Monday, March 31, 2008

Last message from Corregidor

By Donald Sensing

Via Perfunction, here is a link to the last American message from the Philippine island of Corregidor before it fell to the Japanese on May 6, 1942. It was sent in Morse code by Cpl. Erving Strobing, and the file at the link includes a voice-over translation. It's stunning to hear even today (near the end, "get this message to my mother").



This is a photo of the Corregidor surrender, and is one of the few photographs of American forces surrenduring to anyone. Defeat is not a national habit.

The Big Mo' has turned

By Daniel Jackson

It is hard to tell at this moment exactly where the momentum turned but turned it has. In a series of counter strikes worthy of a kung fu movie, Barak has pulled when the Barbarian hordes at the Gate thought he would push. As Debka.com reports this morning,

In response to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice”s demand for “meaningful” Israeli steps to ease Palestinians’ lives, defense minister Ehud Barak presented a package of concessions. The checkpoint will be removed outside Jericho. He also brought to the trilateral meeting with Rice and Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad Sunday, March 30, permission to post 600 Palestinian security officers trained in Jordan in the terrorist stronghold of Jenin. The ultimate security responsibility for counter-terrorism, Barak stressed, would remain in Israeli hands.

Barak’s willingness to make concessions caught Rice by surprise. As ArutzSheva reports,

(IsraelNN.com) Israeli diplomatic sources said Sunday that the American delegation was very surprised at the extent of Israeli concessions to the Fatah-controlled "Palestinian Authority" (PA) announced by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. However, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was quick to say that they were not enough, and vowed to monitor Israel's execution of its promises.

The latest Israeli concessions to the PA in Judea and Samaria include permission for construction of two new Arab neighborhoods in the Ramallah area, with a total of 5,000 to 8,000 housing units. In addition, about 50 dirt roadblocks in Samaria will be removed, thus enabling vehicular traffic between Jenin, Tulkarm, Kalkilya and Ramallah, and the permanent checkpoint in the Rimonim area will be removed.

However, Stonewall Barak stopped here, having the impudence to tell the School Marm no to linking Jenin with Hebron. Rice thought she could sneak in the PA’s goal of linking the West Bank and Gaza by way of an end run around Jerusalem via Hebron.

Our exclusive sources report that US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice put this stipulation to prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Sunday, March 30. It was one of three she wanted implemented in the five weeks before President George W. Bush’s attendance of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

Rice explained she was not asking for free Palestinian passage on all the West Bank’s roads - only one or two, where they could travel without running into Israeli checkpoints.

Israel’s top military commanders warned government leaders in the strongest possible terms that the US secretary’s demands if met would spell the end of their war on terror and expose Jerusalem and other Israeli cities to the waves of suicide killers their systematic efforts had been holding back. The checkpoints were a vital element of their operations to keep Israel’s heartland safe from terrorists.

The Jenin-Tarkumiyeh route, they said, was already targeted by terrorists led by Hamas for two-way smuggling between Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Removing all existing controls would present the Gaza and Jenin terror networks with the gift of a direct, unmonitored link.

Rice lost no time announcing that she would be closely watching to make sure that Israel follows through on its promises.

"We will monitor exactly what the Israelis do and the purpose is to improve the Palestinians' freedom of movement," Rice said. "We want to be much more systematic about what is promised and what is actually carried out," she added.

Oooh is she tough or what. Not only is she sounding like a broken record, but she is clearly not listening to what Israelis are telling her. Israel, with or without Olmert, has drawn the line. This is more that you asked and more, Israel is telling Ms. Rice. You deliver a peaceful partner who will not kill our children in their school houses. If Condi remembers the bombings in Birmingham and how it changed her life; but, does she, like Israelis, remember the eight boys killed in a parochial school last month.

This morning as Israelis return to work, search the net, and wade through the even greater fog from the Israeli MSM. I am in Jerusalem, sitting with the faculty in the library preparing for classes. We all read collectively with glee that Barak’s personal assessment of these events. His own recitation of Ms. Rice's lessons are very clear.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak indicated Sunday night that despite revious statements to the contrary, he may decide to pull Labor out of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government due to Olmert's "accountability" for Israel's failure to attain its objectives during the Second Lebanon War.

"The prime minister has not been cleared of all accountability," Barak
said during a meeting with bereaved parents of soldiers who fell during the war. The parents met Barak in his office and discussed with him the results of the war and its implications on the remainder of Olmert's term.

Barak also indicated that the possibility of his party quitting the government was still on the agenda, claiming that the government would not live out its term. "Elections in two or three years are not a possibility," he assured the parents.
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1206632371915&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


Bayla the Librarian claps with joy, “Oh good. Elections. We all deserve a day off.”

Netanyahu is still the strongest actor on the stage, with Barak in second place. It would appear that Rice’s puppet, McOlmert is in his last act, and her peace pastiche is about to go “snap, crackle, pop”

Passover is less than four weeks away. On the night of the Passover dinner, all Jews recall the days of terror and bondage living in the land of bondage, under the heel of Pharoah. At the conclusion of the ritual meal, every stands and shouts--Next Year in Jerusalem.

Barak is preaching to the choir.

Friday, March 28, 2008

You better not shout, you better not pout,

By Daniel Jackson

Insanity Clause is coming to town.

Last week at this time, the first string Americans were here for Easter and Purim. Cheney and McCain made clear that they, at least, support Israelis in their fight against terror. This week, the second string shows up to tell Israelis they are bad boys and girls. Yes, Condi Rice is coming to town. The only concession she is willing to make is to defer arriving Saturday night during Shabbat (daylight savings Jerusalem time started last night).

According to Roni Sofer at YNETNEWS, Rice is expected to lay into the Israelis, once again, that they are not living up to their end of the bargain (lying down on their backs with their hands in the air). More importantly, Rice will express her displeasure with the Israelis for letting construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev continue.

Rice's baggage is likely to include harsh criticism for both Israel and the PA. Rice stands to rebuke Israel for what the US sees as a failure to evacuate illegal outposts, continued construction in settlements and insufficient goodwill gestures towards the Palestinians in an effort to boost Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' standing.

The majority of the secretary's claims against the Palestinians will likely surround their inability to combat terrorism.
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3524598,00.html

Rice will be in Amman before she arrives in Israel to meet with Abbas before he goes to Damascus for the Iranian/Syrian Arab summit. She seems to believe that she can entice Abbas to give up alignment with Hamas and come back over to the good guys.

It is a fool’s errand. Abbas has to face his true constituency, like Olmert has been forced to face his. Abbas must come to terms with the Hamas. He already knows, as does everyone else in the political theater here, that all Rice wants is a deal. After that, the US will treat him like it treats Israel—leave him to the wolves. Rice is acting more and more like a desperate used car salesperson—she will say anything to close the deal. There have even been reports that Big Daddy Bush will sweeten the pot with an invitation to the home of the Great White Father.
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3524423,00.html

The fact is that Olmert, like Abbas, has nowhere else to turn other than his power base. Like Abbas, Olmert knows that the Road Map and Condi Rice are a formula for doom. Olmert needs the continuance of the already begun housing in order to keep his coalition together. Without the coalition, Kadima evaporates, and the Olmert family will have to move to more pedestrian quarters.

The Syrian/Iranian puppet Hamas is now throughout the West Bank and everyone knows that the Jerusalem factor is a distraction. As long as the talks continue, the West Bank has time to fortify for the coming round of violence that most Israelis expect but dread. Abbas needs the talks to keep alive, let alone remain in political power.

But at a certain point, everyone but Rice will reach a point where the talks are useless. By then, Hamas and its Iranian rockets will be in position to put Jerusalem under direct fire, and Fatah will be able to use all those police security weapons supplied by the US to fight terror. Never mind that in the view of most Palestinians, Israel is the terrorist state.

Barak is predictably balking, maintaining key security position in the West Bank as well as being quite outspoken about the wisdom of supplying the PA with sophisticated weapons with which to fight terror. He will attend a meeting with Rice, but it is highly unlikely he will be quite as obliging to peace interests as he was with Bill Clinton.

Netanyahu is being quiet and letting others stir up support. Despite the hew and cry, even the most blatantly biased polls showed Likud trouncing Kadima in the coming election by more that 2 to 1. YNETNEWS carried an opinion piece by Professor Udi Lebel, a lecturer at Sapir College and Ariel University Center of Samaria, who admonished the Israeli media over the blatantly political coverage of Netanyahu’s London trip during the Second Lebanon War.

The reports about opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife's visit to ondon during the Second Lebanon War focused mainly on the cost of the visit – NIS 130,000 (about $37,000); but one aspect of the visit has been visibly absent from public debate – what was he doing there? One must ask not only who paid for the trip (The State of Israel Bonds, the Jewish community in the UK, the Israeli taxpayer – I haven't been able to figure it out yet); but what did the Israeli public gain from it.

The aforementioned war found me in the midst of researching the effectiveness of srael's PR both locally and around the world. My colleagues and I looked at the PR efforts of all the relevant players, including the Israeli government, Lebanon, Hizbullah and its affiliates, European countries and the US, as well as the many entrepreneurs who lent their support to any of the above.

The Israeli public's trust laid – as hard as it may seem to believe – with Hizbullah's leader Hassan Nasrallah. Any Jewish mother wanting to find a reliable source of information regarding the location and situation of the troops, whether or not the IDF had crossed the Litani River, and had we indeed taken Bint Jbeil – looked for it in the enemy's appearances.

Lebel goes on to question why Netanyahu was not put at the Israeli embassy in London speculating that petty governmental disputes were the cause.

Netanyahu's financial conduct may have been flawed. The Israeli elite has long been asked to get closer to the people, to reassure them it recognizes their hardships for being more than just statistics. I won't pretend to address any questions of ethics, proper administration (or lack thereof) or question pertaining to the politics of public or private funding, but I do know one thing: Even if the visit was funded by Israeli money, we still got off cheap.

Funding Netanyahu's stay in London yielded significant PR gains; and compared to the money needed to cover the costs of his London stay to what a leading European PR firm would have charged – we got a great deal. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3523954,00.html

So the week ends with a return to the usual SNAFU. Perhaps to highlight the return of Condi’s circus, the clowns promoting Syrian peace talks are sprouting up like the crocuses and pollen. The Israeli Arab MPs are chirping up about the Saudi peace plan; Ben Eliezer, the John Goodman of Israeli politics, happily declares that Israel can get a good deal with Syria. The post Pesach political parade has begun.

After Shabbat, I think I’ll drive into Jerusalem to see if anyone wants to buy a used bridge in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pilgrim's Progress

By Daniel Jackson

It takes several days for Jerusalem to regroup after Purim. Although the rest of Israel, and the Jewish world, celebrate Purim immediately after the Fast of Esther, Jerusalemites take an extra day before they party hardy. So, while the rest of us used Shabbat to clear our heads, Jerusalemites had a whole day to rest up for the event. Like Wall Street on New Years Day, Jerusalem on Purim day shuts down.

Religious or secular, there are three times a year that almost all Jewish Israelis take time off from work for a religious holiday—Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Purim, and the first night of Passover. In a way, these three times are about food. The first is a total abstinence from food and drink; the second has evolved as a festival of silliness with an emphasis on drink; and the third remains single most observed holiday in the Jewish world.

So, appropriately, the news has been relatively low-key with nothing truly exciting happening. True, McCain and Cheney came to town for Easter; both behaved as expected although Cheney gave a few interesting twists. After the usual “both sides will have to make terrible concessions” speech in Ramallah, Cheney met separately with Netanyahu and Barak after which he echoed McCain: “Israel has the right to defend itself” and “the US will not force Israel into a ‘peace’ it cannot accept”, or words to that effect. Then Cheney added, “You know that report that said that Iran was not a nuclear threat, well, it was wrong”. And then he was off to Saudi Arabia.

Hello? Is this one of those ‘hidden miracles’ of Purim?

There has been unseasonably hot weather in the region for the last two weeks. So, the word on the streets of Jerusalem has been, “You know how hot it’s been, well it’s going to be a lot hotter this summer, if you know what I mean”. Not a good season to spend weeks in a bomb shelter. Fatah and Hamas are sidling up to each other, Syria is up to its usual tricks, and Abbas says in April (thing Passover) he will cut off all talks.

So, now Israelis turn their attention to Passover, less than four weeks away and they are preparing for the inevitable. The Olmert government remains deeply mired in the Shas endgame having announced today it will continue to pursue peace AND build in East Jerusalem, and build in the settlement blocs. Can the tall guy juggle or what? http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1206446109366&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Meanwhile, the opposition is becoming stronger, the US heir apparent came on a pilgrimage, and Cheney tells us that that report that said Iran was not building a bomb—well, it was wrong. The only person missing, pointedly so, in the holiday festivities was Rice.

Yesterday, Kory Bardash and Marc Zell wrote in the Jerusalem Post their assessment of the McCain visit. Clearly writing for the American voter, they highlighted how the Republican candidate played in Israel. Make no mistake; McCain impressed Israelis more as a “righteous Gentile” than as a political contender. In a country of veterans and Holocaust survivors, McCain’s service, and especially his POW time are duly noted.

The first thing that must be noted is that McCain chose to come to Israel
at all. Originally the plan was to go to Iraq and make stops in one or two major
European venues. But the very fact that McCain chose to add Israel to itinerary
tells you something about the man's perspective on the Middle East and his
priorities.

Israel is important in his strategic thinking and that is good for
Israel. Among the Democrats, and many career foreign service officers in the
State Department, Israel is a sideshow that creates many problems and few
opportunities for US foreign policy. Many of these people see the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the source of instability in the Middle East and
predict that were only Israel to make peace with its neighbors, all would be
well in the region.

Like most of us, McCain wants there to be peace in the Middle East, but he is under no illusions about who are the principal troublemakers in the area. He stated unequivocally during his visit that he views Islamo-Fascism as the main culprit propelled primarily by the Iranians and semi-autonomous terror organizations. He understands as well that the outcome of the war in Iraq will play a central role in determining whether the West or the Islamo-Fascists will prevail here.

As one commentator recently noted, "McCain has a deep understanding of the region's strategic problems and publicly supports a nuclear deterrent for Israel." Additionally, McCain stated in a very clear and unequivocal way regarding the threat faced by Israel and the West that "the only thing worse than a military confrontation with Iran was a "nuclear armed Iran," and that the "regime must understand that it cannot win a showdown with the world." Since the dubious NIE report's release last December that cast a cloud over Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions, McCain has been in the ranks of those dismissive of it. When have you heard that from either of the Democratic candidates?

McCain also made clear that the constant barrage of missiles and mortars against southern Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza is utterly intolerable. He indicated that had the same thing in his native Arizona; there would be little doubt about the American response - swift and brutal. Hamas is part of the crazy-quilt of organizations financed and controlled by the Iranians aimed at weakening, demoralizing and eventually destroying the Jewish State.

At the same time, McCain made it very clear that the proper response was Israel's and Israel's alone to make. There would be no dictating to Israel from a McCain White House what is necessary for her national defense and security. That, of course puts the ball squarely in our court here - where it belongs.

McCain also comprehends that the struggle of the Muslim extremists against Israel is not merely a matter of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, it is part and parcel of the general struggle between radical Islam and Western civilization as a whole. It is this struggle that America has been leading since 9-11 and which it must continue to lead for the foreseeable future.
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1205420770098&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


Two small details of McCain’s trip, one he did not do and one he did, were noted by Israelis. First, he did not make a ritual trip to Ramallah. Second, when he went to the Western Wall, or to other places in Israel that require all visitors to where head covering, he chose the Kippa Srugah.

In Israel, people dress to their social and religious preference. At a glance, anyone here can identify not only the social class and ethnic community to which one belongs, but also their religious preference. Okay, it’s a form of profiling, but it is also a way people here can establish solidarity and group affiliation pretty quickly. It’s how the West Bank checkpoints work—who gets stopped, searched, or waved through. On a religious spectrum of secular at one end and ultra orthodox at the other, the religious center of the country, like the fathers who send their boys to parochial schools like the one where those eight boys were murdered, wear the Kippa Srugah. McCain in Jerusalem wore a Kippa Srugah as if that was what he always wore. He looked sharp and everyone here took notice.

There has been much concern in Israel over the US election. The feeling here is that a return to a Democratic administration would continue the dead end road map as well as the approach that Israel is the source of problems in the Middle East. The soft dollar is wrecking havoc on the economy and Olmert has become a life size cardboard cutout dragged out for a photo-op when important people come to Israel to see Netanyahu and Barak.

Passover, which starts in just under four weeks, celebrates the night when the Jews departed Mitzraim, Egypt, to begin their departure from bondage and servitude to freedom. The first night of Passover, the Seder dinner, celebrates the event by the recitation of the Haggadah, the ritual story of the Exodus recited by Jewish families for several thousand years. The Haggadah emphatically states that each Jew, in every generation, and in every location, must tell the story of the Exodus afresh as if it occurred on that very night—each should see that the miracle of deliverance is continuing eternally afresh each moment.

For almost all Israelis, this is a lesson that needs little reminder. Among the elderly from Europe and from Middle Eastern countries, deliverance from the land of tyrants, repression, and genocide to the Land of their Fathers is literal not figurative. When these men and women see men with hoods brandishing guns promising peace, they remember their oppressors and are not fooled. They remember their prisons, death camps, and pogroms and what it meant to leave those cells and walk free.

Mitzraim means “difficult straits” as in a narrow defile where the shadow of death awaits the unsuspecting. Deliverance from Mitzraim represents the removal of fear and danger. This year, Israelis have hope. Although the days ahead will be filled with conflict and “difficult straits”, someone has come who understands what it means to languish in prison, vilified and humiliated, surviving on faith, and then walk free again in the land of his fathers.

John McCain did not have to take a photo-op and say “I am a Berliner” to establish solidarity with Israelis. All he had to do was put on a Kippa Srugah and go kiss the Wall. Israelis recognize one delivered from Mitzraim to walk free in the light.

Oh yeah, you know that NIE report, the one that says Iran is not a risk? Well, I heard from some friends that it's not true.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Taxing you for looking out your window

By Donald Sensing

"Families face soaring [tax] bills for the crime of living in a nice neighbourhood. Only Labour would think of taxing people for looking out of their windows."
Thus spake Briton Eric Pickles, a Conservative party member, of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government's decision to tax "value significant" features of all 23 million homes in England, including scenic views.
Again, precise details of whether the view is of the sea, hills, mountains, lakes, fields or golf courses have been recorded. Different codes are provided for a "partial view" and a "full view".
Homeowners will also pay a higher tax if their home features off-street parking, the more spaces the higher the tax. Heaven forbid that they have a garage!

Not that this is actually new in the UK:
Let me tell you how it will be;
There's one for you, nineteen for me.
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

Should five per cent appear too small,
Be thankful I don't take it all.
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

(if you drive a car, car;) - I’ll tax the street;
(if you try to sit, sit;) - I’ll tax your seat;
(if you get too cold, cold;) - I’ll tax the heat;
(if you take a walk, walk;) - I'll tax your feet.

Taxman!

'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

Don't ask me what I want it for, (ah-ah, mister Wilson Brown)
If you don't want to pay some more. (ah-ah, mister Heath Darling)
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

Now my advice for those who die, (taxman)
Declare the pennies on your eyes. (taxman)
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

And you're working for no one but me.

Taxman!
The Beatles, Taxman.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Resurrection concept unclear, say scholars

By Donald Sensing

Easter is the day when Christians celebrate the central tenet of their faith, that Jesus, having died on the cross on Friday, was raised from the dead by the power of God.

The concept of resurrection, though, was not original with Christians. It was a prominent, though not universal, belief among the Jews of Jesus' day. The Jewish Encyclopedia explains that one group of Jews, the Sadducees ("the party representing views and practises of the Law and interests of Temple and priesthood directly opposite to those of the Pharisees,"),did ...

... not accept the Pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection (Sanh. 90b; Mark xii. 12; Ber. ix. 5, "Minim"), which was a national rather than an individual hope. As to the immortality of the soul, they seem to have denied this as well (see Hippolytus, "Refutatio," ix. 29; "Ant." x. 11, § 7).
Furthermore,
The older Hebrew conception of life regarded the nation so entirely as a unit that no individual mortality or immortality was considered. Jeremiah (xxxi. 29) and Ezekiel (xviii.) had contended that the individual was the moral unit, and Job's hopes are based on this idea.

A different view, which made a resurrection unnecessary, was held by the authors of Ps. xlix. and lxxiii., who believed that at death only the wicked went to Sheol and that the souls of the righteous went directly to God. This, too, seem based on views analogous to those of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and probably was not widely held. In the long run the old national point of view asserted itself in the form of Messianic hopes. These gave rise to a belief in a resurrection in order that more might share in the glory of the Messianic kingdom. This hope first finds expression in Isa. xxvi. 19, a passage which Cheyne dates about 334 B.C. The hope was cherished for faithful Israelites. In Dan. xii. 1-4 (about 165 B.C.) a resurrection of "many . . . that sleep in the dust" is looked forward to. This resurrection included both righteous and wicked, for some will awake to everlasting life, others to "shame and everlasting contempt."
So by the time of Jesus, the idea of the resurrection of the dead, though not universally held among the Jewish people, was likely the majority view. To be fair, though, even among those who affirmed the resurrection, there was ongoing debate as to its extent - just whom would be resurrected and where, only in Israel or elsewhere also. As time went by, the concept of resurrection continued to evolve.

The Pharisees, a lay movement of Jews who devoted themselves to adhering to the covenantal law of ancient Judaism, affirmed the concept of the resurrection. The Christian apostle Paul was the son of a Pharisee and began his religious vocation as a Pharisee. (Pharisees generally get a bad rap in Sunday Schools but shouldn't. Jesus shared the religious devotion of Pharisees. Pharisaism was a lay movement, just as Jesus found his broadest support among the laity.)

Now, all this is to point out that modern-day Christian understanding of the resurrection is "deeply misunderstood, say scholars from varied faith traditions who have been trying to clear up the confusion in several recent books."
"We are troubled by the gap between the views on these things of the general public and the findings of contemporary scholarship," said Kevin Madigan and Jon Levenson, authors of the upcoming book, "Resurrection, The Power of God for Christians and Jews."

The book traces the overlooked Jewish roots of the Christian belief in resurrection, and builds on that history to challenge the idea that resurrection simply means life after death. To the authors, being raised up has a physical element, not just a spiritual one.

Levenson last year wrote a related book, "Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life." Meanwhile, N.T. Wright, a prominent New Testament scholar and author of the 2003 book "The Resurrection of the Son of God," has just published, "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church."

Debate about Christ's Resurrection has focused on whether Jesus rose bodily from the dead after the Romans crucified him on Good Friday, or whether Resurrection was something abstract.

Wright's 2003 book was considered one of the most important recent arguments that Jesus was physically resurrected.

The three scholars also have been challenging the idea, part of Greek philosophy and popular now, that resurrection for Jews and the followers of Jesus is simply the survival of an individual's soul in the hereafter. The scholars say resurrection occurs for the whole person — body and soul. For early Christians and some Jews, resurrection meant being given back one's body or possibly God creating a new similar body after death, Wright has said.
It's my experience that the vast majority of Christians readily agree that upon death, the souls of the saved enter immediately into heaven, but when asked about the resurrection of the dead, mumbling ensues. After all, if heaven is your reward instantly upon breathing your last, what purpose could being resurrected have?

Now, this whole debate won't interest many people but theologians, but it actually cuts to the core of the Christian proclamation, as Paul realized:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.

Paul is explaining that the resurrection of Christ is a subset of the larger category of resurrection. The Corinthian church apparently accepted Paul's teaching that Jesus had been raised, but rejected the idea that they (or other also) would be raised as well. That made no sense to Paul. It was like someone today saying, "I drive a Chevrolet but I don't think there is any such thing as General Motors."

