30 November 2012

A memorial to burnt frozen chicken

A gruesome accident in state of New York attracted my attention:

Officials say a truck carrying nearly 40,000 pounds of frozen chicken went up in flames on its way to a supermarket in the New York town of Chili.
Since I know what will be the PETA response to this case, here is my (gratis) proposal for a fitting memorial to the tragic fate of all these 40,000 pounds. It is sad, it is solemn and it presents in the best possible way the terrible waste:

The Council Has Spoken!

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29 November 2012

The Vatican on Gaza: "Israel is a Baby-Killer”

This is another proof that for some people (too many people, if you ask me) the incessant attempts to kill Jewish babies don't count:

The Catholic Church high official equated Israel’s operation in Gaza against terror groups with the New Testament story of Herod’s slaughter of Jewish babies in his effort to kill Jesus.

Ravasi, who is one of the most popular Catholic cardinals and the director of the Church’s policy on culture, called Israelis baby-killers in a shameless form of anti-Semitism which subtly accuses the Jewish State of trying to murder the new Jesus, symbolized by the Palestinian people.
No comments.

See the original article (in French) here.

Hat tip: Philosemite.

Update: See Shaun's comment  on the case, it presents the whole quite differently.

See also Shaun's detailed post on the matter, which could be now considered closed under a "lost in interpretation" clause.

Let's hear it for the cheese-mongers! (Bad "Life of Brian" joke)

Here's one for all you hawks out there (and when it comes to Israel, I'm a hawk, whatever anyone might want to believe otherwise about me). Andrew Roberts, a Conservative historian, as these things go, says it all in his article title (courtesy of The Tablet) "Defeat Hamas. There, I said It".

What it comes down to is that, in his view, superior technology, allied to a high level of ability to use that technology well, will always prevail. Or, in his better phraseology, "In the eternal battle between medieval hatred and Enlightenment technological know-how, the latter has always managed to contain the former." He also, openly, dubs Hamas (and by implication Hezbollah and their sponsors - you know who you are) a fascist organisation. No argument from me on that one. Although I marginally prefer the term "clerico-fascist". So much more insulting, don't you think: gets two desirable targets in one phrase.

I'm reminded of the aphorism attributed to Patton (probably not original with him, but who cares?): "No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He wins the war by making the other poor bastard die for his." And Israel has the technology, the flak jackets and the know-how to make the other poor bastard to die for his country/ideology. Especially when he's looking to be martyred. The best soldiers are those determined to stay alive to allow the other side to martyr themselves.

While he's at it, Roberts also takes to task those (especially those outside Israel) who see the result of Operation Pillar of Cloud as somehow a defeat for Israel. His point is that whatever Hamas try to say otherwise, they got clobbered, and they achieved very little while doing so, not even anything close to what might be termed a Pyrrhic victory (as the ancient King Pyrrhus is reputed to have said, complimented on another hugely costly victory over the Romans "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.").

By: Brian Goldfarb

28 November 2012

Kim Jong Un the sexiest man alive - a joke?

For some reason so called serious media present the Onion's earnest opinion of the glorious leader of North Korea as a joke. Here is the Onions' take:

Frankly, I can't see anything jocular in the above. Take a look at this compelling image:

And compare the glorious one to other leaders of similar mindset:

Have you done the comparison? Isn't the superiority of the glorious one clear as a sunny day at the slopes of Baekdu Mountain (of course, if you exclude the horses from this informal competition)?

And if you want to judge the glorious Kim (or is it "glorious Jong" or even "glorious Un" - I wouldn't know) as a standalone entity, see what a judicious application of some lipstick and other cosmetic wonders could do:

Of course, some of you purists may be offended by the remains of the furry dead (I am almost certain it's dead) animal on the head of the exhibit, but there is no accounting for tastes. And anyway, we, the males, should withhold our judgement and bow to the opinion that really counts in the matter.

So there. Not a joke at all, I say.

Watcher’s Council Nominations – Line In The Sand Edition

Council Submissions

27 November 2012

Arafat's body taken out, put back

Well, and they took some tasters back to Paris. That in the official news.

Unofficially, one of the participants said: "It still stinks, even after all these years".

Off the record, of course.

