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Sunday, January 7

Here Come the Saudi Hawks: Riyadh is at the root of much evil (Wall Street Journal editorial page)
“We must work against the Saudis' campaign of religious hatred and subversion around the world. And we must begin looking for other regional partners, from a liberated Iraq to a future Iran. Finally, we must be prepared to seize the Saudi oil fields and administer them for the greater good. Imagine if, instead of funding corruption and intolerance, those oil revenues built clinics, secular schools and sewage systems throughout the Middle East. Far from being indispensable to our security, the Saudis are a greater menace to it than any other state, including China.”
Killing the goose: Public money, private code (Salon)
“Many would regard giving the Internet to the world as a benevolent act fitting for one of the world's great public universities. But Bill Hoskins, who is currently in charge of protecting the intellectual property produced at U.C. Berkeley, thinks it must have been a mistake. "Whoever released the code for the Internet probably didn't understand what they were doing," he says.
Beyond Berger: The rebbe's Second Coming (Yosef Dan in Ha'aretz)
“Berger is justified in his fears that if the ultra-Orthodox establishmesnt does not take issue with the Christian messianism adopted by Chabad and the cult surrounding a deified, dead man, the character of Jewish messianism will change altogether. But that is not all. The deafening silence on this matter is a blunt way of saying that Judaism today has no beliefs, no principles, no spiritual values. All it is, is a rigid lifestyle sustained by a narrow-minded educational system."


Wednesday, January 2, 2002

The Courage to be Modern and Muslim: Battling Islamic 'Puritans' (LA Times)
“The most incendiary Muslim in American academia knows a thing or two about Islamic fanatics. He says he used to be one as a seventh-grader in his native Kuwait.

“UCLA law professor Khaled Abou El Fadl remembers beating up other kids, condemning his parents as unbelievers and destroying his sister's Rod Stewart tape, "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"

“"I found it remarkably empowering to spew my hatred with the banner of God in my hand," he says.

“But challenged by his father to take up true religious scholarship, Abou El Fadl began a journey of Islamic learning that would transform him into a nemesis of the extremists he once endorsed. Today, at 38, he is a leading warrior in the intellectual struggle that exploded into America's consciousness Sept. 11: Who speaks for Islam? Who defines it?

“With breathtaking bluntness, Abou El Fadl attacks Muslims who promote a strict, literalist trend in Islam, most prominently the creed of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia.”

Saturday, December 22

America's Next Jihad: Saudi Arabia's Apartheid (Washington Post)
“One of the (still) untold stories, however, is the cooperation of U.S. and other Western companies in enforcing sexual apartheid in Saudi Arabia. McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and other U.S. firms, for instance, maintain strictly segregated eating zones in their restaurants. The men's sections are typically lavish, comfortable and up to Western standards, whereas the women's or families' sections are often run-down, neglected and, in the case of Starbucks, have no seats. Worse, these firms will bar entrance to Western women who show up without their husbands. My wife and other [U.S. government affiliated] women were regularly forbidden entrance to the local McDonald's unless there was a man with them..."

“The question is whether Americans are as concerned today about U.S. corporate support of gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia as the late Leon Sullivan and a host of others in the anti-apartheid movement were disturbed by the obedience of American businesses to racist apartheid policies in South Africa.

“The Feminist Majority Foundation led the public outcry over the Taliban's human rights abuses against women and girls in Afghanistan. What do they and other opponents of gender discrimination think of the complicity of America's fast-food joints in Saudi Arabia?”

Yudel's Line: I can't wait to see how Seth Lipsky comes out on this one. Is this a chance to go after the Saudis? Or will the "We're the Good fundamentalist" of Agudath Israel point out that tomorrow's embargo on McDonald might become next year's sanctions against Israel's new segregated bus lines?

Is the ADL ready for the Zionism is Sexism resolution of 2010?

Riyadh's Next Jihad: Saudi Officials Accuse U.S. Media (AP)
“Another state-controlled newspaper, Al-Watan, questioned Thursday why the press in the United States -- with its war on terrorism, recession and "highest level of murders and rapes" -- would focus attention on felony battery charges filed against a Saudi princess living in Florida.

