Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Now that is weird!

Now that is weird! Just checked my referral log and found that my site was googled for "Sarah Hughes cleavage." As far as I know, this is the first time those words appeared together on my page.

Posted by Rich
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It’s an Outrage!

It's an Outrage!It was one of the most disgusting, degrading spectacles I have ever seen. Young men in their prime, forced to prostitute themselves for money. Last night, the local high school soccer team auctioned off its players in a fundraiser to buy new nets for the field. (The old nets were full of holes. I explained to my sons that nets are made with holes. They’re supposed to be there. “No, Dad,” they said. “These are different holes.”)

It was so horrible, watching these innocent young men forced to prance down the track to disco music as their coach, the molder of their character, the leader of the team, the man these boys trusted to provide a moral compass, cracked wise about their character flawsin order to liven up the audience. The boys grinned mechanically as they pranced across the runway, but you could see the innocence dying in their eyes as they awakened to the callous, mercenary nature of the capitalist system.

The eyes of the bidders glowed in lascivious anticipation as the auction began.

“Fifteen dollars!”
“Twenty one!”
“Sold!” The gavel would drop and a soul would die.

The bidding escalated as the night wore on, until boys who would only have fetched fifteen dollars at the beginning of the auction were going for fifty and sixty dollars. Boys who had been sold cheaply earlier in the auction hung their heads in shame as the bids got higher and higher. Even their short time in bondage taught them that their only worth was in how much they could bring on the auction block.

Finally, the auction ended, and I was allowed to bring my boys home, although they still have to serve their three hours of slavery this weekend. The auction may be over, but the scars will remain for a lifetime. There’s no telling how many times I will awaken in the night, hearing their sobs as they relive the degradation and humiliation in their nightmares.

This wanton abuse of my children shall not go unpunished. I’m going to sue the parents who took part in the auction, the coach, the school, and because they are all poor, I’m also going to sue Adidas. (They supplied the uniforms for the team, so they are liable.) My kids are due reparations for the scarring they suffered on the auction block, the hours they toiled without compensation, and their loss of dignity.

I think I’ll call Charles Ogletree and Randall Robinson and see if they’ll put Johnnie Cochran on this case. It’s certainly no sillier than the one they’re pushing now.

Posted by Rich
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What’s a well bred liberal to do?

What's a well bred liberal to do? The Cherokee Indians want to trade some land to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park so they can build a new school on land which currently belongs to the park.
The area in question is a flat, 168-acre parcel of land known as the "Ravensford Tract." Ravensford is located adjacent to the reservation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In exchange for Ravensford, the tribe is offering the National Park Service 218 acres of mountain terrain located along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. But the uncommon flatness that makes Ravensford so appealing for development also makes the land environmentally unique, according to conservationists.

So, as a liberal, do you support new schools for an oppressed people, or do you preserve the natural area, and the artifacts that it contains. Of course, the artifacts are probable mostly Cherokee in origin, but we won't mention that bit.

As a conservative, this is an easy one. The Park experiences a net gain in acreage, the Indians, who are bootstrapping their way out of grinding poverty by sucking down the white man's dollar, get some brand new schools, and access to their own history. Sounds like everybody wins.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Willfull ignorance is not bliss

Willfull ignorance is not bliss Some folks are ignorant on a subject because they simply are not capable of learning any more about it. For example, most people are not capable of fully understanding the consequences of relativity, or quantum mechanics. They are ignorant of the subject because it is beyond their capacity to learn.
Other folks are ignorant because they have not been exposed to the subject. Once exposed, they can apply themselves, and correct their ignorance, up to their level of intelligence or initiative.
Still others are ignorant by choice, and this is what I want to talk about.

I heard a radio personality the other day talking about how he never used a computer, and never would use a computer, and had no interest in learning to use one. "The old ways are good enough," he said, or words to that effect. What struck me was his pride in announcing to the world that he was computer illiterate.
Just think about it for a minute. Think about how ubiquitous these silicon marvels have become in our lives, not just in the PCs on our desks or laps, but in all kinds of applications from sales to manufacturing to inventory control and so on. Much of the increase in productivity that fueled the economic expansion of the 80s and 90s can be traced directly to the continuing development of the microprocessor. And here is this journalistic icon proudly proclaiming his ignorance of the whole thing. Now we could excuse him because of his advanced age. After all, old folks can't learn new things the way kids and younger folks do, right?


The decision to stop learning is just that, a decision, and is not an automatic consequence of aging. My grandfather learned to use a PC at well over 70 years of age, and used one to run all of his financial affairs. He chose to keep learning, to continue to use the best technology available, rather than to become obsolete, left behind by time and progress.

So, why choose to remain ignorant? Fear and pride are the first things that come to mind.

Learning something new is a form of change, and most people instinctively resist change. Let’s revisit our buddy Albert Einstein. He revolutionized physics with his theories of relativity, and faced strong resistance in getting his ideas accepted, particularly from the older physicists. Ironically, when his theories were used as one of the bases to develop quantum mechanics, he resisted this new application for his ideas, going so far as to create a ‘cosmological constant’ to explain away the quantum effect.
Our need for stability can blind us to reality.

Next, we come to pride. We all have things we believe to be true, beyond fact, beyond proof, beyond argument. When one of these beliefs is challenged, we often react irrationally, leaping to defend this belief, even if we have no real facts to back it up. We don’t want to admit that we were wrong, so we refuse to face the facts, preferring our own pet theories to reality.

And that brings me to my inspiration for this piece. A couple of days ago, I posted a series of poll results, chronicling the overwhelming support among Palestinians for Arafat’s Intifadah, including the violence and homicide bombings. I sent this information to Tony Andragna to illustrate that his belief that the majority of Palestinians are moderate is wrong.

Here are some excerpts of his response:
I have a problem with "polls" in general, because of "framing effects".
Asked whether I support an "uprising" against a "military occupation",
I would have to respond: Yes! I wouldn't object ot Palestinians having a
similar view. That position doesn't become immoderate until we cross
the line to murder - the distinction between suicide bombing a legitimatte
target and homocide bombing innocents. Has there been an attempt to
judge Palestinian opinion on that distinction, or does the survey merely ask
"do you support suicide bombings"? I'll have to look at the survey
(hopefully the questions are provided).

The overwhelming majority of homicide bombings during the Intifadah have been carried out against non-combatant targets. In fact, for the first time in Israeli history, civilian casualties have outnumbered military casualties over the last twelve months. To suggest that the question may not properly distinguish between attacks on military targets and civilian is tenuous at best. Combining the polling data with recent statements by bomber wanna-bees and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leaders, and the suggestion becomes sheer fantasy.

Tony goes on to say:
I'm especially hesitant to accept at face value the published
sentiments of Palestinians, and there are two reasons:
(a) the statements of the Palestinian leadership are inconsistent with action, and
(b) opinions expressed by a population under duress (you do know what happens to
collaborators) aren't the most reliable source of true sentiment.

Here is my biggest problem with Tony’s argument. He questions the veracity of the available evidence without offering any sort of proof it is illegitimate. He claims that all the media reports, audio, video, and print, coming out of the Middle East are biased against the Palestinians, but supplies no supporting evidence. He says he doesn’t trust the polls because the Palestinian people live in fear of Arafat, and are obviously lying, but he doesn’t provide any statements from Palestinians that this is the case. Are we to believe that Arafat so dominates the Palestinian people that not even one voice of protest can be raised? When dissidents in China can get their message out, and when Cuban protesters can make their voices heard, it is simply illogical to assume that the same could not be said for Palestinians.
Then Tony presents his assumption, again without a shred of evidence to back it up. No quotes, no communiqués, no demonstrations, no interviews, nothing. Tony provides us nothing to support his claims, but wants us to take them seriously anyway. His actions clearly fall into the category of irrationally defending a point of view that has no basis in fact. His rejection of the available evidence is an example of willful ignorance.

I’m hammering on this point, not to put down Tony, because we all have our blind spots, but to illustrate a very common human problem. We all fall into the trap of seeing the world as we think it should be. We craft simplified abstracts of the complex world that help us to understand what is going on. Unfortunately, those abstracts are often distorted by our own biases, and may not accurately reflect the real world. When this happens, any projections we make based on those abstracts will be in error. We have to guard against wishful thinking, and deal with the world as it is.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, April 15, 2002

Is it live, or is it Memorex?

Is it live, or is it Memorex? A new bin Laden tape is out, but we can't tell when it was made.
In an excerpt of the tape, bin Laden appears with his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, who claims the Sept. 11 attacks as a "great victory."

"Those 19 brothers who went out and worked and sacrificed their lives for God, God granted this victory that we enjoy today," al-Zawahri said.

"The great victory that was achieved was because of God's help and not because of our efficiency or cunning," he said.

An Al-Jazeera official said the tape was received a few days ago at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar. Al-Jazeera broadcast only an excerpt of the tape, and said it would air the complete tapes on Thursday.

bin Laden does not speak on the tape.

Posted by Rich
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It’s called reporting

It's called reporting The Aussie paper, The Age, has a columnist by the name of Paul McGeough. I referenced one of his columns earlier, in a discussion about homicide bombers in Palestine. He has another column in the current issue of the Age, chronicling a few more would be martyrs:
Hundreds of Palestinians poured in for condolences and coffee. Members of Shadi Tubasi's family formed a greeting line, handing each new arrival a postcard celebrating the "hero" of the Haifa explosion.
And in a corner, 31-year-old Walid Fayad, unsmiling as he clutches an M16 rifle, explained the unusual absence of sugar in the cardamom coffee that is served in tiny china cups: "Today we drink it bitter, so that we can share the Tubasi family's bitterness for the Israelis."
Fayad waved away the revulsion and horror of the previous afternoon, when a bomb detonated by 18-year-old Tubasi tore apart the lives and bodies of 15 people lunching in a road-side restaurant at the port city of Haifa.

A bit more, then read the rest yourself:
Khaled, a hotel worker, spoke in wonderment of a martyr's encounter at the gates of heaven as someone having their file checked: "There will be blessings for 70 of his family and friends. The 72 virgins are real - their skin is so pale and beautiful that you can see the blood in their veins. If one of these virgins spits in the ocean, the seawater becomes sweet. The martyr is so special he does not feel the pain of being in the grave and all that his family has to do to cleanse his file thoroughly, is to repay his outstanding debts."

Surely, we ask, this view of the Koran should be seen as philosophical? As a parable? But no, there was a chorus of disagreement from a gathering of his friends in the teeming Jabalya refugee camp near Gaza City: "No. This is real . . . this is as it will be," said Khaled, as much for himself as on behalf of younger Palestinians who now talk endlessly of the benefits of death over life in a bombing campaign that has killed more than 200 Israelis in 18 months.

I'm going to quit searching USA Today and read The Age It has better reporting. Besides, they do articles on Steve 'the Crocodile Hunter' Irwin.

Posted by Rich
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Palestinian support for Arafat

Palestinian support for Arafat A couple of weeks ago, I got into a debate with Tony Andragna of Quasipundit over whether the majority of Palestinians support Arafat and his suicide bombers. Tony advanced the proposition that there was a distinct segment of the Palestinian population that were moderate, and opposed to Arafat and his thugs. Tony went on to say that these moderates probably constituted a majority.
While reading the Front Page, I came across this quote:
3) The moral basis. While western media are efficient in reporting innocent Palestinian casualties, they rarely report Palestinian polls that show that 80% of Palestinians support the suicide bombings (even before the latest Israeli military operation).

