Archive for April, 2008

Manson appreciation syndrome

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Charles MansonHuman nature is perverse in many ways. Why are some otherwise reasonable people sexually attracted only to partners who are obviously total losers, over and over? But irrationality is not confined to the personal sphere. There is a dark side of the psyche that pulls some in the direction of destruction and death, that admires really massive evil.

For example, how do you explain the popularity of Adolf Hitler, who started the Second World War and was responsible for the death of as many as 72 million human beings. Why do people collect Nazi memorabilia and dress up in SS uniforms? One would think that evil is repellent, but apparently the opposite is the case for many.

Or take the fascination with mass murderers, or particularly violent ones:

[Charles] Manson’s influence has ranged wide, in pop culture and beyond, covering fashion, graphics, music,] movies, television, and the stage. In an afterword composed for the 1994 edition of the non-fiction Helter Skelter, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi quoted a BBC employee’s assertion that a “neo-Manson cult” existing then in Europe was represented by, among other things, approximately 70 rock bands playing songs by Manson and “songs in support of him.” – Wikipedia

Perhaps there is an evolutionary explanation for this. Someone with no compunctions about murder and a certain degree of cleverness (note that neither Hitler nor Manson were simply brutes) is likely to succeed in a world close to Hobbes’ state of nature, and this renders him an advantageous ally.

This is part of the reason that terrorism works. Terrorism creates fear, which in turn generates both hostility and identification (the Stockholm syndrome). But there is also an element of admiration for the degree of brutality and indifference to suffering that characterizes terrorist acts.

Israel, unfortunately, has been a laboratory for the study of the effects of terrorism since before the founding of the state, and in Israel we see both extremes: extreme hostility and hatred of Arabs by some, and a pathological desire to appease on the part of others — probably more Stockholm syndrome than Manson appreciation, since the latter is mostly displayed by those who view it from a safe distance.

Here in the US, most people responded to 9/11 with fear, horror, and anger as one would expect. But especially in academic environments, there was also a strong current of, almost, approval. Ward Churchill famously blamed the victims:

As for those in the World Trade Center… Well, really, let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire – the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly… If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it. — Wikipedia, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens

Churchill’s point of view was by no means extraordinary, although possibly he went out of his way to provoke a reaction (and it didn’t help that he impersonated an Indian, falsified his military record, and committed multiple forms of academic misconduct).

Jihadists claim that there has been a wave of conversion to Islam in the world since 9/11 and the other major terrorist actions. I’ve been unable to substantiate or refute this, but if it is true we can suggest several possible reasons, starting with the most benign:

  • The increased consciousness and discussion of Islam, which leads ‘searchers’ to consider it.
  • The perception that “if they are serious enough to die — and to kill so many — there must be something to it.”
  • Finally, a perverse attraction to the massive amount of evil done in the name of Islam.

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Suspicions about Islamic University unfounded

Monday, April 14th, 2008

News item:

The Gaza Strip’s four main universities have shut down, saying students can’t get to class because of fuel shortages created by Israeli cutbacks…

The shortages were aggravated last week by two developments. Gaza fuel distributors stopped selling the reduced amounts that did arrive in Gaza, to protest the Israeli cutbacks. Then Israel cut off all supplies after gunmen attacked the Israeli terminal that pumps the fuel to Gaza, killing two workers. — Jerusalem Post

Here is a photo of the Islamic University (IU) of Gaza. It certainly looks like an oasis of learning and peace in a place where there’s no shortage of ignorance and violence.

Islamic University of Gaza

It may be a bit messier since Fatah and Hamas gangs fought here during the Hamas coup. IU was in the news last year, when it was suggested that USAID funds were used to pay for terrorism-related activities at the university:

In a report entitled “Audit of the Adequacy of USAID’s Antiterrorism Vetting Procedures,” dated November 6 and obtained by Fox News, U.S. Agency for International Development Inspector General Donald A. Gambatesa concluded USAID’s “policies, procedures, and controls are not adequate to reasonably ensure against providing assistance to terrorists”…

“In the basement of Gaza Islamic University, a U.S.-funded institution,” said Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who sits on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and requested the audit, “Palestinian police found several Iranian agents and an Iranian general teaching the students in the U.S.-funded chemistry lab how to make suicide bombs.” — Fox News

I am happy to be able to report that these suspicions are completely unfounded. has received a copy of the IU course catalog, and you can see that it is a serious institution of higher learning. Here are a few of the offerings:

Physics 203: Dynamics — Students will learn the classical theory of the motion of bodies when forces are applied, with special emphasis on Newton’s Third Law. Students will construct their own experimental demonstration of the Third Law, showing how expanding gases in a tube closed at one end can propel the tube forward.

Chemistry 107: Physical Chemistry — This is a laboratory course in which students will learn in a practical manner about high-velocity chemical reactions which liberate large amounts of energy in short periods. Students will demonstrate how such reactions can be created using readily available compounds, like fertilizer.

Communications 250: Cellular Technology — Students will learn the use of cellular telephones for innovative purposes, such as remote control of, er, things. Students from Chemistry 107 will participate.

Civil Engineering 110: Underground Construction — Students will learn techniques used in underground construction projects. Laboratory experience will include tunneling very quietly and concealing tunnel openings.

Psychology 300: Seminar in Deviant Behavior — There has recently been an explosion of suicide in certain cultures. Students will study the reasons for it, and develop techniques to encourage discourage it.

Biology 120: Evolution — Students will learn how certain ethnic groups have evolved, especially from apes and pigs.

Poli Sci 150: Religion and Politics — No longer offered. What’s the difference?

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Carter to visit Hamas leader, further Saudi goals

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Carter and friends, 1996Jimmy Carter, the Saudi-paid CEO of the Saudi-financed Carter Center has decided to meet with Hamas head Khaled Meshaal in Damascus, despite pleas from the Israeli government and several members of the US Congress, and against the recommendation of the US State Department.

But Carter does not take orders from the State Department or Congress, and he certainly doesn’t have great respect for the government of what he calls an ‘apartheid state’, so off he goes.

“I feel quite at ease in doing this,” Carter said. “I think there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that, if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process.”

Although he said the meeting would not be a negotiation, he outlined distinct goals.

“I think that it’s very important that at least someone meet with the Hamas leaders to express their views, to ascertain what flexibility they have, to try to induce them to stop all attacks against innocent civilians in Israel and to cooperate with the Fatah as a group that unites the Palestinians, maybe to get them to agree to a cease-fire – things of this kind,” he said…

I’ve been meeting with Hamas leaders for years,” Carter said. — Jerusalem Post

Has he talked to them about the Hamas Covenant, which says that it is a Muslim’s duty to kill Jews, that not one inch of ‘Palestinian land’ may be possessed by non-Muslims, and that “the only solution to the Palestinian question is jihad”?

Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas because it is impossible to compromise with someone whose bottom line is your destruction. Unless Carter is capable of getting Meshaal to repudiate these principles, nothing good can come of their meetings.

But plenty of evil can. Hamas can gain respectability and sanction; instead of a gang of terrorist murderers who have killed literally hundreds of Israelis in shootings, suicide bombings, stabbings and missile strikes, Hamas takes on the cloak of a responsible governing power, which represents the half-million Palestinians of Gaza (and which has many supporters in the West Bank as well).

Hamas wants respectability above all, so that it can eventually receive aid from the West and be allowed to rejoin a ‘unity government’ with Fatah, permitting it to take over the West Bank as it did Gaza — and incidentally take possession of the huge amount of weapons pumped into Fatah by the US.

But there are other interests at work here as well. The Sunni Hamas’ present isolation has forced it to turn to Shiite Iran for financing and weapons. A return to at least partial respectability would reduce this dependence, exactly as Carter’s Saudi bosses wish.

So Carter is actually acting to further Saudi aims, helping the Kingdom gain control of the Palestinian movement, or at least keep it away from Iran.

Hamas supporters sometimes say that there is no reason that it should be marginalized. After all, didn’t it win a majority in the Palestinian Authority government by ‘free and fair’ elections (which Carter monitored)?

If you think that the legitimization of Hamas is a good thing, keep this in mind: if the genocidal Hamas is the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people, then Israel is at war — not just with Hamas, but with the Palestinians.

Because there can’t be peace with someone whose bottom line is your destruction.

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Questions of definition

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Sometimes it’s hard to talk to someone when you each have different understandings of the words you must use. For example, here are some questions about definitions of terms, put to an Israeli and an Arab:

Q: What is “the occupation”?
Israeli: The legal military occupation of the West Bank, which began in 1967 as the result of a defensive war, and which would end if the Arabs would agree to make peace.
Arab: The illegal Zionist entity in land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, which began in 1948.

Q: What is a “two-state solution”?
I: The Jewish state of Israel living peacefully alongside an Arab Palestinian state.
A: An Arab Palestinian state next to a “bi-national” state with an Arab majority.

Q: What are “equal rights” for Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel?
I: No discrimination in matters of resource allocation, housing, education, health care, employment, etc.
A: The replacement of the Jewish state with a “state of its citizens”, replacement of the flag and national anthem, a veto power on all governmental decisions by the Arab minority, repeal of the Law of Return for Jews, passage of a Law of Return for Palestinian refugees.

Q: What is “firing rockets from Gaza into Israel”?
I: Terrorism, murder.
A: Legitimate resistance to occupation.

Q: Who was “Yasser Arafat”?
I: A terrorist, a murderer, a man who started at least three wars, who caused the deaths of thousands in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, etc., a liar and thief who stole billions in funds intended to improve the lot of Palestinians, the man who prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state.
A: The father of the Palestinian nation.

Update [13 Apr 2056 PDT]:

Here’s one more, suggested by a reader:

Q: What is “peace”?
I: The condition in which the Arabs have finally given up trying to destroy Israel and turned their attention to the welfare of their people.
A: A pause in the struggle for which we will be paid by the Americans, and during which we can build up our forces for the next round.

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Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Palestinians talk about ‘humiliation’ a lot. Humiliation at checkpoints (carefully ignoring the reason for the checkpoints), humiliation by airport security, and above all, humiliation caused by the very presence of the hated Zionists on soil which they believe to be theirs. Today an op-ed in our local newspaper, written by two people prominent in our Muslim and Jewish communities, mentioned the “daily humiliation” of the Palestinians. The very carefully written op-ed — the subject of creative ambiguity is something I’ll discuss another time — reminded me that I wanted to talk about humiliation, and who is humiliating whom.

News item:

Gaza’s only power plant will be shut down in two to three days unless Israel resumes fuel shipments, power plant director Rafik Maliha said Saturday.

Maliha warned that half a million Gazans would be left without electricity.

Israel halted supplies last week after Gaza terrorists attacked the Nahal Oz fuel depot on the Gaza-Israel border and killed two workers.

The power plant’s fuel reserves have been low in recent months, after Israel restricted fuel supplies in hopes of forcing terrorists to halt rocket attacks from Gaza.

First of all, the ‘crisis’ that would occur if the power plant shut down is exaggerated. Gaza gets fully 70% of its power from the Israeli electrical grid and another 5% from Egypt. The Gaza strip has about 500,000 residents in toto, so the statement is sheer nonsense.

Now here is what happened at Nahal Oz: a carefully planned, sophisticated attack was executed as a cooperative effort between Hamas and several other terrorist groups.

It was not a random action. One of the participants, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), named the operation “Breaking Zionist Arrogance.” The Zionist arrogance in question, of course, constitutes supplying fuel to Hamas-ruled Gaza, and the strategic purpose of the attack was to interrupt it so that there will be another pretext for more actions, such as breaking down border fences — either into Egypt, Israel or both. It will be another cause for the massive ‘frustration’ building up in Gaza.

On the same day of the attack on the terminal, about 50 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza fell in Israel.

So what Hamas and friends are saying is the following:

“We will kill you as much as we like and you will supply fuel and electricity with which we will build rockets to kill you more. We will only stop when you agree to open up your borders to us, so that we can go among you and kill even more.”

This is what is truly humiliating.

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