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Monday, August 31, 2009

Will SOMEONE Please Answer The Bird!?

I was never a big fan of birds as pets. I attribute this to an unfortunate college roommate who shared a suite of rooms with me and 3 other girls. This girl, who I am ashamed to say I treated very badly in the worst post-high-school I'm-so-cool-and-you're-not way, rebuffing her attempts at friendship, purchased a cockatoo.

It was a beautiful bird.

It also awoke with the dawn, as did this roommate, along with my (room) roommate, both science majors. Science students get up early. Us liberal arts types were more likely to stay up late discussing World Hunger and how to fix it, and then sleep through breakfast.

I attributed my dislike of the bird to the hour it woke me. Six o'clock in the morning is now, after years in the work force, with children and pets, the prime of the morning. Back then, it was unholy.

I formed a dislike for this poor bird, I suspect, in part because of my desire to rebuff his owner. I was too insecure as a first year student away from home to simply accept people for who they were, and accept her puppyish uncool attempts at friendship with an open heart.

It's on that List Of Things I Wish I Could Go Back and Do Over Again.

So for years, based on that experience, I decided birds were noisy, dirty and unpleasant. In fact, this bird was none of those things--he was just a cockatoo and a rather cute, friendly one at that.

Moving from the dormitories to a shared house in our rural college town, I discovered the joy of having a yard and the agony of yard work. I also discovered that birds other than cockatoos get up with the sunrise. One in particular liked to sing up the sun first thing in the morning from the branches of a sapling immediately outside my window. At first, I groaned and buried my head under the pillow...but as the days went by, I noticed something. This bird sang with all his heart. He sang with such energy and joy that I couldn't help but smile, even though he woke me up every morning. I came to expect it, to anticipate his song, and when he went wherever birds go in the winter, I missed his song.

Then, years later, I met another woman who kept finches and canaries. I was entranced by them. They sang. They trilled and sang and the sound made my heart glad. During the Single Years, when I hiked the mountains and coasts of the West, I would often go with my best college chum who herself was a fount of knowledge about birds and their calls. She had an eye and could point out a red-tailed hawk on a fence when we were still a half-mile away. She can tell by looking at the sky if its a hawk, an eagle or a vulture, and taught me how to tell the difference. She recognized the calls of certain birds and told me what they were, whether it was the cry of a golden eagle or the cry of a marsh bird.

I started to enjoy birds. I like to listen to their calls, and watch their antics during mating and their nest-building in the spring.

When we first moved to Jerusalem, one of the first books I bought was a book about birds. I have met the Hoopoo, the bee-eater, the wagtail, the golden-bellied bulbul, and the ubiquitous black-and-tan crows of Jerusalem. I saw a bird at Ramat Rachel that rarely visits Israel, but is known to stray off the Great Flyway down the Rift Valley. I am sometimes humbled by the thought that these avians have been migrating that route probably longer than humans have.

Then we moved here, to the edge of the desert. It's quiet here because we have few trees. It's not like Baka, or Rehavia with their riot of foliage in which birds readily shelter. We have pigeons (two spectacularly beautiful examples of which I think stayed on our roof for a bit, since we heard them cooing up there for a week), and crows, but no birdsong.

Until recently.

It's not exactly bird song. But there is some song amidst the other clamor.

Someone across the street purchased a bird. We've spent weeks trying to figure out which condo the bird lives in, but he is up with his owners with the dawn, and he is happy! He trills the sun up, then starts with the rest of his repetoire. He is some kind of mynah or mocking bird or parrot which mimics human noises perfectly. In the weeks since he's taken up residence, he has broken off his song at times to whistle. He has a collection of various whistles which he has assembled from every dog owner in the area. It must confuse the dogs to hear their owners "whistle" them up and then find out they didn't....

He continually picks up new noises to mimic. A few weeks ago, I couldn't figure out what idiot kept opening and closing his car door. Who would repeatedly hit the electric locking mechanism with its dur-dur-durp crescendo?!

The bird. He now perfectly mimics the neighbor's car door which is electronically locked every night and electronically unlocked every morning....

Recently, because of the extremely warm weather, the windows have been opened to catch the breeze in the late afternoons and evenings. The Husband and I were started to get annoyed that some inconsiderate teen out on the street or in the park was constantly taking calls on his cell phone, and letting it ring and ring and ring...

"...I wish someone would pick up the phone!" I growled. After a few evenings of this, the Husband suddenly started laughing.

"What's so funny? Whoever it is should pick up their phone," I complained, as the ringing went on and on and on.

"It's not a phone," he said, grinning. "It's our neighbor--the bird has learned to mimic a cell phone.'

The next day, the bird rang and rang again. "Someone please answer the bird!" Mike said, only half in jest.

This morning, the bird didn't sing up the dawn. I was plugging away at my computer for an hour before I realized we hadn't heard his morning song. "I wonder if he's okay, " I ventured, a bit concerned.

"His owners probably decided to sleep in, so he's under cover," Mike said nonchalantly.

Sure enough, a short time later, the sunrise song burst full throated from the bird.

I've never even seen this bird. I don't know what he looks like. I don't know what kind of bird he is, but his song makes me glad every single morning, and I listen for him all the time. Every time he sings, he makes me smile. I enjoy his enjoyment of life, and while it seems a little silly to say so, I'm grateful that my neighbors brought him home where I derive some enjoyment from his singing. And even his ringing.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Coming Into The New Year

Let's see, what's going on in the world?

Gilad Shalit may finally come home. Wouldn't it be great if he could celebrate the Yamim Noraim with his family?

Moody's say Israel has weathered the Financial Meltdown [we'll see if the banks and the government manage to mess it up before this is done...].

Hamas is upping their rocket and missile launches into southern Israel, while executing the Palestinians they don't like at home. Hmmmm...this is hardly even "news" anymore, although the YouTube executions are sort of a coup.....

School is starting on Tuesday, and certain schools in Petach Tikvah are playing like being Jewish is a color....hello, nobody is buying your excuses. BUT the Evil Zionist Settlers have stepped into the breach and proved themselves more menschlich than their counterparts in Petach Tikvah. In the meantime, I'm waiting to see Petach Tikvah's adherents of Jewish apartheid lose their school funding--preferably by Tuesday.

These are the same Evil Settlers who practice this kind of "apartheid." Won't see this in the Aftonbladet.....or Chron or NYT or LA Times, betcha!

Egypt weighed in with "no more Jewish building in East Jerusalem" as a condition for negotiations. [This is going to put a lot of Palestinian wage-earners out of business....maybe they can get employment with the road crews? ]

It's also pretty pointless. The Israeli government cannot stop (nor should it) private building on private land which has already been approved by the Jerusalem municipality. Owners of land, both Arab and Jewish, in East Jerusalem can sell their land to anyone they want--including developers, whether Zionist or Palestinian. Where that land has already been sold and is under development, a foreign government has no business issuing orders to stop "Jewish building." I seem to recall the same kind of laws existed in both South Africa and the pre-Civil-Rights-Act United States. In the latter it was called "segregation" and prohibited non-whites (including Jews) from buying or building in "white" areas; in South Africa, it was called "apartheid." Hosni Mubarak is conditioning peace on an apartheid policy--no Jews in would-be Arab neighborhoods (never mind that before 1948 they were our neighborhoods, too).

Lador is calling for minimum sentences for violent crimes. An excellent idea since we don't get to elect our judiciary, and its continued, misplaced leniency towards violent crime and horrendous traffic offenders is something the public is correctly outraged about. Electing our own trial judges so they are responsible to the public for their decisions would be another good move.

The kangaroo court show trials of Iranian dissidents protesting a stolen election continue, sadly without much vocal support or even notice in the obtuse western elite establishments. Is anyone going to speak up for them outside of Iran? J'accuse, world. {C'mon, Mr. President! You're the leader of the Free World. Stand up and speak out for people who only wanted their votes to count for something!}

And while they are standing trial, the Chinless One visits visits his fellow wanna-be nuclear terrorist to proclaim that "western interference" is the only reason for these protests, and that Iran and Syria must continue their policies together in the region.

And what policies would those be? The establishment of Greater Syria and a Shi'ite Caliphate at the tip of a nuclear weapon? Oh, yeah, and don't forget "Itbach al Yahood!" also, presumably, with your nuclear toys. Hey, Mr. President Obama, you just got slapped in the face in case you didn't notice. So much for holding out the hand of friendship--and meeting the clenched fist. Other countries celebrate the arrival of heads of state with a 21-gun salute. Not coincidentally, this visit corresponded with the biggest bomb and mortar attacks in Baghdad in years, with over 500 wounded and over 100 killed.....I don't believe in coincidence, particularly
al-Qaeda-looking "coincidence."

In the meantime, the Left is lamenting Obama's negative ratings in Israel while excoriating anyone who dares to suggest that the socialist utopia of Sweden may actually harbor antisemitism! Such a surprise! Imagine that, antiSemitism in Europe! Can't be! It's really a Right Wing Plot fomented by Lieberman to distract attention from the Occupation!

Occam's razor, idiots. No conspiracy theory is needed to explain European extreme dislike of Semitic peoples in their midst--it's a matter of historical record. Sweden simply let its benign mask slip. Aftonbladet published a grossly antisemitic article and if the Israeli government can condemn an offensive religious skit, and the Swedish government can block the Mohamed cartoons from the internet, then certainly the Swedes (as represented by their elected representatives) can have the good grace to say that, yes, a blood libel designed to incite hatred against Jews is offensive and we, the nation of Sweden find it reprehensible. Or at least in bad taste. Instead of "We can publish whatever we want [no, you can't--your Constitution prohibits libel, insult and incitement against groups of people] and you thin-skinned Jews will just have to live with it, nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!"

So the Swedish reaction (go read the talkbacks here and abroad) has been along the lines of we-are-the-most-moral-country-on-earth, the embodiment of socialist western humanism, and how DARE you criticize us? And the Israeli and western leftist establishment is rallying to this disgusting perversion of human rights.....a la Stalinism. Good communists justified the Hitler-Stalin pact carving up Poland because Stalin was sacrosanct, the god of communism, and to disagree was heresy.

The same dynamic is at work here: Sweden is the Leftist mythological embodiment of The Good in socialist post-modern society, the role model of multiculturalism, social welfare, and free sex -- so Sweden, the self-appointed moral arbiter of all other nations, is equally sacrosanct and the dirty little secret that Swedes are every bit as antiSemitic as other Europeans has to be buried under heaps of abuse on anyone who dares to utter the heresy that Swedish bigotry is embodied not just in this newspaper article, but in the wide-ranging justifications that Swedes offer to defend it.

By the way, the most interesting posts I've read came from Swedes who hastened to assure me that, no, Sweden isn't antiSemitic at all! Of course if your name is Posner or Cohen, you would never be denied a job or a promotion, unlike if you had a name like...."Mohammed."

They said this. Really. I see...so the bastion of post-modern socialist multiculturalism isn't antiSemitic, it's only Islamophobic. Gee, nice to know that they're prepared to be so selective in their forms of discrimination.....somehow I don't find these admissions reassuring on the issue of racism generally in the Great White Hope of the North, nor does it fill me with confidence that antiSemitism isn't lurking in the dark corners.

But what? Me, worry? Naw, I don't live in Europe, can't do a thing about Iran's nukes, and this week I have more immediate worries.....the Husband went in for a skin biopsy following the sudden appearance of a very strange growth on the back.....the most worrisome part was not one doctor said, "Aw, it's nothing but get it checked anyway." He was shunted from doctor to dermatologist to surgeon in a matter of days (pretty fast for socialized medicine), and we're supposed to get the results in 3-4 weeks. WEEKS?!! I wanted to scream, but no, I was cool because the surgeon was a jerk. Hopefully, his knowledge will equal his arrogance. As a cancer survivor himself, the Husband is a bit concerned about this....my job is to keep him optimistic, and recite Tehillim.

So I am tabling the lesser concerns of war, peace, and world hunger and literacy for now....and just getting through the next month.

“On Rosh Hashanah it is written
On Yom Kippur it is sealed
How many shall pass on, how many shall come to be
Who shall live and who shall die"

Evil is averted by prayer, repentence and tzedakah. The repentence and tzedakah is our endeavor. But while we are Jewish, we are nondenominational in prayer--we'll take everyone's, thank you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

San Francisco Stoplight Rules

Ages ago, I posted the secret to surviving Israeli traffic: always yield, never hurry.

