Archive for June, 2010

Israeli Apartheid

 | June 18, 2010 6:29 am

The moral shambles that is Israeli apartheid is bad enough, what with illegal settlements adiabatically stealing land from original inhabitants, and relegating the original inhabitants to a second-class or even third-class citizen status, while simultaneously engaging in a process of ghetoization and starvation of the original inhabitants, in a cruel imitation of the European conquest of America, which led to the creation of the United States of America, who finances and provides and muscle for our Israeli friends.

Until I read this article (haaretz.com) it never occurred to me to think of the Israeli settlements as a continuance of European colonialism. The flooring thing, which is entirely new to me, is that Israelis of European descent are racist against Israeli’s of Middle Eastern descent. So take away the religious difference, and we find that the Jewish European invaders (settlers) are racist against Jewish Israeli citizens native to the area. . Apparently the Israeli high court is attempting to desegregate schools in the settlements. If I follow this right, the Israelis of European descent are “Ashkenazi”, while those of middle eastern descent, i.e. the natives, are “Sephardi”. The Ashkenazim parents refuse to let their kids be educated together with the Sephardim. The Israeli police are now seeking arrest for 22 mothers and 2 fathers who failed to show up for two-week jail sentences, for refusing to integrate their children.

According to Yair Sheleg of haaretz.com:

The issue, then, is not Jewish religious law, but rather the racist social norms that characterize the entire ultra-Orthodox worldview. (The Haredim, as we know, also discriminate against the newly religious. )

Heavy stuff (Haredim apparently refers to the ultra-orthodox Ashkenazim).

I find it entertaining to the put the situation into the framework of European Colonialism by way of zombie films. The Ashkenazim have been infected by that European cultural meme of racism and intolerance, which led to our atrocities against the natives, and mexicans, and philipines, and haitians, and central americans (etc etc), the British atrocities against the Indians (and, and, and), the French atrocities against the Indochines (and, and, and), not to mention the Dutch and Spanish, and of course the German atrocities against the Jews. The nazis bit the Jews who are now chomping away at the native populations… the palestinians, and the Sephardim.

Come gentlemen! Ghandi showed us the cure for this meme nearly a hundred years ago. Let’s get busy curing ourselves before we consume ourselves.

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Labor’s problem

 | June 17, 2010 6:15 am

Labor’s problem is basically our problem… Blanche Lincoln, a total corporate sell out, won in a tightly contested battle against her challenger in the Democratic primaries. Labor dumped 10 million bucks in a campaign to defeat Lincoln. Hell, I donated ten buck to get the bitch defeated, and I don’t even live in the states.

What’s the issue? Well, Lincoln worked against the public option, and basically Lincoln works consistently against the public in the factor of corporate interests. Now White House staff has apparently been making nasty comments to the effect that Labor just pissed away 10 million bucks.

The problem here is the problem we all face: What can we do about it? Should labor endore the rabidly anti-labor Republicans come November? All they can do is half heartedly support the bastards that are going to screw them the least. Are you pissed off about the fact that the Obama administration has allowed the shallow off-shore drilling moratorium to expire? Well, what are you going to do, vote for the Republicans?

I’m going to the green party website and donating some money right now…

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Lies My Teacher Told Me

 | June 16, 2010 6:24 am

I’m on a bit of a history jag right now, and just finished reading the excellent “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by J. W. Loewen. The book is fascinating not only for the facts, insight and interpretation it gives to American history, but in its sociological analysis of how history is taught in America. It’s simultaneously a significant work of scholarship and a fascinating and fun read. Good enough that I had to write the author to tell him about my American history experience. I think my observations might be entertaining or edifying for others, so I’ll go ahead and post it here:

I just finished reading “Lies My Teacher Told Me”, and I wanted to write you and tell you it had a powerful impact on me. My wife is a sekondar teacher here in Switzerland, and history and social-studies are among the subjects she teaches. Although American history plays a lesser role in her lessons, and her teaching doesn’t seem to suffer from the same failings that the American curriculum does, I’m giving the book to her next, as I’m pretty sure she will find it fascinating and inspiring.

You might be interested in my experience with American high school. I went to a Canadian school grades 1-11, and then attended an American high school (in Sarasota, Fl) for the last year. There I had to take American History and American Government classes to satisfy the graduation requirements.

While some of the problems you address in your text were present in my earlier education (in grade 9 my social studies class was taught by the phys-ed coach), in grades 10 and 11 I had a fantastic social studies teacher (Mr Huff). We spent months discussing Indian culture and government, particularly the Iroquois. We staged a mock trial of Louis Real. His tests were always of the same form: He would take a particular issue from Canadian history, demand that we form an opinion on that issue, and then back that opinion with facts. We were graded on how many relevant facts we could bring to bear on our opinion.

Then I arrived in Sarasota. My history teacher there was named Mr. Bassett, a sextagenarian with died, brylcreamed hair. I think he was striving for a Southern Ronald Reagan look. The first thing I balked at was when Mr. Bassett proudly declared that Columbus had to convince the King and Queen that the world was round. I was shocked at the coverage of the Indians. I often tried to initiate discussion, as up until that point I had found history and social studies fascinating.

Some of the highlights:

– When we got the point of the constitutional convention, Bassett proudly explained to us that “I believe that there is nothing truly new under the sun. Everything has been done before. But on that day the founders creating something truly new, something that had never been seen before: a democratic government founded by the people, for the people and of the people”. At that point I said “well, what about the Iroquois? They had a democracy”. Bassett explained to me that this was the first time “a Nation” was a democracy. I recall learning that the Iroquois were called the “Iroquois Nation” in my history books, but Bassett wasn’t interested in discussion and just thundered on.

– It was election year (Bush Sr. vs Dukakis), and one day Bassett came in talking about an interview he’d seen on TV where the primary candidates had talked about what their favorite foods were. He looked down his nose at the black half the class and made a funny comment about how naturally J. Jackson’s favorite food was chicken. Now, in the town I grew up in there were no black people, and I was actually completely unaware of the “blacks like chicken” stereotype. It wasn’t until years later that I got what had been going on, and I got really pissed off.

– We learned what made a slave owner a good slave owner, and what made one a bad slave owner. A couple years later I was watching a black protester discuss how much having to answer that question on a test pissed him off, and I thought “holy shit yeah, that would piss me off too”, but at the time it never even occurred to me.

– After reading some of the inspiring quotes by Thomas Jefferson, I went to the library and looked up his writings. As I was scanning through, I found some stuff he’d written about black people and I was completely flabbergasted. Old TJ was a wonderful writer, and he came up with some extremely eloquent prose to point out how blacks were inferior because of the coarseness of their features etc. So I brought the book in to class with me, wanting to discuss the disconnect between what we were learning about T.J. and what I was reading by T.J. I read the offending passage out loud, at which point he asked me if I was a white supremacist.

Eventually of course I started to just sleep in class and write out the answers to the test questions by rote. Bassett gave me a B on the first test, so I went around and collected all the tests of students who got A’s. I laid them on his desk and demanded that he either explain to me how the other tests were superior to mine, or to give me an A as well. After I threatened to take the matter to the principal, he eventually capitulated.

Months later, I was working on a paper for English class (It was called “Is the CIA a Fascist Force?” — hey I was 17, but in my defense I started out by carefully defining what I meant by fascism, and then investigating if the CIA acted in a manner which pursued goals which could be characterized as fascist by the definition given. I lost my research material, and asked Bassett if I had perhaps left it in his classroom. He replied in the negative. I was pretty sure I had left it there, so I came to class early the next morning and rifled his desk —
sure enough I found it in one of his desk drawers. I took it back, and neither one of us ever mentioned it again.

Well, that’s all I got. Thanks for writing an excellent book. You can be sure I’ll try to share the reading experience with everyone I can. I’ll also be sure to pick up some of your other stuff.

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Poor Helen Thomas

 | June 11, 2010 3:51 am

I’m really sad about what’s happened to, and with, Helen Thomas. Helen has had a long career of poking holes in the white house propaganda (in every administration since Kennedy). But she made the mistake of speaking honestly about Israel:

Any comments on israel?
Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember these people are occupied, and it’s their land. It’s not Germany or Poland.
So where should they go?
They go home.
Where is their home?
Germany. Poland and America…. and everywhere else.

Here’s the full interview:

The rabbi who interviewed here had this to say about her response (from here).

“I was very surprised when Thomas told me that not only was she opposed to the two-state solution, but that she thought that the Jews should leave Israel and return to the final solution, more or less,”

Now Helen’s conclusions regarding Israel are pretty radical, and in my mind unrealistic, but they are a far cry from being hate speech, and it’s really stretching it to characterize her words as meaning jews should “return to the final solution, more or less”. If Helen has said “they should go back to their countries of origin”, which would be equivalent, it would have made for much better press. This just shows us that Helen’s not as quick witted and careful as she used to be, not that she’s a nazi sympathiser.

Making her comment that “they should go home to German, Palestine, the United States…” into a comment supporting ethnic cleansing is dishonest, and stops us from asking important questions. Questions like: Well, what if we, as an international community, decide Israel was a bad idea? It’s true, they are occupying land that belonged to someone else, they have taken land through invasion and are engaging in starvation and ghetoization tactics. What if we dismantled Israel, and made reparations to the Palestinians, restoring their land? Well, the next step would be to return all of the land that the Nazis seized from Jewish citizens. Then we would have to restore the land that allies, like the soviet union, seized from German citizens. This would be applying a certain kind of historic justice, at the cost of screwing over perfectly innocent people living on the occupied land (in Israel and Europe). I think it’s a bad decision as I think the net harm would be greater than the net good.

The Isreali’s, particularly the right wing, claim that they are the original inhabitants of Israel, and are returning to their proper homeland, in a contract in the bible. Joe Biden has echoed these sentiments while condemning Thomas. So both the Israelis and Joe Biden seem to be advocating returning dispossessed people their lands, regardless of how long ago these people were dispossessed. But if we apply this standard honestly, we must return the United States and Canada back to the remaining American Indians. We should certainly make restorations to African Americans, for the hundreds of years we enslaved, killed and beat their ancestors. What’s the statute of limitations on displacement, genocide, and human enslavement?

Stephen Colbert later interviewed the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and asked why Israel wouldn’t allow an international investigation into flotilla event. The Israeli ambassador shrewdly replied that it was for the same reason that the U.S. won’t allow international investigations and international courts to try American war criminals or American human rights violators. Well, that was the most honest statement that came out of the whole drama It’s also a telling revelation of the harm that our own lack of international ethics causes us in international negotiations.

I’m far from an expert on middle east issues, but I’m also far from being an expert on American or S. African Apartheid — I still know they are wrong. Perhaps a two-state solution is the answer, perhaps there exists a better solution, I don’t really have an opinion. Where I do have a an opinion is on very obvious human rights violations and illegal occupations.

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Copying is not theft

 | June 10, 2010 3:25 am

Theft is newspeak for copyright violation, along with the other newspeak vocabulary “intellectual property”. It’s a very deliberate propaganda aimed at framing the discussion of copyright by mapping it onto a vocabulary which unconsciously prejudices our thinking, by bringing our cultural value of private property into play.

This framing, this point of view is completely and demonstrably incorrect. That fact that this propaganda is so successful has devastating effects on our culture, which will take years to properly understand. But the propaganda is highly successful, primarily because the dominant means for cultural dissemination (film, music, television) are controlled by large corporations. This structure is very effective at censoring and biasing the discussion.

That’s why the following video is fantastic. We need popular media which disseminates the truth: copying is not theft.

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Java gripes

 | June 8, 2010 2:02 am

I’m not a big fan of YAPL’s (Yet Another Proprietary Language), so I’m biased.  I will say that Java is much better than VB, and it’s probably a good choice for a lot of applications, but it suffers from the cultural and design flaws that always seem to crop up in proprietary languages.  I blame marketing.  The marketing departments of the companies promoting their YAPL’s foster tribalism among programmers.  I.E. they encourage programmers to identify themselves as   “I’m a YAPL-X programmer.  YAPL-Y programmers suck”.  It’s kinda like the console wars:  retarded.  The correct behaviour is to isolate the best language for a particular task, based on the constraints you are working under.     This leads  to frustrating books, articles, blog entries and forum posts, with people attacking and defending their particular YAPL, rather than discussing the technical issues as neutrally as possible.  This leads to a high noise to signal ratio when you’re trying to figure things out.

For example, I wanted to use Java SAX (Simple API for XML) for a very simple application.  Using google to search for tutorials or what not gets you really out of date information.  For example, the top hit for “Java SAX” gets you www.sasxproject.org, which would seem promising, but it was last updated in 2004.  Much of the methods have changed, as have the include paths, as have the status of the libraries, etc. etc.  The official JavaDoc documentation is up to date, which is better than nothing, but it’s not a very efficient starting point.

As another example, consider the problem of converting a byte array to a string representation and back.  As of the date of this posting, entering “java convert byte array to string” into google gets you the following link

Googling “java byte array to string and back” gives you this as the number one link.  When I hit that link I got an ad with sound, and of course there’s no information on how to solve the problem.  Someone has posted a clue, which may be accurate, that when calling new String(byteArray) it’s actually Object.toString that’s being called -> i.e. loss of information.  Ok, that’s cool, but how to get the desired effect?  Not only that, but if the responder is correct, that says very bad things about all the information arrived at by “java convert byte array to string”.

I wonder whas going to happen now that Oracle has aquired Sun’s holdings.  Franckly I’m not particularly hopeful, but in the absence of data I attempt to remain neutral.

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