August 2008


..it’s city that’s only 1 hour’s train ride from Vienna.

We’re planning a quick hop to the Carpathian Mountains. Hope we don’t meet Vigo..

Michael Totten reports from Tbilisi:

TBILISI, GEORGIA – Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia. “The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia,” the Associated Press reported over the weekend in typical fashion.

Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn’t start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

More…

museum_kampa

More photos from the Museum Kampa here on Flickr.

Museum_communism

Sign directing visitors to the Museum of Communism in downtown Prague

UPDATE: I visited the Museum yesterday. They’re very proud of their independent (non-state supported) status, and they’re proud of their location near a McDonalds and a casino.

The displays described how the communists gained power in Czechoslovakia and how they held on to it for decades, despite the fact that communism was ruining the country. They illustrated how the communist government failed to feed the people, they described the way communism uses black markets, anti-Americanism, the delusion that capitalism is evil, that communism is the wave of the future AND extensive spy networks to maintain power. They showed, with many pictures, how the government destroyed the environment.

But still, at the end of the tour, the guestbook was full of comments from clueless French, British and Italian visitors proclaiming the joys of communism. Some people never learn.

UPDATE 2: El Marco’s photographs from protests at the Denver convention show that we have the same problem in America. Some of these folks obviously haven’t experienced firing neurons since 1969.

I’m not Jewish and I haven’t been much of a blogger lately, but I was in town and it was definitely worth a visit. Judith, Omri, Dave of IsraeliCool and Yael (Oleh Girl), Marjorie of In One Hour and Lyn of Orlando Heritage were there.

Omri liveblogged the whole event - here -

Benjamin Netanyahu showed up to talk, which was a surprise treat. He’s a good speaker, with a tendency to digress.

The most ironic moment:

Zavi Apfelbaum, the Foreign Ministry’s Director of Brand Management, used the results of a focus group study to show the mostly Israeli audience the impression that Americans have of Israel.

Although most Americans support Israel, they don’t see it as a friendly or welcoming place. They seem to think that the country is restrictive, barren, ruled by a bunch of bossy, severe, pious patriarchs. Zavi, an attractive, casually-dressed woman, told the (half female) audience that they had to stress Israeli innovation and creativity to attract business and tourism.

As Zavi finished her speech, a bossy, bearded patriarch seemingly directly out of central casting shouted “No, Israel is a Jewish state! It’s a Jewish state!”

Although he was a perfect illustration of why some Americans have this impression of Israel, visiting the country would prove that the patriarch and the focus group were wrong. As Yael said, most of Israel is not like Jerusalem. Most of Israel is secular, modern, and very welcoming to visitors.

After the conference I discovered that even Jerusalem has a few neighborhoods that are not Jerusalem. There are bars, open after 11 pm, serving all kinds of crazy things. I’m still recovering from the Absinthe, which tasted like Vicks cough syrup mixed with vodka. I didn’t hallucinate anything worth mentioning, nor did I paint any depressed barmaids, but it was worth trying once.

..between connecting flights in a very cool city where the employees rollerblade around the airport..

…will post photos soon

Hamas leader “Abu Masab” admits that Hamas’ suicide bombing campaign was not inspired by despair, poverty or the occupation. It was inspired by peace activists.

“Your debate about the future of the settlements and about the necessity of the presence in the territories just served to strengthen us to continue with the terrorist attacks. The people of the Peace Camp in Israel, those who spoke of the end of the occupation and of retreat, pushed us forward in our decision to continue with the suicide bombings.”…

…“But the cracks in your resistance encouraged us greatly and proved that this instrument (suicide bombings – IJ) was very effective. Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan from Gaza is a great acheivment that is a result of our actions. One of the best pieces of evidence for us of the fracture in the Israeli society, as a result of the suicide bombings, was the refusenik phenomenon. We thought we should further deepen this fracture, and the use of suicide bombers became a matter of consensus in the organisation.”

According to the media, there aren’t enough jellyfish in the sea! No, wait, there are too many jellyfish in the sea!

Either way, it’s a sign of the ocean’s decline, the end of the world as we know it and the pervasive nastiness of mankind.

The pro-jelly Lebanon Daily Star says:

..Lebanon’s coast has seen a marked decrease in the number of jellyfish this year as a result of extensive fishing along the Mediterranean coast, environmental activists warn.

While this may be a welcome change for surf lovers, it has caused great concern to environmental organizations and activists involved in preserving marine life.

The diminishing presence of jellyfish has had a negative impact on biological diversity in the Mediterranean waters, marine experts warn.

What would we do without experts? Meanwhile, the expert jelly-haters at the NY Times say:

…while jellyfish invasions are a nuisance to tourists and a hardship to fishermen, for scientists they are a source of more profound alarm, a signal of the declining health of the world’s oceans.

“These jellyfish near shore are a message the sea is sending us saying, ‘Look how badly you are treating me,’ ” said Dr. Josep-María Gili, a leading jellyfish expert, who has studied them at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona for more than 20 years.

The explosion of jellyfish populations, scientists say, reflects a combination of severe overfishing of natural predators, like tuna, sharks and swordfish; rising sea temperatures caused in part by global warming; and pollution that has depleted oxygen levels in coastal shallows.

In both cases, jellies are a sign of how man is victimizing the ocean. It doesn’t matter if there are too many jellies, or too few. In both cases, we’re wrong. The Times says:

“Human-caused stresses, including global warming and overfishing, are encouraging jellyfish surpluses in many tourist destinations and productive fisheries,” according to the National Science Foundation, which is issuing a report on the phenomenon this fall and lists as problem areas Australia, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, the Black Sea, Namibia, Britain, the Mediterranean…

The Mediterranean? But Lebanon is on the Mediterranean, and they don’t have enough jellies. The angry expert/activists at the Daily Star retort:

“This decrease has a negative effect on the aquatic environment in Lebanon where jellyfish complete the aquatic food chain,” the activist said, adding that “any setback in this chain will cause major problems in the marine environment.”

While the angry activists at the Times say:

Global warming has also reduced rainfall in temperate zones, researchers say, allowing the jellyfish to better approach the beaches. Rain runoff from land would normally slightly decrease the salinity of coastal waters, “creating a natural barrier that keeps the jellies from the coast,” Dr. Gili said.

Then there is pollution, which reduces oxygen levels and visibility in coastal waters. While other fish die in or avoid waters with low oxygen levels, many jellyfish can thrive in them. And while most fish have to see to catch their food, jellyfish, which filter food passively from the water, can dine in total darkness, according to Dr. Purcell’s research.

..and, like everything else that happens on the planet, from hurricanes to Annie Lamott’s hot flashes, this is all the fault of George Bush global warming.

However, the Times admits that:

..no good global database exists on jellyfish populations..jellyfish populations in any one place undergo year-to-year variation.

Maybe the problem isn’t the oversupply or undersupply of jellyfish – it’s the undersupply of common sense and the oversupply of experts and activists.

In an article titled “Italy: soldiers deployed to fight street crime”, the reporter describes the government measures used to fight this ‘street crime’.

..some 400 men and women are deployed at subway and railway stations and at an immigrant center. They are not expected to be immediately deployed in the capital’s historic center.

In Milan, they are patrolling the Duomo cathedral and sensitive sites such as the U.S. consulate and the synagogue.

Lt. Col. Mario Busi says the deployment of soldiers — 3,000 in total — began Monday and will continue through the week.

Okay, I live in the NY area, where we know something about street crime. If you’re having a few extra cops patrolling dark alleys and bad neighborhoods, you’re talking about street crime. If you’re sending 3,000 soldiers into an area to protect cathedrals, synagogues and the American embassy, you’re talking about fighting Islamist terrorism.

Do they think they’re fooling people by re-labeling the problem?

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