Randy's Corner Deli Library

26 February 2009

Stimuluswatch.org; The Falling Cost and Accelerated Speed of Group Action

Stimuluswatch.org; The Falling Cost and Accelerated Speed of Group Action

by Joshua-Michéle Ross | comments: 22

Stimuluswatch.org is a great example of how easy it is today for people to, as Clay Shirky says, “organize without organizations.” Stimuluswatch.org began after Jerry Brito attended a mayor’s Conference and posted this request:

"Let’s help President-Elect Obama do what he is promising. Let’s help him “prioritize” so the projects so that we “get the most bang for the buck” and identify those that are old school “pork coming out of Congress”. We can do this through good clean fun crowdsourcing. Who can help me take the database on the Conference of Mayors site and turn each project into a wiki-page or other mechanism where local citizens can comment on whether the project is actually needed or whether it’s a boondoggle? How can we create an app that will let citizens separate the wheat from the pork and then sort for Congress and the new administration the project in descending order or relevancy?

Several developers read the post and got to work. Stimuluswatch went live on February 2nd with all the features Brito had requested. Last Friday alone there were 20,000 unique hits to the site. Total time to complete, seven weeks including holidays. Total cost - about $40 in monthly hosting fees.

I caught up with two of the developers behind the effort, Peter Snyder (via phone) and Kevin Dwyer (via email). The story they told me exemplifies how the web enables some remarkably fast group action. Here is how Kevin tells it - and pay attention to how many references there are to some form of open source, web service, or plug-and-play functionality that the team used to get this done.

“After reading Jerry's original blog post about the US Conference of Mayors report, I quickly wrote some python code to grab (screen scrape) all of the projects from their web site and put them into a sqlite database. The lxml module was awesome for this. Brian Mount took it and remastered the database into a MySQL database. Peter Snyder then popped up and offered to build the web site using a PHP based system called CodeIgniter. It lives up to its name (and Pete is awesome) because he had a fairly complex site up in no time. Now that we had a great base for the site, Jerry wrote copy and worked up some CSS/HTML which gives the site a great look and feel. Jerry also helped us integrate disqus and tumblr, which definitely helped reduce the number of wheels we had to reinvent. I experimented with several wiki backends and settled on MediaWiki. Using a perl module, I created wiki stubs for each of the projects to give users a bit of a framework for recording any facts they researched about each project, as well as listing points in favor and against. The whole thing now runs on an Amazon EC2 image.

Peter also pointed out that in the short time since launch, users themselves have helped cleanse errors in the data that was pulled from the mayor’s database and already begun filling out details on these local projects; including showering great disdain on the “doorbells” project.

None of these people knew each other previously. They were brought together by blog post into a common effort. They used open source tools in rapid development. They plugged in off the shelf online social technologies (disqus, tumblr and mediawiki) to create a forum to discuss these local projects. They achieved this in seven weeks. In fact, according to Peter, “the real effort here was more like two weeks”.

It will be interesting to see how stimuluswatch.org performs as a place to allow transparency and citizen involvement in civic projects. As we the public wait for www.recovery.gov to launch, perhaps we should just be asking them to give us the data. We can do the rest.

19 February 2009

Is a Play About Gaza Anti-Semitic? Read the Script.

February 18, 2009, 2:00 pm

Is a Play About Gaza Anti-Semitic? Read the Script.

In Wednesday’s New York Times, Patrick Healy writes about the possibility that the New York Theater Workshop may present a production of a new play inspired by the recent war in Gaza. Some critics have charged that the 10-minute play, “Seven Jewish Children,” by British playwright Caryl Churchill, is anti-Semitic.

Ms. Churchill’s play is currently being performed at London’s Royal Court Theatre as a benefit for the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. The Royal Court’s Web site allows readers to download the full text of the play and read it for themselves.

The headline of Jeffrey Goldberg’s blog post on the Atlantic’s Web site gives a pretty good idea of his take on the play: “The Royal Court Theatre’s Blood Libel.”

The Guardian’s theater critic, Michael Billington, thinks not.

Mr. Billington’s sympathetic review describes the context of the cryptic play and points to some of the lines from the script that have disturbed readers like Mr. Goldberg:

Caryl Churchill’s 10-minute play was written in response to the recent tragic events in Gaza. It not only confirms theatre’s ability to react more rapidly than any other art form to global politics, but also makes a fascinating counterpoise to Marius von Mayenburg’s The Stone, which precedes it at the Royal Court. Whereas The Stone shows how German children are often the victims of lies about family history, Churchill’s play suggests Israeli children are subject to a barrage of contradictory information about past and present.

The work consists of seven cryptic scenes in which parents, grandparents and relatives debate how much children should know and not know. It moves, implicitly, from the Holocaust to the foundation of the state of Israel through the sundry Middle East wars up to the invasion of Gaza. At first, the advice indicates the deep divisions within Israel (”Tell her they want to drive us into the sea” / “Tell her they don’t”); at the end, it becomes a ruthless justification for self-preservation (”Tell her we’re the iron fist now, tell her it’s the fog of war, tell her we won’t stop killing them till we’re safe”).

In The Times of London, Christopher Hart’s review of the play was far more critical:

A leaflet handed out before the show, inviting donations to Medical Aid for Palestinians, tells you how “brutal” Israel’s “invasion” of Gaza has been. “Bombardment”, “devastation”, “earthquake”: these are reassuring little signposts. Otherwise, you might worry that Churchill has written a play that considers both sides of the conflict. In seven one-minute acts, Israeli adults discuss what to “Tell her” — in each case, an imaginary young Israeli girl. About the Holocaust? Suicide bombings? About 1967? “Tell her not to be afraid” is a recurring and poignant refrain. This simple device could have been highly effective, but it’s ruined by the play’s ludicrous and utterly predictable lack of even-handedness.

We all agree, I think, that the scenes coming from Gaza are not good. But the enormously complex reasons for such horrors are not considered here. Instead, Churchill comes across like a very minor Old Testament prophet, bewailing the Wickedness of my people Israel (Jeremiah 7:12). And the final lines, delivered by an Israeli in full rant, about how the Palestinians are “animals”, how he wants to see their children “covered in blood”, are simply outrageous.

London’s Jewish Chronicle quoted Jonathan Hoffman, a vice chairman of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, who had seen the play and called it “a libelous and despicable demonisation of Israeli parents and grandparents which will only stoke the fires of anti-Semitism.” Mr. Hoffman also charged that the play “draws on several antisemitic stereotypes, from the blood libel through to the ‘chosen people’ trope.”

In The Saudi Gazette, Susannah Tarbush wrote that the play “succinctly dramatizes the tragedies and ironies of history for both sides” and builds to what she calls “a devastating final scene set during the Gaza onslaught.”

h/t to R'Menashe East

Terence Blanchard Quintet: Live at the Village Vanguard

Terence Blanchard Quintet: Live at the Village Vanguard

Posted using ShareThis

18 February 2009

"Stand By Me" - A Song Around the World

Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam

BOOKS: Mufti – Hitler’s man in the Middle East

12:00 am arts

Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam

by David G Dalin and John F Rothmann

Random House, $26

THIS book, which has already achieved iconic status in the United States, is going to make seriously disturbing reading for those who subscribe to the view that the pathological hatred that divides Arab and Jew in the Middle East is attributable to the Israelis alone.

Haj Amin al-Husseini was probably one of the most influential Arab leaders in Palestine and the wider Arab world during the Second World War. In a supreme act of irony, it was the Jewish High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, who appointed him Mufti in 1921. Thereafter, al-Husseini, indoctrinated in the belief that the Jews were intent on destroying Islamic civilisation, set out to kill them wherever he could.

He decreed: “There is no punishment for killing Jews.” He instigated riots in Jerusalem and pogroms in Hebron and Safed where the centuries old Jewish communities were ethnically cleansed in 1929. More moderate Palestinian Arab leaders, such as the Nashashibi dynasty, who were looking for an accommodation with Palestinian Jewry, were intimidated and murdered by the Mufti’s forces. The Mandatory authorities eventually outlawed al-Husseini’s Arab Higher Committee and the Mufti fled to Baghdad in 1937.

There he attempted to stage a pro-Nazi coup in 1941 which was eventually repressed. But not before the Mufti waged a pogrom against Iraq’s large Jewish population that left more than 100 dead and thousands homeless. In November 1941 he was granted sanctuary in a luxurious mansion on Berlin’s fashionable Klopstock Street.

The war years saw the Mufti form a close alliance with Adolf Hitler, both of whom declared an intent to rid Europe of its “Judeo-Communist” empire. Al-Husseini established a close working relationship with Heinrich Himmler and recruited 100,000 Moslems, mainly from Yugoslavia, to serve in Waffen SS units. The SS Handschar division was responsible for the extermination of 90 per cent of Bosnian Jewry. The brutality they deployed made a contrast with the mechanised killing in the extermination camps. The Mufti’s SS divisions favoured killing Jewish families face to face with knives. They destroyed hundreds of Serbian churches and hunted down Communist partisans.

The authors, though, neglect to mention that the Mufti’s SS units were some of the most ferocious and fanatical defenders of Berlin when the Red Army advanced to crush the last vestiges of the Nazi empire. They do, however, include a series of nauseating photographs depicting the Mufti in close embrace with virtually every Nazi leader and inspecting his SS troops.

Adolf Eichmann’s deputy, Dieter Wisliceny, testified at the Nuremberg trials that the Mufti encouraged his principal to accelerate the mass extermination of Jews – and even accompanied Eichmann on a visit to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. He also convinced the Nazi leaders not to go ahead with an exchange of 20,000 German prisoners of war for 4,000 Hungarian and Romanian children who were subsequently exterminated in German death camps at Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor.

In late 1944, the Mufti arranged for five parachutists armed with 10 containers of toxin to try and poison Tel Aviv’s water supply and murder 250,000 Jews. Fortunately, British forces in Jericho captured the five before they could carry out the carnage.

Calls to have the Mufti tried at Nuremberg were rebuffed by, among others, Clement Attlee, who thought such a move might enrage Arab sentiment. Instead King Farouk of Egypt granted him sanctuary. Following the UN partition of Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states, the Mufti and his old comrade Fawzi al-Kawukji, with whom he had spent the war as Hitler’s guest, formed the Arab Liberation Army whose objective was to fight the partition plan and wage a “total war of extermination” against the Jews.

The latter part of this study charts the influence of al-Husseini on modern day jihadi terror groups such as Hizbollah and Hamas. The authors attribute al-Husseini’s widespread dissemination of anti-Semitic texts such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a primary reason behind the refusal of Islamic fundamentalism to come to terms with the reality of the existence of Israel.

A Hamas text declaring “the war is open until Israel ceases to exist and until the last Jew in the world is eliminated” is lifted virtually verbatim from the ravings of the Mufti, who died peacefully at the age of 79 in Beirut in 1974, no doubt utterly content with the murderous legacy he had bequeathed to his fundamentalist heirs.

David Harounoff

17 February 2009

Ahmediniejad's Dream

Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad calls President Obama and tells
him, "Barack, I had a wonderful dream last night. I could see America, the whole
beautiful country, and on each house I saw banner."

"What did it say on the banners?" Obama asks.

Mahmud replies, "UNITED STATES OF IRAN."

Obama says, "You know, Mahmud, I am really happy you called, because
believe it or not, last night I had a similar dream. I could see all of Tehran , and
it was more beautiful than ever, and on each house flew an enormous banner."

"What did it say on the banners?" Mahmud asks.

Obama replies,"I don't know, I can't read Hebrew"

h/t to eejh

16 February 2009

Louie Bellson dies at 84

Louie Bellson dies at 84; Duke Ellington called him 'the world's greatest drummer'

Louie Bellson, 1924 - 2009
Los Angeles Times
Louie Bellson, pictured here performing at the Olympic Jazz Festival in 1984, was widely respected for his technical skill, refined rhythms and ability to adapt to various genres. "Not only is Louie Bellson the world’s greatest drummer . . . he’s the world’s greatest musician!" Duke Ellington once said of his former bandmate.
By Don Heckman
February 17, 2009
Louie Bellson, a jazz drummer and bandleader who combined remarkable instrumental virtuosity with far-ranging compositional skills, has died. He was 84.

According to his wife, Francine, Bellson died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications of Parkinson's disease following a broken hip in November.

Bellson's long, productive career stretched from his teens -- when, in competition with 40,000 other young players, he won the Slingerland National Gene Krupa drumming contest -- to the tours and seminars he continued until 2008.

Best known as a superlative big band drummer as a result of his work in the 1940s and '50s with Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Duke Ellington and others, Bellson was also an adept small group player. His more than 200 recorded appearances as leader and sideman encompass sessions with Jazz at the Philharmonic, Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, James Brown and dozens of others, including Ellington's Big Four alongside guitarist Joe Pass and bassist Ray Brown.

"What makes Bellson so special," former Times jazz critic Leonard Feather wrote in 1991, "is his overall musicianship. A gifted composer and arranger who has written everything from jazz instrumentals to ballets, he can incorporate his role logically instead of banging away without regard to the dynamic or melodic structure of the work in progress."

Bellson often said that he regarded his tenure with Ellington as one of the significant points in his career. Performing with the orchestra in the early '50s triggered a forward leap in his development as an instrumentalist and his confidence as a composer.

A pair of his best-known big band works, "The Hawk Talks" and "Skin Deep" became popular staples of the Ellington repertoire -- but not without some initial reservations from Bellson.

In a 2006 interview he said he had written "The Hawk Talks" with Harry James in mind.

"Harry was called 'The Hawk,' " Bellson recalled. "But I wrote it when I was with Duke, and it took a lot of coaxing from [trombonist] Juan Tizol to make me bring it to Duke. I told Juan, 'Are you crazy? You want me to bring music in to a place with Duke and Billy Strayhorn? Geniuses like that? No way.' I brought it in anyhow and lo and behold, Duke recorded it right away.

"But it was Duke who taught me how to write. How to be original. How to know what to do with the rhythm section, with the horns."

Ellington returned Bellson's high regard, noting, "Not only is Louie Bellson the world's greatest drummer . . . he's the world's greatest musician!"

Other artists concurred. Oscar Peterson described Bellson as "the epitome of musical talent. . . . I consider him one of the musical giants of our age."

Bobby Colomby, former drummer for Blood, Sweat & Tears, pointed to Bellson's pioneering work with the difficult technique of employing two bass drums, saying, "Louie had awesome, jaw-dropping technique. And I really don't think he was ever fully appreciated for what an amazing drummer he really was."

Bellson was born Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni, on July 6, 1924, in Rock Falls, Ill. Drawn to percussion as early as age 3, he was urged by his father, who owned a music store, to study keyboards, harmony and theory.

