Saturday, December 12, 2009

Letter to a Denier

I moderate a progressive email group, and recently a global warming skeptic joined in. We've had several private email exchanges regarding his posts. This is the most recent message I sent him:

Hi V-,

I'm not going to put your latest post, "Nature will decide Earth's future", on the group. It's not science in any real sense of the word, and posting he said/she said articles from the popular media doesn't advance the debate. It would be better if you were to write a post explaining why we should believe that article, although you'd get shredded by others making the same point that I just made: It's not science.

Last night I was thinking about our email exchange regarding lunar warming, and it occurred to me that you're missing the big point. Debating lunar warming is pointless unless you can tie it to the Earth's climate. The denialist argument that warming on other solar system bodies explains warming on Earth has pretty much fallen by the wayside as the quality of solar monitoring has improved. Given the current state of the science it's not really a viable argument anymore. Pretty much never was, for that matter. There was no real science behind it, just speculation by people disinclined to believe in AGW.

I'm somewhat unusual, V-, in that I straddle the technical and political worlds. I know enough about the politics, the science, and about both politicians and scientists, to understand who the players are and how the game is played. The stakes may be larger this time around, but the pattern is the same every time science collides with politically powerful vested interests. I watched it play out over the smoking-cancer link, CFC's and the ozone layer, and SO2 and acid rain. I see it now in the approval and regulation of medicines, where I just happen to have a bit of an inside seat. If your goal is to maintain the status quo as long as possible, despite the science, the most effective way to do so is to make sure that the debate isn't about the real science. And there's a well developed and profitable industry to do exactly that.

If you don't believe me try doing a little research about the Heartland Institute's role in the smoking debate. Do you really think it's a coincidence that they're also at the center of global warming denailism?

The techniques to to obscure and denigrate science were first developed by the tobacco companies decades ago. They include things like paying scientists to take positions against the scientific mainstream, creating "independent" scientific organizations and think tanks that support the industry's view, cherry-picking the science to create seemingly plausable alternatives, finding flaws in research, no matter how minor, and using them to discredit the entire body of knowledge, planting psuedo-science to blur the real science, particularly in the minds of the public, and attacking individual scientists to turn the debate to their motives and personal fallibilities.

You're being used, V-, by a bunch of very smart people who earn their living by manipulating the public. I know, because I play that game too, although on a much smaller scale. The difference is that I believe right and wrong should be based on the common good, not profit. And I think you feel the same. That's why it bothers me so much to see how you, and so many other good people, have become pawns of powerful forces that don't give a damn about our individual welfare.

Those prospering under the status quo will always seek to preserve it. That's human nature. But in an era of multinational corporations that rival governments in terms of power and influence, the risks of putting profits ahead of science are far greater. In the end, of course, science always wins, as it did in each of the controversies I mentioned earlier. You can only spit in the face of reality for so long. The only question is what price we will pay for ignoring the lessons of the past.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Extraordinary Atmospheric Phenomena

Given the weather tonight this seems appropriate. Here are a couple of beautiful pictures that caught my fancy. The first, by NYT photographer Ragnar Axelsson, shows the northern lights over a house in the tiny Inuit village of Tinnittaqilaq in Greenland. Many more great pictures at the link.

The second shows a phenomena few people have witnessed. Can you guess what it is? I'll give you a hint: If you do see something like this it'll probably be about the last thing you'll ever see. Click on it for a bigger version.

Those beautiful white trails in the sky are eight nuclear warheads falling towards their targets during the test of a Peacekeeper missile. Dummy warheads in this case, but if real each would be twenty times more powerful than the bombs we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Monday, December 07, 2009

WMC Opposition to Global Warming Regulations Based on Bogus Model

If you've been following "climategate", you know that one of the denialists' main lines of attack is that the stolen CRU emails "prove" that current mainstream climate science can't be trusted because climate scientists are hiding their models and data.* Given that, you might believe that the folks who oppose global warming regulations, like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, would base their opposition on actual verifiable facts and research.

Not so much. A couple of weeks ago WPRI released "The Economics of Climate Change Proposals in Wisconsin" a study they commissioned from the Beacon Hill Institute, which uses an economic model called STAMP. A proprietary economic model. As in top-secret. Beacon Hill won't release their computer code, the model's coefficients, or their input data, so none of it can be independently verified by real economists. Sounds kind of fishy, doesn't it? Now, why would Beacon Hill be so reticent about sharing the fruits of their research? Perhaps there's a hint in their mission statement, which says, in part, "Grounded in the principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets...".

It's fairly simple to rig a complicated economic model to get answers that support your ideological preconceptions. Just looking at the limited info on STAMP that's publicly available I can see some pretty obvious biases. Without open and independent verification WPRI's study is completely worthless. They might as well have pulled the numbers out of a hat. Beacon Hill lets groups like WPRI and WMC slap a pseudo-academic veneer of respectability on their policy positions, but it's all just smoke and mirrors designed to take advantage of the public's, and the press', gullibility.

Paul Soglin has a nice post on this issue, and he beat me to the punch by a couple of weeks!


*The denialists' claim that climate models and data aren't available is simply a lie. All the significant climate models and almost all of the data (with the exception of data that was purchased from vendors with non-disclosure agreements) is easily available, most of it online.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Killer Koi

I keep koi; the picture above is a few of my fish. Koi are a domesticated version of the common carp, Cyprinus carpio, which is a widespread invasive species. There are common carp in almost every lake and river in Wisconsin, and they cause significant problems in some areas due to their habit of stirring up the mud to look for food. Common carp are actually pretty good eating, although most people in the US consider them trash fish.

But there's a far more evil side to carp. They can be killers. A species called the silver carp has the bad habit of leaping out of the water when boats scare them. For most types of fish that wouldn't be a problem, but silver carp can grow to over forty pounds and jump ten feet high! Getting slammed by one when you're cruising at speed can be lethal. I don't know much about the first picture below, but the women in the second picture ended up with a broken jaw.

Silver carp are one of several large introduced species collectively referred to as Asian carp. Far more important than their attempts to assassinate fisherman is the damage they can do to our native aquatic ecosystems. Asian carp have spread throughout the Mississippi River basin and are now on the verge of getting onto the Great Lakes. The only thing keeping them out is an electric barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. If that barrier fails, and it inevitably will, Asian carp will get into almost every major lake and river in the Eastern US.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Map - 2008 Hate Crime Rate by State

The map below shows the reported number of hate crimes per million residents in 2008, color-coded by state. The data is from the FBI's latest hate-crime report, which came out earlier today. Wisconsin, with a rate of 16.3, is in the low-middle of the range, but comparable with neighboring states. This is a significant change from a few years ago when Wisconsin had a extremely low hate crime rate, although that was probably due to under-reporting. Click on the map for a larger version.

To be included as a hate crime in the FBI statistics, a crime must first be reported to a local law-enforcement agency, which then makes a determination if it is a hate crime. That agency must then report it to the FBI, either directly or through the state's Attorney General or Department of Justice. Not all law-enforcement agencies report data to the FBI, and many that do probably do not accurately characterize hate crimes. Hate crimes also tend not to be reported or investigated in jurisdictions that that are hostile to the victimized minority.

There are obvious discrepancies in the map. Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia appear to vastly under-report hate crimes. There are a number of possible explanations, but given the clear state-by-state differences, the most likely is that hate-crime investigation and reporting by local law-enforcement agencies is not supported, or perhaps even discouraged, by the Attorney General and/or the Department of Justice in those states. Other states, Delaware for example, appear to have anomalously high hate-crime rates. This could be real, but it could also be the result of particularly intensive hate crime reporting and investigation efforts.

UPDATE: Some links and additional info:

FBI 2008 hate crime statistics:
Caution on conclusions:

Some of the reporting on the new hate crime statistics, like this story from Fox, have been somewhat irresponsible. Fox's headline is "Reported Hate Crimes Surge in 2008". Reported hate crime did rise by 11%, but as Fox actually points out in the story, this could be due simply to improved reporting, not an actual increase in crime. The discrepancies in the my map clearly show that hate crime reporting is, at best, extremely uneven across the country.

To make the map I used Index Mundi's map creator. Very highly recommended.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

US Verses the World in Wind Power

I saw an article recently about the success of wind power in Spain. Made me wonder how we compare to other countries in terms of what percentage of our electricity comes from wind, but a quick Google search didn't turn up much of an answer. So, as usual, I collected the data and made myself a chart. Click on it for a larger version:

That's us in red, way down in fifteenth place, getting about 1.3% of our electric power from wind. Given all our big talk about investing in green energy, it's pretty darn disappointing.

The raw data is from the US Energy Information Administration. The EIA is a goldmine of information, and their online tools make it easy to pull the data you want into Excel. Well worth poking around their website a bit if you're into energy issues.

Don't Get Married in Texas...

...because it looks like Texas accidentally outlawed all marriages in its rush to keep those awful gays out. The anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment that Texas passed in 2005 says in part:

"This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

See the little itty-bitty problem with that? Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Democrat running for Texas AG, just pointed out that the current AG, Republican Greg Abbott, really screwed up when he approved the amendment wording.

Love it! Conservatives can't even try to legalize discrimination without shooting themselves in the foot. And even the freepers are debating this mess.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Democratic Party of Wisconsin History Project - DPW Membership Data 1998 to 2008

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is a membership organization, and membership dues are its single largest source of income. Thus, membership levels are an important indication of the health and vitality of the party, both at the county and state levels. Unfortunately, membership data is one of those things that tends to get lost when physical records are moved or computer systems are updated, so I've created a spreadsheet containing DPW membership by county from 1998 to 2008 and uploaded it to Google Docs.

Historical membership data like this is invaluable for determining the factors that drive party membership, evaluating membership building efforts, and holding party leaders accountable for their success or failure in building the party. Yet many county parties do not have accurate historical records because standard DPW membership reports only cover the prior two years, and older records are often lost when county party leadership changes. It also appears that much of the DPW's membership info prior to 1998, which is when the current membership database was developed, is inaccessible or missing.

For these reasons I've created a permanent depository for this data. If anybody has DPW statewide or county membership info prior to 1998, even if it's incomplete or fragmentary, please contact me ( and I'll add it to the database. It would be great to be able to look back over the years and see the broad trends and issues that have affected the Democratic party in Wisconsin.


Here are some notes on the data. They're included at the bottom of the spreadsheet, but they're hard to read online:

1. I have conflicting data for Menominee County for 2006. One source gives a partial year count of 3, while other sources do not show Menominee County as an active party unit after 2005.

2. Although listed separately in 2005, Waupaca and Waushara Counties were combined that year with a joint membership of 150.

3. The DPW incorrectly lists the 2005 membership total as 9116. This is a result of counting Waupaca and Waushara counties twice: As separate county parties and as a combined party unit.

4. Prior to 2003 there are discrepancies between the county membership sums and the official DPW totals, particularly in 2002 and 2001, as shown below. I can't resolve these differences with the data available to me.

Year - County total - DPW total - Difference

2002 ----- 8352 ----- 8594 ----- 242
2001 ----- 8262 ----- 8389 ----- 127
2000 ----- 7489 ----- 7495 ----- 6
1999 ----- 7410 ----- 7414 ----- 4
1998 ----- 7356 ----- 7362 ----- 6
1997 ----- 6097

5. DPW membership for other years:

Year - Membership
1972 --- 18,410
1967 --- ~8000
1964 --- ~27,000

(According to The history of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, 1949-1999, the huge drop between 1964 and 1967 was due to President Johnson's support for the Vietnam War)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Federal Stimulus Dollars - Wisconsin Ranks Dead Last!

Wisconsin, which historically has received far less back from the US Government than we've paid in federal taxes, is getting screwed once again by the federal stimulus program. We rank dead last, by a large margin, in terms of how many stimulus dollars we've received per unemployed citizen. The national average is roughly $9200, but Wisconsin has received only about a third of that. The map below, from News With Numbers, tells the story.

This information deserves a lot of attention, both from the media and from our elected leaders. The only way to get our fair share is to make lots of noise, so please spread it around!

Map - Wisconsin Unemployment by County

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is the first fruit of an experiment to fully automate ReformDem maps. It's based on the work of Nathan Yau, who uses Python scripts to do all the heavy lifting for the choropleth maps on his very impressive blog, FlowingData.

