Friday, March 31, 2006

Price of 1 vote

I think people learned from the 2000 US presidential elections and the Florida incident that every vote counts. Recent elections in Israel provided one more prove to that effect.

Before the voting of soldiers was taken into account Likud had 11 seats and Israel Our Home 12 seats. As a consequence It because 4th largest party in Knesset, and potentially the largest party in opposition. Which is actually a big deal, because the opposition leader has special privileges, and special status according to law, and is the one expected to run for prime minister in the next elections.

Parties by size before soldiers voted:

Israel Our Home

It was not meant to be. After soldier's votes have been accounted for, it turned out that Israel Our Home has exactly 220 votes less then Likud. As a consequence 1 of their seats went to Likud, getting their total down to 11, and getting Likud up to 12. Now Likud is the 3 largest party, as the ex-3rd largest party Shas also lost one seat and came down to 12 from 13.

Parties by size after soldiers voted:

Shas, Likud
Israel Our Home

That's not all however. The person who got so lucky and got the 12th seat from Likud is Israel Katz. Israel Katz belongs to group of internal opposition to Netaniahu, also featuring Silvan Shalom, Limor Livnat and Dani Nave. In Israel there is a law that a party has officially split if at least 1/3 of it's members leave it to create a new parliamentary block. Without Katz the opposition was 3/11 which is less then 1/3. With him it is 4/12 which is exactly 1/3. Which means that those 220 votes gave Shalom & co. the power to threaten Netaniahu with splitting up the party (again). Or actually do it.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Back to the future

And the second elections in Israel are over, we get a terrorist attack. Hamas is back, now that it's favorite candidate has won the Israeli elections, and it's safe to kill again. In other news, new rocket lunchers are developed in Gaza. They will reach as far as Ashdod.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Can we still ship a ship?

Microsoft can't ship a new operating system since 2001. NASA can't lunch a ship since 2003 (and can't land one for even longer). That's 3 years for anyone who is counting. What's next? US government unable to reorganize homeland security since 2001? Oh wait...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Quote of the day 2

Tom Maurstad on "V for Vendetta": "it was better the first time around, when it was called The Matrix".

Quote of the day

Kadima's official, on his party's failure to convince the russian-speaking voters to support Kadima: "A little too late we understood that the approach for Russian speakers must be rational"

Monday, March 27, 2006

Other World

Yesterday I went to Indian Festival in Fort Lauderdale, and had a chance to converse with an interesting Indian. He was dressed in traditional Indian outfit, with different symbols from the Hindu religion. For anyone not familiar with Hinduism seeing this dress could come as a shock. There were 3 most prominent symbols drawn on the surface of his outfit: the "OM" symbol, a six-edged star (Star of David in Judaism) and the Swastika. Although I knew about the origin of those symbols, it still felt very strange to see swastika neighboring star of David on Hindu dress. A reminder of how fast people twist the world around us into it's complete opposite, and how quickly we (especially the Europeans / Americans) forget our history.
Another thing that surprised me, if not in content (because I already knew about this) then in delivery was his mention of Christ. Leaving no room for doubt, as if we were speaking of a widely known and non-disputed fact he informed me that Christ spent a dozen years of his life in India (starting from age 13, point after which Bible is skipping right to his 30s), and that he died in India, returning there after crucifixion.
There was also another thing he mentioned, one that really took me by surprise. Religion, he said, was European invention. Before Europeans came to India and explained to everyone that they are religious, and are practicing this or that religion, the concept itself did not exist in that society. There was no religion, and one couldn't be religious, atheist, or agnostic. There was simply a way of life. One or another. That's it. And now that I think of it, the concept does seems very artificial. Nations that today preach religious tolerance are partly responsible for creating the need for it in the first place. How ironic is that.
Just a small chat with someone raised in a different culture, and the world stands on it's head, and truth, whatever it is, is banging on the door.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I'm not telling your actual score. Hmph!
The Magician is free and full of energety. Magicians like to entertain. They like to change things. They seem driven by some invisible force. Things that never change quickly become boring to them, as they live fast-paced lives. They are very creative and able; many successful people are Magicians. Magicians, as the name implies, are often very talented and capable of performing feats that seem impossible. Although they are very artistic, they aren't usually introspective or philosophical. Magicians prefer to live in the minute. Although they really like people and even devote a portion of themselves to the world, they need their space. You can't corner a magician. He'll disappear in a puff of smoke.

The Magician's complement is the kind and generous King.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 60% on Confidence
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 81% on Creativity
Link: The Medieval Archetype Test written by isayso on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

State of Affairs

Lets talk about today's geopolitical landscape, and trends. There are several important things happening today, that will have far-reaching consequences in the future, and it is important to understand them. This post is not so much my own conclusions, as it is a digest of several analytical articles.

Retreat on Hamas Front
First, there is the Hamas victory in Palestinian general elections. The trends that will set the course of events for the next few years are evident already. Hamas was able to bring 88 parliamentarians under their flag (more then two thirds), and immediately took away from Abbas ability to block parliament's decisions. The rule in PA is now parliamentary (belongs to Hamas), and not presidential (belongs to Fatah). All western powers dealing with Hamas - Israel, US, EU, Russia showed submission, are on retreat, and talk in split tongue. Israel gave Hamas ~45 million dollars. US government cannot give Hamas money, but cheered EU's decision to do just that. Finally, Russia invited Hamas to Kremlin. Despite popular belief, this is not going to hurt Russia. On the contrary, they are setting the stage for EU and US future talks with Hamas, quite possibly with EU and US blessing. This will result in further submissions and pressure on Israel to cave in to more demands. Hamas will try to remain "a good international citizen" while this retreat continues, getting ready to start a war the second it stops. The biggest threat to Hamas is, surprisingly, coming from Al Qaida which recently started pressuring Hamas to turn Gaza, and then West Bunk into Taliban-style state. Given Hamas's Muslim roots, it will be very hard for them to balance between being a good international citizen, and not upsetting their own supporters or provoking Al Qaida retaliation against them.

Retreat on Iraq Front
Whether or not going into Iraq was a good idea, Bush's handling of subsequent war in Iraq, that developed between Suni militia, Iranian agents and Zarkawis Al Qaida on one side, and US, British, and Iraqi regular army on another, is a failure. US army, despite winning nearly all battles it fought, is loosing the war. Despite having unlimited financial and (Iraqi) human resources, is failing to create a fight-worthy regular army of Iraq. High rate of desertions, Al Qaida infiltration, poor training are making Iraqi army a useless body of firearms bearers. The second coalition forces retreat from Iraq this army will face impossible odds and either crumble or will be completely taken over by Al Qaida. And retreat is exactly what US and British forces are starting to do. By 2007/8 Iraq will be free of western armies, and split, if not in name then in practice, into 3 entities: Kurds under US influence in north, Sunis + Al Qaida on West, Shiits under Iranian influence in South. 2 out of 3 parts of Iraq (excluding the Kurds) will become terrorist states. Oil production will soar, as different forces will start cashing in on their new-found fortune. US's credibility among the common men in the middle east, shaken after the early 90's retreat, will be shattered. Next time US will need local cooperation in the region they will face a huge problem of mistrust.

Israeli Elections
Kadima led by Olmert will win the elections. The threat to Olmert's rule will come from within. Kadima is made up of people that united around a specific man and a specific idea. The man, Ariel Sharon, is now on his death bed, and idea, unilateral disengagement, is becoming more and more controversial, now that the Hamas has won the elections in PA. Already there are two camps forming in Kadima around this issue. Which means simple thing really - the government will be heavily influenced by the second biggest party in coalition. I expect the results of nearing general elections to be strongly underwhelming for Kadima, making it even more dependent on other coalition members. In all probability Olmert will choose to go with Avoda and not Likud, since caving in to social demands of Amir Peretz will be less intrusive then caving in to political demands of Netaniahu. Given Mr. Peretz's track record, it is as good as tossing the economy out of the window, in slow motion. The government will not live long (a year or two) but long enough to cause some major strategic and economical damage. Olmert's indecisiveness and lack of clear strategy will become more and more apparent, and Kadima will disappear from political map within several years, torn apart by both inside and outside forces.

And what are your thoughts of the situation?

Monday, March 06, 2006

You Are Italian Food

Comforting yet overwhelming.

People love you, but sometimes you're just too much.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Manifesto against Islamism

Taken from Irina Tsukerman

MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject cultural relativism, which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

12 signatures

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq

Copy this manifesto, spread the word!