August 30, 2006

Taking a lil' break -

Gentle readers, never fear - I'll be back next Monday. I'm preparing posts on why New Orleans is doomed, more on Hezbollah and Israel, why George Bush hates reality, and also a bit on my first experience doing Hip Hop Karaoke. From the blog:
Not to be outdone, Dan and Audra blew the roof off the Knitt with Dan being the Doug E to Audra's Ricky D on "La Di Da Di".. Didn't see it coming.. Want to see it again.
There's a lot going on in the life of your Chief, which I should be able to tell you about next week - after a nice, long, relaxing weekend.

Happy end of summer all!

August 29, 2006

The podium. After school. Bring friends.

Oh my god, I love this story, though it is an indictment against President Bush. It bespeaks of how low the American Presidency has fallen in the eyes of the world...

Ahmadinejad Challenges Bush to a TV Debate

TEHRAN (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday challenged President Bush to a televised debate and voiced defiance as a deadline neared for Iran to halt work the West fears is a step toward building nuclear bombs.

"Peaceful nuclear energy is the right of the Iranian nation. The Iranian nation has chosen that based upon international regulations, it wants to use it and no one can stop it," he told a news conference.

The White House said Ahmadinejad's call for a presidential debate on global concerns was a "diversion" from international concerns over Iran's nuclear program.

It's not merely Bush's deficiencies that would make a debate problematical for us. What could Bush counter with, anyway? "We don't think you can enjoy nuclear technology without accidentally on purpose blowing Israel up, killing another 6 million Jews in a second holocaust even though you don't actually believe the first one happened?" What we all know to be true doesn't actually make for stellar debating points.

But everyone knows that's not our real problem here, because everyone knows our American Great Satan President isn't up to the task. Ahmadinejad has absolutely no fear that he can best Bush in a war of intellect and words. How embarrassing for us, that Bush is the man who we've sent to the world's stage to represent us.

Ahmadinejad wouldn't have pulled this kind of shit with Al Gore, no way, no how. No one fucks with Al Gore. Unfortunately, you get the leadership you deserve.

August 28, 2006

It's not the dog, it's the owner

I'm sure you couldn't possibly have missed that last week the 9th rock from the sun had its status downgraded from "planet" to "dwarf planet." This has resulted in a tremendous kerfuffle amongst folks who feel Pluto was a planet for 76 years, and a planet it should remain.

I suspect that many of the Pluto-is-a-planet crowd is motivated more from having spent all that time memorizing the nine planets and their order than any tremendous commitment to the integrity of astronomical definitions.

For myself, I love this turn of events. We get to see firsthand that science is an organic, evolving process, constantly being adjusted with new discoveries. It highlights the value of inquiry, of investigative scientific study, and for boldly addressing the consequences of our discoveries in the best Galilean tradition. It's a commitment to what's so regardless of how we feel about what's so that characterizes scientific inquiry, and here in our lifetimes we get to see a significant correction made. We get to see responsibility, accuracy, and humility in the face of prior errors -- qualities we could all benefit from seeing more often in our lives.

So while I whole-heartedly approve of the adjustment, what has really annoyed the crap out of me is the constant references to Pluto, Mickey Mouse's dog, in the debate. Yes, both the planet and the cartoon have the same name. Thank you, I noticed. Other than the name, the planet and the dog have nothing to do with one another. I am baffled and disgusted at the orgy of Disney commentary that has been inspired by the planetary Pluto in the news.

Why does this Pluto business bug me so much? Because it's flat out lazy. Because it's a lack of commitment to the truth. Because in a world where we can no longer trust our government to report the truth, or even our reporters to report the truth, authenticity and integrity become the gold standard of behavior. Because a commitment to accuracy is what separates the wheat from the chaff in any debate, and what's so is that the heavenly body Pluto is not named after a cartoon dog. The more we intentionally or accidentally assert otherwise, the more we undermine ourselves by encouraging others to be equally careless.

Editorial cartoonists have been particularly guilty of the sin of sloth in this regard. Cartoonists who connect the planet with Disney’s dog fall into one of two categories: those who don'’t know that Pluto the ex-planet was named after Pluto, the Roman god of the underworld, and those who do.

For the former, they actually think that a planet was named after a cartoon dog. That's what they think. We have Earth, 7 Roman gods and goddesses -- and whoops -- a cartoon dog! Didn't even consider googling it though, did you? In this day and age, when you can find out anything within seconds with an internet connection, is there any excuse for not knowing some bit of information if you're going to be commenting on it?

And those latter cartoonists who do know that the icy dwarf planet is not named after a cartoon dog will still go for the cheap joke because it's easier that way; it's easier than making a joke about a roman god -- unless you're talking about Uranus, which pretty much writes itself.

