Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Not the School I Remember 

In advance of tomorrow's long awaited return to school, I list a few of the innovations in my kids' schools that I didn't have when I was their age. They have:
  1. a security guard, posted at the gate, ready to tackle a suicide bomber if needed.
  2. a schedule for the year that isn't actually known until a letter is handed out the first day of class. Gives us parents lots of time to arrange carpools and babysitters.
  3. early Tuesdays that end around 1pm, unlike the other days. It helps keep parents on their toes and prevent complacent carpool schedules.
  4. no cafeteria: kids eat where they can find a spot.
  5. no lockers or desks. Even little first graders walk around with their entire inventory of books and papers on their backs.
  6. multiple teachers and multiple rooms starting in the first grade. I remember the familiarity of a single teacher, all day, every day, until the sixth grade.
  7. no vending machines for candy and cola. What do these kids eat? (Actually I know that one: chocolate spread sandwiches).
  8. a toilet-paper surcharge for pre-elementary kids. I shudder to think what happens in the poorer neighborhoods that can't afford this one.
  9. no bell to announce the start of school and "passing periods" (supposed to be known as recess in elementary school). Instead they pipe "Fur Elise" through the Public Address system. That really gets 'em running.
  10. 39 kids in a 1st grade class, but we're told that won't happen again as that class moves to second grade this year.
Of course the biggest difference is that my kids learn everything in Hebrew, which renders me pretty useless except for symbolic math questions.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sorry, but it was terrorism 

The Ministry of Defense, perhaps understandably, is trying to wiggle out of calling the recent shooting of four Israeli Arabs terrorism. In this case, I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with MK Mohammad Barakeh:

In response to the Ministry of Defense's declaration that four Israeli Arabs slain in a shooting rampage by a Jewish far-Right fanatic were not considered by law as terror victims, MK Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash-Ta'al) submitted a petition demanding an amendment to the current law.

Under the current law in Israel, an assailant must be a member of the 'enemy forces' against Israel for the action to be considered terrorism, said Mayan Malkin, a spokeswoman with the Defense Ministry.

But in this case the shooter, IDF deserter Eden Natan Zada, 19, was Jewish and his attack cannot be designated as terror, said Malkin.
The thing I don't get is why the shooter's being Jewish somehow makes him immune to the charge of being an enemy. Heck, the charge of enemy is thrown back and forth across the lines of disagreement between Jews all the time, not least on the subject of the disengagement. But a man who kills four Israelis on a bus to try to influence Israel's territorial policies sounds like an enemy to me.

Some can accuse me of weakening the party line here, and perhaps they'd be correct. But my goal isn't to strengthen the party line, but to strengthen the party. I believe in calling an apple an apple, regardless of who owns the tree.

King for a Day 

I'm sure we remember some of the great things we would have done if we'd been made King or Queen for a day when we were kids. But now that I've been a parent for a few years, my Day of Royal Decrees would look a little different:
  1. Effective immediately, all coin-operated candy dispensers and child-jostlers would be illegal.
  2. It would be required by law that all manner of chips, candy, gum and pretzel be marketed in only one flavor, with only one size and color of packaging, so kids have nothing left to fight over -- other than who gets first.
  3. The use of popups and ads for bikini screen savers on web sites aimed at kids would become a felony.
  4. Just as we protect children from the effect of exposure to adult magazines, we would now mandate the same courtesy for their weary parents by forbidding the open display of candy at sales counters and cash registers.
  5. Fictional characters may be used commercially in no more than one of the following modes: action figure, comic book character, cartoon star or sugared cereal huckster. Superman would be required to sit through a legally mandated 6 month "cooling off" period if he wanted to switch from starring in comic books to pitching "Krispy Kokoa Kryptonite Klumps."
  6. I would introduce research grants and market subsidies to stimulate the creation of a computerized Whiny-to-English translator.
  7. New child labor laws will limit young film actors to a single take for every scene. If this prevents the child from nailing the screenwriter's cleverly snarky comeback line, thus missing the opportunity to establish the film-parents as dumber than their offspring, all the more's the pity.
  8. Following the example of the alcoholic beverage market, kid cereals and vitamins are henceforth required to clearly declare their sugar content, e.g. "New and Improved 82 Proof Fruit Loops"
  9. All advertisements for children's clothing must, from now on, pass the Britney test: if it would work in a Britney Spears video then it's not for tots.
  10. I would immediately move to declare a "National Go Back To Bed Day."
We will return to a free market, anti-regulatory viewpoint tomorrow, after the crown is removed from my head. In the meantime, quit complaining and enjoy your Go Back To Bed Day.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Cue Twilight Zone Music 

I guess the old "We're in a zoo!" cliche from the Twilight Zone isn't going to be quite as funny anymore. Then again, the reality that Rod Serling only dreamed of might be ten times more hilarious anyway.

Volunteers interact inside the Bear Mountain enclosure as they take part in the Human Zoo exhibit at London Zoo, August 25, 2005. London Zoo have set up the exhibit to communicate the importance of man's place in the planet's ecosystem. The volunteers will be on display from August 26 to August 29, 2005. REUTERS/Stephen Hird
Apparently, man's importance to the ecosystem consists primarily in the wanton destruction of innocent communities of head lice. Bad humans!

UPDATE: For the inside story of the Human Zoo, check out Spinning Girl's blog. Hopefully she'll make a full recovery.

Suicide Bomber Tryouts 

They like to whittle the field of applicants down on the first day of camp. While actual self-detonation in tryouts is frowned on, applicants are encouraged to demonstrate their extreme commitment with a series of intense "Self-Wedgies."

Palestinian members of the Fatah movement participate in a training course at the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, August 29, 2005. Hundreds of members of the Fatah movement participated in training courses at the Rafah camp for what they said would be the foundation of a popular army to help keep law and order after Israel withdraws, a Fatah official said. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Funny, They Don't Look Zionist 

If you remember the bombing in Sinai last October, you'll remember who most likely did it:

Several Egyptian security experts and political analysts said that the Mossad, Israel's spy agency, was behind Saturday's attacks on the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh.

Similar accusations were made against Israel in the past, particularly after last year's attack at the Taba Hotel in October and after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
AP photos of some of the suspects now on trial makes me think there will have to be some rewrites to the original copy:

Egyptian's Mohammed Abdullah, right, and Mohammed Gaber Sabbah, left, two suspects in last October's terror bombing attacks in and around the Red Sea resort town of Taba, look on behind bars in the courtroom's caged dock during their trial at an Ismailiya court, northeast of Cairo, Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. Taba a popular spot with Israeli holidaymakers, on the Israeli-Egyptian border, was where thirty-four people including 12 Israelis were killed in an October 2004 attack. (AP Photo)
Maybe we'll see some clarification about those "similar accusations." Probably not. The accusations were made. It's a fact; what's to correct? Especially since it's only a matter of time until they catch these guys' Zionist handlers.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fun Vacation Idea If You Don't Puke 

Here's one for the adventurous: Zero G Flights. For $3750, you can take the special NASA parabolic flight that leaves passengers weightless for awhile. That's a nice diet tip too, but it's only temporary.

By the way, if you can't make it to Florida, you can always do it the way my brother does. All it costs is a parachute, some lessons, and a one way ticket -- up -- in a plane without a door.

Alliance of the Anonymous 

This new alliance from MacStansbury is perfect for me:

I just don't know how I can sign up without blowing my cover. I'd give a hat-tip to Beth at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy except I'm not sure it's good form to out the other anons. So let's just keep it quiet, just between us, Ok?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

So They Say 

There are a number of pithy little phrases we all use so often and so blithely. I suspect most of us have never stopped and taken the time to think through what they really mean.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

This is not really the paradox most people assume it is, but rather, a cleverly coded litmus test of one's view of the current creation story dustup.

Evolution's advocates will clearly believe the egg came first. How could they not? After all, in the simplest sense, dinosaur eggs preceded chickens by gazillions of years. And even if we're getting technical, and comparing chickens with chicken eggs, evolutionists clearly understand that each creature -- other than that first primordial amoeba, and later mammals -- must have come from an egg which preceded it. One day, a proto-chicken evolved and laid a chicken egg which only later hatched into our famous chicken.

Creationists and Intelligent Designers, on the other hand, will generally be forced to admit that the chicken clearly came first. The Bible doesn't say that on the 5th afternoon God made eggs; He made chickens.

So I fully expect this to be the first question asked of John Roberts in his upcoming confirmation hearings. Mark it down. You read it here first.

Have your cake and eat it too.

