Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Happy Halloween! (apologies to Richard McGuire & The New Yorker)
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Karen Hughes Quits Public Diplomacy Job

The BBC has the story (photo from
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she had accepted Ms Hughes's resignation "with a great deal of sadness but also a great deal of happiness for what she has achieved".

Ms Hughes was behind the setting up of "rapid response" public relations units abroad to handle news events.

She also ensured that more Arabic speaking officials were available for interview by Arabic media outlets.

However, polls suggest that the popularity of the US overseas remains low, affected by the aftermath of the Iraq war and the unresolved Israel-Palestinian conflict in particular.

Speaking after her resignation was announced, Ms Hughes said she felt she had fulfilled her mission "by transforming public diplomacy and making it a national security priority central to everything we do in government".

Ms Hughes intends to leave the state department by the end of the year, probably in mid-December.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Neighbor, Barack Obama...

Today's New York Times reported that Barack Obama lived at West 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in 1981, while attending Columbia University. At that time, I lived at 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue--in the apartment next door to now-famous writer Michael Pollan and his then-wife, Judith. So, it was interesting to read that the neighborhood was apparently considered too tough for Obama, who moved to the Upper East Side, to East 94th Street. Of course, after Mayor Giuliani got finished, West 109th and 110th Streets were very nice addresses. What does it mean?

Not much, I guess, except that some of Obama's New York acquaintances of the period have accused him of "embellishing" his story of life in New York. According to the Times, a blog called AnalyzeThis pointed out some of Obama's stretchers--and argues they disqualify him as a moral force for good:
And yet I’m disappointed. Barack’s story may be true, but many of the facts are not. His larger narrative purpose requires him to embellish his role. I don’t buy it. Just as I can’t be inspired by Steve Jobs now that I know how dishonest he is, I can’t listen uncritically to Barack Obama now that I know he’s willing to bend the facts to his purpose.

Once, when I applied for a marketing job at a big accounting firm, my then-supervisor called HR to say that I had exaggerated something on my resume. I didn’t agree, but I also didn’t get the job. But when Barack Obama invents facts in a book ranked No. 8 on the NY Times nonfiction list, it not only fails to be noticed but it helps elevate him into the national political pantheon.

Laura Bush 's Submission

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick interprets Laura Bush's abaya photo-op in Saudi Arabia as a symbolic surrender to Islamist extremism by the American First Lady (ht LGF):
But then Mrs. Bush went to Saudi Arabia and the symbolic message of the previous day was superseded and lost when she donned an abaya herself and had her picture taken with other abaya-clad women. The symbolic message of those photographs also couldn't have been clearer. By donning an abaya, Mrs. Bush symbolically accepted the legitimacy of the system of subjugating women that the garment embodies, (or disembodies). Understanding this, conservative media outlets in the US criticized her angrily.

Sunday morning, Mrs. Bush sought to answer her critics in an interview with Fox News. Unfortunately, her remarks compounded the damage. Mrs. Bush said, "These women do not see covering as some sort of subjugation of women, this group of women that I was with. That's their culture. That's their tradition. That's a religious choice of theirs."

It is true that this is their culture. And it is also their tradition. But it is not their choice. Their culture and tradition are predicated on denying them the choice of whether or not to wear a garment that denies them their identity just as it denies them the right to make any choices about their lives. The Saudi women's assertions of satisfaction with their plight were no more credible than statements by hostages in support of their captors.

As the First Lady, Laura Bush is an American symbol. By having her picture taken wearing an abaya in Saudi Arabia - the epicenter of Islamic totalitarian misogyny - Mrs. Bush diminished that symbol. In so doing, she weakened the causes of freedom and liberty which America has fought since its founding to secure and defend at home and throughout the world.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Carnegie-Mellon's Top Blogs

Here (ht Michelle Malkin):

k PA score Blog NP IL OLO OLA
1 0.1283 4593 4636 1890 5255
2 0.1822 1534 1206 679 3495
3 0.2224 924 576 888 2701
4 0.2592 261 941 1733 3630
5 0.2923 1839 12642 1179 6323
6 0.3152 189 2313 3669 9272
7 0.3353 475 717 1844 4944
8 0.3508 895 247 1244 10201
9 0.3654 5776 6337 1024 6183
10 0.3778 4682 3205 795 3102

Rudy Wins World Series in 4 Games

Hizzoner called the Series for the Boston Red Sox--while Hilary dithered and refused to take sides. Which makes Giuliani a winner, too...

Nicolas Sarkozy Bests Lesley Stahl

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A New Translation of Bunin

Leila Ruckenstein's review of Graham Hettlinger's COLLECTED STORIES OF IVAN BUNIN in today's Washington Post Book Review is a good one:
It is both shameful and understandable that few Americans know the writings of Ivan Bunin. Although he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1933, his works were banned in his native Russia until after his death in 1953, and for decades he labored, sometimes in extreme poverty, in exile in France. Also, his prose is notoriously difficult to translate; as Graham Hettlinger notes in an illuminating introduction to this volume, Bunin is acclaimed for his short stories but always called himself a poet.

Fortunately, Hettlinger's fluid new translations should help us rediscover an author who, like Chekhov, evocatively portrayed the vanishing world of Russia's large estates after the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. Born in 1870, Bunin witnessed as a child the disintegration of his aristocratic family's own estate. After the 1917 Revolution, he fled the Bolsheviks, never to return. Written between 1900 and 1944, almost all of the 35 stories in this collection -- ranging from imagistic sketches and folk legends to tales of obsessive love and eroticism -- are aching recreations of Bunin's homeland.
You can buy it here, from

The Mysterious Death of Charles Jordan

I received a copy of an email from Raymond Lloyd in my inbox today with this subject line: "2008 centenary of Charles Jordan: question to Czech President Vaclav Klaus":
Will the Czech Republic celebrate the 100th anniversary on 7 February 2008 of the birth of Charles Jordan, the Father of Refugees found dead in Prague on 20 August 1967, by highlighting the generosity of the nascent Czechoslovak democracy in permitting the transit of 250 000 Jews from 1945 to 1948, a noble role subsequently obscured by the soviets forcing your post-1948 communist regime to spearhead the worst state persecution of Jewish leaders in Europe after the holocaust?

Raymond LLOYD
Editor & Publisher The Parity Democrat Westminster

Note for the file: The Czechoslovak action was at least as generous as that of Austria in 1956-1957 in allowing the transit of 200 000 Hungarians fleeing soviet totalitarianism, a relief action on which I wrote the official report of the then League of Red Cross Societies.
Who was Charles Jordan? I wondered. Thanks to google, I found out in a few seconds--and think the information is well worth sharing. It turns out that there is a 2004 Czech documentary film produced by Petr Bok and written by Martin Smok, titled Between a Star and a Crescent--Father of the Refugees, that apparently has re-ignited interest in this case. Here is a link to an item on a Czech expatriate website that gives a hint of the unsolved mystery:
In what could only be termed a compelling whodunnit if it weren’t so true, the Jordan case — if you’ve never heard of it before — is replete with heaps of Cold War drama, irresistible honey traps, and all manner of no-man’s-land intrigue. The details of Jordan’s sudden disappearance and death read like a perfect spy novel, with the former Československo living up to its reputation as the quintessential spook’s den.

On August 16, 1967, Charles Jordan was allegedly staying at the famous Esplanade Hotel just off today’s Wilsonova street at the head of Wenceslas Square. He told his wife that he would be stepping out to grab a newspaper, but never returned.
His body was found four days later floating in the Vltava River, the possible victim of a handful of potential perpetrators; some likely, others more fanciful.

A 2004 documentary co-authored by local Martin Šmok called “Between a Star and a Crescent — Father of the Refugees” gets into the shady details of Jordan’s disappearance.

It raises the controversial theory that Jordan had perhaps come to the former Czechoslovakia in 1967 as part of his efforts in attempting to ease the settling of Palestinian war refugees in Arab lands following the 1967 Six-Day War.

Recently, the US Joint Distribution Committe (JDC) lobbied US Secretary of State Condi Rice to assist in the JDC’s efforts to pressure the Czech government and several US Arab allies (namely, Egypt) into opening up the Jordan case files and making accessible the personalities from the era.
Here's a link to Dinah Spritzer's special investigation for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
At least one person alive today knew about the comings and goings of the Egyptians in Prague in 1967, and for the first time she spoke to a journalist during an extensive interview with JTA.

She was an StB informant who worked for Talaat, the Egyptian Embassy official and United Arab Airlines chief. According to her StB file, she was ordered by the Czech spy agency to seduce him and gather information on his activities.

As explained in the file, her mission was to provoke contacts between the Egyptians and Israelis in Prague by expanding operations "from the office of the object into the bedroom of the object." The informant was to offer the Egyptian secret service information about Israelis in Prague and then offer Israelis information about Czechoslovak arms shipments to Egypt.

