Sep 20, 2009

Iran sanctions - Jewish rally

A day of advocacy in Washington last week and a rally in New York next week mark major efforts by the American Jewish community to push the issue of Iran’s nuclear program to the forefront and increase the general sense of urgency to end it. (See page 29.)

Members of the northern New Jersey Jewish community joined more than 300 other Jewish leaders from around the country who met with legislators in Washington Sept. 10 to thank them for supporting the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act of 2009 and drum up support among those who had not yet signed on. The measure would penalize companies that help Iran import or produce refined petroleum.

Though the bill has gained support in Congress, the White House has put off a decision to back the legislation until after the Sept. 24 meeting of the P5-plus-1 group — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. (The Stand for Freedom in Iran rally is scheduled for the same day, as is the opening session of the U.N.’s General Assembly.)

“The administration needs to hear this message,” said Joy Kurland, director of the new regional Community Relations Council that represents UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, United Jewish Communities of Metrowest, and the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey. “This bill needs to be passed and we need to deal with this issue now.”

Kurland and a group of 11 other local activists met Sept. 10 with Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Rep. Scott Garrett, and Bob Decheine, Rep. Steve Rothman’s chief of staff. The group included local representatives of the Zionist Organization of America, Hadassah, AMIT, JINSA, and Emunah of America. Rabbis Neal Borovitz of Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge and David-Seth Kirscher of Temple Emanu-El of Closter joined the group.

Rothman noted, in an e-mail to The Jewish Standard on Wednesday, that he was an original co-sponsor of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. He added that “the U.S. needs to put as much pressure as possible on Iran to prevent that rogue nation from developing nuclear weapons” and that he was “pleased and proud” that the UJA-NNJ delegation had shared “their support for this bill and other measures that highlight the very real threat posed by Iran. A nuclear Iran threatens the security of every nation, including the United States, and [it] must not be allowed to develop nuclear capability.”

“The briefings … all affirmed that Iran is very close to having the potential to develop nuclear weapons,” Borovitz told the Standard. “I was left with the strong feeling … that if Iran doesn’t enter into serious negotiations that the administration and Congress would push this bill through.”

In addition to legislators, the advocates heard from a powerful lineup of Jewish communal leaders that included AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr, Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris, and B’nai B’rith International Executive Director Dan Mariaschin in a panel moderated by Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“There is no national sense of urgency” on Iran, said Foxman, who outlined a “Catch-22” facing the Jewish community.

“We do not have the luxury to not lead” on Iran, he said. “We have to lead even though it will be perceived as a Jewish issue.”

The advocacy day was organized by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Iran, which is led by the Presidents Conference, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, UJC/Federations of North America and NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Eurasia.

Hoenlein stressed that there was wide unity in the community that increased pressure on Iran was necessary, citing the nine rabbinical and synagogue organizations from across the denominational spectrum that released a joint statement on the issue a few days earlier and the representation of a huge array of Jewish groups at advocacy day.

Hoenlein also noted that the term “crippling sanctions” in regard to Iran was actually first used by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier this year, and said that such sanctions are “not targeting people.”

Echoing Foxman, Judy Shereck, part of the UJA-NNJ delegation, told the Standard on Tuesday that one of the advocates’ biggest concerns is that the Iranian issue is seen as just a Jewish or Israeli issue.

“This is not an issue that is important to us just because of Israel,” said Shereck, national vice president of Hadassah and chair of its Israel, Zionist and International Affairs committee. “This is an issue that is important [to us] as Americans.”

While the congressmen the delegation met appeared supportive, the general American public does not understand the threat Iran poses, Shereck continued. Hadassah, she said, is focusing on educating the public on the urgency of dealing with the threat.
“We need to show that there is no more time for waiting on the Iranians,” said Martha Cohen, a member of UJC-NNJ’s JCRC board and chair of its Israel and world affairs committee. “We need to put a line in the sand and stand by it.”

Borovitz said that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has set Israel up as a “bogeyman” in his pursuit of nuclear arms and that the Iranian leader has argued that his country needs to defend itself against an Israeli attack.

“We need to wake up the public,” he said, noting the significance of non-Jewish organizations cosponsoring next week’s rally. “We need to spread this message beyond the Jewish community. This is an existential threat to America.”
Borovitz pointed to another reason for the public’s slow response to Iran: the discredited “weapons of mass destruction” cries that were behind the Iraq war.

“In the post-Iraq era people are very wary,” he said. “Just because the Iraq war was wrong does not mean we should stand idly by and allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.”

For information about UJA-NNJ’s bus to next week’s rally, call (201) 820-3944.

Sep 19, 2009


Hammurabi made some good laws, and so did Solon, but at the time European ancestors were hunkered in their ice caves barricaded against the howling dark and dreaming of aurochs haunches, and by the time they found out about them several thousand years later, those laws had long disappeared even in the places they were made.

It's very tempting to accept the broad hint from that trouble maker Yeshua bin Youssef in the parable of the Good Samaritan that whatever laws the local warlords make, or allow to be made, is really irrelevant, and the only thing that matters is how you deal with the person next to you in the bus/train/tube or in the street.

History is about to be dropped from the core curriculum in British schools, apparently. That makes it more difficult for anyone to check on anything, of course, and so I welcome today's article in the Daily Mail logging the scam artists (probably rather encouraging for Americans, plagued by multiple scandals, to read) who've been running England for the last twenty years. History will soon be more difficult to come by:

"The only mystery is how they got away with it for so long. The consortium took over GB Limited with a large sweetener from the previous management. They also inherited a healthy bank balance and a huge fund of public goodwill.

Even though none of them had any experience of running such an enterprise, they were cheered to the rafters on their arrival. In retrospect, entrusting the operation to a failed lawyer, a psychologically-flawed Scottish sociopath, a temperamental television researcher and a chippy ship's steward was always going to be a huge risk."

Sep 15, 2009

Old shoes

"A man should mend old shoes if he can do no better to aid the republic." Jonathan Swift

Just let the pressure for the public option build up, Mr. President. Don't let them bamboozle you - you're doing not bad on this one.

For another sweeping reform that is also a massive benefit to the economy, issue free copies of "Unquenchable" to all White House staff, to let them get their heads around another developing crisis on the horizon that can be headed off. It'll make you look a real statesman, as well as a genuine benefactor of humanity and a model for other states.

Sep 10, 2009

Obama's current kill rate #8

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness"

Sep 9, 2009

The mirror

Taking a good look at oneself has always been encouraged by the wise, and that may include taking a good look at one's cultural template, the default inculcated since childhood that we often unconsciously revert to (Well, of course only white people are real people, you just can't say so out loud.) That won't work, buddy, for the reason provided by that trouble maker Yeshua bin Youssef (aka Jesus of Nazareth). No man can serve two masters, and no house divided against itself can stand. Integrate your personality into one consistent whole and "your whole body will be full of light," said the above Yeshua, but remain internally divided and conflicted and "your whole body will be full of darkness." Your secret whispering voices will always give themselves away in a thousand ways.

("Slitty eyed Chinese," said that oik the duke of Edinburgh, displaying his racist instincts in full play. No Chinese official has ever referred to "Round eyed westerners," and so in the politeness and general demeanour stakes we stand at UK zero, Chinese ten. That's quite apart from financial considerations (the Brits worship money as Hilaire Belloc pointed out) where the figures are literally too awesome to contemplate.)

To illustrate let me present the best description I have ever come across of part of that British template, the British Upper Class bit. (Without prejudice or ill will to any possible ex-members of the Brit Upper Classes.) It happens to be about Princess Diana, but works as a default template. (For the IT-challenged, or, like me suffering technical problems, I present it in full.)

Have yourself a lonely little Christmas

'The prospect of my first Christmas as a free agent - no one's daughter, mother or wife - is incredibly exciting, and not a little overdue'

Julie Burchill Guardian Unlimited Saturday December 23, 2000

A few weeks ago, I read a feature in the Daily Mail by Paul Burrell, the former butler to the late Princess of Wales - "My rock," she called him. Burrell has been as loyal and devoted a friend to the Princess since her death as he was during her life, and I'm sure what he wrote - "What would the Royals buy for Christmas?" - was intended to be a soft-focus, sepia-tinted glimpse of a much-missed fascinator at a nostalgic time of year.

I must say, though, that, in the picture it painted of the deluxe isolation of the Windsors, and especially of the vulnerable and fragile girl who became their brood mare par excellence, I found this romp through the royal wish-list easily as chilling as any treacherous Highgrove phone conversation transcript or bland Buck Pal message of sympathy. With the media currently wetting itself over Prince William, it wouldn't hurt for a minute to remember his mother, without whom he wouldn't have ended up looking like that. Not with Camilla Parker Bowles as a mum.

Each Christmas, Burrell would help the princess locate, wrap and despatch more than 200 presents. Featuring heavily among these would be aromatherapy kits - which, for me, have come to symbolise the fragrant solitude of the modern civil sex war, as bored housewives and career girls too good for the miserable men on offer wallow in candle-lit limbo in aromatherapy baths called such things as Sensuality and Afterglow while their putative suitors download barnyard porn in their locked studies. Then there would come the Smythson address books, in hand-bound goatskin, £195, in which the princess and her circle might carefully write the personal details of all those close friends whose husbands and wives they would one day sleep with, if they hadn't already.

I find it particularly poignant that she was apparently a collector of Halcyon Days enamel boxes; all that clutter, to soften that harsh, blaring life - £85 for a poxing empty tin box! You can see why the firm has got four royal warrants, for its products' extortionate hollowness echoes the Windsor way. To obscure her loneliness even further, here comes her army of Herond hand-painted china animals, from £55 for a tiny "frog prince" to £4,000 for a limited-edition giraffe. "Each year, I would ensure that the latest edition was carefully wrapped and placed inside the princess's stocking, which I had filled on Wills' and Harry's behalf," reports Burrell, and what a wealth of estrangement and loss there is in this good servant's innocent testimony.

Diana would, according to Burrell, turn to Turnbull & Asser for bespoke shirts, ties and dressing gowns for her faithless husband and stolen sons - I mention this only because the appropriateness of the name of this hawker of haberdashery to the ruling classes is so delightful. (Almost as gorgeous as my husband's divorce lawyers, Hart & Loveless!) From J Floris would come scented candles, fragrances and vaporising oils - the princess was particularly fond of Seasonal Spice at this time of year, doubtless to drown out the pong of paranoia, the stink of betrayal and the whiff of cordite coming off Balmoral.

Price's candles - a dozen for £6.90 - would provide the lighting at every royal dining table, ensuring that daylight was not let in upon the magic and, even more important, that the hated face of the spouse opposite could be mutated - after a few tots of The King's Ginger Liqueur, available only from Berry Bros & Rudd of St James - into the welcoming features of the beloved.

From the General Trading Company - "an Aladdin's Cave for those in Sloane Ranger territory" - Diana would buy those tragic cushions whose mottos became so horribly apt with the unfurling of her miserable life. I'M A LUXURY FEW CAN AFFORD - GOOD GIRLS GO TO HEAVEN; BAD GIRLS GO EVERYWHERE - THOSE WHO SAY THAT MONEY CAN'T BUY YOU HAPPINESS DON'T KNOW WHERE TO SHOP. She would also pick up china sweet dishes, no doubt for her fellow bulimics to display their poison of choice. And she might grab a monogrammed washbag for her husband from Eximious, By Appointment To The Prince Of Wales, in which he might keep those all-important unguents for removing the stench of his adultery.

Silver monogrammed key chains (£40 upwards) make a perfect gift for men and women alike, apparently, and are so much more appropriate than the cufflinks saying "Gladys" and "Fred" which the ever-sensitive Prince Charles wore to dinner on the first night of his honeymoon, only to be amazed when his unreasonable, hysterical wife showed distress at his continuing devotion to his mistress. (In an interesting insight into the cesspit that is the Parker Bowles mind, isn't it attractive how the very idea of working-class names, attached to such obviously classy pieces of ass as herself and Chas, struck her as being such a hoot?)

Much is made of Diana's "lonely" Christmases in later years, but I bet they seemed like heaven after being locked up with the Addams Family all those years. She did have family, after all - sisters and a brother who would have been happy to have her. But what people who are trapped in the tradition of the family Christmas fail to realise is that, once you have made good your escape, voluntary or otherwise, the prospect of living through the whole dreary panto again, this time with another set of personality disorders and ancient grudges, is not an especially attractive one.

There is a lot of cant talked about The Family at Christmas, with those such as myself - preparing to face my first Christmas as an orphan - the focus of pity and concern from those who will be enmeshed in the bosom of theirs. But far from each family becoming a Holy Family at this time of year, it seems to my jaded outsider's eyes that, with a few lucky exceptions, most families become royal families, waving expensive geegaws at each other to divert attention from each other's dismay at having to play the same old tired roles - harassed housewife, bluff paterfamilias, exasperated adult children - that we spend the rest of the year struggling so valiantly to escape.

Though I loved my parents to bits, the prospect of my first Christmas spent as a free agent - no one's daughter, mother or wife - seems incredibly exciting and exotic, and not a little overdue. So don't all you family types feel too sorry for us solitaires. In return, we'll try not to feel too sorry for you, stuck with your families this Christmas, when you'd far rather be with those you love.

Sep 6, 2009

Dover Beach - Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;--on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the {AE}gean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Sep 5, 2009

The Loot

Plunder goes on across Afghanistan as looters grow ever bolder.

James Astill in Bazy-Kheil Saturday December 13, 2003 The Guardian

Trade in antiquities worth up to £18bn as thieves excavate sites.

It was meant to be a rare success story. According to the Afghan minister of culture, the small mound of soft yellow earth at Bazy-Kheil, 20 miles east of Kabul, was one of the country's few protected archaeological sites. But as Mohammed Zakir, one of Afghanistan's five archaeologists, puffed to the top, he saw something was badly wrong.

A fresh rectangular pit had been cut into the side of the seventh-century Buddhist stupa. "That's nothing... it's a hunter's hiding hole," one of the soldiers in attendance insisted. "He's lying," Mr Zakir groaned.

Looters discovered Bazy-Kheil two years ago as the global trade in Afghan antiquities gathered pace. A local warlord promptly banned government officials from visiting the site, as his troops plundered its treasures. Then he relented, handing in 13 seventh-century buddhas and promising to plunder no more.

But, to Mr Zakir, the evidence of that freshly dug pit was damning.

"Even these soldiers are thieves," he said bitterly. "They pretend to be guarding this site, but when we leave they can take up their shovels."

Since the fall of the Taliban two years ago, Afghanistan has become a grave robbers' paradise. The Taliban destroyed many world-famous Buddhist sculptures, including the giant Bamiyan buddhas, but protected most of the country's more than 3,000 historical sites. Now, with the US-backed government virtually powerless outside Kabul, local warlords in partnership with Pakistani criminal gangs are looting with impunity.

"There was looting under the Taliban, but it was nothing compared to now," Mr Zakir said. "This is a total disaster, a complete free-for-all."

According to Unesco, the UN culture agency, the global industry in stolen Afghan antiquities is worth £18.3bn ($32bn) - more than the opium trade. Other experts dispute the figure. But none doubts that, at the current rate of plunder, the land where east and west have collided for millennia and a dozen civilisations flowered and fell will soon be stripped of its heritage.

"If this situation continues, in a year or two Afghanistan will be emptied of all its history," said Sayed Raheen, the culture and information minister.

"This is a tragedy, not only for us but for all humanity. When you put an ancient object in an Arab millionaire's living room, it loses its relation to history. It becomes meaningless."

The 13 buddhas of Bazy-Kheil are now in the Kabul Museum, once one of the finest in Asia. It was ransacked by rival mojahedin factions in the early 1990s. The Taliban stole more of its wonders - including the exquisite Bagram ivories, a 2,000-year-old collection of Indian panels - and smashed others. Now the museum has no roof, as it waits for international donors to deliver promised aid.

Further from Kabul, some of the world's most important archaeological sites are being laid bare. At Kharwar, in remote central Afghanistan, looters have discovered an ancient city stretching for 25 miles. From a trickle of confiscated artefacts, most archaeologists say the city dates from around the seventh century, shortly before the arrival of Islam.

"There hasn't been a discovery like this for a century; it's the Pompeii of central Asia," said Anna Rosa Rodriguez of the Society for the Protection of Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage, an NGO. "Can you imagine? Even the Bamiyan buddhas don't compare to this, and legitimate scientists cannot get there."


Several government and UN missions have been turned away from Kharwar by local warlords. An Italian archaeological team flew in three months ago, but was permitted to spend only one day at the site. When the government subsequently sent nine police officers, four of them were murdered and the rest fled.

"There could be many more such sites; we don't know because the country's never been properly excavated," said Jim Williams of Unesco in Kabul.

"It's being excavated by criminals. They're the same people, the drug barons, the warlords, who are causing all Afghanistan's problems. But we still can't get the international community interested."

Unesco's budget for the country is £860,000, almost all of which is being spent on stabilising the empty plinths at Bamiyan, where the giant buddhas once stood. Afghanistan's government is only barely able to afford Mr Zakir's salary of £23 a month; it has no budget for protecting its historical sites.

Meanwhile the looters are growing bolder by the day, according to analysts in Kabul. Two weeks ago a six-tonne, 1,500-year-old buddha was intercepted at Peshawar railway station in northern Pakistan. At Kharwar, local villagers say Pakistani dealers are arriving with orders for specific antiquities.

According to Mr Raheen, a Pakistani general caused an uproar at an exhibition of Afghan archaeology at the Guimet Museum in Paris by declaring that he had much better pieces in his living room.

"The problem of this looting is like all the problems of Afghanistan, it's another bead in the necklace," said Abdul Feroozi, head of the National Institute of Archaeology.

"To stop it, you must do the same things as to stop the drugs and other crime: strengthen the government, build up the police and the national army, break the power of the warlords. Unfortunately we are still waiting for these things."

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Sep 1, 2009

September 1, 1939 by W.H.Auden

September 1, 1939 by W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.