July 31, 2002
What the Bombing at the Hebrew University means

The Hamas claimed responsibility for bombing a cafeteria at the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem today. The bomb killed 7 people and also any remaining hope that the Palestinians will achieve statehood in the foreseeable future, if ever.

The conflict in Israel has lately been positioned in the western media as a conflict about the "illegal settlement and occupation of Palestinian territories", namely the West Bank and Gaza strip. "The bombings are caused by the Israel's illegal occupation", some people say, and if only the occupation would end, then the bombings would stop and everybody will get to live in peace.

We can save for another time a detailed review of the fact that Israel came into possession of the West Bank and Gaza as a result of the 1967 war that it didn't want, didn't start, won, and unsuccessfully tried to sue for peace and return the territories several times already anyway. Or the fact that there was plenty of terrorism before the so-called occupation started. Let's take at face value the implicit Palestinian claims that their thinking has changed, and that they will accept a state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Now put yourself in the mind of a Palestinian strategist. Your goal is no longer to destroy Israel, but to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. In order to accomplish this you need to persuade Israel to withdraw its military from the territories and equally importantly to dismantle the settlements. So what's the best way to persuade Israel to do this?

A thoughtful strategist should quickly grasp the following essential points:
1) Israel has previously traded land for peace. Significantly, an earlier right-wing government, headed by Sharon's mentor Menahem Begin returned all of the Sinai to Egypt and also risked conflict from its own right-wing by dismantling settlements in the Sinai.
2) Israel is a democracy. Government policy reflects public opinion as well as in any other country. The key is to obtain public support for ending the occupation.
3) Most Israelis want to preserve the Jewish character of their country, meaning they do not want to absorb or rule over a territory with an overwhelmingly non-Jewish population.
4) Israel is anything but monolithic in its opinions (ever hear the joke that for every 2 Jews there are 3 opinions?). Some Israelis are firmly in favor of maintaining the settlements for religious or ideological reasons. They will never agree to give them up, but they are a minority and can be outshouted and outvoted. The great majority of the electorate is more attached to Tel-Aviv than to Gaza and Hebron. Many would be open to trading the West Bank and Gaza for a firm belief of achieving peace with its neighbors.
5) Perhaps the biggest objection in the mind of the Israeli swing voter against returning the territories is this: The perception and fear that the Palestinians will never be satisfied only with a state in the West Bank and Gaza. They would only accept such a state as an interim step toward dismantling the rest of Israel.

So based on the above points, it would seem that the logical Palestinian strategy toward achieving the limited goal of a state in West Bank and Gaza is this: Divide and conquer the Israeli electorate. Make war on the settlers and the occupation only, while reassuring the center and the left that they have nothing to lose by withdrawing from the territories. "Stay in Tel Aviv and Netanya where you are safe. We have absolutely no designs on your home", would be the message. "Our only fight is with the settlers in the West Bank and Gaza". The outcome of such a strategy, if it were adopted, should be obvious. The Israeli center and left, which is more interested in building a prosperous society than in holding on to Joseph's tomb, would do the math and make a deal. If the choice is between (a) security in the homeland and (b) sending the sons out to defend the ultra-nationalist religious settlers in downtown Hebron indefinitely, they will take (a). If the Palestinians had in fact adopted the above strategy, I suspect that the whole issue would have been settled and done with years ago.

Clearly that is not what happened. Most of the attacks have not been in the territories, but within the Green Line, including today's bomb at the university. As in most western countries, the Israeli universities foster its society's most liberal elements, and its most vocal and effective peace camp. Today's bomb helped blow up (literally and figuratively) some of the best friends that the Palestinians could ever hope to have (including 10 Israeli Arabs who were wounded).

I propose the following explanations:
1) The Palestinian leadership is either too stupid, vengeful, ignorant or irrational to recognize and act on the obvious as outlined above.
2) The Palestinian aspirations are not limited to the West Bank and Gaza. They continue to maintain the pre-Oslo goal of abolishing Israel after all.
3) The Palestinians are not a monolithic society. Some factions may be satisfied with a West Bank/Gaza state. Others (such as Hamas) want the whole thing.

I would believe that it's all of the above. And where does this leave things? The fallout of (2) is that the mainstream Israeli public will not trust the other side enough to make any concessions, (3) implies that there is nobody who can make a deal on behalf of and rein in the people who commit the violence and (1) implies that there's nobody competent enough to bother to deal with anyway.

Today's murders will only reinforce this perception. The Palestinians have only themselves to thank for attaining the dubious distinction of joining the Hittites, the Picts, the Scythians and the Aztecs as peoples whose descendants live on, but whose countries exist only in the history books.

But what's left, then, for Israel to do to ensure its own security even though it will not have a Palestinian peace partner? I have some thoughts on this, stay tuned.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:09 PM
Terrorism with a pretty face (updated)

Fabulous babe and professional PLO prevaricator Diana Buttu was the guest of honor on a local public radio talk show Monday morning. Host Michael Krasny, who is also professor of English at SFSU, was apparently smitten by Buttu's voluptuous brown eyes and luscious full lips, as he allowed her to make many wildly false claims. Including "Israel has killed 1% of the Palestinian population" (Howard Fienberg's analysis would indicate a much, much lower number) or "70% of the Palestinians favor a two-state solution" (apparently only if the two states are Palestine and Jordan, according to this recent poll)

UPDATE: (7/31) The full transcript is finished and posted here As you will see, Buttu made a large number of false and misleading statements, as well as some hilarious evasions and bizarre opinions.

Here are some more:

"Israel is waging a brutal occupation" (which also lets her in and out of Gaza)
"there has never been any documentation to show that there is a link between Arafat and terrorism"
"Arafat had no personal knowledge of [the Karine-A]"
"There is a very,very strong non-violent movement inside the occupied territories, but nobody ever hears about them... because there is only one western journalist in the occupied territories"
"It is up to the United States to give Palestinians their freedom"
"[The Palestinian] nation seeks to be a democratic and ... secular one"
"[Equating the Al-Aqsa Brigades with Arafat's Fatah] is the equivalent of saying that the bombings that used to happen to abortion clinics were for the most part carried out by Republicans "
and on and on...

I would like to thoroughly expose and debunk Buttu's distortions. Hopefully, the next time she's on a call-in show someone can be prepared to do a better job challenging her than Krasny did.

Please help me fact-check this gorgeous woman's ass. Read the transcript, pick a claim, any claim, investigate and post your comments. e.g. Is the percentage of malnourished Palestinian children really the same as in sub-Saharan Africa? Is the occupation really illegal? If so, under what law? What really happened at Camp David? etc.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:21 AM
July 30, 2002
Nazi-like tactics

Jamal Karsli, the controversial Syrian-born German politician, is visiting Israel. Karsli, a central figure in the recent anti-Semitism affair involving Juergen Moellemann, was forced out of the Green Party after he said the Israeli army was using "Nazi-like" tactics against the Palestinians, and who speaks of conspiracies by the "powerful Zionist lobby". Karsli is now in Israel, meeting with Arab and Jewish peace activists. He also plans to meet with Palestinians, including Yasser Arafat.

I never heard exactly which tactics of the Israeli army Karsli considers "Nazi-like". There have not been any credible reports accusing Israeli soldiers of, say, raping Arab women or rendering Palestinian schoolchildren into soap. So perhaps he was referring to the fact that some Israeli soldiers wear underpants and carry guns, which -- you have to admit -- some Nazis also did.

Carrying the Nazi comparison to its logical conclusion: I am forced to admit that Karsli's visit to Israel is like the time when Golda Meir made a public visit to Berlin in 1943 to meet with Charles de Gaulle and Jewish members of the Reichstag.

(thanks to David Melle for the tip)

UPDATE (8/1): A woman of my acquaintance (and a graduate of Princeton University, no less!) remarked that she didn't get the reference to Golda Meir's visit to Berlin in 1943. If the irony was lost on her, it might have been lost on other readers. Of course, there were no Jewish members in the Nazi Reichstag, and neither Charles de Gaulle nor Golda Meir would have been allowed in Berlin in 1943. My point was that equating Israel with Nazis is ridiculous. (Especially when Karsli comes to Israel to meet with Yassir Arafat and Arab members of the Knesset). It is as ridiculous as believing that Golda Meir could have met Charles deGaulle in Berlin in 1943.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:57 AM
July 29, 2002
Tidbits July 29

Alternative Universe: Public radio's "Alternative Radio" program to carry Noam Two-Home" Chomsky's talk called "Globalism: The New Face of Capitalism ". Exactly. Which is why anybody who understands economics thinks globalism is to be embraced. Airs on my hometown station, KQED, Wed, Jul 31, 8pm.

"A Broken Clock Is Right Twice a Day" Dept.:From Investment News: "Market watchers say 1994 [bond market] collapse unlikely to be repeated". One wonders how accurately these "market watchers" predicted the 1994 collapse.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:05 PM
July 28, 2002
Tidbits July 28

Arab News Editor John Bradley accepts Charles Johnson's challenge and engages in lively debate with the readers of Little Green Footballs.

My neighbor Bill Quick gets a nice mention in William Safire's column about blogging. Way cool, Bill and Bill.

Quote of the day. Attributed to Lenny Bruce. "Art is like throwing shit against a wall. Whatever sticks is art. Whatever falls off is shit"

N.Z. Bear's Blogosphere Ecosystem classifies The Shark as a "Crawly Amphibian". A very respectable showing, considering that I haven't been doing this all that long. (Although strictly speaking a shark is a Chondrichthyes ). On the other side of the equation, I intend to add a few more worthy links to my blogroll, in order to prove that I Will Link for Beer (make mine an Anchor Steam, please). I will also link for Bear (N.Z.) and Bare (naked ladies)

My wife and I came to the realization that all we want to do for the rest of our lives is to read books. (I'm currently reading Michael Oren's Six Days of War and Erich Maria Remarque's Drei Kameraden. She's reading Anna Karenina). Unfortunately, this won't pay the bills.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:35 PM
July 27, 2002
Constructive debate with a Saudi propagandist?

The esteemed Charles Johnson of the Little Green Footballs blog, is now getting noticed in everybody's favorite oil rich desert kingdom. Arab News staff writer and paid apologist for corrupt sheiks everywhere, John Bradley, has figured out that the main U.S. audience for his hysterical screeds may in fact be over at Little Green Footballs. I can't imagine that many people here in the U.S. read the government-controlled Arab press as a serious source of news. I suspect that most people who read the Arab News quickly come to the same conclusion that I have: that the Saudi regime is primitive, totalitarian, unenlightened, miguided, deranged, and a festering threat to our national security. And the Arab News only reinforces that perception.

Still, John Bradley has chosen to soldier on and justify his sinecure by posting comments on Little Green Footballs! See for yourself. He's calling for a CONSTRUCTIVE debate about Saudi Arabia. Attempting to have a constructive debate with Saudi propagandists is like attempting a constructive debate with Hitler, Stalin or a herd of stampeding camels for that matter. But it's always a good idea to understand the enemy, if for no other reason than to learn how to defeat them. And in this case, the most effective arguments that Saudi Arabia should be added to GWB's axis of evil comes from their own media. Troll on John, we'll read what you have to say, you do more for the war effort than you could ever imagine.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:31 PM
July 26, 2002
Tidbits July 26

"I'd Rather Be Smashing Imperialism" So saith a bumber sticker I saw today. To which I reply: alert me when you find some.

Elliot, who writes Reality Day Trips, shares his e-mail exchange with Audi-driving, yacht-owning, capitalist-hating dissident, Noam Chomsky

(This revives a long repressed and painful memory. My cat's name is Chomsky. I am not making this up. I got the cat from a former girlfriend, who before me used to date a lefty graduate student who was a genuine fan of Chomsky. They adopted this cat together, and named him Chomsky! The cat has been in my life for about 9 years now and I've called him Chompers the whole time. I had completely forgotten about the true origin of his name until now. He's still a good cat, though)

I can't believe I went to high school with this guy. He was the last person I would have suspected of committing a felony.

Robert Scheer actually applauded Richard Grasso for making his idiotic">war on terrorism in the boardroom" statement. Which only confirms just how idiotic it was.

A solution to the Tud Roil problem?: Puerile dilettante columnist Ted Rall now brags that he is a cad and a bounder. The solution to both problems? Whisper in his ear that Moslem girls like to date anti-Zionist Americans and give him a one-way ticket to Gaza City. It will only be a matter of time until he spoils the virtue of the wrong person's sister.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:42 PM
Leftist Group Fetish

Why do so many people who call themselves "leftists" seem so obsessed with placing people into groups? And why do they insist on treating people as mere members of these groups instead of treating them as individuals? Is it because people who think of themselves as leftists have low-wattage intellects and difficulty dealing with complexity? Or is it because people in groups are easier to regulate and take care of?

Labor-union think-tank "economist" and self-described leftist Max Sawicky gives us another specimen of lefty groupism to examine. In his view of the world, there are exactly three political philosophies: Left (good), Right (not good) and Libertarian (sometimes good). But Max can't figure out what to do with people who think outside of his boxes:

Traditionally libertarians took a jaundiced view of U.S. interventionism, especially in military form...The libertarian bloggers seem to be caught up in 9-11, well beyond the point of specific retaliation. A libertarian who buys into an invasion of Iraq has, IMO, severely contradicted his/her philosophy.
Speaking only for myself (and not for some larger group that someone like Max might imagine that I belong to) I consider myself an independent thinker, with a range of opinions and I suppose that the closest description would be libertarian. The essence of which, as I understand it, is mainly about letting people think and make decisions for themselves. And that certainly shouldn't imply that I always agree with everybody else who shares some of my opinions and also considers themselves generally libertarian. As a free thinker I tend not to affiliate with many groups, even groups of Free Thinkers who would like to tell me how to Think Freely. So I guess that's one of the key differences between people like me who prefer to do things for themselves (like think) and people who need to be part of a group in order to have their thinking and other things done for them.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:30 AM
My wife's preoccupations

My wife is an exceptional woman, a loving and devoted wife and mother, as well as a successful corporate lawyer. When she's not busy working on M&A deals, helping take care of the home and family or reading Tolstoy, she somehow finds the time to contemplate life's interesting issues. Here are some of the topics that currently occupy her thoughts (not necessarily in this order):

* Women who have lots of children
* Women who have children at an advanced age
* Women who are pregnant with multiple babies (the more the better)
* Fat people
* Joaquin Phoenix
* Women who spend too much time in the sun, and end up with faces that look like old boots
* Women who have plastic surgery
* Women who are younger than she is, but look older than she does
* Women who are older than she is, but look younger than she does [she doesn't know of any yet]
* Women who marry much younger men
* Woody Allen and Soon-Yi
* The shortcomings of my former girlfriends
* The Oscars
* Women who kill their own children
* Dogs that kill their owners' children
* Dogs that kill their neighbors' children
* Very large babies
* Gas-hogging SUVs
* Children who die because grown-ups leave them in locked cars with the windows rolled up
* What will happen to the family if she dies in a car crash
* What will happen to the family if she dies in a plane crash
* Couples that stay married for decades, which is what she and I will be :)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:59 AM
July 25, 2002
SFPD: P is for Patronage

Here in San Francisco, it seems, crime does pay. Or at least the San Francisco Police Department allows 70% of all violent crimes to go unsolved. Today the S.F. Chronicle reports some news about the SFPD that is unlikely to improve public confidence.

Mayor Willie Brown announced in a letter yesterday that he is "proud to nominate Cmdr. David Robinson as the first African American to head, as deputy chief, the SFPD Inspectors Bureau." Concurrently, Deputy Chief Mindy Pengel, described as "the department's most prominent openly lesbian officer", was rumored last week to be in line for a demotion. But after numerous complaints from supporters, including many from the city's gay community, Chief of Police Earl Sanders changed his mind.

Now I don't care one way or another which continent a deputy police chief's ancestors came from, nor do I care one iota about the other deputy chief's personal life. All I want to know is whether the people in charge of the SFPD are the best available people to do the serious job of ensuring public safety and catching criminals. Robinson and Pengel may in fact be the best people for their positions. But that's not what was reported. At this point, all the SFPD and the mayor should be focusing on is improving the department's competence. Anything else will only decrease the public's confidence.

And I shudder to contemplate the implications for law and order when the police department is seen as so inept that crime victims become tempted to take the law into their own hands.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:21 PM
Akbar and Jeff's Terrorism Hut

Do you remember Akbar and Jeff, the cuddly fez-wearing stars of Matt Groening's pre-Simpsons Life in Hell series? You know, as in Akbar and Jeff's Tofu Hut and Akbar and Jeff's Video Hut? These are the guys about whom was raised the speculation: "possibly lovers, possibly brothers, possibly both".
I thought of Akbar and Jeff when I saw the page of photos on the Hamas Al-Qassam Brigade website that celebrates these guys:

Ahmed Ateq(L) and Saleh Kamil(R) became "martyrs" on March 19 after killing Lt. Tal Tzemach while attempting to infiltrate a Jordan Valley army base. They might have thought they were on their way to a paradise with 72 virgins, but may they enjoy an eternal "Life in Hell"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:34 PM
The Shark makes news in Germany, again

As I reported a ccouple of weeks ago, I received an invitation intended for German politician Juergen Moellemann to speak at an Arab League "think-tank" called the The Zayed Centre for Co-operation and Follow-up, in Abu Dhabi. (The good folks at the Zayed Centre mistakenly sent the invitation to me, because I operate the website www.moellemann.com , which follows the strange story of the controversial Moellemann). Read my original post, if you haven't already, and then come back here

I passed the invitation along to some German journalists who I thought might be interested. Die Zeit picked up on it, and published the following brief item on page 2 of their July 18 issue (print only). I translate:

An amusing e-mail reached us from San Francisco, where Stefan Sharkanski [sic], operates the web-site www.moellemann.com. No, he's not a fan of Moellemann, but a critical online chronicler of the controversy over anti-Semitism in Germany. The Zayed Centre in Abu Dhabi saw his site, but didn't look very carefully. After Sharkanski linked to the Die Zeit article The Deputy's War, which describes the anti-Israel tone of Moellemann's German-Arab Friendship Society, he received a letter from the United Arab Emirates. The Zayed Centre, sponsored by the Arab League, "appreciates your impressive stances", Mr. Moellemann and seeks "to get closer to your thoughts... and invite you to give a talk at the Zayed Centre". Before the FDP vice-chair accepts the invitation, he should look on the Internet. The Centre states that one of its goals is: "To outline Zionist schemes to falsify history and distort science and culture in order to serve its purposes"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:18 PM
Our mentally disabled FBI

This is to follow up on yesterday's posting of a letter from an FBI job applicant who was rejected for service on the basis of teenage marijuana use.

Pursuing a hint from Jim Durbin in the comments section I looked up the FBI's "employment policy statement" Sure enough, it confirms that

An applicant who has used marijuana within the past three years or more than a total of 15 times in one's life will be found unsuitable for employment.
The good news, however is that
The FBI welcomes and encourages applications from persons with physical and mental disabilities and will reasonably accommodate the needs of those persons.
Presumably it was the people with mental disabilities who created the employment policy that rejects desperately needed experts on the grounds of teenage experimentation with marijuana during the 1970s.

And could mental disability also explain the agency's inability to figure out that the July 4 LAX shooter was a terrorist?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:21 PM
July 24, 2002
When facts misinform

Here is a true story about a journalist who checked his facts but misinformed his readers anyway. Only the names and non-critical details have been changed

A reporter for a trade journal covering the, say, "sandwich industry" (call the journal the "Bacon & Lettuce Times", or BLT for short) wanted to mention a particular company in his story (call the company "Pickles'R'Us"). So the reporter for the BLT (call him Mr. Tomato) phones up a Pickles'R'Us spokesman for some quotes. Now Pickles'R'Us got some press a few years ago, because one of its co-founders (call him Ronald McDonald) was a moderately well-known person in the sandwich business. During the course of the interview the company spokesman told Mr. Tomato that Ronald McDonald hadn't been involved with the company for quite some time. In his closing question, Mr. Tomato asked the spokesman: "Is it correct to say that Ronald McDonald is a co-founder of Pickles'R'Us?" The spokesman said emphatically: "It is correct to say that he was a co-founder. It is not correct to imply that he is in any way still involved with the company"

Well, the BLT published the story, which was only tangentially related to Pickles'R'Us. Indeed, the only mention of Pickles'R'Us was this: "For more information on this topic, visit the website of Pickles'R'Us, a company co-founded by Ronald McDonald".

This is factually correct, but misleading. Anybody who reads this statement in its given context would almost certainly conclude that Ronald McDonald is still involved with Pickles'R'Us. The two parties no longer have any kind of business relationship so it is incorrect for the public to draw an association between the two parties. Pickles'R'Us doesn't deserve to benefit from Ronald McDonald's good reputation, nor should it suffer from any mistakes he might make. And vice versa.

In fact, this isn't about a two-bit trade journal. The BLT is really the Wall Street Journal. "Mr. Tomato" should have known better.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:28 PM
Just Say No

Here's a letter to the editor of the S.F. Chronicle. This time I'm not trying to skewer the writer. If the story he tells is true (and it sounds believable) then we should be worried.

Editor -- Al Qaeda has the upper hand in the war against terror because the security agencies responsible for protecting us act like a bunch of sissies.

Case in point: I was recently hired for an FBI counter-terrorism position based on my ability to speak several foreign languages, my thorough knowledge of Middle Eastern culture and my extensive travel abroad. Each FBI employee who interviewed me told me, "We're desperately in need of language skills."

I'm a blue-blooded American, 44 years old, who has taught college several years for the Department of Defense, and I was excited my skills would be helpful in the war against terror. Then came the FBI's lie detector test.

I admitted I'd smoked marijuana about 20 times when I was 18. I've never used drugs since. But within five minutes I was put out on the street.

I told the FBI agent who kicked me out that "I doubt very seriously that Bin Laden screened any of the hijackers for drug experimentation when they were kids." The FBI agent confided, "You wouldn't believe the number of super- qualified individuals we've turned away. Just last week we let go a highly qualified psychologist for the same reason. It's very frustrating."

Moral of the story: Don't hold your breath for the FBI to save you.


Update: Glenn Reynolds agrees that this episode is noteworthy, and has some harsh words for the FBI

Update (7/25): Although the FBI doesn't like to hire former pot smokers, it does like to hire people with mental disabilities. I kid you not

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:24 AM
July 23, 2002
Tidbits July 23

Welsh Rabid. Britain selected Welshman Rowan Williams as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Williams' profile in the New York Times describes him as having a "formidable intellect". At the same time the article implies that he thinks Donald Duck is a bigger threat to mankind than Saddam Hussein is. He also believes the tyrant-laden United Nations has greater moral authority than mere democratically elected governments, such as the one in the United States. Or the one in Britain that just signed off on his sinecure.

Anti-Economics: Joanne Jacobs has another winner in her Tech Central Station piece on the dismal state of economics education in public high schools

Teachers do not work in enterprises where it's necessary to satisfy the customer or go out of business. They belong to a powerful union, which sees for-profit as synonymous with for-evil. Every business is Enron. Like biblical literalists who want to teach creationism in biology class, liberal teachers want to teach social justice in lieu of supply and demand.
This reminds me of a former girlfriend who had graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in "Ethnic Studies". She showed me one of her old term papers, which stated (but didn't substantiate) the claim that "Environmental racism is caused by a capitalist system that puts profits before people". The professor wrote "excellent!" next to that statement, and my friend earned an A for the paper and for the course, of course. And I doubt the professor ever stopped to consider the environmental devastation throughout the former Soviet bloc, which was caused by a Communist system which supposedly put people before profits.

Blind German psychic Ulf Buck (L) feels the buttocks of a client during a session in his study room in the northern German village of Meldorf near Hamburg July 15, 2002. Clairvoyant Buck claims that people's backsides display lines like those on the palm of the hand, which can be read to reveal much about their character and destiny. REUTERS/Christian Charisius. (notice the menorah on the table)

And while we're talking about buttocks, this just in from VentureWire News: "CYA Technologies, a developer of software that provides disaster recovery and data backup for businesses, said it has raised $2.5 million in the second tranche of its Series A round to close the round at $7.3 million."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:55 PM
A Reader Writes to the S.F. Chronicle

Note: I have edited the following letter, striking through some of the writer's original words, replacing them with words in bold. I reject the sentiments in the edited letter as I reject the sentiments in the original letter. I have made these changes only to point out the writer's logical errors and odious prejudices

Editor -- "Emotions send stocks tumbling down" (July 20) is a headline I find rather amusing. Perhaps you can call waking up an "emotion."

The discovery that you are being robbed is certainly an emotional experience, but what you do about it is plain common sense. You take precautions against other robbers.

The realization that the heads of some giant corporations some Black people have neither honesty nor integrity leads to the obvious corollary: There is no way to be sure that all corporations Black people aren't equally crooked.

Selling off stockAvoiding Black people is the natural, practical reaction.


I doubt very much that the Chronicle would publish the above letter with its noxious references to "Black people" (at least I hope they wouldn't). But why should they publish a letter that stereotypes all people of a particular professional status?

UPDATE: There was another equally silly letter in today's paper. My neighbor Bill Quick turned it into origami in more or less the same way I would have.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:58 PM
July 22, 2002
Israel assassinates Hamas founder in Gaza air strike

Israel struck a house in Gaza killing Hamas military commander Salah Shehada. 14 other people were also killed, and dozens wounded.
The initial report from Ha'aretz:"An Israeli warplane blew up a house in Gaza in the early hours of Tuesday morning, killing Salah Shehada, the head of the Hamas military wing in the Strip and the No. 1 man on the Israel Defense Force's wanted list in the last two years."

Palestinian sources initially denied that Shehada was dead. Finally at 0800 local time Al-Jazeera reported that Hamas confirmed that Shehada had been "martyred in an Israeli attack"

For more information on Shehada's organization, the Izz a-Din el-Qassam Brigade, see the Psychotic Death Cult Photo Album.

Here is the thread from the Al-Qassam Brigade website forum, where they're discussing their commander's martyrdom. Here is a translation of some of the entries:

From a guy who calls himself Butcher of the Zionists (posted 2002-07-22 11:17PM): A poem that starts with "To eternal paradise, O swift warrior...". He closes with "Till we meet again, O founder of the military wing (Iz ad-din Al-Qassam Martyr Brigade) As I write these lines I hear the roar of the Qassam in the highest heavens."

From ibnalqassam (posted 2002-07-22 11:39PM): "Revenge, O, Al-Qassam Brigade. We are on your path, O Sheikh"

Also check out the guy who calls himself Hitman and shares a cute picture of himself. Another guy calls himself emuhandes, "engineer", which is an honorific they give to bombmakers and other technicians of death.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:20 PM
Hysterical Overstatement Watch

NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso, speaking on NBC News Meet the Press, July 21, 2002

Tim, we’ve got to wage a war against terrorism in the boardroom, against misleading investors, those small numbers of companies. Those bad managements who have failed have got to be rooted out of the system.
I commend Grasso for speaking out strongly against corporate malfeasance. But lets call it what it is, shall we: theft, fraud or whatever, which is certainly bad enough. Let's use the word "terrorism" only when we're talking about acts of terrorism.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:29 PM
The Arabs translate a new book!

One of the laments of the recent UN Arab Human Development Report was the paucity of books translated into Arabic. Well, I'm pleased to report that the Zayed Centre for Co-ordination and Follow-Up has been working overtime to address this deficit. They have translated into Arabic Thierry Meyssan's aluminum-foil-helmet conspiracy theory classic "The Appalling Fraud"

On launching the publication, Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up says that real significance of the crucial events of September 11 does not lie in the magnitude of the massive destruction that ensued but in bringing about an unprecedented change in human history.

As a consequence, not surprisingly, the human system in all its forms, set ups and traditions would reconsider all its past and known principles and hence the “Black Tuesday” would have a great impact on determining the features of the next stage of human history as a whole.

um, yeah.
Believing in a tolerant human dialogue, without corresponding to the various views expressed, by the writer, the Zayed Centre took this unprecedented step in the Arab world by translating this work with the aim of keeping the Arab readers abreast of this quality opinion.
Yes, we understand the urgency of keeping Arab readers abreast of the quality opinion that the September 11 attacks were orchestrated by the U.S. government, and that no airplanes were destroyed in the process.

But I hope this isn't what the UN Development Report had in mind when they called for more translations into Arabic

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:16 PM
A Letter from Germany

This e-mail came to me at my website dedicated to Juergen Moellemann. Moellemann is the first major-party politician in post-war Germany to pick fights with the Jewish community in order to pick up votes in a federal election.

