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Monday, July 10, 2006

treppenwitz scavenger hunt

Shortly after we got married, Zahava and I bought out first apartment in Brooklyn.  One of the things I remember from our time there was frequently seeing an imaculately kept garbage truck pass through our Midwood neighborhood which had the following words painted in huge letters on both sides:

"Satisfaction guaranteed or double your rubbish back!"

Now that's a Brooklyn sentiment if ever there was one!

Why am I telling you this?

I'm telling you because I woke up in a foul mood this morning (mostly because I went to bed in a foul mood last night)... and with a terrible headache to boot.

I feel like someone who made the mistake of complaining to that Brooklyn rubbish company... and who was 'lucky' enough to find out the hard way that they were more than happy to make good on their generous guarantee.

I'm sorry Zahava.  I'm sorry Ariella.  I'm sorry Gilad.  I'm sorry Yonah.

I'm sorry I was such a turd yesterday.  I'm sorry I was such an ogre.  No excuses. 

Turd.  Ogre. Me. Sorry.

While I will obviously try to make up with my family for my really vile behavior... since you treppenwitz readers had to suffer through this painful private moment, I have a consolation prize to offer you. 

The first person to find (and email me) a picture of that Brooklyn garbage truck (No fair Photoshopping the words on a picture of a random garbage truck), will receive from me a genuine, new (still in the wrapper) Moleskine Pocket Diary... the official pocket diary of treppenwitz since 1994.

I have yet to locate a picture of this garbage truck on the web, but I can't imagine that something so witty has escaped being immortalized somewhere on the Infobahn.

Thank you for indulging me this selfish use of my journal space today... and of course, good luck to all the eager scavengers.


Posted by David Bogner on July 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sensing a small double standard

I must admit I almost deleted today's post.  The reason being that we Israelis have quite enough on our collective plate just now without any internecine finger-pointing and blame-storming.

However I have honestly been trying to take a step back (as so many have suggested) and look at the current political and strategic landscape from the perspective of a few years rather than only a few days.   

I admit it is very tempting to fall into the trap of reacting to only the most current/pressing crisis.  But when I look a the political and strategic landscape from 30,000 ft. instead of 300 ft., I see a very troubling trend.

In the run up to disengagement I listened very closely to the arguments being offered by both sides of the issue:

On the left was a large portion of the Israeli electorate who were ready and willing to turn a blind eye to our failure to win the slightest political capital from either the Palestinians or the International community, with previous territorial concessions.  This despite assertions (that have now been confirmed by the former IDF Chief of Staff) that little or no strategic planning took place prior to disengagement, and that a hard right wing PM's sudden co-opting of his political rival's agenda was conceived exclusively to provide Ariel Sharon with covering fire as he sought an escape from imminent legal woes.

On the right were a lot of people who were willing to ignore (or even actively deny) that that a total Jewish population of less than 10,000 in Gaza after more than 30 years of active recruitment and government incentives was a dismal failure that could no longer be ignored.  People who had actively ignored Gaza for a generation suddenly started flocking there in droves like a spoiled child who suddenly notices a discarded toy only when his parents threaten to give it away.

At the time I grudgingly bought into the need for some kind of strategic retrenchment based solely on the numbers issue associated with the failed settler enterprise in Gaza.  But the Sharon/media steamroller that was used to surge ahead with the disengagement seemed more intent on punishing the hapless Gaza settlers than on demonstrating any strategic benefit to the nation.   

During disengagement, many otherwise sensible people parroted Sharon and his media 'amen choir', telling me (in extremely direct terms) that Israel had to give up Gaza in order to improve our ability to respond militarily... and to provide the Palestinians with autonomy over their own population so a military option wouldn't be necessary in the future. 

I was also assured that this would provide Israel with significant political capital with the Palestinians (not to mention with the International community), giving us more future bargaining power should the Palestinians fail to act like partners for peace. 

