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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fisking a piece by a self-hating Israeli

A long-time reader was nice enough to forward a recent article by Ruth Tenne which appeared in 'The Palestine Chronicle' entitled "Britain's Arms Trade With Israel".  He (my reader) received it from a Muslim friend of his who sent it along with the following laconic introduction:

"it is an article from Israeli born Jew - some truth"

Truer words were never written. 

It is, indeed, a piece penned by an Israeli-born Jew... and in amongst the ax-grinding and obvious self-hatred there is a string of unrelated truths (however detached from the point of the thesis).

You can feel free to go read the whole thing if you like.  I'm not hiding anything by not presenting it here... I just didn't want to go to the trouble of getting permission to republish it on my site.  However, I couldn't resist offering my response in a forum that would invite measured feedback from a wide range of opinions.

So here is what I had to say:

The crux of the article seems to be comprised of unfounded alarm that Israel continues to inexplicably want to defend itself... and that countries in the West seem willing to continue helping it to do so. 

Totally absent from the article is even a hint of why Israel might require such an impressive array of arms.  And equally absent is any compelling LEGAL reason why Israel - as a sovereign country - should not be allowed to maintain whatever level of military readiness it deems necessary.

The author spends a lot of time and effort quoting UN Resolutions.  IMHO this is not a very convincing way to begin an argument since a quick stock-taking of all UN Resolutions seems to suggest that the institution was created with the sole purpose of issuing resolutions critical of a tiny country called Israel.

The author  also quotes 'Janes' regarding Israel's alleged nuclear arsenal as though their contention settles the matter once and for all.  This is quite cute as Janes is no more 'in the know' about Israel's actual capabilities than anyone else outside Israel's government.  The Janes reference is an attempt to sidestep the inconvenient fact that Israel's unconventional arsenal is all supposition that has never been officially corroborated. 

She also brings up the fact that "all Arab states [are] signatories" to the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty, as a demonstration that Israel is in the wrong.  The fact that "all Arab states [are] signatories" to the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty is like you or I promising not to grow wings and fly.  The simple fact is that it is easy for a country to promise not to proliferate nuclear technology or arms when, without extensive external assistance, none of them could hope to manufacture a marketable conventional weapons system, much less nuclear arms. 

Iran, being the sole exception to this rule, has actually proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the moment any Arab (OK nit-pickers, Muslim) country in the middle east gets nuclear know-how they will immediately thumb their nose at any and all international treaties/agreements ever conceived.

Other than that, the whole article is laughable from the standpoint of intellectual honesty and academic accuracy.  It is full of phrases that would not be allowed in any scholarly reference material. 

Some obvious examples:

"...the recent earth-scorching bombardment of Lebanon (summer 2006..." 

Um, I'm sorry, are there bombs available somewhere that I don't know about that somehow don't scorch the earth when they explode?  I know... I'm being facetious, but seriously, not even the harshest critics of Israel in the Lebanon war have accused her of carrying out a scorched earth policy.  If they had followed such a doctrine there would have been no need for a ground offensive at all!

"...the British Foreign Office's refusal to acknowledge and act upon the numerous reports by the UN , official bodies and peace organizations in Israel and the international community which routinely record the human rights abuses and the near collapse of the Palestinian economy..."

This is a good one as it not only tosses the generic hand grenade of 'human rights abuses' (without providing specifics) but also seems to blame the collapse of the Palestinian economy solely on Israel without assigning any culpability to the PA leadership's devastating decisions on how best to wage 'armed resistance' via a succession of Intifadas.

"The heavy bombardment of Lebanon in July- August 2006 and the continued onslaught on Gaza made British MPs aware of Israel's increasing threat to the region."

A classic straw man statement, not to mention that the bombardment of Israel from Lebanon and from Gaza (both of which are responsible for Israel's response) don't seem to be of concern to the author, and are somehow not considered threatening or destabilizing influences on the region.

"Saferworld -an independent think -tank against arms trade - recently proclaimed that "the violence in the Middle East is now alarming and the Government must now stop all arms sale to Israel""

Another fallacious argument since there is no demonstrated cause & effect between "arms sales to Israel" and "violence in the middle east".  On the contrary, most of the violence in the middle east is perpetrated by Arab actors... as often against other Arabs as against Israelis.

"...it seems that the British Government is not prepared to take any steps for ending Israel's escalating arsenal which has been used with impunity against the Palestinians and Lebanon."

'Impunity' is a deliberately prejudicial word which suggests not only a lack of legitimate motive, but also a complete disregard for consequences.  On the contrary, Israel has shown extreme restraint on both of the fronts mentioned, and only resorted to armed conflict when openly attacked from those areas.

"Being an Israeli-born citizen I may not be considered as an apparent supporter for imposing arms trade embargo and sanctions against my own country. Yet , I believe that the lack of any consorted action by Western governments to end the 40 -year long occupation of Palestinian land calls for exercising a tangible pressure on the Israeli state."

The author's nationality is not even remotely relevant to the positions she has taken.  It is simply a blatant attempt to claim some special knowledge or background by virtue of her birthplace which is not demonstrated anywhere in the narrative.  It is telling, though, that she refers to the "40 -year long occupation of Palestinian land" since it was from Jordan (a country that has officially relinquished all legal claims) that the land was captured, not from the Palestinians. 

No matter where one stands on the issue of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination, they technically have no legal claim to land captured from another country.  They were not a party to the conflict in 1967 and had no collective legal status (a status since granted partly by Israel) until years after the war was over.

The article is nothing more than a laundry list of arms sales by the UK to Israel intermixed with petulant fussing over the UK's frustrating (to the author, anyway) reluctance to conduct an economic boycott or arms embargo of the Jewish State. 

While the list of arms sales indicates a willingness on the part of the UK and other western states to continue to do business with (and thereby refrain from weakening) Israel, there is nothing whatsoever presented by the author to support the idea that cessation of such economic relations would in any way directly help the Palestinians... except perhaps in determining the outcome of a future military conflict between Israel and her neighbors.

The entire piece is simply an angry rant designed to resonate with readers who already hold a predisposition towards wanting to see a weakened and vulnerable Israel.  There can be no other reason for a desire to deny a sovereign state the ability to defend itself.

In short, when the author states, "the escalating arming of Israel has become a burning issue", the real truth is that it is only a 'burning issue' to those who want desperately to see Israel burn.

Posted by David Bogner on January 31, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Two truths and a lie...*

...or perhaps the other way around.  You decide:

[Today's real post has been indefinitely relegated to the 'cooling-off' file.  Sorry.]

1.  I drank my very first full cup of coffee (as opposed to taking a sip of other people's coffee and grimacing) when I was 20 years old.

2.  After a 'hazy' weekend spent in Tijuana with some sailor buddies, I once woke up with a marriage certificate stuffed in my pocket bearing my name and the name of a woman I had no recollection of ever meeting.  I haven't been back to Mexico since.

3.  I didn't have a 21st birthday.  I lost it while my ship was crossing the International Date Line.

Fellow bloggers/journalers: Feel free to try this one out on your own readership.

* shamelessly ganked from Lachlan

Posted by David Bogner on January 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Monday, January 29, 2007

Here we go again

A suicide bomber blew up in a crowded bakery in Eilat this morning killing at least three people. 

Fatah's Al Aksa Martyr Brigade (under the command of the 'moderate' PA President Abbas) has claimed credit.  Please note that a while back I promised that the fighting between Palestinian factions would eventually give way to each trying to prove their mettle by showing how badly they could bloody Israel's nose. 

Welcome to the future.

I wonder how our leadership will manage to justify continued restraint in the face of this assault.

Posted by David Bogner on January 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack


Excuse my 'French' with that title... but am I the only one confused and conflicted by the sudden outrage over Israel's use of cluster munitions during the war this past summer?

I don't understand why a few basic premises aren't crystal clear to everyone:

From the outset of hostilities, we were facing an enemy whose every weapon was deliberately aimed at civilian population centers, and whose rocket warheads were packed with ball-bearings designed to wreak maximum human casualties in Israel's cities, towns and villages.  Why is there no commission of inquiry looking into that?  Could it be that all Israelis are considered permissible targets?

Also untouched is the issue of Hizbollah rocket barrages leaving countless unexploded ordnance scattered across the north of Israel... a legacy that will surely continue to main and kill civilians for years to come.  Where will the UN be when an Israeli hiker or shepherd is blown up?

The existing agreements between the US and Israel (the terms of which are not fully public) seem to only allow Israel to to use cluster munitions against "an organized military force".  Forgive me for being cynical, but...

a) It isn't Israel's fault Hizbollah refuses to dress up in uniforms and wear recognized insignia and rank designations.  The fact that they have a name, a flag, an organized command and control structure, and an internationally recognized leadership / negotiating capability seems to satisfy the 'organized military' test as far as I'm concerned.


b) Israel has quite adequately explained that cluster munitions were used as a weapon of last resort in order to try to stop (or at least slow) the unabated rocket launches into Israeli civilian areas.  If Lebanese civilians were/are endangered by the aftermath of this use... perhaps they should have considered the potential consequences before allowing rocket launchers to be set up in their towns and villages.

If the US wants to stop selling cluster munitions to Israel, I have no problem with this.  Israel produces it's own brand of cluster munitions and I am genuinely interested to know why we didn't use those during the Lebanon war.  Clearly our air offensive had no tangible impact on the short /medium range rocket capabilities of Hizbollah, and the Israeli ground offensive was far too little and too late to stop more than a random launch.  Short of carpet bombing everything from the Litani River south, I don't think Israel had much choice in using ordnance that would quickly make large areas inhospitable to the opposing military force.  Again, that this military force (Hizbollah) decided to set up shop exclusively within civilian population centers should be on their conscience... not ours.

After the war I followed through with my promise to go back and read as many of the Lebanese bloggers as possible in order to see the war through their eyes.  I was quite moved by the wide range of opinions represented in the Lebanese blogosphere, and my hours spent reading their thoughts, dreams and hopes has certainly helped me to appreciate the human side of the equation that I willfully set aside during the conflict. 

However, nobody has been able to help me understand either the widespread popular support still enjoyed by Hizbollah, nor the prevailing apathy amongst opponents of Hizbollah for their military infrastructure being deliberately situated in their back yards.  All that blog reading I did has done nothing to help me square these well-spoken, intelligent human beings with the regrettable circumstances that forced Israel to drop weapons of desperation such as cluster munitions in their midst in order to try to stop the flight of Ketyushas. Conspicuously absent from the Lebanese civilian narrative during and after the war was unambiguous opposition (or even mild consternation) at the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians. 

Perhaps if I had noticed this sentiment amongst even a small percentage of the Lebanese bloggers I read recently, I might be experiencing more than small pangs of conscience at the continued toll that the cluster munitions are taking.

