Saturday, December 31, 2005

Why I Should Produce the Oscars Telecast 

I'd like to start my pitch by acknowledging that, yes, it's true that I have absolutely zero experience in film, television, or the production of anything more exciting than the occasional phlegmy cough. That said, I believe I should still be handed the job based on the revolutionary, transformative nature of my ideas. I propose to convert a stale, tired, overlong broadcast of obligation into a money making extravaganza.

Here's how (stay with me now):

First of all, we've got to shorten the broadcast by getting rid of those interminable commercial breaks. Stop! Save the cries of heresy. How can I expect to make those promised piles of money without selling out, you ask? The answer here is corporate sponsorship, and lots of it. "And now this year's Office Depot envelope for the Merrill Lynch award for Best Actor, please turn your attention to the Yahoo.com podium where the star of NBC's hit sitcom ..." Ka-ching!

And does anyone care about the technical awards, like Best On Site Catering or Best Best Grip, other than the nominees' blood relatives? Me either. So we should do them all simultaneously via split screens, with each award handed out in it's own separate sound proof booth. The only reason I wouldn't move this whole section to public access cable is because you never know when one of the award recipients might show up naked or vomit on camera or pull some other sort of TIVO-worthy stunt. But once the awards have changed hands and all of the podiums are still dry, CUT!

Viewers also are now fully trained to expect the finest of everything on television -- kind of like life, but better. So we need to honor that expectation with a new rule: no ugly nominees. If you could watch a real-time feed of the telecast's ratings every time Michael Moore's mug appears on screen, you'd agree with me. From now on, we either require that all nominees be handsome and/or beautiful, or we hire body doubles to stand in for the cosmetically challenged. Don't worry, the increase in revenue will more than cover the cost of any resulting litigation.

But most importantly, we absolutely MUST add real life drama to the events. It's no coincidence that the public's appetite for the excitement of reality programming has mushroomed in recent years. A generation raised on the hyper-stimulation of MTV -- by the way, they really should shorten that to MT because I don't think viewers have patience for all three letters anymore -- that generation needs more endorphins per episode than did their Gunsmoke watching ancestors. It's clear that if we're going to turn the Oscars telecast into the cash cow God intended it to be, we're going to have quench our viewers' thirst by milking the awards for every last melodramatic drop.

Therefore, we will no longer be opening just a single envelope to announce the winner for each category. Sure, the tears of joy and overlong speeches are nice, in a kitschy sort of way. But our viewers deserve more, so we're going to announce both a winner, and now a loser as well. The ups and downs, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, that's what it's all about. Our viewers absolutely deserve to see Russell Crowe weeping like a little girl as Tom Hanks gloats in his face.

But why stop at fixing the ends? It doesn't excuse the mediocre means. We simply must fix the voting procedures. I know they're called the Academy Awards, but if you ask me, the most important thing we have to do is get rid of the Academy. It's BORING. No one really cares. I propose that people would be much more emotionally involved with the outcome if each winner were selected in a multi-telecast format by survivor-style voting. Each week, for four weeks running, we would see one sobbing celebrity after another booted from the auditorium, with highly trained psychologists strategically posted at the exits to solicit the most bitter comments possible in retribution against the other nominees. Who wouldn't watch that?

Except perhaps we use a single elimination mud wrestling tournament to choose best actress instead. It's the way of the future, I'm sure of it.
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Friday, December 30, 2005

Another Suicide Attack -- The Cycle of Cynicism 

MSNBC reports on another suicide attack against Israel:

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up near an Israeli military checkpoint in the northern West Bank on Thursday, killing one Israeli and three Palestinians, military officials said.

The Israeli army said the roadblock had been erected earlier Thursday after it received warnings.
Haaretz has a few more details:

Military sources said they believed the suicide bomber intended to travel via the Qalandia crossing to the Tel Aviv area, where he was to set off the 10 kilograms of explosives he was carrying, probably at one of the many Hanukkah shows scheduled for Thursday.

The bomber wore a belt containing an especially large quantity of explosives. He was riding in a Palestinian taxi when it was stopped for inspection at the impromptu checkpoint, which had been placed about 500 meters from the security fence crossing point at Avneh Hefetz.

When the bomber got out of the taxi and was asked by soldiers to raise his shirt, he detonated the bomb.
Elder of Zion elaborated on some classic examples of Palestinian reaction to suicide attacks:

Deputy Palestinian Prime Minister Nabil Shaath denounced the bombing, and said that it was a particular tragedy that Palestinians had been killed. 'We want such operations stopped,' he said."

"We only want operations that kill Jews exclusively," he added.
Of course, I had a few more reactions of my own:
I'm only back from vacation just these few hours, and already so cynical again. Gosh it's good to be home.

Our Response to the Barghouti Mess Should Be... 

As you may know, two weeks ago convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti was placed at the top of not one but two Palestinian legislative lists:

Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in Israel for his role in terror attacks, dropped an electoral bombshell late Wednesday night when he announced, through his wife, Fadwa, that he would contest the vote at the head of a new list called al-Mustaqbal (The Future).

Only minutes after Barghouti's list was presented on Wednesday night to the PA central elections commission in Ramallah, Abbas announced his own Fatah list. Surprisingly, Abbas's list is also headed by Barghouti.
There are some attempts to explain this strange occurence:

The list consists solely of representatives of the young guard in the ruling party and is seen as a response to attempts by veteran Fatah leaders to keep grassroots activists away from power.

Barghouti's decision is also seen by many Palestinians as an attempt to stage a bloodless coup against the representatives of the old guard, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and other top Fatah officials.
While these make interesting subplots for those interested in the internals of Fatah bickering, they seem to ignore the elephant in the room: why is someone convicted and jailed for life being nominated to run for office? It's ridiculous isn't it?

Well not really. While it must be too obvious to bother mentioning explicitly -- but when has that ever stopped me -- the Palestinians must clearly expect that the international community, namely the US, will exert pressure on Israel to release the "democratically elected leader" of the Palestinians. Think about it for a second and then tell me you really doubt this.

But it's ok. Sure it's kind of a despicable thing to do, and I'm shocked I can even imagine it. Coercing an ally to release a convicted terrorist who's serving a life sentence for the murders he caused is nasty business. But hey, it's all politics and it doesn't pay to hide from it. Instead, we have to understand the game and then play it to win.

Here's my recommendation.

Before the upcoming Israeli elections -- now, in fact -- we the Israeli electorate need to let each and every party know that we will only vote for a party that has placed Jonathon Pollard's name in their Knesset list's first position. Obviously he doesn't have to become Prime Minister. But we need him to run for the position of "Imprisoned Democratically Elected Leader."

Nasty game, isn't it?
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The Mea-Culpa, "Forgot to Tell You I Was On Vacation" Post 

I feel horrible.

On the very same week that I gained so many new readers, just by listing wafah dufour in a post's technorati tag -- did any of you picture hounds ever come back again? -- well, I dropped the ball and didn't post for over two days without any explanation. Of course there is an explanation, there has to be. Since I don't own a blog-eating dog, I'll have to stick with the easy one.

I was on a Hanukkah family vacation. I would have warned you in advance to make sure no one came to my blog while I was gone, but I fully expected that our high-class hotel in Ein Gedi would have a wi-fi hotspot, and that I would blog in the evenings from my fancy hotel room after the tired little ones had collapsed on their deluxe rollout futons.

As it turns out, hotel room might have been a bit of an over-statement. It was more of a guest cottage and the room didn't even have any unused electrical outlets, let alone wi-fi access. Oh well.

It was a shame too that I couln't blog because I had lots of late night awake time. It was so hard to sleep because of the ever-present reek of stale massage oil from all the past occupants' Ayurvedic face rubs and body peels that had somehow permanently permeated the very essence of the room. The oils they use in these high end "wellness treatments" must be toxic all by themselves, which of course requires its own special cleansing procedure.

