Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sunday Times' Apology Offered and Accepted

The Guardian reports:
 guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 29 January 2013 19.13 GMT
Statement on Sunday Times Gerald Scarfe cartoon

There was a meeting at 4pm today between representatives of the Jewish community and the Sunday Times senior editorial team and News International corporate affairs.

In the meeting the Jewish community organisations present made the following points:

• Jews (and others) throughout the country reacted to this cartoon with a visceral disgust that is unprecedented in recent years. This was due to the gratuitous and offensive nature of the image, made worse by its use of blood and its being published by Britain's leading Sunday newspaper on Holocaust Memorial Day.
• Blood has a long and ugly tradition within the history of antisemitism, premised upon the notorious medieval Blood Libel, with Jews being alleged to steal the blood of others for religious purposes. The use of blood, including on occasion the actual Blood Libel, persists in extreme Arab and Iranian anti-Israel propaganda. It is a profoundly disturbing example of the adaptation of antisemitism for modern day usage.
• These historical and contemporary contexts have racist impacts upon victims and proponents alike. This is why so many Jews were wounded by the cartoon, regardless of the initial motivations of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times.

In response Martin Ivens said: "I'm grateful so many community leaders could come together at such short notice. You will know that the Sunday Times abhors antisemitism and would never set out to cause offence to the Jewish people – or any other ethnic or religious group. That was not the intention last Sunday. Everyone knows that Gerald Scarfe is consistently brutal and bloody in his depictions, but last weekend – by his own admission – he crossed a line. The timing – on Holocaust Memorial Day – was inexcusable. The associations on this occasion were grotesque and on behalf of the paper I'd like to apologise unreservedly for the offence we clearly caused. This was a terrible mistake."

Mick Davis, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: "We have voiced our concern in response to the strength of the feeling from all sections of the Jewish community. I welcome the genuine apology from the Sunday Times. I appreciate the urgency and respect with which the Sunday Times have treated Jewish communal concerns and now look forward to constructively moving on from this affair."

  UPDATE: If you wish to express your appreciation to the Sunday Times, you can email them at: feedback@thetimes.co.uk

FURTHER UPDATE: The cartoonist, Gerald Scarfe, issued his own apology:

First of all I am not, and never have been, anti-Semitic. The Sunday Times has given me the freedom of speech over the last 46 years to criticise world leaders for what I see as their wrong-doings. This drawing was a criticism of Netanyahu, and not of the Jewish people: there was no slight whatsoever intended against them. I was, however, stupidly completely unaware that it would be printed on Holocaust Day, and I apologise for the very unfortunate timing.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The WTC Dust: Science and Replication

A few years ago a team of scientists studied the red/gray chips in dust samples of the World Trade Center buildings and came to the conclusion that they were the remains of an active thermitic material, which could have been used as explosives. Since then their claim has been disputed. But no one has tried to replicate their results. Science isn't just about trying to get peer-reviewed papers published. That's only part of the story. Once results have been published, it is then the job of other scientists to try to replicate the results, by doing the same experiments, though perhaps under more controlled conditions. NIST, for example, has dust samples of their own. They could conduct the same experiments and see what they get.

Meanwhile, Mark Basile, a chemical engineer and signer of the petition that requests a new, independent investigation into the events of 9/11, along with over 1,750 architects and engineers, is trying to raise funds to conduct a blind study of the dust samples. The fundraising is going slow. It hasn't been advertised in the two major 9/11 truther websites, which makes one wonder why. Is it distrust of Basile? Of the lab that he would eventually select? A fear that authorities would discover which lab it was and infiltrate, bribe, or threaten it to get negative results? That would be my fear. But whatever the reason, so far no one is trying to replicate the results of the original study. And so science (at least regarding the dust samples) remains at a stand still.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Anti-Semitic Cartoon in The Times

HT: Jerry Coyne.

  Honest Reporting has posted an article on what I consider to be a shocking anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in the Sunday Times. I wrote a letter to the Times demanding an apology and ask that my readers do so also. One may disagree with and object to Israel's policies regarding the West Bank and the Palestinians without stooping to printing such graphic distortions.

  UPDATE: My friend who disagrees with me and thinks the cartoon is not anti-Semitic, has sent me a link to an article in Haaretz, a daily Israeli newspaper, that supports his argument: Four Reasons Why UK Cartoon of Netanyahu Isn't Anti-Semitic in Any Way

FURTHER UPDATE: And this cartoon by the same artist would suggest that he dislikes both Hammas and Israel's leaders.

  My Response to the Essay: What I think is the defining issue is brought up in the second point of the essay:

  2. It does not use Holocaust imagery: It has become generally accepted - justifiably I think - that comparing Israel's leaders and policies to those of the Third Reich is borderline, if not full-on anti-Semitism. Not only because there is no comparable genocide in human history, but because choosing it to describe the actions of the Jewish state is a nasty slur identifying Israelis as the successors of the Holocaust's victims turned into perpetrators of a second Holocaust. But there is nothing in Scarfe's cartoon that can put the Holocaust in mind.

What? A political leader building a wall with the bodies, heads, and blood of innocent civilians doesn't remind one of anything to do with the Holocaust? And the implication that by killing these people the leader is continuing his policy of peace? His final solution? Is the author serious? The very notion of de-humanizing that is built into such an image can do no other but remind us of comparable crimes against humanity, such as the Holocaust. If the author cannot admit that to himself, shouldn't we just assume that he is in denial? Certainly the actions of the villain in the cartoon are a testament to all that the Holocaust stands for. Therefore, using the author's own admission that comparing Netanyahu's actions to the Third Reich is "borderline, if not full-on anti-Semitism," we should conclude that the cartoon is borderline, if not full-on anti-Semitic.

Further thoughts: If the cartoonist had tried to maintain some semblance of even handedness, as he did in the Hamas-Netanyahu cartoon, where the actions of both Israeli and Palestinian leadership resulted in a blood-soaked wall, then I think the cartoon would have avoided anti-Semitic overtones. But the cartoonist made no such attempt. The blood of the Paltestinians is the result of a purposeful, systematic endeavor by Israel's (or at least, Netanyahu's) policies.

Conception to Birth - Visualized

Randal Rauser has posted a video worth watching.  Alexander Tsiaras:  Conception to Birth -Visualized:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Could Explosives Have Been Planted Unnoticed in the WTC Buildings?

911Blogger.com posted an interesting article on the question of whether explosives could have been planted in the WTC buildings without anyone noticing.  The video was the most interesting part:

And for more detail:

Someone in the second video points out that if the New York newspapers hadn't been on strike, then they would have reported on it. Yes, perhaps if they had known about it. But there was local and national television that wasn't on strike at the time. Why didn't they say anything about it?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Anti-Zionism, Anti-Jewishness, Liberalism and 9/11 Truth

Jerry Coyne posted a very good article on how anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiments are engendered among Muslim Arabs, but that somehow this is all too easily shrugged off by liberals (a group with which both Jerry and I identify). Since I'm also a 9/11 Truther, I have an added burden, since all too many 9/11 Truthers are quick to blame the events of 9/11 on the Mossad, the intelligence agency of Israel. There's virtually no evidence that they were involved. For them to be involved would have been a very unwise, risky endeavor. Had they been discovered, it would have spelled disaster for Israel.   The only non-risky way to be involved was with the cooperation of the U.S. military and intelligence community.  But if the U.S. military and intelligence community wanted to accomplish the events of 9/11, then they certainly didn't need the help of the Mossad to do it.  I judge it very unlikely, then, that the Mossad was involved.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Were There Sounds of Explosions at WTC7?

A common objection to the theory that controlled demolitions were used to bring down WTC7 is that there were no sounds of explosions.  David Chandler produced what I think is a rather informative video in answer to this objection:

HT: Debunking the Debunkers

UPDATE:  This video is probably even better:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Death of Another 9/11 Whistleblower

I just found out about the mysterious death of Dr. David Graham:

  One year before the attacks of 9/11, a Louisiana dentist named Dr. David Graham met two of the alleged 9/11 hijackers at the home of a Pakistani businessman in Shreveport, LA outside Barksdale Air Force base. He became suspicious of the two men who were introduced to him as "medical students" because they couldn't speak English. Fearing that they might be involved in sabotage at the nearby Air Force base, he reported his sighting to the FBI. They assured him there was nothing to worry about.

 This was before 9/11. Later, after the attacks of September 11th, when he realized that the two men he had met were among the 19 individuals identified as hijackers he reported the sighting once again to the FBI, Secret Service, Justice Department and members of Congress. Strangely no one in authority seemed interested. He was even warnedby the FBI agents he had repeatedly spoken with that his health might be endangered if he persued his plan to write a book about the meeting. He never got a chance to publish his book. He was poisoned while traveling through Texas. The authorities ruled his lingering death from ingesting anti-freeze as a suicide. His friends and co-workers believe he was murdered. When he was asked who he thought might have poisoned him, he said, "the FBI."

  UPDATE: Here

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hoffman Tries to Explain His Scarecrow Jesus

R.Joseph Hoffman has taken the next step. After first offering up his version of who Jesus was -- an apocalyptic, healer/magician, who preached against a corrupted Temple cult, and who tried to foment some kind of political revolution against Rome, and who was eventually put to death by the Romans -- Hoffman offers his explanation of how the Christian Jesus originated. The idea that Jesus was somehow divine was a later invention of Paul, of course.  There's nothing new here.  This is all warmed-over secular thinking that we've had since the 19th century.   And it fails as all the previous attempts at uncovering the non-divine Jesus failed.

What Hoffman needs to do is offer some plausible explanation of why Paul would persecute the early sect of Jewish-Christians.  If they did not believe Jesus was divine, what was it that Paul found so threatening about them that made him think that they needed to be stamped out?    Luke's account in chapters 6 and 7 of Acts, has the threat being the belief among Jewish-Christians that Jesus would come back to destroy the Temple and abolish the Law of Moses.  That would certainly be a big enough threat to the existence of the Jewish people that a devoted pharisee such as Paul would see a need to stamp out the movement.  But why would the early Jewish-Christians think Jesus would come back?  And why would they think he would have enough power to destroy the Temple?   And why would they think that he would abolish the Law of Moses, which defined who all Jews were?   The easiest explanation is that they thought Jesus had risen from the dead; that he was somehow divine; and that devotion to him now had priority over Temple worship.

But of course, if they really believed all that, then this belief - that Jesus was divine and faith in him was now central to one's relationship to God  and superseded (or at least took precedence over) all previous commands of God - existed prior to Paul.  It wasn't his invention.  It was already there and was the threat to Jewish existence, and true worship of God, that he knew had to be eradicated.

Well no good secular New Testament historian can live with this view.  For that would mean that the traditional Christian interpretation of who Jesus was had come about in a very small window of time. Far too small and too early to be easily explained by appeals to Pauline theology or pagan divinizing.

So I'll be curious to see what Hoffman pulls out of his secular bag of tricks to rescue his scarecrow.     Since Hoffman likes calling Mythicists "mythtics," maybe we should call his ilk, "historitics."   Just a suggestion.

UPDATE:  I apologize for that "historitic" suggestion.  I guess I'm just a little frustrated because apparently I'm banned at Hoffman's blog, even though, as far as I know, I've never tried posting anything there that was the least bit objectionable. I guess you could say I'm a bit "ticked off."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why I Hope Calvinism is True.

I asked theologian Randal Rauser if one can consistently believe in Calvinism - the view that God predestines people to Heaven or Hell - and also believe in Universalism - the view that everybody eventually gets saved and goes to Heaven. His answer was that yes, the two views are compatible.

So for the first time in my life, I hope that Calvinism is true.  Here's why:  Christians know - or should know - that God loves each and every one of us (regardless of our race, creed, color, gender, or sexual preference), and if it were up to Him, He would predestine all of us for Heaven.  The opposing view to Calvinism is known as Arminianism, which says that our salvation is ultimately a matter of our free will.  God can save us, but only if we let Him.  If we choose not to let Him, then we are choosing Hell and, as C.S. Lewis put it, locking the door from the inside.

Thus, if Calvinism is true, then all of us will be saved.  If Arminianism is true, then we may or may not be saved, depending on what we choose.  Given a choice between those two views, I would much rather have Calvinism be true.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Barry Bonds and WTC7

If you've been following the news in sports, you know that no new players will be inducted into the baseball hall of fame this year. Why? Because too many sports writers (the voters) don't want players from the "steroid era" of baseball to be included in the hall of fame. I didn't watch much baseball in the 90s.  My Tigers weren't doing so well and baseball had lost much of its interest to me.  My feelings about the game were best expressed in a Shoe cartoon, where Shoe and the Perfessor are at a baseball game.  The Perfessor says, "Baseball is a game of great mental activity."  And Shoe replies, "It must be, because nothing's happening on the field."

Apparently many sports fans felt this way about baseball.  Then a funny thing started happening.  Baseball hitters started hitting home runs like crazy.  There was the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase.  And then Barry Bonds blew everybody away, hitting 73 home runs in one season.  Of course, it generated a LOT of interest in the game of baseball.  Some people think it may have even saved baseball (there had just been a players' strike, and fewer people than ever were watching the game).   Or course, since I was strictly a Tigers' fan, I still didn't watch baseball.  But I paid attention to it on my favorite escape from reality -- sports talk radio.  And everyone was speculating on why there was such a sudden surge in home runs.  The usual opinion, by sports writers, baseball veterans, and sports talk hosts, was that the baseball had been "juiced" -- they had done something to the ball to make it livelier and likelier to travel farther.  That sounded like a good theory to me.  Something like that had happened way back in 1920, after the Black Sox scandal of 1919.  Suddenly we went from the "deadball" era to the "live ball" era, and Babe Ruth was able to hit 50 home runs or more per season on a regular basis, and "save baseball."

So I accepted the "juiced ball" theory....until I saw a picture of Barry Bonds.  I knew that Bonds was a good hitter, but he wasn't built like a typical, bulky home run hitter.  Or at least, he hadn't been. I've included "before" and "after" pictures below:

 After I saw what Bonds now looked like, I quickly rejected the "juiced ball" theory and adopted the "juiced player" theory. Here was a guy who obviously had bulked up using steroids. As far as I know, Bonds has never admitted to using steroids, but no one believes that he didn't. Eventually someone had the courage to investigate and report the obvious: the home run era of the late 90s and early 2000s was due to players using steroids. But they were reporting what everyone connected to baseball must have already known. If I, who had stopped watching the game decades before, could immediately recognize steroid use, based on a single picture of Barry Bonds, then certainly all the veterans, sports writers and radio sports hosts had known all along that the real reason players were hitting so many home runs had nothing to do with a juiced ball and everything to do with steroids. Why had they not told us the truth? To protect baseball? To save their jobs? Fear of angering players, managers, general managers, owners, baseball officials, publishers, editors, owners of radio stations, sponsors? Probably.

So what does Barry Bonds have to do with WTC7?