Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Israel's Coming Rocket War

By Donald Sensing

How would you like to live in a town where every block has one or more of these structures?

This is a bomb shelter in the town of Sederot, Israel. More accurately, it is a rocket shelter.The morning of the day that I visited Sederot in 2007, Hamas in Gaza fired six Qassam rockets toward the town and environs. No one was hurt, but Sederotis have learned to run fast when the siren sounds.

Only two years ago, so many Hamas rockets had fallen on Israel from Gaza that Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a bombing campaign against Hamas followed by an armored incursion. It was only temporarily successful. Not only has Hamas rearmed, they are better armed now than ever.

The coming year will be one of existential decision for Israel. Its enemies, which are legion not only in the Middle East but across Europe, will try to move decisively to isolate Israel politically. Their goal is the same as it has always been, to vanquish Israel as a Jewish state and to evict Jews from the land. These are the open objectives of Hamas, Hezbollah and Fatah alike, with only the latter apparently preferring diplomatic moves over military ones. Israel has probably never been in a more precarious predicament since the end of its war for independence.

Read the rest.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Silent Night

By Daniel Jackson

Down the road from Bethlehem lies this town nestled against the hills. I took this image two nights ago while teaching a group of Arab watchmen how to tell time at night from the stars.

They work nights guarding the vineyards and orchards of a local kibbutz from "hoodlums, thieves, and mischief makers." One night, they decided that they wanted to learn about the stars and the phases of the moon so they, too, can look for the beginning of Ramadan.

David might have checked on the his father's flocks along these hills. They told me that in the time of Solomon, wells were dug to catch the runoff during the winter and then transported by tunnels to Jerusalem over the ridge.

"Friday is Christmas for the Christians," they asked. "On a night such as this," I said to which they all nodded.

From the Holy Land, God's Blessings to all and to All a good, and silent, night.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

If the Nativity happened today

By Donald Sensing

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is Al Gore in Britain?

By Donald Sensing

Headline of the UK's Daily Mail: "Coldest December since records began as temperatures plummet to minus 10C"

Swathes of Britain skidded to a halt today as the big freeze returned - grounding flights, closing rail links and leaving traffic at a standstill.

And tonight the nation was braced for another 10in of snow and yet more sub-zero temperatures - with no let-up in the bitterly cold weather for at least a month, forecasters have warned.

The Arctic conditions are set to last through the Christmas and New Year bank holidays and beyond and as temperatures plummeted to -10c (14f) the Met Office said this December was ‘almost certain’ to become the coldest since records began in 1910.

The previous record was set in 1981. That was when scientists' consensus was that we were at the cusp of a new ice age. But Britain's cold encasement today is because of global warming.

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Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

By Daniel Jackson

In his Christmas message to the world, Victor Batarseh called for world peace and goodwill between peoples. Okay, not really. Arutz Sheva reports.

Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh lashed out at Israel this week at a tree-lighting ceremony in honor of the Christmas holiday. He accused Israel of cutting Bethlehem off from “its twin city Jerusalem” and called for international sanctions.

“Trade sanctions, sports sanctions, educational sanctions, cultural sanctions. Sanctions are the only way,” he said. Batarseh added that it would be “a waste of time” to negotiate with Israel.

He also accused Israel of profiting off tourism to Bethlehem. While tourists visit Bethlehem during the day, most return to Jerusalem to spend the night.
I guess that nothing has changed in 2000 plus years: there's not a lot of room at the Inn. In fact, Victor should work a bit more to build consumer confidence that foreigners and religious pilgrims will be welcome, let alone safe should they decide to stay.

Batarseh's criticism followed one of Bethlehem's best years for tourism. A record 1.4 million tourists visited the city in 2010, and another 90,000 are expected to arrive during the Christmas holidays.

Israel has worked to boost tourism to Bethlehem by coordinating with the PA to ease travel. Among other things, the Tourism Ministry has arranged for free shuttle transport between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In addition, Israeli and PA tourism officials have cooperated on promoting tourism to the city.

The increase in tourism has been a major boost to the Bethlehem economy. Tourist shops and restaurant owners report increased profits, hotels are filled to capacity, and new hotels are planned.
Alas, Bethlehem's Christian attractions have become exactly that. The local Christian population of Bethlehem has been steadily declining over the last 20 years from 60 to 15 percent. But more importantly, the political and social climate of the city has changed considerably since Victor and his political party, Bethlehem Brotherhood and Development, took swept the municipal elections in 2005. Israel Today (July 2005) reported the city's Christian reaction to the election at the time.

Islam is now the predominant force in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christianity! This dramatic development occurred when the Islamic terrorist group Hamas, which is best known for blowing men, women and children to pieces in Israeli buses and restaurants, won a majority in Palestinian municipal elections in the Biblical town.
“Bethlehem is no longer our city,” a Palestinian Christian businessman, who asked to remain anonymous, told israel today. “Bethlehem has become a dangerous stronghold of Islamic militants.”

Under laws established by the late Yasser Arafat when the Palestinian Authority took control of Bethlehem in 1995, only a Greek Orthodox or Catholic Christian can be mayor of Bethlehem, so Hamas could not field its own candidate. No problem! Hamas simply installed a “Christian” ally, Walid Victor Batarseh, 70, an atheist and Marxist from the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Batarseh replaces Hanna Nasser, a moderate Christian who supported peaceful coexistence with Israel. By contrast, Batarseh is suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. His attorney is a member of Hamas and his organization, the PFLP, was behind the assassination of Israeli Cabinet Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, who was gunned down in Jerusalem in 2002. “This was legitimate retaliation for Israeli state terror,” said Batarseh.

The growing Islamic militancy in Jesus’ hometown is driving Christians out. “It is becoming impossible for Christians to live under the extremist Hamas-led government in Bethlehem,” said George, an Arab Christian who asked us not to use his full name. It was only because of our long friendship that George, whose family has lived in Bethlehem for centuries, agreed to speak to me.

“We have lost all hope of living here in Bethlehem,” he said, adding that Christians are moving to quieter pastures in Europe, the US, South America and Australia. “Batarseh is not a Christian, but an envoy of Islamic militants! I simply don’t understand how the Christian world watches the Moslems take over Bethlehem and does nothing. Where is Christian Europe? Likewise, Palestinian Christian clergy are also silent. Can you imagine the uproar if the tables were turned, if Christians took over Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed?”
In all fairness, it should be noted that Victor's message has been consistent with the PA/FATAH party line since he became Bethlehem's mayor. The Palestinian Media Center carries Victor's first Christmas greetings to the world from December 23, 2005.

As the newly elected mayor of Bethlehem, I feel proud and privileged. Though it is little in size, it is one of the most famous cities on earth. Bethlehem is a name that lives in the hearts of millions of people. It signifies love, hope and peace for mankind.

It is true we do not have skyscrapers in Bethlehem, but we have the formidable Church of the Nativity, the place where it all started. We do not have natural resources, but we have the holy manger, the source of spiritual fulfillment and nourishment. We do not possess modern technology and satellites, but we have the star of the Nativity, the beacon that has embodied hope in the minds of all believers.

Our history is full of inspirational stories but also of bad times. The bad times under the recent Israeli aggression have led to enormous pain and suffering for Bethlehem and to unprecedented deterioration in its situation.
From where it all started? You mean the House of David, King of Israel? Or Boaz and Ruth the Convert from Moav?

Anyway, to Victor and all my neighbors in Bethlehem, Season's Greetings and God's Blessings.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Dying at the birthplace

By Donald Sensing

Professor of Islamic Studies Dan Peterson:

Christianity is dying in its birthplace

Nazareth, a predominantly Christian Arab town within living memory, is now mostly Muslim, and — though few realize it because the writing is in Arabic — tourists visiting the massive Roman Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation are confronted by banners denying the deity of Christ.

Bethlehem was 85 percent Arab Christian when the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948. Now the city's Christian population has fallen to perhaps 10 percent.
He closes with this A.E. Houseman poem, a prayer to Christ:
If in that Syrian Garden, ages slain,
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, Son of Man.
But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your fears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.

Lower level of the Church of the Anunciation, Nazareth. This is the traditional site where the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah. Nazareth is inside Israel, so Christians, 30 percent of Nazareth, are not nearly as persecuted by Muslims there as they are in Bethlehem

Plaza in Bethlehem, facing away from the Church of the Nativity. Facing the camera
is the minaret of a mosque. In my lifetime, Christians in Bethlehem have fallen from
almost 90 percent of the city to less than 10 percent. Christians in Bethlehem
are ruthlessly oppressed by the Palestinian Authority and its militia arm, Fatah

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Does TSA disproportionately pat down women?

By Donald Sensing

A TSA inspector claims that the fact that women have anatomical features that, well, women have, justifies them to be aggressively and extensively patted down at airport security checkpoints. Seriously.

A woman suing the TSA for an invasive pat-down at the Albuquerque Sunport speaks only with KOB Eyewitness News 4. ...

“Heavily concentrating on my breast area where I told her I had a mastectomy the year previous and in just seemed to go on and on,” said [Adrienne] Durso. ...

“My son, who I’m very proud of spoke up and said ‘I went through the metal detector and I did not get a pat-down’ to which the supervisor said ‘well you don’t have boobs’,” she said.
We are well past protesting the simple outrageousness of the "enhanced" pat down procedures of the TSA. But of Ms. Durso's ordeal: Does this not beg for an "equal protection" lawsuit? Should women who have been patted down file suit to make the TSA prove that it does not disproportionately fondle pat down women at a higher rate than men? And if it does, can it prove that women, as a class, represent a greater threat to airliners that justify disproportionately higher numbers of women being "patted down" than men?

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The End of A Dream

By Daniel Jackson

Arutz Sheva is reporting this evening that the PA has decided not to declare unilaterally independence.

The Palestinian Authority is not interested in another unilateral declaration of statehood, the PA's "Prime Minister" Salam Fayyad told Channel 2 in an interview aired Wednesday night.

"We want a state of Palestine, not a unilateral declaration of statehood," Fayyad said. He explained that he did not see how a unilateral declaration would help the PA's cause. Such a declaration "is not and will not be a part of our thinking," he added.

PA spokesmen have often threatened that they would unilaterally declare a state in 2011 if negotiations with Israel failed to yield the results they want. However, Fayyad's statement seems to indicate that the threats were empty ones.
You mean they were not speaking to truth? Well, maybe, or maybe Fayyad's assistants finally did a few calculations about firepower and troop readiness.
A unilateral declaration of a PA state would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Israel - a war that the Arab states and the PA are apparently not interested in at this point.
This is a very wise choice--perhaps the smartest thing to come from the PA in years. For some time now, the cant and trope (to mix theological metaphors) has been to return to the pre-1967 borders, as if the rest of the world would not notice the not so subtle affirmation of the illegal military land grab of the Jordanians in 1948-9.

This does not leave the PA with a lot of room to maneuver. Nothing has come from shifting the blame to the US or asking EU members to recognize their independence. Moreover, their support from the Arab League also appears to be wearing thin.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani said in his opening statement [on behalf of Arab League foreign ministers] that the Arabs "can't provide support for the return to talks, whether direct or indirect, under these circumstances." He acknowledged, however, that the Arabs had no alternative to negotiations either.
If threats and outrageous posturing were negotiable, the PA would be the wealthiest state in the region. As it is not, eventually they will come up with the brilliant idea to sit down actually with the Israelis and thrash out a plan for a viable economic state based on something other than extortion and banditry. They certainly will not get one by militarily defeating and expelling the current population of the state of Israel.

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What "Obama tax cuts"?

By Donald Sensing

Why are the media referring to the deal President Obama made with the Republicans as the "Obama tax cut" or, for that matter, a tax cut at all? Here is a grab from Google News today.

Michael Graham explains,
Where to begin?

First - show me the tax cut! Anyone’s tax cut. The tax deal Democrats keep claiming will “cut taxes for the rich” doesn’t cut taxes at all. It keeps rates the same. Unchanged. As in, “not lower than they are now.”

Of course I realize that tax rates are scheduled to rise, but not letting them rise isn’t a “cut” anywhere outside Washington. I’ve never seen an advertisement that said “C’mon down for big savings at the ‘We were going to raise prices but decided not to!’ sale!”

Congressman Lynch, I will happily donate $1,000 to the Fisher House charity in your name if you can show me a single dollar in income tax cuts for any tax bracket in the “tax cut” plan you oppose.
What is happening is that Obama has agreed to keep the Bush tax cuts in place. And the Bush tax cuts really were tax cuts, meaning that the people who actually paid taxes (barely a majority today) really did see their tax rates decline. The "Obama tax cuts" are in truth just the continuation of the Bush tax cuts.

In fact, everyone's rate went down, no matter their economic class. The more money you made, the more your rate fell. This had the Dems screaming bloody murder, of course, since they think the gummint should have prior claim on every dollar earned. Americans, you see, should live on an government-set allowance. (Hillary Clinton pretty much said so in 2004. Speaking at a $10K-per-person fundraiser, Hillary said,
"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you," Sen. Clinton said. "We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."
Not "ask," take. But I digress. Even though the tax rates for the well-off fell under the Bush tax cuts, the percentage of total taxes paid fell for the lower 44 percent of filers and rose for the top 56 percent.

The Dems also say that the government "can't afford" to keep the Bush rates in place, even though the lower rates made more money for government coffers. As Graham explains, "And as for those evil Bush tax cuts “costing us” billions, federal revenues increased 14.5 percent in 2005 and 11.8 percent in 2006, the fastest rise since 1981."

Bush was no fiscal conservative, to be sure. Quite apart from the costs of the war thrust upon us on 9/11/01, federal spending went skyward during his presidency. While the federal deficit shrank year after year, even increased tax revenues did not cover expenditures.

Expiring the Bush tax rates will decrease federal tax revenues, not increase them. But even so, spending was and remains the problem.

But maybe the so-called "Obama tax cut deal" will work out for Obama politically.
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's tax-cut deal with Republican lawmakers may help him lay the groundwork for his political revival heading into his 2012 re-election campaign - if it strengthens the economy as intended.
And if not, there's the old standby, all-purpose Obama excuse for everything:

Update: Who creates more jobs - government or wealthy people? Can this even be a serious question?

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How bad are things in California?

By Donald Sensing

Well, the Golden State is on the brink of insolvency. Victor Davis Hansen writes of, "Abandoned farms, Third World living conditions, pervasive public assistance -- welcome to the once-thriving Central Valley."

Over a hundred-mile stretch, when I stopped in San Joaquin for a bottled water, or drove through Orange Cove, or got gas in Parlier, or went to a corner market in southwestern Selma, my home town, I was the only non-Hispanic — there were no Asians, no blacks, no other whites. We may speak of the richness of “diversity,” but those who cherish that ideal simply have no idea that there are now countless inland communities that have become near-apartheid societies, where Spanish is the first language, the schools are not at all diverse, and the federal and state governments are either the main employers or at least the chief sources of income — whether through emergency rooms, rural health clinics, public schools, or social-service offices. An observer from Mars might conclude that our elites and masses have given up on the ideal of integration and assimilation, perhaps in the wake of the arrival of 11 to 15 million illegal aliens.
But the elites always take of themselves.

This financial crisis is forcing California State and local agencies to make some tough decisions. If things continue for much longer, there's a real risk that we may have to lay off Jose.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Don't Restrict Our Authority

By Daniel Jackson

Much has been made about the differences between Israeli airport safety screenings and those conducted in the US. It is generally accepted that the Israelis use stereotyping to prescreen passengers (although at Ben Gurion, there is a second screening process that resembles those found elsewhere).

This is not the case, however, when the Israeli police break up protests against expulsions and demonstrations. Recently, there have been complaints that young women from religious communities (read: right wing reactionaries) have been subjected to strip searches, with or without invasive procedures. After some play in the local press, the matter has reached the Knesset, which has begun a series of special hearings into the matter.

Arutz Sheva reports on the most recent hearing.

A police officer stunned the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women Wednesday by saying that young Jewish girls at expulsions must be searched bodily because they may be wearing suicide bomber belts.

Police investigator Avi Rosh told the panel, “Our search procedures are carried out according to the law. They require the suspect's consent, but if she does not agree, the officer explains that he has the right carry out a search by force. It is not a full undressing. Remember, a suspect may have a suicide belt.”

See, she consents so it's okay. See, she's a religious fanatic so she could be suicidal. See?

National Union Knesset Member Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, who has asked the committee to hold a hearing on the issue, replied, “You are making yourself look silly. Whoever maintains that a [Jewish] girl at a protest is suspected of carrying a suicide belt needs to be hospitalized for observation.”

Maybe, they, too, should be stripped searched before they are hospitalized! Who knows what messages they have stowed in their abdominal orifices. It's a risk, you know.

Rosh tried to explain that the same law that allows body searches for terrorists and drug smugglers applies to girls at demonstrations and expulsions, and he advised lawmakers “not to restrict our authority.”

Committee chairwoman Tzipi Hotovely, a Likud Knesset Member, told the hearing, "Nothing damages human rights more than disrespectful body searches of women. Our aim is to protect young women who are arrested from suffering what has been described in these hearings as searches that result in what is similar to the trauma of rape."

Israel National News previously has documented dozens of instances of violations of girl’s rights demonstrations and expulsions, including those at Gush Katif in 2005 and later at Amona in Samaria. Male police officers, in violation of the law, frequently manhandled young girls, often brutally touching sensitive parts of the body and sometimes ripping off their clothes.

The fact is that Israel's police practices are an unintended legacy from the former British Colonial administration. This accounts for many arcane practices not found (but envied) elsewhere in the world. The most glaring difference between Israel and US police procedure is a clear statement of individual rights before a police interrogation begins.

MK Hotovely said it was difficult to bring some girls to testify at the hearing because of their trauma from police violence, but several agreed and described their experiences, which included the fear of searches by force if they did not agree to a thorough bodily examination.

She asked why police cannot carry out the law that requires them to explain suspects’ rights. Why is it so difficult to present them with a document explaining their rights? Not every girl who is arrested at a demonstration is a suspect of smuggling drugs or wearing a suicide belt.

Orit Struk, head of the Human Rights Organization for Judea and Samaria, said that a police officer told her that they used body searches of girls as a tactic to stop the girls from acting in a way the police described as “chutzpah.”

Police officer Rosh maintained that body searches are used to prevent self-inflicted damage or the transfer of a note to someone else. He then compared the procedures with those used on criminals. “The criminal world is very creative and knows how to get around the law,” he told the committee.

MK Ben-Ari told him, "The problem is that you do not use your resources intelligently. Most police officers know that that girls at Ramat Migron [a community in Samaria] do not use drugs."

Stereotyping? Rights? Miranda? What about badges? Maybe they have to show their badges?

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TSA - Life imitates art

By Donald Sensing

The art:

The life:

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do you feel lucky, punk?

By Donald Sensing

Luckier than these people?

People Are LUCKY - Watch more Funny Videos

Then there was this guy, named by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf as the luckiest guy in Iraq during 1991's Gulf War.

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Parents can't be trusted to raise their kids

By Donald Sensing

That's what the First Lady said. Video at the link, the money quote comes at the 56-second mark.

In the words of her husband, "Eat the salad."

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Citizens or subjects?

By Donald Sensing

Georgetown professor of Constitutional law Randy Barnett, Dec. 13, 2010:

If economic mandates like this one are allowed, however, Americans will be demoted from citizens to subjects. They will have to obey any commands that Congress deems convenient to its regulation of interstate commerce. No more expensive tax credits and subsidies to raise taxes to pay for; Congress can just command you to buy its favored products. Forget cash for clunkers; just make Americans buy cars from G.M. Or make them undergo medical exams to save on health care costs. Gone will be a federal government of limited and enumerated powers established by the Constitution and repeatedly affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Me, last March 24:
The question has been asked repeatedly since Sunday where in the Constitution is the Congress granted the authority to mandate that individuals buy health insurance. The answer is, of course, nowhere, not even in the Constitution's "good and welfare" clause that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., claimed justified the act. But of course, there is no such clause.

The Constitution does begin by saying that it's purpose is (among others) to "promote the general welfare." The signs have been evident for literally decades, but now it is blindingly clear that Democrat party believes that the preamble - which delegates no powers, that comes later in the document - gives them unlimited authority "to control the people," in the words this week of Rep. John Dingell.

The entire Founders' insight that government has no rights, only powers delegated to it by the people, has been tossed on the ash heap of history. With Sunday night's vote and the self-triumphant signing of bill by President Obama, "we the people of the United States" has been struck through. The operating slogan now is, "You the subjects of the Sovereign Congress."

I wrote in 2003 that this was where we are headed. I never imagined it would come this quickly.
This is indeed the choice before us if we do not reclaim the sovereignty of the people.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

It wasn't "incest" incest

By Donald Sensing

There is a straight line to be drawn from July, 1961 to the arrest of Columbia University Professor David Epstein for charges of an incestuous affair with his own daughter. The daughter, we are told, was 20 when the affair (allegedly) began.

The 1961 connection is not with the (alleged) deed, but with the nature of its defense. A commenter on Columbia's newspaper site wrote, "Wait, why is consensual incest a crime? It might not be appealing to everyone, but if they're adults and they consent, who cares what they do?" A commenter at Huffington Post wrote that a "four year prison sentence is extreme -- considering they are both consenting adults." Salon writer Tracy Clark-Flory observed that there "are no allegations" that the daughter didn't give consent. "It isn't a clear-cut case of child abuse," Tracy wrote.

Whoopi Goldberg defended Roman Polanski's rape of a minor girl: "It wasn't rape rape." So I guess that this wasn't incest incest. Or something. That mere consensuality is the determinant of the legality of a sexual act is a direct outgrowth of July 1961.

Read the rest!

Update: "Switzerland considers repealing incest laws." I'm glad I don't try to write humor; it's almost impossible to write satire now because real life outdistances the imagination.

The upper house of the Swiss parliament has drafted a law decriminalising sex between consenting family members which must now be considered by the government. ...

Daniel Vischer, a Green party MP, said he saw nothing wrong with two consenting adults having sex, even if they were related.

"Incest is a difficult moral question, but not one that is answered by penal law," he said.
Maybe Daniel Vischer has a little secret . . .

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Cancun Conferees decide to meet again next year!

By Donald Sensing

The delegates at Cancun's eco-convention have adjourned with practically no conclusion except to continue the process of saving the planet.

Greenpeace's Climate Coordinator Martin Kaiser also criticized the compromise. "Central questions regarding an ambitious, fair and legally binding climate protection treaty have yet again been postponed," he said. "The oil, coal and timber industries have a further year for the uncontrolled pollution of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide."

German Environment Norbert Röttgen had a far more positive take on the outcome of Cancun. "I think it's a really great success," Röttgen, who took part in the negotiations, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "It is a significant step to revive the international climate process."
The EU should remain committed to curbing global warming, Röttgen added. He said the EU should cut its CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2020, rather than by the 20 percent envisaged so far. Germany alone would not be able to meet that more ambitious goal, he said, adding that the other 26 nations would need to do their part.

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said she was relieved at the deal. "We can be happy that the UN process was saved," she told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "But we must not overlook how difficult the path ahead is."
Well, by golly, the difficult path ahead will mean that these people will just have to get together again next year and try again! It's a hardship duty, of course - meeting is Cancun is such a simple way of life - but it has to be done. And it will be done - starting Nov. 28, 2011, in Durban, South Africa.

Well, at least Durban's on the same continent as Brazzaville.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Inches of global warming

By Donald Sensing

Today at the Sensing manse global warming hit with a vengeance.

It's quite cold, with a predicted low tonight of 14.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Prime Minister Clinton

By Donald Sensing

As has been all over the web and news, President Obama left former President Clinton at the presidential podium to carry his water on the tax-cut-unemployment-benefit deal with the Republicans. Obama said he was keeping the First Lady waiting and needed to join her (we learned later) because of a Christmas party they needed wanted to attend.

In a different context, I wrote back in June,

For this is a president of ceremony, not substance. For the first time, the United States has a chief of state but not a head of government.
And now we have Bill Clinton as prime minister.

Related: "The Mae West presidency" from Oct. 2009.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

North Korea vs. the world

By Donald Sensing

In a previous column I explained that the military strategy of North Korea (the DPRK) is based on massive retaliation against the Republic of South Korea (ROK). The DPRK can throw enormous amounts of artillery at Seoul and can attack all of the South with tactical missiles. These missiles can also reach American bases in Japan. In the background, the DPRK has been working feverishly on an ICBM to range American cities in Hawaii, Alaska and perhaps even California, missiles that may just be entering operational capability. These are serious threats that figure strongly into American and ROK planning.
A ceasefire stalemate has pertained on the peninsula since 1953, marked  by a meandering DMZ splitting the country from east to west. Although the South and the North both want to reunify the peninsula, they will not compromise with the other, nor, for that matter, is any compromise possible between a mostly free a democratic South and an oligarchic, medieval North. Low-level combat has taken place intermittently since 1953, of which the North's shelling of Yeongpeong island in November, and its sinking last spring of a ROK corvette, are continuations of a pattern. (In 1977-1978, when I was stationed in the South, DPRK special-forces raiders struck inside the South with some regularity with open firefights in the South.)
There is a growing sense across the South that enough is enough.

Read the rest!

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How fallen are the mighty mighty Titans

By Donald Sensing

Whither now for the Tennessee Titans? After standing 5-2, they have, as of last night's 30-28 loss against Indianapolis, fallen to 5-8, six losses in a row. To have a chance of making the playoffs, they have to win all three remaining games and count on the rest of the AFC-South losing most of theirs.

Ain't. Gonna. Happen.

I was able to attend the game and took some video on my Incredible (whose movie camera is admittedly pretty crappy) and got a shot of one of the rare chances to cheer.


Who knew Santa is a Titans fan?

What made this game frustrating is that the Titans should have won it. They lost not because the Colts outplayed them (which the Colts did, but that's not why they lost) but because of two crucial plays. First was a blown first-half snap to the punter, sailing over his head, giving Indy the ball on the Titans' 19. They scored a touchdown two plays later. Later,
You're trailing 27-21.

You face fourth-and-1 at your 34-yard line with about 4½ minutes remaining.

And the opposing team has one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game.

You make the call.

Titans Coach Jeff Fisher did. He sent his punt team onto the field, to the great displeasure of many chilly fans at LP Field.

You know what happened. Peyton Manning directed Indianapolis downfield, setting up a 47-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri that gave Indianapolis a nine-point cushion, effectively ending any real chance the Titans had of snapping out of their losing funk.

Fisher defended his decision. So what else is new

"Yeah, you can always second-guess that," he said. "But I felt we could get a punt, we could get a stop and get the ball back and we had a chance to win the game.

"As it was, if they miss the field goal, we still have a chance to win the game."

In short, he played it by the book. And that's fine — if you have a dominant defense and Manning is not on the other team.

There comes a time when you go off script. After five consecutive losses, why not tear up the script?
Why not, indeed? I remember that when the punting team trotted onto the field a massive groan arose from the stands, followed by booing.

Jeff, you're down by only six points. You only need a yard. You haven't stopped the Colts from advancing the ball all night, even as lousy as the Colts were playing - except Manning, who was far from his glory time but more than adequate for the Titan's pusillanimous defense.

And what the heck was Fisher talking about: "... if they miss the field goal..."? Were you at the same game I was, Jeff? Miss a field goal? Adam Vinatieri? Miss? I mean, really? No wonder, this:
Fisher's job security is at low ebb. The best he can do now is yet another 8-8 season. Coacho Ocho-Ocho is under the gun.
Fisher is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL by a comfortable margin. But fewer and fewer fans expect to see him on the sidelines next year. I always batted down firing Fisher, but after last night I have a hard time defending him.

Merry Christmas just the same!

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The simple life in Cancun

By Donald Sensing

As I covered here, the 16th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol is meeting in Cancun to decide to the tiniest detail how you and I should live. A popular idea there is that the people of the First World (that is, America and Europe) should be rationed in all their consumer goods. Economic growth should be halted.

Cancun is nothing but a soapbox for "bell the cat" proposals, like that of Prof. Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, who, according to the Telegraph, announced that the only way to save the planet is to "halt economic growth in the rich world over the next twenty years." He conceded that this "would not be easy."
Rationing for thee but not for me:

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Is global warming a good thing?

By Donald Sensing

Three years ago I asked, "What if global warming is a good thing?"

Folks my age and maybe a little younger can remember when the Environmental Apocaplypse was not global warming but global cooling. So let us suppose two things: first that global warming really is occurring and human attention to it can reverse it, and second, that we do reverse it. Are we then to agree that a cooler earth really is in our best interests? Why?

I've always kind of suspected that underlying much of environmentalism is a desire for the impossible: stasis. For the earth will either get warmer or cooler, but it definitely won't stay the same. Even if everyone were to agree that the globe really is warming, can we please see some scientifically-sound documentation that it is worse than the alternative?
Satellite shot of England covered by snow.
Well, here is the alternative: England, 2010: "Britain is freezing to death."
The winter death toll is set to rise steeply as official figures show that nine elderly people died every hour because of cold-related illnesses last year. The number of deaths linked to cold over the four months of last ­winter reached nearly 28,000. ...

Last week Lillian Jenkinson, 80, and William Wilson, 84, were found dead in the gardens of their homes 70 miles apart in Cumbria. Both are thought to have lain ­undetected in sub-zero temperatures for hours.
The temps are hardest on the elderly, who are most vulnerable to freezing temps. It doesn't help matters, either, that "pensioners" (retirees) in Britain are pensioned by the government, a payment that includes a winter fuel allowance. But heating costs are so high that, "Many have been using their free travel ­passes to spend the day riding on buses while others are seeking refuge from the cold in libraries and shopping centres."

Here in America, according to the US National Center for Health Statistics, from January through March 800 more people die per day during December-March than the rest rest of the year. That makes 95,000 additional deaths per year during the cold months compared to the warmer ones.

So tell me again, why is global warming supposed to be a bad thing?

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

By Daniel Jackson

Throughout Jewish traditional literature, the relationship between joy and mindfulness remains one of the central themes. In the midst of the joyful, the sages of the Talmud counseled to remember in the midst of joy, or sorrow, that "this too shall pass."

So, too, we find this theme reflected in the celebration of Hanukkah. While the early accounts of the Hashmonian revolt, such as Josephus or the Books of Maccabbees, focused on the military campaigns between the Seleucids and the Jews, the Talmud focuses on the laws of placing, lighting, and counting the festive lights. In fact, these histories mention nothing of the miracle cruse of oil, while the Talmud is silent on the military victories and the triumph of Jews over the Greeks.

The Talmudic tractate on blessings says that there are three things that are good in moderation but bad in excess: salt, wine, and humility. It goes without saying that fire is clearly a member of that group. As a result, the sages writing about the Festival of Lights focus on Chanukah in both a surface as well as deep sense.

The sages specify where and when the candles are to be lit, with the primary intention that they shall be safe. Light in the surface sense is an incredible gift to humanity. It gives warmth and glow to those who use it wisely. It cooks our food, it illuminates our manuscripts, it pushes back darkness in the literal as well as figurative sense. However, like many things in life, it is also taken for granted. Therefore the sages instituted the traditional recitation of the "rules" for the Festival Lights, which is made during the lighting of the menorah:

"These lights we kindle upon the miracles, the wonders, the salvations, and the battles which You performed for our forefathers in those days at this season through Your holy priests. During all eight days of Chanukah, these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them but to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your Great Name for Your miracles, Your wonders, and Your salvations." (Siddur Etz Chaim)

These are lights, clearly are not to be used to read by or work by or to do any of our mundane tasks utilizing the light generated from them. They are sacred. As such, we are to watch them and enjoy the miracle of Light, then and at all time. The Light in general, as well as the specific events, is the focus of our act of lighting. Indeed, the Talmud tells us that the time for lighting was at the end of the day in the market place, outside the house, and at a height that was deemed safe enough not to be knocked over by passing animals.

In other words, the sages were concerned with the "rule" of joy and mindfulness. Joy for the gift of Light and God's mysterious workings in human affairs. Mindfulness that the Light should not overstep its bounds spreading disaster and destruction in its path as a voracious damager. Indeed, this is symbolically taught by the very nature of the Chanukah menorah itself--four lights balanced by four lights.

Our lives, the sages instruct, are a balance between the desire to be joyous and the necessity to be mindful. Lack of attention to detail, as well as lack of acknowledgment to God can turn a small match into a raging inferno. Chanukah, now as then, comes to teach us about mindfulness and dedication. In any age mindfulness is reciprocally measured compared to salt, wine, and humility: too little is dangerous, too much is just right.

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Baltimore bomb plot foiled

By Donald Sensing

A 21-year-old Muslim has been arrested by the FBI for attempting to bomb a military recruiting station in Catonsville with a "bomb" supplied by federal agents (link).

Federal authorities say Antonio Martinez, also known as Muhammad Hussain, attempted to detonate what he believed to be a vehicle bomb this morning at the Armed Forces Career Center in the 5400 block of Baltimore National Pike.

Court records paint Martinez as obsessed with Jihad and intent on punishing the military. He praised Nidal Hassan, the U.S. Army major who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, and discussed obtaining weapons and shooting up military installations, records show.

In November, he was observed on a public computer in Woodlawn viewing videos of Osama bin Laden and an Iraqi martyrdom. He discussed in public postings on his Facebook page how the "reign of oppression is about 2 cease."
A recent convert. Catonsville is part of the Baltimore metro area. Although there appears not to be a mosque in Catonsville itself, there is no shortage Islamic centers in Baltimore where radicalizing Muslim converts could take place.

