When you can't live without bananas

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Israeli vs Palestinian soldiers

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"A soldier of Palestine vs A soldier of Israel"

Gaza: Palestinian Rockets Unlawfully Targeted Israeli Civilians | Human Rights Watch

"“Palestinian armed groups made clear in their statements that harming civilians was their aim,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas.”"

Israel "Peace Activist" and Hamas Celebrate Death of Israeli Pilots

"Not everyone was saddened by Tuesday’s helicopter crash that killed two Israeli reserve pilots. “Peace activist” Noa Shaindlinger took to Facebook yesterday morning to celebrate as news of the incident surfaced. “We may have some good news later this morning (hint: IOF drill accident with casualties,” she posted to her Facebook page. Shaindlinger later deleted the post from her page.

Shaindlinger no doubt would have appreciated the tweet sent out by Hamas’s military wing, Alqassam Brigades. Anonymous blogger Elder of Ziyon caught this exchange between the IDF and the terror tweeters"

Israel Expresses Regret in Civilian Deaths

"Israel expressed regret Thursday for the deaths of four Palestinian civilians in an army shelling"

Is it midnight already?

Police arrested Malcolm Davidson, a 27 year old white male, resident of Wimbledon, in a pumpkin patch at 11:38 pm Friday. Davidson will be charged with lewd and lascivious behavior, public indecency, and public intoxication at the County courthouse on Monday.

The suspect allegedly stated that as he was passing a pumpkin patch, he decided to stop. "You know, a pumpkin is soft and squishy inside, and there was no one around here for miles. At least I thought there wasn't." He stated in a phone interview from the County courthouse jail.

Davidson went on to state that he pulled over to the side of the road, picked out a pumpkin that he felt was appropriate to his purposes, cut a hole in it, and proceeded to satisfy his alleged "need."

"I guess I was just really into it, you know?" he commented with evident embarrassment. In the process, Davidson apparently failed to notice the Wimbledon Municipal police car approaching and was unaware of his audience until officer Brenda Taylor approached him.

"It was an unusual situation, that's for sure." Said officer Taylor. "I walked up to [Davidson] and he's ... just working away at this pumpkin." Taylor went on to describe what happened when she approached Davidson.

"I just went up and said, 'Excuse me sir, but do you realize that you are screwing a pumpkin?' He got real surprised as you'd expect and then looked me straight in the face and said, 'A pumpkin? Damn ... is it midnight already?'"

Snopes: Pumpkins may be "soft and squishy" inside, but they're also mostly hollow — if you're looking for a sexual partner, several other kinds of produce (primarily fruits) would probably serve you much better. And the fictional Mr. Davidson should brush up on his fairy tales: it isn't Cinderella who turns into a pumpkin at midnight, but her coach.

With a sense of direction like that, if Malcolm had a wife, no wonder he couldn't keep her.

Although 1998's Malcolm Davidson and his "Is it midnight already" line were wholly fictional, the key element of this tale did play out in real life at least once. In September 2002, Bill Patton of Macomb, Michigan, was sentenced to ninety days in the hoosegow for indecent exposure stemming from a 2000 incident during which neighbors saw him masturbate in his back yard, then observed him through his basement window pleasuring himself with a pumpkin. His crime lay in being seen — one is allowed to love vegetables as much as one wants, provided one doesn't do it in public.

Sightings: In the 1991 film Night on Earth, Italian comedian Roberto Benigni plays a cabdriver who confesses his pumpkin-loving vice (and others) to a priest he's picked up.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Dogbert: I like to con people. And I like to insult people.
If you combine con & insult, you get 'consult'.

I'm here to consult you.

Pointy-Haired Boss: It sounds expensive and demeaning... Okay.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Starfish Story

A little girl was walking along a beach, where thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. She picked up every starfish she saw, and threw it back into the ocean.

People watched her in amusement.

An old man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can't save all these starfish! Furthermore, don't you know that starfish are pests?"

The girl was crushed. A while later, she bent down, picked up another starfish and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean.

Then the little girl replied:

"Well, I made a difference to that one, even if it is not sentient and cannot appreciate my actions! And who cares what the ultimate consequences of my actions are? As long as I feel good about myself, that's alright"

Inspired, the old man joined the little girl throwing starfish back into the sea.

The next day, another terrible storm hit the sea, and most of the starfish who had been thrown back into the ocean washed up again. Having never read about Sisyphus, since she spent so much time throwing starfish into the sea, the little girl kept at it.

The old man, picking up a poisonous starfish by mistake, was pricked by its thorns and died of an allergic reaction.

Thereafter, all the coral died, and the oceanic ecosystem was wiped out. Meanwhile, since she spent so much time throwing starfish into the sea, the little girl kept failing her exams and couldn't get a job in the local factory, and became a maid in other people's countries.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On Equality

""Equality is a lie" Bane told her. "A myth to appease the masses. Simply look around and you will see the lie for what it is! There are those with power, those with the strength and will to lead. And there are those meant to follow-those incapable of anything but servitude and a meager, worthless existence.

"Equality is a perversion of the natural order!" he continued, his voice rising as he shared the fundamental truth that lay at the core of his beliefs. "It binds the strong to the weak. They become anchors that drag the exceptional down to mediocrity. Individuals destined and deserving of greatness have it denied them. They suffer for the sake of keeping them even with their inferiors.

"Equality is a chain, like obedience. Like fear or uncertainty or self-doubt."

- Darth Bane

Amused when people contradict themselves and then say they are tired of arguing with me

A: Although it has long since ceased to be the case, the myth is that soldiers and armies attack combatants-- other soldiers-- primarily, and that civilian deaths are proportionately few, and unintended. Chemical weapons, like nuclear weapons, always kill large numbers of civilians, so it runs counter to this myth. The fact, however, is that civilian deaths as a proportion of the total number of deaths have been increasing steadily in contemporary wars, even when only "traditional" weapons are used.

I started a petition at a US government website demanding that the government reconsider its use of drones. It got only one signature in addition to my own. Another petition that I signed at that website, to pardon Edward Snowden, did get enough signatures to require a response from the government-- over 100,000 in the first month-- but as far as I know, the government has never responded. So much for the trappings of accountability in which the current administration has portrayed itself.

B: Ces pétitions sont-elles réservées aux Américains ? Est ce que je peux les consulter et éventuellement les signer ?

A: Je crois qu'elles sont réservées aux Américains. La site est par ici:

We the People: Your Voice in Our Government | We the People: Your Voice in Our Government

Me: Well, civilian deaths have increased because wars have involved terrorism and insurgencies. The point about WMDs being indiscriminate in who they kill is at least somewhat defensible as a reason to ban their use.
BBC News - Why chemical weapons provoke outrage

Les pétitions ne sont pas réservées aux Américains : AFP: Hong Kongers turn to Obama over milk shortage fears

A: > civilian deaths have increased because wars have involved terrorism and insurgencies
I disagree with this strongly. The proportion of civilian deaths in modern warfare started increasing long before the emergence of what some news media now call "terrorism" and "insurgencies". Most of the civilian deaths were inflicted by governments.
It has become fashionable to call anyone who opposes an established regime a terrorist; this is not what the word really means.

The petitions at the website *** and I were talking about are reserved for Americans. The petition talked about in the article you gave a link to has nothing to do with that website.

Me: News article: "The appeal, labelled "Baby Hunger Outbreak in Hong Kong, International Aid Requested", was posted on Tuesday on the "We the People" section of the White House website, which does not require petitioners to be US citizens."

Website you talked about: We the People: Your Voice in Our Government | We the People: Your Voice in Our Government

If you Google "Baby Hunger Outbreak in Hong Kong" you get a link: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/baby-hunger-outbreak-hong-kong-international-aid-requested/xVSGJNN1 which mentions that "The petition you are trying to access has expired, because it failed to meet the signature threshold."

The "We the People" FAQ says: "Anyone 13 or older can create or sign a petition on WhiteHouse.gov. In order to participate in the We the People platform on WhiteHouse.gov, users must create a WhiteHouse.gov account and verify their email address."

There is no mention of citizenship requirements.

I talked about "terrorism and insurgencies". Do not conflate the two.

I haven't seen any evidence that the high amount of civilian deaths is due to governments murdering civilians. That is generally recognised as a war crime. The civilian deaths in Iraq, for example, are because "most civilians, by far, were killed by other Iraqis" (Iraq War Logs Show Grim Portrait of Civilian Deaths – Iraq War Logs - Wikileaks Documents - NYTimes.com)

A: Here is the description of the purpose of the website, from the same page:

We the People is a new, easy way for Americans to make their voice heard in our government. It is a platform on the White House website where individuals can create and sign petitions that call for action by the federal government on a range of issues facing our nation. If a petition gathers enough signatures, it will be reviewed by White House staff and receive an official response. We the People helps the White House understand the views of the American people and have a focused and civil conversation with them.

Note "... an easy way for Americans..."

When you sign up for an account, the website asks you for your zip code.

