Yesterday I had the privilege of being an observer at one of the polling places in our city for the local municipal elections. After all of the voter fraud stories coming from the US, I took special note of all of the safeguards that are in place to prevent it here in Israel.

Each citizen has an ID number (roughly equivalent in the US to one’s social security number.) Each person above the age of 16 carries an identity card with his/her picture. This identity card is supplied by the Interior Ministry which also keeps on file every person’s legal address. Before each election, every citizen gets in the mail a voting card that tells him/her where his/her polling place is. Except for soldiers, there are no absentee ballots. No one votes early and everyone must vote at his/her polling place which has a list of all of those permitted to vote in that district. There are at least three other people in the room when the voting is taking place. One takes the identity card, calls out the person’s name and voting number on their list, and marks through the name. A second, with a duplicate list may do the same. A third has stickers with each voting number on them and removes the corresponding sticker from the sheet where they were printed and places it on another sheet that has the numbers in order of people’s appearance at the polls. Another person checks off the number of the voter on a chart to ensure that the same number is not used more than once. Voting is done one at a time behind a carton that is set up at a distance form the observers. Behind the cardboard partition, there are a number of white papers– one for each party with the party letters written on them. One is placed in the white envelope. In addition, there are a number of yellow papers, each with the name of a mayoral candidate, and one is placed in the yellow envelope. When finished, the voter places both envelopes (in full view of those working and observing in the room) into a slot in a cardboard box. Observers, appointed by the parties running for city council, are able to check periodically to make sure that all of the printed ballot materials are arranged properly and that there are sufficient notes with each party and candidate’s name.

As I watched the people come in to vote, one by one, I was struck with how seriously Israelis take elections and how it was a very orderly process. We may be the homeland of people from all over the globe who speak different languages and have different customs, but come election day, we all are Israelis. And we should be very proud of this process. This is something that our country knows how to do right!

Prayers for the chief

Having been through the US election process here in Israel– having been overloaded with information from the internet, I am finally recovering. Like everyone else, I am praying that the next administration will be one that helps the US recover economically, maintains the values that made it a great country, and keeps the US and all of its citizens safe.

I worry that this administration may be like others who have forced upon Israel “agreements” that from the outset everyone understood would be binding on Israel, but not on our still sworn enemies. Every “agreement” had the Israelis ceding land and control and had the Arabs being responsible to stop terrorism. We all know how that has worked out. Since September 2000, over 1,000 Israelis have been murdered in terror attacks and a countless number have been seriously injured with the result being amputations, blindness, and paralysis. Children have been orphaned, parents bereft, and whole families destroyed. Our dear friend Chana, injured at Sbarros in 2001 has still not regained consciousness and her daughter, then 2.5, knows her mother only as someone who lies in bed connected to tubes and machines. More about her: here

Our separation from Gaza, involving the destruction of 21 communities and the removal of all of their inhabitants could not have been more ill-advised. Now, over three years later, there are thousands of displaced people, still living in trailers, still paying the mortgages on homes destroyed by Israeli tanks, still unemployed. The profitable greenhouses that were left in Gaza so that Gaza farmers could grow vegetables for their own people have been destroyed or abandoned. Israelis had exported millions of dollars of produce raised in those greenhouses. On the security front, Hamas came into power and has lobbed thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel from the area where the communities had been.

I pray the the next administration will understand better that it’s not a matter of sitting down and making nice- it’s a matter of our seeing a real willingness to put aside hatred and violence-inducing rhetoric both in English AND in Arabic. We need to see a real commitment to stop the teaching of hate in the schools. As long as the curriculum in Palestinian schools prescribes that children be encouraged to be martyrs and kill the Jews for the greater good, we really have nothing to talk about.

And I sincerely hope that the new president will understand that Iran is a threat not just to Israel who he may think of as expendable in a first strike, but also to Europe and to the US itself. Israel *is* the canary in the mine. When terror against Israel began, everyone else believed that terror was an Israeli problem. Now it has become a worldwide epidemic. If Iran successfully strikes Israel, the West will not be safe.

So yes, I worry and I pray.