“Police in Florida charged the princess Monday with hitting her Indonesian maid's head against a wall and pushing her down a staircase.

“"It cannot be explained except in the context of the continuing American campaign against Saudi Arabia," Al-Watan said. The paper added that Saudi residents in the United States are still being detained as part of the investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

“"We hope that Americans realize before it is too late that patience has its limits," concluded Al-Watan's editorial.

“Prince Sultan told journalists Tuesday that if Saudi Arabia were to change its position on the Palestinian issue, "if we were to become enemies to ourselves and befriend the Jews, the campaign would end within 24 hours."

“The defense minister said he found the media criticism "surprising" because the United States and Saudi Arabia share "important common interests." ”

Wednesday, December 19

Clinton and bin Laden: Broad Effort Launched After '98 Attacks (Washington Post)
“Unfolding in the last two years of his presidency, long before the events of Sept. 11, Clinton's war was marked by caution against an enemy that the president and his advisers knew to be ruthless and bold. Reluctant to risk lives, failure or the wrath of brittle allies in the Islamic world, Clinton confined planning for lethal force within two significant limits. American troops would use weapons aimed from a distance, and their enemy would be defined as individual terrorists, not the providers of sanctuary for attacks against the United States.”
Saudis vs Israel: Arabian Fights (New Republic)
“Having converted their Gulf war contacts into business contacts, the men who guided foreign policy in Bush I (and who, it was assumed, would help do the same in Bush II) boast unusually close relations with the Saudis. The elder Bush, for example, decamped for the Carlyle Group, a Washington investment firm favored by Saudi elites--including the bin Laden family, with whom Bush Sr. has met twice. ”
Waiting for a Reformation: It's time to save our Islamic faith (London Telegraph)
“I don't wear hijab (my mother and grandmother never did, either) but I do fast, pray and give to charity, thus fulfilling my obligations to the basic pillars of Islam. I was brought up to respect all faiths and the human rights of individuals.

“In the merciless eyes of the faith police that we now have within Muslim communities, this set of beliefs makes me a kaffir, an infidel, an enemy of "true" Muslims. So they write to me and to each other about how I should be punished, intimidated, even killed. Poison is thrown at my children. I have had to become seriously attentive to security measures, and other liberal Muslims have been similarly targeted.”

Redefining Justice: Free Vanessa Leggett. (National Review Online)

“The subpoena demanded that she turn over to the FBI every note she had had about her book in progress — and all copies of the notes. In other words, she was supposed to surrender control of the book to the FBI, with her ability to continue writing dependent on whether the FBI ever decided to give her the notes back. Now, she's in a federal detention center for contempt of court because she defied the subpoena.”

Monday, December 17

Just For Fun: Visual Pinball
Build your own pinball game.... or download your old favorites.

Me, I'm delighted to be playing Black Knight again.

Time to Act: Is Spam Killing Email? (Arts & Farces)
“ I am now convinced that legislation is needed to prevent email from being relegated to the cyberspace landfill and see two important measures that need to be taken.

  1. The “junk fax” section of Title 47 of the United States Code (Chapter 5, Subchapter II, Section 227) should be immediately extended to include unsolicited bulk email.
  2. 2.Forging any portion of an email header should be immediately made illegal. This is simple forgery and must be treated as such.”

Sunday, December 16

Good Sports: Boycott the Olympics (Slate)
“In 1980, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the United States boycotted the Moscow Summer Olympics. Afghanistan has been invaded again. The United States should seize the opportunity and boycott our own Salt Lake Winter Olympics in February.

“The Winter Games, after all, are an embarrassment to sports in general and to the United States in particular. ”

Sunday, December 9

We Are All Traitors: On Hill, Ashcroft Defends Anti-Terror Tactics (Washington Post)

Attorney General John Ashcroft: “to those who scare peaceloving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this, your tactics only aid terrorists”

Yudel's Line: Correct me if I'm wrong, but this sounds like Ashcroft is equating dissent -- for that matter, honest debate -- with treason.

I'm grateful to be an American citizen -- because otherwise, I could be arrested under executive order, tried by executive employees, and executed by a simple majority vote. There would be no court to oversee this. We have only John Ashcroft's and George W. Bush's word that these draconian powers would be only used against bonafide terrorists.

