Archive for October 30th, 2007

Dems Propose Massive Tax Hikes

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Dems doing what Dems do best…hiking taxes. These taxes will take money from you and I. That’s right…the working people. The very people Dems claim to represent.
Now I don’t know about y’all, but I pay enough taxes. I don’t want to pay any more. Period.
We (the people who didn’t vote for Dems in the last election) warned y’all that, if elected, the Dems would try this. Well, folks, now they’re trying it.

WASHINGTON – American families are feeling the crunch of spiking energy costs, runaway college tuition, ever-burdensome home mortgages and steadily rising prices for consumer goods.

These and other cost-of-living increases are eating away at the family budget — making every dollar earned and saved even more valuable. The very last thing families need is to see more of their paycheck confiscated by Congress.

Unfortunately, the U.S. House that already has passed $100 billion in tax increases this year to pay for bigger government and wasteful pork thinks otherwise. Last week, led by the Ways and Means Committee chairman, Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., congressional Democrats unveiled a breathtaking proposal: the single largest tax increase in American history.

It’s not often that we can speak in such absolute terms, but in this case, there is no way around it. Dubbed the “Mother of All Tax Bills” by Rangel and embraced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who told reporters last Thursday that she “certainly” supports the tax increase, this monstrosity would raise taxes on everyone: from the very poor to the very rich and everyone in between.

Indeed, with a price tag of $1.3 trillion — yes, that’s “trillion” with a “t” — the Mother of All Tax Bills is actually more like the Mother of All Tax Hikes. And to make matters worse, the Pelosi-Rangel plan kills tax cuts enacted by Congress in 2001 and 2003, making it a $3.5 trillion tax hike in total. Could the news get any worse for American families, farmers, small businesses and other job providers? Not likely.

So what exactly will the Pelosi-Rangel tax increase mean for families?

The most striking feature of the Mother of All Tax Hikes is that it raises taxes on literally every single taxpayer. In 2001, the Republican-led Congress and the president enacted a sweeping tax cut plan that lowered taxes for every American.

The Pelosi-Rangel plan would eliminate those tax cuts, raising taxes for every single tax bracket and eliminating the new 10 percent rate Congress established specifically to reduce the tax burden on low- and middle-income working families.

And as if that is not enough, the Pelosi-Rangel plan also would reinstate the marriage penalty, which — before Congress began to phase it out in 2001 — punished couples by taxing them at a higher rate than they would have been taxed had they filed individually. Indeed, no family would be protected from the Mother of All Tax Hikes.

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Iraqi Soldiers Send Money to Aid California Fire Relief

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

I am pretty sure this won’t be the top story on your evening news tonight. The mainstream media does not want you to know that many Iraqis are thankful for America’s role in their fight for freedom.

While a donation of $1,000 may not address any significant part of the loss from California’s ravaging wildfires, already estimated at more than $1 billion, the source of that gift has some people expressing awe.

A troop of Iraqi soldiers assembled the funds and forwarded them to California for inclusion in the relief efforts being offered the thousands of people displaced by the still-burning California fires.

“That is the kewlest cool thing I have read all month,” wrote “no one you know” on the Minx forum.

The report comes from the U.S. military. Army Sgt. 1st Class Charlene Sipperly, of Bayfield, Colo., who works in the military’s public affairs division, released a news statement about the concern the Iraqi soldiers expressed for the California victims.

“Members of the Iraqi Army in Besmaya collected a donation for the San Diego, Calif., fire victims …at the Besmaya Range Complex in a moving ceremony,” she wrote.

“Iraqi Army Col. Abbass, the commander of the complex, presented a gift of $1,000 to U.S. Army Col. Darel Maxfield, Besmaya Range Complex officer in charge, Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq, to send to the fire victims in California,” she wrote.

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Rice Insistent on Palestinian State

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

What will it take for our government to stop catering to these people?

The head of the Likud Party’s foreign relations department gave a massive boost to the claims of Islam – Israel’s most implacable enemy – Tuesday when he inferred that Jerusalem’s Temple Mount was not sacred to the Jewish people.

The Temple Mount is the Jewish people’s holiest site.

Arab and other Muslim leaders and clerics, who assert that the hill is Islam’s third holiest site, have long and fiercely maintained that the Jews have no historical connection or claim to the outcrop the Bible calls God’s “holy hill.”

