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Monthly Archives: December 2008

Bricks and mortar

December 31st, 2008 - 12:58 am

This video, showing an IDF strike on Hamas headquarters in Gaza, was hosted here after it was pulled from YouTube.

It shows a succession of munitions hitting a compound, destroying each building in turn. The tactical aim is obvious: to destroy Hamas’ infrastructure. But the long range goal of these attacks is less self-evident. The human infrastructure of Hamas must be the real center of gravity and since those assets have gone to ground after the first strikes; either literally or by distributing themselves among the population, then what is the sense of further air attacks. Do they presage ground action? Are they simply an attempt to “degrade” Hamas’ capability?


Happy New Year everybody!


Sure, boss

December 29th, 2008 - 5:13 am

Open thread. “British MP Andy Burnham plans to work with Obama administration to establish international rules for websites”. News.com.au reports:

The ratings used for films could be applied to websites in a bid to better police the internet and protect children from harmful and offensive material, Britain’s minister for culture has said.

Andy Burnham told Britain’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper the government was planning to negotiate with the administration of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to draw up new international rules for English language websites. …

Any moves to censor the internet would go to the heart of a debate about freedom of speech on the World Wide Web.

“If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that governments couldn’t reach,” Burnham told The Daily Telegraph. “I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now.”

He said some content should not be available to be viewed.

“This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it.”


The people of the shadows

December 28th, 2008 - 9:20 pm

What’s sometimes overlooked in the news coverage of “militant” organizations like Hamas is the role they play in oppressing their own people.  Historically terrorist organizations have had to kill many more of their own people than the enemy, for the simple reason that maintaining control over their population, not defeating the enemy army, is their political priority. Rarely have the absurdist consequences of this been so clearly demonstrated than by events in Mosul.

MOSUL, Iraq (AFP) – A suicide bomber on a bicycle in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul targeted a protest condemning Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip, killing one civilian and wounding 16 on Sunday, police said.

“One civilian was killed and 16 were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up when he rode his bicycle into the middle of an anti-Israeli demonstration in the city,” local police Major Wael Rasheed told AFP. …

Mosul, the country’s second largest city, is believed to be the last urban stronghold of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has been behind hundreds of bombings since the 2003 US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

It makes sense in a bizarre kind of way. In the terrorist calculus, attacking one crowd is as good as another. It garners the same amount of publicity and sows the same amount of terror; greater even for being so unpredictable. To paraphrase Crosby, Stills and Nash — when you can’t kill the one you hate, then kill the one you’re with.

Although it is no longer widely believed that sharks during a feeding frenzy actually bite themselves, it is well documented that when terrorist organizations are not otherwise occupied they continuously fight for power among themselves. Sharks are less bloodthirsty than men. Readers are invited to closely examined the caption on the photograph below. It depicts a Hamas facility used to “interrogate” Fatah men and those suspected of cooperating with Israel.


The strike on Hamas

December 27th, 2008 - 3:50 pm

The Times Online reports that Israel carried out attacks on multiple Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. It says that several schoolchildren were also hurt in the attack.

One perfectly aimed missile demolished the Hamas-control-led Rafah police station. But the building next door was a school and several pupils were on the street outside when a huge explosion sent shards of shrapnel and concrete hurtling in all directions. Parents rushed into the streets frantically looking for their children.

The strikes on Gaza yesterday were unparalleled. Israeli warplanes screamed in from the sea across Gaza in wave after wave, pounding at least 30 security compounds in the strip controlled by the Hamas government.

At 11.30am Israeli time, the first wave of 60 F16s screamed low over Gaza, launching rockets at 50 targets. Israeli military sources said a total of 100 missiles were fired at Hamas police stations, command centers, training bases and illicit manufacturing warehouses.

In the second wave, 20 Israeli jets returned, following up intelligence received from drones in the skies over the Strip. They launched 50 missiles aimed almost entirely at militants who had come out with makeshift rockets to hit back.

The offensive took Hamas by surprise. The Islamic fundamentalist government had expected retaliation for the 200 rockets that Hamas and other extremist groups have launched into southern Israel since a six-month truce expired earlier this month. It had believed, however, that the attack would follow an Israeli cabinet meeting today.

The US blamed Hamas for breaking the ceasefire but also called for its restoration. The AP reported that

“The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza,” Rice said in a statement. “The cease-fire should be restored immediately. The United States calls on all concerned to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza.”

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council [said] “The message from the United States is that Hamas is a terrorist organization that is firing rockets into Israel and they fired them onto their own people as well”

IDF photos provided to the Belmont Club by email show a number of the pre-attack photos of targets planners had intended to hit.  The photos are of training sites, intelligence and debriefing facilities, weapons storage areas and administrative headquarters. Some of the pictures are shown after the “Read More”.



December 26th, 2008 - 10:14 pm

Shortly after the end of the Second World War, Ron Goldstein decided to compile the notes, pictures, postcards of his recent service into a scrapbook. He was awaiting discharge and, as he says, “had plenty of time on his hands”. Then in 1988, Goldstein’s sister persuaded him to write a memoir to complement the scrapbook. He found that its pages were disintegrating with age and rebound them. Fortunately for us, Goldstein decided to reproduce each and every page on his blogsite. This was the result.


The coming of the prophets

December 26th, 2008 - 6:59 pm

The Times of India describes how the foundations of enmity against their subcontinental neighbor has been laid, deep and unshakeable, by the Pakistani policy of indoctrinating children from their earliest years into regarding the Hindu as only slightly less evil than the Westerner.

Terrorism in Pakistan has its roots in the culture of hate and the ethos of inequality on the ground of religious faith, leading to their being deeply ingrained in the Pakistani psyche and mindset. One factor that has played a crucial role in creating this culture of hate is the educational policy of the government of Pakistan pursued since 1977. The officially prescribed textbooks, especially for school students, are full of references that promote hate against India in general, and Hindus in particular. …

The Class 5 book has this original discovery about Hindu help to bring British rule to India: “The British had the objective to take over India and to achieve this, they made Hindus join them and Hindus were very glad to side with the British. After capturing the subcontinent, the British began on the one hand the loot of all things produced in this area, and on the other, in conjunction with Hindus, to greatly suppress the Muslims.” The Std VIII book says, “Their (Muslim saints) teachings dispelled many superstitions of the Hindus and reformed their bad practices. Thereby Hindu religion of the olden times came to an end.” … And this great historic discovery is taught to Std V students, “Previously, India was part of Pakistan.”

Each culture approaches the problem of winning hearts and minds in its own peculiar way. The Washington Post, for example, describes how the CIA tackles the problem by aiming low — or getting people high — depending on your understanding of the word. It’s secret weapon: viagra. After all, when a man has matrimonial obligations to a harem of women he may need all the help he can get.

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

“Take one of these. You’ll love it,” the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.


Future sages

December 26th, 2008 - 4:12 am

Consider whether archaeologists of the far future will understand the social significance of the existence of the built-in ashtray — and its disappearance — standard on the SAGE computer display terminals of the 1950s. The Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense system “was an automated control system for tracking and intercepting enemy bomber aircraft used by NORAD from the late 1950s into the 1980s.” While the heart of the system was giant computer called AN/FSQ-7, operators controlled the beast from terminals equipped with technological innovations which would not become common for decades: a CRT display which represented data in graphical form, a pointing device in the form of a light pen and modems for wide-area networking. But if SAGE situation displays were a harbinger of the future, the terminal contained features which were representative of things even then receding into the social past: the built-in cigarette lighter and ashtray. Significantly and probably to the astonishment of moderns, the consoles had no integral coffee cup holder.

The AN/FSQ-7 is the largest computer ever built,[citation needed] and will likely hold that record in the future. Each machine used 55,000 vacuum tubes, about ½ acre (2,000 m²) of floor space, weighed 275 tons and used up to three megawatts of power. … Each SAGE site included two computers for redundancy, with one processor on “hot standby” at all times. In spite of the poor reliability of the tubes, this dual-processor design made for remarkably high overall system uptime. 99% availability was not unusual.

SAGE sites were connected to multiple radar stations which transmitted tracking data (range and azimuth) in digitized format by modem over ordinary telephone lines. These digitized inputs were automatically prepared from analog radar inputs by the AN/FST-2B (or successor, AN/FYQ-47) at the radar stations. The SAGE computers then collected the tracking data for display on a CRT as icons. Situation Display (SD) console operators at the center could select any of the “targets” on the display with a light gun, and then display additional information about the tracking data reported by the radar stations. Up to 150 operators could be supported from each center. Each SD operator console was equipped with an integral cigarette lighter and ashtray.


Maybe he did

December 25th, 2008 - 6:58 am

Messiah (HWV 56) is an oratorio by George Frideric Handel based on a libretto by Charles Jennens. Composed in the summer of 1741 and premiered in Dublin on the 13 April 1742, Messiah is Handel’s most famous creation and is among the most popular works in Western choral literature. It includes the very well-known ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. … It was premiered during the following season, in the spring of 1742, as part of a series of charity concerts in Neal’s Music Hall on Fishamble Street near Dublin’s Temple Bar district. … There is a story told (perhaps apocryphally) that Handel’s assistant walked in to Handel’s room after shouting to him for several minutes with no response. The assistant reportedly found Handel in tears, and when asked what was wrong, Handel held up the score to this movement and said, ‘I thought I saw the face of God’.”

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Silent Night

December 23rd, 2008 - 9:35 pm

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

WASHINGTON, Dec 23 (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s office said on Tuesday that an internal audit showed his aides had no improper contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of seeking to sell Obama’s Senate seat. … “My inquiry determined that there was nothing at all inappropriate about those conversations,” incoming White House attorney Greg Craig said on a conference call. Craig stressed that Emanuel was the only figure within the transition team to have direct contact with Blagojevich or members of his staff and said “those contacts were totally appropriate and acceptable.”

The report conceded that Emanuel had had “one or two” telephone calls with Blagojevich and discussed possible candidates for the Senate seat that Obama vacated after he was elected president Nov. 4. “Mr. Emanuel recommended Valerie Jarrett because he knew she was interested in the seat,” the report said. “He did so before learning — in further conversations — that the president-elect had ruled out communicating a preference.” …

“No one in the Obama circle was aware of what was going on in the governor’s office or in the governor’s mind until such time as he was arrested,” Craig said.