2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


My Thoughts On the Kennedy Assassin

Over December 24 and 25, on the recommendation of Gary North (whom I respect, despite his theocratic inclinations), I viewed the latest version of the two-hour PBS Frontline documentary Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?. The documentary is, as is typical of Frontline, very professionally presented. The interviews with persons who knew Oswald are especially useful at revealing Oswald’s nature and political beliefs. After viewing the documentary, I looked at some of Oswald’s personal political writings as presented by the Warren Commission. The writings reveal a man who was clearly disillusioned with Soviet Communism, but continued to oppose publicly traded companies and unequal ownership of business. Oswald’s public pronouncements were consistent in his opposition to Soviet Communism, but they clearly display Oswald’s support for the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba. Indeed, Oswald contradicted himself in the above-linked to interview, saying “We do not support the man“, yet later saying “Quite the contrary, we believe that it is a necessity in supporting democracy to support Fidel Castro and his right to make his country any way he wants to.“. All the evidence I have seen indicates Oswald’s opposition to capitalism and support for Castro was sincere. Indeed, there is evidence Castro had some foreknowledge of Oswald’s attempt to assassinate Kennedy, and not just from Warren Commission Document 1359. Whether Castro’s allegation that the Kennedy assassination must have required at least three gunmen to complete in time and that the Kennedy assassination was most likely done by Castro opponents is mistaken or deliberately made up is uncertain. The Cuban government would certainly have had no problem with a Kennedy assassination, as it tried to orchestrate one of its own creation in 1962 –it wasn’t exactly the smallest risk-taker on the planet. The only person besides Kennedy Oswald tried to kill was Edwin Walker, a Bircher. Oswald also seems to have communicated this assassination attempt to Cuban intelligence. As Oswald left his wedding ring behind on the day he shot Kennedy, and the Cuban embassy was the first place known to us where he communicated his intention to kill Kennedy, it appears likely that Oswald’s plan after his assassination of John F. Kennedy was to go back to the Cuban embassy in Mexico, whether on the week he shot Kennedy or some time later. The most likely motives I can think of for Oswald’s assassination of Kennedy are to improve U.S.-Cuban relations and to convince the Cuban government that Oswald was a useful friend of theirs that they should allow into Cuba. In any case, the Kennedy assassination may have saved Castro’s life -Lyndon Johnson “abandoned the objective of Castro’s overthrow” (here, p. 177).

My Third Blog-O-Versary

I would hereby like to announce my third blog-o-versary, which occurs today. My blog has received a grand total of 58,991 views since its founding. My blog has now shrunken to being the seventh result (sixth non-video and non-image) on the first page for jebel al lawz in Google, and to being the second result for jebel al lawz in bing, but has continued being the top result for against jebel al lawz in both search engines. My blog has gained 35 blog followers, including four Twitter followers, this year. It has received 121 blog comments this year (including a small part of 2012), not counting any of my comments or any trackbacks. My blog has 542 posts, including this one. This year has been characterized by a huge decline in my posting rate and a general reduction in this blog’s maintenance. However, the sidebar has been greatly updated this year and a Google Custom Search feature (of questionable functionality) has been created. The Schedule created this year has been insufficiently updated, though the Quotes page has been greatly updated. The Jerusalem page has been updated this year for the first time since January 2012.

The top commentators this year are

1. Martin Stower (14 comments)

2. Gerry (12 comments)

3. David Costner (10 comments)

4. (tie) David Rohl (yes, that David Rohl) (8 comments)

5. (tie) peter (8 comments)

On Heroopolis and Pithom

A couple months ago, I concluded that, as it is universally agreed that there was no city called Pithom before the Late Period, Pithom as a city mentioned outside the Bible could only be identified with Tell el-Maskhuta, the ancient Heroopolis. Though it is possible that the Biblical Pithom may have been the name of the temple at Tell el-Retabeh applied to the city, outside the Bible, Pithom as a city-name (not as a temple-name) simply cannot be Tell el-Retabeh. Consequently, as “Tjeku” is known to be mentioned as a city-name during the New Kingdom, it is most likely that Tell el-Retabeh was known as the sgr of Tjeku during the New Kingdom. Thus, I find that the identifications of Hoffmeier and Kitchen need to be reversed: Retabeh was the ancient city of Tjeku/Succoth; Maskhuta was the ancient city of Patomos/Pithom. I presume that the name “Maskhuta” preserves the name “Succoth” due to “Tjeku” continuing to be the Egyptian name of the Wadi Tumilat into the Roman period.

Infographic of the Day

From this Gallup report summarizing 2012 data. More black means a larger percentage of respondents saying it is a bad time to find a job. Cream-colored countries (those lighter than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) are not mentioned in the report. I made this graphic from this map this afternoon because the data looked interesting.
As is evident, in the matter of job opportunities, southern Europe, the U.K., Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Mongolia, and Hispaniola are squarely in the toilet, the Gulf states are doing fantastic, Southeast Asia is doing fantastic to okay, Latin America (except most of Central America and Hispaniola) was doing okay, and energy-independent Central Asia is doing fine. Algeria is doing better than normal. The somewhat democratic Muslim countries of Somaliland (which should by no means be seen as a part of Somalia) and Libya have the best job prospects in Africa. Presumably Southeast Asia is doing so well due to outsourcing from the United States. Germany (doing so-so) and Spain (deep in the toilet) have very similar exports, so I can only assume that the big difference between the two economies is a result of more effective contract enforcement, an easier time with construction permits, and businesses’ easier electricity access in Germany.

My Late Christmas Gift To You All

A list of my favorite Firefox extensions!

By far my favorite is AdBlock Plus with Element Hiding Helper (for some reason, these are two separate extensions). The former removes most Internet ads from your sight, the latter allows you to remove parts of webpages you don’t like (such as the box on google.com telling you to download Chrome) from your sight.

My second-favorite is NoScript. Be warned! The maker of the add-on advertises for malware made by UniBlue on the NoScript website. Other than the warning, NoScript is an excellent add-on, allowing blocking of third-party scripts on all websites. I see it best to allow top-level sites by default.

My third-favorite is Tree Style Tab. Before this add-on, organizing tabs was one of my worst nightmares and the main obstacle preventing me from completing my first post on Syria. Now, organizing tabs is easy and largely unnecessary. The add-on is the most visible extension in my last-posted screenshot.

My fourth-favorite is UnloadTab. This prevents Firefox crashes by unloading tabs after a specified amount of time. Before this extension, Firefox used to crash roughly five times per day for me. Now, it crashes only once per week.

My fifth-favorite is Flagfox. It allows quick access to a whole range of services, including Google Translate, Google Cache, Internet Archive, and copying server info. It is the extension I never thought I needed until I realized its utility.

My sixth-favorite is Ghostery. This blocks cookies and trackers. The only disadvantage is that settings reset after every update.

My seventh-favorite was GreaseMonkey until the problem mentioned here (which surprisingly only manifested itself while I was finishing up this post) led me to remove it (the problem is apparently with GreaseMonkey itself; the problem continues to manifest itself when I re-install GreaseMonkey) and switch to Scriptish, which does the same thing. So far, I have only used it to modify YouTube with scripts to show ratings in YouTube thumbnails, prevent YouTube autoplay, unclick the “Share to Google+” checkbox in the YouTube comments, and, most importantly, to add a Stop button to YouTube. This is because, as you know, YouTube is a completely functional site programmed by competent people.

My eighth-favorite is UnMHT, which allows Firefox to view and save webpages as mhtml files.

My ninth-favorite is Copy Plain Text 2. This one’s a bit buggy as it makes the regular Copy feature work much slower.

Lastly, my tenth-favorite is DownloadHelper, which helps download flash videos as mp4 files. The recommended converter doesn’t work, but that does not distract from the utility of this extension.

The “Arab Spring” Was a Two-Hit Wonder

This is a chart I made from the latest (not for long) Press Freedom reports from Freedom House. Higher scores indicate greater levels of press repression.
As you can see, the Arab Spring succeeded in bringing democracy and substantial improvements in press freedom to only two countries: the two most repressive states in North Africa.
Far more associated with the Arab Spring than transitions to democracy was the citizenry feeling less safe at night (though this feeling less safe at night apparently had nothing to do with the rate of muggings and assaults).

I attribute the quick transitions to democracy and improvements in press freedom of Tunisia and Libya to the political sterility of these nations. Since Gaddafi and Ben Ali had such complete contol of Libya and Tunisia’s repressive apparatuses, these apparatuses disappeared with their ousters from power. Egypt was not politically sterile but had a not-wholly-repressed Muslim Brotherhood and a strong army waiting in the wings to maintain and continue Mubarak’s press censorship. Yemen was a a blatant case of the new boss being the same as the old boss.

From The Annals of the Absurd

A sight which I did not mean to look for, but came across anyway:
Look especially at the ads in the screenshot.

Are you dying of laughter yet?

For those who do not get it: the pro-Chavista ad in the screenshot is rather contradictory to the “System Change, not Climate Change” ad. Venezuela is a classic example of a “petro-state”; nearly half the country’s economy is dependent on petroleum exports whether directly or indirectly. Domestic carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels rose by over a third under Chavez. The only fact that does not make the combination of the two ads reek of irony is the fact that Venezuela’s fossil fuel production under Chavez was, due to high petroleum prices, allowed to significantly decline. This is a rather dubious “green” honor (and a gross violation of the Law of Supply).

U.S. State Dept. Tries To Combat Terrorism by Replying to Terror Supporters on Twitter

From the New York Times (note: open all NYT links in private/incognito windows). I declare this blog to be the first media outlet to publish the name of the Twitter account “Think AgainTurn Away“, a U.S. State Dept. account dedicated to combating jihadism with Twitter and Photoshop. I am the 21st follower of this Twitter account.

UPDATE: I declare myself the first Twitter user to reply to this account and the second to retweet its first tweet: