Monday, July 2, 2012

More Replies and Responses

On the topic of a rumored Israeli strike on Iran timed to coincide with the US presidential elections...

This interesting engagement continues. 

"The answer to your question about whose blood and treasure will be spent? I have no idea (and neither do you - although I understand what I believe you are implying). Unfortunately, we would need to have the event occur before we will know....likewise, if we let Iran have nuclear weapons and they use them (or their proxies use them), we have no idea who will clean-up that mess either."

If you surmise I meant the USA, you're correct. Have you any other candidates for such a task if Israel goes it alone, without an international consensus, after timing it so that the US chose not to intervene? The EU? Doubt it. We'd all like to think the Sunni Arab states would lend a hand but that will not occur if it means Gulf States appear to be backing Israel's play. 

"Likewise, if we let Iran have nuclear weapons and they use them (or their proxies use them), we have no idea who will clean-up that mess either."

If Iran develops a complete weapons grade fuel cycle, and assembles a bomb, and uses it (or lets someone crazier sounding than them use it), there would be no end to the international outrage. The line to join this decade's "Coalition of the Willing" would wrap around the block. Even the Gulf oil states will find a way to help.

"If US citizens get together to lobby Congress in order to encourage them to represent citizen interests, there is nothing wrong with that. Unions do it, seniors do it, Christians do it, Moslems [sic] do it, and so do Jews. I'm certain that the 2.1% of the US population that is Jewish does not have the ability to coerce the government to support its position without a large sympathetic following in non-Jewish communities in the US."

But when those other groups (and the many other single-issue "culture war" constituencies) lobby Congress they do so to affect domestic politics. When AIPAC, WINEP, and others pro-Israel lobbyists do it they are influencing our domestic politics in order to affect foreign policy in the interest of one particular country.

As for "one man, on vote," since the Citizens United [v. Federal Election Commission] case the flood gates have opened to allow corporations - for profits, non-profits, and special interest lobbying groups - to spend as much money as they like, precisely where they like, precisely when they like. The issue these days is more about money than votes. And no, corporations are not people too.

As for non-Jewish Americans who support Israel - right-or-wrong - scratch deep enough and you'll find that many of them are Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals who support Israel primarily because it moves them another step closer the completion of their Bible-based End of Days Christian fantasies (Of course the Bible Belt's version of the End Times does not turn out nicely for Israel, but that's a debate for some other forum).  Others who support Israel regardless of its actions are still upset with Arab states that chose the wrong side in the Cold War or loathe Islam in general for the acts of Al Qaeda. They like Israel because it's the other guy. These sorts of commitments to Israel are neither principled nor thoughtful, or both.

Well, here's hoping it’s all bluster, on all sides. If not, I'm shocked that I find the idea of the Mossad hiring MEK "former terrorists" to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists a more palatable alternative.

BTW, While I have jumped in with both feet on this and some of Dr. Afshar's other threads, is anyone here uncomfortable that this topic is massively off-charter for this [LinkedIn] Security Management Resources group? If so, let me know and I be happy to host the discussion to my blog. Thanks.

UPDATE: Took as little heat, as expected, for calling out the evangelical agenda with regard to Israel...

"Your assertion that 'These sorts of commitments to Israel are neither principled nor thoughtful, or both' lacks foundation. Are you really saying that fundamentalist Christians and evangelicals are either unprincipled or thoughtless....or both. Really?"

If I had "friends" who - after 2000 years of engaging in Bible-based antisemitism - suddenly supported any action I and my country took because my existence on a particular plot of land was a prerequisite for their Bible-based eschatological fantasies, at the consummation of which I and all my countrymen would be annihilated, then yes, I would regard their principles and thought processes as seriously flawed. Of course I would be more than happy to cash in their goodwill at the Oval Office, the Capital building, and the Lockheed Martin showroom while the goofy good times rolled. Really.

Have a fine Independence Day Holiday with you and yours. I sense we both love our country deeply; we just disagree on the details of how we should interact with a few others.

Image credit: Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor from

Interesting Pick From Dara

At the Do It Yourself Scholar...

The Hebrew Scriptures in Judaism and Christianity, by Harvard historian, Shaye Cohen, is recommended by Dara, and when Dara recommends a religion course I always take a peek.

The two Yale podcast "prequels" she recommends sound like interesting Summer listening as well:

Dara (who does not disclose her last name at her fine blog so far as I can tell) has a variety of tastes and interests I do not share (so many topics, so little time), but she runs a very thoughtful blog.  Her Do It Yourself Scholar offers links to year’s worth of study from the undergrad level and up, all of it free for downloading. 

As I have said before, give DIYS a look.

I've got a class to finish this week and another to start next week, but I'm going to add these to my listening list.

Don'ts and Do's

On the Superior Hiking Trail...

Cassie, Erik, and I decided to do a couple legs of the Superior Hiking Trail (aka the SHT; type carefully) for a weekend wilderness getaway.  We planned to start after an overnight stay at Cascade River State Park.  On Friday we would hike 9.5 miles to a campsite on the other side of Bally Creek Road.  On Saturday we'd hike 8.3 miles to Grand Marais; no, not to the delightful little resort community on the north shore of Lake Superior, but to a primitive campsite in the hills above the town.  On Sunday morning we'd hike 4.9 miles to the Cook County Road 58 trail head and catch a ride on the Superior Shuttle, which would take us back to our car at the Cascade trail head.  So, 22.7 miles in two and half days.  What could go wrong?

Well, to begin with the SHT is really scenic.  As with all things wonderful, the more scenic the view the more effort you must expend to get to it.  The Cascade River segment of the trail is really, really scenic.  I mean well and truly scenic.  In fact the net elevation gain over this segment is more than 1000 feet.  Maybe that wouldn't be so bad if there weren't all the descents in between the re-ascents.  The temperature was somewhere in the 80s, the heat index was well into the 90s.  

Somewhere along the ups and downs I began to sweat.  After a few more I began to huff and puff.  We drank a liter of water.  Thank goodness for hiking poles.  They makes ups less uppity and downs less of a downer.  Still, I started pausing at the peaks.  We drank another liter of glorious H2O.  Then I began to pause at the bottom of the descents.  The kids (okay they're 23 and 20) pounced from rock to rock, switchback to switchback, like mountain goats...young, healthy, mountain goats.  I began to pause frequently, chest heaving, leaning on my handy hiking poles.  While leaning over I noticed the sweat was running off the brim of my ball cap...drip, drip, drip.  We drank another liter.  Cassie and Erik offered to take the full water bottles so I could carry the lighter empties.  I chuckled, remembering their first backpack trips when all they carried in their backpacks were their favorite pillows.

We took a break for lunch.  Erik and Cassie had beef jerky, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and sports bars.  Tuna, salmon, and nuts for me.  A brief nap was restorative.  Away we went.

In short order came the muscle cramps.  They started with stitches in my left side.  Then as something that felt like a "Service Left Kidney" alert.  Ow.  Then they spread to include the right side.  Then up and down my back.  Then the tight muscle ache spread across most all of my chest, but was only noticeable when I moved, or breathed.  Hmmn.  Stretching helped, for a few moments.  So did sitting down on logs and rocks.  The kids disappeared for longer and longer stretches.  Each time I caught up with them we drank more water.  Then Erik insisted on taking my pack.  That looked like a lot of work.  Then Cassie and Erik tried carrying the pack together.  No joy.  We drank more water.  We were down to half a liter now.  Somewhere, a mile or so from our destination, I must have moaned or something.  "What's wrong, dad?"  "Cramps," I replied, "in my quads."  The kids said, "That's enough.  Sit here in the shade.  Drink the rest of the water.  Rest."

They doffed all three packs, and set out to find camp and the creek the map said was next to it.  They carried only the map, empty water bottles, and the water filter (they had edges and fire too, but they always have knives and flame in the woods).

I lay there in the shade, propped up against a log, amid the sun dappled greenery, kneading the cramps from my quads and hamstrings in one leg then the other.  In better circumstances it might have been nice (except for the thirst and the cramps).  I felt stupid.

Cassie and Erik returned in an hour and a half, wearing smiles and bearing full water bottles.  The camp was better than they expected and there was plenty of water in the creek.  Restored by the news, the water, and their company, I donned my pack and we pressed on to the Sundling Camp spur trail camp.

We rethought our plans and agreed Erik and Cassie would retrace our steps back to Cascade River.  This time they would descend on the east side of the river which they had not seen before.  They'd get the car and come to this end of the trail.  I'd rest and hydrate.  We'd spend another night and on Sunday head home to Minneapolis a little earlier than our original plans predicted.  That is what we did.  I threw in an "anything you see on the menu" breakfast at the Cascade Lodge Restaurant.

So, the Don'ts and Do's for middle-aged men who aspire to best the Superior Hiking Trail:

Don't go if you're seriously overweight.

Don't go if you've neglected your cardio for several months, or six.

Don't go if you're doing the Induction phase of the Atkin's low carb diet.

Don't go if you're going to pass any and all water supplies without refilling any and all empty water bottles.

But if you choose to hike the SHT despite all these contraindications then...

Do take two smart, loving children who have been camping, hiking, and canoeing since they were born.

Do take two thoughtful, insistent young people who have trained as high performance athletes.

Do listen to them when they say, "That's enough.  Sit here in the shade.  Drink the rest of the water.  Rest."

They have always been loving, but when did they get so damn smart?