discarded lies: monday, april 23, 2018 10:26 am zst
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daily archive: 02/03/2005
zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
An Unhealthy Fixation
As the Middle East conflict burns on, more and more Europeans are turning against Israel. A growing number subscribe to the belief that the impasse between the Israelis and the Palestinians is the wellspring of much of the world's ills today, and that the blame for all this lies squarely with Israel -- and by extension, with its staunchest ally, the United States. As President Bush seeks to find common ground with Europe in his second term, he might do well to acquaint himself more thoroughly with this reality. For as surely as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict divides Jews and Arabs, it also divides Europeans and Americans. If you're looking for root causes of the growing transatlantic split that go beyond the easy cliches about U.S. unilateralism, it's time to sit up and take notice.

Go to a dinner party in Paris, London or any other European capital and watch how things develop. The topic of conversation may be Iraq, it may be George Bush, it may be Islam, terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. However it starts out, you can be sure of where it will inevitably, and often irrationally, end -- with a dissection of the Middle East situation and a condemnation of Israeli actions in the occupied territories. I can't count how many times I've seen it. European sympathy for the Palestinians runs high, while hostility toward Israel is often palpable.

And the anger is reaching new -- and disturbing -- levels: A poll of 3,000 people published last month by Germany's University of Bielefeld showed more than 50 percent of respondents equating Israel's policies toward the Palestinians with Nazi treatment of the Jews. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed specifically believed that Israel is waging a "war of extermination" against the Palestinian people.

Germany is not alone in these shocking sentiments. They have been expressed elsewhere, and often by prominent figures. In 2002, the Portuguese Nobel Prize-winning writer Jose Saramago declared, "What is happening in Palestine is a crime which we can put on the same plane as what happened at Auschwitz." In Israel just last month, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Irish winner of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize, compared the country's suspected nuclear weapons to Auschwitz, calling them "gas chambers perfected."

Moreover, in a Eurobarometer poll by the European Union in November 2003, a majority of Europeans named Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. Overall, 59 percent of Europeans put Israel in the top spot, ahead of such countries as Iran and North Korea. In the Netherlands, that figure rose to 74 percent.

Perceptions of Israel in the United States, meanwhile, contrast sharply. A poll by the Marttila Communications Group taken in December 2003 for the Anti-Defamation League had Americans putting Israel in 10th place on a list of countries threatening world peace, just ahead of the United States itself.

What accounts for this transatlantic values gap?

Part of the explanation is that, despite all the Holocaust commemorations, the memory of that event really does appear to be fading in Europe. Increasing numbers of younger Europeans have no real sense of what the Nazis did. In Britain, Prince Harry isn't the only one who's oblivious to the realities of Nazi tyranny. A BBC poll of 4,000 people taken late last year, in the run-up to Holocaust Remembrance Day last Thursday, showed that, amazingly, 45 percent of all Britons and 60 percent of those under 35 years of age had never heard of Auschwitz -- the Nazi death camp in southern Poland where about 1.5 million Jews were murdered during World War II. Such ignorance compounds anti-Israeli feelings; for those who have no understanding of the Holocaust, Israel exists and acts in a historical vacuum.

