Monday, November 30, 2009

Ugandan Jews and Their Music

I treat music with the same respect I treat herbal medicine. It is a powerful tonic for the soul and the emotions. Some music I will turn away from as I would from poison. Music that promotes degradation in human relationships or idolatry is banished from my consideration.

I live in an ethnically diverse area. Sometimes on a Sunday morning, I pass Afro Carribean and African American churches and the sounds of their songs filters into the street. It is can readily discerned that rhythms and musical forms from Africa shape such music. In secular and religious music, the pull of different parts of Africa can be felt.

Until now, such music, along with Christian classical liturgical music was off limits to me. Listening to music that is intended to warm its listeners to a faith that is not mine is something I pass on. It is counterproductive for me. There is a group in Uganda that practices Judaism and maintains regular contact with Jews abroad . The group is known as the Abuyudaya. A non orthodox rabinnical court has converted them to Judaism. so close are their practices to mainstream Judaism that many orthodox Jews feel they should be welcomed to the Jewish people by an orthodox rabinnical court.

In 1919, a man in Uganda named Semei Kakungulu came to a belief that only that which he knew as the Old Testament was true. From his understanding, he used his position as a community leader to gather followers around his thinking and practices. The group evolved separately from normative Judaism but identified with it and was strictly monotheistic. describes as follows some of the practices of the early Abayudaya.

Being very ambitious with his new unique faith, Kakungulu, his family and all his followers circumcised all their foreskins and declared to observe the mitzvah of Brit Milah from that day onwards, a practice carried on up to this day. With that astonishing act, the neighboring communities were very surprised and Kakungulu's act prompted the neighboring Christian and Muslim communities to refer to Kakungulu and his community as the "Abayudaya abata Yesu" translated as "Jews who murdered Jesus". This was a phrase aimed at discouraging Kakungulu and his followers but as a result of the gentile's criticism of the adoption of the mitzvoth, Kakungulu and his followers would proudly adopt the title Abaydaya - the Jews of Uganda.

Semei Kakungulu, a few days after the circumcision date composed a book of laws that was to govern the Abayudaya - principally based on the Torah. Among the laws were the observance of Shabbat as said in the scripture, "V'shamru B'nei Yisrael Et Hashabbat" (Sh'mot 31:16-17) translated in English as "And the Children of Israel shall keep the Shabbat�"(Exodus 31:16-17)

According to Semei K. Shabbat was a day meant for rest from all manners of handwork and the Abayudaya by that time only went for prayers in the synagogue and thereafter would turn to Kakungulu's home (which was by then called a palace) for drinks and eatables that were prepared the day before Shabbat. No community member was to be found working on Shabbat and who ever was discovered doing so was answerable to Kakungulu's court of law. Other laws included respect and separation of women while in nidah (menstruation period) as well as the other laws of family purity found in the Torah. However, of all the laws the observation of Shabbat was the most paramount one.

The group encountered resistance and hostility from their Christian and Muslim neighbours yet persevered in their faith. Under the regime of Idi Amin, their religion was banned. Many were forcibly converted to Islam. Others were killed. When Amin was overthrown, the Abuyudaya started returning to the open practice of their faith. They have readily accepted the commandments to which they are introduced by Jews from abroad who come to visit them. Groups like Kulanu with its web site have reached out to help the Abuyudaya. Another group, Shavei Yisrael has a list of groups of people around the world who are descended from communities that became estranged from Judaism and are now returning. There is enough work to keep many such organisations busy. My only skepticism towards Kulanu is the conviction that non orthodox strains of Judaism have led to the assimilation of many Jews, and that exposure to traditional Judaism should be an option for those who are exploring Judaism.

The Abuyudaya have suffered for their faith as have few people I can think of. There is a sincere and heartfelt quality that carries over into their music. I consider them to be role models in faith and tenacity. I treasure their music as spiritually and emotionally uplifting. It opens one branch of African religious music to those like me who refrain from that music which promotes foreign worship.

I hope to stand by the Western Wall with my brothers from the Abuyudaya community. They have watered their fields with thears. May it be G-ds will that they soon reap joy. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Burka Barbie and the Burka Band

The title to this post was not a misprint. The company that produces Barbie has branched out to every possible culture and ethnicity. But it has now come out with a limited edition of Burqa Barbie, a doll that is clad from head to toe in shapeless clothing, with only a mesh peephole through which to see. It is the new trend in the Islamic world, making an Olympic competition of marginalising women as well as turning grotesquely extreme modesty into a form of sartorial anorexia.

Does Mattel feel any sense of responsibility to promote healthy values through its dolls? Did it worry about Barbie's effect on body image? I think the answer is obvious. Barbie's manufacturers are worried about markets. And if they need a burqa to fit in, that is just fine. Meet 21st century globalism.

I could belabour the comic and satiric potential of this Obamaesque bow of marketing to multiculturalism. The blog Barbara's Tschatzkas has already covered it very well, spelling out the sheer grotesqueness of the burqa as follows.

"A woman, a girl, in a chador, chadari, burqa, cannot see that well. You cannot hear what she is saying. She cannot hear you. A woman in a burqa can’t run, or even walk that well. She stumbles. Inside, she has to balance a baby, a shopping bag, maybe a pair of glasses perched on her nose, slipping. If it’s hot, she is sweltering. If it’s sunny, she is still deprived of sunlight and Vitamin D. The burqa violates a woman’s human rights. It poses a danger to a woman’s health, both mental and medical."

If the makers of Barbie want to promote their doll, they might want to consider the Burka Band. This is a group of Afghan female musicians that can not identify themselves in Afghanistan for fear of their lives. They have performed and released a video in Germany, where "Burka Blue" was a hit. The lyrics are distinctly satirical, but they would not dream of performing with faces uncovered or even revealing their names.

Burqa Barbie is almost like a caricature of the self abasement of 21st century capitalism. As you can see from the video below, it is all too real. What a shame.

Barbie with a burka
Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thoughts in an Undertow

In my mental reference library is a book of dreams. Most of the time, truths in my life percolate to the surface during sleep. Interpretations fall into place during my waking hours. I have an open mind about predictive dreams, but no experience with them.

There is one incident in my life that is inscribed in my mental book of dreams. The only thing is that it actually happened, when I was about 9 years old. It was an unseasonably cool day of summer, the sort of day that would have inspired an Andrew Wyeth painting. My father took my sister and I to Horseneck Beach in Massachusetts, which is on the way to Cape Cod. The day was windy. There may have been undertow advisories. My father had mentioned undertow. I had no concept of it. To me it was a giant toe under water. It seemed vaguely funny.

When we got to the beach, I was unenthusiastic about swimming. I wanted to get a 75 cent mini pizza and a soda. The smell of trashy beach junk food always has made me hungry. It certainly did back then.

But I went in the water, a few inches above my knees, and looked back at the beach, the sand was tickling the soles of my feet, gently massaging them. It was a pleasant sensation. It felt like I was sliding backwards. I looked at the shore and noticed that it was becoming more distant. I felt like I was on a conveyor belt, like a jar of spaghetti sauce in a grocery or a passenger in a large airport. When the feeling of distance from the shore became more pronounced, I looked and saw my father, who was frantically waving a red bath towel that was one of my favourites. I thought he was worried about my swimming too far out, even though I wasn't really swimming.

Then a thought flashed through by mind. "Undertow... Not undertoe. Undertow means that the water is towing me out to sea. Hey, that's what's happening! This is an undertow. This could be dangerous. If this is an undertow, I have to stay away from the water underneath."

At that point, I flattened myself on top of the water. I swam as quickly as I could back to shore without putting my hands or feet back down. At this point, a lifeguard was coming towards me in a rowboat. I kept swimming until the sand was within reach of my arm. The rowboat was close to me, but I ran to shore, not out of fear but out of a desire to exceed the speed of the undertow. I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get to ride in the rowboat.

The experience was instructive. Analysing vocabulary and language was important in extracting myself with G-d's help from a life threatening situation. A tendency to be extremely calm when facing grave danger also worked in my favour. What was most important was reacting to my father. I was enjoying myself. The feeling of standing on a conveyor belt, the tickling sensation of the sand felt good. There was a thrill when I realised I was actually moving. My first reaction was annoyance. My father didn't want me to have a good time. He thought I was a baby. Although it was a rarity for me, I decided to consider his opinion.

"If he thinks I am in danger, maybe I should consider it."

The thought occurred to me with a sense of detachment. It was the sight of him that triggered my analysis of my aquatic surroundings and the meaning of undertow. I don't know if critical moments would have been lost had I not seen or had I ignored my father.

I have always been a nonconformist in attire and in thinking. It is difficult for me to conform, even when I want to. But a lasting lesson of that early afternoon on the beach is the idea that one should listen to authority, one should listen to majority opinion. Obeying authority and conceding to societal consensus remain a matter of free choice. But there are times that the voice of authority is right. There are times that the masses have wisdom. This lesson has repeated itself many times in my life. From anger management to diet, from good study habits to dressing for success, the lesson remains that I should pay some attention to what others think.

There was a dream like quality to that day at the beach. At a visceral level, I never felt that I was in danger. I felt detached from the water, as though I was observing and advising myself. I interpret that afternoon at times the same way I do dreams, extracting a fragment of meaning from an image or a word. Years later, that incident has guided me. It is a sequence In my book of dreams that has aided me in coping with life and in knowing myself. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 27, 2009

Does Nazism Equal Stalinism?

The head of the European Jewish Congress has called for an end to comparisons of Nazism and communism. Novosti News reports as follows.

"Any comparison between Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union is unacceptable, the head of the European Jewish Congress said on Thursday.

"We are categorically against drawing parallels between Hitler's regime and Stalinism," Vyacheslav Moshe Kantor told a RIA Novosti news conference.

"We do not defend Stalinism, but we see a fundamental difference between those responsible for the Holocaust and those who ended it."

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe passed a Lithuanian resolution this summer that blamed both Stalinism and Nazism for the outbreak of World War II."

I have a simple answer to Mr. Kantor. Follow the body count. The death toll of communism under Stalin is estimated as between 20 and 60 million people. This total includes not only those executed but those who were worked or starved to death in the Ukraine and elsewhere.

The Nazis, although the total they killed through extermination was lower were in power for only twelve years.

I have read articles by those who express an animus to Jews who fault Jewish historians for placing a greater emphasis on Nazi crimes. Again, I would ask that such individuals look at the numbers. It is estimated that half of Europe's Jews were killed by the Nazis. Such deaths were the liquidation of civilians which in some case were counterproductive from a military point of view. In some cases, military resources were diverted to kill Jews faster. The number of six million Jews killed was tabulated from records kept by the Nazis themselves. It now turns out that the book keeping in the Ukraine and Russia was a goood deal sloppier, and that tens of thousands of deaths escaped the meticulous record keeping of the Nazis. Father Patrick Desbois has made the collection of this history his life's mission. The New York Times reports as follows.

"He is neither a historian nor an archaeologist, but a French Roman Catholic priest. And his most powerful tools are his matter-of-fact style — and his clerical collar.

The Nazis killed nearly 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine after their invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. But with few exceptions, most notably the 1941 slaughter of nearly 34,000 Jews in the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev, much of that history has gone untold.

Knocking on doors, unannounced, Father Desbois, 52, seeks to unlock the memories of Ukrainian villagers the way he might take confessions one by one in church.

“At first, sometimes, people don’t believe I’m a priest,” said Father Desbois in an interview this week. “I have to use simple words and listen to these horrors — without any judgment. I cannot react to the horrors that pour out. If I react, the stories will stop.”

Over four years, Father Desbois has videotaped more than 700 interviews with witnesses and bystanders and has identified more than 600 common graves of Jews, most of them previously unknown. He also has gathered material evidence of the execution of Jews from 1941 to 1944, the “Holocaust of bullets” as it is called.

Often his subjects ask Father Desbois to stay for a meal and to pray, as if to somehow bless their acts of remembrance. He does not judge those who were assigned to carry out tasks for the Nazis, and Holocaust scholars say that is one reason he is so effective."

It is logical and understandable that a World War Two history with a Jewish focus would spend more time on Hitler.

In addition to the Nazis, however, one must also look at their Stalinist enablers. Because of the division of Europe that occurred with the German Soviet Friendship treaty in 1939, the Nazis were able to position themselves over a wider area to carry out the Final Solution. And during this time, there was economic cooperation between the Soviets and the Nazis.

To many other people such as the Tatars and the Ukrainians, it was Stalin who was their angel of death. Conversely, during the Stalinist campaign against organised religion, many rabbis were also killed. Stalin's antipathy to Jews was well known. I have spoken to many Jews from the USSR who believe that the Doctor's Plot of 1953 was an attempt to create a pretext to deport Soviet Jews to the Soviet Far East.

Mr. Kantor made a statement that begs for further clarification.

"We do not defend Stalinism, but we see a fundamental difference between those responsible for the Holocaust and those who ended it."

It is very true that the USSR was instrumental in bringing an end to Nazism. But they did not do so in reponse to the murder of Jews. They were acting in defense of the USSR. Had Hitler kept his word and not attacked the USSR in 1941, the USSR would have done nothing in defense of Jews or any other victims of Nazi persecution. The people of the former Soviet Union deserve credit for a bravely fought battle. Stalin on the other hand liquidated many fine military leaders who might have contributed to the war effort. The brave fight of the people of the USSR was a fight for their own survival. It was not a moral stand against Nazism.

A cold examination of the respective body counts of the Soviets and the Nazis divided by the number of years each was in power makes a comparison of the two regimes entirely appropriate. A comparison of the Soviet and Nazi concentration camp networks makes makes the case for na analogy between the two that much more compelling. Comparisons of the Soviet and Nazi ruling parties and their role in their respective societies is likewise entirely legitimate.

There was a wagon driver who worked for a chassidic rebbe who was known as a wise man in gis own right. When asked what the difference was between the left and the right he replied with a vivid analogy.

As the wagon made its way down the road, the wagon driver called his passenger's attention to a large pile of horse manure in the road. After a wagon wheel cut the pile in half, the wagon driver told his passenger to look behind him.

"Do you see that pile of horse manure now? There is horse manure on the left and manure on the right. That is the difference between the left and the right."

