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Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Israel and Gaza

Despite the fact that I have engaged in discussing politics here previously, I always hesitate to do so. This blog’s focus is not politics or the world at large but (tries) to restrict itself to a narrower focus on things that are fun.

However, I feel compelled to weigh in on the current situation in Gaza and particularly the coverage that it has been receiving from the press at large. And to cover a few points that some folks might need to be reminded of.

First: folks need to get off the idea that there is any real legitimate claim on the land by a ‘Palestinian entity’. Without going into all of the details, the oldest records we have for the region indicate that it was Caananite land and that the semitic tribe known as Hebrews either were or merged with the Caananites in the far distant past.

Those people went on to found what were essentially city-states – Judah and Israel and to control the surrounding valleys. This is the same land that was conquered by the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Romans, etc.

The region eventually fell under the control of the Ottoman Empire, was then taken by the French and British in the form of UN mandates following World War I. The British promised the indigenous arabic tribes self-rule and didn’t deliver. Eventually they evolved a plan to divide the area up into a Jewish state and an Arabic state; the Jews accepted the UN resolutions, the Arabs didn’t and we essentially arrive at where we are today.

If you look at historical maps of the region (they’re online and freely available) you’ll find that there was NEVER a country called Palestine. There were political boundaries – satrapies, mandates, regions, call them what you will – that had a name based on the Roman designation for the region that was similar – Palestina – but the region referred to as such was the land of the Jews. (Dereivation information at wikipedia)

However, (unfortunately), that particular argument – no matter how true and historically correct – has been lost in the political wranglings that have gone on since at least the first world war.

Second – the various tribes that now refer to themselves as Palestinians are mostly refugees of their own making. When the arabs refused to accept the UN resolutions that would have created an arab state and an Israeli state in the region they did so because the leaders of the Arab League promised them that they would destroy the new state of Israel and that the entire region would be their land. Entreaties from the new Israeli government went unheeded.

Of particular note is that the Mufit of Jerusalem – an arabic political leader with ties to Nazi Germany – attempted to get the Arab League to recognize a separate region, called Palestine, that he would essentially rule: this attempt to create an entirely new country/political entity for personal gain was REJECTED by the the Arab League.

Following the War of Independence – which Israel won – the arabs who had fled the region (rather than remaining as Israeli citizens) had no where to return to.

It should also be noted that under the many plans for two-states in the region that preceded Israeli independence, every single plan gave more land to the arabs than to the jews, the jews accepted every single plan, the arabs rejected every single plan.

Third. Those arab refugees fled to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and other surrounding countries where they formed large refugee communities and, rather than moving back to the non-Israeli lands remaining, chose to agitate within those countries. They subsuquently had to be kicked out of Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan following attempts at insurrection and coup.

Four. Whether the refugees have any legitimate claim to lands now within the borders of Israel is essentially moot, since those people have become political fodder for politico-military organizations that have been declared terrorist organizations by the US, many European countries and, in some cases, the UN. We are not dealing with an homogenous displaced people – we are dealing with terrorists who have repeatedly stated their unwillingness to come to any political accomodation in the region. The refugees – victims of their own decisions initially – are now being victimized by radicals who claim to speak for them.

Those terrorist organizations – from those organized by Arafat as the PLO, down to the current Iranian-funded and backed Hamas and Hezbollah, are not interested in any way whatsoever in seeking peace in the region. They have as their creed the destruction of the state of Israel – which is only a small part of their goal of establishing a world-wide Islamic Caliphate.

Five. If you study the history, regardless of any of the specific details, you will note that EVERY SINGLE TIME Israel has agreed to accomodate their demands, rather than waiting for a political process to work itself out, they have once again resorted to violence. When they said they wanted autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza, their capital in East Jerusalem and would work towards creating a two-state solution in the region – they did not mean that receiving such would satisfy them. They meant that this would be only a step towards their ultimate goal of the elimination of the state of Israel.

Which brings us (once again) to where we are essentially today, leaving me only one final point to make.

Israel is a democratic country that enjoys wide personal rights, a free press, elected representatives, open education and all of the other trappings that those of us in the west are used and accustomed to.

This is not true of Hamas. One particular incident bears this out. Israel has been accused of firing tank shells at UN relief workers. The world’s press outlets have taken statements to that effect from Hamas and from the UN (which itself admits that it does not posess the full story) – without corroboration. Israeli sources state that the relief workers were shot, rather than shelled and that those wounded workers are now in Israeli hospitals being treated.

Yet the international press insists on running with the Hamas/UN version of the story – again, without having it confirmed.

It certainly is possible for both sides to be telling stories – but Israel has offered up the location of the people wounded in the incident. It would be a relatively easy task for ‘international reporters’ to visit that hospital and obtain the facts themselves – yet none of them have done so as of this writing.

There is no doubt in my mind that collateral damage is occurring in Gaza – some of it the responsibility of Israel. But the international press seems bent on showing Israeli actions in the worst possible light – even to the point of maintaining uncertainty about a wide-spread story that could be easily resolved.

Read the press coverage that you want to, but make sure to check in with the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz as well (both English language papers) – you just might gain a different perspective on what is going on.

SF content here today? suffice it to say that if the above were the plot of a novel you were reading – you wouldn’t buy it.

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The last thing I saw last night was Obama, Biden and families waving from the stage at their rally in Chicago.

Yay for the home team.

My possible poll problems did not materialize – the town clerk was actually at the polls and made sure I didn’t have any issues. YAY for doing what you say you’re going to do.

I awoke this morning with this thought in my head: Obama’s election is proof of evolution in action. Take that to mean whatever you want it to mean.

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Anyone from the Boston area planning on attending Philcon? If so, are you driving? Or do several folks want to get together and rent a van or some such?

I won’t take the bus down (I’ve ridden too many busses to cons in the past), the train is ridiculously expensive and airfare the same. But renting a car and driving down is possible in the cards.

I’m originally from Cherry Hill (where the con is to be held) and know the area pretty well. If you don’t have to stay at the con hotel, there are plenty of other, less expensive options in the area.

Let me know.

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What would a presidential election campaign look like in the Star Wars Universe?  Maybe something like this –

I’ve made no secret of my endorsement of the Obama campaign, but it wouldn’t be an election if there weren’t at least two sides involved –

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Yep. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, Skiffy Tube drops even lower in their SF Purity Rating.  Any takers on when the SFPR will drop under 20%?

 

Yawn. I fell asleep during answers to the second debate question last night. I thought the whole ‘town hall’ format was a waste of space. What ever happened to direct face-to-face debating? 

“We flipped a coin to see who gets to insult whom to their faces first. We also selected two questions for tonight’s debate because we know that in this free-form format, we’re unlikely to get through more than one.

Senator, you won the toss. Please explain to your rival why you would make the best President and he would make the worst President. You may also use some of your (unscripted) time to explain why the opposition’s running mate is a doo-doo head.”

I think every politician out there is running scared from a ‘sweating on TV’ episode, which is why we no longer have real political debates.

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BoingBoing runs a ‘see, we told ya so’ piece about the failure of datamining to accomplish its desired goals for Minority Reportesque style of snooping. 

But I think it’s a sham, a put up, misdirection of the best kind: if your spy program works and everyone is watching it, the only way you can simultaneously reduce monitoring by commie-pinko-liberals-who-DO-have-something-to-hide-otherwise-why-would-they-care-? types and quell concerns is to discredit it yourself:

‘Oh, that old thing we wasted several billions on?  Never worked, totally useless.  BTW – what was your social security number again?’

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From the ‘Get Off My Lawn You Snot-Dribbling Flat-Headed Cretins’ department:

Also from BoingBoing, a report on the Esozone Festival, described by one attendee as:

Noah Mickens, who will take part in the festivities, defines it this way: “Esozone is an exhibition of scientists, philosophers, magicians and performance artists, gathered together by a subculture of young radicals who don’t recognize the distinction between the four.”

Don’t recognize the distinction between scientists and magicians?  Philosophers and performance artists?

Here, allow me to demonstrate. I’m going to do a magic trick that will make it appear as if I just kicked you in the testicals.  Don’t cringe, it won’t hurt. There. Done.  Looked pretty real, huh? Feel anything?  No, of course you didn’t.

Now, on the other hand, here’s a physics demonstration that illustrates the transfer of energy in a most compelling manner – one swift kick to the nuts. Thwunk!  Feel anything?

No difference between them…

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Via SF Brewed Fresh Daily to SFSignal to Me, this piece on pulp art – something I know a little bit about.  (Excellent images of some SF pulp covers and interiors).

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Last, but not least, the Space Writer goes political, an event as rare as certain super novas.

OMG! 3 Million on an planetarium overhead projector:

 OMG – how much did we waste on this autonomous off road vehicle toy car?

We spent how much on a weightless environment human waste processing system toilet?

You took how much in contributions bribes from Keating?

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Ok, so the previous bit wasn’t the last one.  Sue me. 

from the ‘Not Nearly As Frustrated Today’ vault:

The PayPal foobar is (almost) resolved.  Mentioning this will remaind me to re-visit the issue of internet security issues versus real security.

The (other) website issues are (finally) working themselves out, just in time to be completely fixed (I hope) for the upcoming weekend)

I finished my story; one final go-thru with the pen and paper, perhaps a couple of small re-writes and then off it goes to Ray Gun Revival.

The frustration meter has dropped from red-flecked orange to a warm shade of yellow.

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Headline pretty much says it all. 

We’ll start with Obama.  Afterall, he was pretty easy to pick a cover for. Yes, I know the painting was done as a white guy.  Not my fault. I’ve yet to find a Hawaiin depicted on the cover of a pulp magazine so this one will just have to do –

If I had wanted to go with a ‘black’ theme, I could have used this one –

But it really doesn’t convey the sense of strength, courage, fortitude, intelligence and leadership that I was looking for.

Biden was pretty easy –

Almost kind of even looks like him.

And now the moment I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for – the Palin covers.  (Who?  McCain? Oh yeah, the Republican Presidential candidate.  He’s still around?  Huh.)

In choosing these particular covers, I paid as much attention to the imagery (it needed to be a brunette on the cover and they’re just not as common as blondes.  Speaking of which: do we change the blonde jokes to feature brunettes instead or convince Sarah that she really IS a blonde and should get a dye job?) as I did to the names of the stories listed on the covers.  You ought to also.

This is how the Republican party would have us see her – democratic meat dripping from her claws.

Reality is so harsh sometimes, isn’t it?

…get elected. Ha ha ha.

I don’t think Isaac would have wanted to grope this particular femme fan. 

The Imposter.  LOL. LOL.

Empire of Evil. Yep. That’s what we’ll be getting…

An Empire of Evil that will leave a Legacy of Terror.  Fortunately for all of us, Obama has transformed himself into a giant black ant.

“I was once a beauty queen, you know. And I’m sooo smart – I went to six different colleges.  Hey, is that Putin invading my airspace over there?  Oh, no, it’s just dinosaurs strolling across the bridge to nowhere with human beings. You’d think they’d cover that in one of the many newspapers I read every day. But they write about dumb stuff like Supreme Court decisions no one can remember the names of. Stupid Supremes, they should never have broken up. Hey, wanna go wolf shooting from my helicopter while we patrol the border?”

Ok, here’s one for McCain –

Kelly, why do all of the socks look like an old man’s ball sack?

The Conservative.  Yeah.

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PZ Meyers at Pharyngula linked to Charlie Stross’ blog (he’s friends with John Scalzi who mentions him a lot in HIS blog, lol) and Charlie linked to my rant that included Harlan Ellison’s rant about UCLA students not knowing the story of the Emporer’s New Clothes and

comments are up and traffic is WAAAAY up.

Naturally I’m in the middle of the longest streak of inactivity that this blog has ever experienced.

There are a host of interesting tangents here and I’ll take just a couple of seconds to lay a few of them out:

the above is illustrative of the ‘long tail economic theory’.  My original post on the subject was written more than a month and a half ago.  Now it finds a new market after having just sat there for a while doing nothing.  “Throw it out there, stuff will stick”

Charlie ranted about Constitutional bankruptcy here in the USA, a and others in commentary raised the spectre of the coming coup – pointing out the training of US combat troops for domestic duty (contravening posse comitatus) and legal provisions put in place by the Bush Admin for the declaration of martial law.   I’ve been speculating about that for at least 4 years now.  It’s quite interesting to see a wild-ass ‘feeling’ you guardedly expressed to a few close friends reach out and gain at least some degree of legitimacy on the blogosphere.  Someone looking closely might want to study military appointments/firings/resignations over the past three or so years.

Of course if something nasty does happen, I’ve probaly just written my arrest warrant.  Fortunately, people like Charlie Stross don’t let fear of future consequences keep them from speaking truth as they see it.  Way too many old saws about failing to speak up for me to use one of them now, but remember that they have become cliche BECAUSE they are so apt.

I’m enjoying the pro ‘old generation’ comments immensely, and particularly pleased that there seem to be quite a few from people who at first glance would appear to be whipper-snappers.  Intelligent views are not generationally derived.

Quite a bit of ranting about Sarah Palin as ‘yet another sign of the impending collapse of western civilization’.  Best comment I heard so far was from a blogger interviewed on tv (no name, sorry) who said that the really scary thing about her was not that she doesn’t have coherent answers to questions, it’s that she doesn’t understand the question!

Alaska ought to be ashamed of itself.  (Maybe that’s why it wants of secede?)

and now I’ll go back to the really busy stuff I’ve been working on for the past week and hope that another sleeping blog decides to wake…

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Ed Lerner offers two theories to explain the aging of SF fandom in his new blog.  In approximately equal parts, he blames Sesame Street for teaching a generation that information comes in snippets on a small screen, thus stunting the ability to really learn anything that takes effort – an opinion I can’t disagree with – and on the lack of a really robust manned space program, which is a far more interesting theory than the foregoing.

From Ed: Those of us of a certain age (i.e., gray- and non-haired) grew up with the excitement of the space race. The progress was dizzying: suborbital flights, orbital flights, orbital rendezvous … . From Sputnik to One Small Step in twelve years. Inspiring!

But for anyone thirty five or younger, the manned space program has been endless circling of the Earth. For far too long, the program has been the international space station — where nothing, besides construction and repairs, ever happens — punctuated by shuttle disasters.

Not so inspiring.

At first blush I agreed with Ed, but then I got to thinking about it and realized that something like 99% of the scientists and engineers who actualized the path from suborbital flight to moon landing had all been SF geeks BEFORE there was a space program, some even before there were ‘rockets’ (or before Goddard, anyways).

I grew up on that space program and distinctly remember what it felt like to be an American the day Armstrong stepped off the ladder. Very heady stuff.  But I digress.

Given the fact that those who made it happen had been inspired by science fiction to make it happen, I find it hard to agree that we can lay the blame for lack of interest in science fiction at the feet of a lackluster space program.  Rather, I think the lackluster (and sometimes disastrous) space program is yet another symptom of the same pandemic.

I don’t know what to call that disease, perhaps lackofcausesitis.  Or maybe dumbeddownicity.  I do know that at least in the USA, the country, as a collective, is only at its best when it is trying to accomplish something: gaining independance, making the world safe for democracy, landing a man on the moon. The rest of the time we sit around drowning in materialism and hating on each other, while the corporate interests invest money, time and resources trying to make sure it stays that way, cause it’s good for business.

Or maybe it’s just that extremely over-sized elephant in the room that everyone ignores at their peril: just too damned many people everywhere for anyone to ever be able to rally a significant enough number around a meaningful cause anymore.

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