So it didn't take too much will power for me to avoid the massage and facial. I just let my wife and mother-in-law handle that territory. I think the smell alone might have killed me if having to strip down to my shorts hadn't gotten me first. That must explain at least a little bit why it's almost always women having mud baths and homeopathic near death experiences, while we men would much prefer to sit on the nearest soft couch eating free cheese and watching whatever they're showing on the hotel lobby television set. Don't we care about our health and our skin tone? Eh, not so much actually.

I was informed by the women upon their return of just how much sensorial pleasure I had missed out on. There was the heated oil on the face, the hot stones treatment, the forced smelling of possibly poisonous fragrant herbs. I really wasn't sure if they were describing the massages they'd just paid to receive or the Spanish Inquisition (which I totally didn't expect). But I wisely just nodded and gave a little grunt of understanding so they would realize just how much I shared their appreciation for these things.

Should you try one of these massages? I don't know. Maybe I've just reached some sort of point in my life where I can't imagine rubbing anything for an hour and a half, even if there is hot oil involved, so I'm probably not the one you should ask. Nevertheless, Sharon and her mom seemed to enjoy it, so give it a try -- unless you're a guy, then just hang out in a comfy chair and plan your snide comments for later.

Of course an Ein Gedi vacation has lots more to offer than sitting around waiting to find out what your wife will smell like after her massage. One of the highlights for me was that the hotel had an on-site miniature golf course, a rarity here in Israel. Unfortunately I can't report first hand on the condition of the greens because I, the only male member of our family, the only one who would know a putter from a letter opener, was sent back to the room for a much-needed nap just as mini-golf time rolled around. Mind you, I'm not complaining -- a nap is a good thing and well-appreciated. It's just that based on preliminary intelligence I've received from the field, I'm starting to doubt whether my girls received proper professional mini-golf training. Sure they had fun, if that's what you care about. But apparently Tamar escorted her ball through the course like a mother hen fussing over her baby chick -- tap tap tappity tap tap with the putter, pushing the ball along. And to the best of my knowledge, no one even kept score! Is that miniature golf, I ask you?

Ok, so forget the mini-golf, unless you're willing to give up your nap. But there are still a lot more great options to an Ein Gedi vacation.

For instance, when your kids start clamouring for a dip the salty dead sea, listen to them, it's a lot of fun. But be aware, they will laugh and frolic for only approximately 5 minutes, after which they will begin screaming uncontrollably as the salt works itself into places it doesn't belong. So my advice is that you pull them out after 4 minutes and 55 seconds, while they are still laughing. Of course this won't really prevent the screaming, but at least you'll have a head start towards the car and proper medical attention. If you're quick enough, just maybe they won't associate the pain with being in the salty water, but rather with your forcefully pulling them out -- and that is how parents help their kids build up that reservoir of positive vacation memories.

And even if you're not that quick, don't worry, the screaming stops after about forty five minutes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Proportionality Packs 

It's a shame about the security barrier, alternately called either a life-saving fence or apartheid wall depending on who's doing the calling. While at one time the barrier seemed like it might be the prophesied Israeli security innovation that could actually satisfy an international committee, now even that moment seems to have passed.

Israel continues to do what it must and the rest of the world continues to condemn it -- all the while acknowledging Israel's right to do, well, something, just not any specific thing. I know I'm being a little harsh there. Technically they haven't yet ruled out Israel's simply surrendering to the Arab/Islamic world and boarding rickety ocean-going boats to circle the globe begging for someone to give them another place to live. Then again, the committees haven't really had much of a chance to study that one yet, so let's not jump the gun.

Any cynicism nothwithstanding, though, Israel has not given up its quest for a diplomatically acceptable method of not getting killed. Unfortunately absolutely everything tried so far has been condemned either as disproportionate, or else as collective punishment -- which is apparently both disproportionate and damaging to any hopes of winning this year's Mr. Congeniality award at the UN.

Let's start with a quick rundown of what has been tried and found wanting already, and then move on to looking for other overlooked possibilities.

I guess it all started with basic riot control gone horribly wrong. Tear gas and rubber bullets are bad, bad, bad, and also very mean and cruel -- and disproportionate:

...a message was also delivered by the CHR "Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories", Giorgio Giacomelli. He briefly discussed a report he submitted to the CHR updating his October 2000 report to the 5th Special Session. The update focused on the continuing use by the Israeli military of disproportionate and unrestrained force in the form of live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas against civilians.
So basically, Israel is expected to let rioters and intifada-ers do what they like. This of course sends a critical message to potential suicide bombers, a message that says basically "start shooting that goodbye video, dude, you're coming to Israel!"

When suicide bombers blow up in innocent Israeli civilian crowds, they leave behind only fragments too tiny to punish. So Israel had to look elsewhere if there were to be any consequences at all to blowing up its citizens. One of the most common methods was destroying the suicide bomber's family house. From Israel's vantage point, this technique had a lot of advantages: 1) no Palestinian was hurt or killed, 2) no Palestinian was actually made homeless since Iraq or Saudi Arabia would hand out enough martyr money to build another house, and 3) it had at least the slightest possibility of causing future candidates to think just a moment about the potential impact of their actions.

The international community immediately saw right through it and hurried to put a stop to it (I mean to the house demolitions, not the suicide bombings):

Although the Israeli authorities often justify such demolitions citing security concerns, they also acknowledge cases in which the destruction has been meted out for purely punitive reasons. Punitive house demolitions violate of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the 1907 Hague Regulations prohibitions on collective punishments and the destruction of private property.
So instead Israel tried a new tactic. Perhaps it would be possible instead to make it more difficult for bombers to even reach their targets. That way no Israelis would have to die, and the Palestinian real estate market wouldn't suffer the periodic price fluctuations from sudden influxes of foreign martyr money -- the mythical win-win! Unfortunately, finding a diplomatically acceptable method of keeping a Palestinian suicide bomber away from his Israeli target is easier said than done. Certainly Israel should never have even considered such an egregious measure as curfews, which are justified under international law only when the Detroit Pistons win the NBA championship.

[UN Security Council meeting] Equally deplorable are the imposition of a curfew on the entire city of Ramallah...
Apparently, some even consider curfews to be war crimes (again, except for Pistons fans):

Mofaz was Chief of Staff during the Intifada and is thus responsible for atrocities committed against the Palestinians; killing of a number of Palestinian civilians, invasions, using Palestinians as human shields, demolition of Palestinian homes and other collective punishment measures such as curfews and closure. A British lawyer is currently preparing a case to try Mofaz for war crimes.
Ok, so that's obviously a non-starter. But how about roadblocks to make it harder for bombers to move around while still allowing much more civilian freedom than the curfews? Nope, forget about it. Disproportionately inconvenient:

[Palestinian testimony to UNHCR:] The people of Palestine were having great trouble going from one village to another because of roadblocks and checkpoints that interfered and often resulted in people having to return to their homes.
How bad was it?

The situation created by Israel in the occupied territories had pushed people to acts of suicide.
I think he means acts of suicide euphemistically. Acts of explosive homicidal rage against civilian women and children might also work in that sentence, but let's not fuss over the details.

What about curfew's bastard son, the closure?

Indiscriminate or disproportionate military actions are strictly prohibited. IHL also prohibits "collective punishment." The extent of Israel's current policy of "closure," by imposing constant curfews and blockades in the West Bank without adequate security justification, amounts to collective punishment.
The pattern is clear. It's impossible to punish the suicide bomber individually, and impermissible to punish anyone collectively. Clearly the whole punishment thing was problematic so Israel gave up on it and moved on to the idea of focussed prevention with targeted assassinations of active militants:

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) [statement to UN Security Council] condemned the 17 April attack [Sheik Yassin], saying that the practice of extrajudicial killings violated fundamental principles of the rule of law. The disproportionate use of force in populated areas endangered efforts to obtain a ceasefire of Palestinian movements, and could only lead to the radicalization of the Palestinian people and undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue.
Amusingly, he went on:

France recognized Israel’s right to self-defence and had condemned attacks against Israeli civilians, he said. However, the fight against terrorism must be conducted with strict respect for the rule of law. Violence was not a solution.
Violence certainly is the problem. But France feels that, now as in World Wars past, it cannot be a solution. Surrender is. Israel has yet to take this advice, but it does stand a chance of avoiding a French veto in the Security Council which is good to know. In addition, cowering in bed apparently isn't yet a war crime -- to the best of my knowledge -- and was the approach recommended by many, but it has so far proven ineffective, so the search went on.

Now and again, Israel has tried ceding land -- for peace, you know -- but this hasn't worked either. Each concession has been too small, too late, too disconnected. Too bad. If I understand world opinion correctly, Israel only cedes land so there will be someplace in which to imprison the Palestinian recipients.

Lastly, speaking of imprisonment, the security barrier elicited condemnations every bit as colorful as those which preceded it:

"The wall is being used as a way of expanding Israel's territory," the special rapporteur, John Dugard, said on Thursday before presenting a report to the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights. "It amounts to illegal territorial gain." ... While Israel had real security concerns which could not be ignored, its response was excessive and disproportionate to the Palestinian attacks, he said.
So what's an Israeli leader to do? Everything is disproportionate. Israel's very existence is a disproportionate affront to Palestinian aspirations and a disproportionate distraction to French diplomats who really should be concentrating on cheese tariffs.

Is there anything that can be done? Fortunately, I think there is, but it won't be easy. I suggest tackling the problem head on: disproportionality. If that is what is bothering everyone so much, then we must simply strive for proportionate responses, which will then probably satisfy everybody. Admittedly, however, this is a little tricky given the breathtaking creativity Palestinians pour into finding unique and diverse ways of attacking Israel. Finding a single method of responding which is proportional to all the Palestinian attack modalities is a daunting task.

But there is a way around that roadblock: the Proportionality Pack.

The IDF must immediately issue every soldier with a Proportionality Pack, and provide sufficient training in its proper and proportionate use. But a quick look at the spectrum of attack types the Palestinians have managed in recent years shows what the Proportionality Pack's designers (that's me) have to deal with.

We've had suicide belts, attempted poisonings, bags of rocks, molotov cocktails, slingshots, AK47's, Kassams, knives, and even the occasional donkey bomb,

So it's pretty obvious what we need in each soldier's proportionality pack. They need a belt of explosives, rocks, bottles and flammable liquid, slingshots, various sized knives, and alternate weapons like AK47's. While almost guaranteed to be effective with such a flexible array of responses at hand, it would be quite heavy -- and that's before we even worry about the donkey. But the problem is then also the solution. Each soldier is issued a donkey which will carry the rest of the Proportionality Pack for him, all in one neat self-contained unit. Of course some food has to be added for the donkey, unless the soldier is operating in an area known for frequent donkey bomb attacks in which case the donkey can probably be blown up before it gets too hungry.

So no matter what manner of attack an Israeli soldier comes up against, he (or she) will have the ability to respond in kind. Protestors throwing rocks? Sling a few back. Bottles of flaming liquid raining down on your jeep? A quick return barrage of molotov cocktails, carefully aimed to avoid bystanders, ought to do the trick. The Palestinians should quickly get the message, and even the UN Security Council should be able to recognize the humanitarian gesture of IDF soldiers pelting young protestors with their own rocks. And it all works because the Proportionality Pack has thought of it all, every weapon against Israel is in there for use in return.

Oh, except for a Reuters photographer.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Nixon is to China as Hamas is to... ? 

A thoughtful commenter, Joe, asked the following in response to a previous post:

My brother and I were discussing the possibility of Hamas winning the elections. It is my belief, counterintuitive though it seems to be, that Israel has a better chance of reaching a deal with Hamas than with Fatah. I think there is NO chance of ever reaching a deal with Fatah, they are too worried about the militant, extremist faction, that is, Hamas. Hamas has no such difficulty, if they reach a deal they don't have to worry about repercussions from Fatah. Remember, Nixon went to China. Like I said, I know that it seems counterintuitive, but I wonder what you think.
It is often said: Only Nixon can go to China. That is, only the staunchest opponent of communism can succeed in reaching out to it. The statement embodies a powerful insight whose logic applies even in Israel. It is now almost axiomatic that, at least in the post-Rabin era, only the Likud -- or perhaps Kadima these days -- can bring peace. More recently the axiom is more specific: Only former general Ariel Sharon can bring peace. Does the equivalent logic point to Hamas as potential peace-making warriors?

As Joe points out, Hamas has several advantages it could exploit should it decide peace with Israel was desirable:
Yet I remain unconvinced. Here's why:

Hamas, unlike Nixon and Sharon, insists on a fight to the death. While Sharon has strong military credentials, his battles have been fought to counter threats to Israel's existence rather than to battle eternally for the destruction of neighboring states. Hamas fights a completely different war, publically sworn to fight unceasingly until the Jewish State is annihilated. One of the two is in a tree he can climb down from. The other has climbed into a hot air balloon that can't be exited without some serious puncturing or a very long fall followed by a very loud splat.

Unlike Israel, Hamas has neglected to prepare its people for peace, to put it mildly. Sharon (and Nixon) governed when outreach was at least conceivable, when the attitudes of significant segments of their populations had softened over time. Hamas, on the other hand, is reaching for power as the Palestinian population marches ever farther from the idea of peaceful coexistence, encouraged by Hamas to cheer suicide bombing of innocents whle opposing any and all compromise. They've done their best to ensure any move toward peace garners them no reward from their constituency.

Hamas convinces Israel that taking any chances for peace with Hamas risks catastrophe rather than stagnation. If Nixon had not gone to China, the world would not have collapsed and the US would have coped. Had Sharon not carried out disengagement, it would have had to wait a few years. But the consequences of being wrong with regard to Hamas are existential for Israel. While Fatah fights Israel and maintains maximalist demands, Hamas goes further, insisting on nothing but the complete, non-negotiable destruction of the Jewish State. It would be naive to give their genocidal ambitions a free pass on the grounds they lack the capacity to carry them out -- after all, they openly ally with Iran, publically threatening attacks in support of Iran's drive for nukes -- just to give the strongest example.

Hamas executes strategy formed by group consensus and attributed to divine will -- hard to change, especially with no individual leader like Sharon or Nixon working to change it. Nixon and Sharon were leaders who could change direction when it was called for. But any softening of Hamas policy is inhibited by group dynamics and cheering from numerous external peanut galleries. When Nixon and Sharon went against their past histories, they were yelled at by those who felt betrayed. Anyone in Hamas who betrays the party line and approaches Israel won't be yelled at, unless you count the famous last words: "Allahu Akhbar!"

Any Hamas-brokered peace could not be relied upon as anything more than a tactic subject to the larger eternal goal of Israel's destruction. Should Hamas gain power, I will of course pray they make a wise course change and negotiate a peaceful coexistence with Israel. In theory they could get away with it by using their unique positioning within Palestinian society to sell the idea that nothing more can be achieved. But even if they did, the silent, unpronounced word "yet" hanging off the end of that last sentence would call into question the result, undermining any such peace. When Nixon went to China, his trip, backed by the stability of the United States government, made a strong and reliable statement. Should Sharon sign off on a peace agreement, there is every reason to believe Israel would uphold it. But even if it's true that only Hamas can bring peace with Israel, there is no reason to believe that peace would survive the first day Israel relaxed its guard enough to enjoy it. Frankly, that's not peace.

Maybe Hamas can bring peace, but not today. They have no idealogical room to reach for it, their people have been trained to reject it, and they have made the risks to Israel too high to gamble a nation's life on it. Maybe someday things will be different. Until then, Sharon's separation strategy positions Israel for the long wait, until the hypothetical day Palestinians are ready to respond to yet another Israeli offer with a counter-offer rather than an Intifada.
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Not Your Average Bin Laden Burqa Babe 

GQ, via MSNBC, gives a first, voyeuristic peek at the empire-shaking photo Bin Laden doesn't want you to see:

Click for fully-decadent infidel view at MSNBC.
MSNBC explains more about the photos of Bin Laden's nice, Wafah Dufour:

Osama bin Laden's niece, in an interview with GQ magazine in which she appears scantily clad, says she has nothing in common with the al-Qaida leader and simply wants acceptance by Americans.
I've been arguing, or at least joking in a serious way, that the key to bringing down Islamic radicalism and terrorism is through the emancipation of Islamic women. While this isn't exactly what I had in mind as a first step, it does kind of grab your attention. Of course, there's a lot of room for emancipation somewhere between the burqa and the bare-all, but we can work out the details later.