Given their views on debate and disagreement, I would be very afraid to be a non-citizen in this country.

Further: If I were the owner of a multinational corporation, which had officers and employees of different citizenships, I would begin moving my operations oversees to a country that guaranteed the rule of law to citizen and non-citizen alike. I would not jeopardize the lives of my employees by having them visit this country under the current circumstances.

I wonder what will happen when the stock market begins digesting these ramifications.


With Terrorists Like These: You're in the Hole: A Crackdown on Dissident Prisoners (The Progressive)
“It was September 19, 2001. Elizabeth McAlister had not heard from her husband, Philip Berrigan, in more than a week. Such silence on Berrigan's part was "most unusual," she says. Convinced that something was wrong, she telephoned the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton, Ohio, where the seventy-seven-year-old peace activist is serving a sentence of a year and a day for hammering on a military aircraft while on probation for a similar action in another state.

“"It took ten phone calls to the prison to get them to admit to me that he was in segregation," she says. McAlister also learned that Berrigan was being denied all phone calls and visits, even from family members. "I was not told why or for how long."

“So McAlister telephoned the office of her Senator, Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski. Mikulski's office called the prison and, according to McAlister, was told "that Phil was put in segregation on September 11, 2001, as a direct consequence of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,

“In a letter to The Progressive dated October 25, Berrigan describes his experience. "On September 11, I watched appalled as the second tower of the WTC came down. The guards called me out, took me to the lieutenant's office, shackled and handcuffed me, and took me to solitary. I inquired several times as to why. One guard grunted, 'Security!' During twelve days in segregation, no further daylight was provided. One lieutenant came to announce, 'No phone, no visitors!' And no stamps. I was locked down ten days before mailing out letters. The result? Limbo-incommunicado."

“It was "perhaps Ashcroft's idea. Lock up all the naysayers," he says.”

Monday, November 26

A bissel Torah: LaMishpacha Schechter (PDF file)

Here's one of the reasons I haven't had as much time to post lately. This monthly newsletter includes my take on the Parsha for the coming months, including a tie-in between my favorite Midrash and the events of Sept. 11.

What does it mean to wrestle with God? Why was Moses called the "man of God"? How should we respond to tragedy?

Click here to find out.

Sunday, October 29

War Profiteering: Taking Care of Business (Paul Krugman, NYTimes)

“The remarkable thing we learned from the House economic stimulust bill was that conservative politicians — who used to claim that they were improving incentives by reducing marginal tax rates, and that it was just an incidental side effect that big corporations and wealthy individuals were so richly rewarded — no longer feel the need to disguise their payoffs. The core of the bill was a repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax retroactive to 1986, which means that selected companies would immediately receive huge lump sum payments from the government, totaling around $25 billion, with no incentive effect at all.

“... But the truth must be spoken. Lately our government has not exactly inspired confidence; its response to terrorism is starting to look a bit scatterbrained. But on some subjects our leaders are quite clearheaded: whatever else may be going on, they make sure that they are taking care of business.”

War Profiteering: Conservatives vs. Capitalism (The New Republic)

“Do economic conservatives really believe in the unadulterated free market, or do they believe in the interests of the rich?

“One such experiment occurred last month with the airline bailout, when conservatives in Congress decided that airline workers threatened by market forces--that is, laid off--did not require help, but airline companies threatened by market forces did. When forced to choose between their cherished economic doctrines and the interests of the affluent, conservatives--or at least the ones who hold power in Washington--chose the latter.

“Washington conservatives are actually driven by an overwhelming interest in wealth distribution--even when that interest leads to gross economic mismanagement. And, in the case of the stimulus bill, their solicitousness for the rich has led them to oppose the utterly uncontroversial fiscal steps most likely to forestall a recession.”

War Profiteering: How to Lose a War (Frank Rich, NYTimes)

“This is an administration that will let its special interests — particularly its high-rolling campaign contributors and its noisiest theocrats of the right — have veto power over public safety, public health and economic prudence in war, it turns out, no less than in peacetime. When anthrax struck, the administration's first impulse was not to secure as much Cipro as speedily as possible to protect Americans, but to protect the right of pharmaceutical companies to profiteer. The White House's faith in tax cuts as a panacea for all national ills has led to such absurdities as this week's House "stimulus" package showering $254 million on Enron, the reeling Houston energy company (now under S.E.C. investigation) that has served as a Bush campaign cash machine.

