Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Netanyahu as Head of Likud

Benjamin Netanyahu, who was the worst prime minister Israel has had since Golda Meir, has won the chairmanship of Likud. He'll be the party's prime ministerial candidate, but his chances are slim - polls indicate Likud will win only around 13 seats (compared to 30+ for Kadima and 20+ for Labor). Sharon, despite his minor stroke and old age, will definitely head the next government.

Bibi's victory is not such a bad thing. He now vows he'll clean up the party and get rid of shady, criminal elements. He's no saint himself, but I believe he isn't corrupt, and definitely less corrupt than Ariel Sharon, Zahi Hanegbi and Amir Peretz. If he'll succeed, the 13 or so people who enter the next Knesset from Likud will be of higher quality. I'd rather have more right wing Knesset members than corrupt and stupid ones.

I'm almost certain the next Knesset will be better than the current one, which has an alarmingly high percentage of idiots and corrupt members.

Bibi isn't the right man to lead the country. Hopefully, though, he is the right man to clean up Likud, and thus, to some extent, the Knesset.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Backwards Kadima

Ariel Sharon's new party, Kadima (Hebrew for "forward"), is turning out to be nothing but the Likud, with minor changes. It's just as corrupt (Sharon and his son Omri, and new recruit Zahi Hanegbi, among others), has the same political, economic and social agenda, and the most opportunistic former members of the Likud. A few opportunists from other parties, as well as very few good people (like Zipi Livni) were also added to the mix to make it look better.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz joined Kadima too, at the height of his bid for chairmanship of Likud (the party's candidate for Prime Minister). Not only was he lagging behind front-runner Bibi Netanyahu, a new poll even showed he was behind the right-wing radical Moshe Feiglin. So he decided he'd better join Sharon, even though he viciously attacked Sharon for leaving Likud . Ironically, some analysts say that the Feiglin data was false, and though he lagged behind Netanyahu in the first round by a huge margin, he had a good chance of defeating Netanyahu in a one-on-one second round. So Mofaz wasn't only opportunistic - he was also stupid.

Polls are showing Kadima will win around 40 of 120 seats in the Knesset. That seems horrible to me. Kadima is the party of corruption and stalemate with the Palestinians. Can't others see that? Why are Israelis so enchanted by Sharon? Hopefully, by March 28 voters will see this new party for what it is. I'm sure Sharon will win re-election and have the largest party in the Knesset, but I hope the margin isn't as huge as it is now. There needs to be a strong counterbalance both within the next coalition and in the opposition.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Avishay Braverman for Minister of Anything!

Avishay Braverman, president of Ben-Gurion University and former World Bank economist, has announced he is joining the Labor Party and running for a seat in the Knesset. This is a person I truly admire, and one of the few people I'd be happy to see as prime minister. He has done wonders for his university and is a true centrist. Now that he has entered politics, he'll be a treasury minister or some other top minister if Labor wins the elections, or if it decides to join a coalition with Ariel Sharon's new party, Kadima.

I truly dislike the ultra-socialist leader of the Labor Party, Amir Peretz, and didn't think of voting Labor this time around. But then again, I truly dislike Sharon, Likud, Meretz, Shinui and all other parties, who are either too dovish, socialist, hawkish, corrupt or just failures. As a person who believes the right to vote should be exercised (and a white "abstention" ballot is just as bad as not voting), I was facing the huge dilemma of deciding who is the lesser of several evils. But now I am more inclined towards Labor. If I do decide to vote for them, I won't be voting for Peretz as PM, but rather for Braverman as Minister of Anything.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Disappointed? Just Alito

President Bush's latest worrying Supreme Court nomination is a good excuse for another one of my US-Israel comparisons: the Judicial Appointments Edition. As you know, in the States, the president nominates a candidate, the senate judiciary committee grills him or her in hearings and then the whole Senate decides whether to confirm the nominee's appointment or not. It's all very political.

In Israel, on the other hand, the prime minister's role in the judicial nomination process is very limited. The same is true for the president, who officially appoints and swears in the judges, but isn't the one who picks them. He appoints those that the Judicial Nominations Committee picks. I'm not sure whether he can legally refuse to appoint someone the committee chose, but that has never happened.