While secular Jews often appear content to limit their “right” to the Western Wall, Israelis who have the fear of the Lord and who know that their nation’s First and Second Temples were built on top of the mount will not agree to relinquishing it to the followers of another god.

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“It’s Always Flying Monkeys . . .” by Jack Kinsella

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Peggy Noonan is one of my favorite writers. Nobody can turn a phrase, to my mind, the way that she can – which is probably why she was among President Reagan’s favorite speech-writers.

Nowadays, she is the star of the Wall Street Journal’s opinion columns. I was reading her latest piece, in which she was discussing the latest incarnation in Hillary Clinton’s continuing series of makeovers when she observed;

“Mrs. Clinton is the tea bag that brings the boiling water with her. It’s always high drama with her, always a cauldron–secret Web sites put up by unnamed operatives smearing Barack Obama in the tones of Tokyo Rose, Chinese businessmen having breakdowns on trains after the campaign cash is traced back, secret deals. It’s always flying monkeys. One always wants to ask: Why? What is this?”

What a great line! It’s always ‘flying monkeys’! You recognize the reference, don’t you? Remember the flying monkeys that went after Dorothy and Toto and the Scarecrow on their way to the Emerald City of the Land of Oz?

Now, do you remember who it was that SENT them? What a perfect mental image! [Margaret Hamilton]

It seems that there are more flying monkeys beginning to buzz Hillary’s campaign, this time in the form of more illegal campaign cash. Illegal campaign cash coming from Chinese donors.

(MORE Chinese donors. This isn’t the Chinese donor who had the breakdown on the train, or the Chinese donors in San Francisco who donated more to Hillary than they had, or Chinese donors connected to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, like in the 90s.)

No, these are DIFFERENT illegal Chinese donors. New ones.

The Los Angeles Times did an undercover story on one of the Clinton campaign’s listed sources of cash in New York’s Chinatown, where it found, “some of the poorest Chinese neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, have been swept by an extraordinary impulse to shower money on one particular presidential candidate — Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

The Times noted that Hillary has raised more campaign cash for her run at the White House than any candidate in history, before telling us how she does it – at least in Chinatown. According to no less an authority on all things liberal than the Los Angeles Times, she uses the local mob.

“Clinton has enlisted the aid of Chinese neighborhood associations, especially those representing recent immigrants from Fujian province. The organizations, at least one of which is a descendant of Chinatown criminal enterprises that engaged in gambling and human trafficking, exert enormous influence over immigrants. The associations help them with everything from protection against crime to obtaining green cards.

Many of Clinton’s Chinatown donors said they had contributed because leaders in neighborhood associations told them to. In some cases, donors said they felt pressure to give.”

Let me repeat myself. This is the Los Angeles Times reporting, not some ‘vast, right-wing conspiracy machine’ or tool of the Bush administration.

This is one of the few times where screaming right wing smear tactics won’t work. The Los Angeles Times is as dependably liberal as Nancy Pelosi.

“At least one reported donor denies making a contribution,” the Times reported. “Another admitted to lacking the legal-resident status required for giving campaign money.”

The Times examined the cases of more than 150 donors who provided checks to Clinton after fundraising events geared to the Chinese community. One-third of those donors could not be found using property, telephone or business records. Most have not registered to vote, according to public records.

And several dozen were described in financial reports as holding jobs — including dishwasher, server or chef — that would normally make it difficult to donate amounts ranging from $500 to the legal maximum of $2,300 per election.

The paper also found that most of the Chinese reported as contributing to Clinton’s campaign have never voted. Many speak little or no English. Some seem to lead such ephemeral lives that neighbors say they’ve never heard of them, it said.

Desperately poor. Never voted before. Don’t even speak English.

You know. Your typical political donor.

There’s never been a time like this to be a politician in America. If you work hard at cultivating a network of liars and thieves, you too, can grow up to be president. Because if you get caught, nobody will really mind.

If anybody complains, just offer them something – end the war, free health care, when the sky is the limit and nobody really believes you anyway, how can you go wrong?

As evidence, allow me to introduce William Jefferson Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, two thoroughly contemptible politicians who together have racked up more scandals than any political team in history. And who, despite that, are poised to make history as the first husband-wife wife-husband first couple double administration the White House has ever seen.

There is no excess too outrageous, no ethical standard too rigid , no promise too sacred when it comes to the Clintons. When the Clintons left the White House in 2000, they had to send the cops with moving vans to pick up all the stuff they stole when they left.

Nobody really seemed to mind when the bill for fixing all the stuff his staff stole, sabotaged or broke only ran into the hundreds of thousands, rather than millions of dollars.

When Hillary ran for the Senate, it was on the solemn promise that she wasn’t planning to use her Senate seat for a White House run. Since nobody believed her then, (but voted for her anyway) nobody really minded when she broke that promise.

Hillary’s campaign is so shot full of financial irregularities, suspicious sources, and mysterious Chinese connections that it almost feels like the good old days when it was Bill Clinton with all the financial irregularities, suspicious sources and mysterious Chinese connections – and look how well that turned out.

You see, that’s the weird part about it. Everybody knows and nobody seems to care.

I always used to wonder how the antichrist could fool enough people, given that the Bible reveals so much about him in advance, to enable him to rise to the point of undisputed power without anybody saying, “Hey! That guy’s the antichrist!” and giving the game away.

I don’t wonder as often as I did.

Original Link.

“Heralds of the Second Secular Coming: AKA as Fools at the Midnight Hour” by Dr. Phyllis Chesler

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Despite the best laid plans of the Revolutionary Communist Party, we blessed three (Ibn Warraq, Christina Hoff-Sommers, and myself) quietly triumphed at Columbia during Islamo-fascism week. But you’d never know it if you read The Nation’s online coverage. Esther Kaplan, author of “With God on their Side: George Bush and the Christian Right, ” led with her bias showing.

In her article, Kaplan spends ten paragraphs demonizing David Horowitz and then dismisses us as fellow travelers in only a mere two paragraphs. I am not complaining. If she had written about us at greater length, she would only have misquoted us or taken our words out of context even more.

For example, she sidesteps my points about the Islamist persecution of homosexuals and only notes that I “sounded an alarm against an epidemic of homosexual pederasty in the Muslim world”—and then likens me to Gary Bauer in his denunciation of gay marriage. Kaplan utterly fails to describe the “violent oppression of women under Islam” (which is also the title of a pamphlet I co-authored for David Horowitz) and fails to mention the heroic feminist struggles in the Muslim world which both Christina Hoff-Sommers and myself discussed.

Kaplan reduces the learned and brilliant Ibn Warraq to just one sentence—yes, the same Ibn Warraq who recently defeated Tariq Ramadan in a battle of ideas in London. I highly recommend Ibn Warraq’s new book, “Defending the West. A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism.”

Kaplan and the Nation share a similar point of view. Israel and George Bush’s America (not the Palestinians, the Arab League, or al-Qaeda) are the satanic “provokers.” And, shades of Walt and Mearsheimer: AIPAC and Campus Watch are the primary bearers of “hate” and they brandish academic “hit lists.” Edward Said and the politically correct Stalinists are heralds of the Second Secular Coming and can do no wrong.

Luckily, other reporters were also present. For example, Fern Sidman, who has interviewed me in the Jewish media, described us as “three voices of truth” in the article she published online in the Intellectual Conservative. When President Amadinejad spoke at Columbia, Sidman also interviewed Mary Lou McKinley-Greenberg, the activist who prepared the Questions to be posed to me for the Revolutionary Communist Party. Sidman writes:

“I met Mary Lou Greenberg about a month ago at Columbia University when she was there on the day that Iranian President Ahmadinejad spoke. Her group, the Revolutionary Communist Party was there with a huge banner reading, ‘Ahmadinejad is Bad but Bush is Worse.’ Her group was decrying a possible US invasion of Iran. As a journalist covering the event, I conducted an interview with her. She told me that in a communist society everyone would have the right to voice dissent. I asked her about gays in Cuba, (the only Communist country left in the western hemisphere,) and whether they had a right to voice their dissent, to speak out and identify as gays and she equivocated her way through a feckless attempt to answer the question. “

Dear Reader: Please note that I am publishing my remarks here and not in the pages of Nation magazine. I have learned that “the left” will only demonize their opponents and valorize fascists; and that the “Jewish left” will not, even at the midnight hour, talk or listen to anyone who has already been demonized by the larger “left.” (The Jewish left has, indeed, finally begun to talk about anti-Semitism on the left but they do so only in whispers, in small groups, and only with each other. Their comrades do not support them).

