A most brilliant political protest by means of domain hijacking

After 2nd Lebanon War at Jul-August 2006, the government of Israel set up a committee of inquiry – the Winograd Committee.  A domain has been registered in behalf of this committee – http://vaadatwino.co.il/ (the contents are in Hebrew).

Fast forward three years.  The Israeli government is trying to build a biometric database with data about all Israeli citizens, and concerned people are protesting this plan.  The strongest argument against the database is the risk of data leak, which may lead to rather adverse consequences.

To prove that the government does not know to protect its digital assets, the above domain was hijacked when its registration expired because someone in the government forgot to renew the domain registration.  The Website now contains a statement against the biometric database.

Unequivocal Palestinian Victory

The following is an adaptation of the English translation of a talkback, which I wrote in response to an article in Ira Abramov’s blog (written in Hebrew), which commented on the results of the elections held in Israel at 2009 February 10, whose results showed the decline of the Israeli Left.

I do not think that the Israeli Left lost the elections due to leadership failures, divisiveness or other nonsense.

I think that it was a victory of the Palestinians in their war against the Israeli Left, pure and simple.

  • After Rabin’s murder at November 1995, there was widespread support for Shimon Peres (who advocated the same pro-Palestinian policy, which caused Yigal Amir to murder Rabin). Until the elections were at last held at 1996, the support passed to Bibi Netanyahu and he won landslide victory in the elctions. Who helped him? All those Palestinian terrorists, who exploded busses during the months between murder and elections.
  • One of the consequences of the Al-Aqsa intifada, which started at 2000, and which included terror attacks committed by suicide bombers almost every day, was that several people from the Israeli Left felt that they no longer have a partner in the other side, and withdrew support for policy of appeasement toward the Palestinians.
  • The third round of the war between the Palestinians and the Israeli Left was held during the years from the Disengagement until now. The By continuing to launch missiles from Gaza Strip into Israel, the Palestinians provided ammunition to those forces in the Israeli Right, who opposed the Disengagement and demonstrated and blocked roads in an attempt to stop the Disengagement.

After such battles, which ended with unequivocal victory of the Palestinians, why does anyone still wonder that the Israeli Left lost its influence over Israeli politics?

Thank you, Taldor LTD., for tarnishing the reputation of computerized elections in Israel

Yesterday, the primaries election of the Labor party in Israel was aborted and postponed to a later date due to serious malfunctioning of the voting machines deployed for this purpose.

The provider of those machines was Taldor LTD.

Sources (in Hebrew):

I wrote previously about computerized elections.

How to get capitalism to regulate itself?

In This is not the end of capitalism, Mark Shuttleworth (of Ubuntu fame) points out the need for capitalism with regulation. The regulators – those people who would regulate businesses – would need to have extraordinary personal qualities of resourcefulness, wisdom and incorruptibility. In other words, they need to have caliber like E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen (the qualities required by Lensmen include intelligence, utter incorruptibility, a high drive to succeed, and the highest drive to fight evil).

However, like Santa Claus, such people exist only in fiction. Therefore another solution is needed. A practical solution would, by necessity, be based upon a system, in which imperfect and corruptible people would nevertheless do almost as good job as incorruptible ones.

Fortunately, there is a precedent for systems obviating the need for supermen. The 18th century political philosophers faced a similar problem. They were faced with the problem of designing a regime, in which people will enjoy freedom, even though they are governed by other imperfect people. The solution was to devise a system of checks and balances. It was embodied in the constitution of USA and worked well for several years.

Therefore, a possible solution to the problem of regulating capitalism is likely to come from a system of checks and balances. In the following I’ll try to sketch a possible design for such a system.

A business operating in an industry, which needs to be regulated, has to answer to the following stakeholders:

  • Shareholders
  • Employees
  • Business partners (customers and suppliers)
  • Environment

Regulation, when it is enforced, aims at restoration of balance of the interests of all those stakeholders. Regulation has to be enacted when money fails to work as a means to motivate the business to serve its stakeholders in a balanced way.

Let’s try to set up a feedback loop, in which bad regulation translates into loss of profits. This can be accomplished by nominating people, who act like the historical kings or modern Benevolent Dictators For Life (BDFLs). Each BDFL will be responsible for regulating all businesses in a particular geographical area. Every business in the region will pay the BDFL 1% of its profits. On the other hand, the BDFL will be subjected to lawsuits from any stakeholder, who believes to have been wronged by a business under the BDFL’s responsibility.

Thus, the BDFL will have an interest at ensuring that the businesses in his area will prosper in a balanced way. Since small businesses have larger growth potential than big businesses, the BDFL will tend to favor small businesses. The BDFL will balance the interests of businesses with those of the other stakeholders when formulating regulations, so that the business will thrive and the BDFL won’t lose too much money to lawsuits.

This proposal is incomplete, and leaves out answers to several questions such as:

  1. What happens if a business operating in a geographical area gets to be so large that the BDFL of that area will profit more from favoring it than from nurturing other businesses?
  2. Is the BDFL only to regulate businesses, or also develop infrastructure (like kings)?
  3. How to select BDFLs from among candidates?
  4. When and how to replace BDFLs, who do not do good work?
  5. How to preserve the sovereignity of the people in a BDFL-controlled area?

Not bothering to vote means voting for the candidate you hate the most

Yesterday, USA elected the next President. Obama won the elections by clear cut margin. There was higher than usual turnout of voters.

Next Tuesday, on Nov. 11th, there will be municipal elections in Israel. In some cities, in particular Jerusalem, the elections will have critical importance.

I’d like to urge everyone eligible to vote – to vote in those elections.

Remember, if you do not bother to vote, you in effect are voting for the candidate you hate the most!

A possibly systematic flaw in Israeli defense strategy

One of the constants in Israeli history is that Israel wins wars but loses in the post-war diplomatic front, so Israel doesn’t succeed in converting its war victories into everlasting peace with its neighbors.

Why is this so? Is it because the Israeli leaders are so preoccupied with the daily tasks of managing Israel, that they have no time to plan ahead? Is it because no one thought about the future?

About the value of planning ahead, Eliot A. Cohen wrote that two great war statesmen planned ahead and defined what are their war goals. They knew what kind of peace they want to have. One of them (Abraham Lincoln) achieved it, and the other’s (Winston Churchill) opinions stood the test of time.

Two other war statesmen won wars but did not win everlasting peace. One of them was David Ben-Gurion, who failed to define what he wants to accomplish in the 1948 War of Independence, and toward what kind of peace to strive. One of the consequences is that Israel did not have peace with any of its neighbors until the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

This pattern, of fighting and winning but without planning ahead the kind of desirable victory, continued in the Arab-Israeli wars since 1948, in spite of journalists having spent lots of ink writing about it and heavily criticizing the leaders for this shortcoming. The only exception, of which I am aware, is the 1982 Lebanon War (now known as the First Lebanon War), whose goals were defined. However, this exception proves the rule, because those goals were not consistently pursued due to political pressure from various leaders and other reasons.

Now I suspect that the consistent failure to define war goals was not an oversight by overwhelmed Israeli leaders, but part of a systematic problem. To define war goals and to get most of the Israelis to agree with them, one needs first to define what kind of Israel one wants and get this vision accepted by the overwhelming majority of the Israelis. If we want to emphasize territory annexion, we need one set of war goals. If we want to emphasize human rights, we need another set of war goals.

The systematic problem is that Israelis cannot agree what kind of Israel they want. There is a conflict between the secular (who want a state of the Jews) and the religious (who want a Jewish state). There is also a conflict between the Settlers (who want to annex as much land as the world will let them) and the Leftists, who care about the human rights of Palestinians living in land currently controlled by Israel.

A consequence of the internal conflicts is that it is impossible for any Israeli leader to define, articulate and consistently pursue any coherent set of war goals. At least if he does not want to commit political suicide (Ariel Sharon at 1982, anyone?) or reap lots of poisonous criticism from people who don’t agree with his vision of Israel and the war goals to be pursued.

Bibi Netanyahu’s Incredibly Simple Basic Approach

Today I decided at last to have a look at Bibi Netanyahu’s blog, whose existence I know about for a while.
The blog is written in Hebrew.
He considers the problems of the Israeli educational system, which has been deteriorating for several years by now.
His suggestion – apply the same basic approach, which he successfully applied when he was Minister of Finance and got the Israeli economy to improve in a big way.
What basic approach?
Find which countries have the most successful policies (then – economics, now – educational). Then learn from their experience.
All the rest are mere details.

This approach is also politically feasible:

  • It is easier to sell a new policy to other politicians and to the constituency if you show that it worked beautifully in country A and country B.
  • In the specific case of the educational system, the solution is to get better people in, less suitable people out. Fortunately, it is not so difficult to do so in time scale of 10 years, thanks to the big employee turnover in the system.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Israel and the Embargo

In the wake of Sarkozy’s words of support of Israel against Iran, I have some questions.

  • Did France officially end the weapons embargo against Israel, which Charles de Gaulle imposed upon Israel at the start of the Six-Day War at 1967?
  • Did France officially apologize to Israel for excluding Iraq from the above embargo, which ostensibly applied to all sides in the Mideast conflict?  During the years after the Six-Day War, France sold weapons to Iraq, even though Iraq has always been in official state of war with Israel, having no ceasefire or armistice agreements with it.
  • Was Israel reimbursed the price it paid for the 50 fighter airplanes, which were ordered and paid for, but not delivered to Israel due to the embargo?

And since Iraq has been mentioned, I have an unrelated question:

  • Is Iraq, as an USA-controlled territory, now in official state of war against Israel?

Sandmonkey is again ranting!

During the Second Lebanese War, more than a year ago, I discovered the world of Arab bloggers – from Lebanon, Egypt and other countries.  After the war ended, I continued to follow the Rantings of a Sandmonkey, a blog very critical of the Arabs, Islam and Arab politics.

I followed this blog until May 2007, when he stopped blogging due to some problems he was having and whose nature was not precisely disclosed.

Today I was happy to find that he resumed blogging at August 2007.  I was amused by his rant about the political antics of misguided do-gooders messing around with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Computerized Elections in Israel

Background Information

The Israeli Ministry of Interior is planning to computerize the process of elections in Israel, using electronic voting machines. They are planning to start by running a pilot in ten settlements during the upcoming Nov. 27, 2007 council elections.

This is a Bad Idea

The following reasons are given for the move to computerized elections:

  1. Reduction and even elimination of rigging votes and multiple voting.
  2. Election results availability few minutes after end of elections.
  3. Budgetary savings.
  4. Ability to vote from anywhere without special procedures.

Unfortunately, the first three reasons are either untrue or are insufficient justification for switching to computerized elections.

  1. The worldwide experience with election machines is that they are not secure, not well-designed, violate anonymity of votes, and facilitate rigging of votes even more than paper based ballots.

  2. Election results are not available if the voting machines develop technical problems, as they did in several elections in the world. A more fundamental point is that the integrity of the election process is worth the wait until the next morning. Confronted by the choice between rigged elections with speedy results and clean elections with results available only after 10 hours or so, every sane citizen would choose the second alternative without thinking twice.
  3. Any budgetary savings from using election machines are wiped by bad policies adopted by corrupt politicians, who got elected to office thanks to corrupt elections process. This is one place where one could be penny wise and Pound foolish (or one million wise and ten billion foolish).
  4. The fourth goal of computerized elections can be accomplished by alternative means – for example, by using computers only to verify that a voter did not already vote elsewhere. Paper ballots can still be used for the actual votes.

See also:

It is to be noted that the talkbacks to the news items about the Israeli Ministry of Interior plans demonstrate that Israelis are clueful about the dangers of electronic elections.

What Can be Done About This?

  • Find which voting machines will be used in the pilot and publicize audit results and cracking tips available from other countries where they were already used.
  • Refuse to vote in the voting machines during the pilot.
  • In the pilot, the results from the electronic voting machines will not have official use, so it may not be unlawful to actually crack into them. DISCLAIMER: IANAL. CONSULT WITH YOUR LAWYER BEFORE DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THIS SUGGESTION.