Sunday, May 29, 2011

Peace? Not with that attitude!

Turn off that Death Cab for Cutie and put your ear to the winds.  Can you hear it?  A lapping sound rolling over the hills descends upon these United States from Washingon DC.  It isn't the puppy parade.  It's our duly elected congressmen and women licking the scum from Bibi Netanyahu's jackboots.

Yes, Bibi, Real Democracy!  Like when members of the Knesset banned Arab parties from running for election, a decision that had to be overturned by the Israeli supreme court.  Or when those same members voted to strip parliamentary priveleges from Haneen Zoabi (including protection from prosecution) for DARING to participate in the Free Gaza Flotilla.  An action during which IDF commandos murdered 9 human rights activists, including a US citizen, which they then proceeded to lie about.  That action less than a year ago discredited Israel thoroughly in the world community, but not in America.  Israel is the plucky little murderous stepchild we can't help but love.  After all, we let Germany rape and kill its parents.  What a wonder that Americans and Israelis can live in Real Democracies, where protest is ignored and the government continues its murderous policies regardless of public opinion.

Netanyahu received 29 standing ovations from our congress, and all this obsequious bootlicking occurred over what our own president said: that Israel must return to the pre-1967 borders with "mutually agreed land swaps."  This has been the policy of every American presidency since Reagan, and an agreed upon point of negotiation for Fatah.  Hamas has also expressed a willingness to  negotiate a truce with Israel.  Of course, by "mutually agreed swaps" what is really meant is the preservation of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the outrageous exploitation of Palestinian water.  This is in fact precisely what Bibi himself said to our legislators:
The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations. But we must also be honest. So I am saying today something that should be said publicly by anyone serious about peace. In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.  Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967. - Netanyahu, transcript of speech to congress
What is so indefensible about those lines?  There are settlements beyond them!  Settlements occupied by human scum.  Mad men and women who view their right to Palestinian land based on 4000 year old religious claims.  The occupation of the West Bank has been a moneysink for Israel since the First Intifada, but the ultra-conservative Likud party will stop at nothing to support the heinous lifestyles of settlers in order to fulfill Israeli possession of Judea and Samaria.  The United States tacitly supports this policy as well, this imposition of ancient tribalism in the 21st century.  Israel is an old-fashioned state, and it won its right to independence the old-fashioned way: by force of arms and ethnic cleansing.

The US would not support such overt tribal land grabs with any other state.  If Alassane Ouattara visited congress he'd be jeered for causing massacres of Christians in the Ivory Coast.  Yet when Netanyahu, a man who is directly responsible for the massacres of Arabs comes to Congress they treat him like the Second Coming (and certainly many believe he's a key to that).  Netanyahu is treated like a man of peace, even though those who have been following the news on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are already aware that he's explicitly stated to settlers that he undermined the Oslo Accords, and would do everything in his power to preserve as many settlements as he could.

Bibi:...The Arabs are currently focusing on a war of terror and they think it will break us. The main thing, first of all, is to hit them. Not just one blow, but blows that are so painful that the price will be too heavy to be borne. The price is not too heavy to be borne, now. A broad attack on the Palestinian Authority. To bring them to the point of being afraid that everything is collapsing...
Woman: Wait a moment, but then the world will say "how come you're conquering again?"
Netanyahu: the world won't say a thing. The world will say we're defending.
Woman: Aren't you afraid of the world, Bibi?
Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right direction.
Child: They say they're for us, but, it's like...
Netanyahu: They won't get in our way. They won't get in our way.
Child: On the other hand, if we do some something, then they...
Netanyahu: So let's say they say something. So they said it! They said it! 80% of the Americans support us. It's absurd. We have that kind of support and we say "what will we do with the..." Look. That administration [Clinton] was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn't afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton. I was not afraid to clash with the United Nations. I was paying the price anyway, I preferred to receive the value. Value for the price.
In the following segment, Bibi boasts about how he emptied the Oslo Accords of meaning by an interpretation that made a mockery of them:
Woman: The Oslo Accords are a disaster.
Netanyahu: Yes. You know that and I knew that...The people [nation] has to know...
What were the Oslo Accords? The Oslo Accords, which the Knesset signed, I was asked, before the elections: "Will you act according to them?" and I answered: "yes, subject to mutuality and limiting the retreats." "But how do you intend to limit the retreats?" "I'll give such interpretation to the Accords that will make it possible for me to stop this galloping to the '67 [armistice] lines. How did we do it?
Narrator: The Oslo Accords stated at the time that Israel would gradually hand over territories to the Palestinians in three different pulses, unless the territories in question had settlements or military sites. This is where Netanyahu found a loophole.
Netanyahu: No one said what defined military sites. Defined military sites, I said, were security zones. As far as I'm concerned, the Jordan Valley is a defined military site.  -

The Israeli security state is the most powerful in the region, particularly as they've had nukes since the 1970s, one of the best-kept open secrets in the world.  The IDF possesses unassailable military power.  When more radical elements of Hamas manage to launch a handful of small rockets across the border, the IDF responds by bombing cities.  No reasonable person supports the destruction of Israel as a matter of policy, not even Hamas leaders.  Israel's perpetual occupation and endless state of war benefits far too many parties.  IDF agression in Lebanon gives the Iranians the opportunity to claim the mantle of resistance to Israel and gives legitimacy to Hezbollah.  Israeli atrocities serve as easy scapegoats for the autocratic powers of the Arab region.  Denial of the Right to Return for Palestinian refugees also maintains a key source of Palestinian labor which supports the lazy lifestyles of state-coddled ruling tribes in Jordan and the Arabian peninsula. 
Israel cannot be destroyed.

Yet Israel is in danger!  And according to GOP representative Joe Walsh, it's the Jews who are to blame.
President Obama has effectively abandoned the 50-year-old U.S. alliance with Israel.
So, where is the outrage from the American Jewish community? Don’t they understand that the president is not pro-Israel? Aren’t they troubled by his history of pro-Palestinian writings, speeches, and actions? The short answer is that most American Jews are liberal, and most American liberals side with the Palestinians and vague notions of “peace” instead of with Israel’s wellbeing and security. Like the president, the U.N., and most of Europe, too many American Jews aren’t as pro-Israel as they should be and too many share his belief that the Palestinians are victims of Israeli occupation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If we want peace in the Middle East, we need a paradigm shift. The U.S. can no longer be an honest broker, a “referee” between two opposing sides. That mindset has gotten us nowhere. -
This is the kind of talk that would make Bucky Shvitz drink himself to death.  Not only are American Jews practically race traitors, but there is no occupation!  I would like to see Joe Walsh attempt to explain to the people whose family members were killed by Israel's remote controlled machineguns that they aren't victims of an occupation.  Or maybe he'd rather deal with the people whose water supply was intentionally poisoned with sewage from a nearby Israeli settlement.

So long as the United States continues to support Israel so unconditionally, its leaders will continue to act like a cat that isn't housetrained, and it's America that will constantly clean up after their shit.

Many of you would say that I'm not being fair.  That there has been plenty of aggression on the Arab side, and this is true.  Yet it is Israel who has all the power, it is Israel who holds all the cards, it is Israel who continues to occupy the West Bank and the Golan Heights.  In terms of the physical reality, it is Israel who remains the aggressor.  If a lasting peace is going to come for Israel and Palestine, it must be forced by the Israeli people.  They will have to risk civil war with the settler class, which is what it nearly came to when the settlements were withdrawn from Gaza.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Third Great Disappointment

The Rapture has come and gone, much to the amusement of a vast array of people, atheist, agnostic, and Christian alike.  Harold Camping's endtimes prediction has been proven to be the schizophrenic ravings of a lunatic that it always was:
Camping presented several numerological[19] arguments, or biblical "proofs", in favor of the May 21 end time. A civil engineer by training, Camping stated he had attempted to work out mathematically-based prophecies in the Bible for decades. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle he explained "... I was an engineer, I was very interested in the numbers. I'd wonder, 'Why did God put this number in, or that number in?' It was not a question of unbelief, it was a question of, 'There must be a reason for it.' "[20]

In 1970 Camping dated the Great Flood to 4990 BC.[21] Using this date, taking the statement in Genesis 7:4 ("Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth") to be a prediction of the end of the world, and combining it with 2 Peter 3:8 ("With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day"), Camping concluded that the end of the world would occur in 2011, 7000 years from 4990 BC.[7] Camping takes the 17th day of the second month mentioned in Genesis 7:11 to be May 21, and hence predicts the rapture to occur on this date.[7]

Another argument[22] that Camping used in favor of the May 21 date is as follows:
  1. The number five equals "atonement", the number ten equals "completeness", and the number seventeen equals "heaven".
  2. Christ is said to have hung on the cross on April 1, 33 AD. The time between April 1, 33 AD and April 1, 2011 is 1,978 years.
  3. If 1,978 is multiplied by 365.2422 days (the number of days in a solar, as distinct from lunar, year), the result is 722,449.
  4. The time between April 1 and May 21 is 51 days.
  5. 51 added to 722,449 is 722,500.
  6. (5 × 10 × 17)2 or (atonement × completeness × heaven)2 also equals 722,500.
Camping said that 5 × 10 × 17 is telling us a "story from the time Christ made payment for our sins until we're completely saved."[20]
It's all in the numbers! - 2011
Taking the Bible literally, or even as the unerring word of God demonstrates a profound ignorance of history.  The Bible is not a narrative (though it's framed that way), but a collection of texts made canon by patriarchs and priests at meetings like the Council of Trent for Catholicism, as well as various other councils or proclamations for Protestant faiths.  The first four gospels of the New Testament are the only books of the Bible that are even relevant to the teachings of Jesus, and none of them even claim witness.  It's not until Paul of Tarsus, a liar and a fraud, claimed personal witness to Jesus that the New Testament claims direct authority from God.

In fact, it's a passage from Paul's Thessalonians that forms the basis of Rapture thought:
15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. - 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
 There are several views on when exactly Jesus is going to come back in Millenialist thought.  People who believe in the Rapture assume that the coming of Christ will precede the Millenium, and not only that but that they will be conveniently whisked away with all the deadites before all the end of the world business.  These people literally hope to God that they receive a "Get out of Armageddon Free Card" just for going to church on Sundays.  It's a selfish, vile form of thought which revels in the suffering of sinners while claiming membership among God's elect (which I SO am gonna be).

Most people who believe in the millenial apocalypse don't claim to know the exact date of the coming like Harold Camping, but this is not the first time in American history that doomsday predictions gained some popularity in the United States.

During the early 1800s, the Baptist minister William Miller believed he had figured out the exact date of Christ's return to the world.  Gaustad & Schmidt write a bit on Miller in The Religious History of America:
... predicted that Christ would come again sometime between March 21, 1843, and the following twenty-first of March. Basing his prophecy on Daniel 8:14, Miller argued that the "two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings" spoken of there really meant a time period of twenty-three hundred years.  That period began, Miller calculated, with the command of the Persian king Artaxerxes in 457 B.C.E to rebuild Jerusalem.  If one subtracted 457 from 2300, the mathematical remainder pointed unmistakably to 1843--the year when the New Jerusalem would be established as Christ descended from the heavens. (pg. 152)
It's all in the numbers! - 1844
 By the 1840s, the people who believed in Miller's prediction had turned into a movement with tens of thousands of believers, and hundreds of thousands of followers who anxiously awaited the date in case Miller proved correct.  Yet by October 22, 1844, Christ hadn't come back yet and the Millerites experienced their first Great Disappointment.
Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before.  It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison.  We wept and wept until the day dawned. - Hiram Edson, (pg. 154)
 Many Millerites left the movement disillusioned, but some continued to revise the prediction.  Several new dates were predicted for 1845, but when the Second Great Disappointment rolled around the Millerite movement disintegrated.

William Miller would be a footnote in history were it not for the lasting legacy of the Millerite splinter group, The Seventh Day Adventists.  Among the more widespread influences of that crazy sect, is the notion of Young Earth Creationism.  In 1923, George McCready Price wrote that the Earth was less than 10,000 years old in The New Geology.  The Seventh-Day Adventist view of "flood geology" claims that all the fossils which we find in the geological record were placed and shifted by the Great Flood.  Price's work was later popularized in the 1961 book The Genesis Flood (Baptists again!), and Young Earth Creationism has formed the basis of the more popular American creation mythology.

Camping had already predicted the world would end in 1994, so this time there is no room for revision.  Yet hucksters and madmen like him will continue to con people into forsaking this world for centuries to come.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

American Vendetta

"He who seeks revenge should remember to dig two graves." - Chinese proverb

America's decade-long quest to find Osama bin Laden has ended, and its conclusion was as messy and violent as its journey.  24 Navy SEALS in two Black Hawk helicopters (with an apparent stealth capability) raided Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound, killing Osama's courier in a firefight as well as killing four other unarmed people, including Osama.  One chopper's rotor clipped the concrete walls of the compound, and had to be destroyed after it crashed.  The raid was described as a "kill or capture" operation, but commandos were told that Osama should be considered to wear a bomb vest unless he was naked.  This represents a weak cover up of what had been a targeted assassination from the beginning.

Official accounts on the raid have been contradictory and often false.  Robert Booth at The Guardian has already gone over the changing stories in the first two days after the raid.  Most notable were the reports that Osama was armed and engaged in a firefight with the SEALS, and that he used his wife as a human shield.  The falseness of these claims were blamed on "the fog of war," but these kind of disinformation tactics have been used frequently during America's War on Terror.

Design docs from the upcoming Call of Duty
This is the graphic that appears on The Daily Mail's story for the raid, with Navy SEALS dodging bullets like Neo and facing down Osama as if he was the stage boss in a videogame.  It's not surprising at all that the conservative British press would portray Osama's death in such terms of militaristic wish fulfillment, since it was the Times of London who initially portrayed the Tora Bora base as a hollowed out Bond villain lair back in 2001.

No Mr. Bush, I expect you to die!
Portraying Osama and Al-Qaeda in such larger than life terms gives the false impression of an immense threat to the United States and the world.  It's difficult to justify overwhelming military force against a small band of fighters, so giving Al-Qaeda the capability of a small military retroactively vindicated the military invasion of Afghanistan.  Most Americans tend to consume a low amount of information, and likely won't follow the stories about "Operation Neptune's Spear" beyond the first day or so.  Disinformation coming from the White House and the Right Wing Press are designed to sate the need for vengeance and retroactively justify the occupation of Afghanistan over an organization that's been effectively dead for years.  Claims that Al-Qaeda are responsible for several terrorist attacks since 9/11 are dubious at best.  These attacks are often carried out by Al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists in local countries, but their reporting gives the impression that they were carried out under Osama's leadership.
"There is no umbrella organization. We like to create a mythical entity called al-Qaeda in our minds, but that is not the reality we are dealing with." - Marc Sageman, CIA
Osama's death represents the loss of a wealth of potential information, most of which was likely deemed to be buried by the Obama administration.  What kind of questions could Osama have shed light on?

Allegations of CIA involvement with Al-Qaeda have been ubiquitous since 9/11.  Generally they claim Al-Qaeda represents blowback from the CIA's support of the mujahideen in Afghanistan.  Yet Arab mujahideen were largely funded themselves or from other Arab nations, and did not require CIA support.  Even though it's not likely that the CIA supported Bin Laden's organization in particular, the success of the mujahideen in Afghanistan served as a boon for anti-Western jihad.  People forget that resistance to communism in Afghanistan was not based on any kind of liberal notions of freedom or self-determination, but because the communists attempted to modernize Afghanistan and achieve gender equality.  Communism was the western influence which the mujahideen struggled against, and shedding light on this issue has uncomfortable implications for the CIA's involvements elsewhere.

The Taliban has been supported by the Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan's intelligence agency) since its inception in 1994.  Taliban leadership were initially trained at refugee camps in Pakistan, and recently declassified CIA documents reveal that thousands of Pakistani regulars were fighting as Taliban during the 1990s.  This was an effort to quell warlordism following the collapse of the Communist regime and to keep Afghanistan on a short leash, but the Taliban proved noncompliant.  The practice likely still continues in an effort to push the Taliban out of Waziristan and back into Afghanistan.  Osama's affiliation with the Taliban likely meant that he received real support from the ISI, something that they would absolutely want to keep under wraps.  The ISI has likely given up information leading to Osama's assassination in order to give the United States a pretext to withdraw from Afghanistan and end Obama's destructive drone war in Waziristan.

Perhaps of most significant concern to the United States is the involvement of several Saudi royal family members in supporting and financing Al-Qaeda.  This kind of information calls into question the efficacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as fronts in the War on Terror, when wealthy financiers and US allies like the Sauds continue to surreptitiously support global jihad.  This is an uncomfortable reminder for terror warriors that non-state actors like Osama are often the tools of deep cover state agendas.

Documents gathered by lawyers for the families of Sept. 11 victims provide new evidence of extensive financial support for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups by members of the Saudi royal family, but the material may never find its way into court because of legal and diplomatic obstacles.

The case has put the Obama administration in the middle of a political and legal dispute, with the Justice Department siding with the Saudis in court last month in seeking to kill further legal action. Adding to the intrigue, classified American intelligence documents related to Saudi finances were leaked anonymously to lawyers for the families. The Justice Department had the lawyers’ copies destroyed and now wants to prevent a judge from even looking at the material. (emphasis mine)

The Saudis and their defenders in Washington have long denied links to terrorists, and they have mounted an aggressive and, so far, successful campaign to beat back the allegations in federal court based on a claim of sovereign immunity.  - The New York Times (June 3, 2009) 
Capturing Osama also presents a number of problems for the United States.  General anti-Muslim sentiment in the military has already reached a fever pitch, so it's almost certain that Osama would be tortured by his captors at some point.  Any such event would call into question the moral certitude of America's war.  Furthermore the questions of jurisdiction would go unanswered.  Should Osama be tried in a criminal, military, or international court?  What rights of his would be guaranteed if at all?  Bush administration stooges like John Yoo would insist that Osama has no rights, and any fair treatment by the Obama administration would serve as terrorist coddling.  In the end, it's much more convenient for the United States to simply murder Osama bin Laden.

The American people did not choose this fight.  It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens.  After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war.  These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.
So Americans understand the costs of war.  Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed.  We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies.  We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror:  Justice has been done. - Barack Obama's address to the nation (May 2, 2011)
This assassination does not represent justice, but the fulfillment of a decade of American vendetta against  Osama bin Laden and all who could (allegedly) support him.

My most distinct memory of 9/11 is standing in front of my class while waiting for my friend to show up.  When he did his face was flushed and seething with rage, "Who did this?  How could they do this to us?"  I remember because I was feeling the same thing: vengeance.  The collective bloodlust that drove the US to invade Afghanistan was then later used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq as a second front in the War on Terror.  Americans do not understand the costs of war, because if they did as Obama claims, they would feel shame for the evils we've unleashed upon the world.

As of August 10, 2010, US military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan number 5,554, with suicide becoming an epidemic.  Civilian deaths in Afghanistan number 8,813, while civilian deaths in Iraq could be between 100,000 and 900,000 depending on who you ask, with millions of people displaced in both countries.  All of this death and suffering was inflicted as a reaction to the deaths of 3,000 Americans in the WTC and Pentagon, in wars that have little to no relevancy to general counter terrorism methods.  This is not to play a numbers game and say that we are worse than Osama bin Laden, but that the US-led Coalition and Al-Qaeda are morally equivalent.

But rather than feel ashamed people felt vindicated.  Why?  Because America has a long history which supports the culture of vendetta.

Revenge is a common theme in media.  It's the primary motivation behind many of the best westerns, and vengeance for wrongs justify the death of untold scores of people.  Films which contradict this culture of vendetta like Kick-Ass are few and far between.  There's also a significant problem when these portrayals are digested by society as a whole: they portray acts of individual retribution for personal wrongs.

The vast majority of Americans weren't wronged by 9/11, only in a general sense of cultural tribalism were we all "attacked."  Conservative and Christian ideologues have even gone so far as to conflate this sense of tribalism to a conflict between the West and Islam in general.  Those who actually did experience personal loss on 9/11 have expressed mixed reactions to Osama's killing.  Killing Osama will not bring their loved ones back.

A Del City, Oklahoma man was recently pinned down, had the word "RAPEST" tattooed on his forehead, and was beaten unconscious with baseball bats.  One of the accused claims he tried to have sex with her, and the particulars of the case have all the signs of a public shaming ritual more commonly known as scapegoating.  Colonial Americans practiced public humiliation all the time, with entire communities engaging in bizarrely choreographed rituals designed to shame or exile an individual, regardless of their guilt or innocence.  The practice died out in the North, but continued in the Old South as rural lifestyles gave primary importance to the social implications of honor society.  Duels and blood feuds continued unabated, with sometimes entire clans being wiped out in acts of mutual retribution.  This is why when considering our modern wars it does not matter who killed who, because acts of vengeance are taken out constantly by multiple sectarian parties.

Because vendettas and blood feuds created inescapable cycles of retribution, most of the world's governments ended the practice and claimed a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.  Once the US government claimed that monopoly, it also became the arbiter of social vengeance.  Victim's justice holds sway in the American judicial system, which often means that brutal punishment is meted out to those who commit heinous acts like murder or rape.  From 1968 to 1976 there were no death sentences carried out in the United States, but when capital punishment was reinstated by Gregg v. Georgia the use of the death penalty became even more popular.  The death penalty as it is practiced is very convenient for those seeking vengeance.  Because the state fulfills deadly retribution, there is no one to take vengeance upon.  Those who seek the death penalty like victim's advocates and prosecutors are protected by incorporating themselves into an odious machine which confers responsibility to no individual group or person.  With vengeance being popularized in this manner, most people have forgotten that ancient Chinese adage.

The retribution for Osama's murder would be inevitable, and on May 13 it has already happened:

ISLAMABAD – A double Taliban suicide attack Friday that killed 66 paramilitary police recruits represented the deadliest terrorist strike in Pakistan since the killing of Osama bin Laden. It sent a strong signal that militants mean to fight on and to try to avenge the al-Qaida leader...

In claiming responsibility for Friday's attack in northwest Pakistan, which also wounded about 120 people, the Taliban said it was avenging the May 2 death of bin Laden. It cited anger at Pakistan's military for failing to stop the unilateral U.S. raid on bin Laden's hideaway.

"The Pakistani army has failed to protect its land," Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, told The Associated Press in a phone call. - AP (May 13, 2011)
Americans must train this culture of vendetta out of our society, and re-think our notions of justice.  We could all take a hard lesson from Mohammed Kinani, a man denied the simple retribution of an apology from Blackwater (Xe) for the murder of his son Allawi in the Nisoor Square Massacre.

When it comes to the question of Osama and justice, I'm inclined to agree with Tim Kreider.
Suggested Reading:
Honor and Violence in the Old South by Bertram Wyatt-Brown 
The Culture of Vengeance and the Fate of American Justice by Terry K. Aladjem