Previously I've used a spreadsheet to calculate RGB color values for each county, and a paint program to manually apply them to a blank map. The results are nice, but it takes about half a day to make one map. If I can get the rest of the bugs worked out I should be able to make maps in a matter of minutes.

One interesting thing to notice in the map above is that Menominee County has one of the highest unemployment rates in Wisconsin. Menominee County is basically the Menominee Indian Reservation, and, as you can see from Nathan's national unemployment map, counties with high Native American populations also tend to have very high unemployment, and are among the poorest areas in the US.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fort Hood

I have a personal connection to Fort Hood that makes today's events even sadder for me. I lived there as a kid, and many of my earliest and happiest memories are of our house in Comanche Village (now called Comanche I), just north of Tank Destroyer Blvd., on the west side of the base. The shootings, at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on Battalion Ave., occurred about a mile from where we used to live.

Everyone who joins the military knows the risks, but you never expect something like this. My heart goes out to the dead and injured, and to their families and loved ones.

For Democratic Candidates to Win, Democratic Voters Need to Vote

You might think that's pretty obvious, but apparently not given what just happened in the Governor's race in Virginia.

Unfortunately for us, the Deeds campaign freaked out and read these polls wrong over the summer. Instead of attempting to energize more young and minority voters to the polls to make the electorate more representative of Virginia–they began running a campaign targeted to the people already planning to vote. Creigh began bashing federal Democratic priorities like “Cap and Trade” and health care reform to appeal to the conservatives that were headed to the polls.

And every time he did it, polls indicated turnout shriveled even further among Democrats and progressive voters–making the electorate even older, whiter, and more conservative. To which Creigh responded to by bashing federal Democrats more–which resulted in even more progressives becoming disengaged. Over and over, the cycle continued. Over the last six weeks, PPP polls indicated the share of the electorate that identified as Democrats declined from 38% to 31%. In other words almost one out of every five self-identified Democrats planning to vote on Labor Day has since then looked at Creigh Deeds and his conservative message, and decided they weren’t voting. Ouch!

I doubt Deeds could have won even if he hadn't run away from the Democratic base, so in this case it may not have made much of a difference, but in many 2010 races it probably will. Be interesting to see what lessons Democratic political "professionals" draw from this, and how they apply them next year.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Nope, No Racism Here...

Comment posted earlier today on the Wisconsin page at regarding Obama's visit to Wright Middle School:

>> Obama ... promotes the Race-to-the-Top initiative

Yeah? Which race does he intend to push to the top? Probably not mine, I’m guessing.

You gotta love freepers, the intellectual godparents of the teabaggers. Click on the link above and read the whole thing. These are the folks who claim to be the true voice of American conservatism.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Can the Policy Positions of Elected Dems Damage the Democratic Party?

The relationship between Democratic elected officials and the Democratic Party is complex. Usually the Party, local, state, or national, is controlled by the most powerful elected official at that level, although that isn't always the case. The Democratic Party of Dane County, for instance, is essentially controlled, quietly and behind the scenes, by a union, AFSCME Council 40.

But I digress. The question is if unpopular policy positions taken by Democratic elected officials can significantly damage the Democratic Party. The answer is clearly yes. Back in the mid 1960's the Democratic Party of Wisconsin lost more than two-thirds of its members because of Lyndon Johnson's support for the Vietnam War, dropping from 27,000 in 1964 to 8,000 in 1967. Even today, after more than forty years, the DPW has never come close to its former size, with current membership hovering a little under 10,000. There are many reasons for that, but one is a divisive war fought a generation ago.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Democratic Party of Wisconsin History Project

Have you ever been curious about the history of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin? To the best of my knowledge the only relatively recent info published on this subject is The history of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, 1949-1999, by Dr. Richard Carlton Haney, Professor (now emeritus) of History at UW Whitewater, Erica Feldkamp, past DPW Intern, and Paul Tewes, past DPW Executive Director.

Unfortunately, this pamphlet is out of print and very difficult to obtain, although a few libraries have copies. Several years ago Dr. Haney and the DPW granted permission to put the newer edition online, and after a long delay here it is:

You can read it online, print a copy, or download it as a (rather large) PDF file. It's short, only about twenty-five pages of text and ten pages of pictures, and reads like a magazine article (which it originally was), although the additional material added in the second edition makes it somewhat disjointed at times.

One thing I find particularly interesting is the ideological struggles within the party over the years. Ideology and primary fights are two things that can tear a political party apart faster than just about anything else. There are important lessons here for today's DPW, although they're not always quite as obvious as one might think.


The Democratic Party of Wisconsin History Project is my effort to preserve documents and other materials from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and whenever possible to make them available on the web. I have two reasons for doing so. First, as I've learned from trying to trace my own family history, unless there is an active effort to preserve historical information it will inevitably be lost. Second, I hope that making such information more easily accessible will help current party leaders make wise decisions and lead to a bigger and more vibrant Democratic Party.

Please help me with this project. If you have material from past party conventions, DPW reports, newsletters, pictures, or personal stories about the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, contact me (, and I will digitize them and put copies online to protect and preserve them for posterity.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Was Obama's Nobel Prize Really Aimed at Bush?

Seems to me that the Nobel Committee may have given Obama the Peace Prize not so much for what he's done, but for who he isn't: George W. Bush. I'm sure this whole thing will drive the wingnuts crazy, but you reap what you sow...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Those Liberal Dummies at Isthmus

I hate it when liberals hand ammunition to conservatives by making stupid mistakes. And I mean that quite literally in this case.

The latest Isthmus has an interesting story about a proposed program that would help Madison cops buy personal AR-15 assault rifles, which they would then presumably carry in their patrol cars in case they need extra firepower. To add some kick to the story the folks at Isthmus included a nice picture of an AR-15 with the caption "An AR-15 like this for just 52 easy payments!" Except it's not an AR-15. Not even close. Took me a while to recognize it because it's so obscure, but the weapon in Isthmus' picture is an antique WWII-era German StG44, the worlds first true assault rifle.

The problem with this sort of dumb and easily preventable mistake is that it plays right into the conservative stereotype that liberals hate guns, even though we know nothing about them.

Of course, we believe pretty much the same thing about conservatives and science...


This is a real Colt AR-15 A3 Tactical Carbine. Probably quite similar to what the Madison PD would buy. Picture from Wikipedia.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ten Year Old Hunters

As of next week, ten year old children in Wisconsin will be able to hunt with adult supervision. Previously the minimum age was twelve. This doesn't seem like a very good idea to me.

I'm not anti-gun, or even anti-kids-and-guns. My father gave me my first gun, a .303 Lee-Enfield, and taught me to use it when I was four. Even so, I waited until my kids were around ten before I offered to teach them how to shoot.

So, if I would let my own kids shoot at ten, why would I have a problem with them hunting at that age? The reason is that there's a big difference between a shooting range and a hunting trip. Lot easier to control things at the range, and with kids safety is all about control.

Think of how often you hear about hunting accidents. Now try to remember the last time there was an accident at a shooting range. Doesn't happen very often, even though far more rounds are fired at ranges than on hunts. My opinion is that kids should be at least fourteen before they're allowed to hunt. Safer for them, safer for everyone else.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jim Doyle: Doing the Right Thing for Himself... and for the Democratic Party

I've been working on a major post showing what polling tells us about the likely direction of Jim Doyle's reelection campaign. I collected all the available polling data on Doyle over the past four years, including cross tabs which are where the good stuff is buried, and I put everything into Excel so I could slice and dice it.

Big waste of time, given Doyle's announcement that he won't be running. But I thought I'd share a few charts because they show just how tough it would have been for Doyle to win. Doyle's predicament is largely due to national trends beyond his control. Nothing fair about politics. Announcing fairly early that he won't be running again cripples Doyle legislatively, and makes it harder for him to solidify any sort of positive legacy, but it does give Democrats the best possible chance to win next year. Got to admire him for that...

Anyway, on with the charts. This data is from the SurveyUSA tracking poll, which they do almost every month for every federal elected official and governor. The benefit of a tracking poll is consistency. All pollsters have biases (intentional or not) due to the choices they make in their sampling techniques and models. This makes it difficult to spot more subtle trends when comparing polls from multiple pollsters. Tracking polls have the same sort of biases, of course, but as long as the pollster doesn't change anything, those biases have no effect on trends.

The first chart shows Doyle's approval and disapproval from the end of '06 until now. It's pretty grim:

The next chart shows Doyle's net approval (approval minus disapproval) for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Doyle has lost significant ground with all three groups. This is probably why he decided to throw in the towel. There's just no obvious policy or ideological direction that will win him enough support to succeed in '10. If he tries to appease one group he'll just piss off the others:

Doyle's misfortune is a blow to the Party, but it opens new opportunities for other Democrats. The next year or so is going to be very exciting for political junkies in Wisconsin. I can hardly wait!

Note on the charts: The trendlines in the first chart are three month moving averages; in the second they are six month. The data in the second chart is noisier because it's a sub-sample of the total data, so I used a longer average to make the charts more comparable.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

PhRMA Firing a Shot Across Tammy's Bow?

Just heard a very odd ad on the radio. It urged listeners to contact Tammy Baldwin and thank her for supporting biomedical research. The ad was paid for by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

PhRMA is the velvet glove of the big drug companies. It exists to increase drug company profits through coordinated PR campaigns and lobbying. PhRMA doesn't spend money without good reason, so why the heck would they be running ads praising Tammy? It's an off-year, and even if it wasn't, Tammy certainly doesn't need PhRMA's help. She's essentially unbeatable short of a Ensign-sized scandal.

Seems to me that PhRMA may just be reminding Tammy that they're keeping an eye on her. The ads, which are probably being run on more "liberal" stations, will undoubtedly prompt a bunch of phone calls to her office, and few things get a politician's attention like lots of constituent calls on one issue. While PhRMA undoubtedly knows that taking Tammy out would be extraordinarily difficult, they're playing the long game. Tammy is ambitious, and may well run for another office eventually. By flexing their muscles now, in a nice way, Pharma is making it very clear to Tammy not only how much muscle they have, but also that they're willing to use to use it for, or against, her down the road.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An Unusual Place to Work

Just took the picture above of my work site for the next couple of weeks. It's the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on the summit of Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. The telescope is at 13,800 feet/4,200 meters, although the dorms where we eat and sleep are at 9,500 feet, which is much more comfortable.

If we're lucky, and nothing goes wrong or breaks, I should have some time to work on some interesting posts. Of course, things rarely seem to go smoothly on jobs like this...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

AMA to Rename Itself "The Greedy Bastards Club"

UPDATE! Less than a day after announcing that it opposed health care reform, the AMA is backing away from that position. They deserve credit for doing the right thing, even if has more to do with fear of being left out of negotiations than any real change of heart.


True to form, the American Medical Association has come out against Obama's health care reform plan. The AMA has a very long, if not exactly proud, history of opposing any effort to extend health care to the poor, the elderly, or the uninsured. Here's what the president of the AMA said in his 1963 Congressional testimony about the proposal to create Medicare:
[Hospital insurance for the aged is not] "only unnecessary, but also dangerous to the basic principles underlying our American system of medical care."1
The AMA was so concerned about the dangers of helping sick old people that they even cut a secret deal with the tobacco industry to downplay the risks of smoking in return for tobacco state congressmen agreeing to vote against Medicare!2 As the head of the British Tobacco Association observed at the time, "The AMA appears more concerned with safeguarding the financial interests of doctors through political lobbying than with the doctor's patients." It's been almost fifty years, but apparently not much has changed.

Look, I understand that the AMA's basic job is to protect doctor's earnings. I don't expect them to lead the charge for reform; they have a mighty sweet deal under our current system. But I thought they'd show some decency and at least stay out of the way this time around. Nobody knows better than the AMA's members that we that spend twice as much money per capita on health care than any other country. They see it in their paychecks every month. Yet even with all that money, twenty to thirty percent of Americans lack access to basic care because they're uninsured or underinsured and simply can't afford it.

It's time for the AMA to realize that American doctors won't do well unless America does well. We can't continue spending more and more on what is arguably the world's least efficient health care system. It's bankrupting us, and making it increasingly difficult for American business to compete against countries with much less costly "socialized" medicine. The AMA is killing the goose that laid their golden egg, and we'll all pay the price for their greed.

1. The Politics of Medicare, second edition, by Theodore R. Marmor, p28.
2. A Question of Intent, by David Kessle, p207.

Monday, June 01, 2009

"Aid and Comfort"

Article III, Section III, of the U.S Constitution says in part "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

As more and more incriminating links are found between Scott Roeder and Operation Rescue, it will be interesting to see if there is a legal crackdown on militant anti-abortion groups. When it comes to Islamic terrorism we've applied the concept of "aid and comfort" very broadly, preemptively closing American charities that had any ties, however innocuous, to groups like Hamas. There is certainly justification to call the actions of many of the individuals tied to the anti-abortion movement, and perhaps those of the movement itself, terrorism. Do our homegrown Christian terrorists deserve the Islamic treatment, or should we just turn the other cheek in the hope that they'll realize they've strayed from the path of righteousness? Watch Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry in the video below, and let me know what you think.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What amazes me...

... is not that a Republican would say something incredibly stupid like "La Raza (is) nothing more than a ... Latino KKK" on national TV, but that Republicans still think they can succeed by pissing off every group in this country other than white male Christian conservatives.

Good luck with that.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Judicial Activism: A Proud Conservative Tradition

Conservatives usually use "judicial activist" as a code word for liberal. But are liberal judges really more activist than conservative judges? The answer is no. Conservatives judges, at least on the modern Supreme Court, are far more judicially active than liberal judges.

The chart below shows how often recent Supreme Court justices have "legislated from the bench" by overturning existing federal law and regulations. Conservatives loudly claim to abhor such judicial activism, yet the trend is remarkably clear: Conservative justices have been far more willing than liberals to impose their views on the elected Executive and Legislative branches of government. Click on the chart for a larger version:

The chart is drawn from two examinations of the decisions made by recent Supreme Court justices. The first, by Paul Gewirtz, a professor at Yale Law School, looked at how often justices struck down Congressional law from 1994 to 2005. The second, by Cass R. Sunstein, currently at the University of Chicago Law School, compared over 20,000 individual decisions to determine how often the justices overturned federal regulations passed by Executive branch agencies.

To create the chart I averaged the two data sets to create a composite measure of how often each justice overturned existing law and regulations. Justices Roberts and Alito are not included because they haven't been on the Court long enough to collect meaningful data. I first saw these studies mentioned in this Meteor Blades diary on DailyKos; many thanks to him for doing the hard work of digging them out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Are You Made Of?

There are many answers to this question, ranging from the philosophical to the scientific, but here's an intriguing new possibility: We might all be nothing more than a big bunch of microscopic black holes. Unless you're a science nerd this might seem a little weird, but bear with me.

Although we usually think of black holes as gigantic things that suck up stars and even whole galaxies, they can actually be any size. And black holes "evaporate" by giving off energy and getting smaller, so there could be lots and lots of really tiny black holes floating around. So what would all those microscopic black holes look like?

That's the sort of question physicists love, and a couple of them recently made a very interesting discovery. Turns out that when you apply the rules of quantum mechanics to tiny black holes the result looks exactly like elementary particles, the stuff atoms, and therefore you and me, are made of. And quantum mechanics tells us that things which look the same are the same (I'm simplifying this just a bit here). Anyway, the implication is that all matter may be made of microscopic black holes. How cool is that!

Of course, even if we are made of microscopic black holes it doesn't really change anything. The value of this discovery is that it may open up a revolutionary new way to look at unified field theory and the very early history of our universe, two of the greatest mysteries of modern physics.

Here's the original paper (not exactly light reading): Quantization of Black Holes in the Shielded Strong Gravity Scenario (I. Neutral Scalar States)

(Black hole image from Wikipedia, originally created by NASA)

Gallop Poll Shows Midwest Trending Strongly Democratic

Gallop released a new poll yesterday showing that Republican party ID in the Midwest has dropped more than in any other region of the US!

The poll also has plenty of other good news for Democrats. It shows that the Republican Party is getting grayer, more conservative, and becoming a regional party concentrated in the Southern United States. Young people are fleeing the Republican Party in droves, as are moderates and college graduates. It doesn't get much better than that!

There was a time when Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News crazies were a real threat to progressives and the Democratic Party. No longer. They've spent years pushing Republicans to the right, enforcing a rigidly conservative ideology, and driving away anybody with the least hint of human decency and common sense. That strategy was successful for quite a while, but they overdid it and now it's killing them.

Below is a chart from the Gallop poll showing the decrease in Republican Party ID among various groups from 2001 to 2009. The only group that hasn't become less Republican is people who attend church frequently. Interesting that another recent poll shows that this same group is also most strongly supportive of torture. Click on the image for a a larger version.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Now I Understand...

Lefties run the country and worry about the economy, two wars, healthcare, energy, and education. Righties seem to be obsessed with ... mustard.

No wonder the GOP is a disaster.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What does the Military think of Obama's first 100 days?

Looks like a solid B, and given the current political leanings of the US military that's saying a lot:

In his campaign for president, Barack Obama pledged a swift end to the war in Iraq, a new commitment to the defeat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a strong emphasis on veterans' care and military families and a critical look at Pentagon spending, strategy and conduct in the war on terrorism.

Since his inauguration 100 days ago, Obama has made good on his promise for sweeping change in the military, a new tone in the White House's relationship with troops and a personal investment in easing the burden of military service.

But take a look at the comments following the story. Makes you understand why the Justice Department might be concerned about radicalization of military veterans.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Israeli West Bank Settlement Growth, 1972 - 2008

UPDATED, see below.

I've heard critics of Israel claim repeatedly that the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has increased every year since the settlements were founded. This seems counter-intuitive given that you would expect Israel to reign in the settlements during periods of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. So, being a data geek, I decided to check the numbers myself.

I quickly found that it was difficult to locate credible and comprehensive data on settlement population. Lots of sources give partial (and often conflicting) numbers, but I couldn't find any single source with complete population by year back to the early 70's when the settlements were started. As a result I decided to do my own research, and what I discovered is quite interesting.

The critics are right. West Bank settlement population has indeed increased every single year. But what's really surprising is that the general trend has not changed significantly even when Israel was intensely negotiating a two-state agreement with the Palestinians. This implies that Israel has never actually been serious about a two-state solution.

Here's a chart showing West Bank settlement population from 1972 to 2008. Click on it for a larger version. All the data is from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.

The data is listed below. The 2008 number is preliminary. Caveats: For a couple of the years I had to calculate the total from the populations of individual settlements. I checked this by doing the same for a year where I had the total from the Bureau of Statistics, and the result matched within a percent. It was necessary to estimate population for a few smaller settlements for the missing years based on their population trends. I reconciled, as best I could, conflicting numbers in different reports from the Bureau of Statistics by again going back to the individual settlement numbers. Many reports are partially or completely in Hebrew, which complicated my research and undoubtedly increased the risk of error. Despite these qualifications, I believe this data is as accurate and complete as reasonably possible.



2008 285,800 (preliminary)
2007 282,000
2006 268,400
2005 258,988
2004 234,487
2003 224,669
2002 214,722
2001 198,535
2000 192,976
1999 177,411
1998 163,300
1997 154,400
1996 142,700
1995 133,200
1994 126,200
1993 111,600
1992 101,100
1991 90,300
1990 78,600
1989 69,800
1988 63,600
1987 57,700
1986 51,100
1985 44,100
1984 35,200
1983 22,800
1982 21,000
1981 16,119
1980 12,424
1979 10,000
1978 7,361
1977 4,400
1976 3,176
1975 2,581
1974 2,019
1973 1,514
1972 1,182

UPDATE: In an article published on 6/1/2009, the New York Times claims that previously unpublished Israeli documents show that Israel has approved plans to almost double the number of housing units in West Bank settlements over the next twenty years, from 58,800 to 105,300.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Report and Pictures from the Madison Wisconsin Tea Party

I attended the Madison Tea Party yesterday. Very professional and well-run. Americans for Prosperity may be a right-wing corporate front group, but they sure know how to put together an event. Democrats, and the left in general, could learn a lot from these guys.

I arrived early with my cameras and recording equipment, and as soon as I started to set up the nice AFP staffer in the picture below came over, introduced himself, gave me a press packet, explained the event schedule, and offered to arrange interviews with AFP officials or the speakers. There was a media platform, a bit small, but properly positioned to take advantage of the sunshine, and a professional sound and video system with a trailer-sized Jumbotron.

One of the many AFP staffers. Easily identified by their headsets and earnest expressions.
The crowd started to build as the buses from Milwaukee and other parts of the state arrived. A lot of folks drove to Madison and parked at the Alliant Energy Center, and then took a shuttle bus to Capital Square. Buses, parking, and shuttles were all free, courtesy of AFP.

As I said in my earlier post, AFP put tens of thousands of dollars into this event, and organized and ran everything from top to bottom. How anybody could believe this was a grassroots event is completely beyond me, but the crowd lapped it up every time one of the speakers played up the grassroots angle.

It was a big turnout, AFP is claiming 5000, but I think it was maybe 3500 or 4000. I have good crowd pictures if anybody wants to actually count heads. I expected a lot of mainstream conservative Republicans, given AFP's close ties to the Republican Party and because the chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin was one of the featured speakers, but the majority of the crowd seemed to be libertarians. Anti-tax, anti-government, and deathly afraid of "terrorists", "socialists", and "communists". Mad about taxes and deficits, but whether they were Ron Paul or McCain supporters what they seemed most upset about was simply that Obama won last November.

One thing that surprised me was that the vast majority of the crowd seemed to be from the Milwaukee area. I assume this was driven by righty talkers on Milwaukee radio, so if you can confirm this please leave a comment. The area around Milwaukee, particularly to the west in Washington County, is the most politically conservative part of Wisconsin.

Seems to me that the tea parties are basically an attempt by the Republican Party, working through front groups like AFP, to electorally harness the anger generated by a black president and a poor economy. It's a high risk strategy, given the extremism of people attracted by such movements, but the Republican Party, both in Wisconsin and nationally, doesn't exactly have much to lose. They've driven away moderates, so all that's left are the radicals.

Enough writing, on with the pictures. Click any of them for bigger versions.

This sign says it all.

A friendly teabagger. Seems like the folks with the most extreme signs are often the least informed. This guy couldn't put together a coherent argument to save his life, but he sure knew he was right and everybody who didn't agree with him was wrong.

The crowd, or as much of it as I could get in one picture. Mighty white, not that I expected otherwise.

Plenty of libertarians.

Jumbotron. Very nice. Very expensive. Boy, right-wing grassroots organizers sure have a heck of a lot more money than left-wing grassroots organizers.

One of the main themes of the event was trashing Jim Doyle.

Another Doyle fan.

Not much love for Obama. I didn't see any blatantly racist signs, not that AFP would have allowed them, but anything short of that seemed to be fair game.

It's Nobama with the "O" replaced by a hammer and sickle! After all, any black president who was once a community organizer is by definition a communist!

More of the communist theme. I doubt many of these folks could even define communist, but they know one when they see one.

When calling Obama a socialist or communist just isn't enough, there's always the terrorist card.

...Anti-Christ works too.

Let's see, Obama, Hitler, Marx... Wait a minute, where's Saddam Hussein? I guess the crazy right-wing sign painters must be slipping...

I asked this guy if his sign meant that he also opposed laws restricting abortion. He said "Oh no. That's completely different..." He also had no idea how much other western countries spend per capita on health care, or how life expectancy and other healthcare outcomes compared. But he sure knew that government-run healthcare doesn't work and will destroy our country!

Yeah, impeach those damn congressional socialists! All ... one of them!

A sore loser.

There were a few birthers, but not as many as I expected.

Scot Ross and the One Wisconsin posse. They were able to get right up in back of the speaker's platform with their signs. The AFP folks actually had to protect Scot and his crew from the teabaggers. Guess they didn't want a fight to spoil their carefully constructed media image of moderation and rationality.

Right-wing American political philosophy summed up in one sign. We're all just helpless victims of God and the wealthy...

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Teabaggers are Coming to Madison...

...and Appleton, Eau Claire, Fort Atkinson, Fond Du Lac, Lacrosse, Racine, and Wausau. See below for links and details.

I find the Tea Party movement quite interesting. A prime example of how conservatives are manipulated by their corporate and political masters. While I'm sure that a few Tea Parties really are local grassroots efforts, most are organized and funded by conservative astroturf organizations and the GOP. Very well funded, judging by what I see here in Madison. More on that GOP connection in a later post.

When I mention the rather obvious top-down organization of the Tea Parties to my conservative friends, one of the standard responses I get is "So what, you do whatever MoveOn tells you to do!" Now, I've organized several anti-war events through MoveOn, including two that were attended by over four hundred people, so I know a bit about how this stuff works. The only support I got from MoveOn was access to their web tools to list my events. That's it. No money. No staff. No logistics support. No training. No Rush Limbaugh or Fox News hyping things 24/7. And absolutely no help, or even recognition, from the county or state Democratic Party.

Now compare that to the upcoming Madison Tea Party. Somebody is putting up mighty big bucks for this event. Several tens of thousands of dollars from the looks of it. Free buses from all over Wisconsin. Free parking and shuttles from the Allient Energy Center (a great idea, but not cheap). A big sound system and crew. Professional web presence and PR. All very nice, but not very grassrooty.

So, who's paying for all this? Americans for Prosperity appears to be the major culprit. AFP is basically a corporate-funded astroturf group that has an anti-government, anti-tax, and anti-regulatory agenda. They seem to particularly have it in for environmental regulations. Just like Exxon-Mobil, although I'm sure it's just a coincidence. AFP also has strong ties to the Republican Party, which might explain why they didn't make a peep when George Bush was destroying our economy and turning a huge suplus into record deficits. Be a good dittohead and repeat after me: Republicans good, Democrats bad. Republicans good, Democrats bad. Republicans good, Democrats bad...

Here are all the Wisconsin Tea Parties I know about. This site has the biggest list I've seen, although it doesn't include them all. Given how paranoid, bigoted, and violence-prone many of the teabaggers already are, I'd suggest giving them a wide berth.

Still, it might be kind of fun to yell "Get a job!" if you just happen to be passing by...


Appleton - Fox Banquets, 111 E. Kimball
April 15, 5:30 pm - 7:00pm

Eau Claire - City Hall
April 15, 12:00 noon - 3:00pm

Fort Atkinson - Municipal Building, Main Street
April 15, 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Fond Du Lac - Veterans Park (across from City County Government Building)
April 15, 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Lacrosse - Location TBA
April 15 - Time TBA

Madison - Capital Square
April 15, 11:00am - 1:00pm
(Facebook page)

Racine - City Hall
April 18, 2009 - 12:00 - 1:00pm

Wausau - City Square Downtown
April 15, 2009 – 5:00-7:00pm
(Facebook page)

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Scariest Gaza Video I've Seen...

"They are forcing us to kill their children to defend our children."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Drudge Trashes Madison (Again)

Matt Drudge, the closeted gay conservative proprietor of The Drudge Report, has taken another of his periodic shots at Madison. Drudge posted a link to a story titled "City of Madison, Wis. Eyes Draconian Zoning Ordinances to 'Adapt to Climate Change'", from The Business & Media Institute.

The story says that Madison is doing absolutely terrible things, such as considering zoning rules that would...
"...adapt to meet the demands of climate change; use zoning to address or mitigate effects, or adapt to climate change; remove any barriers to mitigating the effects, adapting to climate change (trees, green space, mobility, renewable energy, land use)."
And that we're...
"...dramatically limit(ing) free enterprise and personal liberty, all in the name of environmental sustainability."
How awful! No doubt all these loony liberal policies have destroyed Madison property values and driven unemployment to French-like heights!

What's that? Madison property values have held up far better than the country as a whole? And Forbes just rated Madison as the best place in the whole darn US of A to find a job?

It's enough to make a conservative's head explode!

Or not. You see, facts are for liberals. Conservatives simply "create their own reality." Which is something they've had plenty of practice doing over the last eight years.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tammy Balwin Votes to Unconditionally Support Israel's Attack on Gaza

Yesterday Representative Tammy Baldwin voted for a resolution that unconditionally supports Israel's attack on Gaza, and places full blame for both the attack and the resulting civilian deaths on Hamas. The resolution passed overwhelmingly. Here's the heart of it:

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) expresses vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and recognizes its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against Hamas's unceasing aggression, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter;

(2) reiterates that Hamas must end the rocket and mortar attacks against Israel, recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, agree to accept previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and verifiably dismantle its terrorist infrastructure;

(3) encourages the Administration to work actively to support a durable and sustainable cease-fire in Gaza , as soon as possible, that prevents Hamas from retaining or rebuilding its terrorist infrastructure, including the capability to launch rockets and mortars against Israel, and thereby allowing for the long-term improvement of daily living conditions for the people of Gaza;

(4) believes strongly that the lives of innocent civilians must be protected to the maximum extent possible, expresses condolences to innocent Palestinian and Israeli victims and their families, and reiterates that humanitarian needs in Gaza should be addressed promptly and responsibly;

(5) calls on all nations--
(A) to condemn Hamas for deliberately embedding its fighters, leaders, and weapons in private homes, schools, mosques, hospitals, and otherwise using Palestinian civilians as human shields, while simultaneously targeting Israeli civilians; and

(B) to lay blame both for the breaking of the `calm' and for subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza precisely where blame belongs, that is, on Hamas;
(6) supports and encourages efforts to diminish the appeal and influence of extremists in the Palestinian territories, and strengthen moderate Palestinians who are committed to a secure and lasting peace with Israel;

(7) calls on Egypt to intensify its efforts to halt smuggling between Gaza and Egypt and affirms the willingness of the United States to continue to assist Egypt in these efforts;

(8) calls for the immediate release of the kidnaped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been illegally held in Gaza since June 2006; and

(9) reiterates its strong support for a just and sustainable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict achieved through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to ensure the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and a viable, independent, and democratic Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel.

To say that this resolution presents a simplistic and rather one-sided view of the conflict is an understatement. It reads as if it came straight from AIPAC, which it probably did. I doubt it accurately reflects US public opinion, and it certainly puts us in direct opposition to almost every other country in the world. But the real problem is that it makes it even more difficult for the US to play a constructive role in any negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

As I argued in my previous post, I believe that Israel, as a Jewish state, is doomed. The attack on Gaza will do nothing to change that. The only real question is if Jews will be allowed to continue living in Israel when it inevitably becomes an Arab-majority nation. The US can help ensure that they will by working for a equitable negotiated settlement to this conflict. Or we can keep doing what we've been doing, and guarantee that the Jewish People will once be again scattered to the corners of the earth.


The full text of the resolution is below. Unfortunately it's not linkable on the House's website. It passed 390 to 5, with 22 "present" and 16 not voting. The Wisconsin congressional delegation voted for it with the exceptions of Gwen Moore and Steve Kagen. I believe Kagen is recovering from knee surgery and wasn't there.


Whereas Hamas was founded with the stated goal of destroying the State of Israel; (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)


H. Res. 34

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

January 9, 2009.

Whereas Hamas was founded with the stated goal of destroying the State of Israel;

Whereas Hamas has been designated by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization;

Whereas Hamas has refused to comply with the Quartet's (the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations) requirements that Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and agree to accept previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians;

Whereas in June 2006, Hamas illegally crossed into Israel, attacked Israeli forces, and kidnaped Corporal Gilad Shalit, whom they continue to hold today;

Whereas Hamas has launched thousands of rockets and mortars against Israeli population centers since 2001, and has launched more than 6,000 such rockets and mortars since Israel withdrew its civilian population and its military from Gaza in 2005;

Whereas Hamas has increased the range and payload of its rockets, reportedly with support from Iran and others, putting hundreds of thousands of Israelis in danger of rocket attacks from Gaza;

Whereas Hamas locates elements of its terrorist infrastructure in civilian population centers, thus using innocent civilians as human shields;

Whereas Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement on December 27, 2008, that `We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence there';

Whereas on December 27, 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, `For approximately seven years, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in the south have been suffering from missiles being fired at them . . . In such a situation we had no alternative but to respond. We do not rejoice in battle but neither will we be deterred from it. . . .The operation in the Gaza Strip is designed, first and foremost, to bring about an improvement in the security reality for the residents of the south of the country';

Whereas the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including shortages of food, water, electricity, and adequate medical care, is becoming more acute;

Whereas Israel has facilitated humanitarian aid to Gaza with hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance and numerous ambulances entering the Gaza Strip since the current round of fighting began on December 27, 2008;

Whereas on January 6, 2009, before the United Nations Security Council, Secretary Rice stated that: `The situation before the current events in Gaza was clearly not sustainable. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis lived under the daily threat of rocket attack, and frankly, no country, none of our countries, would have been willing to tolerate such a circumstance. Moreover, the people of Gaza watched as insecurity and lawlessness increased and as their living conditions grew more dire because of Hamas's actions which began with the illegal coup against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. . .A ceasefire that returns to those circumstances is unacceptable and it will not last'; and

Whereas the ultimate goal of the United States is a sustainable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will ensure the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and a viable, independent, and democratic Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
      (1) expresses vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and recognizes its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against Hamas's unceasing aggression, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter;
      (2) reiterates that Hamas must end the rocket and mortar attacks against Israel, recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, agree to accept previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and verifiably dismantle its terrorist infrastructure;
      (3) encourages the Administration to work actively to support a durable and sustainable cease-fire in Gaza , as soon as possible, that prevents Hamas from retaining or rebuilding its terrorist infrastructure, including the capability to launch rockets and mortars against Israel, and thereby allowing for the long-term improvement of daily living conditions for the people of Gaza;
      (4) believes strongly that the lives of innocent civilians must be protected to the maximum extent possible, expresses condolences to innocent Palestinian and Israeli victims and their families, and reiterates that humanitarian needs in Gaza should be addressed promptly and responsibly;
      (5) calls on all nations--
        (A) to condemn Hamas for deliberately embedding its fighters, leaders, and weapons in private homes, schools, mosques, hospitals, and otherwise using Palestinian civilians as human shields, while simultaneously targeting Israeli civilians; and
        (B) to lay blame both for the breaking of the `calm' and for subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza precisely where blame belongs, that is, on Hamas;
      (6) supports and encourages efforts to diminish the appeal and influence of extremists in the Palestinian territories, and strengthen moderate Palestinians who are committed to a secure and lasting peace with Israel;
      (7) calls on Egypt to intensify its efforts to halt smuggling between Gaza and Egypt and affirms the willingness of the United States to continue to assist Egypt in these efforts;
      (8) calls for the immediate release of the kidnaped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been illegally held in Gaza since June 2006; and
      (9) reiterates its strong support for a just and sustainable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict achieved through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to ensure the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and a viable, independent, and democratic Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

If I Were an Arab...

Probably the best summation of the Israeli-Palestinian mess I've ever seen, and the reason Israel's attack on Gaza is doomed to failure, is this quote from David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel:
“If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?”
During and shortly after its formation, Israel ethnically cleansed (al Nakba) much of the Palestinian population. This might have worked had Israel's neighbors been willing to accept and resettle the Palestinians, but they weren't. Instead, the Palestinians piled up in refuge camps on Israel's borders like so much driftwood. And they're still in those camps, more than fifty years later, because Israel won't let them return, and the countries that host them won't allow them to become full citizens.

This is why a military solution, short of outright extermination, will never bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No matter how successful it is in the short term, Israel's attack on Gaza is simply guaranteeing that the next generation of Palestinians will want to keep on fighting.

In the end Israel must either reach some sort of negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, or it will be destroyed. Not militarily, but demographically. The Palestinian population, both inside and outside of Israel, is growing far faster than the Jewish population. The reason Hamas keeps lobbing rockets into Israel isn't because they ever expect to do any significant damage, it's because doing so makes Israel a rather unpleasant place to live, which discourages Jewish immigration and encourages emigration. The Palestinians may be stuck where they are, but many, if not most, Israeli Jews aren't. They can return to their home counties, and they will if it gets bad enough inside Israel. About half of all Americans who have immigrated to Israel have since come back to the US. They are the real targets of Hamas' rockets.

No matter what Israel does, within fifty years it will no longer exist as a Jewish state. How Israel treats the Palestinians between now and then will determine if Jews are able to remain in their ancestral homeland, or if they will be driven out, just as they drove out the Palestinians.

It doesn't look very promising.


Pictures from the conflict. Some are quite disturbing:

Legal status of Palestinians:

Good analysis from Juan Cole:

Jane's analyst says a military victory over Hamas isn't possible:

Israel's secret web propaganda campaign:

The UN map below shows the location and size of Palestinian refugee camps and Palestinian populations around Israel. Click on it for a larger image.