Monday, January 31, 2011

Three Quickies

[click on outward-pointing arrows to enlarge]


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

There's More

[Rahm Emanuel responding to questions about his not being a resident of Chicago]

An addendum to January 6's blog entry "Chicago on the Potomac" --

Even as the brother of the mayor of Chicago, William M. Daley, is coming to Washington to be President Obama's incoming White House Chief of Staff, the outgoing White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel is on his way to Chicago to run for the mayoralty. His coronation is considered a near-certainty, the law against non-residents being elected notwithstanding.


Sein Gesund

[click on cartoon to enlarge]


Mistaken Identity

[Click on photo to enlarge]


Monday, January 24, 2011

Is It Just Me? Or Is This Funny?

This appeared in today's New York Times. It appears to be based on a Wikileaks type disclosure of PA (Palestinian Authority) documents by al-Jazeera--

Palestinian Leader Dismisses Report of Concessions

JERUSALEM — Palestinian Authority officials sought on Monday to portray a report and documents posted by Al Jazeera that detailed Palestinian concessions on Jerusalem as part of a political campaign aimed at confusing the public and weakening the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas.

The documents showed that negotiators had agreed to cede large tracts of Jerusalem despite longstanding protests against Jewish construction in contested areas of the city.

Hamas seized on the documents as evidence that the Palestinian Authority was “attempting to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” Reuters reported.

----i.e. the documents are authentic--------

With Mr. Abbas and his chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, in Cairo for meetings, a top Abbas aide, Yasser Abed Rabbo, held a news conference in Ramallah to raise questions about the documents’ authenticity and to suggest that some of them had been taken out of context.

----i.e. the documents are forgeries. But since they're forgeries what difference could the context make ??? ------

Mr. Abed Rabbo also said that the emir in Qatar, which is Al Jazeera’s home base, gave “a green light” to the effort to undermine Mr. Abbas. Officials with the authority have long complained that Al Jazeera favors Hamas.

-----i.e. the ruler of the country where the documents were published is an enemy of the PA and favors their rivals so the documents must not be legitimate.------

Mr. Abed Rabbo said he hoped that the emir would “expand the transparency” and talk about the United States’ military base in Qatar and Qatar’s relations with Israel and Iran.

------i.e. the ruler of the country in which the documents were published is a friend and ally of both Iran, which has sworn to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons, and of Israel, which has just sabotaged Iran's nuclear program with a computer virus. If this is true, we need to give serious thought to replacing Hillary Clinton with the Qatar-ese foreign minister who appears to be a very skillful man.------

Mr. Abbas also sought to discredit the report.

"What is intended is a mix-up,” Mr. Abbas said in Cairo, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa. “I have seen them yesterday present things as Palestinian, but they were Israeli,” he said,

-----Apparently the mix up was that the documents were in Arabic rather than Hebrew? ------

adding, "We say very clearly, we do not have secrets."

-----At least not after al-Jazeera published all our documents. -----

Mr. Abed Rabbo blamed junior employees in the Palestine Liberation Organization’s negotiations department for leaking the documents,

-----Which you may recall are forgeries. Except for their being from the PLO's negotiations department.-------

and he said there was a simultaneous campaign by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his foreign minister,Avigdor Lieberman, to undermine Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, and to discredit them as partners in the peace process.

------i.e. Netanyahu and Lieberman are trying to make them seem like people who would offer to make concessions on Jerusalem without actually intending to make any concessions on Jerusalem.-----

He also that some of the negotiators’ remarks published by Al Jazeera might have been made in humor.

------Anything for a laugh, those Palestinian negotiators. What kidders. Which is half true. They do seem to be kidding about ever having intended a peaceful settlement.------

He called for national and independent research centers to set up a committee to examine the documents’ authenticity.

----No, we already know that they are forgeries. Or authentic but released by junior officials. Or Israeli. Or authentic and from senior negotiators who were kidding. We need the research centers commission to find out which of those they are.--------

Later, about 250 Palestinian protesters smashed windows and sprayed graffiti on the building

-----Obviously furious about their leaders betraying them by conceding Jerusalem after saying for decades they never would??? -----

that houses the offices of Al Jazeera in Ramallah in the West Bank, The Associated Press reported.

-----Oh, OK, maybe not.------

Before they were removed by the police, the protesters broke security cameras and the network’s logos and painted the slogans “Al Jazeera are spies” and “Al Jazeera equals Israel” on the walls outside.

-----They're spies? Who publish their secrets on network television? --------

In Israel, the revelations were considered proof of long-established beliefs and positions, depending on who was doing the talking.

Mr. Lieberman, the ultranationalist foreign minister, told Israel Radio that if the previous Israeli government led by Ehud Olmert had been unable to reach an agreement with the Palestinians despite the reported concessions, then a long-term interim arrangement was necessary. Mr. Lieberman had long dismissed the possibility of reaching a permanent agreement with the Palestinians.

------i.e. The documents prove we on the right were right all along. (in spite of being forgeries, they were kidding, and so forth)------

But Peace Now, an Israeli group that promotes the idea of a two-state solution, said the documents showed that Mr. Abbas and his government in Ramallah “are the most moderate pragmatic partner Israel can ask for.”

“If we do not renew negotiations immediately, we will one day reminisce about the good offer that we turned down," the group said in a statement.

-----i.e. The documents prove we on the left were right all along. (in spite of being forgeries, they were kidding, actually Israeli, and so forth) ------

Some Palestinians said that while the issues being negotiated, including land swaps and the status of Jerusalem and its holy places, had been known, it had not been clear how far the discussions had gone.

“This confirmed the suspicions and doubts about the Palestinian negotiators,” said Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of Passia, a research institute in East Jerusalem. “They got carried away without knowing where they were going.” He said the revelations were a blow to Palestinian pride.

-----i.e. How could their pride not be hurt by finding out a show had been made of negotiating peace rather than continuing an endless futile war? -------

Since he has left office, Mr. Olmert has spoken about the proposal he made to the Palestinians in 2008, including an offer to cede more than 93 percent of the territory that Israel conquered in the 1967 war. But the Palestinians had not publicized the details of their own concessions. Both sides negotiated according to the principle that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed.

-----Which means that the Palestinians could negotiate anything at all if they never intended to go through with it. If it should turn out for instance, that their agreement to peace terms were forgeries, released by junior officials, actually Israeli, from senior officials who were just kidding, and so on.------

The new details of how Jerusalem might have been divided during negotiations with Mr. Olmert’s government are in keeping with previous understandings of what drove the peace talks before they broke down in recent months.

The materials suggest that the chief Palestinian negotiator at the time, Ahmed Qurei, “proposed that Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem,” except for the Jewish district known as Har Homa.

“This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition,” Mr. Qurei was quoted as saying during a June 2008 meeting with his Israeli counterparts and Condoleezza Rice, then the United States secretary of state.

------Which would explain Mr. Abbas' ethnic cleansing remark about no Israeli being permitted to live in a Palestinian state. A Palestinian state is to be defined as places not containing Israelis. Which means the press liberals have been wrong all along about new settlements being futile because they would eventually be given to the Palestinians. Settlements work to expand the eventual scope of Israel. More, please.-------

Al Jazeera did not say how it obtained the documents, and State Department officials on Sunday would not comment on them, cautioning that they could not vouch for their authenticity.

------Or that they were covering their butts in anticipation of getting Wikileaked themselves. ----------

The status of Jerusalem is an emotional and symbolic issue for both sides. Still, it had long been understood that residential areas built in East Jerusalem by Israel since 1967 would stay in Israeli hands, and that historically Palestinian areas would become part of a new Palestinian state.

------All the while denying, to Palestinian audiences, any intention for there to be a two-state solution. One has to wonder whether they were "kidding" when they spoke in Arabic to the Palestinians or "kidding" when they spoke to the Western press. ------

------Kessler's Rule is that one can tell exactly where a writer's true sympathies lie as between Israel and the Palestinians by whether they capitalize the 'e' in east Jerusalem. No amount of protestations of impartiality and neutrality, which are all lies anyway, can survive Kessler's Rule. A writer who capitalizes and calls it East Jerusalem is pro-Palestinian, one who calls it east Jerusalem is pro-Israel. One capitalizes place names so East Jerusalem would be a different city than Jerusalem, just as South San Francisco is a different city than San Francisco. For pro-Israel people, east Jerusalem is merely the eastern part of a unified city so 'east' is an adjective, not part of a place name. It is an infallible rule. Every writer must pick one or the other. Isabel Kershner of the Times has picked "East". Remember that about her whenever you read about Israel and the Palestinians in the Times. They have picked the Palestinians.---------

Palestinian and Israeli officials have made clear that in the fall of 2008 they came very close to agreement on territory for a two-state deal, but they were divided over the West Bank.

------Huh? They were close to agreement except on what they were bargaining about? Here this disintegrates from reporters interviewing buffoons to reporters who are themselves buffoons interviewing buffoons.---------

The Israelis wanted to hold onto about 6 percent of the West Bank; the Palestinians were willing to cede about 2 percent of it for land swaps. But then Mr. Olmert, facing indictment, left office and Israel invaded Gaza occurred, ending the negotiations. New elections in 2009 brought Mr. Netanyahu and his right-leaning coalition to power.

------"Israel invaded Gaza occurred". This woman is paid by the New York Times for her writing.---------

The Palestinians have said that new peace talks should start where they had left off with Mr. Olmert. Mr. Netanyahu has said that he wants a fresh start.

Ethan Bronner contributed reporting from Jerusalem, and Khaled Abu Aker from Ramallah, West Bank.


It is now 300 years since the Enlightenment, yet....

I was on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley yesterday and saw that within four blocks of the University of California, the motto of which is "Fiat Lux" - let there be light, there is a neon sign advertising tarot card and palm readings.

[click on the video for full screen. Press escape to return]


Nothing personal - we just hate their guts

When we do it, it's crime and class war. When they do it it's free enterprise, tax policy, and getting rid of government health care and regulations. Kill a boss today.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Joy to the World!

The first blossoms have appeared on the trees in my yard. It's Spring at last!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Auld Sod

Brian Cowen, the Prime Minister of Ireland, has been effectively ousted. He became unpopular for accepting a $114 billion bailout from the IMF and the European Central Bank which came with austerity strings attached. The terms of the agreement were in English, the official language of the European Union, but because the measure is controversial it was translated and published in colloquial Irish as well. "Stop spendin' fookin' money yeh 'aven't fookin' got."

It amounts to taking away Ireland's credit cards. What makes it worse is that they spent the money on beer.


Thursday, January 20, 2011


A minute is a long time --
for an awkward silence.
An hour is a long time --
in a waiting room.
A day is a long time --
when you're hungry.
A year is a long time --
when you're in jail.
A decade is nothing --
when you're surprised your little niece is a woman.


Fifty Four Years Later

[Little Rock Central High School - 1957]

In 1957 nine black students, the Little Rock Nine, sued the Little Rock school district for admission to Little Rock Central High School. They won and federal courts ordered the integration of the school. The school board refused to comply. The governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, backed the school board. He sent the Arkansas National Guard to block the entrance of the nine black high school students. They were met with a long line of uniformed soldiers.

President Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ordered them to stand down. (Military jargon for "go home") He sent troops of the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock in case they didn't.

The order of the court was enforced and the black kids integrated Little Rock Central. At the time the press (Which to me at the time was the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. Television was still a rarity in Santa Rosa in 1957. We didn't have one.) reported the fight as one about race and racism in the South. All these many years later, the echoes of the Civil War in the Little Rock Crisis now ring loud.

What is now the National Guard used to be called the state militia. The Confederate army under Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jubilation T. Cornpone was not a real army so much as it was a congerie of state militias. During the Little Rock Crisis the Arkansas militia could well have come to blows with the U.S. Army. Which used to be called the Union Army.

Which is why President Eisenhower, who used to be called General Eisenhower, sent not just any troops but the 101st Airborne, the best troops. To make it clear that if Governor Faubus and the Arkansas militia resisted with force, that the federal government could and would crush them.

Just as the fight in 1861 had been about slaves and slavery, the fight in 1957 was about integration of their descendants, people then quaintly known as 'negroes'. In short Eisenhower did what Lincoln should have done, had he had the resources to do it, which was to apply overwhelming force immediately so as to prevent the conflict from growing and worsening. Ironically the principle of using overwhelming force right at the beginning of a conflict is the Powell Doctrine, named for Colin Powell the first black U.S. general.

What brings the Little Rock Crisis to mind is that I have just booked the Little Rock Central High School debate team to stay in my house for the debate tournament in Berkeley next month. I am curious to see who the kids are . I am hoping that we have come a long way, baby. So far I have heard from only one parent, one with a Persian name.


The Boss, And It Ain't Springsteen

January 19, 2011

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – In a moving White House ceremony today, President Hu Jintao of China presented US President Barack Obama with a counterfeit DVD of the Hollywood blockbuster Toy Story 3.

Mr. Hu raised eyebrows at several points of his official speech, especially when he repeatedly addressed the American people as “my subjects.”

But the Chinese president ended his speech on an upbeat note about the relationship between the two countries: “In conclusion, America owes me the first month’s rent and the security deposit.”

Speaking to the press, Mr. Hu noted the historic nature of his meeting with President Obama: “It was the first time I’d met a Nobel Peace Prize winner who wasn’t in prison.”

Mr. Obama told reporters that he hoped to speak to Mr. Hu about China’s human rights record, but said, “To be honest, we’ve got as much leverage with China as a guy who’s three months late on his car payments has with the repo man.”

Meanwhile, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took advantage of Mr. Hu being out of the country to friend 1.3 billion Chinese.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Dead Pool We Can Believe In

This is Harvey's list
Jack, you are so out of your league. I had to rush this list for fear they would all die before you got it.

1. Zsa Zsa Gabor
2. Michael Douglas
3. Kirk Douglas - Bam- a father and son team
4. Steve Jobs
5. Ruth Bader Ginsberg
6. Mohammed Ali
7. R. Sargant Shriver - Damn, just missed it.
7. Kim Jong il
8. Roger Ebert
9. Aretha Franklin
10. Liz Taylor

Dead Pool 2011

I have been doing so badly on this that I have adopted a conservative Dying Hulks strategy -- fewer points but more chance of getting them.

1. Robert Downey, Jr.
2. OJ Simpson
3. Ariel Sharon
4, Nelson Mandela
5. Tonya Harding
6. Willie Brown
7. Dick Cheney
8. Elizabeth Taylor
9. Raul Castro
10. Muammar Kadaffi

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Truth About Labor

[David Ben-Gurion, the first Labor Prime Minister]

For a long time Zionists have become more and more skeptical of the Labor party's drift further and further left into fantasy and irrelevance. But at the back of one's mind is the tickling thought that Labor all but founded Israel. The founding leaders and the first prime ministers were all Labor - David Ben Gurion, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, and more recently Yitzhaak Rabin. Could Labor be as wrong-headed as they seemed?

But sixty years on, the Labor position and the left position generally seemed to me and many other Zionists, that Israel was not making enough concessions to the Palestinians. When the facts are that Hamas and the PA have been perfectly clear that they do not accept a two-state solution. Which is to say that there is war because the Palestinians don't want peace.

Is it really possible that Labor could be so wrong? "Am I missing something that they see and I don't?" I secretly wondered and doubted.

Today Ehud Barak, the head of Labor split off from the rest of the party and created the Atzmaut (independence) party. He and 4 other Labor MK's split off, leaving only 8 remaining Labor members. Barak is a former prime minister and the current defense minister.

Upon announcing the withdrawal of the 5 MK's (Member of the Knesset) from Labor and the formation of the new party, Barak said the following, "We also did not accept the self-flagellation of those who see the State of Israel as exclusively responsible for the lack of a diplomatic process.”

This is from the head of the Labor party. In short, we Zionists were not mistaken. Labor and the left are as adrift from reality as they seem.

Swiss Humor

[Richard Milhous Nixon triumphantly being run out of Washington]

A bank executive, Rudolf Elmer, was fired by Julius Baer, the major Swiss bank he worked for. So he released 2,000 records of rich tax evaders who had accounts there to Wikileaks. The bank's response was

(From today's Times)
It accused him of using falsified documents, spreading baseless accusations and passing on “unlawfully acquired, respectively retained, documents to the media, and later also to WikiLeaks.”
But wait. If they are falsified, that means Rudolf Elmer made them up. They could only be illegally obtained if they were real and not falsified. That would qualify as an admission wouldn't it?

I think the problem here is that Swiss bankers are so used to not being called to account on their corrupt banking practices that they are not good at coming up with credible lies on short notice. No Swiss banker could come up with the Nixon masterpiece, "Mistakes were made." That takes both talent and a long career in American politics, and the Swiss bankers have neither.

The Times referred to the account holders as "high net worth individuals". Note all the expressions thereby avoided - capitalists, plutocrats, exploiters, plunderers, bourgeoisie, upper class, heirs, idle rich, social parasites, privileged little bastards, tax evaders, bloodsuckers, born on third base, trust fund motherfuckers, and so on. Calling these people "high net worth individuals" is very much the same as explaining Watergate as "mistakes were made".

This story is sure to get funnier as it unravels. I am starting to really like Wikileaks.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gun Rights

[outside today's gun fair at Tucson]

Everyone is acting like there was a connection between Arizona gun laws which give deranged people easy access to high powered rifles and the killings. There isn't. Guns don't kill people. They kill children, US District Judges, and bystanders. Which is quite a different thing.

The people of Tucson need their high-powered rifles. For hunting. The low deserts around Tucson are swarming with dangerous animals that need shooting. Such as lizards. And, and ... cactuses. Cactuses can be dangerous if one stumbles into them. One has to shoot in self-defense.

One wants to blame politicians for pandering to the gun-totin', rootin'-tootin' ignorami who are a decisive constituency in so many elections in places like Tucson. But no one wants to blame the public, because that would be contrary to 'vox populi vox dei' - the voice of the people is the voice of G_d. Speaking against that is speaking against democracy.

Well let me be the first to do that. Democracy stinks and should be abolished. It is contrary to the national interest. Democracy is rule by morons and slimeball crooks who by turns pander to the morons and fleece them.

Democracy is rule by people who think "Guns don't kill people" actually means something. Particularly in the wake of a mass-murder by a madman. Nuclear weapons don't kill people either. So let's give some to Al-Qaeda. Democracy means morons who can't afford health insurance voting out congressmen who support public health insurance because slimeball crooks told them it was socialism. Without it ever crossing their stupid little minds that the slimeball crooks are in the pay of the health insurance companies. Or the media bothering to mention it. Democracy means people with no more thought process than repeating the idiot political correctnesses of left and right get consulted on the domestic and foreign policies of a nation of 310 millions of people. Democracy means the rich evading paying taxes by telling morons that their not paying taxes has something to do with liberty. And getting away with it. Democracy means the rule of political machines based on corruption and patronage.

Democracy means rule by whomever shouts the loudest or repeats known falsities most often. Democracy means rule by and in the interests of whomever owns or pays the media corporations. Democracy means rule by the stupid and the wealthy.

The supposed constitutional tension between the democracy and the republic is actually a cooperation between the stupidity and vulgarity of a democracy and the corrupt selfishness of a republic. It is rule by television and lobbyists.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Does It All Mean?

[Click on cartoon to enlarge]


Monday, January 10, 2011

Rocket Scientists

Scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to launch standard 4 pound dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all traveling at maximum velocity. The idea is to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields.

British engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high speed trains. Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the British engineers. When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control console, snapped the engineer's back-rest in two, and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin, like an arrow shot from a bow.

The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment, along with the designs of the windshield and begged the U.S. scientists for suggestions.

NASA responded with a one-line memo --

"Defrost the chicken."
I was told this is a true story.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Cloud Computing Explained

[click on cartoon for larger image]


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Chicago on the Potomac

[Mayor Richard J. Daley]

It has long been my contention that all the right-wing airheads who have been screaming that Mr. Obama is a radical socialist are mistaken. It has also been my contention that all the left-wing airheads who have been worshiping at his feet are also missing the obvious.

It is my contention that Obama is neither a dangerous socialist nor the savior of the nation. He is a Chicago machine Democrat.

Barack Obama started his political career as an Illinois State Senator. He represented the 13th District, the South Side of Chicago. He was a Democrat. Which means he was connected with the Daley Machine. This is not an accusation. It is a fact. EVERY Democratic politician in Chicago is connected to the Daley Machine for two simple reasons. One is, if they are not connected they don't get elected. Especially on the largely black South Side where patronage politics are all-powerful. Two is, if they don't stay connected, they don't stay elected.

Obama was elected to the Illinois State Legislature three times, in 1996, 1998, and 2002. And ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination all three times. I repeat, Barack Obama ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination as Illinois State Senator from an all-Democratic south Chicago district three times. I repeat: unopposed. Three times.

That doesn't mean he is a bad guy. It doesn't even mean he was corrupt. It means he was connected with the Daley Machine. It means the Daley Machine put him in office.

Well, how big a deal is that? This big - the Democratic machine has held the Chicago mayoralty for 81 years. Since 1930. Without interruption.

In 1955 Richard J. Daley became Mayor of Chicago. Mayor Daley is remembered with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi by those old enough to remember the anti-war protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. And the beatings, mass arrests, and tear gas used by the Chicago police against the protestors. Yeah, that Mayor Daley.

Daley's original political base was the working class then-Irish neighborhoods where he grew up. On the South Side.

Richard J. Daley was mayor for 21 years, and was the second longest-serving mayor of Chicago. The honor of being the longest-serving mayor goes to the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. Who by an amazing coincidence happens to be the son of the former mayor. Which means that Daley, father and son, have been Mayor of Chicago, with a brief interregnum, since 1955.

For sure Obama was connected with the Daley machine but in all fairness, that was then, this is now. What reason is there to believe that he still is? Isn't it hard to know for sure?

One tiny hint one might consider is his appointment today of William M. Daley as his White House Chief of Staff, the second most powerful figure in the administration. William M. Daley is the brother of the current Mayor of Chicago. How's that for subtle?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Double Eclipse

[Double click on picture to expand. Then single-click on it to expand again.]

On January 4, from the Sultanate of Oman, the sun could be seen partially eclipsed by the moon, and also by the International Space Station.

Mahmoud Abbas Promises Ethnic Cleansing of West Bank

[Mahmoud Abbas]

Jerusalem Post, December 25, 2010:

Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas has reiterated that a future Palestinian state, if established, will be Jew-free saying, “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it … when a Palestinian state is established, it would have no Israeli presence.
So Israel today is a country of 7 million with 1.5 million Israeli Arabs. And the proposed Palestine will be a state with 4 million Arabs and from which every Israeli will be expelled.

Yet it is the firmly insisted-on opinion of the Arabs, the Europeans, the left, the US establishment liberal press, and the UN, that Israel practices apartheid and ethnic cleansing, rather than the Palestinians?

Which means that world opinion is
a) stupid
b) racist
c) politically-motivated shameless liars
d) bought-and-paid-for whores like Jimmy Carter
e) add your own
f) all of the above


At Last! What This Has Been About All Along!

[Abu Ala with Abu Arafat]

From a December 22, 2010 Jerusalem Post interview with Abu Ala, former PA Prime Minister

"The future Palestinian state must be based on the tourism industry. We don’t have any other economic resources,” he says.

“The millions of tourists who will come here in the future will want to visit the holy places, in Jerusalem and its surroundings. They will come from the east, from Jordan, Christians and Muslims. If Ma’aleh Adumim and the Israeli settlements block their way, they just won’t come. All of the publications regarding retaining the blocs of settlements talk about percentages - what percentage of the West Bank will remain in Israel and what percentage of territory will the Palestinians receive in return. That’s the wrong approach. The question is the quality and location of those territories.
After all the screaming and the violence and the murders and the lies, we finally find out what the issue is. Now we see why, though it is never mentioned in the Koran, the Palestinians insist that Jerusalem is the third holiest place in Islam. Now we see why, though Jerusalem is mentioned literally thousands of times in the Hebrew and Christian bibles, that they Palestinians insist so long and so hard that there is no Jewish connection to our ancient capital. But they at the same time omit to deny any Christian connection. Because the Christians tourists are their intended market.

This is not about the Dome of the Rock, not about Mohammed, not about the Quran. It is about the hotel, restaurant, and gift shop trade. The freakin' little weasels have been willing to kill and to have their young people killed, to refuse to negotiate for decades, because they want to control the tourist business in Jerusalem.

Which has everything to do with why they insist on Jerusalem though it means nothing to them but to the extent they have brainwashed their people to believe it.

It makes a difficult situation still more difficult. Israel also has no source of livelihood than tourism. Except for biotech pharmaceutical research and design. And software development. And sophisticated agriculture. And high tech product design and manufacturing. And now with the Leviathan gas field discovery, the production and export of low-sulfur natural gas.

So the Jews have no interest in Jerusalem per se. Except for it having been our capital for a thousand years, from David to Herod. Except for returning to it having been in our prayers literally every day for two thousand years after that. Except for the Western Wall of our ancient temple being there. Other than that... But what is that compared to the Palestinians wanting to control the tourist business?

And it shows the class-drivenness of the Palestinian demand for Jerusalem. The Arabs already have the tourist trade in their hands. Most of the hotel workers, restaurant workers, tour guides, taxi drivers, and other tourist jobs are Israeli Arabs right now. Today.

The issue is not about jobs or livelihood. It is about the Palestinian bourgeoisie wanting to control businesses and profits that Jewish business owners have now. THAT is what this all comes down to.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Why America is Morally Superior to Other Countries

[The rider is wearing a bullet-proof vest to prevent being gored to death. What a wuss.]

In "Death in the Afternoon" Ernest Hemingway examines in endless detail the specifics of Spanish bullfighting.

First the bull runs out into the ring, the corrida. Then it is beset by men on horseback armed with lances, in Spanish 'picadors'. The picadors' horses are armored so the bull has no way to defend himself by attacking them in return. The lances have sharp steel blades on the end. The picadors run at the bull, stabbing it in the neck and shoulders, slashing up the muscles with which it can raise its head, weakening its ability to use its horns. And weakening it by blood loss.

Then these Hispanic gentlemen stab it in the shoulders yet again, this time with barbed spears which remain lodged in the bull's shoulder muscles. These are festooned with bright ribbons since this is after all a show. The bright ribbons are to please the eyes of a bullring full of enthusiastic lovers of the public torture and wanton killing of animals. These cultured gentlemen are called 'aficionados'.

Then comes the piece de resistance (I don't know the Spanish equivalent), the "fight" with the matador. The daring matador has as his task to actually outsmart a cow. For people who think torturing and killing an animal is great fun and will pay to see it, this is an impressive display of intellect.

The brave matador is on foot, facing an exhausted injured animal, and armed with only a cape -- and a huge razor sharp steel sword. What a guy! What courage!

The Hispanic gentlemen in the stands applaud each instance of the matador out-witting the dazed injured bleeding bull. "Ole! Ole!", they shout, "Ole! Ole!" Finally when the bull begins to weary and slow down from exhaustion and weaken from blood loss, the show begins to wane. Then the brave matador wantonly kills the animal with the sword.

Whereupon the joy and admiration of the Hispanic gentlemen in the stands knows no limit. The romantic Hispanic ladies in the stands throw roses into the ring in admiration of his prowess in first fooling, then torturing and killing a wounded cow with a sword.

This, we are told in tones of romantic admiration, is the Soul of Spain. I agree, minus the romantic admiration. That the great public spectacle of Spain and Mexico should be so pointless, vulgar, cruel, and cowardly speaks volumes about those peoples.

Because the bull is doomed the moment he is selected to be massacred in front of an appreciative Hispanic audience, the corrida runs through a lot of bulls. Even if simple justice and the bull are lucky enough to gore the matador, the bull is killed anyway.

The details we learn from Hemingway is that the procurers of bulls for the rings have an interest in getting the bulls as cheaply and in large numbers as possible. So when a bullring becomes popular they scour the country for bulls and are soon reduced to smaller bulls, even bulls not full-grown.

Which makes the picadors and matadors even more brave and admirable since they are reduced to torturing and killing a calf. And the shouters of "Ole! Ole!" even more respectable and worthy of our admiration for their deep Hispanic souls.

Then, in a final gesture of good taste and civility, the matador uses the sword to cut off the ears of the dead bull and give them to some lovely senorita in the front row. Now that's class.

The next time I go on a date I plan to give the lucky girl a pair of bloody cow's ears and brag that I cut them off myself, just for her. That ought to go over great. She won't be able to keep her hands off me.

In an even moderately civilized place such as California, children who torture or kill animals are immediately diagnosed under DSM-IV, a catalogue of mental and emotional disorders. They are then subject to the court-ordered ministrations of a social worker in hopes of curbing the behavior before the screwed-up little bastard turns her attentions to the torture or killing of smaller children and eventually of smaller adults.

In Spain and Mexico, people who do that are toasted and become celebrities for it and are paid big pesos. In California people who encourage such behavior are called 'enablers'. They too are generally subject to court-ordered visits to social workers when child welfare is in issue, and Doctor Phil-inspired interventions when they are not.

In America
In America we have bullfights too. In the most popular form of which the bull always wins.

The object in American bullfighting, called bull-riding, is first to stay on the bull for 8 seconds or longer and second not to get killed or injured. The American bullfighter, called a cowboy, is armed with a slender cord that has been put loosely around the bull's shoulders, just behind the front legs.

The cowboy mounts the bull while it is constrained in a narrow chute. To keep it sporting, the cowboy is required to hold onto the cord with only one hand. The bull and rider are then immediately released into the arena.

Whereupon the bull throws the rider off. It does not attempt to throw the rider off. It throws him off. Every time. That is a given. The contest is not about whether the cowboy will be thrown off but whether he can last for 8 seconds before being thrown off.

When the cowboy has been dispatched, the second part of the proceedings is about whether the bull can gore or trample the fallen cowboy, which it is mightily inclined to do. The cowboy's chance of survival depends on gang tactics against the bull.

He is assisted by men who invariably have forgotten to bring their armored horses and their steel lances. They are on foot and armed only with silly costumes, greasepainted faces, and large colorful hats. They use the costumes to amuse the patrons and the hats to distract the bull long enough for the fallen and occasionally dazed cowboy to escape. They are called rodeo clowns.

Their tactic when chased by the bull is, not surprisingly, to run away. But they have the presence of mind to run in a zig-zag which is hard for the bull to follow. As a last ditch effort they toss the hat in hopes the bull will follow it. Their protection is a heavy wooden barrier with a gap behind it too small for the bull to get into.

The economics also favor the bull. The organizers of the rodeo only have to pay the cowboy the prize money if he wins, if he stays on longer than 8 seconds. So they breed and buy utterly gigantic, mindlessly violent bulls so as to make it unlikely the cowboy will win.

So far from being killed, the bull is no more than annoyed and exercised by his few seconds of throwing off and trying to kill the cowboy and the rodeo clowns. He is ready to go next week too and the week after for a long and productive career of attempted homicide.

So far from being used up or killed, a successful bull, in his dotage is put out to stud, capping a rich full life of sex and violence.

The bulls have names and are as much celebrities as the cowboys, or more so. They have names like "Thunderfoot" and whimsical ones like "Daisy".

The only limit placed on the bull is that the tips of his horns are docked. Which means that instead of sharp points which would kill the cowboy every single time, they are blunted to knobs about the size of the end of a broom handle. Imagine the end of a broom handle thrust at your body at high speed and with limitless force. Repeatedly. Internal injuries and broken ribs. There are also occasional broken limbs from falling and from trampling. These bulls weigh in excess of a ton and they are not stepping on the cowboys, they are jumping on them.

American bullfighting is culturally worthwhile too. So far from the crudities of Spanish and Mexican bull-baiting, American bullfighting is memorialized in Aaron Copland's beautiful and touching ballet, "Rodeo". Which I heartily recommend. The music is well worth hearing even without the ballet, just as an orchestral suite. The piece would be inconceivable if it had the public slaughter of animals embedded in it.

Compare and Contrast
So the Hispanic spectacle is of cowardly armed men, some on horseback, sadistically torturing and killing an animal in front of an appreciative cheering crowd of cruel bloodthirsty swine.

The American spectacle is of an unarmed man trying to stay on the back of a gigantic violent animal and not succeeding. Whether the man is brave or foolhardy to try, is for him to work out with his parents, his girlfriend, and his insurance agent. But it is certain that the bull is in no danger and no harm comes to it.

It is a contest of skill in which, with luck, no drop of blood is shed. The crowd, so far from sadistic, admire the bull's power and ferocity and wish him long life and many happy returns to the bullring. They also admire the cowboy's daring in attempting the thing at all, and if he should be so lucky and able, his skill in staying on the beast. And his and the clowns' nimbleness in escaping from the bull's gentle attentions.

Some root for the cowboy, some root for the bull, and everyone roots for the rodeo clowns. And the cowboys and cowgirls in the crowd are just generally rootin'-tootin' kind of folk. An argument can be made, based in part on intuition and in part on Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis, that the rodeo is the Soul of America.

I find it hard not to admire the bravery and/or craziness of the American bull-riders and the rodeo clowns. It is driven by a striving for glory and money. The man wins the prize if he succeeds, nothing if he doesn't. He is also far more likely to get picked up in a bar afterward and get laid than if he loses. He knows this.

The bull competes for the sheer joy of an opportunity to kill someone who has annoyed him. And if he doesn't succeed this week, there is always next week.

The matador is guaranteed his blood-money whether he tortures and kills the bull to the satisfaction of the mob or not. It is hard not to believe that the sadism and cruelty of Hispanic culture evidenced by these primitive spectacles does not bespeak some of the static and corrupt nature of Hispanic society.

Franco did not impose fascism on Spain single handedly nor maintain it for decades without the acquiescence of the majority of the Spanish people. In "Homage to Catalonia" Orwell writes feelingly about the betrayal of the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's. It was betrayed by some of the parties within it, and for the most corrupt and bloody-minded of reasons. In the end, fascism was imposed on Spain by the Spanish.

The same can be said for the decades of institutional corruption that was the PRI government in Mexico. The people weren't corrupt because the government was. The government was corrupt because the people were corrupt. There was corruption at every level of Mexican society when I was there during the long PRI period.

Bank clerks wouldn't do their jobs without a bribe. Tax drivers played games with their meters. Police ran shakedowns on tourists. Even young boys demanded protection money not to vandalize parked cars. My experience of Mexico not having been a good one, I have not been back for many years. One can hope that things have improved. I doubt it, but it is not impossible.

As between those societies and ours, give me the cowboys and clowns every time.