Well this one is just silly. Somehow a simple spelling error crept into the common usage, and now no one even remembers the original phrase and its purpose. The phrase seems to describe a common impossible dream: to want to possess something even after consuming it. In reality, it's a simple instruction to help couples avoid arguments when sharing dessert: Halve your cake, and eat it, two.

Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

This is one that people use all the time to unfairly dismiss as pessimistic and whiny the views of those for whom the glass is half-empty. But really, nothing could be further from the truth. Someone who sees his glass as half-empty is affirming that it is meant for drinking, and although he has already enjoyed half, there's still more! On the other hand the one whose glass is half full is like a waiter whose job it is to fill the glass which, despite all the pouring, is still only half full, and there's no telling when he'll get to put that heavy water pitcher down.

Please note at this point that this article is now half-finished, not half-started.

Thirty days hath December, April, May and remember...

No, wait... uh...

Thirteen days hath October, April, June and...

Oh whatever, you know what I mean. As mnemonics go, I find this to be pretty useless. It's like helping someone remember a spelling rule by saying "'i' before 'e' except in the words 'receive', 'deceive', 'height', 'fein', 'deign', ..." I prefer the knuckle method. All I have to remember is that I have two hands.

Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

Well this sounds really nice, as long as you ignore all the fine print. If you read the tiny italics, it also says:

Note: this rule does not apply to masochists and the suicidal. Nor does it obviate the need for the "other's" consent, that is, it should not be taken as advice for the lovelorn to score with hot chicks who wouldn't otherwise give them the time of day.

This rule has a golden heart, but in these cynical times, maybe it should be updated a little by a team of lawyers to limit any potential liability. I might suggest as an alternative, "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them." But I'd still like the lawyers to look it over.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Come on, who do people think they're fooling with this one? As if we're supposed to believe this proves the two are equivalent and there's nothing to choose between them. As if. The two sides are only equal if each one is just like all the others. What an oppressive call to conformity.

And which would you rather have, the six of one, or the half dozen of the other? It's another litmus test of course. ACLU'ers will obviously prefer the other, while Libertarians will take the one every time. I hope John Roberts is studying up here, because this will be on the test.

Important update: check out the wisely named blog Point Five. None of this half-empty, half-full nonsense for them.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Not enough weapons... 

On Ariel Sharon's recent visit to Paris, leading up to the now-completed disengagement, he was greeted with a demand he supply the Palestinians with more bullets:

But the big surprise came this week in Paris, when Sharon heard Jacques Chirac ask, "Why don't you strengthen President Abbas by giving ammunition -- as the U.S. has been asking you?"
And while the Palestinians were given lots of weapons a few years ago, it now seems nobody knows where they went:

He [Congressman Mark Kirk] explained that during the 1990s, Congress relented to pressure from former envoy Dennis Ross and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to give the rifles directly to the PA. "Under a veto threat, the Congress relented... Now, imagine how we felt a year later when we saw those -- when we saw Palestinian policemen using those M-16s to shoot Israelis.... And General Ward, do we know where all these M-16s are? Have we done an audit of all the guns we've already given the Palestinian Authority?"
Let's summarize, shall we, and see if we can understand the fullness of the Palestinian Authority's terrible problem. Apparently, they'd love to fight terror, but their decimated police force just doesn't have the ammo for the job. In fact, they don't even have the guns to shoot the ammo anymore. And nobody knows where the guns are, not a clue. So, naturally, we should start rearming the Palestinian Peace Forces now so they'll have a chance to... well, uh... fight... um...

Let's look at this from a different angle. We want Abbas to fight terror. But his police don't have enough weapons, for whatever reason. And given all these walls and checkpoints and import inspections Israel keeps onerously imposing, how the heck is he supposed to get his hands on the needed Weapons of Peace? By clamping down so heartlessly on the Palestinians, and making it impossible to get anything through -- medicine, food, gameboys, weapons, whatever -- it's really Israel's fault that there just...








...for the...


...poor Palestinians...


No weapons, no peace.

** click for original pictures and captions at Yahoo

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hamas Remix: You Gotta Fight For Your Right...to Party! 

Masked Palestinian militants from the military wing of the Hamas movement participate in celebrations of the Israeli pullout from Gaza at the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip August 24, 2005. [by the way, if they're wearing masks, how do the reporters know they're from the military wing?] Israeli military forces expect to be out of Gaza in mid-September, completing a withdrawal from the territory after 38 years of occupation, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Holy crap, these people know how to have a good time! And if you dial their toll free party hot line, they're available for your child's birthday or Bar Mitzvah celebration. You supply the people, let Hamas do the rest.

Me and You and a Boy Named Insurance 

Masked Palestinian militants from the military wing of the Hamas movement participate in celebrations of the Israeli pullout from Gaza at the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip August 24, 2005. Israeli military forces expect to be out of Gaza in mid-September, completing a withdrawal from the territory after 38 years of occupation, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Reuters omits mention of the most important member of this terrorist entourage: the boy hanging out the window. The one the terrorists playfully call, "Insurance."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

AbbaGav's Dieting Tips 

While I'm not a nutritional professional, and I've never even played one on TV, my years of experience trying one diet after another have given me a lot of weight loss wisdom I'd like to share with the masses. Sure, I've never actually reached my target weight in any single diet. But if you consider the cumulative weight loss of all my partially successful diets I've probably lost an elephant. My credentials thus established, let's move on to the sharing of wisdom:

Only eat cold food. A rational diet plan is based on calories. Take in fewer calories than your body needs, and your metabolism will instead use up the extra candy bars your paunch has socked away. And what are calories? Energy, pure and simple. And when you eat hot food, how did that food get hot? By adding energy of course -- calories. So it's pretty much a no-brainer: eat cold food. I like ice cream.

Alternatively, only eat hot food. Diet gurus always stress the importance of exercise because it helps your body burn off those extra calories. Why take a chance that your body won't be able to burn off that cold, raw carrot? In fact, why take a chance on fruits and vegetables at all? They don't burn well, not like a potato chip. Instead, feed your body only scorched food, with all the calories pre-burned out of it. A nice thick steak, but well-done. French fries, extra crispy. Or even refried beans -- there's no way those pesky calories are going to survive refrying.

Try to forget to eat. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to lose weight and failed, just because I kept remembering to eat. It's really hard to not eat once you've remembered you have to. On the other hand if you just forget to eat, then not eating is a piece of cake.

Ask your spouse several times a day if you look thinner. Their vague, nodded agreement will do wonders for your self-image and give a boost to your motivation.

Another subtle point many beginning dieters forget is weigh-in management. Counter-intuitively, the foundation of your diet, the initial weigh in, should be in heavy boots, overcoat and wet hair, and ideally occur immediately after your Thanksgorging dinner. This gives you a baseline weight you can work with. Now don't give in to the temptation to run empty-bellied and naked to the scales right after that, looking to pocket the easiest bowling ball you'll ever lose, all in the very first week. No, string it out. Remove a shoe one week, the overcoat the next, and only then weigh in with dry hair. If you really take advantage of this advice, it should be at least 6 to 8 weeks until you have to start trimming your nails and shaving your body hair before stepping on the scales. You want to treat that extra initial ballast like it's your diet's insurance policy. If you use it right, you can drop a good 15 pounds without even breaking a sweat, and no annoying setback weeks or plateaus.

Let's talk menu plan for a minute. You need to make every bite count. Every food you eat should have some innate advantage. I don't care if it's reduced calorie, low in sodium, or cholesteral free -- whatever, doesn't matter. Your dieting body needs all of them. Pile up enough of these from the various foods you eat throughout the day, and you're well on your way. The trick is variety, so don't forget some oft-overlooked dieting staples:
So what are we waiting for? Let's get out there and start eating, we've got some serious dieting to do.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Researchers Learn: Monkey See Monkey Do 

According to this article recent ground-breaking research shows that the desire to conform is not uniquely human:

We humans aren't the only ones who want to fit in. Researchers have discovered that chimpanzees, too, preferentially adopt their fellow chimps' way of doing things.
However, researchers remain stumped by the tendency of adolescent chimps to die their fur green and pierce their eyebrows.

Shame vs. Guilt, and the Importance of Arab and Muslim Women 

Dr. Sanity does a fantastic job of isolating the differences between shame-based Arab and Muslim culture, and guilt-based Western culture:

In a guilt culture, when an individual believes he is NOT GUILTY, he will defend his innocence aggressively despite the fact that others believe he is guilty. In this case, the individual self is strong and able to maintain an independent judgement even if every other person is convinced of his guilt. The self is able to stand alone and fight for truth, secure in the knowledge that the individual is innocent.

