Monday, September 29, 2008

Why Do You Have To Be Dead To Be Smart?

Why now, Ehud, on your way to the graveyard?

September 30, 2008,

Olmert Says Israel Should Pull Out of West Bank


JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview published on Monday that Israel must withdraw from nearly all of the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem to attain peace with the Palestinians and that any occupied land it held onto would have to be exchanged for the same quantity of Israeli territory.

He also dismissed as “megalomania” any thought that Israel would or should attack Iran on its own to stop it from developing nuclear weapons, saying the international community and not Israel alone was charged with handling the issue.

In an unusually frank and soul-searching interview granted after he resigned to fight corruption charges — he remains interim prime minister until a new government is sworn in — Mr. Olmert discarded longstanding Israeli defense doctrine and called for radical new thinking, in words that are sure to stir controversy as his expected successor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, tries to build a coalition.

“What I am saying to you now has not been said by any Israeli leader before me,” Mr. Olmert told the newspaper Yediot Aharonot in the interview on the occasion of the Jewish new year, observed from Monday evening till Wednesday evening. “The time has come to say these things.”

He said that traditional Israeli defense strategists had learned nothing from past experiences and that they seemed stuck in the considerations of the 1948 war of independence.

“With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop,” he said. “All these things are worthless.”

He added, “Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”

Over the last year, Mr. Olmert has publicly castigated himself for his earlier right-wing views and he did so again in this interview. On Jerusalem, for example, he said: “I am the first who wanted to enforce Israeli sovereignty on the entire city. I admit it. I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years. For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth.”

He said that maintaining sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem, Israel’s official policy, would involve bringing 270,000 Palestinians inside Israel’s security barrier. It would mean a continuing risk of terrorist attacks against civilians like those carried out this year by Jerusalem Palestinian residents with front-end loaders.

“A decision has to be made,” he said. “This decision is difficult, terrible, a decision that contradicts our natural instincts, our innermost desires, our collective memories, the prayers of the Jewish people for 2,000 years.”

The government’s public stand on Jerusalem until now has been to assert that the status of the city was not under discussion. But Mr. Olmert made clear that the eastern, predominantly Arab, sector had to be yielded “with special solutions” for the holy sites.

On peace with the Palestinians, Mr. Olmert said in the interview: “We face the need to decide but are not willing to tell ourselves, yes, this is what we have to do. We have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the meaning of which is that in practice we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories. We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace.”

Elsewhere in the interview, when discussing a land swap with the Palestinians, he said the exchange would have to be “more or less one to one.”

Mr. Olmert also addressed the question of Syria, saying that Israel had to be prepared to give up the Golan Heights but that in turn Damascus knew it had to change the nature of its relationship with Iran and its support for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia.

On Iran, Mr. Olmert said Israel would act within the international system, adding: “Part of our megalomania and our loss of proportions is the things that are said here about Iran. We are a country that has lost a sense of proportion about itself.”

Reaction from the Israeli right was swift. Avigdor Lieberman, who leads the Yisrael Beiteinu party, said on the radio that Mr. Olmert was “endangering the existence of the State of Israel irresponsibly.”

He added that those who thought Israel’s problem was a lack of defined borders — as Mr. Olmert stated in the interview — “are ignoramuses who don’t understand anything, and they invite war.”

As they reacted to Mr. Olmert’s remarks, Palestinian negotiators said it was satisfying to hear Mr. Olmert’s words but they said the words did not match what he had offered them so far. Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, told Palestinian Radio that it would have been better if Mr. Olmert had taken this position while in office rather than while leaving it and that Mr. Olmert had not yet presented a detailed plan for a border between Israel and a Palestinian state.

In theory, Mr. Olmert will continue peace negotiations while awaiting the new government. But analysts generally say that having been forced to resign his post, he will not be able to close a deal.
Just to say, can anything be more obvious than that. And yet, will one person (who counts) say it?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Turkey, the Aegean Coast

Ephesus (Efes .. "like the beer")

The theatre here, built by the Greeks and expanded by the Romans, is magnificent. You just want to sit and wonder, and think, and chat.

The library at Efes. Another magnificent structure. One thing, it was climate-controlled. The walls against which books were stored looked like an exterior wall but wasn't; behind the library wall was a passage for free flow of air, then the exterior wall, all to keep the books and scrolls from exposure to humidity.

The theatre at Efes from near the top. Sometimes you'd have a tour group listening to the tour leader, sometimes you'd just have people hanging out.

The main drag at Efes. Generally the roads and buildings were on mild grades.

One reason: you wanted a constant flow of water. Unrelated, but imagine somebody walking in and the only free stall was between these two guys?

Reasons you want a guide, number 52. You'd miss this ad, the world's first we were told, and wouldn't you know, associated with the world's oldest profession. A foot, an arrow and a heart .. the rest is up to you.

Pergamum (Bergama)

This is a tunnel leading to or part of a psychiatric hospital. The tunnel is actually underground, with the roof just butting up to the surface ground. This was significant, in that the underground location, with its constant temperature amd cool and humid climate, was thought to be comforting. Note the ceiling openings, there were several and these allowed doctors, off hours, to "monitor" their patients, listen in on their well-being or other carrying-on. The location was also chosen due to the existence of spring water pools, the water was thought to have healing qualities. All in all, Pergamum was likely the most advanced medical facility of its time.

Here we walk towards what was once the Temple of Apollo. It's always a leisurely walk, as the approach time equals the time needed for the guide's explanation of what you are about to "see". The trees are beautiful. How much do they know?

I'm always looking to adopt a family (see Nicaragua pics), here we had seen these kids gathering firewood earlier. A family lives and farms on top of the old city. I wonder if the spring water keeps them healthy?

The theatre at Pergamum. Like Efes this used to be a coastal city, now its inland at least a couple of miles.

This picture is labeled "Roman seats", and the reason, as I recall, is that they were distinct in style from the Greek seats .. I just don't recall why and how. I know the Greek theatre seating was more head on, or to think of the shape a small arc of a circle, and when the Romans added on and upgraded they added to the outside changing the layout to more of a semi-circle.

Didyma, Miletos, and Prienne

One thing you always look for, other than the theatre, is the counsel chamber. This one is at Didyma. Who gets the big chairs? (Hellooo, fatboy.)

Not much to say here, when you look at the ruins you always have to have one thing in the back of your mind: earthquake. Two+ millennia, you're bound to have a couple of knee-knockers.

Me trying to be artistic at Prienne. I got grudging approval of this pic from my wife (most of the other pics are hers). Of course this column "structure" hasn't stayed in this precarious state for 2500 years, it was reconstructed for us, the tourists. Same for the columns, below, at Prienne.

The cities were very strategically located: vantage point, ability to defend (probably the most important), accessibility, etc.


Not much going on here. But that was Izmir.

Compare to Istanbul:

This was a couple minutes walk from our hotel. A touristy area I guess, some nice restaurants, and probably people like us, just arrived in the city. The flag is ever-present. Same with statues of Ataturk, I'll have to find one.

Roman arches

Are everywhere, the first is Efes, the second is Miletos, and the bottom, Istanbul.


Just a reminder that you don't have to leave Istanbul to see the work of the Romans. Their aqueducts were a work of art.


Added Dec 13, 08:


Friday, September 12, 2008

Jake the Dog

Sunning on the deck. What's he thinking, cottage?

Well, we're going somewhere, I just haven't figured it out yet. I hope I'm getting a Big Mac out of this ...

Fossil hunting again, maybe?

Okay, now I know, cottage! Last leg, boat trip across the lake (keep those ears down!)

Play time. He can't find the tennis ball, but he can follow someone who can:


Race! (As in, I'm going where you're going!)

Dry land, but I'm wet!

Whoops. Where'd everybody go?

I knew you'd be back. And how to finish the day: go watch the sunset.

And finally, home again, deck, best bud, sun, what more could you want?

He's almost totally blind now. A game we developed back on the home front: go to a local park, it's a big open field, baseball diamond, play area, little creek running through it, typical park. He's been a thousand times, easily. he likes it there. I let him loose, he heads for the trees to sniff or something, I stay around the spot where I let him loose. He suddenly remembers he's blind and needs me and comes back to the spot I left him and sniffs me out and then rubs his nose against my leg 'cause that's what he does.

The other day I changed things up, he goes off sniffing, I move somewhere else, he comes back to find me, can't. Now what. He gets a bit nervous. He looks back towards the house, he looks forward towards where we usually leave the park. Ears up, head up. There's purpose to his gait, as he moves out about 20 yards back towards the house. Nothing. So back to where I left him. Still nothing. Then the other way, nothing. Now he's prancing a bit, nervous. Now what i'd almost call a grid search, back and forth, hurriedly, purposefully. Thirty seconds go by, maybe, now he looks like he wants to head home. He'd make it, i'm sure, the only thing that could stop him would be a car. Time to give him a clue, a quick shout, and he covers the hundred yards or so easily, happily. He doesn't need a second shout to find me, his trajectory almost dead on.

Now, next day, he knows it's a game, or at least that i won't leave him. And he likes the chase. it's been over a year since he's been able to see the tennis ball, and a couple since he's gone after a squirrel. Sometimes he finds me, sometimes he needs help. Always he's ready for more.

He's a confident, happy dog (GSD), good-looking too. (And i'm not really a dog person, he was kind of an accident.)