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Tuesday, December 28, 2010




Accountability

Last updated: December 28, 2010

August 24, 2006


Several years ago in the face of mounting suicide attacks the government finally gave up and began constructing the security fence. I have my own misgivings about the way it was done. In particular, I find plainly stupid the way Sharon has provoked the anger of the international community which could have been easily avoided, were the fence constructed along the 1967 border.

Nevertheless the fence without doubt was and is a great life saver. Has its construction been started earlier, hundreds of funerals could have been prevented.

I well remember politicians, from both right and left, dismissing the idea of the fence and claiming that the fence can not stop the terror, but only iron fist/settlements or negotiations/territorial compromises can.

The Channel One once interviewed Efraim Sneh from Avoda when he went to see one of the first stretches of the fence under construction. After having skeptically examined the fence he announced - This is not a solution of course. It can't stop the attacks.

Now it's hard to know how many attacks were prevented by the fence and how many people owe their lives to the fence. I hold many politicians directly responsible for the delay in its construction, the delay that happened to be fatal for many Israelis. I would like to see politicians like Sneh persecuted for criminal neglect of their duties towards the security of co-patriots. If not persecuted, then at least permanently expelled from the politics.

I can't remember one single politician from those who opposed the fence to appear later and admit that they were wrong. Actually I suspect that many of them had the security value of the fence very clear from the beginning and were opposing it for purely political and ideological reasons.

The right was opposing it because it looked as a de-facto recognition of the Palestinian state. Many in the left were opposing the very idea of the feance because at the time many leftists were still stuck with the idea of the new Middle East and opposed anything they perceived as isolationist policies on the part of Israel.

The 'Fence for Life' movement was campaigning for its construction for quite a while but it's only when the rate of suicide attacks reached 2-3 per day that the political elite was left with no other choice but to start fencing Israel off the West Bank. And, of course, as always they messed the whole thing by running the fence deep into the Palestinian territory, splitting many villages in two. It doesn't take a very big brain to figure out that if you are daily accused of being a semi apartheid neo-colonial entity, you should better keep a low profile and avoid bringing more troubles on your head. And so when Israel was dragged to the international court it came as no big surprise. Surprising was rather the disbelief and indignation displayed by Sharon and others at such a turn of the events.

It says a lot about the Israeli society that ordinary citizens never demanded accountability from their politicians and explanations why the construction of the fence was delayed for so long. I would have expected an investigation started from the moment it became obvious what an enormous price in terms of human lives the Israelis were made to pay by their politicians, left and right, for their political and ideological agendas.



The story of the fence was replayed before and during the last war in Lebanon. There was no intelligence missing about Hezbollah stockpiling thousands of short range Katyusha rockets over the last years. The increasing use and growing sophistication of Kassam rockets fired from Gaza was also obvious.

Nevertheless during the war there have been more than enough politicians and experts interviewed on all channels that claimed that no adequate protection against short range missiles exists and that this problem has only a political solution. Which basically means that if short range missiles reach the hands of Hamas or Hezbollah the only solution we have is to start a political dialog with them, ignoring the fact that the both groups are firmly committed to our destruction by the virtue of their very ideology.

These arguments are no more valid than were those dismissing the value of the fence as a shield against suicide bombers. The political and military establishment simply preferred to ignore the missile threat. To put it bluntly it's a lie.

To start with, Israel and US have been developing such an anti Katyusha system for years and during preliminary tests the system showed a lot of promise. The system, code-named Nautilus, was not only capable of intercepting short range katyusha rockets but it was also destroying mortars and artillery shells, shot both in single rounds and salvos.

Yet the Israeli government soon started cutting funding for the project until the US pulled out over disagreements about who pays how much of the costs. But the so called experts would be wasting their time, if they think that they can persuade anybody in this country that the project was stopped because its laser based implementation proved to be technically impossible. The Northrop Grumman that participated in the project on the US side, has been pursuing it later on its own and released a fully operational system this year.

Moreover, it was reported that the company later approached Israel's government offering the system as a protection for Israeli towns against Kassam and Katyusha attacks. I want to draw the attention of anyone reading these lines to the fact that the SkyGuard has apparently become available shortly before the war, but it never occurred to Halutz and Olmert to urgently airlift a few such systems to, at least, protect some of our most sensitive spots like Haifa's chemical industry. And the reason is probably the same one why it never occurred to them to do something about thousands of people trapped in shelters in Kiryat Shmone, Naharia and other towns across the north. But whatever was their reason, one thing is clear and it's that some people in this country should go to jail.

The bottom line is that the political and military elite should not be allowed to get away with bearing full responsibility this time. We can forgive them the delay with the fence as a one time blunder. But the threat of short range missiles, mortars and similar weapons coming from Gaza and South Lebanon has become too obvious recently to justify the mismanagement of the Nautilus project and the absence of any other attempt to address the issue of the Kassam and Katyusha rockets.

It's not only Nasrallah whom we should hold responsible for hundreds of homes damaged and destroyed and dozens of civilians killed and wounded. There are some people on our side too who should be held even more responsible for what happened. If only for the reason that they are living in the same country as we do and we vote for them and pay them our taxes not because we want to see these imbeciles later producing lame excuses for their ineptness, unprofessionalism and plain stupidity.


December 28, 2010

Four years later...

Jan 11, 2010

"We cannot create the illusion that tomorrow morning there will be full protection for the Gaza periphery or the North, or elsewhere," Barak said at the Defense Ministry on Monday.

"It will take years before we are fully equipped. But in the coming years, Iron Dome will doubtlessly become part of the IDF's defense mechanisms for the citizens and civilians on the home front, as well as for military sites."

Source: JPost


Dec 1, 2010

Active rocket protection systems, such as the Iron Dome and Arrow, are designed to protect IDF offensive capabilities, and not necessarily civilians, Northern Command Chief Major-General Gadi Eizenkot said Tuesday.

Eizenkot stressed that "the residents of Israel shouldn't be under the illusion that someone will open an umbrella over their heads."

During a speech at the University of Haifa the military official said that "the systems are designed to protect military bases, even if this means that citizens suffer discomfort during the first days of battle."

Source: JPost

No comment.


Ehud Barak - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense

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Thursday, December 23, 2010




A king on a powder keg

The latest and much referenced on the web report on public opinion in the Mislim World claims that the extremist duo of Hamas and Hezbollah, otherwise known as H&H, enjoys mixed ratings in the Muslim World while the Muslim public overwhelmingly rejects the Al-Qaida (AQ). The poll is poorly structured and confused and accompanied by an even worse analysis. Those interested can read it here. The poll's analysis doesn't merit to be taken seriously and some of the data, never mind the conclusions, look outright fishy. However, I would still like to comment on the poll's Jordan findings.


The poll reveals staggering levels of support for the H&H and the AQ. Far from rejecting the AQ, whopping 34% profess a favorable view of the AQ. This finding is the most significant given the attacks the AQ staged on civilian targets in the kingdom and the fact that Jordan borders on Iraq and is hosting a significant community of Iraqi refugees. Such a massive rooting for the AQ certainly does not come from ignorance which can serve an explanation for elevated levels of support for the AQ in other Muslim countries such as Indonesia or Nigeria which are far from the Middle East. Only today Christian communities in Iraq were reported to have been canceling Christmas festivities in the face of threats and attacks from the Iraqi department of the AQ and amidst an escalating Christian flight out of the Arab controlled areas of Iraq.

Equally impressive are the ratings for the H&H, which are higher than in any other Muslim country in the poll. The poll does not provide cumulative data for all supporters of at least one of the extremist groups. Otherwise, I suspect that the poll's claim of mixed ratings for extremist groups would have been revealed in Jordan as the public opinion being mostly mixed of extreme and very extreme. While no data seems be available on how the support for radical Islamists is shared between the three, I think it's nothing far fetched to suggest that out of the 60% who hold a favorable view of the Hamas, there should be at least 5%-10% of very traditional Muslim Brothers who see their alliance with the heretics from the Iran/Syria/Hezbollah axis as an alliance of convenience only. And out of the 34% of AQ sympathizers, 5%-10% should be hardcore Salafis who want to have nothing to do with none of the two Hs. Altogether, you get staggering 75%-80% for enthusiasts of at least one of the three radical Islamic groups. To put it short, this king is literally sitting on a powder keg.

King Abdullah II of Jordan



Extra Search Tags: Pew Global Attitudes Project, Pew Research Center

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Sunday, December 12, 2010




Machiavelli in Reverse

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The secrecy that WikiLeaks despises is vital to all organisations, including government—and especially in the realm of international relations.

The Economist: Read cables and red faces



Now I don't have any comprehensive or ground breaking analysis to offer on the subject, but I can't agree more on secrecy with the Economist. Secrecy is vital to all human relations. I can assure anybody that if I could tape all conversations of that person for a year and then air the records to all his colleagues, bosses, relatives and friends that person was in touch during the year, this thing would have gone way beyond embarrassment. This person would have been very likely to find himself sacked from his job, divorced by his wife and renounced by most of his family and abandoned by at least half of his friends. The expectations many people have from diplomacy or politics are absolutely unreasonable. People should compare these expectations to how they manage their personal lives and relationships.

Many smart people have already pointed out that the leaks hardly contain anything radically new. The paranoia and sleepless nights the Arab governments in the Middle East have from Iran's nuclear program did not come exactly as something unexpected. And many Russians could only yawn at what the cables had to say about their leaders. Russians are a skeptical and suspicious bunch and are used to suspecting their government of even worse misdeeds than running a mafia state. A very popular theory in Moscow at the time used to be that Russian government was behind the bombing of apartment buildings in Russia's big cities on the eve of the second Chechen war.

Yet, the fact that the leaks contained nothing new according to some smart people, does not mean that they are totally inconsequential. Ahmadinejad did not reject the leaks as fabrications for nothing. Neither did the Turkish Islamists when they were insinuating that the leaks were an Israeli conspiracy. China started blocking the site of the WikiLeaks almost from the day one and the list goes on. Not that everything in the cables is about hard facts. A lot of the information gathering carried out by the US embassies abroad goes about recycling gossips circulated in the opposition circles of a given country that nobody can confirm or disprove for sure. These are not hard facts, but obviously the leaks embarrassed quite a few governments in the world and not necessarily only the US and its allies. The leaks may have mostly leaked out something already known or widely suspected, but this does not cancel that fundamental truth that celebrating naked kings is highly conditioned on keeping children away from your parades. Some of this stuff has never been intended to capture the headlines of leading media outlets.

The most impressive revelation of the leaks, and many people are plainly dishonest in denying or ignoring it, is about the US itself. The leaks have obviously thrown the US diplomacy into disarray and inflicted a massive operational damage on its information gathering network, but otherwise the leaks contained no more than minor embarrassments for the US. Yes, it's not nice to spy after the UN officials, but this is no reason to avoid doing this. No vicious plot to dominate the world and enslave nations have transpired from the leaked cables. The cables rather reveal a very complex picture of the global patrolman and the West's biggest democracy navigating its way across a landscape dominated by the weak and fragmented Europe, oriental despots, the neo Ottomans from Turkey, the mafia tsardom of consumed by her habitual anti Western paranoia Russia and the secretive post Communists of China.

A brilliant report by Burns on Chechnya seems to be rather typical of the US approach to diplomacy and foreign policy. The report explores ways in which America can help Russia to consolidate her control over the Caucasus, despite Russia's best effort to harm herself and her endless suspicions of the West's intentions. The report was not written by a cynical person who did not believe in democracy, human rights and other usual Washington's blah blah blah. To the contrary, the most shocking aspect of the leaks is how much the US diplomats and policy makers do actually believe their own propaganda. If anything, that's the biggest surprise of the leaks.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010




The Pitch Black



Pitch Black is a scifi movie. A spaceship makes and emergency landing on a barren planet. The planet is one big desert, no vegetation, absolutely nothing. Then a long night descends on the planet, everything disappears in pitch black and the planet suddenly comes alive and boy does it come alive. The pitch black night is swarming with dangerous alien life.





I love that "It's a way to see... with sound." I had to include this part too. This is just it. He got it right. Other aspects of the fauna don't make sense. It's impossible that they got only predators there. Somebody has to do photosynthesis or extract energy from any other source. But echolocation in pitch black darkness, they got it just right.

Anyway, what am I trying to say here? Deep down a few thousands feet below the ocean used to be uninhabitable. There are several reasons for this sorry state of affairs, but the first one is the absence of sunlight. The deep ocean is pitch black, no sunlight penetrates there and, as most people already know, life on earth is based on sunlight - photosynthesis.

Other than that, a handful of species, that managed to adapt to scavenging on remains of dead marine animals occasionally reaching these depths, have to survive freezing temperatures and crashing pressures that only the most modern of modern submersibles can withstand.

In 1977 one such submersible descended 8000 feet into the darkness to study hydrothermal vents, a geological feature that enlivens this harsh environment by pumping it with tons of highly toxic minerals and water boiling at 400 °C. When the scientists started processing video recordings brought back by the submarine, they were shocked. Amidst the otherwise barren Abyssal Plane, the vents were surrounded by clouds of alien life. The Pitch Black was swarming with life.



Think about the fact that scientists now believe that the biomass of only the bacterium populating the deep sea, is several times more than the entire mass of all living creatures living in the air, on the ground and in the top layers of the ocean. The Pitch Black is doing just fine. It's the surface of the planet which is uninhabitable and not the other way round as science used to think.

The Pitch Black is home to even more bizarre geological features than hydrothermal vents. Thousands meters under water the Alvin submersible hits an underwater lake and sets a wave in motion across the lake.



Amazed by the underwater lake? Now go back to the previous video and ask yourself when was the last time you've seen clouds of smoke under water. Yet, this is what that thing is officially called - the black smoker.

David Attenborough on the biology of hydrothermal vents and underwater lakes.


So far we have explored only 1% of the deep ocean floor. Who knows what's still out there to be discovered?"

David Attenborough

Indeed. In recent years it was found that large areas of the Gulf of Mexico at depths of 3,000 meters are paved with a thick layer of asphalt made of viscous oil. And, yet, this is no BP disaster. Life is swarming on the asphalt.



When watching this movie, one should keep two things in mind. First, This is also part of the pitch black world. It's illuminated by the lights of the submersible. Otherwise, total darkness rules there. This is another ecosystem that does not care if the sun goes out tomorrow. It extracts its energy from oil.

Two, many people are bound to be surprised by the presence of so much oil on the seabed. The truth is that just as oil is extracted from the depths of the ocean, it's seeping into the water all the time. There is no way so much oil can be hidden under the seabed without some of it making way into the ocean. Oil is part of nature and part of the ocean. It's a natural thing and obviously life in the ocean is adapted to it.

The Pitch Black beats the surface of this planet not only by the sheer biomass of alien life lurking down there. Its economic potential surpasses the surface by orders of magnitude and it has never been really tapped. We'll be running out of resources on this planet only for as long as we keep insisting that this planet consists only of its surface. Remember the underwater lake?



Why does it all matter? For one very simple reason. 1,000 meters under water and below lies an entire world in total darkness. People think about that place as a motionless darkness devoid of life. Yet, we now know that it's a superactive place. The seabed is created mostly by volcanic eruptions. There are dozens of volcanoes erupting there at this very moment.

The Pitch Black may be mostly an inhabitable desert, but its oasis are teeming with alien life, parallel ecosystems that don't need energy of the sun to thrive. We used to think that it's an unihabitable place. Yet, we now know that measured by the sheer mass of creatures living down there, it's the surface of this planet that's subsisting on scarce energy of the sun that reaches the Earth. The world below sustains itself by tapping directly into the energy of the Earth which it has no shortage of.

People are dreaming about space exploration and intergalatic space travels. Yet we have another planet right here. We know more about the surface of the Mars than we know of the Pitch Black. This is for one simple reason. We can watch the Mars through telescope but it's pointless to peer into the Pitch Black from above. We need to send there submersibles that can hardly illuminate even their immediate surroundings and we have barely started doing this.

Yet, the planet below may be the origin of life on Earth. The Pitch Black is teeming with a kind of alien life that we should expect to find on other planets of the Solar System if they got a biosphere. The Pitch Black is packed with natural resources that can sustain this civilization for generations after oil and other stuff run out on the surface. Now compare this to huge distances between the planets of the solar system, never mind other stars, and ask yourself: where should humanity go next?

The Pitch Black - The mankind's next frontier


And the last but not the least. Our chances to reach another star system in the near future are pretty much zero. As a matter of fact humanity may never learn to travel for distances of light years to reach another star system. Inter star journeys may remain in the domain of science fiction for as long as humanity exists, a wishful copy paste from the age of great oceanic travels that will never materialize. But across the solar system there are planets on which there are oceans of water under the sheet of ice with underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents going on. This is at least what science believes right now.

There should be ideal conditions for life there. No sunlight. Crashing pressure of thousands of atmospheres. Sharp contrast between freezing temperatures of the depth and the boiling water of deep sea geizers. Huge amounts of highly poisonous and toxic stuff being constantly pumped into the water. Everything that life needs to thrive which we know because we got the same stuff down there. What we have around hydrothermal vents is the closest approximation to extraterrestrial life that we may found on other planets of the solar system. If you ever wanted to see what an alien life may look like, here you have it. Take it as a basis and use your imagination for the rest.



Extra Search Tags: Hydrogen Sulfides, Robert Ballard, The Chronicles of Riddick, Cold Seeps, Methane Hydrates, Deep-Sea Brine Pools, Titanic, Jupiter's Moons, Europe, NASA

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