“Airport security, which has been enhanced by at best cosmetic tweaks since Sept. 11, is also held hostage by campaign cash: As Salon has reported, ServiceMaster, a supplier of the low-wage employees who ineptly man the gates, is another G.O.P. donor. Not that Republicans stand alone in putting fat cats first. In a display of bipartisanship, Democrats — lobbied by Linda Hall Daschle, the Senate majority leader's wife — joined the administration in handing the airlines a $15 billion bailout that enforces no reduction in the salaries of the industry's C.E.O.'s even as they lay off tens of thousands of their employees.”

Yudel's Line: Let me be clear: I don't think that throwing billion dollar thank you notes to large corporations provides any aid or comfort to the Taliban or their Wahhabi friends. But handing out retroactive tax reductions to profitable corporations at a time when millions are losing their jobs does not embody the spirit of solidarity America needs now. Let us win this war, W; there'll be ample time for champagne after V-Day.

Another Magic Monotheistic Moment: Gunmen Kill 15 at Christian Church in Pakistan (Reuters)

“Women keened over the bodies of 15 Christians lying in pools of blood in a Pakistani church Sunday after masked gunmen on motorcycles drew up, shot dead a police guard and sprayed the congregation with Kalashnikov fire.

“As some 70 Christians gathered for regular Sunday morning services, six men on three motorcycles rode up to Saint Dominic's Church and pulled AK47 assault rifles out of their bags, one witness said. Shouting ``Graveyard of Christians -- Pakistan and Afghanistan,'' and ``This is just a start,'' they raced up to the church while the guards were asleep and opened fire, killing one.

“Five worshippers were wounded, four critically, doctors said.

“Four gunmen entered the church chanting ``Allah-u-Akbar'' (God is Greater) while two waited outside to shoot anyone who tried to flee, a witness said.

“Lying sprawled on the floor of the church, its walls scarred with bullet holes, were the bodies of seven women, two children aged three and five, and the pastor, Father Emmanual.

“Saint Dominic's is a Catholic church but a Protestant service was being held at the time of the attack. The gunmen, who fled, killed 13 in the church and three died later in hospital.

“On the wall above the bodies, a biblical inscription was painted in red: ``We want peace, order and harmony.''

Quaranic Quandry: Sura 5, The Dinner Table (The Koran)

“[5.32] For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly Our apostles came to them with clear arguments, but even after that many of them certainly act extravagantly in the land.

“[5.33] The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement,

“[5.34] Except those who repent before you have them in your power; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

“[5.51] O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.”

Yudel's Line: I ran across this section of the Koran while tracking down the line that whoever slays a soul is as if he killed the world, which appeared in an ad from a local Islamic organization. Since I was teaching the Mishna the Koran quotes, I was interested in seeing the context.

Unfortunately, in this case the context takes a bit away from the moral message.


Meccans vs. Islam: Saudi Wahhabi Aid Workers Bulldoze Balkan Monuments (Radio Free Europe, via InstaPundit.com)

“The Saudi bulldozing of some of the most historically valuable architectural monuments in the western Kosovo market town of Djakovica is merely the latest in a series of iconoclastic activities in the Balkans undertaken in the name of reconstruction assistance by Arab aid organizations. War-damaged historic buildings are not repaired, but rather demolished to make way for what the Arab donors consider to be more proper Islamic structures.

“The destruction is a further blow to Kosovo's architectural heritage, following the destruction by Serbian forces and civilians in 1998 and 1999 of over 200 mosques and other Islamic structures -- about one-third of the total number in the province.”

Yudel's Line: Which just goes to show that if you think your mechitza is tall enough, thank you sir, then you ought to pay for your rebuilding yourself and not start fundraising Boro Park.

More Saudi Smashing: New Ottoman Empire or Hashemite Restoration? (InstaPundit.com)

“Okay, I've been suggesting the possibility of restoring the Hashemites, who were the traditional custodians of Mecca and Medina, and the traditional rulers of what is now Saudi Arabia. But J. Peter Mulhern makes me look like a piker by suggesting that we bring back the whole frickin' Ottoman Empire...”

Yudel's Line: Our Saudi friends and allies are drawing heat, as we notice they fund the Taliban, stonewall the Sept. 11 investigation, and are generally up to no good. Let's not forget their role in sending Arafat down the mad path of Intifada II, rather than accepting the Palestinian state Barak and Clinton offered. Who should rule Mecca and Medina? That's a very satisfying way to frame the debate.

Of course, before we get there we'll have to deal with the tight mesh of interests between the Saudis and the Texans.

Dylan Watch: Tangled Up in Tishrei (Tangled Up in Jews)
I've updated my Dylan anecdotes page, with three sightings of Dylan on the High Holidays, from 1989-2001:

“As a Lubavitcher myself, I must admit that blue eyed stare that I got from Bob on that day as I showed him the place and helped him put on his tallis was very similar to the blue esyed stare that the Rebbe used to give as I passed him for "Dollars" and "Kois Shel Brochah."

“They both have/had penetrating stares that made you feel as if they are peering into your soul. Also, both have a shade of blue eyes that makes/made you feel as if you could look into their soul. As if you are looking into a clear blue pool. As if you are looking into a pure soul. He specifically conveyed to his boyhood friend that he did not want an aliyah. Instead the rabbi asked me to honor him with P'sicha for Avinu Malkeinu. ”

Fighting Freedom: Homeland Insecurity (Sacramento News and Review)

A Sacramento journalist is taken into custody by police and forced to destroy photos by an over-zealous National Guardsman. Apparently, the terrorists are indeed causing instability.

“You understand sir, this is a national security measure, and we’re going to have to check with the FAA to clear it,” he said. “You know they might not let you back on the airplane. You make people nervous.”

“How do I make people nervous?” I asked.

“By doing whatever you’re doing.”

“What am I doing?”

“I don’t know, but whatever it is, you’re going to stop doing it!”

“OK,” I said. “But what am I doing?” I wasn’t getting it. He began poking his index finger at me to emphasize the point.

“I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re going to stop doing it!”

I re-assumed my yoga position.

Sikhs Si, Muslim No?: SEC. 1002. SENSE OF CONGRESS. (The USA-PATRIOT anti-terrorism bill)

“(a) Findings.--Congress finds that--

(1) all Americans are united in condemning, in the strongest possible terms, the terrorists who planned and carried out the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, and in pursuing all those responsible for those attacks and their sponsors until they are brought to justice;

(2) Sikh-Americans form a vibrant, peaceful, and law- abiding part of America's people;

(3) approximately 500,000 Sikhs reside in the United States and are a vital part of the Nation;

(4) Sikh-Americans stand resolutely in support of the commitment of our Government to bring the terrorists and those that harbor them to justice;

(5) the Sikh faith is a distinct religion with a distinct religious and ethnic identity that has its own places of worship and a distinct holy text and religious tenets;

(6) many Sikh-Americans, who are easily recognizable by their turbans and beards, which are required articles of their faith, have suffered both verbal and physical assaults as a result of misguided anger toward Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack;

(7) Sikh-Americans, as do all Americans, condemn acts of prejudice against any American; and

(8) Congress is seriously concerned by the number of crimes against Sikh-Americans and other Americans all across the Nation that have been reported in the wake of the tragic events that unfolded on September 11, 2001.

(b) Sense of Congress.--Congress--

(1) declares that, in the quest to identify, locate, and bring to justice the perpetrators and sponsors of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans, including Sikh-Americans, should be protected;

(2) condemns bigotry and any acts of violence or discrimination against any Americans, including Sikh- Americans;

(3) calls upon local and Federal law enforcement authorities to work to prevent crimes against all Americans, including Sikh-Americans; and

(4) calls upon local and Federal law enforcement authorities to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all those who commit crimes.”

Yudel's Line: So let's get this straight: "All Americans are united in condemning terrorism," but Sikhs are more united? Or are more united than others wearing turbans? Or others wearing beards?

Or did Congress really want to say that while they won't miss any Muslims back in their districts -- or at least those without citizenship -- they don't want any Sikhs getting swept up in the pogrom?

Monday, October 15

Return of the Ladies Man: 'I never discuss my mistresses or my tailors' (The Observer)
“Even the 67-year-old singer says his record company should give razor blades away with his records.

“But two years ago, for no apparent reason, the veil of depression lifted. For the first time in his life, Cohen sighed, looked out on the world and felt at peace with it.

“'There was just a certain sweetness to daily life that began asserting itself. I remember sitting in the corner of my kitchen, which has a window overlooking the street. I saw the sunlight that shines on the chrome fenders of the cars, and thought, "Gee, that's pretty."

“It was a remarkably late epiphany. Cohen had spent the past 50 years ploughing his way through drugs, drink, countless women and several religions in an attempt to find release from this 'backdrop' of self-doubt. But the cure was more simple - he learned to ignore himself.”

Annals of Late Capitalism: At Global Crossing, It Pays to Be Inside (NYTimes)
“Global Crossing shareholders have seen their stakes become all but worthless, unlike Gary Winnick, the company's founder and chairman, who unloaded half his shares before the stock tanked.

“Many people in upstate New York have been financially devastated by the collapse of Global Crossing's stock from $61.375 two years ago, to 82 cents today.

“That is because Global Crossing Ltd., which aimed to build a worldwide fiber optic communications network, swallowed up the old Rochester Telephone, and many investors and workers in the region owned shares in that reliable, low-risk utility that were converted into shares in a high-risk start-up.

“But some of Global Crossing's executives and directors have done quite well, cashing out to varying degrees the last couple of years.”

Yudel's Line: This cuts close, but not too close -- I fortuitously sold my Frontier shortly before Global Crossing took it over.

However, as various "fiscal stimulus" plans get touted by the Republicans, it will be worth asking the effect they have on Winick's brand of slash-and-burn capitalism.... and whether that would be a good thing.

Sunday, October 14

Saudi Solution: So Crazy it Might Work (Virgina Postrel)
“How about we tell the Palestinians they can have Saudi Arabia if they'll move and leave the Israelis alone? The Palestinians are hard working and entrepreneurial, unlike the Saudis, so they might actually make something of the opportunity afforded by all that oil. And, while their leaders are thugs, it's unlikely they'd be any worse in the terrorism, oppression, and fundamentalism departments. The Palestinians aren't going to get Jerusalem. Maybe they'd settle for Mecca and Medina.”
Good News: Anthrax Faq (University of Wisconsin, via Scripting News)
“Getting spores in an envelope is not a real threat. Anthrax spores need to be dispersed in the air with very advanced equipment to become the dangerous form, pulmonary anthrax, that is lethal. Since whoever is doing this is mailing the stuff, it's obvious we are dealing with amateurs who really don't understand what they are doing. In that you can take some comfort. ”
More Good news: Attackers did not know they were to die (The Observer )
“FBI investigators have officially concluded that 11 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked the aircraft on 11 September did not know they were on a suicide mission, Whitehall intelligence sources said last night.”

Yudel's Line: Good news because it means 8 suicide bombers, not 20. Likewise with the anthrax. This is not to say that Bin Laden might not have a plan to follow up his "Hiroshima" with a Nagasaki. But this isn't it, folks.

Tapped Out: Terrorism Bill Does Too Much and Not Enough (Jeffrey Rosen, The New Republic)
“Imagine this: FBI agents get an anonymous tip that a red van with biological weapons has just dumped anthrax in the Central Park reservoir. They'd like to search all the red vans in the area, but by law they can't. Once a crime has occurred, an anonymous tip can't create reasonable suspicion for an investigative search, according to the Supreme Court.

“Now imagine this: You illegally download a copyrighted MP3 file, violating your terms of service contract with America Online. Without your knowledge, AOL proceeds to authorize the federal government to monitor every e-mail you send and every website you visit in order to collect evidence to prosecute you as a "computer trespasser."

“Welcome to the unintended consequences of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, which is being debated in Congress this week. The central insight of the bill is sound: that law enforcement officials should have greater powers to investigate potential acts of terrorism than when they investigate less serious crimes. But in some respects, the bill doesn't empower the federal government to investigate genuine emergencies nearly enough. And in others it carelessly expands the definition of terrorism to cover low-level computer crimes. In other words, it threatens privacy without increasing security.”

