daily archive: 09/18/2005
Race Relations in Britain
This is a little too melodramatic in my opinion, but since I don't live there, I'll let someone else put some perspective to it: UK 'sleepwalking' into segregation?
I don't believe the accusation that "if you look closely at the campuses of some of [Britain's] most distinguished universities you can pick out the invisible 'no blacks may enter' message" and it pisses me off that New Orleans is being used as an example of racial segregation.
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German Politics Deadlocked
According to the first exit-polls in Germany, the Christian-Democrat party CDU/CSU has become the biggest political party in today's election. However, to everybody's surprise, CDU/CSU with its conservative leader Mrs. Angela Merkel declined and reaches only 35%. This is just narrowly larger than the SPD of the governing chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who obtains 34% of the votes.
The winners of the German elections seem to be the liberal FDP who ends up on 10% and the Linkspartei (Left Party), a coalition between the PDS and renegade SPD, who ends up on 8.4%. The Grünen (The Green) comes to a 8.2%, which is described as a minimum loss.
With these results, the current coalition of SPD and Grünen loses the majority in the parliament. But also CDU/CSU and FDP do not reach 50%.
So German politics are deadlocked, since CDU/CSU and SPD indicated repeatedly in their campaign that they do not want to form a coalition.
The Linkspartei is not an option for Schröder to complete the old coalition, the German leader said after the publications of the exit-polls. The liberal FDP can be an option for Schröder to form the coalition but it is still unclear if the party leader Guido Westerwelle is interested.The results according to exit-polls shown by German ARD TV station:
Sources: German ARD, Dutch ANP
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The good-time girl from Peru
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An Indian Farewell Dossier
writes a lot of thought-provoking stuff, and this article is no exception. He ruminates on the idea that the "Farewell Dossier" tactic that we used against the Soviet Union-"letting" them steal inferior, faulty and even booby-trapped technology so that it would blow up in their faces-could be used against us now that so much of our software originates in India. I'm not quite as concerned about it as he is. For one thing, India is rapidly becoming an essential ally of the United States, and you don't shit where you eat. If India was a belligerent dictatorship like China, I'd be worried. For another, we're not using Indian expertise because we lack our own, only because the Indians are cheaper. We can pick up our bags and go home if we so desire-and seriously hurt India's fledgling economy. The Russians thought they were cunningly stealing
stuff we actually used-that dynamic isn't present in our relationship with India.
Right now, on one hand, we're spending billions of dollars for this Myth of Homeland Security in the hopes of protecting against terrorists, rogue states, and ideological nutcases. But, on the other hand, corporate America is lining the pockets of executives by driving costs down (and their stock options up) by outsourcing virtually every aspect of non-creative information technology to 3rd world nations. We've all heard of the massive code-shops in India, where analysts estimate that 60% of US code is being written today, and as much as 90% will be written by the end of the next 10 years. Do you see the razor blade hidden in the apple? I'm somewhat concerned at the idea of the economic effects of this activity, but I'm terrified by the national security implications. Let's talk homeland security, shall we?
Last year I got a call from an investment banker in Singapore, who was looking for a programming expert who could do "due diligence" on some software that one of their clients was considering acquiring. The acquirer was a Canadian company, the seller a US company, and the software had been written in Bangalore. After some discussion, I was informed that the software regarded embedded systems and microprocessor controls, etc - specifically, the software was guidance software "of the type" used in the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) - a glide-bomb that uses GPS to home in on its target. We all saw JDAMs in action during the most recent gulf war, and it was a JDAM that accidentally (?) hit the Chinese Embassy during the NATO intervention in Kosovo and bombing of Serbo-Croatia. As someone concerned with national security, I can only ask, "What the F!*K?" Sure, once you have the concept of a JDAM and a GPS chip and some actuators and some software, you can build your own pretty quickly. But why roll out the red carpet?
I'm not a paranoid and I'm not a John Bircher but I sometimes wonder if we're worried about the wrong things. On one hand we're spending billions of dollars against a nebulous threat when on the other we're spending billions of dollars to put ourselves in grave and very real danger. Remember the pipeline explosion? How about a JDAM that doesn't fly right if the target is within GPS coordinates approximating your national borders? That's just a simple paranoid fantasy - the reality could be a lot worse. I don't know. We don't know. In fact, we can't know - if we were to try to audit all those jillions of lines of code we're buying from India, we'd need so many talented programmers it'd be cheaper to write it ourselves in the first place.
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With Their Lives If Necessary
I've been noticing something lately. Something that has been around for a while, something that I've talked about, heard about, discussed prolifically. And, I have to admit, something I've very nearly thrown up my hands in regards to.
How can we counter, and SHOULD we counter, the anti-American feelings in the world?
There are lots of people declaring we should counter the anti-Americanism. In fact, up until a discussion with my brother today, I was one. I have no doubt in my mind that the media in its conglomerate form - the media in its Mcnugget presentation of news bites to a general public with ADD for current events, the media with its arrogant assumption that their worldliness makes their opinions worth more and more true than we proletariat who spend our days toiling - is the instigator of this movement.
But I'm not going to discuss what the media is doing wrong, what the media is doing that is biased in the name of lack of bias. I'm not going to discuss what has been discussed ad nauseum.
Because I understand now.
In our talk about the state of America and Americanism, we discussed the infamous debate between Bush and Gore when Bush put forward that we could not be "the world's policemen." Of course, the irony is that we still are - at a far higher level.
And I'm okay with that - because I'm a firm believer that someone has to do it. And, as we military folk say - when we say someone, we mean YOU. That's our lot in life. It's hard, it's difficult, and it's thankless. But someone has to do it. And for all the affluence we Americans enjoy, we must give back to the world.
And we do - oh, we do! Personally, privately, and as a nation we do so much for the power of good and humanity.
But in keeping with the idea of being a police force for the world, we have to look at the position in society occupied by our police.
We love them, don't we? We lionize their bravery. We expect them to protect us. We buy their raffle tickets.
But when they pull behind us on a country road, when we are forced to check our speed as we fly past their car parked by the roadside, when we get indignant because their gaze stops on us as we browse a crowded store - we get indignant, don't we? We're not too happy with the "po-pos", are we? We wish the 5-0 would LEAVE US ALONE.
And the funny thing about that is - when I feel that way I'm usually not doing anything wrong! I never steal. I keep my speed within 5 miles of the speed limit (which drives hubby insane). I do not beat my children or carry around illegal substances in my purse (nor do I store them at my house).
But a policeman has a lot of power, doesn't he? He holds our freedom in our hands, and in his integrity to not invent evidence to indict us for crimes is solely based on his strength of character. It is hard to admit that our well being is dependent on the good and moral behavior of others.
But a good cop is a breed apart from many of us. They are, as Bill Whittle put it in his beautiful essay, the sheepdogs who must use violence to protect us from violence. That makes many of us uncomfortable - it is something we often want to distance ourselves from.
Until, that is, until we need them to keep the wolves at bay. And then they are the first we call, the person we place our ultimate trust and hope for the future in. The people we expect, without fail and without hesitation, to step in front of the bullet meant for us.
The United States is indeed the world's policeman, with all that means and all the baggage that brings.
And perhaps when we worry about the "Anti-Americanism" present in the world, we should think about how we feel in all the different aspects of their jobs when we see the police on our streets. How we extrapolate the behavior of the rare bad egg to them all, even though it is absolutely unwarranted. How the images of Rodney King still play on our airwaves even though we no longer see the images of officers charging into the debris of the WTC to lose their lives rescuing others.
How we so often forget their ultimate goal - to protect us, with their lives if necessary.
If we are unable to to remember that with our own police, how can we expect the world to be any better in regards to our policing of the globe?
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From the Negev on the Disengagement
Tonight I watched the news coverage of the IDF withdrawal from Gaza, which is the final stage of the disengagement. There have been many discussions about the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and I have a slightly different take on the subject than most of the opponents and proponents of this action. The following are some random thoughts on the events of the past few weeks.
First, I want to point out that I was in favor of the disengagement from the moment Ariel Sharon proposed it until now when it is completed. I have observed the whole Katif enterprise from close proximity and from the first I felt that we Jews had no future there. It was not a case that we were there legally or illegally or that we did or didn’t have a historical connection to the territory. It was simply that there were too many of them and too few of us and no matter how honorable, legal, righteous was our settlement enterprise in the Gaza district, there was no way to make it work. We have been pouring resources into the project for more than thirty years and we have achieved a population of about 9000 settlers, which represents far less than the natural increase of the Arab population in the territory every year. No matter how right or righteous we were to be in Gaza, there was no way to overcome those numbers.
Now for a few words about the Katif settlements themselves. For the most part, the Gaza settlements were in essence bedroom communities for cities like Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva. If the non-farming Gaza residents were not employed in teaching, or providing other services to the local Jewish residents in Gaza, they were employed within the Green line. This was the case with most of the wage earners there. The farming communities were another matter. The Katif farmers worked about 25,000 dunams of land. Something like seventy-five to eighty percent of this land was located within the green line in the Eshkol region of the Negev, which is the territory adjacent to the Gaza strip. Of the farmland within the Gaza strip most of this was devoted to intensive agriculture; i.e., hothouses growing vegetables, flowers and herbs.
