Israel's Detractors Wave Nuclear Flags

Without exactly lying the press assault on Israel, driven by the Hammas public relations juggernaut, continued today to paint the Jewish homeland in the worst possible light.

In the Associated Press report noted above there is a breathless shout of "depleted uranium" being found in a stockpile of weapons Arabs claim was left by Israel. Were the report intended to be truly informative, as opposed to an effort to paint Israel as a band of monsters, this phrase would immediately have been followed by an explanation of what depleted uranium is- and what it is not.

Depleted uranium, nearly pure uranium 238, is a common, very mildly radioactive, isotope of the element that, in it's lighter form, uranium 235, powers atomic weapons and nuclear reactors. It is more stable in comparison with the lighter form, having a half-life (the period of time it would take for half of a mass of the substance to spontaniously decay into other elements) of four and one half BILLION years. That is to say that the U238 that exists on Earth today is half the amount the Earth originally had when it was formed.

Even U235, which is found at about the rate of one part per thousand in the same ores that contain the more common form, has a half-life of over 700 million years. It only becomes dangerous when it is gathered in large volumes in its pure form, at which point its propensity for producing two neutrons per atomic split can cause a cascade of reactions through the mass of the material.

To what should we compare numbers like 4.5 billion years and 700 million years? Radium, the metal a lifetime exposure to which sufficiently damaged Madame Curie that she died of its effects at age 66, has a half-life (most common form) of 1600 years. Strontium, a dangerous component of radioactive fallout because it replaces calcium in bones, ranges from a half-life of mere hours for Strontium 91 to 29 years for Strontium 90. Polonium 210, made famous in recent years by the Kremlin's use of it as a hideously inescapable poison, has a half-life of 138 days. These are admittedly very powerful radioactive sources, but just a little sense of scale applied to the relative danger of these materials would help to alleviate the fright of ignorance. Really dangerous radioactive materials have half-lives measured in MILLENIA or less, millions of times more active than U238.

Is U238 "bad"? Well, it is very poisonous. It is also highly reactive chemically and will burst into flame when vaporized , as it might be in hypersonic impact. (Hence its use as a projectile weapon.) Since American M-1 tank crews work in machines literally made of U238, and have done so for three decades, though, one can assume there is some margin of safety there.

The Associated Press has, with this article, thrown up the red flag of a material that everybody thinks they know something about. Then it has done nothing to alleviate their actual ignorance.

In a time when knowledge is power and ignorance is akin to slavery, this sort of reporting is virtually criminal.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at January 19, 2009 2:00 PM
Comments
Comment #273840

Go back and read the article over again. They spell out the same issues as you: DU is known to be toxic, but only mildly radioactive, suspected to cause health problems, but not confirmed.

The Arab nations are accusing the Israelis of using the material, but the article quotes sources that seem to clear the Israeli’s of another incident where they’re accused of using that material, leaving open the possibility that the Arabs could be wrong.

Long story short, if you go looking for bias, with your selective attention, you will find it, because you will look for more of the elements you feel represent that bias, and you will gloss over the elements that would contradict that theory. Before you remove the dust in other people’s eyes, you must remove the rafter in yours.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 19, 2009 2:35 PM
Comment #273844

Stephen,

The article saves any factual discussion of U238 for well past halfway down. Even then it phrases it very equivocally. It is “assumed to be a carcinogen”, for example, and the discussion of U238 raising the background level of radiation only marginally is likewise phrased in such a way as to be confusing.

From what is said, assuming one has a good grasp of what U238 is and is not, the whole article is highly equivocal. That is to say it does not really say anything.

So that fact that it makes a point of saying what it can’t say so loudly means it is not intended to lead. It is, in fact, intended to mislead.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 19, 2009 2:59 PM
Comment #273858

Lee Jamison-
The direction of the qualifications are important. If they were really trying to make it seem like U-238 was a threat, they wouldn’t have to mention it’s low radioactivity or the open scientific questions about the cancer threat from it. It’s not exactly as if Uranium enjoys a neutral reputation in the public’s mind.

It’s also important to not the reasons why the scientific information gets pushed until later: this is a story about the accusation being made, the circumstances under which it occured. Questions about the truth of the accusation have to wait until people are clear on what the accusation is.

Also of interest is the second half of the article, where a case is cited where a similar accusation seems to have proved erroneous.

What I think is going on here is that you want certain things out of any such discussion. Journalists, though, are not supposed to be advocates. They’re not supposed to go out of their way to prove one side’s point or another. There’s more than just an abstract point to this. They don’t want to be caught having said one thing with the facts newly discovered proving another. If, in fact, Israel did use DU ammunition, and the AP published something that said otherwise, they would get burned.

