Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For Liberal Jews, Obama Is the Messiah

by Abraham H. Miller

The difference between radical Muslims and liberal American Jews is that the former seek to become martyrs, while the latter aspire to become victims. In an ironic twist of fate, radical Muslims and liberal American Jews were made for each other.

This ideological symbiosis is sufficient to give pause to the presence of intelligent design. But like all things that seem to emanate from a higher power, there is a paradoxical twist. It is not themselves that liberal American Jews want to sacrifice on the altar of victimhood; it is their Israeli brethren.

Barack Hussein Obama received nearly eighty percent of the Jewish vote and still garners strong approval among America’s Jews. In contrast, only six percent of Jewish Israelis support Obama.

Even before the election, Israeli Jews, unlike their sycophantic American brethren, saw through Obama. Israelis were the least supportive population anywhere in the Western world of the inexperienced politician turned presidential candidate.

To support Obama, liberal Jews had to engage in a set of incredible mental gymnastics. They had to ignore his twenty-year relationship with the anti-Semitic minister Reverend Jeremiah Wright. They had to ignore his strong personal relationship with the virulent anti-Zionist Rashid Khalidi. They had to ignore his statement to the Iowa caucuses that no one has suffered more than the Palestinian people. They had to ignore his support of his Kenyan cousin and genocidal strongman Raila Odinga, an advocate of Sharia. They had to ignore Obama’s own Muslim heritage. They had to ignore that anti-Israel policy experts such as Samantha Power (who now has her own special seat on the National Security Council), Susan Rice, and General James Jones had the real inside tract on advising Obama on the Middle East.

Since the election, Obama’s policies toward Israel have been treacherous, and the reaction of the liberal Jewish community can only be described as inconceivable. When Obama demanded a freeze on the settlements, including organic growth and building in East Jerusalem, the reformed rabbis could barely wait to support him. Even the Jewish Daily Forward editorialized on behalf of freezing settlements, as if the settlements were the obstacle to peace and prior exchanges of land for peace had actually resulted in the reign of peace rather than the rain of rockets.

Obama’s unwillingness to do what first world nation states traditionally do — honor the commitments and obligations of a prior administration — should have generated outrage from the Jewish community. After all, Obama summarily and capriciously dismissed the commitments the Bush administration made with regard to the settlements — commitments that were made, according to Elliot Abrams, to secure Israel’s painful withdrawal from Gaza and Northern Samaria.

If for no other reason than the inconceivable precedent that will impair all of our future international relations, liberal Jews, ever concerned about the fine points of law, should have been up in arms.

But their support for Obama was unflinching, their outrage, absent.

Obama’s Cairo speech linked Israel with the Holocaust, ignoring both 3,500 years of Jewish history and European history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The speech then went on an embarrassing rant of moral equivalence by comparing the self-imposed suffering of the Palestinians to the Holocaust. Even so, liberal Jews did not wince.


Chips in official IDs raise privacy fears

Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he'd bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car. It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker's gold.

Zipping past Fisherman's Wharf, his scanner downloaded to his laptop the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians' electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he'd "skimmed" four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet.

Increasingly, government officials are promoting the chipping of identity documents as a 21st century application of technology that will help speed border crossings, safeguard credentials against counterfeiters, and keep terrorists from sneaking into the country. But Paget's February experiment demonstrated something privacy advocates had feared for years: That RFID, coupled with other technologies, could make people trackable without their knowledge.

He filmed his heist, and soon his video went viral on the Web, intensifying a debate over a push by government, federal and state, to put tracking technologies in identity documents and over their potential to erode privacy. Putting a traceable RFID in every pocket has the potential to make everybody a blip on someone's radar screen, critics say, and to redefine Orwellian government snooping for the digital age.

"Little Brother," some are already calling it - even though elements of the global surveillance web they warn against exist only on drawing boards, neither available nor approved for use. But with advances in tracking technologies coming at an ever-faster rate, critics say, it won't be long before governments could be able to identify and track anyone in real time, 24-7, from a cafe in Paris to the shores of California.

On June 1, it became mandatory for Americans entering the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean to present identity documents embedded with RFID tags, though conventional passports remain valid until they expire. Among new options are the chipped "e-passport," and the new, electronic PASS card - credit-card sized, with the bearer's digital photograph and a chip that can be scanned through a pocket, backpack or purse from 30 feet.

Alternatively, travelers can use "enhanced" driver's licenses embedded with RFID tags now being issued in some border states: Washington, Vermont, Michigan and New York. Texas and Arizona have entered into agreements with the federal government to offer chipped licenses, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recommended expansion to non-border states. Kansas and Florida officials have received DHS briefings on the licenses, agency records show.

The purpose of using RFID is not to identify people, says Mary Ellen Callahan, the chief privacy officer at Homeland Security, but "to verify that the identification document holds valid information about you." An RFID document that doubles as a U.S. travel credential "only makes it easier to pull the right record fast enough, to make sure that the border flows, and is operational" - even though a 2005 Government Accountability Office report found that government RFID readers often failed to detect travelers' tags.

Critics warn that RFID-tagged identities will enable identity thieves and other criminals to commit "contactless" crimes against victims who won't immediately know they've been violated. Neville Pattinson, vice president for government affairs at Gemalto, Inc., a major supplier of microchipped cards, is no RFID basher. He's a board member of the Smart Card Alliance, an RFID industry group, and is serving on the Department of Homeland Security's Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee.

In a 2007 article published by a newsletter for privacy professionals, Pattinson called the chipped cards vulnerable "to attacks from hackers, identity thieves and possibly even terrorists." RFID, he wrote, has a fundamental flaw: Each chip is built to faithfully transmit its unique identifier "in the clear, exposing the tag number to interception during the wireless communication."

Once a tag number is intercepted, "it is relatively easy to directly associate it with an individual," he says. "If this is done, then it is possible to make an entire set of movements posing as somebody else without that person's knowledge." ....

When the AP asked when testing was initiated, the State Department said only that "a battery of durability and electromagnetic tests were performed" by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, along with tests "to measure the ability of data on electronic passports to be surreptitiously skimmed or for communications with the chip reader to be eavesdropped," testing which "led to additional privacy controls being placed on U.S. electronic passports ... "

In 2005, the department incorporated metallic fibers into the e-passport's front cover, to reduce the read range, and added encryptions and a feature that required inspectors to optically scan the e-passport first for the chip to communicate wirelessly. But what of concerns about the e-passport's read range?

In its October 2005 Federal Register notice, the State Department reassured Americans that the e-passport's chip would emit radio waves only within a 4-inch radius, making it tougher to hack.

But in May 2006, at the University of Tel Aviv, researchers directly skimmed an encrypted tag from several feet away. At the University of Cambridge in Britain, a student intercepted a transmission between an e-passport and a legitimate reader from 160 feet. The State Department, according to its own records obtained under FOIA, was aware of the problem months before its Federal Register notice and more than a year before the e-passport was rolled out in August 2006.


Freedom lives in the hearts of the dispossessed

Even if the Left-corrupted West seems to have forgotten its founding values

MOHAMMAD Mehdi Asghari was a fresh-faced, earnest-looking young Tehranian professional, the kind of nice young man, perhaps, whom a middle-class Iranian mother might wish for her daughter to date on a Saturday night.

His obituary notice shows him in a neat lilac-coloured polo-shirt, with his hair freshly brushed back from a hairline that was already beginning to recede. When he died in mysterious circumstances a month ago, shortly after Iran's national elections, he was just 26, an age which in today's West would probably licence him to be a Hollywood-style "boy-man", still toying with skateboards and PlayStations, drifting between careers, and living in mortal fear of relationship commitment. But according to Iran's National Portal of Statistics, when Asghari died, he was already in the older half of Iran's population. In this country which harvested several millions of its citizens in the madness of the great Iraq war - much as an earlier generation of Europeans was scythed down on Flanders' gentle fields - the young have been called upon to grow up fast. Like many of his contemporaries, Asghari had a CV well in advance of his date-stamp.

Asghari was one of that so-called Facebook generation beloved of Western colour-feature writers on Iran. He was networked; he was joined-up; he was the actuality of that much abused term, the global citizen. We know that his day job involved maintaining the elaborate network infrastructure that linked the Interior Ministry to Iran's provincial bureaucracies, so that provincial voting tallies can be sent directly to the centre without passing by anyone's else's eyes. We know too that he was an uber-geek: he had advanced certificates in software engineering from Microsoft and Cisco Systems, and in his spare time he ran a small firm training young Iranians in network software skills. (The company's website has been reduced to a single black-bordered front page still forlornly promising details of his burial ceremony.) And there are discreet suggestions that he may have been one of those many ingenious young Iranians who use their technology skills to mount campaigns in pursuit of democratic and human rights.

In grand tragedies we all become playthings of the Fates, whether or not we choose it. Following a sequence of events still known only to a few people, it seems to have fallen to the mild-mannered Asghari to be the conduit through which Iranians discovered that the national elections purportedly held on June 12 had been secretly aborted, and replaced by another ballot carried out on a computer network run out of the Interior Ministry. When in the days following the election tens of thousands of angry young Tehranians held aloft tattered photocopies of a rival electoral tally, they were, in effect, brandishing the testament of Mohammad Mehdi Asghari. If Iran should return to the ranks of states living under the rule of law - in the process establishing a new template under which Islam and democracy might co-exist peacefully - they, and we, will be in this young man's debt.

We still don't know - indeed, if things go badly in Iran we may never know - exactly how Iran's process of grand electoral larceny was managed. Conceivably it was finessed by means of the same primitive software used to debauch the Russian parliamentary elections two years earlier. (There are echoes of the 2007 Russian elections in the latest version of a statistical study by the University of Michigan's Walter Mebane.)

In any case, the precise details of the magic act are perhaps beside the point. More striking is the fact that while millions of Iranians - viscerally aware of the steady decomposition of their already deeply imperfect constitution over the previous three decades - immediately sensed the extent of the fraud that was afoot, surprisingly few Westerners did. Those who criticised the poll mostly did so tentatively, and with positively metaphysical restraint. The Washington Post organisation - the same firm that once, in more idealistic days, fancied that it had forestalled an electoral coup in the US - ran a number of paper and online pieces in effect endorsing the election result ("Get over it," counselled the headline of one). Meanwhile, journalists all over the world shrugged their shoulders at the impossibility of sorting fact from rumour out of the disorderly electronic hubbub escaping from Iran, and turned their attention to stories with better pictures and neater endings.

As a political culture we seem to have become naive and blase, at one and the same time.

For a decade of so after the fall of the USSR it was fashionable to speak in awe-struck tones of the grand new tide of democracy that was even then thought to be spreading itself over the globe like a silken sheet. It's hard to imagine anyone speaking in such confident, airy tones today. Aside from the exemplary exception of democratic Indonesia, there is hardly a corner of the globe that takes the basic principle of the ballot more seriously now than it did then.

Instead we've watched mutely as the old vestiges of the Communist International, which personified the will of the global proletariat in comrade Stalin, has been replaced by a new anti-democratic International, whose sole principle and rationale appears to be to denigrate democracy as merely the self-indulgent plaything of a few tiresome intellectuals in the enervated West. With its headquarters in Beijing, branch offices in Moscow and Tehran, and annexes in Santiago and Caracas, this new international preaches, not the liberation of the toiling masses under the banner of state socialism, but rather the liberation of the pure, whole, undivided nation-guiding state from the quarrelsome, fissiparous tendencies of its citizens. We've watched, we've fretted a little, but on the whole we've kept our own counsel.

While we've watched and bitten our tongues, it seems, it's been left to young Iranians such as Asghari - and their embattled counterparts in China, Cuba and elsewhere - to become the new global face of what used to be called Western liberal-democratic values. Sometimes it seems there's an irony of economic history according to which the developed Western nations are fated over time to become spectators to the vigour of developing ones. Who knows: perhaps a similar logic operates in the political sphere. Perhaps this new generation of young global citizens of the non-West - not having yet passed through that process of disenchantment and ennui that nowadays afflicts the citizens of the actual West - has become a kind of virtual West, holding up the values we still mutter about under our breath, but seem to have become too timid to say out loud, whether to Beijing or to Tehran.


British youngsters view Bible 'as old fashioned'

KNOWLEDGE of the Bible is in decline in Britain, with fewer than one in 20 people able to name all Ten Commandments and youngsters viewing the Christian holy book as "old fashioned", a survey said today.

Forty per cent did not know that the tradition of exchanging Christmas presents originated from the story of the Wise Men bringing gifts for the infant Jesus, while 60 per cent could not name anything about the Good Samaritan, the Durham University study found.

Youngsters were particularly disillusioned, telling researchers that the Bible was "old fashioned", "irrelevant" and for "Dot Cottons" - a reference to the church-going EastEnders' character, the National Biblical Literacy Survey 2009 showed. "It is the first recognition of something which we all knew in our gut. We knew it was there but we weren't exactly willing to face up to it," said Rev Brian D. Brown, a visiting fellow at St.John's College in Durham University.

One respondent to the survey said David and Goliath was the name of a ship while another thought Daniel, who survived being thrown into the lions' den, was "The Lion King".

Rev Brown said the survey showed the need to push for greater religious education among young people as knowledge of the Bible among the under-45 age group was in decline. "We have got to recognise that it (the Bible) is the foundation of our society, upon which our whole culture has been based," he said. "To understand it and to live in it you do need an understanding of the Bible."

Atheists, however, were not unduly worried about the decline in the Bible's popularity. "It shows really that religion is becoming less important to people," said Pepper Harow, campaigns officer at the British Humanist Association. "The fact that people have little knowledge of the Bible perhaps suggests that it's becoming less and less relevant to people in the 21st century," she said.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm about the Bible among the 900 respondents, three-quarters said they owned one and almost a third said it was significant in their lives.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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