Asked if she would like to perform her music in the Middle East, Dufour says her mother, Carmen Dufour, would be too afraid that "someone would want to kill me."

"Listen, I would love to raise consciousness. Maybe women could hear the songs and realize that I'm doing my dream and hopefully they can, too," she said.

Yeslam and Osama are among 54 children of the late Saudi construction magnate Mohammed bin Laden and his 22 wives. The extended family includes several hundred people.

Binladin, who received Swiss citizenship in 2001, has condemned his half brother "for his acts and his convictions." He intentionally spells his name differently from his half brother.

In the interview, Dufour says she would not date a fundamentalist Muslim and that she cried hysterically when she witnessed the attacks on New York while staying with her mother in Geneva.
Good luck to her. It's a little sad that she felt the best way to plead for acceptance to an American audience was to pose with her clothes off, but it might actually work -- at least in the US. Of course, as a first step for the emancipation of Islamic women, this is likely to have nearly zero impact amongst the Women of Al Qaeda. In fact, it will probably be seen as further proof of the West's decadent effect on the faithful.

But it's a start. Learn more, click the image. I checked it out -- just for the article, of course. It's very well-written.
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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Suggested Theme Songs For Hamas Rally 

It would be a pity it the Hamas PR department let special moments like these pass without putting some thought into a signature soundtrack to really drive the message home.

Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas' candidates for the Legislative Council from Faraj al-Ghoul (R), Ahmed Bahar (2nd R), Ismail Haniyeh (2nd L) and Khalel al-Hayah (L) wave their hands during a rally in Gaza December 23, 2005. Thousands of Hamas members marched in Gaza City on Friday to condemn the U.S. and Europe and to demand President Mahmoud Abbas not to delay the upcoming parliament vote. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Since Mohammed Salem of Reuters didn't mention what music was playing in the background, I thought I'd take a shot at it myself. Of course, if the Hamas party planners pick one of my recommendations, I'll expect a shout-out.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Raising Kids Is Serious Exercise 

When I was younger, I used to work out at the gym on a regular basis. Then, of course, I had kids, and I learned that while the gym is a good workout, raising kids is serious exercise.

For awhile, I didn't give up on the idea of someday getting back to the gym. But it didn't really happen, even for the year that I was a paid up member at a local club. Raising kids was just too much exercise to get any exercise.

But this year, I finally figured out how I would get back in shape. I started with a little dieting, but that wasn't enough. I needed some serious exercise. So naturally, I turned to my kids.

The first thing in any serious exercise program is to stretch. This I remembered from my days at the gym.

Thanks kids. It feels so good to stretch out all those calcified joints and ligaments.

Once everything is all stretched out (I'll wait if you're following along) it's time for a few simple warmup exercises. I like to start with pullups.

I don't really want to tell you precisely how many I do -- it's a trade secret. Suffice it to say, it's marginally better than nothing.

Then after the pullups, a few pushups help build strong triceps:

When you're really trying to max out on the pushups, it's good to have someone to help you out, to give you encouragement and moral support, to say things like "Do it again Abba, that was fun!" and "Don't stop there! Ema (mother) did TONS more than that!" If you can resist the initial urge to snarl "Get off my back!" it can really help draw out your maximum effort.

Once I'm warmed up, I like to move on to the weight exercises. Since we did pushups for the triceps, it's important to stress the concept of balance by doing some curls for the biceps. Remember in weight training that you want to start with a lower weight and then work your way up from there. That's why I start with a few sets of my youngest, Miriam:

Be careful when doing the curls not to knock the thumb out of your weight's mouth -- with all the resulting squirming you could easily pull a back muscle. Safety first!

Once I've done a few curls and my body is ready for some heavier weights, I move on to the glamour exercises, namely, bench presses for the chest muscles. Again, it's important to start with a few sets at a lower weight, for instance, seven year old Tamar:

Once you've finished that set, you should step the weight up a notch. Weight-lifters call this increase-the-weight technique "pyramiding" for some obscure reason probably having to do with dead bodies buried under heavy weights. For me, I find that eight year old Rachel is a nice step up -- she's actually almost nine so it's not as easy as it sounds:

If your muscles aren't starting to shake and your kids aren't a little nervous at this point then you're really not pushing it enough -- go back and give me another set. But once your muscles are on the edge of incapacity it's time for your "killer set," the apex of your pyramid. They say, "you only get out of it what you put into it" and that is so true. So "feel the burn" and grind out one last set at your peak weight. My killer set is a Rachel and a Tamar together:

Don't worry if you feel like you've hit the wall, we'll have your kids clean it up later. And if you're not sweating by this point, then you're just not feeding your kids enough. But that's ok because we end the workout with some cardiovascular work which is guaranteed to get those sweat glands pumping. And your heart too. Start out with a few sets on the stairmaster:

Remember that posture is crucial. You want to do these sets until your heart rate is nearing your exercise threshold (consult your physician) or until your kids get bored.

Then move on to some aerobic dancing:

Lastly, of course, we can't forget the abdominals. I'd love to show you how my kids help me with my abs, but it doesn't really photograph too well. What they do is say things like:

Abba, I want you to know that it's ok with me that you're fat, or Abba, you're the best because you have a big belly.

At those moments, I immediately drop to the floor and do a set of crunches. Then I call the kids over. "Kids! Somebody climb up on Abba's back, we're going to work out now!"

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sadly, he probably thinks he's a moderate 

The Jerusalem Post's Larry Derfner had a fantastic but troubling piece about honor killings in Israeli Arab communities. The article makes it clear that there is a range of viewpoints on the issue, ranging from crowds that will actually cheer the corpse of a murdered woman, to small groups who actively protest, and opinions somewhere in between:

'An Eastern man, an Arab man, is more sensitive about his self-respect than a Western man. A Western man acts from the head, an Eastern man acts from the heart, and some take the law into their own hands, even though this is wrong,' said Kneifes.

'Family honor,' he continued, 'this is close to God. For a man to raise a daughter and then murder her - he must have a very strong motivation. It's not something anyone does lightly. He must feel, from his point of view, that he is justified. And while I don't agree with him, I can understand him.'
Until there is no in-between that is acceptable between committing murder and condemning it, it's hard to imagine this culture's troubling violent tendencies correcting themselves.

A pattern of understanding murder because the murderer must have had a good reason for taking such extreme measure is a dangerous sign in a culture, and it is indeed a pattern. For instance, only a fraction of Palestinians slaughter Israeli Jews, yet their murderous terror is more commonly understood -- or even praised -- than condemned by majorities of fellow Palestinians and many Israeli Arabs as well according to polls (and election results).

I suspect Mr. Kneifes expects a pat on the back for his courageous stand against actually killing anyone himself. I hope he doesn't get it.
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"Hatred Must be Eradicated Like Polio" 

I saw that quote on this Congress of the Jewish People banner ad splashed across the top of today's Jerusalem Post website -- oddly enough, there's no reference to it on the advertised site's real copy. Maybe it's not on the real site because they realized that, although it's very clever, it might be a bit too clever.

While most of us celebrate the existence of a polio vaccine and use it to ensure Polio doesn't rear its ugly head again, there is a segment of the world population that tragically isn't following through in the fight against polio:

The global campaign to eradicate polio by 2005 is being threatened by the resurgence of the disease in the far north of Nigeria.

Despite this, an immunisation programme has been put on hold because of claims by Muslim clerics that the vaccine is being deliberately contaminated as part of a western plot.
I probably should turn down the setting on my irony detectors or I'll never get any sleep. But it just struck me as, well, ironic that we would be pitched a fight against hatred in terms of the fight against polio, when Muslim clerics are among the biggest obstacles in both cases.

Obviously I should add: Not all Muslims. Not all Muslim clerics. Not all hatred. I probably should just copy this disclaimer into a footer for every post, at least until I get that detector fixed.

Nevertheless, although most Muslim clerics are against some hatred -- hatred against Muslims for instance, or even mild disdain -- quite a few clerics are also most decidedly in favor of the hatred of Jews, Americans, Christians, and a grab bag of other pet peeves.

But good luck with the fight. While it's easy to imagine Muslim clerics dismissing the fight against hatred as just another US or Zionist plot, nevertheless, I hope it works.

Esther Madonna's Newest Name... 

From "Material Girl" Madonna has now fallen to this:

The Rocket Man blasted Madonna as a 'miserable cow' for refusing to sing at the celebration of his civil union.
From "Material Girl" to "Holy Whore of Babylon" to "Miserable Cow" in three decades or less, an impressive feat. At least it's not Mad Cow. Yet.

Anyone know why Madonna refused to sing?

Half of Israelis would favor what? 

The caption to an otherwise uninteresting Reuters photo delivered this fascinating tidbit:

Half of Israelis would favour peace talks with Hamas, despite its calls to destroy the Jewish state, a poll published on Wednesday showed.
Of course the other part of the poll that Reuters doesn't share with us is that 100% of Hamas favors destroying half of Israel while keeping the other half preoccupied with talks, and would only later finish up by destroying the remaining half when it was much easier.

Yeah, I made that up, but it seems true. Fake but accurate you know.

If Women Governed: Hamas Political Poster Child 

Remember the old slogan that claimed if the world were governed by women there wouldn't be an any more war? Well Hamas is going to let us test out that steaming pile of wisdom very soon.

Reuters brings us the picture and credentials of Hamas' new political "poster child" -- the face of Hamas' future as it allegedly morphs into an elected political party.

Mariam Farhat, a Palestinian elections Hamas candidate, looks on during an interview in Cairo December 21, 2005. Farhat's three sons died fighting Israel. Now, as a candidate in elections to the Palestinian legislature, she says politics is a natural extension of her role in Hamas's armed struggle. Seen by Palestinians as an icon of the uprising or intifada which broke out in the Palestinian territories in 2000, Farhat is one of several women from the Islamist group contesting the legislative elections due on January 25. (Aladin Abdel Naby/Reuters)

For an alternative viewpoint, let's consult a source that can't possibly be imagined to be anti-Hamas. Let's see what Al-Jazeera has to say:

Mariam Farhat, an icon of the intifada, will join male Hamas leaders to contest a legislative election due in January in which Hamas, the Islamist group sworn to Israel's destruction, is taking part for the first time. It is expected to present a serious challenge to Fatah, the party of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

Farhat, 56, has strong militant credentials, including an appearance carrying a gun in a video in which she advised one of her sons, Mohammed, on tactics before he attacked a Jewish settlement.

Mohammed, 17, killed five Israelis before he was shot dead in the assault in the occupied Gaza Strip in 2002.

Farhat's eldest son, Nidal, was killed in 2003 as he was preparing for another attack. A third son, Rawad, died earlier this year in an Israeli air strike on his car, which was carrying rockets. Three other sons are still alive.
Still, that's just her past, right? Heck, she's still got three sons left. Once elected, she'll be able to send them out as peace emissaries to kind of balance things out. Whatever she might have done in the past doesn't matter now because from here on out she is choosing the political path. If two old warriors like Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin can get second chances, reborn as political peacemakers, then why not Ms. Farhat? Shouldn't we at least ask her?

"The jihadist project completes the political one and the political project cannot be completed without jihad," she told Reuters, using the Arabic term for "holy struggle" against the Jewish state.
Thank you for the generous translation of Jihad, but I think most of us know what it means by now.

"She told Reuters", but did Reuters tell us? Well, not in the caption for this picure, but actually, Reuters did tell us -- Reuters wrote the Al Jazeera report. I'm sure it happens all the time. I guess it really shouldn't surprise me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Raising Kofi's Kids 

I decided to go dumpster diving through the UN web site again today, looking for salacious anti-Israel propaganda, or, barring that, something useful like parenting tips. While I didn't find parenting tips per say, the UN does have something called The Programme on the Family. It's a little hard to tell from the title whether they care more about the programme or the family so I thought I'd take a peek and find out a little more.

It turns out this Programme isn't really all that concerned with mundane things like parenting tips. Not when there are bigger fish to fry: family issues like HIV/AIDS and the family, poverty and the family, gender equity and the family, and of course:

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provided assistance to 50,649 refugee families in 1998–1999 in the form of food and cash subsidies, training programmes and small grants or loans to establish self-support projects.
Hey, I'm sure this is all great stuff, in the usual UN sense of what great stuff means: throwing fancy cocktail parties, reprinting and distributing last year's boiler plate summary of 'this and that' as this year's boiler plate summary of 'this and that', and networking -- lots of networking -- for example:

Collaborative links were also established among the different United Nations organizations (for example, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO)).
Establishing all those collaborative links must have taken bucketfuls of sweat and maybe a little hard work, too. I would love to write a brief report summarizing our gratitude for their effort, but I wouldn't know which UN commission to file it with.

But what about my parenting tips? Well, in the interest of providing something useful on this blog, since I couldn't find what I wanted on the UN's site, I figured I would write "How to Raise Your Kids the UN Way" myself. If I can sneak into the right cocktail party, maybe it'll even show up on next year's Programme on the Family page. Of course this effort is seriously underfunded and lacking in collaborative links, but it's the best I can do until they let me into the cocktail party.

How to Raise Your Kids the UN Way

The UN has a great deal of policy experience in areas vital to proper child-raising. We've talked it over at a few expensive parties and have managed to boil the vast wealth of information down to this cocktail napkin-sized list of just the absolutely crititcal areas of focus. Skipping for the moment the utterly central issue of supporting Palestinian children and their freedom-loving parents, let's focus on the following important techniques for properly raising a UN child:
  1. Do not weigh your children down with the concept of consequences. Do you think for a second we at the UN could have achieved the great success we've had with Palstinian refugee programs and the Iraqi Oil for Food Programme if we had wasted our time harping on consequences all the time? Consequences shmonsequences. Isn't growing up hard enough already without the burden of knowing that everything you do might blow up in your face, break something, or hurt someone else? Focusing on consequences at too young an age can inflict great emotional distress that can only be worked out later in life through careful liason with appropriate UN Emotional Wellness and Human Rights programs.
  2. Choose your favorite child early and make sure the choice is clear to the other children. Children need a sense of security in their lives. It can be quite traumatic to walk around in a haze of doubt for the first decades of your life, only learning after it is already too late that Mommy and Daddy really didn't really love you as much as the others. Make it clear to your children from the outset. For example, look at how much confusion we inadvertantly caused the State of Israel. They somehow got the impression that because their statehood was ratified by the UN, that they were therefore accepted as equal with the other states. It has taken literally decades of constant followup work -- keeping them off committees, establishing programme after programme solely to criticize them -- to correct this misapprehension on their part. Don't make the same mistake we did. Get it out in the open.
  3. Frequently discipline your less favored children using general condemnations and empty threats. Your children need to know who's boss, so it is important to direct a steady stream of vitriol at them, day and night. Of course, you don't want to criticize them all and risk crushing your favored children's psyches. It's better to pick out a few and make a show of pestering them, so that all of the children will see it and be aware of your authority. However you have to be careful how you do it. Under no circumstances should any of your threats result in any follow up action that would inconvenience you, or take time away from cocktail party hour. If your children don't respond to a threat, repeat it, several times if need be. If they still don't listen, slowly weaken the threat. They'll eventually get it, or the whole thing will slowly go away until they finally move out of the house. Either way, it won't be your problem anymore. I can only point to the situation in Iraq as a textbook example of this technique in action. Look at all of the trouble the US has caused by constantly trying to "follow through" on everything, when we had managed the situation quite effectively for a decade or more without even breaking a sweat.
  4. Don't criticize poorly behaved children, it will further erode self-esteem; focus instead on finding fault with the well-behaved kids thus countering their tendency toward arrogance. You've probably heard the whiny argument from the U.S. and Israel that the various branches of the Human Rights movement should spend less time criticizing well-behaved democracies and more time pestering Iran, North Korea and other bloody regimes. Do you see how much arrogance we have to deal with? As if just because they don't run their dissident citizens feet first through whisper-chippers they are somehow better than everybody else. Don't let this attitude creep into your children. If they've done their homework, point out they could have done it sooner. If they vacuumed the rug without being asked, check to see if they changed the bag in the cleaner. Served you breakfast in bed? Make sure the juice is chilled to industrial standards for bacterial safety. You've got to stay on top of them. But under no circumstances should get risk possible emotional damage to your other kids by getting upset if they are brought home by the police at two in the morning smelling of beer and cigarettes.
  5. Get your kids vague but highly rewarding jobs at your place of work.This isn't to recommend you violate child labor laws, or that you inculcate in your children capitalistic ideas that everyone has to work hard. In fact, your kids really should never even show up. Having them show up makes the whole thing that much harder to deny, and makes it so much more likely some goody-goody will stumble across your child-raising program and try to blow the whistle. No, we're just talking about bookkeeping -- simple family-oriented accounting -- that's all.
  6. Skim your kids' allowances.A well funded family is a happy family.
Update: girlfriday has already spotted some of these techniques being practiced by parents while shopping:

