Saturday, June 30, 2007

SelectSmart Claims I Like Kucinich

According to's Presidential Selector, my top 3 ideal candidates in the 2008 race for president of the United States are Al Gore, Denis Kucinich and Hillary Clinton. It's true that I like Gore and Clinton, but Kucinich?!? Both Clinton and Kucinich got the same score - each one of them is compatible with my preferences 68% of the time. Aren't the two on different ends of the Democratic spectrum?

Turns out that I don't really agree with my two favorite Republicans - McCain and Giuliani (36% each). I must say I'm disappointed that none of the candidates, Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike, have reached 70%. Maybe I should run myself (so what if I don't meet residency and age requirements).

Here are my full results:

1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100 %)
2. Al Gore (69 %)
3. Dennis Kucinich (68 %)
4. Hillary Clinton (68 %)
5. Joseph Biden (67 %)
6. Michael Bloomberg (66 %)
7. Christopher Dodd (64 %)
8. Barack Obama (63 %)
9. John Edwards (63 %)
10. Bill Richardson (62 %)
11. Wesley Clark (61 %)
12. Ron Paul (53 %)
13. Alan Augustson (53 %)
14. Mike Gravel (49 %)
15. Kent McManigal (40 %)
16. John McCain (36 %)
17. Tommy Thompson (36 %)
18. Rudolph Giuliani (36 %)
19. Mitt Romney (36 %)
20. Elaine Brown (33 %)
21. Tom Tancredo (31 %)
22. Chuck Hagel (30 %)
23. Mike Huckabee (27 %)
24. Newt Gingrich (25 %)
25. Jim Gilmore (24 %)
26. Fred Thompson (23 %)
27. Duncan Hunter (20 %)
28. Sam Brownback (19 %)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Neurodiversity in Israel

The weekend's Haaretz magazine has an article [read in Hebrew or English] about adult autistics who say autism should not be cured. It should be recognized as a "neurological minority". The term neurodiversity was not used in the article (though the term neurotypical was). I don't know if there is a Hebrew term for neurodiversity. If there isn't, I'd suggest מגוון נוירולוגי or גיוון נוירולוגי. I believe this is the first time this aspect of autism is addressed in a major Israeli newspaper.

Some of the adults in the article understood they were autistic after their children received an autistic spectrum diagnosis. They are high functioning autistics and think that autistic behavior should not be stopped, but rather there should be intervention to allow autistic people to function well in society. Communication is the means, not the ends, they say.

They are absolutely right when it comes to autistic people. In the effort to make children normal a lot of times the children get abused, sometimes physically (like aggressive chelation therapy) or mentally (like my sister's obsession with breaking some of my nephew's harmless repetitive habits).

That doesn't mean there shouldn't be research into the causes of autism.

And just a note: Blogger's spellchecker doesn't recognize the term neurodiversity, and suggests the word "narratives" instead. It's a bit ironic, since neurodiversity is indeed a different narrative regarding the autistic spectrum.

Katsav's Shameful Plea Bargain

Moshe Katsav will not go to jail. Under a plea bargain crafted by his lawyers with Attorney General Menny Mazuz, he will admit he committed minor sexual offences and will receive a suspended sentence of one year. He will also be required to pay the accusers compensation.

This is quite a questionable plea bargain. It seems prosecutors have built a solid rape case, and could have achieved a conviction. Mazuz's reasoning for his decision is unacceptable.

"This agreement minimizes the harm to the institution of the presidency," said the attorney general. "It was important to spare Israel from seeing a president on trial." Well, actually, the harm to the presidency has already been done. Seeing a president on trial would be very good for Israel and would give us the feeling that equality before the law exists here. It is true that a president charged with rape is an embarrassment for Israel, but the embarrassment stems from the very possibility that our president could do such a thing. It is even greater an embarrassment if our president gets away with rape, despite the evidence against him, only because he is the president.