So you have the ignorant and lazy cartoonists, or you have the mendacious and lazy cartoonists. In either event, there is a complete lack of commitment to the truth, a lack of concern with authenticity and accuracy.

And this is a problem, because I assert that in the coming years, all we’ll have left in a virtual world of computer generated digital entertainment is our own personal ethical barometer regarding what is so and what is not so. And because what is so is more important than what we think about it; because what is so exists outside of our petty psyches and whatever prejudices or inclinations we bring to the conversation.

Because there is only one what's so, and there are 8 billion what-people-thinks. That's why accuracy in fact is worth a little extra effort, worth going the extra, oh, 2 minutes for.

August 27, 2006

Welcome to NYC, bastards

Summertime is upon us, and August in particular is tourist season here in the Big Apple. The only people in New York this month are those people visiting from East Asshat, America -- and New Yorkers who have a job and can't get the hell out of dodge.

To assist the intrepid adventurers, I provide - in the best spirit of public service - a brief locals guide to NYC tourist etiquette.

1. The best place to marvel at the wonder that is your metrocard is not directly in front of the turnstile.
2. By all means take as many pictures as you like. We're only trying to get to work or home. We'll be happy to stop and wait for you to take a picture of your little Kansas porker in front of Tiffany's. And yes, it is very, very funny when you stand in front of the Trump Tower and say - over and over again -- "You're Fired. You're Fired. You're Fired..."
3. When walking down the street, please walk arm-in-arm directly across the sidewalk. Slowly. Because we all very much appreciate you slowing us down to the speed of Arkansas, never having considered the negative impact on our lives of actually getting to wherever it is we're going.
4. That person with the funny hat is either a Jew or a pimp. In either case, don't make fun of his hat; he'll get you.
5. If your feet are nasty, don't wear sandals. Men, unless you're a foot model, your feet are probably nasty.
6. More people walk up and down fifth avenue during rush hour each day than travel your interstate highways all month. If you were to stop your car on the highway so you can get out, look straight up into the sky, and say "golly" you would expect other cars to honk at you. Think of our elbowing you firmly in the solar plexus as a New York honk.

Overheard in NY -

Forget Signaling -- Put on Your Hazards

Tourist girl [standing in middle of busy sidewalk]: Oh, excuse me! [spins around] Oh! [turns around] Omigod! Like, I just ran into like four people and I'm not even walking!
City guy: Try walking.
Tourist girl: What?
City guy [reluctantly drawn in]: Look, in New York most people aboveground get where they're going by walking. The sidewalks are the main roads in the city.
Tourist girl: [blank stare]
City guy [getting frustrated]: If you were driving on a busy road, you wouldn't just stop or take random turns in traffic without checking your mirrors or signaling, right?
Tourist girl: How do I signal?

--43rd & Broadway

August 24, 2006

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

On August 24th the Word of the Day (look down and to the right, it’s the small box at the bottom of the right-hand margin) just coincidentally happened to be “phagocyte.” An astute reader of this blog, who also happens to be Dutch and eats peanut butter and chocolate sprinkle sandwiches, remembered that I have more than a casual relationship with phagocytes.

In one of the best classes I ever took in college, The Microbiology of Cancer and Aids, we studied phagocytes. One in particular struck my fancy: it was the macrophage, and it has a terrific job. Its sole function is to troll around the body bumping into things – other cells, especially. If it ever bumps into a cell it doesn’t recognize, like a newly invaded virus, for instance, it immediately eats the cell.

But not all of it; it eats most of the cell, but leaves a little bit over, which the macrophage then sticks to its outer membrane for display. Its second general order – after bump into things and eat what you don’t recognize – is to take the piece of its most recent meal to other white blood cells, whose job is to examine the leftovers to determine if an all-out immune response is necessary.

This process was described to us by our professor Albey Reiner, who is as close to comedian Steven Wright as a Harvard educated Microbiology professor can get. In his dry, monotone voice he contextualized the macropghage for us by suggesting that we each go to the dining hall and have lunch, slap a piece of our lunch onto our foreheads for the rest of the day, and see if anyone can recognize what we ate.

I loved every bit of this; the macrophage, the professor, the showing people what you ate for lunch... there was nothing about any of this that didn't strike me as pure genius.

And it also made for a fabulous Halloween costume back in 1998.

(click to enlarge)

Kudos to Theresa (not pictured) and Sonia (on the far right wearing Monica Lewinsky's blue dress back from the cleaners) who like everyone else that night was baffled by what I could possibly be portraying, yet eventually sussed it out. Theresa, with her biology background, and Sonia who went on to an impressive career in medicine, sat staring at me for some time until, hesitantly Theresa offered “are you a… white blood cell?” to which Sonia screamed “oh my god, you’re a phagocyte!”

In San Francisco you have to watch who you call a phagocyte.

That's a freshly-made grilled cheese sandwich on my forehead, which in addition to being a source of amusement all evening, made for a welcome late-night snack on the way home.

August 22, 2006

Good News / Bad News

Well, it's August 22nd and the world doesn't appear to have ended as I only half-jokingly predicted last week.

Or has it?! Dun Dun DUN!

While it doesn't look like Iran has launched any doomsday scenerios today, in similarly apocalyptic news Paris Hilton's unimaginatively but accurately titled debut album "Paris" was released upon an ill-prepared world.

Of her art, Paris says "I like, cry, when I listen to it, it's so good."

If everyone on the planet suddenly starts bleeding from their ears, would that qualify as a sign of the end-times?

August 21, 2006

Collateral Damage

Regular readers of this blog will have noted that I am a strong supporter of Israel. This position is based upon what I perceive to be wise foreign policy and not merely a knee-jerk support of my fellow Jews.

In fact, it's somewhat difficult for me to maintain my pro-Israeli stance as I am politically liberal and decidedly left-wing, yet the American liberal left wing is notably pro-Palestinian. It's our conservative right wing with which my views on Israel have the most in common. This is a terribly distressing turn of events for me, though I'm happy to say this odd harmony appears to be limited to matters Israeli.

Yet none the less, during the past two months I have posted a number of times in support of Israel's policies and prosecution of the war with Hezbollah.

To attempt to balance the karmic scales a little bit, here's a bit of news that I am extraordinarily unhappy to tell you about: following a strategy of colossal short-sightedness, Israeli planes attacked a Lebanese power plant on the Mediterranean coast last July, resulting in a massive oil spill.

This is a regional ecological disaster of stunning proportions; an estimated 15,000 tonnes of oil have spread along the Lebanese coast in a swath more than 137 kilometers long. The slick has fouled beaches and destroyed fish and waterfowl habitats, resulting in a cleanup effort that will take more than a year to accomplish.

Overall, I think it's safe to say the power plant was a target whose value intact far surpassed its value destroyed.

Fucking Israelis.

August 19, 2006

Follow Up

Last week I commented on the subtle distinction that separates insidious racial profiling from healthy pattern recognition. The FBI has dropped the terrorism charges against three Muslim men arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist acts in Michigan as apparently they (the FBI) were engaging in the former, rather than the latter.

From Boing-Boing:
Cellphone terror detainees: not guilty, just inconveniently brown
The FBI today said it has no reason to suspect terrorism ties for three Palestinian-American men arrested in Michigan and charged with "collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes." The men were stopped by authorities after buying 80 pre-paid cellphones at a Wal-Mart. Their van contained nearly a thousand such phones, and the men said they planned to re-sell them at profit...
After a judge dismissed the terrorism charges, in an attempt to avoid the embarrassing consequences of the FBI's aggressive police work, the U.S. attorneys have instead charged the men with fraud.

Because, you know, they were probably guilty of something...

And there we have the essential difficulty of prosecuting a nebulous "war on terror." It's results-oriented, and so results we must have. I've no problem with the FBI being pro-actively aggressive in pursuing threats, but that must be coupled with humble responsibility and an unshakable commitment to the truth. A "guilty of something" criminal methodology should be below us; it's nothing but the tyranny of our government against its citizens.

August 16, 2006

Syria Moving on Golan Heights?

Jennifer Griffin of Fox News reported last Sunday that Syria has been moving an armored column closer to the Syrian border with the Golan Heights, and simultaneously removing Syrian land mines from the Golan Heights region. Those mines were laid following the disastrous 1973 Yom Kippur War with Israel, in an attempt to both deter Israeli forces from moving even closer to the Syrian border as well as to deter Israeli settlements in the region.

Assuming the story is accurate (with Fox News, who can tell?) there are only three reasons for Syria to unilaterally choose to remove those mines at this point -

1. They have such tremendous confidence in the cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel that they are sure a new age of peace and cooperation is dawning upon the region, and they cannot wait to reap the rewards of peaceful coexistence with their Jewish neighbors


2. This is a big bluff move by Syria to throw Israel and the West off-guard


3. Syria plans to move a large number of Syrians through the region in the near future.

Assuming we discount option one as unrealistic and option two as transparent, with the sudden repositioning of an armored column near the border and the sudden removal of the land mines, one cannot help but wonder if Syria is looking at the Golan Heights longingly, yearning for their lost territory. Add in some ominous statements issuing from Iran, and Iran's looming deadline with the U.N., and option three looks more and more likely.

So here's my doomsday prediction, based on what I'm sure is my own faulty assessment of the situation:

Sometime on or around August 22nd, in a move supported by concurrent activity by Iran, Syria may attempt a lightning re-occupation of the Golan Heights. Capitalizing on the de-mobilization of the Israeli forces from Lebanon, the overall demoralization of the Israeli military following their perceived defeat in Lebanon, and counting on the pro-Arabic sentiment in both the Middle East and the U.N., Syria will try and retake some or all of the land they lost in 1967.

This would be a very bad idea, and unless Iran has a method of completely immobilizing Israeli forces, a move like this against Israel will once again prove disastrous for Syria.

It is understandable that Syria would wish to erase the humiliating defeats of '48, '67, and '73, and to discount the circumstances that led to those defeats as ancient history. Simultaneously, Syria is encouraged by Hezbollah's successful resistance, and perhaps believe the time is right for them to recover the Golan Heights with muscle and iron, having been so unwilling for so many years to follow Egypt's lead and trade Israel mere peace and recognition in exchange for their lost territory.

Regular readers of this blog will remember the cease-fire posting of a few weeks back where I suggested that anything less than a stunning tactical victory by Israel would leave the anti-Israeli forces in the region emboldened. Today Syria and Iran, as well as Hezbollah, each claimed victory and are very enthusiastic about what they deem to be the first Arabic defeat of Israel in modern times. Syria's President Assad went so far as to claim that Hezbollah's victory has "destroyed the U.S. plans for the Middle East."

Syria and Iran have likely been encouraged by what they believe is the humbling of the two mighty Middle Eastern military forces, the U.S. and Israel. If so, they have failed to understand what strategies have been successful for the terrorists, and why.

Both the U.S. forces in Iraq and Israeli forces in Lebanon have found that no matter how powerful their formalized national military may be, they are ill-suited to combat guerrilla insurgencies that can strike quickly and melt away into a civilian population. Arabic nations have very successfully disassociated their insurgent, terrorist factions from the sovereign governments that sponsor them, leaving the U.S. and Israel without a clear target upon which to bring their overwhelming forces to bear. Numerous small, disparate cells acting independently makes for a different type of war, and it's a war Israel and the U.S. have yet to figure out how to wage without causing unacceptable civilian casualties.

Should Syria misconstrue Israel's clumsy hesitancy against civilian/terrorist targets as an overall weakness and take provocative military action, Syria will make the error of providing Israel a national military target to fight. I assert that while Israel doesn't like fighting wars against their Arab neighbors, they have demonstrated that they are particularly good at it, regardless of how ineffective they may have been against Hezbollah. I suspect that other than peace, there's nothing Israeli forces would like more than a fair fight on terms they are both willing to abide by, and exceptionally adept at prosecuting.

Unwilling to match Hezbollah barbarity for barbarity, I suspect Syria will be unpleasantly surprised to find Israel is more than willing to match jet fighter for jet fighter, and tank for tank.

One must assume that Syria knows this as well, and they would never consider taking on Israel alone, face to face. So should Syria choose to act, they must be expecting that either Israel will be otherwise distracted, or unable to respond.

Which leads us back to the big question - does Iran have an August surprise in store?

August 15, 2006

Questions With Disconcerting Answers

The last of the eleven missing Egyptian students were captured/collected on Sunday.

Oh, did you not hear about this story? Not surprising, it's been kept pretty quiet over the past two weeks, as perhaps it should have been -- it's entirely possible that this is a non-story that's been wrapped up satisfactorily, and exemplifies how the system is working. Not working ideally, perhaps, but working.

On July 29th, seventeen Egyptian students arrived in New York City en route to the mid-west for a summertime cultural exchange and English-language program at Montana State University. While six of the students went on to arrive in Montana on time and without difficulty, the remaining eleven students disappeared.

All of the visiting students had an impeccable record with no known ties to militant organizations. The FBI was quick to downplay terrorist concerns, saying
"At this point all they have done is not show up for a scheduled academic program and their student visas have been revoked."
There was no fanfare, no public vilification, no national witch hunt and great public outcry, no angry mobs hunting for Muslims -- just a few notes in the newspapers, and a quiet FBI investigation into what appeared to be simply an administrative visa violation.

Slowly but surely over the next two weeks the 11 were tracked down and arrested. Two had rented an apartment in Richmond, Virginia. Another two found themselves a place to live and work in Baltimore, Maryland at an Egyptian-owned pizza place. One was found at O'Hare, trying to board a flight to Montana, two turned themselves into authorities, and the others were rounded up in Iowa and Minnesota.

The captured Egyptians all appeared to be intentionally ditching their academic program to attempt to find work in America.

It is easy to lose sight of the very real fact that despite Islamic antipathy to the West, despite five years of elevated tensions and an seemingly eternal war on terror, America remains the land of opportunity for much of the world. While the ICE rightly takes issue with the Egyptian students for flouting our immigration laws, we can likely put this case to bed as a basic immigration issue. We lost track of some students in New York, which was unfortunate, but only two weeks to round up eleven missing folks doesn't sound so bad, does it?

The story may end there. It could just stop there, and be nothing more than an interesting story about young Muslims who dream of a better life in America, and engage in the same significant but non-threatening criminal activity that thousands of Latinos, Chinese, and many others engage in every year without ever being accused of terrorism.

While conventional wisdom would call any unreasonable fear-response to the missing students something akin to racial profiling, I'm forced to wonder at the distinction between racial profiling and a healthy respect for the value of our hard-earned experience. Seven of the 9/11 hijackers had "student" listed as their occupation on their visas as well.

I believe that nothing occurs in a vacuum, and in this case, the missing Egyptians weren't the only story last week.

For several years now, our government has been concerned about cell phone use during terrorist attacks, both as a means of triggering explosive devices, as well as the more mundane method of communications amongst the terrorists themselves. Which is why I can't help but regard the following "coincidences" as unusual:

While we were looking for those eleven Egyptians, 3 men from Dearborn, Michigan were arrested less than a week apart. In the first arrest, at 24 year old Muslim was arrested with 150 - 200 untraceable Nokia Trac-phones in his car. In the second arrest, two 20 year old Muslims were arrested with several pre-paid cell phones and several thousand dollars in cash.

Meanwhile, two immigrant men from the Republic of Georgia were arrested last week in Pennsylvania with 15 prepaid cell phones and $4,200 in cash. Also in the van was a laptop computer with a global positioning system.

Meanwhile, three men were arrested in Michigan for collecting material to support terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target - the five mile Mackinac Bridge. The three men, young Muslims in their late teens and twenties, had nearly 1,000 Nokia Trac-phones in their van. These three had been opening their purchased phones and throwing the batteries in one container, the chargers in another, and the phones in a third. Yet they claim they were involved in a business venture and intended to resell the phones for a profit; the very phones they were disassembling when apprehended.

Meanwhile, on August 10th we learned of an extensive plot from Great Britain to destroy up to ten airliners in mid-flight using a concoction of a Gatorade-type sports drink and a gel-like substance. (Any drink that claims to be high in electrolytes, such as Gatorade, generally means it is high in sodium and potassium - two elements that are potent electron-conductors.) The liquid bomb would have been detonated by either an Ipod or a cell phone.

Meanwhile, the very day we learn of the British terrorist plot, cell phone service was interrupted in Queens, New York. Sprint had nearly 75 of its cell phone towers in Flushing, Queens affected, yet Verizon claims it was merely a leak that damaged some of their wired, network gear. Flushing, Queens is an area of New York City conveniently proximate to both La Guardia Airport and also John F. Kennedy International Airport - one the destination airports for the grounded flights from London.

Are these disparate, unconnected events? Are the men involved innocent, petty criminals who each merely happen to be young and Muslim? Is it unfair racial profiling to suspect them of any nefarious terrorist activity? And in the last case, was our government responding to a potential threat with an intentional cell phone outage in an attempt to suppress potential terrorist cell phone use?

Pattern-recognition is, in my humble opinion, the meta-tool humanity uses to accomplish all of our most celebrated tasks. Our science and technology and our very co-existence derive from our ability to perceive and anticipate actions, behaviors, and events that will have an impact on us. In particular, the ability to instinctually recognize threatening situations is an often written about human trait that was responsible for our early survival as a species, as well as the ongoing survival of individuals when facing danger.

Yet what is the line between racial profiling and pattern-recognition? Perhaps there is no line, other than the perceived opinion of the former being socially inappropriate. Can liberals in 21st century America even discuss the issue without becoming bogged down dealing with the social conditions and root causes that result in both the animosity of Muslims the world over toward America, as well as the American predisposition to believe that young Muslims who are up to minor crimes may in fact be up to major ones?

It would be a relief to ascribe the incident of the eleven temporarily missing Egyptian students to something as wholly American as striving for a better life, yet in the face of so much unusual Muslim activity this past month, can we pretend there is any such thing as coincidence?

Do we ignore the painful object lessons of our own recent past in favor of an optimistic, politically correct world view? Do we ignore our highly developed and instinctual sense of danger in favor of a noble yet potentially disastrous moral high ground? Do we label these events as ominous, or do we merely call it an interesting spate of petty criminal activity by coincidentally Muslim twenty-something men?

Meanwhile, August 22nd is the day traditionally ascribed to Mohammed's elevation to heaven. Islamic history tells us that on August 22nd, Mohammed stood on the rock in the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and ascended to heaven "while a great light lit up the night sky." This is considered one of the central events in Mohammed's life, and a very significant date for Muslims.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, and has asserted that Israel has "pushed the button of its own destruction."

Meanwhile, despite the U.N. demanding Iran respond by July 29th to the incentives the U.N. offered Iran regarding Iran's nuclear program, after weeks of stalling Iran has finally told the U.N. they will indeed respond, but not until... wait for it... August 22nd.

Does Ahmadinejad have something in store for the world this month, inspiring the recent spate of criminal/terrorist activity in America and the U.K? Does he perhaps plan to once again "light up the night sky" over Jerusalem on August 22nd, as his way of answering the U.N. regarding Iran's nuclear intentions?

And are these question a healthy exercise in pattern-recognition, or the insidious racial profiling of peaceful Muslims?

August 11, 2006


I present to you the definitive web-resource regarding the current status of Earth's destruction: the IEDAB.

About the IEDAB

The International Earth Destruction Advisory Board (IEDAB) is an independent scientific institution which monitors the current status of the Earth and the number of times it has been destroyed. In the event of the Earth being destroyed it will be the IEDAB's job to relay this information to people who need to know and provide advice on how to proceed.

While you can sign up for their email alert in case of Earth's destruction, I've subscribed to their handy little color-coded alert system. This regularly updated monitor will accurately reflect the Earth's current state of destruction/non-destruction, and you can find it in the right hand margin.

Consider it a public service...

I suggest you spend some time perusing the Geocide information. Should you be interested in, or concerned about, the Earth's threat of destruction, there are tons of handy tips and tricks you may wish to know.

Friday Fluff Post

Couldn't resist...

August 10, 2006

More on Green Helmet...

This piece of video has been circulating which I thought you may be interested in viewing. Via EU Referendum, here is a short, German video offering a behind-the-scenes look at the staging of photos from Qana last week.

What is even more insidious to me than the idea that Hezbollah would attempt to maximize the tragedy for their own purposes, which I find neither insidious nor unexpected, is the sheer number of photographers, videographers, and International Red Cross workers who either actively participated, or at the very least didn't object to the staging of the disaster photographs.

August 09, 2006

Truman's Choice

61 years ago this week the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan and three days later, a second on Nagasaki. The immediate death toll of those two bombings is estimated to be 110,000 people, with another 230,000 dying over the course of the next few years due to radiation sickness and injuries acquired in 1945. The two targeted cities were not chosen due to their military value to Japan, nor were the majority of those killed military personnel; the two targets were civilian centers of population and those killed were primarily women, children, the elderly, and other non-combatants.

The decision
to reveal to the world the existence and the unprecedented destructive power of atomic weapons was made by President Truman, who was faced with an enemy that was unwilling to negotiate a peaceful end to the war in the Pacific. Planning for an allied invasion of the Japanese home-islands was underway, and those plans were set to commence in November, 1945. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had estimated that if the invasion took 90 days, allied casualties could be in the range of 500,000 wounded with over 100,000 allied deaths.

Truman's dilemma and Truman's choice boiled down to a simple question of priorities: during wartime, is the health and safety of enemy civilians more important to a nation than the health and safety of their own troops?

Truman decided that they were not, and despite the horrific after-effects of the radiation sickness and the appalling devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, history has appeared to support his decision. Radio intercepts from the period, fully released in 1995, show a number of entries relating to the encouragement of the Japanese military to fight to the last man should the home-islands be invaded. Stories of Japanese soldiers fighting for years after the Japanese surrender support Truman's belief that an invasion would be met with fanatical resistance, costing the allies hundreds of thousands of lives.

Less than a century later, Truman's choice is once again being made by nations at war. The primary concern during the current Middle Eastern conflict is the death toll of the Lebanese civilians under the onslaught of the Israeli response to Hezbollah. Like the Japanese, Hezbollah is fanatical in their attacks, and perfectly comfortable utilizing every last man, woman, and child in their battles.

The issue in the Middle East today is the same issue that has been faced by commanders in wartime throughout history; it's one of value, and determining if what you require is worth what it will cost. Civilian deaths are not in and of themselves unpalatable; on the contrary, combatants have regularly decided that certain ends will justify certain means in time of war.

Hezbollah has never made any attempt to hide their usage of their own civilians in their activities, and they pioneered terrorist attacks on civilian targets during the years of the first Israeli occupation of Lebanon. It is a brilliant strategy for fighting Israel; Hezbollah's ability to absorb Israeli reprisals -- which provide them the ancillary benefit of the tremendous public relations victories -- will far outstrip Israel's willingness to inflict civilian damage as well as Israel's capacity to withstand international censure. As the strongest kid on the block, Israel is expected to utilize a restraint that Hezbollah has taken advantage of for many years, and only with this most recent action has Israel upset the status quo with the use of disproportionate force.

In the current conflict, much has been made of the Lebanese casualties inflicted by Israel. Claims that Israel is intentionally targeting civilian areas diminish Israel's reputation, and undermine support for the war both at home and abroad. Yet targeting civilian areas is a tactical necessity for Israel due to Hezbollah's practice of embedding themselves in high density civilian areas as well as U.N. bases.

The term "tactical necessity" for Israel's actions wasn't mine; it was employed by a Canadian U.N. Observer in an email to a Canadian politician, as the observer described how their outpost was taking Israeli fire. The email suggested that Hezbollah was operating from within the confines of the U.N. observer's camp boundaries, forcing Israel to target the U.N. base in order to neutralize the Hezbollah combatants. The Canadian observer was later killed with three others when his U.N. outpost was shelled by Israeli artillery.

Hezbollah employs a strategy that practically guarantees that Israel will suffer the public relations debacle of killing non-combatants. Kofi Anan's claim that Israel had deliberately targeted the U.N. position, without mentioning how the neutrality of the position was compromised by Hezbollah forces attempting to use the U.N. base as a shield, demonstrates how effective the strategy is. Hezbollah has a very pragmatic recognition of the value of civilian deaths to bolster their cause.

Specifically, when the inevitable civilian deaths occur, Hezbollah is extraordinarily adept at using those deaths to their greatest advantage. Following the unfortunate Israeli attack at Qana on July 30th, there were many horrific images of bodies being dragged from the rubble. Yet despite the many casualties, surprisingly the same child's body was photographed being loaded into several different ambulances, over the course of several hours, recreated for several different photographers. The fellow you see in this NY Post cover photo is known as "Green Helmet" due to his recurring role in staged photo events in Qana following the attack. Hezbollah has never been above exploiting the very real tragedy of civilian casualties for maximum public relations exposure.

Mainstream media encourages an ongoing perception of Israel targeting civilians throughout this war, highlighting how the Israeli Air Force immediately destroyed the Lebanese airport, television and radio stations, and power centers. That same media fails to mention how those targets are commonly the first to be hit when a nation goes to war with another nation. Despite popular international opinion being against them, Israeli citizens certainly seem to understand the justification for their nation's actions as the prosecution of the war receives incredibly high levels of support.

When the deaths of civilians in warfare is considered, the question of relative value is skewed against Israel. In the current Middle Eastern war, world opinion appears to be more horrified by Lebanese civilians dying en masse in Israel's battle with Hezbollah than Israeli civilians dying a few at a time at the hands of Hezbollah suicide bombers and rockets.

While the rest of the world generally does not consider the deaths of Israeli civilians sufficient provocation to result in the deaths of non-Israeli civilians, the government of Israel has a clear preference. Countries must often respond to attacks against their national sovereignty with force, and while it is admirable to consider the needs of enemy non-combatants and reduce civilian casualties, as a strategy for winning the war those needs cannot be accommodated at the expense of a nation's national security.

Nearly 1,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the first Gulf War, and an estimated 30,000 German non-combatants were killed in the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. Over 110,000 died due to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Civilian deaths, though lamentable, are often an unfortunate consequence of armed conflict. It is hypocritical for the international community to hold Israel to a standard that few nations have themselves upheld.

Like Truman's choice in 1945, Israel too has a choice to make regarding what is in its long-term best interests. Despite the loss of its moral credibility and the regrettable civilian deaths in Lebanon, Israel must be primarily concerned with the pursuit of a tactical victory over Hezbollah; a fanatical enemy that has proven they will not accept a peaceful cessation of hostilities.

August 08, 2006

Vote or Die!

Now this is a candidate you can get behind...

August 07, 2006

Thanks Juan, great party

This morning's post has been delayed due to... um... technical difficulties.

For those of you wondering, the amount of Saturday gin required to make me sleep through nearly an entire Sunday is a half-bottle.

August 04, 2006

Friday Fluff Post

A Friday in August? Ain't nobody reading anything all serious today...

Funny video mix of Darth Vader being a smart-ass after the jump... the jump to LIGHT SPEED!

Vader busting balls...

August 02, 2006

Ego Te Absolvo, Mel -

Pronunciation: ri-'spän(t)-s&-b&l
Function: adjective
Etymology: Anglo-French responsable, from respuns 1 a : liable to be called on to answer b (1) : liable to be called to account as the primary cause, motive, or agent

The Jews are responsible for
all the wars in the world

- Mel Gibson

There it is. He said it. Come on, you know you were thinking it. Or if you're Jewish, you know your neighbors or perhaps co-workers are thinking it. It's the elephant in the room, the great-unsaid. No matter how many Jewish friends a person has, no matter how intellectually tolerant and progressively minded a person may be, deep down inside doesn't everybody blame us Jews?

Can we characterize Mel's outburst, which he has apologized profusely for, as nothing more than a drunken tirade? Deputy Mee, one of the arresting officers at the scene and the Jew who set Mel off, graciously excused Gibson in an interview when he remarked "that stuff is the booze talking." Very generous of Deputy Mee, throwing Mel a rope like that. In fact, the Malibu police appeared to have handled the matter very delicately the entire evening, understanding the volatile public reaction to Mel's arrest and harangue that could occur both within Hollywood and without.

But was it the booze talking, really? Have you ever said anything when you were drunk that you didn't mean? Or haven't you found it is much more common that when under the influence it's the inhibitors that are weakened? Isn't it your ability to
stop saying the things you ought not to say that is alcohol's first victim? From "Hey, I love you, man!" to "Hey! I love men!" the swath of verbal destruction that alcohol leaves in its wake is notably comprised of those things we truly mean yet shouldn't say, and not those things we don't mean and shouldn't say.

So for my part, I don't believe for a minute that what he said is not reflective of how he truly feels. But I only have an issue with the hypocrisy of it all, because honestly, I happen to agree with Mel.

The vast majority of the most significant battles in the world historically can indeed be attributed to us Jews - sometimes tenuously, other times with bold, shockingly direct lines. Certainly the past 58 years of Middle East conflict can be laid at the feet of the Jews, and much of World War II as well. The Cold War was a direct result of the nuclear brinkmanship caused by Oppenheimer and Einstein, the two Jews primarily responsible for atomic weaponry. In the 19th century, many of the regional wars in Europe were financed by Jews in the banking industry, and of course we have the many wars of occupation throughout the first few centuries of our collective human history whose sole purpose was dispossessing the Jews of their land -- wars brought to you courtesy of the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans.

Unlike Timothy McVeigh, for instance, who was vilified as an individual, Jews are judged as a single entity. Jews the world over are collectively held responsible for the actions of every other Jew, the most recent examples of this group culpability occurring this past week in the attacks in Seattle and in Sydney. The world Jewish population, in being the focus of such great animosity, incites great conflicts. I do not call Jews accountable for the conflicts, any more than wood or air is accountable for a forest fire. It's not the wood or the air that sparked up the blaze, but none the less, the fire can't exist without them. Similarly I merely point out that by their very existence, great conflict does seem to be generated around the Jews. They are the hook upon which many of the wars in our shared history can be hung. They play a large role in history, inversely proportionate to their relatively small population.

The worldwide Jewish diaspora has given many nations a ready supply of Jews with which to fight. Jews are the great firewall of history, the bell-weather of civil liberties, the canary in the mineshaft that gauges the health of our various democracies and republics. Nazism, Communism, Fascism, and now Islamic extremism have each chosen the Jews as the lever with which to move their adherents, and it's the Jews who have been the first to fight -- or more often, the first to be killed -- in each of the great ideological battles of our age. One of the earliest warnings a free society has that it is headed into dire straits is the souring of public opinion against the Jews. Wherever antisemitism is suffered to thrive, there you'll also find totalitarianism taking root.

It may surprise you to learn that I actually have no problem with antisemites, nor bigots, nor misogynists, nor whatever it is the people who hate others happen to call themselves. Choose your label, I won't judge. Not because I approve or agree, but because I don't believe it's realistic to go through life without some unreasonable animosities developing toward some people. I don't expect to live and die without rankling someone for some reason, so I certainly wouldn't expect whole segments of the population - be it based on gender, creed, color, religion, or sexual orientation - to have a rosy relationship with all the others.

Conflict is at the root of our human nature; it's a by-product of competition, of striving, of the very engineering that created us. In an astounding economy of design, at every level from cellular to planetary, our successes and failures, our sexual reproduction, our very lives are energized by the power of competition and conflict. And it's a short leap from friendly competition to the more unfriendly sort.
Furthermore, hatreds are rarely rational, and it is that very irrationality that render prejudices inevitable.

But while I don't expect to receive love from all quarters, like most people I do expect a certain amount of decorum. When our prehistoric tendencies toward tribal preferences rear up, I count on civilized people to engage in civilized behavior, because that's how civilization works. Or rather, that's how it works best, the rare times when it occurs. Regardless of the stereotypes you may subscribe to, be they instinctual biases you inherited or intellectual ones learned on the go, our co-existence depends upon each of us exercising a certain level of restraint.

In this particular case I believe the alcohol removed Mel Gibson's restraint, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of his own personal prejudices. While I think he is a tacky, poor excuse for an incompetent drunk, it's only his inability to hold his liquor that I object to. His antisemitism neither surprises nor bothers me.

For your sophomoric failure to hold your booze, I forgive you, Mel. Apology accepted.

And as for the rest of it, the antisemitism and the hypocrisies you engage to hide it, I'm much more comfortable knowing someone feels a certain way than wondering if they do. Jews the world over now know where they stand with Mr. Gibson, and there is a certain comfortable honesty in that knowledge.

August 01, 2006

What We Can Learn From Mexico

Would that John Kerry had as much faith in us to have his back as Andres Obrador has in his supporters.

Mexico schooling the U.S. in standing up for the integrity of their vote.