So, they’re going to wait for the facts.

So should you. It saves on embarrassment and futile runarounds in arguments.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 19, 2009 5:05 PM
Comment #273879
So should you. It saves on embarrassment and futile runarounds in arguments.
Posted by Stephen Daugherty at January 19, 2009 05:05 PM

I was given the same advice some time ago by the same author, Stephen Daugherty. It said basically the same thing. Let it stand until further facts present themselves. Those facts that are to prove the accusation true. Don’t question, yet.

The post was titled Polygamist Hoax by Lee Emmerich Jamison
http://www.watchblog.com/republicans/archives/005940.html

The over 400 children taken from their homes after an investigation taking all of 3 days.

I would say, hold off on supporting these people until the DNA tests are finished. Otherwise, y’all may end up defending statutory rape and child molestation.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2008 09:36 AM

But months later it was revealed the state of Texas overstepped their bounds.

http://www.watchblog.com/republicans/archives/005940.html#253993

In a crushing blow to the state’s massive seizure of children from a polygamist sect’s ranch, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that child welfare officials overstepped their authority and the children should go back to their parents.

Child Protective Services failed to show an immediate danger to the more than 400 children swept up from the Yearning For Zion Ranch nearly two months ago.

I knew this to be true when it happened using simple common sense. Had I not questioned this home invasion would have continued to be an acceptable course of action. Waiting would only give the government the authority to reuse these tactics and to let the precedent be set.

Lee Emmerich Jamison appears to be using the same common sense. He doesn’t need to wait for facts that will come out months or years from now that prove his point of view. But to wait, and let stand, something he knows to be something it isn’t?..

The hero is the person who acts on his beliefs, who risks being wrong because to not speak up when in the right is so very much more costly.

Posted by: Weary Willie at January 19, 2009 9:02 PM
Comment #273902

WW-
First, let me plain:

We were right.

In the end, after all the interviews, the DNA testing and the searches of seized documents, Texas officials concluded that 12 girls are confirmed victims of sexual abuse and neglect because they were married at ages ranging from 12 to 15. They were among 43 girls between the ages of 12 and 17 who were removed from the ranch, meaning that roughly one in four pubescent girls on the ranch was in an underage marriage, according to the report.

So do you support that? Politics be damned, there is right and wrong in this world. I think if they had been more subtle about it, paid closer attention to doing things right, it would have been easier to bring folks to justice who were doing wrong.

But we were right.

Don’t confuse the byzantine technicalities of law with truth or evidence. Our system is built to prevent abuses, and that means sometimes the guilty go free, sometimes the people who act with best intentions are punished for their excesses.

But in the end, these are rarely clear cut issues. Would you, if you heard about underaged marriages and children being forced into sex, not take the risk of being wrong? At the same time, what if you are wrong?

This is meant to be a government where the necessary employment of power is in tension with its overstepping. Clearly this case rests on that borderline, and cannot so simply be reduced to a ideological stand without sacrificing some important concerns.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 20, 2009 8:31 AM
Comment #273905

No, Stephen, “you” weren’t right.

The Texas Supreme Court held that the State of Texas overstepped its bounds in treating the whole compound and all its inhabitants as a single family. That decision still stands.

The state was required to prove individual cases. That process is till ongoing and has yet to make its way through the courts. No matter what happens from this point, in the majority of cases, this seizure was illegal.

You are willing to gloss that over. The same is true with a news report that internally contradicts virtually every assertion on which it claims to be a story. But the damning headline, the thing the vast majority of people will read, still stands, successfully coloring people’s opinions of Israel.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 20, 2009 9:48 AM
Comment #273918

Lee Jamison-
I was right about the facts of the case. Do the facts not compel concern? Government is worthless if it doesn’t concern itself with the realities as much as the technicalities.

As a proponent of the rule of law, I accept the court decision without resort to the cries of “judicial activism” that I often here from the Right. I understand the legal issues, and can understand how ignoring the issue would open up the system to abuse.

But you know something? The fears of what was going on were confirmed. The rule of law must work in both directions, moderating both the rulers and the ruled. To neglect the first invites tyranny; the second, anarchy.

The cultists have been confirmed, by evidence, to have committed the very acts they were accused of. Underage girls were made to marry and have sex. This was coming, sooner or later. However, according to the law, the folks in law enforcement did things improperly. Neither of the two wrongs constitute a right on either part in combination.

