Tuesday, September 27, 2005
More on Pallywood
If you haven't yet checked out www.SecondDraft.org (as I suggested a few posts ago), you might want to do that. Some good stuff is coming down the pike.
You might also want to check out Solomonia.com, where Prof. Richard Landes is guest-blogging.
UPDATE: More from Rishon Rishon, including this personal anecdote:
And let me share a personal story: I was once touring the Negev with my parents and we happened upon a bucolic scene of a Bedouin boy tending a flock of sheep. We stopped to take a picture. The boy, obviously misconstruing our desires, obligingly picked up a rock and posed for us, as if he were about to throw it. Now where could he have learned to do that?
In Celebration of Valor: Cpl. Tibor Rubin
Thanks to the Power Line gents, I found this:
Mr. Tibor "Ted" Rubin got the Medal of Honor last Friday, as an attempt to correct a miscarriage of justice from long ago.
Rubin is a Holocaust survivor, having survived for 14 months in the Mauthausen concentration camp before being liberated by U.S. troops. Still a teenager, he emigrated to the United States, joined the Army, and insisted on being sent to fight in Korea in 1950. Rubin's actions in Korea in 1950 earned him a Medal of Honor recommendation from several of his commanding officers; ironically, they all died in combat shortly thereafter, and Rubin's sergeant refused to process the paperwork, not wanting to see a Jew earn the Medal of Honor.
Believe it or not, Rubin then went to earn a Medal of Honor all over again. He fought like a lion, more than once holding off an enemy force, battalion-strength or better, single-handedly. When he and the survivors of his unit were captured by the North Koreans, and forced to endure terrible prison conditions, Rubin's "training" (that's what he calls it) from the Holocaust helped him survive. Indeed, he risked his life repeatedly to sneak food to his fellow prisoners, many of whom credit him with saving their lives. As a Hungarian (who, at that time, had not yet acquired his American citizenship), he received an offer from the Chinese to be released and sent back to Hungary... which he turned down, saying that he would not abandon his comrades.
His Medal of Honor citation reads like a laundry-list of bravery and selflessness:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:(emphasis mine)
Corporal Tibor Rubin distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period from July 23, 1950, to April 20, 1953, while serving as a rifleman with Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Korea. While his unit was retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, Corporal Rubin was assigned to stay behind to keep open the vital Taegu-Pusan Road link used by his withdrawing unit. During the ensuing battle, overwhelming numbers of North Korean troops assaulted a hill defended solely by Corporal Rubin. He inflicted a staggering number of casualties on the attacking force during his personal 24-hour battle, single-handedly slowing the enemy advance and allowing the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal successfully. Following the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, the 8 th Cavalry Regiment proceeded northward and advanced into North Korea. During the advance, he helped capture several hundred North Korean soldiers. On October 30, 1950, Chinese forces attacked his unit at Unsan, North Korea, during a massive nighttime assault. That night and throughout the next day, he manned a .30 caliber machine gun at the south end of the unit's line after three previous gunners became casualties. He continued to man his machine gun until his ammunition was exhausted. His determined stand slowed the pace of the enemy advance in his sector, permitting the remnants of his unit to retreat southward. As the battle raged, Corporal Rubin was severely wounded and captured by the Chinese. Choosing to remain in the prison camp despite offers from the Chinese to return him to his native Hungary, Corporal Rubin disregarded his own personal safety and immediately began sneaking out of the camp at night in search of food for his comrades. Breaking into enemy food storehouses and gardens, he risked certain torture or death if caught. Corporal Rubin provided not only food to the starving Soldiers, but also desperately needed medical care and moral support for the sick and wounded of the POW camp. His brave, selfless efforts were directly attributed to saving the lives of as many as forty of his fellow prisoners. Corporal Rubin's gallant actions in close contact with the enemy and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
For lots more, please see this article by James S. Robbins, and this tribute by the warriors at the Mudville Gazette.
He looks a little different now, but still every bit the hero:
Mazel tov, Corporal Rubin. You defended your adopted country as few ever could or would. May your bravery -- and love for your fellow man -- forever stand as a shining example to us all.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Mostly I've been watching the Porkbusters folks with interest from a distance. (Yes, I certainly do wish the Transportation Bill was smaller; yes, I do wish our government could get by with a little less of its collective hand in my pocket. But somehow this doesn't inspire outrage in me, as it does in some. So it goes.)
James Lileks, however, got off a brilliant comment in one of his Screeds:
But it’s not hopeless. Say we reset the budget to the last bacon-stuffed multi-bazillion-dollar deal. Give every state delegation jurisdiction over the pork outlay for another state. The delegation that cuts the most gets a 10 percent increase in its own outlay. Let them bleed one another dry instead of the rest of us, in other words.
Now wouldn't that be nice?
Perhaps more to the point: let each state be assigned another state as an auditor, totally at random. The auditor's Senators (and their staffs) go through their assigned state's pork with a fine-tooth comb, and display the most ridiculous examples of it on the floor of the Senate. (This part is easy; most of the combing has already been done by the blogosphere.)
Then let each state's Senators be required to defend, on the record, the silly projects that they've insisted the entire country pay for. Defend them, or cut them -- and let a majority vote of the Senate determine success. Say, one hour each to display (and ridicule) a state's pork projects; another hour apiece to defend them; then a roll call or two for cutting them. That's two hundred hours, not counting the votes, or a little over a month of eight-hour business days.
Yeah, I know, that's still far too long. But it sure would be fun to watch.
Palestinians in San Diego
...or their useful idiots, at any rate...
There was a "massive" anti-everything demonstration in San Diego on Saturday, and Citizen Smash was there:
At the risk of stating the obvious: a word to the wise, angry demonstrators. Haranguing Jewish spectators, while waving a Palestinian flag, and simultaneously displaying the swastika -- this is not a good idea!
(The best you could hope for, if you're caught doing something that stupid, is that you won't be taken seriously. From the looks of it, and the way Smash describes it, the San Diego demonstrators have achieved that.)
On the other hand, the more massive (and equally confused) demostration in Washington DC (also on Saturday) was countered by a pro-America, pro-troops rally the following day. Jeff's Blog was there, and also took pictures:
Jeff describes the participants as "Parents, kids, veterans. Normal, well groomed everyday folks and a stark contrast to the unwashed leftist-marxists who visited our fair city the day before." Indeed.
Oh, and if you're a fan of the Protest Babes theory of political demonstrations -- as explained most succinctly here -- have a look at these pictures:
Be honest, now: which demonstration looks like more fun to you?
UPDATE: More protest-babe photos here and here, courtesy of the Instapundit. And Holly Aho has a great idea for the pro-America protest babes!
Friday, September 23, 2005
I just blogrolled Major Howdy. Check it out, and chances are it won't take you long to find out why I did.
There's this, for example:
Terrorists are gutless murderers and faith hijackers. I don’t need a poll to tell me that our presence here in Iraq is not wildly popular at home. Popular is not right. Right is might and not a relative concept. History speaks louder to us now more than ever of the need to stay the course and not break and run.Then there's this, on what Freedom means. Well worth the reading.
The Brits won’t run. And neither should we.
Then there's this entry, for this year's Independence Day. Howdy didn't write this one; it was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson, and signed by the Continental Congress. I hadn't read it in its entirety in a while; if you haven't either, you should.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident..."
Indeed we do.
UPDATE: Here's another addition to the blogroll. Thanks, Greg!
A New Ambassador To Israel?
Well, this doesn't look promising...
