Better late than never — taking you into the weekend with some smooth-ass links (after the jump):
21st century digital boys take aim at the Holy Land: The Next Web on Anonymous vs. Israel:
[W]e’re talking about more than just DDoS attacks that are overloading web sites, such as tel-aviv.gov.il, the official site for the second most populous city in Israel (after Jerusalem). There are also plenty of defacements, and, as of a few minutes ago, databases have also been wiped.
While the Israeli government almost certainly has backups of their databases, these attacks as well as the defacements show Anonymous isn’t just doing its usual spree of overloading target sites. OpIsrael appears to have gotten multiple hackers involved who are interested in doing actual damage, or at least something that is slightly more permanent than just a 404.
Yr Friday etymological fix: Charles Cameron takes a deeper look at Israel’s chosen moniker for its latest operation in Gaza:
The IDF calls today’s Israeli operation in Gaza “Operation Pillar of Defense” in English, but as John Cook points out in Gawker, uses the term Hebrew term “Pillar of Cloud” in Hebrew.
There’s a great deal of interest here, apart from the difference between their use of non-Biblical terminology in English and Biblical terminology in Hebrew. One point that catches my ear, a poet being a poet, is that the phrase “Pillar of Cloud” is in fact only one half of a double reference…
Thus in Exodus 13.21-22 we read:
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
There are various ways of understanding the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire, but it’s pretty clear that there’s only one pillar —
And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud… [Exodus 14.24]
which is called a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, perhaps simply because we are speaking of theophany — the Divine Presence made visible — perhaps because smoke from a brazier is more visible in daylight and flames at night — perhaps because as Hans Goedicke, then chairman of the department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins, suggested, the source of both fire and smoke was the eruption of Santorini around 1600 BCE.
The difference in worldviews behind those explanations alone is a matter of considerable interest.
Linguistically, however — and this is where the poet being a poet comes in — there are two pillars, and I have to wonder whether the name “Pillar of Fire” is being saved for a later and perhaps more impressive (“shock and awe”) operation, or — in line with the “by day and by night” distinction — refers to the covert side of the same op?
Not that anyone would be likely to give me that information, or that I’d have any use for it if they did.
But the Biblical phrasing is powerful, and “Pillar of Defense” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense — besides, cloud and fire go together in Hebrew in much the same way smoke and mirrors do in English.
I mean, really: Ok. If even the mother-lovin’ Economist noticed that you barely paid lip-service to the poor…:
Once upon a time the fates of these people weighed heavily on American politicians. Ronald Reagan boasted about helping the poor by freeing them from having to pay federal income tax. Jack Kemp, Bob Dole’s running-mate in 1996, sought to spearhead a “new war on poverty.” George W. Bush called “deep, persistent poverty…unworthy of our nation’s promise”.
No longer. Budgets are tight and the safety net is expensive. Mitt Romney famously said he was not “concerned about the very poor” because they have a safety net to take care of them. Mr Obama’s second-term plan mentioned poverty once, and on the trail he spoke gingerly of “those aspiring to the middle class”. “Poor” is a four-letter word.
Mr Obama’s re-election and Democratic control of the Senate give federal anti-poverty programmes a level of security they would have lacked under a Romney administration. But America’s poor face systemic challenges beyond the aid of any single administration or programme. Once diligent high-school dropouts could get a job on a factory line and work their way into the middle class: no longer. The low-skill, high-wage jobs that many used to climb out of poverty in the 20th century are largely gone. Deteriorating family structure among the poor threatens to trap poor children at the bottom of the income ladder for life. And looming cuts to discretionary spending threaten America’s already thin safety net.
“The World’s Next Genocide”: Simon Adams on how sectarian strife in Syria could take a genocidal turn:
A few months ago, talk of possible massacres of Alawites, who dominate Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, seemed like pro-regime propaganda. Now, it is a real possibility.
For more than a year, Mr. Assad’s government has been committing crimes against humanity in Syria. As it fights for survival on the streets of Aleppo and Damascus, the risk of unrestrained reprisals against Mr. Assad’s Alawite sect and Syria’s other religious minorities is growing every day.
[Insert Pete Townshend quote here]: William Gumede on the deeply-set roots of corruption in Africa:
Instead of changing colonial era institutions, laws and values for the better, African ruling parties and leaders entrenched these deeply compromised governance systems. At African independence, the colonial elite was often replaced by a similar narrow elite class. This time, however, it was the aristocracy of the independence and liberation movements; the dominant independence leader and dominant ‘struggle’ families, or the dominant ethnic group or political faction. African independence movements were often highly centralised or strongly dominated by one leader and his political, ethnic or regional faction. The dominant structural make-up of these movements has meant that they can seamlessly fit into a similar centralised political culture very much like the colonial administration.
At independence, the indigenous communities of most African countries were relatively poor, unskilled and without any significant holdings in the private sector. Very few grassroots cadres which formed part of the liberation movements had professional careers outside the struggle. Post independence, many were simply appointed to posts for which they had little aptitude, experience or skills to perform. Such a situation is fertile for corruption. The newly acquired state bureaucracy, military, judiciary, nationalized private industries were often seen as the ‘spoils’ of victory. A reward for the struggle of independence. The whole process often became opaque and unaccountable with ‘struggle aristocracies’ dishing out patronage – jobs, government tenders, and newly nationalized private companies – to their political allies, ethnic group(s) or regional interests.
Exit music (free dl! h/t):