Saturday, November 29, 2008

God, Gays and Wanks

It's the masturbation, stupid!

There isn't a concept in the world that the religious traditionally have more problems with than homosexuality (in plain English: gays). It troubles them deeply that this practice, prohibited unanimously by all three Monotheisms (at least they agree on something), continues to be exercised by unabating numbers around the world, by both males and females and throughout most cultures, no matter how devout or how secular.

Despite the fact that the disapproval of gayness by the religious is by and large a simple, visceral, atavistic reflex (it simply scores high on their internal disgust-o-meter), there are plenty of post hoc rationalisations that are supposed to justify their condemnation of what is essentially an innocuous and consensual human activity, not very different from other human activities in the entire plethora. It needs to be noted though that homophobia isn't the sole prerogative of the believers either: some atheists are gay bashers too.

And so we have the "Free Will" argument: in this narrative, homosexuality is a deliberate "life-style choice". I only need to ask the question (again, sigh...) to my gay friends to have them in stitches on the floor to deduce my answer to the question: the vast majority of gay people don't consider their sexual leanings to be one of choice.

Then there's the "it's a disease, dude!" argument, which is kind of a (deeply condescending) pseudo-humanistic version of the above, in the sense that it sort of absolves the alleged "sufferer" and offers the possibility of "a cure" (to be administered by Men from the Funny Hat Brigade, needless to add).

The immortal, quasi-Freudian and slightly misogynist "Weak father - Strong Mother" thingy, which assumes that unless the nukular family is led firmly by (dare I say the hand of?) a G-d like Pater Familias male youngsters will end up corrupted by the Evil of Gayness, is also still around. Interestingly, society seems decidedly less concerned about female homosexuality (consistently termed "lesbianism" - as if it were a bizarre ideology or cult). The multitude of male heterosexual fantasies regarding unholy threesomes involving the fantasist and two (or more?) unsuspecting lezzers, about to find out about the wholesome joy of heterosexual sex, probably plays a part there.

That gays are gay because they are gay is something that could never be accepted by the religious, for it would almost imply that G-d is a tad bisexual, incapable of controlling his urges to create more gay people, in fact to reserve an almost immutable quota of gayness to the successive generations since Adam and (St)eve.

But now we have a new theorette: introducing Ronen Levi Yitzchak!

Ronen, now look what you made me do: golden shower myself (no semen, Ronen, I promise!)

This guy's masturbatory delights last only 4 seconds? How long does he last with a hot broad? 3 nanoseconds??? Whizzbang well before ETA?

Personally, I always think of it as the "Hand of God", Ronen. (S)He arranges everything, doesn't (S)he?

And perhaps the slightly more effeminate male gays out there are those lucky few that manage to give themselves a complimentary blowjob too?

As regards his opinion on women, we mustn't share the same planet: on mine they're all hardnosed bitches and not a Brazilian (sexually explicit link) in sight...

Now I'm off to spill some semen in an old sock. Ronen, if I pleasure the sock first, does that still count as "in vain"? How about wearing gloves, would that protect me against homosexual thoughts? Answer me that, you sucker...

H/T Bacon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holy Land Foundation found guilty

Some fifteen years and a mistrial after the alleged facts, HLF has now been found guilty of basically financially aiding and abetting Hamas. Considering the amount of post-9/11 anti-Muslim sentiment in the US, combined with the fact that most information on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict reaches the American general public through a thoroughly pro-Israel lens, it's legitimate to ask whether this conviction is safe and just.

Not surprisingly, the American press' reaction ranges from smug to jubilant, including the Librul Mejia. And checking the blogosphere via Google's beta Blogsearch, a similar picture is obtained.

One dissenter who part-attended the last trial disagrees:

Prosecution Got a Conviction in Holy Land Foundation Trial

The prosecution succeeded, and that is the only way I can lead off on this embarrassing report. A jury of twelve Dallas residents believed a prosecution that I also witnessed, and handed down a conviction on all counts - of Muslim charities being directly supportive of Hamas after that group was declared a terrorist operation. I cannot say the defendants, including the Holy Land Foundation itself, were found guilty.

As I have reported, the courtroom procedure included allowing witnesses to testify without being identified because they were Israeli agents, allowing hearsay testimony in addition to both testimony and redirect that ranged into the territory of phantasmagorical, and a prosecution wrap-up that told jurors that they should rely on their memories instead of testimony and evidence, and that freedom of speech wasn't allowed if that speech showed bad feelings. Demonstrations against Israeli occupation were the main focus of the U.S. prosecution.

There will be an appeal, and recent overturning of a similar case in which the prosecution was allowed tactics that also ran into the unconstitutional range makes the prospects somewhat promising.

As I have previously reported, the local reports often gave prosecution contentions without balancing defense arguments, so I will give the al Jazeera report which contains both sides.
A US court has convicted a Muslim charity and five of its former leaders of all 108 charges in the largest "terrorism" financing trial in US history.

The Texas jury reached its verdict on Monday after eight days of deliberations over whether the former Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, once the largest US Muslim charity, had given money to the Palestinian group Hamas.

The charity, which was shut down seven years ago, was accused of giving more than $12m to support Hamas, which was designated a "terrorist organisation" in 1995 by the US government.

The hour-long verdict, following a seven-week trial, came after a first trial ended in October 2007 with one man acquitted on 31 charges but jurors unable to agree on verdicts for others.
Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman, reporting from Dallas, Texas, where the court case took place, said a former US state department official testified that he was never told that Hamas directed the US charity during intelligence briefings.

But an unidentified Israeli witness told the court that the aid was funnelled through Hamas channels.

Lydia Gonzalez of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the defendants did not get a fair trial.

"When you're supposed to be able to face your accusers fully and against secret evidence and secret witness, I think that leads to reasonable doubt."

Muslim groups say the prosecution has made American Muslims more hesitant to fulfil their religious obligation of helping the needy and the foundation's defenders accuse the government of selectively prosecuting the charity.

"The same charities that these guys gave to the American Red Cross is still giving to, the USAID is still giving to," Mustafaa Carroll of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.