I need to post an addendum to that advice: San Francisco stoplight rules.

San Francisco is an extremely hilly town with some downright roller-coaster type roads. One of my favorites is Franklin Street heading downhill towards the Gate--can't beat the view or the adrenaline rush.

That said, the two most common forms of accidents (barring bicycle accidents) are (1) people getting killed at crosswalks by vehicles running up on the curb, or alternatively, people stepping into the street at the curb; and (2) red-light runners.

Any native of the area knows, absolutely KNOWS, that when your light turns green, you DO NOT GO. You count "one-Missouri, two-Missouri" while looking left and right to make sure the traffic has actually stopped. To proceed on a green light on the assumption that opposing traffic has actually stopped for the red light is suicidal. I've always blamed it on the hills--there's something about the steep hills that makes braking for a red light unattractive....so drivers just blow through them because they think the impetus of downhill gravity will get them through that intersection before the green-lit cross traffic actually gets into gear.

Nowadays, with instant messaging, car phones, cellphones, CDs and televisions in the cars, it isn't necessarily the hills. All these other distractions make driving anywhere, even on flat freeways in LA, a daily crap shoot.

But today, I saw a reason to add San Francsico stoplight rules.

Yossi was kind enough to give me a lift back from coffee, since I was without wheels. We were talking about something inconsequential as we drove east-bound on the main Gilo ridge road. As we approached the light-controlled intersection that leads out to Gush Etzion, we were about 30 feet behind another car. That other car had the right-of-way because the light was green. Really GREEN--not yellow-about-to-be-green, not green-but-had-just-turned...it was definitively, positively green. The driver in front of us proceeded sedately at the posted limit right into the intersection.

We saw it coming. Barely. We saw a blur of car coming off the Gush road, showing no signs of stopping, and sure enough, he blew through the red light and plowed right into the intersection. And into the front end of the driver who had just entered the intersection on the green light.

The impact knocked the front end off of both cars, and spun them sideways. Fortunately, no one appeared to be gravely hurt -- the at-fault driver got out of his car immediately and approached the other driver who was still seated.

Yossi was already on the phone to the police. He got out of his car and walked up to the cars. I made myself useful by waving on-coming traffic into the adjacent lane, so I couldn't hear the conversation at the scene.

We left, having reported it and seen a paramedic who had been waiting at the Gush bus stop run over with his equipment.

"What did you say to him?" I asked, having seen Yossi direct a comment to the red light runner.

"I told him to be quiet--HE ran the red light so don't berate the other driver," he told me.

"And what did he say?," I asked, knowing that tempers get frayed on the road easily.

"He didn't say anything after that. The ambulance will come for the other driver. He says he isn't hurt, but that's the adrenaline talking--he'll hurt as soon as the shock wears off."

I wasn't even in the accident...but its been replaying itself all day in my head. I'm not sure that there was any way to avoid it, but I've wondered all day if the driver in front of us could have avoided the collision by looking and checking the traffic to his right--even though he had the green light.

Maybe not. But I'm going to start putting my San Francisco-bred instincts to work at the intersections from here on out.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why Gaza's Borders Are Closed

For eight years, Palestinians in Gaza fired rockets and mortars into Israel. Hamas sent suicide bombers via various routes from Gaza into Israel, who were sometimes intercepted at the border crossings and sometimes not caught until they were in Israel.

Although slightly dated, this report sums up the game:

Since the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in the summer of 2005, Hamas and its allies have fired more than 6,000 rockets and mortars into Israel.6 The number of rocket attacks increased from November 2007 onward, targeting Sderot and other civilian areas. Palestinian terrorists fired some 200 mortar shells and Kassam rockets at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza, resulting in substantial damage and injuries to personnel.

During this period there were some 30 foiled attempts at terrorist infiltration, including at least 20 incidents where Palestinians used medical missions to attempt terror attacks. In June 2006, a female suicide terrorist was arrested at the Erez crossing while on her way to carry out an attack on an Israeli hospital. In May 2007, two female bombers received permits but were caught after slipping through security checks.7 On May 22, 2008, a truck loaded with 4.5 tons of explosives exploded just before reaching the crossing.

The ISA published reports on 11 individuals, including those just cited, who used permits for medical care or for family visits to patients already in Israel for the purpose of carrying out terror-related activities. At Erez, three patients admitted under questioning that they had purchased referral notes with bogus medical information from doctors in Gaza. According to the ISA, terror organizations were making a special effort to recruit women, including those who are pregnant, who are less likely to be closely examined and whose heavy clothing more readily conceals suspicious objects.8 PHR-I forwarded these patients for approval, unaware of their true status.

The Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government entered into an agreement about the borders into Gaza, which were staffed by EU monitors and by PA personnel. Hamas' coup d'etat in Gaza and its gangland-style executions of the Fatah opposition ended PA control over the borders, and Israel closed its border with the now-Hamastan entity.

Since then, mortars, rockets and missiles continued apace, oftentimes aimed at the border crossings on those days where Israel was opening them to allow in items like gasoline or medical supplies.

It's been quiet since the Gaza operation last winter. Until this last week. HaAretz reported that Hamastan once again elected to open fire on the border crossings--just as Palestinians needing medical treatment in Israel were crossing into Israel:

On Sunday, Gaza militants fired mortars at a crossing into Israel just as Palestinian patients were being transferred for treatment, a Palestinian official said.

"It's a miracle nobody was hurt," Health Ministry official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said.

Two radical Palestinian groups, the Popular Front and the Democratic Front, said they fired 12 mortars at the Erez crossing. The Israel Defense Forces said about six shells exploded near the Erez crossing as the transfer was in progress.

According to the procedure, the Palestinian patients are brought to the crossing in local ambulances and transferred to Israeli ambulances for their trips to hospitals.

Now I understand the Left wing conspiracy of silence about Israeli victims of Hamastan's sporadic missile fire, but hey! aren't these so-called human rights organizations and NGOs there to protect the Palestinians?

Where's the outrage? Not a peep from Human Rights-When-Funded-By-Saudi-AntiSemites-Watch, or B'Tselem? Did you hear Doctors Without Borders condemning the attack? Or the U.N.? W.H.O.? Physicians For Human Rights-Who-Just-Shot-Themselves-In-The-Foot-By-Putting-Political-Gamesmanship-Above-Patient-Care? I googled for their condemnations in vain.

Don't hold your breath.....

Palestinian Myth Making 101

Myth Number One: Hamas has never used human shields.

The following is the full text of the comments by Hamas representative Fathi Hamad: "For the Palestinian people death became an industry, at which women excel and so do all people on this land: the elderly excel, the Jihad fighters excel, and the children excel. Accordingly [Palestinians] created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the Jihad fighters against the Zionist bombing machine, as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: We desire death as you desire life."

Catch it on YouTube:

Then, there's that old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words:

So where is the mainstream media's outrage over firing from a crowd of civilians? What?! They expect that unlike any other attacked country in the world, Israel won't fire back? Hamas is responsible for their dead civilians, not Israel. (Hint: build bomb shelters for your people instead of bunkers for your leaders before you pick the next war).

Nor does Hamas balk at using children. Using human shields is a war crime. Using children as human shields in the hope it will protect you from return fire plumbs new depths of depravity.

Pictures courtesy of PMW and Mere Rhetoric , who did all the heavy lifting--I just plagiarized. It was too good not to share.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Good Fences Make Good Neigbors--Good Roadblocks Make Better Ones

On July 20, the IDF was putting together a proposal to remove over 100 dirt roadblocks in time for Ramadan this year.

Last month, for the first time in years, a Palestinian could drive from Nablus to Hebron without encountering a roadblock. The roadblocks near Jericho are down so Israelis can now travel through the West Bank to lose their money in Jericho's casino, and Jericho residents can now reach any major town on the West Bank without going through roadblocks.

In May, the IDF began dismantling roadblocks in the West Bank at an accelerated rate. Haaretz reported in June of this year that only 10 manned roadblocks are still extant in the West Bank, and searches are not carried out at every one of them. This is in stark contrast to the last year and a half, when more than 35 manned roadblocks were in operation. More and more, IDF soldiers are posted outside of major city centers to keep Israelis out rather than to check on Palestinians.

Apparently this is part of Netanyahu's policy to take action to improve the day-to-day life of Palestinians in the West Bank in a way that would significantly better the economic conditions in the area. He and Barak apparently believed that lifting roadblocks does not bear a significant domestic political price if there are no terrorist attacks as a result of the easing of restrictions.

That "IF" suddenly changed everything.

If tonight's news announcement is not a false alarm (and since a terror group is claiming responsibility, I believe it's probably true), then all these moves towards slowly draining off the occupation have been for nothing.

Today, a kid in the Air Force was forcibly kidnapped near his base in central Israel.

How would Palestinian terrorists get to central Israel? Hey, look, NO effective roadblocks!!

This terror act, this kidnapping of one of our sons on our own land, is brought to you courtesy of the Palestinian people, whose leadership last week in Bethlehem demanded ALL of Jerusalem, our capital, for their capital; the release of thousands of captured terrorists serving sentences in our jails; the opening of the border crossings of Gaza so as to ease the export of more terrorists to central Israel; and reaffirmed those clauses of the Fatah Internal Order document, which calls for the eradication of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian Arab Moslem state, and the rejection of all peace initiatives.

So much for giving peace a chance.

Bring back the roadblocks. No one else's child should become Gilad Shalit.

To Live And Die In Oregon

I managed to track down the story of the Oregon woman who was denied cancer medication. Here's the short version:

Woman's Insurance Denies Cancer Meds, Approves Suicide Meds

64-year-old Barbara Wagner, whose lung cancer had returned and was deemed terminal, had her claim for a $4,000 a month medication to extend her life denied by the state-run Oregon Health Plan while they approved palliative, or comfort, care only.

The rules governing Oregon Health Plan say that drugs must meet a 5% survival rate after five years to be covered by the plan. The prescribed drug, Erlotinib, has a median survival rate of 6.7 months in patients who had already completed chemo.

The Oregon Health Plan provides care to those whose incomes fall under the poverty level. Coverage is prioritized from prevention through chronic disease management, mental health then heart and finally cancer treatment.

Did you catch the key phrases? The Oregon Plan is to cover poor people. Coverage is prioritized. Cancer treatment is the lowest priority.

In other words, if you're poor, we're denying you expensive medication (meds which another commenter pointed out have a survival rate of 40% after the first year, contra the 5% claimed by the state) but we'll gladly pay for meds so you can kill yourself.

Keep in mind that most of the poor are women, minorities and people with disabilities. Women have always suffered a financial gender-gap due to their tailoring their lives to those of their children and spouses.

The talkback comments are always very illuminating, albeit the would-be masters and mistresses of the universe who opine in that forum are harsh indeed. Most wrote in to say she "deserved" to die because she was a smoker and/or old; that they felt $4000/month for meds was outrageous and the state shouldn't pay it just to extend the old lady's life for 6 months (studiously ignoring the writer who commented that the statistic as reported is incorrect and that survival rate is 40% after the first year); why should some other person die because the state wasted all this money on an old woman with cancer, etc....

I doubt they would comment in this fashion if they were the ones with cancer--or if the patient were a spouse, a sibling, a parent, a child.

That's her picture. Does she look like a woman who wants to die? I didn't think so, either.

Another site had this to say:

Oregon state officials controlled the process of healthcare decision-making—not Barbara and her physician. Chemotherapy would cost the state $4,000 every month she remained alive; the drugs for physician-assisted suicide held a one-time expense of less than $100. Barbara’s treatment plan boiled down to accounting. To cover chemotherapy state policy demanded a five percent patient survival rate at five years. As a new drug, Tarceva did not meet this dispassionate criterion. To Oregon, Barbara was no longer a patient; she had become a "negative economic unit."

Well, we certainly can't have THAT--we don't need any "negative economic units" in our society, now, do we? How disgustingly Orwellian.

Am I the only one who finds this appalling and outrageous?

Searching the web, I found this:

For Barbara Wagner, too, there is something of a happy ending: The pharmaceutical company making Tarceva agreed to donate a year's supply of the expensive drug, and to consider providing further medication free of charge if she is still living and wishes to continue taking Tarceva in a year's time.

In other words, Big Business came to the rescue, not the bloody government!

However, for other patients with advanced cancer, there may be few options. The Oregon Health Plan will not cover chemotherapy unless there is a better than 5% chance it will help patients live for five more years. Patients who don't meet that standard get a letter denying coverage for chemo and suggesting comfort care, including pain relief and, potentially, doctor assisted suicide.

Hence, Barbara is not alone:

Since the spread of his prostate cancer, 53-year-old Randy Stroup of Dexter, Ore., has been in a fight for his life. Uninsured and unable to pay for expensive chemotherapy, he applied to Oregon's state-run health plan for help.

Lane Individual Practice Association (LIPA), which administers the Oregon Health Plan in Lane County, responded to Stroup's request with a letter saying the state would not cover Stroup's pricey treatment, but would pay for the cost of physician-assisted suicide.

Got that? He's 53. That's NOT old. I understood that the purpose of government's universal health care was to make sure that people, especially the unemployed and working poor, would be covered by health insurance which is currently purchased through one's employer in group plans which many still decline because even the group plan is too expensive.

So here's Randy with prostate cancer and who needs chemotherapy, and the state's insurance plan tells him, essentially, "drop dead."

Eventually the state reversed its decision and paid for chemotherapy because Randy fought this decision.

Whatever happened to "First, do no harm."?

There are a couple of lessons here:

First, don't be poor and live in Oregon.

Second, be careful what you wish for--any government backed universal health care under consideration should be carefully scrutinized. Your life, your family members' lives, may someday depend upon what is written there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Beating Heard 'Round The World

So I'm watching American news a couple of days ago while trying to get over a massive sinus/ear infection.....that's how you know I am sick: I'm watching television. I am treated to the sight of muscled goons pushing and shoving protesters, yelling at the protesters, and threatening worse physical violence to their supporters and People With Videocameras who are filming this.

No, it's NOT Iran. It's the United States. Yep, the Land of the Free.

The "Town Hall" concept predates the American Revolution. Back in the Old Days, white men of property (excluding slaves, women, indentured servants and poor)would have meetings in the town hall on a regular basis to conduct the town's business--everything from the need for an armory to taxes to stray cows on the Green.

Since then, the membership has been expanded to include all citizens, who all feel we have a perfect right to show up and speak our minds about whatever the government (be it local, state or federal) wants us to do. This was so important a concept that the Constitution enshrined it in the amendments guaranteeing free speech and the right to assemble peaceably.

There seems to be a tax revolt brewing, but now those veterans of the Anti-War Movement in the Sixties are old enough to collect social security and have paid all their lives for health insurance. They have a new beef--socialized health care. They have a right to be heard on the government's plan to "socialize" the health care system, which might include cutting health care benefits for elders on a cost-effectiveness basis. One story floating around (I haven't verified it) is that a woman in Oregon in her 60s wants cancer treatment after a lifetime of smoking. I loathe cigarette smoke and I think smokers should quit. However....Oregon has self-insured state-funded health care. What she reportedly got was a denial of her request for anti-cancer medication but approval for the drugs for euthanasia. In other words, you're too old for us to waste the money on, just go die.

So, at a Town Hall meeting last week in Missouri, the place was rigged for a politcal propaganda piece rather than a free discussion of the issue. Heavily muscled union guys in SEIU shirts were whisked in the "handicapped entrance" while average citizens waiting to get in were locked out. While citizen-opponents were deliberately excluded, one half of the auditorium was roped off and "reserved" for supporters of the health care initiative. The only questions permitted during the town hall meeting were plants written in advance on index cards and submitted by the shills in the audience. Citizens who wanted to ask questions weren't permitted to. After the meeting, the SEIU guys confronted Kenneth Gladney, a black conservative from the city, who was handing out “Don’t Tread On Me” flags. This didn’t go over well with the Obama supporters and union thugs who had attended the meeting, so they allegedly punched him in the face, kicked him in the head, and stomped on him on the pavement. His attorney's letter (now all over the internet) said:

Kenneth was approached by an SEIU representative as Kenneth was handing out “Don’t Tread on Me” flags to other conservatives. The SEIU representative demanded to know why a black man was handing out these flags. The SEIU member used a racial slur against Kenneth, then punched him in the face. Kenneth fell to the ground. Another SEIU member yelled racial epithets at Kenneth as he kicked him in the head and back. Kenneth was also brutally attacked by one other male SEIU member and an unidentified woman. The three men were clearly SEIU members, as they were wearing T-shirts with the SEIU logo.

Kenneth was beaten badly. One assailant fled on foot; three others were arrested. Kenneth was admitted to St. John’s Mercy Medical Center emergency room, where he was treated for his numerous injuries. Kenneth was merely expressing his freedom of speech by handing out the flags. In fact, he merely asked people as they exited the town hall meeting whether they would like a flag. He in no way provoked any argument or altercation, as evidenced by the fact that three assailants were arrested. We hope that Kenneth fully recovers from his injuries; however, he is in great pain at this time. We will be pursuing legal action at our discretion. This was a truly senseless hate crime carried out by racist union thugs.

Aside: Hey, Mr. President, where's your outrage now? A black man is knocked down, apparently called N---- (that's what 'racial epithet' usually means), and has the daylights beat out of him for exercising his free speech rights. Do the words "hate crime" mean anything when a conservative is the victim? Maybe you'd like to buy him a beer?

Another Aside: and if you google Kenneth Gladney, you will see that the Left has circled the wagons, claiming that Gladney is a fraud, that it never happened, or if it happened, he provoked it, or if it happened, it didn't happen the way he says it happened ergo he's a liar, and the proof is he'll never file a hate crime report. Guess what? He filed. The moral bankruptcy of the Left in light of their collective snide dismissal of mostly white Chicago Machine thugs beating a black man in 2009 while their black side-kick calls him a "nigger" is no doubt covered in depth by, uh, Counterpunch, right?

Speaking of moral bankruptcy, the Democrats have responded by calling the citizens, most of them Boomer grandparents, "thugs," conveniently by-passing the hired muscle they imported to quell dissent. They are particularly incensed that people bring pictures of Obama to demonstrations with Hitler-mustaches drawn on -- that was okay for demonizing George Bush, but How Dare You!! when it comes to Obama.

Other Democratic rhetoric, especially on the internet, is downright vile: "chickenhawks," "Republitards," "nazis" and "white trash" are just a few. Jeanne Garofalo played the race card (it's on YouTube) calling protesters "redneck racists" who really aren't opposed to the government debt and the potential for health care rationing--it's REALLY about hating Obama for being black. By this standard, any criticism of presidential policies is immediately trumped by the cry of "racism!" Garofalo then snidely dismisses women who protest as suffering from "Stockholm Syndrome," clearly in thrall to their white urban male masters.

One commenter, in contradiction to some of this Democratic libel, posted that "there have been a total of seven people arrested at town halls so far, all (except one reporter) being SEIU/ACORN/Democrat Party thugs. No anti-Obama demonstrators have been arrested." If that statistic is accurate, then who are the REAL thugs here?

Another pointed out, in contradiction to Pelosi's accusation that protesters are the tools of well-heeled rich big business concerns, that that "the pro-healthcare reformers found their "grass roots" activists by placing ads on craigslist for paid positions. So lets see, the real citizens are paid activists, acorn, and unions? The media is silent on all of that."

By the way, since I live in a country with government-back universal health care, I think it's great. But I also think that citizens who are faced with making a transition to such a system, AND PAYING FOR IT, have a right to sound off in public and ask noisy, uncomfortable questions rather than merely posing for photo ops arranged by Democrats pimping this deal.

Another prominent American used to think so too:

“I’m sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic. We need to stand up and say we’re Americans, and we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration.”

– Hillary Rodham Clinton

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Fatah Shoots Itself In The Foot

If you do something that damages your chances of achieving what you desire, English has the perfect phrase for it: "shooting yourself in the foot."

I'v watched with equal degrees of horror and hilarity as Fatah shot itself in the foot this week.

These are our peace partners. These are the "moderates."

These are their "non-negotiable" demands, as I've picked up from various news sources:

1. A freeze on all Jewish settlement activity in the disputed territories [but no freeze on Palestinian building, which continues apace].

2. Open the borders of Gaza [to Hamas and its cadres of martyrs ready to engage in more mass murder of Jews in public venues].

When Hell freezes over....

3. ALL of Jerusalem is to be surrendered to the future Palestinian state. Not East Jerusalem. Not parts of Jerusalem. I actually read this twice to make sure I was reading it correctly. All of Western Jerusalem, which is 95+% Jewish, is to be surrendered. Not land over the Green Line. Not mixed neighborhoods. ALL of it.

When Hell freezes over....

And all prisoners must be released [that's Palestinian prisoners--Gilad Shalit doesn't even get a visit from the Red Cross] and Israel killed Arafat [he died of AIDS, according to the Russians] and the conference also endorsed the Aksa Martyrs Brigades as Fatah's official "armed wing." I love this touch -- when was the last time the Republicans or the Social Democrats or any other "political party" had an "armed wing"? Nevermind that the endorsement of this group as Fatah's official armed wing contradicts promises made by the Fatah leadership to the effect that the Aksa Martyrs Brigades have been dismantled.

What?! You BELIEVED the Palestinians when they said they were dismantling their terror apparatus....silly you!

As my Husband the Wit put it, agog with hilarity that this platform saw the light of day -- "oh, yeah, and all Jews should march to the sea, jump in, and while in mid-air, cut our throats."

Does Fatah have any idea how this plays in Israel? How many on the Right are delighted with this platform? Because this makes it very easy, too easy, for Middle Israel to simply shrug and say, "They're being ridiculous. Fuck 'em."

This is not the platform that is going to advance dialogue and the peace process. Fatah couldn't have given a better gift to Netanyahu's coalition -- NO one in the world can take the Palestinians seriously in light of this sabre-rattling. The Fatah platform is now the "obstacle to peace."

So why is there this dichotomy? Why is there the expression of a desire to negotiate, a referral to past offers and agreements, counterbalanced by a conference that sounds like a call to Jihadi crusade?

Because Fatah, now and always, has two faces: one for the international community and one for internal consumption.

The Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs aptly summed up the Two Faces of Fatah:

Will Fatah Give Up the Armed Struggle
at Its Sixth General Congress?

Pinhas Inbari [bakanote: these are excerpts--the entire article can be reached through the links]

•Many observers are watching to see to what extent Fatah's Sixth General Congress will advance or retard the prospects for re-launching the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. In this regard, the crucial question is: Is Fatah going to waive its historical principle of "armed struggle" and devote itself to peace negotiations based on compromise?

•The two relevant documents to be discussed and approved by the Fatah Congress are the Political Program and Fatah's "Internal Order." The Political Program might be seen as reflecting progress in terms of accepting a political solution and rejecting violence - but it falls short of waiving the principle of armed struggle.

•The real problem lies in the Internal Order document, which restores all of the phrases that were omitted in the Political Program. While the Political Program sought to subordinate the struggle to the need for "international legitimacy," the Internal Order is very clear in rejecting all international peace initiatives.

•In the Internal Order document, Fatah retains the armed struggle as a strategy in order to liberate the whole of Palestine and eliminate Israel. Article 12 calls for "the liberation of Palestine completely and the elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally."

•Article 13 calls for "establishing a sovereign democratic Palestinian state on the entire Palestinian territory." While the Political Program lists the "one-state solution" as an option in case the "two-state solution" fails, the Internal Order document mentions the "one-state solution" as the only solution.

•Should there be any question regarding Fatah's objectives, Article 17 states: "The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to the liberation of Palestine," while Article 19 notes: "The struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine."

Two Documents: One for International Consumption and the Other for Internal Use

The two relevant documents to be discussed and approved by the Fatah Congress are the Political Program and Fatah's "Internal Order." The Political Program might be seen by many as reflecting progress in terms of accepting a political solution and rejecting violence - but it falls short of waiving the principle of armed struggle. The document endorses the Arab Initiative, talks in vague expressions of the "right of return" - using a formula "based on UN Resolution 181" and not on fulfillment of this resolution, and offers the model of the "Intifada of the Stones" (the first intifada) as preferred over the model of military struggle.

The principle of the "armed struggle" is mentioned as an option of the past that must be re-examined in comparison to other options of struggle. The model seen to fit our times is the anti-wall campaigns in Nil'in and Bil'in, but "10,000 times as fierce." The political program uses the term "the struggle" (not quite describing it as the "armed struggle") and even the "peaceful struggle." However, there is more than one reference to the term "the struggle of all options," that includes the armed struggle as well. In an interview with Maan News, the Fatah leader in Lebanon, Sultan Abu al-Einein, made it clear that the "struggle of all options" includes the armed struggle as well.

Fatah's Internal Order Presents a Different Face

Developing the Nil'in-Bil'in model of struggle is problematic because it can easily deteriorate into violence, as past experience shows, but the real problem lies in the Internal Order document. All of the phrases that were omitted in the Political Program are present in this would-be "bureaucratic" document. The term "armed popular struggle" appears at the very beginning. While the Political Program sought to subordinate the struggle to the need for "international legitimacy," the Internal Order is very clear in rejecting all international peace initiatives: "The projects, agreements, and resolutions that were issued or will be issued by the UN or group of states or any separate state on the Palestinian problem that waives the rights of the Palestinians on their homeland is null and void."

Furthermore, Article 22 calls for: "objection by force to all political solutions that are offered as an alternative to the extermination of the occupying Zionist entity in Palestine and all the projects that aim for the elimination of the Palestinian problem, or seek to internationalize it or put an outside custodian on its people from any possible party." This article is in contradiction to the call in the Political Program for greater international involvement in the problem and its welcome for the involvement of international forces in Palestine.

Article 9 states clearly that "the liberation of the Holy Land and the defense of its holy sites (that are forbidden to infidels) is an Arab, Muslim, and humanitarian duty."


Feel free to share these platforms, Stateside readers: the spin in the Chronicle and the total absence of these platforms in both the Chron and the NY Times tells me that the West is getting the left-wing Pallywood spin.

One of my lawyer colleagues once postulated that Fatah was the "moderate" political party of the Palestinians and Hamas were the radicals. "Not so," I told him. "Fatah is just Hamas in suits."

They've proved it this week.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Home "Rip-Off" Center

If I could, I'd open a Home Depot franchise in Israel, if only to give Home Center some grief.

I LIKE the Home Center at the Malcha Mall. They're pretty no-nonsense, and usually helpful.

However.....there is a notable exception.

Home Center in Talpiot in Canyon Hadar.

Today's was the worst of several bad experiences there.

Home Center at Malcha was out of those drying racks that screw into the wall of your mirpesset. But the staffer told us, "I'm sure they still have them in the Talpiot store," so off we trundled to Talpiot, the place that I suspect invented gridlock.

Once we slogged through traffic and parked, we went to Home Center. Two staffers assured us that yes, this item was still in stock and still on sale. Great!

We find that staff member in charge of this section, and he shows us the dugma (the model). "But it's small!" The picture in the brochure showed something that looked like it was two feet across.

"This is only the display model!" he tells us. He takes Yossi to the shelves and pulls down a box that is two feet in length. "And it's 399 shekels?" Yossi asked, reading the sign on the display. "Yes," the salesman answers.

An aside here: the display has two nearly identical sides, the only difference being that one latched in place with a bolt and the other had a hand crank. There is NO other difference, and nothing on either model that identified them by model number. Prominently displayed on the display item is a sign reading "399 NIS" with the number 600 crossed out. Clearly a bargain!

We go to the checkout stand and the clerk says, "No, it's 600 shekels."


I said, "Wait, I'll bring you the sign." I raced back to the display, yanked the sign down, and brought it to the checkout stand, where Yossi is now explaining to the clerk and some slightly-more-senior staffer that not only does the sign say "399 shekels" but the salesman told us it was 399 shekels.

I showed the senior salesman the sign. "Too bad, giveret, that's not the price for this model," he sneered.

"Yes, it is, it's ON the display model," I said, puzzled. "Come, I'll show you," and led him away despite Yossi's protest to let it go.

I show him the display. "That's not the price for the model on THIS half of the display--that's the price for the OTHER model on the other half of the display," he says with a brush-off gesture.

"That can't be correct--look, there's only ONE price on this display." I pointed out.

"Yes, and it clearly says "2002" for the model number," he retorted.

"Okay, so where on here do you see a model number? There isn't one!" I retorted back, getting annoyed. "This can't be legal--you put up a sign on a display with two models, don't distinguish between them with any markings, and then claim the sales price is only for 'the other one'?"

He starts to turn away. "This is called bait-and-switch where I come from, and it's illegal. Are you telling me that your store policy is to allow this?" I called after him.

Now he's angry. "I'm not going to make him a gift of it!" he states, his voice rising. "This is the price--600 shekels."

"Listen, if this were an honest store, you would admit an honest mistake and let the customer have the item at the price advertised--which is the price on this sign," I said, trying to sound reasonable.

"Maybe the clerk made a mistake when he told you it was 399 shekels, but its not my mistake, it's not the store's mistake, so the price is the price." He turned away with that very Israeli I-don't-have-time-to-talk-to-a-mere-woman dismissiveness.

"Really?" I said, raising my voice. "You don't care if people think your store engages in illegal pricing? YOU don't care if your store makes a practice of cheating people?"

We're now drawing a crowd.

"You're not the manager, are you?" He conceded he was not, and when I pressed to talk to the manager, he told me to tell the checkout clerk to call him---and started to walk away, again with a dismissive shrug of the shoulders.

"Maybe the manager would care that his staff is cheating people? Maybe the manager would care that your pricing is illegal? May he should know you treat your customers LIKE GARBAGE!"

"And what are you going to do about it?" he sneered.

I'm going to put it in my blog and tell everyone that the Home Center at Canyon Hadar engages in bait-and-switch tactics, doesn't care about making the customers happy, and treats their customers like garbage -- that's what I'm going to do about it.

I looked at the half dozen people watching this exchange with interest. "Don't buy here--they're cheats and liars," I told them. I have enough Hebrew to tell that truth.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Winston Smith Is Alive and Well and Working in Australia

Winston Smith was the protagonist of Orwell's "1984," a bureaucrat who enjoyed his never-ending job of historical revisionism to match current standards of political correctness.

He's alive and working in Australia! How else can one explain the bizarre and truth-defying results of the "Global Peace Index" published by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace?

But Seth Franzman says it better than I can. You can read the entire article by hitting the link in the post title, or just keep reading:

"On July 30 The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel ranked 141 out of 144 countries on the Global Peace Index published by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), making Israel out to be less peaceful than Sudan, Iran and Pakistan.

The message of studies such as this dovetails with the false legitimacy of conferences such as the UN's Durban II which claim to be about racism but are themselves racist. Together they are part of the moral bankruptcy behind so much of the rhetoric about peace, racism, war crimes and justice.

The IEP describes itself as a "vision of humanity" that is bringing "a strategic approach to raising the world's attention and awareness around the importance of peacefulness to humanity's survival." It claims to be dedicated to educating people about the "relationship between economic development, business and peace." Like other "indexes" such as the Freedom Index and Property Rights Index, the institute sifts through mountains of data and then reduces each data set into 23 "indicators." The indicators are then divided into three categories; "measures of ongoing domestic and international conflict, measures of safety and security in society and measures of militarization."

There was enough information about 144 countries that they could be evaluated. Such figures as the number of murders per 100,000 people in a given country and the number of deaths in internal conflicts and "relations with neighboring countries" must all be made into numbers. This system, which is popular in the social sciences, means quantifying such abstract concepts as people's "perception of criminality in society."

This is open to a form of fraud. Israelis may think their society is violent, just as South Africans do, but the murder rate here is 2.65 for every 100,000, whereas in South Africa it is 38. Perception of violence says nothing about violence.

Similarly the index measures the ease of access to weapons, military sophistication and number of heavy weapons - all figures which have no connection to actual levels of violence. But perhaps the indicator with the greatest chutzpah is the "potential for terrorist attacks," which actually punishes a country because people might target it. [My Inner Cynic suggests that this 'category' was invented solely to bash Israeli society....I wonder how Iraq, India, Pakistan, and Great Britain were rated in this category?]

In comparing the Sudan, which scored 140 out of 144, the level of idiocy disguised as banality becomes clear. Sudan, which has caused the deaths of more than 300,000 of its own citizens and displaced millions of them to Chad, scores exactly the same as Israel under the category "number of displaced people as a percentage of population." Perhaps the score for Sudan is the same as Israel because Sudan has achieved a complete genocide of its black Muslim Darfuri population and thus there aren't any displaced left? This isn't exactly a measurement of "absence of violence," which is what the Index claims to measure.

Israel and Sudan also score the same under "number of deaths from organized internal conflict," while Israel scores worse under "number of deaths from organized external conflict." Israel didn't fight any wars against an external enemy in 2008, unless Gaza is "external," and then it is not clear what the "internal" conflict is since there is no conflict inside the Green Line. The creators of the index seem to have punished Israel twice for Gaza while giving Sudan a pass, since Sudan isn't at war with its neighbors, it's just slaughtering people within its borders.

This jury-rigged statistical nonsense leads to a morally bankrupt result. The insinuation of the survey is clear: Israel is one of the most violent places in the world. This jives with the typical surveys in Europe where people place Israel on the top of the list of countries "threatening world peace."

By contrast, countries currently involved in mass human rights violations, genocides and even outright slavery can be considered "peaceful." Countries that resemble one large prison, such as North Korea, are positively wonderful to live in, according to the index. Lebanon, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and the Congo, all of which have central governments that barely function, are doing better than Israel. Egypt, where tourists are forbidden from visiting much of the country, where tourist attractions are like armed police camps and where tourists must travel on special trains for safety, is considered 54th out of 144 countries, a prime place to live, "absent of violence." It is 'absent of violence' apparently because neither the media nor foreigners can visit much of it. [Inner Cynic notes that police states like Egypt tend to have an absence of public violence because of ruthless repression, but that seems to go unnoted in this "Peace Index."]

In the 21st century, genocide masquerades as peace. It is tempting to want to boil every country down to a neat number, but when bias and thoughtlessness is built into the system of doing so, the results are no different than Durban II."


The obvious political agenda of this idiotic "study" aside, I know from living in a major metropolitan area in California that these results are total bunk. From a personal, quality-of-life, overall personal-and-family-safety-issue standpoint, I'm much safer here than I was in said major metropolitan area---even though I am living in one of Israel's biggest cities. I doubt women in Pakistan or Iraq or North Korea feel free to go for walks at night, argue politics in their favorite coffeeshop, and no American would yell at other drivers the way drivers do here--because here, it's just an argument. No one is going to pull a gun out of the glovebox and shoot you.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

How To Get Your Own Free Personal Trainer

Anyone with a gym membership, or who at least spends some time in such places, knows that nearly every gym provides a "personal trainer" to design a fitness program for you. This can be a one-time meeting, usually as a courtesy of the gym, or you can pay for the privilege of having your own private coach.

Before I married, I tried this out. It was a lot of work, and I discovered that I could probably have lost the same 5 lbs on my own without the coaching had I just followed the program he outlined for me.

After that, paying for a personal trainer was decidedly not in my budget--stepchildren and new baby were the new priorities.

However, the gym at which I currently wage Pool Wars does have a personal trainer program.

And I've discovered through my almost-daily attendance that, given the right circumstances, a member can get it for free. The secret? Be female, be blonde and be beautiful.

I don't begrudge her the attention--really! I just find myself trying not to fall off the stairmaster because I'm laughing at the site of BOTH trainers hovering over the Blonde Buxom Beauty as she is spread-eagled on one of our new machines, while two other male members of the gym also crowd in to offer their advice. Apparently the site of a slightly sweaty, disheveled Dolly-Parton-esque type lying on her back, breathing heavily, arms akimbo as she tried to push the weight bar of the machine up, caused a rush of male chivalry to "help" her......

Needless to say, most of the rest of our female membership (40+ and paunchy) needs to pay for this kind of "help."

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