After winning the Krupa drum competition, he was offered a job in Ted Fio Rito's dance band at Los Angeles' Florentine Gardens. A few months later, still in his teens, he was hired by Goodman.

After serving in the Army for three years, Bellson returned to the Goodman band in 1946 for a year before moving on to play with Dorsey and James. The arrival of bebop, however, shifted the jazz world's orientation toward smaller groups and a different style of rhythm playing. He was an instrumentalist and percussionist, more than simply a drummer, and immediately sought ways to adapt his own technique to the newly emerging styles.

"I was used to driving a big band -- four solid beats on the bass drum," he explained to the JazzTimes. "Coming from that to bebop, I still liked to drop bombs now and then. Then Lester Young came to me once and said, 'Lou, just play titty-bop, titty-bop and don't drop no bombs.' That's when I got it, putting all that energy up into the right hand, playing on the cymbal. And I loved it. The left hand was syncopated, and the bass drum could be syncopated also, because a good bass player playing four beats to the bar took care of that basic beat."

While performing with Ellington from 1951 to 1953, Bellson met and married singer Pearl Bailey. Their interracial marriage, rare for the early '50s, coincided with Bellson's presence as the only white member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

He spent the next few decades alternating between leading his own small groups and big bands, serving as Bailey's music director and occasionally returning to work as a stellar sideman. A stint with Basie in 1961 was followed by a return to Ellington, performing the Concert of Sacred Music that Ellington described as "the most important thing I've ever done."

After Bailey's death in 1990, Bellson continued his growing activities as a jazz educator while leading various-sized ensembles, including a pair of on-call big bands available for performances on both coasts. His most recent recordings include "The Sacred Music of Louie Bellson and the Jazz Ballet" and "The Louie and Clark Expedition 2" with trumpeter Clark Terry.

Bellson wrote more than 1,000 compositions and arrangements, including ballet music, sacred music, "The London Suite," the "Concerto for Jazz Drummer and Full Orchestra" and a Broadway musical, "Portofino," in addition to his numerous big band charts and small ensemble pieces. He wrote more than a dozen books and booklets on drums and percussion.

He received a Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994; a Living Jazz Legends Award from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2007; a Jazz Living Legend Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; and an American Drummers Achievement Award from the Avedis Zildjian Co.

He is survived by his wife of 16 years, Francine; daughters Dee Dee Bellson and Debra Hughes; two grandchildren; two brothers and two sisters. A Los Angeles-area service is being planned, followed by a funeral and burial in Moline, Ill.


Heckman is a freelance writer.

Thanks to Mitchell Shiner for this article.

15 February 2009

Much Brass, a Bit of Twang and Plenty of Ray Charles

Note from a booth: Dan Nimmer, Wynton Marsalis' pianist, is from Milwaukee, that hotbed of Jazz artistry...the New Orleans of the North? Based on who I know and what I've heard, yes. Dan is what Mitch likes to call "a baller"... really, really, really good. But then, would Wynton have a schlemiel playing piano for HIM? No way.

Randy Shiner

Music Review

Much Brass, a Bit of Twang and Plenty of Ray Charles

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Wynton Marsalis, left, and Willie Nelson performed at the Rose Theater on Monday.

Published: February 10, 2009

Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis first shared a stage at Frederick P. Rose Hall two years ago, finding common cause in the wide, slow river of American music. That interaction yielded an album, “Two Men With the Blues” (Blue Note), that flattered them equally. So there was recent precedent to draw on at the Rose Theater on Monday night, in the first of two sold-out concerts presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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To their credit, the headliners didn’t repeat themselves; they played just one song from the album. It was “That’s All,” by Merle Travis, and, as on the album, it appeared as a grace note. Instead, following the suggestion of Mr. Nelson’s manager, they played songs associated with Ray Charles, the artist who most credibly covered all the pertinent terrain: jazz, country, blues and gospel, along with R&B and soul.

This was a fine idea made finer by the inclusion of Norah Jones, whose style can suggest a well-tended middle ground between the home bases of Mr. Marsalis and Mr. Nelson. She emerged early on to sing “Come Rain or Come Shine,” taking adroit and thoughtful liberties, and stayed on to join Mr. Nelson on “You Are My Sunshine,” over a loping Latin rhythm. For the rest of the night, drifting on and offstage, she added hints of cool refinement and (to a lesser degree) sensuous comfort. But by and large it was a night for companionable tensions. Mr. Nelson, seated with an amplified acoustic guitar, sang in the appealingly modest, intractably casual style that has always been his calling card. Mr. Marsalis, armed with his trumpet and his quintet, advanced a dapper erudition.

Some of the best teamwork came on trudging, hard-luck fare like “Busted” and “Losing Hand.” But Mr. Nelson also worked small wonders with “Unchain My Heart” and “Crying Time,” which had Ms. Jones singing harmony.

The arrangements, by Mr. Marsalis and others, featured plenty of intricate maneuvers for trumpet and saxophone. At times this seemed at odds with the vocals: Mr. Nelson’s plain-spoken grace on “I Love You So Much (It Hurts)” was half obscured by the chromatic scrawl of Mr. Marsalis and the tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding. On some other tunes the solo sections stretched long enough that the singers appeared stranded, despite engaging work by the soloists, including Mr. Nelson’s harmonica player, Mickey Raphael.

And a few anticipated highlights fell short. “Here We Go Again,” which Ms. Jones recorded with Charles shortly before he died in 2004, sounded unrehearsed. “What’d I Say” and “Hit the Road Jack” were rousing but contrived. And the absence of “Georgia on My Mind” felt like a missed chance, though it appears on “Two Men With the Blues.” (It’s the song that best connects Mr. Nelson to Charles, and Ms. Jones could have nailed it.)

But the concert’s core results were compelling, largely because of a workhorse rhythm section: Dan Nimmer on piano, Carlos Henriquez on bass and Ali Jackson on drums. Whatever the groove, they were sharp and committed, making the others sound better. With that foundation, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Marsalis were free to move as far in each other’s direction as needed, with every ounce of their easy aplomb.

The Pollard Affair: Was it dual loyalty?

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

The Pollard Affair: Was it dual loyalty?

Feb. 11, 2009

I am proud to be an American. One hundred years ago the United States provided a safe haven for my ancestors who were escaping pogroms and poverty in czarist Russia. My father fought in the US Army as an infantry sergeant against the Nazi peril. I studied comparative religion and history at Columbia University in New York, an Ivy League school that would not have accepted me in the 1920s due to quotas against Jewish enrollment . My country affords me the right to express my Jewish identity and faith, giving me the freedom to stand up for who I am. The US is the leader of the free world. Why shouldn't I be proud of being an American?

Watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama, I was of course impressed with the American system of government that gives the son of an immigrant the opportunity to lead one of the world's great and diverse nations. It always amazes me how the transition of power is carried out here - democratically and peacefully. The system set in place by America's founding fathers more than 200 years ago has assured the vitality and relevance of US democracy into the 21st century.

Yet, while America is a land of opportunity and justice, there is not always justice for all Americans. I am thinking specifically of Jonathan Pollard. I was disappointed that outgoing president George W. Bush did not pardon Pollard for his treasonous acts of more than two decades ago. The FBI arrested Pollard in November 1985. A 31-year-old American Jew, Pollard was a civilian employee of US Naval Intelligence who provided Israeli spies with classified American satellite data on the location of Syrian antiaircraft batteries and of Iraqi nuclear test sites.

The Reagan administration, reeling from other espionage scandals, came down hard on Pollard and, in March 1987, an American court sentenced him to life in prison. It is not a question of Pollard's guilt or innocence - Jonathan Pollard betrayed his country. But does he truly deserve to be imprisoned for life? Was the information he gave to Israel - a staunch American ally - as damaging as information that other American traitors handed over to our enemies?

MOST AMERICAN Jews, as loyal supporters as they are of Israel, would never have betrayed this great country like Pollard did. But the Pollard Affair raises many questions about the specter of dual loyalty among American Jews. It is obvious that Pollard did not truly believe he was betraying his country. As an American Jew, I have lived my whole life hearing the mantra that "the interests of America are the interests of Israel." Fortunately, we, as Jews in America, have been protected from charges of dual loyalty precisely because the American dream and the Zionist dream share so much in common.

Perhaps Pollard thought that by helping Israel fight its enemies, he was helping America fight its enemies. In the post-9/11 world, America and Israel are indeed fighting the common enemy of global terrorism and Islamic extremists. But let us imagine that a day will come in America when US and Israeli goals are not the same. I do not see that day coming soon, yet in theory all American Jews who love and support Israel are faced with the specter of dual allegiance. What would we do if in a future conflict our country was in direct opposition to the Jewish state?

PERHAPS POLLARD never read the wonderful letter of support that George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island after the first president's visit to the Touro Synagogue in August 1790. Washington wrote that all Americans "possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship" - Jews would no longer be a tolerated "class of people." The American government would "give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."

Of course, this newfound freedom is not offered freely. If Jews are to be citizens with full equality under the law they must "demean [conduct] themselves as good citizens." Did not Jonathan Pollard realize this when he was committing acts of treason against America?

Legally, American Jews are Americans first. Their belief and identity as Jews is a private matter, one of free choice and volunteerism. The word "Jew" is not stamped on my passport. I have no legal status in America as a Jew. I am an American. As long as I remain an American citizen, my legal identity is that of my nation. If, for some reason, there were to be a conflict between my legal status as an American and my private status as a Jew and a Zionist, my loyalty as an American would come first. If I did not believe this, I might fall into Pollard's trap. Jonathan Pollard should have realized that as much as Israel and the US have in common in terms of long-term goals, the first allegiance of an American Jew is to America - not to the Jewish state.

THE POLLARD AFFAIR should serve as a reminder to American Jews that, as Jews living in America, we are living lives not of dual loyalty but of dual identity. As far apart as is the chasm between Norman Podhoretz and Noam Chomsky in the realm of ideology, both men are legally Americans. The Satmar Hassid living in New Square and the Jewish atheist who eats bacon for breakfast on Yom Kippur in Los Angeles are each Americans. As an American, I have more in common with an American of African descent than I do with a Jew in Israel, even a Jew in Jerusalem who is from the same shtetl in Russia from whence my ancestors came.

I do not know if all American Jews realize this. If a Jew in America wants to have legal, national and public status as a Jew, he or she should make aliya. The Law of Return is a legal recognition that Jewish identity is a national identity. Identity in the Jewish state, usually for the good but sometime for the bad, is Jewish identity. The American and French revolutionaries of two centuries ago would not stand for a state within a state. The heavy price of citizenship is that Jews lost their national identity. Zionism was both a response to anti-Semitism and a response to that loss of public Jewish identity.

The Pollard Affair, unlike the infamous framing of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus in Paris more than a century ago, did not result in cries of "Death to the Jews." That difference is one of the things that makes America so great. But let us always remember, Jonathan Pollard's treachery may be an exception to the rule when it comes to American Jewry, but the psychology of this traitor - a psychology that denies the possibility of dual loyalty for American Jews who love and support Israel - is a mind-set that lurks behind us all, and will not go away as soon as we might like.

The specter of dual loyalty remains. Our divided identity is, today, a reality.

The writer is on the faculty of Nova Southeastern University's LifelongLearning Institute in Davie, Florida.

Copyright 1995- 2009 The Jerusalem Post - http://www.jpost.com/

FAKER: Vile holocaust denier caught in web of lies

FAKER: Vile holocaust denier caught in web of lies

ladyrenoufThe weird and disturbing industry of holocaust denial is usually populated by dorky pretend academics who wear ill-fitting suits and fantasise late at night about being Fuhrer. “Lady Renouf” is a former model from Newcastle, Australia now living in London who breaks that mould, at least presentationally. In an excellent takedown, in the Weekend Australian magazine yesterday, their Peter Wilson shows that telling lies is at the core of Holocaust denial and that only after some pretty intense questioning did the real motivation come out: she doesn’t like Jews.

If only the rest of the filth in Holocaust denial were as honest as this compulsive liar and fantasist.

Edition 1SAT 14 FEB 2009, Page 018
By Peter Wilson

London socialite Lady Renouf courts global attention as the attractive face of Holocaust denial. Who would guess she was once plain Michele Mainwaring, a beauty queen from the NSW central coast? Peter Wilson meets her.

At 22, Michele Mainwaring was a beauty queen from the NSW central coast whose titles included “Miss Zhivago” for being judged the local woman who looked most like Julie Christie in the biggest film then showing. By 42, she was a London socialite with a grand house and ballroom who called herself “Countess Griaznoff” and posed for family portraits with her Russian husband and two daughters in costumes that could have been designed for Omar Sharif’s film.

Now, at 62, she is known as Lady Renouf, from her short-lived second marriage, and on the wall of her apartment in upmarket Kensington, London, is a photo of her being kissed by Omar Sharif during the brief period they dated about a decade ago.

But it is not her glamorous social life that has recently made Miss Newcastle-Hunter Valley 1968 mildly famous in Britain, Germany and Australia. “This woman is especially dangerous,” says Dr Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, “because she is so attractive and can put a pretty face on a very ugly movement.”

That movement is Holocaust denial, a decades-old attempt to play down the Nazi atrocities against Jews and other minorities.
After showing no interest in Jews or World War II until her 50s, Renouf now travels the world speaking at conferences, alongside former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and other extremists, arguing that the Holocaust has been massively exaggerated and that in any case the Jews are to blame. The only prominent female denier, the girl from The Entrance, NSW, has met Iran’s Holocaust-denying president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and lauded him as a champion of free speech and democracy despite charges by human rights groups that his regime tortures dissidents and stifles free speech.

Some experts are worried that, as the last witnesses of the Holocaust die, the deniers could gain ground in the West by focusing their propaganda on students at university and high school. The deniers were bolstered last month by Pope Benedict’s acceptance back into the Catholic Church of ultra-conservative British bishop Richard Williamson, who claims that historical evidence is “hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler … I believe there were no gas chambers”. The political and public outcry across Europe at the pope’s decision - not least in his native country, Germany, where Holocaust denial is a crime - shows the depth of feeling that surrounds the issue.

Other Holocaust historians such as Zuroff say the deniers’ biggest impact is in the Arab world and among Muslims in countries such as Britain. “For political and religious reasons there is just a closed mindset [in the Arab world] and that is where people openly say the Holocaust never happened,” he says. “Or they invert it against Israel - that we are the new Nazis and the conflict right now is us committing a Holocaust against the Palestinians.”

With fears of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, and Israel under growing pressure over its conflict with the Palestinians, the denial movement is becoming more than “a loopy fringe group that can be ignored”, says Zuroff. “That is why this woman is just perfect for people like the Iranians … they have this blonde, pretty woman speaking in an English accent in Tehran [at a 2006 Holocaust denial conference] and on Iranian TV telling them they are right and the Jews are evil. This is a dangerous person.”

My first contact with Michele Renouf is via the intercom of her Kensington apartment. I had just learnt that Dr Fredrick Toben, Australia’s best-known Holocaust denier, had been released after 50 days in London’s Wandsworth prison and was staying in Renouf’s apartment.

British police had used a European Union arrest warrant, issued by Germany, to pluck Toben from a plane transiting through Heathrow last year. A legal team organised by Renouf beat an attempt to extradite him to Germany, where he is wanted on charges carrying a fiveyear jail sentence. Renouf tells me through the intercom in her posh English accent that Toben is standing beside her but will not talk to me until he has safely returned to Australia. (Adelaide-based Toben, once back on home soil, would announce his intention to return to Germany to “thrash it out” with prosecutors.)

Several days after talking through the intercom with Renouf she invites me to a press conference that she is holding in the small Cranley Gardens Hotel, near her apartment, to discuss Toben’s victory. Smiling and immaculately groomed in a woollen pantsuit, she is as handsome as one would expect of a woman who has for decades worked as a model in TV and print commercials, now often cast as a well-to-do woman of a certain age.

The British press has stayed away and the small conference room she has rented holds about a dozen Toben supporters, including David Irving, the British historian who was labelled an anti-Semite and a falsifier of history by a High Court judge in a 2000 libel trial.
Renouf announces that Toben has left for Australia “but in his stead we have an expert who has come especially from France”. Dr Robert Faurisson will discuss “the meat of the issue”, the deniers’ rejection of the mainstream account of the Holocaust. At this news Irving scurries from the room - fearful, Renouf explains later, that being involved in such a conference would threaten his ability to visit the US.

“Conference” is a loose description. I am the only reporter listening to Faurisson’s 80-minute speech, which Renouf films for the internet. Like every other dedicated Holocaust denier outside the Arab world, Faurisson is not a professional historian. An 80-year-old former professor of literature, he began disputing the Holocaust in the’70s and has been repeatedly convicted in France, one of 10 countries that outlaw Holocaust denial. Faurisson’s basic claim is that Jewish leaders invented the Holocaust to win sympathy and gain a homeland in Israel. There is no proof that Hitler and the Nazis planned genocide, he says, the toll of six million dead does not add up, and the gas chambers at Auschwitz were not used to kill people. Instead, he insists, the gas chambers were aimed at helping the Jews by using the poison Zyklon B to kill lice in order to fight typhus.

“In Auschwitz I visited by myself what is called Crematorium One,” he says. “I immediately saw that it could not be a gas chamber.” The room was not sealed properly, one of its doors had a fragile glass window, and the holes in the roof through which the Nazis supposedly dropped gas pellets had been added after the war, he says.

He claims that a plaque displayed at Auschwitz in the’70s stated that four million people had been killed there. That number has now been revised down to just over one million but the “Holocaust industry” still claims that six million Jews died, even though the plaque’s toll was out by three million, he says.

Not long after hearing Faurisson I visit Auschwitz. All the time I am there, ringing in my head are Faurisson’s claims that the “Hollywood version” of its terrible history is untrue. The camp, in Poland, does have a powerful effect on a visitor but not the one claimed by Faurisson and Renouf.

The Nazis dynamited the largest gas chambers as Soviet soldiers approached in January 1945 and the surviving chamber that Faurisson refers to is the oldest, smallest and most primitive. His arguments crumble a few seconds after one enters that grim, dark room. The thin glass window that he cited proves nothing: it is obviously a reconstruction.

A guide at the camp confirms to anyone who asks that what one now sees in Auschwitz was largely rebuilt after the war by the Polish communists. The four holes in the roof that Faurisson talks about were also part of a clumsy postwar reconstruction but it is easy to see the outlines of the original holes, which are now sealed up.

Renouf wants a televised debate between Faurisson and Laurence Rees, a BBC documentary-maker who did a six-part series on Auschwitz in 2005. Rees tells me he would never take part in such a debate, a position shared by almost all leading historians, who say it is valid to debate details of the Holocaust but not the basic fact that the Nazis deliberately killed something like six million people, 90 per cent of them Jews, and largely with gas chambers.

“It is pointless discussing history with Holocaust deniers,” Rees says. “It would be like discussing climate change with members of the Flat Earth Society. My experience is that they do not want to know the answers and they want to suck you in so as to publicise themselves and pretend this is a ‘legitimate debate’. It isn’t legitimate and it isn’t a debate.

“Since the existence and working practice of the gas chambers has been established as a 100 per cent historical fact, getting involved with these questions is like trying to debate the Norman Conquest with someone who maintains that the Battle of Hastings never happened and that William the Conqueror might have been a Martian.

“Can you ‘prove’ that William the Conqueror wasn’t really a Martian? How can you ‘prove’ he didn’t have a funny green pointed head - in fact, isn’t that almost certainly why the Normans wore those funny helmets?”

“Can you ‘prove’ that William the Conqueror wasn’t really a Martian? How can you ‘prove’ he didn’t have a funny green pointed head - in fact, isn’t that almost certainly why the Normans wore those funny helmets?”

A few days after Renouf’s press conference I sit down with her in the foyer of the Cranley Gardens Hotel for what turns out to be a five-hour interview over several cups of tea. Polite and friendly but with a well-mannered reserve, she is quite guarded at first. When she appears on extremist and anti-Semitic radio programs and Iranian TV shows she is billed as a “human rights activist”, “political commentator”, or “filmmaker”, as she has begun making and selling her own films questioning the Holocaust and slamming Israel.
She says she is not anti-Semitic because, while she criticises Judaism, she has nothing against Jews. Her critics “always say I am charming but sinister. But if you meet me you actually don’t find this hate that they speak about. You find criticism but you don’t find hate … Jews who know me like me.”

That’s a view not supported by my conversations with several Jews who know her. Their anger is not hard to fathom. Over a few hours of conversation an increasingly relaxed Renouf expresses views that do not make her popular in polite society, Jewish or otherwise.

Jews, she says, follow a religion which is dishonest, inhumane, supremacist, hate-fuelled, predatory and treacherous. In fact “it does not deserve to be called a religion at all”.

“The definition of a Jew is antigentile,” she insists, and it is their own selfish behaviour which has provoked anti-Semitism over the centuries, making them responsible for their own persecution.

While we share biscuits with our tea she trots out cliches - how Jews control Hollywood, the media, banking, advertising, academia and Western foreign policy. “Australia, like Britain, is an occupied country: occupied by proZionist policy,” she says. What is more, Hitler had no choice but to put Jews into concentration camps because international Zionist leaders had “declared an economic war on Germany in 1933 to try to destroy Germany”.

“So you have to, to protect your own people, put the enemy into the camp. And when you put people into a camp, the risk in close quarters of disease and so on are multiplied. So there were gas chambers, sure, but for delousing. Whether there were gas chambers for murderous intent I cannot say because I have not heard a proper debate.”

A shared view of Judaism has made her something of a fan of hardline Islamists. Israel has no moral right to exist, she insists, Hamas and Hezbollah are “wonderful and noble”, and jihadist suicide bombers “are reacting to our appalling decision to go to war [in Iraq] on a lie. So we are the culprits”.

