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For Gillian Gibbons November 30, 2007

Posted by voolavex in Catholic Church, Darfur, Gillian Gibbons, Hadith, Koran, Lashes, Muhammad, Sudan, Sunnah, Teddy bear, Uncategorized.
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Recently I posted about the ins and outs of “Baby Shopping with Leviticus” – my adventure into buying a baby gift for a brand new Orthodox Jewish baby.   After today’s alarming news about Gillian Gibbons’ ordeal in Sudan, I revisited my post and realized that even had I brought a teddy bear to that baby, it would have been a faux pas at worst and something we would all laugh about.

How does our tattered, damaged, world  explain Gillian Gibbons, her students and the bear?  As I understand it, the students named the bear in a class election and the name Muhammad got 20/23 votes.  I suspect they thought they were naming him the most wonderful, respectful name of the three names suggested. So where is the problem that will put a British woman in jail for allowing a teddy bear to be named Muhammad.   If Islamic children were not allowed this name because it was sacred, one might understand.  There would be no exceptions obviously. (even a small baby of special goodness or intelligence might be idolized if improperly named Muhammad – it’s happened before).  And in spite of some cultures using the name Jesus for boys – it is not widespread because I suspect it sounds a little sacrilegious to most Christians.  But certainly not blasphemous.  Even though Leviticus, himself mentioned those who has blasphemed would “surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:10-16).  And Luke the Apostle (Luke 12:10) called it the eternal sin,  I don’t think it had much to do with the naming of stuffed animals or babies.  The times they spoke in and of were rife with Idol Worshippers.   And the act of blaspheming is generally meant to libel or defame a god or gods.  That presents another problem with the bear who was not even named Allah; he was named after Allah’s prophet who made it quite clear he was not God.  You might also ask why these children – some of whom are Muslims, felt it was perfectly all right to name the bear as they did.  Probably because it was okay.

The real question for me is why this particular faith in God requires so much, dying, bloodletting and  debasing punishments for so many things – with no recourse.  I am not Islamic, nor do I presume to imagine what Allah told his prophet – but in general,  quoting from Wikipedia:

“In ethics and law, “Let the punishment fit the crime” is the principle that the severity of penalty for a misdeed or wrongdoing should be reasonable and proportional to the severity of the infraction. The concept is common to most cultures throughout the world. (“Italics mine).

In the Koran  there appears to be no injunction about the naming of people Muhammad nor does it specify a teddy bear.  The law was simply meant to keep Islam idol free.  Just as Judaism has done.  And the Koran – which is more widely misused for gain, than quoted accurately does not condone the mistreatment of the innocent or the unknowing.  TheHadith and Sunnah – the laws and traditions of Islam began being added to Islam a full 100 years after the death of the prophet.  It comes as no surprise that anyone codifying a revealed faith  might get some of its best ideas for heresy from an already successful endeavor called the Roman Church. They, after all,  excelled at burnings, stonings, autos da fe and torture for those who didn’t believe correctly.  ( Possibly the Baltimore Catechism was a later inspiration, but you see where this is going)  Just as the Roman Church eagerly ordered these burnings and stonings and autos da fe; so too did the mullahs and ayatollahs who devised these codifications of the Koran.  Dramatic laws and punishment are proven methods for leading to a greater control of the population and a way to advance ones group into power. 

Submission.org  is an excellent source for logical  information about the Islamic faith and what it doesn’t stand for. 

Since the bear was not being worshipped and there was never any intention to worship the bear and nothing is in the Koran that even mentions naming toys after the prophet – I tend to think this is a convenient spin on Hadith and Sunnah in the Sudan and I can tell you it is not going to enhance or further the Sudanese government, its dictator or the cause of Islam an iota.   If you ever needed a small course in the mindset of the folks who created the Janjaweed and the disaster in Darfur – this should be your wake up call. 

And it makes me wonder too,  what will  become of the children and their bear?

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Wal-Mart Saves Money November 27, 2007

Posted by voolavex in Deborah Shank, despicable, health care, Wal-Mart.
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This is the full text of an email sent to me by Wal-mart Watch.  This is a disgusting story of greed and immorality.  It asks you to donate – but I am not asking that of you – I ask only that you to write to Wal-Mart, email Wal-Mart, call Wal-Mart and otherwise bombard Wal-Mart asking them why this is happening? I could list other companies that are just as guilty – but clouding the issue is not constructive.  Go to the website if you want to donate  – but I am NOT asking you to do that.   Send your message of disgust to Wal-Mart.com. Their slogan: “Live Better.  Save Money”. Bullshit

Scroll down for the story. 

 Dear Chloe,

Seven years ago, a semi-trailer plowed into the driver’s side of Deborah Shank’s minivan.The 52-year-old Missouri Wal-Mart employee and devoted mother of three suffered permanent brain damage. Today she lives in a nursing home for round-the clock care, unable to walk, feed or dress herself.As the Wall Street Journal reported on November 20, it’s a tragic story – but it gets worse:

“Wal-Mart started out as one of the good guys in this story, paying almost $470,000 of Shank’s initial medical bills. But three years after Shank’s husband sued and settled with the semi driver’s employer, the retail giant changed hats. It demanded every penny back, plus interest and legal fees — more, in fact, than the $417,477 the settlement had placed in a special trust fund specifically for Shank’s future health care expenses.”Wal-Mart sued a permanently brain-damaged woman out of her medical care funds. Thanks to her former employer – the world’s largest retailer – Deborah’s family is sinking deeper into debt and Deborah will be completely dependent on Medicaid and Social Security for a lifetime of medical care.Wal-Mart Watch is collecting funds to help Deborah Shank’s family with her medical bills. Will you make a donation?

http://action.walmartwatch.com/deborahshank

Wal-Mart’s actions are horribly unethical and morally bankrupt, but the company says it’s legal – and it’s right about that.As the Wall Street Journal explains:The reason is a clause in Wal-Mart’s health plan that Mrs. Shank didn’t notice when she started stocking shelves at a nearby store eight years ago. Like most company health plans, Wal-Mart’s reserves the right to recoup the medical expenses it paid for someone’s treatment if the person also collects damages in an injury suit.

In cases like the Shanks’, where injuries and medical costs are catastrophic, accident victims sometimes can be left with little or none of the money they fight for in court. Company health plans are increasingly adopting language such as Wal-Mart’s, which dictates that it is to be paid first out of any settlement, regardless of what remains for the injured person. Moreover, the victim is responsible for all legal costs in pursuing the suit.

Last year the U.S. District Court sided with Wal-Mart over the Shank family – making its ruling just six days before Deborah Shank’s 18-year-old son, Jeremy, was killed while serving in Iraq.

The decision has forced Deborah’s family to take drastic measures. Earlier this year, her husband divorced her because of advice from a health care administrator, who said that she would qualify for more public assistance as a single woman.

The Shanks aren’t gold-diggers. They are an honest, hard-working American family trying to deal with a catastrophic event, and now they’re doing it with an empty wallet – thanks to Wal-Mart.

Please do your part to help the Shank family by making a donation now:

http://action.walmartwatch.com/deborahshank

This holiday season, Wal-Mart rolled out a new slogan: “Save money. Live better.”But who lives better with Wal-Mart’s low prices? Clearly, it isn’t Wal-Mart employees like Deborah Shank.Sincerely,

David Nassar
Wal-Mart Watch

Paid for by WalmartWatch.com, a campaign of Five Stones and The Center for Community and Corporate Ethics