The guilt culture is typically and primarily concerned with truth, justice, and the preservation of individual rights. As we noted earlier, the emotion of guilt is what keeps a person from behavior that goes against his/her own code of conduct as well as the culture’s. Excessive guilt can, of course, also be pathological. I am solely referring to a psychologically healthy appreciation of guilt.

[She includes here a very helpful diagram that is worth scrolling down for in her post.]

In contrast, a typical shame culture (e.g., Japan as discussed by Benedict; or the present focus of this discussion: Arab/Islamic culture) what other people believe has a far more powerful impact on behavior than even what the individual believes. As noted by Gutman in his writings, the desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else is one of the primary foundations of the culture. This desire has the side-effect of giving the individual carte blanche to engage in wrong-doing as long as no-one knows about it, or knows he is involved.

Additionally, it may be impossible for an individual to even admit to himself that he is guilty (even when he is) particularly when everyone else considers him to be guilty because of the shame involved. As long as others remain convinced he is innocent, the individuals does not experience either guilt or shame. A great deal of effort therefore goes into making sure that others are convinced of your innocence (even if you are guilty).
I strongly recommend reading the whole thing if you haven't yet reached your "Aha! Yes!" quota for the day. Particularly interesting to me were some of her quotes from David Gutmann which reinforced my belief in the importance of women in shaping Islam's future. If Islam is to find a path to any sort of accomodation with the West, its women will need to help lead:

Besides sharpening their sense of inferiority relative to the West, modernization threatens to bring about the liberation of women (as in Afghanistan and Iraq). I say 'threatens,' because the self-esteem of Arab males is in large part predicated on the inferior position of their women. The Arab nations have for the most part lost their slaves and dhimmis, the subject peoples onto whose persons the stigmata of shame could be downloaded. But anyone who has spent time among them knows that Arab males have not lost their psychological need for social and sexual inferiors. In the absence of slaves and captive peoples, Arab women are elected for the special role of the inferior who, by definition, lacks honor. Arab men eradicate shame and bolster their shaky self-esteem by imposing the shameful qualities of the dhimmi, submission and passivity, upon women. Trailing a humbled woman behind them, Arab men can walk the walk of the true macho man.

Hence the relative lack of material achievement by Arabs: the Arab world has stunted the female half of its brain pool, while the men acquire instant self-esteem not by real accomplishment, but by the mere fact of being men, rather than women. No wonder, then, that the Arab nations feel irrationally threatened by the very existence of Israel. Like America, the Jews have brought the reality of the liberated woman into the very heart of the Middle East, into dar al-Islam itself. Big Satan and Little Satan: the champions of Muslim women.

I contend that female liberation is the most hopeful development in the Middle East, greater even than the first stirrings of democracy. I believe that Arab women have a greater stake in liberal democracy than Arab men, and as they acquire political power, they will fight for it. As for suicide bombings, jihadism and the macho posturing of Arab men, they are desperate remedies against further humiliation, against the perceived threat of “castration,” by their own women. Until Arab women achieve freedom and independence, we can expect, at least for awhile, to see Arab men cling to these remedies.
While this played into one of my pet points, it is by no means the only highlight. Another intriguing point she quoted from David Gutman:

The traditional Bedouin created a nearly pure "Shame" culture, whose goal was to avoid humiliation, and to acquire sharraf - honor. Thus, the goal of the Bedouin raid is not to finally win a war, for such inter-tribal conflict is part of the honorable way of life, and should never really end.
This helps me understand something strange I've noted several times previously. While we in Israel, and the West in general, are impatient to resolve conflict, always wondering what exactly it is they "want", we are left scratching our heads by the seeming willingness, even eagerness, of the other side to remain at war for centuries, if not forever. I have tried to understand this as some sort of perverse patience in the potentially eternal fight to destroy us. But rhetoric notwithstanding, perhaps internally there is as much satisfaction for them in the eternal bloodshed and strife as there is in the prospects of some hypothetical and distant victory.

There are no easy answers but Dr. Sanity brings some clarity to the questions.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Help Wanted: Palestinian "Police" 

Elder of Ziyon is in fine form with his help wanted ad for new Palestinian policemen:

WANTED: New Palestinian policemen. Must have fired at Jews. Will consider rock throwers. A previous stint in jail a plus. We will do a background check to ensure previous membership in terror organizations. Send resume, along with references, blackmail and threats to shoot us, to: Abu Abbas, on top of Arafat's grave, Ramallah
The rest of his post gives solid context to the humor. While his ad is funny, he shows us the situation is not.

Arafat International: The White Zone... 

Palestinian policemen stand outside the Gaza international airport, renamed Yasser Arafat international airport, in Rafah in the southern Gaza strip, Sunday, August 21, 2005. With Gaza International Airport as a backdrop, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas promised his fenced-in people freedom of movement once Israel pulls out of the Gaza Strip. But just a few days after that solemn pledge, the airport's runway torn up by Israeli troops in 2001 fighting stands empty and it may take a long time before planes take to the skies from here. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Attention. The White Zone is for loading and unloading of weapons only. Actually, the red zone is for loading and unloading weapons too. The entire terminal is a non-smoking zone, except for certain designated fuse-free areas. Unattended explosives will be confiscated for other uses. Departing passengers, please have your boarding pass and PA security ID out and be prepared to lift your face mask briefly at the checkpoint. The use of cell phones is strictly forbidden within a hunderd meter radius of the short-term parking lot. Remember to check your baggage claim tickets before departing the terminal as so many rocket propelled grenade launchers look alike.

Disengagement, Your Chance to Disagree 

The Sons of the Republic, looking for a guest-post presenting the Israeli view of disengagement, nevertheless turned to me. I am exquisitely aware that it is impossible to present "the" Israeli viewpoint on this subject, so now that they've posted my submission, I'd like to invite my informed readers to join the discussion.

I'm sure many of you have important points of disagreement with what I've written there. There are also probably some of you with first hand experience of disengagement's effect on Israelis that I simply was unable to convey. I would like to encourage you to check out my post at their site and add your comments. There is a chance your opinion will reach readers who might not ordinarily immerse themselves in the JBlog community. I know all of my readers are extremely polite so I don't have to remind everyone to put their best foot forward should they have something to add there.

And special thanks to the Sons for the opportunity.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

BBC's Mixed Message from Palestinians in the Street 

The BBC presents the opinions of eight "Palestinians on the Street" with regard to Israel's pullout from Gaza:

I wish the people of Britain and elsewhere could taste what it's like to be occupied, then they would be able to understand the oppression that we live under thanks to the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain promised to give this land to the Jews.
Just to be clear, for those of you playing along at home, the Balfour Declaration is not the one where the Jews were promised Gaza and the West Bank. No. Objections to the Balfour Declaration are objections to Israel's very existence.

Here's another point-of-view shared with the BBC:

I think it's impossible for us to live together now. How can there be a chance for peace?
I guess I should give half credit for this answer in that it doesn't explicitly rule out peace for all eternity. Pretty depressing nonetheless, that this is the best the BBC can come up with in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from one of the major territories the Palestinians have been demanding all along.

To be fair, so far I've only highlighted the two interviewed Palestinians who openly prefer that their state should exist in place of Israel rather than in peace with Israel. But of the eight quoted in the BBC sample, these were the most problematic opinions. Certainly, everyone else complained, not seeing any great promise or hope in Israel's move, nor displaying any gratitude or relief. But with varying degrees of vagueness, the others all avoided raising insurmountable objections to Israel's existence. For example:

The Israelis are turning Gaza into a big prison. The border stays in their hands, so everything goes according to their whim.

Bethlehem is becoming a prison too, with the wall Israel is building around it.

Economically it is very difficult. All our trade for my metal workshop used to be with Israel. Now there's no money coming in and we don't what we will do.
He's not sending Ariel Sharon any flowers, nor planning to invite Israelis over to tea. But his objections are of the sort that, over time, can be overcome. Israel's existence is not such an objection.

Savvy PR? I doubt it. Unless the BBC is recruiting its random sample from this year's graduating class of the Hamas stealth school of public speaking, the interviewees appeared to be relatively average Palestinians.

Was the BBC selection a bit biased, perhaps selecting those interviewees whose nuance would be most acceptable to international audiences? Maybe a little, after all we don't see anyone with a green headband and a suicide belt offering his opinion. Perhaps a scientific sampling would have included such an opinion. Or perhaps such opinions aren't as publicly common amongst the mainstream, at least today, as we think. It's hard to know from here. But if stacking the deck was truly the BBC's goal, they did a pretty lousy job with the first two.

