terrorists and turn them in when he finds the C4. We'll stipulate as to the facts, let's move this trial along.

[The island]
Charlie: Claire, get some rest. You just had a baby.
Sun: Get some rest, you just had a baby.
Claire: I just had a baby, I'm not tired.
All the mothers in the Audience: BULLSHIT!
Charlie: I'll take care of Turniphead.
Claire: Listen, Charlie, some of us who saw you in Lord of the Rings remember that you could park an umbrella in the cleft in your chin. I wouldn't be making fun of my baby if I were you. Just for that, you can babysit him.

[The beach]
Locke: I'm really sorry. Here's Boone's things. I didn't mean for him to die. Please don't hate me. Oh, and whatever you do, don't try to kill me at the end of the episode, because, well, I'm Locke. I can't die.
Shannon: Uh-huh.

[Other side of beach]
Shannon: You asked if you could do anything for me.
Sayid: Sex? You want sex? No problem!
Shannon: John Locke killed my brother. Will you do something about that?
Sayid: So, you're saying no sex?
Shannon: Not 'til you kill Locke.

[Shelter on the beach]
Kate: Jack, eat all your vegetables or you can't—
Jack: Have sex? Are we talking sex? All right!
Kate: No, you can't pass out. I drugged your soup with sleeping pills.
Jack: Smart move. How do you know I'm not allergic to them and might die—
Kate: Because besides everything else, I can now dispense medicine. After all, I helped Claire give birth last week. Say, what was up with that b.s. you gave Charlie and Jin about not doing anything while—
Jack: [Passes out]
Kate: Just like a man. Two minutes and he's snoring.

[The cave. Locke is washing out his blood-covered shirt.]
Sayid: Dude, cold water alone isn't going to do the job. Too bad we don't have any of the Oxy stuff. Oh, and you might have wanted to try washing out the blood before it coagulated.
Locke: But it made me look more creepy. It scared the kid away, did you see?
Sayid: I'm going to make stupid small talk and then give you a phony story about the radio so I can lead you away from the others and make the audience think I'm going to kill you.
Locke: Okay. Let's go, former Republican Guard Torturer.
Sayid: I was a communications officer.
Locke: Uh-huh. Look, I'm not nearly as dumb as you think I am, but the audience is. And I don't care how pretty your eyes are, all the geeks out there want me to stay alive. I'm safe. How about you, Mr. I-don't-torture-people-anymore, huh?

[Flashback: Hassan's going to be the martyr, he's going to blow up some unnamed target in Sydney, Sayid gets bent out of shape and tries to get mean CIA chick to stop being mean. Doesn't happen.]

[The island. Charlie is a lousy babysitter. Can't get baby to stop crying. Hurley does lousy James Brown imitation. Audience starts crying. So does baby.]

[The plane.]
Locke: Why don't you trust me, Sayid?
Sayid: Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Audience: Oh, like we didn't see that joke coming.
Locke: Time for true confessions. I stopped the transceiver operation by hitting you on the head and trashing your invention.
Sayid: Why?
Locke: Because your eyes are prettier than mine.
[Sayid grabs Locke, pulls out gun]
Sayid: Now you've done it!
Locke: Just kidding. I did it because we were heading into danger. It was for the greater good. (See, that's three times we can use this phrase during the episode.)

[Flashback: blahblahblah, blah, Sayid and Hassan discuss the upcoming explosion, Sayid talks an uncertain Hassan into it. Hassan asks Sayid to do the operation with him. Oh, like we didn't see that coming.]

[On the beach]
Shannon: Looking at picture of Shannon and Boone.
Audience: Ew! Ew! Stop reminding us! Ew!
Sayid: I talked to Locke. I think it really was an accident.
Shannon: I don't care. My name is Shannon. He killed my brother; prepare to die.
Sayid: Me?
Shannon: God, don't you know any American pop culture? Princess Bride? Hello? Well, the hell with you. You just don't get it! [runs off]
Sayid: Well, I get that I didn't get it. But I didn't ask for it this time.
Audience: But you were thinking it!

[The raft]
Walt: Dad, what happens if the raft tips over?
Michael: It won't.
Walt: What if a shark attacks?
Michael: If you don't read any comic books about sharks, we won't have one. Man, what was up with you and that polar bear comic?
Charlie: Anyone seen Sun? I suck at babysitting.
Sawyer: Yeah, we can hear. Shut that annoying brat up!
Annoying brat: [Shuts up]
Charlie: Hey, check it out. How's this for irony? Every time Sawyer talks, the baby shuts up.
Audience: On a scale of one to ten, it's a STOOOPID!
Sawyer: Ooh, that's harsh.
Baby: [Shuts up]

[The shelter]
Kate: Wake up, sleepyhead. Time for me to play Earth Mother again.
Jack: Hey! My key to the guncase is gone! Locke wants the guns!
Kate: Are you saying Locke opened the lock?
Jack: Yes.
Kate: I don't think it was Locke. I didn't see him around all day.
Jack: Was too!
Kate: Was not!
Jack: Was too!
Sayid: Was not.
[Cut to: Shannon, in the rain, in the forest, in the gun case, in very wet clothes.
Audience: Oh, yeah!

[Flashback: blahblahblah, blah, Sayid and Hassan get into the truck, Sayid tells Hassan to get out and run, in ten minutes he's going to call the Feds. Sayid conveniently overlooks the fact that Hassan has a gun. Audience still can't figure out why he shoots himself instead of Sayid, decides to write it off to lousy writing.]

[The forest. Sayid, Kate, and Jack running; Jack falls, what with having lost several pints of blood, being given sleeping pills, and being exceptionally whiny and annoying in this episode, for which reason we are glad he gets left behind.]

Locke [held at gunpoint by Shannon]: She doesn't believe me, Sayid.
Sayid: Gee, I wonder why not.
Locke: Sarcasm definitely out of place here, she's got a gun pointed at my chest.
Sayid: Sarcasm totally in place here; you're not gonna die, it's not the season finale.
Locke: Hey! Am I gonna die in the finale? Did you see the script? I gotta call my agent!
Shannon: Hello, I'm right he-eeere, and I'm going to shoot you both if you don't pay attention to me in my wet clothes.
Kate: And me! Don't forget about me!
Shannon: Oh, shut up, Thong Girl. I haven't had a chance so show off much at all yet.
Kate: Two words, Blondie: Sun. Bathing.
Sayid: Don't kill him. You can't kill him. If you kill him, we'll never find out where the hatch is, and what we're supposed to do with it. I mean, what if it's the hatch to the Nautilus? Captain Nemo could be on this friggin' island, for all we know.
Shannon: James Mason is dead, dufus. And I'm going to make Locke dead.
Sayid: You never fired a gun before.
Shannon [Fires gun near Sayid]: Now I have.
[Sayid jumps, Shannon fires, Locke is grazed in the head by the bullet, Shannon screams, Sayid apologizes, Shannon runs off, Locke and Jack glare at each other, Meryl gets really tired of describing this, oh, thank goodness, cut to commercial.]

[The beach]
Sawyer reading an automotive magazine to baby. Audience falls asleep. Claire joins them, presumably falls asleep as well.

[The beach, that night. Sayid, looking pensive, stares at Shannon. Kate, looking all-knowing, looks at Sayid.]
Kate: She just needs time.
Sayid: Man, you are getting so unbelievably annoying, will you back off already?
Kate: It's not my fault. I don't write this crap.
Sayid: Time won't make a difference. Perhaps I made a mistake.
Kate: You couldn't let her kill Locke. You had no choice.
Sayid: There's always a choice.

[Flashback: In Australia, Sayid is about to be put on Oceanic Flight to Los Angeles the day before the castaways met. He stays to claim and bury Hassan's body, switches his flight to the next day. Get it? Choice! Choice! Oooh, irony. Deep.]

[The beach]
Locke: Thanks for saving my life.
Sayid: I did it for the greater good. Get it? Get it? Oooh, deep. Now. Take me to the hatch.
Locke: Hatch? What hatch?
Sayid: Y'know, I still have your gun. I can give it to Shannon.
Locke: Right. Tomorrow morning, right after breakfast?
Sayid: Seeya then.

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Stuff

New title time: I got tired of using "Things" as a title.

It's Twinsday: The Lost episode summary will be delayed until later this afternoon. I blame Lynn. She kept me on the phone while I should have been writing the summary. In the meantime, be sure you're all caught up by reading the last one.

Gotta go! Sorry, folks, I'll be back this afternoon with parodies and PETA and maybe Protestants.

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More on PsychoGranny

Madelyn M. takes issue with my statement that Selma isn't a Jewish name. She writes:

My mom Selma (Zelda in Yiddish), the 84 year old Jewish lady who was born in the Bronx, and whose parents, Orthodox Jews, came from Europe is the real thing. Her grandchildren can vouch for the fact That she is a typical Jewish grandma who has spoiled them from birth !!!!!!

I personally know a few other "Selma's" (two more just from my synagogue in Yonkers). The name was popular with Jewish families in the 1920's.

(P.S., Madelyn, easy on the caps key. You nearly blinded me.)

I stand corrected (many times) on the name, but Madelyn, I'm betting your mom is not a psychogranny who tried to feed poisoned cake to the neighborhood kids, and I'm also betting she didn't look at all creepy. Just a hunch, because, well, you sure talk nice about her. And you're still alive, which means she wasn't feeding you poisoned cake.

I certainly hope you're not trying to tell me your mother is the model for the Manischewitz cake box.

I'm telling you, that "Grandma Selma" on the Manischewitz box is not Jewish. She looks like she belongs in a Church social, not playing Mah-jong with Sophie and Ida. Well, except I don't think most Church socials have psychotic grandmothers, either.

Just the old Manischewitz boxes that are no longer on the market.

For good reason.

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5/04/05

More on Yom HaShoah

Caroline Glick writes about the Day of Remembrance:

BUT AGAIN, the Holocaust, in and of itself, tells us nothing about Jewish identity. It only tells us about the rest of the world. The Jews of Europe did not decide to die. They neither seized territory nor did they plant bombs in German cafes. The Holocaust was a German initiative, carried out by Germans and millions of collaborators from France to Greece to Poland to Lithuania. The decision to prevent the Jews' escape from Europe to the Land of Israel belonged to Britain.

The group that really ought to be taking the Holocaust to heart is not the Jews, but the Europeans who two generations ago descended to the depths of human depravity by either conducting the extermination of European Jewry or enabling it.

Sadly, Europe has avoided serious self-examination and instead has turned the Holocaust into a fetish. Holocaust memorials spring up like mushrooms after the rainfall throughout the continent. But what do they signify? A sop to Holocaust-obsessed Jews, they are used to teach Europeans that nationalism is bad. Speaking in 2000, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said, "The core of the concept of Europe after 1945 was and still is a rejection of the European balance of power principle and the hegemonic ambitions of individual states."

But this has nothing to do with the causes for the liquidation of European Jewry. It was not Polish or American nationalism that led to the Holocaust. The balance of power between Britain and France had nothing to do with the Holocaust. It was genocidal anti-Semitism, nurtured by 2000 years of Christian mythology, embraced by a post-Nietzschean Germany, and accepted relatively enthusiastically by the overwhelming majority of the rest of Europe that caused the Holocaust.

Read it all.

I have a ten-page packet with the names of victims, their father's name (if known), age, residence, country of birth, and place of death. Many of the fields are blank. The names start with Gita Oksman, who died in Pinsk, and end with Lev Orlov. I can't tell where he died. I don't know the codes, and haven't the time to figure it out this evening.

Then I went to Yad Vashem's search engine, and decided to see if any of my relatives were on it. There were no Yourishes, but there are ten pages of Moreins, many of them from Riga, where my great-grandfather was born.

I have no idea how many family members I lost in the Holocaust. We never discussed it, for some reason. We just assumed that all of our relatives were killed. There were Reiders and Citrons and Sarnoffs and others whose names I don't know.

Yesterday, during a class discussion, I asked my students if they knew how many Jews there were in Poland in 1939. None of them guessed right, and I told them two million. I was off by more than a million. It's estimated that three million Polish Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Today, there are only about 10,000 Jews in Poland.

Hitler did succeed in wiping out Judaism in Poland. For all intents and purposes, that way of life is dead.

Gita Oksman was from Poland. Tonight, Gita, I remember you as we light the candles, and say the Kaddish.

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Other people's blogs

I haven't sent you over to Harrison's lately. Read his story of the Great Twinkie War, then just scroll down and read the rest. This is another favorite of mine. I love the way Harrison tells a tail. Er, tale.

For those of you who miss my Twinsday posts, Sarah writes about all four of her kids on a regular basis. If you are wondering why the site is called "Life at Full Volume," you have never been around more than one child at a time.

Via Ilyka, an absolutely hilarious example of Andrea Harris pointing out the stupidity of the stupid. Spit-monitor warning.

Hubris is funny. Really funny. Really, really funny. Okay, maybe not all the time. But humor is subjective, right?Anyway, he's on my links page now. So's Ace.

Whoops, sorry Mac: I had the wrong URL on my links page. Fixed now. I see you're still nature-blogging. Snails now, hm? And I see you're attempting virtual driving lessons. Nice try, but there's no help any longer. Directional signals are now optional, and road rage is all the rage. Then again, when someone annoys me too much here in Richmond, I have a new description of what I do: "Time to go all Jersey on them."

Trish Wilson on the Second Wives Club. You know, a lot of people don't get how their actions can return to bite them in the ass some day. Hey, I'm not paranoid. I'm protecting my ass from getting bitten. She also writes about the failure of the automatic joint custody bill in California. I'm with Trish on this one. Children cannot be divided as easily as a couple's assets, and shouldn't be. I think King Solomon pointed that out, quite aptly, a long time ago.

Chris Nolan on what's being said—and by whom—on the "runaway bride" nonsense. Repeat after me: Reasons to like Chris, 1, 2, 3. (Okay, really dating myself there.)

Right, that's enough for now. Time to finish making my mother her Mother's Day card, as I'm staying in Richmond this year.

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PsychoGranny

A couple of years ago, Manischewitz changed the packaging to many of their Passover products. This creepy-looking lady was on the kosher-for-Passover cake boxes.

My mother and I decided she was, in reality, a serial killer. We would turn the boxes around so we wouldn't have to look at her. The label on her head says "Grandma Selma's Best." The thing is, I don't know any Jew who had a Grandma Selma. There are a whole lot of Grandma Sylvias, and Grandma Roses, and a lot of other names, but I don't even think Selma is a Jewish name. In fact, this website says it's Scandinavian. And y'know, I'm sorry to say it, but Grandma Selma doesn't even look Jewish.

I maintain that PsychoGranny there is feeding poisoned cake to the neighborhood children, and if you look in her basement, well, the old ladies in Arsenic and Old Lace got nuthin' on her.

Further proof of this: I brought the box over to Sarah's (who kindly scanned the picture above). Her husband was away on a business trip at the time. Sarah said when he got back, he saw the box, and said to her, unprompted, "What's with the creepy grandma?" (or words to that effect). He also pointed out that he didn't think Selma was a Jewish name.

I think it is obvious that I am not alone in my feelings toward PsychoGranny. Manischewitz quickly changed the packaging back to pictures of cake, sans serial-killer Grandma Selma. A search of their website brings up zero results for Grandman Selma. And a Google search of the web also brings up nothing (though give it a day or so, and this will likely be the number one search result for Grandma Selma).

Let this be a lesson to you: You might want to have Jewish consultants on any change of products marketed solely towards Jews. I'm just sayin'.

And if anyone sees Grandma Selma around: Run. Run for your life. She's probably not even an old lady. It's probably a disguise. Look at how perfect those teeth are. Run fast, and run far.

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Yom HaShoah

If you read nothing else about the Holocaust, read this article. Bugmenot login: [email protected] Bugmenot password: qwerty

Eugene Zinn was about an hour into a PBS Holocaust documentary in January when he heard a familiar voice speaking his native Slovak tongue.

Eighty years old with his eyesight nearly gone, Zinn pressed his face closer to the television screen in his West Hills den.

There, clad in an argyle sweater and walking around the restored Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, was Otto Pressburger, a man for whom Zinn had been searching for much of his life.

Zinn knew he needed to find Pressburger. He knew he wouldn't rest until he did.

An astonishing story of survival, the horror of Auschwitz, and two men who made a decent life for themselves after surviving three years in the most notorious death camp of all.

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Today's moment of kitty zen

Gracie, in yet another "Worship me" pose.

Worship me

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5/03/05

Thinking out loud

Y'know, I was looking at my week's posts from last year's anniversary. Normally, I cringe and think, "Gawd, was I really that crappy a writer?" and close the window. Or I see things that could be edited, though I don't bother with year-old material. This year, I noticed something very different.

I was better a year ago.

I have a pretty good idea what has happened, and why, and I'm sorry, but I'm not yet ready to share that information in public. In spite of having a fairly open blog, I'm really a very private person. Picture this blog as a window into my life. The shade is open about an inch. No, a half-inch. And it's a second floor window.

The blog stats are reflecting this stagnation. I used to go up steadily every month. It's funny, although I'm going up in links, I'm not going up in traffic. It's been about the same for some time now. I know why part of that is happening: I don't link nearly as much as I used to to other bloggers.

That's going to change. So is the subject matter here. More essays, less cut-and-paste. More humor, hopefully. I've thought of a way to update my Superhero Dating Ratings. And there will be another Lost episode summary (late!) tomorrow night or early Thursday morning. I'm taking part in the reading the names of the six million, doing my part at my synagogue. But I intend to write Lost summaries through the rest of the season. I found it difficult to watch the reruns without thinking of how to write the summaries, though. I may have to quit this for next season.

I'd like to be able to sit down and write about going to the Chili Cook-Off on Saturday with my former teaching assistant and her brother. I used to write essays like that. But I didn't. Far too often, I try to write something, and it simply stops. You have no idea how painful that is for me. A lot of people started blogging because they thought it was a neat idea. I started to hone my writing skills. If you take away my writing, you take away my soul.

My soul's been in trouble for the last few months. But it's getting better every day, and will be back to normal in a few weeks. Of this I am sure.

