Monday, November 19, 2012

Code Name: "Jericho"

"And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it." ~ Joshua 6:26 (KJV)

Much is being made of the so-called Palestinian "rocket attacks" on the Israelis. The Huffington Post, for instance, writes that: "Palestinian militants barraged Israel with nearly 150 rockets on Thursday, killing three people..." (Source). The article goes on to quote Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as stating: "No government would tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people live under a constant barrage of rockets and missile fire, and Israel will not tolerate this situation..." (Ibid.). Fox News describes the situation as one that forces "...Israel [to fend] off relentless rocket attacks from Gaza..." (Source). The rhetoric is fairly typical.

The "Israeli Defense Force" (IDF) has widely disseminated a slickly produced cartoon purporting to depict the effective range of the "Fajr 5 - The Hamas Rocket that Threatens Millions of Israelis". This animated short film can be viewed on numerous websites (see, e.g., here and here). Along with the video, the IDF also updated its map (see above) representing the maximum range potentials for the various Palestinian rockets.
(Estimated ranges for Israel's "Jericho" missiles (1 &2); Edited image; Original map source)

Absent from such pictures of the Palestinian "threat" is any commensurate portrayal of Israeli capabilities. For example (and most obviously), while the IDF "Rocket Threat" diagram shows how deeply into Israel Palestinian rockets can penetrate, the question is never raised as to how far into Gaza Israeli missiles can reach. Of course, the reason for this is that the question is ridiculous. The Israelis can strike any point in Gaza (or any of the Occupied Territories) effortlessly and at will. The effective range of Israeli ballistic missiles is counted in hundreds and thousands of kilometers, as opposed to the tens of kilometers applicable to Palestinian equipment.* Using an online map, a child's compass, and a few crayons, I have attempted to make salient the contrasting ranges (see above).

Range is not the only neglected contrast, however. A cursory Google search will quickly reveal several images that show the physical dimensions of the Palestinian rockets. The "Grad" rocket stands above the little cartoon person and is listed as having a diameter of "122 mm".

As a first pass, we can compare the "Grad" against the Aerotech "Mirage" model rocket. The "Mirage's" length and diameter are given as "87" (221cm)" and "2.6" (6.7cm)", respectively. Hence, the "Mirage" is in the vicinity of the "Grad" in terms of length, but with about half the girth. (Additionally, the "Mirage," being after all a model rocket, is much lighter.)
(Note that "...the Jericho-2 is a Shavit minus the upper stage, which is replaced by a warhead" [Source: "Israel: How Far Can Its Missiles Fly?" The Risk Report, 1 (June 1995) 5, qtd. at: "Israel," The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) website, URL]; Image source)

As a second pass, we should now compare the entire Hamas rocket arsenal against the Israeli "Jericho" ("Shavit"). (The "Jericho"/"Shavit" arguably bear a similar relationship to one another as did the U.S. "Atlas," "Saturn," and "Titan" rockets. One military weapon history forum poster commented that "Saturn could have served as an ICBM ... just as Atlas and Titan both served as ICBMs and as space-launch rockets.") Besides a size disparity between Palestinian and Israeli rockets that is too obvious to warrant elaboration, it is also worth mentioning that the "Jericho-2 reportedly uses terminal guidance similar to the radar guidance in the American Pershing-2 missile, which would increase the missile's accuracy" (Source). By contrast, the "Qassam...rocket lacks a guidance system and is very inaccurate" (Source) and even the much ballyhooed "Fajr 5...rockets lack the precision of a guided missile. 'Fajr 5 is a rocket rather than a missile. It is not guided as such. That is how we differentiate it,' said Gareth Jennings, managing editor of IHS Jane's Missiles and Rockets" (Source). Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is reported as stating that: "None of the [Palestinian] rockets has any form of terminal guidance and lack accuracy" (Ibid.)
("Qassam" after impact; Source)
(Some of the rockets that have been recovered in Israel; Source)

