September 20, 2014

Speedrun: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Don't have time to watch the original Star Wars? This one will be finished in a minute. (Warning: mild profanity.)

August 17, 2014

Monique Evans Embarrasses Herself

Monique Evans, Miss Texas 2014, embarrassing herself at the Texas Rangers game.  Seriously, MLB needs to institute a few rules for people whom they're considering to throw the first pitch.  I'd suggest, at the very least, that the ball must cross the plate (we'll be generous and say anywhere between the two batters' boxes) and that the ball must not touch the ground before reaching the catcher (no bouncing the ball on the ground or rolling it, like Miss Evans did here - apparently she confused baseball with bowling).

August 14, 2014

Robin Williams on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

This is a must–watch episode. Essentially, Williams stole the show within 10 seconds.

August 9, 2014

Jessie Ware - What You Won't Do For Love

I heard this cover of the Bobby Caldwell song What You Won't Do for Love on Internet radio yesterday. I'm not familiar with Jessie Ware's work, but I really like this version.

August 4, 2014

Alan Parsons - Fragile

(Yeah, I know; I'm on a roll. Two days in a row.)

I had heard about Alan's new song, Fragile, some time ago, but I only got to see this music video and hear the song for the first time last night. It's pretty good. Check it out!

August 3, 2014

Conflicts Forum on Palestine

This excerpt from a longer essay on Conflicts Forum was published on July 31st. The point mentioned at the beginning of the fourth paragraph (whether Hamas' tactics can work in flat, sandy Gaza) seems to have been answered in the affirmative; otherwise, the essay seems to be spot on. There are several points mentioned here that I haven't seen anyone else address, which is why I wanted to share this excerpt.

The rest of the essay deals with Iraq/ISIS/Iran and Ukraine/Russia, so if you have an interest in these conflicts, you might want to click on the link above.

In Palestine, we see something akin: Israel has used the pretext that it was searching for three young settlers taken hostage, and ‘presumed’ to be still alive (but whom the Israeli government knew to be dead, and to have been killed by Palestinians who were not Hamas), to degrade Hamas institutionally in the West Bank, as well as in Gaza – with Prime Minister Netanyahu saying (in Hebrew) “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan” – Or, in other words, ‘no two-state solution’ and effectively no end to the occupation.

Netanyahu used the murders to nurse Israeli popular anger at Hamas (whom the PM said repeatedly was responsible – when it was not).  Mirror passions were then ignited amongst Palestinians in wake of the revenge immolation alive of a sixteen-year-old Palestinian boy. Netanyahu’s aim in this political deceit was to use the crisis firstly, to hobble Hamas in the West Bank; and secondly, to try to re-impose the status quo in Gaza (the return of the PA to governing Gaza). The December 2012 ceasefire agreement, brokered with Hamas, which Israel claims Hamas to have breached with retaliatory rocket fire – in fact provided for some alleviations on the longstanding encirclement and siege of the Gazan people – alleviations were never enacted by Israel

Netanyahu now wishes to re-impose the unalleviated siege (i.e. the earlier status quo) under the guise of a ceasefire agreement, whereas Hamas seeks to break it definitively. It plans to do this by following the tactics used by Hizbullah in Lebanon in the 2006 war:  Hizbullah’s leadership was buried deep underground; it allowed the initial aerial carpet bombing to roll over their (largely) unaffected military forces – and Hizbullah fighters managed to keep on firing rockets into Israel.  The purpose of the rockets was never intended to inflict a military defeat on Israel, but was intended to force IDF ‘boots on the ground’ in South Lebanon (ideal guerrilla country), where the IDF could be made to experience pain.  Ultimately the only answer to rockets whose operators can ‘fire and flee’ in less than 60 seconds – well before Israeli forces can lock onto the firing point – can only be ‘boots on the ground’.

It remains to be seen whether Hamas’ tactics will work (Gaza is mainly flat and largely sand – unlike south Lebanon – which puts Hamas at a distinct disadvantage).  But clearly the Hamas military wing, who are the ones calling the shots, do not want a ceasefire at this time – especially “a fraudulent ceasefire”.  ”My Israeli source”, commentator Richard Silverstein, writes, “who was consulted as part of the negotiations, tells me that this was not, in reality, an Egyptian proposal.  It was, in fact, an Israeli proposal presented in the guise of an Egyptian proposal.  Israel wrote the ceasefire protocol.  One side prepared the ceasefire, and essentially presented it to itself and accepted it.  The other side wasn’t consulted”. Tony Blair, the Quartet Envoy, similarly facilitated the ‘ceasefire’.

Hamas wants to force Netanyahu into a ground incursion (and seems now to have succeeded in this).  And Netanyahu and President Sisi hope to use any ‘ceasefire’ agreement to return Gaza to the status quo ante - and to stage the replacement of Hamas as the source of governance and authority with the Palestinian Authority (in other words, to stage a ‘soft coup’ in Gaza as in 2007).

But the point of all this is precisely its pointlessness. Israeli security officials openly say that ‘mowing the grass (i.e. killing Gazans in sufficient numbers to deter aggression – until the next round of conflict) is pointless. It is strictly tactical and short-term, and achieves nothing strategic. Israel just has to continue ‘mowing the grass’.

The Palestinian issue (though demoted in regional attention over recent years), nonetheless is both neuralgic and iconic for most Muslims.  It still remains the fulcrum around which regional differences may be buried.  It can and does have the ability to de-stabilise politics (Arab leaders still fear its prominent featuring on news broadcasts) – albeit not to the extent they did in earlier decades.  It is plain that the situation in Gaza is critically unstable and cannot continue indefinitely; the two-state project has been dead for some years (Martin Indyk recently confirmed its demise), yet Europeans and Americans seem paralysed in their decision-making: they simply find it easier – given the strong political cross-currents  – to broadly let events take care of themselves.

April 24, 2014

Meskel Square, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

Traffic lights? We don't need no stinkin' traffic lights! But, seriously, count the number of accidents in this video. it's exactly zero!

February 28, 2014

Rain

As those of us who live in Singapore know, we've gone for a month without rain, and our normally luxuriant lawns are all toasty brown now. At the grocery store, the cashier asked me, "Would you like anything else?" I thought for a moment, then said, "Yes, I'd like some rain, please. I prefer that the grass be green." She didn't say anything, but she did smile.

Update: I'm happy to report that Singapore began getting the rain we needed several weeks ago. We started getting rain again about nine or ten days after I originally wrote the above post. While the lawns have all returned to their usual emerald green color, the trees are very much hit-and-miss. Perhaps a quarter of all trees here suffered badly from the stress of having no water. (Dead leaves would fall from the trees like it was autumn in New England, a very unusual sight here in tropical Singapore.) While most of the dead leaves that can fall off have done so, there are still many trees with either dead limbs or the tree itself has died from the month-long drought. Those will need to be cut down and replaced eventually. I expect it will take some time, perhaps up to a year or so, before the last traces of this dry season disappear from sight.

October 29, 2013