So. Watch my dust, people. That's one of my all-time favorite phrases. Tell me I can't do something? Watch my dust, I say. Tell me something can't be done? Watch my dust. I led a student strike that shut down the state college system of New Jersey in 1980 after a pompous Rutgers student legislator told me I couldn't do anything to affect the state's taking state college tuition money out of the colleges and into other programs. I did not meekly obey the hospital suit telling me I couldn't see my mother after she had collapsed with what we thought was a stroke, because she said she didn't want us to see her that way. I raised a stink until we got to my mother's room (she didn't really know what she had said, as I suspected). Hell, I blackmailed a sixth-grader (when I was in ninth) to make him stop picking on my younger brother after my brother insisted he didn't need any help dealing with the kid. (Yeah, I'll write about that some day.)

Watch my dust.

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Happy anniversary to me

Today makes it seven years since I quit smoking.

Now if only I could get rid of the nonsmoking weight I picked up.

You know, I've even tossed around the idea of my going on a diet and exercise program with the help of my readers. You folks pledge X dollars for every pound I lose, and we contribute it to charities when I've reached my goal. I don't think I'm going to do the Blogathon this year, and we haven't contributed to the Dead Dictators Fund in a while.

So. How much am I worth per pound, eh? (Wow, this could be really humiliating.)

I'm not fat, exactly. I just weigh more than I'd like to, and would like to get my flat stomach back again. I had it for most of my life. Admittedly, I'll never see 112 again, and probably shouldn't—smoking speeds up your metabolism and suppresses appetite, so I was probably skinnier than I should have been. But I'd like to get back to the low-to-mid 120s. Or even to 120. That would be neat.

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Briefs

Turkey, Israel's new pal: So I get that Erdogan is making some big strides toward relationships with Israel, especially since Turkey is a Muslim state. And I get that he seems to be a great friend of Israel. But there are a few things that bother me about Erdogan.

Erdogan later laid a wreath at Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, but in a break with protocol did not cover his head at the Hall of Remembrance, where the ceremony took place.

Do you think he broke with protocol while visiting the palestinians? I mean, you think he left his shoes on in the mosque or something?

Guarded by scores of Israeli and Palestinian security officials, Turkey's prime minister on Monday visited the Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest site and one of the most politically sensitive areas in the region.

[...] In a gesture ahead of Erdogan's trip, Turkey gave the Palestinian Authority deeds to lands and property in the West Bank and Gaza it had acquired during the nearly 400-year rule here of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish daily Milliyet reported Sunday.

Turkey hopes the 140,000 pages of deeds, covering the years 1500 to 1914, will help Palestinians defend their rights in local and international courts, the paper said.

Probably not.

Israel demands terrorist disarms; AP disapproves: Okay, it's not just the AP that disapproves. I'm sure a lot of people out there are still rooting for Hamas.

Hamas must disarm before participating in Palestinian parliament elections this summer, Israeli officials said Tuesday in a new twist to their standoff with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas over his refusal to use force against militants.

Raanan Gissin, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the steps Abbas has taken so far are not enough if the Palestinians want to move forward with the "road map" peace plan.

"We are not getting involved in Palestinian politics, but we are saying that if Hamas participates in the elections and remains an armed group then we won't be able to advance in the peace process," Gissin said. Palestinians cannot move toward democracy if they have a group with a "private army" participating in elections, he added.

The latest Israeli demand coincided with a spike in violence that is straining a three-month-old cease-fire.

Abbas insists he will avoid a large-scale confrontation with militants, but recently adopted a tougher approach, warning last week he will use an "iron fist" against all those violating the cease-fire.

Sharon and other Israeli leaders delivered their new demand to disarm Hamas in recent meetings with visiting U.S. senators Bill Frist and Joe Lieberman. Sharon also complained Abbas is strengthening the militants by not confronting them.

Uh, hello, he is strengthening the terrorists by not confronting them. They're still firing kassam rockets and trying to set off suicide bombs.

By the way, the word "demand" was used five times in the article, including the headline. Four of the uses were regarding Israel "demanding" that Hamas disarm, and the fifth use was this:

Sami Abu Zukhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said his group would not disarm and demanded Israel stay out of internal Palestinian affairs such as the election.

"The Palestinian resistance rifles are legal but the occupation and its rifles are illegal because they are occupiers and invaders," Abu Zukhri said.

I demand you up and die already, Sami. You and the rest of your "resistance."

Speaking of the palestinian revolving-prison-door policy: Oh, those terrorists that were caught firing kassams the other day? They're out already.

The Palestinian Authority released from arrest on Monday three Hamas militant group activists from the northern Gaza Strip suspected of launching Qassam rockets, political sources in Jerusalem said Tuesday.

According to the sources the PA paraded the arrest of the three militants as proof of its efforts to fight terrorism, and the act was widely covered by international media. After Hamas threatened violent action, however, the prisoners were quietly released, the sources said.

Lair calls it the catch-and-release program. I think you can see why.

Late Monday, Palestinian security forces arrested a member of a Hamas rocket squad, a first since the February truce. Two other suspects got away. The detainee was released Tuesday, even though police found a rocket launcher and two firearms in his possession. The man was freed after intervention by Hamas and Egypt, a key sponsor of the fragile truce.

And some wonder why Israel "demands" that Hamas disarm.

Lebanese to pals: Buh-bye! The Lebanese don't want any non-Lebanese militias in their country.

QUSSAYA, Lebanon (AFP) - Residents of eastern Lebanon encouraged by the recent Syrian troop pullout from the country are calling for an end to the presence of Damascus-backed Palestinian military positions in the area.

Since Syria ended its 29-year military presence in Lebanon on Tuesday, residents have been criticising the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) of Ahmad Jibril.

"We do not want Ahmad Jibril's men who have been deployed here since the 1982 Israeli invasion to maintain their positions. The Syrians are gone, they should do the same," said one resident, Fouad Abu Farah.

They're not having any luck yet.

UN Security Council Resolution 1559, passed in September, called for the end of foreign military presence in Lebanon, in a clear message to Syria, and for the disarming of all militias there, in a reference to the anti-Israeli Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and numerous Palestinian factions.

But the PFLP-GC is the only Palestinian movement to maintain important military positions outside the 12 Palestinian camps in Lebanon. The group's bases have been struck by Israeli warplanes.

Toni Keddy, municipal council member in Qussaya, "it is our right to ask for their departure, even if they never did any harm to us. We want to regain and cultivate the lands that they have confiscated from us."

Um. How is it those are "important" military positions? Important to whom? No, there's no anti-Israel bias. Hello, Israel doesn't initiate attacks. Let's ask the Lebanese what they think:

Toni Keddy, municipal council member in Qussaya, "it is our right to ask for their departure, even if they never did any harm to us. We want to regain and cultivate the lands that they have confiscated from us."

[...] "We do not want foreigners, we only want the Lebanese army," said Randa Sahli, a housewife in Ain Kfar Zabad village where flags of Hezbollah and its Lebanese rival Amal movement flutter over the houses.

"Armed Palestinians are not welcome," said hairdresser Hassan Dghaidi, who has recently put up in his parlor the portrait of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri who was assassinated in February.

Funny, there's not a single quote from any palestinian spokesliar in this article. Guess they have nothing to say.

Residents said that since Syria's pullout, the PFLP-GC has reinforced its positions with artillery, rocket-launchers and armored vehicles. The group has also opened a road leading across the borders to Zabadani, inside Syria, they said.

Ah. That's why. Preparing to take over where the Syrians left off. Say hello to the new Syrian sock puppets.

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We have a longer memory than that, Kofi

Kofi Annan is approaching Jewish groups, hoping they'll throw him a lifeline as he drowns in the Oil-for-food scandal at the UN.

UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday urged a delegation of Jewish leaders to promote his ambitious bid to reform the United Nations, and reiterated his hope that Jews would feel more comfortable with the world body.

Annan, who has made a priority of reaching out to Jews during his tenure, sought again to distance the United Nations from its checkered past regarding Israel and the Jews, which included an infamous 1975 resolution that equated Zionism with racism.

I think this sleight of hand is not going to work very well. Let's take a trip down memory lane to Durban, South Africa, and the UN Conference on racism in September 2001, which the AP article conveniently does not mention. Anne Bayefsky remembers a different UN atmosphere.

The World Conference Against Racism became a forum for racism. Human rights was used not as a facilitator for communication but as a weapon of political interests antithetical to human rights protection. A large group of states sought to minimize or exclude references to the Holocaust, redefine or ignore antisemitism, and isolate the state of Israel from the global community as a racist practitioner of apartheid and crimes against humanity. The vestiges of Jewish victimhood were to be systematically removed by deleting the references to antisemitism and the Holocaust, to be displaced by the Palestinian victim living under racist, Nazi-like, oppression.

The hate literature distributed during the NGO conference included caricatures of Jews with hooked noses, Palestinian blood on their hands, surrounded by money, and Israelis wearing Nazi emblems. At the Government Conference, there was daily distribution by NGO participants of literature reading "Nazi-Israeli apartheid," while inside the drafting committees, states such as Syria and Iran objected to the inclusion of antisemitism or the Holocaust on the grounds that antisemitism was a "complicated," "curious," and "bizarre" concept, and reference to the Holocaust would be imbalanced or "favoritism."