Sift distractedly through the racks while chanting: "Devon. Devon. Devon, I'm serious. Stop it. Devon. Stop it, Devon. Devon. Stop it. Devon. Right now. Devon. Knock it off. I'm serious this time. Devon!"
This could change the world.

(trackbacks at generous sites: Point Five, Basil's Blog, Uncooperative Blogger, Stop the ACLU, Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns and MacStansbury.org -- thanks everybody and happy "holiday")

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sticks and Stones and David and Goliath 

Anyone remember what kind of weapon young David used to kill Goliath the Giant?

A Palestinian youth uses a sling shot to throw stones towards Israeli troops in the West Bank village of Alyamoun near Jenin on December 20, 2005. Palestinian gunmen briefly seized Bethlehem city hall, overlooking the Church of the Nativity, on Tuesday in a jarring interruption to Christmas preparations in the traditional birthplace of Jesus. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini
Yeah, that's the one.

Reuters wants us to view the Palestinians as virtuous slingshot snapping Davids while simultaneously innoculating us against the idea that anything these "youth" engage in can properly be considered "violence" worthy of response. That's why we are shown picture after picture of awkward Palestinian kids tossing rocks at armored personal carriers: to convince us that any response by Israeli soldiers is "disproportionate". What kind of grownup shoots at a little kid? Obviously a cruel oppressor who deserves to be put in his place, to be taken down a notch just like Goliath the Giant.

But don't forget, sticks and stones CAN break your bones, perhaps they'll even kill you. Especially when slung with a sling shot, even one wielded by just a little Palestinian youth. After all, David was but a youth with a slingshot when he killed Goliath.

When Israel fights back against potentially lethal slingshots, they are not overreacting. Forceful self-defense is perfectly legitimate against potentially lethal force -- ideally before its lethality is proven in reality, since it's hard to defend oneself when one is already dead. Is anyone happy when Palestinian rioters die or are injured, even those with slingshots? No. But the answer is to cease sending youth to assault IDF positions, not to demand that Israelis expose their foreheads, Goliath-style, as the rocks come streaking toward them.

Anyone who thinks the Israeli "Goliaths" have no right to defend themselves from the annoying little Palestinian pebble throwers should spend ten minutes standing in front of this peace-loving slingshot-wielding David and his friends. And remember, no disproportionate response allowed -- they're only sticks and stones. Just beg for negotiations instead.

The Clown Is Real 

A man dressed as a clown gestures as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bodyguards survey the scene outside the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem December 20, 2005. Sharon left hospital on Tuesday after being treated for a mild stroke, saying he planned to return to work soon. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
It's a cute picture. I probably wouldn't comment on it, except that I've met that "man dressed as a clown".

If you look at the picture and let Reuters' psychological conditioning take over, you will probably assume one of the following things:
Sure these are all possible, even plausible explanations but none of of them is really the case. This is no "man dressed as a clown" -- he is a clown. I've seen him work the hospital halls in the kids' wards, cheering up the sick children and a few parents too.

Further, as far as I know, he is not really under arrest for that metallic switch in his left hand. He's probably just clowning around with security or the Reuters artistic staff.

Still, you might wonder what that suspicious thing in his left hand actually is. Well, that thing is... well it's... you have to understand -- he works in a kid's ward. Entertaining children. So basically he walks around the ward, talking to the kids and getting them to laugh by making certain... noises... with the assistance of that thing in his hand. You know.

Clown farts.

They're actually quite funny. I even laughed, a little. Don't tell my kids though.

Now leave the clown alone, he's got work to do.

British Children Risk Lennon's Wrath 

Of course, since he's dead now, he may have to leave it to his wife to sue them for him. For what, you ask?

Becoming rich and famous is the most important thing in life, a revealing survey of British children said, also showing that the nation's youngsters consider footballer Wayne Rooney more famous than Jesus.
It's bad enough they want nothing more than to be rich and famous -- what about having all the candy they can eat? Kids these days! -- but now they also have to go and idolize someone I've never even heard of! The idiots!

Since my blog seems to exist solely for the purpose of accusing the media of bias, let me throw in one little bonus point here:

When asked to name the world's most famous person, young Manchester United and England star Rooney not only beat Jesus to take second place, he also pushed his national team captain, David Beckham, into fourth.

It was left to God to restore some Christian pride, taking top spot.
The reporter's eagerness to poke fun at Christians has blinded him to a rather obvious little fact. God is not a registered trademark of Christianity. I say this first of all as a seriously miffed Jew. But secondly as a warning to the reporter, that he might want to do a quick little edit or risk being run out of town by a spontaneous outburst of Jihad against his non-believing ass. Muslims have been known to get a little prickly about this stuff.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Blogging and the Blackberry 

Tonight I had a new blogging experience.

I attended a Bat Mitzvah party at a Jerusalem museum that was attended by Moshe Katzav, President of the State of Israel. The cool thing was that I have started carrying an internet-browser-enabled Blackberry because of some off hours issues at my work. So, as a blogger, I did what I suspect any serious proto-internet-journalist would do in my position. While listening to the speeches I whipped out the Blackberry and figured out how to create browser shortcuts so I could check my blog's statcounter and comments over dessert. It was really great.

The party was lovely, a really special and unique experience -- despite the absence of 50 Cent and Tom Petty. Mazel Tov to the Bat Mitzvah girl. And with the President of the State of Israel as special guest no less; as Adam Sandler would say, "Not too shabby!"

UNRWA and Education 

As you may know, UNRWA is the UN Refugee program specifically reserved for Palestinians. While all of the rest of the world's refugees are handled under a separate program designed to support those immediately displaced and help them move on with their lives in a new location, Palestinians get their own more highly funded organization.

UNRWA can claim to need the greater funds on the grounds it has so many refugees, with more being born all the time. That's because Palestinian refugees, alone amongst all refugees in the world, are not merely those displaced from their lifelong homes. Palestinian refugees include those who had just been within what is now Israeli territory for even just two years. It includes not just those directly displaced, but their children. And their children's children, and so on, and so on. At the current rate of refugee proliferation (876k in 1951, 4 million by 2003) by the year 2263, if Israel hasn't been destroyed yet, there will be approximately 8 billion Palestinian refugees waiting for the chance to return to their "homes" inside Israel. If you consider how much money is allocated to each UNRWA-assisted refugee, and that UNRWA feels it is not enough, you'll see that from a fundraisers point of view UNRWA has chosen the right definition of the problem.

And in 2263, these refugees will still be living mostly on the largesse of UNRWA (and Hamas of course). UNRWA demonstrates no interest in assisting the future 8 billion move on with their lives. Most are kept festering in camps right on Israel's doorstep, presumably awaiting that mythical distant day when Israel disappears, at which point they can all crowd their way across the border and claim a miniscule piece of territory for themselves -- provided it's not dangerously radioactive for the next 10,000 years.