This faltering awareness of the most vivid example of racist mass murder in the 20th century is accompanied by enduring anti-Semitism. A poll in Italy last year, for example, by the Eurispes research institute showed 34 percent of respondents agreeing strongly or to some extent with the view that "Jews secretly control financial and economic power as well as the media." The Eurobarometer survey quoted above also showed 40 percent of respondents across Europe believing that Jews had a "particular relationship to money," with more than a third expressing concern that Jews were "playing the victim because of the Holocaust."
In Europe, an Unhealthy Fixation on Israel
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
A Family Business
Remember when Russia’s top prosecutor suggested taking hostages as an anti-terror measure? Guess what: Russian tactics are paying off. Which makes my original offer even harder to resist.
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
Gambling and Winning
The Diplomad on George W. Bush:
This is a man who is not afraid to draft and push the world's agenda. He had nothing politically to gain by liberating Iraq. He could have followed the tried-and-true tepid measures of the past: more UN resolutions, more "consultations" with the EU and Muslim countries, a bombing raid here and there, etc. Instead he went right for the root of the problem: the existence of Saddam's regime and the climate of fear and oppression that ruled Iraq. On elections in Iraq he could have stalled and postponed and begged for help: instead he put his faith in the US military's ability to deliver on security and in the people of Iraq's desire for freedom. On Afghanistan, he could have limited himself to some ineffectual missile strikes, some UN resolutions, an appeal for the arrest and trial of the Al Qaeda thugs. No. He gambled his Presidency on removing the Taliban, crushing Al Qaeda, and moving Afghanistan towards democracy. On the Palestinian question, he could have followed the failed policies of the past: schmooze with Arafat, give him money, pretend that he didn't control the "radical" elements, consult with the EU, keep sending special envoys hither and yon, etc. No. Bush cut off Arafat, refused to deal with the Palestinian authority until they held free elections, and now we have a chance, more than ever before, for a solution.
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
A Glimpse of God's Perfection
"We know that God is perfect. We all believe this. But I ask you, look at my son. He can't learn like other children. He can't remember facts like other children. He will never understand things that they can understand. Look at my son and tell me, where is God's perfection?"
You have to read this: God's Perfection: The Story of a Special Needs Child

(a thimbleful of cognac to WriterMom - just to sniff)
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evariste in Discarded Lies:
American folk wisdom
This reads like really, really good Heinlein. I'm sure it's fictional because it's a wee bit twee.
"America is the only democracy that was ever created from the bottom up... so it's the only one that represents the deepest dreams of the real majority of mankind.

"Hell, anybody can create a democracy when they have the power to give people rights. The UN could create a democracy a month... just copy the articles and by-laws of some high school history club, a bill of rights that says the government gives the people the freedom of speech, religion, and to assemble, etc, then send in a bunch of technocrats to build sewers and highways, set up the banks, get France to provide a bureaucracy, and China to send in an army that calls itself a national police force. Control the press so no one will ever report the lie, and you have democracy. Sometimes you have to squint your mind real hard to tell the difference between what the social democrats set up in Brussels and what Tito set up in Yugoslavia.

"But take that third ingredient, and instill in the bosom of every man and woman in Iraq that the foundations of their democracy is their House, and their right to build it and grow it and own it, and the whole picture changes. Now, that's something worth fighting for... not just now, but in generations to come. That's something worth tarring and feathering politicians for. Or for snitching out a rifle on the roof. When laws read that the people give certain powers to the law-makers, and not the other way around, and everybody knows it, then you have a true democracy in the making. When rights come from God, or Allah, and no man or government can rightfully take them away, and everybody knows it, then you have something.

"The trick is making people know this is how it is. The UN has a declaration of human rights, but they're secure in the knowledge that ninety percent of their constituents will never hear or read it... and generally have the power to make sure they never do. But just let the people of Kenya... or Baltimore... find out how they've been gypped these past few decades... then give 'em a map out... and see how quickly things can change.

"The problem in our democratic world today is that some... too many, especially from your generation... define their own House as being the bosses of other men's Houses. Just too damned many people now think they have a birthright to manage other men's lives. And as I told you, they vote.

"Think about it. It's one thing to work for a man, and for him to be your boss. It's quite another for him to think he has a birthright to be your boss. A person instinctively knows the difference, and while he may tolerate a bad boss... he finds the other kind repulsive, and will immediately rebel with every bone in his body. He will wreck. The wrecking soul is that great indefinable that can cause Forbes Magazine to declare a company to be among America's best-run companies one year, then have to eat crow a couple of years later when it goes bust. Happens all the time.

