Saturday, December 31, 2011

Couth? I got couth up the ...

I can teach you one or two things about boxed wine right now. When you live in an RV it doesn't roll around because it doesn't come in a round bottle. It doesn't break because it comes in a plastic bladder in a cardboard box instead of a glass bottle. If you care about fuel efficiency it is better to save weight by having plastic and cardboard instead of glass. Cardboard boxes stack nicely and save space in your overhead compartment compared to bottles. When you cork an opened wine bottle the air inside makes the wine go bad fairly quickly. With box wine, the bladder is flexible so no air goes into it. Which means that the wine remains good indefinitely even after it is opened. In spite of its reputation, box wine is actually pretty decent wine. And it is dead cheap. About $12 for the equivalent of ten bottles. You do the math.

Not a pressing concern but still interesting

Mechanical Dog

[click on picture for fullscreen]

Imagine this thing self-contained, with cameras and remote control, and armed with missiles, guns, or poison gas.  And you have the soldier of the future.  This is a prototype of a ground drone.  Paid for by the same folks who actually did invent the internet - DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).  Coming to a battlefield near you.

When these things are mass-produced and cheap, the dogface of yore will be replaced by actual imperialist running dogs.  When boots-on-the-ground are no longer needed or wanted for warfare, the advantage of high-tech powers over low-tech ones will be complete.  Once these things are ready for rollout they will be easy to miniaturize.  A rat-sized one could go almost anywhere and be able to shoot a poison dart or a high-powered small caliber pistol.

Locked doors and windows?  No problem.  Every house has a 4" pipe connecting its toilet to the outside world.  Robot goes up drain pipe from main sewer, waits until sensor shows terrorist is on the crapper, then literally pops a cap in his ass.

Hey all you people who think Ron Paul is so Great...

Ron Paul with former American Nazi Party member and current KKK Grand Wizard and webmaster, Don Black.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ding Dong Kim is dead

Which old Kim, the wicked Kim!

An easy 31 points. Add that to the 21 for Liz and the 44 for Steve and it makes 96 for the year, a new record. And there are still 12 more day left in the year. Come on Michael and Kirk, Ruth and Mohammed.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The View of a devout Heterodox Jew

One of the most intriguing things in physics is the two slit experiment. It, like Schrodinger's cat, suggests that the physical reality of things depends on the presence or absence, and implicitly on the existence, of an observer. Feynman even showed that it is quantifiable and dependent on the sensitivity of the detector.

There have been subatomic reactions dependent on an observer since the beginning, billions of years before there were human observers. Further, Feynman, a human observer, could only be in one place at any one time and only observe one or two reactions. It seems to require a universal observer who is everywhere and has always been everywhere for the universe to have discrete outcomes, like Schrodinger's cat being either alive or dead. Without a universal observer neither the universe nor anything in it can exist in any definite state.

Yet we see all around us that things do exist in definite states and that they always have. Even so, we also see from Feynman's experiments that not everything exists in definite states. The passage of the electrons through one slit rather than the other was not definite until Feynman detected it. Which to my mind suggests something I have always suspected about Hashem - She is not unlimited. If Hashem really had the characters attributed to Her, omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, omnicausal, eternity, omnibeneficience, unity, perfection, and so on, there could not be evil. Yet there is.

It seems to me that the contradiction between the existence of Hashem and the existence of evil lies in assigning attributes that would make evil impossible. It seems to me that Hashem, like Her creation, is a partial integration, neither complete nor perfect. Nothing in the universe is complete, nothing is perfect, nothing is permanent and eternal except the universe itself.  Which is a reflection of the characteristics of Her who made it.

Evil exists where Hashem is not.  Horror happens not because G_d wills it, but because She cannot stop it.  When Hashem cannot prevent evil, people must do it.


Friday, December 09, 2011

An Alternative? Maybe not.

Newt Gingrich is unelectable.  It is hard to see the evangelicals voting for a thrice-married man with a marital scandal involving a martyred wife.  Whatever they may feel about Obama being black, there has never been a whiff of scandal about his marriage to Michelle and they have the two lovely little kids.  The Reverend Wright ridiculousness will stand him in good stead because it graphically put him in a pew in a Protestant church for twenty years.  A faithful church-going family is hard to beat with Newt for the evangelical vote.  

And it is hard to see women voting for a man who is every wife's nightmare of what her husband might be up to.

His influence-peddling career may well splinter Tea Party members for whom he is precisely what they hate about Washington.  Not even Koch's money would be able to clean up that stink and keep the rednecks on board.

And to a television electorate, it matters that Gingrich is fat and rumpled-looking whereas Obama is tall, slim, younger, and looks good in clothes.   

The most effective political commentary I see is John Stewart on the Daily Show.  How appropriate is it that the Republic is guarded most honestly by the Sixth Estate, the comedians.  When politics becomes a joke, the jokers are the ones to explain it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

On the other side of the sky

Jupiter map realised in 2011, between October 10th and October 15th, from the Pic du Midi Observatory from Jean-Luc Dauvergne on Vimeo.

[click on four outward-pointing arrows for fullscreen]

The Great Red Spot is 25,000 miles across.  The earth is 8,000 miles across.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Down Time

I am home in bed with a cough and a sore throat and general crumminess today.  Oliver the doggapotamus is in bed snoring alongside me.  Rita is off running errands including getting chicken soup.   

When you find a woman to whom your being sick is a cue to get you chicken soup rather than to get herself a flu shot, you have really got something.  Or someone.  Someone imprudent, certainly.

My nephew Steve Wilhelm, a perspicacious young man, put up on Facebook a link to a Wall Street Journal article on how difficult it is to cut the deficit.  It contained the following paragraph,
"The White House, after saying all fall that Obama's jobs agenda must be paid for with tax increases on high-income earners, appears willing to simply pad the nation's $15 trillion national debt instead of finding offsetting cuts."

To which I commented, "So why did we vote for this guy?"

Earlier in the day I heard from an old and dear friend, Karen Trendler Petit.  She called me "a cynical old poop".  Unfortunately, I could not find a basis on which to disagree with her.

As it stands, the US economy is dysfunctional.  The Congress is dysfunctional.  The President sees no connection between betraying the people who elected him the first time and his prospects of being elected a second time.  The Left are narcissistic idiots with a strong taint of anti-Semitism.  The Republicans have fielded a row of right-wing idiots.  Their un-electable frontrunner, Gingrich, yesterday proposed repealing the child labor laws.

Iran is building an atomic bomb.  Yet Russia and China are more afraid of disrupting the price of oil than they are of a government in which the lunatic Ahmadinejad is the more moderate faction.  And that is even though Iran has missiles to deliver nukes to Russian and Chinese cities.  The survival of the European Union has come to depend on the good will and generosity of the Germans, a people not noted for either.  The Arab Spring is more and more being revealed as merely a device for replacing repressive military regimes with repressive Islamist ones.

Cynicism both at home and abroad is more and more the description that matches reality.

I worked on the 2008 Colorado campaign which brought us a politician created by the Chicago Daley Machine and funded by Wall Street, and I worked on the 2010 debacle which saw the people of Wisconsin discard Senator Russ Feingold like a beer can out a car window.  Clearly, participating in politics and world affairs accomplishes exactly the same result as not participating in them.  Except for the disappointment afterwards.

From which it follows that it is time to stop reading the news.  It is bad for me and it is not helping anyone else.  Further, I am in a perfect position to live as an escapist.  I am retired, Rita wants me to live with her in her big house amid oak trees in a canyon in the Berkeley Hills, and we already have all the gadgets and clothes we want.  The world's reality sucks.  Mine is actually quite good.

Reading used to mean spending time in Dostoyevsky's or Tolstoy's Russia.  Or visiting the drawing rooms of Austen's England.  It can be that again.  I am going back to reading fiction.

I have been accused of saying, "I've got mine.  Too bad about yours."  Which would be a crummy thing to say.  But "I've got mine.  I've tried and there is not much I can do about yours." does not make me a heartless prick, does it?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why the Euro Matters

[The Yalta Conference, 1945]

It was a fundamental tenet of fascism to deny the unity of Europe.  The fascist governments explicitly denied the unity of Europe because they intended, and felt justified in intending, to treat their fellow Europeans as objects of imperial and colonial acquisition.  That is quite different than the mutuality of neighbors, even unfriendly neighbors, with whom one shares a long history and a common, or at least, similar religion.  The earlier version of this was the notion of 'Christendom'.

Even in war, Europeans acknowledged each other's humanity.  One remembers the informal Christmas truces on the Western Front in World War One when German and English troops would sing carols to one another across the corpses and machine guns of the trenches and the wire.  And that the next day, they would follow orders and return to the slaughter.

The European Union, the European Central Bank, the common European passport, the European Commission, the European Parliament, all the other institutions of European integration, and most notably the Euro, are an attempt to bring an end to a thousand years of uncountable and progressively more destructive European wars.

If the Euro fails that would be the first significant step backward on a path that people of good will hope and intend will eventually lead to the merger of sovereign European states into what young people in particular hope will be a "Europe of regions", not of states.  Worse, it would break the momentum toward integration and damage, perhaps irreparably European confidence in that outcome.

So while the discussion may seem like abstruse questions of banking and national debts and finance taking place among people in suits around long mahogany tables and that it all has not much to do with our lives, nothing could be further from the truth.  If the number of European wars over the past millennium is uncountable, the number of casualties in those wars is trebly so.  Twice in my father's lifetime, millions of young Americans have been sent overseas to fight, and too often to die, in those wars.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What the Founding Fathers Have to Say to Modern America

[Patrick Henry's landed estate was in Henry County, Virginia.  I too was 
raised in a county named for my family, PoorAssJews County, California.] 

He was on of those who wrote the US Constitution and represented, not the people, though they often claimed to (politicians were hypocritical liars then too), but country gentlemen like the Virginia aristocracy, i.e themselves.

The liberal democrats like Henry and Jefferson wanted a weak central government run by Southern aristocrats which would not be able to impose direct taxes and most of all not be able to interfere with slavery.  A government composed of people like, say, Jefferson and his class.

The Federalists, led by Hamilton and the New Englanders and New Yorkers, wanted a strong central government that could create a positive business climate for commerce and banking. It was mere coincidence that they and their friends were engaged in commerce and banking.  They wanted to impose taxes to pay for infrastructure like the Erie Canal, turnpikes, harbors, and suppression of the Indians. They wanted a strong government to limit and eventually suppress the slave trade.

Now we have come to an era when everybody quotes one Founding Father or another for some principle or another as though the Founders were unified and agreed on anything. They agreed on absolutely nothing. They only reason they were able to stick together at all was the personal prestige and leadership of George Washington. Without Washington they would have been defeated, the British army would have rounded them all up and hung them, just as Franklin predicted.

In modern times the libertarians call on the Constitution to give freedom to business against the interest of the common people.  Completely wrongheaded and false.  Similarly, the liberals call on the Constitution for a strong government to regulate business.  Equally wrong.  The fact is that the situation of American business and banking is now so far from when it was just getting started in the near-wilderness of 1787 that the comparison is meaningless.  American business and banking are a colossus that bestrides the world.  Slavery has been gone for a century and a half and the slave trade even longer. So the reasons for wanting a strong or a weak government in 1787 are meaningless today.

Which means, to me at least, that quoting the Founders for this purpose or that is doubly meaningless. They were all over the map on every issue and fought bitterly over every word and phrase in the constitution.  Patrick Henry, who did as much as anyone to get the Revolution underway, "smelt a rat" and refused to even attend the Constitutional Convention. On the other side of the question, it is meaningless to try and figure out what Jefferson or Adams would have thought of tapping cellphones or abortion or racial equality.  Those things would be inconceivable to them.  So I think we have to look to how we the living want to govern our country and not worry too much about what the Founders would have thought about the issues that divide us. The real fact is that they would not have thought anything at all.  They couldn't have.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Growing Darkness

The end of daylight savings time in the wee hours of the morning today has begun my least favorite time of the year.  I do not like the short days.  I do not like the cloudy overcast skies.  I do not like the cold.  I do like the rain but not like the wet after the rain.

I get depressed and moody during the dark months.  Every year I promise myself that I will escape to sunnier climes.  Chile and New Zealand come to mind.  I think about renting an apartment in Valparaiso or Auckland.  And every year I decide that being alone in a far-off country where I know no one would be worse than staying here in the cold and wet and dark.

There is lots to recommend the Southern Hemisphere.  It is springtime there when it is November and December here.

Outside the United States one is free of endless tape loops of Bing Crosby singing 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer', and of 'Jingle Bells' sung by people who have never seen, and who never will see, a one-horse open sleigh.  Outside the United States one is not inundated in red and green decorations, and in images of Frosty the Snowman in California where there are no snowmen.  Outside the United States one is not subjected to endless seasons greetings cards from people whose sole purpose in sending them is to show themselves and others that they are married.  I have long since given up any sense of guilt or obligation about not sending cards myself.  I have accepted that I am a curmudgeon and that I just don't care and I rely on my friends to recognize this.

Outside the United States one is not subjected to the idiocy of receiving presents one doesn't want in return for buying and giving presents the recipient doesn't want either.  For some reason the presents have to be wrapped in colored paper which is promptly thrown away, as though that somehow conceals the fact that they are mass-produced in Chinese sweatshops.

If one gives expensive presents, one gives a label of which the message is, "I pointlessly gave a prosperous store owner a lot of money for something functionally worth far less than I paid for it in hopes you would feel good about me, or at least not be pissed at me for not getting you anything."  Does anyone not know that luxury goods are sold at a far higher markup than useful things?  But then again, you know me well enough to know that the reason I spent so much money was out of desperation about not being able to think of anything interesting or original to get you.

Rita sometimes gives people notices that she has sent money in their name to a sanctuary for homeless pot-bellied pigs.  People buy them as piglets because they are so cute, smart, and easy to train.  They ditch them when they grow into enormous hogs which occasionally eat their neighbors' pets and small children.  Why they don't just eat the pigs is hard to understand.  Having an edible pet seems like a practical foresight.  One can imagine a vegan with a pet carrot.

And New Year's Eve has become a waste of time.  It used to be an evening to get drunk and laid after a loud party.  Now one is married or close to it and one goes home with the one one came with.  So there is nothing to look forward to about it except being a year older, which isn't much to look forward to at all.

Rita has an enormous and quite ridiculous bulldog named Ollie.  He is a likable pooch and a hopeless goofball.  He is fat and farts a lot and snores when he sleeps.  That pretty well describes me too, so I wonder what exactly Rita sees in me.  But I am far from the first to not understand women.

Ollie is a good ol' dog but he is a problem if we want to move to Punta Arenas or Christchurch for a month.  It seems wrong to put him in a kennel for more than a few days.  On the other hand am I willing to be depressed and miserable staying here so that Ollie won't be depressed and miserable staying in a kennel?   It is a quandary.  

The only good thing about winter is skiing.  Sadly I am getting close to being too old to go anymore.  But I have been going to the gym semi-religiously to get my legs into shape for a few ski runs.  It is harder on the legs than it used to be because I am a lot fatter than I used to be and a lot heavier.  Which makes standing up on the skis harder, and falling down at speed problematic.

Another only good thing about winter is driving through snowy scenery.  I like that a lot.  I am not yet too old to do that though my back complains loudly if I sit too long.  I have a mechanical back massager thing which move steel knuckles up and down my back as I drive.  I doubt I could still drive long distances without it.

So I am semi-stuck and semi-dreading the winter and its thoroughly annoying holidays.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What's Inside Dawud Shehab?

 Yesterday's Wall Street Journal -
An Israeli aircraft struck a pair of Palestinian militants on Sunday, killing one man and wounding a second. On Saturday, nine militants and an Israeli civilian were killed in some of the worst violence in the area in months.
"When all of the jet fighters leave the skies of Gaza we will stop firing rockets," said Dawud Shehab, a senior member of Islamic Jihad. The latest round of violence was set off by a rocket attack last Wednesday by Islamic Jihad.
When the overall situation is reduced to a single incident one can see clearly what the problem is. Shehab and his organization started the exchange by firing rockets last Wednesday. And four days later he was indignant about the reprisals for it. 

Ordinarily can imagine the Palestinians having some sort of amnesia about their aggressions and their imagining the Israeli reprisal to have been unprovoked. But this was last Wednesday and Dawud Shehab knew exactly the sequence of events. So how could he with a straight face make such a demand and even be indignant about it? 

All the usual adjectives about such a person - fanatic, bigot, racist, terrorist - are all too general. Those address only why he would be a senior member of an organization like Islamic Jihad. But the question here is, what went wrong in Dawud Shehab's brain that he was unable to connect what he did on Wednesday with the consequences of it the next few days? If one could understand that, one would understand why there is no peace. 

I suspect the problem may be one of national identity. Most nations have long histories reaching back centuries. They are defined by shared history, shared traditions, shared language, shared religion, shared customs, shared literature, shared art, shared cuisine, by a sense of solidarity. The Palestinians have none of these. 

What defines a Palestinian? Their language is not distinguishable from Jordanians, Syrians, or Egyptians. Having persecuted and driven out the Christians among them, they have merely the ordinary Sunni Islam of the places they immigrated from - primarily Egypt and Syria. There having been no Palestinian people before the British Empire separated what few of them there were from centuries of Turkish and Egyptian rule, there are no Palestinian traditions and no history separate from reaction against Israel. There is no Palestinian literature, no national epic.  There is no distinctive Palestinian cuisine, no famous art works.

Tellingly, there are no Palestinian holidays whatever that have no reference to Israel. Land Day is a protest against Israel, not a celebration of anything Palestinian. There was no Palestinian history until the Zionist settlers arrived because there was no Palestinian people before that. When the Jews arrived, their economic activity attracted the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents of the Palestinians from Egypt and Syria with the prospect of jobs in Palestine. 

There have never been Palestinian kings or kingdoms, no great victories, no heroes, no literature. Nothing defines the Palestinian national identity but their hostility to Israel. Palestinian personal and national identity is recently formed and has no content except hatred of Israel. That is pretty slim pickings to look inside yourself and your society and see so little, so very little. 

The arrival of the Zionist pioneers and their hiring of Arab immigrants from Egypt and Syria led to the formation of an amorphous proletariat, a fellaheen, of people who could define themselves only by what they were not. 

That is apparently what Dawud Shehab is saying. He is not saying that he has forgotten that he and his friends started shooting rockets at Sderot and Ashdod last Wednesday. He was saying that he was feeling empty because he had not restated his identity recently. While this seems a blanket condemnation of Dawud Shehab, one has to sympathize with him slightly. It would be horrifying to look within oneself and to see nothing. Or at least nothing but hatred. 

It also explains why there can never be peace until the Palestinians suffer so vast a catastrophe that they are able to construct some other identity from it. The Germans were able to forego their Aryan superman national identity only when American bombers and Red Army tanks crushed those pretensions out of them. Only when the Palestinians are forced by some vast catastrophe to absorb the reality of their situation will they be able to construct some other identity for themselves as individuals and as a people. 

My guess is that only an existential disaster will change them. Only when people like Dawud Shehab can look inside and see some sort of identity and self-image other than hatred of a neighboring people will there be peace. It won't be soon but it will one day come.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The World, the Whole World!

A hundred years ago the idea of a world powered by anything but coal would have seemed a daydream. The transition to petroleum took place naturally and through ordinary market mechanisms. 

The transitions away from it, driven both by market mechanisms and by political will can make the changeover to other forms of energy quicker and less costly than the change from coal to oil was. 

Henry Kissinger once said that the way to become energy independent was to put a floor under the price of oil. The reason capitalists are so reluctant to invest in alternate energy sources is that the price of their main competitor, oil, is so volatile. No one will lay down a billion to build an energy plant if the price of oil might plunge and make the plant unprofitable. If there were a floor under the price of oil, money could be invested in any number of ventures to produce energy by other means. 

The actual radicals are not the conservationists. The real radicals, the ones who will do any crazy thing at all if there is a chance of a decent return on it, are the capitalists. Let them have a shot at the problem. They can't until they have some way to know what the prices are going to be.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Inhuman Conditions in Gaza

So is the problem in Gaza economic deprivation?  Or maldistribution of incomes?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Old Glory

I was in Cambridge with Rita yesterday and after the Harvard Natural History Museum we went through the Memorial Church on the Harvard campus. The main hall of the church is lined with plaques honoring the Harvard men who fell in the Civil War. Each plaque has the young man's name, his dates of birth and death and where he died. Gettysburg, Antietam, Chickamauga, Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, Bull Run, Petersburg. And others.

The plaques made them suddenly real. In their mid- to late-twenties, they had been young officers., lieutenants and captains. They died in the prime of their lives.

The name of one of them, Benjamin Franklin Pierce, had been appropriated by a television program as the name of the character 'Hawkeye' on the television program ' MASH'.

Once on a bicycle trip up the Potomac I had shied away from a short side trip that would have taken me to the Antietam National Battlefield. I was afraid of hearing the voices, the screams of the wounded and dying, attenuated by a century and a half, but not silenced. Here in Harvard Yard I had stumbled among them.

I got a lump in my throat and started crying. I had to get out of there before I made any more of a fool of myself. Rita was kind and understanding and left with me. I had been sneering at Harvard men and women as snobbish, self-satisfied, elitists, who made lots of money but were second rate at the research that had won Berkeley so many Nobel Prizes and Harvard so few.

Suddenly that seemed shallow. Harvard men had been dying in arms to save the Republic and to free the slaves before before there was a Berkeley. Certainly none of the privileged young people walking about in Harvard Yard were likely to die in arms for a cause they believed in. Those times are gone. But they are heirs of those who did.  For the first time I understood the meaning of a tradition.  The dead honor the living in a way that is hard for the rest of us to comprehend.

Here at Cape Elizabeth in Maine, a few hours drive north of Boston, Rita and I drove up to the hotel. In front of it there was a flagpole with an American flag flying. Over the years I had come to think of that flag as the emblem of the dominant world power, the American imperial republic. It had a stale look to it.

After the plaques in Harvard's Memorial Church, the flag was fresher, the colors brighter. It was the flag of the Union, the last best hope of mankind.


OMG...Obama is Hoover!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


[The morons couldn't even spell 'Caen' - click on yellow arrow for fullscreen]


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hallelujah! The Recession is Over! NOT!

[1933 bread line]

According to an article in the New York Times, median household income in the United States has fallen an additional 6.7% since the end of the recession in June 2009. This is in addition to the 3.2% it fell during the recession which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009. Unemployment, which rose to 9.5% during the recession, has remained above 9% since the recession ended.

Those who lost their jobs were out of work an average of 16.6 weeks when the recession began and an average of 24.1 weeks when it ended. Now that there is no recession, those losing their jobs are now out of work an average of 40.5 weeks, the longest in 60 years.

For those still employed, wages adjusted for inflation have continued to fall since the recession ended. The number of people neither working nor receiving unemployment benefits has continued to rise.

Which means that the government's definition of a recession, "a period in which gross domestic product falls for two or more consecutive quarters" is worse than wrong - it is meaningless.


A Clearer View

[a sukkah, 'booth' in English, made for Succot, the Festival of Booths]
Harvey said...
Your view on doing charity work is off. To not help others because the system that created the need should to be changed is foolish. It is not living in the present. Besides, revolution changes nothing but the characters.

You do not feed a hungry person because you want to end world hunger, but because he is hungry now. There is no end to the projects you can do.

Several year ago I got a grant to build sukkahs for people who never had one before. (Chico went from 2 sukkahs to 8. Earthshaking? No. but a nice difference) I bake and distribute challahs free to people on Shabbat. (One person told me they were just going to have dinner, but because they received the Challah they set the table, lit the candles and had a family Shabbat dinner.) My project to make and distribute tsitsit is taking off. A number of people now wear tsisit, a reminder to be a good person and to consider your actions.

Small steps on a small scale. Not as big as feeding people, but at least it may be feeding hungry souls. Or maybe not, but it is what I can do. The talmud says if you save a life, you save the world. That's big.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Seen Through the Fog

[Overthrow the Bastards!]

The Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur high holidays have left me still in a quandary about what to with myself. At long last I have achieved some modest security of means and still enjoy good health. I live in arguably the most beautiful area in the world. And now in a particularly good part of it, with a woman who loves me and whom I am coming to love. She takes care of me and there is a view of city lights from above from our bedroom.

Now what? When life's problems of subsistence and comfort are solved, what should one, I, do? The obvious answers are all wrong.

Doing charity work without changing the system that makes it needed, has long since been shown to be a waste of time, counter-productive even. It is simply doing for free individually what should be done collectively and paid for by taxes on the rich.

Making revolution has been shown by a lifetime of listening to idiots talking about "building a movement" to be a fool's errand in a plutocracy with a show of elections. It was once said of William Randolph Hearst that there is no point in getting into a shouting match with someone who buys ink by the barrel.

Besides, life has taught me that I don't really want a revolution. In each of the great revolutions, France, Russia, and China, the wars and mass killings were caused not by the destruction of the old order but by the instability of the new one. Yesterday's massacre of Coptic Christians in Cairo shows that the Arab Spring will be no different.

Reformist politics, at least in the US, have once and for all been given the lie by the election of Barack Obama. His campaign rhetoric of hope has been followed by endless concessions to those whose excesses one hoped would be restrained by his reforms, reforms which never came to pass.

So what does that leave? One listens to the voice of the master, Voltaire. His advice was "tend one's own garden". I take that to mean that one should try to live a good life on one's own and not imagine grand social reforms nor any other great work.

So of what does a good life consist? According to another master, Aristotle, the good life consists of developing and exploiting whatever talents one has. Not even to excel, but to live to one's own limits - not to throw the discus further than anyone ever has, but to throw it as far as one can possibly throw it oneself.

I am either particularly unfortunate or particularly blessed in this regard. I once took the Johnson O'Connor Foundation's three-day battery of aptitude tests to find out what sort of career I should take up. I was dismayed to learn that according to the Johnson O'Connor Foundation my talents and aptitudes, while uniformly high, were all roughly equal. Which told me exactly nothing about what I should do.

In the exit interview, the regular guy was on vacation so I got a substitute, a hippy airhead, who suggested that what I should do with my life was either to end world hunger or build a starship. I am not making this up. I paid $300-odd dollars for this back in the 1980's when $300 was a month's rent.

But in retrospect the Johnson O'Connor Foundation did give me a valuable bit of information. It told me that there is no help, that experts are worthless. I could have prayed to G_d for guidance and saved the $300. Whatever one is going to do with one's life, one must decide on one's own.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Islamophobia in the Press - Again

[Saul Perlmutter holding up the permanent UC campus parking permit awarded to Berkeley Nobel Prize winners]

The various agencies of the media are all reporting that Berkeley's own Saul Perlmutter and Technion's Daniel Schechter have both won 2011 Nobel Prizes, Perlmutter for physics and Schechter for chemistry.

Perlmutter and his team studied extremely distant supernovae and discovered not only that the universe is expanding, which was known, but that the expansion is accelerating. The energy of universal acceleration is called Dark Energy. It constitutes 73% of the mass-energy content of the universe.

As I understand it (a huge caveat) it combines two notions from high school physics and one from college. According to Newton: F = mA where F is force, m is mass, and A is acceleration. Force through distance is work. E = mc2 where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light.

Work is in units of energy, is energy. Here, the force equals the mass of the universe times the observed acceleration of the extremely distant supernovae. The force necessary to accelerate everything in the universe is applied through the distance by which the acceleration exceeds what the expansion would have been had it been un-accelerated. That force applied through that distance is the amount of work done. One is tempted to say that that is a ton of work/energy. But it is vastly more. The mass-equivalent of that much energy is expressed as m = E/c2.

So far from being a mere ton of energy, that much energy exceeds all the rest of the mass of the universe by almost three to one. Even the remaining 27% of the universe that is not dark energy is problematic as well. 23% of the mass of the universe is dark matter, detectable only by its gravitational effects on things we can see, like stars, gas, and dust. Only 4% of the mass of the universe consists of the stuff that we had until recently thought was all of it.

Which means that 96% of the universe consists of stuff that we have no idea whatever what it is. And Saul Perlmutter discovered three quarters of it. In 1998.

Daniel Schechter discovered and published, into the teeth of intense scientific opposition, the theory that the atomic arrangements of quasi-crystals are uniform and mathematically predictable but do NOT repeat. This so flew in the face of well-known and established principles both of crystallography and of the philosophy of science that Schechter almost lost his position at the university on account of it.

Neither reality nor Schechter succumbed to the pressure, and in the end the one validated the work of the other. The Swedish Academy added its imprimatur (and a million and a half dollars worth of Swedish kroner) to his work this year.

Though the Swedish Academy, and the academic world generally, recognized the work of Perlmutter and Schechter, they shamefully refused to acknowledge the equivalent accomplishments of Arab or even of Muslim scientists. Given that the much touted 1.4 billion Muslims out-number the much-reviled 14 million Jews by roughly 100 to 1, there must surely have been far greater accomplishments among the Muslims, among the 100, than among the Jews, the 1.

So the press must have covered up or omitted the vast accomplishments of the Muslims. What else could it be but a Zionist conspiracy of the Jewish-controlled media? Either that or the Muslims are exactly the stupid bastards their violent primitive behavior suggests they are. :o)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The View From On High

[click on four outward-pointing arrows for fullscreen]


Friday, September 23, 2011

Rosh Hashanah 5772

[click on 4 outward-pointing arrows for fullscreen]


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Taste of Crow

[Paris Hotel de Ville - City Hall]

I was wrong in defending Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

I assumed all along that the rape charge was completely trumped up. DSK was recognized as the only person in France with a real prospect of winning the Presidency of France against Nicholas Sarkozy. It seemed much too convenient to the powers-that-be, the Big Money, in La Belle that he should be involved in such a sordid crime.

Indeed, every government in Europe and America who would not have welcomed a socialist government in France was a suspect in a frame. When it came out that the accuser had underworld connections it looked even more like a frame, a set up, the Old Badger Game.

But DSK's confession today that what he did in the New York hotel room was "a moral failure" is not the statement of an innocent man being framed. He was a victim only of his own lack of impulse control. He is exactly what his feminist accusers said he is - a rich powerful sonofabitch who couldn't keep his dick in his pants.

I like Nicholas Sarkozy but not his Gaullist party comrades. I am only slightly less enthusiastic about the ideologically-driven slimeballs in the Socialist Party than I am about the privileged SOB's in Sarkozy's party, the UMP. Any party that could choose Jacques Chirac as its leader is a party with no moral standards at all and the UMP is just such a party. By no coincidence at all former President Chirac is now on trial for corruption while Mayor of Paris.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9-11

The media lady can rationalize as she will, but those are Palestinians celebrating the massacre of 3,000 Americans by Muslims. Let the administration trim its Middle East policies as it will, those who celebrate the massacre of Americans are our enemies and should be treated as such.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Wearing Out Their Welcome

Remember how I have been this crazy bigot for suggesting that unlimited immigration of people hostile to the US and to American society might not be such a great idea? It turns out that my logic is now that of the famously tolerant Dutch government as well.

The Netherlands, where six per cent of the population is now Muslim, is scrapping multiculturalism:
The Dutch government says it will abandon the long-standing model of multiculturalism that
has encouraged Muslim immigrants to create a parallel society within the Netherlands.

A new integration bill, which Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner presented to parliament on June 16, reads:
"The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and
plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people.
In the new integration system, the values of the Dutch society play a central role.
With this change, the government steps away from the model of a multicultural

The letter continues: "A more obligatory integration is justified because the government also
demands that from its own citizens. It is necessary because otherwise the society gradually
grows apart and eventually no one feels at home any more in the Netherlands..."
The new integration policy will place more demands on immigrants. For example, immigrants will be required to learn the Dutch language, and the government will take a tougher approach to immigrants who ignore Dutch values or disobey Dutch law.
The government will also stop offering special subsidies for Muslim immigrants because,
according to Donner, "it is not the government's job to integrate immigrants."
The government will introduce new legislation that outlaws forced marriages and will also
impose tougher measures against Muslim immigrants who lower their chances of employment by the way they dress.
More specifically, the government will impose a ban on face-covering Islamic burqas as of January 1, 2013.
There seems to be some sort of rough rule here, that whenever Muslims live in close proximity with non-Muslims, the non-Muslims wind up not liking them very much.


Thursday, September 01, 2011

Worth Reading

[The United Nations - just as successful as the League of Nations]

from today's New York Times--

UNITED NATIONS — A United Nations review has found thatIsrael’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal and appropriate but that the way its forces boarded a Turkish-based flotilla trying to break that blockade 15 months ago, killing nine passengers, was excessive and unreasonable.

Readers’ Comments

The report, expected to be released on Friday, also found that when Israeli commandos boarded the main ship they faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” and were therefore required to use force for their own protection. But the report called the force “excessive and unreasonable,” saying the loss of life was unacceptable and the Israeli military’s later treatment of passengers was abusive.

The 105-page report, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, was completed months ago. But its publication was delayed several times as Turkey and Israel sought to reconcile their deteriorating relationship and perhaps avoid making the report public. In reactions from both governments included in the report, as well as in interviews, each objected to conclusions. Both believe the report, which was intended to help mend relations, will instead make reconciliation harder.

Turkey is particularly upset by the conclusion that Israel’s naval blockade is in keeping with international law and that its forces have the right to stop Gaza-bound ships in international waters, which is what happened here. That conclusion oversteps the mandate of the four-member panel appointed by the United Nations secretary general and is at odds with other United Nations decisions, Turkey argued.

The report noted that the panel did not have the power to compel testimony or demand documents, but instead had to rely on information provided by Israel and Turkey. Therefore, its conclusions can not be considered definitive in either fact or law.

The foreign ministries in Turkey and Israel declined to comment publicly on the report, saying they preferred to wait for its official release. No one was available to comment in the office of the United Nations spokesman.

Israel considers the report to be a rare vindication for it in the United Nations. A Security Council statement at the time assailed the loss of life and Israel suffered widespreadinternational condemnation. It thought that by offering to negotiate an agreement with Turkey that would stop publication, Ankara might soften its position.

But the two countries’ negotiations, which focused on some kind of apology from Israel and compensation for the victims — eight Turks and an American of Turkish descent — ended in failure. Israel says it is willing to express regret and pay compensation. But the Turks want a full apology. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel believes that apologizing would demoralize his citizens and broadcast a message of weakness. Aides say he might reconsider at a later date if the Turks soften their position.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey says an apology and compensation would not be sufficient to return his ambassador to Tel Aviv. Israel also has to end its naval blockade of Gaza, he insisted.

The report does recommend that Israel should make “an appropriate statement of regret’ and pay compensation, but the Turks say that formula does not express sufficient remorse.

The United Nations investigation into the events on the Turkish-flagged ship known as the Mavi Marmara, the largest of six vessels that were commandeered by Israeli commandos on May 31, 2010, was headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former prime minister of New Zealand, aided by Álvaro Uribe, former president of Colombia, along with a representative each from Israel and Turkey.

It takes a broadly sympathetic view of Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza.

“Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza,” the report says in its opening paragraphs. “The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”

The report is hard on the flotilla, asserting that it “acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade.” It said that while the majority of the hundreds of people aboard the six vessels had no violent intention, that could not be said of IHH, the Turkish aid group that primarily organized the flotilla. It said, “There exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH.”

It also said that the Turkish government tried to persuade the organizers to avoid an encounter with Israeli forces but that “more could have been done.”

Regarding the boarding of the ship, the Palmer committee said Israel should have issued warnings closer to the moment of action and should have first turned to nonviolent options.

The report assailed Israel for the way in which the nine were killed and others injured. “Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel,” it says. The report does, however, acknowledge that once on board the commandos had to defend themselves against violent attack. The report also criticizes Israel’s subsequent treatment of passengers, saying it “included physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and the denial of timely consular assistance.”

Readers’ Comments

Like so many elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the events on the Mavi Marmara produced two fiercely competing narratives, each full of self-justification and contempt for the other.

An official Israeli investigation found not only that its naval blockade was legal but that everything done by Israel, from the actions of its commandos to the treatment of the passengers afterwards, was honorable and appropriate. The flotilla organizers, it said, included 40 members of a “hard-core group” who were not properly checked before boarding in Turkey.

A Turkish investigation came to precisely the opposite conclusion. It asserted that the blockade was illegal in all aspects, amounting to collective punishment of the Palestiniansof Gaza. It said all of the people on board were civilians, all had been checked out and were unarmed and therefore subject to protection from any invasion under international humanitarian law.

The Turks also concluded that Israeli commandos used live fire before landing, leading to death and injury; the Israelis said they had not. The Palmer committee said it was unable to determine who was right.

Those critical of Israeli actions toward Gaza have viewed the naval blockade that began officially in January 2009 as part and parcel of a siege imposed by Israel on the coastal strip shortly after Hamas took full control there in 2007. That siege, which has eased considerably in the past year, prevented the movement of most goods and people.

But the Palmer committee said while it had concerns about that policy and urged that it be loosened further, it saw the naval blockade as a purely security-oriented tool that had been imposed to stop weapons arriving to Gaza by sea. It also expressed strong concern for the thousands of rockets and mortars fired into Israel from Gaza in recent years. It said that because Gaza’s port cannot handle large ships, a naval blockade has little impact on the supply of civilian goods.

It may be that the UN has seen the hand-writing on the wall.

After the UN voted a resolution that "Zionism is racism" in 1975, Congress suspended payment of the US's annual dues to the UN. Only when the resolution was rescinded in 1991 did the US resume its dues payments. Our dues constituted one-third of the UN's operating budget. The arrears have never been paid.

My guess is that the UN officials are rightly afraid that any further Israel-lynchings will be answered by the US Congress with a second cutoff of payment of the US' annual dues. Given the current rage for budget-cutting in Washington, it would be hard to defend continued payment if the UN continues to present itself in a bad light.

I think the UN will be on its best behavior for several years to come. This is just one example. Putting next year's Durban III Anti-Racism Conference in New York where it will not, one hopes be controlled by anti-Semitic Muslim radicals as Durban I and II were, is another example.