26 November 2012

16 votes less for Bibi

The photo is taken near the Gaza border, the text created by the 16 (my count, could be wrong) reservists says (in Hebrew): "Bibi loser".

25 November 2012

The Pillar of Defense fiasco

I had a rare opportunity to be (mostly) detached from the media - both TV and radio - for the duration of the Pillar of Cloud (for some reason dubbed differently by the media). Still, I had to watch the mutual backscratching appearances by Bibi, Barack and Lieberman, each one lauding his own achievements during the operation and thanking the other two for their support.

One detail that may have escaped two of the speakers, Bibi and Barack, was especially foreboding: Israeli citizens watching them on the local channels have also seen and heard the air defense warnings breaking into the speeches and, in what became a routine during the days of the operation, announcing rocket launches from Gaza and the areas where people should take cover asap.

The trio did their puny best, trying to milk whatever they could from what is emerging out of the Cloud as an unmitigated disaster that will follow us all for years to come. They cannot make us forget the true old maxim: don't start something you can't finish. And never get into a situation from which you don't have at least one prepared in advance exit.

The trio had started something without considering enough the consequences and without having an acceptable exit strategy. As a result we are facing a military, political and financial calamity that, while seeming to be relatively minor, is carrying long term effects that will go deep and be very painful.

Military conundrum

The biggest mystery of the operation is in its interpretation. If, as our Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, claimed, all the objectives laid out ahead of Operation Pillar of Defense were met successfully during the eight days of fighting, why then the hugely expensive mobilization of almost 70,000 reservists? To impress Hamas? Hamas leaders are not easily impressed by threats of this kind, just the opposite - they thrive on new "shahids", especially when the inevitable civilian toll caused by a ground operation rises.

The only sensible explanation of the about-turn executed by our leadership on the ground operation is presented by Rob aka JoshuaPundit (see "Political" below).

There is no doubt that during the weeks leading to the Pillar of Cloud the intensity of both rocket attacks and ground provocations from Gaza increased quite drastically. On the other hand, there is no doubt whatsoever that while Hamas, closely followed by the bevy of other "freedom fighting" outfits like PFLP, Islamic Jihad, Popular Committee for this or for that etc., is the ruling force in Gaza, the attacks will never cease, varying in intensity from week to week.

As in previous rounds of violence, Gazan rocket scientists didn't present anything serious that changes the game. The Fajr-5 rockets introduced to the scene this time, while having a larger range, have a drawback of being more easily identified, located and subsequently destroyed by IAF, which by and large is what has happened. And of course, militarily speaking, IDF is easily able to kick Hamas to kingdom come on any given day - provided IDF is allowed to do its job. Which it wasn't allowed to, as in many other cases in Israel's relatively short history.

As far as public perception goes, Hamas won this round. Their depleted stock of Qassam rockets will be replenished fairly quickly with Iranian sponsorship, their killed operatives (including the late and unlamented Ahmed Jabari) are already replaced by new and eager martyrs-to-be, and the cycle of violence will be restarted fairly soon, as we all know and fully expect. Yes, there is a considerable damage to infrastructure and buildings, but when did Hamas care about that? Aside of using the bombed buildings as background for photo-ops, of course...

And when I mention public perception, this time I mean the Israeli public as well. Not many people remember Bibi's solemn election promise of 2009 to eradicate Hamas, but who remembers (or believes) election promises? However the current sentiment regarding the results of the Pillar of Cloud is quite clear.

Political defeat

After a painful concession on Iran, offered by Bibi to Obama (or, rather, forced by Obama on Bibi) before the US elections, which concession's details are still hidden by the veil of secrecy, another political defeat by Bibi raised its ugly head, according to Rob:

But then the Obama Administration intervened.

They were perfectly happy for Israel to go in to Gaza and take out Hamas, but insisted that they then turn Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority. This was supposed to strengthen PA President Mahmoud Abbas as 'Palestine's savior' . [And] as a kicker, President Obama insisted that Israel immediately declare a Palestinian State in Gaza and most of Judea and Samaria, including areas currently under Israeli sovereignty from which the Jewish residents would then be removed. These were also to be turned over to Abbas.

If the Israelis were unwilling to have the IDF do Mahmoud Abbas' dirty work for him and then give up large areas populated by Jews, then the Obama Administration told the Israelis the U.S. would not back an IDF ground assault in Gaza.

So they Israelis took the ceasefire, essentially meaning that Hamas is going to be left in place to regroup and fight another day. And can claim a victory.
I don't know how precise the above version of events is in its details, but by and large it is the only one that makes any sense.

Whatever the reason, Hamas' political strength has indeed underwent a surge. Not only is Hamas able (with good enough reasons) claim a victory, hollow as it may look in military terms to an unprejudiced observer - Hamas' international position, especially in Muslim countries, chief of them Egypt and Turkey, was elevated to a practical acceptance as a political partner, while the PA and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas with his current stance of non-violence, lost a lot of ground to the victorious Hamas. The mere fact that Egypt's PM visited Gaza during the Pillar of Cloud, without even a nod in the direction of Ramallah, must hurt Abbas terribly, and this is only a small taster of things to come. Who is willing to bet that PA, looking at the success of their terrorist Gazan brethren, wouldn't be inspired to follow suit in due time? After all, they didn't get much out of the currently reigning calm, so why shouldn't they try the other approach?

No matter how far from the truth is Hamas' boasting about their military prowess, the other result of the operation, which is the truce agreement, supports their claims of victory. Hamas won a promise to open the border with Egypt, to review the list of materials allowed to be transported to Gaza via the border crossings with Israel, to expand the fishing area. So why wouldn't Hamas claim a political as well as military victory? They have won this round by any criteria.

And if, as a senior Hamas functionary claims, the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas which ended Operation Pillar of Defense does not include Egyptian guarantees to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Gaza, the whole operation doesn't make any practical sense.

But the most painful lesson of the operation is the growing submission of our leaders to the wishes and orders from the White House. Without going into analysis of whether this submission is good or bad, the fact is that fiercely independent (in his speeches) Bibi is becoming a mere puppet of White House, State Department and (probably) various other branches of power in Washington.

Financials of wartime

Of course, relatively speaking, this was a short operation, however the damage to the property, loss of working days due to the call-up of reserves and the cost of the call-up, the direct expenses of the IAF and related branches, the Iron Dome missiles etc. During the time when Israeli economy is contracting as it does lately, with shrinking income from taxes, the financing of the whole affair wouldn't be a simple issue, what with IDF demanding (and, as usual, receiving) more financing to cope with the future threats.

The only visible ray of light is the success of the Iron Dome, but the financial successes stemming from future sales of this defensive wonder to the international customers are still far away to be meaningful.

As for Hamas financials: the answer is already forthcoming:
Less than a week after the conclusion of Operation Pillar of Defense, and with Hamas boasting of an imminent increase in military aid from Iran, Israeli satellites have spotted a ship at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas being loaded with rockets and other military supplies ostensibly bound for Gaza, the British Sunday Times has reported.
Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar on Saturday said that Iran will increase the military and economic aid to Gazan groups because of the victory Hamas claims against Israel in Operation Pillar of Defense.
Next round is already looming, the only question is timing.

And this is the way it goes.

As a side remark: some people have done an excellent work on the operation on Wiki. While not free of sudden changes and some political infighting, the article is definitely worth your attention.

Obama passes the Israel test - for now

Despite the views of certain readers of this site, it would appear that (for now, as the writer puts it) President Obama has passed the Israel test. I, for one, am delighted that he did, because, like many of you, I have family and friends in Israel.

Let's just be thankful that he passed this test, and hope that he continues to do so. He did, after all, block the UN Security Council passing any condemnation of Israel, brought pressure on Egypt to broker the cease fire (and thus to bear responsibility for Hamas abiding by it) and, as a result, avoided Israel having to mount a land-based invasion, which would have been costly in all sorts of ways.

Now all he has to do is make sure that Israel gets more Iron Dome supplies for the Northern border.

As for Iran, well, lots of commentators have remarked that Israel has demonstrated to Iran that it can't necessarily rely on its clients distracting Israel's and the IDF's attention from equally important matters.

Read the Tablet article here:

21 November 2012

How to tell it like it is

An interesting item from anneinpt's blog. For those who don't her work (though I cross-posted an item from there some time ago), Anne is a Brit who made aliyah some years ago. Her politics and mine are somewhat different, though she paid me the gracious compliment of dubbing me as coming from the "sane left". I treasure that sentence. It also puts me in the same camp as Nick ("What's Left?" "You Can't Read This Book") Cohen, a place I find most congenial.

Much of the entry is a series of extended quotes from William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary, demonstrating his (let's me nice and polite here) inability to appreciate the full subtlety of the situation for Israel in the region. And no, I do not mean to imply that Hague is an Anti-Zionist or worse, just that he fails to understand the whole picture. That, or he's under pressure from those who really don't understand.

Actually, the real meat of the article is the open letter to Hague from Anne's cousin-in-law, which is reproduced in full. Anne invites every who wishes to disseminate that letter as widely as possible, and especially into the twitter accounts of UK Coalition politicians, and especially William Hague's, as at least one person has done already.

The full article is here:

By: Brian Goldfarb

And about time too.

The IDF is using social media in a big way to get its case across to fellow users of these media. They are, apparently, giving access to images (such as the film of the Al-Jabari assassination and others) to journalists. Apparently, one can find the IDF making available videos of the Iron Dome shootings down of Hamas rockets - I've certainly seen one of rockets aimed at Tel Aviv being taken out - as well as much more. Another example is of food crossing into Gaza from Israel, with an IDF officer talking to camera, explaining that Israel is allowing these supplies in despite Hamas and despite a virtual state of war between Israel and Hamas.

Much of it obvious, as obvious as that coming from Gaza and Hamas allies; but at least Israel isn't reliant just on either its sense of being in the right and this being so plainly true as not needing any further explanation, or not giving a damn what the rest of the world thinks. There are people out here willing to be convinced.

See what you think of their efforts, here:

By: Brian Goldfarb

20 November 2012

Israel does have friends: and some of them are good ones.

The Henry Jackson Society is a good friend of Israel's, as demonstrated by its coverage of the Middle east, and it's current issue has three separate articles on the situation vis-a-vis Gaza, but I'm only linking to one of them. If you wish to know more about the society and how it got its name, look here:

This particular brief essay is by one Douglas Murray and is a sterling example of the Society's general stance on Israel, as you will realise when you notice that the title of the piece is "The status-quo-ante is not an option". A sample quote from Murray includes a near-repitition of that phrase, when he says that "Already, fair and foul-weather friends are calling for a ceasefire and a return to the status quo ante. They are missing the point as catastrophically as the media. The status quo ante is not the solution. The status quo ante is what got us here. It involves Israel being bombarded unceasingly while the world looks away."

It was ever thus. Or, as the British (and unashamedly Jewish) actor, Maureen Lipman noted on UK radio at the end of brief set-to with a fellow British actor (unashamedly in favour of a boycott on the Habimah Theatre group in the UK), "It's always the Jews isn't it". She managed to get the last word in, too. No mean feat, and if I see her walking her dogs in that big open space near us again, I shall take the opportunity to compliment her on that and thank her for it.

A little further into the article, Murray notes the broad support from at least some Western allies of Israel - the unanimous vote in support of Israel by the US Senate, that I posted below, the more recent open backing from president Obama (even if slightly nuanced, but he is the Pres) and, to my knowledge, unequivocal backing by Angela Merkel of Germany. However (there's always a however, isn't there?), "...across the Western media the reaction has been different. From the Washington Post to the Telegraph of London, the media has focussed on Israeli ‘aggression’ and Palestinian suffering as the cause of this latest round of conflict. This is wholly, utterly and disgracefully wrong." The article is here:

Interesting side issue: one of those three articles is by Raheem Kassam, Henry Jackson Society Director of Communications : is this the same Raheem Kassam who is the Executive Editor of The Commentator, and to whom I referred a few days ago? I think we should be told!! Not really: just being mischievous.

By the way, The Elder of Ziyon, on his(?) blog has an interesting short video clip in which some Western media correspondents, lodged in Gaza City (and at least one suitably flak-jacketed and helmeted), are reporting, live, that they can hear rockets being fired off towards Israel from very near where they are. View it here. It's only 40 seconds long, so it won't detain you for very long. Do also take 20 seconds to look at the video clip immediately below it from the IDF. You want good propaganda from Israel? Here it is. Further, Sky News reporters have reported live, from Gaza City, that Hamas are deliberately siting missiles among civilians, thus using civilians as a human shield. That's a war crime.

So why isn't anyone calling Hamas on it? That Hamas won't give a damn is neither here nor there.

Also on the same site is this, which I haven't read yet, but couldn't resist posting (the heading says it all): http://elderofziyon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/israel-sends-aid-to-gaza-while-egypt.html.

Good reading.

By: Brian Goldfarb

17 November 2012

US Senate unanimously backs Israel

This came into my in-box on Friday 16 November, so "Thursday" below refers to yesterday. This is posted just in case non-US residents were wondering: http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-senate-unanimously-passes-resolution-supporting-israels-right-to-defend-itself/. They know who is in the right here, even if fellow Middle Easterners prefer to fool themselves.

And this is a quote from the article: "Also on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta talked to Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and told him Jerusalem has a right to defend its citizens. A US official confirmed the two leaders’ conversation to CNN. The spokesperson said they discussed Pillar of Defense and the “unacceptable attacks” used by Hamas and other groups in Gaza, and that Panetta reiterated the American position — that Israel has a right to protect itself."

By: Brian Goldfarb.

A Conservative MP speaks out for Israel

This is from today's (16 November) Commentator, and is by a Conservative MP and member of Conservative Friends of Israel. That I wouldn't vote for him is irrelevant; what is relevant is his support for Israel's right to exist in peace and security. This is typified by the following comment: "This week’s escalation did not start, as many have reported, with Israel’s attack on the Hamas military commander. It started with the abuse of the trust of the people of Gaza and the use of the strip as little more than a launching pad for an ideological war."

Read the rest of the article here

By: Brian Goldfarb

16 November 2012

Hamas and cynical injured innocence

I've noted recently that I'm hardly on The Commentator's wavelength as far as UK (let alone US) domestic politics is concerned, but when it comes to Israel, we're foursquare together. The latest outbreak in the Israel/Gaza standoff brings an encouraging response for Zionists from the on-line newspaper. Here's an example of their current reporting (today into my inbox): "...these latest outrageous attacks are but the tip of the iceberg. Since the start of 2012, 797 rockets have been fired from Gaza, forcing approximately one million Israelis in towns across the south to flee to their nearest bomb shelter, with as little as 15 seconds to react." They are, of course, reporting on the fact that Israel managed to successfully target Al-Jabari, Hamas military chief (couldn't happen to a nicer terrorist), and the response to it, which is, of course, hardly understanding of the need of a legitimate state to defend its citizens.

Imagine such an attack on let's say New York from Long Island, and imagine any US government of any stripe standing still for it. But the Jewish state has to show a ludicrous degree of self-restraint that no other state would be expected to show. And Hamas can, apparently get away with blaming Israel for any further escalation. Talk about a looking-glass world where everything's a reverse image.

But then, it's only Jews were talking about.

It gets worse, as The Commentator notes: "Yet apparently, the low number of casualties (thanks to Israel's advanced technology and interception systems) is a total non-story. It is only when Israel ends its restraint and finally takes decisive action that suddenly the BBC screams of a dangerous escalation. They then have the temerity to suggest that the real reason for the Gaza operation lies hidden beneath a clever Israeli smokescreen. Rockets? What rockets?"

Their conclusion is starkly simply: "So in the next few days, Israel will be forced to fight two wars, one against Hamas and one against this ugly torrent of media bile. The madness looks set to continue." It now appears that Israel has begun moving troops towards Gaza, according to the latest news reports here in the UK at this time, about 22.00 GMT, 15 November. The full article is here.

'The FCO tweeted: "We continue to call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent a dangerous escalation that would be in no one’s interests. It could have been worse, of course. It could have been a response from the BBC."'

By: Brian Goldfarb

13 November 2012

Foreign Affairs journal says the US-Israel link is doing just fine.

Here's an item I don't recall seeing in the hard copy of the Foreign Affairs journal when we we're, just recently, in New York (as I've said in other recent postings). Foreign Affairs, for those who've never come across it, is a high quality intellectual monthly for that hoped for creature, the highly intelligent lay-person. The articles are not for the faint-hearted; they are often densely argued; but they are argued, not asserted. In other words, they provide evidence to (dis)agree with. This article is all about the relationship between the US and Israel and argues that the relationship is not only not one-sided, but actually benefits the US. And don't US politicians know it, those who aren't dyed-in-the-wool antisemites, that is. And it has nothing to do with any Lobby, Jewish or Israeli. Nor, come to that, which party holds the White House or control of Congress.

A sample quote: "U.S.-Israeli security cooperation dates back to heights of the Cold War, when the Jewish state came to be seen in Washington as a bulwark against Soviet influence in the Middle East and a counter to Arab nationalism. Although the world has changed since then, the strategic logic for the U.S.-Israeli alliance has not. Israel remains a counterweight against radical forces in the Middle East, including political Islam and violent extremism. It has also prevented the further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region by thwarting Iraq and Syria’s nuclear programs."

Need more? Here are four sentences with about 6 reasons why the US-Israel link not only flourishes but is likely to remain strong: "The two countries share intelligence on terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and Middle Eastern politics. Israel’s military experiences have shaped the United States’ approach to counterterrorism and homeland security. The two governments work together to develop sophisticated military technology, such as the David’s Sling counter-rocket and Arrow missile defense systems, which may soon be ready for export to other U.S. allies. Israel has also emerged as an important niche defense supplier to the U.S. military, with sales growing from $300 million per year before September 11 to $1.1 billion in 2006, due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel’s military research and development complex has pioneered many cutting-edge technologies that are transforming the face of modern war, including cyberweapons, unmanned vehicles (such as land robots and aerial drones), sensors and electronic warfare systems, and advanced defenses for military vehicles."

Thus, my argument is that it probably doesn't matter who the US President is, or what his rhetoric is, this link aian't gonna be broken any time soon. Don't (want to) believe me? Then read the article, and come up with your counter-arguments:

By: Brian Goldfarb

On the Golan Heights: have the Syrians really deliberately fired into Israel?

Until the incident related in the piece below from The Times of Israel, via The Tablet, the IDF has been stating that it believes the mortars and shells landing in Israeli-controlled/occupied (you choose your preferred term: I'm trying to be neutral here) Golan Heights have been accidental overshoots from the fighting between the Assad regime forces and the rebels. However, this time anonymous Israeli sources (anonymous, because there isn't yet an Israeli intelligence consensus on this) are claiming that they're no longer so sure it's accidental.

Mortar and other shells have landed both in the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] and in one or more Israeli Moshavs on the Heights, without causing (yet) any Israeli casualties. The latest incident (to which the IDF responded) came through an engagement between rebel forces and Assad regime units in and around a DMZ village on the heights. Israel retaliated and "Israeli media reports indicated that the targets hit by Israeli tanks were Soviet-made D-30 howitzer pieces. Israeli officials said the vehicle was believed to belong to the Syrian government."

No-one on the Israeli side has yet suggested that it might be the rebels trying to pretend it's the Assad regime forces, in order to get the Israelis involved against the regular army; indeed, the rebels probably don't have this sort of ordnance. If those anonymous sources are right, Assad (or his minions) are playing a very dangerous game. They can't really want to bring the might of the IDF pouring down the road to Damascus. Can they?

Or is this one of those "oh shit" moments, when you say, "o.s., look what we've done now. They'll never believe it was an accident."

Read the whole Times story here.

By: Brian Goldfarb

10 November 2012

Of mice and men

And you sort them out: I am too busy at the moment.

09 November 2012

Vacation notice

Blogging will be very light for the duration of November, unless some people I could mention but wouldn't pick up the slack.

Behave, all of you out there.

Commentator editor refuses to admit wounded foot injury is self-inflicted

So, on Thursday, 8 November, the New York Times (yes, I know, I know, liberal, pinko, rag) has this article on page 8 of the special section of the paper on the 2012 election headlined "Election Result Proves a Victory for Pollsters and Other Data Devotees" (what school taught them to write headline sentences like that? All capital letters and truncated sentences. Oh well, it's the USA - no insult intended, Katie and Dick, honestly). I'm sorry that I can't give you a link: the NYT online version is behind a pay wall, and we picked a hard copy up at the airport on our way home. 

Anyway, what it's really about is the "battle" between those who believe that the facts give us at least some evidence to argue about, against those who believe that their accumulated knowledge and experience belies the need for facts. 

What brings this on (apart from my grump about The Commentator 2 days ago)? And, anyway, do we get any sort of apology from that online paper? No, of course not. I'll add a couple of links below to the current issue where writers appears to sidestep the issue of the comment made on 5 November as to who were the real believers in freedom, etc, etc. What brings this on is the NYT (gleefully? It is, after all, Karl Rove they're sticking their knife into) noting how Rove and other "pundits" (those who rely on accumulated wisdom, etc) got the election so wrong and how they were prepared to dismiss facts over "knowledge". 

Anyone in the USA on 6 November will know that this is about Rove, a Fox News commentator, who blew his top on air when the channel called Ohio for Obama (accurately, as it happened), shortly before the other channels committed themselves. He was talking (as a committed Republican and former Bush W., advisor, let alone Speaker of the House) to the Romney camp who were insisting that it was too soon to call. Well, media people have got it wrong before, doing that, but they've learned their lesson, and now crunch lots more numbers before they commit themselves. After hearing their reasoning, Rove backed down, and the following day graciously apologised for his doubts. 

Or, as the liberal, pinko, NYT has it, "The election results...left some well-know pundits, many of whom have a partisan bent, eating crow on Wednesday morning..." But they would put it like that, wouldn't they. What's interesting in all this is that the people we were with for the early part of the evening (before heading off to "Democracy Plaza", or, as it's more usually known, the Plaza of Rockerfeller Center to be with the real partisans) were all liberal, pinko, etc (c'mon now, this is NYC the bluest city in the bluest state in the Union), but determined to examine the data as it came in, not rely on instinct, gut feelings, accumulated experience, etc.

So, I'm not getting at the Republican sympathisers - and Rove's initial refusal to accept the number-crunchers' findings was entirely understandable - but at those who act as experts but prefer to let their prejudices override the evidence staring them in the face: the journalists at The Commentator who would claim some sort of expertise. The links that I promised are here, and here (actually, this one reads like sour grapes - after all, Obama won 25 states [with Florida, at the time of writing, still undeclared, even though he's marginally ahead], and has a 2 million lead in the popular vote - bet they wouldn't grouse if it was the other way round, with same slim margins). Actually, this one also reads like sour grapes:

But I'll keep looking at The Commentator, but I think I'll concentrate on their stuff on Israel and the Middle East. Less risk to my blood pressure!

By: Brian Goldfarb

07 November 2012

Commentator editor shoots himself in the (ideological and possibly intellectual) foot

I know that certain types of professional are prone to a degree of certainty that the evidence doesn't allow,especially outside their speciality. Thus, I know medics who are always right, especially about politics or who owns what or who said what. The same is true of an educational specialist of my acquaintance who is supposed to be opening young people's minds to evaluating evidence who insists that Al Jazeera is a model of fair reporting on the Middle East.

So, when Raheem, editor-in-chief of The Commentator, insists that, in the words of the title to this piece, "Believers in the free world are backing Romney", he is seriously risking hubris. After all, this popped into my in-box on the day of the US election, long before the polls closed and while the latest polls were showing a continuing but fixed lead for Obama in the most vital of the swing states.

Before anyone out there gets too upset with me (and I know that some of you have very definite views as to who should be the next US President), this is not about the election, but about journalists thinking they know better than the US electorate. Should Romney win, Raheem and his fellows are wonderful prophets. Should Obama win,does he look foolishly. That, or the US voters are.

Further, I will argue till the cows come home that whatever else is wrong with it, the NHS is far from the worst health service in the world. Which is another hubristic comment and merely confirms where on the political spectrum The Commentator stands.

Its saving grace is that it is intensely pro-Israel.

By Brian Goldfarb.

04 November 2012

Did Tzipi Livni have sex with Arabs when working for Mossad?

You can imagine I had me some laughs on account of this story.

A leading Egyptian daily falsely claimed that former foreign minister Tzipi Livni conducted sexual relations with Arab officials during her years as a Mossad agent in an attempt to entrap them, and used what it said was a 2009 interview with The Times of London as ostensible proof.

The article in Al-Masri Al-Youm, an independent and widely read Egyptian daily, was headlined: “Livni: I had sex with Arabs in return for ‘political concessions.’” It featured prominently in the paper’s Saturday print edition and was still leading its website on Sunday afternoon. The article went up on Al-Masry Al-Youm’s website Friday night and was its most widely read story over the weekend. It had garnered 20,000 Facebook shares and 1,800 tweets as of Sunday morning, and was quoted extensively in Egyptian and Arab media.
The overexcited Egyptian readers may not be sated yet with frisson they got imagining whatever they did, so here is another photo of Tsipi for them to peruse:

Oops, sorry, a printing error, here is the correct picture:

So go ahead, dear excited readers, peruse. But in moderation, please.

I thought that this could round up the whole story, but then I've stumbled on another article in the same ToI (Times of Israel). And, of course, it shows clearly that ToI are the guilty party, causing the whole uproar in Egypt by publishing that one, titled What the Mossad’s female agents do — and don’t do — for the sake of Israel. The article carries another picture that may be even more exciting to the same group of readers:

It shows the one and only Bar Refaeli playing a Mossad seductress... oy vey...
(I am really concerned now about the above mentioned group: please leave this photograph for tomorrow or something. Try to control yourself, anyway.)

Unfortunately, the article's thrust caused me a grave concern. It says, for example:
“We use our femininity because any means is valid,” confirmed Efrat, the most senior female operational commander in the Mossad. “But even if we think that the way to advance the mission is to sleep with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, no one in the Mossad would allow us to do it. Women agents are not used for sexual purposes. We flirt, but the line is drawn at sex.”
It is bad. It is really very, very bad. I am sure that we shall see soon an article full of rage from the Haaretz' own Gideon Levy telling us that the female Mossad agents wouldn't have sex with Arabs because they (the female agents) dehumanize them (the Arabs) and thus don't see... well, you got the drift by now.

Methinks it's time to discuss the dire situation with the wannabe Elders from the Mossad and to tell these young upstarts that their operational manuals should be revised, having in mind the weight of the public opinion in general and Gideon Levy's opinion in particular.

So there.

Shifting From Israel, HRW Focuses on Syria

Or so it says in the hard copy of the Forward, which I picked up while strolling along Broadway here in the Big Apple. We're here to visit the family and, fortunately, being on the Upper West Side, they escaped any damage and kept power all the time. The worst thing that happened (and our daughter knows that it's small potatoes compared with the losses suffered by those who felt the full effects of Sandy) was keeping their two small children occupied.

Anyway, that Forward headline and article can be found only in the hard copy. I certainly haven't been able find it online, although someone out there may have better luck. The interesting part of the story (by one Josh Nathan-Kazis) is the argument that not many friends of Israel, critical or otherwise, will expect this focus elsewhere to have much of a lasting effect, with even the co-founder of Human Rights Watch, Robert Bernstein, publicly splitting with it some 3 years ago.

What may a bit more surprising is that even some of those on what might be considered to be the same side, such as Gerald Steinberg, Executive Director of NGO Watch, are "highly critical of HRW".

The rest of the article is a fascinating discussion of the dangers of attempting to discover just what is happening inside Syria, as the deaths of Marie Colvin and Anthony Shadid, among others, illustrates.

Hopefully, one of you will be able to provide a link to this piece, as it is very well worth reading.

By Brian Goldfarb.

03 November 2012

Who didn't have sex with neanderthals?

I took personally these insinuations from Fox. I would have issued a strong protest, declaring that I never laid a finger or even thought about etc. But now, after reading this post by Texas Scribbler and, especially, after watching the lecture below, I prefer to stay silent and fix up a lawyer or two. You better watch it too, it's applicable to most countries in the world:

02 November 2012

The Council Has Spoken!

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

PETA requests sign to memorialize fish


An animal rights group is asking a California city to put up a sign acknowledging the suffering of fish that died in a traffic incident.

Irvine resident Dina Kourda wrote a letter to city officials on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asking for a sign to be placed at the site of the October crash to recognize the suffering of hundreds of saltwater bass that died when a truck carrying the fish collided with two other vehicles Oct. 11, The Orange County Register reported Tuesday.

Kourda said she wants the sign to remind truck drivers of their responsibility to the animals who are "hauled to their deaths every day."
Tell you what, Dina:... aw, what the heck, better let it go...

And if not, this is my proposal for the sign.

01 November 2012

Congrats to San Francisco Giants!

Still, guys, happiness and all things considered, maybe a shower first?

Just asking...