I hasten to add that this lack of guidance for Palestinian rockets  does not necessarily mean that those rockets pose no danger whatsoever. For instance, it is quite true that a person could be badly injured or killed if directly impacted by a "Fajr 5." Even the comparatively miniscule "Qassam" rocket could kill a person by blunt force trauma if that rocket were, for example, to strike a person on the head as it fell to the ground. However, for the record, it is certainly worth noting that the Israeli missile capabilities are light years ahead of Palestinian efforts which are very plausibly construed as a sort of "guerilla" model rocketry.
(Impact crater of a "Qassam" rocket. Note the cracked asphalt and black discoloration on the street. Image source)
(Impact crater of an unspecified Israeli rocket. Note that the damage is much more extensive and that, post-impact, the culprit rocket is unavailable for inspection. Image source)
(Structural damage from a Palestinian rocket: "An Israeli police officer stands inside a damaged house after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza Strip landed in Ashkelon, southern Israel, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012." Sources: 1 & 2)
(Structural damage from an Israeli missile: "Palestinians walk through the debris after an Israeli air strike on building in Gaza City, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012." Sources: 1 & 2)

If this appraisal seems unfair, I submit that one ought to examine the available evidence. (Admittedly, this is difficult because the Israelis are allowed both to conduct their weapons developments in virtual secrecy and, ostensibly when it suits their purposes, to prohibit reporters from entering Occupied zones.) One useful place to start such an investigation might be to draw a contrast of some of the relevant damage capabilities.

PBS displayed an image of Israelis taking "cover" during an imminent or occurring "rocket attack." I note both the semi-hunkered posture of the individual on small hill as well as the children sort of "duck-and-covering" at the hill's foot and I wonder: How would Palestinians fare against Israeli weapons with these tactics? A glance at the rubble in the image one above seems to give the obvious answer: Not well.

(The smallest, "Qassam"-style, rockets are likely shoulder launched; Image source)
(Stationary launchers; Image source)
(It seems reasonable to assume that the larger Palestinian "Grad" and "Fajr 5" rockets are launched something like the rocket shown here. Image source)

It may also be instructive to compare launch apparatuses. Many of the Palestinian rockets are manually launched. Larger rockets plausibly are set off from stationary tripod or mobile-mounted units.
("Iron Dome": "Israeli defense forces say their anti-rocket interceptor system has taken down most of the rockets fired at the country." Source Of course, the Israelis have better equipment in part because they possess two separate-but-related advantages over the Palestinians: U.S. support and money. To take just one example: "[E]ach interceptor missile costs $40,000 to $50,000...About three years ago, Israel received $204 million from the United States to help pay for the country’s third through sixth mobile units. In February, Israel again approached the Obama administration for urgent support for four more batteries. They received $70 million immediately, and an additional $610 million has been pledged over the next three years, according to a senior official in Israel’s missile defense organization." Source)
("Arrow" - one of many "joint U.S.-Israel Arrow Weapon System[s]": "The Arrow program is a joint venture by the Missile Defense Agency and the Israeli Ministry of Defense. The Arrow system is intended to provide Israel a contingency missile defense capability and provide the U.S. technical benefits." Sources: 1 & 2)
("Jericho ballistic missiles": Sources: 1 & 2)

Israeli launch equipment is military grade and much more sophisticated. As of this writing, an example "Jericho"/"Shavit" launch can be viewed, here. And, of course, this barely scratches the surface of the Israel's weapons capabilities - capabilities that include functional nuclear warheads. (See, e.g., here, here, here, and here.)
(Estimated military expenditures: Israel versus Palestine. Graph created by me, here.)

Yet another apparently relevant metric is the pertinent "allotments" for military expenditures. Something was said, above (and parenthetically), about the price tag for the Israeli "Iron Dome" anti-rocket missile system. In general, CIA's publication titled "The World Factbook" gives Israel's "Military expenditures" as "7.3% of GDP (2006)" (Source). Presently (that is, the most up-to-date number for 2011), Google, via the World Bank, gives "Israel's GDP" as "$242.93 Billion". Wikipedia gives it (again, currently) as between "$235.446 billion" and "$245.266 billion" (although, technically, the difference is accounted for in terms of the difference between "nominal" and "purchasing power parity" measures. Cf. Here.) The World Bank number for 2006 is roughly $145.48 Billion. In 2006, in-house Israeli military spending would have totaled around $10.6 Billion dollars. Holding the 7.3% rate fixed, current spending would be on the order of $17.73 Billion. Wikipedia gives the current number as $15.2 Billion. Neither "Palestine" nor "Occupied Territories" (including "Gaza" and "West Bank") appear to be listed by Wikipedia. Under "Gaza Strip" and "West Bank," the CIA's Factbook has "NA" for the category of "Military expenditures" (Sources: 1 & 2). In fact, "International aid of at least $1.14 billion" was required in the Occupied Territories of "West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2004" in order to "[prevent] the complete collapse of the economy..." (Source).
(Israel has even repeatedly hindered humanitarian aid from reaching the Occupied Territories; cf. here and, more recently, here. Image source.)

In this brief overview I have tried to cast a comparison and contrast in terms of dollars and equipment. Other, more detailed studies have also included what I have neglected, namely, the more important category of the loss of human life. (For an introduction, see: here, here, here, here, here, and here.) But by virtually any reasonable standard, the Palestinians are out-gunned, out-spent, and without any sustained and meaningful support. And they live, after all, in Occupied Territories. As the Fox News article quoted in the introductory paragraph an anonymous poster, "What is happening in Palestine is oppression...They have no navy, no army, or air force. There is no 'war' in Gaza" (Source). As Michael Hoffman once put it (paraphrase), the heavy-handed military Israeli "retaliation" to Palestinian violence (which amounts, really, to collective punishment) is about as justified as would be a President-ordered U.S. military strike of Compton and Watts in response to gang violence. As was partially illustrated in the case of Apartheid South Africa, the Geneva Conventions do not foreclose on the possibility, justly, of "...peoples...fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination..." (Source).

* "Jericho is a general designation given to the Israeli ballistic missiles. ... Jericho I was first publicly identified as an operational short-range ballistic missile system in late 1971. It was 13.4 metres (44 ft) long, 0.8 m (2 ft 7 in) in diameter, weighing 6.5 tonnes (14,000 lb). It had a range of 500 km (310 mi) and a CEP of 1,000 m (3,300 ft), and it could carry a payload estimated at 400 kilograms (880 lb). It was intended to carry a nuclear warhead. ... However, due to Israel's ambiguity over its nuclear weapons program, the missile is classified as a ballistic missile. ... The Jericho II is 14.0 m long and 1.56 m wide, with a reported launch weight of 26,000 kg (although an alternative launch weight of 21,935 kg has been suggested). It has a 1,000 kg payload, capable of carrying a considerable amount of high explosives or a 1 MT yield nuclear warhead. ... The Jericho II forms the basis of the three-stage, 23 ton Shavit NEXT satellite launcher, first launched in 1988 from Palmachim. From the performance of Shavit it has been estimated that as a ballistic missile it has a maximum range of about 7,800 km with a 500 kg payload. ... It is estimated that the Jericho III is an ICBM which entered service in 2008. The Jericho III is believed to have a three-stage solid propellant and a payload of 1,000 to 1,300 kg. It is possible for the missile to be equipped with a single 750 kg nuclear warhead or two or three low yield MIRV warheads. It has an estimated launch weight of 30,000 kg and a length of 15.5 m with a width of 1.56 m. It may be similar to an upgraded and re-designed Shavit space launch vehicle, produced by Israel Aerospace Industries. It probably has longer first and second-stage motors. It is estimated that it has a range of 4,800 to 11,500 km [7] (2,982 to 7,180 miles)." (Source)


On the name "Jericho":

"Jericho ... is a Palestinian city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank. ... The city was occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967, and has been held under Israeli occupation since 1967; administrative control was handed over to the Palestinian Authority in 1994..." (Source).

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor claims that "Jericho (Yeriho)...[is t]he lowest (258 m below sea-level) and the oldest town on earth...Jericho opens many windows on the past..." (The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide [Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998], p. 288). Interestingly, the layout of Jericho apparently resembles a "theatre" (see image, above; from: Supra., p. 290).
(The "Mount of Temptation," Jericho; image source)

"The Mount of Temptation is said to be the hill in the Judean Desert where Jesus was tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:8). ... It is generally identified with Mount Quarantania, a mountain approximately 366 m (1 200 feet) high, located about 11 km (6.8 mi) north-west of the West Bank town of Jericho. According to the public domain Catholic Encyclopedia, Quarantania is 'a limestone peak on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho'. It is mentioned in a poem of the Temptation event by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. See Christus: A Mystery (I:1:2 Mount Quarantania). Atop the mount is the Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Temptation or 'Qarantal'. Above Qarantal, on top of the cliff, is a wall, that sits on the ruins of the Hasmonean (later Herodian) fortress, Dok – Dagon" (Source).

In Talmudic Judaism, "Jericho" is a paradigmatic Ir Ha-Niddahat, that is, a "'subverted' or "apostate' city" (" extreme example of the Herem..."); "The destruction of Jericho and the ban against its rebuilding (Josh. 6:26) were taken as the model" (L.I.R., "Ir Ha-Niddahat," Encyclopaedia Judaica [Jerusalem: Keter, 1972], Vol. 8, p. 1470). (For more information, see: Michael Hoffman, Judaism Discovered.)
(Spinoza, under herem; image source)

"Herem" has a dual-meaning. On the one hand, it could designate something that "is proscribed because it is an abomination to God," while on the other hand it could pick out something that is actually "consecrated to Him" (H.H.C., "Herem," Encyclopaedia Judaica, op. cit., p. 343). It derives from an Aramaic word meaning at once "be forbidden, become sacred" and having associations with both with "holy precinct[s]" (haram) and "women's quarters" (harim, ibid.; cf.: harem). In any case, an "[e]xceptionally severe" example of a herem was the one pertaining to Jericho: "animals as well as human beings were put to the sword, the city was burned down, its spoliation banned, and its silver, gold, copper, and iron vessels dedicated to the sanctuary treasury (Josh. 6:17ff.)" (Ibid).

In the 2008 movie, Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) tests his new "Jericho missile" in Afghanistan only to discover later that a key Stark Industries executive and friend, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) is in league with "terrorists" calling themselves the "Ten Rings" (see here).

Finally, "Jericho is an American action/drama series that centers on the residents of the fictional town of Jericho, Kansas, in the aftermath of nuclear attacks on 23 major cities in the contiguous United States" (Source; cf. here).
Essentially, then, the Israelis seem to have named a keystone of their missile arsenal after an ancient Palestinian town that, according to Judaism, can be wiped out with impunity since it is under a "curse." And yet, few people are remarking on this. I suppose no one would really notice if Hamas were firing off rockets with names like "Tel Aviv," "Jerusalem," or "Brooklyn."


Friday, November 2, 2012

Most Credulous, Er...DANGEROUS Cities

Ray Taylor (Attorney and forensic pathology expert):

"In the United States we take science as gospel. The public perception is that faking science is rare. The truth is it happens all the time." (Source)
("F...B...I...", Did I spell that right?)

Michael Tonry (Professor of criminal law and public policy at the University of Minnesota and former President of the American Society of Criminology):

"These [most dangerous city type] rankings represent an irresponsible misuse of the [relevant crime] data and do  groundless harm to many communities. They also work against a key goal of our society, which is a better understanding of crime-related issues by both scientists and the public." (Source)

The FBI says: "The numbers are in!" for its so-called "Uniform Crime Report". And with this report, and the supposedly foundational numbers, come the annual "Most Dangerous City" rankings (For example, as reported here and here and here). But how useful are they, really? (Perhaps more importantly, to whom are they useful? More on that in a moment.)
(Source; St. Louis apparently came in at number 2 or number 3, depending upon which list one consults. Interestingly, the present day city of St. Louis sits atop the buried or obliterated remains of the ancient "Mound City" complex which today is - with few exceptions - largely confined to Cahokia, IL. See here and here. National Geographic states that the complex displays "...clear evidence of ritual human sacrifice. Archaeologists excavating Mound 72, as they labeled it, found the remains of 53 women and one very high status man, as well as the decapitated remains of four men who may have been on the wrong side of some sort of authority...". St. Louis, with its signature "Gateway Arch" is known as "the gateway to the West." In Egyptian myth, the land of the dead was sometimes called "the west".)

To begin with, some city leaders are "questioning the FBI numbers" themselves. Several municipalities are alleging that the FBI's number "paint a grossly inaccurate picture" of their respective cities. So there is some reason to think that some of the statistics are at least possibly unjustifiably high. (Source)

Other statistics are plausibly susceptible to an "equal but opposite" (so to speak) error, namely, being artificially or deceptively low. Consider assault. At least women's advocacy group suggests: "The numbers barely scratch the surface, because many assaults go unreported...". (Source)

Besides allegations of (sometimes ostensibly unaccountably) inaccurate data, the notion that the FBI's crime reporting is "uniform" has also been questioned. To illustrate, " police department may identify a crime as a burglary, while another may classify it as petty theft or mischief". (Source)

Or again, some worry that, taking rape as an example: "...the FBI statistics at that time counted only forcible rape, not other attacks such as date rape or sexual crimes against children." (Source)

To be sure, the FBI has claimed that it's so-called "NATIONAL INCIDENT-BASED REPORTING SYSTEM (NIBRS)" at least sometimes ignores (what we might call) parochial classifications, and claims to be aimed at raw "incident" reports. (Source)

However, first, the FBI is on record admitting that significant inter-city difference do indeed exist. "Critics also complain that numbers don't tell the whole story because of differences among cities. 'You're not comparing apples and oranges; you're comparing watermelons and grapes,' said Rob Casey, who heads the FBI section that puts out the Uniform Crime Report that provides the data for the Quitno report." (Source: DAVID N. GOODMAN, Associated Press, Wire Report, 19 November 2007, Original url:
(Come on! What's there not trust about the FBI?)

Second, as some municipal officials are quick to respond, "...there [is] no verification or audit from the FBI...". It appears, therefore, that there is neither specific oversight (from the bottom-up, municipal to federal direction) nor a statistical "appeals" process. (Source)

I consider it especially noteworthy that the FBI itself has warned against the construction of rankings of any sort and, indeed, the FBI itself declines to produce any ranking of its own data. A relevant press release reads as follows.

"Caution against ranking: Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use the figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or student enrollment." (Source)

In the face of the popular perception of the "if it bleeds, it leads" media's over-eagerness to sensationalize reporting (plausibly in order to drive up ratings), the FBI's warning strikes me as about as psychologically useless as a jury's instruction "to disregard damaging testimony that is stricken from the record" when said testimony can scarcely be stricken "from their minds" (Cf. Here)
(Edited from: Source)

Even putting aside the questionable the effectiveness of the FBI's "page six" "caveat lector" (compared with the "page one" "most dangerous cities" rankings), there are more serious worries. I will mention only two.

Number one, in previous years, supposedly uncorrectable and un-specifiable computer "glitches" skewed numbers. But, in light of the facts that there is no appeals process and that the psychological impressions made by the rankings can hardly be easily reversed once they have been left by a suitably sensationalized "news" report, one might be forgiven for wondering just how widespread such "glitches" are. (Source)

As a parenthesis, I note that a similar constellation of issues is recognizable in computerized voting and the possibility of "black box" fraud. For, in "crime statistics" or in vote counting: "...a computer will only do what it's programmers and administrators tell it to do, whoever issues the commands gains ultimate control over how it receives, counts, and reports..." information. (See HERE)

Number two, frankly, the FBI's record for accuracy is not exactly stellar (to put it diplomatically - which is probably more tact than is deserved).
"They said the guy's on the brink of a confession and they want me to fabricate a fingerprint report." (Quotation Source; Photo Source)

What's the big deal? Rankings are just rankings, right? Some are concerned, however, about the potential negative psychological impact that the "most dangerous city rankings" may have on a community - both in terms of that community's morale and in terms of potential tourism.
(The real "crime scene" is sometimes arguably the front page of a newspaper; photo source)

"'What I take exception to is the use of these statistics and the damage they inflict on a number of these cities,' said [ex Rochester, NY] Mayor Robert Duffy..." (Source)

And, tourism may not be the only area experiencing negative fallout from a bad "ranking". Speculatively, one might have reason to worry about such things as insurance company premiums and state and federal budget allotments. And all of this is, at least possibly, based on the precarious (at best) and unconscionable (at worst) manipulation of data, by way of arguably highly contrived and artificial "rankings" - a use of that data that the data collection organization itself (namely, the FBI) expressly (if weakly) warns against. When one considers also the potential for - and history of - error and fraud, I think that the "most dangerous cities rankings" might be better viewed as hardly more illuminating than similarly sensationalistic (if not fraudulent) lists such as of the "biggest party colleges" or the "best movies of the year". In other words, such lists arguably generate more heat than light. But in the present case, what is perhaps most palpable is the generated fear.

Recall that I opened by posing the question: How *useful* are the numbers? Taking (or, at least, trying to take) on board all of the worries, suspicions, and criticisms, one might think that, after all, the numbers are indeed extremely useful. They generate fear. Cui bono?

Noam Chomsky (Source):

"So the fear of drugs and the fear of crime is very much stimulated by state and business propaganda. The National Justice Commission repeatedly points out that crime in the United States, while sort of high, is not off the spectrum for industrialized societies. On the other hand, fear of crime is far beyond other societies, and mostly stimulated by various propaganda."

For more information, see: