Exodus portion video: Metallica, “Creeping Death”

The Torah readings in synagogues are on a yearly cycle: this week is Parashat Bo (Exodus 10:1–13:16), which contains the story of final three Plagues of Egypt and the subsequent exit of the Jews from Egypt.

Metallica, of course, have one signature song that is based on this story, and in fact named after the Tenth Plague. The video below couples the studio recording (from the seminal “Ride the lightning” album) with footage from the movie “Prince of Egypt”.


Haiti: US helps, UN begs+”la politique politicienne”

While the US is, as usual, pulling the lion’s share of the weight in the rescue effort after the Haiti tragedy, Claudia Rosett shows how, once again, the UN begs for money but does little.

“Coldwarrior” at The Blogmocracy looks at the logistics of major rescue operations such as those in Haiti. Insty links a post saying “money is worth nothing right now, water is the currency“. Think millions of these puppies?

French has an expression “la politique politicienne” which idiomatically roughly means “cynical, petty partisan politics”. And as expected, the usual political hustlers are trying to make hay of the catastrophe. Both Pat Robertson and Danny Glover once again, instead of having people think he is an idiot for keeping their mouth shut, prefer to remove all doubt.

However, it’s hard to choose which is worse: an opinionated fool who blames earthquakes on global warming or political master-gigolo Bill Clinton exploiting the Haiti tragedy to exhort people to vote for Coakley in Tuesday’s Senate by-election. This sets, I believe, a new benchmark for “politique politicienne”. And, if I were a Democrat, would be reason for me to never donate another penny to the party.

UPDATE: if you want to donate money for the Haiti relief effort, caveat donor.

UPDATE 2: In case you need an emetic, ousted dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier offers $8M of money he no longer has to help. (H/t: Squatch)

UPDATE Jan 18: Ironically, people in ramshackle huts got off “cheap”ly while those living in (better-looking but shoddily built) middle class apartment buildings were crushed under the concrete.

And while CNN’s medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta proved he is still a doctor, the Belgians no longer seem to be “the bravest among the Gauls“.

Zombie: “Soylent pink” on vat-grown meat

Congratulations to my blog-ancestor Zombie on his/her new home at Pajamas Media.

Here is a new article: Soylent Pink: in-vitro stem cell meat on the menu soon. “Vat-grown meat” is of course a staple of sci-fi, for example in the story-universe  created in Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Vorkosigan Series. Zombie actually quotes a 1936 article by Winston Churchill (!) where he predicts the concept.

Zombie wonders if people will embrace the idea. Personally, I definitely would (not pork, of course!). Keeping kosher (which I do, albeit liberally) can be seen as a G-d-given compromise between the vegetarian ideal and a human’s  natural craving for animal protein. Vat-grown meat would be a G-dsend for not just practicing Jews but for anyone who feels guilty about needlessly taking an animal’s life for sustenance yet is left hungry by soy or gluten protein.

There’s also the “glowbull worming” angle, of course. Go read the whole thing!

Friday Night Beauty: J. S. Bach, Prelude and Fugue in F minor from WTC book 1, BWV 857

There is a prejudice among aficionados of more “romantic” classical music that Bach is “cold”, as his music is so formal and structured. In fact, Bach wrote some incredibly emotional music — but emotional in a “stiff upper lip”/never-lose-your-composure (no pun intended) way. Tonight’s “Friday night beauty”, the F minor prelude and fugue from Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier, is a case in point. The prelude has a definite de profundis (“from the depths”) quality, like his organ chorale prelude in the same key, “Ich ruf zu Dich”/”I call upon Thee”, BWV 639 (known to sci-fi buffs as the theme music of the original “Solaris” movie). The fugue, with its expressive, chromatic subject, stretches the form to the very limit and plays out like an epic struggle between light and darkness.

The video below presents Sviatoslav Richter’s performance with an animation of the sheet music.

Another representative of the Russian school: Tatiana Nikolayeva’s performance (audio and still images only): link. One of my greatest musical treasures is a double CD of her performance of The Art of Fugue BWV 1080: if I could only take one CD to a desert island, that would be the one.

Glenn Gould’s performance (audio and still images only): link. Like Gould often did with pieces he was especially fond of, he plays the prelude at an idiosyncratically slow tempo.


Coakley vs. Brown: Money-carpetbombing?

[Still busy as heck here.] Some Coakley vs. Brown/MA Senate by-election stories (see also frequent coverage at Legal Insurrection, Riehl World View, Gateway Pundit, and of course Instapundit — UPDATE: Killian Bundy has a nice recap):

  • We cheated, and he still won
  • Is the Boston Globe getting out of Coakley’s tank?
  • New poll has Brown up 15% over Coakley. Does Spock have a beard, or does Lincoln’s Law apply to Massachusetts after all? The “right” blogosphere is of course abuzz with predictions on how boxes of votes for Coakley will suddenly be “discovered” during a recount…
  • The first-ever money-carpetbomb?
  • Incredible tone-deafness: DSCC uses image of Twin Towers as a symbol of “corporate greed” in attack ad. Rudy Giuliani is not amused.
  • Jennifer Rubin notes that Coakley used to be ahead by 30 points. What changed? Aside from her being a lousy campaigner, of course. “Since September, the country has witnessed the visible battle over ObamaCare — late-night votes, Cash for Cloture deals, and a bill that offends a wide array of groups. Democrats have never looked up or paused to consider the public’s views on the matter. . . . That arrogant defiance of public opinion and the unseemly legislative process that produced a grossly unpopular bill have fueled a resurgence of anger and determination among conservatives and even usually apathetic independents. They now are anxious to send a message to Washington: stop ignoring the voters. We saw it in New Jersey and Virginia. Now we learn that even Massachusetts may not be immune.”
  • Jonah Goldberg: “The Democrats’ “bad climate” is a direct result of how they’ve governed. The populist backlash is fueled by a sense that Democrats are acting on their preferred agenda and by their own rules. From the shenanigans of the people who write our tax code and collect our taxes to special deals and secret arrangements for big businesses and legislators who play ball, the Democrats have abandoned transparency in favor of transparent arrogance.[…] Coakley is a creature of this climate. She hasn’t been running for “Ted Kennedy’s seat,” she’s been strolling to it like someone who knows it’s been reserved for her and all she needs to do is swing by the will-call window to pick it up.
  • UPDATE: This is huge. Cambridge, MA police officers association endorses Brown, despite Coakley’s husband being a retired cop himself. (H/t Squatch) Stinging letter attached to endorsement: “Ms. Coakley along with some of her campaign workers have talked publicly about how her husband is a retired Cambridge Police Officer, giving appearances that she is being endorsed by the Cambridge Police. This may be an innocent insinuation but most do take this as our giving her our support and endorsement. Yesterday, the CPPOA Executive Board voted to endorse State Senator Scott Brown in the upcoming election for US Senate. In an 11 to 2 vote, the Executive Board voted overwhelmingly in favor of the endorsement. We do not endorse anyone who advocates changes in the health care that take away any bargaining rights or increases our cost along with our contributions. Senator Brown does not support the Comprehensive Healthcare Reform Bill and promises to be the 41st vote to ensure its defeat.”
  • BREAKING: 0bama declares MA senate race a referendum on his presidency. (h/t: Pi Guy)

And relatedly, in the “keep plucking that chicken” department:

  • Megan McArdle: special deal for labor unions likely to tee off more voters. At this rate, I am starting to wonder if 0bama isn’t really a libertarian mole out to discredit the Democratic party for decades
  • Charles Krauthammer: “What went wrong? A year ago, he was king of the world. Now President Obama’s approval rating, according to CBS, has dropped to 46 percent — and his disapproval rating is the highest ever recorded by Gallup at the beginning of an (elected) president’s second year. […] A year ago, he was leader of a liberal ascendancy that would last 40 years (James Carville). A year ago, conservatism was dead (Sam Tanenhaus). Now the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in bluest of blue Massachusetts is surprisingly close, with a virtually unknown state senator bursting on the scene by turning the election into a mini-referendum on Obama and his agenda, most particularly health care reform.” Read the whole thing.
  • UPDATE: Ben Nelson asks Dingy Harry to withdraw his Nebraska bribe (H/t: Running Bare). Perhaps after his own constituents told him to leave a new pizza restaurant he wanted to dine at? (The Nebraskans may not be Amish, but they surely know the art of “shunning”.)
  • Further updates as the day progresses!

Thomas Sowell: “Intellectuals and Society”

Thomas Sowell has a new book out, “Intellectuals and Society“. Here is a quick introduction by Sowell himself:

Whether in war or peace, and whether in economics or religion, something as intangible as ideas can dominate the most concrete things in our lives. What Karl Marx called “the blaze of ideas” has set whole nations on fire and consumed whole generations.

Those whose careers are built on the creation and dissemination of ideas — the intellectuals — have played a role in many societies out of all proportion to their numbers. Whether that role has, on balance, made those around them better off or worse off is one of the key questions of our times.

The quick answer is that intellectuals have done both. But certainly, during the 20th century, it is hard to escape the conclusion that intellectuals have on balance made the world a worse and more dangerous place. Scarcely a mass-murdering dictator of the 20th century was without his supporters, admirers, or apologists among the leading intellectuals — not only within his own country, but in foreign democracies, where intellectuals were free to say whatever they wanted.

Given the enormous progress made during the 20th century, it may seem hard to believe that intellectuals did so little good as to have that good outweighed by their wrong-headed notions. But most of those who promoted the scientific, economic, and social advances of the 20th century were not really intellectuals in the sense in which that term is most often used.

The Wright brothers, who fulfilled the centuries-old dream of human beings flying, were by no means intellectuals. Nor were those who conquered the scourge of polio and other diseases, or who created the electronic marvels that we now take for granted.

All these people produced a tangible product or service and they were judged by whether those products and services worked. But intellectuals are people whose end products are intangible ideas, and they are usually judged by whether those ideas sound good to other intellectuals or resonate with the public. Whether their ideas turn out to work — whether they make life better or worse for others — is another question entirely.

The ideas that Karl Marx created in the 19th century dominated the course of events over wide portions of the world in the 20th century. Whole generations suffered, and millions were killed, as a result of those ideas. This was not Marx’s intention, nor the intentions of many supporters of Marxian ideas in countries around the world. But it is what happened.

Some of the most distinguished intellectuals in the Western world in the 1930s gave ringing praise to the Soviet Union, while millions of people there were literally starved to death and vast numbers of others were being shipped off to slave-labor camps.

Many of those same distinguished intellectuals of the 1930s were urging their own countries to disarm while Hitler was rapidly arming Germany for wars of conquest that would have, among other things, put many of those intellectuals in concentration camps — slated for extermination — if he had succeeded.

The 1930s were by no means unique. In too many other eras — including our own — intellectuals of unquestionable brilliance have advocated similarly childish and dangerous notions. How and why such patterns have existed among intellectuals is a challenging question, whose answer can determine the fate of millions.

National Review TV has a series of five video clips of a discussion between Peter Robinson and Thomas Sowell:

Sowell’s “Vision of the anointed” ranks among my favorite political books of all time. This one may well join it, once I receive my copy.

Coakley vs. Brown: a watershed moment

Still too busy to really blog… But I cannot resist pointing out the US story of the week:

“Pi Guy” at Correspondence Committee and Gateway Pundit have been blogging up a storm about the by-election for the Massachusetts senate seat of Chappaquiddick Ted Kennedy. Normally you’d expect any such election in MA to be a shoo-in for the Democrats. This time, however, Republican candidate Brown is really making them not just nervous, but desperate, judging from the ever-more hysterical accusations leveled at Brown (pretty much the only thing he has not yet been accused of is mother-‘love’).

And while this incredibly patronizing piece is not news, the blowback in the comments definitely is.

Lincoln’s Law in action?

UPDATE: Follow Prof. William Jacobson’s coverage of the by-election

UPDATE 2: Maybe it would help Coakley if her ads didn’t misspell the name of her own state

Memorandum top meme: video evidence of thuggery by Coakley campaigh

UPDATE 3: Michelle Malkin: “Coakley is the voice of the little people like Ted Kennedy is the voice of sobriety“. Go read the whole thing.Another quotable quote: “She treats ladies’ gardening clubs like crooks — and crooks like ladies’ gardening clubs.”

UPDATE 4: SEIU-affiliated [!] local police union endorses Brown. A nice scoop for fellow C2 denizen “Behold an iron horse“.

Vital signs+ClimateGate update

At the moment, work and some real-life “stuff” leave me little if any time to blog for a few days. Anybody needing to get a ClimateGate update should check this out (H/t: Pi Guy).

Meanwhile, here is an older Rush video for the song, “Vital signs”. The song is a bit unusual in the Rush catalog, featuring a reggae-ish beat over a sequencer pattern. The lyrics are full of word games any electronics technician or audio engineer will chuckle at. But at a different level it’s really about interpersonal relationships going awry because of faulty communication. The “moneygraf”:

The impulse is pure;
Sometimes our circuits get shorted
By external interference.
Signals get crossed
And the balance distorted
By internal incoherence.

“Internal incoherence” does not always have to mean: “illogical” or “factually incoherent”. One major source of interpersonal communication disturbances is people being conflicted within themselves, or unable to be honest with themselves.


Looking Around, Jan. 11

Too busy at work to blog today, but here is some good stuff seen around the ‘net:

  • Instapundit » Blog Archive » FROM MICKEY KAUS, A QUESTION FOR TOM BROKAW: “Did you know that the Dartmouth analysis–contrasting the amount spent by U.C.L.A. in the last six months of life with the smaller amount spent by Mayo in Rochester–doesn’t count the money spent on patients who live? And here I thought having patients survive was kind of the whole point.” Snarks Insty: “No, Mickey. Power for the right sort is the whole point.”

Double standards on racism (sorry: raaaaacism)


Another hot excerpt from the same book that’s got Dingy Harry groveling. What a treat to hear how the Lords of Tolerance talk to each other behind closed doors.

This is turning into some day.

[A]s Hillary bungled Caroline, Bill’s handling of Ted was even worse. The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

Just imagine a Republican politico saying the same thing, even behind closed doors. Just imagine. Every lamestream mediot and lefty blogger would be calling for their heads. Now? (Crickets.)

UPDATE: more revelations from the book here.

Conservatives in academia and the network effect

Prof. Stephen Bainbridge has some interesting observations on the roots of the liberal-vs-conservative disparity in the humanities and among law professors — reaching, in one example cited (Berkeley and Stanford), 9-to-1 overall, and 30-to-1 among junior faculty.

This would be less of an issue if professors did not insist on bringing their politics into the classroom. But:

“For instance, nearly half said that their professors ‘frequently comment on politics in class even though it has nothing to do with the course’ or use the classroom to present their personal political views. In answers to other questions, the majority acknowledged that liberal views predominate. Most troubling, however, were the responses to the survey item ‘On my campus, there are courses in which students feel they have to agree with the professor’s political or social views in order to get a good grade’ — 29% agreed.”

This sort of thing is one reason why I gave humanities courses a wide berth in college, despite my fascination with subjects like history and politics — at least, nobody can fail you on a math, physics, or chemistry exam for having the “wrong” views.

As George Will scathingly put it: “American campuses … cultivate diversity — in race, skin color, ethnicity, sexual preference. In everything but thought.”

However, Prof. Bainbridge observes:

It is the question of a “fair shot” that is the real problem. Actual bias is a problem, but probably isn’t as much a one as conservatives outside the academy would like to believe. As Volokh Conspiracy blogger Juan Non-Volokh observed: “My experience in the academy … confirms [that most] of the hostility faced by conservatives (and libertarians) is not explicit, and often not conscious or deliberate.” Mine too, although there have been a fair number of questionable moments.

The real culprit is the law school hiring process. Each fall the Association of American Law Schools collects resumes from prospective law teaching candidates, which are then transmitted to the appointments committee of each law school. The members of that committee then face the unenviable task of winnowing down well over a 1000 applications to a list of 25 or so candidates with whom the committee will meet at the so-called “meat market” convention. After which, the committee must further winnow those 25 or so down to a smaller number, 3-5, who are invited out to the law school for on campus interviews.

As a result, the hiring process is almost entirely negative. You spend the vast majority of your time winnowing the application pile — i.e., finding reasons not to hire someone. If you have on-site interviews of 0.3% of the applicant pool, any opposition by any committee member is enough to exclude someone. At the early stages of the process, they barely need to posit a reason.

In my experience, it thus is a lot harder to get somebody hired than it is to block them from being hired. The process isn’t as explicit as the blackballing scene in Animal House, but the law school hiring process is just as weighted against hiring. (And I mean hiring anybody, regardless of political affiliation.) Any opposition (for whatever reason) therefore is usually enough, absent a very strongly committed pro-hiring faction.

In most cases, a candidate’s best chance of surviving the winnowing process is for someone on the committee to become the candidate’s champion. The champion will pull the candidate’s resume out of the slush pile and make sure it gets flagged for close review. Because most law schools lack a critical mass of libertarian and conservative faculty members, however, there is nobody predisposed to pulling conservative candidates’ AALS forms out of the slush pile (and a fair number of folks inclined, whether consciously or subconsciously, to bury them). Applicants with conservative lines on their resume — an Olin fellowship, Federalist Society membership, or, heaven help you, a Scalia clerkship — thus tend to be passed over no matter how sterling the rest of their credentials may be.

In contrast, the latest left-leaning prodigy from Harvard or Yale has a mentor at one of those schools who makes calls to his/her buddies and ideological soulmates at other law schools. The recipients of those calls then flag the prodigy’s file, giving them a critical leg-up in the process. Law school hiring tends to be driven by the self-perpetuating network of left-leaning senior faculty.

It may not be deliberate bias, but there still is a disparate impact.

Indeed. Some observations from a science professor I sent this link to:

With senior hires, the track record of the candidate generally speaks for itself. With junior hires, you’re always taking a chance, as there just hasn’t been time for the candidate to build up an independent publication record, let alone a citation impact record on his ‘own’ work. So people tend to over-analyze letters of recommendation, and these can often be spun either way to some degree. In the exact sciences, it’s unlikely you’ll be explicitly blackballed for having the ‘wrong’ political orientation as it’s generally irrelevant to your work — but having unpopular political views may definitely mean people are less likely to ‘spin’ your file on your behalf. However, somebody who really believes in you as a scientist may become your advocate even if he’s radically different from you politically. Somehow, I don’t see the latter happen much in the humanities.

UPDATE: my correspondent adds:

I would however not put it past some of my climate science colleagues to try and ‘poison the well’ for an candidate in their own field if he were an AGW skeptic.

MA senate seat now toss-up?!

As the Massachusetts senate seats must have been “D” since the paleolithic era, the fact that Chappaquiddick Ted’s vacant senate seat is even competitive, let alone appears to be a toss-up,  is unbelievable news:


YOU DON’T SAY: Brown grassroots vs Coakley machine: “I don’t think they play at all fairly.”

UPDATE: Dan Riehl on what you can do.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader James Doherty writes: “Just wanted to say – I am a MA resident, and the Coakley ads that were nowhere to be seen in the entire campaign have hit the airwaves big time today. Also, we got called twice by her lackeys tonight alone. Something has clearly changed, and not for the better in her opinion.”


POLL: Massachusetts Senate Race Now A Toss-Up. I had noticed that the powers-that-be in Massachusetts were acting kinda nervous, so maybe their own polls say something similar. It must be troubling when your push-pollers ask people if it would affect their vote if the guy was a Nazi and the respondents say “Nope, he’d still be better than Coakley.”

UPDATE: Reportedly, the Boston Herald poll is a toss-up, too.

And of course, politicians belonging to a party that calls itself “Democratic” brag they won’t seat the Republican if he’s elected, so they can pass 0bamacare anyway. The party should just rename itself PCP (the Power and Control Party) and be done with it.

US healthcare ranking by WHO: #37 or #1, depending

(Double h/t: Squatch at C2)

In the WSJ, Mark Constantian MD explains the problem with the common talking point that the WHO ranks US medicine comparatively low:

The comparative ranking system that most critics cite comes from the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO). The ranking most often quoted is Overall Performance, where the U.S. is rated No. 37. The Overall Performance Index, however, is adjusted to reflect how well WHO officials believe that a country could have done in relation to its resources.

The scale is heavily subjective: The WHO believes that we could have done better because we do not have universal coverage. What apparently does not matter is that our population has universal access because most physicians treat indigent patients without charge and accept Medicare and Medicaid payments, which do not even cover overhead expenses. The WHO does rank the U.S. No. 1 of 191 countries for “responsiveness to the needs and choices of the individual patient.” Isn’t responsiveness what health care is all about?

Read the rest.

Related story here:

Here’s a brief chronology on my wife’s emergency appendectomy at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital on Dec. 30:
* 2 a.m.: Horrible stomach pain and other relevant symptoms.
* 5:45 a.m.: 911 call.
* 5:50 a.m.: EMTs arrive.
* 6 a.m.: Arrive at emergency room.
* 6:07 a.m.: Wife in emergency room bed.
* 6:15 a.m.: Nurse takes blood.
* 6:20 a.m.: Initial physician consultation.
* 6:25 a.m.: Wife on saline and anti-nausea drip.
* 7 a.m.: Wife gets some morphine.
* 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Wife rests comfortably waiting for CT scan.
* 11 a.m.: CT scan. (One machine out of service, hence the long wait.)
* 11:10 a.m.: Resident confirms diagnosis of appendicitis.
* 11:15 a.m.: Initial consultation with surgery resident.
* 1 p.m.: Surgery prep.
* 2 p.m.: Surgery.
* 3:30 p.m.: Recovery room.
* 5 p.m.: Admitted to empty room.
* 9:30 a.m. (the following day): Released.

To use a pain-intensity scale analogy, the entire experience was “moderately painful.”

I used Facebook to let my friends and family know about my wife’s condition.

The Americans were all appropriately sympathetic.

The Europeans — who suffer under socialized medicine — were mostly amazed.

Amazed that we didn’t wait hours for an emergency-room bed.

Amazed that we saw a doctor in less than five or eight hours.

Amazed that we weren’t told to go home and come back at a later date — because her white-blood-cell count was only slightly elevated and the appendix wasn’t in danger of bursting.

And not amazed but astounded that the surgery was done immediately. That there was actually a room available and that it was vacant — at a large urban hospital — they couldn’t even fathom.

Here is one verbatim comment from a continental comrade: “I waited three days in London to see a GP and 20 hours at ER for an ‘exploratory op.’ It burst and I nearly died (to say nothing of the two life-threatening incidents whilst I was being ‘cared’ for). But hey! The public option is better . . . right?”

ClimateGate roundup, Jan. 9: “domestic extremism” edition

Today’s Whiskey Tango Echo Foxtrot (what the everloving …) award goes to a post by Bishop Hill (via WUWT), who reports that:

This morning I contacted Norfolk Constabulary with a view to finding out if they had yet ascertained whether the breach at the Climatic Research Unit was a leak or a hack. I have just received a response which is frankly amazing:

Norfolk Constabulary continues its investigations into criminal offences in relation to a data breach at the University of East Anglia.  During the enquiry officers have been working in liaison with the Office of the Information Commissioner and with officers from the National Domestic Extremism Team. The UEA continues to co-operate with the enquiry however major investigations of this nature are of necessity very detailed and as a consequence can take time to reach a conclusion. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.

The National Domestic Extremism Team? Words fail me.

Me too. A followup post suggests that this is actually becoming almost standard operating procedure in England, even for minor crimes, just to get around “inconvenient” restrictions on an investigation.


One audio comment about all this though: Metallica: The more I see, the less I believe. And one video comment:

“Show me, don’t tell me” indeed.

— Link to Jan. 6, 2010 ClimateGate roundup —

UPDATE: Classical Values points to examples of AGW alarmist calling for the imprisonment, or even execution, of deniers.

Airline security: signs of intelligent life?

In “Profile Away” (h/t: Pi Guy), John Stossel argues in favor of adopting the “El Al approach” to airline security, which I have discussed here earlier.

I like what David Harsanyi writes:

It is an unavoidable fact that these “bad people” tend to come from certain places and subscribe to a certain religious affiliation. Focus on them.