So, who are the members of the committee? All three branches of government are represented, as well as one public organization, the Israeli Bar Association. There are five legal professionals (three justices and two representatives of the Bar), and four politicians (two government ministers and two Knesset members). The fact that the politicians are a minority makes for a fairly non-political appointment process (though everything is political to some degree). The only problem is that public debate over nominations is very limited. Though the proceedings are not secret, the committee does not scrutinize the candidates like the Senate Judiciary Committee does, and it doesn't hold public hearing on their nominations.

I think the best way to pick judges would be to fuse together the American and Israeli methods. A non-partisan committee should pick the nominees, but they should be thoroughly scrutinized in televised hearings. This should be done either by the committee itself or by some other body. In my opinion, in Israel's case it would be a good idea if the committee itself held those hearings for candidates they shortlist, inviting members of the Knesset, former judges and other public figures, to pose questions to the candidates, though only the nine committee members would make the final decision.

If a system such as this were in place in the United States, maybe the country would have avoided embarrassments such as Miers and extremists such as Alito seems to be.

PS: Excuse the pun in the title. I just had to say it.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Autistics or People With Autism?

I came across a list of "Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew" by Ellen Notbohm, via Reflections of a mom living an Autistic child. The first item claims the following:

"I am a child with autism. I am not "autistic." My autism is one aspect of my total character. It does not define me as a person. Are you a person with thoughts, feelings and many talents, or are you just fat (overweight), myopic (wear glasses) or klutzy (uncoordinated, not good at sports)?"

I've read others who claim the exact opposite. They say that saying they "have autism" or are "people with autism" is derogatory, since it sounds like a disease. Like "people with cancer" or who "have cerebral palsy". In their opinion, if you are referred to as autistic, it means that it is just part of who you are.

So, who's right? First of all, definitely not Ellen Notbohm. She claims to speak for every child with autism, but most of the autistics on-line have written they consider themselves autistics and not people with autism for the reasons I wrote above. So if you go by self-determination, most autistics (at least the adult ones who participate in the blogosphere) have decided against the "with autism" label. Saying they are autistic doesn't mean they are only autistics. Try comparing it with other minorities - if you're Jewish or African-American, that isn't all you are.

That doesn't mean the "anti-with autism, pro-autistics" are right. I don't think that saying someone has autism is derogatory. If a person has X or is a person with Y - the X and Y won't necessarily be diseases or anything negative.

In other words, I think that both options are acceptable. Autistics are people with autism and vice versa. Neither one is a negative term.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

New Title

"Emmanuel Schiff and the Masters of the University" was a title created when I got to the conclusion that the original title, "Emmanuel Schiff: Fake Name, Real Person", was redundant. The new name was supposed to be a play on one of my favorite childhood TV shows, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I'm not sure how many people made the connection, so now I'm simplifying things. I'll just be E-man, instead of my full name (which is an alias anyway).

Americans Reject Evolution

I love America and Americans, but sometimes they scare me. I find it very disconcerting that according to a CBS poll only 15% of Americans believe in Darwinian evolution. 30% believe in intelligent design (a creationist version of evolution). But most troubling - a majority of respondents believe in classic creationism.

Again, I turn to a comparison with Israel. There's no uproar about evolution being taught in schools. The creationist version is presented in bible classes, where it belongs. Israel is perceived by many as a religious country, but it's much less religious than the United States. I once saw statistical data that showed that more than 40% of Israelis called themselves secular, while another 30% said they were "not so religious, but traditional", which is quite ambiguous. But I assume a lot of them mean they aren't religious but still celebrate Jewish holidays, like me (though I am secular). I have a feeling an evolution poll would show that a vast majority of Israelis believe in evolution. I googled for such a poll but couldn't find one. It would be interesting to see if I'm right.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Abortion in Israel

A discussion on another post of mine made me think about the difference between the centrality of abortion in American politics and its total marginality in Israeli politics. It's interesting that here in Israel there isn't much of a debate about abortion. It's legal (though you have to go through a medical board, but if you say the right things you'll usually be allowed to get the abortion). Nobody seems to be fighting to illegalize abortions or to liberalize them by getting rid of the medical panel. Sometimes there are reports about religious women giving pregnant women pictures of fetuses at abortion clinics. But that's about it. Most people are content with the present situation.

You'd think that the fact that all of Israel's coalitions (except for one or two very brief periods) included religious parties would have made abortion a hot-button issue like in the States. But I guess that when you're worried about being blown to bits you concentrate on protecting the living rather than worrying about the unborn. Maybe the issue seems less divisive because of the fact that it's regulated by a law legislated by the elected Knesset rather than by a ruling of the unelected Supreme Court justices? Dunno.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Random Question

A while back I said I'd change my profile's random question once in a while. Well, it turned out to be a very long while - 15 months. Now I've changed my profile question (and answer), and here is what I had till now.

