Your Brain is Green
Of all the brain types, yours has the most balance. You are able to see all sides to most problems and are a good problem solver. You need time to work out your thoughts, but you don't get stuck in bad thinking patterns. You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the future, philosophy, and relationships (both personal and intellectual).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Health "Reform"

Clay Bennett
Chattanooga Times Free Press
Dec 16, 2009

Like Mom, the flag, and apple pie, "health reform" has such a nice ring to it. And soon, I am sure, Obama will market this deformed and aborted baby to America as a victory. But nothing's going to get better...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Endless War

Bruce Beattie
Daytona Beach News-Journal
Dec 2, 2009

I don't understand exactly what the American goal is in Afghanistan. Eliminate Al Qaeda and bin Laden? Prop up the Karzai government? Rebuild the country? Guarantee women's rights? Stop the opium trade?

For one thing, bin Laden may not even be in Afghanistan right now. The geography creates a porous border, wherever there actually IS a border anyone recognizes. Anyone other than an Afghani stands out like a sore thumb, and terrorists can always find support, and hide, among the natives. The Karzai government is part of the problem, not the solution. Rebuild the country as What? The 52nd state of America, complete with McDonalds'? The Afghanis don't want to be democratized, or Americanized. They've got a lot of customs that we think are barbarous, but they have always lived that way, and want to continue to do so. Tribal systems and modern democracy are really quite antithetical.

Afghani men want to continue to have absolute control over their women and families. Their religion backs this. America is fooling itself if it thinks it can change this in any appreciable degree. The opium trade pays better than any other cash crop; until it becomes more lucrative NOT to grow it, it will continue, and the cost to the US taxpayer if that were to happen would be immense [and would have to continue indefinitely, or the farmers would just go back to growing opium.

Pakistan is very ambivalent, and cannot be regarded as a partner of the Americans. If fighting can be suppressed in Afghanistan, the Taliban and other terrorists will just go over the border [indeed, they're doing it now] and return to Afghanistan when the heat is off.

The Russians and the British can testify to the fact that there cannot be any real victory in Afghanistan. The most the US can hope for is to quarantine it like a malignant disease, until the entire face of radical Islam changes, and, for that, I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Now, If Brett Favre Was A Baltimore Raven...

Joe Heller
Green Bay Press-Gazette
Nov 1, 2009

Happy Holiday! [Wonder if the Powers That Control Cable Programming will even show the Green Bay-Vikings game in Israel?!]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blog On! Part 2

Now, on to aliyah. Almost Eden made aliyah in the summer of 2008, via Nefesh b'Nefesh, with her husband and son. Her blog is subtitled "an aliyah handbook", and when she's not forwarding commentary on the weekly Torah portion, she writes about her experiences and offers her advice. Not surprisingly, she's still seeing Israel through rose-colored glasses. Why shouldn't she? Her family got a considerable sum from NbN [the loan converts to a grant if they stay in Israel for three years], they are getting another grant, called the sal klita, from the Israeli government, they aren't paying income tax [by now they are probably paying a small fraction of what a veteran Israeli pays], property taxes are drastically reduced, and there are a variety of other perks and discounts. Reality begins to bite when one is entering the second half of one's third year and all this dries up.

Almost Eden once posted a spreadsheet totalling the monthly expenses for two American immigrant families. One [I suspect hers] was for three people, the other for four. The expenses totalled between NIS 13k and NIS 18+k per month. The average gross income, for a family of four, with two wage-earners, according to the Bureau of Statistics, is about NIS 12k. The Bureau also publishes a figure for a "basket" of goods and services which it regards as average for the same size family, which says familial expenses are about the same amount. In other words, what comes in, goes out. Almost immediately. And more than half Israeli families are in overdraft.

Translated into dollar terms, neither NIS 13 or 18 k sounds huge, especially when one is used to a dollar income. A take home wage of either, however, in Israel, is huge. In order to have this sum in one's pocket one has to be making, before taxes, more than twice that amount. Income tax is computed roughly as follows: up to a certain ceiling, about NIS 4000, one pays no tax. Then, the next NIS 4000 is taxed at 38%, and everything after that is taxed at 50%. Further, there are two involuntary deductions at source: Bituach Leumi and "Health Law". Each is a percentage of gross income [5 and 4% respectively, I think; it changes from time to time]. So the tax bite is big. The new oleh barely, if at all, feels this. That NIS 15k income sounds very respectable indeed. But my sister-in-law, who had a gross income of NIS 24,000 per month because she was the head of an entire department in Bezeq [our Ma Bell], took home less than NIS 10, ooo. So someone who needs NIS 18k per month needs a family income in excess of NIS 40k. Compare that with myself: working half time for a Sick Fund, I get a gross income of NIS 3500 per month. Nurses who work full-time in hospital, all shifts and Shabbatot, will gross about NIS 9k per month.

Almost Eden also makes a big thing of just how similar Israel is to the US. Ace Hardware! Office Depot! Toys R Us! This is also classic "newbie" behavior, and especially where food items are concerned, nostalgia for the Old Country is usually acute in the beginning. But the answer, in my experience is not to indulge it, except on rare occasions, but seek local -- and cheaper -- equivalents. Or that adjustment to what I call "genteel poverty" will be all the harder.

I admit it's easy to scoff from a distance of 35 years to her one and a bit. But the naivete often amuses me. Stating that an immigrant child is eligible for 45 hours of free language tutoring in school ignores the reality that most schools simply don't have it. Comparing private Jewish education costs in the States with public education here [which is supposed to be free, by law, but is anything but] is comparing apples with oranges. My parents never paid anything for my education in the States, because when I was growing up, private Jewish education wasn't an option. Moreover, the Israeli school system becomes increasingly inadequate as the grades progress and it's a rare family that doesn't have substantial educational costs by high school. $1700 [Almost Eden often quotes prices in dollars] doesn't sound like much when tuition in a private school in the States is $10,000 or more, but when you've got 3 children in the school system and you're living on $2000 per month, $5100 sounds a lot more impressive [and I think Almost Eden's estimates of the cost of the "free education" are low, in my own experience, which is now a decade out of date and undoubtedly higher now.]

I often wish I could revisit olim 10 years after they arrive -- those who are still here -- and see how they've fared. Some, of course, do adapt. They either arrive with a degree of Hebrew fluency, or pick up the language easily. They have friends or family that can give them support and help them navigate an unfamiliar culture. Some are just too stubborn to consider the idea of failure. But a very substantial number cut their losses and leave*, because it just wasn't what they had expected, or prepared [assuming they prepared at all] themselves for. There is a certain hubris in attempting to be an expert on aliyah after a year; I've been here for 35, and I'm not one yet.

*There is an internet message board in the Jerusalem area called Janglo. I keep an ongoing rough estimate of "complete house contents sales" or "moving sales" which are obviously, from what's on offer, sales of people selling up and leaving the country. Now, I'm not saying that these are olim who came into the country via NbN. NbN maintains that 99% of "their" olim stay, but they do not publish any definite figures. But NbN these days is bringing in just about all the North American olim who are coming, and the number of families leaving, according to this rough and highly unscientific survey I'm keeping, is cancelling out more than half the families coming. Traditionally, there are estimates that somewhere between 30% and 70% of all American olim return to the US within 10 years.

Professional Advice

Scott Stantis
Birmingham News
Oct 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blog On! Part 1

I read a lot of blogs. Some are by midwives and nurses, some by doctors or paramedics, some by olim here in Israel [or getting ready to make aliyah], some are literary, some are about Judaism. (Reminder to self: update the blog list). One is by a woman who attempted a home birth with tragic results, and has subsequently, I am happy to say, had another, thriving baby. There are a few miscellaneous ones: Cranky Epistles, Respectful Insolence, Random Acts of Reality, A Little Pregnant. Some bloggers post regularly; some, like myself (yes, yes, I know -- stop hitting me!) blog only occasionally, and/or infrequently. Some have gone to that Great CyberArchive In The Sky, and are no more.

There are two which I enjoy for entirely perverse reasons. One is by a L&D nurse who's studying for her CNM as a Master's degree program through the Frontier Nursing School, and the other is by a woman who made aliyah with her husband and son just slightly more than a year ago. The reason I write "perverse" is that my own take on similar experiences is so different.

At Your Cervix used to be a very jolly-looking but very fat woman. When I began reading her blog, she was on the verge of having bariatric surgery, so I've followed her through not only the initial surgery, but the following operations (4, I think, so far). Between the descriptions of what she's gone through, and the photos she's posted that show the way she looks now, I am cured of any interest in having bariatric surgery myself. But, if she's happy, well, more power to her!

She works in a very large and high risk unit, and one would think that what she sees would temper her enthusiasm somewhat but she is what I call an "ideologic nurse" and will be an "ideologic midwife". I've never had this viewpoint. The only "failure" in obstetrics is when there is maternal or fetal morbidity or mortality, as far as I'm concerned. A vaginal delivery, preferably without any medication, isn't a "victory". It's nice when it happens, if the woman copes well with the contractions and the labor progresses normally, but it isn't something I feel is essential for the wellbeing of either the woman or her child, and it is that wellbeing that is paramount. At Your Cervix bemoans shifts where her patients are delivered by C-Section (in all fairness, some of the private attendings seem to rush to the OR, but let us not forget that women often choose doctors by word of mouth, and if they want oblivion in labor, they'll find a doctor who medicates heavily, or vice versa) and has stated that she wants to show "poor women" (i.e. those without private doctors, or on Medicaid,I presume) the "joy of natural delivery". In my experience, nearly all these women simply want to have their babies as quickly and painlessly as possible and get as much rest before they have to go home. They really don't want to be convinced to have what they perceive as a more difficult way to have a baby. (I once asked a neighbor where she intended to have her baby, and she named a hospital across town. Since my hospital, which was famed for it's advocacy of "natural" childbirth, was only about 2 blocks away, I asked her why she didn't register there. "I want an epidural as soon as possible. At Misgav Ladach, I've heard they don't give you anything". Of course, we did have an anesthesiologist 24/7, and any woman could have an epidural. But she would not believe me)

Call me old-fashioned, but I don't believe ideology has a place in good medical practice. There's no "one size fits all" and the art of midwifery consists of matching the treatment to the patient. I'm the midwifery professional, not the patient. Of course she can discuss things with me, and I'm willing to be flexible as long as the safety of the mother and baby aren't at stake, and of course the mother (and her partner) are entitled to full explanations of everything I do or propose to do (except in drastic emergency, when I can't take the time) but the bottom line is that I, and no one else, unless I bring in a doctor, is responsible for the woman's and baby's welfare. I'm frankly a little surprised at At Your Cervix. Radical direct entry midwives often espouse the "birthin's normal" philosophy out of pure ignorance of possible outcomes, but AYC works in a high-risk unit. (Mild snark: I wish she wouldn't use the word "birth" as a transitive verb. It's a noun.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Double Whammy

Mike Lester
Rome News Tribune
Oct 23, 2009

Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Solo Flight By An Amateur

This pretty much encapsulates the way I think about Obama. It's called inexperience.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize for WHAT?

Jake Fuller
Oct 10, 2009

A bit facetious, but with a solid grain of truth. Can anyone think of a concrete thing Obama has done in his 9 months in office that really advanced world peace? Perhaps the prize should have gone to his speechwriters.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Intolerance on the Temple Mount

David Kirschenbaum says it better than I can. Except I cannot see any way to reverse the current situation without a war, and that is unacceptable. We made a terrible mistake when we thought the Wakf would behave in a civilized fashion.

Monday, September 28, 2009

How a Story Is Twisted into Subtle Anti-Semitism

On Wednesday, the "Tnua Islamit" or Islamic Movement, put out a flyer telling Moslems that the Jews intended using Yom Kippur to "re-conquer" the Temple Mount. On Sunday, a small group of French tourists, all religious Jews, and therefore modestly dressed, went up to the Mount and stood just inside the gate opening onto the flat open space where the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa mosques are situated.

The Dome of the Rock is the place where Abraham intended to sacrifice Isaac, and where Moslems believe that Mohammad's horse, having flown from Mecca, touched down for an instant before springing to heaven. Religious Jews, btw, do not step onto the Temple Mount proper, because of the possibility of accidentally standing where the Holy of Holies once stood. (This prohibition explains why the Israelis never attempted to have a permanent presence on the Mount after reclaiming it in 1967. In the mid-70s, the Mount was open to all -- tour guides simply loved to escort tourists there, and into the Dome of the Rock itself -- without the slightest problem, although not at times of Moslem prayer. That changed with the intifadas)

Immediately Palestinians on the Mount began throwing everything that was available on the tourists and their police escort. The assortment of missiles showed they had prepared in advance for this -- entire paving stones, for example, as well as having clubs and pieces of heavy furniture. The police responded by using stun grenades and by the time they had gotten the tourists safely back down, 12 policemen were wounded, some requiring hospitalization, and there were a number of Palestinian arrests.

How do I know this is true, and not just my biased opinion? My son-in-law, who is in the elite police unit which is stationed on the Mount, was hit in the face with a rock (small cut only).

This is how Slate magazine reported the incident:

When a group of Jews tried to enter a mosque in Jerusalem yesterday,
Palestinians began to protest violently, prompting Israeli police to fight back
with tear gas and stun grenades. The riot occurred a few hours before the start
of Yom Kippur, the most sacred Jewish holy day. Seventeen Israeli police
officers and 13 Palestinians were injured, but none seriously. It is unclear
whether there were also tourists present at the mosque at the time. The complex,
located above a Jewish site of prayer at the Western Wall, includes the sacred
Dome of the Rock mosque. A visit from former Israel premier Ariel Sharon to the
site in 2000 triggered a huge Palestinian uprising at the time, and yesterday
Palestinians warned Israelis not to sabotage the ongoing peace talks underway
with President Obama.

Their story is based on this Reuters article. See how it has been subtly changed to make the Israelis the insensitive aggressors? This, folks, is anti-Semitism, but both the news service, and most of the people who read it, would be shocked to be told so.

I think, if Jesus were alive today, he would be extremely shocked to be told he could not visit Judaism's most holy site (and he would undoubtedly ask "What's a Moslem? What are they doing on my people's Temple Mount?" since they wouldn't exist until 700 years after Jesus lived). What ARE they doing there, indeed?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Echo In the Bone

Diana Gabaldon's latest addition to the saga of Jamie and Claire, which began with the book "Outlander" has just been released. The hardcover won't reach me for some time, as it only shipped today, but it's been released for Sony e-book reader and for Kindle and I downloaded it this morning. All six of the previous books in the series have been massive bestsellers, with something like 17 million copies in print (and in a number of translations. Outlander has just been published in Hebrew, btw, as Nochriah)

Not that I've been keeping up with my resolutions to post more (had a vacation in Eilat during which I thought I'd make amends, but Israeli hotels have now wised up and charge for internet access, and phooey on that!), but you probably won't hear from me until I finish the book.

I have something of a special interest in this installment...I helped Ms. Gabaldon with certain subjects...but I think they are great books, anyway. More than simply "historical romance" or an action novel, it's what used to be called a "ripping yarn", with wonderful characterizations, rich plot, and simply fun. The complete series, which I strongly recommend, is:

Outlander (in the UK, called "Cross Stitch")
Dragonfly in Amber
Drums of Autumn
The Fiery Cross
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
An Echo in the Bone

All are available in print and e-book (Sony and Kindle) editions, and in audiobook versions, very well read by Davina Porter. Currently, for contract reasons, The Fiery Cross and A Breath of Snow and Ashes are not available via iTunes or but only as CDs from Recorded Books. "Echo" will be released next month on CD, and probably will be available in a few months on Audible and iTunes, as the contractual restrictions on the previous volumes won't be on it.


Steve Greenberg
Freelance, Los Angeles
Sep 22, 2009

What a shame Achmadinejad exists.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Injecting a Bit of Common Sense

Bruce Beattie
Daytona Beach News-Journal
Sep 11, 2009

IMO, this ought to be translated into a dozen languages and posted in every clinic of the kupah [sick fund, HMO] I work for. So far we've seen barely a handful of persons who even might be sick with swine flu, but boxes of face masks are everywhere [including the security guards' desks], hand sanitizers are being used as if every person who walks through the doors has Ebola, at the very least. Since pregnant women are among the "vulnerable", considerable numbers are staying at home and not going for antenatal checkups lest they be sneezed upon. It's ludicrous.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Socialism 101, or The Gospel According to Obama

Bruce Beattie
Daytona Beach News-Journal
Sep 10, 2009

Why didn't becoming a "socialist" occur to me when I was in school?

Friday, August 28, 2009


Rob Smith, Jr.
The Glenn Beck Program
Aug 28, 2009

Beginning to be Obama's nightmare, I fear.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Joe Heller
Green Bay Press-Gazette
Aug 10, 2009

I was there. Gawd. And both my daughters are now older than I was then.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rather Obviously NOT an Obama Supporter

Stephen Rustad
Petaluma Argus-Courier
Jul 30, 2009

I could add a couple of other things Obama's done, or rather, not managed to do well, but I'll refrain. My feelings aren't as strong as this cartoonist's; Obama is, however, living up [or is it down?] to expectations, as far as I'm concerned. Americans want out of Afghanistan, which isn't happening; they want economic recovery, which is still out of reach; they want universal, excellent, and cheap health care [an oxymoron], and don't seem to be as anti-Israel as Obama has been sounding. I sense that the attempt to sound like a combination of Churchill, JFK, and FDR is beginning to wear a bit thin with the electorate. Where's the beef, Barack, and don't forget, the midterm elections are only slightly more than a year away...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rhetoric Meets Reality

Krauthammer gets it right, here. The "Change You Can Believe In" is beginning to slip away.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sometimes I Can Only Shake My Head in Wonder

A dear friend of mine, the late Rabbi Hugo Gryn, z"l, of the West London Synagogue, once said to me that "since the founding of the State of Israel, world Jewry tends to think they have escaped history". Himself an Auschwitz survivor, Rabbi Gryn then sighed, and said, "They're wrong." This article, in the Boston Review, shows just how correct my rabbinical friend is. What have the Jews ever done to Hugo Chavez, that he makes common cause with the Clown of Teheran, Achmadinejad?

Of course, as has been pointed out in numerous sources, anti-Semitism is protean. The same Jews who "control the world", as "proved" in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (itself a Christian forgery), are those who spread disease because of their poverty and dirt. One size does indeed fit all, where anti-Semites are concerned.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why No One's Bombing At Present

Christopher Hitchens writes in Slate on the phenomenon of why there aren't any suicide bombings at present. He has some good thoughts, but it doesn't really go far enough.

It wasn't despair that began the bombings. It was simply the most simple, inexpensive, and brutal kind of terrorism the Palestinians could afford in their constant battle to annihilate Israelis and exterminate the State of Israel.

It backfired. One, in the court of public opinion. The civilized world recoiled instead of applauding the "martyrs". In fact, Islam became tarnished with what the West perceives not as an admirable religious statement but a form of primitive barbarity. The suicide bomber became evidence of a twisted, indeed anti-human, creed. He was not a patriot. He was just a terrorist, and a particularly vicious one at that, deliberately targeting women and children. Suicide bombing, in an ideological sense, was counter-productive, and showed just how great the intellectual gap is between Islam and the West.

Two, the Israelis simply didn't do what they were supposed to do: throw in the towel and leave Israel. In fact, most Israelis went about life as normal. We rode the buses and did the shopping. There was economic damage, of course, as tourists chose other places to spend their money, but this did not really help the Palestinians any and Israel's economic base is diverse. But the morale of the people was not touched, in any real sense. Mobile phone companies sold a lot of phones so parents could keep in touch with their children, and quite a few of us went to more funerals than we normally did, but in the main we resisted by NOT being moved from our usual course. (Palestinians, expecting brutal retaliation a la Assad's gassing of an entire Syrian town, were puzzled and could only conclude that we were "weak". They tend to take this view when we surgically take out a single terrorist leader rather than bomb several hundred family and friends at the same time. It's not a world view they understand, unfortunately)

Three, it actively damaged the Palestinians. Wherever possible, Arabs from over the Green Line were fired and either Israeli Arabs, Jews, or foreign workers were hired. The so-called "security fence" is really nothing more than a closed border. For years the Palestinians have closed their "side"--no Israeli in his right mind can go to places like Ramallah or Gaza without a good chance of being lynched -- while maintaining that it is their "right" to travel freely within pre-1967 Israel. That has now been stopped, and boy, are they mad about it, shouting "apartheid" and forgetting that it's not a good idea to bite the hand that fed it. Israeli employers who used vast amounts of Palestinian labor before the two intifadas now will do just about anything NOT to employ them. The Palestinians want a sovereign state, but they do not really seem to understand that, in that case, the countries bordering their state may not be willing to allow Palestinians free entry into their territory. That goes for Egypt and Jordan, too, neither of which is criticized for not allowing Palestinians to cross their borders with impunity. (Never hear the UN complaining about that). Only if the Palestinians have something positive to offer will they ever regain the jobs they once had in Israel. They've cut off their noses to spite their faces.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

So Far From Being On the Same Page, Are We Even Reading The Same Book?

Obama called Bibi Netanyahu's policy speech "a step forward". At exactly the same time, all the Arabs were absolutely rejecting it. But then, the existence of a Palestinian state isn't really the issue--it is the question of the legitimacy of Israel's existence, which most Arabs have denied ever since 1948. (The existence or absence of "settlements" is really irrelevant to this)

It seems to me that there is a disconnect, a failure of communication somewhere. How can the rejection of a "step forward" be in any sense, progress?

But this is typical of Obama, so far. Collapsing economy? Throw money at it, especially at banks. Bankrupt auto industry? Throw money at it, incidentally virtually nationalizing the industry. Health care? Decree that costs must be cut, apparently by reducing the coverage given to the elderly and poor, since cutting Medicare and Medicaid are just about the only tools the government has direct power over. There is a distinct feeling that he gets up in the morning, and says to himself "now, what will I solve today?" and once he's made his pronouncement, he rubs his hands and says, "now, that's taken care of; on to another topic".

He seems to do the same thing with foreign policy. Iraq? Pull the US troops out, never mind that the country's not in the least stable. Afghanistan? Send in more soldiers, but do it quietly so American citizens won't be upset. Iran? Don't upset Achmadinejad too much. Other Arabs? Tell them how much you respect Islam. Israel? Bludgeon them with concession demands, just as other Presidents have done. North Korea? Well, that was a surprise, wasn't it? I'll think of something tomorrow.

Well, now, that's really taken care of just about everything, oh wait: homosexuality and abortion.
Have to straddle the fence on that: let's keep things pretty much as they are, shall we? That way, no one gets upset. Pass the buck, let the states decide.

Governments don't actually produce anything. The money it disperses comes from what the taxpaying citizens produce. Obama seems not to mind in the least that he's robbing Peter to pay Paul, although this article in the NY Times seems to indicate that a significant percentage of Americans are uneasy about his "quick fix" approach. To be fair to the man, he's only got a year and a half for the electorate to feel that he's solved their problems (whether or not he's solved them is really not the issue; it's the feel-good factor). The only bright spot on Obama's horizon at the moment is the disunity in the Republican Party, but if the midterm elections return a lot of conservative Democrats with angry or disappointed constituents, it may not be enough to save him. And if he loses his clout on Capitol Hill in those elections, his hands are really tied for the rest of his Presidency.

I'm not really surprised at the way things are turning out. He has the arrogance of inexperience; the idea that he can really solve hitherto intractable problems like the Middle East with a wave of the rhetorical hand, or that money can solve just about everything. He himself created impossible expectations (and already has had to significantly backtrack on some issues).

I am not optimistic (but then, I hardly ever am )

Friday, June 12, 2009

Incredibly Obvious

One of the reasons I've never gotten an academic degree in nursing. Right on, Nurse Ratched!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Iran's "Personality"

A good article to read when next contemplating Iran's nuclear aspirations.

Don't Try to Travel Around Jerusalem

Yesterday, I left work at 7 p.m., as usual. I walked about 2 city blocks, to the bus stop before the one closest to where I work, as that stop is a total nightmare. It's next to the open-air market known as Machaneh Yehuda, and between little old ladies wielding lethal canes and umbrellas and battles between those with shopping carts and baby carriages that make the chariot race in Ben Hur look like kindergarten, getting on the bus and getting a seat is completely impossible. During my "stroll", picking my way over piles of building materials (the sidewalks as well as the street having been torn up for the accursed light railway project), I did not encounter any #18 bus so I can say authoritatively that it was fully 50 minutes at least between buses. For those who don't know, # 18 is not one of those lines running on some obscure peripheral route: it is one of the major lines going from one side of Jerusalem to the other, through the center of town. 23 other buses passed (I counted) while I waited, most of them the double, articulated variety, and most of them only half full. At 7:50 my bus, a single one, arrived, packed to the gills. By dint of shameless appeals, I managed to dislodge a teenager, plugged into both his cellphone and his iPod, and take his seat. I got home at 8:45.

I live in a neighborhood which, if not exactly in city center, isn't on the outskirts either. Remember that by American standards, Jerusalem is a small town (about 700,000 inhabitants). It would have taken me less time to travel to Tel Aviv (about 45 minutes).

Today this appeared in Haaretz. It now takes me nearly as much time to get to and from work as I am actually AT work, and the state of downtown Jerusalem is indescribable. It used to take me half an hour to get from my house to work; now it is usually between an hour to an hour and a half, sometimes more. The first light rail line was supposed to be operational in 2006, and now it is scheduled -- or was scheduled -- for the autumn of 2010. And I will probably never even ride it, as its route is not one I ever travel. I despair.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Obama Lives Up to Expectations

Israelis, whether they liked Bush or not, knew instinctively that whoever followed him in the White House would do just about anything to reverse Bush's Middle East policy (along with just about everything else Bush did). Bush's unpopularity with the American electorate made this inevitable: whether what Bush did was "right" or "wrong"; effective or not, any new President would want to put his own stamp on his administration as rapidly as possible.

So Obama's speech did not surprise us. Nor does his total misreading of the situation. We are accustomed to being blamed for being the "obstacle to peace" because of a few completely irrelevant settlements. That is NOT why Israel is unwilling to engage in yet more meaningless discussions, and to make yet more worthless --worthless because we get only increased danger in result--concessions while the Arabs commit themselves to absolutely nothing.

IT IS BECAUSE THE PALESTINIANS WILL NOT ABANDON THEIR AVOWED GOAL OF THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL, NOR WILL THEY RECOGNIZE THE RIGHT OF ISRAEL'S EXISTENCE. Somehow, President after President cannot assimilate this simple fact. Israel is expected to bare its collective neck to the Hamas/PA knife; to delegitimate itself while accepting the "right" of Palestinians to total access to every point in the country, to deny itself any means of defending itself. Rockets fall on Ashdod? Tsk, tsk. Israeli civilians killed in suicide attacks on buses? Please, let's not get upset about a minor pecadillo; people die in accidents every day. Israel enter Gaza? The screams of "war crimes" and "atrocity!", not to mention "attempted genocide" ring out loud and clear (and very often, if not from the country which perpetrated the Holocaust, from some of the countries which collaborated with the Nazis and whose Jewish populations were decimated as a result)

I won't, at the moment, go into the problem of precisely who should be governing the land known as "The West Bank", or Gaza. The fact is that the so-called Palestinian Arabs are not the original inhabitants, indeed, a great many of the current inhabitants have been less than a century in the territory (see Joan Peters' "From Time Immemorial" for a fully documented explication of this). All the available archeological evidence shows that the Jews have a prior claim. Anyone familiar with the Bible knows that the area in question, at least as far as Judea and SamariaBut the reality is that both areas are chock-full of Arabs, who aren't going anywhere. If they pose a danger to Israel, and I can't really think of a greater danger than an openly and repeatedly made assertion that they are going to exterminate us, they will have to remain quarantined. There's been a lot of criticism of the security fence, but the fact is, that whenever the borders of the future Palestinian state are determined, there is no automatic "right" of open borders, just as I cannot visit Thailand or Uruguay without a visa even using my US passport. A sovereign country determines to whom it will allow entry and under what conditions.

"Settlements" -- some of which are small towns -- are not really relevant. IF the Palestinians renounce violence, and their avowed aim to destroy Israel, some adjustment can be made. They can hardly expect an open border if they refuse to allow their borders to be open to us. Settlements are used as an issue when they really are not. It is the existence of Israel which is the issue, and Obama should have said something like "When the Palestinians openly admit the right of Israel to exist, and renounce violence against her, then the US will support to the full a bilateral agreement to be fair to both sides".

Obama is ready to try to ride roughshod over Israel as he is trying to ride roughshod over American industry. He's got lots of plans, lots of targets (I find his wanting to "solve" the Middle East in 2 years laughable) but like most Presidents, he is trying to impose his reading of the situation on realities which are quite different than his perceptions. I worry less about a nuclear Iran bombing Tel Aviv (which would not only kill a lot of other Moslems but the radioactivity would blow back on Iran) than a nuclear Iran which threatens Vienna with annihilation unless all Europe buys Iranian oil at $500 a barrel. Or a nuclear Iran which decides to finally get even with all those Sunnis who've sneered at the Shi'ites as schismatics for a few centuries. It would not surprise me in the least if, once the Americans are out of Iraq, Iran decides to settle the score, using its proxies in Iraq, and extend its hegemony over its neighbor. Unfortunately, the message Obama sent to Islamic countries was one of weakness; conciliation is not a tactic of the strong, in their world view. Right now, the Middle East is unstable; Mubarak is old, and not well. The Saudi royal family faces an unprecedented degree of local dissent; the Gulf States are having to cope with reduced oil revenues, Iranian proxies like Hezbollah are hijacking Lebanon and pressuring Syria. Iraq is certainly fragile. Over everything is the specter of religious extremism, from Taliban to the Moslem Brotherhood. To paraphrase an old aphorism, if Israel did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it. Opposition to Israel is just about the only unifying factor present today in the Arab world. But, for the moment, the various forces at work are in precarious balance. Let the US be perceived as indecisive or weak, or should Iran gain greatly in power, and the entire framework will shatter.

Obama has until November of 2010 to pull America out of the abyss (or at least to make Americans feel better about the economy; actual recovery will take a lot longer, IMO). His scenario of making Israel into a foreign policy scapegoat yet again will not help him with certain sectors of the American public, especially if, as I expect, Islamic nations rebuff his overtures.

As a postscript, I really wish that Hillary hadn't accepted the post of Foreign Secretary. Of course she is required to support Obama's position. But she is losing credibility daily with those Jewish voters who supported her in the primaries, and this will hurt her in the long run, if she chooses to run in 2012. Tsipi Livni had the good sense to remain in opposition so she wouldn't be tainted by Bibi's government.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

No Comment

Bruce Beattie
Daytona Beach News-Journal
Jun 4, 2009

Wouldn't help if he was speaking Arabic. The only message the Moslem world will get from his attempts to appease them is "America is weak; we are winning". Obama hasn't got a clue what he's doing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Laurie King's Dilemma

The newest Mary Russell book, The Language of Bees, is out, after much waiting by Mrs. King's fans and a huge media circus beginning over three months ago.

I am underwhelmed.

Let me begin by saying that, apart from the inbuilt paradoxes, the Mary Russell books are not badly written, and can provide an evening's engaging reading. In my view, they are much superior to the Kate Martinelli mysteries. But this latest book is curiously unfinished, and one suspects the promotion was ratcheted high because of the weakness of the offering. To be fair to Mrs. King, her husband has been ill for several years, and died just as she was completing the book, so she must have been distracted during the writing of it.

Mary Russell, if there's anyone out there who does not know, is a half Jewish ["the right half"], left-handed, very tall, somewhat androgynous young woman of American origins [but raised largely in England], who meets Sherlock Holmes when she is a gawky 15 year old and he is retired to keeping bees on the Sussex Downs and is in his fifties. [Mrs. King explains why she does not accept the age Conan Doyle -- through Dr. Watson -- assigns to Holmes in The Last Bow]. Ms. Russell impresses Holmes with the kind of incisive reasoning and observation he has traditionally employed, and over the period of her adolescence she serves a kind of apprenticeship that culminates in partnership and [gasp!] marriage to The Great Man. Someone has commented that Mrs. King has written the ultimate "Mary Sue fanfic", "Mary Sue" being the name given to fan fiction in which the author inserts her or himself. The impression is given weight by Mary Russell's choice of academic specialty, theology, which was also Mrs. King's. [Mrs. King married one of her theology professors, a man more than three decades older than herself, incidentally].

In the course of the books, Holmes and Russell [who normally address each other by surnames] have a variety of adventures, some more fanciful than others. Of course they are both adept at all kinds of arcane skills and talents, and become word-perfect in multiple languages at the drop of a hat.

But there is one immense problem, and it's not turning the asexual Conan Doyle Holmes into a man who loves women. It's the difference between the Victorian world, and that of the Roaring Twenties.

Mrs. King has said that she came to the Holmes Canon [which is what Sherlockians call the collection of tales written by Conan Doyle] via the Jeremy Brett TV adaptations. As the British do, these were very faithful to the original stories, but Brett camped Holmes up to an extraordinary degree, and physically he was quite different from the tall, thin, pale, hawknosed figure of the stories. Brett, of course, was laboring under the stereotyped version of Holmes that had begun with the original illustrations and went through several reinforcements in Hollywood, and was anxious to bring his own interpretation to the part.

Surprisingly, the fictional Holmes has always been attractive to women, possibly because of his sheer inaccessibility to them -- he seems completely indifferent -- and his courtesy. In the Canon, the only woman he admired, according to his biographer, Dr. Watson, gained his respect by seeing through his disguises, not because she was a great beauty. I remember having quite a crush on him when I was about 12--well, who could have a crush on a walrus like Dr. Watson, I ask you? [I have been informed there is quite a lot of "slash" fanfic out there assuming he and Watson were lovers; something I'm sure would have deeply shocked Conan Doyle] There's no intrinsic reason why Holmes should not have had heterosexual relationships from time to time except that he probably found all the women he met to be incredibly stupid.

But the big dilemma that Mrs. King has is transposing a thoroughly Victorian character, working in a Victorian world, into the 20th century, and a 20th century that had gone through the trauma of World War I. In all the previous Mary Russell books Mrs. King has teetered along the edge of an abyss, not quite sure of her footing but not yet tumbling in. Now I think she has.

Holmes' Victorianism is not just a matter of speech patterns, although Mrs. King has struggled with these in the past. [By contrast, read Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody novels; she gets the idiom spot on]. The world Holmes inhabited was a world where there were still unexplored parts of the globe, with exotic natives, such as Andaman Islanders with blow pipes. It was a world lit by gas or kerosene lamps; of pea soup fogs, and wild eccentricity. It was a world with more than a touch of the Gothic, where a murderer could effect his crime by letting a venomous snake through a ventilation shaft, or a hookah-smoking gargoyle of a man could re-create an Indian palace in his gloomy Victorian mansion, where people lived in houses with names like Pondicherry or Wisteria Lodge, and arrived there in horse-drawn conveyances.

Russell, on the other hand, inhabits a much more modern and mechanized world, one that has electric light, and the telephone, and gasoline-powered omnibuses. She doesn't wear bustles or corsets, and her hemlines are not floor-length. Warfare on a scale undreamt of 40 years previously have dimmed the impact of Gordon's martyrdom in Khartoum or the defense of Rorke's Drift in South Africa. Scott and Amundsen have raced to the South Pole, and the Victorian Scott lost. Airplanes are already making the world into a much smaller place, and a much less mysterious one. It is, in short, the difference between the time when Soames Forsyte courted Irene, and when his daughter Fleur fell in love with Irene's son.

In this newest novel, Mrs. King does not make the transition from the Holmes we know to the Holmes of the Twenties convincingly. It would be expected that as Holmes got older -- and he's now well into his sixties, according to the chronology of the series -- he would be less adaptable, rather than more. But it is becoming increasingly difficult, I think, to "hear" his voice. He's a nice guy, but he's not really Holmes any more. The interaction between Damien, Holmes' son by Irene Adler [an idea Sherlockians have been kicking around for ages], and Holmes is weak [well, if Holmes is an unlikely husband, one can imagine what a father he'd be!], and Russell is peculiarly indifferent to both the memory of Holmes' previous love and the attraction of his son [who is, after all, much closer in age to her]. Now that would have been a triangle.

Fans have indicated that what they like in the series above all else is the interaction between Holmes and Russell. In this novel, there's more interaction between Russell and Mycroft [who was a shadowy figure in the Canon; he has become a major figure in most of the books of the Russell series] than between Russell and her husband -- a husband, incidentally, who is almost never affectionate in word or action toward his wife. Their relationship is almost entirely cerebral. I can see why Mrs. King doesn't want her main characters to be falling all over each other all the time, but there never seems to be any communication apart from professional concerns in this latest book.

Lastly, I'm getting a bit bored with the theological side of things. So far one book has dealt with a charismatic female religious figure, rather like Aimee Semple McPherson; an archeological find of religious significance is the main theme of another, and now we have a religious nutcase who has written a mishmash of a book [part Scripture, part Khalil Gibran] and is ritually slaughtering people and animals. And who manages to get away in the end, leaving us to await a further book. Of course, it's a topic Mrs. King knows a lot about. [I still don't know why she had to make Mary Russell Jewish, frankly].

Sigh. I think I'm going to go back to Amelia Peabody. The plots are fantastic, and she's an opinionated, egotistic, shrewish bint with a loud-mouthed husband and a very weird son, but I find them hilarious [in the audiobook versions read by Barbara Rosenblat, at any rate]. And in imitation of Mrs. Emerson, I think what I need now is a good cup of tea. Off to have a brew-up, with my last PG Tips...

Monday, April 13, 2009

If You Feel Three Fetal Movements in the Space of an Hour...

It's rare I write about my work. For one thing, it's rarely really exciting, and it tends to be very repetitious. But I don't want you all to think I spend all my time frothing at the mouth about religion or Arabs.

Israel has a quasi-governmental health service. Every citizen in Israel pays a monthly sum from his gross income, and it entitles him to a "basket" of basic [very basic] health services via one of the four Sick Funds. You are at liberty to choose which of the four funds you wish to belong to, although in outlying areas there is usually only the largest, Klalit. It is also the oldest and is part of the Histadrut trade organization and the Labor Party. In most respects the kupot are alike these days. Each kupah has its own supplemental packages, and nearly every Israeli takes at least one, because the basic basket really isn't adequate.

So every Israeli has access to doctors, treatments, and medications at either no or vastly reduced cost. Hospitalization is free in most cases. All costs associated with birth are free. Well, not really free, of course; the taxpayer pays. But in general, it's a good system for most Israelis. As a type II diabetic, I have not only a GP, but an endocrinologist, podiatrist, opthalmologist [each costing me the gigantic fee of about $7 per quarter] have free blood tests, blood testing supplies for my glucometer at nominal cost, and my oral meds at about 75% discount.

I work in the Women's Clinic of one of the kupot. We see several different populations: couples in fertility treatment, high risk pregnancies, and "emergency" patients in a special walk-in part of the clinic. Very rarely are these patients really emergencies and that's what drives me crazy. "My regular gynecologist is overseas", they begin. Goodness, if this was really true, at least 75% of Israel's OB/GYN doctors are off on perpetual junkets. A variation, slightly more believable, is "my doctor's not available". Next they want to know why they have to wait their turn for a prescription for birth control pills that they've known for a month they're running out of. "It will just take a minute" they wheedle. Sorry madam, but you see this woman is bleeding all over the floor, she has precedence..."But she arrived after I did!" comes the insulted reply.

Other patients manufacture reasons which they think will get them ultrasound exams that will show what the gender of the fetus is. They are entitled to, nay, encouraged to have ultrasounds at certain points in the pregnancy, but there are those without patience to wait. Yet others demand ultrasounds as some sort of miracle exam that not only discovers all problems but solves them too.

There are minor irritations. "Please weigh yourself". In spite of a big notice on the wall above the scales, the women invariably leap onto the scales. "Step down," I drone, perhaps 50 times an afternoon. "Press the green start button, wait until you see zeros on the scale, then step up onto it". We used to have an electronic scale that switched itself on when stepped upon. This is an "improvement". Today, in the past three hours, I've done 12 fetal monitors [NST], not one for a good reason. All could have been avoided if the women drank enough fluids. "But then I have to pee all the time", they say. With the baby's head pressing on your bladder you're going to run to the bathroom all the time anyway, dear. Go drink at least a liter. I guarantee that within 30 seconds the woman has returned, swearing she's drunk "more" than a liter. One of the doctors I work with has no problem in sending a woman back to me for two or three repeat monitors because he won't transfer a woman to hospital if he can avoid it, and if he does, he wants to be sure there's no fetal distress first [which sort of defeats the purpose].

But more, I guess, is the simple imbecility of a great many of the women who show up. I've known smarter cows. "Three days ago, for 20 minutes, I had contractions; am I in labor?" "Two days ago I was on a bus which came to an abrupt halt. I'm feeling movements all right, but I just wanted to be sure the baby's OK". "Yesterday, I saw a dead kitten in the gutter. I want an ultrasound to be sure it's soul didn't pass into my baby" [yes, really]. There are the women who inject themselves with fertility drugs but find it difficult since they don't remove the cap from the syringe needle. Or the women who call, half hysterical because their glucometers always read the same thing and upon investigation this phenomenon happens even before they stick their fingers with the lancet, as if the machine intuits their blood sugar by telepathy. [they are reading the stick quality assurance code]

I enjoy teaching, but I'm finding my patience has its limits. I've just said the same thing too often, explained the procedure or the process too many times. But I need to continue working until the summer of 2010, because once I have 7 years' seniority, if I become an old age pensioner, I'll get all my medications free for the rest of my life.

So I'm hanging on. Barely.

Hezbollah and Egypt

The Jerusalem Post has an excellent analysis here which bears out something I wrote about a long time ago -- the ongoing struggle for dominance between Shi'a and Sunni Islam. Don't underestimate it. If the various Arab countries hadn't had Israel to dump on, it would have come to a head sooner, but it's going to be an increasing problem. I wonder if anyone in Washington has figured out the differences, and the historical animosity between the groups yet.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How Could Jesus Eat "Bread" at The Passover Seder which was the "Last Supper"?

Now I'm going to offend a lot of people. But then, I've been offended by them all my life.

"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NIV )

I find it deeply offensive to humanize God so that He has "family", that He "impregnates" a human woman, just as the pagan gods are supposed to have done, and that he has a "son". For all Jews, that demeans God and is the most utter blasphemy. But of course, in this PC age, I am supposed to nod understandingly at this appalling drivel, a mere restatement of paganism (yes, I know, it's a "Mystery". No, it's not, it's no mystery at all that the minds of most men are incapable of understanding the Jewish and Moslem concept of the incorporeal, omniscient, omnipresent Diety but must create a god which they can anthropromorphosize to fit their limited imaginations. You'd think after about 10,000 years of human civilization they could, but apparently, judging by the success of Christianity, they can't) Christians apparently don't see anything impolite in asking me, as I have repeatedly been asked, "why I don't accept Christ". What's to accept? I'm not interested in regressing to paganism.

So, lissen up: no one has "paid" for your sins. You're going to pay for them. You're going to earn life eternal the hard way--by doing teshuva (penitence) in this world, not by virtue of some quasi-Divine being being tortured to death. So live morally in this life, it's the only one you're likely to have. By doing this, you make of your entire life an act of Divine worship, and it is by far the most effective prayer you'll ever be able to pray. And oh yeah, Jesus was no more resurrected than anyone else, because, assuming he existed at all, he died just like everyone else, being nothing more than a human being. And Christians, however much they try to obscure it, are not even monotheists; the Trinity is a pantheon in exactly the same way all the Hindu gods are aspects of Brahma.

Now I've got that off my chest. Jews, since saying things like that have traditionally resulted in the exhibition of some overt Christian "love", such as pogroms or the auto-da-fe, have learned not to say it when Christians are around. I think it was stimulated, this past week, by an exchange with a Catholic who told me that I was wrong to claim that Maccabees I and II are not part of the Old Testament, because they are in the Old Testament of the Catholic Bible. This person was most emphatic that the Catholic version was the only "correct" version. Well, baby, all I can say is that the Tanach antedates Christianity by centuries; some books by as much as a thousand years (taking the non-Orthodox critical approach as to the authorship of it), and the Catholic version, in particular, is based on a Latin translation of a Greek translation of the Hebrew original. And there are some very good reasons the rabbinical Sages did not include the Books of the Maccabees in the Canon. Quite a bit of the books are heretical, either by implication (God is not mentioned; the victories are attributed to good generalship, and the Hasmoneans combined the High Priesthood and the monarchy, which is prohibited in Judaism)

My advice to Christians this weekend is, stop celebrating a pseudo-event with a pseudo-god. Do what Jesus did: buy some matzah and have a Passover seder instead. Best of all, return to your roots and convert to Judaism.

Hag sameach!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Of Women and Obama's Sleight of Hand

This article in the NY Times, and the beautiful timing of this Obama gimmick shows just how well the new administration is showing that it is "reaching out" to minorities [are women a minority? Jews certainly are]

First White House "Seder", and he kisses the people vowed to the extermination of Israel on the cheeks, and seems powerless to understand the Islamic mentality that will create a nuclear jihad against the Western Infidel and against Israel if not stopped. What a Christian was doing at a Passover Seder is inexplicable, and to have the announcement of the continued waiver that allows an anti-Jewish and anti-Israel terrorist organization to function in the US is a major insult to every Jew in the Diaspora and in Israel.

Achmadinejad, and the Afghanis now have the true measure of the US President: a man who thinks words substitute for actions, and who thereby shows that he's really so weak he can't stop anyone.

Islamic Courtesy

David Horsey
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Apr 11, 2009

Always tell your guest what he wants to hear. Truth is a secondary consideration.
Will the Americans ever begin to understand that they're not dealing with Westerners in bedsheets? *sigh*

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Jake Fuller
Mar 12, 2009

At least, he's got a script. Mine just grunts and scratches; if he's being really romantic, he'll shave first.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Surprised? I'm Not

Chuck Asay
Creators Syndicate Inc.
Feb 26, 2009

And it's going to go downhill from here...Obama's "change" mantra will shortly be "can you spare some change?" There was never any other possibility.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Like There's Been an Attack on the Flag

Victor Harville
Stephens Media Group
Feb 13, 2009

I always knew there was a reason I hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a kid!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Friedman on "The Situation"

Thomas Friedman, about whom I frequently have mixed feelings, has an excellent column in the NY Times today. Check it out.

A Completely Prejudiced Guide to the Elections Next Week

Israel has proportional representation, a form of government where the electorate gets a government no one voted for, because of the inevitable coalition which results from a multiplicity of parties. So, simply voting for the party whose platform best reflects your interests isn't really what happens. You wind up often voting for the party which will not detract from what you want too much, if it looks as if "your" party is going to lead the coalition.

Confused? You're not alone. Here is a guide to the current major players:

Shas and the other extreme religious parties (the only real difference between Shas and Degel HaTorah, etc. is that Shas is Mizrachi and the others are Ashkenazi, In Jerusalem's mayoral election Meir Porush, the Degel candidate actually campaigned in Yiddish): Their platform is simple. To support their parasitical lifestyle, they want the maximum amount of money for their support in any coalition. Once in the coalition, they will constantly up the ante, demanding even more extortionate amounts as well as insisting on legislation coercing about 80% of Israelis into an ever-more-rigid religious lifestyle, while getting exemptions for their constituents from any civic responsibilities, like going to the army. The haredi watchword is "we pray for you; you die for us", as well as "you work, and we live off your income". It would be nice to tell them to go to hell where they belong, but since their constituents mindlessly vote (and they all vote because they are instructed to) the way their rabbis tell them (and the wives the way their husbands tell them), they have been a major factor in every Israeli election.

Avigdor Lieberman's "Israel Beitenu" (Israel is Our Home): Avigdor Lieberman is a sort of Russian Tony Soprano, a beefy man with bulging eyes and a clipped beard, who tries hard to look and act like a thug, without actually being one. I doubt, for example, that his constituents kiss his hand and murmur "Godfather" to him, but I bet he has dreams of it. His platform basically is that all Arabs should be exterminated. He's quite popular with the more fascist element among Russian immigrants (of whom there are surprisingly many) and many of the extreme right-wing, and not a few of the more passionate settlers. Since both he and his daughter are being seriously investigated by the police for fraud, money laundering, and corruption, he may not do as well as he thinks he will at the polls. He'd love to get the Defense post in a Netanyahu government, but he doesn't stand a chance. He can pull enough votes, however, to be a spoiler for anyone trying to put together a coalition.

Meretz ("Energy") and the Green Party: This is the far Left mirror to Israel Beitenu, but they are so far left that they make the Labor party look almost right of center. Animal rights, legalization of marijuana, love feasts with Palestinians instead of trying to keep them from destroying Israel, etc. I wouldn't even include them in my list of parties that even ripple the electoral water except that apparently, according to Haaretz , many Meretz women seem to be drifting in the direction of Livni's Kadima. They also have leached off some of Labor's more Leftist supporters, so further weakening the Labor bloc.

Labor: Israelis speak of Labor as a single party, but it hasn't been for a long time. The "real" Labor Party (Mapa'i) ruled Israel from 1948 until 1977, and while it created the State according to its Socialist ideology, it also exhibited the inevitable result of having such absolute power: unless you were a member of it, and the Histadrut trade union, you got absolutely zilch. Labor controlled just about all patronage. It was lily-white Ashkenazi, and the Mizrachim were treated with condescension and relegated to second-class status. When Menachem Begin overturned the Labor hegemony in 1977, Labor absorbed the more leftist parties, such as Mapam, and the forerunner of Meretz to form the Labor bloc (Ma'arach) in order to gain more Knesset seats. Today, for all intents and purposes, it is a single party. Each election has seen it decline, more internally conflicted, not really knowing what it wants, and without any decisive, charismatic leadership. Barak, the nation's most decorated soldier, who looks like a chubby, rather dim-witted teddy bear and has terrible English (in common with many professional soldiers, he seems to always speak without moving his lips; don't ask me why), was briefly Prime Minister, and a disasterous one at that. At this moment, he enjoys a wave of popularity because of the Gaza operation, but since one doesn't vote for a Prime Minister but for a party in Israel, and voting to get Barak means voting for the ineffectual, divided Labor Party, it's questionable whether many Israelis, unless they are diehard Party idealists, will do so. And Barak's current idea, building a 48 kilometer tunnel so West Bank Palestinians can travel to Gaza, and vice versa, without having to cross Israel, is so loony that even his supporters are wondering what he's been smoking.

Likud: A lot of Israelis seem to think the election for Prime Minister is between Tsipi Livni and Bibi Netanyahu. Bibi, who's been in the political wilderness for some time now, scents victory and he may be right. But Israelis had high hopes when Bibi became PM before, and were cruelly disappointed. His UN career seemed to promise so much. But Bibi's tenure was proportional representation at its worst. He got in because the law had been changed to allow direct election of the PM (it's been changed back, as a failed experiment) but the government he formed was almost entirely inimical to him, and he spent his time trying to appease various factions with bribes and keep the coalition from falling apart. Consequently he didn't accomplish anything, either domestically or internationally. He's a very hungry politician, our version of "slick Willie". Bibi probably could have gotten on fairly well with Clinton or even Bush; there's doubt that he and Obama will have any personal chemistry. He doesn't have the taint of Tammany that Olmert has, nor does he inspire the suspicion of Nixon (I probably would buy a second-hand car from Bibi), but he's just too much the classic political opportunist and makes too many people uneasy. Right now he's making the kind of belligerent statements his followers like, about "teaching the Gazans a lesson", but there's an undercurrent of scepticism about his consistency under pressure. He'll compromise to stay in power.

Kadima: It used to be said that the reason Israelis elected Golda Meir was that she was the best man to be Prime Minister. Tsipi Livni may have balls, but she's not as androgynous as Golda (nor old enough to be the stereotypical Jewish Mother or Grandmother). Politically, she's so far been largely untried, and some say she's a hardliner, some say she's too soft. I think the truth is that she's trying to steer somewhere in the middle. Her background is in intelligence, so she has a better grasp of the realities of international relations than many. There is fairly strong opinion that she would get on better with both Obama and Hillary than Bibi. Whether she can stand up to strong US pressure to conciliate the Palestinians is unknown. Right now it seems she is very much on top of the Gaza situation -- it was her idea to get the media blitz going right from the start, and that undoubtedly helped Israel a great deal. Livni has been quite open about not liking the Shas/religious bloc's blackmail. This gives her support from the secular and traditional Israeli, but causes her campaign posters to be defaced by the haredim, who really hate her, both as a woman and a politician. So the influential religious bloc can stymie her chances. Right now, the polls are giving Labor, at 29 seats, the lead, with Kadima not far behind. But since any coalition must have a minimum of 61 seats, a third, or even a fourth, party must be brought in. And at the moment, it looks increasingly like it will take four. This means trying to get very antagonistic interests to cooperate. Shas wants to be in a Labor government if its demands are met; but not with Kadima. Neither Labor or Meretz, and possibly not Kadima, can be in a government with Israel Beitenu. Should Kadima surprise everyone, and have a larger number of seats than the Likud, it's an open question who would be the best third leg of the triumvirate.

What am I voting for? Kadima. At the outset I wrote above that one has to consider more options than just the party platform. Bibi's chances of being called on to form the next government look strong; I want that tempered by Livni, not by Shas. (I think Bibi would prefer this). Personally, I think Livni would be an excellent PM, but if she's not, I want her to be Foreign Minister--her English accent might be a bit heavier than Bibi's, but she comes across as much more sincere. Kadima can work with Labor, and Bibi would probably be quite happy to have Barak continue as Defense Minister. Above all, I want to keep Shas, Israel Beitenu, and the other fringe parties OUT of the coalition. It looks possible, especially if Hamas keeps misbehaving; the country is quite united about that being the immediately primary issue. But the economic recession, which so far hasn't hit Israel too hard, is looming--already the rich/poor divide is the worst in the Western world; the country is in its second year of severe drought with no relief in sight, and the health system is buckling under the strain of the growing numbers of elderly, and the educational system is not educating children to anything remotely approaching an acceptable level for a developed country.

And it seems that no one will stop Iran. Obama wants to talk.

Far Out, Iran!

I believe I prophesied this back here , in 2006.

"Buy our oil at $500 a barrel, and impose the chador on women, or we'll flatten Vienna!"

Seems ludicrously absurd, doesn't it? Not so much, any more.

Of course, all my other predictions in that entry have proved to be wrong...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Attempting to Conciliate Terrorists

This is what happens when persons from countries used to democratic, reasonable debate attempt to have such discussions with terrorists. Why is it so difficult to understand that it is only perceived by the terrorists as weakness?

Blair is an "idiot". Worse, he's well-intentioned, and we know where good intentions lead...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It Wasn't Just the Jews, Bishop Williamson

Will Poland break off contact with the Vatican since the reinstated Bishop Williamson denies the existence of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps? After all, although the genocide of the Jews constituted the largest single group, the Nazis made very considerable attempts to annihilate a lot of others, Polish Catholics as well as Catholics in other "sub-human Slavic" countries included, in the Holocaust.

Catholic Holocaust survivors should speak up.

You Cease, We Fire, Episode 2 [or 2000, or some other giant number]

As delineated here, the so-called "cease-fire" is actually a case of "Israel should cease, while Hamas fires".

No form of agreement for the cessation of hostilities will have even the faintest chance of success if it is not monitored by an international force. Hamas, of course, claims that "any" aggression is "Zionist", while they are pure as the driven snow. Only if there is impartial observation, which can assign blame for provocation and violence where it belongs, will make it obvious exactly who is the aggressor.

On another topic altogether, for those waiting for kubbeh recipes and an explanation of an eruv, it's in the works; you haven't been forgotten.

Sunday, January 25, 2009