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A Domestic Vignette

The Female: "After all, you must have cheese to go along with wine."
The Male: "Well, you can also have chocolate."
The Female: "Do you have chocolate?"
The Male: "I was talking about the general case, pointing out that--"
The Female: "Do you have chocolate??"
The Male: " . . . yes."

UNESCO, Round Two

The Palestinians, using their membership in UNESCO, are about to claim ownership of the Dead Sea Scrolls:

(Note the scrolls are written mainly in Hebrew, and date to before the arrival of Arab Muslims in the area.)

The Erasure of History

Although the Palestinian Authority is not a recognized state, it has been given "observer" status at the UN, and allowed to join UN groups such as UNESCO. Israel has protested this, and now we have an excellent example of why: UNESCO is working on a draft reolution on East Jerusalem and especially the Temple Mount, AKA al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). The resolution omits any mention of the Jewish history of the site:

This is more serious than it sounds. The status of the Temple Mount is probably the single biggest sticking point an any peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. No sane Israeli government will give it up -- they remember what happened last time the site was under Muslim control, in 1949 - 1967. But the Palestinians have made it clear (if it wasn't already) that they have no intention of sharing.

And since I like to find the story behind the story, there's another problem. The draft resolution denounces the Israeli government for (among other things) carrying on archaeological work in the area. Why does the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization have an issue with conducting science?

Fortune of the Hanged Man

The very strange saga of Shahram Amiri has come to a final end. He was an Iranian nuclear scientist who disappeared from Saudi Arabia, apparently while performing the pilgrimage to Mecca, and the reappeared in the U.S. He claimed that he had been kidnapped by the CIA and Saudi agents, and returned to Iran, where he received a warm welcome. But less than a year later he was arrested and tried for treason. Now, his sentence -- death by hanging -- has been carried out:

So if Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful, why is revealing information about it capital treason? Can you imagine executing a man for leaking information about, say, the Space Shuttle?


Choking About Mystique

There is now a controversy about an image from "X-Men Apocalypse" which shows Jennifer Lawrence's character, Mystique, being strangled by the title villain. Some have even said it "normalizes violence against women". Let's put aside how a movie about a shape-changing mutant versus a millenia-old demi-god/demon can "normalize" anything. The real issue is the depiction of Jennifer Lawrence's character as helpless.

Super-hero movies are taking over more and more of the movie business, and if we want to keep some diversity in Hollywood (and I do) we want strong roles for women and minorities. In both this movie and the previous "Days of Future Past", Mystique is shown as being highly capable in hand-to-hand fighting. Yet during the climactic scene, she becomes terrified and can do nothing but vainly try to pull the villain's hand away. This would be bad enough if she were not a super-hero: any competent martial artist should be able to break a one-handed hold if his/her legs are free. But she's a shape-changer! Exactly what is preventing her from lengthening her arms and gouging the villain's eyes?

But, super-hero speculations aside, there is a real-life problem here. It was not long ago that combat roles were finally opened to women in the U. S. military. Let's be very clear about this: engaging in combat means that eventually, violence will happen to female soldiers that is far worse than simple strangulation. Are we ready for that?

It sounds to me like we're not.

Memorial Day 2016

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

  -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Money Talks, And It Talks Politics

News report from Associated Press:

Bernie Sanders' campaign had less than $6 million at the start of May, a critical cash shortage as he makes an admittedly tough final play to wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton.


The two were on roughly equal fundraising footing last month, with Clinton and Sanders each raising more than $25 million. But the Vermont senator spent almost $39 million to Clinton's $24 million, the reports showed.

This year, Sanders has averaged more than $40 million in spending per month, underlining how quickly he could blow through the cash he had on hand at the beginning of May.

Since he started his presidential bid, Sanders has spent nearly $207 million, about $25 million more than Clinton's $182 million in expenditures. For her part, Clinton has averaged $26 million in spending per month since January.

It wasn't all that long ago that the Hillary supporters were depressed because the Sanders campaign was raising more in contributions than they were. If Sander is that bad with money as a candidate, what would he be like if he became President?

The End Times are at hand!

The Chicago Cubs, who have not won the World Series in over a century, are now the best team in Major League baseball. They have won 75% of their games so far, including a 16-0 no-hitter.


The Silence of the Pro-Lifers

So Donald Trump is backing away from comments about punishing women who have abortions, after a lot of negative comments -- and very few supportive comments. But let's think about the position for a bit. The reason most "Pro-Life" people give for banning abortion is that they consider that, from the moment of conception, you have a human being who happens to be unborn for the time being. Thus, abortion is taking a human life, in other words, murder. However, if this is so, doesn't logic demand that the person deciding, participating in, and paying for, the murder be punished? So why should Trump have to backtrack from his statement? Shouldn't he be receiving an outpouring of support instead?

It seems to me that what we have here is a classic reductio ad absurdum -- if the logic is good, but the conclusion is wrong, there is a problem with a basic assumption.

More on FBI Vs Apple

The showdown in court is on hold, at least for now. The FBI now claims that it has a way to break into the San Bernadino iPhone. The interesting thing is that, twenty days ago, FBI director James Comey said to Congress: "We have engaged all parts of the US government to see does anybody have a way, short of asking Apple to do it, with a 5C running iOS 9 - to do this, and we do not." So where did this new technique come from? And if it turns out to have been provided by the NSA or some other governmental outfit, can Apple file a criminal complaint against Mr. Comey for false testimlny to Congress?



angry, Marvin

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