Undermining Democracy, One Comment at a Time

Slanted writing takes many forms. CNN, in describing a simple procedure on Israel’s Prime Minister and its effect on the running of Israel, writes: “Since Sharon’s hospitalization, his powers as prime minister have been transferred to his long-time loyalist and former Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert.”

If we were to translate this to the American President, the same paragraph would sound like this: “Since Bush’s hospitalization, his powers as the President have been transferred to his family’s confidant and former Halliburton CEO, Richard Cheney.”

The assumption is that (1) there is no succession of power, and (2) that power is bestowed as direct cronyism. These are entirely false: after PM Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, a chain of succession, analogous to the American system, was instituted.

Of course, one can make the point that Olmert, like Cheney, is a crony of their boss: that’s politics. This is the kind of slanted reporting reinforcing negative memes about Israel’s stability and right to exist. And a great example of poor reporting.

Copyright © 2005-2006 DaShlom. All Rights Reserved. Contact the author at dashlom (at) gmail dot com for reprinting and republishing or site linking requests.

Attack of the Abrahams

The Hebron zealots, using a tactic that “worked” in other sites, is sending their Issacs — their underaged children — out to do the work they dare not do for fear of being arrested. So 15-17 year old boys and girls (and I use that nomenclature because they are clearly not thinking like adults) to torch Palestinian stores, destroy olive tree groves, and wreak mayhem and violence against Israeli — Jewish — soldiers and police.

It’s so attractive, and so non-Jewish. They hold to God’s word for their lives, yet they violate one of the specific commandments in the Bible: not to destroy fruit trees, even those of the enemy. God did not want Abraham to really sacrifice Issac, but these demented, cowards would send their own children to do their work.

I can see Sharon rolling his eyes.

Copyright © 2005-2006 DaShlom. All Rights Reserved. Contact the author at dashlom (at) gmail dot com for reprinting and republishing or site linking requests.

A Barren Pause

Sharon will not return. The collectedly held breath has slowly exhaled, and Israel, and the world, as done all the mourning necessary until Sharon has departed this mortal coil.

Signs of return to “normalcy” in Israel begin with how the incapacitated Prime Minister is being treated. The government’s attorney general is declaring Ehud Olmert as a “temporary PM” instead of bowing to reality, as a technicality to prevent a reshuffling of the cabinet just before the already-scheduled elections in March. Sharon, I think, would approve of this bit of manipulation. A correctly functioning government, on the other hand, would take the 100-day technicality as law (it is), and not a guiding thought.

The Likud, having halted its withdrawal from government in the days following Sharon’s collapse, decided that that ploy would not garner them any more votes, and withdrew. Netanyahu, the right wing party’s head, has announced the next bright idea in garnering votes now that sympathy has failed: act more centrist.

Sorry, too late. Sharon’s legacy has created a centrist party, and the Likud can only survive by standing to its right. Like a celestial body moving into the gravitic control of a much larger object, the closer the Likud gets to Kadima, the more of its critical mass will shed and fall into the Kadima camp, and the more the more radical components of Likud will spin off and move into more comfortable orbits of their own. If Netanyahu isn’t careful, he’ll end up destroying the Likud.

Copyright © 2005-2006 DaShlom. All Rights Reserved. Contact the author at dashlom (at) gmail dot com for reprinting and republishing or site linking requests.

Gentle cyber-bullying or market slanting?

Microsoft is continuing its misguided methods to achieve market dominance, this time in the web information zone. MS/NBC. Note the precedence of acronyms.

I’m a free-wheeler when it comes to software tools: Microsoft has great tools, usually with fairly logical interfaces. I’m sensitive to CUIs (Cheesy User Interfaces), so if the tool is cack-handed to use, features won’t keep me with it. That goes double for web sites. There are a lot that seem to go out of their way to be difficult to manage (Yahoo’s portal and interfaces, for example), some that are neutral, such as Google, and some that are fairly handy if you’ll only register as a personalized user and let them dump cookies to track your every move. (Yes, I know they log web pages and IP addresses. Yes, I know that properly mined, logs can provide quite a bit of information about users and their habits. Still, tack on an anonymizer and life is bearable in that regard.)

MSNBC’s web site is fairly easy on the eyes, even when surfing anonymously. The simple text ‘red alert’ banner when there’s a news flash is low-tech and simple, which is great because that’s when these kinds of sites get hit hard, so why make them work harder? The cute little feedback buttons (“how many stars does this article rate”) are also nifty, if useless in terms of the ROI for the individual reader (why should I care if lots of people like an article?).

This accessibility and handiness hits clear, hard walls when MSNBC feels the need. Want to watch a video? Sorry, only the latest version of Microsoft’s Video Player. Want to cast a ballot on a public poll? Sorry, your browser can’t handle that — try Internet Explorer. So Apple users, Linux users, UNIX users, and those of us bold enough not to use the Microsoft products get left in the dark, unvoting, unloved.

This might make sense if there were some pay-per-view scheme going on. There is one: advertisements that play before and after the video clip. But advertisements (theoretically) play regardless of video player used. What’s the profit for NBC whether Microsoft’s tools are used? None, of course. Worse than that, they loose ‘eyeballs’ on advertisements that aren’t paid. Not a logical or profitable track. And that’s the key to understanding that the MSNBC relationship is little different from the MS Instant Messenger product: burn the brand in, no matter what the relative profit or cost is for the activity.

I can’t even get a handle on why they wouldn’t let people vote on non-IE platforms. Best I can figure, it’s to up the frustration factor for users. Marketing stupidity!

So here’s some free consulting advice to Microsoft (and if you hire me, I’ll push to instantiate this): welcome all, but make ads on the delta.

Oh, you want it in English? Okay, fine. Allow anyone to view your content (check out CNN for ideas on how that works). But since you know what kind of browser is being used, add a commercial touting the MS product. You get up-front advertisement that you can control and tune to the user, and the user will sit though it because they want to see the video content. Perfect eyeball strategy. As for polls, use the simple bars you’ve been using until now but provide additional demographic or temporal information on the vote using IE-specific graphics. That way if someone wants to see the polling results as a function of time and location you can pop that up on some snazzy .NET-enabled service, while we poor Firefox slugs will have to make do with the raw data. Oh, and slap a little IE ad on the voting page as well: again, guaranteed viewing for your target market instead of cutting them off. And creating blog entries such as this one.

If you think about it, adopting this strategy can turn into a very measurable ROI for advertising investments, and you can more positively ‘turn’ viewers into users of your products. Okay, M$, I’m ready for my job offer…

Talk is cheap; as is the speaker

Robertson has an admirable record of stuffing his foot so deep in his mouth he needs a proctologist to remove it. This latest bleating from the man who believes the kind thing to do is convert all those silly Jews to save them from Hell is unsurprising.

What will be equally unsurprising to me is if Israel retracts its withdrawal of support from the Christian missional — sorry, tourism — center in the Galil. There aren’t enough crazy Messianics running around up there, or mystics, so we gotta import more. Especially if someone waves money in front our country’s corrupt and kleptocratic government.

Robertson has proved he believes in his own divine providence. It’s up to the sane people to reject the man, and not his idiotic utterances. If other Christian fundamentalists want to help Israel out, let them restrain the evil they have wrought on Jews worldwide with their Southern Baptist-supported Messianic “Jewish” movement. AKA screw with ignorant peoples’ heads. That would be a real mitzvah, a real step towards fostering Jewish-Christian understanding. It’s called a cessation of hostilities.

Copyright © 2005-2006 DaShlom. All Rights Reserved. Contact the author at dashlom (at) gmail dot com for reprinting and republishing or site linking requests.

Open Mayonnaise Sandwich

If Ariel Sharon was the crusty, stiff toast, Olmert is the oily mayo of Israeli politics. Unlike all his predecessors in the seat of power, his claim to fame in Israel lies in being placed in Israel’s Knesset, a list-based, representative parliment, at the tender age of 28 in 1973. Too young to have street creds in Israel’s War of Independence (he was born in 1945), he cut his teeth in the Israeli army so unobtrusively it doesn’t register. Between wars and demobed, he got his law degree and played politics to be placed sufficiently high on a party list that, in the elctions that brought in the incompetent leadership that sealed the fate of Israel and its entry into the Yom Kippur War in October, 1973.

Like a leech, he stuck it out, taking a break from national government, and adding to his patronage powers, by becoming mayor of Jerusalem after the departure of much beloved, and far more competent, Teddy Kollek. He was primarily responsible for the tilting of the delicate balance of powers between Jews and gentiles, and between Jewish secularists and the religious sects and groups.

He’s consistently voted against withdrawal from lands, until he was given Netanyahu’s Finance Ministry after the latter resigned to set himself up to challenge Sharon. He is under current criminal investigation for bribe-taking and lining his pockets, and defected from the Likud party, where he had invested his entire political career, to follow fellow suspect, Sharon, to the Kadima kleptocratic machine.

And now, he is the man of State. I’m starting to regret Sharon’s probable departure from politics.

Copyright © 2005-2006 DaShlom. All Rights Reserved. Contact the author at dashlom (at) gmail dot com for reprinting and republishing or site linking requests.

Ticking Bomb

At this writing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon lies on the cusp of life and death, both literally as well as politically.

Frankly, as someone who lost a father to a brain aneurysm, I know how this can impact the power, personality and abilities of a person. For the leader of a country, it’s safe to say that this is the end of Sharon the head of state.

The bomb in his head has exploded, and every person in the Middle East has a headache, whether they know it or not. Sharon, like Arafat, has created his own orphan dynasty. Kadima is a party without history, composed of factions thrown together by the scent of money, with a goal that seems to be monomaniacally focused on disengagement and detachment while looting money for personal or private political or religious ends.

The second ticking bomb is literally the continuation of the State of Israel. Not from enemies from without: the IDF can hold its own. It’s how our undefended: the schools, the hospitals, the poor, the hungry, the disaffected can protect themselves from what surely will be a free-for-all to create a new political order in Israel.

This danger point is an opportunity for Israelis to take stock in where they are. Which parties, not people, have the good of the people in mind. This might be a time for Labor and the Likud to come together and run the government in association with whatever is left of Kadima, after it suffers its inevitable defections back to more suddenly-enticing parties.

Or Israel can continue to stumble down the path to internal social destruction in the name of national security, unity and religious oppression.

Refu’ah Shlemah to the Prime Minister.

Copyright © 2005-2006 DaShlom. All Rights Reserved. Contact the author at dashlom (at) gmail dot com for reprinting and republishing or site linking requests.

A Refreshing Naivete

Hats off to Kate Burton for continuing to focus her efforts, even after being kidnapped by terrorists, on working to improve the Palestinian lot. On the cynical side, I’m scratching my head (now that the hat’s doffed) for her thinking that having her parents over was even remotely a good idea, or that trying to convince ideological fanatics of the concepts of peace was an attainable goal. Cute. Kind of like trying to teach a budgie maths.

Seriously, though, Kate is pointing up something that Israel’s Peace Now and the late Faisal Hussieni thought was a goal: do things simply, directly and peacefully to bring the Palestinian people, not their evil terrorist progeny, to a place where peace has meaning. It’s a task for the ages, but without the forerunners of the spring of wisdom in the form of naive workers like Kate, it will never come to pass.

I only pray that Kate will be alive to see the fruits of her labor.

Copyright © 2005-2006 DaShlom. All Rights Reserved. Contact the author at dashlom (at) gmail dot com for reprinting and republishing or site linking requests.

SSDY (Same Stuff, Different Year) — Almost

First off, a happy and productive new year to all. This is year two of the blog, and, owing to feedback and posting interests, I’ve split my ‘Pulse’ blog into three:

  • The Pulse, discussions regarding politics and personal life,
  • HaDofeq, Middle Eastern-related political and personal posts, and
  • The Ping, technical and technological posts

I’ll be doing political, social and personal commentaries on this blog. So, without further delay, let’s start the New Year off with a list of things recently realized:

To the left is a graph of the US national debt (up-to-date).

The chart to the right is a drilldown of the national debt for the year 2000, the year the Bush administration stole into office.

I have a cure for any despondency this entry may have caused you: talk to your neighbors, co-workers and friends about the issues. Don’t let this administration turn away yet another fiasco into more looting opportunities. Refute, respond and admonish people spreading falsehoods. And most of all, don’t give up; the mid-term elections are coming, and many current “peoples’ representatives” in Washington are going to need to file change-of-address forms before the year is out.

This is a year of action, and of change. Don’t lose hope.

An important footnote: I’m honored to be able to provide an occasional cartoon commentary as drawn by the incomparable Richard Bartholomew, whose rendition of the NSA appears in this blog. He has a web site with additional cartoons, and a blog.