Saturday, February 08, 2003

Ah, what a blog: Orange Brownies

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys

courtesy of
Isaac Maimon and Shaister

Ladies and gentlemen, dastardly politicians, French and otherwise, aside, can we do without ethnic slurs? Thank you.
Only the Brits....

...can publish a picture like this

with the deadpan comment President Putin is on the right

Thanks, Gil, for reminding me (alternative link, via Gil)
Riddle of the day

What on the earth is a diaspora minister? Sounds like Orwell. (Oh sorry, I know he has been declared a no-name, I'll try to drop the bad habit, working real hard on it.) And don't say it's all my fault.

Social duties

Great, Diane, these tiles make marvellous earrings. But on a cat?

Mr. Sha!, meet your long-lost twin Mr. Shou?

Thank you, Mr. Geller, do you issue membership cards? It might be "Your Majesty" by the way. No, my signup for hacking commissions is closed at the moment, what about swapping the colours?
On checking my Haloscan admin panel yesterday night, I discovered a fine comment by Languagehat to an early post of mine:

I don't understand how it's possible to pronounce the two differently unless you use some kind of artificial stress ("hipo-CRAY-cy"). I think you've taken a misspelling for a separate word (as if I were to come across vysokosnyi and think it a separate word from visokosnyi, assuming a meaning based on the vy- prefix. The people you know may be perfectly literate and yet misspell this word. (As a professional editor, I assure you that literate people misspell thiings all the time.)

Humph... well, more of a fun interpretation on part really ;) For non-Russian speakers: visoksnyi (god) means leap year, the "vy-" misspelling can be confused either with the prefix "vy-" (="out", Latin "ex-") or with "vysoko-" ("high-"). As for the pronounciation: it doesn't seem to be misinterpreted the other way round: I have never seen "democrisy" yet...
Good news

Salam Pax is back, bannerless, with the kind ministrations of ... Blogger, no, wait, of its Director of Business Development, Jason Shellen. Don't hurry with that tattoo, startups have a disquieting tendency to rename themselves after some time. Shame on Mr. Shellen for neither hosting his site on Blogspot, nor sporting the full-size Blogger logo!

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

If you have met my Haloscan comments today...

...feel free to reveal their hideout to my guestmap.

Update: Looks like a long-term condition. For a temporary workaround, click here

Update #2: If you do see the comments links, but with "comment (0)" on the entire page, it means that Haloscan's server is still "undergoing maintenance". Don't try to post.

Update #3: I wish there were something like this. I don't really care to get myself a proper host with some of the advanced weblog and commenting systems. For one, I haven't the faintest idea how to run a mySQL database :(

Tuesday, February 04, 2003


Song of the Makiwa Tree


is the time for fires, for limbs to splinter,
trunks to topple down koppies, bark to drop
like peeled skin. Time for Efifi's crop
to tighten, but not crack. Not yet crack.
Ntabemnyama carries on his back
a herd of Matabele cattle ghosts.


by John Eppel, Zimbabwe
My rant on the Israeli PR

Gil Shterzer the Israeli Guy is back with a post on the latest and greatest in Israeli PR:

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is sending Israeli students abroad to meet and talk with other students around the world to try and present the Israeli point of view. The idea is that first hand contact with Israelis is a good tool to explain the Israeli case. ... The Foreign Ministry is looking for new Israeli students to participate in this project and they have this one-week seminar as preparation next week.

Now, this may be a good idea in theory. The only thing that disturbs me is that the poor students in question will be trained by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Seen from where I am at the moment, both the Israeli diplomacy and the Israeli PR in general are a bad joke, to put it mildly.

Take the last two Israeli ambassadors in Germany, which happens to be the largest and - current "New" vs. "Old Europe" circus notwithstanding - on the long run the most influental country of the continent (*hears a pedant approaching* - OK, you are right, of its Western part). German speakers are with some 100 million the largest native speaker group in this part of the world. Seen pragmatically, history or not, Germany is an important political partner. The German-speaking audience (which includes not only Germany proper, but also Austria, more than half of Switzerland and minority groups elsewhere, plus many parts of Eastern Europe, where German is taught traditionally as the first foreign language - all of these places avidly consuming German media along with the local productions) is easily the second most significant one after the anglophones.

On this background, Israeli diplomatic work is horryfying. The previous ambassador, Avi Primor, fluent in German and a charismatic personality, was immensely popular. There was only one problem: his popularity, just like that of Shimon Peres, came at the cost of the country he was supposed to represent. It is hardly the job of an ambassador to use his position in order to attempt to influence the government of the country he represents - by funny coincidence, in a way that the country he is stationed in considers desirable. He came to be regarded by many Germans as the last hope of poor Palestinians, taken away from them by evil Zionist powers, his - doubtlessly interesting - book of memoirs became a bestseller. His successor, Shimon Stein, is his opposite in every respect imaginable, which is too much of a good thing once again: unsvervingly loyal to his government, unfortunately with the appearance of a human robot. Stiff, clumsy, his German makes even the Israel-friendliest listeners wonder about the construction of the speech synthetizer he must have for a brain: why did they program it solely for churning out slogans? A nice man in private, they say, but with absolutely no show talent, a basic qualification for someone in his position.

Neither Primor nor Stein have been capable of setting up professional PR work so many other countries excel in - a matter of survival, given the highly aesthetized and equally superficial European perception. Press releases of the Israeli embassy are among the favourite sources of sardonic entertainment for employees of German media institutions - not because of their contents but because of their sheer unimaginably poor writing style. No Western country produces anything even remotely resembling this, and much of the non-Western world, notably the Arab states, does better as well. The homepages of Israeli embassies in Europe are a scream - take a look at if you can stand it (for a comfort: the previous version was much worse). Not that Berlin lacks inhabitants with the requisite writing and design skills sympathetic to the Israeli cause. But then, neither do London, Rome and Paris. The Israeli diplomatic apparatus must be bent on presenting Israel as a third-rate banana republic.

Same goes for Israeli media appearances in general. While the pro-Israel camp makes "exposing Palestinian lies" a second profession, few bother to ask whether, for the average guy who switches on his CNN, Saeb Erekat can be simply much more pleasant to look at and listen to than Ranaan Gissin.

I can carry on for (p)ages, better stop here. Is there any hope that Israeli students will do any better than their mentors despite the instructions they will most likely receive?


William Cohen, US defense secretary, 1997:

"Alvin Toeffler has written about this in terms of some scientists in their laboratories trying to devise certain types of pathogens that would be ethnic-specific so that they could just eliminate certain ethnic groups and races; and others are designing some sort of engineering, some sort of insects that can destroy specific crops. Others are engaging even in an eco-type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves. So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations. "

William Cohen, former US defense secretary, 2003:

He [Cohen] does not deny America is paying a price for its support of Israel when it comes to enlisting international support against Saddam. From his friend King Abdullah of Jordan he has understood that the lack of progress in the peace process is making it difficult to express public support for the U.S., and therefore he believes that the administration should immediately put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back on the table, even before the conflict with Iraq is over. "The Israelis will also have to understand that they must give the Palestinians some hope, and not in the distant future but within a reasonable amount of time, so that they too can enjoy the fruits of sovereignty," says Cohen, noting that in his opinion the Israeli public will have to begin a debate on the subject of the Jewish settlements in the territories as part of the attempt to give the Palestinians hope.

Incidentally, I have discovered the full text of a recently praised article in a secret corner of the NYT site:

Palestine, Iraq, and American Strategy
Michael Scott Doran

There are many reasons why Washington should distance itself from misguided Israeli policies such as the building of settlements in the occupied territories, but among them should not be the hope that such a move would greatly affect the broader sources of resentment and despair that Palestine-as-symbol encompasses. If coupled with a stand-down on Iraq, moreover, dramatic pressure on Israel now might even inflame matters further, by calling into question American willingness to support its friends and oppose its enemies in the region. ... If an American road to a calmer situation in Palestine does in fact exist, it runs through Baghdad.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Quality management of the year

hopefully the Big Media will regard this procedure as a serious proposal
On the current state of European-European and European-American relations

I'm sorry. My head spins. I can't take any more of this at the moment. Substitute "papa" and "mama" for Rummy, Tony, Gerd, Jacques, etc.

Papa loves mambo
Mama loves mambo
Look at 'em sway with it,
gettin' so gay with it
Shoutin' "olé" with it, wow! (ooh!)

Papa loves mambo (Papa loves mambo)
Mama loves mambo (Mama loves mambo)
Papa does great with it,
swings like a gate with it
Evens his weight with it, now!

He goes to, she goes fro
He goes fast, she goes slow
He goes left 'n' she goes right (Papa's lookin' for mama but mama is nowhere in sight)

Papa loves mambo
Mama loves mambo
Havin' their fling again,
younger than Spring again
Feelin' that zing again, wow! (ooh!)

Papa loves mambo (Papa loves mambo)
Mama loves mambo (Mama loves mambo)
Don't let her rumba and don't let her samba 'cause papa loves mama tonight (ooh!) (Papa loves mambo) (Mama loves mambo) (Papa loves mambo) (Mama loves mambo)

He goes to, she goes fro
He goes fast, she goes slow
He goes left 'n' she goes right (Papa's lookin' for mama but mama is nowhere in sight) (ooh!)

Papa loves mambo (Papa loves mambo)
Mama loves mambo (Mama loves mambo)
Havin' their fling again,
younger than Spring again
Feelin' that zing again, wow! (ooh!)

(Papa loves mambo) Mambo papa (Mama loves mambo)
Mambo mama (Don't let her rumba and don't let her samba) 'cause papa-- Loves a mambo tonight (ooh!)

Only in Germany...

...can a, yes, travel agency with a homepage keep its customers...
Thomas Nephew of the Newsrack blog on why the non-anglophone world should blog in English:

But given the good English most German bloggers I'm aware of command, I suppose it's clear that gaining an English-speaking readership by is not a priority for them -- just as most American "war" and other political bloggers don't have the ambition of writing for, say, the French, German, or Arabic readerships. Who do you try to speak with first, persuade first, amuse first? Your countrymen or someone halfway around the world?

This set me thinking about the non-vital question of my bloggidentity. I'm definitely not a "German blogger". Not only by virtue of my minority status (OK, OK, I'd probably have little trouble getting inside this shop...), but also because of my audience. About a third of my (so far, silent in public - come on, ladies and gentlemen...) current readers have their roots in the former Soviet Union, the rest are mostly Americans and Israelis. I still haven't registered this blog in any directory, unable to pigeonhole my virtual location. Come to think of it, this blog is designed for people halfway around the world much more than my neighbours next door. I don't need the internet to communicate with them ;)


The ever-fascinating Institute for War and Peace Reporting has a new section on White Russia, a.k.a Byelorussia, Belarus...

And while I'm on the site: mandatory reading on Chechnya, don't miss the rest of IWPR's Caucasus project as well.

An interesting, if somewhat verbose blog, discovered via a a comment to a post on "The Head Heeb": Panchayat: South Asian Politics, Society & Culture

More from the Orient, from one of the finest sites around: Sisters are doing it for themselves - Afghan women behind the wheel.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

No comments.

What Went Wrong

Here's some disturbing background to the Columbia crash, courtesy of whistleblower Don Nelson, a 36-year veteran of the space program who helped design the original shuttle. If his charges pan out, a lot of officials at NASA may soon face bad news of a different kind.

Here's Nelson's website

Here he is two years ago, telling the AP that we'll "lose another crew someday. And we will. The warning signs are all there."

Update: ExpatEgghead writes in the comments to the previous post (there were none under this one, whatever the reason):

The original failure analysis indictated that NASA could expect one fatality per 300 launches. That figure is evidently too optimistic. We should not treat this like a crashed airliner as it is expected that fatalities will happen. There have been many objections to the original design going back to the 60's. However, given the mission profiles and politics, it became inevitable.

This reminds me of the discussions in the mid-90ies on the safety of nuclear reactors. The official calculation went that a accident can happen once in a million years or something, I don't care to check it out at the moment. It turned out that this is the probability of a single component misfunctioning. If I recall it correctly, adding up the components of an entire reactor, quite a complicated construction, resulted in the statistical probability of an accident once in thirty years for a typical build...

Update 2: "No comments" was my first reaction. Well, maybe it's better to discuss it if it can help avoid such tragedies in the future. I am no Luddist, but neither do I like gargantuan hi-tech behind closed doors, outside of competent public control.
Looks like the EU PA funding commission of inquiry still has a long way to go:

On Thursday, Francois Zimeray, a French member of the European Parliament, announced he had gathered enough signatures for the body to debate whether to form a commission of inquiry.

Zimeray succeeded in convincing 170 Parliament members to put an inquiry on the agenda. However, a majority of the 626-person Parliament is necessary to actually form an inquiry commission.

Still, the petition marks a significant step for backers of an inquiry, who want the European Union to investigate Israeli allegations that the Palestinian Authority is using donor funds to finance terrorism


“It is the parliament’s job to supervise the executive,” David Sumberg, a member of the European Parliament from England, told Chris Patten, the E.U.’s commissioner for external relations. “If we cannot inquire on how the money is spent, we might just as well close our shop up.”

Patten has resisted, saying last fall that the European Union needs an investigation like it needs “a hole in the head.”

Though the inquiry demand is couched in the language of good government, Patten sees it as a veiled attack on the E.U.’s policy of supporting the Palestinian Authority, which Patten considers the only credible negotiating partner for Israel. In addition, supporting the Palestinian Authority allows the European Union to exercise influence in Mideast affairs.


The petition was begun by Ilka Schroeder, a German member from the Green Party. But Schroeder wanted to keep a low profile, so most of the lobbying was done by Zimeray and Charles Tannock, a British Tory.

Zimeray and Tannock are known as friends of Israel, leading opponents to argue that the petition masked a pro-Israel agenda.

The petition’s success seemed in doubt until the last minute, but Zimeray ultimately managed to secure more than the 157 signatures necessary to put the item on Parliament’s agenda.

“Every single one is the result of much lobbying within the corridors of the European Parliament,” he said.

The signatures include many Germans, British and Italians, but practically no Socialists or Greens. Zimeray is one of the only members of the European Socialist group to sign.


Parliament sources say Patten himself called deputies to discourage them from signing the petition, leading several members to retract their signatures.

Some who signed are considered friends of Israel, while others saw the proper oversight of E.U. money as a simple question of good governance.

In addition, some apparently saw the petition as a way to strengthen the Parliament while weakening the European Commission — though others refused to sign for precisely that reason.

Note the great variety of issues at stake here. How much simpler would it be were it merely a conflict between pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli and pro-Israel/anti-Palestinian positions, corresponding to the left vs. the right. Yet it is also about democratic control in the EU, against Patten's style of governance in general (note that the protocol of the memorable parliamentary discussion records the statement not as "the European Union needs...", but as "I need..."). I am not aware of Ilka Schroeder keeping a low profile, - whatever, her homepage is a veritable treasure trove of material on the subject.
The guerrilla media war that wasn't

Harry R. of the view from here, Saturday, February 01, 2003: "When do we see the photos of the Palestinians celebrating?". It seems that they were already broadcasted on the Israeli TV. Predictable remonstrations by yet another pestilent sanctimonious commenter who has adopted Harry's blog in the quest of Israeli moral improvement aside, when does the rest of the (cyber)world get to see them? The only non-Hebrew place in the internet the episode was worth a one-phrase mention to is a Russian Israeli newssite:

По сведениям израильского телевидения, толпы палестинцев вышли на улицы Газы и других крупных палестинских городов, празднуя крушение космического корабля "Колумбия".

The point is: if, and only if, Israelis are really interested in bringing such events to public attention, I'm afraid that they will have to begin with it themselves rather than discuss the - doubtlessly existing - international media bias. No outsider will be able to perform the job (in this particular case maybe with the exception of the few expats who receive Israeli TV, recorded the broadcast and have the requisite software to convert it in graphic files at their disposal), all the rest of the world can do is to spread the word.

Update: a divine act of vengeance?

God punished the space shuttle Columbia because its crew, which included an Israeli astronaut, was on an espionage mission against the Arab and Muslim nations, some Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post today.

Many did not share the feelings of their leaders, such as Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat who offered his condolences to the US over the Columbia tragedy.

"They were sent to space to spy on the Arabs and Muslims,"said Rudainah Salman, a 28-year-old schoolteacher from Ramallah. "I have no sympathy for the astronauts because they were doing something bad to us. Allah punished them because of their bad intentions. I hate the Americans and the Israelis because of what they are doing to our people."

vs. Reuters, note the diplomatic adjective "official":

There were no such signs of jubilation over the shuttle disaster in any of the Palestinian territories. The official response from the Palestinians was one of condolence.

via Meryl Yourish

Navigating Straying through the blogosphere

guess whom the sweet cuddly kitty represents

hint: Every time you vote Republican, God kills a kitten.

if you still don't get it: solution

Update: the condition that led me there?