I will not gloss either over, but I will not either gloss over the compelling nature of the case, the accusation. Here we have the conflict between the nature of the crime, which surely merits serious action, and the rights people have for good reason, to preserve their liberties agaisnt false accusations. Why do you gloss over the conflict?

Back to the original issue: The article had to first tell people about what the issue was. Second, it had to tell them, briefly, in a way that wasn’t too technical for people unfamiliar with the physics and everything to understand.

They did a relatively good job. They presented both sides of the story, and most importantly presented the truth that the case wasn’t so clear cut. Sometimes that’s the truth. Israel may have used Depleted Uranium munitions. But the Arab nations may just be blowing smoke. The article indicates they’ve been wrong before.

It is not their job to teach a full course in the refinement of Uranium. It is their job to report about the accusation. There is a friendly, easy-going way to explain this issue further, to expand on issues. You do not have to go about this business of accusing the media of being biased every time they don’t explain an issue to your satisfaction.

When the media didn’t explain the ins and outs of the war too well, to my satisfaction, I didn’t go on a rant about the media’s obliviousness, I simply started blogging, started spreading out what I knew and what I was learning.

This low key approach keeps the politics in the background, where it should be. You can demonstrate past unreliable accusations, and if you’ve got the guts, confront accusations that were true, and speak to that. We live in a world not shaped to our liking, and if we don’t have the courage to confront where our natural political preferences are frustrated by uncomfortable realities, we will show ourselves to be cowards.

Stop playing every story like a political game, because few actually are. It’s the facts and the realities behind them that are important. What we think about them must come afterwards, if we aren’t putting the cart before the horse.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 20, 2009 12:56 PM
Comment #273924

I went to Radium, BC, Canada, back when radium was considered to be good in small doses. Thirty years later, I’m suffering more from old skiing injuries than exposure to radiation.

Posted by: ohrealy at January 20, 2009 1:57 PM
Comment #273926

Stephen,
Well over two decades ago the police in Philadelphia were dealing with genuine terrorists in a Philly neighborhood. It seemed well to them at the time to drop a literal bomb on the house in which the heavily armed terrorists were holed up. OK, real criminals involved in a very real crime. No one has ever disputed that. So far we have significant similarities between the polygamists and the Philly criminals.

The bomb caused a fire that burned down several homes, but there were, after all, real criminals and real crime. In the Philly case, however, the COURTS found the police overstepped their bounds, painting the whole neighborhood with an overbroad enforcement brush. Each affected homeowner was awarded more than half a million dollars in compensation.

I have not disputed the possibility that there were real crimes committed by the polygamists. What happened there, though, was law enforcement overstepping the bounds we set for them in an effort to make sure they work for us and not we for them. Once all the legal smoke has cleared it is entirely probable there will not be a single conviction as a result of all the State of Texas did which was illegal, no matter whether what they feared existed or not.

The principle at work in both those cases is the same. The elimination of crime is not a higher principle than the preservation of individual rights and due process.

By the same token the ‘due process’ of prominently noting the dubiousness of an accusation is as important as reporting the accusation in the first place.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 20, 2009 2:27 PM
Comment #273940

Lee Jamison-
Do I have to correct you here, on a misconception of my position? I said that the way these law enforcement actions were carried out were problematic, that the decision that they were overstepped bounds was likely right.

The prevention of misconduct by those below must be concurrent with the prevention of abuses from above. However, the law must be written to make it easier for legitimate action to be taken on the part of the authorities when they have good reason to suspect a crime might be committed.

The problem I have with the way some Republicans approached this is that they jumped to condemn the law enforcement authorities in Texas for what they did, without considering the very real issue of what should be done in such a situation. They prejudged beforehand that any such investigation was illegitimate, even before they had a court decision to back them up. It all became another iteration of “religious folk good, law enforcement authorities bad.”

What I’d like to hear in greater detail was just what they should have done, because the facts in the case indicate that something serious was going on. Do we make laws against behavior like this toothless for these large, secretive groups, allowing THEM to flout the rule of law? Keep in mind here, I am just as understanding about the position of keeping the police properly in check here.

The question is not who do we side with, it’s what arrangement do we make to optimize both the rights of the accused and uninvolved,and the legitimate powers of the police to enforce the law?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 20, 2009 5:27 PM
Comment #273945

Stephen,

I’m not ignoring your legitimate concerns over the protection of the innocent.

My first reaction at news of the raid was supportive (though that didn’t make it into print. I usually take my own first reactions with a grain of salt.). My initial concern at the polygamist situation was at the lack of a legitimate accuser. In fact that concern, particularly in view of the fact there had been ongoing investigations of the group, turned out to be appropriate.

What followed was a majestic example of overreaching.

With the Philadelphia police situation, again, my first reaction was supportive of police actions. Slowly, in that case, I came to realize I was initially wrong.

The press (to get back to the Israel situation)has a purposefully government-like role. Their power to give the wrong impression in emotionally charged situations should not be taken lightly. It is, more often than not, that first impression that turns what should be a non-event like a magazine explosion in a chamber with a common, uninsulated steel wall with a coal bunker into a real travesty, like the Spanish-American War.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 20, 2009 6:26 PM
Comment #273952

Lee Jamison-
A lawyer familiar with the case pointed out a number of things wrong with the FLDS’s argument.

First, the ruling did not take CPS out of the equation.

The Texas Supreme Court made it clear that CPS’s investigation of abuse was far from over. Indeed, it made a point of listing the means by which the district court could further protect the children, even as they were permitted to return to the compound.

She makes a second point:

It is extremely important for people to understand this point: The Texas Supreme Court did not say that there was no abuse and did not place its imprimatur on the notion that the FLDS to could return to abuse as usual.

The week before, FLDS members had turned investigators away from the gates of the compound. The court made clear that should not happen again and, by implication, that if investigators during this investigation uncover further evidence of abuse, the state will not be barred from further actions taken to protect each child.

Moreover, neither the Texas Supreme Court nor the lower appellate court ruled on whether the parents have any “rights,” constitutional or otherwise – a point the Texas Supreme Court stated explicitly. To the contrary, both decisions were state law rulings on the sufficiency of the evidence to date to take all of the children at once.[emphases mine]

It’s always been my position that great care needs to be taken with regards to the interpretation of legal decisions, because the issues are not always as broad brush in the characterization as the political points based upon them.

The courts decisions have little to do with the criminal investigation, and everything to do with the question of whether the CPS had the authority to take custody of of all those kids at once.

The cases are likely to go forward, not likely to be tainted by the illegitimate nature of the person who called in the report. Remember, they had to investigate to determine the person wasn’t legitimate, and by that time they’d found evidence that the case was legitimate.

It’s not the ideal way for these cases to proceed, but if you operated in Good faith investigating and gathering your evidence, then you did not overstep your bounds.

As far as the article on Israel goes, it’s balanced and generic, perhaps even a little pro-Israel, since it devotes so much text to talking about Syria’s apparently false accusations against Israel.

I look into these things with an eye to meaningful information and distinctions, rather than bias, since bias is so subjective. It’s much easier, I think, to fault people for leaving out critical information (such as the limited scope of a decision) than to get anybody to take seriously a claim of bias which they might find to be peculiar on your part to your politics.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 20, 2009 7:45 PM
Comment #273968

Stephen,

Well stated as to the FLDS issues. Press reports I read on the latest developments had not contained as much depth as you have pointed to here and, frankly, I’ve been putting out fires that have nothing to do with political commentary today nad have not been able to follow up on the case. Absolutely, abuse should not continue. My great concern is for the issue of due process. Texas courts are highly likely to be sticklers on that.

On the press report, we will probably disagree no matter what. At least the silent visitor here can read what the two of us say (arguing real points and not just calling each other names) and begin to understand how we could see things so differently.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 20, 2009 10:29 PM
Comment #274245

I really get disgusted with this. The media has almost completely ignored the fact that Hamas has launched rockets into Israel for years, and now that Israel strikes back, they are labeled as aggressors, fighting the “fighters” as the media labels Hamas terrorists. The whole coverage has been a joke from beginning to end. If people in Mexico started shooting missiles across the border, exactly who would be demanding that we show “restraint”? But Israel has to show restraint, even when their schools are bombed and their children shot at. It is simply pathetic what the media has done with this.

Posted by: Gambit at January 24, 2009 11:38 AM
Comment #274412

gambit-
Israel’s got a right to self defense. But it’s exercising it in such a ham handed, collateral-casualty rich way as to invite calls for restraint. If Israel sent commandoes in to take out the rockets and the places making them, or intercepted a shipment of munitions, that would be reasonable. However, what we have here is full-scale invasion. It doesn’t add up to a proportional response.

My general rule on military incursions is, you know you’re in trouble when you’re configuring your missions with the creation of a mood in mind. Like the great Gurney Halleck said, mood is a thing for cattle and loveplay. Military operations need to have a practical objective in mind.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 27, 2009 12:58 PM
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