Kudos to the FBI for their work!

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Ditch the Fed? Not so fast!

By Donald Sensing

The Federal Reserve! The Federal Reserve
gives us an economy we don't deserve!
Don't say "Ben Bernanke"
without offering a hanky
to dry my copious tears -
my mortgage is now in arrears!

A Central Bank! A Central Bank?
Let us be completely frank:
Depression, inflation,
recession, deflation,
they're cycles we have to endure.
The Central Bank's motives are pure!

True or false: the United States did not have a central bank before 1913, the year the Federal Reserve system was established. 

Answer to follow. First, consider the growing numbers of voices these days urging either to dis-establish the Fed or to revise its charter (which would not be the first time). Gerald O'Driscoll, writing in the Wall Street Journal, belongs in the former camp. He points out that that the Fed's financial record since 1913 has been far from admirable. Wartime inflation followed almost immediately, then a depression in the early 1920s. The rest of the decade's prosperity is credited to Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon (and rightly so, I believe), but the Fed's performance during the Great Depression was simply disastrous. Since then, the Fed has hardly covered itself in glory since its charter is to provide price stability and full employment. These are "dueling mandates," say some economists, that set the Fed up to fail one or the other (such as nowadays). 

But before we return to the halcyon days before the Fed, let's remember that they were the years of the "Panics" - of 1873-1879, 1893-1897, of 1907. And in fact, the US did have a central bank before 1913. 

His name was J.P. Morgan.

A severe depression that began in 1893 resulted in a run on gold until the Treasury could not redeem more gold because of statutory limits on reserve holdings. In 1895, Morgan loaned the Treasury Dept. $65 million in gold to stabilize the supply and the dollar, which was at the time linked to both gold and silver. 

Another crisis, the Panic of 1907, was caused by a collapse of the stock market when the country was already in a recession. Brokerages and banks found their capitalization, based on the values of stock they held, to be worthless. Faced with impending bankruptcy of the nation's large banks and trusts, Morgan coordinated a plan among New York's bankers and the Treasury department to deposit tens of millions of dollars into still-healthy banks (letting the insolvent ones go under). Morgan and John. D. Rockefeller put up many millions of their own money. They also set controls of the money supply among banks, solidified lines of credit and bought out stocks that were sharply falling in price. In other words, a TARP.

Morgan owned U.S. Steel. Before the Panic ended, he had taken over his chief competitor. He sailed right around the antitrust issues by getting President Theodore Roosevelt to guarantee immunity. Morgan bought the company, which saved the brokerage firm Moore and Schley from going under - had it done so, brokerages would have fallen like dominoes across all Wall Street. The Panic then ended almost immediately.

Although Morgan had saved the country from a sure and serious depression, the whole affair repelled Progressives. (Roosevelt, who had at least skirted with collusion to break the law, was himself the leading Progressive of the day). 

Movement to create a federal central bank began almost right away, based on making sure that the US financial system would not again be subject to the power of an individual and all the under-the-table dealing that had gone on. Moreover, Morgan was already elderly in 1907 by standards of the day. Members of government realized neither he nor someone both as astute and as wealthy as he was likely to be around the next time there was a crisis. 

Coincidentally, Morgan died the same year the Fed was created, 1913.

None of this is to toot the Fed's horn or defend it. It is only to show that saying the US didn't have a central bank until 1913 is simply in error. We just didn't have a federal central bank until then.

(The Second Bank of the United States, a private bank whose cozy charter with the federal government expired in 1836, had been something of a hybrid between what Morgan did and what the Fed does now. But its history was not part of the move to establish the Fed.)

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fireball near Atlanta Sky! Oh, my!

By Donald Sensing

Yet again, an unusual sighting yesterday of a common phenomenon has people hand wringing over what it could be. Is the earth under attack by space aliens? Did North Korea launch an ICBM? Was it just a big meteor burning up in the atmosphere? Space junk? What? What? What!

AJC has the vid, but here it is on Youtube:

This, friends and co-conspirators, is a jet-plane contrail. Look carefully and you can see two separate streams of exhaust at the front that merge at the rear just before the contrail dissipates. The only thing unusual about it is the color from the setting sun. Note that in the vid, another jet flies in from the right and its contrail is the same hue.

Depending on atmospheric conditions at the altitude of a flight, contrails may stretch far behind a plane or dissipate quickly. Sometime, contrails do not even form.

Not long ago even CBS News said its video proved a missile was launched off California, but no one could identify where it came from or whose it was. Of course not - it was a contrail, too.

No Armageddon in waiting here, folks.

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Pearl Harbor Day

By Donald Sensing

This is the original ship's bell of USS Arizona, recovered from the sunken vessel and now on display at the entrance to the National Park Service pavilion across the channel from the memorial.

I posted about my visit to the memorial in 2005, "Remember Pearl Harbor."

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Monday, December 6, 2010

The particle physicists' lament

By Donald Sensing

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