Saturday, May 10, 2003

Stop the world

Rinat/Renatinha was -- like many -- surprised that the bombers in "Mike's Place" were/are British. Sadly, I wasn't. Britain has been the hub of Islamist activity unhindered by authorities for years. Check out this excellent article from March 18, 2002 for more background.

Stopping the world and getting out is not a bad idea, though, provided you have nice company.
More evidence of mankind's intellectual regression

There are still bloggers out there who haven't updated their archives.
I have been asked in a mail why did I cut down my links to other sites lists from previous version of the blog. With regard to non-blogs, I have simply decided against the practice of replicating a portion of my regular bookmarks on every page. I'm working on a permanent "sources" page (yes, Miranda, you have just written that you are).

As for the shorter blog list, this is connected to a realistic assessment of my current time resources. I use the left-hand bar as a personal blog checklist, and I don't want to keep more blogs there than I can visit at least once a week under normal conditions. This doesn't mean that I manage to read every post there. Nor that I don't read anyone other than my "regulars". The order in which they are listed is that of language and geographic proximity to my present location, plus a bit of fun I permit myself with the optics. As with the previous version, the presence or absence of a blog on that list isn't supposed to signal profound approval or disapproval on my part.

I have never been loyal to such principles, so I guess this will change if I join the Blogroll community one day.
Now that's a visit record:
Who's reading?
B2I has been accessed by every branch of the U.S. military as well as Central Command, Pacific Command, Southern Command and European Command. It was also accessed from the CIA, the House of Representatives, NASA and the United States Supreme Court. It has been mentioned in the Boston Globe, Jim Lehrer's NewsHour, Time Out New York, Reuters, NPR, CNN and many other media outlets.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Quote of the week

Men, unlike women, are not a work in progress

Susan Sontag
How to hold an audience in breath

A Ha'aretz article on Israeli intelligence ("Week's End, May 2") breaks off like this:
Dagan himself perhaps might not succeed in recruiting every fastidious candidate, because contrary to his predecessor, Ephraim Halevy, he did not represent Israel at European Union headquarters in Brussels. In one of his working conversations with the head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, the two met over lunch, each with a spotless napkin next to
... I'll never know next to what the illuminati of the espionage world keep their spotless napkins, unless the readers of my blog will write some sequels. The best proposals will be sent to Ha'aretz.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Instapundit pounces on this presumable case of top-level French support for terrorism. (Thanks to R. for mailing me the link.)

I don't quite get the story, specifically what they mean when they write "French passports". All it takes to move freely within the countries of the Schengen treaty is, as a minimum, a French (or, of course, any other Schengen signatory's) tourist visa, easy to come by even without "official" help and a far cry from being awarded full French citizenship.
"If you are reading this it means that things have gone as I hope..."

Whew! Diane/a of Gotham (who did blog from her office, it turns out) posts everything Salam Pax has written for his blog but couldn't publish. (Via Allison.) And a happy monkey out there.

Update: Gil compares me with Salam.

Blogger/Blogspot archives are still not updating automatically with new posts. The new system, however, functions beautifully so far. Unfortunately, free users like yours sincerely cannot transfer existing weblogs to it, only create new ones.
The "Bits and pieces on (online) writing" post (link collection) has been transferred here

Imshin links to the usual suspects.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Do you want to know what type of blogger I really admire? The one who doesn't put a counter on a Blogspot-hosted weblog. Not giving a damn about one's site's traffic, turning up one's nose at all these petty hectic competitions must be the epitome of coolness these days. I don't have the nerve to do the same, but I wonder whether it was some deep-down Freudian mental process that made me put the Useless Blob directly over my counters.
Do I recognize a familiar face here?

Don't miss the "How spammers make money" series, and not just because it's "For Miranda":
Part 1
Part 2

On the European vs. American state models

Jonathan writes in one of his "binationalism" posts:
Suffice it to say that there are two basic models of constitutional democracy - the American pluralist model and the European ethnically-based model. The American model is most common in "new societies" created substantially through immigration, while the European model is more suited to countries where a dominant ethno-cultural group and indigenous minorities are well-established.

There exists no ethnically-based European model such as described. The treatment of selected "indigenous minorities" is more comparable to that of the American Native Indians.

The main friction is, however, over non-indigenous minorities, although the definition is questionable (exactly how much time does a certain ethnic group have to spend in a country to be regarded as indigenous?).

Legally and thus, ideally, most European states share the American model. There is no such thing as a "French" or "German" "state" that would be comparable to a "Jewish state" in the legislation of the respective countries, nor in these of any of their neighbours I can think of. (Admittedly, I never studied the Constitutions of all European countries.) Psychologically, significant portions of the "dominant ethno-cultural" groups don't want to accept this fact. (I cannot find the link at the moment, but I remember a survey that showed well over 60% of ethnic Frenchmen absolutely agreeing with the statement "there are too many Arabs living in the country" - the French society is commonly regerded as "less racist" than the German one...) European states also being established democracies, this creates a rich breeding ground for nationalist populism in politics with all of its ugly consequences, down to the security problems which came to world attention after 9/11.
As a warming-up exercise for my return to anglophone blogging I decided to take a kick at the binational state discussion, calling it a stop-beating-your-wife subject in the comments. Jonathan promptly responded:
I think there's a little bit more to it than "when will you stop beating your wife." The binational-state arguments are based on unexamined premises that are common on the left - i.e., a Palestinian state on the WB and Gaza wouldn't be viable, the rights of Jews could be protected by a constitution, etc. It's worth showing why those premises are false - why two states can work, why Israeli Jews won't be reassured by words in a constitution, why Israelis and Palestinians won't drop their national identities on a dime. Binationalism is a symptom of many common misconceptions, and discussing binationalism is one way to set the record straight.

Now that the links function, here is Jonathan's part of the discussion in question:
Beginning of a debate
The Two-State Solution: Why two states can work
The Two-State Solution: The problems of binationalism

First, I admit that I am uncapable of taking anything written by the blogger who elicited these responses seriously. Much as I sympathize with the desire of anyone with an Occidental cultural background to learn more about Islam, at the very least I'd look for other sources of comment on political and social issues.

Second, and much more important, is that unless one assumes that the discussion is a pure intellectual exercise from the beginning, an entertaining "alternative history of the future" topic, the very notion of a binational state is a profoundly undemocratic one. To reiterate the previous post, given that the proportion of Israeli citizens in favour of a binational state can be assumed as roughly equal to the one of Belgian citizens supporting a Sharia state and unlikely to rise, the binational state could be only achieved by brutal outside force. The relatively unbloody South African model won't work, which makes this an even less realistic perspective than the forcible "transfer" of all Palestinians into the neighbouring Arab countries, just to name an example from the same place.

I prefer not to explore the psychological mechanisms at work behind binationalism advocacy.

Another thing. For all my dislike of armchair politics, I don't see the two-state solution function in foreseeable future either.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Imshin, Gil and Allison on Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars)

Sunday, May 04, 2003

A. Brilliant. Military. Campaign. To. Prevent-The-Proliferation-Of-Saddam's-Terror-Regime's-WMDs

Really bad news.

April 24, this struck me speechless. Then I poked around and thought, well, maybe the WaPo got it wrong. Surely it would have caused a mega-scandal, both within the blogosphere and outside of it, among the Left and among the Right, among anti-Americans and American patriots, in the Arab states and in the West. There was no trace of one. May 2, I ran into this, and told myself, what's WorldNetDaily after all. The subject was supposed to be among my first May posts, but then I thought why offer even the microscopic additional publicity this blog can effect to such a horror, which might, after all, prove to be untrue. Not anymore.

Report: Major Iraqi Nuclear Plants Looted
A major radioactive waste site in Iraq has been looted and U.S. officials have little idea whether nuclear material is missing, according to a news report.

A report in Sunday's Washington Post says a specially trained Defense Department team finally was dispatched to the Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility (search) after a month of flip-flopping over whether to survey the site.

It's feared that dangerous material may be sold on the black market and could end up in the hands of terrorist groups.
Let's be clear what we are talking about. According to the April report:
Before the war began last month, the vast Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center held 3,896 pounds of partially enriched uranium, more than 94 tons of natural uranium and smaller quantities of cesium, cobalt and strontium, according to reports compiled through the 1990s by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Immensely valuable on the international black market, the uranium was in a form suitable for further enrichment to "weapons grade," the core of a nuclear device. The other substances, products of medical and industrial waste, emit intense radiation. They have been sought, officials said, by terrorists seeking to build a so-called dirty bomb, which uses conventional explosives to scatter dangerous radioactive particles.
This is more than enough to make 9/11 look like a schoolyard brawl.

I didn't like this war and I still don't. Mainly because I don't trust the entire Bush administration to run more than a pizza stand - I don't care for law and ethics. I'd much rather be proven wrong than right. Pity there is so little chance of it now.

Update: more from the LA Times, via Zach Mears via Matthew Yglesias.
Wait, we did bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan, didn't we?
Better than nothing

EU revises aid to Palestine
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Commission announced today (Wednesday), that it will change the way in which it provides aid to the Palestinian Authority. At the same time officials strenuously denied claims that the changes were prompted by allegations that EU money has been used to fund terrorism.

In February 2003, the European Anti-Fraud Office, known as OLAF, announced that it would open an investigation into these allegations.

The Commission will now supply 80 million euro each year specifically for the Authority to repay debts owed to small private enterprises and social services. An additional 10 million will be made available to aid the peace process.

Previously, funding from the EU was not earmarked for specific projects and went into the central Palestinian budget.

It's been a long struggle within the EU. This report looks like a semi-victory:
The Commission claims that the new rules will be more transparent, as they will be paid on receipt of an invoice, they also claim that the figure received by the Authority will be "more or less the same as before".

"If businesses are not paid that means that they go under, and people are out of work" said Ms Udwin.

The exact figure in question:
In total the EU expects to give 245 million euro to the Palestinian Authority in 2003.

- a sum that could also save most of the children mentioned in the other news over the same period of time, if I understand it correctly. Talk about setting priorities...
Peace is a matter of definition

Adrian's short report about a protest against the construction of the "security fence" mentions an unpleasantly familiar name:
I also met Uri Avnery, who isn't as extreme as he's painted. He gave me a quote.

This fence twists like a snake. We must stop it before it poisons the peace process.

I don't feel like discussing the fence as such, but rather the devaluation of the term "peace". How can someone like Avnery or the members of the ISM seriously be described as peace activists escapes my comprehension.

He sent a considerable portion of the German public reeling (and, predictably, another part of it jumping up and down with glee) with an interview given to a German newspaper shortly after 9/11. The "Berliner Zeitung" from 28.11.2001, to be exact.

My inner graphoman has his day off. I present here a translation without the all too obvious comments. Maybe later, as usual. Just this one: is Avnery employing the popular tactic of different messages for different audiences? His explanation of Palestinian terrorism left even those of us who have the misfortune of being used to his antics agape.

[After Avnery explains that Barak was trying to cheat Arafat at Camp David, the interviewer half-objects:]

After Sharon's election, it were the attacks by radical Palestinians that hindered negotiations.

[Avnery:] I call it not terrorism, but a popular uprising against a 20-year-old occupation. The means employed are the identical to these of any other popular uprising of the last century, be it in Algeria, South Africa, Northers Ireland or in the Jews' fight for their own state.

Can this be equated? In Israel, it is always stressed that Palestinian terrorism is directed primarily against civilians.

A Palestinian has once countered this to me: Give me airplanes and tanks and I'll fight with them and stop the terrorism. But there has never been a popular uprising that was directed solely against military targets. Algerians have been sending women with bombs into caf├ęs during the fight against the French colonial powers. As a young man, I used to be a terrorist myself. I belonged to the underground group "Irgun Zvai Leumi" which fought against the British Mandate powers and the Arabs: We too have exploded bombs on Arab markets, killing women and children.

Can freedom fighters be distinguished from terrorists?

The answer is: freedom fighters are on my side, terrorists on the other. I consider terror justified in situations in which political goals can not be achieved by political means. Thus, French terror against the Nazi regime was justified, I'd like to see someone dare to contradict me on this.

The Palestinians could achive their goals politically.

There were no terror acts after the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian accords in 1993. It was only after the Israeli government didn't honour the agreements and the Palestinians have lost all hope that the terror attacks resumed.

[German] foreign minister Joschka Fischer has undertaken great efforts to get the conflict under control. What is your opinion of his role?

"Gush Shalom" has initiated a boycott of goods produced in settlements five years ago. So far, 50 000 households have asked us for a list of these products. The EU decided to refuse custom exemptions granted to other Israeli goods as well. Now that the EU Comission is finally going to put this decision in practice, I read that Fischer wants to block it. One gets the impression that he is sabotaging EU decisions only in order to get a friendly welcome in Israel. I find it outrageous and protest against it. The settlements are the greatest obstacle on the road towards peace, they endanger the security and the future of the State of Israel. Putting an end to them is the only way towards a solution. A foreign minister who supports the settlement policy indirectly is engaging in anti-Israeli politics.
Please, Adrian, how can Avnery be possibly painted extremer than he is, short of being accused of smuggling bombs into Israel?