Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Desolate Wilderness and the Fair Land -Thanksgiving 2012

Every Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I look forward to reading the paired "editorials" published on the Wall Street Journal's opinion pages every year since 1961, "The Desolate Wilderness" "And The Fair Land."

This year we have a bonus, the perennials are joined by an excellent historical essay by Ira Stoll, "A Day of Thanksgiving," describing the first official American Thanksgiving Proclamation, by the Continental Congress in 1777, following the surrender of the British forces to the Continental Army at the Battle of Saratoga. The resolution authored by Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and Daniel Roberdeau of Pennsylvania, declared "a day of Thanksgiving to God" as a national observance, so that "with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor." This was, of course, before the creatioin of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Is this Ceasefire a Step Toward Peace or a Prelude to More Terrible Bloodshed?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Cairo today just in time for a photo opportunity with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi following the announcement of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt.  It is not yet known to what extent American influence helped to achieve the ceasefire, but negotiations had been underway for some days.

A wag once said that the good thing about being a pessimist is that one is rarely disappointed. Yet the pessimist's vindication is seldom anything but sad.  Several times in the past, including the Gaza withdrawal by Israel seven years ago, and the Oslo Accords, I have found myself aligned with the minority view against Israel's agreement, but at the same time stating that I hoped I would be proven wrong.  So far, tragically, my forebodings have proven all too valid.  Please G-d, it should be different this time.

The test for the ceasefire will be if Egypt and the United States allow Hamas to rearm with ever more powerful and deadly rockets and artillery from Iran.  If so, then this ceasefire will prove to be a stumbling block for Israel, because when war erupts again--as it must if Hamas perseveres in its campaign to destroy the Jewish State--the enemies of Israel will be more difficult to defeat.

Can Egypt be trusted to police its borders?  Even the former Mubarak regime only half-heartedly tried to prevent heavy arms from being smuggled through tunnels from the Sinai into Gaza.  I do not expect the present Egyptian government, led by President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood--the mother organization and inspiration for Hamas--to make any effort whatsoever, other than whatever superficial measures are needed to preserve the pipeline of United States foreign aid.

The Muslim Brotherhood, like Hamas, considers the very existence of Israel to be an abomination.  That is why President Morsi and other Egyptian government officials, and well as Islamist Turkish President Erdogan, have described Israel's acts of self-defense in Gaza as Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. To them, Israel's existence is an occupation of Islamic territory, and attacks by Muslims against Israelis, even civilians, is justified resistance.  Accordingly, any response by the Jewish enemy to defend itself is aggression.  If that is the attitude that determines the policing by Egypt of Hamas' efforts to smuggle in heavy weaponry, more terrible combat lies in the future.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hamas Rockets Hit Kiryat Malachi and Tel Aviv

Hamas is launching every type of mortar shell and rocket in its arsenal against Southern and Central Israel.  Its missiles now include longer range rockets supplied by Iran.  For the first time, those rockets have hit communities in Central Israel, including Kiryat Malachi (above) and Tel Aviv.

The photo above is from an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi.  Three civilians were killed. The victims were Mirah Scharf, 25, Aharon Smadja, 49, and Itzik Amsalem, 27.

Ironically, Mrs. Scharf and her husband are Chabad emissaries to New Delhi, India, and she was visiting Israel for the memorial service of Gabi and Rivka Holtzberg, the Chabad emissaries who were killed in the Islamist terrorist massacre in Mumbai. Thursday was the fourth anniversary of the massacre, on the Hebrew calendar. Mrs. Scharf was the mother of three children, and the Chabad website reported that she was pregnant and planned to have her baby in Israel. Her husband, Shmuel Scharf was wounded by Thursday’s attack.

In 1976-77, my wife and I have lived in Kiryat Malachi for some 4 months, doing volunteer work.  I know this neighborhood and this building.  The neighborhood is Nachlat Har Chabad, the second largest community of Lubavitcher (Chabad) Chasidic Jews in Israel. Laura and I lived in an adjacent building.  We had friends who lived and may still live in this building.

Hamas and Egypt say that these attacks were in retaliation for the targeted killing by Israel of a Hamas military leader. Egyptian politicians are demanding retaliation atttacks on Israeli civilian targents. But Israeli civilians were already under attack from Gaza.  The the air attack by Israel, aimed with precision to avoid civilian casualites, came after weeks of rocket and missile attacks from Gaza aimed at the civilian communities of Southern Israel, and after many warnings to Hamas that it had to stop those attacks.  Egypt's position appears to be that Israel is committing aggression when it defends itself after a terrorist attack.

Dry Bone's Yaakov Kirschen once observed that the Hamas and Hezbollah concept of a "ceasefire" was "We (Israel) cease, they fire."  Apparently Egypt agrees.

Oh, by the way, Kiryat Malachi is a sister city of Los Angeles.  Kiryat Malachi means "City of the Angels."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Do You Remember Terri Schiavo? Today She Might Be Able to Tell Us Her Choice to Live or Die

  Do you remember Terri Schiavo?   She was the victim of an accident, a woman in a chronic vegetative state, with no medically discerniable brain activity. From 1998 through 2005, her fate was the subject of a tragic legal battle between her husband and her parents. Her husband insisted that she had communicated to him prior to the accident that if she had no quality of life, she would want him to remove any nutrition and hydration tubes, and allow her to die. Her parents insisted that such would not have been her choice, and that indeed she had cognitive mental abilities and responded to their speech and touch. Some of her caretakers agreed.
Eventually her husband prevailed in court, her feeding tube was disconnected, and she died some two weeks later.

There were no winners in the Schiavo case, only losers. And we will never know what Ms. Schiavo's medical decision regarding her feeding tube would have been. The only lesson to be learned from her case is the importance of durable powers of attorney for healthcare decisions and clearly communicated declarations of intent regarding extraordinary medical measures-the so-called "living will."

However, astonishing medical news from Canada offers the promise of meaningful communication with at least some patients in a chronic vegetative state. British neuroscientist Dr. Adrian Owen reports that he has mean able to establish meaningful communication with Scott Routley of London, Ontario, who has been in a chronic vegetative state for over a decade and who was believed by his doctors to have no cognitive consciousness and no meaningful brain activity. Dr. Owen asked Mr. Routley whether he was feeling any pain. Using sophisticated MRI scanning, Dr. Owen was able to determine that Mr. Routley understood the question and had answered, "No." Read the entire story here at The National Post.

It is possible that Terri Schiavo was too brain-damaged to engage in the type of communication that Dr. Owen has been able to establish with Mr. Routley.  Yet, at least now there is the hope that in a similar case, we may be able to ask the patient what he or she wants to do.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Obamacare Causes Loss of Full-Time Jobs

The Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") is causing a loss of full-time jobs, as employers scramble to fill what were formerly or could have been full-time positions with part-time employees who are exempt from the law.  In today's Wall Street Journal, reprinted here, Julie Jargon reports that a number of retailers, retaurant chains and hotels have started or are preparing to limit schedules of low-wage hourly employees to less than 30 hours per week, in order to avoid the law's mandate to offer employees a minimum level of health insurance or else pay a $2000 per worker penalty.

For many low-wage employees, especially young single persons just entering the workforce, the difference between full-time and part-time employment is the difference between making or not making a living wage.  Those workers are exactly the people that President Obama believes he was helping to obtain health insurance.  Instead, his Affordable Care Act is costing them their livelihood.  The healthcare law has run smack into the law of unanticipated consequences.

We can put an end to this tomorrow, if we have the resolve.  Vote Romney-Ryan.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Grover Cleveland Did Nothing About Global Warming

The mass media are teeming with articles insisting that Hurricane Sandy proves we must adopt policies such as carbon emission reduction to combat climates change. Now the Kosher Hedgehog agrees that the earth is warming, the seas are still rising despite four years of a Barack Obama Presidency, and the devastation Hurricane Sandy caused in New Jersey and New York, among other places, proves that coastal protection is prudent. He hesitates, however, at adoption of policies that would cripple the recovery of our economy and in all likelihood have little or no effect on climate change.

As an antidote to the media frenzy, please turn to today's Best of the Web column by James Tarantino in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Tarantino quotes from a Matthew Algeo column in a recent post-Sandy op-ed page of the New York Times:
[Mr. Algeo] describes how severe the weather has become. "On Tuesday, Aug. 22, in the Atlantic Ocean, four hurricanes were swirling simultaneously, an event never before recorded. . . . Wednesday night, one of the hurricanes slammed into New York City. At least 30 people were killed." Four days later, an even more powerful hurricane killed some 2,000 in and around Savannah, Ga.

What, you don't remember reading about those storms in the papers? That's not because reporters are dropping the climate-change ball, but because Algeo is writing history, not news. The hurricanes in question occurred in 1893.
Mr. Algeo recounts that President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat incidentally, refused to involve the federal government in disaster assistance, because, as he wrote in a veto message, it " "encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character." Mr. Tarantino adds that President Cleveland did nothing about global warming either.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Prager and Mamet for Romney/Ryan

The Hedgehog Blog does not have the circulation of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and I suspect that most of our readers have already made up their minds on the Presidential election, for better (Romney/Ryan) or worse (four more years of President Obama).  Nonetheless I want to call our readers' attention to two columns in the current Jewish Journal, one by Dennis Prager, entitled, "A Jew Tours for Romney", and one by playwright David Mamet, entitled, "A Note to a Stiff-Necked People." 

A little sadly, Mr. Prager's piece concludes with a pessimistic note about his ability to persuade more of his fellow Jews to vote Republican, while Mr. Mamet's essay displays his recents scars from the ostracism of the cultural Left following his apostasy of abandoning Left-wing politics.