The Katif settlements were located on sand dunes in the Gaza strip that had never been farmed by the local Arabs. They looked very much like Hollywood’s version of the Sahara desert. The depth of the sand was often 90 meters or more. In the Gaza strip where the sand was no more than a meter or so deep, the Arabs would push it aside exposing the heavier soil underneath in which they would plant their crops. Until the arrival of the Israelis this was a limiting factor on the availability of agricultural land in the strip. When the first of the Katif settlements was built, it was extremely difficult for the growers to get a successful crop. It was then that I participated with two other growers to teach the Katif settlers how to grow tomatoes in their sandy soil. We were very successful. Somewhere I read that in a Washington Post editorial it was said that the Jewish settlers occupied the best lands in the Gaza Strip. In actual fact the Jews settled the worst agricultural land and turned it into the best land. Another point that must be mentioned is that the Israeli techniques and technology were quickly picked up by the Arab farmers there. They soon seized every available dunam of sand dunes. Thus, as a direct and not a little ironic consequence of the Israeli settlements, the Arab farmers achieved a net increase in the amount of land they farmed and a huge net increase in their yields. I doubt that this was the intention of the Israeli government or the settlers, but it certainly was one of the consequences of Israeli settlement.
I did a lot of reserve duty in Gaza during the first Intifada. What most people don’t realize is that for most of the first years the Palestinians shied away from using firearms. Plenty of rocks and stones but little shooting was the general rule. In the last year or so the Hamas and others resorted more and more to the use of firearms and the whole picture changed. There are many illustrations of this. For instance, Israeli fruit and vegetable buyers were able to travel all over the Gaza Strip to buy produce from Arab farmers for resale in the Tel Aviv market. In the last year several buyers were shot and the rest were too scared to come in. This worked a severe economic hardship on Gaza’s Arab farmers. Another illustration was that medical personnel and vehicles were off limits to both the IDF and Arab rioters during the first few years. In the last year the Hamas began ambushing Israeli ambulances. The most significant change was the source of Palestinian casualties. During the first few years the IDF was the chief cause of Palestinian killed and wounded. During the last year, not only did the Palestinians kill more Palestinians than did the IDF but they killed almost as many Palestinians as did the IDF since the start of the first intifada. The intifada was more or less brought to a stop by the Oslo Accords. A good many Palestinians breathed a big sigh of relief because they saw the situation as descending into chaos within the Palestinian community.
The Palestinian Authority took greater control earlier in the Gaza Strip than they did on the West Bank. One consequence is that from a very early stage the Gaza Arabs realized that, though their situation certainly changed, it might just be a question of exchanging one set of occupiers for another. It was in Gaza first that the returning PLO was referred to as “Tunisians�?. Arafat set up a mafia state in Gaza. I think that it is difficult for someone in the United States to imagine how corrupt the Palestinian Authority was right from the beginning. There were wealthy Palestinians who were enthusiastic about the coming independence. As often as not, they were stripped of their wealth by the “Tunisians�? and sent packing. I know of one instance where a Palestinian who had made quite a bit of money in Israel went back to start a business in the Rafiah area. He was arrested by the PA and beaten so badly that one side of his body was paralyzed. Finally, after a year in prison, his family bribed him out of prison. There were also a number of local Palestinian political leaders who were assassinated by PA security forces because Arafat considered them politically unreliable. For those who wonder why Arabs in Gaza vote for the Hamas, it is not because of their alleged valor against the Israeli occupier. It is mainly because they are seen as far less corrupt than the PLO proved to be.
The second Intifada was much different than the first in that far fewer Palestinians were involved and the Palestinians used firearms right from the beginning. Most of the fighting and bloodshed did not spill over to the Israeli side of the border from Gaza because there was a rudimentary fence (since then greatly improved) along the green line. When a similar barrier was erected around the West Bank, most of the violence was contained within that territory as well. In four years of bitter fighting, the Palestinian resistance was pretty much crushed. Despite the Hamas declaring victory, they find it increasingly difficult to choose a leadership once the IDF began successfully targeting their leaders. The Palestinian economy is in a shambles and even the EU aid agencies are leery of sending funds without strict controls. However, what is most significant is that Arafat failed to achieve his goals when he set out on his course of “armed resistance�?.
Arafat intended, in my opinion, to engage in armed conflict in the hope of generating a European intervention of the type that took place in the former Yugoslavia. In that way he expected to neutralize the importance of the IDF and directly involve those European powers who, at least verbally, seemed to be more supportive of the Palestinian cause than was the USA. To do this he needed a massacre of innocent Palestinian civilians. When Arik Sharon was elected Prime Minister it was probably for Arafat a wet dream come true. That Sharon did not serve up such a massacre was more than likely a huge disappointment to Arafat. The upshot was that the suicide bombings gave the Palestinians the international image that they were hoping the Israelis would acquire, and the Europeans refrained from intervening beyond verbal displays of condemnation and very pro-Palestinian press coverage.
I won’t go into Sharon’s motives for the disengagement but I want to address the response made by the opponents. First, although there were instances of public relations brilliance on the part of the Orange movement, they made several mistakes that cost them the publicity battle. Some of these mistakes came out of the fact that they sometimes lost sight of the public that they had to convince and did things that were designed more to convince themselves than anyone else. The use of orange ribbons on cars as a sign of opposition was very clever. Those in favor of the disengagement put blue ribbons on their cars but there always seemed to be more orange than blue ribbons on the roads. The organization involved in the successful campaign to get Likud party members to reject the disengagement was outstanding. However, blocking traffic on major highways was counter-productive and encouraging IDF people to disobey orders was a huge mistake. It was an absolute disaster to turn the whole question into a religious issue. There were two aspects of the orange activity that I personally found disgusting. The first was to pretend that the disengagement was comparable to the Holocaust. The second was to turn the whole thing into a children’s crusade. For years we have been critical of the Palestinians for sending their young teenagers out to engage in riots and worse against the IDF. Here was a Jewish movement that used their own children in ways that responsible parents should never allow.
A couple of months ago there was a scandal in the Farhan family. Avi Farhan was one of the leaders of the opposition to the evacuation of Yamit and the Sinai more than two decades ago. After Yamit he moved to a settlement in the Gaza strip. His grown daughter also lived in the Gaza Strip. She announced that she was leaving the strip at the request of the government and would not stay to protest because she did not want to put her children though what her parents put her through when they opposed the evacuation of Yamit. Many other Gaza residents failed to show as much concern about their children’s welfare.
The settlers are now loudly complaining that they have nowhere to go. I think that they should win this year’s chutzpah award. In almost all cases the problem is due to the fact that the settlers refused to have anything to do with the disengagement authority, which was responsible for making housing and other arrangements. Just after the evacuation of the settlers I heard on the radio some of the mothers complaining that school was to start in less than ten days and they didn’t know where they were going to send their kids. I asked myself if they didn’t know, when they refused for months to deal with any post-disengagement issues, that school always starts on the first of September? What were these mothers thinking when they refused to make any arrangements months ago and when are they going to take some responsibility for the welfare and education of their own children?
Even when the government was able to speak to those settlers who were willing to make arrangements ahead of time, there were many issues, such as location of the new housing and whether or not the settlements would be moving as a group or as individuals, which had to be worked out. These issues were not addressed at all when the settlers refused to negotiate. Knowing how the Israeli bureaucracy works, there is no doubt in my mind that in the best of circumstances when you move 9000 people there would have been some mistakes. But these were not the best of circumstances mainly because the settlement leaders and many of their followers did everything possible to disrupt the process.
Just as an example of what could have been, there is a kibbutz located within the green line a few kilometers from where the Gaza settlement of Atzmona was located. Unlike its immediate neighbors, this kibbutz never prospered and contained only 31 members. These members were willing to move to other kibbutzim and give the whole place to the settlers of Atzmona. All of Atzmona's agricultural branches could have been moved there and the kibbutz contained more than enough housing ready for immediate occupation to meet the needs of the Atzmona families. The leadership of Atzmona refused to talk about that proposal or any other for that matter. In my opinion it is really chutzpah for them now to complain about lack of governmental action.
Just before the disengagement began, the residents of our area were given special ID cards and special IDF stickers for our automobile windshields to prove that we were residents of this area. The area was then declared a closed military area and roadblocks were set up to prevent non-residents from entering. For the most part these roadblocks caused only marginal inconvenience. On only one occasion did we have to take the long way home from Beer-Sheva to avoid anti-disengagement demonstrators who blocked the more direct route.
I became active on a committee of our area council which was supposed to deal with the press. We expected over one thousand reporters to be temporary residents in our area and we hoped to generate some positive publicity. Though the reporters were mostly interested in the events in the Gaza strip, we did manage to get some positive coverage of our area. My job was mainly one of acting as an English language spokesman and translator. At one point I found myself leading a tour of the area for several dozen foreign journalists. I also spent many hours translating printed Hebrew material into English for the press. On the day after the civilian part of the disengagement was completed, I went around the area taking photographs of the many signs and posters that had been put up for the disengagement and have since been removed. I also photographed my pickup truck with its IDF sticker and blue ribbon. Those photos, a worn faded blue ribbon and the special ID cards are the only souvenirs that remain from these events.
September 12, 2005
Moshav Sde Nitzan
7.9 kilometers from the Gaza border as the Kassam flies
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