Let's blogroll!

SPECIAL EDITION: The Portland Mukhabarat

It's worth mentioning Auntie Cracker again. "Everyone should vote!" Errr, no. If you don't care, if you're not informed on the issues, then don't vote. So says Auntie Cracker, and I agree.

No on Amendment 36 to the Oregon Constitution! Join ampersand, bean, and friends at Alas, A Blog in defending the right of lesbian and gay couples to marry. Also some positive comments about Log Cabin Republicans, lots of feminist stuff, and a fabulous cartoon called Hereville.

For the political omnivore, a group blog called Blog Junky has your fix.

Sure, you knew Lyndon LaRouche was insane. But do you really appreciate the full depth, breadth, and scope of his madness? Or what lavender can do for a seven-year-old girl's room? What do Christopher Hitchens and Victor Davis Hanson have in common? For the answers to those and other questions, you must visit Jason Holliston.

Hat tip for Alas, Blog Junky, and Jason Holliston: Michael J. Totten.

Walter, we love you. Now shut up.

What has happened to Walter Cronkite's brain? The newscaster we all grew up on seems to have jumped the proverbial shark. Ocean Guy, from his vantage point on A1A, wonders if Walt has lost his mind. Portlander Auntie Cracker thinks the time has come for Cronkite to be kept quiet. (I left a comment with Auntie, too.)

And while you're checking out Auntie's current posts, follow her link to "Jayhorn". It's disturbing. Trust me on this one.

Michael J. Totten returns ...

... to his homepage after helping to hold down the fort at Instapundit. If you scroll down on his current screen, you'll find his impressions from his stint in the upper realms of the blognoscenti, plus his sailing trip up north to Washington, and observations on the experiences of those annoying "liberals for Bush" like Christopher Hitchens and Marc (Armed Liberal) Danziger. MJT - who also wants you to know that he still reads Andrew Sullivan - speaks succinctly for many of us when he says, "despite the fact that I’ve been pushed toward to the right, I haven’t joined the right." Go read his blog.

UPDATE: Don't miss the new guest post by Danziger, The Struggle of Ideas.


Remembering the 49

Kat at The Middle Ground writes that the cold-blooded massacre of Iraqi recruits should become a rallying-point for Iraqis. Will it?
.... What feels wrong from this side of the ocean is what appears to be a missing Iraqi national will or concensus about who they are, what they are fighting for and who it is all for. Seems like every group has their own agenda and can't see to the first agenda, the national agenda.
Patriots and Soldiers

Big Pharaoh takes a moment to fadfad - Egyptian Arabic for getting something off your chest - about the terrorists' tiresome search for new tricks:
The Wahabi/Salafi animals in Iraq showed us today a new way to display the different kinds of demons they have inside. They kidnapped over 50 young police recruits on their way from training and ordered them to lie down on the ground. They neatly organized their preys in rows of 12 and made them put their hands behind their heads. The animals then stood in front of each victim and placed a single bullet in his head.

That was a new show by the Wahabi/Salafi animals in Iraq. First they shocked the world by broadcasting their videos that showed Nicholas Berg being slaughtered. Today, these "slaughtering videos" are not blockbusters anymore, we got used to them. The Wahabi/Salafi animals like to innovate, they are creative people. Today they showed us a new thing. Organize young police recruits in rows of 12 then place a single bullet in their heads. How neat.

Seeing the massacre as a call to action, Alaa at The Mesopotamian provides a link to World Inquiry, which is organizing a multi-pronged campaign to support Iraqi freedom. WI's program includes collecting letters of support for Iraqi security forces:
My new partner in crime, Michelle, will be co-author of a plan to spread peace of mind in Iraq. Since my initial project, I have been contacted by all four representatives in the US congress from my state, and we have been offered assistance from one whom I am voting for this term to ensure this project's success.

This time, our sights are set much higher. We plan to send letters to the Iraqi Police and Civil Defense Forces in Fallujah, Najaf, Samarra, and Baghdad. 40 letters to one city, however impressive on the first go-around, will not cut it this time. We need you, the reader to petition your congressmen and women to write letters to these brave souls who wake up every morning without knowing whether or not they will have to die for their country to secure it, and whether or not they will succeed. We need letters from you, we need letters from your grandmother, we need letters from everyone we possibly can get from all walks of life and all political leanings.
World Inquiry project
The Mesopotamian

World Inquiry is also promoting an ambitious project to translate Federalist 10 into Arabic and distribute it in Iraq and the Arab world.

I'd like to write more about Big Pharaoh's post. It reminds me of an earlier post by Zeyad at Healing Iraq, which I'll try to track down soon. Unfortunately I don't have time to post more this morning; got to get ready for class.

Rabin Remembered

Reflections on Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995)

Israelis recently marked the ninth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist named Yigal Amir.

Alison Kaplan Sommer writes:
Mommy, Yitzhak Rabin was killed in Tel Aviv, right? By a bad guy with a gun named Yigal Amir. And he was Jewish, too. Mommy, tell me again, why did the bad guy kill Yitzhak Rabin?”

It’s that time of year again.

As November rolls around, the questions begin flying thick and fast from my son Eitan — questions about Rabin’s assassination, exactly how he was killed, where he was killed, who killed him, and the hardest question to answer — why?

Eitan is seven years old — he was born in September 1996, 10 months after Rabin’s assassination in November 1995. He never lived at the same time as Rabin.

Yet — with all the ceremonies, memorial rallies, and class lessons about his life, through the ever-growing number of schools, parks, roads, and buildings named after him — Yitzhak Rabin is vivid and real and familiar to my son — much more so than today’s politicians.

Eitan can regale you with stories about Rabin’s childhood, where he went to school, his army career. But mainly, he can tell you the details of the assassination — the date it happened, the location — how Rabin was approached, how many shots were fired. He knows that the man who killed him was named Yigal Amir, and that he was Israeli and Jewish. He knows that Amir was angry at Rabin for signing a peace agreement with the Arabs. He knows that Amir is in jail and will never get out. And yet, every year, he wants to know more.

All of this feels eerily familiar. I was born in September 1964, 10 months after the assassination of John F. Kennedy — an event now being marked with 40th anniversary commemorations. At Eitan’s age, I, too, could rattle off stories of the Kennedy clan, recount the drama of Oswald and Ruby, describe where the grassy knoll was located and the color of the suit Jackie Kennedy was wearing that was splashed with her husband’s blood. ...
- An Unsealed Room: Rabin

Sharon's Gaza Plan Moves Ahead

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon scored a major political victory on October 26, with the Knesset's passage (by 67 votes to 45) of his controversial Gaza withdrawal plan. An earlier post on the subject can be found here: Disengagement.

I haven't blogged a lot on Israel/Palestine issues, mostly because Iraq and Iran have been occupying the geopolitical center stage at Dreams Into Lightning. Also, I don't believe the Palestinian/Israeli issue will be resolved in Jerusalem or Ramallah, because the problem really lies in Tehran, Damascus, and Cairo. As long as these foreign regimes are in power, they will do everything they can to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians impossible.

Also, my opinions on Palestine and Israel are not quite as clear-cut as they are on Iran and Iraq. But I feel I can say a few things with confidence, so I'll say them here.

I think President Bush is on the right track. People who see Sharon and Bush as being ideological twins, and those who see Sharon as Bush's "lapdog" (or, depending on how anti-Semitic they are, who see Bush as Sharon's lapdog), simply don't know what they are talking about. Sharon is traditionally a hardliner, and he has come toward an accommodation with the Palestinians after a long, hard struggle. President Bush - the first US President to explicitly call for the recognition of a Palestinian state - has also been leaning very hard on Sharon to plan for a withdrawal from Gaza, and to evacuate unauthorized Jewish settlements.

Both Sharon and Bush have been facing stiff opposition from hardliners on the Right. By pursuing his disengagement plan, Ariel Sharon is risking his political career - and, as the ninth anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination reminds us, perhaps more than that. Sharon cannot act without his government's consent, which often has not been forthcoming. President Bush, too, faces opposition from conservatives who accuse him of being "soft on the Palestinians".

Bush isn't going to get everything he wants from Sharon, and Sharon isn't going to get everything he wants from his government. There are no lapdogs in this picture - just a collectioin of factions with different goals and occasionally overlapping interests.

The folks at Debka have made no secret of their opposition to Gaza withdrawal and settlement evacuation. Now I don't claim to be a Mideast expert and I don't have to worry about Qassam missiles hitting Oregon, but I do understand the Israelis' concerns about a militarized Palestinian state in either the West Bank or Gaza.

Still, Israel can only be Israel. The goal of statehood - and I mean Israeli statehood - must be to secure borders: In here, it is our land; out there, it is your land. Any Palestinian-Israeli agreement must work concretely toward that end.

Danny at The Head Heeb offers some helpful comments. I'll quote the central paragraph of his reflection on Rabin:
On Rabin’s Jahrzeit, one talks a lot of “Rabin’s legacy” which usually means the Oslo agreements. How do those agreements look from retrospect? Overall the outcome cannot be positive. It was a bold gamble, and it was largely unsuccessful. The agreements attempted to reverse drastically the way in which Israel, and beforehand the Zionist movement, approached the Arabs since the 1920s; reverse the logic of Jabotinsky’s “Iron Wall”, which though serving Israel well in the past, was now proving harmful. This change has been very hard to implement. It turns out that certain elements of “Iron Wall” thinking has remained sound; as I mentioned above, the jury is still out about whether ‘land-for-peace’ is a workable formula (the jury should always be out on this issue as long as Israel is in the OT. What else is there?). What Oslo did make clear is that the “Iron Wall” which controlled the lives of millions of Palestinians, could simply not be maintained (indeed another way of looking at Oslo is as an acknowledgement of defeat in the first Intifada posing as a peace agreement – it was a shame that it relied on Arafat). The moderate Right has also come around to this point of view, which is why Sharon is promoting disengagement.

Go read the whole post at The Head Heeb: Rabin's Legacy.

Belmont Club: What Arafat Forgot

'Palestine was cursed by the example of Algeria, which after evicting the French, could spend the next three decades cleansing itself of the poisons of terrorism. Arafat forgot that the Jews, unlike the French in Algeria, were as much a part of region as themselves. In place of protracted war, which at all events ends, Arafat embarked upon an eternal war with the eternal Jew. He would enter Algeria's tunnel of terror with no light at the end of it.

The Intifada may have hurt Israel, but it consumed Palestine...'

Read Wretchard's full post "The Noonday Train" at Belmont Club.

Blackfive on Kerry's KLA Ties

The Kosovo Liberation Army worked closely with the Clinton Administration - and at the time, Blackfive says, "that was not unusual or illegal. But now some things may have changed with the KLA, like forming ties to Al Qaeda."

Read the whole story at the link.


The New Republican: Ipse Dixit

The liberal magazine The New Republic has come up with a new reason for voting against Bush: he's not a good conservative.

Well, any port in a storm. Of course, it's not a new observation either. Back in August, a liberal friend e-mailed me an article from the New York Press by William Bryk, titled The Conservative Case Against Bush.

Now The New Republic takes its turn (October 25, 2004 print issue: "Conscientious Objector" by Michael A. George, p. 20.) The tactic is a pretty familiar one: "See, one of THEM doesn't like him either." You give your case more impact (the thinking goes) by bringing out a real live one of whatever group it is you're targeting. If you want to attack Israel, you bring out a real live Jew to condemn the Jewish state (a ploy that too many real live Jews are willing to go along with). And if you want to attack Bush, what better way than to produce a real live conservative who will come out and say ... what?

He'll say that Bush is no conservative.

Well, hell, I coulda told you that.

The New Republic could have told you that, too, and in fact they did. Back in March of 2003, TNR published a magnificent issue on the topic of "Liberalism and American Power" (March 3), which included Lawrence F. Kaplan's piece on p. 21, titled "Bush, closet liberal." Now Robert George discovers that "initiating a war to 'liberate' an entire region far from our shores can hardly be called a conservative cause." (Mr. George might want to review Leon Wieseltier's helpful guide to political debate in the November 1 TNR, where Wieseltier explains, "you do not refute a proposition by putting inverted commas around it." But I digress.)

The conservative case against Bush is fair enough (if a bit familiar, by now, to anyone who's actually been awake for the last couple of years): he's certainly no fiscal conservative; the Patriot Act scarcely qualifies as "small government"; and, oh yes, conservatives don't launch wars of liberation (or "liberation" if you prefer). Well, for the sake of argument, let us agree that Bush stands guilty as charged.

So what does this real live, real conservative do, now that he's realized he cannot vote for Bush? He doesn't say whether he's voting for Kerry, or staying home. "Of course," he adds, "a conservative can still cast a libertarian vote on principle."

This business of voting "on principle" is a fine bit of chutzpah from the magazine that rails, yet again, against the "irresponsible" Ralph Nader on p. 12 of the very same issue (Ryan Lizza, "Sole Influence"). The Nader article is unitntentionally revealing: Lizza writes that "From Moveon.org to the Howard Dean campaign to the liberal blogosphere to Air America radio to new think tanks sprouting up around Washington, D.C., an entire network of exactly the kind of activists that Nader has long praised is suddenly being born. Their singular goal is to defeat Bush." Exactly: they lack a coherent vision, unifying principles, or any positive ideology; their singular goal is "to defeat Bush."

President Bush has succeeded in retaining as much popular support as he has - despite some highly controversial decisions - precisely because he appeals to a wide variety of Americans: traditional conservatives, neoconservatives, centrists, and even liberals. Bush's supporters may differ on a host of less important issues, but they are united, both in principle and in practice, on the things that matter most. His opponents are united only in the fact of their opposition to Bush; so it is inevitable that the single uniting symbol for them is their presidential candidate: that perfect vacuum of a man known as John Kerry.

Iranian Unrest; Regime Bases

A news release on Free Iran reported on the IRI's outposts in western Iran:

'Baghdad, Oct. 8 – Crack troops of the Qods Force (Jerusalem Force), the extraterritorial force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, operating out of their base in the border town of Mehran, have seized Iraqi territories in Zeyn al-Qos, Seif Sa’ad and al-Amarah regions, according to reports from the area.

In recent months, forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have moved their main headquarters from central Iranian provinces to those on the Iran-Iraq border. These include Marivan in the north, Mehran in the center, and Shalamcheh [very close to Khorram Shahr] in the south. Qods Force’s commanders oversee and direct their operations inside Iraq from these border bases.

The principle task of the Qods Force is to spread Iran’s “Islamic revolution” to other parts of the Muslim world. The Qods Force has been particularly active in the Iraqi theater and last April, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei decorated Qods Force Commandant General Qassem Soleimani for his “success in promoting Islamic revolution in Iraq.” News of the decoration was not made public.

Iraqi sources say that Iran has been setting up and financing “Islamic libraries” throughout southern and central Iraq and uses them as a conduit to wage propaganda and recruit young Iraqis.'

On another note, Dreams Into Lightning observes the locations of recent Iranian uprisings reported by dissident news media:

Hamadan (Oct. 21)
Mian-do-Ab, northwest Iran (Oct. 10)
Bushehr, southwest Iran (Oct. 4)
Isfahan, Shahin Shahr, Kashan central Iran (Oct. 1-2); also Bandar Abbas and Nour-Abad
Tehran, Esfahan, Hamadan, Ardebil, Shiraz, Kermanshah, Ahwaz, Falavarjan, Oroomiah (former Rezai-e) and Yazd (Sept. 30 - Oct. 1)

UN Official Says Boycott Would Not Cripple Iraq Elections

UN official Carlos Valenzuela, working in support of Iraq's transitional election, was quoted as saying a boycott of the election by certain parties would "damage but not destroy" the election's credibility, noting that any transitional election is conducted under less-than-ideal conditions. The Association of Muslim Scholars, Iraq's leading Sunni organization, had threatened to boycott the January 2005 elections if US-led forces were to launch a full-scale assault on Fallujah. Iraq's foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari says his government is working toward a resolution of the Fallujah crisis in time for the 2005 elections.

Iran: Regime Hardliners Push Nuke Talks

Hardline factions are struggling to reassert themselves within the Iranian regime. This latest bulletin from Debka suggests that their efforts may succeed in forcing a confrontation between Tehran and Washington:

'Hardline majority in Iranian parliament tables urgent bill to compel government to resume uranium enrichment and prohibit UN snap inspections of nuclear sites. Monday, US national security adviser Rice confirmed likelihood of Iran case going to the world body for sanctions - in address to AIPEC in Florida.'


Afghan Women Lead the Way

Hat tip: Rickvid in Seattle, at the Healing Iraq comments.

Barbara Walters of 20/20 did a story on gender roles in Kabul several years before the Afghan conflict. She noted that women customarily walked about 5 paces behind their husbands.

She returned to Kabul recently and observed that women still walk behind their husbands, but now seem to walk even further back and are happy with the old custom.

Ms. Walters approached one of the Afghani women and asked, "Why do you now seem happy with the old custom that you used to try and change?"

"Land mines," whispered the woman.



A Year of Healing Iraq

This past week marked the first anniversary of the blog Healing Iraq by Zeyad. The first post is dated October 15, 2003 and was posted on October 17. "Healing Iraq" was the first blog to open the window for Westerners on the Iraqi people's yearning for freedom. Zeyad has posted some very important articles on Iraqi history and culture as well. Go check out Healing Iraq.


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Iranian bikers fight back. From Iran Focus, via Blog Iran:
"Tehran, Oct. 19 - Clashes erupted between motorcyclists and Iranian security forces in Yazd (central Iran) following reports of harassment of cyclists by local police.

Police set up patrols in Karkard Square in Yazd yesterday morning and arrested a number of motorcyclists. Ensuing clashes between some 300 cyclists and security forces left a number of people wounded.

Eye-witnesses said that angry cyclists pursued and destroyed several cars belonging to the security forces and also set alight police motorcycle tyres.

At least 15 protesters have been detained. Their fate is presently unknown."


Iran Bulletin: Nemazee Denies Regime Ties - Points Finger at Kerry

Hassan Nemazee, the Iranian-American banker who is one of Senator John Kerry's chief fund-raisers, denied Iran activists' allegations that he is a supporter of the IRI regime. He spoke under oath at a deposition connected with Nemazee's civil lawsuit against Aryo Pirouznia, the leader of Iranian activist group SMCCDI.

But Nemazee went far beyond rejecting Pirouznia's accusations of regime ties. He explicitly repudiated his employer's Iran policy, saying that Tehran should not be trusted with nuclear weapons, that the regime posed a threat to the world, and that "he would be delighted to see regime change in Tehran". Nemazee also criticized Kerry's proposed policy of normalizing ties with the Iran regime.

More details as they become available.

Nemazee drops bombshell, dime on Kerry

Madonna Queries Kabbalah Centre's Finances

I've posted before on pop singer Madonna and her involvement with the Kabbalah Centre run by Rabbi Philip Berg and his sons, and I've suspected all along that the gifted (if politically misguided) entertainer was probably too good for the Kabbalah Centre. My previous posts, spurred by Yossi Klein Halevi's article in The New Republic, examined the star's association with a somewhat dubious institution which is rumored (among other things) to be promoting claims of immortality.

Now, it seems, Madonna is asking some tough questions about the Centre's use of her generous donations.
Madonna has reportedly fallen out with Kabbalah leader Rabbi Berg.

The singer, who is a devout follower of the mystical Jewish faith, is said to be querying how the religion is spending the vast amounts of money she has donated and is demanding a detailed account of how it has been used.

Previous posts:
The Kabbalah
Like a Persian

Madonna, as I've said before, is probably much more intelligent than the media give her credit for. I think her spirituality is genuine too, and for that reason I see her association with the Kabbalah Centre as a step down for her, not a step up. It's sad that she doesn't have access to more authentic spiritual resources. As a woman, she almost certainly faces unconscious prejudice from even well-intentioned male teachers. As a celebrity, she simply doesn't have access to places like my old shul, Congregation Knesseth Israel of San Francisco, which I described here. So she works with what she has - and in this case, perhaps, discovers its limitations.

Whatever the truth about the Kabbalah Centre may be, I hope that Madonna Ciccone will continue her spiritual quest. The traveller should not abandon her journey, even if she finds she has been led astray.

Jewish Liberals for Bush

I previously posted a link to this excellent piece, but I think it's worth presenting here in its entirety. The author prefers to remain anonymous, but it was originally posted by Judith on The Command Post. The writer invokes a famous proverb by Rabbi Hillel (Pirkei Avot 1:14) in explaining her decision to break a lifelong habit of Democratic voting by supporting President Bush in this year's election.

Why This Lifelong Jewish Liberal is Voting Republican

When I pull the lever on November 2nd for George Bush, I will be voting with more passionate conviction than I have ever mustered in a lifetime of voting Democratic.

My motive is simple: I believe the moral imperative of our time is to fully prosecute the War on Terror. As a Jew, I believe this sacred fight embodies the deepest Jewish values, so eloquently expressed by the ancient sage Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Let me explain.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” How do we make sense of the violence engulfing our world since September 11th? We reel from one barbaric slaughter to the next, unable to understand the horrors unfolding in front of our eyes: office workers jumping from burning buildings in New York, school children shot in the back in Russia, families exploding in pizza parlors and busses and seder tables in Israel. What unites these disparate acts of terror? Who is the enemy we face?

The phrase, “War on Terror,” studiously avoids naming our foe. Some have proposed calling this fight the War on Radical Islam or the War on Islamo-Fascism. I suggest the term the War on Islamic Terror for what binds together these acts is a religiously-inspired frenzy to destroy. Fueled by the fiery theology of jihad, or global holy war, the terrorists define every non-Muslim, including women and children, as enemy combatants who must be annihilated. They seek no compromise or negotiation. They seek our death.

We therefore face an existential challenge: Do we have the right to exist? Does our civilization merit continuing? Do we claim our freedom? On the most basic, inescapable level, as Rabbi Hillel asked us 2,000 years ago, are we for ourselves?

If we answer yes, we must answer with our actions. No one will stand with us if we do not stand for ourselves. We must commit to a long, difficult battle that will inevitably encounter agonizing setbacks along the way to victory. This fight will assume many guises as we seek to deter, disarm, and demolish the shifting forces intent on our murder. We will disrupt and weaken free-floating terror groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad. We will depose incorrigible terror masters like Saddam Hussein, who lobbed Scud missiles into Israel, publicly conferred fat checks on the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and invited Abbu Abbas, the murderer of the wheelchair-bound American Jew, Leon Klinghoffer, to live out his days as an honored pensioner in Baghdad. And we will deny nuclear capabilities to the mad mullahs of Iran, whose Defense Minister this week vowed to “crush America” and “wipe Israel off the map.”

The task may be complex, but the morality is straightforward. We believe that both our lives and our way of life are worth preserving. And although we carry the heavy burden of protecting liberty, our steps are lightened by the rewards of meeting Hillel’s second challenge.

But if I am only for myself, what am I?” On October 9th, Afghanistan conducted the first one-person, one-vote democratic election in its history. Out of 10 million eligible Afghanis, an astonishing 9.9 million registered to vote for president, including the former king. 42% of the registered voters are women. Under the Taliban, Afghani women were prisoners in their homes, many literally starving to death. Today Afghani women compete in the Olympics, attend Kabul University, and open craft-based businesses, while their daughters constitute one-third of the 4 million Afghani children enrolled in school. 2,200 child soldiers have been demobilized; platoons of ex-combatants are being trained to build and maintain roads; electrification is spreading throughout the country, and the famous Buddhist statues destroyed by the Taliban are being reconstructed. And in an overwhelming sign of optimism, 3 million Afghani refugees have returned from Pakistan and Iran, eager to rebuild their lives in their newly-freed homeland.

In a country successively tormented by Soviet occupation, civil war, and the Taliban’s brutal theocracy, hope is alive. Democracy is being born. Human dignity is taking root.

These inspiring developments are no accident: They have been purchased with American blood, sweat and treasure, and those of our allies, and they reflect our truest national character. With every illiterate adult taught to read, every young girl heading off to school for the first time, every boy trained to earn a living, we prove our deepest desire is to spread the blessings of freedom.

In Iraq, too, our painfully hard work of implanting democracy is proceeding. (You won’t find full portraits of either country’s progress in The New York Times or on CBS. Read for the bigger picture.) Sovereignty has been passed from the American-led Coalition Authority to the Iraqis, who are now preparing for nation-wide free and democratic elections in January. Meanwhile, on a local level, democracy is springing up through newly-elected town councils. Ahood Aabass, the first woman elected to the new governing council in Basra, reports that under Saddam, children went to schools without windows, doors and toilets, and the local water had worms. Now she praises the “great strides” that have been made in education, human rights, health care and the infrastructure. 20 million Iraqis now enjoy clean water and improved sanitation. Schools have been renovated and reopened. 159,000 new school desks have been distributed, millions of new textbooks have been printed, thousands of children have been vaccinated, and teachers now make between $300 and $500 a month, instead of the $3 they were paid by Saddam. The new Iraq Stock Exchange is now open for business (ISX) and commercial ties are increasing between Iraq, Europe and Japan. A newly-accessible internet is allowing Iraqis to openly exchange ideas, and a free press is flourishing.

A country once brutalized by a sadistic dictator who filled its earth with mass graves, tortured its dissidents, raped its women, and starved its children, is striving mightily to transform into a prosperous democracy. American resolve has let freedom reign.

"If not now, when?” Senator Kerry has decried “the rush to war,” stating that America “has lost its moral authority” because we overthrew Saddam without a sufficient number of allies. 34 countries joined us in our military endeavor there; Senator Kerry preferred to wait until we secured the co-operation of France, which means we would still be waiting today.

If we went to Iraq too early to please Senator Kerry, we are now lingering too long for his taste. Dismayed by the hopeless “quagmire” he perceives, he has declared his intention to bring our troops home as soon as possible, preferably in six months.

Too early, too late: It’s never quite the right time to do battle on Senator Kerry’s calendar. There is always another ally to consult, resolution to be passed, conference to be convened, process to be perfected, obstacle to be avoided.

And yet history has appointed the hour of our challenge, and however much we wish to turn back time, our moment has come. When the World Trade Center was attacked the first time in 1993, we chose to ignore the true seriousness of its implications. But on September 11th, 2001, with the Pentagon in flames, the World Trade Center collapsing, and a hijacked plane speeding towards Congress, we finally began our generation’s rendezvous with destiny.

“You can not escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today,” said President Lincoln at another decisive moment in our nation’s history. The War on Islamic Terror must be waged fully, humanely, and successfully. This monumental battle is both our burden and our privilege, for as Thomas Paine said when our country was born, “If there must be trouble let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”

On November 2nd, I will choose to honor my heritage as a Jew and as an American by voting for George Bush.

Melissa Etheridge update

Melissa Etheridge (yes, she who inspired the title of this blog) is recovering from cancer surgery. She is to begin chemotherapy next; however, her prognosis is very good. Melissa plans to continue recording as well as spending time with her wife Tammy and kids. Please take a moment to leave her a message (requires registration) and visit her homepage.

Let's blogroll!

Big Pharaoh takes on Friedman. Egyptian blogger GM responds to Thomas L. Friedman's column on American's supposed "addiction" to 9/11. Read it here.

The Head Heeb wins the award for "Best Post Title of the Week" for his damning review of "The Passion".

And speaking of movies, screenwriter Roger L. Simon posts his rave review of "Team America" here. Also find out more about the sinister conspiracy between Roger L. Simon and Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs. Look for a fedora and a Hawaiian print shirt ...

FOR what? Michele at A Small Victory has a blistering response to the self-serving idiots of the Iraq Photo Project. This post is an excellent reference for those who might have missed the past year's worth of Iraqi blogs.

Imshin takes a break from the stresses of life in Israel and shares some beautiful photos of her country - which, some claim, does not exist.

Juliette is finding her own country - Southern California - a little less beautiful lately, but is counting her blessings nevertheless. (Hey J, don't forget the next line: "But it pours, oh man it pours.")


The Unfeeling Left

The Unfeeling Left: A Response to E. L. Doctorow

E. L. Doctorow: The Unfeeling President

E. L. Doctorow did not stand atop the still-smoldering grave of nearly 3,000 Americans and address the nation.

The Left ridiculed President Bush for showing emotion at the site of the World Trade Center. How typical. It was the Left, after all, which defended the genocide of Saddam Hussein; which defended the sadistic misogyny of the Taliban; and which continues to worship the false messiah of the United Nations.

Doctorow, secure in his position as a cultured, sophisticated man of letters, decides that he can read the President's mind. Good for him. Doctorow indulges his own righteous eloquence by shedding crocodile tears for my comrades, but remains silent on the hundreds of thousands of people massacred, raped, and tortured under the fascisms of our generation. And this man sets himself up as a voice of conscience?

Right now, even as you and I sit here comfortably looking at our computer screens, the turbaned mafiosi in Tehran are racing to build a nuclear weapon in order to destroy Israel and threaten thousands of Americans and millions of Arabs. Think what it would mean for them to succeed: they want to make Tel Aviv and Jerusalem look like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They will not stop for the United Nations - they've already made that abundantly clear. They will only be stopped by force - the kind of pre-emptive war that Doctorow associates with the Neanderthals.

Right now, Iraq and Afghanistan are preparing to hold democratic elections and are taking the first steps - painful steps, to be sure - toward a future of freedom and prosperity. This is happening because of people like President Bush; and it is happening in spite of people like E. L. Doctorow.

Right now, Iranians are rioting against their fascist regime - almost certainly with covert support from the United States. G-d willing, they will succeed in their goal of overthrowing the ayatollahs and establishing a free and democratic state in their homeland. If our Government chooses to help them in this courageous struggle, it will be in part because they know such a policy will enjoy popular support - in part because of citizen efforts like the Iran Regime Change Petition.

Doctorow is partially right - and only partially - about one thing: "The President we get is the country we get." I am confident that, by November, the American people will see the wisdom of electing the brave and compassionate President Bush, and not the duplicitous, cowardly John Kerry.

But contrary to Doctorow, the President does not single-handedly form our national consciousness. Typical of today's Left is the fantasy that America is a dictatorship; this nonsense can be believed only by people who know nothing of real dictatorships - and who care nothing for those who live under them.

This piece of rubbish perfectly illustrates why I have nothing but contempt for the contemporary Left, and precious little respect for most of today's "intellectuals".

America's Addiction

Addicted to Freedom: A Response to Thomas Friedman.

Thomas Friedman: Addicted to 9/11

Actually, President Bush's supporters include a wide spectrum of people of all ideological persuasions, precisely because President Bush has correctly understood the war on terrorism and on fascism as the central issue of our time.

Many people on both sides of the environmental, social, and economic issues - including those like myself who strongly disagree with the President about many of these things - realize that these political conversations are secondary to the threats facing both America and the free world. In fact, one of the most positive changes I've experienced in the past three years has been the chance to learn about, and better understand, those whose views are different from my own. It's been my observation that many other Americans have had a similar experience. Sad indeed that it took the tragedy of September 11 to bring us to this place; but the fact that it is happening speaks well of both America and its leadership.

A wedge between America and the rest of the world? No. It is a wedge between those who support and defend the sadistic fascism of the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, the Iranian regime, and their ilk; and freedom-loving nations like America, India, Britain, Australia, Israel, and free Iraq. Drive that wedge deep, and drive it with a sledge hammer.

"Bush only seems able to express our anger, not our hopes," Friedman's source claims. But President Bush expressed my own hopes quite eloquently at the Azores summit when he said:

Action to remove the threat from Iraq would also allow the Iraqi people to build a better future for their society. And Iraq's liberation would be the beginning, not the end, of our commitment to its people. We will supply humanitarian relief, bring economic sanctions to a swift close, and work for the long-term recovery of Iraq's economy. We'll make sure that Iraq's natural resources are used for the benefit of their owners, the Iraqi people.

Iraq has the potential to be a great nation. Iraq's people are skilled and educated. We'll push as quickly as possible for an Iraqi interim authority to draw upon the talents of Iraq's people to rebuild their nation. We're committed to the goal of a unified Iraq, with democratic institutions of which members of all ethnic and religious groups are treated with dignity and respect.

Friedman carefully sidesteps the success of the Iraq campaign, complaining that there "weren't enough troops on the ground" - as if, had the operation been conducted with adequate troops, complaints about American "heavy-handedness" wouldn't have been even louder. In fact, he would prefer that you didn't know about organizations like the Iraq-America Freedom Alliance and people like Alaa of The Mesopotamian and the Fadhil Brothers of the Iraq the Model.

Like many well-informed liberals of good conscience, Friedman is uneasy with Kerry. And with good reason: Iranian freedom activists are uneasy with him too. What Friedman doesn't explain is how America, under any Presidential administration, will "put terrorism back into perspective" without making some difficult, demanding, and sometimes unpopular decisions.

President Bush understands this, and that's why he sees terrorism as more than a "nuisance". And most Americans understand this, too, and that is exactly why - as Mr. Friedman rightly suggests - many of us have indeed adopted a "7/4 mentality" the year round. We are not addicted to September 11. We are addicted to freedom.

See also this analysis from Big Pharaoh:
Big Pharaoh on Thomas Friedman


Best of Dreams Into Lightning

BEST OF DREAMS INTO LIGHTNING: Selected Posts Since April 21, 2004 CE
Celebrating six lunar months with Rosh Hodesh Heshvan (on the Jewish Calendar), this blog is pleased to present another best-of collection.

And wishing a blessed Ramadan to Muslim readers.

WOMEN AND POWER: Gender, politics, and the price of empowerment – responsibility.
Women and Power
But Can She Vote?
Iran in Transition?
Gender and Sexuality

Iran Regime Change Petition
And Iran...

THE L WORD: Liberalism in crisis.
Berman: Another Peace Movement
An Infinite Supply of Arab Murderers
The Moral Struggle

The Rose of Paradise
The Death Wish

The World of Tomorrow
The Kabbalah: complete series
Like a Persian: Madonna and Esther
Vashti and Freedom
I Am a Jew and My Father Was a Jew


Where Wings Take Dream

If you'll look QUICKLY at the bottom of my right-hand sidebar, you might still see that the TTLB Ecosystem has promoted me to "Flappy Bird"! Well, I'm just chirping with joy. I zoomed RIGHT PAST the Reptile stage this time around ...

Of course I know this particular evolutionary burst is probably just an artifact of having been rotated to the top of the Blogs For Bush list, so I'm currently linked on a bunch of blogs that don't even know I exist. But still. I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

It feels good to be soaring among the higher realms of the blognoscenti, even if it's just for a little while.

Morning Report: October 15, 2004

Fallujah offensive begins. US forces have no more time to chit-chat with Fallujah negotiator Khaled al-Jumeili and have arrested him, as American warplanes begin airstrikes in the current Fallujah offensive. 'Targets hit included several key planning centers, a weapons storage facility, two safe houses, a meeting site and several illegal checkpoints used by the al-Zarqawi network, the U.S. military said.' (AP via Fox)


Regime to Execute 13-year-old Incest Victim

Bulletin from Free Iran. Having allegedly become pregnant by her 15-year-old brother, a thirteen-year-old Iranian girl by the name of Zhila (her last name has not been released), currently jailed in the city of Marivan, has been sentenced to death by stoning in the Islamic Republic. The date set for her execution is unknown. No other information is available.

Free Iran: Incest Victim to Die

Iraq Accuses Iranian Embassy of Assassinations

Latest news from Blog Iran:
Iraq's national intelligence chief Mohammed al-Shahwani has accused Iran's Baghdad embassy of masterminding an assassination campaign that has seen 18 intelligence agents killed since mid-September. Shahwani told AFP a series of raids on three Iranian "safe houses" in Baghdad on September 29 had uncovered a treasure trove of documents linking Iran to plots to kill members of the intelligence service and using the Badr former militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI) as its tool.

SCIRI has vigourously denied the allegations and counter-charged that the intelligence service is full of veterans of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's military who are now renewing their vendetta against former Shiite resistance groups based out of Iran in the 1980s.

Since mid-September, 18 Iraqi intelligence agents have been killed in Iraq, 10 of them by the Badr organisation on orders from Iran and the rest by Al-Qaeda-linked foreign militant Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, Shahwani charged.

"Badr and Zarqawi have assassinated 18 of my men," Shahwani said from his heavily-guarded villa in central Baghdad.

Shahwani confirmed that two of his intelligence agents were beheaded by Zarqawi's Unity and Holy War group, as seen in a video released by the fighters on Wednesday.

The intelligence chief said he suspected Tehran was funding Zarqawi, but lacked conclusive proof.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's government has escalated its rhetoric against Iran in recent days, accusing the neighbouring Islamic republic of running a campaign of sabotage in Iraq.

But Shahwani's claims of huge caches of documents seized in the September raids are the most explicit charges to date against Iran and the first time an Iraqi party has been publicly named as Tehran's proxy.

Read the whole article at the link: Blog Iran: Iraq Accuses Iran Embassy
(Source: AFP via Blog Iran)

Six Iranian Bloggers Arrested

News item from the BBC:
Six online journalists and webloggers have been arrested in Iran recently in a crackdown on dissent on the internet.

"People charged for having illegal internet sites... will be put on trial soon," said a judiciary spokesman.

The trials would be "open" and charges included "acting against national security, disturbing the public mind and insulting sanctities".

Web journals flourish in Iran where the youthful, reform-hungry population has gone online for news and entertainment.

The popularity of the internet has grown as hardline judges closed about 100 printed publications since 2000.

Journalists and relatives quoted by Reuters named the six people arrested as Shahram Rafizadeh, Babak Ghafouri-Azar, Rouzbeh Amir-Ebrahimi, Hanif Mazroui, Omid Memarian and Mostafa Derayati.

BBC: Iran blog crackdown
hat tip: Little Green Footballs

Oregon's Amendment 36 Seeks to Bar Gay Marriage

Oregonians will vote on Constitutional Amendment 36 this year, a bill which would write discrimination into the State's constitution. By defining marriage as "between one man and one woman", the amendment would hurt lesbian and gay couples and provide no measurable benefit to any Oregonian.

It is natural that people will disagree about gay marriage; but the social and religious conservatives who do not recognize gay marriage should not abrogate other people's rights to enter into contractual relationships. Amendment 36 is also a violation of the religious liberties of those churches and religious organizations which do recognize the sanctity of a gay couple's bond.

Social conservatives argue that marriage is a sacred rite. To the extent that this is true, then, it is the province of the churches, synagogues, and mosques. But marriage is also a legal contract; and to the extent that it is that, no religious sect or group has the right to deny access to that contract to its fellow citizens.

Oregonians, vote NO ON 36.


LCR Responds to Presidential Debate

Log Cabin Republicans singled out Senator John Kerry's tasteless remarks on Mary Cheney for criticism, but also called on both major parties to elevate the level of dialogue on gay issues:
Statement by Log Cabin Executive Director Patrick Guerriero

(Washington, DC)—"Senator Kerry could have made his point about gay and lesbian Americans without mentioning the Vice-President's daughter.

However, this shouldn't distract us from the fact that President Bush, Karl Rove and other Republicans have been using gay and lesbian families as a political wedge issue in this campaign. 

Log Cabin Republicans have a message for both campaigns.  For Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards, you do not need to talk about the Vice President's daughter in order to discuss your positions on gay and lesbian issues.  For President Bush and Karl Rove, you have a moral obligation to stop using gay and lesbian families as a political wedge issue.  Our country and our party deserve better."

Log Cabin Republicans is the nation's largest organization of Republicans who support fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans. LCR believes in the ideals of small government, individual rights, and individual responsibility. Visit their homepage at the link: Log Cabin Republicans

Morning Report: October 14, 2004

US forces poised for Sunni Triangle offensive. According to a current bulletin from Debka: 'DEBKAfile's military sources report: Large-scale US and Iraqi forces poised on battle readiness in offensive array around four Sunni Triangle hotbeds: Fallujah, Ramadi, Latafiya and Balad, awaiting order to launch major assaults.' (Debka)

Russia: Iranian nuke plant complete. Iranian nuclear update: 'Russia's top nuclear authority said on Thursday it had finished construction of an atomic power plant in Iran -- a project the United States fears Tehran could use to make nuclear arms.' (Reuters / Blog Iran)

Iraqi government establishes loan fund. Al-Sabah: 'Sheikh Ghazi al- Yawer the Iraqi President chaired a meeting with his deputies Dr. Ibrahim al- Ja'fari and Dr. Rose Nouri Shaweis .During the meeting ,  the presidency office has issued a decision pertains to establish the population loaning fund at capital worth of 300 billions Iraqi dinar .At a press statement, the presidency office said that the meeting was devoted on discussing the security situation in Iraq further for preparing for the elections scheduled in January 2005....' (Sabah)


The Blogging Will Continue Until Morale Improves

May I safely assume I'm not the only one whose nerves are frayed? Who finds these last few agonizing, nerve-wracking, nail-biting days of razor-close polls, well ... agonizing?

You too? Thank you, I knew I could count on your nod of assent. Then we are agreed: the next 20 days are going to be murder. But we will survive! And if we stay strong and keep up the fight, we will win.

Look, I've been watching the polls, and overall Bush is still ahead of Kerry. I'll feel a lot more comfortable when the margin is wider, but I guess that just means we've got work to do.

Remember this: our position is morally unassailable, and theirs is morally indefensible. The Dems have built up a culture of victimization over a period of years. They don't really believe that they have to actually earn votes. Many are still in denial about the consequences of misguided actions. They have so immersed themselves in their own propaganda that they can no longer distinguish between fantasy and reality. (Case in point: John Kerry. Him and that eighteen-point deer ... but I digress.)

The process that George W. Bush and his supporters have begun is, in the large sense, irreversible. The peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq will never again accept dictatorships. The other peoples of the Middle East will begin making greater demands on their rulers. The United Nations has been exposed for the fraud-riddled syndicate that it is, and the big media are hemorrhaging credibility while pajama-clad citizen journalists build a network of information and dialog.

The followers of the bizarre cult called the "Democratic Party", and of its witless figurehead Kerry, will grow ever more shrill in their desperate attempts to drown out the din of cognitive dissonance. They will continue to alienate the sane and rational people among their number, and eventually the crazies will turn on one another.

Those who still believe in cultural pluralism, individual rights, and the possibility of a better society, will realize that the so-called "liberals" of today are in fact reactionaries, whose only agenda is to perpetuate fascist regimes in order to create a new crop of victims. And they will realize that there is a better way.

More and more, Americans - and especially young Americans - are growing tired of the intolerance that passes for "liberalism" and are looking for something deeper and truer. What they will find in the years to come remains to be discovered. The first step toward that discovery will come on Election Day.

G-d bless America.

Afghan Whigs?

Charles at Little Green Footballs posts an excellent piece from the New Hampshire Union Leader about the MSM's indifference to the birth of democracy in Afghanistan. As you recall, the only story our "news" media found worth reporting was the non-story about faded ink. Read the piece at LGF.


Okrent Bestows a Dubious Award on the Left

The Commissar is willing to give NYT the benefit of the doubt in the question of "journalistic bias", finding public editor Okrent's defense of the paper "fairly persuasive". But Okrent also notes that the Left seems to be winning the "vileness derby" this year (big shock, yes?), citing one particularly disgusting example from the NYT's own experience. The Commissar, taking a clue from Jack at Random Fate, emphasizes that being "second worst" is no great honor, and that there is no acceptable level of abusiveness from either side, Left or Right. Go read the whole post at the link.


I've already posted my commentary on the first weekly portion in the Torah, but I want to add a few quick thoughts.

It's often said that the story of the fall from Paradise is the story of the loss of innocence. And so it is, but I would suggest that it is the loss of "innocence" in the political sense, that is, a negative kind of innocence. What is lost is the "innocence" of the slave, that is, one without the freedom to make moral choices. It is an innocence of ignorance, an innocence of powerlessness, an innocence of victimhood.

But this innocence is not merely lost - it is actively rejected. For better or worse, this is the kind of creature we are: we insist on making our own decisions, even at the risk of making bad ones. We want to be like the Divinity in this way, "knowing good and evil". And it is indeed a mixed blessing, because the Tree of Knowledge is described as "the Tree of Knowledge - good and evil". Not "the tree of knowledge of good and evil"; that is a mistranslation. (In that case, the Hebrew should read "etz da'ath ha-tov ve-ha-ra'." But that's not what it says; it says "etz ha-da'ath, tov ve-ra'.")

With power comes responsibility. It is in our nature to seek both. To shirk the burden of justice is the worst kind of cowardice. As human beings, we are born into a covenant: we must act as creatures who know good and evil, and not close our eyes.


The Rose of Paradise

The Rose of Paradise: fiction by Asher Abrams


and your desire shall be for your husband

The Shadow

With the first shafts of light piercing the land and the sky, even before she can make out the shape of the land, already there is a silent rushing, and a feel of something taking flight. And as the morning breeze begins to rustle its feathers in the treetops, she thinks that, for a moment, she can still see the Void, endless and pure, hiding behind the dome of the still-dark sky in the west. And now she can see the shadow of its wings, vanishing into the land beyond the sky. And the day comes.

From the hilltop, looking into the abyss above, she can see with her inner sight, and she can see past the veil that shrouds the world. In the form of a flower, she sees the rhythm of things: creation, emergence, communion, culmination, and rebirth. She sees all of the land, and the living things on it. She can see beyond the land to the great ocean far away, and she can see all the creatures in its depths: the fish, the whales, and the Great Serpent, Tahmatu, who has made her home in the sea-bed since the beginning of time. Looking at the moon, she sees its form reflected in the round shape of an apple hanging from a branch, and in an instant grasps the mystery that holds the apple and the moon in their places. She sees how the stars came to their places in the sky, and the secret codes they spell out in the night. As the lights in the sky travel in their courses, she counts their cycles, and their patterns grow into a glowing tree in her mind; and sometimes she can hear the tree singing to her. And beyond it all, outside and inside, wrapped in layer on layer of mystery, she sees the gateway to the Void and to the only feeling of peace she knows.

This is the story of how it all happened -- the woman and the man and the garden they left behind. And though you may have heard this story before, there are still some parts that need to be told. For storytelling is only the memory of creation: the different arts by which storytelling is practiced are changes, not from the unknown to the known, but from the unremembered to the remembered. And so it was with Eve in these early days: for there was no one to tell her stories, and all she knew was what she saw around her, and what she dreamed. And there was that which she remembered, drawn from her fading memory as from a dream, brought forth from the Wells of Silence the way a bird draws a fish from the still waters of a lake. And so, with the morning sun and the waning of the night’s mystic trance, she remembers dimly how things were at the beginning: the chaos of elements, space and time, matter and energy. This chaos gathered into a great and hollow sphere, a vessel awaiting its moment of bursting. And then the light came, and then the light became the world. And the world would always rejoice in the coming of light.
But the darkness was already there.

The Garden

The land is called Ediin. You pronounce the word with a catch in your throat, as if you are choking on dust. It’s a land of sand and mud, mountains and rocks. Stand here and you will remember that the earth is your origin, the Gate of Mercy through which you came to exist. Stand here, and you will remember that the earth is also your Gate of Mystery, that aperture through which you will pass and be seen no more.
The garden isn’t like any place you’ve ever been. Set in the wilderness of Ediin, it’s a place that speaks its own language. Outside, the land stretches into sparse grass, shrub, and ultimately desert in one direction; and in another, trees become a forbidding forest. Inside, there is comfort and fertility; the garden is a part of Ediin, but it is also apart from it. It is its own world. There is a presence that envelops the garden and gives it life, an invisible mist that spreads from the center of the garden the way the scent of a rose spreads from the blossom. The garden itself has a kind of design, even an intelligence to it. It is not a geometric plot, like the gardens you might see in a city today; it has the complexity of an organism, and it seems even to have its own mind. Its own soul.
From the far wastelands of Ediin there comes a river, and it spreads from the garden to the four corners of the world. These will trickle into streams and lakes and wetlands far away. The garden is a crossroads, a place of meetings and a link between this world and the other. To live there is to live suspended between worlds.

Eve has discovered something in the garden. It is not beautiful: it has an ungainly size and shape, and a certain unfinished feel about it. But it is human, like herself: its face seems to say I can dream, and its hands say I can do. Because it is part of what is human, she calls it Man. The man wakens, and begins to speak. I am like you, he says, and from then on his name is Adam. She is not sure, but she thinks she has dreamed the man. She wonders if she will ever wake up.

She thinks she has dreamed the man, and he thinks he has dreamed her. They call their world Paradise, which means orchard or sacred space. They listen to its voice, which does not speak in words and perhaps comes through the garden from some place far beyond. They understand that the garden is theirs, to tend and to protect. But to protect from what?

Now you should know that there were other people in the world then, too, but they were not really there, which is to say, they were not alive inside the way Eve and Adam were. So while Adam and Eve were not the only people, they were alone.

They walk for miles. They walk for days at a time, sometimes together and sometimes each alone, around the fertile land that is bounded by plains, forests, and rivers. They find a great river, too big to cross. Eve looks across it, wondering what is on the other side. Adam looks down it, wondering where it flows. She turns away, he lingers. He has seen something: a footprint, as large and as heavy as his own. Then he goes.

No one, from that time until today, has ever been so full of wonder and joy as they were in their world. Adam loves the distances, he wanders far beyond the garden into the wasteland, dreams of the day when he can scale those mountains. Eve studies the colors of the garden: red, rooted and earthy, and the blue that speaks of the sky; the warm passion of yellow and the bliss of violet. And all around, the green heartbeat of the garden, and the faint azure glow that surrounds it like an intangible membrane, visible only at the edges of sight.

Far down the river, Adam has discovered other people. He has seen them, heard them, walked among them in one of their villages. He has seen women, men, and children. He has seen people dying and giving birth. Yet they have not seen him. He has walked unnoticed, like a specter. He has spoken, shouted and cursed, stolen from them, all to no effect. So he accepts his life as a spy and learns what there is to know about them.

He learns that they are simple people: their way of seeing the world and moving in it is not like his own. They move like water, leaving no trace or disturbance, seemingly impelled by some subtle force. The animals do not fear them. For a moment, he wonders how he himself can frighten animals while remaining invisible to the villagers. Then he understands that they do not see him because they choose not to.

They live in dwellings of dried grass, with roofs of leaves and branches so insubstantial that you can see the sky through them. He can understand their speech, but it is a crude dialect of the language he speaks with Eve. They have no numbers, they can only say “one” and “many.” They know little of building, cooking, or tending plants. They do not venture beyond the boundaries of their settlements, and though they live in the wasteland, they show no inclination to explore the orchards of the land he shares with Eve. (Except, he thinks, that one who left his footprint in the mud so near our home.) They lack ambition. There is a childlike innocence about them, and they fear the dark as children do. Their presence troubles him, and he says nothing of them to Eve. Eventually he loses interest in the villagers. They have nothing to teach him.

The Night

The Spirit Throne rests in a sacred chamber in the highest heaven. It is shaped like a cube with thirty-two sides, six feet wide on the outside and six billion light-years wide on the inside. Its radiance cascades down from the most recondite reaches of Mystery into the worlds below. All of the powers and energies of the universe, and all the human souls and all the angels, emanate from it.

Before time began, there was a certain emanation from the Spirit Throne. This emanation would not seek the higher places as the other angels did; it sought the lower reaches, which all the others despised. It sought, it circled, it flew in a spiral around the sphere of the universe from one pole to the other. Like an angled serpent, a twisting serpent, it went in search of the lower worlds. And when time began and the womb of the universe burst with being, this angel was expelled through the Gate of Mercy and descended into flesh. Long before Eve walked the earth, even before the sleepwalking villagers, this angel took form as a woman. The first woman: the angel of the night, and her name was Lilith.
Night comes, spreading its net over all the living. It shields the world from the brightness of the sun and subdues the light of the numberless stars. If you have ever been in a desert on a clear and moonless night, you know how the light of the stars can frost the surface of the land with a shadowless, silver crust, how it can take you out of your senses and make you forget who you are. And as the moon walks its course, forever falling back towards the sun from night to night, you can reach out to it and feel it pull you away from the world. Eve can feel the pulse of the moon as surely as Adam feels the sun’s heat, and she has named every one of the six thousand stars her eyes can see. By the black light of the unseen maiden moon, she bathes in the water of the longest river, the one that flows from the barren heights of Ediin, and branches out and nourishes the world.

This is the part Eve never tells Adam, the part she will spend the rest of her life trying to forget.
She has seen another woman in the garden at night. The woman is an angel, tall and strong, with long dark hair and powerful shoulders and wings. She is naked, like Eve, but around her waist she wears a sword, something Eve has never seen before, and on her body she wears gleaming golden jewelry and gemstones.

At first, Eve only sees her once or twice in a moon, and by accident. But something begins to grip Eve by the heart, pulls her out of her pallet late at night, drives her deep into the forest. Now she’s looking. She can find Lilith by her scent, wild and raunchy like a herd of animals. Some nights Eve stumbles blindly through the brush, being careful not to fall because how would she explain the bruises? Eve is as nimble as a deer and more helpless. Sometimes she has tears in her eyes when she finds her. But she always finds her.

When Lilith doesn’t appear, Eve dreams of her, prays for her to fly down from the chamber of the Spirit Throne, to come and stand beside her like a comrade. Lilith belongs to another world, and Eve tries to imagine it. It is a world on the other side of the veil, a world of peace amid the chaos like a rose among thorns.

Dimly, Eve knows that Lilith could find her if she chose, but that she prefers to make Eve come to her. Eve doesn’t care. They meet each other’s eyes, look away. And is it Eve who reaches out for the first time? Eve who touches Lilith on the arm, and then pulls back? Yes, and it is Eve who touches Lilith again, again on the arm just below the elbow, and then Lilith returns the gesture, and they stand like that for a moment, arms locked, eyes locked, scarcely breathing.

They begin to talk, slowly at first, then quickly and easily. Eve learns that Lilith is an angel, and asks her about her home in the heavens. Lilith teaches Eve many things about the earth. She knows how to melt rock into metal, the stuff jewelry and tools and weapons can be made from. “If you do it right,” she says, “you can make something that will last a thousand years.” She tries to teach this to Eve, but it is difficult. She teaches her the uses of plants and rocks, how to flake stone into tools: these things Eve remembers. The night becomes many nights.

Once Eve asks Lilith to tell her about her sword. Lilith draws its shining blade from the sheath. The blade seems to turn within itself, the way a kaleidoscope turns inside out before your eyes. “Don’t touch,” she warns.

Eve reaches out and puts her fingers on the blade. She stifles a howl, as the pain sears her fingertips burns her arm.
“This sword will not kill you. This is the blade that comes to you in sleep, to stop you from going too deep, so that you won’t be drawn into the void. Without it, you would be sucked into the land beyond.”

Eve wonders about the land beyond. Is it better than this one? She looks at Lilith, but says nothing.

How does Eve look to Lilith?

Slender and soft, like a fertile field before the rain has touched it. Her hair is fine and delicate, like the fabric the angels weave. She smells like moss and flowers and growing things. Her eyes are the eyes of a child who will never see its mother again and must find comfort in the arms of a stranger. Her lips tremble as if praying, as if asking a question, as if crying. This creature is not ready, Lilith thinks, but even the angels can lust ... yes, she must have her.

And how does Lilith look to Eve?

Beautiful and mighty, with strong arms and legs. Rich and full as a ripe fruit -- strange that one never meant to bear children should have such wide hips and full breasts. Lilith is tall, with long, thick hair -- strange, too, that a creature of heaven should have so much of earth about her. The smell of her sweat and her sex. The musty, musky odor of her wings as she moves them slowly, like the boughs of a tree in a gentle breeze. Her strong, soft fingers. Her face like an ever-changing plain and her eyes like the deeps of space. Her voice like the ocean, her touch like the wind.

Once, when the moon is dark, Lilith touches Eve’s face. “Be mine,” she says. “Come with me to a place I know. No mortal may go there, but you will be safe with me.”

At this, Eve trembles but says nothing. Something is twisting inside her, like Tahmatu beneath the waves, not breaking the surface.

And Lilith says, “Even in the darkness, you are beautiful. Come with me and be my beloved.”

And Eve still says nothing, but she feels something impossible is happening, as though the earth is swallowing her up and giving birth to her again. She looks up to the sky for answers, but the vault of the night is only a silent wall.

Now Lilith raises her hand and the garden around her seems to fade, and Eve is standing someplace else, someplace she’s never seen before, but a place that looks somehow familiar. There is a grove of apple trees with their luscious red fruit and juicy fragrance. The whole place is shadowed with roses, and a living spring bubbles from deep within the earth.

Here the evening breeze blows warm as Lilith comes into view, bearing two golden goblets, one in each hand. She kneels down and fills these from the spring. Eve feels her fingers cup around the smooth bowl of the vessel as she accepts it, trembling, from Lilith.

“Drink this and come with me,” Lilith is saying in the vision. And Eve holds the cup before her for a moment and looks into it, scrying the crystal water. The cup is full of stars.

Eve raises the cup to her lips, still gazing into it. But at that moment the vision fades. Now she is gazing into Lilith’s eyes. “Come with me,” she is saying.

“Yes,” she murmurs, barely audible, and Lilith says, her voice now low and commanding, “I can’t hear you!” and the trembling figure says again, louder, “Yes!”

But when Lilith takes one step closer, Eve runs.

The next morning she is covered with scratches, tired, and very quiet.

The Tree

Just as he is turning away from the village for what he is certain will be the last time, Adam sees a pair of eyes looking at him. There is a man standing in the bushes by the river. The man motions to Adam to join him on the riverbank. He seems to be kin to the villagers, but he shows no interest in them; perhaps he is an exile. They look at each other and Adam thinks: He is like them, but he is different too. He is like me, but he is not like me. Following the silent stranger, Adam notices his agility, and the softness of his hair. They meet each other in the afternoon, in the hot part of the day. Deep in the woods, the man shows Adam things that he has missed somehow, plants too small to see and trees too large to see. Adam, following him, can see and touch the animals that used to flee from his presence. They speak as men do, without words.

Although the man is an outsider, Adam raises no protest to his presence within the garden. Yet after a time Adam becomes uneasy: after all, it is his garden. He keeps meaning to say something, but somehow, around the man with no name, Adam forgets how to speak. And then one day he comes upon the stranger picking a plant from the garden, and this violation incenses him. With a shout, Adam rushes at him and grapples with him, arm to arm. By the side of the river they struggle. As the sun lowers and the earth becomes ruddy, the stranger sinks to his knees -- not defeated, simply surrendering. Adam stares down uncomprehending as the other man extends his right hand. He stands for a moment, then turns his back and limps away.

That night, sleeping fitfully while Eve is away on one of her lengthy walks, Adam becomes aware of something moving near him, but though he strains his eyes looking, he sees nothing. In the morning, he goes back to the river bank. There on the ground he sees something, and he understands what his silent friend was doing in the garden the day before. It is a bouquet of flowers, exquisitely arranged in a rainbow of colors and tied with a length of vine. He picks up the gift and takes it to Eve, who has been very moody lately; she is delighted. The next day he tells her he doesn’t feel like going out exploring, he’s going to stay in the camp with her. And the day after that, he goes back to the river, he’s not sure whether he’s looking for his friend or avoiding him, but it doesn’t matter. Adam never sees him again.

The garden has begun to change. Or maybe it is they who are changing. The wild places within the garden no longer call to Adam; instead, he turns his attention to the making of stone tools: hammers, axes, knives. He learns how to make a blade sharper. Eve spends more time learning how to cultivate crops: she likes things that grow where she can watch them. She begins going to bed early, but she cannot sleep. Their conversation with one another is short and functional, as it has always been, but now there is an impatience to it. They are restless, as if their thoughts are elsewhere. As if they are now visitors in this place, as if it is no longer their home.

The Tree of Knowledge stands in the eastern part of the garden. It is easy to see from afar, harder to see from close up. It is unlike anything else in the garden. Its trunk is shiny, as if made of metal or stone, and deep bronze in color, the color of flesh. Its boughs fork into branches, each bearing leaves, and each branch bearing smaller branches as well. The smallest branches of the Tree of Knowledge are like the fibers of a spider web; in fact, the tree appears surrounded by mist. It seems to be a union of opposites: earthly and heavenly, good and evil. There is something forbidding about it: it seems to say Do not eat me, do not touch me. Yet it is beautiful, and by its five leaves they know it is good to eat. And this is where Adam is standing when he looks up and sees Eve there too. And now someone else is there, too, looking at them.

Eve is looking at the tree, thinking of something she’s lost -- she’s lost something but she can’t say exactly what, except that it had something to do with life, and something to do with wisdom. Perhaps it even had something to do with death. All she is sure of is that it is missing, and now, in the fruit and in the eye of the serpent, she sees it.

The Rose

The serpent is naked, unlike all the beasts of the field: like the woman and the man, it is hairless. And it knows what none of the other animals know: that though they may be warm-blooded, yet there is something about them that is cold, cunning, and reptilian. They know how to desire, and they know how to change the world to get what they want.

Now some will tell you that the serpent spoke, but it didn’t have to: the look in its eyes was enough. Yes, the serpent is looking at that fruit, first with one eye and then with the other, while its tongue flicks in and out to taste the scent of the fruit. That round globe of delight nestled in the bushy leaves and tawny limbs of the tree, that fruit contains the universe, and the serpent knows it. And Eve knows it too.

She feels the fruit burn all the way down. It will never stop burning. The memory of the strange face in the starlight fades, and now she will only remember the undulating coils slipping through the grass. And now, and forever, this is the shape of desire.

They have both eaten, and the radiance of the Tree of Knowledge spreads from them like the glow of a new fire. Things stand out in sharp detail, and take on new meaning. They see something they have somehow overlooked all this time, right in the center of the garden. It is another tree, not like the first: it is not pleasant or desirable, and until now it would never have occurred to either of them to pay it any attention. It is a small, scrubby thing, with twisted, dark, knotty limbs and an earthy odor. Its fruits are brown and small, scarcely more than berries. But there is a potency to it, an energy that suffuses the garden like the evening mist. Unnoticed and almost unseen, it sustains the garden. Eve knows that it is the Tree of Life, and who eats of its fruit will live forever. It is the doorway to eternity, the Gate of Mercy and the Gate of Mystery. Yes, this is what she wants: to live forever in this beautiful world. She takes the fruit into her hands, and she hands it to Adam. As they touch it, they are enveloped by its fragrance -- and then they drop it to the ground as if it were a hot coal, for suddenly and too late they understand its full meaning. To live forever, yes -- but not here. To live forever, in the next world.

The fruit of the Tree of Life is death.

The fruit grows before their eyes, like a sun exploding, and its round surface becomes grooved like a pinecone. The fruit is now a great black flower, a rose whose petals reach out to devour them. They run, but the black rose keeps growing. They smell it on their bodies, they feel it behind them. Without stopping, they glance behind them and they can see its giant petals over the treetops, stretched thin and phantasmic like smoke. They run, and they know that the smell will never leave them, it will stay on them like a slow-acting poison, in their blood and in their sweat. When they look again, the Rose of Paradise is gone, and in its place, in the distance, is an angel with a sword that flashes like lightning. Eve turns, but Adam grabs her arm. They keep running.

The angel stands there watching them for a long time.

"The Rose of Paradise" copyright (c) 2004 by Asher Abrams
All rights reserved.


Help Stop Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Women

Dr. Donna M. Hughes of the University of Rhode Island is doing some very important work in exposing and eliminating the worldwide rings of sexual predators that ruin the lives of countless women every year. She has published in National Review Online and elsewhere. Her publications include numerous reports on Islamist fascism in Iran and its connection with misogynistic crimes, such as the murder of Atafeh Rajabi, the exploitation of girls orphaned by the Bam earthquake, and the staggering numbers of Iranian women abducted every year for the international sex trade. Please go visit her website:

Donna M. Hughes

The World of Tomorrow

And G-d created humankind in the Divine image.
Genesis 1:27

The other day, while I was sitting at the Jewish student association's booth during "welcome week" for the university I'm attending, I found myself working with a young woman whom I'll call N. It turns out that N. is a Jewish convert of Caucasian and Arab-American heritage. The other woman at the booth, J., is also converted, which made three of us. This wouldn't be significant, except that we had to decide whether to list the Jewish group as a "spiritual" or a "multicultural" group. This is the age-old paradox of Jewish identity: Are we a race or a religion?

At the wonderful Jewish blog Kesher Talk, Judith's latest post links to a site that shows composite photographs of multi-ethnic people from various parts of the world. The same post offers a link on the Parsis, the ethnic Persian Zoroastrians in India who gave us the legendary Freddie Mercury. Judith also carries a post on Nonie Darwish, What I Learned from the Jews.

As N. pointed out, the conflict between Arabs and Jews in the Middle east is not eternal, nor is it Divinely ordained, nor does it need to last indefinitely. With each generation, humankind discovers anew its own richness and complexity; and we also have the opportunity to learn how much we have in common. Each of us carries a unique cultural heritage, our own "DNA" of memories, legends, images, songs, hopes, and desires. This is the stuff we are given to guide us on our spiritual path, and it is the raw material for the future world that we will build. In exploring our tangled roots, each of us has the opportunity to discover our common humanity - and our common Divinity.

Nonie Darwish: Arabs for Israel

No, I couldn't believe that title either, but there really is an organization called Arabs For Israel. Do not miss their basic tenets:

We are Arabs and Moslems who believe…

We can support the State of Israel and the Jewish religion and still treasure our Arab and Islamic culture.
There are many Jews and Israelis who freely express compassion and support for the Palestinians.  It is time that we Arabs express reciprocal compassion and support.
The existence of the State of Israel is a fact that should be accepted by the Arab world.
Israel is a legitimate state that is not a threat but an asset in the Middle East.
Every major World religion has a center of gravity. Islam has Mecca, and Judaism  certainly deserves its presence in Israel and Jerusalem.
Diversity should not be a virtue only in the USA, but should be encouraged around the world. We support a diverse Middle East with protection for human rights, respect and equality under the law to all minorities including Jews and Christians.
Palestinians have several options but are deprived from exercising them because of their leadership, the Arab League and surrounding Arab and Moslem countries who do not want to see Palestinians live in harmony with Israel.
If Palestinians want democracy they can start practicing it now.
We stand firmly against suicide/homicide terrorism as a form of Jihad.
We are appalled by the horrific act of terror against the USA on 9/11/2001.
Arab media should end the incitement and misinformation that result in Arab street rage and violence.
We are eager to see major reformation in how Islam is taught and channeled to bring out the best in Moslems and contribute to the uplifting of the human spirit and advancement of civilization.
We believe in freedom to choose or change one’s Religion.
We cherish and acknowledge the beauty and contributions of the Middle East culture, but recognize that the Arab/Moslem world is in desperate need of constructive self-criticism and reform.

Nonie Darwish, whose essay appears on the group's homepage, has her own website:
Nonie Darwish.

Don't fall for the culturally chauvinistic, Eurocentric lie that "Arabs/Muslims don't understand democracy". Nobody likes to live in fear. Freedom is the right of all human beings. Go check out Nonie Darwish and Arabs For Israel.

Thanks to Rabbi Melman for the e-mail link.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

More Iranian unrest from Iran Focus, via Free Iran:

Tehran, Oct. 2 - Violent clashes erupted between local residents and the security forces in the city of Isfahan, central Iran. Among the casualties is a 14 year-old schoolboy who was reportedly was shot and seriously wounded.

On Thursday, eye-witnesses in nearby Shahin Shahr reported clashes between local people and armed Bassij Forces through the early hours of the day. Residents said that the majority of those who fought against the Bassij Forces were teenagers. One of the Bassij militia has been reportedly taken to hospital after severe injuries.

Sporadic street-battles continued well into the night and in the early hours of Friday morning a government-owned oil storage was set alight along with juggernaut tires in Seyedi Shomali street.

In the past week there have been deadly clashes between angry youths and State Security Forces in the cities of Bandar Abbas and Miandoab and the Nour-Abad region of Mamasani, with seven fatalities.

Analysts say rising discontent and frustration among youth over government-imposed restrictions and widespread unemployment are the main reason for the growing number of public protests across the country.


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Unrest intensifies throughout Iran. Clashes between Iranian civilians and IRI security forces have escalated over the past few days, according to news bulletins from Free Iran.

September 29: "Reports over the past 24 - 48 hours via several important information services such as SMCCDI, Peykeiran, Zagros and direct email reports and phone calls from Iranian citizens is beginning to shine light on what at this time looks to be country-wide fighting and quickly escalating into what could potentially become a freedom revolution.

Several independent citizen sources have reported the formation of significant crowds throughout the country, and have heard many loud explosions and gun shots, including in the cities of Tehran, Esfahan, and Shiraz.

SMCCDI and Peykeiran have both reported intense battles between freedom-loving Iranian citizens and the regime's fanatical militias in the village of Meeyan Do Ab. Both sources are reporting many deaths and injuries both to the villagers and regime's forces.

In the past week and recent days, many regional commanders and leaders of the regime's militias have been targeted and killed along with many of their militiamen.... "

September 30: "An official building harboring an Islamic propaganda and surveillance office was set on fire, on Tuesday, in the northern city of Rasht located in the Guilan province near the Caspian sea.

Unidentified assailants were able to inflict heavy damages to the building and escape without being harmed. ..."

Stay tuned.

"A Good Chance that it Will Involve Magma"

Ooh boy!

Said Jane

"By Jane Novak" - the byline that guarantees forward-thinking commentary on the Middle East - now appears at the beginning of this fine piece in the Arab News. The commander of Armies of Liberation has published her analysis of the "Bush voter".
The Bush voters are the people willing to sacrifice their money and their sons for a freer Middle East, and a world infused with liberty.

The Michael Moores of the America begrudge every penny spent in Iraq, lament every life as unworthy of the cause, lament the cause as unwinnable and are quick to consign the Middle East to another century of tyranny. They, under the banner of respect, support the candidate of retreat and disengagement. The anti-war movement does not march for the Sudanese.

The Bush voters are realistic and know that France and Germany will not join the cause. They understand that the UN is mainly an alliance of dictators supporting each other in the maintenance of the status quo. They know they will bear the burden alone. Kerry’s magic alliances will not materialize, because some nations have their self-interest at stake and choose a path of anti-Americanism in the hopes of appeasing their own peoples and the beheaders at large.

The Bush voter knows quite well that America is not safer since the invasion of Iraq and chooses to proceed anyway for the betterment of future generations.

Read the whole thing at the link. Go Jane!

Let's blogroll!

Jewish Liberals for Bush. "It's not 1940 anymore," writes Judith at Kesher Talk in an excellent post building on Jeff Jacoby's analysis of why Jewish liberals (like yours truly) no longer see the Democratic Party as their salvation.

Rachel Lucas is not dead. Or so she says. And who are we to argue? She holds forth on the existence (and dubious intelligence) of Barbra Streisand, John Kerry, and trailer parks in Florida. (Geez, Rachel, aren't you being a little tough on trailer parks?)

A bad hair night? Baldilocks has a nightmare about a volcano. Juliette, I feel your pain.

The Blogging Will Continue Until Morale Improves

With just a month to go before the election, it's still looking like a close one - although the College National Republican Committee shows that Bush is gaining rapidly among young voters, according to WashPost/ABC polls:

A recent Washington Post/ABC poll shows President Bush leading John Kerry among young voters by 12 points, 53-41%.

Since August, John Kerry lost 20 points and the President gained 18 points--a 38-point turnaround! The following is the polling data of the 18-30 year-old registered voters:

Washington Post / ABC August 1
Bush 35%
Kerry 61%

Washington Post/ABC August 30
Bush 45%
Kerry 53%

Washington Post / ABC September 10
Bush 46%
Kerry 49%

Washington Post / ABC September 28
Bush 53%
Kerry 41%

I attended a hastily-convened meeting of the Republican students at PSU last week. They put up a booth at the opening-week event, and I was pleased to see they attracted lots of positive attention. (I couldn't help out with the GOP booth because I was volunteering at the Jewish Students' Union booth ... and I'm pleased to say that we had plenty of interest too.)

I don't know whether I'll be able to post as frequently now that I'm going to classes, but I do expect to be keeping this blog up on a regular basis. I already have several posts planned for this week. Stay tuned.