The end of journalism

Just a brief note before this amazing piece:
1) For 20 years, Barack Obama sat in Reverend Wright’s congregation and didn’t know that he preached anti-Semitic, anti-white, anti-American sermons
2) Barack Obama didn’t know that Bill Ayres was an unrepentant terrorist.
3) Barack Obama didn’t know that his aunt was living in the US illegally.
Do we really want a president who is that oblivious?

Victor Davis Hanson
October 31, 2008, 4:00 a.m.

The End of Journalism
Sometime in 2008, journalism as we knew it died, and advocacy media took its place.

By Victor Davis Hanson

There have always been media biases and prejudices. Everyone knew that Walter Cronkite, from his gilded throne at CBS news, helped to alter the course of the Vietnam War, when, in the post-Tet depression, he prematurely declared the war unwinnible. Dan Rather’s career imploded when he knowingly promulgated a forged document that impugned the service record of George W. Bush. We’ve known for a long time — from various polling, and records of political donations of journalists themselves, as well as surveys of public perceptions — that the vast majority of journalists identify themselves as Democratic, and liberal in particular.

Yet we have never quite seen anything like the current media infatuation with Barack Obama, and its collective desire not to raise key issues of concern to the American people. Here were four areas of national interest that were largely ignored.

For years an axiom of the liberal establishment was the need for public campaign financing — and the corrosive role of private money in poisoning the election process. The most prominent Republican who crossed party lines to ensure the passage of national public campaign financing was John McCain — a maverick stance that cost him dearly among conservatives who resented bitterly federal interference in political expression.

In contrast, Barack Obama, remember, promised that he would accept both public funding and the limitations that went along with it, and would “aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” Then in June 2008, Obama abruptly reneged, bowing out entirely from government financing, the first presidential nominee in the general election to do that since the system was created in 1976.

Obama has now raised over $600 million, by far the largest campaign chest in American political history. In many states he enjoys a four-to-one advantage in campaign funding — most telling in his scheduled eleventh-hour, 30-minute specials that will not be answered by the publicly financed and poorer McCain campaign.

The story that the media chose to ignore was not merely the Obama about-face on public financing, or even the enormous amounts of money that he has raised — some of it under dubious circumstances involving foreign donors, prepaid credit cards, and false names. Instead, they were absolutely quiet about a historic end to liberal support for public financing.

For all practical purposes, public financing of the presidential general election is now dead. No Republican will ever agree to it again. No Democrat can ever again dare to defend a system destroyed by Obama. All future worries about the dangers of big money and big politics will fall on deaf ears.

Surely, there will come a time when the Democratic Party, whether for ethical or practical reasons, will sorely regret dismantling the very safeguards that for over three decades it had insisted were critical for the survival of the republic.

Imagine the reaction of the New York Times or the Washington Post had John McCain renounced his promise to participate in public campaign financing, proceeded instead to amass $600 million and outraise the publicly financed Barack Obama four-to-one, and begun airing special 30-minute unanswered infomercials during the last week of the campaign.

We know now almost all the details of Sarah Palin’s pregnancies, whether the trooper who tasered her nephew went to stun or half stun, the cost of her clothes, and her personal expenses — indeed, almost everything except how a mother of so many children gets elected councilwoman, mayor, and governor, routs an entrenched old-boy cadre, while maintaining near record levels of public support.

Yet the American public knows almost nothing of what it should about the extraordinary career of Joe Biden, the 36-year veteran of the Senate. In unprecedented fashion, Biden has simply avoided the press for most of the last two months, confident that the media instead would deconstruct almost every word of “good looking” Sarah Palin’s numerous interviews with mostly hostile interrogators.

By accepted standards of behavior, Biden has sadly proven wanting. He has committed almost every classical sin of character — plagiarism, false biography, racial insensitivity, and serial fabrication. And because of media silence, we don’t know whether he was kidding when he said America would not need to burn coal, or that Hezbollah was out of Lebanon, or that FDR addressed the nation on television as president in 1929 (surely a record for historical fictions in a single thought), or that the public would turn sour on Obama once he was challenged by our enemies abroad. In response, the media reported that the very public Sarah Palin was avoiding the press while the very private Joe Biden shunned interviews and was chained to the teleprompter.

For two months now, the media reaction to Biden’s inanity has been simply “that’s just ol’ Joe, now let’s turn to Palin,” who, in the space of two months, has been reduced from a popular successful governor to a backwoods creationist, who will ban books and champion white secessionist causes. The respective coverage of the two candidates is ironic in a variety of ways, but in one especially — almost every charge against Palin (that she is under wraps, untruthful, and inept) was applicable only to Biden.

So we are about to elect a vice president about whom we know only that he has been around a long time, but little else — and nothing at all why exactly Joe Biden says the most astounding and often lunatic things.

Imagine the reaction of Newsweek or Time had moose-hunting mom Sarah Palin claimed FDR went on television to address the nation as President in 1929, or warned America that our enemies abroad would test John McCain and that his response would result in a radical loss of his popularity at home.

In 2004, few Americans knew Barack Obama. In 2008, they may elect him. Surely his past was of more interest than his present serial denials of it. Whatever the media’s feelings about the current Barack Obama, there should have been some story that the Obama of 2008 is radically different from the Obama who was largely consistent and predictable for the prior 30 years.

Each Obama metamorphosis in itself might be attributed to the normal evolution to the middle, as a candidate shifts from the primary to the general election. But in the case of Obama, we witnessed not a shift, but a complete transformation to an entirely new persona — in almost every imaginable sense of the word. Name an issue — FISA, NAFTA, guns, abortion, capital punishment, coal, nuclear power, drilling, Iran, Jerusalem, the surge — and Obama’s position today is not that of just a year ago.

Until 2005, Obama was in communication with Bill Ayers by e-mail and phone, despite Ayers reprehensible braggadocio in 2001 that he remained an unrepentant terrorist. Rev. Wright was an invaluable spiritual advisor — until spring of 2008. Father Pfleger was praised as an intimate friend in 2004 — and vanished off the radar in 2008. The media might have asked not just why these rather dubious figures were once so close to, and then so distant from, Obama; but why were there so many people like Rashid Khalidi and Tony Rezko in Obama’s past in the first place?

Behind the Olympian calm of Obama, there was always a rather disturbing record of extra-electoral politics completely ignored by the media. If one were disturbed by the present shenanigans of ACORN or the bizarre national call for Americans simply to skip work on election day to help elect Obama (who would pay for that?), one would only have to remember that in 1996 Obama took the extraordinary step of suing to eliminate all his primary rivals by challenging their petition signatures of mostly African-American voters.

In 2004, there was an even more remarkable chain of events in which the sealed divorce records of both his principle primary rival Blair Hull and general election foe, Jack Ryan, were mysteriously leaked, effectively ensuring Obama a Senate seat without serious opposition. These were not artifacts of a typical political career, but extraordinary events in themselves that might well have shed light on present campaign tactics — and yet largely remain unknown to the American people.

Imagine the reaction of CNN or NBC had John McCain’s pastor and spiritual advisor of 20 years been revealed as a white supremacist who damned a multiracial United States, or had he been a close acquaintance until 2005 of an unrepentant terrorist bomber of abortion clinics, or had McCain himself sued to eliminate congressional opponents by challenging the validity of African-American voters who signed petitions, or had both his primary and general election senatorial rivals imploded once their sealed divorce records were mysteriously leaked.

The eleventh-hour McCain allegations of Obama’s advocacy for a share-the-wealth socialism were generally ignored by the media, or if covered, written off as neo-McCarthyism. But there were two legitimate, but again neglected, issues.

The first was the nature of the Obama tax plan. The problem was not merely upping the income tax rates on those who made $250,000 (or was it $200,000, or was it $150,000, or both, or none?), but its aggregate effect in combination with lifting the FICA ceilings on high incomes on top of existing Medicare contributions and often high state income taxes.

In other words, Americans who live in high-tax, expensive states like a New York or California could in theory face collective confiscatory tax rates of 65 percent or so on much of their income. And, depending on the nature of Obama’s proposed tax exemptions, on the other end of the spectrum we might well see almost half the nation’s wage earners pay no federal income tax at all.

Questions arise, but were again not explored: How wise is it to exempt one out of every two income earners from any worry over how the nation gathers its federal income tax revenue? And when credits are added to the plan, are we now essentially not cutting or raising taxes, but simply diverting wealth from those who pay into the system to those who do not?