Meanwhile, outside the conference hall, as one delegate reported in the Los Angeles Times, he and other representatives of Jewish groups were subjected to taunts and physical intimidation. At one point, thousands of South African Muslim demonstrators marched bearing banners proclaiming "Hitler should have finished the job."1

Kofi Annan, who was the Secretary General four years ago, did have something to say. After the US and Israel withdrew from the conference in disgust, he released this statement:

The Secretary-General has been following closely developments at the World Conference against Racism since he left Durban, South Africa, on Saturday. He spoke to Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General of the Conference, in the last few hours.

He expects that progress can be made as delegates strive to harmonize their divergent positions in the search for a consensus text to come out of the Conference.

He is disappointed at the decision by Israel and the United States to withdraw their delegations from these intense negotiations, which, he is convinced, with good will, can conclude successfully by the end of this week.

It is tough going, but he urges all countries to stay the course. The Conference cannot afford other defections.

He is disappointed by the actions of Israel and the US, but doesn't seem to have an opinion on the reasons the two nations withdrew. Let us repeat a part of the AP article:

Annan, who has made a priority of reaching out to Jews during his tenure

With outreach like that, is it any wonder that Jews are uncomfortable with the UN? Well, that, and that nasty little business of the resolution that equated Zionism with racism. But let's let bygones be bygones, eh? Here's what Kofi said this week:

“I hope you will leave here emboldened by the knowledge that the United Nations strives hard to be your friend and ally in the struggle for peace, human dignity and justice for all.”

Sure, but don't expect him to work too hard. But that's okay, because look at all the outreach he's made lately to Jews:

Today’s meeting builds on other efforts by Mr. Annan to reach out to the Jewish community. In March during a visit to Israel the Secretary-General participated in the opening of the new Yad Vashem museum on the Holocaust. Before that in January the UN General Assembly held a special session commemorating the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

And in June 2004 the Secretary-General hosted a first-ever UN conference on anti-Semitism, saying then he wanted Jews everywhere “to feel that the UN is their home too.”

Notice that Kofi is perfectly at home memorializing dead Jews. It's working with the living that he doesn't seem to have the hang of yet. Well, y'know, it's a sharp learning curve. Okay, not really. I just made that up.

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5/02/05

Things

Rotting rodent carcass update: Well, the smell is mostly gone. I've been sleeping in my own bed since Saturday, and the cats are ecstatic. Threw off their routine big-time by closing off the bedroom. But it's still hanging tough a bit. I'm so glad to report that my apartment maintenance has done absolutely nothing about it, not even sending someone over to see if there's a squirrel carcass in my attic. Gee, you think they'll try to block the holes in the walls where the squirrels are coming in?

How cool was that? Since my incident with the lightning bolt, I bought an APC. The one I have has a half-hour battery backup. I have my computer and printer plugged into the backup outlets. The power just went out while I wanted to print something timely, and I simply printed it, even without regular power.

I really love technology.

The invasion of the caterpillars: Apparently, a tent caterpillar nest has hatched somewhere nearby, because I keep on seeing them in twos and threes and fours. They keep crawling up my patio door, which is distressing when I open the door and the frame seems to be moving. It isn't; the caterpillars crawling up the doorframe were moving. It took me a few days to figure out what they are, but Google pictures is a wonderful thing. And now, they must die. I have destroyed every one I've found today, and will continue the battle as they appear.

24: Like, this show used to be good, right? Right? I mean, it sure looked like it was gonna be good this year, what with the terrorism theme and all that. And what do we have? SuperTerrorist, who can see cameras through heat vents, sense the Feds from a mile away, down Air Force One, steal the football and a nuke, and stay one step ahead of Jack "I really suck at catching this guy before episode 24 but then watch my dust, bay-bee!" Bauer. And while all this is going on, during the space of one day, oh, yeah, it makes total sense to me that a government employee would whine about his/her position or salary while trying to stop the nation's nuclear power plants from melting down and killing millions. Because I have worked for a government office, and I know how little Federal employees care about us peons. Wow, I could go on forever about this. I'd better stop.

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Anti-Israel media bias watch

Let's take a look at the way various media portray the latest incident involving terrorists, shall we?

(I really love the Post headline writers.)

Now, some thoughts. In the CNN article, four paragraphs down, we find this:

Israeli security sources identified the Palestinian killed as Shafik Adel Mustafa Aani, 38, a senior Islamic Jihad militant who was involved in organizing a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis at a nightclub in Tel Aviv Feb. 25. At least 49 Israelis were wounded in the attack.

CNN calls him a "palestinian man" in the headline, yet buries the fact that he was a terrorist responsible for the latest suicide bombing in Israel. CNN is not concerned about that. However, they do seem a bit perturbed about this:

The presence of the Israeli military near the West Bank city is likely to cause some concern, as Tulkarem was one of three cities returned to Palestinian control beginning in March.

Uh-huh. No problem with terrorists, but lots of problems with Israeli soldiers trying to capture them. Oh, by the way, regarding the terrorist:

The sources said Palestinian security forces arrested Aani after the suicide attack, but he escaped a week and a half ago.

That's the well-known open-door palestinian prison policy. CNN had all the facts, and chose to ignore them in the headline and first three paragraphs. It's pretty well-known in the news business that few people read past the first two or three paragraphs. So the impression left here is that the Israelis went in guns blazing again, killing those poor, innocent palestinians.

An even worse case is the BBC article. There is absolutely no mention of the IDF soldier who was killed. This is as close to it as it comes:

The gunman was killed early on Monday in the village of Sida, after an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers.

His name was Dan Talasnikov, he was 21 years old, and had a very sweet smile. A terrorist killed him. And the BBC doesn't think he's worth mentioning at all. I think we have more than an idea why the British public is so anti-Israel, with exceptionally biased articles like these on the BBC, the nation's major news outlet. The Scotsman and the Guardian do their jobs as well (see headlines above). Reuters, of all places, has an almost balanced headline and even a decent first graf:

An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian militant linked to a suicide bombing were killed in an army raid in the West Bank on Monday, further straining an already tenuous ceasefire.

Its typical anti-Israel bias shows through in the rest of the article, but still—the lead is almost balanced. Well, except for the use of the word "raid" twice.

The Boston Globe's headline is pathetic: "Israelis kill 1, make arrest in West Bank." It's an AP story, and the fact that the person killed was a terrorist is buried in the next-to-last paragraph.

And in a last note of bias: The photograph in the AP story on My Way News is of the dead terrorist's family grieving for him.

Tell me again, Eugene, how I'm imagining the anti-Israel media bias.

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Closing the net on Syria

Looks like W. is aiming for the Dorktator:

The US will keep up pressure on Syria long after the withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon, US officials say, outlining a policy that analysts believe is aimed at destabilising the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad.

Responding to last week's withdrawal, the Bush administration alleged that not all Syrian intelligence forces had quit Lebanon. It insisted that Syria keep out of Lebanon's elections this month and allow the “disbanding and disarming” of militia forces in Lebanon.

For the moment the US has no plans to send its ambassador, Margaret Scobey, back to Damascus. She was recalled in February after the assassination in Beirut of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister. “She will return to Damascus when we feel it's useful for her to return,” a State Department spokesman said.

Officials point out that the US still has a long list of grievances against Syria: its alleged development of chemical weapons and possibly bioweapons; support for militant Palestinian groups; co-operation with Iran in terrorism; its failure to stop Iraqi insurgents using the country as a base; and the shelter it gives to Iraq's former ruling Ba'athists.

Flynt Leverett, a former official in the first Bush administration and author of Inheriting Syria: Bashar's Trial By Fire, said President George W. Bush was moving away from a policy of engagement that had never been properly formulated towards a policy that was “basically regime change”.

Yahya Sadowski, of the American University of Beirut, said US policy could be described as “constructive instability”, with the Bush administration believing in general that democracy could emerge out of turmoil.

Works for me. Then again, Syria's not quite finished being Syria yet:

The withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon is seen by Israel as a first and important step, but behind the scenes Damascus will continue to control intelligence, including within the Lebanese army.

The move will be completed when Hezbollah stops being an armed militia, when its rockets in southern Lebanon, which are aimed at Israel, are dismantled, and when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon also return home.

None of that has happened yet.

The Lebanese army is thoroughly infiltrated with Syrian intelligence, which gives financial aid to many Lebanese officers. And Syrian intelligence penetration of Hezbollah runs deep. Some of Hezbollah's rocket array is manufactured in Syria and came its way after the Syrian general staff decided to view Hezbollah as an organic part of its deployment of forces.

But the world pressure is continuing:

The US and France teamed up for a UN Security Council resolution demanding that Syria pull out of Lebanon. They could also block Syria's relations with the World Bank and other agencies at a critical moment in its liberalisation efforts, notably in private banking reform, Prof Sadowski said.

That resolution (in part):

The French draft, circulated in the Security Council on Friday, proposes to "recognise that the parties concerned have made significant and noticeable progress towards implementing some of the provisions of Resolution 1559", which called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon.

Syria declared an end to its 29-year troop presence in Lebanon on Tuesday.

The text proposes to "deplore the fact that there has been no progress towards the disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militia, and that the government of Lebanon still does not fully exert control over all its territory."

There's a lot to be done, but yes, the net is closing.

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5/01/05

A lazy Sunday afternoon

I think this picture says it all.

Tig in the sun, ready for a nap

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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 is also a good bet if you've never been here before.

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