by Ralph Lewinsohn of Kibbutz Kfar Azza
Over the last months, our lives here have been ruled by sirens, and P.A. systems warning of incoming missiles. In addition to that, we receive dozens of text messages on our cellular phones a day, messages about what time lunch will be served in the underground basement of the cultural centre, to warning not to leave our homes, because of an imminent mortar barrage. Yesterday, there was a different type of text message. It was in invite to an impromptu musical evening, in the neighboring kibbutz, called Saad.
The only thing that separates Kibbutz Saad and Kfar Azza, my home, is a wheat field, a road and a small elevated mound. The elevated mound was occupied by dozens of TV crews from around the world, filming the operation in Gaza, the live footage which you see on your TV screens, all around the world.
The musical evening had already started, when I got there. I could hear the songs, even though there was sound of heavy machinegun fire from very near, as there was the sound of helicopters and drones above our heads. The room was cramped, of course again a basement, under the dining room of the kibbutz, the entrance to which was protected by strategically placed concrete blast walls, for protection, in case of a missile or mortar hit.
There was no alcohol, no ties or jackets, no formalities. There were simple plastic chairs, not enough for everybody, some had to stand, but they did not care, because just being there was important. There was no stage lighting, no fancy equipment. But there were musicians, their hearts full of goodwill, who volunteered to create some light, for their brothers and sisters under siege. They succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. In Israel, we call this " Shirat be' zibur ", public singing. But, it is much more than that. The songs are mainly Israeli folk songs, some dating back to the days of the Palmach, some new. Many songs were about the hope for peace. Almost everybody knows them and sings along, swaying and waving arms.
There were people of all ages, from pensioners with walking sticks, to young children. There were left wing kibbutzniks and religious kibbutzniks, there were civilians, there were soldiers. The soldiers were a platoon of young reserve paratroopers, some with white skins, some with black skins, some with blond hair and some with curly black hair.
The atmosphere was intoxicating, so much so, that the soldiers started a spontaneous hora. It was cramped, they could barely form a circle, but nothing could stop them. They danced, religious and secular, men and woman, civilians , officers and soldiers, each soldier, with his assault rifle on his back, smiling and singing.
Then they sang " Am Israel Hai " Now this does not mean much to me, when I hear this at a Jewish wedding in the Diaspora, but here, sung with such conviction, by all my fellow Israeli brothers and sisters, under siege, brought tears to my eyes.
Nobody wanted to leave, but the musicians needed to eventually go back home. We exited the basement bunker, back to reality of the explosions and war. But, my heart was filled with pride and strength. The reality of life in Israel, cannot be measured by a regular yard stick, the dilemmas and emotions are unique.
May God give our leaders wisdom, and strength to the people of Israel, so, that one day, we may find peace in this land.
Norway representative equates Israel with the Nazis
A Norwegian diplomat based in Saudi Arabia has sent out e-mails from her Foreign Ministry e-mail account equating Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza with the systematic mass murder of six million Jews by the Nazis. The e-mail, sent out by Trine Lilleng, a first secretary at the Norwegian Embassy in Riyadh, includes a juxtaposition of black-and-white pictures from the Holocaust with color images of Operation Cast Lead. "The grandchildren of Holocaust survivors from World War II are doing to the Palestinians exactly what was done to them by Nazi Germany," the e-mail states. A copy of the e-mail was obtained by The Jerusalem Post.
The 40-plus pictures included as attachments in the e-mail include the famous image of a Jewish boy with his hands raised as a German soldier points his gun at him, next to an image of an Israeli soldier aiming his weapon at a Palestinian boy. Another depicts a German soldier firing his weapon, next to an IDF soldier shooting his, while others juxtapose the barbed wire surrounding ghettos and concentration camps to the fence around Gaza, and the West Bank security barrier. The e-mail asks recipients to forward the message to others.
Reached on her cellphone in Riyadh, Lilleng told the Post she had sent the message to "a few friends" in a "private e-mail," and had not sent any copy to the Post. She would not say whether it was proper for her to use her ministry e-mail account for such a controversial message. "I am not interested in saying anything about that," she said.