The matters on trial in this courtroom were never about U.S. terrorism, but centered around Hamas activities against Israel. A major point the prosecution attempted to make was that zakat committees, which are the main instrument of administering charity in the Middle East, are controlled by Hamas, and therefore all charity benefited that group.

While I could definitely see that Hamas was shown resolutely not to accept Israeli occupation, I never saw any reason shown by prosecution that charitable operations in the U.S. conducted by Holy Land Foundation were a concern of the U.S. Department of Justice. That the Muslim religion demands charity and that zakat committees are the instrument of delivery appeared to be proven: that U.N., worldwide, and U.S. charitable efforts have and do deliver assistance through those means was proven as well.

Without going back over details minutely, I must say I saw no concern with justice in the courtroom that I observed; rather the efforts were concerned with making a connection between charity in the Middle East and terrorists. The aspects that I saw proven were familial and social relationships among the many groups, and that some members of the communities had Hamas connections. For the most part, the prosecution's constant attempt to blur a connection between the need for charity in occupied communities and hatred for Israel depended on very slim pickings of occasional statements of very bad feelings toward the occupiers. I was embarrassed for this country, and horrified that the jurors affirmed the prosecutors' feelings.

If all the millions spent on this mockery of a trial had gone into, say, actual charitable activities that showed the U.S. character as generous rather than undermining generosity, I would feel much more secure.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Reductio ad Hitlerium: It Never Goes Out of Style

Word had reached me that a previously unknown to me former (and reformed) member of the Hitler Youth, Hilmar von Campe, was to appear on Talk Radio's most notorious enfant terrible, Michael Savage, "to discuss similarities between President-elect Obama and the rise of totalitarianism under Hitler." The event was scheduled for November 18 but I've not found any transcript of it yet.

Minimal background research in to Hilmar von Campe showed this man to be at best a well-meaning simpleton whose core belief revolves around being on the side of truth by believing in God. As if totalitarianism is somehow the sole prerogative of the Godless and the believers haven't found themselves numerous times on the wrong side of truth. To both Savage and von Campe I'd warmly recommend reading (if not studying) 'The Origins of Totalitarianism' by Hannah Arendt, for a better understanding of why evil doesn't reside solely in one corner or another, opposing one.

In the absence of a transcript, I went in search of a suitable rebuttal of von Campe's ridiculous views on America's descent into fascism, led, that goes without saying, by Dear Leader Obama. Nothing surfaced immediately, perhaps this is only gefundenes fressen for the fringenutz? Or perhaps it's a little too early yet...

But I did find this little gem below, with great links too...

Reductio ad Hitlerium: It Never Goes Out of Style

Michael C. Moynihan - ReasonOnline | November 19, 2008.

Now that Naomi Wolf's breathless tale of America's collapse into fascism has been further repudiated (unless, that is, Hitlerian countries routinely elect people like Barack Obama), perhaps it's time for the hysterics on the right to tremble in fear at the forthcoming machtergreifung. First, the psychopathic radio host and "world famous herbal expert" Michael Savage hosts former Hitler Youth member Hilmar von Campe "to discuss similarities between President-elect Obama and the rise of totalitarianism under Hitler." Not much you can say to that, except to point out that beyond the big, excited crowds, there are absolutely no similarities. And then we have 1990s relic Newt Gingrich bemoaning what he views as the thuggish behavior of those opposed to California's Prop. 8: "Look, I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment." Gay fascism in America? Perhaps he's thinking of Austria.

After eight years of Bush, remember, it was deeply serious people like the New Yorker's Steve Coll and New York Times columnist Frank Rich that, in the final months of the 2008 election, eluded to a Weimar-like atmosphere at John McCain rallies. But their guy won. And fascism is over, if you want it. No liberal Von Hindenburg will cede power to the forces of darkness! It is early yet, though, and expect much more of this nonsense of the fringes of the right this time around.

Here he [Savage] is on healthcare, in an old clip. Is he being serious or just being funny? Bit of both I guess... But I'll give him some credit for his fury, real or feigned...

Google's SearchWiki: Promote, Remove, Comment

Increasing numbers of Google users are waking up to a new search reality: the search results on any given keyword(s) now show three extra buttons next to each returned result, allowing selected users (the lucky folks, like me, that have apparently been chosen randomly from Google account holders) to promote webpages to the top of the search results page, remove them altogether or even comment on them.

Well, they sneaked that in quite below the radar, at least for something that in the SEO community will be considered a major update. And indeed, the SEO forums are buzzing with this news, with most people trying to figure out what this means for the future of SEO and how this new feature, you've already guessed, can be manipulated for personal improvement of site rankings and thus monetary gain.

One thing is clear, for the time being, using the Promote, Remove, Comment facilities affects only how that individual user will see the results and not how others will see them. As such it is merely a way for the Googler to personalise his own search experience.

But there is no question that Google will collate the data on people's preferences and will factor these in the organic rankings, at some point or other. And let's face it: in many search term spaces Google performs badly and seems driven mainly by PageRank levels of the homepage of the organisation to which the served webpage belongs, more than by the more difficultly applied concept of "relevancy". And on longer, niche search terms what the searcher obtains looks more like an algorithm-generated lottery than a rational classification. So there's clearly room for improvement and what better improvement than a decent human touch?

Taking into account actual users preferences of this ranked page over that one could of course lay the system wide open to abuse, the most apparent attack vector being biased malware spiderbots that would attempt to artificially inflate the popularity of certain pages. As a results it's not to be expected that the new user-empowering measures will start affecting overall search results overnight: As such this is very much beta. From Google's own user guide:
Note: This is an experimental feature served to a random selection of participants and may be available for only a few weeks.

But I doubt very much that this feature will disappear any time soon though: it will take Google considerable time to objectively work out how to algorithmise what in effect will be a user-based voting system, a form of democracy on the Net as it were. And as with any democracy, expect some massive attempts at vote-rigging...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How to clone a woolly mammoth

1) Buy extinct mammal hair from eBay; 2) Produce DNA sequence; 3) Artificially inseminate elephant; 4) Cook till term


You wait 10,000 years, and then two come at once. Bigger than buses, woolly mammoths have stampeded into the headlines for the second time in a fortnight. Earlier this month, the press trumpeted the possibility of resurrecting the long-dead hairy beast after scientists cloned mice from tissue that had been sitting in a freezer for 16 years. It was a glib throwaway remark that sparked this coverage, but now we can address this question directly.

Today, Mammothus primigenius joins the genome club, that exclusive but expanding zoo of creatures that have had their genetic recipe decoded. Its illustrious colleagues include humans, mice, the honeybee, the fruit fly and the absurd platypus, all for very worthy reasons. Uniquely, this newest member is utterly extinct. Reading the 4bn letters of mammoth DNA is a monumentally cool piece of research, not just because the specimens have been buried in permafrost for millennia. As a proof of principle it's brilliant science. It also tells us much about the evolution of elephants. And if you like your science practical, it reveals new data for contemporary conservation. Because we have a genetic handle on a species that went extinct (without human intervention, as one of the types of mammoth did), we are given a new understanding of how variation in genes within species relates to extinction.

I suspect, though, that the media will again focus on the question of cloning. Let's play to the crowd and address this issue, because it is that thing that science doesn't always do terribly well: fun.

What would you need? Well, step one is to produce the complete DNA sequence, broken up into chunks called chromosomes. Already, we epically fail. The new sequence is far from perfect – they rarely are – and needs much refining before being accurate enough to avoid horrific effects on any potential clone. That would be an issue if the complete genome existed anywhere other than in silico, that is, on a computer screen. In the tissue, the DNA is hopelessly fragmented, mostly because dead mammoths freeze slowly, rather than taking the plunge into liquid nitrogen as you would in the in the lab. As it is, we don't even know how many chromosomes woolly had. Assuming it's 56, like living elephants, we have to get those chromosomes into a donor egg cell from an elephant. Again this is no mean feat. An elephant's ovaries are some 7ft from any, erm, access point, and adult females ovulate infrequently. Fortunately, mice exist that artificially harbour elephant ovarian tissue, so we can bypass that rather invasive procedure, albeit temporarily. Alas, once the mammoth genome is safely in the egg, we have to get it back into the surrogate mother. Believe it or not, this has been done for artificial insemination. I shall refrain from further detailing this uncomfortable journey to the centre of an elephant. But it's quite a trip.

Now just cook till term. We don't know how long that would be. If pregnancy were successful, we've got all the issues of a presumably surprised elephant giving birth to a somewhat hairier calf. Then there's the mammoth ethical problem of bringing to life an animal that has neither habitat nor kin.

There's a second part to this story, that isn't reported in the paper. The tissue from which the sequence was generated came from mammoth hair that had been lying in icy Siberian graves for thousands of years. But this chapter of their story started much closer to home. Stephan Schuster's team from Penn State University spent absolutely no time in the deep freeze. They initially got their hair samples from eBay, the successful bid being $130. A quick search at the time of writing shows four mammoth hair lots going, the cheapest being 99p (plus p&p).

This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of fossil trading. Schuster warns that unless you can absolutely verify exactly what you are buying, then you really shouldn't: you are potentially reinforcing a black market that serves neither science nor humankind. His team proceeded with extreme caution, verifying the credentials of the seller, verifying that he had the right licences and permits to sell samples that were legally obtained, and legally imported. Don't buy DVDs off men in pubs, and unless you really know what you're doing, don't buy fossils from eBay.

This shaggy elephant story has fantastic science and an accompanying cautionary tale. Bringing back the woolly mammoth must remain the stuff of dreams for now. We're still a long, long way from Pleistocene Park, let alone Jurassic Park. Nevertheless, today we are one step – or 4 billion letters – closer than we were. It's a word whose colloquial use betrays its literal meaning, but this latest chapter in the story of evolution is truly awesome.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Melanie Phillips the miserablist

Written days before Obama's election victory, this article addresses Melanie Phillips' jingoistic piece "Is America Really Going To Do This?" At the time, somewhat astonishingly, I couldn't find a worthwhile rebuttal of La Flips' apocalypticism but I found it here. Mel's piece is linked to for reference.

Kanishk Tharoor

28 - 10 - 08

Melanie Phillips the miserablist

At least one person in Europe isn't going all soft and misty-eyed for Obama. The irascible Melanie Phillips recently penned a fevered attack against the presidential hopeful, warning that Obama "will take an axe to America's defences at the very time when they need to be built up." While The Spectator may not be regular fare across the pond, equally frenzied denunciations of Obama have become common in the last few weeks in the US. Evangelicals beseech their co-religionists to vote for McCain in order to stave off a "far-left agenda [that] would take away many of our freedoms as a nation, perhaps permanently." Elected Republicans try to tar and feather Obama as a radical: "With all due respect," Senator George Voinovich, a Republican from Ohio, said, "the man is a socialist." In terms that echo the shrillest of these fear-mongers across the pond, Phillips claims an Obama victory would invite apocalypse.

For a hack who imagines the end of western civilization around every corner, Phillips unsurprisingly finds the most self-destructive instincts of the west in him. "Obama stands for the expiation of America's original sin in oppressing black people, the third world and the poor," she writes. "Obama thinks world conflicts are basically the west's fault, and so it must right the injustices it has inflicted."

According to Phillips, Obama is the epitome of the guilt-ridden, multicultural self-hater. His inevitable failures as president would not only be those of diplomatic compromise, but of cultural and historical surrender. Overreaching minorities will be coddled within their obliging societies. Terrorists will become objects of politically-correct sympathy. Iraq and Afghanistan will be evacuated. Israel will be sacrificed to the Arabs. Obama will strip the US - and ultimately, the "West" - of the right to assert its identity and strength. Under an Obama presidency, there will be no safe buffer zone - political and psychological - between the west and the rest.

Of course, Phillips has no real interest in looking at Obama seriously. She only wants him to be a woodcut in her shadow world of demons and angels. So it makes sense that her rant impresses other paladins of the clash of civilisations (see the comments below her piece on The Spectator website). It's as willfully deaf to reality as they are.

Never mind that there are perfectly reasonable, moderate arguments for (a) negotiating with Iran, (b) scheduling withdrawal from Iraq, (c) limiting US support for Israel, (d) searching for non-military solutions in Afghanistan, and (e) rethinking the frame and phraseology of the "war on terrorism".

The fact is that Obama is not a foreign policy sans culotte, hungry to uproot the American interest for the sake of global common good. A casual glance at his platform, his team of advisers, and his speeches throughout the campaign (notably the one given before AIPAC, the pro-Israel pressure group) show that Obama is far less ideological in his world view than John McCain, and certainly less so than the Bush administration. His cool temperament is matched by an equally cool appraisal of America's role in the world. Even "defenders of the West", like Phillips, should welcome the arrival to Washington of his style of pragmatism.

But what I find much more worrying about Phillips' piece is how she understands Obama as a symbol. She claims that "Obama stands for the expiation of America's original sin in oppressing black people, the third world and the poor." This is a remarkable inversion.

Obama does indeed "stand for" something larger in the racial history of the United States: its transcendence. His sober and moving speech on race asked all Americans to both recognise and overcome the past; it did not demand "white guilt". Were Obama to reach the White House, he would "stand for" the traditions of openness, possibility and innovation that have, in large part, made America the superpower it is today. Obama's story is a quintessentially American one.

It's telling that Phillips spins this glowing narrative into one of benighted minorities and the "third world" lording it over the feeble west. Perhaps Phillips is stuck in a peculiarly bitter, European understanding of belonging and identity, one that is too narrow to accommodate the American significance of Obama's rise. Surely, the prospect of a black president of clearly moderate political bent need not plunge conservatives like Phillips into such gloom. But it seems for her that the line between miserablism and racism is quite thin. I'd rather she stayed miserable. is back...

and I didn't even notice immediately... even though FalseDichotomies, the blog of Alex Stein, a British Jew who made Aliyah some time ago, was always one of my favourites. Alex suspended the blog during his military service in the IDF (where he served in the "External Relations division" - whatever that is), instead serving subscribed readers (like undersigned) with an often Kafkaesquely amusing email account of his army experiences. When the email address I used for receiving his musings went AWOL, I had no means of establishing when (or even whether) would start up again, until I found notice of the regained service on And I had kept FD on my blogroll indefinitely.

What's interesting about Stein's blog is that it's written from the perspective of an Israeli who wants to change things from the inside: empathy for the Palestinian plight always featured high on FD. But the FD that made its re-entry into the blogosphere late October of this year (I didn't miss that much after all...) will be a different one. As Alex notes:
The constant grind of writing about the most overwritten subject in the world – the Arab-Israeli conflict – had taken its inevitable toll. There was nothing more to say.

So FD is taking a new direction, definitely less political, more (in his own words) reflections of a life lived honestly, in Zion, in the twenty-first Century.

Remains the question, what of his once trusted side-kick, Seth Freedman? Oh, Seth is alive and kicking, as ever writing controversial pieces in The Guardian's CiF that still have Israel Firsters from across the pond foaming at the mouth at that paper's "sickening Socialist hell hole anti-Zionism" (we should never fail to disappoint "The Righteous" -where would they be without us?) But on FD 2.0 not a trace of Seth so far...

One to follow...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chasing Bitterfeld Calcium

atomic_explosionDuring my searches for information on certain chemical reactions, techniques etc I occasionally come across some bizarre information. It happened most recently when I stumbled on the story of the CIA's, assisted by MI6, quest for information regarding Soviet progress towards the making of the atom bomb, in those heady days following the descent of the Iron Curtain over Europe. The US's Manhattan project was by then rolling plutonium-based nuclear weapons off the assembly line like they were hot cross-buns. By the end of WW II, the American nuclear bomb making effort employed an estimated 400,000 people, more than the automotive sector at the time. In contrast, the Soviet program was still in its embryonic phase.

The broad principles on how to produce a Pu239-based fission weapon were of course quite well understood by most nuclear scientists of that era but it had taken the US and its team of internationally renowned scientists five long years of full steam ahead research and development to turn these principles into deliverable weapons. The question now was how long it would take the USSR to bridge that valuable gap.

As early as 1946 allied intelligence services started to note shipments of high quality calcium metal from a major chemical complex in Bitterfeld, East Germany (back then firmly behind the Iron Curtain), to various destinations in the Soviet Union.

For the production of weapons grade Plutonium-239, Uranium is needed, lots of it and of high purity ('atomic grade uranium') too and atomic grade metallic Uranium is produced industrially by reducing its oxide (UO2) or fluoride (UF4 - so called Green Salt) with very pure calcium (or magnesium).

The shipments of high purity calcium were thus a clear indication that the Soviets were getting serious and monitoring the amounts allowed the allied intelligence agencies to estimate the quantities of metallic Uranium the Soviet bomb program was producing over time. From this metric it was possible to make a crude estimate of the ETA of the Soviet fission bomb.

The narrative of the monitoring of Soviet progress by means of calcium shipments reads like a real life spy story, including defectors, German scientists deported to Russia, clandestine monitoring, infiltration, export embargos on sensitive materials and components and even a last ditch attempt at nuclear sabotage involving Boron-10, ultimately abandoned when the Soviets successfully exploded their first fission bomb in August 1949.

Well worth the read if you're interested in a bit of Cold War, nuclear and chemical archaeology...

Chasing Bitterfeld Calcium

Monday, November 10, 2008

70 years after Kristallnacht, Germany hails Jewish life

BERLIN (AFP) — Germany marked Sunday the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom, a prelude to the Holocaust, with solemn ceremonies throughout the country and celebrations of the rebirth of Jewish life here.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Jewish leaders gathered at Germany's biggest synagogue to pay tribute to the victims of Kristallnacht on November 9-10, 1938 and to the revival of a Jewish community against all odds.

The leader of the Central Council of Jews, Charlotte Knobloch, said she hoped a reminder of the atrocities would rekindle Germans' commitment to tolerance in the face of a resurgent far-right.

"It is our responsibility to keep the memories alive," Knobloch, who witnessed Kristallnacht as a six-year-old in the southern city of Munich, told the congregation of some 1,200 people at Berlin's Rykestrasse synagogue.

"Six million children, women and men must never be degraded to a footnote of history," she said, referring to those slaughtered in the Nazis' bid to wipe out European Jewry.

The pogrom, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, saw Nazi thugs plunder Jewish businesses throughout Germany, torch some 300 synagogues and round up some 30,000 Jewish men for deportation to concentration camps.

Some 90 Jews were killed in the orgy of violence, whose pretext was the murder of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris by a student, Herschel Grynspan, who sought revenge for the expulsion of his family from Germany with about 15,000 other Polish Jews.

"From that moment on, Jews knew that those who could must save themselves," survivor Betty Alsberg, an 88-year-old who now lives in Israel, told AFP this week.

Read the complete article here, with photos

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Report: Auschwitz blueprints found in Berlin apartment

If this discovery can be corroborated as truly authentic (and not another sad case of "Hitler's Diaries") it means another nail in the coffin of the deniers.

By Reuters - Via Haaretz

Original plans for the construction of the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz, including a gas chamber and crematorium, have been found in a Berlin apartment, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The daily Bild published copies of some of the 28 plans, which the head of Germany's federal archives, Hans-Dieter Krekamp, called "authentic proof of the systematically planned genocide of the Jews of Europe."

Bild gave no indication of where, when or by whom the plans were found. It said they were dated between 1941 and 1943 and stamped, "Waffen-SS and Police Construction Directorate." Some were signed by senior SS officials and one initialled by the head of the Nazi ideological corps, Heinrich Himmler.

Kreikamp told the newspaper the documents were "extraordinarily important."

One plan, drawn by a detainee as early as November 1941, when experiments in eliminating prisoners were already under way, had a gas chamber clearly labelled, Bild said.

Another showed a crematorium with places for ovens marked, and storage space for bodies.

The "final solution to the Jewish question", namely the extermination of Jews living in Nazi-occupied Europe in what became known as the Holocaust, was decided by officials of Adolf Hitler's regime in January 1942 at a conference in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee.

More than one million Jews, gypsies and others deemed "subhumans" by the Nazis were killed at Auschwitz, near the Polish city of Kracow, out of a total six million slaughtered up to the fall of the regime in 1945.

Advancing Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz in January 1945, but camp authorities had blown up the gas chambers, and Holocaust deniers have claimed there was no proof of the camp's purpose.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Settlers preparing for war, says Shin Bet chief

Dear G-d, might it be the start of that very real (and very unwelcome) possibility of an Israeli Civil War that I've been warning against? This could indeed be the moment when stances on both sides harden and where Jews are pitted against each other. The Government's decision to stop all support for illegal outposts may be seen in that light: unpopular as it will be in many Israeli quarters, this may be the clearest sign yet that Israel is preparing its people for a withdrawal behind the Green Line.

By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent

A government decision to evacuate more territory may lead to a large-scale violent conflict with settlers, complete with live fire, Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin warned at yesterday's cabinet meeting. The meeting ended with the ministers voting to end all government support, both direct and indirect, for illegal outposts.

"The scope of the conflict will be much larger than it is today and than it was during the disengagement," Diskin warned. "Our investigation found a very high willingness among this public to use violence - not just stones, but live weapons - in order to prevent or halt a diplomatic process."

While Diskin did not comment explicitly on the danger of another political assassination, the timing of his warning - just days before the anniversary of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination - was not lost on cabinet members.

"They [the settlers] don't think like us. Their thought is messianic, mystic, satanic and irrational," Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said, warning of another political assassination.

"What we are seeing today is the result of a deep rift with the faith-based community, and not only in the West Bank," Diskin said. "Their approach began with the slogan 'through love, we will win' during the [Gaza] disengagement, but has now reached 'through war, we will win."

He also warned that right-wing extremists view their "price tag" policy, in which they retaliate for every outpost evacuation with attacks on soldiers and/or Palestinians, as having been successful, and are therefore liable to expand it to within the Green Line.

The Shin Bet believes there are a few hundred extremists of this type.

"There is no clear leadership," Diskin said. "They are motivated by a unity of purpose - not to allow the security forces to evacuate people."

Following the cabinet vote on the outposts, the Yesha Council of settlements termed the decision "scandalous and demagogic," saying there is "no connection" between the outposts and extremist violence.

"The decision constitutes collective punishment and denies essential services to loyal citizens whose only sin is living in communities that the State of Israel built and sold apartments in, but has not yet finished the process of approving," it stated.

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel also called the decision discriminatory, as many illegal Arab neighborhoods receive services from the state.

In addition to its decision on outposts, the cabinet ordered a ministerial committee headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to submit recommendations within two weeks on how to tighten law enforcement, including by taking action against civil servants who facilitate illegal outpost construction.

Most of the meeting, however, was devoted to ministerial tirades against violent settlers and attempts by security and law enforcement agencies to pass blame.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said that about one-tenth of Israel's total police force is already in the West Bank, and that it is impossible to transfer additional forces there, other than temporarily for specific missions. He also said that lenient sentencing by the courts deters the police from pursuing indictments "even when they have a suspect in hand."

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz accused the Knesset of delaying legislation that would allow stiffer penalties for incitement and ban demonstrations opposite the houses of civil servants. He also said the Israel Defense Forces must make greater use of administrative orders barring extremists from the West Bank.

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi responded that the army recently issued five such orders.

"Because of this, they [the settlers] are harassing GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni," he said.

Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan said that some 700 Palestinians are under administrative detention, "but when we wanted to issue detention orders for Jews, the Knesset denounced it."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the problem stems from the fact that Israel has no eastern border, and therefore every government must view setting borders as its primary mission.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Jews Went Heavily for Hamas-Endorsed Obama...

... is the thoroughly provocative title of one of Moonbattery's latest gems [cough!]. Moonbattery, written (almost?) entirely by the Moonbat-slaying Van Helsing (do you get, huh? Moonbats - slaying - Van Helsing? These folks are... cle-vah! Subtle, you might say...)

I won't link to it: you can look it up yourself: (don't forget the http://www. now!) I've caught Van Helsing G-d only knows how many times on factual fallacies that I've given up reading Moonbattery almost altogether. But in the piece in question Van Helsing seriously crosses a line, I quote:
If Hitler were on the ballot, he would win the Jewish vote based on his socialist policies — if not on the depraved self-hatred at the heart of liberal politics.

Things then hot up just a tad in the comment section:
If Obama told Americas Jews to go to the train station and get into box cars, most of them would do it.

I used to apologize for jews a lot. Our society is indeed Judeo/Christian but I'm done. Fuck jews.

Tell your people to pull their heads out of their asses. What is it with jews and leftwing politics? They've been leftwing for the entirety of the modern era. It has nothing to do with the holocaust and hitler being perceived as rightwing, either. Jews were leftist well before that. Enough. They're like mexicans and blacks now in my book. They'll never be friends of America or of American values. Fuck'um!!

Hey Damen, don't get testy. The fact is that 78% of Jews did vote for Obama. Good for you that you were one of the 22% who didn't, but old Anon. has a point though. 78% is pretty close to 4/5 on the mark, and voting for Obama is pretty much like lining up to enter the boxcars. Don't be mad at the messenger, he's just pointing out some obvious facts. Besides, name calling and threats look more like you are from the other side.

With Jews and Hispanics it seems sincere lies always trump simple truth.

Don't forget that the Jews were also for Stalin who later made their lives miserable.
I see history repeating itself.
There are many stories about 'Jewish Guilt' and,
apparently, this is the reason they voted for Obama.

This election has opened my eyes and now I see the Jew as one who wants to be treated badly. The reason for this I haven't a clue. If we give and give and give and they still do not get who their friends are and who their enemies are than why should I care if Iran nukes them? It sounds bizarre and evil, but why should, if the case ever arises, Americans risk one precious life saving those that vote alongside their enemy? Our Lord and savior was Jewish but how would he feel if his People chose those that wish them death over those that wish them well?

Well they say the Jews own the media, its not very surprising

Of Van Helsing, instigator and oh so valiant Moonbat-slayer, not a glimpe to be seen in the comment section. I must, based also on his own post, conclude he concurs with these commenters.
Van Helsing, it's official: you're an anti-Semite...

The Autonomist goes bunker...

Having scanned a few conservative blogs' reaction to Obama's win my impression is that most are receiving the news gracefully. There are of course also exceptions. Here's one by the Far Right Wing's "defenders of Liberty", The Autonomist, on their new commenting policy:

Old policy:
People from across the political spectrum are encouraged to post comments on The Autonomist. Political blogs are the perfect venue forfreewheeling, rough and tumble discussion of current events, so the liberal commenting policy on The Autonomist reflects that. If you can't take a slight or two in the heat of spirited debate and discussion, then commenting here is probably not for you. [All strikethrough is theirs]

New policy:
We now welcome commenters with conservative viewpoints only. Since the election of Barack Hussein Obama as US President, and the great probability that he and his Party will try to reinstitute the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" to stifle dissent aimed at him and his policies, we no longer accept comments that reflect leftwing views.

This blog is now strictly an intellectual meeting place for conservatives and other non-leftists until further notice. Any comments expressing leftwing views will be deleted, and those leaving such comments will be banned.

The Autonomist site will not grant the Left any opportunity to air its talking points or to advance its agendas now that it controls the most powerful office in America.

As one commenter (commenting on the post announcing the new site policy) put it:
That reminds me of what the main character did in George orwells "1984"

Joseph Goebbels would have been proud.

Exactly: Wingnutz of the World, unite and join The Autonomist (as otherwise there won't be much left of it anyway)...

Guys, you should be deeply ashamed of yourself for thinking such a policy is somehow conducive to the conservation of Liberty...

I guess it's now a matter of time before one of the wingers complains about this ludicrous form of censorship. Or is that hoping for too much?

Creationists declare war over the brain

ID v. EB, round 2, I guess. A psychiatrist and a neuroscientist are leading the way in making the argument for "non-materialist science" in particular with regards to consciousness. Schwartz and Beauregard are of course, needless to say, embraced by our old pals at the Discovery Institute. If there is still some doubt about just how agenda-driven the DI is, I suggest revisiting their Wedge Document which reads like the manifesto of a determined political party. Just one tiny snippet is an eye-opener: "Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies." The DI essentially starts from the premises that "This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art"

and that

"The cultural consequences of this triumph of materialism were devastating. Materialists denied the existence of objective moral standards, claiming that environment dictates our behavior and beliefs. Such moral relativism was uncritically adopted by much of the social sciences, and it still undergirds much of modern economics, political science, psychology and sociology."

And so, they want to do something about this sorry state of affairs by bending science to try and prove the existence of a non-materialist paradigm and thus the existence of God.

Well, I'm not a neurologist or an expert on evolutionary biology but I truly wonder how these people are going to make any reliable measurements (or any measurements full stop) on this "non-material" bit, which, assuming for argument's sake that it actually exists, must by definition fall outside the realm of empirical observation.

Like ID, the new "non-material science of consciousness" plays the same trick. Since evolutionary biology hasn't yet been able to provide conclusive proof of abiogenesis, Behe and Dembski more or less concluded that God (the "Intelligent Designer") had to be invoked to explain the start of life on Earth. Similarly, not all is yet known by "materialist science" (also affectionately known as "science") about consciousness and so our intrepid "non-materialist scientists" once again invoke God. A pattern emerges: this is the second time the ideologues at the DI invoke God as the gap-filler.

I'm told to keep an open mind and since as they ask so nicely, I'll try...

Creationists declare war over the brain

From New Scientist Print Edition. * Amanda Gefter

"YOU cannot overestimate," thundered psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, "how threatened the scientific establishment is by the fact that it now looks like the materialist paradigm is genuinely breaking down. You're gonna hear a lot in the next calendar year about... how Darwin's explanation of how human intelligence arose is the only scientific way of doing it... I'm asking us as a world community to go out there and tell the scientific establishment, enough is enough! Materialism needs to start fading away and non-materialist causation needs to be understood as part of natural reality."

His enthusiasm was met with much applause from the audience gathered at the UN's east Manhattan conference hall on 11 September for an international symposium called Beyond the Mind-Body Problem: New Paradigms in the Science of Consciousness. Earlier Mario Beauregard, a researcher in neuroscience at the University of Montreal, Canada, and co-author of The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul, told the audience that the "battle" between "maverick" scientists like himself and those who "believe the mind is what the brain does" is a "cultural war".

Schwartz and Beauregard are part of a growing "non-material neuroscience" movement. They are attempting to resurrect Cartesian dualism - the idea that brain and mind are two fundamentally different kinds of things, material and immaterial - in the hope that it will make room in science both for supernatural forces and for a soul. The two have signed the "Scientific dissent from Darwinism" petition, spearheaded by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, headquarters of the intelligent design movement. ID argues that biological life is too complex to have arisen through evolution.

In August, the Discovery Institute ran its 2008 Insider's Briefing on Intelligent Design, at which Schwartz and Michael Egnor, a neurosurgeon at Stony Brook University in New York, were invited to speak. When two of the five main speakers at an ID meeting are neuroscientists, something is up. Could the next battleground in the ID movement's war on science be the brain?

Well, the movement certainly seems to hope that the study of consciousness will turn out to be "Darwinism's grave", as Denyse O'Leary, co-author with Beauregard of The Spiritual Brain, put it. According to proponents of ID, the "hard problem" of consciousness - how our subjective experiences arise from the objective world of neurons - is the Achilles heel not just of Darwinism but of scientific materialism. This fits with the Discovery Institute's mission as outlined in its "wedge document", which seeks "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies", to replace the scientific world view with a Christian one.

Now the institute is funding research into "non-material neuroscience". One recipient of its cash is Angus Menuge, a philosophy professor at Concordia University, Wisconsin, a Christian college, who testified in favour of teaching ID in state-funded high-schools at the 2005 "evolution hearings" in Kansas. Using a Discovery Institute grant, Menuge wrote Agents Under Fire, in which he argued that human cognitive capacities "require some non-natural explanation".

In June, James Porter Moreland, a professor at the Talbot School of Theology near Los Angeles and a Discovery Institute fellow, fanned the flames with Consciousness and the Existence of God. "I've been doing a lot of thinking about consciousness," he writes, "and how it might contribute to evidence for the existence of God in light of metaphysical naturalism's failure to provide a helpful explanation." Non-materialist neuroscience provided him with this helpful explanation: since God "is" consciousness, "the theist has no need to explain how consciousness can come from materials bereft of it. Consciousness is there from the beginning."

To properly support dualism, however, non-materialist neuroscientists must show the mind is something other than just a material brain. To do so, they look to some of their favourite experiments, such as research by Schwartz in the 1990s on people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Schwartz used scanning technology to look at the neural patterns thought to be responsible for OCD. Then he had patients use "mindful attention" to actively change their thought processes, and this showed up in the brain scans: patients could alter their patterns of neural firing at will.

From such experiments, Schwartz and others argue that since the mind can change the brain, the mind must be something other than the brain, something non-material. In fact, these experiments are entirely consistent with mainstream neurology - the material brain is changing the material brain.

But William Dembski, one of ID's founding fathers and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, praised Schwartz's work as providing "theoretical support for the irreducibility of mind to brain". Dembski's website shows that he is currently co-editing The End of Materialism with Schwartz and Beauregard.

Meanwhile, Schwartz has been working with Henry Stapp, a physicist at the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who also spoke at the symposium. They have been developing non-standard interpretations of quantum mechanics to explain how the "non-material mind" affects the physical brain.

Clearly, while there is a genuine attempt to appropriate neuroscience, it will not influence US laws or education in the way that anti-evolution campaigns can because neuroscience is not taught as part of the core curriculum in state-funded schools. But as Andy Clark, professor of logic and metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh, UK, emphasises: "This is real and dangerous and coming our way."

He and others worry because scientists have yet to crack the great mystery of how consciousness could emerge from firing neurons. "Progress in science is slow on many fronts," says John Searle, a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley. "We don't yet have a cure for cancer, but that doesn't mean cancer has spiritual causes."

And for Patricia Churchland, a philosopher of neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, "it is an argument from ignorance. The fact something isn't currently explained doesn't mean it will never be explained or that we need to completely change not only our neuroscience but our physics."

The attack on materialism proposes to do just that, but it all turns on definitions. "At one time it looked like all physical causation was push/pull Newtonianism," says Owen Flanagan, professor of philosophy and neurobiology at Duke University, North Carolina. "Now we have a new understanding of physics. What counts as material has changed. Some respectable philosophers think that we might have to posit sentience as a fundamental force of nature or use quantum gravity to understand consciousness. These stretch beyond the bounds of what we today call 'material', and we haven't discovered everything about nature yet. But what we do discover will be natural, not supernatural."

And as Clark observes: "This is an especially nasty mind-virus because it piggybacks on some otherwise reasonable thoughts and worries. Proponents make such potentially reasonable points as 'Oh look, we can change our brains just by changing our minds,' but then leap to the claim that mind must be distinct and not materially based. That doesn't follow at all. There's nothing odd about minds changing brains if mental states are brain states: that's just brains changing brains."

That is the voice of mainstream academia. Public perception, however, is a different story. If people can be swayed by ID, despite the vast amount of solid evidence for evolution, how hard will it be when the science appears fuzzier?

What can scientists do? They have been criticised for not doing enough to teach the public about evolution. Maybe now they need a big pre-emptive push to engage people with the science of the brain - and help the public appreciate that the brain is no place to invoke the "God of the gaps".

Amanda Gefter is an editor with the Opinion section of New Scientist
From issue 2679 of New Scientist magazine, 22 October 2008, page 46-47

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

BlogRush is shutting down...

For a couple of days the familiar BlogRush widget hasn't been seen on my blog. I didn't think of it as anything other than a temporary glitch up to a few minutes ago when I decided to search for an explanation, only to find this frank apology for BlogRush's shut down, by John Reese (founder).

It leaves me only to apologise for any inadvertent inconvenience caused to bloggers that signed up directly in my network (I had accumulated a 120 members spread over six levels).

Personally I'll miss the service and am astonished they gave up a good thing. But I did feel they were missing the monetization train and that wasn't a good omen...

So, goodbye BlogRush!

Congratulations, Senator Barack Obama - ooops, now President-elect!!!


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Revenge a la Conservatives...

Below an email sent by a Conservative small business owner to... well, presumably other Conservative small business owners, received and published by a fellow-blogger (who shall remain unnamed on this occasion):
Dear Fellow Business Owners,

As a the owner of a business who employs 30 people, I have resigned myself to the fact that Barack Obama will be our next President, and that my taxes and government fees will go up in a BIG way.

To compensate for these increases, I figure that the Customer will have to see an increase in my prices to them of about 8%. I will also have to lay off 6 of my employees. This really bothered me for a while, as I believe we are family here and didn¢t know how to choose who will have to go.

So, this is what I did.I strolled thru the parking lot and found 8 Obama bumper stickers on my employees¢ cars. I have decided these folks will be the first to be laid off.I can't think of a more fair way to approach this problem.

If you have a better idea, let me know.I am sending this letter to all Business owners that I know.

JOOA Corp.

Ward's thoroughly pissed-off (if not actually thoroughly pissed tout court). He's about as well placed as I or anybody else is to judge what the precise consequences of Obama's tax plan (or McCain's for that matter - these things are never simple and not written with the ordinary Joe in mind) for his business (or anybody's business for that matter) will be but his Conservative crystal ball tells him that the "Customer will have to see an increase in my prices to them of about 8%". Having a thing with eights, Ward also found 8 Obama bumper stickers on his employee's cars and since as in Ward's twisted "8" shaped world it takes laying off about one employee per percent Ward anticipates to have to pass on to his customers... six Obama supporters will have to be laid off, plus an additional two Obamatons laid off presumably just for luck...

So yes, Ward, I do have a better idea. Before you start pre-emptively ruining your own business by laying off people left, right and centre (or in your case, left, left and left), calm down, pour yourself another Bourbon and just wait and see for a bit, huh?

I've long held the belief that to be successful in business doesn't require mouch of a genius. Ward's imbecilic and vindictive pre-emptive stance counts as another small piece of evidence towards that hypothesis... The spiteful pettiness of that man leads me also to believe his business wouldn't be granted a much longer life-span anyroads, Obama or McCain...

Election revelations: 666 reasons not to vote for Barack Obama

Election road trip, day 15: While the Guardian's Ed Pilkington was researching a story on biofuels in Missouri, the general manager of an ethanol plant told him why he could never vote for Obama

Guardian America

Obama_antichristSometimes the most revealing insights strike at the most unexpected moments, jolting you out of the reality you thought you were in and transporting you somewhere else entirely. For instance, when reporting a story on the political differences between Barack Obama and John McCain over ethanol as an alternative fuel, you don't expect to be confronted with details of a plot by the devil to take over the White House.

I had hopped on to the GuardianFilms bus as it made its way across the US. We were joining forces to make a film about the ethanol issue, which has earned Obama the criticism of environmentalists because of his support for the controversial corn-based variety of the fuel that has helped to drive up world food prices.

We stopped at an ethanol plant in Craig, Missouri, where we were greeted by the general manager, Roger Hill, and shown around the plant. He said something odd early on in our tour, responding to the news that I was British by commenting on how Muslims had become dominant in my country [edit: a fairly commonly held belief-system in N.America]. I only half heard his remark, and let it go; we were here to talk about ethanol.

Later though, he brought up the subject again, when I suggested to him that as an ethanol manufacturer he must logically back Obama over McCain, who has openly criticised federal subsidies of the fuel. That's when he invoked Revelations, chapter 13. If you lack instant recall of the contents of Revelations 13, as I have to admit I did, it's the bit in the Bible where the beast rears his ugly head, or rather many heads, and reveals the mark on his right hand or forehead: 666.

Yes, Hill was likening Obama to the devil, with Revelations 13 as the proof. Which gave me pause. I've heard many, many people tell me that Obama is a Muslim, but I'd never quite heard him compared to Satan.

Back at the hotel we looked into it, and were surprised to find that the Obama-as-devil conspiracy theory is rife on the internet. Tap in Obama and Revelations 13 into Google and 904,000 entries come up. This is insidious stuff. And it jumps out at you when you least expect it. Even in an ethanol plant in the Great Plains.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Palin

Listening to Sarah Palin being hoodwinked by a (republican authorised) prank caller pretending to be President Sarkozy I gave her the benefit of the doubt right up to the very end. After all, even though it seemed increasingly unlikely as the conversation went on, it was remotely possible that she was just playing along or even simply being polite. But the end of the prank call made everything clear: Palin had been had, as she genuinely refused to see that the increasingly bizarre remarks made by the make-belief Sarkozy were in fact clues thrown to her by the comedian in question.

Alarm-bells should have started ringing in Sarah's ears when 'Sarkozy' claimed he too could see a foreign country from his home in Paris, namely Belgium (needless to say, you can't actually see Belgium from Paris but that wasn't even the point). Considering the brouhaha her 'I can see Russia from Alaska' statements caused in the media, this should have been the litmus point that should have made her smell the rat.

She remained genuinely clueless and the professional prankster couldn't believe his good fortune...

Full audio of the prank by 'Sarkozy' on Sarah Palin, here...

The morning after the night before

Barack Obama is the favourite to win the US general election tomorrow, but what will be the mood if he does? And what if he doesn't? Five writers imagine what might happen next

Guardian America

Harry Shearer

November 5, 2008, was the best of times and the worst of times for Senator John McCain. Eking out a surprise electoral-college victory in the presidential election he was favoured to lose, McCain was taking a victory lap around his Sedona, Arizona, compound when, complaining of chest pains, he texted his wife Cindy. What turned out to be his final message was: "Sell Budweiser stock."

Within hours, vice-president-elect Sarah Palin was being sworn in as president-elect, a peculiar ceremony, since the new president doesn't take office until January 20. Still, the theatrics at Anchorage's IceDome were impressive. The cast of Disney's Polar Bears on Ice skated a specially choreographed number to a disco-ised version of Hall & Oates' Sarah Smile, after which president-elect Palin signed a premature proclamation according full rights to the unborn, including the right to vote. Early interwomb polls that evening gave Palin a huge lead in the 2012 election.

• Harry Shearer provides the voice for Mr Burns and other characters on the Simpsons. He is the author of the novel Not Enough Indians.