Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Liberal War Room - punching way above their pay grade

This is what the famous "liberal' political war room is now reduced to producing under Stéphane Dion's leadership:
OTTAWA — Nearly half of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's 2003 speech urging Canada to send troops into Iraq was copied word-for-word from then Australian prime minister John Howard, Liberal MP Bob Rae charged this morning.

Mr. Rae said the copied speech is damning evidence of the fact Canada is losing its own voice in foreign policy under a Conservative government. The country has become a parrot of right-wing interests from the U.S. and other foreign countries under Harper's Conservatives, Mr. Rae said.

I'm conflicted, I cannot figure out which is worse – that this is the best dirt the Liberal party could come up with or the fact it took the Liberals half a decade to come up with this. And isn't it a good thing the Liberals choose Bob Rae to present this particularly damning evidence - otherwise, we might all be thinking Dion suggested the government immediately pull Canadian troops out of Iraq as in "RIGHT NOW!"

I cannot wait to learn what the Liberal party war room has cooked up for tomorrow. May be we will be treated to the number of classes Stephen Harper missed in secondary school or how many detentions he managed to score in his early academic years. At this rate, who can tell? There might even be pictures of Stephen Harper kissing a woman who most definitely not his wife - circa 1980.


A speech writer has been forced to resign and is now out of a job. Way to go Bob! Only another 33,390,140 million more Canadians to render jobless.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Literally the head of the year

Normally, I don’t acknowledge any holidays on the blog unless I am actually taking leave from my employer. This is year is a little different. The coming year represents a time of great change for me and my family. I suppose it started with my daughter leaving home to go study at university and while this represents a huge change in my family's life, there are bigger one's coming as my sons and I are gearing up to make move which represents a complete break with our old way of living.

Today begins the start of one of the holiest days in the Jewish year – Rosh HaShanah. Unlike most holidays in the Jewish calendar it is not either a celebration or remembrance of a historical event but an ode to the ability of human being’s ability to grow and change. Today the U’netaneh Tokef prayer will be read -
On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed - how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine who by plague, who by strangulation and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.

It is common to express best wishes for the coming year and so I would like to say to all my readers.

L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem

May you be inscribed and sealed (in the book of life) for a good year.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The government purse is a finite resource.

Harper’s right. Almost all of what passes for ‘art’ in Canada today most ordinary Canadians do not give two hoots about nor are Canadians prepared to pull out their wallets and pay for it – otherwise the artistic community in this country would not have to rely on the governmental largess for its daily bread.

In any given time, in any given culture, if patrons cannot be found who are freely willing to pay for the fare which is offered by the artistic community, is says something substantial about the fare which is offered, but apparently, not in Canada.

The government purse is not a finite resource. The purse is only filled by sweat of the brow of the taxpayers via the coercive arm of Revenue Canada. Life is about choices and so is government. The government cannot go on funding indefinitely and without concern to the cost of each program which it currently funds.

There is a health care crisis in this country and thousands of Canadians are left without family physicians for their daily health care. It takes money, a great deal of money, spent over a rather long time to train a medical student to be a doctor. It takes money, and a great deal of money to buy an MRI, it takes money and time to train a technician to operate said machine, which correctly operated, does save lives. Not to mention the money which is needed to be invested to set up a university or college program and pay the staff to be prepared to accept to train said medical student or future MRI technician.

Trade skills training in this country is woefully inadequate and chronically under funded. So inadequate, in fact, that our business leaders tell us we need to import skilled tradesmen from other countries to meet the basic demands of industry at any given time.

Basic infrastructure in our cities is crumbling around us and provincial governments pay more attention to financing risky artistic ventures (think Bored of the Rings) than work with municipalities under their domain to keep the roads from sinking, the water drinkable and food for sale safe for human consumption. Instead our municipal mayors go cap in hand to the federal government demanding a bail-out while never trimming the fat from their own dubious budgets. I mean really, do we really need to give out 9% salary increases, free TTC passes, golf club passes, lunches, zoo passes, box tickets to games, play etc for municipal councillors or penalize the poor from scrounging in garbage cans?

And yet, the truly odd thing about the arts funding debate is those who have rallied to the cause of the ‘artistic community’ are the same people who demand we do not institute a 2-tier health care system and let those pay for health services who can afford to pay, and pret on endlessly about the shortfalls in education spending. Go fracking figure.

Given a choice between giving a government grant to film productions – like say, Young People Fucking or improving the health care or educational system; I am betting the overwhelming majority of Canadian would opt for health care and education funding every single time.

We are told by the artistic community that there is a net benefit to the entertainment industry in this country and it brings in a net financial return, but my question is; if so, why does it need government largess to continue to prop up the industry? It wouldn’t unless, it is wholly the product of a governmentally created, and therefore, artificial industry in the first place. And before anyone gets on their high aesthetic horse, I am against funding athletes, sports ventures or corporate bailouts. Imagine, Maple Leaf Gardens was built in the midst of the Great Depression and did not receive a penny of venture financing needed to build it from the government of the day.

Apparently, artists are tired of being treated as tenants and demand to be landlords in Canadian culture, but this is where I say - being a tenant would be a definite step up from sucking off the public teat. At the least, a tenant has to pay rent. There is a definitive reason why most Canadians do not watch the Canadian produced artistic fare in any significant numbers on the CBC, and once given a choice between the internet, cable or satellite television Canadians tune out from the CBC in significant numbers.

I am told Canadian artists are the creators and guardians of our culture, their work inspires and uplifts our souls but I would say - most of us are so deeply unimpressed which is why you need the government largess in the first place. The last thing Canada needs is more artists making bad art which no one wants to freely pay for. Frankly, this is one Canadian who is deeply tired of having her paycheque regularly extorted by the arts community in this country. If cutting $45 million from an overall budget of $3 billion gets the arts community into such a hissy fit - you should all be so lucky it is Stephen Harper, and not me, taking the sissors to the overall budget.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Useful dupes

We should all be cognizant of the fact that Hezbollah wants peace in the Middle East. No, really, Hezbollah does want peace. It is just that Hezbollah’s idea of peace is radically different than mine and Hezbollah’s true peace begins with “Death to Israel”. This Honda Hybrid commercial was created in the spring of 2008 (not aired in Canada) using real footage of Hezbollah’s leader Nasrallah in action and addressing his own rally for peace.

Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, finally addresses ‘rumours’ she spoke at a pro-Hezbollah rally on August 12, 2006 in Toronto. In fact, Elizabeth May claims she spoke at a peace rally via this press release.

OTTAWA - Contrary to rumours circulating on the internet, Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada did not appear at a Hezbollah event two years ago.

August 12, 2006, Ms. May did speak at a peace rally in Toronto along with Jewish and Arab Canadians to call for an end to the violence then raging in the Middle East.

In her remarks she strongly condemned Hezbollah for launching rocket attacks in to Israel as well as Israel for the bombing of Lebanon. The Green Party of Canada supports peaceful resolution acceptable to all parties in the Middle East.


I was at the same so-called peace rally Elizabeth May spoke on August 12, 2006. Of course, Elizabeth May probably wasn’t able to notice me as I was standing across the street from the pro-Hezbollah supporters and behind the Israeli flags. In fact, my son was holding the Israeli flag for some time. Now, I have not been to a great many ‘peace rallies’ in my day so excuse me if I misunderstand ‘peace rally’ etiquette, but I would have assumed that burning the Israeli flag was not an act of peaceful attentions or a plea for peaceful resolution to the conflict. My bad.

What I really want to ask Elizabeth May is; why absolutely no Jewish leaders from any mainstream Jewish organization from B’nai Brith Canada, to the Canada-Israel Committee, or even the Canadian Jewish Congress spoke at the so-called peace rally. Then it would be fun to ask her to list the names of the Canadian Arab organizations whose leaders represented at the so-called rally for peace.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The consequences of unrequited cousin love

A lovelorn and impoverished Palestinian from East Jerusalem makes the decision to rage against the Jews for the setback in his marriage aspirations. The Jerusalem Post:
The terrorist who rammed his BMW into a group of soldiers at a central Jerusalem thoroughfare late Monday night has been identified as Kasem Mugrabi, 19, from Jebl Mukaber in east Jerusalem. Mugrabi, a resident of the same village as the Mercaz Harav terrorist who killed eight in March, wounded fifteen people before being shot dead by an off-duty IDF officer. The assailant had no previous security record, police said Tuesday.

According to an initial police investigation, the 19-year-old wanted to marry his cousin, and when she refused his offer, he decided to carry out a terror attack, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. Last night, he left his east Jerusalem home with the car that his parents had bought him and which was to be his when he got his driver's license, and went on the rampage.

I said before that no one does abject poverty quite like the Palestinians and now we can also add lovelorn to the list of cultural accomplishments as well. What is needed is not peacekeepers but a battalion strength deployment of psychiatrists among the Palestinians.

Obligatory election post xx

I missed most of the political hoopla over Chris Reid, the Conservative candidate for Toronto-Centre (my home riding) over the weekend. Apparently, Reid was blogging allegedly intemperate and conservatively (party) embarrassing things like this:
"A man with a knife was able to go on a murderous rampage decapitating a fellow human being. The rest of the bus was unarmed and helpless. What was the generous Canadian thing to do? Help a fellow human being? No. Flee in terror. Passengers and the bus driver stood by and watched another person being butchered, and couldn't muster up any courage or self sacrifice to intervene. This is where socialism as gotten us folks, a castrated effeminate population. This is a perfect example of why we need concealed-carry handgun legislation in this country, so we can defend one another and deter horrible events such as this. But what are our politicians talking about? More government regulation and security."

Then, there was this:
"Allow law abiding citizens who are qualified and trained to carry concealed handguns for personal protection. It's the only proven way to reduce violent crime and murder. If women and gays really wanted to stop being victims of hate crimes, they'd be in support of this, but judging from discussions, they'd rather be helpless and rely on government."

The fundamental difference between Reid and myself is this. I will not condemn the bus passengers or driver for their first response/actions as I believe it is the logical consequences - given most Canadians have been so intellectually disarmed of any notion of self-defense or concept of self-sacrifice so they are no longer capable of acting without a commission or petty bureaucrat directing. When you consign your safety and security to the government - you effectively become a bystander in your own fate.

While I really did not credit Chris Reid’s chances any better than dismal against Bob Rae, current Liberal incumbent and former NDP turncoat, every day there just seems more and more reasons to keep my $1.75 in my own pocket.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What are you reading meme

James Bow's meme theme is; What are you reading? This becomes embarrassing as I have approximately 20 plus books on the go and some are so mind numbingly boring, I will in all probability, never finish.

So let us start with the non-fiction because this list is shorter and there are only three books which rate an honorable mention.

The first I just picked up Friday and am half-way through and find it a compelling storyline for our times, and it should be a particular interest to Canadians considering our adventures in Afghanistan. It tells the story of how an American mountaineer came to Pakistan to climb a mountain and failed; although, he did end up building schools for the children in the remote regions of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

The second mention is Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. Forget all the hype from both left and right wing on this book. This is not an indictment of modern liberalism but a period piece on how progressive liberals crossed the threshold to become Fascists. Goldberg has written a scholarly book which is a remarkably easy read due to Goldberg’s entertaining writing style. I am only half-way through this book and don’t expect to finish it until I return out west in mid-December. Another book I have barely started but expect to finish at the same time is The Russian Tradition by Tibor Szamuely.


I do not read everything my daughter or son read but I do make a point of trying to read anything which grips their imagination which is how I ended up reading Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Trilogy. The first book was not a terribly bad, the second book started to strain the boundaries of my patience, and the third book, Breaking Dawn is a complete bust. I have approximately 100 pages to go to the end and I would rather have a root canal than finish it. I remained amazed at my neuroscientist-in-training still eats up this kind of cheesy nonsense. I blame myself - too much Buffy the Vampire Slayer at too early an age.

Careless in Red. I am a sucker for a detective/mystery stories and have been reading Elizabeth George’s books for years, but this time, I cannot for the life of me get motivated to get beyond all the angst in the early chapters in order to get to the heart of the story. And for the record, I am never careless in red.

Anthony & Cleopatra by Colleen McCullough I enjoyed Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, well that is until the death of Julius Caesar, but this book has been a huge disappointment. This may be because I have never found anything particularly compelling about either Mark Anthony or Cleopatra. Thirty pages to go and I suspect I am just not going to make it.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. The Last Amazon picked up this book out west and couldn’t put it down until she finished it. I was going to give it a go this weekend but Three Cups of Tea has pre-empted its allotted time slot. I am told it is a well written tale with an unconventional storyline. Take this with a grain of salt - see Breaking Dawn above.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Don’t ask me or attempt to convert me.

In the course of running this blog I have had a number of readers write and ask me questions concerning Jewish beliefs over the years. I use to spend hours painstakingly researching their questions and trying to legitimately answer those questions, and then, point them in the right direction for clarification or study.

The problem was, at the heart, most of my correspondents did not really want answers or direction to the appropriate religious authorities. Instead, what they wanted to do was debate theology with me, in I suppose, the hopes of converting me to their religious point of view. But here’s the rub; the deeper I have delved into Jewish theology, philosophy, and ethics; the less influenced I am to Christian beliefs. Oddly enough, the Jews who are the least susceptible to Christianity, historically speaking, are those who are well-grounded in a Jewish education.

Most of the Jews I know shy away outright from discussing religious beliefs with Christians for much the same reasons – not to mention it is an incredible exercise in pure frustration. Having an ‘inter-faith’ dialogue is like attempting to have a conversation with someone who does not speak the same language. And to confound it even further, Christians believe they share a common language with Jews because they believe their bible is the same as the Jewish Torah and claim their messiah was Jewish. It always strikes me as strange that Christians will accept the divinity of the “Hebrew” bible but reject the Talmud even though both were given at the Sinai. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to understand or reconcile the seemingly inconsistencies of Torah without a working knowledge of Talmud.

For example, every time I point out the Christian concept of Original Sin has no place in Judaism, Christians start quoting me phrases like ‘the sins of the fathers shall be visited unto the children’. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation which has the advantage of being not only rational but psychological consistent, and it is explained in detail in the Talmud. All of which brings me to this article on from Ynet News on a Christian evangelical conference held in Berlin recently.
A formal decree drafted by the World Evangelical Alliance's (WEA) Theology Commission during a Berlin conference held in August, has world Jewish communities up in arms: The decree, which explores "Jesus’ individuality and Jewish evangelism," is meant, according to the WEA, to find ways in which Christians can profess their true love for the Jewish people, especially those residing in Europe.
The conference, which was attended by German Christians and Messianic Jews, ended with a statement calling for forfeiting the Christian-Jewish dialogue in favor of distributing the gospel among the Jewish people. This act, said the WEA, "should be made with a true concerns for the Jewish people's redemption."
Jesus' teachings, it continued, state that "genuine love cannot be passive. Jesus taught that authentic love could not be unfeeling when other human beings are in misery and need. Honest love must include an expression of Christ’s good news in word and deed.

"Therefore, Christians everywhere must not look away when Jewish people have the same deep need for forgiveness of sins and true shalom, as do all nations. Love in action compels all Christians to share the gospel with people everywhere, including the Jewish people of Europe."

As for the origins of the sin of anti-Semitism, the WEA stated that "we acknowledge within the sad record of European Christian history the teaching of contempt, intolerance toward Jewish people and Judaism, abhorrent acts of coercion, and anti-Semitism in attitude, word, and deed. "The historical events of the Holocaust developed within a climate of anti-Semitism. The German Evangelical Alliance out of concern for that history has expressed shame and responsibility for Christian silence and too few attempts to stop the horror.

"In light of rising European anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, vigilance is necessary now... Primo Levi, a Holocaust survivor warned that 'it has happened. Therefore, it can happen again.' The source of all genocide is sin. This sin affects all humanity, both the persecutor and the sufferer. God’s response to sin is the gospel. Therefore, this grace must be proclaimed to every human being."
Embracing Jesus Christ, they declare, will rid us all of sin: "We recognize that genocide illustrates the enormity of sin. God is not responsible for genocide; we humans are. God has provided the solution.

"It is often seen as unacceptable to challenge another’s religious views. However, we regard failure to share the gospel as refusing to confront the problem of sin. No one should ignore Jesus’ assessment of human sin. Everyone needs what God offers by his grace – forgiveness of sin and a transforming divine presence that lives in those who respond.

"Confessing Jesus as Messiah affirms Jesus’ uniqueness as a person, especially to Jews, because Messiah (or Christ) is a Jewish concept," continued the decree. "Jesus of Nazareth was more than a prophet or a religious teacher... He exercises the divine prerogatives of forgiving sin and receiving worship. This is why we confess Jesus as divine and human," said the statement.

"God calls believers to take the gospel to the world. Everyone needs to hear this message, including the Jewish people. Proclamation to Israel was Jesus’ priority. It also reflects the apostles’ practice of going to the Jew first. Nothing has occurred since Jesus came that changes the need of Israel and the nations."

The World Evangelical Alliance "invites the Jewish people and all others to consider the claims of Jesus. We share this gospel with Israel and all nations, not as an attack on the integrity of others. We uphold freedom of speech, freedom of religion and an open forum for all. While respecting the views of others, we still challenge them to consider the message of the Messiah."

The Christians, added the WEA, "have much to learn from the Jewish people. We recognize our need to hear Jewish concerns. We affirm the importance of dialogue in promoting mutual understanding and sympathy. Dialogue provides an opportunity to share deeply-held beliefs in a context of mutual respect. Dialogue and evangelism are not mutually exclusively.

"We reject the notion that evangelism is deceptive in claiming that Jews can believe in Jesus. We also reject the accusation that evangelism is the equivalent of spiritual genocide. We affirm the right of Jewish believers in Jesus to practice those traditions that affirm their identity, reflect God’s faithfulness to his people and uphold the Messiahship of Jesus.

"We recognize the important role of Messianic Jews in the work and witness of the Church. Their special contribution gives testimony to the Jewish origins of Christianity and brings understanding of our Jewish roots. They remind us of the Jewishness of Jesus and the first Christians, and also remind us of the fulfillment of God’s promises to restore His people," concluded the statement.

I disagree with every single premise and assertion of the above, and in my defense, I suggest you study both the works of the Rambam and Rashi. The ultimate irony is this conference and proclamation was issued from Berlin, Germany of all places, and to paraphrase one talkback commenter at Ynet News – Oy Vey Miriam.

Out of any given day of the week, at the corner of Yonge & Dundas in Toronto, there can be found diverse religious groups shouting out their beliefs in the hopes of snaring adherents. The Muslims and Hare Krishnas give out books, the Buddhists pamplets, the Christians – religious tracts, often focusing on the consequences of sin. The one group who is always missing is the Jews, and for that I am forever grateful. It is not because Judaism will not accept converts, and it does, but let us follow a genuine Jewish example and keep your ‘good news’ to yourselves unless asked specifically to share. Call it the least one can do in the face of two millenniums of religious prosecution of Jews by Christians.

The cable guy should go

No really, the cable guy has to go, if the Conservative Party in Ontario ever wants to form the provincial government. If a natural conservative like myself can be so alienated by the provincial party leadership that I refused to vote conservative in the last provincial election - your issues are bigger than branding. And no, for the record I didn’t vote Liberal either. Apparently, the provincial conservatives would rather ignore the mote in their own eye accept an MPP speaking truth to power. The Toronto Sun:
Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory still hasn’t persuaded a member of his caucus to give up a seat for him, but he did have one less caucus member after suspending a veteran member of the Ontario legislature who criticized his leadership.

Conservative maverick Bill Murdoch was suspended early today after what sources described as “a very tense” two-hour conference call between Tory and about 20 of the 25 other caucus members that lasted until 11 p.m. last night. The call was scheduled after the always-outspoken Murdoch said Tory should find a new job during an interview with radio station CFOS in Owen Sound.

That angered Tory and his supporters. But today Murdoch said he wasn’t about to back down and say Tory was a good party leader just to get back into caucus.“How could I do that? I guess a month from now and he pulls off a stunt and does something great, I guess I could say ’well that looks good … but nothing’s changed between two days ago and today,” Murdoch said in an interview. “I’ll stick by what I said before.”

Conservative caucus chair Frank Klees said the caucus executive decided unanimously Murdoch should be suspended, and put the issue to the 20 Conservatives on the conference call. “I’m not going to talk about what took place during that caucus phone call other than to say the majority conclusion was to support the decision of the leadership,” Klees said in an interview. “What probably surprises him is that it didn’t come sooner.”

But sources said that up to half of the Conservatives on the call spoke in defence of the 18-year veteran member from Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, and Murdoch estimated his support in the caucus at “50-50.”
As long as John Tory is leading the provincial conservatives, there is no way I am going to vote for another pseudo-liberal dressed up in blue and calling himself a tory when the only thing Tory about him is his name. So enjoy your stay in electoral perdition – I can’t say you haven’t earned it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Clean Fraud won the Kadima primaries

The Israeli Kadima party held their leadership primaries and Tzipi Livni, current former Minister of Foreign Affairs, has won the leadership by a margin of 1.1% over her rival, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz.

Now Livni gets to entice Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to actually keep his word and step down (this may take far more skill than negotiating a peace agreement with the Palestinians). She then has the dubious honour of trying to establish a coalition government within 42 days. What kind of leader will she be? My first gut instinct says one who can be good at photo ops and not much else. If anything, she really minds me of Shimon Peres and I expect to see many photo ops with the two of them in the coming days (with the requisite celebrities in tow).

Caroline Glick, has penned a column on her called – Mrs. Clean is a Fraud which gives you a little background on Livni, but I am adding this caveat. Almost every single shady dealing Glick accuses Livni of doing; is done routinely by almost every Israeli politician of all political stripes. No new news here.

Livni needs desperately to create a ruling coalition in order to keep Kadima in power. There is a better than average chance, if elections were held immediately, Kadima would be swept into the fringe party zone. It has been suggested she may go outside the current Kadima coalition frame work and solicit the aid of the very far left political parties like Meretz or the Arab anti-Zionist parties to keep her grip on power, and if that happens - expect a major disconnect between the government and the people. Such a move could prove to possess utterly disastrous consequences for any agreement with the Palestinians Livni might reach.

For Livni to reach her ambitious; she has to come to an understanding with the religious and ‘so-called’ Israeli rightwing parties. In any other western nation, the rightwing would be a more conservative party but this is Israel where the political parties line up left, lefter, leftist, and hard left.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

when in Lebanon, everyone picks sides

Those reconciliation talks maybe moving forward in Lebanon at a political level but the strife on the streets continues. Reuters:
TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - Two people were killed and three were wounded in a clash between supporters of rival Christian factions in north Lebanon overnight, security sources said on Wednesday.

The violence, the latest in a series of deadly clashes in several areas of Lebanon in recent days, came hours after rival Lebanese leaders held a first session of talks aimed at discussing divisive issues and easing sectarian and political tensions.

The sources had little detail on how the firefight began in a village in the northern Kora province, but they said it pitted supporters of the pro-Syrian Marada party against followers of the anti-Syrian Lebanese Forces group. One supporter of each group died in the exchanges, the sources said. Three people were wounded.
Marada is allied to the powerful Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah while the Lebanese Forces is part of a Western-backed alliance led by Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri.

The Lebanese security forces deployed in the area and conducted contacts with officials from both sides to contain the situation, the sources said.

Overall I like this Beirut’s Daily Star editorial as it sums up the situation succinctly:
Reasonable people are entitled to reasonable expectations about the national dialogue that officially began - and promptly adjourned for seven weeks - at Lebanon's Presidential Palace on Tuesday. In order for such judgments to be formed, however, it is crucial that all the players involved - both Lebanese and not - recognize what have been some very worrying signs of late. And in order for them to increase the odds of success in the negotiations, it is also important that steps be taken to prevent the country's parlous security situation from undermining the dialogue.

The need for wariness comes not from a single incident but from several. A key figure in the reconciliation process was assassinated in Aley last week, a series of blasts shook the Beirut neighborhood of Corniche al-Mazraa in the early hours of Monday morning, and Tuesday saw the Lebanese Army drawn into pitched battles with residents of a mixed Sunni-Shia village in the Bekaa Valley. Coincidence? Perhaps, but there is also a very strong possibility that some or even all of the parties that have joined the dialogue (and/or their foreign sponsors) are simultaneously working to undermine it.

For those who are sincere in the desire to help the Lebanese sort out their internal problems, these and other security breaches that have plagued Lebanon despite May's Doha Accord should be viewed as warning signals. This country has been used repeatedly as a battleground by regional actors, and its political parties are sickeningly receptive to the demands of foreign powers. No one should be surprised if old habits are proving difficult to break.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the external regional players would just go home and let the Lebanese tailor make a solution which would have the distinct pleasure of being made entirely in Lebanon and fitted to the exact needs of the Lebanese people.

Kadima asks members to pick next Lehman Brothers leader

Slept in and spent a great deal of time this morning playing Momma from a distance so there is very little bloggyness this morning. The thing to watch in the Mid-East is the Kadima primaries being held in Israel. Whoever wins becomes the defacto prime minister and could potentially not have to face the voters for another 2 years. Not exactly what I would call a stellar vision of democracy in action.

Best line in the whole Kadima leadership race came from Likud leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, when asked if he would join the government coalition once Kadima chooses a new leader. (Jerusalem Post)
"I will not join a Kadima-led government that failed at everything. Asking me to join a Kadima-led government is like asking me to join Lehman Brothers."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

the Lebanese version of special delivery mail

The BBC reports six bombs went off in Beirut yesterday on the eve of national reconcilation talks.
Six makeshift bombs exploded in the Corniche al-Mazraa area of central Beirut overnight on Sunday, Lebanese security officials say.

They caused damage to cars and shops but no casualties.

The blasts were in an area where sectarian clashes took place in May, shortly before the agreement to form a national unity government.
Oh, did I mention the discussion of Hezbollah's arms are tabled for discussion at the national reconcilation talks?

Secretarian Harmony Hamas Style

In an ongoing effort to create and promote secretarian harmony, Hamas has it out with the Doghmush clan of the Gaza Strip reports the Jerusalem Post:
Hamas forces assaulted the compound of a heavily armed Gaza clan early Tuesday, sparking a fierce street battle that killed 11 people in fighting throughout the night, Hamas officials said. Two bystanders, including a young boy, were among the dead.

Machine-gun fire and explosions were heard around the Gaza City neighborhood home to the Doghmush clan, a notorious family with links to both terror and criminal groups. Members of the clan were responsible for kidnapping a British Broadcasting Corp. journalist last year.

Since violently taking over Gaza last year, Hamas has moved to establish order in Gaza's once-chaotic streets and eliminate groups who could threaten its rule. Eleven people died in early August in a clash between Hamas forces and another clan aligned with its Fatah rivals.

Hamas launched the assault shortly after midnight, hours after a member of the Doghmush clan killed a policeman while resisting police. The fighting erupted after the clan refused to turn the man over, said Interior Ministry spokesman Ihab Ghussen, and continued for about nine hours.

Eight members of the family and one policeman were killed in the fighting, along with the two bystanders, he said. The age of the boy was not immediately known. Forty people were wounded, he added.

No immediate confirmation was available from the Doghmush clan. Earlier, the family posted an announcement on a Gaza Web site saying several of its members were hurt.

"Explosions and shooting are coming from all directions. The sky is raining bullets, and my children are terrified and they are screaming," one local resident said as the fighting raged. A 55-year-old father of five, he gave his name only as Ziad because he did not want to draw the attention of the clan or of the authorities.

The battle raged outside the house of a senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, who lives in the same neighborhood.
Once again, I find myself conflicted and cannot choose sides to root for.

A falling out between allies?

The deputy chief for exiled Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, has been executed in Syria reports the Jerusalem Post:
Hisham al-Labadani, bureau chief for Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, was reportedly assassinated late last week in the western Syrian city of Homs. News of the assassination was reported by the Freedom Party of Syria, an American-based Syrian opposition group. According to the report, Labadani was dragged from his car in the middle of the day and shot dead.

The report said that news of the assassination was purposely kept quiet to prevent an escalation in tensions between two competing camps within the Syrian leadership - the camp that wants rapprochement with the West and the camp that supports a strengthening in Iranian-Syrian relations.

Hmmm, neither Israel, Zionists or Mossad is mentioned directly but there is this tidbit true to type at the end:
The assassination of Mashaal's bureau chief came just days after Syria reportedly warned Palestinian leaders based in Damascus of Israeli plans to assassinate them.

While I realize there is a distinct belief in Middle East political circles which sees a Mossad agent behind every tree and rock, I cannot imagine the Mossad agent who would openly drag anyone from their car and execute them in broad daylight in Syria. Car bomb, kidnapping on a quiet dark street, or a honey trap – yes. Public execution all up front and personal within Syria – no. There is only one group with the audacity to drag a Hamas leader from his car in broad daylight and publicly execute him – it is called the Syrian Secret Service. What is far more interesting, to all non-family members; is what message his death is meant to convey.

Ode to Lebanon

When you take Israel out of the equation the most fascinating place in the Middle East has to be Lebanon. The history, the people, the culture, and their ongoing struggle to reach a consensus among the confessionals make it truly unique place and probably the most seductive people in the Middle East.

There is a real sense of joie de vivre which Lebanese people seem too imbue from birth regardless of their diverse religious and ethnic origins. Sure, sure, there are the grim ones like Nasrallah who couldn’t crack a joke to save his life but my experience - he is an anomaly among Lebanese. I remember being told a story from the civil war period, when Lebanese would greet each other on the streets of East Beirut with a “G-d bless, do you have enough bullets? Well, then let us get a drink, we will eat, and laugh a little and then we will fight” and thought it was an exaggeration until I saw that principle in action for myself. There is a kind of social graciousness which exists among the Lebanese, when they are not busy killing each other, which is not found anywhere else in the region.

I will admit I was greatly disappointed by outbreak of the second Israeli-Lebanese war, mostly for entirely selfish reasons - I wanted to see and experience Lebanon which was not all rack and ruin. While the 2006 hostilities are over per say, and the rebuilding process is once again underway, I take it no more than a pause between acts of war. War is coming and I don’t know when, but I do know - it is not over by a long shot. However, I do sincerely wish it were otherwise.

There is a reason why for my little Ode to Lebanon. I have acquired a regular reader from Beirut. This person never comments but does come regularly and I want to extend a personal invitation to contact me via email (thelastamazon- at – gmail – dot – com). I am extremely curious and want to know who you are and what you have found reading here at the Last Amazon which brings you back. If you are uncomfortable using your real identity adopt a nom de plume – I understand the precariousness of the times but outside of that; I would like to know who you are, how you think, how you found my blog and why you come to read - even if it only an exercise in rage or comedy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The courage of a David

Saturday night the Israeli papers were filled with accounts of settler’s rioting at a Palestinian village within the disputed territories.

By Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, issued this statement (Ynet News);
"The phenomenon of taking the law into one's hands and violent and brutal rioting is intolerable, and will receive an immediate response by the law enforcement authorities," Olmert said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "There will be no pogroms against non-Jewish residents in the State of Israel," he added.

"A terror attack took place over the weekend in northern Samaria against a Yitzhar resident. A terrorist entered the community, a young boy was injured and there was an attempt to carry out a more severe attack. This is a serious and grave matter.
"The security forces are handling this issue and will reach anyone involved in this attack. They will do all that is needed and everything they do on a regular basis in a dignified manner," the prime minister said.

While I am sure the Palestinian population has breathed a sigh of relief that there is no ‘official policy of pogroms against non-Jewish residents in the State of Israel’ I am still not clear if the open season on Jews has been ended – just think Amona.

And while I appreciate the reassurance that the security forces are handling the issue, I would like to suggest the ‘settlers’ might not be inclined to ‘riot’ if a security force officer in charge of guarding the settlement did more than shout at the Palestinian terrorist responsible for the attack.

Maybe it is me, but shouting just doesn’t seem like an ‘adequate’ response nor do I believe it would it inspire confidence in the state’s ability to protect anyone. In fact, I would argue that the limp wristed directives issued from the political echelon to the security forces in recent years is directly responsible for the frustration many Israeli civilians feel when faced with Palestinan terror. If the state will not actively protect you, rightly or wrongly; why should the laws of the state compel or limit your actions?

What is lost in the rush to demonize the rioting settlers by Israeli media and politicians is the actual terror act which was the event which triggered the rioting, and if a mere 9 year old boy had not confronted and wrestled with a Palestinian terrorist, the events proceeding the rioting could have been substantially more horrific. As it stands, I stand in awe of the courage of a 9 year old Israeli boy who was stabbed five times and then thrown 12 feet off a balcony.

Arutz Sheva carries the story:
The story began at 6:30 a.m. when an Arab terrorist reached the outskirts of Yitzhar, located 22 miles east of Herzliya, and set fire to the Ben Shlomo residence. The family was out of town celebrating the grandmother's birthday, at the time of the arson.

Next door neighbor Revital Ofan woke up to the crackling of the flames, and to the sound of the Arab terrorist trying to prow his way through the plastic blinds on her bedroom window. She shut the blinds from inside the house, and secured the front door. In the meantime, the nine-year-old neighbor Tovia came running to her house to wake her family and warn them of the approaching fire. But, before Tovia could reach the Ofan's door, he met the terrorist.

In the above video, Mrs. Ofan tells of the brave fight that he put up, before being stabbed 5 times by the Arab.
Watch the interview here.

In other news, kassams were again launched via the Gaza Strip into Israel. The official Israeli response is to close the border crossing into Israel for 24 hours...as if that would discourage an incoming kassam.

The ipod meme

James Bow invited me to post what “Rock Essentials” I play on my iPod. It is one of those touchy-feelie exercises designed to show the softer side and humanize political bloggers from both sides of the spectrum. Don’t mistake my snarky tone, as I think I was hardwired as a contrarian and skeptic at birth, but bless James for trying - for it is written by Rabbi Hillel,
" Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace; be one who loves others and draws them near to the Torah (Talmud - Avot 1:12 )

Of course, I am not sure James is actively trying to be a disciple of Aaron or drawing anyone nearer to living a Torah life but I will give him part marks for trying to live out the peace thingy.

Right from the get-go I run into trouble with the musical bridge building exercise. I do not always have a great deal of ‘rock essentials’ and what plays on my iPod is entirely dependently on what my current mood is. My musical tastes runs from flamaneco guitar to opera, to the songs from my childhood by Edith Piaf or the sounds of Zigani violinists telling tales of loss and longing, to R& B to Friday Night Blues & Beer. In fact, Friday Night Blues & Beer is a weekly staple and I do subscribe to Darcey’s list via iTunes. Although, there are two songs which might be classified as ‘rock essentials’ and Zionist which I am, these two songs have always made the cut on my weekly iPod play list since their release. Both are by Matisyahu:

Jerusalem – Matisyahu

Lyrical highlight:
We've been traveling from state to state
And them don't understand what they say
3,000 years with no place to be
And they want me to give up my milk and honey
Don't you see, it's not about the land or the sea
Not the country but the dwelling of his majesty

And if I find a video for Matisyahu’s What I am fighting for I will post it.

praying for a hidden agenda

The Toronto Star editorial opines, in light of a potential Conservative majority, what Stephen Harper should spend the next four weeks doing so Canadians could learn how he would govern with said majority. The editorial also drops some and some not so subtle hints re: hidden agenda.
While one can quarrel with these moves (and the opposition parties have), they don't suggest that Harper is planning a Mike Harris-style revolution after the election. Nonetheless, Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams – a Progressive Conservative – was ringing alarm bells this week about a Harper majority.

"Even without a majority," Williams said, "he (Harper) has cut funding for minorities, cut funding for literacy, cut funding to students, volunteers, museums, and arts and culture groups right across the country. His government cut funding to women's groups and, in fact, his government actually went so far as to remove the federal mandate to advance equality for women. This all happened under a minority government. What in heaven's name will happen if he gets his majority government?"

Good question.

While Harper is presenting himself as a kinder, gentler Conservative these days, in the past, as a Reform MP, head of the National Citizens' Coalition and leader of the Canadian Alliance (successor party to Reform), he staked out quite radical positions. He has called Canada "a northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term," has denounced the "moral nihilism" of the Liberals and the left for opposing the Iraq war, has suggested building a "firewall" around Alberta, and has called for "market reforms" for health care, "further deregulation and privatization," and "elimination of corporate subsidies."

Dudes - don’t tease me like that. False hope is worse than no hope at all. After almost two years of watching Harper’s CPC slide so far to the centre left, the only conservative I recognize in the CPC is the name. The only recourse I have left is praying for a Goldwater moment. If I could be convinced there really was a hidden agenda - I might even be tempted to vote for the PC candidate in my riding.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

earning biscuits from my masters

Apparently, I have earned a biscuit for ‘serving my masters well’ in this post on the Broom.

Egad, when does the Protocol of the Elders of Zion motif ever get old? And quoting Haroon Siddiqui on anti-Semitism/anti-Israel sentiment does not make one’s case. Although, I have to wonder how long before the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem will be the next authority to be channeled and then sited.

In other news, the Jerusalem Post carries this story from France:
Three counselors from the Bnei Akiva youth movement were attacked not far from the organization's central branch in Paris on Saturday afternoon.

The boys, aged between 17 and 18, had just finished the minha prayer when they were attacked by a group of Muslims, the head of Bnei Akiva's French desk, Binyamin Tuati, told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.

According to a statement released by World Bnei Akiva spokesman Tzvika Klein, the youths were initially approached by a group of three Muslim/African immigrants who began to throw chestnuts in their direction. When one of the counselors asked them why they were being attacked, the assailants began shouting anti-Semitic remarks. Ten to 12 attackers wearing brass knuckles joined the original three and beat the three Jews until police arrived.
Discussion/comments are only open at Dust my Broom.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Political messages Lebanese style

Ynet News carries a report of another politico assassinated in Lebanon:
A bomb tore through a car in the hills east of Lebanon's capital on Wednesday, killing a Druze politician from a pro-Syrian party, police said. The bomb that killed Sheik Saleh Aridi, a senior member of the Lebanese Democratic Party, was planted under his car in the village of Baissour, police said.

It was the first political assassination in about a year in Lebanon and came less than a week before planned reconciliation talks among rival Lebanese factions. The official National News Agency said the bomb went off just as Aridi was getting into his car near his house in the Druze-populated hills near the resort town of Aley. The report said five men and a woman were injured. Police had no further details, as investigators arrived and troops sealed off the area. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of government regulations.

The bomb's target was unusual - a politician in support of Syria, a nation that had long dominated its politically fractured neighbor. A string of bombs have largely targeted politicians opposed to Syria's influence in Lebanese affairs, starting with the Beirut truck bombing that killed former Premier Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Those attacks were blamed by many on Syria, though it has denied involvement Lebanon's political standoff between pro- and anti-Syrian factions boiled over into fighting in Beirut and the Druze hills east of the capital in May.

The innate problem of politics in Lebanon is that it is a dog’s breakfast for conspiracy fetishes. The 9/11 Troofers have nothing on politics as usual in Lebanon. Most normal countries have a postal and/or telecommunications network which politician can utilize to send messages. Lebanon has all that but the political class in Lebanon prefers the old fashion car bomb route to send political messages.

So the question becomes a guessing game of who sent the bomb and what is the message.

As western outsider, you can be forgiven for making a blanket assumption that anti-Syrian forces within the country were targeting a Pro-Syrian Druze politician in the first blush of judgment. But you should take into account Sheik Saleh Aridi’s political boss, Talal Arslan, has recently entered into a kind of détente agreement with rival political Druze Leader Walid Jumblatt – who just happens to be the uber- person non grata to both the Syrians and Hezbollah.

In fact, Hezbollah’s attack on Lebanon’s Druze community lead directly to the kiss and make-up of the Druze fractions this past May. This could be a message to Arslan from the Syrians, Hezbollah or from rival fractions within Arslan’s own party to move away from Jumblatt – as in pronto - now.

Or it could be a political culling between conflicting Druze fractions. Or it might be a Syrian message to pro-Syrian Amal leader Berri not to get too chummy with Jumblatt or suffer a similar fate as Aridi. It is rumoured that Jumblatt and Berri were trying to forge a third way coalition out of the political impasse which is Lebanon. Or Aridi just might have made the wrong deal with the wrong people. Go figure – ‘cause my head is spinning.

Politics as a Blood vs. Bored Sport

So the big huff and cry is over and Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, will be allowed to crowd the platform in the televised Canadian election leadership debates but the real question becomes - who will bother watching when the choice is between four lefties and a token Tory versus watching the US Biden-Palin VP debate?

Colour me whatever, but I prefer my politics as a blood vs. bored sport. And since we are now so all-inclusive – throw in the Marijuana Party and I might tape it for later viewing, if and when, I have nothing better to do.

Okay, I'm a fan

I admit I am a big fan of Naomi Ragen’s. I even have all the hard cover versions of her books and I cried while reading The Covenant. Anyway, lookout world - Naomi Ragen has an election blog.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pooh-Gate or How Dion Got the Puffin Sh**t

I have two pieces of advice. The first for Stephane Dion – Dude, it's seriously time to man up and grow a set of balls. No one wants a whiny wimp for a prime minister. No matter what you personally think of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien's character - no one could accuse the little scrapper from Shawinigan as lacking a set and he knew how to take a punch and return it. Think golf balls and small town cheap. Brush it off and move on. Show you can take punch without the whine.

For the Liberals in general - can the faux outrage. The only thing all the howling has got you is a larger audience watching the birdie pooh all over Dion. The ad has now gone viral with double duty media coverage. This is so not the mental image you want in people's heads when they think Dion –need I remind you – a picture is worth a thousand words.

Besides, your chateau-boy started it by getting out of the gate and calling the current Prime Minister a liar. There was absolutely nothing 'parliamentarian' in Dion's choice of words or attack. Faking outrage just looks like a case of terminal sour grapes. The best thing Dion could do is turn the joke around by giving a speech or two with a stuffed bird on his shoulder and showing he is the better man…on second thought maybe skip the bird perched on the shoulder speech… the visuals just don’t ever work for your guy.

How much is Karl Rove paying this man?

'Cause whatever it is, it is not enough, he deserves a raise.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Obligatory Election Post – Sept 9th.

I am just not feeling the outrage that Green party leader Elizabeth May has been excluded from the televised leadership debates.

If anything, I feel relief, as those debates are going to be mind numbingly boring as it is, and including the leader of a fringe party for the sake of ‘fairness’ just ups the boring factor exponentially. Yes, any political party which can only garner 664,000 votes in a country of 36 million is fringe. For all you fairness fanatics, why stop at May’s inclusion? Why not include the leader of the Marijuana Party? If May is included, there simply is no reason to exclude the Communists, Marxist-Leninist or Libertarian party either.

But for heaven’s sake, can someone convince Tin Ear Dion to speak French in the English language debates. He may have a tin ear for English but his ability to communicate in French is more than a little passable and not half as tortuous.

The silent human rights abusers

The only reason I am posting this article is the lack of reporting on the horrendous human rights track record the Palestinian Authority has, and because there is little publicity or airing of that record in the international forum, I think this rates at least a mention. Ynet News.
A Palestinian prisoner says he jumped from a second floor window to escape torture at the hands of his Palestinian jailers. Prison officials say he fell. The prisoner is 34-year-old Mohammed Abdel Karim. He's being treated in an east Jerusalem hospital for back injuries from his plunge.

I suspect most Palestinians, if given a choice between a stint in an Israeli jail or a Palestinian one - would choose the Jews. This maybe why NGO’s who are so concerned with human rights abuses have so little time for the abuses committed by the Palestinian Authority on a literally captive Palestinian population.

Sometimes (Not) a Great Notion

Here is another dumb suggestion or ‘hint’. Ynet News:
"The era of hunting down old Nazis is over, but that's not to say that such operations are completely a thing of the past, and it could very well be that a leader such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suddenly finds himself before the International Criminal Court in The Hague," former Mossad operative Rafi Eitan told German weekly Der Spiegel.

In the interview, published Monday, the current Israeli Minister of Pensioner Affairs said "Those who spread poison and want to eradicate another people has to expect such consequences."

Ah, right. Well, once you capture Ahmadinejad, there are like, only another 30 million more Mullahs to go who need to be captured to make a significant change in Iranian political ethos – not to mention I defy you to find enough EU Bureaucrats who would convict them.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Asymmetric Warfare Meets Facebook

And just when you thought you have finally modified your Facebook identity enough to keep it safe from the potentially prying eyes of your employer, Arutz Sheva posts this story:
(IsraelNN.com) According to the intelligence community in Israel, Hizbullah terrorists are becoming increasingly computer savvy, using Facebook to learn more about IDF soldiers, potential targets for kidnappings.

Yeshiva World News reported that IDF intelligence officials are concerned that soldiers may unwittingly give the enemy information through social networking sites or even arrange to meet an internet companion who is in fact a terrorist. The IDF has undertaken an aggressive awareness campaign for soldiers, instructing them to be careful regarding what information they may reveal, cautioning and instructing them not to reveal the name of the branch of the service in which they serve, unit details et cetera. This is especially true of soldiers serving in the air force, intelligence, and elite combat units.

One military intelligence official explained that Facebook has become a major resource for terrorists seeking to gather information on soldiers and IDF units.
Other concerns including meetings arranged via Facebook in which soldiers remain unaware of the true identity of terrorists, befriending them and then revealing classified information that will be used to harm soldiers in the future. A soldier who serves in an intelligence unit was recently sentenced to 19 days in a military jail for posting a photo of his base on Facebook.

Hezbollah may long for the return of a low tech kind of living but obviously there is a whole level of technological nuisance to the nefarious buggers.

It’s a bounce

USA Today/Gallup is reporting this morning that Republican presidential nominee John McCain has ascended over Democratic Moshiach Barak Obama.
WASHINGTON — The Republican National Convention has given John McCain and his party a significant boost, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken over the weekend shows, as running mate Sarah Palin helps close an "enthusiasm gap" that has dogged the GOP all year.

McCain leads Democrat Barack Obama by 50%-46% among registered voters, the Republican's biggest advantage since January and a turnaround from the USA TODAY poll taken just before the convention opened in St. Paul. Then, he lagged by 7 percentage points.

It occurs to me the reason Canadian election news blows so badly. We have no anointed…

Obligatory Canada Election Post

Canadians are to go to the polls on October 14th, and frankly, my biggest worry is staying awake long enough to vote. I freely admit to a general apathy with the whole process this time round so I really don’t know any of the issues – burning or otherwise. If there really are any pressing issues outside of the Conservatives grabbing the brass ring it escapes me. I suspect the timing of the election represents the best chance for Harper’s conservatives to make some serious in-roads into La Belle Province. Once again, Quebec’s distinctness, trumps all else – well, la de dah. And no, getting the Green Shaft does not rank in my book with an issue – rather it’s a non-issue as in thanks but no thanks.

Since I live in Toronto-Centre aka Bob Rae country, I doubt there will be any serious challenge so my vote will simply represent another $1.75 to add to the lucky party’s coffers. I really wish we could take a page out of the old days when Canadian politicians used to buy your vote with drinks come Election Day. Some how it just seems so much more honest and democratic than today and at least you could count on getting your money’s worth providing you were up to the challenge.

Sweet Home, Jerusalem

There is an attitude prevalent today to think of Chassidic Jews as positively medieval in outlook. The critics are wrong and I have the proof.

They are distinctly 70’s retro. Kol hakavod Rebbe Rambo & Co!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sarah Palin, I know her well, for she is a sister of mine.

Not by blood but by sex, gender, geography and generation. I am two years older than Sarah Palin, but I understand well how the times and culture played a role in shaping her. I know and understand small town life in harsh landscapes. I might have been Sarah Palin if I had a husband who lived beyond a ten year mark or I had not chosen to leave small towns behind in pursuit of an elusive dream. And yes, I have eaten mooseburgers and walked behind my grandfather on his trapline.

I know Gloria Steinem, she too is a sister of mine. An older sister, and one who dedicated her life to fight on the behalf of younger sisters like me, Sarah Palin and The Last Amazon. In fact, without Gloria Steinem leading the charge and manning the barricades of women’s rights; where would my beloved daughter be now? I shudder to think of her potential left to wither and grow cold, but today, because of the Gloria Steinems, and the Germaine Greers and countless other women, my newly turned 17 year old daughter begins her first day of official day of classes in a honours bachelors program in neuroscience.

Unlike myself, my daughter did not have anyone telling her that her sex and gender defined the whole scope of her life’s choices. She played Risk and Battleship and no one excluded her from the game for being female. She played hockey and no one told her – no girls allowed. She joined the Royal Canadian Cadet Corps of the 48th Highlanders and has been publicly rewarded and recognized for her shooting skills, and she a city girl for all of that. She was also free to spend her paycheque at Sephora - or not. The feminist movement I grew up under preached choices for women and equality of opportunity not to be defined or based on one’s sex/gender, and for a time, I believed every word my older sisters spoke.

Yesterday, I read a column penned by my estranged sister Gloria:
This isn't the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton.

And it reminded me why I no longer call or self-identify myself as a feminist. You see, I believed in my youth and naivety that feminism was all about women asserting their rights as individuals without the traditional cultural constricts of sex and/or gender. In short, women have the same individual right to the pursuit of happiness of any man. One’s right to choose does not trump or supersede another’s sex and gender.

Implicit in that belief of emancipation for women was the right to choose to be a working wife and mother, or a stay in the home wife and mother, or even the right to chose to be neither a wife nor mother. I mistakenly believed being Pro-Choice should have been also included the right for a woman to freely chose to be Pro-Life as well. Woe is me, I learned by living that feminism as practiced by the old guard gate-keepers had very little room for free choice - if one is female and chooses orthodoxy or tradition. Mine and Sarah’s bad.

Don’t misunderstand me, I do not take offense at Sister Gloria for speaking out against Sarah Palin’s political beliefs for that is an individual choice and decision. What offends me is Sister Gloria’s assertion Sarah Palin opposes everything most other women want and need. Really? How so? In fact, I would assert Sarah Palin might possibly live a life which more closely mirrors most of how the sisterhood chooses either to live or aspires to live than the life Sister Gloria has chosen for herself - if the experience of my own eyes is anything to go by. What disgusts me, is Sister Gloria asserting Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. So are we now to be counted male, female and lesser female being?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Down and out in the Gaza Strip

Let’s just file this under “I hope she brought her Burqa”.

The Jerusalem Post:
The sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday that Israel and Egypt have prevented her from leaving the Gaza Strip, more than a week after she entered the territory in defiance of the blockade.

Lauren Booth said she has been trying to leave Gaza since Friday, but was turned away at Israeli and Egyptian border crossings. Booth was among 46 pro-Palestinian international activists with the Free Gaza Movement who sailed into Gaza waters on August 23 to draw attention to Israel's blockade, which has prevented the area's 1.4 million Palestinians from traveling abroad and crippled the local economy.

Most of the protesters left Gaza on the same boats last Thursday and sailed to Cyprus, but Booth and several other activists chose to remain behind to do human rights work. Booth said she has turned to British diplomats in the region to get her out of Gaza. "High- level diplomatic maneuvering is going on when none should be needed," she said.

Booth is right. High-level diplomatic maneuvering would not have to be going on if she would only settle for protesting in front of the Israeli Consulate offices in London, and then, she would still be able to make it home for tea time. Now one has to wonder how long before someone in the Gaza Strip decides she has innate kidnapping potential and decides to ransom her back to the British.

The colour of her lipstick.

Most of the political pundits (both American and Canadian) I have read since John McCain’ announced his pick for VP haven’t come close to getting Sarah Palin but Janet Daley of the British Telegraph gets close:
Do I respect the decision of another mother and daughter to make that choice based on their own values? Yes, I do. And that - as far as I am concerned - is what it means to be a "liberal". Which brings us to the subject of those hokey old redneck values that the Guardian and the blogosphere find so amusing (or pernicious, depending on their degree of dedication).

I personally am, and always have been, fervently pro-choice on abortion. I do not consider this to be the only sanctified Woman's point of view because I am aware that huge numbers of women disagree with me.

Whenever I touch on the subject, they write in and tell me so, often in eloquent and passionate terms. But according to the official feminist sisterhood (which was taken over by the totalitarian Marxist tendency long ago) you can represent the views of Women only if you accept the tenets of their ideology. Ergo, Mrs Palin is not a Woman Candidate.

She is a renegade, the gender equivalent of an Uncle Tom. In the US, her position is particularly incendiary because it is part of the culture war between metropolitan liberals and provincial America: that vast fly-over country where people (or "folks", as they call themselves) still live by the standards the Palin family embodies. Life is about hard work and hard play.

They hunt with guns from childhood. They talk about sin (and redemption) in ways that embarrass the urban elite, and they regard patriotism as a fundamental part of their moral code. (It is the liberals' ambivalence about patriotism that they detest most.)

Like Margaret Thatcher before her, Mrs Palin is coming in for both barrels of Left-wing contempt: misogyny and snobbery. Where Lady Thatcher was dismissed as a "grocer's daughter" by people who called themselves egalitarian, Mrs Palin is regarded as a small-town nobody by those who claim to represent "ordinary people".

What the metropolitan sophisticates failed to understand in the 1980s when Thatcher won election after election is even more the case in the US: most (and I do mean most) ordinary people actually believe in the basic decencies, the "small-town values", of family, marital fidelity, and personal responsibility. They believe in and honour them - even if they do not manage to uphold them.

Middle America - of which Alaska is spiritually, if not geographically, a part - builds its life around those ideals and regards commonplace moral lapses as part of the eternal struggle to be good. The life of small-town USA is based on the principles of those Protestant colonial settlers who founded the nation: hard work, self-improvement, personal faith and family devotion. Mrs Palin speaks to and for them in a way that patronising "liberal" elitists find infuriating.
Best line of Palin's speech last night has got to be, "The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery."

I have read Palin's bio, I have watched the bloodbath of coverage in the Liberal media, I have listened to her speeches, and all I want to know now is; what is name and colour of Palin’s lipstick?

Alternative realities in la la land

Only politicians living in a true la la land would attempt to discuss the compensation arrangements to be offered to Israelis living in the disputed territories who would willing to relocate their lives and businesses back across the armistice ‘green’ line while the Gaza Refugees still await full compensation – three years after the expulsion. Ynet News:
The government will discuss an initiative put forward Vice Premier Haim Ramon on Sunday, proposing the voluntary evacuation and compensation of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank. The matter will be debated but not brought to a vote.

Geeze, I wonder why the debate cannot be brought to a vote? Here is a newsflash – the Gaza disengagement disaster concerned less than 10,000 Jews while expulsion from the disputed territories potentially touches the lives of more than 250,000 Jews. Here is a news flash – it ain’t gonna play.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Preaching to the choir

Fred Thompson's speech at the Republican National Convention.

Sigh...if only he had showed that much vigor during the campaign.

Can we all agree Genocide is a bad thing?

Let us all agree with this post and take it one step further and blame the Virgin Mary. If she had only kept her legs closed when the Holy Ghost came calling - stop and think for a moment - how many millions of Jews would have been spared from two millenniums worth of pogroms?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Palestinian Authority tries to invoke the free pass defense

An Israeli court has upheld a decision from a US court ordering the Palestinian Authority to pony up for supporting acts of terrorism against American citizens reports the Jerusalem Post:
Jerusalem District Court Judge Aharon Farkash ruled on Monday that it was possible to implement a 2004 US court ruling, according to which the Palestinian Authority must pay compensations of more than $116 million to terror victims' families.

In July 2004, a US court ruled that the Palestinian Authority was to pay some $116 million to the relatives of Yaron and Efrat Unger who were killed in a 1996 terror attack. But when the family asked authorities to enforce the court ruling in Israel, the Palestinian Authority objected, saying that paying the high compensations would lead to its financial collapse.

The Jerusalem District Court rejected the appeal made by the Palestinian Authority not to enforce the American ruling because the implementation would destroy it financially. The Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority said that payment of such high sums would have public, political, financial and security implications for Israeli citizens. They claimed paying the high sum would empty the Palestinian Authority's coffers and would lead to more lawsuits against the Palestinian Authority.

What a novel defense. Imagine if we all used it.

Living as I do in the Centre of the Universe

One can get a rather stilted view of what the rest of the country is up to. Good thing I read the Anglo Israeli online news reports or I might have missed this one entirely. Jerusalem Post:
A delegation of Israeli water experts led by Jewish National Fund head Efi Stenzler and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon brought back a cooperation agreement with the Canadian province of Manitoba late last week. Manitoba, with over 100,000 lakes, stands among the best at water conservation in the world.

After hearing from the 11-man Israeli delegation at an international conference on water and conservation which they hosted, Manitoba Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick announced that she would be sending the province's experts to teach Israel about conservation. In return, Israeli experts would teach their Manitoban counterparts how to purify polluted water.

The delegation also snagged a boon for Israel's universities. Melnick budgeted $250,000 a year in scholarships to bring Manitoban students to Israel to study water engineering and water purification. An international youth movement will be set up to champion water conservation as well.

"These important new scholarships will support scholarly development in a range of areas including nanotechnology, water conservation and water reuse," Melnick said. "Today's students are tomorrow's leading voices on water protection and these scholarships will give our young people a unique international experience as they complete their studies."

Dr. Sharon Marcovitz-Hart, national president of the JNF of Canada, added, "Israel and Manitoba share common water challenges and have a shared commitment to take action to improve the health of our lakes and rivers. The new scholarship program will build on our mutual commitment to make effective use of the best available strategies to protect our water.

"Partnership was one of the founding principles of the Jewish National Fund in 1901. Our research and cooperative initiatives with the people of Manitoba will not only create solutions to critical environmental challenges but will also ensure a secure future for our children," Marcovitz-Hart said.

Well done Manitobans.