The informant told JTA, on condition of anonymity, that she had no knowledge of Jordan until contacted by the UDV in 2004. That is surprising, as she worked for Arabs at the time of Jordan's death, when presumably there would have been much talk in Arab circles about a rare murder of an American Jew in Prague.

StB files also show that the spy agency briefly questioned the informant in 1967 about the whereabouts of her employer concerning the Jordan case.

According to Smok, since the questioning was cursory, it leaves open the possibility that the StB was aware of who was involved in Jordan's death. The JDC leader had visited the U.S. Embassy and the Prague Jewish Community during his stay, something that should not have gone unnoticed by the secret police.

Arguing against StB involvement in Jordan's death, the UDV says the spy agency would not have carried out such a significant act without the direction of the Soviet Union, which the UDV believes had no reason to eliminate Jordan and thus create further tension with the West.

Within this web of sex and spy agencies, is there more to be investigated?

Smok went so far as to assert that the United States and Israeli intelligence agencies knew much more about Jordan than they were sharing with their Czech counterparts, a conjecture that's hard to prove.

Michalkova of the UDV said the U.S. agencies had been cooperative, although oddly the FBI sent a note saying it had concluded Jordan had died as the result of an accident, a theory neither the UDV nor anyone even vaguely familiar with the case accepts.

Israel had not responded to repeated requests for information, according to Michalkova, who noted that as late as 2005 the Czech interior minister was asking for assistance from his Israeli counterpart, to no avail. The Israeli Prime Minister's Office, to whom the intelligence services report, told JTA it was looking into the matter.

Czech and Israeli intelligence sources told JTA they found the UDV claim bizarre, since the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, currently has an intensive and excellent relationship with its Czech counterpart.

The sources noted that although the Mossad may not have wanted to work directly with the UDV, it does not mean it didn't share what it knew about Jordan or Arab activity in Prague in 1967 with Czech authorities interested in the case.

On the Czech side Tomas Kraus, chairman of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, echoed the sentiment of many Czech, Israeli and American sources.

"There are a million theories," Kraus said, "but I don't think we can ever get to the bottom of it."

He added that "a U.S.-led investigation couldn't hurt."

Not since hearing about the Raoul Wallenberg mystery have I learned of such a strange disappearance of a Jewish rescuer in the midst of the Cold War. It would be nice if the Kremlin, CIA, and Mossad opened their files on Charles Jordan to help set the record straight.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Magdi Khalil on "Islamophobia"

From The American Thinker:
The term "Islamophobia" is a tool of deception that serves to mislead the world, blackmail the West, terrorize whoever dares to criticize Islam, fuel the anger of Muslim youth, and minimize the danger of Islamic terrorism, in addition to being a threat to the freedoms of thought, creativity and criticism in the West, ultimately the term can serve the interests of the terrorists.

While Tariq Ramadan holds the first place among the promoters of the concept of "Islamophobia", Saad Eddin Ibrahim takes the lead in using the term "Islamist scarecrow". The term is meant for the ears of the West as well, and suggests that the autocratic governments play on the fear of the West that an Islamist rule will be the alternative if those regimes fall, so that by waving this "scarecrow" around, and alluding to the ominous repercussions of reform for Western interests, for non-Muslim minorities, and the Middle East as a whole, they have managed to scare off the West and stall the reform project. Though I agree with my dear friend Prof. Ibrahim that the autocratic regimes in the Middle East have skillfully used this scare tactic to alarm not only the West, but also the non-Muslim minorities in the East, the liberals and women, nonetheless the term itself is inappropriate if not misleading, and plays right into the hands of Islamists and their plans to establish a religious state.

The Islamists should not be compared to a scary looking but harmless scarecrow; they are by no means an empty threat, but rather a genuine menace that alarms the advocates of civil society, who realize that if Political Islam gets its chance to take control of the Middle East, the region will plunge into total darkness. The Islamists would not let go of their detrimental vision of a religious state, and there are two recent cases that support this view: the way Hamas renounced the terms of democracy and went back on its agreement, shattering the Palestinian experience; and the way the Muslim Brotherhood have affected life in Egypt, even though they have no part in the government. Considering that the Muslim Brotherhood's proposed reform project is for a religious state that is governed by scholars concerned with camel urine, where the law submits to shari'a and science to superstition, where national belonging is discarded in favor of religious belonging, and political posts turn into religious assignments, where political power bows down to religious power, and to the instatement of welayat al-faqih (guardianship of the Islamic jurists) that mirrors Iran -- considering that this is only a proposal, one has to wonder how much worse reality will be if they gain the power to implement their vision?

The Islamists are certainly no scarecrows; basically, they are a major obstruction standing in the way of real democracy, citizenship and civil state. They do not endorse the supremacy of the law and a civil constitution that separates state and religion. They do not sanction laws that protect and expand freedoms. They reject genuine equality between Muslims and non-Muslims, and they are engrossed with religious interpretations to the point of complete obsession. Hence, it is reasonable to say that any attempts to defend or bolster their image can only lead to the obliteration of whatever little is left of the civil state to the advantage of an extremely dark religious state.

Yes, the Middle East regimes are autocratic, corrupt and do use the Islamists' card in a dangerous game inside and outside their countries. Nevertheless, to stand by the Islamists is a reckless and extremely risky gamble, and much like "Samson choice", the whole region may not survive its outcome.

Amil Imani on Islamism

Another thought: let’s separate arguments that impugn Islam on the basis of the (weird to me) liturgical conduct that is required of them. All religions have rituals, but who cares. The real story is not whether they wash their feet, or sign a cross with holy water, or whirl like a Dervish. The issue is how they treat those who disagree with them or stray from their sanctioned behaviors. Islam seeks to conquer the world by force and force all subjects to accept a global Islamic theocracy in which its antisocial policies can be imposed without question or alternative. Violators are cruelly punished. Abrogators are murdered. No wonder the communists love these guys. It’s the same “god,” the god of mandatory surrender of all rights to the State...submission!

Islam is an example of a belief system that perpetuates both force and fraud, sanctioned and prescribed within its scripture. It has a perfect legacy of bloody conquest and stands as an example of one of the few religions of mankind that mandates violent human death and destruction as a modus operandi (shared with Aztec and Mayan religions). Islam’s founder waged dozens of bloody wars of aggression and spouted ugly and damning diatribes against unbelievers -- Christians and Jews in particular.

Today, the most devout and knowledgeable Muslims are all Jihadists. And other than communist nations, the least free and most impoverished societies, and the places in which there is the greatest difference between rich and poor, are all Muslim nations. The only major religion that still sanctions slavery, the beating of women by men, and forced female circumcision, is Islam. And the Quran specifically encourages bloody, violent, eternal Jihad against unbelievers and requires all devout Muslims to lie “Taqqye-ye,” and wait in readiness to attack with terrorism (sleeper cells are prescribed in the Quran).

“Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.” Qur’an:9:5

Drawings of Leonardo

Recently started a drawing class. When our teacher recommended studying the masters, I was lucky to stumble across this website dedicated to drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Daniel Pipes on the Annapolis Summit

Pipes sounds even more strongly opposed to the proposed Middle East summit meeting in Maryland than Henry Kissinger:
The Bush administration's plans to convene a new round of Israeli-Arab diplomacy on Nov. 26 will, I predict, do substantial damage to American and Israeli interests.

As a rule, successful negotiations require a common aim; in management-labor talks, for example, both sides want to get back to work. When a shared premise is lacking, not only do negotiations usually fail, but they usually do more harm than good. Such is the case in the forthcoming Annapolis, Maryland, talks. One side (Israel) seeks peaceful coexistence while the other (the Arabs) seeks to eliminate its negotiating partner, as evidenced by its violent actions, its voting patterns, replies to polls, political rhetoric, media messages, school textbooks, mosque sermons, wall graffiti, and much else.

Damage will be done should the Israeli government make "painful concessions" and get a cold peace or empty promises in return, as has consistently been the case since 1979. This lop-sided outcome would, once again, boost Arab exhilaration and determination to eliminate the Jewish state.

Giuliani's Policy Guy

Today's Washington Post profiles William Simon, Jr.:
That Forbes and the Giuliani campaign had ever gotten together was largely the work of one man -- a longtime conservative insider and friend of Giuliani's who was once a Republican candidate for governor of California -- Bill Simon. Simon, the Giuliani campaign's policy director, had arranged a lunch at which Giuliani made the case to Forbes that he was the right kind of Republican. "What came through with both Bill and the mayor was that they really got it on the economy and on taxes," Forbes said.

Starting last fall, when Giuliani first called Simon and said he was running for president, Simon, 56, has been more responsible than anyone for Giuliani's policy education, and he has been the agent charged with managing the sometimes eager, sometimes awkward relationship between the former mayor of a liberal city and the conservative establishment.

Well before Giuliani said publicly that he would be a candidate, Simon put him through a rolling seminar that those in the campaign called Simon University, bringing in thinkers to brief Giuliani on key issues. The result is that though many of Giuliani's campaign operatives worked with him when he was mayor, his policy staffers, who have largely been assembled by Simon, come mostly from the think-tank world.

The roster of the seminars was a who's who of conservative intellectuals, and their ideas a menu of conservative thought. There were neoconservatives Norman Podhoretz, John R. Bolton and R. James Woolsey Jr. on foreign policy, as well as less ideological thinkers such as Gen. Anthony C. Zinni and Yale professor Charles Hill; the Hoover Institution's Michael Boskin on taxes and economic policy; Hoover's race scholars Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell; and retired Gen. Jack Keane and the military scholar Frederick W. Kagan, the authors of the Iraq "surge."
And here's a biography of foreign policy eminence grise Charles Hill, from the Hoover Institution website:
Charles Hill, a career minister in the U.S. Foreign Service, is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Hill was executive aide to former U.S. secretary of state George P. Shultz (1985–89) and served as special consultant on policy to the secretary-general of the United Nations from 1992 to 1996. He is also diplomat in residence and lecturer in International Studies at Yale University.

Among Hill's awards are the Superior Honor Award from the Department of State in 1973 and 1981; the Distinguished Honor Award in 1978; the Presidential Meritorious Service Award in 1986; the Presidential Distinguished Service Award in 1987 and 1989; and the Secretary of State's Medal in 1989. He was granted an honorary doctor of laws degree by Rowan University.

In 1983, Hill was appointed chief of staff of the State Department, following his serving as deputy assistant secretary for the Middle East.

His career took him to the Middle East in 1978, where he was deputy director of the Israel desk; in 1979 he became political counselor for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. In 1981, he was named director of Israel and Arab-Israeli affairs, and in 1982 he served as deputy assistant secretary for the Middle East.

Hill began his career in 1963 as a vice consul in Zurich, Switzerland. In 1964, he became a Chinese-language officer in Taichubg, Taiwan, and in 1966 was appointed as a political officer in Hong Kong. He was mission coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in 1971–1973, and then in the State Department as China cultural exchange negotiator. He was involved in the 1974 Panama Canal negotiations, then became a member of the policy planning staff as a speech writer for Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1975.

During 1970, he was a fellow at the Harvard University East Asia Research Center. He was a Clark fellow at Cornell University in 1989.

He received an A.B. degree from Brown University in 1957, a J.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1960, and an M.A. degree in American studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1961.

Hill has collaborated with former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on Egypt's Road to Jerusalem, a memoir of the Middle East peace negotiations, and Unvanquished, about U.S. relations with the U.N. in the post–cold war period, both published by Random House. Hill is the editor of the three-volume Papers of U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali, published by Yale University Press.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Big Picture

Saw Le Monde correspondent Corine Lesnes speak at SAIS yesterday evening about "le divorce" of Nicolas Sarkozy, when host Justin Vaisse plugged her blog, Big Picture. Lesnes, a fashionable Frenchwoman of a certain age, well-dressed, well coiffed, and with a big smile, was--bien sur--very catty about Sarkozy, pointing out his low marks at university (he failed his final exam!); his bad French (oooh la la!), his immigrant stock (not exactly news), and his appeals to the right and co-optation of the left (is that supposed to bad?). After bashing Sarkozy for doing everything himself--and all at once to fox his opponents--while sidelining the prime minister (Francois Fillon, according to Wikipedia, although Lesnes did not mention his name), Lesnes then complimented Sarkozy for calling her boss, the director of Le Monde, personally dialing the number on his own phone.

So what's the problem?

Since Lesnes said everyone is talking about Sarkozy's divorce, I went to her blog to find out more. But when I got there, it was even more interesting to this Washingtonian--Lesnes has posts about John Bolton's latest book, and taxis in DC switching from the Zone System (my preference) to Meters (tick, tick, tick while stuck in traffic). And, by the way, Sarkozy is coming to town on November 7th (where's my invitation?).

John Bolton: Bush Will Bomb Iran

John Bolton made his prediction at a lunch with Financial Times Washington bureau chief Edward Luce:
... As we wait for the bill, we finally get round to the subject of Iran. Bolton finishes with a flourish, confidently predicting that George W. Bush will launch a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office.

He can’t resist one last European dig. “Four years of European diplomacy have given the Iranians the one asset they could not have purchased – and that was time,” he says, wagging his finger. “And now, irony of ironies, after fiddling around with all this futile diplomacy, we finally have a French president who sounds just like we do on Iran.” C’est la guerre, I think. A sobering conclusion to a sober Anglo-Saxon meal.

Robert Lantz, R.I.P.

Talent agent Robert Lantz died last week, aged 93. His passing was noted in Variety, the show business bible, and in the New York Times.
...His constellation included the writers James Baldwin, Lillian Hellman and Carson McCullers; the actors Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Yul Brynner, Montgomery Clift, Myrna Loy and Liv Ullmann; the photographer Arnold Newman, the film director Milos Forman, the playwright Peter Shaffer and the lyricist Alan Jay Lerner.

Clients begat clients: Ms. Taylor introduced him to Mr. Burton, her fifth husband, and Justice William O. Douglas introduced him to Chief Justice Rehnquist....

...Born in Berlin on July 20, 1914, Mr. Lantz dreamed of being an author like his father, a screenwriter in the silent-movie era. He moved to London in 1935, after Hitler came to power, and worked as a story editor for American film companies. Following World War II he came to New York and began a new life representing creative artists: stars of the stage and screen, literary lions and, occasionally, public figures who thought they had a book in them.

Mr. Lantz was one of the last members of an old school: he did not use e-mail or computers. He took 10 percent of his authors’ earnings, not 15 percent, hewing to a tradition widely abandoned in the late 20th century. He made his deals with handshakes.
Interestingly, Robbie Lantz was my first agent. He offered representation after the release of Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?. His office handled negotiations with an Auschwitz survivor who had written a memoir after retiring from the garment business--he wanted me to direct his life story. Lantz was charming, a real Berliner with an accent. His office was dark and modernist, very Continental. Someone I met in New York called him a "collector" of talent, rather than an ordinary agent. We parted ways some time after the deal fell through. When I read his obituary, I thought it was nice to have once been part of Lantz's collection...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alchemies of the Eye

A plug for an exhibition at New York's Amsterdam Whitney Art Gallery featuring paintings by my cousin, Louise Link Rath. It's called "Alchemies of the Eye," and continues until October 30th. If you can't make it in person to the art gallery in Chelsea, my cousin also has a personal website displaying her artwork.

Henry Kissinger on Condoleeza Rice's Middle East Summit

From the Khaleej Times (UAE):
Arab opinion is far from uniform. At least three points of view are identifiable: a small, dedicated but not very vocal group genuinely believing in co-existence with Israel; a much larger group seeking to destroy Israel by permanent confrontation; an offshoot willing to negotiate with Israel but justifying negotiations domestically as means to destroy the Jewish state in stages. Are the moderate Arab states prepared to expand and strengthen the group committed to genuine co-existence? Will recognition of Israel bring an end to the unrelenting media, governmental and educational campaign in Arab countries that presents Israel as an illegitimate, imperialist, almost criminal interloper in the region?

Several moderate Arab states have been extraordinarily reluctant to come to Annapolis. If they appear, will they treat their presence as their principal contribution for which one-sided pressure in Israel is deemed the appropriate concession?

Even more portentous will be the profound implications for the balance of forces within the Arab world. Moderates there will be less praised for their achievement than accused of having betrayed the Arab cause. The statement of the supreme leader of Iran attacking the Palestinian peace process and warning Arab states not to participate in it is likely to be the beginning of a systematic campaign. The US will be able to sustain the proposed course only if it is prepared to extend long-term support to its Arab partners against the foreseeable onslaught.

The peace process will therefore merge with the generic conflicts of the Middle East. The Annapolis conference cannot be the end of a process; rather, it should lay the groundwork of a new, potentially hopeful phase that will continue into future administrations. But it should not be driven by the US political calendar. If either America's Arab or Israeli friends are asked to take on more than they are able to withstand, there's the risk of another even larger blow-up. A preparatory “solution'' that tears the body politic of the parties apart will prevent ultimate progress. Breaking the psychological back of the US's Israeli ally would only embolden the radicals and thereby destabilise the entire region — whatever contrary arguments conventional wisdom advances.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Agustin Blazquez: Che Was No Hero--An Open Letter To Public Broadcasting

by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

I could not believe my ears on Monday October 8 at what Public Radio International (PRI), THE WORLD, was broadcasting about Che Guevara. At taxpayer expense, since the NPR stations which broadcast the program are supported by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

PRI, THE WORLD was solemnly commemorating the 40th anniversary of Che’s capture and death. The show was contributing to the myth that Castro created glorifying a man who in real life was a cruel assassin who miserably failed in his all of his revolutionary assignments, with two exceptions: executing 216 people including minors, and wrecking Cuba’s economy. Is that a hero who should be celebrated on public radio?

According to a recent article by Ernesto Betancourt at Diario Las Americas recounting Che’s failure as a guerrilla, “Che was a sadist who enjoyed firing the last shot in the executed men in the Sierra Maestra” [Mountains].

Che failed in all his guerrilla operations in the Caribbean, Africa and Bolivia, meeting death in Bolivia at the hands of the local military and the CIA. Sound like a t-shirt hero to you? And, why should Public Radio International provide free advertising to merchandise a failed Cuban terrorist?

Betancourt documented that Che was a racist when it came to working with both blacks in Africa and the South American Indians. Che had a marked superiority complex and was arrogant when in command. However, he didn’t act like as a hero when he faced his own death – like many of those he executed in Cuba - Che pleaded for his life. For more details, read Humberto Fontova’s article on Che’s un-heroic death at this link. How can it be justified for public broadcasting to use tax money to further Che’s false hero status--with no mention of the atrocities he committed against innocent civilians?

I was upset by the PRI broadcast, because last May PBS rejected my documentary proposal for CHE: The Other Side of an Icon, intended to balance misinformation in the media about Che Guevara--to show the real, historical side of Che as a killer and terrorist whose world-wide merchandising as an icon of revolution paved the way for the cult of Osama Bin Laden (click on the image to read the PBS letter). The Corporation for Public Broadcasting participated in this rejection, according to a phone call from CPB executive John Prizer. CPB president Patricia Harrison is former co-chair of the Republican National Committee. CPB chair Cheryl Halpern is also a Republican. Strange that Republicans reward broadcasts that glorify Che Guevara with financing and airtime, yet reject programs critical of enemies of the USA. Why?

My statements are not outrageous. Che was clearly a communist assassin, a terrorist who hated the United States and wanted to use nuclear arms to destroy America (this is on public record). Che symbolizes the opposite of the American dream. He was certainly not a hero to be admired, any more than other, lesser murderers.

The PRI “report” both misinformed and misled the public broadcasting audience. Yet it was broadcast on public radio stations, without a single protest from supposedly anti-Communist Republicans who now run the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. So, after hearing Che’s praises sung, we can adapt a Lenin truism and say, when it come to CPB, “American taxpayers, and Republicans, will give Che the rope to hang them with...”

© ABIP 2007

Agustin Blazquez, founder and president
UNCOVERING CUBA EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION (UCEF) A non-profit organization [501 (c) (3)]
Producer and director of the documentaries:

COVERING CUBA, premiered at the American Film Institute in 1995, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles, COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation, premiered in 2001 at the U.S. Capitol in and at the 2001 Miami International Book Fair COVERING CUBA 3: Elian presented at the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival, the 2004 American Film Renaissance Film Festival in Dallas, Texas and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival, COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below, premiered at the two Tower Theaters in Miami on January 2006 and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival and the 2006 Barcelona International Film Festival for Human Rights and Peace, Dan Rather "60 Minutes," an inside view , RUMBERAS CUBANAS, Vol. 1 MARIA ANTONIETA PONS, COVERING CUBA 5: Act Of Repudiation premiered at the two Tower Theaters in Miami, January 2007, at the Hispanic Cuban Club in Madrid, Spain and the 2007 Palm Beach International Film Festival, and the upcoming COVERING CUBA 6.

Author of more that 300 published articles and author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and translator with Jaums Sutton of the book by Luis Grave de Peralta Morell THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Israel Turns to Russia, France for Help...

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made a quick visit to Moscow and is heading to Paris to shore up support, according to the Jerusalem Post:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert traveled to Paris Sunday for talks that will focus on Iran, carrying in his pocket what he said was a guarantee from Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia would not "put Israel in a place where it could be threatened."

Olmert's trip to France comes just three days after his lightning visit to Russia and a three-hour meeting with Putin.

Olmert told reporters en route to Paris that his meetings in Russia were "serious and important." He said he talked extensively with Putin about the Iranian issue and was "satisfied" with what he heard.

Olmert's snap visit to Russia came after Putin questioned in Teheran whether Iran was developing nuclear weapons and warned the West against attacking Iran.

Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Saltanov and Moscow's envoy to the Quartet Sergei Yakovlev arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday for two days of talks. The talks are to concentrate on the Palestinian track, but are also expected to deal somewhat with the Iranian nuclear issue.

The two met on Sunday with Foreign Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovitch, and are set to meet Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday. Israel is expected to impress upon the two the importance of continuing to isolate Hamas.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the visit was planned some four weeks ago as part of a regional tour that will also take the pair to the PA, Egypt and Jordan. The purpose of the visit, according to the officials, is to hear from the sides their positions in the run-up to the proposed Mideast meeting later this year in Annapolis.
Perhaps the road to Middle East peace runs not through Baghdad, as President Bush once argued, but through Moscow and Paris?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Inside the Jack Anderson Papers

Jack Anderson's friend Dr. Terry A. Hinch invited me to the dedication of Jack Anderson's Papers at George Washington University's Gelman Library last night. Anderson's widow, along with many of Anderson's 9 children were at the reception, which featured exhibits of Anderson's most famous stories in glass cases. George Washington University president Stephen Knapp, who used to teach English at UC Berkeley --my own Alma Mater--paid tribute, along with the librarian, former colleagues (who showed a 5-minute video) and his son Erik. Erik noted that the FBI wanted Anderson's papers, no doubt to identify leakers. The family fought the FBI, and the Anderson family won. Evern after death, Erik pointed out, it was Jack Anderson-1, FBI-0. Terry had introduced me to Anderson a while back, at his Potomac Church of the Latter-Day Saints. And I have to say, Jack Anderson was a very nice man--at least to me. His fearless investigative journalism had really "spoken truth to power." Terry told me that Jack Anderson had smuggled a gun through security on Capitol Hill soon after they installed metal detectors, and risked arrest for the story. He was follwed by FBI agents while doing church work. He certainly broke more than his share of stories, and was his own man, with a syndicated column that at its peak reached some 60 million readers. I'm glad that his papers will be available to scholars and the public. He filled the role of journalist as conscience of the nation. A friend of Terry's, who used to work in the Pentagon, said at the reception that when making an executive decision he always thought: "What would this look like if it made its way into in Jack Anderson's column?" That sums up Jack Anderson's legacy in a nutshell. His writing helped keep American government honest. Too bad we don't have Jack Anderson writing today...

Wikipedia entry here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Daniel Pipes: Giuliani is no George Bush

From the Jerusalem Post:
Ever in lock-step, Time magazine's blog likewise asserted last week that Giuliani's "message seems to be that Bush's policies for the region have worked pretty well, so let's have more of the same." How odd. Actually, the opposite should be apparent about Newsweek's six featured advisors - Norman Podhoretz, Martin Kramer, Peter Berkowitz, Nile Gardiner, Robert Kasten, and myself. First, we collectively had many disagreements with Bush administration policies and, second, we lacked impact on them. In other words, the real story is Giuliani's fresh start in foreign policy, joined by a cast unconnected to the current president's successes and failures...

How About Those Indians?

Last night's playoff game means that Cleveland is almost in the World Series:
It was the second time this series the Indians have put up a seven spot -- the first coming in the 11th inning of the 13-6 victory in Game 2 at Fenway Park.

"Somebody gets it going," Blake said, "and there's maybe a little advantage, a little momentum going there, and it's just a combination of guys working the pitcher and just battling."

This battle, for all intents and purposes, was over, once that 35-minute fifth was finalized. The Red Sox kept it moderately interesting with consecutive solo shots from Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the sixth, but the Indians weren't going to cough this one up.

The Tribe's focus now is to not cough up a prime opportunity to wrap this thing up at home on Thursday night. They'll have their ace Sabathia on the mound, and another bustling Jacobs Field crowd behind them.

Only when -- and if -- that next victory comes will this story have the final chapter the Indians are seeking out.

"We're up, 3-1, and that doesn't mean anything," Martinez said. "We've got to finish them off."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rabbit Bentzion Kravitz on Ann Coulter

Rabbi Kravitz spoke at my cousin Paul's memorial service in Los Angeles' Hillside Memorial Park last Saturday, below the impressive Al Jolson memorial fountain inscribed "Sing Sweet the Song of Israel." Here's one rabbi's alternative to David Horowitz:
Ann Coulter’s statement, that Jews need to be perfected by accepting Jesus, simply articulated what evangelical Christians believe in their hearts but avoid in order to make their message more palatable. By saying Jews need to be perfected she is replacing the word “perfected” for the classic missionary term “completed.” This insinuates that Jews are incomplete and imperfect.

Ann quotes Jerry Falwell that Jews can serve God with the law but Christians have the improved fast-track through the blood of Jesus. In fact, Pat Robertson said the same thing. When I challenged him in person he admitted that his Christian beliefs also teaches that it is impossible for Jews to keep the entire law since we all “fall short” and can only get to heaven through Jesus.

