June 2007


blogging

Thanks to Pamela/Atlas

skateclub
Skate Club

There was a passel of geeks parked outside of our local phone store today, tapping on laptops, sipping Starbucks and waiting, waiting..

According to Yahoo, the iPhones finally arrived.

(no, I didn’t get one. I’m a graphics geek, not a phone geek)

benorigami

Photos from the
Origami USA 2007 convention in NYC.

Via FAPO and TED:

Seldom do I see a technological advance that is virtually jaw-dropping. This one fits the bill. It shows a new technology being nursed by Microsoft that spatially relates photographs of the same subject to provide an amazing interactive visual experience.

I assume this accesses flickr’s mapping system, so I’d better update my files.

In his Middle East Journal, Michael Totten insightfully critiques Islamist Rage Boy and his ilk – and the paparazzi who pursue them:

If there is any more absurd a group of “activists” in the world than Rage Boy and his Islamist pals throwing tantrums over Salman Rushdie’s novels and knighthood, Korans allegedly flushed down the can, and pencil drawings in Danish and other newspapers, I don’t know about them. I have deliberately avoided writing or even posting about such people because they really ought to be starved of media oxygen.

..I can think of no better evidence of journalism malpractice than the fact that the popularity, strength, and sheer malevolence of the region’s bad actors are both exaggerated and downplayed by the same media organizations.

There is no shortage of lunatics in the Middle East who blow up civilians with car bombs, kidnap journalists, hurl political opponents off skyscrapers, shoot rockets at foreign cities, and do everything in their power to exterminate racial and religious minorities. These people are very often portrayed as less extreme and dangerous than they really are.

Meanwhile, average Middle Eastern people are indirectly shown to be more extreme than they really are by the gross and apparently deliberate magnification of stunts by the most extreme elements of their societies. Almost every photo I’ve ever seen taken in the West Bank shows a nut job with a hood over his face and a rocket launcher or gun in his hand. But I didn’t see a single person who looked anything like that when I went to the West Bank myself.

There’s a flip side to this story.

I was in downtown Beirut when Hezbollah first occupied it with their sit-in and rally last December, and I took the following photos of Martyr’s Square.

razorwire

razorwire

Martyr’s Square is by far the largest open area in the city. It’s where Lebanon’s famous March 14 rally against Syrian occupation took place. Hezbollah claims they filled Martyr’s Square and the rest of downtown with demonstrators. They claim their rally was much larger than the anti-Syrian rally on March 14 the year before.

It’s a lie, as those pictures show. The Lebanese Army barricaded the entire area and forced Hezbollah into much smaller parking lots for their rally and photo ops.

The previous year Lebanon’s Syrian-installed President Emile Lahoud remarked that the March 14 rally against his patrons was tiny. March 14 responded by saying Zoom Out so the world could see how many people actually showed up to protest downtown.

Here’s the zoomed out picture.

march14beirut

That crowd was genuinely enormous. That’s Martyr’s Square, the area Hezbollah wasn’t allowed to even set foot in. Almost a third of the country’s population showed up that day.

When you zoom out the cameras on Hezbollah, Rage Boy, and the masked men of Fatah, they look pathetic and small by comparison. Zoom out on the liberals of Lebanon and you’ll see an ocean of people.

It’s true, and it’s not just Hezbollah and the media who do this. Hezbollah’s Western ‘anti-war’ supporters have no shame when it comes to gross exaggeration.

A few weeks after I returned from Beirut, I went to a pro-Hezbollah “teach-in”, sponsored by local Rage Girl Charlotte Kates and the New Jersey based Activists for the Liberation of Palestine. The speaker, Bill Doares, Workers World writer and friend of Ramsey Clark, had also returned from Beirut.

Doares told the group that there were 2.5 million people at the march on December 10th, an absurd exaggeration given that the population of Lebanon is 4 million. If he’d said that there were eleventy million protesters, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

According to most reports there were “thousands”, many fewer than at the March 14th Cedar Revolution rally…

During the question and answer session, I mentioned that I was attending this talk because I also been in Beirut during the Dec. 10th rally. Doares wasn’t happy to hear that. I mentioned that the crowd at the rally wasn’t nearly as big as he’d claimed. Doares said I was lying. I said that I could prove what I said with photographs of the empty streets set aside for the protest.

Again, the 1.5 million crowd at the March 14th rally:

march14beirut

vs. the much smaller “in the thousands” crowd at the largest pro-Hezbollah rally on December 10th.

crowd

Here are the many empty spaces the pro-Hezbollah crowd didn’t fill on December 10th, 2006, the day of their largest rally…

emptyspace1

Walking past the razor wire
smallhezbrally2

empty streets surrounding the rally
emptystreetshezb

Aounists in Santa hats walk past police patrol
barriers

Doares didn’t ask to see the photographs but he dropped the “2.5 million” issue like a hot potato.

Charlotte Kates immediately jumped in and screamed “this is not a debate!”.

I won that battle, but since Doares and the Rage Boys and Girls of the world never stop repeating the same old lie, the war of words is still going on.

Hopefully these pictures are worth at least eleventy-million words.

Via CNN: Report Blasts U.S. for failures in fighting terrorism

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A just-released report slams the federal government for failing to coordinate the work of U.S. law enforcement agencies overseas to fight terrorism.

The Government Accountability Office found that in one country a lack of clarity about the roles and responsibilities of the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency may have compromised several investigations intended to identify and disrupt potential terrorist activities.

The GAO did not name the country in its report.

(bet it’s Saudi Arabia…)

The White House has long issued directives asking that U.S. law enforcement agencies assist foreign nations’ anti-terrorism efforts.

But the report finds that embassy and law enforcement officials told the GAO “they had received little or no guidance” on how to accomplish that…

…The 2003 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism instructed the State Department to develop and coordinate U.S. counterterrorism policy abroad, but the report says that was not done.

(they were probably too busy partying at Bandar’s place in Aspen..)

The 2004 Intelligence Reform Act shifted that responsibility to the National Counterterrorism Center and, although a general plan has been drafted, it has not yet been implemented…

But our tax dollars are still being used to combat the evil weed…

In all four there was more U.S. funding devoted to fighting drugs than to fighting terrorism, the report said

In one country, described as an “extremely high terrorist threat to American interests globally,” the State Department provided six times more funding to stop illicit drugs and crime than it did for anti-terrorism assistance, the report said.

In another country, an embassy official said most training and assistance funding from the U.S. was dedicated to counter-narcotics efforts “even though drugs were no longer a strategic concern in that country.”

Also, the report revealed that information about terrorists is not always shared or acted on.

The next time we have a war, can we at least agree on who and what we’re supposed to be fighting?

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