Sunday, June 29, 2008

Endangering Gilad Shalit

Israel has decided to release several Lebanese prisoners in exchange for two dead bodies of the Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, abducted by Hezbollah in 2006. This decision makes the release of Gilad Shalit less likely to come to fruition soon. Remember, it is known that Shalit, the soldier being held by a faction of Hamas in Gaza, is alive. This means he's much more important than the dead bodies in Lebanon.

The verbal diarrhea of our stupid leaders is doing as much, if not more, damage as the deal with Hezbollah. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, for example, have both said that soldiers will be less willing to serve if Israel doesn't "do everything" to release them if they are captured by the enemy.

They're addressing their words to Israeli soldiers, but also our enemies hear them. Hamas now knows it can inflate its demands in the Shalit deal, which means it will take longer for a deal to be reached (if ever). It also encourages more kidnappings.

Numerically, it might seem like this deal is better than the deal Ariel Sharon reached in 2004 since we're releasing about 75 times less prisoners this time. The truth is that because of the fact that Gilad Shalit is still being held prisoner this deal is much more dangerous that the previous one. A deal over the live soldier should have been reached before the deal over the dead ones.

Obama Israelbound

Senator Barack Obama has announced he will visit the Middle East and Europe this summer, including a stop in Israel. Just like John McCain's visit not long ago, it would be nothing but a bunch of photo-ops, and not a real opportunity to ask him serious questions about his views on the Middle East. I wonder if he'd consider meeting American citizens living in Israel, though I doubt that he would, since he's good at big gatherings and not the smaller, town hall-type meetings.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is Tracksy Dead?

It has been over a week now that whenever I log in to Tracksy, I get the message "Session timed out. Please log back in." A quick Google search shows many other people have had problems with the site. Does this mean the service is gone for good? Is it time to get my site statistics from a different source?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No Live Prisoners For Dead Soldiers

A deal seems to have been reached between Israel and Hezbollah. In exchange for the two Israeli soldiers abducted by the terrorist group in 2006, Israel will release six Lebanese prisoners, including Samir Kuntar, who murdered 4 Israelis, including a man and his 4 year-old daughter, in 1979. If one or two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, are alive, than it is a great deal, considering the fact that a few years ago we released 450 prisoners for 3 dead soldiers and one living drug dealer, and right now Hamas is demanding thousands of Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit, the soldier who is being held captive in Gaza.

If both Goldwasser and Regev are dead, as is most likely, this deal should not go through. In exchange for the dead bodies of Israeli soldiers we should only release dead bodies of Lebanese who either died during fighting with Israel or while in Israeli prisons. Living prisoners, especially those who may pose a threat to Israelis in the future, should only be released in exchange for living soldiers.

We should not release Samir Kuntar just so the soldiers' families can have emotional closure.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Obama and McCain Can Both Win Big

I just did a little electoral college exercise. Using excel, I checked whether it is possible that Barack Obama will win a majority of the popular vote, with a margin of a few million, and still lose the electoral vote by a large margin. Based on results from 2004 and some basic knowledge of the political leanings of the different states, I wrote down a possible scenario for popular vote results in every state and counted how many electoral votes each candidate would win.

According to my made up, yet not all that implausible, election returns, John McCain wins the presidency with 379 electoral votes, compared with 159 for Barack Obama. That's a 220 vote difference, despite the fact that Obama won the popular vote by more than 4 million votes and 3 percentage points (65 million to 61 million, and 51.15% to 47.98%).

This is in no way a prediction. It would be extremely stupid to actually guess what the election results would be in every state, especially the exact number of votes. Think of it as a quantitative political science experiment. I'm sure the actual results in November will be much less extreme.

Here is the data and number of votes I gave each candidate in each state, so you can decide for yourself whether or not my results make any sense. By the way, I decided to split Maine and Nebraska's electoral votes between the candidates, 3-1 and 3-2.

Friday, June 06, 2008

What's Up With the Zohan

This weekend Adam Sandler's new comedy, "You Don't Mess With the Zohan", is being released in the United States. Sandler plays an Israeli commando-turned New York City barber who falls in love with his Palestinian boss (played by a Jewish Canadian actress of Moroccan descent) and has to fight terrorists on the streets of the Big Apple.

Other than the Chanukah Song, I've never been a fan of Adam Sandler's work. "Anger Management", the least stupidest movie of his I've seen, was mildly amusing mostly because of Jack Nicholson's performance. Still, I'm curious to see "Zohan". It's interesting for me as an Israeli, but I also want to see it because Sandler co-wrote the script with Judd Apatow and Robert Smigel. I loved Apatow's "40-year-old Virgin" and "Knocked Up", and am quite a fan of Smigel's creation, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog (just shows how immature I am). The New York Times review by A. O. Scott is quite positive.

By the way, from the trailer it is clear Sandler has not mastered the art of imitating the Israeli accent. Usually, Hollywood actors who try to sound Israeli end up sounding Polish or German (which might make sense for Polish- or German-born Israelis, but not for those born in Israel). Sandler, on the other hand, sounds either French or like Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.

So, is the movie going to be great... for me to poop on?

This Blog Is 5 Years Old

Happy birthday, dear diary, happy birthday to you. Half a decade is quite a long time in Internet terms. I wonder how many more half-decades this blog will last.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Congratulations, John McCain

Now that Senator Barack Obama has won the Democratic nomination for president, John McCain's chances of becoming the 44th President of the United States of America are very high. I have a feeling that John McCain will win the electoral college by a large margin, though the popular vote will be very close. Obama might even win the popular vote by a percent or two. McCain will win most, if not all, of the swing states.

This isn't wishful thinking. I believe that when the choice is either Obama or McCain, Obama is the lesser of evils. McCain would be a complete disaster. Obama would be a disaster, too, but not as much as McCain.

I didn't like Obama's speech to AIPAC. He went so much overboard, going as far as promising a united Jerusalem, that it became unbelievable. There's no real reason for him to oppose giving East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as their capital other than to win the Jewish vote.

Here's what will be most likely to get him as much of the Jewish vote as possible: picking Hillary Clinton as his running mate. If he doesn't want Bill and Hill on his back, he can choose one of Clinton's top supporters, Ed Rendell, the Jewish governor of Pennsylvania.

Just a thought.