A practical effect of socialism is often defined as curbing productive incentives by ensuring the poorer need not endanger their exemptions and credits by seeking greater income; and discouraging the wealthy from seeking greater income, given that nearly two-thirds of additional wealth would be lost to taxes. Surely that discussion might have been of interest to the American people.

Second, the real story was not John McCain’s characterization of such plans, but both inadvertent, and serial descriptions of them, past and present, by Barack Obama himself. “Spreading the wealth around” gains currency when collated to past interviews in which Obama talked at length about, and in regret at, judicial impracticalities in accomplishing his own desire to redistribute income. “Tragedy” is frequent in the Obama vocabulary, but largely confined to two contexts: the tragic history of the United States (e.g., deemed analogous to that of Nazi Germany during World War II), and the tragic unwillingness or inability to use judicial means to correct economic inequality in non-democratic fashion.

In this regard, remember Obama’s revealing comment that he was interested only in “fairness” in increasing capital-gains taxes, despite the bothersome fact that past moderate reductions in rates had, in fact, brought in greater revenue to government. Again, fossilized ideology trumps empiricism.

Imagine the reaction of NPR and PBS had John McCain advocated something like abolishing all capital gains taxes, or repealing incomes taxes in favor of a national retail sales tax.

The media has succeeded in shielding Barack Obama from journalistic scrutiny. It thereby irrevocably destroyed its own reputation and forfeited the trust that generations of others had so carefully acquired. And it will never again be trusted to offer candid and nonpartisan coverage of presidential candidates.

Worse still, the suicide of both print and electronic journalism has ensured that, should Barack Obama be elected president, the public will only then learn what they should have known far earlier about their commander-in-chief — but in circumstances and from sources they may well regret.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

National Review Online – http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OGFhOWY3YTZkMzliYjFjYTlkMjNjMGNhMTc3ZjYyMWM=

From small acorns

The complete article with links documenting its facts is taken from Commentary Magazine here

From Small Acorns . . .
Jennifer Rubin – 10.09.2008 – 7:08 PM

The Bill Ayers connection continues to percolate. John McCain expresses the view that it is about truthfulness. He has a new ad. And so does the RNC. An Ayers victim pops up to tell his story.

Meanwhile, considerable evidence surfaces that as late as 1996 Barack Obama was a member of the New Party, a local Chicago branch of the Socialist Party. Relevant documents have been scrubbed from the New Party website but not before they were snatched by the Internet Archive Association. It seems someone really doesn’t want anyone poking around in Obama’s past. (If you spot similarities to the fight for disclosure of the Annenberg Challenge documents you are not alone.)

And more comes out about ACORN’s massive voter fraud activities. The latter gets some attention from Rep. John Boehner and from McCain . Obama seems to deny involvement with ACORN but the facts are fairly clear: he worked as a trainer, served as a lawyer and sat on the Woods Fund which gave them nearly $200K in funding up through 2002. Oh, and his presidential campaign has paid them $800,000 in voter registration efforts.

The media yawns. That’s expected but becoming increasingly hard to justify unless you beleive the mission of the media requires them to ignore any information harmful to Obama. Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s say that McCain was the member of the John Birch Society up until 1996. Let’s say McCain worked for a group accused of diluting African America votes through vote fraud and sat on a board which doled out money to this group. But that’s not all: let’s say McCain attended a church where white separatism was preached. To top off our hypothetical, McCain started his career in the home of an abortion clinic bomber, sat on his foundation, appeared on panels with him and favorably reviewed his book.

Would any of that be a “distraction“? It seems clear that any one of those facts, let alone all of them, would be disqualifying. And if McCain in the Right Wing Nut hypothetical refused to talk about it, or lied about whether his bomber friend was “just” a guy in the neighborhood, would the media say “Oh gosh, too late in the campaign to discuss that“?

What is becoming inescapable is that Obama until his U.S. Senate run openly identified with and closely associated himself with a cast of far Left characters. Maybe he didn’t buy their philosophy or he was never around when they were spouting hatred of the United States. Maybe he grew out of them and now views them as fringe characters. We don’t know because he continues to deny that he was even part of this circle.