I remember at the time quoting the old saw that 'the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results'.  But any suggestions by me that unilateral concessions/appeasement had never provided positive positive results with the Palestinians in the past (quite the opposite, in fact), were shunted forcefully aside as unpatriotic and dogmatically hawkish. 

I was assured that once we were out of Gaza we would be better able to defend ourselves... and that even the smallest provocation from within the newly judenrein Gaza would be dealt with swiftly now that there would be no worry about Israeli settlers being used as proximity hostages against large-scale retaliation.  Several people even emailed me quotes from the recently beatified St.Rabin's old campaign speeches in which he called predictions of Palestinian missiles falling on Ashqelon "alarmist fear-mongering on the part of the Likud".

What seems to be lacking these days is a taking stock of lessons learned. 

Call it saying 'I told you so'.  Call it 'finger pointing'.  But if both sides of the political aisle were making bold claims and issuing dire warnings a year ago, it seems to me that at some point an assessment must be made of who's predictions turned out to be correct.

In the 11 months since disengagement every single warning that the anti-disengagement lobby issued has come to pass.    I'm not normally so organized, but for some reason I actually took the time to write down most of these warnings that were cast aside in the blind rush to move ahead with disengagement. 

Warnings that...

... unilateral retreat from territory would be perceived by the Palestinians as weakness and/or surrender in the face of terror.

... little or no strategic planning had gone into assuring the political/military stability of Palestinian Gaza after withdrawal.

... little or no logistic planning (i.e. housing, jobs, schools etc.) had gone into providing for the Israeli citizens who would have to be relocated from the evacuated communities.

... once Gaza became PA-controlled territory the IDF would no longer have the necessary freedom-of-movement to protect Israeli communities within striking range of Palestinian infiltrators and missile crews in Gaza.

... Gaza would immediately become a central base of operations for every terror group on the planet (many of whom could could not possibly care less about the wants/needs of the Palestinian people).

... that sophisticated weapons would flow into Gaza via Egypt despite the good intentions and promises of International observers.

... by seeming to reward terror with territorial concessions we would be pushing the Palestinian population directly into the arms of militant factions such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad that advocate violent struggle rather than a negotiated diplomatic solution.

... once the inevitable infiltrations and missile attacks began, we would end up having to re-take large swaths of Gaza at considerable risk to our soldiers... not to mention squandering the questionable political capital we may or may not have built up with the International community.

Yet now that I have tried several times to begin such a discussion of current events with friends who, a year ago, dismissed these warnings out of hand, I am told "attacking the Palestinians won't work... it has been tried before and it has never brought results". 


When I ask what, in their opinion would bring results, I've been told "I don't know, but we've gone the military route too many times with the Palestinians and it hasn't helped".


There seems to be a terrible double standard at work here. 

When the left wants to keep fielding failed strategies and discredited theories, anyone who points out the insanity of repeating such hopelessly flawed actions (in hopes of different results) is labeled unpatriotic... or worse, a messianic war-monger.

Yet when the right favors deploying a military solution that has, admittedly, had mixed results in the past... the left unabashedly plays the insanity card.

I'm sorry.  The world has evolved quite a bit since the days of nations having no other recourse for settling disputes except the battlefield.  But we aren't so far removed from the battlefield - or even the playground - that we dare forget what an aggressive thug looks like or how some thugs' asses just desperately need to be kicked (if for no other reason then to win a few minutes of respite).

As to those who say that this sort of out-dated, discredited thinking dooms me to repeat past failures, I say:


"Hello kettle?  Hi, it's the pot calling.  You're black!"


Posted by David Bogner on July 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (51) | TrackBack

Friday, July 07, 2006

Photo Friday (vol. LXIX) [turnabout is fair play edition]

At the heart of the modern state of Israel is its ancient/modern capitol; Jerusalem.

