Friday, February 26, 2010

View from Spanish Leftist Pilar Rahola

An interesting speech by a Spanish leftist.

A non Jew and active member of Spain's left, speaks out

Pilar Rahola is a Spanish politician, journalist and activist and member of the far left. Her articles are published in Spain and throughout some of the most important newspapers in Latin America?

Why don’t we see demonstrations against Islamic dictatorships in London, Paris, Barcelona?

Or demonstrations against the Burmese dictatorship?

Why aren’t there demonstrations against the enslavement of millions of women who live without any legal protection?

Why aren’t there demonstrations against the use of children as human bombs where there is conflict with Islam?

Why has there been no leadership in support of the victims of Islamic dictatorship in Sudan?

Why is there never any outrage against the acts of terrorism committed against Israel?

Why is there no outcry by the European left against Islamic fanaticism?

Why don’t they defend Israel’s right to exist?

Why confuse support of the Palestinian cause with the defense of Palestinian terrorism?

An finally, the million dollar question:Why is the left in Europe and around the world obsessed with the two most solid democracies, the United States and Israel, and not with the worst dictatorships on the planet? The two most solid democracies, who have suffered the bloodiest attacks of terrorism, and the left doesn’t care.

And then, to the concept of freedom. In every pro Palestinian European forum I hear the left yelling with fervor: “We want freedom for the people!”

Not true. They are never concerned with freedom for the people of Syria or Yemen or Iran or Sudan, or other such nations. And they are never preoccupied when Hammas destroys freedom for the Palestinians. They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom. The resulting consequence of these ideological pathologies is the manipulation of the press.

The international press does major damage when reporting on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. On this topic they don’t inform, they propagandize.

When reporting about Israel the majority of journalists forget the reporter code of ethics. And so, any Israeli act of self-defense becomes a massacre, and any confrontation, genocide. So many stupid things have been written about Israel, that there aren’t any accusations left to level against her.

At the same time, this press never discusses Syrian and Iranian interference in propagating violence against Israel; the indoctrination of children and the corruption of the Palestinians. And when reporting about victims, every Palestinian casualty is reported as tragedy and every Israeli victim is camouflaged, hidden or reported about with disdain.
And let me add on the topic of the Spanish left. Many are the examples that illustrate the anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiments that define the Spanish left. For example, one of the leftist parties in Spain has just expelled one of its members for creating a pro-Israel website. I quote from the expulsion document: “Our friends are the people of Iran, Libya and Venezuela, oppressed by imperialism, and not a Nazi state like Israel.”

In another example, the socialist mayor of Campozuelos changed Shoah Day, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, with Palestinian Nabka Day, which mourns the establishment of the State of Israel, thus showing contempt for the six million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Or in my native city of Barcelona, the city council decided to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel, by having a week of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thus, they invited Leila Khaled, a noted terrorist from the 70’s and current leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization so described by the European Union, which promotes the use of bombs against Israel.

This politically correct way of thinking has even polluted the speeches of president Zapatero. His foreign policy falls within the lunatic left, and on issues of the Middle East he is unequivocally pro Arab. I can assure you that in private, Zapatero places on Israel the blame for the conflict in the Middle East, and the policies of foreign minister Moratinos reflect this. The fact that Zapatero chose to wear a kafiah in the midst of the Lebanon conflict is no coincidence; it’s a symbol.

Spain has suffered the worst terrorist attack in Europe and it is in the crosshairs of every Islamic terrorist organization. As I wrote before, they kill us will cell phones hooked to satellites connected to the Middle Ages. An yet the Spanish left is the most anti Israeli in the world.

And then it says it is anti Israeli because of solidarity. This is the madness I want to denounce in this conference.


I am not Jewish. Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not anti Israeli like my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland, Israel. To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews, it is the duty of the non-Jews.

As a journalist it is my duty to search for the truth beyond prejudice, lies and manipulations. The truth about Israel is not told. As a person from the left who loves progress, I am obligated to defend liberty, culture, civic education for children, coexistence and the laws that the Tablets of the Covenant made into universal principles.

Principles that Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. That is to say that as a non-Jew, journalist and lefty I have a triple moral duty with Israel, because if Israel is destroyed, liberty, modernity and culture will be destroyed too.

The struggle of Israel, even if the world doesn’t want to accept it, is the struggle of the world.

An Annoyance

I read a long tedious article in the New Yorker about the Nobel-Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman who now writes a column for the New York Times.

Though much too long, the article was interesting. And disgusting. What a pig Krugman is. First he works as an economic adviser in the Reagan Administration. Then he claims he didn't know it was a conservative Republican administration that favored the rich. Then he works as a consultant for Enron. And claims he didn't know there was anything wrong. Then he marries one of his students. Unless they were a very unusual couple, he was fucking her before they married. Which means he was fucking one of his students. He regularly insults his academic colleagues and then is surprised when they don't like it?

Having worked for Reagan and Enron, he gets angry and huffy when others are not as liberal as he is, now that he has seen the light. And now claims to have just discovered that the distribution of incomes in America has been shifting more and more in favor of the rich since the 1970's? He just now discovered that? Hello? And it is news to him that government policy has something to do with that. Hello, glute-hole! Why does he think we have elections - so we can debate our policy toward Paraguay?

And how much did his seeing the light have to do with getting a plum contract to do a column for the liberal New York Times? (He was still working for Enron when he got the offer from the Times).

The fact that 'New Yorker' writer Larissa MacFarquhar is impressed that he and Mrs. Krugman have really the most cute and wonderfully fashionable little place on St. Croix and wastes a quarter of the article writing about it, shows only that she imagines that that will somehow sugar-coat the fact that her subject is a hypocrite and an asshole. It doesn't. Finally, what kind of buttheads have their picture taken for a nationally distributed magazine holding their cats?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Argument for Cannibalism

If the Great Ju-ju no make man for eat,
No would make man of meat.

I have long advocated this

The best hunters in the world are the nature photographers for National Geographic, Animal Planet, and so on. All the same skills of lying in wait, stalking, outdoorsmanship, plus having to get the light, focus, and framing right, all simultaneously. No moron with a rifle or even a spear even comes close.

But people want to hunt so they should be accommodated. Combining a paint ball gun with a camera would give the hunter a trophy to take home - a photo of a deer splattered with the hunter's signature color water-soluble paintball. Any color but red. It would show how close he got and what a good shot he is. Such photos would prove that the hunter is an accomplished outdoorsman, a straight shooter, a nature photographer, and not an asshole. If that won't get him laid, nothing will.

One could even go a step further and use paintballs containing a tasty liquid infused with vitamins and minerals that grow strong bones and antlers six different ways, so the deer would get something out of it too.

Since the deer would not be getting pointlessly whacked, there would be no reason not to paintball does and even fawns. Nor would the hunters be limited to a particular hunting season.

Even the perennially (and generally falsely) hyped argument about controlling deer populations (Which tend to rise because the same hunters, or their fathers, have killed all the wolves that would have kept deer populations in check. The obvious solution is not to murder the deer but to bring back the wolves. But I digress.) can be addressed by the paintball rifle-camera.

Zapping deer with paintballs containing oral contraceptives would prevent does from having fawns this season. For those of more bizarre imagination, shooting bucks with paintballs containing doe-in-heat musk would lead to some strange photos of cervine gaiety.

Monday, February 22, 2010

360 degrees of Utah

[What the Mormons were searching for]

Click and drag in any direction.


Some Thoughts on Fish

[Jonah ordering fish]

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is giving away a little folding pocket guide titled "Seafood Watch, a West Coast Sustainable Seafood Guide". This is of note because it seems like every other issue of National Geographic or so has an article about the collapse of one oceanic fishery or another. The greatest of all, the one that probably led to the discovery of America by Europeans, the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, has been closed for years. There simply aren't enough fish left. It is the same story in fisheries all over the planet. In the 19th Century we wiped out the bison and the carrier pigeon. Now we're doing it to the world's fish. Here's what to do:

The guide consists of three lists: Best Choices, Good Alternatives, and Avoid.

** The double asterisks indicate "Limit consumption due to mercury or other contaminants". To the environmentalists at the Aquarium what matters is whether you harm the fish or the environment. Whether you suffer mercury-induced nerve damage in the process or are otherwise poisoned is an afterthought. Sigh.

# "Some or all of this fishery is certified as sustainable to the Marine Stewardship Council standard." Which I guess means that the people involved are considered affirmatively not schmucks.

(abundant, well-managed, and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways)

Abalone (US farmed)
Arctic Char (farmed)
Barramundi (US farmed)
Catfish (US farmed)
Clams, Mussels, Oysters (farmed)
Cobia (US farmed)
Cod, Pacific (Alaska longlines) #
Crab, Dungeness
Halibut, Pacific #
Lobster, Spiny (US)
Rockfish, Black (California, Oregon) **
Sablefish/Black Cod (Alaska, BC)
Salmon (Alaska, wild) #
Sardines, Pacific (US)
Scallops, Bay (farmed)
Shrimp, Pink (Oregon) #
Striped Bass (farmed or wild**)
Tilapia (US farmed)
Trout, Rainbow (farmed)
Tuna, Albacore (troll/pole, US # or BC)
Tuna, Skipjack (troll/pole)
White Seabass

(are an option but there are concerns with how they're caught or farmed - or with the health of their habitat due to other human perils.)

Caviar, Sturgeon (US farmed)
Clams, Oysters (wild)
Cod, Pacific (US trawled)
Crab, King (US), Snow
Flounders, Sanddabs, Soles (Pacific)
Halibut, California
Lingcod **
Lobster, American/Maine
Mahi Mahi/Dolphinfish (US)
Pollock (Alaska wild) #
Rockfish (Alaska or BC, hook and line)**
Sablefish/Black Cod (California or Washington)
Salmon (Washington wild)**
Scallops, Sea (wild)
Shrimp (US, Canada)
Spotted Prawn (US)
Swai, Basa (farmed)
Swordfish (US) **
Tilapia (Central American farmed)
Tuna: Bigeye, Yellowfin (troll/pole)
Tuna: Canned Skipjack and Albacore **

(for now, as these fish are caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.)

Caviar, Sturgeon (imported wild) **
Chilean Seabass/Toothfish **
Cod: Atlantic, imported Pacific
Cobia (imported farmed)
Crab, King (imported)
Dogfish (US) **
Grenadier/Pacific Roughy
Lobster, Spiny (Caribbean)
Mahi Mahi/Dolphinfish (imported)
Marlin: Blue **, Striped **
Orange Roughy **
Rockfish (trawled) **
Salmon (farmed, including Atlantic) **
Sharks **
Shrimp (imported)
Swordfish (imported) **
Tilapia (Asia farmed)
Tuna: Albacore, Bigeye, Yellowfin (longline) **
Tuna: Bluefin **, Tongol, Canned (except Albacore and Skipjack)
Yellowtail (imported farmed)

For more information, or to print this list, see and the Marine Stewardship Council at

What the hell is barramundi? Or cobia for that matter?

As a bachelor and eater of sandwiches I am sorry that canned tuna is out, at least albacore. I don't what skipjack is, but the name sounds like a suggestion to me. Fortunately there are still Pacific sardines.

As a Jew I am delighted to see that salmon (read "lox"), at least Alaska wild salmon, is still OK.

As someone who pays in restaurants, I am glad Maine lobster is no better than an alternative. "Yes, honey, the lobster does look good, but it's ecologically dubious. Wouldn't you really rather have the catfish? For the sake of the environment?" A fortiori for caviar.


Did Mossad Kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh?

[the House of Commons- not how they do it in Gaza?]
Let's hope so. According to Reuters, Al-Mabhouh was a founder of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, usually described as the "armed wing" of Hamas. One doesn't want to think how many Israelis and Palestinians have died at their hands.

It was the Izz el-Deen which recruited and armed the endless suicide bombers it sent into crowded Israeli marketplaces, pizzerias, and city buses before the security wall was built to keep them out. It was the Izz el-Deen which acquired, smuggled, and launched the 8,000 rockets which thundered down on civilian neighborhoods in southern Israel. It was Izz el-Deen which conducted the bloody civil war by which Hamas defeated the Fatah in Gaza. One doesn't want to even imagine what was done to the defeated Fatah fighters when Izz el-Deen captured them.

Even given that, it is not clear that either Mossad or Fatah were responsible for his death. I have read that al-Mabouh was the founder and "former" leader of Izz el-Deen. One is free to disagree with me here because I have no way of knowing this, but my guess is that struggles for leadership of organizations like Izz el-Deen are not conducted according to Robert's Rules of Order, but in some other fashion. Among people accustomed to using force both within and without their organizations, one is less likely to be eased out than rubbed out.

Nikita Kruschev, the former premier of the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin, established a huge milestone in the transition from the outright gangsterism to which Stalin's Red Terror had degenerated by 1953. In 1956 Kruschev forced out Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin's longtime Foreign Minister, and seized power himself. Molotov became the first Soviet politician in thirty years to lose power without shortly thereafter being shot. Not only did Kruschev not have Molotov murdered, Molotov actually outlived him by 15 years. Under Stalin every one of the Old Bolsheviks (who, along with Lenin, had actually conducted the revolution) except Molotov was murdered either with show trials or with no trials.

Similarly Jimmy Hoffa's whereabout remain unknown.

My guess is that the internal processes at Izz el-Deen are more like those of the Soviet Union under Stalin and the Mafia in the time of Jimmy Hoffa, than those of Her Majesty's parliament in the time of Queen Victoria. Former leaders are probably dispatched rather more decisively than by elevating them to the House of Lords.

In any case, whoever did away with Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, he deserved it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

More Middle East Silliness

[Dubai Police Chief Dahi Talfan Tamim Cohen]

West Bank: Hamas Accuses Fatah of Links to Assassination in Dubai

Published: February 19, 2010

Hamas asserted Friday that two former officers from the rival Fatah organization were involved in the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai, while Fatah insinuated that Hamas members were the ones who collaborated with the killers. The Dubai police have two unidentified Palestinians in custody in connection with the killing of the official, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, last month; 11 other suspects who had European passports are at large. A Hamas Web site, the Palestine Information Center, said the two Palestinians were Anwar Shheibar and Ahmad Hassanain, former Fatah security officers and current employees of a senior Fatah official. Hamas has accused Israel of the killing, but Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas leader in Damascus, Syria, said the Palestinians might have been “small collaborators.”

A Fatah spokesman denied involvement in the killing and blamed Hamas members for any collaboration. “Hamas is the only one to know the movement of al-Mabhouh, and from there the information went to the Israelis,” said the spokesman, Adnan Damiri.

The two Palestinians (Mossad hires mainly Palestinians) detained were unidentified except for Hamas claiming to know who they are and giving their names. There are eleven suspects at large using European passports. Somehow the two Palestinians detained remain unidentified while the eleven suspects at large, though it is not known who they are, are known to be Mossad agents. Indeed it is so well established that these eleven unknown suspects are Mossad agents that the certainty proves that the passports they used must be false because they did not have Mossad passports. The certainty about these unidentified persons, in spite of no one apprehending them nor anyone knowing who they are, is so great that undergraduate cretins as far afield as Dublin know exactly who they are.

Clearly it was a conspiracy of Mossad, Hamas, Fatah, the Iranian Republican Guard, the CIA, Al Qaeda, the Vatican, perhaps Brazil, and The Three Stooges.

This story was run by people actually claiming to be a news reporting agency.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Humor in the Middle East

From Agence France Presse today -
Syrian President Bashar Assad met with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Friday and discussed a number of issues including relations with Israel. During the meeting, Assad said peace requires will – something that he said Israel is lacking. He stressed that European countries should take upon themselves an important role in the region and force Israel to commit to peace. He also reiterated the need for Turkish mediation in the peace process, and stressed the importance of France's support.
I hope Prime Minister Fillon was able to keep a straight face while President Bashar was telling him this. This is the same Syrian regime which invaded Lebanon and occupied it for decades and was not long ago implicated in the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. This is the same Syrian regime that provoked Turkish military action on their border. This is the same Syrian regime that funneled money and arms from Iran to Hezbollah. This is the same Syrian regime that alone among Israel's neighbors has not only not signed any peace treaty but has steadfastly refused to even enter into negotiations, even when urged by the other Arab countries and the Quartet. This is the same Syrian regime that has consistently endorsed the Rejectionist Khartoum Declaration of 1968. This is the same Syrian regime that massacred 20,000 of their own civilians during the military revolt at Hama in 1982.

This is who is lecturing Israel on peace?

But seriously, Bashar did not intend or expect to be taken seriously about Israel. His remarks are directed to the Turkish government. Since the Islamic National Salvation Party took power there, there has been an opening for Arab governments to improve their relations with Turkey, which is Israel's only explicit military ally in the Middle East.

Syria was excluded from this opening because of the border tensions caused by Syria giving sanctuary to Kurdish rebels who had committed guerrilla raids on the Turkish side of the border. Turkish troops actually entered Syria under the doctrine of "hot pursuit".

President Bashar's remarks about Turkish mediation appear an attempt to flatter the Turkish government and to unfreeze Turkish diplomatic hostility. And to undermine the Turkish-Israeli alliance.

A Step Up for the Gray Lady

from Wednesday's Santa Rosa Press Democrat -
Reporter Accused of Plagiarism
The New York Times is looking into the work of one of its reporters following accusations that he plagiarized from the Wall Street Journal and other sources.

The paper published an editor's note online Sunday and in papers Monday that said reporter Zachery Kouwe "appears to have improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations".
This is a huge improvement for the Times. Copying from the Wall Street Journal, which is more or less an actual newspaper, is a substantial improvement from the NYT's usual practice of copying from "The Eastern Establishment Handbook of Political Correctness, Veiled Antisemitism, and Anti-Israel Bigotry".

The Times frequently copies Palestinian sources verbatim and presents them as news. So one assumes it is not Kouwe's copying , but his copying from something other than 'the E.E. Handbook' which is the source of the Times' editorial wrath.

[full disclosure - the co-author of this blog had a rural bicycle delivery route for the Press Democrat during 1957-58. He was thus arguably an employee of the P-D. He denies being currently in their employ or otherwise in cahoots with them.]

Happy & Romantic & Belated Valentines Day

Watch more Moviefone videos on AOL Video


The Dream


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pleased with Myself

Just now back from Oregon. After over a thousand miles of driving without incident, while attempting to start my car in front of the UPS office in El Cerrito where I get my mail, it wouldn't start. It didn't turn over at all.

Rather than panic and even before feeling grateful that the tsouris came within sight of the repair place, it occurred to me what the problem might be. Since it had not made even a feeble attempt to start, it couldn't be the engine per se, nor even the battery. It had to be the connection to the battery. Out of an abundance of caution I had taken both metric and SAE wrench sets and a bag of other tools. I loosened and disconnected the battery connectors and used a screwdriver to scrape them and the battery posts free of the layer of blue-green copper sulfate (the copper from the battery plates, the sulfate from the sulfuric battery acid) that had accumulated. With high hopes I re-tightened them and turned the ignition key. It started more readily than it had before.

Being able to solve one's problems unassisted is such a pleasure.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Weird News

[Acting President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, second from right]

The President of Nigeria, Umaru Yar'Adua, was in ill-health and flew to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. That was almost three months ago. Since then no one in Nigeria has heard from him. In the meantime, there has been growing pressure for the vice-president to assume power as the acting president. The vice-president is Goodluck Jonathan - which sounds like he is from the same town as Cotton and Increase Mather.

The Wall Street Journal article went on to add --

Mr. Jonathan, who is often seen in a wide-brimmed Stetson hat, has been thrust into power before. In 2005 while he was deputy governor of Bayelsa state, the then-governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was arrested in London on money-laundering charges. Mr. Alamieyeseigha jumped bail and, dressed as a woman, fled to Nigeria where he was impeached, arrested and sentenced to two years in jail, according to press reports. He was released within hours.

Mr. Jonathan, handpicked as vice president by Nigeria's former president and ruling party, was seen as someone who wasn't as corrupt as the country's other politicians.

Hopeful News

[17 year old Du'a Khalil Aswad being stoned to death for improper relations in 2007]

The news item here is that the Saudi Human Rights Commission (admittedly 'Saudi' and 'Human Rights' does sound like an oxymoron) intervened on behalf of the little girl, not of the Wahhabi religious authorities. If there can be even the beginnings of Islamic reform in Saudi Arabia, there can be reform anywhere.

from today's Times of London -

A 12-year-old girl fighting to divorce her 80-year-old husband in Saudi Arabia is to receive legal assistance from the Government in what could become a test case for banning child marriage in the kingdom.

The state-run Human Rights Commission has hired a lawyer to represent the girl when she takes her case to court in Buraidah, a conservative town near the capital Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has no minimum legal age for marriage and it is common in poorer, tribal areas for girls to be married off. However, it is rare for a child bride to challenge the match.

A draft law prohibiting child marriage is under discussion and activists hope that the case will be a watershed in the campaign to ban the practice.

The girl was married to her father’s cousin last year against her wishes and those of her mother. It was reported locally that the marriage was sealed with a dowry of 85,000 riyals (£14,500) and consummated.

The girl’s mother filed for divorce but withdrew her case without explanation this month.

This is the first time that the Human Rights Commission has intervened publicly in such a case.

Alanoud al-Hejailan, a lawyer for the commission, said: “Our main concern is to safeguard the child’s rights ... it is in the hands of the court but the commission is firmly on the child’s side.”

The court is expected to rule in the case within days. The commission has indicated that it will pursue the matter through the appeals court if a divorce is not granted.

The draft law is expected to establish a minimum age for marriage of between 16 and 18. As a short-term measure activists are pressing for the Government to ban notaries from sealing marriages of girls under 18.

The case has sparked debate in Saudi Arabia. Some judges and clerics have used the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to a nine-year-old girl as justification of child marriage.

However, in January Sheikh Abdullah al-Manie, a senior Saudi cleric, spoke out in defence of the girl, declaring that the Prophet’s marriage 14 centuries ago could not be used to justify child marriages today.

Young wives

— In April 2009 a Saudi judge refused to annul a marriage between a girl, 8, and a man in his late forties, saying that she could not seek divorce until she reached puberty

— Anecdotal evidence suggests that Saudi Arabi’a child marriage rate is high, accompanied by a divorce rate of about 60 per cent

— Child marriage in Yemen became a cause célèbre in 2008 when Nujood Ali, 10, sought divorce from an abusive husband more than three times her age

— Marriage of young girls is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. In Niger 77 per cent of 20 to 24-year-old women were married before 18 and in Bangladesh the figure stands at 65 per cent

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Reminiscence of 1977

[The Ghiberti Doors, Florence]

I lost my job, and ultimately my career, so I did what any strong-minded man would do - I ran away. Patty and I had planned to vacation in Portugal so I said, the hell with it, let's go anyway. We had a wonderful time in Portugal for a couple of weeks, then she flew home. I stayed in Lisbon and watched her plane leave. Not the best moment of my life.

I took a train to Florence but didn't realize that one had to buy a separate ticket for a seat. So I spent hours standing in the corridor, then sitting in the corridor, then lying. Amidst the dirt, cigarette butts, and one doesn't want to think what else. Get tired enough and one doesn't care.

Also in the corridor were a young English girl and a young Australian man who were not together. I was an elderly figure of thirty, so I took an avuncular interest in these tots of twenty-something. I pointed out truthfully, that a room in a pensione with three beds would be far cheaper than three rooms with one bed each. The English girl was very proud of how liberated and independent she thought she was and was not afraid to be in a room with the young Aussie and me, especially in view of my advanced age and chaperone-ish demeanor. The Aussie claimed to be liberated and egalitarian as well, but had merely read about it as something going on in the US and UK and had no clear idea what it was about.

What I omitted to tell my young acquaintances was that I was on my way to Jerusalem to meet my mother who happened to be there the same time I was in Portugal. So I left the next morning for Arezzo and the Adriatic ferry to Haifa, leaving the two green youths alone together in the room - quite a different proposition from being three in the room together. And could there be a more romantic city for young people to find themselves thrown together than Florence? My romantic prank.

My guess is that they live in a suburb of Melbourne, have three kids and by now five grandchildren and are expecting another any day.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Even in Retirement


Where Are They?

[M31, Andromeda Galaxy, is the Milky Way's near-twin and binary partner, that is, they are in orbit around each other. It is the nearest large galaxy to ours. It is 2.5 million light-years away so the picture is of how it looked 2.5 million years ago. The light from the far side is 100,000 years older than the light from the near side.]
I have never understood Enrico Fermi's question about extraterrestrials, "Why aren't they here?"

It is the same question as "Why haven't we ourselves sent starships all over the galaxy?" The answer is special relativity - it would require an immense and immensely powerful ship to accelerate to near-light speed and then to decelerate down from it at its destination. And seen from earth it would take thousands of years for such a ship to reach even the nearest star, 4 light-years away.

If the first people ever to live in a city, in addition to building the walls of Jericho 9,000 years ago, had built and sent out a starship to the nearest star at near light speed, it would still be en route today. Our galaxy is some 100,000 light years across. It is pretty damned obvious why extraterrestrials have not visited us. Even if it were physically feasible for them to do it, no small supposition, since the beginning of our civilization there has not been time enough for them to get here.

Yet Fermi was no fool. One of the leading scientists of the Twentieth Century (and, interestingly, an Italian Jew), he won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938. He has a subatomic particle, the fermion, an element, fermium, a research laboratory, the Fermi Accelerator National Lab, and a space telescope, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, named after him. I on the other hand have a blog and a lot of opinions. Even so I am willing to bet that I am right and he is wrong. Unless there were money involved, of course. Then I too would bet on Fermi. So what am I missing?

My guess is that Fermi was not as impressed as I am with special relativity. He knew Einstein personally and perhaps understood him and his physics to be as fallible as anyone else's. My guess is that Fermi saw 20th Century physics as just that - a science that would be superseded in the centuries to come, just as 18th and 19th century science had been in his time. Otherwise his remark makes no sense.

We already have intimations of that in the study of quantum entanglement, effects that operate instantly over unlimited distances. Though these are wispy subatomic things, subtle quantum effects, they nevertheless reflect something about reality that doesn't give a damn about special relativity. So maybe during the coming century or the one after it, special relativity itself will be shown to be a special case of something larger, just as it did for classical Newtonian mechanics. If that should turn out to be true, where the hell are they?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Sacre Bleu!

After all my supposedly radically independent thinking and unconventionality, all my jousting with Irish lunkheads and Gaza screamers, it turns out that my notions are no more than conventional government policy in France. France, as in Europe, as in EU. How cool is that?
France bars citizenship over veil

The French government has refused to grant citizenship to a foreign national on the grounds that he forced his wife to wear the full Islamic veil.

The man, whose current nationality was not given, needed citizenship to settle in the country with his French wife.

But Immigration Minister Eric Besson said this was being refused because he was depriving his wife of the liberty to come and go with her face uncovered.

Last week, a parliamentary committee proposed a partial ban on full veils.

It also recommended that anyone showing visible signs of "radical religious practice" be refused residence permits and citizenship.


In a statement, Mr Besson said he had signed a decree on Tuesday rejecting a man's citizenship application after it emerged that he had ordered his wife to cover herself with a head-to-toe veil.

"It became apparent during the regulation investigation and the prior interview that this person was compelling his wife to wear the all-covering veil, depriving her of the freedom to come and go with her face uncovered, and rejected the principles of secularism and equality between men and women," he said.

Later, the minister stressed that French law required anyone seeking naturalisation to demonstrate their desire for integration.

Mr Besson's decree has now been sent to Prime Minister Francois Fillon for approval.

The interior ministry says only 1,900 women wear full veils in France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority.

In 2008, a French court denied citizenship to a Moroccan woman on the grounds that her "radical" practice of Islam was incompatible with French values.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2010/02/03 04:38:02 GMT


Tuesday, February 02, 2010


[Dubai's Burj al-Arab, the world's only seven star hotel]

From today's Wall Street Journal -
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic militants have escalated over the past week after Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior operative who Israelis say helped smuggle weapons into Gaza, was killed in a Dubai hotel room.

Hamas officials initially accused Israel's Mossad spy agency of the killing, while Israeli officials refrained from confirming or denying involvement. On Tuesday, Arab media outlets reported that Hamas officials were suggesting agents from Arab governments rather than Israel were responsible for the killing.
That is simply the unfriendliest room service I have ever heard of.

Economic Competition in The Old West


A Common Problem


Monday, February 01, 2010

Let's bash the Brits

Enough of this fighting among Jews and Palestinians. Let's find common ground, something we can all hate. English cooking.

If You Are What You Eat, What Are the British?

By Bruce Cameron

Recently I found myself arguing with a British friend of mine over which tastes better: English cooking or dirt.

According to a Feb. 10 report by news agency Reuters, the issue has been settled once and for all. It's dirt.

That's not what the article actually says — what it says is that according to Dr. Graham Clayton, a researcher at Leeds University, British potato chips combine the aromas of "butterscotch, onion, cheese and ... ironing boards."

If you've ever had these chips, you're probably thinking: "Wait, ironing boards? I don't remember tasting any ironing boards; what did they do, improve the recipe?"

British potato chips differ from the American version in that the English chips are grey and soggy, as if they were laundered with dirty socks. They can be delicious if you've taken complete leave of your senses; otherwise, you might be better off checking to see what else is in the dryer.

My friend takes exception to my description of his chips — but then, this is a guy who eats baked beans and hotdogs for breakfast. (He calls the hotdog a "banger," but I know a hotdog when I see it, even if it doesn't have a ballgame in front of it.)

English cooking was deliberately designed by an ancient English king to motivate his troops to invade France. That's why my British buddy drinks stout, which looks like a glass mug full of liquid interstate highway. The beverage's name is very descriptive: Drink enough stout, and that's what you'll be.

The British love plain labels: Open my friend's cupboard, and you'll find it stacked with cans that say simply, "beans." That's it — no clue as to the kind of bean, how they are cooked or why anyone would eat them for breakfast. He's also got "Heinz salad cream" — if you need to know what flavor cream, you shouldn't be eating it.

Nor should you eat "clotted cream" — or at least, not according to my mother, who always insisted that when the milk came out in clots, it was time to throw it out. The word "clot" is intentionally unappetizing so that you'll know not to eat one, yet to the British, it's a form of dessert!

Or how about my friend's bottle of "brown sauce?" Only the Brits would think that "brown" was a flavor.

Brit: Today for lunch we've got some ironing boards in a delicate brown flavor, plus some gross clots.

Me: I think instead I'll just have a hotdog and some baked beans.

Brit: Sorry, we've stopped serving breakfast.

Me: Oh, OK.

Well, what color do the clots taste like?

Some of the labels, though, are completely incomprehensible. One small jar my friend has in his cupboard is called "Bovril," which sounds to me like something you'd take for a yeast infection. Turns out I'm wrong: Bovril is a "concentrated yeast extract drink." That's right, it doesn't cure a yeast infection, it is a yeast infection!

Another can is filled with "kipper fillets in sunflower oil." Not sure what a "kipper" is, I looked it up and came across this entry: "In the U.K., kippers, along with other preserved fish such as the bloater and the buckling ... ."

That's where I stopped reading, afraid I was going to throw a clot. Who would eat a fish called a "bloater"? That's how you describe a fish that has died from a yeast infection. One bite, and your knees will most certainly be "buckling."

For dessert, my friend has "rose-flavored jelly in milk chocolate." That's right, in England the cooking is so bad that people wander out into the garden to eat the flowers.

Brit: Do these roses taste red to you?

After munching on some ironing boards, bloating fish and clotted diary products, you might be, well, dead. If you're not, then you're probably British, which, given their diet, doesn't seem like that much of an improvement. You'll want to settle your stomach with either a good pumping or a handful of "digestive biscuits," a British cookie designed to help your body figure out what to do with all the stuff you've eaten.

Or here's an idea: Skip the meal. Catch up on your ironing, instead.