Monday, May 28, 2007

The Labor Leadership Contest

Though I would rather see Ofir Pines win the chairmanship of the Israeli Labor Party, I voted for Ami Ayalon in today's primaries. Why? Pines has no chance of winning. Barak was a terrible leader. Peretz is so bad he shouldn't even be in government, and Danny Yetom is a mini-Barak.

I'm not too crazy about Ayalon either, but of the top 3 candidates, his views are the closest to my own, he has Avishai Braverman as his unofficial running mate, and it seems he has been good at the previous posts he held in the military and the Shin Bet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Weirdest Search Term: Sperm Donation to Amish

Once in a while, I take a look at my blog's stats. I see how many people visited, which pages they read, where they are from and how they found my blog. One of the things I can check is the search terms used to find it. A few days ago someone googled the term "how to donate sperm to amish" and somehow reached my site, the blessed result of mixing terms from unrelated posts.

Why the hell would the Amish want sperm donations from outsiders? I doubt that any procedure that brings about the birth of a child whose biological mother is not married to his biological father would be consistent with their religious doctrine.

A Reminder That Qassam Rockets Are Deadly

A 32 year old woman was killed in Sderot tonight when a Qassam rocket hit the car she was in. This is a reminder to all those who consider the Qassams to be no more than flying pieces of metal that these are real weapons. They are deadly, and they are being aimed at civilians, and Israel must defend itself against these weapons.

Collective punishment is not going to solve the Qassam problem. Targeting Qassam-launchers on their way to an attack is the answer, albeit the partial, short-term answer. When possible, the Air Force should wait for the launchers to exit crowded areas before blowing them up, but that isn't always an option. Civilian casualties should be avoided at all costs, except for the cost of Israeli lives. If a car is on its way to a launch site full of rockets that have the potential to kill Israelis, our military has to shoot it down.

The Palestinians are in disarray. Not only are Hamas and Fatah fighting each other, each one of them is split into different factions. Even the Hamas, which used to be united, is no longer centralized. This is very bad for Israel, because now not only will they be fighting each other, they'll all also try to outdo each other in their fight against Israel. This is definitely bad news for everybody.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Six Feet Under and Brothers and Sisters

Last week I watched the entire final season of Six Feet Under, and days later I started watching the first 20 episodes of Brothers & Sisters. Maybe because of the proximity, I found a lot of similarities between these two shows, other than the obvious fact that both star the excellent Rachel Griffiths. Take a look below. Did I miss anything?

There's one major difference between the shows. Six Feet Under was a great show - real quality television. Brothers & Sisters is a fun show to watch, but quality TV it ain't.

Beware of SPOILERS!!!

Brothers & Sisters

Six Feet Under

William has heart attack and falls into pool

Nathaniel Sr. dies in accident

Father dies in pilot episode, leaving grieving widow

William and Holly

Ruth and Hiram

Parent's infidelity revealed after death

Kitty returns from NY

Nate returns from Seattle

A child returns home to LA

Ojai Foods

Fisher & Sons Mortuary

Family business

Kevin Walker

David Fisher

Gay repressed brother

Tommy asks Kevin for his sperm. Kevin refuses at first, but then both he and Justin donate sperm.

David asks Claire for her egg, so he and Keith can have a child. She refuses.

Asking a sibling for help conceiving (gay brother either asker or donor)

Julia Walker goes into labor 29 weeks into pregnancy

Brenda goes into labor two months early

Premature birth

Joe kisses Sarah's half sister Rebecca.

Nate cheats on Brenda with his step sister Maggie.

Rachel Griffiths' character has marital problems. Sisterly infidelity involved.

Husband Joe Whedon

Boyfriend Joe (Season 4)

Rachel Griffiths' character has significant other named Joe

Sarah is Joe's son Gabriel's step mother

Brenda is Nate's daughter Maya's step mother.

Her character is also a step-mother

Isn't it fun to waste time on totally unimportant things once in a while?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Students Strike, Higher Education Suffers

Israel's university and college students have been striking since April 10. The student organisations are opposed to a new government-appointed committee, led by former minister of the treasury, Avraham Shochat, which is examining reforms in Israel's higher education system.

The committee is expected to recommend higher tuition fees as an additional source for the university's depleted coffers, along with setting up a large scale student loan system and scholarships for those who cannot afford the tuition. I think this is a good solution, but the student organisations are only worried about students' pockets, not about what is best for our institutes of higher education.

The students demand that the government lower the tuition (in other words, raise tuition subsidies), and in addition, they demand that it should raise the universities' budgets. Both of these things cannot be done at the same time. Where will all the money come from? We, the students, should stop this strike. Lowering tuition fees in the current state of affairs is the wrong cause.

Even though I do not support this strike, I'm angered by the university presidents' attempt to force the students to end their strike. On Friday they announced that the semester would be extended by two weeks and students who return to class on Monday will be assisted with any missed study materials. However, they warned that students who do not return may lose this semester and will have to repeat it next year. Instead of negotiating with the students, they are bullying them.

Let's go back to school, not because we are forced into it, but because we understand that we are wrong. Let's accept the government's compromise proposal, which is too generous in my opinion. The proposal promises not to raise the tuition for those who are already studying, and raise it only for new students who will start studying in the future.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Winograd Commissioner's Reading List

Some people may be interested in this message sent to the Israeli Political Science Association's mailing list by Prof. Yehezkel Dror, a member of the Winograd Commission that is investigating the Second Lebanon War:

Dear Political Science Colleagues,

Obviously I cannot and will not comment in any way on the Winograd Partial Report and on reactions to it, certainly not before the Final Report is out and the Committee is disbanded.

But, "without prejudice" and on a purely academic basis, let me share with you all the details of three recent books, out of a larger list, which I found very relevant in my methodological studies on evaluating war results:

  • Dominic D. P. Johnson and Dominic Tierney, Failing to Win: Perceptions of Victory and Defeat in International Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

  • Robert Mandel, The Meaning of Military Victory. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2006.

  • William C. Martel, Victory in War: Foundations of Modern Military Policy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    Shabat Shalom

    Yehezkel Dror

  • I'm not familiar with these books, but taking a look at them may help us understand how the Winograd Commission reached its conclusions.

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    Over 100,000 Protesters Demand Olmert's Resignation

    Organisers of the protest rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square say that as much as 200,000 people are in attendance. Police estimates are more modest, saying there are more than 100,000 protesters. Is this enough? No. There have to be a lot of demonstrations over time to get Olmert to do the right thing and resign. Are Israelis angry enough to make sure the prime minister gets the message that, as author Meir Shalev put it at today's rally, Olmert is fired? I'm not sure.

    Since yesterday, somehow, Tzipi Livni seems to be under fire more than Olmert. Critics say she should have been bold enough to resign. As I've said previously, why the hell should one of our best, most intelligent ministers leave the government to the fools that the Winograd Commission criticized?!? Olmert and Peretz should resign, not Livni.

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Olmert, Don't You Dare Fire Livni!

    Rumor has it that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wants to fire Foreign Minister and Deputy PM Tzipi Livni. This, as a response to the fact that she called for his resignation. A possible replacement would be the current minister of transportation and former Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz. This would be a grave mistake for many reasons.

    First of all, Tzipi Livni was the only cabinet minister to be praised by the Winograd Commission. If the rebuked prime minister and defense minister stay, and only Livni goes, replaced by Mofaz, who may still be criticized by the final Winograd Report regarding his days as IDF chief of staff and defense minister, then this horrible government would become even worse. Mofaz hasn't been a great leader, and if Olmert eventually resigns while Mofaz is his deputy, the chances of this mediocre (at best) politician becoming prime minister will be greater.

    Also, the Israeli cabinet is different from the US cabinet in the fact that its members do not serve at the pleasure of the chief executive. Personal loyalty to the prime minister is never a requirement. So, Livni calling for Olmert's resignation is not reason enough for him to fire her. Certainly not under the current circumstances.

    Firing Livni may be the straw that breaks Israelis' backs. Livni is much more popular that Olmert, Peretz and all other cabinet ministers, maybe except for Peres. I know I'd certainly have much more motivation to go to a demonstration calling for Olmert's resignation if he had the Chutzpah to get rid of the one person who performed well during the Second Lebanon War. And I don't mean Chutzpah in a good way.

    Tzipi Livni or Meir Sheetrit for Prime Minister

    Ehud Olmert has been a colossal failure as prime minister of Israel. The Winograd Commission's partial report, released Monday, supplied an abundance of evidence demonstrating he is unfit for leadership. The Second Lebanon War is far from being his only failure. He must step down.

    I do not want new elections now. If that happens, we will have Benjamin Netanyahu as our prime minister. Last time he was our chief executive, 1996-1999, he was a terrible leader. His election would be disastrous to any peace efforts, among other things.

    For fear of Netanyahu's election, the only good solution I can see is for the government to choose a new prime minister from among Kadima's current cabinet ministers. The best choice would be Tzipi Livni, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister, but the ultra-orthodox Shas party and the ultra-right wing Israel Beytenu (Israel Our Home) may leave the coalition if she is selected. I'd be happy to see these two parties out of the government, but without them the government wouldn't have a parliamentary majority and there would be new elections.

    The second best choice is Minister of Housing and Construction Meir Sheetrit. He has been calling for negotiations with the Arab League (and says we should talk to them in Arabic, not English) and has done well in his various cabinet posts. Israel Beytenu would probably leave the government, which is very good, but Shas would stick by him. After all, for the Sephardic Shas not to support Israel's first Moroccan prime minister would be unthinkable.

    I hope Shimon Peres won't be Olmert's replacement as prime minister. His testimony before the Winograd Commission showed that loyalty to the prime minister is more important to him than loyalty to what is best for the country. He told the commission he thought the government was making the wrong decisions but said nothing at the cabinet meetings. That is also why he should not be president after Moshe Katzav.