Thursday, April 09, 2015

Has Obama Chosen Iran over Israel?

Our friends?  Really?

It ordinarily would not be fair or mature to impugn President Obama's motives over a policy disagreement, even an important one. But after the campaign of calumny and personal vilification that was launched against Prime Minister Netanyahu by administration proxies and toadies like the New York Times and The Atlantic, Mr Obama deserves no such courtesy. 

Obama's policy appears to be to throw an ally under the bus to mollify an enemy, a short term policy that re-iterates the anti-proliferation regime by which Bill Clinton did no more than slightly delay North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons.

It would appear that Obama wants a treaty so he can claim to have a foreign policy achievement to match his one domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.  Endangering both Israel and the United States to bolster his ego that he was a successful president is less than admirable. It is less than responsible. 

If Obama prevails in this fight and gets his treaty, the eventual Iranian nuclear arsenal, not the treaty, will be his legacy. Future generations will curse his name.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A Brief Review of 'The Human Age' by Diane Ackerman

I listened to as much of this as I could stand in a books-on-CD that I had copied to my iPhone.

While properly speaking it is beneath notice or mention, I am writing this to warn others that life is short and that none of it should be wasted on this drivel.

Ackerman is a woman who decided to write a book and then went ahead and did it without it ever having occurred to her that a) a book should be about something and, b) should benefit the reader in some way.

Ackerman has done nothing but string together the familiar and obvious into a collage of cliches, her faux-literary style being in her mind sufficient justification for her pointless exercise in vanity.  She is apparently under the impression that because she is well-born, Ivy League-educated, and doubtless wealthy, that the reader is grateful for the blessing of listening to her plummy-voiced prattlings.  We aren't.

Much of the writing descends into anecdotes from the author's vacations with little pretense that they are relevant even to her theme, which seems to be that the world is largely as Ackerman has seen it in magazines.  From this emerges the sub-text of the 'book' emerges, which is that Ackerman is a wonderful person who is nice to the grateful little brown people she meets on vacation and that you would be lucky to meet her and be  her friend but of course you can't because she is cool and rich and you aren't.

It is ironic that in a book in which she puts forth the startlingly original notion that climate change might be an issue, she should publish a pointless book for which a number of living trees will have to be rendered into paper and almost instantly thereafter into landfill.

Diane Ackerman can best serve the rest of humanity by just shutting up, and if she cannot do that, by limiting her nonsense to resource-sparing electronic publishing.  The public library where I borrowed this owes me an apology for leaving it where I could find it, and Ackerman owes the public library an apology for charging them money for it.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Letter from Svalbard



Letter from Svalbard

by Jack Kessler

As the total solar eclipse of March 2015 neared, eclipse hounds, shadow chasers, and other moderately deranged people turned their eyes north.  The NASA maps showed that on Friday March 20, 2015 at 11 am, a solar eclipse would sweep across the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean.

The eclipse would be over land in only two places, the lovely Faeroe Islands and the remote island of Svalbard.  The Faeroes are scenic and a fine tourist destination.  They are famous for their sheep, their green hills, and their sweaters. They are also in the midst of the Gulf Stream and therefore one of the cloudiest and rainiest places on earth.  On average, the number of clear days to be expected in March hovers right around zero.  This was not good news.  If one can’t see the sun, one can’t see the eclipse.

For the mildly curious and the non-deranged, that was the end of the inquiry.   Like fans of losing sports teams everywhere, they said, “Wait ‘til next year” and got over it.

But for those with a slightly less tight grip on reality, there was still Svalbard, an island in the Arctic Ocean.   The average March daily high there is 14°F. and the average daily low is 2°.  It is in the middle of the ocean and therefore windy.

 Technically Svalbard is the archipelago of which Spitsbergen and Jan Mayen are the two largest islands.  This is ‘technically’ in the sense that ‘nobody cares’.  Everybody calls it all ‘Svalbard’.  You should too.