Some voters won’t care. Others will get nervous that he’s a closet radical. But the real concern for him and his supporters is that voters who matter in key swing states will get the sense that Obama has shown a peculiar tendency to associate with a bizarre crowd and now is lying. As Rudy Giuliani put it “It’s called judgment or lack thereof.” Whether ordinary voters finally get the sense that something is troubling in all this remains to be seen. But the danger is that at the very least, they might get the sense that he’s not being honest with them about who he is and what he believes, or at least believed until very recently.

If you are voting for Obama, I think you had better see these

These are two videos that show the tactics of the people who support Obama, — indoctrination of young. I have not seen anything like it– not even in China. The second was so creepy that it was removed from YouTube. I imagine the first will be too.


and this

Vietnam & Cambodia


We have a great trip coming up to Vietnam and Cambodia. What we don’t have is great advertising.

If all you know about Vietnam is from “Platoon” and other films about the war, then you would be very surprised by what you can find there. It is a country that has majestic mountains, verdant rice terraces, colorful ethnic minorities, beautiful beach resorts, bustling cities, and an ancient culture. We board a boat to see Halong Bay, one of the most beautiful places in the world. We see river life along the Mekong Delta. And to cap the trip, we will see the magnificent buildings of Angkor and Angkor Wat. It is an unforgettable experience!

If you know anyone who might be interested in one of the most fascinating destinations there is, please let them know that this is a trip that they will never forget. The pictures from our last trip are at this location.

Although this is a kosher, sabbath observant trip, Jewish people who are not religiously observant and people who are not Jewish would feel very comfortable with us.

I am happy to answer any questions about the trip at my email address which is the name of the blog at gmail. — or via leaving a comment

Good Housekeeping (or, “if you polish us, do we not shine?”)

I was raised in a self-cleaning home. When I woke up in the morning, my room was a mess. All of my things were scattered where I had left them. When I came home from school, my room was clean. My clothes were put away. My bed was made. The fact that my mother had a full time cleaning lady was only coincidental, or so I thought.

When I got married, I made a similar mess each morning, and with the help of my husband, even more. When I came home from school (I was still in college), I was shocked to see the mess still lying where I had left it. I figured out that maybe the cleaning lady did have something to do with the house being clean all the time, but I still didn’t fully get it. Until, one day after we were married about 6 months, my husband said, “Aren’t you going to wash the floor?” And I, in all my innocence answered, “Do you think it needs to be washed already?” I was serious. I had never witnessed a floor being washed. I had no idea of how it was done or how often normal people did it. Our floor in that apartment was tiled and a medium brown color, so I didn’t notice any dirt on it. I did sweep it from time to time.

And thus I entered the wonderful world of domesticity.

Over the years, especially when the children were young, we had a number of cleaning ladies ranging from Ida Mae (the family therapist)* who was with us through the beekeeping/haircutting period to “the white tornado” who helped us out around the time that our youngest was born. Usually they were with us for a short time due to our frequent moves (only one asked us if we could take her with us.)

Since I have lived in Israel, aside from some more and less successful encounters with cleaning help just before Passover, I have been help-less. I have discovered the magic of “Cilit”- that wonderful product that dissolves mineral build-up. I have learned how to do “sponga”- cleaning the floor with a squeegee and a rag without having to cut a hole in the rag (which, I am told, completes my absorption into Israel as an immigrant). I have even learned how to clean my stone counters without leaving watermarks (hint: a small squeegee is involved).

I have not, however, found a cleaner.

When I brought my father-in-law to live with us, the person who cared for him would keep the house very (Kati, the drunk Hungarian) or passably (Carole, the runaway Filipino) clean. A couple of years after my father-in-law passed away, a friend told me about her terrific cleaner. I tell his story and the one of our subsequent adventures at the end of the following post: this one Well, this week, I finally agreed to have my husband arrange for another cleaning person. She comes with the highest recommendations. She was supposed to have gotten here an hour and a half ago. You guessed it! Maybe she got confused? Maybe she’ll be here tomorrow? Stay tuned.

*More about Ida Mae upon request

Postcard from L.A.*

** See update at bottom

On our last morning in Seattle, we set out for the Cambodian museum. I had found their web page and was very interested in going and learning more about Cambodia and the Cambodian people. We traveled about 45 minutes, got exactly to the location, and were told that the museum had moved to the Chinese Museum in town. Thirty minutes later we entered the Chinese Museum. It was dedicated to the immigrant experience of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and other Asian people who settled in Seattle. The museum was housed on the site of a hotel that was the first home to many of these immigrants and had opened nearly a century ago. It was well-preserved and the guided tour highlighted the poignance of the immigrant experience, one that felt very familiar as I have come to know the history of my own family and how they established themselves in the US. It was an interesting place to visit, but not at all what we would have chosen, nor what we had anticipated. Oh, and a few items from the Cambodian Museum will go on display sometime in the fall.

We flew to Los Angeles, went to pick up our rental car, and found that we could choose a minivan for the same money. We did.

When finally we got to the home of our daughter-in-law’s parents, we were greeted by all of the grandchildren present and by our son and daughter. It was a very very happy homecoming.

This morning, my daughter and I went to Target. Now that doesn’t sound so surprising, but it was the first Target I was in on this trip. I didn’t need anything, but I didn’t think they would let me out of America if I hadn’t had at least one look at it. Impressive. But not worth moving for.

We spent the rest of the day with my daughter and her 12 year old son and her 4 month old son at Universal Studios. It was an enjoyable day. We saw and did a lot of fun things. At 5 p.m., my son’s 12 year old and 10 year old sons joined us. They had been there also with their camp, but when the other campers went home, they stayed on with us. The three big boys really enjoyed spending time together and enjoyed the experiences they had at the park. The minivan came in handy!!

When we returned (at about 9:30) a big and delicious spaghetti dinner was waiting for us. it was a good day… and a wonderful way to spend my husband’s birthday!!!!

* My favorite Joshua Kadison song
** triLcat writes: the song is called “Picture Postcards From LA”

Goodbye Illinois, hello Iowa

Iowa has very nice rest stops that have free wireless internet. Very impressive. From there, sitting outside in the shade by the side of the road, I was able to chat with one daughter via gmail and to see the pictures of another’s children. What a world!

Iowa (at least from Interstate 80) is very flat and is adorned by cornfields in every direction. We saw magnificent stretches of land, all verdant green, with silos and barns and big farmhouses for miles and miles and miles.

When we finally got to Des Moines, we got off the highway and headed in the direction of Camp Dodge (yes, I am ready for all of the Dodge jokes including the fact that tomorrow morning by 10 o’clock, we need to get out of Dodge!). This is a military installation of some sort (I think National Guard training, but I’m not sure) and we have been billeted (sounds like something that could be fatal) in a brick building in a small apartment. It has a fridge and microwave and sofa and recliner and best of all, a computer. Although I couldn’t get into the wireless network, the computer that is in place here has had no trouble.

We even are able to do our laundry here! Our suitcases seem to be sighing with relief. They are so dramatic. It hasn’t been that long…

We have no immediate plans although Iowa is full of historical sights and all sorts of arts. There are barns that have been painted with quilts on them and beautiful folk art objects. We passed by (in Illinois) the birthplace of Ronald Reagan and in Iowa, of Herbert Hoover. If we had the time, we could probably spend a week just seeing the sights around Des Moines. This is a big country with lots to see!

So tomorrow, it’s on to Omaha where we try once again to entice people to travel with us to China and to Vietnam/Cambodia!

Coming to the US

The news is that if all goes well, we will be coming to the US in June and July and will be traveling to communities to do travelogues on China (including Tibet) and Vietnam/Cambodia. We will be presenting these free of charge to groups for the purpose of letting people know that there is a fantastic tour company that provides the highest quality kosher tours (Shai Bar Ilan Geographical Tours). It will be a travelogue, not a sales pitch and we are happy to have one and all there whether or not they ever plan to travel. We understand that people have friends and relatives and we want our name to be the one associated with travel! We have all sorts of stories and anecdotes and we promise no one will be bored… we even are bringing some gifts. If you are interested in having us visit your community, you can write me at shai.bar.ilan.tours@gmail.com