The author, a resident of Tel Aviv, didn't state a source, so I went looking. and I found this:
excerpts from a December 2001 poll of the Palestinian people by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center
  • The poll also shows that the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian public (80.1%) supports the continuation of al-Aqsa Intifada.
  • The poll showed that a majority (67.5%) supports the military operations as a Palestinian proper response under the current conditions while 26.1% opposed military operations, considering them harmful to the national interest.
  • A majority of Palestinian public (64%) still support the continuation of suicide (martyrdom) operations inside Israel compared with 68.6% in June 2001
  • The majority of the Palestinian public (24.5%) trusts mostly President Arafat.
    This item needs a little explaining. Looking at the actual question, which is available at the link above, the question was "Which Palestinian personality do you trust the most?" Arafat was the highest person named, at 24.5%. Interestingly enough, the biggest vote getter was "I don't trust anyone," at 33.1% Arafat's trustworthiness was hurt in this poll as he considered a cease fire, which was extremely unpopular with Palestinians.

I also found this poll, conducted by the the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) in December 2001
Among its findings,
  • 76.4% oppose the arrest of Palestinian activists violating the cease fire by the PA police.
  • 60.5% believe that armed confrontations have won them rights unachievable any other way.
  • 73% support a reconciliation betwen a Palestinian and Israeli State, but 41% believe reconciliation is impossible.
  • 58.4% wouldn't want legal measures to prevent inciting acts against Israel, even if a Palestinain state was granted.
  • 90.7% refuse to accept a school curriculem which recognizes the legitimacy of Israel, even if a Palestinian state was granted.
  • 68.8% believe a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine is impossible
  • 37.7% believe terrorism can be justified.
  • 81.8% support armed attacks against Israeli targets.
  • 61.6% oppose a UN initiative to combat terrorism
  • 82.3% do not believe that the bombing of a disco in Israel was a terrorist act.
  • 69.4% believe it would not be an act of terror to use chemical or biological weapons against Israel, but 93.6% believe it would be an act of terror if Israel used such weapons on them.

Tony, I've found the proof you were looking for. By their own admission, the majority of Palestinians support Arafat, and his tactics.

Posted by Rich
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Why haven’t I heard this?

Why haven't I heard this? I was reading an article in the Idler by John Leboutillier about how tmessed up our Middle East policy is, and it referenced an article which says that the Suadis have a fund to support homicide bombers and their families, similar to the one Iraq has. I followed the link, and sure enough, there it is:
The Saudi Arabian government has paid out at least $33 million to families of Palestinians killed or injured in the 17-month-old intifada and in December 2001 earmarked another $50 million for the payments, according to Arabic news agencies and the Saudi Embassy's Web site.

Similar payments promised by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein have drawn sharp condemnation from U.S. President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The Saudi Committee for Support of the Al-Aqsa Intifada distributes payments of $5,333 to the families of the dead and $4,000 to each Palestinian receiving medical treatment in Saudi hospitals. The fund is managed by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, according to the embassy.....
Saudi Arabia makes no distinction in compensation to families of suicide bombers and those killed by Israeli military action.

It seems that few of our news services found this to be a significant story. I found it mentioned in the NY Post, and in some Arab news sources, but the NY Times, WaPO, USA Today, WSJ, all silent.

Very curious.

Posted by Rich
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So much for distancing himself

So much for distancing himself Al Gore is launching his new campaign, and he's decided to correct what he sees as his major flub the last time around.
He brought the crowd to its feet saying: "I don't care what anybody says, I think Bill Clinton and I did a damn good job."
Apparently Al has decided that the positives of Bill outweigh the negatives. I look forward to a constant chorus of "Bill Clinton and I"s coming from Al in the near future.

Just an aside, in case Al reads this. Had you won your home state, you wouldn't have needed Florida. Or Bill.

Posted by Rich
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Hope she’s not a lawyer!

Hope she's not a lawyer! Check out this statement from a girl at Ithaca college:
Katrina Baker, a self-described “radical feminist,” stated that she did not believe that the poster was protected speech under the First Amendment.

“When I saw that flyer, I read it as ‘Bay Buchanan is here to hang me.’…Regardless, the Constitution is irrelevant on this campus. We are [a] private [college]. We do not go by that here.”

Frightening. But I'll bet this same "radical feminist" will cry foul if a private men's club excludes her.

Posted by Rich
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I hope the Red Cross checks up on him.

I hope the Red Cross checks up on him. An American was arrested in Tiananmen Square while protesting for Falun Gong.

Think Amnesty Internation will investigate?

Posted by Rich
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We need confirmation of this

We need confirmation of this This is posted on Debka, but I haven't seen it anywhere else. If true, kiss Arafat goodbye.
Israeli security foiled a Palestinian terrorist attempt to hit the motorcade driving US secretary of state Colin Powellfrom Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem Thursday night, April 12, shortly after he landed. The Secretary was accompanied by Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and heads of the US embassy.
Just before 9 pm IT, two hours before the US Secretary arrived, a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance was stopped by a hidden Israeli security patrol near the gas station on the Modi’in-Jerusalem Highway 443....
According to some of DEBKAfile’s sources, the two Palestinians admitted under questioning that they had planned to pull the ambulance up on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv expressway, the route taken later by the Powell motorcade. One of the men was to stay in the vehicle, while the other strapped on the bomb belt and hid in some roadside bushes. When the secretary’s car drove by, the ambulance was rigged to explode. The second bomber was then supposed to leap into the milling crowd of officials and security men and blow himself up.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, April 13, 2002

Unintentionally misleading?  Moi?

Unintentionally misleading? Moi? John Brau acuses me of just that in this post
His points and my responses:
The great wall worked well as long as it was in the hands of a stable dynasty.
The Israeli government, with its constantly shifting alliances, and multiplicity of priorities cannot be termed a dynasty, nor does it represent a consistent, stable philosophy of government. Rather, it is a constantly shifting balance of conflicting viewpoints, where priorities change rapidly. In short, as you point out, the wall is only as good as the men commanding it.
The maginot line would have worked if the Belgians had done their part.
The spectacular failure of the Maginot line lies not in the rapid collapse of Belgium, but in the fact that a wall represents a static defense, and if the attacking army chooses to avoid the fence, all the resources spent on building maintaining and manning the wall are completely wasted. The configuration of any Israeli wall would of necessity copy that of the Maginot line, since encirclement is impossible, and the territories surrounding Israel are all either hostie, or at best partially neutral.

The Berlin wall was a success because it kept the refugees in East Berlin
The Berlin wall was built not only to keep refugees in, but to keep out Western influences. In this second role, the wall was an utter failure. But more importantly, and the reason I listed it, was that the Berlin wall, by its very existence became a symbol of brutal repression, and it was this which doomed the wall to failure. Building such a wall In Israel would suffer from the same flaws, as it would be characterized as an attempt to ghettoize the Palestinians. Not to mention the sheer impossibility of routing the wall to please all interested parties, unless you picture a wall through the center of the temple mount.
Also, you note that the number of escapes plummeted with the erection of the wall. What you fail to consider is that the driving forces behind the escapes remained present, and the refuges kept trying. How much more motivated are the palestinians, who will undoubtable see this wall as a pen to keep them out?
As far as your extrapolation goes, it is not worth much as the agendas of the two groups are completely different, as are their tactics, methodologies, and available technologies. Refugees were trying to escape; terrorist would try to inflict damage. Unless the wall is made absolute, completely restricting the flow of Palestinians into the Israeli sector, terrorists would still slip through. In addition, refugees generally don't have access to rockets, nor would they be interested in lobbing them over the wall, wreaking havok while remaining safely on their side of the wall. But I'm certain a terrorist would love the idea.

Finally, the US Mexican border. I threw this in as an example of how a semi permeable barrier, such as the one that would be required in Israel, is a complete failure at its intended purpose. Rather than laughing at the idea, look a little deeper. The Israeli wall would be more than a fortification. If it were only that, it would have a greater possibility of working. However, it will be more of a control point, attempting to regulate passage between the two areas. In that capacity, the US Mexican border is an apt example of how easily such a barier can be penetrated. Granted, the Israeli wall would cover a shorter area, and would be correspondingly more effective, but there's always a way around the wall, as I mentioned above.

Finally, even though you try to avoid this point, each wall failed in its stated purpose, although to be fair, some met with a degree of success before absolute failure. What this should tell us is that a wall may at best represent a temporary solution, and at worst, a complete waste of time and resources.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, April 12, 2002

Eureka!  We are saved!

Eureka! We are saved! Graham Freeman from has solved the Middle Eastern Crisis all by himself. Listen to this brilliance!
How to stop this whole mess:
- Send UN Peacekeepers into the occupied territories.
- Hold a conference, with a view to the Arab neighbours (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt) acknowledging Israel's right to exist, and correspondingly with Israel acknowledging Palestine's right to exist.
- Guaranteeing the various faiths right of access to their particular holy sites. And perhaps, at worst, demarcate an international zone around the city of Jerusalem, removing it from the jurisdiction from any existing state.

Also, given that Israel have had Arafat holed up so that he gets out less often than your average warblogger, it's churlish and stupid to suggest that he still has any control over your average Palestinean. And don't even imagine that aggravated violence against a party in this conflict will suddenly make retaliatory actions evaporate.

Way to go Graham, we're all proud of you. I guess we can all sit back and relax now. All we have to do is get Israel and Palestine to recognize each others right to exist, expropriate the one of the holiest sites from both parties, and send in the blue hats to make sure they play nice.

Of course, UN Peacekeeping forces have a marginal success record, to put it kindly. But maybe they'll get it right this time. After all, the sight of those powder blue helmets will certainly ease any lingering tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Now, about this conference, exactly what is in it for Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, et al? What are they going to get for their reversal of a decades old policy of refusing to recognize Israel as a legitimate state? Are we to suppose that they will do this out of some hitherto untapped generousity? Or will we bribe them? And how will they make such an about-face palatable to theri populace, who have been trained for decades to hate Israel and the Jews? Could be a bit tricky. The second half is already accomplished. Israel has conceded that Palestine has a right to exist, and in her last aatempt to prevent war, offered the PA almost everything they asked for, with the major exception of the right of return. How does your plan address this issue, which is a deal breaker on both sides? How many palestinian refugees can return to Israel? What kind of compensation should they get, if any? Should they be accepted as full citizens of Israel, or as permanent residents?
This also brings up the larger issue of the settlements. How will you handle the issue of settlements on the wrong side of the border? Not to mention the tricky question of drawing the border in the first place. How about water rights? Can you draw a border which ensures both states will have adequate access to the Jordan river?
Your third suggestion is allowing each group access to its particular holy sites. Unfortunatey, Judeism and Islam share many holy sites, and neither group is going to be willing to give up access to any religious site. This is another well established stumbling block. How do you propose to resolve it? This problem also encompasses Jerusalem. Both sides want unfettered access. Arafat was offered a portion of the city in the last Israeli proposal, and he refused it and launched the Intifadah. How are you planning on getting Arafat to agree to a compromise he already rejected violently? How are you going to get both sides to agree to cede Jerusalem to international control?

Finally, your last statement is self contradictory. If Arafat has no control over his people, then why should Israel negotiate with him? Is Palestine an anarchy? The escalating violence, and the pattern of attacks speaks of co-ordination and planning. If Arafat is not in charge, then who is? Either he is calling the shots, and is therefore guilty of terrorism, continuing his old ways, or he is not in control, and isn't worth speaking to. By the way, documents found when the Israelis raided Arafat's headquarters implicate him in the ordering, planning and funding of terrorist operations.

So Graham, while the broad strokes of your plan sound eminently reasonable, the devil is in the details, and unless you have some radical new answers that nobady else has thought of over the last 60 years or so, I'm afraid your suggestion is a pipe dream.

Posted by Rich
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A definition of insanity

A definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing, but expect different results.
  • The Great wall of China
  • The Maginot Line
  • The Berlin Wall
  • The US Mexican Border

History shows us clearly that the foreign devils will go over, under or through any wall we put up. So why do people keep suggesting that a wall will work for Israel? Putting a wall up between Israel and Palestine is like sending two kids to their room for fighting when they share the same room.

Posted by Rich
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