Svalbard belongs jointly to Norway and Russia though Norway is technically sovereign there.  Again ‘technically’ in the sense that…
Note the Russian jets at left

Until the recent beginnings of hiking-and-camping tourism, the sole economic activity was that the Norwegians mined coal on their end of the Ijsfjord (Ice Fjord) at their town of Longyearbyen and the Russians mined coal at their end of Ijsfjord at their town of Barentsburg.  Both are company towns and look like it.   Norwegian kroner circulate as the official currency except that everybody in Barentsburg gets paid in company tokens and scrip, which are freely convertible into rubles.  This is on account that Norway is “technically” sovereign.

There is an airport, which is five kilometers outside Longyearbyen and is served by Norwegian Air, SAS (Scandinavian Air Systems), and Aeroflot.

There is a sign in front of the airport that reads “78° 15’ N”.  For reference, the Arctic Circle is 67° N and the North Pole is 90° N, so Svalbard is roughly midway between the two.   Longyearbyen is the furthest north mere mortals can go without hiring a bush pilot or an Eskimo guide or a nuclear submarine.  For just buying an airline ticket, this as far north as one can get.  It is the furthest north on land one can go short of mounting an expedition either in northernmost Greenland or the northernmost coast of Ellsmere Island in Canada.

in front of the airport

As usual when eclipses are in remote places, the tour companies had booked up all the rooms long in advance.  Not most – all.   There were two problems with this.  One is that the tour companies charge a lot more for the rooms than they pay for them.  The second is that even if one could afford their prices, they were sold out.

That left either foregoing the eclipse and looking forward to the next one, in 2016, or.…  There was still the option of the public campground just down the hill from the airport.   Keep in mind we are talking about camping out in the High Arctic, in winter.   Camping, as in sleeping in a tent, on the ground.

The campground website set down various rules one would expect in any well-run campground.  But they included one I had not seen before.  Campers had to take their turn on polar bear watch.  They weren’t even kidding.  They gave us a little flare pen, though it wasn’t clear what we were supposed to do with it if we saw a bear.

Not going to the Faeroes eliminated the merely curious.  Not finding somewhere to sleep indoors on Svalbard eliminated the merely enthusiastic.  The polar bear hazard added another soupcon of incaution to the resulting human filtrate.  The campground was for the eclipse-unhinged.  There were about thirty of us.  It was the best group of people I have ever had the honor to be among.

unfamiliar territory for a city boy from California

Much to my surprise, when I got the expedition-grade tent put up (and after an episode of it attempting to fly into the fjord because I had put the poles in before I had enough pegs hammered into the permafrost and ice) and into the army surplus ECWS (Extreme Cold Weather System) sleeping bag, while wearing four pairs of long johns and an ECWS overalls, I was actually comfortable – as long as I kept my ECWS mittens and yooper rabbit fur hat on.  I also had ECWS boots, ECWS gloves, four sweaters and a heavy leather jacket.

I am a lifetime Californian so this was alien to me.  We have to drive four hours to get to snow and there hasn’t been any the past four winters.  If the overnight temperature drops below 50° there are news stories about it.  While I was camping on Svalbard one windy night was -13° F.   I realize that below zero is not a big deal to readers from the Midwest and Canada, but how often do you camp out in it?

Why is the fjord steaming?  Not a rhetorical question - no one knew.
So I was equipped for the cold but not personally prepared for it.

Still, the fjord and the whole snowy island were ethereally beautiful even marred by the occasional rusting coal mining crane.

Because of the high latitude, while the sun never gets very high above the horizon, neither does it go very low below it.  So there is always at least a dim last-moment-of –dusk light.

While on polar bear patrol it was pointed out that because we were so far north the Big Dipper/Great Bear/Plough and Polaris were almost directly overhead, near the zenith.  It made an unfamiliar sky as though it were a third hemisphere.

My bear patrol partner was a young fellow from near Oslo, Jens.  Jens was at least 6’10”.  He may have been taller but those kinds of heights become a blur to me.   I may have been 5’5” in my twenties but I haven’t been in my twenties for a long time.  I would probably be exaggerating if I claimed to still be 5’3”.  So we made a ridiculous pair.  If we couldn’t escape the ice bears, as the Norwegians call them, maybe we could make them laugh.  I have often thought what would make a good epitaph is a stage instruction from Shakespeare, “[Exit laughing]”.

At first I suspected that the polar bear patrols were a joke, hazing the new kids, like snipe hunts at Boy Scout camp.  Later I learned that a white bear had put a man in the hospital a few kilometers away from our campground, even though he had shot it in self-defense.  The town police found the injured bear and killed her.  Which was painfully sad on both sides.  That made the patrols more in earnest.

Because of the polar bears, the Norwegians require that anyone leaving the populated areas must be in groups of at least two and that at least one of them must have a rifle and know how to use it.  It is a kind of reverse gun control.

I am no fan of the premeditated killing of wild animals and even less enthusiastic about them killing me, so I will have to pass on Svalbard in the summer.   That is a major disappointment.

The foreground and background are both in focus so why is the surface of the fjord blurry?  Heat mirages are caused by the temperature gradient between water and air.  Even though both are cold they form heat mirages at the water surface.

Glaciers flowing into Ijsfjord

Some of the polar bear patrols saw the Northern Lights as green curtains, one even got a picture of it.   It looked like a green flower with violet streaks.  I saw only tepid pale green stripes across the sky.

In keeping with the theme of marginal lunacy there is a tradition of giving a certificate of accomplishment to anyone who skinny-dips in Ijsfjord.  In spite of the obvious poor judgment shown by doing so, at least three threw their fragile warm bodies into the frozen merciless waters of that arm of the polar ocean, two Swedes and a Czech. 

earning the certificate

There had been clouds so we were all apprehensive but eclipse day dawned bright, clear and cold.   Walking along the road to where my new friends, the German Ph.D. student in astrophysics (who had saved my tent from flying into the fjord), the young British photographer, and the young pretty German campground attendant (whom I kept shamelessly trying to fix up with the young astrophysicist  :o), I walked past at least two dozen people with their camera lenses pointed at where they expected the sun and moon to be. There was the obligatory row of Japanese with even fancier and more expensive cameras than anyone else.  One man had a telephoto lens a yard long.
With that many pictures of totality waiting to be splashed all over the internet, the last thing I was going to do during my precious two minutes of transcendence was futz with my camera.  Though everyone else does it, it seems crazy to take pictures of the eclipse.  I want nothing between me and direct experience of the thing itself.  I want to feel the wonder and majesty, not adjust ISO, f-stops, and focus.

As the time passed after first contact, the moment when the moon first starts to cover the face of the sun, the light slowly dimmed.  The glorious scenery of the high mountain ridges across the fjord became eerie as the light changed to a silvery-gray that one sees only during eclipses.

As totality neared and the sun shrank to a thin crescent there were distinct ripples of light on the ground like the ripples one sees at the bottom of a swimming pool.  These were the same effect but these were ripples at the bottom of a sea of air, the atmosphere.

For the first time in the many eclipses to which I have been, I stood with my back to the sun as totality approached.  I saw the shadow of the moon in the distance rushing up the icy fjord toward us.  It came as a swift darkness over the land. 

I turned at the last second and saw the diamond ring effect.  When all the face of the sun but the last speck has been covered, usually because the last tiny bit of sun is peeking between mountains on the moon, that speck is still so bright that it makes a brilliant last flash.  For reasons no one understands, at that moment a pale glowing ring appears for an instant around the jet-black moon.

And then it vanishes.  Totality begins.   Second contact.  I can describe what I saw but not what I felt.   What one feels is ineffable.  The closest I can come is ‘ecstatic’ but that isn’t it either.

Around the sun and moon the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, appeared.  It is a pure pale white light against a near-black sky.  The corona was good-sized but was extraordinary in that it one could see black magnetic field lines etched in it.   The corona is among the most beautiful things one sees in life. 

It is also a mystery.  The corona is up to 1,000,000° F. whereas the surface of the sun is only 6,000°.  This is the equivalent of the heat emitted by an ice cube melting steel.  There is speculation and hand-waving about how the sun’s magnetic field somehow heats the corona but no clear explanation of how that would work. 

The size of the corona varies with the 11 year sunspot cycle, larger at sunspot maxima, smaller at sunspot minima, though there are many other factors which I won’t bore you with because I don’t know what they are.  The sun was near a minimum so we weren’t expecting much.  We were wrong.

Around the edge of the sun-and-moon there were at least six prominent pink blobules called Bailey’s beads.  These are great solar flares extending thousands of miles above the “surface” of the sun (the sun doesn’t properly have a surface because it is a ball of hot gas, not a solid).  The flares showed that the sun was active and putting on a show for us, the handful of idiots dumb enough to be among the frozen wastes, the glorious frozen wastes, of Svalbard.

Looking up and down the fjord one could see the light scattered by the edges of the eclipse, in effect an evening at the leading edge and a dawn at the trailing edge.  There was a rosy-apricot sunset in the distance at one end of the fjord, rosy-fingered dawn at the other.

The stars came out, Venus, others.   Mercury was apparently in opposition on the far side of the sun from us so it wasn’t visible this time.  Everybody knows about Mercury but few ever see it.  I have seen it only during totalities.

Some people wept, some laughed, some did both, some were struck dumb.  People hugged strangers.  I whooped inarticulate noises of joy and exhilaration which echoed off the high snowy ridges along the fjord.

As totality ended, third contact, there was a second diamond ring effect.  I have been going to eclipses for a quarter of a century now and this was the first time I have seen two diamond rings in one eclipse.

It was an eclipse that had everything.  It was a splendid eclipse per se.  It was under a bright clear blue sky.  The snowy Ijsfjord scenery was magnificent.  It was an adventure to be there.  And the company at the campground was the best.  Most were Europeans, many, but by no means all, were young.   

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!  --Wordsworth

For a moment, I was young too.

I have to congratulate and thank Norwegian Air and SAS for not jacking up the air fares to and from Svalbard tenfold the way LAN Chile did for the Easter Island eclipse a few years back.

Everyone who is reading this, meet me in Indonesia in March 2016 and we’ll do it again.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Neocolonialism in Berkeley

the Hovercam Solo 8 overhead scanner

Got the cardiac stress test results yesterday.  Negative.  I have been feeling the lifting of a weight I had not admitted to myself I was bearing.  I am now looking forward to a long and healthy​ life.

I have at last begun doing something about my diaries.  I brought them down from the attic.  45 volumes, penned over 50 years.  On the web I learned that the way I had dreaded scanning all those thousands of pages was stupid and wrong-headed.  It turns out that instead of the xerox machine-like lid-and-glass-plate​ flatbed kind of scanner I already bought for the task, there are overhead scanners.  The book lies flat on the table and the scanner is on a head 18 inches or so above.  Not only can the fancier ones be set to take a picture every so many seconds, they can also take a picture cued by my turning the page.   Which means the task is reduced to lying the diary on the table and turning the pages.

I also sent for a tsotske that fits flush in the pci-express slot on my elderly HP laptop and gives it two USB 3.0 input ports.  Which means that the laptop can now accept data as fast as the scanner can send it, and puts off the day when the laptop goes to Goodwill.    

​There is still no software that can recognize longhand and change it into text.  Only people can do that.  I have a list of typists in various poor countries like the Philippines who will gladly take my scanned .pdf's and return Word .doc files.

​For a generation I was unable to hire and exploit Mexicans to do work for me that I could do myself.  My then-fiancee Sheila finally overcame the residue of my socialist and Zionist scruples with the argument that the disparity of Mexican incomes and American ones like mine and the exploitation inherent in it, was part of the historical development of the two societies.  Remedying the disparity is to be worked out between the governments of Mexico and the United States, if at all, through mechanisms like NAFTA and that it was not my personal responsibility.  Further, the Mexicans in front of Home Depot needed the work and I needed the work done.  Eventually I relented, hired a bunch of guys to work on my house, and promptly got a lot more work done a lot faster than when I had been doing it all myself. 

Scruples, like hymens, once broken are not soon mended.

So once I have made .pdf files with the scanner, which should arrive in a few days, I will be able to send them as email attachments to poor people in remote lands.   For so many tenths of a cent per word, they will type them for me and send the product back to me, also as email attachments.  

I will send them files which they will process to a different kind of files and send back to me.  I expect to be able to pay them via Paypal.  How's that for good-old-fashioned neocolonialist exploitation in the Information Age?  I think Paypal will even do the currency exchange transaction as part of the payment transaction.

Still, the piecework rate I will pay, though paltry in the US, will be good pay in the country where it is done.  All the more for safe clean work that can be done at home while tending one's children.  It is my way of outsourcing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Why ISIS Might Destroy the Middle East Oil Fields

The Mad Hatter

It is not that ISIS has made any secret of their short term goals - to rule over all Muslim countries and for everyone not to their liking - Shias, Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Alawites - to be dead or enslaved.

Their longer term goals are usually ignored as just vague propaganda - a world Islamic state.  The risk is not that they might achieve it, but the steps they might take in trying to achieve it.

One is that they could take Baghdad.  The majority-Shi'ite majority Iraqi army showed no stomach for fighting and ran away leaving Mosul undefended.  It was hoped that getting rid of Prime Minister al-Maliki and his narrow Shi'ite sectarian government might improve things but the new prime minister seems little better.  If the Shi'ite - Sunni polarization continues, the Sunni tribes will be un-mollified and will either passively or actively support ISIS.   It is perfectly foreseeable that the Iraqi army would be no more successful in defending Baghdad than it was in defending Mosul.

If Baghdad were to fall, the civil war in Iraq would effectively be over.  ISIS would control the country except perhaps Kurdistan.  That would be a bad outcome but not one to make Americans put down the remote during football season.

What comes next however might.  Southernmost Iraq reaches the Persian Gulf, along the shores of which more than a third of the world's petroleum and gas are pumped and shipped.  Were ISIS able to advance against the small countries along the southern, Arab, coast of the Gulf, they could menace the oil fields from Kuwait to Oman.  This has been done before, by Saddam Hussein when he seized and annexed Kuwait.  Saddam's theory was that Kuwait was a province of Iraq and had to be reunited with the rest of the country.  That is what the First Gulf War, Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait, was about.  Had Saddam not been driven out, his army would have over-awed Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states on the Gulf, making them in effect Iraqi protectorates.

ISIS' pretensions are far grander.  Their claim is to all Sunni countries everywhere, starting with those closest to hand, those on the Gulf.  Clearly Saddam's plans were to control the export of oil from the Gulf to manipulate Western powers by controlling their energy supply.  And to enrich himself and Iraq with the proceeds of controlling those exports.  Saddam's objectives were the banal and familiar ones of wealth and power for himself and his country.

ISIS sees itself as a religious revival, a restoration of the greatness of the early Arab caliphate, and along with it, the destruction or at least humbling of the Infidel powers who have over-shadowed and oppressed the Muslim countries and Islam in general.

What they see as the sickness of Westernization - materialism, technology, consumerism, Western culture - can not be driven out by accumulating more wealth and with it more import of the trappings, culture, and thinking of Western society.   What religious puritans like ISIS want is not wealth but the austerity and virtue of the early Muslim conquerors of the 8th Century.

They want not to milk Western society of money with which to buy trinkets like Mercedes cars and private jets and MacBooks and iPhones but to rid Muslim society of such things entirely.   They can see as clearly as anyone that the reason Middle Eastern societies are awash in such things is precisely because they have the oil money to buy them.  One way to get rid of them is to get rid of the oil and thus of the money by destroying the oil fields.

They have not destroyed the few small oil fields they have captured thus far because they want oil revenues to buy arms and pay military salaries.  But it does not follow from that that when the scale changes to the vast oil resources of the Persian Gulf that their strategy will not change.  We see what use they have been able to make of looting a bank in Mosul.  Imagine them looting all the banks in Kuwait, Dubai, and the UAE.  Their military needs having been covered, their attitude toward accumulating oil revenues might become quite different than they have shown heretofore.

The other objective they have is not just to manipulate and humiliate the Western countries but to defeat them economically.  The same blow which would purify Muslim societies would also cripple Western ones.

There were temporary and partial restrictions of oil supply from the Persian Gulf in the 1970's after the Arab surprise attack on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur in 1973.  Israel defeated the combined Arab armies in spite of having been taken by surprise on their holiest holiday.  Arab impotence was followed by Arab petulance.  Having been being defeated in spite of their treachery, the Arabs vented their pique with the oil embargo of 1974.   Fluctuating high oil prices led to economic instability in the Arab countries and to inflation in the Western ones throughout the remainder of the 1970's.

That was when the Saudi Arabia, both the largest oil producer-exporter and the most politically fragile one, figured out that it was in their dynastic interests to keep production and prices stable.  Which matched Western interests.  So the Saudis came to be seen as allies and puppets of the West, particularly of the United States.  There have been no oil embargoes since.

The destruction of the Gulf oil fields would not just causes high oil prices, it would cause simultaneously high prices and outright lack of supply.  The world economy in the past few years showed its vulnerability to no worse a disaster than the floating of fraudulent mortgage-backed-securities on Wall Street.

The Persian Gulf countries, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman, have 40% of the world's oil production capacity and 55% of all proven reserves.  The abrupt removal of that much capacity and reserves from the world market would make the economic disruptions of 2008-2009 look small.  One could use the word "collapse" to describe the effect on the world economy, particularly on world trade.  The certainty that the removal would be permanent would compound the seriousness of the collapse.

Everywhere governments would be forced to institute systems of rationing.  Air travel both domestic and internationally would be severely curtailed by fuel prices and availability.  Commuting would wither and with it the prosperous suburbs surrounding every major city.  Trucking would become prohibitively expensive or impossible.  Goods would travel by ship and by rail.  Power plants that could would switch from oil to coal.  Those that couldn't would close, causing widespread and permanent power outages among peoples for whom, for generations, power outages have been momentary inconveniences, not permanent.  Large areas of the developed world would go off the grid.  People in once-rich Western countries would be reduced to kerosene lamps for lighting, and even kerosene would be expensive and hard to get.  Televisions, refrigerators, computers, and indeed all appliances, would become inert relics of another time.   So would private automobiles.

Deprived both of petroleum-based fertilizers and fuel for farm equipment, agricultural production would plummet.  Hunger would stalk once-rich lands.  The GDP of big Western countries could be cut by half or more.  The fact of the shortages being known to be permanent would mean that there would be no new investment in plant or equipment to help economies recover.  After the initial crashes would come not recovery but continued economic shrinkage as both supply and demand for goods and services continued to diminish as purchasing power shriveled everywhere.  

Unemployment, already stubbornly high in many Western countries, would rise to Third World levels and stay there or continue to rise.  There would be rioting and political instability even in Western countries with long histories of democracy.  In other countries things would be still worse.

That is what happened in the 1930's.  The Great Depression illustrated the fragility of the world economic system.  That collapse came about through internal instabilities in the capitalist system, without any external cause at all.  The downward spiral lasted three years.  In 1932 the cumulative value of the corporations on the New York Stock Exchange was 6% (not a typo - six percent) of what it had been at its peak in 1929.  Recovery was tepid and slow.

In the oil-exporting countries outside the Gulf:  Russia, Indonesia, 
Venezuela, Norway, Mexico, Nigeria, Angola, Brunei, there would be floods of wealth.  It would come both from the sale of petroleum to a world market starving for it and from the economic effects of breakneck development of new oil production.

Economic contraction in the West would be compounded by persistent waves of terrorist attacks against urban subway systems, power grid infrastructure, bridges and tunnels, airports, airplanes, freeway overpasses, ports, ships, and political institutions.

Governments would begin to print money to cover shrinking revenues and growing deficits.  They would call it "expanding the money supply".  Inflation and falling stock prices would destroy the value of savings and nest eggs.   Interest rates would rise to two and three digits figures as lenders moved to ever-more secure and ever-less productive places to put money.

Western governments would find their war potential curtailed.  Russia would continue to find excuses to annex one after another of the former Soviet republics.  NATO would become impotent to do anything about it.  As the Russian sphere-of-influence expanded into eastern Europe and the Balkans, into Turkey, and Central Asia, Putin's vision of a Eurasian union would begin to hove into view.  The only sand in Moscow's gears would be escalating terrorist attacks within Russia from its own large Muslim minorities.

The United States would, both from necessity and inclination, begin to turn toward a Tea Party-led soft isolationism.  American influence throughout the world would become as quaint a memory as the British Empire is today.

The Saudi regime and the other oil-supported monarchies of the Gulf would collapse quickly without oil revenues to smooth over and bribe away opposition.

The Islamic State, un-menaced by the US or other Western countries, would expand effortlessly throughout the Middle East as morally bankrupt regimes from Morocco to Oman, now also financially bankrupt, toppled one after another.  Israel would be besieged.  After repeated mob attacks and rioting, Muslim quarters in European cities would become something like fortified.  Within their closed ghettos, sharia would become the norm without much protest from distracted European governments.

That scenario, the purification of Muslim societies of paid-for Western influences, and inflicting catastrophe on the Western and world economies, is why ISIS might destroy the Persian Gulf oil fields if they get them.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Maybe Mossad, with a little help, with a little help, with a little hel-l-l-p-p from our friends

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the leader of Shas, the party of the Sephardic and Mizrachi (eastern) Jews

I am unclear on what is or was going on in Gaza that led to this war.
One theory is that Hamas started a war they could not win out of despair. The overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt meant that Hamas' supply of arms and goods to tax coming in through the Rafah tunnels from Egypt was cut off. ISIS had replaced them as the leading Salafist regime and had begun to establish the caliphate without them. Plus they were broke and becoming unpopular.

According to this theory they were suffering a crisis of relevance and decided that if they were going to go down they would at least go down swinging, that their world would end with a bang not a whimper. We can call this the pundit theory.

The alternate theory is based on the discovery of networks of tunnels into Israel and of intelligence that Hamas planned a huge attack by their guerrillas in fake IDF uniforms, and that the attack was planned for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, in September. According to this theory they were on the verge of a huge victory against Israel. We can call this the tunnel theory.

On this latter theory, which seems better supported by concrete evidence, the last thing Hamas would have wanted would be to in effect invite the IDF to invade by beginning sustained rocket barrages against Israeli civilians. Yet that is what they did.

If we assume the IDF had knowledge of the tunnels but not of their precise locations they would have needed control of both ends of the tunnels in order to prevent the planned attack. They would have needed to invade Gaza.

But how could they have justified such an invasion solely on the basis of intelligence? The American non-existent WMD's fiasco in Iraq would have been clear in their minds. No matter what the intelligence was, it is hard to see how the cabinet could have gone ahead with an invasion seemingly unprovoked. Even if they had been right. found the tunnels, and presented the evidence, the outrage both abroad and in Israel over an unprovoked invasion would have been overwhelming.

On this theory the only thing that could have thwarted the Hamas attack would have been a prolonged rocket barrage from Gaza against Israel followed by an Israeli ground invasion. Which is just what happened.

Again there are two theories. One is that the head of Shas, Ovadia Yosef, is right and that the G_d of Israel has intervened to save the Jews. Another is that the head of Shas, Ovadia Yosef, is right and that the G_d of Israel has intervened to save the Jews by making the Children of Israel clever and resourceful people.
The fact that the only thing that could have saved Israel from a devastating attack and defeat is exactly what happened suggests that Mossad has one or more moles at the highest levels of the Hamas leadership.

Consider too that by now Iron Dome must have been tested extensively and been known to be effective. Which means that, still hypothetically, if one had been contemplating the costs of a Hamas rocket war against Israel, one would have known in advance that the cost in lives on the Israeli side would have been small or nil. And when compared to the cost in lives of not acting, of a mass attack by Hamas guerrillas wearing IDF uniforms within Israel proper, it would have been an easy decision to make. We can call this the Mossad theory
If this theory is correct then the current war is a pre-emptive one in the exact sense of the word, a war launched to prevent, to pre-empt, an attack by the other side.

The flaw in this theory is that it is just speculation and that it assumes facts not in evidence. It assumes that Hamas is rational, that it is unified, and that it is competent. On this theory, the effing moron theory, the Hamas leadership are effing morons and screwed up. As for the Israelis, everyone knows it is better to be lucky than to be smart. Maybe they just got lucky.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bowe Bergdahl a Traitor? Guess Who Killed the Most Americans Ever?

[Robert E. Lee, traitor]

There is a lot of talk about Bowe Bergdahl leaving his post and possibly being a traitor and getting six American soldiers killed trying to rescue him.

Can you guess which person was responsible for the deaths of the most Americans ever? Please wait a moment and consider your possible answers before reading any further


No, it wasn't bin Laden, not Hitler, not Saddam Hussein, not Tojo.

It was Robert E. Lee of Virginia. Unlike bin Laden, Hitler or Saddam Hussein, Lee was a traitor. If you think that is harsh or unfair stop for a moment to look up the definition of the word 'traitor'. Go the URL line and type in "define traitor". See if you can see any way in which Robert E. Lee doesn't meet that definition, no matter which dictionary you use.

Unlike bin Laden, Hitler, and Hussein, Robert E. Lee was a US citizen. Worse, he was a graduate of West Point and when the Civil War began, was an officer in the United States Army. Which means he took the oath of office taken by every US Army officer from 1791 to 1950 in which he swore "true allegiance to the United States" and "to defend and protect it".  Leading armies against the United States, besieging Washington, trying to capture the President, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, and trying to overthrow the US Constitution, probably doesn't qualify as paying "true allegiance".

In consequence of his treason, after the war Lee was tried and shot by firing squad. No, he was hanged by the neck until dead. Maybe he was imprisoned for life. No, that isn't it either. Actually, after his surrender he went home to his plantation in Virginia and lived peacefully there the rest of his life.

So when the question of Bergdahl's treason begins to emerge, remember that the rule he violated in practice reads "You shall not betray your country for any reason whatever (unless you come from a wealthy, old, aristocratic family with a town named after it, e.g. Leesburg, Virginia, pop. 42,616, in which case you will not even have to give your sword back).

The Bergdahls not having been among the signers of the Declaration of Independence as the Lees were, Bowe will have to take the consequences of his actions.  He has it coming and if he committed treason should be severely punished.

But when the braying begins and calls for trying Bergdahl for treason get louder, remember to ask those demanding it when they will outlaw the display of the Confederate flag and stop honoring the Civil War traitors.  Be as open-minded with their crappy lying excuses as they are with Bergdahl's crappy lying excuses.