Archive for May, 2010

Tolling Bells and Bagpipes

I didn’t really have a Memorial Day homily to share, and I don’t like to fake it—especially not on this day. But damned if one didn’t come to me anyway.

I was working in the yard when our local parade passed not far from the house, out of sight but clearly audible. Marching band, sirens, cheers, the usual stuff. And then a procession of bagpipes. Nothing else but bagpipes and a snare drum.

I stopped what I was doing and just stared ahead. The timbre may not be for some, but to me it is as haunting as a wolf’s howl under a full moon. Shortly afterward, a church bell started tolling. Maybe every ten seconds for fifteen, twenty minutes, relentlessly. The pipes moved on, fading into the distance, but the tolling persisted.

I think I know what this day means. It used to be called Decoration Day, and it began as a tribute to fallen Union soldiers after the Civil War—their graves were decorated with flowers and other garlands. I knew the earlier name from Charles Ives who wrote a piece by that title. It is vintage Ives: chaotic, nostalgic, riotous, cacophonous. (You can hear it here.)

But a short passage he wrote to describe the piece struck me as familiar:

“In the early morning of a Memorial Day, a boy is awakened by martial music — a village band is marching down the street — and as the strains of Reeves’ majestic ‘[Second] Regiment March’ come nearer and nearer — he seems of a moment translated — a moment of vivid power comes, a consciousness of material nobility — an exultant something gleaming with the possibilities of his life — an assurance that nothing is impossible, and that the whole world lies at his feet.”

I, too, had a feeling of an “exultant something”, on hearing the bagpipes, though a different exultant something.

I thought about our need to pay tribute, our strong urge to remind ourselves that others are not forgotten. For some who have lost a son, a father, a wife, it may help. For others, and I’m thinking of Cindy Sheehan, they evidently no solace from honors, tributes, decorations. She is spending this Memorial Day honoring the terroristic dead of the “Freedom Flotilla” (aka the Kamikaze Konvoy), and calling for—oh, who cares what she’s calling for.

I can’t know Cindy Sheehan’s mind, and don’t wish to. But I wish she could find solace in the choice her son Casey willingly and proudly made: to serve his country. She did for a while, reluctantly perhaps, and even got to meet President Bush (if a blurry picture is to be believed). But on this day that an entire nation stops to honor the fallen in its wars, to decorate their graves, she is silent on the subject, and offensively hate-filled on another. And I think that’s sad.

Another summer has come, when we feel most American with our beach trips, our cookouts, our ball games. But the world is a little lighter than it was last year at this time, and a few familiar faces are missing from the picnic. I don’t know them or their pasts, and can only guess at their futures. I suppose they were the “exultant somethings” I was thinking of.

But I knew my words would be inadequate. I’ll conclude with how I began—with pipes.


The Wolf is at the Chador


It’s a controversial time for British women to be wearing the hijab, the basic Muslim headscarf. Last month, Belgium became the first European country to pass legislation to ban the burka (the most concealing of Islamic veils), calling it a “threat” to female dignity, while France looks poised to follow suit. In Italy earlier this month, a Muslim woman was fined €500 (£430) for wearing the Islamic veil outside a post office.

And yet, while less than 2 per cent of the population now attends a Church of England service every week, the number of female converts to Islam is on the rise. At the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park, women account for roughly two thirds of the “New Muslims” who make their official declarations of faith there – and most of them are under the age of 30.

Conversion statistics are frustratingly patchy, but at the time of the 2001 Census, there were at least 30,000 British Muslim converts in the UK. According to Kevin Brice, of the Centre for Migration Policy Research, Swansea University, this number may now be closer to 50,000 – and the majority are women. “Basic analysis shows that increasing numbers of young, university-educated women in their twenties and thirties are converting to Islam,” confirms Brice.

“Our liberal, pluralistic 21st-century society means we can choose our careers, our politics – and we can pick and choose who we want to be spiritually,” explains Dr Mohammad S. Seddon, lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Chester. We’re in an era of the “religious supermarket”, he says.

I have no problem with a “religious supermarket”, but in many Muslim countries, only one item is offered for sale. But you get what you pay for. I just hope for the sake of the tens of thousands of British women that they’re happy with their purchase, because Islam is not famously known for a generous policy on exchanges.

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Premature Jubilation

[New, improved post title]

The gay couple arrested, then pardoned, in Malawi had better keep their celebrations chaste and above… board:

Two gay men jailed in Malawi but later pardoned by the country’s President Bingu wa Mutharika have been released from prison, say reports.

But Patricia Kaliati, Malawi’s Minister of Gender and Children, said Monjeza and Chimbalanga’s release did not mean they could continue their relationship.

“It doesn’t mean that now they are free people, they can keep doing whatever you keep doing,” she said.

Ms Kaliati said they could be rearrested if they “continue doing that”.

Doing what? Specifics, please.

And what exactly does a minister of Gender and Children do?

The men’s lawyer said they were unlikely to be treated in the same way if they were arrested again.

“The pardon only applies to the offence under which they were convicted. If, for example, they go back and the state is of the view that they have recommited the offence, the pardon will not apply,” said Mauya Msuku.

Right. Some pardon.

But Ms Kaliati insisted that the president had not bowed to international pressure in releasing the men.

She said Malawi would not now reconsider its laws against homosexuality.

“We have our own rules and laws which we are following, and our own constitution. Our constitution is not the same as your constitution,” she said in her BBC interview.

Many of Britain’s former colonies have similar laws outlawing homosexuality – India overturned it last year.

In Uganda, MPs are debating whether to strengthen the laws to include the death penalty for some gay people – a move which has infuriated Western governments and human rights campaigners.

How ironic that former British colonies are the least tolerant of homosexuality…

We here at BTL, in company with the Secretary General of the UN, need to temper our pleasure at the initial decision.


Guess Who’s Coming to La Cena?

I’m sorry Mexico is Mexico, I really am. But as long as it is, can we just keep Mexico in Mexico?


Between 20 and 25 bodies, thought to be the victims of drug gang violence, have been found in an abandoned silver mine in southern Mexico, officials say.

The bodies appeared to have been thrown down a 200m (650ft) ventilation shaft over a period of time, police said.

The mine is near the city of Taxco in Guerrero state, a focal point for drug-related violence that has claimed some 23,000 lives nationwide since 2006.

I’m reminded of the fascistic juntas in South America that used to throw detained suspects (suspected of what I don’t know) out of airplanes, alive (though not for long).

Let me put it this way: if Somalia were our neighbor to the south, would the open borders advocates still carry on about one American continent? How about 1990s Serbia? I’d take the Congo and the Lord’s Resistance Army over the Mexican drug cartels any day.


When Barry Met Louis

The s**t hits the Farrakhan:

[Obama] was across the street and several hundred feet away from the [press] pool’s van, at the home of longtime friend Martin Nesbitt for a cookout.

At 7:20 local time the pool was holding at Woodlawn and 49th, next to a large sandstone mansion that the Chicago reporters say is the home of one Louis Farrakhan. Our Secret Service agent allowed us off the bus (Air!) and as a dozen of us congregated on the sidewalk, inevitably some shoes touched grass.

Immediately a polite man in jeans and T-shirt emerged to ask us to stay off the grass. Though this grass was the curbside city property, we obliged.

Soon, however, he was pacing and talking on a cell phone.

Soon he approached our agent, asking him to move the van and its occupants, though your pooler could not hear much else he said. But the agent said, “How is this a security breach?”

The man said something else and at that point the agent stuck out his hand to shake hands and introduced himself as a Secret Service agent. He added, “Sir, I can assure you that we will do nothing to interfere with whatever is going on in there.”

Just to recap: a press pool has staked out Omoeba’s (sorry, Amboa’s) cookout—which happens to be across the street from Farrakhan’s pad—when some of the Minister’s private security take issue with the Secret Service of the United States of America.

To continue:

Reinforcements arrived — three men in T-shirts reading “Wide or Die!” One surly man has been staring daggers at us. Asked if this is Minister Farrakhan’s house, he just stared at your pooler. Asked again, he said, “I don’t have no comment.”

It’s 8:45 and nearly dark; your pool has retreated back inside the van. We’re outnumbered now by roughly a dozen Fruit of Islam agents for the Nation of Islam. As each casually dressed man arrives, he exchanges elaborate handshake/hug/double air-kisses with others. Two walked by your pooler chanting “Islam.”

Several have filmed and photographed your poolers, the van and its license plates with their cell phones.

One came and stood close to a couple poolers and OUR [Secret Service] agent. He [the Secret Service agent] asked if he could help. No answer. He asked again. The man said no. The agent said, “Secret Service — Please move away from this group of people.”

9:20 local time and our agent got reinforcements from three Secret Service agents. One shook hands with one of the 22 Fruit members we now can count from the van.

Standoff ends, apparently with help of intermediary in Detroit:

Your pooler got a call at about 10:15 local time from a pool report reader who identified himself as the Rev. Gary Hunter, a Baptist minister in Motown who writes and blogs for the Detroit Times. He said he had called Minister Farrakhan and his son and asked them to have the Fruit stand down.

“I told him you were good people,” Rev. Hunter said. “He said he didn’t know you all were just waiting for the president.”

Wait a minute.

Are you trying to tell me that Farrakhan had no idea Omoeba was in town? Doesn’t he read the news? (Everyone knew.) And his entourage was ready to go toe-to-toe with the Secret Service? Until a Baptist minister hundreds of miles away, who happened to be reading the reports in real time, made a phone call? Is that what you expect us to believe?

It may have happened like that, but something else was going on, too.


Gilligans Turned Hooligans

So much for that peaceful little convoy of ships, loaded only with Pop Tarts and sardines. It was armed like your average Gaza family picnic—which is to say: to the teeth.

International activists aboard the flotilla of ships on their way to the Gaza Strip opened fire on IDF soldiers who boarded the ships to prevent them from breaking the Israeli-imposed sea blockade, the IDF said Monday.

According to the IDF, the international activists “prepared a lynch” for the soldiers who boarded the ships at about 2 a.m. Monday morning after calling on them to stop, or follow them to the Ashdod Port several hours earlier.

According to IDF reports, at least 15 activists were killed during the ensuing clashes and dozens were wounded. Some of the wounded were evacuated to Israeli hospital by Air Force helicopters.Five Navy commandos were also wounded, some of them from gunfire.At least 2 soldiers were seriously wounded.

In international reactions, Turkey, Sweden and Greece summonsed their Israeli ambassadors for discussions on the violence.

Here’s your discussion: far from being the peace-loving, innocent “activists” the soft-headed aiders and abetters of terrorism took them for, the Palestinian militants were little more than street corner thugs, ready to ambush their rival gang. Israel always said they would permit the shipment to dock in Israel, for screening of weapons and explosives, then forward the humanitarian goods (such as were left) on the Gaza.

This episode proves them absolutely right.

Upon boarding the ships, the soldiers encountered fierce resistance from the passengers who were armed with knives, bats and metal pipes. The soldiers used non-lethal measures to disperse the crowd. The activists, according to an IDF report, succeeded in stealing two handguns from soldiers and opened fire, leading to an escalation in violence.

“It was like a well-planned lynch,” one IDF officer said. “These people were anything but peace activists.”

The IDF said that the ships would be taken to the Ashdod Port where, despite the violence, the cargo that are carrying will be inspected and then transferred to the Gaza Strip via land crossings.

I’ve been reading references in the press to the possibility of nonviolent protest taking hold among the Palestinians. The stories suggest that the models of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. are inspiring Palestinians to change their message and tactics.

Fat chance. When you name town squares, streets, and summer camps after mass-murdering, terrorist pig entrails like Dalal Mughrabi, the likes of Rosa Parks doesn’t appeal. You’re more likely to blow up the bus than boycott it.

This was no Exodus, as some people obscenely claimed, it was a planned execution—by the Palestinians. The Pop Tars were cover.

PS: The fact that the shipmates were recorded singing this chantey should have been a clue: “Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad saya’ud,” which means ‘Jews, remember Khyabar, the army of Mohammed is returning.’” (Al Jazeera clip here.)

PPS: Blue Heron Blast concurs.

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Finding Out What’s in the Bill

I think I’ve figured out why the MSM cheered so hard for the passage of the health care bill: it would provide great story fodder.

It has been promoted by the Obama administration as one of the most tangible and immediate benefits of the new health care law — a tax credit for small businesses to help them offer health insurance to their workers.

But many Massachusetts small business owners who employ mostly family members are discovering fine print in the new law that disqualifies, or substantially limits, their tax credit.

That language says family-owned businesses are not allowed to count employees who are also family members toward the credit, which is retroactive to January.

Marcia Capobianco, a bookkeeper at her family’s Accurate Automotive shop in Hyde Park, was stunned when the family’s business consultant recently gave her the bad news.

“We are just trying to make a living,’’ she said. “I have been going frantic trying to figure out what I am going to do about health insurance.’’

Like many other small business owners, the Capobiancos have weathered double-digit increases in insurance rates, so they were eagerly anticipating a tax credit that would help defray some of their costs.

But the company only has one worker who is not a family member, which means the $3,800 annual credit they were counting on for the four-person shop — including Capobianco’s two sons — shrinks to less than $1,000.

“I guess,’’ Capobianco said, “we’re just peons.’’

Acceptance is the first step toward recovery, honey. To Barack Omoeba, we’re all just peons, clinging bitterly to our guns and religion—and our family.

It’s understandable: he’s got family living all over the planet, from shacks in Kenya to the projects in Boston. And he ignores them all. He doesn’t see the attachment.

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Chantey S**theads

Because it’s all about bringing Cheeze-Its and Mallomars to the Palestinians:

According to a Foreign Ministry press release, participants on the flotilla were recorded shouting “Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad saya’ud,” which means ‘Jews, remember Khyabar, the army of Mohammed is returning.’ This cry relates to an event in the seventh century when Muslims massacred and expelled Jews from the town of Khaybar, in modern-day Saudi Arabia.

“Israel condemns the anti-Semitic chants that were publicized this morning,” Ayalon said. “This amply demonstrates that many are not against a particular policy of the Israeli government, but have very real and dangerous hatred for Jews and the Jewish State.”

He further noted that “the main organizer of the flotilla is an extremist Islamic organization with ties to Hamas and global Jihad and it is unfortunate that there are those who are duped into thinking that this exercise has anything to do with humanitarianism or human rights.”

So, how’s the fleet of anti-Semitic argonauts going?

Technical problems delayed the Gaza protest flotilla for ten minutes on Sunday evening as it continued to make its way to Israeli waters, but the organizers aboard the ships claimed it had resumed its voyage.

The Israeli Navy, monitoring the ships, reported there was “hardly any movement” among the group.

If I amy suggest another chantey, more in keeping with their skills:

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from this tropic port,
aboard this tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty sailin’ man,
the Skipper brave and sure,
five passengers set sail that day,
for a three hour tour,
a three hour tour.

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Outrage of the Day, Week, Month, Year

Auntie Zeituni gets to stay, while this guy is persona non grata

The “Son of Hamas,” whose recent book reveals his path to Christianity and exposes Hamas terrorism and his role as a secret agent for Israel, says that U.S. Homeland Security wants to deport him on charges that he is a terrorist.

Writing on his publisher’s blog, Mosab Hassan Yousef expressed his “outrage” and described what he called a “security system that is so primitive and naive that it endangers the lives of countless Americans.” Yousef wrote that he faces a deportation hearing on June 30 at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration Court in San Diego.

He questioned why he is being deported. “For what? For risking my life fighting terrorism in the Middle East for 10 years? For saving the lives of Israelis, Palestinians and Americans?”

Absolutely. We can’t have that. We prefer our criminal aliens to live (illegally) in public housing and to contribute (illegally) to President Omoeba (sorry, Amboa), after having defied (illegally) a deportation order. That’s your route to asylum, my friend, not this weird Christianity thing you’re on.


Waiting on the Robert Ali

The flotilla will be here any minute… any minute now… I think I see it… no… no, that’s a fly on my in lens… it’s just over the horizon… just over… almost here… al-l-l-l-l-most:

[They don't look all that urgent, do they?]

The international “blockade-breaking” aid flotilla aimed to set sail from Cyprus to Gaza Strip has been postponed again, and will apparently arrive at Gaza’s shores on Monday morning, organizers said.

The small fleet of eight vessels, carrying supplies and pro-Palestinian activists, were originally scheduled to arrive in Gaza on Saturday, but has repeatedly postponed its departure.

The countdown has begun, activists told Ynet Saturday evening, adding that three freighters and two ships would set sail for Gaza on noon Sunday.

So disregard my earlier post saying the ship would be late, but definitely there by Saturday afternoon. Its 10,000 tons of aid (about five days worth of what Israel allows in every week) will just have to rot a little bit longer.

Israel is monitoring the position of the vessels closely. The sail has been postponed several times after two of the ships suffered technical malfunctions – which some tried to blame on Israel.

An Israeli source dismissed the allegations at “utter nonsense meant to disguise the poor organization of the sale.”