Subject: Der Judenspuck
It's about time somebody in Germany has the guts to take on that odious, prevaricating, avaricious, and sadistic regime in Israel. The lie that there are no logical reasons for "antisemitism" is so blantantly false when one observes the behaviour, statements, and actions of the "chosen" people.

Unfortunately, since "they" never learn the historical lessons, they will have to repeat those lessons and suffer the awful consequences.
I'm not sure of the precise translation of Judenspuck, except to say that Juden means Jews and spucken means to spit . If this writer's delusions are caused by an organic disease, I hope he gets proper medical treatment. He claims that there is a causal link from the actions of the Israeli government to present-day anti-semitism. But then how would this explain the Czarist pogroms and the Nazi Holocaust, and the Spanish Inquisition and Henry Ford and countless other pogroms and pamphlets and blood libels that occurred when there was no Israeli government? So it's hard to imagine what historical lessons one can derive from so many situations that have little in common. Except that they all have one obvious common theme which also runs right down the middle of this man's letter. Oddballs, misfits, crackpots, jealous local officials and paranoid despots will always find some scapegoat to demonize, and there is a long and rich tradition in which the Jews are the people chosen for this treatment. Rich Jews, poor Jews, weak Jews, strong Jews, modern Jews, primitive Jews. It doesn't really matter, somebody else has already compiled a list of ways to blame the Jews. So the Jews are an especially good scapegoat for those who are neither clever nor innovative.

Do the Jews need to "learn the historical lessons?". I have no idea what lessons the writer has in mind. But I believe that many Jews have learned some important lessons, especially in the last 60 years. Namely, that whenever people like this writer express perverse ideas about Jews, we expose these ideas in public where they can be disinfected by the sunlight and fresh air of truth and reason. When people commit crimes against us we press charges. And when we catch people in the act of trying to kill us, well, look at the LAX shooter and the multiple terrorists caught in the act in the West Bank. We simply defend ourselves, just like anybody else would. The writer apparently disapproves of Jews defending themselves. To which I say: deal with it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:16 PM
July 21, 2002
Tidbits July 21

Triumph of Hope Over Experience: Israel has proposed withdrawing troops from some Palestinian areas in the West Bank to test the ability of Palestinian security to prevent attacks on civilians, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Sunday.

Triumph of Santa Claus Over Adam Smith: "Research Suggests More Health Care May Not Be Better". The fundamental problem in the modern delivery of health care is this: Patients will demand any procedure that offers intangible hope, without regard to cost or effectiveness, because someone else pays the bill. The only way to realign priorities to deliver better health care at an acceptable cost is for patients to be at least partially responsible for the cost of their own care. Unfortunately, this basic bit of common sense doesn't seem to get raised in a lot of "serious" discussions of health care policy. In the meantime, expect insurance premiums and public spending to continue to skyrocket, along with lawsuits and regulation targetting "greedy and evil" HMOs and drug companies.

Disturbing google queries that find me for the wrong reasons:
boys whose sister had some girls to sleepover & they made them dress in girls bras, panties, lingerie, bikinis, teddies, baby dolls, night gowns, dresses, skirts,
jacking off into diaper
free porn shark attack

somebody out there needs a new hobby

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:26 PM
July 20, 2002

Here are some worthwhile blogs that I probably haven't mentioned before:

Anybody who wants to understand what's going on in Israel would be advised to read these current or future Jewish mothers: Two Israeli women bloggers I recently discovered: Imshin (not a FISH) and Ilana (Internal Balance). And also this familiar blogger, but a new Israeli, with a new name: Rinat "Balagan" Malkes. It was her birthday this week. Why don't you go and wish her a happy one.

I never used to wake up in the morning and ask myself: "I wonder what's going on in Newfoundland today?" Well now I do, and it's all because of Damian Penny .

Down there in Sydney we have the very useful Tim Blair who this week gives us a hilarious derogation of Helen Caldicott and also revises the revisionist sentimentalism over Johnny Taliban. A few miles down the coast from Tim is Bruce Hill in Melbourne, a sage observer on all things Jewish, Oceanic and otherwise.

Dawson speeks with as much fire as the bottle of tabasco sauce on his logo and he should thusly keep speeking.

Fred Lapides mixes pictures of naked ladies with pro-Israel and other commentary. Which is a better combination than pictures of Israel and pro-naked-lady commentary.

The exceedingly versatile HD Miller, a medieval scholar from Yale (I think), writes the Travelling Shoes blog and 'zine and tells us about Arabic grammar, Muammar Qaddafi, Janet Reno, Moroccan squat toilets and Las Vegas prime rib, among other things.

Closer to home, I am delighted to rediscover Joanne Jacobs, former editorial writer for the San Jose Mercury News, now an independent journalist doing a first-rate job covering education. Read her Quick Reads, especially if you have, might have, have been or are a child in the public schools, or if you pay taxes to support public schools. Craig Schamp is, like myself, a techno-weenie by vocation, but with interests in current events and history. In addition to his very fine commentary, Craig has one of the most readable font/size combination in the blogosphere. The Angry Clam (?!) is apparently a Berkeley student, and is angry about some of the various ills of the Bay Area, such as looneytoons campus radicals and programs for the homeless that only seem to make the problem worse.Toren Smith "vents about current events and generalized stupidity in order to keep himself from strangling his mindlessly liberal neighbors in San Francisco". He vents well, and in doing so makes my fair city an even better place to call home, and saves a few liberal lives in the process.

Life is a meritocracy, albeit a patient one. There are many more good blogs out there, including many blogs that I like, that didn't get mentioned here, and for no particular reason. My timing of this piece was more or less random and my selection algorithm was more or less "most recently used". When I find a good blog, I will also find an excuse to tell people about it at some point.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:20 PM
Tidbits - July 20

Tammy Haygood, S.F. elections director, fired for incompetence, but fighting in court to keep her job in order to qualify for medical benefits that will finance her husband's sex change operation, lost the latest round in court.

Feds end Saudi Visa Express program Islamic extremists and would-be terrorists who want to visit the U.S. will now have to wait in line with everybody else. The astonishing thing is how long it took the State Department to realize that Visa Express was a mistake and to shut it down.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:19 PM
July 19, 2002
A reader writes to the S.F. Chronicle
GG BRIDGE SCARES Editor -- Which is scarier, the recently found 1997 videotape of the Golden Gate Bridge in the possession of men who are believed to have ties to al Qaeda, or the upcoming increase in the bridge toll to $5?

San Francisco

The toll increase is an example of sound fiscal management. It is not at all scary, but it is a pleasant surprise. So let me turn this question around: Which is scarier, the fact that you bothered to write such an insipid letter, or that the Chronicle bothered to publish it?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:12 PM
Collective punishment for collective crimes

Israel has announced a new policy of arresting and deporting the families of terrorists. The "everything Israel does is evil" crowd are already wailing about "collective punishment" and "war crimes". Even the U.S. government denounces this action.

But in fact, the families are often co-conspirators. Take a look, for example, at this video file from the website of the Hamas Al Qassam Brigade. The video shows the final moments of suicide gunman Muhammad Helss before he went off to commit murder. Muhammad's mother is in the video with him and she is also wearing a military cap and holding a gun. The dialog is in Arabic, but you don't need to understand the words to see that this mother is sending her son off to kill and be killed. This woman is an accomplice to terrorism and deserves to be treated as such.

[ I have more about the Hamas Al-Qassam Brigade here ]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:34 AM
The Egyptians have found me!

Back in May, before I owned a blog, the S.F. Chronicle published an oddly-skewed opinion piece, dateline Cairo, by someone named Ashraf Khalil. What the Chronicle didn't bother to tell its readers was that Khalil also happens to be the editor of something called the "Cairo Times". My subsequent letters to the editor of the Chronicle (letter1 and letter2) were picked up by a few bloggers, including Howard Fienberg, Charles Johnson, Susanna Cornett and David Melle .

So David Melle, who writes Facts Of Israel, wrote me today all excited:

to my surprise, Mr. Khalil has used my "Email this Entry' feature to send the article to 3 people.

What he doesn't know is that I get a copy of all recommendations, as you can see below.

He sent the link to:

- okhalil@aol.com with a message of 'Here it is' (this looks like his personal email)
- amorrow@amcham.org.eg with 'I've been targetted'
- tcastle@sfchronicle.com with 'Did you see this??'

amorrow@amcham.org.eg turns out to be Adam Morrow, a copy editor in the publications department of the American-Egyptian Chamber of Commerce in Cairo. I looked through my own server log and found that someone with an Egyptian IP address visited my blog today after performing a google search for ... Ashraf Khalil! And these were the same IP addresses that sent the emails from Melle's site.

I'm flattered, really, that my blog is being read all over the world, including (especially?) in Cairo. One of the happiest public events that I ever got to witness was when I was in tenth grade in Jerusalem and Anwar Sadat came to town. The reality of peace with Egypt has not lived up to all of its promises. Part of the fault must lie with the Egyptian state-smothered press, which seems to have little freedom except to publish anti-Semitic and anti-American diatribes. Khalil's editorial that I had issues with was by no means the worst of Egyptian journalism. But it simply wasn't good journalism. And no, Ashraf, you're not being "targetted", you're only being challenged to do a better job. That's what people in a country with free speech do for each other.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
July 18, 2002
Steven Rose's Mailbox

British biologist Steven Rose doesn't seem to be doing much biology these days. Most of his time is apparently spent organizing boycotts against Israel for the benefit of Islamic fascists. The rest of his waking hours seem to be spent reading and responding to e-mails from people, who -- who'da thunk it -- have issues with his boycott. How does he manage to accomplish all of this? He saves time by not correcting his spelling mistakes. Or his cognitive or ethical mistakes, for that matter. After posting my own brief exchange with him below, I heard from a few other readers who shared their own correspondence with Prof. Rose. Here is a sample:

J Lichty wrote:

Your petition marks a march with the Wermacht back to 1936. To single out Israelis amongst all nations is a malicious and evil return to dark days. By vilifying a country whose history has been nothing but defense of a tiny sliver of land, and large slice of humanity, you have exposed your-self as an ignorant, hateful fool, whom history will shame.
Am Yisrael Chai.
to which Rose replied
Dont be absurd. Thre best security for Israel would be exactly what we call for in our letter - a return to the 1967 orders, removal of illegal settlements and a palestinian state
Thanks for your helpful efforts, Steve, but if you think you know more about what Israel should do for its own security than do the Israelis themselves, why don't you, say, move over there and run for Prime Minister?

Diane E of Letter From Gotham fame wrote

I do not understand what you hope to accomplish by this. Would you consider proposing a boycott of Iraq because Saddam Hussein's security forces torture toddlers?
to which Rose replied:
I oppose the dictatorship in Iraq and would support in what way i can those demovratic forces in Iraq opposed to it incuding the Kurds with whom i have worked in the recent past) . i would remind you that there are already sanctions in place - US imposed - against Iraq
one can almost see him scowl as he typed the words "US imposed". but I believe those are UN sanctions, not US ones.

Donald Hertzmark wrote

Your call for a boycott of academic interchange with Israeli institutions and scholars needs to be faced squarely as a sick manifestation of growing fascism on the part of self-defined "progressives" in your country's institutions.

You have followed a well-trod historical path of collaboration with dictatorships, death cults, and rank bigotry. Since you are not accomplished enough to be known for your professional activities, perhaps you have decided that you can make your mark as a gaulieter for the new Nazis of radical Islam.

When the fascists you champion come for you, as they certainly will, maybe we will take our sweet time with the rescue. After all, you cannot really call us up and say that "our civilization is at stake", as in the 1940s, when you promote the very fiends who will carry out your sentence. If you haven't noticed the way that your heroes spit out the word "Jews" (hint: think "chooz") maybe you should take a listen.

Your disgusting behavior fills me with pride that we sent your royal
government packing in 1782. Yes, we have evolved into different societies. We worship life and liberty and you collaborate with psychotic fascists and worship death (I know, you don't really worship the fascists, you just like the uniforms and the gun play - lots of you idiots do).

Have a nice day!

The 'Have a nice day!' adds a nice touch, but the Rose wasn't amused
Dont be ridiculous - i have spent my lifetime fighting fascism and racism and will continue to do so - there is nothing fascist or nazi about opposing Israeli illegal settlements and calling for a peace setttlement along Un lines. I would remind you that hate mail is a prima facie cyber crime and if you persist the police may be informed
There's nothing fascist or nazi about calling for a peace settlement. The Nazi part comes in when you call for a unilateral boycott against the Jewish state. Cyber crime? I don't think so. You can sure dish it out, but you just can't take it.

Univ. of Pittsburgh Biologist Michael Vanyukov shares his correspondence with Rose

In spite of all the nasty vituperation that Steven Rose is so deservedly receiving, he is fortunate to have been born into the right people. For selling out the Jews to the Islamic fascists he's not going to suffer anything worse than a large number of angry e-mails and a self-inflicted wound to his reputation. The Palestinians whom he holds to be morally superior, on the other hand, are not nearly as gentle to those whom they accuse of collaborating with the enemy.

Steven Rose's e-mail address is s.p.r.rose@open.ac.uk

UPDATE (7/20): Dawson Speaks posts another e-mail to Steven Rose. And better yet: reveals the shocking discovery of Rose's "Separated at Birth" twin

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:45 PM
Only in San Francisco

Fasten your seat belts, I am not making this story up. I am not that good of a fiction writer.

Tammy Haygood, our city elections director (the fifth in as many years) was recently fired by the newly formed Elections Commission. The exact details of her ineptitude are lost in the fog, but it had something to do with running up a multi-million dollar deficit.

Naturally, Mayor Willie Brown comes to Haygood's defense, shouting cries of "Racism". This should not be a surprise. Most ordinary mortals have various physiological reflexes -- a Babinski Reflex , a Papillary Reflex, even a Defecation Reflex . Mayor Brown was also born with a Racism Reflex, whereby every allegation of incompetence against an African-American political appointee brings a Knee-Jerk cry of "Racism!" from Da Mayor.

So now we have a race-charged public hearing where supporters from the neighborhood were comparing Haygood's dismissal to the recent alleged beating of a black teenager in Inglewood by a white sheriff's deputy.

But wait! It turns out that Tammy Haygood is fighting this fight not only for the good of her race. She also has a personal reason for wanting her job back. Put your beverage down for this one. Haygood needs the generous public employee medical benefits for her husband, who is in the middle of a female-to-male sex change.

The Civil Service Commission reversed the decision of the Election Commission and reinstated Haygood. A judge issued a temporary stay until a court can decide whether Two of a Kind and a Civil Service Commission trumps an Election Commission, or if it's the other way around. Meanwhile Haygood is elated:

I never wanted to go through this," she said. "But if I had to go through it and I had to be uplifted by a community, I wanted it to look just like the people here, every color, every ethnicity, every religion, every sexual orientation, anything they want to be because that is why I love San Francisco. "
Because in San Francisco you can be anybody you want to be, and nobody requires you to be competent to get or keep a job in City Hall. In the meantime, Haygood's legal battle continues, at the expense of those of us who are fortunate enough to pay their business and property taxes.

On a lighter note, the S.F. Chronicle has discovered that the SFPD manages to solve only 28% of violent crimes, earning us the big 20th place among the 20 largest U.S. cities.

So here is my deepest, darkest, most sinister dream, that I have shared only with my wife, and here in my web diary where it may be read by hundreds of people I will probably never meet: Last night I dreamt that Tammy Haygood disappeared without a trace and that the SFPD never figured out what happened to her. Is there something wrong with me that I had such a mean-spirited dream?


UPDATE (12/09/2002) The latest twist in the bizarre saga is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
July 17, 2002
The Future of Journalism

Ever wonder what the future of journalism might look like? Look no further than the UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin. The Bruin wrote an editorial last week calling for the University of California to divest from Israel. They're not taking sides in the conflict, of course, and they're truly outraged by all the violence going on in the world, especially all those icky suicide bombings. Of course, if the Palestinians had a state of their own then the Bruin would demand divesting from Palestine too, but the Palestinians don't have a state yet, so until they get one, the very concerned editors have to do SOMETHING for the cause of human rights. So the desperate and oppressed revolutionaries from Westwood have no choice but to do demand economic sanctions against the only human rights violator that their very thorough research could come up with.

And while they're at it, the So-Cal mall rat sages beg all of us here in this country to really chill out dude, and not to worry ourselves over a certain non-event of a non-terrorist shooting at the ticket counter of a non-targeted airline at a certain airport on a certain national holiday.

The editor in chief of the Bruin is named Cuahtemoc Ortega. At this rate, "Cuahtemoc" is destined to become a verb in a few years, sort of like "Fisk" is a verb today.

UPDATE: I sent the Bruin editors a polite email. I pointed out that while they were claiming to be even-handed they did not call for divestment from, say, Saudi Arabia. I also enclosed a picture of the Hamas photo from my previous post, and pointed out that they were demanding economic sanctions against the surviving relatives of the bus driver and the people in the body bags.

Cuahtemoc came back with this specious reply:

If you read the editorial again Mr. Sharkansky, you will notice we support a petition already being circulated. We would support a similar petition with Saudi Arabia as the subject in question as well if it existed. We never state our support for Palestinians, suicide bombers or any of their allies.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:37 AM
Another Photo from the Hamas Family Album
Check out this sickening martyr poster from the psychotic death cult that calls itself the Hamas. The guy at the top is Mohammed Al Ghoul, who blew himself up on a Jerusalem bus on June 18, killing 19 people, injuring dozens more. In the center of the poster is the murdered bus driver, slumped over his steering wheel. The bottom of the poster shows Ariel Sharon and other officials looking at a row of body bags on the sidewalk next to the burned out shell of the bus. The poster's Arabic text extols Al Ghoul as a "martyr" and a "star in the heavens"

[click the photo to enlarge]

I have more about the Hamas Al Qassam Brigade here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:54 AM
July 16, 2002
My Correspondence with Steven Rose

Steven Rose, as you have probably already heard, is the British biologist who is organizing a boycott of Israeli academics. Read, for example, his hysterical screed which was published, fittingly, by the Saudi Arabian "Arab News". Rose has his knickers in a twist because:

Ariel Sharon refuses to negotiate while “violence” (i.e. Palestinian resistance) continues.

So I sent Steven Rose this email:

This is a photograph from 1933 showing Nazis holding hands to prevent Jews from entering the University of Vienna. What you are doing is worse than what the Nazis did, because you have not learned the lessons of history. Perhaps you consider yourself "jewish", but what you are doing is the moral equivalent of what the collaborating Kapos did at Auschwitz.

[see my July 12 entry below for a larger photograph]

Steven Rose graciously wrote back:

hate mail of this sort may constitute a cybercrime and be put in the hands
of the relevant police.
Steven Rose
Professor of Biology and Director Brain and Behaviour Research Group
Joint Professor of Physic, Gresham College London
Visiting Professor, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology,
University College London
Address for correspondence
Dept of Biological Sciences
The Open University
Milton Keynes MK7 6AA UK
Phone and voicemail +44 (0) 1908 652125
Fax +44 (0) 1908 654167

Hails of derisive laughter, Steve. At least where I come from, it is not a crime to remind someone that they are behaving like a Nazi, when they are in fact behaving like a Nazi. So I'm scratching my head in befuddlement trying to imagine what "police" you might be reporting me to: The Gestapo? The KGB? The Stasi? The Iranian Revolutionary Guard? The Saudi Committee for the Prevention of Vice and Propagation of Virtue?

And the only crime here, Steve, is the potential crime against humanity of boycotting a country that is trying to protect its civilians from violence (not "violence") committed by the likes of the psychotic death cult that is the Hamas Al Qassam Brigade.

At least Steve was kind enough to provide me with more ways to contact him. So please, folks, send this guy letters, postcards, e-mails, voice mails, etc. and let him know how much of a dangerous fool he is to be shilling for some really, really evil people. (His e-mail address is S.P.R.Rose@open.ac.uk)

UPDATE (7/18) readers share their Steven Rose correspondence

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:45 AM
July 15, 2002
Psychotic Death Cult Photo Album

The military wing of the Hamas (the Al Qassam Brigade) has a website where every Hamas "martyr" has his very own photo album page with ghastly death-related pictures. The above photo, of the since neutralized terrorist Taher Al Jarara with his mother, superimposed on a backdrop of "paradise", is bizarre, but also as tame as it gets. The site is full of gruesome death images -- young men and their mothers playing with guns, funerals, bloody corpses of terrorists and their victims. See for yourself how obsessed these people are with death.

The Al Qassam website is all in Arabic, so I created this page, with links to some of the more interesting portions of the website, along with some background information.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 13, 2002
Widow of LAX Terrorist is Unapologetic; May become U.S. Citizen

In an interview from Cairo, where she was visiting her mother since before her husband committed the July 4th terrorist attack, Hala El-Awadly, the Widow of LAX Terrorist Hashem Hedayet is unapologetic

El-Awadly said she did not believe her husband was responsible for the July 4 shooting. She offered no explanation for how he could be innocent when so many people saw him open fire, but said he was being blamed because he was Arab and Muslim.

"He is a victim of injustice," she said three times. "In America, they hate Islam and Arabs after Sept. 11."

What are her plans?
El-Awadly and her sons have reservations to fly back to California on Aug. 20 and an appointment later that month to be interviewed by immigration authorities considering their citizenship request.

I don't know about you, but I would feel better if our country didn't reward immigrant terrorists by allowing their families to become U.S. citizens.

I did a little digging and cross-checked the records for the "Five Star Limo" company owned by the terrorist. [See the Orange County Clerk's Fictitious Business Name file, and the NetworkSolutions whois database for fivestar-limo.com]

It turns out that the terrorist's name is spelled Hesham Hedayet, not "Hadayet" as most often reported. Home address: 5 Willowrun, Irvine, CA 92604; phone: (949) 733-8684. (the phone seems to be still connected, but there is no answer, not even a machine)

I don't think his widow should continue living in our country (my state, no less), let alone become a U.S. citizen. If you agree, think about sending a letter to that effect to your elected representatives. And think about sending a letter to the terror widow herself, telling her that she is not welcome in this country.

Now, because I know that the self-appointed ethnic sensitivity police will probably start hallucinating and wildly misinterpret what I'm saying, let me be very clear: (1) I absolutely reject any form of violence or threat of violence against this woman. But non-violent opprobrium and ostracism are entirely called for. Any letter or other protest should be non-threatening but to the point, e.g. "You are not welcome in this country. Please go somewhere else" (2) This is in no way a blanket rejection of immigrants from any specific part of the world. This is a rejection of this particular woman. Because her husband committed an act of terrorism on American soil and killed people based on their ethnicity, and because she is unapologetic, and blames America for making this terrorist a "victim of injustice". U.S. residency and citizenship should be a privilege, not an entitlement available to every family of a foreign-born murderer. If you agree with me that Hala El-Awadly has not earned this privilege, then please join me in making your opinion heard.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:55 PM
Tidbits July 13

Louis Farrakhan visits Zimbabwe, supports Mugabe's Land Seizure Program, which is exacerbating mass starvation. Zimbabwe radio says that Farrakhan's trip "showed that Mugabe's government was not isolated". No, its not isolated, it has the support of drooling crackpots from around the world, like Farrakhan.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:46 PM
July 12, 2002
Boycotting Israel

The proposed economic and academic boycotts against Israel bring to mind these images from the 1930s:

"Germans, defend yourselves! Don't buy from Jews!"

and this shot of Nazis holding hands at the University of Vienna to "protect" it from Jews.

and read this story of an otherwise talented mathematician, Ludwig Bieberbach, who became a Nazi and took increasing measures to eradicate Jewish mathematicians from German academia, because it was the fashionable thing to do. In 1938 he wrote

Above all, may you finally dismiss the Jews from your staff in the New Year. ... I emphasise again that your staff of referees must be in accordance with the regulations which have been obligatory to all Germans since 30 January 1933. ... You see how your conduct harms the good reputation of the Academy.
Now read this petition which calls on boycotting ties with Israeli academics.

The Nazi boycott of Jewish academics in the 1930s, and today's proposed boycott of Israeli academics by Islamic totalitarians and their hallucinating western apologists, are more alike than different.

If you are an academic, please endorse this anti-boycott petition. If you are not an academic, please pass it along to someone who is.

UPDATE (July 16): see my correspondence with boycott promoter Steven Rose

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:45 AM
July 11, 2002
A letter from Jerusalem

I received this deeply moving e-mail from Arnold Roth in Jerusalem. His 15-year-old daughter, Malki, was murdered in the Sbarro restaurant bombing last year.

Dear Stefan:

I wanted to convey to you just how important and worthwhile your translation of the Die Zeit article [Arafat Bombs, Europe Pays] is. Though I live in Jerusalem, or perhaps because I do, getting personally involved in the endless debate over the Middle East conflict seemed to me to be a diversion from the real challenges in life. The murder of my beloved daughter Malki last August (see www.kerenmalki.org ) pretty much changed that outlook forever. These days, I look for every opportunity to convey the sense of outrage and horror that Israelis -- and my family, in particular -- feel at the war being waged against us by the Palestinian Arabs, and at the global hypocrisy (governments, journalists, press) that makes it possible. I have sent a copy of your rendering of the German article on the EU and Arafat to people in my circle. Once again, well done.

Arnold Roth

I'm honored by Arnold's kind words, but I'm merely an amateur translator. Any credit for the Die Zeit article goes to the excellent journalists who wrote it, Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff and Bruno Schirra.

I was also honored to hear from Arnold Roth and to learn about what a fine man he is, and what a fine family he has, and what a fine daughter he had. This is a family we can all learn from, both from the way they lead their lives, and the way they are coping with a terrible loss. I urge you to read this powerful open letter that Arnold recently wrote.

I also urge you to visit the website in Malki's memory, www.kerenmalki.org . It talks about Malki's life and about the charitable foundation that the Roth family established in her name. The Malki Foundation (Keren Malki in Hebrew) is dedicated to helping Israeli families with severely disabled children to care for their children at home. This is particularly fitting, as Malki's younger sister, Haya-Elisheva, is disabled, and Malki devoted herself to helping her sister and other children with special needs. Please join me in making a donation to support the foundation.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 10, 2002
Zayed Centre Update

In re: the immediately previous entry of July 9 "An Invitation to the United Arab Emirates" Here's how I chose to deal with Juergen Moellemann's invitation to speak at the Zayed Centre in Abu Dhabi, that reached me by mistake. I chose options 1, 7, 8. In other words, I posted the letter on the web, both here and at the Moellemann.com site. I forwarded the letter to some German journalists, and I sent a very kind note to the Zayed Centre letting them know their letter did not reach its intended recipient. Here is what I said:

Dear Sir or Madame,
Thank you for your letter. Please be advised that the people at this e-mail address do not have any personal connection with Mr. Moellemann, nor do we know how to reach him. I did take the opportunity to visit your website and I was intrigued by your Centre. In light of the other speakers that you have had recently (Mr. and Mrs. LaRouche and Mr. Meyssan, in particular), I concur that Mr. Moellemann would be an excellent choice for your program.

as-salaam 'aleikum

UPDATE (7/25): Die Zeit published an item about this episode

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 09, 2002
An Invitation to the United Arab Emirates

I received an invitation for an all-expense paid trip to give a talk in the United Arab Emirates.

Well, I only received the invitation, I wasn't the one invited. The intended recipient was Juergen W. Moellemann, the German politician whose bizarre story I've been tracking on my website dedicated to him, www.moellemann.com (Among other things, Moellemann has gone out of his way to accuse German Jewish community leaders of fueling anti-Semitism). The invitation says this:

Dear Mr. Mollemann,
We, at Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up, Abu Dhabi, UAE highly appreciate your impressive stances regarding the Jewish anti-Semitism claims. We also underscore your sincere efforts in promoting ties between the Arabs and Germans in your capacity as the President of German-Arab Society. Thus we seek to get closer to your thoughts and ideas and acquaint our audience with them.

Accordingly, we have the pleasure to invite your to give a lecture at Zayed Centre on one of the topics related to the controversy on Semitism, preferably during the month of October, 2002. The Centre will bear all expenses related to ticket and accommodation.

the complete PDF of the invitation is here. I guess they sent it to me at the moellemann.com contact email because they thought that the site belongs to Moellemann, even though the site's commentary is less than favorable to him, and even though there is a clear disclaimer that the site is in no way connected to Moellemann.