The Oslo-based Center Against Anti-Semitism in Norway, which has filed an official complaint with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, said it was appalled by the distribution of "clearly anti-Semitic propaganda" by a ministry official. "The Center Against Anti-Semitism regrets that Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is thus contributing to the intensification of anti-Semitic tendencies, which lately have been quite visible in the Norwegian media, and which have been reproved by both us and by international experts," the center's director, Erez Uriely, wrote to Store. The center noted that the Norwegian government, along with other European governments, has sought to play a role as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of an Egyptian-proposed agreement. "We fail to see that the distribution of anti-Semitic pictures is compatible with such a role," the letter states.
The center has asked the Norwegian Foreign Ministry to recall the disseminated pictures immediately and to apologize publicly for the incident. The letter was hand-delivered to the ministry in Oslo on Tuesday. "This demonization of both Israel and the Jews must stop," said group spokeswoman Dr. Rachel Suissa. The Norwegian Embassy in Tel Aviv did not immediately respond when asked for comment on Tuesday.
Leftist bias again: Keep stimulus money away from skilled workers and "white male contractors"
I missed Clintonite moldy oldie-turned-Obama economic adviser Robert Reich's testimony a few weeks ago on how the government should spend federal stimulus money. The Berkeley professor engaged in academic fantasy land talk about getting all the cash out to workers as quickly as possible - a pipe dream debunked by the CBO report I mentioned in my column yesterday.
Even more noteworthy, however, were the comments Reich made about which workers deserve the stimulus bucks most. Reich's proposal exposes the lie that the Obama administration is actually interested in revitalizing basic infrastructure for the good of the economy. No, what Team Obama really wants is to ensure that the least skilled, least qualified workers get jobs based on their chromosomes and pigment.
Reich wrote on his blog:
The stimulus plan will create jobs repairing and upgrading the nation's roads, bridges, ports, levees, water and sewage system, public-transit systems, electricity grid, and schools. And it will kick-start alternative, non-fossil based sources of energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and so on); new health-care information systems; and universal broadband Internet access. It's a two-fer: lots of new jobs, and investments in the nation's future productivity.
But if there aren't enough skilled professionals to do the jobs involving new technologies, the stimulus will just increase the wages of the professionals who already have the right skills rather than generate many new jobs in these fields. And if construction jobs go mainly to white males who already dominate the construction trades, many people who need jobs the most - women, minorities, and the poor and long-term unemployed - will be shut out. What to do? There's no easy solution to either dilemma.
People can be trained relatively quickly for these sorts of jobs, as well as many infrastructure j0bs generated by the stimulus - installing new pipes for water and sewage systems, repairing and upgrading equipment, basic construction - but contractors have to be nudged both to provide the training and to do the hiring.
I'd suggest that all contracts entered into with stimulus funds require contractors to provide at least 20 percent of jobs to the long-term unemployed and to people with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. And at least 2 percent of project funds should be allocated to such training. In addition, advantage should be taken of buildings trades apprenticeships - wich must be fully available to women and minorities.
Reich made similar comments in his Jan. 7 congressional testimony on economic recovery.
There is a rather fun little guessing game here. You have to guess how old the person in the picture is. You can even add your own picture. I don't think I will add mine though. I am 65 but have often been told I could easily pass for 70!
How to Save $40 Billion: "President Obama said in his Inaugural Address yesterday that government must spend to rebuild roads and bridges, but that those "who manage the public's dollars" must also "spend wisely" and "reform bad habits." With that ambition in mind, here's an idea to save tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in the months ahead: Repeal Davis-Bacon superminimum wage requirements for construction projects. We're referring to the 1931 law that requires contractors on all federal projects to pay a "prevailing wage." In practice, this means paying the highest union wage in every part of the country. Over the years nearly every analysis -- by the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office and Office of Management and Budget -- has concluded that Davis-Bacon tangles projects in red tape and inflates federal construction costs."
Big tax breaks would give a stimulus that works: "So how do we stimulate the economy without increasing the already large current-account deficit? It's not easy, but here is an idea: Create the incentive for people to take more risk and move their savings from government bonds to risky assets. There is no better way to encourage this than a temporary elimination of the capital-gains tax for all the investments begun during 2009 and held for at least two years. If we fear this is not enough, we can temporarily increase the size of the capital loss that is deductible against ordinary income. This will reduce the downside of new investments and increase the upside. More savings need to be invested, and firms need an incentive to invest in order to help aggregate demand in the short term and promote long-term growth. The best way to do this is to make all capital expenditures and research and development investments done in 2009 fully tax deductible in the current fiscal year. A large temporary tax incentive may be just enough to jolt investors from their current paralysis to take action"
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)