So maybe I should entertain the possibility, however guardedly, that there are still Palestinians who, despite being royally ticked off about their lot in life, might still someday (not today and not tomorrow, but maybe someday) be willing to live in peace -- on their terms of course.

Hey, it's not a lot to work with, but it's a start.

The Microsoft Template 

This AP report of Microsoft's latest browser vulnerability seemed somewhat familiar. I took the liberty of creating a template to save the reporter a lot of work the next time Bill gives her a call:

__Today's date__ | SEATTLE -- Microsoft Corp. was working __Friday__ to come up with a fix for a flaw in its Internet Explorer browser that could let hackers gain remote access to computer systems through malicious Web sites.

A patch was not immediately available, though some security experts played down the risk.

"If the user doesn't browse a malicious Web site, then the user isn't even under attack," said __your expert here__, chief technology officer at __expert's company__, a security company based in __small, Northern California Town__, Calif.

The vulnerability is a problem in the way Internet Explorer handles certain pieces of data that are optional components in various programs.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker said it knew of no customers who had been attacked.

The company issued a security advisory __Thursday__ urging Internet users to be careful about opening up Web links in e-mails and said it would release a security update once it had completed its investigation.

The advisory came after a team of __French__ security experts published a "proof-of-concept exploit" showing how hackers could take advantage of the vulnerability.

Without referring to the exploit specifically, Microsoft said the flaw "was not disclosed responsibily, potentially putting computer users at risk."

The disclosure comes just days after a series of computer __pick: worms/viruses__, programmed to take advantage of a flaw in Microsoft's Windows operating system, caused delays in operations at big companies and government offices.
I'll probably patch it right away, but I'd feel a little reassured if I knew what was going on instead of just being given copies of the same dire warning message over and over. It might help me believe that finally this one really is the golden patch of biblical prophecy, the last patch we'll ever need.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Al-Ahram Notices No Chinese Jihad 

Another article worthy of attention in Al-Ahram, this time for what I think is a postive reason. Abdel-Moneim Said takes note that other groups faced with challenges have not taken the "path of Jihad":

Similar things happened to the Arab and Muslim worlds, though nothing as extreme as opium and slavery. And yet the Chinese did not kill people in London. Instead they went about acquiring the elements of strength needed in a modern world. Their reaction to the West was a far cry from ours. They didn't go about killing Westerners -- let alone compatriots and brothers in faith -- in the name of resistance.
While it's possible other Arabs will read his words and a sea change will begin, it's also possible he'll be jailed and this article scrubbed from the books. I know which to hope for, and which to expect.

Azmi and Me, a Pseudo-Fisking 

Azmi Bishara has an article in Al-Ahram Weekly and I'm too tired to write anything serious, so I figured I would just pseudo-Fisk this. I say pseudo-Fisk because I don't actually plan to bother understanding what he's trying to say before making fun of it. Hey, that's got to be easier than trying to construct a valid Yahoo image link to ridicule at this hour. So without further ado, my absurd twisting of the many, many, many words of Azmi Bishara:

For the democratic left socialism never stood solely for state ownership of the means of production. It involved setting into motion a sophisticated, fluid and morally-inspired drive to organise society on more just, equitable and democratic foundations.
This is great news. We can stop worrying about socialism. There's really no such thing. It's just democracy, only nicer.

blah blah blah...social justice was sometimes reduced to a vehement condemnation of private property as the root of all corruption...more blah blah blah...the European left was generally at the forefront of the fight to expand democratic liberties, suffrage and freedom of the press. It also believed that social justice entailed freeing mankind not only politically, but also from the fetters of economic exploitation. Only a humanitarian political-economic establishment could liberate people from their function as interchangeable cogs in the capitalist machine of production, or as consumers whose behaviour is shaped by the laws of the capitalist consumer market, and give them the fullest scope for self-fulfilment as free, independent, active and dynamic individuals.
I look forward to that liberation. It warms my soul to think of a state that wants me to be free, so long as I don't want to consume anything. Sounds like North Korea.

Okay, deep breath and we dive back in:

Successive industrial revolutions, from the mechanical to the high-tech, IT and bio-tech, have radically altered modes of production and ownership.
Not to mention modes of caffeine intake, explosives delivery and pizza distribution.

It is now impossible to speak of a society split into two distinct classes, capitalists and workers.
Well, actually, it's not completely impossible. There are some societies with this thing called freedom of speech, so in those places it's perfectly possible. But if you're the kind of guy who would stump for the return of Saddam to replace the U.S. in Iraq then I would see your point. In that case, it would be impossible to speak of much of anything except the luxuriant superiority of the Presidential Mustache.

...middle classes...blah...service and leisure sectors...blah blah...increased generation of profits...blah...enormous boom...blah...blah...high levels of education and a broad array of technical and administrative expertise.
Wow, you know Azmi, as long as I quote you in completely out of context, you make a lot of sense. Some really good stuff there. Practice your delivery and you might even be able to run for office someday.

...blah blah blahgitty blah blah blah...
You know, I really don't have a clue what your point is, or why you're trying to make it. I feel like I'm reading the output from a clever new web service, the Socialist Jargon Speech Generator. My readers sure are lucky that I'm shielding them by standing between your words and their brains. Ok, back to you:

...blah blah, yeah more blah...The right to a humane and dignified life is one such principle; it should be safeguarded by financial measures aimed at redistributing wealth and protecting the poor in the face of market forces that would otherwise exclude them.
Like having to get a job, or pay full price for Viagra. I'm right there with you Robin Hood.

The left champions the equal right to healthcare and the sanctity of childhood and old age.
Well, except of course for the kids and codgers of the Zionist occupation forces.

...blah...It also struggles to subject government agencies to public scrutiny, including those that try to place themselves above such principles through recourse to the demagoguery of national unity or national security.
National security, I spit on you. Now if you wanted to trample those principles in the name of martyrdom operations against Western Imperialism and the Various Satans, that's a different matter.

The left has an instinctive disposition to side with the people.
Except in the cases of Fried Chicken restaurants, fur coats, trees, spotted owls, and the polio virus. Other than that, yeah, they love the people.

However, the left as I understand it does not take the attitude of the masses or the public mood as its sole standard for what is progressive. As difficult as it may be, the left must draw a line between popular and popularist.
With what "ink" exactly is this line to be drawn? Just asking.

It must strive to raise public awareness and help the people perceive where their interests lie...
Because Azmi knows better. And Azmi is pretty sure he is not himself in need of someone to tell him where his interests lie because he is one of the annointed who is allowed to know for himself.

...and how best to defend them, as opposed to the popularist right which pals (sic) on gut feelings to manipulate the mass mood.
What happened to that "democracy but nicer" vision you were working on earlier. You're starting to sound just a touch totalitarian around the edges here Azmi.

The right might sometimes express the popular pulse and successfully recruit mass feeling, but the true test of the difference between the left and right resides in which better represents the interests of the people.
I love it: the true test of the difference between the left and right resides in which better represents the interests of the people as dictated to them by the left. It's great playing a game where you get to write your own rules. The only trick is finding suckers to play with you.

...blah...more blah...If the left opposes globalisation, for example, it does so because rather than freeing people from need it inhibits the fulfilment of need by generating and reproducing conditions of enslavement through the hegemony of transnational corporations, the inequitable distribution of wealth and the perpetuation of the donor nation-debtor nation relationship.
If the left favors confiscation of your property, it does so because entanglement with possessions and material fixation limit the true freedom that only belongs to those who have nothing.

...blah...Democracy to the left is not just political plurality, which in some countries risks being distorted into ethnic or sectarian plurality that reproduces the traditional order.
Sorry, had to stop there for a second to hit the reset button on my "hinting at Israel" radar detector. But I get the point. All that voting crap is well and good unless it leads to Jews being allowed to elect themselves to govern over Arabs. Not that it's any problem in all the neighboring Arab states, or even in the offered and rejected parallel Arab state.

There have to be institutionalised guarantees agreed upon by all legitimate political forces...
...like Hamas and Hezbullah and Saddam's Baath Party...

...safeguarding individual civil, social and economic rights, the rule of law, the autonomy of the judiciary, the public's right to hold their political officials accountable for their actions, the individual's right to choose his religious belief or to choose whether or not to observe the rites of his faith...
...the right of individuals and groups to bear rocket propelled grenades launchers...

Wow, are you still with me? Azmi writes an awful lot, and if you're still paying attention, I'm impressed. I lost interest quite a few paragraphs ago. Too bad you can't finish this for me. Well, enough chit chat, back to work:

...a little blah blah blah that made a teeny bit of sense but that I couldn't think of anything funny to say about it...a little more blah blah blah that didn't make sense and I didn't care about...Faced with these developments members of the beleaguered left, finding themselves increasingly bereft of any social or political party support, have taken refuge in two forms of mysticism.
All right, now we're talkin' Azmi! I love Madonna and Tom Cruise commentary. Plus it can't hurt my chances for a little Google traffic! Lay it on me big boy, let's have a little of that old time Kaballah:

In the Third World a significant portion of them have embraced anti-progressive and anti-modernist tenets and slogans. The quest of these erstwhile leftists for common ground with the fundamentalists on the basis of a shared hostility to the West and globalisation disguises the fact that fundamentalist Islamist hostility emanates from entirely different premises. In its pursuit of common ground this segment of the left has not only contributed to sidelining questions of democratisation, social justice and the rationalisation and secularisation of political and social relations, it has so fallen prey to a fundamentalist culture that it has recast much of its political discourse in religious rhetorical mould, with special emphasis on the rejection of everything emanating from the West, including democracy.
Whoa. I don't think that was approved by Ashton Kutcher or his press agents. But actually, it kind of made sense. I think. "The Left and Islam, sittin' in a tree, K-I-...

...oh blah blah...Rather than explore the concrete processes of party politics, coalition building and grassroots organisation, a motley collection of non-democratic elitist associations seclude themselves from society to theorise and pontificate, as is their habit, on matters that have no immediate bearing on the political and social realities of the majority. Such ivory tower speculations are inimical to the process of democratic transformation. All they produce is some fantasy of democracy in the abstract, with no regard for the actual social and political forces involved in the battle for democracy.
Well, unless you were condemning the U.N. there, which I doubt, you've gone back to boring the hell out of me Azmi. I can't shake the feeling, with all these words with odd numbers of syllables, that I should be taking the first letters of all your sentences and reading them backwards to figure out which bus station locker the detonator is in. No, wait, that doesn't work either, I may have to go back to taking you literally:

The left, whether of the fundamentalist or the form-without- substance brand, has been unable to produce a single concept capable of identifying challenges, let alone ways to overcome them and promote happiness and freedom in our countries. Nor will it be able to do so until it makes the connection between its core values -- equality, social justice, freedom, social enlightenment, progress and the rationalisation and humanisation of social and political relations -- and democracy as a system of government and a national cause.
Whew! Congratulations, we made it all the way through. Yeah, yeah, I know I probably massacred what he really meant, missing some really deep and significant point of Socialist Leftist wisdom. Oh well, I'll wait for the Cindy Sheehan condensed version later this week. And anyway, I didn't want to really tear this thing apart, afer all, Azmi is an Israeli. Oh sorry, Azmi, I meant a Palestinian Arab living in the Zionist entity. Still, you're one of ours, you big lug! Now get over here and give me a great big socially-just hug!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Goes without saying, but it shouldn't... 

...so I'll say it: this latest murder in Shiloh, again a disgraceful terrorist act by a Jew, must be condemned. The murderer must be punished, that is, presuming his guilt is proven -- but at this point I don't think the second coming of Johnny Cochrane could overcome the witnesses, confession, lack of remorse, and further calls for the assassination of the Prime Minister. Again, despite our complaints about how the Palestinians fail to deal with their own, we must show that terrorists are punished, and not just by having their behinds smacked once really hard by the revolving door.

And this has to stop. The general public clearly condemns it, I don't believe that is the problem. But if there are segments of the community that still can't tell the difference between freedom of speech and incitement to murder, it's time they are taught.

Obviously there are wackos throughout the world, and not every murder can be prevented. One hundred percent effort is all anyone has ever asked for.

But I'll accept nothing less.

Media Bias, Let It Go 

I was wondering why my media bias posts feel so inneffective. Now an expert, a pro, explains it:

For many years I taught in my criticism classes that pointing out bias in the news media was an important, interesting, and even subversive activity. At the very least an intellectual challenge. Now it is virtually meaningless. Media bias is a proxy in countless political fights and the culture war. It's effectiveness as a corrective is virtually zero.
Hmm. That was simple. I guess I can stop worrying about the word terrorist and how often the news services mention the grief of a suicide bomber's parents more prominently than that of his victims' parents. It just doesn't matter. It's effectiveness as a corrective is virtually zero.

Too bad he didn't get this out before RatherGate, think of the bandwidth it would have saved.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Photo and Confession 

Members of the Palestinian Cinema Club film the local version of Ben Hur. (AP Photo/Nader Daoud)
Click picture for full size photo and original caption at Yahoo.
Ok, I admit it, I confess. I faked that caption. And I also admit I've faked the captions of pictures in one or two other posts (sometimes 10 captions at a time). You caught me. I really don't have any inside information on what is going on in all these Yahoo pictures, other than what's mentioned in the so-called captions Yahoo passes along -- like I believe them.

It's more fun to guess.

Urine Batteries: The Next #1 Tech Breakthrough 

This pee battery breakthrough looks promising:

Scientists have developed a way to turn pee into electricity. And there's plenty where that came from, they point out.

Cheap, disposable, and renewable, urine-powered batteries may be the perfect power source for disposable healthcare test kits called biochips, the researchers say.
But don't flush your other batteries just yet. No one is really sure yet where this technology is going. Counting on big market success is still a wee bit premature.

Why doesn't he just talk to her? 

Cindy Sheehan, I mean. Why doesn't President Bush just talk to Cindy Sheehan?

Nutshell: Cindy Sheehan, an Israel-blaming moonbat, is camped outside President Bush's Texas ranch demanding he speak with her (again) about why he killed her son by sending him to Iraq and all the etc. that this implies.

As James Lileks points out in his Screed Blog today, the media stays with this Sheehan story because he's not talking to her:

Imagine if she was a pissed-off mom who wanted to meet with Bush to demand that he talk to her about her plans to help the troops – Care packages from Soldier’s Angels, more PR about their accomplishments, tax breaks for families whose breadwinners have been deployed, more post-service benefits, better VA funding. You could put together quite a list of demands, and if she was sufficiently aggravated with the President, the press would be just as happy to cover her. After all, it’s the fact that he doesn’t meet with her that keeps this story alive, no?
True, if the President does speak with her, there'll be a brief burst of negative coverage of his outrageous insensitivity, and sensitive coverage of her outrage. But then the balloon will slowly deflate until there is nothing left but Cindy Sheehan and her grief and a few hundred voracious journalists looking for what's next.

So why doesn't he just talk to her one more time? What would it hurt?

I doubt it's because he and his handlers are stupid, no matter what Al Franken and Michael Moore would have you think. And I doubt it's because he doesn't care, as Newsweek's recent article makes clear.

No, my guess is that White House wisdom says the press is best right where they are, out in plain sight covering a women that all but the moonbats realize is a moonbat. Maybe he's even scoring points with the media, you never know. After all, it's the long slow month of August, sweatiest news cycle of the year. They need something newsworthy to play with. Is it possible the press is at least a little bit grateful to the President, if only secretly, that he hasn't decided to take their latest toy away from them?

Ok, that's about all I can muster on this topic. Next!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Violent Testing Is Inevitable 

Today's editorial in the Jerusalem Post seems to me to pull a necessary punch:

When Sharon said that responses to further attacks would be 'more severe than ever,' he was signalling that he intends to begin acting according to the new rules. The international community's job will be to do its best to ensure he does not have to, by imposing new levels of diplomatic and economic pressure on the Palestinians that, together with Israeli deterrence, force dramatic changes in their behavior.
This isn't a great attitude with which to approach the coming post-disengagement phase, which is going to boil down to Palestinians testing whether Sharon will actually follow through with this promised severity. Given our history of red-line smudging, their perception of our resolve is not helped by sending out the vibe, "Please, international community, please control the Palestinians so we won't have to."

This vibe also seems to be coming from the military, as Haaretz reports:

The Director of Military Intelligence, Major General Aharon Ze'evi, warned Tuesday that terrorist activity may renew in April if peace talks stall after the disengagement.
Peace talks? As Wayne used to say, "Shyeah right."

