Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just Being Smarmy....

[click on the picture to enlarge]

[The new daughter-in-law]


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Amazingly Convenient Coincidence

[The Oswald-Ruby Band rocking in Dallas, 1963]

The guy who published the Wikileaks documents, Julian Assange, has been arrested in England. A British court has just ruled in favor of his being extradited to Sweden to face rape charges. The Wikileaks papers deeply embarrassed the government and military establishment of the United States. They proved what everyone knew but could not prove. Among them was the totally unsurprising revelation that the Karzai government of Afghanistan is totally corrupt and that the war is being conducted in part by bribing tribal leaders. And that the US government knows all about it. And a bunch of other things as well.

Wikipedia lists a lengthy series of applications of power to stifle Wikileaks -- including the VISA-Mastercard cartel cancelling their credit cards and several countries from Germany to Thailand blocking access to the Wikileaks website.

What an amazing coincidence that shortly after embarrassing the US government Assange should be charged with a serious crime. The Los Angeles Times reported that one of the two rape charges consisted of his having sex with a woman without a condom after she had asked him to use one. Nothing about force or threat, just failure to wear the condom. That is bad manners, not rape.

The second rape charge is from another woman who claims that Assange started having sex with her while she was asleep and could not consent. I do not know the details but that sounds like the woman was in bed with Assange without her clothes. Again, there is no claim of force or threat. If a woman takes off her clothes and gets in bad with a man, that may not be consent per se, but it is pretty close. The woman woke up to find Assange having sex with her but apparently did not then object or push him off. Which sounds like she woke up and then acquiesced. That is bad taste, not rape.

To call these charges trumped-up gives them more credit than they deserve. What appears to be going on here is the government, having been caught in a whole series of crimes and scandals, has set out to make the story be about Assange rather than about itself.

One can hope that the story will unravel as Watergate did. The jury will laugh the stupid charges out of court, the women will be interrogated and name who put them up to it. That person will face criminal charges of conspiracy and civil liability and will 'fess up to who put him up to it. And the trail will go right back to the pigs in charge. One can wonder if there will be a series of mysterious deaths as in the Kennedy-Oswald-Ruby-Kilgallen murders of 1963.

Wonderful News!

[Irish voters]
The long-time governing party in Ireland, Fianna Fail, was crushed in recent elections because of its demonstrable incompetence. The winning parties formed a coalition. They are Fine Gael, a center-right business party and Irish Labor, a socialist party. The two parties are on the opposite sides of every issue. So instead of one party that cannot govern, Ireland now has two. Way to go, geniuses!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Oh by the way....

[It seemed like a good idea at the time?]

from an article in yesterday's New York Times about dating a prehistoric campsite in Texas containing pre-Clovis artifacts (before this dig no one knew there had been pre-Clovis anything) --
Given the lack of sufficient organic material buried around the tools, the radiocarbon dating method was useless. Instead, earth scientists at the University of Illinois, Chicago, used a newer technique known as optically stimulated luminescence. This measures light energy trapped in minerals to reveal how long ago the soil was last exposed to sunlight.
Quite apart from the stunning revelation that there have been people in North America longer than anyone thought, is the 'oh-by-the-way' mention of the new technology used to date it.

Optically stimulated luminescence is hugely important for all the stuff it can be used for directly, and just as important for confirming and refining dates found by other means like radio-carbon dating, uranium dating, tree rings, oxygen isotope dating, ice cores and seabottom ooze dating, and the venerable suite-of-fossils dating, every one of which has serious limitations. Optically stimulated luminescence is potentially huge for the dating of practically anything and everything. Our understanding of the history of everything that has happened in the past many thousands of years is about take a huge leap forward. Wikipedia says it can be used to date things buried between 300 and 100,000 years ago.

With their usual acumen the Times didn't think to mention it except in passing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Lights in the Sky

[click on the four outward pointing arrows for fullscreen]


Wednesday, March 23, 2011


[Then-Senator Joe Biden speaking in 2007]

The Vice-President putting his foot in his mouth retroactively.


A 1.5 Gigapixel Picture of the Inaugural

Click on the link above. The whole point of this picture is how much you can zoom in.


Dead Pool Score Update

Harvey 21 Jack 0

Elizabeth Taylor, an over rated actor but a great movie star. "Cleopatra" was a dud, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Butterfield 8" were cheesy, over-acted productions, but "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" was her shining moment, her best performance. Her films, except for "Virginia Woolf" and maybe "National Velvet" unfortunately, do not hold up with time.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Even Arabs Can Rock

[click four outward-pointing arrows for full screen. Sound on.]


Jews Seize St. Petersburg! Actual Footage!

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This seeming trifle is actually important.

Before 1917 Jews were not even allowed to be in St. Petersburg because it was beyond the Pale of (Jewish) Settlement. My grandfather had to bribe a policeman to travel by train from Latvia, inside the Pale, to neighboring Estonia, outside it.

Under Stalin and his successors, Jews were not permitted to publicly practice Judaism anywhere in the Soviet Union.

Today, for the first time ever, Jews in Russia are free to be Jews, free to be themselves. It is an immense step forward for Russia, and in our own time. Those who think our times are shallow and bleak aren't seeing what is right in front of them.

The vast green building in the background toward the end of the video is the Czar's Winter Palace, where the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917. Nearby is the Nevsky Prospekt where Raskolnikov walked and raved in "Crime and Punishment".

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Tsunami

[Click on four outward pointing arrows for fullscreen]

Even if you could view it from a safe place, where do you go when it's over?


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Shape of Things to Come

[The Persian Gulf has 55% of the world's oil reserves and 40% of its gas.]

Today Saudi troops fired on protesters in Bahrain. Bahrain is an island sheikdom in the Persian Gulf a mile off the coast of eastern Saudi Arabia. The majority of the people in Bahrain and most of the protesters are Shi'ites. The wealthy class and the royal family of Bahrain are Sunni.

The main Sunni power in the Persian Gulf is Saudi Arabia. The main Shi'ite power in the Gulf is Iran. The fighting in Bahrain can easily be seen as a struggle between Shi'ites and Sunnis. So can the fighting in Iraq. One is reminded of the Cold War when various countries and parties fought over seemingly local issues but in each case the underlying reality was that they were proxies for one side or the other.

In theory the endless Angolan civil war was between people who believed in socialism and anti-colonialism and people who believed in property rights and civil society. Behind one side was Cuban military and financial support and behind the other Portuguese military and financial support. But behind Cuba and Portugal were the Soviet Union and the United States.

During the Cold War it was not always clear whether the United States itself was a proxy for world capitalism and the Soviet Union for world socialism. Or the other way around. Even now it is not clear since the Soviet Union and world socialism, after long declines, collapsed simultaneously.

Similarly it is not clear whether Saudi power in the Gulf and Iranian power are proxies for Sunnism and Shi'ism respectively, or vice-versa. But it is beginning to look like it is becoming a wider conflict no matter how one looks at it.

Just as we use the expression 'World War' followed or preceded by a number to describe the catastrophes in Europe, we might do the same in the Middle East. The First Gulf War was the monster, fought from 1980 to 1988 between Sunni Iraq, then ruled by the lovable Saddam Hussein, and revolutionary Iran which had just overthrown the Shah, and ruled by the equally lovable Ayatollah Khomeini. It is estimated that Iraq lost 300,000 killed. 'Killed' mind you, not the vaguer 'killed and wounded' which is a military fact of the loss of effective troops. 'Killed' is human lives. Figures are less certain for Iran but the Wikipedia estimate is that 500,000 to one million were killed on the Iranian side. 800,000 to 1,300,000 killed altogether.

For comparison, in all the fighting, all the terrorism, and all the wars fought between Israel and its enemies over the past 100 years, the total number of dead on all sides is estimated at 51,000. More died in individual battles in the First Gulf War than that. While not specifically fought over religion, Gulf War I was nevertheless fought between a Sunni-controlled country and a Shi'ite country. Since Iraq was and is a majority Shi'ite country the export of the Iranian revolution to Iraq would have meant the overthrow of Sunni minority rule.

In 1990 Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. In 1991 the United States and its allies drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait. The Second Gulf War was a mere skirmish compared to its predecessor. Of the 959,000 coalition troops who participated, 396 were killed, 1,200 Kuwaitis died, and 20,000 to 35,000 Iraqis did not make it home. If one considers the almost 100 to 1 ratio between coalition deaths and Iraqi deaths, one sees the wisdom of the Marine Corps' unofficial motto, "Do not eff with the United States".

The Third Gulf War began in 2003 with the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. After a brief initial phase of American and British forces defeating the Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein, it soon degenerated into a long grinding civil war between minority Sunni forces unwilling to see an end to their centuries-old domination of Iraqi-Mesopotamian society, and Shi'ite forces supported by the United States.

Now with the transformation of the Third Gulf War into a Sunni - Shi'ite civil war in Iraq, it seems to be spreading into a Sunni - Shi'ite religious war all around the Persian Gulf. The Third Gulf War, currently a civil war in Iraq, seems likely to morph into the Fourth Gulf War, a prolonged conflict between Shi'ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

What has just emerged in Bahrain, with Saudi troops firing into crowds of Bahraini protestors is a pattern of Sunnis shooting Shi'ites. This is just getting started and it can only get worse before it gets better.

And we, as Americans, are stuck with the morally and politically bankrupt but awash-in-oil Saudi regime as our ally.

Just for a sense of scale,
Egypt 80 million people
Iran 75 million
Iraq 31 million (about 20 million Shi'ite)
Saudi Arabia 27 million
Israel 7.5 million (about 5 million Jews)
Bahrain 0.8 million (about 0.5 million Shi'ite)

Just as an aside about how good an ally Saudi Arabia is to the United States. Muslims are not automatically anti-American and anti-Israel. The primary nexus between Islam and anti-American Islam, between Islam and terrorist fanaticism, between Islam and fanatic anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel, is the world-wide network of Wahhabi madrassas or religious schools. Which are entirely funded by Saudi Arabia.


Monday, March 14, 2011

How This Works

[Half a loaf]

Palestinians murdered the Fogel family two days ago. They broke into the family home and stabbed the husband and wife to death. And then murdered their three children, one of whom was a baby.

How does one deal with people who do not hesitate to murder children? The easy and obvious response would be to kill as many of their fellow Palestinians as one can get one's hands on. But the Palestinians have shown over and over that they have no respect for anyone's life, not even their own.

There also is not much deterrent value. The Palestinians have also shown over and over that they are unable to grasp the notion of their acts having consequences, that anything that happens to them is their own doing. Palestinians seem unable to grasp the connection between Israeli reprisals and the Palestinian atrocity that preceded them.

Which is to say that Palestinians are hard to motivate and hard to deter. The one thing they have shown to be a powerful motivator is Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The Palestinians quite rightly see the Israeli settlements as eroding the amount of land that they can reasonably claim in any eventual peace settlement.

Which is why the Prime Minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, responded to the wanton murder of the Fogel family not by announcing air strikes or commando raids. After informing Washington, he announced the construction of new apartments in Ma'aleh Admumim, a suburb of Jerusalem. The town and the new apartments are in an area of the West Bank claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians.

Since the Palestinians do not fear Israeli military reprisals but do fear construction of new apartments in the West Bank, that is a great response to their terrorism. It is a punishment feared by people who do not fear death.

It is also a good example of why Israel is a successful society and Palestine is a failed one. Palestinians act out their national purposes by murder of children and self-defeating rage. Israel acts out its national purpose and its anger at the murder of Jewish children by building homes in our ancient homeland. Having won the wars, Israel is now winning the peace as well.

If this cycle continues, in the end Israel will have settled the West Bank and the Palestinians will be left with nothing.

Which makes it ironic that Israel is pressing the Palestinians to make peace and accept a two state solution and the Palestinians continue to refuse to negotiate. The Palestinians have been fighting and killing for the One State Solution so long, Palestine and no Israel, that they are in the process of getting it. But it will be Israel and no Palestine. And they will deserve what they get.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lights in the Sky

[Click on outward-pointing arrows for full screen before starting video]

The two moving lights are the International Space Station and the space shuttle Discovery separating.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Pictures of Afghanistan

Click on photos to enlarge.

[Mai in Kabul]

[Retired wives]


[Woman in burqqah]

Friday, March 04, 2011


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I have finally recovered from my winter funk enough to join the YMCA. This was after a week of promising myself then stalling or finding something else that just absolutely had to be done first, but in the end didn't get done anyway. That this turning over of a new leaf is an act of will is indubitable. That it amazingly happens to have occurred just as spring returns in earnest to the northern hemisphere is mere coincidence. Instead of staying in bed until 11 I am now up at the crack of 8. Which is to say that because there is now morning light in the mornings, I have left off semi-hibernating. There are now evenings that are not simply the onset of night in the afternoon.

I was uncertain about joining the YMCA since I qualify neither as 'Y' nor 'C'. But I have re-yclept it to 'Ye Mortal Curmudgeon Association' and I qualify handsomely. It seems like everyone I know or meet is having or has had horrible medical problems. I am starting to wonder when it will be my turn. My medical exams showed that I am in good health but too fat. The opportunities for sliding into horrible medical problems on account of the fat are manifold and manifest.

So I have started breakfasting on Faux Oeufs Turquoise a l'Oignon which sounds better in French but is still only barely edible. And have been to the aforesaid YMCA twice so far in two days and mean to go there again today.

I have been listening to Joseph Conrad's 'Lord Jim' on an iPod while I exercise (The YMCA seems to be a front for Apple.) and am reminded again of what an extraordinarily good writer he is, and all the more when one considers that English was not his native language.

The Berkeley YMCA is not a Wilde of homosexuals as the video would suggest but a Congregation of puritans. Berkeley's besetting vice is self-righteousness and nowhere does one feel more virtuous than when working out in a gym. The hard pious faces go a long way toward explaining the universality of escape into iPods. Appropriately they don't seem to care even for one another, being tolerant only of their own Puritanism, not that of others.

I have a bet with Pelfrey as to which of us loses more weight by June. I am intent on winning -- just this once.


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Not Guilty!

This is from the pope who as a young man was a member of Hitler Youth. There are pictures of him in his Hitler Jugend uniform. For HIM to forgive US is impudence on a cosmic scale.

There is a saying, "Justice delayed is justice denied." How about when it is delayed 2000 years? So I think I can speak for Jews everywhere in wishing Benedict XVI a hearty "Fuck you!".


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Zenga! Zenga!

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What does it tell you about the UN that Libya was on the UN Human Rights Council while it was ruled by an iron-handed military dictator but has been expelled from the Council now that it is driving him out?