Video of “peaceful” Mavi Marmara crew in action

Today’s incident between pro-Hamas “peace” protestors at sea and Israeli forces has been extensively covered in the blogosphere.

To me, the incident smells suspiciously like Israel walked into a carefully set trap calculated to create a PR disaster.The IDF has taken one wise preventative step against blood libels: filming all their operations. Below is some video showing just how “peaceful” the pro-Hamas “people” are:

Unfortunately, none are so blind as those who do not wish to see.

UPDATE: the boat meanwhile docked in the Israeli port of Ashdod. Five other boats in the convoy docked there as well. Richard Landes (of The Augean Stables) reports on PJTV. Netanyahu cancels meeting with 0bama, while the latter asked Netanyahu on the phone for ‘facts’.

William Jacobson: “Useful idiots condemn Israel“.

The left-wing blogosphere is full of useful idiots, who pretend that the flotilla which just was stopped by Israel was a humanitarian mission.

The flotilla was organized by the Islamist government in Turkey to aid Hamas with the goal of opening up shipping channels for Turkey’s new friend, Iran, to ship more and better weapons as it is doing to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran is busy turning Lebanon and Syria into one large missile launching pad against Israel, and a southern base in Gaza will complete the encirclement of Israel for the coming crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

The Europeans on the ships were cover, and the placement of an 18-month old child on these ships was the utmost cynical use of a human shield.

If getting humanitarian supplies to Gaza really was the goal, this flotilla was not necessary. The supplies would have been off-loaded in Eqypt or Israel and then shipped in by land after being checked for hidden weapons.

And that is the rub, only sea-based shipping would provide Iran with the mechanism for almost unlimited armament of Hamas. There is a limit to the quantity and size of missiles and other armaments which can be smuggled through tunnels from Egypt. That is why the sea blockade must be broken for Iran to get what it wants.

But the useful idiots (no offense to idiots) in the left-wing blogosphere ignore this reality, and use the incident for their ultimate goal, which is the cut off of U.S. support for Israel.

Insty snarks that calling them ‘useful idiots’ is giving them too much credit.

UPDATE 2: Some observations by Shmuel Rosner. And “the other” David Horowitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, writes on the race to contain the damage.

UPDATE 3: Doug Ross punctures the “humanitarian” conceit and John Hawkins compares “right” and “left” blogosphere reactions. And Gateway Pundit connects the dots from the ‘Free Gaza activists’ to… Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

UPDATE 4: NewsBusters has loads of good stuff, as does Tom Gross, who also fills us in on some details about life in Gaza you won’t see in the media.

UPDATE 5: via Joel Leyden, here is more video of “peace activists” at work:

And from NRG (the internet arm of the Israeli mass circulation daily Maariv), via CAMERA, Martin Kramer, via SolBlog, this inspirational image of a “peace activist”:

RIP Martin Gardner (1914-2010)

The great popular science writer, mathematician, and skeptic Martin Gardner passed away at a ripe old age. Roger Kimball wrote a fitting obituary. An excerpt:

I first encountered Gardner’s work in high school when I stumbled on The Annotated Alice, his splendid edition of Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I later discovered that he also published annotated editions of other works he admired, including The Wizard of Oz, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and several books by G. K. Chesterton, one of his favorite authors.

The many tributes that are beginning to pour in about this extraordinary man bear witness to his irrepressible  energy and curiosity about the natural world. He wrote a veritable library of books — more than seventy — on  mathematics, science, literature, and philosophy and related topics.  One of my favorites is The Ambidextrous Universe — what an intriguing title! — about the properties and amazing prevalence of symmetry and “handedness”  in the universe. Gardner also wrote hundreds — maybe thousands — of columns for Scientific American (for twenty-five years he wrote the magazine’s Mathematical Games column), The Skeptical Inquirer (where he indulged, delightfully, a passion for exposing the chicanery of pseudo-sceince), and other magazines, including, I am proud to say, The New Criterion, for which he wrote some dozen pieces over the last six or seven years.  […]It is a melancholy pleasure that what may be Gardner’s  last published piece, a review of Amir Alexander’s Duel at Down: Heroes, Martyrs & the Rise of Modern Mathematics, will appear next week in our June issue. Gardner was full of praise for Alexander’s “marvelous history.” But he concludes with a wistful criticism that reveals something essential about his cast of mind. Alexander had prefaced his book with Keats’s famous couplet from Ode on a Grecian Urn:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all

We know on earth, and all ye need to know.

“Alas,” Gardner wrote, “the lines are almost menaingless.  They are not all we know or need to know. Moreover, there are true mathematical theorems  that are ugly, and there are beautiful ‘proofs’  that are false.  T. S. Eliot surely spoke for most literary critics when he called Keats’s lines ‘a serious blemish on a beautiful poem.’”

There are many sides to Martin Gardner (it is hard to be using the past tense about him): his lucid prose, his nearly single-handed popularizing recreational mathematics, his tireless debunking of quacks and pseudoscientists, and his deep (if unconventional) religious belief.

It has no agreed-upon name. There is no way you can talk someone into feeling it, any more than you can talk someone into falling in love or liking a piece of music  or a type of cheese. Rudolf Otto, the German Protestant theologian, coined the word numinous (from the Latin numen, meaning divine power ) to express this emotion. . . .  For Otto, the essence of the emotion is an awareness of what he called the mysterium tremendum, the tremendous mystery of the wholly other. . . .

If one is a theist, the emotion combines with strong feelings of humility, of the littleness of one’s self, of holiness, of gratitude for the privilege of existing.

Indeed. May his memory be blessed.

Texas social studies curriculum and WaPo misrepresentation

Very little to add to Ann Althouse on the matter:

If you’re going to criticize the new social studies curriculum adopted by the Texas Board of Education, you’d better quote it. Or at least link to the text. And if you choose to paraphrase and not even link, and I have to look up the text myself, and your paraphrase is not accurate, it is my job to embarrass you by pointing that out.

Let me embarrass the Washington Post. Below, the material from the WaPo article, written by Michael Birnbaum, is indented. After the indented part, I’ve located the relevant quote from the Board of Education text, found here. (I’m searching 3 PDF documents: Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits Subchapter A. High School; Social Studies Subchapter B. Middle School; Social Studies Subchapter C. High School.)

The Washington Post writes:

The Texas state school board gave final approval Friday to controversial social studies standards….

The new standards say that the McCarthyism of the 1950s was later vindicated — something most historians deny –…

The students are required to “describe how McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the arms race, and the space race increased Cold War tensions and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government…” The word “vindicated” is inflammatory and unfair. What is the Washington Post saying historians deny? One can be informed of the reality of what the Venona Papers revealed about communist infiltration into the U.S. government and still understand and deplore the excesses of “McCarthyism.”

…draw an equivalency between Jefferson Davis’s and Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural addresses…

Students are required to “analyze the ideas contained in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address and Abraham Lincoln’s ideas about liberty, equality, union, and government as contained in his first and second inaugural addresses and the Gettysburg Address.” The word “equivalency” is uncalled for. The requirement is to analyze, not to be indoctrinated that the ideas are the same.

… say that international institutions such as the United Nations imperil American sovereignty…

What I’m seeing is “explain the significance of the League of Nations and the United Nations” and “analyze the human and physical factors that influence the power to control territory, create conflict/war, and impact international political relations such as the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), or the control of resources.” Where is the language that can be paraphrased “imperil American sovereignty”?

…. and include a long list of Confederate officials about whom students must learn.

Students are required to “explain the roles played by significant individuals and heroes during the Civil War, including Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, and congressional Medal of Honor recipients William Carney and Philip Bazaar.” Only Davis and Lee were Confederate officials! There is also this: “describe the role of individuals such as governors George Wallace, Orval Faubus, and Lester Maddox and groups, including the Congressional bloc of southern Democrats, that sought to maintain the status quo [in the Civil Rights Era].” That’s obviously not from the Civil War, but I can see why it’s annoying to Democrats.

They also removed references to capitalism and replaced them with the term “free-enterprise system.”

The document on economics does use the term “free enterprise system” throughout, but students are required to “understand that the terms free enterprise, free market, and capitalism are synonymous terms to describe the U.S. economic system,” so what is the problem?

Virtually everything cited in the article to make the curriculum seem controversial is misstated! Appalling!

Why you don’t want professors ruling you

The late lamented William F. Buckley famously quipped that he would rather be governed by the first 500 people in the Cambridge, MA phone directory (i.e., a random sample) than 500 Harvard professors. Stuart Schwartz, himself a professor, explains at some length why. Welcome to the club of “traitors to the New Class”, Stu.

This is an administration stuffed with academics. And not just any academic: These are educators from elite universities, the kind of experts prized by a political and media elite seeking confirmation of a worldview that expects, notes the Washington Examiner, “the rest of us … to shut up and do as we are told.”

Inside the Beltway, “Harvard know-it-allness” is a prized commodity; outside, its practitioners are largely regarded as “obnoxious and arrogant” in the classroom and “jaw-droppingly incompetent” out of it. Small wonder trust in government has hit a fifty-year low.
Welcome to government by professor. Assorted faculty of Ivy League schools have come together to form an administration with the least real-world and most academic experience of any in modern times, the American Enterprise Institute notes. And so we have a government of scolds, lecturers, and bullies, arrogant academics cheered on by mainstream media when they take a “paddle” to average citizens and taxpayers.
Main Street, say hello to Harvard Drive, Chicago Place, and Berkeley Boulevard. The latter are roads that begin in the elite universities and bring “someone better than you” to power in Washington, D.C. Or so says the dean of the School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, a card-carrying member of what David Brooks of the New York Times fawningly calls “the educated class.”
It’s okay to be ordinary, a “swiller of beer,” Berkeley Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. says, but it takes a “superior intellect” like that of Barack Obama and his taxpayer-paid faculty, Ivy Leaguers most, to understand the needs of Main Street.
The dean well represents the arrogance of an educated class who sees the ordinary taxpayer as raw material to be shaped by regulations wielded by their intellectual superiors, as one of those superiors — Obama regulatory czar Cass Sunstein — has written.
Smart people lead and ordinary people follow, Dr. Sunstein maintains, showing the common touch developed during a lifetime on the law faculties of the University of Chicago and Harvard. He is part of a new breed of executive gathered by the [wannabe-]Professor-in-Chief, all of whom share the view that Joe the Plumber and Millie the Hairstylist are too simple to understand their real needs…and require a federal government led by an educated elite to regulate them into appropriate behavior and values.
Ordinary taxpayers, those who simply live life and take up space in the world outside of the faculty lounge…well, it’s about time they recognized that, as the Berkeley dean noted, “what’s good for Harvard and Yale [is] good for America.” […] It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a Harvard Ph.D. to raise the consciousness of a nation of village idiots.
And so they gather in Washington to “reengineer” your life according to the “abstract theories” they have taught for so many years, as political observer Michael Barone put it. Witness the latest addition to the administration’s professorial ranks: Dr. Donald Berwick, the Harvard Medical School professor picked to head the Medicare program. Of course, his knowledge of senior health care is academic, having never actually treated seniors.
But he has consulted for National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the infamous British rationing board that is responsible for killing more ailing seniors through long waits and treatment denials than any single disease in the United Kingdom. […] With classic understatement, Thomas Lifson noted that the “skill set of the faculty lounge rarely translates into great leadership.” He points to the nation’s last professor-president, Woodrow Wilson, who “paved the way for the emergence of fascism” at the beginning of the last century.
Where professors rule, life is cruel. Elite professors have routinely championed thugs and butchers. Ivy League campuses and at least three of Obama’s czars continue to extol the virtues of communism, “a totalitarian and bloodthirsty theory that killed one hundred million people in the 20th century.”
And Nazis and Nazi sympathizers have always found a home among our nation’s educated elite. Just this past month, Dr. Stephen H. Norwood of the University of Oklahoma published what critics are calling the definitive study of the relationship of America’s elite universities with the Nazi. In The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses, Norwood is blunt: Our top universities, led by Harvard and Columbia, openly supported Nazi Europe and gave faculty jobs to Nazis who were no longer welcome in Europe after the Second World War.
[…]”Hail the Conquering Professor,” the New York Times proclaimed after passage of health care legislation that takes life and death decisions away from Main Street and empowers the White House faculty lounge. This is the elite group that has given the nation its highest unemployment in three decades, an “ever-expanding government” with exploding payrolls, and who has created a “debt time bomb” threatening the prosperity and freedoms built by generations of “beer swillers” over more than two hundred years.

Read the whole thing. A summary of the Stephen H. Norwood book (published by an obscure bloghost called Cambridge University Press ;-)) can be found here. I ordered the book itself and (G-d willing) will find time to review it upon reading. What I managed to skim via “look inside” looks pretty revealing — and damning, even for somebody broadly familiar with US academia in the 1930s.

Some readers may wonder why humanities academics, of all people, would succumb to flirtations with antidemocratic or post-democratic ideas, be they authoritarianism, its softened guise of paternalism, or its hardened expression as totalitarianism. I do not share this surprise. Humanities academics deal in ideas, and becoming intoxicated by ideas is a professional hazard for them. (Those of us in sciences and engineering may be equally open to intellectual delusions of grandeur, but at least get reminded periodically that “Nature cannot be fooled”, as the great Richard Feynman put it.) The tragicomic history of academics being outright apologists, or mere “useful idiots”, for Communism, Nazism, and now islamofascism should be a cautionary tale for all of us, including about the much broader phenomenon of academics feeling affinity with the “kid-glove tyranny” of transnational oligarchic collectivism.

ADDENDUM: On a related matter, Isi Leibler explains how, sadly, even Israeli universities are not immune to antisemitic academentia (or should this be properly considered an “autoimmune disease” in that specific case?)

Friday Night songfood for thought: Rush, “The Weapon”

This is Rush live, from the Grace Under Pressure tour. Forget the goofy intro: the song begins at about 1:20. (Never figured out how to make a YouTube embed in WordPress start at a specific time stamp.)

As nearly always, the music is by Lifeson and Lee, and drummer Neil Peart wrote the lyrics. It’s not my favorite Rush song musically, but the lyrics have gone through my head countless times.

We’ve got nothing to fear but fear itself
— Not pain or failure, not fatal tragedy
— Not the faulty units in this mad machinery
— Not the broken contacts in emotional chemistry

With an iron fist in a velvet glove
We are sheltered under the gun
In the glory game on the power train
Thy kingdom’s will be done

And the things that we fear
Are a weapon to be held against us…

He’s not afraid of your judgement
He knows of horrors worse than your Hell
He’s a little bit afraid of dying —
But he’s a lot more afraid of your lying

And the things that he fears
Are a weapon to be held against him…

Can any part of life be larger than life?
Even love must be limited by time
And those who push us down that they might climb —
Is any killer worth more than his crime?

Like a steely blade in a silken sheath
We don’t see what they’re made of
They shout about love, but when push comes to shove
They live for the things they’re afraid of

And the knowledge that they fear
Is a weapon to be used against them…