Saturday, January 28, 2006

Diplomacy is described sometimes as saying "nice doggy" while you look around for a rock.

Sometimes when I hear the President or other administration officials describe Islam as a "religion of peace" and other politically correct nice-nice, I think about that description and wonder if it's not just their way of saying "nice doggy."
Twenty years ago today the Challenger was destroyed shortly after lift off. I remember it vividly; I was just pulling into the parking lot at Los Angeles Baptist College, where I expected to teach my morning class on the Minor Prophets. I was listening to coverage of the launch on KNX, the local all-news station here in Southern California.

It was a devastating feeling. I told my class, then I went through the motions of the lecture; afterward, I went to the student lounge and watched coverage of the disaster on the TV there; quite a number of students and other faculty were there.

That evening, I tried to console myself by watching some science fiction movies; the one I remember was the movie 2010: Odyssey Two. Not the greatest movie, but I found comfort in the thought that our quest for space would surely continue.

Thankfully it has, even after the loss of a second shuttle, Columbia, in 2003.

Here in the Antelope Valley, they renamed 10th Street East Challenger Way. Last year they renamed Avenue M Columbia Way. Given that all the orbiters were built here, that seems appropriate.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

It is useful to keep in mind that when Hamas speaks of "the occupation" of Palestine, they are not referring to just the West Bank and Gaza. They mean all of Israel. Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, has labelled the Jewish state as a "tumour" that should be "wiped off the map" or moved as far away as Alaska, and has branded the Holocaust a "myth".

Iran and Hamas are allies and declared in December that they represented a "united front" against Israel. Today, reported the following translations of statements by leaders of Hamas:

Special Dispatch - Palestinians
January 27, 2006
No. 1079

Hamas in Run-up to Elections: Relatively Pragmatic Statements Alongside Extremist Statements

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .


In the run-up to the Palestinian elections, Hamas members in the Palestinian Authority began to make relatively pragmatic statements, while continuing to make extremist statements. According to media reports, Hamas has retained a media consultant to improve the movement's image - though Hamas claims that the consultant was hired to provide technical advice on enhancing contacts with the media(1). It should be noted that the relatively pragmatic statements were made by Hamas members involved in the elections, and not by the movement's central leaders, who live abroad. These leaders, in particular political bureau head Khaled Mash'al, emphasize continued resistance alongside "diplomatic activity," and state that there is no contradiction between the two.

The following are excerpts from statements by Hamas members:

Establishing a Palestinian State Within the 1967 Borders as an Interim Solution

Isma'il Haniyya, who headed the Hamas list of candidates for the Legislative Council, said in an interview with the French news agency AFP that "Hamas supports the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in the territories occupied [by Israel] in 1967 - as an interim solution. However, Hamas will continue to maintain its views regarding the boundaries of historical Palestine, and [in terms of] refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the occupation."(2)

In an interview with the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dr. Mahmoud Al-Rumhi, a candidate on the Hamas list, explained: "Hamas is aware of the changes that have occurred in the region and in the world, and is therefore proposing an interim solution. This solution is not new. I first mentioned it in 1988, and referred to it again in the 90s. The shahid Sheikh Ahmad Yassin repeated these statements in 2002 and 2003, and announced that [Hamas] is willing to accept an interim solution based on the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in the territories that were occupied in 1967, removal of the settlements, and return of the refugees - all this in return for a hudna [truce] of limited duration. This does not stand in contradiction to [the fact that] we have a strategic position..."(3)

Another candidate on the Hamas list, Ahmad Bahr, repeated at a Gaza election rally that "Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders as an interim solution, but without giving up a single grain of Palestinian soil, without recognizing the State of Israel, and on condition that Hamas retain the right to possess arms."(4)

Hamas Election Platform Does Not Include Eradication of Israel

The Hamas election platform includes a declaration of intent to "eliminate the occupation," but does not mention the eradication of Israel. Upon the publication of the platform, there were various reactions to the omission of this objective, which is often mentioned by Hamas and appears in its charter. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri vehemently denied that there was any contradiction between the platform and Hamas's charter: "The platform refers to details and implementation methods for the next four years, while the charter lays out our permanent strategic views."

Salah Al-Bardawil, another candidate on the Hamas list, stated that "Hamas has never proposed to change or amend its charter. The platform presents a realistic view that reflects Hamas's goals for the next four years. Had we spoken of eliminating and eradicating Israel within this period, we would have been be deceiving our people and repeating false slogans. But this does not stand in contradiction [to the fact that] we place emphasis on the elimination and non-recognition of Israel."(5)

Muaman Bseiso, columnist for the Hamas weekly Al-Risala, wrote: "The charter is not the Koran, which is unchangeable. I believe that one day it will be changed or replaced according to the views of the Hamas, in order to realize the national interests of the Palestinians."(6)

On Negotiating With Israel

Hamas candidate for the Jerusalem area Muhammad Abu Teir said, "Negotiations [with Israel] conducted by Hamas would be more effective than the negotiations that have been held for the past 10 years without achieving anything."(7) On the following day, Abu Teir denied having made this statement.

Dr. Mahmoud Al-Rumhi said that "a distinction must be made between negotiations with the occupation towards a political [settlement], and day-to-day contacts regarding services [for the population]. For example, after Hamas won [the municipal elections] in Qalqiliya, it naturally had dealings with the municipality of [the Israeli town of] Kfar Saba regarding water, electricity and sewage [management]."(8)

However, in an interview on Al-Jazeera TV aired January 23, 2006, Khaled Mash'al stated that Hamas would not negotiate with Israel. Likewise, Isma'il Haniyya said: "Negotiations with Israel are not on the Hamas agenda, since past negotiations between Israel and the PA have been unsuccessful. Hamas will not repeat attempts that have [already] failed. [Moreover,] the stronger side always has an advantage in negotiations."(9)

In contrast, senior Hamas member Mahmoud Al-Zahar said at a press conference: "There is no prohibition on negotiating with Israel, but the political crime is to sit with the Israelis, exchange smiles, and say that there is progress, when in reality there is no progress... If Hamas wins [the elections], it will be able to come up with thousands of appropriate ways [to hold negotiations], provided that the Israeli side has anything to offer in terms of stopping the aggression, withdrawal [from territories], and release of prisoners." Al-Zahar mentioned as an example the indirect contacts between Israel and Hizbullah via German mediation regarding the release of Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails. "Negotiations with Israel," he said, "have brought the Palestinians only destruction, martyrdom and injuries, in addition to economic disaster."(10)

Resistance is Hamas's Strategic Policy

Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri said: "The resistance plan is Hamas's strategic policy until [we achieve] the complete liberation of our land... Hamas wants to reinforce the option of jihad and resistance in order to ensure the release of the prisoners, the return of the refugees, and the restoration of all the other rights that [the Palestinians] have been robbed of."(11)

At an assembly in Damascus, Khaled Mash'al said: "This assembly holds special significance, since it takes place after Gaza was liberated against the will of the Zionist aggressors. Who knows when we will celebrate the liberation of Gaza, Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, and all the rest of Palestine. Hamas, together with the Palestinian people, will implement its policy using a new language, without feeling any urge to meet with the enemy or negotiate with it. Was Gaza liberated through negotiations?! Hamas will continue to wield its weapons and to [claim] its right to resist. Resistance will [continue to] be a strategic option until the last piece of Palestinian land is liberated, and until the last refugee returns."(12)

(1) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 21, 2006.
(2) Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), January 22, 2006.
(3) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 19, 2006.
(4) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 22, 2006.
(5), January 14, 2006.
(6), January 14, 2006.
(7) Al-Ayyam (PA), January 16, 2006.
(8) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 19, 2006.
(9) Al-Ayyam (PA), January 22, 2006.
(10) Al-Ayyam (PA), January 24, 2006.
(11) Al-Risala (Gaza), January 16, 2006. On a different occasion, Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said that his movement "has no choice but to kidnap Israeli soldiers in order to negotiate their exchange with prisoners held in Israel." Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 19, 2006.
(12), December 31, 2005.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
Search previous MEMRI publications at

If you no longer wish to receive this publication via email, please reply and enter only the word "UNSUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

Some people think we are unbalanced in our support of Israel versus the rest of the Arab world or the Palestinians. Odd, really. Where exactly do you stand to balance a free, democratic nation against totalitarian anti-semitic thugs who believe sending suicide bombers into discos is a fine foreign policy? To me, it would seem to be analagous to the stand I might take between the police and rapists. Sure, the police make mistakes sometimes, but that doesn't give me any warm feelings for rapists.

Critics of Israel seem to forget that Israel is a pluralistic liberal western democracy. Free press, lots of ideas and disagreements and discussions; wide range of beliefs. Freedom. Did I mention that? And certainly, Israelis make mistakes. And those Israelis who are guilty of attrocities, just as the members of the military who mistreated detainees at Abu Graib, have a habit of winding up in prison.

Hamas is equivalent to the Nazi party in Germany. In Mein Kampf, Hitler laid out his plans. The Nazis were quite open about their desires. And yet few believed them, except for Churchill and a few others, who were branded as extremists and roadblocks to peace until it was nearly too late.

Hamas tells us that they want to destroy the nation of Israel. They regularly kill Jews just because they are Jews. Their allies in Iran say that they want to wipe Israel out.

Me, I tend to believe that these people are telling us what they really think. And I have no reason to suspect that the Palestinian people who happily voted for these thugs have any doubts about what they intend either. It wasn't just corruption and a bad economy that made them vote as they did. They voted as they did because they hate the Jews and like the Nazis are happy to blame them for their own problems. Pardon me if I have no sympathy for a bunch of people who honor bombers who kill Jews and danced in the streets and celebrated on 911. Pardon me if I believe them when they tell everyone that they intend to destroy Israel and have no wish to negotiate, except as an "interum" step toward their ultimate goal of destruction.
Things that most people believe that simply are not true:

1. You can boil a frog to death if you heat the water very slowly. NOT TRUE.
2. You only use ten percent of your brain. NOT TRUE.
3. You have to wait a half hour after eating before going swimming. NOT TRUE.

As Snopes explains about such things:

Regardless of the exact version heard, the myth is spread and repeated, by both the well-meaning and the deliberately deceptive. The belief that remains, then, is what Robert J. Samuelson termed a "psycho-fact, [a] belief that, though not supported by hard evidence, is taken as real because its constant repetition changes the way we experience life." People who don't know any better will repeat it over and over, until, like the admonition against swimming right after you eat, the claim is widely believed. ("Triumph of the Psycho-Fact," Newsweek, 9 May 1994.)
There was an election in the Palestinian Territories. Hamas won. And what can we say about Hamas? It is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Just like al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists, it infuses nationalism with religious faith. What is their goal? The ethnic cleansing or the death of all Israelis, and the incorporation of their land into the new state of Palestine. Suicide bombing is one weapon they have used on a regular basis. Hamas leaders have already been quick to say that they will take their place in the legislative assembly and keep their weapons. Commentators patiently explain how corrupt the other politicians were in Gaza and the West Bank, and so the people wanted change, they wanted to get rid of corruption. That's what motivated the Palestinians to elect Hamas. They don't really buy in to all that Jew hatred and suicide bombing. It was just about the economy stupid! The economy in those places is so poor, of course the people were desperate and picked Hamas. But the election is over and now and the slogans will be only slogans, but they will have to moderate themselves since they need to focus on building roads and hospitals and collecting the garbage and they'll have to compromise and work for a peaceful solution.

No. It is 1932 and the Nazis have come to power. Hamas is a terrorist organization; they preach hatred against the Jews and use the same arguments that the Nazis did. They do not believe in compromise. They belive in sending youths to blow themselves up in the hopes of killing Jewish women and children. And they will no more moderate themselves than the Nazis did when they gained the chancellorship of Germany. The Palestinian people do not want peace. They want war. They just voted for it. And war there shall be. Bet on it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

And for the ethically challenged who live among us, a reminder of what actual repression and actual torture are can be seen on video available at The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Not for the faint of heart.

Occasional forays to can also help remind people what's really going on in the world, too--for instance, if you ever have the thought that the terrorist organization Hamas might be moderated by participating in elections in the Palestinian territories (see moronic reports here and here). Um, yeah, just like the Nazi Party was moderated by participating in elections in Weimar Germany back in the 1930s. What part of "anti-Semites are dangerous" don't people get?
Ah, yes, hypocrisy, thy name is Google:

SAN FRANCISCO — Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet's fastest growing market.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company planned to roll out a new version of its search engine bearing China's Web suffix ".cn," on Wednesday....

Google's decision rankled Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog group that has sharply criticized Internet companies including Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.'s for submitting to China's censorship regime.

"This is a real shame," said Julien Pain, head of Reporters with Borders' Internet desk. "When a search engine collaborates with the government like this, it makes it much easier for the Chinese government to control what is being said on the Internet."

Once again, we see how, for the sake of business, Google will bend over and take anything. Meanwhile, the US Govt is criticized for wanting to examine searches that are related to child pornography, while Google is praised for their brave stand against the attempted "oppression" and "dangerous infringement on privacy." But Google will happily restrict the access of Chinese people to whatever the Chinese government would prefer they not see, and they are happy to do the same thing for the governments of France and Germany.

When Google censors results in China, it intends to post notifications alerting users that some content has been removed — to comply with local laws. The company provides similar alerts in Germany and France when, to comply with national laws, it censors results to remove references to Nazi paraphernalia.

And yet I do not hear Belefonte and those like him raising a peep about this actual repression. Real censorship is of no great importance to him. Instead he prefers to believe in imaginary things, for instance that it is Americans that are repressed and facing the loss of all their freedoms. I wonder if Belefonte also believes in unicorns? Perhaps he'd be interested in buying a bridge in Brooklyn?...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

You know, people like Harry Belafonte puzzle me. There are many like him. According to he said:

“We’ve come to this dark time in which the new Gestapo of Homeland Security lurks here, where citizens are having their rights suspended,” Belafonte said in a speech to the annual meeting of the Arts Presenters Members Conference.

What puzzles me is that if what he said is true, then how is it that I know what he said? If this was the fascist, repressive state that he wants us to imagine, I don't understand how it could be that his words were reported in newspapers, TV, radio and the internet. If this is a fascist state, then how odd that he is sleeping peacefully in his bed with no fear that there will be a knock on his door at two in the morning. He probably ate in a fancy restaurant today, where he was treated with respect. I suspect he has no fear at all that he might wind up in a concentration camp, nor does he have to fear gas chambers. Doubtless, he will continue to be well-paid for what he does. And yet, despite the fact that he is free, can say and do and go wherever he likes, he will continue making these insane comments. And there will be many people who will agree with him, and will repeat his words, and like him, they will sleep peacefully, too, with no fear of harm.

Meanwhile, he and those like him, and those who applaud him, will continue to remain silent about the actual dictatorships in the world, they will ignore the nations that actually torture, who actually toss people in jail for speaking their minds, or worse, they will embrace fondly the brutal oppressors of the world and spout praise in their capitals while their artists, writers, and intellectuals are locked away, and where critics of the regime are actually killed or jailed.

But if someone dares disgree publically with Belafonte, or someone in the current US government says an unkind word about him, he'll shout that he's being silenced, even as thunderous applause floods over him from his next speaking engagement.

Friday, January 20, 2006 reports that Google is rebuffing the US goverment's efforts to get data on what terms are searched:

SAN FRANCISCO - Google Inc. is rebuffing the Bush administration’s demand for a peek at what millions of people have been looking up on the Internet’s leading search engine — a request that underscores the potential for online databases to become tools for government surveillance.

It should be pointed out that the US government's request very specifically, excludes personally identifiable information. The same article points out that:

...the government says it isn’t seeking any data that ties personal information to search requests...

So I can't see that any privacy issues are in view here. They just want the data about what is being searched for, because they wonder what the percentages are for searches for child pornography. They want to know how significant the problem is.

This doesn't seem like a bad thing.

But when the Chinese government asked Google to restrict searches in China and block sites that the Chinese government doesn't like--sites that are critical of Beijing--Google happily complied:

Google's recently launched news service in China doesn't display results from websites blocked by that country's authorities, raising prickly questions for an online search engine that has famously promised to "do no evil".

Dynamic Internet Technology, a research firm striving to defeat online censorship, conducted tests that found Google omits results from the government-banned sites if search requests are made through computers connecting to the internet in China.

Steered by an identical search request, computers with a United States connection retrieved results from the sites blocked by China.

"That's a problem because the Chinese people need to know there are alternative opinions from the Chinese government and there are many things being covered up by the government," said Bill Xia, Dynamic's chief executive. "Users expect Google to return anything on the internet. That's what a search engine does."

Mr Xia suspects Google is co-operating with the Chinese government's censorship efforts to smooth the way for expansion plans that could help the Mountain View-based company boost future profits.

Why is it that people will protest freely in our democracy, stand on "principle" but lose their principles when they are in a totalitarian dictatorship? Oh, yeah. dictatorships shoot people who protest. Google appears guilty of gross hypocrisy. They are not principled, they just know if they don't do what the Chinese government says, they'll lose that market; but if they don't do what the US government wants, they'll lose nothing. They aren't alone, of course. Microsoft took down a Chinese blog, and Yahoo turned over data that led to the conviction of a Chinese journalist. But I'm sure their principles would kick back in if the US government needed something.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Washington Post, among other sources, reports the following words from the mayor of New Orleans:

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 16 -- Mayor C. Ray Nagin suggested Monday that hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America" -- and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.

"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country," Nagin said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Pat Robertson is not alone is being an asshole, apparently. But then the false theology of Job's friends, that bad things happen only to bad people, and that if you suffer, you must have deserved it, is a widely believed lie.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

CNN reports that Pat Robertson apologized:

Evangelist Pat Robertson apologized in a Wednesday letter for saying that the major stroke suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was divine retribution for "dividing God's land."

The apology -- offered in a letter to Sharon's son, Omri -- followed a threat by Israel to exclude Robertson from a proposed $50 million Christian heritage site in northern Israel.

Of course, it took him until Wednesday on January 11 to say anything--after his spokespeople had initially come out to reinforce and argue in favor of his stupid remark--and then his apology arrives only in the face of Israel deciding that maybe doing business with a rude jerk is a bad idea. Frankly, his apology strikes me as little better than the babbling of a child caught with his hand in a cookie jar. Certainly the child is sorry--sorry he got caught. And the apology sounds more like an excuse than anything else, since he blames those who reported his remarks claiming that somehow they misconstrued what he meant. Hardly. Frankly, he remains a jerk and this apology doesn't much help his case, since he still believes that what he said was true. I don't see that his theology has shifted. I think he's just worried about losing money.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A "hyperspace" engine that could make interstellar space travel a reality by flying into other dimensions is being investigated by the United States government. The hypothetical device, which has been outlined in principle but is based on a controversial theory about the fabric of the universe, could potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days, according to a report in today's New Scientist magazine. They also report that a test engine could be online within five years.

See New Scientist for the article.

See here for a PDF of the actual scientific paper.

I am very skeptical of all of this; but it sure would be cool.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

It is reported that Pat Robertson has once again opened his mouth. As is usually the case when this happens, he has reminded everyone that he is an asshole:

The Reverend Pat Robertson says Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's massive stroke could be God's punishment for giving up Israeli territory.

The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network told viewers of "The 700 Club" that Sharon was "dividing God's land," even though the Bible says doing so invites "God's enmity."

Robertson added, "I would say woe to any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course."

He noted that former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

Robertson said God's message is, "This land belongs to me. You'd better leave it alone."

Assuming this news report is an accurate portrayal of his words, I have to wonder once again why Robertson can't learn to keep his mouth closed. If God was really in the business of punishing people for being "bad" like Pat Robertson believes, well...what I'm thinking isn't very nice.

Hey Pat, here's a hint for you. When someone gets ill, or something bad happens, the proper response is simply, "we'll be praying for him/her and his/her family." Duh. Maybe if Robertson would just reread the book of Job and ask himself if it's really a good idea to keep acting just like Job's friends, he could avoid being a jackass all the time.


Well, both CNN and MSNBC are reporting what Robertson said. And now his spokesperson had this to say:

Robertson spokeswoman Angell Watts said of critics who challenged his remarks, “What they’re basically saying is, ‘How dare Pat Robertson quote the Bible?”’

“This is what the word of God says,” Watts said. “This is nothing new to the Christian community.”

Um. No. This is not what the Bible says. Robertson is guilty of misquoting it and pulling things out of context. In point of fact, Robertson's position is unscriptural, in the sense that it stands opposed to what the Bible actually says. But his spokesperson is right: it's not new to the Christian community. We seem to have no lower percentage of assholes among us than the human race as a whole. Not too surprising, I guess. It's just too bad Roberson is one of those assholes, whose theology is that of Job's friends: stupid and wrong.