And what's really going on with Israel? Having withdrawn from Gaza, Israel doesn't even get Washington lip service when it comes to its determination not to assist in PA elections that feature Hamas terrorists.Indeed. Ambassador Jones was quoted, just this past Tuesday, as follows: "I am not familiar with Israel, but I plan to study the country as soon as possible."
Which begs the question: Whatever happened to George W. Bush's raison d'etre — namely, that we oppose terror networks and the countries that support them? Maybe the answer lies in what passes for tea leaves these days — as in the fact that the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, most recently Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's right-hand man on Iraq, has "roots in the Arab world so deep," reports the Washington Post, "that his beloved greyhound is named Kisa — for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, his first posting in the Arab world." Explains Mr. Jones: "Maybe they wanted someone who could provide the Arab perspective, too."
Which is weird, at best. Of all countries, Israel certainly knows the Arab point of view, historically delivered at gunpoint. But why, oh why, is the American ambassador concerned with presenting the Arab point of view? Is the Arab point of view the American point of view? And where does that leave us in the so-called war on terror?
Better hit those books, Mr. Ambassador.
I had hoped -- see my most recent post -- that President Bush would not be a President (the latest in a long line) to let Israel down in times of need. Eisenhower did it; Johnson was no help; Carter's naivete is legendary in Israel, making Clinton look omniscent by comparison. And, of course, the current President's father set the gold standard for callous treatment of Israel.
Let's hope GWB is better than that. But between this and Dr. Condoleezza Rice, I'm not as hopeful as I was.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
A Terrific Speech
Guess who said this yesterday?
At Tulane University, the Director of the Chabad, Rabbi Rivkin, brought teams of students to New Orleans, and southern Mississippi, and other communities hit by the storm. He called in folks to help. He didn't say, head away from the storm; he said, let's take it right to the middle of the storm area to help people. They helped rescue stranded people; they distributed bottled water and self-heating kosher meals; they cleaned up and helped salvage homes; they provided spiritual support for those who lost loved ones. And one of those rescued from New Orleans put it this way: In the days after Katrina hit, Chabad saved lives." (Applause.)
Rabbi Stanton Zamek of the Temple Beth Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, helped an African American couple displaced by the storm track down their daughter in Maryland. When Rabbi Zamek called the daughter, he told her, "We have your parents." She screamed out, "Thank you, Jesus!" (Laughter.) He didn't have the heart to tell her she was thanking the wrong rabbi. (Laughter and applause.)
Well, who was it? Do you give up yet?
For the record, I certainly wouldn't have guessed who the speaker was:
Yup, him. He was speaking at the 20th anniversary dinner of the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Hat tip: Power Line.)
And yes, no doubt the script was written for him. One can even imagine him asking his aides -- damn few of whom are Jewish, by the way -- for an appropriate anecdote to tell.
Never mind all that. "He didn't have the heart to tell her she was thanking the wrong rabbi." For any born-again Christian to say that shows a lot of tolerance and understanding. Coming from the President of the United States, that is simply amazing.
By all means, read the whole thing. It's a great speech, with some really nice tidbits in it --
I've been thinking a lot about how America has responded, and it's clear to me that Americans value human life, and value every person as important. And that stands in stark contrast, by the way, to the terrorists we have to deal with. You see, we look at the destruction caused by Katrina, and our hearts break. They're the kind of people who look at Katrina and wish they had caused it. We're in a war against these people.Has this guy been reading Bill Whittle, or what?
UPDATE: Thanks to Galit, for pointing out that the second sentence in my fifth paragraph was missing a verb. (I know what you're thinking, and no, actually, she teaches math, not English. She's a talented lady.)
UPDATE II: Thanks also to Daniel T. for correcting my correction. (Where would I be without my legions of proofreaders?)
UPDATE III: On December 6, 2005, President Bush held a Chanukah party at the White House. Scott Johnson of Power Line was there, and he blogged about it. (More details on the party can be found here.)
Apparently, the Marines on hand to maintain protocol were briefed about Orthodox Jewish customs; the West Point Jewish Cadet Choir was there to sing Chanukah songs; and the White House kitchen, for the first time ever, was certified kosher for the evening.
In short: was the President's respect for Jews and Jewish traditions a one-time deal? No, apparently, it was not!
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Some Assorted Links
This is pretty interesting: a serious plan, proposed by the United States Marine Corps, for suborbital launch vehicles, able to put a small fighting force anywhere on Earth within an hour or two. Lots of technical details to be ironed out, to be sure, but it's a bold concept... and one with numerous spinoff applications. (Can you imagine being able to deliver a Red Cross shipment to a disaster zone from across the planet? How about suborbital airliners, as described here and elsewhere, to go from Los Angeles to Sydney in two hours?) Thanks to Jeff Harrell for the link!
This is cute. But don't hold your breath. (A Hamas member, who does not speak for the organization, allows as how Hamas might one day amend its charter, which currently calls for Israel's utter destruction?? Folks, Fatah -- the core group of the Palestinian Authority -- has yet to amend its charter, which also calls for Israel's destruction! Don't waste our time.)
And this is just amazing. An Israeli archaeologist, disgusted by repeated revisionist claims that King David never existed (for if he had, wouldn't we have found artifacts of his by now?), did the research and legwork to pinpoint where his palace would have been, as described in the book of Samuel. She then got funding for an archaeological dig... and she found it.
(Details? Sure, we've got details. King David's palace is described as having been built by Phoenicians from Tyre; the location is not given precisely, but can be inferred reasonably well. At the ideal candidate to match the Biblical descriptions, Dr. Eilat Mazar found the remains of a massive Phoenician building. (She notes that Phoenician structures of any sort in this region are extremely rare.) It dates to the correct period, and shows evidence of use over centuries, with structures added on later -- exactly what you'd expect from David's palace, built around 1000 BCE and used by Israelite monarchs until the Babylonian conquest in 586 BCE. The excavation continues... but already a clay bulla, or signet impression, was found and attributed to Yehuchal Ben Shelemiah, a noble of Judea from the time of King Zedekiah who is mentioned by name in Jeremiah 37:3!)
Stay tuned on this. It's already described as "the archaeological find of the century", and that's no exaggeration.
UPDATE: Considerably more detail on Dr. Mazar's tremendous find can be found here, along with a photo I find tremendously inspiring:
"For me, finding the bulla was tremendous," says Mazar. "Yehuchal was no longer just some name in a biblical account that I might not even have been sure was true. He was a real person. We now have his business card. The account is a real account. It is very rare to find such precise evidence for a narrative in the Bible."(emphasis added)
In its own way, discovering that bulla is as exciting as the discovery of Elazar ben-Yair's lot, from the last moments of the Jewish revolt on Masada in 73 AD.
For those who don't know the story: after a lengthy siege and more than a million deaths, Jerusalem was sacked and the Holy Temple burned by the Romans in 70 AD; that date, the ninth of Av by the Hebrew calendar, is still a date of mourning for Jews, nearly two thousand years later. But a small group of guerilla fighters and their families, commanded by a charismatic leader named Elazar ben-Yair, eluded the slaughter and made their way south, to King Herod's abandoned summer palace on the moutaintop of Masada, on the shores of the Dead Sea.
There the Zealots, as the Romans called them, made their last stand: less than a thousand men, women, and children against five thousand Roman legionnaires. For three years they held their own there -- living, working, praying, even minting their own currency -- while under siege by the Romans. But the Romans finally prevailed, and -- in a dramatic event almost without parallel in history -- ben-Yair used his leadership one last time, to persuade his ragtag band that it was better to commit suicide, en masse, and take the Romans' victory from them. Better to die at our own hands as free men, he said, than to live as slaves. So the thousand Jews divided themselves into groups of ten, each with a captain, and the captain then quickly and mercifully killed his group-mates. Then the captains grouped together, cast their own lots to elect their leaders, and each leader killed the members of his group. This continued until only one man was left, who then killed himself. The Romans burst in upon the mountain fortress the next day... and found only bodies.
Well, not quite. Two women and five children had hidden themselves away, and so they remained to tell the story of Masada's last days to the awestruck Roman historian Josephus, himself a Jew. So it is that, incredible as it sounds, we have a transcript of Elazar ben-Yair's final speech to the Zealots.
When Masada was excavated in the nineteen-sixties by Israeli general-turned-archaeologist Yigael Yadin, many treasures were found. But few can compare to this:
It is a pot-sherd, a clay fragment of the sort used routinely for scribbling short notes... or for casting lots. Written on this particular fragment is the name ben-Yair. We can safely assume that it was this fragment, probably written in his own handwriting, with which he cast lots, along with the rest of his people... and then died, as he had lived, a free man, beholden only to God.
A Long-Overdue Linking
In particular, Phil linked to me a while back. Since I didn't send him a private "thank you" at the time, the least I can do is to offer a public one now.
More to the point, Phil has some great things to say; so let's get him on the blogroll, effective immediately. If you haven't read his work before, this, his most recent one, has a lot to offer. (There's some great stuff here as well, including some interesting First Amendment thoughts. Besides, how can I object to a man who likes Gordon Lightfoot?)
To Phil: many thanks! To the rest of my readers (yes, both of you): if you haven't written to me yet, please go ahead and do so. Feedback is great, and I don't get much of it.
...and yes, I do promise to pay careful attention, from here on out, to the feedback I do get.
Don't Get Stuck On Stupid
Whew! Does this man have a way with words, or what?
Lt. Gen. Russell Honore, in command of American troops in the Gulf of Mexico, was giving a joint press conference with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. The basic announcement was simple: evacuations for Hurricane Rita would be taking place in an orderly manner, with buses leaving from the New Orleans Convention Center.
But it seems that the "gentlemen of the press" weren't satisfied with getting an emergency message out to the people of New Orleans. So they started self-panicking, and flustering the mayor with blame-game questions... at which point the General steps in:
Honore: And Mr. Mayor, let's go back, because I can see right now, we're setting this up as "He said, he said, we said". All right? We are not going to go, by order of the mayor and the governor, and open the convention center for people to come in. There are buses there. Is that clear to you? Buses parked. There are 4,000 troops there. People come, they get on a bus, they get on a truck, they move on. Is that clear? Is that clear to the public?(emphasis mine)
Female reporter: Where do they move on...
Honore: That's not your business.
Male reporter: But General, that didn't work the first time...
Honore: Wait a minute. It didn't work the first time. This ain't the first time. Okay?
Let's get a little trust here, because you're starting to act like this is your problem. You are carrying the message, okay? What we're going to do is have the buses staged. The initial place is at the convention center. We're not going to announce other places at this time, until we get a plan set, and we'll let people know where those locations are, through the government, and through public announcements. Right now, to handle the number of people that want to leave, we've got the capacity. You will come to the convention center. There are soldiers there from the 82nd Airborne, and from the Louisiana National Guard. People will be told to get on the bus, and we will take care of them. And where they go will be dependent on the capacity in this state. We've got our communications up. And we'll tell them where to go. And when they get there, they'll be able to get a chance, an opportunity to get registered, and so they can let their families know where they are. But don't start panic here. Okay? We've got a location. It is in the front of the convention center, and that's where we will use to migrate people from it, into the system.
Male reporter: General Honore, we were told that Berman Stadium on the west bank would be another staging area...
Honore: Not to my knowledge. Again, the current place, I just told you one time, is the convention center. Once we complete the plan with the mayor, and is approved by the governor, then we'll start that in the next 12-24 hours. And we understand that there's a problem in getting communications out. That's where we need your help. But let's not confuse the questions with the answers. Buses at the convention center will move our citizens, for whom we have sworn that we will support and defend...and we'll move them on. Let's not get stuck on the last storm. You're asking last storm questions for people who are concerned about the future storm. Don't get stuck on stupid, reporters. We are moving forward. And don't confuse the people please. You are part of the public message. So help us get the message straight. And if you don't understand, maybe you'll confuse it to the people. That's why we like follow-up questions. But right now, it's the convention center, and move on.
Male reporter: General, a little bit more about why that's happening this time, though, and did not have that last time...
Honore: You are stuck on stupid. I'm not going to answer that question. We are going to deal with Rita. This is public information that people are depending on the government to put out. This is the way we've got to do it. So please. I apologize to you, but let's talk about the future. Rita is happening. And right now, we need to get good, clean information out to the people that they can use. And we can have a conversation on the side about the past, in a couple of months.
I love it! The reporters need to be reminded to do their jobs... and they've found a general who isn't afraid to tell them.
I have a feeling that reporters will be avoiding Gen. Honore if they can. "No, you go to the press conference. I went to the last one."
Reminds me also of Donald Rumsfeld -- who, early on, surprised people by being just as blunt at his press conferences. ("Why are we introducing such dangerous weapons into the Iraqi theater, Mr. Secretary?" "Well son, we're introducing those weapons so that we can hunt down the enemy and kill him." "Oh.")
"You are stuck on stupid". I'm gonna have to remember that one. Or buy a bumper sticker!
UPDATE: ...or start reading a new blog...
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Welcome Back, Dan Rather
Some people just don't know when to stop...
Thanks to Roger L. Simon for pointing this out:
"It's been one of television news' finest moments," Rather said of the Katrina coverage. He likened it to the coverage of President Kennedy's assassination in 1963.Whoa.
"They were willing to speak truth to power," Rather said of the coverage.
As one of the commenters noted on Roger's site, "speak truth to power" is a reliable channel marker -- when you hear that, know that all sanity is about to leave the discussion.
Is it really necessary to say that "speaking truth to power" sounds funny, coming from Dan Rather, of all people? He was the power, after all; he used his "bully pulpit*" to editorialize about the news every single night, but that wasn't enough for him, so he made up news to suit his own purposes.
He violated every rule of journalistic fact-checking, went public with a report that had more holes than a pound of Swiss cheese, and covered up -- with outraged indignation, no less -- when his hand was caught in the cookie jar.
And it was bloggers -- Power Line and LGF primarily, with many others helping -- that "spoke truth to power" in order to hold him accountable for his actions.
Now, I've said before that it bothers me when, for instance, people cannot mention Ted Kennedy's name without also mentioning Chappaquiddick and/or Mary Jo Kopechne. Yes, there are contexts when Kennedy makes the reminders inevitable; but speaking of it every single time, as a modern-day Carthaginem delenda est, is silly.
But Dan Rather, in my opinion, doesn't deserve that consideration. The echoes of his lies and obfuscations are still echoing -- it's been barely a year! -- and he has the gall to talk of "speaking truth to power"? To speak of it, moreover, specifically about the press using Hurricane Katrina as an opportunity to bash a Republican President, while all but ignoring the outright incompetence of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin, both of them Democrats?
If "speaking truth to power" is so important to you, Mr. Rather, perhaps you'd like to tell us how you feel about "speaking lies to the peons"... using, oh, let's say, you as a classic example.
(By the way, please do read the whole thing. It stands as an interesting example of press bias all by itself. The report, for example, does not mention Rathergate or the falsified memos that ended Rather's career, but it does go out of its way to paint a glowing portrait of him... even to the extent of paraphrasing his quotes, instead of simply quoting him directly. I wasn't there, so I don't know exactly what was said... but more importantly, Reuters reporter Paul J. Gough, who presumably was there, doesn't want us to know exactly what was said either.)
* NOTE: I don't mean to accuse Dan Rather of being a bully, by the way -- not in that context, at any rate. That's not what "bully pulpit" means. Teddy Roosevelt first used it when he said that "the Presidency is a bully pulpit" -- "bully" then being an adjective, used the way we today might say "cool" or "awesome". Teddy was saying that the Presidency gave him a wonderful bullhorn with which to preach to the country, not that the Presidency gave him an opportunity to intimidate people.
And indeed, Dan Rather had a pretty powerful bullhorn himself. It's just a pity that he sounded his horn with a load of bull.
UPDATE: A commenter points out that the correct Latin phrase is "Carthago delenda est"; a bit of Googling convinces me of that. I stand corrected.
Friday, September 16, 2005
At my middle stepdaughter's school assembly today, I was reminded that Sept. 17th is Constitution Day -- a rarely-celebrated national holiday, but an important one. (I also said the Pledge of Allegiance, for the first time in years. It's an interesting experience to recite it as an adult, I must say.)
Of little interest to anyone but me (and both of my regular readers), Sept. 17th was also the day I started blogging, one year ago tomorrow.
It's been an interesting year!! I've learned a lot, and adjusted my technique here and there. For example, I had a hard time at first, trying to decide what on Earth to write about. But I made a decision, about four months ago, to try to write something, every day... and, with a few exceptions, I've kept to that.
Some things have not changed -- I decided from the beginning that this blog would rarely be about me, and never about my immediate family; that's not the kind of writing I want to do here. I've also striven to keep things within the limits of good taste and good manners -- as Julius "Dr. J" Irving once said, "I live my life trying to never appear to be a small man" -- and I think I've succeeded most of the time.
So here I am, 168 blog entries later, still enjoying myself and still finding that I have things I want to say. There are even people who enjoy reading what I write, which still catches me by surprise.
So thanks to my readers, first of all, regular or not. First and foremost, of course, to Galit, who helps and encourages me in hundreds of different ways; blogging is probably the least important of the many, many things I couldn't do without her. Thanks to Ilana for her "attaboy" e-mails, and for spreading the word. Thanks to Daniel T., who has the time to read what I write (and the grace not to ridicule me for it), and whose corrections are always insightful. Thanks to Yael and to Mr. Paquin, who insisted that my writing deserved a wider audience. Thanks to Aden -- who knew I had a fan in Jerusalem? -- who can claim to have enjoyed my writing longer than almost anyone else. And thanks to the many of you who have wandered over from Smash's Place (although I have to wonder: why are Jane and Rich the only ones who ever comment??). A special thanks to Lt. Cmdr. Smash himself, for enduring my endless droning comments at his blog... which was the main impetus to getting started here in the first place.
Thanks also to people who don't know me, and might never know me, but have had their impact on me in many important ways. Thanks to the incomparable Steven den Beste, whose writing inspired me and influenced me long before I thought of writing online myself; you're a giant, sir, and your influence continues to be felt, long after USS Clueless sailed beyond the sunset. Thanks to Bill Whittle; I, like thousands of others, still stop what I'm doing and take an hour off to read his latest, every time the word goes out that Bill's Written Another One.
And thanks in advance to any future readers, who may be wondering what I had to say back in September 2005. Take a look around you; you know a good many things that I wish I did! Thanks for taking the trouble to stop by.
Okay, enough self-indulgence; let's get back to important things.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
On Fear, and How Not To Handle It
Some more thoughts on the (ongoing) violence in Gaza, inspired by La Shawn Barber's post on the subject.
Why is it that the media screams for weeks on end about an unsubstantiated rumor -- if that rumor is mistreatment of a Koran -- but can't be bothered to cover Muslim desecration of synagogues?
My hunch is that there's a very simple motivation involved -- fear.
Let's be blunt. Jews have not been kidnapping political prisoners and beheading them; Jews have not threatened journalists with violence for unflattering coverage. Jews do not riot in the streets, killing people and destroying property, because a Bible, or even a Torah scroll, is desecrated. Nobody is concerned about planes being hijacked by Jews.
Muslims, on the other hand, have done all these things, in the name of Islam... and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that some journalists, who try to watch such things up-close if they can, are frightened.
Sure, they don't sound frightened. But fear often masquerades as anger; ask any parent of teenagers. And I do wonder if the insane hatred we saw, targeting the Bush Administration and the U.S. military for outrages real or imagined at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, was really just fear of reprisal. Instead of pillorying Bush, perhaps they meant to say "We had nothing to do with this; please don't attack us".
(Does anyone remember the Not In Our Name demonstrations, and the many well-meaning idiots who apologized to the world for Bush's reelection?)
I don't know how true this is; I'm not a psychologist. But it would explain a great many things.
And, to the extent that this train of thought is valid, let me point out one of its connotations. There's a name for someone who blames only those who won't retaliate; someone who only gets angry when it's safe to do so, against people you can count on not to respond in kind.
That word is "coward".
If you're offended by that word, I'm sorry to hear it. But everyone ought to decide if that word applies to them or not. If you feel brave in "speaking truth to power" to the American government, but are unwilling to debate a Palestinian on the outrages of Arafat and his legacies, then perhaps you should wonder what you're afraid of. If you insist on the right to march and demonstrate, but also want immunity from arrest, then you should think about that too.
And if you write only about the supposed inhumanity of the Israeli government, while ignoring the barbarism that ensues when Palestinians are left to govern themselves -- or if you write endlessly about Cindy Sheehan calling Bush "the biggest terrorist in the world", while refusing to acknowledge Muslim terrorism when it's staring you in the face -- then "coward" might be just the word you're looking for.
If you'd like to know about courage -- the antithesis of cowardice -- then you might want to read what Bill Whittle has said on the subject. Personally, I prefer the simpler formulation of Eric Frank Russell: "Courage is fear faced with resolution". Or, to paraphrase Col. David Hackworth, "Courage means being the only one who knows you're afraid."
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Melanie Phillips writes about the casual antisemitism and anti-Zionism of the British press -- and, increasingly, of British society -- which, once again, is rising to a fever pitch.
(As I have explained before, and no doubt will need to explain again many times, not all criticism of Jews is antisemitism, nor is all criticism of Israel anti-Zionism, not by a long shot. If you think the policies of Ariel Sharon's government are misguided or wrongheaded or even evil, it's not anti-Zionist for you to say so. If you long for the day when a Palestinian State will peacefully coexist alongside Israel, that's emphatically not anti-Zionist. But if you expect that Palestinian State to include Jerusalem, and Jaffa, and Haifa -- to essentially take over all of Israel -- then yes, you are anti-Zionist, for you have declared your willingness to see the State of Israel destroyed.
(Similarly, there's nothing wrong with criticizing the State of Israel, in the UN or elsewhere. But criticizing only Israel -- and ignoring the very real horrors perpetrated by other states, far in excess of what Israel merely stands accused of -- that is anti-Zionism. And if you deny the importance of a Jewish state -- while finding nothing wrong in the world's many Muslim states, and Christian states, and Buddhist states, and so on -- then your anti-Zionism creeps across the boundary into antisemitism, for you deny the Jewish people rights that you freely accord to other peoples.)
I've quoted this before, but it's worth repeating. As the Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim once wrote:
"For Christians, the first priority may be theological self-understanding. For Jews it is, and after Auschwitz must be, simple safety for their children. In pursuit of this goal, Jews seek -- are morally required to seek -- independence of other people's charity. They therefore seek safety -- are morally required to seek it -- through the existence of a Jewish state. Except among the theologically or humanly perverse, Zionism -- the commitment to the safety and genuine sovereignty of the State of Israel -- is not negotiable."Now, with that in mind, read what Ms. Phillips has to say about life for British Jews these days. As she points out, it's not just that British Muslims are spouting the vilest antisemitic libels -- but that no one cares enough to disagree. Ms. Phillips reminds us that Israel has always safeguarded the holy places of many religions, even in the face of blatant disregard of Jewish holy places at the hands of others. And yet, when Israel pleads with the Palestinian Authority not to destroy synagogues left behind in Gaza, and Palestinian police stand idly by while those synagogues are torched and bulldozed... the BBC covers the destruction and blames Israel.
How a British news organization can accuse Israel of racism and ethnic violence, when it is British clerics calling for the destruction of Israel, and British universities refusing to accomodate Israeli academics, surpasses all understanding.
Britannia, it's well past time to clean your own house. No one else can do it for you.
And it is true for you now, as it has often been true for other societies and cultures in the past two thousand years -- your Jewish subjects are the canaries in the coal mine. If you fail to protect British Jews from their enemies, those enemies will come after you next. (Indeed, they already have.)
Consider this a follow-up to my post of a few weeks ago, on the subject of Prof. Richard Landes's 21st Media Group project. That project is now live, and can be found at www.SecondDraft.org. (A belated thanks to Solomonia.com for tipping me off to this!)
If you care at all about accuracy in journalism, and in coverage of the Middle East in particular, please do check it out, right away. Yes, it's that important!
Prof. Landes argues that, if "journalism is the first draft of history", we are in dire need of a second draft. His case in point is what he calls "Pallywood" -- the deliberate, orchestrated efforts of Palestinians to distort media coverage of them and their causes.
For it turns out that the Palestinians have been inventing scenes for the news cameras, often out of whole cloth -- and often with the deliberate assistance of the news media.
Is this important? Sometimes it's a matter of life and death, particularly in the Middle East. Remember the seventeen people who died in rioting, over the misreported rumor that a Koran had been abused by Americans at Guantanamo Bay? Far more deadly a rumor was the death of Mohammed al-Dura -- whose very name has become a rallying cry for hundreds, if not thousands, of would-be suicide bombers -- and whose death turns out to have been a carefully orchestrated, cold-blooded killing by Palestinians.
There's more, much more. Prof. Landes goes behind the scenes by examining raw news footage of key events, showing how what we saw on our televisions was not what it looked like on the spot -- not at all. He will show you, for example, scenes that supposedly show Palestinians running for their lives from brutal Israeli gunfire -- except that, from a different angle, other Palestinians can be seen laughing, joking, walking casually with their families. (As he comments: "does this look like a war zone to you?") He will show you scenes of Palestinian funerals... in which the corpse is dropped on the ground, and promptly gets up and repositions itself. He will show you supposedly "wounded" Palestinians who do not act wounded at all, and who are carried to an ambulance (which shows up like magic, on cue, the moment someone is "shot")... with the "wounded" manhandled in a way that would surely result in far worse injuries, if the subject were anything but healthy.
Watch this movie, for starters. (A higher-resolution DivX version is also available.) It'll take about a half-hour of your time, and it'll open your eyes... to the games the news media think they have been playing with you.
It's not a game. It's criminally sloppy journalism at best... and it has resulted in many, many needless deaths. And more people will die, because of staged inflammatory news-bites... unless we can get the word out.
Go take a look at the site... and tell a few friends about it, too.
UPDATE: Looks like Powerline is interested. The Boston Herald, too.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Lawlessness in Gaza
So, Israel's evacuation of the Gaza Strip went ahead on schedule. And now the Palestinians spread out, enjoy their added elbow room, and get down to serious business, right?
So far, the goings-on seem to include quite a bit of looting, arson, and destruction.
Remember, Israel destroyed all the communities that were evacuated, and for good reason; it would have been too painful for Israeli families to see their old homes under new management. But Israel couldn't bring itself to destroy the many synagogues that had been built in the Gaza Strip, and instead, asked the Palestinian Authority to protect them.
Instead, the Palestinian Authority stood by as Palestinians bulldozed the synagogues, looted them, and burned them. Granted, Israel had already removed the Torah scrolls, the prayer books, and anything portable of religious significance. But the synagogues themselves were beautiful buildings, worthy of preservation, no?
Students cut school, the terrorist groups carted out their homemade RPGs and prayed in the settlements' smoldering synagogues, the poor scavenged the settlement carcasses, and the PA police and other security forces watched.
Looters torched synagogues and ripped what they could from what were considered the settlements' sturdiest buildings ... By mid-morning columns of black smoke twisted skyward marking where individual settlements had been.
An unusually candid politician, [Khan Yunis Mayor Osama] al-Farra had no illusions that the PA security forces would contain the curious masses streaming toward the settlements. Surveying the bulldozed buildings and the smoldering fires, Farra noted that "this place needs a lot of work."
As if punctuating his sentence, an Islamic Jihad gunman barely a car's length away aimed his AK-47 at a street lamp. Crack! He missed and fired again.
"That," Farra continued seamlessly, "is a good example. A lot of work indeed."
[Israeli] Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom dubbed the chaotic scenes – which climaxed with clashes between Egyptian soldiers and Palestinian civilians at the Rafah border – and particularly the torching of the synagogues, a "barbaric act."
Bulldozer driver Turki Toman, 54, preferred the term "cathartic." ... He yelled down from his cab, "I feel great; this is the best work I've had in a while."
The employee of the PA Public Works Ministry then volunteered that "I felt even better earlier this morning when I set my bulldozer on the synagogue."
(photo courtesy of TigerHawk)
(photo courtesy of Israel Insider)
What can one say to such barbarity? Have the Palestinians no respect for the fact that, in the regions controlled by Israel over the past sixty years, Muslim holy places have always been respected?
Just to make the point absolutely clear: I can see a point of view that would argue for the destruction of Gaza synagogues (although I wish that they didn't derive such joy from it). Indeed, a PA cabinet secretary, Samir Ihleile, incongruously claimed that the synagogues must be destroyed, to prevent them from becoming Hamas mosques.
Okay, fine. Stipulate that. (Although it would be interesting to see a Hamas mosque in the shape of a Star of David.) Now please explain to me why this was necessary:
Inside the Kfar Darom synagogue, crushed matza mingled with shattered glass and chunks of metal wrenched from their moorings.
A lone green swastika was spray painted on the Neveh Dekalim synagogue. Motor oil and chocolate spread left over from the anti-disengagement activists protests slicked the floors of the synagogues.
Outside the synagogue, police Sgt. Ahmed Abu Mustapha threw up his hands as looters, some of them in uniform, brushed by him. "They got here much faster than we did," he said. "It doesn't matter, it all will be destroyed and there is not much left anyway."
Their blind Jew-hatred aside, the Palestinians cannot, apparently, even protect their own interests:
Egyptian guards, meanwhile, failed for a second straight day to control a rush across the Gaza-Egypt border, which was a formidable barrier when patrolled by Israel. With the Israelis gone, Gazans dug under walls and climbed over barriers to get to Egypt, where they stocked up on cheap cigarettes, medication and cheese. Egyptian forces on Monday fatally shot a Palestinian during the mad rush, witnesses said.The Gaza greenhouses had been, indeed, a large source of income for thousands of Palestinian laborers. Israel did not destroy them on her way out, apparently, because the Palestinian Authority implored Israel not to.
The chaos raised new questions about the ability of Palestinian forces to impose order in Gaza.
[Daniel adds: questions, certainly. New, no...]
The greenhouses, left behind by Israel as part of a deal brokered by international mediators, are a centerpiece of Palestinian plans for rebuilding Gaza after 38 years of Israeli occupation. The Palestinian Authority hopes the high-tech greenhouses will provide jobs and export income for Gaza's shattered economy.
During a tour of Neve Dekalim, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia implored Palestinians to leave the structures intact, even as people scavenged through debris elsewhere in the settlement.
"These greenhouses are for the Palestinian people," he said. "We don't want anyone to touch or harm anything that can be useful for our people."
Just minutes away, crowds of looters in the Gadid settlement overwhelmed hundreds of guards trying to protect the greenhouses. Guards acknowledged that in many cases, they were unable to stop the looting.
"They are taking plastic sheeting, they are taking hoses, they are taking anything they can get their hands on," said Hamza Judeh, a Palestinian policeman.
(And also, it seems, because the greenhouses were bought and paid for, and then donated to the Palestinian people. Who paid for them? Would you believe Jewish philanthropists?)
Will the greenhouses reopen under new management, and again provide jobs for thousands of Palestinians? Only if they're intact!
(Any day now, I expect to hear Palestinians begging for more funds, to be used to repair the greenhouses. Or so they'll say.)
And a final irony:
One of the officers on the scene, Ahmed Hilas, promised journalists the Palestinian Authority will put an end to the chaos in “three to four days.”...and if the journalists in question believed that, then they should have been covering the sale of the Brooklyn Bridge instead.
Please forgive me for belaboring the obvious: if the Palestinian Authority had any control over the mobs, they'd exert it now, to protect the greenhouses at the very least. Promising to end the riots, at the time when they're expected to die down anyway, is nothing more than grandstanding by the impotent.
And yet, people continue to ask if the PA "could not" or "would not" control the rioting. Personally, I couldn't care less. It doesn't matter to me if Palestinian violence and barbarism is due to helplessness or indifference; in either case, they cannot be trusted with anything of value, including their own lives and futures.
Well, at least some Muslims seem to understand:
However, as we've seen today, when Palestinians streaming into liberated Gaza set fire to synagogues there is deafening silence from most Muslims and certainly from the leadership of the American Muslim community. Herein lies the sorry state of Islamic affairs. [...] The Palestinian authority is incapable (or unwilling) to provide security for the abandoned synagogues, the Palestinian people lack the adhab to refrain from destroying a temple dedicated to the worship of Allah, and Muslims in America are indifferent to this destruction because it is occurring to Jewish property.A powerful condemnation, particularly given that it was voiced by a Muslim. We'll see if the idea spreads... and we'll see if American Muslims start to use their freedom, as they do here, to dissent against barbarities committed in their name.
The wholesale destruction of the Jewish synagogues is yet another indication that Palestinians of all stripes, whether Fatah secularists or Islamic Hamas types, do not have the political maturity to construct a civil society. However, it is also a sign that Muslims in America lack the conviction of their religion to condemn sacrilege when it is committed by Muslims against others.
As a prominent author once commented, your freedom is useless unless you use it to free someone else. And the best way to do that is to infect closed minds with the idea of freedom.
The Palestinians could certainly use some new ideas.
UPDATE: And, after all that, some Palestinians continue to argue that the Gaza Strip is still under Israeli occupation, thus justifying further terrorism! (Palestinian chutzpah has reached new heights -- or is it depths?) Dore Gold debunks these claims rather thoroughly.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
What A Hero Looks Like
My God, what an incredible story...
The author is John -- a resident of central Texas, a retired 25-year veteran of unspecified armed forces... and the owner of a 30-year-old Army truck (which the Army calls an M35A2, he calls "deuce and a half", and the likes of me would simply call "big mother truck").
When the lights went out in the Gulf of Mexico, he took it personally -- his Best Buddy, the friend-for-life he made in the US Air Force, lived in Biloxi, and could not be reached.
John decided, on his own initiative, to get the Deuce ready for a long haul, load it to the gills with food and supplies, and head out into harm's way. Immediate objective: find his buddy, make sure he's okay, find out if he needs anything. Longer-term objective: help out some of the suffering thousands who need help.
The result was an unforgettable journey. Please do go and read about it. (Hat tip: Citizen Smash.)
The attentive reader will note many reasons and opportunities for this man to have turned back, or not to have gotten started in the first place. None of them mattered. He set out to do a job, did the best he possibly could, and went home only when he had no choice.
I've never met John, nor am I ever likely to do so. But if I'm ever lucky enough to see his face, I'll know what a hero looks like.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Slugger O'Toole Hits It Out Of The Park
Instapundit today linked to Mick Fealty, aka Slugger O'Toole, who in turn quotes the entirety of a marvelous editorial by Newton Emerson in the Irish Times.
It appears to be available by subscription-only... but Mr. Fealty got permission to post it in its entirety on the Web. I'm sorry, I can't excerpt this; I just have to quote the entire piece. Here you go!
By Newton Emerson
As the full horror of Hurricane Katrina sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if this is the end of George Bush's presidency. The answer is almost certainly yes, provided that every copy of the US Constitution was destroyed in the storm. Otherwise President Bush will remain in office until noon on January 20th, 2009, as required by the 20th Amendment, after which he is barred from seeking a third term anyway under the 22nd Amendment.
As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if the entire political agenda of George Bush's second term will not still be damaged in some terribly satisfying way.
The answer is almost certainly yes, provided that the entire political agenda of George Bush's second term consists of repealing the 22nd Amendment. Otherwise, with a clear Republican majority in both Houses of Congress, he can carry on doing pretty much whatever he likes.
As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if the Republican Party itself will now suffer a setback at the congressional mid-term elections next November.
The answer is almost certainly yes, provided that people outside the disaster zone punish their local representatives for events elsewhere a year previously, both beyond their control and outside their remit, while people inside the disaster zone reward their local representatives for an ongoing calamity they were supposed to prevent. Otherwise, the Democratic Party will suffer a setback at the next congressional election.
As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if an official inquiry will shift the blame for poor planning and inadequate flood defences on to the White House. The answer is almost certainly yes, provided nobody admits that emergency planning is largely the responsibility of city and state agencies, and nobody notices that the main levee which broke was the only levee recently modernised with federal funds. Otherwise, an official inquiry will pin most of the blame on the notoriously corrupt and incompetent local governments of New Orleans and Louisiana.
As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if George Bush contributed to the death toll by sending so many national guard units to Iraq.
The answer is almost certainly yes, provided nobody recalls that those same columnists have spent the past two years blaming George Bush for another death toll by not sending enough national guard units to Iraq. Otherwise, people might wonder why they have never previously read a single article advocating large-scale military redeployment during the Caribbean hurricane season.
As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnist are asking how a civilised city can descend into anarchy.
The answer is that only a civilised city can descend into anarchy.
As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if George Bush should be held responsible for the terrible poverty in the southern states revealed by the flooding.
The answer is almost certainly yes, provided nobody holds Bill Clinton responsible for making Mississippi the poorest state in the union throughout his entire term as president, or for making Arkansas the second-poorest state in the union throughout his entire term as governor. Otherwise, people might suspect that it is a bit more complicated than that.
As the full horror of this sinks in, thousands of desperate columnists are asking if George Bush should not be concerned by accusations of racism against the federal government.
The answer is almost certainly yes, provided nobody remembers that Jesse Jackson once called New York "Hymietown" and everybody thinks Condoleezza Rice went shopping for shoes when the hurricane struck because she cannot stand black people.
Otherwise sensible Americans of all races will be more concerned by trite, cynical and dangerous political opportunism.
As the full horror of that sinks in, this columnist is simply glad that everybody cares.
Don't you just love the Irish?
I wish Mr. Emerson were closer by; I'd happily buy him a beer or two.
UPDATE: Chris Muir's Day By Day sums it up pretty succinctly:
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
(Arnold Schwarzenegger, eat your heart out...)
Two serious debunkings, on issues important to me, have come to my attention today. Here's one -- with all the details I wish more people knew about Mohammed al-Dura -- and here's the other, which I wish would end this whole tired "Bush lied!" idea.
(Unfortunately, it won't. In fact, both of these urban myths will no doubt last a good, long time to come, more's the pity.)
Courtesy of Roger L. Simon, I found the blog of "The Religious Policeman" -- a Saudi expatriate currently living in Britain. (The title is especially ironic -- he makes his disgust with the Saudi religious police quite clear.)
I've been reading some of his recent posts, and frankly I've been fascinated. The guy is a wonderful writer, to begin with... and he offers a perspective we don't see much, told in vernacular we can easily understand. That's rare, and a pleasure to read.
So, in the midst of a gentle diatribe against the war in Iraq (sigh), I found this:
Being very close to the English and the recent events in London has reminded me what nice people they are, but it really is time for "no more Mr. Nice Guy". These are a people who will apologize to you if you bump into them, and it's really your fault. There is a substantial proportion of the UK population who are still concerned about not upsetting the Muslim community here, for example by targetting young Asian men for searches. Well, I have three thoughts on that:Indeed.
- it's the Muslim community who should be worried about not upsetting the majority, not vice-versa. It's the majority who are getting blown up, and they don't find it funny.
- the suicide bombers have so far been young Asian men, not Scotsmen in kilts or heavily pregnant ladies with small children. It therefore seems a sensible use of police time to concentrate on the former and not the latter.
- they shouldn't let anybody in, and then take an age to expel people who shouldn't be here. They could actually learn something from Saudi Arabia in that respect, or better still, Australia.
Please remember this -- and the source -- next time you're concerned about the effects of "profiling" on minority Muslim populations.
How do I feel about profiling? Thanks, I'm glad you asked. Actually, I am a retired military policeman... and so I approach this from a cop's perspective. And, to be honest, many cops are quite tired of this issue.
Do cops profile? Of course they do. It's their job to keep an eye open for suspicious people, after all... and, after being on the job for a while, cops can get amazingly good at identifying society's troublemakers. It's by no means based on race, or ethnicity, or gender, or age, or any one factor; it's all of those things, along with many far subtler signs, such as posture, clothing, body language, facial expressions, and much more.
When I was on duty, a lifetime ago, I got so that I knew, in advance, who was going to give me trouble and who wasn't. Don't ask me how I knew; after a while it was mostly instinct. But I knew what to expect from the people I confronted professionally... and I was right pretty consistently.
(I once stopped a combat soldier and asked to see his papers, even though I could see absolutely nothing untoward about him. Something about him just seemed wrong to me... and so I checked him out. It turned out that he was a desk-jockey, not a combat soldier at all; he was wearing a full set of combat decorations he had no business wearing, as a way of giving himself airs. So I busted him. How did I know? I just knew.)
Order a cop not to use profiling, and you're ordering him to forget a vital part of his on-the-job training. You're ordering him to ignore what his instincts are telling him... which, to a cop, can be fatal.
I'm reminded of the old joke about a man applying for a job; he's told "Well, your qualifications are excellent -- but, since we don't discriminate in hiring, we're looking for a woman". Now imagine a police car on patrol duty, showing the flag and keeping an eye out for trouble. They see someone who sets off all their subconscious alarm bells... but they hesitate to respond immediately, because he's a member of [insert racial/ethnic grouping here], and they've already arrested someone like that today. They don't want to be accused of profiling.
Do you really want your police to work like that?
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
On the Palestinian Refugee Camps
Solomonia.com links to an important piece by CAMERA, on the subject of the much-maligned Palestinian refugee camps.
The camps have been there ever since the UN built the first of them in 1948. We thus have third-generation and even fourth-generation refugees, still living in squalor in refugee camps, nearly sixty years after the end of the war that displaced them -- a situation with no equal in the modern history of warfare.
Why on Earth are the refugees still there? Why hasn't anyone tried to get them out of the camps?
The short answer is that one nation did try to help, with a heavily-subsidized "build your own home" program. Palestinian refugees who took advantage of the program would get modern homes with full infrastructure, land of their own, public buildings around which to build a community -- the works.
But after a promising start, the program was shut down by the UN... with the PLO (forerunners of the current Palestinian leadership) threatening to kill any Palestinian who tried to take advantage of such an offer.
Any guesses as to which country it was that tried to subsidize sensible housing for Palestinians? Yup, you guessed it -- right the first time.
...But He meant Well...
Please forgive my hysterical laughter. I'd like to treasure the memory of this photo:
That's Sean Penn, captured on film during his moment of glory. (If you haven't yet heard the story -- or read Bill Whittle's biting commentary on it -- here's the short version. Mr. Penn wanted to go out in a little boat, rescue some children stranded by Hurricane Katrina, and get himself photographed doing it. So out he goes in his boat, which doesn't seem big enough to hold more than a half-dozen people; nonetheless, he brings his personal photographer -- and others -- along. But he forgot to put in the boat's drainage plug. So here we watch Our Hero, trying to bail out his little boat with a red plastic cup. I can only wonder how well-equipped he was to save people, if that's all he had to bail out his boat with. And indeed, one onlooker was heard to say: "How are you going to get any people in that thing?")
In other news, nearly two thousand blogs have raised almost a million and a quarter dollars in the past few days. That's just an awful lot of people in pajamas, folks -- some writing, most reading, all doing their part.
It's not much, I know. But I have a feeling it'll help more people than Sean Penn's red plastic cup will.
Bill Whittle's latest: TRIBES
Are you a sheep? Or a wolf? Or a sheepdog?
If you're not sure, read this and ask yourself again.
Friday, September 02, 2005
The devastation of Hurricane Katrina continues, as do the relief efforts. How well the relief efforts are progressing, it seems, depends a great deal upon whom you ask.
Are people and organizations jumping for the opportunity to help? Yes, they are, and it's heart-warming to see.
On the flip side, a lot of people are quite angry... because, of course, all this is Bush's fault! Here's one example of such (courtesy of Arthur Chrenkoff), titled "I Won't Contribute To Katrina", and it's one of the most disgusting examples of self-indulgence I've ever seen:
I just stopped at the grocery store to pick up a candy bar. They only had one line open, plus the do-it-yourself area where you have to play amateur cashier. I hate that do-it-yourself area, but the other line was too long so I used it.You poor dear. People are dying in one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States, ever... and you have to pick the line you didn't want to buy your candy bar. Damn, what a hard life you must be having right now.
After I managed to get the candy bar's bar code to fit perfectly over the little laser and figured out how the machine worked so I could waste twice the time it would normally take me to buy a candy bar, an employee approached me and said, "Would you like to give a dollar for Hurricane Katrina?"Okay, a dollar to help desperate Americans is too much for you. Why, pray tell?
I said, "No."
First off, I'm offended that the store employees are wandering around fundraising instead of helping customers, especially when it's so obvious that the store conglomerate uses these do-it-yourself machines to cut down on the number of employees necessary to help customers so that the store conglomerate can turn a larger profit while having fewer of those pesky union workers to deal with.Oh, now I see. You don't want to help Katrina victims... because it's a store conglomerate asking you. (To whom might you have said "yes", I wonder? Janeanne Garafalo? John Kerry? Jane Fonda?) Or was it because the store employee had the temerity to ask you for help, instead of helping you buy your ever-so-important candy bar? Or was it because the conglomerate (which, I note, you don't mind giving money to) is anti-union, or so you think? Hmm, maybe I don't see.
But beyond that, I'm sick of footing the bill for George W. Bush and the rest of his so-called compassionate conservatives. It's been well-documented over the past two days that there were all kinds of warnings about what could happen to New Orleans and that the levees designed to keep out the water were sinking or uncompleted.Indeed -- there's documentation of warnings, about those levees, going back to the beginning of the Clinton era, and considerably before then. (Which, of course, makes it all Bush's fault.)
Personally, I'm quite willing to accept that more could have been done; there's always more that can be done. But now is not the right time to complain and point fingers; now is the time to save lives. (Kudos to Bill Clinton, by the way, for saying exactly that on CNN.) And I'm really in no mood to complain that the levees were inadequate... for protection against a force-five hurricane! (I mean, come on, now. If the San Andreas Fault gives way, are we going to blame the Bush Administration for not filling it with cement, or something?)
"Sick of footing the bill"... interesting. (Where did you spend your tax refund, sir?)
What did Bush do? Nothing. Actually, worse than nothing. He was so busy fighting his cowboy war in Iraq (cheers to Hugo Chavez for the analogy) that he actually diverted money away from the projects that might have saved New Orleans because the war was so damn expensive! And now I should pony up to help out? Sorry, Charlie.I'll ignore the tired old argument "why fight that nasty war in Iraq when we have social programs right here at home?"... not worth rebutting. (If friend Blunderford doesn't think the war in Iraq was worth fighting, a sentence or two here won't help.) But I find it interesting that disaster relief isn't worth his money... because of what the President did. Now that's what I call personal responsibility.
Let Bush open his wallet. I'm sure he's still got a few nickels rolling around his pockets from flipping the Texas Rangers like a Miami condo.What, another pet peeve? Self-service checkout lines, chain-store conglomerates, compassionate conservatives, the war in Iraq, and now the Texas Rangers? You've got quite a few of those pet peeves rolling around in your pockets, bucko.
You 60 million losers who voted for this loser open YOUR wallets. This president declared war on the poor long ago, and while some of us cared enough to vote for someone who gave a damn, you buried your heads in the sand, babbled about abortion and family values, and voted for the doofus.We are, Blunderford, we are, we really are. But we could use your help.
In the meantime, apparently, your idea of "helping the poor" amounts to "vot[ing] for someone who gave a damn". In other words, to paraphrase P. J. O'Rourke, you're not willing to contribute a single dollar voluntarily, but you were willing to vote for someone who would take disaster relief out of your taxes by force. Bully for you. (Hey, maybe that's why you resented the anonymous store-employee from the anonymous conglomerate. The employee shouldn't have asked for help; he should have just taken it, the way Al Gore would presumably have done.)
And now you want to act all high and mighty and come asking me for a buck or two to help these poor people? Sorry, Charlie. Take an extra buck or two out of the fund you set aside to buy seventeen Support Our Troops magnets to stick all over your car to show how patriotic you are.Well, as he says, he's sure no "compassionate conservative". Please remind me not to knock on his door to ask for a cup of sugar. (Please remind me not to answer when he comes knocking, either!)
You want disaster relief? Impeach George W. Bush.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
How To Ignore The Obvious
A question that returns to puzzle me, now and again -- why have the anti-war crowd, many of whom proudly describe themselves as liberals, descended to the levels of standing by dictators and terrorists?
It doesn't have to be that way. It's perfectly possible to disagree with the war in Iraq, for example, without defending or condoning terrorist attacks against Iraqi civilians and American troops. One can question whether the war was the best means to an end, without having to defend Saddam Hussein. Similarly, one can disagree with the policies of the State of Israel and her government, without supporting terrorist organizations and their actions.
But that's not the sort of anti-war argument we see much of. I have to wonder: where, amid all the shrill cries of "No Blood For Oil" and "Bush Lied" and "Free Iraq and Palestine", have all the thinking liberals gone? The ones who abhor tyranny in any form? The ones who learned, not just from Gandhi, but from Bonhoeffer?
Some of them still exist, certainly, and I'm very glad they do. But they're not the ones making their voices heard. The voices we do hear are the shrill cries of Cindy Sheehan and her fellow travellers. How on Earth did they find themselves condemning their own democratically-elected leaders, and praising despots like Saddam?
Wretchard of Belmont Club has a thoughtful discussion of this today; as you might expect, it is fascinating and disturbing. He cites Paul Berman, for example, as follows:
The anti-war Socialists of France did not think they were being cowardly or unprincipled in making those arguments. On the contrary, they ... regarded themselves as exceptionally brave and honest. [...] But the political arguments rested on something deeper, too -- a philosophical belief; profound, large, and attractive ... that, in the modern world, even the enemies of reason cannot be the enemies of reason. Even the unreasonable must be, in some fashion, reasonable.(emphasis added)
The belief underlying those anti-war arguments was, in short, an unyielding faith in universal rationality. ... And, stirred by that antique idea, the anti-war Socialists gazed across the Rhine and simply refused to believe ... in a political movement whose animating principles were paranoid conspiracy theories, blood-curdling hatreds, medieval superstitions, and the lure of murder. At Auschwitz the SS said, "Here there is no why."
What is it that causes someone to believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that there is no one who cannot be reasoned with? It's a sobering thought... one to which I have no answer.
The carnage wrought by Hurricane Katrina is horrible; my heart and my prayers are with the many thousands, in and out of New Orleans, who will be struggling to survive in weeks and months to come.
(There's a special place in my heart, naturally, for my relatives there -- Jonathan Vanac and his family, of Gulfport, Mississippi. Jonathan just got back from Iraq a few months ago; he seems to have a talent for being where the action is! But he's a tough guy; I'm confident that he, Natasha, and their kids will get through this just fine.)
By contrast, I have nothing but contempt for the carnage wrought by individual human beings, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Yes, one can understand looting, if not condone it or forgive it; but armed looting? Looters who shoot policemen in the head, and even fire upon MedEvac helicopters? As Peggy Noonan says, "it is not unbelievable, but it is unforgivable". Indeed. These are not common criminals, out to make a few bucks from someone else's flat-screen TV, although no doubt they'll claim to be when they defend themselves in court. They are contributors to lawlessness and lack of public confidence; that, not Katrina, is what has the power to truly tear New Orleans apart.
I can sympathize with those who say that looters shouldn't be shot, but I don't agree with them. Anyone who opens fire on paramedics deserves to have fire returned. To quote Ms. Noonan again: "I wonder if the cruel and stupid young people who are doing the looting know the power they have to damage their country. I wonder, if they knew, if they'd stop it."
I haven't made my financial contributions to the relief efforts yet, but I will. (Later: for the record, I sent donations to Feed The Children and to The American Red Cross.) Glenn Reynolds has a wonderful round-up of charities, and the people who endorse them. James Lileks makes an interesting point about those charities:
FEMA’s list of charities is here. Note anything about what sort of organizations are doing the hard work? I keep looking for the Objectivist Mutual Aid Society, but it never pops up.Michele of A Small Victory is collecting "good news" stories from the Gulf; she has more here and here. By all means, check 'em out; the news is never all bad, is it?
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