The resurrection of Jesus, Paul insists, is of little utility unless it is to show that the promises of God are true, that the promise of the general resurrection is true. In fact, Paul understood the resurrection of Christ and the general resurrection yet to come as belonging to the one and same event, separated by a "time out," as it were. Hence, for Paul, Jesus was the "first fruit" of the general resurrection yet to come.
Yet Wright and others say the church should teach what the first Christians believed. Wright also has argued that the physical reality of a future world after death shows "the created order matters to God, and Jesus' Resurrection is the pilot project for that renewal."

Madigan and Levenson have an additional motivation. They said they wrote the book to help Jews and Christians understand more about their theological bonds.

Amy-Jill Levine, a New Testament scholar at Vanderbilt University's Divinity School, said interest in resurrection — along with reincarnation, ghosts and contacting the dead — has grown in recent years.

"The more chaotic our world, with war and disease, hurricanes and famine," she said, "the more many seek a divine response to the problem of evil."
The problem of evil is, I think, the central problem of Christianity and is most often cited by people as the reason for their rejection of it.

(Amy-Jill Levine, btw, was my professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt Divinity School.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"I suspect I may get some abuse for this."

By Donald Sensing

Pope to Osama: take that!

By Donald Sensing

Please note, this is about Osama, not Obama, just in case Teddy is reading.

As you may recall, Osama bin Laden (or a claimant of his the identity) recently accused Pope Benedict of waging a "new crusade" againstIslam. The Pope responded, Who, me?

The Vatican on Thursday rejected an audiotaped accusation from Osama bin Laden that Pope Benedict XVI was leading a “new Crusade” against Muslims, but Italian security officials were concerned about the threats included in Mr. bin Laden’s new message.

“These accusations are absolutely unfounded,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the pope’s chief spokesman, said in a telephone interview. “There is nothing new in this, and it doesn’t have any particular significance for us.”
But just to make sure that bin Laden understands,
Italy's most prominent Muslim commentator, a journalist with iconoclastic views such as support for Israel, converted to Roman Catholicism Saturday when the pope baptized him at an Easter service.

As a choir sang, Pope Benedict XVI poured holy water over Magdi Allam's head and said a brief prayer in Latin.

"We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another," Benedict said in a homily reflecting on the meaning of baptism. "Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close."

Vatican television zoomed in on Allam, who sat in the front row of the basilica along with six other candidates for baptism. Allam later received his first Communion. [link]
You go, Benny!

Friday, March 21, 2008

A short Jerusalem photo tour

By Donald Sensing

Photos copyright 2007 by the author; may not be used or hotlinked without permission.

The first photo is of the Gethsemane Church on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. The church's proper name is the Church of All Nations and was built from 1919-1924. It was to Gethsemane that Jesus and his disciples, except Judas, came after the Last Supper. It was here that Judas brought the Temple police to arrest Jesus.




The first thing Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to endure was flagellation, a whipping with a particular whip called a flagellum. Although probably not quite as brutal as depicted in Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, it was a bloody ordeal nonetheless, and considerably weakened Jesus before he was crucified, which may help account for the speed at which he expired on the cross.


As at most Christian holy sites in Israel, there is a church built at the site where Jesus was whipped. This plaque at the church explains its history.




This is the interior of the Church of the Flagellation. There is little historical doubt that this is indeed the actual site where the scourging took place. Jesus' trial took place only a half-block away; Pilate's "courtroom" is still there and is undeniably of Roman origin. The courtyard between that site and this church is verifiably also of Roman origin.




This is a small chapel along the via dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows that Jesus walked to his execution. At this station of the cross, Jesus stumbled and fell, depicted in the mural below. It was not at this place, but a later one, where the Roman soldiers made a bystander help carry the cross because Jesus was too weakened to continue alone.

The scene depicted is of the ancient Roman Catholic tradition of Jesus carrying the entire cross, the upright and crossbeam included. Relatively recent historical research has revealed, though, that almost certainly there were permanent uprights built outside Jerusalem, a sort of ready-to-use gallows, if you will. Jesus and other condemned would have carried only the crossbeam.


Below is a street scene along the via dolorosa. This and many other sections are lined with shops, all seeking the tourists' trade. In the first century, the streets were much wider and certainly not so commercialized.





Finally, you see the dome and cross of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.






This is a view from the courtyard of the church.



Another view. As you can see, the church is extremely large. Under one roof the church encompasses the site where Jesus was crucified, the place his body was (incompletely) prepared for burial, and his tomb.




A schematic of the church from Sacred Destinations Travel Guide.





This is a tableau on the wall next to the place where Jesus' body was prepared for burial. The rock of preparation is on the floor just beneath here. Except it is not actually the rock even if it is the actual location - the actual rock was taken away in bits and pieces centuries ago by religious pilgrims who wanted a relic.



Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this is the entrance to the traditionally-sited tomb of Jesus. I did not go inside since the waiting line was more than an hour long.




The Sepulchre Church is, as I said, simply enormous. High above the tomb's site is this dome, which is not the largest dome of the church by any means.


Sacred Destinations' page on the church is worth reading and includes the arguments in favor of the site being the actual location of Jesus' death and entombment.

Execution day

By Donald Sensing


At right, "The Three Crosses," by Rembrandt


Sometime on the Friday after Passover, almost 2,000 years ago, Roman soldiers, acting on orders of Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, took Jesus of Nazareth to a low hill outside Jerusalem and crucified him to death. As crucifixion deaths went, Jesus' death came pretty quickly, within a few hours. It was not unusual for victims to linger on the cross for days.

There were two criminals also crucified alongside Jesus. Because it was Passover week, emotions ran high among the Jews who had made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the holy observances. There were many thousands of pilgrims there, some historians say more than 100,000. At sunset on Fridays the Jewish Sabbath began then as now, and even hardened Roman soldiers were uneasy about the execution of these men continuing when the Sabbath began during this particular week. So they decided to break the victims' legs in order to make quick their suffocation to death. Crucifixion is, after all, a form of hanging, killing by suffocation. With their legs broken, the victims could not push up to take a breath and so would die a quick, though brutal death ("excruciating" derives from the same root as "crucifixion," and it is no accidental relationship).

But when they came to Jesus to break his legs, they discovered he had already died. Another soldier, probably more experienced and thus leaving nothing to chance, took his long spear and plunged it into Jesus' side, almost certainly penetrating his heart, since that would have been the whole point of spearing him to begin with.

Before sundown, the Romans permitted some of Jesus' friends to retrieve his body and entomb it.

Why was Jesus crucified? I explore that question at some length here. The Gospels are clear enough that religious charges against Jesus were made, mainly blasphemy, going back long before Jesus's arrest. Jesus's claims of equality with God so enraged a crowd of men during a previous visit to Jerusalem that they tried to stone Jesus to death on the spot. He and his disciples had to flee (well, run!) clear across the Jordan river, to another jurisdiction.

"Ecce homo" - Behold, the man.

Once Jesus was arrested, Pilate became persuaded that Jesus was defying the emperor's authority and so was guilty of a political offense against Rome. Pilate, we know from Roman historians, was a weak man, inclined to violence to solve his problems, and was unskilled as a prefect. In fact, most modern historians have concluded that Judea had the singular misfortune among Roman provinces to suffer uncharacteristically inept Roman governance for several decades, including those on both ends of Jesus' life. Certainly, Pilate thought almost nothing of crucifying Jews; during Jesus' own lifetime Pilate had sentenced hundreds, probably thousands, of Jews to the cross and had killed numberless more by other means. So one more was not even a statistic. (Jesus himself spoke of a time when Pilate had sent his cavalry, swords swinging, into a group of men making sacrifices, killing the lot of them, for reasons not related. Pilate seems to have been extremely paranoid about crowds of Jews who gathered for any reason.)

At the urging of the high priest, Caiaphas, and some allies among the Jewish leadership, Pilate became convinced that Jesus was a political insurrectionist, trying to claim the throne of David. A hugely false claim, of course, and one that Jesus easily and directly refuted under Pilate's own questioning. John's Gospel, chapter 18, relates that Pilate said to Jesus, "Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?"
Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."
If Jesus had been a claimant to the throne of David, he would have built not only a popular base of support, but an armed faction. He had the former but not the latter. His 12 disciples owned only two swords among them, which Jesus had pronounced "enough," but enough for what he did not say. It certainly was not enough for rebellion against Rome! At any rate, Jesus swatted aside Pilate's interrogatory about Jesus' presumed kingship so that Pilate did not raise it again with him. Pilate did poke Caiaphas in the eye with that presumption by placing a sign on Jesus' cross that mocked them, not Jesus, by saying, "This is the King of the Jews."

So what was the chain of events was that led Jesus to be executed? Only one Gospel states the case fairly clearly, the Gospel of John. In it, Jesus is presented as raising Lazarus, dead and entombed for four days, from death back to life (John 11). When word of this deed reached the high priest, Caiaphas, he became deeply fearful that Pilate would (in character) slaughter countless Jews as a consequence - not for raising Lazarus, but because of the enormous following Jesus would doubtless gain as a result. John relates,
So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.’

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ ... So from that day on they planned to put him to death.
The other three Gospels don't mention Lazarus' raising. But John presents a case (by some inference) that the Sanhedrin believed that Jesus would indeed make a political power play that would inevitably lead Pilate to "go Roman" on Judea. This was an entirely justified fear, justified, that is, only if Jesus really did have political ambitions. But he didn't.

My homiletics professor once lectured that one thing the Easter story proves is that sin, and the will to sin, is more deeply rooted in human beings than we really can imagine. Roman justice, he pointed out, was the best system of justice the world had ever seen until then; after all, it still forms the basis for most Western jurisprudence today. And among the lands and peoples of the empire, he said, the Jews were enormously respected for their religion, which was considered ancient even way back then. In the case of Jesus (his point being), the best justice and the best religion somehow, and not altogether clearly how, came together to cause the execution of a man entirely innocent of every capital charge brought against him - and for the best of putative reasons. "Even the best we can do has no promise of freedom from sin."

So Joseph of Arimathea and the women disciples of Jesus (the men having gone into hiding) took Jesus' corpse and began to prepare it for burial in Joseph's own tomb. They did not finish the job because of the beginning of the Sabbath, a day on which they could do no work. They laid the body in the tomb, had it sealed, and left. The women agreed to return on Sunday morning to finish anointing Jesus' body, that being the first daylight hours after the end of the Sabbath at sundown Saturday.

The sun set and mercifully brought an end to execution day.

Before you're crucified . . .

By Donald Sensing

... make sure you get a tetanus shot.

Reminds me of the scene in True Lies when Ahnuld is about to be injected with truth serum before being interrogated for information, then killed. As the needle approaches his arm, he says, "You should swab that with alcohol to prevent an infection."

But remember that the Catholic church frowns upon crucifixion.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Generosity makes you happy

By Donald Sensing

If you spend as little as $5 per day for the benefit of others, you will automatically be happier.

"We wanted to test our theory that how people spend their money is at least as important as how much money they earn," said Elizabeth Dunn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia.

They asked their 600 volunteers first to rate their general happiness, report their annual income and detail their monthly spending including bills, gifts for themselves, gifts for others and donations to charity.

"Regardless of how much income each person made, those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not," Dunn said in a statement.

Dunn's team also surveyed 16 employees at a company in Boston before and after they received an annual profit-sharing bonus of between $3,000 and $8,000.

"Employees who devoted more of their bonus to pro-social spending experienced greater happiness after receiving the bonus, and the manner in which they spent that bonus was a more important predictor of their happiness than the size of the bonus itself," they wrote in their report, published in the journal Science.

"Finally, participants who were randomly assigned to spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money on themselves," they said.
Something else I've learned: generous people cope with their own mortality much better than others. In the years I've ministered to the terminally ill and people dealing with aging-toward-mortality, invariably the ones who have been generous towards others - routinely, not just for birthdays or holidays - finally die more peaceably than non-generous people.

Ahhh, there’s Good News tonight!

By Daniel Jackson

The Bank of Israel, several days ago, announced it was buying up US dollars the way Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy bought up orange juice futures in the 1983 film, Trading Places . Last week, the Bank refused to disclose just how many dollars they were picking up. The dollar was falling against the shekel like Galileo’s ball bearings off the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

But today, at 5:57pm, Israeli time, the Bank followed through on its promise. The Jerusalem Post filed the following story on the Bank’s bail out project.

Starting next week, the Bank of Israel will begin purchasing foreign currency in order to increase the amount it holds.

According to the bank, a thorough examination conducted in recent months resulted in the decision to increase its foreign currency balance to a level of about 35 to 40 billion US dollars, compared to the approximately $28 billion it currently holds.

The bank said that the reasons leading to the move are "economy needs, fast growth in produce in recent years and the increasing integration of the Israeli economy in the global financial market."

"This is an important step, precisely because of the latest drop in the US dollar exchange rate," said Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On.
[Is this guy running for Finance Minister?]
Bank of Israel will increase its foreign currency balance by about 10 billion dollars over the period of two years by purchasing approximately 25 million dollars daily.
How effective was the Bank’s efforts? MSNBC carries the following report:
Stocks were rallying this afternoon, thanks to an upgrade for General Electric (GE, news, msgs),
a rising dollar and a continued slump in commodity prices.

At 3:20 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrials were up 255 points, or 2.1%, to 12,354,
taking back nearly all of Wednesday's big slump and continuing a trend of big, violent swings. Tuesday, the Dow was up 420 points; Wednesday, the blue chips lost 293 points.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 31 points, or 2.4%, to 1,329, and the Nasdaq Composite Index added 45 points, 2%, to 2,255.

A rebound in financial stocks was also helping the market. Volume was especially heavy, in part because a number of options were expiring, requiring investors to square up positions before the stock market closes for Good Friday.
Huh? Did I miss something? Now, one does not have to be celestial navigator to realize that the Bank of Israel’s announcement to increase its dollar holdings by 10 billion at 9:20 am ET, six hours before the market in New York rebounded may have some effect. Of course what is good for GE is good for the world; but in this case the boys from Tel Aviv share credit for saving the US market’s bacon—as it were.

The Jerusalem Post concludes:
In response to the bank's announcement, the US dollar has gained 1.86% in comparison to the shekel and currently stands at about 3.443 NIS per USdollar.
What’s most amusing about the two stories is the religious context overtly and covertly expressed that is a direct result of the two cultures. MSNBC tells us that the rebound of the stock market, entirely due to endogenous factors occurred before Good Friday, the precursor of Easter when Christ rose from the dead—Good News indeed.

What is left out of the Jerusalem Post story is that the Bank buyout announcement occurred on the Fast of Esther, the day before Purim when Queen Esther and her Prime Minister Mordecai stopped the Evil Haman from his genocidal plan to destroy the Jews. The essence of Purim is the hidden nature of the Hand of God in the affairs of people—subtle changes have big changes.

So, it would appear that the very public announcement of the Bank of Israel to rescue the US dollar, a public good if ever there was one, the act is entirely lost in the MSM. A Holy Weekend indeed.

Happy Holidays, y’all.

Just in case you didn't know

By Donald Sensing

The Catholic Church frowns upon crucifixion.

Double Standards

By Daniel Jackson

For once, there is come clarity emerging within the confusion. Israelis have been at a loss, for quite some time I might add, over the apparent contradictory nature of the US formula for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Why is the State Department so insistent that a peace process go forward when one of the parties to said peace openly avows the continued destruction of the other party to the aforesaid peace?

Thus, we see a new definition of the word chutzpah. The old definition of chutzpah was told as a story: a man shots his parents and then throws himself upon the mercy of the court because he is an orphan. The Palestinians openly taunt the Israelis with guns, exploding belts, and rockets, hiding behind women and children. The Israelis understandably respond; the Palestinians photograph the results: women and children crying in pain. Chutzpah!

The plurality of Israelis themselves emigrated from Muslim dominated countries where they had been residents for many generations. For example, Iraqi Jews resided in Mesopotamia for over 2,000 years. There, they developed the Babylonian Talmud, which shaped the nature and customs of virtually all of Jewish practice and denominational differences to this day.

Yet, the conflict in Israel between the different religions is depicted as racial. Moreover, rather than working to promote co-existence and peace, Palestinian leaders increasingly threaten continued violence and annihilation as their version of a two state solution. Is it any wonder that Israelis become increasingly suspicious of Palestinian motives?