To unsubscribe: http://action.walmartwatch.com/unsubscribe

The Da Vinci Dilemma November 27, 2007

Posted by voolavex in CBC, Chris Haddock, Da Vinci's Inquest, DVD, Netflix, Nicholas Campbell, TV, Uncategorized.
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Why is it I can watch a telenovela from Venezuela  ( I actually worked on  one, La Traidora in the 90’s) and the BBC whenever I want, but I can’t get Canadian content unless they are pretending Vancouver or Toronto is anywhere but Canada?   Who, reading this, has watched the best show on TV in North America?  (FYI – it’s not an Emmy winner  or nominee).  It’s an import calledDa Vinci’s Inquest” , so full of talent, great writing and Canadian content that I have sat up until 3 a.m. to catch an episode.    They describe it as a cross between Law and Order and CSI and to some degree it is – but it’s so much more.  For those of you who read the Sunday New York Times – thank them for a small article (11/26) that heralded the second season  of DVI, now on DVD.  That information knocked The Soprano’s final second half right down the list on my Netflix queue and frankly – I love the Soprano’s.  Da Vinci is something else all together. The creator, Chris Haddock, should be a household word in this country by now. Nicholas Campbell in the title role is dead-on perfect as the rumpled, believable coroner in the city of Vancouver, B.C. – ( for once not masquerading as somewhere in the US).  Donnelly Rhodes (from Soap) is on the police force and is perfect – an old school copper who is trying to make sense of the brave new world of policing.  Think Canada’s blue ?   Thinker bluer.  The conversations about a Red Light District for prostitutes to work safely and a clean needle exchange program don’t bother DaVinci and his crew at all.   They’re all for them. That doesn’t mean he is the golden boy of the VPD – far from it – he is a thorn in everyone’s side and for good reason.  Dominic DaVinci is everything you might hope for in a real person in law enforcement – (but not in the US).   He is no saint; he has a real life, a drinking problem (his trips between AA and the local are really stunningly captured; funny and sad).   He dates ( he’s divorced) and he likes sex. He is loyal to the people he trusts and they reward him with a respect and bonhommie that is curiously devoid of macho competition.  The rest of the cast is stellar – but you won’t recognize their names.  Trust me – we have the securest border on the planet when it comes to CBC airwaves. Yeah, I know – DeGrassi and some of SNL – but real TV is alive and well in the Great White North.  They just aren’t invited to show it to us.  So do yourself a great favor and rent/buy both of the two seasons now on DVD and write to ProgramPartners.com to tell them you want more DaVinci and at a better time. Then write Acorn media.com, who is the DVD producer.  For chriss’ sweet sake – haven’t we endured Benny Hill – still do; and the black and white, archaic and insufferable “Are You Being Served?”  Well as far as I’m concerned until we have a reliable, normal airtime for DaVinci in this neck of the continent – we are not being served.  This is great television.

Dubya’s Buddy List November 23, 2007

Posted by voolavex in Buddy List, Chavez, Dubya, Musharraf, Putin.
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If eyes are the windows to the soul, looking into the eyes of the folks on Dubya’s buddy list probably reveals optic nerves.  I doubt there is anything more to see in them – but George sees something I don’t and it makes me wonder if he is seeing himself as he would like to be and not as he is.  I used to think it was odd that George found looking into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and Pervez Musharraf so edifying (unless you are looking for upscale dictators who wield the kind of iron grip on their countries that George will never wield).  Not any longer. I think too many people have let George slide with this “he’s naive” garbage when he says he finds “depth” in the eyes of these two leaders. “At the end of their first summit meeting in Slovenia Mr Bush described Mr Putin (he calls him Vlad) as a straightforward and trustworthy man.”  Referring to a visit here by Pervez he said this “We remember fondly, Mr. President, your great hospitality in Pakistan and we remember the importance of that visit — it reconfirmed our friendship…”  I think he sees very clearly what he sees.  He may say something else (who can even tell what he says anymore) but these two are stone cold despots and I think George knows it and really likes what he really sees. I think he really likes Dick too for the same reason.  They may remind him of Momma but mostly they probably take him to a place he thought he might go in 2000 when he stole the election from Al Gore.  Why isn’t Chavez on the list?   I suspect he finds Hugo Chavez an oaf and because he doesn’t see that he too is an oaf, he mocks him.  Chavez is an oaf but he is also a despot so I am still surprised George hasn’t added him for a trifecta – but oafs and bullies tend to be picky about the people they IM.  I wonder who gets mocked more? Dubya or Hugo? (Kudos to the King of Spain for his recent outburst too) And now Dubya is confused – Tony Blair is history and Gordon Brown just axed Pakistan from the Commonwealth nations so George must be thinking like a chameleon on plaid right now.  Or sucking on a pretzel.

Every morning when I wake up I am pimp slapped by the fact that Dubya is still president – I find comfort only in the thought that a collective pimp slap is taking place all over this country.  I miss Bill and I am not sure about Hilary because I still have a slight crush on Bill and so that seems weird.  I like Obama too.  But more than anything, I look forward to the day when I wake up and smile because Dubya, his buddy list and his smirk will be back in Crawford – kicking shit – which is what he seems to do best.

I’m Too Sexy for My Hat November 17, 2007

Posted by voolavex in Halter tops, sexist, sexy, Southwest Airlines.
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I had a couple of other posts in mind but they will have to wait because this story is just too good to ignore. 

Right Said Fred had a one hit moment in 1992 with a song that still sticks in the back of people’s minds today- “I’m Too Sexy“.  It was a goof on a male model’s own view of himself and it inspired numerous parodies.

(”I’m too sexy for my car too sexy for my car  Too sexy by far  And I’m too sexy for my hat  Too sexy for my hat what do you think about that” ). 

That’s just one line of the song –  but you get the point.  It seems to have also inspired some employee at Southwest Airlines to decide that a passenger was too sexy for the plane. 

Who is allowed to make such a decision if an airline – by its own statement – has no dress code?  They must have a special I’m Too Sexycustomer care associate to size up these matters and provide on the spot removal of people who are too sexy for the ride.  (“Okay – you there Toots, with too much of everything,  you have to go”. And go, she did; straight to Playboy – smart girl). But let’s get past the fact that this young woman was, in fact, very pretty, a blond with large breasts and dressed sparingly, in what is a very common outfit these days.  SW Airlines claims that it simply doesn’t accept clothing that would offend their flyers.  This would have to mean that they have either polled their flyers about sexy clothing or have an arbitrary rule about where the line is drawn. I wonder how that works?  Do they measure male ground crew erections to determine this?  That might be a way.  Or tote up the number of female ground crew who crack on the size of the passenger’s breasts – though that seems a little biased to me.  Could we see this passenger’s vajayjay?  No – that was covered – as were the bosoms.  Did they expect a gang rape on the flight? 

Just exactly who is this censor who made the decision and what prompted it?  It’s sexist, ageist, presumptuous and insulting – the first two are covered by free speech and the last are just really bad PR.  And how did this person simply disallow a customer to board.  I didn’t think the airline industry was that fiscally healthy that they could pick and choose who flies and who doesn’t. Is there now a new “no fly list” that covers clothing choices?  Suppose you were on a flight with religious people in their various garb?  That might be offensive to some.  I happen to love saris, but suppose an employee thought that six yards of fabric wrapped without fasteners was potentially too sexy?  What about spaghetti straps?  Over the knee boots,  stilettos?  And what does it say about the male passengers on board.  Does SW Airlines assume they are all so sex-crazed they would disrupt the flight drooling over this woman’s outfit?  What if she had been a gymnast?  I suspect this could never happen on Air France.

No, no. I suspect it wasn’t so much the outfit as it was the breasts and thighs in the outfit.  Therefore and hence, I shall steer quite clear of Southwest Airlines, thank you very much. With such an arbitrary policy  one can never be too careful or too sure it seems. The risks are simply too – well- risky. Too final you say – I don’t think so, because, despite being of a certain age – I know that I’m far too sexy for their planes. 

Baby Shopping with Leviticus November 11, 2007

Posted by voolavex in baby gifts, chasids, evil eye, Jews, kosher, leviticus, Lubavitch, talmud, teddy bears, torah.
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I have very close friends who are Lubavitch Chasids.  I have known them for years and this year they welcomed their first grandchild – a lovely little girl. Usually when one goes to visit a new baby it’s fairly simple.  Pink or blue, high end or tacky?  Toys or clothes? Stocks or bonds?   Usually. 

To start, most Jewish folks do not have baby showers.  It is considered bad luck to purchase anything for the baby before it is safely delivered from the womb.  I tend to agree with this idea.  By extension, however, Chasidic Jews do not even discuss names or gender.  The basis for this is called kinahora – although it is spelled many ways.  Ritualwell.org has this to say: “Jews have long believed that to call attention to a good thing-like overpraising a child-is to tempt the evil eye, a faux pas that demands the immediate recitation of “keyn eyn harah”, or kinahora, meaning “no evil eye” in Yiddish.  This is also, in part, the basis for the little red string or bead that many observant Jews wear.  Having this in mind I prepared to visit the new baby and her ecstatic family laden with gifts. But this was not just any baby; she was a Chasidic babe and if you want to do to the right thing for your friends’ joyous occasion (called a simcha), respecting their faith and tradition is the right thing to do and righter still if it’s your own  faith as well. 

Let me say this right away, shopping for babies is better than being pregnant and for little little girls it’s even better.  Nowadays there are so many wonderful things to buy and knit and look for, that it boggles the mind. There seem to be endless sources of clothes and toys in every price range for boys and girls.  Pale pastels, bright primaries and a world of amazing animals and soft things that shout “buy me!”.  Except for the very observant. This is not to say that the very observant don’t go wild over their babies – they just don’t go hog-wild. Fortunately as I was tucking lions and tigers and bears, oh my, into my gift bags, I realized that these stuffies might not work for this little girl and her family.  Now is when the concept of Tum’ah enters the picture.  Tum’ah is a form of ritual impurity which can be expressed in several ways.  For my purposes the most important consideration was in the representation of the stuffed animals.  Wikipedia tells me that one may become tum’ah by coming in contact with certain animals; including some insects and lizards (enumerated in Leviticus, Chapter 11, verses 29 – 32).   Leviticus is where we get the list of what’s kosher and what’s not and this includes animals. (I am still monumentally confused about Noah and the Ark – but that is another whole story.)  And come on, who gets a baby bugs or lizards anway? I had also thought this restriction meant animals one ate – not house pets certainly, but apparently I was incorrect.  I called my friend, the Bubbe (grandmother) who told me that ” you think a teddy bear is just a teddy bear – but it’s not”.  I gather it’s a big, unkosher maneater.  I started to point out that most Jews in Brooklyn don’t go out  and run into bears but before I could mention this,  she started to include other warm, fuzzy creatures that were treif (this is Yiddish for unclean) while I started to toss the poor, hapless stuffies from the bags.  Pigs were out – no Olivia for this baby; no cats, no dogs, nothing with scales, no shellfish (Spongebob’s friends were totally a no-no – but the Sponge himself – not sure – isn’t he a kitchen sponge?), no crocodiles or alligators,  no bunnies and presumably no mice or squirrels.  The list is sort of narrow but I saw it as a challenge and one that I welcomed because domestic fowl are okay as are cows and goats and lambs.  Ducklings!!! Chicks!!! And what could be more wonderful than a fuzzy, woolly little lamb? Could it be that simple? Not so fast.  Nothing is wrong with a lamb unless the sheep wool is mixed with linen (and with things as they are in China you really cannot know).  This is called “sha’atnez”. And is also covered in Leviticus and in the Talmud.  Companies exist only to examine garments to guard against this admixture.  So, in the end, the bags that went to visit this lovely little sheina maidele (beautiful girl) were filled with cotton onesies, little cotton tights, smocked cotton dresses, a Got Milk outfit in pink and androgynous little dolls that turned out to be perfect.  I think I even worked in a little lamb too.  Next time, though,  I will go for duckies. The baby herself was adorable and just as sweet as she could be and the entire event was made even better because everything was, well, kosher.  And when the next one arrives, I will be way ahead of the game.  As soon as I know the gender I may even knit something – but not with sheep wool or spun flax; no, no, no – more likely it will be cashmere or cotton. Pareve, in kosher speak,   neutral.   Not that there’s anything wrong with that.