The Zayed Centre is a fascinating organization. Their mission, according to their About Us page is:

In cognizance of the principles and objectives of the League of Arab States, in response to the invitation of H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan President of the United Arab Emirates, in implementation of the “Final Communiqué and Declaration of Abu Dhabi” emanating from the Abu Dhabi Symposium organized on 2-4/11/1997 on the “Future of the Arab Nation and the Role of the League of Arab States” under the auspices of H.H. Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, what the Symposium confirmed about the importance of establishing a working regional mechanism (An Office for Coordination and Follow-Up) which would endeavor to highlight the concept of Arab Solidarity in the political, economic, cultural, social and inter-Arab relations, and to contribute to the activation of institutions and organizations for joint Arab Action with a national character such as the League of Arab States and other regional groupings.
[Now that's what I call a run-on sentence!]
They publish issue papers with titles like "Central Asia between International Competition and Israeli Interpenetration", " Israeli Penetration in Africa" and Al Buraq Wall not Wailing Wall (proves that the Wailing Wall is part of the Al Aqsa Mosque, which was built more than a thousand years before Solomon built his temple)

The Zayed Centre also invites distinguished lecturers, such as drooling crackpot Lyndon LaRouche, who they describe as a "famous American economist and candidate for Presidential election." and raving lunatic 9/11 conspiracy theory hucksterThierry Meyssan

So Juergen Moellemann would be a stellar addition to their lecture series. The only question for me is: what do I do with this invitation?
1. Send it back, explain their mistake
2. Send it on to Juergen Moellemann
3. Accept the invitation in Moellemann's name, and show up at the Zayed Centre pretending to be him
4. Decline the invitation in Moellemann's name, enclosing outrageous insults toward the Emir of Abu Dhabi
5. Explain that I am not Moellemann, but would be honored to give a lecture to them anyway, as long as they fly me to Abu Dhabi and guarantee my safe return home.
6. If the above, do I, or do I not, disclose that I am a Jew with Zionist sympathies? If so, do I make this disclosure before I go, or after I get there?
7. Forward the letter to some German journalists and let them have fun with it.
8. Post the letter on the web and see what happens.

I welcome your suggestions

UPDATE: Charles Johnson, who has a radar for such things, wrote this entry about the Zayed Centre and their lunatic conferences a few weeks ago

UPDATE (7/25): Die Zeit published an item about this episode

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Risk Without Reward

I just released my long-awaited study of the 10-year track records of mutual funds. The study is called "Mutual Fund Costs: Risk Without Reward"

There have been numerous academic studies on mutual fund returns over the years. My study is not meant for an academic journal, but it is unique in that it looks at the effect of both Expense Ratio and Turnover on both pre-tax and after-tax returns for several different categories of funds.

My study shows very clearly how much better low cost funds perform over high cost funds: higher average returns, greater odds of "beating the market" if that's what your trying to do, and lower risk of being disappointed. Find out what the odds of success with mutual funds really are.

There's lots more good stuff in there: Find out why calling the S&P 500 the "market average" is misleading. Also, have you ever seen one of those charts that shows that $1 invested in the S&P500 in 1926 would be worth over $2,000 today? That's largely nonsense. A more realistic (and far lower) range of estimates is in the study . It's available for free download.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 08, 2002
Romanian Rootkit

My server is back up, after having been vandalized by some hackers using something called a "Romanian Rootkit". There are apparently some unemployed kids in Bucharest who have nothing better to do than to break into and cause havoc to random computers in other countries. They exploit a flaw in the system and plant trojan horse code that is then supposed to send passwords and other sensitive data to the hacker over an IRC network. The hacker monitors this traffic with a "bot" and when they get an actual password they come back through the front door and cause some real damage. In spite of all the wonderful things about IRC, The people who operate CAIS.net and undernet.org should be held accountable for their liability in creating a public nuisance.

This is the first time my public server has been broken into in the nearly 3 years that it's been up. I'm pretty good about security, but I made a mistake when changing a security configuration file on Saturday and inadvertently left a gaping hole. It only took a few hours for the flies to come to the honeypot. Fortunately, I caught the attack before they could cause more trouble than they did. None of my business data was compromised, but it took my entire Sunday to get everything back to normal. Everything seems fine now. I turned on email just a few minutes ago and I already received an ad for Herbal Viagra.

I'm no longer convinced that Linux is substantially more secure than Windows. While researching my "rootkit" problem I learned about a zillion ways in which the Linux kernel is vulnerable, and it would be a full-time job to stay ahead of all of them. The Windows viruses and worms seem to be a bigger problem, I suspect, simply because there are so many more Windows machines out there. Still, I have much more knowledge about Linux than I do about Windows, so I'm staying with the Penguin. I also think that server vandalism is going to continue to be bigger problem as time goes on, so the best defense is not only preventative (which will never be perfect) but restorative. i.e. expect an attack at any time and always have all your ducks in a row to rebuild a working system as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, if anybody happens to know the guy who was dialed in from Bucharest at IP address at 1242GMT on Sunday, please slit his throat for me.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 06, 2002
Tidbits July 6

Will Benjamin Ben-Eliezer be the next Prime Minister of Israel? Yoel Marcus writes "Churchill, he's not; but don't underestimate people who are easy to underestimate."

Cloudy Thinking: Prof. Dana Cloud of the University of Texas condemns our "corrupt nation" and wrote this alternative Pledge of Allegiance to "the people of Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan". Prof. Cloud is hereby awarded lifetime membership in the Academy of Fools. (item courtesy of Andrew Sullivan)

Egyptian immigrant and LAX shooter Hesham Mohamed Hadayet went to the airport with the intent to kill, the FBI tells us. "Why he did that is what we are still trying to determine," say the Feds. But you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to see the obvious. Whether or not he was acting "alone" is irrelevant. Hadayet's own government orchestrates a climate of hatred. Its official press publishes all kinds of wild anti-Semitic filth and applauds terrorism . The LAX shooter was doing exactly what he thought his government wanted him to do.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
July 04, 2002
"It wasn't terrorism": Top Ten Explanations for the LAX El Al Shooting

The man who shot to death two people at the LAX El Al counter has now been identified as an Egyptian national. Oddly, the FBI still maintains that there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism.

Sooooo. let's review the facts. Arab shoots and kills people at Israeli airline counter. Terrorism is the first explanation that pops into my head. But okay, fair enough, what do I know, I'm not an FBI agent. So if it's not terrorism, there apparently is another logical explanation. My sources deep in the bowels of the FBI tell me that these are the Top Ten Explanations for the Shooting, Other Than Terrorism®
10. Love triangle.
9. Drug deal gone bad.
8. He was just cleaning his gun and it went off by mistake
7. He was upset because he was having a bad hair day.
6. Mental illness (perhaps in his own mind the gunman imagined he was committing terrorism, even though he wasn't committing terrorism in fact).
5. The guy meant to shoot up a different airline
4. He did it to impress Jodie Foster
3. He was frustrated with El Al's customer service
2. He misfired. He actually meant to shoot his gun into the air in celebration of the 4th of July, just as many Arabs like to shoot into the air to celebrate weddings, birthdays, suicide bombings and other festivities. It would be pure racism for the FBI to misjudge this man's culture and accuse him of terrorism just because he had lousy aim.

And the number one Explanation for the Shooting, Other Than Terrorism®
1. Even though he really intended to shoot and kill Israelis and other Jews, it wasn't terrorism, it was a martyrdom operation, caused by Israeli occupation of West Jerusalem.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:55 PM
Independence Day Letters to the SF Chronicle

The SF Chronicle published a large number of letters to the editor today, around the theme of Independence Day. Some were good, others made me wonder what country they were writing about. Here is a sample of the latter:

Brian Kling, Oakland:

Editor -- I have many conflicting emotions about being an American. Since Sept. 11, I have felt it difficult to see the preponderance of American flags, and I realize it is because for me the flag represents the American government, not the people, history or spirit of America. Why? The flag is typically most evident in civic, federal or military venues....
Lou Rigali, Oakland:
Being an American meant being free to have any thought and being able to express those thoughts without fear of reprisal. This was the most important aspect of being an American...
Now, while I still allow myself to have any thought and express those thoughts, I have reservations because of the consequences. It is not just other citizens who will be spiteful and vindictive against someone who ventures a different opinion, but the government itself supports censorship and restrictions of freedom.
Bill Conduit, Oakland:
Get real. One planet. We breathe and we die and are forgotten. The idea is a bit childish in that it says that because some past boundaries were set it's supposed to make me different from others across that "imaginary line."
A politician feigns to "be an American" while he or she is out for himself or herself and then lies about "just being a good American." Being an American is being Pavloved in the Skinner box of societal "shoulds" that don't work...
And the winner is:
Editor -- As a child, I learned to dream America. As a youth, I continued to long for the dream to be manifest. In this millennium, I see America forgetting the dream it taught me. I see a nightmare unfolding in a religion of global capitalism clothed in a tattered desire for democracy sold to deaf and dumb people.


Well, Ayodele, I have no idea what you're talking about, but you seem to feel that your country has somehow let you down. From my perspective, the most obvious way in which this country has failed you was that you apparently managed to get through high school without learning how to write a coherent sentence. Hopefully, initiatives such as school vouchers may help open our failing public schools to constructive competition, so that future generations of children will have access to better instruction than you apparently had.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:17 PM
July 03, 2002
Occupied Jerusalem

From the International Press Center of the Palestinian National Authority State Information Service

Jerusalem (Arabic al-Quds) largest city in the West Bank , situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea . Jerusalem is a holy city for the world's major religions: Islam, and Christianity . In 1948 Jerusalem was under Israel occupation (West Jerusalem) , and Jordan controlled the other part of Jerusalem (East Jerusalem) including the Old City. In 1967 Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, Since then , both west and east Jerusalem has been under Israeli occupation.
Yes, we welcome every morsel of information that clarifies the official Palestinian view of the world. This explains exactly what they mean when they say "ending the occupation": It doesn't mean Israel out of Nablus. It means Israel out of Jerusalem, all of Jerusalem.

