30 August 2006

Amazon's Demise?

Well, no, Amazon are still safe.

Finally, Google books are getting their act in gear: they will now allow the downloading of non-copyright books to PDF files.

The selection is fairly small but hopefully should expand with time.

Book lovers get to it

This article describes some of the technology behind the book scanning, very neat but incredibility pricey.

With Friends Like This?

I like the Engage web site, and found an interesting article on Sue Blackwell and some videos posted on YouTube.

I wondered to myself "what type of people make these videos and what are their underlying motives?", here's what I found.

I took a look at the various images posted under the user: israelpalestine on YouTube, who posted Sue Blackwell’s original video.

One video caught my eye, a small film by Ryan Dawson, called the Reality in Israel and Palestine

It is a polished piece of propaganda with very stark imagery of bodies or body parts, IDF soldiers continually pointing guns and acting aggressively. Plenty of sad looking children, parts of houses demolished, etc. and an evocative soundtrack.

And towards the end of the video there is the statement ”it is not anti-Semitic to disagree with the current government of Israel" and "fighting Zionism is no more anti-Semitic than fighting the Nazis would be anti-white"

Then plenty of strong evocative images and at the end an American flag overlaid with "anti-Neocons"

Powerful stuff, but I wondered who was Ryan Dawson? And Google came to my aid!

Ryan Dawson seems to run a forum for “anti-neocons” and in his introduction he expressly states that “Anti-Semitism is NOT the goal of this website."

A quick inspection reveals: Holocaust denial, David Icke followers and 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Using the inbuilt search facility brought up a Holocaust denial article by Edgar J. Steele

Also, a weird topic "David Icke: The Lizards and the Jews"

Finally, plenty of stuff on 9/11 and guess who they think did it?? the Dancing Israelis, of course.

Ryan Dawson comments on the article "good find"

The Palestinians seem to have some allies amongst the David Icke "Lizards exist brigade," backed up ably by the "9/11 was an inside job" crowd.

I cannot say that I am surprised, the most persistent and aggressive anti-Semites tend to articulate many of the weirder conspiracy theories as well, that make the protocols of the Elders of Zion look fairly mild by comparison.

I do feel tempted to ask Sue Blackwell and her pro-boycott friends about their views on Lizards, 9/11 and dancing Israelis.

Humm, still not too sure what they'd reply!

28 August 2006

New Verbs?

English is a flexible language, incorporating foreign words with ease, and so the recent conflict in the Middle East gave birth to a new word: Hezbollization


(noun) A process whereby evil murderous thugs are turned into everyday heroes by an overzealous mainstream media. Hezbollize

(verb) Assign great social importance to gangsters, treat them as celebrities (Hez-boll-ized, Hez-boll-iz-ing, Hez-boll-iz-es)

Example 1: "Cross burnings bring warmth and comfort to homes without central heating, as caring KKK activists distribute clean white clothing among impoverished kids."

Example 2: "Crips, Bloods, MS 13 organize daily after school programs, engage minority children in pharmacological economics and ballistics training"

Conflict In Lebanon For Dummies

I couldn't resist this satire

27 August 2006

More TV?

One of my rare commentors pointed out that the Holy Land tool bar does not have many Israeli TV channels, very true.

As far as I can see there are very few English language Israeli TV news channels available across the web, and the Holy Land tool bar provides links to all those accessible.

Some major ones, such as Channel 10 news, do not appear to broadcast in English on the web.

If anyone knows of any English language Israeli TV news channels, please email me or leave a comment.

Some people, for their own reasons, may be reluctant to install the Holy Land tool bar for fear that it might take control of their PC, or like the Iranian President’a web site download a virus or malware.

I can say this is not the case, after gruelling testing and scanning with Spybot, AVG, etc, I can declare that the Holy Land tool bar is harmless and a useful addition to news gathering.

So install and enjoy, unless of course, you think that all Israeli software is a Mossad or “Evil Zionist” type trick?

But if that were the case you’d hardly be watching Israeli TV would you?

Either way, your choice!

26 August 2006

Confirmation on 1701

As discussed before, JPost reports

"The prospect of having to disarm Hizbullah, along with the fear of unclear rules of disengagement, have been largely responsible for European countries' reluctance to send large contingencies to the force."

25 August 2006

Books Meme

I confess I like books but as I have only managed to complete a small section (those adjacent to me) of the cataloguing at Librarything, so I found trying to recall all of those enjoyable reads a bit hard, still here goes:

A book meme (thingie) from HP

1. Name one book that changed your life: the Iliad

2. One book you've read more than once: most of the Flashman novels, again and again.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island: Capital (all volumes) by Herr Marx

4. One book that made you laugh: an Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan

5. One book that made you cry: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

6. One book you wish you'd written: Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan

7. One book you wish had never been written: anything by David Irving. He’s such a despicable little shit.

8. One book you're currently reading: several as is my habit, dipping in to Brothers Behan, Ben-Gurion & the Holocaust, Forgotten Millions and Nazi Germany & Neutral Europe (see the theme there!). Meaning to finish: Genocide and Rescue, by David Cesarani (Ed), started it ages ago, half way thru, a fairly small book but harrowing tale.

9. One book you've been meaning to read: French Revolution by George Lefebvre

10. Tag 5 people: Judeosphere, SimplyJews, Gertrude Bell Jar, Brett Lock and Bob From Brockley

11. (additional question), make up the titles of two imaginary books: In all modesty by George Galloway and The Pleasures of Celibacy by Tommy Sheridan.

24 August 2006

Should Be Read by Many

I am indebted to ZioNation, a progressive Zionism and Israel web log, for pointing me towards an article by Tarek Heggy, an Egyptian intellectual with a fine sense of proportion in this time of conflict:

The existence in any country of an armed political party that is not subject to the supervision and control of the central state authority is a prescription for chaos. That is why, in stating that his government would never have condoned what Hezbollah did by attacking Israel on July 12, the prime minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, was expressing the views of the vast majority of his war-weary countrymen.

The overwhelming majority of Christians, all of the Druze, and a vast majority of Sunni Muslims oppose the actions of Hezbollah that led to the war with Israel.

Many reasonable people in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait raised their voices not only to condemn the mass killing of innocent civilians in Lebanon and the crippling destruction of its infrastructure but also to criticize the rash adventurism that opened the gates of Hell for no other reason than to relieve the international pressure on certain regional parties.

When I heard some of the Palestinians and Lebanese who appeared on television asking, "Where is the Arab support?" I could only shake my head in wonder. Why should a party that unilaterally embarked on a rash adventure, in defiance of all reason and logic, expect others, whom it did not bother to consult, to help it? It seems that in the eyes of some Palestinians and Lebanese, Arab societies are like firefighters who must comply when summoned to put out the flames. This attitude is a throwback to the tribal mentality that prevailed thousands of years ago when a tribe would fight for one of its members even if he was the one who recklessly provoked the battle in the first place.

Since Hezbollah sparked the crisis on July 12, I have been in daily contact with my many Lebanese friends. Over a hundred told me it was shameful for the world, the United Nations, and the Arab League to accept a situation in Lebanon that the Lebanese themselves did not accept, namely, the existence of a state within the state. Some said it was Lebanon's curse to experience the existence of a state within the state more than once in its recent history. The first time was in the 1970s, when the Palestinians, together with their leaders and armed fighters, lived and ran amok in Lebanon, above the state and the law. This ultimately sparked off a civil war that dragged on for years and brought the country to its knees.

The second time was when the military and intelligence officers of Syria operated as a separate state within the Lebanese state, above its central government and its laws, for nearly a quarter-century. Now it is Hezbollah that has established itself as an autonomous state within the state, above the central government, Parliament and the law.

Arab brotherhood cannot possibly mean that countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait should allow themselves to be dragged into a conflict that erupted as a reaction, albeit an excessively violent one, to an action that was reckless in the extreme and, moreover, one that was undertaken without their knowledge or approval. What it means, rather, is that we should not condone the uncivilized, unconstitutional, and unlawful situation in Lebanon that allows an entity other than the state to declare war without the knowledge of the Lebanese Parliament, cabinet or army who are then required, together with the civilian population, to suffer the consequences of a reckless adventure launched by a party with no constitutional capacity.

Any objective analyst must commend the Arab country that dared go against the tribal custom of supporting the members of the tribe even when they commit the most heinous of crimes. I am talking of Saudi Arabia which was the first Arab country to condemn the reckless adventurism of Hezbollah that Hezbollah and Hamas are responsible for what befell Gaza and Lebanon. In their quest for personal glory, they acted rashly and without regard to the consequences.

Those who think Hezbollah can achieve its goals need only remember the lessons of history. Certain images come to mind here. For example, the words of the former president of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, to reporters at a press conference just days before Israel destroyed the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, "Egypt may be forced to sink the American Sixth Fleet if the U.S. enters the war that will be fought between Egypt and Israel." Nor can we forget Saddam Hussein's warning that American forces would commit suicide at the gates of Baghdad if America attacked Iraq. The most recent images are of Hassan Nasrallah, who a few weeks ago derisively invited the American forces to enter Lebanon where they would be annihilated, and on July 12 vowed to "destroy Haifa … and what is beyond Haifa … and what is beyond what is beyond Haifa."

I am filled with grief at the heavy price Arab societies have paid and continue to pay for patterns of thinking that can only be described as divorced from logic, objectivity, and the realities of the age. They have only to look at our recent history to realize that it is filled with thousands of examples proving that those who spoke in the name of "Arab pride and dignity" reaped only the bitter fruit of defeat and squandered God's bounty and resources he bestowed on us to improve the living conditions of our societies — not to finance reckless adventures. "

23 August 2006

TV from the Middle East

Obtaining a wide range of views on events in the Middle East can be hard, but there is a solution:

Use the Holy Land Radio tool bar

From Firefox, do Tools->Extensions->Find More Extensions

Which will bring you to Firefox Add-ons Extensions

In the search box (upper right) type: Holy

And this entry should appear: Holy Land Radio tool bar

After installing the Holy Land Radio tool bar, you will have direct access to Israeli newspaper feeds and four TV channels, across the web. The TV channels offer a nice balance, countering much of the distorted news that is shown in the West. They are remarkably critical and even harsh about Israeli society.

The tool bar offers a web range of webcams, plenty of goodies, etc.

22 August 2006

Right On?

Forgive the pun, but writely has opened up its doors again, altho still in beta it looks and feels nice.

Give it a try

20 August 2006

Wartime Videos

As it seems that the conflict in Lebanon will continue I recommend checking out this web site: Israel Radio Videos.

The video below caught my eye, as an operational room for Hezbollah and how sophisticated it was, notice in the corner, the batteries and UPS for the PCs.

Replay this video | Share this video | Watch more videos

19 August 2006

Carl's Logic

This Baloney Detection Kit is very useful in political, social or scientific research, we owe a debt to Carl Sagan:

The following are suggested as tools for testing arguments and detecting fallacious or fraudulent arguments:

1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.

2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.

3. Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").

4. Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.

5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.

6. Quantify, wherever possible.

7. If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.

8. Occam's razor - if there are two hypotheses that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.

9. Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?

Additional issues are:

• Conduct control experiments - especially "double blind" experiments where the person taking measurements is not aware of the test and control subjects.

• Check for confounding factors - separate the variables.

• Common fallacies of logic and rhetoric

• Ad hominem - attacking the arguer and not the argument.

• Argument from "authority".

• Argument from adverse consequences (putting pressure on the decision maker by pointing out dire consequences of an "unfavorable" decision).

• Appeal to ignorance (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).

• Special pleading (typically referring to god's will).

• Begging the question (assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased).

• Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses).

• Statistics of small numbers (such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes).

• Misunderstanding the nature of statistics (President Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence!)

• Inconsistency (e.g. military expenditures based on worst case scenarios but scientific projections on environmental dangers thriftily ignored because they are not "proved").

• Non sequitur - "it does not follow" - the logic falls down.

• Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - "it happened after so it was caused by" - confusion of cause and effect.

• Meaningless question ("what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?).

• Excluded middle - considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities (making the "other side" look worse than it really is).

• Short-term v. long-term - a subset of excluded middle ("why pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?").

• Slippery slope - a subset of excluded middle - unwarranted extrapolation of the effects (give an inch and they will take a mile).

• Confusion of correlation and causation.

• Caricaturing (or stereotyping) a position to make it easier to attack.

• Suppressed evidence or half-truths.

• Weasel words - for example, use of euphemisms for war such as "police action" to get around limitations on Presidential powers. "An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public"

Lebanon and the Ceasefire

The ramifications of the conflict in Lebanon are unclear, although three issues seem to stand out: Hezbollah's “victory”, the political fallout in Israel and the ceasefire.

In the short-term, the conflict may result in a propaganda victory for Hezbollah locally, as they spend vast sums of money in the rebuilding of Beirut, winning loyalty and news coverage across the Middle East. Merely surviving the onslaught of the IDF is taken by many in the Middle East as a “victory”, irrespective of the civilian casualties and the longer term consequences for Lebanon.

In Israel, Prime Minister Olmert's position is very weak and there is considerable criticism of how the General staff and government conducted the war. The result may be a shake-up amongst the military and Olmert’s replacement by Binyamin Netanyahu.

The ceasefire established on the UN resolution 1701 seems to be holding but the key element: the UN force, looks decidedly shaky.

After the initial pronouncements of participation from France and Germany, they have backtracked and significantly scaled down their involvement. Seemingly the problem is over the rules of engagement, which is a polite way of saying, how they would have to deal with Hezbollah.

France and Germany’s unwillingness to provide a sizeable element of the UN force may doom the whole project, a substantial military force would be required to disarm Hezbollah.

The disarmament of Hezbollah is central to resolving this and any future conflict.

I suspect that Germany and France are unwilling to place their soldiers directly in the firing line, as it appears that Hezbollah will not willingly give up their weapons.

So the UN force will be obliged to either:

1. disarm Hezbollah, according to UN resolutions 1701 and 1559
2. or play along with the façade of removing weapons, rockets and missiles from southern Lebanon, when in reality they will be hidden for “round” two.

The latter is more likely and so we can expect another conflict within the next year or so.

Unless Hezbollah disband their militia and remove the constant threat to Israeli civilians there will be another conflict, and I suspect much bloodier, next time around.

17 August 2006

New Blog or Beta?

Blogger gets a fair amount of criticism and with some justification, there are times when it grinds to a halt and throws a wobbly.

Nevertheless, it is free and if used when there’s not too much congestion on the Web (when North America is asleep) then it tends to work well enough.

One proviso: do most of your entries off-line and then upload, less chance of a hiccup or losing a post that way.

In response, Blogger has introduced a new beta service at http://beta.blogger.com/

You need a Google account but that’s easy to get.

Be brave and give it a try!

14 August 2006

Site(s) of the Week/Month 17

As a break from the Middle East

Site(s) of the Week/Month is a semi regular slot for interesting web sites that have caught my fancy recently.

I present:

The Association for Skeptical Enquiry

Google's blog - keep an eye oh Google's goings on!

Gizmo's Top Picks

12 August 2006

Vulture Man or Green Helmet

Never let it be said that I don't, at least, try to have a sense of humour (altho, I think some of my few commenters don't always get the jokes, pity)

So continuing a theme, I present the Green Helmet Guy


Oh by the way, if some people need me to explain : why I think that Hezbollah’s helpers are lower than vultures for desecrating dead bodies on camera, then me explaining it won't make much difference, because it should be damn obvious from the outset and hardly require an explanation.

11 August 2006

Staged Managed War

I have tried not to comment too much on the conflict in Lebanon, because I think what we hear day to day changes, and the final picture will be very different. I think we need to step back from the constant stream of news coverage and think how is that news being manipulated?

One aspect of my distrust is Hezbollah’s stage management of the media and how many news organisations seem to go along with it.

This small video shows Hezbollah’s cynicism and willingness to use the dead for its own vile purposes:

09 August 2006

Respect/SWP in Arabic?

Check out shlemazl's post on the recent demonstrations in London and the slogans that were chanted in Arabic.

Old Arafat's technique, say one thing in English "I want peace, etc" and another in Arabic "those damn Jews" etc

I wonder if the ‘internationalists’ in Respect/SWP will make that a regular “official” chant?

Either way, I’ll bet that Galloway sings it in the shower from now on.

04 August 2006

PM's speech?

I was very taken by this speech for PM Olmert (written by Ben Caspit), it is a bit OTT but you'll get the point:

"Ladies and gentlemen, leaders of the world. I, the Prime Minister of Israel, am speaking to you from Jerusalem in the face of the terrible pictures from Kfar Kana. Any human heart, wherever it is, must sicken and recoil at the sight of such pictures. There are no words of comfort that can mitigate the enormity of this tragedy. Still, I am looking you straight in the eye and telling you that the State of Israel will continue its military campaign in Lebanon.

The Israel Defense Forces will continue to attack targets from which missiles and Katyusha rockets are fired at hospitals, old age homes and kindergartens in Israel. I have instructed the security forces and the IDF to continue to hunt for the Katyusha stockpiles and launch sites from which these savages are bombarding the State of Israel.

We will not hesitate, we will not apologize and we will not back off. If they continue to launch missiles into Israel from Kfar Kana, we will continue to bomb Kfar Kana. Today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Here, there and everywhere. The children of Kfar Kana could now be sleeping peacefully in their homes, unmolested, had the agents of the devil not taken over their land and turned the lives of our children into hell.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time you understood: the Jewish state will no longer be trampled upon. We will no longer allow anyone to exploit population centers in order to bomb our citizens. No one will be able to hide anymore behind women and children in order to kill our women and children.
This anarchy is over. You can condemn us, you can boycott us, you can stop visiting us and, if necessary, we will stop visiting you.

A voice for six million citizens

Today I am serving as the voice of six million bombarded Israeli citizens who serve as the voice of six million murdered Jews who were melted down to dust and ashes by savages in Europe. In both cases, those responsible for these evil acts were, and are, barbarians devoid of all humanity, who set themselves one simple goal: to wipe the Jewish race off the face of the earth, as Adolph Hitler said, or to wipe the State of Israel off the map, as Mahmoud Ahmedinjad proclaims.

And you - just as you did not take those words seriously then, you are ignoring them again now. And that, ladies and gentlemen, leaders of the world, will not happen again. Never again will we wait for bombs that never came to hit the gas chambers. Never again will we wait for salvation that never arrives. Now we have our own air force. The Jewish people are now capable of standing up to those who seek their destruction - those people will no longer be able to hide behind women and children. They will no longer be able to evade their responsibility.

Every place from which a Katyusha is fired into the State of Israel will be a legitimate target for us to attack. This must be stated clearly and publicly, once and for all. You are welcome to judge us, to ostracize us, to boycott us and to vilify us. But to kill us? Absolutely not.

Four months ago I was elected by hundreds of thousands of citizens to the office of Prime Minister of the government of Israel, on the basis of my plan for unilaterally withdrawing from 90 percent of the areas of Judea and Samaria, the birth place and cradle of the Jewish people; to end most of the occupation and to enable the Palestinian people to turn over a new leaf and to calm things down until conditions are ripe for attaining a permanent settlement between us.

The Prime Minister who preceded me, Ariel Sharon, made a full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip back to the international border, and gave the Palestinians there a chance to build a new reality for themselves. The Prime Minister who preceded him, Ehud Barak, ended the lengthy Israeli presence in Lebanon and pulled the IDF back to the international border, leaving the land of the cedars to flourish, develop and establish its democracy and its economy.

What did the State of Israel get in exchange for all of this? Did we win even one minute of quiet? Was our hand, outstretched in peace, met with a handshake of encouragement? Ehud Barak's peace initiative at Camp David let loose on us a wave of suicide bombers who smashed and blew to pieces over 1,000 citizens, men, women and children. I don't remember you being so enraged then. Maybe that happened because we did not allow TV close-ups of the dismembered body parts of the Israeli youngsters at the Dolphinarium? Or of the shattered lives of the people butchered while celebrating the Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya? What can you do - that's the way we are. We don't wave body parts at the camera. We grieve quietly.

We do not dance on the roofs at the sight of the bodies of our enemy's children - we express genuine sorrow and regret. That is the monstrous behavior of our enemies. Now they have risen up against us. Tomorrow they will rise up against you. You are already familiar with the murderous taste of this terror. And you will taste more.

In a loud and clear voice

And Ariel Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza. What did it get us? A barrage of Kassem missiles fired at peaceful settlements and the kidnapping of soldiers. Then too, I don't recall you reacting with such alarm. And for six years, the withdrawal from Lebanon has drawn the vituperation and crimes of a dangerous, extremist Iranian agent, who took over an entire country in the name of religious fanaticism and is trying to take Israel hostage on his way to Jerusalem - and from there to Paris and London.

An enormous terrorist infrastructure has been established by Iran on our border, threatening our citizens, growing stronger before our very eyes, awaiting the moment when the land of the Ayatollahs becomes a nuclear power in order to bring us to our knees. And make no mistake - we won't go down alone. You, the leaders of the free and enlightened world, will go down along with us.

So today, here and now, I am putting an end to this parade of hypocrisy. I don't recall such a wave of reaction in the face of the 100 citizens killed every single day in Iraq. Sunnis kill Shiites who kill Sunnis, and all of them kill Americans - and the world remains silent. And I am hard pressed to recall a similar reaction when the Russians destroyed entire villages and burned down large cities in order to repress the revolt in Chechnya. And when NATO bombed Kosovo for almost three months and crushed the civilian population - then you also kept silent. What is it about us, the Jews, the minority, the persecuted, that arouses this cosmic sense of justice in you? What do we have that all the others don't?

In a loud clear voice, looking you straight in the eye, I stand before you openly and I will not apologize. I will not capitulate. I will not whine. This is a battle for our freedom. For our humanity. For the right to lead normal lives within our recognized, legitimate borders. It is also your battle. I pray and I believe that now you will understand that. Because if you don't, you may regret it later, when it's too late. "

Sadly, I think that Olmert would be too 'diplomatic' to use it