Mazuz also said that this is a big step. Katsav's status will change from president to sexual offender. Technically, that's true. But if the evidence against him is so strong, the change should be even more dramatic - from president to prisoner.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Another Weird Search Term

According to, someone found this blog by searching for "Tzipi Livni nude pictures". I seriously hope this person was not looking for pictures of Israel's foreign minister naked, but rather wanted to know what her stance is regarding the whole Maxim sexy Israeli soldiers photo spread controversy. As a feminist woman who is in charge of the government body (New York Consulate and Foreign Ministry) that came up with the idea to use the female body (not nude, but scantily clad), it is interesting to know what she thinks.

Then again, maybe the person who searched for that is just a guy with a fetish for powerful women, or women in business suits.

After Four Years

I forgot to mark the 4-year anniversary of my blog earlier this month. Four long years. On previous anniversaries I did some kind of look back, but I won't do that this time. Instead, I'll try to guess what my posts will look like 4 years from now, in June 2011.

I'll probably still be complaining about the stalemate between Israelis and Palestinians, but at least I will praise the involvement of US President Hillary Clinton and her special envoy to the Middle East, First Gentleman Bill Clinton. President Peres will also be giving the Israeli government a hard time, being a very politically active president. I doubt there will be a Palestinian state by then, but we might have a peace treaty with Syria and we'll be in the process of leaving the Golan Heights.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Getting Laid In the Holy Land

Israeli politicians are all hot and bothered about the apparent collaboration of Israel's foreign ministry (or the Israeli consulate in New York, to be specific) with an issue of Maxim Magazine dedicated to female Israeli soldiers. I don't know if the girls in the pictures are still actually in the army, but it doesn't really matter. It's disgusting that we're promoting tourism by saying we've got sexy women in Bikinis and tight uniforms, either as eye candy or as asses to be tapped. The tag line might as well be "Israel: Come Get Laid". Hey, Mr. Horny Guy, forget about sex tourism in Thailand - do it here!

Maxim seems like an odd magazine to me. Wikipedia describes it as a "lad magazine", meaning it has sexy pictures and stories about sex, but no nude pictures. So, basically, it's a publication for horny guys who don't even have the balls to buy Playboy or Penthouse? Pathetic...

Vaccines and Sudanese Refugees

When my niece was born, my sister decided not to vaccinate her against certain diseases, fearing that vaccines had something to do with my nephew's autism. "Everybody else is vaccinated anyway, so there's nobody who can get her sick", was her main argument then, when she tried to convince me (and probably herself) that the risks of vaccination are greater than the risks of non-vaccination.

For the past few years a small yet steady stream of African refugees, mostly from Sudan (Darfur and South Sudan), has been crossing the border into Israel. Their numbers have recently risen and their plight has gotten more press coverage. While in the past they were arrested and deported, government policy now allows them to stay in Israel, but they do not have any legal status here. Most of them don't even receive refugee status, and the government doesn't lift a finger to help them. They've been pretty much stranded. Some Kibbutzim have taken some of them in, others have been given jobs in Eilat, but even those are only temporary solutions.

I thought of pitching in somehow to help them, maybe by volunteering at a Kibbutz where they are staying or something of the sort. But then I realized that there may be health implications. Even if I am vaccinated against most diseases they may have, I can still become a carrier and pose a health risk to my niece. Then I thought of the fact that not only can I become a risk factor, a lot of people who either come into contact with the refugees or with others who have been in contact with them, may pose a health threat to my niece and any other child who was not vaccinated.

I should talk to my sister about this. It isn't too late to give my niece the vaccines she hasn't taken yet. Now, with the current situation, my sister may be convinced that the risks of not being vaccinated outweigh the perceived menace of mercury.

And an apology to the refugees if this post makes them sound like little more than carriers of dangerous diseases. I still plan to help them.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Autism Wars

One of the most troubling aspects of the debate about the causes and treatment of autism is the hatred both sides feel for each other. The "Autism Blogosphere" has more posts devoted to vilification of the other side than serious, fact-based arguments. Too bad nobody seems to realize that both sides, anti-Mercury advocates and supporters of neurodiversity, are trying to look out for their children.

But let's not be too naive, either. Part of the conflict here is political and financial. Both sides want to get more money and resources for the type of research they support. Also, each side believes that if too much money is spent on the other side's research and not on their own, their children will be hurt.

Also, supporters of Neurodiversity, including autistic people, don't appreciate autistics being described as monsters by The Mercurys. The strong opposition to the use of chelation, a dubious and possibly dangerous method, is also understandable.

What made me write all this? The New York Times has an article about the Wright family, founders of the multi-million dollar charity Autism Speaks, where Katie Wright, mother of Christian, an autistic child, and her parents Bob and Suzanne, are fighting because she thinks they aren't paying enough attention to (and signing enough checks for) mercury research. This isn't quite a Mercury vs. Neurodiversity case, but it shows that there are even rifts between views that aren't exact opposites of each other.

Read "Autism Debate Strains a Family and Its Charity".

Friday, June 15, 2007

This Week in Failed Prime Ministers (FPMs)

It was a good week for our current FPM, Ehud Olmert. The election of former FPM Ehud Barak as chairman of the Labor Party and the election of PFPM (Partially Failed PM) Shimon Peres as the next president of Israel, allow him to stay in office for a while longer. Former FPM Benjamin Netanyahu was humiliated when the Likud's presidential nominee, Ruby Rivlin got only 37 votes in the Knesset.

I used to have a fantasy about Israel's next general elections. I hoped we may get a chance to pick between two great candidates for prime minister: Avishai Braverman of Labor, and Tzipi Livni of Kadima. Now that seems far fetched. Even if Livni will be Kadima's next nominee, the real fight will be between two very bad options. So, which FPM is the lesser of evils - Bibi or Barak? Barak, but not by much.

Meanwhile in Gaza, the results of former FPM Ariel Sharon's policy of unilateral withdrawal are now proving that the disengagement was a disaster. Most Israelis believe Sharon was one of our greatest leaders, but he was not. His insistence on pulling out of Gaza without talking to the other side was a mistake for which we will pay for a very long time.

But I'll end on an optimistic note. The day Shimon Peres was elected president also saw the conclusion of a 3-day conference of Israeli and Palestinian peace NGOs in Tuscany, Italy, organized by the Peres Center for Peace. Representatives of over 100 organizations participated and discussed ways to promote peace even while our governments aren't negotiating with each other. One of the conference's achievements was the creation of a network of NGOs who will now cooperate with each other. Hey, there may still be some hope yet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Labor Primaries: Round 2

Ami Ayalon may lose tomorrow's Labor Party primaries. Until recently, it seemed as if he'd beat Ehud Barak handily in the second round of voting, but then he made a horrible mistake. He got himself into an alliance with outgoing chairman Amir Peretz, and probably promised him a senior cabinet post. Peretz can bring Ayalon many new votes, but will probably cost him twice as many.

Peretz gives me the creeps. This inept man, who never talks but only yells as if he's at a goddamn protest rally, is about to end his tenure as Minister of Defense, and should never be given another ministerial job in his life. He is a vulgar, uneducated, unintelligent man, who has done the country almost nothing but harm in his posts as defense chief and labor union leader. Following the Winograd Report, he and Olmert should have been exiled to the political wilderness.

Despite all this, I will still vote for Ami Ayalon. I will do it with even greater reservations than I did two weeks ago, but I have not been convinced Ehud Barak wouldn't be worse. When deciding between one failed leader as the candidate's sidekick and another failed leader as the candidate himself, I'd rather vote for the ticket where at least the certified failure won't be leading the party. Besides, Ayalon promises that Prof. Avishay Braverman, former Ben-Gurion University president, will still be his number two and Labor's chief financial minister. I'm a big fan of Braverman. Had Ayalon not reiterated his running-mate status, I would probably switch sides.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

40 Years and Counting

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War's final day. It was Israel's greatest victory, but its aftermath was also Israel's greatest mistake. Israel should have unilaterally pulled out of all the territories it had captured within a year, when it still had a chance. It would have been even better to give the lands back in exchange for peace, but the Arab League's "three nos" of Khartoum (no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel) made that option impossible in the short run.

Israel needs to get out of the territories, but unlike 40 years ago, it cannot pull out unilaterally. That was the wrong approach in Gaza and Southern Lebanon. Negotiations won't magically fix things, either. After all, these are our enemies who would rather see us gone. Nevertheless, negotiations are better than nothing. We must start talking to Syria, President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League. So far, Olmert has only talked about the possibility of talking to them but isn't showing signs he actually intends to seriously negotiate.

40 is a typological number in Judaism, a recurring number with special cultural significance (like 7 and 12). According to the old testament, the Israelites wandered through the Sinai desert for 40 years. Many rulers ruled for 40 years, and at the end of many events in the Book of Judges, there was peace for four decades. Noah spent 40 days in his ark, and the 12 Israelite spies were in Canaan for 40 days.

Forty years of occupation - what an unholy number (not that I believe in holiness). Let's hope it doesn't take another 40 years to get rid of it. I'd be happy if we could end it peacefully in 40 days or 40 weeks, but I don't see that happening. Maybe within 40 months.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Stop the Academic Boycott of Israel

Here's a message I got from one of my most leftist bleeding-heart peacenik friends. I mention his political leanings just to demonstate how counterproductive and simple-minded this boycott is:

On the 30th May 2007, a resolution to boycott all Israeli academic institutions was passed by Britain's University and College Union (UCU).

If you agree with the following please sign the petition at:


- It is counter to the universal principle of academic freedom

- It is a form of prejudice & discrimination; it unfairly singles out Israel

- It is counter-productive to peace & reconciliation

- It stifles scientific advancement, which depends on international interaction

An academic boycott is counter to the universal principle of Academic Freedom. Academic life is about building bridges, not destroying them; opening minds, not
closing them; hearing both sides of an argument, not one alone. Boycotts are a betrayal of these values. This principle has been formally recognized by UNESCO, he International Council for Science, the Middle East Studies Association, the journals Nature and Science, the American Association of University Professors, and other learned societies around the world. Only in an atmosphere of academic freedom, unfettered by partisan political manipulations, can scientific advances of benefit to all mankind be made.

Not only does a boycott of Israeli academia violate the principle of academic freedom, it would do so in a discriminatory matter. Any institution representing academics, including trade unions, must adhere to universal, objective criteria for
determining its policy towards academic boycotts. This has not been the case. Only Israel has been singled out for such treatment. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Israeli government actions, Israel is very far from being the worst abuser of Human Rights in the world, yet no other country has been targeted for boycotts.

Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al-Quds University, bravely opposes the boycott and issued the following statement:

"An international academic boycott of Israel, on pro-Palestinian grounds, is self-defeating: It would only succeed in weakening that strategically important bridge through which the state of war between Israelis and Palestinians could be ended and Palestinian rights could therefore be restored. Instead of burning that bridge, the
international academy should do everything within its power to strengthen it."

And indeed, there are a number of joint projects between researchers at Al-Quds University and Israeli universities, a choice that is far more likely to contribute to peace than would the blacklisting of researchers of one nationality.

The passed boycott is a dangerous precedent, opening the door to the spread of political boycotts to other organizations and other countries, and to other political issues as well. Clearly, a trend of this kind would destroy the system of peer review which assesses academic research on merit, not nationality or political opinion.

With very few exceptions, those leading the boycott call are not the leaders of British academia, but, rather, political extremists seeking to use the boycott as part of their broader campaign to delegitimise the State of Israel. These boycott proponents seek to hijack the union and use it as a weapon for propagating their marginal political


- Sign the petition:

- Contact Sally Hunt General Secretary of the UCU at and ask for a National referendum

- If you are studying at a British University, contact your local branch of the UCU. Details can be found on: