Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vengeance is mine – but not quite yet

A touchy topic, here, probably one a proper lady should never admit. But I have a mouse in the house.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve had an abundance of mice in the house – a veritable tribe of them. Israel has no shortage of mice, and I have a very large yard. Coupled with my habit of leaving the doors open all day long, it’s hardly surprising that a few mice would venture in, wondering if the pickings inside were better than scrounging outside.

The good news is, I also have two canine roommates who multitask with ease. Rachel, my mostly-poodle, has turned herself into the universal pet, playing the role of cat as needed, and with considerable pleasure. Even Molly, the mostly Border Collie, surprised us all – himself included – by catching a mouse a few days ago.

In fact, my roommates have done yeoman work in cleaning up the mouse situation. I really thought Molly’s mouse was the last one.

Alas, yesterday morning I woke up to discover that one more mousie remains. He’d spent the night gnawing on a perfect sweet potato, a prime specimen I’d been saving for a late in the week salad.


This critter lives in the kitchen, and the reason my roommates haven’t gotten to him yet is that he -- or she, to be PC -- can duck under or behind the refrigerator. They can’t reach him.

So as I looked at my poor decimated sweet potato, I decided. I’m mad as hell and I can’t take this anymore.

I set out to buy a mouse trap.

Beersheba has an abundance of what’s called “Two Shekel Stores”. They’re tiny places crammed full of China’s finest exports, all manner of home goods, sort of a Woolworth kind of place, except that their wares usually flow out the door into the street. I figured I wouldn’t have any problem at all finding a mouse trap in one of those places.

Before I left the house, I intended to look up the Hebrew word for “mouse”. “Mouse” is not a word I’ve ever had to use before, and in ulpan, they probably decided not to scare us by suggesting it was a word we’d ever need to know.

But unfortunately as I ran out the door I forgot to check the dictionary. I found myself walking into the first two-shekel store not knowing how to say “mouse”, let alone ask for a trap. I was hoping I’d just see one and could buy it without having to name it.

Didn’t happen. The proprietor wasn’t a very talkative guy, and in trying to ask, I found myself stumbling around, struggling to describe a beast that was most unpleasant and crawled on the floor. Naturally he interpreted that as “cockroach” – which is a word I know in four languages.

No, that’s not it, I said, going through my description again, this time emitting a few “squeaks”, coupled with some crawling motions with my fingers, becoming as mouse-like as I could, trying to bring the critter to life for him.

Sound effects didn’t help. He began to look even more puzzled.

Now that I think about it, of course, it could be that mice don’t “squeak” in Hebrew. After all, dogs here don’t say “woof, woof” or “arf arf” – they say “How How”. So maybe Hebrew-speaking mice don’t “squeak”, either. Who knows?

But by this time I could see the shopkeeper was getting a little edgy, ruing the day this crazy American walked into this shop. I decided it might be best to try my luck at the next store.

This time I had a bright idea. I walked in and started asking by linking my humble critter with a much more famous rodent everyone knows: “Do you know Mickey Mouse?” I asked. The lady was delighted – “Ken, ken!” she said, yes, yes, happily leading me to a very nice display of Mickey Mouse paraphernalia designed for birthday parties.

“No,” I tried again. “Mouse. Just the mouse. I want the mouse dead.”

Now she looked really troubled, in fact she visibly winced. Could it be that this customer wanted to kill Mickey Mouse?

No, no, I tried again, laughing a little, to show her I wasn’t dangerous. I tried again, sort of clapping my hands to imitate a trap. “Mouse in the HOUSE” I said, making trapping motions with my hands. AH! The light went on! She got it – but unfortunately she didn’t have any mouse traps either. We had a good laugh over it anyway. Nice lady.

So I headed to the third store, the one I figured would be the one most likely to have it, anyway. I needed some other things, found them all, then went up to the cash register and launched into my spiel with the guy behind the counter.

No, he said, they didn’t have mouse traps, either. But this was a true Israeli – I love these guys. Immediately, my problem became his problem, and he was determined to help. “Why don’t you get a cat?” he suggested.

“I love cats,” I said. “But so do my dogs. They would adore having a cat for lunch.”

Oh. Okay. He nodded, thought some more, then tried again. “Is it a big mouse or a little mouse?”

HA – gotcha! I think he was asking if it was a mouse or a rat, knowing I didn’t know the word for ‘rat’ either. “No,” I assured him. “It’s a little mouse” – even though my house guest really isn’t little at all, gorging himself on my sweet potatoes as he is.

That gave him an idea: “You can buy some traps that are like fly-paper,” he said. “The mouse walks onto it, sticks, and then it dies.”

I know about those kinds of traps – but really, there is a limit to how much of the Lucrezia Borgia role I’m willing to play. I have no wish to make the poor thing suffer. “No,” I said. “That’s too cruel. I can’t do that.” He agreed. He couldn’t either.

Then he tried again. “I know! Use the paper. Then you wait for the mouse to get stuck, then you throw the paper in a bucket of water! Then he won’t suffer!”

I think he saw me going pale, and realized that was not a form of execution I was able to handle, either.

Pondering the issue some more, he decided the only solution was to find a real hardware store that would probably sell mouse traps. He began to tell me how to get there, but I was lost before he got started.

Beersheba is the only place on the face of the earth were all directions, all addresses, all places you want to get to, are described in terms of what used to be there. I’ve been here long enough now that I know where Greenberg’s used to be (It must have been gone for neigh unto 20 years.) I also know where the University used to be – although that was moved decades ago. So I can navigate using some of these long-gone metes and bounds descriptions -- but not whatever businesses he was describing. I didn’t have a clue.

I didn’t want to disappoint him though, so I sort of nodded, said I’d check it out, then thanked him very much – nice guy, really – and went on my way.

Yes, I know I can go out to one of the big stores like Ace or Home Center, and one of them will surely have a trap. But it’s a long way out there, and we’re in the middle of a serious heat wave. Not today.

But the more I think about it, I’m wondering: do you think we could apply a “two state solution”, and solve this property dispute without bloodshed?

The mouse and I would agree that I could have the house and my food, which he would leave alone. In return, I’d allow him to live in the kitchen -- even though I can’t speak for my roommates, who probably wouldn’t agree to this scenario. If they ever spot him, he’s a gonner.

And of course I’d agree to humanitarian support, so to speak. I’d put some food down for the mouse so he’d leave my sweet potatoes alone.

Sounds fair, don’t you think? Would a mouse agree to abide by such a plan?

I doubt it. I think he’d bring in the wife and kids, the uncles and cousins, and pretty soon they’d outnumber me. Then I’d have real problems.

See, now, all these thorny issues we deal with over here?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pay up, Ma'ariv!!

Here’s a story you won’t read anywhere else – unless you came across a copy of the Hebrew-language Makor Rishon, or unless you’re lucky enough to be on the email list of the witty and sagacious Steve Plaut.

This is a great day to celebrate: Israel’s little guys, the much-put-upon “settlers” sued the big guys and won. This story should have every Zionist in the world jumping up out of their chairs and applauding – if only they’d hear about it.

Funny thing is, Israel’s media is just as nutty left wing as the US’s. So this story was not mentioned at all in any of the major newspapers, television or radio news reports. Only one newspaper, Makor Rishon, which has a ‘right wing’ reputation (which means only that it’s more objective than the others) bothered to report the news.

What happened was that Ma’ariv, Israel’s second largest daily newspaper – their Tel Aviv headquarters building is pictured above -- reported, in a news story, that the tiny Jewish “settlement” of Maale Rehav’am, located in the Judean Mountains just south of Bethlehem, had been built on land stolen (“illegally expropriated”) from Arabs.

That was a lie.

Maale Rehav'am was founded in 2001 and named after one of Israel’s most ardent supporters of Judea and Samaria, Rehavam Ze’evi, who was assassinated on October 17, 2001 by Hamdi Qur'an, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The land Maale Rehav’am sits on was legally bought and paid for.

But this is nothing new, false reporting like this. These kinds of allegations are made all the time – in fact, as far as some of the “peace” groups are concerned, all “settlements” were built on Arab land stolen by Jews. In fact, there’s a guy living by public sufferance at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who’s mistaken about that, too.

It’s not true. The difference this time is that the 30 or so residents of Maale Rehav’am -- an ecological village, growing olives and almonds, with a Muscat grape vineyard and 35 other varieties of fruit trees -- decided to prove their point.

They sued Ma’ariv for libel.

Today they won. Ma’ariv was ordered to pay Maale Rahav’am NIS 13,000 (about $3250) and to issue a public apology.

No apology has been forthcoming, but it’s early. And it’s true no one will get rich on that monetary settlement. It’s the moral victory that’s unparalleled.

Israel is not a litigious country – thank goodness. But there are times when a resort to the courts is appropriate. This was one of them.

Of course, even when you’re right, you don’t always win. Sometimes the ridiculously left-leaning Israeli courts give the victory to the Arabs even when the Jewish buyers produce not only a legal deed to the land, but a videotape of the sale being consummated. See my article about one such case in the Sacramento Union:

But let’s not let that interfere with today’s victory. As Steve Plaut says, “Let’s hope this case serves as a grand legal precedent: Tell a lie about settlers and pay!”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


He Who Must Be Obeyed is starting to remind me of a lady -- and I use the word advisedly – who was my nemesis when I was working in the Department of Interior.

Her name was Jean -- I’ll skip her last name, but anyone who remembers the frazzled, jumpy, weepy, weary and defeated human being I became during the months of Jean’s reign will remember it. And her -- all too well, maybe.

I won’t go into the darn-near infinite variety of ways Jean found to torment people and make life miserable for everyone around her, except for this one thing. In her US government office, she hung a sign on the wall: “Arbitrary and capricious are the best management practices.”

It was supposed to be a joke, I guess. But every minute of every day, she honed her skills in arbitrary and capricious. And yes, she eventually was recalled, in a manner of speaking. She decided to “return to the private sector” because she “wanted to spend more time with her family.”

You bet.

Jean’s specialty lay in barking totally non-sensical orders and issuing humiliating demands that had no rational purpose. Why would someone do something like that? I guess it must have felt good to be able to demand any damn thing that occurred to her. To have that kind of control and power over people must do wonderful things for a fragile ego.

With every passing day, the Community Organizer seems to be getting more and more like Jean.

The interesting thing is, feisty little Israel isn’t putting up with it.

Finally, finally, we’ve got a Prime Minister who’s not only fully capable of saying, “Thank you, Mr. President, we appreciate your advice, but we’ll handle these matters as we see fit.” But Bibi goes beyond. When the Community Organizer still doesn’t get it, and issues yet more orders to our government, Bibi blithely dismisses it all as irrelevant and counterproductive.

Amazing. Under Bibi – so far – Israel is no longer is playing the role of a tattered rug, just waiting for the world to wipe its collective feet.

It’s about time. It’s been a very long time since I lived in a country where I respected the elected leadership – not since the Reagan days, come to think of it. But Bibi is making me proud every time he opens his mouth.

So what happened recently?

The Community Organizer informed Israel he wants all construction halted in Judea and Samaria. To make it perfectly clear, the State Department dupe ordered to convey the message said “the President doesn’t want to see a single cement mixer in the territories.(sic)“

(In the first place, it’s called ‘concrete’, not ‘cement’. And in the second place, Judea and Samaria are called “Israel”, not “the territories”. Whatever. The message was understood.)

Bibi’s first response was to say something to the effect that Israel will continue to allow Jewish families to build in existing Jewish communities.

Did the Community Organizer take a hint and back off? No. He’s not used to being disobeyed. He’s the ruler of the world, after all – heck -- megalomaniac that he is, he probably thinks he controls the heavens, too.

So through his designated pit bull, Missus Bubba, the Community Organizer upped the ante. Missus Bubba announced not only that there would be no construction allowed in Judea and Samaria, but also none in Jerusalem.


The areas of Jerusalem that are causing the Community Organizer to froth at the mouth are home to 250,000 people. Just one of them – Modi’in – is the size of Annapolis, Maryland, just to give you some idea of what kind of “communities” we’re talking about.

The Community Organizer also thinks that with his dictate, he can wipe out forty years of recorded history.

In 1967, after the Arabs attacked and Israel summarily beat them back in a conflict known as the Six Day War, the entire city of Jerusalem was restored – after 3000 years – to Jewish sovereignty. This part of Jerusalem was officially -- and legally -- annexed to the city 30 years ago.

Now, the Community Organizer issues his fiat: This part of the world must be Judenrein. Not a single Jew will be allowed to live in this part of Jerusalem.

Now honestly, my fellow Americans. Is this what you want? Are you proud of this guy? Does he speak for you?

It blows my mind. For the Acorn-elected President of the US – which for 200+ years was a bastion of freedom, of tolerance, of respect for all religions – to now try to force a foreign country to expel its Jews is sounding an awful lot like another dictator many of us remember all too well.

The fact that a US President is ordering a Jewish country to expel its Jews is even more astonishing. Now we’re wading into totally bizarre behavior.

But Bibi took the high road. He simply dismissed the Community Organizers demands as a waste of time. "I think that the more we spend time arguing about this, the more we waste time instead of moving towards peace," Bibi said, adding that Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of the Jewish nation forever.

Maybe he harbored an impish grin when he added, "So a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish State of Israel I think is the winning formula of peace. I cannot understand why anybody who wants peace should reject it."

HA! Good one -- the operative words are, of course, “anyone who wants peace.” The problem is, the Arabs don’t want peace with Israel. They want Israel.

Too bad I didn’t have Bibi as a role model back in the days when Jean was issuing idiotic orders right and left.

I should have done what Bibi did – tell her that she’s wasting time, and then walk away.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When my daughter JJ was in elementary school, she had a little friend in Sacramento named Pontea. Both girls attended Sierra Oaks School, a neighborhood school, and sometimes Pontea would come home with JJ after school to play.

I was always happy when she did. Pontea was such a shy, sweet, modest little girl I knew I didn’t have to be worried about mischief when she was around. Pontea was petite, almost frail-looking, with black hair, straight bangs, and flashing dark eyes. I especially remember a pink dress she had, one that tied in the back. She looked so pretty when she wore it.

In the back of my mind, I knew Pontea was from Iran, but I knew it in the same sense that I might have known that some other classmate was from Los Angeles. It didn’t strike me as particularly unusual. Right around that same time we had a nanny, Patti Salemi, who also came from Iran. We all loved Patti. She was great with the kids, responsible and mature. People who came from Iran weren’t exactly unusual. They were part of our lives.

That was in the late 1970’s.

Time passed, we moved, maybe Pontea’s parents did too. I’m not sure exactly what happened to any of them, but we all lost touch. Up until a couple of weeks ago.

Then, through the technological miracle of Facebook, JJ and Pontea reconnected. They even met for lunch and had a wonderful time. Pontea is now married with children of her own. She and JJ still had much in common.

They were both a little surprised to find out one new and unique thing they had in common: both of their mothers are living abroad. I moved to Israel, and Pontea’s mother now lives in Iran.

All of this makes me think: I wonder what would have happened, back then, if some magic genie had appeared and told Pontea’s mother that one day she would be living in Iran, and told me that I would move to Israel.

Honestly? I think I would have done just what Sarah Imanu did – I would have laughed. Back in the 1970’s, living in Israel had not occurred to me.

But here we are, Pontea’s mother and I, both gone our separate ways. To separate countries.

I’m sorry I don’t remember Pontea’s mothers name – I don’t even recall if we actually met, although I think we must have. Moms of kids in Sierra Oaks School usually did know each other, and customarily kept in touch when their children were friends.

Today in Israel, when I read the news and hear the horrific stories coming out of Iran, I find myself thinking about Pontea’s mom. I know what happens here, when Israel is under assault – people from all over wonder about me, wonder how I am, how close to the “action” I’m living.

Iran is a whole lot bigger than Israel, so I’m hoping that Pontea’s mother is living in safety, far from the problems.

Still, I can’t help wondering about her, wishing that I knew more about her – what her life is like, what made her decide to move to Iran. I wonder what she thinks about what’s happening in her country, and whether she strongly sympathizes with one faction or the other. Does she have a contingency plan, if things should get worse?

Or maybe she’s like me – she doesn’t think she needs one.

So here’s to Pontea’s mom, wherever she is: I hope you are safe. I hope you are well. You must be a very strong and interesting woman, and I’m sorry I missed the great opportunity to get to know you better, back then, when I had the chance. I missed that chance, and I regret it.

More than anything, though, I hope that He who watches over us all will take care of you and keep you safe. For the sake of both of our daughters.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The World in Crisis

This morning I was planning on writing something along the same lines.

But then came across this, by Dry Bones. It makes the point better than I could have.

Yup. We're dangerous people. No question about that.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Golda Meir said a lot of quotable things. Among them is the gem: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children but we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill theirs.”

In reading today’s news, I think there’s a corollary of that idea: We can forgive the Arabs for forcing us to fight them, but how much harder is it to forgive them for making us fight each other.

What happened today? Yet another accusation from Noam Shalit, pictured above. It's getting to be a pattern.

Noam Shalit is, of course, the father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who on June 25 will complete his third year of incommunicado imprisonment at the hands of Hamas.

This morning Noam took a broadside against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Despite [Olmert's] repeated declarations that the government of Israel was doing everything for the release of Gilad Shalit, and that his picture sits right opposite him in his office, I know that he didn't make every effort and I know that from sources who were involved in the matter," Shalit said in a television interview.

He also complained about Olmert’s criticism of him. "Olmert made sure to rebuke us and to make all sorts of ridiculous claims," Shalit said. "[Olmert] claimed that our activities do not help and are even damaging. He made sure to tell us that we're lucky that Gilad is alive."

In this case Olmert – for whom I have no love, as you all know – probably did the right thing. (Interestingly enough, Olmert denies saying any of those things to Shalit – so when, for once, he does the right thing, he then denies having done it. Go figure.)

But what an impossible situation. A grieving father wants the government to move heaven and earth, to agree to anything, just to get his son back. Who can blame him?

And yet entering into dangerous and seriously unbalanced “prisoner exchanges” is something no Israeli Prime Minister should do, no matter how much the public pressure the parents of the missing soldier apply.

The problem is, a risky and self-destructive pattern of turning over live and seriously dangerous Arab terrorists in return for the bodies of fallen soldiers has developed. That makes life more dangerous for all of us living here.

Worse, it encourages terrorists to do more kidnapping. If they can get dozens or even hundreds of their fellow terrorists freed by turning over the bodies of a couple of Israeli soldiers, that’s a good deal – for them. It inspires more kidnapping.

We spent last summer listening Micky Goldwasser, mother of fallen soldier “Udi” Goldwasser, as she turned into an Israeli Candy Lightener, becoming a media star herself. The news was full of her demonstrations, pleas and accusations, all directed toward forcing the government to bring back her son, who had been taken – dead or alive, no one knew at that point – by Hezbollah.

This summer we’re watching Noam Shalit do the same thing. Shalit is constantly in the news, demanding action – “whatever it takes” to get Gilad returned.

What he’s doing is totally understandable. It’s impossible to even imagine the pain the parents of missing or captured soldiers must feel.

And yet, what can a government do? A soldier is missing. Our enemies refuse to say whether he is dead or alive, let alone provide information about his physical or mental state. They refuse to let the Red Cross see him – as international law, not to mention humanitarian concerns – requires. They refuse to cooperate with any level of political pressure from Israel.

What else does Shalit want the government to do? Get his son back, of course. But at what cost?

Micky Goldwasser eventually got what she wanted: On July 16, 2008, the bodies of her son and that of another fallen soldier, Eldad Regev, were returned to Israel in plain wooden coffins.

What did that cost Israel? We gave them 199 dead bodies plus five truly evil men, major terrorists who ranked among the most cold-blooded killers in Israel’s prisons. Those five terrorists were not only alive and healthy, but announced, on their release, that they would continue inflicting terror every chance they could get.

That was a terrible deal, one that guaranteed only one thing: that more Israeli mothers and fathers will suffer heartbreak, just as the Goldwasser and Regev families did.

These uneven ‘prisoner swaps’ have become a dangerous pattern.

In 1983, following the 1982 Lebanon war, Israel returned 4,600 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in exchange for six abducted Israeli soldiers.

In 1985, 1,150 terrorists were exchanged for three Israeli soldiers.

In 2003, 400 terrorists and criminals and 60 Lebanese bodies were exchanged for three Israeli bodies and one live drug dealer.

Why do we do it? We have this tradition of recognizing no limits in bringing home captured soldiers or their remains. But at what point do decide that the risk to the rest of the population is too great?

Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, has written an article showing how deadly these ‘prisoner exchange’ deals are for Israelis. (www.isranet.org)

“According to Israel's Almagor Terror Victims’ Association reports, as summarized by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, of the 6,912 Palestinian terrorists released in "confidence-building" measures between 1993 and 1999, 854 were - up to 2003 - subsequently re-arrested for murder and terrorism.

“Since 2000, 180 Israelis have been murdered by released terrorists. That includes the 30 killed and 155 wounded in the attack on Netanya’s Park Hotel in Passover, 2002. The 17 killed and 42 wounded in the June, 2002 Megiddo bus bombing. And the 7 dead and over 50 wounded in the September, 2003 Café Hillel bombing in Jerusalem.”

Get that? 180 Israelis are dead because they were killed by released terrorists.

Prof. Krantz writes, “No democracy, let alone a sovereign Jewish state like Israel, subject to the unending viciousness of its neighbors, can afford to allow murderous enemies to play on its humanity. Individual suffering must be weighed against society's security and well-being. Allowing genocidal enemies to count on the certainty that blackmail will outweigh proportional reciprocity, and enable apprehended murderers to go free, is neither noble nor humane - it is suicidal.”

And remember, it’s not just Noam’s son Gilad who’s missing. There are at least six more.

Staff Sgt. Zecharya Baumel, Staff Sgt. Zvi Feldman and Staff Sgt. Yehuda Katz. The three have been missing since June 11, 1982, when five Israeli soldiers disappeared during a battle with Syrian and Palestinian forces near the Lebanese village of Sultan Yaqub. Several years later, two were returned. The remaining three may still be alive and held under Syrian control.

Major Ron Arad, captured on October 16, 1986, after his aircraft was shot down near Sidon, Lebanon. Arad was initially held by Amal (a Shi'ite terrorist organization), but today his fate is unknown. Many authorities believe he’s still alive.

Guy Hever was last seen at his army base on the southern Golan Heights on August 17, 1997. Hever was dressed in army fatigues and carrying his weapon, but simply disappeared. It’s suspected he was kidnapped while hitchhiking.

Majdy Halabi, a Druze soldier, last seen at a hitchhiking stop in Dalyat El Karmel on May 24, 2005, trying to return to an ordnance corps camp near Haifa. No trace of him has ever been found.

What do I wish?

I wish that the grieving families of the lost and missing soldiers would cooperate in every way possible with the authorities in seeking the return of their loved ones. I wish they would not try to become international celebrities or media stars, demanding that the government enter into foolish and life-threatening ‘prisoner exchanges’ that endanger the lives of everyone else in the country.

More than that, I wish Arab terrorists wouldn’t put twits like me in the position of criticizing the parents of soldiers lost in action. Tragic enough that they lost their child in service to the country. Worse than that is that they become subject to disparagement in their grieving.

Except….. When what the bereaved parents are demanding means that more Israelis will be captured or killed. Then we must speak out.

No more prisoner exchanges, no matter what.

Friday, June 19, 2009

In Praise of Rhubarb

Rhubarb and I go back a long ways, almost to the beginning of my existence. As a child, rhubarb was the first – and only, for many years – vegetable I was allowed to pick all by myself.

The privilege probably resulted from the fact that no kid would willingly pick rhubarb on his own. In its natural state, rhubarb is way too sour to eat. And secondly, since it grows low to the ground, all it takes is a swipe of a knife along the base of the stalk to cut off a hunk.

My mother, like every other mother in the prairie town of Buxton, North Dakota (one of those big, flat square States hardly anyone bothers with anymore) had a rhubarb plant. Ours was on the far edge of the lawn, just to the left of the arbor, which, you should know, was covered with lilacs, not grapes.

There were probably 40 houses in Buxton, 200 people, tops, and every single one had a rhubarb plant somewhere – well, maybe Gina Eine didn’t, come to think of it, because she didn’t grow anything, not even crabapples. But everyone else did. When we moved from one house to another, the first thing my mother did was to be sure there was rhubarb planted in the new yard. Who could live without rhubarb?

Why the universal cultivation of rhubarb? Because it’s one of the very few vegetables that can be grown in North Dakota’s egregious climate, which includes eleven months of the year in snow is a possibility – earlier this week it snowed in Dickenson, ND – and one month in which it’s so hot and humid it hardly pays to lift your head off the pillow.

As it happens, that one month of summer is also the month in which the State Bird of Minnesota, the mosquito, immigrates into North Dakota, crossing the border by the billions, ready to feast on the hardy Scandinavians who’ve finally taken off their long underwear. In North Dakota, summer is something you look forward to only because it’s different, not because it’s pleasant.

So during what passes for summer in the Great Plains – say, a Tuesday in late June to maybe a Wednesday in early August – about once a week my mother would hand me a well-worn wooden-handled paring knife and say, “Go cut some rhubarb.” Like the good little girl I was, I’d go out the back door, not letting the screen door slam behind me, and walk slowly, careful to carry the little knife with the point down. The lush rhubarb plant almost seemed to be waiting for its weekly pruning.

The plant grows big and bushy, really nothing more than huge serrated-edged leaves with thick pink stalks. I’d bend down, push the big leaves aside on the lookout for worms, which I loathed. Seeing none, I’d carefully slice off about five or six stalks right at the base. The stalks are huge things, maybe about two feet long. You had to be careful not to take too many at once, or the plant would die. But five stalks usually were plenty for whatever my mother had in mind, which was invariably what we called “sauce”.

Now that I’m older and ever so much more sophisticated, I realize the rest of the world calls stewed fruits “compote”, but in that time and place, it was “sauce”. The fact that rhubarb is technically a vegetable didn't matter at all, either.

The recipe was virtually foolproof. All you did was wash the stalks, chop them into one-inch segments, put them in a pan, cover them with water, and throw in a totally ridiculous amount of sugar. We didn’t have measuring cups in those days – still, I can’t quite imagine why anyone would bother with one – but it took an awful lot of sugar to make sour rhubarb palatable, like maybe two cups. This mixture would simmer for just a little while – half hour maybe – and then you’d let it cool. Like revenge, rhubarb sauce is a dish served cold.

Up to my finding rhubarb in an Israeli supermarket the other day – which sparked this tale – I thought rhubarb was exclusively the province of Scandinavians. Why? Because once it’s cooked, it looks really gross, which is something that appeals greatly to Scandinavians.

The appeal probably has something to do with the local notion of sin: If it looks good, you probably shouldn’t risk eating it because you might find yourself enjoying it, which could be problematical. If it looks or smells bad, it’s probably fine.

The funny thing about a lot of Scandinavian dishes is that – however delicious they might be – they tend to look like they’ve already been eaten once before.

My all-time favorite dessert is something called dravla, which is basically milk that’s simmered for the better part of the day. When it curdles, at about the third hour of cooking, it begins to look -- and smell -- like something that didn’t agree with the dog. But wait until you taste it! Heaven!

Or lutefisk, which I also love, which is slabs of codfish cured in lye, the aroma of which has been known to drive unaccustomed noses out of the house for good.

Even lefse -- basically a potato tortilla -- would appeal to hardly anyone, if they stopped with just looking at it. Eating lefse is pure delight, but it, too, is an acquired taste. In terms of taste and texture, outsiders have been known to say it tastes something like old wallpaper, only not quite as good.

Similarly rhubarb sauce isn’t visually tempting. It’s a little watery, a little stringy, pale pink in color, with flecks of red from the stalks. The taste, though, is marvelous once you’ve acquired it. Rhubarb sauce is sweet and sour, totally unique. Nothing else in the world tastes like rhubarb.

So once I left North Dakota in the 1960’s to head for the wilds of San Francisco, I didn’t think much about rhubarb. Newly emancipated as I was, it didn’t occur to me to seek it out – in fact, if I’d thought about it, I probably would have said that rhubarb wasn’t something you could buy. It was more like dandelions, something that just grew in your back yard.

Not until my last year of law school did I change that opinion. Then, one month, I don’t know what I’d done, or how I’d mismanaged, but ran into seriously hard times. With a full ten days of the month left, I had only $1.26 to spend on food. This was long before credit cards, and I wasn’t inclined to risk kiting a check, so I had to find something to sustain myself for ten days that wouldn’t cost more than $1.26.

I went to a cut-rate grocery store and bought two boxes of graham crackers, 50 cents each. Then I went to the early morning produce market and found a huge sack of day-old rhubarb. The Chinese guy finally agreed to sell it to me for a quarter. I had sugar at home – not enough to make it good, but enough to make it edible.
Graham crackers and rhubarb probably don’t score on any dietician-approved diet, but it did the trick. I lived to see another day.

Over the years, mostly out of nostalgia, I’d buy rhubarb. In Sacramento, when my kids were little, I’d occasionally make sauce. I rather doubt they remember it -- I may not have ever succeeded in getting them to taste it. Most likely, rhubarb sauce was a dish I ate alone.

Which brings us up to yesterday.

I was running an errand in a different neighborhood and decided to do the weekly shopping while I was out. I headed into a different supermarket, one that leans toward the gourmet, and what do you think I found? Packages of fresh rhubarb!

Rhubarb in Israel? That’s a little like papaya in Alaska. It’s out of context here -- although the labels are written in both Hebrew and Russian, so maybe it’s a Russian favorite, too. That would make sense – rhubarb, it is said, requires temperatures below 40¬ degrees Fahrenheit to break dormancy and to stimulate growth with summer temperatures not exceeding 75 degrees.

I can’t imagine where in Israel it’s being grown, but now that I think about it, it's likely that rhubarb may be a Russian delicacy as well as a Scandinavian one. Siberia would be a pretty good place to grow it, I’d guess.

In any event, I bought two packages – even here, it’s cheap, NIS 5.99 a package, about $1.50.

So today I’m making rhubarb sauce. Not “compote”, you understand. “Sauce.”

Shabbat shalom, everyone! Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jimmy Carter, still here, monkeying around.....

The man from Plains is still here, poking his finger into this and that, doing and saying one nutty thing after another. He ranges from silly to pathetic, except when he'd being downright dangerous. Ideally, we should just ignore Jimmy Carter and maybe he’d go away – but the thing is, he does carry that title of ‘former President’.

Carter did visit Gush Etzion, by the way (see my blog of June 14) and while there, apparently experienced some sort of conversion. There’s nothing to suggest that he fell off a horse, but even so, the radical change in his thinking is worthy of note.

I’m not sure what sort of hocus-pocus the stalwart citizens of Gust Etzion applied, but they should take that magic act of theirs on the road.

After spending 100 minutes with Gush Etzion Regional Council Chairman Sha'ul Goldstein in his home at Neveh Daniel, Carter proclaimed, "This particular settlement area is not one I envisage ever being abandoned or changed over into Palestinian territory."

WHAT? This is the man who proclaimed, “The preeminent obstacle to peace is Israel’s colonization of Palestine.” Now he says Gush Etzion should remain with Israel?

Well, fine, I guess. It’s just that his conversion on the issue of “settlements” -- and hot button Gush Etzion in particular -- seems a little too facile, a little too easily come by. I don’t trust him not to change his mind again.

Then yesterday Carter met with Knesset Speaker Ruby (Reuven) Rivlin, which produced some interesting language from Rivlin if not from Carter.

After telling Carter that in spite of what PM Bibi Netanyahu may have said, there is no consensus in Israel regarding a “two state formula” even if the ‘Palestinian’ entity could be ‘demilitarized’ -- something most realists say is not only impossible to create but completely impossible to enforce.

What was interesting, though, is how Rivlin moved to recast the whole debate. “The heart of the dispute in our region is not just one of local territorial disputes,” he said. Instead, the fight is “an Arab-Jewish dispute.”

”Only after we solve the Arab-Jewish conflict and can be confident that the Arab countries recognize Israel and our right to live here in security, can we address the conflict between ourselves and the Palestinians, with whom we are destined to live together.”

That's an interesting way of looking at it. Once again, it puts the onus on the Arabs to first recognize Israel as not just a legitimate state but a Jewish state.

Then? Carter decided to try his luck fishing in the pool of imprisoned terrorists. Specifically, he asked Rivlin if he could visit imprisoned convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti.

Barghouti is a folk-hero among the Arabs, a popular terrorist who was convicted of five murders and acquitted for lack of evidence of some 30 more. Other than to show solidarity with vicious terrorists, it’s not quite clear why Carter would want to do a grip and grin with Barghouti.

Rivlin, to his credit, responded by bringing up the subject of Gilad Shalit, the young Israeli soldier who was captured by Hamas and has now been held for three years. For three long years, no one – not the Red Cross, no one -- has been allowed to visit Shalit, or even confirm that he’s alive.

Without going into detail, that’s totally against all rules of international law, not to mention humanitarian behavior. But then whoever said that terrorists care two beans about international law, not to mention humanitarian behavior?

So Ruby Rivlin pointed that out to Carter, that Shalit had never been permitted any visitors. And what did Carter respond? Arab terrorists also do not receive “visits from their mothers,” Carter said.

Rivlin, apparently a bit taken back, responded, “There’s absolutely no room for comparison. Those are dangerous terrorists who were lawfully arrested after they perpetrated, or tried to perpetrate, murderous attacks in our streets.”

Shalit, as you know – even if Jimmy Carter doesn’t -- was anything but a terrorist. He was a shy 19 year old kid who spent his off-duty hours helping his mother and father run the family Bed & Breakfast. On a Sunday morning, June 25, 2006, he was standing guard when several Hamas terrorists crawled through a tunnel under the security fence into Israel near Kerem Shalom. They attacked, killed two other soldiers and kidnapped Shalit, dragging him back into Aza with them.

Get that? Shalit was doing nothing more than standing guard when he was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists who crossed over into Israel to kill as many people as they could.

Marwan Barghouti, on the other hand, is the proud and unrepentant leader of the militant Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades which carried out numerous suicide attacks against Israel at the behest of arch terrorist Yasser Arafat. In June 2002, Barghouti killed a Greek Monk during an attack in Maale Adumim; he killed a man during an attack on a gas station in Givat Zeev, and then killed three more people during an attack at Tel Aviv's Seafood Market restaurant. And those are just the murders he committeed -- he wasn't convicted of the other 30 terror attacks he merely masterminded!

But former President Jimmy Carter sees the kidnapped Shalit and the terrorist murderer Barghouti as comparable.

Interestingly enough, Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, was able to arrange a meeting with Carter. He asked Carter to deliver a letter to his son or at least obtain confirmation that he’s alive.

Carter met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal in Damascus on Thursday and in fact did hand over Noam Shalit’s letter. But nothing more. There’s still no confirmation that Gilad Shalit remains alive.

So? Having washed his hands of Shalit, the peanut farmer decided to do what he could to whitewash Hamas. He set out to prove what nice peaceful people Hamas terrorists really are.

After meeting with Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh, Carter promised to ask the Community Organizer to take Hamas off the official list of terrorist organizations.

"Hamas leaders want peace and they want to have reconciliation not only with their Fatah brothers but also eventually with Israelis to live side by side, with two nations, both sovereign nations recognized by each other and living in peace," Carter said.

Uh huh. And if you believe that one, then….

Oh, and by the way, these nice people that Jimmy Carter loves so much? Apparently don’t return the passion. They tried to assassinate him when he came to Aza.

Terrorists linked to al-Qaida hid a explosives along a road Carter's convoy was scheduled to travel, but some Hamas operatives – who have loads of hands-on experience in these things – removed “three large black disks and some wire” from a sand dune next to the road.

Actually, it was Israel who saved him. Our security sources learned of plans to target Carter and passed on the information to his security detail. Nice of us.
It all reminds me of one memorable line from a long 1960’s saga recorded by Tom Anderson as “Bipartisan Treason”:

“… And those who cried, ‘Appease, appease!
Were hanged by those they tried to please.”

Maybe Jimmy Carter will figure that out for himself some day, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Kol Hakavod, Bibi! Congratulations!

The long-awaited and much fretted about foreign policy speech Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu gave last night was something of a masterpiece.

In terms of overall policy, he didn’t really say anything new. Start with that.

Every “concession” he made – the AP, at least, is calling his reference to “two states” a concession to American pressure – had already been articulated by several different Israeli officials, including Ehud Olmert. Bibi didn’t say anything new there.

What he did was make it absolutely clear that the real threat to ‘peace’ in the world is a nuclear Iran, not Israeli “settlements”, and in fact, not the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict at all. “"The greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons," he said.

Regarding the Middle East, he said, “The root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland."

Good words. Clear, unequivocal. And, needless to say, absolutely correct.

He even managed a slap on the wrist to the Community Organizer: “Israel is obligated by its international commitments and expects all parties to keep their commitments.” In other words, don’t you even think of trying to renege on previous US commitments, Barry. We’ll operate honorably, and we expect you to do so, too.

Then he made some demands of his own. By any objective standard (assuming there are any objective people around these days) what Bibi demanded was perfectly rational:

 That the Arabs (Hamas, the ‘Palestinian Authority’, Hezbollah, whatever. they’re all part of the same thing) recognize that "a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people."

 That the Arab refugee problem is not Israel’s problem and must be "resolved outside Israel's borders."

 And that “territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel."

Now comes the good part: Bibi set new and dramatic preconditions on even negotiating with the Arabs: “The Palestinians must decide between the path of peace and the path of Hamas. The Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas. Israel will not sit at the negotiating table with terrorists who seek their destruction.”

How’s that for chutzpah? If “sitting at the negotiating table” won’t happen until the Arabs establish the rule of law in Aza and “overcome” Hamas, then there will be no negotiations, no immediate solution via “two states” or otherwise. There’s no way in the world Israel’s alleged ‘peace partner’, Abu Mazen, could accomplish those things, even if he wanted to.

Which he doesn’t.

Look – the Arabs don’t want a “state” as such. They don’t want to have to run an economy, establish police, courts, schools and hospitals, tax themselves, and accept responsibility for their own citizens. They are much happier being the objects of the world’s largesse – and the thorn in the side of Israel. What the Arabs want is for Israel to be gone. Demanding a “two state” solution is just the next step toward that goal.

In any event, Bibi used the same tactic as did Foreign Minister (and delightful loose cannon) Avigdor Lieberman several weeks ago. Lieberman himself lives in Nokdim, which is in Gush Etzion, in Samaria – see yesterday’s blog. Lieberman told Haaretz, a left-wing Hebrew daily, that in return for peace, he was even willing to leave his home in Nokdim -- but only if there is reciprocity from the Arabs.

“We will conduct talks with the PA, but we want to make sure their 'checks' don't bounce,” Lieberman said. “The Palestinians must first of all confront terror, take control of Gaza and demilitarize Hamas. Without these, it will be difficult to move forward."

How could Lieberman say that? That he’d give up his own home? Because he knows darn well that the Arabs will never confront terrorism, will never restore the rule of law to Aza, nor could they demilitarize Hamas even if they wanted to. Day by day, Hamas is gaining in popularity among the Arabs, not losing. It’s getting stronger, not weaker.

That’s pretty much what Bibi reiterated last night: yes, we’ll agree in theory to “two states”. But certain conditions must be met first – demilitarizing Hama, retaking control of Aza, and stopping terror.

Both Bibi and Lieberman know none of that is going to happen. Not until the lion is lying down with the lamb, anyway.

So by setting a precondition of “establishing the rule of law” in Aza, and “overcoming Hamas” before negotiations can even begin, Bibi carved out as safe a position for Israel as was possible to do, given today's world situation.

What all this means is that Bibi effectively took the ‘two state’ solution – which Israel knows is the Final Final solution – off the table.

It was pretty crafty statesmanship. Bibi gave Obama the two little words he wanted to hear – “two states” – and by doing that, he permitted his adversary to save face. But at the same time, he removed the possibility it will ever happen.

Would I have been happier if he’d rejected the “two state” solution firmly, said, “No way in hell are we ever going to agree to that”?

Well – that would have been fun to hear, that’s for sure. But it would not have been wise. After all, America is still, at this moment, striding the world waving its big stick, issuing dictates left and right to allies, while making insane concessions to America’s most dangerous and dedicated enemies. Given the volatility in the White House for the next 3.5 years, waving a red flag at the Obama Bull would not have been a good idea.

Not that Bibi didn’t throw a sop to the leftists yesterday.

On his way to make the speech, he ordered an “Obama hut” torn down.

You’ve heard about the ‘Obama Huts’? Our stalwart residents of Judea and Samaria – true heroes if there ever were any – had been building “Obama Huts”, shacks named after the Community Organizer, to openly defy his order to halt all construction in Judea and Samaria. If you want to see the photos, check Tamar Yonah’s blog on Israel National News:


Word is, our heroes are out rebuilding the “Obama Hut” again, at this moment. It’ll be standing again before nightfall.

You gotta love those kids – they’re the spirit of Israel. If we can just hang until those teenagers are a little older and running this country, we’ll be just fine. It’s the next ten years that are going to be critical.

Now there he goes again....

This time it's not just lust -- it's love!

Jimmy Carter’s at it again – even in his dotage at age 85, the man from Plains still feels the need to tell us about his apparently insatiable libido.

You might remember the famous Playboy interview in November, 1976, when Carter shocked the world with his “lust in my heart” confession.

“I'm just human and I'm tempted and Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. The Bible says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Christ said, I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery. I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times....”

With those words, Jimmy Carter lost his bid for reelection.

That’s arguable, of course. There were other factors – lots of them. But Carter was forced to spend two full weeks explaining what he meant, which sent his campaign off on a tangent from which it never recovered.

This week, Carter’s at it again – “I have been in love with the Palestinian people for many years,” he said yesterday in Ramallah, the stronghold of Yasser Arafat, arch terrorist (and now, thank goodness, seriously dead) winner of the Nobel Peace prize.

Carter was thanking the ‘Palestinian people’ for having awarded him the PA’s International Award for Excellence and Creativity. He added, “I have two great-grandsons that (sic) are rapidly learning about the people here and the anguish and suffering and deprivation of human rights that you have experienced ever since 1948."

Good to know.

It’s hardly been a secret that Carter loves the ‘Palestinians’ – and Arab terrorists in general.

Alan Dershowitz lists several telling signs of Carter’s infatuation.

1. Carter’s post-presidential “research center” in Atlanta is funded by Arabs and assorted anti-Semites, and recently accepted a $1 million donation from the Bin Laden family;

2. Carter’s famous quest for ‘human rights’ is in fact limited to Arab rights. He voices no concerns whatever about non-Arab suffering in China, Saudi Arabia, Syria or Iran.

3. Carter’s infamous book, “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid” is riddled with errors, libels Jews, says that Arabs have inhabited the Holy Land since Roman times, while ignoring the continuous presence of Jews in these parts for 2000 years.

4. Carter blames Israel alone for the regional conflicts. When critics slammed his book, deemed it biased and historically inaccurate, he responded by saying, “any voice that does not agree with Israel is immediately forced to shut up.”

So today, Jimmy Carter is here to spend some time with the people he loves.

But just for the sake of appearances, he also said he wanted to visit some of the “Jewish settlements” -- just to show how fair and even-handed he is. Neve Daniel, in Gush Etzion – which is really southern Jerusalem -- was selected for the Carter visit.

Inch for inch, Gush Etzion is perhaps the most blood-soaked piece of real estate in the history of the world. Jews have fought any number of horrific battles to retake this area after being deposed from it, time and time again.

If Jimmy Carter could be persuaded to read more than the juicy parts of the Gospel of Matthew, he might see how prominently Gush Etzion figures in that Bible he loves to quote so selectively.

 Abraham and Isaac passed through Gush Etzion as they traveled from Hebron to Mount Moriah.

 It was in the fields of Gush Etzion where Ruth gleaned her sheaves, vowed to follow her mother in law, Naomi’s, people, and where she met Boaz.

 It was in the Gush Etzion area where David worked as a shepherd, guarding his father’s sheep until he was called to go to proclaim his kingdom in Jerusalem.

 Caves in Gush Etzion sheltered the Maccabees during the time they prepared to re-capture Jerusalem in 164 BCE – after which they purified the Temple, gave rise to the holiday of Chanukah, and put Jerusalem back under Jewish rule after 500 years of subjugation.

 Those same caves sheltered Jews again in 132 CE during the Bar Kokhba Revolt, when Jews wrested Jerusalem from the Romans, together with 50 other strongholds in Judea and another 985 undefended towns and villages.

Jimmy Carter’s desire to visit “Jewish settlements” didn’t stop him from making a number of dangerously idiotic statements: “Mideast peace is impossible without Hamas,” he said. As though “peace” is what the terrorist Hamas has in mind.

Then he went on to praise the Community Organizer for his death sentence to Judea and Samaria, saying that a total freeze on construction was good, but adding that he was sure that "in the future …he will call for the dismantling of the settlements that exist."

Which is to say, Gush Etzion will be turned over to the people Carter’s been in love with, lo these many years, because Carter’s people consider Gush Etzion’s 28 cities and villages “settlements”.

What do I think? That Jimmy Carter should go home. Let him raise rabbits or something. We shouldn’t permit him to use us like this, to pretend to be something he’s not and never has been.

Characteristically, the hardly souls who live in Gush Etzion are saying the same thing.

For several days, petitions have been circulating among the residents, asking Gush Etzion Regional Council Head Shaul Goldstein to refuse Carter the right to visit – which visit, incidentally, is scheduled to include Goldstein’s own home.

Noting that Carter is well known for his hostility to Israel, the people of Gush Etzion say that allowing him to visit will do nothing more than permit him to claim that he’s “even-handed” – even though it’s obvious “Carter is unfair and is far from being objective."

“Carter has always, and will always, speak up and defend those who wish to destroy the State of Israel. He pushes an anti-Israel agenda, while presenting himself as a good-willed broker who seeks peace and is ready to listen to 'both sides.' This makes him all the more dangerous,” the residents say.

“Carter” they claim, “is a clear supporter of our enemies. We cannot allow ourselves to be the instruments of his rehabilitation. We must tell him: 'You are working against the Jewish nation in its land, and you cannot be an honest broker.'”

What will happen? Who knows? The visit is scheduled for this afternoon.

Jimmy Carter. One heck of an Ugly American.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sheldon Siegel is a mensch

A couple of months ago, I came across an amazing ‘detective’ book – it’s probably more of a legal thriller, but since I’m not all that fond of “legal thrillers” I’d rather think of it as detective fiction.

In any event, it was called “Special Circumstances” by an author I’d never heard of, Sheldon Siegel.

I took it home, started reading and finished it, as I recall, at about 4 am. That book blew me away -- those of you who know me, know that I’m addicted to “detective fiction”, whatever that might be. But since I wuz a lawyer myself for some 35 years, legal thrillers, with their mostly implausible plots, rarely attract me. (Do doctors read medical thrillers? I bet they don’t.)

But this book was different – yes, the protagonist is a lawyer, and a court case is the center of the action. But it’s much more than a legal thriller – it’s a story of real people, living lives not all that different from ours, in one of the world most intriguing cities, San Francisco.

So I read “Special Circumstances” – and then, amazingly enough, also found the second book in Siegel’s series, a book called “Incriminating Evidence”. I read that one too, finished it.

And then? I turned back to page one, and read it again.

Why would I do that? Because Sheldon Siegel’s books are that good – it’s not just the matter of plot, of who-dun-it. Even when you know whodunit, the writing, the characters, the setting are all things you want to revisit.

Siegel’s books are filled with people you come to care about, people you recognize – even if you never set foot in San Francisco. They’re just very compelling stories.

As it happens, I do know San Francisco – I spent three years as a starving student at the University of San Francisco School of Law – where I was so impoverished, my only entertainment was exploring The City itself. On foot.

What’s delightful to me now is that the City Siegel writes about is the very same one I explored, when I didn’t have to money to do anything else.

That’s the real reason I re-read “Incriminating Evidence”. It wasn’t that I needed to reconsider who did the dirty, or even to watch the characters playing their parts again.

The real reason was, that at that moment, I was terribly lonesome for the San Francisco. I missed the fog horns, the walks through Chinatown, the Italian restaurants, Beach Blanket Babylon, Twin Peaks, the ridiculous Carol Doda sign, the Marina Green, with the Italian fishermen and kids flying kites.

Most of all, I missed the Mission District, where – for reasons I can’t begin to explain to you – I felt most at home, even though I’d never lived in the Mission myself. (My guess? I’d lived in Mexico City for a year, loved it, and the Mission, at that time, was largely Hispanic. I think that’s why it seemed so familiar.)

Anyway, in reading Siegel’s books, I was transported back to San Francisco. I could smell the salt in the air, I could see the fog roll in at 4 pm exactly, the big gray clouds bounding over each other to cover the City with blessed cool and mist. I smelled the Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista, the sourdough bread from Fisherman’s’ Wharf, the funky aromas at Tommy’s Joynt, the Zimburgers with their orange counter stools on every corner. I knew the political players he was talking about -- sure, he didn't use real names. But I knew them. Who wouldn't?

These were all the people, the sights and sounds that Siegel writes about. I had done exactly the same things his characters did, I’d seen the same things they saw, I’d felt what they felt.

I was lonesome for San Francisco, he gave me back The City, for the price of a book, not an airline ticket.

There was only one problem: I’m not going to be very specific here, because I hope some of you will go find these books, and read them for yourself. But one of Siegel’s characters did something in “Incriminating Evidence” that seemed to me to be highly unlikely. It was out of character. I knew very well the kind of person Siegel had created, and I knew he’d never do such a thing.

It bothered me, you know? These books are so real, so filled with people you know and care about, that I took it personally. That man would never have done what Siegel had him do. I needed to set the record straight.

I googled “Sheldon Siegel” – and came up with his website. And sure enough, a “contact me” link was there.

I emailed Sheldon Siegel, telling him, first, how much I loved his books, but… I said…. That character would never, in real life, have done what you had him doing.

In all honestly, it never occurred to me I’d get an answer.

But I did – and almost right away, too. There was an email from Sheldon Siegel, addressing the issue I’d raised. He offered some insights – and then attached a chapter of a subsequent book, in which he’d dealt with the issue further.

Do you even believe it? That a popular author like him would bother to explain and elucidate? Well – I didn’t.

But then I saw other things that fascinated me even more. In the chapter of the subsequent book he attached, I saw that things I’d never imagined had happened to some of his characters.

Remember, I’d only seen the first two books, the first written in 2000, the second a year after. In fact, FOUR more books had followed, each telling more of the story.

I’d never seen those.

So – even though I knew I was on thin ice, taking up more time than is wise for any author’s groupie – I emailed Siegel again. “Wow” I said. “Do you mean to tell me that Rosie -- one of the legal beagles -- gets cancer? And that she has a second child?”

I feel the need, at this point, to assure you I’m not nuts. But if you’re not a fan of serial thrillers, you maybe can’t quite understand how attached we readers become to totally fictional characters. I guess we’re talking about a soap opera of the mind. Something like that.

So I told Sheldon Siegel that I was astonished at what had happened to his characters. I was amazed – and frustrated. I probably mentioned how hard it is to find English language books here, and how unlikely it was that I’d ever find more in his series. I thought I was darn lucky to find the first two.

He emailed me back, saying that his books did come out in a Hebrew edition – (can you believe that?) But of course, finding a Hebrew edition wouldn’t help me all that much – it would take the rest of my life to wade through that, vowel-less that Hebrew-language fiction tends to be.

(For you non-Israelis, finding English language books at a price that doesn’t require you to get a second mortgage is by far the biggest challenge Israel offers to English bibliophiles. Books are hard to come by, which is an understatement of the first degree.)

So? I figured I was out of luck – it would be a long time until I knew what happened with Rosie Fernandez and her cancer – not to mention the second child born to her and her husband Mike Daley. (They were married, divorced, but continue as law partners and crime solvers in a small law firm in San Francisco.)

All of that happened all several weeks ago. What happens next, you won’t believe: This morning, Friday, I went to the post office to pick up a package – I hadn’t ordered anything and had no idea what it was.

Can you imagine my surprise, to see that Sheldon Siegel, on his own nickel, had mailed me TWO of his subsequent books?

Unreal, I tell ya. Have you ever heard of such a thing? An author, mailing books -- free -- to a fan overseas?

I haven’t. Sheldon Siegel is a mensch.

If I haven’t already convinced you to go find his books – check his website www.sheldonsiegel.com – let me make one last pitch: These are first-rate thrillers, great plots, tense as all-get-out. Beyond that, they’re filled with people you know –real people, who live an act in the same world you live in.

And if you ever find yourself lonesome for San Francisco as I did, there’s no better way to submerge yourself in The City again than by reading a Sheldon Siegel book.

Now. You’ll excuse me? I have books to read –

Shabbat shalom, everyone. If you have “weekends”, have a good one!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A timely tale of palace intrigue -- and why we're insulted by this photo

There he is, the Community Organizer, in an official White House photo, sitting with his feet on the desk, soles of his shoes showing, talking on the telephone, we’re told, to our Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu.

“Some Israelis” the CBS story reports, “are insulted.”

“Israelis see the incident as somewhat akin to an incident last year, when the Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at President Bush in Baghdad.”

Wrong again, CBS. Yes, we’re insulted. But not for that reason. Not even close.

Israelis – make that Jews – are insulted for historical and cultural reasons of our own. It has nothing to do with George Bush or dissatisfied Iraqis, nor is it a simple bleed-over from our Arab neighbors, who are indeed seriously insulted by anyone who shows the sole of their shoe.

The truth is, that photo is an unpleasant reminder of another leader who was intent on destroying the Jewish nation – and almost succeeded.

It’s a famous story – maybe you’re familiar with it. It’s the story of Purim, as recorded in the Book of Esther.

Read it yourself -- or here’s the nutshell version:

It started when King Achashverosh of Persia, which is present-day Iran, a story element that makes this tale all the more juicy. Achashverosh is also known by the Greek version of his name, Xerxes. He ruled Persia from 486 – 465 BCE.

King Achashverosh, like so many other rulers through the eons, was intent on finally ridding the world of the pesky Jews. He’d been relying on prophecies which said that by the end of 70 years, the Jews of his time would end their exile and return home to Jerusalem. So cagy Achashverosh simply bided his time, waiting out the 70 years, which, by his calculations, would end three years into his reign.

If the Jews didn’t return by that time, he reasoned, he could relax. The prophets would be proven wrong, and the Jews would finally disappear. To that end, he ordered all work on the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem stopped.

Time passed, and by Achashverosh’ reckoning, the 70 years were over. Nothing had happened, so he decided to throw a great feast to celebrate his victory. He set his banquet tables with sacred vessels from the Temple, and specifically invited Jews to his feast. If he could induce them to eat and drink the non-kosher food and wine he’d serve, then he could count his victory as complete.

The leader of the Jewish people at that time was a man named Mordechai, who was either Esther’s cousin, uncle, foster father or even, some say, her husband. In any event, Esther had been orphaned, and the powerful Mordechai stood as her protector. Esther – Hadassah, in Hebrew – was incredibly beautiful. Day by day, Mordechai worried that one day his lovely Jewish protégé would be called to the Palace to serve the lusty and evil Achashverosh.

When the invitations went out to this marvelous feast – which would last a half-year – Mordechai, as leader of the Jews, warned all the Jews not to go. He knew what Achashverosh’ scheme was. Indeed, most of the Jews declined the invitation, but some went – Jews will be Jews, after all.

I personally picture Rahm Emanuel at this feast, sitting at Achashverosh’ table, tipping his half-gallon wine glass into his mouth, enjoying himself hugely.

In any event, Achashverosh bent his elbow at this feast too. The adult beverages loosened his tongue, and soon he was bragging about his wealth. Then he moved on to crow about the beauty of his then-wife, Vasti the Queen. Seeking to impress his guests, he ordered Vasti to appear and dance naked before the crowd – as I say, in politics, some things never change.

Vasti refused. "Am I to be sent for like a common slave, a mere servant girl?" she said. It wasn’t virtue that made the evil Vasti was refuse, however. Instead, it was because she was the granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezzar, and tended to regard such orders from her husband as beneath her dignity.

Unfortunately for her, Queens don’t get the privilege of refusing orders from the King. So Achashverosh had Vasti, his wife, executed. Which left Achashverosh without a Queen.

The contest to replace Vasti began. Beautiful young women from all the 127 provinces of the kingdom were sought out and brought to the palace to compete. Hundreds wanted the position, of course – Queen of Persia was a gig on the level of Miss Universe, even if the Queenly lifespan tended to be a bit shorter.

When the lovely young things arrived at the palace, they all requested – and received – costly beauty treatments and lavish wardrobes so they’d look their best in enticing the King.

All except for Esther. She didn’t ask for anything.

Esther, who had no need for bling, was sweet and kind and radiated modesty and goodness. Of course, because she was an orphan, no one knew she was Jewish, which she managed to keep hidden.

As you probably can guess from stories like this, in due time, Esther was chosen and became Achashverosh’ Queen, which was a really good deal for Mordechai and the Jews. As Queen, Esther was in the perfect position to hear all the palace gossip, so she could protect her people to some degree. She even managed to have her uncle/foster father/whatever, Mordechai, appointed as Jewish Advisor to the King.

How did she do that? She reminded the King that all the other great rulers had selected Jewish advisors, so why hadn’t he have one? And there was Mordechai – wise, pious and loyal. Why not him? So Mordechai became part of the Royal Court.

Still wondering about the shoe? Hang on, we’re getting close.

One day, Mordechai overheard a conversation: two of the King's attendants, Bigtan and Teresh, were plotting to poison the King. Naturally, Mordechai told the King about it, the poison was discovered and the King’s life was saved. Mordechai’s status rose ever further.

All in all, Mordechai and Esther were faring very well indeed – except that Mordechai sensed that trouble was looming. Big trouble. So he became watchful.

The fly in the ointment was a man named Haman, a direct descendent of Amalek, who’s also – just in case you’re wondering – the ancestor of the Arabs who today still plague Jews.

Haman was a wealthy man, and because of his wealth – you see how little things have changed – King Achashverosh appointed Haman to the position of Prime Minister. Worse than that, after Haman was appointed, the King issued an order commanding everyone in the palace to bow down to Haman.

That’s where the trouble really started, that inane requirement to bow. Why? Because on his chest, Haman wore an image of the idol he worshiped. Which meant that Mordechai, the observant Jew, refused to bow to him. “I am a Jew,” Mordechai said, “I would never bow down to any human being wearing the image of a pagan idol on his chest.” (You see how we get this reputation for being a stiff-necked people.)

Haman was, of course, enraged. It wasn’t just that Mordechai refused to bow, either, it’s that these two men – Haman and Mordechai – had some history. This wasn’t the first time they’d clashed.

The animosity between them started several years earlier. Haman had been the lawyer, if you well, for a group of people who had tried to stop the rebuilding of the Temple. Mordechai, for his part, was representing the Jews. They were both going to Persia to argue their cases, and happened to leave on the journey on the same day.

Knowing they had to pass through a vast desert to reach Persia, where neither food nor water could be found, both packed provisions for the journey. But Haman, who lacked self control, ate all of his food at once, while Mordechai, the prudent little bunny, saved most of his. Within a very short time, Haman became very hungry and begged Mordechai to give him part of his food. He was starving, he said. He was dying.

At first Mordechai refused. Then he relented, on one condition: that Haman would agree to become Mordechai’s slave.

The starving Haman agreed. But because they were out there in the desert, they had no paper to record their contract. They wrote on the next best thing they had, the sole of Mordechai’s shoe.

AH – you see? We’re getting there!

On the sole of Mordechai’s shoe, Haman wrote: "I, Haman the Agagite, have sold myself to Mordechai as his slave in consideration of bread."

There you have it, a perfectly legal contract. But the real truth was, Mordechai had no particular need or desire to have a slave, Haman or anyone else. So he never intended to enforce the agreement. But Haman didn’t know that. Every day of his life, he remembered that once he had been starving, and that he’d had to beg his most bitter enemy to save his life. He could never get over his humiliation.

So when Haman, as Prime Minister, demanded that Mordechai bow down to him – well, you see the issue. Having Mordechai bow down was more important than having anyone else bow. Haman needed to assure himself that he had finally, totally, prevailed over Mordechai.

And Mordechai wasn’t beyond tweaking the situation, either. He not only refused to bow, but every time he could, he picked up his shoe and waved it at Haman – a silent reminder of the agreement.

Obviously there’s enough material here to keep a gaggle of psychologists busy for generations. But whenever Haman saw Mordechai standing there at the gate, waving his shoe -- reminding him of the time when he was hungry and vulnerable – he went nuts.

Finally, Haman reached the point where he couldn’t take it anymore. He set out to destroy not just Mordechai, but the entire Jewish nation.

There – that’s how the story of the sole of the shoe fits into the Jewish psyche as a symbol of humiliation and destruction.

Read the rest of the tale yourself – Haman didn’t succeed, of course. Instead, thanks to the brave and pious Esther, the Jewish nation was saved and Haman ended up being hanged on the gallows he’d built for Mordechai.

A timely story, actually, because Queen Esther really did save the Jewish nation from destruction – at that time, King Achashverosh and his evil henchman Haman had control of all the Jews in the world. If their plan had succeeded, the world would have been rid of Jews long before Hitler set out to do the same thing.

Which means that today’s ruler of Persia, the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wouldn’t have had any Jews to worry about. Nor would Abu Mazen, or any of the others who are still trying to do the same thing.

So today, when people in the Middle East start showing the soles of their shoes to each other, it awakens all kinds of not-all-that-latent cultural markers. We Jews remember Haman, who tried his best, in ways too devious and evil to recount here, to destroy us – and almost succeeded.

We don’t look kindly on people who show us the soles of their shoes – and that includes, needless to say, the Community Organizer. We know he hates us, that his goal is to help his fellow Muslims and destroy the State of Israel.

And Hussein Obama, for his part, is astonished at our chutzpah – we’re refusing to bow down to his dictates to stop construction in Judea and Samaria! So he’s bent on our destruction, just as throughout history, so many other world leaders have been.

Are you going to suggest that the Community Organizer most likely didn’t know the story of Mordechai and Esther, and how the sole of Mordechai’s shoe came to be a symbol of humiliation and destruction? That’s probably true.

But what he does know is that for all his Muslim friends – all 22 existing Arab nations, plus all the Muslims in America (“The largest Muslim country in the world,” he tells us) -- to show the sole of your shoe is a gut-level symbol of disrespect, comparable to the middle-finger salute.

So when Hussein Obama ordered the White House Press Office to take a picture of him -- shoes up, soles showing – as he talked to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the telephone, he knew exactly what he was doing. He was flipping off the Jews and sending a symbol of solidarity to his Muslim allies around the world.

So yes, we in Israel take offense. That photo tells us exactly what the President of the United States intends.

It tells us that Hussein Obama is no different from Haman.

Haman, as I said, was hanged by King Achashverosh. I repeat: I wonder what will become of Hussein Obama?

On the road to Eilat

For you Israelis -- who know this area even better than I do -- you have permission to skip this post if you want to. I think the US readers might find it interesting, though.

I went to Eilat yesterday -- Eilat is a seriously remote seaside paradise on the Red Sea -- not the Mediterranean. If you look at a map, it is at the very tip of southernmost Israel, just across the Red Sea from Jordan -- and only 12 miles from Saudi Arabia.

The road from Beersheba to Eilat is famous for its austere beauty and its danger. Built in 1958, for much of the 150 miles the highway is just two lanes, which irritates antsy drivers who try to pass and then don't quite make it. Then, too, sometimes camels wander unto the highway which is always fatal for the camel and usually fatal for the car passengers. Because camels have very long legs and a high center of gravity, when a car hits a camel, the very heavy body of the camel tends to fall on top of the car and crush it from above. Not good.

It's also dangerous because of the totally ridiculous "S" curves that mark a good portion of the way, especially about a third of the way in. The two lane road snakes back and forth, with sheer drops on the outside, with what look to be totally inadequate barriers -- they may not be inadequate, but they don't look very formidable. Last December the driver for a tour group of Russians made a bad mistake and 24 people were killed when their bus plunged over the side. Also not good.

So as the bus leaves Beersheba, it's usually full of people going on vacation to the seaside paradise -- a very popular spot for young people, especially. As the bus starts the journey, there's a lot of laughter, talking and like yesterday, even a few singing. It's a happy crowd. From what I could see, I think I was older than anyone else on the bus by about 30 years.

But about 20 miles out, the bus passes through Dimona and enters the stretch of road that's especially dangerous, with the "S" curves and the sharp drop offs. As many times as I've made this bus run, I have to say that the Egged drivers are excellent -- they drive very slowly through this part, maybe doing their best to prevent death by heart failure, as much as by road mishap.

Or maybe it's that it's just like pilots. There are old bus drivers, and bold bus drivers, but on the Eilat run, there are no old bold drivers...

So for the half hour that it takes to negotiate these curves, the bus is so silent you could hear a pin drop. Okay -- so maybe everyone is just talked out at that point, but I have a feeling that I'm not the only one holding my breath. (I've also found that slamming my left foot down hard on the foot rest doesn't help a bit, either.) There aren't many atheists on this stretch of road.

Here's the sort of thing we pass through:

There's just no way to describe the total, absolute, desolation of the Arava, which is what this area is called.

It's rocky, completely without water, and although from time to time on the long drive you'll find kibbutzim, they are few and far between. Mostly it looks just like this:

People do go hiking among these "wadis" -- drainage channels -- but not at this time of year. The heat -- yesterday was something over 105 -- the lack of water, the absence of shade make it among the most rugged country on earth.

There's some law, though, or regulation maybe, that bus drivers can't drive more than three hours without taking a break. So going and coming, there are tourist bus places to stop. An oasis, if you will.

Yesterday I just had to laugh -- here's the oasis we took a buy-water and use-the- bathroom break:

Maybe that doesn't strike you as funny as it does me, but this reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon -- there's this scraggly guy crawling on his hands and knees through the desert, and he finally finds a water hole.

And lo! it even has the Golden Arches!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Building, building, building....

Now Ban Ki-Moon is on the warpath against Israel, too. ‘Israel must fundamentally change its policies,” he said, adding that he was heartened by the Community Organizer’s stand against Judea and Samaria.

Actually he used the “S” word – “settlements”. Here, we say Judea and Samaria, which are integral parts of historic Israel and must, absolutely, be considered a part of Modern Israel.

Without wading into international law too deeply, keep in mind at after the Six Day War (1967) -- when Israel had been attacked and was forced to defend itself by taking control of Judea and Samaria -- those areas weren’t then under the legal control of ANY country. So there’s no reason why Israel doesn’t have just as much right to the area as anyone else.

So Ban Ki-Moon joins the French, the Germans and of course the Arabs in trying to set housing policy within Israel – not to mention our major nemesis, the US. Well, you can judge a man (or a country) by his enemies as well as his friends. So be it.

The hypocrisy is so outrageous as to be almost funny, though. Remember when the Community Organizer spoke to the G-20 Summit last April. Back then, his teleprompter read that the US should "forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions." Beyond that, whoever writes the Community Organizer’s material promised that from that point on, America would "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating."

That doesn’t apply to Israel. To us, the Community Organizer demands – demands! – no further construction of any kind in Judea and Samaria. As George Mitchell, his Middle East czar said, “The president doesn't want to see even one cement mixer in the West Bank."

Can you imagine what would happen if the Community Organizer were intent on dictating to us?

And another funny thing: When ‘Thank-G-d-for-loose-cannon Avigdor Lieberman’ announced that Israel would not abide by the “Annapolis Process” – the Arabs had never agreed to any of it, and the Israeli Knesset never approved it – the world went nuts. Outrageous! How could the Foreign Minister say such a thing? After all, a previous Prime Minister had consented – which in Israel means nothing. The approval of the Knesset is required.

But when the policy in question is that of the US, then the Community Organizer takes a different position: He sent his pit bull Missus Bubba out to convey his latest edict: The US will no longer honor long-standing US commitments to Israel regarding Judea and Samaria.

Ever since President Bubba's Camp David negotiations in 2000, all the way through both Republican and Democrat administrations up to now, the idea that in any “final settlement agreement” – whenever and whatever – Israel would keep portions of Judea and Samaria. That’s only rational: hundreds of thousands of Jews live there, in established cities – not to mention parts of Jerusalem proper. Several letters of understanding were exchanged between the US and Israel on that topic, and in 2004, Congress itself ratified them.

Now? The Community Organizer says he has no intention of respecting any of that.

So tell me: why would anyone – Israel or any other country – enter into any kind of an agreement with the US, so long as the Community Organizer is at the helm? Obviously he believes himself to be above the law – all of it. He’s not bound by anything.

This guy is scary, you know? If he doesn’t respect Congressionally-ratified US law as applied to foreign countries, what makes anyone think he would respect the rule of law in the US, as applied to citizens?

But here’s another really funny thing – the truth is, the Arabs aren’t any happier with Hussein Obama than Israel is. Why? Because they expected him to force Israel to hand over Judea and Samaria, just like that. And they understand – even if the Community Organizer doesn’t – that’s simply not going to happen.

To paraphrase the Bard as the Irish do, ‘A rotting lily stinks worse than a weed.’ The friend who turns against you is worse than the one who was an enemy from the start.

Good news came from a Ma’agar Mohot poll published this morning: Israelis are standing firm against the rest of the world.

Polled were Israelis (Arabs and Jews) who live outside Judea and Samaria – keep that in mind:

-- 70% said NO communities in the West Bank should be evacuated.
-- 82% said they wouldn’t support any anti-Judea or Samaria groups.
-- 80% said they’d never demonstrate against Jews living in Judea or Samaria.

Given the fact that Israelis are foremost among the “two Jews, three opinions” crowd, that’s significant.

We hardly ever agree on anything at all. But in standing strong for our brothers and sisters who live in Judea and Samaria, we’re united.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Okay, so let's talk about 'Obamanomics'

First of all, I thank Cheryl who commented on my previous blog for her very kind kid-glove reprimand to the effect that I shouldn’t be commenting on the specific reasons for the failure of BabagaNewz. She didn't say it directly, but she was right. I was just a freelancer, for crying out loud. Not privy to those kinds of issues. You’re right, Cheryl. WHAP! Thanks! I needed that.

That said, speaking generally now, not discussing any specific business situation, there is justification to what I said.

Regarding the “Madoff situation”, there’s no question that donations to all Jewish causes became far, far more difficult to come by after that imbroglio. There was most definitely a trickle-down effect, in that even institutions that hadn’t lost a cent as a direct result of Madoff’s schemes had trouble – are having trouble – raising money because the pool of dollars available for all Jewish causes is now drastically reduced. Not only is there far less money available, but the need has grown far greater.

Regarding Obamomics, however, I stand firm. The economic policies of the Community Organizer are directly responsible for the closure of heaven-only-knows-how-many business, big and small, all across the country. Even though he didn’t take office until January 20. Why?

Because many of those businesses could have held on, would have tried to hold on – would have battened down the hatches and tried to weather the economic storm if…. IF… they thought there was hope for a reasonably quick recovery out there. But even before the election was final, the Community Organizer was outlining his economic policies, his plan for “recovery”. From that moment on, business – Wall Street – knew that day by day, hope for recovery was diminishing.

So for businesses in a shaky financial condition, there was no point in holding on, in postponing the inevitable. They faced the inevitable and threw in the towel. They shut down.

The problem was, Hussein Obama was doing exactly the opposite of what he needed to do to spark a recovery. The day after the election the Dow dropped almost 500 points – the biggest post-election drop in history.

Celebrity-obsessed US voters may have been enchanted by the handsome man who read so eloquently from his teleprompter, but business knew better. This guy is a worse than an empty suit, he’s a complete nincompoop. If he did even half of the things he said he was going to do, the US was in for a very long and painful period.

And as it turned out, of course, once the Community Organizer was under full sail, he turned out to be even worse than he sounded before and right after the election.

The insane bailouts, throwing billions of non-existent dollars at everything that moved, the crazy printing of funny money to drive inflation up, the taking over the management of huge corporations, turning of General Motors into Government Motors, the mortgaging of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s future …… and all for what? To fix the Democrat party in place as the source of all well being. To make everyone dependent on government for their livelihood.

It’s enough to make you weep. Or move to Israel, if you aren’t already here.

So can the Community Organizer be held responsible for the myriad of business closures --- which is still getting worse, by the way, not better – even though he didn’t take office until January 20? Of course. A wiser hand at the helm would have done things differently.

No country ever taxed itself out of a recession. And if you think the Post Office is the ideal business operation, then you’ll love what the government does to all the formerly-private corporations they’re now going to manage. Once they start deciding who gets to see a doctor and who doesn’t, things will really get interesting.

In regard to who created this mess in the first place, don’t even try to shove all the blame off on Bush. It was Barney Frank and his fellow travelers in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives who take first responsibility.

It was they – and not Bush – who forced mortgage companies to grant home loans to people who clearly couldn’t afford them, on the theory that even poor people deserve to own mansions.

Frank & Co had plenty of help, of course, from lily-livered scared of their own shadow Republicans, but when looking who to blame, start off with Barney Frank.