Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Our Refrain

Throughout the ages, Jews have been faced with the murderous hatred of anti-Semitism. After the Shoah, the words "Never Again" were proclaimed. And yet anti-semitism is again on the raise. SoccerDad has his thoughts. Meryl Yourish has posted Two Quotes on the Struggle of the Jews. At the end of her post is Am Israel Chai, the People of Israel live.

That has been our refrain. Every Passover, we marvel at the miracles wrought over the thousands of years in which Israel has continued to live. We basically say, "They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat!"

In every generation we face the anti-Semitism and in every generation we keep our hope. Even with the growing tide of anti-Semitism, we keep our humor. This year is no different.

There's a new Facebook Haggadah.

Let's eat!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The 2nd Amendment

Our Constitution has a Bill of Rights that used to be the envy of the rest of the world. The past few decades have seen erosion of those Rights. After Obama was elected President, there was a substantial increase in the purchase of firearms and ammunition. Many feared their 2nd Amendment rights would be trampled. Too bad there hasn't been an outcry with those Rights which have been whittled away.

When the so-called War on Drugs began in the 1980's. People have had money, cars, and other property seized by police officials on the mere suspicion of drug related activity. Some of those who had property 'forfeited' were never charged with any crime.

It takes months and funds to have property returned. Anyone who travels with cash on hand can have this happen to them:

Still, the search turned up no drugs of any kind, and the officers finally told Ramirez that he was free to go--but not before confiscating $6,000 of his money in the name of the federal war on drugs in a process known as "forfeiture." Despite check stubs that he says prove that the money came from a car accident settlement reached several months before, and bank records showing that it was withdrawn from his account just prior to the Missouri trip, Ramirez has, to this day, been unable to get his money returned. He shakes his head as he describes it. "All I want is my money back," he says.
In many cases, people like Rudy Ramirez have been suspected of involvement in drug trafficking for no more reason than its being "unusual" in this day and age to possess a thick wad of cash. Take the example of Willie Jones, a landscape architect who was carrying $9,600 through the Nashville airport on his way to buy shrubbery. Or the case of physician Richard Lowe who--distrustful of banks, and with vivid memories of the Great Depression--stockpiled $317,000 in his home in Alabama before finally depositing it in a bank, leading the government to confiscate a full $2.5 million of his life savings for this suspicious behavior.

Ramirez was not charged with any crime. He was not convicted of any crime.

Some changes have been forthcoming to correct injustices like this from happening:

But on August 23rd, 2000, after a difficult seven-year campaign by Republican Congressman Henry Hyde from Illinois, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act finally went into effect--making it more difficult for the federal government to seize property without evidence of wrongdoing. It took a remarkable coalition of conservative and liberal lawmakers, to change a law that everyone from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Rifle Association has recognized as flawed. And while the reforms come too late to help Rudy Ramirez, they will help to make cases like his rarer.

A clear violation of the 4th Amendment was apparently largely accepted. After all, it was supposedly aimed at drug traffickers and perhaps many people felt that they were immune from it. There wasn't much clamor after this was passed even though it violates the 4th Amendment Rights of everyone, not just suspected criminals. It also, to me, violates the 6th Amendment where we are guaranteed the right to trial and the right to confront witnesses.

The Founders of our country might be holding their heads in shame at the violations of rights going on in our country today.

I read John Adams by David McCullough. John Adams was the lawyer for the British soldiers arrested for their part in the Boston Massacre. When asked why, he stated "The reason is because it's of more importance to the community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished".

A lot of Americans seem to content with giving away their rights in an effort to feel safer. Three years ago, the Adam Walsh Act was passed. This Act violates several rights. Some provisions of it are so bad, even Texas may refuse to enact it. This Act is retroactive and forces those who were convicted of sex crimes decades ago to register as sex offenders. Many of those who are required to do so have lived years without committing any other crimes and yet they still must register. Kids who are 17 and have sex with their 16 year old girlfriend or boyfriend and are convicted of statutory rape, have to register.

Many may not care that the 8th Amendments Rights of these individuals are being violated. An over abundance of fear has once again led to the erosion of precious rights. Other aspects of the Adam Walsh Act seem to violate the 5th and 6th Amendments as well.

I'm one of the guilty ones who wasn't too concerned about the Passage of the Patriot Act after 9-11. I was angry at what had happened to our country. I was in fear of another attack and so I too was one of those who made the tacit decision to give up precious rights out of an overabundance of fear and anger.

Those Rights which seem to unduly protect those charged or suspected of crimes are there to protect all of us.

