Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Being Linked

Much as in the physical world, being linked to or by others is oddly satisfying. I was perusing Soccer Dad this morning, and lo and behold!
New blogger SerandEz writes about media bias and quotes an eminent greybeard - OK I'm not eminent and my beard isn't grey .... yet - Soccer Dad to prove a point.
It's also nice to be the new kid on the block. While I found much on my own, many have offered advice and tips on how to get SerandEz to reach more people (leading to my joining of JRants, JewishBlogging, and the TTLB EcoSystem; posting more often), or little bits of etiquette I had been wondering about (BlogRolls often include bloggers people hate; when a hat tip is applicable [found on my own - but wouldn't have had I not been directed to Orthomom]).
It proved wise to set the blog up and get used to it over the summer. Continuing through my final semester in college and the segway into the accounting world will hopefully not be too difficult...

Wasting a month in Crawford

George W. Bush has been on vacation this past month at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. How much "vacation" a President gets is a matter of debate, but he did get in a couple of bike rides and managed to clear some brush away.
Cindy Sheehan, meanwhile, spent a month protesting the Iraq war which claimed her son Casey's life. She came to Crawford demanding to speak to the President, ostensibly upset that some reports seem to show Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction, something she wasn't aware of the first time she met with President Bush. Until today, Sheehan seemed to be adamant that Bush meet with her.
Sheehan says she won't leave "Camp Casey" until Bush meets with her during his monthlong ranch visit, or until his vacation ends. She met with two top Bush administration officials on her first day of the protest.
But today, while Sheehan and her fellow protesters were packing up, Sheehan spoke a little differently...
"I look back on it, and I am very, very, very grateful he did not meet with me, because we have sparked and galvanized the peace movement," Sheehan told The Associated Press. "If he'd met with me, then I would have gone home, and it would have ended there."
In truth, Cindy Sheehan never cared about meeting with President Bush. All she was interested in was creating a media circus to try and swing many people to become anti-war. In essence, Sheehan is admitting to trying to dupe the American public: 'I didn't really want the President to meet with me; I only said as much to rally support for my views.' Cindy Sheehan was not in the slightest a grief-stricken mother with questions about her unfortunate son's death; she was a conniving mother exploiting her son's tragedy for her own, leftist, idealistic political gain.
Though thank God I cannot relate, I do pity Cindy Sheehan - she has lost a son, and her mother is very sick.

But she is making it a lot harder to feel her pain.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Blogs, blogs, everywhere... 2nd edition

[Note: To many, this will seem trivial. To others, extremely important. I could understand both sides, but as I personally fall into the latter category, I decided to write about it.]

I have recently been debating a (to me) important dilemma. There are blogs which I have started reading on a somewhat consistent basis, but I disagree with much of what is said - and, more worryingly, the way in which it is presented. As opposed to the InterGalacticJester, some of these make blanket, biased statements, which can easily misrepresent an issue. While these are perfectly fine things to do on a blog, I wanted to link to some - but I felt uncomfortable linking to them from my own, as if it is some type of endorsement of their views which I do not intend. I felt this was different than linking to other blogs, even though I disagree on occasion, because these new blogs I either disagreed with more often or I did not like the way in which things were represented. However, there were issues where the issue was presented properly and I wholeheartedly agreed with the conclusions of the blogger, and felt I should have a link to the blogs for that reason.
Sof sof (in the end), I have decided to add the blogs. At first, I was going to put them into a different category than ones I agree with more often. At some point, I still may do this, especially as my Blogroll increases in size. But for now, I decided to place all of them in one list. Trying to weigh the merits of one blog, who I agree with for one reason and not another, (say politically but not religiously), and another who I agree with the opposite, is very tricky. Moral equivalencies are difficult to make at any time, and especially when there are a number of them factoring against each other. In addition, I realized that ones which I like could be perceived by others as biased or misrepesentative of issues as well - though I firmly believe that this is not the case with the ones I linked to until now.
Finally, I must state that although I am, at this moment, only adding Orthomom and DovBear, my concerns were actually about DovBear (and yes, DB, you can add this to your sidebar): DovBear has a tendency to say things that are misrepresentative and biased, but at the same time does back up much (well, some) of what he says. While I disagree with most of what he says, he often posts items which I could not have said any (well, much) better. He's a flaky moderate leftist with burts of right-wing straight-thinking, and does an excellent critique of many problems in the Orthodox Jewish world. [Orthomom does it better.] At the same time, he argues well in his comments (the true blood of his blog), though there's still a strong bias to the left that takes a while to break through. So, as much as I may disagree with him, he's still (kinda) worth reading - and now it's to your left. [Edit: That really was not an intended pun, but when I read it over, I laughed. Okay?]
It's interesting to see the little cliques that form online - groups of people who all read each other's blogs, with a few bonus readers to each thrown in. From these cliques I have to wade through and find which I like. More blogs will iyH be added in the coming weeks, as I navigate the circles of the blogosphere. Enjoy!

Special Presentation: NFL Football

We interrupt this blog to bring you a SerandEz special presentation. Football!! Today brought to me two of my favorite sportswriters with pretty good articles about football. The main link is Bill Simmons' Fantasy guide, which seems to go by the same rules I would, while Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback today was decent, considering the season hasn't started yet and there's little to talk about.
Not the best articles by either one, but as always, they are great writers who can take average content and make it worth reading to the end. And for this, they are part of my 'Enjoying' list on the bottom left.
And now, back to your regular reading...

Quality Reporting

LittleGreenFootballs, which my sister-in-law has gotten me into, had a number of excellent topics today, some which are inter-connected. While LGF is usually very good, today just seemed to stick out.
A sad issue in America today is the vile hate on the ends of the political spectrum: particularly the left. While the right has its kooks (Pat Robertson's statement last week was pretty unintelligent), the far-left seems to have been overtaken by a purely anti-Bush/conservative idealism that has stretched far beyond the norms of thinking to come up with faults of the current administration, and to blame the United States for much of the world's problems. This hate is stronger nowhere more than San Francisco, which by far housed the most liberal voting counties in last year's elections. Recently, as LGF notes, they had an interesting art fair:
The San Francisco chapter of an organization called “9/11 Truth Alliance” recently held a contest for artwork accusing the Bush administration of being responsible for the 9/11 atrocities.

With a special category.

For kids.
The artwork speaks for itself. This was the most disturbing one to me:I'm not sure if the pictures represented are more disturbing or the words that are very hard to read on different parts of the drawing.
The text on the actual drawing says-
Sheeple Love Sadists { And Vice Versa }
NYC 9-11-2001

I believe the comments by the "artist" speak for themselves.

LGF points out that the media sometimes helps the left get out their message.

LGF also points out others examples in which there are those on the far left who try to pin the blame on President Bush for things which are clearly beyond any human control - such as Hurricane Katrina.
Mr. Johnson (Charles Johnson writes LittleGreenFootballs) also discusses President Bush's call on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to take action against the terrorists among them, notably Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Bush called Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza the first step toward creating a democracy for the Palestinians. “It took political courage to make that decision,” Bush said of the withdrawal of Jewish settlers.

“And now it’s going to take political courage by the Palestinians and ... Abbas to step up, reject violence, reject terrorism and build a democracy,” he added during a speech in El Mirage, Arizona.
Add in this little note:
A senior Bush administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues, said the White House believes that Abbas already has the means to restrain the groups responsible for attacks on Israel.
But, as LGF noted earlier in the day [from the Jerusalem Post], he clearly is not - even within his own party.
On Monday afternoon, security forces arrested a 14-year-old Palestinian at the Hawara checkpoint north of Nablus, caught attempting to smuggle three pipe bombs.

Paratroopers and military police became suspicious of the teenager, identified as Hassan Khalifa of the Balata refugee camp in Nablus, as he carried a bag containing a box through the checkpoint. They demanded that he pass through the metal detector, and when he set off an alarm he was inspected and the pipe bombs in the box were discovered.

Border Police sappers were called in to blow up the pipe bombs, that contained explosives, shrapnel and glass balls.

Khalifa's 16-year-old brother was arrested at the same checkpoint some months ago also attempting to smuggle pipe bombs. Officials said the Khalifa clan is known for its affiliation with the Fatah al-Aksa Brigades.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Johnson and Roger L. Simon (and others) are in the process of creating Pajamas Media (name to be changed). What it will be is still unclear: But it is assured of being interesting, based on its creators - two of the most recognized bloggers in the business.
I, for one, can't wait.

Back from Atlantic City

SerandEz was on break the past day or so as we went to a friend's birthday party Sunday evening in midtown Manhattan, then slept at friends in Staten Island. We then went with those friends Monday morning to Atlantic City, where we had a great time losing about $200.
We really had a lot of fun, as our guides, Josh & Steph [or is it Stef?] took us to a few casinos, with the best - the Borgata - saved for last. Josh's friend Jeremy, a Brit who interned for Senator Lieberman this summer, added some comic relief. Ser quickly became addicted to slots, while Josh blew his and Steph's money on Caribbean and Bonus Hold 'Em Poker. I did okay in a Hold 'Em Room at the Resort, only splitting a large pot after the river put a trip on the board, blowing my higher 2 pair, and then getting called out and losing $20. At the Borgata, I blew $100 in just minutes on Bonus Hold 'Em while sitting next to Josh, whose advice helped to delay my downfall, and then went down to their really nice poker room. I was waiting for a $2/$4 limit table, but a $1/$2 No Limit opened up. On about the third hand, my hole cards were A/4 off-suit. A 3-5-6 flop [2 clubs] put me in excellent position, and when the man before me bet $40, I called all-in with $39. Two people after me called, making the pot I could win about $180. On the turn, a Jack of clubs, the first guy bet about $75 more, and the other two folded, giving him the sidepot and putting us against each other for the $180. As he showed his cards, he said "You've got me beat, I just wanted to get them out", and showed a Q-8 off suit against my high Ace. As he finished his sentence, the dealer flipped over the river - and the man cut himself off and said, "Oh! Maybe not!" as another Queen fell, knocking me out.
Argh! It's pretty easy to see how people get addicted, with the bad beats and little wins always bringing that ray of hope that 'this time I'm going to get it.' But as long as you set limits, and keep to them, gambling can be good, fun, exciting entertainment. Also, remember to go with friends - the best part (as with most things in life) is being able to share it with others. Josh & Steph are lots of fun (Jeremy too) and that made the day a good one, even if we're a couple hundred dollars poorer.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hevel Hevalim #34

“Hevel Hevalim,” ”Vanity of Vanities” is the Jewish-Israeli blogging carnival consisting of posts from blogs all over the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Soccer Dad. The term “Hevel Hevalim” is from Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, which was written by King Solomon, who built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other “excesses” and realized that it was nothing but norishkeit, “hevel” or in English “vanities.”
This week's Hevel Hevalim is hosted by an Israeli blog titled me-ander, and is excellent. It covers topics ranging from this week's Parshat HaShavua, a number of Post-Disengagement posts, and Aliyah, to Michael Graham, socks, and head coverings. It also includes two posts from SerandEz, which I truly appreciate. It's very interesting and presents a wonderful range of bloggers and their ideas. Check it out.

Deif calls for 'eradication' of Israel

Mohammed Deif, Hamas chief, spoke out in a public statement today.
Hamas terrorists released a videotape Saturday purportedly showing a bombmaker believed to top Israel's most-wanted list celebrating the Gaza Strip pullout as a victory for armed resistance.
Senior Hamas commander Mohammed Deif, who masterminded the deaths of dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings, also urged the destruction of the Jewish state.
To the Israelis, he said:
"You are leaving Gaza today in shame," Deif said. "Today you are leaving hell. But we promise you that tomorrow all Palestine will be hell for you, God willing."
To the Palestinians:
"We did not achieve the liberation of the Gaza Strip without this holy war and this steadfastness," he said, adding that attacks should continue until Israel is eradicated.

And finally, a news organization that writes a fact:
Israel's obliteration is Hamas' ultimate goal.
Scarier still, and possibly very revealing, is the PA's response to Deif's comments.
Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, a spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry, which oversees security in Palestinian-controlled areas, said Hamas remains committed to a cease-fire Israel and the Palestinians declared in February.
"It wasn't secret that a Hamas military wing in Gaza exists, and Mohammed Deif is still alive," he said. "All Palestinian factions are committed to the truce, including Hamas, and we see nothing new in Hamas' position toward the truce."
There seems to be only one way in which this makes sense. Deif is encouraging Hamas and others to commit more terror attacks against Israel, yet, the PA sees 'nothing new' in Hamas' position. Does this mean Hamas' view of the 'truce' is that it is meaningless? Based on earlier events (not yet claimed by any organization), at least some Palestinians agree with Deif. Meanwhile, Hamas is slowly building up further support to turn Gaza into a terror state in January.
With Palestinian parliamentary elections nearing, the Deif videotape also was Hamas' latest salvo in a power struggle between militants and the Palestinian government over who should receive credit for the Gaza withdrawal.
Hamas claims that years of suicide bombings and rocket attacks drove the Israelis out. Abbas, a vocal critic of violence who aspires to renewing peace talks with Israel, has tried to shore up his standing with promises he can improve life in Gaza after the withdrawal.
In an open challenge to Abbas, Deif rejected calls to disarm, though he said differences between Palestinian groups should be resolved through peaceful dialogue.
"We warn against touching these weapons, and want to keep them as an effective element to liberate the rest of our homeland," he said.
Meaning all of Israel.

Didn't Take Long... Suicide Bombing in Israel

Pathetic. The Palestinians have proved, once again, that there is no hope for peace in regards to them.
A homicide bomber blew himself up next to a bus at a station in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on Sunday, wounding at least 10 people, officials said.
Thank God, nobody was killed, but the attack could have easily been far worse:
Witnesses said the bomber was stopped by a security guard before he could board the bus.
The story also brings further proof that profiling is excellent policy. [previously discussed here, here, and here.]
"I was suspicious of him. He had a large backpack and a plastic bag in his hand," a witness who identified himself as a bus driver named Rami told Israel Radio.
"I pointed him out to the guard. He was about 20 meters (yards) from the bus when he blew up. It was a huge explosion, very big," he said, adding that two security guards had approached the bomber just before the explosion.
Having a large backpack and a plastic bag are very common occurences in Israel, where much of the country, including professors and businessmen, carry belongings in backpacks. The bus driver noticed this particular man because of profiling: Arab male, young, carrying backpack/plastic bag, in middle of Be'er Sheva, walking toward bus = Strong possibility of terrorist. In this case, profiling may have saved dozens of lives.

Update: The bomber may have been attempting to blow himself up near Soroka Medical Center, one of the largest hospitals in Israel:
The terrorist was apparently headed for one of Israel's largest hospitals, Soroka Medical Center. A bus driver of the MetroDan company, who said he was the first to notice the terrorist, recounted, "I was parked at the #9 bus stop when the terrorist arrived and asked if I get to the hospital. I told him that the #12 bus gets there. I saw that he had a large and full backpack and a plastic bag in his hand. I suspected him, and told the guard. He kept his eye on him, brought another guard, and then the explosion happened."
The bravery of Israeli security forces continues to astound and impress.
The two guards were seriously wounded, with shrapnel throughout their bodies.

Their sacrifice saved lives. But haven't we already made enough sacrifices to save lives? Land, money, homes, and water wasn't enough?

Must we still pay in bodies?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Al-Sadr calls for... peace?