Frankly, I'll be shocked if it takes even that long before the various Palestinian terrorist militias give in to temptation, slipping at least a tentative toe across the new boundary line -- and probably a whole shoe bomb to go with it. There is no way sending them terse State Department telegrams, retired four star generals, and determined French diplomats is going to keep their collective finger off the detonator. In recent history, Israel's mere loosening of restrictions at a border crossing has been like a magnet for suicide vests. There is little reward in trying to cajole terrorists into peacefully accepting a change they'd much rather blow up.

What I'd rather see from the international community is simple silence. Silence when the inevitable conflict returns. This time, let's not suffer through years of finely calibrated escalations of death and destruction before Operation Angry Boot is taken out of the drawer. If that is Sharon's message, fine, otherwise let Peres take over to handle the groveling.

Lovers of Peace International Inc. Memo 

Discovered this memo in my trash, or somewhere else -- I forget where exactly -- and thought I'd share it:

Ok my fellow Lovers Of Peace International Inc., listen up.

This whole "disengagement" farce is going to end pretty soon, and in its wake is going to be a brief criticism vacuum, what I like to call the post-partum blues. The media is probably going to forget for a few days exactly who is to blame for all that is wrong in this region. And it's our job to remind them.

We've got to stay rip-roaring ready with a new set of talking points -- or, if you will, shouting points. We're going to hammer away at Israel's achilles kneecap: their flagrant violation of human rights in the "so-called" name of "self" "defense" against that quote-"t"-unquote word. So, in anticipation of that first post-pullout news cycle, I've prepared a few complaints we should all start practicing:

First and most important of all is, of course, the racist gulag wall -- but not just the wall itself. We need to carp on the whole ideology of separation. We cannot rhetorically rest as long as Israelis insist on arrogantly placing barriers between themselves and peaceful coexistence with their neighbors -- who after all share their love of this special land between the Jordan and the sea.

We cannot be satisfied until, at a minimum, the Israelis begin the following unilateral baby-steps away from separation and hatred, toward openness and peace:
If we can succeed on these points, it's a great start, but it's not enough. We've got to adapt the message. I think it's like that guy says -- oh, what's his name, the Asian-American that wrote that "Art of War" best-seller -- it's like I think he says: you've got to be like the shark, always swimming, while still watching out for nets and harpoons and discarded plastic bags. Oh wait, maybe it was be like the simple discarded plastic bag that can stop the shark.

Either way, there is a second brand new point we have to flog. We've done a good job tarnishing the image of the so-called "rubber coated bullets", but Israeli forces, rather than returning to the more photogenic conventional bullets, are coming up with new ways to humiliate peaceful protesters and those standing behind them: sand bullets. It goes without saying we can't let them get away with this. I'm sure many of us have grown up with the bully kicking sand in our face our whole lives. Well we're not about to let the bully start shooting sand at us from a gun now. So let's get out there and show the world exactly what kind of welts those suckers can leave on a protester. We won't rest on this one until the occupation forces are reduced to shooting nothing but powdered sugar bullets.

You're all doing a fantastic job, keep up the great work. Remember to forward this to at least five other activists. And by activist, I mean activist activists, not "activists". It's critical we maintain clear deniability of any hypothetical connections between activists and any "activists", so please pay attention on that one.

And if you transmit this via email, please remember: only use electricity from replenishable sources. Don't taint the message.

Next year in Al Quds!

Monday, August 15, 2005

I'd like to thank the members of ... 

What? Oh, I didn't win?

Well, of course, the honor is just to be nominated in such fine company. Even if I didn't win, just having the experience builds character. Plus I can always try bribery next time.

Thanks to the Watcher of Weasels for a few moments in the spotlight. And special thanks to my 2/3 of a voter.

Does this make me a weasel?

Ever More Useful P.A. Security Training 

In advance of Israel's upcoming withdrawal from Gaza, P.A. security forces train to demolish any intact Jewish homes left behind, brick by flaming brick.

Click on picture for link to full size photo and original caption at Yahoo

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Yeah, but is it kosher? 

Mick Hartley has the newest in food fun: Lab Meat:

It is the ultimate conundrum for vegetarians who think that meat is murder: a revolution in processed food that will see fresh meat grown from animal cells without a single cow, sheep or pig being killed.

Researchers have published details in a biotechnology journal describing a new technique which they hailed as the answer to the world's food shortage. Lumps of meat would be cultured in laboratory vats rather than carved from livestock reared on a farm.

Scientists have adapted the cutting-edge medical technique of tissue engineering, where individual cells are multiplied into whole tissues, and applied them to food production. 'With a single cell, you could theoretically produce the world's annual meat supply,' said Jason Matheny, an agricultural scientist at the University of Maryland.
I'm sure this could be really fine meat, but how are they going to make a really good steak? The human palate doesn't judge a lump of cooked tissue solely by the nutrient bath it grew in.

We'll see. What's next? Artificial asparagus?

Hamas Fashion Statement 

Click on picture for link to full size photo and original caption at Yahoo
  1. Miss November in this year's Women of Hamas calendar
  2. Anonymous Saudi feminist protests widespread misogyny in her culture by symbolically removing her eyehole covering moments before her arrest.
  3. Prospective shahid makes his last dry run, the "full dress rehearsal", before setting out for Israeli border security checkpoint.
  4. Two girls stare at each other in disbelief as they arrive at the Hamas High prom in the same outfit.
  5. Heavenly Virgins trading cards, #16/72.
  6. Winner of this year's "Wet Burka Contest" at Yassin's Bar and Grill.
  7. Recent meeting of the "Women in Green", Gaza City branch.
  8. Palestinian teen begins hour-long search for her sister in huge crowd at yesterday's giant Hamas demonstration.
  9. Young Palestinian performer in this year's Hamas Sisterhood Talent Show is stunned after crowd's negative reaction to her ventriloquist act.
  10. Palestinian actress starring in local version of Baywatch prepares to swap places with her body double, Mahmood.
Note: This is not intended as a condemnation or ridicule of Islamic women for their style of dress. I'd prefer to spin it as "drawing attention to the plight of Islamic women." I believe that we need to be declaring "freedom for Islamic women" in answer to those who accuse us of having only declared war on Islamic men. Of course there are many, many Islamic women who are perfectly happy and treated with dignity and respect (by that I am not referring to being beaten only when she really deserves it). Today large populations of Muslim women still live in fear of honor killings, FGM (* link opposes practice), or being married off at the age of 11 as a bribe to ensure election victory for her father. Pressing for their freedom should be at the top of human rights organizations' agendas, as well as President Bush's.

* This post as advertised on Point Five.
And congratulations to the Jawa Report on reaching 2 million visitors. Now that's stylin'.

One more update: If you think I'm exaggerating about the treatment of Islamic women and the standards of dress expected of them in order to carry the burden of family honor in many parts of the world, Dymphna at Gates of Vienna has the scoop on real Saudi swimsuits. Surely there must be some sane compromise hidden in that vast gray area between swimming in a bikini or in a radiation suit.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Top 10 Signs I'm Not Getting Any Younger 

  1. I was never a great leaper in basketball, but it's gotten to the point where I can reach higher just by standing up straight than by actually jumping.
  2. I can't listen to my Metallica at full volume anymore for fear I'll pull a neck muscle.
  3. I've started feeling pain in body parts that only have names in Yiddish.
  4. Unlike kids these days, I actually know when the Good Old Days were.
  5. I have more doctors than hobbies.
  6. I visit my doctors more often than my barber.
  7. My energy level just isn't what it used to be, but I can't tell whether this means I should increase or decrease my Diet Coke intake.
  8. I've come to realize that those signs on the side of the highway refer to maximum speed.
  9. My eyebrows are getting bushier than a Kennebunkport family reunion.
  10. All that notwithstanding, I've still got my health. Or at least I've still got my teeth.

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My Google Fame 

I'm sure this post, while cliched, is still considered overdue. After all, I've been blogging a virtual lifetime already -- almost 5 months -- and only now am I getting around to my first "Weird Search Terms" post.

Of course, it won't be a very long post since I haven't really hit the big time yet and don't get too many search engine vistors, but even the long-tail can hold a few surprises.

First up, my pride and joy: at one point, I had the ONLY match in ALL of google-space for the terms "islamophobe + frumster". You might expect that my meteoric success with these terms would have drawn oodles of other sites onto the bandwagon, eager for success with those elusive religiously bigoted yet Jewishly observant singles. But in fact, the opposite is true. Now even I don't show up with these terms. It looks like Google changed their algorithm and no longer gives me credit for the term "frumster" showing up in a certain link's url. So as of today (shhh!, don't tell anybody, this is just between us!) NOBODY has this collection of terms. I'll race you to it.

Next up, my brief success with laser teeth whitening products. For a few shining moments, my site actually held the number one spot in Yahoo's listing for the terms "laser teeth whitening products distributer korea". I know, I know, I couldn't believe it either. But then I sheepishly realized the secret of my success: I had mispelled distributor. What's even more amazing is how the barest sniff of my little blog's success was enough to tempt so many web marketing predators into following my lead. So today, I no longer even show up in Yahoo's results at all, and on Google, I only make the sixth page. But does anybody give me credit for my pioneering work here? Maybe if I fix my spelling mistake I'll do better.

My last achievement is one I didn't really expect, but aren't those the sweetest? Try googling for 'pregnancy" + "lebanese cheese"'. Yup, that's right. I'm there. Of course I'm number 4 out of only 5 matches, but I made the cut! And I'd like to thank somebody named Fankhauser at the University of Cincinatti's Clermont College Biology Lab for having a worse page rank than me. Sorry, dude, no link to you though, can't risk bumping your page rank.

Well, that's all for this time. I can't really predict how long it will take me to accumulate a few more google hits, but trust me, when I do, I'll milk them here for all they're worth.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Is Deterrence of Terrorists Verifiable? 

Eric the Unread reports on an assertion by Victor Keegan in a recent Guardian piece:

...video cameras do not seem to have acted as a deterrent to terrorists, even though they have made it easier to identify them afterwards, whether dead or alive.
I wonder what exactly Keegan considered as evidence in support of his assertion that cameras have not deterred terrorists. He didn't really make that clear in the article. The impression he gives is that because the police have other powerful tools at their disposal, these cameras must not make a difference.

Since his assertion is only part of the introduction to a much larger theme, perhaps the euphemistic use of "do not seem" invokes Justification by Journalistic Necessity. Surely not the strongest evidence one can bring to support a position, but not unprecedented. And it's a very difficult hypothesis to test objectively. I could only come up with a few other likely proofs myself:

Perhaps he went door to door (or cave-opening) in Afghanistan for a survey:

1) Are you a terrorist, insurgent, freedom-fighter, militant or activist?
2) If so, have you ever been deterred from detonating yourself by the presence of a video camera?

Or, maybe he plotted "# of cameras" and "# of bombings" vs "year" on the same chart, and noticed that both have been rising.

It's even conceivable that he scanned the terrorist arrest logs and noticed the complete absence of the phrase "captured just before exploding by Emergency Camera Response Team".

Whichever method he used, it looks like he ignored an obvious counter-argument suggested by Eric: that the cameras do not have to result in arrests of bomb-strapped insurgents to deter terror. If it makes the work of support cells more difficult, or inhibits the free transfer of weapons and explosives, then it has deterred terror. Whether that deterrence would be a good thing or not is left as an exercise to the reader, but you should not be surprised that opinions differ.

My Netanyahu Illusion 

I've pulled for Bibi, voted for Bibi, believed in Bibi. I wish I still could, but I'm having trouble maintaining the illusion. I'm starting to accept that maybe Bibi really is nothing more than a talented, well-spoken ball of raw, unquenchable ambition.

He wants us to believe he's a leader. Heck, I want to believe he's a leader. But I no longer think he is.

Consider some of his recent statements:

In 1993, in the midst of the euphoria over the Oslo agreement, I warned that terrorism would plague us from all the areas we transferred to the
Palestinians and that there would be missiles shot at us from Gaza. It didn t happen immediately. It took time.

In 1995, I warned that Muslim zealots would bomb the World Trade Center in New York. It didn't happen immediately. It took time. But it happened.

Today as well, when I warn about the establishment of a base for Islamic terrorism in Gaza, the realization of the danger doesn't have to happen immediately but, sadly, the possibility that it will happen is very tangible and only increases as time passes.

As I warned, the Hamas is strengthening, the terror continues, the firing of rockets and mortars on our communities has not ended, and terror elements proclaim that they will move the rockets that drove us out of the Gaza Strip to Judea and Samaria, and from there will operate them until "the complete liberation of Palestine."

I do not know when the terror will break out in full force. It is possible that it will take a month or two or a year or two. It is possible that the terror will first break out in Judea and Samaria. I hope that it won't break out at all. But just as I warned in 1993 that the Oslo Agreement will bring attacks from Judea and Samaria and rockets from Gaza, so I unfortunately am convinced today that the current move will bring in the course of time to an increase in terror rather than a decrease.
There are those who lead, and those who warn. It's very nice that Bibi has the luxury of sagely wagging his finger from time to time, and then returning to the scene when it's convenient, to remind everyone of how right he was. But this is not leadership. In fact, leadership is sometimes wrong, but it knows how to cope with its mistakes and correct them. I get the feeling Bibi is more comfortable being right than actually leading.

To be fair though, he doesn't remind us of his various past successful prophecies just in order to fluff up his leadership credentials. He wants us to realize that he sees the truth, and that we should trust his judgement. All else being equal, demonstrating a pattern of correct prognosis does provide a somewhat limited justification for believing in future assertions by the same person. All else being equal.

But with Bibi, all else is not equal. For in him we see another pattern, an ability to tack back and forth ideologically, seeking tactical position wherever his opponent du-jour leaves an opening. If that means signing agreements with Arafat and giving away territory, so be it. If it means warning of existential threats to prevent signing agreements or giving away territory, so be it. But he'll be back to tell you why he was right in either case.

Lastly, though, I am troubled that in his haste to answer every critic's charge that he has jumped too late, he damages the very cause he claims to support and want to lead. His answer is that he stayed in Government, de facto helping support a cause he claims to oppose, waiting for a very perfect day to resign where his critical economic reforms would not be sacrificed.

Hey, I fully support his economic reforms and would love to see them succeed. But this strikes me as a bit of a stretch even on the simplest level. The stock market sank on news of his resignation, apparently believing that his reforms still could be lost, apparently not agreeing with Bibi's assessment that he'd found that perfect day. And yet, when Sharon appointed Olmert and promised to stay the economic course, the stock market recovered. Could it be that Bibi could have resigned all along, that his reforms could have been saved without sacrificing the fight against the harrowing threat he was warning about?

But the damage of his short-sighted need to answer every charge goes a little deeper. For he has now provided the world with a cap on his assessment of the potential damages Disengagement could cause. Does the foremost spokesman against Disengagement, the man who would lead, believe that it is an existential threat to Israel? Apparently not, or he should have resigned immediately rather than sit on his butt in the cabinet supporting an economic package. Apparently Bibi wants to convince the world that Disengagement is about as dangerous as a 1% difference in marginal tax rate, or the destructive power of an unprivatized banking system.

In the coming power struggles, if Bibi truly cares about the cause of opposing Sharon and the Disengagement mindset, perhaps he should call up Uzi Landau and see if he could use a talented spokesperson.

In the meantime, we have been warned.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Can You Hear Me Now? 

Click picture for full size photo and original caption at Yahoo.
  1. "Yes, Honey... and a quart of milk... non-fat...right..."
  2. "Dammit Ahmed, you were supposed to leave the phone there, connected to the blue wire! All right, try again, but hurry, I'm calling back in 5 minutes!"
  3. "Hello? Yeah, I want 146 pizzas delivered... right... thick crust...no sausage"
  4. "Mom!!! I told you never to call me at the office!"
  5. "...Where the hell is that photographer I ordered? Does Reuters want to work around here or not? What? No, I don't see him!"
  6. "No! No. I'm not at a demonstration, you know I said... What? That sound? Honey, it was nothing. Just some fireworks outside, bunch of rowdy kids, that's all."
  7. "...thank you yes, yes you can, I wanted to know if my visa is ready? It is? That's fantastic! Thank you, yes... yes, New York is lovely in the fall."
  8. "Huh? Who is this? How did you get this number and why are you speaking Hebrew? What do you mean look up in the sky to the northeast?"

Just Can't Stop That Marketing Genius 

Today I had yet another encounter with true marketing genius. It was awe-inspiring, but previous exposure to its brilliance (here and here for instance) has jaded me a little.

I'm trying to eat better at work -- we don't have a vending machine -- so I've started cutting fresh salads for lunch. But I can't eat a whole head of lettuce and all its attending vegetables in one lunch, so today I purchased some "tupperware" to keep the leftover salad as fresh as can be overnight.

It was while I was settling the container into just the right spot in the fridge -- ideally in a temperate middle shelf, and gently, don't want to bruise the lettuce -- when I noticed the brandname on the top lid: "Rotta".