The Bill of Rights are to protect us from kangeroo courts, unlawful searches and seizures, and punishments that are cruel and unusual. These are the Rights our Founders fought for and won against a tyrannical king. The Minute Men, the Continental Army, and the Continental Congress were not fearful about fighting the might of the British Empire. From the Declaration of Independence:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
2.1 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
2.2 That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
2.3 Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
2.4 But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Are we so fearful a breed of United States citizens that we are willing to abrogate precious rights out of fear? I do not like firearms. I cannot see the justice of 2nd Amendments Rights being taken away. It is as unjust as the violations of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendment rights which have been taken away these past 20 or so years. Only a clamor(contacting your Representatives) can change the course of the unjust violations. The 2nd Amendment is just as important as the other the other 26.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Too Much!

My living room is beginning to look very lovely. About 2 weeks ago, inspired by the great paint job my son did with the bathroom, I decided the living room needed to be painted as well. My son, his girlfriend, and I started painting it 5 days ago. Because of space limitations, only wall can be painted at a time. Now, it's time for the trim.

All this while having the damage from Hurricane Katrina repaired is leaving me stressed. Yesterday, I realized it is only 2 weeks to Passover! I haven't even begun to clean the house for hametz!!!

Jeremy's girlfriend has been an almost perfect house guest. She is very nice and I'm glad to have gotten to know her better. She leaves this Sunday.

I've been having to deal with other things as well. It is nice to be busy but I think there's just been too much to deal with lately.

My son said he and Sarah will finish the trim on two walls today! So perhaps, I can move my furniture back in place and rehang all the pictures.

Jeremy has been doing a lot around the house. He is stepping up. His girlfriend has been helping as well. I keep asking her if she minds. She says she has been enjoying the painting and helping me pick out material. She isn't able to decorate her home because she and her family live in an apartment and likes the opportunity to paint and decorate.

I'll be sad when she leaves on Sunday. My son will miss her even more.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Over Three Years in the Making

I've never posted pictures of the damage Hurricane Katrina caused to my home. Mostly because of embarrassment. Too many others lost everything. I was one of the lucky 3,000 homeowners on the Mississippi Gulf Coast who didn't file an insurance claim. The damages to the soffit and fascia would not have met the 3% deductible for hurricane claims. This week will be the last time my home looks like this. Lowe's delivered the supplies that I was able to finally budget for and my brothers will work this weekend to repair the damage.

I'm so excited!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Boycotting Israel Properly

Saw this at Jack's and wanted to share it:

And thanks Israel for helping out us Hurricane Katrina victims.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gulfport Library

Since Hurricane Katrina, Gulfport Mississippi has been without it's main library. Plans are to build it further inland but a group calling itself 'We the People' wants the library to remain at its current location and the beautiful historic building to be repaired.

I ask you:

green card online poll

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Permission Granted

Last night as the megillah of Esther was read, I was struck by the thought that the Jews in ancient had to be given permission to defend themselves. In many ways the scenario is being played out again in the world today. The Jewish nation of Israel is denounced on a regular basis for defending her people as any country would. The new rulers of Persia today, one in particular, Ahmadinejad, has consistently stated Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth. Iran is moving rapidly toward having nuclear weapons which are capable of destroying Israel. They now have rockets which can reach space so it not just Israel that is in danger.

The enemies of Israel are myriad. The United Nations seems to be merely an instrument for denouncing Israel at every turn. Foolish people hold signs in protest against Israel which state they are Hezbollah. Hezbollah may be helpful to some, but it can never be forgotten that it is a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel. Hamas is the same. Hitler was able to improve the lives of many Germans. That little bit of good can never negate the evil which in he set in motion against the annihilation of the Jewish people.

I'm currently reading The Shoah in Ukraine History. In the chapter regarding Romania and Tranisitria, I was struck by something. The leader of Romania expelled all the Jews living in Besserabia and Moldavia to Transnistra. When he started implementing plans to transfer the Jews in Translyvania, he was stopped by a few things. First President Roosevelt sent a letter and the Greek and Roman churches intervened. The head rabbi sent a letter in protest. By this time, the Germans were losing along the Russian front. It is speculated that Romania's leader had an eye on the future and wanted to ensure Romania would have some brownie points. Romania didn't send any of it's Jews to the death camps. MOst of those who were sent to Transnistra did not die by bullets. Nor were they sent to gas chambers. They died slowly of starvation and of being forced to work as slave laborers. They were crammed into an area that could not support such a large population. Disease took a large toll.

