29 September 2017

Labour Friends of Palestine group apologises...

Sometimes, when you have stuck your foot in your mouth quite deeply, in your feverish efforts to pull the said foot out, you make a wrong move, lodging it even deeper. This is what happened with the British Labour Friends of Palestine team, when they have started their urgent recovery operation after this unfortunate (?) turn of speech:

Of course, they have made it clear immediately that their reference to the final solution was just a sorry slip of the tongue, a typo, a... you know how it goes. They have done it verbally via many available channels, of which they have quite enough.

Then they have decided to issue a written notice, wholeheartedly apologizing for that slip. Here is how it came out (I have decided to mark by red the relevant part of it, sorry if you don't like this kind of leading):

Don't know about you, but I think it is still a marginal improvement. I feel that being in opposition to anti-antisemitism is better than praying for a final solution. Sticks and stones and all that, you know...

P.S. Corrected by now by the hapless author, after a few people pointed this out.

Amendment: I have posted this elsewhere with an addition of a true story, which happened in one of the Soviet big cities back then. The "opposition to anti-antisemitism" just has to come accompanied by this story:

It was the usual May 1 parade, when the happy workers are dragged through the central square of the city, parading past the tribune where the local bozos watch them with the usual sour expressions on their sour faces. As usual, the workers, singly or in pairs (depending on the size of their burden) carry some inspiring socialist placards: a picture of some chieftain or an inspiring text.

Among the crowd marched a guy carrying a typical medium sized placard, saying: "We'll give a crushing response to the enemies of the capitalism!"

The man was cruising the square for half a day. Since the structure of the sentence was very standard, it took that much time for the local gendarmes to grok the joke...

27 September 2017

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26 September 2017

Bibi on Kurdish referendum: zigging and zagging

Politics is a tough business, crossing a minefield is nothing compared to it. It was barely ten days ago when Bibi, ahead of everyone else, declared his unequivocal support for the Kurdish independence.

Israel supports the establishment of a Kurdish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, as Kurds in Iraq gear up for a referendum on independence that lawmakers in Baghdad oppose.

Israel has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, viewing the minority ethnic group -- whose indigenous population is split between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran -- as a buffer against shared Arab adversaries.
Well, it didn't take long for another zig (or zag, whatever).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu barred the Israeli government from commenting on Monday's Kurdish independence referendum in Iraq, two officials said, after his September 13 endorsement of Kurdish statehood irked Turkey.
Of course, there were a few developments since the Bibi's rush to support the Kurds. First of all, no one else joined the sentiment. The opposite is rather true: powers that be, of all kinds, including the countries that are rather on the opposing ends of the political globe, unanimously rejected the Kurds' plea for independence. It is not only the parties directly threatened by the outcome of the referendum (Iraq first of all, but also Turkey and Iran, having in mind their own Kurds possibly joining the exodus).

And then there was Bibi's latest visit of USA, which included a meeting with the POTUS and, most probably, with other VIPs. I bet that Bibi was told off regarding his hasty declaration of support, seeing as how US State dept doesn't share this enthusiasm at all.

Thus the sudden change of direction. Of course, the precarious existence of people oppressed for hundreds of years isn't a big factor in the political calculations. To be fair to Bibi, this consideration wasn't weighing too heavily on the minds of all other world politicians who refused to support the referendum and to promise assistance to Kurds.

To be even more fair to Bibi (!), there might be another consideration that the Ynet article mentioned:
But Kurdish officials said such rhetoric is unsolicited and damaging. ”Our adversaries attack us as a ‘second Israel in the region’ and this kind of Israeli talk contributes to that,” one Kurdish official said.
Indeed, the wave of conspiracy theories, ridiculous as they are, isn't very helpful to the Kurds. But then, why didn't Bibi take this into account before rushing forward with his initial declaration of support?

We know, don't we?

23 September 2017

On cognitive privilege and other animals

Don't even try to look for the definition of cognitive privilege in the dictionaries, it is too new. There is a definition of cognitive elite, though, that brings us close to the subject.
The cognitive elite of a society, according to Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, are those having higher intelligence levels and thus better prospects for success in life.
This definition brings you close to the steps needed for definition of cognitive privilege. Once defined, you can start happily operating this excellent tool for naming and shaming a new category of the privileged people.

The story started for me a few weeks ago, when the parents of my grandson met the teacher of his first school year. It so happened that the youngster was sent to a few private lessons to prepare him to school, for reasons not having to do with the story. He has some rudimentary reading and writing skills, nothing to brag about, but still. When the teacher heard about it, she went kind of pale. The reason, as she explained, was that she is used to receiving a bunch of schoolchildren from one single kindergarten, uniformly unable to read or write, so there was no need for her to treat anyone differently...

Of course, in this case the advantage of the boy is temporary, to disappear in a few weeks with the other kids learning and catching up. And, of course, as it is customary in schools, applying the famous peer pressure to those who dare to be different. Anyhow, the lesson here is that our schools are built for uniformity, one size fits all is the motto.

It so happened that in a few days after this meeting with the schoolteacher, I have stumbled on this disturbing discovery, made, most probably, by a millennial:

There are many kinds of privilege besides white privilege: cognitive privilege, for example. We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence. This is not to say that intelligence is the only factor that is important. All that is implied is that below a certain threshold of intelligence, there are fewer and fewer opportunities. These opportunities are being shifted upward to jobs that require heavier cognitive lifting or else are being replaced by robots. Thus, the accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart.
Of course, the author, Dan Williams, doesn't have in mind any malevolent actions against the cognitively privileged folks. His goals are, for now, somewhat more relaxed:
But when doing so, we must also bear in mind the purpose of drawing attention to privileges. The purpose is not to instill a sort of Catholic guilt in someone’s psyche, nor is it an excuse to make oneself feel better by demonizing another. The purpose of pointing out someone’s privilege is to remind them of the infinite number of experiences that are possible and the very large number of experiences that are actual that they know very little about. The purpose is to enlarge their moral consciousness, to make them more sympathetic to people who are less fortunate than they are.
Not that I understand the items listed under "the purpose", but at least there is no reason for alarm. I think so. The whole "cognitive privilege" idea so far hasn't put roots among the other "privileges", like "white privilege", "cis gender privilege", "male privilege" etc. Hopefully it will remain dormant, at least for a while.

Taken together, the case of my grandson and the (so far) abortive attempt on raising the specter of "cognitive privilege" brought me to check the situation in schools with regard of treatment the bright children receive.

Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden: the results are similar and disturbing. A few quotes from the three sources sum up the situation pretty well:
For ordinary families with academically able children in the inner city or small town Canada, the everyday reality is bored kids seeking outside outlets for their creative or higher intellectual pursuits.
"The attitude at the moment is that you either fit in or go," says Clare Lorenz, the chairman of the support society, Children of High Intelligence (CHI). "It isn't how things should be."
Results show cause for concern. In particular, primary school appeared to be a hostile environment [for gifted kids].
It definitely doesn't look like the school system, at least the public one, is geared and ready to foster excellence and provide the necessary support to gifted kids, who are our hope and our future.

The only ray of light so far comes from Finland:
“Whatever it takes” is an attitude that drives not just Kirkkojarvi’s 30 teachers, but most of Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku—professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education.
Otherwise it is no surprise that private schools, that promise all kinds of special education treats (and frequently don't deliver), tend to proliferate and take the money off many credulous parents. Some are, of course, quite good, but why shouldn't the respective states invest more in their most precious resource?

Instead we are facing the rising waves of idiotic identity politics nitpicking and creation of harmful buzzwords like "cognitive privilege" and similar. Like this product of some festering minds*:

Standing Up to Pee Gives Boys an Unfair Advantage in Physics
In the latest example of identity politics taken to its absurd end, three Australian college professors believe that "playful urination practices – from seeing how high you can pee to games such as Peeball (where men compete using their urine to destroy a ball placed in a urinal) – may give boys an advantage over girls when it comes to physics."
Mind boggling? Not nowadays, I am afraid.

And, meanwhile, we are inexorably moving to the era of The Marching Morons.

Too bad.

(*) I am still willing to learn that the peeing advantage story is an elaborate spoof, but after reading the original article I am not so sure.

Update: A not insignificant cause for alarm:
A New York professor has sparked a debate among educators over whether or not algebra is too hard and should be dropped from the high school curriculum.

Andrew Hacker, a political science professor at Queens College, insists the difficulty of learning algebra is responsible for the United States' high dropout rate.
Sure, buddy. Let's all switch to nursery rhymes. Or political science, whatever.

20 September 2017

The bizarre bloopers of the computer age

The strange affair of two Spanish women flushing an impressive quantity of roughly €100,000 down the toilet might remain unexplained yet.

This, however, is not the point of the post. Take a look at the article chosen by the artificial intelligence behind CNN website as related to the above mentioned story:

While I wouldn't dare knock buses running on crap, the associative choice made by the AI in question is quite wondrous nevertheless. Unless, of course, you recall that one:
Freud famously retells the tale of the devil whose gifts of money turn to excrement upon his leaving. He uses this myth to buttress his findings from analysis which associate anxiety concerning money with an anal stage anxiety over excrement. Thus psychoanalytically speaking, money equals shit.
A Freudian AI behind the scenes in CNN? No shit?

18 September 2017

Israeli nuclear opacity and oversight: yes or no?

"We never had, don't have and will never have nuclear weapons. This doesn't mean that if someone decided to use such weapons against us, we wouldn't use them first."
Reportedly by Moshe Dayan*.

The above is an elegant (in an uncouth military way) prelude to the subject raised twice in three consecutive days by a Jerusalem Post writer:



First of all, the bomb (no pun intended, it is only in the sense of a scoop here):
Israel has less oversight of its nuclear program than other Western democracies, a study by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, which was obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post, concludes.

A summary of decades of work on the issue by Avner Cohen, a Professor of nonproliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and a Senior Fellow at CNS, and CNS Davis fellow Brandon Mok, but updated with recent developments, the study is being publicized just days before the issue of oversight goes before the High Court of Justice on Wednesday.
...the study shows comprehensively for the first time that the three Western democracies with nuclear weapons, the US, Britain and France, all manage to maintain a high level of secrecy while providing for comprehensive legislation and robust oversight that Israel does not have.
That it took decades of work to reach this earth-shattering conclusion is a sure pointer to the permissiveness of some institutions of higher learning (in this case Middlebury Institute of International Studies, which is an "American graduate school within Middlebury College, a private university located in Middlebury, Vermont"). Since Vermont parents apparently invest a lot in the college, they might want to finance a study that will research a difference between Israel and the three Western democracies as well. Maybe it will take less than several decades, who knows?

Professor Cohen doesn't want his research to end up as a purely academic exercise, he and quite a few allies are going further:
Still, the High Court’s September 6 hearing will be the first time in history that a judicial body will exercise broad oversight over the IAEC, with Cohen being one of leaders of the charge.
You will notice that professor Cohen, in his magnanimity, doesn't disallow us to keep the (alleged, of course) nuclear weapons ("the issue for me is not disarmament"). He has even changed his mind on opacity:
His original battle to get Israel to phase out its opacity, to openly acknowledge its nuclear status, Cohen has stopped fighting.
Of course, it is easy to notice the neat trick: forcing the HCJ (High Court of Justice) to discuss the issue of oversight, which is what professor Cohen fights for, immediately makes the opacity issue a thing of the past. But whatever...

The expert on nonproliferation, professor Cohen has only pure and noble goals in mind. He even assures us that:
I wanted to also have people behind it who would be apolitical and support the petition regardless and independently of the issue of disarmament.
Indeed, and this is why among the petitioners, only those mentioned in the article, appear the Israeli Disarmament Movement, led by Sharon Dolev, who initiated the petition; Moshe “Mossi” Raz, a former Meretz MK; and the attorney who filed the petition, Itay Mack. You can look up on the net the opinions of the former MK and of the attorney. The Israeli Disarmament Movement, bless their simple and stupid little brains, doesn't require a lookup, does it? Surely as apolitical as they come. Now pull the other leg, professor.

Well, I didn't want to get personal in that post, and professor Cohen deserves all possible benefit of the doubt. I certainly hate to use terms like "traitor" some less moderate folks throw around, but he made not a small misstep here:
We live in a different world with different questions.
We? Be interesting whom exactly Professor Cohen means by that "we", since he couldn't possibly mean "we" as in "Israelis", could he now? Not to mention that, even if we discard the thorny issue of that "we" as a moot point, looking around from our small hillock in our small swamp, the "different world" mentioned looks somewhat worse than it used to be.

But no matter. I hope the HCJ will boot the petition out quickly enough.

As for my personal opinion on the whole brouhaha, which you undoubtedly crave for: I can tell you with full confidence that Windows 10 in its 64 bit version is an extremely stable and reliable OS for my desktop. Really - imagine two weeks in a row without a single reboot!

Update: the HCJ did boot the petition out. Good.


Yonah Jeremy Bob, the author of the two above articles, did his best not to infuse them with his (or his editors') personal or editorial opinions. However, one passage in the second article filled me with wonder:
This issue has become all the more poignant with an ongoing public debate about the “Submarine Affair” plaguing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and multiple cases by IAEC employees hitting the labor courts this week and last week.
How exactly does the nuclear opacity/oversight case connect to the submarine affair mentioned will remain an open question for me. Why don't issues like Brexit, global warming or POTUS' recent shenanigans make that opacity more poignant will never be explained to me, I feel. More's the pity.

(*) It is not a verbatim quote, and attribution is somewhat difficult too. I have heard it several times, but couldn't find a source. Any contribution will be welcome.

15 September 2017

A tiny antisemitic fail

This post is nothing but cute. No ideology, no challenges.

Ethnic jokes, as we all know, are frequently rewritten, having one nationality replaced by another. The interchangeability of such jokes is endless, provided the person changing them is paying a minimal attention to details. Sometimes the results of inattention are unintentionally funny. Like it this case:
Two Jews argued which of them would donate less money. When a servant passed by, the first Jew laid a penny and looked victoriously at the second. "For two," the second man said humbly and crossed himself.
Yeah, crossing oneself was a giveaway. Not that the joke is bad, just that small detail...

I wouldn't refer to the source, suffice to say that it is an essentially not anti-Semitic site, sometimes bringing up good and funny stories, pictures etc. But here is the original text, in Russian, for doubters.
Два еврея поспорили, кто из них меньше пожертвует денег. Когда мимо проходил служитель первый еврей положил копейку и победоносно посмотрел на второго. — За двоих, — смиренно произнес второй и перекрестился.

09 September 2017

BDS real face - lest we forget.

Nothing new in this, but bears refreshing from time to time. Omar Barghouti, in his past a student at Tel Aviv University and founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI):

A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically….Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.
For doubters, check the text at 5:50 in this link.