31 October 2013

Vladimir Valdimirovich Putin: the top dog of 2013


Forbes magazine named Russian President Vladimir Putin the most powerful man in the world on Wednesday, ranking the autocratic leader ahead of US President Barack Obama.
Nah... he is a clear winner. By a head, no less.

So, once again:

How cool the Aussies are!

A sample from a library somewhere down under:

And more where it came from.

Via Aussie Dave.

Dr Sarah Gervais of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln should go out more

This is my considered opinion after reading the article, titled Science confirms, men ogle women.

I can be moderately proud of finding Dr Gervais' Internet page. And even more proud of finding a quality photo of her:

Unfortunately, it's only a partial shot, but I am somehow confident that, if she does listen to my advice, both men and women will engage in some ogling - just per Dr Gervais' findings.


Watcher’s Council Nominations – ObamaCare Trick Or Treat Edition

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30 October 2013

Whistle-blower creeps

William Saletan asks a few excellent questions in his Slate article.

Snowden, Greenwald, and Poitras haven’t divulged any surveillance explicitly confined to military targets or terrorists. But they’ve reported NSA operations against the president of Brazil, the president of Mexico, the president of Russia, French diplomats, Indian diplomats, and dozens of unnamed “world leaders.” Their articles are often published in the targeted countries and timed to cause maximum disruption to U.S. relations with those countries.

If you’re German, Mexican, or Brazilian, you can thank these journalists for exposing surveillance of your country. But if you’re American, the equation has changed. The NSA leaks are no longer about your privacy. They’re about alerting the world to U.S. espionage against other governments, most of whom are simultaneously spying on us. Snowden’s collaborators are publishing these secrets because, like the NSA, they’re in the thrall of unprecedented access to information. But just because they can use it all doesn’t mean they should.
Yep: where exactly is the point when a freedom-hungry journalist and truth-seeking whistle-blower cross from righteous indignation into pure unadulterated anti-Americanism?

Go figure.

Righteous indignation my foot. And the funniest question of the week.

Fox published an article by an Israeli journo Paul Alster, titled: Righteous indignation over US spying seen as naive in Israel. First of all, a totally fitting and true headline. It will do every one of the high placed hypocrites a lot of good to chill some and to confess publicly that, as the article says "it is almost a universal assumption that everyone tries to spy on everyone". And if some of the buggers are still not doing it, they should start. It never pays to be the only Goody Two-Shoes in the world infested by brigands, cads, bounders and politicians.

In this regard it was quite difficult for me to understand how the author of this, generally sane and correct piece, got to ask the following question:

If one accepts that the U.S. is spying to some degree on Israel, is it safe to assume that the reverse is also true?
Unless, of course, his sole purpose was to make me laugh.

Now I feel bad for only being able to smile, briefly at that. OK, here it comes:

Tee hee...

Marine Corps' new hats controversy

I don't know why Fox News are grumbling about this:

The diameter of the new hats is much smaller, and it will be easier now to stick one's head into an oven (to take one example), if the laughter in the streets will become too much for a Marine to bear...

So there.

29 October 2013

The blessing of not being briefed

The latest scandal, that of Angela Merkel discovering that her cell phone was being listened to by NSA, was met by the too familiar by now response from the White House (no one told the POTUS, sorry) and by a pleasantly supportive NSA official:

"Gen. Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel," NSA spokeswoman Vanee' Vines told CNN.
Sure thing. I bet if I were to count all the cases where White House most important resident denied any knowledge of any wrongdoing lately, I would quickly run out of fingers and toes.

When one of this POTUS' staunchest supporters produces a scathing satirical piece like that one, even a person that tries to be as bipartisan as possible will reconsider his/her stance, reading words like these:
In a dramatic departure from existing White House procedures, President Obama requested today that his staff start cc’ing him on stuff.

“Look, I know a lot of you think I’m really busy and you don’t want to bother me,” the President reportedly told his staff in an Oval Office meeting. “But cc me anyway. It’s good for me to keep up on what’s going on around here.”
There are only two possible explanations for that phenomenon:

Explanation One: The president decided, as a result of some traumatic experience, that since the beginning of his second term in the office, he is leading some nation other than US (what is that happy country I am afraid to guess). Thus he really doesn't know or want to know what is going on in Washington DC and its environs - for reasons of national security, of course, refusing to be involved.

Explanation Two: Somebody has stolen this sign from the president's table:

Then modified it overnight and put it back looking like this:

This might explain it too. For me, at least.

Rothschild Zionism: the more Jews, the merier

I will gladly take on anyone who doubts that morons make our life that much brighter. Here is a shining example: from a person who opened "Rothschild Zionism" page on Facebook:

Oh dear, oh dear, if Rothschild Zionism only knew who he is working for...

Forum: What Do You Predict The Ultimate Fate Of ObamaCare Will Be?

Every week on Monday morning , the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day. This week’s question: What Do You Predict The Ultimate Fate Of ObamaCare Will Be?

28 October 2013

Thus spoke Jack Straw or when a former British diplomat lets his hair down

As reported by a former Knesset member Einat Wilf:

Straw said, according to Wilf, that the greatest obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians and her Arab neighbors are the “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US, as well as Germany’s “obsession” with defending Israel.
Of course, using my special line to the Elders' department in charge of keeping in line less successful British ex-diplomats and other ex-VIPs*, I have immediately inquired whether Straw was authorized to such a disclosure. Apparently not.

But, in the larger picture, the damage is nil, our control of the world, including the misty Albion, is unchallenged, so all is cool on that side. If you want an explanation to that inexplicable outburst - there are two chief reasons for it.

First: seeing as how these unlimited funds flow in their unlimited channels to all kinds of happy destinations and not being on the receiving end of a single penny must cause pain. The fact is that we, the Elders, never considered this puny figure of a "diplomat" worth an investment. What with him being rather a failure in that job.

The second reason... oh, yes, here it is:
Straw, who has noted that his Blackburn constituency has some 25,000 Muslim residents and 23 mosques...
'nuff said...

And on a subject slightly related to this post - Einat Wilf:

What, you didn't expect me to put the Bumbling Jack's picture here, did you?

More on the subject by Joshuapundit.

(*) This department has a much shorter moniker, but, taking into account the sensitivities of the British ex-diplomats and other ex-VIPs, I shall forgo it - for now.

Changing water into money

One quite famous Israeli once turned some water into wine. Nowadays, for many commercial reasons, the Israelis decided to make a shortcut and turn water into money directly.

Since WaPo are on the road to turn their Internet site into money (and good luck to them with that endeavor, but I suspect that Fox will gain a few more readers as a result), I am not sure for how long this article on the subject will be available. So a few quotes meanwhile:

Israel wants to be seen in the water world the same admiring way it is viewed in the realm of high-tech. The country’s exports of water products have tripled in the past five years and now total $2 billion, according to Israel’s economic ministry. Its biggest customer is the United States, but new markets are opening in countries with an emerging middle class, such as Mexico, Turkey, China and India.
And this:
Two Republican governors from arid states, Rick Perry of Texas and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, were on hand with large delegations this week to peruse the wares at the Watec Israel 2013 exhibition.

Perry hailed Israel for its reuse of wastewater — Israel recycles more than 80 percent of its effluents, compared with about 1 percent in the United States, the governor said.

Asked about potential deals between Israel and Texas for water technology, Perry said in an interview, “Let’s do it.”
Nothing wrong with Rick Perry or his business sense, I only wish this kind of support were bipartisan...

27 October 2013

Open Zion and Belgium State ukulele orchestra meet expectations

I was in desperate need of a headline for that post, and then someone's helpful entry on Facebook provided a link to an admirably short funny Belgium State Ukulele Orchestra meets expectations. So there, we can forget the Belgian ukulele players for now. And move to my expectations of Open Zion, the brainchild of Peter Beinart.

And I am happy/sad to observe that my expectations from Open Zion are being confirmed again and again, this time by an article Israel as a Totem for Jewish Identity by Lisa Goldman. The article has little to do with its headline, while the headline has a lot to do with a statement in that article that drew my attention.

Lisa describes a social event that in normal circumstances would hardly draw any attention from yours truly: Yeshiva University panel discussion on the future of the Jewish people. The panel was manned by a group of people that I can't very well sympathize with, and the proceedings (at least as described by Lisa) confirm my (possibly non-patriotic) lack of sympathy. Of course, I have a good reason to suspect the reporting as tendentious, but even when suspected, ideas like lobbing a nuke at some Iranian desert are not my cup of tea. On the other hand, Yasser Arafat standing for the destruction of Israel or Mahmud the Mad believing in "something called a Hidden Imam" are more than a fruit of the panel's imagination. Whatever...now we can move to the statement I mentioned, which is a sarcastic soundbite, singled out as a standalone paragraph in the article:

Israel, it seemed, was not actually a country filled with disparate, flawed individuals, but an identity totem for Jews of the diaspora.
Now that one is a doozy for sure. In the sense that it allows for at least two different (disparate?) readings, mutually exclusive at that. This "country filled with disparate, flawed individuals": how should one read it? As in "a country of exceptionally disparate and flawed individuals" or "a country which, as any other country, is filled with disparate, flawed individuals"? I really wouldn't know and prefer to hope that the latter reading is true. But how can one be sure with such glaring ambiguity and the general trend of the article? Flawed and insecure individual as I am, I can't trust my judgment in that matter.

As for Israel serving as "an identity totem for Jews of the diaspora": let me see - what exactly is wrong with that thesis? Israel, as such (which means me and the other 6+ million Jews living here) didn't exactly choose the role of the totem. But take a look at any group of diaspora Jews congregating for any purpose: be it a Bar Mitzvah of a younster or a Yeshiva University panel discussion or, for that matter, a strictly anti-Israeli demo by Jewish Voice for Peace folks or a J-street gathering - what exactly will be on the agenda? For that matter, what exactly provides bread and butter to the Open Zion team, if not that "identity totem"?

Speaking of bread and butter, I just have to mention an unsuccessful dig addressed by Lisa at one of the panel members, one Bret Stephens:
“We have to find a way to keep them in Israel,” declaimed the man who left Jerusalem to take up a position with the Wall Street Journal.
Which dig could have sounded much better, if not made by a lady who left Tel-Aviv for Brooklyn to become a senior editor at the Daily Beast's Open Zion blog. Oh well, you can't win them all, Lisa...

But then, this again conforms with my expectations suspicions.

Methinks I shall look for some ukulele ensemble on Youtube...

British cuisine - unjustly maligned?

The evidence proves it: Brits have had a romance with frog legs (actually toad legs)during Stonehenge times, but they have moved up to better things since.

So all you spoiled tourists whining about British food: consider yourself lucky. Well, somewhat lucky, at least.

26 October 2013

Why dozens of ethnic Somalis in Scandinavia are embracing jihad - indeed?

The CNN article that asks that question is pretty mealy-mouthed, as expected. The usual litany of several cases, when young Norwegians of Somali extraction decided, seemingly inexplicably, to turn to violent ways of Jihad and went to Somalia or other hot spots to fight for various jihadist outfits, doesn't carry with it any attempts to explain the phenomenon. It carries, though, some mandatory politically correct sentences like:

Most have been grateful for sanctuary but a very small minority have become radicalized, especially among those who came to Europe as children.
It is like the cold air of the Northern Europe carries with it some Islamist bug that preys on youngsters. Or some such inane Sci-Fi scenario. Not a word about the people who do the brainwashing, other people who finance it, who provide the necessary contacts and means to travel to the training/brainwashing camps. It is like some intricate set of taboos infests the media in all that concerns the spread of Islamism in Europe.

So all you get after reading such piece of mushy writing is a question: why does anyone bother to publish it at all?

The only benefit of publishing it so far for me was a comment by a (seemingly) Norwegian commenter who, at least, feels bad about the situation:
As a Norwegian, this article really aggravates me. Not only do we shoulder an economic burden by agreeing to accept asylum seekers, we also take on a great social burden as they assimilate to different degrees. There is of course responsibility to be held by the host country in helping Somalis and other asylum seekers integrate, but this responsibility is largely accepted by Norwegians. We do not expect perfect assimilation and have for a long time been promoting tolerance of cultural and social differences. Given that we are doing 'our best', taking on a burden we do not have to take on, and providing a better life than they could have in their war-torn states - I find it appalling that these same people we are helping are using the more fortunate circumstances we provide as a base to plot terrorist attacks against us. It is simply inhuman and inexcusable.

Who do they think they are? When their country fell apart, who accepted them? If their family had not been allowed in to Norway, would the Quran have provided them with food and shelter? When they fly to Yemen and 'broker weapons deals', who do they think put them in the position to purchase a plane ticket?
Good questions all. As for the last sentence of the article:
But Scandinavia's intelligence services remain concerned about a terror pipeline to, and from, east Africa.
I would suggest that Scandinavia's intelligence services take the finger out and start looking closer to their homes. A good part of the answer is at home, gentlemen. Cause the worm is in the apple and not skulking around it, as you may suspect all that time.

My personal strike for fairness in politics

Well, for full disclosure: that "my" in the headline relates to the act of posting, the cartoon is somebody else's:

But I fully endorse its message.

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25 October 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey and one oops

Now you are telling me it's not a manual for Photoshop users?

Never step on your song's throat, Reverend Sizer

"Step on your song's throat" is a reference to the conundrum of a famous Russian poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky, who did his best to reign in his considerable poetic talent to produce strictly revolutionary pro-Bolshevik verses. He stepped on his song's throat, as he said once, an act that ended badly for him.

A similar conundrum, of a (much) lesser order of magnitude is experienced these days by an Anglican cleric, one Reverend Sizer. He already appeared on this pages due to his somewhat outstanding obsession with Jooz in general and Israel in particular, crossing the red line of anti-Israeli discourse. His rare ability to employ British constabulary as his private security force against some bloggers who disagree with this hobby has also been discussed here.

Imagine my happiness (bordering on issuing a few tears) when I read that the good Reverend made his peace with them Jooz, confessing to a few (purely technical, of course) errors of judgement when linking to some neo-Nazi and antisemitic sources. That infinite garbage dump called Internet causes even the best of us to make similar errors from time to time, I said to myself, being only too happy to close this painful page in Reverend's bio.

An Anglican vicar has said he regrets posting website links which promoted Holocaust denial and Zionist conspiracy theories.

Reverend Stephen Sizer said he accepted that his actions had offended the Jewish community and acknowledged he should have “taken more care” and “reflected on the choice of words more carefully”.
What else would one wish for? Nothing, of course. PBUH, as they say in our area.

And then... Reverend Sizer done gone and did it again.

A Holocaust-denier, friends with Sizer, links to a book justifying antisemitism – and Sizer likes the comment.
What can I say? Nothing much, aside of going back to the sad example of the Russian poet that started this post.

Dear Reverend: don't restrain yourself, don't hold anything inside. It (holding inside, I mean) is an unhealthy habit that causes all kinds of maladies in the long run, such as high blood pressure, sleeping disorders, digestion issues, heartburn, vapors and even blindness and growth of hair on the palms of your hands. It is a clear and present hazard you should avoid. Mayakovsky tried, and look where it got him. So let it go, tell them Jooz what you really think about their sneaky ways. It will do you a lot of good. In the long run, of course.

24 October 2013

How many mice would I need?

Finally some good news. After treating successfully a whole bunch of diseases, the eggheads decided to apply their gray cells to the most cruel one.

For the first time, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and the University of Durham have generated new hair follicles that grow human hair.
Here are some pretty sordid details:
The technique involved harvesting cells from the base of a human hair follicle, called the dermal papillae. These cells were cloned in the laboratory and then implanted into human skin grafted to the back of a mouse.
I assume then that the second stage of the process will involve separating the mouse from its skin and grafting the skin to my the sufferer's scalp.

Well, the sooner a kit for a DIY hair recovery is ready, the better. I shall take 6 mice, thank you very much. Gray is fine. Blue is acceptable, too...

Dear Amnesty International...

If the author of this article is right... oh boy...

Watcher’s Council Nominations – Train Wreck Edition…

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23 October 2013

Johan Nylander - a dork. And this is official.

I hope that none of the expletives I used upon reading the CNN article The photos North Korea didn't want you to see will seep into the text of this post. If they do, I wouldn't apologize though.

Johan Nylander, you see, was a "sole Western journalist covering a unique bicycle race in North Korea last month". You can read his whole story in that article, but the main point is that upon Nylander's leaving the NK territory an overzealous border guard deleted about 90 photographs from his camera. The photos were (miraculously, as Mr Nylander seems to think) recovered by a computer expert. And for some reason the intrepid reporter decided to share with the whole world - including the NK various arms of the repressive regime - the details of the pictures' recovery process:

"When they deleted the file on the card, they did not delete the whole file instantly, it just released the space of this file for future use -- the content is still there," Benjamin Wong, owner of Vector Data Recovery explained to me.
Which, I think, puts a full stop to the future attempts of visiting journalist(s) to recover their pictures. Now that NK is aware of the mistake.

It is permissible for a journalist to be unaware of computers' intricacies - even of fairly simple things like the one described above and should be known to a professional user of a digital camera. It is inexcusable for a journalist not to consult someone with a grain of common sense before publishing this useful for NK regime tip.

For that matter, there is no excuse for CNN not editing that "useful" tidbit out of the article. But then, for quite some time, I am not sure on whose side CNN really are...

Oh, and here is a picture of the hero:

He is the one on the left, if you wondered. Just so you know to keep your distance if you happen to meet him. A walking disaster area, that git has to be...

Maldives presidential election and the digital age

I don't really know much about Maldives, aside of what is there in the Wiki. Certainly nothing about their internal politics and stuff. Still, take a look at the picture from an overly long BBC article:

Doesn't it look to you like somebody photoshopped the head of this (alleged) presidential candidate on somebody else body (or vice versa)? Some serious hanky panky is going on in Maldives, I submit.

It will all end in tears.

22 October 2013

Netanyahu the converso

Nahum Barnea hits the bull's-eye in this article:

Netanyahu's determination dissipates as soon as he realizes that if he continues to insist he'll pay a personal price. This is his breaking point. He is not the only politician who acts this way. If Netanyahu is different from other politicians, it is in the effort he invests in denial.
Just like Nahum Barnea, I (and many other people) think that there is nothing wrong with a pragmatic prime minister. However:
Unfortunately, the process Netanyahu goes through again and again is no state secret. The Iranian enemy knows; this is why it disregards the threats issued by Israel. The American ally knows; this is why John Kerry threatens to bring the stagnating peace negotiations with the Palestinians to the moment of truth, when he will force Abbas and Netanyahu to pay a price for running away from decisions. The ultra-right faction within Likud also knows, and it is preparing for battle.
We shall see fairly soon what develops, I guess. On both subjects Barnea mentions.

About Norm

I have decided not to write anything about Norm immediately, letting my thoughts to coalesce first and, of course, peeking into what other bloggers have to say about passing of this remarkable man. Characteristically, many of the bloggers who, like I, never met Norm in person and conversed with him only via their posts and, less frequently, via emails, tell about the impact Norm had on their writing, their way of thinking, their politics. Many have thanked him for the attention he granted them, his always busy daily schedule notwithstanding (and so do I). Of course, blogging being (for many of us) the shelter of an ultimate egotist, most of us are not writing about Norm only, but about his influence on our lives. Which is, at the end of the day, how it should be, and I hope he will recognize in this our sincere gratefulness.

So how do I see Norm? First of all, as an exceedingly kind person. His kindness (and I am more than sure that it was true for everything he has done in his life) was automatically offered to people whom he never seen, always ready to lend a hand or say a supportive word. When dealing with his opponents, he has never crossed the line between razor sharp criticism of what a person stands for and the (always available and attractive) domain of juicy ad hominems, even when richly deserved by that person. The art of self-restraint that I, as many other run of the mill bloggers, never mastered.

And his writing: where do I start? His ability to say what he intended to with as few words as possible, in fact to say in one sentence more than many of us (yes, mea culpa too) use ten or twenty... that amazing brevity was nothing short of magical. Each time I happen to open a book written by one of the proponents of so called "hysterical realism", I think about Norm and smile inwardly. Frequently, looking at my own stunted and overly verbose posts, I ask myself "What would Norm think about it?", but then I excuse myself (second language, natural awkwardness etc.), knowing that I can never dream of really applying such an exacting standard to myself.

During all these years of surfing and blogging, I have encountered many a person of the left wing persuasion, frequently clashing with them on finer points of their beliefs. The acidity of these exchanges and the fights certainly leave their imprint. I know that I could never share (again, in my personal history) their version of Marxism and their religious and uncritical beliefs in the dogma. To my continuing surprise, it was absolutely different with Norm. The greatness of his mind, his ability to separate the wheat from the chaff and his humanity more than compensated for me this specific insolvable rift in our politics.

There are at least two things that I will always be sorry about. The first is that my acquaintance with Normblog started a few years later than Norm started it. But this is repairable, as long as this treasure is accessible.

The second sorrow has to deal with that e-mail from Norm about his planned visit to our neck of the woods, the incompatibility of possible meeting dates, the missed opportunity - this one is beyond anyone's ability to put right.

RIP Norman Geras. Thank you for being. See you later.

Rule 5: Lady Gaga's un-cover art

Well, do think what you want about this one, but it's out and available:

The rule that says that a lady should uncover only a part of the whole works just fine in this case. As for the decision to present the... er... reverse side of the coin: let's face it (no pun intended) - the front is less attractive:

21 October 2013

Now pray, Roger...

The following passage is copied from a NYT piece titled If Not Now, When?, penned by Roger Cohen, who appeared frequently on these pages (as usual, my definition of Roger Cohen: a man who rarely misses an opportunity to miss a point stands re this specific article):
In Jerusalem’s Old City I was walking this year down from the Damascus Gate. Crowds of Palestinians were pouring out of a Friday service at the Al Aqsa Mosque. A large group of Orthodox Jews was moving in the opposite direction, toward the Western Wall. Into this Muslim-Jewish melee, out of the Via Dolorosa, a cluster of Christians emerged carrying a large wooden cross they tried to navigate through the crowd. It was a scene of despair for anyone convinced faiths and peoples can be disentangled in the Holy Land. Looked at another way it was a scene of hope, even mirth.
I imagine myself being little Roger's teacher of journalism and reading this in his homework. Then I, as his teacher, search in my desk's drawer for a ruler. On the whole, choosing between a steel one, a heavy and short wooden one and a long and flexible wooden one, I would, most probably, select the latter.

Then I shall say; "Roger, please place your hands on your desk. You can close your eyes".

And then I'll add, not unkindly: "Now pray, Roger..."

Stray sentiment

I simply don't understand people who speak Chinese all their lives.

(Source: folklore)

20 October 2013

When it's as good as this

You just can't not filch it for your own blog, as I did - from Theo.

George Galloway: a hypocrite and a liar

I know that headline is not saying anything new. Better watch this:

Nope, nothing new here indeed.

More cheap wisecracks for your weekend

An Iranian who was hanged for drug dealing miraculously survived the gallows. Now he will be hanged again, there is no get out of jail clause for unsuccessfully hung.

"Carrying out a second execution on a man who somehow managed to survive 12 minutes of hanging -- who was certified as dead and whose body was about to be turned over to his family -- is simply ghastly. It betrays a basic lack of humanity that sadly underpins much of Iran's justice system," said Luther [Amnesty International].
My only hope for the man is that with time he will get used to all these hangings.

Another bizarre story from CNN:
Two teen girls were detained Thursday at a Victoria's Secret store in Manhattan after possible human remains were found in one of their bags, an NYPD spokesman told CNN.According to Jones, while initial reports indicate the remains are a fetus, the medical examiner's office is investigating.
Some people dare to rummage in a girl's Victoria's Secret's bag? Nothing is sacred anymore... Anyway, the case gives a totally new meaning to "shop till you drop".

Now to various aviation-related mishaps. First about a pervert:
A federal air marshal was arrested Thursday morning at Nashville International Airport after being caught taking multiple upskirt pictures of female passengers boarding a plane, police said.
I believe that worst they can accuse the man of is being overzealous: it is simply that the famous X-ray screening machine was on the fritz that day...

Let's move to... oops, more perverts:
A former vintner and a salon technician were each fined $250 for allegedly engaging in oral sex in front of other passengers on a commercial Allegiant Air flight from Medford, Oregon, to Las Vegas.
I would suggest that some of the other passengers - the ones that didn't complain or break up the tryst - should pony up for that fine. Besides, that air marshal from the previous story may have caused the lady to throw her modesty out the window... Oh, and the male participant of that show says:
I will learn from this and move on to the next chapter in my life.
I only hope that the next chapter doesn't include any hot air balloon flights.

And from aviation perverts to geese and their highly negative impact on civil and other aviation. First of all, for full disclosure - I am biased against the critters. I have spent a few years in a place where said Canadian wild geese covered every square centimeter (only it was measured in square inches there) by poop, strolled around the place like they owned it and one couldn't as much as aim an unfriendly blink in their general direction, for fear of being slaughtered by tree-huggers.

And here I read that the Agriculture Department, bless their federal hearts, does some sterling work in that regard:
The agency says that every year approximately 25,000 Canada geese have been cornered into cages, carted off and slaughtered. Local governments have also enhanced land management in and around airports to reduce the presence of certain species.
One small question re that statement: why is that there is never wild goose meat in the supermarkets in US? I asked and checked, and only small specialty places carry it. Could it be that the stuff goes to the airlines as a small repayment for mental anguish and technical damages? Only to end up later as mystery meat in passengers' sandwiches ($7, soft drink and chips not included)?

Whistleblowers trodden upon again

The persecution never ends:

Officials in a Montana county said two public employees were reprimanded for putting a camera in a health department room in hopes of photographing a ghost.
If the confines of a health department are not the most natural place to look for ghosts of departed patients, where else should one look, I ask you?

19 October 2013

David Henneberry, FBI and a Russian non-parliamentary gesture

I shall start with the gesture, then we'll see what develops:

Before you go into a state of deep shock, read the interpretation of that picture, courteously offered by the Russian Wiki:
Shish, as kukish, dulya, figa, fig (Шиш, также ку́киш, ду́ля, фи́га, фиг) - a type of gesture made ​​with the fingers of one hand (hand folded into a fist with the thumb stuck between the index and middle fingers). This gesture* is used by people in various conflict situations and arguments as unfounded assertion and/or a pressure element (an impermissible ruse), and, as a rule, is aimed at the opponent's face ("under the nose", "shish on the snout", etc). Shish is often accompanied by the words: "Take it and bite it!"**.
So what does that shish has to do with Mr Hennebery and FBI? The point is that this gesture is mostly used as a forceful answer to a person who expects you to do a good deed, frequently of a monetary kind. Which is exactly what FBI has shown to David Henneberry - the citizen that discovered Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the surviving (hopefully not for too long) Boston bomber, in his boat. Which boat was peacefully waiting for the summer (or the weekend, whatever) in his backyard, only to be riddled into a sieve by a hail of bullets from several law-enforcement agencies at once.

Apparently, in addition to being riddled, the boat was later confiscated by FBI as evidence (of what, I wonder? - the cops' addiction to imprecision shooting?). And here is the rub: at the time of the affair, I have ventured a wish re the fate of the boat and its owner:
I hope David Henneberry will get a new boat from the FBI (although I am sure they will try to make the others to pony up too)
Apparently the wish fell onto deaf ears, since this is what that recent article has to say re the boat:
The government has not offered the couple any financial compensation for their 32-year-old boat; their insurance company gave them only about $1,000.

“We generally don’t compensate people for seized items,” said Greg Comcowich, an FBI spokesman in Boston.
It goes to show that I was unduly optimistic (yeah, that's a typical I, the eternal optimist!) regarding the Feds. Who appear not to see any difference between confiscating a few pounds of heroin from a drug dealer and confiscating a valued item from an innocent (and cooperating) family. So I am confident that you understand now the link to that Russian gesture and its (Russian) meaning.

Still: I am glad to say that it pays (no pun intended) to be optimistic where simple people, the salt of the earth, are concerned:
The Henneberrys, however, aren’t complaining.

Like other victims of the Marathon bombings, they have been the beneficiaries of an outpouring of good will.

In less than a week after Tsarnaev’s capture, a Texas man whom they had never met organized an online campaign that raised more than $50,000 to replace their boat. They have also received thousands of letters, countless calls, many handshakes, and gifts, everything from quilts to candles.

Last month, the couple used the money raised online to buy a 24-foot Rampage Sportsman, which they found on Craigslist and cruised from Marblehead to a mooring on the Charles. Henneberry named the 26-year-old boat, which will require some work, after his wife.
Good for Henneberrys - after the shock of having first the terrorist and then a posse of heavily armed bumblers in their yard and their house, they deserve some coddling. Good indeed.

As for FBI: bleh...

And another thing: when, after a few years, them FBI tigers decide that the boat has exhausted its criminal knowledge, can't confess to anything new and could be returned to the good Mr Henneberry, I have drafted a short reply to their offer. Which FBI offer will be, I bet, of the kind "Now,  Mr Henneberry, sir, you can come to pick up the evidence item #1846/BrM22 at our evidence storage in Anchorage, Alaska. Pending payment of the storage and maintenance bill attached to this letter". So, Mr Henneberry, just let me know. It is one sentence only, and it's a doozy...

(*) It will be grossly misleading of me to not include the following from the same Wiki page:
This gesture in China, Korea and Japan is of utmost indecency and rudeness and acts as a phallic symbol . It is a full analogue of the western "brother " - the middle finger .

In Turkey and many Arab countries it is the most severe sexual insult. Whereas in Germany it can be seen as an offer of sex.

It is also used against the evil eye in some countries, particularly in Portugal. The old Russian Orthodox Church followers considered the gesture to be an equivalent of the three-fingered crossing. It serves as a wish of good luck in Brazil.

The gesture is used by motorists to indicate to a truck driver that he has a stone stuck between the dual wheels of his truck.
(**) An exceptionally poor translation, barely conveying the sauciness and vigor of the original.

Opportunities lost

Looking back now, I can see how much I've missed in life:

Who knew?

The Council Has Spoken!

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

18 October 2013

Norman Geras RIP

The world will not be the same without Norm.

Our deepest condolences to Adele Geras, Jenny Geras, Sophie Hanna and all his near and dear we are not aware of.

Update: a blog normfest.org, newly opened as a tribute to Norm's life.

In defense of Rabbi Mendel Epstein

The latest rabbi-related brouhaha in US of A is somewhat exceptional: it shows total lack of understanding by some people. The story in a nutshell is this:

Three rabbis, including one who claims to have conducted more than 2,000 divorces, were arrested for allegedly pressuring Orthodox Jewish men into giving their wives religious divorces.

The investigation revealed that unhappy Orthodox Jewish wives who wanted a divorce were paying $100,000 to the rabbis. In exchange, the rabbis would facilitate divorce, frequently by hiring armed thugs kidnap the husbands and beat them until they agreed.
The methods used by the Orthodox team were certainly unorthodox:
"Mendel Epstein talked about forcing compliance through the use of 'tough guys' who utilize electric cattle prods, karate, handcuffs and place plastic bags of the heads of husbands," FBI Special Agent Bruce Kamerman said.
The greed displayed by the gang is definitely to be condemned, and it will be. However, there is another side of the story, less known to people unfamiliar with the marriage and divorce ways of Orthodox community. Shmuley Boteach in Algemeiner has got it.
Granted, the cattle-prod-to-the-nether-region gang might be taking the whole thing to an extreme. But if we’re going to condemn them – as we should – must we not propose a legal alternative? Or will we choose the safe route of condemning only the rabbis who have at least made an effort – albeit a highly illegal and violent one – to remedy the problem rather than the mercenary husbands who are responsible in the first place.

Everyone in the orthodox community knows some woman who has suffered without a get, the victim of a husband’s shakedown or abuse. Maybe he used the get to obtain custody of the kids or to minimize his alimony payments. Perhaps his intention was making his wife’s life as miserable as he feels his is. But one way or another, he used Jewish law in a manner it was never meant to be used, namely to blackmail a woman.

And the rabbis watch and do next-to-nothing. Then we wonder why these things end in some horrible story like the cattle prod, grossly embarrassing the Jewish community and demonstrating the ossification, rather than the modern relevance, of Jewish law.
Of course, “the most famous Rabbi in America”, didn't miss a chance to somewhat justify the marriage/divorce laws that cause the impossible situation where despicable people torture their ex-wives for years, refusing to grant them divorce.
Firstly, it is a husband who, in Jewish law, grants a divorce because, as in marriage itself, it reflects the natural gravitation of the masculine to the feminine. It is still men who ask wives to marry them, and it is men who must grant the divorce.
So maybe it's time to review that point? But at least Boteach is a man enough to add:
If we don’t want Judaism to become Boardwalk Empire, we need to find peaceful, legal, yet effective, means to punish those in our community who would rob a woman of the gift of renewed companionship after a failed marriage.
As far as I am concerned, the money issue put aside, Mendel Epstein and his team provided an essential and necessary social service, and, their greed notwithstanding, should be honored for their achievements in pest removal.

As for the dramatic descriptions of "electric cattle prods, karate, handcuffs and place plastic bags of the heads of husbands": I don't know, to my taste this team displayed an excessive amount of lenience, taking care to remove the plastic bags before the vermin croaked.

The law is an ass in many matters. Both Jewish and American laws are asses in this case, helpless to resolve the impossible situation. And where the law is (or becomes) an ass, isn't it the job of the people to lead that ass in the right direction? And if the ass refuses to go there, isn't it the job of the people to repair the wrongs that the ass is causing by its wrongdoing or by its apathy?

You tell me.

All hail London's traffic wardens and pass the hat to pay Hillary Clinton's parking fine

As one who always takes the side of a Joe the Public in his struggle against The Man, I can't but be jubilant about this story:
This is the extraordinary moment that Hillary Clinton's security staff got into an argument with a traffic warden after he issued her car with a parking ticket.

The Westminster City Council warden put an £80 penalty notice on the former US secretary of state’s silver Mercedes vehicle in Central London while she was attending an event at Chatham House.

The row was caught on camera on Saturday by photographer Greg Brennan, who said five of her guards were waiting inside a Mercedes van next to her car at the time because it was raining.
Yeah, good job all in all. While the Secret Service boys in all the pictures are not of the shoot-you-in-the-left-eye-from-a-mile kind, rather fiddling-our-expense-reports type folks, still the warden kept his cool against five of them!

Yet, on the other hand, I was recently a victim of a neighboring city's (lousy creeps all, incidentally) traffic warden, who got into my wallet to the tune of about $60 or so. So I tend to commiserate with other victims of similar debauchery. In this case Ms Clinton:
The parking ticket came with an £80 fine - but would only be £40 if paid within 14 days. The fine has not yet been paid - but an appeal could be launched at any date before October 25.
So, people, it's time to pony up. Ms Clinton's (and mine, incidentally, too) spilled blood calls for revenge. Or, at least, compensation. Please click on the... oops, we don't have a donation button, what a sorry bunch of losers we are... but as soon as we get one, OK?

The Doucheblogger strikes again... and again

Here and here. Enjoy.

17 October 2013

The chavs shall inherit the earth

Says the incurable optimist. They already did, as far as I know.

Bunny sex on Capitol Hill, stenographer going bonkers, fingerpoking - what's next?

Looks like somebody is feeding mushrooms to the elected (in)dignitaries.

Turkey outs Israeli Spy ring

One can wax lyrical about the implications of this WaPo exposure, however any comment made now, would be in fact classified as Post Mortem. One can only imagine how furious Netanyahu and the Israeli intelligence community would have been at the time the ring was uncovered.

“Israeli anger at the deliberate compromise of its agents may help explain why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became so entrenched in his refusal to apologize to Erdogan about the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident"

Livid may be the key word here, but anger within the “community” will always get vented with practical pro-active action. Blowing a friendly isn't accepted practice and remains inexcusable and Taboo. Tit for Tat is a numbers game, meaning that one can be assured that lost assets to one side result in an unequal and opposite reaction from the offended party.

With this WaPo ‘ex post’ exposure, a quick scan of Google news articles does reveal traces of ‘ex umbra in solem’, where Turkish “nationals” are concerned. The biggest impact by and large that Turkey has faced since this incident, would almost certainly concern the reputation of those concerned with this directly, namely the Turkish intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, and Erdogan himself.

So, how would this item be connected to this story?

Update: some speculation by Ron Ben-Yishai on the identity of the agents betrayed, the man close to the military and intelligence establishments.

The two wings of Hamas

The story of the eastbound tunnel from Gaza to Israel continues to make waves, now in its political dimension.

The Gaza underground transportation initiative burgeoning for many years between Egypt and Gaza, was cruelly curbed by the Egyptian army lately.

Ali said the army was "dealing" with any building deemed a security threat in a corridor stretching from 500 metres to one km from the Gaza frontier. He said houses concealing tunnels used for weapons smuggling were a threat to national security.

The army had destroyed 152 tunnels since June 30, he added.
You can see that Egyptians don't show a proper attitude to the engineering talents of Gaza. So, frustrated by this lack of understanding and admiration, Gazan architects, engineers and contractors turned their attention to their eastern border. As a result, IDF has to cope with overzealous burrowing activities now and even have created a new unit for the purpose.

This post, however, is not about technicalities, rather about the way different wings of Hamas present their engineering efforts. USA Today managed to get together responses from both the political and military wings. First, the warriors:
A Hamas military spokesman in Gaza, Abu Obeida, was defiant over the tunnel discovery, saying on his official Twitter account that "thousands" more tunnels would be dug out.
And now the political wing:
Speaking to the BBC, Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior spokesman for Hamas, accused Israel of playing up the security threat "to justify the blockade and the continuous aggression on the Gaza Strip."
There is no need to comment on the incompatibility of these two responses, they follow the infamous Arafat's recipe of double tongue (or is it the new Palestinian-invented branch of dialectics?)

There is, though, a place to express a tiny bit of hope: since Hamas has successfully grown two wings - why doesn't it take off and fuck fly off in the general direction of the west, in the blue yonder?

Lessons in refining food aid from ‘Captain Phillips’?

Still shuddering after reading that one. Yesterday it was...

Watcher’s Council Nominations – Pawns In The Obama Shutdown Game Edition

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

16 October 2013

Israeli spy eagle shot in Lebanon

As reported by Lebanese Blog Baladi:

A bird was caught in Achkout by a local hunter wearing a GPS transmitter and a leg bracelet engraved with the “Tel Aviv University” logo. The website that posted the story claimed said that the device attached to the eagle, was obviously being used for the purpose of spying on Lebanon by the Mossad, and such birds were spotted in KSA in 2010, Turkey in 2012 and Egypt this year.
Photographs of the dead bird at different angles, including the leg bracelet. Damning indeed.

The Lebanese blogger adds:
Honestly speaking, I don’t think Israel needs vultures and eagles to spy on us. On another hand, I wonder why hunters are shooting down eagles in Achkout? I’ve been told by few friends that a lot of Lebanese hunters shoot down anything that flies whether they are going to eat it or not. If that’s the case, I think this matter is way more serious than investigating with a bird holding a GPS device.
It's time for Mossad to start arming their spy birds. Over-population of morons in this world is calling for culling, especially and starting with ones that will shoot anything that flies...

At Ynet's request, the Nature and Parks Authority examined the number inscribed into the bird's tag. According to them, the captured raptor is a Bonelli's Eagle, one of Israel's rarest and endangered birds of prey.

To Iranian forgers of Israeli passports

It seems that forging Israeli passports became a growing industry in the most unlikely place: Iran.
Three passengers were caught in early September with forged Israeli passports at Brussels airport in Belgium, officials have said.
And it is not the first:
This latest incident follows the attempt of seven Iranians to enter Vancouver, Canada with forged Israeli passports in July of this year. They had used the identities of a family of seven from the Israeli city of Rehovot. Similar errors in Hebrew spelling and translation to English were also found on those doctored passports.
The common denominator of all these cases is a very low level of workmanship. And  some translation errors mixed with little understanding of what is really going on outside the Iranian borders.

So here are a few tips that may improve the situation:
  1. Ashtali is not a proper Hebrew name for Tel-Aviv, it's a title of an old Indian movie. Tel Aviv is "תל אביב".
  2. Star of David has six points, not seven as you seem to think.
  3. A photo of a veiled face for a male passport carrier wouldn't work. Neither will it work for a female one.
  4. Israeli passport with entry and exit stamps of Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea and other similar places will be automatically suspect.
  5. In the middle of the top line of the passport's first page should be written "State of Israel". "Zionist Entity" or "Occupied Palestine" simply wouldn't do.
In fact, you may consider ordering the first batch of passports from Mossad, a discount coupon for first order attached. Quantity discounts could be considered in the future, subject to signing a long term supply agreement.

Oh, and don't even think about using prof Juan Cole for translation. Border control folks don't dig ambiguity in the passport info.

Bizarre Playboy Facts

This is the headline somebody found for the clip below. I have watched all them facts like a hawk. Not a single one seems to be bizarre. What do you know?

15 October 2013

That's what you do when you have to

Not for the first time, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz helped out at an accident scene, unconnected with the military. Apparently, he "had been on the way home from dinner when he passed a car that had collided with the safety rail. He and his security attaché stopped to evacuate the driver from the car and began giving him medical assistance until paramedics arrived" The Times of Israel tells us here. The article details three other occasions when Gantz has done this, once when a woman in a restaurant had a stroke and fainted. He and his security detail provided medical aid until the parademics arrived.

The other two occasions were military-related. As the official IDF statement put it, “That is exactly what an officer is expected to do when he arrives at the scene of an accident. Even if he is not in uniform, it is on him to do all that he can to help.”

Or, in plain English, be a mensch and act like a good citizen.

Or as I say in the heading, that's what you do when you have to.

By Brian Goldfarb.

Only 2000 years late

In contrast to my previous post, immediately below, this one is only 2000 years late.

I mean, I know some people are slow learners, but this is ridiculous on any time scale.

See the detail here.

By Brian Goldfarb.

Well, what do you know!?

There is a UK radio quiz show called "Brain of Britain", a sort of obscure, sometimes very obscure, general knowledge quiz. In the very early days, a voice over would tell us incredibly obscure facts, to be followed by the same voice saying "Well, what do you know!? This was meant to convey astonishment and wonder at the peculiarities of the human world. However, here I'm being ironic, that is, trying the convey the opposite of the heading: as in 'tell us something we didn't already know', said in a bored voice.

So, when I report, according to an article in The Algemeiner, that "Billions of dollars in international aid granted to the Palestinian Authority may have been squandered, lost to corruption, or misspent, a new report by the European Court of Auditors, the Luxembourg-based watchdog, revealed", you are hardly going to be surprised. Rather, you're more likely to say to yourself "what took them so long to find out?" Or, perhaps, if you're feeling really cynical, "why tell us now? We've known this for years".

If only because people like Snoopy have been trying to tell the world for all those years. If only our "rulers" were as much on the ball as we are.

Faint hope.

By Brian Goldfarb.

14 October 2013

Where intangible meets concrete: Peter Higgs and a tunnel from Gaza

First on intangibles: Does Nobel winner Higgs support an Israel boycott? The author, Lazar Berman of ToI, drills down to an excruciating level of details into the true or perceived anti-Zionism of Peter Higgs, arguably one of the foremost physicists of the XX century (well, and since he is alive, XXI too).

Peter Higgs, one of the two 2013 Nobel laureates in Physics, has been accused of actively supporting the movement to boycott Israel’s academic institutions, notwithstanding the deep connections of his co-winner, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, to Tel Aviv University. However, firm evidence to back up the allegation is hard to find.
Now, the thirst for firm evidence is a laudable trait for a man, even if he is not a physicist. However, devoting to this issue a longish article, ToI doesn't exactly do itself any good. David Horovitz, who founded this news and views site, should avoid the annoying trait of his previous place of employment, namely parochial provincialism. Peter Higgs is a scientist, for crying out loud, and why should we care what exactly are his political views? And what will come next: detail analysis of political views held by Sir Michael Cane (no disrespect to great actor intended)?

And now to something concrete (also from ToI): Defense minister halts transfer of construction supplies to the Strip after 500 tons of cement used to construct underground passage.
An extensive subterranean passageway leading from Gaza into Israeli territory was the work of Hamas, which used some 500 tons of cement earmarked for civilian building in the Strip in the tunnel’s construction, the IDF said Sunday.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon responded immediately with a halt on the transfer of construction materials into the Strip.

Security forces last week discovered the terminus of the tunnel some 300 meters inside Israel proper, near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha in the western Negev, and took several days to render the passage unusable.
Now this is what I call concrete. There is a good deal of justice - poetic and otherwise - in withholding (at least) these 500 tons of cement from the Gazan's building contractors. They will have to find a way to reuse the wasted material - even if they can't reuse the wasted time and effort that went into this massive undertaking.

On the other hand: let's try to find the bright side of this generally depressing story. That some Gazan busybodies are inventing more and more sophisticated ways to kill us is clear. However, a look at the possible future could discover a new and peaceful use for all these tunnels. Imagine that time when peace will reign supreme over our neck of the woods. Wouldn't that same tunnel become useful as an additional way for the multitudes of tourists to get in and out of Gaza and avoid the congested traffic? So there...