Just Above Sunset
September 18, 2005 - Items Not Covered

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As the week ended one must note there was much in the news that deserved comment, but domestic matters sucked all the air out of the room. There was that other hurricane, Ophelia, which flooded the North Carolina coast and will hit Halifax by late Sunday. But what's to say? The war in Iraq is still there, and the bombings were worse than ever. Saturday a car bomb explosion at a market near Baghdad killed at least thirty, "as violence continues to escalate in Iraq." Tuesday the 14th it was 182 folks in one bombing in Baghdad alone. Is that then a decrease by the weekend? And one analyst says Iraq's violence is not yet civil war - while another says it is.  Does it matter what you call it?

Then there were the hearings to determine if John Roberts is fit to be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. That was painful to watch. Rosa Ehrenreich Brooks, a law professor, in the Los Angeles Times, Saturday, September 17, with this


John G. Roberts Jr. emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings as practically the only person who did not look like an ideologue or a blithering idiot.

... Still, the official liberal response appears to be that we shouldn't believe anything Roberts says because he'll say anything to get confirmed.

The cynics have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Think about it: Unless Roberts is captured on television kicking a wheelchair-bound hurricane victim, he's going to be confirmed, and we knew this well before the hearings began. He had no particular incentive to make nice to the Democrats on the committee - and he could have made far more stridently conservative statements, with little consequence.

Yet he chose, on the whole, to be conciliatory and nonconfrontational, making a surprising number of statements that even appeared to confound some on the far right.


She suggests for those on the left, this is a question of picking one's battles. This one isn't the one. The next may be.

Matters in Germany are covered elsewhere, but early in the week Ric in Paris sent along an AP item in French - José Bové is thinking about running France - or running for the office. For those of you who follow such things, it seems we may see a Gallic Red States versus Blue States thing playing itself out there. Cool. Sarkozy, the French free-market-screw-the-needy-law-and-order man, will run. Bové - the burn-down-McDo guy - may run. Chirac is just out of hospital and cannot travel, so suave Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is being coy - in Manhattan to sub for the ailing Chriac at the summit - but HE may run. This is interesting. Will the French choose the Bush-like guy, or go for the leftie environmentalist, or settle for the old-line smoothie intellectual? Laurent Fabius, at last weekend's La fête de l'Humanité, tried to revive the commies 9 and someone throws an egg at him (direct hit). Lots of fun. See the RFI Press Summary of Monday, September 12, 2005 - "Communist L'HUMANITÉ is all smiles, celebrating the weekend's sixtieth edition of the annual left-wing political party, La fête de l'Humanité, which attracted 600,000 socialists for three days of music and politics in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve. Laurent Fabius showed up to convince the faithful that he is the man to reunite the fragmented forces of the Left. He got an egg on the head for his trouble." Troubles everywhere.

That UN summit in New York? Not much happened, perhaps due to our new UN ambassador, John Bolton. Bush gave a speech, but everyone forgot what he said because this picture got everyone's attention.

And what to make of this?

Chavez: U.S. Plans to Invade Venezuela
Associated Press, AP Friday, September 16, 2005


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday he has documentary evidence that the United States plans to invade his country.

Chavez, interviewed on ABC's "Nightline," said the plan is called "Balboa" and involves aircraft carriers and planes. A transcript of the interview was made available by "Nightline."

He said U.S. soldiers recently went to Curacao, an island off Venezuela's northwest coast. He described as a "lie" the official U.S. explanation that they visited Curacao for rest and recreation.

"They were doing movements. They were doing maneuvers," Chavez said, speaking through a translator.

He added: "We are coming up with the counter-Balboa plan. That is to say if the government of the United States attempts to commit the foolhardy enterprise of attacking us, it would be embarked on a 100-year war. We are prepared."

Chavez has been attending the summit of world leaders at the United Nations in New York this week. On Thursday, he denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq and told other leaders they should consider moving the U.N. headquarters out of the United States.

To prove U.S. intentions to invade Venezuela, Chavez offered to send "Nightline" host Ted Koppel maps and other documentation.

"What I can't tell you is how we got it, to protect the sources, how we got it through military intelligence," he said.

In the event of a U.S. invasion, Chavez said the United States can "just forget" about receiving any more oil from his country. ...


Yes, they supply thirteen percent of our oil. There's more here in the Los Angeles Times under the headline "Frustrated U.S. Finds Few Willing to Join Anti-Chavez Coalition" with the subhead "Washington's agenda in the region proves less appealing than cheap Venezuelan oil." In short, we're trying to form a coalition of nations to the south of us to oppose him - even if he was elected three times and all his referendums pass by a wide margin. No one wants to join. They get relatively cheap oil. And his own population seems to like his emphases on reducing poverty and improving education and health, while we focus on free trade and terrorism. Oh well.

By the way, Iran this week says it will share nuclear technology with other like-minded countries in the Middle East, and the talks with North Korea, to get them to stop their nuclear weapons program, fell apart. You could look it up, along with the rioting in Northern Ireland even though there seems to have been some agreement to stop all that.

Israel pulled out of Gaza and then this: Palestinian police move to stop chaos on Gaza border (Reuters, 16 September) –


Hundreds of Palestinian policemen were sent to Gaza's border with Egypt on Friday to stop thousands from flowing across a frontier barrier which Palestinians breached and overran after Israel's pullout.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to stop the crossings, which added to growing lawlessness in Gaza in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from the territory after 38 years of occupation.

"We and our Egyptian brothers are trying now to close these holes and control the movement of people through the border and things will hopefully be under control within two to three days," he told the Palestinian government-run Wafa news agency.

Palestinians also stormed evacuated Gaza settlements after Israeli troops left, smashing structures and looting.
Internal violence has raged in Gaza in recent months as a result of rivalries between armed factions and frustrations over alleged government corruption.

Abbas has struggled to control militants who have taken over streets and gained power in the territory, claiming Israel's pullout as their victory.

He has warned that chaos will not be tolerated but has not specified how he plans to combat it. Israel and Washington demand he disarm militants but Abbas has preferred to try to co-opt the armed groups, who have vowed never to give up their weapons. ...


And so it goes.

But don't forget New Zealand. See New Zealanders cast votes in knife-edge election (Reuters, 16 September) –


New Zealanders were voting on Saturday in a tight election which opinion polls suggested was too close to call after a rough and tumble campaign.

New Zealand's 2.9 million voters have a choice of 19 parties ranging from Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour and the main opposition National Party to the pro-marijuana Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and the anti-monarchist Republican Party.

Polls opened at 9 a.m. (1700 EDT Friday) at 2,700 voting stations across the southwest Pacific island nation.

Opinion polls suggested one of the tightest contests in New Zealand history as Clark's centre-left party seeks a third straight term over conservative National, led by former central banker Don Brash. ...


A Cannabis Party? Interesting. But it's already over - "New Zealand's ruling Labour Party appears to have won a narrow victory in elections, but will need the support of minor parties to form a government." Maybe this Cannabis Party will help them out.

What else you might have missed? The Oxford conference on Einstein, God and Time.

Face to faith
Can God know the future? It probably depends on whether you believe in a block universe or process theology, writes Tim Radford
The Guardian (UK), Saturday September 17, 2005


The question is simple enough: can God know the future? Every word in that question is a challenge, including "can" and "the". But cosmic physicists and theologians tackled it head on this week, at an Oxford conference on Einstein, God and Time. It was backed by the Ian Ramsey Centre, part of the university's theology faculty. It also had the backing of the university's Clarendon laboratory, which changed the face of 20th-century physics. And it was a clash of two big ideas, put variously as the "block universe" and "process theology".
The first sees the universe as a lump of spacetime embedded in eternity, with God on the outside, looking down on past, present and future, all simultaneously fizzing with probabilities on scales ranging from the subatomic to the intergalactic. The other proposition sees God as involved in the universe, sustaining it and making things happen, although not necessarily directly. ...


Read on at your own risk.

It was quite a week.




Late note from Ric Erickson in Paris:


"Palestinians also stormed evacuated Gaza settlements after Israeli troops left, smashing structures and looting. … "

I'm not sure this is true. TV-news here showed Israelis trashing everything on the way out, wrecking buildings, destroying crops. If it couldn't be carried away it was demolished. It didn't look like anything had been left behind to loot. No Palestinians were supposed to 'profit' from the pullout.

There was one synagogue shown, made of concrete, with a sign left in it - 'Holy place' - and Palestinians went in and burned some flags or scraps of cloth - that they may have brought with them. TV-news dutifully reported how the Palestinians were wrecking synagogues. What were they expected to do - turn them into car washes?  Withwhat?

Then, for the first time in 38 years, or 98 years, Palestinians were shown with access to the beaches along the Mediterranean. They hadn't prepared for this; they went into the sea in their clothes. Not many Gaza merchants sell bathing suits.

I don't know what the business is with the Egyptian border. Apparently the Egyptians weren't in place - they only had 38 years to get ready. In place, that is, to keep Palestinians out of Egypt. The poor folks thought they could just walk across their border into a brother country as if they were free, but they got shot instead.

What a dump! Gaza was an overcrowded refugee camp in a treeless desert with a population of over a million with a few armed and fortified settlements containing a few relatively rich settlers with martial law to back them up. I read somewhere how the settlers sweated blood and tears to make their plantations prosper, and then the Israeli government just gave it all away for no reason at all. As if the Palestinians weren't people; had no rights, were worthless, and preferably didn't exist.

Well, Gaza is still an overcrowded refugee camp. Between the Egyptians and the Israeli navy the only way to get to Gaza is via Israel. If a Palestinian zillionaire built a resort hotel there you'd still have to have a visa for Israel and go through an Israeli border to get to Gaza. Although totally undeveloped, the beach didn't look too bad. Warm-looking water.

I hope Sharon's friends don't bump him off. Those people are more hotheaded than South Americans.

Looting? Who looted what from whom? Who starts these stories?


Further comment from our Phillip Raines in Georgia:


I heard a theory that Sharon was setting up the possibility of flattening the Palestinians after the first suicide bomber hit Israel and then saying with hurt fury - "Well, I tried, but they are still a threat."  He would then take back all that had been given away. 


I think one of the two of them should be offered a sliver of Texas as their new homeland.  It's a caldron of calamity in the Middle East, and just looks hot.


From Ric in Paris to Phillip in Georgia:


It's a good idea since Americans are paying for it anyway. All that money going into the Middle East, the silly part where there's no oil, is just down the sewer.  Planting Israelis or Palestinians on the Mexican border?  How about a coin flip?  Who wants heads, tails?  Anybody want to ask the Texans? To give up a sliver of desert?



Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Paris readers add nine hours....