Posted by David Bogner on January 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Thank you to everyone for your patience with my spotty posting while I was away these past couple of weeks.  A more loyal and supportive group of readers a writer couldn't hope for!

I can't tell you how nice it is to be home.   My flight landed a few minutes before 4:00AM on Friday morning and after only a modest wait for my bags and the short line to clear customs, a waiting car took me on the hour drive to my house in Efrat. 

Stuck to the front door was a handmade 'Welcome Home Abba' sign which Ari and Gili had prepared. 

On the door was also a formidable lock.

Note to self:  In the future, make a note of where you put the house key so that you won't have to dump out the contents of your suitcase, laptop case and carry-on bag in the front yard at 5:45AM in order to gain access to your sleeping house.

Once inside (6:05AM), I got a proper welcome from the only member of the family who was awake at that hour; Jordan the wonder dog!  I stowed my bags out of the way and went around the house looking at my sleeping family.

Ariella and Gilad were snuggled deep under their comforters and each got a soft kiss on the forehead.  Yonah was in his bed doing his impression of a sleeping sky-diver with all his covers having been long-since kicked onto the floor.  I re-covered him and went to snuggle in next to Zahava.   

The last thing I remember before drifting off to sleep was Jordan jumping up onto the foot of my bed and curling up behind my knees... and resting her head on my foot.

In a few hours there would be time for kisses and hugs and lots of gifts to give.  But for now I was back where I belong... safe among those that I love.

Posted by David Bogner on January 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In which Zahava never lets David go anywhere alone, ever again.

Anyone who has ever traveled abroad for work... especially to developing countries... can attest to the fact that there is little glamour and even less time for playing tourist (much less relaxation).  14 hour work days are the norm and no matter how carefully you arrange your schedule something will happen nearly every day requiring that you reshuffle your plans.

However, despite the fact that I miss my wife and family more than words can describe and I never sleep well when away from them... there is something to be said for the hotels where they put us up.  Obviously security is a primary concern, but with added security comes a certain level of, um, luxury, that doesn't take much getting used to.

For instance, the hotel where I am staying here in Goa is actually a large compound that was litereally carved from the jungle along a huge stretch of beach.  Rather than being one large building, the resort is made up of dozens of smaller buildings that are connected by bridges and raised paths through the jungle.  Fresh water pools, waterfalls and scenery out of "The Jungle Book' is all one sees in every direction.

The rooms are set apart from one another and each is a self-contained building surrounded on three sides by water.

Here is the main room:

Off to one side is the essential work area. 

On the other side of the room is the entrance to the bath 'suite' (no joke)!

Yes, that pit you see in the background is actually the bathtub.  You walk down three steps to get into it, and the number of people it can accommodate would probably be illegal to attempt in most places.  Set into the ceiling is one of those giant shower heads that makes it feel like you are in a huge rainstorm... and next to the tub is a big dish of fragrant flower petals.

On the other side of the room is a set of glass doors that lead out onto a big covered balcony overlooking the pools and the jungle.  When I opened the drapes to take this picture several monkeys scurried off into the night.

Don't worry honey... I'll try to take you with me on my next trip.  :-)

Posted by David Bogner on January 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tradition and Women

I find it interesting that in many corners of the planet it is the women who, by choice or convention, tend to dress in traditional garb while the men... don't.

India is no exception to this trend.  While many men dress in traditional garb for ceremonial and festive occasions such as weddings holiday celebrations, for the most part they dress in western-style attire for both business and casual circumstances.

Indian women, on the other hand, are much more likely to wear traditional garb in their day-to-day lives.  Of course many women opt for western-style clothing here, but the percentage that opt for Sarees and Salwan & Kurtas (the long pajama-like tunic and pants often called a panjabi suit) is very high.

Here is a typical scene:

Here is another glimpse at some women in traditional attire (note the southern India tradition of putting fragrant flowers in the back of their hair):
See you in Goa later today.

Posted by David Bogner on January 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Monday, January 22, 2007

Haves... and have nots

One of the many things that has contributed to my sense of 'otherness' and cultural disconnect here is seeing the enormous gulf that exists between the wealthy (or at least upper middle class) and the poor.   Walking down the street you see young and old begging.  All of them are unspeakably dirty and many either have some sort of incredible deformity or are carrying filthy infants around to garner sympathy from passing tourists.

For their part, the locals seem to take no notice whatsoever of these street people and step around and even over them the way you or I might avoid dog droppings on the sidewalk.  I was briefed before my trip to NEVER give any of the beggars money because I would be instantly swamped by hundreds of them demanding handouts. 

Here are two pictures I snapped within moments of one another that I think aptly describe this vast gap  in the social  strata.

This is a beautiful hotel called the Taj in Mumbai.  It is an old Colonial-era building on the seashore that is in the center of a large area where tourists and locals stroll.

As I pulled up in a cab near the Taj a filthy street urchin stuck his head into the window and began demanding a handout. 

India seems to be all about contrasts.

Posted by David Bogner on January 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Postcards from the edge

OK, I guess I owe you some kind of explanation so here goes:

1.  I can't see my site.  Yes, that's correct... the part of India where I am (Mumbai) has my site blocked for some reason.  Therefore I had no idea that I had double posted my previous entry until a few kind souls clued me in. 

2.  I can read your wonderful comments thanks to the email notification, but I can't respond.  You see, responding to your comments would require me to be able to leave a comment of my own... which would require being able to actually see my site.  See item # 1.

3.  I have been working 16 hour days here and have had almost no time for personal stuff.  Touring has been slim to none... and even my family have had only the occasional phone call.  So if you're feeling neglected, get in line behind Zahava and the kids.

I have no idea if Delhi and Goa will be any better in terms of site access, but in case this situation continues for the duration of my trip I will simply post a couple of pictures every day or so... sort of 'postcards from the edge'.  Feel free to comment.  As I said, I can read your comments via the email notification... I just can't respond on-line.  If you say something truly inspired I'll probably send you a direct email response.

So here we go...

First up is a picture I took from the back window of my taxi of a family outing, India style.  Note that not only is the mother sitting side saddle (with a newborn on her lap out of sight), but there are a total of 5 people on this motorcycle! 

Next is flower stand where the flowers and customers seemed to be in competition for brightest colors:

Here is another pic of the side-saddle posture that I find so fascinating.  I understand why they are sitting this way (because of the saree), but how is it that they seem to have absolutely no fear of falling off?!


Last up for today is my nightstand in the hotel where I'm staying.  I'm used to finding the Gideon's Bible in the nightstand when I travel.  I usually just check i into the close so i can use the drawer for my tallit and tefillin.  But this time when I opened the drawer I noticed that the Gideon folks have some competition.  Along with the ubiquitous bible is a copy of Bhagavad-Gita.  Nice to see that they have all the bases covered.  :-)


I'll try to put up another postcard from the edge tomorrow night.

Posted by David Bogner on January 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Culture Shock on the Subcontinent

Posting may be sporadic... or perhaps a little disjointed over the next couple of weeks.  I am traveling around India on business with a very full schedule and spotty Internet access.

I'll begin by saying that for four years I lived the old saying 'Join the navy and see the world' ... an adventure which enabled me to visit about 30 countries before the age of 22.  I mention this because I am not the typical sheltered American when it comes to other countries  Before I visit a place I usually try to learn a few phrases in the local language and read up on the history and culture. 

This trip was no exception... however, there are some things one only notices/learns from visiting a country:

1.  Nearly the entire population of India seems to ride around on motor scooters and motorcycles. 

2.  Women in Saris sit side-saddle on the back of their husband's (or boyfriend's) scooters.

3.  I think I may die from sensory overload from the brilliant colors I see everywhere here... especially the brghlty colored Saris and Salwan & Kurtas (a long tunic worn with pantaloons underneath) worn by Indian women.

4. Service personnel here seem to be COMPLETELY focussed on the comfort and wellbeing of guests/customers.

5.  It is culturally jarring to have waiters, bellmen, hotel staff and shopkeepers stop whatever they are doing as I approach, bow their heads slightly and press their palms together (fingers upwards) in greeting.  I can't explain why.

6.  Women in southern India often wear incredibly fragrant flowers in their hair (usually woven into their braids). 

That's it for now... I'll check back later.

Posted by David Bogner on January 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Why didn't I think of that?

The other day I was driving through the outskirts of Be'er Sheva with one of my regular carpool-mates - an Israeli who was born and raised in London - in the passenger seat when we passed a Bedouin woman who was covered from head to toe in traditional  black veil and robes (niqāb and burqa). 

As we passed her, all sorts of thoughts swirled through my head:

  • How do her friends and family recognize her?
  • How does she recognize her girlfriends?
  • What kind of picture would they put on her driver's license or passport?
  • Is she cold or hot in that thing?
  • What if a Bedouin woman is claustrophobic?
  • Is that even a woman under there?

I've come to recognize that this sort of free-associating inner monologue is typically American, as we tend to be a bit more sheltered from other cultures in our formative years. 

On the heels of this jumble of unspoken questions came a mild wave of frustration that we Americans seem to lack the ability to exercise the economy of speech so  common amongst our UK counterparts.  I  tried to imagine how succinctly my British carpool-mate might have summed up the same observations I had mulled over as we passed this specter in black.

As if on cue, my passenger glanced casually over at the woman and remarked "Hmmm... she looks familiar."

Now why didn't I think of that?!

Posted by David Bogner on January 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Friday, January 12, 2007

Photo Friday (vol. LXXXVI) [Snowstorm edition]

I feel guilty that I haven't been able to pull together a Photo Friday in several weeks.  It's not that I haven't had pictures... it's just that I haven't had time to post them.

A couple of weeks ago we had a nice snowstorm here and I have been sitting on the pictures ever since.  So without further ado:

Here is a shot of the valley behind our house and a neighboring community community here in Gush Etzion (Neve Daniel):

Here is another view of the gush in the snow:

Our poor Lemon tree was buried... but seems to have survived the storm:

Of course, as soon as the snow began to fall heavily the roads were blocked with Israeli drivers who had no idea what to make of the white slippery stuff.  But that didn't stop some of us from putting on the X-Country skis and enjoying the lack of traffic!

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by David Bogner on January 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What sort of country is Israel?

Back in January of 2003, Prime Minister Tony Blair was addressing a gathering of British Ambassadors in London when his remarks turned to the topic of global anti-Americanism and why he felt the UK should remain a close - perhaps the closest - ally of the United states.

In the course of those remarks he said:

"For all their faults, and all nations have them, the US are a force for good; they have liberal and democratic traditions of which any nation can be proud."

I couldn't help but think to myself that the very same things would hold true if one were to substitute 'Israel' for 'the US' in that sentence. 

Now, Israel certainly has its fair share of warts that deserve analysis and criticism (if not from without, then certainly from within), but Israeli society has freedoms and western traditions that can only be considered to be in the best 'liberal and democratic traditions'... not to mention 'a force for good' in the region and among the nations.

However that wasn't the part of Blair's speech that really made me sit up and take notice.  No, the real money line was:

"I sometimes think it is a good rule of thumb to ask of a country: are people trying to get into it or out of it? It's not a bad guide to what sort of country it is."

While I'm certainly no fan of the 'separation/security fence' that has been the focus of such external scorn and internal agitation, PM Blair's remarks made me think of Robert Frost's famous Poem 'Mending Walls' in which he wrote:

"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out"

While the Israeli government likes to maintain the charade that it is indeed a 'separation' fence, intended to keep two populations from antagonizing one another, the obvious truth is that Israelis aren't struggling to get out and mingle with the Palestinians... the Palestinians are trying - for a wide range of benign and malignant reasons - to get in.

So I ask a simple question: If Israel is indeed the evil spawn of the 'great satan' and so unworthy of even the most basic recognition among the family of nations ... can someone please tell me why so many of our neighbors are quite literally dying to get in?


Posted by David Bogner on January 11, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Silly Headline Day at JPost

Today seems to have been a landmark day for silly headlines over at the Jerusalem Post.  Take, for example, these gems:

"Mofaz: Lebanon war objectives were not achieved"

You don't say!  And to think, it took a former IDF Chief of staff / Defense Minister to provide this scoop!

"IDF official: 6 mos. after war, army more prepared"

No rush fellas... Hizballah was back up to full operational strength in only 3.  Nice work!

"Simhon: We cannot compensate Gush Katif farmers"

Oh well... it's not like you guys promised or anything!

"PRC operative: Shalit is in 'good health'"

Honest injun.  Scout's honor.  Pinky-swear, even! 

"New York says foul odor may be New Jersey's fault"

Stop the presses!


Posted by David Bogner on January 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The Brother-In-Law

The annals of family humor are chock full of anecdotes about brothers-in-law. These stereotypical ne'er-do-well are traditionally a source of embarrassment for the long-suffering sister... and consternation (or worse) for her husband. 

In our family I'm the brother-in-law. :-)

You see, my younger sister married well. Very well.

Her husband seems to have succeeded at pretty much everything that has ever caught his interest... and his interests seem to know no bounds.

Food - He's a gourmet chef with a cutting edge kitchen and several complete walls full of cookbooks.

Wine - His 'EuroCave' is stocked with vintages I can't even pronounce, much less describe.

Sports - He's an avid cyclist who seems to hardly break a sweat riding a 'century' up to Bear Mountain and back.

Clothing - Jesse used to wear bespoke blazers and perfectly creased slacks to Sunday brunch at our place when we lived in Connecticut!

Erudition - Well, here's where I really start to fade fast in the rear-view mirror.  You see, my brother-in-law is a world-renowned lexicographer... not to mention one of the smartest people I know. 

I fancy myself rather adept with words.  For years I've been reading the NY Times - not because I like their editorial line - but for the high level of writing.  One day I opened up the Times to find a two-page center spread advertisement for the IBM Thinkpad featuring - you guessed it - my brother-in-law!  Nice!  Self-esteem takes a nice hit.

Speaking of 'The Times', I followed William Safire's 'On Language' column religiously for years... just to keep abreast of the latest buzz in the word dodge (it's always fun to get all snobby about some mistake in usage you were making until last week).  Then one day I found out that when William Safire needs an authoritative citation for some obscure slang word, he often quotes my brother-in-law. 

See what I mean?  How do you compete with that?!  :-)

The good news is that Jesse is pretty much impossible to dislike... and so far he has been nice enough to politely overlook any disparity in our respective book-learnin'.  And as a cherry on the cake... how can you not like a guy who wrote the authoritative reference book on the word 'F*CK'?

Anyway, I just wanted to alert you all to Jesse's latest interview on NPR.  He seems to get more press attention than Paris Hilton on a windy day.   But unlike Paris, Jesse's media exposure tends to excite the cerebral cortex rather than sending the viewer into 'libido overdrivus' (yes, all my Latin is borrowed from the sub-titles in Road Runner cartoons). 

I don't know what you call it when someone is unreasonably proud of a family member's accomplishments (for a parent, I think the technical term is 'Kvelling'), but if there is such a word, I'd bet money that my brother-in-law Jesse knows it. 

What, you're still here?  Go listen!

Posted by David Bogner on January 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Quote of the day

OK, it was actually from a couple of days ago but whatever the day, Beth of Blue Star Chronicles sure has a way with words:

"Apparently, when Palestinians have no one else to not get along with, they don’t get along with themselves."

Ya think?!

For those who haven't been following the blow-by-blow in Gaza, Fatah and Hamas have been murdering and kidnapping each-other's terrorists security personnel for the past couple of weeks and have even been whacking one another's outspoken supporters when the mood strikes them.  Of course, in the process they have been violating every convention ever dreamed of by the civilized world (targeting civilians, blocking ambulances from reaching wounded, attacking people as they emerge from Mosques, etc.) but don't expect to see the useful idiots of the European left complaining any time soon about such niceties.  After all, so long as Jews aren't doing the killing it's nobody's business... go on home... show's over people... nothing to see here!

On the face of it I should probably be delighted about this latest revelation to the world of the Palestinian's inability to get along peaceably with anyone... even their own.  Besides, any bullet they fire at one of their own is a bullet that won't find an Israeli target.  However if we've learned nothing else from recent history it is that the leaders of the various Palestinian militias will eventually figure out that the only way for a faction to reassert its supremacy is to demonstrate its superior ability to bloody Israel's nose.

Well, so long as they are busy introducing each other to allah I should at least hope and pray that someone in the world is taking note of the slaughter. 

Speaking of the world paying attention to slaughter, another timely bit I picked up from Beth is the death toll from the recent 'Hajj' to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  No, not the inevitable faithful who are trampled to death every year in the festivities but rather the animal sacrifices carried out as part of the annual rite.  Apparently the ritual sacrifice of animals this year topped 710,00 sheep, goats and camels!   

As Beth so aptly points out:

"Where is PETA when you need them? Oddly, they seem strangely quiet in the face of these sacrifices celebrating hajj.

Throwing paint on the fur coats of wealthy women in Manhattan is a little bit safer than protesting animal sacrifice in Saudi Arabia. I have to say, I’d have a lot more respect for PETA or other protesters if they’d take their protests somewhere besides the United States where there are no consequences for protesting and free speech."

Remember how PETA led the charge to ban Shechita (Kosher slaughter practices) in Europe and the US because it was cruel?  Remember how they wrote a letter to Yassar Arafat when the PLO strapped explosives to a donkey in an attempt to blow up Jews... not because they were worried about the Joos, but rather out of concern for the cruelty to the poor donkey

Double standard much?

But now when a bunch of Muslims from around the world whose only previous training as butchers is that they are, well, Muslims, hack away at three-quarters of a million terrified animals, PETA says... nothing.

I know I'll probably regret drawing a parallel between the two topics I've brought up today, but please consider the following:

When Muslims kill... whether it be other Muslims or animals... the world considers it an internal matter and barely differentiates between the severity of the two acts.  But when Jews kill Muslims or animals, both are held up as the savage acts of a cruel, depraved people.

IMHO, this is just another sure sign that we need to simply ignore what the world has to say about anything.  We have to kill to eat... and unfortunately (l'havdil) we sometimes have to kill to survive.  Both are our business and the rest of the world can just go eff themselves if they don't like it.


Posted by David Bogner on January 7, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The 'natives' are getting restless (again)

I'm always amused when pro-Pali (anti-Israel) blogs and news sources go to great lengths to assert that the Jewish residents of this region are all recent interlopers, while the 'native' Arab residents have long-standing, deep cultural and familial ties to the land.

For the record, I patently reject the Zionist myth of modern Jewish settlers miraculously finding 'a land without people for a people without a land'.  But 19th century Turkish/Ottoman-era maps, photographs and census documents provide incontrovertible proof that while both Jews and Arabs can claim a very modest presence in the land going back centuries... the overwhelming majority of current Jewish and Arab residents are descendants of parallel waves of immigration that occurred in modern times.

[Sheesh... if I had realized it would take two whole paragraphs to explain the 'scare quotes' in the title of this post, I would have picked another title!  :-)  ]

Clear so far?  Good... on to the rest of the post.

On December 25th our Prime Minister announced his decision (against the strong advice of senior IDF staff) to remove 27 roadblocks throughout Judea and Samaria as a 'gesture' to the Palestinian population in order to ease the plight of those who find it difficult to travel to work and to visit family. 

To place this decision in a different context which might be a bit more accessible to some of you... it would be roughly akin to President Bush ordering (against the strong advice of his Homeland Security Advisers) the removal of security screening facilities at a few dozen US airports as a gesture to the traveling public in order to ease the onerous burden of both business and recreational travelers.

To be even more base, it would be like a woman deciding to allow her boyfriend to go without 'protection' whenever they have sex on Tuesdays as a gesture of goodwill and so the experience will be more enjoyable for him... at least some of the time.

In short, while the sentiment behind Olmert's decision might be laudable, it is completely divorced from logic.  Either there is a compelling reason for the protection of security check-points or there isn't.  If not, then take them all down and open the roads.  But if you can't mount a reasonable argument for removing all the check points then you can't make a case for removing any of them.

I know... I know.  Some of you are already getting ready to explain to me that the checkpoints are 'only' in the west bank and not at the crossing into 'Israel proper'.  To you I would ask the following questions:

1.  Would it be OK for President Bush to only remove security checkpoints at small regional airports while leaving them in place at national and international 'Hubs'?

2.  Does the Government of Israeli have a lesser burden of responsibility to protect its citizens who are legally living in 'the territories' under it's direct control?

3.  Is there anything... anything at all... in the past performance of the Palestinians that would suggest that they will not immediately use this 'easing of restrictions' for cynical purposes that will ultimately cost Israeli lives - both inside and outside the green line?

To answer my last question (did you really think it was rhetorical?), we need look no further than the news* since the roadblocks began to be removed.  As if on cue there has been a huge increase in the number and severity of stonings and fire-bombings along the roads of Judea and Samaria. 

On the road I travel to and from work there have been nearly hourly reports of cars damaged by stones and Molotov cocktails since the restrictions began to be eased.

This defies logic!  One would think that increased violence would result form increased pressure/restrictions, right? 

But instead, each and every 'gesture' Israel has ever made towards easing the plight of the Palestinian population has resulted in increased attacks and violence.  Every attempt to make 'occupation' less onerous for the Arabs has been met with direct violence... and the one real test case for removing any semblance of 'occupation' (Gaza) has provided proof of the direst warnings that the response to autonomy would be increased attacks against Israel/Israelis.

I'm sure there are those of you who will 'pooh-pooh' and 'pshaw' the actual danger posed by stones and fire-bombs. Heck, many of us (especially those of us who don't live in Sderot) have already started mentally downplaying the danger of 'primitive' kassam rockets.   I would ask you to watch this short video before rushing to judgment about the danger posed by such improvised and home-made weapons.

To place these new developments on an even more personal level...while I have always taken the precaution of commuting to and from work with a loaded pistol tucked next to my driver's seat, I stopped wearing a bullet proof vest when the last Intifada seemed to have 'ended'. 

Now that the 'natives' are getting restless once again, I may have to seriously rethink that decision.

* Recent reports of attacks: here, here, here, and here. I looked for reports in Haaretz but apparently they are not aware of any attacks against Israeli citizens worthy of mention.


Posted by David Bogner on January 4, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The significance of routines

I'm sometimes surprised at the extent to which my children notice my little routines and semi-secret rituals.  For instance, one of the big kids is certain to comment if I fail to shake the packets of Splenda and flick them with my finger-tip before tearing them open for my coffee... or if I open a can of soda without tapping the top first. 

But the other night I realized that there was another set of eyes in the house taking note of my every move and gesture.

I've mentioned in the past that one of my evening rituals is to make a tour of the house to check that the doors are locked, the lights are out and that everyone is completely covered with blankets. 

This last bit is particularly important since all of our kids are pretty active sleepers.  Rare is the visit to one of the kid's bedrooms that doesn't require at least a small tug on the corner of a blanket.  Yonah takes the cake when it comes to being an active sleeper.  Even before he is fully asleep he has usually kicked off his blankets and knocked his toy cars and stuffed animals to the floor.  As a result, if I happen to get up for a drink while Zahava is doing her pre-bedtime NY Times crossword puzzle I will usually make an extra side-trip to Yonah's room to redistribute his toys and cover him up. 

This little ritual - whether coving up Yonah or one of the big kids - always ends with me giving the sleeping child a kiss on the cheek.  It never occurred to me that any of them might be aware of this... after all, the kiss was more for my enjoyment than for theirs.  And besides,they would always be fast asleep when I made my 'rounds'.

Well, the other night I went upstairs to the kitchen to get a drink for Zahava... and after giving it to her, I decided to duck into the nursery to re-cover Yonah.  Sure enough, his blankets were on the floor and I could just barely make out his sleeping form on the mattress. I covered him up quickly and stood there for a few seconds letting my eyes adjust to the darkness so I could see where his toys and stuffed animals had fallen.

Just then, I noticed two dark little eyes staring up at me from the pillow.  I wasn't sure if he was really awake so I stood silently in the dark waiting for him to return fully to sleep.  After a few more seconds had passed and he still hadn't closed his eyes I turned to tiptoe out of the room so I wouldn't further disturb him.

Suddenly a groggy little voice from behind me said, "Abba... my kiss."   

I guess one of my secret rituals wasn't so secret after all.


Posted by David Bogner on January 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

How do it know? (A PSA for Luddites)

There's an old joke about two rednecks - Bubba and Skeeter - shivering off the early morning chill out on their rickety bass boat, when Skeeter pulls out a thermos of coffee and starts to pour himself a steaming cup.  Bubba watches in blinking amazement for a couple of minutes and says, "Hey Skeeter,... I seen you put soda in that there thermos and it comes out cold.  I seen you put coffee in it and it comes out hot".  Skeeter nodded and said, "Yeah... so wut?"  To which Bubba reponded, "How do it know?!"

For those of you who keep blogs or journals and want people to actually show up after you've posted new content, pay attention... this post is for you:

Many web sites, blogs and journals have something called a blogroll... essentially a list of other sites, blogs and journals.  We'll leave aside for the moment whether the site-owner actually visits all the sites listed in his/her blogroll on a regular basis.  Let's just take it on faith that someone is theoretically clicking the sites listed in every blogroll, mmmkay?

Now, some of the blogrolls out there are static... meaning they are simple lists with hotlinks on each entry.  But many blogrolls out there are actually dynamic... meaning they can change order based on which sites have recently been updated with new content.  This is a fantastic time-saver since it saves readers from clicking over to a site, blog or journal that still has the same, stale post at the top from last week!

Which brings us back to our old friend, Bubba.  If he were fortunate enough to have Internet access in his double-wide trailer, he would probably be asking Skeeter; "How do it know when to move blogs to the top of the blogroll?"

The simple answer is: 'Magic'

No, actually that's just the answer I would probably run by the Bubbas of the world in order to see their mouths fall open in gap-toothed wonderment.  But then eventually I'd have to go on and explain to them about something truly magical called 'pinging'.

'Pinging' has a lot of definitions, but for the purposes of this post we'll limit ourselves to the following: 'Pinging' is what happens when a virtual shout of 'HEY YOU!' ... is sent from one site to another in order to say 'NEW STUFF IS POSTED OVER HERE!'

Some of you out there already use blogging software that automatically sends a 'ping' to sites like 'Blogrolling.com, Google, Technorati, blo.gs and weblogs.com whenever you post something new.  Basically, whenever you hit the 'Publish' button, a message/'ping' is sent to one or more of these sites telling them your site has fresh content.  They, in turn, send out a 'ping' to all the sites that have their blogroll code installed on them, and your site (if it is lucky enough to be included there) magically jumps to the top of the blogroll!

However, a lot of you out there either aren't using blogging software that automatically sends out an update 'ping'... or for some inexplicable reason you have this function turned off.  It's for you Luddites people that I've really written this post.

Take a moment and poke around the settings in your blogging software... in the preferences section... probably under 'publicity'.  If you have the option of automatically 'pinging' any or all of the sites I've mentioned above, PLEASE turn it on.  But if not, I would consider it a personal favor if you would take two seconds after you've posted something new to send a manually 'ping'. 

What's that you say? 

"How do we do that , Trep?" 

Well, I'm glad you asked!  Here, I'll use 'blogrolling.com' as an example of how to go about it:

If you go to www.blogrolling.com you will see on the left hand side of the page a menu option called 'Ping Form'... go ahead and click that.   Now type your site's title and URL (web address) into the appropriate text boxes and then click the 'Ping' button. 

It's that simple!

Oh... another thing.  If your site has more than one URL (e.g. treppenwitz is linked on various blogrolls as http://bogieworks.blogs.com, http://bogieworks.blogs.com/treppenwitz or www.treppenwitz.com), you will have to send a 'ping' for each URL each and every time you publish something new.

But wait, I can hear you saying "That's too much trouble, Trep... I don't want to go to a whole different web site each time I post a new entry!".  Fair enough... so I'll give you a little tech tip on how to do it from your favorites/bookmarks list:

  1. Enter a URL into your browser... any URL. 
  2. Now add this URL to your bookmarks/favorites
  3. Go to that entry on your list of bookmarks/favorites, but instead of clicking it with your left mouse button*, click it with your right mouse button and scroll down to 'Properties'  and click that with your left mouse button.
  4. Change the name (it might be on a different tab) to 'PING1' and copy and paste the following URL (both lines at once) into the text box (making sure to substitute your blog's URL for the letters in red):
    http://www.blogrolling.com/ping.php?pingform=single&title=treppenwitz&url_1=http://yourblogurlgoeshere.com/&submit=Ping .
  5. Before you click Save/OK, make sure you have replaced the letters that are in red (above) with your blog's URL.
  6. Click 'Save' / 'OK' and you're good to go!
  7. If you have multiple URLs, just do the same thing as many times as necessary and name the additional bookmarks 'PING2', 'PING3', etc.

Now, each time you post something new to your site, all you have to do to let everyone know about it is select 'PING1' from your bookmarks/favorites list, and voila!... just like that, somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia a redneck will stare in rapt amazement as your blog magically jumps to the top of the blogroll, and wonder, "How do it know?!"

Don't thank me... I'm a giver.

Warning:  Please don't abuse this feature.  A blogger I know (no, I'm not mentioning names) got into the habit of 'pinging' blogrolling.com whenever he was bored (and not when he had posted something new), just to see if he could get people to show up at his site.  This person is no longer on my blogroll.  You have been warned.

Additional Note: A previous treppenwitz Public Service Announcement explained the finer points of using trackback pings.  If you don't know about this, go read!

* I haven't given explicit instructions for Mac users because I figure you are already tech-savvy enough to know all this.  ;-)


Posted by David Bogner on January 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Monday, January 01, 2007

A year of wine... not just bubbles.

Here are a few odds and ends for the first morning of the [secular] new year:

1.  I feel like I totally caved by feeling compelled to insert the word 'secular' in brackets (above).  However, I know from experience that if I didn't do it, some zealot would bend my ear about "this isn't our new year, it is 'hukat hagoyim', yadayadayada...".  Note to zealots:  Please get over yourselves.  Unless you write '5767' on your mortgage checks you have absolutely no reason to get your panties in a twist over a total stranger (me) mentioning the start of 2007.

2.  I woke up feeling a bit nostalgic this morning... not so much for those innocent days when I had to beg my parents to let me stay up to watch the ball drop on TV and have a sip of 'Cold Duck'.  OK, maybe there was a little bit of that too... but mostly I got nostalgic for those moon-bats who created a whole cottage industries around Y2K back in 1999.  Remember them?  Not the computer geeks who actually had something constructive to do to make sure all our software kept working when the big odometer turned over... but rather the self-appointed prophets who came out of the woodwork to run $eminar$ on how to survive in the howling wilderness that would be left after civilization as we knew it came to an end.  These clowns were literally omnipresent, telling us to build shelters and stock them with food and weapons... convert our savings to precious metals... buy electrical generators and enormous fuel tanks to run them.  One pundit even predicted that in the wake of Y2K Duct Tape would become the new currency!  Where are these idiots now?  What turned out to be the next big batch of snake oil they went on to sell?

3.  Zahava and I didn't manage to stay up 'til midnight last night (old fuddy-duddies' that we are), but before I drifted off I was surfing my regular reads and noted a little tidbit on 'Book of Joe' about how to make your Champagne more bubbly.  Helloooo, is this really a problem?  Is there really a chronic lack of bubbles in the typical glass of sparkling wine?  Now don't get me wrong, I'm a HUGE Joe-head and usually can't get enough of the stuff he posts, but this one just didn't speak to me.  For those too lazy to click over, the solution is to wipe down the inside of the glass with a cloth or paper towel before pouring the Champagne.  The microscopic hollow bits of cellulose left on the glass apparently "act as 'nucleation' (bubble formation) sites".  My personal take on this is that anyone who feels the need to coax excessive bubbles from their 'bubbly' probably considers it more of a prop than a beverage.   Missing the point, people... missing the point.  [shakes head]

To everyone out there who is reading this on the groggy morning of 01/01/07, Happy [secular] New Year!  Look outside and marvel at the fact that civilizations continues to purr along quite nicely, thankyouverymuch... and if there is anything effervescent left in the fridge after last night's bacchanalia, pour yourself a bit and raise your glass to a year filled with wine... not just bubbles.


Posted by David Bogner on January 1, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack