Monday, April 25, 2011

Rusty Sneiderman, Debbie Schlussel, Facial Topography and Reality

If you type the name 'Rusty Sneiderman' into Google, the sixth hit down is a post on Debbie Schlussel's overwrought 'conservative' blog, from November of 2010. It was in that month that an Atlanta businessman, Rusty Sneiderman, was murdered in front of a daycare center by a gunman who, at that time, was unidentified.

A police sketch artist, with the help of witnesses, produced a sketch of the killer, which you can see to your left. Debbie Schlussel, inspired by one of her readers, immediately came up with a theory, based on this sketch. She decided that the killing might have been an act of terror--a jihadi assault on a Jew.

Schlussel is careful in her piece not to say flat-out that she's sure this is the answer, but she is clearly pretty enamored of the theory. What is it based on? Glad you asked. It has to do with 'facial topography'.

Schlussel writes: As reader Joe pointed out, the guy looks like a Muslim, mostly because of his beard and some of the facial features. And the man is described as a White man. Few non-Muslim White men wear the kind of beard in the sketch. And few non-Muslim White men have the kinds of facial topography illustrated in the photo.

I'm going to jump right to the obvious heart of this--'looking like a Muslim' means 'looking like an Arab', which in this case means 'big nose and full lips', just in case you were wondering about that. As for the beard, I must confess that it brings to my mind an Amish guy in a watchcap, although the odds that an Amish person was responsible for a murder in Atlanta seemed pretty long even at the time. But Schlussel explained that it was a special Muslim-style beard, and since I am not an expert on Muslim beards, perhaps she is correct. Anyway, what other proof had Schlussel got? Let's move on.

Sneiderman, a Harvard Business School grad active in several charities, was active in the Atlanta Jewish community and was a member of Or Hadash conservative synagogue, there. Was the guy who gunned him down a Muslim? Was it religiously motivated? Police and witnesses say the execution was clearly planned and deliberately targeted Sneiderman. They believe the killer was a professional hit man. No-one said devout Sunni Muslims aren’t hit men. In fact, on 9/11 we got acquainted with 19 of ‘em. And several more since. Hey, maybe this is the one Amish guy in America who snuffs people out for a living. (He saw “Witness,” and didn’t like Harrison Ford sleeping with the Amish Kelly McGillis and turning her into a lesbian?)

OK, let me see. Sneiderman was Jewish. He was killed by someone who targeted him, and planned the killing. And we know that Muslims have, in the past, killed people. Also, the killer, as I pointed out above, was probably not Amish. With evidence like this...

I haven’t drawn any conclusions, Schlussel goes on, (this may be the funniest line in the piece, actually) and we may never know who murdered Rusty Sneiderman. It may turn out to be your average White dude hitman who has a thing for the Planet of the Ape Men. But again, look at the photo. Sure looks like a follower of Mohammed to me. Although it appears that Sneiderman and his wife were typical Jewish liberals (who generally pander to Muslims and serve as their chief apologists), that makes no difference in global jihad. Liberal Islamo-pandering Jews, like Daniel Pearl, are eagerly cut up like chickens by Muslims, in a New York minute.

By all means, let us interrupt our rather unsubstantiated assumption that Rusty Schneiderman was killed by a jihadi hitman by casting aspersions on the victim, his wife, 'typical Jewish liberals' everywhere, and the late Daniel Pearl. Why the heck not?

Ignoring the facial features and blaring cues in the sketch doesn’t make them incorrect. And we ignore them at our peril. As I noted earlier this year, authorities refused to put out a correct sketch of stabbing serial killer, Elias Abuelazam, a Palestinian Arab who targeted Black people for extinction. The sketch looked like your average White guy in a baseball cap, not an Arab from the Middle East. Had the sketch been accurate, Abuelazam might have been caught sooner and less people might have died at his hands. That nose on the sketch just ain’t your average White guy’s nose. Not even your average White hit man’s nose. And saying so isn’t “bigoted.” It’s intellectually honest and could help catch this murderer sooner.

Elias Abuelazam, an Israeli citizen and stark raving nutjob, did in fact get a rather bad sketch of himself put out, although I cannot say that I buy Schlussel's notion that this was done on purpose. The man in the sketch has a narrower nose and a more angular face than Abuelazam. Unfortunately, sketch artists have to work with what they have, they can't just draw a stereotypical Arab and hope it looks sort of like the bad guy. Honestly. They can't. (I know that Schlussel doesn't entirely believe this.)

(I have to add that this whole essay kind of undermines a common meme among the sort of people who think Schlussel is a deep and important thinker, namely that they can't be 'racist' because 'Islam isn't a race'. This is true, but Debbie Schlussel certainly writes as though it is.)

I will be following this story, though if the killer does turn out to be Islamic, I bet we’ll never hear about it. Schlussel concludes.

You know– it gets in the way of the “religion of peace” meme and all that.

This sort of racially confused, paranoid drivel is par for the course on Schlussel's blog, but I was interested enough to follow the story myself. A few nights ago, I Googled Sneiderman's name again, wondering if the case was ever broken.

Back in January, there was an arrest and indictment in Rusty Sneiderman's murder.

The accused's name is the decidedly Islamic Hemy Zvi Neuman.

He made a shiva visit to the dead man's family.

Oh, and he is a dead ringer for the witness sketch, minus the beard, which is believed to have been fake.

Alas, reader Joe who did in fact pick up on the Semitic features of the sketch, was close but no cigar. That's a g-g-g-g-g-great grandson of Abraham all right--but Joe picked the wrong branch of the family. An understandable error.

And Debbie Schlussel, who didn't get what she wanted out of this case, has not updated her blog to reflect this information.

I am sure that she'd insist her assumptions were quite valid. After all, there are jihadis, and they do target Jews. Therefore, making shit up out of whole cloth, insulting the victim, and feeding her followers' general sense of roiling paranoia about all things Muslim is perfectly valid.

I disagree. I would call this bigoted, dishonest, and self-indulgent in extreme. Is it really necessary to use the callous murder of a father of young children to whip up a little more self-pitying sensationalism and bigotry?

(Cross posted from The Makabit)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Obama's Iron Dome Support Saves Lives In Israel

Iron Dome, deployed earlier this month, is equipped with cutting-edge technology to stop short-range missiles--such as those that fall on Ashkelon and Sderot.

President Obama's support for this project has been extremely important. The National Jewish Democratic Council reports:

As President, in May 2010, he demanded $205 million in funding for the Iron Dome system—to help make the program a reality. The funding would be included in the 2011 federal budget. As White House spokesman Tommy Vietor put it, “The president recognizes the threat missiles and rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah pose to Israelis, and has therefore decided to seek funding from Congress to support the production of Israel’s short range rocket defense system called Iron Dome.” Thus, the United States-Israel Rocket and Missile Defense Cooperation and Support Act was sponsored by Representative Glenn Nye (D-VA) in the House and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the Senate. Following almost unanimous approval by both chambers, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) said, “With nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself.”

(Cross-posted from The Makabit)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Paxil, Rebellion, and Talkin' Bout My Generation

Allow me to discuss my experience with anti-depressants, and my current feelings about them.

I started taking Paxil back in the spring of 2006.

I started taking Paxil because work, my first teaching job, was becoming intolerable, and I was having panic attacks every time the principal walked into my room. So I took the Paxil, which smoothed my depression over work and such over remarkably, and all was well.

Well, not exactly, because the jerky, problematic arc of my teaching career continued to be both jerky and problematic, but I was very emotionally contained while several different jobs went to hell in a handbasket. Relatively speaking.

Now, I had been in therapy for a number of years, with a marvellous woman, and had gotten through a lot of stuff, and, in fact, learned quite a bit about managing my depression. My therapist never mentioned drugs, and when I brought it up once, she discussed it with me, but did not seem to think I needed anti-depressants, unless I felt they would seriously improve my quality of life. Which, at the time, I did not.

I fell a bit through the cracks with the Paxil, to be honest. It was some doctor at the ER who put me on it, and when I had to get a doctor to approve a refill a while back, she was fairly horrified that I'd just been casually left on it for four years with no follow-up. She did manage to make it seem as though it was my fault, which I resented.

I tried to get off the Paxil a couple of times, only to discover that getting off Paxil is not exactly easy or fun. I went online when I was first put on the Paxil to read up on it, and was immediately bombarded with all sorts of dreadful warnings from sites with names like paxilsurvivor and mypaxilnightmare. Most of these sites were overblown, at least from my experience, but they did warn me of some things that Kaiser failed to. One of these was 'the zaps', a sensation of electric shock that often accompanies withdrawal from the Paxil. If I hadn't know about the damn zaps, I would have thought I was losing my mind when they started. The problem with getting off the Paxil was that it could be done, but once it WAS done, I started crying again, so I went back on. And stayed on.

Paxil is just plain hard to get off of. I've been told by a couple of doctors that the intense resistance that the medical community has had to labeling it addictive is that they're not actually sure why it's physically habituating. The chemical reason for whatever leads to the zaps and such isn't clear. And so, doctors being doctors, they simply resist the idea that people are actually having symptoms. Doctors are like that.

It was this past fall, though, four and a half years after I went on the Paxil that I finally got off it, with medical assistance. This time, I got a doctor who was an actual psychiatrist, as opposed to the genprac guy who told me to go on a half dose for a week before cutting it out, and I'd be fine. We did an elaborate dance of getting me off the Paxil, and onto Prozac, and then off Prozac.

I did this for two reasons. First, and most immediately, I wanted to get pregnant, and Paxil is strongly, strongly counterindicated for pregnancy. The other reason was a little more complicated--I had had two good years at St. Dymphna's, and I expected a good year at St. Attracta's (HAH!), and I thought maybe it was time to face the world unmedicated. I thought, at the time, that if it didn't go smoothly, I could go back on anti-depressants, but it seemed worth while to experiment.

Of course, St. Attracta's was a housefire of a disaster, and after a pleasant summer and early fall, I simply detonated, and fell down the rabbit hole of my own depression. It was in those days that I ranted to a teacher blog about how miserable I was, mentioning that I was off my meds, and was roundly scolded and told to get right back on the Paxil, pronto. "You know that you need to take your medicine, so do it!" one lady snapped.

Well, on the one hand, that seemed like someone being quite concerned about my wellbeing--and it was followed by many exhortations not be ashamed of NEEDING my medication (I wasn't, but apparently even thinking that you might not need it forever was suspect), and on the other hand, I started thinking of all those movies about 50s housewives drugged out of their minds on tranquilizers. I started wondering how you told the difference between taking a medication that addressed your psychiatric needs, and taking a medication that was covering up for your actual needs in life.

And thinking this sort of thing through sensibly while you're in the grip of a crippling major depression is harder than you might think.

Anyway, I finally did something that was either eminently sensible, or completely missing the point--instead of numbing myself down further, I gave two weeks notice to the source of stress. And I immediately felt much, much better.

I've felt much, much better ever since. Even with the worry of finding money to live on, and a new job, and health insurance, and many, many other things, I'm now back on the barest trace of Zoloft, and I'm FINE.

This is not meant to be a rant against anti-depressants, because God knows, they have been there for me, and great, when I needed them. But anti-depressants are meant to balance your chemistry so you're OK, not up your tolerance so you can handle things that are by no means OK.

Most of my work life for the past five years has been by no means OK. And I am going to fight like hell to get to a place where I am OK.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Arrest In Itamar Murders

The IDF has arrested two men in their late teens in the murders of the Fogel family in Itamar. Six others are being held as accomplices to the crimes.

Their faces are all over the Israeli press, but I don't want to waste my bandwidth on them. I want to post the faces of their victims. These are Ehud and Ruth Fogel, and three of their children, Elad, 4, Yoav, 11, and Hadas, who was three months old when she was murdered.

The bodies were discovered by their oldest child, 12-year-old Tamar. Two other children in the home survived the attack.

Reading the coverage of what's been learned about the attack, what stands out most clearly is the support network these men had as they went out to commit murder. They received weapons, help, advice, approval, and the silence of their community as justice came looking for them.

And the silence of the rest of the Israel-obsessed world.

Intensive Dreaming and Rebellion

I woke up late this morning, having had a long, detailed, and multi-layered dream. In the middle, I was wandering through a bizarre version of Western San Francisco that exists only in my dreams, and solving murders, but at the beginning and the end, I was being interviewed to take an administrative position at a strange conglomerate school that I often dream of, but which, in this case, was the one I quit in December. I said that I was afraid of seeing the kids, and my principal told me it would be all right, and I felt a deep sense of connection and acceptance and peace.

I'm working through some things, you know?

I also called Jewish Family and Children's Services to talk about getting counseling, and we had the usual daft conversation where they tell you what the flat rate is, and then you tell them what your income is, and they name a sliding scale, but you still have to pay more if you want a licensed professional rather than an intern. (I shouldn't bitch. I may be an intern soon.) And I told them that I would discuss the rates with my husband, and I hung up, and then it occurred to me that, rather than taking on some dutiful new weekly expense, I would rather spend the money on lipstick, and a gym membership, and burritos with friends.

This seems terribly improper to a Northern California Hippie Puritan such a myself.


The Balabusta is going through a small out-of-sequence mid-life crisis. After years of clinging to a sheer cliff-face of various teaching jobs, I've reached a point where I want. I want to dance. I want to have children, and grow tomatoes. I want to send my books out into the world, if it means publishing them on Kindle myself. I'm fed up with being fed up. I want to take care of myself and go after the things that are important to me.

Somehow, and this may be entirely counter-intuitive, picking up another set of responsibilities I don't want--this time to a pricey therapist--just doesn't seem right right now.

I'll give it a month.

I'm letting out my inner Grace Hanadarko. Hopefully minus the binge drinking and self-endangering behavior, you know?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Things The Balabusta Is Highly Unlikely to Do For Easter

Top of the list is

1. Dye Easter eggs with natural dyes made out of regular stuff you can find at home!!!

Now, you may be saying, why not? The Balabusta has been known to aspire to be craftsy. She may, someday, want her children to experience an Easter egg hunt. Why not dye beautiful eggs with natural products found in the back of the kitchen cabinets?


a. As Storm Jameson wrote, 'life is too short to stuff a mushroom'.

b. Because you end up with eggs that look damn weird.

c And, because God intended for eggs to be colored with food coloring, or those little Pas dye packs, and dipped into the boiling water with those little wire egg-holders.

Why is the Balabusta ranting about this? No particular reason, except I happened to see this link to a Reader's Digest article about natural egg dyes, and for some reason, the idea of carefully using red cabbage (boil, then soak eggs overnight) to dye eggs 'robin's egg blue', when you can get the same result with BLUE FOOD COLORING offended me to the depths of my soul. Especially since that whole rigmarole will only get you blue eggs, so to get green, you have boil spinach or grass--I swear to God, they say grass--and turmeric for green-yellow, and red wine for purple, and 'beet juice' for pink, and every damn dye has to be boiled or soaked in a different manner. The end result of all this, mind you, is not a tapestry, it's a bowl of hard-boiled eggs which will be hidden in your shrubbery and then eaten by small children so they get some protein into them in between giant amounts of jelly bean and marshmallow.

Maybe if it were part of a home-schooling project about natural dyes or something, otherwise, I'm sorry, HECK NO.

Apparently those who have tried this experiment haven't been all that happy with it. Rebecca over at Green Baby Guide tried. She even posted the photograph at the top of this post, with the note I dyed these eggs using blueberries, chili flakes, and a leaf . . . in my imagination. Despite her best intentions--she writes--wouldn’t it be great to tint eggs without frightening chemicals and excess packaging?--apparently beets, wine, black beans, spinach and the aforementioned red cabbage all let her down. Turmeric, apparently, works great. So does coffee. Which will turn your white eggs into brown eggs.

Look, I have nothing against natural food dyes, but Easter calls for little bottles of food coloring, and a simple, child-friendly approach. Don't tell me about boiling cabbage overnight.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Decluttering Thoughts

I'm taking classes toward an MFT now, and one of the things I've been thinking about is that I might like to focus on clutter and hoarding issues.

I watched the whole first season of "Hoarders" on Netflix a little while ago, and I found myself completely fascinated. Clutter and messiness has been an issue for me my entire life, and for several of my friends. Watching the complex situations people found themselves in, and the hints at how their pasts had entrenched them in this situation was absolutely fascinating. Sad. At times, inspiring. And I was fascinated with the people who came to their aid, the movers and haulers and shrinks who waded in there and tried to throw them a rope.

So I'm going to do a little research and see if I can find out how I might be able to get into this field. I think I would be great.