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Monday, July 31, 2006

It’s on days like this when I envy blggers who have a single theme to their blogs. They don’t have to sort out the multitude of images and claims and counter claims and threats and accusations swirling about my head as I sit down in front of my computer and try to make sense of a world gone mad. That of course is an impossible task, so I’ll just record a couple of thoughts on a few of said images, claims etc.

The Israeli/Hezbollah war is foremost in most people’s minds - and of course the tragedy in Qana. Who could not be horrified at the unintended carnage caused by an Israeli air attack on suspected Hezbollah targets in that village?

I won’t try to present an analysis of how it happened or who is right and who is wrong and where the ultimate responsibility lies for the death of so many civilians. That’s an exercise in futility. Nothing that anyone says will detract one iota from the horror of this tragedy. But I will try to make one or two observations about the opposing sides that I think are revealing.

I am in touch with people in Israel. The reaction is the same there as it is here. There is no joy over the death of innocent Lebanese civilians, only horror. Unlike the alleged Hezbollah/Lebanese response to the incident that started this whole mess - the ambush and slaughter of eight Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two that survived - there is no dancing in the streets of Israel. No one is handing out candy to passing motorists and pedestrians. There is no celebration. And Israel is expressing official sorrow and regret and is conducting an investigation.

One image really moved me over the week-end. It was that of a sad faced, 83 year old Shimon Peres appearing on CNN and asking why. "Why did they (Hezbollah) do this?" " What do they want" he asked? It wasn’t an act. It was the puzzled voice of a tired old man who has spent a lifetime trying to find a way for his nation to live at peace with the rest of the world - and sees nothing but madness, decade after decade.

Yes, Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s act of war is resulting in the death of civilians - but that is not the purpose of its military actions. Conversely, it is the only purpose of the Hezbollah and Hamas attacks. To kill people. Randomly. Who doesn’t matter - as long as they are Israeli Jews. There is no expression of regret over any Israeli civilian death - except when they are Israeli Arabs. Then their killers tell their families that while they’re sorry for the deaths - not to worry - dying in war made them martyrs - and they’re having a whale of a time up there in paradise.

Neither side is totally blameless - but there are differences that tell a great deal about them. The Israelis have a culture of life. They have, in the past, exchanged hundreds of convicted felons for the bodies of a handful of fallen Israeli soldiers. They have great reverence for life and great respect for the bodies of their deceased, but they don’t believe that there is some eternal reward waiting for them if they die in the process of killing their enemies. If an Arab equivalent of 9/11 were to occur, you would not find Israelis celebrating in the streets. While the Israelis may be resolute - and indeed may be wrong in some of their military actions - they experience no joy in killing those who attack them.

No doubt as this war continues, there will be more tragedies - more civilians killed in Lebanon and in Israel and none of it will augur well for any future relations between the two countries - or even between Israel and Hezbollah - if any kind of relationship between those two was even remotely possible. There would perhaps be if Hezbollah could ever genuinely expressed sorrow at the death of innocent Israeli civilians. Or as Golda Meier once said - when the Arabs learn to love their children more than they hate the Jews, there will be peace.

Changing the subject - although it’s not too much of a change of subject to comment on my old friend Mel Gibson. He’s off doing his "thing" again - his thing being to spread the word about the Jews. They start all the wars you know - including their favorite war - World War ll. That’s the one where they dreamed up this whole scenario about a "holocaust" where the Germans slaughtered millions of them in gas chambers. It was their way of distracting the world’s attention for what they were really doing - which of course was taking over the world. And they would have done it without anyone noticing if it wasn’t for the likes of Mahathir Mohamad and Northwestern University’s Arthur Butz.

Mr. Gibson says that he was totally out of control when he was arrested for speeding and that’s why he said things that he absolutely doesn’t believe.. He’d had a little too much to drink you see. That’s when you have delusions about Jews he would have us believe - instead of not being sober enough to hide your true beliefs, taught to you by your holocaust denying father.

I don’t think anyone is going to buy this garbage from Gibson any more. He is what he is. He’s got lots of company and he should spend his time where he’d be the most comfortable - with those who believe as he believes. He’d be welcomed in Iran. He’d be a hero there. He and Butz. They could make joint appearances and given enough time, he could pull in as much money as he made from the Passion of the Christ.

Supposedly, ABC has a deal cooking with Gibson for him to produce a mini series on the Holocaust. ABC is owned by the Disney Corporation and in Walt’s day, hiring Gibson for such a project would have been a perfectly appropriate arrangement. Like hiring Bull Connor to produce a documentary on the life and times of Martin Luther King. But the original Mickey Mouse anti-Semite is long gone. ABC has been a little shaky since they lost Peter Jennings, but we have to hope that they’re not nutty enough to go through with a cockamamie deal like this.

The Connecticut Democratic primary takes place eight days from now and it looks like Joe Lieberman could be unseated by Ned Lamont. Lieberman has said that he will run as an independent if he loses the primary - figuring that by the time the general election rolls around, enough Connecticut voters will have come to the realization that the Democratic Senate seat is - as he fully understands - the Lieberman seat - and is so by divine right .

On the other hand, if God is busy that day, or has forgotten on which of his children he bestowed that particular honor, Mr. Lieberman could end up being the Ralph Nader of the 2006 mid terms and present the country with the gift of a new Republican senator , the hitherto "no name" Alan Schlesinger. Assuming that some less than gentlemanly bookie doesn’t decide to resort to the old fashioned way of collecting gambling debts sometime between now and November 7!!

With all the horrible news coming out of the Middle East, I guess we should be grateful for a little comic relief - even if it is about a really serious matter!!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Although there are plenty of other things on my mind - and who knows - I might get to some of them yet today - I guess I have to finish out the week by recording some thoughts on the subject that is on most people’s minds - the horrible situation in the Middle East. Like any sane person, I am horrified by the deaths of innocent people in Lebanon and in Israel - although in Lebanon it may be difficult to distinguish between an innocent civilian and a member of Hezbollah, since Hezbollah blends in with the civilian population in the same way that insurgents in Iraq can’t be distinguished from non insurgents except for their acts of violence. But it doesn’t matter which side one "supports" or agrees with. The deaths are horrible. Unacceptable. It needs to stop as quickly as possible - but it needs to stop with some form of agreement about putting a buffer between Hezbollah and Israel. Perhaps an international "peace keeping force" - but one with teeth - with the right, ability and duty to use the "force" part of its peace keeping role to actually keep the peace. Which is more than you can say for the international group that has been there for the past six years since Israel left - the UN observers.

I don’t fault Kofi Annan for being angry at the death of four members of the UN observer team, though I think his accusation that it was the result of a deliberate attack was way off base. Even UN personnel in the area confirm that Hezbollah uses them - just as it uses civilians - hiding in their shadow as it fires off its ball bearing laden rockets toward Israeli towns and villages - the ball bearings of course designed to inflict the greatest possible damage to people - not to military targets or any kind of infrastructure. Some are arguing that the Israelis should not have attempted to respond to attacks emanating from an area close to the UN facility - but then all the Hezbollah attacks are launched behind the cover of civilians - and if Israel doesn’t respond - what can it do? Just sit and be destroyed by the onslaught of thousands of rockets landing indiscriminately?

As I say, I don’t fault Kofi Annan for being angry - but I do fault him forhis measure of responsibility in this whole mess. The last time I looked, he was the head honcho at the United Nations. Has been since 1997. So in effect, the UN Observer Force in south Lebanon was under his command. Maybe not directly, but in the sense of the sign that sat on Harry Truman’s desk when he was in the White House - the buck for their actions or inactions stopped at Annan’s desk in his 38th floor office at 760 United Nations Plaza in New York City.

Perhaps the UN observer force didn’t have any authority to enforce peace between Hezbollah and Israel - but obviously they had the authority to observe. So the question that has to be asked is what have they been observing for the past six years? Have they been sitting in their UN posts sipping sweet coffee and playing cards or have they been watching as Hezbollah dug their tunnels, created their bunkers, stockpiled thousands of rockets and rocket launchers and generally armed themselves as if preparing for a major conflict?

The UN Security Council statement in June of 2000 and UN resolution 1559 of September 2, 2004, called for Lebanon to establish its sovereignty over the entire country and for all militias to disband. Obviously none of this happened and instead, Hezbollah did what I’ve just described - under the watchful eye of the UN observers? And were they reporting all of this back to Kofi? And did Kofi say or do anything about it? Did he perhaps observe that Hezbollah was deliberately preparing for armed conflict - which incidentally might put some of his observers in danger, since they were doing some of their preparing in the shadow of a UN post or posts??

A word or two to people attacking the hell out of Israel on line and on talk radio shows. For those of you who keep citing the "ten thousand" prisoners in Israeli jails - where did you get your numbers and what have prisoners convicted under Israeli law have to do with the attack by Hezbollah? Do you have some inside information about an elite group of commandos crossing the Lebanese border and kidnapping ten thousand Lebanese and hauling them off to Israel? Just asking. And by the way, do you know of any Arab lawyers who go to court in Arab countries to defend Jews accused of crimes just as Israeli lawyers defend Arabs in the Israeli courts? Well maybe - if you can find a Jew still allowed to live in one of those countries.

A lot of people have picked up on a talking point - originated by who knows who - that Israel has "violated" Lebanese air space - thousands of times!! This one I can almost believe - though of course the "thousands" is a first cousin to the "ten thousand" in Israeli jails.

Have you looked at the map of the area lately? Do you see the size of Israel? Other than taking off and aiming the nose of your plane directly out to sea, it would be pretty hard not to "violate" someone’s air space - virtually in seconds after getting airborne. And by the way, nobody gets kidnapped, injured or killed when a plane "violates" the air space above their heads.

And for all the people who complain that Israel never obeys the resolutions passed against it by the UN, those resolutions of course are General Assembly resolutions - and voting an anti-Israel resolution is a parlor game in the General Assembly.

And finally, someone sent me this little ditty in an e-mail some weeks ago and this would seem an appropriate day to include it in my commentary…
A man in Paris saw a pit bull attacking a toddler.

He killed the pit bull and saved the child's life.

Reporters swarmed the fellow to cover the story....

"Tell us! What's your name? All Paris will love you! Tomorrow's headline will be: 'Paris Hero Saves Girl from Vicious Dog!'"

The man replies, "But I'm not from Paris."

Reporters: "That's OK. Then the whole of France will love you and tomorrow's headline will read:'French Hero Saves Girl from Vicious Dog"!

The man replies, "I'm not from France, either."

Reporters: "That's OK also. All Europe will love you. Tomorrow's headlines will shout: 'Europe's Hero Saves Girl from Vicious Dog!'"

The man says, "I'm not from Europe, either."

Reporters: "So, where ARE you from?"

The man says, "I'm from Israel."

Reporters: "OK... Then tomorrow's headlines will proclaim to the world: "Jew Kills Girl's Dog"!

Now you understand the media......
Which we hope will be reporting better news next week than it did all this week….

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I was thinking about this this morning.

It’s a good thing for President Bush that US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald doesn’t have authority to investigate anything he wants to in the nation’s capital. If he did - based on what’s happening in Illinois and particularly in Chicago, the indictments would be flying all over the place inside the beltway.

It seems that in Illinois, an elected politician who has the authority to hire people to work for the state or for a city within the state - and hires a friend or supporter simply because he is a friend or supporter - could be in big trouble with the Federal prosecutor. That was part of the case against former governor George Ryan, who awaits sentencing after his guilty verdict - and pretty much the whole case against a former patronage chief for the city of Chicago.

Obviously Federal and State laws are very different. Actions that would march just about any local politician off to the pokey almost before he could cop a plea - is standard operating procedure in Washington - and there’s nothing that anyone can do about it but complain, which of course Democrats have been doing for the last half dozen years. A little cautiously though. I think many of them remember Michael Dukakis and his "This election isn’t about ideology - it’s about competence." And we all remember how well that approach carried him through to his great victory riding atop a tank in a goofy helmet. Of course that was against Bush senior. It may work a lot better in the mid term elections - tying the Republicans to the glaring incompetence of the Bush junior administration.

But just think how much more fun it would be if some of our state laws could be applied to the Federal government. O.K. We couldn’t prosecute people just for getting elected to Congress. Only after we catch them committing the usual batch of crimes that Congress people are wont to commit. But how great it would be if a Fitzgerald type could prosecute those who "hire" the incompetents - just because they have some political clout. Like the FOG’s or FOFOGS. That’s Friends of George or Friends of Friends of George for newcomers to this blog.

How about Joe Allbaugh - who was responsible for the initial hiring of Michael "you’re doing a heck of a job Brownie" Brown? Maybe six months in the hoosegow for Joe.

The thought of what could be done to some of these nitwits who have foisted so many fellow nitwits upon us, warms the cockles of my heart on a day when it continues to be frozen by the barrage of news from the Middle East.

But the crowning glory of a legal right to call those to task who are responsible for the hiring of incompetent friends, supporters and fellow travelers - would be the ability to haul members of Senate Committees before Judges to try to justify their votes to hire the incompetents sent to them for approval by the Chief Incompetent. Boy would I like to see a few Republican Senators trying to defend their approval of Donald Rumsfeld under the withering examination of a Patrick Fitzgerald. Or having to answer for their rubber stamp of Alberto Gonzales. Even Condoleezza Rice. And for sure Michael Chertoff!!

If only the powers that be would take up the many suggestions I have made at this blog site - wouldn’t the world be a better place? But they don’t listen - and that’s one of the main reasons why "they" don’t come.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It doesn’t really surprise me that the world is clamoring for a "cease fire" which would mean returning to the state of affairs that existed before Hezbollah launched its sneak ambush attack across the border - killing eight soldiers and kidnapping two others. But then the world doesn’t live on the borders between Israel and its Arab neighbors - and Jews have always been expendable. How long has it been now? Two thousand plus years?

Still, some of the garbage being spouted is a little hard to take.

Since the outbreak of hostilities , Kofi Annan hasn’t bothered to hide his anti-Israeli feelings - and now - almost before the dust has settled on the unfortunate death of UN observers in Lebanon - he accuses Israel of deliberately targeting the UN post. That without a shred of evidence but with ample evidence that Hezbollah was setting up rocket launchers near UN positions. And who supplied such evidence you might ask? How about UN representative Milos Strugar!! This is one Secretary General that has long outlived his usefulness - if indeed he ever was useful.

What of our Iraqi "friends?" More than 2500 of our service personnel dead and thousand wounded - many crippled for life - all for the cause of liberating Iraq so that it can function as a free democracy. Yet here is the Iraqi Prime Minister condemning "Israeli aggression" -but not a word about Hezbollah. Of course not. Hezbollah are Shia. Nouri al-Maliki is Shia That seems more important than anything else in that part of the world. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect outright support for our position on the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict - but to attack it outright - as he is doing when he condemns Israel - is not what one would expect from the leader of a country that is supposed to be our ally in the grand plan to re-shape the Middle East. And re-shaping it we are. We overthrew Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi Shia are now in power and the Shia of Iran are applauding as the threat to their border is removed. With Iraq no longer a counterweight to Iran - that rogue nation has been strengthened immeasurably. Some reshaping.

Of course al Maliki’s comments can easily be understood when one reads about what Mahmoud al -Mashhadani, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament said earlier this month about the beheadings and car bombs and other acts of insurgent violence taking place in his country daily. The Jews are doing it!!
"I am sure that he who does this is a Jew or the son of a Jew. I can tell you about these Jewish Israelis and Zionists who are using Iraqi money and oil to frustrate the Islamic movement in Iraq."
That must give a warm feeling to the mothers of Jewish GI’s who have fallen in Iraq.

And unfortunately, we’d got a good measure of this crap at home too. While I still believe that a majority of Americans support Israel and a that a reasonable portion of them understand the history and geography of the region, it is still disturbing to listen to talk radio programs and hear caller after caller referring to Israel as something akin to an 800 pound gorilla. I heard one Floridian assert that "Israel can do anything it wants" and another that "Israel runs the entire area." The number of people who believe that all of the Middle East turmoil is due to Israel’s "occupation of Palestinian territories" is astounding. It’s particularly galling to listen to so called liberal radio hosts doing such a poor job responding to such callers - even though they profess to be generally supportive of what Israel is doing in response to the outright declaration of war by Hezbollah.

Very little in the way of factual information or logical argument can penetrate the closed minds of such callers, but just in case any of them should accidentally come across this web site, I will attempt, from time to time, to provide links to information that reasonable people might consider persuasive. The freely elected Hamas "government" of the West Bank and Gaza "Palestinians" for example. Take a look at who they are and what they believe.

And Hezbollah? They may not have a covenant but they are equally devoted to the destruction of Israel.

And Israel "controlling the area?" Take a good look at "the area" and see if that accusation makes any sense to you.

And finally, a couple of words to those who attribute all of the Middle East turmoil to Israel’s occupation of the west bank and Gaza. Israel has been there since the 1967 war because no peace agreement was ever reached when the war ended. Remember the infamous "three no’s" of the post 1967 war Khartoum summit - No peace with Israel, No negotiations, No recognition.

But if Israel’s presence in these areas for all of these years is the reason for all of the turmoil - the Hezbollah attack included - where was the peace for all of the decades that preceded the tenth of June, 1967? Say from - let’s just pick an arbitrary point - from the year 1929 forward.

Let's face it. The problem has nothing to do with "occupation." It has everything to do with the refusal of the crazies to accept the existence of a non-Arab, non-Islamic state in the Middle East.

I could go on but the more I type the more frustrated I’ll become, knowing that nothing I say will penetrate the closed minds of those who insist that Israel’s continuing struggle to hold on to its democratic sliver of land makes it a terrorist nation!!


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

There used to be a columnist for the old Chicago Daily News by the name of Sidney Harris. Syd’s been gone for many years, but as I sat down to write this morning (yesterday was a day off due to you know what) his name and old column came to mind. It was called "Strictly Personal" and it was usually a collection of pithy comments on whatever was on his mind - as though there was far too much going on to confine himself to a single topic. I feel that way today - if the pain will let me sit long enough to record a few thoughts. It’s bad folks. I wouldn’t wish this on my second worst enemy - but there are one or two people I wouldn’t mind wishing it on if a friendly genie would come to visit.

Our illustrious president: I said nice things about his unwavering support of Israel in this current clash with Hezbollah. Maybe he’s remembering how Reagan did absolutely nothing but "cut and run" after that same group of "freedom fighters" murdered 241 marines in 1983 and he w ants them avenged. But then he gets caught with his mouth stuffed with food greeting the Prime Minister of England with "Yo Blair!!" Yo Blair?? I know that Bush is a mere mortal and that when he’s not imitating Peter Seller’s performance in "Being There" - he very likely talks with his mouth full and spouts nonsense as any of us are likely to do when we’re not in front of an audience. But Yo Blair??? Still - anything caught on that open mike paled before the image of a horrified Angela Merkel pushing Dubya’s pawing hands away from her shoulders. Maybe he accomplished something behind closed doors at the G8 summit - but his public performances must have set back the cause of world peace at least a handful of decades - to say nothing of its damage to the international image of the United States. I’m surprised he didn’t greet the NAACP members with a "Yo Colored Folk" - but from the few sound bites that I heard from the speech, he might just as well have. It was that pathetic.

Looking For The New "Baghdad Bob"

Ever since our "mission" became "accomplished" in Iraq and Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf disappeared from the scene, I’ve been keeping a watchful eye out for a new "Baghdad Bob" - a new Minister of Disinformation to suffer and to laugh at if the disinformation is funny enough. The country of origin wasn’t important in making the selection - just the tradition of making ridiculous statements with a straight face. Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad didn’t qualify. He just spouted unadulterated evil.

But we may have a candidate in Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador to the United States. Consider the qualifications. Syria doesn’t help to arm Hezbollah he says. Syria doesn’t provide any kind of support to the group. They are completely autonomous he says. Syria just supports them "politically" because they are a national liberation movement. Who they’re trying to liberate he didn’t say - but he did say that all problems of the region, including Hezbollah’s attack on Israel, stemmed from Israel’s occupation of "Palestinian territories."

But Syria has nothing to do with Hezbollah. Nothing. No money. No weapons. No passage of weapons from other countries sympathetic to national liberation movements. Nonetheless, while not being in any way connected to Hezbollah, he seems to "know" that their ability to retaliate remains intact. He probably read that in the local Baghdad Bob type of news sheet.

But he does seem to know how to express criticism of the United States for not talking to Syria about the problems of the region. It’s not just Israel’s fault. It’s our fault too!! And while watching and listening to him - as I’ve watched other representatives of dictatorships and theocracies exercising their right to the same free speech afforded U.S. citizens - it occurred to me how quickly he and his Ambassadorial colleagues from those somewhat less than democratic nations would find themselves in jail - or worse - if they tried to express criticism of their own governments when they were back home. It does sort of put who they are and what they are in perspective as we listen to them vie for the title of successor to Baghdad Bob.

The Newest Sign of the Times - Identity by Blog Name!!

And now for something completely different. Back in September of 2003, when I was relatively new to the world of the blogosphere, I found it surprising when a local columnist began blogging - and I said so in my comments of September 15, 2003. The columnist - the Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn - commented right back - and that prompted what amounted to a dialogue between his blog and mine which I posted here on September 17, 2003.

Since that time of course, all kinds of columnists and assorted newspaper folk and newspapers themselves have created blogs - and Eric Zorn has gone full circle - still writing his column but also writing a print version of his blog in the paper!! What would that be - art imitating art?

But whatever it is - it now appears to be no more than a way station on the road to who knows where blogging will go. I guess I hadn’t really noticed it before, but on the op-ed page of the Chicago tribune - opposite the regular Letters to the Editor section - one now finds a "sampling of opinions" from the likes of "Talking Points Memo - Joshua Micah Marshall." Not Joshua Micah Marshall or Josh Marshall or J. Marshall esq. Mr. Marshall’s name is permanently linked to his weblog - talkingpointsmemo.com!! Just as a letter to the editor signed by a doctor or the CEO of a business or the chairperson of a civic organization is identified by name and affiliation.

So I wonder what next? American Idol Candidate Johnny Jones at boycanising.com? Or a Presidential candidate Jallery Clintgore at iwannabashbush.org?

Personally, I’m waiting for a iamthatiam.iam weblog that google can’t find - but that will turn computers into instruments of shock and awe for anyone who does accidentally or intentionally find it in the ethereal blogosphere.

Battling Interpretations…

How is the acerbic John Bolton doing in his job at the United Nations? Watching him express the U.S. position on the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict on various news programs, he seems to be performing diplomatically. Calm. Polite. Responsive. Overall, he seems to have impressed Republican George Voinovich, whose opposition to his nomination was at least partially responsible for the President resorting to a recess appointment to get him seated at the U.N.

The Chicago Tribune seemed to agree with the Voinovich assessment of Bolton growing in the job and doing it pretty well. Its editorial of today could almost be describe as "glowing" Of course it did refer to the fact that the Voinovich view wasn’t unanimous - certainly not among the UN representatives from other countries. It referred to that fact by citing its mention in another newspaper’s story on the same topic - that of the New York Times.

An interesting contrast. The Chicago Tribune didn’t seem to think that how Bolton is perceived by other UN members was that important. The New York Times gave its readers the Voinovich view -but also the UN membership view. You can judge for yourself which newspaper gave us the more accurate answer to the question I posed above. My vote would be for the one that a recent Republican talking points memo labeled treasonous.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Although I occasionally use this blog to record items of a personal nature - ancient works of fiction, scripts from one of my old radio shows and on rare occasions a medical procedure I have undergone or am contemplating, I do not regularly use it as some sort of personal diary. However, since I have pretty much established my commentaries as a daily event - week-ends excluded, I should advise readers that on days when no comments appear, you can consider it a pain day - and that’s why I’m "off." I’m in too much goddamned pain from my sciatica and from failed surgery and failed epidural injections - though I’m still trying. More surgery may be in the offing.

And though I consider that a somewhat unpleasant thing to contemplate, it provides a perfect segue for a few comments on a current news item that doesn’t surprise me in the least. One and a half million people are sickened, injured or killed each year by errors in prescribing or dispensing medications!! I’m surprised that the number is so small!!

Some years ago I was hospitalized for an eye operation - and post-op, my surgeon had prescribed one or two medications. So had the doctor whose patient had just vacated the room that I was occupying - but somehow this information had not yet been conveyed to the appropriate departments and the appropriate people in the hospital - and as far as they were concerned. I was patient "X" and they were delivering the prescribed medication. I don’t know if it would have sickened, injured or killed me. I’m just grateful that though I had a blistering headache as an after effect of the procedure, I was sufficiently alert to notice that the quantity and appearance of what the very nice nurses were insisting I should take, didn’t look right.

I have a doctor in whom I have a great deal of confidence. I also like the guy. But he is hieroglyphically impaired. He knows it but he continues to write prescriptions that are, for the most part, indecipherable. The way I make sure that the indecipherable hieroglyphics do not result in me being sickened, injured or killed is by making sure that I know what the medication and the dosage is and discussing it with the pharmacist to make sure that he knows what it is!! It’s called being a partner and being involved in your own health care!!

When I was a kid, probably the most respected and most trusted person I or any member of my family knew - was our doctor. Today we would call that person our "primary care physician." Years ago, the doctor was like a God. His word was law. It was final. We might have asked questions but we never second guessed or became intimately involved in the nature of our medical problems and their treatment. But that was in era before massive advertising to the consumer - both by the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry - and before the Internet!!

Today, we have mountains of information available to us from a variety of sources - and if we don’t take advantage of it - if we don’t become advocates for ourselves and our loved ones when it comes to medical care - then we may be at least partially to blame when things go horribly wrong. We still read horror stories of the wrong limb being amputated - the wrong kidney or breast being removed - and we wonder how in the hell can such an incredible mistake be made? I don’t know the answer to that question - but part of the answer almost has to be because the doctors involved in these mistakes were treating "the leg" or "the kidney" or "the breast."

I had spine surgery in January and there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades that the surgeon considered my case as "the nine o’clock minimally invasive bilateral foraminotomy and microdiscectomy." Maybe the O.R. nurses did. Maybe the anesthesiologist But my surgeon knew damned well who he was operating on and why. We had much discussion before scheduling the procedure - but even on the day of the operation - as I was waiting in the pre-op area with people sticking tubes in me, there was discussion going on and one of the doctors read off the areas in which my surgeon would be working - and it was wrong!! It turned out to be an error in typing, but I made sure that this particular doctor knew that it was not my understanding of the levels where the surgeon would be chopping away and he made a note on the paperwork. But had I not had a strong pre-op relationship and understanding of the procedure - this could have been one of those horror stories that we read about and have trouble believing.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have faith in the medical profession. Certainly we should be able to trust our own personal physicians and the specialists that we consult or are referred to. But if we want to avoid mistakes being made and if we want the best possible outcome, I think we have the responsibility to be as involved in every aspect of our healthcare as much as our doctors are. And in some cases, we can accomplish good things for the state of our health that even the doctors can’t!!

I have a good friend who had two open heart surgeries before he had reached the age of 41!! And after his second surgery, his "bad" cholesterol was out of control and not responding to prescribed diet treatment. He figured his life was at risk but he didn’t want to become a slave to drugs and their potential side effects, so he decided to look elsewhere for solutions. The guy was a medical writer and so had some knowledge of medical practice and set about researching his own problem. He found the answer and was able to lower his cholesterol to a healthy level - where he’s been able to maintain it ever since. All by himself. No doctors involved. Some of you may recognize who I’m talking about because he wrote about his quest to change and extend his life and his book became a best seller around the world for two years. It’s called The Eight Week Cholesterol Cure. Google it and read about my buddy Bob Kowalski.

Now that the Institute of Medicine has published its report, there may be a push to correct some of the problems it describes, such as moving away from scrawled prescriptions to electronic prescribing. A lot of doctors are already using computers to write their prescriptions but not nearly enough of them In the meantime, the best defense that patients have against becoming a victim of prescription mistakes - or any other kind of medical mistake - is to take an active part in your own healthcare. Ask questions. Make your own suggestions. Be annoying if you must. Don’t be passive about any aspect of your health care. I’m not passive even when I’m waiting to see a doctor who’s running an hour late without explanation or apology while a waiting room full of patients sit like lambs being led to slaughter. I let the staff and the doctor know that this sort of behavior hasn’t gone unnoticed and isn’t automatically forgiven.

Remember, these people are practicing medicine - and we need to watch them like hawks until they get it right!!

And oh yes. I've changed the font size to make my commentaries more readable. If you don't like it - let me know.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Here’s something that’s beginning to bother me. I’ve been listening to the radio and there have been people calling in to talk shows to support Israel’s actions against Hezbollah. But there have also been plenty of people calling who think Israel is wrong, bullying, oppressive - you name it and it’s all part of Israel being in the wrong. That much I can understand. People have different views based on their understanding of the problems of the region. But what bothers me is the number of insidious suggestions that mirror the line of the Nazis and the anti-Semites world wide and throughout history.

There are people who truly believe that this country’s foreign policy is being manipulated by such as AIPAC - the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. That in effect they are causing the US to act on behalf of Israel’s interests rather than those of the United States - our invasion of Iraq being a prime example. That action, say the crazies, was engineered by and conducted on behalf of the State of Israel.

There isn’t any question about the purpose of AIPAC. They work hard to promote the interests of the State of Israel - just as other lobbying organizations work hard to promote the interests of other foreign countries. And there isn’t any question that it’s a powerful and influential lobby and has achieved much success in strengthening relationships between Israel and the U.S. and securing aid and agreements that benefit the Jewish state.

But to hear some of the callers with their addled brains, you would think they were all related to Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad , who declared in October of 2003, that the Jews ruled the world by proxy!! As ridiculous as that statement was, I couldn’t help but make note of it in my comments of October 23, 2003 because it was also too insidious to ignore.

Since then we’ve had Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran declaring that Israel must be wiped off the map - and now one of its and Syria’s proxies has precipitated a battle that - while it may not come close to crazy Mahmoud’s goals, will cause some damage and a great deal of anguish to the tiny Jewish State. As opposed to the crazies among the Muslims, Israelis have a culture of life. Each life is precious and each loss in battle is tragic. And while the Israeli public is solidly behind the actions of its government and its military forces - there is also great sympathy for the loss of innocent Lebanese lives. They don’t dance in the street, fire guns in the air and pass out candy at the news of anyone’s death or capture.

But we have Americans who truly believe that (a) we invaded Iraq because Jews manipulated and exercised mind control over George W. Bush, Richard B. Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld and made them do it - and that (b) Jews are manipulating these same men to invade Iran - and one of the ways they’re doing it is by pummeling Lebanon and the Hezbollah. The fact that it was the Hezbollah that started the current fighting by launching rockets into northern Israel - then crossing the border to ambush a group of Israeli soldiers - killing seven and kidnapping two more - is irrelevant to these followers of the Mohamad and Ahmadinejad belief system. It’s all the fault of those conquering and ambitious Jews.

They also see conspiratorial reasons for the prominence of American Jews in media and the arts who are exercising mind control over non-Jews - which is about as conspiratorial as very tall men dominating the sport of basketball. But they probably also think that the fact that the number of Jewish doctors being disproportionate to the total Jewish US population is so that they can inflict harm on the rest of us at will - hiding behind their medical degrees. Like those conspiratorial villains Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin. And in case you think I’m going over he top with that kind of statement - that anyone would believe such nonsense - take a look for yourself. I provide this link with reluctance because it is so despicable - but we all need to know who and what is out there.

Fortunately, unlike the Jews who rule the world by proxy and run the United States government from the shadows, the idiots who believe this garbage do not rule the world or control the U.S. Government. Nonetheless, it sends chills down my spine to hear people spout such ignorant garbage and realize that they have the right to vote.

Monday, July 17, 2006

On occasion, as readers know, the theme of this blog is "why they don’t come" - they being aliens from another planet -maybe from another galaxy- but far superior to us in every conceivable way. If they were watching the same television program I was watching a couple of nights ago, the question was answered in the most emphatic of terms.

It was the charade of the UN Security Council with its members sitting around a table and one by one reading prepared statements purporting to be their view of the crisis in the Middle East. To a man - or woman - whether they placed all the blame on Israel or Hezbollah or divided it between them - they all "called for" an end to hostilities. I don’t know how long it all took. I only watched part of it and I almost watched all of it because I was held captive - stupefied at the nonsense unfolding before my eyes.

If ever there was a greater waste of time of men and women who are entrusted with the task of wrestling with the problems of the world, I don’t know what it could be. What on earth was the point of spending hours going through these ridiculous motions? Did they think that the leaders of Hezbollah and the Israeli Cabinet were watching and would be so impressed that they would seek each other out to embrace and pledge to solve all differences between them with a game of tiddlywinks?

Maybe they went behind closed doors later and got down to real business - John Bolton saying that the US would press Israel to cease fire if Iran and Syria would do the same with Hezbollah - including getting them to release the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Bur if they did - why the public charade?? Of course "they" won’t come if they watch this kind of nonsense going on. Which is a pity - because if ever we needed an intervention of a superior power, surely this is the time.

Other television that I watched over the week-end was some of the posturing at the G8 summit. I’ve been critical of Bush on these pages since shortly after 9/11 - but I have to give him his due for being the only world leader to support Israel unequivocally in its current clash with Hezbollah. The G8 statement did jump on Hezbollah and Hamas, demanding that they return captured Israeli soldiers and for Hezbollah to stop shelling - and for Israel to cease it’s attacks on Lebanon and withdraw from Gaza. But it was like pulling teeth to get that much from this disparate group.

Since the re-birth of the Jewish state in 1948, it’s been American Presidents - and for the most part the American people - who have been supporters of Israel. Not every President has done so with great enthusiasm, but by and large - at the end of the day - they have all done what needed to be done to support the lone democratic island in a sea of dictatorships, monarchies and theocracies.

So I’m truly disappointed in other American reactions that I watched over the week-end and have been hearing on the radio for the past few days - specially on Air America. On television, I found myself in the strange position of cheering Toby Blankley on The McLaughlin Group - as the only panelist to support Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s declaration of war. The question was - has Israel overreacted? Of course I would expect the well known Israel hater Pat Buchanan to say yes - and with much emphasis. But I was surprised to hear Eleanor Clift echo the same sentiments - as did a guest panelist whose name I don’t recall. Only Blankley seemed to understand that there was a much bigger issue than
"responding" to what Hezbollah did.

And one would think that the kind of people listening to Air America Radio would have a better grasp of the dynamic of what is going on the middle east - but there were plenty of callers who agreed with the Buchanan stance and some who seemed to think that the history of the region began with the 1967 war.

I have listened to a lot of pundits over the week-end and read newsletters and newspaper articles and much as I deplore the loss of life on both sides - I agree with the consensus of knowledgeable observers of the scene that what Israel is doing is what needs to be done and perhaps should have been done years ago. There is no way that it can continue to tolerate an army on its border that is not controlled by a sovereign state and can attack at will any time it wants to. The "tit for tat" response that so many people seem to think is appropriate - just perpetuates an intolerable situation. If the Israeli response can result in the international community coming together to help Lebanon regain control of its territory and remove Hezbollah from the border - hopefully to also disarm them - and replace them with Lebanese troops - perhaps bolstered by an international contingent as Tony Blair has just suggested - something beneficial will have been accomplished.

The sane countries of the world can then concentrate on the insanity that is Iran and Syria and the madness of the Islamic revolutionaries who want to rule the world - indeed whose undisguised ambition is to do just that. Assuming that North Korea doesn’t set off a conflagration first that puts an end to the world that the Islamic crazies want to rule

What a way to start the week!!

I filled up my car with regular on Friday at $3.24.9. If this keeps up long enough, the cost of filling the tank of my 2001 Toyota Camry could soon mount up to the cost of buying another car!! This morning, I noticed the price had risen to $3.29.9!! Why? The pundits - those great experts, will tell you that it’s because of the crisis in the Middle East. And when it’s not the crisis in the Middle East - it’s our increased demand for gas or China’s increased demand for gas. But for my money, the real culprits can be seen below.

I know large users of gasoline have to hedge and they’re in the futures market. But it’s trader speculation that drives the futures prices up and up and up and that’s what dictates the prices we’re paying at the pump. Do you really think that the price of crude oil would have risen in this fashion if there was no futures market? If the price was set just by OPEC and other oil producers with whom we could jaw-bone and bargain and apply various pressures? I think not.

Thus I propose a crusade. Shut down the crude oil futures market. Remove it as a commodity that can be traded and put us all in the poor house. Unless of course we bought multiple far out crude oil futures contracts when the price was much lower. Then we’re laughing all the way to the bank - and screw the poor suckers crying into their gas caps.

Friday, July 14, 2006

It’s hard to sit down at my computer and think what to write about at a moment in time when the winds of war are approaching gale force in the Middle East. It’s hard to find the words to express how dismayed I am at the turn of events that are unfolding in Gaza and Lebanon - with Syria and Iran lurking in the background and pouring fuel on the fire with their supply of money and weapons to terrorists bent on little more than acts of terrorism.

All over the world, the pundits and the columnists and the politicians are weighing in with their reactions and opinions - and while for the most part, the voices in the western world condemn Hamas and Hezbullah for starting this whole mess - I was impressed by the bluntness of the Chicago Tribune yesterday - there is also the usual call for Israel to exercise "restraint."

As anyone who has read anything I’ve written in this blog about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict knows, I find it hard to be supportive of massive military action in response to attacks by any of the terrorist groups operating in the area - but there comes a point where I have to wonder if "restraint" does little but make its own contribution to a never ending conflict - perhaps even making it worse.

There are many sites along the Internet where major criticism of Israel can be found - where Israel is blamed for every aspect of the conflict with the Palestinians. One big headline greeted me with the warning that there can be NO MILITARY SOLUTION to the crisis.

I can agree with that, but I can also agree with the proposition that there can be no negotiated solution either - not as long as people on one side of the conflict deny the other’s right to exist and have sworn to wipe them off the map.

Yesterday I heard liberal broadcaster Ed Schulz suggest that it was time for the United States to get involved diplomatically in a major way. He was suggesting that a delegation of past US Presidents - Carter, Clinton and Bush Senior - be dispatched to talk to "both sides." The weight of that measure of diplomatic "royalty" - he thought would send a major message to everyone and could perhaps unlock the current impasse - or at least call a halt to the escalating danger of a full blown war - one that could spread beyond Israel, Gaza and Lebanon.

I almost screamed at the radio. What I wondered would he suggest next? That we send a delegation of ex-Presidents to negotiate with Osama Bin Laden? If he could be found?

And on Larry King last night, diplomats were suggesting something similar. Colin Powell’s name was advanced.

But how on earth can you utilize diplomacy to defuse a situation where one side denies the right of the other to even exist? Madness. I have used that word many times when commenting on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Sane. That’s a word I’ve used many times to describe the only kind of people who can solve the conflict - and on the side opposing Israel, they are sorely lacking.

The supporters of the Palestinians like to talk about "atrocities" committed against them by Israelis and of the hardships they have suffered under occupation - and they like to blame the absence of peace and the violent attacks launched by the terrorist groups as legitimate responses to those indignities.. You could buy into that if the people who call themselves "Palestinians" had ever, with leadership recognized by all of them, offered or agreed to a peace treaty with Israel. It hasn’t happened. The idea of "peace" suggested by the less insane of the Palestinians - those who actually acknowledge the existence of Israel - is to make demands that they know cannot be met. And even if those demands were slightly less insane - those leaders have no influence over the various "factions" who operate as nations within a nation, setting their own rules and engaging in acts of war whenever they feel like it.

Can you imagine the reaction of our government if the Minutemen who have been building fences on private land near the Mexican border, started to operate as a militant gang - launching raids and rockets across the border. How long would we let them operate? A matter of hours maybe until troops arrive to put a stop to it? And what would we do if some renegade group from Mexico started firing rockets across the border and killing and kidnapping Americans from Texas or Arizona - and the Mexican government did nothing about it and said that they couldn’t do anything about it? Begins to sound ridiculous doesn’t it?

There is no way that "diplomacy" can ever solve the current crisis - short of Iran and/or Syria and Lebanon forcing Hezbullah to release their two Israeli captives and whoever can influence Hamas pressuring them to do the same. But it’ll be a miracle if it happens. Those soldiers are as good as dead right now.

So Israel is left with two options. Do nothing or respond militarily. They do have some leeway in the intensity of the military response - but beyond that, I don’t see what more they can do other than what they are doing - and as much as I deplore the violence and the inevitable loss of innocent lives, I find it difficult to support the pleas from the likes of Tony Blair and Mr. Bush to exercise "restraint." The terrorists are not handing back the kidnapped soldiers. What can be gained by "restraint?" And what would they consider "restraint?" That Israel cross into Lebanon, kill nine Hezbullah terrorists (one more than the slain Israeli soldiers) - and kidnap three Hezbullah terrorists - one more than the Israelis kidnapped by them? And how does Israel identify the noble Hezbullah fighters. Certainly not by any military uniform. Maybe by masked faces and raised machine guns - the way we usually see them prancing before the TV cameras. But that could be any Islamic terrorist - not just Hezbullah.

What can be gained by the kind of onslaught Israel has launched, is that terrorists - and those who house them - will understand that there will be a heavy price to pay for every act of terrorism launched at Israel from Gaza and from Lebanon. And that, regrettably, will be the Yin and the Yang - the quid pro quo of the conflict, until - what up to now has seemed impossible - the Palestinians elect sane leaders and forcibly reject the madmen among them.

And do you know what will happen then? Israel will have a twenty second sovereign Arab nation as a neighbor - one that they could have had in 1948 and again in 1967 if the Palestinian Arabs and the surrounding Arab countries had wanted peace. Who knows - a sovereign Palestine nation might even join Jordan and Egypt as the third Arab nation to have a signed peace treaty with the Jewish State.

That would be three down and nineteen to go. And if those numbers don’t tell you something about the extent of the problem - then I don’t know what will.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Following up on my comments of Monday about Israel’s incursion into Gaza and the question of "who started" - it occurs to me that the complaints of the Palestinians about their condition can be compared to the variety of reasons that we have been force fed for our own incursion into Iraq and why we can’t leave.

The major complaint of Palestinian Arabs for years has been that there are "settlements" - Jews living in heavily populated Arab communities and that this was the barrier to peace.

Forgotten of course are the pre-settlement years of no- peace - beginning well before the day on which Israel declared its independence - May 14, 1948, - through the 1967 war and the infamous "three no’s" of the post 1967 war Khartoum summit - No peace with Israel, No negotiations, No recognition.

I don’t remember all the reasons why there couldn’t be peace before 1967 - or maybe there was just one reason - the original one from 1947 and before. We don’t want no Democratic Jewish State anywhere near us - even if it is only a sliver of land compared to the more than five million square miles of the Arab nations. But after the six day war in 1967 - the main complaint - the main so called obstacle to peace - was the presence of Jews in hated "settlements" in Judea and Samaria, commonly called "The West Bank" - and in Gaza.

It mattered little that Jews had lived in these areas for centuries. It matters little that currently there are a million or so Arabs living in Israel with full Israeli citizenship - together with approximately five million Israeli Jews. The handful of Jews living among millions of Arabs - somehow represent the obstacle to peace.

Well now we can see what kind of obstacle it is - or was. Israel withdrew the handful of Jews who had settled in Gaza. The realists in Israel expected nothing but what has happened. Continued acts of terrorism - and planning for future acts of terrorism. Gideon Levy may complain that Israel has kept Gaza "boxed in" since settlers and soldiers have left - but that doesn’t explain why there has been more effort to continue the role of victim and to continue to attempt to do battle with Israel rather than concentrate on efforts to make Gaza viable as a home of free people. The absence of settlements did not turn Gaza into an island of peace - or even an island of people looking for peace.

And now this morning we hear news of two more Israeli soldiers who have been kidnapped - this time by Hezbullah, operating out of Lebanon - from which country Israel withdrew all its forces years ago. You can see how their absence from that territory has removed that "obstacle" to peace.

One could argue that it’s a small faction of militants who are causing all the damage - but that’s not the issue. There are no Jewish settlers in Gaza and there is no peace. It’s a phony argument and it needs to be exposed for what it is. True, the "settlements" took place on territories captured in war - but only after the defeated side refused to make peace!! And in effect, the settlements on the west bank are little more than Jews returning to where Jews once lived before they were violently ejected.

Of course the Palestinians will argue that if Jews can return to live in Judea and Samaria, why can’t all the Palestinians who want to, return to Israel "proper?" The answer of course is numbers. A few thousand Jews living in Gaza or the west bank isn’t going to affect the make up of the population. With a million Arabs already living in Israel - allowing millions more to live there would effectively dismantle the Jewish state. I don’t know what kind of country it would be - but it would no longer be a Jewish State.

The Olmert plan to unilaterally withdraw a number of settlements from the west bank and "separate" Israel from the Palestinians won’t work. It certainly won’t bring the peace that sane people are looking for. By not withdrawing all settlements - the old phony barrier to peace will remain - and if that wasn’t enough, there would still be the impossible demands to return to 1967 borders. And if there is ever to be peace, Israel can’t "separate" from the Palestinians. Their fates are intertwined. If they don’t find a way to love together, there will never be peace.

There is an argument to be made against Israel for continuing "targeted assassinations" of terrorist leaders and bomb makers and it can be argued that those who attack Israel and Israelis are responding to violence against them!! A chicken and egg situation. The "who started" question again. The Israeli answer of course is if they did nothing - if they sat back and waited - if they didn’t go after the bomb makers and the suicide bomb planners and the like , there would be more successful attacks on Israeli civilians. It isn’t publicized in screaming headlines, but we know that the IDF has been successful in uncovering such plans and intercepting attackers before they were able to reach their targets.

The Palestinians voted for Hamas to be their elected leaders. Some say that the vote was a protest against the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and for the services on the ground that Hamas has been providing. But they also voted for them in the full knowledge of their core philosophy and stated goal - the complete destruction of the State of Israel - and what they sowed they are now reaping.

I have nothing but sympathy for the residents of Gaza who are suffering under this latest Israeli onslaught - and as I’ve said more than once, I don’t think it will achieve the release of Gilad Shalit - nor the collapse of Hamas - to which aim some have attributed the severity of the Israeli response.

For my money, the ball is in the Palestinians court. If they do not release Shalit - -if they murder him - there will be no hope for peace in our lifetime. There would be no point in even going through the charade of the two sides talking to each other about "peace."

There’s little that Israel can do to break the deadlock short of agreeing to dismantle the State and becoming part of a greater Palestine under Arab rule.

But the Palestinians can change the entire dynamic with one simple gesture if the current crisis can be resolved without anyone else being killed - including Gilad Shalit and the two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbullah. All they need do is say that they will accept and welcome any existing Jewish settlement on the West Bank that wishes to remain under their sovereignty and protection. Of course the crazies would have to agree to stop their acts of insane violence and plenty of other contentious items would remain to be settled - but with no "settlement question" to argue about, the drive to achieve the long awaited peace between the two peoples would be virtually irresistible.

So how about it Palestinians? Olmert has already raised the possibility of leaving settlers to fend for themselves under Palestinian rule. Now it’s your turn. What do you say?

Monday, July 10, 2006

It’s rare that I find myself in agreement with anything that Charles Krauthammer or Victor Davis Hanson write on the op-ed pages of my daily newspaper. A rare exception is the topic of Israel and her struggle with the Palestinians and Islamic countries that would like to see her disappear - although I can’t always agree with Krauthammer who never seems to find fault with anything Israel does.

But last Friday I was impressed by and wish to draw your attention to an op-ed piece by Hanson.

As readers of this blog know, I am disturbed at the Israeli pounding of the Gaza strip as a response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the constant launching of Qassam rockets into Israel. I don’t think this kind of military response will secure the release of Gilad Shalit - but it is inevitable that innocent civilians will be killed or seriously injured.

These latest series of incidents are but a few sentences in one of thousands of paragraphs that describe the 60 year history of madness that is the Israeli/Palestinian/Arab world conflict - and as usual - most of the rest of the world is busy adding their own words - expressing sympathy for the Palestinians and condemning Israel. But I was disturbed to turn to the Israeli press and find that "the usual suspects" have also been joined by at least one self condemning Israeli!!

It’s one thing to expect condemnations of Israel’s "atrocities" from a source such as Bangladesh - but a little surprising to find something with less inflammatory language but equally condemning in an Israeli Newspaper!! I know Haaretz is left wing - but this is a bit much.

Maybe this is, as Victor Hanson has demonstrated - a good time to take a step back for a moment and look at where to place the blame. The theme of the Haaretz piece is "who started" - meaning the current Gaza conflict - and the author’s conclusion is that "we" - the Israelis - started with the occupation. I don’t know how old Gideon Levy is. He’s the author of the editorial and he’s notorious for his criticisms of Israel’s dealings with the Palestinians. An on-line search reveals that he’s been with Haaretz for 24 years - so he’s not a kid. But he writes like a young man whose history of Israel and her conflict with the Arab world began in his lifetime - and that it began with no prior history. Certainly he doesn’t write like someone who was an adult at the re-birth of the Israeli nation in 1947 - almost 60 years ago.

I on the other hand - painfully admitting that I am a senior and then some - was a teenager able to understand what was taking place when the UN voted on resolution 181 - the Partition Plan - giving a tiny sliver of land to the Jews of Palestine - and another sliver to the Arabs who remained in whatever territory was left of the Palestine mandate after most of it had been lopped off to create Jordan!!

It was a convoluted piece of geographic surgery and neither side was happy with it - both feeling that they had been betrayed - particularly the Jewish population - but as all the world knows, the Jews accepted the division - the Arab population and the surrounding Arab countries did not - and five Arab armies went to war against the fledgling state, determined to wipe it out and nullify the UN vote.

Gideon Levy asks "who started?" The answer is obvious. Everything started with that refusal to accept the UN Resolution and the idea of a Democratic Jewish state in the Middle East. Yes, Israel has made mistakes during the past six decades. Yes they have inflicted hardship on Palestinian Arabs. But without that first refusal to accept the idea that an Israel had a right to exist - and the decades of war and boycott and acts of terrorism that followed - there would never have been "settlements" in the so called "west bank" or in Gaza. There would never have been any occupation. There would have been only a tiny country of Israel interlocked with an equally tiny country of Palestine - or whatever they wanted to call it - and they could have lived in peace from that November day in 1947.

Mr. Levy is right in one respect - at least by implication - and that is that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to deal with the conditions that face them today - and almost anything that either side does can be condemned - and perhaps rightfully so.

But it is not up to the Israelis to find a solution that will be satisfactory to both sides and will be accepted by both sides. Yes, the Israelis have the upper hand militarily and have the ability to defeat the Palestinian Arabs in battle - and most likely any Arab country that would be foolish enough to attack. But the solution is not and never can be arrived at through military action. There is only one solution and it is totally in the hands of the Palestinians and whichever nations are supporting their madness. And I choose that words deliberately. Madness.

It is up to the Palestinians to abandon the madness of trying to attain the unattainable. Israel is not going to disappear nor withdraw to any borders dictated by Palestinian Arabs or Syrian Arabs or Saudi Arabian Arabs. Millions of Arabs are not going to be allowed to move to Israel proper and find and move into their great grandparent’s houses. "Refugee camps" are not appropriate domiciles for descendants of those who became "refugees" Sixty years ago!! It is way past time for Palestinians to cease perpetuating the concept of living their lives as "victims." It is time for them to reach out with the hand of friendship and say that they are ready to live in peace with the state of Israel and with Israelis. It is way past time for them to abandon all of the "factions" with their military and political "wings" - and come together as a people - albeit with political differences as with their Israeli neighbors - but nonetheless as a people, who are for the most part sane!!

There are some nuts among the Israeli population - and some of them are in the Knesset. There are those who believe in a "God given" greater Israel and that Judea and Samaria are a part of the greater Israel and not the "west bank. And there are Israelis who believe that their differences with the Palestinians can only be solved militarily. But they are the minority. The majority of Israelis are sane and the sane ones hold most of the power.

The Palestinians on the other hand - appear to be dominated by insanity. I’m not saying that the majority of Palestinians are insane - but the majority of their leaders have been acting like madmen for close to sixty years - beginning with what started the impasse at which they find themselves today - their refusal to accept their Jewish cousins as legitimate neighbors on a small portion of their ancestral, biblical kingdom.

So, Mr. Levy, unless you are among those who believe that the modern State of Israel never had any right to come into being in the first place - in which case there would be nothing to discuss - we know "who started" the age long problem between it and the Palestinians - and it wasn’t any "occupation" of any Palestinian or any kind of Arab territory.

The question now is who can cooperate to "finish" - to arrive at a moment of mutual sanity and take it from there.

I’ll have more to say about various aspects of the conflict - maybe tomorrow or the next day.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I sent Joe Lieberman an e-mail the other day as follows
I'm not from your state but I did vote for you for VP and now I want to ask if you're still a Democrat or JUST a Lieberman. If you plan to run even if you lose the Democratic primary - then you should stop calling yourself a Democrat right now and simply identify yourself as a Lieberman who wants to hold onto his Senate seat no matter what - as you indicated when you ran for both VP and your Senate seat!!! I think you should accept what the voters of your state decide in the primary - win or lose - which would be the honorable thing to do.
They used to call Joe Lieberman "the conscience of the Senate" - a title that would lead you to suspect that he is a man of principle, honor and integrity - but those don’t seem to be the qualities that he’s exhibiting as once again he seeks to hedge his bets in an election.

Lieberman wasn’t the first man to run for national office and a Senate seat at the same time. Lyndon Johnson ran for a third Senate term while he was running as JFK’s Vice President in 1960. But had Gore and Lieberman assumed the office that they won in 2000, despite who sits in the White House today - the Republican Governor of Connecticut would surely have appointed a Republican to fill Lieberman’s Senate seat!!

Lieberman was hedging his bets in 2000 and no one seemed to pay too much attention - certainly not Democrats. But when added to the current situation, the Lieberman approach to politics seems to be establishing a pattern of protecting himself against all possible negative outcomes. He certainly isn’t the only Democrat who acts more like a Republican. Zell Miller called himself a Democrat - even while he was blasting "his" party as a speaker at the 2004 Republican convention - but at least he had the decency not to run for re-election to the Senate in that year - and if he had, I doubt that he would have even attempted to present himself as a Democrat.

Lieberman is running with the endorsement and support of the Democratic party in the primary - but if he loses to challenger Ned Lamont, he plans to run against the Democratic party and it’s duly elected candidate as something he calls a "petitioning Democrat" - something no one has ever heard of before. If he does - win or lose - it will be a sad last chapter in what has, for the most part, been a reasonably productive political career.

It’s Not Just in Israel Where Jews Might Fear For Their Lives. How About Selbyville, Delaware??

If anyone thinks that my comments of June 30 about anti-Semitism being as virulent as ever - around the world and here at home in Minnesota - all you need to do is take a look at what is going on in another part of these United States - in "Blue State " Delaware for heaven’s sake. A Jewish family had to move from their home in Selbyville to Wilmington - more than two hours away, because they feared for their lives!!

You can read the story here and here - but if you don’t have the time or inclination to look at these two web sites - it’s a case of alleged state promoted Christianity and the persecution of a Jewish couple and their children for being non-Christians - the Dobrich family - and another anonymous family "Jane and JohnDoe." The two families have filed suit against the Indian River School District Board - and the response from the officials and the people of the district has laid bare a pattern of hateful intolerance that permeates the area and demonstrates how close many Americans are to being accepting of covert - and growingly more overt efforts to establish some form of theocracy in this country.

A separate law suit has also been filed by the ACLU against School District Board Members, alleging that "school- sponsored prayer has pervaded the life of teachers and students in the Indian River District schools" and among other things, seeks to call a halt to prayers being uttered at School Board meetings and other public events.

The ACLU isn’t part of the Dobrich and "Doe" lawsuit. That was filed by a private attorney. But the association’s involvement has brought out the ACLU haters, such as this disgusting web site in force. I won’t provide the link to their attack on the ACLU in the Indian River case because they are gloating over the number of hits they are getting from links in so called liberal blogs discussing the case. The irony of their hatred of course - is that if need be, the ACLU would go to court to defend their first amendment rights - just as they did for the Nazis when they wanted to march in Skokie, Illinois many years ago.

We should be grateful to the ACLU, even when we disagree with them violently - as I did in the Nazi case. But at the end of the day - they and people like them - may be our last best hope against the final collapse of the wall that separates church and state in the United States!!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I was happy to see the shuttle take off successfully on July 4, but I also have to say that I shook my head sadly as it rose in the air and the ground team celebrated and hugged each other as though their favorite team had just won the World Series - or maybe the World Cup!! But I guess their celebration was just because the rocket carrying the shuttle had managed to lift off its pad and move its payload high enough to establish orbit - all without anything exploding or too much falling off of the assembled hardware.

So why the sad shaking of this blog owner’s head?

Watching the back and forth discussion that preceded the take off for several days was a little like watching a group of kids arguing about whether or not the contraption that they had built out of cardboard, string and sealing wax could convey them safely from their treetop house to the ground below.

Would the weather let them launch? Were their cracks in the foam? Were there any loose pieces hanging from the shuttle. Was the paint the right color?

O.K. I’m being facetious. No one talked about paint colors. But it certainly looked like a bunch of keystone cops talking about their cardboard, string and sealing wax contraption rather than a vehicle capable of lifting off this earth and traveling into space.

It was a great thrill to watch and listen to Neil Armstrong as he set foot on the moon. But that was twenty seven years ago!! How far have we advanced with our space travel since? From what I observed of our most recent launch - not very far at all. We still cannot send any kind of "space ship" into space under its own power. We still have to attach some sort of vehicle to some Solid Rocket Boosters to lift it off the ground - and by the time it reaches orbit, the rockets have been discarded and its own external fuel tank is let go and it is left with almost no power of its own.

And if all of this isn’t a hokey enough way to get a vehicle off the ground and into space - it can’t be done if the weather isn’t perfect - meaning that it can’t take off when its crew wants to. It has to wait for the weather man to give his O.K.

Can you imagine how our distant progeny will view this age of "space travel?" I imagine it will be looked at as less accomplished than we look at the Wright brothers flight at Kitty Hawk. Our efforts will be looked upon as little more than primitive - and our descendants will wonder how we managed to survive those clumsy first flights in those strange contraptions.

I am sure that the men and women involved in any of mankind’s efforts to move into space are to be commended for their work - but obviously, if we are to get anywhere beyond orbiting the earth and achieving a very hairy trip to the moon and back, we have to get far beyond the methods and machinery now in use and devise vehicles truly able to travel in space - to the outer edges of our solar system and beyond. Vehicles capable of rising under their own (yet to be invented) power - and to continue to use that power to travel wherever they need to go.

And I’m ready to tell our space design scientists where to look for inspiration. Science fiction!! Did we ever see a sci-fi movie or read a science fiction story where a space ship with aliens aboard plunged helplessly into the sea because it arrived at earth without any power to propel its primitive looking capsule? Of course not. They look like this

or this.

One thing I know for sure. If the visitors depicted in my decades old short sci-fi story had landed in the sort of thing that took off from Cape Canaveral yesterday, there wouldn’t have been any argument about how to deal with the ET’s on board.

We would have kicked butt!!!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Every once in a while I devote this blog or part of this blog - to one of the scripts from an old radio show that I produced, narrated and distributed to radio stations around the country decades ago. . Those were the days when "syndication" required programs to be mailed to the stations. This particular syndicated radio show was produced and shipped on vinyl records!! It was called MOMENT OF DESTINY - a dramatization of what happened on "this day in history" - and for all I know, some stations may still be playing it!!

Here is the script for the July 4 program that was played on hundreds of radio stations many years ago, complete with the indications for sound effects and a single commercial break. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to include sound in this blog - so use your imagination:

SFX: Crowd in a room.. man’s voice in the background reading a letter. Fade sound under narrator

This is where it all begins. The revolutions for centuries to come - the overthrow of dynasties yet to be crowned - all begin here. It’s a white paneled room in the old State House on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. It’s almost noon on a hot, muggy Thursday in July - and the forty some men who are crowded into this cubicle make the air almost unbreathable.

The man at the head table, reading this letter, is chairman of this congress. He’s a rebel agitator and the British Crown has placed a reward of 500 pounds on his head. He was one of the leaders when they dumped that tea in Boston harbor - and he was one of the men the troops wanted to arrest when they marched to Lexington that night.

But it’s this afternoon that will make him immortal. For before he leaves this room, he will sign his name - and that signature will become one of the most famous in history. His name is John Hancock. That story in a moment.


SFX: Low crowd noise - male voices

It is afternoon before Hancock finishes the regular business and turns the session over to Benjamin Harrison who conducts a Committee-Of-The-Whole Meeting on Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration. Discussion resumes where it left off yesterday afternoon and the phrases about slavery soon deadlock the delegates.

Finally, John Adams breaks the deadlock. He tells them that if the passage blocks unity - that it must be cut. The New England States agree and the slavery clause is omitted.

There is also argument about the ending. Jefferson has finished the body of the Declaration with "OUR EVERLASTING ADIEU." The delegates feel this is a little blunt - and so it is re-written and the signers pledge "their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor."

SFX: Several sharp gavel raps - call to order

And finally every word has been argued and agreed upon - and it is time to vote.

They vote by states - but each man stands separately to voice his ballot. Some speak strong and defiantly - and others are faint and can hardly be heard. For this is treason. This is their death if they are caught. But each stands - even those who have fought separation - and vote yes..

It is unanimous . And when it is over they are the United States of America - and for each man used to being citizens of "His Majesty’s Royal Colonies" - it has an unfamiliar sound.

And now they must sign - and the first to do so is John Hancock. He does it with a flourish - puts down his pen and says "His Majesty can read my name without glasses and he can double the reward."

Not just "His Majesty" - but mankind will read it and strive to live by it - and often die for it. For this isn’t just a dispute between John Hancock and his King. In this room on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia - Mankind is declaring that it has certain unalienable rights.

It happened on this date - July 4th in 1776.


Entebbe Remembered

With the tragedy unfolding in Gaza today, one cannot help but notice how little has changed in the past three decades. It was 30 years ago this very day - July 4, 1976 - when a group of intrepid Israeli commandos, led by the brother of Benjamin Netanyahu - Yonatan - climbed aboard three Hercules transport planes and flew more than 2000 miles across the African continent to land at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in the dead of night. Their mission - to free Jewish hostages being held by Arab and German terrorists after they had hijacked an Air France plane flying from Israel to Paris with 250 people aboard.

Taken by surprise, 20 Ugandan soldiers and all seven hijackers died in a 35 minute battle. The lone Israeli casualty was Yonatan Netanyahu - shot dead by a Ugandan sentry. During the battle, the Israeli force destroyed eleven Russian built Mig Fighters - about a quarter of Uganda’s entire air force.

The terrorists had released all the non-Jews and non-Israelis - but had held the rest - a total of 100 Jewish hostages. In less than an hour from touch down, all 100 were aboard the Israeli planes on their way back to Israel with a stop over in Nairobi Kenya where some of the injured were treated.

The raid was ordered by the late Yitzhak Rabin who was the Prime Minister at that time.. It was his answer to the demands of the hijackers to free 53 militants held in Israeli jails and in four other countries.

And here we are, thirty years later - and another Prime Minister has had to make another decision about an Israeli hostage kidnapped by Arab terrorists and how to respond to their demands to obtain his release.

Nothing has changed. Madness still rules. One can only hope that the result will be the same as the rescue at Entebbe - that Gilad Shalit will be rescued - that no one else will be killed - and that Ehud Olmert will have made the right decision.

Monday, July 03, 2006

It’s getting tough to be the governor of one of these United States - and I would think that’s doubly so in the State of Illinois. In 1973, Otto Kerner, who had had as distinguished a career as one could wish from a public servant, got himself convicted for getting involved in a race track deal that netted him in excess of $300,000. He got three years in the Federal pen but got out early because of his terminal cancer.

Dan Walker, who got himself in trouble in a Savings and Loan scandal years after he left the governor’s office, went to jail for a couple of years. He was out of office but he carried the curse of the governorship into private life.

Money was a major factor in the activities for which both men were indicted - and they paid dearly for their alleged ill gotten gains.

Today’s governors however, can take and practice a vow of poverty - but it won’t provide them with any protection from the always prying eyes and ears of federal prosecutors - hovering over state capitals like a "Javertian" bird of prey. Ex Governor George Ryan is awaiting sentence after his conviction on a bunch of charges in April of this year - not for lining his pockets - but for things like steering state business to cronies and accepting "bribes" - like freebie stays at a resort hotel owned by a pal. There was no secret bank account with a few hundred grand stashed away. He didn’t even have money to hire a defense team. His lawyers - from a major law firm headed by a former Illinois governor and one of Ryan’s "pals" - though not one that had benefited from any state business - worked pro-bono.

The "old" way of governing - when the things that were in Ryan’s indictment were considered standard operating procedures - are today criminal offenses that can land you in the penitentiary.

And now we have the sitting governor of Illinois under the fish eye of one Patrick Fitzgerald - he of the Scooter Libby indictment fame. What has Rod Blagojevich done - other than have close to an unpronounceable name? His administration’s "hiring practices" are alleged to be less than kosher. Or to put it in non Jewish terms in violation of the 1990 Rutan ruling of the Supreme Court which said that hiring practices for the state under the governorship of Jim Thompson was just a little too political -and that he and subsequent governors had better can it. Thompson didn’t attempt to hide what he was doing. He had issued an order that no one be hired for any state job without his approval - or the approval of his "Office of Personnel" - which was pretty much the same thing.

Thompson may have gone overboard with his old time patronage policies - but the concept of it being illegal in every circumstance for personal or political consideration to be a part of awarding a contract or hiring someone to work for the state is, to put it mildly - ludicrous!!

If I’m elected governor and there are major contracts to be awarded for state work and a contractor who is a friend if mine and who perhaps has been a political supporter - approaches me and says he’s interested in taking on some of that work - and who has a company that has the required expertise and personnel and is highly regarded in its field - do I have to say I can’t listen to him because he’s a friend? Who else would I first consider for state work if not for people I know and trust? To tell the truth, he wouldn’t have to come to me. I would seek him out!!

The same surely applies to people looking to work for the state. I will agree that all applicants for state jobs should be treated equally - but again - is the governor obligated to tell supporters and friends - and friends of friends - sorry, do not apply?

It seems that this is the sort of thing that brought George Ryan down. He did business with friends. He allowed friends to influence where state business went. And he accepted little favors from friends. None that made him rich but that looked like a strange form of quid pro quo. Strange because quid pro quo for millions of dollars in state business is usually something other than a free hotel room and drinks around the pool.

Now the Feds are sifting through several state agencies to see how people were/are being hired - and they talk about having some "credible witnesses" to illegal practices.

Blagojevich denies that he’s done anything wrong and says that any violations of the rules were done by "bad apples" who had been hired without anyone knowing of their rotten condition - and who presumably have now been fired. I would doubt that Fitzgerald would accept that explanation and confine his investigation to the agencies where unauthorized political hiring took place. He likes to work up the hierarchy ladder and net the big fish. That’s what he did with Ryan. That seems to be what his office is doing about City Hall in Chicago.

I’m all for abiding by Supreme Court decisions - and as a taxpayer, I certainly want the most qualified people to work for my city or my state. I don’t want political hacks to be paid twice what they could earn in the private sector to live off my tax dollar. But I’m also a realist. With thousands of people working for the state - of course some of them will get their jobs because of who they are or who they know rather than what they know.

I don’t know at what point the scale gets tipped with too many political hires - but I can see the kind of thing Fitzgerald is doing as a job hazard for any governor - as something that should be included in the job description for the post. Want to run for Governor? You could be indicted. It won’t take much. You probably won’t have any idea that you’re building a case against yourself and making a reservation for a cell in a federal penitentiary as you follow your natural instincts of dealing with who you know and trust. Even insisting on no contract being awarded nor anyone being hired who could be considered your friend or the friend of a friend might not get you off the hook. Somewhere in your administration, the anti-patronage rules will be broken.

I’m no admirer or supporter of Rod Blagojevich, but his federal troubles - on the heels of the Ryan guilty verdict - reminds me of the troubles Bill Clinton was having some years ago with his nemesis and of a letter I wrote to the Chicago Tribune at the time. Those were the days when ALL my letters to the Tribune were published - before the current editor took over he Voice of the People section. Here’s what I wrote about the Clinton troubles - one of several letters on the subject.
Maybe the Clinton legacy will be a permanent change in presidential election tickets. The candidate from each party will run with a vice presidential running mate and an independent prosecutor. Whoever wins the presidency gets stuck with the prosecutor from the losing ticket. This way, neither party can cry "politics" while their president is being investigated - and potential candidates will have the advantage of knowing in advance who their nemesis will be. Ridiculous? About on a par with what’s going on with the Clinton, Starr & Co comic opera.
I’m not implying that the Fitzgerald investigation of Blagojevich falls to the level of comic opera. Just that anyone wanting to be governor of this state needs to know that - depending who is the Federal attorney for the district during his potential term in office - his legacy could well be an indictment, trial and possible incarceration without him ever really understanding just what it was that he did wrong and was criminal.