Obviously the answer to so much of what is wrong here lies in education. Israel has demonstrated what educating for peace can do. The Jewish state, despite repeated attacks against it in the intervening years, has raised new generations of leaders who have offered Israel's habitual attackers a state of their own in which to live, if they will only give up chasing the bloody dream of Israel's eventual destruction. A similar education for peace could have gone a long way to making that Palestinian state a reality.

Instead, generations of Palestinian "refugees" have been raised and educated with a genocidal hatred of Israel. Many little children are taught to wish (publicly, on television) for a martyr's explosive death, of course taking as many Jews with them as possible. And too many Palestinian children have grown up into murderous teens who have made good on that education.

Can UNRWA wash it's hands of all this? Can they say their only job is to fund the sewage strewn camps and the rest is simply out of their control? That they can't control how the Palestinian Authority educates their own children?

Not if their own claims about being the primary source of Palestinian education are to be believed:

The Palestine refugee community has traditionally placed great emphasis on education as the key to a better future. Despite often difficult circumstances, Palestinians are one of the most highly educated groups in the Middle East. This achievement has been made possible in large part by the contribution of UNRWA in educating three generations of refugees.

UNRWA operates one of the largest school systems in the Middle East and has been the main provider of basic education to Palestine refugees for nearly five decades.
But perhaps they can claim that it is specifically the UNRWA-educated Palestinian children who are the best hope for peace. After all, UNRWA's students should be the ones out of all the children to be educated with the greatest emphasis on co-existence because their curriculum comes from UNRWA rather than Fatah.

Oddly enough, UNRWA makes no such claim:

UNRWA aims to give Palestine refugee pupils a basic education comparable to that provided in government schools in the region, so that they are on an equal footing in gaining access to educational and employment opportunities. Consequently, UNRWA schools use the same curricula and textbooks as the host government/Authority schools, and pupils sit, wherever applicable, for national exams at each stage of the education cycle.
What a wise choice. While the surrounding PA-controlled schools educate the next generation of Jihad warriors and Shahids for the cause, UNRWA's contribution to the quagmire is just more of the same.

Perhaps we could point out to UNRWA that every successful suicide bomber leaves one less refugee for whom they can solicit funding. Presumably they would then see the light and educate the kids in their care for a long and fertile life of peaceful squalor. It's certainly not a moral argument, but those don't seem too useful anymore.

Chimps and Apes and Crazed Presidents, Oh My! 

In the wake of MEMRI's recent Hizbullah TV expose Elder of Ziyon has a fascinating and more appropriate zoological analysis:

It has been a matter of considerable debate among zoologists and anatomists as to whether Iran's president Ahmadinejad is an ape or a chimpanzee. Here are some of the scholarly arguments on each side...
It gets better, but if you want the full payoff, you'll have to follow the link.

U.N. hates hostage takers, at least most of them 

I was browsing the U.N.'s web site, trolling for incendiary stuff, and found the site to be a veritable motherload for bloggers. They've done a fabulous job of publishing truckloads of documents and press releases -- can't shred this e-stuff! -- and there's something to outrage almost any web-based opinion. If you haven't posted in a few hours and need a quick topic, I heartily recommend you take a little stroll through www.un.org.

My discovery today was the details of the U.N.'s International Convention Against Hostage Taking. It appears the U.N., contrary to all my cynical assumptions and snide comments, actually does hate hostage takers, and has done so with a beauracratic passion going all the way back to 1979:

Article I, part 1: Any person who seizes or detains and threatens to kill, to injure or to continue to detain another person (hereinafter referred to as the "hostage") in order to compel a third party, namely, a State, an international intergovernmental organization, a natural or juridical person, or a group of persons, to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the hostage commits the offence of taking of hostages ("hostage-taking") within the meaning of this Convention.
They make it that clear because of how seriously they take it. They want to make sure we know this definition applies to Ev-er-y-bo-dy.

Article 3, part 1: The State Party in the territory of which the hostage is held by the offender shall take all measures it considers appropriate to ease the situation of the hostage, in particular, to secure his release and, after his release, to facilitate, when relevant, his departure.
This is critical, because they recognize hostage taking is so evil. They want to make sure that if, say, Hezbullah operating out of Lebanon decided to kidnap someone from a neighboring country -- let's just say, for example, Israel -- then Lebanon as the state in which the hostage was being held would have to take all measures it considers appropriate to ease the situation of the hostage. This is so important, because we need the world, and Israelis to trust that Lebanon will take all those measures, and here it is in black and white: the UN says they have to. Thank God for UN declarations, right?

Well, let me tell you, long story short: this anti-Hostage-Taking thing just goes on and on, nailing down point after point, leaving absolutely no doubt about the UN putting up with any crap on this subject. I mean leaving no doubt about the UN not putting up with any crap. Well, I mean one of those. And you can bet that this serious attitude rubs off in other areas. If the UN is so thorough about Hostage Taking, you can only imagine the kind of resolutions they would pass condemning someone who tried to go nuclear and threaten the existence of another UN member state.

And this is pretty darned reassuring to me as I try to evaluate how the World Body and its various "enforcement arms" (quotes of ridicule, not attribution) will respond as Iran races toward its version of Plutonium for the Elders of Zion. But it's nice to know that the U.N. is against every one of these generic evil concepts like Hostage Taking, Bomb Blowing Upping, Acting Unlawfully Against Fixed Platforms and eight or nine other serious forms of terrorism.

It's got to include Obliterating Jewish States as well, doesn't it? I mean, we've got this anti-Hostage Taking thing as a pretty strong precedent. That's got to count for something. And it's practically air tight. Just that one little teency-weency exception buried down in Aricle 12:

In so far as the Geneva Conventions of 1949 for the protection of war victims or the Additional Protocols to those Conventions are applicable to a particular act of hostage-taking, and in so far as States Parties to this Convention are bound under those conventions to prosecute or hand over the hostage-taker, the present Convention shall not apply to an act of hostage-taking committed in the course of armed conflicts as defined in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Protocols thereto, including armed conflicts mentioned in article 1, paragraph 4, of Additional Protocol I of 1977, in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self- determination, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
So there is that one little exception, but I can't really imagine it actually applying to anybody. Can you? And even if it did theoretically apply to something like the Comoros Islands, that really wouldn't cause any potential nuclear ne'er-do-wells to doubt the intensity of the U.N.'s resolve and consensus in these issues.

I'll probably be posting more little nuggets from the UN web site in the future. It just makes me feel better.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

PM's Stroke: Shaking Up the Shakeup? 

PM Ariel Sharon has suffered a minor stroke:

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was rushed to hospital in Jerusalem on Sunday evening after apparently suffering a minor stroke.

The prime minister had been unconscious when he arrived at Hadassah, but later came round. 'He lost consciousness on the way to hospital and then regained it,' said one medic.
While there may be some whose political positions would lead them to rejoice in this development, I hope that is by far the minority, even amongst those who disagree with the PM. The ideas and positions at stake in the upcoming elections merit voters' scrutiny, and not just a default victory of one position because of the ill-health of the others' representative.

Channel 10 quoted the hospital as saying that the prime minister's life was not in danger.
That the PM's life is not in danger is good news. There is still a lot to learn in the coming hours and days, however, about how this will affect the reorganization of the Israeli political spectrum, and how vigorously Sharon will be able to try to lead it. Could Mofaz or Olmert step in and carry the weight of a brand new party with tens of unaffiliated MKs clustered only around their ability to hold their ambitions together? I doubt it, but I'm far from an expert on the soap opera side of things.