Now, however, Israelis get a chance to look, really look, inside the American cultural system itself during this year of Political Decision. After all, America’s election is really the World’s election. How the Americans decide what is appropriate political discourse affects everyone. America’s weaknesses, as well as its strengths, are everyone’s concern.

So, it is quite revealing to Israelis to look inside the Obama-Wright flap to understand to draw parallels to why the Americans are so duplicitous over the peace process. The US itself is deeply divided over racial issues. If their “mullahs” are preaching hatred and violence instead of politics of inclusion without question, what does this say about the export of the US co-existence model to the Middle East? Perhaps the chaotic nature of the State Department’s vision of unity amidst racial and religious plurality abroad is due to its own issues.

In his recent speech on his spiritual mentor, Obama was equivocal on the appropriateness of calling on God Almighty to Damn the United States of America. Now, there are people in this world who consider the word damn to be an emotive intensifier and more appropriate than the stronger "f" word. For them, this is no big deal. However, for a significant number of Americans and non-Americans, damnation is a process as well as a spiritual call to arms. In Israel, for example, such a prayer to the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is illegal with potential jail time.

Freedom of religion or poetic license may be part of US culture, but there is another part of the process that is very troubling. James Taranto, at the Best of the Web, sums the problem for American process well. Rebutting a statement Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president of Wright's denomination, the United Church of Christ, excusing Wright on the ground that it was wrong to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Taranto insightfully notes:

Whatever one's opinion of the Iraq war, this is a complete non sequitur. Wright is not responsible for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, and in any case there is no reason to think he has exercised any influence on it by virtue of striking an obnoxious tone. He is responsible for the spiritual sustenance of his congregation. Does he serve that responsibility well when he uses his pulpit to stir up parishioners' hatred and anger?

As for "the soul of our nation," we have heard a lot of late about America's need for racial reconciliation. Thanks to the Obama-Wright episode, we also have learned that racial antagonism and anti-Americanism are much more common than we would have guessed among predominantly black congregations in America.

Is this not an obstacle to reconciliation? In 21st-century America, does any greater obstacle remain?
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120594190349248761.html?mod=Best+of+the+Web+Today


Why is this so germane for Israelis? Because similar statements are made in this part of the world daily, such comments made by political figures and religious leaders are taken seriously. Those who hear them are inspired by them and then use these words to justify violence and murder. While it might be no big deal in the States to Damn the government, it is a big deal else where.

Evelyn Gordon, in today’s Jerusalem Post, examines this process closely coming from PA President Abbas, “our man in Ramallah”, while preaching to his choir.

It is hard to decide which aspect of Mahmoud Abbas's recent "ethnic cleansing" accusation is more worrying: what it reveals about him, or what it reveals about the world's willingness to tolerate even the vilest and most obviously nonsensical slanders against Israel.

Addressing the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Dakar last Thursday, the Palestinian Authority chairman declared: "Our people in the city [of Jerusalem] are facing an ethnic cleansing campaign through a set of Israeli decisions such as imposing heavy taxes, banning construction and closing Palestinian institutions, in addition to separating the city from the West Bank by the racist separation wall."

If Jerusalem's Arabs are facing ethnic cleansing, then Israelis are surely the most incompetent ethnic cleansers in human history. After all, ethnic cleansing usually aims at removing an unwanted population and substituting your own nationals.

But according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies, Jerusalem's Arab population skyrocketed 266 percent between 1967, when Israel annexed east Jerusalem, and 2006 (the last year for which figures are available). That is almost double the Jewish population's growth during those years (143 percent); consequently, the city's ratio of Jews to Arabs shrank from 74:26 in 1967 to 66:34 in 2006.

Even during the intifada, which prompted the fence and the closed institutions that Abbas decries, the Arab population continued ballooning: It rose from 208,700 at the end of 2000 to 252,400 at the end of 2006, an increase of 21 percent in six years, or 3.5 percent a year. Jerusalem's Jewish population grew by only 4.7 percent during those years, or less than 1 percent a year. In absolute terms, the Arab increase (43,700 people) was double the Jewish increase (21,100).
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1205420731816&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


So, here we have parallel construction—a presidential candidate parroting his spiritual leaders’ blood libel against a nation received by either nodding heads or appalling silent affirmation. What Gordon finds so troubling about Abbas applies equally to his American counterpart.

Far more important, however, is the message this sends to Palestinians. If Abbas can hurl such vicious and patently false accusations at Israel without even a pro forma protest from world leaders, that tells Palestinians that willingness to live in peace with Israel is not necessary to retain international support. If the world has no objection to even the most vicious Palestinian incitement - despite knowing that such incitement routinely leads to actual violence - then it clearly cares nothing about peace; what it cares about is satisfying Palestinian demands.

What troubles Israelis is that such silent affirmation has crept into the political process of both Democratic candidates. Israelis remember vividly the then US First Lady sharing a podium with Mrs. Arafat, then first wife of Chairman Arafat, while she accused the Israelis of blood libel—then it was the claim the Israelis were poisoning the water.

Israelis have seen this silent affirmation of racist and divisive culture grow in recent years in very interesting and peculiar ways—their Foreign Minister forced to use the side servant entrance to the Annapolis conference. Secretary of State Rice used her personal narrative of growing up Black in the Old South to identify with the plight of Palestinians forced to stop at check points. No mention was made that the check points were instituted to prevent the very acts southern racists carried out against Black religious establishments, not unlike the homicides and murder perpetrated against Israeli parochial schools or religious ceremonies.

Both Taranto and Gordon are correct. These statements by political leaders affirming inflammatory comments made from a bully pulpit are troubling. Taranto points us to examine carefully a fracture to the American culture that has been covered up too long and promises to get worse. Gordon raises the issue of the meta-message of such comments to the Palestinians.

The connection not said, that needs to be explicit, is that Obama’s statements, and those of his spiritual guide, as also heard here. More than the chump change of Abbas, Wright’s words are heard loud and clear by the same constituency. Abbas is running to be the new head of the new state. But Obama is running to be the President of the United States of America. His spiritual leader’s comments are not about unity and they are not about America.

Israeli leaders tend to be quite effacing. But the electorate is very sensitive to racial and ethnic conflict. Opening the racial Pandora’s Box of racial discord in American politics, especially with incendiary overtones to the peace process, is quite worrisome indeed. If Pastor Wright is so openly inflammatory about the White America, what does he have to say about Jewish America? What are his opinions about Israel and the peace process? If his words are met with agreement from many quarters of US politics and society, who else in political office listens to such sermons?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Peace Now, Ya’ Think?

By Daniel Jackson

The Jerusalem Post has this story on this morning’s website:

'84% of Palestinians back Mercaz attack'

The vast majority of Palestinian Authority residents support the terror
attack on Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva that killed eight students earlier on March 6, according to a new poll cited in the New York Times on Wednesday.

According to the survey, which was conducted among 1,270 Palestinians in the West Bank, 84 percent of those polled stood behind the shooting attack. In addition, 64% supported firing Kassam rockets at Negev towns.

"The anger that this poll is registering is about equal to that at the very height of the second intifada," the paper quoted the pollster, Khalil Shikaki, as saying.

He added that he had never seen such a high level of support for an act of violence in all his 15 years of polling in Ramallah.

The survey also indicated that the majority of Palestinians would choose Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (47%) over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (46%) if elections were called now, and that three-quarters of Palestinians favored terminating negotiations between the Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The poll had a margin error of plus or minus three percentage points.
At least there some honesty on one side of the negotiating table. With these numbers, only a rube would buy into any more of this nonsense. That is unless, both Rice and Olmert each bought shares of that bridge in Brooklyn. And there is absolutely no doubt who Rice will blame for these results.

So, if this is what the majority of the Palaeostinians thinks and wants, just what exactly is the Peace Process? Is Condi’s Road Map the way to tranquility or the Road to Nowhere? Are Israelis supposed to walk willingly into the sea?

Here I thought the US State Department was beyond the Evian Conference of 1938. Guess the current charade is just a replay.

Global warming - old news?

By Donald Sensing

"Olden Warming:"




There's more from the New York Times that Tim Blair cites:

1923:
Glaciers have disappeared and land once covered with field ice is bare.
1924:
Glaciers are moving from their age-old beds, pouring greater quantities of ice into the sea than recorded history has known. Broad areas of land are sinking to new levels. A number of islands have disappeared.
1930:
The Alpine glaciers are in full retreat. Out of 102 glaciers observed by Professor P.L. Mercanton of the University of Lausanne and his associates more than two thirds have been found to be shrinking.
1935:
The great glaciers of the West, last remnants of the Ice Age on continental United States, have been retreating from their strongholds in the mountains at double time since last year.
There are other citations going all the way back into the 1800s expressing alarm that the climate is getting either too hot or too cold. But somehow, unlike the third bear's porridge, it is never "just right."

Then we have National Public Radio's report, "The Mystery of Global Warming's Missing Heat:"
Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them.

This is puzzling in part because here on the surface of the Earth, the years since 2003 have been some of the hottest on record. But Josh Willis at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the oceans are what really matter when it comes to global warming.

In fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of global warming involves heating up ocean waters. They hold much more heat than the atmosphere can. So Willis has been studying the ocean with a fleet of robotic instruments called the Argo system. The buoys can dive 3,000 feet down and measure ocean temperature. Since the system was fully deployed in 2003, it has recorded no warming of the global oceans.

There's more, including the admission by Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research that,

The Earth has a number of natural thermostats, including clouds, which can either trap heat and turn up the temperature, or reflect sunlight and help cool the planet.

That can't be directly measured at the moment, however.

"Unfortunately, we don't have adequate tracking of clouds to determine exactly what role they've been playing during this period," Trenberth says.
Clouds are simply one form of water vapor, and despite all the alarmism about carbon-dioxide, water vapor is by magnitudes the major greenhouse gas. And yet, as Trenberth says (he's not alone is saying), the mathematical tools to account for clouds - and other water vapor - have not been developed.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The trouble with sharia-compliant investing

By Donald Sensing

21st Century Schizoid Man explains:

But investing your money in an investment instrument that lacks even the most basic transparency, where you cannot know where the money is being invested? That blind trust, trust that no investor should ever grant except in very unusual circumstances, usually having to do with the necessity of avoiding conflicts of interest when elected to a political office.

I'd call such financial instruments an invitation to fraud, corruption and a great, great way of getting away with lying to your investors. Especially so when there is no standard law or practice for these instruments.

Others, of course, call them Sharia-compliant.
There's more, concisely stated.

Is Israel an abandoned child?

By Donald Sensing

Shrinkwrapped blog explores whether Israelis have simply lost the will to survive as a nation. A spirited debate follows in the comments.

Shas Endgame: Olmert's Counterattack Part 2

By Daniel Jackson

In a major escalation in the political theater, the Olmert team has struck back at Netanyahu. Earlier today, Channel 10 in Israel filed a report that Netanyahu had misused thousands shekels of public money while on a trip to London in 2006. Netanyahu announced he would sue the television station and by this afternoon, he followed through on his promise. This man delivers.

Ha’aretz carries this story, updated regularly:

Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu's lawyer filed a NIS 2 million libel suit Sunday morning against Channel 10 following the network's exposé Friday which revealed that Netanyahu and his wife spent NIS 131,000 on a six-day trip to London during last year's Second Lebanon War.

The lawsuit maintains that Netanyahu was sent to London on a public relations campaign to make Israel's case for the war against Hezbollah, and that he did not indulge in a "pleasure voyage," as the expose had claimed.

According to Netanyahu, his private expenses during the trip, which was funded by the Israel Bonds organization and the Jewish community, were paid out of his own pocket. "Our stay in London didn't cost the State of Israel one shekel and was funded entirely by me, as I paid out of pocket for all my private expenses. What we have here is political persecution and an attempt to prevent the Likud, and me in particular, to achieve leadership of this country, as most of the public wants," Netanyahu said Saturday in response to the Channel 10 report.

He added: "Channel 10's reports are filled with evil fallacies and a systematic slant of data. During my trip in August 2006, I worked 20 hours a day giving interviews, lecturing, meeting journalists, editors, political leaders and Jewish leaders to repel Arab propaganda."

So, Netanyahu has opened the campaign and Olmert knows it. This is clearly part of the Olmert attack. In Israel, the first line of defense or attack on an opponent is to smear him or her in the press. In fact, the Israeli electorate will not take a candidate seriously unless there is some sort of monetary scandal in the works. Olmert has been fighting several such monetary issues ranging from possible conflicts of interest with the privatization of a public bank to questions about the large funds used by the missus in redoing their flat. Sharon successfully kept investigators at bay while his son succumbed to investigators and actually did time.

In this case, however, the political nature of the attack is not even thinly veiled as the Jerusalem Post reports:
Following the Channel 10 report, Kadima MK Yoel Hasson filed a complaint with the Knesset Ethics Committee, and Labor Youth asked Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to open an investigation against Netanyahu.

The lawsuit filed Sunday further asserted that Netanyahu did not receive any benefits for lectures or speeches he delivered and that any claims regarding breaking an ethics code or donor law were baseless.
Of course, this fact is buried at the end of the article but it is most germane to the unfolding Purim drama of the past several weeks. This is truly a non-story given the tepid repose Chanel 10 has given to the suit. Elsewhere, the article in the Post reports:
Following the filing of the lawsuit, Channel 10's Raviv Drucker backed up the channel's claim, saying it was based on a document it had in its possession and that the allegations could be backed up in court. Speaking to Israel Radio, Drucker reiterated that Netanyahu had received NIS 98,000 on his trip from a single donor, not from several organizations.

Drucker called on Netanyahu to hand over all the documents from his trip and reveal exactly how it was funded.

The lawsuit maintained that Netanyahu was not on a "pleasure trip" but was rather conducting an "intensive and extensive hasbara campaign against Arab propaganda."
It also said that that all expenses for hosting guests at the hotel were credited to his own bill.

Netanyahu said there was neither a secret donor nor a "gap of dozens of thousands of shekels" between his expenses and funds received on the trip, a claim also made by Channel 10.
So, Channel 10 has a document in its possession. A document?! What is this: a Purim play of the McCarthy hearings? Now, I wonder where Channel 10 got that—not.

Yet, it remains the main point of the entire story. The story is, in fact, only important in that Olmert is trying his best to counteract Netanyahu while he tries to maintain his rapidly deteriorating hold on the government.

Make no mistake; Israelis are not fooled by these reports. The electorate knows what’s up. The election campaign season has begun. Israelis know what security costs and welcome a leader who knows how to look for outside grants to support his efforts. I know that during the Second Lebanon war, while my family was literally taking rounds, it was good to know someone was in London talking about what was really happening in the North. Yep, all Israel is at siege and the once and future prime minister is at the top of the hit list—especially when he goes out in public in London.

Moreover, the MSM in Israel has been in a downward spiral with its altered state of consciousness. Only last week, Channel 1 carried a report that students from the parochial high school where eight boys were gunned down were planning a counter attack on high ranking PA officials. This report was immediately challenged in the Knesset and Shin Bet, the secret service, took up the investigation.

As the Jerusalem Post reports:
While a prominent Israeli-Arab leader said on Saturday that Jewish extremists are plotting his assassination, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said it had completed a probe into media reports of such plans and has found them baseless.
The Shin Bet announcement came hours after Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, told supporters at a rally in Umm el-Fahm that an Arab country had warned him of plans by extreme right-wing Jews to assassinate him.

The Shin Bet statement dismissed a report that was broadcast on Channel 1 last week by diplomatic correspondent Ayala Hasson according to which a group of right-wing Jews had received permission from several rabbis to avenge the terrorist attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on March 6 in Jerusalem in which eight students were killed and nine were wounded.

Several days ago, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told National Religious Party MK Zevulun Orlev that neither the police nor the Shin Bet had information concerning such a plot.

Security officials explained Saturday that one of the main reasons for issuing the statement was to prevent the defaming of an entire sector in society - the National-Religious camp - as well as Mercaz Harav, whose students were reported to have been involved in the alleged plot.

Orlev said, "Whoever is responsible for propagating this wicked blood libel must do some soul searching, admit his mistake and apologize publicly to both the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and religious Zionism as a whole."
Orlev is correct. In order to stall the momentum against the peace process—as in enough is enough—the politician’s first attack is through the MSM. In the Endgame, the goal is to break the attack. The usual liberal approach has been to brand the moderate religious front as hot heads and crazies. The accusation on these students was absurd in the first place—these boys are in a program that prepares them to go to the military where the first order of the day is “wait”.

Ha’aretz ran the story as well but included the following picture to emphasize the point of how representative these boys were.


Meanwhile, Olmert is acting like everything is Jake. This afternoon’s Jerusalem Post carries a story of Olmert meeting Merkel at the airport. You’all provide the caption, ye’ hear?


German Chancellor Angela Merkel walks with PM Olmert.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

If global warming gets any worse . . .

By Donald Sensing

... we'll all freeze to death.

The problem with firing Adm. Fallon . . .

By Donald Sensing

... is that it was not done near publicly enough and that Fallon has been allowed to retire with the myth that he resigned rather than got canned. Michael Barone explains Fallon's sins, an account congruent with others. If these accounts are reasonably accurate, as they certainly appear to be, then Fallon should have been fired most unmistakably to the American public.

In September 1990, then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney bounced Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Dugan out of his office so hard he bounced twice when he hit the pavement. Dugan, who finished barely a month in the chief's seat before getting axed, had run off at the mouth to reporters about sensitive operational details of the coming Gulf War.

Dugan, a West Point graduate, talked in considerable detail about classified operational plans, including the use of Saudi bases for American B-52 flights in wartime and training routines for the supersecret F-117A Stealth fighters. In comments deeply distressing to America's allies, Dugan advocated bombing Iraqi cities --including downtown Baghdad--and said, "I don't expect to be concerned" about political constraints.

But Dugan's biggest sin, in Cheney's eyes, was references to Israel's contribution to the U.S. military effort. Dugan said that Israel had supplied the U.S. with its latest high-tech, superaccurate missiles and that based on Jerusalem's advice that Saddam is a "one-man show," the U.S. had devised a plan to decapitate the Iraqi leadership -- beginning with Saddam, his family, his personal guard and his mistress.
Dugan's offense, grave though it was, was one of indiscretion rather than insubordination. Adm. Fallon seems to have taken upon himself defining national policy. As Barone writes,
In my view, George W. Bush has been unduly tolerant of the efforts of civilian career professionals to undercut his policies. But Fallon's abrupt resignation suggests that he and-or Gates decided that things had gone too far when a commanding military officer was lionized for opposing the president's policies in the pages of Esquire.
They had already gone too far, and Fallon's firing was already overdue.

The iCoffin?

By Donald Sensing

Brian Gallutia wonders what Steve Jobs' coffin will look like, when that day comes.

Shas Endgame Continues

By Daniel Jackson

OOOH—Condi’s not happy. Tonight, Debka.com is reporting that Condi and her henchmen are not happy that Barak did not show up to their pre-Purim costume ball.

DEBKAfile’s Washington and Israeli sources report that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the three US generals, who act as US envoys for the Israel-Palestinian peace track have accused Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak of sabotaging Rice’s Middle East policy objectives. This accusation was first raised by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

In protest against what he considered these officials’ anti-Israel positions, Barak absented himself from a meeting Friday, March 14, in Jerusalem with US Gen. William Fraser and Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad. Instead, he sent Amos Gilead, senior political adviser at the defense ministry.

Gilead said that the minister was not scheduled to attend, but our sources confirm that at previous encounters of this sort Barak represented Israel in person.
The defense minister complained that Gen. Keith Dayton, one of the three US envoys, leveled harsh criticism against him personally and Israel’s defense community in general at a gathering of US consular staff serving in Israel.

According to our sources, Dayton faulted Israel on three points:

1. Israel, he said, was not giving Palestinian security and intelligence organs a chance to act in an orderly and continuous manner in the A areas of the West Bank under their control. This prevented the Palestinian Authority from exercising its authority over West Bank towns and rooting out terrorist structures, while strengthening Hamas elements and helping them build strongholds that would undermine Abbas.

2. Systematic Israel military operations in West Bank towns are driving wanted terrorists, criminal gangs and lawbreakers into Israel-controlled B and C areas in search of asylum. Gen. Dayton insinuated that the current anarchy in the West Bank was down to Israel, which he blamed for the inability of Abbas and Fayad to take charge of the territory.

3. The American general told the US diplomats that Ehud Barak and his defense establishment had spurned repeated American requests for a set of new security measures to be introduced on the West Bank as peace negotiations went forward.
A diplomatic source present at the meeting was convinced that Gen. Dayton’s severe remarks were backed by the secretary of state.
Wow. The General is not happy. Condi is not happy. On the other hand, Barak certainly expected that the State Department would turn up the heat on what they perceive to be the weak link.
Barak is reported by DEBKAfile’s military sources to have angrily rejected the US general’s charges and remarked such complaints should have been properly addressed to him, not laid before officials not directly involved in the Israel-Palestinian dialogue, some of whom are openly hostile to Israel. Those military sources also noted that Gen. Dayton had still not accomplished his mission to establish an effective Palestinian anti-terror force for the Ramallah government. That appears to be at the bottom of the controversy.
What is really at the bottom of the controversy is that Condi and her constituents reacted predictably to the sequence of events that unfolded last week. With Olmert in a bind, and his government faltering, it is predictable the pressure would be applied on Barak rather than Netanyahu or any other player in the unfolding drama. Unless the US reverses its current course of pressure tactics on a long standing ally in the war on terror, instead of typically supporting puppet dictators and thinly disguised terrorists, Olmert’s chances of survival are slim. Israelis are tired of continually taking another round. Barak, like Netanyahu, is listening to his constituency, which does not include Ms. Rice and Crew.

Friday, March 14, 2008

How the stock market works

By Donald Sensing

Once upon a time in a jungle village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.

The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest, and started catching them.

The man bought thousands at $10 and as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy at $20. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.

Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50 ! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him. In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. 'Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each.'

The villagers rounded up with all their savings and bought all the monkeys. Then they never saw the man nor his assistant again, only monkeys everywhere!

Now you have a better understanding of how the stock market works.

From the Braden Files.

This winter colder than most

By Donald Sensing

Since the US started keeping national records in 1895, only 53 winters have been colder in the United States than this winter, meaning most winters have been warmer. The NOAA reports that not only is this winter the nation's coldest since 2001, the same is true for the whole globe.

The average temperature across both the contiguous U.S. and the globe during climatological winter (December 2007-February 2008) was the coolest since 2001, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. In terms of winter precipitation, Pacific storms, bringing heavy precipitation to large parts of the West, produced high snowpack that will provide welcome runoff this spring.

A complete analysis is available online.

U.S. Winter Temperature Highlights




  • In the contiguous United States, the average winter temperature was 33.2°F (0.6°C), which was 0.2°F (0.1°C) above the 20th century average – yet still ranks as the coolest since 2001. It was the 54th coolest winter since national records began in 1895.
There is growing awareness that the computational methodology used by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is fundamentally flawed.
The IPCC published its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 predicting global warming will lead to widespread catastrophe if not mitigated, yet failed to provide the most basic requirement for effective climate policy: accurate temperature statistics. A number of weaknesses in the measurements include the fact temperatures aren't recorded from large areas of the Earth's surface and many weather stations once in undeveloped areas are now surrounded by buildings, parking lots and other heat-trapping structures resulting in an urban-heat-island effect.

Even using accurate temperature data, sound forecasting methods are required to predict climate change. Over time, forecasting researchers have compiled 140 principles that can be applied to a broad range of disciplines, including science, sociology, economics and politics.

In a recent NCPA study, Kesten Green and J. Scott Armstrong used these principles to audit the climate forecasts in the Fourth Assessment Report. Messrs. Green and Armstrong found the IPCC clearly violated 60 of the 127 principles relevant in assessing the IPCC predictions. Indeed, it could only be clearly established that the IPCC followed 17 of the more than 127 forecasting principles critical to making sound predictions.
More than 400 scientists, many of whom are current or former members of the IPCC, have gone public with their skepticism that man-made global warming imperils the planet.