I used to think that a negotiated two-state solution was not only possible, but the most desirable outcome. But why bother to negotiate with someone whose public position is so thoroughly ridiculous?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:50 PM
Maps of "Palestine"
Maps of "Palestine" like this one appear in almost every Palestinian institution as both symbolic logos and as serious attempts at cartography. The funny thing is that these maps include not only what might one day be a Palestinian state, but also all of .... Israel. I've posted a collection of such maps, culled mostly from Palestinian web sites. Take a look and ask yourself what this might tell us about the Palestinians' true aspirations regarding peaceful coexistence with Israel

(This gem of a map is from an agency of the Palestinian Authority

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
Tidbits - July 3

Latest poll on Al-Jazeera website: "Do you believe that American military action will succeed in replacing the Iraqi President"? 22.2% YES, 73.3% NO, 4.5% DON'T KNOW...this is the only place in the Arab world where people get to vote their own opinions. Who bothers to vote "I don't know"?

Helpful hint for Moveable Type users: the annoying default for the comment window is to be non-resizable. This is easy to fix. In the main template file, go to the OpenComments function and add ,resizable right after where it says status=yes but before the closing ');

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:41 AM
July 02, 2002
Tidbits - July 2

Instapundit on vacation. These are the other "breaking news" bloggers I find myself checking frequently: Bill Quick, Charles Johnson, Pejman Yousefzadeh

S.F. Chronicle journalist wants to start her own blog. Does this mean the phenomenon has already peaked?

Prof. Joseph Duemer of Clarkson University, who seems to be the Chairman of the Dept. of Specious Rhetoric, tells us he doesn't want his tax dollars going to pay for the war on public education" (the Supreme Court decision on vouchers). Take a looksee at his blog and ask yourself if taking courses from this guy would be a good use of hard-earned tuition money.

Blog buddies on TechCentralStation this week: Joe Katzman on Urban Warfare and Howard Fienberg with Good News About College Students

Hamas Communique of July 1 Says: "And it is a Jihad until either victory or martyrdom". In that case, let's grant them martyrdom.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:35 PM
Israeli Incitement, not

This item at Tal G.'s blog caught my attention. A website called "Palestine Media Watch is trying to "prove" that Israel engages in the "incitement" of its schoolchildren to hate Arabs in the same way that Palestinian schools incite hatred against Jews. His "proof"? An incident reported in Yediot Aharonot in May, where some middle- and high-school students wrote letters to soldiers encouraging them to break the rules and kill as many Arabs as possible. Tal answered that the PMW translation of the article was inaccurate, and of course it was. Tal promises a complete translation and some more comments, which I look forward to. In the meantime, I was sufficiently intrigued to look at the article myself.

Apart from answering the sloppy and biased translator at Palestine Media Watch, this case told me a great deal about how Israel as a society is managing the war:

It's unfortunate that the kids in grades 7-10 chose to express their frustration over the situation with calls for senseless killing. Kids that age say all kinds of stupid things. But there's no indication that they were incited to do so by any school official.

The tone of the article, which appeared in a mass circulation tabloid, was one of shock at the unacceptable behavior of the students.

Picture the scenario described in the article: A reserve soldier is at his post in a combat zone. Presumably he is worried about doing his job and also trying not to be killed. He gets a letter from a schoolboy. The soldier is sufficiently distressed by what the schoolboy wrote, that in spite of the fact that he is in a combat situation, he goes out of his way to take action and inform somebody about the letter. In other words, this is a soldier who takes risks to act on his conscience. He is concerned both about respecting the boundaries of conduct during a war, and about the soul of his nation.

The letters urged the soldiers to "disregard the rules" and "kill as many Arabs as possible". This implies that there are rules against unnecessary violence in the first place, and that those rules are meant to be obeyed.

The country is open and pluralistic. There exists a civil rights group, The Israel Religious Action Center (direct translation of its Hebrew name is "Center for Jewish Pluralism"). This group is concerned with restraining the power of the most religious factions, and "advancing religious freedom and pluralism, tolerance, social justice and civil liberties in Israel, based on the belief that these values are intrinsic to and stem from a liberal understanding of Judaism". This group got involved when it turned out that the offending letters came from a state religious school.

The response of the chair of Knesset education committee, a member of the National Religious Party, was "These statements represent an educational failure. Even if they were written out of emotional torment due to the current terror attacks, there is no justification for students of religious Zionist schools to express themselves in such a severe fashion". The Ministry of Education said that "the educational system is strict about instructing its students in tolerance and co-existence." and that the director-general of the Ministry was "shocked by the tone of the letters".

Tal will surely have more insights about this story. For me, it seems clear that this is not about a country that incites its children to hatred. The story is about a country that has very clear values and standards about conduct even (especially) during wartime, that has mechanisms in place to monitor and reinforce those standards, and that reacts appropriately when some of its children screw up. Which aspects of this story would still hold if you replace the words Israel/Israeli above with the words Palestine/Palestinian? I doubt very many would.

So go ahead, Palestine Media Watch, dig up more dirt. Make my day.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 01, 2002
Cheap Wins!

This is a good week for The Shark. In addition to the Der Spiegel write-up, I am also quoted in the July/August issue of Bloomberg Personal Finance. In the cover article about the advantages of low-cost mutual funds, titled "Cheap Wins!":

"Every dollar that goes out the door in fees is a dollar that doesn't go into your pocket. It becomes a big difference over time." says PersonalFund.com president Stefan Sharkansky, who is convinced there are no bigger determinants of returns than expenses and taxes. "If paying an extra dollar to the money manager got investors significantly higher returns, then it would be worthwhile. But research shows that is not true. Higher costs simply do not add value."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:46 PM
I'm a news item in Germany

After translating/blogging German news stories into English for only six weeks, I have already made the news in Germany. My other blog, "The Moellemann File", which tracks the bizarre story of Jew-baiting German politician Juergen Moellemann, got a brief but significant write-up in the current version of Der Spiegel, the country's leading newsweekly. The item, which is on a "Personality" page that also spotlights Halle Barry, Queen Elizabeth II, Lionel Jospin and others, says this:

Jürgen Möllemann, 56, Vice-Chairman of the Free Democratic Party is finally world-famous. Since the end of May there is a web-site www.moellemann.com exclusively devoted to the man from Muenster. The domain was registered by a software developer from San Francisco, Stefan Sharkansky, who was concerned that the Möllemann affair was barely getting coverage in the U.S. press. Sharkansky, born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1963, learned German at the Goethe-Institut in San Francisco. He is interested in current events in Germany, so he clicks onto SPIEGEL ONLINE everyday: "I simply want to understand what's going on in Germany". His main intent was to share his findings with other Americans, but most of the visitors to the website come from Germany. "Many of the emails start with Dear Mr. Möllemann! and end with Don't let yourself get discouraged. Keep it up! Sharkansky now plans to put some of these fan-letters online, both in the original German as well as in translation, "so Americans can see for themselves". So far, Möllemann has not taken any action against the use of his name by the website.
There's a lot to say about the odd case of Juergen Moellemann, the first ostensibly mainstream German politician of the post-war era to intentionally provoke a fight with the Jewish community. In a nutshell, he made a number of provocative statements designed to appeal to Germans who are less than sympathetic to Jews and Israel. For example, he blamed Michel Friedman, a German Jewish community leader and television talkshow host, for fueling anti-Semitism. (See the Moellemann File website for more details). Fortunately, he was widely condemned by other mainstream politicians across the spectrum, including the other leaders of his own party. As a result, he has discredited himself, and is unlikely to attain his goal of a ministerial appointment in the next government.

Unfortunately, there also seems to be a disconnect between the political and media classes, which seem to feel that Germany has a historical responsibility toward Jews and Israel, and many ordinary Germans of the post-war generations who don't feel responsible for the Holocaust, are not sympathetic toward Israel, and who feel no special sensitivity toward Jews.

Indeed, the essence of the Moellemann affair is that a German politician (in the middle of an election campaign, where serious economic issues are waiting to be addressed) goes out of his way to criticize Jews, for no reason other than that lots of Germans are in the mood to criticize Jews, mainly because they have felt for a long time that they were forbidden from criticizing Jews.

What is this really about? Some German commentators argue that it partly stems from a desire of many to absolve themselves from the historical guilt for the Holocaust. The images of Israeli soldiers acting with force against the Palestinians creates an opportunity for today's Germans to draw comparisons (however off the mark) with their grandfathers' crimes, and therefore diminishing the weight of the Holocaust.

In any event, although Moellemann himself is (temporarily, at least) making less noise now, many Germans hold certain resentments that will eventually express themselves. I have translated and posted a number of very candid e-mails that German visitors sent to my website, apparently thinking they were sending the emails directly to Moellemann in support of his efforts. (I removed any information that identifies the correspondents). Read these letters for a fascinating, if uncomfortable glimpse at post-war German attitudes toward Jews and Israel.

Also, for a broader context on the reflowering of anti-Semitism in Germany, see Seth Gitell's very good article, "Heil Hate", in the latest Boston Phoenix. Gitell visited Germany last month and spoke with prominent journalists and politicians.

UPDATE Sept. 23, 2002 In yesterday's federal election, Moellemann's party (FDP) got only 7.4% of the vote, falling far short of its expectations, blamed in large part on Moellemann's use of anti-Semitism in the campaign. Due to this poor showing, Moellemann was forced to resign his post as vice-chair of the federal FDP. He will retain his positions as head of the state party in Nordrhein Westfallen.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM