Holiday Greetings for the Self-Absorbed

When my birthday arrives, I will not wish you a Happy Birthday, because I know that just because the day is important to me, it is not necessarily important to you.

If your intention is mainly to talk about yourself, go ahead with "Merry Christmas." If your goal is not purely self-absorbed, then you might want to take into account the fact that I'm not Christian.

If want to wish something for me, "Happy Chanukah" is more appropriate. I will not be having a "Merry Christmas" regardless of what you say, but I will be celebrating Chanukah and appreciate the good wishes.

But, I like to share the general happiness and really do wish well for other people, so I don't walk around saying "Happy Chanukah" to everyone. I know that's not meaningful to many people. I say Happy Holidays because that applies to everyone who wants to celebrate this month and I want to offer them good wishes in a way that takes their needs into account.

Unfinished Essay, 11/5/14

It used to be that 'get out the vote' was the key to winning elections because people mostly didn't care about politics and, if they got to the poll, they would vote based on an impression gained over a long period where the only details that held constant were facts. Politicians said a lot of nasty and dishonest stuff about each other but, their reach was limited and the messages were neither very consistent or sophisticated.

Lies were background noise. People made simple decisions based on impressions that were substantially based on reality and self-interest.

Today, elections are in a communication milieu based on pervasive communication technology and sophisticated product marketing techniques. Advertising has been proven to work (people routinely buy things that are unhealthy, overpriced or useless based on advertising) and, with the addition of unlimited money, provides a constant propaganda stream where the fiction overwhelms the facts.

Both parties have access to this technology but the Democrats are missing one other thing. They are unwilling to say things that completely contradict reality. Republicans are. So, we have been subject to eight years of assertions that Barack  Obama is an extreme, liberal socialist even though that is literally the opposite of the truth that he is a left leaning conservative.

We are told that Obama and the Democrats have ruined the economy and that is literally the opposite of the truth. We have been told for years that Obama "wants to take away your guns" another assertion that is completely untrue. The list goes on and on.

It turns out that humans are largely powerless in the context of sophisticated and pervasive advertising. As a consequence, we have grocery stores filled with unhealthy food that people buy with joy, a Christmas holiday season that bankrupts people, and the rejection of the Democratic party.

Back in the day, the political class had a certain loyalty to the idea of our political system. Their self-image required them to pretend to be honest, to pretend to value the give and take of a system with competing interests, to pretend that they respect America and its people, including their fellow politicians. That is, there was, if not honor among thieves, there was a quaint expectation that being able to get a lot of votes entitled one to some deference, even if only as a matter of respect to their voters.

This is no longer the case. Arguably going back to McCarthy in the fifties, we have moved away from the idea of governing as an honorable profession of serving America's interests and toward one where the pursuit of power is paramount. It is justified with the notion that one cannot do any good if one is not elected, but it comes down to the use of any means possible to gain and keep power, even means counterproductive, even traitorously so, to the interests of the country.

So, we elected a political party who refuses to implement ideas that are known to work (and it used to love) such as 'cap and trade' for CO2 reduction even though our military lists climate change as a major security threat. They pretend concern about the deficit even though it's been proven time and again that deficits are the only way to keep the economy moving in a recession. They say that health care workers exposed to ebola should be quarantined even though the experts say clearly that that would be counterproductive.

It all adds up to a vicious imbalance. On the one had we have people

There was an idea called 'laissez faire capitalism'. It said that, for capitalism to work, it must be pure. Capitalists should be allowed to do anything that made sense to them in the pursuit of profit, that there should be no regulations or impediments on market processes.

This was a very bad idea that lead to another thing called 'social darwinism'. Adherents to this idea rejected calls for them to make factories safe for workers, arguing that the workers would never adapt to industrial life if those unfit for factory life were protected and thereby allowed to breed unfit children.

It became obvious that these were completely dysfunctional ideas and, today, there are no purely capitalist societies left. Every place has regulations, some form of economic redistribution and, among other things, lots of workplace safety rules.

John Bennett "Blackjack" Baren (1944-2014) RIP

The long, strange trip of John Bennett "Blackjack" Baren, psychotherapist and raconteur, age 70, ended on October 3, 2014. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife and life partner of 28 years, Margie C. Baren; parents Morton "Barry" Barenboim and Juliet Baren; and his great-aunt and surrogate mother, Sadie Loeb. He is survived by sons Ted Corky Cogan (Gina Jackson), outdoorsman and adventurer; Robert John Baren (Darcy Haley), indoorsman and agitator; and his cousin and partner-in-youthful-mayhem, Joan Hanssmann (Dennett). He was grandpa, friend, playmate, instigator, storyteller and confidant of Joshua Cogan and Allison Cogan. John Baren was friend to poets, philosophers, psychologists, pirates, artists, musicians, theologians, scientists, saints, and scoundrels.

He loved animals and was preceded in death by dogs and cats Lucky, Pookie, Garfield, Mandy, Savannah, Salt, Pepper, Striker, Snickers, and his beloved hound dog Beauregard. He is survived by the very sweet and loyal Molly the Dog.

John Baren held degrees and certifications from the University of San Francisco, California State University at Sacramento, and Wright State University in psychology, sociology, physiology, philosophy, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and behavioral psychology. He started his career working in various mental health facilities for the State of California and on the faculty of the University of California at Davis. He also served as Executive Director of the Dayton-Montgomery County Mental Health Board, Executive Director of the Bellaire Psychiatric Hospital in Houston, Texas, CEO/President of Anclote Manor Hospital in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and on the faculty of the Wright State University School of Medicine. He worked in private practice of psychotherapy for over 40 years where he cherished his longtime partnership with Dr. Kathy Platoni, COL, US Army (RET). At the time of his passing Baren was a therapist and former Clinical Director of Wernle Youth and Family Treatment Center in Richmond, Indiana.

Of his many professional experiences, he was most proud of his time at Wernle Youth and Family Treatment Center. There John Baren was a tireless advocate for the care of children while also serving as surrogate father and grandfather for both residents and staff. Throughout his career, most recently at Wernle, he trained and supervised hundreds of therapists, psychologists, and mental health professionals.

Born and raised in San Francisco, California, John Baren was an accomplished sailor and juvenile delinquent. He regularly used his sailing skills to antagonize guards at the then-occupied Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. He came of age at the epicenter of the hippie and peace movement and spent time with contemporary artists of the time including members of the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company. While attending the University of San Francisco he also played professional tennis.

As an artist, John Baren was known for colorful and whimsical pen-and-ink drawings and mixed-media pieces. As a writer he completed several books of poetry and short stories, and he most recently completed a novel. He also published several scholarly articles, and wrote, edited, and collaborated on numerous books and textbooks on psychology.

Throughout his life John Baren collected many rare, interesting, and extremely odd tchotchkes, pieces of art, firearms, antiques, bizarre neckties, and memorabilia. He enjoyed good cigars, quality bourbon, excellent food, and crappy beer. Rest assured the legend is true, the stories are accurate, and much has been omitted to protect the innocent...and the guilty.

Memorial service to be held on Saturday, November 29, 2014 with time, venue, and performers to be named later. Questions may be directed to the administrator of the estate (such as it is), Dr. Kathy Platoni (contact information provided upon request).

(My friend, Rob Baren, lost his father recently and wrote a lovely eulogy. I never met his father but, considering this lovely little piece, I regret that.)

Seventy Five Years

Long ago, I decided that there would be a time when I would refuse medical care intended to prolong my life. The author's reasoning about 75 as the right age for this to happen is compelling. (It might even cause me to consider getting some medical care to help me actually get to 75.)

This part of his story is particularly meaningful to me. I consider the meaning of my existence to substantially be the impression I leave on my children and have long worried about the harm an infirm old age would cause. I hate the idea of their recollections and stories being dominated by illness and incapacity.

"At age 75 we reach that unique, albeit somewhat arbitrarily chosen, moment when we have lived a rich and complete life, and have hopefully imparted the right memories to our children. Living the American immortal’s dream dramatically increases the chances that we will not get our wish—that memories of vitality will be crowded out by the agonies of decline."

As I think about this more and more, I think it is very useful to have a working definition of when the end of life is no longer to be resisted, when dying is no longer a tragedy. One hopes to be missed but, I want my offspring, family and friends to have a way to consider my inevitable passing to be appropriate and good, a culmination, not some terrible end.

Go Apple, Screw the Law Enforcement Tyrants

I certainly am ok with allowing search warrants to be executed but, I also think we have an *absolute* right to conduct out lives in ways that frustrate that goal. In the old days, one would move across the country and be effectively out of reach. Now that's impossible but, we have this.

I am irritated by two things in the public conversation about this. One is discussion of the many edge cases where it would be a real problem. Of course it would be a shame if well-encrypted phones prevented rescue of a child. So would the guy not having a phone. So would an earthquake. In either case, it's a rare problem that should not drive public policy.

The other is the notion that the entire society should shape itself around the interests of law enforcement. Law enforcement is a utility. It is here to help us out. I want my data to hav maximum security. Sure, that's partly because I might want to participate in a revolution or vote against the next dictator, but even more, I want 4CHAN to have as difficult a time as humanly possible.

The lazy sense of entitlement on the part of FBI Director Comey makes me insane. You are here to protect our privacy, not sabotage it. If it is more work to catch the bad guys, ask for a raise. It's your job, not mine.

Those Responsible Should Suffer

This woman is a hero who took care of her daughter and is going to prison for it. The people at the hospital who reported her to the police, the local prosecutor and the judge who put her in prison all had the discretion to be reasonable. Instead, they allowed their right-wing, woman hating politics to PUT A WOMAN IN PRISON FOR HELPING HER DAUGHTER.

WHY? Because they they have made it so that the abortion clinic is too far away and costs too much. They are poor people.

The people at the hospital who reported her to the police, the local prosecutor and the judge deserve abuse and hatred. They deserve to never have a moment's peace while this woman is in prison.

Daesh Cutthroats

Because I know everyone is wondering what I think of the President's plan for combating the Daesh Cutthroats (formerly known as ISIL or ISIS or Islamic State), I thought I would read up so I can tell you.

Bottom line: Anyone who claims to be certain about what is right is a fool.  Both fighting and leaving them alone are moves in an extraordinarily complicated chess game. Either way, there are risks. However, Obama knows more than you and I do so I guess he's more likely to be going the right direction.

Letting them continue unimpeded could allow the consolidation of a huge power bloc that would in every way be dangerous to American interests. Neither Obama (apparently) or I (for sure) believe that there is any meaningful danger to us, here but, allowing these people to become substantial players on the world stage will certainly result in our lives becoming worse.

However, engaging them is expensive and carries risk of the 'Guantanamo penalty', that is, it might motivate the bad guys much more than it's worth. I don't consider it very likely that we will be forced into a large engagement. At least, not as long as Obama is president. (If you allow a Republican to run the military, they will find a way to start a war no matter what. This will only make it sooner.)

To calculate the correct answer means figuring out how it will effect Assad of Syria and his opponents, Iran, Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and, don't forget, Russia. (And leaving out the Kurds and numerous other groups who are unlikely to be a huge risk factor.) This is a maniacally complicated situation that is the essence of the mathemtical definition of chaos.

My personal summary of the idea of 'chaos theory' is that every real-world calculation requires several steps and that, at each step, the situation can only be known within a certain margin of error. After an amazingly small number of steps, the multiplication of the errors in each one means that the error function of the result you are trying to determine is so great that your prediction is meaningless.

Dealing with the Daesh Cutthroats will require a long series of actions. Each of them will have unpredictable results. I repeat, anyone that purports to know how it will turn out is a fool.

By that I mean, if you are strongly opposed to Obama's decision for us to become involved in this or if you think he is being too weak, your certainty alone is evidence of intellectual failure. It is fair to like it, or not like it, but thinking that you know the correct answer is foolish. I'm guessing that, if Barack Obama were here to discuss it, he would say the same thing.

He has to make a call. That's his job. I'm no more enthusiastic than anyone about this but, he knows more than I do.

iStockphoto Screwed Me

They have changed their pricing model to be a fifteen dollar minimum price.

Hitherto, I was able to grab low res images to decorate websites for a few dollars each. I could make a cheerful page with three or four images for twenty or thirty dollars. Now that page would cost $45 or $60. Insane for my usage. still has decent pricing. Their images are not, generally as good, but they have just become my goto source for web stuff., I hate you now!!!!

Denying Reality in the Israel/Gaza Conflict

The left in America has long had a negative attitude about Israel. The support of the underdog that is so important in America, is misapplied in the Middle East to the support of the genocidal murderers of Hamas. It might be simplistic analysis that concludes that poverty excuses everything and that wealth and power is always evil. It certainly has an anti-semitic component. I think there is a reflexive opposition to anyone who is an ally of the American military.

 One of the main news organs of the left is The Nation magazine. I often subscribe to it and generally agree with their strong, leftist philosophy. But, they harangue against Israel during the current conflict with Gaza (especially HERE ) with a viewpoint that, I think, comes down to being propaganda. It overlooks really important, basic issues and focuses on distracting details. It is, essentially (and I know how ironic this is considering the source), a conservative viewpoint. It prioritizes ideals without consideration of the practicality of the real world.

For example, that article's first point is that the right to self defense is subordinate to UN Article 51 and makes assertions about the balance of suffering, etc, but concludes with a literal non-sequitor, that “no country would tolerate rocket fire” is baseless. I read the paragraph six times and that conclusion is not even suggested by the previous context. It exemplifies the problem of this viewpoint. It is based on a pure assertion merely associated, but not supported, by other ideas. Ie, propaganda.

I understand that international law can be construed to judge Israel’s actions illegal. I also know that, regardless of principal, no society would allow rockets to be shot at into its population. Every person involved in writing that article would commit any illegal act necessary to prevent a child from being raped. They would say, “Look. Some things take priority. Some things cannot be allowed.” In fact, “no country would tolerate” is the only part of the argument that matters.

I read article to simply reiterate the conclusion that Israel is evil. Some of the facts contradict my understanding but it doesn’t matter. Israel is a country descended from people who suffered genocide. It is surrounded by enemies sworn to repeat that genocide. When it has attempted civilized interactions they have been universally rebuffed. When they have unilaterally lowered their guard, their position got worse.

Were The Nation not part of the Israel-hating left, it would offer some discussion of what Israel should do instead. It would have a prescription for how Israel could move things forward. What tomorrow might look like. That doesn't happen. It never happens in these articles about how bad Israel is treating the people in Gaza.

When liberals are confronted with anti-choice types, they are irritated by the assertion “because it’s a baby.” They say, “But what about the teenaged girl who has been raped?” Or, talk about a woman’s autonomy. They insist that real-world facts be accommodated by any acceptable viewpoint. Or, when a rightie says, "People should earn their keep." We say, "Absolutely, but, there are many reason why they don't and society can't function with starving people around. You're insistence on allowing children to starve based on your ideal of responsiblity is itself irresponsible."

This viewpoint does not account for the fact that Israel has rockets and tunnels to deal with. Talk about UN Article 47, the human catastrophe, the occasions where Israelis soldiers have behaved badly all hew to an ideal of state behavior, but they miss the real point: rockets are being shot into the population. The only option that anyone seems to suggest is to allow the rockets to continue. It is meaningless practically as just letting people starve because they won't work.

Israel is a democracy with a free press. It is a country whose values and lifestyle generally parallel ours. In fact, many of the leading people in Israel come form America. They are as close to being us as you could want. The suggestion that Israel, that Jews, would specifically abuse a population is silly. It might happen in a lapse but, systematically, they are no more likely to think, “We will kill a whole lot of Palestinians for fun,” than we are – and, in this case, the we I mean is real people, not the CIA.

Israel is a country that is dominated by Judaism. Unlike the assertion that America is a Christian country with laws based on Christian principles, Israel is a Jewish country with laws based on Judaism. Judaism does not allow the behavior the left asserts. Murder and 'collective punishment' are not allowed. It insists on the ethical treatment of people, of telling them to get out of the way of the bombs. It requires building field hospitals to treat injured Palestinians. It requires minimizing harm and, by all accounts, they seem to me to be doing that.

But, if it does happen, their free press will reveal it, just as our did the CIA prisons, etc. So far, no dice.

I conclude, though, by repeating the assertion, no country would tolerate rockets being shot into it’s population. Nor, tunnels being dug into its interior clearly intended to convey armed combatants bent on murder. I will really only consider an opinion to be interesting when it takes these two facts into account and presents a recommendation for what could be done otherwise.

Israel Gaza. A Historical Perspective

The issue with the Palestinians is much like the issue of abortion. It’s a tool being used to achieve a completely unrelated goal. In both cases, there are underlying issues that have some legitimacy. Killing babies can be a bad thing. Subjugating people can, too.

In neither case, though, do the people agitating for those issues actually desire a solution. Their goals are, instead, purely political. In the case of abortion, it’s long been clear that nobody actually wants to reduce abortion. Mere sex education is proven to do that better than any other option yet they oppose that because they want to preserve the controversy.

With the Palestinians, there have been many sincere attempts to come to terms with the problem that have been jettisoned. In particular, during the series of meetings around the Camp David Accords, Yassir Arafat specifically rejected what, I read some years ago, was a real, two-state solution that was, by any logic, acceptable to everyone. Nobody can really know his intentions, he was acting single-handedly, but, it is thought that he was keeping the issue alive for his Arab masters.

Israel, of course, has its politics, too. They are, however, analogous to our liberals here. Just as we are happy to settle for “safe, legal and rare” with restrictions that don’t please everyone but keep abortion from being used as normal birth control, the Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution with security arrangements that prevent the two areas from being used to launch a war. They would prefer to have the Palestinians be absorbed into Arab countries where they would have more resources, a society to live in and would allow them to treat the territories as security buffer zones, but they are practical.

You probably know that the Middle East, overall, was, like much of the rest of the world, colonized by Britain. Their practice was, like the Roman Empire before them, to move in, use a combination of intimidation and bribery to co-opt the local leadership, and extract resource, influence and wealth from the region. In many places this worked perfectly well until the international community developed sufficiently that atrocities were punished. Then the locals ejected the Brits and became independent.

In the Middle East, it appears to me that things went somewhat differently. As with America, there were native peoples but in those two places, they were nomadic cultures. Over here, the country was simply too big and too far away for Britain to co-opt and exploit the Native Americans so they sent British citizens to exploit the place.

In the Middle East, the region was close enough for them to really exert their influence but, as nomadic cultures tend to be, there was no head of state they could dominate. The tribes were independent and, since they lived in a really hostile environment, were tough as nails. Worse, there wasn’t a lot of wealth to be extracted. Oil wasn’t important (I don’t know if they even knew about it at all) back then. There were no minerals, no crops, nothing. The place was a desert.

Still Britain kept at it for a good long time until the end of the colonial era in the early part of the last century. They realized that the Middle East was not profitable and decided to grant independence. Since this was also not going to be profitable, they did a hack job of it. (I can’t remember exactly but, the countries of the Middle East were drawn up by some guy who’d never been there or something. It was really stupid.) They formed countries with nearly arbitrary boundaries, installed their most bribable strongman as the boss and got out of dodge.

Comes the end of World War II and there were a lot of displaced Jews that nobody wanted hanging around their country. Not only is anti-semitism a completely real, important motivation in history, but they were poor, sad people with a weird religion and no jobs. A guy named Theodore Hertzl had previously come up with the idea of a Jewish homeland and everyone thought, “Oooo, we could, in the name of a ‘principle’ get rid of these Jews. Let’s make a homeland!”

So they did. Since this was near the time that the Middle East was being partitioned by England, it wasn’t very hard to do it. Just as they were doing with the rest of the Middle East, they drew a nearly arbitrary country (inspired by history, but only a little) and, Voila!, Israel was born.

There was one difference with Israel. It was not intended to contain the previous indigenous peoples. It was supposed to be a dumping place for the European Jews. This didn’t sit well with the locals. They were also anti-semitic. They also didn’t want a bunch of foreigners hanging around.

So, shortly after Israel was formed, the Arabs in the region started a war. Turns out the Israeli Jews had learned from their experience with extermination. They kicked Arab ass big time. By the time it was done, they had kicked almost all the Arabs out of the country. This was more reasonable than it seems. The Arabs in their country were, to a substantial extent, the main fighters trying to kill them.

And so, the ‘Palestinians’ were born. This is not an historical cultural group. There are occasional attempts to portray them as such because, of course, they are descendants of indigenous people. However, they are actually just the people who happened to be living in the region that became Israel. There exists, for example, a cultural group called Persians. They were named long, long ago. They have a cultural identity that is distinct from others with cultural practices that are discernible, etc. There never were Palestinians, per se, in history. It became a cultural group purely in opposition to Israel.

Not that they don’t exist. Obviously, the Palestinians have become a distinct cultural group. That they were formed a recently doesn’t make them illegitimate. However, it changes their historical claim. They are not, for example, the descendants of a long, honorable culture that has cherished the land under Israel since time immemorial. Nor are did they have a culture that was brutally disrupted by the arrival of the Jews. When Israel started, they were just people living there. The Jews wanted to live there, too. (And, have a plausibly greater claim to the territory. The Jews actually had a country that was stolen from them in pre-Biblical times.)

The Palestinians are, simply put, the people who had tried to kill the Jews and failed. In the attempt, they were ejected from Israel, ended up living outside the country.

In 1967, only twenty years after Israel was formed, the Arabs made a second attempt to destroy Israel. They failed yet again. This time Israel realized two things. One, the Arabs were implacable enemies. Two, the borders drawn by the British were stupid.  They were simple not defensible.

Since they had well and truly beaten the Arabs in ’67, they were able to enforce their will at the treaty table. What they wanted was a secure buffer zone between Syria and Israel and between Egypt and Israel. These became known as the Occupied Territories. You know them better today as the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip (adjacent to Egypt).

I’m not expert in the details but, roughly speaking, they stopped being part of any country. Israel established settlements in each region, mainly for the purpose of early warning if the Arabs started building up troops or started to attack Israel. There were, of course, plenty of people living there, mainly the refugees of the earlier war, now called Palestinians. However, it was pretty much live and let live.

As time wore on, the Palestinians noticed that they were poor and that Israel was rich. This made them feel like they wanted stuff. The rest of the Arab world was still pissed that they hadn’t been able to destroy Israel in ’67 and so pushed their strongman into leadership of the Palestinians. His name was Yassir Arafat. Considering how it turned out, it’s pretty clear that his goal as leader was not to secure a good, peaceful life for his people.

The Israelis liked living in Occupied Territories. Just as some people really enjoy the expansive solitude of mid-Iowa or Montana, it was nice to have some land and less traffic, etc. Whatever rules had allowed the creation of the earlier security oriented lookout settlements were used to create settlements to accept excess population from Israel proper. Eventually, I suppose those rules were pushed beyond their intentions to create settlements without a security mission and eventually, there were a lot of Israelis living in the Territories.

There have been many twists and turns but Israel has, as far as I know, never been much opposed to the Palestinians having a decent life. The problem of security would have to be solved but, given that, having a happy peaceful country on the border is better than having a miserable one. Consequently, Israel has been available for attempts to solve the situation. That lead to the Camp David Accords which established the Palestinian Local Authority headed still by Yassir Arafat who sandbagged the negotiations that would have lead to an independent state of Palestine.

Israel has actually tried many strategies to manage relations with the PLA but, much of it has been angry and suspicious. They remember the many wars and that those wars were not fought to gain territory or seek justice but mainly to exterminate them, to “push them into the sea.” After the failure of Camp David, the culture decided that there really was nothing to do with these essentially evil people. Settlements continued apace. Security arrangements were less good-natured. The wall was built. The regular Palestinian people were subjected to endless propaganda by their leaders that concealed Yassir Arafat’s selling them out and inflamed their hatred of the Jews.

In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza. It was partly because they were overextended (Lebanon had attacked them and there was war and security problems in the North), partly because they thought it might help to make nice with Hamas, partly because international pressure wanted them to do something. They pulled 8,000 settlers out of Gaza, much to the consternation of the Israeli right wing, and deeded a lot of useful property to the Gaza government.

Among those things were, I think the number is, 3000 agricultural greenhouses. These were functioning, commercially viable industrial farms. A group of American Jews put together funding of, I think, thirty million dollars to help the Gazans keep them going while they got started. Hamas blew them all up.

Some time later, Gaza held elections and put Hamas in charge of their government. Hamas, as required by its charter, declared Israel illegitimate and declared war on the “Zionist entity”. They had been shooting rockets into Israel previously (Israel had hoped that removing themselves from Gaza might reduce this problem) and they continued to do so subsequently.

This is no surprise. Hamas is not some righteous Moslem organization formed to achieve glory and a Palestinian state. Hamas is an offshoot of some political party in Iran. It is supported by Iran for Iran’s purposes. Iran’s purpose is to avenge the various wars it lost against Israel, to kill Jews and to spread it’s special brand of Islam throughout the entire Middle East. Hamas, as their representative in Gaza, does nothing to improve the lives of the people there.

Israel gave it the old college try, though. When they pulled out, they not only gave the Gazans all the stuff they had built there but, they also opened the borders, removed their police and established trade. Both Israel and international Jewry put together substantial foreign aid for Gaza.

I don’t know how long it lasted but the glory days soon ended. Hamas kept shooting rockets at Israel. They did absolutely nothing to develop a viable society. They did import armament and started building the underground fortresses being called tunnels these days. Eventually it became clear to Israel that they were soon going to have a well-supplied army in Gaza and they closed the borders, only letting in materials that could not be used as weapons.

This, of course, enraged everyone. Gaza is certainly the literal worst place on earth. It is the most densely populated place in the world. It has no resources of any sort. Its people cannot leave or go on vacation, even if they had any money. Their schools are run by the UN because they can’t do it themselves. There are 1.26 million people in, I think, 25 square miles with absolutely no hope.

And, their government not only does nothing for them. It cynically puts them in harms way not only as human shields but as sacrificial lambs on the altar of public relations. Many have said, and I completely believe, that Hamas does not expect locating their weapons in civilian areas (apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, etc) to protect the weapons but exposes those locations in way that will maximize the likelihood of civilian deaths. It good PR for their purposes.

There is no such thing as a good guy. Good guys do charity. They make peoples’ lives better. They are happy and sing songs of beauty. Nobody in the Middle East is a good guy. But, there are bad guys. Hamas is bad. It’s motivations are indefensible. The Gaza people are probably not mostly evil,  just stupid. They are uneducated, primitive people living in difficult circumstances with an active, vile propaganda effort dominating their culture. However, they voted in a free and open election, for Hamas. The Palestinian people have actively chosen strife. Israel did not.

Israel has tried, with greater and lesser enthusiasm, to find a solution. Sometimes they have been nasty and unfair. Sometimes they have been generous. Often they have been muddled. They are, however, surrounded by people who explicitly refuse to accept their right to exist and call for genocide. Their good overtures have been rejected. Nobody in the world except for America helps them at all.

And, they have this implacable enemy shooting rockets into their country. Dozens a day for years. Occasionally, things get out of hand and there is war. Even then, the Israelis hewing both to their religious ethos and the needs of international public relations, try to do the right thing.

Let’s be clear. Israel has it within it’s power to literally exterminate Gaza. Not only do they have nuclear weapons, but they have every other kind, too. They also have what is probably the toughest, most highly motivated military in the world. They also feel their survival is threatened unfairly. I got into an argument with someone who used the phrase, “raining down death”. Rain is universal, indiscriminate and un-targeted. The attacks by Israel are the opposite. Not only are they not indiscriminate, they are scheduled.

They are not pointed at civilians, they could be, there’s a lot of civilians there, they are pointed at specific military targets. Then the people there are warned (and Hamas says, intentionally lying, "it’s propaganda, you should stay”). Then, when the bomb is about to happen, they drop a notification on the roof of the building. They make phone calls to let people know to get out. This is the opposite of a brutal, mean-spirited attack.

And, what else can they do? Nobody can have a country and let someone shoot rockets into it. It’s not reasonable to think Israel could open the Gaza border to allow any armaments into the country to resupply the rockets and add other, more effective weapons. And, in any case, they tried that and it turned out very badly.

The Palestinians have it within their power to throw off the yoke. The problem is that they are too busy hating the Jews. The people they need to fight off are the Arab countries around them, Iran especially, that are keeping them at war. Once they, and I don’t see how it will ever happen, find a way to get rid of Hamas and make peace with Israel, their lives will get better.

But, you can’t expect Israel to allow themselves to be attacked. Nobody would but, even more, these are all descendants of people who did make a peaceful response to genocidal madmen and experienced the Holocaust. They’re not going to allow that. They will never be Gandhi. It’s impossible.