As I was reading this particular segment in the book, I asked myself several questions. Did Roosevelt ever demand Hitler quit deporting Jews? Why wasn't there a greater world outcry when Hitler passed the Nuremberg laws and when Jewish synagogues, homes, and businesses were going up in flames? Why wasn't there a greater outcry when Jews were being murdered on German streets?

I ask myself these same questions today when I read of the attacks against Jewish schools and synagogues around the world. I ask myself these questions when Israel is the only condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Commission. I ask myself these questions when I see the vile protest held against Israel. I ask myself these questions when I see idiots compare Israel to Nazi Germany.

The thing is, for the first time in 2,000 years Jews no longer need to ask permission to defend themselves. Since Israel's creation, Jews have come home. Israel has brought home those Jews whose lives were imperiled in Arab countries. It defends itself against terrorists who are filled with bloodlust. The terrorists of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other groups do not shout death to Israel. They shout death to Yihud, in other words, Jews.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Made in Mississippi

Though it seems to recede further and further from people's minds, the Mississippi Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Biloxi's Historic district took a big hit. The historic Magnolia Motel/Mardi Gras Museum still has to be repaired. Mary Mahoney's Restuarant opened within weeks. The Train and Toy Emporium re-opened soon after Katrina hit. But the little shops filled with the works of artisans and artists from Mississippi has been slow to rebuild. With one exception: the art studio of Bill Johnson. Mr. Bill has been at Croesus street for over 25 years. He is 88 years old and has been repairing his studio. He does a little painting and uses off-beat materials. He is using Styrofoam to carve coastal themes and it looks very interesting. He is also etching terra cotta tiles. His phone number is 228-435-9134.

Here he is in front of his studio working on some of the etchings:.

Some of the work he did while I talked to him:

The only proclamation on his studio:

Another interesting shop I visited was Rue Magnolia Pottery. Two sisters and a friend opened their shop in October of 2008. It is filled with fun items like belly-button mugs that have a piercing. One of the sisters creates unique ceramic jewelry while the other creates fun and colorful art pottery. Their phone number is 228-435-2828.

The sign in front of their store:

One of the pieces titled Fin-Fin. It is named after the notorious diet drug:

A lot of the pieces have vivid colors such as this star fish with a background of blue:

I liked this ceramic doll of a mother holding a child:

There are some unique creations in the pottery shop.

I was very excited about the new art co-op that opened at 626 Water Street. It hasn't been open very long. The co-op consists of photographs and artists from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Hattiesburg. I asked permission to take photos so I'm unable to show-off some of the amazing talent in the co-op. There is everything from abstract art to Impressionistic style with everything in between.

I hope you will visit each of these places as well as some of the other businesses that have opened up shop. It is good to see this historic area coming back to life. Some of the buildings in this section were built in the 1790's and there is a lot of unique architecture.

Our Courts

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra O'Connor has started a new web-site. It is called Our Courts. With the web-site she hopes to fill a gap in our education system. All too often students are only taught what is needed to be able to pass the benchmarks for programs like No Child Left Behind. When Justice O'Connor was The Daily Show March 3, 2009, she stated that in half of the states, civics and American history has been dropped from the curriculum. That is a shame to our country.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Change You Can Believe In

President Obama's pick for heading FEMA is Craig Fugate. A very good choice! He was Florida's emergency manager.

Fugate has been praised for helping guide Florida through several devastating hurricanes in the past decade. He was criticized in 2005 for not distributing enough ice, water and other supplies immediately after Hurricane Wilma. Fugate had warned residents before the storm that they should have enough supplies for three days after it passed, but many did not and that overstressed the system.
Napolitano called Fugate one of the most experienced emergency managers in the country.
"The work he's accomplished in Florida serves as a model for other states," Napolitano said in a statement. "He will be a tremendous asset to FEMA and it's employees."
After Hurricane Katrina, Fugate said there was too much focus on blaming the federal government for the botched response. He said in a 2006 interview with The Associated Press that it was the state's responsibility to prepare for such disasters, and the state should only turn to the federal government for help when the disaster is larger than the state can handle on its own.

A Letter to Booby Jindal

Honorable Bobby Jindal,

In your response to President Obama's address to Congress, you displayed some ignorance. You decried that $140 million had been earmarked for 'volcano monitoring'. If you had studied a bit more, you might have seen that only a fraction of the $140 million was allocated for volcano monitoring. What I find must troubling about your comment is that you know the value of being able to predict natural disasters accurately. Funding for science was severely cut under former President Bush.

Advances in science can help all prepare for natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast just 3 1/2 years ago. Better weather satellites may have been able to offer better predictions. Alas, our weather satellites are in a sad state of affairs. Wouldn't it be nice if more funding for those satellites, river gages, and other tools necessary to predict natural disasters could be made available?