The IDF is concerned that terrorists may try to use the sail to infiltrate Gaza Strip and smuggle in arms.

Which, considering they use baby carriages, ambulances, and most recently donkeys to smuggle and detonate weapons, is not farfetched.

PS: I noted earlier (both in this post and an earlier one) that Israel allows in 30-70% more aid every week than will be delivered by these late, broken down, rusty buckets. Let me also here note that hundreds of Gaza residents enter Israel every week for medical treatment or other reasons. Hundreds. Yet not one of them is named Gilad Shalit.

And when his family asked the “blockade breakers” to bring a care package to Gilad—with the promise of putting in a good word with the Israeli government—they said “screw”. They would rather be turned away by the Israelis than deliver a poppy seed bagel with a schmear to a kidnapped Jewish soldier. That’s their humanitarianism.


Gaîté Africaine

Good on you, President Mutharika:

A gay couple jailed in Malawi after getting engaged have been pardoned by President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Mr Mutharika, speaking as UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited his country, said he had ordered their immediate release.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were given 14-year jail terms earlier this month after being convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts.

The case has sparked international condemnation and a debate about homosexuality in the country.

Mr Ban hailed the president’s decision as “courageous”.

Correspondents say Malawi is a deeply conservative society where religious leaders equate same-sex liaisons with Satanism.

Mr Mutharika, who has in the past dismissed homosexuality as alien, said he had set them free on humanitarian grounds.

“In all aspects of reasoning, in all aspects of human understanding, these two gay boys were wrong – totally wrong,” he said after meeting Mr Ban.

“However, now that they have been sentenced, I as the president of this country have the powers to pronounce on them and therefore, I have decided that with effect from today, they are pardoned and they will be released.”

I’m not going to tell President Mutharika that he’s wrong: that’s how he and his society (many to most of them) feel. But I will say that I’m pleased that he saw fit to pardon, if not decriminalize, homosexuality. Or at least these two gay boys.

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Wow, Cindy Sheehan Was Right

Not about President Bush.

About President Omoeba (sorry, Moaba):

Since the day the Nobel Laureate was sworn is as emperor, he has increased the use of CIA controlled drone bombings in Pakistan. In fact, the raw numbers are triple those of the final five years of the Bush regime. Obama is the Drone Bomber for sure and thousands of civilians have been killed or chased from their homes into filthy refugee camps by Obama’s war of terror.

To these people, joking about dropping Hellfire missiles on the Jonas brothers is no laughing matter. Are presidents really that freaking insensitive, or do they just not care if their “jokes” are in the poorest of bad taste?

Yes, if you haven’t heard, Obama did inform the Jonas brothers who were in attendance at the dinner that if they had any romantic designs on his two young daughters that he would target them with “Predator drones.”

From the NY Times:

The American military released a scathing report on Saturday on the deaths of 23 Afghan civilians, saying that “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting by a team of Predator drone operators helped lead to an inadvertent airstrike this year on a group of innocent men, women and children.

The report said that four American officers, including a brigade and battalion commander, had been reprimanded, and that two junior officers had also been disciplined. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who apologized to President Hamid Karzai after the attack, announced a series of training measures intended to reduce the chances of similar events.

That’s all well and good—but don’t give up the Drones. After the catastrophe in the Gulf, Obama has understandably (wrongly, but understandably) run away from all off-shore drilling. You might similarly expect him to ban the use of these “indiscriminate” killers from the sky.

He won’t—because, unlike the oil, Afghani villagers explode far from prying cameras—and he shouldn’t. They are too valuable. There are those who say that such “arcade” warfare is immoral, that to rain down hellfire and brimstone on our enemies without any risk to ourselves is wrong. I don’t see it. A moral people (as I believe we are) ought to use whatever means they can to defeat their enemies with the least damage to innocents and to themselves. These Drones, while not perfect, accomplish just that.

You can chastise me for overlooking this wrongful death, but I don’t. The Taliban are still over there, and still a threat to many over here and there (and in between). If we are to fight them at all (you are free to dispute that if you like), I’d prefer the use of a Drone over conventional methods with their own misdirected blasts and unintended consequences. And I sure as hell prefer them over nuclear weapons.

Now, you can really chastise me for observing that if we had been using the Drones in Iraq in 2004 (or more of them, if we were using them after all), Casey Sheehan, who volunteered and served proudly and honorably under his commander in chief, President Bush, might be alive today.

Have at me.


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