One Jew's News and Views


 Thursday, May 29, 2003
The Dubya Debt: True cost of Bush's policies: $44 trillion debt (Financial Times, via Daily Kos)
The Bush administration has shelved a report commissioned by the Treasury that shows the US currently faces a future of chronic federal budget deficits totalling at least $44,200bn in current US dollars.

The study, the most comprehensive assessment of how the US government is at risk of being overwhelmed by the "baby boom" generation's future healthcare and retirement costs, was commissioned by then-Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill.

But the Bush administration chose to keep the findings out of the annual budget report for fiscal year 2004, published in February, as the White House campaigned for a tax-cut package that critics claim will expand future deficits.

The study asserts that sharp tax increases, massive spending cuts or a painful mix of both are unavoidable if the US is to meet benefit promises to future generations. It estimates that closing the gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 per cent across-the-board income tax increase.


The Promise Redux: New Talmud curriculum sparks holy war (Yair Sheleg in Ha'aretz)
While the Israeli public focused on the war in Iraq, ongoing terror attacks and the economic crisis, those prominent in religious Zionism, or at least its rabbinic elite, have been agog over a different subject entirely: a new Talmud-study curriculum designed for the national-religious school system. The reactions? A free-for-all.

The "Revadim" ("Layers" in English) program is a method in which Talmudic tests are examined through a prism that differentiates between the various layers inherent in the text. A world war of sorts has erupted over the teaching method to the point that one of the critics of the curriculum proclaimed it worse and more dangerous than any act of terrorism.

Lest there be any doubt, the program is not the brainchild of secular Education Ministry officials. Nor was it spawned in a Conservative or Reform seminary. In fact, Revadim was devised in the very core of the national-religious establishment: the Department of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University.


The Haredi problem: A good man, but not for Jerusalem (Yossi Klein Halevi)
"For Jerusalem to maintain its tenuous status as a unifying symbol of the Jewish people, its mayor must think in national, rather than sectoral, terms. And with two recent decisions, Lupoliansky has proven that even a relatively tolerant Haredi politician cannot be entrusted with this city's future.

"...Lupoliansky may personally want to honor Independence Day; he may even be willing to meet with Reform leaders. But given the fact that he lives in a Haredi world dominated by fear - fear of the rabbi, fear of one's neighbor, fear for one's children's chances of getting a decent match if the parents are perceived as religiously unreliable - his commitment must ultimately be communal, not national."


American justice: John Ashcroft defends forced labor (New York Press)
So a kid from a Buffalo ghetto travels to Afghanistan, visits a terrorist training camp and comes home. Before he commits any crime, he goes to jail for 10 years. Even the government admits there was no overt violent crime here: "Material assistance to a foreign terrorist organization" was stretched to include the purchase of a uniform at the camp.

But if an American company goes overseas and for six years invests millions of dollars and uses slave labor and torture to build some miserable gas pipeline–committing not one crime, but many hideous violent crimes, at a systemic level–it shouldn’t even be sued, according to our attorney general.


The Texas Junta: Just what did DeLay know about the Dems' Texas plane? (Joshua Marshall in The Hill)
"At 34, I thought it'd be a while longer before I'd have to say that I hailed from a bygone era. But in my day, if a House majority leader was directly involved in a scandal that triggered a potentially criminal investigation at one cabinet department, an administrative review at another, and a grand jury investigation in his home state, he'd be in some trouble. Members of the opposition party might even push to get to the bottom of it.

"Luckily for Tom DeLay, though, times change."


Bloomberg as Bush's intern: More screwing New York (Nathan Newman)

The Republicans should expect riots when they hold their convention in New York City next year, given the war they've declared on the city in repeatedly seeking to cut funding for the City. Here is the latest proposal to screw the city on transportation funding....


Hypertextus: When did linking begin? (Bob DuCharme)
I can only find one reference to something more than a thousand years old that qualifies as a link: Peter Stein's 1966 work "Regulae Iuris: from Juristic Rules to Legal Maxims" describes some late fifth-century lecture notes on a commentary by the legal scholar Ulpian.

The notes mention that confirmation of a particular point can be found in the Regulae ("Rules") of the third-century Roman jurist (and student of Ulpian) Modestinus, "seventeen regulae from the end, in the regula beginning 'Dotis'...".

The citation's explicit identification of the point in the cited work where the material could be found makes it the earliest link that I know of.


Jews and Orthodox Christians Rap Bigotry (Kathimerini, Greece's International Englisgh-Language Newspaper)
Opening the conference, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios expressed sorrow at persisting bigotry.

"Fanatics are not the elect of a specific faith but rather the weakest among its believers," Vartholomaios said. "The purpose [of the meeting] is not to persuade our interlocutors to change their faith, but only that they understand the thought processes of people who belong to a different religion and thus engage in a calm discussion on ways of doing away with fanaticism."

Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Council, stressed the importance of religious diversity. "God needs each of us to serve the world from a different viewpoint, but always in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding."


 Wednesday, May 28, 2003
The candidate was an honorable man: Bush makes a joke of his campaign pledge (The Daily Howler)
It’s time for a Missing Person Alert: Whatever happened to Candidate Bush, the fellow who ran for office in Campaign 2000?