Yudel's Line: This is more than just "unintended consequences." This is the Republicans and the FBI using our national crisis as an opportunity to push their wish list through a compliant Congress.

Given the Bush Administration's early success in having their lies about the tax cut shape the debate, look for more tricky stuff to slip through under the guise of national unity.

Sad songs say so much: Gentle epitaphs for lives interrupted (Salon)
“The obituaries in the Nation Challenged section of the New York Times used to be called "The Missing and the Dead." Now they are "Portraits of Grief." But this isn't what they are, or at least it isn't the only thing they are. They are the little baby books of grownups, paragraphs that remind me of the disparate facts, figures and hanks of hair that parents place in silk-covered journals to get a handle on the giddiness of new life, and the fear of the unknown. It is an exercise in getting it down on paper: the first word, weight at birth, the first smile that wasn't gas. But these entries -- produced in column inches by a battalion of eloquent journalists -- hold the details of adults, some barely out of youth, and they mean to diffuse the terrific sadness of new death, the fear of forgetting:

“"At home in Danbury, Conn., where he was born and raised, he was rebuilding a Volkswagen bug and learning to play the bagpipes."

“"Their favorite food, Mr. Klein said, is salmon -- the same as their mother's."

“"Mr. McGinley was known for singing at every party, which he attended or gave, with 'Danny Boy' his most requested number."

“"His wife said he had a distinct relationship with each of his children but a single message for all: 'Stop fighting.'"

“"'All his cousins wanted to be as cool as he was,' Mrs. Gazzini said."

“There is too much sweetness to mention, especially in the discovery by survivors that the people they loved were not entirely what they seemed. They were better. "Every time someone calls, I say, 'I didn't know that,'" said Mary Mercado, mother of Steve, a 38-year-old firefighter. Said Joyce Boland of son Vincent, "His friends are telling me that he was funny. I didn't know that."

“These are beautifully written, vivid documents, not bland farewells. They are not obits meant for us to scan in an attempt to feel safe or young or immortal. Instead there is easy recognition and no fear in finding ourselves in these stories. Perhaps the reason is more grim than we imagined. Our new vulnerability tells us that these people -- happy, interrupted, not close to done -- represent the vanguard of an open-ended tragedy: The only difference between us and them is that they went first. ”

What's Wrong with This Library?: The On-Line Books Page - Judaism (University of Pennsylvania library)

Yudel's Line: As you can see from this excerpt (there are actually 51 books in the full listing), most of the on-line Jeswish books cataloged by the U of P are from Chabad. Maybe it's time for its critics to spend less time sniping and more time typing....


Friday, October 12

Kids These Days: Yes, I'm Talking About Your Generation

Yudel's Line: Do any of my students read this site? Has it become standard operating procedure to run a Google search on a new teacher? To reward curiosity, research, and initiative, you can get 5 bonus points on a quiz if you're the first student in your class to hand me a copy of this entry. Congratulations!

Sunday, October 7

Fuzzy Math Returns (Paul Krugman, NYTimes)
“As far as one can tell, the ultimate shape of the fiscal stimulus package is still fluid. The package that eventually emerges could be genuinely designed to help the economy, or it could be mainly a vehicle for political opportunism. Sadly, the latter possibility has just become much more likely. ”
High Cost of Coalition (William Safire, NYTimes)
“Within a week after the terror attacks, 14 members of Osama bin Laden's family, among others, were spirited out of this country back home to Saudi Arabia.”
Mea Culpa: Were we US-bashers wrong all along? (Sydney Morning Herald)
“As yet, I can't specify which incident in the past three weeks led me to abandon my old watchwords of understand, contextualise and explain. If this piece seems more exploratory than explicatory, please know that it is only the beginning of an honest attempt to document a series of wrenching personal and political shifts.

“Have I blurred the fine line between understanding and condoning atrocity? I hope I haven't, but fear, sometimes, that I have. In the midst of often bitter attacks on America and Israel, are others taking the same glib and facile path I once took - and thereby absolving not only the terrorists, but their state sponsors, of blame? ”

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