Sunday, May 31, 2009

Czech and Slovak Rock

When a couple you know gets divorced, there is an uncomfortable period of adjustment. She reassumes her maiden name and each of them start batting their eyes at new "significant others." My pro forma response when hearing of such decouplings is usually to say "What a pity. Sorry it didn't work out." It is truly rare for me to congratulate someone who has informed me of his or her divorce. The spouse of a control freak and wife beater would be a notable exception. There are small clubs and support groups dotting New York City named after certain legendary serial spouses. But I am not speaking of such exceptional individuals. Marriage is serious business. Divorce should be a last resort. I know many children of divorce, including my own mother. It should be a last resort.

One divorce that still troubles me is not of a human couple but of a country. To this day, I do not understand why the Czechs and Slovaks could not have worked out their differences. From 1918 until 1992, they enjoyed a hyphenated common identity, with the exception of World War Two. They have different languages which are so close as to be mutually intelligible. The Czechs had a bit of a condescending attitude to the Slovaks. I used to know Czechs who spoke of the Slovaks as though they were country bumpkins. Some of the best 60's Czech rock came from Slovakia. They have some cities well worth visiting and some great music. So I really don't see any reason to be snooty.

I am a big fan of Czech music. Even the tame, officially sanctioned music of the communist era is good after some slivovitz. As much as I admire Vaclav Havel, the imprisoned dissident who was the first post communist President of Czechoslovakia, I do not share his fondness for the famous Czech band "Plastic People of the Universe". To me they are like very dry wine. Pretending to like them demands more acting skills than I have.

My favourite bands of the divorced Republic of Czechoslovakia are Divokej Bill from the Czech Republic. They are considered punk and new wave with a dash of folk. They derive their name from Willd Bill Hickok of American wild west fame. They are good with slivowitz, Czech Pilsner or just plain.

The Slovaks had a flowering of great bands in the 1960's. One of them, the Beatmen actually sang in English and became a brief European sensation. They sound a lot like early Beatles. I wish there could be American top hits in Slovak or Albanian. Since Slovaks and Albanians listen to plenty of English language music, it seems only fitting to return the courtesy. Unfortunately, such cultural reciprocity is a feature of this web site that does not yet characterise the American cultural mainstream.

I am including with this posting songs by Divokej Bill and also a song by the Beatmen. Google and Youtube will provide additional resources for those who are curious. I hope my readers will check them out. (No pun intended.) Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Opposing Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor is seen as achieving a historic landmark by being set to be the first Hispanic woman on the Supreme Court. Anyone who wants to oppose her nomination is supposed to feel awkward about standing in the way of an ethnic milestone being achieved. Although I understand the idea of an ethnic group taking pride in the achievements of one of its members, the mainstream media is a bit hypocritical in doing their ethnic-gender tallies.

Margaret Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain. Seldom was her ascent to that post lauded as a victory for women. Apparently, political conservatives can not be counted as women. Clarence Thomas was similarly stripped of his African American status for daring to leave the liberal ghetto on America's political spectrum. The National Black Republican Association is similarly relegated to the sidelines of political discourse. After being empowered to vote, African Americans and Hispanics are told by the liberal establishment, "Be glad you live in America, where you're free to do whatever I want."

Sonia Sotomayor seems to have read the political winds and said what she needs to get ahead. when she was among "friends" she gave a wink and a chuckle to the idea of legislating from the bench noting that appeals courts are "where policy is made"(see video below) Most offensive is her comment about white men that was blatantly racist. She promoted her own fitness as a judge as follows.

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

There is a uniquely human ability to project oneself into the shoes of another person. There were white Republican judges in the American South who slammed their gavels on segregation. Lyndon Johnson was a white male who presided over a seismic shift in the civil rights landscape. The biggest problem with stereotypes is finding people who will conform to them.

Sonia Sotomayor is also a member of the National Council of La Raza (the race) which is the first major third party to form on ethnic lines. This raises questions about ethnic fragmentation in American politics, which many believe to be a negative development.

I feel that Sotomayor should be questioned about her attitude towards judicial activism. She should be taken to task for negative stereotyping of white men. Her record should be examined. She should not have a coronation hearing. She should be exposed to a tough grilling. Senators should not shy away from casting votes against her. Even if she is approved, the heated debate about her beliefs and judicial philosophy should serve as a reminder to her during her time on the bench of the concerns of millions of Americans.

It is convenient to those who favour judicial activism to have ethnic "cover" for their agenda. There are millions of socially conservative African Americans and Hispanics who are not politically useful to the liberal establishment in our country. The unwritten message in the liberal media seems to be that if an African American or Hispanic is "uppity" enough to break out of the political ghetto in which they are expected to reside that the power on the microphone at their podium will mysteriously be cut.

There are a lot of independent minded African Americans and Hispanics who just won't say what they are supposed to. I don't think it is likely that any such individuals will be nominated to the Supreme Court any time soon. And that's a shame.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Justin Cosby's Murder: New Questions

Yesterday I wrote about the murder of Justin Cosby at Harvard University and the impact that it had on Chanequa Campbell, a 21 year old honor student who has been barred from graduating from Harvard pending the outcome of the murder investigation. I received one reply which challenged my assigning to gangsta culture a measure of culpability . I am reprinting below the anonymous reply, along with my answer.

Anonymous wrote, "Your article was generally a good read, and you are generally right about what happened I was in a class with Chenequa in the fall, and as two of a small group Harvard students with some hip-hop flavor, we complemented each others' outfits. Back to the article. You copped out when you started talking about gangster culture and how we should ban it from our homes. If you knew two things about urban crime, you would know that the music is first a product of the environment, and only second a reinforcing factor in said environment. If you take hip-hop out of these communities, a lot of people will have nothing to live for...for me and others, hip-hop is life. To criticize the music is naive and childish, and shies away from the real problems (a hint of your journalistic negligence is evident when you discuss how there are "plenty" of good role models in minority communities). I'm done with you, and if Chenequa sold drugs, it wasn't because she loved hip-hop. It was because she needed the money. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, fool."

I replied as follows.

"I have heard good hip hop that does not fit the negative mold. I am not criticising the genre but the use to which it is put.
Reflecting reality is only one role of art. Art can also step back and attempt to direct and focus. I am not rejecting the medium but the moral message.
There are indeed plenty of professionals as well as people who have turned their lives around. My children turned me on to some very positive hip hop. My personal preference is Reggae and Afro pop. My one artistic criticism of music in the African American community is that music from Africa gets almost no play time. Go on You Tube. Check out Lucky Dube, Kojo Antwi and Ismail Lo. Lucky Dube was powerful. His music has a powerful message that survived his untimely death. Check out the music. Also think about music as an instrument of change rather than simply a mirror. Lucky (May G-d rest his soul) reflected this."

One sentence stood out in the anonymous comment.

I'm done with you, and if Chenequa sold drugs, it wasn't because she loved hip-hop. It was because she needed the money.

At no point did I even mention the possibility of Chenequa Campbell selling drugs. "Anonymous", who claimed to be in her circle of acquaintances raised this hypothetical possibility in his comment.

From here, I want to jump to Ms. Campbell's comments in a conversation with a New York Post reporter as reported yesterday.

"Harvard is doing this to me because I'm black, I'm poor and I'm from Brooklyn."

I shied away from my initial reaction of annoyance at Ms Campbell's remarks and refrained from commenting on the remarks of an anguished young woman.Now I have new questions.

How many Harvard students are using drugs?

How many campus dealers are servicing their appetite for illegal drugs?

Justin Cosby had according to some accounts a large amount of marijuana in his posession when he was shot. According to, "Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. said the botched "drug rip" that cost the life of the suspected dealer, Justin Cosby, centered on a pound of marijuana and $1,000 in cash that Jabrai Jordan Copney of New York and two others allegedly came to Cambridge to steal."

If Cosby had a pound of marijuana on him on Harvard property, who did he plan to sell it to? Police have tied Cosby to the drug trade at Harvard. Are they putting the squeeze on Campbell to name others in the drug trade? How many kids at Harvard know who sells weed on the side? Is she one of many who knows who deals? Or is she somehow closer to the action? She deserves to be either cleared or accused quickly in either legal or Harvard administrative venues.

What about the charge of letting outsiders into closed areas of Harvard? How many people at Harvard lent their ID to friends so they could get into closed areas without a hassle? Chanequa Campbell is not accused of lending her student ID to someone accused of murder. What is she accused of?

The murder of Justin Cosby is now a police matter. Anyone on campus deemed to be uncooperative in the investigation should be subject to expulsion. Anyone charged with a crime could certainly be suspended until the matter is resolved end expelled if convicted. And if cleared of any crime they should be permitted to complete their studies and graduate. If Chanequa Campbell is not charged with a crime, if she has not been identified by the police as uncooperative then she should be allowed to graduate with her class. And after this is all over, Harvard University should find out how pervasive drug sales and use are on campus. Whatever opinions professors and students may have about legalising marijuana, Harvard Yard is not an independent country. Its students are obligated to obey America's drug laws.

Chanequa Campbell should be either accused or exonerated in a timely manner. But whatever happens in her educational future, she should choose her friends more carefully. By learning from her mistakes and moving forward, she could serve as a role model to other young people with life challenges, ability and dreams.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gangsta Chic and Wasted Lives

A brilliant young woman from Brooklyn will not be attending her graduation from Harvard University next month. A cloud of unanswered questions hangs over her head concerning a shooting that occurred on campus on the premises of Harvard University on May 18. The New York Post reports as follows about the shooting aftermath that has left a bright Brooklyn coed with her future up in the air.

"Chanequa Campbell, 21, has been banned from the campus and told she won't be graduating with her class next month as authorities continue to investigate the murder of Justin Cosby, her lawyer said.

"I'm hurt and I'm confused," Campbell told The Post last night. "For me not to be graduating is frustrating."

"Harvard is doing this to me because I'm black, I'm poor and I'm from Brooklyn."

Investigators suspect Campbell used her swipe card to help Cosby -- who lived in Cambridge but did not attend the university -- gain access to the locked dorm to sell drugs on campus, the sources said."

Justin Cosby, reputed to be a pot dealer was shot by three men in a robbery that went terribly wrong. Entry to the area in which Cosby was killed was restricted through the use of student ID's. The evidence generated by the card and other evidence raised questions about Campbell and another girl named Brittany Smith, who is a girlfriend of one of the men accused of murder. Smith has been permitted back on campus and cleared to graduate. Unfortunately for Campbell, there are questions to be resolved before she can be even permitted on campus.

Campbell was highly regarded at the jobs she worked to help pay school expenses. She is a National Merit Scholar with three scholarships from Goldman Sachs, Coca Cola and The New York Times. Her lawyer was extravagant in his praise for his troubled client when he spoke with the New York Post, which reported as follows on his interview with them.

"I've been practicing law for almost 17 years and have rarely come across someone as highly educated and articulate as Chanequa," said her lawyer, Jeffrey Karp.

He said his client worked four jobs to pay for her education.

"Harvard is being cold and callous," the lawyer said. "What they have done to Chanequa is equivalent to having your house foreclosed and losing your job on the same day."

I do not doubt for one minute that Chanequa Campbell is a promising young woman. I am as puzzled as she is that the other woman linked by witnesses to the alleged killers is graduating with classmates while she sits in limbo. She is getting a harsh education not only from Harvard but from the school of life.

Ms. Campbell is, according to records a hard worker at her jobs and on her schoolwork. You need a lot more than a pretty smile to land three prestigious scholarships and become a National Merit Scholar.

There is a third area in which there are serious questions about Ms. Campbell's fundamental skills, and that is her choice of companions. She has been seen with some pretty rough characters, some of whom now stand accused of murder. Someone was the weak link who betrayed the Harvard community by admitting criminals to restricted areas. And now instead of being questioned by professors about a dissertation, she is being questioned by police about a murder.

Ms. Campbell is taking a tough rap now. I would not presume to pass judgement about what happened. Whatever is uncovered by law enforcement will be followed with interest by the public.

Part of getting ahead in life is choosing good friends. This is one area in which Campbell could benefit from remedial study.

We as a society worry a lot about creating an appetite for cigarettes. To remedy this, we have banned cigarette ads from television and radio. Unfortunately, there is a gangsta drug culture with music and an image that is being promoted to our nation's youth. The body count associated with this culture of misogyny, violence and death mounts daily. In some inner city neighbourhoods, there are more young men in prison than in university. If we do not banish this gangster culture from public airwaves, we should at least ban it from our homes.

There is no shortage of role models in the minority communities. There are teachers, doctors and police. Doors are opening and millions are passing through. Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has a long way to go in packaging as attractive some of the life affirming vocations pursued by millions of African Americans.

I have seen local kids head upstate not to university but to prison. I have seen confused young women who mistake violence and lawlessness for manhood. The risks of diseased relationships and sexually transmitted diseases from such poor choices of friends are painfully obvious to the dispassionate observer.

It is fortuitous that the daily staples of life in Brooklyn have penetrated the ivy decked inner sanctum of Harvard Yard. The echo of real gunfire has a resonance that is sorely lacking in a scholarly tome. There should be soul searching at Harvard to match the ongoing police investigation.

There are a lot of opportunities for people like Smith and Campbell and even Justin Cosby. And there are plenty of pitfalls as well. The murder of Justin Cosby will not be in vain if the proper lessons are learned from it. The murder of Justin Cosby begs somber reflection in order that more young lives not be sadly wasted in the future. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, May 25, 2009

Miniature Cows: The Wave of the Future

Farmers hit with rising feed costs are looking at some creative ways of reducing overhead costs. One farm in Nebraska is now raising miniature cows. According to the Los Angeles Times, farmers have discovered that the cows produce 50-75% of the meat produced by a regular cow but consume only half the feed. The cows are barely waist high to a grown man The L. A. Times describes the cows and the growing interest in them as follows.

"In the last few years, ranchers across the country have been snapping up mini Hereford and Angus calves that fit in a person's lap. Farmers who raise mini Jerseys brag how each animal provides 2 to 3 gallons of milk a day, though they complain about having to crouch down on their knees to reach the udders. "Granny always said I prayed for my milk," said Tim O'Donnell, 53, who milks his 15 miniature Jerseys twice a day on his farm in Altamont, Ill. Minicows are not genetically engineered to be tiny, and they're not dwarfs. They are drawn from original breeds brought to the U.S. from Europe in the 1800s that were smaller than today's bovine giants, said Ron Lemenager, professor of animal science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. The Petersens' mini Herefords, with their white faces and rounded auburn-hued bodies, weigh in at a dainty 500 to 700 pounds, compared with 1,300 pounds or more for their heftier brethren."

The possibilities are intriuguing. Smaller animals could lead to fitting mini farms into suburban areas, or even city parks. But the most intriguing possibilities involve downsizing people. I spoke to a world famous genetic engineer, Dr. Minnie Picolo Klein, specialist in genetic engineering at the Mid Atlantic National Institute for Chromosomal Study. (M.A.N.I.C.S) Dr Klein agreed to speak to me in her office at the building housing the M.A.N.I.C.S. science laboratories.

Dr. Klein had an interesting account of how she came to the idea of downsizing people. She described her change of career as follows.

"I used to be an economist. This is a very troubling field to be in. One day, we were discussing the implications of corporate downsizing. I mentioned to my colleagues the possibility of downsizing people instead of corporations. I shared my dream with the other professors of one day having a walk in closet suffice to house a family of six. How would it be if you could winterise a doll house and have a whole family move in for just a few hundred dollars? What about food? A half a bagel could feed a family for a week. A Big Mac at Mcdonalds would be enough to feed an entire family. There would be trickle up effects as well. Since maintenance costs for a family would go down, smaller salaries sould be acceptable. The only problem might be transportation. A large minivan for a downsized family would be about the size of a bread box. But if you were ever to drive such a small car on a regular highway, no one would be able to see it. We might have to live in our own gated communities. But think of the trade off ! An entire family could go to Australia in someone's carry on luggage. Instead of thousands of dollars, a family vacation would cost a couple hundred dollars."

I asked Dr. Klein what her fellow professors had to say about her proposal. She recounted their reaction as follows.

"They said that my proposal was more scientific than economic. There was a meeting at the University. It was decided to give me a sabbatical. I was very surprised because I had just finished a sabbatical in Jamaica studying the impact of indigenous plants on the local economy. They gave me a laboratory to follow up on my ideas. It was very hard at first. My assistant was a psychiatrist. None of the windows would open and there were no sharp objects anyplace. After a while, the psychiatrist wrote a report on my studies and things got better for me. They started letting me out of the laboratory without an escort."

Dr. Picolo Klein seemed to indeed have some interesting ideas about downsizing the human race. The main roadblock to her goal of transforming society is her lack of success in downsizing the people already in existence. Even for this problem, Dr. Picolo Klein had an answer.

"Eating is an addiction". explained Dr. Klein. "If people could shake that, then they could save a lot of money." Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bicycles in the City: Licence and Insure !

Fuel is up again. Bicycles are looking better, for both financial and health reasons. But with the convenience of a bicycle comes responsibility. How many times have I heard or read of a bicycle rider mowing down a pedestrian. Kyle Smith, a columnist for the New York Post brought the point home quite capably in his column today in the New York Post. He was himself knocked over by a bicyclist who screamed verbal abuse at him for refracting the trajectory of a moving bicycle with his body mass. In the first two paragraphs of his article on dangerous cyclists, Smith was able to cite three additional New York Post editorial staffers who are currently nursing injuries involving a collective combination of crutches, a broken rib and serious abrasions. Clearly this problem is not anecdotal.

Clearly we are not dealing with an anomalous cluster of freak accidents. There are two problems that contribute to "bicycle madness". One problem is that there are no codified and publicised rules for bicyclists. We need to have a strip of large roads in which bicyclists have the right of way. Beyond this, it should be made clear that bicycles must obey all traffic laws that apply to cars and motorcycles. Bicycle riders should be required to have a licence identifying them and to insure their bicycles. There should be plates identifying a bicycle and engraved identification numbers to deter bicycle theft. There should be mandatory insurance covering injury and property damage as well as theft. Most importantly, a cyclist should be required to remain at the scene of an accident and wait for law enforcement. Failure to do so should result in the same penalties as would be incumbent upon a fleeing motorist. There should be special penalties for assaulting or threatening someone who is party to an accident involving a bicycle.

All these measures are common sense. By combining these measures with helmet requirements and safety training, the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists could be vastly improved. The city could also collect taxes and fees for regulating cyclists that could be used to make them safer on city streets.

In general, I am very critical of the city's attempt to fund raise through ticketing. Some fines have been cranked up to almost extortionate levels. I think that the New York City is harassing people with parking ticket blitzes as well as excessive sanitation ticketing. But moving violations are another story. As much as I dislike summonses, the fear of fines and points on one's licence saves lives.

Make no mistake about it. A 160 pound object hurtling down the street at 30 miles an hour can maim or kill. Anyone riding a bicycle should have the same sense of responsibility for public welfare as is felt by a motorist. Anyone who labours under the illusion that they are operating a harmless toy needs a serious wake up call.

I normally take Mayor Bloomberg to task for the eagerness with which he seems to tax and fine the citizens of New York City. But bicycles involve pressing questions of public safety. And if Bloomberg wants to raise a few bucks for the city from this , then that's fine by me. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Bronx Bombing Plot And Prison Culture

New Yorkers and all Americans heaved a collective sigh of relief after four prison converts to Islam were busted for attempting to blow up two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down a plane. The frightening thing about the bombing attempt was the seriousness of the bombers and depth of their hatred for Jews and for America.

Aside from the course that the justice system must take are a multitude of questions.

What I find haunting is the transformation that took place in prison. There is a legitimate focus on what brand of Islam was being preached in prison to the accused. This is a legitimate question. There are sects of and spinoffs from Islam in prison that have little to say about transforming one's world by shouldering responsibility and much to say about how evil the majority of society is.

While this is a needed course of inquiry, I believe that it can provide only part of the answer. Many prisons in America are violent places. They are racially polarised places in which violence and degradation are present in daily life. Beatings, extortion, rape and even murder are serious fears of prisoners in America today. A large portion of authority in some prisons is ceded to gangs. Out of fear, prisoners join gangs for their own safety and protection. Since the gangs are divided often on racial and ethnic lines the prisoners are locked into hostilities and an agenda that they have almost no freedom to accept or reject. When a man leaves prison, the gang that provided him protection in prison is often there on the outside.

Sometimes in some prisons it is possible for people to associate on the basis of shared religious faith or to have their energies absorbed in positive pursuits. According to the New York Post, David Cromitie the alleged ringleader was described as a likeable person before going into prison. David Williams, another defendant had an absentee Muslim father. He allegedly reconnected with Islam while doing time. He was described by family as a "beautiful person" before going into prison.

What was prison like for these four men? Although they may well be looking at the rest of their lives behind bars, how many prisoners are there who could be turned away from the same destructive path? Do we care enough about those who are doing time? A prison can be austere and regimented and still be respectful of human dignity. A prisoner can combine education, therapy and vocational training with a program of restitution. It should not be forgotten that most prisoners are hours away from family. The violence of prison life should not be winked at as a de facto deterrent to recidivism. Records show that this approach does not work.

The prison experience should be redesigned so that it creates healthy support structures for the inmates. Prisoners should be called upon to make a social contract to live in a productive non- violent environment. The authority of gangs must be broken. The code of silence that protects perpetrators of prison violence must be crushed.

There are people who "find themselves" in prison. Far too many are broken and spiritually disfigured by the experience such as the four men who must now answer for their crimes with years of incarceration.

One individual to me shines as a light to us all of what sort of inner transformation can occur is Abdel Wright. Wright is a Jamaican singer who did hard time in Jamaica for armed robbery and weapons posession. Rolling Stone Magazine described the roller coaster of Wright's life in Jamaica as follows.

"Little in life has been easy for Wright, taken from his mentally ill mother as a baby and raised in several foster homes. One of them was the SOS Children's Village in Montego Bay, where Wright got to see Cash -- a major contributor to the facility -- perform at the annual Christmas concert.

"I knew about Johnny Cash because I loved country music," says Wright, who met the late singer and his wife, June Carter, backstage. By then, the teenaged Wright had gotten his first acoustic guitar.

But after reaching adulthood, Wright became homeless and turned to petty crime, stealing corn and sugar cane from the fields to eat. During a "robbing spree" at the end of 1996, Wright's gun was discovered during an arrest. "The cop put it back on me and kicked me down," remembers Wright. "That meant I was supposed to die."

Wright did not die. He ended up doing time. Fortunately the seeds of redemption sown by caring individuals won out. An individual with a gift for expressing social anger through art has enriched the music world with his art. Now Wright struggles to remain true to his ideals in an industry dominated by commercialism. He describes his struggle as follows.

The Jamaican Gleaner reports on this struggle as follows.

"Wright said he is not in music for stardom and fame per se. He said he is doing what he loves, being the voice for the voiceless, and so the glamour of stardom is not high on his agenda.

"Dem want mi pop style when mi can wear one tight pants like Lenny Kravitz ... . Dem want to put mi in a little box. Dem no dress mi, dem no do nutten to mi. Me dress myself, me do mi own ting. Mi don't even want dem limousine drive. So dem find me subversive to dem criteria," he told His Story. Also, he said Interscope didn't have the publishing rights for his songs."

Not everyone has the musical gifts of Abdel Wright. For many, the simple success of a loving family and a stable job is their little noted portion of the social tapestry. But there are lessons to the Abdel Wright story. The first is that even a country as relatively poor as Jamaica can struggle for the redemption of its wayward sons. There are times when spiritual richness can achieve more than monetary investmentThe second lesson is that people still had faith in Abdel after he had fallen. When he did pick himself up, he paid back his benefactors and the voiceless people whose suffering still troubled his heart.

I believe that there are many success stories that can and should be written in American prisons. Although there are people in prison who should pay with their lives for their crimes, there are lives that can and should be redeemed.

We should not ignore the poison imams spreading a mutant form of Islam in prison. But we can not put all the blame on their shoulders. We must reshape the culture of violence and hatred in prison to one of responsibility, healing and growth. Along with the very real questions of national security that are raised by the Bronx arrests, let's not forget America's prisoners. Like Abdel Wright and many unsung converts to productive living, more success is possible. We must look at the prisons we have built and transform them into something truly corrective.

I am presenting with this posting a hit song from Abdel Wright
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Transferring Guantanamo Detainees

The American military must now run an obstacle course in dealing with the prisoners in Guantanamo. Putting them in American federal prisoners raises a multitude of new legal questions of what rights they have. Additionally, there is no shortage of American prisoners who would consider it an honour to join the Guantanamo crew and to do their bidding. The individuals in the Bronx who tried to blow up two synagogues and shoot down an airplane were all American citizens. They were home grown terrorists. No one seriously doubts that there are more like them. It is critical to keep American terrorist wannabes from forging alliances with enemies abroad.

Transferring the Guantanamo prisoners to American soil presents serious logistical problems. It is not unheard of for prison inmates to maintain control of a criminal empire outside prison. There are prisons such as the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado that are calculated to isolate prisoners from each other and from illicit activities outside. Prisoners in Florence do not know where in the prison they are. If they are lucky, a prisoner can see a sliver of sky through the window. Most never see the ground outside. The most minute priveleges have to be earned. Cells are designed to be vandalism proof. Any prisoner who tries to use the Guantanamo trick book will find that the system is stacked against him. cursing at guards, flooding cells or throwing excrement at prison staff would set in motion a prison routine designed to break the will. Any Guantanamo prisoner who ends up in a Supermax facility will probably curse the useful idiots who ever sprung him from Guantanamo.

I don't think that the American friends of the Guantanamo detainees will stop complaining when their buddies make it to the US. They will probably sue to get the prisoners housed in regular prisons and even try to ease them into minimum security prisons. Before you know it, there will be demands for conjugal visits. Since polygamy is legal in Islam, there will be special additions to forms requesting conjugal visits so that each prisoner can receive conjugal visits from all his wives.

The next step for ACLU lawyers will be to permit "sighe" or temporary marriage to Guantanamo prisoners. "Sighe" is already legal in Iran. A temporary marriage is a contract arranged in advance for a period of as little as a few minutes up to 99 years. Like a lease, "sighe" can come with a renewal clause inserted. (Can you imagine a 99 year marriage that is "temporary"? What do you call a 99 year temporary marriage? A one life stand?)

I can imagine the application in the warden's office. Jihada "Juggs" Ahmadinejad wants to be married to Albert (Al) Qaeda for 45 minutes on July 23, at the time of their conjugal visit. Then on July 27, she'll be married to Sami Shahid. Then just for fun, the warden makes Sami and Al cell mates. Can you imagine the fights? Before you know it, Lynn Stewart, famous lawyer for terrorists (picture at the top of this article) will sign up as a temporary wife. That would strike terror into the hearts of the most hardened detainee. They would be pleading to be sent back to sunny Guantanamo Bay in no time.

America's advocates for the rights of detainees are probably waiting to create unheard of "rights" for detainees, complete with kinder gentler interrogations. Imagine the following introduction.

"Hi, my name is Dudley Pudelheimer, I am going to be your interviewer. Perhaps you could check your busy calendar for time to speak with me. We could go to Starbucks and chat about your philosophy and activities. Will you be busy Tuesday? Don't worry. The treat's on me."

Any element of coercion would be strictly forbidden.

"I'm so sorry. You look upset whenever I bring up armed struggle. Please forgive me. Here, have another piece of camel milk chocolate. I had some. It's just wonderful.

Confrontation would be avoided at all costs by specially trained interviewers. (Not interrogators. That's so yesterday. )

"So Ahmad, my translator tells me that you said that I am a pile of crusty camel dung. I realise that camels are highly revered in Islamic nomadic culture. I am so happy that you are starting to see me in a more positive light. But what significance do the swarms of buzzing horse flies have in your colourful metaphor?"

Specially trained interviewers would look for the most benign interpretations of detainees remarks.

So, Abdul, you tell me that "every American is my brother in law." Does that mean that you think of Americans your extended family? I only have one sister. And my mother is married also. How can you be my brother in law?"

That night, Pudelheimer is reading an article on curses from India, and realises that both Ahmad
and Abdul insulted him during interrogation. He is crushed.

"Where did I go wrong?" he ponders. "Perhaps visiting them during working hours was too impersonal. Maybe if I resigned my post and came back to visit as a friend they might trust me more. Am I really on the right side in this entire disagreement?"

Right now, the Lynn Stewarts and the Dudley Pudelheimers are at a logistical disadvantage, both geographically and legally with the detainees in Guantanamo Bay. Bringing them to the US is just the first stop for America's jihad apologists. Wherever the Guantanamo detainees may stay, it is important to be on the offensive against their American and European apologists. We have had rude awakenings twice before at the World Trade Center as well as abroad.

The investigation that led to the latest arrests in the Bronx for the attempted attacks on synagogues and aircraft was initiated while George Bush was President. If Barack Obama satisfies his most extreme supporters, how many fruitful investigations do you think would start today? Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Iranian Campaign Songs and Satire

I like to be a fly on the wall when observing adversaries. No detail is too insignificant. What is the music like? What does the food taste like. I dislike demonisation. My father's family fled Germany, but they did not surrender the definition of being German to the Nazis. There was a whole galaxy of artists and writers that were banned in Germany. Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, along with scientists and other professionals who enriched the countries in which they found refuge.

I found two political songs from Iran. One was a campaign song for Ahamadinejad. The other was a song of tribute to Ali Khamenei, who is the chief of the religious authorities in Iran. Very often, reformers find that the clergy ties their hands when they want to liberalise anything in Iran. The large percentage of Iranian young people who have no memory of life under the Shah are well aware of life outside Iran. Bootleg movies and music as well as the internet make it hard for the leadership to seal off the country. There an estimated six million listeners to a Farsi language broadcast from Israel that is a very reliable source of information about what is going on in the country. People even call in from Iran to Israel and are broadcast over the air.

Additionally, Iran is about 50% Iranian. Arabs, Turks Baluchis and other ethnic groups each live in separate areas of the country. Any stereotype of an "average Iranian" is likely to be way off. Iran is far too diverse for there to be any such thing as an "average Iranian."

To round out my offering of Iranian propaganda, I am including a satirical video produced by Iranians abroad. There are quite a few like it, one of which I have featured in articles before. I hope my readers enjoy this glimpse into Iranian election propaganda and satire. It presents an interesting contrast to that found in America.

1) satire

2) Khamenei

3) Ahmadinejad Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New York's Home Grown Personality Cult

It has been a while since I had to clean up Chinese menus from my doorstep. I still get business cards wedged into the door from painters and brickwork steamers. Hey, everyone has to earn a living.

But along with Christmas ads in September and back to school sales on the Fourth of July, we now have a new form of advertising that is crowding the urban landscape. Every day this week I have found Chinese menu size circulars in the mail informing me of the privilege soon to be mine of voting for the Great Leader, Mike Bloomberg. They are full of useful information of which I was totally unaware. I found out that crime is down and the city is operating so much more smoothly. I never would have known these things. Despite the great improvements, we are in dire difficulty, more than any time in our history. Mayor Bloomberg has agreed to run a third term so he might lead us out of the abyss that would otherwise await us.

The circulars have a hypnotic effect. They fill the landscape like morning dew. (Not doo) And like the morning dew, they soak and permeate not our lawns but our minds. I can't even remember who is running against Mike Bloomberg or even thinking of it. I mean, why should anyone bother. If Mike is smart enough to get rich himself, he'll make us rich too. Am I right?

But there is one way Mike has let me down. If we are going to have such lopsided elections and such fawning press coverage of the inevitable Blomberg coronation, I want a full fledged personality cult. Here is a shopping list of what I want if Bloomberg (excuse me , Mayor Bloomberg) is going to get my vote

1) I want a portrait of Mayor Bloomberg looking benignly down at me in every government office and store. I saw it in Yugoslavia under Tito and Spain under Franco. It makes you feel that someone is in charge.

2) I want lapel buttons with a profile of Mayor Bloomberg in gold on a brightly laquered background like those made for Chairman Mike( I mean Mao) in China when Mao was alive. Since we are still officially a multi party system in New York, a red background would not be appropriate. Perhaps a rainbow flag would be better

3) We need billboards with Mike Bloomberg quotations superimposed on his picture dotting the urban landscape. He should be seen in varied ethnic costumes, to show that he is a mayor of all the people.

4) We need to have songs of praise. In Yugoslavia under Tito, the best popular singers composed musically excellent songs extolling Marshal Tito. My personal favourite is Druze Tito Mi Ti Se Kunemo which was translated on as "Comrade Tito We Swear Our Lives To You. It is a stirring song, which I am posting at the bottom of this article.

5) I have worked with people who showed me T shirts, neck ties and other types of collectibles with portraits of whatever Great Leader they were expected to crown. I want T shirts, watches, chamber pots and other useful objects with Mike Bloomberg's picture. I know he can't buy my vote, but he can pass out souvenirs to remind me to vote for him. I would like a ten ounce 24 karat gold medallion with his picture on it for each member of my family just to remind us to vote for him. That would suit me just fine. I have enough T shirts already.

If we are going to have a mayoral coronation, I want to do it right. For all the money that Bloomberg is spending on this election, it is only fitting that he get 99.99837% of the vote. Since he has agreed to lead us, it is the least we can do for him. I can just hear his campaign song playing now. "Comrade Bloomberg We Swear Our Lives To You." Sphere: Related Content

Monday, May 18, 2009

B-ze Pravde: Thoughts About Serbia's Anthem

I am a big fan of national anthems and flags. My fondness for national anthems transcends my personal political bias. Israel, Germany and Taiwan all have nice anthems. Although I find Israel's to be too secular, I like the music.

One of my all time favourite anthems is that of Serbia. It was the anthem of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and underwent slight modification to be suitable for a republic. Despite being of Croatian ancestry, I have included the lyrics in English translation with this article as well as the original lyrics in both the Serbian Cyrillic and Croatian alphabets.

To give my readers an idea of how important the Serbian anthem is to Serbians, I am including a clip of Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic listening to the Serbian national anthem being played after she won a major tennis championship in 2008. She is clearly moved to tears by the playing of her country's anthem. Her manifest love of her country eclipses any personal pride she may have felt at winning an international championship. Her attitude and its intensity are worthy of emulation. At the bottom of this article I am including a musical and a reference link to this anthem. I hope my readers check them out.

One theme upon which I have contemplated on more than a few occasions is the word "Pravde". In Serbian and in Croatian it is translated as "justice." Its cognate in Russian is "Pravda" which is translated as "truth". The interdependence of truth and justice is obvious upon reasoned reflection. To see the two tied together so closely in Slavic etymology is a movin matter upon which to reflect.

I certainly come to Serbian and Croatian history as an outsider. The resonance that the Serbian anthem has to me has a lot more to do with events in my live than it does with the historical events to which it alludes. But great art and music is like that. certain universal themes transcend national boundaries.

B-ze Pravde

English Translation

God of Justice; Thou who saved us
when in deepest bondage cast,
Hear Thy Serbian children's voices,
Be our help as in the past.

With Thy mighty hand sustain us,
Still our rugged pathway trace;
God, our hope; protect and cherish
Serbian lands and Serbian race!

Bind in closest links our kindred
Teach the love that will not fail,
May the loathed fiend of discord
Never in our ranks prevail.

Let the golden fruits of union
Our young tree of freedom grace;
God, our Master! guide and prosper
Serbian lands and Serbian race!

Lord! Avert from us Thy vengeance,
Thunder of Thy dreaded ire;
Bless each Serbian town and hamlet,
Mountain, meadow, heart and spire.

When our host goes forth to battle
Death or victory to embrace-
God of armies! be our leader
Strengthen then the Serbian race!

On our sepulchre of ages
Breaks the resurrection morn,
From the slough of direst slavery
Serbia anew is born.

Through five hundred years of durance
We have knelt before Thy face,
All our kin, O God! deliver,
Thus entreats the Serbian race!

Боже правде, ти што спасе
од пропасти до сад нас,
чуј и од сад наше гласе
и од сад нам буди спас.

Моћном руком води, брани
будућности српске брод,
Боже спаси, Боже храни,
српске земље, српски род!
Србију нам Боже брани,
моли ти се српски род!

Сложи српску браћу драгу
на свак дичан славан рад,
слога биће пораз врагу
а најјачи српству град.

Нек на српства блиста грани
братске слоге златан плод,
Боже спаси, Боже храни
српске земље, српски род!
Србију нам Боже брани,
моли ти се српски род!

Из мрачнога сину гроба
српске круне нови сјај,
настало је ново доба,
нову срећу Боже дај.

Србију нам Боже брани,
пет вековне борбе плод,
Боже спаси, Боже храни,
српске земље, српски род.
Србију нам Боже брани,
моли ти се српски род.”

Bože pravde, ti što spase
od propasti do sad nas,
čuj i od sad naše glase
i od sad nam budi spas.

Moćnom rukom vodi, brani
budućnosti srpske brod,
Bože spasi, Bože hrani,
srpske zemlje, srpski rod!
Srbiju nam Bože brani,
moli ti se srpski rod!

Složi srpsku braću dragu
na svak dičan slavan rad,
sloga biće poraz vragu
a najjači srpstvu grad.

Nek na srpstva blista grani
bratske sloge zlatan plod,
Bože spasi, Bože hrani
srpske zemlje, srpski rod!
Srbiju nam Bože brani,
moli ti se srpski rod!

Iz mračnoga sinu groba
srpske krune novi sjaj,
nastalo je novo doba,
novu sreću Bože daj.

Srbiju nam Bože brani,
pet vekovne borbe plod,
Bože spasi, Bože hrani,
srpske zemlje, srpski rod.
Srbiju nam Bože brani,
moli ti se srpski rod.

This article is an adaptation based on an article that I posted on The original was lost due to difficulties on the site several months ago. Sphere: Related Content

100th Post On RantRave.Com

It has been two months since I posted my first article on This is the 100th post on Rantrave.Since then, almost 17,000 readers have clicked on my articles. I in turn have been exposed to a wide range of interests and opinions ably voiced by other members of the site. Through, I have been able to exchange thoughts and opinions with other members of the site, some of whom post articles and others who simply comment.

Rantrave has a wide readership. It is good being able to reach many readers with an opinion voiced in a timely manner. Invariably, people who have personal knowledge of what I discuss post comments. Some are supportive and voice agreement. Others take sometimes vehement issue with my stated opinions. From Croatia to Eritrea, from the Holy Land to Jamaica, there are a lot of people who care passionately and are not shy about letting me know.

Audience visualisation is a powerful creative tool. Whether I am writing for a Texan conservative who is my contemporary a proud Serb telling me about his country or someone who sounds like the liberal wing of my family, Imagining the facial expressions of readers, their objections, questions and emotional responses gives me a real sense of focus.

I am still developing the ability to make catchy titles. The forty character limit on rantrave is a very good exercise in creative discipline. Some of the titles from my first blog posts sound like the long winded titles one would find in a Communist Party newspaper like Pravda or Neues Deutschland. Even in the more permissive Blogger format, I am looking to improve my titles.

It is very hard for me to predict which articles might be hits with my readers. Sometimes I hit a niche. Other times I get the title right. I sometimes study my successes and failures. I get a special sense of satisfaction when I can spark general interest in an off beat topic like the Coptic language or East German rock and roll. The last thing I want to do is to modify my opinions or subject focus to develop a wider readership. The best thing for the reading public is for everyone to write about what most interests them. This way the public has a wider choice of subject material and styles. I am not, however indifferent to general trends. Some other authours on have broadened my horizons. I store some of them under my favourite authours so I can study their opinions, focus and style. Sometimes, I read some articles that are likely to get me mad, especially for those annoying days when I am shopping for a topic to run with.

Rantrave gives its members a lot of latitude in posting, and limited latitude in deleting comments. This makes for good drama. It also forces writers to think. A famous talk radio pioneer, Bob Grant said on more than one occasion, "I don't care what they say about me as long as they say something."

The thought that it is possible to reach out and influence public opinion in a small way is a powerful tonic. We live in an age where there are alternatives to the three networks that once scheduled almost all of the trains of political thought that stopped daily in America's living rooms. In many ways, the internet revolution reminds me of the "democracy walls" on which Chinese citizens posted comments, caricatures and manifestoes during periods of liberalisation in Chinese political history. In both 1956 and 1989, a lot these bulletin boards disappeared. many of the people who posted on them were tracked down and taken to task for their expressed opinions. I can only hope that the "Democracy Wall" that is the internet endures longer than did the bulletin boards in cities across China. I do not of course mean to equate the level of risk that we as Americans face in the exercise of our free speech rights with the major risk faced in China. I am simply pointing out the common denominator of grass roots media. In the critical times we find ourselves in America and in the world, it seems to be a pity to leave unused the technological amplification of our free speech that is now available.

I thank the readers and especially the owners and staff of for making such a vibrant and fascinating web site. I look forward to writing for Rantrave as well as reading and corresponding with all of the other contributors who have made it such a fascinating site.

Illustration at the top of this page is a painting from a series depicting the Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Power of Kind Words

The Jewish scriptures have inspired values and traditions in Western culture. Although the meaning has shifted, the idea of a day of rest has taken deep roots and shaped the development of the work week and of labor laws. From the position of the family in society to marriage laws, the imprint of Jewish scripture is visible . It is also necessary to place the Christian scriptures in a proper historical context.

There are Jewish commandments which are specific to Jews such as dietary laws and fasting on Yom Kippur. Other Jewish observances can be considered worthy of study by the world at large without necessarily being binding upon humanity in general.

There is one area of Jewish law that is widely studied in Jewish circles. It is the area of forbidden speech. I am not referring to profanity or blasphemy although those areas are addressed at length. I am referring to gossip and slander. It should be stressed that these are laws incumbent upon individuals. I am not calling them to the attention of the public with the idea of passing new legislation. Some things like politeness and punctuality can not be legislated.

There was a Rabbi who died in 1933 named the Chofetz Chaim, also known as Yisroel Meir Kagan. He was a leading codifier of these laws. A few points come to mind that are instructive.

Gossip is prohibited regardless of whether it is true or not. Badmouthing someone for the sole purpose of exchanging news is prohibited.

Gossip need not be with speech. Rolling the eyes or other derisive expressions also fall under this prohibition.

Speaking well of a person in front of his enemies is prohibited. Such talk is likely to elicit a rebuttal.

Sometimes it is necessary to relay information that would spare the person asking for it a loss. A good example would be a wife beater who wants a marriage reference or a thief who is being considered as a business partner. The information shared for this reason should be restricted to the matter at hand.

Even face to face communication with a person is subject to regulation. Speaking to someone in a way that causes unnecessary embarrassment is prohibited. Calling someone aside and telling him his zipper is down is OK. Yelling it to him across a room in a derisive tone is not.

The spirit of these laws is worth capturing in some kind of practical observance. Gossip is hurtful to everyone. Specific laws can be helpful in curbing negative speech. No one likes being gossipped about. The sense of being important as the bearer of juicy gossip is a universal theme.

Life is a wheel. Even if those who gossip are not spoken about, they are likely to imagine that others are speaking about them in the manner in which they speak of others. If a gossip spends his whole day trashing people, he is bound to wonder what is being said of him. This is not a very happy thought for some people.

What if someone gets into the habit of thinking well and speaking well of other people? Might they start thinking better of themselves? Could changing speech help in fighting depression and low self esteem? Could it cut down the number of broken friendships? How many actual fist fights could be avoided?

Sticks and stones do break bones. And words do hurt.

I am not proposing civil legislation regarding gossip and embarrassing people any more than I think that sensible eating should be mandated by law. But we all have free choice to speak in a manner that is not hurtful to others. I have worked in hostile work environments riddled with gossip. It was not interesting. It was emotionally draining. I have also worked in places with a flawless team spirit where ill was spoken of no one. Conversation was not boring. It was lively. People differed and did so respectfully.

Speech is food for the mind. It can be junky or healthful. And even if it is healthful, it can be well prepared and served.

We are living in a time when government seems to be growing. Let's not lose sight of the areas where the private exercise of free will can make a difference. It is not so difficult or distant from us. It is in fact as close as the tip of your tongue. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stimulus Checks For Dead People

Millions of dollars in stimulus checks are being issued to dead people, according to Fox News. It seems that of the millions of checks being sent out, some are going to some individuals who have died. Fox News reports as follows about a couple of troubling anecdotes.

"Antoniette Santopadre of Valley Stream was expecting a $250 stimulus check. But when her son finally opened it, they saw that the check was made out to her father, Romolo Romonini, who died in Italy 34 years ago. He'd been a U.S. citizen when he left for Italy in 1933, but only returned to the United States for a seven-month visit in 1969.

The Santopadres are not alone. The Social Security Administration, which sent out 52 million checks, says that some of those checks mistakenly went to dead people because the agency had no record of their death. That amounts to between 8,000 and 10,000 checks for millions of dollars."

Although general reactions range from concern to outrage, not all Americans were displeased at the news. An increasing number of activists want death to be recognised as a disability. Carrie Coffin worked hard for Barack Obama as a civil rights activist for Chicago's dead community. She is the chair person of the Chicago Obama Revolutionaries for Post-mortem Social Empowerment. (C.O.R.P.S.E. Despite still being very much alive, she is the executive director and spokesperson for C.O.R.P.S.E. When she heard the news about dead people getting stimulus checks, she was delighted.

"Our organisation was out in the field for Obama through election day. He was very sympathetic to our cause, and promised to do all he could once elected. When I heard that some of our members were getting stimulus checks, I was so happy. If anyone needs stimuli of any sort, it is the members of our community."

When I asked how post mortem empowerment could become a mainstream political cause, Ms. Coffin became uncharacteristically animated.

"Chicago's dead community has led the world in postmortem political activism, said Ms. Coffin. Most of the world's great faiths view death as a broadening of awareness and a merging into oneness. We feel that the increased wisdom and awareness that follows death is why Chicago's dead community has always voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party. The Mormon wing of our organisation baptises people after death. We simply take this a step further and register them to vote as Democrats."

When asked if registering the deceased might lead to abuses of the political process, Ms. Coffin seemed almost indignant at the question.

"We have strict guidelines as to whom we will accept in our post-mortem voter registration. My grandfather Will Berryman, was a labour activist and a radical. He never became a citizen, so I would not register him to vote. I mean, I have values and standards. PETA activists in our organisation want to end the disenfranchisement of "animal companions" and allow dead dogs and cats to vote. I oppose this because of the language barriers in communicating with them. But a large number of people in my organisation, both dead and alive support the idea of animal empowerment. The whole world wants Obama to be president. Our slogan is "The lion shall lie down with the lamb. The dead shall rise. And they will all vote for Obama .

Ms. Coffin was very giving of her time during the interview with me. I had expected the interview to be a quiet one, but Ms. Coffin surprised me by interrupting frequently to answer her ouija board. Despite her politeness with me, she was almost domineering with some of those who called her on the ouija board and through the row of crystal balls that she kept in the office.

"We've been riding in the back of the hearse for too long! she snapped at one caller". It's time to stand up for your rights, however hard it may seem."

I was puzzled at the primitive state of communications technology in Ms. Coffin's office. A lone rotary dial black telephone was her sole connection to living friends and members of C.O.R.P.S.E.

"Some of our charter members died when Eisenhower was still President. There is no way they will be able to operate a push button phone if they come back to life." explained Ms. Coffin patiently.

Since Obama has been elected, Ms. Coffin has been very excited about the prospects for her organisation's future. "C.O.R.P.S.E" is a strictly local organisation. Explained Ms. Coffin. Now that Obama is President, we fully intend to go national. We really got out the vote for Obama. We're not going to let a few little stimulus checks be our only payoff. "

Ms. Coffin proudly unveiled a black plaque with gold lettering. "D.E.A.D" the plaque read. I asked her what the new acronym stood for. "Democratic Electoral Association for the Deceased." answered Ms. Coffin proudly. I came up with it during a seance with my dear old friend Mort."

I wound up the interview with drinks and pleasantries. Ms. Coffin served me an herbal alcoholic concoction that was traditionally given to a condemned man before execution in ancient times. I gave her a bound copy of some of my more famous articles. She gave me a rare campaign poster that was put out by C.O.R.P.S.E." Underneath a gray tombstone on the poster was the C.O.R.P.S.E. slogan. "Dying to vote for Obama in 2008". Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brendon O'Connell, Hate Crimes Followup

Yesterday, I reported to an American audience a legal case that is widely known of in Australia. A man named Brendon O'Connell put up anti Jewish diatribes on You Tube, for which he was charged with hate crimes under Australian law. I got two replies, one to and the other on Both comments took issue with my conclusions. Both comments raise serious questions. Both comments came from members of the Perth Jewish community and offer background not mentioned in the mainstream media. Gedalia responded as follows.

"I have had a personal encounter with Brendan - not pleasant. He has physically threatened people, and is quite capable of crazy actions. I agree that a person should not be arrested for their attitude. However when that attitude is expressed in a way that is potentially harmful (in a very real sense) to other people, then the situation changes. As the article notes, only 2 people have been charged under this legislation, showing that it is only applied in instances of absolute necessity. You only need to watch his latest video posting to see that in this case, the charge was quite justified"

On, Perthguy posted the following reply.

"And I have news for you. Hate crimes have taken place. This lunatic has threatened the lives of men, women and children in the Jewish community, personally, by phone and email. On the very night he was charged, he rang a Perth based Jewish centre and told them he was coming around to "finish them off". The centre, which was full of children, had to have a police guard. This is beyond harassment. This guy hasn't just made videos out of the blue in the background, like the media is making out. He's being assaulting and threatening to kill Jews, in person, by email and by telephone, for almost a decade."

Both Gedalia and Perthguy rounded out the picture with accounts of a ten year campaign of harassment by O'Connell. Non stop harassment, assaults and even threatening the staff and children in a day care centre are criminal behavior. The presence of a police guard at the day care centre is proof that the public suffered expense. The fear and anxiety suffered by the Jews of Perth is no different than that of a girlfriend or public figure who is being stalked by an angry ex love or fan. Threatening physical harm is not and never was "protected speech." It is one thing to post on You Tube or a blog one's anger at Jews, Catholics, African Americans or Chinese. It is another matter entirely when one starts harassing strangers who belong to a group against whom one nurses a grievance.

Given the reports from Gedalia and Perthguy, I believe that it is proper for Brendon O'Connell to be facing possible jail time. But I still take issue with which of the existing laws were used to bring him to justice. Furthermore, it should not have taken ten years for Australian legal authorities to provide relief from O'Connell's outrages. A bad law can have a desired outcome and unforseen negative consequences. Hate crimes laws can be used to stifle the political free speech of individuals who have no intention of doing violence.

Orianna Fallaci, the late great Italian journalist wrote books and articles slamming radical Islam and the violence committed in the name of Islam. Not long before her death, legal charges were filed against her in France for "hate crimes."

In San Diego, a group of lesbians and agnostics has sued the Boy Scouts for hurting their feelings and self esteem and calling for the city to throw the Boy Scouts off land they lease from the City of San Diego to run a camping facility and an aquatic park. No one who filed the lawsuit had been to either facility or suffered any sort of discrimination there.

Great Britain has now banned Michael Savage from entry for the sole crime of runnning his mouth in front of a live microphone.

A British diplomat Rowan Laxton faces felony hate charges for mouthing off against Jews and Israel while exercising at a gym. The gym would have been within their rights to revoke his membership. The foreign service would have been within their rights to fire him. (Although his opinions are probably quite normal in the diplomatic service. )

All of these instances of the use of hate crimes laws create disturbing precedents for regulating speech. The possibility of progressive encroachments upon the boundaries of permitted speech is very real and very disturbing. Such laws even provide cover to prevent protests against human rights violations in Arab countries.

Brendan O'Connell should have to face the Australian justice system and the people he has harassed over the years. But the hate crimes laws used to stop him are like medicine that cures a disease and kills the patient.

A proper outcome for the Brendon O'Connell case would be for him to be taken out of jail, back down to the judge and back to jail on charges related to his conduct rather than his thoughts. There are enough laws to protect the people of Perth without hate crimes laws. These laws should have been invoked ten years ago to stop Brendon O'Connell in his tracks. And they should be used today as well. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Brendon O'Connell and the Thought Police

An Australian man is now facing the possibility of up to fourteen years in prison for a series of anti Jewish videos he made and posted on You Tube. Australia has strict "hate crimes" laws that govern not only physical acts but speech as well. The Perth Now web site reports as follows on the case developing in Australia.

Maylands man Brendon O'Connell, 38, was yesterday charged under racial vilification laws for allegedly posting anti-Semitic video on the internet site. Mr O'Connell is seen on film in front of Perth's Bell Tower and at a South Perth supermarket while allegedly making anti-Semitic comments. He was yesterday charged by the police State Security Investigation Group with conduct with intent to incite racial animosity or racist harassment.
The maximum penalty for the offence is 14 years' jail, or fines of up to $24,000.

As repulsive as Mr. O'Connell and his opinions are, the news reports about his legal difficulties are downright sinister. The statute under which O'Connell is being charged according to Perth Now web site is intended to prohibit the "publication, distribution or display in oral, written or pictorial form of material that was threatening or abusive and intended to cause hatred or contempt or ridicule."

The whole concept of "hate crimes" brings the law past the border of action and into the world of thought. The only speech that has been traditionally proscribed has been speech that calls for and is likely to lead to acts of violence against persons and property. Saying that you hate Jews or white people was never a crime. Whipping an angry crowd into emotions that erupt into a lynching is actionable. It is called incitement.

Under American criminal law, there are aggravating and mitigating factors. If someone punches someone in the face because the person was running towards him and shouting, a judge has the discretion to lessen the sentence. If someone says that they hated African Americans and hit someone for that reason, the judge could be pushed by the stupidity of the reason to lean towards harshness in sentencing.

If someone burns down a church or synagogue, there are plenty of laws that allow for harsh sentencing. To make attitude itself a crime is a qualitative change in our system of law. It ultimately leads to a situation where terrible crimes within ethnic groups are considered to be less serious because they are not "hate crimes."

The real meaning of "tolerance" is that one suffers the existence of groups and opinions to which one might be viscerally averse. It does not mean learning to love someone who one had formerly hated. Although it is nice when enemies reconcile, it is not the business of the government to regulate thoughts and emotions.

A close reading of the Perth Now article reveals that the videos were called to the attention of the Jewish community by law enforcement. The article continues as follows.

"Opposition Multicultural Interests spokesman John Hyde - who alerted police, Jewish community leaders and the Ethnic Communities Council of WA about the videos - praised WA Police for using the anti-vilification laws to lay the charges. "Members of the multicultural community can take comfort in the knowledge that this alleged race hate crime will now go before the courts,'' Mr Hyde said."

I have news for Mr. Hyde. No crime has taken place, other than the implementation of thought control legislation and the employment of thought police. I am repulsed and indignant at Brendon O'Connell's hateful ramblings. But he is far less of a threat than is the legislation under which he is charged. Unless he is involved in acts of violence or theft or incitement thereto , Brendon O'Connell should be freed. And some people in Australia need to go back to law school. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hug An Arms Dealer Today !

There is a sickness that plagues both domestic and foreign policy. On a domestic level, New york City is at the epicentre of this epidemic of diseased thinking. It is the idea of disarmament. New York City has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Even store owners in the roughest neighbourhoods in the city find it almost impossible to get guns legally. Sometimes a storekeeper who shoots an armed robber has to face legal difficulties because he used a gun that was "licenced by the people" and not by the government. Sometimes a grand jury will refuse to indict in such instances, but the poor shopkeeper doesn't even get his gun back.

On the international level you have misguided "peace talks" and arms embargoes. In Rwanda in 1994, one million unarmed Rwandan Tutsis were murdered by Hutu neighbours often armed with nothing more than machetes. Neither the French "peace keepers" nor the eternally useless United Nations were any good whatsoever. If anyone would have bothered to simply bring in guns for the besieged Tutsi, tens of thousands of men, women and children would have survived. Sometimes the mere rumour of gunfire is enough to make cowardly lynch mobs flee for their lives.

In Hebron in 1929, there was a Jewish minority living in Hebron. Most of them were anti-zionist, content to go along with whatever government would rule the Holy Land until the arrival of the Moshiach. (the Messiah). On August 23 and 24, Arab mobs with prior preparation killed 69 Jewish men, women and children, brutalising many more in a pogrom that shocked the world.
Two days of sadistic brutality were stopped when a British soldier fired his gun in the air.

The British could have fired that shot two days earlier and history would have recorded nothing of note on those two grim and fateful days. Sixty nine people died because no one wanted to "feed the cycle of violence."

There are plenty of stories passed down through African American families of Klansmen riding through African American neighbourhoods and inflicting gratuitous violence. How different might some of these horrible episodes have turned out if there had been citizens in African American neighbourhoods had been able to defend themselves with the same quality of firearms available to whites.

When the Carr brothers broke into a house with five men and women in Wichita Kansas in winter of 2000, they subjected them to hours of rape, torture and ultimately murder. Not one of the five victims had a firearm. There might have been a very different outcome had the victims been armed.

The United States and the USSR had a heavily armed cold war for the decades following World War Two. Although there were proxy wars, there were no direct wars. No one wanted to risk a head on armed conflict. It was arms that led to the cold peace that characterised American Soviet relations.

The wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia are very hard to sort out. But there is little doubt that allowing civilians in villages that were "ethnically cleansed" by Serbs, Croats and Bosnians might have remained in their homes had they been armed. The idiotic idea that every ethnic group needs an ethnically pure homeland might have died instead of tens of thousands of civilians. Personal firearms in every home might have preserved the patchwork ethnic diversity that prevailed in Bosnia before their war.

India faced similar difficulties when it was partitioned in 1947 into Pakistan and India.

Increasing the random possibility that any random passerby has a gun makes the job of a criminal that much harder. Misguided gun control laws skew the odds in favour of the criminal.

The famous words of the prophet Isaiah about "beating swords into ploughshares" have a beautiful resonance. But they refer to the messianic era in which people have evolved spiritually to a point where arms are not needed. Until then, we need arms to defend ourselves. And until that glorious time (may it come speedily) every fearful Rwandan, every nervous old lady going to a bodega to shop and everyone who is the wrong colour on the wrong side of town should be able to pack heat if they are not certified loony tunes. It will be a beautiful day when we can all get rid of our guns, but that day is not here yet.

There are certain truths that show up in bold relief in every language. In English, "a piece" is a slang term for a gun. "Piece" and peace have the same pronunciation. This highlights an important truth. Armed citizens, "increase the peace" by having a piece. Let's be honest with ourselves about ourselves. And let's have laws and foreign policy that reflect this. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, May 11, 2009

Afghan Girl's Mystery Sickness: Taliban Handiwork?

Sixty one Afghan girls and their teacher were admitted to a hospital in Kabul with a mysterious illness. The girls complained of weepiness, irritability and confusion after noticing a"flowery" smell before some passed out and others became ill. ABC News reports as follows.

"Doctors were investigating whether dozens of students were poisoned at a high school in northern Afghanistan on Monday after 61 girls went to the hospital complaining of sudden illness, officials said.

Dr. Khalil Farangi said the 61 students and one teacher from Hora Jalaly high school in Parwan province northwest of Kabul complained of symptoms like irritability, weeping and confusion. Several girls also passed out."

It is not without reason that the Taliban are suspected of what appears to be appears to be a poison gas attack. Under Taliban rule, women were banned from school, working outside the home or even being treated by male doctors. They were also subject to the most rigourous standards of modesty in dress. complete covering of the face was required, aside from the eyes. Since they have been reduced to being a guerrilla army out of power, the Taliban have resorted to attacks on schools, a symbol of a way of life of which they do not approve.

Sadly enough, it was under the Taliban that prostitution flourished. Women who were confined to life indoors were faced with starvation. Banned from being nurses and teachers, they found that prostitution was the only path open to them. In the twisted world of the Taliban, modest and decent professions are closed to women. An underworld of prostitution is tolerated by the Taliban. Needless to say, the Taliban charges in money and services a price for their silence.

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has documented many of the abuses of the Taliban and other governments that have ruled Afghanistan throughout its troubled recent history. The following exerpt from a RAWA report was from 1999, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It details how Islamic law is perverted and circumvented to inflict unspeakable abuse.

Each of these brothels has three to five women working and living in them. Some of the terms they use are; “Kharabati” for prostitute, “khala kharabati” for an old woman managing the work of the brothel, “Qala” for the brothel and “Qala dar” for their pimps. The environment is usually hostile and there are arguments and fights over clients. Each Qala has two to three Qala-dars and a khala-kharabati. The male pimps mediate between the prostitutes and their customers. The old women are managing the internal affairs of the Qala; collect money from the clients, prepare food and do other chores around the Qala. Clients either come into the Qala or the women visit the clients house. A third way is through a taxi. Because of its security risk this way is more difficult as the Taliban has banned the use of a taxi without a “muharam” (close male relative). Therefore the prostitute take a 6-9 year old boy with them if they want to work through a taxi. These children are usually witnessing the acts. It has been said that these children are being asked for sexual acts as well. A woman, M. H, told us, “ one day I decided to work through a taxi, along Salang-wat Rd the taxi driver signaled two turban wearing men. The two men got on the taxi and we went to Silo area. In their house they raped my eight-year-old son. I could not do anything. My destitute blackened the life of my son.” Working through taxies is harder. Sometimes the women go without a client for days. Taxi drivers usually don’t want to take the risk and get involved.

The following are some rules for women under Taliban rule as detailed by RAWA

1- Complete ban on women's work outside the home, which also applies to female teachers, engineers and most professionals. Only a few female doctors and nurses are allowed to work in some hospitals in Kabul.

2- Complete ban on women's activity outside the home unless accompanied by a mahram (close male relative such as a father, brother or husband).

3- Ban on women dealing with male shopkeepers.

4- Ban on women being treated by male doctors.

5- Ban on women studying at schools, universities or any other educational institution. (Taliban have converted girls' schools into religious seminaries.)

6- Requirement that women wear a long veil (Burqa), which covers them from head to toe.

7- Whipping, beating and verbal abuse of women not clothed in accordance with Taliban rules, or of women unaccompanied by a mahram.

8- Whipping of women in public for having non-covered ankles.

9- Public stoning of women accused of having sex outside marriage. (A number of lovers are stoned to death under this rule).

10- Ban on the use of cosmetics. (Many women with painted nails have had fingers cut off).

11- Ban on women talking or shaking hands with non-mahram males.

12- Ban on women laughing loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman's voice).

13- Ban on women wearing high heel shoes, which would produce sound while walking. (A man must not hear a woman's footsteps.)

14- Ban on women riding in a taxi without a mahram.

15- Ban on women's presence in radio, television or public gatherings of any kind.

16- Ban on women playing sports or entering a sport center or club.

17- Ban on women riding bicycles or motorcycles, even with their mahrams.

18- Ban on women's wearing brightly colored clothes. In Taliban terms, these are "sexually attracting colors."

19- Ban on women gathering for festive occasions such as the Eids, or for any recreational purpose.

20- Ban on women washing clothes next to rivers or in a public place.

21- Modification of all place names including the word "women." For example, "women's garden" has been renamed "spring garden".

22- Ban on women appearing on the balconies of their apartments or houses.

23- Compulsory painting of all windows, so women can not be seen from outside their homes.

24- Ban on male tailors taking women's measurements or sewing women's clothes.

25- Ban on female public baths.

26- Ban on males and females traveling on the same bus. Public buses have now been designated "males only" (or "females only").

27- Ban on flared (wide) pant-legs, even under a burqa.

28- Ban on the photographing or filming of women.

29- Ban on women's pictures printed in newspapers and books, or hung on the walls of houses and shops.

The love affair between the American left and the those who call themselves Islamic fundamentalists never ceases to amaze me. They create an airbrushed picture of "Islamic" states in Iran and Afghanistan. Then they look at America's sins with an electron microscope. At first glance, Muslims who condemn the West sound a lot like social critics. The surface puritanism of doctrinaire communists in the Stalin era resembles in some ways that of the Islamic fundamentalists. Perhaps the sight of bearded demonstrators sparks nostalgic memories of violent anti war demonstrations in the 1960's.

One thing is certain. If the leftist advocates of "reaching out" were to live under the governments they defend, they would be locked up very quickly. The term used by Vladimir Lenin to describe non communist defenders of communism was "useful idiots". They bear an amazing resemblance to the anti war activists who fought against America in Vietnam and Iraq. I use the term "fought against America" with full premeditation. During the Vietnam war, the antiwar movement was a part of the communist strategy. I have no doubt that the activists fighting American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan are employing the same strategy.

The women in RAWA are no friends of America. The picture they paint is of an Afghanistan that has been victimised by a procession of corrupt and despotic rulers. They include those who have acted on behalf of the Soviets, the Iranians and the Americans. There is a resonance to their assessment. But the sixty one Afghan girls sickened by mysterious fumes are living testimony to who is waiting in the wings if America withdraws.

The days of the Third International, the world wide alliance of communists out to rule the world are gone. We now have the spectre of militant Islam. It is already a force to be reckoned with in Europe and in Britain. And it is getting stronger here. In the age of instant news and cable internet, there is no way to plead ignorance. A sleeping America has been shaken already and gone back to sleep. How badly will she be shaken again? Sphere: Related Content