Saudi Justice or Abuse of Compassion 

Arab News has a story showing Saudi justice at its most compassionate, and least...just:

A mother saved the life of her son's killer in Taif's execution square when she forgave him at the last minute, the daily Al-Watan reported. As the judge was reading the ruling, all eyes were directed at the executioner. Then the mother of the murder victim walked to middle of the square and announced her forgiveness of the convicted murderer. Seeking God's reward, she granted the man a new life.
Oh what a beautiful thing when a mother has the opportunity to pardon her child's killer even as his neck enters the noose. Of course, a parent with this "right" is then also forced into the position of virtual executioner, since, as Gov. Schwarzenegger knows, to not pardon is to condemn. This renders Saudi justice personal. I'm sure Tookie's fan club is a bit bitter as they read this, wondering why Tookie's justice couldn't have had a bit of that personal Saudi touch too.

One big reason is because America doesn't want to become Saudi Arabia. There is a price to be paid when any killer can be pardoned by individuals affected by the crime, when justice is no longer the goal.

And it's kind of hard to believe the Saudis aren't starting to notice the many problems with such a system.

For instance, in a world of life insurance, can there ever be justice when a potential beneficiary can pardon the killer of the insured? Can there be justice in a society of honor killings when the parents can render the life of a murdered child worthless with a single word?

Sounds like a great place in which to be a murderer. Not so great if you need protection from one.

I don't bring this up in order to criticize the mercy of a grieving mother, for she is just doing the best she can at a time of incredible heartache. But the system that knowingly put her in that position does merit scrutiny. Real justice does not reside in the authority of the individual. While family members have the right to forgive their children's killers, they should not have the right to free them.

They Protest Heff's Polyamory Ain't Islamic 

Gloria Steinem creates some collateral damage in dissing Hugh Hefner and now has to endure the blowback:

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem didn't make any friends in the American Muslim community yesterday with her attack on aging swinger Hugh Hefner in The New York Observer.

'I think Gloria Steinem should know better,' said Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, after Steinem claimed Hef's multi-girlfriend lifestyle is 'Moslem.'

'Her most glaring error is that having girlfriends outside of marriage is hardly encouraged by Islam, and secondly, polygamy is practiced by less than 2% of the global Muslim population.'

Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, agreed.
So can we assume that by claiming polygamy is practiced by less than 2% of the world's population of 1 billion Muslims, that she is implicitly acknowledging it to be practiced by more than 1%? If so, that pegs the harem's lower limit to at least 10 million or more. That's four times the entire population of Utah. Not a well crafted denial of Islamic polygamy if you ask me.

But even beyond that, no, Hef's treatment of women isn't Islamic.
At least I don't think he does those things. But if Ibrahim Hooper insists Hugh's behavior isn't Islamic, then that's good enough for me. Hef's ok.

** Fine print: Of course I know most Muslims don't beat or kill their wives and daughters for going outside without a scarf. But a frightening number of Islamic religious leaders condone variations on these themes, and it is woven into whole swathes of Islam's cultural fabric as well. Take a brief look around if you doubt it -- many Muslims deny it is Islamic; that's great, but I would encourage them to spend more time fighting it than denying it. I would spend my time condemning honor killings, wife beatings and the general widespread oppression of women, before I got around to dickering with Gloria Steinem about the precise percentage of Islamic polygamists.

Advanced Siemens Technology and the War on Parental Sanity 

Wired News shows us the straw that will probably break my back:

The cereal aisle at your local supermarket may soon resemble the Las Vegas strip. Electronics maker Siemens is readying a paper-thin electronic-display technology so cheap it could replace conventional labels on disposable packaging, from milk cartons to boxes of Cheerios.

In less than two years, Siemens says, the technology could transform consumer-goods packaging from the fixed, ink-printed images of today to a digital medium of flashing graphics and text that displays prices, special offers or alluring photos, all blinking on miniature flat screens.

'When kids see flashing pictures on cereal boxes we don't expect them to just ask for the product, but to say, 'I want it,'' said Axel Gerlt, an engineer at Siemens tasked with helping packaging companies implement the technology.
Hey, I love technology as much as the next guy -- probably even more so. But this is one application I'm not looking forward to.

Someone could make a mint selling special kid-sunglasses that selectively filter out visual marketing messages like this upcoming abomination. Brand them with the Barbie or Power Rangers name so parents have an easier time getting their precious little demographics to wear the darned things and then maybe I'll cancel my subscription to Luddite Weekly.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

So that isn't the hippy peace sign? 

Many of us were raised in the 60s and 70s to associate two raised fingers with "peace, love and understanding." That's not what they mean in Hamas.

A masked member of Islamic movement Hamas flashes a V-sign during a rally in the West Bank city of Jenin December 16, 2005. (Stringer/Reuters)
Actually, my first impression of this picture was that it was the Hamas talent show, and these two guys were acting out the famous Three Stooges routine, "Pick Two Fingers."


Look, No Purple 

Inspired by the "purple fingers" of Iraq, Hamas makes its own post-election play for attention:

Veiled female members of the Islamic movement Hamas march during a rally in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, December 16, 2005. (Mustafa Abu Dayeh/Reuters)
The clean fingers campaign looks poised to make a big impression on pro-democracy advocates in the west, although perhaps not the same impression as the purple fingers campaign:

Purple declares: "I voted!" The clean finger says, at least symbolically: "I voted, early and often."

Which goes along well with images of party rallies bristling with armed masked men and rocket launchers. Kind of like the Iowa caucuses. Savvy imagery indeed.

** NOTE: AP wants us to know that the last two pictures are only showing rallies with plastic rifles, which gives me a much stronger democracy high than if I believed Hamas members were actually running around with real rifles.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hamas doesn't want Israel to stop Iran's A-bomb efforts 

Via Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English), Hamas says will step up attacks if Israel hits Iran:

Palestinian militant group Hamas will step up its attacks on Israeli targets if the Jewish state attacks its key ally in the region, Iran, Hamas chief-in-exile Khaled Meshaal said on Thursday.

'If Israel attacks Iran then Hamas will widen and increase its confrontation of Israelis inside Palestine,' Meshaal told reporters in Tehran, where he has held three days of talks with top political and security officials.
What he means to threaten us with is that Hamas will step up its efforts to attack us if we try to stop Iran from building the nuclear bomb it plans to drop on us. Of course, they will try to increase their attacks even if we don't do anything about Iran. After all, that's what they've been foaming at the mouth about every day since we killed their leader Yassin a few years back. Also after we killed Rantisi, his replacement. And of course all the anonymous replacements and deputies since Rantisi. Believe me, we know what he is talking about.

So we have a choice between, on the one hand, threats and attempted attacks by Hamas, or on the other hand, threats and attempted attacks by Hamas, plus an Iranian nuclear bomb. Hmmm. Let me think about that one for a few more months and I'll get back to you Khaled. Where did you say you were staying again? Just so we can reach you with Israel's answer.

Queers for Palestine, but not vice versa 

Sondrak at Knowledge is Power has a very queer photograph:

As Sondra points out, these people seem blissfully unaware of exactly how much the men of Hamas appreciate their support, or how their supportive pat on the symbolic fanny is received. Sure, queers may be for Palestinian, but is Palestine for queers?

I'm not sure they would be greeted so well if they tried to march this festive little parade down the streets of Ramallah on a pilgrimage to Arafat's grave at the Muqata -- how they would have been received were Arafat still alive is another matter.

I don't think the Palestinians would quite know what to do with them. Well, other than the obvious. They can't just publicly stone them, since a gay rights march through Ramallah would probably attract more Reuters photographers than the annual Hamas "Death to the Jews" telethon.

This would leave the Palestinian leadership in quite a bind, unsure of precisely how to make use of them. They can't even let them volunteer to be suicide bombers, what with the virgin problems and all. It would be quite difficult for Hamas and Islamic Jihad attack planners to keep a precise 72:1 ratio between straight and gay male suicide attacks.

So for now, the queer folks over at freepalestine.org will have to settle for supporting Palestine, but from a distance. Of course they could have come to last year's World Gay Pride Day festivities in Jerusalem, but that might have inadvertently given the appearance of condoning the legitimacy of the rights-abusing totalitarian regime in Israel. No, better to stay home and support the freedom loving peoples of Palestine, who probably wouldn't even want these homosexual supporters to blow themselves up on their behalf.

But they shouldn't let that rein in their parade.

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