Tuesday, January 31, 2006

In the name of terrorism...

I can not say that I enjoy reading Lawrence of Cyberia. Not when he publishes stories such as these...

But then, if we follow down some of the links we get to here...
Chris McGreal in Khan Yunis
Monday January 30, 2006
The Guardian

As the votes were counted in the Palestinian election and the scale of Hamas's landslide became apparent to the world, Aya al-Astal drifted away from her home and wandered towards the fence along the border between the Gaza strip and Israel.
The nine-year-old girl's parents realised she was gone as they watched the election results on television. They do not know precisely what happened, but the Israeli army later said Aya was behaving in a suspicious manner reminiscent of a terrorist - she got too close to the border fence - and so a soldier fired several bullets into the child, hitting her in the neck and blowing open her stomach.

Aya was the second child killed by the Israeli army last week. Soldiers near Ramallah shot 13-year-old Munadel Abu Aaalia in the back as he walked along a road reserved for Jewish settlers with two friends. The army said the boys planned to throw rocks at Israeli cars, which the military defines as terrorism.

The two killings went unnoticed by the outside world amid the political drama, but they made their impact among Palestinians angered by demands from western leaders for Hamas to recognise Israel and renounce its armed struggle.

Some Palestinians see the demands as a rejection of a democratic election and as siding with Israel. Others see hypocrisy. They say Israeli soldiers killed twice as many Palestinians last week alone - both of them children - as the number of Israelis killed by Hamas all last year.

"Aya was shot in the neck and stomach. Her stomach was hanging out," said the child's mother, Aisha. "We have no idea why she went there but she was a child. She was so small. She was nine years old. She didn't wear a hijab. It was clear she was just a young girl. This is hatred."

Hamas is responsible for the murder of more than 400 Israelis. But since it declared a ceasefire a year ago the group has killed one Israeli, according to the Israeli government's own figures. Sasson Nuriel was kidnapped in September and forced to record a video demanding the release of prisoners. Hamas said it shot him when the army got close to finding him.

Hamas also carried out a suicide bombing at Beer Sheva bus station in August that seriously wounded two security guards, and it was behind some of the attacks by rudimentary rockets fired from Gaza into Israel that frequently terrify but rarely kill. Hamas said it launched the rockets in response to Israeli attacks.

"Hamas has kept the calm for a year. Israel is still killing our civilians," said the Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar. "Why is it that the Israelis can continue to kill our people, innocent people walking down the street, and there is no criticism from those who tell us we must give up our historic struggle against occupation? Why are they so afraid to criticise Israel but tell us what to do?"

The Astal family is politically divided. Aya's mother voted for Hamas. The child's aunt, Samir al-Astal, backed the losing party, Fatah. But there is little difference in their belief that there is a double standard at work in the foreign demands of Israel and of Palestinians.

"The Americans always give excuses for Israel," said Samir. "Israel is like a spoilt son. They never pressure them. They kill our children and no one says anything. If there is a reaction by Palestinians to these incidents they call us terrorists."

Israel said it regretted civilian deaths but added that they were accidental, unlike those caused by suicide bombs. It said Hamas was "intensively involved in terrorist actions" despite the ceasefire.


Then we go back to this from LofC
When I first got to Hebron I wouldn't open fire on little children. And I was sure that if I ever killed or hurt anyone, I'd go so crazy that I'd leave the army. But finally I did shoot someone, and nothing happened to me. In Hebron I shot the legs off of two kids, and I was sure I wouldn't be able to sleep anymore at night, but nothing happened. Two weeks ago I hurt a Palestinian policeman, and that didn't affect me either. You become so apathetic you don't care at all. Shooting is the IDF soldier's way of meditating. It's like shooting is your way of letting go of all your anger when you're in the army. In Hebron there's this order they call "punitive shooting": just open fire on whatever you like. I opened fire not on any sources of fire but on windows where there was just wash hanging to dry. I knew that there were people who would be hit. But at that moment it was just shoot, shoot, shoot.
quoted from Harpers Magazine - Apr 2002.

OK, line up and call me anti-Semitic again.

Then justify the accusation that the stories are lies.

Suicide as a weapon...

Folks might remember my post here relating to an article that I came across through the good offices of ALD.

I recommend this from "possibility of fire" as a follow-up read.

Thus we learn to take the product of our study and analysis and begin to contemplate it. We can decide not to draw conclusions, not to make decisions but just come back to the reality of their worlds. As we contemplate, it becomes easier for us to imagine the situation that someone like Ayat or Quang Duc found themselves. We should contemplate their worlds until it is clear that we no longer know what we might do in similar circumstances When we are no longer able to label them as terrorists, agitators, saints, martyrs or bodhisattvas, then we are beginning to know the suffering that brought these acts into being.

Exchanging ourselves with Akhras and Quang Duc, breath by breath, we discover that we are the bomber and the bombing victim, the monk and the policeman that clubs him. We are more than just connected, we are inseparable. Out of this insight, our ability to truly alleviate suffering first appears. Without this intimacy, we may try to help but our compassion will be colored by our judgments and ideas. By following these steps; studying a situation from many angles, contemplating what we learn and using what we have learned to become intimate with the people and suffering involved, we can let go of our judgments and become truly intimate with their suffering.

I have posed the question to Americans, with whom I enjoy debating the current woes of this world, in a form similar to “How would you feel, if you were ejected from your home, your property, your life, by a power that gave you no right of appeal, and no right of representation?” In large measure, the reply has been parallel to “…it will never happen because (a) “America is a democracy” / (b) “The Second Amendment RKBA gives us the power to revolt / retaliate… “

Thich Quang Duc and Ayat Akhras are our suffering brother and sister. As we study and contemplate we find that they are not so different from us. We see that their suffering cannot be separated from the suffering world in which they arose.

Here, I confess, I begin to part company with this beautifully written prose and the ideas it expresses. Yes, there is truth in wch’s writing but it misses an important truth.

This op-ed piece from Sci-Amalso misses some of the point. To say –
The belief that suicide bombers are poor, uneducated, disaffected or disturbed is contradicted by science. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, found in a study of 400 Al Qaeda members that three quarters of his sample came from the upper or middle class. Moreover, he noted, "the vast majority--90 percent--came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that's usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways." Nor were they sans employment and familial duties. "Far from having no family or job responsibilities, 73 percent were married and the vast majority had children.... Three quarters were professionals or semiprofessionals. They are engineers, architects and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion."
has validity in that the study of those responsible for the London bombings shows that they came from similar circumstances. That validity is further supported by the Yuki Tanaka article that I posted earlier.

But with that “scientific” difference at one side, wch has very accurately pointed to the central effectiveness of “weapons of terror”.

How can we judge the actions of any person if we do not understand.

That understanding requires knowledge at very fundamental levels. Wch has alluded to that in his post.

That understanding requires knowledge of “life” that is often totally beyond our comprehension. My very simplistic question is only one small aspect of the condition of grief, despair and hopelessness.

Wch has provided a personal insight; one that I shall personally return to and consider. It is an insight that has compassion and insight.

I commend it.

Friday, January 27, 2006


To all of those who wail and gnash their teeth at the election of Hamas to the government of Palestine, I am so sorry but I will not be able to get around ALL of your websites to post this so please accept this as my personal comment.


Hamas has been democratically elected. Remember that - democracy.

The only inference that I can draw from the result is this; a majority of Palestinians are sick and tired of the lack of progress being made under Fatah. Please explain why that differs from a change of "government" from Democrat to Republican.

Would you like the Palestinians to decide who should be President of the US? No? Well leave them to make their own decisions. They will live with it. You don't have to.

Finally remember that none other than George W Bush sent a message of congratulations to Robert Mugabe following the last Zimbabwe elections. Why?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Top tens...

That last post set me to thinking - who else would I rank in the top ten most influential people in the world during my lifetime.

Well, personal influences - in no particular order...

My wife
My father
My grandfather
My mother
Lin Yutang
TS Eliot
Peter Boag
Ronny Marshall
Pakipaki Harrison

On the world-wide stage, again in no particular order

David Lange
John F Kennedy
Martin Luther King Junior
Nikita Khruschev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Nelson Mandela
Karol Józef Wojtyła (Pope John II)
Mahatma Ghandi
Mao Tse Tung
Dag Hammerskoeld

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Martin Luther King remembered...

Thanks ALD, for this refreshing and interesting link...

If I were to consider the ten most influential people of my lifetime, King would have to figure in there.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Communication -

To all of those trying to contact the probligo by email, I have an apology to make.

My home box, the only contact that I have to yahoo, is old and tired and has run foul of one of the little nasties that loads through a web page picture.

Now, to be honest, I suspected that this was the case and the damage has been limited to two quick and unauthorised telephone calls to Austria. Whoever was on the line, I hope I upset you mightily by cutting you off after only a minute or so.

The flow-on effect has been somewhat more drastic.

As a consequence of this little disaster, all of my posting since mid November has been slid out of the back of my employer's system. One of the strictures that this creates is a (very sensible) prohibition on access to yahoo.

So, I am not ignoring the world. I just don't know if you are talking to me...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The evolution debate...

I did say that I thought this was going to be an interesting site to puddle in. And sure enough that it is how it seems.

Take this as an example. If, as I hope you will, you read the full transcript you will find that it is dated 1997.

In view of the present and persistent debate of evolution vs whatever kind of divine intervention suits your fancy I want to quote just the last two pages...

You contain a trillion copies of a large, textual document written in a highly accurate, digital code, each copy as voluminous as a substantial book. I'm talking, of course, of the DNA in your cells. Textbooks describe DNA as a blueprint for a body. It's better seen as a recipe for making a body, because it is irreversible. But today I want to present it as something different again, and even more intriguing. The DNA in you is a coded description of ancient worlds in which your ancestors lived. DNA is the wisdom out of the old days, and I mean very old days indeed.

The oldest human documents go back a few thousand years, originally written in pictures. Alphabets seem to have been invented about 35 centuries ago in the Middle East, and they've changed and spawned numerous varieties of alphabet since then. The DNA alphabet arose at least 35 million centuries ago. Since that time, it hasn't changed one jot. Not just the alphabet, the dictionary of 64 basic words and their meanings is the same in modern bacteria and in us. Yet the common ancestor from whom we both inherited this precise and accurate dictionary lived at least 35 million centuries ago.

What changes is the long programs that natural selection has written using those 64 basic words. The messages that have come down to us are the ones that have survived millions, in some cases hundreds of millions, of generations. For every successful message that has reached the present, countless failures have fallen away like the chippings on a sculptor's floor. That's what Darwinian natural selection means. We are the descendants of a tiny Žlite of successful ancestors. Our DNA has proved itself successful, because it is here. Geological time has carved and sculpted our DNA to survive down to the present.

There are perhaps 30 million distinct species in the world today. So, there are 30 million distinct ways of making a living, ways of working to pass DNA on to the future. Some do it in the sea, some on land. Some up trees, some underground. Some are plants, using solar panels - we call them leaves - to trap energy. Some eat the plants. Some eat the herbivores. Some are big carnivores that eat the small ones. Some live as parasites inside other bodies. Some live in hot springs. One species of small worms is said to live entirely inside German beer mats. All these different ways of making a living are just different tactics for passing on DNA. The differences are in the details.

The DNA of a camel was once in the sea, but it hasn't been there for a good 300 million years. It has spent most of recent geological history in deserts, programming bodies to withstand dust and conserve water. Like sandbluffs carved into fantastic shapes by the desert winds, camel DNA has been sculpted by survival in ancient deserts to yield modern camels.

At every stage of its geological apprenticeship, the DNA of a species has been honed and whittled, carved and rejigged by selection in a succession of environments. If only we could read the language, the DNA of tuna and starfish would have 'sea' written into the text. The DNA of moles and earthworms would spell 'underground'. Of course all the DNA would spell many other things as well. Shark and cheetah DNA would spell 'hunt', as well as separate messages about sea and land.

We can't read these messages yet. Maybe we never shall, for their language is indirect, as befits a recipe rather than a reversible blueprint. But it's still true that our DNA is a coded description of the worlds in which our ancestors survived. We are walking archives of the African Pliocene, even of Devonian seas, walking repositories of wisdom out of the old days. You could spend a lifetime reading such messages and die unsated by the wonder of it.

Don't worry, I put my hand straight up and confess confirmation bias. I also put my hand up for quoting without context.

Don't worry, I know that the writer is a scientist.

I also know that (in my mind) his science is pragmatic and forthright.

The reason for the quotation tho' is to try and encourage you the reader to digest the other 13 odd pages, hopefully with an open mind and with the intent of gaining an insight into just how Richard Dawkins sees the true nature of science.

In my opinion, it is good writing and a well-founded analysis.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fascinating. Just fascinating...

My eternal thanks to ALD for this little mine of potential debate, thought and inspiration.

Addiction again -

Thanks Dave ... I think.

Four jobs I’ve had in my life:
1. Draughting Cadet
2. Programmer/Analyst
3. Accounting Clerk
4. Chief Financial Officer
Four movies I Could Watch Over and Over:
1. Lord of the Rings (all three)
2. Support Your Local Sherriff
3. In my Father’s Den
4. Footrot Flats
Four places I’ve Lived:
1. Te Whaiti, Ureweras
2. Mangonui, Northland
3. Karangahake, Waikato
4. Howick, Auckland
Four TV Shows I Love/Loved to Watch:
1. Last of the Summer Wine
2. Govenor Grey
3. Short History of New Zealand
4. Wild South
Four places I’ve been on vacation:
1. Vanuatu
2. Cook Islands
3. Haast
4. Ohakune
Four websites I visit daily:
1. Dave Justus
2. news – google
3. NZ Herald
4. a.l.d..
Four of my favorite foods:
1. Home-grown steak (thanks Ruth, need some more sometime)
2. Chicken and salad on ciabatta
3. Fresh fish – butter and light herbs – with
4. BBQ’d leg of lamb.
Four places I’d rather be:
1. Opononi
2. Mangonui
3. Opononi
4. Te Whaiti
Four books I’ll read over and over again:
1. Anything by Pratchett
2. The Lord of the Rings
3. Escher Godel Bach – The Eternal Gold Braid
4. The Great Ideas - Brittanica

OK, I cheated on a couple. Particularly the "Great Ideas" 'book'... :D

Monday, January 09, 2006

Now, this I LIKE!!

Originally from NYT, but in view of the fact that there are at least three "probligo"s registered there now (I was to be number 4) I have taken this from Express India

Amid the dizzy year-enders, it’s best to do what the New York Times did. It tried to squeeze 2005 into a handy list of catchwords and phrases. The paper was not unaware that the exercise could turn out to be foolhardy. Words are wicked, they have hidden recesses and histories. Meanings flicker and change. Meaning also depends on who’s saying the word. Many have a gossamery lifespan. It was brave of NYT to put out a list.
But the most delectable, and most sobering, word on the NYT list is ‘truthiness’. ‘‘Not quite fact, not quite fiction, it’s neither here nor there. But it’s all over cable news’’ says the paper.

For all the self-conscious haze about its meaning, and perhaps because of it, truthiness is a wonderfully portable term. It will look as much at home in public discussion in India as it is in Bush’s America. It’s likely to belong to 2006 as it did to 2005.

The "definition" that granny Herald gave was "...the truth, not as it is, but as we might like it to be."

As in here...

The American Dialect Society, in its 16th annual words of the year vote, has happened upon the word its says best reflects 2005.

The term? "Truthiness" -- which the panel of linguists defines as the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts. It was reportedly first heard on the Colbert Report, a satirical mock news show on the Comedy Channel.

Yep, and we all know where that started.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I wonder what the question was...

From the TimesOnLine, and probably many many more...

PRESIDENT BUSH received some unusually candid advice on his handling of the Iraq war yesterday after inviting 13 former secretaries of defence and state to the White House.
After one of the most extraordinary gatherings of current and former powerbrokers to have sat around the White House Cabinet table in recent times, Mr Bush said that he took to heart a range of views from figures who collectively have served every US president since John Kennedy.

As part of a vigorous public relations offensive on Iraq Mr Bush spent more than an hour with former defence secretaries including Robert McNamara, the Vietnam-era Pentagon chief under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Harold Brown, who oversaw the disastrous Iranian hostage rescue attempt under Jimmy Carter, and William Perry, Bill Clinton’s Defence Secretary, who advised John Kerry during the 2004 election campaign.

Others briefed by Mr Bush and General George Casey, the US commander in Iraq, included Madeleine Albright, Lawrence Eagleburger, Alexander Haig and Colin Powell.

Scott McClellan, Mr Bush’s spokesman, said that the purpose of the gathering was a hope by the White House that the prominent figures would be persuaded that there was “a clear plan in place for victory in Iraq” and would spread the word.

After the meeting Mr Bush preferred to persuade people that it was he who had done the listening.

“Not everybody around this table agreed with my decision to go into Iraq. I fully understand that,” Mr Bush said.

Mr Eagleburger said after the meeting: “You’ve got several hundred years of antagonism between Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. If you think anybody can predict success at this stage you are wrong.”

I can imagine -

GWB - "Now, as you all know, this is what has happened; this is what I done"

Discussion ensues...

GWB - "OK, now the reason why I called y'all here is really this. Y'all have had to haul your respect Presidents' asses out of the fire at different times. My guys are straight outta ideas.

How the hell do we get outta Iraq?"

Discussion follows...

Eagleburger - top marks for facing reality.

Ariel Sharon

I have for many years been very critical of Sharon among others of the leadership of Israel.

I spoke recently following Sharon's split with Likud that perhaps there was some hope at last.

Certainly since then he has had (at the very least given the appearance of) a far greater conciliatory approach in his dealings with the Palestinians. That might not have been to their benefit, perhaps, but at least there was some appearance of progress.

His major stroke, the probable end to his political career, if not his life, now puts that change into the shade. Where to now? That is in the hands of men to come.

Given Sharon's past, his term as "Minister of Defence" in particular, the rather irreverent thought passes through my mind -

...did Sharon foresee his stroke? Was the split with Likud, and the peace moves perhaps an intentional final reconciliation both with the Palestinians and with his God?

I will leave his God to judge him at the right time...

What a way to start the year...

Courtesy of granny Herald

By Phil Stewart

Forget the United States debate over intelligent design versus evolution.

An Italian court is tackling Jesus - and whether the Catholic Church may be breaking the law by teaching that he existed 2000 years ago.

The case pits against each other two men in their 70s, from the same central Italian town of Bagnoregio who went to the same seminary school as teenagers.

The defendant, Enrico Righi, went on to become a priest writing for the parish newspaper. The plaintiff, Luigi Cascioli, became a vocal atheist who, after years of legal wrangling, is set to get his day in court this month.

"I started this lawsuit because I wanted to deal the final blow against the church, the bearer of obscurantism and regression," Cascioli said.

He says Righi, and by extension the whole church, broke two Italian laws. The first is "Abuso di Credulita Popolare" (Abuse of Popular Belief) meant to protect people against being swindled or conned. The second crime, he says, is "Sostituzione di Persona", or impersonation.

"The church constructed Christ upon the personality of John of Gamala," Cascioli claimed, referring to the 1st century Jew who fought against the Roman Army.

A court in Viterbo will hear from Righi, who has yet to be indicted, at a January 27 preliminary hearing meant to determine whether the case has enough merit to go forward.

"In my book, The Fable of Christ, I present proof Jesus did not exist as a historic figure. He must now refute this by showing proof of Christ's existence," Cascioli said.

Righi, 76, sounded frustrated by the case and baffled as to why Cascioli singled him out in his crusade against the church.

"Since I'm a priest, and I write in the parish newspaper, he is now suing me because I 'trick' the people."

Righi claims there is plenty of evidence to support the existence of Jesus, including historical texts.

Even Cascioli admits that the odds are against him, especially in Catholic Italy. "It would take a miracle to win," he joked.

Says it all?