Praising Muslim attitudes to women, she volunteers that she “would be on the side of the Muslim leader in Australia who said our women are looking like meat” - a reference to Sheik Taj Din alHilali, who provoked a storm in 2006 by saying that women who did not dress conservatively were like “uncovered meat” and invited sexual attack.

The life-long advertising model says she disagrees with compulsory burqas but feels that “the way Muslim women dress basically is better for us than the way women are encouraged to dress in the Western, Judeo-influenced societies, consumer societies which promote the baseness of us … The Jewish influence in fashion, in Hollywood and so on creates the ethos of this kind of women serving-men value system.”

Renouf, who has received death threats, expresses these views without any open anger or venom, and often seems surprised when people take offence. She complains that she has been cast as “the most notorious woman in London”.

That clearly rankles with someone who values social status - she mentions more than once that she can trace her father’s family back to 1086 and the Domesday Book - but it does not worry her enough to make her tone down her views. In 2003 she was expelled from London’s prestigious Reform Club for using the club to champion Irving and his views on Hitler, and she has been kicked out of other social groups.

She admits her two adult daughters disagree with her views and “can’t bear what I do … because they obviously don’t want me to be at risk, and also they have been conditioned like anybody else”.

She met their father, Daniel Ivan Zadeh, an Australian psychiatrist of Russian descent, during a trip to the Gold Coast in 1968 as part of her prize for winning Miss Radio 2HD Newcastle Beach Girl. The couple shifted to London in 1970, where they married.
IvanZadeh had always been plain “Mr” or “Doctor” but Renouf says the family had once claimed a title through his great-uncle, so she began styling herself as Countess Griaznoff “for my charity work”. No such title exists in the major lists of European noble families such as the Almanach de Gotha or Burke’s Royal Families of the World.

They divorced in 1990 and the following year, at 44, she married Sir Frank Renouf, the Kiwi financier 28 years her senior who’d recently emerged from an acrimonious split with Susan Rossiter-Peacock-Sangster-Renouf.

The press swooped, obtaining a copy of the new wedding certificate. Michele had listed her father, Arthur, as a deceased hotelier but the press found him alive in NSW. The retired courier driver and photographer for the Port Macquarie News said he had never owned a hotel.

Sir Frank felt humiliated and the marriage did not survive the six-week honeymoon in New Zealand.

Asked about the misleading marriage certificate, Renouf says her grandparents owned a country pub in NSW. Her parents separated when she was 10 and she never really knew what her father did for a living, she says. She’d had no contact with him for several years before the wedding and “I knew that he was dying of cancer and someone had sent me a condolence card so I assumed that meant that he had died”.

She says Sir Frank tried to patch things up but she refused and he divorced her in 1995 on the grounds of her alleged “unreasonable behaviour” with a Bulgarian fencing champion, an allegation she denies. Sir Frank died three years later.

She says she did not ask for a settlement and she now funds her activities “with some difficulty”. Jewish advertising executives have been giving her less work due to her Holocaust views, she says.

She devotes much of her time to the cause of Holocaust “revision”, travelling to Austria, Canada, France and Germany to witness trials of deniers and speaking at a Holocaust review conference held by the Iranian Government in Tehran in 2006.

At that conference she gave a fiery denunciation of Israel and Judaism and afterwards was elected to a committee to organise another conference, alongside Toben and Dr Christian Lindtner, a Danish Holocaust-denier to whom she was briefly engaged in 2007. Theirs was a romance launched by Holocaust denial - they first met early in 2006 at a Danish conference and they next spent time together at the Tehran conference.

What I kept wondering, though, was where her obsession with Judaism had come from. By her own account, “growing up in Australia I never heard anybody even talk about Jews. I certainly had no predisposition, my world was not divided into Jew and gentile. In fact, I thought they all died out like the Pharisees and all the other Biblical sects that you heard about in school.”

She says she first became interested in the Holocaust in 2000 when David Irving lost his high-profile libel action against an American historian for branding him a Holocaust-denier.

But she had already been interested for several years in “the anti-gentile nature of Judaism”. In 1997 she wrote and published a booklet that appalled academics by rejecting the widely held view that Hitler’s favourite composer, Richard Wagner, had expressed antiSemitism in his operas. She met Toben the following year when she was promoting her booklet at the Adelaide Festival.

In 1999 she enrolled in a master’s degree in the psychology of religion at the University of London’s Heythrop College to pursue her obsession.

But where did it all start? According to Renouf, it was a 1997 argument about a dish of suckling pig. She’d set up a committee of 25 friends to help her organise a dinner to fund a new dressing room for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, but trouble blew up over the menu.

“I had asked the caterers, The Ivy restaurant, if they could give us perhaps a choice in the main course,” she says. “And they suggested for an Elizabethan feast why don’t you have suckling pig, a good vegetarian choice and perhaps sea bass, because sea bass is sort of regarded as a glamorous dish.

“When I presented that choice to my coterie one Jewish girl said, ‘We regard your offering a choice in the main course as tyrannical and if you are going to insist upon it I am going to resign.’ Eventually she said, ‘You cannot expect Jews to sit at the table where others might choose pork … ‘

“The really interesting thing was the fear in the room of the other 24 people. They said, ‘Please let’s not pursue this issue,’ and I said, ‘Why, what is your fear?’ They said, ‘It is anti-Semitic.’ I said, ‘But for heaven’s sake, what is antiSemitic about discussing food?’ We weren’t eating eyeballs or something that was frightful to us, it wasn’t such an astonishing thing, we weren’t eating horse or cat or something outrageous.

“It got me terribly interested because it meant that sensible people were being dictated to by this woman’s religion even though I happen to know that she eats bacon and eggs. She resigned from the committee and the two other Jews in the room resigned with her.”

She refuses to name the woman who objected to her menu, but mentions that she had been prominent in the International Churchill Society. Through that Churchill link I later track down the woman, a retired American art gallery owner named Wylma Wayne, and I speak to her and two other women who were on Renouf’s fund-raising committee.

Wayne says Renouf’s version of the fight is nonsense. “From what I can remember that [argument] was not really about religion or eating pork at all. She was just being domineering and I objected to her behaviour. I thought it was ridiculous and self-aggrandising to spend all this money on an elaborate menu when the aim was to raise money.”

Another member of the committee tells me that at least one of the other women who resigned in support of Wayne was not Jewish.

I put this to Renouf when I meet her for a second extended interview, a four-hour session in her apartment over smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, tea and scones. She stands by her version of the suckling pig affair, saying she believes that those who resigned from the committee were indeed Jewish.

I raise another question from the past: while she claims to have graduated from Sydney’s prestigious National Art School, I understand that she studied in Newcastle. She says she did some classes in Newcastle but that she definitely graduated from the NAS. The NAS has no record of her studying there, but other archives show that in 1968 she graduated under her maiden name, Michele Suzanne Mainwaring, with a Diploma in Art (Education) from Newcastle Technical College.

Another question concerns her speech to the Holocaust conference in Tehran, in which she said she had been expelled from Heythrop College for criticising Judaism in her essays.

“I was ‘asked to study elsewhere’,” she told the conference, lambasting Christian “collusion” with Judaism.

The Reverend Dr John McDade, the principal of Heythrop College, remembers things differently and checked Renouf’s file to confirm that her account was inaccurate. “She was not expelled at all,” he says. “She failed. She simply did not submit her work so she was failed. I have the letter here in which she was formally told that she could not come back because for two years in a row she did not submit her core work for assessment.”

When I put that to Renouf she is adamant she’d been expelled. She says the Jesuit-run college had appointed a Hasidic Jew with the power to veto any student and that person had rejected her essays. The college’s registrar tells me later it had never had any Jewish person in such a position.

Finally we return to the Holocaust, and the great store she places in Robert Faurisson’s nonsense about the plaques at Auschwitz. Time and again she argues that “there is a deficit now of three million people but it is called Holocaust denial if you point out that six minus three equals three, not six”.

The fact is that the figure of four million on the ’70s plaque was part of Polish communist propaganda and has nothing to do with the current consensus among historians that about six million died in the Holocaust.

Experts say up to 3.4 million were killed at the main death camps - 1.1 million to 1.3 million at Auschwitz, 875,000 at Treblinka, 600,000 at Belzec, 250,000 at each of Chelmno and Sobibor, and 100,000 at Majdanek. At least 1.5 million more were killed by mobile SS death squads in eastern Poland and the Soviet Union, while the rest were killed in various ways such as shootings in Poland and deaths in smaller camps around Europe.

Renouf listens politely but after I have cited those figures she seems not to have heard me. She just repeats that “six minus three does not equal six” then changes the topic.

Perhaps sensing my frustration in the ninth hour of our interviews, Lady Renouf becomes more direct. Her main reason for not believing “the Hollywood version” of the Holocaust, she says, is that she doubts anything said by Zionist leaders. “I loathe Judaism … and I see things through that prism.”

She certainly has no plans to drop her obsession. In fact, she intends to move on to what she considers “the new front line” of the Holocaust issue, the school system. Deniers in Denmark have set up a website encouraging schoolchildren to be sceptical about the Holocaust and she wants to run a similar campaign. “This is what we need in this country and this is what I want to do next,” she says. “I am determined to get the truth out there.”

Peter Wilson is The Australian’s European correspondent. His previous story for the magazine was “The family guy” (December 13-14, 2008), about director Ron Howard.
Caption: “There were gas chambers, sure, but for delousing,” says Renouf (left) about Nazi camps such as Auschwitz (opposite, January 27, 1945).
David Irving, far left, who was censured for twisting historical evidence in his defence of Hitler; Renouf as a model.
Jewish children in Auschwitz; Australian Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Illus: Photo
BIOG: Lady Renouf, Michele Renouf
Type: Feature

08 February 2009

Deborah Lipstadt's [Email] to Bishop Williamson: You Asked for Proof?

Deborah Lipstadt’s Blog

My Letter [Email] to Bishop Williamson: You Asked for Proof?

Posted: 08 Feb 2009 06:20 AM CST

[Edited 8:17 a.m. See note at end]

In the face of demands by Pope Benedict that he recant his denial, Bishop Williamson says he is going to wait until he finds "proof" of the Holocaust.

In that spirit I have sent the following letter [email] to the Bishop. I promise to let you know if I get an answer.


It has come to my attention that you are looking for "proof" of the Holocaust. Let me assure you that such proof exists in reams.

The most expeditious means for you to determine that all the "claims" you have made both on your webpage and in interviews are completely bogus would be to read, in it s entirety, the verdict of Judge Charles Grey who presided in David Irving v. Penguin UK and Deborah Lipstadt. The judgment can be found athttp://www.hdot.org/trial/judgement

You will see there that each of your arguments is shown to be based on bogus documents, fabrications of evidence, or misinformation. This is what we call in common parlance: lies.

Other links can be found on my blog where we have prepared an extensive, point by point, refutation of your claims. This will also take you the Myths and Facts section of www.hdot.org, where you will find even more refutations of your various claims about the gassing process.

You may also want to visit to the Holocaust History Project, where you will find yet additional refutations.

Finally, I also suggest you read the expert report of Robert Jan van Pelt who carefully demolishes the various claims you and other deniers make about the gassing process.

You will see that your arguments are based on false and mistaken suppositions. In short, sir, there is no dearth of evidence. There is only a dearth of willingness to remove the blinders from ones eyes.

Professor Deborah E. LipstadtPh.D.
Emory University
Atlanta, Ga.
* Since first posting this my email has bounced back. I have sent a copy of the letter to the Argentinian headquarters of the SSPX, where Williamson is apparently currently based. I will also send one to the headquarters.

Internal Vatican Politics: How Has the Upper Hand?

Posted: 08 Feb 2009 06:11 AM CST

Der Spiegel has an interestng analysis of how this whole SSPX matter has brought aspects of internal Catholic "politics" to a head. [Before some readers jump on me for using the word politics please note: I put it in quotation marks. Also every entity -- family, commercial, social, religious -- runs on politics]

06 February 2009

Idiot Republicans

Which part of the memo did not Republicans get after November 4? Which part of the news are they having difficulty understanding? Unemployment figures are the worst in my lifetime and the Republicans, whose "voodoo economics" got us into this fix, are STILL proposing tax cuts to stimulate the economy? Ludicrous.

It's almost laughable if it weren't so pathetic. Don't Republicans understand that "tax cuts" are completely useless when the people (you and me) do not have any money to spend and therefore no taxes to pay? How can there be tax cuts when there is no money to spend? if banks are not lending, and they aren't, businesses cannot grow, and cannot hire people who would pay taxes. Tax cuts to businesses that are bleeding money and people do not care about tax cuts at this point. This just seems commonsensical to me.

There has to be bipartisan support for President Obama's stimulus package. Republicans need to get with the program and off their collective asses in order to avert a spectacular crisis the likes of which none of us can even imagine. Voodoo economics has been thoroughly discredited and it's time that rational Republicans and Democrats alike grow spines, swallow hard, and get behind the only thing that that is going to save this economy: spending programs that will put people back to work.

Randy Shiner

02 February 2009

27th Anniversary of the Hama (Syria) Massacre - 40,000 Killed by the Syrian Government

The Hama massacre (Arabic: مجزرة حماة) occurred on February 2, 1982 when the Syrian army bombarded the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood. Amnesty International estimates between 10,000 and 25,000 were killed at Hama.[1][2] The Syrian government has made no official claim about the number killed at Hama.


Syria had been deeply involved in Lebanon's Civil War since 1976 and the beginning of the 1982 Lebanon War. Problems also arose from Turkey, which mobilized troops on its borders with Syria primarily to deal with Kurdish rebels and accused Syria of supporting and training the PKK rebels within Turkey. The Muslim Brotherhood took advantage of this situation to start defying Hafez al-Assad's rule. It undertook guerrilla activities in multiple cities within the country targeting officers, government officials and infrastructure. The anti-regime violence included the killings of eighty-three young military cadets at an artillery school in Aleppo in June 1979, and three car bomb attacks in Damascus between August and November 1980 that killed several hundred people. In July 1980, membership in the Muslim Brotherhood was made a capital offense punishable by death, with the ratification of Law No. 49. Throughout the early 1980s the Muslim Brotherhood staged a series of bomb attacks against the government and its officials, including a nearly successful attempt to assassinate president Hafez al-Assad on June 26, 1980, during an official state reception for the president of Mali. When a machine gun salvo missed him, al-Assad allegedly ran to kick a hand grenade aside, and his bodyguard sacrificed himself to smother the explosion of another one. Surviving with only light injuries, al-Assad's revenge was swift and merciless: only hours later many hundreds of imprisoned Islamists were murdered in a massacre carried out by his brother Rifaat al-Assad in Tadmor Prison.

The Massacre

Calls for vengeance grew within the brotherhood, and bomb attacks increased in frequency. Events culminated with a general insurrection in the conservative Sunni town of Hama in February 1982. Islamists and other opposition activists proclaimed Hama a "liberated city" and urged Syria to rise up against the "infidel". Brotherhood fighters swept the city of Ba'thists, breaking into the homes of government employees and suspected supporters of the regime, killing about 50. The goal of the attack on Hama was to cease the rebellious activities of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. The assault began on February 2 with extensive shelling of the town of 350 000 inhabitants. Before the attack, the Syrian government called for the city's surrender and warned that anyone remaining in the city would be considered as a rebel. Robert Fisk in his book Pity the Nation described how civilians were fleeing Hama while tanks and troops were moving towards the city's outskirts to start the siege. He cites reports from fleeing civilians and soldiers of mass death and shortages of food and water.[3]

According to Amnesty International, the Syrian military bombed the old streets of the city from the air to facilitate the introduction of military forces and tanks through the narrow streets, where homes were crushed by tanks during the first four days of fighting. They also claim that the Syrian military pumped poison gas into buildings where insurgents were said to be hiding.

The army was mobilized, and Hafez again sent Rifaat's special forces and Mukhabarat agents to the city. After encountering fierce resistance, Rifaat's forces ringed the city with artillery and shelled it for three weeks. Afterward, military and internal security personnel were dispatched to comb through the rubble for surviving Brothers and their sympathizers.[4] Then followed several weeks of torture and mass executions of suspected rebel sympathizers, killing many thousands, known as the Hama Massacre. Journalist Robert Fisk, who was in Hama shortly after the massacre, estimated fatalities as high as 10,000 [5]. The New York Times estimated the death toll as up to 20,000.[1] According to Thomas Friedman [6] Rifaat later boasted of killing 38,000 people. The Syrian Human Rights Committee estimates 30,000 to 40,000 were killed. Most of the old city was completely destroyed, including its palaces, mosques, ancient ruins and the famous Azzem Palace mansion. After the Hama uprising, the Islamist insurrection was broken, and the Brotherhood has since operated in exile. Government repression in Syria hardened considerably, as al-Assad had spent in Hama any goodwill he previously had left with the Sunni majority, and now was compelled to rely on pure force to stay in power.

After the Massacre

Western countries denounced the attack as a breach of human rights and a massacre. In an official speech, Al-Assad called on those countries and the world not to harbour those who fled Syria and to consider them as a threat and terrorists. His calls fell on deaf ears. Most members of the Brotherhood fled mainly to Jordan, the U.S, England and Germany. Large numbers of them settled in the latter two, which granted them political asylum.

Locally, within Syria, the attack was publicized in order to act as a deterrent. However, even the most conservative (but not radical) elements within Syria did not rise to the aid of the Brotherhood, nor strongly expressed sympathy, largely because of the Brotherhood's violent means and actions, compared to Al-Assad's initial patience in dealing with them, until the attempt on his life and Hama's uprising. Thomas Friedman points out that never again have Muslim extremists threatened the Syrian government.

Even today the public at large is not well informed on the events in Hama, especially when compared with comparable or smaller events in Iraq, Lebanon, or in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Occurring eight months before the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, in comparison, Hama is heavily underdiscussed in both the media and in academic circles.

Hama, which had some small tourist attractions like open parks and water wheels, turned into a poor city. After the massacre most of its inhabitants moved away, and in their place came commoners from nearby villages.

See also


1. ^ Hama Rules The New York Times
2. ^ The Massacres of Hama: Law Enforcement Requires Accountability Syrian Human Rights Committee, February 1, 2005
3. ^ Pity the Nation, pages 185-86
4. ^ (The Age of Sacred Terror by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, Random House, c2002, p.86
5. ^ Pity the Nation, pages 186
6. ^ From Beirut to Jerusalem, pages 76-105


al-‘Arabiyyah in written Arabic (Kufic script):
Pronunciation: /alˌʕa.raˈbij.ja/
Spoken in: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman,
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February 2 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.


  • 672 - Death of Saint Chad, whose feast day this is.

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19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1950s 1960s 1970s - 1980s - 1990s 2000s 2010s
1979 1980 1981 - 1982 - 1983 1984 1985

Year 1982 (MCMLXXXII
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Homat el Diyar
Guardians of the Land

(and largest city) Damascus

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Hama (Arabic: حماه, meaning fortress) is a city on the banks of the Orontes river in central Syria. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate.
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The Muslim Brothers (Arabic: الإخوان المسلمون al-ikhwān al-muslimūn, full title "The Society of the Muslim Brothers
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Turkey [1] [2]

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The Muslim Brothers (Arabic: الإخوان المسلمون al-ikhwān al-muslimūn, full title "The Society of the Muslim Brothers
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Hafez al-Assad (Arabic: حافظ الأسد
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A guerrilla (loaned from the Spanish guerrilla, a diminutive form of guerra, war) is a body of fighters engaging in mobile asymmetric irregular warfare, which is now known as
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For other meanings, see Aleppo (disambiguation). Halab redirects here; for other meanings, see Halab (disambiguation).

مدينة حلب
City of Aleppo

Citadel of Aleppo
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Damascus Skyline

Nickname: (Al Fayhaa) The Fragrant City
Damascus' location within Syria
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"Un peuple, un but, une foi"
"One people, one goal, one faith"
Pour l'Afrique et pour toi, Mali
"For Africa and for you, Mali"
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Rifaat al-Assad (Arabic: رفعت الأسد) is the younger brother of the former President of Syria, Hafiz al-Assad, and the uncle of the current President Bashar al-Assad, all of whom come from the minority Alawite Muslim sect.
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Tadmor prison (Arabic: سجن تدمر) is located in Palmyra in the deserts of eastern Syria approximately 200 kilometers northeast of Damascus (Tadmor, or Tadmur
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Sunni Muslims are the largest denomination of Islam. Sunni Islam is also referred to as Sunnism or as Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘h (Arabic:
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19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1950s 1960s 1970s - 1980s - 1990s 2000s 2010s
1979 1980 1981 - 1982 - 1983 1984 1985

Year 1982 (MCMLXXXII
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The Arab Socialist Ba'th Party (also spelled Baath or Ba'ath; Arabic: حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي) was founded in 1945 as a left-wing,
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February 2 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.


  • 672 - Death of Saint Chad, whose feast day this is.

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Robert Fisk (born July 12 1946 in Maidstone, Kent) is a British journalist and is currently a Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent.[1] He was married to the American journalist Lara Marlowe.
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Amnesty International (commonly known as Amnesty or AI) is an international non-governmental organization which defines its mission as "to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity,
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Mukhabarat (مخابرات) is the Arabic term for intelligence, as in intelligence agency. Organizations using the name include:

In Egypt:
  • Al-Mukhabarat Al-'Ammah (General Intelligence Service)

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Robert Fisk (born July 12 1946 in Maidstone, Kent) is a British journalist and is currently a Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent.[1] He was married to the American journalist Lara Marlowe.
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The May 8, 2007 front page of
The New York Times
Type Daily newspaper
Format Broadsheet

Owner The New York Times Company
Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.
Staff Writers 350
Founded 1851
Price USD 1.
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