Right now, other tools to help predict hurricanes are being developed.

In the stimulus package was also money allocated to help restore and preserve coastal marsh lands. Much of it will probably go to Louisiana to help rebuild the marshes that have been lost due to hurricanes and other factors. These marshes provide a natural buffer to protect New Orleans and Hancock County Mississippi. Those funds are close to a billion. Due you consider that a waste?

There are people in Hawai'i and Alaska whose lives can be and are impacted by volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. They and we, should not be denied the tools to keep our lives safe.


A Concerned Citizen of Gulfport Mississippi

Apologies Accepted

This is too funny!!!

Democrats plan to launch a Web site Wednesday that mocks GOP leaders for apologizing to radio host Rush Limbaugh for criticizing or publicly disagreeing with him.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh has been vocal about his displeasure with President Obama's policies.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hosting the Web site, which allows visitors to create an apology to Limbaugh on behalf of Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia; South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford; or Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

"You and I both know that in reality, you simply want President Obama to fail in this time of economic collapse," reads the fake letter of apology template. "How can I disagree with that? Please accept my sincere apologies, oh great leader of the Republican Party."

Freedom of speech is great.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wear a Blue Star

Sometime in the late Medieval period, Jews in Iraq were forced to wear a yellow badge. Nazi Germany forced Jews to wear a yellow star. These yellow badges were meant to humiliate Jews.

Today, Israel is the only country bashed by the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Never mind what is happening in Burma, China, North Korea, Sudan, Egypt, and other countries. Israel is the sole whipping boy of the United Nations.

A World Conference against Racism is to be held again in Durban South Africa. The previous one held in 2001 proved to be another event in which Israel was the sole country to criticized. This year's proves to be going the same route. Only three countries have pulled out of this anti-Semitic feeding frenzy: Canada, the United States, and Israel.

In the face of this obsession, who today stands with the Jewish people? Who amongst the leaders of today is prepared to wear the Jewish star? At the UN Human Rights Council, there is one state which votes consistently against the anti-Zionists - Canada. To take an example, the Human Rights Council in January 2009, at one of its many special sessions directed against Israel, passed a typical Israel bashing resolution, this time about Gaza. The vote was 33 in favour, 13 abstentions, and only one opposed. That one was Canada.

The World Conference against Racism held in Durban South Africa in September 2001 in a concluding document which was supposed to be about racism instead criticised one country alone, Israel. The Durban review conference, scheduled for April this year in Geneva, bears all the hallmarks of repeating that travesty. There are only two states besides Israel which have pulled out of the Review conference to avoid participating in and legitimizing that echo of Durban 2001, Canada and the United States. Canada left first, in February 2008, even before Israel did. The United States just announced it was pulling out a few days ago.

THIS CANADIAN record has drawn the attention of the world's anti-Zionist states. When the Canadian human rights record came up for consideration at a Human Rights Council working group in February under the Universal Periodic Review, Algeria, Syria and Iran tore into Canada for its refusal to kowtow to the anti-Zionist agenda.

During World War II, there are legends about two leaders who sided with the Jewish people:

Two urban legends about the yellow star are commonly told. In one, French Vichy officials during World War II gave Moroccan authorities yellow stars for the Jews of Morocco to wear. King Mohammad V asked for a dozen more, explaining that he wanted them so that he and his family could wear them.

In another, the Nazi German occupying forces in Denmark issued a decree that all Danish Jews must wear a yellow armband with the star of David. King Christian in response answered that he would wear the first star of David and expected every other Dane to do the same.

Both leaders did support their Jewish communities, but not necessarily in the way the stories depict. The first story is contested. The second story is false. But both are constantly retold because they state a fundamental truth, the importance of leadership in combating prejudice.

Wear a blue Star of David in support of Israel. Post one on your web-site.

The Star of David is a symbol anyone should be proud to wear. It symbolizes our struggle for religious freedom, the very right to live, and justice.

Kosher Salt a Threat?

Someone's jealous that Kosher salt receives all the attention.


It's that time of year!! Please help out Jack and link to him.


Haveil Havalim: 206

Iran's Terror Conference

Puzzled in Gaza.

FDR: Welcoming Hatred, what FDR had to go through!!! Cycles repeat.

Emergency! Not!!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Need Some Flash

I really need to invest in a speed-flash for my camera. I'm looking at a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight and a Nikon SB-400 Speedlight.

I've never used a speedlight before. I plan on using it for night photos and indoor photos. From the comments on the lights, it seems the SB-600 would offer more flexibility. What are some other considerations I should take into account?