Evangelicals may claim they love Jews and Israel, but until they respect Judaism as a valid path to God they will continue to seek our conversion. We need to educate Christians what the Bible really teaches in context and in the original Hebrew. Until then they will continue to repeat the same inaccurate teachings that Christianity has been preaching for centuries. To get started you can download, for free in 7 languages, my Jewish Response to Missionaries handbook at

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz
Jews for Judaism

David Horowitz on Ann Coulter

This comment certainly caught my eye:
I have received a surprising number of emails from friends basically asking "What are you going to do about Coulter?" This is a reference to her recent comment that she is hoping for the perfection of the Jews. My response is this: what else would a Christian hope for? That's the message of the New Testament: Jesus came to fulfill, complete, perfect the Law. If you're a Christian, that's what you believe. If you don't accompany this belief by burning Jews who refuse to become perfected at the stake why would any Jew have a problem?

Why do some Jews think that Christians should not really believe what they believe while it's okay for Jews to really believe they are God's Chosen People? I don't get it. Whatever happened to the pluralism of ideas? In any case, what I'm going to do about Coulter is finish her latest exhilarating book, If Democrats Had Any Brains They'd Be Republicans, which happens to be a hall of fame of her so-called "over the top" moments that drive leftists crazy. Right on Ann.

Emiliano Antunez Responds to Agustin Blazquez's Open Letter to Ron Paul

Received this via email:

Mr. Blazquez I have read your Open Letter to Presidential Candidate Ron Paul regarding his stand on the Cuban Embargo and I am not at all surprised, that many like yourself in the Cuban-American community still don't get it. I myself am a Cuban American who for many years saw nothing wrong with the Embargo or Travel Restrictions. But one day I realized that its not about Cuba, Castro or the US but about individual freedom and respect for private property.

By using the power of government to restrict travel or commerce, we become the mirror image of our enemy (Castro/Communist). US regulations mostly at the behest of Cuban-Americans have become just as Kafkaesque as those imposed by Castro's bad joke of a government; do you really think that Castro's hold on power depends on the ability of the US government to define who is a relative, or tell people where they can or can't go and how many times or what they can or can't do with the money they earn? If so he (Castro) would not have lasted 48 years (and counting) in power.

Just as I oppose the embargo, I would be opposed to foreign aid, or taxpayer backed credit to Cuba or any other country. For too many years a large number of Cuban-Americans have focused on Castro rather than the real reason the battle for Cuba was lost, freedom, individual rights, and respect for private property (see Machado, Batista and Castro), how do you propose to restore them in Cuba while advocating exactly the opposite here?

On some of your more specific points:

"1. What is good for agribusiness in Texas is not necessarily good for the Cuban people."

The economic problems (and they are many) in Cuba are caused by its own socialist system, but I don't see where having more food around would be detrimental to the "Cuban people." To imply the Ron Paul's position is based on agribusiness is to be either blind to his voting record in congress for 20 years or an uneducated (Calle Ocho) knee jerk reaction.

2. Doing business in Cuba is not doing business with Cuban business owners. The Cuban government requires that all foreign business done in Cuba be conducted with the Cuban government as intermediary. As revealed by many participants, foreign companies must pay the regime in dollars to get workers, and the regime keeps 90% of the salaries; workers receive just 10%, and they are paid in Cuban pesos. Independent labor unions are forbidden. On August 11, 1989, Carlos Miguel Suarez and Isidoro Padron Armenteros were executed in the city of Sagua La Grande, Cuba. Their crime? Trying to organize an independent labor union.

Again this is not about Cuba. It is about the right of individuals (or private companies) to do with their products or assets as they see fit (without taxpayer subsidy) here in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. If we regulate or restrict trade we become the monster we seek to destroy. Since Cuba's economy is in shambles (due to socialism) their purchasing power is minuscule. To think that Cuba's economy will improve simply because someone is allowed to sell them something is too believe in the viability of socialism. Cuba can buy anything it wants from any other country on the globe yet it is an economic basket case, WHY? Not because of the embargo (that's actually Castro's excuse) but because socialism or any other restriction of trade or free enterprise will fail history has proven that time and again. It is unfortunate that the Castro's government chooses to repress its people but that is an issue for Cuban's to resolve. As a matter of fact many of those offering to resolve that problem today from US shores fervently supported Castro's revolution and rule (for many years in some instances). Some of these same fervent anti-Castroite's support socialist economic panaceas here in the United States.

3. The embargo is working. If it had not been in place, the Cuban government would have had more money to spend on spreading communism and terrorism around the world and on maintaining control of and suppression of the Cuban people. It may even have been able to afford nuclear weapons by now. It is on public record that Castro asked Nikita Khrushchev to use nuclear missiles against the United States during the missile crisis in 1962 and that Che also wanted to use nuclear weapons to destroy the U.S. In addition, the embargo may prove to be a bargaining chip for a future change of government there.

You would have to believe in the viability of socialism (See USSR) to think that the embargo is any kind of bargaining chip. Castro is aware (more so than some folks in Miami) of the many faults of his system and has used the embargo as nothing more than an excuse for his complete failure. I personally would not do business with Castro or any communist simply because chances are they would not pay, because socialism espouses theft. Those who do decide to do business with this crowd will find that out sooner or later (at their own expense). The Embargo is working? NO Cuba's socialist economy has failed miserably.

4. Doing business with Cuba does not put pressure on the Castro government to increase freedoms; it merely reinforces the existing elitist system, since the only Cubans permitted to do business with foreigners are the privileged elite, who are chosen by the government. But not even the elite can put pressure on the Castro government, because their status can change in the blink of an eye.

Again its not about Castro, its about maintaining and respecting individual and property rights here in the US. The earth does not revolve around Castro (that would be the sun).

5. Many naively point out the role of free trade in overturning the totalitarian regimes of countries such as China and Russia. But as reported by 60 Minutes on Sunday, September 23, 2007, and many other sources, Russia is resuming its totalitarian police state. The television program 20/20 reported a few weeks ago that Vladimir Putin has created a Hitler Youth–type organization to fight dissent, similar to Castro’s dreaded paramilitary Rapid Response Brigades, which equate to the “Tonton Macoutes” of the late Haitian dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier. All are used to control, intimidate and create fear among ordinary citizens.

This is unfortunate but sadly not new (see French Revolution) in human history. If Mr. Putin or anyone else chooses to go down that road they will wreck their countries economy, he of all people should know better since he lived through the demise of the USSR. If the Russians go down the path of totalitarian rule and socialism they will merely self-destruct as they did the first time. It is also not the job of the US government (at least not according to the CONSTITUTION) to "liberate" all the peoples of the World (See Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua etc etc etc).

"7. The unscrupulous businessman’s"

Here you really sound like your nemesis, unscrupulous businessmen fail in free and unfettered markets. I will leave it here because if I continued this would become a course on the constitution, free markets and free trade, and being a good capitalist and valuing my time I would have to charge you real money -as opposed to Cuban pesos or US Dollars- for it (you would be more tha free to decline such an offer).

One final note, I couldn't help noticing your strong support of TV and Radio Marti, and though I share your hate for Castro and what he has done to Cuba, I can't in good conscience support the use of confiscated US taxpayer dollars to fund of something that has at best questionable value and should if anything be privately funded.It is extremely easy (and lucrative) to be "patriotic" with other peoples confiscated money.

Respectfully and Sincerely
Emiliano Antunez
Miami, Florida

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thant Myint-U on The Right Way to Save Burma

From Sunday's Los Angeles Times' Opinion Section:
The country only began to crawl out of its isolation in the early 1990s, when the regime finally began to welcome foreign trade and investment back to the country and asked for help in reforming the economy. As important, the army agreed to cease-fires with nearly all the various rebel armies. But all this came at the same time that Burma's new democracy movement -- headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of a revered hero of the Burmese independence movement who had been assassinated -- was pressing hard for political change. The West began to impose sanctions to support her position, pushing the generals back into their shell.

And so the stage is set for an even worse turn in the future. We have seen the anger and frustration on the streets of Rangoon (now called Yangon by the junta). The cease-fires remain fragile, but the international community has done little or nothing to encourage moves toward a just and sustainable peace. There is the dire poverty. And there is the fragility of the state itself. In Burma, the army has become the state -- there is little else. And yet the present officer corps, having grown up in international isolation, has little sense of the alternatives and remains deeply distrustful of the outside world.