You're wearing a sweater that stretches down to your feet. What color belt do you put on?
White - to match the looney jacket they'll take me in for dressing like that during the summer.

And a reminder from July 2004, my first random question:

You've got to make contact with the alien leader. How will you tell when the conversation is finished?
When limbs start flying.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Miers for White House Counsel

Harriet Miers is doing a heck of a job as White House Counsel. I don't know whether she's actually doing a good job or if it's a Brownie kind of a heck of a job. Whichever it is, Miers should remain in her current position. I hope the Senate rejects her nomination for the Supreme Court. She's both unqualified and a member of the BCCRWN (Bush Close Circle of Right Wing Nuts).

I find it amusing that some Republicans are worried she may not be conservative enough. I'm sure she's way too conservative, but I hope the Senate conservatives will keep up the worrying and vote against her. On the other hand, the best thing would be if even Republicans voted against her just because she's unqualified, not because of how she'll decide abortion cases. The US Supreme Court is too political. The whole debate over nominations should be focused more on the nominees' professional qualifications than on how they'd decide certain issues (some of which should be decided by Congress, not by the courts).

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sky News: Harold Pinter Dead, um, No, He's the Nobel Winner

I was wondering who won the Nobel Prize in literature, and both CNN and BBC were discussing the horrible earthquake in Pakistan. So I reluctantly turned to Sky News. Good thing though. A very confused anchorwoman had this amusing monologue to say (more or less):

"British playwright Harold Pinter is joining us now. [pause]
[in a grim tone]: Harold Pinter has just died. [another pause]
Harold Pinter has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Sorry about that. More about Pinter later."

Oh, the beauty of live, unedited television!

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I, Radical (?!?)

People have a tendency to think that if someone disagrees with them on a hot-button issue, he'll probably disagree with them on most issues and is a radical of the opposing side. That's especially true when the person doing the assumptions is a radical himself, of the side opposite his opponent. At least that's been my experience.

A recent discussion I had here reminded me of this. It seems that since I am not impressed by the IAEA or because I support Israeli nukes, readers thought I'm a radical right-wing Bush-loving Sharon-worshipping kill-all-Arabs fanatic. That's so far from what my real views are that it's almost comical.

When discussing Israeli politics, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bush, Iraq etc with right wingers they tend to brand me as a naive leftist bleeding-heart Palestinian/Muslim-loving extremist. Again, that too is so far from my real views that it's almost comical.

I'm very much a centrist. Maybe you could call me a hawkish dove or a dovish hawk. When people think I'm a right/left-wing fanatic, almost always they are fanatics of the opposite side. The question is whether I tend to take a more extreme stance than I believe in when I argue with fanatics, or maybe I just counter the radical views so I don't get a chance to say anything centrist. Also, the problem could be with the radicals and not with me. I don't know which option it is.

Remember this: just because I don't think the United States, Israel, and the West in general are the source of all evil - it doesn't mean I'm a radical right winger. Also, just because I support the creation of a Palestinian state and think Bush is the worst US president since who-knows-when - it doesn't mean I'm a radical left winger.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Economics Nobel Awarded to Israeli

Prof. Robert J. Aumann (or Israel Aumann, his Hebrew name) of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has won the 2005 Nobel award for economics, together with Thomas Schelling of the University of Maryland. The committee said they won "for having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis".

This is an Israeli's second Nobel Prize for economics, coming three years after Daniel Kahneman won the award. Just last year two Israelis, Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko, won the Chemistry Nobel. Back then, the winning chemists spoke about the lack of funding for sciences in Israel, and the fact that the government wants to further diminish that funding. I hope Aumann's win this year will help Israeli universities and research institutions fight budget cuts, as well as inspire more private contributions.

Congratulations Prof. Aumann!

In your face, academic boycott proponents!

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Nobel Peace Prize 2005

U.N. Nuclear Agency and Its Chief Win Nobel Prize for Peace

I was under the impression that prizes, especially the most prestigious ones, are supposed to reward success and remarkable achievements. I was wrong. As it turns out, inaction and repeated failures may not prevent a person and/or organization from winning.

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Monday, September 05, 2005

Crying and Cursing

The phrase that would characterize the last few days best is "dereliction of duty". All the levels of government seem to have collapsed under the pressures of the hurricane's aftermath. From what I've heard, President Bush, Gov. Blanco of Louisiana and Mayor Nagin of New Orleans have all done little of what is in their power to minimize the human toll of Katrina before, while and after it hit. The heads of FEMA, Alabama and Mississippi haven't done that great either. The leaders seem to be doing more crying on TV (Gov. Blanco and Sen. Landrieu) and cursing on radio (Mayor Nagin) than actually doing something useful. I would have applauded the mayor for what he said, curses included, if he hadn't been incompetent himself.

The greatest tragedy of all is that this was avoidable. Nobody could stop Katrina, but lives and buildings could have been saved. New Orleans would have been spared of most of the current flooding if the levees had been repaired in time. Most importantly, thousands of lives could have been saved if the government had organized transportation and accommodations for those too poor to flee on their own.

Though the Asian tsunami had a greater death toll, the tragedy in the US's Gulf Coast has affected me more deeply than any other natural disaster before it. I donated $30 to the UJC/Haaretz Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. It's the little I can do from here in Israel.

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Question of Anonymity

Until recently "Emmanuel Schiff" was nothing but my blogging persona. I'd only write in this blog and comment here and there on other blogs. But recently I've started participating in discussions on a number of sites as Emmanuel. It's still a fake name. I'm still anonymous.

But for the first time in my two years of blogging, I actually wondered whether or not to write something because it might be embarrassing if people who know me as Emmanuel on all kinds of serious websites suddenly read about my testicles. I started asking myself if the fact that I'm only known by an alias still make me, as Emmanuel Schiff (as opposed to my real name), anonymous?

But then I came to the conclusion that the heck with it. These people don't really know me, they don't know who I really am or what my real name is. Why should I care? There's no reason to change my blogging habits just because I've started using Emmanuel Schiff for non-blogging purposes. It won't hurt my credibility, neither on my blog nor anywhere else.

So the embarrassing stuff is staying, as you can see in my previous post.


Oh Nuts!

A week ago my one year old niece and I were dancing and jumping around, and she was moving her feet as if dancing in the air. She somehow kicked me in the balls, but I didn't think much of it. She's a baby, how much harm can she do? It hurt but I was sure it would go away quickly. But by the next day, not only did the pain not diminish, but one of my testicles was swollen and was higher up than the other one.

It took something like five days till the pain disappeared. Now it isn't swollen and it doesn't hurt, but it is still a bit uncomfortable. The formerly swollen testicle is still higher than the other one and seems to be sticking out more than the other one. I was afraid that maybe some permanent damage might have occurred, and that my balls will be uneven for the rest of my life, or even that it's a symptom of something even worse. So I went online and discovered that it's normal. I guess you could say the testicle is just being defensive. When testicles are hurt or the man attached to them is worried or stressed they rise closer to the body. It might take it a while to go back down, but it will eventually. Relaxing my muscles in the groin area can be helpful, like taking warm baths and just relaxing there for a long time, which I haven't done in years. I'll give it another week or so and if it doesn't seem to be on the way back down, I'll go to my doctor.

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Some More Thoughts About Autism

I talked to my sister about vaccines again. She said she vaccinated her daughter when she was 4 months old and saw a regression. My niece wasn't in as bad a condition as my nephew was when he was a baby, but my sister says she definitely noticed less eye contact. That's when she decided not to give her more vaccines of the suspicious kind. She claims that even now, her daughter has less eye contact than before she was vaccinated, though she has recuperated and she's totally normal now. My niece also had iron deficiency for a while, but that would have made her less energetic, and would not impair her communication skills, according to my sister.

So I must say I have no idea whether my sister is right or not. My niece is so cute. She's very happy to see me - she starts laughing and reaches out for me to take her. That never happened with my nephew. I don't want to convince my sister to do something that might screw my niece up.

And a slight backtrack on a previous post: I don't entirely agree with the Autistic Pride movement. I do seek a cure, but not for my nephew. He's autistic and that's who he is. Besides, he's doing so well now that there's no point in "curing" him. More than anything I seek a prevention for those very small children who can have a better life as non-autistics. Right, autistic life is not a horror (except for the most extreme cases) but it is so damn hard.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Nest

The other day our gardener removed two big bushes from our backyard. My nephew noticed the change, but wasn't bothered by it. Frankly, I wasn't surprised. Changes like that stopped bothering him long ago.

We found a nest that had probably fallen off the bushes. He wanted to throw it in the air and tear it up. I saw no harm in that, since it looked abandoned anyway, and if it had been in the bushes, the birds wouldn't have a place to go back to anyway. As he ripped up the nest I said, "you know, a nest is the birds' home. They'll be sad when they'll come back and see that the bush and nest are no longer there."

"I like it when they feel that way", was my nephew's answer. That sadistic statement startled me. Does he really mean that? Does he enjoy others' suffering? I certainly hope not.

Also, he has a habit of pushing his face into his sister's forehead, not too gently. She gets pissed off when he does this and starts slapping him on the head but he seems to think she's trying to pet him. I told him not to do that three times already, but he keeps doing it anyway. My sister should be the one who tells him not to do that. She'll be more effective, and doesn't she want to protect her daughter's goddamn brain from head-butting?!?

On a more optimistic note - when my nephew heard my mother was leaving the country for a week he seemed sad. That's a good thing. He also waited patiently for her to end a phone conversation until he asked her to play with him. He's a very cute and smart kid, but he's also very exhausting.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Say YES to Vaccines, Say NO to Pollution

I read a newspaper article about a study conducted last year in the US that showed 10% of babies born in the United States had high mercury levels at the time of their birth. The article also showed embryos these days are practically swimming in pollutants their mothers get from the air and food.

That makes me ever more skeptical of the "mercury causes autism" scare, at least the version that claims vaccines are the only cause of the disorder. The amount of metals in vaccines is nothing compared to what babies already have in their blood anyway. The "Anti-Vaccinators" will do the next generations much more good if they rerouted all their efforts towards environmental causes. I mean the saner kind - unlike eco-terrorists or crazy tree-huggers, but rather the kind that treats the environment as a human health issue. People are what's important. As I see it, nature is more or less ours to exploit, as long as we don't damage ourselves and our health in the process. I assume most hardline environmentalists would disagree.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Autistic Pride: I Stand Corrected

I apologize to the Autistic Pride movement for misrepresenting their position on curing autism and intervention. As it turns out, they support intervention, but don't seek a cure. They don't think autistics will or should be cured, but they should get all the help they need to have as independent and as good a life as possible.

As it turns out, I agree with the goals of the Autistic Pride movement. I simply misunderstood them. I don't believe my nephew will ever be totally cured. So I guess "reports about my nephew's way out of autism" (the last part of my blog's description) is a bit misleading. I never meant he would cease to be autistic. It's more of a metaphor describing his way from his own isolated world (which was never completely isolated, since we all jumped around him when he was a baby, not knowing that we were forcing him out of his shell) into regular society.


Supreme Court Justice JR Ewing?

When I first saw John G. Roberts, my reaction was "I wonder if he's related to Larry Hagman". A brief search on Technorati showed me I'm not crazy - a lot of people think the two look very similar.

On a more serious note, Roberts seems like an acceptable choice so far. After all, nobody can expect Bush to nominate a liberal. The J(G)R Ewing look-alike makes a centrist enough impression. Still, senators should grill him to make sure he isn't a wolf in sheep's clothing.

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Rebels Declare War of Attrition

Most of the anti-disengagement protesters have left Kfar Mimon. However, Benzi Lieberman, head of the Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza) Council has declared that instead of a mass march into Gaza, they will try to infiltrate into Gaza one-by-one or in small groups. He also asked some of the protesters to stay at Kfar Mimon to keep police forces there. He wants to wear them down.

Infiltrating an area illegally and wearing down security forces. Does that sound familiar? It's a war of attrition. The Yesha Council is now using Palestinian tactics. This is a rebellion. These are rebel leaders: Benzi Lieberman and other leaders (including rabbis) calling for the infiltration of Gaza and the attrition of those who usually bust their butts protecting them. They see themselves as above the law. They should be behind bars for incitement of violence and of an uprising.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

My Nephew's Cinematic Experience

My mother took my nephew to see Madagascar yesterday. This is the kind of little experiences that show us how much he has improved. He was like a normal kid. He didn't mind the crowd on the ticket line, and sat through almost all the film. About five minutes before the end, he wanted to leave because something in the movie pissed him off, something that may anger intelligent (emotionally and smart) kids. You wouldn't normally expect an autistic to be bothered by it.

Spoiler warning for those of you who still intend to watch the movie:

The lion gets hungry and bites his friend the zebra in the ass. This shocked my nephew. "He bit his friend?!?" He saw this as a grievous breach of trust. So he asked my mother to leave, and they did. But he sat there more than an hour before that. When he was younger, he could barely sit for five minutes. Besides, he gets along well with children. Sometimes he gets mad at the other kids for things most children don't get upset about, but that is getting rarer as time goes by.

He's such a genius. He saw a book, where a character inside it is reading the same book. He said, "and inside this book, there's book, and in that one another book, and in that one another..." What kid would think about that? He also decided he doesn't believe in evolution. "I don't think our great-great-great grandparents were apes. My great-great-great-great grandchildren might think I was an ape, and I'm not." What other 5-year old thinks about himself as being a father in the future, let alone a grandfather or great-great one. The examples of his immense intelligence are endless.

I really don't understand the "Autistic Pride" advocates who seek no cure for autism. My nephew, through the hard work of his family (including me) and professionals, is now more or less cured from the worst symptoms of autism. Would the "Priders" rather we didn't do all that hard work and that he'd still be unable to communicate and fear company? Maybe I misunderstand them and they don't see the ABA treatment my nephew received as a cure, and it seems acceptable to them. I don't know.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Search for the Autistic Gene

According to an article in Discover Magazine, researchers have loacted the "neighborhood" of the gene that causes autism. It's on a section of Chromosome 17 called 17q21, and they hope to find the gene itself within the next four years. The same article also cites the results of a study that found that autistic children's immune systems are somewhat weaker than usual.

As important as these findings are, they certainly won't end the debate over the causes of autism. Some claim it's comletely genetic. Some say it's completely the work of toxins such as Thimerosal, a form of mercury added to certain vaccines. Those who think it's genetic, usually think the toxin theory is a load of crap, like Kevin of Left Brain/Right Brain, for example.

A few months ago, when my niece had to be given the usual shots babies get, my sister decided not to vaccinate her. I was angery at her. I thought she was doing something totally irrational, looking for blame where there was none. "Your son is autistic because he was born that way, not because of the shots", I told her. I decided to do my own research on the internet to prove her wrong. All that I found just confused me. There's a lot of research out there, most of it says there is no connection between thimerosal and autism, some of it says the opposite. Who should I believe?

After a while, I came to the conclusion that this isn't all black and white. I think the risk of autism is genetic. If you don't have the "autism gene", you won't be autistic. But if you do have it, you won't necessarily be autistic. Contact with toxins may trigger the gene, and may effect where you'll be on the autistic spectrum. There may be additional factors.

Maybe my sister was right. It is possible these vaccines aren't dangerous for all babies, but ones related to autistic people are at risk. It's a question worth investigating.

Nephew Update: He's doing great. He's in a regular kindergarten and the kids love him. He has very few autistic features left. He's a genius, too. More on him some other time.

Note: Amazingly, I haven't mentioned my nephew (nor autism) for almost a year, and the last time I said anything about my niece was when she was born. I've barely blogged, and when I did, it was usually about politics. Now I'm back to regular blogging and also to more personal topics: like autism and my nephew.


New Logo

What do you think of my new personal icon? Somewhat unprofessional, I admit, but I like it anyway. The pen and the sword (the Thundercats sword, no less!) may generate any number of interpretations. I'll let you come to your own conclusions...

I just signed up with Technorati, so I thought creating my own personalized icon would be a bit more professional blogging (a phrase which might be a paradox). I have a feeling Technorati is what got me my first comment in quite a long time - since I added a tag (which is like a post's category) that probably led one of my fellow bloggers to my previous post. I also added a search feature, powered by Technorati (see my sidebar), in case you want to look for something particular in my blog.

I'm tagging this post as . It qualifies, doesn't it? Categorizing every post may be a bit tricky, but I think it will get me more readers.

Monday, July 18, 2005

By Any Means Necessary

Today's Haaretz editorial (see also the original Hebrew version) is going to anger a lot of people. It says that today's anti-disengagement march might turn into a violent riot. If protesters try to break through into the Gaza Strip to settle and stay there to fight disengagement next month, "there may be no choice but to use crowd-dispersal equipment, just as the police and army do on other occasions. The danger to the state reflected in the march on Gush Katif is no smaller, and in practice is even greater, than the danger posed by other demonstrations that the security forces have been forced to handle." In other words, they're saying "shoot them, if necessary".

I applaud Haaretz. Though I see the disengagement plan as a victory to the Palestinian extremists, its cancellation would be a victory to Israel's extremists. At this point, success by our own radicals would not replace that of our enemies, but rather it would be a victory of the No Compromise Wing of both sides. That's why we need to crush the Settler Uprising just like we did with the uprising by Palestinian citizens of Israel in October 2000. Besides, if the army has no problem shooting rubber-coated bullets at Palestinians and Israeli Leftist Jews who violently protest against the security fence in the West Bank, they shouldn't have any problem doing the same with violent settlers.

I know I sound a bit like a fascist today, or like a settler-hater. But I'm not. I just see the extremists among the settlers as a danger to Israeli democracy.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Fake Bulwer Lytton Winners

Any day now the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest results should be announced. This "worst opening line to a fictional novel" contest can be really hilarious sometimes. Even though there was nothing new on the contest's website, I decided to google "Bulwer Lytton 2005". I was surprised to discover a list of winners that appeared on several blogs. They seemed familiar and since they also didn't show up on the official site of neither the competition nor the SJSU English Dept. which runs it, I became suspicious. A short inquiry led to the revelation that it's some hoax that has come up every year and presented as the new winners. Since almost every blog said something like "I got this from..." I assume the bloggers are innocent chain-mail victims.

Anyway, though they aren't the real winners, they are no less amusing than the ones in the real thing. So here they are:

* As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.

* Just beyond the Narrows, the river widens.

* With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned, unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.

* Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: "Andre creep... Andre creep... Andre creep."

* Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved.

* Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eking out a living at a local pet store.

* Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.

* Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.

* Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn't know the meaning of the word 'fear'; a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death -- in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies.

And the [fake] gran prize winner:
* The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, screaming madly, "You lied!"

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Broken Dick (Nishbar Ha'Zine)

There's a saying in Hebrew slang - "my dick broke". This phrase, used by both men and women, expresses the feeling of being fed up, sick of something or angry. That's a good description of me right now, just without the angry part.

My final semester is over. I've done pretty badly (in the low 80's) on my tests, and I'll have two more tests to improve my grade in the courses whose first tests I screwed up. I have a lot of papers to write - some about 10-15 pages long (due by August), two 30 pages long (due by the end of September). Today I checked my MA registration status and it said I'm in the mid-range of grades needed to be accepted. That isn't good. I need just one last push these next few weeks to raise my average above 90.

But, alas, my dick has broken. I'm sick of studying. I need a vacation! I have to pull myself together, stop watching TV (even though I feel like watching Ewan McGregor's "Long Way Round"), stop using the internet (after all, rekindling my interest in blogging now, of all times, is just a bad idea) and study my ass off!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Belated Happy Anniversary to My Blog

I'm about a month too late, but Happy Anniversary, Emmanuel Schiff and the Masters of the University (or as it was known in its early days, Emmanuel Schiff: Fake Name, Real Person)! I don't have any intention of checking out the monthly statistics and saying when I wrote the most and when the least like I did last year (which I did out of curiosity back then, since I doubt I have any significant audience). All I can say is that I've been lazy with the blog this year. For the first year and a half I always had at least one post per month - and in 2005, so far, there are two postless months - January and June. Maybe I have something against months with J's, N's and U's in them.

I changed the layout of the blog. The new template is much nicer than the bland old one. Whoever chose the previous one is a... Oh, actually that was me, too.

By the way, here's a curious tidbit: The word "blog" isn't recognized by Blogger's Spelling Checker. Ironic, isn't it?

London 2005, London 2012

I was going to write something about London winning the privilege to host the 2012 Olympics, and then came today's terrorist attacks in London's subway system and in one double-decker bus. All I can do now is repeat what I wrote in March 2004:

"The terrorist attack in Madrid last Thursday was a horror that I believe will occur again around Europe and any place the radical Islamists see as full of infidels. I miss the days when international organizations bent on destruction were just the figment of scriptwriters' imagination."

My little defiance against the terrorists is simple. I'll do what I originally planned - write about the Olympics.

I was rooting for New York, as a former New Yorker. But my second choice would have been London, or anything but Paris. It's something psychological and totally irrational. For one thing, from all the reports, Paris is readier than London on the ground, though the London presentation in Singapore was reportedly better. As an Israeli, I feel animosity towards the French that should probably be equally directed at the Brits. After all, it was a British university professors' organization that briefly boycotted Israel institutions. When it comes to the people, Britons are as anti-Israel as, if not more than, the French.

It all comes down to this - the governments. Blair is a likeable fellow. Jacques (as I pronounce it - Jackass) Chirac isn't. So we like the UK more because of their leaders. But Chirac isn't popular in France, and neither is he popular in Israel, while Blair isn't as popular as he used to be in the UK, but he's popular in Israel. Wouldn't that make us Israelis closer to the French?! Well, okay, not really. Frenchmen and Britons are united in their dislike for both the leaders.

So, anyway, London 2012. Tel Aviv 2016? No way! Maybe 2048.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The French Are Good For Something, After All

I'm glad voters in France rejected the European constitution, though not necessarily for the same reasons as the voters themselves. For one thing, the EU constitution is not an inspiring framework like the American and other historical constitutions. It's more of a "bureaucrat's Handbook", and two-hand book at that - it's huge! 450 pages long. I actually have it at home (a European politics professor distributed it to us), and I've sifted through it, in no thorough way (that would take ages, and I still wouldn't have understood most of the legal mumbo jumbo). I also think the EU should deepen its economic ties, but not its political ties. European countries are too old and too diverse to become a United States of Europe.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI

Damn! Why didn't I place a bet on that Irish site! German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was my first guess. I was wrong about the name he'd pick for himself, though Benedict was one of the three "saving face" options. In all, I got a 51 by the silly point system I devised in my previous post.

Ratzinger is a nice guy, I hear. Great. George Bush is a nicer guy than Kerry and I still picked Kerry. Clinton is a very nice guy - and still conservatives didn't want him as president. So Benedict XVI is a nice person. Nice to know. If only he weren't the ultraconservative outgoing head of the Inquisition (under the nicer, softer title "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith")...

Monday, April 04, 2005

Papal Punditry

Pope John Paul II was a good man, though flawed (sorry, infallibility-believing Catholics). He way too conservative on many issues, such as condoms to prevent AIDS in Africa, but he was also progressive on many other things, such as relations with Jews.

One interesting thing to see in today's newspaper was seeing news headlines from around the world and seeing how John Paul was called in different places. This isn't because of the pope himself, but because of the fact that the church is international, but it's still worth mentioning. Ioannes Paulus (Latin), Johannes Paul (German), Jean-Paul (French) and the list goes on. In Hebrew, by the way he was called Yochanan Paulus.

Now for the punditry section. Everyone is trying to guess who the next pope is going to be. I have no idea who'll be elected, but I'll just guess. I'll list my top five guesses (plus 3 more) - Number one will grant me 50 points if elected. Number five - 10 points. Then I'll make wild guesses about the name he'll pick - again top five+3. In two weeks I'll see if the Holy Spirit guided me in my baseless guesses - I may get anywhere between all 100 points or nil.

And the nominees are:

1. German Cardinal Ratzinger (%50)
2. Nigerian Cardinal Arinze (40)
3. Italian Cardinal Dionigi Tattamanzi (30)
4. Brazillian Cardinal Hummes (20)
5. Belgian Cardinal Danneels (10)
Three runners-up that will give me one point if elected (at least to save face): Frenchman Lustiger, Hundurian Maradiaga or Italian Battista Re.

Names (if I'm wrong about the numbering, only the name itself counts):

1. Gregory XVII (%50)
2. Innocent XIV (40)
3. Leo XIV (30)
4. John Paul III (20)
5. Gelasius III (10) - in case an African is elected, he may name himself after the last African pope.
Runners-up (one point each): Clement XV, Benedict XVI or Adrian VII.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Lose-Lose Situation

The disengagement plan has now reached a catch 22 situation. If it goes through unilaterally, without getting anything from the Palestinians, Palestinian extremists will see it as their victory. If it doesn't go through, Israeli extremists will see that as their own victory. Now the big question is which is worse.

The sane voices who are against disengagement for practical reasons are not being heard. The fanatics who, mostly for religious reasons more than nationalistic reasons, oppose ever giving any land to the Palestinians have completely hijacked the whole anti-unilateral pullout discourse. People like me, who believe that we should give up lands for the future State of Palestine but only through negotiation, are silent. We don't want to align ourselves with the "Complete Land of Israel" folks in any way. We're cowards.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

It was great!

What is "it"? Can't say. Very few people have "it" on their resume, so if you know "it", you can somehow find out who I really am. Maybe I'm overly cautious. Whatever...

We had a "talk non-stop" guest the last few days. Chewed our ears off. Thank the Lord Almighty that he's gone. Yes, it was that bad that I'm thanking someone I don't believe in!