Me: I saw the signup page. Zip code is not a mandatory field

At the very least they do not even try to limit it to citizens

A: Agagooga,
Please do some basic reading on the following wars:
World War II-- In addition to the use of nuclear weapons near the end of the war, cities were bombed with traditional bombs and fire bombs by both sides, causing many civilian deaths. All of this bombing was done by governments.
The Korean war-- look up aerial bombing as well as massacres committed by the forces of both North Korea and South Korea.
The war in Vietnam-- Ever heard of napalm and Agent Orange? They caused vast numbers of civilian deaths.
I could go on and on, but that should be enough to start with. You seem to be unaware of some very basic historical facts.

Me: I thought you were talking about recent wars (post-Cold War). I wasn't aware you extended it back all the way to World War II. People who make arguments about civilian deaths refer to post-Cold War conflicts.

World War II bombing raids of Germany were meant to destroy infrastructure that supported war, like factories. Japan is a slightly more complicated story; one could make a case that the firebombing of Tokyo was indefensible on the grounds of targeting war assets since civilian deaths were so high.

I hadn't heard about the massacres during the Korean War.

Agent Orange was meant to deforest areas - it wasn't a deliberate targeting of civilians. Napalm was also used to deforest areas and to flush out Viet Cong bunkers, but its relative consequences in civilian casualties are less defensible than with Agent Orange.

A: The question is not whether the intent was to cause civilian deaths or not; the question is whether civilian deaths were caused, and what proportion they form of all deaths in a given war. What I said to begin with was that the proportion of civilian deaths in wars is increasing. This is a historical fact. I'm tired of talking about this with you.

Not posted in thread:

The ‘New Wars’ Debate Revisited: An Empirical
Evaluation of the Atrociousness of ‘New Wars’

"Based on in-depth analysis of the inner workings of these wars and more superficial comparisons with wars in the Cold War era and earlier, new war theorists identified several empirical trends: (1) the number of civil wars is increasing; (2) the intensity of battle is increasing; (3) the number of civilians displaced in civil wars is increasing, (4) the number of civilians killed in civil wars is increasing; and (5) the ratio of civilians to military personnel killed in civil wars is increasing.

A debate soon followed where critics pointed out that much of what ‘new war’ theorists identified as new in the nature of contemporary conflicts were in fact not new, calling into question the whole idea that the nature of war had changed (Cf Henderson & Singer, 2002; Kalyvas, 2001; Newman, 2004). Other scholars pointed out that some of the empirical trends identified by ‘new war’ theorists did not stand up to empirical scrutiny and that many alleged trends had at best sketchy underpinnings (Cf Kalyvas, 2001; Lacina, 2006; Lacina; Gledistch & Russett, 2006; Lacina & Gleditsch, 2005; Mack, 2005; Newman, 2004). However, ‘new wars’ theorists and their critics alike have relied mainly on case studies and anecdotal evidence. With the partial exception of Lacina (2006) we still lack systematic tests of the propositions forwarded by the ‘new wars’ theorists.

The claim that the number of civil wars is increasing since the end of the Cold War has been soundly refuted. In this study we therefore focus on the ‘new wars’ theorists’ claims about the atrociousness of ‘new wars’ and put these through systematic empirical tests. Specifically, we directly test three of the four claims concerning the atrociousness of ‘new wars’. First we test the claim that the claim that the intensity of battle is increasing; and second that the number of civilians displaced is increasing, and third that the number of civilians killed in wars is increasing. The fourth and final claim concerning atrociousness, that the ratio of civilians to military personnel killed in wars is increasing, is not possible to evaluate directly in a systematic fashion since there is no systematic data on this aspect of wars. However, we do offer an indirect test of this proposition. If the ratio of civilian to military victims is increasing we should expect too see higher numbers of civilian deaths in conflicts with similar levels of battle intensity. Moreover, if the ratio of civilian to military deaths is higher in the ‘new wars’ period then ipso facto conflicts have become more threatening and dangerous to civilians which research on forced migration has consistently shown should generate higher levels of civilian displacement (Davenport; Moore & Poe, 2003; Melander, 2006; Melander & Öberg, 2006; Moore & Shellman, 2004; Schmeidl, 1997). Thus, by holding battle intensity constant and looking at the variation in civilian displacement and civilians killed we can get an indication of whether or not the ratio has changed significantly over time...

What we find is that battle intensity, measured as battle deaths, is significantly lower in the ‘new war’ period. We also find that the magnitude of violence against civilians in civil conflict is significantly lower in the ‘new war’ period. Forced displacement of civilians follows a slightly more complicated pattern, similar to the trend in the number of civil conflicts. The number of civilians displaced in civil conflicts is significantly higher in the period 1990-1994 than in either the Cold war period or in the period 1995-1999. Thus, although civil conflicts in the period 1990-1994 generate larger flows of displaced people than civil conflicts of the Cold War, there is no consistently increasing trend in the data. On the contrary, the decrease in forced migration flow in the most recent time period is statistically significant. Finally, patterns in civilians displaced and civilians killed do not change when we control for battle intensity, which indirectly suggests that the ratio of civilian to military victims has not changed significantly since the end of the Cold War.

