2004-12-31

Congratulations

... to the Windows user in Central Time Zone, referred by White Pebble, who visited Dreams Into Lightning at 5:26 PM your time. You are visitor number 10,000 according to SiteMeter.

Your prize is a lifetime supply of free visits to this blog.

Thanks to you and to the other 9,999 visitors for your support. Have a great New Year.

We can do it!

A big and heartfelt year-end thanks to all my readers as we close out 2004. I'm fully confident that I'll be able to keep Dreams Into Lightning going throughout 2005, and I'm constantly getting ideas on how to expand it and improve it.

What are YOUR ideas? Feel free to comment. I don't require registration (this blog isn't that big ... yet) although obviously I don't tolerate trolls.

BTW, SiteMeter tells me I'm only 15 hits away from the 10,000 mark. Can we ring in the new year with a five-digit SiteMeter count? We shall have to wait and see ...

From A Marine in Iraq

Thanks to Blanche for forwarding this.
Hello Everyone, I am taking time to ask you all for your help. First off, I'd like to say that this is not a political message. I'm not concerned about domestic politics right now. We have much bigger things to deal with, and we need your help. It seems that despite the tremendous and heroic efforts of the men and women serving here in Iraq to bring much needed peace and stability to this region, we are losing the war of perception with the media and American people. Our enemy has learned that the key to defeating the mighty American military is by swaying public opinion at home and abroad. We are a people that cherish the democratic system of government and therefore hold the will of the people in the highest regard. We love to criticize ourselves almost to an endless degree, because we care what others think. Our enemies see this as a weakness and are trying to exploit it. When we ask ourselves questions like, "Why do they hate us?" or "What did we do wrong?" we are playing into our enemies' hands. Our natural tendency to question ourselves is being used against us to undermine our effort to do good in the world.

How far would we have gotten if after the surprise attacks on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, we would have asked, "Why do the Japanese hate us so much?" or "How can we change ourselves so that they won't do that again?"

Here in Iraq the enemy is trying very hard to portray our efforts as failing and fruitless. They purposely kill innocents and desecrate their bodies in hopes that the people back home will lose the will to fight for liberty. They are betting on our perceived weakness as a thoughtful, considerate people.

Unfortunately our media only serves to further their cause. In an industry that feeds on ratings and bad news, a failure in Iraq would be a goldmine. When our so-called "trusted" American media takes a quote from an Iraqi doctor as the gospel truth over that of the men and women that are daily fighting to protect the right to freedom of press, you know something is wrong.

That doctor claimed that out of 600 Iraqis that were casualties of the fighting, the vast majority of them were women, children and the elderly. This is totally absurd. In the history of man, no one has spent more time and effort, often to the detriment of our own mission, to be more discriminate in our targeting of the enemy than the American military.

The Marines and Soldiers serving in Iraq have gone through extensive training in order to limit the amount of innocent casualties and collateral damage. Yet, despite all of this, our media consistently sides with those who openly lie and directly challenge the honor of our brave heroes fighting for liberty and peace. What we have to remember is that peace is not defined as an absence of war. It is the presence of liberty, stability and prosperity. In the face of the horrendous tyranny of the former Iraqi regime, the only way true peace was able to come to this region was through force. That is what the American Revolution was all about. Have we forgotten? Freedom is not free and "peace" without principle is not peace. The peace that so-called "peace advocates" support can only be brought to Iraq through the use of military force. And we are doing it, if only the world will let us! If the American
people believe we are failing, even if we are not, then we will ultimately fail. That is why I am asking for your support. Become a voice of truth in your community. Wherever you are fight the lies of the enemy. Don't buy into the pessimism and apathy that says, "It's hopeless," "They hate us too much," "That part of the world is just too messed up," "It's our fault anyway," "We're to blame," and so forth.

Whether you're in middle school, working at a 9-5 job, retired, or a stay-at-home Mom you can make a huge difference! There is nothing more powerful than the truth.

So, when you watch the news and see doomsday predictions and spiteful opinions on our efforts over here, you can refute them by knowing that we are doing a tremendous amount of good. Spread the word. No one is poised to make such an amazing contribution to the everyday lives of Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world than the American Armed Forces. By making this a place where liberty can finally grow, we are making the whole world safer.

Your efforts at home are directly tied to our success. You are the soldiers at home fighting the war of perception. So I'm asking you as a fellow fighting man: do your duty. Stop the attempts of the enemy wherever you are. You are a mighty force for good, because truth is on your side. Together we will win this fight and ensure a better world for the future.

God Bless and Semper Fidelis,
1st. Lt. Robert L. Nofsinger
USMC Ramadi, Iraq
Sep 27, 04 10:17 am


This says it all. I can go on and on about the bankruptcy of establishment liberalism, the victim mentality, yada yada, but this young officer says it much better. Please read this message often, and think about what it means for us in the year, and the years, to come.





2004-12-30

Barnett, Harari: the Map and the Storm

Two important articles have been making the rounds in the blogosphere and I wanted to touch on them. Israeli physicist Haim Harari argues in A View from the Eye of the Storm that the current conflict - the product of a wholly disfunctional Mideastern society - rests on four pillars: suicide-murder, lies, money, and anarchy. Thomas P. M. Barnett of the US Naval War College, in his March 2003 article titled The Pentagon's New Map, points to the conflict between "the Core" of functioning, integrated, prosperous countries, and "the Gap" of non-integrating nations whose climate of "repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and—most important—the chronic conflicts" provides the breeding ground for the next generation of al-Qaeda followers.

More to follow.

Sri Lanka Rejects Israeli Rescuers

Sri Lankan officials have rejected Israel's offer of trained relief workers following the tsunami tragedy. According to Joshua Mitnick's article in the Washington Times, 'A 150-member Israeli military delegation had been just hours from taking off in an air force plane when the mission was scrapped unexpectedly. Israel ultimately sent a plane with 80 tons of medical supplies, food and emergency equipment to the disaster-stricken country. An Israeli Foreign Ministry official denied Israeli press reports that Sri Lanka had bristled at accepting aid from the Israeli military. "The reason that was given was that they were overflowing with [emergency] crews, and what they really need was the supplies and equipment," David Saranga, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told Channel 1 television news.' Some observers were reminded of the Iranian regime's refusal to allow Israeli rescue workers into Iran, following the earthquake in Bam last year. Further information will be posted as it becomes available. Thanks to Gila and all who brought this to my attention.

In a related story, Israeli aid goes unreported by the MSM, according to this communique from Honest Reporting. Thanks to Gila (again) and Rabbi Melman for the link. Among the invisible aid from Israel:

●  The Israeli organization Latet ('To Give') filled a jumbo jet with 18 tons of supplies.

●  A medical team headed by four doctors from Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital arrived in Sri Lanka on Monday night (Dec. 27), carrying medicine and baby food. The doctors specialize in rescue operations, trauma and pediatrics.

●  An IDF rescue team is now on its way to Sri Lanka with 80 tons of aid material, including 10,000 blankets, tents, nylon sheeting and water containers, all contributed by the IDF.

●  A ZAKA rescue-and-recovery team arrived in the disaster areas Monday night, armed with its specialized equipment for identifying bodies.

●  A Health Ministry contingent left for Thailand on Monday night to aid in rescue efforts. The group includes doctors, nurses and four members of the IDF.

●  Israel has also offered its assistance to India ― a search-and-rescue team from the Home Front Command, as well as consignments of food and medicine.

Dreams Into Lightning will follow this story as more information becomes available.

Morning Report: December 30, 2004

Tsunami disaster: how to help. The death toll from the recent tsunami disaster is now over 100,000. To find out what you can do to help, go to Command Post. Update: Information also available at Roger L. Simon.

Commercial jet targeted by laser. Fox News reports this morning that the FBI is investigating a green laser that targeted the cockpit of a commercial aircraft flying in to Cleveland. 'Authorities are investigating a mysterious laser beam that was directed into the cockpit of a commercial jet traveling at more than 8,500 feet. The beam appeared Monday when the plane was about 15 miles from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (search), the FBI said. "It was in there for several seconds like [the plane] was being tracked," FBI agent Robert Hawk said.' (Fox) Follow-up: Rash of Pilot Laser Sightings Reported

Terrorist attacks on Saudi regime - Damascus, Riyadh in same boat? A recent bulletin from Debka provides information on Wednesday's terrorist attack on Riyadh, which included three car bombings and a machine gun attack, apparently targeting the life of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdelaziz: 'Riyadh attack was al Qaeda attempt on life of interior minister’s son Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdelaziz, his father’s deputy and director of the ministry’s security unit running war on terror. ' Debka's feature article on the Saudi attack reports: 'This was the first attempt by Osama bin Laden’s organization to assassinate a member of the Saudi royal family. It is a pivotal event in that it sharply escalates the terrorist offensive besetting the kingdom and raises the stakes on both sides. By targeting interior minister Prince Nayef’s son, the terrorists declared open warfare on the minister who had been trying for the past year to maintain a dialogue with the Saudi cell through his connections in the clergy. According to our sources, Saudi cell leader Saud bin Hamoud al-Uteibi marked out the Nayef family after concluding that the interchanges the minister initiated were not on the level but an effort to plant his agents inside the terror cell and break it up from within. Had the assassination plot against Prince Mohammed succeeded, a major upheaval would have ensued – destabilizing not only the oil kingdom but sending tremors around the Arab and Muslim Middle East as well.' Morning Report notes that Riyadh and Damascus appear to be finding themselves in the same situation these days. A recent analysis available from Stratfor suggests that the Syrian regime's support for the Iraq insurgency may be motivated by a fear that the insurgent elements - including al-Qaeda - might otherwise set their sights on Syria. This, the Stratfor article continues, may help explain Syria's recent efforts to put on an Islamic face. Thus Damascus, like Riyadh, finds itself in the unenviable position of being caught between militant islamists and Western (chiefly US) adversaries. (Debka, Stratfor) Update: Debka reports: 'Saudis claim 3 senior al Qaeda operatives killed Thursday – two on 26-man wanted list - day after terrorist car bomb attacks on interior ministry and recruiting center in Riyadh. They were identified as Sultan Bejaad al-Uteibi and Bandar Abdulhrahman Dakheel. Nine were killed Wednesday.'

Iraq: 7200 leaders step forward. Mohammed posts on Iraq the Model: 'Iraqis' response to terror was so clear; after the terrorists, or the so called insurgents threatened to slaughter anyone who participates in the elections, 7200 Iraqis rushed to announce their candidacy. YES, 7200 Iraqis representing more than 200 different political parties and I believe this makes the image clearer for the viewer. And to remove the fog and debunk the claims about the Sunni population being against the democratic process, I want to point out that tens of the political parties come from the Sunni population. Moreover you almost can't find a single list that lacks Sunni candidates in it, even lists from She'at, Kurdis, Christian or liberal parties.' (ITM)

Najaf police chief: Iran regime agents behind car bomb. The chief of police in Najaf, Iraq, has pointed the finger at Tehran in connection with a recent car bomb attack, according to this article in Iran Focus: 'The police chief in Najaf said that the commander of three terrorists arrested on Sunday in connection with a car bomb that exploded in the holy city, had extensive connections to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). He said that intelligence for when and where to attack was given by an MOIS agent to the terrorist cells. “Iraqi security forces had received information regarding a possible attack. The chaotic security situation, due to the burial ceremony of Sheikh Hatam al-Hassan however, enabled the terrorists to use the opportunity to carry out their attack”, he said. One of the three Iraqis, arrested whilst taking photos of the scene minutes before the explosions, was a resident of Najaf, while his two accomplices were both from Basra. He added that Iran closed its border with Iraq following the attacks to limit any intelligence leaks.'

Bin Laden and democracy. An article at Armies of Liberation highlights the choices facing the peoples of the Mideast today: 'Reform, elections, judicial independence, stemming corruption: these are the buzzwords on the Arab street today, and this is the essential work of the pioneering Iraqis. The transition of executive power in Egypt, Lebanese independence, minority rights in Syria, freedom of press in Yemen, youth enfranchisement in Saudi Arabia: these are the topics of modern patriots in the Middle East, their hope derived from free Iraqi labor unions and political parties and the anonymous anti-corruption hotline in Baghdad. Opposite these concepts of reform are the nihilistic ideology of al-Qaeda and the bloody tactics of the “Amir of Iraq,” Zarqawi, who freely murders innocent children, patriotic Iraqis, and poor truckdrivers.' Jane also offers a memorable interpretation of bin Laden's media image. (Armies of Liberation)

Egyptian opposition. A recent MEMRI bulletin, quoting metransparent.com, states that there are now four candidates set to oppose Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt's elections scheduled for mid-2005. They are: author and former military officer Jalal 'Amer; former MP Muhammad Farid Hassanin; feminist author Nawal al-Sa'adawi; and Sa'd al-Din Ibrahim, director of the Ibn Khaldoun Research and Development Center. (metransparent.com via MEMRI)

2004-12-29

Mosque Visit

A couple of weekends ago I had the privilege of visiting the Bilal Mosque in Beaverton at the invitation of Imam Mamadou Toure. I've posted on Imam Toure before - he's an eighth-generation Sufi Imam from Senegal, an eminent scholar, and a truly wonderful human being. This was my first visit to Bilal - I'd been to the Muslim Community Center on MLK Boulevard in Portland a few times - and it was exciting to be able to attend the two-hour class that Imam Toure was giving.

My impressions of the local Muslim community, both at MCC and at Bilal, were entirely positive. They struck me as uniformly warm, decent, down-to-earth folks. If any of them harbored any anti-Israel or anti-Jewish sentiment, they kept it to themselves. The people I met with and interacted with are most certainly not anti-Jewish.

There's a lot of trouble out there in the world. You know that and I know that. We don't have to create problems where none exist. There are narrow-minded people and raving bigots in every place and in every religion. We don't have to be like them.

There is much more I'd like to write, but this is all for now.

2004-12-27

Morning Report: December 27, 2004

Earthquakes, tidal waves kill thousands in Asia/Pacific. A massive earthquake of magnitude 9 struck in the Indian Ocean, triggering massive tidal waves and tsunamis that claimed thousands of lives in the region. The quake, centered off the coast of the Indonesian island of Aceh, ranks as the largest earthquake worldwide in 40 years and the fourth largest since the recording of earthquakes began in 1899. Currently the known death toll is over 22,000; that figure is expected to rise. Information is available at The Command Post. (various)

Thoughts on natural disasters. Reflecting on the massive tragedy in Asia, Wretchard says: 'In an abstract way, the information flows surrounding the Tsunami of December 2004 structurally resembled those preceding the Pearl Harbor and September 11 attacks. The raw data announcing the unfolding threat was there, yet the pattern so evident in hindsight was invisible to those who were not looking for it. But if tsunamis and asteroid strikes are rare events, they are comparatively more common than that still rarer object, the unprecedented event: the something that has never happened before. Threats like that can emerge suddenly out of chaotic systems, like WMD terrorism or new viral plagues. Against such events, specific precautions are impossible because no one can prepare for what cannot be foreseen. The real challenge is not so much to create a new dedicated network of staring systems against known threats but to tie current sensors to systems which are capable of cognition. The most valuable survival asset is situational awareness -- the ability to recognize threats you have never seen before and respond in an evolving manner -- and that capability has not yet come to the world as a whole.' Glenn Reynolds argues that 'Over the longer run, of course, the best protection against catastrophes, whether foreseen or unforeseen, is a society that is rich enough, and diverse enough, to be well-prepared for all sorts of contingencies. Which means that economic growth, and the freedom that produces it, may be the best guarantor of safety for us all. A rich society can afford to worry about things that a poorer one wouldn't have the resources to think about. A rich society can take steps to prevent disasters before they happen. And a rich society is better positioned to survive disasters once they occur, even if they are completely unforeseen, or unforeseeable.' (Belmont Club, Tech Central Station)

Chavez and China. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that his country's trade with China would increase dramatically as a result of major new trade agreements between China and Venezuela. The bilateral agreements, which were the result of Chavez' three-day visit to Beijing, provide for the purchase of Chinese security equipment by Venezuela, and Venezuelan oil and asphalt by the PRC. In another development, Beijing issued a stern warning against any moves toward independence by Taiwan. (Stratfor)

Debka: Israel releases Palestinians in prisoner exchange. A bulletin from Debka reports: 'Israel frees 159 Palestinian prisoners - 19 guilty of terrorist crimes short of murder – as promised Egyptian president Mubarak in return for Israeli Azzam’s release. President Katsav pardoned small group of illegal entrants.' (Debka)

Journalists convicted in Yemen. Jane reports on the erosion of press freedom in Yemen: 'This week in Yemen: Four more journalists convicted, another editor attacked, justice delayed again for al-Khaiwani. This is on top of one editor imprisoned, one editor murdered, and three newspapers closed. You can’t write about the Saudis-oh no-but trash Bush all you want. You can’t write about governmental corruption in your own country but its fine to demonize the US and UK governments until the cows come home. “Democratization” without a free press is just another way of gaining development aid and clinging to power until your son, Salah Jr., turns 40 and can take over the presidency. ...' (Armies of Liberation)

2004-12-26

Earthquake Tragedy

Enormous tidal waves and tsunamis from a massive 9.0 quake in the Pacific have resulted in thousands of deaths in six Asian countries. CNN coverage is here; Command Post coverage is here.

Stay tuned for more information.

Muslims for Israel

If you only visit one website today, visit this one.
Hat tip: Stefania.

Please also visit this post on the real peace movement.



Update

Shabbat in Portland was wet and quiet. Wet, as is usual for the Northwest at this time of year, and quiet, because it was also Christmas day.

I had an enjoyable Friday night dinner - and some very stimulating conversation - with some friends from shul. Saturday I stayed home, reading and resting up. Today I'm going to try to get a little more fresh air and AFK time, and expect to return to regular blogging tomorrow.

Meanwhile, many thanks - as always - to regular, new, and visiting readers. Please take a moment to view these links if you haven't yet:

Important sites:
Democracy for the Middle East
Debka
Iraq the Model
Armies of Liberation
The Belmont Club
Blog Iran
Winds of Change

Important posts at Dreams Into Lightning:
Doctorow and the Unfeeling Left
Disengagement: The Messy Divorce
State vs. Defense
Thanksgiving Day Post: Freedom and Responsibility
The Kabbalah




2004-12-22

Posting Break

I'll be taking a break from new posting for the next few days. Morning Report will stand down. Expect to be back to regular schedule by New Year's.

2004-12-21

New in the Dreams Into Lightning Universe

Our World War II hero gives us an insider's view of six weeks in New Zealand - where the 37th Infantry Division had hoped to spend the duration of the war. We get the feeling that by the time combat came along, the cannoneers had a pretty good idea of how to fire their pieces. The soldiers endure the pomp and ceremony of military life and manage to keep a straight face for the generals and admirals. Besides the fun-filled frolic of the "cannoneer's hop", the men of the 37th enjoy music - not only the merry tune known as the "general's march" but also the nightly entertainment of "colors". One bugler gives it his all. Read the conclusion of Chapter 2 at Pacific Memories.

Marking the solstice, I've posted my father's solstice poem at Urban Renewal. Also newly posted poetry at Wilderness Vision.

I have organized the posts at The Iraqi Holocaust and Iraqi Holocaust Files. Currently I am not actively updating these sites; however readers are always encouraged to submit information for these blogs.

Dreams Into Lightning Amalgamated now features Morning Report archives for December and the complete New Republican series.

Enjoy, and as always, thanks for visiting.

Update

With the Fadhils back home and back in action, I feel like I can relax just a tiny bit! Need to tear myself away from the keyboard now. This evening I hope to post on my visit to the mosque, and also I want to pass on a couple of really good articles that have been making the blogospheric rounds, and a couple of domestic issues I want to address. Meanwhile, I've got to go clear my head and get some fresh air.

Morning Report: December 21, 2004

Omar, Mohammed return to Baghdad and to ITM. Omar and Mohammed Fadhil have returned safely to Baghdad following their US tour with Spirit of America. They have resumed posting on the popular and influential Iraq The Model blog; however, their brother Ali has announced that he is leaving ITM. We wish him well. (ITM)

Allawi: "We are going to win definitely." Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi warned that enemy groups are trying to foment a civil war and subvert democracy in Iraq, but declared, "We are going to win definitely and the political process would continue in Iraq." The AP story at Fox continues: '"What is happening is that we are facing an enemy heavily supported even in some cases with superior weapons," Allawi said. "We will have setbacks, we are having setbacks, but we are determined to continue the fight."' (AP via Fox)

Iraq to restrict Iranian access. According to recent reports, the Iraqi government will tighten restrictions on Iranians visiting Iraq, apparently from concern over attempts by the Iranian regime to influence upcoming Iraqi elections. 'Iraq’s ambassador to Iran announced that presently the Iraqi embassy does not grant visas to any Iranian national, Iran’s Hamshahri Daily reported. Mohammad Majid Al-Sheikh added: “We will only provide those Iranians with visas who hold a permit from the Iranian Foreign Ministry or those Iranian traders who are a member of the country’s Commerce Chamber.”'

2004-12-17

Creating the World You Love

A few years ago, a woman I'd known since we were kids (and with whom I was madly, and quite hopelessly, in love) introduced me to a book called "Creating the Work You Love" by Rick Jarow. Trained in both Eastern and Western traditions, Jarow eschews the traditional career-track model for what he mischievously calls an "Anti-Career" - work that frees you rather than enslaving you. Jarow's method - derived from the chakra system - offers a framework for finding a path to a better livelihood. But the value of the system isn't limited to the 9-to-5 world; it can be applied to anything worthwhile. I've adapted Jarow's system here:

CREATING THE WORLD YOU LOVE
1. Abundance: "a visceral feeling of trust in life, self-esteem, and the value of being who you are in the world". Our enemies tell us: "You seek life, and we seek death." We do indeed seek life. We trust in life, in the world's abundance, in our own nature.
2. Feeling: "What do you care about? What makes you indignant enough to change yourself and/or the world?" Cynicism is our greatest enemy.
3. Focus: We are responsible for our own direction. Progress is not a straight line, nor a static, idealistic utopia. It is a path - a trajectory, perhaps - whose shape we can but dimly discern and whose destination is hidden from us by the Mysterious One. We can begin by setting goals for six months in the future - goals that, if we can achieve them, will give us reason to feel better about ourselves and the world.
4. Sharing: "The heart is the seat of prosperity." All of us - conservatives, liberals, neoconservatives, independents - can work together. We must. By sharing with others, helping the poor in our hometowns and in faraway lands, by sending "care packages" to our warriors who fight for freedom; and by networking, sharing ideas, building coalitions, talking with our neighbors, speaking up for what's right, learning from others - we become part of the whole even as we find ourselves.
5. Creativity: "If the job you want does not presently exist, you can create it! Have a vision of the world as it could be, not a concept (i.e. freedom, justice, equality) but an actual visceral sense of what could be." Our enemies - who worship brutal totalitarianism and abject anarchy - are especially weak here because they lack any positive vision of the future. That vision is what gives the struggle meaning and power - and brings responsibility.
6. Spirit: By opening ourselves to the higher Plan, we bring the Spirit into our struggle.
7. Mystery: "There are forces at work that we cannot even begin to conceive of." Authoritarianism believes in having all the answers. Civilized beings know that we will never have all the answers; we live by asking questions. And we live by faith.

This morning I spent a couple of hours at Fred Meyer shopping for care-packages for our troops. There is always more to do. But for now, it's time to let go of action and get ready for Shabbat.

Osama

Earlier this week I saw the film "Osama" with my good friend Gila (who is a regular reader of this blog, and to whom I am deeply indebted for ideas and encouragement). I don't know how to describe this film other than to say it is simply harrowing. There is little or no graphic violence. There are few direct references to large-scale atrocities. Instead, the film drags you, day by day, through the relentless cruelties and humiliations endured by individual women in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. You know, even though you don't want to know, that what you're being shown in the story of "Osama" - a young girl who disguises herself as a boy to survive - has been repeated millions of times in millions of lives.

Remember, too, that it is happening today, right now, in Iran and elsewhere. (There is hope for Afghanistan, but there is still a long road ahead for Afghan women.) When you read about people like Leyla, remember that what we are hearing is only a tiny shadow of the evil.

Vayigash

This week I am beginning what I hope will be a regular weekly feature at Dreams Into Lightning: a few words about the Parasha, or weekly Torah portion. This week's Parasha is Vayigash, Gen. 44:19 - 47:31.

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook:
The Shepherd Philosopher

The 4th century scholar Rabbi Zeira once found his teacher Rav
Yehuda in an unusually good mood. Realizing that it was a
propitious time to ask whatever he wanted, Rabbi Zeira posed the
following question:

"Why is it that the goats always stride in front of the herd, to be
followed by the sheep?"

"It is like the creation
of the universe: first there was darkness (the goats, who are
usually black), and afterwards light (the white sheep)." [Shabbat
77b]

Rabbi Zeira's query was not so out of line. The great
leaders of the Jewish people in ancient times were shepherds. As
Joseph's brothers told Pharaoh, "Like our fathers before us, we are
shepherds." [Genesis 47:5] We find that Moses and David also worked
in this profession. There must be a reason that our forefathers
chose to herd goats and sheep.

The life of a shepherd is a lifestyle that allows for reflection
and inner contemplation. The labor is not intensive. Unlike
farming, one does not need to immerse all of one's energies in
physical matters. At the same time, the shepherd remains in
constant contact with the real world. His reflections are of a
sound nature, not artificially cut off from life and reality. For
this reason, our forefathers, the great thinkers of their time,
worked as shepherds.

Rabbi Zeira's observation about flocks connects the external focus
of the shepherd - his goats and sheep - with his internal focus -
his thoughts and ideas.

The pattern of traveling sheep corresponds to the progression of
thought in the shepherd's mind. The dark goats breaking out in
front of the white sheep is a metaphor for the inspired but hazy
notions that surge forth in our thoughts. These insights are followed
by a flock of clarified ideas that have been properly examined by
our faculties of reason. In this way we develop the concepts that
form the basis for our spiritual and ethical life.

As Rav Yehuda pointed out, this order is inherent to the nature of
the world. The light in the universe was created out of the darkness.
This phenomenon is also true on a personal level. We cannot completely
dismiss the illusory aspects of our minds, for they inspire us to
originality of thought. Our imagination dominates our thought
processes; only through its opaque insights can we arrive at the path
of enlightened wisdom.

[Ein Aya vol. IV, pp. 144-5]
http://ravkook.n3.net - Rav A.I. Kook on the Weekly Parasha

Jeanne Cavelos, SF Writer

This week I received an e-newsletter from science fiction writer Jeanne Cavelos. She's responsible for the wonderful four-volume "Techno-Mage series" based on the TV series Babylon 5. A while back I wrote her a fan letter, which she was kind enough to quote in her e-mail. The Techno-Mage books are really, really good writing. (And I'm very picky about SF writing.) Read them if you get a chance, even if you haven't seen "Babylon 5". Cavelos - an astrophysicist, and also a horror devotee - explores the ambivalent nature of technology and power. Her characters inhabit a universe that is as complex morally as it is technologically. They ask hard questions and do not get easy answers, but they are enriched by their struggles. I can't think of any more relevant reading for today's world.

Let's blogroll!

Michael J. Totten wins the "Best Post Title of the Day" award for this. I think it'd make a pretty good bumper sticker too.

Rachel Lucas is the Dorothy Parker of the blogosphere. She's back from the dead once again, this time in the incarnation of Blue-Eyed Infidel, and she'd like you to know that she will not, repeat NOT, be running Comments this time around. She likes Eomer from LOTR, but doesn't like babbling hobbits. (Hobblits?) Don't think she'd care for Shane's hairstyle in "The L Word" either, but she does approve of Lindsay Lohan, and I'm inclined to agree.

Morning Report: December 17, 2004

Roh, Koizumi meet. Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi met with South Korea's Roh Moo Hyun Friday on the Japanese island of Kyushu. The leaders discussed North Korean issues including still-missing Japanese citizens kidnapped by the DPRK in the 1970s and 1980s, and North Korea's nuclear program. Reuters reports that the leaders agreed that it was too early to impose sanctions: '"I am not saying I am opposed to sanctions or that they are impossible. But even if they are to be carried out, the decision should be made cautiously and calmly," said Roh, speaking through an interpreter. Roh added that it was his hope that such measures would not have a detrimental effect on the six-party talks or Japan's efforts to normalize ties with North Korea. ' (Reuters)

Bug found at United Nations. A bugging device was discovered at the United Nations in a room used by officials for conferences concerning the Iraq situation. The device is said to be of apparent East European or Russian origin and at least 3 - 4 years old. The Scotsman reports that 'The art deco room [known as the Salon Francais] in the UN’s European headquarters hosts a teleconference meeting between UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the head of the Geneva office, Sergei Ordzhonikidze, every Wednesday. ' (The Scotsman)

Tehran likely to try to foil Iraqi elections. The Iranian regime, frustrated by recent setbacks to its nuclear program, will likely stage an all-out offensive to try to sabotage upcoming Palestinian and Iraqi elections, some analysts believe. An important article available from Debka discloses that 'US agents foil Iran’s import of smuggled “laser guns” for uranium enrichment. They blew up components crated for shipment in source country'. Amir Taheri writes that Iran 'wants to bleed the United States as much as possible en route to eventual success in Iraq. The cost of success should be so high as to make it impossible for the Bush administration, or its successors, to win popular support at home for any similar venture, for example, in targeting Iran itself.' Michael Ledeen argues that Iran is 'the keystone of the terrorist edifice, and that we are doomed to confront it sooner or later, nuclear or not.'

2004-12-16

Update

As you may have noticed, I've been putting in a fair amount of time at the keyboard this past week. I still have a lot of ideas for Dreams Into Lightning and its affiliated blogs, and I will probably continue in "high gear" through next week. (Yes, I do have a life outside of blogging.)

Miscellaneous tech notes. My views may not always be PC, but I did break down and buy a Toshiba laptop with Windows XP. I do love my 17" iBook and my G5 desktop, but there are some things that Microsoft just does better - or that Mac won't do at all. (Sorry, Charles and Helen.) As a long-suffering Windows ME user, I found Mac to be a breath of fresh air. I've got to tell you, though, that I found myself growing tired of the "Spinning Beachball of Death" and the unapologetic announcement that "This application has unexpectedly quit." (Would I like to send a bug report to Apple? Honestly, I'd really rather they had fixed the problem before I bought the product. But I digress.) I never could get used to the Apple keyboards. The G5's keyboard sticks, and looks like a 20-year-old IBM keyboard. The notebook feels like an oversized pocket calculator; more problematically, it's much too easy to hit the shift key and the up-arrow key at the same time, thus highlighting (and, on the next keystroke, DELETING) a large block of text. And would it have killed them to include a forward-delete key? And there are so many little features that just don't operate on Mac - the formatting buttons on Blogger, for instance, and the AOL browser's handy drop-down mail preview. Reliablity? Well, it looks like old Bill has finally gotten his act together, that's all I can say.

This isn't a pro-Windows or anti-Mac post, although I know loyalties are very strong on both sides. I do like the sound and picture quality I get from my G5 - Apple is without peer in that department, for sure, and I wouldn't trust my RealMyst or Mathematica to a PC.

My own technical expertise is exactly zero, so I'm sure there are all kinds of geeky solutions and work-arounds that would make my computer life easier if I'd only take the time to learn them. Well, what can I say.

Miscellaneous tech notes, part 2. As some other ITM regulars have noticed in the past, Blog*spot pages don't always refresh right away on the AOL browser for some reason. (I've found this with both AOL/Mac and AOL/Windows.) The work-around seems to be to close AOL and open another browser (MSIE or Safari, for example) and then switch back to AOL again.

Miscellaneous tech notes, part 3. You probably grew up being taught to shut things down when you're finished using them; nowadays they say you shouldn't power down your computer too often (just put it on power saver) so you don't wear it out. There's a happy medium though; apparently it's best to shut down at least once a day because this gives the computer the chance to clear out garbage files. (Learned from experience: when I stopped doing that, my Safari browser began running very slowly and finally ground to a standstill - until I re-started, or powered down, the machine.)

Miscellaneous tech notes, part 4. My Toshiba never crashed until I installed a new HP printer. The crash reports from Microsoft identified the printer driver as the problem. After a couple of sessions with the HP help desk, I tracked down the problem - a bunch of applications that run automatically in the tray and don't really serve any useful purpose. The tech told me how to get them off of the startup menu (they're not on the regular menu, you have to run "msconfig" and uncheck a bunch of boxes). That solved the problem; since then, I haven't had a single crash with my Toshiba. So that's why I say it looks like Microsoft has cleaned up its act. I'm still not giving up my Apple gear though.

Back to the non-cybernetic world: after I get my blogs up to where I'd like them to be, I plan to take a short hiatus of a few days (a week at the most) to catch up on reading, outdoors time, social life, and other AFK stuff. After that, hopefully I'll be able to establish a regular schedule for the blogging end of things.

New in the Dreams Into Lightning Universe

At Pacific Memories, our narrator learns the origin of a British (New Zealander) sailor's hostility, and manages to escape with his good conduct record - and his buddy's glasses - unbroken. We take a tour of the camp at Papakura - it's right near Tironui, in case you were wondering. Beer can be had at the "wet canteen", but it's another beverage that really makes an impression. Go to the link and scroll down for the latest installment.

Newly posted poetry at Urban Renewal and Wilderness Vision. My sister won numerous writing awards during her teen years; "Train-Time" was among the poems that won Stephanie the Scholastic Gold Key in 1980. She was 15 when she wrote it.

At the conclusion of an undergraduate course in "American Literature Through 1850", our class was called upon to provide some evidence that we had actually read the required assignments. (This imposition is commonly known as the "final exam".) My take-home essay, "Providence in the Wilderness", highlights the revelatory encounter with the unfamiliar in Frederick Douglass and other American writers; it is posted at my Portfolio.

Let's blogroll!

Special: Bloggers make cole slaw of the Professor. The pro-Iraqi blogosphere shredded Juan Cole this week. Ali did not take kindly to the Professor's aspersions on himself and his brothers, concluding in grand style:
I've exposed you once Dr. Cole and so I did to you precious Riverbend, but I, and my brothers have great expectations for our country and we spend most of our time trying to make them come true. However, if you ever insult my brothers again, I'll make sure to make time for you with a free bonus to your Riverbend. So don't let me put you on my mind or else you'd better focus on something other than Iraq. Talk about Lebanon, or Yemen. Yemen is good! You haven't messed up with a Yemeni blogger I assume? Or if you can't live without talking about Iraq, then keep it poetic. It saves my time and your reputation.

Michael J. Totten doesn't usually pick fights with other bloggers, but he's willing to make an exception for Cole. Armed Liberal at Winds of Change wonders, "Professor...do you think we're all idiots?" The usually mild-mannered Jeff Jarvis calls him "pond scum". Dean Esmay denounces "the blogosphere's fascist apologists". Chrenkoff is having deja vu. And over at Kesher Talk, Judith is keeping tabs on the whole affair.

Morning Report: December 16, 2004

Debka: Bush, Sharon compromise on settlements. According to the latest Debka bulletin: 'Bush administration has quietly dropped its demand for removal of dozens of illegal West Bank outposts, asked EU and Abbas for silence on issue. Sharon’s argument has been accepted that his government cannot tackle both outpost removals and pullout from Gaza Strip and northern West Bank at the same time - for lack of manpower resources and popular backing.' (Debka)

New bin Laden audio tape appears. CNN reports that 'A new audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden and referencing the December 6 attack on the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, appeared on Arabic Web sites Thursday. The voice on the tape says instability in Saudi Arabia is due to the regime there and not the action of the jihadis. "While the struggle in Saudi Arabia appears to be internal, it is part of the struggle between believers and non-believers" of Islam, the speaker said.' The CNN article links the tapes to the recent terror attack on the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: 'A Saudi militant group with ties to al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the December 6 attack in Jeddah, posting its claim on several Islamist Web sites often used by militants. Five consular employees -- four local staff members and a contract guard -- were killed. Four other local staff members were wounded. Saudi forces killed three of the gunmen and captured two others, both of whom were wounded, the Saudi Interior Ministry said. One of gunmen later died.' A breaking report from Fox announces: 'The CIA has "high confidence" that the voice on a new audiotape praising anti-U.S. attacks belongs to terror mastermind Usama bin Laden'. The MSNBC report adds: 'Also Thursday on the same Web site, an audiotape surfaced that was purportedly a recording of the sounds of the consulate attack transmitted via the attackers’ mobile phones. Sirens, machine gun fire and shouts of "God is Great!” can be heard. At the end, a man recites Quranic verses and then says: “Humiliation for America the infidel and its allies!”' (various)

Saudi police thwart protest. A scheduled protest by the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia was blocked on Thursday by police in riot gear, according to news reports. The CBC says that 'Calls from an exiled dissident for demonstrations against the Saudi royal family were met with an overwhelming police presence Thursday, with protesters being chased through the streets of the port city of Jidda and others arrested in the Saudi capital. There were reports of scores of arrests in Jidda and Riyadh but officials refused to confirm or deny those reports, saying a statement would be released soon. London-based dissident Saad al-Fagih, head of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, had called via his TV and radio stations and on his website for simultaneous anti-monarchy protests in Riyadh and the eastern seaport of Jidda. Al-Fagih could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday. ' (CBC, Arab.de)

2004-12-15

The New Republican: Where do we go from here?

What kinds of compromises should liberalism make? Must advocates of domestic reform and liberty join foces with foreign entities that oppose those things, simply because they see "the Government" - our government - as a common enemy?

Harking back to the days of the Americans for Democratic Action (renamed from the Union for Democratic action) Peter Beinart's very fine article in the December 13, 2004 print issue of The New Republic provides a postmortem for the Kerry candidacy and a sobering assessment of American liberalism's future. Quoting ADA member Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (who attended the seminal 1947 Willard Hotel conference to "save American liberalism"):
Free society and totalitarianism today struggle for the minds and hearts of men. ... If we believe in free society hard enough to keep on fighting for it, we are pledged to a permanent crisis which will test the moral, political and very possibly the military strength of each side. A "permanent" crisis? Well, a generation or two anyway, permanent in one's own lifetime."

Beinart contrasts these words from The Vital Center with the ideology of today's MoveOn: "Like the [soft liberals] of the early cold war, MoveOn sees threats to liberalism only on the right. And thus, it makes common cause with the most deeply illiberal elements on the international left."

He also makes the important point - again drawing from the lessons of the Cold War - that "while in a narrow sense the struggle against totalitarianism may divert resources from domestic causes, it also provides a powerful rationale for a more just society at home. During the early cold war, liberals repeatedly argued that the denial of African American civil rights undermined America's anti-communist efforts in the Third World. This linkage between freedom at home and freedom abroad was particularly important in the debate over civil liberties."

The cold-war-era debate lies at the root of the split between the very different liberalisms of TNR and The Nation: following the 1948 defeat of the leftist (and Communist sympathizer) Henry Wallace, "The New Republic broke with Wallace, its former editor."

Michael J. Totten covers this article, citing a letter published in Andrew Sullivan and advising today's liberals to take a strong stand against terrorism and fascism.

Every conflict involves compromises. In prosecuting the war on terrorism, for example, our Government must sometimes make pacts with such unsavory players as Pakistan, Syria, and even France. And on the home front, we must sometimes strike deals with parties we don't especially care for, in order to obtain a greater benefit to our cause.

Even magazine editors must make such trade-offs. Back in May 2000, Heather A. Findlay, editor-in-chief of Girlfriends, announced to her readers: "In the eyes of some, Girlfriends sold its soul. Last year, we sold advertising space for the first time to a tobacco company ..." Findlay, who had "watched five queer publications go out of business just since January", had to make a difficult decision between a "pure" magazine and one that could pay its bills; she chose the latter. I can't fault her for that.

The New Republic, too, has made some interesting choices in the advertising it hosts. For some months now, they've been hosting an occasional feature called "TNR/ON", administered by one Joan Daly and billed as a "symposium on public policy". (For you non-classicists, "symposium" is a Greco-Latin word meaning "advertising supplement".) Past installments of TNR/ON have featured analyses on "America's Energy Crisis" (brought to you by the Nuclear Energy Institute) and "Securing the Nation's Energy Supply" (courtesy of the American Gas Association).

But by far the most important topic of debate in these forums is Saudi Arabia - sponsored, the magazine drolly informs us, by "The People of Saudi Arabia". And so it happens that you cannot read Peter Beinart's article without flipping past a four-page special on "The Future of the U.S. - Saudi Partnership" ... sponsored by, well, you know who. For good measure, there's also a two-page testament to that same Kingdom's "Ongoing Progress, Enduring Change" on pages 20 and 21.

Now the case of TNR advertising for Saudi Arabia is not like the case of Girlfriends advertising for RJ Reynolds. It is more like Girlfriends carrying an ad for the Family Research Council. In fact, it is worse than that, because the "panel" featured in the Saudis' propaganda piece includes two of TNR's most distinguished editors, Lawrence Kaplan and Leon Wieseltier.

There is something viscerally repulsive about the spectacle of Jewish intellectuals whoring themselves for the Saudi princes. There is something revolting about a liberal, Washington-based magazine playing host to representatives of the same regime that furnished the West with Osama bin Laden and the majority of his psychopathic murderers.

To be sure, Wieseltier poses some tough challenges, both to the Saudi regime and to his fellow liberals: "I think that the President has got it essentially right when he believes that freedom is not just a matter of American morality, but also a matter of American security. ... I warn you that when I hear phrases like 'Islamic liberalism' or 'Islamic democracy,' the adjective makes me nervous, because Islamic liberalism to me sounds like 'Islamic algebra' or 'Islamic physics'. There is no such thing. There is only physics. There is only algebra. There is only democracy."

Even in this vile setting, Wieseltier manages to shine. But of course it is the voice of "realism" that must have the last word: "... that transformation is occurring rather gradually, but that it need occur; and finally, that America's role in this process, like it or not, will be a minimal one."

At the risk of stating the obvious, let me state the obvious.

Wieseltier, Kaplan, Lippman and the others have obviously managed to retain some of their integrity here, as the foregoing Wieseltier quotes (and others) abundantly demonstrate. But it is impossible to know what they did not say, or could not say, or said without being quoted in the "edited transcript" published in the pages of The New Republic. It is similarly impossible to know what effect those Saudi dollars are having on the content of the magazine.

We do know that the Saudi regime is actively involved in a propaganda campaign directed at the West, and specifically at the United States. As reported earlier at Dreams Into Lightning, the Saudi regime has employed a public relations firm called Qorvis - which is now under FBI scrutiny - to burnish its image in the US.

The indispensable Little Green Footballs covered Qorvis back in 2002, here, and here in 2003. And finally, Judith's post at Kesher Talk provides this interesting little detail about one Qorvis contract:
Qorvis' representation agreement that it filed with Ambassador Prince Bandar has an interesting wrinkle. The firm agrees to tell the Saudis about any foreign client that approaches it for representation during the contract period. QC also agrees that for two years following termination of the Arab account, QC "will not accept any engagement with any client that would be deemed adverse to the interests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

I don't know, and I don't really care, which PR firm abetted the Saudis in their usurpation of the once hallowed pages of The New Republic. Once, strong liberals might have had in TNR a forum to challenge - rightly or wrongly - some of the Bush administration's more questionable policies, such as its accommodationist stance toward Saudi Arabia. But not now.

I began writing The New Republican because I saw that my favorite liberal magazine, like American liberalism itself, was heading down the wrong track. Now, I fear, that process is irreversible. I've just received a notice in the mail that my subscription to TNR is about to run out; I will let it. The New Republic has nothing more to say to me, and I have nothing more to say to them. This will be the last installment of The New Republican.

"The New Republican" - complete series

Morning Report: December 15, 2004

Senator Joseph Lieberman declines cabinet invite. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman has reportedly declined invitations to join the Bush administration in a cabinet-level post, according to a CNN report. The Democrat was said to have been offered the posts of Ambassador to the United Nations and of head of Homeland Security. (CNN)

Iraqi defense minister: Tehran is Threat Number One. Iraqi Defense Minister Hazen Shaalan called Iran his country's "most dangerous enemy". Shaalan also pointed the finger at Syrian intelligence and former Ba'athist regime elements in Iraq's continuing terrorism problem. (Stratfor, Debka)

Debka: Al-Qaeda attacks planned for December. Another Debka bulletin reports: 'Cairo and Jerusalem warned by Washington of planned al Qaeda attack in December. Chemical weapon hazard possible or strike against Mediterranean, Gulf of Aqaba and Suez Canal targets. Threat is posed by Al Qaeda’s new Sinai bastion teamed up with new Saudi al Qaeda chief Saud Hamid al-Utaibi who orchestrated US Jeddah consulate attack on December 6.'

US will not join EU-IRI parley. Washington has said that the United States will not join nuclear negotiations between the Iranian regime and the European Union, according to an AP article. 'Iran is willing to talk with the United States about a nuclear program that Washington alleges is aimed at secretly acquiring the bomb, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Monday. The White House, however, rejected the idea. ... "When it comes to Iran, we are very supportive of the efforts by our European friends to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. And we stay in close contact with our European friends on their discussions and the progress that they have made ... That's the way we're approaching this issue," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "What we believe is important is that ultimately Iran agree to end its nuclear weapons program, not just suspend it." ' (AP via Free Iran)

Hezbollah TV: France no, Europe yes. Clarifying an earlier report (see MR 12/14), Democracy for the Middle East explains that while Hezbollah-controlled al-Manar TV is indeed banned from the French airwaves, 'France is turning a blind eye toward Al-Manar's other distribution channels in Europe and around the world.' DFME provides a chart outlining the links between al-Manar and its distributors. Meanwhile, the Tehran Times reported that the Association of Muslim Journalists called for protests against the French government's decision to ban al-Manar domestically, according to a bulletin from the Middle East Media Research Institute. (DFME, MEMRI)

Against "self-service fatwas". Amir Taheri writes in the Gulf News that 'the increasing use of Islam as a political ideology rather than a religious faith, and an instrument for seeking power has led to the perversion of the role of the ulema [religious schaolars]', with large numbers of newly-anointed clerics bringing quantity, rather than quality, to the office. He cites the role of television in this "ulema inflation", with reporters seeking a photogenic cleric wearing 'a beard and some kind of theological headgear'. (Gulf News via Benador Associates)

FBI searches Saudi-linked PR firm's offices. According to this item at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, 'FBI agents searched offices of Qorvis Communications last week looking for information about its client, Saudi Arabia. According to a Justice Department report, the Saudis paid Qorvis $14.6 million for a six-month period, ending Dec. 31, 2002. (How much they paid in other periods was not immediately known.) The money went to fund lobbying and public relations, including the distribution of material "to promote public awareness" of Saudi Arabia's "commitment in the war against terrorism and to peace in the Middle East." ' An article in the Washington Times explains that the investigation centers on Qorvis' compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), noting that "Saudi Arabia is Qorvis' only foreign government client. " The Washington Times cites concerns by three Qorvis founders who quit the firm over "a deep discomfort in representing the government of Saudi Arabia against accusations that Saudi leaders have turned a blind eye to terrorism." The firm's managing partners are Michael Petruzzello, Doug Poretz, Curtis Robinson, Esther Thomas Smith, Michael Tucker and Karen Vahouny. Dreams Into Lightning has commented on Saudi media influence here. (FDD, Washington Times, Dreams Into Lightning)

The coming revolution. The latest post at the Belmont Club explores the idea that ' ''freedom and politics are really going to be the agents of destruction for the ancien regime of tyrant and terrorist", not as a figure of speech but as literal truth. The role of the US military would be strategically indirect and subtle: to ensure that the old regimes cannot contain the forces that would naturally spring up against them.' (Belmont Club)

2004-12-14

Regime to Execute Mentally Handicapped Rape Victim

The islamist entity is preparing to sacrifice another life in Iran. Nineteen-year-old Leyla has been sentenced to death for "acts incompatible with chastity" by the Iranian regime. According to the Amnesty International news release:
Leyla M was reportedly sentenced to death on charges of "acts contrary to chastity" by controlling a brothel, having intercourse with blood relatives and giving birth to an illegitimate child. She is to be flogged before she is executed. She had apparently "confessed" to the charges. Earlier reports stated that there would be an appeal, and the 28 November report indicates that this process is now at an end.

Social workers have reportedly tested her mental capacities repeatedly and each time have found Leyla to have a mental age of eight. However, she has apparently never been examined by the court-appointed doctors, and was sentenced to death solely on the basis of her explicit confessions, without consideration of her background or mental health.

Leyla was forced into prostitution by her mother when she was eight years old, according to the 28 November report, and was raped repeatedly thereafter. She gave birth to her first child when she was nine, and was sentenced to 100 lashes for prostitution at around the same time. At the age of 12, her family sold her to an Afghan man to become his "temporary wife". His mother became her new pimp, "selling her body without her consent".

At the age of 14 she became pregnant again, and received a further 100 lashes, after which she was moved to a maternity ward to give birth to twins. After this "temporary marriage", her family sold her again, to a 55-year-old man, married with two children, who had Leyla’s customers come to his house.

Amnesty Statement on Leila (Free Iran)

SIGN THE PETITION:
To: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Leila, a 19 year old woman, faces imminent execution in Iran. What childhood she has had has been marred with physical and sexual abuse from the age of 8, giving birth to her first child at the age of 9. Having become a concubine to an Afghan man at the age of 12, Leila was forced into prostitution by him until the age of 14 when she gave birth to twin daughters. Leila was then given to a 55 year old married man who continued her history of abuse until her arrest at the age of 18, when she was found guilty of prostitution. Prostitution carries the death penalty under the Islamic laws of Iran.

We, the undersigned, appeal for your involvement on Leila's behalf based on principals of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html), to which Iran is a signatory.

Petition to Save Leila

Donna M. Hughes: The Mullahs' Killing Fields

'On the occasion of International Human Rights Day (Friday, December 10), the torture and execution of political prisoners in Iran was the focus of a briefing in New York hosted by the non-governmental organization Women’s Freedom Forum. The treatment of women, especially women political activists, was featured.

The walls of the room were lined with documentary posters with names and photographs of men, women, and children who had been killed by the mullahs in Iran. A number of the photographs were family groups – mother, father, and two, three, four, five, even six children ‑ that had been killed by the Iranian regime for their political activism.

The program included videos and photographs of trials, lashings and executions over the past 25 years. Some images were from the early days of the revolution, some from the late 1980s, and one photograph showing the hanging of a group of seven men in Zahedan just three days before the event on December 7, 2004.

The victims are hoisted into the air by a crane in a public place in order to terrorize the population and suppress further resistance to the regime. Another Iranian-American pro-democracy non-governmental organization ‑The Committee in Support of Referendum in Iran‑sends out news clippings on a regular basis that document the executions of men, women, and sometimes children, as the Iranian regime executes minors. There are often two or three pages of listings of sentences and executions. Their most recent report for November 2004 listed 15 executions or sentences for execution. A number of them are punishment for political activity against the regime inside and outside Iran. ... '

Read the whole article at the Free Iran message board:
The Mullahs' Killing Fields (Free Iran)

Morning Report: December 14, 2004

Egypt / Israel free trade accord signed in Cairo. An Israeli - Egyptian free trade agreement was signed in Cairo, reports a Debka bulletin: 'Israeli-Egyptian trade agreement signed in Cairo for jointly produced goods made in three Egyptian industrials zones to gain duty-free access to US market. The Qualified Industrial Zones similar to Israel-Jordanian projects will be located in Greater Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said industrial zone. Agreement under umbrella of US-Israel free trade accord was signed by Israeli industry minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian minister Rachid Mohammed Rachid and US Trade representative Robert Zoellick. Israeli delegation welcomed by Mubarek.' (Debka)

Saddam regime trials set to begin. According to the BBC, 'Leaders in Saddam Hussein's regime will go on trial for crimes against humanity and war crimes as early as next week, Iraq's interim premier says. Iyad Allawi said that the "symbols" of the former regime would be tried "one by one" but gave few details. There was no indication when Saddam Hussein himself would face trial.' (BBC)

Hezbollah loses French airwaves. And speaking of the BBC, Democracy for the Middle East credits that august organization with the news that 'France has kicked Hezbollah TV off the air for broadcasting judeophobic content.' (BBC via DFME)





2004-12-13

New at "Pacific Memories"

As we begin Chapter 2, the crew of the USS Monroe gets its first tantalizing glimpse of New Zealand - and encounters an unexpected visitor. Our narrator comes to respect the New Zealanders' understated appreciation for American GI's - and finds himself facing some excitement in Auckland. Read the whole story at Pacific Memories.

My father did not live to see the attacks of September 11, but the sentiments he expressed in a poem written in the late Cold War years feel familiar. I like to think his imaginative "Instructions for Using the Survival Equipment" would not be out of place in today's world. Read it at Urban Renewal.

Also newly posted: more of my sister's poetry at Wilderness Vision. Read; enjoy; reflect.

Giant Leaps

Omar and Mohammed Fadhil continued their US tour with a visit to Roger L. Simon. Roger Simon blogs about the event:
I think I can I could speak for the others present when I say both brothers exuded a unique combination of calm, warmth and intelligence. They are also deep lovers of freedom in a way it is difficult to be for those of us who grow up with it. If many Iraqis are like these two young Baghdad dentists, I am quite anxious to go to Iraq.

I was relieved by what they were like on a deeper level as well. They don't know this, but on the darkest days of the war, at the times the media were at their gloomiest and I was racked with guilt that I had so adamantly supported our actions, I almost always turned first to them. I didn't look to them for unbiased opinions. There is no such thing. I looked to them to see how real Iraqis were reacting to a situation that affected them more directly than it could ever affect me or the prognosticators of doom in our media. They were the ones who bucked me up-not the other way around, as it should be. In a certain sense they helped my sanity. And I suspect I am not alone in that.


Roger speaks my own thoughts here. The three brothers who bring us Iraq the Model - Omar, Mohammed, and Ali Fadhil - have been a crucial voice and a real light in the dark for those of us who have been involved with the situation in Iraq. They are also an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.

Ali, for reasons as yet undisclosed, was unable to join Mohammed and Omar and is staying home in Baghdad for the time being. I imagine he must feel a bit like Michael Collins, orbiting the moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left footprints, planted flags, and hit golf balls ... oh, wait, the golf balls came later. Well, you get the idea.

But I'm wrong there, of course, because Iraq is where it's all happening. Iraq is what it's all about. And yes, it's still dangerous and lives are still being lost; but changes for the better are happening at an amazing pace.

Think how far we've come in a year. A year - yes, you do remember what happened a year ago, don't you?

That's right - December 14 marks the anniversary of the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Rejoice.

Let's blogroll!

Atlas shrugs. 'Three months ago [in DR Congo], militiamen burned 17 people to death while a detachment of MONUC troops 200 metres away, whose mandate authorised them to use force to prevent such massacres, did nothing.' Thus reports an article in The Economist, cited by Wretchard in his December 4 post at the Belmont Club. With war and bloodshed raging in central Africa, what does the mighty United Nations do? Why, it tackles Problem Number Four.

And don't miss Belmont Club's recent posts for more on Kofi Annan and the UN, Europe's future, and the British government's intriguing concept of "active passivity".

A strong week. As Dreams Into Lightning belatedly acknowledges Hanukkah (what can I say? I've been busy), Dave Koppel posting on Slate gives us the run-down on Armed Jews Week. (Oh, and happy Hanukkah to you, too, Pat Buchanan.) Judith at Kesher Talk is inspired by her Apocryphal namesake; she offers Hanukkah links here, here, and ... oh heck, just go read the blog.

Muslims and Christians in Egypt. Big Pharaoh has the latest word on the case of Wafaa Constantine, an Egyptian Christian woman who reportedly expressed a desire to convert to Islam. GM explores the relationships between Christians and Muslims in Egypt, asking "What will save Egypt?" and examining a story with many stories.

V is for Values. Sherri (alias Evil Conservative) offers guidance and inspiration based on the acronym "VICTORY". It begins at this post. Don't forget to visit the latest posts at Straight Up With Sherri - scroll down for a very moving tribute to her grandmother.

Is "looking Jewish" a crime? Well, not exactly, but if something bad happens to you, just remember it's all Israel's fault. Michael J. Totten tells us what he thinks of that sick and twisted mentality.

Ampersand hits the Washington Post and this sudden fame has put him in a generous mood: the entire Hereville archive is free this week. Go read the interview with Ampersand (aka Barry Deutsch) at Alas, a Blog (December 12 post). Don't miss the adventures of a nice Jewish girl as she wrestles with problems of theodicy, knitting, and dragon-slaying at Hereville. Also be sure to explore "Alas" for thoughts on one of the most insidious prejudices of our time.

Morning Report: December 13, 2004

Karzai: bin Laden in region, will be caught. Afghan President Hamid Karzai says that Osama bin Laden is "definitely" in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, and that he will be caught. In a CNN interview Sunday, Karzai also responded to questions about Afghanistan's ongoing opium production problem, and to allegations of misconduct by US troops. (CNN)

Bomb/shooting attack on border post at Rafah. A bombing and shooting attack from a secret, half-mile-long tunnel injured 11 Israeli soldiers at the Rafah post on the Israel/Egypt border. Debka reports that the attack is designed to thwart the candidacy or Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian/Israeli cooperation, and the disengagement plans of President Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. While the Israeli authorities had ample warning that an attack on the post was likely, the report adds, Israel re-opened the post under intense pressure. More importantly, 'Sunday night, all the Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip proved they could work together under a single commander. DEBKAfile’s military sources name him as 62-year old Khan Younes-based Palestinian brigadier general Saib Ajez, a veteran officer of the moribund commando-trained Palestinian Liberation Army and the best tactical brain the Palestinians have. He has 20,000 men under arms at his disposal. The rank and file are members of the Palestinian General Security Service, but their disciplined hard core is made up of Fatah, Hamas and Jihad Islami units in Rafah, Deir el Balah and Khan Younes. This unified force Ajez deployed last May to repulse the IDF’s first offensive against the smuggling tunnels of Rafah.'

Martial law remembered. At the time, it looked like the beginning of the end; in retrospect, it was the end of the beginning. Arthur Chrenkoff remembers martial law in his native Poland, which was imposed 20 years ago in reaction to the Solidarity movement: 'No, there were only two real possibilities: either we (the opposition, the overwhelming majority of the nation) did them (the communists) in, or they did us in. At midday, when the radio stations stopped playing somber classical music and the vision came back on TV screens, we knew it had been the latter. General Jaruzelski, stiffened by his orthopedic corset, his eyes hidden behind large dark sunglasses (a legacy of a Siberian internment by the Soviets, when strong sunlight reflecting off snow damaged his eyesight), faced the nation and read a proclamation declaring martial law. The army has taken over the government to suppress the opposition and save Poland from inevitable bloodshed. What freedoms there still existed under our communist government were suppressed; curfews imposed, freedom of movement within the country restricted. "Solidarity", the movement of some 10 million members (out of the population of 36 million) was cleanly decapitated just after midnight on Sunday morning, when the security forces swept in and arrested almost all of the trade union's leaders attending a national congress in Gdansk.' Read the whole post for Chrenkoff's reflections on that Sunday morning twenty years ago, as witnessed by a nine-and-a-half-year-old boy in Krakow.

2004-12-10

New Posts

Chapter 1 of "Pacific Memories" is now complete. The Monroe has crossed the equator, its men duly inducted into the Order of King Neptune. A cook's unsettling habits are grublingly tolerated. The ship arrives safely in New Zealand, and my father describes the mood as the men look out from the lighted deck, to the strains of "Anacreon In Heaven." Read the story at Pacific Memories.

New poetry at Wilderness Vision. Like most of my sister's best poetry, these pieces were written during her late teen years, around 1978 - 1982. I don't have exact dates for her works at the moment, but I will post them as soon as I find them.

Fadhil Brothers Meet President Bush!

The Fadhil brothers of Iraq The Model have met with President Bush, according to this report at American Faith. (Hat tip: Little Green Footballs.)
Now here’s the best part: today, without prior notice, Omar and Mohammed went to the Oval Office and met with President Bush! They said that the meeting lasted about a half hour, and the President was very interested in hearing the thoughts and opinions of Iraqi citizens first hand. He wasn’t aware until then of the good things that Spirit Of America has been doing over there to help the Iraqi people and assist in their obtaining democracy. Omar joked that he got to meet POTUS and they didn’t even search his pockets beforehand.

This is very exciting news! I've been following Omar, Ali, and Mohammed at ITM for a year now; their meeting with the Chief is a well-earned honor. I hope the exchange was inspiring and informative to all parties.

Morning Report: December 10, 2004

Sharon wins Knesset majority, new coalition. According to the latest bulletin from Debka: 'Sharon is now set to build a new government coalition with Knesset majority. After fierce contest, Israel’s ruling Likud voted Thursday 62% - 38% to grant Sharon a mandate for boosting his minority cabinet by co-opting Labor and ultra-religious parties. Dispute in Labor between two former prime ministers, chairman Peres and challenger Barak, has also been settled with an agreement to hold leadership primaries on June 29. This argument threatened to hold Labor back from joining the Sharon government.' (Debka)

White House warns IRI on Iraq interference. The Bush administration cautioned the Iran regime against attempting to destabilize Iraq, according to this AP item: 'Bush talked about Iran in meetings Monday with Jordan's King Abdullah II and Ghazi al-Yawer, the interim Iraqi president, both Sunni Muslims. Iran and Syria joined other nations at an international conference on Iraq last month at the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in pledging to contribute to Iraq's stability and to prevent terrorists from coming into Iraq, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. The communique also called on all parties to tighten border controls. "We expect them to abide by that commitment," McClellan said. "Iraq has talked to Iran about these issues," the spokesman said. "We've made our views very clear to Iran, as well as others, and we continue to call on Iran to act in a responsible way and be helpful as the Iraqi people move forward on building a brighter future." (AP via Free Iran)

Most Germans see Israelis as Nazis, poll says. Jerusalem Post: 'Six decades after the mass extermination of six million Jews in the Holocaust by Nazi Germany, more than 50 percent of Germans believe that Israel's present-day treatment of the Palestinians is similar to what the Nazis did to the Jews during World War II, a German survey released this weekend shows. 51 percent of respondents said that there is not much of a difference between what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today and what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust, compared to 49% who disagreed with such a comparison, according to the poll carried out by Germany's University of Bielefeld. The survey also found that 68 percent of Germans believe that Israel is waging a "war of extermination" against the Palestinians, while some 32% disagreed with such a statement.' (Jerusalem Post via Roger L. Simon)

Japan adopts new defense doctrine. Japan has officially adopted a new defense doctrine which recognizes China and North Korea as threats. The policy change also eases restrictions on certain weapons. Details available from Stratfor. (Strategic Forecasting)

Update

Well, I'm all recovered from finals; regular posting to resume forthwith (or at least fifthwith).

2004-12-04

New at "Pacific Memories"

In which my father decides not to write about flying fish.
The troops' mess was a melancholy affair. When the ship rolled, which it did about every eight or ten seconds, any semi-liquid food in the serving kettles, such as stewed tomatoes, would splash over and drift around on the floor. Likewise, trays, like boats broken loose from their moorings, would slide about on the long tables until reaching the end. Then, usually with half-eaten dinners, they would crash to the floor. I really sympathized with the harrassed K.P.'s on that trip. They could not keep the floor clean so long as chow was being served, and the floor was strewn with food, som that had not been eaten, some that already had. Movement over this floor in the conventional way, i.e., erectly and with sure steps, was dismally difficult. The place was in that desperate sort of confusion you might see in a Laurel and Hardy picture or hear depicted in Dukas's "The Sourcerer's Apprentice."

For me, there was always fascination in watching the ocean. I think it was not so much in the varying waves and hues as in the expectation of seeing something different, some abrupt change in the seascape - an unscheduled appearance of land, for instance. I enjoyed the Pacific most when it was the rich, wonderful, almost unbelievable blue which it was so often when I saw it. There seemed to be a total absence of greenness in it - just pure blue.

When we got into warmer waters we began seeing flying fish. They are pretty little things which shoot up out of the water and glide for a remarkable distance. They are an iridescent greenish-blue, and remind one of swallows as they skim over the water. I got a sort of poetical feeling, and thought I ought to do something about it, but after remembering that Kipling had written some rather famous lines about flying fish, I decided that anything I wrote about them might seem trite or superfluous, even if I was nowhere near Mandalay at the time. So I stifled the impulse. The next occasion I had to write verse on a ship was one night on the President Coolidge on the way from Auckland to Suva. On that occasion, the subject happened to be phosphorescence in the water. I shall leave it to someone else to decide whether phosphorescence is as worthy a subject of a poem as are flying fishes, as Kipling calls them.

Read the whole post at my father's warblog, Pacific Memories, along with all the gritty details of life aboard the U.S.S. President Monroe in 1942. His anthology of soldiers' poetry is also posted there.

I've also posted his reminiscence of his mother (Edith Cavannaugh McLintock, a singer originally from Savannah, Georgia) at Urban Renewal, where I'm collecting his poetry and other writing.

Class Essay

Edited from a paper I wrote for an undergraduate class. The book 'Uprooting Racism' by Paul Kivel was one of the principal texts.

Political Correctness

On page 60 of Uprooting Racism, Paul Kivel alleges that the phrase “politically correct” is a racially coded phrase, and therefore should be avoided. I believe that political fashion, or “correctness”, can indeed be wrongly adduced to rationalize the use of derogatory language; but it does not follow that “political correctness” – in the sense of intellectually and morally stultifying liberal dogma – does not exist, or that it is not a problem. It does, and it is.

...

[The full text of this post can now be found at my Portfolio under Reflections on Paul Kivel.]

Department of Wayward Relatives

I don't know whether I'm related to this fellow.

I'm not sure I want to know.


Woo hoo

I've added BlogRolling to my sidebar. Yup, Dreams Into Lightning is gettin' all high-tech and stuff ...

2004-12-03

Update

Posting will be light through Tuesday as I gear up for finals. Readers are invited to explore the links on my sidebar, which I update frequently.

"Democracy for the Middle East"

A recent addition to my blogroll is the site Democracy for the Middle East, which promotes just that. It's also a great resource for information on neoconservative thought, and has some great articles and links on Leo Strauss. DFME also has an introduction to Leo Strauss here.

One of the main points brought up by DFME (and by Strauss) is that the United States and Europe have fundamentally different interpretations of liberalism; and in an interesting parallel, the US and Israel have different interpretations of Zionism.

A recent post quoting Rabbi Shmuley Boteach contains the following remarkable statement:
In Israel, one can sense and feel God's holy presence. Thanks largely to evangelical Christians, the same is true today of the United States.

Many religious Jews would consider such a comparison heretical, but not Rabbi Boteach. It is this same reconciliation of the particularizing and universalizing trends in Judaism (and, even more so, in Zionism) that appears to have informed Strauss's political philosophy.

From what I have read of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, I believe Rav Kook's outlook was similar. One of my most important teachers, Rabbi Baruch Melman, expressed a similar idea when he expounded on the symbolism of Sinai and Jerusalem, which represent the universalistic and particularistic aspects of the Jewish worldview. Once the semester ends (finals are next week) I hope to get some serious reading done and post some more on the subject.

As I've argued previously on Dreams Into Lightning, I think one reason the old order finds Judaism (and in particular its political expression, Zionism) so threatening is that, properly understood, it calls for a renunciation of the aggressor/victim paradigm. It calls on us to transcend a basic aspect of human nature - our elemental response to a sense of grievance - and insists that we place the ideal of justice ahead of simple retribution. It asks us to participate in the moral struggle and deal with the challenges of power and freedom. This is the challenge before us - it is our "great work".

Meanwhile, go read Democracy for the Middle East.

2004-12-02

Morning Report: December 2, 2004

NCRI: Iran working on missiles that could hit Europe. A breaking story from CNN states that 'The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which has in the past given accurate information on some of Iran's nuclear facilities, said Tehran was working on missiles with a range of 1,600 to 1,900 miles, capable of hitting cities such as Berlin.' In a related development, NCRI has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to 'set aside political and economic considerations and refer the clerical regime's nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council. It should not allow the religious dictatorship ruling Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and threaten peace and security in the region and the world.' (CNN via Netscape, NCRI)

Najaf security handed over to Iraqi forces. Col. Anthony Haslem, the commander of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit has handed over responsibility for the security of Najaf province to Iraqi forces. The likely goal of the move is to free up US forces for missions elsewhere; its success will depend on the loyalty of the Iraqi forces now taking over. Details available from Stratfor. Meanwhile, MSNBC reports that 'The United States is expanding its military force in Iraq to 150,000, the highest level of the war, to bolster security in advance of national elections in January', an increase of 12,000 troops. Much of the manpower will come from extensions of duty for about 10,000 troops now serving in Iraq. (Strategic Forecasting, MSNBC)

Israel's Labor Party supports Sharon on disengagement. Labor Party Chief Shimon Peres expects an overture next week from Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's Likud government, seeking Labor's support on a plan to pull out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank. ' think the year must be devoted not for politics but for policies, mainly to implement the disengagement, the withdrawal from Gaza, and the dismantling of the settlements in Gaza and in the northern part of Samaria [the northern West Bank],' Peres was quoted as saying in this CNN story. The prospect of a national-unity coalition will be considered in the coming week. Debka reports that 'Labor leader Peres is agreeable but faces opposition in his party' and predicts that 'bringing opposition Labor aboard is Sharon's only chance of fending off dissolution and an early election'. Debka has traditionally opposed Sharon's disengagement plan. For an earlier Dreams Into Lightning post on the topic, see Disengagement: The Messy Divorce, which provides a number of relevant links. (CNN, Debka)

Sharon agrees in principle to meeting with Assad. Israel's Prime Minister also said he would consider a meeting with Syrian president Bashar Assad "in certain circumstances". 'Talking to newspaper editors in Tel Aviv, he noted that talks demand much secret preparation like the work that led up to Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem. If Syria is serious, it will find Israel is serious too,' Debka reported, adding that Sharon had stressed (again) the importance of disengagement. (Debka)

Hugo Chavez wins an award. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuala was in Libya last week to receive the coveted "Qaddafi Award for Human Rights", according to a recent bulletin at MEMRI. The prize carries an honorarium of $250,000. Readers should follow Michael J. Totten for impressions of Michael's recent visit to Libya. (MEMRI, Michael J. Totten)

Annan urged to resign. Senator Norm Coleman (R - Minnesota), the US Senator leading the inquiry into the United Nations oil-for-fraud scam, has called for the resignation of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, according to reports like this UPI wire. Roger L. Simon says it's about time. (UPI via Washington Times, Roger L. Simon)