So: the West’s Queer Nation will not stand up for homosexuals who are persecuted by Islam and the Marxist and Secular Feminist Nation will not stand up for women who are persecuted by Islam either. What was it that Pastor Neimoller said about the Nazis who came for the trade unionists?

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Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) and The New Anti-Semitism (2003). She has just published The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (Palgrave Macmillan), as well as an updated and revised edition of Women and Madness. She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women’s studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women’s Health Network (1974). She is currently on the Board of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and lives in New York City. Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.
We are delighted to have Dr. Chesler as a contributor to the Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian’s Blog.

Original Link.

“The US Has Been Warned, and Warned, and Warned Again” by The Jerusalem Watchman

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Administration officials in Washington are working around the clock to facilitate the convening of an international conference on the Middle East in Annapolis, Maryland next month.

The primary purpose of this gathering will be to sanction the severance of Judea and Samaria from the rest of Israel’s national homeland, and out of it create a new Arab state called Palestine.

Israel’s “eternal and indivisible capital” Jerusalem is also to be divided.

On this score the international community is – without exception – in agreement.

But all is not going well for chief conference-convener, US President George W. Bush, and his point man, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Ms. Rice has made numerous trips to the Middle East in recent months, and plans another hop over in early November – just days after completing her last shuttle.

She has grown increasingly desperate to nail down some form of joint Israel-PLO agreement on which to base the conference so as to ensure it achieves some form of “success” before it actually takes place.

Thank God the “Palestinians” who – as the by now classic saying goes, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity – are unable to settle for anything less than everything, which at least some Israelis understand would constitute an agreement on the Jews’ part to commit suicide.

As a result, the most recent reports suggest the conference might not take place after all.

This would spell a disaster for an administration that has pinned a substantial chunk of its hopes for a legacy on the “achievement” of creating Palestine.

This week the Israeli Ynetnews website reported that Rice is blaming Iran for the unraveling of her plans, asserting (correctly) that Tehran is working with Hamas to scupper the conference.

The gang of mullahs is “fanning flames in the region,” she says.

Actually, it could well be Rice who is fanning flames.

In the past two weeks, as she has pushed with all her God-given skills towards birthing an illegitimate country whose creation will enormously harm the security and survival prospects of the State of Israel, wild fires have ravaged the West Coast of her homeland, forcing up to one million people to flee their homes in what has become the biggest peacetime evacuation of Americans in the history of the United States.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Wednesday blamed the disaster on the convergence of “three things … very dry areas, very hot weather and then a lot of wind.”

It had made, he said, “the perfect storm for a fire.”

We’ve heard the phrase “perfect storm” before.

It was back in 1991, when President George Herbert Walker Bush and Secretary of State James Baker coerced Israel into attending an international Middle East peace conference in Madrid.

That gathering, which the US jointly sponsored with Russia, set in motion the train whose journey is meant to culminate with the establishment of a Palestinian state.

As final arrangements were being made and conference delegates began heading for the Spanish capital, an extra-tropical low weather system started playing havoc with the entire Eastern Atlantic Seaboard of the United States.

So rare was the tempest, that the National Weather Service labeled it “the perfect storm.”

The damages it caused totaled $1.5 billion. One place ravaged by the storm was the Bush Family Compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. It suffered windows blown out, water flooding in, and some structural damage as well.

That 1991 storm was by no means the only disaster to strike America at a time when its leaders were revealing their readiness to betray Israel by putting the tiny Jewish homeland and its small population on the altar for the “greater good” of the United States.

One particularly striking “coincidence” took place more recently, and in terms of magnitude on every level exceeded anything that had gone before.

What unfolded were two back-to-back situations, each one spanning eight days. The second period began the day after the first eight days came to an end.

On August 14, 2005, 14,000 Israeli soldiers and policemen moved into the Gaza Strip and began to order, threaten, push, and then drive thousands of Jews from their homes.

The “Disengagement,” as it was officially known, was carried out by the Israeli government under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Notwithstanding its antiseptic title, it was the vicious uprooting and turning into refugees of men, women and children, and the wholesale destruction of their communities, towns and villages.

It amounted to nothing less than the ethnic cleansing of one group of people from a piece of territory in order to appease another group of people who hated Jews and rejected their right to live there.

For eight days we watched, and many of us wept, until all the Jews were gone. Hundreds of buses drove them out of Gaza and away. After they left, police went from house to house, marking each one with a special symbol to show that it had been checked, was empty, and could now be demolished. Beautiful houses people had built with their own hands and turned into homes filled with memories were bulldozed into piles of ugly rubble. The action was cruel, heartless, criminal.

Sharon cannot be acquitted for what he ordered his forces to do – and more than a few people believe he fell ill and succumbed to the coma that imprisons him to this day because of his actions.

But the real blame for this atrocity lies squarely at the door of the administration in Washington DC.

While paying a whole lot of lip service to plucky little independent Israel, president after US president has sat in the White House and directed a foreign policy in the Middle East that has slowly but surely pushed Israel’s governments into surrendering their national patrimony for empty promises of peace the Israelis KNOW will never be honored.

God, I believe, answered the crime of the hitnatkut in a way that was breathtakingly obviously His doing.

On August 22 of that year, the Jews of Netzarim, the last of Gush Katif’s 17 communities, were expelled. Their departure officially marked the end of the 38-year-long Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip.

On the very next day, a hurricane began forming over the Bahamas from where it would head directly for the United States. When it dissipated on August 31, eight days after it began, at least 1,836 people had lost their lives. More than $81 billion worth of damage had been done, making Katrina the costliest natural disaster in American history.

Again, many people watched and wept at the tragic site of hundreds of thousands of people being driven from their homes. Thousands of buses took them out of New Orleans and away. Policemen went from house to house, marking each one with a special symbol to show it had been checked for bodies or occupants, and was now empty.

It was so obvious it was almost bizarre, the way CNN interspersed its around-the-clock coverage of the evacuation from Louisiana with programming announcements about follow-up reports on the Gaza uprooting. We literally watched scenes of Israelis being made homeless in accordance with the wishes of the American government following scenes of Americans being made homeless by Katrina.

Many American Christians, among them some who lost their homes and all their possessions, recognized in the monster hurricane God’s judgment for what the US – as chief sponsor of the process that is robbing the Jews of their land – was responsible for.

The California wildfires, which are slowly being brought under control as I write this, began on October 20, two days after Secretary of State Rice completed a four-day visit to the Middle East.

Bush and Rice are squeezing Israel into making more concessions to please the Palestinian Arabs so that they will go to Annapolis next month.

There the plans are meant to be formulated that will lead to the uprooting of tens of thousands of Jews from their Judean and Samarian homes, the destruction of their property, and the final and irreversible handing over of that territory to the murderous and antisemitic PLO.

As Washington pushes, California burns, and a million Americans have had to flee their homes.

For the Bible believer who takes God at His Word when He promises to deal severely with the nations that hurt His people, it’s legitimate to ask:

Has God allowed the fires that have burned up 700 square miles of American land as a warning to the Bush administration to stop pushing Israel towards a peace that can bring no peace?

And if Rice goes ahead, turns the screws and forces Israel to the negotiating table in Maryland, will something even more devastating come upon the United States?

I am terribly afraid that it will.

Original Link.

Germany Cracks Down on Forced Marriages

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Chancellor Angela Merkel has joined a growing movement to criminalize forced marriages in Germany, which is growing less tolerant of practices among Muslim immigrants that clash with the nation’s liberal social values.

Forced marriages are generally imposed by young women’s families to keep them from dating. Prosecution is rare and must take place under assault laws that also outlaw threats and coercion.

Women’s’ groups have been increasingly pushing for forced marriages to be specifically criminalized, to ease prosecution and to send a strong signal that the practice violates German laws and traditions.

“I completely agree that forced marriages should be punishable as a criminal act,” Merkel said in a speech at a women’s conference held by her conservative Christian Democrats over the weekend, surprising and pleasing activists.

“We are thrilled that the chancellor has made such a clear statement,” said Sibylle Schreiber, a spokeswoman for the women’s rights group Terre des Femmes. “Finally she’s given a signal to the people that forcing your daughter into marriage is a crime.”

Approximately 3.3 million Muslims live in Germany, 70 percent of them of Turkish origin. Many lead secular lifestyles but some make strong, even extreme, efforts to preserve conservative values.

In recent years, several courts have upheld state-level bans on headscarves for Muslim women teaching in public schools. Immigration laws now require that foreign spouses be at least 18 years old and already have a basic knowledge of the German language.

The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has proposed federal legislation criminalizing forced marriages. It passed twice, most recently in February, but has not been taken up by the lower house. Women’s activists were hopeful that Merkel’s push would accelerate the process.

Serap Cileli, a Turkish-German writer whose book — “We Are Your Daughters, Not Your Honor” — documents her escape from a forced marriage at age 24, welcomed Merkel’s initiative but said it was important to address the immigrant community directly.

“As long as we don’t teach the fathers, husbands and brothers to let the women live self-determined lives, this wound will never stop bleeding,” Cileli said.

Women’s groups and experts on immigration in Germany said it was difficult to tell how many women marry after threats or abuse, but enough flee such arrangements that several shelters remain busy.

Original Link.

One in Ten Schools are ‘Dropout Factories’

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

The failure of our education is becoming more evident by the day. Instead of teaching useful skills and challenging our youth, the schools are more focused on social engineering and the “touchy-feely”, feel good aspects.
We are failing our children.

WASHINGTON – It’s a nickname no principal could be proud of: “Dropout Factory,” a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That dubious distinction applies to more than one in 10 high schools across America.

“If you’re born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?” asks Bob Balfanz, the researcher at Johns Hopkins University who defines such a school as a “dropout factory.”

There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That’s 12 percent of all such schools, no more than a decade ago but no less, either.

While some of the missing students transferred, most dropped out, Balfanz says. The data tracked senior classes for three years in a row — 2004, 2005 and 2006 — to make sure local events like plant closures weren’t to blame for the low retention rates.

The highest concentration of dropout factories is in large cities or high-poverty rural areas in the South and Southwest. Most have high proportions of minority students. These schools are tougher to turn around, because their students face challenges well beyond the academic ones — the need to work as well as go to school, for example, or a need for social services.

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“Our World: Laura Bush’s Embrace of Tyranny” by Caroline Glick , THE JERUSALEM POST

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

For people around the world, the United States is not merely a country, and not merely a superpower. The United States is also a symbol of human freedom.

Because their country is a symbol, the way that American officials behave is rarely taken at face value. Rather, their behavior is interpreted and reinterpreted by friend and foe alike.

Because she has no statutory power, the American First Lady’s actions are wholly symbolic. So when last week First Lady Laura Bush embarked on a visit to the Persian Gulf to promote breast cancer awareness in the Arab world as part of the US-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer, she traveled there as a symbol. And the symbolic message that her visit evoked is a deeply disturbing one.

As a Washington Post report of her trip to Saudi Arabia from last Thursday noted, there is a dire need in the kingdom to raise public awareness of breast cancer and its treatments. Due to social taboos, some 70 percent of breast cancer cases in Saudi Arabia are not reported until the late stages of the disease. It is possible that the local media attention that Mrs. Bush’s visit aroused may work to save the lives of women whose husbands will now permit them to be screened for the disease and receive proper medical treatment for it in its early stages.

And this is where the disturbing aspect of Mrs. Bush’s visit enters the picture. During her public appearances, the First Lady limited her remarks to the issue of breast cancer awareness. Yet in the Persian Gulf, it is impossible to separate the issue of breast cancer or for that matter the very fact of the First Lady’s visit from the issue of the systematic mistreatment and oppression of women in the Saudi Arabia specifically and throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds generally.

IN THE context of the regional degradation of women, while the consequences of Mrs. Bush’s visit remain mixed, the overall effect of her mission was negative.

Women in Saudi Arabia do not have human rights. As Amnesty International puts it, “The abuse of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is not simply the unfortunate consequence of overzealous security forces and religious police. It is the inevitable result of a state policy which gives women fewer rights than men, which means that women face discrimination in all walks of life and which allows men with authority to exercise their power without any fear of being held to account for their actions.”

For instance, women in Saudi Arabia cannot choose whom they marry and they have no real power to divorce their husbands. Men on the other hand can lawfully marry up to four women and divorce any of them simply by announcing that they have divorced them. And once they are divorced, they are by law and practice denied custody of their children.

Marital rape and physical abuse are not generally considered crimes and therefore women have no legal recourse for dealing with abusive husbands, or fathers or brothers. Since they are legally barred from serving as lawyers, and Islam weighs a woman’s court testimony as worth half the testimony of a man, even if they were able to press charges against their male tormentors, Saudi women are effectively denied recourse in the local courts.

Women of course are not the only victims of the Saudi regime. Non-Muslims are denied the right to worship. Shi’ite Muslims’ right to worship is subject to draconian limitations. Jews are officially barred from entering the kingdom. Then too, there are no real elections in Saudi Arabia, no press freedom, no freedom of assembly. Yet even against this totalitarian backdrop the position of women stands out in its severity.

Take education for example. As the State Department’s 2006 Human Rights report notes, there is little academic freedom in Saudi Arabia. For instance, “The government prohibited the study of Freud, Marx, Western music, and Western philosophy.” Yet women’s educational opportunities are even more constrained. Due to gender apartheid, women may only study in all female institutions. There they are prohibited from studying fields like law and engineering and petroleum sciences. In 2005 the BBC reported, “Although women make up more than half of all graduates from Saudi universities, they comprise only 5 percent of the kingdom’s workforce.”

Saudi women have no freedom of movement. They may not drive. And they may not move around in public unless escorted by their husband, father or brother. Women found in public unescorted by suitable males are subject to arrest and corporal punishment.

The limitations placed on public appearances are mind boggling. As Freedom House reported in 2005, “Visible and invisible spatial boundaries also limit women’s movement. Mosques, most ministries, public streets, and food stalls (supermarkets not included) are male territory. Furthermore, accommodations that are available for men are always superior to those accessible to women, and public space, such as parks, zoos, museums, libraries, or the national Jinadriyah Festival of Folklore and Culture, is created for men, with only limited times allotted for women’s visits.”

TO THE extent that women in Saudi Arabia are allowed leave their homes, they are prohibited from actually being seen by anyone through the rigid enforcement of Islamic dress codes. As the State Department 2006 report explains, “In public, a woman was expected to wear an abaya (a black garment that covers the entire body) and also to cover her head and hair. The religious police generally expected Muslim women to cover their faces and non-Muslim women from other Asian and African countries to comply more fully with local customs of dress than non-Muslim Western women. During the year religious police admonished and harassed citizen and noncitizen women who failed to wear an abaya and hair cover.”

Perhaps it is because it is so offensive to the Western eye to see women covered like sacks of potatoes, the abaya has become a symbol of Islamic oppression and degradation of women. Although outlawing their use, as the French have attempted to do in recent years, is itself a form of religious oppression, the sentiment informing their ban is certainly understandable. The fact is that a free society should not be able to easily stomach the notion that women should be encouraged, let alone obliged to wear degrading garments that deny them the outward vestiges of their humanity and individuality.

Due to the fact that the abayas convey a symbolic message of effective enslavement of women, Mrs. Bush’s interaction with women clad in abayas was the aspect of her trip most scrutinized. In the United Arab Emirates, Mrs. Bush was photographed sitting between four women covered head to toe in abayas while she was wearing regular clothes. The image of Mrs. Bush sitting between four women who look like nothing more than black piles of fabric couldn’t have been more viscerally evocative and consequently, symbolically meaningful.

The image told the world that she – and America – is free and humane while the hidden women of Arabia are enslaved and their society is inhumane.

But then Mrs. Bush went to Saudi Arabia and the symbolic message of the previous day was superseded and lost when she donned an abaya herself and had her picture taken with other abaya-clad women. The symbolic message of those photographs also couldn’t have been clearer. By donning an abaya, Mrs. Bush symbolically accepted the legitimacy of the system of subjugating women that the garment embodies, (or disembodies). Understanding this, conservative media outlets in the US criticized her angrily.

Sunday morning, Mrs. Bush sought to answer her critics in an interview with Fox News. Unfortunately, her remarks compounded the damage. Mrs. Bush said, “These women do not see covering as some sort of subjugation of women, this group of women that I was with. That’s their culture. That’s their tradition. That’s a religious choice of theirs.”

It is true that this is their culture. And it is also their tradition. But it is not their choice. Their culture and tradition are predicated on denying them the choice of whether or not to wear a garment that denies them their identity just as it denies them the right to make any choices about their lives. The Saudi women’s assertions of satisfaction with their plight were no more credible than statements by hostages in support of their captors.

As the First Lady, Laura Bush is an American symbol. By having her picture taken wearing an abaya in Saudi Arabia – the epicenter of Islamic totalitarian misogyny – Mrs. Bush diminished that symbol. In so doing, she weakened the causes of freedom and liberty which America has fought since its founding to secure and defend at home and throughout the world.

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