In looking at the totalitarian body count of the 20th century, this seems extremely relevant. I fully understand Mr. Kantor's conviction about the unsuitability of comparing Nazism and Communism. From a Jewish historical perspective it is completely logical. But after examining the numbers and the experiences of other European nationalities, I must respectfully differ with him. When the window shades are pulled aside in hell, I expect to see Hitler and Stalin seated at the same table. There are, I believe, very few who would shed any tears over that. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Glenn Beck and the ADL

The Bnai Brith Anti Defamation League has a history that initially inspires trust. It was founded in 1913 in the aftermath of the lynching of Leo Frank by a Jew hating mob after a questionable conviction for the murder of a 13 year old girl in his factory.

Since then, it has championed clear cut cases of religious, racial and ethnic bigotry. It keeps information on hate groups that is useful to those who combat them, both legally and informationally. What is wrong with this rosy picture?

Glenn Beck is a conservative radio and television talk show host. He is impassioned in his conservative views, painting a bleak picture of America's economic future. He has been outspoken in his opposition to the Obama presidency. He is almost equally critical of Republicans who he feels betray sound conservative, libertarian and traditional values. The ADL has taken him on.

The ADL report notes as follows about Glenn Beck.

"Beck and his guests have made a habit of demonizing President Obama and promoting conspiracy theories about his administration," the report states. "Beck has even gone so far as to make comparisons between Hitler and Obama and to promote the idea that the president is dangerous."

In March, for example, Beck promoted a right-wing conspiracy theory that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is building concentration camps to house "dissidents."

The United States is "headed towards socialism, totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination," he said.

Beck later backed away from the FEMA camp theory, but, according to the report, his constantly saying "I fear for my country" breeds hostility towards the government."

There are those who tend towards conspiratorial views of history, and those who believe in economic forces shaping history. conspiracy theories can revolve around an ethnic group and degenerate into hatred of that group. But Glenn Beck has stayed far away from blaming any ethnic group. He talks a lot about economics. He may even talk about political cliques. But this is nowhere close to inciting ethnic hatred.

The ADL criticises Beck for comparing certain policies of the Nazis to those of the Obama administration. The Final Solution was a part of Nazi policy that was years in preparation. Examining Nazi policies on gun control and economics should not be off limits. The idea that freedom is lost in increments until such losses reach critical mass is perfectly acceptable. The ADL has distorted Glenn Beck's comparison of modern leftists to the Nazis of the 1930's. History can not be kept in a hermetically sealed plastic cube on a pedestal. It is perfectly legitimate to examine the present in light of the past. You can disagree with Glenn Beck. You may even think he is extremist. But his views do not make him worthy of scrutiny on grounds of bigotry.

The ADL has staked out a section of the political spectrum by taking on Glenn Beck. Those who are competent to do so can and should debate his political and economic ideas. But the ADL should be concerned with exposing and combating bigotry. It has muddied the waters in taking on Glenn Beck. This could damage its credibility in the future when its voice and prestige is called for. And that would be a shame. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Global Warming: The Fix is In

(The picture at the top of this article is of John Prescott, EU global warming envoy.

Just yesterday we heard that scientists in England who were at the vanguard of sounding the global warming alarm are being investigated for "cooking the books". James Delingpole of the Daily Telegraph summarised the revelations as follows.

"When you read some of those files – including 1079 emails and 72 documents – you realise just why the boffins at CRU might have preferred to keep them confidential. As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be “the greatest in modern science”. These alleged emails – supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory – suggest:

Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more."

How bad is the scandal? George Monbiot of the Climate Research Unit at the eye of the storm is being called upon to resign, according to the Daily Telegraph, which reports as follows.

The scientist at the heart of the climate change scandal was under growing pressure to quit last night.

George Monbiot, a leading environmentalist, said Phil Jones should resign from the Climatic Research Unit over leaked emails that appear to show researchers suppressed scientific data.

More emails came to light yesterday, including one in which an American climatologist admitted it was a travesty that scientists could not explain a lack of global warming in recent years.

You would think that there would be a world wide call for caution on passing expensive and damaging climate control legislation. And you would be wrong. John Prescott, the European Union Climate Control envoy remains adamant that the US , India and China should be strongly urged to sign a global warming agreement. How strongly should they be urged? The Telegraph reports as follows.

"The leaders of the U.S., China and India should be 'shoved' into a room at next month's global warming summit - and not allowed out until they reach an agreement, according to John Prescott.

Europe's climate change envoy revealed his controversial approach ahead of the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in two weeks."

When speaking in the House of Commons, Prescott was even more blunt, saying "‘I'm looking forward to that debate but I hope I've got the key to the door and (will) not let the b*****s out until they've done a deal."

I guess that the considerations that we are supposed to extend to Al Qaeda prisoners do not apply to those who do not believe in global warming.

Fox News has been diligent in reporting on "climategate". Drudge Report also is giving the story a lot of attention.Unfortunately, there has been deafening silence from the other networks. In a democracy, the free press is referred to as" the fourth estate". In the best of worlds, it uses its privileged position to bring to the attention of citizens information it needs to make intelligent decisions. In the worst of times, it manipulates and controls the free flow of information to promote an agenda.

We now have a breaking story in which massive scientific fraud has been alleged, with very strong proof to back up the explosive allegations. This will impact on decisions which will have a powerful effect on our economy. Yet this story is being spiked. Why?

Anyone who leaves their house every morning for work knows that the seasons have been far colder than in previous years. Predictions of numerous hurricanes in the American South have failed to materialise. Why are the annointed "scientists" who preach to us of global warming confronting this seeming anomaly. It is not only the common man who chuckles at "global warming". The heavens themselves seem to be the stage for a massive joke at the expense of Al Gore. The unfolding comedy is sounding more and more like Groucho Marx, who is famously quoted as saying "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"

We conducted an entire presidential campaign in which the bias towards our current US President was open and blatant. The same bias seems to be evident in the media debate on global warming. Caution is in order. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Climategate E mails and "Global Warming"

There used to be a monthly feature in MAD magazine. Behind the scenes at....." It would take a satirical look at everything from teachers to delicatessens, from cops to clothing stores. It would show what the public saw with what they portrayed as the cynical underside behind the scenes.

East Anglia University has been the center of global warming research. Academic work at that university has driven legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions world wide. Such legislation would impose taxes on energy use that would burden recession wracked economies with crippling expenses.

Now thousands of e-mails have come to light that reveal a dark underside among global warming activists. Suppression and manipulation of evidence, intimidating dissenting colleagues. Some of the "scientists" have apparently acted to suppress data that does not support their pet conclusions. The Washington Times reports as follows as follows on one such conversation.

"There is a lot of damning evidence about these researchers concealing information that counters their bias. In another exchange, Mr. Jones told Mr. Mann: "If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone" and, "We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind." Mr. Jones further urged Mr. Mann to join him in deleting e-mail exchanges about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) controversial assessment report (ARA): "Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re [the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report]?"

In another e-mail, Mr. Jones told Mr. Mann, professor Malcolm K. Hughes of the University of Arizona and professor Raymond S. Bradley of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst: "I'm getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don't any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!"

The deletion of such e mails happens to be illegal, a fact not lost upon the professors of East Anglia University according to some of the conversations of the East Anglia professors.

The professors of East Anglia seem to have a passion for their positions that would be more appropriate to a bar room than to a university research center according to the Telegraph, which quotes one such professor as follows.

time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I’ll be tempted to beat
the crap out of him. Very tempted."

Unfortunately for the partisans of global warming, everyone can see that global warming has not occurred. To the contrary, the opposite seems to have occurred. The man on the street is candid about that. How does it play out in the "Climategate" e mails? Consider the following.

"Tim, Chris,

I hope you're not right about the lack of warming lasting till about 2020. I'd rather hoped to see the earlier Met Office press release with Doug's paper that said something like -half the years to 2014 would exceed the warmest year currently on record, 1998!

Still a way to go before 2014.

I seem to be getting an email a week from skeptics saying where's the warming gone. I know the warming is on the decadal scale, but it would be nice to wear their smug grins away."

I grew up reading "Galileo" by Bertolt Brecht, which portrayed the clash of Galilei Galileo over 400 years ago over his then revolutionary assertion that the earth revolves around the sun. He was eventually ordered to recant a belief that was at that time considered heresy. A reading of the global warming debate has always seemed to me to ge strait jacketed with the same sort of dogmatism and intolerance as the church of the 16th and 17th century. Until these e-mails came to light, it was just a hunch. But now there is concrete evidence to justify this assertion.

What is even more troubling is the the fact that the question that any child with a globe in his room would ask are glossed over by global warming partisans has not been asked. The question is this. What do China and India contribute to pollution and to atmospheric pollution?

The Powerline blog quotes one such e mail as follows. It should be borne in mind that India and China comprise a third of the world's polulation and have far more air and water pollution in their cities than does the developed world.

"Your prediction for 2009 is very interesting...and I would expect the analysis you have done is correct. But, I have one nagging question, and that is how much SO2/sulfate is being generated by the rising emissions from China and India.... While I understand there are efforts to get much better inventories of CO2 emissions from these nations, when I asked a US EPA representative if their efforts were going to also inventory SO2 emissions (amount and height of emission), I was told they were not. So, it seems, the scientific uncertainty generated by not having good data from the mid-20th century is going to be repeated in the early 21st century (satellites may help on optical depth, but it would really help to know what is being emitted)."

There will be some question about possible illegal acts that led to the disclosure of the "Climategate" e mails. But the deception and manipulation of the public trust easily eclipses such revelations. The proposals to control greenhouse gases through costly intervention and to burden a frail economy with billions in new taxes should be backed by sound science ant honest scientific debate. It now appears that public approval of Al Gore's global warming theories may have been sought in a dishonest manner.

The "global warming" e mails raise disturbing questions that will not go away. The public has a right to know how much "science" that has been packaged and presented to us is fraudulent and unscientific. Human lives and the stability of the world economy are at stake. We can not walk away from this. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, November 23, 2009

The High Cost of Prison Phone Calls in New York

New York State has left in place a system which charges families of state prison inmates exorbitant rates to talk with family members. The cost is often justified by the security surrounding the phone calls which are monitored and subject to being recorded. WTOP reports as follows recent court decision.

"New York's highest court ruled Monday that families forced to pay high phone rates to talk to relatives in state prison won't receive refunds for the cost.

The lawsuit was first brought by the inmates' families in 2004.

In a 5-1 decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling that the families failed to assert legitimate claims under the state constitution".

How high are the charges? WTOP elaborates as follows.

"For years, families paid a $3 surcharge for long distance calls within the state and a $1.58 surcharge for local calls. The cost per minute depended on the time of day and the distance of the call and ranged from about 7 cents to 36 cents a minute. The contract was amended in 2003 to set a new flat rate for calls _ $3 per call plus 16 cents per minute for all calls, most of them from upstate prisons to relatives in the New York City area.

With the average 19-minute call costing $6, families were paying $300 to $400 in monthly charges, according to the New York Campaign for Telephone Justice."

Public pressure has actually brought phone rates down by about half, making New York State a leader in reform in this area. (Which isn't saying much.) Every state in the union unfortunately has steep charges for phone calls to prisons within their boundaries. Many Americans on the other hand have phone service that is a flat fee for nationwide service.

There is a component of imprisonment that is not only rehabilitation and restitution but punishment as well. It is tempting for many to shrug off expensive phone calls as the price of a life of crime. But phone calls are different. Many people are in prison for fairly short stretches. They have a wife and children and the family responsibilities that go with it. Maintaining contact with spouses and children can have a stabilising effect for those who see the need to turn their lives around. Money saved by the state through charging for phone calls will be more than offset by the cost in families that break up during a term of incarceration. Facilitating family unity through phone calls , family visits and even furloughs before discharge should be seen as an investment in stabilising a troubled family. A high percentage of broken families end up on public assistance. There is a high incidence of psychological and behavioral problems among families with a family member in prison. Alleviating the problems of such families ultimately benefits the public.

There is nothing wrong with austerity and the measured punishment of a prison regimen. But prisoners remain human beings. Treating them with measured and sensible compassion could benefit greatly some prison inmates who will be returning to society.

Despite the economic difficulties we face as a nation, we should think very carefully about what we do to save money and whether the human cost involved is too high a price to pay. The anger of aggrieved law abiding citizens should be tempered with mercy. It's the right thing to do. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Recession and "Labour Conservatism"

At home growing up, I heard my father talking about problems at his work. As a manager, he had to deal with technical problems as well as managing people. He did not own the factory he managed, but truly took its problems to heart. The company took care of him, and he took care of the company as though his livelihood depended upon it as indeed it did. Listening to him over the years gave me an ability to empathise with a boss and with management. It remained a strong influence upon my political outlook.

I am very skeptical of Horatio Alger stories in which a boy works his way up from sweeping floors to being a multi-billionaire. It is the very rarity of such stories that makes them attractive. What is far more common is for a wise boss to reward and promote an employee who pulls his weight and produces wealth by doing his job. There are modest success stories which can be attained by a good worker who is employed by a boss with the right attitude.

The Marxist attitude that workers and business owners have an irreconcilable antagonism has poisoned political discourse and labour relations. There are bosses who are out to keep their employees at the edge of starvation. There are also lazy workers who begrudge their boss a day's work. There are good and bad spouses. That does not mean that capitalism is good or bad. It does not mean that marriage is good or bad. An institution is only as good as the people in it.

There is an inequality between boss and worker that makes it glib and fallacious to say that a worker can pack up and leave if he does not like the terms of employment. A person can walk out of a store and go down the street to a competitor. The shopkeeper will see a general trend. He will compete or perish.

A worker can go elsewhere. But he is really like a merchant who his selling all his merchandise to one customer. It is possible but more risky to pick up and go elsewhere. Sometimes, seniority and other considerations make risk taking less desirable.

In reality, workers and bosses need each other. Setting up a business that assures a cash flow takes talent. but it also takes the ability to organise, coordinate and mobilise a work force around a task. Conversely the best idea can not get off the ground without workers. Anyone who works for an enterprise as owner, manager or worker is best off realising this.

Unions are only one possible way to manage workers. But far too often, they take an adversarial tone. What absolutely kills competitiveness is the rigid definition of tasks. Making a company hire an electrician in case a fuse or light bulb needs changing instead of giving the task to a mechanic or janitor adds to overhead. Flexibility means a worker can produce more. It enables a business owner to save on payroll costs and to pay high wages.

There is an image that flashes through my mind when I hear the phrase "class warfare" it is usually of workers marching down a street, clenched fists and banners flapping in the breeze. But warfare means two sides fighting. What is the image of the other side?

When I call customer service to discuss a usurious credit card bill and get a "relationship specialist" in India on the phone who is getting $200.00 a month, it means an American is out of work. The credit card company can set up a shop in New Dehli or Mumbai. But the American who is out of work can not commute and follow his job to Mumbai. Technology makes it easier than ever to outsource jobs. It's not just auto workers. Computer programmers are finding their work outsourced. In the 21st century, class warfare is transcontinental. And workers who must now settle for lower wages now have less money to spend on anything more than basic needs. This puts more workers out of work. Trickle down economics means leaving business owners with enough money to invest and benefit others. But what about trickle up economics? Well paid workers will spend more money on things that create and sustain jobs. Low wages truly have a ripple effect.

Then there is the effect of outsourcing our manufacturing. Most of our electronics goods are made in Asia. We buy a large percentage of our oil abroad and pay mostly lip service to the idea of energy diversification and independence. What does this do to our balance of payments? What happens to all those dollars in foreign banks? Of course the dollar is declining in value.

There is a place for international trade. National economies can complement each other. Developing nations can widen their consumer base. India has come up with a $2500.00 car. There are growing numbers of people in that country who own televisions and radios. There is vast room for growth. There is no more need for nations to be economically adversarial that there is for citizens within a country to be so.

We are building better computers, better televisions and developing better cars. Anything we produce has two facets. The first is how well it works. The second is how well it sustains those who produce it. As a society, we pay a lot of attention to how well a car or an I pod works. But we need to pay more attention to how workers are doing who produce our luxuries and necessities. We should factor such information into our buying decisions.

There is no form of government that will automatically make us into good people. Values transmission in families can make or break any political system. A person who believes in a Higher Power and universal moral laws against murder, theft and cruelty will be a better citizen than a person who is ruled by their urges. Any political system will be made or broken by the moral fiber of the individuals within it. It is that simple.

Any human relationship thrives on altruism, upon concern for the welfare of others in a relationship. Wisdom means realising that the welfare of others is ultimately our own. Any economy is indeed a network of relationships. And any thoughtful examination of an economy invites the realisation that our destinies and well being are intertwined.

Class warfare has doomed communism, which simply lent a new vocabulary and ruthlessness to old economic relationships. It has also poisoned capitalism. The enemy is not the bourgeoisie and certainly not the proletariat. It is the idea that the bourgeoisie and the proletariat should be enemies at all.

I have looked in vain for some reflection of what I call "labour conservatism" in America's mainstream political parties. It is a body of ideas that has yet to gain critical mass or receive a fair political hearing. In our economically troubled times, it is natural to look for solutions. Labour conservatism seems to be a good starting point. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 20, 2009

Peru Peasants Killed For Body Fat

Gangsters in Peru have stooped to a new all time low, harvesting human fat from Peruvian peasants who have been killed for that purpose. The U.K. Guardian reports as follows on the grisly case.

"Peru reacted with revulsion and horror to reports that scores of peasants may have been butchered by the gang, which was said to have operated in Huánuco, a rural province dotted with Inca temples between the jungle and Andean peaks.

Colonel Jorge Mejia, chief of Peru's anti-kidnapping police, said Cudeña and three other suspects were in custody and that another seven gang members were being hunted.

The jailed men have confessed to killing five people, but police suspect the number of victims is far higher, with 60 people reported missing in Huánuco this year alone. Two of the suspects were arrested at a bus station in the capital, Lima, carrying bottles of liquid fat which they claimed were worth up to £36,000 a gallon.

At a news conference police displayed two bottles of fat, which laboratory tests confirmed were human. "The fat was extracted from the thorax and thighs," said Eusebio Felix Murga, chief of police of Dirincri district. Police also showed a photo of the rotting head of a 27-year-old male victim discovered last month in a coca-growing valley."

The gang that has been implicated in the killings calls itself the Pishtacos, invoking memories of a Quechua legend of a gang that harvested fat from wayfarers as idolatrous offerings.

Selling drugs to support terrorism or just plain profit is an old story in Latin America and elsewhere, but the latest arrests in Peru add an edge of ghoulishness to the lawlessness that has so often plagued Peru. In an added touch of bitter irony, the victims were Indian peasants, whose oppression is often invoked by leftists as poster children for their Marxist ideology. In most South American countries, those who are visibly or completely of Indian ancestry suffer heavy social discrimination. The "fat killings" have allegedly gone on for thirty years before the recent arrests, which included two men who were apprehended with bottles of human fat that they said were worth $72,000 a gallon. Most western medical authorities question the effectiveness of human fat treatments, noting that liposuction clinics in industrialised nations provide more that enough fat for medical and cosmetic needs.

It is fortunate that this menace to Peruvian peasants is being tracked down and liquidated. In Peru as in the rest of the world, it is most often the poor who are first hit by crime and last to be assisted by law enforcement.

Peru seems to have a way of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Back in the 1970's and 80's, Sendero Luminoso, the Shining Path guerilla movement killed about 70,000 people before its leader, Abimael Guzman was captured and sentenced to life in prison under the presidency of Alberto Fujimori, who is now in prison for corruption and excesses of the government that were committed during the bloody civil war. The Latin American Tribune reports as follows on the latest decision to come from Peru's Justice Minister Aurelio Pastor.

"LIMA – Peru’s justice minister said on Tuesday that the political wing of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrilla group has the right to field candidates in next year’s municipal and regional elections.

“Personally, I believe that (Shining Path) should not participate in politics, but legally they can do it,” Aurelio Pastor told RPP radio.

He said that if the group presents candidates, authorities’ task will be to educate the public “so it is not forgotten what Sendero signified for the country in the number of deaths, in losses of time and money.”

The Latin American Herald Tribune, describes as follows some of Sendero Luminoso's activities under the leadership of Abimael Guzman, a college professor turned revolutionary.

"Guzman, an erstwhile philosophy professor, once predicted that 1 million Peruvians would probably have to die to create the new state envisioned by Shining Path.

The group became notorious for blowing apart with dynamite the bodies of community service workers its members killed, or hanging stray canines from lampposts as warnings to “capitalist dogs.”

You can pretty well rest assured that if Senderistas get on the ballot, there will be remote villages in which terror will be used force people to vote for Shining Path.

Don't you love these well fed revolutionaries who blandly talk about a million deaths for their "ideal society". If they are so blase about a million deaths, maybe they should show the masses how to die. Why is Abimael Guzman still alive? And why is Peru even thinking of allowing unrepentant "senderistas" to run for office?

The world was with Alberto Fujimori when he brought the Shining Path war to an end. It was a war that cost a nation of 20 million people 25 billion dollars and 70,000 lives. That would be like America losing a million lives in a guerilla war. Why is Fujimori in jail? It is people like him who really deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.

Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori is planning to run for President in 2011. She has broadly hinted at her intention to free him from jail if she is elected. The Christian Science Monitor reports as follows on her campaign and agenda.

“I believe my father was innocent,” said the 34-year-old congresswoman and mother of two, exuding a calm confidence and quiet warmth. “The majority of Peruvians think my father was the best president.”

Then she reminded the group of editors that Peru’s president has the power to pardon anyone.

Although she dismissed any suggestion that her father would exert undue influence during a Keiko presidency – “I will run the country, not my father” – she made no effort to deviate from any of his policies.

Instead she doubled down on the Fujimori brand name, banking on the fact that her father’s conservative approach was – and still is – widely popular in the business community and among significant portions of Peru’s poorest people.

Bandying about the phrase “Fujimorismo,” which she defined as “free-market with a strong emphasis on social programs,” Keiko insisted that she understands the needs of poor people better than the rest of the crop of likely candidates, including the Hugo Chavez-linked populist Ollanta Humala.

Why is that?

“It’s because I travel a lot. I get to know people,” she said. “It’s because we solved their problems. They know we keep our promises.”

So, what do poor Peruvians want? Roads and schools, she said, adding that her father paved more than 5,000 km (3,000 miles) of road and built more than 3,000 schools."

I wish Keiko Fujimori success in her campaign for President. Her father brought peace and prosperity to Peru, and remains a hero to many. Keeping her father in jail and letting Senderistas run for office is a crime. People are getting killed for for their fat. They get away with it for 30 years. Then you have "revolutionaries" who glibly predict a million deaths as the cost of their revolution. Peru's peasants deserve a lot better. I hope that America backs the right side in Peru. but I am far from optimistic. I do not trust the current administration to view Peru and in a pragmatic and realistic way.

I hope America backs the right side in Peru's war against lawlessness in terror. Peru's peasants deserve a shot at a peaceful life. They deserve a government that will deal harshly with Shining Path, fat traffickers or drug cartels. I don't expect much help from the Obama administration. But I hope they at least stay out of the way. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Nidal Hasan Warning Signs !

More reports are coming out about Major Nidal Hasan, who stands accused of the Fort Hood massacre. The New York Post reports that Hasan oversaw only 30 patients in 38 weeks, and that this was about 10% of what other doctors were accomplishing in the same time period. Additionally, Hasan missed emergency pages during time he was on call. He was also counseled for preaching religion to patients during counseling sessions. National Public Radio obtained a copy of a memo written by Hasan's superior, Major Scott Moran. The link to the scathing memo, a transcript of which was provided by National Public Radio is here.

The memo was dated May 17, 2007, over two years before the final meltdown in which Hasan allegedly killed 13 people and wounding another 42 in a mass shooting at Fort Hood.

The memo is a withering assessment of Hasan's performance that would have led to his dismissal from any job in the private sector. Part of the memo obtained by NPR reads as follows.

"The Faculty has serious concerns about CPT Hasan’s professionalism and work ethic. Clinically he is competent to deliver safe patient care. But he demonstrates a pattern of poor judgment and a lack of professionalism. In his PGY-2 year, he was counseled for inappropriately discussing religious topics with his assigned patients. He also required a period of in-program remediation when he was discovered to have not documented appropriately an ER encounter with a homicidal patient who subsequently eloped from the ER. He did successfully remediate this problem. At the end of his PGY-2 year, he was placed on administrative probation by the NCC GMEC for failure to take and pass USMLE Step 3 and to obtain an unrestricted state medical license by the end of his PGY-2 year; as a result he was not promoted to PGY-3 on time. He did eventually complete step 3 and get a license and was promoted to PGY-3. He was counseled for having a poor record of attendance at didactics and lower than expected PRITE scores. One year he failed to show for his PRITE examination at all. During his PGY-3 year, he was counseled for being consistently late to NNMC morning report. During his PGY-4 year, he was discovered to have only seen 30 outpatients in 38 week of outpatient continuity clinic. He was required to make this missed clinic time up using his elective"

At the end of paragraph three in the memo (quoted above) Major Moran notes "Lastly, he missed a night of call for MGMC ER and then did not respond to numerous pages by my office the next day." In private industry, he would have been out the door, possibly with administrative charges of neglect filed against him.

Let's try to get this straight. He is on call for emergencies. He misses an emergency page. He misses repeated pages from a supervisor. AND he was itching to turn his patients in for war crimes. Oh well. Look at the bright side. All the strippers said he was real polite and a good tipper.

There were repeated warnings about this guy. Who else is in the army who is getting promoted and coddled for fear that the army might otherwise be sued? It's not like Hasan was hiding his issues under a placid exterior. He gave a power point presentation of opinions that marked him as a security risk. He told everyone who would listen of his moral justification for suicide bombings.

Hasan's long history as a ticking time bomb is well known. Will we ever find out who spiked any and all attempts to get him out of the army? We need to know that the next Nidal Hasan will be weeded out. And Americans who volunteer to risk their lives for the country need assurance that the enemy is on the other side of the sandbags and not crouched beside them. Are there other Nidal Hasans in the military? We need to know. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Funny Songs For All Upcoming Holidays

It's the first of the Jewish month of Kislev. The 25th of Kislev is the first day of Channukah, an eight day festival which commemorates the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem, as well as the miracles and battles connected to it.

This year, Chanukah starts the night of December 11 and ends in the 19th of December. This means that it does not over lap Christmas at all.

As I get older, eating potato pancakes and jelly donuts makes me more nervous. I dread the sugar readings I will get afterwards. But I still have a little for the sake of the holiday. What I really prefer is to have a couple of cold beers as I watch the menorah every night. A good Pilsner is conducive to philosophical and religious reflection.

There are those who don't like their religious holiday mixed with entertainment that obscures the spirit of the season. I have heard Christians talk about that. The same theme is sounded around Hannukah and other Jewish festivals.

But there are certain tacky songs that I look forward to every year. There is the one of dogs barking "Jingle Bells" But my absolute favourite of the comic variety is "Granma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. The deadpan quality of the video contrasts in an interesting way with the words and imagery of the song.

There used to be a senior citizen's punk rock band known as Gefilte Joe and the Fish. My wife bought it for me as a Hannukah present the first year we were married. almost 30 years ago. She was lulled into buying it by the clear blue vinyl and the fact that it was cut in the shape of a Star of David. I reveled in its total tastelessness. My wife was delighted when my oldest son broke the record two years later. The most famous cut from that album was "Channukah Rocks". It became somewhat of a hit, although the album is very hard to locate. I am able to present a You Tube recording of it below.

One effect of Hannukah and Christmas falling out in the same month is that one is reminded that there are other beliefs and cultures in the world. When I hear the chanting from my local mosque or shop at a Hindu news stand, I get almost daily reminders. Its humbling to realise that billions of people think you are a heretic or at the very least, badly mistaken.

The song that handles "diversity" with the total lack of good taste that I find indespensible in life is "National Brotherhood Week" by Tom Lehrer. This guy graduated from MIT and ended up being an internationallly famous musical satirist. It is well worthwhile checking out his other songs as well.

I wish my readers happiness in the midst of whatever holiday you all might be celebrating. I hope these songs add to your enjoyment.

 Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Terror Trial in NYC and Obama Sleeping

We here a lot about the "Islamic fundamentalists" who are a worse enemy that the Soviets ever were. The Soviet Union and to some extent China engaged the US through proxy battles such as the war in Vietnam and Korea. There was spying. They helped the Rosenbergs and Aldrich Ames set up shop. They did a lot of damage. But it was soldier vs. soldier and spy vs. spy.

The World Trade Center attack was an act of war. It was far worse than Pearl Harbor, which was a military target. The 9/11 attack was a deliberate act against civilians, timed to hit as many unarmed civilians as possible. It was not a regular criminal act. That is why Guantanamo is being used to try those who stand accused of masterminding this attack.

What happened last time 9/11 suspects were in New York City? Ask Louis Pepe, who suffered severe brain damage and complete blindness as a result of an attack by a gang of 9/11 suspects.
Fox News reported as follows on the cowardly attack.

"Pepe told he worries that sending Mohammed and four of his alleged fellow 9/11 conspirators to New York could compromise the safety of the guards at the MCC prison. Keeping the prisoners in one location, he said, was especially dangerous.

"Could you imagine over there what they're gonna do, God forbid?" asked Pepe, now 52, who lost feeling in the right side of his body and most of his ability to speak. "After all these years, you'd think they should know."

On Nov. 1, 2000, Pepe was ambushed in the cell of Mamdouh Mahmud Salim — an alleged top aide to Usama bin Laden. Salim's cellmate, another Al Qaeda suspect, joined in the attack, which prosecutors say was an attempt to steal Pepe's keys to the cell block to free other prisoners and take hostages.

"They wanted to discredit the badge and what he stood for," Eileen Trotta told "After they plunged him in the eye with that makeshift knife, they did the sign of the cross on his chest."

Why were these individuals housed together? Why were they allowed to form a gang in prison, to store hot sauce in their cell, which they turned into the makeshift mace that they used on Louis Pepe?These are individuals who wrap themselves in the pages of the Koran and find justification for attempting to gang rape a man. This is what we are up against. We are up against an enemy that allows any abomination when it is done to an "infidel". This is the wonderful faith to which they wish to convert us.

Governor Patterson expressed the anger and frustration of many New Yorkers who dread the prospect of a long trial in the shadow of the World Trade Center ruins. Alheadlinenews reports as follows on Governor Patterson's remarks.

"This is not a decision that I would have made," the governor told reporters. "Terrorism isn't just attack, it's anxiety, and I think you feel the anxiety and frustration of New Yorkers who took the bullet for the rest of the country."

"We're still having trouble getting over it; we still have been unable to rebuild that site," he added, referring to the World Trade Center site. "And having those terrorists tried so close to the attack is going to be an encumbrance on all New Yorkers."

"Right up until three days before his bloody rampage, Hasan had repeatedly badgered his higher-ups, telling them that the shell-shocked soldiers under his care had confessed to "war crimes" and that they deserved prosecution, ABC News reported.

"The Army may not want to admit it, and you may not hear much about, but it was very big for him," one federal investigator said.

Col. Anthony Febbo, Hasan's superior, told investigators that, on Nov. 2, the troubled psychiatrist contacted him twice to discuss whether he could legally turn over evidence of what he called "war crimes" learned during his counseling sessions with war vets.

Hasan made a similar request in late October. And Hasan's direct supervisor, Capt. Naomi Surman, head of Fort Hood's Department of Psychiatry, said he raised similar questions in October, as well."

This is a man whose religion did not stop him from killing. This was a man who was a regular at the strip club near his military base. We are dealing with "cafeteria Muslims" who take the commandments they like, leave behuind the rest and dress up in devout looking clothing to wow the credulous infidels.

We are not at war like we were with the Soviets. This one is up close and personal. Every man, woman and child is fair game, if they are "infidels". Any Koranic law can be cast aside to demean and degrade us. Even adultery with a non Muslim woman can be committed with impunity. Although homosexuality is prohibited, raping a non Muslim prison guard is OK.

The American people seem to have a sense of righteous indignation when it comes to terrorists and terrorism. What about our government? There seems to be massive amnesia and blindness when it comes to the threat of Islamofascism. It may well be that the majority of those who call themselves Muslim are willing to abide by our nations laws. But millions abroad and many within our borders will stop at nothing to destroy us. Pretending this is not so will not protect us.


The picture at the top of this article is of Louis Pepe, blinded at the Manhattan Correctional Center by Islamo terrorist prisoners he was guarding. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Wedding and a Suicide

It should have been a joyous occasion. But for one young man, the night of his wedding brought back haunting memories of being molested as a young student. The orthodox Jewish world was reeling from reports that a young newlywed committed suicide by jumping off a hotel balcony two days after his wedding in the early morning hours. No one could come up with a plausible reason why a man with a winning personality and a promising future would take his own life. Surveillance videos were a crack in the idyllic picture, as were troubling phrases in police communications such as "emotionally disturbed". It was getting harder with time to dismiss the tragic occurrence as an accidental fall.

Now it turns out that Motty Borger may have been tormented by memories as molestation that haunted him as he started out life as a married man. The New York Post reported as follows yesterday on the troubling case.

A Brooklyn newlywed who jumped to his death from a hotel balcony the night after his wedding was tormented by memories of being sexually molested as a Jewish student, sources say.

After joyfully singing and dancing at their lavish celebration in Williamsburg on Nov. 3, Motty Borger, 24, bared his secret anguish to his bride, Mali Gutman, the next day -- and the revelation caused a strain, a source close to the family told The Post.

"That entire day he discussed it with her. He told her the story of his life, how he felt so awful and he couldn't go near her," the source said. The couple had met just last July, after a matchmaker set them up.

"When he got married, he realized he couldn't face up to it, and he told his wife that he needed help."
The Post reported that Borger had confided in close relatives that he had been molested in yeshiva as a teenager, but that law enforcement had never been contacted. So now, a young groom is dead and a young bride is devastated at a time that should have been a new beginning. There are all too many cases where molestation is swept under the rug. Kids act out by rebelling against religion and authority. They are ostracised and labelled as bad kids. Meanwhile, the molester enjoys respect, dressing in the garb of religiosity that was cast off by the abused child.

It's a mistake that religious communities have made all too often. The Catholic church has also had its rash of scandals. the Witnesses have also had a rash of abuse incidents that were handled "in house". Then there is the matter of the Amish, who have a tradition of confessing before the congregation in exchange for a few weeks of being shunned. This leaves those who report rape and other abuse being punished worse that the perpetrators.

What are the common denominators between Amish, the Witnesses , Catholics and orthodox Jews who do not report offenses? In all cases there is an authority structure based upon religious law. People who have established a separate community feel that calling in the government is compromising their separateness. In some cases, they feel that canon law, or religious law is somehow diminished by allowing it to be superseded by those of criminal courts. At least as strong as all these reasons combined is the feeling that the community is shamed by "airing dirty laundry" in public. Victims are made to feel that they are "damaged goods. This feeling can even extend to the family of the victim.

There are serious problems with handling such matters within a community.

1) There are no private jails or system for administering capital punishment.

2) Most communities lack the organisation and resolution to adequately supervise the punishment and rehabilitation of abusers. It is one thing to adjudicate a marital or business dispute. Hard core crime is beyond the scope of a subculture with no state of its own.

Child molesters and rapists need to go through the criminal justice system. If it turns out that Motty Borger was molested with no action taken in government courts, then it can realistically be said that his molestor was also a murderer. A single act of molestation can have a ripple effect that stretches out for generations and blights a whole family. Failing to prosecute molesters shows the victim that he or she is unimportant. It leads to cynicism if the perpetrator enjoys honour and respect in the community. When other people see that molestors get a free pass and their victims are thrown out of the community, it does not just create the appearance of injustice but the worst sort of injustice itself.

To distance a community from the cultural mainstream is a valid choice. In the best of circumstances, this is a way for religious minorities to preserve their traditions. But molesters and other criminals sometimes see the reluctance to involve the government as an opportunity to ply their trade. People like that should be "blown out of the water". They should find themselves in regular criminal court. Because their use of religious garb and manners is just a trick to cover their criminal proclivities.

There is a community that has taken the proper stand, cooperating fully with criminal authorities whenever necessary. Rabbi Ron Yitzhak Eisenmann heads a congregation in Passaic, New Jersey that has been on the cutting edge in dealing with sexual abuse and molestation. The Jewish Week reports as follows on efforts made in that community.

"On the night before Yom Kippur in September, Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman stood before his Orthodox congregation, in a room crowded with men wearing black hats and women wearing sheitels, and moderated a panel discussion among five Orthodox Jews who said they had been the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of other Orthodox Jews. The rabbi regularly uses his pulpit to preach against the evils of sexual molestation.

On another recent day Michael Lesher, an Orthodox lawyer and author, welcomed four young Orthodox Jews into his home, two men and two women, who told him their stories of sexual molestations committed by Orthodox Jews. For more than a decade he has served as the legal “advocate” for sexual abuse victims and as “their voice,” since first handling a custody case that involved a sexually abused child.

Also not long ago, Brochie Neugarten, an Orthodox mother who works as a purchasing manager, described to a friend her plan to establish an organization that will offer financial support to victims of sexual abuse in the community. Neugarten became an activist a few years ago, after someone she knows became the target of a molester.

The efforts by Rabbi Eisenman, Lesher and Neugarten, rare steps against sexual abuse in a religious community, took place within a few blocks of each other in Passaic, a middle-class suburb with a growing haredi community 10 miles west of Manhattan in northern New Jersey."

In that community, the congregation is notified from the pulpit if a known molestor moves into the community. People are told to go straight to the police with allegations of abuse and molestation. There is no opportunity to misuse religious sensibilities to protect deviant behavior.

If this communal policy becomes the norm all across America, then perhaps lives can be saved. Could prompt action in the Motty Borger case have saved him years of private anguish? A victim of abuse needs to hear that the shame belongs not to them but to their abuser. This is justice.

There are too many people who hide a private agony, anger and shame that should not be theirs. A justice system in our community that punishes the victim and accords respect to the perpetrator is not a justice system at all. It has nothing to do with divine justice, nothing at all to do with G-d's kingdom on earth. In reaching out to the victims of abuse and in punishing the perpetrators, we are reaching out to G-d Himself. There is no time to waste. None at all. How many more will die? How many good people will leave our communities? Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shortwave, The Internet and Papua New Guinea

In the days before computers became household fixtures, I used to turn to radio. Art Bell was a favourite, especially on an overnight shift. His choice of ghosts, extraterrestrials and other topics at the edge of science made for fascinating listening.
I didn't believe everything he broadcast but was left with the conviction that science attempts to describe truth rather than defining it. He took the algebraic x out of algebra and inserted it into life in general.

Then there was the alphabet soup of national radio stations. Radio Havana goes back to my childhood. I found it a lot livelier than radio Moscow and radio Prague. The best news programs came from the BBC and Monitor Public Radio (now defunct) which was the broadcast arm of the Christian Science Monitor.

The numbers stations, in which a radio announcer would simply read sequences of numbers, with no apparent pattern were coded instructions for spies around the world. Thinking about someone taking their coded marching orders fascinated me.

The extreme right used to have a strong presence on short wave. I used to occasionally listen to Ernst Zundel and other holocaust deniers. There were those who believed it to be unconstitutional to pay income taxes. Some ideas were entertaining, and there were occasional facts thrown in. It made me feel like a fly on the wall among people I might never have a chance to meet. I even used to pick up broadcasts from Aum Shinkyo, the Japanese cult that gassed people on the Tokyo subways back in 1995.

My grandparents used to listen to shortwave in Germany, getting information that was not available in the Nazi controlled press. To me, shortwave always made me feel that truth has wings, that words spoken freely can fly over the walls we erect to maintain them.

Shortwave is not clean and crisp like local AM and FM radio. It has a lot of interference. Certain frequency ranges can only be heard at night. Others are better in the tropics. Others can be picked up near daybreak. There is hissing and fadeouts. Sometimes you have to lean towards the speaker and listen attentively as though the receiver were a wispy voiced old woman. Some of the sounds between bands reminded me of cars speeding down a highway. The audio interference reminded me of the distances between people. tuning in a station that faded in gave me a feeling of having climbed walls and transcended space. It reminded me of the old song "Two Cigarettes in the Dark" that I found in my parent's old collection of 78's.

My favourite discovery was a broadcast out of Melbourne Australia that was in Pidgin English and targeted at listeners in Papua New Guinea. I was only able to pick it up around 4:00 AM. They had really good music that was influenced by the outside musical styles. There was rap, reggae and other styles to which they gave local language and flavour. I found out later that Papua New Guinea suffers from an astronomically high murder rate that includes police crime and witch burnings. It is aggravated by an unemployment rate estimated to be around 80%. Undoubtedly, high crime scares away investment that could solve a lot of problems. The country has about 850 languages in a population of 6.5 million. Pidgin is the language that holds much of the country together. You Tube has helped me keep up with the music scene there. One of my videos is from a group called "Scholastic" that was killed under mysterious circumstances. The one song in the video that I heard (presented below) leads me to believe that they had a promising future before their untimely demise.

It is now the internet that is my way of transcending the distance between peoples and continents. It reminds me of the Colony Coin Shop I used to go to as a child, watching the old men playing cribbage and asking countless questions about the stamps, coins and old memorabilia. It is the flying carpet of this generation that enables common people to find alternate takes on generally accepted truths.

But it is short wave that I will always remember as my "first love". It was on short wave that I made the electrifying discovery that I could broadcast a quarter of a mile on citizens band using my own walkie talkie. (If the FCC would have picked me up I would have been in a heap of trouble.)

Today, without expensive hardware, it is possible to read from bloggers around the world. For almost two years, I have been able to post my own articles and reach around the world through the ether. There is an imperfect yet intriguing democracy to cyberspace. I hope it stays that way.


I have included below two reggae songs and a memorial video to "Scholastic". All of the music is from Papua New Guinea Sphere: Related Content