Thus, if anything, civil conflicts in the ‘new war’ period have been less atrocious than civil conflicts in the Cold war period"

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fire in a Crowded Theatre

"Everyone knows the fatuous verdict of the greatly overpraised Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who, asked for an actual example of when it would be proper to limit speech or define it as an action, gave that of shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

It’s very often forgotten what he was doing in that case was sending to prison a group of Yiddish speaking socialists, whose literature was printed in a language most Americans couldn’t read, opposing President Wilson’s participation in the First World War and the dragging of the United States into this sanguinary conflict, which the Yiddish speaking socialists had fled from Russia to escape...

What they say is it’s not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen, and to hear. And every time you silence someone you make yourself a prisoner of your own action because you deny yourself the right to hear something. In other words, your own right to hear and be exposed is as much involved in all these cases as is the right of the other to voice his or her view...

Rosa Luxembourg... said that freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently.

My great friend John O’ Sullivan, former editor of the National Review, and I think probably my most conservative and reactionary Catholic friend, once said –it’s a tiny thought experiment– he says, if you hear the Pope saying he believes in God, you think, “well, the Pope is doing his job again today”. If you hear the Pope saying he’s really begun to doubt the existence of God, you begin to think he might be on to something...

[A Holocaust denier] doesn’t just have a right to speak, that person’s right to speak must be given extra protection. Because what he has to say must have taken him some effort to come up with, might contain a grain of historical truth, might in any case get people to think about “why do they know what they already think they know”. How do I know that I know this, except that I’ve always been taught this and never heard anything else?...

One of the proudest moments of my life, that’s to say, in the recent past, has been defending the British historian David Irving who is now in prison in Austria for nothing more than the potential of uttering an unwelcome thought on Austrian soil. He didn’t actually say anything in Austria. He wasn’t even accused of saying anything. He was accused of perhaps planning to say something that violated an Austrian law that says only one version of the history of the Second World War may be taught in our brave little Tyrolean republic.

The republic that gave us Kurt Waldheim as Secretary General of the United Nations, a man wanted in several countries for war crimes. You know the country that has Jorge Haider, the leader of its own fascist party, in the cabinet that sent David Irving to jail.

You know the two things that have made Austria famous and given it its reputation by any chance? Just while I’ve got you. I hope there are some Austrians here to be upset by it. Well, a pity if not, but the two great achievements of Austria are to have convinced the world that Hitler was German and that Beethoven was Viennese.

Now to this proud record they can add, they have the courage finally to face their past and lock up a British historian who has committed no crime except that of thought in writing...

I don’t know how many of you don’t feel you’re grown up enough to decide for yourselves and think you need to be protected from David Irving’s edition of the Goebbels Diaries for example, out of which I learned more about the Third Reich than I had from studying Hugh Trevor-Roper and A. J. B. Taylor combined when I was at Oxford...

Bear in mind, ladies and gentleman, that every time you violate, or propose the violate, the right to free speech of someone else, you in potentia [are] making a rod for your own back...

Isn’t a famous old story that the man who has to read all the pornography, in order to decide what’s fit to be passed and what is [not], is the man most likely to become debauched?...

Dr Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer, complier of the first great dictionary of the English language. When it was complete Dr Johnson was waited upon by various delegations of people to congratulate him. Of the nobility, [...] of the Common, of the Lords and also by a delegation of respectable ladies of London who attended on him in his Fleet Street lodgings and congratulated him.

– “Dr Johnson”, they said, “We are delighted to find that you’ve not included any indecent or obscene words in your dictionary.”

– “Ladies”, said Dr Johnson, “I congratulate you on being able to look them up.”

... I have been the target of many death threats, I know, within a short distance of where I am currently living in Washington, I can name two or three people, whose names you probably know, who can’t go anywhere now without a security detail because of the criticisms they’ve made on one monotheism in particular. And this is in the capital city of the United States...

[These people making the death threats are] the people who are going to seek the protection of the hate speech law, if I say what I think about their religion, which I am now going to do...

Do [people who issue death threats to those who insult Islam] get arrested for hate speech? No. Might I get in trouble for saying what I’ve just said about the prophet Mohammad? Yes, I might."

- Christopher Hitchens, speaking at Hart House, University of Toronto, November 15th, 2006
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