Jerusalem itself is in many ways a very modern city that is slowly starting to shake off the inertia of many years of neglect and disinterest.  Pretty much anywhere one looks in Jerusalem today, there are construction projects underway... and new buildings and gentrified neighborhoods are becoming the norm instead of the exception.

However, amidst the new buildings and growing modern-ness, great pains are taken to preserve remnants of Jerusalem's past.  Archaeological sites are preserved in-situ next to modern walkways and office buildings, and old buildings and ancient architectural details are incorporated into trendy restaurants and boutiques.

Just a block away from 'Kikar HaChatulim' (cat square) near Jerusalem's Nahalat Shiva neighborhood there is a little remnant of a structure that probably dates from when this neighborhood (one of the first outside the old city walls) was first established in 1869.  This small structure stands in stark contrast with it's giant, rather bland, modern architectural neighbors... but this intrusion of old within new is one of my favorite aspects of Jerusalem:

As I walked closer to the structure I noticed that the shade inside had proven to be too tempting for a local commuter to resist... and it had been drafted into service as a temporary parking garage:

Having just finished marveling at the juxtiposition of old within new... the sudden appearance of new within old brought an ironic smile to my lips.

I suppose turnabout is fair play.

Shabbat Shalom


Posted by David Bogner on July 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In which David sells out

No, I haven't sold out.

OK... maybe I have sold out... but just a tiny bit.  Alright, maybe a lot.

Perhaps a word of explanation might be in order.

When you clicked over to treppenwitz today you probably couldn't help but notice the rather, shall we say, eye-catching, fishnet-clad gams at the top of the right sidebar. 

Those of you who follow the 'spoken word' edition of my journal will have to take my word on this one.

Don't worry, I haven't started accepting ads for pr0n sites here at treppenwitz.  The rather eye-catching ad there on the right is actually for a new political satire blog.  The legs tie in with the site's tag line "The satirical website with legs".

Get it?

Just to be clear, treppenwitz is still, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a family-friendly site.  It's just that the 'family' I have in mind when I think of my demographic doesn't necessarily all live in Williamsburg or Mea Sha'arim.

Yeah, yeah, there's a lot of skin exposed over there... and I almost turned down the ad for that reason.  But the truth is, you see more skin than that walking down most streets in any big city.  If you really find the picture in the ad offensive, my advice is that you pretend you are walking down a street in New York, Paris or Tel Aviv... and simply don't look.

Needless to say, if anyone would like to advertise their blogs, websites or businesses here on treppenwitz, I think you'll find the rates to be quite competitive (for instance the ad we are discussing here cost a paltry $10 to run for a week)... and the site traffic and demographics here are pretty attractive. 

Of course greetings and wishes for birthdays, engagements, anniversaries, condolences and such are also gladly accepted.  Heck, I will even allow trolls to post unflattering things about me in paid ads... provided the language remains rated, shall we say, PG-ish or better.

To begin setting up an ad, click on the words 'your ad here' at the bottom of the advertisement section... or simply click here for more information.

This commercial announcement brought to you by:

'Cooper Tires... The Round Ones!'

[note: If anyone was seriously offended by the content of the ad with the legs, please let me know and I will refrain from renewing it.  If someone is going to be uncomfortable here, I would rather it be because of something I write... not due to advertising content.]


Posted by David Bogner on July 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (52) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A whispered post

What I'm about to write pains me more than I can express.  If you are superstitious, please don't read this post.  Or failing that, please read it in a whisper.

You see, there is a double edged Jewish tradition about tempting fate. 

On the one hand, we generally refrain from counting our blessings out loud (i.e. mentioning how many children we have, how old they are or how healthy and successful they are) for fear of inviting tragedy. 

But on the other hand we only dare mention the names of diseases in a whispered sotto voce (e.g. "Did you hear his mother was just diagnosed with ~cancer~?").

While we have a few tried and true formulas for sharing positive information that we believe keeps the evil eye at bay (tfu, tfu tfu)... there is no charm or talisman for dealing with bad news other than our grandparent's ridiculous stage whisper. 

So again, if you must... please read what follows in an undertone so as not to tempt the evil eye:

I'd like you to think for a moment about every kidnapping that has been perpetrated by Arabs in the last 10 or 15 years.  Think for a moment about the one commonality that all of these terrible events share.

Not getting it?  Let me help you.

The widespread availability of inexpensive, high quality home video equipment has made the kidnap video pretty much de rigueur for any terrorist group wanting to place itself on the world stage and be taken seriously.

Even the recent aborted kidnapping of an idiot American college student by Palestinian terrorists which lasted less than 12 hours included the requisite video statement/confession of the victim delivered along with the kidnapper's demands. 

The kidnap video has become the standard by which the value of the hostage is set.

Live/healthy hostage = High value hostage

Injured/sick hostage = High value hostage

Dead hostage = Low/no value hostage

In fact, these bits of amateur cinematography have become so ubiquitous that the lack of one tends to point to chilling possibilities (i.e. that the kidnap victim is incapable of making a statement).

This held true in the recent kidnapping of Eliahu Asheri (A"H).  Having been summarily executed by his captors within an hour of being taken, Asheri's value to the kidnappers remained high only so long as they could bluff the Israelis into believing that he was still alive. 

Once a few hours had passed without a video being aired by one of the Arab media outlets, it became clear to many that the chances of returning this young man to his parents alive and well had faded dramatically.  When after a day or two all the kidnappers could produce for the media was his ID card, I knew he was gone.

With this in mind, one has to admit that the lack of a hostage video in the Gilad Shalit kidnapping is fairly ominous. 

We were told early on that "a doctor had seen the missing IDF soldier and had treated his wounds".  But we weren't told much about the doctor.  In fact, we have no indication at all that this wasn't simply a deliberately misleading statement issued by the kidnappers, since all the media outlets reporting the story name their source only as "Senior Fatah member Ziad Abu A’an".

To my knowledge, no neutral third party has been allowed to see Gilad alive... and Palestinian 'sources' have proven to be remarkably unreliable and self-interested in the past.

I hate to say these words out loud, so whisper them if you must... but I am now convinced that Gilad Shalit is no longer alive.  Yesterday's 6:00AM deadline issued by the kidnappers was a desperate ploy intended to force the Israelis to pay for a product whose value they could not demonstrate.  When The deadline passed, it should have been obvious to all that the bluff had been successfully called.

What's more, I am fairly sure he died (or at very least was comatose), within an hour of being taken prisoner.  Otherwise the kidnappers would have been taunting the Israeli government with videos of their prize in order to maintain his value as a hostage.

Nothing would make me happier than to post an update to this post later saying how foolish I was, and how I should really leave intelligence analysis to the professionals.  I would love more than anything to write those words with tears streaming down my cheeks while listening to news coverage of Gilad's parents being reunited with their missing son.

But my gut tells me that the best we can hope at this point is for his parents to receive some semblance of closure by being given the opportunity to bury Gilad's body.  And even that now seems beyond the realm of possibility. 

You see, the kidnappers have now floated the name Ran Arad... a captured Israeli Air Force Navigator who is certainly dead, but whose fate remains just ambiguous enough for the Arab world to use his name to rip the scab off of Israel's wounded national psyche.  By mentioning Ran Arad and telling the press that they intend to hold Gilad in a similar indefinite limbo, what the terrorists are telling us is that he is dead... but that they won't provide us with the bandages to close the national wound his death will open.

I hope beyond hope that I am wrong.  But I honestly think that this poor unfortunate boy, Gilad Shalit, has become the new Ran Arad... a hot iron with which our enemies will now torture and demoralize the Israeli public for years to come. 

The question now is whether our government will continue to give our enemies such a powerful weapon to hold over us... or if they will set a deadline of their own.


Posted by David Bogner on July 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Making the call

My work day doesn't offer much in the way of predictability, which is probably a good thing considering I'm an ADD boy who is easily bored with repetitive tasks.  But there are certain rituals I enjoy and look forward to... especially those associated with leaving to go home at the end of the day.

For instance, there's the call home.

Once I'm in the car and heading up the street away from my office, I will usually phone home to let whoever answers know that I am on my way. 

The reason I wait until I'm well away from the office instead of calling as I'm turning off my computer is that it is not at all unusual to be waylaid in the parking lot by someone trying to organize a pick-up meeting with anyone foolish enough to still be on the premises, and be dragged back into the office for an hour or two of mind-numbing, fruitless group discussion that could certainly have waited until morning. 

Soooo, instead I play it safe and wait until I am well clear of the employment zone before actually making the call home.

The call itself can last anywhere from 15 seconds to 10 minutes or more... depending on who answers.

If Zahava answers, she is usually all business. She'll ask if I have any preference for dinner and then hurry off the phone to referee the kids before they destroy the house or kill one another.

However, if either Ariella or Gilad answer the phone there is an entirely different protocol. 

I get the sense that the big kids feel they aren't getting to spend enough time with me (a fair assessment)... so they use some extremely effective tactics to try to keep me on the phone as long as possible. 

Ariella is the extrovert and is always in transmit mode.  If I let her, she will accept the burden of the entire conversation upon herself and talk non-stop for the entire trip from Beer Sheva to Efrat:

Ariella: Hello?
Me: Hi sweetie pie, how are you?
A: HI ABBA!!!! (Abba is Hebrew for father)
M: How are you?
A: [ignoring my question] When are you going to be home?
M: Oh, I don't know... in about 45 minutes.
A: [giving no indication that she has even heard my response]  When you get home I want to show you a bracelet I made today and tell you about the pe'ula (activity) we are planning for Ezra (her youth group), oh, and I brushed Jordan a little while ago so now there is dog hair everywhere, and I... and then... and... and... and... and...
M: [trying to interrupt her monologue] Um, Ari, did you have a good day today?
A: ...and then I... and then... and... and... and.......
M: Ari, do you even have the phone near your ear or are you just talking into the handset like it's a microphone?
A: ... and... and... and... and........
M: [driving along and enjoying listening to her talk]

Gilad, on the other hand, requires a bit more feedback if he is the one who answers the phone.  He is somewhat more reserved than his sister, and he will usually allow me to get away with a lot of games and teasing just to keep the lines of communication open:

Gilad: Hello?
Me: Hi yummy boy! How are you?
G: OK.  How was your day?
M: Fine, I guess.
G: Where are you?
M: In the car.
G: Where in the car?
M: In the diver's seat.
G: No, I mean where are you right now?
M: I just told you.
G: Abba... I mean where are you on the road right now?
M: Oh, sorry... I'm on the right side... that's OK, isn't it?
G: [feigning exasperation] ABBAH!!!  How soon will you be home?
M: Oh, OK! Is that what you meant?  I'll be home pretty soon.
G: How soon?
M: Oh, I dunno... maybe 45 minutes.
G:  OK............... So where are you right now?
M: I'm in the driver's seat! 
[repeat as necessary]

Occasionally if I'm feeling a bit evil I will try to subject Zahava to the Gilad treatment ("Where am I?"...  "I'm in the car"...), but she usually puts a quick end to that with a ladylike "Bite me!" (to the endless amusement of any hitchhikers that happen to be in the car).

But whether she realizes it or not, if she isn't falling into my Gilad script/trap, Zahava often unwittingly turns the tables on me and gives me the Ariella treatment ("So then I... and then... and then... and... and..."). 

Genetics is a funny thing that way.

Anyhow... regardless of who answers the phone when I make the call to tell them I'm on my way home, I know I can sit back and enjoy as the voices of the people I love wash over me.

I'll be home soon.


Posted by David Bogner on July 4, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Monday, July 03, 2006

Personal pronoun trouble and a stay of execution

See, this is why I failed statistics.  Twice.

I'm sure part of the problem can be attributed to the fact that yesterday's poll was hopelessly flawed and neither covered all the choices nor encouraged unbiased responses. 

But still... does anyone else find it strange that the poll results were extremely skewed towards 'outing' the troll, while the comments were almost unanimously in favor of showing restraint and simply deleting/ignoring the troll droppings?

And the thing that really has me shaking my head in wonder is the fact that 100% of you who were kind enough to offer your advice made the assumption that my troll is a man.*   If you reread my post, I was very careful to use gender-neutral personal pronouns (e.g. it, they, etc.).  I did this because in this specific case my troll is actually a woman.

Perhaps we tend to assume that such overtly aggressive behavior would be more typically attributable to a man.   But in my limited experience, troll-like behavior seems to span the gender divide pretty evenly.

I haven't yet decided what to do (or not do) about my present troll, but I am willing to take a 'wait and see' approach now that there has been an entire troll-free day (yesterday's comment from 'attempt3' was actually a copycat troll who lives in Cincinnati... not even on the same continent as my troll). 

Trolls willing, regular non-political journaling will resume tomorrow.

* Update:  One late commenter held out the possibility of a female troll by using 'he/she'.


Posted by David Bogner on July 3, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Gone troll hunting

I am taking the day (or maybe even a few days) off.

Anyone who has been reading the comment board here probably has an idea why.  The problem is... I have a troll.  A couple of them, actually... but really just one who has invited a bunch of other trolls over to camp out under my bridge.

For those not familiar with the term, Wikipedia defines a troll as:

"... someone who comes into an established community such as an online discussion forum, and posts inflammatory, rude, repetitive or offensive messages designed intentionally to annoy and antagonize the existing members or disrupt the flow of discussion."

I usually delete troll comments within nanoseconds of their being posted, but this past week I found it really hard to keep up.  In the end I just threw up my hands and left the last few comments.

I know, I know... some of you are going to suggest I moderate comments. 

I'm not going to do that for a number of reasons, chief among them is that it would absolutely destroy the real-time exchange of ideas that has become such an enjoyable part of the journaling experience for me (and hopefully for you).

If it came down to it I would rather disable comments than moderate them.

So how do I deal with this?

The answer to that question is actually both childishly simple... and morally/ethically complex.  You see, my troll is a bit of an idiot and has left a trail of breadcrumbs a mile wide leading right to its doorstep. 

Using the Internet and some somewhat questionable sources, I have been able to piece together a staggering amount of rock-solid, incontrovertible information about who this troll is in real life.  The crazy part is that the troll provided most (but not all) of the information.

I know what the troll does for a living.  I know about this troll's nationality, current residency and ancestry.  I know the troll's marital status and number if children.  I know the troll's real email address, and I even know the troll's home and work address/ phone numbers.

I have to level with you... Instead of this 'Gone troll hunting' announcement, you were almost treated to an extremely detailed dossier on my troll.  In short, I was going to punish my troll by 'outing' it.

But I didn't.  This isn't to say I'm not going to.  But I realized that I have never regretted not publishing something right away.  Not once.  So I am going to mandate a little cooling-off period to see if 'outing' my troll still seems like a good idea in a day or two.

Oh, and so we're all on the same page, by 'out' I don't just mean posting the troll's info here.  I am also talking about forwarding copies of the troll's writing and blog postings (yes, the troll has its own blog) to its employer and to the local authorities where the troll resides.

I also realize that there is a tremendous pool of common sense out there among regular readers of treppenwitz, and it would be foolish of me not to at least ask the question before making a decision.

I should make it clear at the outset that I do not intend to be bound by the results of this poll.  However, I would be a bit of an idiot to veto a common sense landslide.

So, what say you?   Is it open season on trolls?  Is there a bag limit?  Are trolls a protected species?


Posted by David Bogner on July 2, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (44) | TrackBack