Monday, August 31, 2009


Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has finally been indicted – the first indictment of an Israeli Prime Minister, which seems a little strange. Certainly others, like Ariel Sharon, earned the distinction, but HaKadosh Baruch-Hu Himself had to step in when Israel’s attorney general failed to act.

With Olmert, too, the indictment is definitely a case of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. At this point, who really cares? He should have been indicted back when it made some difference.

Like any time before he offered PA President Abu Mazen his own “Final Solution” deal: to give the Arabs 100% of Judea and Samaria; to absorb 30,000 Arabs who consider themselves refugees; and to internationalize Jerusalem, putting it under the control of Israel, the new “Palestinian” state, America and Saudi Arabia.

Thank goodness, once again, for the stupidity of our enemies. The Arabs turned that deal down, too – as they have every other deal offered. Like the others, Olmert didn’t offer enough.

How can anyone in the world possibly continue to believe that “peace negotiations” with the Arabs can ever be successful?

Get it through your heads, you “peace” advocates out there: the ‘Palestinians’ don’t want their own state. What they want is to get rid of Israel. One of the quickest ways to do that is by carving Israel up yet again, this time leaving nothing more than a militarily indefensible lump. Then they can attack, and it will be over.

Seeing the Drudge headline, “Madonna and Jesus tour Jerusalem” does give one pause….

No kidding? They certainly got a warmer welcome this time than they did before, when they had to divert to Bethlehem.

Of course this time, it’s the Material Girl who’s here to do two shows. Even so, she’s not receiving a universal welcome. In fact, Israel’s leading Kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Batzri, said he was sorry that she’s getting such royal treatment – she’s scheduled to meet with both PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

Rabbi Batzri, who’s the head of the Shalom Yeshiva in Jerusalem, notes that Kabbalah refers to spiritually deep understanding in Judaism, and even Jews are discouraged from studying it until they are deemed mature enough to handle the subject. Beyond that, Jewish law forbids men from hearing a woman sing. Therefore, Madonna’s concert appearances violate Jewish law and should not be allowed, the Rabbi says.

I agree. Israel has enough problems. Tourism is good, but all in all, I’d just as soon Madonna, or “Esther” as she calls herself here, in an interesting confusion of heroines – should keep her antics, her stylish black-baby accessories and her boy-toy in the US.

Or they could try Bethlehem again. That might be interesting – our Muslim cousins aren’t nearly as open minded about such matters as we are.

Last comments on Sweden – I promise. But here we go again, thank-goodness-for-loose-cannon Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who once again offered the incisive comment on the whole mess.

As you know, the Swedish government funded “research” which resulted in an Aftonbladed newspaper hit piece which said that the IDF is killing Arabs and harvesting their organs for sale.

Lieberman took it upon himself to respond to Italy’s Foreign Affairs Minister Franco Frattini, who was playing peacemaker, urging Sweden to apologize.

“We didn’t request an apology (nor are we interested in) taking moves against the newspaper,” Lieberman said. “Our entire request from the Swedes is to disavow the article and condemn it.”


And that, of course, the Swedish government continues to refuse to do.

That said, the incident continues to bring out the wisecracks from some of Israel’s bureaucrats. At this time, no press passes are being given to reporters from the Aftonbladed newspaper.

So someone asked one of the staffers when they expected to start issuing press passes again. “I don’t know,” the clerk is said to have replied. “At least not until we’ve determined whether they’ll make good organ donors.”

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It’s officially pomegranate season in Israel – you can always tell, because the local buses are plastered with brightly colored decals picturing a juicy bursting pomegranate – rimon, in Hebrew – coupled with the words, Shana Tova! ‘Happy New Year’, because this year, the Jewish new year is celebrated on September 18.

Jewish New Year aside, pomegranates always make me think of John F. Kennedy.

It’s a cliché that everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news of the shooting in Dallas.

I’m no different – I’d just driven home from University of North Dakota law school, for lunch break, listening to Paul Harvey and his ‘The Rest of the Story” as I drove. He didn’t mention it, of course – those programs were recorded. But as I walked into my apartment, my phone was ringing. It was one of my classmates: “Don’t bother coming back for class this afternoon. The President’s been shot. Everything is cancelled.”

I actually had a television in those days, so of course I turned it on. As you all remember, in the first hours, there wasn’t much news, just the same stories and photos played over and over. I could see we were in for a lot of news reporting, so I took a break and ran out to the grocery store to buy my favorite TV-watching snack: pomegranates.

I’d spent the better part of the year before living in Mexico City, and had discovered pomegranates there. Unbelievable, now that I think about it, but the Grand Forks grocery stores, even in those days, carried pomegranates. If you think about it, pomegranates are the ideal TV watching snack – after all, you can’t do much of anything else when you’re eating a pomegranate.

I even had a pomegranate-eating tee shirt. Pomegranate juice stains permanently, so I dedicated one shirt to the cause. My blotchy red-stained tee shirt was the perfect outfit for that ghastly week.

I don’t know how many pomegranates I went through during that one week, but I do remember going back to the store time and time again. Eventually, of course, public fascination with the whole event began to fade, school started again, and regular programming returned to the three TV channels we had. By that time, I’d had enough pomegranates to last the rest of my life. Almost.

Earlier this year I wrote about how much fun it’s been to have my own pomegranate tree. What started out as blossoms like this ……

… eventually ripened into an awful lot of fruit. Unfortunately, some kind of boring insects loved them too, so there weren’t too many pieces of fruit that were perfect. Just about right, actually.

I used one to count the seeds, something I try on a regular basis. Why? Because in Judaism, pomegranates figure hugely, in many different ways. One of them suggests that the pomegranate contains exactly 613 seeds, which is equal to the total number of Mitzvot, commandments, in the Torah.

I blush to admit that among the dozen or so pomegranates I’ve split apart to count the seeds, I’ve never found one that actually had requisite 613. I’m sure I probably miscounted. Or some were too small to count and I missed them. Or something like that.

There are lots of other pomegranate analogies, too:

"As the slice of the pomegranate so is your forehead". Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish used to say, "Among your people, even the most ordinary people are filled full by the commandments, as a pomegranate.”

“Small children who study Torah sit in rows before their teachers are like the seeds of a pomegranate."

Then, too, the pomegranate, bursting with juicy seeds, has been regarded as a symbol of fertility for thousands of years.

If you look at the calyx of the pomegranate, you can see it’s shaped like a crown. Look at any crown symbol, and you can see how the pomegranate has been adopted as the original "design" for the proper crown.

Grenada, a South American island, was named after the Spanish and French word for 'pomegranate'.

The word ‘grenade’ – a hand held explosive – also come from pomegranates, because of its shape and size, and also because the seeds resemble a grenade’s fragments.

Garnets, the jewels, are so named because of their color.

Israel isn’t just the land of milk and honey, either. In Deuteronomy 8, it says, “For the Lord G-d shall lead you into the good land, a land of flowing water... The land of wheat and barley, the vine and fig and pomegranate, a land of the olive tree and honey."

Because of a Divine directive in Exodus 28, pomegranates were woven onto the borders of the High Priest’s robes.

In King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, the capitals of two columns in the Temple’s facade were decorated with pomegranates.

Pomegranates are so important that on Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, a special prayer is said: "May it be Your will O Lord our G-d and the G-d of Our Fathers, that our good deeds will increase like the seeds of the pomegranate.”

It’s not just Judaism, either: Ancient Egyptians were buried with pomegranates. The Babylonians believed chewing the seeds before battle made them invincible. The Koran mentions pomegranates three times -- twice as examples of the good things G-d creates, once as a fruit found in the Garden of Paradise.

Maybe after writing all this, I’ll be able to associate pomegranates with something other than John F. Kennedy. That would be more than fine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Swedes get suckered too

US citizens who find their hard-earned tax dollars squandered on nefarious foreign activities – like paying $50 million to fund the recent terrorist Fatah Conference – can luxuriate in a bit of ‘misery loves company’ comfort.

Other governments are doing the same thing.

Now we know one of the reasons why the Swedish government refuses to apologize for the outrageous Aftonbladed newspaper article claiming that the IDF executes Arabs in order to harvest and sell their organs.

It’s because the Swedish government paid for the “research” that lead to the story.

The news came from Ma’ariv, an Israeli daily. Ma'ariv’s Swedish correspondent, Liran Lotker, reported that most of the material that ended up in Donald Boström’s heinous feature story was taken directly from a book he published in 2001 named “Inshallah” -- (‘if Allah wills’)

And who paid for research and publication of the book? The Foreign Ministry of Sweden, Swedish labor unions and several organizations based in Arab controlled areas of Israel.

So now things are hearing up all over again.

No more work visas will be granted to Aftonbladed reporters in Israel, said Interior Minister Eli Yishai. No press cards will be issued to Aftonbladed journalists, said the Government Press Office Director Danny Seaman.

An additional problem, Seaman said, is that newspapers like Aftonbladed hire leftists who pretend to be reporters. They enter Israel as “journalists” but in fact come to protest and wreck havoc.

Maybe the Swedes should stick to writing Ole and Lena jokes…..

Uff da, those Swedes! Ar de galna?

It’s one of those things you don’t expect to happen in modern times – an honest to goodness ‘blood libel’, the kind of thing the characterized the Middle Ages: the notion that Jews use human blood in religious celebrations, use it to make matza, or that Christian children are killed for their blood.

The modern twist was just published in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet – not a fringe paper, but with a readership of 1.5 million, one of the most popular. They claimed that IDF soldiers execute Arabs in order to harvest their organs and sell them.

The headline read, ‘Ganska Israel’ – (Check Israel) – subtitled, “Our sons were plundered for their organs.”

It was illustrated by a horrible photo, showing a man who looks like he’s sewn up the middle – with a large scar running the whole length of his torso.

Good grief. Have they no shame?

The reporter is a writer named Donald Boström who offered his own eyewitness testimony. Seventeen years ago, in 1992, he says, he witnessed an IDF “raid” on a village. A rioter named Bilal Achmed Ghanaian was shot, severely injured and taken away by an IDF helicopter. Five days later the dead Ghanaian was returned to his family who saw the huge scar.

He goes on to quote numerous Arabs who claim their sons were used as forced organ donors, although he offers no other support for this insane idea.

The newspaper’s editor, Jan Helin, admitted they had no proof that the story was true, but printed it “because it raised questions that needed to be addressed.”

At this point, Bostrom, the author, also admits he doesn’t know if the story is true, and the family of the dead Arab, Ghanaian, said they never suspected such a thing back then, and has no idea whether it’s true now or not.

Asa Linderborg, editor of the newspaper's culture section where the story appeared, told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that the publication "stands behind the demand for an international inquiry."

"We had many discussions on whether to publish the article or not, and to the best of my knowledge, there are no facts there that are incorrect," Linderborg said. (No ‘facts’ that are ‘incorrect’? Interesting thought.)

The paper’s editor, Helin, rejected criticism of the article, instead accusing his opponents of “using centuries-old anti-Semitic images,” such as that of European blood libels, “in an apparent attempt to get an obviously topical issue off the table.” He insisted that “a strong propaganda machine” was behind the appalled reactions to the story.

Yup. There’s that awesome “Jewish lobby” at work again, this time in Sweden. That’s why Israel is faring so well during the reign of the Community Organizer. It’s because we’re so powerful.

At least Israeli officials are taking a strong united position. Thank-G-d-for-Loose-Canons Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said exactly what he thought. I love this guy. Lieberman called the piece a “disgrace to Swedish journalism”, comparing it to “dark blood libels from the Middle Ages.” He later added that the article was a “natural continuation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” saying that Sweden’s refusal to disassociate itself from it was reminiscent of its “neutral” stance during the Holocaust.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz chimed in saying, “The Jewish State cannot ignore manifestations of anti-Semitism, even if they appear in a respectable newspaper. Whoever is not willing to distance himself from such blood libels, may very well not be welcome here in Israel.”

Minister Limor Livnat demanded that the “Swedish government apologize for the blood libel against Israel.”

Welfare Minister Yitzchak Herzog said that this was not a one-time incident, but rather a “media campaign that has been going on for years.”

Even Israel’s Pillsbury Doughboy Defense Minister Ehud Barak was thinking about responding – you KNOW it’s serious when he starts thinking about it. Anyway he’s contemplating a libel lawsuit against Boström, who has apparently been trying to get someone to print his article since 1992.

Of course Lieberman was the one to take action: he told Foreign Ministry employees to consider the cancellation of government press cards given to Aftonbladet reporters in Israel, and to refuse to assist the paper in any way in covering Israeli news.

As far as the Swedish Ambassador is concerned, he offered something he claims is an apology, whereupon the Swedish government distanced themselves from even his limp-wristed comments. “The Ambassador’s condemnation was solely the judgment of the embassy [in Tel Aviv], and designed for an Israeli audience,” they said, which proves one thing for sure. The Swedes have learned something from the Arabs: you say one thing to your home crowd and something else to the foreign press.

Who ever said you have to tell everyone the same story?

One other funny point: Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on his blog – do you believe this? Foreign policy conducted via blogs? Anyway, he wrote that the Swedish government “cannot get involved in correcting all the strange claims in the media,” asserting, of course, that in Sweden, freedom of the press is enjoyed by everyone.

So one of Bibi’s aids responded: "Israel does not wish to infringe upon the freedom of the press in Sweden. However, as much as the Swedish press is entitled to freedom, the Swedish government should enjoy the freedom of denouncing such reports."

You know? You gotta get up pretty early in the morning to put one over on these kids trained in Talmudic reasoning. Promote that young man, whoever he is!

This isn’t a unique dispute with the Swedes, you know. For the better part of a century, Sweden has always been pretty squishy on the Israeli goose question. They certainly weren’t of much help during the Holocaust.

More recently, six months ago, we tussled before with Swedish journalism. It started when a group of pro-Israel Swedes demonstrated in the Swedish city of Malmo. It was a totally peaceful demonstration, no violence at all – until a gang of Islamists arrived and fired rockets and threw pipe-bombs. Yes, they arrested one attacker, but afterward, southern Sweden’s largest newspaper, Sydsvenskan, headlined its report, “Several arrested during Israel demonstration” reporting that "the anticipated violence did not occur" – as though they’d expected violence from the pro-Israel crowd.

And so today’s battle rages: Sweden – the government, as compared to the Foreign Ministry – won’t apologize.

Our main guy, Avigdor Lieberman, says the incident won’t be over until they do.

I have just one question: How many legions do the Swedes have?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

One of my far-flung correspondents forwarded a new ‘Bill Cosby’ declaration – not that Bill Cosby actually wrote it.

When this same list appeared in 2008, Cosby immediately disavowed it, as did comedian George Carlin, who some said had actually written it.

Snopes, the Urban Legend people – -- says they actually have no idea who wrote it back in 2008.

You’ve probably see this thing, too. Usually I ignore such things, but this time, it’s probably worth consideration.

The Silly Season is coming upon us again – thank G-d. We’ll have the opportunity to replace a large hunk of the House of Representatives and as many Senators as we can, and maybe we’ll cool the socialist ardors of the Community Organizer. Unless the Birthers can hit it out of the ballpark, it’s still three long years until we can return him to the private sector, allowing him to fulfill his standard defeated-politicians wish to spend more time with his family.

So what does “Bill Cosby” have to say?

1.'Press 1 for English' is immediately banned. English is the official language; speak it or wait at the border until you can.

This is the proposition that troubles me most. I know I’ve said it before, but I say it again: living as part of a minority in a “foreign” country is something every American should try at least once. It gives you a whole new perspective on daily life, and how to exist within a larger society, one which doesn’t speak your language.

There isn’t a soul here in Israel who doesn’t want to speak perfect Hebrew – trust me on that. It’s not a lack of desire. It’s just that learning a new language can be very difficult – the ability to learning languages is a talent much like music. Some people have a “talent” for it, some don’t. Beyond that, most Americans speak only English. Learning a second language is much harder than learning a third or fourth. We Americans are hampered by our isolationism – the very thing “Cosby” is promoting. Of course the real factor for many of us older immigrants is, the older you get, the more difficult it is to learn a new language.

So “Cosby’s” idea of “wait at the border until you learn it” seems naïve. I wonder how many languages he speaks?

(2) We will immediately go into a two year isolationist posture to straighten out the country's attitude. NO imports, no exports. We will use the 'Wal-Mart’s policy, 'If we ain't got it, you don't need it.'

Sorry, but this is criminally naïve, too – although as most of you know, I’m favorably inclined toward anything that WalMart peddles, except for this idea.

Really, you want to go to “no imports”??

What, you’ll give up your cell phones? Computers? You’ll forgo life saving medical equipment that’s manufactured in Germany, France or Israel? Medicines that are manufactured elsewhere? All kinds of fruits and vegetables that come to the US when local crops are out of season? No more oil? How will you run your car, heat your home, cook your food? True the US could become energy self sufficient, if you could gag the wacky environmentalists long enough to allow drilling. But even that couldn’t produce oil “immediately”. It would be a very long cold winter, if suddenly all imports were barred.

Regarding exports, maybe “Cosby” doesn’t know it, but the US is a net exporter of food, the largest in the world. What would happen to all the people who produce and store wheat, corn and other grains, fruit, vegetables, cotton, beef, poultry, dairy products, forest products and fish? With no market for their produce, I guess they’d all go on unemployment or welfare. Is that what “Cosby” intends?

(3) When imports are allowed, there will be a 100% import tax on it.

That’s being tried right now, as a matter of fact. Sugar is one of the commodities that the US imports – there isn’t enough domestic production in the Midwest and Hawaii to satisfy the demand of all those people who enjoy not just plain sugar, but manufactured things like chocolate bars, cereals, cookies, gums, sodas, and juice. If you’ve noticed, the price of sugar has jumped 80% this year, which means the price of an awful lot of things has gone up, too.

You like that? Imagine everything with a 100% import tax.

(4) All retired military personnel will be required to man (sic) one of our many observation towers on the southern border for a six month tour. They will be under strict orders not to fire on SOUTHBOUND aliens.

This is supposed to be funny, I guess. I suppose many retired vets would be happy to get a job guarding the borders. “Requiring” it of retired military sounds like involuntary servitude. And I don’t know how you tell an “alien” from anyone else from an observation tower. Heck -- it's not even easy when you're face to face.

(5) Social security will immediately return to its original state. If you didn't put nuttin in, you ain’t getting nuttin out. Neither the president nor any other politician will be able to touch it.

That wasn’t Social Security’s “original state” at all. When it came into being in 1935, it was funded by a 1% tax on both employers and employees on their first $3000 of annual wages. But it was intended to help workers not only in retirement, but also widows and dependent children who hadn’t worked, and people with disabilities who had never contributed.

(6) Welfare - Checks will be handed out on Fridays at the end of the 40 hour school week and the successful completion of urinalysis and a passing grade.

That’s not a bad idea. It would make some sense if you assume all welfare recipients lack high school degrees. In today’s economy, that’s hardly the case.

(7) Professional Athletes--Steroids. The FIRST time you check positive you're banned for life.

Fine with me. I don’t really care. I might amend it by saying that before any athlete competes, some objective determination of the person’s gender should be made. Then we wouldn’t be fighting about whether a particular athlete is male or female after the race is run.

(8) Crime - We will adopt the Turkish method, the first time you steal, you lose your right hand. There are no more life sentences. If convicted of murder, you will be put to death by the same method you chose for your victim: gun, knife, strangulation, etc.

Regarding theft, that’s Muslim law, not just Turkish. I hope I'll never see the day when ANY of this is implemented in the US. Probably won't be long before Europe resurrects the chopping block, though.

(9) One export will be allowed, wheat. The world needs to eat. A bushel of wheat will be the exact price of a barrel of oil.

That certainly would make the wheat farmers happy. A year ago, a bushel of wheat cost about $3.50, and today it’s up to almost $20. A barrel of oil costs about $73. If that happened, you’d find an awful lot of parking lots – for the no longer
existent cars – ripped up and planted to wheat.

(10) All foreign aid using American taxpayer money will immediately cease, and the saved money will pay off the national debt and ultimately lower taxes. When disasters occur around the world, we'll ask the American people if they want to donate to a disaster fund, and each citizen can make the decision whether it’s a worthy cause.

Most foreign aid already isn’t in the form of cash – it’s given in excess foodstuffs: the government buys excess food, fiber and dairy products, which keeps the prices to the farmers high enough for them to remain in business. So giving foreign countries excess government commodities actually helps the US economy at least as much as the countries who receive it.

Foreign aid is also given in allowing countries to purchase US made military equipment, allegedly at a “discount”. That’s income in US citizen’s pockets, for companies that manufacture such items.

That is, incidentally, what made the recent US gifts to the Hamas and Fatah terrorists so strange. In that case, it WAS given in the form of cash. Maybe the Community Organizer decided that when he had needy terrorists on his hands, handing over the cash was the best policy. Friends get privileges, after all.

(11) The Pledge of Allegiance will be said every day at school and every day in Congress.

When I was a kid – dinosaurs still roamed the earth – every day did start with the Pledge of Allegiance. It doesn’t anymore? Congress already does open every day with the Pledge and also with a prayer. So far, it hasn’t seemed to do much good.

(12) The National Anthem will be played at all appropriate ceremonies, sporting events, outings, etc.

Yup! That used to be done, too, when I was a kid.

It’s funny when these things circulate on email lists. There’s a certain populist appeal to many of the ideas, but if you look a little closer, most of it doesn’t really make sense.

One might wish that life was as simple as these mandates imply. The curse of our day is that it’s not.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Sixth Fatah Conference finally ended on August 13, and if you’ve been paying attention to the news reports, we know what they did: they ratified Article 12 of the Charter, which in which they call for the "complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence through violence."

What we didn’t know until now was that we, the great beneficent taxpayers of the United States, paid for the Conference.

According to the Syrian newspaper Al-Watan, the Community Organizer and Missus Bubba were kind enough to give Fatah $50 million to cover Fatah’s expenses. According to the news report, the cash was intended to “strengthen Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.”

The current administration – assuming one can refer to a nascent dictatorship as an “administration” – continues to live in la-la land regarding the purposes and intent of Fatah.

Apparently, in looking at the Israeli Arab situation, the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania decided that since there are two terrorist organizations vying for power – actually now there are three, given that Al Qaeda has jumped in, too – one must be more “moderate” than the other.

It’s hard to paint Hamas as “moderate”. The US, Canada and the European Union all list Hamas as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization”. So who’s left? Fatah.

It would be hard to be more openly dedicated to terror – attacks on civilians – than Hamas, so therefore Fatah, by default, must be more “moderate”. Right?

Wrong. If one thing was clear from the Fatah Conference, it’s that Fatah’s aspirations to be regarded as equally adept at terror as Hamas must be taken seriously. Fatah is as open and notorious about their intentions to end the existence of Israel as are any of the other terror groups dedicated to our destruction.

And Israel is just the appetizer, you know. Having consumed us, the full course is the United States.

The Conference hall itself was plastered with images of Palestinian "martyrs", Arab heroes who had been killed while carrying out terror attacks. There were slogans, such as "The right to resistance is a legitimate right" and "The right of return is a sacred right which will not be ceded."

The Conference was opened by PA terrorist Abu Alaa, referred to by the mainstream press by his cleaned-up Western name, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei. He reminded the attendees of the glorious deeds of the Fatah terrorists who had carried out the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre in which 38 civilians were killed, including 13 children and an American photographer. An additional 71 were wounded. Homage was paid to these valiant heroes.

When terrorist Abu Mazen – his cleaned-up Western name is PA President Mahmoud Abbas – rose to speak, he too recalled with pride all the terror attacks against Israel which, he said, forced the "whole world to hear the voice of Palestine."

At least he was right about that. Terror attacks do indeed earn column inches.

Abu Mazen went on to endorse Arab chicanery, in which they appear to agree to “peace” agreements, but in fact use the time-outs as a strategy to rearm.

Nor do such agreements take the place of terrorism when that seems appropriate. “When we stress that we espouse the option of peace and negotiations based on the U.N. resolutions,” Abu Mazen said, “we retain our fundamental right to legitimate resistance guaranteed by international law. This right is also linked to our perception and to the national consensus, which is what must determine the appropriate forms of the struggle and the proper timing for [each]....”

The Conference set forth the following “pre-conditions” to any “peace” agreement with Israel”. There will be no peace agreement until:

• All “Palestinian” prisoners are released;
• All borders to Aza are opened; (thus allowing free access to carry out terror attacks)
• All 5 million “refugees” are “resettled” within Israel;
• Jerusalem, in its entirely, is handed over to the ‘Palestinians”;
• All Jewish residents are removed from Jerusalem.

Only then will the “Palestinians” agree to negotiate peace. As I’ve said before, once all that occurs, what’s left to negotiate?

Why does the world in general – not just the Community Organizer & Co – continue to insist that Fatah is a “moderate” Arab organization?

There’s nothing about Fatah that’s “moderate”, not even in comparison to Hamas or Al Qaeda.

If anything was clear from this whole conference, it was that Fatah is doing everything possible to burnish their own terrorist credentials and aspirations, proving they’re even more deadly -- committed to the end of the Zionist entity – as any other terror organization.

I can’t figure it out. What do our elected officials -- both Bushes did it, too, as did Bubba Clinton -- gain by funding terror organizations? What’s in it for them?

What benefit does the United States of America get, for denouncing terror in one breath, while simultaneously giving them hundreds of millions for their support?

When Edmund Burke wrote, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” he clearly underestimated the contemporary power of evil.

Apathy will allow evil to triumph, no question about that. But forcing taxpayers to pay for it makes it even easier.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hoo-boy, now it’s gonna get interesting.

Dick Armey – former Congressman from Texas, former House Majority Leader – is speaking out again, thank goodness.

After a considerable break from the public eye, this morning Drudge carries a story detailing Armey’s reaction to the Community Organizer’s bogus “health care” plan, which Armey predicts will “fail spectacularly”. Clearly, the Community Organizer’s main game is in trouble.

Most recently, Armey’s grassroots organization, FreedomWorks, has been behind many of the successful ‘Tea Parties’ activities that were initially responsible for creating the heartburn at 1600 Pennsylvania. Without question, Armey is one of the most fascinating pols to ever grace Washington. He’s not only a principled and brilliant strategist, but goes about it with such a mischievous sense of humor that even his enemies enjoy his company. A little bit of the Armey wit is exactly what’s needed right now – the best way to demobilize the Community Organizer is to get people laughing at him.

In Congress Armey represented a district in metropolitan Dallas-Fort Worth, but he was born in Cando, North Dakota, a farm town that lies about 100 miles from the dusty prairie town where I grew up.

Armey, the fifth of eight kids, was the first member of the family to go to college. He didn’t even think of such a thing until he’d been working for the REA, climbing utility poles to keep the power flowing to isolated rural areas. Up on a 30-foot pole one cold winter night, Armey had an epiphany. “At 3 a.m., with the temperature 30 below zero, I thought to myself, ‘I’m not sure I want to be doing this when I’m 40.’ That’s when I decided to go to college.”

He graduated from Jamestown College with a degree in Economics, got his Masters from the University of North Dakota, followed by a PhD from the University of Oklahoma. He taught at several universities, but by the time he ran for Congress in 1984, he was the Chairman of the Economics Department at the University of North Texas.

As a prairie child and coming from Cando as he did, Armey was born into a tradition of self determination. Cando – about 1200 people, total – owes its very existence to a moment of defiance.

Back in 1884, when Towner County – just south of Canada – was deciding where their county seat would be, a civic battle reigned. Locals wanted to create a new town to serve as the administrative center, but others, including a man named J.W. Connelly, wanted the profitable designation for their own towns. The locals prevailed – with Captain Prosper Parker setting the standard for feistiness. "Gentlemen,” he said, “we have been appointed to this committee to decide this location, and in virtue of our authority, we select this location. We’ll name the town 'Cando' just to show you that we can-do it."

That’s Cando. And that’s Dick Armey, too.

Armey has written several books, one of them “Armey’s Axioms: 40 Hard-Earned Truths from Politics, Faith, and Life”. It’s a funny, profound and brilliant book, all at the same time:

“If you love peace more than freedom, you lose” -- definitely something for Israelis to keep in mind.

“No one spends someone else’s money as wisely as he spends his own.”

“If you make a deal with the devil, you are the junior partner.”

Armey’s most-quoted quip came during President Bubba’s little Oval Office dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. Armey was asked what he’d do if he were in the President’s position. "If I were in the President’s position,” Armey replied, “I’d be looking up from a pool of my own blood and hearing Mrs. Armey ask, 'How do I reload this damn thing?'"

In terms of politics, Armey is a doctrinaire Libertarian but was especially adept at working closely with people whose beliefs were precisely the opposite of his, including the nefarious Barney Frank.

How did he do it? “I’ve never had a confrontation with another member of Congress that was the source of any enjoyment,” he says. “It’s a part of the job that has to be done. You can compromise on details, you can compromise on strategies, but you must never compromise on principles.”

So today, as Drudge reports that Dick Armey stepped out swinging to talk common sense about the bogus “health care” debate, that’s great news.

This is a critical battle: Either Americans will fall prey to the Community Organizer’s plan to make every citizen dependent on him – not on Congress, but on the Executive Branch (it’s in the bill) for everything from a hangnail to end-of-life decisions – or they will beat him back on this issue, and then move to start the long process of wresting control from the Washington powerbrokers on other matters.

Armey predicted that the American grassroots backlash against Obama’s “hostile government takeover of a sixth of the US economy” would be successful.

But, he warned, this fall, be on the lookout for a fear campaign. “In September or October there will be a hyped up outbreak of the swine flu which they’ll say is as bad as the bubonic plague to scare the bed-wetters to vote for healthcare reform,” he said. “That’s the only way they can push something on to the American people that the American people don’t want.”

When Dick Armey first took office, he made clear what would be the difference between him and the current administration. “The American people didn’t give us power, they gave us responsibility.”

For more about Dick Armey, check out, dedicated to “lower taxes, less government, more freedom”.

And remember Armey’s First Rule of Conservatism: “Accept the fact that if you are true to yourself, Susan Sarandon will never hug you in public.”

It’s great to have Dick Armey out leading the charge again. He’s one of my generation’s Great Americans.

There was a surprise this morning on the local email list, "Anglobeersheba", a Yahoo Group, where the English speakers in the area have the chance to ask questions, offer advice, or -- as with today's tidbit -- express themselves on some issue of local interest.

This morning's post was titled: “Yeah! Mayor's removing ‘statues’”

The message read: "After sufficient public grievance, our mayor "Ruvik" has agreed to remove those veggie statues (and I hope the other flowers, chickens and other kiddie art around the city) so generously erected by previous mayor."

My immediate reaction was, "WHAT?"

The photo above is one of the examples of "kiddie art" to which the writer alludes. I don’t know about you, but I rather like it.

(The photos of local art I took from Etheleah Katzanells' way-beyond-excellent "My Beersheba" website, which you can find at Leah gets the photo credit, with my great thanks. Whether she agrees with my point of view is another matter – all I did was copy her excellent photos, because I couldn’t get free today to take pictures myself.)

Here's the backstory: Maybe about a year ago, these whimsical little pieces of street furniture began appearing all over Beersheba. There are all kinds of things -- animals, like the one above, plus birds and cute insects. There are lots of interesting fruit sculptures -- a bright red tomato, an apple. There are flowers, 60-ish flower-child sort of things. All of the artwork is perfectly harmless -- and many of them are quite good. Or so I thought.

At first, because the little statutes weren't appearing in my neighborhood, I wasn’t really aware of how many there were until someone else on Anglobeersheba sent me an email, suggesting that maybe a story about the artist, whoever it was, would be interesting. I agreed, and did a reconnaissance run for information – just enough to learn that the artists who created them were not local, but rather had won some kind of commission to produce the pieces for the city. I didn't think the story was worth traveling for the interviews, so I dropped the idea for a story.

But I still liked them – and more and more kept appearing.

Are they "kiddie art"? I’m sure kids enjoy them – but so do a lot of people. From reading the responses that followed on today's Anglobeersheba, I think a lot of other people liked them, too. We're not talking fine art here, no one is saying that. But this is street furniture. Something a little interesting to look at. A bit of color and flash in what can otherwise be a very monochrome landscape -- sand, sand and more sand. What's wrong with a little color?

The whole thing reminded me of the infamous "Indo Arch" that plagued Sacramento back in the 1970's. Any of you around there during those years won't ever forget the civil unrest over this piece of art. (Well, they CALLED it "art", anyway)

The "Indo Arch" was the creation of Gerald Walburg, and was installed in 1977 to mark the entrance to "Old Sacramento" from the newer part of the city. And boy, hell hath no fury like irate citizens when they don't like a piece of 'public art' -- especially one that they got suckered into paying for.

The local fury was unbelievable and lasted for months. People said it had "all the charm of a rusty paper clip" and castigated the city officials that decided to use taxpayer cash to pay for it.

The supporters -- the city's elite, as you might suspect -- denigrated anyone who spoke out against it by saying they were merely "cranky citizens", and slyly suggested that they needed some education in art appreciation. They barely refrained from using the word 'redneck', although they probably thought it.

Time passed, and calls to have the Arch removed and hauled away gradually died out. It's still there, still rusting -- the artist insisted it was supposed to rust. Now 30+ years later, it seems like it was hardly worth the effort to protest.

Controversy in "public art" is hardly new. When in 1981 an artist named Richard Serra produced something he called "Tilted Arc" for Federal Plaza in New York City, there was controversy. The sculpture was a raw wall of curved steel, 120 feet long and 12 feet high that managed to cut the space of the Federal Plaza directly in half. The problem for the poor unfortunates who worked in the surrounding buildings was that they had to walk around the darn thing, and hated it.

That was the point, Serra said. "The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction and expansion of the sculpture result from the viewer's movement. Step by step the perception not only of the sculpture but of the entire environment changes."

Well, in that case, Serra lost, the public won. "Tilted Arc" was removed.

Another sculptor named Michael McGrath had the same problem with a piece he created for Burien, WA, near Seattle. Below is a rear view of what he called, "Nude Woman". There's no way I'm posting the frontal view.

So what do you think? Nude or crude? Or both?

The battle is still raging over this one -- at this writing, it's still on display, but for how long, no one knows.

Nor is the controversy limited to the US. Melbourne got a taste of "art" way back in 1980 when sculptor Ron Robertson-Swann created this angular assemblage of yellow-painted steel panels. People immediately dubbed it, "Yellow Peril", and the controversy raged. Finally, it came to be dotted with graffiti and was removed as an eyesore.

So what do you think about Beersheba's plain, simple little pieces of "kiddie art"? They aren't pornographic. They don't disrupt traffic, either pedestrian or vehicular. They don't look like rusty paper clips or buildings in need or renovation.

Why shouldn't our clever little statues stay?

I have no idea where the "sufficient public grievance" came from, that apparently swayed the new mayor. but I suggest we create some counter balance.

Let the statues stay. We've already paid for them -- what's wrong with leaving them there?

What do you think?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It didn’t take long.

Two days ago, as a part of the Fatah Conference, Fatah endorsed the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as their official armed wing. They pledged to carry on “the resistance” -- code word for ‘terrorism against civilians’ -- to the Zionist occupation.

Yesterday, two Israelis were wounded in a terrorist shooting about 20 miles north of Jerusalem. The two Israelis had been driving in their car when a vehicle with an Israeli license plate signaled them to stop. When they did, the two terrorists in the other car shot them from point blank range.

This morning, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the shooting attack.

It’s hardly surprising. As far as Fatah is concerned, every Israeli is a legitimate military target. That’s what Rashideh al-Mughrabi said during an interview with World Net Daily.

"I don't believe there are civilians in Israel,” she said, noting that she was serving as a senior deputy at the recent Fatah Conference. “All of Israeli society is a military society and therefore a military target."

Mughrabi comes from a distinguished terrorist family. She is the sister of Dalal al-Mughrabi, one of the most infamous anti-Israel terrorists in history. It was Dalal who led an attack in March 1978 that killed 36 Israelis in what’s remembered as the Coastal Road Massacre.

As for her sister, Rashideh said her only regret about her sister's attack was that she herself could not participate. “Abu Jihad (the Fatah terrorist who planned the attack) decided that two sisters could not participate in the same attack."

I know I don’t have to repeat it for you, but don’t forget that Fatah is alleged to be the “moderate” party of terrorist Abu Mazen, who – when he’s sporting a Western haircut and bespoke suit – is called Mahmoud Abbas. He was just reelected as President of the “Palestinian Authority.”

We probably should be considering ourselves lucky. We know what Abu Mazen is: Among other terrorist attacks, Abu Mazen financed and thereby made possible the attack on the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics when 11 Israeli athletes were killed. The title of his PhD thesis was “Relations between Zionism and Nazism, 1933-1945” in which he denied the Holocaust.

But according to Barry Rubin, the man being groomed as the successor to the 74 year old Mazen is even worse. He’s Abu Maher Ghneim, one of Fatah’s stalwarts.

“Ghneim is an unrepentant hardliner, an open opponent of the Oslo agreements,” Rubin wrote. “If he becomes the leader of Fatah, and hence of the PA and PLO, you can forget about peace. Violent conflict becomes far more likely.”

Not that I need remind you of this, either, but you and I – through the courtesy of Missus Bubba, Our Lady of the Broken Elbow, and her boss, the Community Organizer – just gave $200 million of our hard-earned tax dollars to these lovely people. According to Missus Bubba, the purpose was “to help ease (their) growing budget deficit.”

"I call on all nations that wish to see a strong, viable Palestinian state, living in peace and security with its neighbors to join us in supporting the Palestinian Authority,” were Missus Bubba’s words as she handed over the dough. “The Palestinian Authority has proven to be a reliable partner for peace."

What ARE these people thinking, back there? In the old days, before the Internet, you could get away with lies like that. Back then, essentially only NBS, CBS and ABC were reporting the news. If they decided to bury some story or ignore some idiotic remark, they could get away with it.

But not anymore. Today, in every country in the world, with everybody and his brother lurking and prowling on the Internet, you can’t hide flagrant lies like that. Tell a whopper like Missus Bubba did -- “The PA has proven to be a reliable partner for peace” – and instantly 10 million of us out here are ready to point to your growing nose.

In any event, you and I helped out the “Palestinian Authority” with their budget deficit. Today the financial reports came out on the US budget deficit – the highest it’s ever been – hitting $1.27 trillion with two months still to go in the fiscal year.

Okay, so the PA isn’t about to make any “gestures” to the US, to help the US out of its budget deficit with a little of that Arab oil money.

But wouldn’t you think they could hold off for a couple of days in attacking Israel –maybe to just kind of pretend that they are a “reliable partner for peace”?

I guess not.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The ferocious public opposition to the Community Organizer’s draconian plans to make all Americans – and maybe illegal immigrants – dependent on government for their health care has had one “it’s about time” side effect. Americans are organizing, pulling together and working overtime telling Obama “No, you can’t.”

I have no idea whether ‘we, the people’ can win this battle or not, but whatever happens, we know that whatever burden the Community Organizer decides to impose on voters next will have a much tougher time in Congress. People are awake – finally – and when they see what’s being done to them, they’re enraged.

The obvious panic emanating from the White House proves Obama’s attempt to railroad the American people into subservience has gone off the track.

At the same time, his attempt to force Israel into submission has also hit the skids, for pretty much the same reasons.

A recent poll showed that 94% of Israelis think Obama is bad for Israel – which proves one thing: 6% of Israelis are totally nuts.

In Obama, we now know we have an enemy – and there’s nothing that pulls people together as much as a common enemy.

It started early, from the first moment Hussein Obama took office. His first phone call, as President, was to Abu Mazen, the nicely dressed terrorist head of the Palestinian Authority. It continued when he bowed to the Saudi King, and intensified in his infamous Cairo speech when he made clear his priorities: help Arab nations, put pressure on Israel.

Obama started by demanding no “natural growth” in Jewish “settlements” – which means “no babies”, as his Middle East czar, the Arab George Mitchell, confirmed. How racist can you get? When an American President – the greatest egalitarian nation in the world – announces that in parts of Israel, including Jerusalem, Jewish families were not allowed to have babies, you know you’ve got trouble.

It was beyond belief.

His calls for a “settlement freeze” haven’t abated, as the megalomaniac in the White House assumes he has the right to dictate Israel’s housing plans for Israeli citizens. It bordered on insane.

Fortunately, Israel acquired a Prime Minister who had the chutzpah to just say no. Bibi has spoken out on Obama’s demands several times, but among his most memorable rejections of the Obama Dictates is this:

“I would like to re-emphasize that the united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. Our sovereignty over it cannot be challenged; this means — inter alia — that residents of Jerusalem may purchase apartments in all parts of the city.”

He went on, “Israel cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem ... This has been the policy of Israeli governments over the years, and it is also the policy of our government.”

In case there was any question about what he meant, he made another point: “There is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the western part of the city, and there is no ban on Jews buying or building apartments in the eastern part of the city.”

The best zinger of all – one likely to be quoted for posterity – Netanyahu said, “If Jews were prohibited from buying property in New York, London, Paris or Rome, there would be an international outcry. Why should the standard be different for Jerusalem?”

That’s what happens when a politician bites off more than he can chew. He chokes.

Hussein Obama choked on American domestic policy, and now he’s choking on his plans for the Middle East as well. For a foreign president to issue non-negotiable demands to a sovereign country – the only democratic ally the US has in the region – was sheer stupidity.

But it had one most welcome result: It brought Israelis together in opposition.

More than any other people in history, we’re the ‘stiff-necked’ crowd. For thousands of years, we've been known as tough nuts to crack -- we pride ourselves on our contrariness, our “two Jews, three opinions” reputation. It’s probably what kept us alive through these thousands of years. We rarely agree with each other on much of anything. In fact, we sometimes we don’t even agree with ourselves. Disagreeing with the current prime minister – whoever it is, at any given moment -- is a national pastime.

But not now. Not in regard to Barak Hussein Obama. Unintentionally, through his outrageous demands, he’s brought us together. Not on every issue -- it’s not clear that even the Moshiach will do that. But we are in substantial agreement that Israel will not bow to this foreign dictator’s demands. We support our Prime Minister when he just says no.

So what happened on the Arab side of the equation? As Hussein Obama was holding Israel’s feet to the fire, he was pandering to the Arab nations, assuring them in public and private that he was their friend, implying that he would force Israel into submission. The Arab nations – Israel’s enemies, hot and cold, to varying degrees – did what most negotiators would do: they began upping their demands. After all, if their every wish was to be granted, they wanted to be sure that the listed everything they wanted.

So that’s what they’ve done. In fact, the Arabs decided they didn’t want to wait for actual negotiations with Israel – they began making their demands upfront, lists of what they must have before they would agree to negotiate!

Last Friday, “Palestinian” terrorist turned Prime Minister Abu Mazen announced “There will be no negotiations until Israel halts all settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

The following day, Kuwait’s ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, told Obama that the Arabs will establish normal relations with Israel only after it “implements and fulfills its obligations by withdrawing from Arab territory occupied in 1967.”

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh topped that by informing Missus Bubba, Our Lady of the Broken Elbow, that “normal relationships between Israel and the 57 Arab and Muslim States would occur only after Israeli implementation of the terms of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.”

In case you’ve forgotten, the “Arab Peace Initiative” calls for:
(1) Full withdrawal from “occupied territory” i.e., all of Israel;
(2) A “just solution” to the refugee problem; and
(3) The creation of a Palestinian state.

If that isn’t enough to knock your socks off, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal delivered the final touch: He said “phased normalization” would not acceptable. All of the Arab demands must be satisfied at once. “Instrumentalism and a step-by-step approach has not and - we believe - will not achieve peace,” he said. They want it all at once. Now.

If you think about it, it’s almost funny: These are all the things Arabs want before they will agree to negotiate.

What, pray tell, would be left to negotiate? What kind of sword the last Jew in Israel will use to commit ritual seppuku?

It’s silliness, of course. Israel will not agree to any of this. So what’s happened is that the Community Organizer’s foreign policy plan in the Middle East backfired, just as did his domestic policy plan.

Instead of bringing Jews and Arabs closer, Obama’s demands have forced both sides into more entrenched positions, into greater opposition.

In fact, at the just-ended Fatah Convention, held in Bethlehem – Fatah, the alleged “moderates” among the terror groups -- were vying with each other to see who could become the most anti-Israel.

Among other things, Fatah:

 Declared that Israel was responsible for assassinating Yasser Arafat.
 Declaring that Jerusalem is an "integral part of the Palestinian homeland and political entity", vowing to “continue the struggle until Jerusalem (all of it) is returned to the Palestinians void of settlers and settlements.”
 Vowed that no negotiations with Israel would take place until all ‘Palestinian’ prisoners are released from Israeli jails, all settlement-building is frozen and the Gaza blockade is lifted.
 Endorsed the Aksa Martyrs Brigade as Fatah’s official armed wing, pledging to carry on “the resistance” to the Zionist occupation.

In short, Hussein Obama’s “peace” outreach to Israel and the Arabs has resulted in the two parties being much farther away from any agreement than they were before.

Obama has set back the cause of world peace – how far back remains to be seen. He is, after all, still in his first eight months in office.

So as all across the country, community meetings on Obamacare erupt with animosity, one has to wonder if the average American citizen is any better off today -- in heath care or anything else – than he was before January 20.

Personally, I just can't wait until the Community Organizer takes on immigration reform. If you think there's fireworks over health care, just wait....

Monday, August 10, 2009

I’m proud of you, Americans.

August doldrums being what they are, I’ve spent the last several evenings – way past midnight, last night – watching YouTube videos of some of the community meetings around the country. I’m amazed at what I’m seeing -- and totally delighted.

I haven’t seen this kind of grass roots fever –“Astroturf”? No way! -- since the early days of the Reagan campaign. Back then, Americans also rose up to take their country back – which they did. Only to see the first George Bush began the process of reclaiming it for the professional politicians in Washington, again. Since then, freedom has gradually disappeared, little by little. We forgot Thomas Jefferson’s admonition that the price of democracy is eternal vigilance.

That said, never in history has a democratic republic taken a nose dive so fast as during the six month reign of the Community Organizer.

But now? You’re blowing me away, guys. As I sit and watch meeting after meeting, I’m astonished when I see that you folks in the audience are doing, like showing that you know more about the evil “health care” plan than your Congressional representative who’s supposed to be voting on it.

Not that we should be calling it a “health care” plan. As one gentleman from Texas said: “This isn’t about health care. It’s about our freedom and liberty. That’s what we need to talk about.”

He was exactly right. It’s not about health care. It’s about freedom. It’s about democracy. It’s about not having a President who thinks he has the powers of a dictator.

It’s fun to watch the Holy Electeds fumble and stumble, finally admitting they don’t know the answer to the very basic questions you people are asking. “Will I be able to keep my private insurance?” that’s a reasonable question. “Are abortions funded?” For many of us, that’s a key issue. “What about pre-existing conditions, about the elderly, about waiting times for certain procedures?” Aren’t these questions to which the Community Organizer and his supporters ought to know the answers?

They always promise to find the answer, of course, and “get back to you.” Yeah, right. They don’t know (or care) who’s at these meetings. How are they going to “get back” with the answer?

They’re completely out of touch. They’ve been living the Washington Life for so long they don’t know that to real people, who live on real salaries, who pay very real taxes to pay for it all, these are important questions.

Like Sen. Chuck Grassley from Iowa – my recollection is that Grassley had a fairly conservative voting record. I would have expected more from him. But when he was being grilled during a community meeting about the “health care” bill, someone from the audience asked him what his deductable was, on his Senatorial Health Care plan. He said he didn’t know.

Do you get that? He didn’t know. That’s as embarrassing an admission as the first Bush, when someone during the campaign asked him how much a gallon of milk cost, and he had to admit he didn’t know. There are some of these common little pieces of everyday information these Holy Electeds should know. Period. They should know.

Wouldn’t you think, that with this piece of legislation being the #1 Hot Topic that it is, that these elected representatives, before they head out to what they know will be a contentious community meeting, would bone up on just a few facts? The whole world knows that Congress has granted themselves -- at our expense, of course -- the Rolls Royce of health care plans. Wouldn’t you think Grassley would want to have that fact in his head?

“How much is the deductable?” is a big question for most Americans. Everyone else has a pretty good idea of what health care costs them, out of pocket. Why shouldn’t he know, too?

Instead, if you saw the video, you know what Grassley told that constituent. First he promised to “get that information” – until some woman in the audience stood up and answered the question for him. She knew what his deductible was. And what did Grassley say then? His told the man who asked the question, “If you want a health care package like mine, get a job with the federal government!”

It’s unreal, the arrogance. Unbelievable. For someone who’s up for reelection in 2010, Senator Grassley needs a little trip to the woodshed. Just to get his attention, of course.

I’m also enjoying the “We haven’t read the bill” game. Back in the late 1970’s, California State Senator H. L. Richardson wrote a book called, “What makes you Think We Read These Bills?” It’s still in print, still funny, packed with stories of the insanity that takes place when the legislature is in session.

So Richardson admitted back then that most Holy Electeds didn’t read the bills – which gave him a lot of joy. Because Sen. Richardson DID read the bills. Some of his finest moments came as he skewered the authors who didn’t know what their own bills said.

It’s not just Congressional representatives who are feeling the heat from voters, either. If you didn’t watch it yet, don’t miss the AARP “listening session” in Dallas where AARP officials – the little lady said – had come to “listen to what you-all have to say” about the proposed legislation.

That’s what she said. “WE’RE HERE TO LISTEN”.

Except when rank and file AARP members began asking question, saying things she didn’t want to hear, the little lady closed up shop. She simply ended the meeting --- and not only stalked out, but came back to take down her microphone and electronic equipment, trying, it appears, to prevent the citizens who remained from discussing the issue among themselves.

She didn’t succeed – they kept talking. One of the most articulate speeches in this whole debate was given by a guy in that audience, toward the end of the video. The man said he was 61 years old, and had spent his life working 15 hours a day to support his family, “perusing the American dream”. He admitted he hadn’t played much of a political role beyond just voting, but one day he woke up. Now, he saw, things had gotten out of hand. “I realized that the politicians we elected were taking that American dream away from me faster than I could get my hands on it.”

He’s so right – and he was correct, too, to say that it didn’t start with Obama, which of course it didn’t. It began with the erosion of the Reagan era late in The Gipper’s second term, when George Bush’s functionaries were already grabbing power for themselves, and undoing all the things that Reagan had accomplished --lowering taxes, limiting bureaucracy and restoring the county to its rightful owners, “we, the people.”

But here’s the really interesting thing: what the Community Organizer has done – and is doing – is galvanizing the populace to take action, to get involved, to take back their country.

The more Hussein Obama instructs his legions to “punch back twice as hard” the better it is for America. Because it’s backfiring on him.

A formidable base of real community activists is stepping out, organizing and taking hold. They’re opposing Obama and his minions, not just on “health care” anymore, but now they’re beginning to see – if they hadn’t already – the damage this completely incompetent man -- let’s assume it’s incompetence, and not just plain evil -- is inflicting at all levels.

Maybe what America needed was to encounter the worst possible leader, one who would – in a very short time – grab so much power and act with such arrogance, that he would force people to wake up, as the guy from Texas said.

So you go, Barry! That’s fine. You punch back – twice as hard, three times as hard, if you can. Because with everything you do, you’re stirring up the American people to rise up against you, your Democrat cronies, and all those spineless Republicans who need to be replaced just as much as Democrats.

Thanks to you feisty Americans, this is the most politically interesting August I ever remember.

Tomorrow: how Obama’s foreign policy plans are having exactly the same effect in the Middle East – accomplishing precisely the opposite of what he intended.

Friday, August 7, 2009

In terms of entertainment value in Israel, a visit to a grocery store on Friday morning is about as good as you get.

Normally I do my best to stay away on Friday mornings, but this week had been relatively calm and I needed a little excitement. Even so, I wasn’t quite prepared for the utter chaos.

This particular grocery store – one of a large chain – is pretty good on prices, is in a good location, and generally popular. Today it was offering several dozen items at a reduced price of only NIS 14 – about $3.50 – which was partly responsible for the influx. In fact, one of the reason I wanted to go was that they were selling two containers of “economica” – the universal Israeli cleaning substance, somewhat akin to bleach – for NIS 14, whereas the original price is about NIS 12 each. So half the crowd was there for the bargains, and the other half was just doing their normal Friday shopping for Shabbat. Everything will be closed tomorrow, and hence everything you need for family and guests must be purchased today.

You know you’re in trouble when you get to the store and there are no grocery carts. That means they’re all inside being loaded up. Bad omen, because in any rational world, the store would only accommodating half that many carts, anyway. Uh-oh.

Even if there had been carts, here in Israel you can’t just take a grocery cart as you do in the US. Here, each cart has to be unlocked from the cart ahead by inserting a five-shekel coin, or if you’re lucky, a little key thingamabob whose head approximates a five-shekel coin. That works in place of a coin.

At one time, I actually had several of those little key things -- a local pet food store gave them away as gifts. But one by one, I lost them all to fledging Oliver Twists, all of them Beduin. (In Israel, Fagin recruits Arabs.) The grocery store I favor has a lot of Beduin customers, too, and for a time, wrenching those key-things out of the carts and running away with them -- they have no monetary value – was a favorite shopping-time activity for Beduin 10 year olds. They probably collected them like Pokemon.

I caught one of them red handed once, ran after him – the store was packed, he couldn’t get very far -- and retrieved it, with the help of his mother. But eventually I lost that one, too. Those little kids have mastered an impressive slight-of-hand technique, and they’re off and away by the time you wonder what they’re doing.

The “key or coin” issue figures in today’s narrative, because today in fact there WERE shopping carts there, probably about seven or eight of them, standing all hooked together off to one side. The problem was, no one could get the wretched things unhooked from each other.

I’ve often wondered why someone doesn’t try an Alan Funt trick with those carts – permanently hook them all together, and then watch the frustration as shopper after shopper arrives on the scene and tries to isolate just one cart.

I tried myself, today. I inserted my coin into the cart on the end, pulled on the darn thing, only to find that it was frozen to the cart ahead of it. I jiggled, pulled, slammed and otherwise tried to shake it loose, to no avail. Finally a distinguished gentleman came over – he was looking for a cart, too, but he couldn’t get his until I got mine, so he started to help. He slammed harder, scratched his head, poked and pried, but he too failed.

If he couldn’t do it, I gave up. Now all I wanted was to get my coin back. I’d wait for some other cart.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my coin back from the cart, either. No matter what I did, it simply wouldn’t push it far out enough so I could grab it. I could have left it, I suppose – but I was raised by a Depression-era mother and a father who was firm about not rewarding anyone for bad service. So giving them my coin – which is worth about $1.35 – wasn’t something I was prepared to do.

I asked the security guy for help. He couldn’t leave his post, but he did say he’d call someone. Several minutes later, a guy with lots of keys came along, worked on the carts for several minutes, but gave up, stymied. He went inside, came back and handed me a different five-shekel coin.

By now, there were a few other carts available, so I was ready to shop. I put my new coin into another cart – it worked! -- and headed for the door, only to get stopped before I even reached the air conditioning.

The store was so packed it was impossible to get in. For security reasons, not only are the doors to public buildings very narrow, but people enter and exit through the same door. There were simply too many people trying to squeeze in and out at the same time.

That’s the theory. The truth is, it quickly became obvious that the Idiots of the World were having their annual convention inside. As I looked, I saw that it wasn’t just too many people. There was a blockage.

A woman had decided to transfer all her groceries from her grocery-store shopping cart to her personal ‘ogala’, the little wheeled cart we all use to carry stuff home. She decided to accomplish that task by standing directly in the “exit” line. No one could get past her.

Every time I see something like this, it just blows my mind. She was carrying on as though she was the only person in the universe. One by one she picked something up and moved it from one cart to the other.

Were people objecting? Of course – people on both sides shouting, “GEVERET!! Ma cara??” (“Lady, what’s going on?”) Others appeared to be less polite, but it made no difference at all. She was concerned about making sure her tomatoes were packed so they wouldn’t squash on the way home, and she ignored them 100%. She didn’t look up, she didn’t hurry, she kept on packing.

By this time, there were at least a dozen carts lined up behind me. These people were too far back to see what was going on, and simply assumed that it was the person in front of them who was causing the blockage. They began pushing – ever so slightly, they’d push their cart into the person ahead, one after the other, all the way up the line. Finally another security guy wandered over, and if I hadn’t already known I was in Israel, this would have confirmed it.

The security guy didn’t tell the woman to stop or to move. Instead, he started to help her.

You see why I love this crazy country?

Okay, so between the two of them, they finally got her ogala packed and she marched off, still oblivious to the chaos she left in her wake. The rest of us finally made it into the store. That’s when the real fun began.

The aisles in Israeli grocery stores are about a third as wide as aisles in US stores. The carts, on the other hand, are about the same size. To add to the chaos, all restocking of shelves is carried on during the store’s open hours, including on insanely busy days like this.

Occasionally an aisle is half blocked by an employee stocking a shelf – she has her own cart full of supplies, plus an accumulation of empty cardboard boxes which – for reasons known only to her – she will put ACROSS from her, not ahead or behind. That way the whole aisle is blocked. Heaven help us if just one other customer pauses to linger, and there’s a total impasse. The employee will never move, so everyone else is forced to wait until the customer has made her selection.

Then too, fresh fruit and vegetable restocking supplies are ferried around in the store on huge pallets filled head-high with boxes of produce. Many times, when it’s very busy, the employees won’t bother to unload the pallets – they just leave the big ferry things there and customers help themselves out of the boxes. The problem is, there’s very little room for movement around the pallets at all, because they run on massive wheeled platforms. Once you get behind one of those things, your best maneuver is simply to turn around. Or try to.

The other totally unbelievably Israeli habit is for regular floor-maintenance activity to continue through this utter chaos. So there’ll you’ll be, trying to maneuver your cart through an aisle that’s partly blocked with a restocking cart, with 30 other customers who are trying to get through the aisle – and what happens next? The automated floor washing machine – as big as a Zamboni – is also trying to get through, washing the floor as it goes.

Need I tell you it has a BEEPER? So in addition to the insanity of the entire situation, you’ve got that maniacal “BEEP”… “BEEP”… “BEEP” going on, with the guy yelling at you to get out of the way – carrying on as though there’s anywhere at all for you to move.

Floor washing at that time is utterly pointless. It’s insane. It keeps anyone from moving anywhere. But that’s what they do. It's probably written into a union contract somewhere. Union members will only wash floors during business hours.

Today, every checkout lane was open, which is a little unusual. But the lines to check out were 10 – 15 customers deep, which meant that the people waiting to check out and pay were lined up in the regular grocery aisles half way through the store. That’s bad enough. But not all customers are willing to stand in line and wait.

One trick – I’d never seen this before I came to Israel – is to get a cart, and as soon as you get into the store, put the cart into the checkout line. So you park your cart -- and then run around the store picking up what you need. When your arms are full, you go back to the cart and make a dump.

That might make some sense, except that it creates a very obvious problem. In the checkout line are all these unattended carts. That’s a bother to most of us new immigrants. As my British friend says, “We who queue up” will dutifully remain with our carts in line. But others – native Israelis --will simply move an ownerless cart out of the way. That makes for some interesting debates when the errant shopper returns.

Having a child helps. If you have one of those, you simply park said child with the cart in line. That means there’s someone there to defend your rights against line-jumpers.

I have to admit I’ve done something similar. When it is totally impossible to maneuver your cart through the aisles, another coping mechanism is to park your cart somewhere else in the store, and then run around and get what you need. At least you’re not blocking the checkout line.

That’s what I did today, as a matter of fact. I didn’t need all that many things, so I parked in the ‘house wares’ aisle – towels, candles, sheets and blankets. It was the least busy aisle, so I used that as my base and then made about four trips around the store, one in each direction.

The meat counter is in the back of the store, and now a “take a number” system is in place. That’s new – and probably better than having 50 people standing in front of the counter, all of them insisting to the six or seven meat clerks that they should be helped next.

It’s a long way from foolproof, however, thanks to that Israeli system of “protexia”. “Protexia” means clout in Israel. It means you know someone who can give you an edge. In this case, if you know one of the clerks, it’s possible to have them take your order first, without a number, so you don’t have to wait your turn.

I saw it in action today at the cheese counter, which also has a number system. My number was 174. The number they were serving was 206 – it was gonna be a long wait, I could see that. There were only three clerks at the cheese counter.

So what happened? Someone with ‘protexia’ -- someone who didn’t want to wait -- simply caught the employee’s eye, and shouted his order over the rest of us good little boys and girls who were standing nicely in line, waiting our turn. The employee shouldn’t have done that. I’m sure they’re instructed not to. But they do it anyway. They finish whatever customer they’re on, then they go about collecting whatever it is their friend (or whoever it is) wanted. No number required.

Do people object? Sometimes. I did, once. I’d been standing waiting for over a half hour at the meat counter (since then, I buy meat elsewhere – it’s just too frustrating). Some guy walked up behind me, shouted his order to the butcher. It was totally obvious he’d just walked up and didn’t have a number. Just to be polite, I turned around and asked him what number he had, showing him my number – which was bound to be way ahead of anything he could have had. He looked totally astonished that anyone had asked, but then he came up with a really good one: “If you stand at this end of the counter you don’t need a number,” he said. “You only need a number if you stand at the other end of the counter.”

Actually, that was so good I had to laugh – very funny. Obviously it wasn’t true – but he was awfully quick on the draw. Maybe he felt a little guilty because he rewarded me with a little trickle-down protexia of my own. When the clerk handed him his meat over the counter, the man pointed to me and said, “Take her next. She’s been waiting a long time.”

In a just world, I should have refused the privilege, and waited for my number to come up. I didn’t. I gave the guy my order and was grateful to get out of there.

So this morning I had my Friday morning fun. I wanted to see Israel in action, and nothing is better for that than a trip to the grocery store.

Shabbat shalom, everyone – for you in the US, have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Yet another planeload of new immigrants landed in Israel today. Israel National News – -- interviewed some of them as they stepped off the plane and entered the reception hall. It’s interesting – 55 new enlisted immigrant soldiers came on that flight, in addition to everyone else.

I was impressed – most of them seemed pretty coherent. After weeks of cleaning, packing, selling and throwing away, after months of enduring the tension of not knowing what it will be like, of saying goodbye, and then sitting nearly immobile on the airplane for a dozen hours, I don’t think I was nearly that alert.

Both Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky welcomed these new Israelis, just as did Ariel Sharon, when we landed.

I was on the very first Nefesh b’Nefesh flight, July 10, 2002. The NBN flights have now become standard, but at the time the whole organization seemed too good to be true. NBN did dozens of things to help make our Aliyah – moving to Israel – easier, but prime among them was cutting the bureaucracy. While we were in flight, officials from the Immigration Agency were also on board, helping us complete most of the required paperwork. By the time we landed, we’d finished about 90% of the things every group of immigrants before us had spent their first weeks in Israel doing. At the time, it seemed like a miracle.

Looking back, NBN still seems like a miracle.

As long as I live, I will never be able to thank NBN enough for everything they’ve done – and have never stopped doing. During last December’s war, when missiles were blasting Beersheba, NBN staffers still tracked me down, calling to ask if I was okay. They wanted to know if there was anything at all I needed, or if there was anything they could do to help. They offered to find a place for me to stay – with my dogs, yet! – if I wanted to get out of the line of fire for a few days. So seven years after I arrived, NBN was still there offering help.

There were 350+ new immigrants on our first flight. We stepped off the plane unto the tarmac in what must have been 110 ° heat and then were directed into a hangar that was even hotter. A shofar was blowing, a band was playing, there were hundreds of cheering people who’d come to meet the historic flight, families, friends and just regular Israelis who wanted to be the first to welcome us home. The whole thing was spectacular -- few of us made it into the hangar without shedding a tear or two.

Inside, strategically placed fans struggled to cool the place off, but the heat was awesome. Volunteers pressed bottles of ice water into our hands. Others handed out other “welcome” gifts, artwork, calendars, booklets, certificates for discounts on all kinds of things.

Through it all, I have to admit I was distracted – Guinness, my elderly Cocker Spaniel, had flown in the ‘hold’. He wasn’t a seasoned flier by any means, and in the tremendous heat, I was seriously worried about him.

The moment I got into the hangar, I started to look for someone who looked ‘official’, someone who could give me some information. There were seven dogs on our flight, probably twice as many cats, and who knows what else, in smaller cages.

I wandered around, asking everyone I could, and finally located an El Al worker. All I wanted, I explained, was to get to the baggage area so I could check on my dog. He said that wouldn’t be possible. I’d have to stay here until the ceremonies were over. But I was panicked – what if the traveling cages were out in the sun? I knew poor Guinness – who’d been locked in his crate for 15 hours by that time – couldn’t handle that.

The El Al guy took pity on me, pulled out his cell phone and punched in some numbers. He spoke, then turned to me. “Your dog is the Cocker? He’s just fine. They’ve all had fresh water and Guinness is on his leash, they’re taking him for a little walk.”

I coulda kissed the guy. As long as Guinness was okay, I could enjoy the rest of the ceremony.

Truth is, that first opening ceremony lasted too long – it was probably three hours later when all the music groups had performed and all the dignitaries had spoken.

We were then directed up to one of the offices to complete another hunk of paperwork. We were channeled up at least one set of stairs, down hallways and finally into yet another huge room where they began calling individuals by name to go into one of a number of small offices.

I was shocked. As I looked around, I realized this could take all night. The room was packed – dozens of little kids milled around, some were crying, everyone was way beyond exhausted. I listened to the first names being called. They didn’t appear to be alphabetical, so I wondered how they decided who to take first. ‘It will be the families with little kids,” I thought – but just then they called my name. I still don’t know how they decided – or how long the last people had to wait – but I was directed to a tiny office, desk and a chair, and invited to sit. The man asked to see all the paperwork I’d completed on the plane, then asked for a few more bits of information.

The only question I remember was, ‘What’s your mother’s first name?”

“Elphie,” I said – hardly a common name.

With no hesitation at all, he typed it out in Hebrew, printed out the documents, folded them into the little holder and handed me my Tuedat Oleh, my immigration papers. With tears in his eyes, he shook my hand and said, “Welcome home.” Naturally I burst into tears again.

Now I was free to go to the baggage department, dig out my luggage from among the mountains of bags they’d unloaded, and had a happy reunion with Guinness – who seemed to be in better shape than I was.

Next step? Claim my free taxi ride to Beersheba.

Every new immigrant gets a free taxi ride to his first home. As it turned out, that taxi ride proved to be the most interesting part of the trip. My taxi driver got lost.

Beersheba is a major city, on a major highway. It’s less than 60 miles from Tel Aviv. As we drove, I was surprised to see road signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Several of them read, “Beersheba” – with an arrow that pointed to a turn.

My problem was, I had a Russian driver. We didn’t turn. I don’t know if he couldn’t read the signs, but the second or third time I saw him whizzing by a sign clearly pointing to a sign that read “Beersheba”, I started to wonder.

And then I started to laugh.

You’re not gonna believe this, but Maggie Rennert – whose book, “Shelanu: An Israel Journal” – was responsible for bringing me to Beersheba in the first place – also encountered taxi drivers who got lost on the road from Tel Aviv to Beersheba. (For more about Maggie, see my May 3 blog, “Channeling Maggie”)

Back in 1973, Maggie, too, lucked out with a pair of enormous Russian taxi drivers she began calling “Tweedledum” and “Tweedledee”. They spent so much time arguing or debating with each other -- she couldn’t tell, it was all in Russian – that they got lost.

They were lost for so many hours they had to stop at a kibbutz and eat, thinking they’d have to stay overnight and start again the next day. Maggie writes that she was so freaked out at their strange behavior that she found someone at the kibbutz who spoke English, and in response to her tears, agreed to drive her to Beersheba. They finally arrived “hours and hours” late. She was, she said, a total basket case.

For us, it took just over six hours to make the 59 mile trip.

I have no doubt the taxi driver drove four or five times that far. The problem started when, at some point, he decided to turn off the main road, taking a gravel road instead. Maybe he was just trying to turn around, maybe he thought he had one of those ‘short cuts’ men always seem to know about. But before I knew it, we were in the middle of absolute nowhere. There was nothing around – no civilization, few trees, a curvy ad hoc road which kept getting more and more like a path with every minute.

Finally there was a truck was approaching us from the other direction. My driver stuck his hand out the window, flagged the other driver down, and even though I didn’t understand a word of it, I could see that a complicated set of directions was being conveyed, beginning with “turn around.”

We turned around. We drove awhile, then my driver took a left, and we headed in a new direction. Again there was absolutely nothing in sight. We drove and drove. By this time, we’d already been on the road for well over three hours, and I was ruing the fact I hadn’t taken several more bottles of water that had been handed out so freely back at the hangar. Who knew? Now I had only a tiny bit of water left, which I poured into Guinness’ travel bowl. He ignored it, making me wish I’d had it myself. I considered drinking from the dog bowl, but decided I wasn't quite that desperate. Yet.

We kept going, and honestly, it was getting funny. Every car my driver saw, he’d flag down. And every one would start the directions with “turn around”, which he did. Every time.

I was watching the road intently, hoping for some form of civilization. Finally, I could see something ahead – were we finally getting somewhere? It turned out to be a fence – a huge barbed wire fence, with an awful lot of signs I couldn’t read, but which I sure as heck understood. If ever there was a “DO NOT ENTER” warning, this was it. The driver turned around, and – unperturbed – headed off in yet another direction.

On and on. Then another driver came up behind us and again the taxi driver flagged him down. This time, he made some much longer explanation and pointed to the gas gauge. Oh, no! The other driver rubbed his head, a gesture of pure frustration, but clearly indicated, “Follow me”.

We did. A relatively short time later, we drove into a kibbutz.

Do you believe this? Maggie – wherever she is -- must have been laughing, too.

We were at Kibbutz Kerem Shalom – which you now read about frequently in the news as a trouble spot. It’s right on the border with Aza – and remember, this was 2002. Buses and cafes were exploding, and there we were – probably in their midst. I kept envisioning newspaper headlines, “New Immigrant Shot and Killed, First Day”.

But the kibbutzniks at Kerem Shalom were very welcoming. The driver, Guinness and I were invited in and offered fruit and water – true hospitality in the desert. I was directed to the facilities, and Guinness availed himself of the same opportunity in a much more informal fashion. The taxi driver disappeared – probably to get gas.

By the time we set out again, we were already five hours late. It was getting dark. I hadn’t had any sleep for upwards of 40 hours, and I was barely functional. My taxi driver, on the other hand, seemed refreshed. And this time, he had a set of written instructions and a photocopied map in his hand. Good deal.

Honestly – Beersheba is hard to miss. It has lots of tall buildings, and at night, city lights were visible for miles. It took us less than an hour to find the city, and another half hour to find my first sublet apartment, which the driver finally found by giving a local taxi driver the address and following his instructions. The people who’d been there to welcome me had given up and gone home hours ago, but there was someone to open the door. Home. At last.

Just think. By sheer luck, we’d had a chance to see parts of Israel lots of Israelis have never seen.

All this makes me wonder: How those new immigrants who arrived this morning faring? Probably taxis have GPS systems now – but that sure would take the excitement out of it.

(Photo, courtesy of NBN,