There is still time to avoid the nightmare, but I'm afraid it will take a lot more than the international community is likely to give. Avoiding disaster will require high-level attention and commitment beyond the couple of weeks when Burma is on the newspaper front pages and television screens. It will require an acceptance that long-distance condemnation and Western economic sanctions don't mean much to the half-century-old military regime, a regime that has long been comfortable in isolation and needs only a modicum of money and trade from the outside world. It will require a realization that Burma sits right in the middle of Asia's economic miracle, that harnessing Burma to that rapid change is the surest way to raise up living standards, and that access to Western markets and Western ideas will make all the difference in determining whether the Burmese become equal partners of China and India or merely the providers of cheap labor and raw materials. And it's only when the Burmese ruling elite are exposed to the world that they will see a need to mend their ways.

Avoiding disaster in Burma will mean taking a long-term and pragmatic approach and understanding that democracy won't be created overnight. Cooperation among the United States, China and India will be essential, but it cannot be based on a policy of "regime change." We need to see the bigger picture in Burma -- not only the protests and the repression but also the ethnic conflicts, the pressing need to reform the economy and the urgency of delivering assistance to the most vulnerable people, especially the children. The war, poverty and repression are all interlinked; progress on all these fronts needs to happen together.

Friday, October 12, 2007

British Judge Rules Al Gore's Film Partisan Political Propaganda

Now that Al Gore has joined Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, this legal judgement may not make a difference. Still, the text of the decision makes for interesting reading.Here's a link to the full text (PDF) of Justice Burton's October 2nd decision in Stuart Dimmock v. the Secretary of State for Education and Skills--the British case challenging school showings of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

This abstract comes from the Heartland Institute website:
In the matter between Stuart Dimmock, Claimant and Secretary of State for Education and Skills (now Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families), Defendant, British High Court Justice Michael Burton determines former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s global warming film, An Inconvenient Truth, promotes “partisan political views.”

The case was brought by Stewart Dimmock, a truck driver, member of a local school council, and the parent of children aged 11 and 14. The defendants are British ministers responsible for the government education system, who had ordered nationwide distribution of Al Gore’s film. Dimmock said the film is inappropriate for showing to school-age children because it is politically biased, scientifically inaccurate, and contains “sentimental mush.”

After outlining nearly a dozen serious factual errors in the film, Burton determined it could continue to be shown in schools, but only if accompanied by a teaching package that includes limiting and cautionary “guidance notes” and other films, including a counter-film, “The Great Global Warming Swindle,” produced by Britain’s Channel 4.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fravahar's Video Tribute to Iranian Victims of Islamism

(ht Amil Imani)


As my cousin Paul lay dying in his West Los Angeles nursing home last week, my cousin Dorothy, his sister who now lives in Israel, talked about the importance of Yichus. Paul was a decorated WWII Navy veteran, who participated in some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific Theater. After the war, he had led a quiet life as an engineer. He was proud of his service to our country in the US Navy, which began when he volunteered after Pearl Harbor, age 17, and ended after V-J Day. As a Navy veteran and member of the "Greatest Generation," Paul had been the creator of his own Yichus.

After Dorothy's discussion, I wanted to learn more about the concept and its importance in Jewish thought. Thanks to Google, I found this discussion in a commentary by Rabbi Aron Tendler at
Most of us think of Yichus from the position of the recipient not the initiator. We are the children of Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivkah, Yakov, Rachel, and Leah. We are the recipients of their unique accomplishments and reputations. We did nothing to earn it, yet it defines who we are. Unfortunately, many of those who have it do not know that they have it, or care that they have it. That means that as important as Yichus might be to the recipients its practical value is only as great as the recipient's awareness and caring. Understanding Yichus demands that we begin seeing Yichus from the position of the initiator, the one who really cares about it, rather than the recipient who may care less.

As Moshe began his final words to the Bnai Yisroel the question of Yichus was foremost in his mind. Moshe was the product of Yichus and also the creator of his own Yichus. He knew that the amazing experiences of the 40 years in the desert were the foundation of the nation's identity and Yichus. It was what made them unique and apart from all the other nations of the world. Therefore, it needed to be preserved in the written word, but even more so, in the hearts and minds of the nation. It was incumbent upon the children of the Exodus to embrace their own Yichus so that they could be the progenitors of Yichus for their own children and grandchildren.

The transmission of Yichus is far more the responsibility of the initiator than the recipient. The initiator must engender in his recipients a sense of pride in the past and personal commitment for the present and future. The actions of the fathers are a foretelling for their children because it is the actions of the fathers that guarantee the passage of Yichus to their children.

Everyone knows that personal Yichus is the most important Yichus of all. However, every new beginning is really a reconnecting with a Yichus that extends back to the Avos, Imahos, and Moshe Rabbeinu. Personal Yichus simply picks up where previous generations left off.

Gathered in the Plains of Moab within sight of the Promised Land, Moshe summoned the entire assembly. His call was all embracing and inclusive, from the heads of the Tribes to the water-carriers and woodchoppers. He addressed a population of men, women, and children uniquely diverse and independent, yet sharing a collective Yichus and destiny. As a nation they had been molded apart from Egypt and independent of the outside world. However, they were the Sons of Jacob and they were not independent of each other.

"Each of you serves an essential job in the collective service of G-d. You cannot do it alone. You cannot give over the full Yichus without each other. We are a nation and it was to a nation that G-d gave His Torah. From the greatest to the lowest, from the most scholarly to the simplest, each of you has a job and each of you is responsible to the collective future of our people. We have all gathered to accept G-d's covenant and be His nation. So it was promised to our fore fathers and so will you witness the completion of that promise. However, far more important than being the fulfillment of past promises is your main job as guarantors of the future."

Monday, October 08, 2007

Christopher Hitchens on Ayaan Hirsi Ali

From Slate (ht LGF):
Suppose the narrow and parochial view prevails in Holland, then I think that we in America should welcome the chance to accept the responsibility ourselves. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has become a symbol of the resistance, by many women from the Muslim world, to gender apartheid, "honor" killing, genital mutilation, and other horrors of clerical repression. She has been a very clear and courageous voice against the ongoing attack on our civilization mounted by exactly the same forces. Her recent memoir, Infidel (which I recommend highly, and to which, I ought to say, I am contributing a preface in its paperback edition), is an account of an extremely arduous journey from something very like chattel slavery to a full mental and intellectual emancipation from theocracy. It is a road that we must, and for our own sake as well, be willing to help others to travel.

For a while, her security in America was provided by members of the elite Dutch squad that is responsible for the protection of the Dutch royal family and Dutch politicians. The U.S. government requested that this be discontinued, for the perfectly understandable reason that foreign policemen should not be operating on American soil. The job has now been subcontracted, and was until recently underwritten by The Hague. If The Hague defaults, then does the "war on terror" administration take no interest in protecting the life of one of the finest enemies, and one of the most prominent targets, of the terrorists? Hirsi Ali has been accepted for permanent residence in the United States, and would, I think, like to become a citizen. That's an honor. If she was the CEO of Heineken or the president of Royal Dutch Shell, and was subject to death threats while on U.S. soil, I have the distinct feeling that the forces of law and order would require no prompting to consider her safety a high priority.

Fareed Zakaria on Burma

Zakaria cites Thant Myint-U's policy advice, in Newsweek:
One of the lessons of Iraq surely is that a prolonged sanctions regime will destroy civil society and empower the worst elements of the country, those who thrive in such a gangland atmosphere. If the purpose of sanctions is to bring about a better system for that country, devastating its society is a strange path to the new order. Burma is a particularly complicated place for such an experiment because it is riven with ethnic divisions and conflict. The Burmese government has been fighting 17 ethnic rebel groups for more than 50 years. Many of the rebels now control territory and run their own drug and resource cartels. The country is a failed state waiting to happen. Its one functioning national institution is the Army. Bringing liberal democracy to the country is going to be a challenge anyhow, and it is being made more difficult by the evisceration of its society.

In the early 1990s, after refusing to accept the results of an election in which Suu Kyi won, the Burmese regime began—haltingly—to open up the economy. But Western sanctions quickly put an end to such moves. Thant Myint-U, a former senior U.N. official and author of "The River of Lost Footsteps," a wonderful and affectionate portrait of Burma, argues that had that process of trade, travel and investment been encouraged, "Burma today would look more like Vietnam. It would have many more connections with the world, much more economic and social activity, and the regime would be far more constrained and reluctant to use force or engage in crackdowns."

The other effect of sanctions has been that American firms have mostly been replaced by Chinese companies. (This is precisely what's happened on a larger scale in Sudan, where American firms discovered and built the country's oilfields, then had to abandon them because of the worsening human-rights situation, and now find that the fields have been picked up by Chinese state oil companies.) And while it is perfectly fair to blame Beijing for supporting a dictatorial regime, the Indians, the Thais, the Malaysians and others have also been happy to step into the vacuum in Burma. Is this a net gain for America, for Burma and for human rights?

Thant, who has a celebrated pedigree in Burma—he is the only grandson of U Thant, the third secretary-general of the United Nations—hopes for sustained diplomatic pressure to get the regime to begin a process of real reform, involving the United States, China and India. "If the three countries can reach some consensus, that's the only outside pressure that is likely to matter," he says. "America can still play a crucial role. What the Burmese really want—if they had a choice—is not to be another province of China. They aspire to be a proud, independent country. There are many people there, even in the regime, who want to have good relations with America and the West. But my fear is that the West, momentarily aroused, will reflexively impose new sanctions and then move on. The result will be that the West's role in Burma will decline even more, China's will rise, and Burma will be further away from a liberal democratic future."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Christopher Hitchens on Mark Daily's Supreme Sacrifice

From Vanity Fair:
Lieutenant Daily crossed from Kuwait to Iraq in November 2006, where he would be deployed with the "C," or "Comanche," Company of the Second Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment—General Custer's old outfit—in Mosul. On the 15th of January last, he was on patrol and noticed that the Humvee in front of him was not properly "up-armored" against I.E.D.'s. He insisted on changing places and taking a lead position in his own Humvee, and was shortly afterward hit by an enormous buried mine that packed a charge of some 1,500 pounds of high explosive. Yes, that's right. He, and the three other American soldiers and Iraqi interpreter who perished with him, went to war with the army we had. It's some consolation to John and Linda Daily, and to Mark's brother and two sisters, and to his widow (who had been married to him for just 18 months) to know that he couldn't have felt anything.

Yet what, and how, should we feel? People are not on their oath when speaking of the dead, but I have now talked to a good number of those who knew Mark Daily or were related to him, and it's clear that the country lost an exceptional young citizen, whom I shall always wish I had had the chance to meet. He seems to have passed every test of young manhood, and to have been admired and loved and respected by old and young, male and female, family and friends. He could have had any career path he liked (and won a George C. Marshall Award that led to an offer to teach at West Point). Why are we robbed of his contribution? As we got to know one another better, I sent the Daily family a moving statement made by the mother of Michael Kelly, my good friend and the editor-at-large of The Atlantic Monthly, who was killed near the Baghdad airport while embedded during the invasion of 2003. Marguerite Kelly was highly stoic about her son's death, but I now think I committed an error of taste in showing this to the Dailys, who very gently responded that Michael had lived long enough to write books, have a career, become a father, and in general make his mark, while their son didn't live long enough to enjoy any of these opportunities. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now …

Friday, October 05, 2007

Achmed Abdullah

The other night, someone I know and yours truly watched Lives of a Bengal Lancer starring Gary Cooper. This 1935 drama of British imperialism was set on India's Northwest Frontier with Afghanistan (present-day Pakistan). The credits rolled, and there appeared the name of one of the writers: "Achmed Abdullah." How come he's not better known? Inquiring minds wanted to know....

Turned out that Achmed Abdullah was a White Russian emigre, related to the deposed Tsar, named Alexander Nicholayevitch Romanoff. He was a prolific author--he'd written The Thief of Baghdad, and a colorful character. Served in the British Army after exile from Russia. A witness and chronicler of "The Great Game."
Achmed Abdullah was born in Yalta, in the Crimea, of mixed Russian-Afghan ancestry. Abdullah never revealed the name to which he was born but apparently he was christened Alexander Nicholayevitch Romanoff. However, he was also know as Achmed Abdullah Nadir Khan el-Durani el Iddrissyeh. His father, Grand Duke Nicholas Romanoff, was a Russian-Orthodox, cousin to the last Tsar of Russia. Abdullah's mother, Princess Nourmahal Durani, was a Moslem. After she divorced her husband, Abdullah lived in Afghanistan. He was educated in Indian School, Darjeling, and College Louis le Grant, France. He then moved to England, where attended Eton School and astonished his schoolmates with his turban and earring. From there he went to Oxford. He also studied at the University of Paris. While still at college, Abdullah made his debut as a poet with Chansons Couleur Puce (1900), which was privately published. His study on Bantu dialects (1902) was also privately published.

In 1900 Abdullah entered the British army, where he spent many years as a gentleman officer. He served over the world - in India, China, Tibet, France, the Near East, and Africa. Some of Abdullah's drew on experiences from this period of his life. In the 1920s Abdullah settled in the United States, where was employed by Hollywood studios on occasion. Most his stories were first published in pulp magazines under the name Achmed Abdullah. His other pseudonyms were A.A. Nadir and John Hamilton.

Abdullah soon gained fame with colorful, enjoyable adventure stories. Sometimes they had supernatural elements, as in the collections Wings: Tales of the Psychic (1920) and Mysteries of Asia (1935). Among his mystery books are The Honourable Gentleman and Others (1919), tales set among the Chinese community in lower Manhattan, The Swinging Caravan (1925), Steel and Jade (1927), and The Bungalow on the Roof (1931), in which an secret African cult camps on the rooftop of a New York apartment building. The Man on Horseback (1919) is based on Abdullah's experiences in the American West. Especially after 1920s women readers devoured his romantic adventures. Abdullah's autobiography, The Cat Had Nine Lives (1933), is not far from fiction with its vivid tales of his travels and exploits. With Lute and Scimitar (1928), a collection of poems and ballads of Central Asia, Abdullah returned to his philological and folklore interests. His last years Abdullah lived in New York. Abdullah died on May 12, 1945. He was married three times, first to Irene Augusta Bainbridge, then to Jean Wick, who died in 1939, and then in 1940 to Rosemary Dolan.

More at Lives of a Bengal Lancer is part of the Gary Cooper Collection DVD set, which you can buy from

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Was Genghis Khan Kindler, Gentler Than George W. Bush?

That's the sense one gets from reading Alistair Gee's account of Sergei Bodrov Sr.'s latest movie, "Mongol. Part One," in The Moscow Times:
Bodrov's drama aims to deconstruct the notion of Genghis Khan as a bloodthirsty murderer, and focuses on his early years of poverty and slavery instead of his later transcontinental conquests. An all-consuming love affair between Genghis Khan and his first wife, Borte, also features heavily.

"Genghis Khan is not a popular man in Russia; his name is not well loved," Bodrov said. "I'm telling a story and saying: 'Look how it happened. Don't believe what's written in the old school textbooks.'"

"He abolished torture -- not so many people know about that," the director added. "And Mongolians used to keep slaves -- he said no to that."

Agustin Blazquez: An Open Letter to Ron Paul

by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

The biggest enemies in the United States of those who want freedom for Cuba are the liberal media and academia. This Cuban American’s personal opinion has been reinforced by 40 years of life in this country seeing and reading reports from the liberal media and academia about the Cuban revolution and life in Cuba since Fidel Castro’s military regime took power.

When you know a subject matter very well, the romantic ideas, false myths, errors, misconceptions, misleading reports and propaganda, do more than jump out at you; they attack you with fury.

The liberal media and academia, after decades of bombarding the American people with relentless misinformation about Cuba, fool most of them, but they cannot fool a Cuban American with firsthand experience about the Castro brothers’ ongoing totalitarian regime.

I don’t think most Americans – misinformed by the liberal media and academia – can make an educated judgment or decision about the Cuban issue. Many are so misled that they even wear Che T-shirts.

They don’t know that Che Guevara was a criminal who took pleasure in executing people – including minors – without trial. They don’t know that he was the architect of the Cuban gulag, prison and execution system. They don’t know that other than that, he failed miserably, mismanaging everything Castro assigned to him.

The confusion extends to our politicians.

Of the Democrats running for President, Barack Obama and John Edwards recently made statements about Cuba that revealed their ignorance.

An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times on August 25, 2007, said, “Barack Obama, determined to cast himself as the Democratic presidential candidate most open to new ideas on foreign policy, raised plenty of eyebrows recently when he proclaimed that he would be willing to meet personally with such rogue figures as Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.” Castro has proven repeatedly that he is, unfortunately, not open to negotiating.

ABC News’ Rick Klein reported on August 17, 2007, that John Edwards, at an event in Oskaloosa, Iowa, answered a question about Cuba’s healthcare system thusly: “I’m going to be honest with you – I don’t know a lot about Cuba’s healthcare system. Is it a government-run system?”

Even decent, honest, well-intentioned politicians don’t have a clue about how the totalitarian military regime in Cuba operates.

On September 24, 2007, replying to an inquiry about U.S. policy toward Cuba, the campaign of Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas responded: “Congressman Paul believes that real free trade benefits both parties involved. His stance on Cuba would be to end the embargo, which only leads to the suffering of the people of Cuba while Castro is far from ‘punished’ and is in fact, strengthened by them. By setting a good example at home we can become an inspiration for countries such as Cuba, who may wish to emulate our actions.”

This naive approach would work if the Castro brothers’ totalitarian regime and their henchmen thought the way Americans think, but unfortunately they do not.

This is my answer to Congressman Paul: the reasons why I think his policy, with which many agree, is misguided and why the Cuban embargo should not be lifted and free trade should not be established with Cuba.

1. What is good for agribusiness in Texas is not necessarily good for the Cuban people.

2. Doing business in Cuba is not doing business with Cuban business owners. The Cuban government requires that all foreign business done in Cuba be conducted with the Cuban government as intermediary. As revealed by many participants, foreign companies must pay the regime in dollars to get workers, and the regime keeps 90% of the salaries; workers receive just 10%, and they are paid in Cuban pesos. Independent labor unions are forbidden. On August 11, 1989, Carlos Miguel Suarez and Isidoro Padron Armenteros were executed in the city of Sagua La Grande, Cuba. Their crime? Trying to organize an independent labor union.

3. The embargo is working. If it had not been in place, the Cuban government would have had more money to spend on spreading communism and terrorism around the world and on maintaining control of and suppression of the Cuban people. It may even have been able to afford nuclear weapons by now. It is on public record that Castro asked Nikita Khrushchev to use nuclear missiles against the United States during the missile crisis in 1962 and that Che also wanted to use nuclear weapons to destroy the U.S. In addition, the embargo may prove to be a bargaining chip for a future change of government there.

4. Doing business with Cuba does not put pressure on the Castro government to increase freedoms; it merely reinforces the existing elitist system, since the only Cubans permitted to do business with foreigners are the privileged elite, who are chosen by the government. But not even the elite can put pressure on the Castro government, because their status can change in the blink of an eye.

5. Many naively point out the role of free trade in overturning the totalitarian regimes of countries such as China and Russia. But as reported by 60 Minutes on Sunday, September 23, 2007, and many other sources, Russia is resuming its totalitarian police state. The television program 20/20 reported a few weeks ago that Vladimir Putin has created a Hitler Youth–type organization to fight dissent, similar to Castro’s dreaded paramilitary Rapid Response Brigades, which equate to the “Tonton Macoutes” of the late Haitian dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier. All are used to control, intimidate and create fear among ordinary citizens.

6. The United States has been trading with China since the Nixon era, yet that country remains a totalitarian police state and is a major human rights violator, including the use of slave labor. In addition, most big companies in China, such as China Ocean Shipping Company COSCO, are owned in partnership with or solely owned by the repressive military elite.

7. The unscrupulous businessman’s dream is to convert Cuba into another China in partnership with the repressive Cuban military elite. The Cuban elite in conjunction with American businessmen continues taking advantage of cheap Cuban labor. Currently, via international business agreements, Cuba exports slave labor to other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. For upcoming documentaries I have interviewed ship workers sent to Curacao and doctors sent to Venezuela. I have a relative, a dentist, who was sent to Peru twice.

8. Shortages of consumer goods is one of the tactics used by the Cuban regime to control the citizens: They are so preoccupied with obtaining their next meal that they don’t have the time or energy to complain about the government. In Hugo Chavez’s “Cubazuela” (Venezuela’s carbon copy of the Castro revolution), shortages of consumer goods have been appearing for some time, despite the oil wealth and despite the lack of a U.S. embargo against the Chavez regime.

9. Cuba does not have the money to pay for what it buys from companies in other countries. Cuba’s credit history is notorious and well documented. U.S. agricultural companies will end up being paid by U.S. taxpayers instead of by the Cuban government.

10. It was immoral doing business with South Africa because of the apartheid regime. Why are you in favor of doing business with Cuba? The records clearly show that Cuba has an apartheid regime. Are you in favor of keeping ordinary Cuban citizens away from beaches, restaurants, hotels, stores, nightclubs and neighborhoods; from participating in business deals, from owning property, etc.? Foreigners in Cuba enjoy all of those rights, but average Cubans are forbidden by law to participate in the pursuit of freedom and happiness.

11. It is immoral to do business with a regime that has caused the deaths of over 100,000 people (documented by Dr. Armando Lago in an ongoing study referred to in numerous publications such as the Wall Street Journal). Cuba is designated by the U.S. Department of State as a terrorist country that sponsors terrorism around the world and slowly but surely is subverting Latin America. Take a look at Nicaragua, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina.

Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul as well as other decent politicians should consider these points before making more errors dealing with the Castro brothers’ regime. The U.S. has a dismal record of failures dealing with them dating back to 1957. All must read The Fourth Floor: An Account of the Castro Communist Revolution by Earl E. T. Smith, a former United States Ambassador to Cuba from 1957 to 1959.

© ABIP 2007
Agustin Blazquez, founder and president
UNCOVERING CUBA EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION (UCEF) A non-profit organization [501 (c) (3)]
Producer and director of the documentaries:

COVERING CUBA, premiered at the American Film Institute in 1995, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles, COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation, premiered in 2001 at the U.S. Capitol in and at the 2001 Miami International Book Fair COVERING CUBA 3: Elian presented at the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival, the 2004 American Film Renaissance Film Festival in Dallas, Texas and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival, COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below, premiered at the two Tower Theaters in Miami on January 2006 and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival and the 2006 Barcelona International Film Festival for Human Rights and Peace, Dan Rather "60 Minutes," an inside view , RUMBERAS CUBANAS, Vol. 1 MARIA ANTONIETA PONS, COVERING CUBA 5: Act Of Repudiation premiered at the two Tower Theaters in Miami, January 2007, at the Hispanic Cuban Club in Madrid, Spain and the 2007 Palm Beach International Film Festival, and the upcoming COVERING CUBA 6.

Author of more that 300 published articles and author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and translator with Jaums Sutton of the book by Luis Grave de Peralta Morell THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Thant Myint-U: What To Do About Burma

Thant Myint-U, U Thant's grandson (and I seem to remember an elementary school classmate of mine in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, while his father served as Secretary-General), published an article in the London Review of Books last February that still sounds worth consideration by the Western powers currently imposing sanctions on Burma:
Some people still argue that trade and investment sanctions against the Burmese government are the only way to push the army leadership into talking with Aung San Suu Kyi. But the sanctions argument is deeply flawed. First, it assumes a regime very different from the one that actually exists. That is, it assumes a government that is committed to rejoining the world economy, that sees clearly the benefits of trade and investment or is in some way sensitive to the welfare of ordinary people. True, there are some in the army who like the idea of trade and investment and care about popular welfare, and for them sanctions might constitute a sort of pressure. But many in the military don’t care. For them, national security, as they see it, is everything. Compromise might be possible on other issues, but if the choice is between political suicide and interacting with an outside world they fundamentally distrust, then there is no debate. Isolation is their default condition: not ideal, but comfortable all the same.

Second, sanctions really only mean Western sanctions. In the years since 1988, Burmese trade with China and several other neighbouring countries has grown considerably, and tens of billions of dollars’ worth of natural gas have been discovered offshore. To believe that China would impose sanctions and cut off their access to Burma’s energy supplies in order to push the country towards democracy is naive. Sanctions going beyond those already in place would mean in effect increased influence for China; not something likely to lead to democratic change.

Third, imagine for a moment that somehow, miraculously, extremely tight sanctions were possible – involving China, India and Thailand – and that these brought the government to its knees, without a dollar or renminbi left to pay for vital imports. While there is a possibility that reasonable heads would prevail, there is also a very good chance that the army leadership would stay in their Führerbunker until the bitter end, as the country collapsed into anarchy around them. Many of those who support sanctions hope that greater outside pressure would lead to disagreements within the army. Nothing could be more dangerous: the country could easily fall apart into dozens of competing military factions, insurgent armies and drug warlord militias. If that happened, all the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan wouldn’t be enough to put Burma back together; it would be a disaster for Asia.

The problem with sanctions is best illustrated by the opportunity that was lost in the early 1990s, when a new generation of generals, eager for change, launched a series of reforms and opened up the economy to the outside world. Hundreds of foreign companies set up shop. Rangoon was transformed, with new hotels, shopping centres and official buildings, traffic jams on previously empty roads, and the first real influx of tourists in years. Satellite dishes went up everywhere. But thanks to boycotts and then, in the later 1990s, more formal sanctions (as well as continued government mismanagement of the economy), Western firms began to pull out, leaving Burma in limbo: with more than enough regional trade to stay afloat, but nothing like the momentum to begin changing society. If, over the last fifteen years, there had been aid and investment (as there has been in Vietnam), rather than a half-hearted ‘regime-change’ strategy from the West, there could have been real economic growth and social change. The isolation on which the regime depends would have diminished and it would have become increasingly clear to the officer corps that proper government is too complex for the army to manage. And this in turn would have created a better situation for Burma’s democrats and more leverage for Western governments. As it is, Western leverage is close to zero. Focusing on political change at the top is not the answer.

This is not to say that Burma shouldn’t be a democracy, or that the Western supporters of democracy and human rights in Burma should give up. Far from it. Liberal democracy is the only sustainable form of government for a country as culturally and ethnically diverse as Burma, but we need to start from the way things are. Per capita aid to Burma is less than a tenth of per capita aid to Vietnam and Cambodia: this should not be acceptable. Serious diplomacy that includes both the Burmese government and its neighbours should have priority over a new round of condemnation.