"But just look at who's saying this about the Arabs. I'm not sure who those guys are but they are either misinformed... ignorant... or liars. What I find curious is that the things those guys are saying about Arabs today is exactly what Jim Crow gringos was saying about black folks fifty years ago in Mississippi. 'Why them nigras don't want to have to make up their own minds. They need organization put into they lives. Three hundred years of being told what to do, why they couldn't even organize a good church supper. They need to be told where to be, what to do and how to do it. And then they are content.'

"I can't tell you how many times I heard that as a child... only it came from the barber shop philosophers... people like Verdell McCutchins, from the hardware store, and not the so-called educated elites of today. Verdell had a thigh the size of a pot belly stove, and would slap it as he crossed his legs, as an exclamation point to some luminous revelation about how the country was going to hell in a hand basket. Everybody knows somebody like this... except maybe Republicans, who don't seem to get out very much. But it's amazing to me how similar Verdell was to what passes as our most educated minds nowadays. Some men actually pay extra to send their kids to special colleges just to learn to be that stupid.

"Of course Arabs and Muslims can handle democracy. But, they're staring down the barrel of two different types, handed-down and handed up, not to mention a lot of guns.

"If we're going to offer an American-style democracy, we also have to find a way to let the Arab street know what this means to them individually. It's all about their House. The day that sinks in, they ain't just ahead of Syria and Jordan. They're ahead of Massachusetts."

"Do you think we're doing that now in Iraq?"

"I can't say, but I doubt it. I'm not sure we have people there who see liberty as a dirt farmer might see it. Most technocrats make the world out to be way too complex. The see almost everything top-down."
Comrades, hurry and read the whole thing! Dean's World - Cleaning Up Dodge
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
Honor Killings through the EU
This is so routine in many Muslim societies, the perversity of it is seldom questioned within those societies. We know there is even provision for it in some countries, such as Jordan, which gives lesser penalties to men who commit "honor killings" to "remove a stain from the tribe" than for other murders. They also give a free pass to a man who kills his wife because he suspects she might have committed adultery, and a rapist has his sentence reduced if the woman he raped wasn't a virgin. (By contrast, Pakistan has re-introduced the death penalty specifically for this crime, with accomplices being handed an automatic life imprisonment. According to Pacific News writer Muddassir Rizvi, in 1999-2001, there are estimated to have been 1,100 "honor killings" there.)

And just as genital mutilation takes place in Britain with British doctors turning a blind eye in the name of "multiculturalism", so the murder of disobedient girls and women is countenanced, or at least not reported by the neighbors.


But despite the conspiracy of silence, the one-way overseas trips and cover-ups, police estimate that there are 117 "honor killings" still unsolved in Britain. According to London's Daily Telegraph, Scotland Yard, announcing an initiative, said there is "growing evidence that women in the Asian community [British media code for Muslim] are being subjected to violence and sometimes murdered for defying cultural traditions." According to the same article, the initiative was prompted by the conviction of Abdalla Yones, who stabbed his 16-year-old daughter 11 times and cut her throat after she began seeing a Christian boy, was jailed for life. London police say that at least two young Asian women are reported missing under mysterious circumstances every week.

The suicide rate among Asian women in Britain is four times that of the indigenous population and other immigrant groups. Being so tightly controlled and abused, suicide is often perceived as the only escape. Rosie Cowan, The Guardian's crime correspondent, writes, "While killings [are] more often carried out by men, women were sometimes involved. In some cases mothers and grandmothers handed a daughter over to her murderers." She quotes Commander Andy Baker, head of Scotland Yard's homicide squad, as saying, "Those who come to police are, without question, the tip of the iceberg." London police have been advised by a behavioral psychologist to listen carefully to any young girl or woman who gets up the nerve to walk into a police station, and not to inform the families and not to try to mediate.

The fingers of "honor" killings snake through the EU, with its great masses of unassimilated Muslims living in self-imposed ghettoes and seething with contempt for their host societies. In Holland, 60 percent of women in women's shelters are Muslim. In Berlin, there is a safehouse for young Turkish women to hide to escape family violence. In the vast social housing estates of Paris and other northern cities in France, violence, including rape, is perpetrated for such minor infractions as running out to the grocery store without wearing a headscarf. In Sweden, a female Muslim campaigner against "honor" killings was herself shot dead by her father for having a relationship with a Swedish man.

Kathleen Knox, for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, writes that in Prague, a 14-year-old Turkish girl was on her way to the supermarket when she was kidnapped and raped. When she was rescued, her father allegedly murdered her and buried her in a forest. The 14-year-old had "stained the family honor" by being overpowered by an adult male and raped.
Read it all: Honor Thy Father -- Or Else. And follow this link to read an excerpt from Souad's story: Burned Alive
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evariste in Discarded Lies:
When good design turns into marketing...
...and when bad design turns into antimarketing!
Lileks picked up one of the new Mac Minis.
Today at the office I ran into the guy who runs the Mac department. I held my hands six inches apart and made brackets with my thumb and middle fingers.

Oooh, he said.

It came today, I said.

Ohhh, he said.

Among the Faithful and the Elect, this was all you needed to say. The gesture was instantly recognizable: the new Mac Mini.

I was surprised to see the Mini show up today, in advance of the shipping date. Man: it’s small. It’s really small. The box was small. I took pictures of the unpacking ceremony, of course:

And then it sprung out at my head! Two hours later I was in the sickbay of the Nostromo, with a small computer attached to my face and a Firewire cord down my throat.

To show how small and light it is:

I didn’t have time to put it together, but I did remove all the wrapping. Something you did not know: The machine sits on a rubber pad. Bump the table – or the computer itself – and it moves not. It’s just gorgeous.

This is the kind of marketing you just can't buy. You have to get people to love your products. That one breathless passage by Lileks, from beginning to end, with adoring shots of the product's packaging and your adorable little daughter holding the product up to show how light it is...that's the best kind of marketing and it can't be had for money, only for love. Contrast with the worst kind of marketing, anti-marketing: the kind where passionate, talented people with the ability to write and create compelling graphics get so angry with your boneheaded moves that they're compelled to tell the whole world what's so wrong with your product, in lucid, loving detail (because they know what they're talking about). Case in point: Brian Tiemann's unhappy experience with Microtek scanners-and his ultimate triumph over their poor design, with a little geeky ingenuity.
It's my belief that the collective intelligence of the flatbed scanner industry has been rapidly and steadily decreasing over the past several years.

This is totally aside from the fact that I had to jump through all kinds of hoops to find both a scanner built in the past decade that supports A3-size/tabloid sheets (11x17") and costs less than $3000, and software that will support it (thank you very much, SilverFast, for deciding in your infinite wisdom that the Microtek ScanMaker 9800XL—the only such large-format scanner in the industry, and the direct product-line descendant of the 6400XL, 8600XL, 9600XL, and 9700XL, all of which you supported with your $50 consumer-level software, is in fact suddenly a "Pro" scanner and thus will only be supported by your $500 "Pro" software). Totally apart from all that.

See, what I don't get is how a company that has been making scanners for many, many years—very good scanners, in fact, well worth the $1000+ price tags—can have its illustrious engineers' brains seep out onto the floor with the simple passage of time, such that the newest scanners they make, while still being of quite high build and function quality, have completely brain-dead design decisions built into them.

Case in point: my Microtek ScanMaker 9800XL. I bought it to replace my old SCSI ScanMaker 6400XL, because my G5 doesn't support the PCI SCSI card that it required (and Mac OS X's SCSI support has been halfhearted and vague anyway). I liked the 6400XL just fine; it was speedy and reliable, and the bed had ruler markings molded into the rails, so I could align a piece of paper or Bristol board quite easily by just butting it up against the raised edges of the scan bed. SCSI though it was, life was good. The new scanner is large-format just like the old one, and it's FireWire-based. And it sold for $1400, same as the old one—and I got it at $1000. What a deal, huh?

Until I opened up the lid, and discovered this staring me in the face:
See that? See that? See it?

The rulers are embedded under the glass. About an inch from the raised edges of the scan bed, on both the left and front edges.

Can someone please explain to me exactly what reason in the name of Hell any scanner manufacturer would have to design a scanner in this way? Because the only function it serves, as far as I can tell, is to prevent me from being able to align a piece of paper correctly.
I can butt it up against the raised edges, but then an inch of either the top or the side—or both—will be cut off. Or I can gingerly set it manually next to the rulers, so the whole sheet will be visible to the sensor—but then it won't have anything to align against, and will invariably turn out misaligned and send me into a cycle of five or six Preview passes before I get it right. Which is no fun at all when you've got dozens of pages in a batch job that all have to be scanned exactly the same way, with the same margins and registration.

What? What am I missing? What possible benefit can this arrangement serve? What graphic-design experts were they who prevailed upon Microtek over the years to abandon their age-old practice of allowing you to align your paper against the guide rails, and instead make you have to float the paper out into the middle of this glass sea, squinting at the light gleaming through the crack between the submerged ruler and the edge of the paper, getting it just aligned as right as you possibly can, closing the lid (and having the wind blow the paper off-alignment in the action), previewing the scan, and finding that it's a couple of degrees rotated from what you wanted? Is this an exercise instituted by Microtek to help us keep our eyeballs sharp and our bile ducts circulating in good health? What possible purpose can this serve other than to piss me off?!

It's not as though this is a measure to allow people to scan larger pieces or anything; there is still that raised guide rail, so anything that overlaps over the edges will still be raised as it rests on the rails rather than the glass. And it'll still be blocked out by those stupid rulers. I honestly can't think of a practical reason why this should be.

Oh! Oh! And note that there's a little message in the lower right of the scan bed, a note with an arrow pointing to the rectangular clear area between the front ruler and the front guide rail: KEEP THIS AREA CLEAR. Got that? No sticking a ruler in there to line your paper up against. No fair begging out of the pain we have mandated for you as a foolish buyer of large-format scanners, of which ours is the sole occupant of the product category. We are Microtek, and we will find you out!

Someone? Anyone? Can someone shed some light on this? I don't like to believe that an entire company can be guided by the ideal of cruelty to its customers, but right now I don't have many other working theories.

So, anyway: after dealing with this for months now, and emitting only sporadic grumbles, I have finally come to the conclusion that this situation is untenable, and I have taken firm and decisive action to correct the egregious design of this scanner:
Ha! Screw you, Microtek!

And thank you to the good people at TAP Plastics, who cheerfully fabricated this thing for me out of 1/8" acrylic. And now I have a paper guide that fits neatly into the corner, covers up the rulers, lets me align the paper, and won't interfere with whatever mechanism it is that can't bear to have that area in the front of the scan bed made opaque. (I assume it's an optical mechanism. Or maybe it's where the Scanner Gnomes play rugby during the course of a scan, an activity crucial to the color-balance process. I don't know.)

And that's the end of that chapter.
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
The Year of the Rooster
Yeah, admit it, you're dying to know what the fengshui masters say about the coming year, aren't you?*
The Year of the Rooster will not convulse the world with a disaster as deadly as the Indian ocean tsunami of the Year of the Monkey, but beware of earthquakes and typhoons, especially in the east, soothsayers say.

In the new year of the Chinese lunar cycle, lust will rise and marriage may be inauspicious, but it's fine to have a baby if you are careful. And on the world stage, some measure of peace may be seen in trouble spots such as North Korea and some inroads may finally be made in the war on terror in the Middle East.
*look, it's early in the morning, I don't have any good posts yet, just read the damn thing, ok?
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