As a candidate, Bush endlessly swore that a $1.3 trillion tax cut was all we could possibly afford. More than that, the candidate said, and we’d have to start spending the Social Security surplus—something he just wouldn’t do.

As a candidate, Bush swore that he’d take all future SS surpluses and use them for Social Security.

But that was then, and this is plunder.


 Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Have you written your book today? U.S. Book Production Tops 150,000 in 2002
"Overall, general adult fiction continued to be the strongest category, again topping 17,000 new titles and editions in 2002. Output of juvenile titles exceeded 10,000, the highest total ever recorded for that category.

"The large trade publishers published significantly fewer books in the adult fiction and travel categories, many more business books, and about the same number of juvenile and young adult titles. University presses, not surprisingly, published more books in the history, sociology and economics categories, but also published more business and poetry books."


A bit of perspective: LiberalOasis Interviews Sidney Blumenthal (Liberal Oasis)
What happened to the Bush Administration regarding terrorism is that they regarded it as a secondary issue, and associated with Clinton. One of those Clinton issues.


Putting the Lockbox Under Water: Stating the Obvious (Paul Krugman)

"The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum." So wrote the normally staid Financial Times, traditionally the voice of solid British business opinion, when surveying last week's tax bill. Indeed, the legislation is doubly absurd: the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other promises.

But then maybe that's the point. The Financial Times suggests that "more extreme Republicans" actually want a fiscal train wreck: "Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door."


Someone needs to produce a home design/architecture magazine called Clutter. (Steven Berlin Johnson)

I say this not because I want shelter magazines to be more realistic for reality's sake, but because some designs are better than others at dealing with clutter. When you pretend that clutter doesn't exist, you end up with designs that are lousy at managing it, which leaves you with cluttered spaces that look fantastic on day one, and progressively worse after that.


No Jews or Muslims were harmed in the making of this atrocity: Congo War Toll Soars as U.N. Pleads for Aid.
It is estimated that more than three million people have died in Congo's four-year-old war as rival rebel armies have fought over the country's spoils. [New York Times: NYT HomePage]


Henry Kissinger turns 80.
The point of Hitchens' book is to argue that Kissinger should even today absolutely stand trial for war crimes in front of an international tribunal [Blogcritics]


Character Witness (The New Republic)

To conservatives, the Bush administration is everything its predecessor was not: decent, ethical, honest. It doesn't abuse government power or the public trust. As Wall Street Journal columnist and presidential hagiographer Peggy Noonan has put it, "Bush brings character to the table."

That's the claim. Here's the record over the last eight months:

Click for details of lies, deceit, hypocrisy, and abuse of power


Its meaner, nastier in America: GOP leads charge in ideological war (Denver Post)
""We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship," said Grover Norquist, a leading Republican strategist, who heads a group called Americans for Tax Reform.

"Bipartisanship is another name for date rape," Norquist, a onetime adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said, citing an axiom of House conservatives."


Britain finds Iraq's 'smoking gun': a top-secret missile (The Telegraph)
"British military officers have uncovered an attempt by Saddam Hussein to build a missile capable of hitting targets throughout the Middle East, including Israel, The Telegraph can reveal.

Plans for the surface-to-surface missile were one of the regime's most closely-guarded secrets and were unknown to United Nations weapons inspectors. Its range of 600 miles would have been far greater than that of the al-Samoud rocket - which already breached the 93-mile limit imposed by the UN on any Iraqi missiles."


 Monday, May 26, 2003
Holy Hip Hop (Ha'aretz)
New York rappers Remedy and Killah Priest landed in Israel a week ago, for a visit that seems quite hallucinatory. While, for political and security reasons, foreign artists are staying away from Israel, and are even warning their friends not to come here, the two are happy to do just the opposite, and they declare that they have arrived here in order to express Zionist identification.

Killah Priest, a smiling black rapper who quotes from the Bible in almost every sentence, considers the visit a spiritual experience of the highest degree. He called his second album "A View from Masada," and is now very excited about his planned visit to the site. As a guest at the Army Radio studio this week, he bombarded all those present with trivia questions about Bible stories.

Remedy is a Jewish rapper who writes words dealing with the Jewish tradition.


Haredi Art in the Kibbutz Gallery (Ha'aretz)
It looks like a Torah scroll, but it is made of clear plastic and has no words on it. It is a transparent Torah: Those who are familiar with its teachings do not need ink to plumb its depths, while those who are ignorant will never make any sense of it.

Mounted on the walls are two photographic series by Pesi Girsch taken in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem since 1997: One documents the goings-on at a randomly chosen spot in Geula, and the other documents life in the Batei Ungarin neighborhood.

According to Girsch, her photographs record the Haredi world from the outside, whereas Golan's installation probes its essence. This idea of a division between "exterior" and "interior" is reinforced by the biography of these two women: Girsch, who lives in Tel Aviv today, immigrated from Germany in 1968, aged 14. She comes from a traditional home, but is not a religious woman. Golan, born in Tel Aviv in 1947, became religious in the 1980s and moved with her husband and two daughters to Bnei Brak. One daughter is religious and the other is not. Walking through the museum, the voice of the secular daughter can be heard singing "Eshet khayil mi yimtza" ("A woman of valor who can find") from the Book of Proverbs.

The power of the exhibit lies in the momentary illusion it provides of cracking the code and unraveling the secrets of the ultra-Orthodox world. But the glimpse of the Haredi street offered by Girsch the outsider, and the testimony of Golan from the street itself, only serve to heighten the sense of alienation between the religious and secular worlds.


Bushing the Geneva Conventions? Red Cross denied access to PoWs (The Observer)
The United States is illegally holding thousands of Iraqi prisoners of war and other captives without access to human rights officials at compounds close to Baghdad airport, The Observer has learnt.

There have also been reports of a mutiny last week by prisoners at an airport compound, in protest against conditions. The uprising was 'dealt with' by the Americans, according to a US military source.

The International Committee of the Red Cross so far has been denied access to what the organisation believes could be as many as 3,000 prisoners held in searing heat. All other requests to inspect conditions under which prisoners are being held have been met with silence or been turned down.


Mars Exploration: Fun Zone! (NASA)

 Saturday, May 24, 2003
I'll drink to that! Arak is back (Ha'aretz, via An Unsealed Room)
"Arak is a drink you associate with your grandfather. But now, with young people's renewed connection with their roots, they're no longer embarrassed to drink it," she says. But there others, who never saw arak at home, who have succumbed to the charms of the local drink. "It used to be," says Shlavin, "that a yuppie drinking a NIS 50 drink was considered stylish. Today, simplicity is in, and the cheaper the drink you order, the cooler it is considered."


 Friday, May 23, 2003
Meanwhile, in Africa: Pygmies beg UN for aid to save them from Congo cannibals (The Times)
" By Michael Dynes, Africa Correspondent PYGMY leaders have called on the UN to set up an international tribunal to put government and rebel fighters from the Democratic Republic of Congo on trial for acts of cannibalism against their people.

Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, told the UN"


This Week's Top Israeli Music (Galei Zahal)

Whopper of the Week: : Don Rumsfeld, meet Dick Cheney (Slate)

"I don't believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at a hearing of the Senate's appropriations subcommittee on defense, May 14

"We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Vice President Dick Cheney on NBC's Meet the Press, March 16


Memo to Dennis Prager: "he myth of the median hyper-promiscuous gay male (The Volokh Conspiracy)
Here's my tentative judgment: (1) Quite a few sources claim that the median American gay male is hyper-promiscuous, with a median of hundreds of sexual partners in his lifetime. (2) This appears to be a myth."


Homeland Security: Keeping French TV Reporters Away (Reason)
"We're used to regimes like North Korea and Saudi Arabia denying legitimate journalists entry to their countries because they have something to hide. Why would we want to keep legitimate journalists away from the story?"


They tell me it's funny: Stella

Why you shouldn't eat Garfield: SARS is from civit cats (New Scientist)

Israeli Guy shares the music
"First song is called Tikva (Hope) by Subliminal and the Shadow "


The Bradbury View: Snapshot of Mother Earth from Mars (NASA)
"NASA's Mars Global Surveyor captured this image of Earth while orbiting Mars. With special processing, the moon is visible in the background. The image shows the Earth-facing hemisphere of the Moon, since the Moon was on the far side of Earth as viewed from Mars"


 Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Leader of All the People: Bush on the Poor (Slate)
"First, let me make it very clear, poor people aren't necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be not rich doesn't mean you're willing to kill."


 Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Good economic graphs: The Monster Economic Rant -- Now With Pictures!

Followup: Groups get $10M in beef-laced fries case (AP)
On Monday, the judge added the Hillel Jewish campus organization to the list of participants and said the group would receive $300,000.


Warren Buffet the bloodsucker hunter! Dividend Voodoo (Washington Post Op Ed)
Proponents of cutting tax rates on dividends argue that the move will stimulate the economy. A large amount of stimulus, of course, should already be on the way from the huge and growing deficit the government is now running. I have no strong views on whether more action on this front is warranted. But if it is, don't cut the taxes of people with huge portfolios of stocks held directly. (Small investors owning stock held through 401(k)s are already tax-favored.) Instead, give reductions to those who both need and will spend the money gained. Enact a Social Security tax "holiday" or give a flat-sum rebate to people with low incomes. Putting $1,000 in the pockets of 310,000 families with urgent needs is going to provide far more stimulus to the economy than putting the same $310 million in my pockets.

When you listen to tax-cut rhetoric, remember that giving one class of taxpayer a "break" requires -- now or down the line -- that an equivalent burden be imposed on other parties. In other words, if I get a break, someone else pays. Government can't deliver a free lunch to the country as a whole. It can, however, determine who pays for lunch. And last week the Senate handed the bill to the wrong party.

Supporters of making dividends tax-free like to paint critics as promoters of class warfare. The fact is, however, that their proposal promotes class welfare. For my class.


Bigger than Bin Laden: Terror's myriad faces (Jason Burke in the Observer)
The world is becoming more dangerous with every passing day. This is because the President and the men who answer to him and his allies are not winning the war on terror, they are losing it.

The reason for this is to be found in the second part of Bush's statement. He believes eliminating al-Qaeda will end the threat of Islamic militant terrorism. Though this is rubbish, as a close analysis of recent terrorist attacks shows, it is the conventional wisdom among most of those charged with ending the violence that we are now being subjected to.

In fact, to understand what is happening we need to look beyond the big headline attacks such as that at Riyadh mid-week and examine the 'background noise', now almost continuous, of Islamic violence. On Thursday morning 18 small bombs detonated virtually simultaneously at Shell petrol stations in the Pakistani port city of Karachi. Pakistani investigators suspect a local group, probably led by someone who was in Afghanistan with bin Laden, is responsible.


Our 21st century life: Radiation sickness drug could save thousands (New Scientist)

The drug works counteracting the destruction of bone marrow that follows radiation exposure. Bone marrow is vital for manufacturing white blood cells, the body's first line of defence against infections.

In particular, special infection-fighting cells called neutrophils can be wiped out and most of the fatalities in the weeks following a dirty bomb blast would die from common infections such as influenza.

Reading told New Scientist that HE2100 acts on the earliest type of stem cells in the bone marrow called haemopoeitic cells, stimulating the production of neutrophils and blood platelets.


Worth watching: New Technology & Child Development

Been there, done that: The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher (Reprinted from the Whole Earth Review)

The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch. I demand that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up and down in their seats with anticipation, competing vigorously with each other for my favor. But when the bell rings I insist that they drop the work at once and proceed quickly to the next work station. Nothing important is ever finished in my class, nor in any other class I know of.


Old autographs selling Briskly: Letter by R. Chaim Soloveichik (VirtualJudaica.com)
1903 letter concerning financial matters. Ink on paper, Ashkenazi script, signed and dated. Current high bid: $2000.


 Friday, May 16, 2003

Saddam and Gomorrosh: A GREAT PIECE IN THE GUARDIAN (Guardian via Instapundit)

Nobody felt safe in Iraq after Saddam became president in 1979, launching a relentless crackdown on his political opponents. I saw some of my secondary school peers murdered. On one occasion, five of them were led out of class and executed for no obvious reason other than that they disagreed with Saddam and his method of ruling the country by fear. They paid for what they believed in with their lives. . .

I had to leave my family, which was destroyed. My brother was killed while on duty in the army. My other two brothers were disabled during their compulsory military service.

Saddam was a disaster for the whole region, and removing him was a necessity. His regime was the cause of wars and instability. Peace and stability could not be established while it was in place. . .

Many questions came to mind: Why did the world allow him to cause so much devastation and suffering in Iraq? Why was the Arab world happy to support a mass murderer? What would have Iraq looked like if we had a government like the one in Kuwait, or even Jordan? Would it not have been a sought-after destination for historians, archaeologists, believers of all world religions, as well as ordinary holidaymakers?

Indeed, says Glenn Reynolds

Yudel's Line: Glenn's point is partially correct. Getting rid of Saddam was a good thing. But who helped prop him up for over a decade after he first became president? Can you say ReaganBush? I thought you could!


Market Reacts to Bogus Dividend Tax Cuts: Dow Drops 22. (NYTimes)
Yudel's Line: The AP story actually blames "a pair of downbeat government reports." Noone wants to note that progress on Bush's "economic agenda" always seems to be matched by a market decline. Maybe investors know something that the Bush cheerleaders don't?


 Thursday, May 15, 2003
Not Black and White: Lawsuit seeks to ban sale of Oreos to children in California / Nabisco taken to task over trans fat's effects

Yudel's Line: It's easy to make fun of another anti-cookie class action suit. But while I believe in the right to eat Oreo cookies -- particular now that they're kosher -- note that Nabisco, et al, aren't eager to let us know what's actually in them:

"The Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, last summer confirmed that trans fat is directly associated with heart disease and increases in LDL cholesterol, the kind that can clog arteries. Because of that, the institute report said there is no safe amount of trans fat in the diet.

Prompted by those findings, and after being petitioned by health advocates, the Food and Drug Administration decided to force food manufacturers to list trans fat among the other fats and nutrients printed on the side of food packages. But the rule has been challenged by food manufacturers. A final version is pending.

As it stands, U.S. consumers have no idea how much trans fat is in food because it isn't required on nutrition labels. Even products marked "low in cholesterol" or "low in saturated fat" might have high levels of trans fat.

Providing information about trans fat on labels could prevent 7,600 to 17,100 cases of coronary heart disease and 2,500 to 5,600 deaths every year -- not only because people would be able to choose healthier foods but because manufacturers could choose to reduce trans fat amounts rather than list high levels on nutrition panels, the FDA has estimated.


The Meaning of Painful Concessions (Yossi Klein Halevi)
"The logic of partition is based on the fact that two peoples claim the same territory. But if one people stakes its emotional claim to the entire land, as the Palestinians continue to do, while the rival people confines its claim to only part of the contested land, then the moral basis for partition is compromised.

Precisely those who support partition should be vigorously reminding the world of the Jewish claim to Judea and Samaria and the trauma we will be imposing on ourselves by forfeiting that claim. Otherwise, we risk a repetition of what happened after the Camp David negotiations in July 2000, when much of the international community dismissed Israel's willingness to withdraw as inconsequential.

If political and demographic conditions make withdrawal necessary, that doesn't lessen the legitimacy of our connection to Hebron and Bethlehem, just as the Palestinians never forget their links to Jaffa and Haifa. The settlers were right to stake our claim - just as the peace camp was right to insist on justice and reconciliation as the highest national priorities. Both the settlement movement and the peace movement were legitimate, indeed essential, expressions of Jewish history. The fact that neither could fulfill its vision doesn't detract from the nobility of the effort.

In voluntarily severing ourselves from our historic heartland, we will be doing what no nation has ever done to itself.

That hurban gives us the right to demand of the Palestinians and the Arab world an equivalent hurban of their deepest claims and grievances, especially the "right of return" to pre-1967 Israel.

Failure to convey the full extent of the price we will pay for withdrawal will result in the world continuing to indulge Palestinian intransigence, while taking for granted our self-inflicted mutilation."


Getting away with murder: Jury Delivers Mixed Verdict in Crown Heights Case
n a mixed verdict that delighted the defendant, the federal jury in the third Crown Heights racial violence trial convicted Lemrick Nelson Jr. yesterday of violating the civil rights of an Orthodox Jew by stabbing him during a night of racial unrest in Brooklyn 12 years ago, but found that Mr. Nelson did not cause the death of the victim, Yankel Rosenbaum.

Mr. Nelson, who is black, could have received a life sentence had he been held responsible for Mr. Rosenbaum's death; the maximum sentence under this finding is 10 years. His lawyers said that between the time he has already served on various charges and time granted for good behavior, he was likely to be out of prison in less than a year.


In Italian Dust, Signs of a Past Jewish Life (NYTimes). Historians have uncovered dozens of Jewish sites containing artifacts, documents, rare books and manuscripts dating from Roman times to the Middle Ages.
This is the headstone of Claudia Aster, a 25-year-old Jew brought to the area, probably as a girl, and sold as a household slave. The inscription reads: "Claudia Aster, captive from Jerusalem. Tiberius Claudius Proculus, imperial freedman, took care of this epitaph. I ask you to make sure through the law that you take care that no one casts down my inscription."


 Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Ruling the Airwaves: The China Syndrome (Paul Krugman, NYTimes)
"We don't have censorship in this country; it's still possible to find different points of view. But we do have a system in which the major media companies have strong incentives to present the news in a way that pleases the party in power, and no incentive not to."


 Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Man kicked, spat upon in Berlin for wearing Star of David (Ha'aretz)
The assailants, about 14 or 15 years old and described as Middle Eastern appearance, fled.


Can you say bio-blowback? WMDs for the Taking? (Newsweek via Josh Marshall)
The well-known Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, about 12 miles south of Baghdad, had nearly two tons of partially enriched uranium, along with significant quantities of highly radioactive medical and industrial isotopes, when International Atomic Energy Agency officials made their last visit in January. By the time U.S. troops arrived in early April, armed guards were holding off looters—but the Americans only disarmed the guards, Al Tuwaitha department heads told NEWSWEEK. “We told them, ‘This site is out of control. You have to take care of it’,” says Munther Ibrahim, Al Tuwaitha’s head of plasma physics. “The soldiers said, ‘We are a small group. We cannot take control of this site’.” As soon as the Americans left, looters broke in. The staff fled; when they returned, the containment vaults’ seals had been broken, and radioactive material was everywhere.

U.S. officers say the center had already been ransacked before their troops arrived. They didn’t try to stop the looting, says Colonel Madere, because “there was no directive that said do not allow anyone in and out of this place.” Last week American troops finally went back to secure the site.

Al Tuwaitha’s scientists still can’t fully assess the damage; some areas are too badly contaminated to inspect. “I saw empty uranium-oxide barrels lying around, and children playing with them,” says Fadil Mohsen Abed, head of the medical-isotopes department. Stainless-steel uranium canisters had been stolen. Some were later found in local markets and in villagers’ homes. “We saw people using them for milking cows and carrying drinking water,” says Ibrahim. The looted materials could not make a nuclear bomb, but IAEA officials worry that terrorists could build plenty of dirty bombs with some of the isotopes that may have gone missing.

Last week NEWSWEEK visited a total of eight sites on U.N. weapons-inspection lists. Two were guarded by U.S. troops. Armed looters were swarming through two others. Another was evidently destroyed many years ago. American forces had not yet searched the remaining three.

Yudel's Line: WTF? Wasn't eliminating weapons of mass destruction -- and preventing terrorists from get hold of them -- the rationale for the the Iraqi war late unpleasantness battle? Can the Bushies ever to the right thing without fouling it up beyond belief?


 Monday, May 12, 2003
Gotta unnerve somebody: Dylan's spiritual life remains a puzzle (News and Observer)
"It is Bob Dylan's lot to have every word he utters subjected to scrutiny. For the past 20 years, faithful fans have been poring over Dylan's albums, set lists and rare public pronouncements looking for clues to one of the great theological mysteries of popular culture: Is he or isn't he a born-again Christian, the faith he turned to in 1979 and then seemingly left behind?"


Williamsburg Diary: Symbolic Boundary Begets a Real Disagreement (NYTimes)
"Several men who opposed the eruv, including Israel Brody, stated their case simply. "It would look like any other day, a Sunday or a Monday," said Mr. Brody, who, it should be noted, would not give his name until a reporter promised that he would not write the name down but would instead memorize it. Mr. Brody explained that under his interpretation of Talmudic law, he could not cause someone else "


Here comes the son: Dhani Harrison (The Guardian)
Meeting Dhani Harrison is a bizarre experience. He looks exactly like his father did in the early 60s, but with evidence of a better diet and quality grooming products. And while George Harrison was a working-class Liverpool lad who played guitar in the biggest pop group of all time, Harrison junior, at 23, is the son of a multimillionaire. He exudes the kind of privilege, confidence and charming public-school noblesse oblige that you would expect from a young man who is off shooting with Eric Clapton a few hours after talking to us about his favourite records.


Please don't forward this email: When Do-Gooders Don't Know What They're Doing (NYTimes)
"The information currently circulated is inaccurate, and the situation in Nigeria, being volatile, will not be helped by such campaigns," said a "Dear Friends" electronic letter circulated last week from the organization Baobab for Women's Human Rights, based in Lagos. "If there is an immediate physical danger to Ms. Lawal and others, it is from vigilante and political further (over) reaction to international attempts at pressure."


Why we are in Baghdad: Committee of the Missing (Newsweek)
One local institution in Baghdad is up and running, documenting thousands of dead, and giving some small comfort to the living. It’s serious work, by serious men

Messy Petrodollars: Harvard is pressured to return $2.5m gift (Boston Globe)
"Harvard Divinity School is poised to return a $2.5 million gift from the president of the United Arab Emirates after questions recently surfaced about his ties to a controversial Arab think tank with alleged anti-Semitic and anti-American leanings."


Martin Indyk debates Daniel Pipes: Middle East Debate: Should Washington Actively Promote an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Settlement?

 Friday, May 09, 2003
The Piano Mana: Dylan on the Road (Seth Rogovy)
"Could the guitar reappear next month, next week, or on Friday night? Certainly. But in the meantime, the man who took the music and stylings of Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, and Chuck Berry, mixing them up and adding his own psychedelic-poet perspective, has finally come full circle to what all the biographies say was his teenage ambition: to be the next Little Richard."


 Thursday, May 08, 2003
More Bad News for the Record Companies: California Senate Panel OKs Royalty Measure

Yudel's Line: First the record companies were outraged that people were downloading music without paying for it. "Unfair to artists!" cried the recording industry. Now, another battle: The government is tring to make sure that the industry actually pays the artists! How unfair! Listen to the screams:

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A bill that would require record companies to account for artist royalties cleared the California Senate Judiciary Committee (news - web sites) on Tuesday, and will now go before the full Senate for a vote.

Under SB1034, a record company's obligation to account accurately for artist royalties would become a fiduciary duty.

Recording Industry Assn. of America president Cary Sherman, whose lobby group represents the major labels, countered the bill in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday: 'The solution proposed in SB 1034 doesn't work, because it tries to apply a doctrine of fiduciary duty to what is plainly a non-fiduciary, contractual relationship.'

The bill's sponsor, however, said: 'While I applaud the recent attempts by some of the record companies to address issues raised by artists ... under the current structure, there is no disincentive for record companies to properly account for and pay royalties. Therefore, bad behavior by companies is rewarded. SB1034 simply makes it law that record companies must accurately report royalties to the artist.'


Yahoo! News - Browning, Tennyson, Kipling Voices Feature on CD (Yahoo)

 Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Shas and Awe? Iraqi Documents on Israel Surface on a Cultural Hunt (NYTimes)
"What began today as a hunt for an ancient Jewish text at secret police headquarters here wound up unearthing a trove of Iraqi intelligence documents and maps relating to Israel as well as offers of sales of uranium and other nuclear material to Iraq....

" The search began this morning when 16 soldiers from MET Alpha teamed up with members of the Iraqi National Congress, a leading opposition group headed by Ahmad Chalabi, to search for what an intelligence source had described as one of the most ancient copies of the Talmud in existence, dating from the seventh century.

"A former senior official of the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein's secret police, had told the opposition group a few days earlier that he had hidden the ancient Jewish book in the basement of his headquarters. The building had been badly damaged by coalition bombing, said the man, who is now working for the Iraqi National Congress, but he was still willing to take a group there to recover it. MET Alpha hesitated. Its mission was hunting for proof of unconventional weapons in Iraq, not saving cultural and religious treasures. But Col. Richard R. McPhee, its commander, decided that the historic Talmud was too valuable to leave behind.

"As for the missing Talmud, Mr. Gonzales said his team believed that it might still be at the bottom of the Mukhabarat's flooded basement. That view was reinforced by the recovery of a wooden box with Hebrew writing, which the former Iraqi intelligence officer said might have contained the priceless artifact."

Yudel's Line: 7th century Talmud manuscript??? Well, a bit of Googling dug up this 8th century manuscript, so who knows!


Bush and The He-Man Generation Behind the Retro Curve (Better Living Through Software)

Why do the anti-war, anti-Bush protesters have such a hard time getting anything to stick? 

In my opinion, they fail because they have failed to recognize the diminishing subliminal effectiveness of 60's and 70's pop-culture messages, and the Bush team has effectively marshalled 80's pop-culture engrams to appeal to today's young adults.

First, watch any video footage of George W. Bush walking -- notice how his chest rises and his arms hang a bit away from his sides when he walks, as if he has just been pumping iron and has too much muscle for his arms to fit flush to his sides.  Notice how his shoulders never move independently of one another, like a plastic action hero.  Now look at the pictures below, and tell me the resemblence is not deliberate and calculated. 

Today's young adults don't see anything wrong with the fact that Saddam and Bin Laden haven't yet turned up dead.  If He-Man had ever killed Skeletor for good, what would we do for the next episode?  You see, a good He-Man always wins, but he doesn't need no stinkin' DNA to prove it!


 Tuesday, May 06, 2003
For the Dylan Fanatic in your life (Amazon.com)
An opportunistically linked-to-Amazon list of recent Dylan covers, many of which, to judge from the sound clips, are worthwhile....


 Monday, May 05, 2003
Mashina Returns (Jpost)
"After an eight-year hiatus, Mashina is back. One of Israel's leading rock bands of the eighties and early nineties, the band is reuniting for four shows at the Caesarea amphitheater on July 24, 26 and 31, and August 2 organized by impresario Shuki Weiss.

The comeback - already an open secret - was officially announced in surreal circumstances on Wednesday. Eleven hours after a suicide bomber killed three pub-goers less than 100 meters away, the press conference-cum-concert on the roof of the Dan hotel was quintessentially Tel Aviv.

Forty-five minutes behind schedule, singer Yuval Banai (a member of Israel's best known artistic clan), guitarist Shlomi Bracha, keyboardist Avner Hodorov, bassist Michael Benson and drummer Iggy Dayan strode onto an impromptu stage.

"I know we live in crazy, occasionally sad times, but we're here to make people happy, if only for a moment," said Banai as an introduction, and they broke into one of their catchiest hits, "Come Back" ("Tachzor")."


Bill Bennett's Bad Bet - The bookmaker of virtues. (Michael Kinsley, Slate)
"Sinners have long cherished the fantasy that William Bennett, the virtue magnate, might be among our number. The news over the weekend--that Bennett's $50,000 sermons and bestselling moral instruction manuals have financed a multimillion dollar gambling habit--”has lit a lamp of happiness in even the darkest hearts. As the joyous word spread, crack flowed like water through inner-city streets, family court judges began handing out free divorces, children lit bonfires of The Book of Virtues, More Virtuous Virtues, Who Cheesed My Virtue?, Moral Tails: Virtue for Dogs, etc. And cynics everywhere thought, for just a moment: Maybe there is a God after all."


 Sunday, May 04, 2003
Yogurt Makers Shrink the Cup, Trying to Turn Less Into More (NYTimes)
"While nearly a dozen regional and national brands are jousting for their share of the yogurt market, the most pitched battle is between Dannon, which is a division of Groupe Danone, and Yoplait. In 1999, Yoplait first edged past Dannon, which had dominated the business for 58 years. Yoplait now has 35.6 percent of the country's yogurt market and Dannon has 27.4 percent, according to Information Resources.

"Our very clear rally cry is `Grow faster than Yoplait' because we know that as long as Dannon grows faster than Yoplait and faster than the marketplace, Dannon will retake its leadership of the market," said Eric Leventhal, vice president for marketing at Dannon."

Yudel's Line Isn't 1999 the year that Dannon lost their OU hashgacha?


That was quick! Arafat sets up security council in violation of 'road map' (Ha'aretz)

 Friday, May 02, 2003
It's A Cold Airless Day In The Neighborhood
Mr. Rogers has had an asteroid named after him. It's in the main belt, between Mars and Jupiter, and over twice as far from the Sun as the earth is. Better get a big sweater on it... [Transterrestrial Musings]


Reb Yudel Says:
Never dismiss the stupid, shallow and superficial. That's three advantages they already have over you.


It Coulda Been Me: Man hospitalized for Dylan-related exhaustion (LarkNews.com)
"CARSON CITY — Terry Landau, 53, was taken to Fillmore Hospital in this Nevada city after he hyperventilated and lapsed into exhaustion. His wife says he was over-speculating about Bob Dylan's religious views.


Too bad it wasn't a Darwin Award winner: One person killed by grenade blast in Jordan airport when reporter tries to bring home a grenade from Iraq (Ha'aretz)

Color-blind America: Welcome to 2003. (Yahoo, via MetaFilter and Eschaton)
A quiet Southern high school south of Atlanta once again holds seperate white and black proms. "I cried," said McCrary, who is black. "The black juniors said, 'Our prom is open to everyone. If you want to come, come.'"


Why are they now? On deficits, Republicans in Congress haven't just changed their minds--they've lost their brains. (Michael Kinsley in Slate)
""By the year 2002, we can have a federal government with a balanced budget or we can continue down the present path towards total fiscal catastrophe."—Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, 1995

When, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one Party to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected its leaders to one alleged core belief, and to bind themselves with equal pomp and gravity to a contradictory core belief, as the Laws of Politics and Political Winds entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they have a Pretty Good Explanation. Or So you would Think. Especially when the First Belief comes Wrapped in a pompous Document with a lot of Bullying Language about how Noble its adherents are and what Scum any opponents Must be."


Playing Games: Top Gun (Slate)
"The emphasis on terror also allowed him to avoid discussing the United States' failure so far to find any of the chemical or biological weapons the Iraqi regime allegedly had—not that anyone cares about that whole weapons pretense anymore.

A "senior administration official," whom the New York Times buries at the very, very bottom of its lead, actually went so far as to say it's unlikely any real chem or bio weapons will ever be found because--”get this--”Saddam "couldn't put them together as long as the inspections were going on."

The Washington Post and NYT alone mention that one reason the White House did not want to declare an official end to the war--”apart from the fact that, well, there's still fighting going on--”was that such a declaration would require the U.S., under the Geneva Convention, to release all of its 6,000 Iraqi POWs."


Flying High: Bush the Pilot (Atrios)
It is odd watching the military and the press fawn over a wartime deserter.

And, does anyone want to look into the legality of an unlicensed pilot - in fact one who had his national guard flying privileges suspended - flying a plane?
Just asking...


 Thursday, May 01, 2003
Via InstaPundit:

The two British suicide bombers who blew up a seafront bar in Tel Aviv, killing three people, had posed earlier as peace activists, acting as "human shields" for Palestinians, sources in the Gaza Strip said yesterday. . . .

A Western pro-Palestinian activist said the two later took part in a protest march in Rafah to commemorate Rachel Corrie, an American "human shield" killed by an Israeli bulldozer last March.

At least the story says "pro-Palestinian activist" instead of the manifestly-untrue "peace activist." And the Israelis have noticed:

Israel will from now on bar pro-Palestinian activists from entering the country and will try to expel at least some of the dozens of activists who are already here, according a new plan drafted by the Israel Defense Forces and the foreign and defense ministries.

Most of the activists, who come from Europe, Canada and the United States, belong to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Yes, and they're not "peace" activists, they're just on the other side.



Like, Duh, Dudes! 'Eminem' Jews Rap Establishment (The Jewish Week)
A few months ago I was invited to observe a focus group being conducted with about two dozen unaffiliated Jews in their 20s discussing their views on Israel, Judaism and their own religious identity.

I sat behind a one-way glass wall with more than a dozen officials from a variety of Jewish organizations, watching the proceedings in the next room.

Over a period of several hours we were at times annoyed, frustrated and depressed with the responses of the young people, who made it clear that neither Israel, synagogues nor organized Jewish life resonated with them. In fact, they expressed a good deal of negativity in discussing these issues at the prodding of Frank Luntz, a national public opinion research expert. They told him they were embarrassed by many of Israel’s military actions, felt the American Jewish establishment was irrelevant to their lives and described Hillels on campus as a place to avoid.


Borrow and Spend, Borrow and Spend: Treasury Says U.S. Could Face Default (Washington Post)
"Treasury has asked Congress to boost the government's borrowing authority, although it has not suggested a specific amount. A proposal is pending on Capitol Hill that would raise the debt ceiling to $7.38 trillion.

"Last year, Congress boosted the old debt limit by $450 billion, from $5.95 trillion to the current $6.4 trillion.

"The government had to borrow a record $111 billion in the January-March quarter to cover the shortfall between expenses and tax revenue. It expects to borrow another $79 billion in the current quarter."

Yudel's Line: Are you better off now than you were in November, 2000? How does your IRA compare? Are your taxes less and your income more? Or is it the other way around?

And if you're not better off, well, maybe someone you know is. Go ahead, ask!


Why We Pay for Anti-Drug Programs that Don't Work: Prevention Programs And Scientific Nonsense (Policy Review)
"In the case of the pseudoscience that dominates school-based prevention, the authorities are the expert panels that are convened by government and private agencies to determine what is “best practice” or “research-based” or “exemplary.” If an independent researcher examines the evidence pertaining to any of the approved programs and contests a panel’s judgment, this leads not to a critical analysis and discussion of the relevant data but to questions as to the adequacy of the individual who raised the questions. What both of these forms of political thinking demand is deference to authority and solidarity, not a search for the truth about efforts to promote health."


Sabra Sounds: The Best of Yehuda Poliker (Jerusalem Post)
"When he plays live, singer/songwriter Yehuda Poliker teases the audience by first playing a round of rock 'n' roll classics that he scored with the band Benzeen in the early '80s. The rocking tracks get the audience up and dancing, and then he gradually builds up the buzz by adding layer upon layer of fast-paced guitar melodies, eventually taking the crowd to the world of Greek music that is his signature tune.

Poliker has adopted the same mix of amazing restraint and energy in choosing and ordering the songs on his first-ever collection of classic hits. A comprehensive two-CD set featuring no less than 36 Poliker gems."


© Copyright 2003 Larry Yudelson.
Last update: 12/23/2003; 1:38:21 AM.