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Comment Re:2 people agreeing is news? (Score 1) 411

Wouldn't it be great, then, if Israel bothered to create a boundary between it's 1948 acquisitions, where everybody is a citizen, and its 1967 acquisitions, where almost everybody is a non-citizen (aka in your analogy as a "neighbour")? For some reason the Israeli government and public fail to see the wisdom of "good fences make good neighbours". The most consistent reason they give for this is that they got this land from God and now it's theirs.

Comment Re:USA against the World? (Score 1) 735

> But is it really temporary?

I'd say that is entirely in the hands of the PA. They have been offered pretty much EVERYTHING they publicly profess to desire, see Clinton's effort. They turned it down because they want it all, from the river to the sea.

Not quite everything, if you look into the details, though I suppose that was a pretty good offer. At least that's the way the Israeli negotiators describe it. Since then there was a change at the Palestinian helm, though, and both sides have changed their positions.

Thought experiment for you to see if you are an honest debater or just a pro terror apologist.

Let me ask you about a real-life fact to determine if you're an honest debater or just an apartheid apologist: what might be the long-term vision of successive Israeli governments as they keep approving settlements in the depth of the west bank? Do you suppose they plan to spend billions to later uproot the same people they are now sending to live there? Do you have any idea how politically difficult it is to evacuate Israeli settlements after they have been built?

Imagine tomorrow Abbas announced his desire for a two state solution (something he publicly denounces btw, and he is the moderate)

That's news to me - unless you're referring to Israel's precondition that they recognize it as a "Jewish" state - which was an attempt to get the Palestinians to compromise the "right of return" as a precondition to negotiations. If you mean something else, please provide a citation.

and to live in peace with Israel. That it is time to end this terrible bloodshed and finally have peace and a future.

Note that the tiny enclaves ruled by Abbas already live in de-facto peace with Israel. While the Israelis certainly enjoy the great reduction in violence, I see no sign that they have come any closer to recognizing the Palestinians' human and national rights.

Now imagine he not only lived through the next twenty four hours but that the people were finally tired of the fighting and rose up in public demonstrations of support so profound that Hamas went to ground. The suicide and mortar fire ceased and it really looked like THIS time they meant it. How long could an Israeli politician hold out against signing a treaty? That is what I mean, it is all up to them, they will have peace the second they decide they have to settle for it instead of the total victory they keep dreaming is coming real soon now. Now explain how I'm totally wrong.

Did you know that something similar has actually happened in real life? So far Netanyahu is holding out just fine and doesn't seem like he ought to be concerned in the least about peace talks. So based on what has actually happened - the Palestinian authority denouncing and actively fighting terrorism, and publicly stating very clearly that it is interested in a two-state solution - I'd say that your thought experiment does not lead where you think it leads.

> Either way, it does not annex the land and make it a part of the legal definition of Israel. The legal terms that apply to the west bank
> are the same terms that applied to Japan after its defeat in 1945. Would you say that the occupied Japan was part of the US and
> that its post-war status was an internal matter? If you would, then you have a very peculiar definition of "internal".

Yes, exactly the same. Except for the detail that Japan was administered by the Allied Forces instead of just the U.S. That is why half of Japan uses 60Hz electricity and the other half runs on 50Hz, it's post war reconstruction really was designed by committee.

Thanks for the technical correction regarding the rule by committee, of which I was not aware. It does seem like McArthur called all the shots by himself, so this seems like a formality. The electricity split seems to go back much further than that.

it is pretty much the same, no outside force would have been permitted to interfere with the Allied operations inside Japan until such time as we decided to grant them their independence.

Indeed, that is pretty much the same. How do you think Israel would respond if a foreign army landed in the west bank? That doesn't make it an internal political affair though.

A better comparison would be to other Pacific islands we still hold as U.S. Territories. They are considered part of the U.S. in the sense that any outside power would be attacking the U.S. if they messed with them, we freely position military forces there, etc. but they aren't equals within the United States in that they get no votes in our Congress yet we do grant U.S. Citizenship to the inhabitants. But on the other hand they don't pay all of the same taxes as a resident of a State pays. It gets fuzzy in places but nobody would confuse Guam with an independent nation state and the UN would never be daft enough to try seating as a member state until after the U.S. signed off on independence for them.

I imagine the UN may have considered recognizing Guam as an independent state if Guam were more populated, if it struggled for independence for decades, if it were as successful as the Palestinians in gaining media attention, and if the US wasn't the most powerful and influential country in the world. But I could be wrong - it's a problem with thought experiments. Anyway, I'm not particularly interested in defending the UN's positions - I just wanted to dispell an apparent misconception that the west bank is as much a part of Israel as Tel Aviv is. It is not. And Israel's positions make it very clear that it isn't, as I have elaborated in my previous comment.

Comment Re:USA against the World? (Score 1) 735

You must be joking, but I'm afraid many slashdot readers might miss the sarcasm. For the less-informed, I should note that there is a de-facto Palestinian state in Gaza, which has frequently launched missiles into the Negev, and no carpet bombing has followed - much less world war III.

BTW, any claim of the form "the palestinians/Israelis aren't interested in foo, they really want bar" is always false because both Palestinians and Israelis are heterogenous groups composed of millions of people, with many and varied political groups active among them pushing vastly different agendas.

Comment Re:USA against the World? (Score 2) 735

The west bank is not part of Israel, by Israel's own definitions.

Palestine certainly exists, though not by that name, in Israeli legislation. You see, inhabitants of the occupied territories are not, by and large, Israeli citizens, and the law applied there is not the same law that applies in the pre-1967 Israel. According to Israel's own legal experts, the west bank is held under military occupation. When a palestinian from the west bank breaks the law, it is the military law that he is breaking and he is brought to trial in Israeli military court. Unlike palestinians living on the other side of the green line, that person does not vote for Israeli parliament, and is not afforded any rights by Israel (like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement). Thus, Israel itself makes a very strong distinction between the west bank and its previous acqusitions.

This situation is further complicated by the presence of the Palestinian authority in parts of the west bank. Agreements signed by Israel and the PLO have granted the PLO partial powers in those places, which is a formal recognition that those territories are not, in fact, part of Israel.

To further underscore this distinction between Israel and the west bank, consider that Israel formally annexed a large area around Jerusalem shortly after the 1967 war. It did not do the same in the rest of the west bank, because the Israelies anticipate that such annexation would put them under pressure to grant voting rights to the Palestinian inhabitans, and they do not want that.

So Israel is in essence playing a very dishonest game here. They don't want to grant human beings their political rights, so they avoid annexation. Not annexing the land gives the Israeli government the subterfuge of military occupation, a supposedly temporary measure. But is it really temporary? Here the Israeli public is split. A very large contingent views the occupation as entirely permanent, and that contingent has managed to further its agenda to the extent that roughly 8% of Israel's Jewish population has resettled in the occupied west bank. Many of those settlers resettled with the express intention of preventing a peace agreement where the land would be partitioned. A smaller contingent would rather end the occupation, but that contingent's influence is steadily diminishing, possibly due to demographic forces.

The bottom line is that the ruling party in Israel pretends that the occupation is temporary, and acts like it is permanent. Either way, it does not annex the land and make it a part of the legal definition of Israel. The legal terms that apply to the west bank are the same terms that applied to Japan after its defeat in 1945. Would you say that the occupied Japan was part of the US and that its post-war status was an internal matter? If you would, then you have a very peculiar definition of "internal".

Comment Re:Everybody is an engineer? (Score 1) 422

Good code has correctness proofs, even if they're informal and only in the author's head.

But that's still a completely different situation than a structural engineer designing a bridge, and testing its strength by a number of fairly well defined methods and adherence to building codes. An informal proof, existing only in the author's head, is poorly defined, and can easily be wrong.

If it can't be made right, then the code is wrong - that's the point of making the proof formal, rather than keeping it informal. I was replying to your notion that proving code is impossible due to the halting problem.

And, of course, in many cases the specification isn't clear. How would you formally verify a climate model, for instance ?

Is formal verification really that expensive, or are does it just seem expensive because we habitually ignore the costs of skipping it?

I think it's really expensive, but in either case, it's not fair to blame the software engineer for the mess.

You can't formally verify scientific hypotheses (such as a climate model) but you can certainly verify that a supposed implementation of a climate model is indeed an implementation of that climate model (given enough time and competence). You seem to confuse formal proof with hypothesis testing in this case. You are correct that verifying the implementation's correctness would be expensive, but I was replying to your contention that it is somehow impossible or pointless to prove program correctness. In the case of climate models, making wrong policy decisions because of buggy implementations would probably be no less expensive than the verification process.

Comment Re:Everybody is an engineer? (Score 2) 422

It's true that formal verification can't prove the program "does what I want" if you screw up specifying what you want

Which is exactly my point. For any sufficiently interesting problem, specifying what you want in a 100% perfect way is impossible.

In addition, there's no formal way to prove that two programs produce the same output (that would be equivalent to solving the Halting Problem), and as a consequence there's no general way to prove that a program is equivalent to the specification.

You overstate the theorem. Determining whether or not two programs produce the same output is undecidable. That doesn't mean that given two non-trivial programs, you can never prove that they produce the same output (rather, it means that there's no algorithm that can receive the representation of the programs and determine in finite time and without mistakes whether or not they have the same output).

So, where does this put us? To get safety and correctness guarantees about programs, we need not write algorithms that prove correctness about any program provided to them. Rather, we need to write proofs concerning the particular program that we wrote - and it helps if we wrote our program in certain ways that make those proofs easier to develop. This is certainly possible.

You might counter that certain correct programs have no correctness proof. This is true only in a superficial way. A program may have correct behaviour, but if its author cannot write a correctness proof for it - even an informal one - then that means the program isn't understood by its own author, and should be fixed. Good code has correctness proofs, even if they're informal and only in the author's head.

I must make one exception to this rule, however. In AI code, there are sometimes heuristics that have no proof, not even an informal one, because the author doesn't have more than an intuition about why the heuristic should work. But that's a small minority of the total amount of code being written.

Of course, like you said, parts of the program can be simple enough to prove in a formal sense, but that doesn't nearly cover all the interesting cases. There's still plenty left over.

And, like I said in my first post, even formally verifying the parts where it is possible would lead to unacceptable budget and deadline overruns, so it's rarely done.

This is often true, but as you probably know, there are cases where verification is worth the cost. Aerospace and medicine come to mind. I'd also hazard a guess that operating systems deserve the extra investment of formal verification. Has anybody ever made a quantitative comparison of the up-front cost of formal verification with the cost of bugs and maintenance work that would have been prevented by formal verification? Is formal verification really that expensive, or are does it just seem expensive because we habitually ignore the costs of skipping it?

Comment Re:Also a pony and a flying car for everyone. (Score 1) 320

This is obviously not the same thing - having the choice between paying more and saving electricity is not the same as having the power plug yanked out when you're trying to read. The consumer gets to prioritize her electricity use and give up uses that are not as important to her.

More generally, you seem to be saying that setting a market price for something is equivalent to forcing people to give it up. Does this mean that setting a market-price for medical services is the same as forcing people to give up medicine?

Comment Re:nothing ironic about it (Score 1) 609

Well, there was the case of Chomsky recently, mentioned above. I don't know that it's government policy though, as I haven't heard of other cases, and the fact that Chomsky was barred entrance might be a case of profound stupidity (coupled with an arbitrary and immoral exercise of power) rather than a consistent policy.

Comment Re:makes sense (Score 1) 609

That's a false analogy if I ever saw one. Stallman is not an employee of a Palestinian university, and is under no obligation to act according to anybody else's agenda (unlike the employee in your analogy, which is supposed to work on behalf of his employer). Stallman had a deal with the university, and then the university added a new clause. Stallman chose to accept this clause, which I think is not unreasonable, all things considered. But that doesn't mean he's bound by loyalty to the Palestinian university as an employee would have been.

Comment Re:makes sense (Score 1) 609

Well, that was expected. A couple of points:

1. As far as I know, it is not seriously disputed that many of the refugees did not leave voluntarily. If you don't know what I'm talking about, please read about Ramle, Lod, Al-Majdal and (more recently) Imwas, Yalo and Bayt Nuba.


If you read Hebrew, I'd also suggest this wikipedia article:


In most cases that I'm aware of, the bulk of the exodus occurred shortly before or after conquest, which undermines your proposed explanation - if the refugees' motives in leaving were as you propose, then one would expect them to evacuate somewhat ahead of the fighting.

2. There are several proposed explanations for the mass emigration and it's quite plausible that most of the causes suggested had played a part. Can you point out to any study that managed to conclusively quantify the motives of the refugees? Is such a study even possible, being as you wouldn't really expect them to be honest about their motives at the time, if their motives are what you say they were?

3. Returning to the original question of Hamas ideology, the motives that the refugees had are in fact entirely tangential. If we wish to understand why Hamas has the ideology it has, we must ask how the Palestinians perceived their history, rather than ask what actually happened. This is not to say that "what actually happened?" is not an important question in its own right - it certainly is. It's just not as relevant a question to understanding the origins of Hamas' ideology as the question "what did the Palestinians believe about the Nakba?".

Comment Re:makes sense (Score 1) 609

Well, maybe, but it seems far more plausible to me that it's the other way around - Hamas are murderous anti-semites because this movement developed under the occupation, amongst the people who suffered the Naqba. As Moshe Dayan famously said, we can't blame them for hating us, as we took their homes and fields from them (not in those precise words, but that was his intent).

Submission + - capital punishment for homosexuality in Uganda?

Micklat writes: "South of the Sahara, being gay is generally illegal, and is often no fun at all. In South Africa, lesbians are being "correctively" raped, and the parliament of Uganda has been debating capital punishment and life imprisonment for certain "offenses" such as contracting HIV while being gay.
An international outcry got the government to postpone this legislation in the past, but parliamentary negotiations are under way and the bill is likely to be voted on this week — in which case, according to one estimate, it has a "99%" chance of being approved."

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