In a shocking turn of events, Muqtada al-Sadr asked that Iraqis stop fighting each other, but concentrate on getting through this 'difficult period' together.
"I call upon all the believers to save the blood of the Muslims and to return to their homes," al-Sadr told reporters in his home in the holy Shiite city of Najaf.
He's starting to sound like a seasoned politician...
"I will not forget this attack on the office ... but Iraq is passing through a critical and difficult period that requires unity," al-Sadr said.
...adding in a little swipe at the opposition:
He also called on Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the rival Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to condemn "what his followers have done."
Finally, he did the old "sandwich" trick: Put two nice comments around a bad one, and it softens its effect.
"I urge the believers not to attack innocent civilians and not to fall for American plots that aim to divide us. We are passing through a critical period and a political process," he said, referring to stalled talks over the country's new constitution.
All in all, an impressive performance. Does he mean it? Hard to say. If not, then the fighting will continue, and his own people will distrust him further, and hopefully abandon him faster, making the stabilization of Iraq that much easier and shorter. If yes (and I would hope it's yes, though I am still skeptical), then it is an incredible victory for freedom and democracy; and should make the stabilization of Iraq that much easier and shorter.
I am very curious to see how this plays out. This is possibly the most shocking revelation of everything coming out of Iraq recently. I'm almost more curious to see how the media and the Iraqi and US governments react. This should be interesting...

Is there a media bias?

[I was not planning on posting about this, as it is a loaded topic. But after getting drawn in on other blogs' discussions about this, I finally decided that I should.
DovBear, a left-of-center Jewish blog, discussed it here and here; the InterGalacticJester, which is a combination of people across the spectrum, discussed it here. SoccerDad, a right-of-center Jewish blogger, touches on it here. The comments, especially the ones on IGJ, are worth reading as well; probably more so than the posts themselves.]

So, is there a bias? Conservatives often charge a bias to the left, particularly with Reuters, the New York Times, the LA Times, CBS, and CNN; liberals tend to complain about FoxNews being to the right. One issue that is important to note: Editorial pages are absolutely allowed to be biased in any direction, as they are editorial pages - they are not reporting on the news. Therefore, it is fine for the New York Times and LA Times to be heavily liberal on their editorial pages; just as it is okay for the Wall Street Journal to be unapologetically conservative on its own.
The issue is when articles, stories, and photos become somewhat edited and editorialized.
Often, the media reports with a certain philosophy: To try and show the opinions that are hidden behind the norm, or the exceptions to the rule. While in some cases this is a noble expression, because it shares with the world the viewpoints of the few, it is poor policy in reporting the 'normal' news.
By giving voice to the few, it often ignores the viewpoint of the many. But the one watching, listening, or reading the news does not know this. Therefore, the conclusion they are led to assumes that the report is representative of what is felt or happening, though this is not the case. Hence, we have articles like this one in the Washington Post; as Soccer Dad points out:
I realize that the Post's article reported on real people and told no lies. I also realize that by focusing mostly on those milbloggers that share the reporter's apparent opposition to the war the article gave an impression that was as dishonest as a lie.
The Post should have articles like this one, which discusses bloggers writing about their negative or terrifying experiences in Iraq; however, they should also have articles such as this one, which talk about all the positive steps the country and its people are taking. Though an incredibly long article, I would suggest actually reading through it, because just acknowledgement that they exist is not enough; it takes true understanding of what you are or are not getting to fully appreciate what people mean by 'bias'. If you feel it is still too long, just scroll down; see how long it takes you just to scroll through it.
What's most important to note about this article is the lead-in after the introduction:
Here are the past two weeks' worth of underreported and often overlooked good news from Iraq.
Imagine if instead the article covered two years?
As others pointed out, leaving things out is not the only issue. Many news agencies have fallen into the "profit-motive" and "get the story first" bias. Reporters on both sides often rush to get a story, to the point they are putting out stories that are not true or make tremendous assumptions. The Karl Rove/Valerie Plame kerfuffle (which I've discussed) was one good example; the Al Gore/James Witt one was another (thanks Croaky).
The press also went into a tizzy over Gore's casual comment during that first debate that he had traveled with James Lee Witt, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to Texas during a spate of wildfires. As vice president, Gore had traveled with Witt seventeen different times, but not on the date in question. Gore corrected the record the next morning, but the press treated his slip of the tongue as wildly important.
This rush to judgement is something Best of the Web has mentioned repeatedly, and which it pointed out came back to bite the New York Times regarding Valerie Plame. Though these cases involve editorials, and not news, the issue of rushing to judgement still applies. Editors and journalists are entitled to their own opinions, and can write whatever they would like; but often in their zeal to comment on a story they may get their facts wrong. This is wrong, regardless on what page the article is.
As far as we know, the first "mainstream" media appearance of the Plame kerfuffle was a column by former Enron adviser Paul Krugman, which appeared on July 22, 2003.
Think about that: if their characterization of Mr. Wilson's wife is true (he refuses to confirm or deny it), Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative. That happens to be a criminal act; it's also definitely unpatriotic."
Best of the Web further pointed out:
Gail Collins & Co. weighed in with an Oct. 2, 2003, editorial, in which they called for then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to recuse himself from the case and asserted that Plame was indeed a "covert" agent for the purposes of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act:
"The law under which the Justice Department is operating prohibits the naming of an undercover intelligence operative--in this case, the wife of Joseph Wilson IV, a retired career diplomat."
[The editorial] also likened the "leaking" of Plame's identity to "the disclosure of troop movements in wartime" and called it "an egregious abuse of power."

A couple more Times' quotes:
Bob Herbert, Oct. 3: "The vicious release to news organizations of the identity of an undercover C.I.A. officer could serve as a case study of the character of this administration. The Bush II crowd is arrogant, venal, mean-spirited and contemptuous of law and custom. The problem it faces now is not just the criminal investigation into who outed Valerie Plame, but also the fact that the public understands this story only too well."
Paul Krugman, Oct. 3: "In any case, Mr. Wilson's views and character are irrelevant. Someone high in the administration committed a felony and, in the view of the elder Mr. Bush, treason. End of story."
Eventually Ashcroft relented and gave the Times what it wanted: a special prosecutor. A Dec. 31, 2003, editorial applauded the decision and flatly stated that someone had committed a crime:
Mr. Fitzgerald is charged with finding out who violated federal law by giving the name of the undercover intelligence operative to Mr. Novak for publication in his column.
But be carfeul what you wish for...
Since then, the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has subpoenaed several reporters, two of whom, Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time, have refused to testify before a grand jury and are now threatened with jail...which prompted a Times editorial Saturday that contained a stunning turnabout:
"Meanwhile, an even more basic issue has been raised in recent articles in The Washington Post and elsewhere: the real possibility that the disclosure of Ms. Plame's identity, while an abuse of power, may not have violated any law. Before any reporters are jailed, searching court review is needed to determine whether the facts indeed support a criminal prosecution under existing provisions of the law protecting the identities of covert operatives."
By the same token, perhaps reporters should be looking further into stories and the laws governing them to determine whether the facts indeed support the news story that is to be written. As Best of the Web said:
We hope that Miller and Cooper prevail--that they keep their sources confidential and never spend a night behind bars. We also hope our colleagues in the news business learn to be more skeptical about politically motivated criminal accusations.
But bias is not just rushing to judgement or trying to break a big story. Often, it is how the media portrays what is "normal" and what is not. Reuters refuses to call anyone a terrorist, stating that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." This type of policy (in all areas, not just terrorism) results in a 'status quo' judgement, and often this judgement can be biased. Interestingly enough, as BOTW points out (Taranto has a knack for this it seems), this sometimes comes back to haunt Democrats.
"Former President Clinton, defending his senator-wife's statements on abortion, said Wednesday that Democrats are held to a double standard."
He contended that Republicans have defined the abortion debate in a way that boxes in Democrats.
"So for example, if you're a Democrat and you have sort of normal impulses, you're a sellout, like when Hillary said abortion is a tragedy for virtually everybody who undergoes it, we ought to do all we can to reduce abortion," Clinton said.
"All of a sudden," he continued, the media began asking, " 'Is she selling out? Is she abandoning her principles?' But if John McCain, who's pro-life, works with Hillary on global warming, he's a man of principle moving to the middle."
"It's nuts," the former president said.
This is quite simply because the media views many liberal social policies as more in-line with being moderate. By seemingly becoming less in favor of abortion, Mrs. Clinton was moving, not to the middle from the left, but to the right from the middle.
In a similiar vein, Taranto has an op-ed which shows how the media, because of bias, may have actually cost John Kerry the election.
But in reality, it is little innuendos which are often seen in the media which bother people the most. The media as a whole does not promulgate a policy of bias, and does not usually overtly show any such signs. What it does often do is, whether it realizes it or not, is throw in innuendos which are so subtle one might not realize them; but in truth, it affects readers or viewers, creating biases in their own minds. Reuters will not call any terrorists "terrorists", because "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Yet it will call Gaza and the West Bank "occupied land," when it is in fact disputed territory. [Point here is not that it is wrong because it is disputed; just that because it is disputed, Reuters should not automatically say it is occupied based on their own standards.] Reuters also will add tags to many of their photos, and here too there seems to be a bias. In this picture of an Israeli woman pleading to soldiers before they remove her from her home, the caption reads
A Jewish settler holds her baby as she shouts at Israeli soldiers in the Jewish settlement of Sanur, West Bank, August 23, 2005. Israeli forces smashed their way into two West Bank settlements on Tuesday and dragged away ultrarightist Jews dug in for a last stand against evacuation after failing to foil a pullout from occupied Gaza.
The very next photo, of at least thirty Hamas members in masks and carrying either anti-tank guns or machine guns, has the caption
Masked Palestinian militants from the military wing of the Hamas movement participate in celebrations of the Israeli pullout from Gaza at the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip August 24, 2005. Israeli military forces expect to be out of Gaza in mid-September, completing a withdrawal from the territory after 38 years of occupation, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Wednesday.
In both of these instances, the caption's first line touches lightly on what is happening in the picture. The second line goes on to vilify Israel or Israelis, and has almost no bearing whatsoever on what the viewer is seeing. If it were to provide context, that would be okay; but as the context of every photo is a line which vilifies Israel (please feel free to check), this does not seem to be the case.
While, as many have argued, the biases on both sides are getting reduced, there is still plenty of it in the mainstream media - a large reason for that being that only 10% of Internet users are bloggers. However, as BOTW noted about a small issue recently:
This whole episode is another reminder that the media today are subject to much more scrutiny than in the past. The last time a Supreme Court seat came open, the World Wide Web was the province of a few nerds, and there was no Drudge Report, no blogs, no Fox News Channel.
As PuckFomona argued on InterGalacticJester, these new sources of information resulted in a shift.
"FoxNews arrives on the scene. Moves to #1 in the ratings. What do you do as a competitor, say for instance CNN?
That's right, you also shift your coverage starboard, so as to try and take back some of the audience you lost. Other stations of less importance follow suit. Now we have a new, at best moderate, but in my opinion conservative, media.
Sure a couple newspapers may have a liberal tilt (NYT, LAT) but it's not nearly as pronounced as it was in the past..."

While I disagree that the media became moderate, let alone conservative, the point still stands: With the advent of less liberal sources, the older media had to shift more toward the middle. (This probably resulted in Fox then also shifting more to the middle, using the same logic.) This is an enormous positive and a huge step in the right (no pun intended) direction, but the issue still exists. This is evidenced in today's Best of the Web, which contrasts the New York Times' editorials regarding the new Iraqi Constitution and the one Afghanistan made recently. Essentially, on issues that were either almost exactly the same or dealt with better in the case of the Iraqis, the Times was extremely negative about the Iraqis where they had been positive regarding the Afghans.
For example, the Times observes that the Afghan constitution "specifically grants equal rights to women, even promising two Parliament seats in each province to women." The Iraqi constitution has similar provisions:
Iraqis are equal before the law without discrimination because of gender, ethnicity, nationality, origin, color, religion, sect, belief, opinion or social or economic status. . . . No less than 25% of Council of Deputies seats go to women.
Yet, in today's editorial, the Times complains of
"divisive provisions, like the enshrinement of Islamic law and the threats to women's family and property rights."
Granted, this may not be a case of bias: 1) It is on the editorial pages, and though I argued above that bias could still apply, in this case 2) one could argue that it is not bias, just hypocrisy. But, this is disproven by the last section BOTW quotes.
Americans continue dying in Iraq, but their mission creeps steadily downward. The nonexistent weapons of mass destruction dropped out of the picture long ago. Now the United States seems ready to walk away from its fine words about helping the Iraqis create a beacon of freedom, harmony and democracy for the Middle East. All that remains to be seen is whether the White House has become so desperate for an excuse to declare victory that it will settle for an Iranian-style Shiite theocracy.
Taranto feels that
Gail Collins & Co. are heavily invested in the idea that America shouldn't have liberated Iraq in the first place. Failure in Iraq--unlike in Afghanistan--would vindicate them, and that is why they are so eager to find signs of it. What really unsettles America's defeatists is the prospect of success.

But, as I stated above, a far more pressing issue is when bias affects the actual news. The worst - or best - example of this was over a year ago, and was immediately noticed by many, including Best of the Web. The New York Times was reporting on fighting in Iraq, and added in a line amongst the rest of the article.
After American troops completed their withdrawal from the Mukhaiyam Mosque, Iraqi policemen entered the downtown area, trying to take control for the first time since April, when Mr. Sadr's forces seized the area, said Col. Pete Mansoor, commander of the First Brigade of the First Armored Division. "It seems like a good thing," he added.
Iraq has become one of the most dangerous places in the world from which to report, with enormous potential for journalists to be deliberately targeted by either side or caught in the crossfire.
But there are doubts that Iraqi security forces are prepared or willing to rid the area of insurgents.
"Either side"!? What proof, if any, is there to such an accusation? As BOTW questions,
We guess the weasel word potential makes this something less than a direct accusation, but the Times certainly seems to be implying that coalition troops are trying to kill journalists in Iraq. Is there any evidence for such a thing, or is the Times simply becoming more brazen in its anti-American slanting of the news?
While this quote underscores the problems many have with the media, it also bears hope for the future. After the outrage expressed by many, primarily due to the diligence of bloggers, the Times pulled the line from the article. Though it is still available on other sites, most expressing outrage, you wouldn't be able to find it anywhere on the New York Times site.
While many complain that blogging and the Internet allows people to easily espouse their venomous hate and lies, overall the opposite is true. Due to the hard work of honest people, lies are becoming harder and harder to tell without being made to look foolish. Jayson Blair and Rathergate are prime examples. Stories, which otherwise might never have seen the light of day, are now easily passed around to millions within minutes, or just as well, finally being told (such as CNN's director being forced to admit to a 'deal' with Saddam not to report on tortures in exchange for other stories). There are negatives; but there are far more positives.
The mainstream media is still biased; but slowly, surely, they will continue their shift to the middle. If they don't, they will undoubtedly lead to their own demise. After all, this is the Information Age, and speed is everything. Information which used to take a lot longer to come to light is now at our fingertips as soon as we Google it. Nobody wants to get caught in a lie. Truth has always prevailed; now it just does it a lot faster.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Murder in Jerusalem

Just as Israel finished taking Israelis out of Gaza and 4 settlements in the West Bank, an Arab stabbed two and killed one student in Jerusalem, near the Jaffa Gate of the old city.
The attacker stabbed his first victim in the leg around 8:30 on David Street. The young man suffered moderate injuries and managed to reach the nearby police station, where he reported he was attacked with a kitchen knife.

Police rushed to the scene and discovered another stabbing victim with stomach wounds. Medics tried to resuscitate the man as he was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, where he died while undergoing an operation. The other victim was hospitalized at Sha'arei Tzedek Hospital. Police are investigating reports that there was a third victim, who may have been injured lightly. They discovered the 30-centimeter (12-inch) knife at the scene.

This is especially sad, when one puts this into perspective. Israel has just taken a huge step, pulling 25 settlements out of the ground after as many as 25 years, and despite a large opposition among its own people - particularly in the Likud, Sharon's own party. Israel did so despite receiving nothing in return from the Palestinians.
As LittleGreenFootballs noted, President Bush
made it clear that the Palestinians must take the next step towards peace, by reforming their government and their security forces.
“Of course we want to get back to the road map, but I understand that in order for this process to go forward there must be confidence, confidence that the Palestinian people would have with their own government to perform, confidence with the Israelis, that they’ll see a peaceful state emerging,” Bush said.

However, as LGF notes, the Palestinians are doing no such thing.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced on Monday that they have reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority according to which the two groups would not be disarmed.

The agreement was reportedly achieved during talks in Damascus between PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Qurei met Sunday night in Damascus with leaders of various radical groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and discussed ways of cooperating with them after implementation of the disengagement plan is completed. Sources close to the two groups said Qurei made it clear that the PA would not confiscate the weapons of any of the armed groups in the Gaza Strip.

The next paragraph LGF quotes from the Jerusalem Post is even more disturbing:
Musa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas leader based in Syria, said the meeting was held in a “cordial atmosphere” and that the two sides agreed that the Palestinians should have a joint strategy after disengagement. “We stressed during the meeting that the Palestinians have the right to continue the resistance [against Israel] and that there would be no attempt to collect weapons from the resistance groups,” he said.

It is the final sentence LGF quotes which is the most troubling, and probably the most revealing:
“The weapons of the resistance were founded to defend the Palestinian people and resist the occupation,” he added. “The Gaza victory was achieved with the weapons of the resistance, which is the only strategy to drive Israel out of the rest of our lands.
It is these attitudes that are the problem. Until Abbas and the Palestinian Authority control Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the rest, Israel should reserve the right to respond with no holds barred to any attack. Charles Krauthammer has a very interesting suggestion:
Israel should announce that henceforth, any rocket launched from Palestinian territory will immediately trigger a mechanically automatic response in which five Israeli rockets will be fired back. There will be no human intervention in the loop. Every Palestinian rocket landing in Israel will instantly trigger sensors and preset counter-launchers. Any Palestinian terrorist firing up a rocket will know that he is triggering six: one Palestinian and five Israeli.

Israel would decide how these five would be preprogrammed to respond. Perhaps three aimed at the launch site and vicinity, and two at a list of predetermined military and strategic assets of the Palestinian militias. This new policy would echo, though in far more benign form, America's Cold War deterrence policy of "massive retaliation." That was all somewhat theoretical, but the Soviets apparently thought otherwise when they backed down during the Cuban missile crisis. In Gaza, the issue is not theoretical. Once Israel leaves, there is no way to dismantle the rockets. Deterrence is all there is. After but a few Israeli demonstrations of "non-massive retaliation," the Palestinians themselves will shut down their terrorist rocketeers.

Finally, as Krauthammer notes, Israel should absolutely not give any more concessions until there is a complete cessation of violence and the Palestinians destroy the terrorist infrastructure - and the education that leads to it.
The Gaza withdrawal is not the beginning but the end. Apart from perhaps some evacuations of outlying settlements on the West Bank, it is the end of the concession road for Israel. And it is the beginning of the new era of self-sufficiency and separation in which Israel ensures its security not by concessions, but by fortification, barrier creation, realism and patient waiting.

Waiting for the first-ever genuine Palestinian concessions. Waiting for the Palestinians to honor the promises — to recognize Israel and renounce terrorism — they solemnly made at Oslo and brazenly betrayed. That's the next step. Without it, nothing happens.
The clock is ticking. Now, we wait.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Soldier in Gaza

An incredible article from the viewpoint of one older Israeli reserve soldier:
Together with thousands of Jews, I sat on the flagstones before the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The time was midnight on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, the day on which, according to tradition, invaders twice overwhelmed the city's defenders, destroying their Temple and crushing Jewish independence in Israel. Two thousand years later, a new Jewish state with a powerful army has arisen, yet Jews continue to lament on that day, and rarely as fervidly as now. For the first time in history--ancient or modern--that state would send its army not to protect Jews from foreign attack, but to evict them from what many regarded as their God-given land, in Gaza.

I would take part in that operation.
The soldier, Michael Oren, then touched on the terrible internal battle each soldier had to face.
My feelings were, at best, ambivalent. I wanted to end Israel's occupation of Gaza's 1.4 million Palestinians and preserve Israel's Jewish majority, but feared abetting the terrorists' claim that Israel had fled under fire. I wanted the state to have borders that all Israelis could defend, but balked at returning to the indefensible pre-1967 borders. I honored my duty as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, but wondered whether I could drag other Israelis from their homes or, if they shot at me, shoot back.

Nothing in my 25-year army experience had prepared me for the horror of Jews fighting Jews, nor had any of the knowledge I'd gained researching Israel's wars. The threat which the disengagement posed to the contemporary Jewish State weighed on me as I sat mourning the loss of its ancient predecessors.
Many soldiers had to face friends and family, and everyone had their own opinion.
Back in 1982, when he was a handsome commando, Amnon had fought beside me in Beirut. Now he was a Hassid. We spoke of our lives' divergent paths, and then, inexorably, about disengagement. He swore that God would either save the Gaza settlements or punish those who dismantled them. I told him where I was going at dawn. With words that I would hear repeatedly over the following days, he asked me how I could violate my sacred army oath to "love the Jewish homeland and its citizens" and to "sacrifice all my strength, and even my life" to defend them? He reminded me that hatred between Jews had facilitated the Temples' destruction, and excoriated me for bringing ruin on this, the third Jewish commonwealth. Amnon, his old warrior self again, assailed me, "You should be ashamed."
Should I? In fact, the same code of ethics that binds members of the IDF also obligates them to "preserve the laws of Israel" and its "values as a Jewish and democratic State." Both the government and the Knesset had repeatedly approved the disengagement plan as a means of safeguarding demographic and democratic integrity. In acting in accordance with those decisions, the IDF would be fulfilling one of its fundamental purposes. But could that charge be reconciled with the task of emptying and bulldozing Israeli villages? Could the army, which through successive wars strove to "protect the lives, limbs and property" of enemy noncombatants, now forcibly evict a civilian Jewish population?
Interestingly enough, he mentions as an aside a point worth noting as he discusses the difficulties the soldiers faced:
These were the questions that challenged me and the 55,000 soldiers assembled in and around Gaza on the eve of the operation, the IDF's largest since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The answers were far from initially clear.
Many have lamented that if only the IDF took so much care into their planning and carrying out of operations against terrorists, so much more could have been done. This is undoubtedly an exaggerated claim, but it is interesting that this operation on its surface carried more weight.
The article on its surface makes the settlers look somewhat bad, though if one looks closely it is clear that rabbonim (rabbis) and others were working hard to make sure there was no violence. The violence of a few (many who were not even from Gaza) sadly reflected poorly on the many who were against it (as I mentioned here).
While passing several settlements, IDF vehicles--my bus among them--were attacked by knife-wielding youths who punctured their tires. They stood in the hiss of escaping air, wide-eyed and defiant, daring the army to retaliate.
With their gates barricaded, their houses swathed in smoke from burning tires and refuse, these looked, indeed, like battlegrounds.
For nearly a month, teams of IDF psychologists and rabbis had been quietly convincing settlers that disengagement was a reality and urging them to refrain from violence. Still, from behind the gate, youngsters pelted us with eggs and paint balloons, while many parents berated us with words reminiscent of Amnon's--"You disgrace your uniforms!"--and worse, "You're no better than Nazis!"

The tough task which faced the soldiers will never be envied. Each had to think to him or herself that this would all be for the best; or even if they did not think it would be, they could hope and pray. Even if they did not believe in the cause, they could still think that they must follow orders; if they do not, what is to stop others from following their lead? Only chaos could result from such a response. Instead, they were...
Women and men, religious and secular, native-born Israelis and immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia, they had left their usual army jobs as teachers, flight engineers, and navigators to join the disengagement force. When asked about their feelings on Gaza, they insisted that their personal opinions were irrelevant, and that as soldiers, their duty was to carry out the instructions of the legitimately elected government. The assignment, they admitted, was tough, but essential to defend democracy.
Booklets were passed out detailing the legal authority by which soldiers could request settlers to evacuate and arrest those who refused. We listened as the battalion commander reminded his soldiers of the three weeks' intensive training they had received for this, and reiterated the need to show sensitivity to the settlers' pain but also determination to achieve their objectives. He wished us all good luck.
But saying it is essential to democracy and carrying out one's orders are two completely different things: Every house had its own memories that it wanted to share.
The mother of a child who had been killed by terrorists had locked herself in his room, together with gasoline tanks that she threatened to ignite. Another family whose son, an Israeli naval commando, had fallen in Lebanon, was also hesitating to leave. In home after home, teams of officers and NCOs listened patiently while settler parents pleaded with them to change their minds and not to evict them, wailing and tearing their shirts in mourning. Women soldiers played with weeping children, telling them stories, hugging them. Eventually, though, each of the families was led onto the evacuation bus, leaving the soldiers emotionally drained but also resolved to proceed to the next household, the next excruciating tragedy.
Almost every house had a loved one who was murdered; a best friend who will never be seen again; a sibling who will be scarred for life. Each family has its own story, and what instance can remind them of their story more than this? I cry just seeing the pictures of these families, many of them holding up pictures of their father who was shot driving home from work; their child who was murdered while playing in the backseat. How did the soldiers find the strength to do their jobs, seeing and hearing the stories thrust into their faces? Even though they were expecting all of this, actually facing it is a completely different story.
But they did face it, and they handled it well. What was portrayed very well in the article was the incredible brains, heart and sensitivity the IDF showed. Many people I spoke to this week said that for all the sadness and tears this week, there was an incredible positive which stood out, and that was seeing the soldiers: How they acted; how they carried out their orders; how they treated people; and how they cried.
Ultimately, the settlers were either escorted or carried, sobbing, onto buses. But their rabbi, stressing the need for closure, requested permission to address the soldiers, and the battalion commander remarkably agreed. So it happened that 500 troops and 100 settlers stood at attention, with Israeli flags fluttering, while the rabbi spoke of the importance of channeling this sorrow into the creation of a more loving and ethical society. "We are all still one people, one state," he said. Together, the evicted and the evictors, then sang "Hatikvah," the national anthem--"The Hope."
Mr. Oren sums up the feelings many of us share, at least in part, as of this moment:
I retain many of my forebodings about disengagement--the precedent it sets of returning to the 1967 borders, the inducement to terror. About the army's role, though, I have no ambivalence. The same army that won Israel's independence, that reunited Jerusalem and crossed the Suez Canal, has accomplished what is perhaps its greatest victory--without medals, true, and without conquest, but also without firing a shot. In answer to Amnon, I am not ashamed but deeply proud of the IDF, its strength as well as its humanity.
We are all proud.

Roe vs. Gay

Today's Best of the Web (title link) talks about how the Roe Effect (which I've discussed previously) may be affecting the nation's attitude toward homosexuality. Taranto utilizes a chart from Eugene Volokh to do this. I am going to combine my own analysis from last month with Volokh's and Taranto's and see what effect, if any, the Roe Effect has had on the nation's views regarding homosexuality.

According to the chart Volokh and Taranto cite, from 1973-2002 there was a distinct drop in the percentage of people who felt homosexuality was wrong. Among 60+ year olds, the drop was 21%; among those 45-59, 20%; and among those 30-44, 26%. This means an average drop of about 22% versus the previous generation among everyone 30 and above. For those between 18 and 29, however, just 8% less felt that homosexuality was always wrong. [I would also mostly discount the argument that as the percentage was already lower among that group, there was less room for the percentage to drop; the 30-44 group was the lowest of the other 3 groups yet experienced the largest drop.]

According to the statistics I cited last time, there were approximately 15,938,000 [US] abortions between 1973 and 1984, the same group of people who would be 18-29 in 2002. The number of births in that period of time was 40,993,325. This amounts to approximately 56,931,325 pregnancies (that were not miscarried et al). Of these, almost exactly 28% were aborted. Assuming as I did in the last post that 75% of these abortions were from the left, or liberal, side, (conservatives usually won't abort even if it's legal) this amounts to a 21:7 liberal to conservative abortion ratio. This should net a 14% difference on issues that 18-29 year olds would state their opinion on vs. what one would have otherwise expected.

The 14% difference between what one would expect 18-29 year olds to feel on homosexuality versus what they actually do directly correlates to the estimated difference in [those who would be] liberals and conservatives based on abortion patterns that resulted in the non-births of those who would be 18 to 29 years old. Or, in simpler terms, while the "sexual revolution" may have caused a 22% shift to the left on the issue of homosexuality, the Roe Effect has caused a 14% shift to the right on every issue, including homosexuality. This has led to an 8% net change among those between 18 and 29 years old on their views of homosexuality from one generation to the next.

While this is not yet the "wash" Taranto suggests, it is becoming extremely close. As years pass, the Roe Effect will continue to retard the growth of gay rights, among many other issues. Years from now, liberals may be punching themselves in the stomach about this one.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Haveil Havalim #33

About a week and a half ago, I came across Haveil Havalim on Bloghead. Another blogger, Soccer Dad, is apparently the person who started Haveil Havalim. HH is essentially a 'Best of' some of the more interesting and/or relevant articles in the Jewish blogosphere. Not all - in fact, many - of the links have nothing to do with Judaism or Israel per se; but all were written by Jewish bloggers (I believe). Different people host each week as well.
I did not fully understand or appreciate Haveil Havalim when SoccerDad introduced me to it a week ago, but the past week I have been debating putting up a photoblog about the disengagement. I still probably will, as I specifically am looking to make a large collection of very striking pictures [no words except possibly some short captions], but HH has some very good series of photos that others have compiled, which are worth seeing in the meantime.
I hope to link to HH every week in the future, as looking at the archives it is consistently good. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Realized the glitch

Sorry to anyone who has had problems reading SerandEz lately.
[Ezzie: This is a boring technical post. Sorry - just wanted to explain what happened, and that there shouldn't be any more problems of this sort.]
I don't know how many others had this problem, but I did... When using Firefox as my browser, I noticed that my posts were either being shown in full; missing small parts; or both. On IE this didn't seem to be a problem as often. I finally realized that when I put in the code that puts only the first portion of the post on the main page, if it was in middle of a quote the code confused itself; cutting off parts of paragraphs while leaving the whole post on the homepage. To any other bloggers using Firefox (or even not): Don't put the fullpost code in the middle of a blockquote, or Firefox, and some IE users, might not be able to read the post properly.
Oh - and yes, I am becoming more and more impressed with Firefox over IE, despite this glitch.

I'm sure Gaza will make them happy

Many people seem to be of the persuasion that the handover of Gaza will lead to a major reduction in violence and terror attacks against Israel. While I certainly hope this is the case, I have been more than skeptical. Articles I've seen today certainly don't make me feel any better... Arutz-7:
Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) told Arabs in Gaza City that the expulsion was a "small Jihad" [holy war against Israel] and that further expulsions, a "larger Jihad," would lead to an Arab state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Just as Abbas spoke, dozens of masked Hamas gunmen briefly took over Gaza City's central square, keeping police cruisers at bay as they announced they would not halt attacks despite Israel's withdrawal. Their appearance in the park was a direct challenge to Abbas, who has appealed to militants not to flaunt their weapons in public. It also underscored the reluctance of police to confront gunmen.
Back to Arutz-7:
The Hamas radio station Radio Al-Aqsa praised terrorists who "will make you [Israel] tremble in Haifa [and] Tel Aviv. They will strike you in Safed…Wait for us in Jaffa, Haifa, Tel Aviv [and] Ashkelon.
Posters in the central square showed a masked terrorist carrying a rifle while IDF soldiers were crying and leaving Jewish evacuated Jewish communities. Other posters proclaimed, "Israel will no longer exist" and "We drove you out as corpses."
The New York Times added:
During the Intifada, attacks by Fatah militants convinced Israelis that Fatah wanted to destroy Israel, not to achieve Fatah's official goal of a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967.
Since replacing Mr. Arafat, Mr. Abbas has tried to clarify that his faction's goal is the more limited one. As he has done so, Hamas leaders have increasingly spoken of establishing some sort of truce with Israel once the 1967 territory is free. But "this is temporary," said Abed al-Fatah Dokhan, 70, a founder of Hamas. "It's not the long-term dream. The strategic goal is the liberation of Palestine from the occupation, within its historic borders." "Tomorrow there will be the West Bank and Jerusalem, and all the Palestinian sands," he said, meaning lands. "We will go on, on that road, for the resistance to move inside the West Bank, then into all our Palestinian sands. This victory is due to the resistance strikes."
While Abbas and others may argue that this is just "extremists" talking, and that when it comes down to it the Palestinians will truly be content with Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, it is hard to trust them: Not only because they have continually attacked in the past after seemingly negotiated settlements, but primarily because Abbas clearly has no control over Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and even Aqsa Martyrs Brigade of his own Fatah. There is little, if anything, to stop any of the Palestinian territory from becoming a terrorist state bent on the destruction of Israel. Hamas is projected to do very well in the upcoming elections, despite its current status as a listed terrorist organization.
Perhaps I am wrong, and the disengagement will turn out to be a successful attempt at keeping the peace. Perhaps the PA will quash those who espouse hate, and teach its children that they can live peacefully side-by-side with the Jews. Perhaps there will be no more terrorist attacks. Time will only tell. I just hope it's not the click of a detonator clock that tells us.

Friday, August 19, 2005

On a more personal note...

I'd like to take out a moment and brag about my incredible wife, who, as of about five hours ago, finished all her requirements to receive her Master's degree! Of the grades she has received so far, she has an astounding 4.0 GPA [EDIT: Her final GPA ended up at 3.9 (a couple A-'s). Ah well, nobody is perfect... but she's close :) ], and has impressed many of her teachers. The Master's, along with her New York State certification, now allows her to teach both regular Education or Special Education, and she will now spend the next few days weighing the (thankfully) numerous offers she has received for the upcoming year. We both hope and pray that whatever job she accepts she will be happy, successful, and hopefully make a profound impact on a child's life.
(And yes, we could certainly use the money!)Gratuitous shot of Serach as a little girl.

Losing One's Child in Iraq

A mother who lost her first-born son in Iraq last year had the opportunity to meet with President Bush. After the meeting, she had this to say:
"I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis. "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."
The 10 minutes of face time with the president could have given the family a chance to vent their frustrations or ask Bush some of the difficult questions they have been asking themselves, such as whether their son's sacrifice would make the world a safer place.
But in the end, the [family] decided against such talk, deferring to how they believed [their son] would have wanted them to act. In addition, the father noted that Bush wasn't stumping for votes or trying to gain a political edge for the upcoming election.
"We have a lot of respect for the office of the president, and I have a new respect for him because he was sincere and he didn't have to take the time to meet with us," he said.

And there was more:
The trip had one benefit that none of the [soldier's family] expected. For a moment, life returned to the way it was before [their son] died. They laughed, joked and bickered playfully as they briefly toured Seattle. For the first time in 11 weeks, they felt whole again. "That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together," [the mother] said.
For those who have not yet realized, the soldier's name was Casey Sheehan. His mother is Cindy Sheehan, who is now singing a completely different tune:
"Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full well that my son, my family, this nation and this world were betrayed by George Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agendas after 9/11. We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy … not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy."

“And the other thing I want him to tell me is ‘just what was the noble cause Casey died for?’ Was it freedom and democracy? Bull****! He died for oil. He died to make your friends richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East. We’re not freer here, thanks to your PATRIOT Act. Iraq is not free. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you’ll stop the terrorism,” she exclaimed.
I had actually planned on avoiding this whole subject, hoping it would die out. Sadly, it has not, though it did slow down somewhat with the sad news that Mrs. Sheehan's mother is ailing.
I feel terribly sorry for Mrs. Sheehan, who has had the ultimate tragedy happen to her. Nevertheless, I feel sorrier that she has apparently been convinced by some on the far-left fringe to dishonor her son's memory with this ridiculous protest. Her own family has, after a time, finally spoken out against her, as have many other parents of slain servicemen. Her story is sad - not heroic. Her son's life was heroic.
As LGF points out, there is an excellent editorial in today's Wall Street Journal entitled "She Does Not Speak For Me", in which the author talks about other parents, including himself, who have lost children in Iraq. The entire editorial is filled with the heroism of our troops, including Casey Sheehan.
Although we all walk the same sad road of sorrow and agony, we walk it as individuals with all the refreshing uniqueness of our own thoughts shaped in large measure by the life and death of our own fallen hero. Over the past few days I have reached out to other parents and loved ones of fallen heroes in an attempt to find out their reactions to all the attention Mrs. Sheehan has attracted. What emerges from those conversations is an empathy for Mrs. Sheehan's suffering but a fundamental disagreement with her politics.
Ann and Dale Hampton lost their only child, Capt. Kimberly Hampton, on Jan. 2, 2004, while she was flying her Kiowa helicopter. She was a member of the 82nd Airborne and the company commander. She had already served in Afghanistan before being deployed to Iraq. Ann Hampton wrote, "My grief sometimes seems unbearable, but I cannot add the additional baggage of anger. Mrs. Sheehan has every right to protest . . . but I cannot do that. I would be protesting the very thing that Kimberly believed in and died for."
Karen Long is the mother of Spc. Zachariah Long, who died with my son Kyle on May 30, 2003. Zack and Kyle were inseparable friends as only soldiers can be, and Karen and I have become inseparable friends since their deaths. Karen's view is that what Mrs. Sheehan is doing she has every right to do, but she is dishonoring all soldiers, including Karen's son, Zack. Karen cannot comprehend why Mrs. Sheehan cannot seem to come to grips with the idea that her own son, Casey, was a soldier like Zack who had a mission to complete. Karen will tell you over and over again that Zack is not here and no one, but no one will dishonor her son.
By all accounts Spc. Casey Sheehan, Mrs. Sheehan's son, was a soldier by choice and by the strength of his character. I did not have the honor of knowing him, but I have read that he attended community college for three years and then chose to join the Army. In August 2003, five months into Operation Iraqi Freedom and after three years of service, Casey Sheehan re-enlisted in the Army with the full knowledge there was a war going on, and with the high probability he would be assigned to a combat area. Mrs. Sheehan frequently speaks of her son in religious terms, even saying that she thought that some day Casey would be a priest. Like so many of the individuals who have given their lives in service to our country, Casey was a very special young man. How do you decry that which someone has chosen to do with his life? How does a mother dishonor the sacrifice of her own son?
Mr. Griffin then ties in another excellent point about responsibility, and the neccessity to see a job through to the end.

To many loved ones, there are few if any "what ifs." They, like their fallen heroes before them, live in the world as it is and not what it was or could have been. Think of the sacrifices that have brought us to this day. We as a country made a collective decision. We must now live up to our decision and not deviate until the mission is complete.

Thirty-five years ago, a president faced a similar dilemma in Vietnam. He gave in and we got "peace with honor." To this day, I am still searching for that honor. Today, those who defend our freedom every day do so as volunteers with a clear and certain purpose. Today, they have in their commander in chief someone who will not allow us to sink into self-pity. I will not allow him to. The amazing part about talking to the people left behind is that I did not want them to stop. After speaking to so many I have come away with the certainty of their conviction that in a large measure it's because of the deeds and sacrifices of their fallen heroes that this is a better and safer world we now live in.

He sums up his points with the way we should honor our heroes' memories.

Those who lost their lives believed in the mission. To honor their memory, and because it's right, we must believe in the mission, too.

We refuse to allow Cindy Sheehan to speak for all of us. Instead, we ask you to learn the individual stories. They are glorious. Honor their memories.

Honor their service. Never dishonor them by giving in. They never did.

Tears and Heartbreak

This week is one of the saddest times in Jewish history, with Jews being forced from their homes by their own people. Whether or not one agrees with the planned disengagement is not the issue: no matter one's position, it is heart-wrenching to watch families led or carried out of their homes, never to see those homes again.

As hard as it is on those being forced out, it may - in the long run - be even harder on those whose jobs are to talk, convince, and carry out the families from their homes. Soldiers, in a both heartwarming and heartbreaking show of emotion, have alternatively been praying with settlers, crying with them, holding them, talking to them with tears in their eyes, and doing their best to remove all the settlers with as much dignity as they can. They have even taken breaks when the settlers have carried out the day's prayers. Many have broken down while carrying out their orders, and their commanders have done a very good job of comforting and talking to them.

It is interesting to note that most Israelis, particularly settlers, are somewhat to very upset with the many hundreds of people (particularly youths) that snuck into Gaza and proceeded to react improperly when the soldiers arrived. While almost all of the settlers themselves have left without struggle, some of these youths have made the others look terrible. The settlers themselves left either willingly; only when the last knock came warning them they had to leave; or, for the many who understandably felt they could not just leave their homes, were carried out by soldiers without struggle - only forcing themselves to be carried as a personal statement that they are not leaving willingly. Others have burned their own homes, farms, and greenhouses down, not wishing to leave anything intact for the Palestinians to be rewarded with. The settlers are distraught by those who are causing the problems, as they do not want their last memory of their homes to be chaos.

The true memories to hold onto are the sad, tear-filled faces of the people being forced from their homes, by tear-filled soldiers, onto buses full of a crying horde, all being taken from homes they've known for years - if not their entire life. The majority are doing without weapons, without violence, without hate; but with shouts, with cries, with wails, and with tears.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Break (continued)

Sorry. Looks like I'm not going to really post until at least tonight, as my wife has been working feverishly to finish up her work so she can receive her Master's in Education and Special Education! (Yay!) Meanwhile, I'm on vacation from undergrad, unemployed, and doing pretty much nothing. Nice. Anyways... as my computer is usually occupied, and I am getting kicked off even as I write this, please return next Monday as I'm sure by then I will have posted a number of items. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Straight from the horse's mouth

[Ezzie: I was not intending on posting today, but I was so sickened by this that I felt I had to put it in.]
I have to give Achmed Qureia credit for his straightforwardness.

Palestinian leaders have vowed to maintain law and order after the Israeli pullout. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and other Palestinian leaders began a campaign to clean up Gaza's streets under the slogan, "Gaza Clean and Beautiful."

Qureia wore a T-shirt saying, "Today Gaza. Tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem."

Sick. Tomorrow's shirt probably says: "Today Jerusalem. Next week Tel Aviv and Haifa."
This theme is what the citizens of the world must realize: The Palestinians are not interested in Gaza or the West Bank, and never have been. They view these as stepping stones to the eradication of Israel (and the Jews) from this world. Nothing less will satisfy them. People must wake up and understand that terrorism is not about [pick one or more:] Israel, "occupied" territories, profiling, Iraq, US foreign policy, etc. Rather, terrorism and the fight against it are a battle of civilization against those who are trying to destroy it. Until people recognize this, terrorism will not and cannot be defeated.


SerandEz is on vacation until Wednesday, August 17th. My wife and I were in Baltimore for the weekend and stayed through Tisha B'Av, and today we've been getting things in order back here. I should post a few things tomorrow.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Gaza Watch

SoccerDad and Israpundit have cross-linked to LittleGreenFootballs' new section, titled Gaza Watch.

Gaza Watch is a photoblog featuring raw, unedited photos from residents of the Gaza Strip, as Israel prepares to carry out its disengagement plan. Take these pictures at face value.
Clockwise from top left: Police officer and anti-disengagement protester study the Daf Yomi, or the day's Talmud portion; Shot out cars from one of this week's attacks; Protesters show pictures of terror victims of the last few years.

Wacky times in MLB

I'm going to get away from news and politics tonight and focus on baseball instead. The reason is simple: I cannot remember another short period of time in which I've seen so many strange things happen. From a hidden-ball trick, to a collision, to a bizarre rally, this was a strange time for baseball. [Note: All video clips should be somewhere on the pages I link to. is set up in a way that the videos themselves cannot be directly linked.]Today was the final blow - literally. Two Mets outfielders, Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran, were chasing down a fly ball in short right-center field [title link]. Both dove at exactly the same moment, and cracked heads at full force. Beltran's injuries do not seem to be as serious, but they're still unknown; Cameron had a slight concussion and a number of fractures.
On the same day, Frank "K-Rod" Rodriguez allowed the winning run to score in the most bizarre way - giving up first place in the process, as his Angels and the A's were tied for the AL West lead entering the game. After throwing what looked like a strike, but was called a ball, the catcher tossed the ball back to K-Rod. He somehow allowed the ball to glance off his glove and roll toward second base, and Jason Kendall took off from third and scored before K-Rod could throw the ball home. Most of the people in the stadium didn't even realize what had happened before the game ended.
This was all just one day after Mike Lowell of the Marlins pulled the oldest trick in the book. When Tony Clark singled Luis Terrero to third, Lowell took the cutoff throw and held it. When he noticed that neither Terrero nor the third base coach were paying attention, he held onto the ball. Closer Todd Jones quickly picked up on it, and proceeded to walk around behind the mound (knowing that he can't be on the dirt or the trick wouldn't work), picking up the rosin bag and wasting time. As soon as Terrero took a couple of steps off third base, Lowell went over and tagged him out: The perfectly executed hidden-ball trick.
Speaking of high-school style baseball... the night before Lowell's antics included one of the worst blown games in history. The Kansas City Royals allowed my Cleveland Indians to score 11 runs en route to overcoming a 7-2 deficit and winning 13-7 - all in the top of the 9th inning. The Royals dropped not one but two balls, and booted another - one of the drops being the game-ending out. The Indians started off with back-to-back doubles and a single, cutting the lead to 7-4. After a strikeout, a double and single made it first and third with one out, and a 7-5 score. Ronnie Belliard hit an easy pop-up behind second base, and Royals SS Angel Berroa... missed it. The runner on first was forced at second , however, and though it was 7-6 there were now two outs with Belliard on first. Jeff Liefer then drove a ball to deep left, but it died and Chip Ambres went under it to end the game. And the ball bounced right off his glove. Belliard came all the way around to tie it up, and Liefer ended up on second base. The next batter doubled, which was followed by a walk. Grady Sizemore then singled to right, and when Emil Brown booted the ball into right-center, Casey Blake scored from first for a 10-7 lead. After Coco Crisp walked, Jhonny Peralta homered to place the final blow.
This easily topped the Indians' own bone-headed play a few days earlier. After an error and a walk, the Tigers' Nick Logan hit a single to left, and Coco Crisp's throw to get Ivan Rodriguez at the plate was good. But when Pudge ran into Josh Bard, the ball bounced toward the pitcher's mound. As P Scott Elarton was backing up the play at home, 1B Jeff Liefer ran over to throw the ball home to get the next runner, who had come around third when the ball skipped away. Liefer's throw sailed to the backstop, where Elarton had vacated when he began to retrieve the ball Liefer did. Logan never stopped running, getting across the plate before Elarton could get the ball and throw it to Bard. The Indians were fortunate to come back in that one, however, winning 6-5.
There were many other crazy moments, such as hopefully not future Hall-of-Famer Rafael Palmeiro getting busted for steroids, Travis Hafner missing three weeks from a pitch to the head, Matt Clement missing just two days from a liner to the head, and others, but this gives a nice view of a few of the stranger ones. Hope you enjoyed!