From the evidence, it is clear that it is impossible to cover every base, but the wasted billions shaking down the average passenger offers little more than psychological comfort.

And comfort in knowing that no special interest will complain.
The anti-profiling people are usually worried that terrorist profiling will lead the TSA slippery slope to profiling based on skin color.  But that hasn’t been the case with the Israeli airline, El-Al, which aggressively profiles for terrorism.  Here’s one blogger’s experience:

I flew El Al from Los Angeles to Israel. I was a male in my 40s, traveling alone. Even though I was an American Caucasian and wasn’t anything close to even looking like a Muslim, I was pulled out of the line by a security official with the Israeli airline and interrogated – in an unfriendly manner, I might add – for about 10 minutes before I was allowed to board. I was pulled out of line for interrogation because I fit a key part of the El Al profile – a male of a certain age traveling solo.

This is such common sense that it’s unbelievable that the TSA won’t utilize this tool.  Then again, in government, common sense is often uncommon.

Some observations are due here. It’s not entirely true that El Al does not engage in ethnic profiling: it does seem to occur at “initial presorting” stage, and there’s no denying that my “cousins” (as Jews call Arabs, cfr. Isaac and Ishmael) disproportionately get subjected to in-depth screening.  (Note that this is still not profiling by race or skin color, as will shortly become clearer.)

By the same token, El Al knows that profiling by ethnicity alone would not work for a number of reasons. For one thing — while Americans think of Jews as “white” because the American Jewish community is 90% descended of Central and especially Eastern European Jews — about half the Jewish population of Israel descends from immigrants or refugees from Arab countries, and many of those could easily pass for Arabs and conversely. Second, many of the attempts that came close to succeeding have involved Western ‘patsies’ agreeing to bring luggage or parcels that contains bombs (such as the pregnant Irish chambermaid that was unwittingly smuggling a bomb for her terrorist ‘fiancé’), or indeed Western converts to Islam (e.g., search for “Stefan Smyrek” in this page).

The main tool, aside from profiling for unusual behavior patterns (long trips without luggage, paying tickets in cash, one-way tickets,…) is the study of microexpression during interrogation. The background of the traveler may determine the subject of the interrogation: an American Jewish tourist may be asked about his bar mitzvah as a child, an Xian tourist about the religious places (s)he visited/intend(s) to visit and what they mean,…, while an Israeli citizen will be expected to produce their national ID card and be interrogated about their family details and/or some peculiarities of their town of residence. The content of the answers isn’t even important: expressions that suggest “something to hide” are.

Incidentally, what I’ve picked up from Israeli Arabs is that they are ambivalent about them getting screened in-depth more often: they do know that if one of their coreligionists blows himself up on a plane that they happen to be on, it’s their hide as well… “Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” (Samuel Johnson)

Via a thread at The Blogmocracy, here is another example of Samuel Johnson’s Law in action:  Headscarf-wearing Muslim ‘privacy advocate’ who was on board Flight 253 changed her tune, now advocating mandatory body scans.

“I’m always standing up for rights and privacy concerns, but now I hope that body scans will be mandatory,” [Heba] Aref, 27, said Wednesday. “Balanced against national security, it’s worth the invasion of privacy. And I acknowledge the fact that there has to be attention paid to Muslims.”

Our Grace After Meals contains the phrase: And grace and good sense will be found in the eyes of G-d and man. May it be so, speedily and in our days.

Zombie: Code Pink’s strange war on drones

Zombie has an essay up at Pajamas Media on “Code Pink’s head-scratching war on drones“. The article packs some amazing info (acknowledging Richard Fernandez and Wired Magazine) about what modern drones (a.k.a. UAVs) are capable of nowadays.

The Air Force Research Laboratory set out in 2008 to build the ultimate assassination robot: a tiny, armed drone for U.S. special forces to employ in terminating “high-value targets.” The military won’t say exactly what happened to this Project Anubis, named after a jackal-headed god of the dead in Egyptian mythology. But military budget documents note that Air Force engineers were successful in “develop[ing] a Micro-Air Vehicle (MAV) with innovative seeker/tracking sensor algorithms that can engage maneuvering high-value targets.”

Special Forces already make extensive use of the Wasp drone made by AeroVironment. This is the smallest drone in service, weighing less than a pound. It has an endurance of around 45 minutes, and line-of-sight control extends to 3 miles.

It might seem limited compared to larger craft, but the Wasp excels at close-in reconnaissance. Its quiet electric motor means it can get near to targets without their ever being aware of its presence.

Why a group that professes concern about casualties among innocent bystanders (“collateral damage” in milspeak) would be opposed to a technology that makes war more “surgical” appears to defy logic.

The simplest and most elegant explanation is of course: “because they’re not anti-war, just on the other side”. Simple and elegant explanations, when it comes to things human (and Code Stinkos are at least arguably human ;-)), have a way of being right some of the time, and dead wrong most of the time.

My own favorite explanation (which owes much to Dr. Pat Santy) has always been moral narcissism (a.k.a. toxic moral perfectionism): they are so obsessed with feeling good about themselves that they would be willing to see their own side lose if that were the price. (In Hebrew such people are ironically called “beautiful souls”.)

Zombie has yet another explanation in his/her article, namely that the Code Stinkers are afraid that making warfare clinical, hi-tech, and surgically precise will make their pipe dream of World Peace/”whirled peas”/”world piece-by-piece” unattainable. (S)he references (not by name) a Star Trek:TOS episode exploring the theme of a perpetual “clean” war. The trouble is, of course, that armed conflict has been a part of the human condition in all of recorded history, and will continue to be as long as people are human. Sowell’s “A conflict of visions” comes to mind: what I just described is a “constrained vision”, while the pacifist one is paradigmatically the “unconstrained vision” that assumes perfectability of human nature and external reality.

On a humorous note, one of the comments refers to this priceless cartoon:

UPDATE: additional comments here.

Israel: “Iron Dome” antimissile system successfully tested

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Iron Dome antimissile system has been successfully tested against Kassams, Katyushas

Israel inched a step closer to deploying a missile defense system along the border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after the Iron Dome [link added, Ed.] successfully intercepted a number of missile barrages in tests held in southern Israel this week.

The tests were overseen by the Defense Ministry, the Israeli Air Force and the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. which has developed and is manufacturing the Iron Dome, slated to become operational and deployed along the Gaza border in the middle of 2010.

The missile barrages that the system succeeded in intercepting included a number of rockets that mimicked Kassam and longer-range Grad-model Katyusha rockets that are known to be in Hamas’s arsenal.

The Iron Dome is supposed to be capable of intercepting all of the short-range rockets in fired by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hizbullah in Southern Lebanon, by using an advanced radar that locates and tracks the rocket that is then intercepted by a kinetic missile interceptor.

During the test, the radar succeeded in detecting which rockets were headed towards coordinates that were designated as open fields and therefore did not launch an interceptor to destroy them.

The IDF has already established a new battalion that will be part of the IAF’s Air Defense Division and will operate the Iron Dome. Prototypes of the Iron Dome have already been supplied to the new battalion which has commenced training with the systems.

The IDF has also located positions along the Gaza border that will be used as bases for the system, which includes a launcher and radar system. After it completes the deployment of the system along the Gaza border, the IDF will begin deploying the system along the northern border with Lebanon.

This is a potential game-changer in the Arab-Israeli “long war”. Israel can use some good news right now.

What I do hope is that the countermissiles are: (a) inexpensive; (b) can quickly be manufactured in bulk. Otherwise the Ham-Ass and HizbShaitan can simply wear the system down by lobbing over thousands of their dirt-cheap homebrew missiles…

Additional info:

  • Brochure on the website of RAFAEL (reshut le-pituach emtza’ei lehima, i.e., Weapon Systems Development Authority)
  • StrategyPage article on Iron Dome/kipat barzel. The article states an individual countermissile costs $40K — which is not all that bad but ideally should be reduced as far as possible.

ClimateGate update, Jan. 6, 2010: “G. P. Bear goes to Washington” edition

Watts Up With That is on the mother of all rolls.


<– link to Jan 3 Swiss Glacier Edition –

— link to Jan 9 “domestic extremism” edition –>