It's reassuring to know your product's naming is in the hands of the best marketing talent money can buy. I'd hate to think they'd have left the job in the hands of an untrained barbarian like me. They might have ended up with a bad name, like "Mulchelax" or "Putrifor".

I really haven't seen a product name this good since my days in the auto industry. We had a car in R&D that needed a temporary, in-house name for the few years it would spend in testing. But it had to be a good name, one that would generate enthusiasm and confidence that this would be a great car.

The boys in the shiny shoes finally came back and with great wisdom and greater fanfare pronounced our new auto, "the Impact".

I guess that's why I'm a lowly software engineer and not a marketing mogul. Just not cut out for it.

Still Trying to Fool Us 

IMRA brings us Palestinian leadership's familiar ambiguity with regard to their specific "liberation" goals:

Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said on Monday that there is no solution to the Palestinian issue until restoring (sic) all the Occupied Palestinian lands.
This statement, coming immediately before the expected Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, plays naturally into assumptions that Palestinians don't just want Gaza, but the West Bank and maybe a morsel of Jerusalem too. Hey, that's bad enough. But before we blithely limit our description of Qurei's appetite, let's see if we can unambiguously identify what exactly he considers inedible:

How about all of East Jerusalem, plus the Western Wall? Maybe. Depends what he means be Occupied Palestinian lands.

How about the whole holy city of Jerusalem, East and West? Maybe. Depends what he means be Occupied Palestinian lands.

How about all of Jerusalem, plus all Arab towns and villages in Israel, plus everything within 20 miles of a mosque? Maybe. Depends what he means be Occupied Palestinian lands.

How about Israel -- the entire Jewish state? Maybe. Depends what he means be Occupied Palestinian lands.

How about Spain too? Maybe. Depends what he means be Occupied Palestinian lands, and whether "Palestinian lands" is a euphemism for lands formerly under Islamic conquest.

How about Omaha, Nebraska? Probably not yet. But if the world is an Islamic Caliphate just waiting for Osama to declare it, then we're all just visiting.

It really would be nice if these statements included a public declaration of exactly what is meant by "Occupied Palestinian Lands". By that, I mean a declaration of what Qurei and friends are implying to their Arabic speaking citizens and allies, not what a group of UN spokesmodels could probably agree on over coffee and croissants.

Denying the Undeniable 


[Palestinian] Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities affirmed Saturday that what an Israeli daily publish regarding the uncover of the so-called King David's Palace in Jerusalem is worthless and groundless.

It asserted in a press release that any uncover must be based on realties, not baseless clandestine excavations.

It added that what raises doubt is that these diggings are being carried out discreetly.

The press release asserted the excavations in Jerusalem, since 1967, are being carried out to serve colonizing ambitions, adding that the timing of the news aims at concentrating the attention of the world in the withdrawal from Gaza to perpetuate colonization in Jerusalem.
What they are really saying here is: there was no so-called King David, no ancient Jewish presence in Jerusalem, it's all a colonialist conspiracy (and besides, the so-called King David was probably a Palestinian anyway). Hey, why not? This story seems to work for the Jesus problem, so why not run with it?

The Palestinian denial of the undeniable, Jerusalem's ancient Jewish history, doesn't miss a beat. What amazes is how little uproar this triggers from the Christian world. It is, after all, just as much a denial of Christianity as of Judaism. The Palestinian argument that seeks to nullify Judaism and bury it's history applies just as strongly to Christianity. Despite claims to the contrary, I suspect most Christians would agree that Jesus was born Jewish, and that the critical final chapters of his life played out in Jewish Jerusalem.

Take, for instance, the Presbyterians, leaders in the divestment derby and believers in Jesus. I assume they'd be a tad troubled if they had the slightest inkling of the Palestinian denials of the specifics of Jesus' story. It could really shake them up to learn the whole business of Passover and Temple visits in Jerusalem and Jewish disciples is nothing more than a colonialist crock. I guess they haven't had a chance to consider what the Palestinians are actually saying, too busy helping tear down the Jewish presence in the Holy Land to bother listening.

Then again, maybe they'd just rather not know. I wonder if anybody should tell them.

[Clarification: I do not mean to imply by the use of the term "Presbyterians" or more generally "Christians" that individuals fitting those labels are the problem. It is individuals who can be the solution to the larger institutional problems. My concern is regarding the organizations and leaders primarily. As lejnd points out in the comments, there are a lot of individuals who recognize idiocy when they see it.]

First the Good News or the Bad News? 

Actually, sometimes it's hard to tell which is which. Let's start with the bad news:

Police in a New Jersey town arrested a man on a terrorism-pretence charge...
Here we go again. But wait, while this may not count as legitimate good news, there's more:

...but [in] what many saw as a reversal of roles, the complainant being a Pakistani Muslim and the person nabbed a white American.
Pakistan's Daily Times sure seems to think it's good news; although, from the largest perspective, I actually find it a little depressing. The genie is out of the bottle, and Pandora's box blown to smithereens. Planting bombs, threatening to, or even just pretending to, is apparently the new in-thing. Everybody's doing it. Recently, we've even had anti-disengagement protesters in Israel apparently planting fake bombs in their own bus stations. And now this yahoo (dumb bloke, not the company) "terrorism-pretence":

About two months ago, Jack Clark came saying he had car trouble. Choudhry asked him to leave the car and let him see what the matter was. He took a day, found the cause of the problem and fixed it. The customer came back, found his car running nicely, paid $200 that the repair had cost and drove away happily.

Two months later he returned, demanding his money back. When a perplexed Choudhry asked why he was demanding the refund, Clark replied that he had realised that all that had been done to the car to have it up and running was no more than the change of a screw or two.
One thing leads to another, and next thing you know, instead of calling in the Better Business Bureau, or Oprah, like in the good old days, our intrepid idiot has a better plan:

To Choudhry’s surprise, he [Clark] returned late at night when Choudhry normally goes to total up the day’s sales. This time, the irate customer was holding a packet with wires jutting out of it and a timing device on top of the contraption. He placed the packet on the ground, jumped into his car and drove off after shouting some obscenities...
Oh, I can't wait until technological advances put nuclear weapons technology within reach of the masses. Mutually Assured Destruction sounds more and more Assured by the day.

On a serious note, though, while certain organizations ridiculously warn of "backlash" before Al Qaeda even finishes claiming credit for each attack, there are, nevertheless, a lot of perfectly innocent Muslims who truly have suffered backlash. It is a shame that the term is cheapened through preemptive overuse. Consider the victim in this case:

Choudhry, whose brother Waqar Hasan, who was running a convenience store in Dallas, Texas, was murdered in revenge for the 9/11 attacks, ran to the road where a police car was cruising by.
This must have been especially traumatic for him.

We need to keep idiots of all stripes away from explosives. This isn't to pretend that Jack Clark and his drinking buddies are the same strategic threat as certain other groups and their non-drinking buddies. But they aren't making it any easier.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Toys for Terrorists 

Do you think Osama would like to find one of these under the old Ramadan tree?

If Billy Robinson has his way, unmanned spy planes like the ones buzzing above Baghdad may soon be darting around the New York skyline.
Oh, I like the sound of this already.

The goal is to build an airplane that would cost less than $25,000 and that anyone who can use a video game joystick could fly.

"We are trying to build a product that has global appeal to both governments and commercial users," Robinson says. "We see it as a niche looking to be filled."
$25,000? They've got to be kidding! Who do they think could possibly come up with that kind of money for a silly flying toy, other than, oh, I don't know, somebody with petro-bucks? And what would they want with a crazy little gadget intended for law enforcement and traffic monitoring?

A Maryland police force charged with monitoring a community event used the company's CyberBug product in April to spot unruly behavior and traffic problems. The plane, which is much cheaper and smaller than the spy aircraft the U.S. military operates over Iraq and Afghanistan, can carry a 4-pound camera and has the battery power to stay aloft for more than 12 hours.
What a waste of technology. I can scarcely think of what anybody could conceivably think of doing with this thing.

The CyberBug's control station packs into a small portable case. The drone can fly on autopilot or be controlled by a joystick with a GPS overlay or Internet link. Approved clients can also get an explosives trigger.
Heh. Useless.

Follow the link and hit the "Click to View" link for some good pictures of the product. But better click in a hurry, because I can't imagine this thing selling well enough to stay on the market for long.

You'll probably never get a chance to see one of these in real life. At least not if they use it right.

(hat tip again to my friend Larry)

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: